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29. Doubts And Fears
Monte Irvin raised his head and stared dully at Margaret Halley. It was very quiet in
the library of the big old-fashioned house at Prince's Gate. A faint crackling sound
which proceeded from the fire was clearly audible. Margaret's grey eyes were
anxiously watching the man whose pose as he sat in the deep, saddle-back chair
so curiously suggested collapse.
"Drugs," he whispered. "Drugs."
Few of his City associates would have recognized the voice; all would have been
shocked to see the change which had taken place in the man.
"You really understand why I have told you, Mr. Irvin, don't you?" said Margaret
almost pleadingly. "Dr. Burton thought you should not be told, but then Dr. Burton
did not know you were going to ask me point blank. And I thought it better that you
should know the truth, bad as it is, rather than--"
"Rather than suspect--worse things," whispered Irvin. "Of course, you were right,
Miss Halley. I am very, very grateful to you for telling me. I realize what courage it
must have called for. Believe me, I shall always remember--"
He broke off, staring across the room at his wife's portrait. Then:
"If only I had known," he added.
Irvin exhibited greater composure than Margaret had ventured to anticipate. She
was confirmed in her opinion that he should be told the truth.
"I would have told you long ago," she said, "if I had thought that any good could
result from my doing so. Frankly, I had hoped to cure Rita of the habit, and I
believe I might have succeeded in time."
"There has been no mention of drugs in connection with the case," said Monte
Irvin, speaking monotonously. "In the Press, I mean."
"Hitherto there has not," she replied. "But there is a hint of it in one of this
evening's papers, and I determined to give you the exact facts so far as they are
known to me before some garbled account came to your ears."
"Thank you," he said, "thank you. I had felt for a long time that I was getting out of
touch with Rita, that she had other confidants. Have you any idea who they were,
Miss Halley?"
He raised his eyes, looking at her pathetically. Margaret hesitated, then:
"Well," she replied, "I am afraid Nina knew."
"Her maid?"
"I think she must have known."
He sighed.
"The police have interrogated her," he said. "Probably she is being watched."
"Oh, I don't think she knows anything about the drug syndicate," declared
Margaret. "She merely acted as confidential messenger. Poor Sir Lucien Pyne, I
am sure, was addicted to drugs."
"Do you think"--Irvin spoke in a very low voice--"do you think he led her into the
Margaret bit her lip, staring down at the red carpet.