The Bloody Wood

The Bloody Wood by Michael Innes Read Free Book Online

Book: The Bloody Wood by Michael Innes Read Free Book Online
Authors: Michael Innes
Tags: The Bloody Wood
could be carried off by enterprising burglars, wouldn’t you say?’
    ‘Well, yes. One hardly sees them getting away with the Holman Hunts.’
    ‘No. But the spoils of Charne are very considerable, all the same.’
    ‘I’m sure they are. The burglars could fill several sacks with Georgian silver alone.’ Appleby hoped be wasn’t looking at Martine Rivière too curiously. He had a notion that burglars were not very much in her head. ‘If they succeeded,’ he went on, ‘I believe your aunt would be more upset than your uncle.’
    ‘In a way, yes. Aunt Grace doesn’t greatly prize material things in themselves. But she would certainly see the Martineau silver – although much of it is quite ugly – as part of an order it would be very dreadful to see violated.’
    ‘Do you sympathize with that – I mean in a general way? I think of you, Martine, as rather avant-garde, and not terribly impressed with the virtue of walking in the ancient ways, just for their own sake. Is that wrong?’
    ‘In the light of one’s own needs, one should make a rational use of what comes to one.’
    ‘I suppose so. Yes, I suppose I’ve always tried to do that myself.’ Appleby studied the small splash of whisky in his glass. Again he didn’t want to stare at this young woman as if she were an enigma. Just this sentiment, it had occurred to him, might have been expressed by her cousin Bobby. In fact he recalled that ‘rational’ was one of Bobby’s pet words. ‘I imagine,’ he said casually, ‘that you and Bobby have seen a good deal of each other since childhood. Do you find that you have much in common?’
    ‘There are things that we are both interested in. I wouldn’t call us natural allies. I don’t think we’ve ever been much prompted to form a common front. Uncle Charles, you know, wants us to get married. Do you think it would be a good idea?’
    ‘I think it would be very rash to give an opinion.’ Appleby, who thought of himself as an elderly person of conventional mind, had been a little surprised by this bald question. ‘No doubt,’ he added demurely, ‘you will yourself give the matter thought.’
    ‘Oh, but I have. And Bobby too, of course. It does represent one possible solution.’
    ‘Ah, yes.’ Appleby wasn’t very clear what this was about – or why this normally reticent girl should be entering upon the subject merely, it seemed, for the sake of making conversation. Her tone hardly suggested that what a ‘solution’ had to be found for was any very passionate involvement of human hearts. Presumably what was in question was the disposition of property – and, in particular, Charne itself. Appleby had been thinking about this only a few minutes before. But he saw no reason to enter further into the topic now, and his next words were intended to dismiss it lightly. ‘Well, you both have a little time to think about it. It isn’t as if the years were beginning to pass very noticeably over either of you.’
    ‘I’m two years older than Bobby. Don’t you think it shows?’
    ‘Looking at both of you, I shouldn’t have an idea, either way.’ Appleby reflected that this was quite true, as far as any guessing at birthdays went. On the other hand, Martine struck him as more mature than her cousin, by a long way. It is often so, when one sets a twenty-year-old young woman beside a male contemporary almost straight from an English public school. Bobby Angrave, of course, carried around a lot of precocious intellectual sophistication. But this only served to make the point more evident.
    ‘Then I must be very well preserved,’ Martine said. ‘So is Uncle Charles, wouldn’t you say?’
    ‘Yes, indeed. Everybody says that.’
    ‘Aunt Grace is against it.’
    ‘Against your Uncle Charles’ being–?’ Appleby was astray before this inconsequence.
    ‘No, no.’ Martine shook her head with an impatience very like Bobby’s. ‘Aunt Grace is against the idea of marriage. She would like me to do

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