The Bloody Wood

The Bloody Wood by Michael Innes Read Free Book Online Page B

Book: The Bloody Wood by Michael Innes Read Free Book Online
Authors: Michael Innes
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all?’
    ‘Not really – although some people wouldn’t. But it would be odd to have only Mrs Gillingham. Hence our larger gathering.’
    ‘Whatever has Martine been telling you?’
    ‘Chiefly that this Mrs Gillingham – Barbara Gillingham – is a sprightly widow, well able to bear children.’
    ‘Let’s take this path.’ Judith pointed. ‘It goes up by the stream to the belvedere. But I can’t believe it – what you seem to mean, or make Martine mean.’
    ‘It may well be just a bad guess. But she was quite explicit.’
    ‘It was some kind of hard, tasteless joke. What they call a sick joke.’
    ‘Give the poor child a little credit. It wasn’t that.’
    ‘Besides, I’ve rather supposed that Charles would be happy if Bobby and Martine were to–’
    ‘Quite so. And Bobby and Martine know it. They’re even considering it, in a bloodless kind of way – or so I seemed to gather.’
    ‘Surely Grace should approve of that ? It would provide for Martine, who is her sister’s child, as well as for Bobby, who is the child of Charles’ sister.’
    ‘Yes, but I think the point is – or one point is – that they are both a little far out. Not born for Charne, and not really quite fitted for it.’
    ‘How deep this pool is!’
    They had now climbed about halfway to the crown of the wood, and were pausing by the largest of the pools through which the little stream passed. It was reed-fringed, and showed as dark brown except for a few bars of gold where the morning sun caught it. At its farther side a broad archipelago of water-lilies was opening. Everything around was quite still.
    ‘Is it deep? I don’t see how you can tell.’
    ‘I’ve a quite intimate knowledge of it.’ Judith walked to the verge, laughing. ‘Yes – it was just here . I tried to ride my pony through it. There was an awful row. I wonder what the little fish are? It seems nonsense to me.’
    ‘What seems nonsense?’
    ‘That Bobby and Martine should be excluded because not precisely right.’ Judith turned away from the pool, and walked on. ‘They might make do – and that’s the wise and human thing to be content with.’
    ‘I rather agree. But Grace is a very sick woman, and the judgement of sick people is sometimes not like ours. I suspect the real point to be that she has borne Charles no children. It imposes some burden of irrational guilt upon her. So she wants to go, before it’s not too late. But on her own terms. The sponge is to be passed over the slate–’
    ‘Did Martine say all this?’
    ‘No, but I’ve no doubt she understands it well enough. The second Mrs Martineau, formerly Mrs Gillingham, is to bring Charne an heir. And Charles may well live to see his son into his majority.’
    ‘But, John, surely that would be to cheat Martine a little – and to cheat Bobby a great deal? Charles would never do it.’
    ‘His wife’s wish – Grace’s wish – might be sacred to him. I believe that’s the phrase.’
    ‘I think it’s morbid rubbish. And I can’t imagine that Charles himself has an inkling of the plan – if it really is a plan.’
    ‘Perhaps not. Perhaps it is going to be communicated to him this evening or the next, in one of those revived chats between the Martineaus in this belvedere we’re climbing to. Then, of course, there is Mrs Gillingham. We don’t know whether she knows. She may yet have to be squared too – if that’s the word.’
    ‘It’s decidedly not the word. And, on consideration, I think there’s a certain nobility in Grace’s feeling the way you are suggesting she does.’
    ‘I don’t agree.’ Appleby was suddenly obstinate. ‘If you and I had no children, and I found you making such a plan, I’d be very angry with you.’
    ‘We don’t own Charne.’
    ‘If we did, I’d like it even less. I can understand setting a more or less mystical value on perpetuation through progeny – although I hope I’d be sensible enough to see that the world is never likely to go

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