William Monk 04 - A Sudden Fearful Death
disillusion burned over him in anger as if it had been only moments ago, the searing knowledge that she preferred the comfortable existence of half love; emotions that did not challenge; commitment of the mind and body, but not of the heart; always a reservation to avoid the possibility of real pain.
Her gentleness was accommodation, not compassion. She had not the courage to do more than sip at life; she would never drain the cup.
He was walking so blindly he bumped into an elderly man in a frock coat and apologized perfunctorily. The man stared after him with irritation, his whiskers bristling. An open landau passed with a group of young women huddled together and giggling as one of them waved to some acquaintance. The ribbons on their bonnets danced in the breeze and their huge skirts made them seem to be sitting on mounds of flowered cushions.
Monk had already resolved to look no further into the emotions of his past. He knew more than he wanted to about Hermione; and he had detected or deduced enough about the man who had been his benefactor and mentor, and who would have introduced him into successful commercehad he not been cheated into ruin himself—a fate from which Monk had tried so hard to rescue him, and failed. It was then, in outrage at the injustice, that he had abandoned commerce and joined the police, to fight against such crime; although as far as he could remember, he had never caught that particular fraud. Please God at least he had tried. He could remember nothing, and he felt sick at the thought of trying, in case his discovery shed even further ugly light on the man he had been.
But he had been brilliant. Nothing cast shadow or doubt on that. Even since the accident he had solved the Grey case, the Moidore case, and then the Carlyon case. Not even his worst enemy—and so far that seemed to be Runcorn, although one never knew who else he might discover—but not even Runcorn had said he lacked courage, honesty, or the will to dedicate himself totally to the pursuit of truth, and labor till he dropped, without counting the cost. Although it seemed he did not count the cost to others either.
At least John Evan liked him, although of course he had known him only since the accident, but he had liked him whatever the circumstances. And he had chosen to continue something of a relationship even after Monk had left the force. It was one of the best things to have happened, and Monk hugged it to himself, a warm and acutely valuable thing, a friendship to be nurtured and guarded from his own hasty temper and biting tongue.
Hester Latterly was a different matter. She had been a nurse in the Crimea and was now home in an England that had no use for highly intelligent, and even more highly opinionated, young women—although she was not so young. She was probably at least thirty, too old to be considered favorably for marriage, and thus destined to either continue working to support herself or be permanently dependent upon the charity of some male relative. Hester would loathe that.
To begin with she had found a position in a hospital here in London, but in a very short time her outspoken counselto doctors, and finally her total insubordination in treating a patient herself, had earned her dismissal. The fact that she had almost certainly saved the patient’s life only added to the offense. Nurses were for cleaning the ward, emptying slops, winding bandages, and generally doing as they were told. The practice of medicine was for doctors alone.
After that she had taken up private nursing. Goodness only knew where she was at this moment. Monk did not.
He was in Hastings Street. Number fourteen was only a few yards away, on the far side. He crossed over, climbed the steps, and rang the doorbell. It was a gracious house, neo-Georgian, and spoke of quiet respectability.
After a moment or two the door was opened by a maid in a blue stuff dress and white cap and apron.
“Yes sir?” she said inquiringly.
“Good afternoon.” He held his hat in his hand courteously, but as if fully expecting to be admitted. “My name is William Monk.” He produced a card which gave his name and address but not his occupation. “I am an acquaintance of Mr. Albert Finnister of Halifax, whom I believe to be a cousin of Mrs. Penrose and Miss Gillespie. Since I was in the area, I wondered if I might pay my respects?”
“Mr. Finnister, you said, sir?”
“That is correct, of Halifax in Yorkshire.”
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