Appleby at Allington

Free Appleby at Allington by Michael Innes

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Authors: Michael Innes
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seemed to know about this liability of his. At least, that’s the impression I got. And I imagined he might have mentioned it to you. Otherwise I wouldn’t have started in on such a boring matter. First a corpse in the gazebo, and then a skeleton in the cupboard. I’m really not serving the Applebys at all well.’ Allington came to a halt. ‘The castle looks rather impressive from here, don’t you think?’
    Judith agreed about the impressiveness of the castle. It had been quite time that her host changed the subject. Not – she told herself honestly – that she hadn’t asked for what she’d got. For wasn’t she much given to vulgar curiosity? Wasn’t it the motive, for instance, of her wanting John to worry out the not terribly interesting mystery of last night’s dead man? But now she thought of an innocuous topic which ought to last Allington and herself until they returned to the scene of the fête.
    ‘Wilfred Osborne came to lunch,’ she said, ‘before we drove him over here. We talked about the story of the Allington treasure – because of its having been mentioned, you know, in your son et lumière . I think I have a theory about it.’
    ‘A theory about it!’ Allington was quite startled. ‘I’ve heard plenty of theories from time to time. But I’m sure, Lady Appleby, that yours will be a particularly interesting one.’
    ‘I think it was dug up by Humphrey Repton when he was improving the place. He improved himself on the side.’
    ‘There! I told you so!’ Allington was a little more than adequately delighted. ‘And nobody has thought of it before. Repton’s people must have dug up acres and acres of the park – creating a new rise here and a new vale there, grove to nod to grove, and all the perspectives and side-screens and distances as they should be. Look at all that tolerably mature timber. There’s hardly a tree that doesn’t stand where it does because Humphrey Repton pointed a directing finger at the spot. Clearly he found the treasure, slipped it into his waistcoat-pocket, and made off with it. How cross the first Mr Osborne of Allington would have been if he’d known.’
    ‘Would it have been legally his, if Mr Repton hadn’t got away with it?’
    ‘I’ve no idea.’ Allington laughed easily. ‘And I’ve no idea what the position would be if the unlikely stuff were found today. What they call treasure-trove, I suppose. Morally, it ought to belong to the Queen.’ They were now retracing their steps along the terrace. ‘Or perhaps to some Stuart pretender. Is there one still? How ignorant one is!’
    ‘I wonder why it’s believed to be in the park?’ Judith was determined to make the subject last out until they had rejoined the crowd. ‘The castle, surely, was being closely invested by the parliamentary army. If something had to be buried, wouldn’t it have to be within the walls of the castle itself?’
    ‘Probably too risky. If it was known to exist, the Roundheads would have ransacked the place before setting fire to it. You’d decide it was more hopeful to creep through their lines in the night, and bury it where they’d never think.’
    ‘Or get it right away by wagon or on horseback?’
    ‘I don’t like that idea at all. It spoils the fun.’
    ‘Very well. They simply dropped it in the lake. Much quicker and quieter than digging a great hole and then obliterating all traces of it in the dark. And the stuff would be gold and silver. It wouldn’t come to any harm.’
    ‘There wasn’t much of a lake then.’ Allington was suddenly quite serious. ‘But I suppose there was quite enough for the purpose. The stuff would be in a chest or something, one imagines, and that would be deep in mud now, and probably rotted away. But the metal – gold and silver, as you say – would simply–’ He broke off. ‘Lady Appleby, what kids we are!’
    ‘Yes, indeed. But I’ll feel more grown-up when I’ve paid my half-crown and had some tea.’
    ‘Don’t soak

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