Chapter 110246678

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Chapter NumberI
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article110246678
Full Date1893-04-28
Page Number2
Corrections0
Word Count1679
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitlePetersburgTimes (SA : 1887 - 1919)
Trove TitleBrought to Book
article text

BROUGHT TO BOOS.

•— o

CHAPTER L

It was at a carpet dance at the bouse of Mrs Venable, a friend of nnnlPj Iffr John Orde, that Marcus Gray, a young American over on his travels, having screwed Ids courage to the sticking place, proposed to Mary Lumsden, the eldest daughter of a well-to-do city merchant. They had met several times in the course of the preceding month, and it had not taken Gray long to

discover that in TVfips Linmsdea he had

lighted on the girl who, for him, was " the fairest flower the snn shone on."

His opportunity had come to him this evening, when he and Mary by some happy,

chance found themselves alone in the car\x=req-\ tamed embayment of a projecting window. At any moment they might be disturbed by some stray couple in search of a qniet nook, and what Gray had to say, if he did not wish the occasion to slip through his fingers, must be brief and to the point.

Presumably it was so, in view of the fact that not more than three minutes elapsed from the time of our people finding themselves

alone in the alcove to that of their

emergence. It may further be assumed that their conversation, brief as it wss, had not

proved unsatisfactory to either of them, seeing that, as Miss Lumsden's partner for tie next dance came np to claim her, Gray oontrived to whisper in her ear, '* I will call upon your father in the course of tomorrow."

Mention has been made of Marcos Gray's irncle, Mr Orie.

John Orde'e dearest friend was Edward

Lumsden, Diary's father. Their friendship dated back to their school days. They took to each other, as the saying is, from the first—so much so indeed that some portion of the holiday of each was generally spent at the home of the other. When the. time came

for them to push their fortunes iu the world the city of London acied as a loadstone to both; Lumsden found a stool in the oSce of a drysaltery firm in Upper Thames street, while Orde went under the tutelage of Ms father, whose business was that of a stipbroker. Tears passed, bringing with tLam their inevitable change and vicissitudes, but in no wise interrupting the current of their friendship. In the

course of time Orde succeeded to his

father's position, while Lumsden started in business on his own account, and to neither of tiiem did fortune prove unkind.

We come now to a certain memorable

ninth of June, the day immediately following

that of Mrs Ven».ble's carpet dance.

Both Lumsden and Orde had deemed it

advisable a little while before to put themselves

in telephonic connection with such of their customers and agents as preferred to specify their wants and wishes through that ready medium of communication, and accordingly a wire had been laid on the premises of each. Although Lumsden and Orde were in no way related in business affairs, they frequently used the telephone for messages about private matters, eucb as a little while before would have necessitated the writing of a note or the transmission of a telegram. For instance, Lumsden, having got himself "switched on" at the exchange, would telephone Orde an invitation

to dinner, or a request to join him at Ms club at a certain hour, while Orde, on his part, would inform Lumdsen through the same medium that he had just had tickets sent him for a concert or the theatre, and would specify when and where he would look to meet his friend and wife unless they happened to be otherwise engaged.

At twenty minutes to two o'clock on the afternoon of the aforesaid Jane 9, the telephone bell in Mr Orde's private office signalled that some one was desirous

of speaking' with him. Mr Max, one of the staff, whose duty it was to attend to the instrument during his employer's

absence, at once responded to the Bommons, which was followed up by the usual preliminary question, " Are you

there?"

To this Max replied with the stereotyped, " Yes; who are yon?"

"Lumsden," was the answer. Then, evidently recognising' that the voice was not bis friend's, 41 Is not Mr Orde there F" he

queried.

" At present he is out, sir," replied Max ; " but I am expecting him back every moment."

"In. that case I will keep the connection open for a few minutes. Tell him to signal me immediately he returns."

" All right, sir," responded Max, and with that the conversation came to an end for the time being\x=req-\

So far as could be ascertained afterward, it would seem to have been Lumsden's intention to ask Orde to meet him at his club and dine

?with Mm, his wile and daughter being under An engagement to accompany seme friends that evening to a concert.

Four minutes later Mr Orde pushed openthe swing doors of the outer office and was at once informed by Max of the conversation that had passed between himself and Mr Xmmsden. Going forward

into his room he took up the telephone tube with the indention of signalling to his friend that he was there and at his service. The tube was in his hand, and he was on the point of putting it to his lips when a sound which reached him through it arrested his attention and caused him to clap it to his ear xostcad. What we heard, sounded to him like ar. inarticulate cry, as it might be, of surprise

or fear, followed, the moment the tube tc ached his ear, by the words. " Oh, Harry, Harry—this from you!" Close upon which came a groan, then a dull thud as of some heavy body falling, and last of all, after a brief silence, but very faintly, what seemed like the clashing of a door.

For a few moments longer Mr Orde stood with the tube giued to his ear like a man stupefied, but no farther sound of any kind

reached him. Then his wits came back to him in some measure. He gave the signal he had been on the point of giving bafore and waited, with a sickening suspense im\x=req-\ pc ssible to describe, {or a response. Bat none oame. Agaiu he sismalied, and again he ?waited: but with a like result, or with no result at all. The lube dropped from his fingers and he sank into his chair nttterly

dazed and confounded.

What has happened to his friend? Had he been the unwitting auditor of a tragedy in which Lmcsden had played the part of victim r If nothing had happened, why had the latter failed to respond to his anmmoM ? But the need for ascertain* tag, beyond the possibility of doubt, whether his fears had any foundation in fact was a

spur zo immediate action. He racer and ordered a hansom to be fetched -with all speed. "Whiie waiting for it he signalled agaiu through, the instrument, Loping against hope to hear his friend's cheery " Halloo I" in return, but the silence that eiisued •was as the silence of the grave. It was with & heart replete with foreboding the most dire that, a few minutes later, he found himself on his way to Saint Augustine's alley, in which narrow but important thoroughfare Luoasden's offices were

situated.

But quick as he had been in reaching ttie scene, the tragedy which Had been enacted there—for nothing less did it prove to be— had already become public property. The premises were in charge o£ the police, while the alley iteelf was blocked by a surging crowd of men and youths, each and all anxious to glean the latest particulars of a crime so startling and mysterious, for it is not often that a merchant of the city of London is murdered in his own office in broad daylight.

On the oblong mahogany table, at which he had sat for so many hours every 'week day, lay the dead body of Edward liiunsden, a terrible wound on his left temple, as if caused by some blunt instrument, revealing to all present the nature of the foul play to which he hac fallen a victim.

The particulars of the affair, eo far as they had yet been ascertained, were as

follow:

It had been Mr Lumsden'a practice to charge himself with the care of the establishment during luncheon time which was limited to half an hour, when, as a rule, he aud an office boy were the sole occupants of the ground floor, which comprised

a couple of rooms—Lumsden's own office ana a much larger one for the use of

i the staff. On this 9th of Jane, about five

initiates after the half-dozen clerks had left

in a body, the office boy, Houghton by name, was sent by his master with a note to the head of a firm some distance away, and, according to his own account, was gone juBt a quarter of an hour, daring which time it must have been that Lumsden tried to open no a communication with his Mend by telephone.

On the lad's return he was horrified at finding hie master's body Btretched lifeless

on the floor. It was evident that Lumsden had been struck down while seated close to

the telephone waiting for the signal that Orde had returned. Appearances led to the

conclusion that the safe had been hurriedly 1 rifled of whatever notes and gold it might ! have contained, the door being open and the '

floor littered with documents of various kinds. So far all inquiries had failed to elicit the slightest evidence of any one, either a stranger or otherwise, having been seen to enter or leave the premises between the time of Houghton's quitting them and Ids return. And there, for the present, the affair rested.

As the dead man's oldest friend, it now became James Orde'a unenviable duty to break the terrible tidings to his wife and family.