Chapter 111034993

See chapter in newspaper

Chapter NumberVII
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article111034993
Full Date1896-07-31
Page Number7
Corrections0
Word Count3290
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleEvening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931)
Trove TitleThe Crime of a Christmas Toy
article text

THE!

? : ? *r- ? - ? (BY HENRY HERilAN.)

CHAPTER YIL— (Continued.)

As I read the two papers over and over again, and the story of Lady Bent lay reveal ed to me in all its pitiful nakedness, I could not help feeling 6orry for the poor woman. ' I could -read between: the lines of that fierce and graphic jlocuinent the story.of a life of misery. - The father dead when she was hut a child, and the mother following him to the grave but a few days afterwards.

I eouid imagine the drudgery of that estab lishment in the Avenue Milton, and the arti fices of the smooth-tongued villain, who saw in the handsome English girl a suitable decoy for his gaming house, and who married her, probably, simply because he needed her for a tool. Had she been aware of the fact that her first husband was alive when she married Judge Canstrome; and afterwards, again, when she married the Earl'? What a' well-spring of sorrow and shame would pour its 'tiood upon, that good old man' when the whole miserable scandal became public! It was sure to become public, I thought. I myself saw no way of staying my tongue. That Maltese scoundrel had laid his plans well; but I knew enough about him now to satisfy General Massiager. I deliberated with myself whether I should speak at once, or whether delay was the wiser course. I had learnt much, but as yet I had no proof whatever which could connect any of the persons -I suspected with the mystery I was commissioned to unravel — the murder of Lord Senf rev. I had advanced far enough in my research to fully clear Lord Senfrey's memory. But that was not discovering his murderer. ' - ' But now, of coruse, I could see a reason why Lady Bent and Gyffa Brodie should de voutly wish for Lord Senfrey's death. The motive was easily surmised. If, by any means whatever, Lord- Senfrey had become aware of Lady Bent's bigamy, and of her re lations with her first husband, she and Bro die might have combined to silence his 'tongue by poison. 'IsTo,' I said to myself; 'we must wait We must be patient, and keep on the same road.' On my arival at Victoria that morning, I took a cab straight to James-street, Bedford How. Mrs. Rooney was engaged in cleaning the steps which led to her front door. She look ed at mejsvith open eyes and mouth agape, as I jumped from the vehicle. A great black smudge ran across her 'Sallow cheek and fore head. Her little black lace cap obscured one eye, and she attempted to dislodge it by va rious upward puffs of breath, but it remained refractory. 'So you've come back, at any rate, Mr. Grant,' she said, looking at me as if she were half dazed. 'That's a good job.' 'Of course I've come back, Mrs. Rooney,' I replied. 'Why shouldn't I? Has anything upset you?' 'Upset me?' she retorted.' 'It's enough to drive a poor woman crazy. There's been you not coming home these two nights, and there's been Mr. Byrne, who went away only a few minutes after you did on Saturday night, and he hasn't been back ever since; and three or four gentlemen have been, here swearing as they knew he was at home, be cause he said he'd be at home; and him not coming near the place.' I could feel my heart beat against my ribs as I heard the news. Jasper Byrne had not slept in . his room, either on the Saturday or the Sunday night This very day at two o'clock Gyffa Brodie was to bring Mm two hundred pounds. Had Gyffa Brodie removed from his path 'another person' possessed of dangerous'knowledge concerning him? 'Oh! I often stay away for two or three [ nights,' I said, in a to&e of perfect common place. 'I've friends all over the country. ?You .must never trouble about, me.' £Jrs. . -Booney ,;gave- .another, unsuccessful puff at her rebellious cap, and lookea at me pitifully. 'I've been so worried, Mr. Grant,' she said, half tearfully.. 'First of all it's that girl that kUls herself, and the policemen ransacking the place, and the coroner, and the jury and -the lawyers wanting to know things that how anybody is to know them is a puzzle. Thei» it!s; you and Sir. Byrne as. stays away for two nights; and first one gent comes and says he knows that Mr. Byrne.. is in, and won't take no for an answer; and then another, and ano ther, — all asking questions,, and wanting to 6ee for themselves; and what's a poor widow to do whose old, man has been dead these ten years ? ' 'I can sympathise with you, Mrs. Rooney,' I said. 'I also had a relative, a dear old grandmother, who has been dead these fifteen years.' 'Has she?' guilelessly questioned Mrs. [Rooney. 'Poor old lady!' 'Are you quite sure that Mr. Byrne hasn't been home?' I asked. 'Have you looked in to his room?' : 'Of course I have,' ehe replied. 'I haven't elept a wink, and I'm half dead, that I am.' I hinted 'that the word 'breakfast' had an attraction for me at that moment; iand the good woman scrambled along the passage and down her kitchen stairs, fiercely fighting her rebellious cap, and crying all the while— 'What a fool I am! Of course you want breakfast, Mr. Grant, of course you do,' and disappeared somewhere in tne lower regions. I had looked up and down the street when I arrived, without seeing anybody 'whom I could recognise as a policeman in plain clothes watching the house; but when I carefully lifted the little short curtain of my window and peered out, I eaw right opposite to me, on the second floor of the house facing Mrs. Kooney's, two bearded faces, with their eyes fastened upon my window* - The men where standing behind their cur tain in a clumsily cautious manner; but a minute or . two afterwards one of them left the house, and walked up and down the street I saw the police constable on the beat stroll leisurely past him with his hands behind his back. My burly,, bearded friend seemed to brush against him, and I saw a quick movement of the arm towards the con stables two hands, wMch: were . still behind his back. My bearded -friend had no doubt passed a paper of some kind to the policeman on duty. The latter strolled on as if nothing had occurred, and as if he had seen nobody. . ? 'That's a communication for Whitehall Place,' I said. '^Ina quarter of 'an hour they'll know that I've returned from Paris.' Ix-rd Senfrey's remains were to be convey ed that morning to Paddingfcori Railway Sta tion,- ' to 'be taken for interment 'to a little God's Acre near Swindon, where his father and mother slept in peace. Jn his will he had expressed a wish that, having passed so much of his life amid the turmoil and strife of this worlds he might be interred in that se | eluded hamlet X -should hav-S liked 'to go to Padding I ton, but I had to choose between any re I euitefX might Obtain from watching the faces I there and the possibility of ths chances that [ might arise to me at ^ss Rooney's house, I X preferred the latter, and decided to remain. I 'Who lives in that house -$pposite io yon?' I I asked Mrs. Rooney, wnenJ«he bronght me I my-iweakfast- * ' ~1 * I ''The one across the' way, ,ybu mean?', said I the^'Wdman, '&e .house' wmrXbe brown *ar I tains and the brass knocker?' I 1 nodded in the affinnafive. I 'SChat's 'Mrs. Garrison 'what lives there: I Her Jmsbanu was a jjoliceman— a Inspector. I She 'lei? lodgings &e same as myself. -She I wasn't doing -much until & couple of days ago. I Now- aerje'e two pr flwee ^genUemen tbat I lives there.1?' *' - * , , ^ I I askefi'Mis. Hooneyif anj-at Mrs. Cter I rison's lodgers had bees asking .her questions, I and the wgobd' woman ^answjered: 'Noj I're

had enough of that kind of thing from them 1 as has a right to ^ask.'.' ' j The Whitehall Place people were evidently l determined to shadow me. 'Very well,' I said to myself ;? 'let them. 1 can keep my counsel all the same.' - - ;. I waited in my room until two o'clock, but not a soul came. . Byrne did iiot return, and Brodie did not call. I. listened for every sound on the stairs, for every: opening of the door below, for every voice at the ddorr Only one man called for Byrne,, but he went away again; and as I watched him going down the street, I saw that it was not Brodie. Another hour— till three o'clock. Still no body. I got Mrs. Rooney to bring'' me my luncheon, and pretended to be busily engaged in drawing. Another hour. I waited untu the hands of my watch pointed to four. Still nobody. 'I'm afraid it's all over with poor Byrne,' I said to myself. ? 'His body will be found in the Thames, or in some out-of-the-way cor ner. That Brodie would have called if he were not fully cognisant of whatever misad venture has. befallen his former companion in crime.' , I picked up my hat and walked out, and soon discovered that I was honored by the distinguished company— at a respectful dis tance, it- was true — of two members of the Criminal Investigation Department I went straight to my office, and there found Sprat who seemed to be in the seventh heaven of joy at seeing me again. He crawled up to me, and whined, and wagged his tail, and barked, as if delighted beyond measure. The poor doggie no doubt thought that he had lost me, as he had lost his for mer master. I sent Humphrey for Morton, while I ran over my correspondence, and I had barely finished my letters when the faiths f ul valet came. 'Can you tell me, Morton,' I asked him; 'if your master ever had a quarel with Lady Bent?' 'Not that I know, sir,' replied Morton; 'not an open quarrel, because I should have known that But he didn't like her, that I know; and one night I heard him call her 'that awful woman.' ' 'When was that?' I asked. ' , 'It was just after he and Lady Georgina had become engaged,'1 Morton answered, j 'My lord, I think, found out something about - Lady Bent that didn't please him; and Lady Bent called upon him, and they were toge ther for a long time in the drawing-room, and when Lady Bent came, out my lord was paler than I'd ever seen him before. But there had been no quarrel,! know, for not a sound of then- voices could be heard in the ante room. My lord was one of those men who knew how to keep his counsel when he want ed to, although he had few secrets from me; and he never referred to the call of Lady j Bent so I don't know what it was about' j 'Thank you, Morton,' I said; 'that's all I wanted to see you about for the present' Had Lord Senfrey discovered the fact of j Lady Bent's bigamy, and had he in his gener- 1 ous nature consented to spare her, or, rather, to spare her poor husband and his delicate j daughter? That was a vital question. The ; vacillating finger of doubt pointed to the af~ j firmative side. ? ; I was anxious to return as speedily as pos sible to Mrs. Rooney's hospitable roof, and, . therefore, taking up Sprat I jumped into a hansom and drove to Holborn. I found Mrs. Rooney as haggard and as anxious as before. In reply to my question, whether anybody had. called for me or whe- ] ther she had seen her lodger, she answered j with a mnte shake of the head, looking at me { all the while as if she would dearly have lik- j ed to cry. . ' 'I know there'll be another inquest,' she .? said; 'I know it. It can only happen to a , poor woman like me, that's a widow, whose ; old man has been dead these ten years ? i 'Oh, don't speak of such things, Mrs. Roo- . ney!' I interrupted. 'Mr. Byrne will Turn ; up all right— to-night most probably.' ; 'Not he,' she answered, 'not he. He a ; have told me if he'd intended to stay away \ of his own accord. He always did. He was , that regular that Big Ben's a sham 'to mm. ; Something's wrong, Mr. Grant,' she addea, ; 'something's very wrong; and my head goes j wobbly, and I can't see things wh?n I want j A little flat bottle was peeping out of Mrs. j Rooney's pocket at that moment, and made j me smile. , ! 'It's very hard on you, Mrs. Rooney, _ i said, 'to be so worried; and, as I thinkof it, I'm rather down in the mouth, too. -Would you mind obliging me by running over to the Three Blind Mice, and fetching me a bottle of unsweetened?' 'Is there anything in the world I wouldnt do for you?' the widow answered, with an alacrity inspired by anticipated pleasure. Fer smudged sallow face brightened, and she took the proffered coins with greedy fin gers. In about five minutes she returned in company with a bottle of gin, already duly opened, two glasses, and a jug of water. 'I never had a young gentleman staying in my house,' said Mrs. Rooney, engaged in helping herself to a large measure of the spirit 'as I could feel so much like a mother to as you, Mr. Grant. And as I come to look at you, you do remind me so much of my old. man, now dead and gone these ten years'— I gasped a trifle, but she went on unconcerned ly— 'when my old njian was young. You've just got his nose and the bottom part of his chin, though your eyes is different, and your mouth and moustache not a bit like him. And his hair was more fiery like than youns. I suppose that's why I took to you so imme diate when you came to me.' I asserted that I felt extremely favored by the comparison, and soon managed to draw the conversation towards the subject of Mr. Byrne's disappearance. - 'Perhaps he has left a letter 'or some pa pers,' I said, 'that might explain his. ab sence.' ' 1 i 'Oh, no; he'd have told me,' said Mm. Rooney. ' . ' I strongly remonstrated. 'Jt's your duty, Mrs; Rooney, to search the place, and see 'if there's anything there that can give a -diie to ais whereabouts. If anything has happened to the poor man, we must try and find him— thafs alL He may have been run over and be in a hospital, add not be able to speak and give his name and address.' : ..-,. ',?:' I do not know, whether my personal per suasion, or that Of the bottle of 'unsjweeten^ 'ed' was' the , more poW.elSuL but Mas: Roo ney at last consented, and unlocked my neigh bor's door. ?:'.'.':????' ..'.' 'Yes,' I said to. myself, .as I carefully ex amined the place and its contents, 'that's the eort of room -where that infernal box. .may have been made.' ; There was eyery .ma chinery there ior manufacturing it— tools, vices, soldering materials, jars filled with chemicals, acids by the bottlefuL The place was a laboratory and workshop combined. There was a trunk in one corner— a heavy one— but it was locked; and X icould see no papei? lying about that could attord at3ue. ' I was anxious not to arouse Mrs. Booney's suspicions, and preferred to wait before mak ing -a thorough search of ihe place. t I^was about to leave 'the room, whea I «aw, on the litfle table in the comer, a box of ^cigarettes. It was a tin *o3£, mid. as X opened it I found it still Contained Avnmbet of 4exceeainglysfine. Egyptian cigasreSttes. I looked at it tot a second or tsjro; and as I held It in my hand I f eli my face grow cold. It was a little box about six inches long, three -inches Twoad, ana an Inch deep, and'&om *he description 1 had read in the papers, It was identical Jwith that Batanic sine which hbd. contained the poison that JdlleEL Iiord Sen 1 1 deliberated with myself whether! shonlfl take lit or n&V or whether littA better leave -It In Its ?place, to be found hb a proof -svhen I wanted Itr~ Th#-l-ax:iJb!re no 4nBeripitton or mark *f any tdnd, Jmt I tne?f ,that I could at any time ask Mrs. Booney for It If 'T want ed to. I elmply opened It, ana took out one

if the cigarettes, saying casually, 'That's just what I wanted. I suppose he won't mind my stealing a cigarette from him, if. he comes1 back. I'd do the same thing for him.' 'Take one by all means,' said Mrs. Rop aey stoutly. 'He'd be only too glad, I know, though' he can be a bear now and then. But he has always been decent to his neigh bors. He was very nice _ to that -poor girl that killed herself and very kind.' That evening and night I passed in fruitless watching. The next morning I waited in the same way until past noon. Then I strolled 3ut again, taking Sprat with me. I called at my chambers, and - then went to Pare. Lane. I determined to have an interview with Lady Bent, without telling her or allow ing her to know what I had discovered. 'My lady isn't very well, and hasn't yet come down,', said the footman. 'I'll tell her maid, and she'll see you, I have no doubt' Indeed, Lady Bent's maid came down a few minutes afterwards. 'Lady Benf she said, 'will see you in her boudoir. She's poorly this morning, af ter yesterday's mournful scene.' I was ushered into . Lady Bent's room, a dainty and richly decorated little chamber. My lady wore an 'old gold' plush dressing gown, trimmed with rich lace, and her face had an anxious and drawn look, for which the emotions of the previous day might per liaps have proved sufficient warranty. She was smoking a cigarette when I entered, and held out the tips of two fingers. ^ 'You mustn't mind me, Mr. Grey,'' she said. 'I suppose you-~are shocked at seeing a lady smoke It's a habit of mine of whicfy I can't break myself, and when I'm a little nervous I fly to it' I protested that I was not disconcerted in \ the least, and that I knew that many ladies j indulged in a iyhif£ now and then. . ! I had barely finished my words, however, when, upon the table at my lady's side, I saw a box— the box which contained her cigarettes. It was identically of the. same make, shape, and size as the one I had seen in Jasper Byrne's room. ? (To be continued.)