|Newspaper Title||Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931)|
|Trove Title||The Crime of a Christmas Toy|
THE - - ! Crime of a Christmas Toy.
(BY HENRY HERMAN.)
I was thinking over the affair when my glance fell upon Lady Bent's letter, which I had received, that morning, and which was lying on my table, and my gaze fastened it self upon it as upon a snake; for that letter, to - sure, had been written with a 'J' pen held sideways.
I compared the paper of the latter with my scrap. There was no similarity. I tried let ter after letter on my scrap with letters in her note. There was no resemblance, and of course there conld be none except the similarity ?? resulting from the writers of the- '^twp ; holdings their pens hi the .same manriefc^-Btit-the -fact remained — tliat diabolic scrap had been written with a 'J' pen held sideways; of that I had no doubt, and Lady Bent .wrote with a 'J' pen which she held sideways. That was also pa tent to anybody who saw the letter. My first business would be to obtain speci mens of the handwritings of all the people whom I suspected. For that purpose I wrote a short note- to Lady Senfrey, asking if it would be convenient for her to see me on the following morning. I dispatched this by express messenger. Then I sent, by my clerk Weatherby, a short missive to Hiss Do rotliy Anderson, simply asking a question re latins to a .friend, then in Africa, whom she knew. ? ??? - In the iUst instance I was quite^bagaed; for tke'tiitie, -at any rate. Lady Senfrey sent her reply by telegram. My note to Miss Anderson came .back, sim ply with the words scribbled in the corner: 'Busy rehearsing. Don't know. Excuse ecrawl. — D. A.' ' That, of course, could give me no indication of what I wanted, as it was written with pencil, and most likely while the writer was standing up. I should have to try there again as well. ... That same afternoon Morton brought Sprat to my chambers. He had. combed the little doggie's long hair and had tidied him; and, in addition to his little silver collar, had tied a blue silk ribbon round his neck. He had tears in his eyes and could barely speak when he put Sprat down on my sofa. 'My lady has been at me again,' he said, 'about poor. Sprat, and I thought I'd better bring him to you at once.' There was a gasp and a break in his voice. 'If my lord knew it,' he said, 'he'd turn in his ? ' He was evidently about to say 'in his grave,' but he arrested himself. I went up to Sprat and sat myself down by his side and stroked him. The little doggie looked into my eyes coldly, but allowed me to go on without remonstrance. I took him up and put him a little closer to me, and he heav ed a big sigh, such as a little dog is some times known to utter, and curled himself down by my side, looking up at me all the while; and after a little space of time he put his cold muzzle to my hand and gave one gentle lick. This was, I suppose, «s a token that he re cojmised me as a friend. To me it seemed that, if a dog could speak, poor Sprat said, 'It doesn't matter what becomes of me now. lly poor master is dead, and you can do with me what you like.' Morton had brought a little basket with bis cuits and some chicken bones, and he spread them all but in a corner for Sprat to eee. But the dog was not to be tempted,and re mained on the sofa where he lay. 'You'll take care of him, Mr. Grey?' he eaid. half tearfuliy. 15Tou will, for my poor lord's sake, won't you?' 'I will take care .of the dog as if he'd be longed to me all my life. You can rely upon me for that,' I replied. 'Thank you, sir, kindly,' the man said, and without a further word went out 'There'6 a true servant for you,' I said to myself. 'If that man can assist me in my task he will— that I know.' Sprat and myself came to be great friends before the afternoon had far advanced, but, try what I might, I could not get him to eat anything. I had made up my mind to start my research, that very day. Therefore I gave to my clerk, valet, secretary, messenger, and general factotum, Weatherby,. all neces sary instructions about,, the dog's keep and treatment while I might be away.
'I shall have to begin at. the beginning,' I said to myself; 'and the beginning of all this trouble lay with that girl, Maria Orano.' I set out, therefore, towards James-street, Bedford Row. 1 was not long in finding the house in which the girl had poisoned herself. The number was 132, and it had the dark, diti^y, half-squalid appearance of the regular Holborn lodging-house. It was an ugly, four fitorey, brown brick building, totally guileless of ornamentation— the kind of house that abounds in the districts about Gray's Inn road. The windows shone like the surface of a stagnant pool with the dust and grime of months. The knocker on the door was rusty, the iron railings of the area suffered from a similar decay, and up in the regions near the &y at least two windows were mended with paper. ?* In the sheet of glass over the door way a time-soiled card announced to all and every of her Majesty's lieges, and aliens to toot, that furnished1 apartments and bedrooms Were to be let. I looked round the street It was of that Eemi-senteel respectability which covers & multitude of gins, fh such a neighborhood people of all kinds,, classes, and nationalities would congregate. No clue whatever could be afforded from the exteriors of the charac ter of the inhabitants within. Xobody, it was true, might suspect that a nobleman or a millionaire lived there; but, at &e same time, the occupations of the resi dents could be surmised only here and there from little brass plates underneath the bells. Ko. 132 was neither much better nor much worse than its neighbors, and might have har bored a fledgeling Milton^ or a .dying Chatter ton, or, taking a more pessimistic view, might have concealed a murderer, or given shelter to a professional housebreaker. I knew that the police would by this time teve thoroughly examined the room in which Maria Orano had ended her young life; but I knew equally well that the late gleaner in the field of inquiry often gathers a rich straw. ???.; I knocked, and -Ifie door was opened with out' much delay by a sallow-faced, «lderly wo man, dressed rin the slovenly remnants of what had once been a decent cashmere gown, Wtn a small black worsted- shawi tiedNcross ways over hei chest and shoulders, ,and With her hands cased in ragged black inittenisi A Wack cap, adorned with 4ingy.biue ribbons, ^t upon her ;Maa; and- ishjS . kept-one npnd ?pon the latch of : her floor* .*Sus if ready to slam rtin my face- dt ^e:4i^Megt provocation.. 'And What may't *el^-ra rwant, eixf she ««*, grnffl^1:^;' :;;i,tv^.:.-. Vv.-, ?? ? ? -'??-:- I see yon'.ve apartniente and roomfe ...to let»'; 1 answered :-m3r ,qid&y$.&Bd.-the lady, thus Peacefully t$^rdjged;; ^^ 3^^^ i^d^pfehed the door a'Utjie^ideV $*£':l$k -^ '?.*;*. **&? 'Come in, 'slr^':fihe-*aift-~*'anff: ill talk to Jon.' ' '' ?-.-? ??..%.: -^7.,: '?????;.;?*- ,''.- :- ''t:--] I entered, £nd^f6f & moment: or' Jwp ih& Passage, Ut oidy^^ttiie glaab ?apertai€-;J9Vffr foe door, lobk^Wme^'iike'^avda]Acl^i:'-i'''^ie *oy threw open a dSor'at the' side; and us 'wed me into a sitting-room furnished In the regulation lodgingrlipuse 'fashion— green and ^eUow striped rep curtains, chair and sofa co ?ers of the same kind,' long faded fait ut'tfe ^gnition of the original' colors,, half-broken, £*eap china ornaments, .sudd mahogany jfoflat rare that haa Iost',ite lustre, .ana, here and were, its regularity at .iSjnstructionv ' ;- . .? You must eteuse me, sir',*' she *aidj *fbHt »le £een 60 bothered, lately ihat I,don!t know faether I'm a standing on jay' head x-r tny I n '-CJ -2-' ' * '
'eels. Is. it a bed and sitting room you wanV or a bedroom alone; and is it for yourself, sir,' or for anybody «lse?— not aTaay, I 'ojie, sir, because I won't take another lady in again, not if I know it; not if. she was to pay me .three pound a -week. [ No, never no more^ not while I'm: keeping lodgings!' ? I admitted that I wanted rooms for myself, ; but I expressed myself to be content .with a bedroom only... I knew very well that Maria Orano had lived on the third floor, and to get into that, room, or near that room, was of course my object 'I've got a bedroom to let, sir,' the woman went on; 'in fact, I've got two. One is nine shillings a week, and one is seven shillings; and if you don't mind coming upstairs, I'll show 'em to you.' ? I followed her, and was shown to a back room oh the third floor, the one for which the lady demanded .a weekly rental of nine shil lings. From the description which I had read in the papers, I knew that Maria Orano had killed herself in the chamber opposite. 'Is this the only bedroom to let?' Tasked. The woman hesitated for a moment and then replied: — 'if op see, sir it's a hard living one has to get by letting lodgings, and you look a re spectable young man, and if you was to come and lodge here, I'd like to keep you. I don't like to 'ave lodgers coming here, staying for a week or two, and then go away, so I'd bet ter tell you the truth, and the whole truth.' 'I've got another room, the one in front 'ere, and I've been offering to let it for all sorts of prices, but I'm afraid \ I shan't be able to let it, because there's been a wretched girl living in there and killed herself— took poison; and the. police 'ave been 'ere, and the '? Coroner's officer: 'as been 'ere, and Heaven knows only who's coming 'ere , next; . and they've been worrying my life out, and ask ing questions, and put it all down on paper, so as I don't know what to say next and what I shall be asked next; and if you're not afraid of living in a room where a girl— and as nice a girl as ever you might have seen for the look of her— 'as been and killed herself, you can 'ave the room for seven shillings a week, and it's a cheap room, I can\ell you. It's a front room, and nicely furnished.' 'Very well,' I said; 'I'm not afraid of ghosts, and I'm not afraid of people who kill themselves. Dead people can do no harm. I think Til have a look at the room.' It proved to be as pleasant a chamber as one might have expected to see in that house, i Two flower-pots, which the dead girl had evi- ] dentiy bought, still stood on the window-shelf, ? and the furniture-covers and hangings being I of bright, if half washed out chintz, made the i room look a little lighter and more cheerful. 'I think this will do,' I said. 'I'll take your room; and to make sure that you shall be all right and come to no grief,' I added, opening m.y purse, 'here's a fortnight's rent in advance.' The promptly proffered coin was probably sufficient evidence of my character as a de sirable lodger, for the sallow-faced lady im mediately volunteered the statement that her name was Matilda Roohey, and that her hus- ' band, dead and gone these ten years, had left j her with seven children to support, and one of them a cripple that never could walk from its birth, and that she'd a hard struggle in the world to make both ends meet and get a hot joint on a Sunday; and that she'd be glad to know when I'd bring my luggage, for she'd have the room tidied up a bit How long the peroration might have lasted nobody might have told; but I stopped Mrs. ' Rooney's flow of speech by* telling her that ] I had walked a great deal that day, and that, j if she did not mind, I would lie down and have a short rest, and later in the afternoon i I would sally forth and return in the evening with my belongings. 'Quite as you wish, sir,' Mrs!- Jtooney re plieu, with an old-fashioned curteey. 'You've paid your rent for a fortnight, and for a fort night the room's yours, though I do 'ope, sir, as you'll stay much longer, for all my lodgers, when they once come here, don't seem to be in no hurry to go away, though some of them do owe me a mint of money, sir, more as you'd ever believe any man with a 'eart in his body would owe t' a poor widow with seven children to support, and one of 'em a cripple from his birth.' I took off my coat and hung it upon the peg behind the door, and this movement seemed sufficient indication to the lady to take her departure. 'All right, sir,' she said; 'a wink with a coal hammer'll do for me. I'm off. You go and have your nap, and then go out and fetch your trunk in the evening. Good day, sir; and pleasant dreams to you.' I was, installed in the very room where Maria Orano had killed herself. I looked about the place, but of course it bore no signs of the tragedy that had taken place within it I was about to go to the'chest of draws to open that, when the tramp of a man was heard on the staircase, and I stepped to the door and gently and noiselessly locked it The steps approached, and for a second stop ped on the landing outside my room. Then they passed on, seemingly, to the door next to mine. I could hear the man try the handle. 'O'est moi,' he said, in a quiet voice, the sound of which I seemed to know, and somebody .ith in the next room irose, went to the door, un locked it, and the man outside entered. : I could not hear -the conversation, but the' bing of that voice remained in my ear like the echo of one I had heard before. I crept to the wall and listened, but could hear noth ing. After a while a slight noise reached me as of a man in the next room dressing. Then footsteps, this time of two men, could be heard on the landing outside. The men, who ever they, were, - went downstairs. I could hear the hall door slam, t and then I stole back to the window and raised it, keeping n^ hand before my face. After a few seconds I looked out guardedly The two men were, strolling leisurely along the pavement away from' the. 'house. The figure of one of them was quite familiar to me; but It was only' at the next' crossing, Where they .turned at right angles, that I re cognised him. He was Oourit Gyffia BrodieT
CHAPTER V. Cpunt Brodie seeined to be. destined .to figure conspicuously to my investigations. It was clear to me that he was on terms of close acq.tlainta.hde with my next door lodger; and that being ascertained, the theory of an intimacy between him and Maria Orano was easily suggested. '' , Morton had asserted, and I had every rea eon to believe the truth of his statement, that' Lord Senfrey tooka merely, friendly interest in the 'little Italian i girL Gould it be that, the person on whose account she ?comniitted sui cide was Count 'Sfodie? ;. ItTtfas possible, but It seemed ^^ge.that 1£ «uch' jpere the case the police i&d ho information upon the sub ject, ^d^.ti^'?;..3^y$/;tii|^le'.^Iaeya]iifiaie'- friend waied .60 iinw-ncerh^^ of the house where hifi Tictiin fiad poisbnea herself. Thete wag rib time to Delost, and I imme diately, set to work to examine every nook and jcoraer of my room. . To start with, I $rent ^n 'my hands' and taiees 'and crawled over the floor from one -end to ?tiie other. The carpN?^ in' the room was vroM, And hfere and there tornu Underneath thejbed the fluff lay half an inch thick. I noiselessly moved the 3-ed,y first on^one side, then on the other,, out could find nothing, except, at one cornet, quite close to the wall, between the £dge~ Sf the carpet and the wall Itself, a little brass button. -i ^ * I held it up to the light and examined Jt It was a small button which had £viden£ly ,Ue tonged to & gloVe— a man's glove, most pfo 'bably, &om~$hfe -size. ,That was nof ah tes- traordinary find. in itself. I held it up to the light again, and found,- irf tiny *gunss; the letters 'O. F. and Cie.7 etampfed upon &. 'That belonged Jo a. French glove,' I said to myself. 'The word JCIe.' tells me that It
it ha t been- an English made glore it would ?have been 'Co.'' I put the thing into my pocket and crawled on further. There .was a little square table near the window, leoVered with a greyish stained toilet cover. A little dressing-glass stood on it, and there were various broken and unbroken little china trays and boxes be ! longing to an odd dressing-table set \ «ust ? next to one leg of the table I found a single, thin, long, unbroken particle of Turkish to bacco. It was just one of the fine threads of tobacco that a man in making a cigarette might have dropped. That was not much I either; but it indicated to me that either Ma 1 ria Orano herself had smoked Turkish tobac j co in the place — and Italian girls -.sometimes do smoke— or that somebody had been in the place who smoked Turkish tobacco. I picked up my tiny tobacco straw with the utmost care and laid it gently on one of the. little china trays. Then I searched for inore. On another of the trays on the toilet table I discovered two particles of Turkish tobacco eyen finer than, the first and when I- looked still further I found three or four more on the floor on the same side of the table. I gatherr ed them all together carefully, and when I took out my magnifying glass I found that these were straight cut Turkish tobacco of excellent quality and crop. I would have to question Mrs. Rooney about Maria Orano's habits, whether or not she smoked; and that would help me a great deaL Turkish tobacco of that quality was not sold on the purlieus of Holborn. It was [ patent to me that somebody had stood by ! that table and had there made a cigarette, I and, as I opened one of he little china boxes I on the table, my surmise became strengthen i ed when I found there a burnt out wax vesta. I I should have to learn if Maria Orano receiv ed visitors, and, if possible, whom,. Another point of importance would be to know who I introduced her to the landlady. After that i I opened the wardrobe and all the drawers in the room. I turned out every speck of dust and left no corner where a pin could lie un ; examined. But my search proved fruitless. 'Two things I shall have to find out,' I said to niyself— 'to what kind of. glove this button belonged, and where the paper was. bought from which this scrap in my pocket ! was torn.' 1 Twilight had been setting in in the mean time, and it was impossible to continue my ! search, as I was provided with neither can I die, lamp, nor gaslight I went downstairs, ! therefore, and passing Mrs. Matilda Rooney, who, curtseying and grinning her sweetest, opened the door for me, I went out My first i journey brought me to the Strand. I dealt habitually for my gloves and hosiery at a Shop near Charing Cross station. I entered, and called the manager. 'Can you tell me,' I asked, . 'from what kind of glove this button has been torn?' The hosier looked at it. 'Oh, yes, sir,' he said; 'that's easy enough. That's a French button, and the initials on it stand for Courtin Freres and Company. They've been supplying the market with a lot of suede gloves lately, and they've gone off very well— good quality and low prices. I should say that that button comes from one of them.' 'Have you got any of these suede gloves?' I asked. 'No, sir,' was the man's answer; 'I haven't at present. 'We had six pairs, and sold them all.' 'Do you know who is likely to keep them?' I continued. ' 'Oh, most shops in the West End keep 1 them. ' If you look about Bond-street or the Burlington Arcade, you'll find them at a do zen places.' This was valuable information. A man had evidently been in Maria Orano's room who wore suede gloves. It would be my duty to know if Count Gyfira Brodie wore suede gloves. (To be continued.)