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Chapter NumberVI
Chapter Title
Chapter Url
Full Date1896-07-29
Page Number7
Word Count3628
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleEvening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931)
Trove TitleThe Crime of a Christmas Toy
article text

Crime of a Ghpistnias Toy.



The man next door to me had been knock ing against the thin wail which divided us, crying, 'Wta.t'43 up, neighbor? Are you go ing to knock the house down? Can't you fceep that dog of yours quiet, and let people sleep?' : I could see nothing at that moment but those two pieces of paper in my hand, and

jjuu iiu ears Dut ror my own tnougnts. 'Are you hurt?' the man continued. 'Can I do anything for you?' 'It's nothing, neighbor,' I replied, at last 'It's only a flower-pot that has fallen from the shelf— quite an accident' 'That's a good job,' the man retorted. 'I'm dog tired, and I do hope you'll let me sleep after this.' I promised silence, but sleep after that was impossible to me. I put on my trousers with as little noise as I possibly could, and donned my slippers. Then I lit my candle,- and went to the other flower-pot, and pulled out the earth and plant, but nothing was there. I loosened all the earth round the roots of both pots without discovering anything. 'That line tells its tale,' I said to myself. 'She was a noble-minded girl, and from what I know of I/ord Senfrey he would not have deceived a girl of that stamp and led her to her death. No, that's much more like my friend Count Brodie.' '''. I sat myself down and turned all the pros and cons over in my mind. The girl had come to the house without an introduction. I could see through that scheme clearly. Brodie had given her the number of the house, and told he'r to hire this room. He was evidently on terms of intimate acquaintance with the man next door, and thus would not have to ask for the girl when he wanted to see her. He would simply go up to my neighbor's room, and, once there, could visit Maria Ora no without arousing Mrs. Rooney'e suspi cions, or, in fact without anybody being aware of his presence in the girl's chamber. It was a clever arrangement, but just not clever enough to baffle anybody who inquired into such a matter with tact and decision. As eoon as the light was strong enough- I crawled all over the room again from one end to tae other. I noiselessly lifted the 'bed and the mattress. I carefully examined every nook, every cranny, every crack of a 'board. I raised the carpet where I could, and looked underneath that but two or three particles of Turkish tobacco were the only additional tro phies of my endeavors. At about half-past seven o'clock my neigh bor commenced to stir, and I could hear him dress himself. Directly afterwards I heard Mrs. Rooney come upstairs, knock, and bring him -his breakfast. I opened my door and re minded the good woman of her promise of the previous evening, and asked her to bring me up a cup of tea and some toast 'That I will, Mr. Grant' she said, ratheor huskily, 'the best thafs in the 'ouse, and something tasty with it, if you don't mind something that you don't get everywhere.' 'Don't take too jnuch trouble, Mrs. Roo ney,' I remarked. 'And no trouble Is a trouble, Mr. Grant,' she retorted, 'when ife being civil to a gen- ! tleman as knows how to treat a poor widow with seven children to support, and one of them a cripple from his birth.' I suggested that I was in a mood to devour elephants and digest snakes; ancT Mrs. Roor ney's venerable . slippers were -immediafelx, heard going pat pat pat down the stains like a pair of clappers. Mrs. Rooney was as good as her word. Not a quarter of an hour had elapsed when ; Bhe returned beaming after the style of an j mdisehkined-moon in a showman's booth. 'There,' she said, taking the cover from a plate. 'You don't get that eyerywheres you go;' and, true enongh, on a piece of buttered j toast she had spread three soft roes of red herrings. I protested that this wholesale spoliation of the provisions destined for other lodgers was unmerited by myself. Mrs. Rooney, how ever, stoutly asserted that 'there is herrings that's got soft roes, and herrings that's igot 'ard roes, and hearings that's got no roes at all, and how are they 'to know what kind bought?' . . Whilst Mrs. Rooney was standing by ,my table pouring out my tea' with a smirky pride in her .' handiwork, I heard my next door neighbor go out and lock hie door. 'Good morning, Mr. Byrne,' Mrs. Rooney called/lout to him. He rejoined gruffly, 'Good morning,' and went downstairs. 'There, now,' said Mrs. Rooney. 'He's gone, and won't be back till eleven. Then he'H stay here the livelong day until one of them gentlemen that he does business with comes and fetches him.' I listened attentively to the information vouchsafed. Mrs. Rooney's personality this morning wafted fleeting aromas x-f stale alco hol through the room, instead of the odor of onions of the previous evening. I had to bear the infliction of her presence, and to de termine to draw some profit from it 'Jfi Mr. Bymete room nicer than mine?' I asked. 'Oh, dear,, no,' the good woman answered quickly. 'It was exactly the same as yours when 'e took it, but now it looks like a fac tory.' ? ' / I asked whether it would be possible to have a look at it 'WelV.eaid Mrs. Rooney, 'he'd kick up a deuce of a row if he knew, because he's al ways strictly forbidden me to allow anybody to go into his room— 'Not on any account whatever, Mrs. Rooney,' 'e says— and he can be such a pear when he likes. But you've been so nice that if you won't say anything about It to nobody, I don't mind letting you have a peep, though what- you'll see in there isn't worth seeing, I'm «ure.' . j I asserted that my curiosity was stimulated by what she had told me, and Mns. Rooney, stealing on tiptoe to the door -ofv the next room, as, if the 'inn were still within earshot cautiously unlocked it with a key she had on her bunch, and Tve entered; There, yf as no doubt that the man was ocr copied in scientific pursuits. Implements -of all kinds were strewn over the place, and portions of delicate machinery were lying here and there, - A vice fixed to a, /table, and a formidable array -of bottles and jars filled with chemicals occupied a shelf. What in terested me most was the position of tae fur niture along the wall next to mine. I mea sured each inch of that wall carefully with my eyes. In the corner next to the window stood a wardrobe, but the cornice projected away from the main body of the structure, and between It and the wall a space of some five or six inches was vacant Next to the wardrobe the wall was covered by hanging coats and oifcer articles of clothing. After that came the- bed, and then flie dressing table. I Had ueea all I wanted. I.thanked Mrs. Rooney fot the privilege she had afforded me, and went back to my room: When Mra Roo ney had left ane— 'for the best tit friends most part ngw and then,' I^aid— I locked Jny door and immediately made my plans for fixing All ear-trnmpet to the walL The ordinary reader may not know ifrhat kind of ..'an instalment Is an. ear-ixnmpetlstich as I Intended 'to mfe. It Is a kittle tube of hard metal, and istnadg in direts lengtbsH&om six to .eighteen Inches, It is iouch smaller at one end wan at the oilier, tapering from the size of a cob-nut to that -of a pea. This instrument When fixed in a wall witii are broad end ^towards the -room whence the sound proceeds, and, the thin enfl jprojecjlng on the side -wherfr fiie listener-8tanas, carries to the attentive ear1 every sound In the next room. It is ©nly necesauy 4© plug it wjtth -* J

piece of tissue paper to obviate the reverse process and the penetration of light It is extensively used in the detective and. secret services of most countries. ? .''' :r The only place in which I could safely' in- sert my ear-trumpet was in the corner near the window, where any tear I would produce on the paper in the next room trotild be bid den by the projecting wardrobe. I tapped the wall, and found that it was simply a lath and plaster partition. I took out the little pocket case of instruments which I always carried with me, and screwed my adjustable gimlet to the length of eight inches. I knew that five or six inches, at most would be the depth of the partition, and so I found it Guided by the sound, I managed to carefully touch the paper on the other side, and to pierce it without as I felt sure, making an unnecessarily large mark. I then cut my ear-trumpet to the length I required and in serted it 'All's fan- in love and war,' I said to my self, 'and, in the case of .murder, -any trap set for the villains is right and just' I brushed away the particles of dust which had fallen on the floor, and then, taking Sprat under my arm, I went out Mrs. Rooney bowed me out of the house as if £ had been a prince. 'You'll find your Toom as nice as a new pin when you come back,' she said, as she stood holding the door .open for me. 'I'll give it -an extra lot of elbow grease.' I begged her to be sure and do nothing of the kind. I had arranged my belongings as I wanted them, I said, and I didn't wish them to be disturbed. -'As you like, sir,' she rejoined.^ 'Not as I mind the trouble, for nothing can be a trou 'Good motrnoing,' Mbs. Rooney, I interrup ted, with a doff of the hat which might have satisfied a duchess, and deseended the short flight of steps. My first business, on my arrival in Craven street, was to send a wire to Morton, asking him to call on me tiie moment he could. . . Then I opened my letters and gave Sprat, who by this time had apparently- accepted me as his master, his breakfast liess than an hour passed before Morton was in my room, and I went straight to my purpose. 'Can you tell me, Morton,' I said, 'if Lord Senfrey ware suede gloves?' 'Never,' was the prompt reply* 'Of that you're quite^sureT' ' 'Quite.' ? ?'Tax your memory,' I went onj 'because the point is of great importance. Are you absolutely certain that . Lord Senfrey never wore euede gloves?' 'Absolutely certain. I know every glove that he wore. He used only Dent's kids and dogskin. I can show you every glove he wore for the last two months, because he never kept them for more than a week and then I had them.' 'Can you tell me,' I asked, 'if Count Gyffa Brodie wears suede gloves?' 'I can't say, sir,' Morton janswered. 'He might and he might not I don't remember.' 'This is more important in the cause of your murdered master than you can imagine. Do you think, Morton, that you can find out for me whether or not Count Brodie wears suede gloves, and, if possible, get me one or more of his gloves?' 'There's no difficulty about that,' Morton answered. 'I know Count Brodie's valet very well; and I've only to go to him and ask him to sell me some soiled suede gloves, and I've no doubt I could buy a parcel for five shillings.' This being arranged I strolled to Farqu har's, where I kept my tiny account and isvhere my father had kept his banking ac count for very: manjr-years. - 1 had scribbled the number of the bank-note in my book, and the manager immediately promised to trace it fpr me as far back as possible.. Then I returned to my chambers and waited for Morton. The faithful servant soon came. 'I've bought all there was to be bought Mr. Grey,' he said. 'Here's every glove Count Brodie has worn during the last month or so.' I unpacked the parcel, and, sure enough, nearly two-thirds of its contents were suede gloves. I examined the buttons. They all bore the stamp I had found upon mine; and as I went through them one by one I actu ally came upon a glove from which one but ton was missing. 'Probably ft- was the very glove Count Brodie had worn in Maria Or -ano'fl room. In the course of the same afternoon a mes senger from the bank brought me the follow ing letter. 'Dear Sir,— We have obtained the required information. The note C69935 was issued by the Bank of England, on May the second last, to the St James's Branch of the London and West* minster Bank, and they in then: turn paid it to the Right Honorable the Earl of Bent' How came Lord Bent's bank-note Into Maria Oranq's hands? /The answer seemed not difficult The Earl had given it to his wife. Lady Bent had without doubt transferred It to Count Brodie, and my Levantine friend had used it to fee his inamorata. * Of course one might have enumerated a dozen cases, in any one of which Lady, Bent might have given the ten-pound bank-note to Count Brodie in a perfectly innocent manner. The cause of charity covers a multitude of sins, 'tie said, and the note might have chang ed hands under its banner. The purchase of some article, the settlement of an account, and the like, might have been a reason. 'That's* not it, however,' I eaid; to myself. 'That man's either Lady Bent's paramour, or he lives upon her. Either he blackmails her, or he*s her lover. I weighed the matter in my mind. The Count was a handsome fellow as men go— stylish, tall, straight-limbed. He had the ease and the, polish of the French dandy,, and well knew how to make himself agreeable when' he desired to. Such a man might ap pear an Adonis to a hale and hearty woman in the early forties wedded to an old man. 'Poor Lord Bentl' I said to myself; 'poor old man!' And yet it was Lord Bent iiimself that I felt bound to make the- keeper of my trea-- sure trove. It would never 'bare done for me to keep the. note. I . taiew that- the police were extremely jealous of beginnera In the profession . like myself. They tolerated the. old established opposition, but where they could put a spoke into the wheel of a new man they would certainly not miss a chance. It would have been Illegal for me to retain ? possession of that note. ? Therefore I folded it Into an ordinary envelope and dos ed that Then I placed the whole into a second envelope— a stout ihien-cpated one. This I sealed with my seal, and wrote on it, 'Confided tt- the keeping of the Bight Honor able the Earl of Bent Not to be opened without Geotge Grey'e consent, except in case of his death.4' Then I took a cab to Park Xiaoe.' Mr. dscar Hume received jtne In the library. It seemed to me that lie was «ven paler than usual, and his cold 'gr|y eyes moved uneasily, as if some trouble were on his mind. His passionless politeness sHU kept «way over Mm, ijut the nervous' jabbing lof tiie hands against one another betrayed anxiety./- ' 'rdottope, MnGtey,' he feald, In his elow drawl, 'that you'll' soxtn^et, at the fxrttom of |his fearful business. -The house seems tam ed' apside -4drni. \ &£fo'$idfyito* U yejy W indeed. Xf s pitiful to see her.' T. wondered in'myTniritl why 'Lady Cteor gina's illness should havejfaeh a. gtrSdng ef fect 'upon -Mr. Oscar Hume.- He was an old servant of Tier father/' that ^aB-lrae/atofl^us such he naturally felt^the loss goffered 3-y thb daughter. But tier Trasijand inig&t iot tiaye spoken moije feelingly, j-'/ ' ~ * ' ~ « ' 'Sbri^e^eome to #ee afce Slad?' Jhe *on tinued, after I had seated' inyself. 'I've telephoned to nlm.' ^Heii 'be .dowft?IhT a min ute.' ?He took hi* «eat -byMs Wrtting-bUjie, «nfl

the light through the high, open window fell upon his profile. It was a handsome face in its classic, statuesque mould. That was the face of an ascetic, of a student' I could not help admiring it It might Tiave served as a model for Ignatius Loyola. The moment previous the curious thought had entered my mind, .'Is that man in love with his master's daughter?' but the moment afterwards, when I noticed the severe outlines, I «aid to myself^ 'No, that is the last of the passions to find a seat hi that man.' Lord Bent came down, and Lady Georgina with him. There was no doubt that the girl had suffered terribly. Her. big, languid eyes were eloquent of her grief. Her face was drawn and haggard, and she moved with painful deliberateness. She held out her hand to me with a sickly smile, and said, in a whisper nearly, 'I suppose, Mr. Grey, if s much too early to hope for news from you?' Tne poor girl's sorrow went straight to my heart, and if- anything had been required to spur me to my task, the sight of her face would have done it 'It is too early, Lady Georgina,' I replied; 'but you may rely that no time has been lost, ! or will be lost' 'You'll do all you can, won't you?' she continued; 'for my sake?' 'You may rely upon that' was my answer. 'We are all so glad that you've undertaken this business for us,' said the Earl. 'It seems to me as if our cause were in the hands of a trusty friend. You wish to see. me?' '(STes,' I said, producing my envelope; 'I want you to take charge of this. It's a docu ment which may or may not be of great, im portance' In this, business, M£ad I want to ask you to put it into your safe and there to keep 1 it until 1 ask you to open it.' Mr. Hume rose at that moment and held out his hand; but I stepped straight to the Earl and gave the envelope to him. 'I shall be obliged, Lord Bent' I «aid, 'if you will kindly take charge of this yourself.' Mr. Hume gave a barely perceptible shake oft the head, and sat down without a word. 'I'll do exactly as you wjsh,' rejoined the Earl. 'Of course you've some reason for wishing me to do this, and for being silent on the subject at present' ._ ? - 'I have a very potent reason,' I answered. 'That's sufficient for me,' said the Earl, and put the envelope in his pocket Lady Georgina stepped up to me, and took my hand in both her own. 'You'll think of little Georgina Rhowdon, wonS you, in this?' she said fervently. 'It's breaking my heart They're accusing my poor dear Alfred of the most dastardly infi delity to me. Prove that they nave lied, that he was the good and true man which I i know he was, and I will be ever grateful to you.' I am not easily moved, but I felt as if there were a ball rising in my throat as she pressed my hand with her dainty fingers, and looked straight into my eyes, whilst hers were brim ful of tears. 'I hope I may be able to do what you wish, Lady Georgina,' -I replied; 'and. to-morrow, ! perhaps, I may be able to say, 'I believe I I shall do it' ' J Again a grateful pressure of the hand, and I after looking back at me for a moment she j left the room with her father. j I looked round on a sudden after the Earl's departure, and saw Mr. Hume sitting at the table with his elbow upon it and his head resting upop his hand. He was staring at j the open window. His lips were open, and his teeth hard set There was a look of a brooding Caligula about him. 'That man's taking this matter very much I to -heart' I said to myself. 'I shouldn't j like to be Lord Senfrey's murderer, and fall ! into that man's hands. I wonder if he is a i Claude Melnotte, grieving for the sorrow of i an unapproachable Pauline.' '. I After calling at my office, and taking Sprat j with me, I went to James-street, Bedford Row. I discharged my cab at Grey's Innji and thence walked. As I came along the street, I noticed on the opposite^ side of the house two broad-shouldered heavy-looking men, strolling leisurely up and down swing ing their sticks. If they had been marked 'Criminal Investigation Department' all over ! they could not have been more easily recog ' nisable as ordinary constables in plain clothes. i Another. peered just round tHe corner at the next turning. 'Oho!' I said to myself. 'They've dis covered so soon that I'm here, and are watch ing the place.'. (To b© continued.)