Chapter 162354521

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Chapter NumberVI
Chapter TitleTHE SECRETARY.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article162354521
Full Date1899-01-21
Page Number38
Corrections0
Word Count1864
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)
Trove TitleThe Red-Headed Man
article text

CHAPTER VI.—THE SECRETARY.

Quite unaware of the clue his chance re mark had given to his visitors, the banker

touched an electric bell.

"hend iVir. v ass to me," he said when the clerk appeared; then turning towards i'orry, lie added — "Air. droit's private secretaiy will be here in a few minutes; lie will be able to answer your questions better than 1." " to

"Was Mr. yass in the confidence of the deceased, sir?"

"Entirely. He was Mi*. Grent's right hand. I may inform you as a proof of the confidence my poor friend put in him that Air. Yass had, and,-has, the key of Air. Grent's private safe. I shall leave you alone with Y ass, while I send a wire to my father in Paris, advising him of this, tra gedy." He paused a moment, then con tinued—"1 may also add that Air. Yass lias been ill, and since Saturday has been con fined to his bed; lie returned only this morning to his work."

"Oil! thought Air. Torry, smiling blandly to conceal Ins thoughts; "so Air. Yass, the confidential secretary, has been ill and ab sent, has lie? Now 1 wonder what is the meaning of that."

Perhaps Air. Terry was too suspicious, as lie saw a meaning— an evil meaning—in everything. Lc.glibounie's explanation was a jierfeetly reasonable one; still as Tony considered it was-uncalled for. Why should he take the trouble to* explain the absence of the Secretary? There was no need to do so. Parrel was also struck by the need less explanation, and thought that there was

something doubtful about the affair. Alto- j ' gether, the detective and his helper were |

both prejudiced against the Secretary by j that very innocent remark of Air. 1-ieigh bounie's, made probably in all good faith.

A'ass made his appearance in a few minutes, and proved to be a pale, clean- ?

shaven fellow of about twenty-eight, lie J wore spectacles, and had rather a dry, pe- i dan.tic air, as one given to study and—com parative—seclusion.

"All*. Vass," said Leighbourne when the clerk entered the room, "1 have sent for you to give tlie.se gentlemen all information about poor All*. Grent."

''Why poor Air. Grent?" asked Ya s, with mild surprise.

"1 forgot; you do not know. Well, 1 shall leave these gentlemen to explain. I must send the telegram recalling

father."

"You will come back?" said Tony, as

the banker walked towards the door.

"If you wish me to," replied Leighbourne with frowning reluctance.

_ "1 do wish it," said the detective deci sively. "You must come with me to iden tify the body; and it is possible that you may be required to give your evidence at the inquest."

"Evdeuce—evidence!" c-ried the young man, passing his tongue over bis dry lips. "What evidence can 1 give? 1—1—1 do not want to attend the inquest;"

"You must, sir."

Lcigkbourne looked defiantly at the de tective, and for a moment or so the pair eyed one another in silence; then the weak er of the two yielded. "If 1 mustj, I must," said Leighbourne, sullenly. "J shall come back;" and he passed out, closing the door

behind him with such unnecessary violence ; that it was plain lie had departed in a bad temper.

While this dialogue was proceeding, Dar rel had kept his eye on the face of Yass. Although he had heard all that was said— and the words "body" and "inquestmust have piqued his curiosity—his expression was one of absolute unconcern. Only once did he betray any emotion, and that was when Leighbourne left liim alone with the two strangers; but when Tony turned to wards him, his face was again calm and composed. Frank .wondered what could be tlie meaning of this well-acted comedy.

"Air. Vass," said Torry, intent upon try- 1 ing the effect of a sudden surprise, "I have to inform you that your master has been murdered."

Yass stepped - back and threw up his hands. "Air. Grent murdered!" he cried in a voice rendered 6hrill by excitement. "Great heavens! When? Where?"

"In Alortality-lane, near the Strand, on

Sunday morning between twelve and one |

o'clock. He was stabbed to the heart."

The Secretary received this news with unfeigned horror, and, evidently having some womanish vein in his nature, buret

into a fit of hysterical weeding. In spite

of his late doubts, Darrel felt them melt

away before this undeniable sorrow. In lias own mind he decided that whatever Vass might know, the intelligence of his master's death was new to him, and took him completely by surprise.

Tony said nothing, but smiled appro vingly ^vlien he beheld the outbreak of Vass. Perhaps the Secretary perceived the composure with which his emotion was re ceived by the strangers, and regained his

usual self-control out of pride; but what- ? ever was the cause, he shortly became calm, and expressed himself ?willing to answer any questions which might be put to liim. With a sign to Darrel not to speak, Tony promptly availed himself of the offer.

"The cause of Air. Grent's death.," «aid i

"he, "may be found in his past life; so I; wish you to tell me all' you know about him. Haw you been bis Secretary long?"

"For over five years, tie was the best and kindest and most generous of masters, replied VasB with much, emotion.

H'm!" said Torry, who did not put much faith an this posthumous praise; "your master was much respected?"

"Certainly. I never heard a word against

liim."

"He was married, I believe?'

"He was — to Donna Inez Sandoval, a Spanish-American lady; a native of Peru."

"How was it that Mr. Great met her?'

"Ten years ago- he voyageo to Peru for the sake of his health," rejoined Vass, "and I understand he met with Donna Inez at Lima. They were married there/'

"In a Romish Church?"

"Certainly. Mr. Grant was a Roman Catholic, and his wife also."

"Are there any children?"

"No," said Vass; then added with some hesitation—"But Mr. Grent, finding himself childless, adopted Donna Maria Sandoval,

the niece of his wife."

"How old is this lady?"

"Twenty years of age," replied the

Secretary, colouring—"and very beauti

ful."

Darrel noted the expression of his face, and the enthusiasm of his reply, which was rather in the tones of his voice than the substance of his remark. "Oh!" thought the novelist, "can this be the proverbial woman who has caused the trouble?"

"How long has Donna Ma ria been with

Mr. Grent?"

"Two year, more or less."

"Of course she speaks English?"

"Extremely well," answered Vass pro mptly. She was taught by Miss Lydia Hargone, who was quite like a daughter of the house, and left only six weeks ago."

The nature of this reply seemed to strike Torry, for he made a note of this last name, but, * without comment, resumed his en quiries. "Mr. Grent lived at Wraybridge? '

"Yes. In Wray House, a large mansion on the banks of the Thames."

"Did he entertain much?"

"Largely. He was fond of company, and

so was Donna Inez."

"Mrs. Grent. you mean?"

"I do," replied Yass tartly. But she pre fers to fee addressed in the Spanish style/'

"Do yon know if Mr. Grent had any very

intimate friends?"

"One or two," said the Secretary, with

some little hesitation.

"Can you give me the names oi tlie one or two?" asked Torry politely.

"Well, Sir. Roderick Blake for one. He

is an Irishman."

"So I should judge from the name, said the detective drily; "and another iriend, Mr. Yass?" , _ „ ,

The man hesitated and finally came out with a third Spanish name. "If you insist upon knowing," said he with reluctance,

"there is Captain Manuel."

"Captain Manuel ? Oh, indeed. Also from "Yes: he came over to see Donna Tuez, who is a relative of his, and for the last three months has been a constant \ lsitor at Wray House." . •, -r, i

"May I ask a question.' said Dan el at this moment. . . , . ,,

Torry threw an enquiring glance 111 the direction of bis friend, and nodded. It you like," he said graciously, wondering at Dan-el's meaning. ,

"In that case. ' said Irank, looking at the Secretary, "I shall ask Mr. Vass if there are any love affairs at Wray House.

"Love affairs?" stammered Vass, plainly taken aback. "I do not quite catch your meaning/' . * rp ,

"Oh, that is your romance, cned lorry with a sly hit at Dm-rel's imagnnation

The novelist shook lus head. ^>° young men-two young women / said he solemnly. "It is not in nature that there should not be some love spring up between

^'"WelY, sir," said Yass, smiling a little,

"I don't say but what you are not light. Captain Manuel is paying his addresses to Don Maria, and I must admit that Miss Havgone is greatly admired bj Mi.

B"f thought so," said Darrel triumphantly, and signed to Torry to continue his exami nation, which the detective did withoin

if Mr, 5-W «»>•

"-fTfar JTI0kn»w !'e haliot'one," !*-;

plied Vass promptly. "Mr. Grent uns sin

gularly po-pular.' ,

"When did you see mm last. I

"On Friday at 4 o'clock. He ttoi said , Bood-bv to me, as lie wasgomgolUlj the next day for four months. Tli t uas the reason 110 one was alarmed by bis ab Sel"(Pi'n,hal)lv so far as the Bank is con cerned," replied Tony, thoughtfully, "but

jh,°I "a 11 cxp 1 ail? that," said Vass easily.

"Mr. <2rent* had chambers in town. 1 ro biibly he took Ieave of ''j® wl, °u ndaX; a id •purposed to stay at lux chambers until he left for the south. 1 dare say Donna Inez tli inks that lier husband is m Milan

j b>"Where are these chambers?"

! "In Duke-street, fSt. James s. Mr. Grent

lived there by liimself, so there is no one likely to be surprised at Ins absence.

"Had be not a valet?

"No; tile butler who kept the bouse at tended to him, and as Mr. Grent came and •went as the fit seized luui, the man would Hi ink nofliing of liis not coming back to ins r0"lTm!" said Tony, "J quite see all that. Did Mr. Grent take much money with

liim?" , , , 1

"He drew a cheque for twenty pounds for immediaite expenses, but when abroad lie always used his clueque-boofe; as more convenient than circular notes.'

Torry was disappointed with the i-esult of his enquiries. Certainly he had learnt a great deal relative to t-lie social position and daily habits of the dead man, but he Lad discovered nothing likely to throw light on the mystery of the crime. ^ He was about to dismiss Vass "with sotme discontent when Darrel rose to bia feet, and, for reasone of his own, produced the image of the Mummy. Tnis be held towards Va«.

"Perhaps ypii eon explain this? he said

h^^belu'i-prise of both men the Seere

iary gasped' and turned pale, theai quietly

feinted away.