|Newspaper Title||Camperdown Chronicle (Vic. : 1877 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||Brought to Book|
BROUGHT TO BOOK. Conclusion.
Two months had gone by since Marcus Gray had intimated to Mary Lumsden his intention of seeking an interview with her father on the morrow, and our two young people had seen nothing of each other in the interim.
The tragic circumstances connected with Lumsden's death had put an end to all lovemaking for the time being, and now tha period Gray had allotted to himself for the English portion of his tour was nearly at an end. A week hence, if he carried out tha arrangement agreed upon with his father before leaving home, he would be due in Paris. But his love for Mary had in nowise cooled for lack of fuel to feed itself on, and he was determined not to quit London till he should come to an understanding of some sort with her mother. In this contingency he decided to take his Uncle Orde into his confidence and claim the benefit of his advice in the affair. It was the wisest conclusion he could have come to.
Mr Orde listened with lifted eyebrows to his nephew's recital. It iwas all news to him. Nothing had he seen or suspected. " I congratulate you, my dear boy, on having made such an excellent choice," he said heartily when Gray had come to an end. " Mary Lumsden is a girl in a thousand. But tell me exactly what it is that you wish me to do."
Then Gray explained that, before making an interview with Mrs Lumsden, he was desirous ol arranging for a meeting between Mary and himself. He had not seen her since the night before her father's death, and he was wishful to ascertain whether she still looked to him to carry out the promise he had then made her, and, in short, to satisfy himself - not that for one moment he doubted her constancy - that she remained as unchanged to him as he did to her. Mr Orde readily undertook his nephew's commission - a week never passed without finding him at Oakdene once, if not oftener - with the result that Mary sent word she would meet him next afternoon at three o'clock, on the road leading from Oakdene in the direction of Tooting Common.
Well, they met, and Mary proved to her lover's satisfaction that she was in nowise changed. " I don't know how my mother will receive you," remarked the girl. " There has been a great change in her since poor papa's death. It is dreadful thing to say, but there are times when I fear for her reason."
" I must appeal to my uncle for the second time. If anyone can induce Mrs Lumsden to grant me an interview, he can." " Mrs Lumsden has consented to see you at two o'clock tomorrow," said Mr Orde to his nephew three days later, " although what kind of a reception she will accord to your suit it would be futile to prophesy. I must confess that in some of her moods I altogether fail to understand her." Marcus Gray lacked nothing of that easy self possession which seems to be the birth- right of so many of his countrymen, but it must be confessed that when, on being ushered into the drawing room at Oakdene, he found himself confronted by a tall, white faced woman, with hollow cheeks, and hair which a few short weeks had abundantly streaked with grey, and with a strange steely glitter in her deep-set eyes, he felt for once that his tongue refused to do his bidding. " Pray be seated, Mr Gray," said the widow. " I have consented to see you in deference to the wish of your uncle, who was my dead husband's dearest friend, as he is now mine. He tells me that you have conceived an affection for my daughter, and that you wish me to sanction an engagement between yourself and her." " That is the dearest wish of my life, Mrs Lumsden."
" And do you consider, Mr Gray, that this is a fit time to dream of lovemaking and giving in marriage, while the blood of my poor murdered husband cries out from the grave for vengeance on his assassin. If you think so, I certainly do not." Grey knew not what to reply. Never in his life had he felt so nonplussed. " Yes, the murderer is still at large," she resumed, speaking with alow, quiet intensity, as innocent seeming as you or I, mixing with his fellow men, no one knowing or suspecting him for the vile wretch that he is. Every day that passes Iessens the chances of his detection. Already at Scotland Yard my husband's death is looked upon as merely adding another item to the long catalogue of mysterious crimes which have never been brought home to their perpetrators. The task has been given up as hopeless, other interests have come to the front, the reward remains unclaimed, and soon the name of Edward Lumsden will have faded from the minds of all, save a few who were neareat and dearest to him."
She had risen, and was pacing the room slowly, with something of the air of a caged animal, her clenched hands pressed tightly to her bosom, as if to crush down the surging emotions at work below. Gray had no words at command.
For a little while the silence remained unbroken ; then Mrs Lumsden stopped abruptly in her walk, and fixing ber large, dark eyes, luminous with a sombre fire, full on the American, she said : " You ask me, Mr Gray, to give you my daughter's hand. My answer to you is, first to do something to prove yourself worthy of the gift. You are here in London, idling away your time, with no object beyond the amusement of the hour, and yet the assassin of the father of she you would make your wife is still untraced, his crime goes still punished, and you have never so much as lifted your little finger in the effort to track him down. Oh, that I was a man instead of the weak, helpless creature I am. Oh, that I had a son who - "
But at this juncture the door wat opened. " Dr Hyntor, ma'am," said the parlor maid.
Gray rose as the doctor entered. The widow gave him her hand, and with a smile that had in it much of her old sweetness, said :
" You will excuse me now, will you not, Mr Gray. You must come and see me again a few days hence. It may be that I have talked a little at random today, but if you could only partially realise what I have gone through, you would know how to make allowance for me."
Gray bent and touched her fingers with his lips and withdrew. He had scarcely been ten minutes in the house and had not spoken more than a dozen words.
Without professing to be actuated by any other motive than one of simple curiousity, when Gray related to his uncle the result of the interview he drew him on to talk about the crime with a frankness he had exhibited before. Mr Orde was by nature a man of caution and reserve, and not even to his nephew had he heretofore confided the particulars in connection with Eustace Crake, nor how his suspicions, unsupported though they were by any direct evidence, pointed unequivocally to him as being the criminal. Today, however, he told his nephew everything. It was as though the latter had brought away from his interview with Mrs Lumsden a pass key to the secret chamber of his uncle's mind.
As he left the house, he sald to himself : " Tomorrow I will seek out and make the acquaintance of Mr Eustace Crake."
CHAPTER IV. It was three weeks later. Marcus Gray had been as good as his word. Not only had he made Crate's acquaintance in the Interim but by this time the two, to employ an expressive locution, had become as " thick as thieves." He had sought out Crake at the billiard room of the Flagon and Cask, the tavern which Inspector Fountain's report to Mr Orde had mentioned as being his favourite house of call. Gray's role had been that of a simple young American over in London for a holiday, with no lack of money to fling away, and not caring much how he got rid of it so long as he saw plenty of " life" in return. It was a part he played to perfection, and Crake clung to him like a leech from the moment he found that the supply of sovereigns to be squeezed out of him in one way or another had no apparent limit. They got into the way of meeting regularly about two o'clock in the afternoon, when Crake, who was really a crack player, would for the next two hours give lessons to his newfound friend in the art and mystery of billiards, always, of course for a consideration. Later on they would dine and spend the evening together, equally, of course, at the American's expense.. For the present there was only one thing that Gray stuck out against. He would have nothing to do with betting on the turf, but Crake by no means despaired at being able by and bye to overcome a prejudice so puritanical and absurd, and one at the same time so inimicable to his own interests. On the night to which we have now come, Gray and Crake left the Flagon and Cask together, as they had done several times
before. It was half past twelve and closing time, and no sooner had they crossed the threshold than the door was shut and bolted behind them. They had been playing billiards together since eight o'clock, Crake, of course, glving his opponent a certain number of points, notwithstanding which the American had lost every game but two. Tonight, too, he had insisted on backing his play for half a sovereign a game, and as by some mischance, it was something which had never happened before - he had fallen short pf ready money, the result had been that by the time they left off play, Crake held his IOU for three pounds fifteen borrowed cash, as to which he was not at all uneasy, feeling sure he would be recouped on the morrow. It was evident that Gray, who was ordinarily most abstentious, had been drinking more than was good for him. He staggered slightly as he came out into the cool night air and clutched at the lapel of his companion's coat.
Crake drew the other's arm within his own, and as they strolled up the street together he said : " l suppose I had better hail the first hansom we come across."
To which Gray, who had Ieft his uncle's house some time before and was now in lodgings at the west end, replied : " Right you are, dear boy ; only I haven't got a blessed sou to pay the cabby with." Here he gave a lurch which carried Crake and himself half across the pavement. " My dear fellow, as if my purse wasn't at your service !" exclaimed Crake reproachfully. A second or two later Gray came to an unsteady halt. " Crake," he said, with tipsy gravity, " I've made a dashed idjit of m'shelf t'night." " Can't see it, my boy. What is it that you have done ?" " I've given you lOU for the money I owe you, while all the time I've a twenty pound note in my pocketbook." " That's no good tonight, old man. There's no place open where you could get it changed. But what does it matter ? You can redeem your bit of paper when I see you tomorrow. *
" Yesh, but you won't see me tomorrow," answered Gray, with another lurch and a hiccough. " Going to Paris by morning train. Telegram. Forgot all about it till now. Mush go. Be back in a fortnight or three weeks. If you can't change note, lOU mush stand over till I come back." For a full minute or more Crake stood in silent thought. The chances were, he argued, that if the American once got as far as Paris, nothing more would be seen of him in London, in which case the IOU would be so much waste paper. The sum was not a large one, but Crake was by no means minded to lose it. He set his teeth hard for a moment or two and then said : " If you like to come to my lodgings, I think I can perhaps manage to change your note." Half an hour later Marcus Gray was on his way home in a hansom. All signs of inebriety had vanished. Eustace Crake waa seated at breakfast next morning, with a sporting newspaper supported against the hot water jug in front of him, when the door of his sitting room was unceremoniously opened and two men, entire strangers to him, walked in and shut the door behind them.
" You are Mr Eustace Crake ?" said the elder of the two, interrogatively. Crake nodded. " I am Inspector Fountain, of Scotland Yard," added the officer.
On the instant every vestige of colour faded out of Crake's face, leaving it of a grey, corpse like pallor. For a few moments he was like a man suddenly smititten with the loss of speech ; then, with a grimace which he evidently meant for a smile, he said : " To what may I attribute the honour of this visit, Mr Inspector ?" " Last night, or rather at an early hour this morning, you changed twenty-pound note for a gentleman of the name of Gray, giving him as part of the change three notes of five pounds each. Can you oblige me, Mr Crake, by informing me when and from whom the notes in question came into your possession ?" Crake bit his lip hard for a moment or two, as if the pain might help him to keep down the nervous trembling that was beginning to overmaster him. Then he said :
" Really, you ask me more than l am in a position to tell you. In my profession, which is that betting man, such a number of notes pass through my hands in the course of a month that it is out of the question for me to keep any record of their numbers or to remember from whom I may have received this one or the other." " I can quite understand that," replied Fountain. " May I ask whether you are acquainted with anyone of the name of Parkinson - Mr William Parkinson ?" Crake considered awhile and than shook his head. " I have no recollection of having been introduced to or done business with anyone of that name. But what is the object of all this establishing, if I may be allowed a question in my turn ?" " That you will presently learn. In the first place, I may inform you that it was a Mr Parkinson who paid the late Mr Lumsden a certain sum in bank notes on the morning of that gentleman's death, which notes were undoubtedly stolen by tha person or persons who were gulty of the murder." " Ah !" was all that Crake could find to say for a moment. Then, after moistening his lips with his tongue, he added : " You will pardon me if I fail to see in what way that fact connects itself with the notes paid over to me by Mr Gray. My cousin, Mr Charles Lumsden, in a talk I had with him a little while ago, distinctly assured me that the number of the missing notes were not known. Now, if that be the case how "— His eyes finished the question. " It is quite true, Mr Crake, that the number of the stolen notes are not known," said the inspector gravely, " but that does not imply that there may not be other means identification."
" Not one of the notes paid by me to Gray bore an endorsement of any kind. On that point I can speak most positively," was Crake's reply. " In any case I most ask you to accompany me to Scotland Yard," said Fountain. " I have a cab waiting at the corner of the street."
Ob their arrival at Scotland Yard, Inspector Fountain ushered his charge into a room where two officials in uniform were busy writing, with one of whom he held a brief colloquy in a low voice. In another room, although Crake did not know it, Marcus Gray and Mr Parkinson were in waiting, in case any further evidence beyond that which they had already tendered should be required. Their colloquy at an end, one of the officlals produced from a drawer the three notes given by Crake to Gray a few hours before, and handed them to Fountain, who proceeded to straighten them out on the smooth surface of the desk. They were old and crumpled and frayed at the edges ; they had seen much service and were grimy with the contact of many fingers. As they lay there, face downward, no sign of an endorsement or memorandum of any sort was visible on the back of any of them. Fountain had beckoned to Crake, who, with gray, set face and straining eyes, was now peering over his shoulder, and it was not till the former with his forefinger had drawn attention to what even when closey examined looked like nothing more than a few meaningless dots and scratches in faded ink on the soiled paper that Crake, sharpsighted as he was, as much as noticed their existence. Then, producing a small magnifying glass and offering it to the other, Fountain said :
" And now, sir, if you will look through this you will see that on each of the notes is plainly to be read in phonographic characters - that is to say, in shorthand - the endorsement, " William Parkinson," together with the date of June the eighth, the very day, in point of fact, before the murder of Mr. Lumsden." Scarcely had the last words left the officer's lips before Crake fell backwards in a swoon. A careful search of his lodgings brought to light two more notes bearing a similar phonographic endorsement. The remaining five had probably been passed away by him in the ordinary course of his business. He was committed for trial in due course, but before that event took place he contrived to commit suicide in his cell. In paper which he left behind him occurred the following passage. " It is true that I killed my cousin, but I state most solemnly that the act was wholly unpremeditated and was the result of a moment of ungovernable passion." Some three months later, one of the quietest of quiet weddings was celebrated in a certain suburban church. To the reader who has seen fit thus far to follow the fortunes of the personages concerned in this narrative, it would be superfluous to mention the name of either the bride or the bridegroom. " All the Year Round."