|Chapter Title||NO. 9. MECKLEN-STREET.|
|Newspaper Title||Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)|
|Trove Title||Double Cunning. The Tale of a Transparent Mystery|
THE TALE OF A TRANSPARENT
[Br Geo. Manvxlle Fenn.]
NO. 9. MECKLEN-BTBEET,
" I'm one o* that sort, my dear, that never gives up," said Uncle Wash, rather despon dently. " I'm beat for the present, but we'll have nim. Don't you fear about that."
" But it seems so hard," cried Judith, "to have got hold of the clue, and then for it to snap asunder as it did!"
"Yes, my dear; but we'll pick it up again, never you fear. I'll spend every penny I've got but what I'll have him!"
" It's a puzzler," said Sir Kobert.
" Ah, it is, colonel! You see, this place is so crowded up with houses there's no chance of looking out for a bit of sign: and it's always the same with the police—they've got information that they're following up, and when they get to the eud they're blind leads!"
Three weary months had passed, and, in spite of every effort, not a scrap of know ledge could be obtained.
Northall had been visited again and again, and Farleigh had been up constantly to see them; but the only news he had to impart was that the landlord had taken possession of the house and furniture, as his tenants had quite disappeared.
One day he had found the driver of the fly by the help ot Isaac, who quite neglected his
business in the keenness with which he took up the hunt; but the discovery was worth leas, for the man had nothing to tell beyond the fact that he hod driven the party to a little hotel in Surrey-street, where they had passed the night. They had left that hotel the next morning in a cab to see a doctor in Harley'street, and it must have been a long interview, for they had not since returned.
Sir Robert had taken apartments in Jermyn street, and Sir Harry and Lady Fanshaw had stayed with them twice to see an eminent physician, who had done Her Ladyship an immense deal of good—so Sir Harry declared.
Perhaps he did, but there was another physician at work, beneath the touch of whose hand cbangCB were being wrought in the sick woman's mind, which told more strongly upon Alice Fanshaw's bodily state than the best thought-out prescriptions ot Dr. Royal.
It was, then, one evening after three months of weary search and anxiety, when clue after clue had been takea up, and all had been in vain, that Sir Robert, Judith, and Uncle Wash, were sitting moodily together, and the latter had declared himself to ne " about beat."
" I'm beginning to think," he said, " that they've taken him out of the country. Gone back home, perhaps. I wish Arthur would give way and pay 'ein, and end it all. But he won't, sir.
" Don't you think he will at last?"
" Ho, sir; he's that firm and obstinate that he'd die first."
" You see, he don't know, my dear, that you are trying to find him, or he'd pay ready enough."
Judith was too anxious of heart to put on any etiquette of retiring maidenism, and she said, sadly—
" I wish he'd give up everything."
"And so do I."
"Gentleman to see you, sir," said the maid, bringing in a card.
"Farleigh!" exclaimed Sir Robert. "Show him in."
" You have some news, Mr. Farleigh 1" cried Judith, running to meet the pale, breathless curate.
"Don't be excited," he cried, "perhaps it means nothing, but look here. Came by post this e vening. and I ran up at once. It's Friday evening and service, but I've left that, ana the people are waiting."
Judith snatched at the letter the curate offered with trembling fingers, and read, hastily" Mr. Farleign took great interest in his friend, Mr. Arthur Range. He is re quested to tell Mr. Range's friendB that they will find what they seek at No. 9, Mecklen street, Gray's Inn-road. Some one must go at once."
" Let me look 1" cried Uncle Wash. " Ha!
Dated last night. Perhaps it may be only a plan to draw money; but we'll go and see
It was of no avail to try and persuade Judith. She insisted on forming one of the party; and in half-an-hour the cab stopped at No. 9 in the gloomy, shabby street.
It was a large house, and the blinds were down, the blank, closed-eyed look of the place chilling the visitors as they took all in at a glance.
Even with raised blinds the aspect of the place would have been repelling, for it was terribly neglected. The windows had not been cleaned for years, it was a stranger to paint, and the area railings were rough with rust and peeling scales.
IJhe whole street looked forsaken and poverty-stricken, the houses for the moBt part having the doors wide open, and the doorposts ornamented with a column of bells, like organ stops, telling the number of lodgers in each tenement.
Uncle Wash, dismissed the cabman, for the children swarmed in the street, even gathering ronnd to the neglect of their regular pastimes, of which the neglected street and its well-worn pavement formed the playground.
A sharp rapping with the rusted knocker raised an echo in the house, but nothing followed as the sound died away, and there was no answer when the area bell was rung. It could be beard jangling somewhere below, and repetitions of the pull had no other result. Some more bell-pulls were on the doorpost, but they only produced a wheezy, squealing sound of wires. That was alL
" TliArfl nin'fc nnhndv at VinniAt thevV
There ain't nobody at home; theyVeall
gone out," said a small, old-looking child, who was carrying one nearly as big as her self, the task being so laborious that she was glad to sit down on the doorstep to rest while she looked up and talked to the visitors.
" Do you know who lives here ?" said Farleigh.
" No. There ain't nobody at home ; they've all gone out!"
" But somebody does live here?"
" Voo Tliprp'i thrpp ffAnfJAmoi
YeB. There* three gentlemen and a
lady, t thought you was them come back; but you ain't tbem. She's ever so much bigger than her. I live over the way."
" It is they!" cried Farleigh, and Judith clung to her uncle's arm; for the dingy house seemed to be swaying about, the little speaker to be looming large, and the baby she carried to be developing into a shawl-swathed goblin gloating over her pains.
" I don't think there's any one at home," said a policeman, stopping bv the group.
" Constable," said Sir Robert, " we want to search this house at once."
"Have you the key, sir?" "No; but"
Sir Robert and Uncle Wash, had a short colloquy with the man, whose aspect rapidly became wonderfully changed.
" I was told to keep an eye on the place, gentlemen," he said. " You d better come on
to the station at once."
" You go. Sir Robert," said Uncle Wash., sharply. "Any backway to these houses, constable ?"
" No, sir."
" Then I'll do sentry till you come back. What, going to stay, my dear!" said Uncle Wash., quickly. " That s right."
For Judith had slipped her hand through his arm ; and for the next quarter of an hour tkev had to stand and be stared at by a gathering crowd of children.
It was a relief when their party came back —the constable reinforced by an inspector and another of the force, who bore a bag, from which, after a few trials, he produced a key which made the door fly open, and they stood in the dark, evil-smelling passage of the house.
Bad as it was, it seemed a relief to be out of sight of the little crowd gathering on the pavement, and to keep them in check one of the policemen was left outside, for some one had started the theory that there had been a murder at number nine; hence the spec tators were augmenting fast.
"I'm 'bout sure he's here, officer," said Uncle Wash. "You've heard I've offered rewards to the man who finds him ?"
" Oh, yes, sir, we've heard about the case, but don't be too sure," replied the inspector. "Tom ! open the first window you come to. No, not there; the people will be spiking their necks on the area rails to stare in."
They had entered what had once been a good dining-room, to find it shabbily furnished, and the remains of a meal roughly spread upon the table. The back room had been uBed for a sleeping chamber, and here a window was thrown open to admit
Then there was an ante-chamber, and what had Ibeen a study—a dark little room that had once possessed a stained-gloss window.
" Nothing here," said the inspector. " Run downstairs and look at the kitchens and pillars, Tom."
The constable'opened his bull's-eye lautern. and went down with Uncle Wash., and kitchens, cellars, ,and cupboards ;were run through without result.
Just'as well to carry your work "all before you, Bir, " said the inspector to Sir Robert. " We seould [only have been thinking that perhaps they were downstairs while we were searching up!"
The first floor had a few articles of furni ture of the commonest, cheapest kind, and two of theroomB had been.alaousedas bed rooms, but evidently meant for temporary use, for there were very few of the ordinary articles of use.
These rooms were soon examined, and so was the second floor, for tho three rooms here were bare and foul, as some former occupant bad left them.
" Only the garrets now," said the inspector, as they were making their way back to the landing. "Just run up, Tom. I dare say the lady won't care to go up there."
A dead silence fell upon the party, for, just then from overhead came a feeble knocking sound.
"By Jingo! there's Borne one, after all," cried the Inspector, whom the sound had, as it were, gaivanized into a state of excite
Judith had stood with her hands clasped for a moment, and then darted across the landing and up the creaking stairs, followed rapidly by the others.
" Here ! here !" she cried, beating witb her hands upon a door that was secured on the outside by a Iarfje padlock; and, as excited now as the rest, tue Inspector held open the bag while his subordinate drew out an iron tool remarkably like the implement a burglar would have used for a similar purpose.
" Off with it, Tom," cried the Inspector, whose mind was a good deal filled with the idea of the promised reward, and after a few sharp wrenches a strong staple was torn out, and the padlock clanged against the time
"Now Miss, please, I think I'd stop back while we go in hret. It mightn't be"
He was holding; the door to, for Judith had pressed forward, naif mad with excitement.
"Let me go!"Bhe panted, hoarsely. "I
She threw the door open, and went quickly into the long, low, sloping-ceiled room, half darkened by an old blanket nailed across the
window, but there was light enough for her | to see him she sought, ghastly to look upon,
with his sunken, staring^es, stretched upon
a palliacs on, the floor, holding himself up to
gaze at his rescuers, and then as Judith, rushed in, to fall back with a groan.
Friends and officials stopped short inside the room, as, with a wild cry Judith threw herself upon her knees beside the ghastly j looking prisoner, and raised his head to hold it to her breast.
" They've killed him !" she cried. " Uncle ! a doctor! Quick!"
Then, in a low piteous tone, as she clasped j the attenuated form more closely to her—
" Oh, Arthur! My love; my love!"