Part 3 out of 5
I do not know how long I made a fight of it in reality; it must have been
for hours--alternately swimming, alternately resting myself by floating.
I had queer thoughts. It was then about the time that some men were
attempting to swim the Channel. I remember laughing grimly, wishing them
joy of their job--they were welcome to mine! I remember, too, that at
last in the darkness I felt that I must give up, and said my prayers; and
it was about that time, when I was beginning to feel a certain numbness
of mind as well as weariness of body, that as I struck out in the
mechanical and weakening fashion which I kept up from what little
determination I had left, I came across my salvation--in the shape of a
piece of wreckage that shoved itself against me in the blackness, as if
it had been some faithful dog, pushing its nose into my hand to let me
know it was there. It was no more than a square of grating, but it was
heavy and substantial; and as I clung to and climbed on to it, I knew
that it made all the difference to me between life and death.
THE SAMARITAN SKIPPER
I clung to that heaven-sent bit of wreckage, exhausted and weary, until
the light began to break in the east. I was numbed and shivering with
cold--but I was alive and safe. That square yard of good and solid wood
was as much to me as if it had been a floating island. And as the light
grew and grew, and the sun at last came up, a ball of fire out of the far
horizon, I looked across the sea on all sides, hoping to catch sight of a
sail, or of a wisp of smoke--of anything that would tell me of the near
presence of human beings. And one fact I realized at once--I was further
away from land than when I had begun my battle with death. There was no
sign of land in the west. The sky was now clear and bright on all sides,
but there was nothing to break the line where it met the sea. Before the
fading of the light on the previous evening, I had easily made out the
well-known outlines of the Cheviots on one hand and of Says Law on the
other--now there was not a vestige of either. I knew from that fact that
I had somehow drifted further and further away from the coast. There was
accordingly nothing to do but wait the chance of being sighted and picked
up, and I set to work, as well as I could on my tiny raft, to chafe my
limbs and get some warmth into my body. And never in my life did I bless
the sun as I did that morning, for when he sprang out of bed in the
northeast skies, it was with his full and hearty vigour of high
springtide, and his heat warmed my chilled blood and sent a new glow of
hope to my heart. But that heat was not an unmixed blessing--and I was
already parched with thirst; and as the sun mounted higher and higher,
pouring his rays full upon me, the thirst became almost intolerable, and
my tongue felt as if my mouth could no longer contain it.
It was, perhaps, one hour after sunrise, when my agony was becoming
almost insupportable, that I first noticed a wisp of smoke on the
southern rim of the circle of sea which just then was all my world. I
never strained my eyes for anything as I did for that patch of grey
against the cloudless blue! It grew bigger and bigger--I knew, of course,
that it was some steamer, gradually approaching. But it seemed ages
before I could make out her funnels; ages before I saw the first bit of
her black bulk show up above the level of the dancing waves. Yet there
she was at last--coming bows on, straight in my direction. My nerves must
have given out at the sight--I remember the tears rolling down my cheeks;
I remember hearing myself make strange sounds, which I suppose were those
of relief and thankfulness. And then the horror of being unseen, of being
left to endure more tortures of thirst, of the steamer changing her
course, fell on me, and long before she was anywhere near me I was
trying to balance myself on the grating, so that I could stand erect and
attract her attention.
She was a very slow-going craft that--not able to do more than nine or
ten knots at best--and another hour passed before she was anywhere near
me. But, thank God! she came within a mile of me, and I made shift to
stand up on my raft and to wave to her. And thereon she altered her
course and lumbered over in my direction. She was one of the ugliest
vessels that ever left a shipyard, but I thought I had never seen
anything so beautiful in my life as she looked in those moments, and I
had certainly never been so thankful for anything as for her solid and
dirty deck when willing and kindly hands helped me up on it.
Half an hour after that, with dry clothes on me, and hot coffee and rum
inside me, I was closeted with the skipper in his cabin, telling him,
under a strict pledge of secrecy, as much of my tale as I felt inclined
to share with him. He was a sympathetic and an understanding man, and he
swore warmly and plentifully when he heard how treacherously I had been
treated, intimating it as the--just then--dearest wish of his heart to
have the handling of the man who had played me the trick.
"But you'll be dealing with him yourself!" said he. "Man!--you'll not
spare him--promise me you'll not spare him! And you'll send me a
newspaper with the full account of all that's done to him when you've set
the law to work--dod! I hope they'll quarter him! Them was grand days
when there was more licence and liberty in punishing malefactors--oh! I'd
like fine to see this man put into boiling oil, or something of that
sort, the cold-hearted, murdering villain! You'll be sure to send me the
I laughed--for the first time since--when? It seemed years since I had
laughed--and yet it was only a few hours, after all.
"Before I can set the law to work on him, I must get on dry land,
captain," I answered. "Where are you going?"
"Dundee," he replied. "Dundee--and we're just between sixty and seventy
miles away now, and it's near seven o'clock. We'll be in Dundee early in
the afternoon, anyway. And what'll you do there? You'll be for getting
the next train to Berwick?"
"I'm not so sure, captain," I answered. "I don't want that man to know
I'm alive--yet. It'll be a nice surprise for him--later. But there are
those that I must let know as soon as possible--so the first thing I'll
do, I'll wire. And in the meantime, let me have a sleep."
The steamer that had picked me up was nothing but a tramp, plodding along
with a general cargo from London to Dundee, and its accommodation was as
rough as its skipper was homely. But it was a veritable palace of delight
and luxury to me after that terrible night, and I was soon hard and fast
asleep in the skipper's own bunk--and was still asleep when he laid a
hand on me at three o'clock that afternoon.
"We're in the Tay," he said, "and we'll dock in half an hour. And
now--you can't go ashore in your underclothing, man! And where's
He had rightly sized up the situation. I had got rid of everything but
my singlet and drawers in the attempt to keep going; as for my purse,
that was where the rest of my possessions were--sunk or floating.
"You and me's about of a build," he remarked. "I'll fit you up with a
good suit that I have, and lend you what money you want. But what is it
you're going to do?"
"How long are you going to stop here in Dundee, captain?" I asked.
"Four days," he answered. "I'll be discharging tomorrow, and loading the
next two days, and then I'll be away again."
"Lend me the clothes and a sovereign," said I. "I'll wire to my
principal, the gentleman I told you about, to come here at once with
clothes and money, so I'll repay you and hand your suit back first thing
tomorrow morning, when I'll bring him to see you."
He immediately pulled a sovereign out of his pocket, and, turning to a
locker, produced a new suit of blue serge and some necessary linen.
"Aye?" he remarked, a bit wonderingly. "You'll be for fetching him along
here, then? And for what purpose?"
"I want him to take your evidence about picking me up," I answered.
"That's one thing--and--there's other reasons that we'll tell you about
afterwards. And--don't tell anybody here of what's happened, and pass the
word for silence to your crew. It'll be something in their pockets when
my friend comes along."
He was a cute man, and he understood that my object was to keep the news
of my escape from Sir Gilbert Carstairs, and he promised to do what I
asked. And before long--he and I being, as he had observed, very much of
a size, and the serge suit fitting me very well--I was in the streets of
Dundee, where I had never been before, seeking out a telegraph office,
and twiddling the skipper's sovereign between thumb and finger while I
worked out a problem that needed some little thought.
I must let my mother and Maisie know of my safety--at once. I must let
Mr. Lindsey know, too. I knew what must have happened there at Berwick.
That monstrous villain would sneak home and say that a sad accident had
happened me. It made me grind my teeth and long to get my hands at his
lying tongue when I thought of what Maisie and my mother must have
suffered after hearing his tales and excuses. But I did not want him to
know I was safe--I did not want the town to know. Should I telephone to
Mr. Lindsey's office, it was almost certain one of my fellow-clerks there
would answer the ring, and recognize my voice. Then everything would be
noised around. And after thinking it all over I sent Mr. Lindsey a
telegram in the following words, hoping that he would fully understand:--
"Keep this secret from everybody. Bring suit of clothes, linen, money,
mother, and Maisie by next train to Dundee. Give post-office people
orders not to let this out, most important. H.M."
I read that over half a dozen times before I finally dispatched it. It
seemed all wrong, somehow--and all right in another way. And, however
badly put it was, it expressed my meaning. So I handed it in, and my
borrowed sovereign with it, and jingling the change which was given back
to me, I went out of the telegraph office to stare around me.
It was a queer thing, but I was now as light-hearted as could be--I
caught myself laughing from a curious feeling of pleasure. The truth
was--if you want to analyse the sources--I was vastly relieved to be able
to get in touch with my own people. Within an hour, perhaps sooner, they
would have the news, and I knew well that they would lose no time in
setting off to me. And finding myself just then in the neighbourhood of
the North British Railway Station, I went in and managed to make out that
if Mr. Lindsey was at the office when my wire arrived, and acted promptly
in accordance with it, he and they could reach Dundee by a late train
that evening. That knowledge, of course, made me in a still more
light-hearted mood. But there was another source of my satisfaction and
complaisance: things were in a grand way now for my revenge on Sir
Gilbert Carstairs, and what had been a mystery was one no longer.
I went back to the dock where I had left the tramp-steamer, and told its
good-natured skipper what I had done, for he was as much interested in
the affair as if he had been my own brother. And that accomplished, I
left him again and went sight-seeing, having been wonderfully freshened
up and restored by my good sleep of the morning. I wandered up and down
and about Dundee till I was leg-weary, and it was nearly six o'clock of
the afternoon. And at that time, being in Bank Street, and looking about
me for some place where I could get a cup of tea and a bite of food, I
chanced by sheer accident to see a name on a brass plate, fixed amongst
more of the same sort, on the outer door of a suite of offices. That name
was Gavin Smeaton. I recalled it at once--and, moved by a sudden impulse,
I went climbing up a lot of steps to Mr. Gavin Smeaton's office.
MR. GAVIN SMEATON
I walked into a room right at the top of the building, wherein a young
man of thirty or thereabouts was sitting at a desk, putting together a
quantity of letters which a lad, standing at his side, was evidently
about to carry to the post. He was a good-looking, alert, businesslike
sort of young man this, of a superior type of countenance, very well
dressed, and altogether a noticeable person. What first struck me about
him was, that though he gave me a quick glance when, having first tapped
at his door and walked inside his office, I stood there confronting him,
he finished his immediate concern before giving me any further attention.
It was not until he had given all the letters to the lad and bade him
hurry off to the post, that he turned to me with another sharp look and
one word of interrogation.
"Yes?" he said.
"Mr. Gavin Smeaton?" asked I.
"That's my name," he answered. "What can I do for you?"
Up to that moment I had not the least idea as to the exact reasons which
had led me to climb those stairs. The truth was I had acted on impulse.
And now that I was actually in the presence of a man who was obviously a
very businesslike and matter-of-fact sort of person, I felt awkward and
tongue-tied. He was looking me over all the time as if there was a wonder
in his mind about me, and when I was slow in answering he stirred a bit
impatiently in his chair.
"My business hours are over for the day," he said. "If it's business--"
"It's not business in the ordinary sense, Mr. Smeaton," I made shift to
get out. "But it is business for all that. The fact is--you'll remember
that the Berwick police sent you a telegram some days ago asking did you
know anything about a man named John Phillips?"
He showed a sudden interest at that, and he regarded me with a
"You aren't a detective?" he inquired.
"No--I'm a solicitor's clerk," I replied. "From Berwick--my principal,
Mr. Lindsey, has to do with that case."
He nodded at a pile of newspapers, which stood, with a heavy book on top
of it, on a side table near his desk.
"So I see from these papers," he remarked. "I've read all I could about
the affairs of both Phillips and Crone, ever since I heard that my name
and address had been found on Phillips. Has any further light been
thrown on that? Of course, there was nothing much in my name and address
being found on the man, nor would there be if they were found on any
man. As you see, I'm a general agent for various sorts of foreign
merchandise, and this man had likely been recommended to me--especially
if he was from America."
"There's been no further light on that matter, Mr. Smeaton," I
answered. He had pointed me to a chair at his desk side by that time,
and we were mutually inspecting each other. "Nothing more has been
heard on that point."
"Then--have you come purposely to see me about it?" he asked.
"Not at all!" said I. "I was passing along this street below, and I saw
your name on the door, and I remembered it--and so I just came up."
"Oh!" he said, looking at me rather blankly. "You're staying in
Dundee--taking a holiday?"
"I came to Dundee in a fashion I'd not like to follow on any other
occasion!" said I. "If a man hadn't lent me this suit of clothes and a
sovereign, I'd have come ashore in my undergarments and without a penny."
He stared at me more blankly than ever when I let this out on him, and
suddenly he laughed.
"What riddle's all this?" he asked. "It sounds like a piece out of a
story-book--one of those tales of adventure."
"Aye, does it?" said I. "Only, in my case, Mr. Smeaton, fact's been a lot
stranger than fiction! You've read all about this Berwick mystery in the
"Every word--seeing that I was mentioned," he answered.
"Then I'll give you the latest chapter," I continued. "You'll know my
name when you hear it--Hugh Moneylaws. It was I discovered Phillips's
I saw that he had been getting more and more interested as we
talked--at the mention of my name his interest obviously increased. And
suddenly he pulled a box of cigars towards him, took one out, and
pushed the box to me.
"Help yourself, Mr. Moneylaws--and go ahead," he said. "I'm willing to
hear as many chapters as you like of this story."
I shook my head at the cigars and went on to tell him of all that had
happened since the murder of Crone. He was a good listener--he took in
every detail, every point, quietly smoking while I talked, and never
interrupting me. And when I had made an end, he threw up his head with a
significant gesture that implied much.
"That beats all the story-books!" he exclaimed. "I'm glad to see you're
safe, anyway, Mr. Moneylaws--and your mother and your young lady'll be
"They will that, Mr. Smeaton," I said. "I'm much obliged to you."
"You think that man really meant you to drown?" he asked.
"What would you think yourself, Mr. Smeaton?" I replied. "Besides--didn't
I see his face as he got himself and his yacht away from me? Yon man is a
"It's a queer, strange business," he remarked, nodding his head. "You'll
be thinking now, of course, that it was he murdered both Phillips and
"Aye, I do think that!" said I. "What else? And he wanted to silence me
because I'm the only living person that could let out about seeing him at
the cross-roads that night and could prove that Crone saw him too. My own
impression is that Crone went straight to him after his talk with me--and
paid the penalty."
"That's likely," he assented. "But what do you think made him turn on you
so suddenly, yesterday, when things looked like going smoothly about
everything, and he'd given you that stewardship--which was, of course, to
stop your mouth?"
"I'll tell you," I said. "It was Mr. Lindsey's fault--he let out too much
at the police-court. Carstairs was there--he'd a seat on the bench--and
Mr. Lindsey frightened him. Maybe it was yon ice-ax. Mr. Lindsey's got
some powerful card up his sleeve about that--what it is I don't know. But
I'm certain now--now!--that Carstairs took a fear into his head at those
proceedings yesterday morning, and he thought he'd settle me once and for
all before I could be drawn into it and forced to say things that would
be against him."
"I daresay you're right," he agreed. "Well!--it is indeed a strange
affair, and there'll be some stranger revelations yet. I'd like to see
this Mr. Lindsey--you're sure he'll come to you here?"
"Aye!--unless there's been an earthquake between here and Tweed!" I
declared. "He'll be here, right enough, Mr. Smeaton, before many hours
are over. And he'll like to see you. You can't think, now, of how, or
why, yon Phillips man could have got that bit of letter paper of yours
on him? It was like that," I added, pointing to a block of memorandum
forms that stood in his stationery case at the desk before him. "Just
"I can't," said he. "But--there's nothing unusual in that; some
correspondent of mine might have handed it to him--torn it off one of my
letters, do you see? I've correspondents in a great many seaports and
mercantile centres--both here and in America."
"These men will appear to have come from Central America," I remarked.
"They'd seem to have been employed, one way or another, on that Panama
Canal affair that there's been so much in the papers about these last few
years. You'd notice that in the accounts, Mr. Smeaton?"
"I did," he replied. "And it interested me, because I'm from those parts
myself--I was born there."
He said that as if this fact was of no significance. But the news made me
prick up my ears.
"Do you tell me that!" said I. "Where, now, if it's a fair question?"
"New Orleans--near enough, anyway, to those parts," he answered. "But I
was sent across here when I was ten years old, to be educated and brought
up, and here I've been ever since."
"But--you're a Scotsman?" I made bold to ask him.
"Aye--on both sides--though I was born out of Scotland," he answered with
a laugh. And then he got out of his chair. "It's mighty interesting, all
this," he went on. "But I'm a married man, and my wife'll be wanting
dinner for me. Now, will you bring Mr. Lindsey to see me in the
morning--if he comes?"
"He'll come--and I'll bring him," I answered. "He'll be right glad to see
you, too--for it may be, Mr. Smeaton, that there is something to be
traced out of that bit of letter paper of yours, yet."
"It may be," he agreed. "And if there's any help I can give, it's at your
disposal. But you'll be finding this--you're in a dark lane, with some
queer turnings in it, before you come to the plain outcome of all this
We went down into the street together, and after he had asked if there
was anything he could do for me that night, and I had assured him there
was not, we parted with an agreement that Mr. Lindsey and I should call
at his office early next morning. When he had left me, I sought out a
place where I could get some supper, and, that over, I idled about the
town until it was time for the train from the south to get in. And I was
on the platform when it came, and there was my mother and Maisie and Mr.
Lindsey, and I saw at a glance that all that was filling each was sheer
and infinite surprise. My mother gripped me on the instant.
"Hugh!" she exclaimed. "What are you doing here, and what does all this
mean? Such a fright as you've given us! What's the meaning of it?"
I was so taken aback, having been certain that Carstairs would have gone
home and told them I was accidentally drowned, that all I could do was to
stare from one to the other. As for Maisie, she only looked wonderingly
at me; as for Mr. Lindsey, he gazed at me as scrutinizingly as my mother
"Aye!" said he, "what's the meaning of it, young man? We've done your
bidding and more--but--why?"
I found my tongue at that.
"What!" I exclaimed. "Haven't you seen Sir Gilbert Carstairs? Didn't you
hear from him that--"
"We know nothing about Sir Gilbert Carstairs," he interrupted. "The fact
is, my lad, that until your wire arrived this afternoon, nobody had even
heard of you and Sir Gilbert Carstairs since you went off in his yacht
yesterday. Neither he nor the yacht have ever returned to Berwick. Where
I READ MY OWN OBITUARY
It was my turn to stare again--and stare I did, from one to the other in
silence, and being far too much amazed to find ready speech. And before I
could get my tongue once more, my mother, who was always remarkably sharp
of eye, got her word in.
"What're you doing in that new suit of clothes?" she demanded. "And
where's your own good clothes that you went away in yesterday noon? I
misdoubt this stewardship's leading you into some strange ways!"
"My own good clothes, mother, are somewhere in the North Sea," retorted
I. "Top or bottom, sunk or afloat, it's there you'll find them, if you're
more anxious about them than me! Do you tell me that Carstairs has never
been home?" I went on, turning to Mr. Lindsey, "Then I don't know where
he is, nor his yacht either. All I know is that he left me to drown last
night, a good twenty miles from land, and that it's only by a special
mercy of Providence that I'm here. Wherever he is, yon man's a
murderer--I've settled that, Mr. Lindsey!"
The women began to tremble and to exclaim at this news, and to ask one
question after another, and Mr. Lindsey shook his head impatiently.
"We can't stand talking our affairs in the station all night," said he.
"Let's get to an hotel, my lad--we're all wanting our suppers. You don't
seem as if you were in very bad spirits, yourself."
"I'm all right, Mr. Lindsey," I answered cheerfully. "I've been down to
Jericho, it's true, and to worse, but I chanced across a good Samaritan
or two. And I've looked out a clean and comfortable hotel for you, and
we'll go there now."
I led them away to a good hotel that I had noticed in my walks, and while
they took their suppers I sat by and told them all my adventure, to the
accompaniment of many exclamations from my mother and Maisie. But Mr.
Lindsey made none, and I was quick to notice that what most interested
him was that I had been to see Mr. Gavin Smeaton.
"But what for did you not come straight home when you were safely on
shore again?" asked my mother, who was thinking of the expense I was
putting her to. "What's the reason of fetching us all this way when
you're alive and well?"
I looked at Mr. Lindsey--knowingly, I suppose.
"Because, mother," I answered her, "I believed yon Carstairs would go
back to Berwick and tell that there'd been a sad accident, and I was
dead--drowned--and I wanted to let him go on thinking that I was
dead--and so I decided to keep away. And if he is alive, it'll be the
best thing to let the man still go on thinking I was drowned--as I'll
prove to Mr. Lindsey there. If Carstairs is alive, I say, it's the right
policy for me to keep out of his sight and our neighbourhood."
"Aye!" agreed Mr. Lindsey, who was a quick hand at taking up things.
"There's something in that, Hugh."
"Well, it's beyond me, all this," observed my mother, "and it all comes
of me taking yon Gilverthwaite into the house! But me and Maisie'll away
to our beds, and maybe you and Mr. Lindsey'll get more light out of the
matter than I can, and glad I'll be when all this mystery's cleared up
and we'll be able to live as honest folk should, without all this flying
about the country and spending good money."
I contrived to get a few minutes with Maisie, however, before she and my
mother retired, and I found then that, had I known it, I need not have
been so anxious and disturbed. For they had attached no particular
importance to the fact that I had not returned the night before; they had
thought that Sir Gilbert had sailed his yacht in elsewhere, and that I
would be turning up later, and there had been no great to-do after me
until my own telegram had arrived, when, of course, there was
consternation and alarm, and nothing but hurry to catch the next train
north. But Mr. Lindsey had contrived to find out that nothing had been
seen of Sir Gilbert Carstairs and his yacht at Berwick; and to that point
he and I at once turned when the women had gone to bed and I went with
him into the smoking-room while he had his pipe and his drop of whisky.
By that time I had told him of the secret about the meeting at the
cross-roads, and about my interview with Crone at his shop, and Sir
Gilbert Carstairs at Hathercleugh, when he offered me the stewardship;
and I was greatly relieved when Mr. Lindsey let me down lightly and said
no more than that if I'd told him these things, at first, there might
have been a great difference.
"But we're on the beginning of something," he concluded. "That Sir
Gilbert Carstairs has some connection with these murders, I'm now
convinced--but what it is, I'm not yet certain. What I am certain about
is that he took fright yesterday morning in our court, when I produced
that ice-ax and asked the doctor those questions about it."
"And I'm sure of that, too, Mr. Lindsey," said I. "And I've been
wondering what there was about yon ice-ax that frightened him. You'll
know that yourself, of course?"
"Aye, but I'm not going to tell you!" he answered. "You'll have to await
developments on that point, my man. And now we'll be getting to bed, and
in the morning we'll see this Mr. Gavin Smeaton. It would be a queer
thing now, wouldn't it, if we got some clue to all this through him? But
I'm keenly interested in hearing that he comes from the other side of the
Atlantic, Hugh, for I've been of opinion that it's across there that the
secret of the whole thing will be found."
They had brought me a supply of clothes and money with them, and first
thing in the morning I went off to the docks and found my Samaritan
skipper, and gave him back his sovereign and his blue serge suit, with
my heartiest thanks and a promise to keep him fully posted up in the
development of what he called the case. And then I went back to
breakfast with the rest of them, and at once there was the question of
what was to be done. My mother was all for going homeward as quickly as
possible, and it ended up in our seeing her and Maisie away by the next
train; Mr. Lindsey having made both swear solemnly that they would not
divulge one word of what had happened, nor reveal the fact that I was
alive, to any living soul but Andrew Dunlop, who, of course, could be
trusted. And my mother agreed, though the proposal was anything but
pleasant or proper to her.
"You're putting on me more than any woman ought to be asked to bear, Mr.
Lindsey," said she, as we saw them into the train. "You're asking me to
go home and behave as if we didn't know whether the lad was alive or
dead. I'm not good at the playacting, and I'm far from sure that it's
either truthful or honest to be professing things that isn't so. And I'll
be much obliged to you if you'll get all this cleared up, and let Hugh
there settle down to his work in the proper way, instead of wandering
about on business that's no concern of his."
We shook our heads at each other as the train went off, Maisie waving
good-bye to us, and my mother sitting very stiff and stern and
disapproving in her corner of the compartment.
"No concern of yours, d'ye hear, my lad?" laughed Mr. Lindsey. "Aye, but
your mother forgets that in affairs of this sort a lot of people are
drawn in where they aren't concerned! It's like being on the edge of a
whirlpool--you're dragged into it before you're aware. And now we'll go
and see this Mr. Smeaton; but first, where's the telegraph office in this
station? I want to wire to Murray, to ask him to keep me posted up during
today if any news comes in about the yacht."
When Mr. Lindsey was in the telegraph office, I bought that morning's
_Dundee Advertiser_, more to fill up a few spare moments than from any
particular desire to get the news, for I was not a great newspaper
reader. I had scarcely opened it when I saw my own name. And there I
stood, in the middle of the bustling railway station, enjoying the
sensation of reading my own obituary notice.
"Our Berwick-on-Tweed correspondent, telegraphing late last night,
says:--Considerable anxiety is being felt in the town respecting the fate
of Sir Gilbert Carstairs, Bart., of Hathercleugh House, and Mr. Hugh
Moneylaws, who are feared to have suffered a disaster at sea. At noon
yesterday, Sir Gilbert, accompanied by Mr. Moneylaws, went out in the
former's yacht (a small vessel of light weight) for a sail which,
according to certain fishermen who were about when the yacht left, was to
be one of a few hours only. The yacht had not returned last night, nor
has it been seen or heard of since its departure. Various Berwick
fishing craft have been out well off the coast during today, but no
tidings of the missing gentlemen have come to hand. Nothing has been
heard of, or from, Sir Gilbert at Hathercleugh up to nine o'clock this
evening, and the only ray of hope lies in the fact that Mr. Moneylaws'
mother left the town hurriedly this afternoon--possibly having received
some news of her son. It is believed here, however, that the light vessel
was capsized in a sudden squall, and that both occupants have lost their
lives. Sir Gilbert Carstairs, who was the seventh baronet, had only
recently come to the neighbourhood on succeeding to the title and
estates. Mr. Moneylaws, who was senior clerk to Mr. Lindsey, solicitor,
of Berwick, was a very promising young man of great ability, and had
recently been much before the public eye as a witness in connection with
the mysterious murders of John Phillips and Abel Crone, which are still
attracting so much attention."
I shoved the newspaper into Mr. Lindsey's hand as he came out of the
telegraph office. He read the paragraph in silence, smiling as he read.
"Aye!" he said at last, "you have to leave home to get the home news.
Well--they're welcome to be thinking that for the present. I've just
wired Murray that I'll be here till at any rate this evening, and that
he's to telegraph at once if there's tidings of that yacht or of
Carstairs. Meanwhile, well go and see this Mr. Smeaton."
Mr. Smeaton was expecting us--he, too, was reading about me in the
_Advertiser_ when we entered, and he made some joking remark about it
only being great men that were sometimes treated to death-notices before
they were dead. And then he turned to Mr. Lindsey, who I noticed had been
taking close stock of him.
"I've been thinking out things since Mr. Moneylaws was in here last
night," he remarked. "Bringing my mind to bear, do you see, on certain
points that I hadn't thought of before. And maybe there's something more
than appears at first sight in yon man John Phillips having my name and
address on him."
"Aye?" asked Mr. Lindsey, quietly. "How, now?"
"Well," replied Mr. Smeaton, "there may be something in it, and there may
be nothing--just nothing at all. But it's the fact that my father hailed
from Tweedside--and from some place not so far from Berwick."
I was watching Mr. Lindsey pretty closely, being desirous of seeing how
he took to Mr. Gavin Smeaton, and what he made of him, and I saw him
prick his ears at this announcement; clearly, it seemed to suggest
something of interest to him.
"Aye?" he exclaimed. "Your father hailed from Berwick, or thereabouts?
You don't know exactly from where, Mr. Smeaton?"
"No, I don't," replied Smeaton, promptly. "The truth is, strange as it
may seem, Mr. Lindsey, I know precious little about my father, and what I
do know is mostly from hearsay. I've no recollection of having ever seen
him. And--more wondrous still, you'll say--I don't know whether he's
alive or dead!"
Here, indeed, was something that bordered on the mysterious; and Mr.
Lindsey and myself, who had been dealing in that commodity to some
considerable degree of late, exchanged glances. And Smeaton saw us look
at each other, and he smiled and went on.
"I was thinking all this out last night," he said, "and it came to me--I
wonder if that man, John Phillips, who had, as I hear, my name and
address in his pocket, could have been some man who was coming to see
me on my father's behalf, or--it's an odd thing to fancy, and,
considering what's happened him, not a pleasant one!--could have been my
There was silence amongst us for a moment. This was a new vista down
which we were looking, and it was full of thick shadow. As for me, I
began to recollect things. According to the evidence which Chisholm had
got from the British Linen Bank at Peebles, John Phillips had certainly
come from Panama. Just as certainly he had made for Tweedside. And--with
equal certainty--nobody at all had come forward to claim him, to assert
kinship with him, though there had been the widest publicity given to the
circumstances of his murder. In Gilverthwaite's instance, his sister had
quickly turned up--to see what there was for her. Phillips had been just
as freely mentioned in the newspapers as Gilverthwaite; but no one had
made inquiries after him, though there was a tidy sum of money of his in
the Peebles bank for his next-of-kin to claim. Who was he, then?
Mr. Lindsey was evidently deep in thought, or, I should perhaps say, in
surmise. And he seemed to arrive where I did--at a question; which was,
of course, just that which Smeaton had suggested.
"I might answer that better if I knew what you could tell me about your
father, Mr. Smeaton," he said. "And--about yourself."
"I'll tell you all I can, with pleasure," answered Smeaton. "To tell you
the truth, I never attached much importance to this matter, in spite of
my name and address being found on Phillips, until Mr. Moneylaws there
came in last night--and then, after what he told me, I did begin to think
pretty deeply over it, and I'm coming to the opinion that there's a lot
more in all this than appears on the surface."
"You can affirm that with confidence!" remarked Mr. Lindsey, drily.
"Well--about my father," continued Smeaton. "All I know is this--and I
got it from hearsay: His name--the name given to me, anyway--was Martin
Smeaton. He hailed from somewhere about Berwick. Whether it was on the
English side or the Scottish side of the Tweed I don't know. But he
went to America as a young man, with a young wife, and they were in New
Orleans when I was born. And when I was born, my mother died. So I
never saw her."
"Do you know her maiden name?" asked Mr. Lindsey.
"No more than that her Christian name was Mary," replied Smeaton.
"You'll find out as I go on that it's very little I do know of
anything--definitely. Well, when my mother died, my father evidently left
New Orleans and went off travelling. I've made out that he must have been
a regular rolling stone at all times--a man that couldn't rest long in
one place. But he didn't take me with him. There was a Scotsman and his
wife in New Orleans that my father had forgathered with--some people of
the name of Watson,--and he left me with them, and in their care in New
Orleans I remained till I was ten years old. From my recollection he
evidently paid them well for looking after me--there was never, at any
time, any need of money on my account. And of course, never having known
any other, I came to look on the Watsons as father and mother. When I was
ten years old they returned to Scotland--here to Dundee, and I came with
them. I have a letter or two that my father wrote at that time giving
instructions as to what was to be done with me. I was to have the best
education--as much as I liked and was capable of--and, though I didn't
then, and don't now, know all the details, it's evident he furnished
Watson with plenty of funds on my behalf. We came here to Dundee, and I
was put to the High School, and there I stopped till I was eighteen, and
then I had two years at University College. Now, the odd thing was that
all that time, though I knew that regular and handsome remittances came
to the Watsons on my behalf from my father, he never expressed any
wishes, or made any suggestions, as to what I should do with myself. But
I was all for commercial life; and when I left college, I went into an
office here in the town and began to study the ins and outs of foreign
trade. Then, when I was just twenty-one, my father sent me a considerable
sum--two thousand pounds, as a matter of fact--saying it was for me to
start business with. And, do you know, Mr. Lindsey, from that day--now
ten years ago--to this, I've never heard a word of him."
Mr. Lindsey was always an attentive man in a business interview, but I
had never seen him listen to anybody so closely as he listened to Mr.
Smeaton. And after his usual fashion, he at once began to ask questions.
"Those Watsons, now," he said. "They're living?"
"No," replied Smeaton. "Both dead--a few years ago."
"That's a pity," remarked Mr. Lindsey. "But you'll have recollections of
what they told you about your father from their own remembrance of him?"
"They'd little to tell," said Smeaton. "I made out they knew very little
indeed of him, except that he was a tall, fine-looking fellow, evidently
of a superior class and education. Of my mother they knew less."
"You'll have letters of your father's?" suggested Mr. Lindsey.
"Just a few mere scraps--he was never a man who did more than write down
what he wanted doing, and as briefly as possible," replied Smeaton. "In
fact," he added, with a laugh, "his letters to me were what you might
call odd. When the money came that I mentioned just now, be wrote me the
shortest note--I can repeat every word of it: 'I've sent Watson two
thousand pounds for you,' he wrote. 'You can start yourself in business
with it, as I hear you're inclined that way, and some day I'll come over
and see how you're getting along.' That was all!"
"And you've never heard of or from him since?" exclaimed Mr. Lindsey.
"That's a strange thing, now. But--where was he then? Where did he send
the money from?"
"New York," replied Smeaton. "The other letters I have from him are from
places in both North and South America. It always seemed to me and the
Watsons that he was never in any place for long--always going about."
"I should like to see those letters, Mr. Smeaton," said Mr. Lindsey.
"Especially the last one."
"They're at my house," answered Smeaton. "I'll bring them down here this
afternoon, and show them to you if you'll call in. But now--do you think
this man Phillips may have been my father?"
"Well," replied Mr. Lindsey, reflectively, "it's an odd thing that
Phillips, whoever he was, drew five hundred pounds in cash out of the
British Linen Bank at Peebles, and carried it straight away to
Tweedside--where you believe your father came from. It looks as if
Phillips had meant to do something with that cash--to give it to
somebody, you know."
"I read the description of Phillips in the newspapers," remarked Smeaton.
"But, of course, it conveyed nothing to me."
"You've no photograph of your father?" asked Mr. Lindsey.
"No--none--never had," answered Smeaton. "Nor any papers of his--except
those bits of letters."
Mr. Lindsey sat in silence for a time, tapping the point of his stick on
the floor and staring at the carpet.
"I wish we knew what that man Gilverthwaite was wanting at Berwick and in
the district!" he said at last.
"But isn't that evident?" suggested Smeaton. "He was looking in the
parish registers. I've a good mind to have a search made in those
quarters for particulars of my father."
Mr. Lindsey gave him a sharp look.
"Aye!" he said, in a rather sly fashion. "But--you don't know if your
father's real name was Smeaton!"
Both Smeaton and myself started at that--it was a new idea. And I saw
that it struck Smeaton with great force.
"True!" he replied, after a pause. "I don't! It might have been. And in
that case--how could one find out what it was?"
Mr. Lindsey got up, shaking his head.
"A big job!" he answered. "A stiff job! You'd have to work back a long
way. But--it could be done. What time can I look in this afternoon, Mr.
Smeaton, to get a glance at those letters?"
"Three o'clock," replied Smeaton. He walked to the door of his office
with us, and he gave me a smile. "You're none the worse for your
adventure, I see," he remarked. "Well, what about this man
Carstairs--what news of him?"
"We'll maybe be able to tell you some later in the day," replied Mr.
Lindsey. "There'll be lots of news about him, one way or another, before
we're through with all this."
We went out into the street then, and at his request I took Mr. Lindsey
to the docks, to see the friendly skipper, who was greatly delighted to
tell the story of my rescue. We stopped on his ship talking with him
for a good part of the morning, and it was well past noon when we went
back to the hotel for lunch. And the first thing we saw there was a
telegram for Mr. Lindsey. He tore the envelope open as we stood in the
hall, and I made no apology for looking over his shoulder and reading
the message with him.
"Just heard by wire from Largo police that small yacht answering
description of Carstairs' has been brought in there by fishermen who
found it early this morning in Largo Bay, empty."
We looked at each other. And Mr. Lindsey suddenly laughed.
"Empty!" he exclaimed. "Aye!--but that doesn't prove that the
THE SUIT OF CLOTHES
Mr. Lindsey made no further remark until we were half through our
lunch--and it was not to me that he then spoke, but to a waiter who was
just at his elbow.
"There's three things you can get me," he said. "Our bill--a railway
guide--a map of Scotland. Bring the map first."
The man went away, and Mr. Lindsey bent across the table.
"Largo is in Fife," said he. "We'll go there. I'm going to see that
yacht with my own eyes, and hear with my own ears what the man who found
it has got to say. For, as I remarked just now, my lad, the mere fact
that the yacht was found empty doesn't prove that Carstairs has been
drowned! And well just settle up here, and go round and see Smeaton to
get a look at those letters, and then we'll take train to Largo and make
a bit of inquiry."
Mr. Smeaton had the letters spread out on his desk when we went in, and
Mr. Lindsey looked them over. There were not more than half a dozen
altogether, and they were mere scraps, as he had said--usually a few
lines on half-sheets of paper. Mr. Lindsey appeared to take no great
notice of any of them but the last--the one that Smeaton had quoted to us
in the morning. But over that he bent for some time, examining it
closely, in silence.
"I wish you'd lend me this for a day or two," he said at last. "I'll take
the greatest care of it; it shan't go out of my own personal possession,
and I'll return it by registered post. The fact is, Mr. Smeaton, I want
to compare that writing with some other writing."
"Certainly," agreed Smeaton, handing the letter over. "I'll do anything I
can to help. I'm beginning, you know, Mr. Lindsey, to fear I'm mixed up
in this. You'll keep me informed?"
"I can give you some information now," answered Mr. Lindsey, pulling out
the telegram. "There's more mystery, do you see? And Moneylaws and I are
off to Largo now--we'll take it on our way home. For by this and that,
I'm going to know what's become of Sir Gilbert Carstairs!"
We presently left Mr. Gavin Smeaton, with a promise to keep him posted
up, and a promise on his part that he'd come to Berwick, if that seemed
necessary; and then we set out on our journey. It was not such an easy
business to get quickly to Largo, and the afternoon was wearing well into
evening when we reached it, and found the police official who had wired
to Berwick. There was not much that he could tell us, of his own
knowledge. The yacht, he said, was now lying in the harbour at Lower
Largo, where it had been brought in by a fisherman named Andrew
Robertson, to whom he offered to take us. Him we found at a little inn,
near the harbour--a taciturn, somewhat sour-faced fellow who showed no
great desire to talk, and would probably have given us scant information
if we had not been accompanied by the police official, though he
brightened up when Mr. Lindsey hinted at the possibility of reward.
"When did you come across this yacht?" asked Mr. Lindsey.
"Between eight and nine o'clock this morning," replied Robertson.
"About seven miles out--a bit outside the bay."
"Empty?" demanded Mr. Lindsey, looking keenly at the man. "Not a
soul in her?"
"Not a soul!" answered Robertson. "Neither alive nor dead!"
"Were her sails set at all?" asked Mr. Lindsey.
"They were not. She was just drifting--anywhere," replied the man. "And I
put a line to her and brought her in."
"Any other craft than yours about at the time?" inquired Mr. Lindsey.
"Not within a few miles," said Robertson.
We went off to the yacht then. She had been towed into a quiet corner of
the harbour, and an old fellow who was keeping guard over her assured us
that nobody but the police had been aboard her since Robertson brought
her in. We, of course, went aboard, Mr. Lindsey, after being assured by
me that this really was Sir Gilbert Carstairs' yacht, remarking that he
didn't know we could do much good by doing so. But I speedily made a
discovery of singular and significant importance. Small as she was, the
yacht possessed a cabin--there was no great amount of head-room in it,
it's true, and a tall man could not stand upright in it, but it was
spacious for a craft of that size, and amply furnished with shelving and
lockers. And on these lockers lay the clothes--a Norfolk suit of grey
tweed--in which Sir Gilbert Carstairs had set out with me from Berwick.
I let out a fine exclamation when I saw that, and the other three turned
and stared at me.
"Mr. Lindsey!" said I, "look here! Those are the clothes he was wearing
when I saw the last of him. And there's the shirt he had on, too, and the
shoes. Wherever he is, and whatever happened to him, he made a complete
change of linen and clothing before he quitted the yacht! That's a plain
fact, Mr. Lindsey!"
A fact it was--and one that made me think, however it affected the
others. It disposed, for instance, of any notion or theory of suicide. A
man doesn't change his clothes if he's going to drown himself. And it
looked as if this had been part of some premeditated plan: at the very
least of it, it was a curious thing.
"You're sure of that?" inquired Mr. Lindsey, eyeing the things that had
been thrown aside.
"Dead sure of it!" said I. "I couldn't be mistaken."
"Did he bring a portmanteau or anything aboard with him, then?" asked
"He didn't; but he could have kept clothes and linen and the like in
these lockers," I pointed out, beginning to lift the lids. "See
here!--here's brushes and combs and the like. I tell you before ever
he left this yacht, or fell out of it, or whatever's happened him,
he'd changed everything from his toe to his top--there's the very cap
he was wearing."
They all looked at each other, and Mr. Lindsey's gaze finally fastened
itself on Andrew Robertson.
"I suppose you don't know anything about this, my friend?" he asked.
"What should I know?" answered Robertson, a bit surlily. "The yacht's
just as I found it--not a thing's been touched."
There was the luncheon basket lying on the cabin table--just as I had
last seen it, except that Carstairs had evidently finished the provisions
which he and I had left. And I think the same thought occurred to Mr.
Lindsey and myself at the same moment--how long had he stopped on board
that yacht after his cruel abandoning of me? For forty-eight hours had
elapsed since that episode, and in forty-eight hours a man may do a great
deal in the way of making himself scarce--which now seemed to me to be
precisely what Sir Gilbert Carstairs had done, though in what particular
fashion, and exactly why, it was beyond either of us to surmise.
"I suppose no one has heard anything of this yacht having been seen
drifting about yesterday, or during last night?" asked Mr. Lindsey,
putting his question to both men. "No talk of it hereabouts?"
But neither the police nor Andrew Robertson had heard a murmur of that
nature, and there was evidently nothing to be got out of them more than
we had already got. Nor had the police heard of any stranger being seen
about there--though, as the man who was with us observed, there was no
great likelihood of anybody noticing a stranger, for Largo was nowadays a
somewhat popular seaside resort, and down there on the beach there were
many strangers, it being summer, and holiday time, so that a strange man
more or less would pass unobserved.
"Supposing a man landed about the coast, here," asked Mr. Lindsey--"I'm
just putting a case to you--and didn't go into the town, but walked along
the beach--where would he strike a railway station, now?"
The police official replied that there were railway stations to the
right and left of the bay--a man could easily make Edinburgh in one
direction, and St. Andrews in the other; and then, not unnaturally, he
was wanting to know if Mr. Lindsey was suggesting that Sir Gilbert
Carstairs had sailed his yacht ashore, left it, and that it had drifted
out to sea again?
"I'm not suggesting anything," answered Mr. Lindsey. "I'm only
speculating on possibilities. And that's about as idle work as
standing here talking. What will be practical will be to arrange
about this yacht being locked up in some boat-house, and we'd best
see to that at once."
We made arrangements with the owner of a boat-house to pull the yacht in
there, and to keep her under lock and key, and, after settling matters
with the police to have an eye on her, and see that her contents were
untouched until further instructions reached them from Berwick, we went
off to continue our journey. But we had stayed so long in Largo that when
we got to Edinburgh the last train for Berwick had gone, and we were
obliged to turn into an hotel for the night. Naturally, all our talk was
of what had just transpired--the events of the last two days, said Mr.
Lindsey, only made these mysteries deeper than they were before, and why
Sir Gilbert Carstairs should have abandoned his yacht, as he doubtless
had, was a still further addition to the growing problem.
"And I'm not certain, my lad, that I believe yon man Robertson's tale,"
he remarked, as we were discussing matters from every imaginable point of
view just before going to bed. "He may have brought the yacht in, but we
don't know that he didn't bring Carstairs aboard her. Why was that change
of clothes made? Probably because he knew that he'd be described as
wearing certain things, and he wanted to come ashore in other things. For
aught we know, he came safely ashore, boarded a train somewhere in the
neighbourhood, or at Largo itself--why not?--and went off, likely here,
to Edinburgh--where he'd mingle with a few thousand of folk,
"Then--in that case, you think he's--what, Mr. Lindsey?" I asked. "Do you
mean he's running away?"
"Between you and me, that's not far from what I do think," he replied.
"And I think I know what he's running away from, too! But we'll hear a
lot more before many hours are over, or I'm mistaken."
We were in Berwick at an early hour next morning, and we went straight to
the police station and into the superintendent's office. Chisholm was
with Mr. Murray when we walked in, and both men turned to us with
"Here's more mystery about this affair, Mr. Lindsey!" exclaimed Murray.
"It's enough to make a man's wits go wool-gathering. There's no news of
Sir Gilbert, and Lady Carstairs has been missing since twelve o'clock
THE SECOND DISAPPEARANCE
Mr. Lindsey was always one of the coolest of hands at receiving news of a
startling nature, and now, instead of breaking out into exclamations, he
just nodded his head, and dropped into the nearest chair.
"Aye?" he remarked quietly. "So her ladyship's disappeared, too, has she?
And when did you get to hear that, now?"
"Half an hour ago," replied Murray. "The butler at Hathercleugh House
has just been in--driven over in a hurry--to tell us. What do you make
of it at all?"
"Before I answer that, I want to know what's been happening here while
I've been away," replied Mr. Lindsey. "What's happened within your own
province--officially, I mean?"
"Not much," answered Murray. "There began to be talk evening before last,
amongst the fishermen, about Sir Gilbert's yacht. He'd been seen, of
course, to go out with Moneylaws there, two days ago, at noon. And--there
is Moneylaws! Doesn't he know anything? Where's Sir Gilbert, Moneylaws?"
"He'll tell all that--when I tell him to," said Mr. Lindsey, with a
glance at me. "Go on with your story, first."
The superintendent shook his head, as if all these things were beyond his
"Oh, well!" he continued. "I tell you there was talk--you know how they
gossip down yonder on the beach. It was said the yacht had never come in,
and, though many of them had been out, they'd never set eyes on her, and
rumours of her soon began to spread. So I sent Chisholm there out to
Hathercleugh to make some inquiry--tell Mr. Lindsey what you heard," he
went on, turning to the sergeant. "Not much, I think."
"Next to nothing," replied Chisholm. "I saw Lady Carstairs. She laughed
at me. She said Sir Gilbert was not likely to come to harm--he'd been
sailing yachts, big and little, for many a year, and he'd no doubt gone
further on this occasion than he'd first intended. I pointed out that
he'd Mr. Moneylaws with him, and that he'd been due at his business early
that morning. She laughed again at that, and said she'd no doubt Sir
Gilbert and Mr. Moneylaws had settled that matter between them, and that,
as she'd no anxieties, she was sure Berwick folk needn't have any. And so
I came away."
"And we heard no more until we got your wire yesterday from Dundee, Mr.
Lindsey," said Murray; "and that was followed not so very long after by
one from the police at Largo, which I reported to you."
"Now, here's an important question," put in Mr. Lindsey, a bit
hurriedly, as if something had just struck him. "Did you communicate the
news from Largo to Hathercleugh?"
"We did, at once," answered Murray. "I telephoned immediately to Lady
Carstairs--I spoke to her over the wire myself, telling her what the
Largo police reported."
"What time would that be?" asked Mr. Lindsey, sharply.
"Half-past eleven," replied Murray.
"Then, according to what you tell me, she left Hathercleugh soon after
you telephoned to her?" said Mr. Lindsey.
"According to what the butler told us this morning," answered Murray,
"Lady Carstairs went out on her bicycle at exactly noon yesterday--and
she's never been seen or heard of since."
"She left no message at the house?" asked Mr. Lindsey.
"None! And," added the superintendent, significantly, "she didn't mention
to the butler that I'd just telephoned to her. It's a queer business,
this, I'm thinking, Mr. Lindsey. But--what's your own news?--and what's
Moneylaws got to tell about Sir Gilbert?"
Mr. Lindsey took no notice of the last question. He sat in silence for a
while, evidently thinking. And in the end he pointed to some telegram
forms that lay on the superintendent's desk.
"There's one thing must be done at once, Murray," he said; "and I'll
take the responsibility of doing it myself. We must communicate with the
Carstairs family solicitors."
"I'd have done it, as soon as the butler brought me the news about Lady
Carstairs," remarked Murray, "but I don't know who they are."
"I do!" answered Mr. Lindsey. "Holmshaw and Portlethorpe of Newcastle.
Here," he went on, passing a telegram form to me. "Write out this
message: 'Sir Gilbert and Lady Carstairs are both missing from
Hathercleugh under strange circumstances please send some authorized
person here at once.' Sign that with my name, Hugh--and take it to the
post-office, and come back here."
When I got back, Mr. Lindsey had evidently told Murray and Chisholm all
about my adventures with Sir Gilbert, and the two men regarded me with a
new interest as if I had suddenly become a person of the first
importance. And the superintendent at once fell upon me for my reticence.
"You made a bad mistake, young man, in keeping back what you ought to
have told at the inquest on Phillips!" he said, reprovingly. "Indeed, you
ought to have told it before that--you should have told us."
"Aye!--if I'd only known as much as that," began Chisholm, "I'd have--"
"You'd probably have done just what he did!" broke in Mr. Lindsey--"held
your tongue till you knew more!--so let that pass--the lad did what he
thought was for the best. You never suspected Sir Gilbert of any share
in these affairs, either of you--so come, now!"
"Why, as to that, Mr. Lindsey," remarked Murray, who looked somewhat
nettled by this last passage, "you didn't suspect him yourself--or, if
you did, you kept it uncommonly quiet!"
"Does Mr. Lindsey suspect him now?" asked Chisholm, a bit maliciously.
"For if he does, maybe he'll give us a hand."
Mr. Lindsey looked at both of them in a way that he had of looking at
people of whose abilities he had no very great idea--but there was some
indulgence in the look on this occasion.
"Well, now that things have come to this pass," he said, "and after Sir
Gilbert's deliberate attempt to get rid of Moneylaws--to murder him, in
fact--I don't mind telling you the truth. I do suspect Sir Gilbert of the
murder of Crone--and that's why I produced that ice-ax in court the other
day. And--when he saw that ice-ax, he knew that I suspected him, and
that's why he took Moneylaws out with him, intending to rid himself of a
man that could give evidence against him. If I'd known that Moneylaws was
going with him, I'd have likely charged Sir Gilbert there and
then!--anyway, I wouldn't have let Moneylaws go."
"Aye!--you know something, then?" exclaimed Murray. "You're in possession
of some evidence that we know nothing about?"
"I know this--and I'll make you a present of it, now," answered Mr.
Lindsey. "As you're aware, I'm a bit of a mountaineer--you know that
I've spent a good many of my holidays in Switzerland, climbing.
Consequently, I know what alpenstocks and ice-axes are. And when I came
to reflect on the circumstances of Crone's murder, I remember that not so
long since, happening to be out along the riverside, I chanced across Sir
Gilbert Carstairs using a very late type of ice-ax as a walking-stick--as
he well could do, and might have picked up in his hall as some men'll
pick up a golf-stick to go walking with, and I've done that myself,
hundred of times. And I knew that I had an ice-ax of that very pattern at
home--and so I just shoved it under the doctor's nose in court, and asked
him if that hole in Crone's head couldn't have been made by the spike of
it. Why? Because I knew that Carstairs would be present in court, and I
wanted to see if he would catch what I was after!"
"And--you think he did?" asked the superintendent, eagerly.
"I kept the corner of an eye on him," answered Mr. Lindsey, knowingly.
"He saw what I was after! He's a clever fellow, that--but he took the
mask off his face for the thousandth part of a second. I saw!"
The two listeners were so amazed by this that they sat in silence for a
while, staring at Mr. Lindsey with open-mouthed amazement.
"It's a dark, dark business!" sighed Murray at last. "What's the true
meaning of it, do you think, Mr. Lindsey?"
"Some secret that's being gradually got at," replied Mr. Lindsey,
promptly. "That's what it is. And there's nothing to do, just now, but
wait until somebody comes from Holmshaw and Portlethorpe's. Holmshaw is
an old man--probably Portlethorpe himself will come along. He may know
something--they've been family solicitors to the Carstairs lot for many a
year. But it's my impression that Sir Gilbert Carstairs is away!--and
that his wife's after him. And if you want to be doing something, try to
find out where she went on her bicycle yesterday--likely, she rode to
some station in the neighbourhood, and then took train."
Mr. Lindsey and I then went to the office, and we had not been there long
when a telegram arrived from Newcastle. Mr. Portlethorpe himself was
coming on to Berwick immediately. And in the middle of the afternoon he
arrived--a middle-aged, somewhat nervous-mannered man, whom I had seen
two or three times when we had business at the Assizes, and whom Mr.
Lindsey evidently knew pretty well, judging by their familiar manner of
greeting each other.
"What's all this, Lindsey?" asked Mr. Portlethorpe, as soon as he walked
in, and without any preliminaries. "Your wire says Sir Gilbert and Lady
Carstairs have disappeared. Does that mean--"
"Did you read your newspaper yesterday?" interrupted Mr. Lindsey, who
knew that what we had read in the _Dundee Advertiser_ had also appeared
in the _Newcastle Daily Chronicle_. "Evidently not, Portlethorpe, or
you'd have known, in part at any rate, what my wire meant. But I'll tell
you in a hundred words--and then I'll ask you a couple of questions
before we go any further."
He gave Mr. Portlethorpe an epitomized account of the situation, and Mr.
Portlethorpe listened attentively to the end. And without making any
comment he said three words:
"The first," answered Mr. Lindsey, "is this--How long is it since you saw
or heard from Sir Gilbert Carstairs?"
"A week--by letter," replied Mr. Portlethorpe.
"The second," continued Mr. Lindsey, "is much more important--much! What,
Portlethorpe, do you know of Sir Gilbert Carstairs?"
Mr. Portlethorpe hesitated a moment. Then he replied, frankly and with
"To tell you the truth, Lindsey," he said, "beyond knowing that he is Sir
MRS. RALSTON OF CRAIG
Mr. Lindsey made no remark on this answer, and for a minute or two he and
Mr. Portlethorpe sat looking at each other. Then Mr. Portlethorpe bent
forward a little, his hands on his knees, and gave Mr. Lindsey a sort of
quizzical but earnest glance.
"Now, why do you ask that last question?" he said quietly. "You've
"It's like this," answered Mr. Lindsey. "Here's a man comes into these
parts to take up a title and estates, who certainly had been out of
them for thirty years. His recent conduct is something more than
suspicious--no one can deny that he left my clerk there to drown, without
possibility of help! That's intended murder! And so I ask, What do you,
his solicitor, know of him--his character, his doings during the thirty
years he was away? And you answer--nothing!"
"Just so!" assented Mr. Portlethorpe. "And nobody does hereabouts. Except
that he is Sir Gilbert Carstairs, nobody in these parts knows anything
about him--how should they? We, I suppose, know more than anybody--and we
know just a few bare facts."
"I think you'll have to let me know what these bare facts are," remarked
Mr. Lindsey. "And Moneylaws, too. Moneylaws has a definite charge to
bring against this man--and he'll bring it, if I've anything to do with
it! He shall press it!--if he can find Carstairs. And I think you'd
better tell us what you know, Portlethorpe. Things have got to come out."
"I've no objection to telling you and Mr. Moneylaws what we know,"
answered Mr. Portlethorpe. "After all, it is, in a way, common
knowledge--to some people, at any rate. And to begin with, you are
probably aware that the recent history of this Carstairs family is a
queer one. You know that old Sir Alexander had two sons and one
daughter--the daughter being very much younger than her brothers. When
the two sons, Michael and Gilbert, were about from twenty-one to
twenty-three, both quarrelled with their father, and cleared out of this
neighbourhood altogether; it's always believed that Sir Alexander gave
Michael a fair lot of money to go and do for himself, each hating the
other's society, and that Michael went off to America. As to Gilbert, he
got money at that time, too, and went south, and was understood to be
first a medical student and then a doctor, in London and abroad. There
is no doubt at all that both sons did get money--considerable
amounts,--because from the time they went away, no allowance was ever
paid to them, nor did Sir Alexander ever have any relations with them.
What the cause of the quarrel was, nobody knows; but the quarrel itself,
and the ensuing separation, were final--father and sons never resumed
relations. And when the daughter, now Mrs. Ralston of Craig, near here,
grew up and married, old Sir Alexander pursued a similar money policy
towards her--he presented her with thirty thousand pounds the day she was
married, and told her she'd never have another penny from him. I tell
you, he was a queer man."
"Queer lot altogether!" muttered Mr. Lindsey. "And interesting!"
"Oh, it's interesting enough!" agreed Mr. Portlethorpe, with a chuckle.
"Deeply so. Well, that's how things were until about a year before old
Sir Alexander died--which, as you know, is fourteen months since. As I
say, about six years before his death, formal notice came of the death of
Michael Carstairs, who, of course, was next in succession to the title.
It came from a solicitor in Havana, where Michael had died--there were
all the formal proofs. He had died unmarried and intestate, and his
estate amounted to about a thousand pounds. Sir Alexander put the affair
in our hands; and of course, as he was next-of-kin to his eldest son,
what there was came to him. And we then pointed out to him that now that
Mr. Michael Carstairs was dead, Mr. Gilbert came next--he would get the
title, in any case--and we earnestly pressed Sir Alexander to make a
will. And he was always going to, and he never did--and he died
intestate, as you know. And at that, of course, Sir Gilbert Carstairs
came forward, and--"
"A moment," interrupted Mr. Lindsey. "Did anybody know where he was at
the time of his father's death?"
"Nobody hereabouts, at any rate," replied Mr. Portlethorpe. "Neither
his father, nor his sister, nor ourselves had heard of him for many a
long year. But he called on us within twenty-four hours of his
"With proof, of course, that he was the man he represented himself to
be?" asked Mr. Lindsey.
"Oh, of course--full proof!" answered Mr. Portlethorpe. "Papers, letters,
all that sort of thing--all in order. He had been living in London for a
year or two at that time; but, according to his own account, he had gone
pretty well all over the world during the thirty years' absence. He'd
been a ship's surgeon--he'd been attached to the medical staff of more
than one foreign army, and had seen service--he'd been on one or two
voyages of discovery--he'd lived in every continent--in fact, he'd had a
very adventurous life, and lately he'd married a rich American heiress."
"Oh, Lady Carstairs is an American, is she?" remarked Mr. Lindsey.
"Just so--haven't you met her?" asked Mr. Portlethorpe.
"Never set eyes on her that I know of," replied Mr. Lindsey. "But go on."
"Well, of course, there was no doubt of Sir Gilbert's identity,"
continued Mr. Portlethorpe; "and as there was also no doubt that Sir
Alexander had died intestate, we at once began to put matters right.
Sir Gilbert, of course, came into the whole of the real estate, and he
and Mrs. Ralston shared the personalty--which, by-the-by, was
considerable: they both got nearly a hundred thousand each, in cash.
And--there you are!"
"That all?" asked Mr. Lindsey.
Mr. Portlethorpe hesitated a moment--then he glanced at me.
"Moneylaws is safe at a secret," said Mr. Lindsey. "If it is a secret."
"Well, then," answered Mr. Portlethorpe, "it's not quite all. There is a
circumstance which has--I can't exactly say bothered--but has somewhat
disturbed me. Sir Gilbert Carstairs has now been in possession of his
estates for a little over a year, and during that time he has sold nearly
every yard of them except Hathercleugh!"
Mr. Lindsey whistled. It was the first symptom of astonishment that he
had manifested, and I glanced quickly at him and saw a look of
indescribable intelligence and almost undeniable cunning cross his
face. But it went as swiftly as it came, and he merely nodded, as if
"Aye!" he exclaimed. "Quick work, Portlethorpe."
"Oh, he gave good reasons!" answered Mr. Portlethorpe. "He said, from the
first, that he meant to do it--he wanted, and his wife wanted too, to get
rid of these small and detached Northern properties, and buy a really
fine one in the South of England, keeping Hathercleugh as a sort of
holiday seat. He'd no intention of selling that, at any time.
But--there's the fact!--he's sold pretty nearly everything else."
"I never heard of these sales of land," remarked Mr. Lindsey.
"Oh, they've all been sold by private treaty," replied Mr. Portlethorpe.
"The Carstairs property was in parcels, here and there--the last two
baronets before this one had bought considerably in other parts. It was
all valuable--there was no difficulty in selling to adjacent owners."
"Then, if he's been selling to that extent, Sir Gilbert must have large
sums of money at command--unless he's bought that new estate you're
talking of," said Mr. Lindsey.
"He has not bought anything--that I know of," answered Mr. Portlethorpe.
"And he must have a considerable--a very large--sum of money at his
bankers'. All of which," he continued, looking keenly at Mr. Lindsey,
"makes me absolutely amazed to hear what you've just told me. It's very
serious, this charge you're implying against him, Lindsey! Why should he
want to take men's lives in this fashion! A man of his position, his
"Portlethorpe!" broke in Mr. Lindsey, "didn't you tell me just now that
this man, according to his own account, has lived a most adventurous
life, in all parts of the world? What more likely than that in the
course of such a life he made acquaintance with queer characters,
and--possibly--did some queer things himself? Isn't it a significant
thing that, within a year of his coming into the title and estates,
two highly mysterious individuals turn up here, and that all this foul
play ensues? It's impossible, now, to doubt that Gilverthwaite and
Phillips came into these parts because this man was already here! If
you've read all the stuff that's been in the papers, and add to it just
what we've told you about this last adventure with the yacht, you can't
doubt it, either."
"It's very, very strange--all of it," agreed Mr. Portlethorpe. "Have you
no theory, Lindsey?"
"I've a sort of one," answered Mr. Lindsey. "I think Gilverthwaite and
Phillips probably were in possession of some secret about Sir Gilbert
Carstairs, and that Crone may have somehow got an inkling of it. Now, as
we know, Gilverthwaite died, suddenly--and it's possible that Carstairs
killed both Phillips and Crone, as he certainly meant to kill this lad.
And what does it all look like?"
Before Mr. Portlethorpe could reply to that last question, and while he
was shaking his head over it, one of our junior clerks brought in Mrs.
Ralston of Craig, at the mention of whose name Mr. Lindsey immediately
bustled forward. She was a shrewd, clever-looking woman, well under
middle age, who had been a widow for the last four or five years, and
was celebrated in our parts for being a very managing and interfering
sort of body who chiefly occupied herself with works of charity and
philanthropy and was prominent on committees and boards. And she looked
over the two solicitors as if they were candidates for examination, and
she the examiner.
"I have been to the police, to find out what all this talk is about Sir
Gilbert Carstairs," she began at once. "They tell me you know more than
they do, Mr. Lindsey. Well, what have you to say? And what have you to
say, Mr. Portlethorpe? You ought to know more than anybody. What does it
all amount to!"
Mr. Portlethorpe, whose face had become very dismal at the sight of
Mrs. Ralston, turned, as if seeking help, to Mr. Lindsey. He was
obviously taken aback by Mrs. Ralston's questions, and a little afraid
of her; but Mr. Lindsey was never afraid of anybody, and he at once
turned on his visitor.
"Before we answer your questions, Mrs. Ralston," he said, "there's one
I'll take leave to ask you. When Sir Gilbert came back at your father's
death, did you recognize him?"
Mrs. Ralston tossed her head with obvious impatience.
"Now, what ridiculous nonsense, Mr. Lindsey!" she exclaimed. "How on
earth do you suppose that I could recognize a man whom I hadn't seen
since I was a child of seven--and certainly not for at least thirty
years? Of course I didn't!--impossible!"
THE BANK BALANCE
It was now Mr. Portlethorpe and I who looked at each other--with a mutual
questioning. What was Mr. Lindsey hinting, suggesting? And Mr.
Portlethorpe suddenly turned on him with a direct inquiry.
"What is it you are after, Lindsey?" he asked. "There's something in
"A lot," answered Mr. Lindsey. "And before I let it out, I think we'd
better fully inform Mrs. Ralston of everything that's happened, and of
how things stand, up to and including this moment. This is the position,
Mrs. Ralston, and the facts"--and he went on to give his caller a brief
but complete summary of all that he and Mr. Portlethorpe had just talked
over. "You now see how matters are," he concluded, at the end of his
epitome, during his delivery of which the lady had gradually grown more
and more portentous of countenance. "Now,--what do you say?"
Mrs. Ralston spoke sharply and decisively.
"Precisely what I have felt inclined to say more than once of late!" she
answered. "I'm beginning to suspect that the man who calls himself Sir
Gilbert Carstairs is not Sir Gilbert Carstairs at all! He's an
In spite of my subordinate position as a privileged but inferior member
of the conference, I could not help letting out a hasty exclamation of
astonishment at that. I was thoroughly and genuinely astounded--such a
notion as that had never once occurred to me. An impostor!--not the real
man? The idea was amazing--and Mr. Portlethorpe found it amazing, too,
and he seconded my exclamation with another, and emphasized it with an
"My dear madam!" he said deprecatingly. "Really! That's impossible!"
But Mr. Lindsey, calmer than ever, nodded his head confidently.
"I'm absolutely of Mrs. Ralston's opinion," he declared. "What she
suggests I believe to be true. An impostor!"
Mr. Portlethorpe flushed and began to look very uneasy.
"Really!" he repeated. "Really, Lindsey!--you forget that I examined into
the whole thing! I saw all the papers--letters, documents--Oh, the
suggestion is--you'll pardon me, Mrs. Ralston--ridiculous! No man could
have been in possession of those documents unless he'd been the real
man--the absolute Simon Pure! Why, my dear lady, he produced letters
written by yourself, when you were a little girl--and--and all sorts of
little private matters. It's impossible that there has been any
imposture--a--a reflection on me!"
"Cleverer men than you have been taken in, Portlethorpe," remarked Mr.
Lindsey. "And the matters you speak of might have been stolen. But let
Mrs. Ralston give us her reasons for suspecting this man--she has some
strong ones, I'll be bound."
Mr. Portlethorpe showed signs of irritation, but Mrs. Ralston promptly
took up Mr. Lindsey's challenge.
"Sufficiently strong to have made me very uneasy of late, at any rate,"
she answered. She turned to Mr. Portlethorpe. "You remember," she went
on, "that my first meeting with this man, when he came to claim the title
and estates, was at your office in Newcastle, a few days after he first
presented himself to you. He said then that he had not yet been down to
Hathercleugh; but I have since found out that he had--or, rather, that he
had been in the neighbourhood, incognito. That's a suspicious
circumstance, Mr. Portlethorpe."
"Excuse me, ma'am--I don't see it," retorted Mr. Portlethorpe. "I don't
see it at all."
"I do, then!" said Mrs. Ralston. "Suspicious, because I, his sister, and
only living relation, was close by. Why didn't he come straight to me? He
was here--he took a quiet look around before he let any one know who he
was. That's one thing I have against him--whatever you say, it was very
suspicious conduct; and he lied about it, in saying he had not been here,
when he certainly had been here! But that's far from all. The real
Gilbert Carstairs, Mr. Lindsey, as Mr. Portlethorpe knows, lived at
Hathercleugh House until he was twenty-two years old. He was always at
Hathercleugh, except when he was at Edinburgh University studying
medicine. He knew the whole of the district thoroughly. But, as I have
found out for myself, this man does not know the district! I have
discovered, on visiting him--though I have not gone there much, as I
don't like either him or his wife--that this is a strange country to him.
He knows next to nothing--though he has done his best to learn--of its
features, its history, its people. Is it likely that a man who had lived
on the Border until he was two-and-twenty could forget all about it,
simply because he was away from it for thirty years? Although I was only
seven or eight when my brother Gilbert left home, I was then a very sharp
child, and I remember that he knew every mile of the country round
Hathercleugh. But--this man doesn't."
Mr. Portlethorpe muttered something about it being very possible for a
man to forget a tremendous lot in thirty years, but Mrs. Ralston and Mr.
Lindsey shook their heads at his dissent from their opinion. As for me,
I was thinking of the undoubted fact that the supposed Sir Gilbert
Carstairs had been obliged in my presence to use a map in order to find
his exact whereabouts when he was, literally, within two miles of his
"Another thing," continued Mrs. Ralston: "in my few visits to
Hathercleugh since he came, I have found out that while he is very well
posted up in certain details of our family history, he is unaccountably
ignorant of others with which he ought to have been perfectly
familiar. I found out, too, that he is exceedingly clever in avoiding
subjects in which his ignorance might be detected. But, clever as he
is, he has more than once given me grounds for suspicion. And I tell
you plainly, Mr. Portlethorpe, that since he has been selling property
to the extent you report, you ought, at this juncture, and as things
are, to find out how money matters stand. He must have realized vast
amounts in cash! Where is it!"
"At his bankers'--in Newcastle, my dear madam!" replied Mr. Portlethorpe.
"Where else should it be? He has not yet made the purchase he
contemplated, so of course the necessary funds are waiting until he does.
I cannot but think that you and Mr. Lindsey are mistaken, and that there
will be some proper and adequate explanation of all this, and--"
"Portlethorpe!" exclaimed Mr. Lindsey, "that's no good. Things have gone
too far. Whether this man's Sir Gilbert Carstairs or an impostor, he did
his best to murder my clerk, and we suspect him of the murder of Crone,
and he's going to be brought to justice--that's flat! And your duty at
present is to fall in with us to this extent--you must adopt Mrs.
Ralston's suggestion, and ascertain how money matters stand. As Mrs.
Ralston rightly says, by the sale of these properties a vast amount of
ready money must have been accumulated, and at this man's disposal,
Portlethorpe!--we must know if it's true!"
"How can I tell you that?" demanded Mr. Portlethorpe, who was growing
more and more nervous and peevish. "I've nothing to do with Sir Gilbert
Carstairs' private banking account. I can't go and ask, point blank, of
his bankers how much money he has in their hands!"
"Then I will!" exclaimed Mr. Lindsey. "I know where he banks in
Newcastle, and I know the manager. I shall go this very night to the
manager's private house, and tell him exactly everything that's
transpired--I shall tell him Mrs. Ralston's and my own suspicions, and I
shall ask him where the money is. Do you understand that?"
"The proper course to adopt!" said Mrs. Ralston. "The one thing to do. It
must be done!"
"Oh, very well--then in that case I suppose I'd better go with you," said
Mr. Portlethorpe. "Of course, it's no use going to the bank--they'll be
closed; but we can, as you say, go privately to the manager. And we shall
be placed in a very unenviable position if Sir Gilbert Carstairs turns up
with a perfectly good explanation of all this mystery."
Mr. Lindsey pointed a finger at me.
"He can't explain that!" he exclaimed. "He left that lad to drown! Is
that attempted murder, or isn't it? I tell you, I'll have that man in the
dock--never mind who he is! Hugh, pass me the railway guide."
It was presently settled that Mr. Portlethorpe and Mr. Lindsey should go
off to Newcastle by the next train to see the bank manager. Mr. Lindsey
insisted that I should go with them--he would have no hole-and-corner
work, he said, and I should tell my own story to the man we were going
to see, so that he would know some of the ground of our suspicion. Mrs.
Ralston supported that; and when Mr. Portlethorpe remarked that we were
going too fast, and were working up all the elements of a fine scandal,
she tartly remarked that if more care had been taken at the beginning,
all this would not have happened.
We found the bank manager at his private house, outside Newcastle, that
evening. He knew both my companions personally, and he listened with
great attention to all that Mr. Lindsey, as spokesman, had to tell; he
also heard my story of the yacht affair. He was an astute, elderly man,
evidently quick at sizing things up, and I knew by the way he turned to
Mr. Portlethorpe and by the glance he gave him, after hearing everything,
that his conclusions were those of Mr. Lindsey and Mrs. Ralston.
"I'm afraid there's something wrong, Portlethorpe," he remarked quietly.
"The truth is, I've had suspicions myself lately."
"Good God! you don't mean it!" exclaimed Mr. Portlethorpe. "How, then?"
"Since Sir Gilbert began selling property," continued the bank manager,
"very large sums have been paid in to his credit at our bank, where,
previous to that, he already had a very considerable balance. But at
the present moment we hold very little--that is, comparatively
little--money of his."
"What?" said Mr. Portlethorpe. "What? You don't mean that?"
"During the past three or four months," said the bank manager, "Sir
Gilbert has regularly drawn very large cheques in favour of a Mr. John
Paley. They have been presented to us through the Scottish-American Bank
at Edinburgh. And," he added, with a significant look at Mr. Lindsey, "I
think you'd better go to Edinburgh--and find out who Mr. John Paley is."
Mr. Portlethorpe got up, looking very white and frightened.
"How much of all that money is there left in your hands?" he
"Not more than a couple of thousand," answered the bank manager with
"Then he's paid out--in the way you state--what?" demanded Mr.
"Quite two hundred thousand pounds! And," concluded our informant, with
another knowing look, "now that I'm in possession of the facts you've
just put before me, I should advise you to go and find out if Sir Gilbert
Carstairs and John Paley are not one and the same person!"
THE HATHERCLEUGH BUTLER
The three of us went away from the bank manager's house struggling with
the various moods peculiar to our individual characters--Mr.
Portlethorpe, being naturally a nervous man, given to despondency, was
greatly upset, and manifested his emotions in sundry ejaculations of a
dark nature; I, being young, was full of amazement at the news just given
us and of the excitement of hunting down the man we knew as Sir Gilbert
Carstairs. But I am not sure that Mr. Lindsey struggled much with
anything--he was cool and phlegmatic as usual, and immediately began to
think of practical measures.
"Look here, Portlethorpe," he said, as soon as we were in the motor car
which we had chartered from Newcastle station, "we've got to get going in
this matter at once--straight away! We must be in Edinburgh as early as
possible in the morning. Be guided by me--come straight back to Berwick,
stop the night with me at my house, and we'll be on our way to Edinburgh
by the very first train--we can get there early, by the time the banks
are open. There's another reason why I want you to come--I've some
documents that I wish you to see--documents that may have a very
important bearing on this affair. There's one in my pocket-book now, and
you'll be astonished when you hear how it came into my possession. But
it's not one-half so astonishing as another that I've got at my house."
I remembered then that we had been so busily engaged since our return
from the North that morning that we had had no time to go into the
matter of the letter which Mr. Gavin Smeaton had entrusted to Mr.
Lindsey--here, again, was going to be more work of the ferreting-out
sort. But Mr. Portlethorpe, it was clear, had no taste for mysteries,
and no great desire to forsake his own bed, even for Mr. Lindsey's
hospitality, and it needed insistence before he consented to go back to
Berwick with us. Go back, however, he did; and before midnight we were
in our own town again, and passing the deserted streets towards Mr.
Lindsey's home, I going with the others because Mr. Lindsey insisted
that it was now too late for me to go home, and I should be nearer the
station if I slept at his place. And just before we got to the house,
which was a quiet villa standing in its own grounds, a little north of
the top end of the town, a man who was sauntering ahead of us, suddenly
turned and came up to Mr. Lindsey, and in the light of a street lamp I
recognized in him the Hathercleugh butler.
Mr. Lindsey recognized the man, too--so also did Mr. Portlethorpe; and
they both came to a dead halt, staring. And both rapped out the same
inquiry, in identical words:
I looked as eagerly at the butler as they did. He had been sour enough
and pompous enough in his manner and attitude to me that night of my call
on his master, and it surprised me now to see how polite and suave
and--in a fashion--insinuating he was in his behaviour to the two
solicitors. He was a big, fleshy, strongly-built fellow, with a rather
flabby, deeply-lined face and a pallid complexion, rendered all the paler
by his black overcoat and top hat; and as he stood there, rubbing his
hands, glancing from Mr. Lindsey to Mr. Portlethorpe, and speaking in
soft, oily, suggestive accents, I felt that I disliked him even more than
when he had addressed me in such supercilious accents at the doors of
"Well--er--not precisely news, gentlemen," he replied. "The fact is, I
wanted to see you privately, Mr. Lindsey, sir--but, of course, I've no
objections to speaking before Mr. Portlethorpe, as he's Sir Gilbert's
solicitor. Perhaps I can come in with you, Mr. Lindsey?--the truth is,
I've been waiting about, sir--they said you'd gone to Newcastle, and
might be coming back by this last train. And--it's--possibly--of
"Come in," said Mr. Lindsey. He let us all into his house with his
latch-key, and led us to his study, where he closed the door. "Now," he
went on, turning to the butler. "What is it? You can speak freely--we are
all three--Mr. Portlethorpe, Mr. Moneylaws, and myself--pretty well
acquainted with all that is going on, by this time. And--I'm perhaps not
far wrong when I suggest that you know something?"
The butler, who had taken the chair which Mr. Lindsey had pointed out,
rubbed his hands, and looked at us with an undeniable expression of
cunning and slyness.
"Well, sir!" he said in a low, suggesting tone of voice. "A man in my
position naturally gets to know things--whether he wants to or not,
sometimes. I have had ideas, gentlemen, for some time."
"That something was wrong?" asked Mr. Portlethorpe.
"Approaching to something of that nature, sir," replied the butler. "Of
course, you will bear in mind that I am, as it were, a stranger--I have
only been in Sir Gilbert's Carstairs' employ nine months. But--I have
eyes. And ears. And the long and short of it is, gentlemen, I believe Sir
Gilbert--and Lady Carstairs--have gone!"
"Absolutely gone?" exclaimed Mr. Portlethorpe. "Good gracious,
Hollins!--you don't mean that!"
"I shall be much surprised if it is not found to be the case, sir,"
answered Hollins, whose name I now heard for the first time.
"And--incidentally, as it were--I may mention that I think it will be
discovered that a good deal has gone with them!"
"What--property?" demanded Mr. Portlethorpe. "Impossible!--they couldn't
carry property away--going as they seem to have done--or are said to
Hollins coughed behind one of his big, fat hands, and glanced knowingly
at Mr. Lindsey, who was listening silently but with deep attention.
"I'm not so sure about that, sir," he said. "You're aware that there were
certain small matters at Hathercleugh of what we may term the heirloom
nature, though whether they were heirlooms or not I can't say--the
miniature of himself set in diamonds, given by George the Third to the
second baronet; the necklace, also diamonds, which belonged to a Queen of
Spain; the small picture, priceless, given to the fifth baronet by a Czar
of Russia; and similar things, Mr. Portlethorpe. And, gentlemen, the
family jewels!--all of which had been reset. They've got all those!"
"You mean to say--of your own knowledge--they're not at Hathercleugh?"
suddenly inquired Mr. Lindsey.
"I mean to say they positively are not, sir," replied the butler. "They
were kept in a certain safe in a small room used by Lady Carstairs as her
boudoir. Her ladyship left very hastily and secretly yesterday, as I
understand the police have told you, and, in her haste, she forgot to
lock up that safe--which she had no doubt unlocked before her departure.
That safe, sir, is empty--of those things, at any rate."
"God bless my soul!" exclaimed Mr. Portlethorpe, greatly agitated. "This
is really terrible!"
"Could she carry those things--all of them--on her bicycle--by which I
hear she left?" asked Mr. Lindsey.
"Easily, sir," replied Hollins. "She had a small luggage-carrier on her
bicycle--it would hold all those things. They were not bulky, of course."
"You've no idea where she went on that bicycle?" inquired Mr. Lindsey.
Hollins smiled cunningly, and drew his chair a little nearer to us.
"I hadn't--when I went to Mr. Murray, at the police-station, this
morning," he answered. "But--I've an idea, now. That's precisely why I
came in to see you, Mr. Lindsey."
He put his hand inside his overcoat and produced a pocket-book, from
which he presently drew out a scrap of paper.
"After I'd seen Mr. Murray this morning," he continued, "I went back to
Hathercleugh, and took it upon myself to have a look round. I didn't find
anything of a remarkably suspicious nature until this afternoon, pretty
late, when I made the discovery about the safe in the boudoir--that all
the articles I'd mentioned had disappeared. Then I began to examine a
waste-paper basket in the boudoir--I'd personally seen Lady Carstairs
tear up some letters which she received yesterday morning by the first
post, and throw the scraps into that basket, which hadn't been emptied
since. And I found this, gentlemen--and you can, perhaps, draw some
conclusion from it--I've had no difficulty in drawing one myself."
He laid on the table a torn scrap of paper, over which all three of us at
once bent. There was no more on it than the terminations of lines--but
the wording was certainly suggestive:--
".... at once, quietly
.... best time would be before lunch
.... at Kelso
.... usual place in Glasgow."
Mr. Portlethorpe started at sight of the handwriting.
"That's Sir Gilbert's!" he exclaimed. "No doubt of that. What are we to
understand by it, Lindsey?"
"What do you make of this?" asked Mr. Lindsey, turning to Hollins. "You
say you've drawn a deduction?"
"I make this out, sir," answered the butler, quietly. "Yesterday morning
there were only four letters for Lady Carstairs. Two were from
London--in the handwriting of ladies. One was a tradesman's letter--from
Newcastle. The fourth was in a registered envelope--and the address was
typewritten--and the post-mark Edinburgh. I'm convinced, Mr. Lindsey,
that the registered one contained--that! A letter, you understand, from
Sir Gilbert--I found other scraps of it, but so small that it's
impossible to piece them together, though I have them here. And I
conclude that he gave Lady Carstairs orders to cycle to Kelso--an easy
ride for her,--and to take the train to Glasgow, where he'd meet her.
Glasgow, sir, is a highly convenient city, I believe, for people who
wish to disappear. And--I should suggest that Glasgow should be
"Have you ever known Sir Gilbert Carstairs visit Glasgow recently?" asked
Mr. Lindsey, who had listened attentively to all this.
"He was there three weeks ago," replied Hollins.
"And--Edinburgh?" suggested Mr. Lindsey.
"He went regularly to Edinburgh--at one time--twice a week," said the
butler. And then, Mr. Lindsey not making any further remark, he glanced
at him and at Mr. Portlethorpe. "Of course, gentlemen," he continued,
"this is all between ourselves. I feel it my duty, you know."
Mr. Lindsey answered that we all understood the situation, and presently
he let the man out, after a whispered sentence or two between them in the
hall. Then he came back to us, and without a word as to what had just
transpired, drew the Smeaton letter from his pocket.
ALL IN ORDER
So that we might have it to ourselves, we had returned from Newcastle to
Berwick in a first-class compartment, and in its privacy Mr. Lindsey had
told Mr. Portlethorpe the whole of the Smeaton story. Mr. Portlethorpe
had listened--so it seemed to me--with a good deal of irritation and
impatience; he was clearly one of those people who do not like
interference with what they regard as an established order of things, and
it evidently irked him to have any questions raised as to the Carstairs
affairs--which, of course, he himself had done much to settle when Sir
Gilbert succeeded to the title. In his opinion, the whole thing was cut,
dried, and done with, and he was still impatient and restive when Mr.
Lindsey laid before him the letter which Mr. Gavin Smeaton had lent us,
and invited him to look carefully at the handwriting. He made no proper
response to that invitation; what he did was to give a peevish glance at
the letter, and then push it aside, with an equally peevish exclamation.
"What of it?" he said. "It conveys nothing to me!"
"Take your time, Portlethorpe," remonstrated Mr. Lindsey, who was
unlocking a drawer in his desk. "It'll perhaps convey something to you
when you compare that writing with a certain signature which I shall now
show you. This," he continued, as he produced Gilverthwaite's will, and
laid it before his visitor, "is the will of the man whose coming to
Berwick ushered in all these mysteries. Now, then--do you see who was one
of the witnesses to the will? Look, man!"
Mr. Portlethorpe looked--and was startled out of his peevishness.
"God bless me!" he exclaimed. "Michael Carstairs!"
"Just that," said Mr. Lindsey. "Now then, compare Michael Carstairs'
handwriting with the handwriting of that letter. Come here, Hugh!--you,
too, have a look. And--there's no need for any very close or careful
looking, either!--no need for expert calligraphic evidence, or for the
use of microscopes. I'll stake all I'm worth that that signature and that
letter are the work of the same hand!"
Now that I saw the Smeaton letter and the signature of the first witness
to Gilverthwaite's will, side by side, I had no hesitation in thinking
as Mr. Lindsey did. It was an exceptionally curious, not to say
eccentric, handwriting--some of the letters were oddly formed, other
letters were indicated rather than formed at all. It seemed impossible
that two different individuals could write in that style; it was rather
the style developed for himself by a man who scorned all conventional
matters, and was as self-distinct in his penmanship as he probably was
in his life and thoughts. Anyway, there was an undeniable, an
extraordinary similarity, and even Mr. Portlethorpe had to admit that it
was--undoubtedly--there. He threw off his impatience and irritability,
and became interested--and grave.
"That's very strange, and uncommonly important, Lindsey!" he said.
"I--yes, I am certainly inclined to agree with you. Now, what do you
make of it?"
"If you want to know my precise idea," replied Mr. Lindsey, "it's just
this--Michael Carstairs and Martin Smeaton are one and the same man--or,
I should say, were! That's about it, Portlethorpe."
"Then in that case--that young fellow at Dundee is Michael Carstairs'
son?" exclaimed Mr. Portlethorpe.
"And, in my opinion, that's not far off the truth," said Mr. Lindsey.
"You've hit it!"
"But--Michael Carstairs was never married!" declared Mr. Portlethorpe.
Mr. Lindsey picked up Gilverthwaite's will and the Smeaton letter, and
carefully locked them away in his drawer.
"I'm not so sure about that," he remarked, drily. "Michael Carstairs was
very evidently a queer man who did a lot of things in a peculiar fashion
of his own, and--"
"The solicitor who sent us formal proof of his death, from Havana,
previous to Sir Alexander's death, said distinctly that Michael had never
been married," interrupted Mr. Portlethorpe. "And surely he would know!"
"And I say just as surely that from all I've heard of Michael Carstairs