Part 3 out of 5
"Say!" he said. "That's a very serious matter! You're sure the device was
the same, and the material platinum?"
"I've been reared in the jewellery trade," replied Zillah. "The things I'm
talking of are of platinum--and the device is precisely the same as that
on your stud."
"Well!--that's mighty queer!" remarked the American. "I can't tell you why
it's queer, all in a minute, but I do assure you it's just about the
queerest thing I ever heard of in my life--and I've known a lot of
queerness. Look here!--I'm stopping at this hotel--will you come in with
me, and we'll just get a quiet corner and talk some? Come right in, then."
He led the way into the hotel, through the hall, and down a corridor from
which several reception rooms opened. Looking into one, a small smoking
lounge, and finding it empty, he ushered them aside. But on the threshold
Zillah paused. Her business instincts were by this time fully aroused. She
felt certain that whoever this stranger might he, he had nothing to do
with the affair in Praed Street, and yet might be able to throw
extraordinary light on it, and she wanted to take a great step towards
clearing it up. She turned to the American.
"Look here!" she said. "I've told you what I'm after, and who I am. This
gentleman is Mr. Andrew Lauriston. Did you read his name in the paper's
account of that inquest?"
The American glanced at Lauriston with some curiosity.
"Sure!" he answered. "The man that found the old gentleman dead."
"Just so," said Zillah. "There are two friends of ours making enquiries on
Mr. Lauriston's behalf at this moment. One of them's my cousin, Mr.
Rubinstein; the other's Mr. Purdie, an old friend of Mr. Lauriston's. I've
an idea where'll they'll be, just now--do you mind if I telephone them to
come here, at once, so that they can hear what you have to tell us?"
"Not in the least!" assented the American heartily. "I'll be glad to help
in any way I can--I'm interested. Here!--there's a telephone box right
there--you go in now, and call those fellows up and tell 'em to come right
He and Lauriston waited while Zillah went into the telephone box: she felt
sure that Melky and Purdie would have returned to Praed Street by that
time, and she rang up Mrs. Goldmark at the Pawnshop to enquire. Within a
minute or two she had rejoined Lauriston and the American--during her
absence the stranger had been speaking to a waiter, and he now led his two
guests to a private sitting-room.
"We'll be more private in this apartment," he observed. "No fear of
interruption or being overheard. I've told the waiter man there's two
gentlemen coming along, and they're to be brought in here as soon as they
land. Will they be long?"
"They'll be here within twenty minutes," answered Zillah. "It's very kind
of you to take so much trouble!"
The American drew an easy chair to the fire, and pointed Zillah to it.
"Well," he remarked, "I guess that in a fix of this sort, you can't take
too much trouble! I'm interested in this case--and a good deal more than
interested now that you tell me about these platinum studs. I reckon I can
throw some light on that, anyway! But we'll keep it till your friends
come. And I haven't introduced myself--my name's Stuyvesant Guyler. I'm a
New York man--but I've knocked around some--pretty considerable, in fact.
Say!--have you got any idea that this mystery of yours is at all connected
with South Africa? And--incidentally--with diamonds?"
Zillah started and glanced at Lauriston.
"What makes you think of South Africa--and of diamonds?" she asked.
"Oh, well--but that comes into my tale," answered Guyler. "You'll see in
due course. But--had it?"
"I hadn't thought of diamonds, but I certainly had of South Africa,"
"Seems to be working in both directions," said Guyler, meditatively. "But
you'll see that when I tell you what I know."
Purdie and Melky Rubinstein entered the room within the twenty minutes
which Zillah had predicted--full of wonder to find her and Lauriston in
company with a total stranger. But Zillah explained matters in a few
words, and forbade any questioning until Mr. Stuyvesant Guyler had told
"And before I get on to that," said Guyler, who had been quietly
scrutinizing his two new visitors while Zillah explained the situation,
"I'd just like to see that platinum solitaire that Mr. Rubinstein picked
up--if he's got it about him?"
Melky thrust a hand into a pocket.
"It ain't never been off me, mister, since I found it!" he said, producing
a little packet wrapped in tissue paper. "There you are!"
Guyler took the stud which Melky handed to him and laid it on the table
around which they were all sitting. After glancing at it for a moment, he
withdrew the studs from his own wrist-bands and laid them by its side.
"Yes, that's sure one of the lot!" he observed musingly. "I guess there's
no possible doubt at all on that point. Well!--this is indeed mighty
queer! Now, I'll tell you straight out. These studs--all of 'em--are parts
of six sets of similar things, all made of that very expensive metal,
platinum, in precisely the same fashion, and ornamented with the same
specially invented device, and given to six men who had been of assistance
to him in a big deal, as a little mark of his appreciation, by a man that
some few years ago made a fortune in South Africa. That's so!"
Zillah turned on the American with a sharp look of enquiry.
"Who was he?" she demanded. "Tell us his name!"
"His name," replied Guyler, "was Spencer Levendale--dealer in diamonds."
PURDIE STANDS FIRM
The effect produced by this announcement was evidently exactly that which
the American expected, and he smiled, a little grimly, as he looked from
one face to another. As for his hearers, they first looked at each other
and then at him, and Guyler laughed and went on.
"That makes you jump!" he said. "Well, now, at the end of that inquest
business in the papers the other day I noticed Spencer Levendale's name
mentioned in connection with some old book that was left, or found in Mr.
Daniel Multenius's back-parlour. Of course, I concluded that he was the
same Spencer Levendale I'd known out there in South Africa, five years
ago. And to tell you the truth, I've been watching your papers, morning
and evening, since, to see if there was any more news of him. But so far I
haven't seen any."
Purdie and Melky exchanged glances, and in response to an obvious hint
from Melky, Purdie spoke.
"We can give you some news, then," he said. "It'll be common property
tomorrow morning. Levendale has mysteriously disappeared from his house,
and from his usual haunts!--and nobody knows where he is. And it's
considered that this disappearance has something to do with the Praed
"Sure!" assented Guyler. "That's just about a dead certainty. And in the
Praed Street affair, these platinum stud things are going to play a good
part, and when you and your police have got to the bottom of it, you'll
sure find that something else has a big part, too!"
"What?" asked Purdie.
"Why, diamonds!" answered the American, with a quiet smile. "Just
diamonds! Diamonds'll be at the bottom of the bag--sure!"
There was a moment of surprised silence, and then Melky turned eagerly to
"Mister!" he said. "Let's be getting at something! What do you know, now,
about this here Levendale?"
"Not much," replied Guyler. "But I'm open to tell what I do know. I've
been a bit of a rolling stone, do you see--knocked about the world, pretty
considerable, doing one thing and another, and I've falsified the old
saying, for I've contrived to gather a good bit of moss in my rollings.
Well, now, I was located in Cape Town for a while, some five years ago,
and I met Spencer Levendale there. He was then a dealer in diamonds--can't
say in what way exactly--for I never exactly knew--but it was well known
that he'd made a big pile, buying and selling these goods, and he was a
very rich man. Now I and five other men--all of different nationalities--
were very useful to Levendale in a big deal that he was anxious to carry
through--never mind what it was--and he felt pretty grateful to us, I
reckon. And as we were all warmish men so far as money was concerned, it
wasn't the sort of thing that he could hand out cheques for, so he hit on
the notion of having sets of studs made of platinum--which is, as you're
aware, the most valuable metal known, and on every stud he had a device of
his own invention carefully engraved. Here's my set!--and what Mr.
Rubinstein's got there is part of another. Now, then, who's the man who's
been dropping his cuff-links about?"
Purdie, who had listened with deep attention to the American's statement,
immediately put a question.
"That's but answered by asking you something," he said. "You no doubt know
the names of the men to whom those sets of studs were given?"
But to Purdie's disappointment, the American shook his head.
"Well, now, I just don't!" he replied. "The fact is--as you would
understand if you knew the circumstances--this was a queer sort of a
secret deal, in which the assistance of various men of different
nationality was wanted, and none of us knew any of the rest. However, I
did come across the Englishman who was in it--afterwards. Recognized him,
as a matter of fact, by his being in possession of those studs."
"And who was he?" asked Purdie.
"A man named Purvis--Stephen Purvis," answered Guyler. "Sort of man like
myself--knocked around, taking up this and that, as long as there was
money in it. I came across him in Johannesburg, maybe a year after that
deal I was telling of. He didn't know who the other fellows were,
"You've never seen him since?" suggested Purdie. "You don't know where he
"Not a ghost of a notion!" said Guyler. "Didn't talk with him more than
once, and then only for an hour or so."
"Mister!" exclaimed Melky, eagerly. "Could you describe this here Purvis,
now? Just a bit of a description, like?"
"Sure!" answered the American. "That is--as I remember him. Biggish, raw-
boned, hard-bitten sort of a man--about my age--clean-shaven--looked more
of a Colonial than an Englishman--he'd been out in South Africa, doing one
thing and another, since he was a boy."
"S'elp me if that doesn't sound like the man who was in Mrs. Goldmark's
restaurant!" said Melky. "Just what she describes, anyhow!"
"Why, certainly--I reckon that is the man," remarked Guyler. "That's what
I've been figuring on, all through. I tell you all this mystery is around
some diamond affair in which this lady's grandfather, and Mr. Spencer
Levendale, and this man Purvis have been mixed up--sure! And the thing--in
my humble opinion--is to find both of them! Now, then, what's been done,
and what's being done, in that way?"
Melky nodded at Purdie, as much as to invite him to speak.
"The authorities at New Scotland Yard have the Levendale affair in hand,"
said Purdie. "We've been in and out there, with Mr. Multenius's solicitor,
all the afternoon and evening. But, of course, we couldn't tell anything
about this other man because we didn't know anything, till now. You'll
have no objection to going there tomorrow?"
"Not at all!" replied Guyler, cheerfully. "I'm located at this hotel for a
week or two. I struck it when I came here from the North, a few days back,
and it suits me very well, and I guess I'll just stop here while I'm in
London this journey. No, I've no objection to take a hand. But--it seems
to me--there's still a lot of difficulty about this young gentleman here--
Mr. Lauriston. I read all the papers carefully, and sized up his
predicament. Those rings, now?"
Zillah suddenly remembered all that Ayscough had told her that evening.
She had forgotten the real motive of her visit to King's Cross in her
excitement in listening to the American's story. She now turned to Purdie
and the other two.
"I'd forgotten!" she exclaimed. "The danger's still there. Ayscough's been
at the shop tonight. The police have had an expert examining those rings,
and the rings in the tray. He says there are marks--private, jewellers'
marks in the two rings which correspond with marks in our rings. In fact,
there's no doubt of it. And now, the police are certain that the two rings
did belong to our tray--and--and they're bent on arresting--Andie!"
Lauriston flushed hotly with sheer indignation.
"That's all nonsense--what the police say!" he exclaimed. "I've found out
who gave those two rings to my mother! I can prove it! I don't care a hang
for the police and their marks--those rings are mine!"
Purdie laid a quiet hand on Lauriston's arm.
"None of us know yet what you've done or found out at Peebles about the
rings," he said. "Tell us! Just give us the brief facts."
"I'm going to," answered Lauriston, still indignant. "I thought the whole
thing over as I went down in the train. I remembered that if there was one
person living in Peebles who would be likely to know about my mother and
those rings, it would be an old friend of hers, Mrs. Taggart--you know
"I know Mrs. Taggart--go on," said Purdie.
"I didn't know if Mrs. Taggart was still living," continued Lauriston.
"But I was out early this morning and I found her. She remembers the rings
well enough: she described them accurately--what's more she told me what I
didn't know--how they came into my mother's possession. You know as well
as I do, John, that my father and mother weren't over well off--and my
mother used to make a bit of extra money by letting her rooms to summer
visitors. One summer she had a London solicitor, a Mr. Killick, staying
there for a month--at least he came for a month, but he was taken ill, and
he was there more than two months. My mother nursed him through his
illness--and after he'd returned to London, he sent her those rings. And--
if there are marks on them," concluded Lauriston, "that correspond with
marks on the rings in that tray, all I have to say is that those marks
must have been there when Mr. Killick bought them!--for they've never been
out of our possession--my mother's and mine--until I took them to pawn."
Zillah suddenly clapped her hands--and she and Melky exchanged significant
glances which the others did not understand.
"That's it!" she exclaimed. "That's what puzzled me at first. Now I'm not
puzzled any more. Melky knows what I mean."
"What she means, mister," assented Melky, tapping Purdie's arm, "is
precisely what struck me at once. It's just as Mr. Lauriston here says--
them private marks were on the rings when Mr. Killick bought them. Them
two rings, and some of the rings in the tray what's been mentioned all
come from the same maker! There ain't nothing wonderful in all that to me
and my cousin Zillah there!--we've been brought up in the trade, d'ye see?
But the police!--they're that suspicious that--well, the thing to do,
gentlemen, is to find this here Mr. Killick."
"Just so," agreed Purdie. "Where is he to be found, Andie?"
But Lauriston shook his head, disappointedly.
"That's just what I don't know!" he answered. "It's five and twenty years
since he gave my mother those rings, and according to Mrs. Taggart, he was
then a middle-aged man, so he's now getting on in years. But--if he's
alive, I can find him."
"We've got to find him," said Purdie, firmly. "In my opinion, he can give
some evidence that'll be of more importance than the mere identifying of
those rings--never mind what it is I'm thinking of, now. We must see to
"But in the meantime," broke in Zillah. "Andie must not go home--to Mrs.
Flitwick's! I know what Ayscough meant tonight--and remember, all of you,
it was private between him and myself. If he goes home, he may be
arrested, any minute. He must be kept out of the way of the police for a
Purdie rose from the table and shook his head determinedly.
"No," he said. "None of that! We're going to have no running away, no
hiding! Andie Lauriston's not going to show the least fear of the police,
or of any of their theories. He's just going to follow my orders--and I'm
going to take him to my hotel for the night--leave him to me! I'm going to
see this thing right through to the finish--however it ends. Now, let's
separate. Mr. Guyler!"
"Sir?" answered the American. "At your service."
"Then meet me at my hotel tomorrow morning at ten," said Purdie. "There's
a new chapter to open."
THE PARSLETT AFFAIR
At a quarter past ten o'clock on the morning following Ayscough's
revelation to Zillah, the detective was closeted with a man from the
Criminal Investigation Department at New Scotland Yard in a private room
at the local police station, and with them was the superior official who
had been fetched to the pawnshop in Praed Street immediately after the
discovery of Daniel Multenius's body by Andie Lauriston. And this official
was stating his view of the case to the two detectives--conscious that
neither agreed with him.
"You can't get over the similarity of the markings of those rings!" he
said confidently. "To my mind the whole thing's as plain as a pikestaff--
the young fellow was hard up--he confessed he hadn't a penny on him!--he
went in there, found the shop empty, saw those rings, grabbed a couple,
was interrupted by the old man--and finished him off by scragging him!
That's my opinion! And I advise getting a warrant for him and getting on
with the work--all the rest of this business belongs to something else."
Ayscough silently glanced at the man from New Scotland Yard--who shook his
head in a decided negative.
"That's not my opinion!" he said with decision. "And it's not the opinion
of the people at headquarters. We were at this affair nearly all
yesterday afternoon with that little Jew fellow, Rubinstein, and the young
Scotch gentleman, Mr. Purdie, and our conclusion is that there's something
of a big sort behind old Multenius's death. There's a regular web of
mystery! The old man's death--that book, which Levendale did not leave in
the 'bus, in spite of all he says, and of his advertisements!--Levendale's
unexplained disappearance--the strange death of this man Parslett--the
mystery of those platinum studs dropped in the pawnbroker's parlour and in
Mrs. Goldmark's eating house--no!--the whole affair's a highly complicated
one. That's my view of it."
"And mine," said Ayscough. He looked at the unbelieving official, and
turned away from him to glance out of the window into the street. "May I
never!" he suddenly exclaimed. "There's young Lauriston coming here, and
Purdie with him--and a fellow who looks like an American. I should say
Lauriston's got proof about his title to those rings--anyway, he seems to
have no fear about showing himself here--case of walking straight into the
lions' den, eh?"
"Bring 'em all in!" ordered the superior official, a little surlily.
"Let's hear what it's all about!"
Purdie presently appeared in Ayscough's rear, preceding his two
companions. He and the detective from New Scotland Yard exchanged nods;
they had seen a good deal of each other the previous day. He nodded also
to the superior official--but the superior official looked at Lauriston.
"Got that proof about those rings?" he enquired. "Of course, if you
"Before Mr. Lauriston says anything about that," interrupted Purdie, "I
want you to hear a story which this gentleman, Mr. Stuyvesant Guyler, of
New York, can tell you. It's important--it bears right on this affair. If
you just listen to what he can tell--"
The two detectives listened to Guyler's story about the platinum studs
with eager, if silent interest: in the end they glanced at each other and
then at the local official, who seemed to be going through a process of
being convinced against his will."
"Just what I said a few minutes ago," muttered the New Scotland Yard man.
"A highly complicated affair! Not going to be got at in five minutes."
"Nor in ten!" said Ayscough laconically. He glanced at Guyler. "You could
identify this man Purvis if you saw him?" he asked.
"Why, certainly!" answered the American. "I guess if he's the man who was
seen in that eating-house the other day he's not altered any--or not
The man at the desk turned to Purdie, glancing at Lauriston.
"About those rings?" he asked. "What's Mr. Lauriston got to say?"
"Let me tell," said Purdie, as Lauriston was about to speak. "Mr.
Lauriston," he went on, "has been to Peebles, where his father and mother
lived. He has seen an old friend of theirs, Mrs. Taggart, who remembers
the rings perfectly. Moreover, she knows that they were given to the late
Mrs. Lauriston by a Mr. Edward Killick, a London solicitor, who, of
course, will be able to identify them. As to the marks, I think you'll
find a trade explanation of that--those rings and the rings in Multenius's
tray probably came from the same maker. Now, I find, on looking through
the directory, that this Mr. Edward Killick has retired from practice, but
I've also found out where he now lives, and I propose to bring him here.
In the meantime--I want to know what you're going to do about Mr.
Lauriston? Here he is!"
The superior official glanced at the New Scotland Yard man.
"I suppose your people have taken this job entirely in hand, now?" he
"Entirely!" answered the detective.
"Got any instructions about Mr. Lauriston?" asked the official. "You
haven't? Mr. Lauriston's free to go where he likes, then, as far as we're
concerned, here," he added, turning to Purdie. "But--he'd far better stay
at hand till all this is cleared up."
"That's our intention," said Purdie. "Whenever you want Mr. Lauriston,
come to me at my hotel--he's my guest there, and I'll produce him. Now
we're going to find Mr. Killick."
He and Lauriston and Guyler walked out together; on the steps of the
police-station Ayscough called him back.
"I say!" he said, confidentially. "Leave that Mr. Killick business alone
for an hour or two. I can tell you of something much more interesting than
that, and possibly of more importance. Go round to the Coroner's Court--
Mr. Lauriston knows where it is."
"What's on?" asked Lauriston.
"Inquest on that man Parslett," replied Ayscough with a meaning nod.
"You'll hear some queer evidence if I'm not mistaken. I'm going there
He turned in again, and the three young men looked at each other.
"Say!" remarked Guyler, "I reckon that's good advice. Let's go to this
Lauriston led them to the scene of his own recent examination by Mr.
Parminter. But on this occasion the court was crowded; it was with great
difficulty that they contrived to squeeze themselves into a corner of it.
In another corner, but far away from their own, Lauriston saw Melky
Rubinstein; Melky, wedged in, and finding it impossible to move, made a
grimace at Lauriston and jerked his thumb in the direction of the door, as
a signal that he would meet him there when the proceedings were over.
The inquest had already begun when Purdie and his companions forced their
way into the court. In the witness-box was the dead man's widow--a
pathetic figure in heavy mourning, who was telling the Coroner that on the
night of her husband's death he went out late in the evening--just to take
a walk round, as he expressed it. No--she had no idea whatever of where he
was going, nor if he had any particular object in going out at all. He had
not said one word to her about going out to get money from any one. After
he went out she never saw him again until she was fetched to St. Mary's
Hospital, where she found him in the hands of the doctors. He died,
without having regained consciousness, just after she reached the
Nothing very startling so far, thought Purdie, at the end of the widow's
evidence, and he wondered why Ayscough had sent them round. But more
interest came with the next witness--a smart, bustling, middle-aged man,
evidently a well-to-do business man, who entered the box pretty much as if
he had been sitting down in his own office, to ring his bell and ask for
the day's letters. A whisper running round the court informed the
onlookers that this was the gentleman who picked Parslett up in the
street. Purdie and his two companions pricked their ears.
Martin James Gardiner--turf commission agent--resident in Portsdown Road,
Maida Vale. Had lived there several years--knew the district well--did not
know the dead man by sight at all--had never seen him, that he knew of,
until the evening in question.
"Tell us exactly what happened, Mr. Gardiner--in your own way," said the
Mr. Gardiner leaned over the front of the witness-box, and took the court
and the public into his confidence--genially.
"I was writing letters until pretty late that night," he said. "A little
after eleven o'clock I went out to post them at the nearest pillar-box. As
I went down the steps of my house, the deceased passed by. He was walking
down Portsdown Road in the direction of Clifton Road. As he passed me, he
was chuckling--laughing in a low tone. I thought he was--well, a bit
intoxicated when I heard that, but as I was following him pretty closely,
I soon saw that he walked straight enough. He kept perhaps six or eight
yards in front of me until we had come to within twenty yards or so of the
corner of Clifton Road. Then, all of a sudden--so suddenly that it's
difficult for me to describe it!--he seemed to--well, there's no other
word for it than--collapse. He seemed to give, you understand--shrank up,
like--like a concertina being suddenly shut up! His knees gave--his whole
body seemed to shrink--and he fell in a heap on the pavement!"
"Did he cry out--scream, as if in sudden pain--anything of that sort?"
asked the Coroner.
"There was a sort of gurgling sound--I'm not sure that he didn't say a
word or two, as he collapsed," answered the witness. "But it was so sudden
that I couldn't catch anything definite. He certainly never made the
slightest sound, except a queer sort of moaning, very low, from the time
he fell. Of course, I thought the man had fallen in a fit. I rushed to
him; he was lying, sort of crumpled up, where he had fallen. There was a
street-lamp close by--I saw that his face had turned a queer colour, and
his eyes were already closed--tightly. I noticed, too, that his teeth were
clenched, and his fingers twisted into the palms of his hands."
"Was he writhing at all--making any movement?" enquired the Coroner.
"Not a movement! He was as still as the stones he was lying on!" said the
witness. "I'm dead certain he never moved after he fell. There was nobody
about, just then, and I was just going to ring the bell of the nearest
house when a policeman came round the corner. I shouted to him--he came
up. We examined the man for a minute; then I ran to fetch Dr. Mirandolet,
whose surgery is close by there. I found him in; he came at once, and
immediately ordered the man's removal to the hospital. The policeman got
help, and the man was taken off. Dr. Mirandolet went with him. I returned
No questions of any importance were asked of Mr. Gardiner, and the
Coroner, after a short interchange of whispers with his officer, glanced
at a group of professional-looking men behind the witness-box.
"Call Dr. Mirandolet!" he directed.
Purdie at that moment caught Ayscough's eye. And the detective winked at
him significantly as a strange and curious figure came out from the crowd
and stepped into the witness-box.
WHAT MANNER OF DEATH?
One of the three companions who stood curiously gazing at the new witness
as he came into full view of the court had seen him before. Lauriston,
who, during his residence in Paddington, had wandered a good deal about
Maida Vale and St. John's Wood, instantly recognized Dr. Mirandolet as a
man whom he had often met or passed in those excursions and about whom he
had just as often wondered. He was a notable and somewhat queer figure--a
tall, spare man, of striking presence and distinctive personality--the
sort of man who would inevitably attract attention wherever he was, and at
whom people would turn to look in the most crowded street. His aquiline
features, almost cadaverous complexion, and flashing, deep-set eyes, were
framed in a mass of raven-black hair which fell in masses over a loosely
fitting, unstarched collar, kept in its place by a voluminous black silk
cravat; his thin figure, all the sparer in appearance because of his broad
shoulders and big head, was wrapped from head to foot in a mighty cloak,
raven-black as his hair, from the neck of which depended a hood-like cape.
Not a man in that court would have taken Dr. Mirandolet for anything but a
foreigner, and for a foreigner who knew next to nothing of England and the
English, and John Purdie, whose interest was now thoroughly aroused, was
surprised as he heard the witness's answer to the necessary preliminary
Nicholas Mirandolet--British subject--born in Malta--educated in England--
a licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons and of the Royal College of
Physicians--in private practice at Portsdown Road, Maida Vale, for the
last ten years.
"I believe you were called to the deceased by the last witness, Dr.
Mirandolet?" asked the Coroner. "Just so! Will you tell us what you
"I found the deceased lying on the pavement, about a dozen yards from my
house," answered Dr. Mirandolet, in a sharp, staccato voice. "A policeman
was bending over him. Mr. Gardiner hurriedly told us what he had seen. My
first thought was that the man was in what is commonly termed a fit--some
form of epileptic seizure, you know. I hastily examined him--and found
that my first impression was utterly wrong."
"What did you think--then?" enquired the Coroner.
Dr. Mirandolet paused and began to drum the edge of the witness-box with
the tips of his long, slender white fingers. He pursed his clean-shaven
lips and looked meditatively around him--leisurely surveying the faces
turned on him. Finally he glanced at the Coroner, and snapped out a reply.
"I do not know what I thought!"
The Coroner looked up from his notes--in surprise.
"You--don't know what you thought?" he asked.
"No!" said Dr. Mirandolet. "I don't. And I will tell you why. Because I
realized--more quickly than it takes me to tell it--that here was
something that was utterly beyond my comprehension!"
"Do you mean--beyond your skill?" suggested the Coroner.
"Skill?" retorted the witness, with a queer, twisting grimace. "Beyond my
understanding! I am a quick observer--I saw within a few seconds that here
was a man who had literally been struck down in the very flush of life as
if--well, to put it plainly, as if some extraordinary power had laid a
blasting finger on the very life-centre within him. I was--dumfounded!"
The Coroner sat up and laid aside his pen.
"What did you do?" he asked quietly.
"Bade the policeman get help, and an ambulance, and hurry the man to St.
Mary's Hospital, all as quickly as possible," answered Dr. Mirandolet.
"While the policeman was away, I examined the man more closely. He was
dying then--and I knew very well that nothing known to medical science
could save him. By that time he had become perfectly quiet; his body had
relaxed into a normal position; his face, curiously coloured when I first
saw it, had become placid and pale; he breathed regularly, though very
faintly--and he was steadily dying. I knew quite well what was happening,
and I remarked to Mr. Gardiner that the man would be dead within half-an-
"I believe you got him to the hospital within that time?" asked the
"Yes--within twenty-five minutes of my first seeing him," said the
witness. "I went with the ambulance. The man died very soon after
admission, just as I knew he would. No medical power on earth could have
The Coroner glanced at the little knot of professional men in the rear of
the witness-box and seemed to be debating within himself as to whether he
wanted to ask Dr. Mirandolet any more questions. Eventually he turned
again to him.
"What your evidence amounts to, Dr. Mirandolet, is this," he said. "You
were called to the man and you saw at once that you yourself could do
nothing for him, so you got him away to the hospital as quickly as you
possibly could. Just so!--now, why did you think you could do nothing for
"I will tell you--in plain words," answered Dr. Mirandolet. "Because I did
not recognize or understand one single symptom that I saw! Because,
frankly, I knew very well that I did not know what was the matter! And so
--I hurried him to people who ought to know more than I do and are
reputedly cleverer than I am. In short--I recognized that I was in the
presence of something--something!--utterly beyond my skill and
"Let me ask you one or two further questions," said the Coroner. "Have you
formed any opinion of your own as to the cause of this man's death?"
"Yes!" agreed the witness, unhesitatingly. "I have! I believe him to have
been poisoned--in a most subtle and cunning fashion. And"--here Dr.
Mirandolet cast a side-glance at the knot of men behind him--"I shall be
intensely surprised if that opinion is not corroborated. But--I shall be
ten thousand times more surprised if there is any expert in Europe who can
say what that poison was!"
"You think it was a secret poison?" suggested the Coroner.
"Secret!" exclaimed Dr. Mirandolet. "Aye--secret is the word. Secret--yes!
"Is there anything else you can tell us?" asked the Coroner.
"Only this," replied the witness, after a pause. "It may be material. As I
bent over this man as he lay there on the pavement I detected a certain
curious aromatic odour about his clothes. It was strong at first; it
gradually wore off. But I directed the attention of the policeman and Mr.
Gardiner to it; it was still hanging about him, very faintly, when we got
him to the hospital: I drew attention to it there."
"It evidently struck you--that curious odour?" said the Coroner.
"Yes," answered Dr. Mirandolet. "It did. It reminded me of the East--I
have lived in the East--India, Burmah, China. It seemed to me that this
man had got hold of some Eastern scent, and possibly spilt some on his
clothes. The matter is worth noting. Because--I have heard--I cannot say I
have known--of men being poisoned in inhalation."
The Coroner made no remark--it was very evident from his manner that he
considered Dr. Mirandolet's evidence somewhat mystifying. And Dr.
Mirandolet stepped down--and in response to the official invitation Dr.
John Sperling-Lawson walked into the vacated witness-box.
"One of the greatest authorities on poisons living," whispered Lauriston
to Purdie, while Dr. Sperling-Lawson was taking the oath and answering the
formal questions. "He's principal pathologist at that hospital they're
talking about, and he constantly figures in cases of this sort. He's
employed by the Home Office too--it was he who gave such important
evidence in that Barnsbury murder case not so long since--don't you
Purdie did remember, and he looked at the famous expert with great
interest. There was, however, nothing at all remarkable about Dr.
Sperling-Lawson's appearance--he was a quiet, self-possessed, plain-faced
gentleman who might have been a barrister or a banker for all that any one
could tell to the contrary. He gave his evidence in a matter-of-fact tone
--strongly in contrast to Dr. Mirandolet's somewhat excited answers--but
Purdie noticed that the people in court listened eagerly for every word.
He happened to be at the hospital, said Dr. Sperling-Lawson, when the man
Parslett was brought in, and he saw him die. He fully agreed with Dr.
Mirandolet that it was impossible to do anything to save the man's life
when he was brought to the hospital, and he was quite prepared to say that
the impossibility had existed from the moment in which Gardiner had seen
Parslett collapse. In other words, when Parslett did collapse, death was
"And--the cause of death?" asked the Coroner.
"Heart failure," replied the witness.
"Resulting from--what?" continued the Coroner.
Dr. Sperling-Lawson hesitated a moment--amidst a deep silence.
"I cannot answer that question," he said at last. "I can only offer an
opinion. I believe--in fact, I am sure!--the man was poisoned. I am
convinced he was poisoned. But I am forced to admit that I do not know
what poison was used, and that after a most careful search I have not yet
been able to come across any trace or sign of any poison known to me. All
the same, I am sure he died from the effects of poison, but what it was,
or how administered, frankly, I do not know!"
"You made a post-mortem examination?" asked the Coroner.
"Yes," replied the specialist, "in company with Dr. Seracold. The deceased
was a thoroughly healthy, well-nourished man. There was not a trace of
disease in any of the organs--he was evidently a temperate man, and likely
to live to over the seventy years' period. And, as I have said, there was
not a trace of poison. That is, not a trace of any poison known to me."
"I want to ask you a particularly important question," said the Coroner.
"Are there poisons, the nature of which you are unacquainted with?"
"Yes!" answered the specialist frankly. "There are. But--I should not
expect to hear of their use in London."
"Is there any European expert who might throw some light on this case?"
asked the Coroner.
"Yes," said Dr. Sperling-Lawson. "One man--Professor Gagnard, of Paris. As
a matter of fact, I have already sent certain portions of certain organs
to him--by a special messenger. If he cannot trace this poison, then no
European nor American specialist can. I am sure of this--the secret is an
"Gentlemen," said the Coroner, "we will adjourn for a week. By that time
there may be a report from Paris."
The crowd surged out into the damp November morning, eagerly discussing
the evidence just given. Purdie, Lauriston, and Guyler, all equally
mystified, followed, already beginning to speculate and to theorize.
Suddenly Melky Rubinstein hurried up to them, waving a note.
"There was a fellow waiting outside with this from Zillah," said Melky.
"She'd heard you were all here, and she knew I was. We're to go there at
once--she's found some letters to her grandfather from that man Purvis!
Come on!--it's another step forward!"
MR. KILLICK GOES BACK
Ayscough and the man from New Scotland Yard came out of the court at that
moment in close and serious conversation: Melky Rubinstein left the other
three, and hurried to the two detectives with his news; together, the six
men set off for Praed Street. And Purdie, who by this time was developing
as much excited interest as his temperament and business habits permitted,
buttonholed the Scotland Yard man and walked alongside him.
"What's your professional opinion about what we've just heard in there?"
he asked. "Between ourselves, of course."
The detective, who had already had several long conversations with Purdie
at headquarters during the previous afternoon and evening, and knew him
for a well-to-do young gentleman who was anxious to clear his friend
Lauriston of all suspicion, shook his head. He was a quiet, sagacious,
middle-aged man who evidently thought deeply about whatever he had in
"It's difficult to say, Mr. Purdie," he answered. "I've no doubt that when
we get to the bottom of this case it'll turn out to be a very simple one--
but the thing is to get to the bottom. The ways are complicated, sir--
uncommonly so! At present we're in a maze--seeking the right path."
"Do you think that this Parslett affair has anything to do with the
Multenius affair?" asked Purdie.
"Yes--undoubtedly!" answered the detective. "There's no doubt whatever in
my own mind that the man who poisoned Parslett is the man who caused the
old pawnbroker's death--none! I figure it in this way. Parslett somehow,
caught a glimpse of that man leaving Multenius's shop--by the side-door,
no doubt--and knew him--knew him very well, mind you! When Parslett heard
of what had happened in Multenius's back-parlour, he kept his knowledge to
himself, and went and blackmailed the man. The man gave him that fifty
pounds in gold to keep his tongue quiet--no doubt arranging to give him
more, later on--and at the same time he cleverly poisoned him. That's my
theory, Mr. Purdie."
"Then--the only question now is--who's the man?" suggested Purdie.
"That's it, sir--who's the man?" agreed the detective. "One thing's quite
certain--if my theory's correct. He's a clever man--and an expert in the
use of poisons."
Purdie walked on a minute or two in silence, thinking.
"It's no use beating about the bush," he said at last. "Do you suspect Mr.
Levendale--after all you've collected in information--and after what I
told you about what his butler saw--that bottle and phial?"
"I think that Levendale's in it," replied the detective, cautiously. "I'm
sure he's in it--in some fashion. Our people are making no end of
enquiries about him this morning, in various quarters--there's half-a-
dozen of our best men at work in the City and the West End, Mr. Purdie.
He's got to be found! So, too, has this man Stephen Purvis--whoever he is.
We must find him, too."
"Perhaps these letters that Melky Rubinstein speaks of may throw some
light on that," said Purdie. "There must be some way of tracing him,
They were at the pawnshop by that time, and all six trooped in at the
side-entrance. Old Daniel Multenius, unconscious of all the fuss and
bother which his death had caused, was to be quietly interred that
afternoon, and Zillah and Melky were already in their mourning garments.
But Zillah had lost none of her business habits and instincts, and while
the faithful Mrs. Goldmark attended to the funeral guests in the upstairs
regions, she herself was waiting in the back-parlour for these other
visitors. On the table before her, evidently placed there for inspection,
lay three objects to which she at once drew attention--one, an old-
fashioned, double-breasted fancy waistcoat, evidently of considerable age,
and much worn, the others, two letters written on foreign notepaper.
"It never occurred to me," said Zillah, plunging into business at once,
"at least, until an hour or two ago, to examine the clothes my grandfather
was wearing at the time of his death. As a matter of fact he'd been
wearing the same clothes for months. I've been through all his pockets.
There was nothing of importance--except these letters. I found those in a
pocket in the inside of that waistcoat--there! Read them."
The men bent over the unfolded letters, and Ayscough read them aloud.
"MACPHERSON'S HOTEL, CAPE TOWN,
"_September 17th_, 1912.
"Dear Sir,--I have sent the little article about which I have already
written you and Mr. L. fully, to your address by ordinary registered post.
Better put it in your bank till I arrive--shall write you later about date
of my arrival. Faithfully yours,
"That," remarked Ayscough, glancing at the rest, "clearly refers to
whatever it was that Mr. Multenius took from his bank on the morning of
his death. It also refers to Mr. Levendale--without doubt."
He drew the other letter to him and read it out.
"_October 10th_, 1912.
"Dear Sir,--Just a line to say I leave here by s.s. _Golconda_ in a
day or two--this precedes me by today's mail. I hope to be in England
November 15th--due then, anyway--and shall call on you immediately on
arrival. Better arrange to have Mr. S. L. to meet you and me at once.
"November 15th?" remarked Ayscough. "Mr. Multenius died on November 19th.
So--if Purvis did reach here on the 15th he'd probably been about this
quarter before the 19th. We know he was at Mrs. Goldmark's restaurant on
the 18th, anyway! All right, Miss Wildrose--we'll take these letters with
Lauriston stopped behind when the rest of the men went out--to exchange a
few words alone with Zillah. When he went into the street, all had gone
except Purdie, who was talking with Melky at the entrance to the side-
"That's the sure tip at present, mister," Melky was saying. "Get that
done--clear that up. Mr. Lauriston," he went on, "you do what your friend
says--we're sorting things out piece by piece."
Purdie took Lauriston's arm and led him away.
"What Melky says is--go and find out what Mr. Killick can prove," he said.
"Best thing to do, too, Andie, for us. Now that these detectives are
fairly on the hunt, and are in possession of a whole multitude of queer
details and facts, we'll just do our bit of business--which is to clear
you entirely. There's more reasons than one why we should do that, my
"What're you talking about, John?" demanded Lauriston. "You've some idea
in that head of yours!"
"The idea that you and that girl are in love with each other!" said Purdie
with a sly look.
"I'll not deny that!" asserted Lauriston, with an ingenuous blush. "We
"Well, you can't ask any girl to marry you, man, while there's the least
bit of suspicion hanging over you that you'd a hand in her grandfather's
death!" remarked Purdie sapiently. "So we'll just eat a bit of lunch
together, and then get a taxi-cab and drive out to find this old gentleman
that gave your mother the rings. Come on to the hotel."
"You're spending a fine lot of money over me, John!" exclaimed Lauriston.
"Put it down that I'm a selfish chap that's got interested, and is
following his own pleasure!" said Purdie. "Man alive!--I was never mixed
up in a detective case before--it beats hunting for animals, this hunting
By a diligent search in directories and reference books early that
morning, Purdie and Lauriston had managed to trace Mr. Edward Killick,
who, having been at one time a well-known solicitor in the City, had
followed the practice of successful men and retired to enjoy the fruit of
his labours in a nice little retreat in the country. Mr. Killick had
selected the delightful old-world village of Stanmore as the scene of his
retirement, and there, in a picturesque old house, set in the midst of
fine trees and carefully trimmed lawns, Purdie and Lauriston found him--a
hale and hearty old gentleman, still on the right side of seventy, who
rose from his easy chair in a well-stocked library to look in astonishment
from the two cards which his servant had carried to him at the persons and
faces of their presenters.
"God bless my soul!" he exclaimed. "Are you two young fellows the sons of
old friends of mine at Peebles?"
"We are, sir," answered Purdie. "This is Andrew Lauriston, and I am John
Purdie. And we're very glad to find that you remember something about our
people, Mr. Killick."
Mr. Killick again blessed himself, and after warmly shaking hands with his
visitors, bade them sit down. He adjusted his spectacles, and looked both
young men carefully over.
"I remember your people very well indeed!" he said. "I used to do a bit of
fishing in the Tweed and in Eddleston Water with your father, Mr. Purdie--
and I stopped some time with your father and mother, at their house, Mr.
Lauriston. In fact, your mother was remarkably kind to me--she nursed me
through an illness with which I was seized when I was in Peebles."
Lauriston and Purdie exchanged glances--by common consent Purdie became
spokesman for the two.
"Mr. Killick," he said, "it's precisely about a matter arising out of that
illness of yours that we came to see you! Let me explain something first--
Andie Lauriston here has been living in London for two years--he's a
literary gift, and he hopes to make a name, and perhaps a fortune. I've
succeeded to my father's business, and I'm only here in London on a visit.
And it's well I came, for Andie wanted a friend. Now, Mr. Killick, before
I go further--have you read in the newspapers about what's called the
Praed Street Mystery?"
The old gentleman shook his head.
"My dear young sir!" he answered, waving his hand towards his books. "I'm
not a great newspaper reader--except for a bit of politics. I never read
about mysteries--I've wrapped myself up in antiquarian pursuits since I
retired. No!--I haven't read about the Praed Street Mystery--nor even
heard of it! I hope neither of you are mixed up in it?"
"Considerably!" answered Purdie. "In more ways than one. And you can be of
great help. Mr. Killick--when you left Peebles after your illness, you
sent Mrs. Lauriston a present of two valuable rings. Do you remember?"
"Perfectly--of course!" replied the old gentleman. "To be sure!"
"Can you remember, too, from whom you bought those rings?" enquired Purdie
"Yes!--as if it were yesterday!" said Mr. Killick. "I bought them from a
City jeweller whom I knew very well at that time--a man named Daniel
MR. KILLICK'S OPINION
The old solicitor's trained eye and quick intelligence saw at once that
this announcement immediately conveyed some significant meaning to his two
young visitors. Purdie and Lauriston, in fact, had immediately been struck
by the similarity of the names Molteno and Multenius, and they exchanged
another look which their host detected and knew to convey a meaning. He
leaned forward in his chair.
"Now, that strikes you--both!" he said. "What's all this about? Better
give me your confidence."
"That's precisely what we came here to do, sir," responded Purdie, with
alacrity. "And with your permission I'll tell you the whole story. It's a
long one, and a complicated one, Mr. Killick!--but I daresay you've heard
many intricate stories in the course of your legal experience, and you'll
no doubt be able to see points in this that we haven't seen. Well, it's
this way--and I'll begin at the beginning."
The old gentleman sat in an attitude of patient and watchful attention
while Purdie, occasionally prompted and supplemented by Lauriston, told
the whole story of the Praed Street affair, from Lauriston's first visit
to the pawnshop up to the events of that morning. Once or twice he asked a
question; one or twice he begged the narrator to pause while he considered
a point: in the end he drew out his watch--after which he glanced out of
"Do I gather that the taxi-cab which I see outside there is being kept by
you two young men?" he asked.
"It is," answered Purdie. "It's important that we should lose no time in
getting back to town, Mr. Killick."
"Just so!" agreed Mr. Killick, moving towards his library door. "But I'm
going with you--as soon as I've got myself into an overcoat. Now!" he
added, a few minutes later, when all three went out to the cab. "Tell the
man to drive us straight to that police-station you've been visiting of
late--and till we get there, just let me think quietly--I can probably say
more about this case than I'm yet aware of. But--if it will give you any
relief, I can tell you this at once--I have a good deal to tell. Strange!
--strange indeed how things come round, and what a small world this is,
With this cryptic utterance Mr. Killick sank into a corner of the cab,
where he remained, evidently lost in thought, until, nearly an hour later,
they pulled up at the door of the police-station. Within five minutes they
were closeted with the chief men there--amongst whom were Ayscough and the
detective from New Scotland Yard.
"You know me--or of me--some of you?" observed the old solicitor, as he
laid a card on the desk by which he had been given a chair. "I was very
well known in the City police-courts, you know, until I retired three
years ago. Now, these young gentlemen have just told me all the facts of
this very strange case, and I think I can throw some light on it--on part
of it, anyway. First of all, let me see those two rings about which there
has been so much enquiry."
Ayscough produced the rings from a locked drawer; the rest of those
present looked on curiously as they were examined and handled by Mr.
Killick. It was immediately evident that he had no doubt about his
recognition and identification of them--after a moment's inspection of
each he pushed them back towards the detective.
"Certainly!" he said with a confidence that carried conviction. "Those are
the rings which I gave to Mrs. Lauriston, this young man's mother. I knew
them at once. If it's necessary, I can show you the receipt which I got
with them from the seller. The particulars are specified in that receipt--
and I know that I still have it. Does my testimony satisfy you?"
The chief official present glanced at the man from New Scotland Yard, and
receiving a nod from him, smiled at the old solicitor.
"I think we can rely on your evidence, Mr. Killick," he said. "We had to
make certain, you know. But these marks--isn't that a curious coincidence,
now, when you come to think of it?"
"Not a bit of it!" replied Mr. Killick. "And I'll tell you why--that's
precisely what I've come all the way from my own comfortable fireside at
Stanmore to do! There's no coincidence at all. I've heard the whole story
of this Praed Street affair now from these two lads. And I've no more
doubt than I have that I see you, that the old pawnbroker whom you knew
hereabouts as Daniel Multenius was the same man Daniel Molteno--from whom
I bought those rings, years ago! Not the slightest doubt!"
None of those present made any remark on this surprising announcement, and
Mr. Killick went on.
"I was, as some of you may know, in practice in the City--in Moorgate
Street, as a matter of fact," he said. "Daniel Molteno was a jeweller in
Houndsditch. I occasionally acted for him--professionally. And
occasionally when I wanted anything in the way of jewellery, I went to his
shop. He was then a man of about fifty, a tall, characteristically Hebraic
sort of man, already patriarchal in appearance, though he hadn't a grey
hair in his big black beard. He was an interesting man, profoundly learned
in the history of precious stones. I remember buying those rings from him
very well indeed--I remember, too, what I gave him for them--seventy-five
pounds for the two. Those private marks inside them are, of course, his--
and so they're just the same as his private marks inside those other rings
in the tray. But that's not what I came here to tell you--that's merely
"Deeply interesting, anyway, sir," observed Ayscough. "And, maybe, very
"Not half so valuable as what I'm going to tell you," replied Mr. Killick,
with a dry chuckle, "Now, as I understand it, from young Mr. Purdie's
account, you're all greatly excited at present over the undoubted
connection with this Praed Street mystery of one Mr. Spencer Levendale,
who is, I believe, a very rich man, a resident in one of the best parts of
this district, and a Member of Parliament. It would appear from all you've
discovered, amongst you, up to now, that Spencer Levendale has been
privately mixed up with old Daniel Multenius in some business which seems
to be connected with South Africa. Now, attend to what I say:--About the
time that I knew Daniel Molteno in Houndsditch, Daniel Molteno had a
partner--a junior partner, whose name, however, didn't appear over the
shop. He was a much younger man than Daniel--in fact, he was quite a young
man--I should say he was then about twenty-three or four--not more. He was
of medium height, dark, typically Jewish, large dark eyes, olive skin,
good-looking, smart, full of go. And his name--the name I knew him by--was
Sam Levin." The other men in the room glanced at each other--and one of
them softly murmured what all was thinking.
"The same initials!"
"Just so!" agreed Mr. Killick. "That's what struck me--Sam Levin: Spencer
Levendale. Very well!--I continue. One day I went to Daniel Molteno's shop
to get something repaired, and it struck me that I hadn't seen Sam Levin
the last two or three times I had been in. 'Where's your partner?' I asked
of Daniel Molteno. 'I haven't seen him lately.' 'Partner no longer, Mr.
Killick,' said he. 'We've dissolved. He's gone to South Africa.' 'What to
do there?' I asked. 'Oh,' answered Daniel Molteno, 'he's touched with this
fever to get at close quarters with the diamond fields! He's gone out
there to make a fortune, and come back a millionaire.' 'Well!' I said.
'He's a likely candidate.' 'Oh, yes!' said Daniel. 'He'll do well.' No
more was said--and, as far as I can remember, I never saw Daniel Molteno
again. It was some time before I had occasion to go that way--when I did,
I was surprised to see a new name over the shop. I went in and asked where
its former proprietor was. The new shopkeeper told me that Mr. Molteno had
sold his business to him. And he didn't know where Mr. Molteno had gone,
or whether he'd retired from business altogether; he knew nothing--and
evidently didn't care, either, so--that part of my memories comes to an
"Mr. Spencer Levendale is a man of just under fifty," remarked Ayscough,
after a thoughtful pause, "and I should say that twenty-five years ago,
he'd be just such a man as Mr. Killick has described."
"You can take it from me--considering all that I've been told this
afternoon--" said the old solicitor, "that Spencer Levendale is Sam Levin
--come back from South Africa, a millionaire. I'm convinced of it! And now
then, gentlemen, what does all this mean? There's no doubt that old
Multenius and Levendale were secretly mixed up. What in? What's the
extraordinary mystery about that book--left in Multenius's back parlour
and advertised for immediately by Levendale as if it were simply
invaluable? Why has Levendale utterly disappeared? And who is this man
Purvis--and what's he to do with it? You've got the hardest nuts to crack
--a whole basketful of 'em!--that ever I heard of. And I've had some
little experience of crime!"
"I've had some information on Levendale and Purvis this very afternoon,"
said Ayscough. He turned to the other officials. "I hadn't a chance of
telling you of it before," he continued. "I was at Levendale's house at
three o'clock, making some further enquiries. I got two pieces of news. To
start with--that bottle out of which Levendale filled a small phial, which
he put in his waistcoat pocket when he went out for the last time--you
remember, Mr. Purdie, that his butler told you of that incident--well,
that bottle contains chloroform--I took a chemist there to examine it and
some other things. That's item one. The other's a bit of information
volunteered by Levendale's chauffeur. The morning after Mr. Multenius's
death, and after you, Mr. Lauriston, Mr. Rubinstein, and myself called on
Levendale, Levendale went off to the City in his car. He ordered the
chauffeur to go through Hyde Park, by the Victoria Gate, and to stop by
the Powder Magazine. At the Powder Magazine he got out of the car and
walked down towards the bridge on the Serpentine. The chauffeur had him in
view all the way, and saw him join a tall man, clean-shaven, much browned,
who was evidently waiting for him. They remained in conversation, at the
entrance to the bridge, some five minutes or so--then the stranger went
across the bridge in the direction of Kensington, and Levendale returned
to his car. Now, in my opinion, that strange man was this Purvis we've
heard of. And that seems to have been the last time any one we've come
across saw him. That night, after his visit to his house, and his taking
the phial of chloroform away with him, Levendale utterly disappeared, too
--and yet sent a wire to his butler, from close by, next morning, saying
he would be away for a few days! Why didn't he call with that message
Mr. Killick, who had listened to Ayscough with close attention, laughed,
and turned to the officials with a sharp look.
"Shall I give you people a bit of my opinion after hearing all this?" he
said. "Very well, then--Levendale never did send that wire! It was sent in
Levendale's name--to keep things quiet. I believe that Levendale's been,
trapped--and Purvis with him!"
THE ORANGE-YELLOW DIAMOND
His various listeners had heard all that the old solicitor had said, with
evident interest and attention--now, one of them voiced what all the rest
"What makes you think that, Mr. Killick?" asked the man from New Scotland
Yard. "Why should Levendale and Purvis have been trapped?"
Mr. Killick--who was obviously enjoying this return to the arena in which,
as some of those present well knew, he had once played a distinguished
part, as a solicitor with an extensive police-court practice--twisted
round on his questioner with a sly, knowing glance.
"You're a man of experience!" he answered. "Now come!--hasn't it struck
you that something went before the death of old Daniel Multenius--whether
that death arose from premeditated murder, or from sudden assault? Eh?--
"What, then?" asked the detective dubiously. "For I can't say that it has
--definitely. What do you conjecture did go before that?"
Mr. Killick thumped his stout stick on the floor.
"Robbery!" he exclaimed, triumphantly. "Robbery! The old man was robbed of
something! Probably--and there's nothing in these cases like considering
possibilities--he caught the thief in the act of robbing him, and lost his
life in defending his property. Now, supposing Levendale and Purvis were
interested--financially--in that property, and set their wits to work to
recover it, and in their efforts got into the hands of--shall we suppose a
gang?--and got trapped? Or," concluded Mr. Killick with great emphasis and
meaning, "for anything we know--murdered? What about that theory?"
"Possible!" muttered Ayscough. "Quite possible!"
"Consider this," continued the old solicitor. "Levendale is a well-known
man--a Member of Parliament--a familiar figure in the City, where he's
director of more than one company--the sort of man whom, in ordinary
circumstances, you'd be able to trace in a few hours. Now, you tell me
that half-a-dozen of your best men have been trying to track Levendale for
two days and nights, and can't get a trace of him! What's the inference? A
well-known man can't disappear in that way unless for some very grave
reason! For anything we know, Levendale--and Purvis with him--may be
safely trapped within half-a-mile of Praed Street--or, as I say, they may
have been quietly murdered. Of one thing I'm dead certain, anyway--if you
want to get at the bottom of this affair, you've got to find those two
"It would make a big difference if we had any idea of what it was that
Daniel Multenius had in that packet which he fetched from his bank on the
day of the murder," remarked Ayscough. "If there's been robbery, that may
have been the thief's object."
"That pre-supposes that the thief knew what was in the packet," said
Purdie. "Who is there that could know? We may take it that Levendale and
Purvis knew--but who else would?"
"Aye!--and how are we to find that out?" asked the New Scotland Yard man.
"If I only knew that much--"
But even at that moment--and not from any coincidence, but from the law of
probability to which Mr. Killick had appealed--information on that very
point was close at hand. A constable tapped at the door, and entering,
whispered a few words to the chief official, who having whispered back,
turned to the rest as the man went out of the room.
"Here's something likely!" he said. "There's a Mr. John Purvis, from
Devonshire, outside. Says he's the brother of the Stephen Purvis who's
name's been in the papers as having mysteriously disappeared, and wants,
to tell the police something. He's coming in."
The men in the room turned with undisguised interest as the door opened
again, and a big, fresh-coloured countryman, well wrapped up in a stout
travelling coat, stepped into the room and took a sharp glance at its
occupants. He was evidently a well-to-do farmer, this, and quite at his
ease--but there was a certain natural anxiety in his manner as he turned
to the official, who sat at the desk in the centre of the group.
"You're aware of my business, sir?" he asked quietly.
"I understand you're the brother of the Stephen Purvis we're wanting to
find in connection with this Praed Street mystery," answered the official.
"You've read of that in the newspaper, no doubt, Mr. Purvis? Take a seat--
you want to tell us something? As a matter of fact, we're all discussing
The caller took the chair which Ayscough drew forward and sat down,
throwing open his heavy overcoat, and revealing a whipcord riding-suit of
light fawn beneath it.
"You'll see I came here in a hurry, gentlemen," he said, with a smile.
"I'd no thoughts of coming to London when I left my farm this morning, or
I'd have put London clothes on! The fact is--I farm at a very out-of-the-
way place between Moretonhampstead and Exeter, and I never see the daily
papers except when I drive into Exeter twice a week. Now when I got in
there this morning, I saw one or two London papers--last night's they
were--and read about this affair. And I read enough to know that I'd best
get here as quick as possible!--so I left all my business there and then,
and caught the very next express to Paddington. And here I am! And now--
have you heard anything of my brother Stephen more than what's in the
papers? I've seen today's, on the way up."
"Nothing!" answered the chief official. "Nothing at all! We've purposely
kept the newspapers informed, and what there is in the morning's papers is
the very latest. So--can you tell us anything?"
"I can tell you all I know myself," replied John Purvis, with a solemn
shake of his head. "And I should say it's a good deal to do with Stephen's
disappearance--in which, of course, there's some foul play! My opinion,
gentlemen, is that my brother's been murdered! That's about it!"
No one made any remark--but Mr. Killick uttered a little murmur of
comprehension, and nodded his head two or three times.
"Murdered, poor fellow, in my opinion," continued John Purvis. "And I'll
tell you why I think so. About November 8th or 9th--I can't be sure to a
day--I got a telegram from Stephen, sent off from Las Palmas, in the
Canary Islands, saying he'd be at Plymouth on the 15th, and asking me to
meet him there. So I went to Plymouth on the morning of the 15th. His
boat, the _Golconda_, came in at night, and we went to an hotel
together and stopped the night there. We hadn't met for some years, and of
course he'd a great deal to tell--but he'd one thing in particular--he'd
struck such a piece of luck as he'd never had in his life before!--and he
hadn't been one of the unlucky ones, either!"
"What was this particular piece of luck?" asked Mr. Killick.
John Purvis looked round as if to make sure of general attention.
"He'd come into possession, through a fortunate bit of trading, up country
in South Africa, of one of the finest diamonds ever discovered!" he
answered. "I know nothing about such things, but he said it was an orange-
yellow diamond that would weigh at least a hundred and twenty carats when
cut, and was worth, as far as he could reckon, some eighty to ninety
thousand pounds. Anyway, that was what he'd calculated he was going to get
for it here in London--and what he wanted to see me about, in addition to
telling me of his luck, was that he wanted to buy a real nice bit of
property in Devonshire, and settle down in the old country. But--I'm
afraid his luck's turned to a poor end! Gentlemen!--I'm certain my
brother's been murdered for that diamond!"
The police officials, as with one consent, glanced at Mr. Killick, and by
their looks seemed to invite his assistance. The old gentleman nodded and
turned to the caller.
"Now, Mr. Purvis," he said, "just let me ask you a few questions. Did your
brother tell you that this diamond was his own, sole property?"
"He did, sir!" answered the farmer. "He said it was all his own."
"Did he tell you where it was--what he had done with it?"
"Yes! He said that for some years he'd traded in small parcels of such
things with two men here in London--Multenius and Levendale--he knew both
of them. He'd sent the diamond on in advance to Multenius, by ordinary
registered post, rather than run the risk of carrying it himself."
"I gather from that last remark that your brother had let some other
person or persons know that he possessed this stone?" said Mr. Killick.
"Did he mention that? It's of importance."
"He mentioned no names--but he did say that one or two knew of his luck,
and he'd an idea that he'd been watched in Cape Town, and followed on the
_Golconda_," replied John Purvis. "He laughed about that, and said he
wasn't such a fool as to carry a thing like that on him."
"Did he say if he knew for a fact that the diamond was delivered to
Multenius?" asked Mr. Killick.
"Yes, he did. He found a telegram from Multenius at Las Palmas,
acknowledging the receipt. He mentioned to me that Multenius would put the
diamond in his bank, till he got to London himself."
Mr. Killick glanced at the detective--the detectives nodded.
"Very good," continued Mr. Killick. "Now then--: you'd doubtless talk a
good deal about this matter--did your brother tell you what was to be done
with the diamond? Had he a purchaser in view?"
"Yes, he said something about that," replied John Purvis. "He said that
Multenius and Levendale would make--or were making--what he called a
syndicate to buy it from him. They'd have it cut--over in Amsterdam, I
think it was. He reckoned he'd get quite eighty thousand from the
"He didn't mention any other names than those of Multenius and Levendale?"
"Now, one more question. Where did your brother leave you--at Plymouth?"
"First thing next morning," said John Purvis. "We travelled together as
far as Exeter. He came on to Paddington--I went home to my farm. And I've
never heard of him since--till I read all this in the papers."
Mr. Killick got up and began to button his overcoat. He turned to the
"Now you know what we wanted to know!" he said. "That diamond is at the
bottom of everything! Daniel Multenius was throttled for that diamond--
Parslett's death arose out of that diamond--everything's arisen from that
diamond! And, now that you police folks know all this--you know what to
do. You want the man, or men, who were in Daniel Multenius's shop about
five o'clock on that particular day, and who carried off that diamond. Mr.
Purvis!--are you staying in town?"
The farmer shook his head--but not in the negative.
"I'm not going out of London, till I know what's become of my brother!" he
"Then come with me," said Mr. Killick. He said a word or two to the
police, and then, beckoning Lauriston and Purdie to follow with Purvis,
led the way out into the street. There he drew Purdie towards him. "Get a
taxi-cab," he whispered, "and we'll all go to see that American man you've
told me of--Guyler. And when we've seen him, you can take me to see Daniel
THE DEAD MAN'S PROPERTY
Old Daniel Multenius had been quietly laid to rest that afternoon, and at
the very moment in which Mr. Killick and his companions were driving away
from the police station to seek Stuyvesant Guyler at his hotel, Mr.
Penniket was closeted with Zillah and her cousin Melky Rubinstein in the
back-parlour of the shop in Praed Street--behind closed and locked doors
which they had no intention of opening to anybody. Now that the old man
was dead and buried, it was necessary to know how things stood with
respect to his will and his property, and, as Mr. Penniket had remarked as
they drove back from the cemetery, there was no reason why they should not
go into matters there and then. Zillah and Melky were the only relations--
and the only people concerned, said Mr. Penniket. Five minutes would put
them in possession of the really pertinent facts as regards the provisions
of the will--but there would be details to go into. And now they were all
three sitting round the table, and Mr. Penniket had drawn two papers from
his inner pocket--and Zillah regarding him almost listlessly, and Melky
with one of his quietly solemn expression. Each had a pretty good idea of
what was coming and each regarded the present occasion as no more than a
"This is the will," said Mr. Penniket, selecting and unfolding one of the
documents. "It was made about a year ago--by me. That is, I drafted it.
It's a short, a very short and practical will, drafted from precise
instructions given to me by my late client, your grandfather. I may as
well tell you in a few words what it amounts to. Everything that he left
is to be sold--this business as a going concern; all his shares; all his
house property. The whole estate is to be realized by the executors--your
two selves. And when that's done, you're to divide the lot--equally. One
half is yours, Miss Wildrose; Mr. Rubinstein, the other half is yours.
And," concluded Mr. Penniket, rubbing his hands, "you'll find you're very
fortunate--not to say wealthy--young people, and I congratulate you on
your good fortune! Now, perhaps, you'd like to read the will?"
Mr. Penniket laid the will on the table before the two cousins, and they
bent forward and read its legal phraseology. Zillah was the first to look
up and to speak.
"I never knew my grandfather had any house property," she said. "Did you,
"S'elp me, Zillah, if I ever knew what he had in that way!" answered
Melky. "He had his secrets and he could be close. No--I never knew of his
having anything but his business. But then, I might have known that he'd
invest his profits in some way or other."
The solicitor unfolded the other document.
"Here's a schedule, prepared by Mr. Multenius himself, and handed by him
to me not many weeks ago, of his property outside this business," he
remarked. "I'll go through the items. Shares in the Great Western Railway.
Shares in the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway. Government Stock.
Certain American Railway Stock. It's all particularized--and all gilt-
edged security. Now then, about his house property. There's a block of
flats at Hampstead. There are six houses at Highgate. There are three
villas in the Finchley Road. The rents of all these have been collected by
Messrs. Holder and Keeper, estate agents, and evidently paid by them
direct to your esteemed relative's account at his bank. And then--to wind
up--there is a small villa in Maida Vale, which he let furnished--you
never heard of that?"
"Never!" exclaimed Zillah, while Melky shook his head.
"There's a special note about that at the end of this schedule," said Mr.
Penniket. "In his own hand--like all the rest. This is what he says. 'N.
B. Molteno Lodge, Maida Vale--all the furniture, pictures, belongings in
this are mine--I have let it as a furnished residence at L12 a month, all
clear, for some years past. Let at present, on same terms, rent paid
quarterly, in advance, to two Chinese gentlemen, Mr. Chang Li and Mr. Chen
Zillah uttered another sharp exclamation and sprang to her feet. She
walked across to an old-fashioned standup desk which stood in a corner of
the parlour, drew a bunch of keys from her pocket, and raised the lid.
"That explains something!" she said. "I looked into this desk the other
day--grandfather used to throw letters and papers in there sometimes,
during the day, and then put them away at night. Here's a cheque here that
puzzled me--I don't know anything about it. But--it'll be a quarter's rent
for that house. Look at the signatures!"
She laid a cheque before Melky and Mr. Penniket and stood by while they
looked at it. There was nothing remarkable about the cheque--made out to
Mr. Daniel Multenius or order for L36--except the two odd looking names at
its foot--_Chang Li: Chen Li_. Otherwise, it was just like all other
cheques--and it was on a local bank, in Edgware Road, and duly crossed.
But Melky instantly observed the date, and put one of his long fingers to
"November 18th," he remarked. "The day he died. Did you notice that,
"Yes," answered Zillah. "It must have come in by post and he's thrown it,
as he often did throw things, into that desk. Well--that's explained!
That'll be the quarter's rent, then, for this furnished house, Mr.
"Evidently!" agreed the solicitor. "Of course, there's no need to give
notice to these two foreigners--yet. It'll take a little time to settle
the estate, and you can let them stay on awhile. I know who they are--your
grandfather mentioned them--two medical students, of University College.
They're all right. Well, now, that completes the schedule. As regards
administering the estate--"
A sudden gentle but firm knock at the side-door brought Zillah to her feet
"I know that knock," she remarked. "It's Ayscough, the detective. I
suppose he may come in, now?"
A moment later Ayscough, looking very grave and full of news, had joined
the circle round the table. He shook his head as he glanced at Mr.
"I came on here to give you a bit of information," he said. "There's been
an important development this afternoon. You know the name of this Stephen
Purvis that's been mentioned as having been about here? Well, this
afternoon his brother turned up from Devonshire. He wanted to see us--to
tell us something. He thinks Stephen's been murdered!"
"On what grounds?" asked the solicitor.
"It turns out Stephen had sent Mr. Multenius a rare fine diamond--uncut--
from South Africa," answered Ayscough. "Worth every penny of eighty
He was closely watching Zillah and Melky as he gave this piece of news,
and he was quick to see their utter astonishment. Zillah turned to the
solicitor; Melky slapped the table.
"That's been what the old man fetched from his bank that day!" he
exclaimed. "S'elp me if I ain't beginning to see light! Robbery--before
"That's about it," agreed Ayscough. "But I'll tell you all that's come
He went on to narrate the events of the afternoon, from the arrival of Mr.
Killick and his companions at the police station to the coming of John
Purvis, and his three listeners drank in every word with rising interest.
Mr. Penniket became graver and graver.
"Where's Mr. Killick now--and the rest of them?" he asked in the end.
"Gone to find that American chap--Guyler," answered Ayscough. "They did
think he might be likely--having experience of these South African
matters--to know something how Stephen Purvis may have been followed. You
see--you're bound to have some theory! It looks as if Stephen Purvis had
been tracked--for the sake of that diamond. The thieves probably tracked
it to this shop--most likely attacked Mr. Multenius for it. They'd most
likely been in here just before young Lauriston came in."
"But where does Stephen Purvis come in--then?" asked Mr. Penniket.
"Can't say yet--," replied Ayscough, doubtfully. "But--it may be that he--
and Levendale--got an idea who the thieves were, and went off after them,
and have got--well, trapped, or, as John Purvis suggests, murdered. It's
getting a nicer tangle than ever!"
"What's going to be done?" enquired the solicitor.
"Why!" said Ayscough. "At present, there's little more to be done than
what is being done! There's no end of publicity in the newspapers about
both Levendale and Purvis. Every newspaper reporter in London's on the
stretch for a thread of news of 'em! And we're getting posters and bills
out, all over, advertising for them--those bills'll be outside every
police-station in London--and over a good part of England--by tomorrow
noon. And, of course, we're all at work. But you see, we haven't so far,
the slightest clue as to the thieves! For there's no doubt, now, that it
was theft first, and the rest afterwards."
Mr. Penniket rose and gathered his papers together.
"I suppose," he remarked, "that neither of you ever heard of this diamond,
nor of Mr. Multenius having charge of it? No--just so. An atmosphere of
secrecy all over the transaction. Well--all I can say, Ayscough, is this
--you find Levendale. He's the man who knows."
When the solicitor had gone, Ayscough turned to Zillah.
"You never saw anything of any small box, packet, or anything of that
sort, lying about after your grandfather's death?" he asked. "I'm thinking
of what that diamond had been enclosed in, when he brought it from the
bank. My notion is that he was examining that diamond when he was
attacked, and in that case the box he'd taken it from would be lying
about, or thrown aside."
"You were in here yourself, before me," said Zillah.
"Quite so--but I never noticed anything," remarked Ayscough.
"Neither have I," replied Zillah. "And don't you think that whoever seized
that diamond would have the sense to snatch up anything connected with it!
I believe in what Mr. Penniket said just now--you find Levendale. If
there's a man living who knows who killed my grandfather, Levendale's that
man. You get him."
Mrs. Goldmark came in just then, to resume her task of keeping Zillah
company, and the detective left. Melky snatched up his overcoat and
followed him out, and in the side-passage laid a hand on his arm.
"Look here, Mr. Ayscough!" he whispered confidentially. "I want you!
There's something turned up in there, just now, that I ain't said a word
about to either Penniket or my cousin--but I will to you. Do you know
what, Mr. Ayscough--listen here;"--and he went on to tell the detective
the story of the furnished house in Maida Vale, its Chinese occupants, and
their cheque. "Dated that very day the old man was scragged!" exclaimed
Melky. "Now, Mr. Ayscough, supposing that one o' those Chinks called here
with that cheque that afternoon when Zillah was out, and found the old man
alone, and that diamond in his hand--eh?"
Ayscough started and gave a low, sharp whistle.
"Whew!" he said. "By George, that's an idea! Where's this house, do you
say? Molteno Lodge, Maida Vale? I know it--small detached house in a
garden. I say!--let's go and take a look round there!"
"It's what I was going to propose--and at once," responded Melky. "Come
on--but on the way, we'll pay a bit of a call. I want to ask a question of
Ayscough and Melky kept silence, until they had exchanged the busy streets
for the quieter by-roads which lie behind the Paddington Canal--then, as
they turned up Portsdown Road, the detective tapped his companion's arm."
"What do you know about these two Chinese chaps that have this furnished
house of yours?" he asked. "Much?--or little?"
"We don't know nothing at all, Mr. Ayscough--me and my cousin Zillah,"
replied Melky. "Never heard of 'em! Never knew they were there! Never knew
the old man had furnished house to let in Maida Vale! He was close, the
old man was, about some things. That was one of 'em. However, Mr.
Penniket, he knew of this--but only recently. He says they're all right--
medical students at one of the hospitals--yes, University College. That's
in Gower Street, ain't it? The old man--he put in a note about there here
Molteno Lodge that these Chinks were good tenants. I know what he'd mean
by that!--paid their rent regular, in advance."
"Oh, I know they've always plenty of money, these chaps!" observed
Ayscough. "I've been wondering if I'd ever seen these two. But Lor' bless
you!--there's such a lot o' foreigners in this quarter, especially
Japanese and Siamese--law students and medical students and such like--
that you'd never notice a couple of Easterns particularly--and I've no
doubt they wear English clothes. Now, what do you want to see this doctor
for?" he asked as they halted by Dr. Mirandolet's door. "Anything to do
with the matter in hand?"
"You'll see in a minute," replied Melky as he rang the bell. "Just a
notion that occurred to me. And it has got to do with it."
Dr. Mirandolet was in, and received his visitors in a room which was half-
surgery and half-laboratory, and filled to the last corner with the
evidences and implements of his profession. He was wearing a white linen
operating jacket, and his dark face and black hair looked all the darker
and blacker because of it. Melky gazed at him with some awe as he dropped
into the chair which Mirandolet indicated and found the doctor's piercing
eyes on him.
"Just a question or two, mister!" he said, apologetically. "Me and Mr.
Ayscough there is doing a bit of looking into this mystery about Mr.
Multenius, and knowing as you was a big man in your way, it struck me
you'd tell me something. I was at that inquest on Parslett, you know,
Mirandolet nodded and waited, and Melky gained courage.
"Mister!" he said, suddenly bending forward and tapping the doctor's knee
in a confidential fashion. "I hear you say at that inquest as how you'd
lived in the East?"
"Yes!" replied Mirandolet. "Many years. India--Burmah--China!"
"You know these Easterns, mister, and their little way?" suggested Melky.
"Now, would it be too much--I don't want to get no professional
information, you know, if it ain't etiquette!--but would it be too much to
ask you if them folks is pretty good hands at poisoning?"
Mirandolet laughed, showing a set of very white teeth, and glared at
Ayscough with a suggestion of invitation to join in his amusement. He
clapped Melky on the shoulder as if he had said something diverting.
"Good hands, my young friend?" he exclaimed. "The very best in the world!
Past masters! Adepts. Poison you while they look at you!"
"Bit cunning and artful about it, mister?" suggested Melky.
"Beyond your conception, my friend," replied Mirandolet. "Unless I very
much mistake your physiognomy, you yourself come of an ancient race which
is not without cunning and artifice--but in such matters as you refer to,
you are children, compared to your Far East folk."
"Just so, mister--I believe you!" said Melky, solemnly. "And--which of
'em, now, do you consider the cleverest of the lot--them as you say you've
lived amongst, now? You mentioned three lots of 'em, you know--Indians,
Burmese, Chinese. Which would you consider the artfullest of them three--
if it came to a bit of real underhand work, now?"
"For the sort of thing you're thinking of, my friend," answered
Mirandolet, "you can't beat a Chinaman. Does that satisfy you?"
Melky rose and glanced at the detective before turning to the doctor.
"Mister," he said, "that's precisely what I should ha' said myself. Only--
I wanted to know what a big man like you thought. Now, I know! Much
obliged to you, mister. If there's ever anything I can do for you, doctor
--if you want a bit of real good stuff--jewellery, you know--at dead cost
Mirandolet laughed and clapping Melky's shoulder again, looked at
"What's our young friend after?" he asked, good-humouredly. "What's his
"Hanged if I know, doctor!" said Ayscough, shaking his head. "He's got
some notion in his head. Are you satisfied, Mr. Rubinstein?"
Melky was making for the door.
"Ain't I just said so?" he answered. "You come along of me, Mr. Ayscough,
and let's be getting about our business. Now, look here!" he said, taking
the detective's arm when they had left the house. "We're going to take a
look at them Chinks. I've got it into my head that they've something to do
with this affair--and I'm going to see 'em, and to ask 'em a question or
two. And--you're coming with me!"
"I say, you know!" remarked Ayscough. "They're respectable gentlemen--even
if they are foreigners. Better be careful--we don't know anything against
"Never you fear!" said Melky. "I'll beat 'em all right. Ain't I got a good
excuse, Mr. Ayscough? Just to ask a civil question. Begging their pardons
for intrusion, but since the lamented death of Mr. Daniel Multenius, me
and Miss Zillah Wildrose has come into his bit of property, and does the
two gentlemen desire to continue their tenancy, and is there anything we
can do to make 'em comfortable--see? Oh, I'll talk to 'em all right!"
"What're you getting at, all the same?" asked the detective. "Give it a
Melky squeezed his companion's arm.
"I want to see 'em," he whispered. "That's one thing. And I want to find
out how that last cheque of theirs got into our back-parlour! Was it sent
by post--or was it delivered by hand? And if by hand--who delivered it?"
"You're a cute 'un, you are!" observed Ayscough. "You'd better join us."
"Thank you, Mr. Ayscough, but events has happened which'll keep me busy at
something else," said Melky, cheerfully. "Do you know that my good old
relative has divided everything between me and my cousin?--I'm a rich man,
now, Mr. Ayscough. S'elp me!--I don't know how rich I am. It'll take a bit
"Good luck to you!" exclaimed the detective heartily. "Glad to hear it!
Then I reckon you and your cousin'll be making a match of it--keeping the
money in the family, what?"
Melky laid his finger on the side of his nose.
"Then you think wrong!" he said. "There'll be marriages before long--for
both of us--but it'll not be as you suggest! There's Molteno Lodge, across
the road there--s'elp me, I've often seen that bit of a retreat from the
top of a 'bus, but I never knew it belonged to the poor old man!"
They had now come to the lower part of Maida Vale, where many detached
houses stand in walled-in gardens, isolated and detached from each other--
Melky pointed to one of the smaller ones--a stucco villa, whose white
walls shone in the November moonlight. Its garden, surrounded by high
walls, was somewhat larger than those of the neighbouring houses, and was
filled with elms rising to a considerable height and with tall bushes
growing beneath them.
"Nice, truly rural sort of spot," said Melky, as they crossed the road and
approached the gate in the wall. "And--once inside--uncommon private, no
doubt! What do you say, Mr. Ayscough?"
The detective was examining the gate. It was a curious sort of gate, set
between two stout pillars, and fashioned of wrought ironwork, the meshes
of which were closely intertwined. Ayscough peered through the upper part
and saw a trim lawn, a bit of statuary, a garden seat, and all the rest of
the appurtenances common to a London garden whose owners wish to remind
themselves of rusticity--also, he saw no signs of life in the house at the
end of the garden.
"There's no light in this house," he remarked, trying the gate. "Looks to
me as if everybody was out. Are you going to ring?"
Melky pointed along the front of the wall.
"There's a sort of alley going up there, between this house and the next,"
he said. "Come round--sure to be a tradesman's entrance--a side-door--up
"Plenty of spikes and glass-bottle stuff on those walls, anyhow!" remarked
Ayscough, as they went round a narrow alley to the rear of the villa.
"Your grandfather evidently didn't intend anybody to get into these
premises very easily, Mr. Rubinstein. Six-foot walls and what you might
call regular fortifications on top of 'em! What are you going to do,
Melky had entered a recess in the side-wall and was examining a stout door
on which, plainly seen in the moonlight, were the words _Tradesman's
Entrance_. He turned the handle--and uttered an exclamation.
"Open!" he said. "Come on, Mr. Ayscough--we're a-going in! If there is
anybody at home, all right--if there ain't, well, still all right. I'm
going to have a look round."
The detective followed Melky into a paved yard at the back of the villa.
All was very still there--and the windows were dark.
"No lights, back or front," remarked Ayscough. "Can't be anybody in. And I
say--if either of those Chinese gents was to let himself in with his key
at the front gate and find us prowling about, it wouldn't look very well,
would it, now? Why not call again--in broad daylight?"
"Shucks!" said Melky. "Ain't I one o' the landlords of this desirable bit
o' property? And didn't we find that door open? Come round to the front."
He set off along a gravelled path which ran round the side of the house,
and ascended the steps to the porticoed front door. And there he rang the
bell--and he and his companion heard its loud ringing inside the house.
But no answer came--and the whole place seemed darker and stiller than
"Of course there's nobody in!" muttered Ayscough. "Come on--let's get out
Melky made no answer. He walked down the steps, and across the lawn
beneath the iron-work gate in the street wall. A thick shrubbery of holly
and laurel bushes stood on his right--and as he passed it something darted
out--something alive and alert and sinuous--and went scudding away across
"Good Lord!" said Ayscough. "A rat! And as big as a rabbit!"
Melky paused, looked after the rat, and then at the place from which it
had emerged. And suddenly he stepped towards the shrubbery and drew aside
the thick cluster of laurel branches. Just as suddenly he started back on
the detective, and his face went white in the moonbeams.
"Mr. Ayscough!" he gasped. "S'elp me!--there's a dead man here! Look for
THE EMPTY HOUSE
Ayscough had manifested a certain restiveness and dislike to the
proceedings ever since his companion had induced him to enter the back
door of Molteno Lodge--these doings appeared to him informal and
irregular. But at Melky's sudden exclamation his professional instincts
were aroused, and he started forward, staring through the opening in the
bushes made by Melky's fingers.
"Good Lord!" he said. "You're right. One of the Chinamen!"
The full moon was high in a cloudless sky by that time, and its rays fell
full on a yellow face--and on a dark gash that showed itself in the yellow
neck below. Whoever this man was, he had been killed by a savage
knifethrust that had gone straight and unerringly through the jugular
vein. Ayscough pointed to a dark wide stain which showed on the earth at
the foot of the bushes.
"Stabbed!" he muttered. "Stabbed to death! And dragged in here--look at
He turned, pointing to more stains on the gravelled path behind them--
stains which extended, at intervals, almost to the entrance door in the
outer wall. And then he drew a box of matches from his pocket, and
striking one, went closer and held the light down to the dead man's face.
Melky, edging closer to his elbow, looked, too.
"One of those Chinamen, without a doubt!" said Ayscough, as the match
flickered and died out. "Or, at any rate, a Chinaman. And--he's been dead
some days! Well!--this is a go!"
"What's to be done?" asked Melky. "It's murder!"
Ayscough looked around him. He was wondering how it was that a dead man
could lie in that garden, close to a busy thoroughfare, along which a
regular stream of traffic of all descriptions was constantly passing, for
several days, undetected. But a quick inspection of the surroundings
explained matters. The house itself filled up one end of the garden; the
other three sides were obscured from the adjacent houses and from the
street by high walls, high trees, thick bushes. The front gate was locked
or latched--no one had entered--no one, save the owner of the knife that
had dealt that blow, had known a murdered man lay there behind the
laurels. Only the rat, started by Melky's footsteps, had known.
"Stay here!" said Ayscough. "Well--inside the gate, then--don't come out--
I don't want to attract attention. There'll be a constable somewhere
He walked down to the iron-work gate, Melky following close at his heels,
found and unfastened the patent latch, and slipped out into the road. In
two minutes he was back again with a policeman. He motioned the man inside
and once more fastened the door.
"As you know this beat," he said quietly, as if continuing a conversation
already begun, "you'll know the two Chinese gentlemen who have this
"Seen 'em--yes," replied the policeman. "Two quiet little fellows--seen
'em often--generally of an evening."
"Have you seen anything of them lately?" asked Ayscough.
"Well, now I come to think of it, no, I haven't," answered the policeman.
"Not for some days."
"Have you noticed that the house was shut up--that there were no lights in
the front windows?" enquired the detective.
"Why, as a matter of fact, Mr. Ayscough," said the policeman, "you never
do see any lights here--the windows are shuttered. I know that, because I
used to give a look round when the house was empty."
"Do you know what servants they kept--these two?" asked Ayscough.
"They kept none!" answered the policeman. "Seems to me--from what bit I
saw, you know--they used the house for little more than sleeping in. I've
seen 'em go out of a morning, with books and papers under their arms, and
come home at night--similar. But there's no servants there. Anything
wrong, Mr. Ayscough?"
Ayscough moved toward the bushes.
"There's this much wrong," he answered. "There's one of 'em lying dead
behind those laurels with a knife-thrust through his throat! And I should
say, from the look of things, that he's been lying there several days.
The policeman looked--and beyond a sharp exclamation, remained stolid. He
glanced at his companions, glanced round the garden--and suddenly pointed
to a dark patch on the ground.
"There's blood there!" he said. "Blood!"
"Blood!" exclaimed Ayscough. "There's blood all the way down this path!
The man's been stabbed as he came in at that door, and his body was then
dragged up the path and thrust in here. Now then!--off you go to the
station, and tell 'em what we've found. Get help--he'll have to be taken
to the mortuary. And you'll want men to keep a watch on this house--tell
the inspector all about it and say I'm here. And here--leave me that lamp
The policeman took off his bull's eye lantern and handed it over. Ayscough
let him out of the door, and going back to Melky, beckoned him towards the
"Let's see if there's any way of getting in here," he said. "My
conscience, Mr. Rubinstein!--you must have had some instinct about coming
here tonight! We've hit on something--but Lord bless me if I know what it