Guilty Bonds - William Le Queux - ebook

Guilty Bonds ebook

William Le Queux

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Frank Burgoyne, newly rich through inheritance, falls madly and improbably in love with a beautiful but mysterious Russian and becomes unwittingly and unknowingly embroiled in an international plot punctuated by a series of murders. Burgoyne suffers several bewildering experiences, including incarcerations in Russia and England, and he is constantly questioning his love’s motivations and fealty.

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Liczba stron: 303

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Contents

I. THE MYSTERY OF BEDFORD PLACE.

II. SEALED LIPS.

III. WHAT THE WORLD SAID.

IV. STARTLING REVELATIONS.

V. SUSPICIONS.

VI. VERA SEROFF.

VII. A SECRET TIE.

VIII. POST-HASTE ACROSS EUROPE.

IX. IN THE IZAK PLATZ.

X. THE SPIDER'S WEB.

XI. THE CELL BELOW THE RIVER.

XII. A SUBTERRANEAN DRAMA.

XIII. GRAVEN ON THE WALL.

XIV. EN ROUTE FOR THE MINES.

XV. AN OMINOUS INCIDENT.

XVI. FACING THE INEVITABLE.

XVII. THE TERRACE, RICHMOND.

XVIII. UNDER THE STARS.

XIX. FALSE!

XX. A MYSTERY STILL.

XXI. STORMS OF FATE.

XXII. THE VERGE OF A DISCOVERY.

XXIII. THE DEAD WOMAN'S PICTURE.

XXIV. DOUBTS AND FEARS.

XXV. A MIDNIGHT SEARCH.

XXVI. QUEER STRAITS.

XXVII. A GUILTLESS CRIME.

XXVIII. THE CLIQUE.

XXIX. MONSIEUR'S OPINION.

XXX. THE ELEVENTH HOUR.

XXXI. BY WHOSE HAND?

XXXII. RAYS OF HOPE.

XXXIII. VERA'S SECRET.

XXXIV. A STRANGE DISCLOSURE.

XXXV. THE VANTAGE-GROUND OF TRUTH.

XXXVI. CONCLUSION.

I. THE MYSTERY OF BEDFORD PLACE.

“COME, have another hand, Burgoyne.”

“I’ll have my revenge to-morrow, old fellow,” I replied.

“Why not to-night?”

“It’s past two, and I’ve a long walk home, remember.”

“Very well; as you wish.”

My friend, Robert Nugent, a journalist, was young man, tall and dark, twenty-seven at the outside, with a pleasant, smiling face. His wavy hair, worn rather long, and negligence of attire gave him a dash of the genial good-for-nothing.

It was in the card-room of that Bohemian–but, alas, now defunct– institution, the Junior Garrick Club, where we had been indulging in a friendly hand. Having finished our game, we ordered some refreshment, and seated ourselves upon the balcony on Adelphi Terrace, smoking our last cigarettes, and watching the ripple of the stream, the broken reflection of the stars, and many lights that lined the Thames. All was dark in the houses on the opposite shore; the summer wind whispered in the leafy boughs on the Embankment, and a faint cold grey in the east showed that night was on the edge of morn.

For some time we sat chatting, until Big Ben boomed forth three o’clock; then we rose, and wishing good-night to the men who were still playing, sought our hats and left the club.

We walked together as far as Danes’ Inn, where we parted, Nugent entering the Inn, while I continued my homeward walk alone. From the Strand to Torrington Square is a considerable distance; but I did not feel inclined for sleep, and sauntered along in the steely light, enjoying the silence and solitude of the deserted streets, absorbed in my own thoughts.

What need I say about myself? Some envied me, I knew, for I chanced to be the only son of a wealthy man who had died a few months before, leaving me a handsome fortune, together with a stately old mansion in Northamptonshire. In the choice of a profession I had not altogether pleased my father, the result being that the old gentleman was somewhat niggardly regarding my allowance, and in consequence of this I had lived a devil-may-care Bohemian life, earning a moderate living by my pen. But upon my father’s death a change came, and now, instead of a hand-to-mouth existence, I found myself with an income which far exceeded my wildest expectations. This sudden affluence might have turned the head of many a man, but it made very little difference to me. My friends, for the most part struggling artists and literary men, congratulated me upon my good fortune, probably believing that now I was rich I should cut them. They were mistaken; I continued to live pretty much as before, though I gave up literary work and devoted more time to pleasure.

Dreamily pondering over what I should do in the future, and heedless of where my footsteps led me, I had crossed Holborn and was passing along Bedford Place, Bloomsbury, before I was aroused from my reverie.

At that moment I was passing a rather large, handsome-looking house, of a character somewhat superior to its neighbours, inasmuch as its outward appearance had an air of wealth and prosperity. The other houses were in darkness, but the drawing-room of this particular one was brilliantly lit, the window being almost on a level with the pavement.

A faint agonised cry caused me to pause in my walk. For some moments I stood before the gilt-topped railings listening, but no other sound greeted my ears.

My idle, reflective mood suddenly fled. Recalled from it by the startling distinctness of the appeal–half-moan, half-scream, with its intonation of anguish–an overwhelming curiosity possessed me.

An ominous sound: what could it mean?

Impelled by an involuntary inquisitiveness I resolved to ascertain, if possible, the cause of this midnight cry of distress.

The gate leading to the front door was open. I crept inside and advanced cautiously.

Upon tiptoe I placed my face close to the glass of the window. At first my expectations seemed doomed, but to my intense joy I found a small aperture between the blind and window-sash through which a glimpse of the interior could be obtained.

My eager eyes fell upon a scene which caused me to start back with a scarcely repressed ejaculation of horror and surprise!

A tragedy had been enacted!

Stretched at full length upon the carpet was the form of a woman in a white flimsy evening dress, the breast of which bore a large crimson stain–the stain of blood!

Utterly unable to make up my mind how to act, I stood rooted to the spot. A violent gust of wind swept down the street, causing the lights in the lamps to flicker, and the branches of the stunted trees to groan beneath its power.

Just then the front door opened and closed noiselessly, and as I drew back into the shadow a man passed me so closely that I could touch him; and after glancing anxiously up and down the street, walked hurriedly away.

As he brushed past, the light from a neighbouring street-lamp disclosed the face of a young and rather handsome man, with dark eyes and carefully waxed moustache–a face it was impossible to mistake.

I hesitated a few seconds whether I should give the alarm and follow him. The echo of his retreating footsteps brought me to my senses, and I started off after the fugitive.

As soon as he heard my footsteps behind him, however, he quickened his pace. I had gained on him until he was within a hundred yards or so, when he suddenly turned half-fearfully around, and started running as fast as his legs could carry him.

I called upon him to stop, but he took no heed. We were soon in Russell Square, and, crossing it, turned the corner at the Alexandra Hospital and continued along Guilford Street into Gray’s Inn Road. I was a fairly good runner, yet though I exerted every muscle in my endeavours to catch the man, nevertheless he gradually increased the distance between us.

It was an exciting chase. If I could only meet a policeman no doubt we might run him to earth by our combined efforts; but after the lapse of five minutes, without meeting one of the guardians of the public peace, the mysterious man dived into some intricate turnings, with which he was evidently too well acquainted, and I was compelled to relinquish the pursuit.

He had escaped!

II. SEALED LIPS.

WITH some difficulty I at last found my way back to the house, but all was quiet, and the passer-by would little dream of the terrible tragedy that had taken place within. I had no time for reflection, however, for I heard the well-known creaking footstep, and saw the flashing of a distant bull’s-eye, betokening the arrival of a policeman from the opposite direction.

Hastening to meet the constable, with excited gesture and confused accents, I told him of my horrible discovery. At first the man seemed inclined to disbelieve it, but seeing I was in earnest, accompanied me to the house, and peeped in at the window as directed.

He started when his gaze fell upon the prostrate woman.

“Do you know who lives ‘ere?” he asked.

“No. Haven’t I told you I’m an utter stranger?” I replied.

As I spoke he ran up the short flight of stone steps and pulled the large brass knob beside the door.

Clear and distinct the deep-toned bell clanged out somewhere in the regions at the rear, but there was no response.

As suddenly as it had risen the wind sank; the streets were silent, the houses gloomy as rows of sepulchres tenanted only by the departed; and as the day broke, cold and grey, light fleecy clouds gathered over the waning moon.

Twice the constable tugged at the bell in his efforts to awaken the inmates of the house, but all was still, save for the bark of a distant dog. Although we both strained our ears, no sounds of life were apparent within.

“Shall I go round to the station for help? I can find it if you will direct me,” I said to the man.

“No; you stay ‘ere. There’s no necessity,” replied he gruffly. “I’ll soon call my mates,” and applying his whistle to his lips, he blew a series of shrill calls, which were immediately answered by others.

Ten minutes later three policemen had arrived, and, finding there was no entrance from the rear, had burst open the door.

The houses adjoining were both empty, so no neighbours were awakened by the noise.

We entered undisturbed.

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