The Broken Thread - William Le Queux - ebook

The Broken Thread ebook

William Le Queux

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On this particular morning, about ten o’clock, the seafront was already full of men in flannels and lounge-suits, and women in garments of muslin and other such flimsy materials usually affected at the seaside, for stifled and jaded Londoners had flocked down there, as usual, to enjoy the sea air and all the varied attractions which Southport never fails to offer.

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Liczba stron: 324

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Contents

I. CONCERNS A GIRL IN BLACK.

II. PRESENTS A CURIOUS PROBLEM.

III. THE FATAL FINGERS.

IV. REVEALS CERTAIN CONFIDENCES.

V. THE MYSTERY OF THE WHITE ROOM.

VI. IN THE SOUTHERN LAND OF ADVENTURE.

VII. WHO WAS THE APACHE?

VIII. THE DOCTOR'S DOUBLE PERSONALITY.

IX. FOILED BY THE WORK OF A MODERN DETECTIVE.

X. THE MYSTERY OF SOME DISAPPEARANCES.

XI. THE TRAGEDY OF A FATEFUL JOY-RIDE.

XII. THE SECOND BURGLARY AT ALDBOROUGH PARK.

XIII. INTO A TRAP AND OUT OF IT.

XIV. HAUNTED BY THE SPIRIT OF THE RIVER.

XV. RAIFE'S RESOLVE.

XXVI. THE MYSTERIOUS STAB IN THE DARK.

XVII. MR MUIRHEAD AND HILDA DISCOVER RAIFE'S IDENTITY.

XVIII. A SHADOW ON RAIFE'S COURTSHIP.

XIX. GILDA RECEIVES A STAGGERING BLOW.

XX. THE MOST MOMENTOUS OCCASION OF HILDA'S LIFE.

XXI. RAIFE'S JEALOUSY ENDS DISASTROUSLY.

XXII. ANOTHER MYSTERIOUS VISITOR IN THE NIGHT.

XXIII. ON THE TRAIL. THE FINDING OF THE RETICULE.

XXIV. HOW THE GRAND COUP WAS PLANNED.

XXV. THE BEGINNING OF THE REVENGE.

XXVI. SIR RAIFE REMINGTON, BARONET AND BURGLAR.

XXVII. THE ORIGIN OF THE VENDETTA.

XVIII. CONCLUSION.

I. CONCERNS A GIRL IN BLACK.

“NO. I mean the girl in black. The one leading the pom.”

“By jove! Yes. She’s uncommonly smart, isn’t she?”

“Her friend isn’t half bad-looking, either?”

“I don’t think so very much of her, Raife. But Southport at this time of year is always full of pretty girls.”

“Not one of them can compare with the girl in black–she’s ripping!” declared Raife Remington, a tall, well-set up, dark-haired, hatless undergraduate, who, in grey flannels, was walking beside his college chum, Edward Mutimer, at whose father’s house he was staying during the vac. Both were at Trinity, Cambridge, and both, being in their last year, were reading hard for their degrees.

Each morning in those warm August days by the summer sea they came out for a stroll on the seafront; bright with movement and gaiety, taking an airing before settling down to their studies for the day.

On this particular morning, about ten o’clock, the seafront was already full of men in flannels and lounge-suits, and women in garments of muslin and other such flimsy materials usually affected at the seaside, for stifled and jaded Londoners had flocked down there, as usual, to enjoy the sea air and all the varied attractions which Southport never fails to offer.

Raife Remington and his friend were strolling along, chatting about their old college days, idly smoking cigarettes, when they came up behind two well yet neatly-dressed girls, one about twenty, in a white pique coat and skirt with large pearl buttons, cut smartly; the other, about a couple of years her junior, who was fair-haired, very beautiful, and led a little black pom by a silver chain, was in dead black with a neat, close-fitting hat, with a turquoise blue band. Her skirt was short and well adapted for walking, displaying neat ankles encased in black silk stockings, and she wore white kid gloves; yet the only touch of colour was the hat band and the bow of bright cherry ribbon upon the collar of the little black pom.

In every movement, in her gait, in the swing of her carriage and the way she carried her well-poised head, there was ineffable, unaffected grace. Narrow-waisted, slim, delicate, she was the very incarnation of exquisite daintiness and high refinement. Little wonder, therefore, that Raife Remington should have singled her out as the prettiest girl he had ever seen.

He and his friend took several hasty strides forward, in order to glance at her countenance, and in it he was not disappointed. Her soft fair hair was dressed with that smart neatness which characterised her whole attire, and her big, innocent eyes were of that deep child-like blue so seldom seen in a girl after she has reached her teens.

“By jove! What a ripping girl!” Raife again exclaimed in a low whisper of admiration. “I wonder who she can be, Teddy?”

“Ah, I wonder!” echoed his companion, and the two smart, athletic young undergraduates followed the girls unnoticed, for they were chatting together, and laughing merrily, entirely absorbed in their conversation.

Many persons were passing to and fro, as there always are on Southport seafront upon a summer’s morning, and so many smart motor-cars whirling up and down, even though the month of August is not the smartest season.

Raife Remington, eldest son of Sir Henry Remington, Baronet, was not usually impressionable where the fair sex were concerned. Yet from the moment his eyes had first fallen upon this pretty, fair-haired girl in black, he appeared to fall beneath the spell of her remarkable beauty.

Within himself he was longing for an introduction to her, while Mutimer, because they were smart and stylish, had inwardly set them both down as members of some theatrical company. Yet their clothes and shoes were of palpably better quality than those worn by members of musical companies which visited Cambridge. Therefore he, like Raife, was much puzzled. Most girls are aware, by natural feminine intuition, when they are admired, but the pair walking before them were utterly unconscious of having attracted the attention of any one. Mutimer noticed this, and argued that they certainly could not be actresses.

“I wonder where they’re going?” remarked Raife in a whisper, but scarcely had the words left his mouth when a black and tan fox-terrier suddenly darted out from behind a man and, without provocation, attacked the dainty little pom and rolled it over ere any one was aware of it.

The tiny dog’s mistress screamed, and, bending, cried in alarm and appeal:

“Snookie! Oh, my poor little Snooks!”

In an instant Raife was on the spot, and with his cane beat off the savage terrier; then, picking up the little pom, which lay on the ground more frightened than hurt, he restored it to the arms of its frantic mistress.

“He’s not injured I think,” Raife exclaimed.

For the first time the fair-haired girl raised her blue eyes to his, startled and confused.

“I–I’m so very much obliged to you,” she stammered. “That man really ought to keep his horrid dog under control.”

“He ought–the brute!” chimed in Teddy Mutimer. “What a darling little dog,” he added admiringly, stroking the fluffy little animal admiringly.

“Poor little Snookie!” exclaimed his mistress, stroking her pet’s head, while the little animal wagged his bushy tail and turned up the whites of his big round eyes with an expression so pitiful as to cause all four to laugh.

The owner of the terrier, an over-dressed, caddish-looking man, had strolled on in utter unconcern, though well aware of what had happened.

“That fellow must be a fearful outsider,” declared Raife, “or he would apologise. He looks like a ratcatcher–or perhaps a dog-stealer. All dog-stealers wear straw hats and yellow boots, like his!”

Whereat the three others laughed.

Snookie, duly examined by his dainty little mistress, was declared to have suffered no damage, therefore after Raife had asked permission to walk with them–as they were going in the same direction–they all four found themselves chatting merrily as they strolled along, Raife at the side of the pom’s mistress, and his chum with her foreign-looking companion.

Already Raife and his fair unknown, to whom his introduction had come about so suddenly and unusually, were chatting without reserve, for, as an undergraduate, he had the habit of contracting quick friendships, and his careless, easy-going manner she found attractive.

In the pleasant morning sunshine they sat for about half an hour, when at last Mutimer and the other girl rose from their chairs to walk together, leaving Raife, to his evident satisfaction, alone with his divinity in black.

“Do you live here?” Raife inquired, after they had been gossiping for some time.

“Oh dear, no,” was his companion’s reply, in that voice he found so refined and musical. “We’re staying at the Queen’s. Do you live here?” she inquired in turn.

“No; I’m staying with my friend. He’s up at Cambridge with me, so I’m spending part of the vac. with his people.”

“Oh, you’re at Cambridge!” she exclaimed, “I was at the `University Arms’ with my uncle, about two months ago. We went round and saw the colleges. I was delighted with them.”

“Where do you generally live?” he asked, after she had told him that her name was Gilda Tempest.

“My uncle and I live a great deal abroad,” was her reply; “indeed, more than I care to–to be frank. I love England. But my uncle travels so much that we have no home nowadays, and live nearly all the year round in hotels. I get horribly tired of the eternal table d’hote, the music and the chatter.”

“Rather pleasant, I should fancy. I love travelling,” remarked the young man.

“I grow sick to death of it,” she declared, with a sigh. “We wander all over Europe. My uncle is a wanderer, ever on the move and most erratic.”

“Are you staying in Southport long?” he enquired eagerly.

“I really don’t know. We may stay for a day–or for a month. I never know where we’re going. I have not been home for nearly two years now.”

“Home? Where do you live?”

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