The Chief Legatee’ - Anna Katharine Green - ebook

The Chief Legatee’ ebook

Anna Katharine Green

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A wealthy young couple very much in love get married. Then she disappears on their wedding day. He is confused as would be expected, and seeks some help in finding her. She was an only child as her older brother disappeared at sea, and her twin sister was killed at age 5 in a fire at school. Lots of twists and turns, as well as a secret society, all show up during the search. Green, as always, holds attention and carries the reader along. Anna Katharine Green Rohlfs (1846-1935) wrote detective fiction and was instrumental in helping shape the genre into its current form by introducing a series detective with an amateur sidekick, as well as a young girl detective. She was one of a handful of women writing detective stories at the time.

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Liczba stron: 302

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Contents

PART I

A Woman of Mystery

CHAPTER I. A BRIDE OF FIVE HOURS

CHAPTER II. THE LADY IN NUMBER THREE

CHAPTER III. "HE KNOWS THE WORD"

CHAPTER IV. MR. RANSOM WAITS

CHAPTER V. IN CORRIDOR AND IN ROOM

CHAPTER VI. THE LAWYER

CHAPTER VII. RAIN

CHAPTER VIII. ELIMINATION

CHAPTER IX. HUNTER'S INN

PART II

The Call of the Waterfall

CHAPTER X. TWO DOORS

CHAPTER XI. HALF-PAST ONE IN THE MORNING

CHAPTER XII. "GEORGIAN!"

CHAPTER XIII. WHERE THE MILL STREAM RUNS FIERCEST

CHAPTER XIV. A DETECTIVE'S WORK

CHAPTER XV. ANITRA

CHAPTER XVI. "LOVE!"

CHAPTER XVII. "I DON'T HEAR"

PART III

Money

CHAPTER XVIII. GOD'S FOREST, THEN MAN'S

CHAPTER XIX. IN MRS. DEO'S ROOM

CHAPTER XX. BETWEEN THE ELDERBERRY BUSHES

CHAPTER XXI. ON THE CARS

CHAPTER XXII. A SUSPICIOUS TEST

CHAPTER XXIII. A STARTLING DECISION

CHAPTER XXIV. THE DEVIL'S CAULDRON

PART IV

The Man of Mystery

CHAPTER XXV. DEATH EDDY

CHAPTER XXVI. HAZEN

CHAPTER XXVII. SHE SPEAKS

CHAPTER XXVIII. FIFTEEN MINUTES

CHAPTER XXIX. "THERE IS ONE WAY"

CHAPTER XXX. NOT YET

PART I

A Woman of Mystery

CHAPTER I

A BRIDE OF FIVE HOURS

“What’s up?”

This from the manager of the Hotel –– to his chief clerk. “Something wrong in Room 81?”

“Yes, sir. I’ve just sent for a detective. You were not to be found and the gentleman is desperate. But very anxious to have it all kept quiet; very anxious. I think we can oblige him there, or, at least, we’ll try. Am I right, sir?”

“Of course, if–”

“Oh! it’s nothing criminal. The lady’s missing, that’s all; the lady whose name you see here.”

The register lay open between them; the clerk’s finger, running along the column, rested about half-way down.

The manager bent over the page.

“‘Roger J. Ransom and wife,’” he read out in decided astonishment. “Why, they are–”

“You’re right. Married to-day in Grace Church. A great wedding; the papers are full of it. Well, she’s the lady. They registered here a few minutes before five o’clock and in ten minutes the bride was missing. It’s a queer story Mr. Ransom tells. You’d better hear it. Ah, there’s our man! Perhaps you’ll go up with him.”

“You may bet your last dollar on that,” muttered the manager. And joining the new-comer, he made a significant gesture which was all that passed between them till they stepped out on the second floor.

“Wanted in Room 81?” the manager now asked.

“Yes, by a man named Ransom.”

“Just so. That’s the door. Knock–or, rather, I’ll knock, for I must hear his story as soon as you do. The reputation of the hotel–”

“Yes, yes, but the gentleman’s waiting. Ah! that’s better.”

The manager had just knocked.

An exclamation from within, a hurried step, and the door fell open. The figure which met their eyes was startling. Distress, anxiety, and an impatience almost verging on frenzy, distorted features naturally amiable if not handsome.

“My wife,” fell in a gasp from his writhing lips.

“We have come to help you find her,” Mr. Gerridge calmly assured him. Mr. Gerridge was the detective. “Relate the circumstances, sir. Tell us where you were when you first missed her.”

Mr. Ransom’s glance wandered past him to the door. It was partly open. The manager, whose name was Loomis, hastily closed it. Mr. Ransom showed relief and hurried into his story. It was to this effect:

“I was married to-day in Grace Church. At the altar my bride–you probably know her name, Miss Georgian Hazen–wore a natural look, and was in all respects, so far as any one could see, a happy woman, satisfied with her choice and pleased with the éclat and elegancies of the occasion. Half-way down the aisle this all changed. I remember the instant perfectly. Her hand was on my arm and I felt it suddenly stiffen. I was not alarmed, but I gave her a quick look and saw that something had happened. What, I could not at the moment determine. She didn’t answer when I spoke to her and seemed to be mainly concerned in getting out of the church before her emotions overcame her. This she succeeded in doing with my help; and, once in the vestibule, recovered herself so completely, and met all my inquiries with such a gay shrug of the shoulders, that I should have passed the matter over as a mere attack of nerves, if I had not afterwards detected in her face, through all the hurry and excitement of the ensuing reception, a strained expression not at all natural to her. This was still more evident after the congratulations of a certain guest, who, I am sure, whispered to her before he passed on; and when the time came for her to go up-stairs she was so pale and unlike herself that I became seriously alarmed and asked if she felt well enough to start upon the journey we had meditated. Instantly her manner changed. She turned upon me with a look I have been trying ever since to explain to myself, and begged me not to take her out of town to-night but to some quiet hotel where we might rest for a few days before starting on our travels. She looked me squarely in the eye as she made this request and, seeing in her nothing more than a feverish anxiety lest I should make difficulties of some kind, I promised to do what she asked and bade her run away and get herself ready to go and say nothing to any one of our change of plan. She smiled and turned away towards her own room, but presently came hurrying back to ask if I would grant her one more favor. Would I be so good as not to speak to her or expect her to speak to me till we got to the hotel; she was feeling very nervous but was sure that a few minutes of complete rest would entirely restore her; something had occurred (she acknowledged this) which she wanted to think out; wouldn’t I grant her this one opportunity of doing so? It was a startling request, but she looked so lovely–pardon me, I must explain my easy acquiescence–that I gave her the assurance she wished and went about my own preparations, somewhat disconcerted but still not at all prepared for what happened afterward. I had absolutely no idea that she meant to leave me.”

Mr. Ransom paused, greatly affected; but upon the detective asking him how and when Mrs. Ransom had deserted him, he controlled himself sufficiently to say:

“Here; immediately after that silent and unnatural ride. She entered the office with me and was standing close at my side all the time I was writing our names in the register; but later, when I turned to ask her to enter the elevator with me, she was gone, and the boy who was standing by with our two bags said that she had slipped into the reception-room across the hall. But I didn’t find her there or in any of the adjoining rooms. Nor has anybody since succeeded in finding her. She has left the building–left me, and–”

“You want her back again?”

This from the detective, but very dryly.

“Yes. For she was not following her own inclinations in thus abandoning me so soon after the words which made us one were spoken. Some influence was brought to bear on her which she felt unable to resist. I have confidence enough in her to believe that. The rest is mystery–a mystery which I am forced to ask you to untangle. I have neither the necessary calmness nor experience myself.”

“But you surely have done something,” protested Gerridge. “Telephoned to her late home or–”

“Oh yes, I have done all that, but with no result. She has not returned to her old home. Her uncle has just been here and he is as much mystified by the whole occurrence as I am. He could tell me nothing, absolutely nothing.”

“Indeed! and the man, the one who whispered to her during the reception, couldn’t you learn anything about him?”

Mr. Ransom’s face took on an expression almost ferocious.

“No. He’s a stranger to Mr. Fulton; yet Mr. Fulton’s niece introduced him to me as a relative.”

“A relative? When was that?”

“At the reception. He was introduced as Mr. Hazen (my wife’s maiden name, you know), and when I saw how his presence disturbed her, I said to her, ‘A cousin of yours?’ and she answered with very evident embarrassment, ‘A relative’;–which you must acknowledge didn’t locate him very definitely. Mr. Fulton doesn’t know of any such relative. And I don’t believe he is a relative. He didn’t sit with the rest of the family in the church.”

“Ah! you saw him in the church.”

“Yes. I noticed him for two reasons. First, because he occupied an end seat and so came directly under my eye in our passage down the aisle. Secondly, because his face of all those which confronted me when I looked for the cause of her sudden agitation, was the only one not turned towards her in curiosity or interest. His eyes were fixed and vacant; his only. That made him conspicuous and when I saw him again I knew him.”

“Describe the man.”

Mr. Ransom’s face lightened up with an expression of strong satisfaction.

“I am going to astonish you,” said he. “The fellow is so plain that children must cry at him. He has suffered some injury and his mouth and jaw have such a twist in them that the whole face is thrown out of shape. So you see,” continued the unhappy bridegroom, as his eyes flashed from the detective’s face to that of the manager’s, “that the influence he exerts over my wife is not that of love. No one could love him. The secret’s of another kind. What kind, what, what, what? Find out and I’ll pay you any amount you ask. She is too dear and of too sensitive a temperament to be subject to a wretch of his appearance. I cannot bear the thought. It stifles, it chokes me; and yet for three hours I’ve had to endure it. Three hours! and with no prospect of release unless you–”

“Oh, I’ll do something,” was Gerridge’s bland reply. “But first I must have a few more facts. A man such as you describe should be easy to find; easier than the lady. Is he a tall man?”

“Unusually so.”

“Dark or light?”

“Dark.”

“Any beard?”

“None. That’s why the injury to his jaw shows so plainly.”

“I see. Is he what you would call a gentleman?”

“Yes, I must acknowledge that. He shows the manners of good society, if he did whisper words into my wife’s ear which were not meant for mine.”

“And Mr. Fulton knows nothing of him?”

“Nothing.”

“Well, we’ll drop him for the present. You have a photograph of your wife?”

“Her picture was in all the papers to-night.”

“I noticed. But can we go by it? Does it resemble her?”

“Only fairly. She is far prettier. My wife is something uncommon. No picture ever does her justice.”

“She looks like a dark beauty. Is her hair black or brown?”

“Black. So black it has purple shades in it.”

“And her eyes? Black too?”

“No, gray. A deep gray, which look black owing to her long lashes.”

“Very good. Now about her dress. Describe it as minutely as you can. It was a bride’s traveling costume, I suppose.”

“Yes. That is, I presume so. I know that it was all right and suitable to the occasion, but I don’t remember much about it. I was thinking too much of the woman in the gown to notice the gown itself.”

“Cannot you tell the color?”

“It was a dark one. I’m sure it was a dark one, but colors are not much in my line. I know she looked well–they can tell you about it at the house. All that I distinctly remember is the veil she had wound so tightly around her face and hat to keep the rice out of her hair that I could not get one glimpse of her features. All nonsense that veil, especially when I had promised not to address her or even to touch her in the cab. And she wore it into the office. If it had not been for that I might have foreseen her intention in time to prevent it.”

“Perhaps she knew that.”

“It looks as if she did.”

“Which means that she was meditating flight from the first.”

“From the time she saw that man,” Mr. Ransom corrected.

“Just so; from the time she left her uncle’s house. Your wife is a woman of means, I believe.”

“Yes, unfortunately.”

“Why unfortunately?”

“It makes her independent and offers a lure to irresponsible wretches like him.”

“Her fortune is large, then?”

“Very large; larger than my own.”

Every one knew Mr. Ransom to be a millionaire.

“Left her by her father?”

“No, by some great-uncle, I believe, who made his fortune in the Klondike.”

“And entirely under her own control?”

“Entirely so.”

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