The Doctor of Pimlico. Being the Disclosure of a Great Crime - William Le Queux - ebook
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A grey, sunless morning on the Firth of Tay. Across a wide, sandy waste stretching away to the misty sea at Budden, four men were walking. Two wore uniform–one an alert, grey-haired general, sharp and brusque in manner, with many war ribbons across his tunic; the other a tall, thin-faced staff captain, who wore the tartan of the Gordon Highlanders. With them were two civilians, both in rough shooting-jackets and breeches, one about forty-five, the other a few years his junior.

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Liczba stron: 295

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Contents

I. IN WHICH CERTAIN SUSPICIONS ARE EXCITED

II. THE COMING OF A STRANGER

III. INTRODUCES DOCTOR WEIRMARSH

IV. REVEALS TEMPTATION

V. IN WHICH ENID ORLEBAR IS PUZZLED

VI. BENEATH THE ELASTIC BAND

VII. CONCERNING THE VELVET HAND

VIII. PAUL LE PONTOIS

IX. THE LITTLE OLD FRENCHWOMAN

X. IF ANYONE KNEW

XI. CONCERNS THE PAST

XII. REVEALS A CURIOUS PROBLEM

XIII. THE MYSTERIOUS MR. MALTWOOD

XIV. WHAT CONFESSION WOULD MEAN

XV. THREE GENTLEMEN FROM PARIS

XVI. THE ORDERS OF HIS EXCELLENCY

XVII. WALTER GIVES WARNING

XVIII. THE ACCUSERS

XIX. IN WHICH A TRUTH IS HIDDEN

XX. IN WHICH A TRUTH IS TOLD

XXI. THE WIDENED BREACH

XXII. CONCERNING THE BELLAIRS AFFAIR

XXIII. THE SILENCE OF THE MAN BARKER

XXIV. WHAT THE DEAD MAN LEFT

XXV. AT THE CAFÉ DE PARIS

XXVI. WHICH IS "PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL"

XXVII. THE RESULT OF INVESTIGATION

XXVIII. THE SECRET OF THE LONELY HOUSE

XXIX. CONTAINS SOME STARTLING STATEMENTS

XXX. REVEALS A WOMAN'S LOVE

XXXI. IN WHICH SIR HUGH TELLS HIS STORY

XXXII. CONCLUSION

I. IN WHICH CERTAIN SUSPICIONS ARE EXCITED

A GREY, sunless morning on the Firth of Tay.

Across a wide, sandy waste stretching away to the misty sea at Budden, four men were walking. Two wore uniform–one an alert, grey-haired general, sharp and brusque in manner, with many war ribbons across his tunic; the other a tall, thin-faced staff captain, who wore the tartan of the Gordon Highlanders. With them were two civilians, both in rough shooting-jackets and breeches, one about forty-five, the other a few years his junior.

“Can you see them, Fellowes?” asked the general of the long-legged captain, scanning the distant horizon with those sharp grey eyes which had carried him safely through many campaigns.

“No, sir,” replied the captain, who was carrying the other’s mackintosh. “I fancy they must be farther over to the left, behind those low mounds yonder.”

“Haven’t brought their battery into position yet, I suppose,” snapped the old officer, as he swung along with the two civilians beside him.

Fred Tredennick, the taller of the two civilians, walked with a gait decidedly military, for, indeed, he was a retired major, and as the general had made a tour of inspection of the camp prior to walking towards where the mountain battery was manoeuvring, he had been chatting with him upon technical matters.

“I thought you’d like to see this mountain battery, Fetherston,” exclaimed the general, addressing the other civilian. “We have lots of them on the Indian frontier, of course, and there were many of ours in Italy and Serbia.”

“I’m delighted to come with you on this tour of inspection, General. As you know, I’m keenly interested in military affairs–and especially in the reorganisation of the Army after the war,” replied Walter Fetherston, a dark, well-set-up man of forty, with a round, merry face and a pair of eyes which, behind their gold pince-nez, showed a good-humoured twinkle.

Of the four men, General Sir Hugh Elcombe and Walter Fetherston were, perhaps, equally distinguished. The former, as all the world knows, had had a brilliant career in Afghanistan, in Egypt, Burmah, Tirah, the Transvaal, and in France, and now held an appointment as inspector of artillery.

The latter was a man of entirely different stamp. As he spoke he gesticulated slightly, and no second glance was needed to realise that he was a thorough-going cosmopolitan.

By many years of life on the Continent he had acquired a half-foreign appearance. Indeed, a keen observer would probably have noticed that his clothes had been cut by a foreign tailor, and that his boots, long, narrow and rather square-toed, bore the stamp of the Italian boot-maker. When he made any humorous remark he had the habit of slightly closing the left eye in order to emphasise it, while he usually walked with his left hand behind his back, and was hardly ever seen without a cigarette. Those cigarettes were one of his idiosyncrasies. They were delicious, of a brand unobtainable by the public, and made from tobacco grown in one of the Balkan States. With them he had, both before the war and after, been constantly supplied by a certain European sovereign whose personal friend he was. They bore the royal crown and cipher, but even to his most intimate acquaintance Walter Fetherston had never betrayed the reason why he was the recipient of so many favours from the monarch in question.

Easy-going to a degree, full of open-hearted bonhomie, possessing an unruffled temper, and apparently without a single care in all the world, he seldom, if ever, spoke of himself. He never mentioned either his own doings or his friends’. He was essentially a mysterious man–a man of moods and of strong prejudices.

More than one person who had met him casually had hinted that his substantial income was derived from sources that would not bear investigation–that he was mixed up with certain financial adventurers. Others declared that he was possessed of a considerable fortune that had been left him by an uncle who had been a dealer in precious stones in Hatton Garden. The truth was, however, that Walter Fetherston was a writer of popular novels, and from their sale alone he derived a handsome income.

The mystery stories of Walter Fetherston were world-famous. Wherever the English language was spoken this shrewd-eyed, smiling man’s books were read, while translations of them appeared as feuilletons in various languages in the principal Continental journals. One could scarcely take up an English newspaper without seeing mention of his name, for he was one of the most popular authors of the day.

It is a generally accepted axiom that a public man cannot afford to be modest in these go-ahead days of “boom.” Yet Fetherston was one of the most retiring of men. English society had tried in vain to allure him–he courted no personal popularity. Beyond his quiet-spoken literary agent, who arranged his affairs and took financial responsibility from his shoulders, his publishers, and perhaps half a dozen intimate friends, he was scarcely recognised in his true character. Indeed, his whereabouts were seldom known save to his agent and his only brother, so elusive was he and so careful to establish a second self.

He had never married. It was whispered that he had once had a serious affair of the heart abroad. But that was a matter of long ago.

Shoals of invitations arrived at his London clubs each season, but they usually reached him in some out-of-the-world corner of Europe, and he would read them with a smile and cast them to the winds.

He took the keenest delight in evading the world that pressed him. His curious hatred of his own popularity was to everyone a mystery. His intimate friends, of whom Fred Tredennick was one, had whispered that, in order to efface his identity, he was known in certain circles abroad by the name of Maltwood. This was quite true. In London he was a member of White’s and the Devonshire as Fetherston. There was a reason why on the Continent and elsewhere he should pass as Mr. Maltwood, but his friends could never discover it, so carefully did he conceal it.

Walter Fetherston was a writer of breathless mystery–but he was the essence of mystery himself. Once the reader took up a book of his he never laid it down until he had read the final chapter. You, my reader, have more than once found yourself beneath his strange spell. And what was the secret of his success? He had been asked by numberless interviewers, and to them all he had made the same stereotyped reply: “I live the mysteries I write.”

He seemed annoyed by his own success. Other writers suffered from that complaint known as “swelled head,” but Walter Fetherston never. He lived mostly abroad in order to avoid the penalty which all the famous must pay, travelling constantly and known mostly by his assumed name of Maltwood.

And behind all this some mystery lay. He was essentially a man of secrets.

Some people declared that he had married ten years ago, and gave a circumstantial account of how he had wedded the daughter of a noble Spanish house, but that a month later she had been accidentally drowned in the Bay of Fontarabia, and that the tragedy had ever preyed upon his mind. But upon his feminine entanglements he was ever silent. He was a merry fellow, full of bright humour, and excellent company. But to the world he wore a mask that was impenetrable.

At that moment he was shooting with his old friend Tredennick, who lived close to St. Fillans, on the picturesque Loch Earn, when the general, hearing of his presence in the neighbourhood, had sent him an invitation to accompany him on his inspection.

Walter had accepted for one reason only. In the invitation the general had remarked that he and his stepdaughter Enid were staying at the Panmure Hotel at Monifieth–so well known to golfers–and that after the inspection he hoped they would lunch together.

Now, Walter had met Enid Orlebar six months before at Biarritz, where she had been nursing at the Croix Rouge Hospital in the Hôtel du Palais, and the memory of that meeting had lingered with him. He had long desired to see her again, for her pale beauty had somehow attracted him–attracted him in a manner that no woman’s face had ever attracted him before.

Hitherto he had held cynical notions concerning love and matrimony, but ever since he had met Enid Orlebar in that winter hotel beside the sea, and had afterwards discovered her to be stepdaughter of Sir Hugh Elcombe, he had found himself reflecting upon his own loneliness.

At luncheon he was to come face to face with her again. It was of this he was thinking more than of the merits of mountain batteries or the difficulties of limbering or unlimbering.

“See! there they are!” exclaimed the general, suddenly pointing with his gloved hand.

Fetherston strained his eyes towards the horizon, but declared that he could detect nothing.

“They’re lying behind that rising ground to the left of the magazine yonder,” declared the general, whose keen vision had so often served him in good stead. Then, turning on his heel and scanning the grey horizon seaward, he added: “They’re going to fire out on to the Gaa between those two lighthouses on Buddon Ness. By Jove!” he laughed, “the men in them will get a bit of a shock.”

“I shouldn’t care much to be there, sir,” remarked Tredennick.

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