The Mill House Murder - J.S. Fletcher - ebook
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It tells about the murder of James Martenroyd, the owner of the Yorkshire mill, who was going to marry a second time. Suddenly, his body is found near his own house. Under suspicion is his nephew. Why was his door so carefully shut? There are many questions that need to be solved.

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Liczba stron: 351

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Contents

CHAPTER I. MRS. JOHN MARTENROYDE

CHAPTER II. THE MILL-OWNER

CHAPTER III. THE MILL WEIR

CHAPTER IV. FOUL PLAY

CHAPTER V. SUSPICION

CHAPTER VI. FAMILY AFFAIRS

CHAPTER VII. DEAD MAN’S GOODS

CHAPTER VIII. HANNAH’S CASTLE

CHAPTER IX. HEAR ALL: SAY NAUGHT

CHAPTER X. WHO WAS IT?

CHAPTER XI. MOTIVE

CHAPTER XII. WHAT OF TOMORROW?

CHAPTER XIII. THE PERFECT ALIBI

CHAPTER XIV. PLAN OF CAMPAIGN

CHAPTER XV. THE CONSERVATORY DOOR

CHAPTER XVI. THE SILENT HOUSE

CHAPTER XVII. THE LONELY MOOR

CHAPTER XVIII. LOYALTY

CHAPTER XIX. DR. PONSFORD CALLED IN

CHAPTER XX. FAMILY EVIDENCE

CHAPTER XXI. A CERTAIN SENTENCE

CHAPTER XXII. DOCTORS AGREE

CHAPTER XXIII. THE GUILTY WIFE

CHAPTER XXIV. PAST HISTORY

CHAPTER XXV. ASSAULT OF HANNAH’S CASTLE

CHAPTER XXVI. THE RINGING IN THE NIGHT

CHAPTER XXVII. VOLUME OF EVIDENCE

CHAPTER XXVIII. TWO OF A KIND

CHAPTER XXIX. THE LAST OF THE MARTENROYDES

CHAPTER I. MRS. JOHN MARTENROYDE

It was in the winter following the resumption of my associations with my old firm (formerly called Camberwell & Chaney, but now styled Chaney & Chippendale) that on walking into our Jermyn Street office one January morning I found Chaney knitting his brows over a letter which he presently passed across to me.

“This seems to be something in your line, Camberwell,” he remarked. “Perhaps you’ll attend to it? The gentleman appears to want us to do some work for him in London, but to go all the way to Yorkshire for instructions. I can’t go, nor can Chippendale. You’re the travelling man–you take it on.”

I sat down at my desk and read the letter, which was written on a big sheet of letter paper in a bold, masculine hand of a somewhat rudimentary sort–my idea was that the writer was not much given to the use of his pen. And this is what I read:

Todmanhawe Grange

Shipton, Yorkshire

Jan. 24th, 19–

Messrs. Chaney & Chippendale

Jermyn St., W. 1

Dear Sirs,–I have some business that I want attending to in London; business of a very private and confidential nature, and having had your firm highly recommended to me by a London friend, I should be glad if you could undertake said business. As I shall not be able to go to London at present, and the business is urgent, I shall be obliged if you can send one of your firm down here to take my instructions, as soon as possible after your receipt of this letter. For your information I had better tell you how to reach this place. If your representative would take the 12 o’clock train from St. Pancras Station, London, to Leeds, he would arrive there at 3.52, and after changing would catch the 4.07 to Shipton, where my car would meet him at 4.43. As already said, I should like to see your representative as soon as possible and to offer him every hospitality during his visit here.

Yours truly,

James Martenroyde

Then followed a characteristic addition.

PS. As you may not know my name, I may state that I am the sole proprietor of Todmanhawe Mills, and that my bankers are the Shipton Old Bank, Ltd. My London office is 59a, Gresham Street, E.C.

It was not the way of our firm to make delay in anything, and after sending off a telegram to Mr. James Martenroyde, informing him that Mr. Ronald Camberwell, of Chaney & Chippendale, would be at Shipton at 4.43 that afternoon, I picked up the suitcase which I always kept ready packed for any emergency and set off to St. Pancras. And some five hours later I stepped out of a warm first-class carriage on to the wind-swept platform of Shipton station and shivered in recognition of the wintry landscape of which for the last twenty miles I had been getting glimpses in the rapidly gathering dusk.

A smartly liveried young chauffeur came along the platform, eyeing the various passengers who had left the train. He spotted me and my suitcase and came forward.

“Mr. Camberwell, sir? From Mr. Martenroyde, sir. This way, sir–the car’s outside.”

Seizing my suitcase, he led the way over a bridge and down the opposite platform to the exit from the station. There stood a handsome limousine, one of the most expensive of the luxury makes–capacious enough to carry a small family. Opening one of the doors, the chauffeur ushered me inside, installed me in a thickly cushioned corner, and drew a rug over my knees.

“Beg your pardon, sir, but you won’t mind if we give Mr. Martenroyde’s sister-in-law a lift back?” he asked as he tucked me up. “Mrs. John Martenroyde, sir. She’s in the town and as she lives close by our place–”

“Oh, of course,” I replied. “By all means. Is the lady here?”

“No, sir–pick her up in the market place. All right, sir?”

I assured him that I was very comfortable, and after switching on the electric light above my head, he mounted his seat and drove off. It was now almost dark, and I could see little of the town through which we drove–there was a long street, flanked on one side by great buildings which I took to be mills or workshops, all brilliantly lighted, and at the end of it a long, wide space which I set down as the market square of which my driver had just spoken. There were crowds of people on the pavements there, and between the pavements and the roadway were rows of canopied stalls on which all sorts of merchandise lay displayed–this, I concluded, must be a market-day at Shipton. Half-way along the square, the car drew up before the front of an old-fashioned, bow-windowed hotel, the lower casements of which were veiled by red blinds. The chauffeur dismounted and walked into the open door; following his movements along the wide hall within, I saw him turn into one of the rooms. But he was out again at once, and turning into another; evidently he knew where to look for the lady he was expecting. Presently he came out to the car and opened the door.

“Not here yet, sir,” he said. “Doing a bit of shopping, I expect. I’ll just look round for her, sir–I know where she’s likely to be.”

He turned off towards a row of shops, and thinking that he might be some time in finding my prospective fellow-traveller, I got out of the car and looked about me. I had never been in that part of the country before–this, I concluded, was doubtless a typical Dale town. That it was in the heart of the pastoral country which lies between the Yorkshire hills and the Lancashire border I knew; that I was a couple of hundred miles from London I soon recognized by hearing the speech of the folk who passed me or gathered about the stalls. I was taking all this in when the chauffeur came back, alone.

“Can’t see her yet, sir,” he said. “But she can’t be long. Sorry to keep you waiting, sir.”

“Oh, that’s all right,” I said. “I’m in no hurry. You’re not a Yorkshireman, I think?”

“Londoner, sir,” he answered. “Mr. Martenroyde brought me up here when he bought this car at the show at Olympia, two years ago.”

“Like these people?” I asked.

He smiled at the question.

“They’re all right, sir–when you get to know them,” he answered. “Bit queer, sir–to us southerners, at first. Couldn’t understand their lingo when I first came here, but I know it pretty well now. Here’s Mrs. John, sir.”

I turned–to see a tall, finely built woman, warmly wrapped in a magnificent fur coat, bearing down upon us. In the glow of light from the street lamps and from the naphtha flares which hung above the stalls, I had a good view of her as she came up. She was apparently between fifty and sixty years of age, still uncommonly good-looking and with much of the fire of youth still shining from her dark, keen eyes; and from the sharp, questioning look which she gave me, taking me all in as she drew near, I saw that she was a woman of perception and character.

“Good evening,” she said, as I drew aside from the open door of the car and raised my hat. “I’m sorry to keep you waiting. Orris,” she continued, turning to the chauffeur, “just stop at Simpson’s, top of the market place, and go in and ask for a parcel for Mrs. John Martenroyde–you can put it in the front seat. And that’s all.”

She stepped into the car, and I followed; Orris spread the rugs over our knees, and we moved off. At the top of the square Orris pulled up again and vanished into a dry-goods shop; presently he came out carrying a bulky parcel. Mrs. John Martenroyde leaned forward and watched its disposal on the front seat. Then as we set off again, she settled herself in her corner and tucked her share of the big fur-lined rug round her plump person.

“A cold evening,” she remarked. “You’ll no doubt feel it. You’ll be from London, I expect? Orris, he said there was a gentleman from London expected.”

“I am from London–yes,” I assented. “But it was very cold in London this morning.”

She received this news in silence, as if slightly incredulous of it.

“I never was in London but once in all my life,” she said after a pause. “Me and my husband, John Martenroyde, once went there, for a week, not so long after we were wed. But eh, I was glad to get home again!–I couldn’t stand the crowds in the streets and the noise of the traffic. I was rare and pleased to see Todmanhawe again, Mister–I don’t know your name.”

“My name is Camberwell, Mrs. Martenroyde,” I said. “I heard yours from the chauffeur.”

“Mrs. John Martenroyde,” she remarked. “My husband–dead some years now, Mr. Camberwell–being younger brother to Mr. James Martenroyde that you’re going to see. And very quiet you’ll find it, our way, after London.”

“Todmanhawe is a quiet place, then?” I suggested.

“Last place God ever made, some of them say that lives in it,” she answered. “Out of the world, you see. Of course it isn’t so bad, what there is of it. There’s five hundred people employed at my brother-in-law’s mill, and there’s others in the place, and there’s a few private residents, and there’s Todmanhawe Grange, where James lives, and the Mill House, where me and my two sons live, so it isn’t a desert. But, of course, one of my sons, Mr. Sugden Martenroyde, he’s not at home now–he’s his uncle’s manager, or representative, as they term it, in London–perhaps you know him?”

“No,” I said. “I haven’t that pleasure, Mrs. Martenroyde.”

“Well, of course London’s a big place, and there’s a deal of people in it,” she said. “You couldn’t be expected to know everybody, same as you do here. But Sugden, he’s been in London two years now, and he likes it–I expect there’s things in London that appeal to young people. However, he’s just been home for a fortnight–gone back this afternoon. I like him to come home now and then–it’s not right for young men to forget their home-tree. Now, my other son, Mr. Ramsden Martenroyde, he’s always at home, always has been. He’s a real home-bird, Ramsden. But then, you see, Ramsden’s work is at home–he’s manager of his uncle’s mill. A good, steady business man, is Ramsden–I often say that I don’t know what James Martenroyde and Todmanhawe Mill would do without him.”

“Is Mr. James Martenroyde married?” I ventured to ask. “Shall I find a Mrs. Martenroyde at Todmanhawe Grange?”

It seemed to me that my companion stiffened. She drew herself up in her corner, and when she replied, there was a new note in her tone.

“Nay, you won’t!” she said. “James Martenroyde is a single man yet. But if you’d come a bit later on in the year, you’d have found a Mrs. Martenroyde there–if you understand what I mean, Mr. Camberwell.”

“Oh!” I said. “Mr. Martenroyde’s going to be married?”

“That’s what’s arranged,” she answered. “Of course, a wilful man must have his own way. They say us women are wilful, but I consider men far worse.”

“You–you don’t approve of Mr. James Martenroyde’s marriage?” I suggested.

She gave me a look full of meaning and shook her head.

“No need to say aught,” she answered. “But I don’t approve of elderly men marrying girls young enough to be their grand-daughters.”

I allowed myself to laugh–quietly.

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