The Mysterious Mr. Miller - William Le Queux - ebook
Opis

We were standing together in the small shabby bedroom of the boarding-house wherein I lived in Granville Gardens, facing the recreation ground close to Shepherd’s Bush Railway Station. The stifling July day was at an end, and the narrow room was lit by the soft hazy glow of the fast-fading London sunset. Through the open window came the shouts of children at play upon the „green” opposite, mingled with the chatter of the passers-by and the ever-increasing whirr of the electric trams. Within that faded, smoke-grimed chamber of the dead was silence. Upon the bed between us lay the dead stranger–the man who was a mystery.

Ebooka przeczytasz w aplikacjach Legimi na:

Androidzie
iOS
czytnikach certyfikowanych
przez Legimi
czytnikach Kindle™
(dla wybranych pakietów)
Windows
10
Windows
Phone

Liczba stron: 425

Odsłuch ebooka (TTS) dostepny w abonamencie „ebooki+audiobooki bez limitu” w aplikacjach Legimi na:

Androidzie
iOS

Contents

I. A STRANGER IN SHEPHERD'S BUSH.

II. TOUCHES A WOMAN'S HONOUR.

III. GIVES SOME EXPLANATIONS.

IV. AROUSES CERTAIN SUSPICIONS.

V. THE VILLA DU LAC.

VI. THE TRUTH ABOUT THE STRANGER.

VII. DESCRIBES SOME CONFIDENTIAL DOCUMENTS.

VIII. "THE MYSTERIOUS MR MILLER."

IX. CONTAINS A SURPRISE.

X. MY OWN CONFESSION.

XI. LUCIE IS CONFIDENTIAL.

XII. IN WHICH A STRANGE THING HAPPENS.

XIII. BENEATH THE LOVE-LIGHT.

XIV. CRUEL DESTINY.

XV. BETRAYS SOME HIDDEN INTRIGUE.

XVI. INTRODUCES MR GORDON-WRIGHT.

XVII. WHAT HAPPENED IN THE NIGHT.

XVIII. PLIGHT AND PURSUIT.

XIX. THE BLUE MOTOR-CAR.

XX. REVEALS THE TRUTH.

XXI. THE PERIL OF ELLA MURRAY.

XXII. AT DAWN.

XXIII. CHILDREN OF CIRCUMSTANCE.

XXIV. "I AM NOT FIT!"

XXV. BY THE TYRRHENIAN WATERS.

XXVI. THE HOME OF THE MYSTERIOUS ENGLISHMAN.

XXVII. FROM A WOMAN'S LIPS.

XXVIII. THE VOICE IN THE STREET.

XXIX. CONTAINS ANOTHER SURPRISE.

XXX. SOME DISCOVERIES IN ROME.

XXXI. THE SECRET OF THE VILLA VERDE.

XXXII. THE TICKING OF THE CLOCK.

XXXIII. CERTAIN PERSONS ARE INQUISITIVE.

XXXIV. LOVE IN FETTERS.

XXXV. AN EVENING AT HYDE PARK GATE.

XXXVI. TWO MYSTERIES.

XXXVII. NEEDS SOME EXPLANATION.

XXXVIII. TELLS THE TRUTH.

XXXIX. UNITES TWO HEARTS.

XL. CONCLUSION.

I. A STRANGER IN SHEPHERD’S BUSH.

“Why! Look! he’s dead, doctor!” I gasped, standing aghast.

The sudden change in the thin sallow face, the lack of expression in the brilliant eyes, and the dropping of the jaw were sufficient to convince me that the stranger’s life had ebbed away.

The doctor bent, placed his hand upon the prostrate man’s breast for a moment, and then, straightening himself, he turned to me and answered gravely:–

“Yes, Godfrey; it is as I feared from the first. Nothing could save him. Remember what I told you this morning–it was simply a matter of hours.”

“He appears to have been a rather strong, athletic man,” I remarked, looking down upon the wan, furrowed face.

“Unusually so. The disease, however, has thoroughly wrecked his constitution. He was addicted to the morphia habit of late.” And pulling down the sheet he pointed to the marks of recent punctures upon the dead man’s forearm.

We were standing together in the small shabby bedroom of the boarding-house wherein I lived in Granville Gardens, facing the recreation ground close to Shepherd’s Bush Railway Station. The stifling July day was at an end, and the narrow room was lit by the soft hazy glow of the fast-fading London sunset.

Through the open window came the shouts of children at play upon the “green” opposite, mingled with the chatter of the passers-by and the ever-increasing whirr of the electric trams. Within that faded, smoke-grimed chamber of the dead was silence. Upon the bed between us lay the dead stranger–the man who was a mystery.

“Well, has he told you anything after all?” inquired my friend, Dr Tulloch.

“Very little,” was my reply. “He was uncommunicative. He had a reason, I believe, for concealing his identity.”

“Perhaps we shall discover something when we search his things,” my friend remarked.

“We’ll do that to-morrow,” I said. “It isn’t decent to do so at once.”

Then, as Tulloch bent again, to reassure himself that his patient was actually lifeless, a silence once more fell between us. The glow of the summer sunset deepened, shining through the smoke-haze, and lighting up those dead features for a moment, but next instant the doctor, having been satisfied that no spark of life remained, tenderly drew the sheet over the white sphinx-like countenance.

The unfortunate man was a perfect stranger to us all.

On the previous day, at a little before six o’clock in the evening, he had called upon old Mrs Gilbert, who with her daughter kept the boarding-house where I chanced to be staying, and had, it appeared, taken a top room, where his two leather portmanteaux were placed. I knew nothing of the man’s advent until Miss Gilbert had tapped at the door of the sitting-room and informed me that she had a new guest, a foreign gentleman who could speak only a few words of broken English.

“This is his name,” she said, handing me a scrap of paper whereon he had written “Michele Massari.”

“An Italian,” I remarked. “There is a noble family of the Massari, in Ferrara. He may belong to it.”

“It’s fortunate, Mr Leaf, that you speak Italian,” Miss Gilbert said, laughing. “You’ll help us if we are in any difficulty, won’t you?”

“Most certainly,” I assured her, for I knew that a foreigner is often a great trouble in a purely English pension. Many people speak French or German, but few know Italian.

Then the landlady’s daughter, a pleasant-faced, florid young woman of about thirty, thanked me and withdrew.

The reason I found myself at Mrs Gilbert’s pension was in order to be near my old schoolfellow, Sammy Sampson, who had made the place his pied-á-terre in town for several years past. I had to spend six months in London upon business affairs, therefore we had agreed to share his sitting-room, a cosy little bachelor’s den leading from his bedroom at the back of the house.

An hour later at dinner the stranger made his appearance and, with my consent, was placed next to me. There were eleven guests in all–two married couples of the usual genre to be found in London boarding-houses of that order, and the rest men with various occupations “in the City.” We were usually a merry party, with Miss Gilbert at the head of the long table, and the chatter was generally amusing.

The advent of the stranger, however, awakened every one’s curiosity, and as he took his seat, glancing sharply around, there fell a dead silence.

He was a tall, thin, wiry man with sharp aquiline features, hair with silver threads in it, and fierce black moustaches carefully waxed. His eyes were black and penetrating, his complexion sallow, his cheeks sunken, and the glance he gave at his fellow-guests was quick and apprehensive, as though he feared recognition.

He wore evening dress, which was out of place at Mrs Gilbert’s, and also showed that he was not used to boarding-houses of that class. And as he bowed towards me and seated himself, I saw that upon his lean, claw-like hand was a fine diamond ring.

All eyes were directed upon him, and at once I detected that, being a foreigner, he was viewed with considerable disfavour and distrust. The guests at Mrs Gilbert’s were not cosmopolitan. The only foreigners accepted at their own estimation in London boarding-houses are the Indian law students. Every girl believes her “tar-brush” table-companion to be a prince.

Signor Massari ate his tinned soup in silence. He had tucked the end of his napkin into his collar in true Italian fashion, and from the fact that attached to his watch-chain was a small golden hand with the index-finger pointing, I put him down as a superstitious Tuscan. That hand was the survival of a mediaeval Tuscan charm to avert the evil eye.

Having spent some years of an adventurous youth in old-world Tuscany, and being well acquainted with the soft musical tongue of the flower-scented land, I ventured presently to make a casual remark with my c’s well aspirated, as became the true-born Florentine.

My companion started, looking at me in quick suspicion. In his keen piercing eyes was a glance of sharp apprehension and inquiry–but only for a moment. Sight of me seemed instantly to dispel his fears, and his countenance resumed its normal appearance. But his response was a rather cold and formal one–in the patois of the Genoese. He evidently desired that I should not put him down as Tuscan.

Though somewhat puzzled I allowed the incident to pass. Yet I made a mental note of it. Signor Massari, I decided, was a somewhat queer customer. He was a man with enemies–and he feared them. That fact was quite evident.

We chatted in Italian, much to Miss Gilbert’s fussy satisfaction, but our conversation was rather formal and strained. He had no intention, it seemed, to have anything to do with his fellow-guests, and he only tolerated me because it would have been uncivil not to do so.

A friend in Italy had recommended him to Mrs Gilbert’s, he explained. He had only arrived from the Continent at 4:50 that evening, and had come straight there in a cab.

“Then this is your first visit to London?” I asked.

“No,” he replied. “I was here once before–long ago.” And I thought he sighed slightly, as though the recollection of the previous visit was painful.

His was a sad face; hard, furrowed–a countenance that bore trouble written indelibly upon it. He ate but little, and drank only a glass of mineral water.

I tried to get him to tell me from what province of Italy he came, but he studiously avoided all my ingenious questions. He spoke of Italy vaguely, and yet with the tenderness of one who loved his fatherland. Among all the nations of Europe, the Italian is surely the most patriotic and the most eager to serve his country.

On several occasions remarks, meant to be courteous, were addressed to him in English by my companions, but it was plain that he did not understand our tongue. Or if he did, he gave no sign.

Therefore, from the very first moment of his entry into our boarding-house circle we put him down as a complete mystery.

Sammy Sampson, my irresponsible friend, sat opposite me and, as usual, kept the table laughing at his clever witticisms. Once I saw the Italian scowl in displeasure, and wondered whether he had conceived the idea that my friend was joking at his expense.

The stranger was not aware that I had detected the fierce look of hatred that, for a single instant, showed in his dark shining eyes. It was an expression that I did not like–an expression of fierce, relentless, even murderous resentment.

I was about to assure him of Sammy’s utter disinclination to poke fun at any foreigner, when I saw that if I did so I should only aggravate the situation. Therefore I let it pass.

The Italian was a man of refinement, exquisite of manner towards the ladies as was all his race, and though I cannot explain it he struck me as being well-born, and superior to those sitting at table with him. Yet he vouchsafed but little as regards himself. Italy was his home– that was all. And Italy is a great place; a country of a hundred nations. The Venetian is of a different race from the Sicilian, the Tuscan from the Calabrian. I still suspected he was a Tuscan, yet he spoke the Italian tongue so well that at one moment I put him down as a born Florentine, while at the next as a Livornese or a Roman.

He saw that I knew Italy and the Italians, and was purposely endeavouring to mislead me.

That same night, just after midnight, Jane, one of the maids-of-all-work, rapped at my door, saying:–

“Please, sir, the Italian gentleman’s been taken awful ill. We can’t make out what ‘e wants. Would you kindly go to ‘im?”

I dressed hurriedly, and, ascending to the stranger’s room, asked, in Italian, permission to enter.

A faint voice responded, and a moment later I was at the stranger’s bedside. The feeble light of the single candle showed a great change in his countenance, and I saw that he was suffering severely and seemed to be choking.

“I–I thank you very much, signore, for coming to me,” he said, with considerable difficulty. “I am having one of my bad attacks–I–I–”

“Had you not better see a doctor? I’ll call a friend of mine, if you’ll allow me.”

“Yes. Perhaps it would really be best,” was his reply, and I saw that his hands were clenched in sudden pain.

Therefore, after telling Sammy of the foreigner’s illness, I put on my hat and went round into the Holland Road for my friend Tulloch.

The latter came with me at once, and as soon as I had interpreted the stranger’s symptoms, and he had made a careful examination, he turned to me and said in English:–

“The man’s very bad–cancer in the stomach. He’s evidently been near death half a dozen times, and this will probably prove fatal. Don’t frighten him, Godfrey, but just put it to him as quietly as you can. Tell him that he’s really very much worse than he thinks.”

“Is it worth while to tell the poor fellow the truth?” I argued. “It may only have a bad effect upon him.”

“His other doctors have, no doubt, already warned him. Besides it’s only fair that he should know his danger. I never keep the truth from a patient when things are desperate, like this.”

“Then you hold out but little hope of him?”

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.