"Queer " he repeated as he marched up and down. "Perhaps he's not --" The quiet opening of a door close by made him lift his eyes from the carpet. In the dim light he saw a man looking out upon him -- a man of an unusually thick crop of hair and with a huge beard. He stared at Allerdyke half angrily, half sulkily; then he closed his door as quietly as he had opened it. And Allerdyke, turning back to his cousin's room, mechanically laid his hand on the knob and screwed it round. The door was open. Allerdyke drew a sharp breath as he crossed the threshold. He had stayed in that hotel often, and he knew where the switch of the electric light should be. He lifted a hand, found the switch, and turned the light on. And as it flooded the room, he pulled himself up to a tense rigidity. There, sitting fully dressed in an easy chair, against which his head was thrown back, was his cousin -- unmistakably dead.
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THE RAYNER-SLADE AMALGAMATION
by J.S. Fletcher
Published by Aeterna Classics 2018
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
About eleven o'clock on the night of Monday, May 12, 1914, Marshall Allerdyke, a bachelor of forty, a man of great mental and physical activity, well known in Bradford as a highly successful manufacturer of dress goods, alighted at the Central Station in that city from an express which had just arrived from Manchester, where he had spent the day on business. He had scarcely set foot on the platform when he was confronted by his chauffeur, a young man in a neat dark-green livery, who took his master's travelling rug in one hand, while with the other he held out an envelope.
"The housekeeper said I was to give you that as soon as you got in, sir," he announced. "There's a telegram in it that came at four o'clock this afternoon—she couldn't send it on, because she didn't know exactly where it would find you in Manchester."
Allerdyke took the envelope, tore it open, drew out the telegram, and stepped beneath the nearest lamp. He muttered the wording of the message—
"On board SS. Perisco
"63 miles N.N.E. Spurn Point, 2.15 p.m., May 12_th_.
"Expect to reach Hull this evening, and shall stop Station Hotel there for night on way to London. Will you come on at once and meet me? Want to see you on most important business—
Allerdyke re-read this message, quietly and methodically folded it up, slipped it into his pocket, and with a swift glance at the station clock turned to his chauffeur.
"Gaffney," he said, "how long would it take us to run across to Hull?"
The chauffeur showed no surprise at this question; he had servedAllerdyke for three years, and was well accustomed to his ways.
"Hull?" he replied. "Let's see, sir—that 'ud be by way of Leeds, Selby, and Howden. About sixty miles in a straight line, but there's a good bit of in-and-out work after you get past Selby, sir. I should say about four hours."
"Plenty of petrol in the car?" asked Allerdyke, turning down the platform. "There is? What time did you have your supper?"
"Ten o'clock, sir," answered Gaffney, with promptitude.
"Bring the car round to the hotel door in the station yard," commanded Allerdyke. "You'll find a couple of Thermos flasks in the locker—bring them into the hotel lounge bar."
The chauffeur went off down the platform. Allerdyke turned up the covered way to the Great Northern Hotel. When the chauffeur joined him there a few minutes later he was giving orders for a supply of freshly-cut beef sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs; the Thermos flasks he handed over to be filled with hot coffee.
"Better get something to eat now, Gaffney," he said. "Get some sandwiches, or some bread and cheese, or something—it's a longish spin."
He himself, waiting while the chauffeur ate and drank, and the provisions were made ready, took a whisky and soda to a chair by the fire, and once more pulled out and read the telegram. And as he read he wondered why his cousin, its sender, wished so particularly to see him at once. James Allerdyke, a man somewhat younger than himself, like himself a bachelor of ample means and of a similar temperament, had of late years concerned himself greatly with various business speculations in Northern Europe, and especially in Russia. He had just been over to St. Petersburg in order to look after certain of his affairs in and near that city, and he was returning home by way of Stockholm and Christiania, in each of which towns he had other ventures to inspect. But Marshall Allerdyke was quite sure that his cousin did not wish to see him about any of these matters—anything connected with them would have kept until they met in the ordinary way, which would have happened within a day or two. No, if James had taken the trouble to send him a message by wireless from the North Sea, it meant that James was really anxious to see him at the first available moment, and would already have landed in Hull, expecting to find him there. However, with a good car, smooth roads, and a fine, moonlit night—
It was not yet twelve o'clock when Allerdyke wrapped himself up in a corner of his luxurious Rolls-Royce, saw that the box of eatables and the two Thermos flasks were safe in the locker, and told Gaffney to go ahead. He himself had the faculty of going to sleep whenever he pleased, and he went to sleep now. He was asleep as Gaffney went through Leeds and its suburbs; he slept all along the country roads which led to Selby and thence to Howden. But in the silent streets of Howden he woke with a start, to find that Gaffney had pulled up in answer to a question flung to him by the driver of another car, which had come alongside their own from the opposite direction. That car had also been pulled up; within it Allerdyke saw a woman, closely wrapped in furs.
"What is it, Gaffney?" he asked, letting down his own window and leaning out.
"Wants to know which is the best way to get across the Ouse, sir," answered Gaffney. "I tell him there's two ferries close by—one at Booh, the other at Langrick—but there'll be nobody to work them at this hour. Where do you want to get to?" he went on, turning to the driver of the other car.
"Want to strike the Great Northern main line somewhere," answered the driver. "This lady wants to catch a Scotch express. I thought of Doncaster, but—"
The window of the other car was let down, and its occupant looked out. The light of the full moon shone full on her, and Allerdyke lifted his cap to a pretty, alert-looking young woman of apparently twenty-five, who politely returned his salutation.
"Can I give you any advice?" asked Allerdyke. "I understand you want—"
"An express train to Scotland—Edinburgh," replied the lady. "I made out, on arrival at Hull, that if I motored across country I would get a train at some station on the Great Northern line—a morning express. Doncaster, Selby, York—which is nearest from wherever we are!"
"This is Howden," said Allerdyke, looking up at the great tower of the old church. "And your best plan is to follow this road to Selby, and then to York. All the London expresses stop there, but they don't all stop at Selby or at Doncaster. And there's no road bridge over the Ouse nearer than Selby in any case."
"Many thanks," responded the lady. "Then," she went on, looking at her driver, "you will go on to York—that is—how far?" she added, favouring Allerdyke with a gracious smile. "Very far?"
"Less than an hour's run," answered Gaffney for his master. "And a good road."
The lady bowed; Allerdyke once more raised his cap; the two cars parted company. And Allerdyke stopped Gaffney as he was driving off again, and produced the provisions.
"Half-past two," he remarked, pulling out his watch. "You've come along in good style, Gaffney. We'll have something to eat and drink. Queer thing, eh, for anybody to motor across from Hull to catch a Great Northern express on the main line!"
"Mayn't be any trains out of Hull during the night, sir," answered Gaffney, taking a handful of sandwiches. "They'll get one at York, anyway. Want to reach Hull at any particular time, sir?"
"No," answered Allerdyke. "Go along as you've come. You'll have a bit of uphill work over the edge of the Wolds, now. When we strike Hull, go to the Station Hotel."
He went to sleep again as soon as they moved out of Howden, and he only awoke when the car stopped at the hotel door in Hull. A night-porter, hearing the buzz of the engine, came out.
"Put the car in the garage, Gaffney, and then get yourself a bed and lie as long as you like," said Allerdyke. "I'll let you know when I want you." He turned to the night-porter. "You've a Mr. James Allerdyke stopping here I think?" he went on. "He'd come in last night from the Christiania steamer."
The night-porter led the way into the hotel, and towards the office.
"Mr. Marshall Allerdyke?" he asked of the new arrival. "The gentleman left a card for you; I was asked to give it to you as soon as you came."
Allerdyke took the visiting-card which the man produced from a letter rack, and read the lines hastily scribbled on the back—
If you land here during the night, come straight up to my room—263—and rouse me out. Want to see you at once.—J.A.
Allerdyke slipped the card into his pocket and turned to the night-porter.
"My cousin wants me to go up to his room at once," he said. "Just show me the way. Do you happen to know what time he got in last night?" he continued, as they went upstairs. "Was it late?"
"Passengers from the Perisco, sir?" answered the night-porter. "There were several of 'em came in last night—she got into the river about eight-thirty. It 'ud be a bit after nine o'clock when your friend came in."
Allerdyke's mind went back to the meeting at Howden.
"Did you have a lady set off from here in the middle of the night?" he asked, out of sheer curiosity. "A lady in a motor-car?"
"Oh! that lady," exclaimed the night-porter, with a grim laugh. "Ah! nice lot of bother she gave me, too. She was one of those Perisco passengers—she got in here with the rest, and booked a room, and went to it all right, and then at half-past twelve down she came and said she wanted to get on, and as there weren't no trains she'd have a motor-car and drive to catch an express at Selby, or Doncaster, or somewhere. Nice job I had to get her a car at that time o' night!—and me single-handed—there wasn't a soul in the office then. Meet her anywhere, sir?"
"Met her on the road," replied Allerdyke laconically. "Was she a foreigner, do you know?"
"I shouldn't wonder if she was something of that sort," answered the night-porter. "Sort that would have her own way at all events. Here's the room, sir."
He paused before the door of a room which stood halfway down a long corridor in the centre of the hotel, and on its panels he knocked gently.
"Every room's filled on this floor, sir," he remarked. "I hope your friend's a light sleeper, for there's some of 'em'll have words to say if they're roused at four o'clock in the morning."
"He's a very light sleeper as a rule," replied Allerdyke. He stood listening for the sound of some movement in the room: "Knock again," he said, when a minute had passed without response on the part of the occupant. "Make it a bit louder."
The night-porter, with evident unwillingness, repeated his summons, this time loud enough to wake any ordinary sound sleeper. But no sound came from within the room, and after a third and much louder thumping at the door, Allerdyke grew impatient and suspicious.
"This is queer!" he growled. "My cousin's one of the lightest sleepers I ever knew. If he's in there, there's something wrong. Look here! you'll have to open that door. Haven't you got a key?"
"Key'll be inside, sir," replied the night-porter. "But there's a master-key to all these doors in the office. Shall I fetch it, then?"
"Do!" said Allerdyke, curtly. He began to walk up and down the corridor when the man had hurried away, wondering what this soundness of sleep in his cousin meant. James Allerdyke was not a man who took either drink or drugs, and Marshall's experience of him was that the least sound awoke him.
"Queer!" he repeated as he marched up and down. "Perhaps he's not—"
The quiet opening of a door close by made him lift his eyes from the carpet. In the dim light he saw a man looking out upon him—a man of an unusually thick crop of hair and with a huge beard. He stared at Allerdyke half angrily, half sulkily; then he closed his door as quietly as he had opened it. And Allerdyke, turning back to his cousin's room, mechanically laid his hand on the knob and screwed it round.
The door was open.
Allerdyke drew a sharp breath as he crossed the threshold. He had stayed in that hotel often, and he knew where the switch of the electric light should be. He lifted a hand, found the switch, and turned the light on. And as it flooded the room, he pulled himself up to a tense rigidity. There, sitting fully dressed in an easy chair, against which his head was thrown back, was his cousin—unmistakably dead.
For a full minute Marshall Allerdyke stood fixed—staring at the set features before him. Then, with a quick catching of his breath, he made one step to his cousin's side and laid his hand on the unyielding shoulder. The affectionate, familiar terms in which they had always addressed each other sprang involuntarily to his lips.
"Why, James, my lad!" he exclaimed. "James, lad! James!"
Even as he spoke, he knew that James would never hear word or sound again in this world. It needed no more than one glance at the rigid features, one touch of the already fixed and statue-like body, to know that James Allerdyke was not only dead, but had been dead some time. And, with a shuddering sigh, Marshall Allerdyke drew himself up and looked round at his surroundings.
Nothing could have been more peaceful than that quiet hotel bedroom; nothing more orderly than its arrangements. Allerdyke had always known his cousin for a man of unusually tidy and methodical habits; the evidence of that orderliness was there, where he had pitched his camp for presumably a single night. His toilet articles were spread out on the dressing-table; his pyjamas were laid across his pillow; his open suit-case lay on a stand at the foot of the bed; by the bedside lay his slippers. An overcoat hung from one peg of the door; a dressing-gown from another; on a chair in a corner lay, neatly folded, a couple of travelling rugs. All these little details Allerdyke's sharp eyes took in at a glance; he turned from them to the things nearer the dead man.
James Allerdyke sat in a big easy chair, placed at the side of a round table set towards a corner of the room. He was fully dressed in a grey tweed suit, but he had taken off one boot—the left—and it lay at his feet on the hearthrug. He himself was thrown back against the high-padded hood of the chair; there was a little frown on his set features, a tiny puckering of the brows above his closed eyes. His hands were lying at his sides, unclasped, the fingers slightly stretched, the thumbs slightly turned inward; everything looked as if, in the very act of taking off his boots, some sudden spasm of pain had seized him, and he had sat up, leaned back, and died, as swiftly as the seizure had come. There was a slight blueness under the lower rims of the eyes, a corresponding tint on the clean-shaven upper lip, but neither that nor the pallor which had long since settled on the rigid features had given anything of ghastliness to the face. The dead man lay back in his chair in such an easy posture that but for his utter quietness, his intense immobility, he might have well been taken for one who was hard and fast asleep.
The sound of the night-porter's returning footsteps sent Allerdyke out into the corridor. Unconsciously he shook his head and raised a hand—as if to warn the man against noise.
"Sh!" he said, still acting and speaking mechanically. "Here's—I knew something was wrong. The fact is, my cousin's dead!"
In his surprise the night-porter dropped the key which he had been to fetch. When he straightened himself from picking it up, his ruddy face had paled.
"Dead!" he exclaimed in a whisper. "Him! Why, he looked the picture of health last night. I noticed that of him, anyway!"
"He's dead now," said Allerdyke. "He's lying there dead. Come in!"
The door along the corridor from which the man of the shock head and great beard had looked out, opened again, and the big head was protruded. Its owner, seeing the two standing there, came out.
"Anything wrong?" he asked, advancing towards them in his pyjamas. "If there's any illness, I'm a medical man. Can I be of use?"
Allerdyke turned sharply, looking the stranger well over. He was not sure whether the man was an Englishman or a foreigner; he fancied that he detected a slightly foreign accent. The tone was well-meaning, and even kindly.
"I'm obliged to you," replied Allerdyke, in his characteristically blunt fashion. "I'm afraid nobody can be of use. The truth is, I came to join my cousin here, and I find him dead. Seems to me he's been dead some time. As you're a doctor, you can tell, of course. Perhaps you'll come in?"
He led the way back into the bedroom, the other two following closely behind him. At sight of the dead man the bearded stranger uttered a sharp exclamation.
"Ah!" he said. "Mr. Allerdyke!"
"You knew him, then?" demanded Marshall. "You've met him?"
The other, who had stooped over the body, bestowing a light touch on face and hand, looked up and nodded.
"I came over with him from Christiania," he answered. "I met him there—at a hotel. I had several conversations with him. In fact, I warned him."
"Warned him? Of what!" asked Allerdyke.
"Over-exertion," replied the doctor quietly. "I saw symptoms of heart-strain. That was why I talked with him. I gathered from what he told me that he was a man who lived a very strenuous life, and I warned him against doing too much. He was not fitted for it."
"Good Lord!" exclaimed Allerdyke, with obvious impatience. "Why, I always considered him as one of the fittest men I ever knew!"
"Perhaps you did," said the doctor. "Laymen, sir, do not see what a trained eye sees. The proof in his case is—there!"
He pointed to the dead man, at whom the night-porter was staring with astonished eyes.
Allerdyke stared, too, or seemed to stare. In reality, he was gazing into space, wondering about what had just been said.
"Then you think he died a natural death?" he asked, suddenly turning on his companion. "You don't think there's—anything wrong?"
The doctor shook his head calmly.
"I think he died of precisely what I should have expected him to die of," he answered. "Heart failure. It came upon him quite suddenly. You see, he was in the act of taking off his boots. He is a little fleshy—stout. The exertion of bending over and down—that was too much. He felt a sharp spasm—he sat back—he died, there and then."
"There and then!" repeated Allerdyke mechanically. "Well—what's to be done!" he went on. "What is done in these cases—I suppose you know?"
"There will have to be an inquest later on," answered the doctor. "I can give evidence for you, if you like—I am staying in Hull for a few days—for I can certainly testify to what I had observed. But that comes later—at present you had better acquaint the manager of the hotel, and I should suggest sending for a local medical man—there are some eminent men of my profession in this town. And—the body should be laid out. I'll go and dress, and then do what I can for you."
"Much obliged," responded Allerdyke. "Very kind of you. What name, sir?"
"My name is Lydenberg," replied the stranger. "I will give you my card presently. I have the honour of addressing—?"
Allerdyke pulled out his own card-case.
"My name's Marshall Allerdyke," he answered. "I'm his cousin," he went on, with another glance at the still figure. "And, my conscience, I never thought to find him like this! I never heard of any weakness on his part—I always thought him a particularly strong man."
"You will send for another medical man?" asked Dr. Lydenberg. "It will be more satisfactory to you."
"Yes, I'll see to that," replied Allerdyke. He turned to look at the night-porter, who was still hanging about as if fascinated. "Look here!" he said. "We don't want any fuss. Just rouse the manager quietly, and ask him to come here. And find that chauffeur of mine, and tell him I want him. Now, then, what about a doctor? Do you know a real, first-class one?"
"There's several within ten minutes, sir," answered the night-porter. "There's Dr. Orwin, in Coltman Street—he's generally fetched here. I can get a man to go for him at once."
"Do!" commanded Allerdyke. "But send me my driver first—I want him. Tell him what's happened."
He waited, standing and staring at his dead cousin until Gaffney came hurrying along the corridor. Allerdyke beckoned him into the room and closed the door.
"Gaffney," he said. "You see how things are? Mr. James is dead—I found him sitting there, dead. He's been dead some time—hours. There's a doctor, a foreigner, I think, across the passage there, who says it's been heart failure. I've sent for another doctor. Now in the meantime, I want to see what my cousin's got on him, and I want you to help me. We'll take everything off him in the way of valuables, papers, and so on, and put 'em in that small hand-bag of his."
Master and man went methodically to work; and an observer of an unduly sentimental shade of mind might have said that there was something almost callous about their measured, business-like proceedings. But Marshall Allerdyke was a man of eminently thorough and practical habits, and he was doing what he did with an idea and a purpose. His cousin might have died from sudden heart failure; again, he might not, there might have been foul play; there might have been one of many reasons for his unexpected death—anyway, in Allerdyke's opinion it was necessary for him to know exactly what James was carrying about his person when death took place. There was a small hand-bag on the dressing-table; Allerdyke opened it and took out all its contents. They were few—a muffler, a travelling-cap, a book or two, some foreign newspapers, a Russian word-book, a flask, the various odds and ends, small unimportant things which a voyager by sea and land picks up. Allerdyke took all these out, and laying them aside on the table, directed Gaffney to take everything from the dead man's pockets. And Gaffney, solemn of face and tight of lip, set to his task in silence.
There was comparatively little to bring to light. A watch and chain—the small pocket articles which every man carries—keys, a monocle eyeglass, a purse full of gold, loose silver, a note-case containing a considerable sum in bank-notes, some English, some foreign, letters and papers, a pocket diary—these were all. Allerdyke took each as Gaffney produced them, and placed each in the bag with no more than a mere glance.
"Everything there is, sir," whispered the chauffeur at last. "I've been through every pocket."
Allerdyke found the key of the bag, locked it, and set it aside on the mantelpiece. Then he went over to the suit-case lying on the bench at the foot of the bed, closed and locked it, and dropped the bunch of keys in his pocket. And just then Dr. Lydenberg came back, dressed, and on his heels came the manager of the hotel, startled and anxious, and with him an elderly professional-looking man whom he introduced as Dr. Orwin.
When James Allerdyke's dead body had been lifted on to the bed, and the two medical men had begun a whispered conversation beside it, Allerdyke drew the hotel manager aside to a corner of the room.
"Did you see anything of my cousin when he arrived last night?" he asked.
"Not when he arrived—no," replied the manager. "But later—yes. I had some slight conversation with him after he had taken supper. It was nothing much—he merely wished to know if there was always a night-porter on duty. He said he expected a friend, who might turn up at any hour of the night, and he wanted to leave a card for him. That would be you, I suppose, sir?"
"Just so," replied Allerdyke. "Now, how did he seem at that time? And what time was that?"
"Ten o'clock," said the manager. "Seem? Well, sir, he seemed to be in the very best of health and spirits! I was astonished to hear that he was dead. I never saw a man look more like living. He was—"
The elderly doctor came away from the bed approaching Allerdyke.
"After hearing what Dr. Lydenberg tells me, and examining the body—a mere perfunctory examination as yet, you know—I have little doubt that this gentleman died of what is commonly called heart failure," he said. "There will have to be an inquest, of course, and it may be advisable to make a post-mortem examination. You are a relative?"
"Cousin," replied Allerdyke. He hesitated a moment, and then spoke bluntly. "You don't think it's been a case of poisoning, do you?" he said.
Dr. Orwin pursed his lips and regarded his questioner narrowly.
"Self-administered, do you mean?" he asked.
"Administered any way," answered Allerdyke. "Self or otherwise." He squared his shoulders and spoke determinedly. "I don't understand about this heart-failure notion," he went on. "I never heard him complain of his heart. He was a strong, active man—hearty and full of go. I want to know—everything."
"There should certainly be an autopsy," murmured Dr. Orwin. He turned and looked at his temporary colleague, who nodded as if in assent. Then he turned back to Allerdyke. "If you'll leave us for a while, we will just make a further examination—then we'll speak to you later."
Allerdyke signified his assent with a curt nod of the head. Accompanied by the manager and Gaffney he left the room, and with him he carried the small hand-bag in which he had placed the dead man's personal effects.
Once outside the death-chamber, Allerdyke asked the manager to give him a bedroom with a sitting-room attached to it, and to put Gaffney in another room close by—he should be obliged, he said, to stay at the hotel until the inquest was over and arrangements had been made for his cousin's funeral. The manager at once took him to a suite of three rooms at the end of the corridor which they were then in. Allerdyke took it at once, sent Gaffney down to bring up certain things from the car, and detained the manager for a moment's conversation.
"I suppose you'd a fair lot of people come in last night from thatChristiania boat?" he asked.
"Some fifteen or twenty," answered the manager.
"Did you happen to see my cousin in conversation with any of them?" inquired Allerdyke.
The manager shrugged his shoulders. He was not definitely sure about that; he had a notion that he had seen Mr. James Allerdyke talking with some of the Perisco passengers, but the notion was vague.
"You know how it is," he went on. "People come in—they stand about talking in the hall—groups, you know—they go from one to another. I think I saw him talking to that doctor who's in there now with Dr. Orwin—the man with the big beard—and to a lady who came at the same time. There were several ladies in the party—the passengers were all about in the hall, and in the coffee-room, and so on. There are a lot of other people in the house, too, of course."
"It's this way," said Allerdyke. "I'm not at all satisfied about what these doctors say, so far. They may be right, of course—probably are. Still I want to know all I can, and, naturally, I'd like to know who the people were that my cousin was last in company with. You never know what may have happened—there's often something that doesn't show at first."
"There was—nothing missing in his room, I hope?" asked the manager with professional anxiety.
"Nothing that I know of," answered Allerdyke. "My man and I have searched him, and taken possession of everything—all that he had on him is in that bag, and I'm going to examine it now. No—I don't think anything had been taken from him, judging by what I've seen."
"You wouldn't like me to send for the police?" suggested the manager.
"Not at present," replied Allerdyke. "Not, at any rate, until these doctors say something more definite—they'll know more presently, no doubt. Of course, you've a list of all the people who came in last night?"
"They would all register," answered the manager. "But then, you know, sir, many of them will be going this morning—most of them are only breaking their journey. You can look over the register whenever you like."
"Later on," said Allerdyke. "In the meantime, I'll examine these things.Send me up some coffee as soon as your people are stirring."
He unlocked the hand-bag when the manager had left him. It seemed to his practical and methodical mind that his first duty was to make himself thoroughly acquainted with the various personal effects which he and Gaffney had found on the dead man. Of the valuables he took little notice; it was very evident, in his opinion, that if James Allerdyke's death had been brought about by some sort of foul play—a suspicion which had instantly crossed his mind as soon as he discovered that his cousin was dead—the object of his destroyer had not been robbery. James had always been accustomed to carrying a considerable sum of money on him; Gaffney's search had brought a considerable sum to light. James also wore a very valuable watch and chain and two fine diamond rings; there they all were. Not robbery—no; at least, not robbery of the ordinary sort. But—had there been robbery of another, a bigger, a subtle, and deep-designed sort? James was a man of many affairs and schemes—he might have had valuable securities, papers relating to designs, papers containing secrets of great moment; he was interested, for example, in several patents—he might have had documents pertinent to some affair of such importance that ill-disposed folk, eager to seize them, might have murdered him in order to gain possession of them. There were many possibilities, and there was always—to Allerdyke's mind—the improbability that James had died through sudden illness.
Now that Marshall Allerdyke's mind was clearing, getting free of the first effects of the sudden shock of finding his cousin dead, doubt and uneasiness as to the whole episode were rising strongly within him. He and James had been brought up together; they had never been apart from each other for more than a few months at a time during thirty-five years, and he flattered himself that he knew James as well as any man of James's acquaintance. He could not remember that his cousin had ever made any complaint of illness or indisposition; he had certainly never had any serious sickness in his life. As to heart trouble, Allerdyke knew that a few years previous to his death, James had taken out a life-policy with a first-rate office, and had been passed as a first-class life: he remembered, as he sat there thinking over these things, the self-satisfied grin with which James had come and told him that the examining doctor had declared him to be as sound as a bell. It was true, of course, that disease might have set in after that—still, it was only six weeks since he had seen James and James was then looking in a fit, healthy, hearty state. He had gone off on one of his Russian journeys as full of life and spirits as a man could be—and had not the hotel manager just said that he seemed full of health, full of go, at ten o'clock last night? And yet, within a couple of hours or so—according to what the medical men thought from their hurried examination—this active vigorous man was dead—swiftly and mysteriously dead.
Allerdyke felt—felt intensely—that there was something deeply strange in all this, and yet it was beyond him, with his limited knowledge, to account for James's sudden death, except on the hypothesis suggested by the two doctors. All sorts of vague, half-formed thoughts were in his mind. Was there any person who desired James's death? Had any one tracked him to this place—got rid of him by some subtle means? Had—
"Pshaw!" he muttered, suddenly interrupting his train of thought, and recognizing how shapeless and futile it all was. "It just comes to this—I'm asking myself if the poor lad was murdered! And what have I to go on? Naught—naught at all!"
Nevertheless, there were papers before him which had been taken from James's pocket; there was the little journal or diary which he always carried, and in which, to Allerdyke's knowledge, he always jotted down a brief note of each day's proceedings wherever he went. He could examine these, at any rate—they might cast some light on his cousin's recent doings.
He began with the diary, turning over its pages until he came to the date on which James had left Bradford for St. Petersburg. That was on March 30th. He had travelled to the Russian capital overland—by way of Berlin and Vilna, at each of which places he had evidently broken his journey. From St. Petersburg he had gone on to Moscow, where he had spent the better part of a week. All his movements were clearly set out in the brief pencilled entries in the journal. From Moscow he had returned to St. Petersburg; there he had stayed a fortnight; thence he had journeyed to Revel, from Revel he had crossed the Baltic to Stockholm; from Stockholm he had gone across country to Christiania. And from Christiania he had sailed for Hull to meet his death in that adjacent room where the doctors were now busied with his body.
Marshall Allerdyke, though he had no actual monetary connection with them, had always possessed a fairly accurate knowledge of his cousin's business affairs—James was the sort of man who talked freely to his intimates about his doings. Therefore Allerdyke was able to make out from the journal what James had done during his stay at St. Petersburg, in Moscow, in Revel, and in Stockholm, in all of which places he had irons of one sort or another in the fire. He recognized the names of various firms upon which James had called—these names were as familiar to him as those of the big manufacturing concerns in his own town. James had been to see this man, this man had been to see James. He had dined with such an one; such an one had dined with him. Ordinarily innocent entries, all these; there was no subtle significance to be attached to any of them: they were just the sort of entries which the busy commercial man, engaged in operations of some magnitude, would make for his own convenience.
There was, in short, nothing in that tiny book—a mere, waistcoat-pocket sort of affair—which Allerdyke was at a loss to understand, or which excited any wonder or speculation in him: with one exception. That exception was in three entries: brief, bald, mere lines, all made during James's second stay—the fortnight period—in St. Petersburg. They were:—
April 18: Met Princess.
April 20: Lunched with Princess.
April 23: Princess dined with me.
These entries puzzled Allerdyke. His cousin had been going over to Russia at least twice a year for three years, but he had never heard him mention that he had formed the acquaintance of any person of princely rank. Who was this Princess with whom James had evidently become on such friendly terms that they had lunched and dined together? James had twice written to him during his absence—he had both letters in his pocket then, and one of them was dated from St. Petersburg on April 24th, but there was no mention of any Princess in either. Seeking for an explanation, he came to the conclusion that James, who had a slight weakness for the society of ladies connected with the stage, had made the acquaintance of some actress or other, ballet-dancer, singer, artiste, and had given her the nickname of Princess.
That was all there was to be got from the diary. It amounted to nothing. There were, however, the loose papers. He began to examine these methodically. They were few in number—James was the sort of man who never keeps anything which can be destroyed: Allerdyke knew from experience that he had a horror of accumulating what he called rubbish. These papers, fastened together with a band of india-rubber, were all business documents, with one exception—a letter from Allerdyke himself addressed to Stockholm, to wait James's arrival. There were some specifications relating to building property; there was a schedule of the timber then standing in a certain pine forest in Sweden in which James had a valuable share; there was a balance-sheet of a Moscow trading concern in which he had invested money; there were odds and ends of a similar nature—all financial. From these papers Allerdyke could only select one which he did not understand, which conveyed no meaning to him. This was a telegram, dispatched from London on April 21st, at eleven o'clock in the morning. He spread it out on the table and slowly read it:—
"To James Allerdyke, Hotel Grand Monarch, St. Petersburg.
"Your wire received. If Princess will confide goods to your care to personally bring over here have no doubt matter can be speedily and satisfactorily arranged. Have important client now in town until middle May who seems to be best man to approach and is likely to be a generous buyer.
"FRANKLIN FULLAWAY, Waldorf Hotel, London."
Here was another surprise: Allerdyke had never in his life heard James mention the name—Franklin Fullaway. Yet here Mr. Franklin Fullaway, whoever he might be, was wiring to James as only a business acquaintance of some standing would wire. And here again was the mention of a Princess—presumably, nay, evidently, the Princess to whom reference was made in the diary. And there was mention, too, of goods—probably valuable goods—to be confided to James's care for conveyance to England, to London, for sale to some prospective purchaser. If James had brought them, where were they? So far as Allerdyke had ascertained, James had no luggage beyond his big suitcase and the handbag which now stood on the table before his own eyes—he was a man for travelling light, James, and never encumbered himself with more than indispensable necessities. Where, then—
A tap at the door of the sitting-room prefaced the entry of the two medical men.
"We heard from the manager that you were in this room, Mr. Allerdyke," said Dr. Orwin. "Well, we made a further examination of your relative, and we still incline to the opinion expressed already. Now, if you approve it, I will arrange at once for communicating with the Coroner, removing the body, and having an autopsy performed. As Dr. Lydenberg has business in the town which will keep him here a few days, he will join me, and it will be more satisfactory to you, no doubt, if another doctor is called—I should advise the professional police surgeon. If you will leave it to me—"
"I'll leave everything of that sort to you, doctor," said Allerdyke. "I'm much obliged to both of you, gentlemen. You understand what I'm anxious about?—I want to be certain—certain, mind you!—of the cause of my cousin's death. Now you speak of removing him? Then I'll just go and take a look at him before that's done."
He presently locked up his rooms, leaving the hand-bag there, also locked, and went alone to the room in which James lay dead. Most folks who knew Marshall Allerdyke considered him a hard, unsentimental man, but there were tears in his eyes as he stooped over his cousin's body and laid his hand on the cold forehead. Once more he broke into familiar, muttered speech.
"If there's been aught wrong, lad," he said. "Aught foul or underhand,I'll right thee!—by God, I will!"
Then he stooped lower and kissed the dead man's cheek, and pressed the still hands. It was with an effort that he turned away and regained his self-command—and it was in that moment that his eyes, slightly blurred as they were, caught sight of an object which lay half-concealed by a corner of the hearth-rug—a glittering, shining object, which threw back the gleam of the still burning electric light. He strode across the room and picked it up—the gold buckle of a woman's shoe, studded with real, if tiny, diamonds.
Allerdyke carried his find away to his own room and carefully examined it. The buckle was of real gold; the stones set in it were real diamonds, small though they were. He deduced two ideas from these facts—one, that the owner was a woman who loved pretty and expensive things; the other, that she must have a certain natural carelessness about her not to have noticed that the buckle was loose on her shoe. But as he put the buckle safely away in his own travelling bag, he began to speculate on matters of deeper import—how did it come to be lying there in James Allerdyke's room? How long had it been lying there? Had its owner been into that room recently? Had she, in fact, been in the room since James Allerdyke took possession of it on his arrival at the hotel?
He realized the possibility of various answers to these questions. The buckle might have been dropped by a former occupant of the room. But was that likely? Would an object sparkling with diamonds have escaped the eyes of even a careless chambermaid? Would it have escaped the keener eyes of James Allerdyke? Anyhow, that question could easily be settled by finding out how long that particular room had been unoccupied before James was put into it. A much more important question was—had the owner of the buckle been in the room between nine o'clock of the previous evening and five o'clock that morning? Out of that, again, rose certain supplementary questions: What had she been doing there? And most important of all—who was she? That might possibly be solved by an inspection of the hotel register, and after he had drunk the coffee which was presently brought up to him, Allerdyke went down to the office to set about that necessary, yet problematic, task.
As he reached the big hall on the ground floor of the hotel, the manager came across to him, displaying a telegram.
"For your cousin, sir," he announced, handing it over to Allerdyke."Just come in."
Allerdyke slowly opened the envelope, and as he unfolded the message, caught the name Franklin Fullaway at its foot—
"Let me know what time you arrive King's Cross to-day and I will meet you, highly important we should both see my prospective client at once."
This message bore the same address which Allerdyke had found in the telegram discovered in James's pocket-book—Waldorf Hotel—and he determined to wire Mr. Franklin Fullaway immediately. He sat down at a writing-table in the hall and drew a sheaf of telegraph forms towards him. But it was not easy to compose the message which he wished to send. He knew nothing of the man to whom he must address it, nothing of his business relations with James; he had no clear notion of what the present particular transaction was, nor how it might be connected with what had just happened. After considerable thought he wrote out a telegram of some length, and carried it himself to the telegraph office in the station outside:—
"To Franklin Fullaway, Waldorf Hotel, London.
"Your wire to James Allerdyke opened by undersigned, his cousin. James Allerdyke died suddenly here during night. Circumstances somewhat mysterious. Investigation proceeding. Have found on body your telegram to him of April 21. Glad if you can explain business referred to therein, or give any other information about his recent doings abroad.
"From MARSHALL ALLERDYKE, Station Hotel, Hull."
It was by that time eight o'clock, and the railway station and the hotel had started into the business of another day. There were signs that people who had stayed in the hotel over-night were about to take their departure by early trains, and Allerdyke hastened back to the office to look over the register—he was anxious to know who and what the folk were who had been near and about his cousin in his last hours. But a mere glance at the big pages showed him the uselessness of his task. There were some seventy or eighty entries, made during the previous twenty-four hours; it was impossible to go into the circumstances of each. He turned with a look of despair to the manager at his elbow.
"Nothing much to be made out of that!" he muttered. "Still—which are the people who came off the Perisco last night?"
The manager summoned a clerk; the clerk indicated a sequence of entries, amongst which Allerdyke at once noticed the name of Dr. Lydenberg. The rest were, of course, unfamiliar to him.
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