The Riddle of the Purple Emperor - Thomas W. Hanshew - ebook

The Riddle of the Purple Emperor ebook

Thomas W. Hanshew

0,0

Opis

Hamilton Cleek, once known to Scotland Yard as „The Vanishing Cracksman” is a reformed crook turned detective. He has a gift for both deduction and impersonation, a curious combination of Sherlock Holmes and Peter Sellars, which he uses to solve mysteries. After a long Channel crossing, Cleek drives a lady home only to discover her aunt has been murdered. But the mystery has only just begun. It leads to a mysterious and sinister chain of events, which Cleek and Superintendent Maverick Narkom of Scotland Yard attempt to unravel, with, of course, the help of the irrepressible and ever-hungry Dollops, Cleek’s cockney sidekick. As excitingly improbable a detective story as ever baffled and allured the breathless reader, „The Riddle of the Purple Emperor” has all the thrills of adventure and murder and hate and love embroidered on the groundwork of a plot as precisely worked out as a problem in mathematics.

Ebooka przeczytasz w aplikacjach Legimi na:

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

Liczba stron: 330

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

Androidzie
iOS



Contents

I. WHICH INTRODUCES A NEW FRIEND

II. THE HOME-COMING

III. IN THE DARK

IV. THE HOUSE OF SHADOWS

V. THE THREADS OF CHANCE

VI. THE CRY IN THE NIGHT

VII. IN THE TIGER'S CLUTCHES

VIII. COMPLICATIONS AND COMPLEXITIES

IX. THE HOUSE WITH THE SHUTTERED WINDOWS

X. A SHOT IN THE DARK

XI. A TERRIBLE DISCOVERY

XII. THE WOMAN IN THE CASE

XIII. TIGHTENING THE STRANDS

XIV. THE PLOT THICKENS

XV. TANGLED THREADS

XVI. IN THE DOCTOR'S SURGERY

XVII. MISS CHEYNE AGAIN

XVIII. DOLLOPS TAKES A HAND

XIX. THE TWIN SCARVES

XX. A TWISTED CLUE

XXI. "'TIS A MAD WORLD, MY MASTERS"

XXII. THE TRAP

XXIII. UNTWISTING THE THREADS

XXIV. AN UNEXPECTED CONTRETEMPS

XXV. "A TALE UNFOLDED"

I. WHICH INTRODUCES A NEW FRIEND

It was nearly half-past five on a wild March afternoon, in those happy years before the great war, and Charing Cross Station, struggling in the throes of that desperate agitation which betokens the arrival of a boat-train from the continent, was full to overflowing with a chattering, gesticulating crowd of travellers, all anxious to secure first place in the graces of that ever-useful personage, the porter.

It was the busiest hour of the day, and everyone seemed to be making the most of it. What wonder, then, that tempers were grazed, nerves jangled, and peaceable individuals were transformed into monsters with bellicose intentions!

In the yard outside the station a medley of motors chug-chugged unceasingly, crushed in upon each other like closely packed sardines, and presented to the casual individual a maze of intricacies and noise from which he could evolve no beginning and no end.

One car, however, somewhat conspicuous as to colour, stood out amongst the drab hues of the others, like a poppy in a cornfield. It was the red limousine of Mr. Maverick Narkom, Superintendent of Scotland Yard and the car in which that gentleman was wont to take his numerous voyages abroad.

But, at the moment, Mr. Narkom was not occupying its roomy interior. It was a youth who sat at the steering-wheel and he was staring with anxious eyes out of his drab, cockney countenance, glancing from side to side at the hurrying throng which streamed from the station as though he were expecting every minute to see the King himself stride from it.

But it was no King he waited for–rather, indeed, a Queen–the Queen of his beloved master’s heart, and as he sat there staring about him, he became conscious of a queer, gnawing pain somewhere in the region of his stomach. The knowledge of the very excellent tea he had missed, by reason of this endless waiting, swept over him in an overwhelming tide.

“Lor’ Lumme,” ejaculated he as the time sped on and she for whom he watched came not. “If she don’t come by the next train I shall be redooced to eating of me bloomin’ ‘at to save me life! I’ll be a living skeleton, I will, with not even as much to chew at as a winkle or a charcoal biscuit. But the guv’nor, bless ‘is ‘eart, ain’t even ‘ad as much as that! He’ll be just fit to bust ‘isself in a minute–an’ speakin’ of hangels, ‘ere he is!”

Here “he” certainly was, the only being in the world who counted to Dollops, and he looked both tired and depressed.

Under ordinary circumstances one might as well have expected to meet an uncaged lion in the streets of London, as to come across Hamilton Cleek wandering up and down in so exposed a place as Charing Cross Station at any hour of the day, much less when the Paris boat-train was expected. This train might debouch any number of Maurevanians or French apaches, all pledged to kill the “Rat of a Cracksman,” the “Man of Forty Faces” who had long ago left their haunts and company for the sake of one fair woman whose eyes had pierced the depths of his degradation, bidding him aspire to better things.

And it was for her, his queen among women, that Cleek waited now. That morning’s post had brought a brief scrap of a letter telling him that she was returning to-day from a long visit to the Baron de Carjorac and his daughter in Paris. Only a short, friendly note it had been, but sufficient to cause Cleek to spend his day at the station, not knowing by which train she would arrive. It was little wonder, therefore, that at half-past five Dollops was growing desperate.

A whistle shrilled. There was the sudden excited clamour of many voices and the boat-train, late and overcrowded, had come in!

Cleek switched on his heel, forged a way through the waiting crowd, and betook himself to the gates. For a moment only a flow of passengers met his gaze, when suddenly the sight of a slenderly knit figure made his heart leap to his mouth. A mist swam in front of his eyes, blurring their vision momentarily, and he took an exultant step forward. For it was Ailsa Lorne herself. She gazed at him with a look of glad surprise, and a swift rush of colour came to the pure oval face which set his pulses hammering.

“Ailsa––!”

Hand met hand in the warm clasp which there is no mistaking and then Cleek realized that she was not alone. By her side stood a young girl not more than eighteen, if looks counted for anything, evidently so tired and worn with the rigours of the journey that she seemed too dazed to notice anything or anybody.

Ailsa, thrusting a friendly arm through hers, drew her forward.

“Lady Margaret, this is a very dear friend of mine,” she said in her fresh young voice, “Lieutenant Deland, dear.”

No need to tell Cleek that there was some special reason for this meeting and introduction, for he knew only too well how quick Ailsa Lorne was to lend a helping hand to any one in trouble, and he registered a silent vow to do all he could, should occasion demand, for this tired-looking child.

Then Ailsa spoke again, looking significantly at Cleek.

“We have both been victims of a terrible crossing, and Lady Margaret has found no one to meet her. She has come from the convent of Notre Dame in Paris, and has to go all the way to Hampton now.”

“Hampton?” Cleek echoed, raising his eyebrows involuntarily, for he knew Ailsa would go direct to the riverside cottage in that place which she had made her home.

“Yes, I tell her we are to be near neighbours. So, dear,” she turned again to her companion, who was staring round the station in evident search of some friendly face, “supposing you let Lieutenant Deland drive us both together? He will drop me at my home, and put you down at Cheyne Court.”

The girl’s eyes lit up with something akin to real pleasure.

“Oh, indeed I will, if you–he–will not mind; I am so worried. I felt sure Auntie would have come to meet me. It is all so strange––” Her voice died away as if she were too tired to resist, and the eyes of Cleek and Ailsa met in significant understanding.

“The limousine is outside,” he murmured in a low voice, “and I will run you down myself if that will suit you.”

“Indeed it will,” said Ailsa, gratefully, “and I shall just tuck that poor child into the car, then come and sit in front with you so that we can talk.”

A sudden light came into Cleek’s eyes, a sudden smile curved the corners of his mouth at this proof of Ailsa’s trust in him, and he led the way out of the station.

Outside, Dollops was speedily dismissed to get a long-wished-for meal. Realizing that his beloved master was happy in his self-appointed task, he relinquished his place at the wheel, and was speedily lost to sight in the ever-moving kaleidoscope of the Strand.

Meanwhile, Ailsa, having snugly tucked in her travelling companion on the seat of the limousine, and seen that she was half asleep, betook herself to the front seat beside Cleek. And they started on the road which was to carry him once more nearer crime and disaster than any man would care to go.

“That poor child!” she said, when the car was humming softly along, and whisking them out of London. “I watched her have such a pitiful parting with the nuns at Calais, and afterward, when she was so ill and lonely on board. I tried to cheer her up. It seems that she has been at Notre Dame Convent in Paris all her life, except for one stray holiday with a friend, and now she comes of age next week, and has got to live with a sour old aunt, an eccentric being who I think must be jealous of the child’s youth and beauty. She will be shut up in Cheyne Court. It’s a dreadful spot, too. I know it well. I have often passed it. I don’t wonder she is dreading it. All the jewels in the world are not worth imprisonment in such a dreary dungeon as Cheyne Court must be!”

Cleek twitched up an enquiring eyebrow.

“Jewels?” he questioned, musingly. “Hm! Wait one moment. Lady Margaret Cheyne did you say? Let me see. I don’t profess to be a walking Debrett, but I fancy the name recalls some strange memory. Lord Cheyne now–didn’t he marry Miss Peggy Wynne, known over London as ‘the beautiful Irish girl’? Yes, and she died, too, at the child’s birth I remember. Hm! a heavy inheritance that, a thousand pities she wasn’t a boy–– What’s that, dear? Why? Why, the title dies out with her, and she comes into all the family jewels. I don’t wonder you think one can pay too high a price for jewels, priceless though they be, for if my memory serves me rightly, these include that ill-fated stone, the Purple Emperor––” His voice trailed into silence, he sat a moment staring ahead, and Ailsa forbore to question him.

Then he threw back his shoulders as if thrusting away the sorrow of the world, and with a tilt of the head, turned again to Ailsa.

“Ah, well, it’s so far back that perhaps the fates will be kind,” he said, musingly. “Perhaps you’d like to hear something of the story. We’ll drive slower then. ‘The Purple Emperor,’ or to give its right name, the ‘Eye of Shiva,’ is, as you can guess, an Indian stone, and was looted from a temple at Benares in the days of the ill-fated Indian Mutiny. It was brought to England by a member of the Cheyne family–‘Mad Cheyne’ I think they called him–and there is a special police chronicle of the crimes committed by, and at the instigation of, the priests of the temple in their efforts to get it back into their possession again. I expect they have given it up now, for last thing I heard of that historic stone was that it was embedded in a concrete safe in the Bank of England.”

Ailsa’s face had become very pale while he was speaking, and as he paused she gave a little shiver.

“Poor child!” she murmured. “I don’t believe the priests have forgotten. At least, two Hindoos were on board the boat, and both tried to scrape acquaintance with her. And I never knew! I never thought. As a matter of fact, I am not sure that one did not achieve his object, for at night while I was resting one of them approached her and won her confidence by telling her that he knew her father, an old friend––”

“An old trick rather,” interposed Cleek quietly, “and one that has opened the door to wiser heads than that tired child’s. If the wind sits in that quarter she will have a hard struggle, and will be well advised to leave the ‘Purple Emperor’ in its stony bed. Still, I suppose her aunt will see to that, as well as look after her better than she has done to-day.”

“Oh, I expect so,” replied Ailsa in her soft voice, as the car whizzed its way out into the open country.

“She seems to be very eccentric from what I have heard of her from Lady Brenton, a near neighbour of us both. Strangely enough, there is a little romance here, for Lady Brenton’s husband was once engaged to Miss Cheyne, and I believe jilted her for his wife, so that a feud exists between the two families. But I believe it will be another case of Romeo and Juliet, for Lady Margaret is deeply in love with Sir Edgar, the only son of the squire, and there is no doubt that they will get married soon and then––”

“They will live happily ever afterward,” flung back Cleek, laughing softly. “Ah, youth, youth!” His words died away on his lips, and a look of indescribable pain, amounting almost to despair, crossed his features, and for a time only the soft whirr of the car was heard as it plowed along the deserted country lane.

For some time a silence held, a silence which was poignant with memories. The country cottage was nearly in sight when Ailsa spoke again.

“I think I will wake her up now, so that I may be assured she knows where to find me in case she is lonely,” she said softly, and smiled up into his face. “I have taken a great fancy to that child, dear, and perhaps I may be able to help her.”

For answer Cleek slowed down the car that she could climb into the back.

Lady Margaret was still sound asleep, so sound that not even the opening and closing of the door disturbed her slumbers, and as Ailsa looked down on the delicate, upturned face, she gave a little sigh of regret at having to arouse her.

Very gently she placed her arm round the sleeping figure and raised her in the seat. The girl gave a little cry of distress.

“It is all right, dear,” said Ailsa, tenderly, “you are quite safe but nearly home. I thought I had better rouse you.”

“Oh, I remember now.” Lady Margaret shook herself, to bring her scattered wits together. “For a minute I couldn’t think. But I feel much better, dear Miss Lorne. Oh! It is good of you to have taken so much trouble. I am so glad we are going to be neighbours.”

“Friends, too, I hope,” said Ailsa with a little smile. “Would you like me to come all the way home with you, or do you think you will be all right by yourself.”

“Oh, quite all right, dear Miss Lorne,” replied the girl with a forlorn little smile that went straight to Ailsa’s heart. “We certainly shall be friends, and I am sure Auntie will be grateful to you, too, but she has always been undemonstrative, and I would not think of letting you go out of your way, if you are sure your friend, I forget now––”

“Lieutenant Deland,” said Ailsa, promptly, “a very good friend to me, and you may safely entrust yourself to his care, dear. I do not want Miss Cheyne to think us intrusive, so if you are sure you are quite restored by the little sleep just drive on and when you get home, do not trouble to thank Lieutenant Deland at all unless you like. And I will call and see Miss Cheyne to-morrow and explain how ill and tired you were. Good-bye, my child, and a good night’s rest to you.”

The girl returned her kiss willingly, and as the car slowed down outside the gates of the little riverside cottage, Ailsa opened the door and alighted.

“I have roused her now,” she said gently to Cleek, sitting sphinx-like at the steering wheel, “and I think she will be all right. I would gladly drive all the way home with her, but I know Miss Cheyne is an eccentric being who loathes strangers at the best of times, and as she has probably seen me walking with Lady Brenton, she would most likely resent my interference. So you see, dear, I must leave the unpleasant task of facing the old lady and explaining matters to you.”

Cleek smiled down at her tenderly. “I would face greater dangers than that, Ailsa,” he said in a low, tender tone. “You know I am only happy in helping you, and those you are helping. I cannot see why Miss Cheyne should prove disagreeable, indeed she ought to be very grateful to you for rescuing her niece from the dangers that a big city might offer to a young, innocent child.”

Ailsa shuddered.

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.