The Traitor’s Gate - Edgar Wallace - ebook

The Traitor’s Gate ebook

Edgar Wallace

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Opis

This Edgar Wallace mystery takes place in London. Hope Joyner, ward of a Mr. Hallet whom she has never met, is in love with Sir Richard Hallowell. Diana Montague, who was once engaged to Sir Richard, now keeps very dubious company – Sir Richard’s brother Graham for one. He has just been released from prison. Since Graham has been away Diana has acquired money, and she is now Press Secretary for the Prince of Kishlastan, who according to Colly Warrington, is totally besotted with her... About an attempt to steal the British crown Jewels, Edgar Wallace has woven a story that is distinctly superior to the general run of mystery yarns.

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Liczba stron: 311

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Contents

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

CHAPTER XII

CHAPTER XIII

CHAPTER XIV

CHAPTER XV

CHAPTER XVI

CHAPTER XVII

CHAPTER XVIII

CHAPTER XIX

CHAPTER XX

CHAPTER XXI

CHAPTER XXII

CHAPTER XXIII

CHAPTER I

“GUA-A-ARD! SLOPE–HIME!”

Thirty-one rifles moved as one–thirty-one white hands came back to the seams of thirty-one trousers as though impelled by some invisible machinery. “Arms!” the word should have been; “hime” it was and had been since the beginning of military life. Motionless, the straight scarlet line stood, great bearskin headgears in perfect alignment. The march the band was playing came to its crashing, thunderous end as the last four of the old guard disappeared round the angle of the white tower.

“Dis-miss!” Bobby Longfellow sent his slim sword into its scabbard with a “click,” fixed his monocle more firmly in his eye, and glared at the squat little church of St. Peter ad Vincula, bathed in the sunlight of a summer morning, and became dimly conscious or a short, stout lady who, guide-book in hand, had approached him. His sergeant stood rigidly by, wondering and, behind the mask of a teak-carved lace, laughing silently.

“I beg your pardon, sir.”

Bobby had seventy-five inches of elevation. The sound came from somewhere below him, and he looked down. The stout lady wore a bonnet ornamented with gouts and slithers of jet, a beaded cape, and at her throat a large cameo brooch. Her face was big and hot and genial. She had, he noted, three chins and a rather masculine nose.

“Sorry–h’m!”

“Could you tell me where Lady Jane Grey is buried?” She had a deep bass voice. He blinked at her like a man who had suddenly come into the light.

“Lady–?”

“Lady Jane Grey, sir.”

He looked helplessly at the sergeant; his white gloves fiddled with a meagre moustache. “Have you–er–looked in the cemetery?” he asked hopefully.

“Which cemetery, sir?”

The sergeant gave no encouragement.

“Well–um–any cemetery! Do you know this lady, sergeant?”

“Never seen her before, sir.”

Bobby made a clicking noise to signify the sergeant’s error. “Lady–what’s her name again?–Grey.”

The stout woman grew helpful.

“She’s buried near the Bloody Tower,” she said discreetly.

Bobby’s white-gloved hand comprehended every building.

“This is all the bloody Tower, isn’t it, sergeant?” he asked bitterly.

The sergeant thought it was.

“Better inquire of a meat-eater–beef-eater–ma’am.”

He might have protested against the indignity offered to the officer of the guard, arrayed in all the panoply of war, by being mistaken for a guide, but somehow this never occurred to him. It was his first day’s duty at the Tower, and he rather hated it. He hated the heat of the day, he loathed the tightly-fitting scarlet tunic and the perspiring bearskin. In fact, Lieutenant Robert Longfellow wished he was anything at that moment but a subaltern of His Majesty’s Regiment of Berwick Guards.

The stout woman consulted her guide-book.

“Where’s them Crown jew’ls kept, sir?”

“In the safe, dear old lady,” said Bobby promptly.

Happily a real guide came along and, to his intense relief piloted the visitor to the Wakefield Tower.

“How perfectly fearfully awful!” said Bobby. “What the deuce am I supposed to tell her, sergeant?”

“Nothing, sir,” said the sergeant, and Bobby brightened.

He went into the guard-room and to his own private apartment, and Mrs. Ollorby continued her sightseeing, though in truth this red-faced lady was interested neither in Crown jewels nor the unfortunate Jane whose head had been sliced from her frail body within a few yards of where she had asked her questions.

But there was a visitor to the Tower of London that morning who found a pathetic interest in Lady Jane’s fate. Hope Joyner stood by the chain that protects the little square slab of sacrifice from sacrilegious feet, and looked down at the simple inscription and then across to the tiny church where the girl-wife was laid to rest.

“Poor–poor dear!” she said softly, and Richard Hallowell could not find the heart to smile.

For here was youth lamenting youth’s passing; shingled beauty bent in sorrow over the spot where Jane’s long hair had been brought over her head that the work of the axe might not be hampered. He could admire a profile as perfect as any he had seen, and a figure more gracious in its drooping tenderness than when it had stood as straight as a lance. Her colouring was soft and flawless against the grey background of age-blackened stones. Somehow the tragedy of Somerset’s ambition grew more poignant and real in the presence of this vital expression of youthful womanhood.

“Yes–horrible, wasn’t it? She lodged at the King’s House… From that window she saw her husband carried past after his death… Hope, you are making the morning rather a sad one!”

She flashed a quick smile at him and dropped her hand on his arm.

“Then I’m a brute, Dick! I will be good–isn’t that resplendent creature Bobbie?”

The lank form of the officer of the guard had appeared under the veranda of the guard-house.

“That is Bobbie. He came off leave last night and he is making his first acquaintance with Tower guard duty,” he chuckled. “He’s a born loafer–a little gentle work will do him the world of good!”

“That is the first time you have smiled to-day,” she reproached him, and though he might have told her that he had little excuse for smiles that morning, he said nothing.

Dick Hallowell, in his black, perfectly-fitting frock coat, girded about with the scarlet sash of rank, was a head taller than she–keen-faced, grey-eyed, he had something of the suppleness of the born athlete and something of an athlete’s spring in his walk.

“And now I’ve shown you everything,” he said. “I was hoping it would take the whole day.”

She laughed softly.

“That isn’t true! You’ve been fidgeting to get rid of me ever since your servant came to you. Somebody is waiting to see you?” Before he could answer she went on: “I’m a born sightseer, and besides, I know the Tower rather well. But I did so wish to see what you really were like in uniform.”

As she spoke she realised with a sense of dismay how very short a time they had known one another. Less than a month before, a lost punt pole had brought them together in a shady backwater of the Thames, she drifting ridiculously to no worse fate than entanglement in an osier bed, and he canoeing to her rescue with no other sense than of amusement.

They paced down the slope towards the Lion Gate and stopped under the archway to gaze with one accord at the grim wooden barrier behind which was the river.

“Traitor’s Gate!”

She shivered, though why she could not for the life of her understand.

“Traitor’s Gate,” he nodded. “A highly respectable gateway nowadays–you would never dream that queens and courtiers had trodden those steps. That is the place where Queen Elizabeth sat down and said she’d be damned if she went any farther!”

She laughed again and they went on, past the saluting sentries, until they came to the everyday world of Tower Hill, a place of huge trolleys laden with cases and a smell of fish from near-by Billingsgate.

Hope’s big Rolls moved silently to the kerb, and Dick opened the door.

“I shall see you–when?”

She smiled at this.

“Just whenever you wish. I am a name in the telephone book and I like lunching at the Embassy!”

“What are you going to do now?”

She made a little face at this.

“I’ve an unpleasant interview ahead of me,” she said, and he stared at her. And so had he–but this much he did not confess.

*     *

*

He watched the car out of sight before he turned, strode down the hill, across the bridge that spans the ancient moat. And he was smiling no more. Not even the mute and pathetic appeal for sympathy that Bobbie made to him as he passed the guard-room moved the troubled frown from his good-looking face.

At the entrance to his quarters Brill, his servant, was waiting.

“The gentleman told me to go out and see if I could find you, sir–he says he has an appointment.”

Dick Hallowell nodded slowly.

“I shan’t need you for a quarter of an hour, Brill,” he said. “You had better stay here, and if anybody wants me, tell them that I am very busy.”

“Yes, Sir Richard.”

“And, Brill, did–er–the gentleman say anything to you… about himself?”

Brill hesitated.

“No, sir. He seemed a bit short of temper, and said that you ought to be glad to have quarters like these!”

Again he hesitated.

“Yes?”

“That’s all, sir… he sort of sneered. I thought it was cheek, sir. His coming here and criticising. He’s nothing so far as I can see.”

“Yes–nothing.”

Dick went up the stone stairs, stopped at the door on a landing, and with a grimace pushed open the door and walked in. Standing by the window of the comfortable sitting-room, and apparently absorbed in the spectacle of a drill squad, stood a man. His face, half turned towards Dick, was thin and discontented, his clothes shabby, his boots down at heel. Yet in face and carriage there was a peculiar likeness to the silent, watchful officer.

“Hallo!”

He turned with a growl to the contemplation of his host, and his scrutiny was neither friendly nor without offence.

“Hallo–brother!”

Dick said nothing. As they faced one another the likeness was more observable, and yet there was a distinct dissimilarity. Had Graham Hallowell eradicated the harshness from his voice, it would have been identical; but he had forgotten the art of amiability, forgotten that he had ever captained the boats at a great school, and been the pride and ornament of a university. All that he knew was that he was a hardly-used man, a man who had “never had a chance”; he had reached the stage where he could remember only his grievances and the sour happenings of life.

“Your welcome is as enthusiastic as ever–Sir Richard!” he sneered. “And I’ll bet that you aren’t going to ask me to lunch in the mess, eh? ‘Meet my brother–Graham Hallowell–he came out of Dartmoor yesterday and he will be able to tell you some most amusing stories of Naked Hell!’”

His voice rose until it was almost a shout. Dick realised that he had been drinking and was in his most poisonous mood.

“Even your damned servant treats me as though I were a leper–”

“You are!” Dick Hallowell’s tone was subdued and crystal-clear. “A leper–that describes you, Graham! Something foul that self-respecting people wish to avoid. Something inhuman without a quality acceptable to God or man. And don’t shout when you talk to me, or I’ll take you by the scruff of the neck and kick you down the stairs. Is that clear?”

The man seemed to cower at the threat. From the hectoring bully he became the wailing suppliant.

“Don’t take any notice of me, Dick–I’ve had two over the eight this morning, old man. Imagine how you would feel if you had been released from prison only yesterday–put yourself in my place–”

He was interrupted.

“I can’t imagine how I should feel when I qualified for prison,” said the other coldly. “I haven’t that much imagination. It is impossible to put myself in your place when you drugged and robbed a foolish young officer of the Guards who trusted you because you were my half-brother. It is impossible to visualise myself running away with a decent man’s wife and leaving her to starve in Vienna. There are other things I can’t imagine–I need not describe them in detail. When I can put myself in your place, so that I can understand just how a man can grovel in the mud as you have grovelled, I shall be better able to share your emotions at finding yourself at liberty. What do you want?”

Graham’s restless eyes sought the window.

“I’m broke,” he said sullenly. “I thought of getting away to America–”

“Have the American police discovered a shortage of blackguards, that you need to go to America?”

“You’re as hard as hell, Dick.”

Dick Hallowell laughed–it was not the laughter of amusement.

“How much do you want?”

“Well, the fare to New York–”

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