Symud i'r prif gynnwys
Cuddio Rhestr Erthyglau

15 erthygl ar y dudalen hon



REDhOST PARK. BY EDMUND DOWNEY. Author of "Anchor Watch Yarns." "la One Town," See. XI. About the middle of October I was able to leave the house, but I was still feeble and unfit for work. 1>r. Ballworthy advised me to go to some quiet 80uth coast watering place and take a long holi- day. I selected Broadstairs, and thither I went. The weather lwas now mild and bright. The Months of September and October seemed to have ihanged places. There were no harsh winds, and rain fell during the first fortnight of my stay at roadstairs. I took apartments in the terrace facing the sea, and the freshness of the sea air, the brightness of atmosphere, the quiet of the sleepy little town "-the whole change from the mad unrest of that awful night when I dragged her body through the Park-revived me bodily and mentally. Whether the torpor in which I had so long lain had effected zne or not I am unable to determine satisfactorily, but I know that since my recovery from it a change had come over my mental condition. Per- ^apa it was not so much a change as a distinct and emphasised continuation of the state of mind into which I had gradually drifted since my meet- ing with Mr. Brabazon. I have mentioned the fact that I had succeeded in working myself out of the slough of despondency 111 which I had grovelled—I cannot say lived, when I look back upon it now—for many years. 1\1y mind had been growing daily more clear, and and my dirtorted mental vision had been improv- 'before the tragedy in Redpost Park had disturbed but there was a lurking dimness ever present, &n uneasy dread that I might at any moment, totter into an abyss of despair from which nothing could rescue me. Now I seemed to see everything ltitb an eye as clear and healthy as man could esire; there were no lurking shadows in my path. This delightful change was all the more wonderful to me when I reflected how madly I had for one brief hour loved that strange woman, how the life Went out of my body when I heard that she was 110 more. I had loved her passionately; 1 cherished her memory still; but the loss did not znake me hate mankind. I did not allow myself to brood too much over her tragic fate. She never, I now knew, could have been anything but a Memory to me. I found some small grain of comfort in that reflection. I tried to banish from JIly mind the charges with which Mr. Ashcroft had attempted to blacken the character of the dead "oman. I cannot say that I succeeded altogether in this endeavour, for Mr. Ashcroft was a man in countenance truth was clearly indexed. I uld only account for his statement by supposing he had misjudged Madeline, that he had been Purposely deceived about her conduct by Mr. "rabazon. It must be that Mr. Brabazon had ponged her husband cruelly and had endeavoured *o shift the blame to other shoulders. I hated him then this thought came uppermost. And »xt at t'mesr c°uld not dismiss from my memory he cold glitter, almost cruel in its coldness, which £ had seen in her eyes when first sho disclosed her Iftce to me in the study. » One afternoon during the third week of my stay Broadstairs I went tor a walk over the cliffs to *^tnsgate. Returning to Broadstairs I felt a little tlred, and when about a mile from the outskirts of 'he town I sat down on a grassy slope near the edge of the cliffs. The wind was blowing in from the sea, the salt-laden air soothed and refreshed me. I a glow of health and contentment coursing trough my veins as I sat and gazed at the waters. I had been sitting in blissful peace for about an hour when I observed that I was not alone. shadow seemed to overhang me, and looking ▼er my shoulder I saw a man seating himself on j56 slope behind me, a few yards distant. I moved body slowly until I almost faced the man. he motion had been almost involuntary: I could J* tell why I had moved. Apparently the ■danger wu# not taking any notice of me. He p*J»ith his head slightly averted as if ho were ooking for the approach of some one from Broad- ■wiirs, H# was a dark-haired, powerfully built man, a nose long and sharp in profile. He had a 1Ir, black moustache, and a chin which receded lsibly but waa of remarkable squareness. He :118 dressed in tightly fitting well-made clothes, b nd he wora a soft brown hat slouched over his rows. A cigar" us between his lips. There was something of the foreigner in his "Ppearence, but I judged him to be an Englishman Who bad travelled much. Suddenly he turned and looked straight at me. Sis eyes, dark and luminous, caught mine as I glanced swiftly at him, and, with a spasmodic tnotion of the lip9, which disclosed a glistening let of white even teeth, he said in a low, soft froice, If I think I am addressing Dr. Emanuel. Is it wot so ? Bad a thunderbolt fallen from the violet sky |~j>°ve I could not have been more astonished and farmed. What could he know of me ? What he want with me ? I was not acquainted J>th any one in Broadstairs, and certainly this was an utter stranger to me. However, I saw reason why I should not answer his question. 'Yes, I am Dr. Emanuel," I said quietly. I *ou have the advantage of me I do not recog- you. j" No," he said, bio win ga whiff of smoke seaward, have never met until this evening." His nonchalence irritated me. Though there J* nothing offensive in his words there was a daggering offence in his voice and manner. I tlld not hide my irritation, so I exclaimed hastily sharply," I presume you have something to l to me. If that is the case, you had better lay it quickly, for I am about to retire for the e"ening." Co Not so fast," he murmered. N ot so fast, dear Victor. Your presumption is quite correct, i something to say to you." j was not in the least alarmed now. I had *j*r&ed a lesson in the art of commanding myself. old nervousness, if it did still exist, was dor- mant, but I was annoyed at the impudently a8gressive swagger of the man. Say it, please *"at once." 1 uttered the words with distinct ^Phasis. "I am in no hurry, I assure you. The night is ery young, scarcely born, in fact; and I think •rowly, Doctor: therefore my speech is slow. My tne is—at least," with a grin and another spas- modic movement of his mouth—" the name I am by is Antonio Viacava. Signor Viacava, if You like that better." I felt my heart palpatating wildly. I tried to but my tongue clave to my palate. Her I see," with a shrug of his shoulders, that are surprised, struck all-of-a-heap, as you •tould say. Yes, Antonio Viacava is my name— r* least my adopted name. I pass for an Italian— like your Mr. Weller, my knowledge of J*ly and of Italians is extensive and peculiar—and JI am an Englishman. You see," with another of his shoulders and a gesture of the hands, ^^am candid with you, Doctor. Charmingly So I perceive. But," my voice was thick and •^steady," with what object, pray, do you seek Ine out jI That will appear presently. There is no hurry, 1)octor. I do not like to carry on conversations of private nature in a room, or I should have done J»Fself the honour of calling upon you to-day. You have an old proverb: • Stone walls have ears;' there are no ears here but our own. His words brought that unpleasant fact home to suddenly. The cliffs were quite deserted. I Qid not offer to speak. I had nothing to say, and I knew 8ignor Viacava would detain me until he explained himself. He went on in the same Cold. measured tJne, Of course I sought you out. When one wishes 'Peak to a friend—permit me to call you a friend-he naturally seeks him out. I called at house in the great city; You were not there, oil were in Broadstairs, a good lady informed me -Your houskeeeper, no doubt. Therefore I am in roadstair8. It is simple is it not ?" lIe paused as if in expectation of a reply, so I hswered him, Quite simple from your point of jiew, no doubt. But why do you seek me outr 0 you wish to consult me professionally ?" > In one sense, yes, and in one sense, no. I am, jJ^Ust, in perfect health bodily, but, like Mac- I want you to minister to a mind—perhaps I hould say a purse—deceased. No, no, not mad- he went on, with a laugh, if that spasmodic "etlon of the mouth could be called a laugh; I am a, sane as yourself." An echo of Madeline Viacava's words J I am troubled," he continued, about many lings; money for one, as I have already hinted, a,«cately hinted, I hope." 1 drew my purse promptly from my pocket. .Signor Viacava threw himself back and burst loud laughter. 1\_10 Oh, dear no," he cried; your little purse, tor. cannot cure my ills. All the same I thank Ou very much. The impulse was genuine— Qble; but my needs require the assistance of a j?°dern Fortunatus. Thousands, my dear sir; ouaands, my dear sir!" Thousands!" I echoed in surprise. Yes; but not of yours, Doctor." Why, then, mention the fact that you needed Oney ?" "4 Because throufh you I mean to obtain it." .Through me ?" Xle I *93; through you. Listen to me, Doctor. You lid not be alarmed. I am not a professional ate,Jdicant. I am simply a gentleman slightly out 'elbows. Metaphorically, of course," he added, a laugh, caressing the sleeve of his well- ^ng coat. I require a sum of moneyLet us JoT teQ.or twenty tuousand pounds. A friend of ^ec'^f is rich. He roust pay the sum I shall •«, e upon demanding/' „ not see the logical inference." ^°cto Preaently y°u Pfttient, dear fluog away his cigar and proceeded to light olber. He had by this moved-alid.e4 would perhaps be a ridiculous word to apply to such a mass of flesh-along the cliff until he was close beside me. So imperceptible had been this move- ment on the part of Signor Viacava—at no time had I been able to convince myself that he was actually approaching more closely to me, or I should have risen to my feet—that I felt powerless to protest against his actions. There would be no object served now in exhibiting any traces, assumed or otherwise, of fear; and, aftbr all, I had no reason to be alarmed, nor was I in reality alarmed. There was indeed no menace in his unim- passioned face or in his somewhat languid ges- tures. I could only say that I did not like the man; fear I did not experience. He could scarcely mean harm. It could not possibly serve any object of his, so far as I could imagine, to injure me. Was he not contemplating that I should assist him in some demand for money? My assistance he, of course, should not have if his demand was not just. I had not the slightest in- tention of converting myself into an agent for the levying of blackmail. Had I been sitting in a room with Viacava, or in a place were people were moving to and fro, no question of alarm would have disturbed ma. But the edge of the cliff was distant only a few yards, and we were alone. And the sight of means to do ill deeds might have some influence over the actions of my companion. When I look back now upon the thoughts which coursed through my brain as I found Signor Viacava sitting so uncomfortably close to me, I fancy was more anxious than I should like to have admitted to myself to learn something about the connection between his dead wife and Mr. Braba. zon and, as a corollary, to obtain a clue to that mystery of Redpost Park. When Signor Viacava's cigar was alight he said. Mr. Brabazon is rich—enormously wealthy. I am temporarily poor—deucedly poor. I have a legitimate claim against him; therefore there should be no need on his part for hesitation." The inference assumes a more logical aspect now but why tell me all this ? Why not go to Mr. Brabazon and lay your claim before him. Why not write to him ? It would be useless for me to endeavour to see Mr. Brabazon. I am not in a position to storm his fortress. He sees no one. He is a recluse of the most pronounced type." His glistening teeth again showed themselves under the black moustache. You are the only privileged being beyond his Mentor, Ashcroft. To write to him would be use- less. The same Mentor examines his correspon- dence and would not permit him to read my letters. Perhaps you now see why I select you as my ambassador. Do you not ? The cool effrontery of the man was amazing; but there was an echo in his words of his wife's words which softened my anger. Parrying his question I said, Surely you could contrive to see Mr. Brabazon without, my aid ? What if I did not wish to see him ? What if I should not care to stand in his presence even, for thousands of pounds?" There was more energy in his tone than he had previously allowed to creep into it. You amaze me. He is an ordinary human being amenable to reason," I said. He is not a ravenous wolf seeking whom he may devour." He is worse—he is something more terrible! Signor Viacava, with that horrible opening of the mouth followed by a short, quick snap of his white teeth. I could only stare at him in bewilderment. His face was as impassive as ever, but there was a gleam in his dark eyes which made me feel dis- tinctly uncomfortable, and I determined to try and humour Signor Viacava a little. Might I ask how I am to ascertain if the claim you wish to press upon Mr. Brabazon is a just one ? H You may ask, of course," he replied politely, "but I shall require a moment's deliberation with myself before I decide to answer your question." He puffed at his cigar for a few moments, and with a movement which brought his body a little closer to mine, he said: I will ask you a question. I will put a case to you. Suppose a man were to murder your wife, ought not that man to consider he was making a good bargain if the bereaved widower consented to take a sum of money and be silent. Would not the burial of a hangman's rope be dirt cheap at twenty thousand pounds to Mr. Brabazon? In God's name what connection is there between hangmen's ropes and Mr. Brabazon ? A close connection, if I choose to speak! You are talking utter nonsense. Do you know what your wife died of ? I know what killed my wife—who murdered my wife." We were close to one another now. His hot breath was like a furnace blast. Have you read the account of the inquest ? •• I have read the account of the inquest." And you talk of murder ? And I talk of murder." Are you aware it was I-I-who found your wife in Redpost Park I who discovered the viper's fang in her wrist; I who tried with all my power to snatch her from the jaws of death? He laughed a coarse urutallaugh and said, "Yes—I am aware of it all. Your hypodermic injections of ammonia and the rest. You might as well have been injecting soapsuds. Look here, doctor, we must not mince matters any longer. Let my wife be. Will you do my will ? Will you place in Brabazon's hands a letter from me ? "I do not know. What if I decline?" M This, by God! he yelled and the point of a glistening knife was placed against my breast, and one arm of Signor Viacuva. was wound tightly round mj struggling body. (To be continued.)