Symud i'r prif gynnwys
Cuddio Rhestr Erthyglau

21 erthygl ar y dudalen hon



CHAPTER XXV. [ Makes Plain a Woman's Fear. I '1 Tell me," I said at last, fall of sympathy for bet in her dire nnhappinees. "Tell me, Tibbie, about (hit man Rumbold." For some moments she was silent. Per pale lips trembled. What is there to tell I" she exclaimed, hoarsely. There was nothing; extraordinary in oar meeting. We met at a country honse, as I met a hcndred other men. Together we paased lome idle summer days, and at last discovered that we loved each other." Well ?" I Well-that is all," she answered In a strange, bitter voice. It is all at an end now." 1 never recollect meeting him." I remarked reflectively. No-yon never have," she said, Bat please do not let nil discuss him farther," she urged. The memories of it all are too painful. I was a fool." A fool for loving him?" I asked, for ao platonic were onr xelationa tbat I could speak to her with the same frankness its her own brother. For loving; bim," abe echoed,looking straight TAt me. No—no. I was a fool because I allowed myself to be misled, and bslieved what I was told without demanding proof." Why do yon fear tbe man who foand yon in EHasgow 1" Ah I That is quite another matter," she jxoiaiiced quickfy. I warn you to be careful jf John Parham. A word from me would place aim under arrest bat, alas I dare uot speak. They have successfully Clogal my lips I" Was she referring, I wonaered, to that bonse Kith the fatal stairs ? He is married, 1 suppose ?" »• Yes-and his wife is in utter ignorance of wbo "HId what he is. She lives at Sydenbam, "od believes him to be something in the City. I enow tbe poor woman quite well" It was apon the tip of my tongue to make in. lairy about Misa O'Hara, bat by ho doing 1 saw 1 should admit having acttid the spy. I longed io pat some leading questions to her concerning the dead unknown in Charlton Wood, bat in view of Eric's terrible denunciation howcould I? W here was Eric? I asked bet, but she declaied that she was in ignorance. i. Some time ago," abe said; I heard that be was in Paris. He left England suddenly, I II believe." It Wby 7" U The real reason I don't know. 1 only know 'iom a friend who saw him one day sitting ) oofore a cafe in the Boulevard des Itaiieos." Yoar friend did not apeak to him f" I in laired qaickly. N°" Then it might have been a mistake. Tbe person might, I mean, have merely resemble-i griedomville. Was your informant an inti- mate friend ?" A friend and alao an enemy." Ab I Many of us have friends of that sort I" I remarked, whereat I sighed, recollecting, no doubt, the many friends who had played her false. The wild, irresponsible worldlinesa, the thoughtless vices of the smart woman, the slangy conversation and the loudness of voice that was one of the hall-marks of her go-ahead circle, bad now all given place to a quietness of manner and a thoughtful seriousness that utterly amazed me. In her peiil, whatever it was, the stern realities, of life had risen before her. She no longer looked at men and things through rose-coloured spectacles, she frankly admitted to me, but now saw the griu seriousness of life around her, Dall drab Camberwell had been to her an object lesson, showing her that there were other peoples and other spheres beside that gily world around Grosvenor-sqnare, or bridge parties at country houses. Yet she bad, alas learned the lesson too late. Misfortune had fallen upon her, and now she was crushed, hopeleea, actually 4triounly contemplating nnioide. ifhis latter fact caused me the moat intense anxiety. „ Apparently her interview with Aithur Kum- bold's mother had caused her to decide to take her life. The fact of Parbam having foaud her in Glasgow was, of course, a serious contretemps, but the real reason of her decision to die was the outcome of her meeting with Mrs Rombold. What had passed between the two women ? Was their meeting at Fort William a pre- arranged one, cr was it accidental ? It must have been pre-arranged, or she woald scarcely have fcone in the opposite direction to that of nbich she left word for me. The situation was now growing more serious every moment, As westood together there I asked her to releaao me from my imposture as bar hasbani, but at the mere suggestion she cried- Ah I no Wilfrid I You surely will not desert me now-jast at the moment when I most need your protection 1" Bat in what way can this pretence of our marriaeo assist you ?" It does—it will," aha assured me. You do not knov the truth, or my motive would be quite plain to yon. I have trusted you, and I still trust In yoa that you will not desert or betray me." Betray Von ? Why. Tibbie, what are you saying ?" I a*ked, surprised. Could I betray her? I admire ber, bet I did not love her. How coold I love her when I recolleoted tbe awful charge against her. Do you suspect that I would ptay you false, aa some of yoar friends have done ?" I asked, looking steaaily into her fine eyes. No. no forgive mel Wilfrid," she exclaimed earnestly, returning my gaze. I sometimes don't know what 1 am saying. I only mean that -you will not leave me." And yet yoa asked me to go back to London only a few minutes ago," I said in a voice of re- proach." I think I'm mad she cried. This mystery is so puzzling, so inscrutable, and so fall of borror that it is arivinl,, me insane." Then to you also it is a mystery 1" I cued utterly amazed at her words. "I thought yoa were fully aware of the whole truth." I only wish I knew it. If so, I might per- haps escape my enemies. But they are mach too ingenious. They have laid their plans far too wall." She referred, I supposed, to the way in which those scoundrels had forced money from her by threats. She was sorely not alone in her terrible ibraldom. The profession of the blackmailer in Why do you fear the man who foand yoa in Glasgow," London is perhaps one of the most lucrative of criminal callings, and also one of the safest for the criminal. A demand can cleverlv insinuate without making any absolute threat, and the blackmailer Is generally a perfect past-master of hia art. The general public can conceive no idea of the widespread operations of the thousands of thaee blackguards in all grades of society. When seurets cannot be discovered, cunining traps are set for the unwary, and many an honest man und woman is at this moment at the meroy of unscrupulous villains, compelled to pay in order to hash no some affair of which they are in teality entirely innocent. No one is safe. From ths noor squalid homes of VVbifecbapel to the big mansions of Belgravia, from garish City offices to the snag villadom of Norwood, from j 1!klo PinehJey to weary Wandsworth, the black- i-.iwiler takes his toil, while it is calcolitted that u"nf!y half the suicides reported annually in London are of those who tako their own liven I II., her Shan face exposure. The unsound •Tiitiri verdict in many instances m< -rely covets tile grim fact that the pockets of the victim h.we been drained dry by those: human vampiies who, dressed amnglv and passing as ReutteniPH, tabtboaldero with as in society of, every grade. j I looked at Sybil, and wondered what was t he • itrangp secret which she had bean compelled to insh ap. Those letters I had filched from tbe lead man were all sufficiont proof that she was r I (ictim. But wha.t was the atory ? Would she >ver tell me ? I looked at her sweet beautiful •, :ace, and wondered. We moved o™.again, slowly ikirting the picturesque lake. She would not illow me to release myself from my bond, do- slaring that I mast still pose 9" William Mor- ion, compositor. But everyone knows we are not married," I I laid. Mr-i Rumbold, for i notp nee. 4 Not everyone. There are gomn who believe t, or they would not, hesitate to attack me," was « ler vague and mysterious response. For my own part, Tlbbie,I think we've carried he masquerade on quite long enough. I'm be- ( jinnine to fear that Jscfe. or some of bis friends, ( nay discover us. Your description i3 eirealuited ly the police, remember besides, my prolonged ibsence has already been commented upon by i rour people. Jack and Wydcombe have been to ny rooms half a dozen times, so Bndd says." } No. They will not discover us," ahe ex- > claimed, quite confidently. Bat walking here opacly, and travelling up ind down the country i» really inviting recogni- Bat walking here openly, and travelling up ind down the country iv really inviting recogni- ion," I declared. Your wer- recognised, yon'll c emember, in Carlisle and again in Glasgow. To- I norrow you may be aeen by one of yoar friends Ie ?ho will wire to Jack. And if we are fouud to- [ether—what then ?" What then ? she echoed. Why, I should 1 18 foncct with the man who la my beat--my only r riend." Bat a scandal would be created. You can't 1 ifford Sso risk that, yoa know." No," she answered slowly, in a low hard ,oice, I suppose yon are right, I can't. Neither j an yoa, for the matter of that. Yes," she ddod with a deep sigh, It would be far better or me, as well us for you, if I were dead." I did nut reply. Wbat could I say ? She eemed filled by a dark foreboding of avil, and ¡ ler thoughts now natarhlly reverted to the action ,\eI which she had perhaps for week? or months leon brooding. It amused me sometimes to see the girl of whose beauty half London bad raved, making a pudding or applying blacklead with a brush. I had endeavoured to assist her for the sake of oar passionate idyllic love of long ago, but all was in vain, I said. I recognised that sooner 0: later she must be discovered, and the blow- the exposure of her terrible crime-must fall. And then ? She had killed the man who had hold her in thriudom. That was an undoubted fact. Eric had fully explained it, and conld testify to the deed, although be would, I knew, never appear as witness against her. The unknown black- guard scorning her del-r-once had goaded her to a frenzy of madness, and she bad taken her revenge npon the cowardly scoundrel. Coald she be blamed ? In taking a life sbe had committed a crime before God and man, most certainly. The crime of murder can never be pardoned, yet in saoh circumstances sorely the reader willbeerwith me for regard- ing her action with some slight degree of leniency-witb what onr French neighbours would call extenuating circumstances. And the more so vtbon I recollected what the dead unknown had written to his accomplice in Manchester, The fellow had laid a plot, bnt be had failed. The woman, alone, unprotected,and desperate, had defended berself, and be had fallen dead by her band. In my innermost hsart I doeided that be de- served the death. Why Ellice Winsloe had recognised the body was plain enough now. The two men were friends—and enemies of Sybil Burnet. I clenched my fingers when 1 thought of ths dangerous man who waa Btill posing as the cham of young Lord Scarcliff,and I vowed that I woald live to avenge the wrong dona to the poor trembling girt at my side. She barst into hot tears again when I de- clared that it would be better for ue to retarn again to the obscurity of Camberwell. Yes," sbe sobbed. Act as you think beat, Wilfrid. I am entirely in your hands. I am youre, indeed, for you saved my lif« on—on that night when I fled from Ryhall." tve turned into the town again through Gallowgate when she had dried hei eyes, and had lanch at a emall eating-house in New Bridge- street, Ebe Rfterwards returning to "her hate) to pack, for we had decided to take the afternoon train ap to King's Cross. She was to meet me at the atation at half- past three, and just before that hoar, while idiing up and down Neville-street awaiting the arrival of her cab. of a sudden I saw the figure of a man in a dark travelling nlster and soft felt hat emerge from the station and oross the road to Grainger-atreet West. He was hurrying along, but in an instant something about his figure and gait struck me as familiar; therefore, walking qaickly after him at an angle before he conld enter Grainger- street. I caught a glimpse of his countenance. It was John Parham. And he was going in the ditection of the Douglas Hotel. He had again tracked her down with an in- tention which I knew, alas I too well, coald only be a distinctly evil one. CHAPTER XXVI. Talfes Me a Step Further. We were batk again in Neate-street, Camber- well. In Neweaatte we had a very narrow escape, As Parham had walked towards the bote), Sybil had fortunately passed him in cloaed cab. On her arrival at the station who was in entire ignorance of the fellow's presence, and as the train was already In waiting we entered and were qaickly on our way to London, wondering by what mean* Parham could possibly have known of her whereaboats. Was she watched ? Was some secret agent, of whom we were in ignorance, keeping constant observation aoon as, and reporting onr move- ments to the enemy ? That theory was Sybil's. Those men are utterly onscrnpnloas," she declared aa we sat together in the little upstairs room in Camberwell. No secret is aafa from them and their spies are far better watchers than the most skilled detectiives of Scotland Yard." At that moment Mrll Williams entered. delighted to see us back again, for when we had left Tibbie had, at my suggestion, paid rent for the rooms for a month in advance, and explained that we were retarning. Two gentlemen came to enquire for you a weak ago, Mr Morton," she exolaimecl, address- ing me. They first saked whether Mrs Mor- ton was at home, and I explained that sbe was away- Then they inquired for you, and appeared to be most inquisitive." Inquisitive ? About what 7 Rated my psendo wife. Oh, all about yoar private affairs, mum. Bat I told them I didn't know anything, of coarae. One of the men waa a foreignerl What did they uk you 7" 1 inqaired, In some alarm. Ob. how long yon'd been with me, where yon worked, how long you'd been married-and all that. Most iinnuadent, I CRII it. Especially as Shay were strangers." How do yon know they were etrangeiB ?" Becanae they took the photograph of my poor brother Harry to be YODrø-30 they conidn't have known you." Impostors, I expect," I remarked, in order to allay the Rood woman's suspicious. 1, No cloabt tbey were trying to get some iiiformation from yon in order to u?e it for their own pur- poses. PeibHps to use my wife's name, or mine as an introduction somewhere." Well, they didn't get pinch change oat of me, I can teli you," she laughed. i told them I didn't know them, and very soon sbowed them « the door. I don't like foreigners. When I sked them to leave their names they looked at f each other andappetredconfntHd. They askod where you were, and I told them von were in i Ireland." j That's right," I said smiling, "If they want ic me thev can come here again and find me." Then, aftpt the landlady bad gone dowDstairs, I I iiskecl Tibbie her opiniou. t Did J "ot tell yon that inquiries would be made to ascertain whether I were married ?" -ha « --id. The woman evidently satisfied them, fr r sbe has nr suspicion of tbe trae state of Jfnirs." Then yoa are safe ?" r Safe only for tbe present. I may be in ?n- ,-eiteed peril to morrow." 1 Aud bow long do you anticipate this danger II :0 last 1" I asked her serioasly, as she sat there 1ÛDg into the meagre fire. < 11 Last ? Until my life's end,' she answered 7ery sadly. Then turning her wonderful eyea 1 a o mine she added I know you cannot sacri- ice yoar life for me in this way much longer, j 8 Wilfrid. Therefore it mast end. Yet life, after t ill, is very aweet. When I am alone I constantly ook back npon my past and recognise how c vasted it hI' been how I discarded the benefits t )f Providen--t. and bow from the first, when I 8 iima out, I "VI\S dazzled by tbe glitter, gaiety, a tnd extravagance of our circle. It has all \1 mded now, and 1 actually believe I am a changed 0 votnan. Bat it is, alas I too late-too late," a These words of beis conealed some extraordi- d 11\ry rom %nee-[-he romance of a broken heart. t 5be admitted as much. Why were these men so C lersisteotlv hunting her down if they were in no fear of her ? It could only be some desperate 0 iondetta perhaps a life for a lire, ,t_ _L- L_8 a "DIU "as linu eaiu -vat correct, mine was now i roost invidious position, for while posing as iVIUiaro Morton I was unable to go to Bolton- itreet. "r even call upon Scarcliff or Wydeombe or fea.r that Winsloe and bit accomplices should earn that I was still alive. Therefre I waf 1 sompelled to return to the Caledonian Hotel in be Adelpbi, where Budd met me in sectet each leaning with my lettsrs and necessaries. Anotber week thus went by. The greater part if tbe day I usually spent with Tibbie in that lull little room in Neate-3treet, and sometimes, | vhen the weather was fine, we went to get a • treath of air in Greenwich Park or to Lewisham It Dalwich, those resorts of the working-class if South London. At night, ostensibly going to vork. I left ber, and spent hoars and hours I awfully watching the movements of Ellice IVinsloe. ] To Liora wyacomna s, in ijarzuu-sireet, l :oi- J lowed htm on several occasions, for he had sad- 1 3enly become very intimate with Wydcombe, it appeared, and while 1 stood on the pavement 1 sutside that house I knew so well, my thoughts j wandered back to those brilliant festivities which Cynthia so often gave One night after Wias'oe [lad dined there, 1 saw the brougham come round, and be and Cynthia drove off to the ibeatcO; followed by Jack and Wydcombe in a I lanaom. On another afternoon I followed Win- I iloe to the Seareliff's in Groavenor-piace, and ater on silwhim laughing with old Lady Scarcliff I it tbe di a wing-room window that overlooked Lfyde Park Corner. tie presented a sleek, well- o-do appearance,essentially that of a gentleman. 6 Elie frock-coat was immaculate, his overcoat of ;be lateut cut, and his silk bat always ironed to c :be highest perfection of glossiness. c Tibbie, d course, knew nothing of my patient tfatcbfulriess. I naver went near my chambers, 8 iberefore Ellice and Parham cettainly believed 8 oe dead, while as to Domville's bidiag in Paris, [ confess I doubted the truth of the statement of 1 ri bbie's ftieud. If tbe poor fellow still lived he f ,Yon]A most certainly have written to me. No. I He was dead-without a doubt. He had faUen a rictim in that Rrim house of doom. 4 Again and again I tried to find the graesome )lace. but in vain. Not a street nor an alley n the neighbourhood of Kegent-rtreet, I left nu- •rplored, yet for the life of me 1 could not agaiu :ecognisr the bonse. Tt-s only plan, I decided, vae to follow Parbam, who would one day go here, without adoubt. I called on Mrs Parham at Sydenham Hill, ind found that her husband was still absent-in tndia: sha believed. Miss O'Hara, however, re- ( nained with ber, Wbnt connection bad the girl 1 with those malefactors, I tried to discern T At til events she knew their cipher, and they also] eared her, an abowr by the actions on that lark night in Dean'a Yard. j My own idea was that Parbam was still a tray j n the country. Or, if he were in London, he lever wenl neat Winsloe. The police were in "I earch of him, as admitted by tbe inspector at | Sydenham, therefore he might at any moment >e arrested. Bat before ho fell into tbe bands if the police I wbb determined to fathom thn ecret of that bonse of mystery wherein I had I 8 o near] v lomt my life. ( For Tibbie's personal silfety 1 w now in 6 lonstant and deep anxiety. They were desperate J >nd would hesitate at nothing in order to secure 1 boir wn ends. The ingenuity of the plot to size her in Dean's Yhrd was sufficient evfdnece I if that. Fortunately, however, Tibbie bad not een my cipher advertisements. I Anotber week passed, and my pretended wife lad quite settled down again Bmid ber humble > lurroundings, It amused me sometimos to see J he girl of whose beauty half London bad raved, with the sleeves other cotton blouse tamed apt naking a padding, or kneeling before the grate 1 tnd applying blacklead with a brash. I, too, helped to do her housework, and more than )ace scrubbed down the table or cleaned the win- iows. Frequently we worked in all seriousness, aut at times we were compelled to laugh at each other's auusuai occupation. And when I looked steadily into those fine wide-open eyes, I wondered wbat great secret ivas bidden tbere. Time after time I tried to learn more of Arthur Rumbold, but she woald tell me nothing. In fear that the fact of her disappearance might find its way into the papers, she wrote mother reassuring letter to her mother, telling tier that she was weU and that one day ere long abe would retarn. This I sent to a friend, a college cham, who was wintering in Cairo, and it was posted from there. Jack natnrally sent out a man to Egypt to try and find her, and in the meantime we allayed all fears that she had met with fool play. Days and weeks went on. In the security of those obscnte apartments in Neate-street, that mean thoroughfare which by day tesonoded with the cries of itinerantcoaterniongers, and at even- ing was the playground of crowds of children, Sybil remained patient, yet anxious. Mrs Williams-whu, by the way, had a habit of speaking of her hasband an hot 11 old man was a kind, motherly soul, who did ber best to keep ber company during my absence, and who performed little services for her without thought of payment or reward. The occupation of com- positor accounted not only for my absence each night during the week, bat on Sunday nights RISO-TO prepare Monday morning's paper, I explained. I told everybody that'I worked in Fleet-street, but never satisfied them as to which office em- ployed me. Thore.were handreds of compositors living in the neighbourhood, and if I made a falsa statement it would at once be detected. With Williams I was friendly, and we often bad a glass together and a pipe. «' If what we suspect la true, air, tbeie's been eome funny goings-on in that bouse," said the Inspector. Oar life in Camberwell was sorely tbe atrangest ever led by man and woman. Before those who knew t!8 1 waa compelled to Oall her Molly," while she addressed me as 11 Willis," just as thpagh I were her husband. A thousand times I asked her the real reason of that masquerade, buS she steadfastly declined to tell me. Yon may be able to save me," was all the information she woald vouchsafe. Darkness fell early, for it was early in Feb- ruary, and each night 1 stole forth from the Caledonian Hotel on my tour of vigilance. The hotel people did not think it strange that 1 was a working man. It was a quiet comfortable place. I paid well, and was friendly with the hall porter. a A- 1- L. With the laitDint tsaaa s assistance—»ur u" was friendly with Winsloe's vales -1 know almost as mncb of the fellow's movements as be did himself. I dogged his footsteps everywhere. Once be went down to Sydenham Hill. called npon Mrs Parbam, and remained there about an boat while I waited ontaide in the quiet Buborban road. When be emerged he carry- ing a square parcel packed in brown paper, and this he conveyed back to Victoria,and afterwards took a cab to his own chambers. He had not been there more than a quarter of an hour, when along Klng-Btieet a figaro that I at once recognised as that of the man I most wanted to meet-John Parham himself. I drew back and crossed the road, watching him enter Winsloe's chambers, of which he apparently bad a latch key. Then I waited, for I meant, at all hazards, to track the fellow to his hiding-place, and to dis- cover tbe trae identity of tbe boase where I had bean so ingeniously entrapped. At last be emereed carrying the square packet which hit liiead had obtained at Sydenbam, und I behind him alao came Winsloe, Xbey" alked icroBs St. James's-square and up Yoik-vtreet to I lie Trocixdaro wht-.e. after bax ing e, diink to- gether, they parted, Winaioe going along Coven- ry-street, while bis companion, with the packet n hia band, remained on the pavement in Shaftesbury-avenue, apparently undecided which lirection tc. take. I was standing in tbe doorway of the Cafe IXonico opposite, watching bim keenly, a.nd saw hat he was evidently well known at the Troca- I iero, for tbe gold-lased hall-porter aaluted him j ind wished him good evening. A few moments later he got into a cab and 'rove away, -vhile in a few seconds I had entered < .nother cab, and was fo"owing him, We went 3 ip Shaftesbary-avenue, turning into Dean- I treet and thus reaching Oxford-street opposite < vathbone-placo, where be alighted, looked .round as though to satisfy himself than he was j < lot followed, and walked on at a rapid pace up iatbbone-place, afterwards turning into many l mailer thoroughfares, with which I was an- e .cquainted. Once he turned, and I feared that to bad detected me, therefore I crossed tbo road t Ind ascended tbe steps of a house, where I pre- [ ended to ring the door-bell. He glanced back again,and finding that he was i tot being followed increased his pace and tamed he corner. I wae after him in an instant, and till followed him at a respectable distance nntil Iter he had turned several corners and was talking up a quiet, rather ii)-lit street of dark ld-faahioned houses, he glanced up and down nd then suddenly disappeared into one of the loorways. My quIck eyes noted the house and ben, five minutes afterwards, I walked qaickly iast tbe place. .L- .u in a moment J. recuguisea me doorway as iaat if the house with the fatal stairs. Returning, on the opposite side of the road, I aw that the place was in total darkness, yet ont- vardly it was in no way different to its neigh- lours, with the usual Sight of steps leading to he front door, the deep basement, and the high ron railings still bearing before tilo door the old IxcinniJbers used by the link-men in the early lays of last century. I recognised the house by boss extinguishers. The blinds had not been owered, therefore I conjectured that th»p!ace raa unoccupied. The street was, I foand,called Clipstone-street, nd it lav between Cleveland-street and Great Portland-street in quite a different direction ban that in which I bad imagined it to be. After a quarter of an hour Pnibam emerged ithoct bill parcel, closed the door behind him, nd walked on to PortJand-place, where, ftom be stand outside the Langbam, he took a cab. to Jyric Chambers, in Whitcomb-street, opposite jeiceater-square, where I discovered he bad his bode. I,- or My heart beat wiidiy, lor l Knew tnat l was now on the verge of a discovery. I bad gained knowledge that placed the assassins of Eric Domville in my hands. I lost not a moment. At the Tottenham Conrt- road Police Station I was fortunate in finding Inspector Pickering on duty, and be at once recognised me as the her:) of that strange subter- ranean adventure. As soon as I told him I bad discovered the mya- terioas house be was, in an instant, on the alert, and calling two plnic-clotbes men announced his intention of going with me at once to Clipstone- street to make investigations. Better take edme tools with yoa. Edwards, to open the door, and a lantern, each of yon," he laid to them. Then turning to me, he added- If what we suspect is trae, sir, there's been jome funny goings-on in that house. Bat we shall ago." He took a revolver from his desk and placed it in his pocket, and afterwards exchanged hia uni- [orm coat for a dark tweed jacket in order not to J attract attention in the neighbourhood. Then we all four went forth to ascertain the l ;ru,b. I (To be continued), 1 _i


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