Symud i'r prif gynnwys
Cuddio Rhestr Erthyglau

5 erthygl ar y dudalen hon



£ Axx RIQHI* RISKSVIAJ THE LADY IN THE BLACK MASK BY TOM GALLON, Author of "Tatterley," "Meg the Lady," "The Great Gay Road, &c. CHAPTER XIL THE TRAP. Mr. Bellamy, sitting like a rather large spider in the centre of a web, in a certain large building overlooking the Embank- ment, and touching many wires which may be likened to the strands of that web, had certain information brought to him. And that information concerned Lady Wood- mason. Lady Woodmason had gone out of her house, at a fairly early h@r for an elderly fashionable lady, and had ret off in the direction of the City. There she had been lost sight of; but later in the day she had gone out in her brougham, being therefore much more easily followed, and had made purchases at various shops and stores. One or two shopkeepers, interviewed afterwards, had declared that the lady had purchased various articles of feminine attire, and that these articles were addressed to a Miss Robinson, at a certain house in a small street in Islington; all the addresses coin- cided. Mr. Bellamy made a few notes while this communication was being made to him; finally got up, took his hat, and left his office. Some half-hour later he rang the bell at the house in that small street, and when the garrulous little landlady opened the door to him, stepped briskly inside. "I've come to see Miss Robinson," he said. "I've beerf looking for Miss Robinson for I don't know how Ion?, and as she is a par- ticular friend of mine I want to see her at once." "Well, I don't know that you can do that," said the landlady. "I don't know whether you're a married man yourself, or whether you've ever been in love; but what would you think if, when you were talking to a young man, and a very 'andsome young man at that, some other party should sud- denly bounce in upon you, without so much as by your leave? What name shall I say? "You won't say any name at all," answered Bellamy promptly. "I'm such a very old friend that I can be allowed to go right up and see Miss Robinson for myself, and make my own apologies. Besides, I know the young man; he also is a personal friend of mine. Now, which room is it, and what floor? As the landlady afterwards expressed it, before she had time to turn herself round Mr. Bellamy had got the position of the and was half-way upstairs. He paused i n the landing for a moment, knocked dis- creetly on the door, and, being requested to enter, turned the handle and walked in. Clement had only arrived about five miuutes before, and" he and Ruth were Btaudmg rather close together, quite as tho igh she had but that moment, as the knock came at the door, sprung out of his arm, And there for a moment they stood, with no movement, staring at Bellamy, who had "alked into the room quickly, and had closed the door behind him, and was greet- ing th'm with a quiet, somewhat ironical bow. "Now. it's all right, Miss Tringham, and there is nothing whatever for you to get up- set abou, saId Bellamy quickly. "You did me l eautifully-the pair of you—down at Lipsto ie; about the smartest piece of work I'v< ever seen. And' to think that I ever suspected for a moment that this gentleman here had anything to do with vou! I acknowledge handsomely that I was tricked, and I deserved to be tricked. Now, an't we sit down for a minute or two and be comfortable? "I don't know how you've found out where I was; but I suppose you've come to take me away, said Ruth, turning with an instinctive movement towards Clement as if for protection. "I have found you out in the simplest fashion, though I'm not going to tell you what it was," said Bellamy cheerfully. "But he examined his finger-nails minutely and made a long pause—"I have not come to take you away, Miss Tringham. M you can make your mind easy about hat. "What do, you mean?" they both asked in i breath. I am off on another track," said Bellamy. "Perhaps this visit of mine was n a measure intended to show you that in he long run you can't get away from the aw, if the law happens to want you. For he moment, however, Miss Tringhaih, I've lone with you, and I don't mind telling you, or your own satisfaction, that I never did believe, and I probably never shall believe, that you had anything to do with this busi- ness. And may I beg that you won't cry ike that, because, apart from my profes- sional work, I am really a very tender- iearted man, and it upsets me." i Ruth had turned, and had laid her head bn Clement's shoulder, and was weepin ?.ietly. The relief, after the strain of aft he had gone through, was so tremendous ind so unexpected that she was completely iroken by it. Bellamy sat still, and looked "t his finger-nails again intently for a noment or two until she had calmed herself nd was able to look at him with a half mile, as though apologising for her weak- ess. "There, now we feel much better, don't re?" said Bellamy cheerfully. "There's nly one favour I want you to do for me, nd that is to remain where you are for the resent—just for the next couple of days. t's most unprofessional, I know, but it will e of real assistance to me." ,£; "Won't you explain? asked Clement. ) "Well, it's just this way. The newspapers i /e been making rather a fuss about Miss j ringham, and, so far as they dare, have udged the case for themselves and found er guilty, and all the rest of it. If some- body lif;hts upon her now, and she is very I •atura^y arrested, it will rather stop a cer- iin li 'tle business I have on hand, which I ave jlanned out to a nicety. "Y,;>u came to Mr Loader's office and gave fa'se name, and got admitted into his rivate room," said Clement quickly. "Is it nothing to do with him? Did you make or/ discovery there? < | Young man, you are going a. little too <«* said Bellamy with a short laugh. "I'm tot going to tell you anything more, except 11.t I did make a discovery there, and it is I jo that discovery I am going to work. You .re the confidential servant of Mr. Loader, I I .'e i be careful." I "I am the confidential servant of Miss in said Clement wiih a laugh. 'I iY-. t'n trust me -nothing." « And you may v^ n ,nw, Mr. Bellamy, I "hevf., as you suggest," said Ruth. j That's capital!" exsViL.nci Bellamy.) rAnd now, as my professional duty is over ,,i,r the present* I want you to tell me-just conli,ence-how you rnafiagd to slip trough my fingers, whr I -vent down to I capstone. It i now, but these ,rough my It d( ??' fui O n some o t h,-r occa- ,tings may be uaefui on some other occar I fo-n." "'1 knew that yoa, or /me-w else from ûtland Yard, would b uown there," lid Clement, "ami so sti.i to. off at once. fe travelled together, if yoa remember, j fter I Was fortunate enough te ,siss Tringham in the grounds and to I yay. The mere accident of meeting a man a racing motor explains the rest." i "It doesn't explain hoc voij managed to j low that Scotland Yard had been oommu- I nicated with," said Bellamy sharply. "There's been a leakage somewhere, and I don't like it." "I overheard Mr. Loader telephoning the information. I happened to be in the next room when he didn't know I was there." Bellamy looked at him for such a long time in absolute silence that Clement began to think the man would never speak again. As a matter of fact, Bellamy was quite oblivious of their presence; he was thinking of quite another matter. Presently he came to himself with a jerk, and held out his hand to Ruth, and then to Clement. "Good-bye, good-bye," he said quickly. "You shall hear from me almost directly." And went out of the room and out of the house at a great rate. Meanwhile, it had become imperative, in the sudden catastrophe that had fallen upon her, that Damia should see Ruther- ford at whatever cost. That fatal weakness that was her most besetting sin threatened to send her life down into the shadows. The will which Verinder had made robbed her at one fell swoop of everything she possessed; she was a pauper. And Rutherford, however deeply he may have loved her, had married her, be- lieving that she was a rich woman. The thing had to be told, and told to him more than to anyone else. More than that, she was desperately afraid of Morris Loader. She did not actually be- lieve that he would do her any harm; only in a vague fashion she feared him, and wanted if possible to placate, him. Ruther- ford was stronger than she was; he would know what to do in this extraordinary crisis. She waited until late in the afternoon before setting out; she drove to the Temple and dismissed her cab at the gates. Then, a rather forlorn-looking figure, and vaguely making up her mind what s-^e was to say to Rutherford, she wandered off in the direc- tion of Hall Court, and wern up the staircase leading to Rutherford's rooms. There with a timid! hand she knocked. Rutherford came to the door and stood for a moment, after he had opened it, look- ing at her in pleased amazement; then he suddenly caught at her hand and drew her in, and closed the door. "My darling," he said, as he took her into his arms, "how wonderful! He drew her into the further room and seated her there, and knelt beside her. For quite a, long tiir she said nothing; she passed" her hands over his hair and listened to all that he was saying, about his love for her and his delight at seeing her again. "Paul," she said at last, "I'm in great trouble." "Tell me all about it, my dearest," he urged. "I've never told you before; I haven't liked to say anything about it," she went on slowly. "But there was a man my guardian wanted me to marry-a man I liked rather well-" "My dear girl, I wouldn't let that worry you," Rutherford broke in quickly. "I've seen the man; he's been here. He can have no claim upon you; you belong to me. Be- sides, your trouble, so far as letting your guardian know of our marriage is con- cerned, is at an end; het cannot step be- tween us now. My people must come round in time; when they see you they will be as much in love with you as I have been." "Ah, but you don't understand," she said. "My guardian has left a will in which he gives the whole of his fortune 11 "I don't care a snap of the fingers about that," he said quickly. "On condition that I marry Morris Loader if I don't, all the money goes to charities, and I shan't have a penny. And what are your people likely to say to that, Paul dear ? "I confess it'll make it difficult," said Rutherford; but we mustn't think about that. You're my wife, and we've got to make the best of things. And now there is something else I want to ask you. What happened on the night that Mr. Verinder was killed? That Miss Tringham, who came to see me, told me a strange story of having changed clothes with you, and of having gone to a dance in your place. Tell me the truth about it." She hesitated a long time, glancing at him doubtfully. He got up from his knees and eat down, and looked at her earnestly. Perhaps he, too, like others, had begun to suspect that she sometimes fled from the truth, as she would have taken flight from anything else disagreeable. "You're quite sure, Paul dear, that you'll never tell anyone," she began hesitatingly. "It might get me into terrible trouble if you did. Ruth Tringham is suspected of the murder, because she is believed to have been in the house that night, and they might just as well suspect me, mightn't they? I did change clothes with her, and she went to the ball; I did it for your sake." "For my sake?" he asked, mystified. "What had I got to do with it?" "My dearest Paul, I wanted to see you very badly. It was two days after our wed- ding—that stupid, mysterious wedding, with no bridesmaids, and no friends, and nothing else. I hadn't had a line from you, or any- thing. That wasn't your fault, because of course I had told you that you mustn't write. Well, this dance at Laay Wood- mason's seemed to give me a chance. My guardian would believe that for three hours I was out of the house at this dance; it gave me three hours absolutely to myself, if I could manage to get someone else to take my place. Ruth managed splendidly, and no one suspected." "And you were left alone in the house, except for the servants and your guardian ? j asked Rutherford. "Yes, for about half-an-hour. Then, in Ruth's clothes—for of course she was be- lieved to have gone to bed hours before-I slipped out of the house, and I came here." "Came—here?" he asked blankly. She nodded slowly. "I got here about one o'clock in the morning. I told the porter at the gate that I wanted to see you, and of course he let me through. I came up here, and I waited outside the door for more than an hour you were not here." "My poor child ho exclaimed. "Why, I was away the greater part of that night, on an important matter of a case in which I was junior counsel. My leader was a tremendously busy man, and I had to go I through the matter at his convenience. We were hours at it, and I didn't leave him I till about four o'clock in the morning. What did you do finally ? > "Finally I gave it up and went home. I couldn't find a cab for ever so long, and I got frightened, being out in the streets at that hour. I was almost in hysterics when I did get home. I had taken the key of the back door, and I let myself in, and got up to my room just about ten minutes before Ruui Tringham came back." "Then you were both out of the house that night." said quickly. I She nodded again. ies. And it must have been someone in the house that killed II mr guardian—or someone that got in. I haven't dared to say a word about not being in the house that night, because of course 1 couldn't tell anyone that I had been here, without giving away our secret. And so the miserable thing has had to drag OH, and I can't toll how dreadfully worried I have been, and how dreadfully 'worried I am still. For of course when the wiil wa., read they naturally asked me if I would fulSl the con- dition—that I should marry Loader—and I had to say yes." "What?" he askect in amazement. "Wel1, what else was I to sayT" she de- m<M~«'.ed. "I only w mted to gain time. Per- IL is rumething may be r'< ae; perhaps the will be set aside. Wills are sometimes bet aside, when they i.- epoeterour, OnM-- tren't they ? "Your guardian was a particularly sane I man," said Rutherford slowly, "and everyone knew that you were practically engaged to Morris Loader^ It wasn't your fault t> if we fell in love with each other after that. and had to marry secretly; you've loet the money, and there's an end of the matter. The sooner you tell Loader about it the better." "Oh, I couldn't do that—at least, not yet," said Damia quickly. "I must wait a little while; perhaps something will happen to straighten it all out. Besides, your people would get to know." "They've got to know pretty soon," said Rutherford. "The thing is done, and they; can't undo it. The only thing is that they may stop my allowance, and leave me with- out money. Then we should have to depend on my earnings at the Bar-which are precious little." "Oh, we couldn't do that; I should hate to be poor, and not have motors and things. Do let us wait a little longer—just put things off a bit, please, Paul dear. Besides, I am really afraid of Morris Loader; I don't know what he might do, or might not do." "But he knows already; I have told him," said Rutherford. "He came straight to me here, and I told him the whole truth." "And what djld he say?" asked Damia, aghast. "He said nothing at all; he seemed dazed and upset-walked straight out of the place and went away." Rutherford walked with Damia to the gate of the Temple, and found a cab for her, and sent her home. An unhappy Damia, with any number of fears and doubts and per- plexities knocking hard at her heart; a Damia who was not yet out of the sea of troubles in which she had been floundering for so long. She reached the house, and went in; a maid came towards her with a note. "A man brought this for you about half am hour ago, miss. There was no answer." Damia recognised the writing as that of Morris Loader, and her heart sank. She went to her own sitting-room, and, after a moment's hesitation, tore open the note, and read it: My Dearest Damia,—It is imperative that I should see you. There must be no more putting it off, or waiting, or delay of any kind; it is my right to see you, and I will. Something is happening, quite apart from ourselves, that I do not understand, and I am being watched. Heaven knows what the end of all this business is to be; I can think only of the moment. I must and will see you. I shall be in your house to-night; I can get in without difficulty. Keep awake, and come down to the library to see me at two o'clock. You will find me there. Those who watch me naturally re- lax their vigilance at night; I can get away then. Do not fail me, as you value your life.. MORRIS LOADER. She read it through again and again, and she begun to tremble violently. She could not do it; she would not do it. If the worst eame to the worst she would meet him when others were present; she could blurt out her story then, and defy him. After all, she had lost everything by marrying Rutherford she simply wanted to get rid of Loader, and to be done with him. If only there was some- one in whom she could confidomeone who would help her. And then it was that Fate, in a sort of mocking mood, played its last trick upon her. As she went downstairs, with the note in her hand, and a little storm of unshed tears gathering in her eyes, the footman, who had opened the hall door in response to a ring, turned, and saw her coming down the stairs and hesitatingly mentioned the name of the visitor: "Mr. Bellamy, miss." Mr. Bellamy stood, hat in hand, in the hall, until the footman had taken his departure; then, in the coolest fashion, he opened the door of the drawing-room, and silently bowed Damia into it. The girl walked in, and turned and looked at Bellamy, who had closed the door. "Miss Marsh," he began abruptly, "I have come to you to-day in order to ask if you will lend me your assistance. You see, I am grop- ing in the dark-but, if I may say so, I think that I am beginning to see daylight. And I can only see daylight if you will be good enough to help me." "What can I do? asked the girl. "Do you expect me to help you to find Miss Tring- ham? "I don't want Miss Tringham—and I know where she is if I do want her," answered Bellamy, quickly. "Never mind about Miss Tringham. I want you to help me over another matter. I think you know Mr. Morris Loader? "Oh, yes, I know Mr. Morris Loader," said the girl bitterly. "But I don't see what I have to discuss with you concerning him." "I don't want to discuss anything, Miss Marsh; it is simply my wish to see Mr. Loader, if possible, and to have a talk with him—a little friendly talk. And I want to see him, if I can, in this house." "Why in this house? she asked, suddenly interested. "That I can't very well explain but it matters a great deal to me if I can meet him here. Now you know, Miss Marsh, people are naturally very suspicious of a man in my profession; they begin to think all sorts of things immediately. Now, would it be possible, Miss Marsh, for me to see Mr. Loader here? "Why not?" she asked, puzzled. "Yes, but what I mean is this: would it be possible for you to get Mr. Loader to come here, without his thinking that he was necessarily coming to meet me?" It came upon her then in a flash; she seemed to see a way out. Depending always, in her weakness, on something stronger than herself, so she turned now instinct- ively to this stronger, more dominant crea-- ture, and determined in an instant to throw her trouble upon him. Morris Loader had said that he could get into the house, and that he would come there in any case, what- ever happened. She would not, and could not, meet him alone, for she was afraid of him. Surely this was the opportunity. "It is strange that you should ask me that," she said, with a faint smile. "Mr. Loader is actually writing to ask if he may see me here-if he may come and see me secretly, as it were." Bellamy's eyebrows went up, and he pursed up his lips. "Indeed?" he said. "May I ask under what circumstances?" She hesitated for a moment, fumbling with that note she held in her hands. After all, why should she not let this man help her—why should she not place confidence in him? Morris Loader was nothing to her now, and could be nothing she felt a new resentment against him in the remembrance that he had been indirectly the cause of stripping her fortune from her. And yet here he was, threatening her, and demand- ing this, that, and the other above all, de- manding in the strangest fashion that she should meet him in that dreadful room in which the murder had taken place, and that, too, at an unearthly hour of the night. Altd here was a man who wanted to meet Loader for some strange reason the thing could surely be easily arranged. "Perhaps this will explain," said Damia, holding out the note. "Of course," she added, with a becoming little blush, "it's really a love-letter—and yet it isn't a love- letter, in that sense. If you look at it, you'll understand. Goodness knows, I don't want to meet the man at such an hour as that, and I can't possibly think what he could have to say to me that could not be said- il Her voice trr ted off; she was watching Bellamy scanning the note. He read it once or tv. ice, fsrovming at it M be did so; then he f*oo: it and rubbed his cheek softly with the edge of it while he looked at her. -Io

Our Poultry Column.


Llandovery Town Council.