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THE MYSTERY OF .. MAISMORE…

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[ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.] THE MYSTERY OF MAISMORE MANSIONS. By BURFORD DELANNOY CHAPTER III. (continued). I HAVE told you," he said, how I should treat vermin. I look upon you as something worse. I should be troubled in my conscience, perhaps, by memory of murderous work; but the erasure of so contemptible a thing as you have shown yourself to be from the face of the earth would never trouble me. I should look upon it us the commission of a good act. Now, come You say von have fiftv-two letters. Where are they ? Where Are They ? A third time the question wa«t put. Yet the woman on the floor could only shake her head. The irritation of her silence became unendurable his hand, clutching the stick, gripped in such a way as to evidence the high temperature of its holder's temper. His teeth, too. were clenched, with an intensity that, as he waited for her to speak, positively hurt. Had she been capable of reading danger signals, his eyes would have told her that she was rousing his temper to heisrhts whereon lay danger. Endeavouring to control himself, he once more bent forward, one hand holding the arm of the chair, the other gripping the stick. As she had done, he almost hissed when he spoke. His passion was of that intense kind that, once aroused, he was blind to everything but attainment of what be needed. The bundle of letters Answer me The letters—Where <\re They ? The obstinacy in her nature—her close friends, to themselves, called her 7iiii!e-like—welled up even in that moment: blinded her to the red Inmp now so plainly visible. Urged by her original desire to make capital out of what she held, she lied forced the words to her lip, 1 have not got them. It was untrue when I wrote you that J had. I never kept any of your letters." That was intended to assuage, to turn aside his wrath but it proved to be the kind ol soft answer which bids aFllrioso to nut up his sword. Grey was incensed a i(I more. Few men find pleasure in ouiiig made to realise that they have been fooled by a woman. Vanity wounded is difficult to heal. Grey ached with the pain of it. Grinding his teeih. he «aid Yoii liar Fraud from the soles of your feet to the crown of your head Ycur conduct would have been bad encugh had you possessed any- thing belonging to me; but to lie as yon have done To attempt to deceive me—MK—as you have I wonder T don't take you by the thront and choke \ciic worthless life out of you." Rising from his seat, he stood a moment swing- ing the stick in his hand, 'indeed unconscious that he held it. Walking towards the door, where his hat was lying, he picked it, up and put it on. Looking contemptuously at the woman the while, he said once more Good-bye If you had possessed the letters, I should have got them from you. I believe you when you say you destroyed them—you con- temptible disgrace to your sex, you 1 believe you are too frightened to lie to me. Without the letters you can do me no harm. Good-bye." By this time she had staggered to her feet. Out of the magnetic holding 1'° "or of those eyes of his, she became less frightened; was inwardly fuming at her own cowardice and stupidity. She felt her failure keenly that she had not handled the man properly. Knew that exhibition of fear was the worst card she could have played. Bitter, too. was her regret over the lie she had told about destruction of the letters. They were at that very moment m the secret drawer of her writing-tabie. Now she realised that he would not believe her if she tola the truth and said she had them. And she dared not produce them. Cursing her own stupidity, she told herself that he would not dare to touch her to her hurt He would have used force, perhaps, to get the letters that was all. What a fool she had been As lie for a second time turned the handle of the door, she endeavoured to redeem her position forced a little mocking laugh to her lips. and cried t. You fool Do you think, when I go to Mrs. Hampton; as I shall, and tell her everything, that she won't believe me ? She died with the laugh on her lips As her little speech was concluded, she seemed to crumple III) fell in a heap on the floor. Scarcely knowing y I what he did—•stung to an insane desire to hurt what was threatening and taunting him—Grey had swung round his powerful arm, the hand of which, still unconsciously, gripped the stick. His intent, perhaps, was to strike her with it; what lie meant, he was not quite sure himself. But the weighted knob caught the woman on the temple. A moment after lie bent down, half- frightened at what lie had done. The swelling on the forehead and the blood trickling down her white face told him the effect of his blow. He began to fear greatly. in another moment his arms were about her- not lovingly, but for lifting purposes. He raised the woman from the crouched position into which she had dropped; laid her on the sofa, 1 her. the fear, which was accelerating his heart-beats no, and forcing little beads of moisture to his brow, prompted him to place a hand over the region of her heart. Half a minute would have sufficed, but his trembling hand stayed there a whole one. Then he started away, with a strengthened fear holding such tight possession of him, that the room seemed to whirl He clutchod at a chair-back to save him- self from falling drew in a long, quivering breath. God was it possible ? Fancying he heard a sound, ho looked round the room with frightened eyes darted into the bedroom, bath-room, kitchen, dining-room, one after the other—every room in the suite. He needed to satisfy himself that she had not lied on that point—that they were really alone in the flat. Once more he found himself by the dead woman's side. Mechanically he went through the same a(itioti-.t as before put a hand over her heart. Got. again, the same confirmation of what ho had feared Mrs. F.aston was dead. As he bent so, there came to his memory what lie had listened to the preceding Sabbath. A church was a building he rarely entered but a fashionable preacher, attracting all London, had been holding forth at the City Templo. Grey had gone, and now remembered the text on which the minister had built his sermon Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed." CHAPTER. IV. IN THE il.RlO.;r:SS Of THE MOIIT. WITH his handkerchief, Geoffrey Grey wiped away the perspiration, which showed on his brow like a cluster of little peas. Then a trembling hand eought his watch. As he consulted that, he men- tally debated the advisability of !light. Whether better for him to leave at, once, or to Search the place and verify the woman's statement. To siuisfy himself that nho had lleally destroyed the letters. Grey was more than half inclined to think she had done :0. Had wholly believed it until that last speech of hers. That made him think her capable of anything. What a fortunate coin- cidence that this chanced to be the maid's n:ght out! He knew that once a week she was allowed out late that she usually went to a theatre. The knowledge arose from the fact that, in the days past, he had, on more than one occasion, taken Mrs. Easton to a theatre. When he had seen her home, it was to find, often, that the matd hei- self had only just returned in time to admit the mistress. On that knowledge was based the assumption that he had till at leas £ eleven o'clock in which to make his search. The girl would not return till after that hour. That would enable him to get away, as he had entered, unseen. T he*more he thought of the possibility ol existence of the letters the more anxious he became for their possession. He was sensible enough to foresee what would happen later. The police would be called in, search would be mado. police would he called in, search would be mado. If they chanced to find letters—love-letters from him—they might, for want of a more likely person to let suspicion fall on, suspect the writer of them. The fact that he was engaged to marry another woman, in face of those love-letters of his to Mrs. Easton, might shed an unpleasant light on the affair the police would not fail to figure in it. Once he was arrested, enmeshed in the net of the law, there was no knowing what might happen. Then, too, there would he a huge difliculty to face proving where he had spent that Wednesday evening. There was the incident of the letter sent him by express messenger the evening before— all facts which, small in themselves, if put to- gether might cause him serious trouble—if not something worse. Much as he had wanted possession of the letters before, he needed them even more now. Before. his anxiety for possession of them had been based on a simple desire. To prevent any suspicion of his previous entanglement with the widow from coming to the ears of the woman he was going to marry. His love for Nellie Hampton was a genuine one. Although there were very many soiled pages in his book of life, he intended on his marriage with her to turn over a new leaf to paste the old ones down. Hence his being tjiere at all that night: a desire to possess himself of the only docu- mentary evidence that could ever rise up against him. f Under the present circumstances the attain- ment of their possession was not merely a desire. It was a nccessity-if they existed—necessary to his safety. Now that his wrath had cooled off under the cold douche of the woman's death, he stood there wondering. How he coula nave been such an titter fool as to lose his temper so could have so blinded himself to what he was doing as to administer that death-blow. What a perfect fool he must have been Suddenly he drew himself up. There was a time for all things distinctly this was not one for reflection. The thing was done there was the future to b9 thought of, not the past. The most urgent matter was to prevent discovery of his own part in the affair. The woman was lying on the sofa, where he had placed her lay there in grim, uncanny stillness. But, having gripped his nettle, he was a man of strong nerves death had no terrors for him. Walking to the side of the body, he ran his hand over the woman's breast. Thought that-as woman will do-she might have tucked the packet of letters in her bosom. In that suspicion he had not apportioned to her a sufficient allowance of vanity. She took far too large a pleasure in a well-fitting bodice to spoil its shape by packing letters into it. The skirt did not trouble him. He knew enough of women's frocks to know that the up-to-date kind were not built on lines which permitted pockets. Looking round the room for a possible hiding- place, his first thought was of the widow's writing- table. He routed every drawer of it, looking for a packet of papers turned over everything under the flap, thinking the let t(-i--q might be loose; searched everywhere he could think of, not only in one room, but in the bed and dining-rooms lifted flaps, opened cupboards, pulled out drawers, felt on shelves. His actions were unrewarded he found no trace oi what he sought. A« his desire for possession of the papers had grown, there was fostered the belief that they existed. When at last, realising the hopelessness of his efforts, he gave up his search, it was almost with a feeling of despair at his heart. He had come to believe so firmly in the existence ot what might prove incriminating documents. If the police found what he failed to find, he was acutely alive to the fact that it would be a serious matter for him. He looked again at his watch started to find how close was the time to eleven o'clock. He would have to give up the search. Starting for the door, he paused stood there wondering what lie should do when he left the suite of looms, the building. It would not be wise to hesitate on the pavement. He must make straight for wherever he was going. There was a large-sized need, too, to think of a fitting place to go to where it would be possible for him to say he had been spending the evening. He looked round the room, still reluctant to leave it. The belief had taken such strong posses- sion of him that the letters were there. If they were, and the police found them, he must be prepared with an alibi, or he ran a huge risk. Thought of the nature of that risk caused him to run his fingers round the inside of his collar. He felt a choking sensation at the mere idea. The chiming of the timepiceo on the mantel made him raise his eyes sight of the hour caused him to start. He saw that the large hand had climbed five minutes past the little one that it was eleven o'clock. There was no time to waste he must leave at once. Another glance round the room, to satisfy himself that he had left nothing which could betray his visit there. Then he opened the door walked out into the passage. The electric light was still on as he closed the room door behind him and made his way into the hall. Putting his fingers on the catch of the lock, he pulled it back. Then, with his other hand, he touched the electric light switch thought it better to leave the place in darkness. A movement of the fingers, and the next tn- stant, where had been white brightness was a red coil which died away to blackness. All became darkness, 'save for a faint light which came from the top crack of the door-frame of the room in which he had left the dead body. Geoffrey had the door unfastened was on the point of opening it wide and passing out, when he heard steps-a man's footsteps coming up the stairs He pushed to the door gently, not latching it, fearing that the noise might attract attention, and waited thinking, hoping, that the man was passing up to one of the flats above. To his intense horror the footsteps stopped at the door against which his own hand rested A moment after there rang •ut what, in his over- wrought condition, sounded to him an ear- piercing shrill. Whoever was on the other side of the door had pressed the push of the electric bell. Geoffrey felt the sweat beading on his brow again was full of such fear as he had never felt in his life before. He almost moaned in the agony of apprehension yet stood powerless behind the door felt unable to move in any direction with any degree of safety. Suddenly he started again The tintinabula- ",on of the bell once more His fingers, which had held the door close to its frame, fell nervelessly away his arms dropped to his side. The wind blowing up the stairs from the open entrance way of the mansions forced the door open a little before he had sense sufficient to piit out his hand again. A man's voice outside said Hullo Door open I Silence. Then, for a third time, the electric bell rang. Still, Geoffrey stood behind the door, which was gradually opening, inch by inch, until at last it touched him, as ho forced himself as far back against the wall as possible. There was a light on the landing of the stair- case this threw the shadow of the visitor's figure into the passage way. Geoffrey could see sil- houetted on the floor the black shape of a man's figure—a man wearing a top hat. Who it could possibly be at that hour he had not the faintest idea. Presently the man outside muttered again This is extraordinary No answer What does it mean ? I'll walk in." The visitor suited the action to the word walked into the passage. Having done so, paused a moment abreast of where Geoffrey was stand- ing hidden cried in a loud voice Anybody at home ? Necessarily he received no answer. Geoffrey wondered whether his heart-beats were heard by the listening man. It seemed to him to be throbbing so loudly that it must be heard. The visitor muttered again Has she gone on there, after all ? Have I been fool enough to miss her ? Or has she fallen isleep ? Anyway, I'll see if she's here." With that he walked along the remaining part jf the passage. Rapped on the panels of the irawing-room door-the room from which the faint light was coming through the crael; rapped a second time getting no reply, turned thd handle, and walked into the room. That was Geoffrey's opportunity. Never in his life had he moved so quickly, so silently. As the visitor stood in the frame uf the drawing-room door, the hiding man slipped out from behind the outer door, out on to the landing; flew, rather than ran, down the stairs; so, reaching the entrance way and the street, passed away. Out into the sheltering darkness of the night (To bf Cti/i/i /I !■)■(}. j

LADIES' LETTT* R.

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LADIES' LETTT* R.