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Chapter XLVI - A Brush with the Police

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Author Topic: Chapter XLVI - A Brush with the Police  (Read 26 times)
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« on: December 07, 2022, 06:50:52 am »

We could scarcely have accomplished more than a mile of our homeward journey when, with a sudden jerk which almost threw me forward, the carriage was brought to a standstill.

On the opposite side of the road were two carriages, or, rather, flys, from one of which a tall, slim man was in the act of descending. Several other men on horseback were just riding up from behind. They were all in plain clothes, but something about their physique and general appearance had an unmistakable suggestion of police.

The man who had been descending from the nearer of the two carriages crossed the road and approached me.

“Sorry to detain you, sir,” he said, saluting in military fashion, “but I must ask you your name and address and where you have been this evening.”

“I don’t know whether it has occurred to you that your behaviour is rather strange,” I remarked, looking at him steadily, “not to say impertinent! What the mischief do you mean by stopping my carriage in this way on the high road and asking me questions like that? Who are you?”

He hesitated, and then answered with a little more respect in his manner.

“I am deputy chief sergeant at Scotland Yard, sir, and these are my men. We have a little business at a house not far from here, and our orders are to detain and procure the names and addresses of all persons whom we might encounter of whom we had reasonable suspicion that they had recently left the house in question. You will not object to give me your name, sir?”

“Certainly not. My name is Philip Morton, and my general address is Ravenor Castle, Leicestershire. At present I am staying at the Metropole Hotel. Are you satisfied?”

“Perfectly, sir,” he answered, after one more rapid glance around the carriage. “I see that you are not concerned in this affair. I wish you good-night!”

We drove rapidly off, and I began to feel not a little dissatisfied with myself. The Count had no right to have mixed me up in this affair.

In my ill-temper I gave the box, which lay concealed under my feet, a savage kick, sufficient to have sent it flying to the other end of the carriage. But there was a little surprise in store for me. To my amazement the box remained perfectly immovable, just as though it had been screwed into the bottom of the carriage.

Forgetting the Count’s earnest injunctions, I threw aside the rug and, stooping down, tried to lift it by the handles. In those days I was proud of my muscles, and not altogether without reason, but it needed all my strength to lift that small box from the ground and hold it for a moment in my arms. What could it contain? Papers, cards, gambling appliances? Surely it could be none of these! The very idea was ridiculous! The Count de Cartienne had deceived me. I had been made the catspaw of those pale, anxious men who had watched me start so eagerly and scanned me over with many furtive glances. What it was of which I was in charge, I could not tell; but in that box lay their secret, and my first indignant impulse was to open the carriage door and kick it out into the road.

But are not second thoughts always better? Might not this affair shape itself to my advantage? There need be no more obligations to the Count de Cartienne. He was possessed of information which was valuable to me. I was possessed of this box, which, without doubt, was invaluable to him. I would propose an exchange—he should bring me face to face with Mr. Marx and receive his precious box; or, if he refused to do so, its destination should be Scotland Yard. A very equitable arrangement!

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