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1  Our Library / Ian Fleming - Thunderball (1961) / 1: ĎTake it easy, Mr Bondí on: Today at 06:24:40 am
IT was one of those days when it seemed to James Bond that all life, as someone put it, was nothing but a heap of six to four against.

To begin with he was ashamed of himself---a rare state of mind. He had a hangover, a bad one, with an aching head and stiff joints. When he coughed---smoking too much goes with drinking too much and doubles the hangover---a cloud of small luminous black spots swam across his vision like amoebae in pond water. The one drink too many signals itself unmistakably. His final whisky and soda in the luxurious flat in Park Lane had been no different from the ten preceding ones, but it had gone down reluctantly and had left a bitter taste and an ugly sensation of surfeit. And, although he had taken in the message, he had agreed to play just one more rubber. Five pounds a hundred as itís the last one? He had agreed. And he had played the rubber like a fool. Even now he could see the queen of spades, with that stupid Mona Lisa smile on her fat face, slapping triumphantly down on his knave---the queen, as his partner had so sharply reminded him, that had been so infallibly marked with South, and that had made the difference between a grand slam redoubled (drunkenly) for him, and four hundred points above the line for the opposition. In the end it had been a twenty-point rubber, £100 against him---important money.

Again Bond dabbed with the bloodstained styptic pencil at the cut on his chin and despised the face that stared sullenly back at him from the mirror above the washbasin. Stupid, ignorant bastard! It all came from having nothing to do. More than a month of paper-work---ticking off his number on stupid dockets, scribbling minutes that got spikier as the weeks passed, and snapping back down the telephone when some harmless section officer tried to argue with him. And then his secretary had gone down with the flu and he had been given a silly, and, worse, ugly bitch from the pool who called him "sir" and spoke to him primly through a mouth full of fruit stones. And now it was another Monday morning. Another week was beginning. The May rain thrashed at the windows. Bond swallowed down two Phensics and reached for the Enos. The telephone in his bedroom rang. It was the loud ring of the direct line with Headquarters.

---

James Bond, his heart thumping faster than it should have done, despite the race across London and a fretful wait for the lift to the eighth floor, pulled out the chair and sat down and looked across into the calm, grey, damnably clear eyes he knew so well. What could he read in them?

"Good morning, James. Sorry to pull you along a bit early in the morning. Got a very full day ahead. Wanted to fit you in before the rush."

Bondís excitement waned minutely. It was never a good sign when M addressed him by his Christian name instead of by his number. This didnít look like a job---more like something personal. There was none of the tension in Mís voice that heralded big, exciting news. Mís expression was interested, friendly, almost benign. Bond said something noncommittal.

"Havenít seen much of you lately, James. How have you been? Your health, I mean." M picked up a sheet of paper, a form of some kind, from his desk, and held it as if preparing to read.

Suspiciously, trying to guess what the paper said, what all this was about, Bond said, "Iím all right, sir."

M said mildly, "Thatís not what the MO thinks, James. Just had your last Medical. I think you ought to hear what he has to say."

Bond looked angrily at the back of the paper. Now what the hell! He said with control, "Just as you say, sir."

M gave Bond a careful, appraising glance. He held the paper closer to his eyes. "ĎThis officer,í" he read, "Ďremains basically physically sound. Unfortunately his mode of life is not such as is likely to allow him to remain in this happy state. Despite many previous warnings, he admits to smoking sixty cigarettes a day. These are of a Balkan mixture with a higher nicotine content than the cheaper varieties. When not engaged upon strenuous duty, the officerís average daily consumption of alcohol is in the region of half a bottle of spirits of between sixty and seventy proof. On examination, there continues to be little definite sign of deterioration. The tongue is furred. The blood pressure a little raised at 160/90. The liver is not palpable. On the other hand, when pressed, the officer admits to frequent occipital headaches and there is spasm in the trapezius muscles and so-called Ďfibrositisí nodules can be felt. I believe these symptoms to be due to this officerís mode of life. He is not responsive to the suggestion that over-indulgence is no remedy for the tensions inherent in his professional calling and can only result in the creation of a toxic state which could finally have the effect of reducing his fitness as an officer. I recommend that No. 007 should take it easy for two to three weeks on a more abstemious regime, when I believe he would make a complete return to his previous exceptionally high state of physical fitness.í"

M reached over and slid the report into his OUT tray. He put his hands flat down on the desk in front of him and looked sternly across at Bond. He said, "Not very satisfactory is it, James?"

Bond tried to keep impatience out of his voice. He said, "Iím perfectly fit, sir. Everyone has occasional headaches. Most week-end golfers have fibrositis. You get it from sweating and then sitting in a draught. Aspirin and embrocation get rid of them. Nothing to it really, sir."

M said severely, "Thatís just where youíre making a big mistake, James. Taking medicine only suppresses these symptoms of yours. Medicine doesnít get to the root of the trouble. It only conceals it. The result is a more highly poisoned condition which may become chronic disease. All drugs are harmful to the system. They are contrary to nature. The same applies to most of the food we eat---white bread with all the roughage removed, refined sugar with all the goodness machined out of it, pasteurized milk which has had most of the vitamins boiled away, everything overcooked and denaturized. Why," M reached into his pocket for his notebook and consulted it, "do you know what our bread contains apart from a bit of overground flour?" M looked accusingly at Bond, "It contains large quantities of chalk, also benzol peroxide powder, chlorine gas, sal ammoniac, and alum." M put the notebook back in his pocket. "What do you think of that?"

Bond, mystified by all this, said defensively, "I donít eat all that much bread, sir."

"Maybe not," said M impatiently. "But how much stone-ground whole wheat do you eat? How much yoghurt? Uncooked vegetables, nuts, fresh fruit?"

Bond smiled. "Practically none at all, sir."

"Itís no laughing matter." M tapped his forefinger on the desk for emphasis. "Mark my words. There is no way to health except the natural way. All your troubles---Bond opened his mouth to protest, but M held up his hand---"the deep-seated toxaemia revealed by your Medical, are the result of a basically unnatural way of life. Ever heard of Bircher-Brenner, for instance? Or Kneipp, Preissnitz, Rikli, Schroth, Gossmann, Bilz?"

"No, sir."

"Just so. Well those are the men you would be wise to study. Those are the great naturopaths---the men whose teaching we have foolishly ignored. Fortunately," Mís eyes gleamed enthusiastically, "there are a number of disciples of these men practising in England. Nature cure is not beyond our reach."

James Bond looked curiously at M. What the hell had got into the old man? Was all this the first sign of senile decay? But M looked fitter than Bond had ever seen him. The cold grey eyes were clear as crystal and the skin of the hard, lined face was luminous with health. Even the iron-grey hair seemed to have new life. Then what was all this lunacy?

M reached for his IN tray and placed it in front of him in a preliminary gesture of dismissal. He said cheerfully, "Well, thatís all, James. Miss Moneypenny has made the reservation. Two weeks will be quite enough to put you right. You wonít know yourself when you come out. New man."

Bond looked across at M, aghast. He said in a strangled voice, "Out of where, sir?"

"Place called 'Shrublands'. Run by quite a famous man in his line---Wain, Joshua Wain. Remarkable chap. Sixty-five. Doesnít look a day over forty. Heíll take good care of you. Very up-to-date equipment, and heís even got his own herb garden. Nice stretch of country. Near Washington in Sussex. And donít worry about your work here. Put it right out of your mind for a couple of weeks. Iíll tell 009 to take care of the Section."

Bond couldnít believe his ears. He said, "But, sir. I mean, Iím perfectly all right. Are you sure? I mean, is this really necessary?"

"No," M smiled frostily. "Not necessary. Essential. If you want to stay in the Double-O Section, that is. I canít afford to have an officer in that section who isnít one hundred per cent fit." M lowered his eyes to the basket in front of him and took out a signal file. "Thatís all, 007." He didnít look up. The tone of voice was final.

Bond got to his feet. He said nothing. He walked across the room and let himself out, closing the door with exaggerated softness.

Outside the door, Miss Moneypenny looked sweetly up at him.

Bond walked over to her desk and banged his fist down so that the typewriter jumped. He said furiously, "Now what the hell, Penny? Has the old man gone off his rocker? Whatís all this bloody nonsense? Iím damned if Iím going. Heís absolutely nuts."

Miss Moneypenny smiled happily. "The managerís been terribly helpful and kind. He says he can give you the Myrtle room, in the Annex. He says itís a lovely room. It looks right over the herb garden. Theyíve got their own herb garden, you know."

"I know all about their bloody herb garden. Now look here, Penny," Bond pleaded with her, "be a good girl and tell me what itís all about. Whatís eating him?"

Miss Moneypenny, who often dreamed hopelessly about Bond, took pity on him. She lowered her voice conspiratorially. "As a matter-of-fact, I think itís only a passing phase. But it is rather bad luck on you getting caught up in it before itís passed. You know heís always apt to get bees in his bonnet about the efficiency of the Service. There was the time when all of us had to go through that physical exercise course. Then he had that head-shrinker in, the psycho-analyst man---you missed that. You were somewhere abroad. All the Heads of Section had to tell him their dreams. He didnít last long. Some of their dreams must have scared him off or something. Well, last month M got lumbago and some friend of his at Blades, one of the fat, drinking ones I suppose," Miss Moneypenny turned down her desirable mouth, "told him about this place in the country. This man swore by it. Told M that we were all like motor-cars and that all we needed from time to time was to go to a garage and get decarbonized. He said he went there every year. He said it only cost twenty guineas a week which was less than what he spent in Blades in one day and it made him feel wonderful. Well, you know M always likes trying new things, and he went there for ten days and came back absolutely sold on the place. Yesterday he gave me a great talking-to all about it and this morning in the post I got a whole lot of tins of treacle and wheat germ and heaven knows what all. I donít know what to do with the stuff. Iím afraid my poor poodleíll have to live on it. Anyway, thatís what happened and I must say Iíve never seen him in such wonderful form. Heís absolutely rejuvenated."

"He looks like that blasted man in the old Kruschen Salts advertisements. But why does he pick on me to go to this nuthouse?"

Miss Moneypenny gave a secret smile. "You know he thinks the world of you---or perhaps you donít. Anyway, as soon as he saw your Medical he told me to book you in." Miss Moneypenny screwed up her nose. "But, James, do you really drink and smoke as much as that? It canít be good for you, you know." She looked up at him with motherly eyes.

Bond controlled himself. He summoned a desperate effort at nonchalance, at the throwaway phrase, "Itís just that Iíd rather die of drink than of thirst. As for the cigarettes, itís really only that I donít know what to do with my hands." He heard the stale, hangover words fall like clinker in a dead grate. Cut out the schmalz! What you need is a double brandy and soda.

Miss Moneypennyís warm lips pursed into a disapproving line. "About the hands---thatís not what Iíve heard."

"Now donít you start on me, Penny." Bond walked angrily towards the door. He turned round. "Any more ticking-off from you and when I get out of this place Iíll give you such a spanking youíll have to do your typing off a block of Dunlopillo."

Miss Moneypenny smiled sweetly at him. "I donít think youíll be able to do much spanking after living on nuts and lemon juice for two weeks, James."

Bond made a noise between a grunt and a snarl and stormed out of the room.

2  Our Library / Ian Fleming - Thunderball (1961) / Title Matter on: Today at 06:03:28 am
Ian Lancaster Fleming was born in Mayfair in 1908, and educated at Eton College. He gave us ****

His novel "Thunderball" appeared in 1961.

This original unabridged edition contains twenty-four chapters.

***

Other works:

3  Our Library / Fergus Hume - The Crimson Cryptogram (1900) / 26: The End of the Story on: March 25, 2023, 11:27:11 am
SO in this way the truth was discovered, and Ellis returned to show the confession of Captain Garret to Mrs. Moxton. Laura was so overcome that her innocence was proved, her dread was removed, that she fainted during the recital. While Ellis and Janet were looking after her, Cass arrived. Mrs. Moxton recovered her senses, and retired to lie down; while Harry, having read the confession, discussed what was to be done with it.

"If you show it to the police, I am afraid Schwartz will get into trouble, as he has permitted a criminal to escape."

"That is true enough," replied Ellis. "For my part, now that we have absolute proof of Mrs. Moxton's innocence, I don't think it is necessary to make the matter public."

"Mr. Busham may do so, out of revenge," said Janet.

"Don't you believe it, Miss Gordon. Busham, by the showing of this confession, knew all about the crime. He saw it committed, he tampered with Garret, and held his tongue in order to secure Moxton's money. On the face of it, he is an accessory after the fact, and, terrified by the fear of punishment, will keep silence. Besides, even if he does speak, we can first warn Schwartz to leave England, and then inform the police. Busham does not know, and never will know, that Schwartz has been implicated in Garret's escape."

"What Harry says is very true," chimed in Ellis. "I think all danger is over."

"Thank God for that!" cried Janet, clasping her hands. "Oh, how terrible these past months have been!"

"You will have no more trouble if I can help it," said the doctor, taking her hand. "What I said when I believed you to be Mrs. Moxton, I say now; and I ask you to be my honoured wife."

Janet sobbed. "You forget! I have a shady past!"

"A noble past. You have been tested in the furnace of affliction, and have come out pure gold."

"I sold programmes at a low music-hall."

"Bless you, my children, and let me be your best man."

"There is one thing to be said," observed Ellis, uneasily. "Janet cannot marry me here, where she is known as Mrs. Moxton. Mrs. Basket may make trouble, and I cannot afford to give up my practice---such as it is."

"Leave that to me," said Janet, nodding. "My sister Laura owes you everything, and when she gets her fortune she will give you enough money to buy a practice far away from Mrs. Basket and this horrid little place. I am sure I do not wish to live in this district after what I have undergone. When I leave Myrtle Villa, I leave Dukesfield for ever."

"But, Janet, I don't like taking money from Mrs. Moxton."

"Why not? Because it is red money?"

"Red money!" repeated Cass, struck by the phrase, "and what is red money?"

"Ah!" said Janet, smiling, "then there is something you don't know of which I am aware. Red money is a term given by gipsies to that which comes by a violent death. My sister inherits her fortune through the murder of her husband; therefore, according to Romany lore, it is red money. But if Robert will not take the money from Laura, she shall give it to me. She owes me something, I think."

"She owes you everything, my dearest," said Ellis, kissing her, "and you will do what you please."

"Oh, by the way," cried Cass, suddenly, "I thought I had something to tell you. Schwartz has given up his secret gambling salon."

"Did it ever exist?" said Ellis, sceptically.

"Yes," replied Janet, blushing. "I never saw it, but in one way and another I heard of it. Often and often I implored Papa Schwartz to give it up, telling him he would get into trouble."

"Well, he has given it up at last. It appears that the police got to know of it, and contemplated a raid, so Schwartz shut it up a few nights ago; and I rather think he is going to give up the hall itself."

"A very wise thing for him to do," said Ellis, approvingly. "He has made a sufficient fortune---he told me so; therefore he can retire and live happily."

Shortly there came news from Madrid that Garret had been stabbed in a gambling-house row. By the irony of fate he met with the same death as he had meted out to Moxton. On hearing of Garret's death, Schwartz went to reside in Munich. He sold the music-hall and the cottage, invested his money well, and he now lives a calm and happy life in the German Athens; and in spite of his late business of a gambling-house keeper and the many flaws in his character, Schwartz deserved to be happy. That was his reward, and so he passes out of the story.

Janet never did have much belief in Laura's gratitude, and said as much to Ellis. Her belief came true, for when Laura, relieved from her terrors, blossomed into a wealthy young widow on her father-in-law's money, she forgot all that her sister had done and sacrificed for her. It was no easy task to settle the estate, for, when Busham was informed by letter that Garret had confessed, he was seized with panic and went to the States.

But he did not go away empty-handed; that was not Mr. Busham's way of doing things. Already he had ample money, but he managed also to secure a good deal of loose cash which belonged to the Moxton estate, and left behind him an insulting letter to Ellis. In America, Busham changed his name, but as wickedness was born in him he could not change his nature. What became of him Ellis never heard. He vanished into the vast unknown of the States; but, having regard to the money he took with him and his known capabilities of screwing it out of others, it is quite possible that he is flourishing at present like a green bay tree. The wicked are not always punished in this world, and Busham's escape is an illustration of this fact. Still, his inherent rascality may some day bring him before Mr. Justice Lynch, and he may end as he deserves.

Dr. Ellis worked loyally to put Mrs. Moxton's affairs in order, and received from her the same gratitude as she gave to Janet. For very shame's sake she was obliged to give her sister a sum of money in compensation for all she had done. Ellis did not wish to take a sum so grudgingly given, but Janet looked upon it as her right, and took it without false shame. She was as disgusted with Laura as with Rudolph, and was glad to see the last of them. All her years of self-sacrifice and work were as nothing in their eyes, and now that Janet had found a good husband she thought it was only right to look after her own happiness. A few months after the discovery of Garret's guilt she departed to a country town, where Ellis, with Mrs. Moxton's money, bought a practice. Neither Laura nor Rudolph came to the wedding, as they had already gone to the Continent. After he had confessed his traitorous behaviour, Rudolph called on Janet and tried to cajole her into forgiving him. But she was so disgusted with him that she refused to have anything more to do with the rascal. He was more successful with Laura, and as she was now rich, he paid great attention to her. Notwithstanding her knowledge of his contemptible character, Laura went abroad with him and kept him in idleness with her wealth. The pair travelled to Vienna and there lived as happily as a memory of the terrible past would let them. This means that they had not a care in the world, for both their natures were too frivolous to be impressed by the perils they had escaped. So, like Busham, they flourished also, and deserved their immunity from punishment as little.

Mrs. Basket lamented bitterly when she lost her lodger, and tried to find out why and where he was going. But Ellis, having had experience of his fat landlady's malignity, refused to gratify her curiosity. Also he wished to cut himself and Janet off from the old life of trouble at Dukesfield, and so vanished from Mrs. Basket's gaze. Cass remained with her for a time, but as his circumstances improved, he decided to move into town, and took chambers in St. Clement's Inn. In this way and in a few years all the actors in the Moxton tragedy disappeared from Dukesfield, and no reminder was left of it but the tombstone erected over the wretched man's grave by Laura. The inscription, "Erected by his sorrowful wife," was rather ironical, when it was considered how Laura hated the man she thus honoured. But Laura was fond of posing as a disconsolate widow. She thought it attracted the men.

A year after the tragedy Harry Cass paid a visit to the country town where Ellis lived, and in which his practice was rapidly increasing. He possessed a charming house on the outskirts of the old town; he had set up a carriage, and possessed a good hack. Aided by Janet's good sense and strict notions of an economy instilled by poverty, the sum of money grudgingly given by Laura had done wonders, and Dr. Ellis started his new life on an excellent basis. He was not a great physician, but he was clever and also popular. The ladies in the neighbourhood called on Mrs. Ellis and found her charming, for Janet's life, and travels, and experience led her to adapt herself skilfully to the provincial narrowness of these good people. She was quite as popular as her husband, and in time there is no doubt that Ellis will become the most sought-after physician in the county.

"But Harley Street, Bob," urged Harry, as he sat with husband and wife in the garden after dinner. "What about Harley Street?"

"That must wait," laughed Ellis; "and if it does not come I really don't care. Do you remember my expressed wishes, Harry, on the night Moxton was killed? 'A good practice, a moderate income, a home, and a wife.' Well, I have got them all, and that is better luck than falls to the lot of most men. I am quite content to stay here and be happy."

"And you, Mrs. Ellis, after your stormy, early life?"

"I am content to remain in this haven," smiled Janet. "I have a good home and a loving husband. What more can a woman want?" "Egad! some women want a sight more. Your story is not known here?"

"No," replied Ellis, promptly. "Janet and I have cut ourselves off completely from the past. We never think of it."

"Except when we are obliged," said Mrs. Ellis. "I received a letter from Laura the other day. She is going to be married to an Austrian officer, a young Count."

"H'm! or with her money?" said Cass. "However, if she buys a title in that way I suppose she will be satisfied. And her husband has only been dead a year! She is soon consoled. I hope she will have better luck with her second husband than she had with her first. And Zirknitz?"

"He is in Italy, in attendance on an American heiress."

"Oh, poor heiress! He will marry her and spend her money."

"Laura says nothing about marriage."

"But it will take place all the same," said Cass, promptly. "Zirknitz is the most fascinating scoundrel I ever met. Even though a woman knew he was a scamp she would love him. Oh, he'll marry money and be rich, and, having no heart, be as happy as the day is long."

"Well, Edgar never liked him."

"I know that, else he would not have accused him of being his murderer."

"As to that," said Ellis, musingly, "I can never quite understand Moxton's reason. If he did not wish to harm Zirknitz, why did he write the initials of his name at all? If he did, why put them in a secret writing known only to his wife and Janet?"

Janet shook her head. "I think at the last he had some compunction for the way in which he had treated Laura. He believed that Zirknitz had killed him, and wished to give Laura power over him lest he should take her money."

"That is not a very satisfactory explanation," said Cass, with a shrug. "But I suppose no other can be given. At all events, Zirknitz did get some of Laura's money."

"Red money," said Mrs. Ellis," with a shudder.

THE END

4  Our Library / Fergus Hume - The Crimson Cryptogram (1900) / 25: A Confession on: March 25, 2023, 11:22:50 am
"DO you mean to say that Captain Garret murdered Moxton?" asked Ellis, in amazement, looking from the confession to Schwartz. In his excitement he had reverted to English.

"Hush! hush!" replied Schwartz, with an apprehensive look round. "Speak in my language, doctor. Yes, Garret is the criminal. I have known it for some time, ever since I found the pocket-book, and yesterday, on seeing in what a very dangerous position I was placed, I insisted that he should write out a confession of the truth. There it is, doctor; and a great deal of money it has cost me."

"And Garret. Where is Garret?"

"On the Continent by this time. He left Victoria by the club train last night. I have seen the last of him," said Schwartz, with a sigh, "and I am glad of it."

"It is most extraordinary," murmured Ellis, turning over the leaves of foolscap. "I suspected many people, yourself included, but I never thought for a moment that Garret was guilty. How did it come about?"

"To tell you that, doctor, I must relate a little of my own history," said Schwartz, reaching for the cigar-box. "First I will tell you about myself and Garret, and then you can read what he says of the crime in that paper. Will you not take a cigar?"

"Thank you," said Ellis, and accepted this attention.

Now that he knew Schwartz was innocent he had no objection to being friendly with him; indeed, he was pleased to think that the German was guiltless, as he ever thought the man a decent fellow in many ways. They began to smoke, and Schwartz, still speaking in German in case of eavesdropping, related such portions of his early history as dealt with Captain Garret and his daughter.

"Ten years ago I met with Garret near Monte Carlo," said Schwartz. "His wife had died, and he wandered about. Garret had started life as an officer in your army with money and a well-known name, for that which he bears now is not his true name. He married an heiress and for years was comfortably settled. Unfortunately, he took to gambling and lost everything. Having been discovered cheating at cards he was dismissed from your army. Then his wife died, and his house was sold up to pay his debts. He escaped to the Continent. But his love of gambling still clung to him. He took up his quarters in a cheap boarding-house in Monaco, and haunted the tables.

"Did Garret ever make any money?"

"No, he was always idle and wasted everything.

"I am glad you have some comfort and reward," said Ellis. "So Garret has lived on your money all these years?"

"Yes. I need not tell you all the troubles I have had these many years, doctor. I made money, I lost money. I was poor one year, rich another. Three years ago I came to London, and after several failures I started the Merryman Music-Hall. It has been a success, and now I am rich.

"Now my fears are at rest. While this confession remains with you, doctor, I am not afraid. Garret admits that he is a murderer, so for his own sake he will never return to England. Now I have told you all I know about Garret, which brings us up to the time of the murder. The rest you can read in those papers."

"I shall do so later," replied Ellis, glancing at the confession, and putting it into his pocket. "But you might tell me the story in your own way. What was the reason of the tragedy?"

"The forged bill you spoke of the other night."

"Who forged the bill?"

"Garret. I refused to give him any more money as he was squandering all I had. He was acquainted with young Moxton, and knew how rich the elder Moxton was. Edgar showed Garret a letter from his father, so Garret forged the old man's signature on a bill. He accepted it himself, and managed to get money on it. Of course, he thought that if he were discovered I would buy back the bill at any price, so that he would not be disgraced."

"And how was the forgery discovered?"

"Old Moxton found it out just before he died. He passed the bill on to Busham, as his lawyer, to take steps to arrest Garret. Busham did not do anything at the moment. Then old Moxton died, and that same night Busham brought the bill to Edgar at my music-hall."

"Ah! then in spite of his denial he met Edgar on that night?"

"Garret told me so," replied Schwartz. "I knew very little of Edgar Moxton save that he was a bad man. Busham gave him the bill, for Edgar, on hearing of his father's death, insisted upon having it."

"How did he know that the bill was in existence?"

"Busham told him about it, when Edgar inquired after the estates. He did not care at all about his father's death. He wanted the money; and although he was now rich he still wished for more. Janet Gordon had told him how I looked after Garret, and he knew, of course, that the music-hall was my property. He then followed Garret into my room where I was, and, showing him the bill, accused him of the forgery. I saw him replace the bill in the red pocket-book and put that in his pocket. Garret also saw in which pocket he placed it."

"What did Moxton want?"

"The music-hall. He had been drinking, and was also intoxicated by the money that had come to him. He said that if I did not give him the music-hall and make it over legally to him, he would have Garret arrested."

"What did you do? How did you answer the scoundrel?" asked Ellis.

"I refused," replied Schwartz, with energy. "I had done much for Garret, but I could not beggar myself by giving up my property. Garret insisted that I should save him at any cost, but I said I could do nothing; and Moxton went away swearing that he would have Garret arrested on the morrow."

"And Garret?"

"Finding that I would do nothing he rushed away distracted. What I now tell you he told me afterwards. By accident he took my fur-lined coat and put it on, leaving his own behind. Then he followed Edgar home in the hope of robbing him of the bill while he was drunk. He saw Zirknitz quarrel with Edgar on the Dukesfield platform and kept out of the way. Then he followed Moxton when he left the station."

"Busham followed also?"

"Yes, but he did not let Garret see him. Busham wished to get back the bill himself, as he wanted to keep all power in his own hands. That was why he followed Edgar from the music-hall. On seeing Garret, he wondered what he was after, and watched."

"Oh," said Ellis, "so this was what Busham did? His talk with the policeman and pursuit of Mrs. Moxton to Pimlico was all lies."

"I don't know about those things, doctor. Garret followed Edgar to the gate of Myrtle Villa, when he saw the door open, and Mrs. Moxton rush out with a carving-knife. Moxton began to struggle with her at the gate. She held the knife over him---I don't know why."

"She did not wish to hurt him. Go on."

"Garret saw the knife flash in the moonlight, so he ran along, and seizing it, stabbed Moxton in the back. He fell with a cry and Mrs. Moxton under him. Garret ran away, but returned to find Edgar dead, and Mrs. Moxton in a faint."

"That must have been the time when Edgar wrote the blood-signs."

"Yes, no doubt. Well, Garret searched for the pocket-book and found it. He threw the knife beside the corpse, thinking it would be said that Mrs. Moxton had killed her husband. Then, hearing footsteps approaching, he went away quickly."

"That must have been Miss Gordon. She returned for her purse, and on finding what had happened, remained to shield her sister. Brave woman!"

"Ach! my friend, that is so. Janet is both brave and good. But to continue, Garret went into a quiet part of Dukesfield and took the bill out of the pocket-book. As he was burning it---for he destroyed it at once by setting light to it with a match---Busham came up and accused him of the murder."

"Did Busham see it committed?"

"He did. He followed Garret, and, hidden in the shade, saw him stab Moxton. But he promised to hold his tongue about it, provided he got Moxton's money. Garret was relieved by this promise, and putting the pocket-book into the pocket of my coat, which he wore, he returned to Goethe Cottage."

"To confess his crime?"

"No, he said nothing; and even though I heard of Edgar's death, I did not think that Garrett had killed him. But when I put on my coat one evening I found the pocket-book, and recognised it as Edgar's. I then accused Garret of the murder, and he told me all I have told you. I held my tongue, and as Busham was hoping to get the money by accusing Mrs. Moxton of the crime, he was silent too. I placed the pocket-book in my desk, where Janet found it. I should have destroyed it, but I thought no one would open my desk."

"What did you say to Garret?"

"I told him that you had the pocket-book, and accused me of the crime. I refused to suffer for his sake, and made him write out the confession, which is witnessed by myself and two servants. But they do not know the contents. I threatened to hand Garret over to the police if he did not tell the truth, as I wished to save myself. Then I gave him some money, and told him to go away and never let me see him again. In the end, he went away last night, and so that is all I can tell you."

"I think you are well rid of a bad lot, Herr Schwartz."

"I think so too," replied the German. "I never liked him; but I tolerated him."

5  Our Library / Fergus Hume - The Crimson Cryptogram (1900) / 24: The Truth on: March 25, 2023, 10:58:03 am
WHEN Schwartz recovered from the fit, he was taken home in a cab, and for the time being Ellis saw no more of him. He was really puzzled how to act, for the man was evidently guilty, as he had not denied the crime. For the sake of Janet, who had received benefits at the hands of Schwartz, the doctor did not wish to denounce him to the police. If he left behind him a written confession exonerating Mrs. Moxton, Ellis was quite content that he should seek safety in flight. Certainly he had murdered a man, and although his victim was a worthless scoundrel, still there was no excuse to be made for so heinous a crime. But would hanging Schwartz do any good? Ellis thought not, neither did Cass, nor Janet.

"If it was Busham," said Harry, "I would see him swing with the greatest pleasure, for he is a thoroughly bad lot; but Schwartz has so many good qualities that I should like to give him a chance of repentance."

"And the crime was not committed deliberately," chimed in Janet. "I feel sure that Mr. Schwartz did not come to Dukesfield with the intention of murdering Edgar. No doubt he wanted that forged bill, and hoped to rob Edgar while he was drunk. It was seeing the carving-knife in Laura's hand which made him a criminal. Temptation was put in his way, and he snatched at it almost without thinking. Under these circumstances, and because he has been kind to me, I should like him to escape."

"He can take his own chance of that," said Ellis; "but to counter-plot Busham, it is necessary to get a full confession from Schwartz."

"But he may go away without making any confession, Bob!"

"I don't think so. Not until he is in absolute peril of his life will he leave. Besides, I called at Goethe Cottage, and he is still ill after his fit."

"Did you see him, doctor?"

"No, he refused to see me, being engaged with Garret."

"I cannot go round to the cottage now," said Janet, with a mournful shake of her head. "Mr. Schwartz thinks that I have been a spy and ungrateful."

"Indeed you wrong him," said Ellis, quickly. "He was much touched when I told him that you did not wish the police to be told. He would have said more about it, only he fell into the fit."

This conversation took place in Ellis's sitting-room on the evening of the day following Janet's discovery of the pocket-book. Schwartz was still ill, and, as Ellis said, would see no one. The three---Cass, Ellis and Janet---were now anxiously discussing what was best to be done. They wanted to thwart Busham, to save Mrs. Moxton and to spare Schwartz; but none of these three things were easy to do. Since Ellis had given his ultimatum to the lawyer, nothing had been heard from Esher Lane. Janet was inclined to think that Busham, afraid of being implicated in the crime, had fled; but Cass and Ellis were satisfied that the man, with his grasping, foxy, intriguing nature, would stay and face the matter until his personal safety was compromised. While they were discussing this point, the door opened abruptly, and Busham himself entered the room. It was a case of "Talk of the Devil and you will see his hoof." The trio were completely taken by surprise at his unlooked-for appearance and his insolent entry.

"He! he!" sniggered Busham, who had all his natural impudence about him. "I just looked in to see Dr. Ellis, and I find company. How do you do, Miss Gordon, or Mrs. Moxton---which?"

"I am Janet Gordon, Mr. Busham! I think you know that."

"Indeed, I do not, dear lady. You are one of twins, remember---a kind of double-face female Janus, eh?"

"Cease your insolence, man!" said Ellis, angrily, "and tell me how dare you walk into my room without knocking?"

"Oh, I informed your landlady that I was an old friend of yours, so she let me pass. She looks a fool, doctor. You don't offer me a seat. Well, I will anticipate your hospitality and take one. And who is this gentleman?"

"My name is Cass. I am a journalist," said Harry, enraged at the man's impudence. "What the deuce do you come here for?"

"Not to see you, my dear sir. My business is with Dr. Ellis, and possibly with Miss Gordon."

"Have you come to confess?" asked Janet, quietly.

"Confess! I have nothing to confess. I come here to make a proposal."

Ellis shrugged his shoulders. "You have brass enough for anything, I think," said he. "Well, Mr. Busham, and what is your proposal?"

"Let Mrs. Moxton surrender all my uncle's property to me. Now that Edgar is dead, I am his rightful heir, being his nephew, and nearest of kin. I destroyed the will---I don't mind admitting it, because Mrs. Moxton is in my power, and it is my place to make terms, not to be dictated to. Well, then, as the will is burnt, I take a portion of the property as next-of-kin; but that will not satisfy me. I want the whole, and," cried Busham, in a threatening tone, "I mean to have it!"

"What a modest demand," jeered Cass. "And if Mrs. Moxton surrenders her property as you wish, what then?"

"I shall tell you who killed Moxton. Oh, you need not look at me as though I was an accessory before the fact. I did not see the deed done. I knew nothing about it at the time, but by putting this and that together in a way," sneered Busham, "which you are all too ignorant to understand, I have a knowledge of who killed Edgar, and why he was killed. Don't mistake me. I hold all the threads of this case. If I get my price I shall save Mrs. Moxton by revealing the name of the murderer. Should she refuse my just demand, I shall denounce her to the police and let justice take its course."

"Justice!" echoed Janet, with scorn. "And by your own showing my unhappy sister is innocent."

"I know that," retorted Busham, with an ugly look, "and I can prove her innocence. No one else can."

There was a silence for a few minutes, and then Ellis spoke quietly and to the point. "Do you know, Busham, that I feel very much inclined to kick you," said he. "You are proposing blackmail."

"Call it what you like, but give me my price."

"For what? For information which we know already?"

Busham started from his seat in nervous haste. "You know already!"

"Yes. Do you think Mr. Cass and I have been idle all this time---that we have not strained every nerve to baffle a scoundrel like you, and protect two innocent women from your blackmail? You are a little late, Mr. Busham. We know who killed Moxton."

"You---you---you know!" stammered the scoundrel, white to the lips.

"Yes, we know; and we have discovered the reason why Moxton was killed. Surely you have forgotten our talk about the forged bill. Before the end of the present week the murderer will have confessed, Mrs. Moxton will be exonerated from all complicity in her husband's death, and you, Mr. Busham---well, I don't know about you. But from what I guess of your share in this tragedy, you will be in gaol."

"I had nothing to do with it. Who killed Moxton?"

"Oh," laughed Cass, delighted at the confusion of Busham, "as you know there is no need to tell you the name."

The baffled lawyer looked in turn at each of the scornful faces. Then he rose in a hurry. "This is a game of bluff," he cried savagely. "You do not know who murdered Edgar, and you are trying to get my secret from me without paying for it. Oh, I know you all; I can see through you."

"It does you credit," said Janet, contemptuously.

"Sneer and jeer as much as you like, madam, you will not look so merry when your sister is in prison on a charge of murder."

"Which she never will be," put in Ellis.

"We shall see, we shall see. You think yourself a clever man, doctor, do you not? But I am cleverer. Oh, you don't know what I am. You gave me five days to confess, as you call it, or else threatened to put the matter into the hands of the police. The five days are up."

"Quite so," said Ellis, smoothly, "and as you won't hear reason I shall see the police to-morrow."

"I dare you to! I dare you to!" foamed Busham, who had completely lost his temper. "I get my price, or Mrs. Moxton goes to gaol."

"You shall not get your price," broke out Cass, as furious as Busham. "You will not get one penny of the property."

"Shall I not? Aha, you don't know that Edgar's will is burnt."

"That is where you are wrong, my friend," said Ellis, calmly. "You burnt a copy. The original will given to me by Miss Gordon is in my possession."

Busham stared so wildly that for a moment or so the others thought he was about to have a fit like Schwartz. Ellis snatched up a glass of water from the table and dashed it in the man's face. The shock brought him round a trifle, but he seemed indisposed to speak further. With the knowledge that his intrigues had proved useless came a collapse of his courage and insolence. With a kind of sob he staggered blindly towards the door and out of the room. Ellis at the window saw him running down the road, reeling from side to side like a drunken man. Busham's nerve was broken. He did not even attempt to question Ellis as to the truth of his statement about the will. Instinctively he knew that the game was up, and that all his schemes had recoiled on himself. Never was there so complete a fall, so deserved a punishment.

"He will tell the police about Laura," cried Miss Gordon, nervously.

"Let him," said Cass. "We will have that confession out of Schwartz to-morrow, and your sister will be proved innocent; and when that confession is read, Miss Gordon, I should not wonder if there was sufficient in it to warrant Busham's arrest. There," added Cass, pointing to Busham's disappearing form, "that is the last we shall see of him." And, as subsequent events proved, he was a true prophet.

But the danger was not yet over. It was just possible that out of revenge at the failure of his plans, Busham might denounce Laura to the police. The only way to prove her innocence would be to get a confession from Schwartz. Ellis took the night to consider this question, and next day called at Goethe Cottage between eleven and twelve o'clock. He sent in his name, but quite expected that Schwartz would refuse to see him. To his secret surprise he was admitted at once and conducted into the study. Here he found the German clothed in a loose dressing-gown and seated at the desk.

Schwartz looked terribly ill. He had aged considerably since Ellis had seen him. His cheeks had fallen in, his forehead was wrinkled, and his eyes had lost their usual genial twinkle. With bowed shoulders he sat huddled up in his chair, and without offering his hand to the doctor, nodded to a seat.

"I am sorry I could not see you yesterday, doctor," said Schwartz, in a faint voice; "I was very ill, and I had much to do. But I wished to have some conversation with you to-day. If you had not come I should have sent for you."

Ellis replied in the German tongue which Schwartz, evidently for the sake of secrecy, was using. "You intend to confess, then?"

"Ah, then you are certain that I am guilty?"

"You must be. The pocket-book of the murdered man was found in that desk, and we know it was taken from the dead body. The other night when I accused you, you did not deny the charge."

"I had no time, doctor; but I deny it now."

"You say that you are innocent?" said Ellis, scarcely believing his ears.

"Perfectly innocent. Here is the confession of the guilty person;" and Schwartz, unlocking a drawer, took out two or three sheets of foolscap pinned together and covered with writing. "This is the confession," he said, "signed and witnessed."

"The confession of Busham?"

"Ach, no; the confession of the man who murdered Moxton---my friend, Captain Garret."

6  Our Library / Fergus Hume - The Crimson Cryptogram (1900) / 23: The Beginning of the End on: March 25, 2023, 10:49:26 am
In a tumult of emotion Janet was staring at the red pocket-book. There it lay in the drawer, carelessly thrust in with loose papers and old letters. No attempt had been made to hide it. No doubt the drawer had been locked, and would have been opened by no one but its owner. Schwartz had not thought it necessary to conceal the book more completely. At once it flashed into Janet's mind that the German had murdered Edgar, since no one but the murderer could have become possessed of the pocket-book.

"I am just locking the last drawer," replied Janet, and, swiftly making up her mind to risk the consequences, she snatched up the red book and slipped it into her pocket. For her sister's sake it was necessary to get this evidence into her possession. Having accomplished this she locked the drawer and restored the keys to their place on the desk.

Privately Janet thought that this was just as well, as she had no very great opinion of Captain Garret. But, bad as he was, she doubted whether he would have committed murder as Schwartz had done. It was, indeed, amazing that the German should have become a criminal; for, although Janet knew well that his character was not above reproach, yet she had always thought him a good man. It was a shock to her to find that she had been so deceived. Schwartz, who had been her good friend and benefactor, was a secret assassin. Janet could not blind herself to that terrible fact.

On finding herself alone, Janet felt so anxious and distraught and horrified by her discovery, that but for the fresh air she would have fainted. As it was she did not take the Dukesfield 'bus as usual, but worked off her agitation by walking. Since the discovery of the pocket-book in Schwartz's private desk, she firmly believed that he was the criminal. In the autumn and winter he almost always wore a fur-lined coat over his evening dress, and to complete his costume, in accordance with the demands of fashion, a silk hat. Then he lived at Parkmere, and it was easy for him to walk to Goethe Cottage after committing the murder. But Janet was puzzled to find a reason for the perpetration of the crime. She knew nothing about the forged bill, as Ellis had not informed her in detail of his interview with Busham. Still, Janet knew the businesslike habits of Schwartz too well to think that he did anything without a motive, and she could not conjecture that for which he had stained his hands and risked his neck.

Full of these thoughts, Miss Gordon walked all the way to Dukesfield, no inconsiderable distance, and before seeking Myrtle Villa called on Ellis to explain her discovery. Mrs. Basket---who still believed that Janet was Mrs. Moxton---received her with the usual show of false kindness, but announced that Dr. Ellis was absent. "Though Mr. Cass is in the sitting-room," finished the fat landlady.

"Mr. Cass will do. Let me see him."

Harry was rather amazed to receive Janet, whom he had not seen---at all events, to speak to---since the night of the murder.

"Mrs. Basket announced you as Mrs. Moxton," he said, with some hesitation; "but, Ellis tells me, you are Miss Gordon?"

"Yes, I am Miss Gordon. But there is no need to let that tattling woman know the truth, she would only make mischief. Dr. Ellis is away?"

"Just went out ten minutes ago to see a patient. I expect him back in an hour."

"I cannot wait," said Janet, feverishly. "My sister will want me. You will do, Mr. Cass. Dr. Ellis informed me that you knew all about this business."

"I know everything, Miss Gordon. Anything I can do---"

"Did Dr. Ellis tell you about the red pocket-book?"

"Yes. You say it was taken from the dead body. What of it?"

Janet took the book out of her pocket and placed it on the table. "There it is," she said triumphantly. "All the papers have been taken out of it. But that is the pocket-book which the murderer stole from the corpse."

"Great Heavens! How did it come into your possession?"

"I found it by chance in the desk of Herr Schwartz."

Cass started. "Do you mean to say that Schwartz is the murderer?"

"I do. If he is not, how could he become possessed of that book?"

"It is strong circumstantial evidence certainly," said Cass, after a pause. "But Schwartz---it is incredible! I always considered him such a good fellow."

"He is, he is," said Janet, with emotion. "He has been a good friend to me. I can't conceive him guilty. Even if he is, I do not wish him punished. Let him write out a confession exonerating my sister, that is all I want."

"If he does that he puts the rope round his own neck, Miss Gordon. If your sister is to be exonerated and saved from the malignity of Busham, the confession would have to be made public."

"Then what is to be done?"

"I cannot say at present. If you will leave the pocket-book to me I will speak to Ellis, and we can come to some decision."

"Certainly I will give you the book," said Janet, rising. "I have every confidence in you and Dr. Ellis."

"Thank you. Would you mind explaining precisely how you came into possession of the pocket-book?"

"Not at all," said Janet, and she related, in a concise manner, her discovery of the book.

Having given Cass all possible information, and answered all possible questions, Janet, tired out with her emotions, and with the unusual exercise, took her leave. Cass accompanied her to the door, and promised to inform her of all that should happen in connection with this new piece of evidence. Somewhat relieved, Janet went home to Myrtle Villa.

Immediately on the doctor's return, Cass showed him the pocket-book, and repeated Janet's story. Ellis, naturally enough, was as surprised as his friend, and discussed the matter with him at length. Finally, it was decided that Ellis should see Schwartz that same evening, and hear what he had to say for himself. Owing to the exigencies of his profession as critic, Harry could not accompany his friend. The doctor was not sorry, as he thought that he could get more out of Schwartz when alone with him than in the presence of a third person. He did not take the pocket-book with him lest it should be lost, for Schwartz was a determined man to deal with. As yet Ellis could hardly credit that he was guilty, and in spite of the damning evidence found by Janet he postponed, making up his mind until he heard what the German had to say for himself. In this frame of mind he started for the Merryman Music-Hail.

Schwartz was in his private room, and as Ellis had purposely arrived rather late he was at leisure at the time. So effusively did he welcome Ellis that the doctor felt almost ashamed of his errand, but, bracing himself up with the idea that Schwartz, if not the actual criminal, yet knew something about the crime, he managed to appear sufficiently stern. At last Schwartz was forced to take notice of his visitor's unfriendly attitude.

"What is not right, doctor?" he asked anxiously.

Ellis glanced round to see that the door was closed, and cleared his throat.

"Mr. Schwartz," he said in low tones, "I have come to see you about a very unpleasant business."

The German turned paler even than he was, and his hand shook as he tried to light a cigar. "Ach! Is dat zo?"

"It is about Moxton's murder."

"Veil, veil, what apout ze murder?" queried Schwartz, impatiently.

"I should rather put that question to you, Schwartz. Why was Moxton murdered---or rather, why was he got out of the way?"

Instead of answering his question, Schwartz, in a tremor of nervous excitement, rose and locked the door. "Can you speak German?" he asked, in his own tongue, on returning to his seat.

"A little. I can speak it slowly."

"Then put your questions in that language," said Schwartz, savagely. "I can see that you have come to accuse me of being mixed up in this crime. Was it for this purpose that you called at my house?"

"I wish to know if you can tell me the reason Moxton was murdered?" said Ellis, slowly, in German.

"No, I cannot. I know nothing about it."

"Then I must tell you---that is, I must refresh your memory. Moxton was murdered by a man who wished to obtain possession of a forged bill."

The German bit his cigar through, and a portion fell on the floor. "I know nothing of any forged bill," he said angrily.

"That bill," resumed Ellis, calmly, "was placed by Moxton in a red pocket-book." Here Schwartz started and groaned. "Zirknitz saw him put it there. When the clothes of the corpse were examined, that pocket-book was missing; and, strange to say, Mr. Schwartz, it was found to-day in your desk at Goethe Cottage."

"In my desk!" gasped the man. "Who---who found it there?"

"Miss Gordon. For a jest, Miss Garret opened all the drawers of your desk, because you were foolish enough to leave your keys behind. Miss Gordon closed them again. In the lowest drawer she saw and recognised the pocket-book of her brother-in-law. That book is now in her possession---or rather, in mine, as she gave it to me."

There was silence for a few moments, and Schwartz breathed heavily. "What do you want me to do?" he said sullenly.

"Confess your guilt."

"And if I do---what then?"

"Then you must write out and sign a confession as to how you killed Edgar Moxton, and why."

"To hang myself, I suppose?" said Schwartz, who was growing alarmingly red in the face.

"No; Miss Gordon is too much indebted to you to wish for your death. Write the confession, and then fly from England. Thus Mrs. Moxton will be exonerated, and you will be safe."

"Ach! it is goot of Chanet," said Schwartz, thickly; "it is--it is--ah--ah!" He tried to rise from his seat, but suddenly gave a choking cry, and fell back, purple in the face, with staring eyes and foam on his lips.

Ellis rapidly unloosened the old man's cravat, tore off his collar, and threw open the door.

"Come here, someone," he cried. "Herr Schwartz is in a fit!"

7  Our Library / Fergus Hume - The Crimson Cryptogram (1900) / 22: Janet's Discovery on: March 25, 2023, 09:14:05 am
ON leaving Goethe Cottage, Ellis jumped on his bicycle, and was soon spinning along the country roads which connected rural Parkmere with the more urban suburb of Dukesfield. Usually Ellis enjoyed the exhilaration of riding and the pleasure of admiring the scenery; but on this occasion, beyond the necessary guidance of his machine, he was preoccupied. It seemed strange to him that Garret should so strongly object to Janet as a companion for his daughter. The Captain was a supremely selfish man, as selfish in every way as Zirknitz, and more vicious. He was indifferent to his daughter, save that he looked upon her as a necessary link to bind him to Schwartz. Schwartz was clever and generous; he had plenty of money, and Garret, the idle and dissipated, could not do without him. For the furtherance of his plans, he usually let Schwartz manage as he pleased. It was, therefore, surprising that he should have taken so unusual a step as to object to Miss Gordon.

"Garret and Schwartz can have nothing to do with the murder!" mused Ellis; "they knew Moxton only slightly, and they had no motive to get rid of him. Indeed, his untimely death has lost Schwartz a good customer to his gambling table, if that exists, as is reported; at any-rate, an assiduous attendant at his music-hall. Garret was anxious on Schwartz's account, hence he warned him not to have Janet in the house. He thinks she is too clever; perhaps he fancies she may learn too much. I am too fanciful---too suspicious. Yet Garret certainly mentioned the murder. What is best to be done? Janet must go to Goethe Cottage; but shall I tell her of the objections---or this discussion? No, I will not bias her in any way. If there is anything to be found out, she shall discover it herself."

To this wise determination Ellis adhered.

"Tell me, Miss Gordon, what is your opinion of him?"

"I think he is a good man, doctor. Several times I have been under the necessity of testing his kindness of heart, and it has never failed me."

"I daresay," said Janet, somewhat cynically; "it is that frame of mind which created the proverb about virtue being its own reward. People who do most are thought least of, and it is your selfish person who gets all the love and the praise. Look at my own case. All my life I have put myself aside for Rudolph and Laura; yet they think nothing of me."

"They say they do."

"Mere lip-service!" exclaimed Miss Gordon; "they would not do me a good turn however little trouble it might be. Laura is grateful to me now, because she is yet in danger, and I stand by her; but when all is well, she will think nothing of my services. As for Rudolph, he would borrow my last sixpence, and see me dying of starvation without returning so much as a single penny. Oh, I am under no illusion about my own folk, doctor! What I do, I do from a sense of duty."

"With regard to your sister I can say nothing, Miss Gordon, as I do not know her sufficiently well; but Zirknitz---well, he is a thoroughly bad lot, and would sell his nearest and dearest at a price."

Janet demurred. "I cannot believe that he is so wicked as that!"

"But he is, and he proved it to me only the other day. He told Busham all about your impersonation of Mrs. Moxton; betrayed all your schemes and plans while you were fighting single-handed against overwhelming odds; and this because Busham paid him. Now, thinking Mrs. Moxton will recover her husband's fortune--for I told him that the real will still existed--he has betrayed all Busham's secret doings to me. What do you think of him now?"

"He is a scoundrel! I will never speak to him again. Oh, doctor, if you only knew what I have done for that man. I knew he was heartless and selfish, but I did not think he was wicked."

"Heartlessness and selfishness usually terminate in wickedness," said Ellis, sententiously. "However, one good result has come out of his evil ways. I have learnt all about Mr. Busham's intrigues, and I have given him a few days to own up."

"That he killed Edgar?" asked Janet, breathlessly.

"No, he did not kill him---at least, I don't think so. But I have insisted upon his revealing the name of the assassin, as I am certain he knows it. In another three days he must tell the truth, or I shall place the matter in the hands of the police."

"Oh! but, Laura; she will be arrested."

"No! I do this to save her from arrest. Busham knows nothing about the false will, because I do not wish to drive him into a corner by telling him how he has been tricked. But he might learn the truth from Zirknitz, to whom it had to be told, that I might learn his true attitude in this matter. If he does learn it he will have Mrs. Moxton arrested. Only by a threat against himself could I keep him in hand."

"What do you think he will do?"

"Ah! that I can't say. I know much, but not all; and the smallest amount of ignorance in any matter is a bar to giving a reasonable opinion on it. However, Time works for me, and I shall be able to defend Mrs. Moxton from her enemies.

"Alas!" said Janet, with a melancholy smile, "I have too much experience of the world to be gay. However, I will do my best."

It will be seen from this last observation that Janet was rapidly coming under the influence of Ellis. She was a clever woman, and, in her own way, masterful; therefore, on finding someone stronger than herself, she was prepared to obey him. This sounds paradoxical, but it is so, especially in the relations of sex. A woman must always succumb to a man, if he be a man; obedience is in the feminine blood, notwithstanding the New Woman. Janet knew from experience that Ellis was kind and generous, and was willing to help to the extent of his powers those in whom he believed; now his duel with Busham---no mean adversary---had given her an impression of his strength. Moreover, she loved him, and perhaps this was why she obeyed him without a struggle. She felt the happier for such obedience, although it was new to her. When a woman finds her master in an honourable, generous, kindly man, her happiness is assured.

Therefore, Janet was at Goethe Cottage, and inspected the big desk. She closed and locked the top drawers without looking much at their contents. In the bottom right-hand drawer, however, she made a discovery which amazed her. On the top of other articles she saw the red pocket-book.

8  Our Library / Fergus Hume - The Crimson Cryptogram (1900) / 21: Herr Schwartz on: March 25, 2023, 09:01:28 am
IN compliment to the great poet of his nation, Herr Schwartz dignified his English home with the name of Goethe Cottage. It was a one-storeyed house of no great size, built somewhat in the style of a bungalow, and standing in a fairly large garden, at the bottom of a rural cul-de-sac, termed Alma Road. Shortly after his visit to the lawyer, Dr. Ellis called at this place, and having advised Schwartz of his coming, found the German and Captain Garret awaiting his arrival. So eager were they to welcome him that they appeared at the gate before the bell ceased to jingle.

"Mine goot doctor," cried Schwartz, beaming, with outstretched hands, "you haf gome at last!"

"Glad to see you, Dr. Ellis," said Garret, jerking out his words in abrupt military style. "We have long expected your visit. Come in."

The three walked towards the house through a theatrical-looking garden, with many coloured glass balls ranged on squat pedestals along the borders of the flower-beds. There was also a tiny fountain, in which a small Triton spouted a smaller stream of water out of a conch-shell, an arbour fiery red with Virginia creeper, and wide walks of white pebbles, which threw back a glare, even under the pale rays of the late autumn sun. The house was surrounded by a wide verandah with gaily-striped red and white sun-blinds, cane lounging-chairs and marble-topped iron tables. Within, Ellis found the place luxuriously furnished, but also theatrical in taste, and he was shown into a drawing-room where intrusive colours of scarlet and magenta inflicted torture on a sensitive eye. Schwartz had money and a love of comfort; but the complacent way in which he looked round this terrible apartment showed that he was absolutely without the artistic sense.

When they sat down Ellis looked at his companions, and was astonished how ill Schwartz appeared to be. Garret, as formerly, was haggard, lean and gentlemanly, with the same military bearing and bored expression. Evidently he was a man who had, as the saying is, "gone the pace," and now, in his middle age---he was between forty and fifty---lacked vitality and zest. As usual he was carefully dressed, and looked eminently well-bred and well-groomed beside his patron and friend. Schwartz himself was less complacent and jolly, also he was lean in comparison with his former portly figure, and his clothes hung loosely on his limbs. Instead of his face being smooth and red, it was now pallid, and wrinkled, and although he attempted to be his usual happy self, the attempt was an obvious effort. Occasionally he stole a troubled glance at the Captain, but that gentleman hardly looked at him and manifested supreme indifference.

"You are not looking well yourself, Herr Schwartz," said Ellis, when the trio were seated and refreshments had been produced by the hospitable German.

"Ach! I am ferry vell," replied Schwartz, hastily. "The hot dimes of the zun haf made me thin."

"Oh, you must keep up your spirits about that.

"Father and mother and everything else," jerked Garret. "Much better than a scamp like me."

"No, no," protested Schwartz, but with a ring of insincerity in his voice, which Ellis at once detected. "You are a goot man, mein frind."

The room at the back of the house, into which Schwartz introduced Ellis, was like a fairy palace. A large, airy, high-roofed apartment, decked and furnished with rainbow hues. Chinese paper of the willow-plate pattern figured on the walls, curtains blue as a midsummer sky draped the French windows, the carpet was of the same cerulean tint, and the furniture was upholstered in azure and white. Hothouse flowers were placed in every corner, there was a grand piano, and many birds in gilded cages made the room re-echo with tuneful strains. The windows were many and large, admitting ample light, and looking out on to a velvet lawn bounded by a tall hedge of laurel. Ellis had never seen a more pretty or cheerful apartment.

"If Miss Gordon is her companion, she may hear of the crime; and think of the shock it would be to her delicate nerves!"

"She will never hear anything of the crime from Miss Gordon. That lady is most discreet."

"She is clever, I don't deny, doctor---too clever, in my opinion. But she is shady. She sold programmes at the Merryman Music-Hall; she is not the kind of companion I should choose for my daughter."

This came well from Captain Garret, who had been cashiered for cheating, who lived on another man's money, and who was an out-and-out adventurer. Ellis felt such a contempt for him that he did not argue the question. "Let us hear what Herr Schwartz has to say," he said.

"Schwartz will be of my opinion," said the Captain, gravely.

But here, it appeared, Garret was wrong. Schwartz listened attentively to the recommendation of Ellis that Miss Gordon should be brought to Goethe Cottage as a companion for Hilda. His face grew a shade paler to the doctor's attentive eye, and he appeared to be uneasy. After a sharp glance at Ellis, he made up his mind and spoke it.

"Miss Corton shall gome!" he declared decisively.

"Schwartz!" said Garret, in a warning tone, whereat the usually placid German flew into a rage.

"I say she shall gome!" he cried, in his deepest tones. "Chanet is a goot girl; she vill not dalk of murders and wickednesses. She is glever!"

Garret muttered something not precisely complimentary to Janet, and turned away. The German looked after him with an anxious expression; but finally turned to Ellis with a look of relief. "Dell Chanet to gome," he said, "but she must zay notings of the murders."

"I'll answer for her there," said Ellis, cheerfully.

9  Our Library / Fergus Hume - The Crimson Cryptogram (1900) / 20: Busham at Bay on: March 25, 2023, 08:48:40 am
IT was in a state of subdued excitement that Ellis left the rooms of Zirknitz. He now seemed to be nearer solving the mystery than he had ever been before. There was no doubt that Moxton had been murdered in order to obtain the forged bill; but Ellis was uncertain in his own mind whether Busham had actually struck the blow. A silk hat and a fur-lined coat was not a distinctive dress on a cold evening for any man---a dozen might wear it. Still, the coincidence of dress was striking. Busham might be the criminal, after all, and Ellis drove directly to Esher Lane for the purpose of satisfying himself on this point.

What the doctor particularly wished to know was who had forged the elder Moxton's name? If Busham had done so he would scarcely have given the bill to Edgar, who had no great love for him. To hand him over an incriminating document and then murder him to get it back again would have been the height of folly. If, therefore, Busham was innocent of the forgery, he would scarcely risk his life in endeavouring to recover the bill. Thus, if anyone had a reason to desire the death of Edgar, it must have been the forger himself. Having committed one crime he certainly would not hesitate to commit a second, if only to conceal the first. This theory was excellent, and Ellis wished to prove its truth. To do so, it was necessary that he should learn the name of the man who had forged the bill. Busham had given the document to Edgar Moxton, as was asserted by Zirknitz, therefore Busham could inform him of what he wished to know. But would he do so? Ellis, for want of experience of the man, could not answer this question, and arrived at Esher Lane in a state of perplexity. However, his head was clear and his will determined---a most necessary frame of mind for anyone who had to deal with so crafty a creature as Busham.

The office was as dingy and dirty as ever. The lean clerks still scribbled interminable folios, and strained their eyes in the uncertain light. From the inner room came the rasping cough of Busham, which showed that he was alive and plotting. Ellis sent in his card, which was received by the lawyer with anything but pleasure. However, he did not think it wise to betray any fear of his visitor, so gave orders that he was to be admitted at once. More than that, he threw into his greeting as much cordiality as was possible with one of his detestable nature.

"I am glad to see you, doctor," said he, pointing to one of the two chairs. "That seems strange, does it not? We had a tiff last time we met here, eh? Quite so. But I never bear malice, not I. How is Mrs. Moxton?"

"The true Mrs. Moxton is quite well."

Busham's naturally pale face became of a greenish hue. "What do you mean with your 'true Mrs. Moxton?'" he demanded, narrowing his eyes until they looked like those of a cat.

"What I say, and what you know. Janet Gordon, to fight her sister's battles, took that sister's place."

"You are well informed," sneered Busham. "On whose authority?"

"I have the best authority. Miss Gordon told me herself."

"How dare you say that I knew of this plot!" cried the lawyer, savagely. "Ridiculous! I know nothing about the sisters."

"That is a lie!" replied Ellis, coolly. "You know everything about them. For months you have been watching for an opportunity to get them into your toils."

"Who says this?"

"Rudolph Zirknitz."

"Bah! that silly fool! What does he know?"

"More than you think," retorted Ellis. "Zirknitz is a scamp, but no fool, and he told me all about the questions you had asked him. He even mentioned the sums of money you have paid him for his information."

"What information?" said Busham, fighting every inch.

"Is it necessary for me to inform you?" questioned Ellis, with icy contempt.

"What information?" repeated the lawyer.

"He told you that the supposed Mrs. Moxton was really Janet Gordon. He betrayed his sisters for money like the contemptible creature he is, and in turn he has betrayed you."

"I don't understand your hint of betrayal."

"I think you do. But if you wish me to be more explicit, I can inform you that Zirknitz saw you following Moxton on that night."

Busham sneered, and his brow cleared. "So you said when Mrs. Moxton---I beg your pardon---Miss Gordon was here. I then admitted that I was at Dukesfield on that night, and gave my reasons for being there. Also, I gave an account of my actions."

"I know you did, Mr. Busham. A very pretty account which did justice to your imagination."

"I told the truth," cried Busham, gnawing his lip.

"No, you did not. You told what suited your purpose. You spoke to no policeman on that night, for those who were on duty then have all been closely questioned. You never followed Mrs. Moxton to Pimlico, but you called there later and bribed the servant, Sarah, to tell you the truth."

"Who says I did?"

"Zirknitz. I am afraid you were a trifle overconfident of his silence, Mr. Busham."

"Zirknitz is a liar!"

"Oh, no, only a traitor who changes sides when he sees a chance of making money."

"He won't make any out of his sisters," growled Busham. "I have burnt that will, and the Moxton property will come to me."

Ellis smiled when he thought on how slight a foundation this belief rested. "Well, we will say nothing about the will. But even though you have destroyed it, Mrs. Moxton takes a great portion of her husband's property as his widow."

"She sha'n't have one penny," snarled Busham. "A jade, an adventuress and a murderess! that's what she is. If she refuses to give me the whole of the Moxton property, I'll denounce her. He! he! then she will be hanged."

"I doubt it, Busham. There is a prejudice against hanging women in this country. As to your saying that she killed Moxton, that is a lie, and you know it. The man who murdered your cousin wore a silk hat and fur coat."

"Who says so?"

"Mrs. Moxton herself. She saw the man strike the blow, but could not recognise him."

"Oh, that is an invention to save her neck," scoffed Busham. "A man in a silk hat and a fur coat? Bosh! Who is the man!"

"Well, I am not quite clear on that point," replied Ellis, speaking very slowly, "but I fancied he might be you."

Busham started from his seat with a kind of screech hardly human. "I?" he gasped. "You dare to accuse me of that crime! And on what grounds?"

"You wore similar dress on the night you followed Moxton."

"Who says I did?"

"Your dear friend, M. Zirknitz."

Busham ground his teeth, and said something not precisely complimentary to the Austrian. After a time he recovered his calmness, but not his colour. "You accuse me of murdering Moxton?" he said.

"Oh, no, I don't accuse you, I merely state that such might be the case."

"Bah! The accusation is not worth considering. What motive could I have for killing my cousin! It is true that his father altered his will at the last moment and left everything to Edgar. What then? I had sufficient influence with him to finger that money, and I certainly intended to do so. Why should I risk my neck to upset all my plans?"

"You might have hoped to get the money after Moxton's death, or, at least, a share of it."

"Don't deceive yourself," snapped the lawyer. "I hoped for none of it. Edgar told me that, after his marriage, he had made a will leaving all to his wife. What motive, then, had I to commit so purposeless a crime. I could manage Edgar because I knew him; but I never met,---I never saw Mrs. Moxton, and could hope to gain no influence over her, especially with that infernal sister in the way. If she---"

"Speak more respectfully of Miss Gordon," interrupted the doctor, angrily. "She is my friend, and I will not permit a word against her. You say that Mrs. Moxton killed her husband. Prove it!"

"She was always quarrelling with him," replied Busham, sullenly. "I know that for a fact, because Edgar told me so. He said that he was afraid of his wife, that she frequently threatened him with the carving-knife. When I heard of the murder next morning I went down to see Mrs. Moxton, as I was certain she had killed Edgar. As I walked up the garden I saw the flash of steel in a laurel bush, and on going to it I found a knife stuck in one of the branches. It was a carving-knife, and there was blood on the blade and the handle. I was certain then that Mrs. Moxton was guilty, but having my own ends to gain I did not denounce her then, but simply slipped the knife up my sleeve and went away. I produced it as you saw to make Miss Gordon---for thanks to Zirknitz I knew my visitor was not Mrs. Moxton---give up the will. She made the exchange and took away the knife. I burnt the will as you saw, and by destroying it could hope to get a portion of the property. Now I mean to have the whole, or else I shall denounce Mrs. Moxton."

"I don't think you'll do that, Busham, for I shall then state that you committed a felony by burning the will. No, no, whatever happens you can't afford to denounce Mrs. Moxton. You might frighten her, and, perhaps---as she is only a woman---Miss Gordon, but you can't frighten me. As to your finding of the knife, Mrs. Moxton threw it into the laurel bush after the murder, but she did not use it."

"You will find it difficult to prove that," snarled Busham, beginning to feel beaten. "If she did not use it, who did?"

"The man in the fur coat, who snatched it from her when she was in her husband's grip."

"And who is the man in the fur coat?"

"I think you know, Busham."

"Indeed, I don't, confound you!"

"At least you know the name of the man who endorsed that bill."

With a gasp the lawyer started out of his chair. "Bill? What bill?"

"The forged bill which you gave to Moxton at the Merryman Music-Hail on the night of the murder."

"I gave no bill. I know of none."

"Oh, yes, you do. Moxton showed the bill to Zirknitz and told him that it was forged on his father. It was placed in a red pocket-book, Mr. Busham, and that pocket-book was stolen from the corpse."

"Lies! Lies! All lies!" raved Busham, stamping. "I know nothing of any bill! I don't know who killed Moxton!"

Ellis did not waste words, but rising to his feet glanced at his watch with a calm air. "I must go now," said he. "I shall give you five days to tell the truth, Mr. Busham. Failing that, I shall place the whole matter in the hands of the police, and re-open the case. Good-day, sir;" and with that last warning Ellis walked out of the room.

With a white face and a haggard expression, Busham sat for an hour or more in his chair. Twice one of his clerks opened the door and looked in, but awed by the expression of terror in the lawyer's eyes, withdrew. At last Busham wiped his brow, which was beaded with perspiration, and rose to his feet. "Shall I fly or stay?" he asked himself; then, bringing down his fist on the table, he cried: "No, by Heaven! I'll stay and fight it out!"

10  Our Library / Fergus Hume - The Crimson Cryptogram (1900) / 19: The Red Pocket-Book on: March 25, 2023, 08:25:35 am
"DO you mean to say that the paper Mr. Busham destroyed was not Edgar's will?" asked Janet, while her sister uttered an exclamation of joy.

"I do mean it. I reported your conversation about our mutual friend to Cass, and we both agreed that he was not to be trusted with the original will. Cass, who is clever at imitating handwriting, procured a sheet of paper similar to that upon which the will was written, and copied it out, signatures and all. I am afraid it was a species of forgery, but as it had to be done if we wished to checkmate Busham, we contrived the crime. It was just as well we did so, Miss Gordon, as Busham had no compunction in destroying the will. My wonder is that a clever pettifogger such as he is could not see that the document was forged. Singular obtuseness on his part."

"If it had remained longer in his possession, he no doubt would have discovered the truth," replied Janet, "but, if you remember, he merely glanced at it, and not crediting me with so clever an idea as substituting a copy for the original, took it for the genuine will. I can never thank you sufficiently, doctor, for what you have done."

"Nor I either," chimed in Laura, who, seeing that there was a prospect of recovering her husband's money, plucked up her spirits. "Now Mr. Busham will not be able to rob me."

"H'm!" said Janet, with a frown, "putting the will out of the question, my dear, you are still in the same dangerous position as formerly. If he finds out the trick Dr. Ellis has played him, he may denounce you."

"He will do so at his own risk," cried Ellis, promptly. "And you may be sure he will never learn the truth from me until it can be told with safety to Mrs. Moxton. Leave Busham to me. I shall know how to deal with him. In some way or another we must clear up this mystery, and exonerate Mrs. Moxton. If there was only some clue."

Janet and Laura looked meaningly at one another. "There is a clue, although it is only a slight one," said Miss Gordon, hesitatingly.

"To the identity of the murderer?"

"No, but a clue which may lead to his discovery. When Laura was lying in a faint, the man who stabbed Edgar robbed him of his pocket-book."

"But how could he do that without Moxton recognising him?" asked Ellis. "You know that Moxton did not die at once, but lived long enough to scrawl those blood signs on his arm denouncing Zirknitz. Now, I know that your brother is innocent, as he has established an alibi with the assistance of his landlady, Mrs. Pastor."

"I cannot explain that, doctor, but undoubtedly Edgar thought that Rudolph stabbed him, and so wrote on his arm to let Laura know."

"You can read the cryptogram, I presume, Mrs. Moxton?"

"Oh, yes, I know the signs very well. Janet taught them to me, and I showed them to Edgar for amusement. He, no doubt, wished me to know that Rudolph had stabbed him, but why he used the signs I cannot say. He hated Rudolph always, and would have got him into trouble if he could."

"Well," said Ellis, after a pause, "I can conceive no reason why he acted as he did. I don't suppose the truth will ever be revealed. But about this pocket-book, Mrs. Moxton. How do you know that the murderer took it?"

"I only think so. It was a red Morocco pocket-book with Edgar's initials on it in gold. He had it when he went out that night, and I saw him put it into his breast pocket. When Janet came to Pimlico I asked her if she had seen it, as I thought that there might be some bank-notes in it, and we needed money badly."

"Did he carry money in it?"

"Yes, when he had any."

"On that night were there any notes in the pocket-book?"

"I cannot say. Rudolph declares that he won twenty pounds from Edgar on that night. Edgar could not pay him save with an I.O.U., so I don't think there could have been money in the book."

"Then why should the assassin steal it?"

"Why, indeed!" echoed Janet, who had been silent for some time; "that is what we wish to find out. As Edgar's jewellery was untouched, robbery could not have been the motive of the crime. I believe myself that the pocket-book must have contained some papers of value to the murderer. No person but he could have taken it, for I examined very carefully the clothes Edgar wore when he was killed, and could not find the pocket-book. Dr. Ellis," said Janet, earnestly, "it seems to me that if you can find that book, you will be able to lay hands on the criminal."

"Possibly, Miss Gordon. But in what direction am I to look. In the autumn many men wear fur-lined overcoats, so that is not a strong clue. Moreover, the pocket-book must long since have been destroyed if the murderer valued his neck. No; on the whole I think it will be best to see Busham, as I said before. My movements will depend upon the sort of information he supplies."

"He will tell you nothing."

"Not of his own free will, perhaps, but I may be in a position to force his confidence."

It was now late, as this conversation between the three had lasted a considerable time. Laura looked so fatigued and ill that Ellis, in his capacity of medical man, insisted that she should retire. "Take as much rest and sleep as you can, Mrs. Moxton, and don't worry. I will help you all I can in this matter, and I have no doubt I shall be able to clear you of all suspicion. Good-night."

Ellis was accompanied to the door by Janet, who was hopeful of his success.

"You will be certain to solve this mystery---you and Mr. Cass," said she. "Think how much you have discovered already by observation."

"And if I do solve it, and right your sister, what then, Miss Gordon?"

Janet laughed, and, in the kindly darkness, blushed. "We can talk of that when the time comes," she said, answering his thought after the manner of women.

With this assurance the doctor was fain to be content, and departed without gaining the kiss of which he had dreamt. Needless to say, he was more in love than ever, and thanked Heaven that he had been brought into contact with so noble and earnest a woman as Janet Gordon. Anxious to hear the result of his friend's visit, Cass was waiting up for him, and into his astonished ears Ellis poured the whole story which exonerated and cleansed Janet. Cass admitted that he had been wrong in his estimate of her character.

"But how was one to read it properly under the circumstances," he said testily. "I could not believe in the woman without proof."

"I did," said Ellis, smiling.

"Still, your experience is sufficiently strange, and I am glad that your instinct has been justified. Miss Gordon, on the face of it, has proved herself a singularly able, and, I may say, a noble woman; but I must see more of her, and learn to know her better before I can rescind my former opinion.

"The main question at present is how to extricate her and Mrs. Moxton from their equivocal position. Until the assassin is found, and all is made plain, Mrs. Moxton dare not explain our trick to Busham or claim her property. If she did he might be dangerous."

"Can he be dangerous?"

"So far as inclination goes I should say so, but whether he has the power is another question, and one not so easily answered. However, for your satisfaction, Bob, I can tell you that Busham is a liar. While you were at Myrtle Villa I went round to Drake at the Police Office and tried to find out if Busham had spoken to any policeman on that night. If you remember he declared that he held a long conversation with one at, or near, the station. He trusts to that for an alibi."

"But Drake does not know Busham; he could tell you nothing, Harry."

"Quite so, but he could tell me who was on duty on that night. I did not inform him of my reasons, save that I was curious on my own account to learn who killed Moxton, so I found out the names of the police on duty that night. Queerly enough their term of service has come round again for night duty, so I went out and questioned at least half a dozen about Busham."

"Well?" asked Ellis, impatiently.

"Well, Busham is a liar; he spoke to none of them, and none spoke to him. They never saw a gentleman of his description about on that night, so I judged that he dodged after Moxton in the shadows to avoid recognition. Now, Bob, your best plan is to see Busham and accuse him; then we shall see if he can bring forward in his defence this supposititious policeman."

"Good. I'll call on our mutual friend to-morrow. But I shall see Zirknitz first."

"What for?"

"To ask him how Busham was dressed on that night. As the police would not recognise Busham by his face, they might by his dress. In that way we can learn if anyone of them saw him following Moxton after they left the railway station."

Having decided upon this course, which, under the circumstances, was the most sensible, both men retired to bed. Next morning, after a further discussion with Cass, the doctor set out for Bloomsbury. As yet he had not many patients, so he could afford the time, but his practice was increasing, and he foresaw that unless he could bring the matter of the murder to a speedy conclusion, he would be obliged to throw it over altogether. But on Janet's account he was unwilling to do this.

As usual, M. Zirknitz was still in bed, and Ellis waited for some time in the gorgeous sitting-room, which its owner---apparently---had created out of nothing. When the Austrian made his appearance he was as lively as ever, and greeted Ellis in his most genial manner.

"Ah, Ellis, mon ami, mon cher, so you have arrived once more. Is it to take me to a prison or to join me at dťjeuner---the latter, I hope; friendship is so much more charming than enmity."

"I have come only to ask you a few questions, Zirknitz; also to tell you something which may astonish you."

"Astonish me! C'est une mauvaise plaisanterie, mon cher. I am never astonished at anything in this best of all possible worlds. You have not read Candide, in which that saying occurs? No. Ah, you should. Voltaire is the most witty of his race. Eh bien! What is your astonishing news?"

"I know your history and that of your sisters, and I have learnt how Miss Gordon took the place of Mrs. Moxton to fight her battles."

"You know that? Ah, well, Janet must have told you. If she did, she is right. Janet can do no wrong. She is the dearest and most excellent sister in the world."

"Are you the best brother to her?"

"I? Mon ami, I am a scamp. I have no good in me. If I had it would not be so creditable to Janet that she is fond of me. So she has told you all her intrigues. What can I do?"

"Inform me about Busham. You saw him on that night?"

"Oui da! He followed that poor Edgar from the station."

"How was he dressed?"

Zirknitz reflected. "It was cold that night," said he, musingly. "I put on a fur coat. Eh! Ah, yes. Busham had a coat of the same and a tall hat. I can say no more than that."

A fur-lined coat, a tall hat. This was precisely the scanty description given by Laura of her momentary glimpse of the assassin. What if the lawyer, after all, should be the guilty person? Full of excitement Ellis detailed to Zirknitz his suspicions, and cited the fact of the red pocket-book. The Austrian uttered an exclamation of astonishment on hearing that this was missing.

"Edgar, excellent Edgar, had it in his pocket at the music-hall. Eh! yes, I quite remember. He took out the book to show me a bill."

"A bill? What kind of a bill?"

"A bill of exchange or a promissory note. Now you speak, mon cher ami, it all comes back to me. Edgar showed me the name of his father on the bill and declared that it was forged."

"A forged bill!" said Ellis, "and in the pocket-book which was stolen? Ah, this, then, may be the motive for the crime. Zirknitz, did Moxton say who had forged the bill?"

"Eh? No. He said, 'My Rudolph, see what I got from Busham this night.'"

"Busham! Busham! Could he have forged the bill?"

"Eh? No, I think not, or he would not give it to Edgar."

"Still, a forged bill, obtained from Busham, and he followed Edgar out of the station. He wore a tall hat and a fur coat. As the assassin was dressed the same it might be---By Heavens! Zirknitz, I believe that Busham is the guilty person, after all."

Zirknitz shrugged his shoulders, but did not offer an opinion, and as the doctor did not think that there was anything further to be learnt from him, he rose to go. At the door, however, he paused, and made a chance remark which gained him greater results than any of his previous questions.

"I forgot to tell you," said Ellis, "that I have tricked Busham. He thinks that he has a claim to a portion of Mrs. Moxton's property because he destroyed the will. But what he destroyed, M. Zirknitz, was a copy made by me; the original is in my possession."

Rudolph's eyes sparkled. "Then Laura will inherit all Moxton's wealth?"

"Undoubtedly, as soon as she can claim it, without risking any danger from Busham. He knows too much."

"But not as much as I know. Listen, mon ami. I can tell you a great deal about Busham which will help you to save Laura. Eh, yes, I will see that she gets the money of that poor Edgar."

"So that you may get a share of it, I suppose?" said Ellis, drily. Zirknitz laughed and shrugged his shoulders. "But, certainly---- Why not? I am her brother; I need money. If I help her, she must help me. Listen! mon cher."

With this exordium Zirknitz poured forth into Ellis's ears a story about the lawyer and about his own treachery which at once pleased and horrified Ellis. He did not know whether most to hate or admire the scamp; but in the end he decided that it would be diplomatic to hide his feelings, and so ended his visit.

11  Our Library / Fergus Hume - The Crimson Cryptogram (1900) / 18: What Really Happened on: March 25, 2023, 08:19:06 am
AFTER Janet had finished her history there ensued a short silence. Ellis was lost in admiration at the wonderful pluck and resolution of the girl, which had enabled her to face and carry through a difficult matter for the sake of her weaker sister. Now that the worst was over---since she had rescued Laura Moxton from the ordeal of a public accusation---Janet seemed to be in danger of breaking down. After the tension of nerve and will came the inevitable relaxation. The impulse of Ellis was to take her in his arms, and comfort her with assurances of love and protection. But the time was not yet ripe for him to speak of his personal feelings. There was much to do, much to be learnt, before the crooked could be made straight; therefore Ellis, sacrificing self, began to question Janet on points which did not seem quite clear to him. At his first remark she braced herself and gave him immediate attention.

"If you thought that your sister had killed Moxton, why did you not hide the carving-knife?"

"How could I? She threw it away before I could stop her, and there was no time for me to search. When I sent Laura off, I had to call in you and the police, so I could not go out to look for it in the darkness. Next morning, when I could evade the policeman in charge, I slipped out to search. But by that time the knife was gone."

"Busham took it," said Ellis, with a nod. "I wonder how he found it. There was no need for him to search. It looks as though he knew beforehand that with such a weapon Moxton had been stabbed, and came here to secure it."

Janet mused. "I have my doubts of Mr. Busham," she said at last. "He knows more about the matter than he says. Indeed, I should not be at all surprised to hear that he is the guilty person!"

"Impossible! He declares that he can prove an alibi---that at the time of the crime he was talking to a policeman, and afterwards followed your sister to Pimlico."

"Have you seen the policeman?"

"No, but I intend to see him as soon as I learn his name or number from Busham."

"He won't tell it to you."

"I can but try, at all events. To do away with my suspicions he may speak out. But, Miss Gordon, I have yet to learn how Edgar Moxton was killed."

"Laura can tell you that," said Janet, rising. "Now that you have heard my story you must listen to what she has to say; then, doctor, you will see how to save her. I was forced into the position I took up."

"I shall be glad to hear Mrs. Moxton's story. Shall I come with you?"

"No, Laura is not so ill as all that; she is merely lying down in the next room and I will bring her in shortly."

She left Ellis alone for a few minutes, which he employed in considering the possibility of Busham being implicated in the crime---indeed, he himself might be the actual criminal. Zirknitz had seen him following Moxton from the Dukesfield Station, and his subsequent acts were related by himself as harmless; but the story of the conversation with the policeman and the following of Mrs. Moxton to Pimlico might be invented to hide the truth. There was nothing to show that Busham had not murdered Edgar, for at that time he was ignorant that Moxton's will was in existence, and by getting rid of his cousin he might hope to clutch a portion of his uncle's money. Ellis made up his mind to do two things---first to see Busham and learn with whom he had been engaged at the time of the crime; second, to interview the policeman hinted at, and discover if Busham was speaking the truth. While he was arguing the necessity of this course in his own mind, Janet returned with Mrs. Moxton leaning on her arm.

The resemblance between the sisters was striking. They were of the same height, their figures were moulded to the same contour, and in face, feature and colouring they were remarkably alike. The difference between them lay in the expression, and in the character of the eye. Laura's glance was soft and wandering, that of Janet steady and calm; the face of Mrs. Moxton was weak, the countenance of Miss Gordon firm. Janet, indeed, seemed to be the masculine counterpart of her sister; she had all the strength of will and resolution of purpose which the other lacked. She was a being of flesh and blood, Laura a shadow, a feather blown by the wind. At the first sight of her face Ellis no longer wondered that she had married a brute like Moxton. She would have married any man had the necessary force of will been exerted. When Ellis beheld this frail creature, when he recalled the evil, scampish nature of Rudolph Zirknitz, he admired Janet more than ever for the wonderful manner in which she had controlled the pair. She was a female Prospero, who ruled at once a weakly, flighty Ariel and a refined Caliban. It must be admitted, however, that the latter part of the above illustration is too severe on Zirknitz, as he was rather a Lazun, a Duc de Richelieu, a Count D'Orsay than the son of Sycorax. However, he was certainly a scamp and dangerous.

Mrs. Moxton, who looked ill and weary, bowed in silence to Ellis, and sank exhausted into the chair vacated by her sister. Janet took a seat beside her and motioned with her head that the doctor should do the same. Ellis obeyed and looked at Mrs. Moxton with some curiosity, but more eagerness, for from her lips he hoped to learn sufficient to indicate the mysterious assassin of Moxton. But the widow, with her eyes fixed on the fire, seemed in no hurry to begin.

"Laura, dear," said Janet, in a coaxing tone, such as a nurse would use to a fractious child, "this is our best friend, Dr. Ellis. He is the only one who can help us out of our difficulties, and I want you to tell him all you remember about Edgar's death."

Mrs. Moxton uttered a low wail, and with a shudder covered her face. When she did speak, it was in so low a tone that Ellis could with difficulty catch what she was saying. "Shall I ever forget that horrible night?" she murmured.

"Tell Dr. Ellis about it, dear," urged Janet, and after a pause Mrs. Moxton did as she was requested. At first her voice was low and nervous, but as she proceeded in the recital it grew powerful. Her nerves responded to the demand made upon them, and gave her a surprising strength of speech in comparison with her frail body. From a physiological standpoint, Ellis was as much interested in her as in the story she told.

"Edgar and I quarrelled on that night about Polly Horley," she began, "for Rudolph told me that he was paying attention to that horrid woman. Edgar swore that it was not true, and I wanted to go to the music-hall to see for myself. He refused to take me and flung out of doors in a great rage. Then Janet came, and her company and conversation calmed me. When she went, and I was left alone, I grew frightened, and got out the carving-knife. I heard Edgar come in at the gate and, not thinking, I ran to open the door with the knife in my hand. When I met him he was on the step, but seeing the knife, and knowing how furious I could be, I suppose he grew frightened. At any rate, he ran back to the gate. I followed, calling out: 'Edgar, Edgar, what is the matter?' When I came up to him he must have thought I meant to strike him, for he was half drunk at the time. His face was white and terrified as I saw in the moonlight; although, as the night was cloudy, that was not very strong."

"I remember the night," interpolated Ellis, "it was windy and rainy, with a fitful moonlight showing through the flying clouds. Well, Mrs. Moxton, what did your husband do when you came up to him?"

"He seized me by the throat," said the widow, hysterically. "I believe that, being half intoxicated, he wished to kill me, and I struggled to get away. But he held me tightly, so that I could not cry out. We were pressed right against the gate. I held the knife above my head, as I was afraid of hurting him with it."

"Why did you not drop it?" asked Ellis.

"I don't know. I never thought of dropping it. The more Edgar fought with me the tighter I held it. He was strangling me, and I could not cry out. Then I saw, all at once, a man on the other side of the gate."

"Could you describe his looks?" asked Ellis, eagerly.

Mrs. Moxton shook her head. "Remember it was a darkish night, with only occasional gleams of moonlight. I was struggling with Edgar, and, holding me by the throat, he had half strangled me. As I said, I held up the knife out of the way. The man on the other side of the gate wore a tall hat and a great coat with a fur collar. I tried to call out to Edgar, but he did not see the man. Suddenly the stranger snatched the knife out of my hand, and struck at Edgar's back. Edgar gave a yell which, I wonder, was not heard all over Dukesfield, so loud it was. He fell forward on me, and crushed by his weight, worn with the struggle, and terrified by the murder, I fainted clean away. The last thing I remember was that Edgar lay over me, struggling and moaning."

"Was the man still at the gate after he struck the blow?"

"I don't know. When I came to myself Janet was bending over me, and I was so frightened that I could explain nothing. After that I picked up the knife which was lying by Edgar's body and flung it over some bushes against the fence. Then Janet hurried me away, and told me she would take my place and deny everything. I was so dazed that I did not know what I was doing. I ran down to the cab-rank and told a cabman to drive me to Pimlico. He did so, and I recovered myself sufficiently in the cab to pay him, and to slip into the house with the latchkey which Janet had pushed into my hand. I knew that she still had our old room, so I ran up to it without seeing anyone, and locked myself in."

"Mrs. Amber told me that you isolated yourself for weeks."

"I did so by Janet's advice, lest Mrs. Amber should recognise me. Janet came to see me a few days afterwards, and told me about the inquest."

"Did you call at Geneva Square?" asked Ellis, turning to Miss Gordon. "That is strange, for Mrs. Amber particularly explained that until a few days ago no one called save Schwartz."

"I paid a visit one night when Mrs. Amber was at the theatre," explained Janet, "and I bribed Sarah, the servant---a most venal creature---to say nothing about it. It was necessary that I should tell Laura what had taken place, and hear her story. Now you know, doctor, why I fenced with you and refused to tell the truth. I was afraid lest my sister should be brought into the matter."

"But Mrs. Moxton is innocent, and you knew it," protested Ellis.

"Yes, I am innocent," wailed Mrs. Moxton, "but what could I do in the face of all I have told you. I cannot hold my tongue like Janet, or foresee things as she does. In one way or another I should have betrayed myself and perhaps have been arrested. Janet was right, Janet was wise to advise me to stay at Pimlico. I feigned ill-health, and would not let Mrs. Amber into my room lest she should get to know too much. Only Sarah knew me, as I had to confide in her to get food. But she held her tongue."

"She nearly betrayed you though, Mrs. Moxton, by taking those cuffs to Mrs. Amber."

"That was a mistake," said the widow. "In touching Edgar's body I got blood on my cuffs, and threw them aside in the bedroom. I never thought of hiding them, and Sarah took them downstairs without consulting me."

"How did you manage to keep up the concealment of your identity to the end?"

"I managed that," said Janet, in her firm, clear voice. "I called when I knew that Mrs. Amber was absent, and told Laura that, on account of Busham, I intended to take her away. When Mrs. Amber came back, of course, she thought that I had been in my bedroom all the time, and that Laura had called for me. She was so deceived," added Janet, smiling, "that she told me how ill I looked after lying so long in bed. But I am afraid I did look ill, with all the worry."

"I don't wonder at it," said Ellis, sympathetically. "I cannot imagine how you have borne up through all the troubles you have had. Few women would have taken another's burden so bravely on their shoulders as you have done, Miss Gordon."

"Indeed, she has been the best of sisters," exclaimed Mrs. Moxton, with tears in her eyes. "Never shall I forget what Janet has done for me."

"At some cost to yourself, dear Laura," said Janet, patting her sister's hand. "After all, my defence of you has cost you your fortune."

"I don't mind in the least, Janet. Let Mr. Busham take all so long as he holds his tongue."

"I fancy Busham will keep silent for his own sake," remarked Ellis, drily, "for I feel certain that he has more to do with this murder than you think."

"You don't believe that he killed Edgar?"

"I might even go so far as that, but I must collect sufficient evidence to justify such belief. However, we can talk of that later. With reference to the destruction of the will, Miss Gordon, you need not worry about that."

"Oh, but I do. Laura will lose her father-in-law's money."

"Not by the destruction of the will, because the original document is in my possession, and what Busham burnt was a copy carefully prepared by myself and my friend Mr. Cass."

12  Our Library / Fergus Hume - The Crimson Cryptogram (1900) / 17: A Life History on: March 25, 2023, 07:40:23 am
TO say that Ellis was amazed by the discovery that the pseudo Mrs. Moxton was really Janet Gordon, would be to give a feeble idea of his feelings. For some moments he was too thunderstruck to speak, and remained staring at Miss Gordon as though she were a ghost. Seeing this, the girl---for she was no more---gently took his hand and guided him to a comfortable chair by the fire. Then she sat down at his elbow and explained herself seriously. She was as pretty as ever, but her cheeks were pale, there were dark circles under her eyes, and she had the nervous, agitated manner of one suffering from a great strain.

"Yes, I am Janet Gordon," said she, with a sigh, "and I have been masquerading as my sister ever since the terrible night of her husband's murder. My reasons for so doing you shall learn later on, for I am determined to tell you the whole truth of this matter so far as it is known to me."

"This is the secret you have been keeping from me?" said Ellis, much agitated.

Miss Gordon nodded. "I was afraid to speak before, even to so good a friend as yourself. But I find that I can bear my burden no longer; so I turn to you for help and comfort. You must aid me, you must see after my unhappy sister who lies in the next room."

"Is she guilty of the murder?" asked the doctor, rather harshly.

"No, no," cried Janet, trembling. "She is innocent, although appearances are against her. You will hear her story about that night from herself, but first I intend to relate my life history. I do not wish you to have a wrong opinion of me, Dr. Ellis."

"I could never have that, Miss Gordon," said Ellis, promptly. "I always believed that you were more sinned against than sinning. I wonder I did not guess at your identity before. Schwartz and Mrs. Amber both spoke highly of you, and I could not reconcile their opinion of Mrs. Moxton with what I knew of you under that name. Your explanation makes all clear."

"How do you know Mrs. Amber?"

"I went there to see the supposed Janet Gordon, and Mrs. Amber told me that you---that is Mrs. Moxton---had gone."

"I was afraid to leave my sister there after what Busham said," replied Janet, with a troubled air. "I let him burn the will, so that he might hold his tongue about Laura, for I saw that he suspected her. I took Laura to Bayswater, where we lived quietly for the last few days. But she is ill, and seeing no way out of the difficulty, and being in want of money, I resolved to bring Laura here and ask for your help."

"It will be freely given, I assure you."

In spite of the gravity of the situation, Ellis looked at his companion with so meaning a gaze that her cheek flushed and her eyes dropped before his. Yet she raised a deprecating hand to quell his emotion. "No, no, not yet, perhaps never. You must hear my story before you can think of me in that way."

"I shall always think the same of you. You are the dearest and the noblest of women. But I must confess that I am anxious to hear your confession. Begin at once; I am all attention."

Janet folded her hands on her black dress and looked musingly at the fire. There was a shadow on her resolute face cast by some bitter memory of the past. Ellis watched her in silence, and noted with pity how weary and worn she looked. Her reverie continued for two or three moments. Then she raised her head and related her unhappy past in quiet, melancholy tones.

"Laura and I are twins," she began. "We are very much alike in looks, but entirely different in disposition. I am strong-minded and calm; she is frivolous and highly excitable---indeed, sometimes I think she is not in her right senses, so furious are her rages. She has the fiery Celtic nature inherited from our mother, who was a Highland woman. I am more like my father, who was a calm-tempered, persevering man. We were born in Edinburgh, where my parents lived for some years after their marriage. My father was a doctor, and made a great deal of money."

"How strange that I should be a doctor also," said Ellis, meaningly.

Janet smiled and shook her head at the interruption. "As I say, my father made a great deal of money," she continued, "for he had a large and increasing practice, but a chill he contracted while visiting a patient in the country carried him off when Laura and I were ten years old. My mother was left a widow and well off, so taking a dislike to Edinburgh after her husband's death, she travelled abroad. For some years we wandered on the Continent, and Laura and I were educated at several schools, but my mother so wished to keep us beside her, that I am afraid we gained little knowledge. However, we learnt to speak French, German and Italian, so we benefited in some degree by our roving. For some years things went on like this, until at Carlsbad my mother met with Colonel Zirknitz, who was in the Austrian army."

"Rudolph's father?"

"Yes. Rudolph was then eighteen years of age, Laura and I fifteen. My mother fell in love with Colonel Zirknitz, and hearing that she was rich, he married her. But I am sure that he never loved her. We went to Vienna and lived there for some time. Our stepfather was not unkind, and treated my mother with every courtesy, but he was a gambler and a spendthrift."

"I see. The vices of Zirknitz are hereditary!"

Janet sighed. "I suppose so," said she, "but you must not be too hard on Rudolph, doctor. His failings are hardly vices. He has many good qualities."

"Mostly negative qualities, I fear, Miss Gordon. You are fascinated by that splendid scamp, like everyone else."

"That may be. Rudolph has not a fine character, and I have rather a contempt for him. All the same I am fond of him, although sometimes I feel angry for being so. Of course, Rudolph grew up with me, so to speak, and I look upon him as a brother. He was always wild; he has never done anything all his life, and although I have great influence over him I cannot get him to settle down."

"Is Colonel Zirknitz alive?" asked Ellis, anxious that she should proceed with her story.

"No, he died some time ago, but lived long enough to spend all my mother's fortune."

"And is she dead also?"

"Yes, she is dead," sighed Janet. "She died six months after her husband. I believe the loss of him broke her heart. He was a singularly fascinating man."

"After seeing the son I can well believe that. What happened when you found yourself alone in the world?"

"I came back to London with Laura. We were left penniless in Vienna, but Rudolph procured money somehow---by gambling, I fancy, and came to England with us. We left him in London staying at Mrs. Amber's house in Geneva Square, and went to Edinburgh to see if our father's relations would help us. Alas! they would do nothing."

"So much for the world's charity," said Ellis, cynically. "Brutes! what made them refuse, or, rather, what excuse did they make?"

"The excuse that my mother had married a second time. I begged and implored them to help Laura, if not me, but as they refused we came back to London. Rudolph behaved very well, for he paid our board at Mrs. Amber's for some time; so you see, doctor, he has some good points."

"I suppose so," replied Ellis, grudgingly. "He could do no less. Then you met Schwartz, I suppose?"

"We did. Some years ago in Germany we knew him, and on hearing of our penniless condition he gave me first an engagement as an attendant, and afterwards made me his private secretary. He offered to take on Laura also as an attendant, but I knew how frivolous she was, so I got her a situation in a typewriting office instead. I might have saved myself the trouble of protecting her from harm," sighed Janet, wearily, "for look what she has come to."

"Why did she marry Moxton?"

"She was tired of poverty and work. Moxton was the heir to wealth, and he professed to love her deeply. Against my will she married the man. I think she was encouraged by Rudolph, who fancied Moxton, as a brother-in-law, would lend him money. But after the marriage took place Edgar had no money to lend. His father resented the marriage, and cut him off with a shilling. With what money he had inherited from his mother Edgar went abroad with my sister. He gambled and drank, and treated Laura cruelly, as he accused her of being the cause of his ruin. They came back to England, and lived in this house the life I described at the inquest in the character of Mrs. Moxton."

"Ah," said Ellis, "now you come to the crucial point. Why did you impersonate your sister?"

"To save her from arrest and perhaps from death," replied Janet, feverishly. "I knew she could not face the inquest, or protect herself, and knowing that few people in this district were acquainted with her looks, and being very like her myself as her twin-sister, I seized the advantage offered, and stepped into her shoes."

"You are a brave and noble woman, Miss Gordon. So all through these terrible months you have been fighting on your sister's behalf?"

"Yes; she could not fight for herself. Rudolph, of course, knew the truth and supported me. Do you not remember how he called me Laura when you met him here?"

"I remember," replied Ellis, drily. "He never faltered or hesitated once. I think the young man has a positive genius for intrigue. But now that we have arrived at this point, Miss Gordon, I should like to know what really happened on that night."

"I will tell you all I know," said Janet, frankly, "then you shall see Laura and hear her story." She paused for a moment and continued in rapid tones: "I came here on that night to pay a visit to Laura, as I knew that Edgar would be at the Merryman Music-Hall as usual. I found Laura in a state of nervous rage against her husband, as he left her at home night after night, kept her short of money, and was altogether cruel to her. Laura, as you must know, doctor, has a neurotic temperament, and when angered lets her temper carry her beyond all bounds. She inherited this disposition with her Highland blood from our mother, who was likewise given to these fits of causeless rage. Often and often I implored Edgar not to anger Laura, knowing how dangerous she was when roused. But he neglected my warnings, and the pair were always fighting. I declare, doctor, that a dread of what might occur kept me in so nervous a state that I grew quite ill. I came down here constantly to soothe Laura, and never remained absent for any time without expecting to hear of a tragedy."

"I know the kind of irresponsible being your sister is," said Ellis, "and I do not wonder you were terrified. So the tragedy happened at last?"

"It did, and on that night," answered Janet, much agitated. "But it is not as you appear to think, doctor. Laura did not kill her husband."

"What about the carving-knife?"

"Oh, Edgar was killed with that, without doubt. What was said in Dukesfield about Laura carrying the knife was true. She was afraid of tramps in her half-hysterical state; and whenever a ring came to the door after dark she never opened it without arming herself with the knife. In this way she confronted the telegraph boy who spread the rumour."

"I wonder you did not take the knife from her," observed Ellis.

"If I had she would only have used a smaller knife. Well," continued Miss Gordon, "on that fatal night Laura was particularly angry with Edgar because she had been informed by Rudolph that he was flirting with Polly Horley. However, I managed to soothe her, and, as Rudolph never came for me as he promised, I left this house for the station a few minutes after eleven. When I got near the station I found that I had forgotten my purse and returned for it; then, Dr. Ellis," said Janet, clasping her hands, "I came on a terrible sight. Edgar was lying dead on the path, and Laura was lying beside him. The moon showed at intervals, so I saw all quite plainly. Finding Edgar was dead I thought Laura had murdered him, especially as the carving-knife lay on the path beside her. Laura revived very soon, and said she had not killed Edgar. I dragged her into the house; but picking up the carving-knife she said it was the cause of all, and threw it behind some laurels. I had no time to look for it, as my sole object was to get Laura away. I made her put on my hat and cloak and take my purse, telling her to go to Mrs. Amber's and remain in her bedroom, and that I would impersonate her and see the matter through. Laura was beside herself with terror, saying that she was innocent; but she had wit enough to see her danger if she stayed. Therefore, she braced herself up and went away to take a cab to Pimlico. She got one and arrived at Geneva Square safely."

"Yes, and remained in her bedroom as you told her. Mrs. Amber informed me of that. And you, Miss Gordon?"

"I," said Janet, simply, "assumed my sister's character and ran round to call you to see the corpse. You know the rest."

13  Our Library / Fergus Hume - The Crimson Cryptogram (1900) / 16: Another Mystery on: March 25, 2023, 07:06:45 am
THE behaviour of Schwartz perplexed Ellis, and during his homeward journey he pondered over the meaning of that glance. Could it be possible that the German was lying; that Janet Gordon had seen him, and had confessed what she knew of the crime? Ellis did not know what to think, but he was satisfied that the woman could solve the mystery. But she was not to be found; she had vanished as suddenly as Mrs. Moxton, and it seemed as though both of them were keeping out of the way lest they should get into trouble. But Ellis was bent upon discovering them at all costs.

In order to achieve this necessary purpose he kept a close watch on Myrtle Villa for the next few days, but all in vain. The house remained empty, and Mrs. Moxton gave no sign of reappearing. Ellis advertised judiciously in the Standard, but no notice was taken of his advertisement; he waited impatiently for the post, but no letter arrived. Mrs. Moxton and her sister had vanished as completely as though the earth had swallowed them up. The anxiety began to tell on Ellis's health, and Harry Cass advised him to abandon his pursuit of these shadows. As an intimate friend, Cass was brutally candid.

"It is no use mincing matters, Bob," said he, "the widow never loved you, and has made use of you only to secure her own ends. She will never return to Dukesfield."

"She must, Harry; if only to take the furniture out of her house."

"Oh, I daresay she will delegate that office to Zirknitz. There is no doubt that Janet Gordon knows the truth about the murder, and has confessed it to Mrs. Moxton. That is why both women are keeping out of the way."

"Zirknitz," repeated Ellis, paying no attention to the latter part of this speech. "I quite forgot about him. He may know where they are?"

"If he does he will not tell."

"I'll see about that, Harry. To-morrow I shall call on Zirknitz."

Cass shrugged his shoulders, but said no more. The obstinacy of Ellis was not to be overcome by argument, so, like a wise man, the journalist did not waste his breath in futile protestations. Secretly he was pleased that Mrs. Moxton should have voluntarily taken herself out of the way, as he did not wish Ellis to marry her. But in his own mind he was satisfied that the widow herself had proved by her last action that there was little fear of such an alliance taking place. To gain her own ends she had feigned a passion for Ellis; now that she saw nothing further was to be got out of him she had put an end to a disagreeable situation by disappearing. And this---in the opinion of Cass---was the end of Mrs. Moxton and her shady doings.

The next day Ellis went to see Zirknitz, the first thing in the morning, as he hoped to catch him before he left home. He knew that the Austrian was the most indolent of men, as Mrs. Moxton had told him as much, so it was unlikely that he would find him out of bed before ten o'clock. The doctor presented himself at the Bloomsbury lodging shortly before eleven, and found that even at so late an hour Zirknitz had not shaken off his slumbers. A smart maid-servant conducted him into an elegantly-furnished sitting-room, and took in his card. Shortly she returned with a message that M. Zirknitz in ten minutes would be at the disposal of his visitor. Like its owner, the room was very pretty. Wherever Zirknitz got the money to pander to his luxurious tastes, he certainly knew how to spend it. Ellis marvelled at the luxury by which he was surrounded, and wondered in what shady way it had been obtained. The walls were hung with Japanese silks of marvellous design and colouring, the floor was covered with a velvet-pile carpet of pale green, with a pattern of primroses. Green silk curtains draped the windows; there were charming pictures in every corner, and the furniture---also of pale green---was in the best possible taste. Near the window stood a piano, opposite to it a satinwood bookcase filled with French novels, and everywhere articles of useless luxury, evidently bought merely for the sake of buying. While Ellis was wondering at this bachelor's paradise, which more resembled the boudoir of a pretty woman, M. Zirknitz, fresh and pink from his bath, appeared through an inner door. He wore a loose dressing-gown of blue silk, and looked wonderfully handsome, if a trifle effeminate. With a joyous air he advanced to greet his visitor.

"Cher ami, so you have found me out. Well, I am charmed to see you, doctor. Is that chair comfortable? Good. Try this cigarette, it is a new brand. Can I offer you any refreshment---No? Ah, you are wiser than the majority of Englishmen. They eat and drink too much; bad for the nerves, pardy. Over-eating, over-feeding. Quelle bÍtise."

Zirknitz ran on thus lightly, but kept a sharp eye on his visitor, as he was anxious to know what had brought him there so early in the morning. Having fulfilled the duties of hospitality, he waited for Ellis to explain himself, which the doctor did almost immediately.

"I have called, M. Zirknitz, to inquire if you can inform me of the whereabouts of Mrs. Moxton?"

"Eh? How should I know? Am I my sister's keeper? Is she not in Myrtle Villa, Dukesfield?"

"No, she has not been there for five days. Your sister Janet has disappeared from Pimlico also."

"How do you know that, my brave doctor?" demanded Zirknitz, mockingly, yet with a shade of anxiety in his manner.

"Because I called there. Mrs. Amber informed me that Mrs. Moxton had taken away Miss Gordon. She did not know whither they had gone. I thought you might have had some idea."

"I fear, monsieur, I cannot assist you. I have not seen Mrs. Moxton since that day you spoke to me at Dukesfield. My sisters leave me much to myself. Why do you wish to see them?"

"I have my reasons," said Ellis, stiffly.

"And they are connected with that murder. Mon cher Ellis, soyez tranquil. I do not want to penetrate your secrets. I do not know where mesdames my sisters are. If I did I should tell you most assuredly, in spite of your bad opinion of me. But I am pleased you have come." Here M. Zirknitz rose and touched an electric button. "You will hear from my landlady that I was here on the night our dear Edgar was killed."

"I don't want any evidence to prove that, M. Zirknitz. I am satisfied that you are innocent."

"Bon. But there is a doubt in your suspicious English mind which peeps out of your eye. Ah, here is Jane. Jane," addressing the smart servant, "will you be so kind as to tell Mrs. Pastor I wish to see her at once. A pretty girl, Jane," resumed Zirknitz, as she vanished. "I like pretty women and all pretty things. You think my rooms nice, eh?"

"Charming. But I did not know you were so rich."

"Rich! Ma foi, I am as poor as a mousie mouse. If you--"

Before the Austrian could explain the source of his domestic magnificence his landlady entered the room. She was a formidable-looking woman, as tall as a Guardsman, with a severe face and the glance of a predatory bird. Dressed in black, with a lace cap and lace apron, she presented a wonderfully dignified and stately appearance. Anyone more unlike the scampish, airy Zirknitz it would have been impossible to conceive, yet the relaxing of her iron visage and the softening of her eagle glance showed that Mrs. Pastor was under the spell of her lodger's charm of manner. He greeted her with a sunny smile when she entered, and pointed to a chair, but Mrs. Pastor tacitly refused to be seated, and continued to stand bolt upright in the doorway.

"ChŤre madame," said Zirknitz, in his most caressing tone, "this is Dr. Ellis, of Dukesfield, who examined the dead body of my brother-in-law, Mr. Moxton. He wants to know at what hour I returned here on the night of August 16th last, the night of the murder."

"Is it possible, sir, that you suspect Monsieur Zirknitz in any way?" asked Mrs. Pastor, solemnly, addressing herself to Ellis.

"No, I do not. M. Zirknitz is performing a little comedy for his own satisfaction."

"Eh bien," said Rudolph, with a graceful wave of his hand, "then for my own satisfaction, madame, tell this dear doctor what I ask."

"Monsieur Zirknitz returned here at a quarter to twelve," said Mrs. Pastor. "I was still out of bed, and I admitted him myself. Next morning, when we were informed of the murder, M. Zirknitz begged me to take note of the time."

"Most assuredly," broke in the Austrian, impetuously, "for evil people might have accused me of the murder, since I was at Dukesfield then. But you see, my brave Ellis, I was here before twelve. As monsieur, mon beau frŤre, met his fate by your own showing about half-past eleven, I must be innocent."

"I quite believe in your innocence," said Ellis, rising. "There is no need to convince me so thoroughly. Thank you, M. Zirknitz, for the trouble you have taken in proving your case. Since you know nothing of the whereabouts of your sisters, my errand here is at an end. I shall go now."

"Ah, I am sorry to lose you. Je suis dťsolť, mon bon ami. Another cigarette? No? Good-bye. Au revoir! Some day we shall meet again. Mrs. Pastor, may I ask you to conduct monsieur, mon ami, to the door."

The landlady bowed solemnly, and, leading Ellis from the society of this graceful babbler, dismissed him with a second bow into the street. And in this unsatisfactory way ended the doctor's visit to the Austrian. Unsatisfactory, because he had obtained no information save that Zirknitz was innocent of the imputed charge, a conclusion at which Ellis had long since arrived. That same evening, after supper, he informed Cass about the alibi, but found that the journalist was less ready to accept the information.

"I don't trust Zirknitz," said he, emphatically, "neither does Schwartz. The man is a bad egg. I believe this murder is a family affair to get money. Zirknitz, I daresay, murdered Moxton with that knife. Janet saw him do so, and told Mrs. Moxton, and they have both disappeared so that they may not be asked questions likely to lead to their brother's arrest. As for Busham, now that the will is destroyed he will hold his tongue."

"But the alibi," protested Ellis. "If Zirknitz was at Bloomsbury before midnight, he could not have been in Dukesfield at half-past eleven."

"The alibi may be a false one."

"You would not say so if you saw the witness to its truth. Mrs. Pastor is a regular Puritan, as rigid and unbending as a piece of iron."

"Yet she tolerates that frivolous scamp?"

Ellis shrugged his shoulders. "All women have their weaknesses," said he. "However, the main point is, that Zirknitz could not inform me of his sisters' whereabouts."

"Humph! Would not, rather than could not, I should say," observed Cass, crossly. "I don't believe myself that you will see Mrs. Moxton again, and I fervently hope that such will be the case. You have now one or two patients, Bob, the nucleus of a good practice, so give up this wild-goose chase after the widow and settle down to your work."

Before Ellis could answer this friendly appeal, which was made in all good faith, Mrs. Basket entered with a note for Ellis, which had been brought that moment by a boy. "Clark, the grocer's son," explained the fat landlady. "I 'ope, doctor, it's a noo patient, for if ever a gent deserved the sick and ailing, you are that gent," after which expression of sympathy Mrs. Basket waddled out of the room with much noise.

"Great heavens!" cried Ellis, who was reading the note.

"What is the matter, Bob?"

For answer Ellis threw the note to Cass on the sofa, and he read it also. Then the two men looked at one another in amazement. And well they might be amazed, for the note, inviting Ellis to call at Myrtle Villa, was from no less a person than Janet Gordon.

"Why should she write to me?" asked Ellis, on finding his tongue.

"Mrs. Moxton must have told her about your friendly spirit. Perhaps she wishes to confide in you, and her sister has brought her to Myrtle Villa for that purpose. Shall you go, Bob?"

"Go? I should think so. To-night I may learn the secret of the murder," and Ellis, putting on hat and coat, immediately left the room in a great hurry.

He ran rather than walked to Myrtle Villa, and, to his joy, saw a light in the sitting-room window. Mrs. Moxton had returned, and Ellis could hardly restrain his joy when the widow herself opened the door to him. After greetings, hurried and brief, were over, she conducted him into the sitting-room. At once Ellis looked round for the writer of the note.

"Where is your sister?" he asked.

"She is in the next room. You will see her soon. But you are making a mistake, Dr. Ellis. I wrote that note asking you to call."

"You? Good Heavens! Then you are--"

"I am Janet Gordon. It is my sister who is Mrs. Moxton."

14  Our Library / Fergus Hume - The Crimson Cryptogram (1900) / 15: What Mrs. Amber Knew on: March 25, 2023, 06:49:59 am
MRS. Amber made this communication in a whisper, and then drew back to see what effect it would have on Ellis. He appeared to be less surprised than she expected, for the scene in Busham's office had prepared him to suspect Janet Gordon. Therefore he was not astonished to find his suspicions confirmed, but he did not go quite so far in his accusation as Mrs. Amber.

"For reasons which I need not repeat," said he, deliberately, "I am not so surprised as you expect me to be. I have long thought that Miss Gordon might know of the murder, but I most emphatically decline to believe that she struck the blow herself."

"But the cuffs were stained with blood. I washed them myself, and told Sarah to hold her tongue."

"Miss Gordon may have handled the body after the death, Mrs. Amber, but I do not think she killed the man. If you read the report of the evidence I gave at the inquest you will remember that I stated no woman could have struck so firm and sure a blow. I hold to that opinion. Moxton was stabbed by a man."

"What man?"

"That is what I wish to ask you, Mrs. Amber."

The ex-actress turned pale beneath her rouge, and two red spots glowed crudely on her white cheeks. "I!" she exclaimed, drawing back. "How do I know who killed Mr. Moxton?"

"I do not say that you know, but from your experience of the man, and from a certain amount of knowledge which you must have of his past life, it is not improbable that your suspicions may have fallen on someone who had a grudge against him."

"No," declared Mrs. Amber, vehemently. "I suspect no one---that is, I did suspect Miss Gordon because of those blood-stained cuffs. But from what you say she cannot have struck the blow, so I can guess at no one else. If I had done so I should have come forward to give evidence. It was my personal liking for Miss Gordon which made me hold my tongue. Besides, I never saw the cuffs until the inquest was over and Moxton was buried," finished Mrs. Amber, naÔvely.

"You have known Mrs. Moxton and her sister for some time?"

"For four years, more or less. They are twins, you know, and very much alike, but I think Janet the cleverer of the two. Certainly she has the finer character, and the more generous spirit. Laura is fickle and vain."

Ellis did not agree with this, and, being in love with the Laura aforesaid, was vexed to hear such deprecatory criticism. However, he consoled himself with the hackneyed reflection, weak in so clever a man, that women never spoke well of one another, and continued his inquiries. "Mrs. Moxton earned her money by typewriting, did she not?"

"Yes. Janet wanted to keep her out of mischief, so selected that employment as the best for her. Laura wished to be an attendant in the Merryman Music-Hall, also, but this Janet would not allow."

"I wonder the sisters could not obtain better employment."

"My dear Dr. Ellis, they were wretchedly poor and had to take what they could get. Anything to earn their bread and butter."

"Where did they come from?"

"I don't know. They came to me recommended by Herr Schwartz, and I took them in as cheaply as I could, because I fancied Janet's face. Ah, me," sighed Mrs. Amber, "I trust I have not been mistaken. But so good a girl! No! in spite of those cuffs I believe in her still. Why, Dr. Ellis, Janet is worth a dozen of her sister or that scampish brother."

"Zirknitz, do you know him?"

"Yes, I do," replied Mrs. Amber, bluntly, "and I don't like him. He was here with the girls for some weeks, and let them slave and work while he idled about. He left pretty soon, as I remonstrated with him on the subject, and I wasn't sorry to see his back."

"You know Schwartz also, it seems."

"Of course. I was in a theatrical company of his once," cried Mrs. Amber, with great vivacity. "Papa Schwartz is a dear, good man. He helped Janet by engaging her at the hall. She was his private secretary."

"I thought she sold programmes?"

"Oh, yes, and showed people to their seats. She did that also, but she really was the secretary of Papa Schwartz. Sometimes Laura went to the hall, and it was there she met Moxton. He fell in love with her and married her. She brought her pigs to a pretty market," said Mrs. Amber, vigorously but vulgarly, "but she would marry the beast in spite of all that Janet could say."

"Do you know about Captain Garret?"

"Of course I do. They lived with me for some time."

"What about her father?"

Mrs. Amber shrugged her shoulders and jingled her bracelets. "Oh! he is well enough," said she, in a disparaging tone. "A broken-down military dandy. It is Papa Schwartz who keeps them both."

"In spite of his reputation Schwartz seems to be a good man," said Ellis, musingly. "You say that he engaged Janet Gordon as his private secretary. How was that?"

"He knew her in Germany, or Austria, or somewhere."

"Indeed, have she and her sister lived abroad?"

"Yes, for a considerable time, I believe. Their stepfather was a M. Zirknitz, as I learnt from that horrid Rudolph. But I really do not know anything about their past life, doctor. Janet held her tongue, and so did Laura, in spite of her frivolity. Who they are or where they came from I do not know. Papa Schwartz might."

"I shall see him about it. There appears to be some mystery about these girls, Mrs. Amber."

"I agree with you, doctor. But I am certain they are ladies."

"Did you see Miss Gordon when she arrived here after the murder?"

"No, she came in after midnight and used her latchkey. I thought nothing of it at the time, as her business kept her out late. But when I wished to see her about the murder, which was in the morning papers, she refused to let me enter the room. I never saw her until two or three days ago, when she went away."

"Did Mrs. Moxton come to see her?"

"No, Mrs. Moxton never came near her, except this last time to take her away. Where they have gone I know no more than the man in the moon."

"Did anyone come to see her while she was in her bedroom."

"Papa Schwartz did, but she refused to admit him."

"I wonder if he will know their whereabouts?"

"He might," said Mrs. Amber, with a nod. "Janet is his secretary."

"She was, but she is not now," contradicted Ellis. "She gave up her place."

Mrs. Amber's face expressed unqualified amazement. "Dear me, how does she intend to live?"

"I don't know. Mrs. Moxton may keep her."

"But Mrs. Moxton hasn't a shilling. Her husband's father disinherited him for marrying her."

"Oh, she will come in for some of the property," said Ellis, trying to explain without mentioning about the burnt will. "Old Moxton died intestate, so half his estate will go to his son's widow. But tell me, Mrs. Amber, do you know a man called Busham?"

"No, I never heard the name."

"He did not call here?"

"Not to my knowledge. Who is he?"

"Mrs. Moxton's lawyer." Ellis rose to take his leave. "Well, Mrs. Amber," he said, "I am much obliged for the information you have given me. For certain private reasons I wish to find out who murdered Moxton, but it seems you cannot help me."

"No, I know of no one. I cannot guess who would be such a villain. But if anyone knows, it will be Janet Gordon. She must have handled the body, as those blood-stained cuffs show."

"You knew that she was at Dukesfield on that night?"

"Yes, she told me she was going, and that M. Zirknitz intended to fetch her home. That was why I wished to see her next day when the papers were full of the murder. I thought she might know something about it. And I am sure she does know," cried Mrs. Amber; "else why did she shut herself up in her room all these weeks? I wouldn't have stood it from anyone but Janet Gordon, I can tell you."

"You appear to have a great admiration for her."

"I have. Women, Dr. Ellis, do not as a rule admire one another, but when I know how Janet Gordon has protected that silly sister of hers, and looked after her scampish brother, I think of her as one of the noblest women I have ever met."

With this eulogy bestowed, in the opinion of Ellis, on the wrong woman, Mrs. Amber parted from him with theatrical effusion. The doctor left the Pimlico house in a musing frame of mind. It was strange that Mrs. Amber, who seemed to be a good-natured woman in spite of her many affectations, should think so little of Mrs. Moxton. Ellis piqued himself upon being a reader of character, and he could not bring himself to believe that he was mistaken in the widow. But he was puzzled to think how completely Mrs. Amber's estimate of her nature differed from his own. Thinking about Mrs. Moxton recalled his mind to the fact of her disappearance and he wondered if Schwartz would know of her whereabouts. With this in his mind he hailed a hansom and drove to Soho. In the meantime, pending the discovery of Mrs. Moxton, he dismissed all speculations concerning her from his mind. So far as he could see, time and association were needed to explain her very complex character. After the interview with Mrs. Amber, the doctor considered the little woman more of a sphinx than ever, and he wanted her to speak and unravel the enigma of her being.

Schwartz was in his office when Ellis sent in his card, and saw the doctor at once. He looked more than a trifle careworn, but his pleasure in seeing Ellis was great, and he advanced towards him with outstretched hands. Nothing could have been more genial than his welcome.

"Aha, mine goot doctor," said he, in his guttural voice, "dis is kind to gome and zee me."

"I have been very busy, Mr. Schwartz, but I will pay you a visit next week---say on Thursday afternoon."

"Ach, dat is goot. At what time, for I must be in mine house."

"Four o'clock on Thursday next," said Ellis, booking the visit. "Oh, yes, I know the address. Goethe Cottage, Alma Road, Parkmere."

"Dat is zo, doctor. I vill wait you on that day. And what did you wish to zee me about?"

"Mrs. Moxton. She has left Dukesfield, and I wish to learn where she is."

The fat face of the German lost its genial expression. "Ach, she haf gone. Vell, and why do you gome to me, doctor?"

"I have been told that you are an old friend of Mrs. Moxton and Miss Gordon."

"Zo! Who told you?"

"Mrs. Amber, of Geneva Square, Pimlico."

"Ach, she was in a gombany of mine. I know her. Vell, yes, I am a frent of Miss Corton, but she haf left me. I do not know vere she is now."

"Has she not seen you lately?"

"Not, not des many veeks. And Mrs. Moxton haf gone?"

"Yes, she called at Pimlico for her sister, and they went off together."

"Why do you want to finze zem?"

"Because I have something to tell Mrs. Moxton."

"Zo! About ze murder of dat boor man?"

"Well, not exactly, but Busham, the--"

The eyes of Schwartz suddenly flashed with rage. "Ah, he is a pig, zat man. I could kill him."

"Do you know him?"

"Ach, I knows him. I did throw him out of mine music-halls. Vell, vell, do not talk of him, or I vill be angry. If you wish to know of Mrs. Moxton zee Zirknitz."

"Will he know?"

"I zink zo. If he does not, no one vill."

With this information Ellis was obliged to be content, but as he left the hall he observed that the German looked after him with a very singular expression.

15  Our Library / Fergus Hume - The Crimson Cryptogram (1900) / 14: The Pimlico House on: March 25, 2023, 06:22:36 am
HAVING seen Busham commit a felony by burning the will, Ellis left the office. He did not even protest against the destruction of the document, since it was none of his business to do so. Mrs. Moxton, who benefited under the will, had not only handed it over to her enemy, but had advised him to destroy it. She had exchanged it, so to speak, for the knife with which Moxton had been killed, and, in addition, had secured the lawyer's silence by yielding up her property. Silence about what? That was the question Ellis asked himself, and which he put to Cass when reporting the extraordinary scene which had taken place in the Esher Lane office.

"I think I can guess what Busham hinted at," said the reporter. "He accuses Janet Gordon of the crime?"

"Why should he? She had no motive to kill Moxton, so far as I can see."

"Precisely, so far as you can see, Bob. Depend upon it, Busham is certain that Janet Gordon is guilty, and Mrs. Moxton knows that such is the case, else she would not give up her property so freely."

"You mean that she allowed the will to be destroyed so that Busham should not accuse her sister?"

"Yes. All along I said that Mrs. Moxton was shielding some person; now we know who the person is."

"It might be so," said Ellis, reflectively. "Janet Gordon may have rushed out of the house with that knife and have killed Moxton, and afterwards she may have ran weeping to take a cab from so perilous a place. But why did she stab the man? Why? Why?" and Ellis, according to custom, began to pace the room.

"Ah," said Cass, who was resting on the sofa, "you must ask Mrs. Moxton for a reply to that question."

"She won't reply to it. For some reason which I cannot fathom she persistently keeps me in the dark."

"H'm!" mused the journalist. "A dangerous, secretive woman! Don't get your back up, Bob, I am not calling her names. But you must admit that she is secretive, and secretive people are always very dangerous to those of a more open disposition. But how did Mrs. Moxton excuse herself for letting Busham burn the will?"

"I don't know, Harry. I have not seen her since she left the office with that knife concealed in her pocket."

"What! Did she not wait for you outside?"

"No," replied Ellis, gloomily, "there was not a sign of her, although I searched all round. What is queerer still, she has not been home since. I have called twice at Myrtle Villa this afternoon, but no one is there."

"Queer. I wonder what she is up to. After all, Bob, the burning of the will does not amount to much. Mrs. Moxton, as the dead man's widow, retains half the money. Busham has not got the whole."

"No, but he will get it," said the doctor, vehemently. "He'll not keep silence in spite of her giving up half. He will blackmail her into giving up the whole by threatening to betray her sister."

"You forget. By burning the will he has committed a felony. If Mrs. Moxton is clever she can checkmate him with that."

Ellis shook his head doubtfully. "I think not, Harry. She might get him put in prison; but then, in revenge, he could hang her sister. No, Busham is all right on that point; he would not have burnt the will had he not known how to protect himself."

Cass stared at the ceiling and mused for a few moments. "From what you tell me of Zirknitz," he said at length, "I am not inclined to trust that man. He is too thick with Busham, and, moreover, he is a venal creature who would sell any information for money."

"Do you think he is in league with Busham?"

"I would not put him on so high a plane. I think he is the tool of Busham, though. I should not be at all surprised to find the whole of this mystery traced to that Esher Lane office."

"What! Do you think that Busham is guilty?"

"No; he is too clever to risk his neck."

"Zirknitz?"

"No; the Austrian is a coward."

"Then what do you mean?"

"I hardly know how to explain," said Cass. "I fancy old Moxton's money is at the bottom of all this business, and that Busham is the moving spirit. Watch him, Bob, he is the clue to the mystery."

"H'm! I don't know. He is too crafty for me to tackle directly, but I might get at his secret through other people. The person to question, Harry, is Janet Gordon. Mrs. Moxton evidently thinks her guilty, and to save her surrendered the property. Now, I wish to see the girl personally and judge for myself."

"Mrs. Moxton won't speak out."

"Hitherto she has refused, but in the face of the destroyed will she may do so. I shall question her closely when I next see her."

"You are still firm in your belief about her honesty?"

"Yes," said Ellis, firmly. "Depend upon it, Harry, when the truth comes to light, Mrs. Moxton will not be to blame."

"Humph!" said Cass. "I hope so, for your sake. But I tell you one thing, Ellis, the widow won't show herself again to you in a hurry."

"Why not?"

"Because, like Zirknitz, she will not risk your indiscreet questions. She has gone away to avoid answering them. My opinion is that she will remain away."

For the next few days the arrest of events in connection with the case seemed to point to a realisation of this prophecy. Mrs. Moxton did not return to Myrtle Villa, and it remained shut up and empty. Dr. Ellis called at least once a day, but on no occasion did he find the widow within. From the time she vanished so suddenly from Busham's office, he never set eyes on her. Firm as was his belief in her innocence, Ellis began to have his doubts about her absolute rectitude. Why had she vanished? Why did she remain away from her best friend, as she considered him to be? Whither had she gone? Ellis wondered if he could trace her, but, after consideration, decided in the negative. There was no clue to her hiding-place. She had disappeared as a drop of water in a mighty ocean. Failing in his attempt to trace the widow, Ellis made up his mind to follow another clue. For this purpose, four or five days after Mrs. Moxton's disappearance, he sought out number thirty-two in Geneva Square, Pimlico. Here, according to Busham's statement, he expected to find Janet Gordon.

Everybody in London knows Geneva Square. It obtained an unpleasant celebrity in connection with the tragedy of the Silent House, and was given as a sketch in many weekly papers at the time of the murder. The Silent House is pulled down now, and its position occupied by a brand-new mansion of red brick, which, amongst the sober grey houses of the square, looks like a purple patch on a ragged cloak. Number thirty-two was in the corner of the square, and from the notice in the window Ellis saw that it was a boarding-house. On inquiring for its mistress, a sluttish servant introduced him into a tawdry drawing-room, where he found himself in the presence of a lean, yellow-faced woman, overdressed and effusive in manner. At one time of her life Mrs. Amber---such she informed him was her name---must have been very pretty, but the years had turned her into a lean and withered hag on the wrong side of forty. She wore a gaudy pink tea-gown, trimmed with cheap black lace, and carried on wrists and neck a considerable number of jingling ornaments, inexpensive and showy. For the sake of her faded beauty the window-blinds were drawn down, and Ellis found himself in a kind of subdued twilight. Mrs. Amber was affected and garrulous, but, on the whole, did not appear to be an ill-natured woman. She seemed to have a high opinion of Janet Gordon.

"Dr. Ellis!" said she, disposing herself in a graceful attitude in a basket-chair. "Do you wish to see me with a view to becoming a lodger?"

"No, madam. I have come to inquire for Miss Gordon."

Mrs. Amber raised her painted eye-brows---they were painted, although the obscurity of the room prevented that fact becoming too apparent. "You are a day after the fair, doctor," said Mrs. Amber, with an artificial laugh. "I regret to say that Miss Gordon has left us."

"Left this house?" said Ellis, astonished at this information.

"Three days ago she left us. Her sister came for her and took her away. I am very sorry Miss Gordon is gone; I always had, and always shall have, the highest opinion of Miss Gordon. Of course, she was not the kind of person with whom I have been accustomed to associate," added Mrs. Amber, arranging the bracelets on her lean wrists, "being only an attendant at a low music-hall. Still, she was thoroughly respectable, and a thorough lady, I will say that. You wonder, perhaps, Dr. Ellis, that I should have a lodger of that occupation. But I am liberal in my views. I was on the boards myself many years ago. You must have heard of the beautiful Miss Tracey, who appeared in the burlesque of 'Cupid,' at the Piccadilly Theatre---I was Miss Tracey. I was Cupid, and I retired only when I married Mr. Amber. Ah!" sighed the ex-actress, "he is dead now, and I keep a boarding-house. Such is life!"

As soon as Ellis could cut short these biographical reminiscences he did so. "I am sure that Miss Gordon is all you say, madam," he observed politely. "But can you tell me where she now is?"

"No," replied Mrs. Amber, promptly, "I can not. Her sister came for her. She packed her box and they left the house. She gave no address to the driver of the cab. Mrs. Moxton simply told him to go to the Marble Arch. I was out at the time Mrs. Moxton arrived, and she went straight up to her sister's bedroom. I was glad that I returned before Miss Gordon went away."

"Why do you say that?" asked Ellis. "Did you not see her daily?"

Mrs. Amber glanced round apprehensively. "I wouldn't say it to everybody," said Mrs. Amber, giving a queer reason for her confidence, "but as you are a stranger it does not matter. Since that horrid murder of poor young Moxton, Miss Gordon has been very strange. She came back from seeing her sister on the night of the crime, and from that time until she left, remained shut up in her room."

"Shut up in her room?"

"Yes. Was it not strange? In vain I wished to see her. She refused to let me into the room. Sarah, my servant, took up her meals and told me that Miss Gordon was in bed the whole time. Through the door, and by sending a message with Sarah, I implored her to have a doctor, but she refused constantly. Yet when she went away she did not look so ill as Mrs. Moxton. Ah!" said Mrs. Amber, expressively, "she looked ill if you like."

"Strange!" murmured Ellis. "I suppose you knew the Moxtons intimately?"

"Very intimately. Laura Gordon lived here before her marriage, and she was married to Edgar Moxton from this house. It was terrible that he should have been killed in so savage a manner, Dr. Ellis. I never liked Mr. Moxton; but I must say I was horrified when I heard of his doom. I wonder who killed him?"

"That is what I and many other people would like to know," said Ellis, drily. "I suppose you guess from my name, Mrs. Amber, that I am the doctor who examined the body?"

"Yes. I guessed that when I received your card, and was certain of it when you asked for Miss Gordon. You know Miss Gordon, of course?"

"No, I never set eyes on her."

"Really! Then why do you wish to see her?" asked Mrs. Amber, anxiously.

"To see if she knows anything about this murder."

Mrs. Amber did not reply immediately, but trembled so violently that her ornaments jingled like so many little bells. "Dr. Ellis," said she at length, in a shaking voice, "you speak the doubts that are in my own mind."

"What! Do you think she knows of the murder?"

"I am unwilling to harm Miss Gordon," said Mrs. Amber, in a scared tone, "as I have a great respect for her. But I fancy she must have seen something on that night or she would not have shut herself up in her bedroom all these weeks. And, Dr. Ellis, do you know I have sometimes suspected her myself."

"Of the murder?"

Mrs. Amber nodded. "I was afraid of getting into trouble if I spoke," she said nervously, "and I really can't bring myself to believe that Miss Gordon killed her brother-in-law. But Sarah brought down a pair of cuffs to be washed---Miss Gordon's cuffs---and they were spotted with blood!"

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