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3 - Go North, Go South!

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Author Topic: 3 - Go North, Go South!  (Read 27 times)
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« on: August 22, 2023, 12:09:44 pm »

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BEFORE Miss Hetherley could slit the envelope which she now showed us, Chaney held out a hand and took it from her.

‘Let’s be exact and careful, Miss Hetherley,’ he said. ‘Now, you’re certain that these initials are in the late Mr. Hannington’s handwriting?’

‘No doubt of that!’ replied Miss Hetherley. ‘Of course they are!’

‘And this date is the precise date on which the mysterious lady, whom we know as Mrs. Clayton, called on him?’

‘No doubt of that, either, Mr. Chaney.’

‘Very well,’ continued Chaney. ‘Now we’ll see what’s inside the envelope.’ He took out his penknife, slipped it through the flap, and drew out a paper, folded in three. One quick glance at it, and he laid it before us. ‘A certificate of marriage!’ he exclaimed. ‘Look!’

Miss Hetherley and myself bent over his shoulders and inspected the document. It was exactly what he said---a certificate of marriage between one Frank Crowther and one Alice Holroyd, celebrated before the Registrar at Milthwaite, in Yorkshire, some twelve years previously.

‘There!’ said Chaney. ‘Now, my idea is that this is what’s commonly called the marriage lines of the dead woman who gave her name---a fictitious one, no doubt---as Mrs. Clayton. Note certain things about it. Alice Holroyd, full age, is described as a spinster, and her address is given as the Angel Hotel, Milthwaite---perhaps she was the proprietor’s daughter. Frank Crowther, aged twenty-nine, is described as a salesman---his address is given at 21, Laburnum Grove, Milthwaite. Very well!---let’s conclude that Alice Holroyd, or Mrs. Crowther, and Mrs. Clayton are identical. But who’s Frank Crowther---and where is he? And why did Mrs. Clayton or Crowther deposit this document with Mr. Thomas Hannington?’

Miss Hetherley had picked up the marriage certificate and was carefully re-reading it. She put it back on the desk before Chaney.

‘There’s something strikes me at once,’ she said. ‘Now and then, Mr. Hannington used to talk to me about his experiences as a journalist. He was at one time, but I don’t know exactly when, a sub-editor on the Milthwaite Observer.’

‘Ah!’ exclaimed Chaney, triumphantly. ‘There you are! Mrs. Clayton, or Crowther, and Hannington were old friends, or acquaintances. That’s why she came to him. But---what did she come for? Why did she leave this marriage certificate with him? Camberwell!’ he went on. ‘The political-crime theory is vanishing! This has been a sordid murder---couple of ’em, rather---arising out of a private matter. My opinion, anyhow!---now that I’ve seen this.’

‘What are you going to do?’ asked Miss Hetherley.

‘Do?’ said Chaney. ‘Well, for the present, Miss Hetherley, you, Camberwell there, and I are going to enter into conspiracy of silence---dead silence! Not a word to anybody---police, Lord Cheverdale, Paley, anybody at all---about this certificate. We’ll lock it up in that safe---after making a careful copy of it---and no one is to know you found it until---until the right moment comes. We can rely on you?’

‘You can rely on me, Mr. Chaney,’ replied Miss Hetherley. ‘You know me!’

She went away presently, and after we had made a careful copy of it, I locked up the marriage certificate in our office safe.

‘What next?’ I asked, turning to Chaney.

‘The next thing, Camberwell, is that you and I go down to Milthwaite,’ he said. ‘Milthwaite, my lad, is the spot where we start out on this particular voyage of discovery! We want to know who Alice Holroyd was, who Frank Crowther was---if Alice Holroyd, or Crowther, is identical with Mrs. Clayton, murdered in Little Customs Street, and where her husband has got to. Milthwaite, certainly---and at once! But first we must see Lord Cheverdale. And mind you, we’re to be very particular what we say to him. Leave that to me. And now let’s go and see him at once.’

We got a taxi-cab and drove up to Cheverdale Lodge. And there we were in luck: we found Lord Cheverdale alone: Paley, for once, was not in evidence. Lord Cheverdale seemed pleased---or relieved---to see us.

‘Any news, any news?’ he demanded. ‘Those Scotland Yard men have none!---none at all, so far. Slow---slow! Have you any?’

‘Well, my lord, these things take time,’ replied Chaney. ‘And your lordship will understand that one can’t always speak definitely. But Mr. Camberwell and myself have come to say that we have got an idea, a slight clue, which we wish to keep to ourselves, and should like to follow up, with your lordship’s approval and permission.’

‘Oh, take my approval and permission for granted!’ replied Lord Cheverdale, hurriedly. ‘Yes, yes---to be sure. Do anything you think necessary. Carte blanche, you know.’

‘Much obliged to your lordship,’ said Chaney. ‘The plan we propose will necessitate some travelling---we may have to cross the Channel. Your lordship will remember that the dead woman is believed to have come from France.’

Lord Cheverdale threw out his arms with a sweeping gesture.

‘Go north---go south!’ he exclaimed. ‘Go anywhere you like!---east, west, north, south! Only get at something---that’s what I want!’

‘We shall leave no stone unturned, my lord,’ said Chaney. ‘Your lordship understands, of course, that there will be expense----’

Again Lord Cheverdale shot out his arms.

‘Spare no expense!’ he commanded. ‘Expense is neither here nor there. If you want money, tell Paley. He’ll give you----’

‘We’re not wanting any money, my lord,’ replied Chaney. ‘All that can be settled when we’ve done our job. We will now get to work on our present idea, and we shall hope to report to your lordship in due course.’

‘Very good, very good---business-like!’ muttered Lord Cheverdale. ‘Yes, yes---get to work; work is the thing. Clear everything up---everything! Make it well worth your while, then!’

We left Cheverdale Lodge at that and went back to our office. There were things to clear up before we could leave for Milthwaite. But Chippendale had already proved himself to be an excellent and capable right-hand man, and we had every confidence in his ability to look after the matters left in his charge. We were able to set out on our journey North early that evening, and by ten o’clock were safely housed in the Midland Hotel, at Milthwaite. At breakfast next morning we discussed our procedure---Chaney’s great desire was to keep everything as secret and private as possible. At his suggestion we first visited the Registrar. And there, as soon as we obtained an interview, we saw that we were in luck. The Registrar was an elderly gentleman, and was, therefore, in all probability, the official who had officiated at the civil marriage of Alice Holroyd and Frank Crowther twelve years before.

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