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Chapter 8

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« on: February 28, 2023, 03:12:20 am »

When in the street, Craver turned over in his mind what the girl had said relative to the hint given by her father. Undoubtedly Lemby had a superlatively bad temper, and undoubtedly he had been in the house when the crime was committed. Adding to this the fact that Wyke disliked Claudia's father and had a bitter tongue, it did not seem impossible that the pirate might have struck the blow in a moment of anger. Before the arrival of the postman, and while Mrs. Vence was in the kitchen, Lemby might have slipped down from the upstairs drawing-room to commit the crime and then have slipped up again. But against this was to be placed the fact that a second visitor was not only in the house, but in the company of the baronet. Lemby could scarcely have used the knife while the other man was present. On the whole, Craver was perplexed by the situation, and wondered what he should do. If Lemby took his daughter to Australia, Craver felt sure that he would never see her again, as he himself was unable to leave England. And Lemby, if implicated in the death of his proposed son-in-law, would certainly return to his native land to escape possible arrest. For quite ten minutes Craver stood by the Underground Station at Earl's Court considering how to act. Finally, he made up his mind as to his next step, and took a ticket to Blackfriars.

When in the train the young man reflected on the conclusion he had arrived at. This was to follow Lemby to Mr. Sandal's office, and frankly offer his assistance in extricating the pirate from his dilemma on condition that Claudia should be allowed to marry him. It was difficult to see how he could help the pirate since he knew so little. Two heads are always better than one, and Craver believed that Lemby would consent to the marriage in order to gain a friend while in trouble. Craver alighted on the Blackfriars platform with the conviction that he was going on a wild-goose chase. Nevertheless, failing all else, he believed it was worth while to act as he intended.

Edwin knew where Mr. Sandal's office was situated, as Sir Hector had mentioned on a momentous occasion the name and address of his lawyer. So the young man walked up to the Strand, and soon found himself in Lincoln's Inn Fields. In a few minutes he was at the door of the building in which Mr. Sandal's office was situated, and was mounting the stairs. On inquiry it appeared that Lemby had arrived, and was awaiting the interview with Mr. Sandal, who was engaged for the time being. Craver rejoiced that there was a chance of seeing the pirate before he interviewed the lawyer, and requested to be shown into the waiting-room. The clerk opened a side door to admit him into the same, and then closed it again. Seated near a table covered with magazines and newspapers for the convenience of waiting clients was Lemby reading one of the newspapers. He raised his eyes when the door opened, and rose to his foot when he saw Craver. The astonishment of the buccaneer was very apparent.

"What on earth are you doing here, Craver?" he asked in his truculent way. "I did not know that Sandal was your lawyer?"

"Nor is he," replied Craver, taking a seat and thus forcing Lemby to resume his former position. "I came here to see you."

"Oh, did you? And who told you that I was here?"


"Miss Lemby to you, Craver," said the pirate, gruffly. "I suppose you slipped in to see my daughter immediately my back was turned. A nice way of behaving, I must say."

"I am behaving in a perfectly honourable way," retorted Craver, much nettled.

"Well, I don't think so, dash you! I refuse to allow you to make love to Claudia, as I don't intend you shall marry her. I told you so before."

"You did, while Sir Hector was alive. Now that he is dead there is no reason why I should not marry your daughter."

"There is every reason, and one confoundedly strong one." snarled Lemby, glaring furiously. "You have no money. When Wyke was alive I told you to keep away from my flat, and now that he is dead you might have had the decency to do what I asked you to do."

"See here, Mr. Lemby." said Craver, steadily. "I love Claudia, and I intend to marry her. She yielded to your pressing wishes and became engaged to marry Sir Hector. He is dead now, and I intend to have my innings."

"Like your dashed impertinence to think so!"

"Speeches of that kind won't turn me from my resolution, Mr. Lemby," said the young man, coldly.

Lemby appeared confused for the moment, and cast down his eyes. "I won't have it," he declared with a growl. "Claudia's my daughter, and she shall marry whom I choose."

"She won't. She shall marry me. It is about that matter I have come to see you, Mr. Lemby."

"Oh, have you? And do you think that I am going to be spied upon and followed and worried and chased? Well, you are mistaken. Clear out, and mind your own dashed business."

Lemby was on the point of losing his temper, according to his usual fashion; but Craver did not mind. The hotter Lemby got the cooler was the young man, and the more composed was his speech. "I have come to see after your business, Mr. Lemby," he said, significantly.

"I shan't allow you to meddle with that," snapped the angry pirate.

"It is better that I should meddle with it than that the police----"

"Here"--Lemby jumped up in a violent hurry--"drop it! You are going too far, Craver. What the deuce have the police to do with me?"

"This much. They want to know exactly what took place at Maranatha while you were in the house."

Lemby winced but still kept up his defiance. "I told all that I knew at the inquest," he blustered, "and Sergeant Purse was quite satisfied."

"Ah, so you think," hinted Craver, bluffing boldly; "but he may have his suspicions of you. If he takes action----"

"Takes action." Lemby rose up, and sat down with a positive look of terror on his face. "I don't know what you mean," he ended, doggedly.

"I mean that you want money, and that you risked reputation, liberty and life to get it." Craver looked significantly at his proposed father-in-law.

Lemby recognised his own speech to Claudia. "You have been listening to the conversation between me and my daughter," he said, fiercely.

"No, I have not. But after you left the flat I saw Claudia, and she sought my counsel."

"It's none of your business, Craver, and Claudia is a minx for talking to you about my affairs."

"It is my business," insisted the young man, firmly. "I hear that you want Claudia to go with you to Australia, and I don't intend her to go."

"Oh! don't you," sneered the other, "And how do you intend to stop her going?"

"Ah! that remains to be seen."

"You're a confounded scoundrel!"

"Gently, Mr. Lemby," said Edwin, resolutely, keeping his temper. "If I were what you call me, I could easily stop your projected journey to Australia by informing Sergeant Purse of what you said to Claudia. But I don't intend to do that. I followed you here as your friend to offer my services."

"I don't want them," vociferated the pirate, looking uneasy.

"Think again, Mr. Lemby. You are in a difficult position, and notwithstanding your frankness at the inquest. Sergeant Purse may have suspicions that you did not reveal all. You need a friend, and I am willing to be that friend."

"At a price, I suppose?"

"Naturally. I wish you to consent to my marriage with Claudia if I succeed in getting you out of this trouble."

Lemby rose again, and began to walk up and down the room like a caged beast. "I am in no trouble," he raged fiercely.

"No, not now; but you may be. And your words to Claudia hint that you expect some sort of trouble."

"She had no right to speak to you."

"Oh, I think she had," rejoined Craver, equably. "Claudia knows that I love her and am her true friend. You have caused her much distress by your hints that you are in danger, so it is right that she should seek comfort from me. And as you are her father, it is not likely that I will jeopardise your freedom."

"I am in no danger of losing my freedom," was the angry reply.

"Then why did you use those words to Claudia?"

"To make her do what I want."

"Well, Mr. Lemby"---Edwin rose with an air of finality---"you know your own business best. I came here to offer my services on condition that you allow me to marry your daughter. But as you refuse to listen to sense you must be content to risk the suspicions of Purse. I apologise for having troubled you."

"Here"---Lemby stopped the young man as he moved towards the door---"don't be in a hurry. I expect to see Mr. Sandal every moment, but we can talk for a few minutes. Are you honest?"

"Yes, I, am, and you know that I am."

"Well, then, leave matters as they are for a day or so until we can have a long and exhaustive talk. I have come here, to see if Wyke has left his money to Claudia, which he should do, considering how badly he treated her. If he has acted fairly and squarely Claudia and I will be in clover; if not, I may require your assistance."

"I am willing to give it if you will promise to remain in England."

"For the time being I shall remain," said the pirate, grudgingly. "I have no reason to run away in spite of my speech to my daughter of which you have made such clever use, dash you."

"Then I take it that you have nothing to do with the murder?"

"Yes, you can take it that way; I am perfectly innocent."

"Then why do you accept my assistance?" asked Edwin, calmly.

"I shall explain that when we have our talk later. Meanwhile, as I have to see Sandal and arrange about the money, perhaps you will clear out. It is necessary for me to think over matters before interviewing the sharp."

"I should have thought you would have arranged matters by this time," commented Craver, sarcastically. "However. I will go. Remember you have promised to remain in London for the time being."

"Yes," growled Lemby, savagely, "you've got the whip-hand of me."

"If you mean that I am likely to use the information supplied by Claudia, to prevent your leaving, Mr. Lemby, I have not got the whip-hand of you. I am not so mean as to employ tactics of a dishonourable nature. All I say is that if you will stay in England I am willing to help you in every way."

"Well, we'll leave it at that," said Lemby, ungraciously. "But, mind, I don't say that you will marry Claudia."

"I am content to wait," replied Craver, coolly, and passed through the door of the waiting-room at the same moment that a clerk opened it to say that Mr. Sandal was ready to see Mr. Oliver Lemby.

The lawyer was a tall, thin, dried-up man, with a clean-shaven face and two shrewd, twinkling black eyes. He had met Lemby before in connection with the marriage settlements of Claudia, and did not like him. Therefore Sandal received him coldly, and, having seated himself at his desk, waited to hear what he had called about. Lemby, by no means disconcerted by this chilly reception, plunged at once into the matter. And, being nervous, he was the more truculent.

"This is a pretty kettle of fish," he said, in his gruff way.

"If you are referring to the sad death of Sir Hector Wyke," said Sandal, in his dry, precise style, "it is a very painful matter."

"Why didn't you come down to Hedgerton to look into the affair?" asked Lemby. "Don't you know that I wrote to you?"

"I received your letter, Mr. Lemby; there was no need for me to go down personally. I sent a representative, who saw Sergeant Purse, and did what was required. My representative was at the inquest, at the burial, and at the police-office in Redleigh, where he learnt that no trace could be found of the assassin. But you, Mr. Lemby," added the lawyer pointedly, "were in the house when my late client was murdered. Have you come to tell me something likely to lead to the detection of the criminal?"

"No, sir, I haven't. I am as much in the dark as you are about the matter."

"Then I fail to understand why you have come to see me," said Sandal, coldly.

"Why?" Lemby grew angry. "I want to know what Sir Hector has done for my daughter."

"Nothing." Sandal raised his eyebrows. "Why should he do anything."

"My daughter was engaged to marry him, and the marriage settlements were drawn up by you."

"But they were not signed by Sir Hector," Sandal reminded him: "nor did the marriage take place. Well?"

"Well," echoed the pirate, viciously. "Surely Sir Hector has provided for my daughter in his will."

"No, he has not. There is a will dated many years ago, before Sir Hector met your daughter. That will leaves all the property, real and personal, to quite another person."

"Who to?" asked Lemby, rather ungrammatically.

"To Sir Hector's wife."

"What!" Lemby rose with a dazed air, scarcely believing his ears.

"To his wife. To Lady Wyke." The lawyer smiled grimly.

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