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THE MURDER AT I NUMBER THIRTEEN:…

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[ALL, RIGHTS RESERVED.") THE MURDER AT NUMBER THIRTEEN: A Romance of Modem Life. BY JOHN K. LEYS, Author of The Lindsays," &c. die. CHAPTER IX. THE IRREPRESSIBLE MAJOR. THREE days after my interview with Miss Men- teith, the day before Charley's last appearance before the magistrates, I met Major Bond in the street. He drew me aside, and as I saw that he was primed with something fresh, I determined to make light of whatever he might say, for, to tell the truth, I was horribly afraid of what the Major might do next. Well, Major, what is the latest in the detec- tive line of business ? I asked, affecting a jocose air. What was the last point you were to investigate? I know there was something. To be sure You were to find out the subject of conversation between Miss Braithwaite and a man called Dangerfield, when he called on her the other day. Wasn't that it ? Not exactly," said the old fellow, with some- thing between a smile and a frown on his jolly round face. "I did think it was worth while to make one or two enquiries about Dangerfield, however. The result can have no possible interest for you." Very little, I assure you. I don't even know the man by sight. Who is he ? "Oh, so far as I can make out, one of those loungers who come to while away the summer here. He stayed at the Royal, but lately he has gone into lodgings at the other end of the town. Beneath the mark, I expect. He used to go about with an old Jew money-lender, or something of that sort, when he first came here-a man named Jacobs." "A money-lender, do you call him? Well, he may be a money-lender, too, for anything I know—probably is. But if it is the same man —a stout German Jew in wide-awake and spectacles—he is the head of one of the most notorious Private Enquiry offices in London." "You don't say so cried the Major, his eyes beaming with excitement. This is most interesting Pooh, my dear Major, what does it matter ? It can't concern us. I should have been glad to know what the man wanted with Miss Braithwaite, though," I added, inconsequently. Curiosity seemed to the gallant officer so natural a failing, J that it did not occur to him to ask why I wanted to know about Mr. Dangerfield. "As you say, it is of no importance," he observed, "lam told that the man is one of the crowd she always has dangling after her. What is of importance is to know whether it can be proved beyond a doubt that that girl committed the murder. And I came upon three distinct pieces of evidence last night —two last night and one this morning." I could have kicked the fellow, he looked so pleased, when I remembered what his success meant for Ida Braithwaite. But I did the gallant Major an injustice. He had forgotten the human aspect of the case, as completely as a doctor forgets, during an operation, that the consequence may be death to the patient. Well done I won't say that you have mis- taken your profession, but you certainly would havemadera capital detective. Whai were the pieces of evidence, may I ask?" Well, I found two persons, a man and a woman, who met Miss Braithwaite on her way to Sea View Gardens on the night of the murder, and two people who saw her when she was on her way back." That corroborates the evidence of the torn lace, certainly," said I, with a gravity I could not help feeling-" Who were they ? What do they say ?" "The first is a policeman, C 23, who was on duty at the corner of Falkland Square. He knows the lady by sight very well, and lie says he saw her pass his corner just before the quarter past ten chimed from St.. George's." I noticed that this corresponded exactly with what Miss Menteith had told me. And the other ? I asked. "The other was a dressmaker, who had been taking a dress home to a customer. She also knew Miss Braithwaite by sight; and she says that she met her just after the quarter was chimed." "Where?" "In Madison Street." But Falkland Square is nearer Sea View Gardens by a hundred yards than Madison Street! So one of your witnesses must be wrong. Either she turned and went back, which is not likely, or the policeman saw her after the quarter struck, or the dressmaker saw her before she heard the chime Upon my word, you are right!" exclaimed the Major, rubbing his nose with a comical air of embarrassment. It shows how careful a witness ought to be. Yet I am perfectly cer- tain that each of them said just what I told you at first. I took a note of their words." He consulted a small notebook, and continued —"Exactly as I told you. The policeman said he saw the lady before the chime sounded, and the woman said she noticed her after she heard the chime; yet one of them must have been mistaken." I thought that I should like to have ex- amined them myself, but I feared to call atten. tion to tke Incident by doing so. And the oiQer two witnesses— those who saw tier on her way back to Wingrove House—what do they say ?" Well, one of them was the policeman. She passed him again at the corner of Falkland Square. He can't speak positively to the hour, but it was not long after half-past ten. The other was Oliver Simpson. I daresay you know him. He is an acquaintance of Miss Braith- waite, and he says he was surprised at seeing her out by herself at that time of night. He knew her by her dress, he said, for she was on the other side of the street." What street ? I asked, absently, for my mind was filled with the reflection that the police could not be long in ignorance of these facts. Craven Street," was the reply. Craven Street!" I echoed; why that is not near Falkland Square. What I mean is, that supposing Miss Braithwaite went to Sea View Gardens on the night in question, she might have returned to Wingrove House by Falkland Square, or she might have gone by the shorter way, through the bit of open ground and Craven Street; she could not have passed through Craven Street and by Falkland Square as well, unless she took a very queer roundaboutway." "Perhaps that is what she did. At all events, that is what the witnesses told me." I And I say that they, or some of them, have made a mistake. In fact, you can see for yourself that everyone of them lies open to doubt I in that respect. The first pair contradict each other flatly on the question of time, and now these two give a most unlikely account of her neturn. Very odd, that." As the Major stood knitting hts brows I saw Miss Menteith on the other side of the way, and bidding the Major a hasty good day, I crossed over to speak to her. "Nothing fresh has occurred?" I asked, when we had shaken hands. "Nothing, except that Ida puzzles me more and more. She is dreadfully upset on account of Mr. Protheroe. That I can quite under- stand. Indeed, it would be very strange if it were not so. But what I do not understand is her so suddenly making a friend of Mr. Dan- gerfield. He called again laat night, and they were quite a long time together. I was in the room part of the time, but they spoke in a tone so low thut it was plSn that they did not wish me to hear what passed between them, and of course I made no effort to listen. Do you know anything of this Mr. Dangerfield ?" "HaniJy anything—or I might rather say, nothing whatever." "I dout quite like the man's looks; he seems to me to have a sly look." "M\ dear Miss Menteith, I don't think these little prejudices go for much," I said, with & smile. Perhaps not. And yet my instinct has sel- dom YI) me in these cases." Wtiui,; it not be well for you to ask Miss Braith^ ake plainly what hi" Wariness is with her, or aL ieuv make some allusion which would invite c confidence from her ?" "ThaL is just what annoy me. I have done so, and she would not say a word. 1 daresay he admires her, and she is accustomed to have plenty of men calling in the afternoon. But this was after dinner." Has Lord Ormidile called ? Only once, and then Ida was out. I believe he has gone back to London." I was glad to hear this, for in the press of more important matters I had quite forgotten that his lordship would expect to hear from me on the question of the purloined letter. But all I had to tell him was that my mission had failed, and that Lord Ormidale must take such steps as he thought necessary without further reference to me. I was glad to think that he had left Eastcliff. You have not had the two maids dismissed —the two who might possibly miss the revol- ver ?" I asked in a low tone. "No; the housemaid, you may remember, is an old servant of the house, and very fond .of Ida. She may be trusted to hold her tongue. As to the other girl, Julie, I suggested to Ida that she did not really want her, and 'that it would be better to part with her. Rather to my surprise, Ida agreed with me, and gave the girl notice to g(i." "It would have been F-afer to give her a month's wages and get rid of lie said I. -The girl may be » witness that might be better out of the way." "It's of no use. Ida. told me that when she spoke of her going th^ girl cried, and asked what she had done, and Ida good-naturedly said that she might stay." Do you think Miss -Braithwaite suspected your reason ? I can't tell. But this morning—I suppose I must tell you—Ida virtually denied having taken the revolver when she went to Sea View Gardens. The subject of burglars came up at breakfast, and she said- There is a revolver in the house, I know, but I haven't touctfed it for months.5" I looked at my companion. The drawn look about her mouth was pitiful to see. You think she said that on purpose ? said I. The answer came in a voice so low that I could barely catch what was said. "I thought she wished to deny it beforehand," said Miss Menteith. CHAPTER X. THE MAGISTRATE'S DECISION. ON the following morning I was in the police- court by ten o'clock. It was the day when it was expected that Charley Protheroe would be either set at liberty, or, more likely, committed for trial. Long before ten the little building had been crowded to its utmost capacity. Not merely the court itself, but the passages and waiting- rooms were crammed with people. Even some of the country people had breakfasted early, and driven to to see how it would fare with the man who, as everybody had believed, had taken a man's life to save the girl he loved from shame. For somehow the truth, or something very like it, had leaked out. The story of the purloined letter had been told by the hotel porter. It did not take a very keen intelli- gence to leap to the conclusion that to keep Lord Ormidale and Vinet apart had been one object that Protheroe had had in view. The engagement, or quasi-engagement, between Vinet and Ida Braithwaite had been well known, and it was also known that Lord Ormi- dale had been paying marked attentions to Ida. There had been a good deal of talk and gossip on the subjcct among the young people at Eastcliff. It was also known that Vinet had darkly hinted to some of his associates that Ida Braithwaite dared not throw him over, that he was not afraid of Lord Ormidale, and that if Lord Ormidale knew everything, he would have nothing to do with Ida Braithwaite. All this, and a good deal more to the same effect, was poured into my ears by Major Bond, as he -at beside me at the solicitors' table in the well of the court. I was for once in my liie obliged to the little man, for it was necessary that I should know how much was public property, and what was the drift of the current of public opinion. On the whole, as far as I could make out, it was not unfav- ourable to Charley and I looked upon this as a good sign. The magistrates took their seats, and after some petty offenders had been dealt with the case of Charles Protheroe was called. As the prisoner took his place in the dock, looking wonderfully calm and self-possessed, a note was put into my hand. It was from Ida Braithwaite. "It seems that all the world knows"—so ran the note—"that Pierre Vinet had had let- ters from me which he would not return, and that Mr. Protheroe most kindly promised that he would try and get them back for me. This was the reason of his calling at Sea View Gar- dens, and staying so long. The case was urgent, and Mr. Protheroe was determined to get my letters that night if possible. If it will do Mr. Protheroe any good, or if there is the.slight- est possibility of its doing him good, I will say this in open court. It explains his presence in the house; but as I thought it possible that for me to come forward as a witness might do more harm than good, I thought it better to write to you in the first place. I am in one of the waiting-rooms, and I will come into court the moment I am wanted.-I. B." It was clear to me that Miss Braithwaite's evidence would do Charley more harm than good, as it would supply a possible motive for the crime, and I determined not to call her; but the court was too crowded to allow of my sending her a message. Besides, there was no time. The proceedings had begun. There was little additional evidence te be Eroduced, the only fresh witnesses of importance eing those who had inspected the house, and were brought to say that on the night of the murder it had been ransacked from top to bot- torn. Several locks had been burst open, the contents of open drawers had been tumbled about, and not only Vinet's writing desk, but the very books on his bookshelves, had been overhauled. But there was no one to identify the revolver —no one who could say that he had ever*seen the prisoner with such a weapon, or had ever seen one in his rooms, or known him to carry or use one. This was my strong point; and I adopted the theory that the surgeons who had said that the wound could not have been self- inflicted were wrong, and that after all the deceased had committed suicide. I saw that one or two of the magistrates fav- oured this idea, and I pressed it home as strongly as I dared. I knew that I was only acting in accordance with Charley's wish in re- fusing to screen him at the expense of incul- pating Miss Braithwaite. But I made up my mjnd that if he were committed to take his trial, I would not leave him to imagine that he would be suffered to carry his quixotic defence of Miss Braithwaite so far as to endanger his own life. At the trial the whole truth must come out, even if I had to turn informer myself. It was half-past, twelve when the bench of magistrates retired to their room to deliberate as to how they would deal with the case, and I believe that there was not a man in the court but wished that they would dismiss it, while there was hardly a man who did not expect that the prisoner would be committed for trial. At a quarter to one the magistrates returned, and I waited for the decision almost as anxious- ly, I am sure, as Charley himself. i. ,< ,) The chairman was a pompous but hard-headed old gentleman, who had been called to the bar in his youth, and used this circumstance to ride roughshod over his brother magistrates in the most unmerciful way. He sat down, glanced around to make sure that all the magistrates were seated, and that all concerned were in their places and duly attentive, and began- "Charles Protheroe, you have been brought before us charged with having caused the death of one Pierre Vinet, under circumstances with which we are all familiar. The evidence shows that you were alone at Number Thirteen, Sea View Gardens, for a considerable time that night, that you broke open several locks- at least there is the evidence of Mrs. Collins to show that this was probaWly done by you. What your object was in so doing, we can only conjecture; but there is this point in your fav- our that there is nothing to how that you knew that the deceased was on the premises while you were waiting in the house, and the revolver has not been 11 traced to you. If the dead man had been found in the house itself, or if there had been marks showing that the body had been carried out from the house, the case would have assumed a very different aspect. As it stands, the magistrates are of opinion that there is not sufficient evidence to connect t' you with the unhappy death of Mr. (who, after all, may have committed suicide/i and we, therefore, order your discharge." These words came as a surprise as well as J relief to everyone in court. Mr. Superintendeo" Smith, who had confidently expected a commit* tal, stared at the chairman as if he had leave of his senses, so that I almost outright. My first care, after grasping Charley warmly by the hand, was to go to the waiting' room, to tell the good news to Miss Braithwaite and to Miss Menteith, who, I had no doubl6 was with her. But it was some time before I could my way out of the court, and when I reached the waiting-room, Miss Braithwaite was not there. As I and Charley walked from the court-houo arm-in-arm, I saw, a little way ahead of ullo two men walking side by side, and apparently in consultation. One had the burly figure of- Mr. Superintendent Smith, the other the insignificant appearance and perky stride of my dear friend Major Bond. The conjunction struck pie as ominous. Come and have something to eat," said Cb&' ley, "and, above all, let us have something to drink He was in the highest spirits-and DO wonder. We went into a restaurant, and nothing would satisfy Charley but ordering up a magnU" of champagne for the purpose of drinking taj health. We were finishing our meal when the Majof entered and took a seat near the door. I went up to him, and sat down at his tablev for I felt uneasy. We began chatting of the result of the magistrates' enquiry, and of various indifferent things, I becoming each moment more anxious, as it struck me that the Major had something on his mind, and he was not nearly so open with me as he usually was. At last, able to bear the suspense no longer, I put the question to him straight:— Have you any intention of telling the police about the little things you have found out-the indications that Miss Braithwaite had been-" The Major looked down, glanced up at ice. and nodded mysteriously. I have just mentioned the matter to Super intendent Smith," he said, looking me straight in the face, as if to brazen it out. You have I suppose the Major saw something of my feel* ings reflected in my face, for he said, with certain pomposity of manner- I hold it to be the part of every good sub- ject of the Queen to aid the authorities wheØ they require assistance. If people are to range themselves on the side of criminals, we may bid farewell to everything like a stable government and a pure administration of justice." Very true, as a general rule, but I should have thought that there were occasions- It is no matter, we can discuss it at some other time." One moment," said the Major, laying detaining hand on my arm. I thought he might have something to say for my private ear, and I bent down to listen. You will be glad to know," said he, in a hoarse whisper, that the unpleasant conse- quences you foretold would follow for myself, in case of my giving information to the police, are not, in Superintendent Smith's opinion, likely to happen. The Superintendent thought you were quite mistaken. He thought that if it did become known that I had played a rather important part in this affair, it would rather redound to my credit than otherwise. But I made him promise to keep my name out of it for the present. Mind you do the same." The man's egotism sickened me. I tore my sleeve out of his grasp, and without so much as looking at him, went over to the corner where Charley was sitting. Come out at once," I said, shortly. He saf by my face that there was something wrong, and followed me at once out of the restaurant. Now, then, what is it ?" said he. "Charley, dear old fellow, you must brace yourself up, for I am going to deal you a dread- ful blow. Innocent or guilty, Miss Braith- waite is in the greatest danger. I have known for some time that beyond a shadow of a doubt she was at Number Thirteen, Sea View Gar- dens, between ten and eleven o'clock on the night of the murder. She was seen setting out, seen going and returning, and she left trace on the ground itself-a scrap of lace, which has been fitted into the lace of her dress." Charley stood still on the pavement, folded his arms, set his teeth, and looked me straight in the eyes. Besides, the revolver-" I stopped short, remembering that as far as I knew the police Were as yet in ignorance of the most damning THE PRISONER T00E Ins I'LACH IN' THE DOCB XJOOKINU WONPKRFULLY CALM AND SKLF- POSSESSED. fact of all, and that there was no need to repeat it to Charley. "Ay, what of that?" he asked, in a roiee that mghtened me. Oh; there's no time to go into all the de- tails," I cried, impatiently. The point is that I have just heard that the police are now in pos- session of these facts. There cannot be the smallest doubt that Smith will think it is his duty-and unquestionably it is his duty-to swear affidavits and apply for a warrant at once. Miss Braithwaite may be arrested at any moment. The questiop is, what are we to do? Do Why, we must prevent their arrest- ing her, that's all," he said, and he took to his heels then and there, running as hard as he could pelt in the direction of Wingrove House. Luckily, I was as good a runner as Charley for a short distance, perhaps a trifle better. You wouldn't be so mad as to attempt a. rescue single-handed, or, indeed, under any cir- cumstances," I whispered, as I panted along beside him. No—only going to warn her." The distance was not great, but I was not in training, and I was heartily glad when we entered Mr. Braithwaite's gate. A four- wheeled cab had crossed our path once or twice —that was the only disquieting circumstance I had seen. We walked to the door as fast as we could, and rang the bell. is Miss Braithwaite at home?" I asked the girl who opened it. If you will step inside, sir, I'll enquire," said the girl. As I crossed the threshold, I heard a step on the the gravel behind me. I wheeled round and found myself face to face with Superintendent Smith and one of his constables. "I think we had better step inside, too," said he, with a grim half smile. I saw Charley clench his fist, and in another moment the Superintendent, big as he was, would have been st retched on the doorstep but before he could strike the blow, before I could lift hand or foot to interfere, his hand dropped at his side. We had heard inside the sound of a heavy fall, and a woman's shriek rang through the house. (To be continued).

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