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Dead Men's Money(Chapter24)

2006-08-28 23:39

  Chapter XXIV. The Suit of Clothes

  Mr. Lindsey made no further remark until we were half through our lunch——and it was not to me that he then spoke, but to a waiter who was just at his elbow.

  "There's three things you can get me," he said. "Our bill——a railway guide——a map of Scotland. Bring the map first."

  The man went away, and Mr. Lindsey bent across the table.

  "Largo is in Fife," said he. "We'll go there. I'm going to see that yacht with my own eyes, and hear with my own ears what the man who found it has got to say. For, as I remarked just now, my lad, the mere fact that the yacht was found empty doesn't prove that Carstairs has been drowned! And well just settle up here, and go round and see Smeaton to get a look at those letters, and then we'll take train to Largo and make a bit of inquiry."

  Mr. Smeaton had the letters spread out on his desk when we went in, and Mr. Lindsey looked them over. There were not more than half a dozen altogether, and they were mere scraps, as he had said——usually a few lines on half-sheets of paper. Mr. Lindsey appeared to take no great notice of any of them but the last——the one that Smeaton had quoted to us in the morning. But over that he bent for some time, examining it closely, in silence.

  "I wish you'd lend me this for a day or two," he said at last. "I'll take the greatest care of it; it shan't go out of my own personal possession, and I'll return it by registered post. The fact is, Mr. Smeaton, I want to compare that writing with some other writing."

  "Certainly," agreed Smeaton, handing the letter over. "I'll do anything I can to help. I'm beginning, you know, Mr. Lindsey, to fear I'm mixed up in this. You'll keep me informed?"

  "I can give you some information now," answered Mr. Lindsey, pulling out the telegram. "There's more mystery, do you see? And Moneylaws and I are off to Largo now——we'll take it on our way home. For by this and that, I'm going to know what's become of Sir Gilbert Carstairs!"

  We presently left Mr. Gavin Smeaton, with a promise to keep him posted up, and a promise on his part that he'd come to Berwick, if that seemed necessary; and then we set out on our journey. It was not such an easy business to get quickly to Largo, and the afternoon was wearing well into evening when we reached it, and found the police official who had wired to Berwick. There was not much that he could tell us, of his own knowledge. The yacht, he said, was now lying in the harbour at Lower Largo, where it had been brought in by a fisherman named Andrew Robertson, to whom he offered to take us. Him we found at a little inn, near the harbour——a taciturn, somewhat sour-faced fellow who showed no great desire to talk, and would probably have given us scant information if we had not been accompanied by the police official, though he brightened up when Mr. Lindsey hinted at the possibility of reward.

  "When did you come across this yacht?" asked Mr. Lindsey.

  "Between eight and nine o'clock this morning," replied Robertson.

  "And where?"

  "About seven miles out——a bit outside the bay."

  "Empty?" demanded Mr. Lindsey, looking keenly at the man. "Not a soul in her?"

  "Not a soul!" answered Robertson. "Neither alive nor dead!"

  "Were her sails set at all?" asked Mr. Lindsey.

  "They were not. She was just drifting——anywhere," replied the man. "And I put a line to her and brought her in."

  "Any other craft than yours about at the time?" inquired Mr. Lindsey.

  "Not within a few miles," said Robertson.

  We went off to the yacht then. She had been towed into a quiet corner of the harbour, and an old fellow who was keeping guard over her assured us that nobody but the police had been aboard her since Robertson brought her in. We, of course, went aboard, Mr. Lindsey, after being assured by me that this really was Sir Gilbert Carstairs' yacht, remarking that he didn't know we could do much good by doing so. But I speedily made a discovery of singular and significant importance. Small as she was, the yacht possessed a cabin——there was no great amount of head-room in it, it's true, and a tall man could not stand upright in it, but it was spacious for a craft of that size, and amply furnished with shelving and lockers. And on these lockers lay the clothes——a Norfolk suit of grey tweed——in which Sir Gilbert Carstairs had set out with me from Berwick.

  I let out a fine exclamation when I saw that, and the other three turned and stared at me.

  "Mr. Lindsey!" said I, "look here! Those are the clothes he was wearing when I saw the last of him. And there's the shirt he had on, too, and the shoes. Wherever he is, and whatever happened to him, he made a complete change of linen and clothing before he quitted the yacht! That's a plain fact, Mr. Lindsey!"

  A fact it was——and one that made me think, however it affected the others. It disposed, for instance, of any notion or theory of suicide. A man doesn't change his clothes if he's going to drown himself. And it looked as if this had been part of some premeditated plan: at the very least of it, it was a curious thing.

  "You're sure of that?" inquired Mr. Lindsey, eyeing the things that had been thrown aside.

  "Dead sure of it!" said I. "I couldn't be mistaken."

  "Did he bring a portmanteau or anything aboard with him, then?" asked he.

  "He didn't; but he could have kept clothes and linen and the like in these lockers," I pointed out, beginning to lift the lids. "See here!——here's brushes and combs and the like. I tell you before ever he left this yacht, or fell out of it, or whatever's happened him, he'd changed everything from his toe to his top——there's the very cap he was wearing."

  They all looked at each other, and Mr. Lindsey's gaze finally fastened itself on Andrew Robertson.

  "I suppose you don't know anything about this, my friend?" he asked.

  "What should I know?" answered Robertson, a bit surlily. "The yacht's just as I found it——not a thing's been touched."

  There was the luncheon basket lying on the cabin table——just as I had last seen it, except that Carstairs had evidently finished the provisions which he and I had left. And I think the same thought occurred to Mr. Lindsey and myself at the same moment——how long had he stopped on board that yacht after his cruel abandoning of me? For forty-eight hours had elapsed since that episode, and in forty-eight hours a man may do a great deal in the way of making himself scarce——which now seemed to me to be precisely what Sir Gilbert Carstairs had done, though in what particular fashion, and exactly why, it was beyond either of us to surmise.

  "I suppose no one has heard anything of this yacht having been seen drifting about yesterday, or during last night?" asked Mr. Lindsey, putting his question to both men. "No talk of it hereabouts?"

  But neither the police nor Andrew Robertson had heard a murmur of that nature, and there was evidently nothing to be got out of them more than we had already got. Nor had the police heard of any stranger being seen about there——though, as the man who was with us observed, there was no great likelihood of anybody noticing a stranger, for Largo was nowadays a somewhat popular seaside resort, and down there on the beach there were many strangers, it being summer, and holiday time, so that a strange man more or less would pass unobserved.

  "Supposing a man landed about the coast, here," asked Mr. Lindsey——"I'm just putting a case to you——and didn't go into the town, but walked along the beach——where would he strike a railway station, now?"

  The police official replied that there were railway stations to the right and left of the bay——a man could easily make Edinburgh in one direction, and St. Andrews in the other; and then, not unnaturally, he was wanting to know if Mr. Lindsey was suggesting that Sir Gilbert Carstairs had sailed his yacht ashore, left it, and that it had drifted out to sea again?

  "I'm not suggesting anything," answered Mr. Lindsey. "I'm only speculating on possibilities. And that's about as idle work as standing here talking. What will be practical will be to arrange about this yacht being locked up in some boat-house, and we'd best see to that at once."

  We made arrangements with the owner of a boat-house to pull the yacht in there, and to keep her under lock and key, and, after settling matters with the police to have an eye on her, and see that her contents were untouched until further instructions reached them from Berwick, we went off to continue our journey. But we had stayed so long in Largo that when we got to Edinburgh the last train for Berwick had gone, and we were obliged to turn into an hotel for the night. Naturally, all our talk was of what had just transpired——the events of the last two days, said Mr. Lindsey, only made these mysteries deeper than they were before, and why Sir Gilbert Carstairs should have abandoned his yacht, as he doubtless had, was a still further addition to the growing problem.

  "And I'm not certain, my lad, that I believe yon man Robertson's tale," he remarked, as we were discussing matters from every imaginable point of view just before going to bed. "He may have brought the yacht in, but we don't know that he didn't bring Carstairs aboard her. Why was that change of clothes made? Probably because he knew that he'd be described as wearing certain things, and he wanted to come ashore in other things. For aught we know, he came safely ashore, boarded a train somewhere in the neighbourhood, or at Largo itself——why not?——and went off, likely here, to Edinburgh——where he'd mingle with a few thousand of folk, unnoticed."

  "Then——in that case, you think he's——what, Mr. Lindsey?" I asked. "Do you mean he's running away?"

  "Between you and me, that's not far from what I do think," he replied. "And I think I know what he's running away from, too! But we'll hear a lot more before many hours are over, or I'm mistaken."

  We were in Berwick at an early hour next morning, and we went straight to the police station and into the superintendent's office. Chisholm was with Mr. Murray when we walked in, and both men turned to us with eagerness.

  "Here's more mystery about this affair, Mr. Lindsey!" exclaimed Murray. "It's enough to make a man's wits go wool-gathering. There's no news of Sir Gilbert, and Lady Carstairs has been missing since twelve o'clock noon yesterday!"

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