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Dead Men's Money(Chapter25)

2006-08-28 23:39

  Chapter XXV. The Second Disappearance

  Mr. Lindsey was always one of the coolest of hands at receiving news of a startling nature, and now, instead of breaking out into exclamations, he just nodded his head, and dropped into the nearest chair.

  "Aye?" he remarked quietly. "So her ladyship's disappeared, too, has she? And when did you get to hear that, now?"

  "Half an hour ago," replied Murray. "The butler at Hathercleugh House has just been in——driven over in a hurry——to tell us. What do you make of it at all?"

  "Before I answer that, I want to know what's been happening here while I've been away," replied Mr. Lindsey. "What's happened within your own province——officially, I mean?"

  "Not much," answered Murray. "There began to be talk evening before last, amongst the fishermen, about Sir Gilbert's yacht. He'd been seen, of course, to go out with Moneylaws there, two days ago, at noon. And——there is Moneylaws! Doesn't he know anything? Where's Sir Gilbert, Moneylaws?"

  "He'll tell all that——when I tell him to," said Mr. Lindsey, with a glance at me. "Go on with your story, first."

  The superintendent shook his head, as if all these things were beyond his comprehension.

  "Oh, well!" he continued. "I tell you there was talk——you know how they gossip down yonder on the beach. It was said the yacht had never come in, and, though many of them had been out, they'd never set eyes on her, and rumours of her soon began to spread. So I sent Chisholm there out to Hathercleugh to make some inquiry——tell Mr. Lindsey what you heard," he went on, turning to the sergeant. "Not much, I think."

  "Next to nothing," replied Chisholm. "I saw Lady Carstairs. She laughed at me. She said Sir Gilbert was not likely to come to harm——he'd been sailing yachts, big and little, for many a year, and he'd no doubt gone further on this occasion than he'd first intended. I pointed out that he'd Mr. Moneylaws with him, and that he'd been due at his business early that morning. She laughed again at that, and said she'd no doubt Sir Gilbert and Mr. Moneylaws had settled that matter between them, and that, as she'd no anxieties, she was sure Berwick folk needn't have any. And so I came away."

  "And we heard no more until we got your wire yesterday from Dundee, Mr. Lindsey," said Murray; "and that was followed not so very long after by one from the police at Largo, which I reported to you."

  "Now, here's an important question," put in Mr. Lindsey, a bit hurriedly, as if something had just struck him. "Did you communicate the news from Largo to Hathercleugh?"

  "We did, at once," answered Murray. "I telephoned immediately to Lady Carstairs——I spoke to her over the wire myself, telling her what the Largo police reported."

  "What time would that be?" asked Mr. Lindsey, sharply.

  "Half-past eleven," replied Murray.

  "Then, according to what you tell me, she left Hathercleugh soon after you telephoned to her?" said Mr. Lindsey.

  "According to what the butler told us this morning," answered Murray, "Lady Carstairs went out on her bicycle at exactly noon yesterday——and she's never been seen or heard of since."

  "She left no message at the house?" asked Mr. Lindsey.

  "None! And," added the superintendent, significantly, "she didn't mention to the butler that I'd just telephoned to her. It's a queer business, this, I'm thinking, Mr. Lindsey. But——what's your own news?——and what's Moneylaws got to tell about Sir Gilbert?"

  Mr. Lindsey took no notice of the last question. He sat in silence for a while, evidently thinking. And in the end he pointed to some telegram forms that lay on the superintendent's desk.

  "There's one thing must be done at once, Murray," he said; "and I'll take the responsibility of doing it myself. We must communicate with the Carstairs family solicitors."

  "I'd have done it, as soon as the butler brought me the news about Lady Carstairs," remarked Murray, "but I don't know who they are."

  "I do!" answered Mr. Lindsey. "Holmshaw and Portlethorpe of Newcastle. Here," he went on, passing a telegram form to me. "Write out this message: 'Sir Gilbert and Lady Carstairs are both missing from Hathercleugh under strange circumstances please send some authorized person here at once.' Sign that with my name, Hugh——and take it to the post-office, and come back here."

  When I got back, Mr. Lindsey had evidently told Murray and Chisholm all about my adventures with Sir Gilbert, and the two men regarded me with a new interest as if I had suddenly become a person of the first importance. And the superintendent at once fell upon me for my reticence.

  "You made a bad mistake, young man, in keeping back what you ought to have told at the inquest on Phillips!" he said, reprovingly. "Indeed, you ought to have told it before that——you should have told us."

  "Aye!——if I'd only known as much as that," began Chisholm, "I'd have——"

  "You'd probably have done just what he did!" broke in Mr. Lindsey——"held your tongue till you knew more!——so let that pass——the lad did what he thought was for the best. You never suspected Sir Gilbert of any share in these affairs, either of you——so come, now!"

  "Why, as to that, Mr. Lindsey," remarked Murray, who looked somewhat nettled by this last passage, "you didn't suspect him yourself——or, if you did, you kept it uncommonly quiet!"

  "Does Mr. Lindsey suspect him now?" asked Chisholm, a bit maliciously. "For if he does, maybe he'll give us a hand."

  Mr. Lindsey looked at both of them in a way that he had of looking at people of whose abilities he had no very great idea——but there was some indulgence in the look on this occasion.

  "Well, now that things have come to this pass," he said, "and after Sir Gilbert's deliberate attempt to get rid of Moneylaws——to murder him, in fact——I don't mind telling you the truth. I do suspect Sir Gilbert of the murder of Crone——and that's why I produced that ice-ax in court the other day. And——when he saw that ice-ax, he knew that I suspected him, and that's why he took Moneylaws out with him, intending to rid himself of a man that could give evidence against him. If I'd known that Moneylaws was going with him, I'd have likely charged Sir Gilbert there and then!——anyway, I wouldn't have let Moneylaws go."

  "Aye!——you know something, then?" exclaimed Murray. "You're in possession of some evidence that we know nothing about?"

  "I know this——and I'll make you a present of it, now," answered Mr. Lindsey. "As you're aware, I'm a bit of a mountaineer——you know that I've spent a good many of my holidays in Switzerland, climbing. Consequently, I know what alpenstocks and ice-axes are. And when I came to reflect on the circumstances of Crone's murder, I remember that not so long since, happening to be out along the riverside, I chanced across Sir Gilbert Carstairs using a very late type of ice-ax as a walking-stick——as he well could do, and might have picked up in his hall as some men'll pick up a golf-stick to go walking with, and I've done that myself, hundred of times. And I knew that I had an ice-ax of that very pattern at home——and so I just shoved it under the doctor's nose in court, and asked him if that hole in Crone's head couldn't have been made by the spike of it. Why? Because I knew that Carstairs would be present in court, and I wanted to see if he would catch what I was after!"

  "And——you think he did?" asked the superintendent, eagerly.

  "I kept the corner of an eye on him," answered Mr. Lindsey, knowingly. "He saw what I was after! He's a clever fellow, that——but he took the mask off his face for the thousandth part of a second. I saw!"

  The two listeners were so amazed by this that they sat in silence for a while, staring at Mr. Lindsey with open-mouthed amazement.

  "It's a dark, dark business!" sighed Murray at last. "What's the true meaning of it, do you think, Mr. Lindsey?"

  "Some secret that's being gradually got at," replied Mr. Lindsey, promptly. "That's what it is. And there's nothing to do, just now, but wait until somebody comes from Holmshaw and Portlethorpe's. Holmshaw is an old man——probably Portlethorpe himself will come along. He may know something——they've been family solicitors to the Carstairs lot for many a year. But it's my impression that Sir Gilbert Carstairs is away!——and that his wife's after him. And if you want to be doing something, try to find out where she went on her bicycle yesterday——likely, she rode to some station in the neighbourhood, and then took train."

  Mr. Lindsey and I then went to the office, and we had not been there long when a telegram arrived from Newcastle. Mr. Portlethorpe himself was coming on to Berwick immediately. And in the middle of the afternoon he arrived——a middle-aged, somewhat nervous-mannered man, whom I had seen two or three times when we had business at the Assizes, and whom Mr. Lindsey evidently knew pretty well, judging by their familiar manner of greeting each other.

  "What's all this, Lindsey?" asked Mr. Portlethorpe, as soon as he walked in, and without any preliminaries. "Your wire says Sir Gilbert and Lady Carstairs have disappeared. Does that mean——"

  "Did you read your newspaper yesterday?" interrupted Mr. Lindsey, who knew that what we had read in the Dundee Advertiser had also appeared in the Newcastle Daily Chronicle. "Evidently not, Portlethorpe, or you'd have known, in part at any rate, what my wire meant. But I'll tell you in a hundred words——and then I'll ask you a couple of questions before we go any further."

  He gave Mr. Portlethorpe an epitomized account of the situation, and Mr. Portlethorpe listened attentively to the end. And without making any comment he said three words:

  "Well——your questions?"

  "The first," answered Mr. Lindsey, "is this——How long is it since you saw or heard from Sir Gilbert Carstairs?"

  "A week——by letter," replied Mr. Portlethorpe.

  "The second," continued Mr. Lindsey, "is much more important——much! What, Portlethorpe, do you know of Sir Gilbert Carstairs?"

  Mr. Portlethorpe hesitated a moment. Then he replied, frankly and with evident candour.

  "To tell you the truth, Lindsey," he said, "beyond knowing that he is Sir Gilbert Carstairs——nothing!"

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