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Dead Men's Money(Chapter15)

2006-08-28 23:36

  Chapter XV. Five Hundred a Year

  It was very evident that Chisholm was in a state of gleeful assurance about his theory, and I don't think he was very well pleased when Mr. Lindsey, instead of enthusiastically acclaiming it as a promising one, began to ask him questions.

  "You found a pretty considerable sum on Phillips as it was when you searched his body, didn't you?" he asked.

  "Aye——a good lot!" assented Chisholm. "But it was in a pocket-book in an inner pocket of his coat, and in his purse."

  "If it was robbery, why didn't they take everything?" inquired Mr. Lindsey.

  "Aye, I knew you'd ask that," replied Chisholm. "But the thing is that they were interrupted. The bag they could carry off——but it's probable that they heard Mr. Moneylaws here coming down the lane before they could search the man's pockets."

  "Umph!" said Mr. Lindsey. "And how do you account for two men getting away from the neighbourhood without attracting attention?"

  "Easy enough," declared Chisholm. "As I said just now, there's numbers of strangers comes about Tweedside at this time of the year, and who'd think anything of seeing them? What was easier than for these two to separate, to keep close during the rest of the night, and to get away by train from some wayside station or other next morning? They could manage it easily——and we're making inquiries at all the stations in the district on both sides the Tweed, with that idea."

  "Well——you'll have a lot of people to follow up, then," remarked Mr. Lindsey drily. "If you're going to follow every tourist that got on a train next morning between Berwick and Wooler, and Berwick and Kelso, and Berwick and Burnmouth, and Berwick and Blyth, you'll have your work set, I'm thinking!"

  "All the same," said Chisholm doggedly, "that's how it's been. And the bank at Peebles has the numbers of the notes that Phillips carried off in his little bag——and I'll trace those fellows yet, Mr. Lindsey."

  "Good luck to you, sergeant!" answered Mr. Lindsey. He turned to me when Chisholm had gone. "That's the police all over, Hugh," he remarked. "And you might talk till you were black in the face to yon man, and he'd stick to his story."

  "You don't believe it, then?" I asked him, somewhat surprised.

  "He may be right," he replied. "I'm not saying. Let him attend to his business——and now we'll be seeing to ours."

  It was a busy day with us in the office that, being the day before court day, and we had no time to talk of anything but our own affairs. But during the afternoon, at a time when I had left the office for an hour or two on business, Sir Gilbert Carstairs called, and he was closeted with Mr. Lindsey when I returned. And after they had been together some time Mr. Lindsey came out to me and beckoned me into a little waiting-room that we had and shut the door on us, and I saw at once from the expression on his face that he had no idea that Sir Gilbert and I had met the night before, or that I had any notion of what he was going to say to me.

  "Hugh, my lad!" said he, clapping me on the shoulder; "you're evidently one of those that are born lucky. What's the old saying——'Some achieve greatness, some have greatness thrust upon them!'——eh? Here's greatness——in a degree——thrusting itself on you!"

  "What's this you're talking about, Mr. Lindsey?" I asked. "There's not much greatness about me, I'm thinking!"

  "Well, it's not what you're thinking in this case," he answered; "it's what other folks are thinking of you. Here's Sir Gilbert Carstairs in my room yonder. He's wanting a steward——somebody that can keep accounts, and letters, and look after the estate, and he's been looking round for a likely man, and he's heard that Lindsey's clerk, Hugh Moneylaws, is just the sort he wants——and, in short, the job's yours, if you like to take it. And, my lad, it's worth five hundred a year——and a permanency, too! A fine chance for a young fellow of your age!"

  "Do you advise me to take it, Mr. Lindsey?" I asked, endeavouring to combine surprise with a proper respect for the value of his counsel. "It's a serious job that for, as you say, a young fellow."

  "Not if he's got your headpiece on him," he replied, giving me another clap on the shoulder. "I do advise you to take it. I've given you the strongest recommendations to him. Go into my office now and talk it over with Sir Gilbert by yourself. But when it comes to settling details, call me in——I'll see you're done right to."

  I thanked him warmly, and went into his room, where Sir Gilbert was sitting in an easy-chair. He motioned me to shut the door, and, once that was done, he gave a quick, inquiring look.

  "You didn't let him know that you and I had talked last night?" he asked at once.

  "No," said I.

  "That's right——and I didn't either," he went on. "I don't want him to know I spoke to you before speaking to him——it would look as if I were trying to get his clerk away from him. Well, it's settled, then, Moneylaws? You'll take the post?"

  "I shall be very glad to, Sir Gilbert," said I. "And I'll serve you to the best of my ability, if you'll have a bit of patience with me at the beginning. There'll be some difference between my present job and this you're giving me, but I'm a quick learner, and——"

  "Oh, that's all right, man!" he interrupted carelessly. "You'll do all that I want. I hate accounts, and letter-writing, and all that sort of thing——take all that off my hands, and you'll do. Of course, whenever you're in a fix about anything, come to me——but I can explain all there is to do in an hour's talk with you at the beginning. All right!——ask Mr. Lindsey to step in to me, and we'll put the matter on a business footing."

  Mr. Lindsey came in and took over the job of settling matters on my behalf. And the affair was quickly arranged. I was to stay with Mr. Lindsey another month, so as to give him the opportunity of getting a new head clerk, then I was to enter on my new duties at Hathercleugh. I was to have five hundred pounds a year salary, with six months' notice on either side; at the end of five years, if I was still in the situation, the terms were to be revised with a view to an increase——and all this was to be duly set down in black and white. These propositions, of course, were Mr. Lindsey's, and Sir Gilbert assented to all of them readily and promptly. He appeared to be the sort of man who is inclined to accept anything put before him rather than have a lot of talk about it. And presently, remarking that that was all right, and he'd leave Mr. Lindsey to see to it, he rose to go, but at the door paused and came back.

  "I'm thinking of dropping in at the police-station and telling Murray my ideas about that Crone affair," he remarked. "It's my opinion, Mr. Lindsey, that there's salmon-poaching going on hereabouts, and if my land adjoined either Tweed or Till I'd have spoken about it before. There are queer characters about along both rivers at nights——I know, because I go out a good deal, very late, walking, to try and cure myself of insomnia; and I know what I've seen. It's my impression that Crone was probably mixed up with some gang, and that his death arose out of an affray between them."

  "That's probable," answered Mr. Lindsey. "There was trouble of that sort some years ago, but I haven't heard of it lately. Certainly, it would be a good thing to start the idea in Murray's mind; he might follow it up and find something out."

  "That other business——the Phillips murder——might have sprung out of the same cause," suggested Sir Gilbert. "If those chaps caught a stranger in a lonely place——"

  "The police have a theory already about Phillips," remarked Mr. Lindsey. "They think he was followed from Peebles, and murdered for the sake of money that he was carrying in a bag he had with him. And my experience," he added with a laugh, "is that if the police once get a theory of their own, it's no use suggesting any other to them——they'll ride theirs, either till it drops or they get home with it."

  Sir Gilbert nodded his head, as if he agreed with that, and he suddenly gave Mr. Lindsey an inquiring look.

  "What's your own opinion?" he asked.

  But Mr. Lindsey was not to be drawn. He laughed and shrugged his shoulders, as if to indicate that the affair was none of his.

  "I wouldn't say that I have an opinion, Sir Gilbert," he answered. "It's much too soon to form one, and I haven't the details, and I'm not a detective. But all these matters are very simple——when you get to the bottom of them. The police think this is going to be a very simple affair——mere vulgar murder for the sake of mere vulgar robbery. We shall see!"

  Then Sir Gilbert went away, and Mr. Lindsey looked at me, who stood a little apart, and he saw that I was thinking.

  "Well, my lad," he said; "a bit dazed by your new opening? It's a fine chance for you, too! Now, I suppose, you'll be wanting to get married. Is it that you're thinking about?"

  "Well, I was not, Mr. Lindsey," said I. "I was just wondering——if you must know——how it was that, as he was here, you didn't tell Sir Gilbert about that signature of his brother's that you found on Gilverthwaite's will."

  He shared a sharp look between me and the door——but the door was safely shut.

  "No!" he said. "Neither to him nor to anybody, yet a while! And don't you mention that, my lad. Keep it dark till I give the word. I'll find out about that in my own way. You understand——on that point, absolute silence."

  I replied that, of course, I would not say a word; and presently I went into the office to resume my duties. But I had not been long at that before the door opened, and Chisholm put his face within and looked at me.

  "I'm wanting you, Mr. Moneylaws," he said. "You said you were with Crone, buying something, that night before his body was found. You'd be paying him money——and he might be giving you change. Did you happen to see his purse, now?"

  "Aye!" answered I. "What for do you ask that?"

  "Because," said he, "we've taken a fellow at one of those riverside publics that's been drinking heavily, and, of course, spending money freely. And he has a queer-looking purse on him, and one or two men that's seen it vows and declares it was Abel Crone's."

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