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Dead Men's Money(Chapter36)

2006-08-28 23:42

  Chapter XXXVI. Gold

  There was quite a company of men came up the stair with Murray, crowding, all of them, into the room, with eyes full of astonishment at what they saw: Mr. Lindsey and Mr. Gavin Smeaton, and a policeman or two, and——what was of more interest to me——a couple of strangers. But looking at these more closely, I saw that I had seen one of them before——an elderly man, whom I recognized as having been present in court when Carter was brought up before the magistrates; a quiet, noticing sort of man whom I remembered as appearing to take great and intelligent interest in the proceedings. And he and the other man now with him seemed to take just as keen an interest in what Chisholm and I had to tell; but while Murray was full of questions to both of us, they asked none. Only——during that questioning——the man whom I had never seen before quietly lifted the hanging which I had spread over Hollins's dead body, and took a searching look at his face.

  Mr. Lindsey drew me aside and pointed at the elderly man whom I remembered seeing in the police court.

  "You see yon gentleman?" he whispered. "That's a Mr. Elphinstone, that was formerly steward to old Sir Alexander Carstairs. He's retired——a good many years, now, and lives the other side of Alnwick, in a place of his own. But this affair's fetched him into the light again——to some purpose!"

  "I saw him in the court when Carter was before the bench, Mr. Lindsey," I remarked.

  "Aye!——and I wish he'd told me that day what he could have told!" exclaimed Mr. Lindsey under his breath. "But he's a cautious, a very cautious man, and he preferred to work quietly, and it wasn't until very late tonight that he came to Murray and sent for me——an hour, it was, after you'd gone home. The other man with him is a London detective. Man! there's nice revelations come out!——and pretty much on the lines I was suspecting. We'd have been up here an hour ago if it hadn't been for yon storm. And——but now that the storm's over, Hugh, we must get Maisie Dunlop out of this; come up, now, and show me where she is——that first, and the rest after."

  We left the others still grouped around the dead man and the boxes which had been brought up from the car, and I took Mr. Lindsey up the stairs to the room in the turret which had served Maisie for a prison all that weary time. And after a word or two with her about her sore adventures, Mr. Lindsey told her she must be away, and he would get Murray to send one of the policemen with her to see her safe home——I myself being still wanted down below. But at that Maisie began to show signs of distinct dislike and disapproval.

  "I'll not go a yard, Mr. Lindsey," she declared, "unless you'll give me your word that you'll not let Hugh out of your sight again till all this is settled and done with! Twice within this last few days the lad's been within an inch of his life, and they say the third time pays for all——and how do I know there mightn't be a third time in his case? And I'd rather stay by him, and we'll take our chances together——"

  "Now, now!" broke in Mr. Lindsey, patting her arm. "There's a good half-dozen of us with him now, and we'll take good care no harm comes to him or any of us; so be a good lass and get you home to Andrew——and tell him all about it, for the worthy man's got a bee in his bonnet that we've been in some way responsible for your absence, my girl. You're sure you never set eyes on Sir Gilbert again after he and Hollins stopped you?" he asked suddenly, as we went down the stair. "Nor heard his voice down here——or anywhere?"

  "I never saw him again, nor heard him," answered Maisie. "And till Hugh came just now, I'd never seen Hollins himself since morning and——Oh!"

  She had caught sight of the still figure stretched out in the lower room, and she shrank to me as we hurried her past it and down to the gateway below. Thither Murray followed us, and after a bit more questioning he put her in a car in which he and some of the others had come up, and sent one of his men off with her; but before this Maisie pulled me away into the darkness and gripped me tight by the arm.

  "You'll promise me, Hugh, before ever I go, that you'll not run yourself into any more dangers?" she asked earnestly. "We've been through enough of that, and I'm just more than satisfied with it, and it's like as if there was something lurking about——"

  She began to shiver as she looked into the black night about us——and it was indeed, although in summer time, as black a night as ever I saw——and her hand got a tighter grip on mine.

  "How do you know yon bad man isn't still about?" she whispered. "It was he killed Hollins, of course!——and if he wanted to kill you yon time in the yacht, he'll want again!"

  "It's small chance he'll get, then, now!" I said. "There's no fear of that, Maisie——amongst all yon lot of men above. Away you go, now, and get to your bed, and as sure as sure I'll be home to eat my breakfast with you. It's my opinion all this is at an end."

  "Not while yon man's alive!" she answered. "And I'd have far rather stayed with you——till it's daylight, anyway."

  However, she let me put her into the car; and when I had charged the policeman who went with her not to take his eyes off her until she was safe in Andrew Dunlop's house, they went off, and Mr. Lindsey and I turned up the stair again. Murray had preceded us, and under his superintendence Chisholm was beginning to open the screwed-up boxes. The rest of us stood round while this job was going on, waiting in silence. It was no easy or quick job, for the screws had been fastened in after a thoroughly workmanlike fashion, and when he got the first lid off we saw that the boxes themselves had been evidently specially made for this purpose. They were of some very strong, well-seasoned wood, and they were lined, first with zinc, and then with thick felt. And——as we were soon aware——they were filled to the brim with gold. There it lay——roll upon roll, all carefully packed——gold! It shone red and fiery in the light of our lamps, and it seemed to me that in every gleam of it I saw devils' eyes, full of malice, and mockery, and murder.

  But there was one box, lighter than the rest, in which, instead of gold, we found the valuable things of which Hollins had told Mr. Lindsey and Mr. Portlethorpe and myself when he came to us on his lying mission, only the previous midnight. There they all were——the presents that had been given to various of the Carstairs baronets by royal donors——carefully packed and bestowed. And at sight of them, Mr. Lindsey looked significantly at me, and then at Murray.

  "He was a wily and a clever man, this fellow that's lying behind us," he muttered. "He pulled our hair over our eyes to some purpose with his tale of Lady Carstairs and her bicycle——but I'm forgetting," he broke off, and drew me aside. "There's another thing come out since you left me and Smeaton tonight," he whispered. "The police have found out something for themselves——I'll give them that credit. That was all lies——lies, nothing but lies!——that Hollins told us,——all done to throw us off the scent. You remember the tale of the registered letter from Edinburgh?——the police found out last evening from the post folks that there never was any registered letter. You remember Hollins said Lady Carstairs went off on her bicycle? The police have found out she never went off on any bicycle——she wasn't there to go off. She was away early that morning; she took a train south from Beal station before breakfast——at least, a veiled woman answering her description did,——and she's safe hidden in London, or elsewhere, by now, my lad!"

  "But him——the man——Sir Gilbert, or whoever he is?" I whispered. "What of him, Mr. Lindsey?"

  "Aye, just so!" he said. "I'm gradually piecing it together, as we go on. It would seem to me that he made his way to Edinburgh after getting rid of you, as he thought and hoped——probably got there the very next morning, through the help of yon fisherman at Largo, Robertson, who, of course, told us and the police a pack of lies!——and when he'd got the last of these securities from Paley, he worked back here, secretly, and with the help of Hollins, and has no doubt kept quiet in this old tower until they could get away with that gold! Of course, Hollins has been in at all this——but now——who's killed Hollins? And where's the chief party——the other man?"

  "What?" I exclaimed. "You don't think he killed Hollins, then?"

  "I should be a fool if I did, my lad," he answered. "Bethink yourself!——when all was cut and dried for their getting off, do you think he'd stick a knife in his confederate's throat? No!——I can see their plan, and it was a good one. Hollins would have run those cases down to Newcastle in a couple of hours; there'd have been no suspicion about them, and no questions which he couldn't answer——he'd have gone across to Hamburg with them himself. As for the man we know as Sir Gilbert, you'll be hearing something presently from Mr. Elphinstone yonder; but my impression is, as Maisie never saw or heard of him during the night and day, that he got away after his wife last night——and with those securities on him!"

  "Then——who killed Hollins?" I said in sheer amazement. "Are there others in at all this?"

  "You may well ask that, lad," he responded, shaking his head. "Indeed, though we're nearing it, I think we're not quite at the end of the lane, and there'll be a queer turning or two in it, yet, before we get out. But here's Murray come to an end of the present business."

  Murray had finished his inspection of the cases and was helping Chisholm to replace the lids. He, Chisholm, and the detective were exchanging whispered remarks over this job; Mr. Elphinstone and Mr. Gavin Smeaton were talking together in low voices near the door. Presently Murray turned to us.

  "We can do no more here, now, Mr. Lindsey," he said, "and I'm going to lock this place up until daylight and leave a man in the gateway below, on guard. But as to the next step——you haven't the least idea in your head, Moneylaws, about Hollins's assailant?" he went on, turning to me. "You heard and saw——nothing?"

  "I've told you what I heard, Mr. Murray," I answered. "As to seeing anything, how could I? The thing happened on the stair there, and I was in this corner unlocking the inner door."

  "It's as big a mystery as all the rest of it!" he muttered. "And it's just convincing me there's more behind all this than we think for. And one thing's certain——we can't search these grounds or the neighbourhood until the light comes. But we can go round to the house."

  He marched us all out at that, and himself locked up the room, leaving the dead man with the chests of gold; and having stationed a constable in the gateway of the old tower, he led us off in a body to the habited part of the house. There were lights there in plenty, and a couple of policemen at the door, and behind them a whole troop of servants in the hall, half dressed, and open-mouthed with fright and curiosity.

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