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Dead Men's Money(Chapter29)

2006-08-28 23:40

  Chapter XXIX. All in Order

  So that we might have it to ourselves, we had returned from Newcastle to Berwick in a first-class compartment, and in its privacy Mr. Lindsey had told Mr. Portlethorpe the whole of the Smeaton story. Mr. Portlethorpe had listened——so it seemed to me——with a good deal of irritation and impatience; he was clearly one of those people who do not like interference with what they regard as an established order of things, and it evidently irked him to have any questions raised as to the Carstairs affairs——which, of course, he himself had done much to settle when Sir Gilbert succeeded to the title. In his opinion, the whole thing was cut, dried, and done with, and he was still impatient and restive when Mr. Lindsey laid before him the letter which Mr. Gavin Smeaton had lent us, and invited him to look carefully at the handwriting. He made no proper response to that invitation; what he did was to give a peevish glance at the letter, and then push it aside, with an equally peevish exclamation.

  "What of it?" he said. "It conveys nothing to me!"

  "Take your time, Portlethorpe," remonstrated Mr. Lindsey, who was unlocking a drawer in his desk. "It'll perhaps convey something to you when you compare that writing with a certain signature which I shall now show you. This," he continued, as he produced Gilverthwaite's will, and laid it before his visitor, "is the will of the man whose coming to Berwick ushered in all these mysteries. Now, then——do you see who was one of the witnesses to the will? Look, man!"

  Mr. Portlethorpe looked——and was startled out of his peevishness.

  "God bless me!" he exclaimed. "Michael Carstairs!"

  "Just that," said Mr. Lindsey. "Now then, compare Michael Carstairs' handwriting with the handwriting of that letter. Come here, Hugh!——you, too, have a look. And——there's no need for any very close or careful looking, either!——no need for expert calligraphic evidence, or for the use of microscopes. I'll stake all I'm worth that that signature and that letter are the work of the same hand!"

  Now that I saw the Smeaton letter and the signature of the first witness to Gilverthwaite's will, side by side, I had no hesitation in thinking as Mr. Lindsey did. It was an exceptionally curious, not to say eccentric, handwriting——some of the letters were oddly formed, other letters were indicated rather than formed at all. It seemed impossible that two different individuals could write in that style; it was rather the style developed for himself by a man who scorned all conventional matters, and was as self-distinct in his penmanship as he probably was in his life and thoughts. Anyway, there was an undeniable, an extraordinary similarity, and even Mr. Portlethorpe had to admit that it was——undoubtedly——there. He threw off his impatience and irritability, and became interested——and grave.

  "That's very strange, and uncommonly important, Lindsey!" he said. "I——yes, I am certainly inclined to agree with you. Now, what do you make of it?"

  "If you want to know my precise idea," replied Mr. Lindsey, "it's just this——Michael Carstairs and Martin Smeaton are one and the same man——or, I should say, were! That's about it, Portlethorpe."

  "Then in that case——that young fellow at Dundee is Michael Carstairs' son?" exclaimed Mr. Portlethorpe.

  "And, in my opinion, that's not far off the truth," said Mr. Lindsey. "You've hit it!"

  "But——Michael Carstairs was never married!" declared Mr. Portlethorpe.

  Mr. Lindsey picked up Gilverthwaite's will and the Smeaton letter, and carefully locked them away in his drawer.

  "I'm not so sure about that," he remarked, drily. "Michael Carstairs was very evidently a queer man who did a lot of things in a peculiar fashion of his own, and——"

  "The solicitor who sent us formal proof of his death, from Havana, previous to Sir Alexander's death, said distinctly that Michael had never been married," interrupted Mr. Portlethorpe. "And surely he would know!"

  "And I say just as surely that from all I've heard of Michael Carstairs there'd be a lot of things that no solicitor would know, even if he sat at Michael's dying bed!" retorted Mr. Lindsey. "But we'll see. And talking of beds, it's time I was showing you to yours, and that we were all between the sheets, for it's one o'clock in the morning, and we'll have to be stirring again at six sharp. And I'll tell you what we'll do, Portlethorpe, to save time——we'll just take a mere cup of coffee and a mouthful of bread here, and we'll breakfast in Edinburgh——we'll be there by eight-thirty. So now come to your beds."

  He marshalled us upstairs——he and Mr. Portlethorpe had already taken their night-caps while they talked,——and when he had bestowed the senior visitor in his room, he came to me in mine, carrying an alarm clock which he set down at my bed-head.

  "Hugh, my man!" he said, "you'll have to stir yourself an hour before Mr. Portlethorpe and me. I've set that implement for five o'clock. Get yourself up when it rings, and make yourself ready and go round to Murray at the police-station——rouse him out of his bed. Tell him what we heard from that man Hollins tonight, and bid him communicate with the Glasgow police to look out for Sir Gilbert Carstairs. Tell him, too, that we're going on to Edinburgh, and why, and that, if need be, I'll ring him up from the Station Hotel during the morning with any news we have, and I'll ask for his at the same time. Insist on his getting in touch with Glasgow——it's there, without doubt, that Lady Carstairs went off, and where Sir Gilbert would meet her; let him start inquiries about the shipping offices and the like. And that's all——and get your bit of sleep."

  I had Murray out of his bed before half-past five that morning, and I laid it on him heavily about the Glasgow affair, which, as we came to know later, was the biggest mistake we made, and one that involved us in no end of sore trouble; and at a quarter-past six Mr. Lindsey and Mr. Portlethorpe and I were drinking our coffee and blinking at each other over the rims of the cups. But Mr. Lindsey was sharp enough of his wits even at that hour, and before we set off from Berwick he wrote out a telegram to Mr. Gavin Smeaton, asking him to meet us in Edinburgh during the day, so that Mr. Portlethorpe might make his acquaintance. This telegram he left with his housekeeper——to be dispatched as soon as the post-office was open. And then we were off, and by half-past eight were at breakfast in the Waverley Station; and as the last stroke of ten was sounding from the Edinburgh clocks we were walking into the premises of the Scottish-American Bank.

  The manager, who presently received us in his private rooms, looked at Mr. Lindsey and Mr. Portlethorpe with evident surprise——it may have been that there was mystery in their countenances. I know that I, on my part, felt as if a purblind man might have seen that I was clothed about with mystery from the crown of my head to the sole of my foot! And he appeared still more surprised when Mr. Lindsey, briefly, but fully, explained why we had called upon him.

  "Of course, I've read the newspapers about your strange doings at Berwick," he observed, when Mr. Lindsey——aided by some remarks from Mr. Portlethorpe——had come to the end of his explanation. "And I gather that you now want to know what we, here, know of Sir Gilbert Carstairs and Mr. John Paley. I can reply to that in a sentence——nothing that is to their discredit! They are two thoroughly estimable and trustworthy gentlemen, so far as we are aware."

  "Then there is a Mr. John Paley?" demanded Mr. Lindsey, who was obviously surprised.

  The manager, evidently, was also surprised——by the signs of Mr. Lindsey's surprise.

  "Mr. John Paley is a stockbroker in this city," he replied. "Quite well known! The fact is, we——that is, I——introduced Sir Gilbert Carstairs to him. Perhaps," he continued, glancing from one gentleman to the other, "I had better tell you all the facts. They're very simple, and quite of an ordinary nature. Sir Gilbert Carstairs came in here, introducing himself, some months ago. He told me that he was intending to sell off a good deal of the Carstairs property, and that he wanted to reinvest his proceeds in the very best American securities. I gathered that he had spent a lot of time in America, that he preferred America to England, and, in short, that he had a decided intention of going back to the States, keeping Hathercleugh as a place to come to occasionally. He asked me if I could recommend him a broker here in Edinburgh who was thoroughly well acquainted with the very best class of American investments, and I at once recommended Mr. John Paley. And——that's all I know, gentlemen."

  "Except," remarked Mr. Lindsey, "that you know that considerable transactions have taken place between Mr. Paley and Sir Gilbert Carstairs. We know that, from what we heard last night in Newcastle."

  "Precisely!——then you know as much as I can tell you," replied the manager. "But I have no objection to saying that large sums of money, coming from Sir Gilbert Carstairs, have certainly been passed through Mr. Paley's banking account here, and I suppose Mr. Paley has made the investments which Sir Gilbert desired——in fact, I know he has. And——I should suggest you call on Mr. Paley himself."

  We went away upon that, and it seemed to me that Mr. Lindsey was somewhat taken aback. And we were no sooner clear of the bank than Mr. Portlethorpe, a little triumphantly, a little maliciously, turned on him.

  "There! what did I say?" he exclaimed. "Everything is in order, you see, Lindsey! I confess I'm surprised to hear about those American investments; but, after all, Sir Gilbert has a right to do what he likes with his own. I told you we were running our heads against the wall——personally, I don't see what use there is in seeing this Mr. Paley. We're only interfering with other people's business. As I say, Sir Gilbert can make what disposal he pleases of his own property."

  "And what I say, Portlethorpe," retorted Mr. Lindsey, "is that I'm going to be convinced that it is his own property! I'm going to see Paley whether you do or not——and you'll be a fool if you don't come."

  Mr. Portlethorpe protested——but he accompanied us. And we were very soon in Mr. John Paley's office——a quiet, self-possessed sort of man who showed no surprise at our appearance; indeed, he at once remarked that the bank manager had just telephoned that we were on the way, and why.

  "Then I'll ask you a question at once," said Mr. Lindsey. "And I'm sure you'll be good enough to answer it. When did you last see Sir Gilbert Carstairs?"

  Mr. Paley immediately turned to a diary which lay on his desk, and gave one glance at it. "Three days ago," he answered promptly. "Wednesday——eleven o'clock."

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