Under Lock and Key_ A Story. Volume 3 (of 3)
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(Library of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
UNDER LOCK AND KEY.
UNDER LOCK AND KEY.
T. W. SPEIGHT,
AUTHOR OF "BROUGHT TO LIGHT," "FOOLISH MARGARET,"
IN THREE VOLUMES.
TINSLEY BROTHERS, 18, CATHERINE STREET, STRAND.
[All rights of Translation and Reproduction are reserved.]
SAVILL, EDWARDS AND CO., PRINTERS, CHANDOS STREET,
|I.||THE THIRD REPORT CONTINUED.|
|II.||GEORGE STRICKLAND'S QUEST.|
|III.||AT THE "ROYAL GEORGE."|
|IV.||A LITTLE DINNER FOR THREE.|
|VII.||CHASING "LA BELLE ROSE."|
|VIII.||THE CAVE OF ST. LAZARE.|
|IX.||THE VERDICT OF MR. VERMUSEN.|
|XI.||THE ARRIVAL OF THE DIAMOND AT DUPLEY WALLS.|
|XII.||DE MORTUIS NIL NISI BONUM.|
|XIII.||THE DEPARTURE OF SIR JOHN POLLEXFEN.|
|XIV.||THE TARN OF BEN DULAS.|
|XV.||ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL.|
UNDER LOCK AND KEY.
THE THIRD REPORT CONTINUED.
"Five minutes later, Captain Ducie and your hopeful son slunk out ofBon Repos like the br> we were, and treading the gravelled pathwayas carefully as two Indians on the war-trail might have done, we camepresently to the margin of the starlit lake. There was no lack ofboats at Bon Repos, and soon I was pulling over the quiet mere in thedirection of Bowness. We managed to find the little pier without muchdifficulty. There we disembarked, and then chained up the boat andleft it. By this time the first faint streaks of day were brighteningin the east. There would be no train from Bowness for three or fourhours. Captain Ducie's impatience could not brook such a delay. At hisrequest I roused the people at one of the hotels. Even then we had tostand kicking our heels for half an hour before a conveyance and pairof horses could be got ready for us. But when we were once fairlyunder way, no grass was suffered to grow under our horses' feet. Thecaptain's object was to catch one of the fast up trains at OxenholmeJunction, some fourteen miles away. This we succeeded in doing, with aquarter of an hour to spare. A portion of that quarter of an hour wasoccupied by me in sending a certain telegram to my respected _pater_.The day was still young when Captain Ducie and I alighted atEuston-square.
"I did not know whether it was the captain's intention to give me mycongť as soon as we should reach town, but I certainly knew that itwas not my intention to part from him quite so readily. He hadinsisted on my travelling up in the same carriage with himself, and Ihad had the free run of his cognac and cigars. During the early partof the journey he had been silent and thoughtful, but by no meansmorose. As the morning advanced, however, his shoulder had begun topain him greatly, and by the time we reached London I could see,although he uttered no complaint, that the agony was almost more thanhe could bear. Consequently, I was not surprised as I helped him toalight from the railway carriage, to hear him say:--
"'Jasmin, my good fellow, I find that it will not do for me to partfrom you just yet. This confounded shoulder of mine seems as if itwere going to make a nuisance of itself. You must order a cab and gowith me. I will make your excuses to M. Platzoff.'
"'Right you are, sir,' said I. 'Where shall I tell cabby to drive to?'
"'To the Salisbury Hotel, Fleet-street.'
"Captain Ducie was such an undoubted West-end swell that I was rathersurprised to find him going east of Temple Bar. But my place was toobey, and not to question his behests.
"'Get into the cab: I want to talk to you,' said he. 'On one or twopoints it will be requisite that I should take you into myconfidence,' he began, as soon as we were out of the station. 'And Ihave less hesitation in doing this because, from what I have seen ofyou, I believe you to be a perfectly trustworthy and straightforwardfellow.'
"It is very kind of you to say so, sir,' I answered respectfully.
"'Now, for certain reasons which I need not detail, I do not want mypresence in London to be known to any one. I am going to an hotelwhere I have never been before, and where I am entirely unknown. Whilestopping at this hotel I shall pass under the name of Mr. Stonor, acountry gentleman--let us say--of limited means, who is up in town forthe furtherance of some business of a legal character. Can youremember Mr. Stonor from the country?'
"'I shall not forget it, sir--you may trust me for that.'
"'Yes, if I had not felt that I could trust you, I should not havebrought you so far, nor have taken you so deeply into my confidence.'
"Father! for the first time these dozen years your son blushed.
"On reaching the hotel Mr. Stonor seemed to care little or nothingabout the size or comfort of the rooms that were shown him. He wasparticular on one point only. That point was the fastening of hisbedroom door.
"After rejecting three or four rooms in succession he chose one thathad a stouter lock than ordinary, and that could be reached onlythrough another room. In this other room it was arranged that I shouldsleep, so that no one could obtain access to Mr. Stonor without firstdisturbing me.
"Is not this another proof that I acted judiciously in leaving BonRepos, and that Captain Ducie, above all men in the world, is the manI ought to stick to?
"We had no sooner settled about the rooms than Captain Ducie wasobliged to go to bed. He would not allow me to help him off with anyother article of dress than his outer coat. Then he sent me for adoctor, and when the doctor and I got back he was in bed. The doctorpronounced the wound in his shoulder to be not a dangerous one, butone that would necessitate much care and attention. The captain wascondemned to stay in bed for at least a week to come.
"There is no occasion to weary you with too many details. A week--tendays, passed away and I still remained in attendance on Captain Ducie.For the first four or five days he did not progress much towardsrecovery. He was too fidgety, too anxious in his mind, to get well. Iknew the form which his anxiety had taken when I saw how impatient hewas each morning till he had got the newspaper in his fingers, andcould be left alone to wade through it. At the end of an hour or so hewould ring his bell, and would tell me with a weary look, to take'that cursed newspaper' away.
"I was just as impatient for the newspaper as he was, and did not failto submit its contents each morning to a most painstaking search.
"After the sixth day there was a decided improvement in the conditionof Captain Ducie, and from that date he progressed rapidly towardsrecovery. It was on the sixth day that my search through the newspaperwas rewarded by finding a paragraph that interested me almost as muchas it must have interested Captain Ducie. The paragraph in questionwas in the shape of an extract from The Westmoreland Gazette, andran as under:--
"'The Dangers of Opium-smoking.--We have to record the sudden deathof M. Paul Platzoff, a Russian gentleman of fortune, who has residedfor several years on the banks of Windermere. M. Platzoff was founddead in bed on the morning of Wednesday last. From the evidence givenat the inquest it would appear that the unfortunate gentleman had beenaccustomed for years to a frequent indulgence in the pernicioushabit of opium-smoking, and the medical testimony went to prove thathe must have died while in one of those trances which make up theopium-smoker's elysium. At the same time, it is but just to observethat had not the post-mortem examination revealed the fact of therehaving been heart-disease of long standing, the mere fact of thedeceased gentleman having been addicted to opium-smoking would not ofitself have been sufficient to account for his sudden death.'
"There are one or two facts to be noted in connexion with theforegoing account. In the first place, it is there stated that M.Platzoff was found dead in bed. When I saw him soon after midnight, helay dead on the divan in the smoke-room. But it is possible, that theuse of the word 'bed' in the newspaper account may be a mere verbalinaccuracy. In the second place, there is not a word said respectingCleon. Now, had the valet disappeared precisely at the time of M.Platzoff's mysterious death, suspicion of some sort would have beensure to attach to him, and an inquiry would have been set on footrespecting his whereabouts. Such being the case, the naturalconclusions to be derived from the facts as known to us would seem tobe: First, that Cleon was not out of the way when the body was found,and that the statements made at the inquest as to the habits of thedeceased were made by him, and by him alone. Secondly, if any fracastook place between Cleon and Captain Ducie on that fatal night, asthere is every reason to suspect, the mulatto has not seen fit to makeany public mention of it. Captain Ducie's name, in fact, does not seemto have been once mentioned in connexion with the affair, and if Cleoneither knows or suspects that the captain has the Great Diamond in hispossession, he has doubtless had good reasons of his own for keepingthe knowledge to himself. That some curious underhand game has beenplayed between him and the captain there cannot, I think, be anyreasonable doubt.
"As soon as I had read the paragraph above quoted, I took thenewspaper up to Captain Ducie, and pointed out the lines to him as ifI had accidentally come across them. I wanted to hear what he wouldhave to say about the death of Platzoff.
"'Some strange news here, sir, about M. Platzoff,' I said.Here is an account of----.'
"He interrupted me with a wave of his hand. 'I have seen it, Jasmin, Ihave seen it, and terribly shocked I was to have such news of myfriend. So strangely sudden, too! I always suspected that he would dohimself an injury with that beastly drug which he would persist insmoking, but I never dreamed of anything so terrible as this. Isuppose it will be requisite for you to go down to Bon Repos for atime, Jasmin. There will be your wages, and your luggage and things tolook after. What articles of mine were left behind I make you apresent of. I hope to be sufficiently recovered in the course of threeor four days to be able to spare you, and I will of course pay yourfare back to Westmoreland, and remunerate you for the time you havebeen in my service. For myself, I intend spending the next few monthssomewhere on the Continent.'
"I replied that I was in no hurry to go down to Bon Repos; that,indeed, there was no particular necessity for me to go at all that theamount due to me for wages was very trifling, and that my clothes andother things would no doubt be forwarded by Cleon to any address Imight choose to send him.
"But the captain would not hear of this. I must go down to Bon Reposand look after my interests on the spot, he said; and he would arrangeto spare me in a few days. His motive for taking such a specialinterest in my affairs was not difficult to discover. He wantedthoroughly to break the link between himself and me. By sending medown to Bon Repos he would secure two or three clear days in which tocomplete whatever arrangements he might think necessary, and would,besides, insure himself from being watched or spied upon by me. Notthat he doubted my fidelity in the least, but it seemed to me that oflate he had grown suspicious of everybody; and, in any case, he wasdesirous of severing even the faintest tie that connected him in anyway with M. Platzoff and Bon Repos. Such, at least, was the conclusionat which I arrived