Chapter XXII.

The Man with the Earrings.

“Well, Kraker, and what do you think of that?” asked the Superintendent.

“I cannot say. Since I last saw you events have taken a curious turn. In the first place, Viscount Morleigh is innocent.”

“The deuce he is!” exclaimed Mr. Parkinson. “But what about the evidence against him?”

“Strong at first sight, but nothing when his reply has been heard. I firmly believe that he has no more to do with the murder than you or I.”

“You astound me. I hope you haven’t got us into trouble,” said the Superintendent, sternly. “Remember it was on your responsibility, and at your persuasion that he was arrested.”

“Quite so; and I am not sure that his arrest will not lead us on the right track.”

“How? Have you, then, spotted the real murderer?”

“Not yet, but the circle has become so narrow that I have not much fear on that score.”

Mr. Parkinson did not reply. He was considerably disturbed by this intelligence of Kraker’s, and he began to have doubts if his over-refinement and subtlety were, after all, quite so effective, practically, as the rough and ready, common-place reasoning of Forrest and his colleagues. Still, whether this was so or not, his extraordinary powers of observation had certainly been verified by evidence altogether identical with that which he had deduced theoretically, and though it was but a series of coincidences the fact was none the less wonderful.

“You are surprised and disappointed, naturally,” went on Mr. Kraker, “but you shall hear what I have to say, and then we will see to-night what tidings Forrest will bring.”

And briefly he told the result of his interview with Miss Dorrington, and the story, Mr. Parkinson owned, placed the Viscount’s innocence beyond a doubt.

“Well, we seem to have got to a very pretty deadlock. But I can’t stay just now to discuss it, for I have an appointment at two, and it now wants two minutes of the hour.”

“Shall I look in again?”

“Um! Well, I shall not be more than half-an-hour; if you like to wait I can talk the matter over when I come back.”

“Very well, I am in no hurry. I can stay.”

Mr. Parkinson left the room, and Matthew Kraker, sitting down by the table, took up the newspaper. Five minutes of this sufficed him, and then he glanced about in search of something more interesting. There were three or four official-looking documents lying about, and he seized the nearest. It was a list of property found in cabs during the month of May. Umbrellas and opera glasses formed the staple commodities, of bags there were not a few, parcels a good number, and of overcoats a fair number. Carelessly he looked down the list, and his eye rested upon one item at which he stared fixedly for some moments:​—​

“A light grey paletot found in a hansom on the 27th of May. Fare got in at Turnham Green. Cab-man’s number, 1,468. Coat not given up till 2nd June, cabman having been ill.”

“I must see this paletot,” he muttered to himself, “if Forrest’s man with the earrings turns out a failure.”

He was very fidgetty till the Superintendent returned, which was not until three o’clock. Mr. Parkinson then declared he could not go into the matter, as he had received some information on a governmental matter which demanded his instant attention. It would be better to put it off till the evening when Forrest returned, and in this Mr. Kraker concurred.

Seven o’clock was the time Forrest was expected to arrive, and precisely at this hour Mr. Kraker, for the second time that day, entered Scotland Yard.

Forrest had been more than punctual, and when Matthew Kraker walked into the room he was already closetted with the Superintendent. The rival detectives shook hands, Forrest with an ill-concealed air of triumph, Matthew Kraker even more subdued and quiet than was his wont.

“I hope you have been more successful in tracking the right man than I have been,” said he.

“Ah! you wouldn’t believe me,” rejoined Mr. Forrest, in a boastful tone.

“Well, so long as you have secured the murderer I do not regret my failure.”

Mr. Forrest straightened himself, threw back his shoulders, and literally as well as metaphorically rose above his companion.

“I understand that you have made a little mistake?”

“You have not been misinformed,” replied Kraker, calmly.

“Nothing new in a beginner, Mr. Kraker. I will give you the credit of a most ingenious theory, but when you have had my experience you will throw theory to the winds, and take to practice.”

“When I do so I will most assuredly come to you for advice, Mr. Forrest,” replied Mr. Kraker in apparently the most friendly tone.

Mr. Forrest looked at the little man as if uncertain whether he spoke the truth or not. He did not reply, however, and the Superintendent, deeming that sufficient time had been spent in official amenities, put an end to the conversation by handing to Kraker a report written by Forrest of the inquiries he had made. The substance of this was that the man, who gave his name as Harry Carboy, had been traced down the river as far as Irongate Wharf, and here he had gone on board one of the Yarmouth boats, and taken a third-class passage to Yarmouth. Once arrived at Yarmouth, Forrest had little difficulty in finding his man, for it had turned out that he was a native of the place, and though for many years had been abroad as a sailor, had now returned, and for some time past had been employed as a fisherman.

When arrested on suspicion of having murdered Mrs. Rennett, he exhibited the utmost astonishment, and, indeed, Forrest declared he never saw a man in such a state of fright before. He said very little beyond protesting his innocence, and did not offer much objection to accompanying the officer to London.

This was all that Forrest had discovered, and it could not be said that it threw much light on the affair. One point alone was settled. Carboy, in the course of conversation with Forrest, had admitted that he had visited Mrs. Rennett on the morning when he was seen at Hammersmith. He, therefore, had some acquaintance with her, and some motive for making the visit; what that motive was had yet to be discovered.

“What is your opinion now, Mr. Kraker?” asked the Superintendent.

“I must compliment Mr. Forrest on his perseverance,” said he, guardedly. “Carboy has no more to do with the matter than I have,” he said inwardly.

Mr. Parkinson was about to reply when a message came by a sergeant to the effect that the prisoner wished to make a statement. This gave an unexpected turn to the proceeding, and Forrest’s eye lightened at the thought that in all probability Carboy was about to make a confession, and thus, in addition to setting the matter at rest, complete the glory which he felt was about to attach to himself as the man who had solved the mystery of the Hammersmith tragedy.

The order having been given, the prisoner, carefully guarded, was brought into the room. He was a tall, broad-chested fellow, with a slight stoop in his shoulders, and face tanned by the sun and wind to the colour of mahogany. His hair and whiskers were grizzled, and his age certainly not less than sixty. In his ears were the earrings which had led to his detection. He looked round the room in a dazed kind of way, and made a rough sailor-like salute to the Superintendent.

The latter at once dipped his pen in the ink, and took a sheet of foolscap.

“You wish to make a statement, I am informed.”

“Aye; that’s just it, yer honour. I’ve bin a-turning over this ’ere business.”

“Stay,” interrupted Mr. Parkinson, “I want you to clearly understand that I’m going to write down all you say, and this will be produced against you at your trial. You know the meaning of that, eh?”

“Aye, yer honour, I knows it,” answered the man slowly. “I’m not afraid o’ that. ’Taint that I want to talk about. It’s summat as happened years and years agone. I’ve had nought to do with that poor creature’s death, as I told this gentleman here. Didn’t I?” said he, turning to Forrest.

“If he has nothing to say about the murder it’s simply a waste of time,” said the Superintendent in an undertone to Forrest and Kraker.

“I would not be too sure of that,” rejoined Kraker. “If he is not the murderer he may know something to lead us on the right track.”

Forrest looked rather disgusted at Kraker’s implied doubt of the guilt of the prisoner, but he passed it over, and simply said that he concurred with him in asking that the man might be heard.

Very well.

“What is your name?” said he to the man.

“Stephen​—​that is, they always called me Steve​—​Rennett,” was his unexpected answer.

“Rennett!” repeated the Superintendent, considerably startled. “Why, you gave the officer the name of Carboy.”

“It’s Rennett, yer honour, and no other,” said the sailor, positively. “I’ve bin called Carboy since I’ve come back from Medtrayun. I was in a Lewant coaster for ten years backwards and forwards,” said he, by way of explanation.

“Very well, Stephen Rennett, and how old are you?”

“Sixty-five come next Michaelmas Day. I was married to my wife, Tilda​—​her that’s gone,” said he, with a peculiar jerk of his head​—​“thirty-five year come that day. She was a pretty-like thing then, too young for me, maybe, but I was that fond of her I’d——”

The sailor stopped, and passed the back of his freckled hand across his eyes.

“The husband of Matilda Rennett,” muttered Kraker to himself. “After all, Mr. Forrest, you have not wasted your time.”

“Aye,” resumed the old man, “I was thirty, and she was eighteen. People said as we’d never pull our oars together, but I thort as she’d grow to like me, and I wasn’t afeared, and so we got spliced. We went on purty well for a time, but I soon found as I’d made a mistake. You can’t put new and old rigging together, nohow. I didn’t blame her, not I, ’cause she was fond o’ finery and fallals, and liked going out and about; but I thort she didn’t care for me as she onest did, d’ye see, and​—​but theer, yer honours, I ain’t a-going to open an old sore, and, to make a long story short, we got to having hard words​—​perhaps I was a bit jealous, yer know​—​and at last she left me, and went into service as a nuss, soon after our babby was born.”

The story had begun to be interesting to Matthew Kraker, who saw at a glance the important bearing it had upon the romantic history the fragments of which he had for so long been trying his hardest to piece together. He could not restrain his impatience.

“I beg your pardon,” said he to the Superintendent, “but will you ask him the name of the family in whose service his wife entered?”

The man’s quick ears caught the question.

“I war a coming to that,” said he. “It was Lady Annesley’s. Tilly’d been waiting maid to the old Countess afore the Earl married, and so she easily got a place, d’ye see, at the Hall. Well, she hadn’t been there a month or more afore I got rather pining like, ’specially as the blessed babe had gone dead, and so I couldn’t bear it no longer, and off I goes to the Hall at Chalton.”

“Where is Chalton?” said Mr. Kraker.

“About fifteen mile from Yarmouth, yer honour. As I was sayin’, off I goes. I went up to the Hall, and asks for Tilda Rennett. She comes out, and, says she, ‘What do you want here?’ and looks as black as I’ve never seen her look afore. ‘Why, lass,’ I says, ‘I’ve come to take ’ee home.’ Says she, ‘Yo’ might ha’ saved thyself the trouble. I’m no coming home.’ Well, I went away pretty nigh heartbroken, but I wasn’t going to give her up, and so next day I went back again, and many more times, till she began to give way a little, and I thought all ’ud come square and taut again. But one evening, when I was talking to her, she says, all of a sudden like, ‘Steve,’ says she, ‘have you a mind to earn some money?’ ‘If it’s to spend it on you, lass,’ I says. ‘Oh, you can spend it on me,’ she says, with a laugh and a toss of her head​—​she allays had pretty ways​—​‘but,’ says she, ‘I must know to-night.’ ‘What’s it to do?’ I says. ‘Oh, nothing much, only to go with me on a journey.’ ‘If that’s all,’ I says, ‘I’ll go with yo’ to the end of the world.’”

“This is a fearful rigmarole,” muttered the Superintendent. “What it has to do with the murder I can’t for the life of me see.”

However, he still went on writing, and Rennett continued:

“Well, she said no more that night, but bit by bit it came out that the Countess was staying at Hagley, in Yorkshire, and that my wife was to take the young lord she was a nursing of down to my lady. The Earl’s steward, Mr. Taplow, was to have taken charge of her and the young baby lord, but he’d took ill with the fever, and the Earl wanted someone to take his place, and so Tilda had spoken of me. So away we started in a fine po’shay, and everything very grand, and on the way down it comes out what the money was to be given for. The Earl, d’ye see, didn’t care a rope’s end for the Countess, but had fallen in love with some fine lady up in Lunnon. Both on ’em had been brought to bed at the same time, and the Earl wanted to put away the rightful heir, and put the other in his place. When I heard that I was a’most thunderstruck, and I swore I wouldn’t have nought to do with such a black business. But my wife all’us had a wheedling tongue, and she somehow quieted me, ’specially as she was to have a good round sum paid to her every year for adoing of it. But I didn’t half like it, and when we met the lady at the inn at Pagleton, where we was to change the children, I’d a’most made up my mind to back out. Howsomever, the time came, and my wife took off the fine laces and silks of the young lord, and put ’em on the other, and they was so like as you couldn’t tell t’other from which, and then we was just agoing off when the lady she busts into a fit of crying, and she wouldn’t be parted from her boy. Said I to myself, ‘That’s right.’ I says, ‘A mother oughtn’t to sell her own flesh and blood,’ and I ups and stops Tilda, who’d just ordered the po’shay to go on. The lady took on so that we couldn’t bear to see her, and says I, ‘What’s to pervent our taking on the young lord? I’ll swear as his father can’t tell one babby from another. If he thinks as he’s changed he’ll just be as well pleased as if he really was. The lady here’ll wont lose her little one, and all parties ’ll have their own way.’”

His recital was suddenly interrupted by an exclamation from Mr. Kraker, which, however, he said was nothing more than a spasm to which he was subject.

“Well, yer honour, that’s what we agreed to do. Tilda took off the clothes again, changed ’em, and, so as there shouldn’t be any mistake, the lady writes out two bits of paper telling all about it, and we all puts our names, and she keeps one of the papers herself and gives one to my wife.”

“There is the missing link; the object of the murderer was to destroy this paper,” thought Mr. Kraker.

The man had ceased speaking, and was fumbling in his pocket. At last he drew forth a greasy leather pocket book, and opening it took out, after some little search, a piece of folded paper, yellow with age.

“Look at that there dockyment, gents, and see if I ain’t spoke the truth. I never let Tilda keep it; she was such a giddy thing, I didn’t trust her.”

It was even so. The paper, as Rennett had stated, was a kind of affidavit establishing the legitimacy of Viscount Morleigh, and signed by Louisa Delanne, Matilda Rennett, and Stephen Rennett. Of the three men who listened to this romantic story Kraker alone possessed the key. The other two were puzzled and stupefied, not without a glimmering suspicion that it had something to do with the murder; but where the connecting link was they had not the slightest idea. The Superintendent would have like to have put a number of questions, but he dared not. It would be immediately said that he had been trying to make the prisoner commit himself, and that, of course, is contrary to our notions of law and justice. He contented himself with asking the man whether he had anything more to say.

“No, I dunno as I have,” returned the old man, scratching his head slowly. “I’ve told you all ’cept as I went to see her, poor lass, two days afore she was found dead. I hadn’t seen her for pretty nigh twenty year, though I knowed where she lived through Lawyer Farnham, as managed my lord’s business, and, somehow, I’d a hankering to see her once more afore I was paid off, and so I went and got to her house on a Sunday morning. But, Lord love ye, sirs, I war such a fule, when I got to the house I dursn’t go in, and, after hanging about an hour or so, blest if I didn’t go straight back to Yarmouth, and never seed her at all.”

“Confound it,” muttered the Superintendent; “Forrest’s inquiry has turned out worse than Kraker’s. This man is innocent, I’ll take my oath.”

Forrest heard the half-suppressed words of his superior, and reddened with anger and vexation. However, he said nothing. Mr. Parkinson again asked the man if he had anything further to state, and, on his replying in the negative, ordered him to be removed. “He may be useful as a witness, Forrest,” he observed, when the man had gone, “but as a prisoner, no. Whoever is the guilty party it certainly is not this sailor.”

Nothing more could be done that night. As matters appeared, the mystery was as far off being solved as ever it was, and, in no very good humour, the Superintendent bade both Kraker and Forrest good-night.

“By-the-way, Mr. Parkinson, I wish you would give me an order to examine some of this lost property of which you have here a list. I’ve a notion that something I noticed among the articles may be useful.”

Mr. Parkinson at once complied, and Matthew Kraker, armed with this order, took his leave.

The light thrown upon the mystery by the story of Stephen Rennett strangely agitated Matthew Kraker. Looked at calmly, to what conclusion did it point? Four persons were interested in the death of Mrs. Rennett​—​the Earl of Annesley, Viscount Morleigh, Mrs. Delanne, and Gerald. The innocence of the Viscount, to Mr. Kraker’s mind, was firmly established. The Earl, being absent from England at the time of the murder was committed, could scarcely have had a hand in it; Mrs. Delanne, he considered, was out of the question; and there thus remained only Gerald. Gerald! Impossible! The very notion sent a thrill through his frame. Gerald, with whom he had had for years a close friendship, whose nobleness he had so lately been eulogising! No, it could not be. Was it not likely, rather, that Rennett had concocted this story than that Gerald Delanne should have committed so foul, so fiendish a crime? Matthew Kraker would have given worlds if he could thus have calmed his inquietude, but he could not so deceive himself. Rennett, he felt convinced, spoke the truth. There had been no substitution, after all. Gerald had accidentally made the discovery, and, in pursuance of his diabolical scheme, had silenced the only person who could have foiled him. Her husband, of course, he believed dead, as, indeed, did Mrs. Rennett herself. And yet, in spite of this logical deduction, in spite of his own judgment, Kraker could not bring himself to such a belief. There must be some mystery he had not yet fathomed, some clue which had evaded him.

For years Matthew Kraker had not felt so deeply moved as he did at this moment. Ordinarily he was a man of little emotion, conscientious to a fault, but above the weaknesses which so often form the motive power of men’s actions. He had seen so much of the dark side of human nature that the identification of an individual hitherto supposed incapable of crime with a miscreant of evil thoughts and actions rarely surprised him, but in this instance he was thoroughly unnerved.

“I can stand it no longer,” he muttered desperately, as he strode along with his eyes fixed on the ground and his hands deep in his pockets; “I can see no other way but to go direct to Gerald, and tell him this story of Stephen Rennett’s. I shall then find out whether this horrible suspicion be correct or not.”

His resolution taken, he determined upon going the next morning to Russell Square. It was about eleven o’clock when he arrived.

As he approached the house he saw that a carriage and pair was waiting in front.

“The doctor’s, I suppose?” he muttered. “And yet, what can he want? The poor woman’s been dead three days.”

It was nothing to him, but he was so used to theorise on the power of arriving at the known from the unknown, and was so continually exercising himself, even in the most trivial matters, that when his thoughts were once started in a line of speculation of this kind he could only turn them aside with difficulty. His quick eye saw at once that the carriage did not belong to a professional man. It was, in fact, a miniature brougham, and the daintiness of the linings, the ornamentation on the harness, seemed to indicate that a lady rather than a gentleman was accustomed to use it. While he was standing abstractedly gazing at the equipage some one knocked against him. He looked up, and his eyes met those of the stranger.

“Bless my soul, is it you, Kraker?” said the latter, somewhat in confusion.

“Good morning, Mr. Lavey,” returned Matthew Kraker, coldly.

“What are you doing here, hay? On a holiday?” said Mr. Lavey, with a certain fidgettiness of manner not usual to him.

“No; I’ve left Homburg for good. Nothing to do with the board of green cloth now.”

“Oh I see​—​want to get into respectable society, hay?” replied Mr. Lavey, with a scarcely perceptible sneer.

“That’s it, sir,” rejoined Kraker, steadily. “And I should advise you to do the same. You hadn’t many acquaintances in that rank, I fancy, when I knew you at Homburg.”

“Doose take it, Kraker! you’re mighty impertinent. But we were always good friends, weren’t we?”

“Oh! as far as I’m concerned I’ve nothing to say: You’d have cheated me as you’ve cheated a hundred others if you could have done it safely.”

“’Pon my soul, Mr. Kraker! you’re too bad. I say, that’s a neat turnout isn’t it?” said the moneylender, hurriedly, and as if desirous of changing the subject.

“Yes,” replied Mr. Kraker, in an apparently careless tone. “Looks like a lady’s carriage. An old maid’s perhaps. This is just the square for an old maid, dull and respectable. Maybe she’s going to Exeter Hall.”

At this Lavey burst out into a loud guffaw.

“That’s too good! Exeter Hall, ha, ha! Not much of the old maid about the gay young party who rides in that gorgeous little box.”


“Yes, and if I’m not much mistaken I know who the lady is. The fellow who lives in that house is awfully spooney on her, and if he don’t look out she’ll soon send him to the dogs. But I must be off. Ta, ta, Kraker; glad to see you well.”

And Mr. Lavey hurried off with much more alacrity than anyone knowing his real age would have believed him capable of. The fact was, the meeting with Kraker was for him slightly embarrassing, as a few years since he had to fly from Homburg under very questionable circumstances; so much so that had he returned the police would at once have made his acquaintance. As a gentleman of the Captain Deuceace tribe, Mr. Lavey had on the continent made a considerable sum of money; but, dazzled by success, he had been led into imprudencies which a more cautious man would have avoided, and thus had suddenly found it desirable to take up his residence permanently in London, where it cannot be said he had not prospered.

“The old blackleg!” muttered Kraker, as he watched the figure of the moneylender disappear in the gloom. “He hates me like poison, but he little thinks he had just done me a good turn. Gerald is in love, is he? That is news, indeed.”

At that moment the door opened, and a lady of middle height, dressed in the top of fashion, but with exquisite taste, tripped gracefully down the steps, and stepped into the carriage. Kraker just caught a glimpse of her face, but enough to tell him that she was surpassingly beautiful. There was nothing in all this, but, nevertheless, Mr. Kraker shook his head solemnly, and his face wore a grave look not often seen there. The coachman slammed the door, climbed the box, gathered up the reins, and started the horses at a gallop. Scarcely had they got a dozen yards away before Mr. Kraker uttered something remarkably like an oath, and set off running as fast as his little legs could carry him.

“Fool that I am! If I could but once see this little lady she will tell me all,” was the thought which had so suddenly communicated its effect to his legs. The carriage had entered Museum Street, and thither Matthew Kraker pursued it, in the hope of keeping it in sight until he got a cab. Unluckily there was not one on the rank, and away darted the little man panting and snorting towards Oxford Street. There was a hansom crawling towards the city, and this he hailed.

“Do you see that carriage?” he gasped.

“Wot, that ’un with a pair of ’osses?” said the man, looking over his shoulder.

“Yes, yes, keep it in sight, and go wherever it goes, and I’ll double your fare.”

“Right you are, sir. Jump in, and on we goes.”

The horse, fortunately, was a good one, and by dint of applying the whip liberally the hansom soon began to overtake the carriage. The latter proceeded up Oxford Street as far as the Edgeware Road. Once or twice the carriage nearly escaped them; but the “cabby” was a sharp fellow, and contrived, on the whole, to keep it well in sight. Near Oxford Circus the carriage stopped for half-an-hour at a jeweller’s shop, and for an hour at the large drapery at the corner, but at last Devonshire Road, Regent’s Park, was reached. When Mr. Kraker saw the carriage pull up he called to the cabman that he would now get out. He did so, paid the man liberally, and dismissed him.

The amateur detective slowly sauntered up to the house the lady had entered, and arrived there just as the coachman was driving away.

“Here, my man, who is it lives here? You’re not above half-a-crown, are you?”

The man looked at him curiously, his face broke into a grin, and he held out his hand.

“If you wants to know werry partikler, it’s Davenport. Missis, mind you, not Miss;” and pocketing the half-crown, the fellow grinned again, and whipping up his horses, drove off.

Mr. Kraker said nothing, but, graver than ever, went up to the door, and knocked loudly.

“I want to see Mrs. Davenport,” said he.

The girl looked at him hesitatingly.

“She’s not at home,” she was beginning, when Kraker interrupted her.

“Don’t tell me any lies, girl, because I saw her go in just now. Have the kindness to inform her that a friend of Mr. Gerald Delanne wishes to see her on very important business.”

“I beg your pardon, sir,” returned the girl in some confusion. “I didn’t know, I’m sure;” and, leading the way, she showed the detective into the gorgeous room which has before been described, and whose sumptuous elegance nearly took Kraker’s breath away.

“Phew. This is where the money went, is it?” was his reflection. “Lavey, I fear, was not far wrong. Gerald is, indeed, in a fair way of going to the dogs.”

His soliloquy was interrupted by the door opening and the entrance of Mademoiselle Lucie. She was dressed in a loose robe of black satin embroidered with gold, her dark hair was carelessly tied with a crimson riband, and fell like a cascade upon her neck, and was just thrown back sufficiently to reveal her delicately shaped ears. She certainly looked very beautiful, and so much so that Kraker was almost startled. However, he did not wonder that Gerald should be fascinated.

“You wished to see me?” she began in her slightly foreign accent.

“Yes, I am, I may say, the nearest friend of Mr. Delanne.”

“Will you not be seated?” interrupted the young lady, with vivacity.

Mr. Kraker sat down on a chair of ebony and gold, and Mademoiselle Lucie disposed herself gracefully on the crimson satin settee.

“I have come on rather an important matter. You were at Russell Square this morning?”

The lady burst into a ringing laugh.

“What, does he know already of my visit? He certainly has lost no time in sending me word.”

“My dear Madam,” began Kraker.

“Now, I know exactly what you have come for. Mr. Delanne has sent you to scold me. I’m sure of it. That comes of falling in love with an enigma. Mr. Delanne has always forbidden me to go to his home. Why I never could see, and because I have disobeyed him to-day he has gone into a passion. Come, now, am I not right?”

Mr. Kraker listened attentively. He was like one who had lost his way in a wood full of traps and pitfalls. He carefully waited until he should put his foot on safe ground.

“It was very imprudent,” he ventured to say.

“I don’t see it,” pouted the girl. “As it was, no harm was done. He was out, and no one knew who I was. How should I know his mother was lying dead. He keeps everything secret, and I know nothing of his affairs, though no one has a better right.”

The detective had found a firm place.

“Yes,” said he, “my friend Gerald was out when you came, and that is why he has sent me, his confidential friend, immediately to know why you came to his house in defiance of his express wish.”

The girl’s eyes flashed with suppressed passion.

“I came,” said she, in an angry tone, “because I was told that Mr. Gerald Delanne was about to be married. What woman would not have done the same?”

“I think you must be mistaken,” hazarded Kraker. “I am, as I have told you, intimately acquainted with Delanne, and I should be certain to have heard of it.”

“Then why does he treat me so sharply? and why has he altered so within the last month? Why is he always in a bad temper?”

During his journey in the cab Mr. Kraker had made up his mind as to the information he wished to gain. If he could only discover how Gerald had spent the evening of the 25th of May the question would be at once settled. The ex-croupier knew a little of the nature of women, and he was pretty certain that in the temper in which Mademoiselle Lucie now was that she would, if encouraged, talk as long as he liked to listen.

“But, of course, you do not care much for him?” said he quietly.

“I have always loved him,” she said passionately, “but he does not treat me rightly. I am fond of pleasure, of company, and he prisons me here like a bird in a cage. Why should he keep me from his friends? You are the only one I have ever seen.”

Kraker could have enlightened her as to the reason, but he merely replied that this perhaps was because he was inclined to be jealous.

The lady laughed sarcastically.

“Perhaps you will say that he makes up for this neglect by spending his money on me. That is not my affair; if he ruins himself, why he must​—​that’s all. I should very much prefer less money and more regard for my feelings. If Mr. Delanne treats me as a child, I act as a child, so he can’t complain.”

“But does he not go out with you?”

“Sometimes. A fortnight ago this very day (Kraker started, it was the 25th of May she mentioned) we went together to the theatre. We had a box, but what did he do? positively left me the entire evening until nearly eleven o’clock.”

“Ah, I think I can account for his absence. Are you sure it was on Tuesday, the 25th of May?” asked Kraker, with ill-concealed anxiety.

“Certainly, for a good reason. It was my birthday, and that made his conduct all the worse.”

“I remember,” replied Kraker, “that Mr. Delanne had some very important business that evening.”

It is needless to say that the detective had only just discovered this fact.

“Then,” returned Mademoiselle, “it was a business that required a few glasses of brandy, for Mr. Delanne had had decidedly too much, and we very nearly had a violent quarrel.”

At these words the detective could scarcely maintain his self-possession. Every step he took seemed to confirm his worst suspicions.

“Not that I object to him drinking brandy,” resumed Lucie, “for without it he is certainly one of the dullest of companions; at least, he has been so for the last few weeks.”

Kraker could bear to hear no more, and he started to his feet excitedly.

“By God,” he cried, “it is he, Madame​—​good evening.”

And the next moment he had run out of the room, and Lucie heard the street door shut violently.

She was so taken by surprise that for a minute she seemed paralysed. When she recovered she ran to the bell, and rang it violently.

“Jane,” she cried in agitation, “what name did that man give?”

Jane couldn’t recollect. She did not think he gave any name.

“No, nor did he tell me. I don’t believe he is a friend of Gerald’s at all. He has come here to worm something out of me.”

A vague indefinite terror seized her. She knew not why, but Kraker’s visit seemed to bode no good to Gerald. What had he done? No doubt he was in difficulties over money matters. At all events she would warn him.

She sat down and wrote a few lines, telling Gerald of the strange visitor she had had, and describing Kraker to the best of her ability.

“Post it at once, Jane,” said she, “and he will get it this evening.”

Meanwhile Kraker, in a state of excitement to which he was quite unaccustomed, hurried to Scotland Yard. Superintendent Parkinson was not within.

“Was anything ever so unlucky,” muttered the little man, as he walked up and down. “Should that girl warn him​—​but no, she cannot suspect anything. She does not know me, and cannot have the faintest suspicion of the man’s guilt.”

The Superintendent was expected to return every minute, and Kraker determined upon waiting for him. While so doing it occurred to him that he had never carried out his intention of examining the paletot which he had noticed had been found in a cab on the evening of the 25th, and to utilise his time he went to the office for the reception of such property, and told the officer in charge what he wanted.

The man looked along the shelves, and at last found the articles. “Umbrella and paletot found in cab 642, May 25th. Fare got in at Turnham Green; was put down at Charing Cross.”

“That’s it,” said Kraker.

Eagerly he undid the coat, and felt in the pockets. In one was a pair of grey kid gloves, torn, and with the surface on the inside of the fingers scraped off; in another a pass for the stalls at the Lyceum.

Lucie’s story was completely confirmed.

“The evidence is overwhelming. Yes, ’tis he,” murmured the detective. “The fool! to leave these in a cab. They have hanged him. He could not be more completely convicted even if I found the broken foil, which, by the way, he must have stolen from the Viscount’s room the day he called at Chester-square. For once villainy has tracked itself.”

Telling the man he wanted the articles for evidence in a most important murder case, he hurried back with them to the room of Superintendent Parkinson, who he found had returned.

“I have just come from the Earl of Annesley,” were the first words of Mr. Parkinson. “Good heaven, Kraker, what is the matter?” For the little man’s pale face and staring eyes at once attracted his attention.

“Nothing; that is, I have put my hand on the right man. There is no mistake this time. Look here,” and he showed Mr. Parkinson the umbrella, the paletot, and the gloves. He related briefly how they had been found, and how, coupled with what he had learned at Devonshire-road, they pointed to Gerald Delanne as the man who alone had committed the murder.

“Not a second is to be lost,” said Mr. Kraker, in conclusion. “If the girl warns him he will immediately make himself scarce.”

“But you did not tell her anything?” said the Superintendent.

“Of course not,” replied Mr. Kraker, with something like scorn. “But women are ‘kittle cattle,’ and especially women in love. If she does not scent danger to her love in my visit, and especially my hurried departure, in which I am willing to admit I made a slight mistake, why, write me down ‘ass,’ that’s all.”

“This is no common man we have to deal with, that’s plain, and I think you are right in advising his instant capture.” And the Superintendent, sounding his bell, gave orders for two men, whom he named, to be in readiness.

“I shall send at once to Russell-square,” said he.

“And why not to the Earl’s? I understood that some sort of recognition by the Earl has taken place, and that Delanne was about to reside with his father.”

“I have put a stop to that,” returned the Superintendent, grimly. “I came to the conclusion that this Delanne was the murderer, and I made it my duty to visit the Earl this morning, and I have acquainted him with Rennett’s story. He thoroughly believes in its truth; indeed, after I showed him the document he hadn’t the slightest doubt, for he recognised two, at least, of the signatures. I shan’t likely forget the interview though,” added the Superintendent, drawing a long breath. “The Earl’s as proud as Lucifer, and the intelligence was like a thunderbolt. It completely prostrated him. If the fellow goes there he’ll have a warm reception, I’ll swear.”

Kraker heard these words in silence. After a while he said​—​

“Very well, send to Russell Square, and if you’ll take my advice, you won’t overlook Devonshire-road, Regent’s Park.”