COMING EVENTS

Naturally Fanks was astonished at this confession; but he was so
conversant with the character of the young man that he could not
believe the journalist was guilty. Despite the coincidence of the
tattooed cross and the relationship of Fellenger’s wife with Anne
Colmer, he did not think for a moment that his friend had anything to
do with the crime. Nevertheless, it would appear from the hesitation
of Hersham to speak openly that he had some knowledge–if not of the
crime itself–at all events of the circumstances leading to its
accomplishment. This was the only construction he could place on this
last outburst.

“After what I have said, Hersham, I think you ought to confide in me,”
he remarked after a pause. “I do not suspect you in any way; yet you
refuse to aid me. You ought to be the first to help me.”

“I do not see how you make that out,” replied Hersham, with a pale
face. “I never met with Sir Gregory. I heard nothing but evil of his
life, and he drove to suicide the sister of the girl to whom I am
engaged. Why should I help you?”

“Ah!” cried Fanks, sharply; “then you can help me if you choose.”

“I certainly cannot,” returned Hersham, doggedly. “I have not the
slightest idea who killed Fellenger. I can tell you nothing.”

“Yes, you can; only you refuse to. Why I cannot say. You had better be
careful, Hersham; you will not find me easy to deal with if you rouse
my suspicions.”

“Do you threaten me?”

“I warn you,” retorted Fanks, smartly, “I am not accustomed to have my
offers of help repelled. Your remark of a few moments ago shows me
that you know something. What is it?”

“I know nothing.”

“You do! Speak, if not for your own sake, at least for that of Miss
Colmer.”

Hersham stepped up to Fanks with an angry face. “How dare you
introduce the name of Miss Colmer?” he cried. “I forbid you to speak
of her.”

“All the worse for you and for–her. She called at the chambers of the
dead man. Why did she call there? She was at Tooley’s Alley on the
night of the murder. What was she doing in such a place? You refuse to
tell me? I shall ask her.”

Hersham sprang forward, and grasped the arm of Fanks to prevent his
leaving the room. “Think of what you are about,” he gasped. “Ask her
nothing, you hear me, nothing.”

“That rests with yourself. Tell me what you know and–”

“I know nothing,” said Hersham, and turned away with an obstinate
look.

“Good!” said Fanks, putting on his hat. “We now understand one
another. I shall find out all without troubling you. Good-bye. And you
may thank your stars that I do not arrest you on suspicion.”

“I swear that I am innocent.”

“I know that, else I would have had you in custody by this time. But
you are screening another person. Anne Colmer, for instance.”

“She knows nothing.”

“I shall judge of that for myself,” retorted Fanks, and left the room.

In Acacia Road the detective hailed a cab and drove to the nearest
telegraph office. It had occurred to him that Hersham might attempt
to communicate with Anne; and he was resolved to checkmate such a
move. To this end he sent a wire to the head of the rural police at
Taxton-on-Thames, instructing him to delay if possible all letters and
telegrams which might come to Miss Colmer. Thereby he hoped to prevent
Hersham warning the girl.

Arriving at New Scotland Yard, he detailed a man to watch Hersham, and
sent him up to Acacia Road. A glance at “Bradshaw” assured him that to
reach Taxton-on-Thames, Hersham would have to start from Waterloo.
Thither he sent another detective, to keep an eye on the trains.
Therefore, by letter, by telegram, and by railway, he had stopped
Hersham from communicating with Anne Colmer. After taking these
precautions he saw Crate.

“I am going to Taxton-on-Thames at three o’clock,” he said.

“Are you going to look for the woman who directed the envelope, Mr.
Fanks?”

Fanks stretched out his legs, and began fiddling with his ring. “That
is just what is puzzling me, Crate,” observed he. “I have told you of
my conversation with Mr. Hersham. Well, unless he is deceiving me,
Mrs. Conner, is a paralytic. She could not have directed that
envelope; yet, going by the writing, I’ll swear that an elderly woman
penned the address. If not Mrs. Colmer–an obvious impossibility–who
wrote it?”

“Anne Colmer,” said Crate, promptly.

“No. For disguise, she would rather have adopted a masculine hand.”

“Mrs. Boazoph?”

“If Mrs. Boazoph had been traced to Taxton-on-Thames I should say yes;
if the letter had been sent from Mere Hall I should have said yes.
But,” added Fanks, with emphasis, “as it did not come from Mere Hall,
and Mrs. Boazoph has nothing to do with Taxton-on-Thames, I am not
inclined to suspect the lady.”

“Then there is nobody else.”

“There must be somebody else; and the somebody else committed the
crime.”

Crate thought. “Do you think that the negro sent that star?” he asked.

“I feel perfectly certain that the negro had nothing to do with the
star.”

“But we have proved conclusively that a negro killed Fellenger.”

Fanks smiled complacently. “I should not be at all surprised if we
found out that a negro had nothing to do with the murder,” he said,
slowly.

“But that is impossible, Mr. Fanks.”

“Nothing is impossible in a criminal ease,” said Fanks. “Look here,
Crate, as you know, it is not my habit to give an opinion before I
have thoroughly threshed out the subject matter of a case; but in this
instance, I shall depart from my rule. I should not be surprised if I
had already spotted the assassin of Sir Gregory Fellenger.”

“No!” cried Crate in admiration. “And who is it, Mr. Fanks. Man or
woman?”

“Walls have ears, Crate. I shall whisper the name and when the case
comes to an end–if it ever does–you can laugh at me or congratulate
me at your will. Now then.”

Fanks approached his mouth to the ear of Crate and whispered a single
name. “That is my opinion,” he said slowly.

Crate shook his head. “No, Mr. Fanks. I am loth to put my opinion,
against yours, but I think you are making a mistake.”

“Perhaps I am,” assented Fanks, carelessly, “the case is a difficult
one, and I am quite prepared to find out that I am wrong. All the
same, I am confident that the person I named is guilty. I’ll bet you
five pounds to five shillings that I am correct.”

Crate grinned and took up the bet. The behaviour of his chief
flattered him, and he would not have minded losing. But he could not
bring himself to agree with Fanks as to the name of the guilty person;
for he had a theory of his own in which he believed. This theory was
diametrically opposed to that of his superior.

“How long shall you be at Taxton-on-Thames,” he asked Fanks, when this
little piece of amusement was concluded.

“I may be a few days, a few hours, or a month. It all depends on what
I find out. I must interview Anne Colmer; see her mother; and make
inquiries about Binjoy and his negro servant.”

“But the doctor is at Mere Hall. You must go there to ask about the
negro.”

“Rubbish. As I told you before, the negro has never been seen at Mere
Hall. Binjoy lived at Taxton-on-Thames, and it is there that I must
ask after this mysterious black man. Afterwards, I can go to Mere
Hall.”

“Have you any reason for going?”

“One. I wish to find out why Mrs. Boazoph visited the Hall.”

“And what about the tattooed cross, Mr. Fanks?”

“Oh, I shall see that later on. But in the meantime I must pay these
visits. Firstly, Taxton-on-Thames. Secondly, Mere Hall. Thirdly, the
Isle of Wight and the Rev. Mr. Hersham.”

“Humph!” said Crate, doubtfully. “From what you say, I should think
Mr. Hersham junior would thwart your plans, if he could.”

“I have not the least doubt of it,” replied Fanks dryly, “but he is
being watched. If he tries to thwart me I shall, at least, have the
satisfaction of knowing it. By the way, do you know anything about
Bombay?”

“That’s in India, isn’t it?” said Crate, rather taken aback by the
apparent irrelevancy of this question. “I don’t know anything about
Bombay, Mr. Fanks, except what I’ve seen in books.”

“You must extend your knowledge then; for I may want you to go there
in a week or so.”

“Has my going there anything to do with this case?” demanded Crate,
still very much astonished at the turn the conversation had taken.

“It has everything to do with this case,” replied Fanks, enjoying his
perplexity, and the confusion of his somewhat slow-moving mind.

“Dr. Renshaw did not go to India,” was Crate’s next remark.

“Quite so. Renshaw having resumed his real name of Binjoy, is now at
Mere Hall–in safety, as he thinks. I can lay hands on him any time;
but I can’t lay hands on that negro. You must do that, Crate.”

“But the negro isn’t in India, Mr. Fanks?”

“In my humble opinion–I may be wrong–he is,” replied the other. “See
here, Crate. Dr. Binjoy must know that as I am employed by Sir Louis
to hunt down the assassin, I must see him sooner or later. If I see
the new baronet, I can hardly help seeing his ‘Fidus Achates.’ Now,
although Binjoy has–as he thinks–destroyed all trace of his
connection with Renshaw, yet he cannot quite alter his personal
appearance, which is rather noticeable. He may shave off his beard so
as to make himself look younger; he may even get rid of his stoutness;
but he cannot alter his voice or entirely change his pompous manner.
He must, therefore guess that I may be struck with his resemblance to
Renshaw. In some way–for I give him the credit of being clever–he
will endeavour to account for the resemblance. I do not know the
particular lie he will stick to; but of one thing I am certain;–he
will keep up the deception that Renshaw is in India by means of
prepared letters written to Dr. Turnor.”

“It is my opinion, Crate,” continued Fanks, solemnly, “that Binjoy has
got rid of his negro servant by sending him to Bombay; and, from
Bombay the negro will forward letters–already written–to Turnor of
Great Auk Street. I may be wrong, of course, and I do not wish to act
in a hurry. But the first letter I see from India, purporting to be
from Binjoy-Renshaw, that very day you start for Bombay to look for
the negro who is at present missing. I am content to stake my
professional reputation that you will find him there.”

“Well, you are a ‘cute one, Mr. Fanks,” said Crate in an admiring
tone. “I should never have thought of that.”

This tribute of respect from Crate put an end to the conversation for
the time being. Fanks went to his chambers, packed a few clothes, and
repaired to Waterloo Station. The detective who was watching there,
assured him that Hersham had not been seen on the platform; and Fanks
went down to Taxton-on-Thames quite satisfied that he had what the
Americans call “the inside running.”

He amused himself while in the train by making notes in his pocket
book; and with figuring out the questions which he intended to ask
Miss Colmer. Notwithstanding his assurance to Crate, he was very
doubtful if he would be able to discover the assassin of Sir Gregory,
for the further he went into the case the more intricate did it
become. So far as he could see at the present moment, the person who
had killed the Tooley Alley victim had every chance of escaping the
gallows. All that the detective could do was to go on in the darkness;
and trust to any stray gleam of light which might reveal the assassin;
but at present, he could not see an inch ahead of him.

On arriving at Taxton-on-Thames he drove at once to the local post
office; and, as he expected, he there found a telegram, which the
police had succeeded in delaying. It was addressed to Anne Colmer,
and ran as follows: “Detective coming; answer him nothing.” There
was no name; but from the context, and the place whence it had been
sent–High Street, St. John’s Wood–Fanks had no difficulty in
guessing that it had come from Hersham.

“Very good,” he murmured. “What Hersham knows, the girl knows. I
failed to get the information from him; I may from her.”

The Colmers, mother and daughter, dwelt at the further end of the
village in a cottage adjoining the shop. The former was small, but the
latter was quite an imposing structure for so sparsely-populated a
neighbourhood. Indeed its owners made an excellent income out of the
dressmaking business; and they were fairly comfortable in the position
of life into which they had been forced by circumstances. They
employed five or six girls in the workroom and three in the shop, so
that Anne found her hands full in looking after these underlings, and
in supervising the general run of the business. She was an admirable
administratrix.

As may be guessed from the nature of her complaint, Mrs. Colmer was a
mere cypher in the domestic economy of Briar Cottage–for so the house
was named. The old woman usually sat in a wheeled chair beside a bow
window, looking out on to the back garden. This latter sloped down to
the river banks, and was prettily laid out, with a summerhouse at the
lower end. From her window the paralytic could see the passing of
boats and steamers, and enjoy the brightness of the aquatic life. She
viewed this panorama from morn to eve; read on occasions, and
meditated on her past life, which had been none of the happiest.

A mild and placid woman, she was of a singularly sweet disposition;
and although she was chained to her chair by her affliction, she never
complained. The paralysis extended only to her limbs, but her brain
was still active, and she could give, and did give, her daughter
excellent advice in connection with the business. The sorrowful
expression on her face showed how keenly she had felt the loss of
Emma. But that was not the only melancholy event in her life; there
were others which will be spoken of in due course. Mrs. Colmer was not
without her troubles, but she had her consolations also, and of these
the love of Anne was the greatest.

On the day of Fanks’ arrival the old lady was seated in her usual
place, between five and six, waiting for Anne. Tea was ready for the
girl, but Mrs. Colmer had already been fed by her nurse, and was
looking forward to the usual conversation which took place at this
time. All day Anne was busy in the shop, and Mrs. Colmer was left to
her own devices; but when the labours of the day were ended, mother
and daughter met to converse. To Mrs. Colmer this had been the
happiest hour of the day–but that was before Emma went to London. She
still talked to Anne, and took an interest in domestic and local
affairs; but she was haunted by a feeling of impending evil, and she
clung despairingly to her remaining child, dreading lest she should
meet with the fate of her sister. An atmosphere of apprehension
existed in Briar Cottage.

In due course Anne entered, and, having kissed her mother, sat down to
tea. She was as beautiful as ever, but there was a haggard look on her
face which accorded but ill with her youth. It would seem as though
she dreaded the future also, and was expecting the happening of some
terrible misfortune. After a short discussion of domestic matters the
conversation languished, for, wrapped in her own thoughts, Anne did
not seem inclined to talk. Mrs. Colmer noticed this, and commented
thereon with affectionate solicitude, bent on knowing what made Anne
so absentminded.

“Is there anything wrong, my dear?” she asked nervously.

“Nothing, mother; I am a little tired, that is all.”

“There is more than that, Anne. For some days you have not been at all
like yourself.”

“Can you wonder at that, mother?” replied Anne, bitterly. “Think of
all that has happened this last month.”

An angry light came into the faded eyes of the old woman. “You should
be glad of what has happened,” she said in a stern voice; “that wicked
man has been punished for his evil courses. He drove my Emma to her
death, and himself has perished by violence. An eye for an eye, a
tooth for a tooth; that is Scripture.”

“All the same, mother, I wish that he had not been murdered. Gregory
was a brute, I know, and the death of poor Emma lies at his door; but
murder–” she shuddered. “It is so terrible to think that he should
have been cut off in the midst of his wickedness.”

“He has gone down into the pit, child. Let us talk no more of him. It
is said that we must forgive our enemies, but it is hard for me to
forgive him, even though he is dead. My beautiful Emma, she should
have lived as Lady Fellenger, instead of dying through his cruelty. I
hope, Anne, that your marriage will turn out happier than that of your
poor sister.”

“Ted will be the best of husbands,” said Anne, in a tone of
conviction. “He loves me as dearly as I love him. I wonder when he is
coming down to see me gain? I have so much to tell him.”

“About your visit to Half-Moon Street?”

“That and other things,” was Anne’s answer; then, after a pause,
“though indeed he may not be so ignorant of that visit as you think.”

“Who could tell him but yourself?”

“That detective, mother. He saw me when I entered the room, and he
followed me also. If I had not escaped him in the manner I told you, I
should have been in trouble.”

“You need not be anxious about that now, Anne. The detective can never
find you—-”

“I am not so sure about that,” said Anne, in parenthesis.

“And as to Mr. Hersham knowing about your visit to Half-Moon Street,”
Mrs. Colmer continued, “I do not see how this detective you speak of
can possibly tell him.”

“I can see, mother. Mr. Hersham knows this detective–a Mr. Fanks; and
he will probably see him about the case in the interests of the
‘Morning Planet.’ Should they meet–as they are almost sure to do–my
name will certainly be mentioned. Then the story of my visit will come
out, with the result that Fanks will find me here.”

Mrs. Colmer turned slightly pale. “Are you afraid to meet him,” she
asked.

Anne shrugged her shoulders. “I can’t say that I am overpleased,” was
her reply. “He is a clever man, and I shall have considerable
difficulty in keeping my own counsel.”

“You must tell him nothing–nothing.”

“You can be sure of that, mother. Should Mr. Fanks come here he will
go away as wise as he came. I know when to hold my tongue as on this
occasion. Matters are too serious to be spoken of openly.”

“Oh, dear, dear,” said Mrs. Colmer in an agitated tone. “Into what
difficulties have we not been led. I wish I had never let Emma go to
London.”

“Rather wish that she had never met with Herbert Vaud, mother.”

“But, Anne, she loved Herbert.”

“I do not think so, else she would never have married Sir Gregory. But
you know she always was ambitious and impulsive; look where her
ambitions have led her. If she had not met with Herbert she would not
have become the wife of that wicked man; if she had not been his wife
she would not have been driven to her death; and if she had not died,
we should not have been involved in all this trouble.”

“Trouble, trouble!” moaned Mrs. Colmer. “What troubles we have had,
and more will come.”

“Do not be afraid, mother,” said Anne, kissing her. “You have always
me to stand between you and danger. I may never meet with this
detective; I may never be questioned by him, and so all will be well.
But should he come, why–I shall know how to answer him.”

“You will say nothing.”

“On the contrary, I shall say a great deal,” replied Anne. “But such
things as will mislead Mr. Fanks. He shall never be set on the right
path by my telling; be sure of that.”

“I wish I could see you married to Ted, my dear,” said her mother,
comforted by these assurances. “It would be such a relief to my mind.”

“I am afraid we will not be able to marry for some considerable time.
My dear Ted is very clever, but he cannot earn enough for us both to
live on; and I do not wish to be a drag on him. No, no, mother, we
must wait until things mend, and the outlook is brighter.”

“You could have married Dr. Binjoy.”

“I would not marry Dr. Binjoy if there was not another man in the
world,” said Anne, with supreme contempt. “He is a self-indulgent
sensualist. My Ted is worth a dozen of him.”

“Still he is well-off,” sighed Mrs. Colmer.

“I do not see how you make that out, mother. He was, and is, entirely
dependent on Sir Louis Fellenger for his money; and I want to have
nothing to do with the Fellengers. Their family have cost us dear
enough already.”

This reference to the dead Emma made Mrs. Colmer weep, and Anne had
considerable difficulty in quietening her. However, she succeeded in
the end, and left her mother to her own thoughts, while she herself
went out into the garden for a breath of fresh air. Moreover, she
wanted to be alone, for the purpose of thinking over the position of
things. Anne could not but recognise that if certain contingencies
arose, she and her mother would find themselves very awkwardly placed.

The evening was warm, and the sky was filled with a mellow light,
which rendered languid the atmosphere. Against this, the trees stood
out in bold relief, every twig and leaf being sharply outlined against
the amber sky. The sound of distant laughter, and the musical splash
of oars came to the ears of the girl as she walked slowly down the
path towards the summerhouse. A low, redbrick wall ran along the bank
of the river, and as she leaned over this low parapet, Anne could see
some considerable distance to right and left. Before a boating house
on the opposite shore a number of people were collected; and every now
and then a boat would shoot out into the gleaming waters bearing two
or three of them away. Someone musically inclined had brought a banjo,
and Anne could hear the thrumming of the string’s, and the echo of the
latest music-hall ditty. Altogether, the scene was not without its
charm; but she was too much taken up with her own troubles to pay much
attention to the pleasant picture spread out before her. The quiet of
the evening brought no peace to her.

“How foolishly I have acted,” she thought, with a shiver. “If I had
been wise I would have left these matters alone. I feel certain that
Mr. Fanks recognised me as the woman he saw in Tooley’s Alley. If he
finds me out, he will ask me what I was doing there on the night of
the murder. What can I say. I dare not tell him the truth, and he may
refuse to believe what I say to him. I acted for the best, it is true,
but my good intentions have led me into a position of danger. But I
may be wrong–I may be quite safe. That man may never find me. If he
does,”–she shivered again, and looked up the river.

Under the glow of the sunset sky, the waters rolled, a broad sheet of
gold flecked here and there with the dark forms of boats. To the left
Anne saw a skiff containing one oarsman, coming swiftly down the
stream. In a half dreamy moment she calculated that he would pass
almost immediately under the wall. Then she returned to her
self-communings.

“If Ted were only here,” she thought. “I should like to tell him all
that I have done, and ask him how to act. For his own sake he must
keep silent; and for the sake of my mother I must hold my tongue. Oh,
it is terrible–terrible to know what I know, and yet remain dumb. And
I am afraid of that detective. His eyes seemed to pierce me through on
that day. Should he find me out he may compel me to speak. And if I
speak–oh, the disgrace and shame of it. Why, why are such things
permitted in this world. Oh, Ted! Ted, I wish you were here to comfort
me.”

She leaned her head on the wall and burst into tears. Anne was not
easily moved; and it was an unusual thing for her to thus give way to
her emotions. But she was only a girl after all, and her system was
strung up and nervously excited by the knowledge of the secret she
knew. She would like to have confided in someone, if only to relieve
her overburdened mind; but she shrank from the consequences of such a
step. A word from her, and the murder in Tooley’s Alley–but, no, she
put the thought out of her mind, and, still leaning her head on her
arms, she wept bitterly.

Meanwhile the single oarsman rowed steadily towards the red brick
wall, which was evidently the point for which he was making. Soon he
came abreast of it; shortly he came under it, and Anne raised her head
at the sound of the splash of oars, to behold the very man of whom she
had been thinking. It was Ted Hersham.

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