THE CLUE OF THE HANDWRITING

When Fanks saw Mrs. Boazoph lying at his feet his first intention was
to wait until she recovered. Later on he changed his mind, and when he
had placed her in the hands of the servant he went home full of
thought and dark surmises. It seemed to him that the case was centring
in Ted Hersham; that the whole situation depended on the right reading
of the tattooed cross riddle. Mrs. Boazoph knew something about the
cross, she knew something about Hersham; but what it was Fanks could
by no means make up his mind. It seemed to him that in exploring the
depths of Mrs. Boazoph’s mind he had found a still lower deep; and he
was puzzled what to think.

“Confound the woman,” he thought, meditating over a pipe; “I said that
we should find her at the end of the path which leads to the discovery
of the mystery, and it seems that I was right. She screened Binjoy for
some reason which I cannot discover; she will now attempt to save
Hersham, lest he should fall into my clutches. Why should she take all
this trouble for those two men? And what does she know about the
tattooed cross? Does Binjoy know about it also? And was it he who made
the obliterating mark? I can’t think Hersham guilty, and yet things
look black against him. But no,” said Fanks, rising, “the disguised
man who slew in Tooley’s Alley and Hersham are two different people; I
proved that conclusively to Garth. What’s to be done now?”

It was difficult to decide. At first he almost resolved to return to
Mrs. Boazoph and urge her confession; again, he thought it best to
wait until he heard what Hersham had to say. It might be, he thought,
that Hersham’s confession would throw some light on his relation to
Mrs. Boazoph. The hints of Anne Colmer, the terror of Hersham, the
fainting of Mrs. Boazoph were all of a piece, and Fanks felt confident
that beneath these perplexities lay the key to the riddle. It was not
that he had no clue; he was in reality quite bewildered by the
multiplicity of clues, so bewildered that he did not know which clue
to seize first. At length he came to the conclusion that it would be
best to wait till he saw Hersham and heard what he had to say, and
afterwards to follow up the clue placed in his hands by the fainting
of Mrs. Boazoph.

“I’ll write to Hersham, and remind him that he promised to see me in a
few days and tell the truth,” said Fanks, going to his desk; “and if
he reveals all I am certain that his confession will contain the
information that Mrs. Boazoph wrote and warned him against me.”

He was confident, as he said, that she would do this. If she tried to
save Binjoy, she would certainly try to help Hersham; but her reason
for doing the one was as inscrutable as her reason had been for acting
in the way she did towards Binjoy. The further he went into the case
the darker it grew; and in sheer despair Fanks wrote his reminder to
Hersham, and did nothing more for the next few days but meditate over
the tangle in which he found himself involved. His meditations led to
no result, and when Hersham called on him at the Duke Street chambers
in three days, the detective was at his wit’s end how to proceed.

However, he was delighted to see Hersham, as he had doubted whether
the young man would fulfil his promise. Now that he had come to do so
there might be some chance of seeing a gleam of light. Fanks did not
tell the journalist what he had discovered concerning his movements on
the night of the twenty-first, as he wanted to see if Hersham would
confess as much. If he did so, such frankness would confirm his belief
that the young fellow had nothing to do with the commission of the
crime. If, on the other hand, Hersham concealed the proven facts Fanks
intended to force him into confession by revealing what he had heard
from Berry Jawkins. By the result he would be guided in his future
movements. The ensuing conversation was likely to prove as interesting
and important as that which he had held with Mrs. Boazoph.

“I am glad to see you, Hersham,” he said, in a gentle tone, “as I hope
what you have to tell me may throw some light on the darkness of this
Tooley Alley crime.”

“I can throw no light on the cursed thing,” said Hersham, gloomily. “I
am only here to exonerate myself.”

“From what? What do you mean?”

“Why should you ask me that?” said Hersham, angrily. “Is it not you
who suspect me of killing this man?”

“Decidedly not. I do not think you killed Fellenger. As I told you
before I do not believe you had anything to do with it.”

“Then why did you have me watched?” demanded the young man.

“Ask that of yourself,” said Fanks, coolly. “You roused my suspicions;
you hinted that you knew something; you thwarted me with regard to
Anne Colmer. Cast your mind back to our first conversation, man; you
will say that I had every reason for acting as I did. If you had told
me the truth at first; had you become my ally instead of my enemy, you
would not have had all this trouble. But, for all that, I do not
suspect you of being a murderer. Had I done so,” finished Fanks, “you
would have been in a cell long e’er this.”

“I held my tongue because I was afraid of you,” said Hersham,
sullenly.

“If you are innocent, there is no reason to be afraid of me.”

“I am innocent; and yet I am afraid of you. Yes, I am dreading to tell
you what I am about to reveal.”

“Why so?”

“Circumstances may so close round an innocent man,” continued Hersham,
not heeding the interruption, “that it would seem as though he were
guilty. Think yourself, Fanks. Innocent men have been hanged e’er now,
because circumstantial evidence was strong against them.”

“True enough,” replied Fanks. “I suppose it is natural that you should
be afraid. No man would run the risk of putting his head into the
noose if he could help it. You say that circumstances are strong
against you. What are these circumstances?”

Hersham bit his lip, and turned a wan face on his friend. “I place my
life in your hands, mind you,” he said, hoarsely.

“It will be safe there,” replied Fanks, getting up and fetching a
decanter of brandy from the sideboard. “Nothing will induce me to
believe that you had anything to do with the commission of this
crime.”

“Will you swear to that?” cried Hersham, stretching out a shaking
hand.

“Certainly if it will comfort you. Here, my friend, drink this, and
tell me what you know. It may help me to nab the person I have my eye
on.”

Hersham drank the brandy. “Have you found out who killed Fellenger?”

Fanks shrugged his shoulders. “I think so,” he said, “but who can
tell; I may be wrong.”

“Is it a man or woman?” asked Hersham, quickly.

“I shan’t tell you.”

“Is it–”

“I shan’t tell you, my friend. But I shall tell you this for the
quieting of your fears, that it is not you whom I suspect. Now sit
down again, and let me hear what you have to say.”

Hersham resumed his seat obediently, and began his recital. He
confessed exactly what Fanks expected he would confess; what Fanks
already knew, but the detective listened to this twice-told tale with
the keenest attention. Thereby he hoped to learn some new detail which
had been overlooked by the zealous Berry Jawkins.

“About the beginning of June,” said Hersham, in a hesitating voice, “I
was engaged on a series of papers for the ‘Morning Planet’ on Street
Music. To gain the information I required, I thought it would be an
excellent plan to go about the streets of London in guise, and to get
at the root of the matter. I told my editor that I would burnt-cork my
face and go with some street minstrels. He approved of the idea, and I
did so.”

“And how were you dressed?”

“In a great coat with brass buttons. I also wore brown boots. Now, you
can see why I was afraid to tell you. That is the dress the negro you
are looking for wore.”

“Yes!” said Flanks, perplexedly, “I know that; but I do not see why
you should have been afraid to tell me. You can explain your movements
on that night.”

“That is exactly what I can’t do,” said Hersham, his face growing
dark.

“I don’t understand.”

“I shall explain. On the night of the twenty-first I intended to go
out in the streets in disguise. Before doing so, I told the office boy
that if a telegram came for me he was to bring it at once to me; I
expected a wire about six o’clock; and I told the boy that I would be
in the Strand near St. Clements Church.”

“From whom did you expect the telegram?”

“From Anne Colmer. That day I had received a letter from her, saying
that she was greatly worried about something; what it was she did not
tell me; but she said that if she wanted me she would wire, and that I
was then to come down at once to Taxton-on-Thames.”

“Go on,” said Fanks, greatly interested in the introduction of Anne’s
name.

“Well, I blacked my face, and went out with the genuine niggers to
sing and play. About six, or a little after, I was near St. Clement’s
Church, and there the office boy came to me with a telegram.”

“Why did you expect the telegram at six?”

“Because I was in the office about five, and it had not come then. I
thought it might come after I left, so I appointed St. Clement’s
Church as the meeting-place where the boy might find me.”

“And you obeyed?”

“What was in the telegram?”

“A request that I should come down to Taxton-on-Thames at once.”

“Yes, there was no reason why I should not. I thought that Anne was in
trouble; I went down at once on my bicycle.”

“Why did not you go by train? It would have been easier.”

“Not for me. I was in the habit of running down to Taxton-on-Thames on
my machine; it is only two hours’ run.”

“Had you your machine in town?”

“Yes; I had left it at a shop in the Strand where I usually leave it;
though sometimes I ride it on to the office in Fleet Street. On this
occasion it was in the Strand. As soon as I got the telegram I left my
troupe and went off on my bicycle.

“Didn’t you wash your face?”

“Not at that time; I was in such a hurry and so anxious to learn what
was the matter with Anne, that I did not think of doing so. I rode
along until I was recalled to the spectacle I must have presented, by
the laughing, and the guying of the boys. Then I thought that I might
startle Anne, and I determined to wash myself.”

“And did you?”

“Not immediately. On the way to Richmond I had an accident, and the
tyre of my back wheel was punctured. The air escaped, and I was over
an hour mending it. Then I had to go slowly, and did not get to
Richmond till after eight o’clock. I went into the hotel called
the Eight Bells, and had a drink and a wash. Then I came out a
white man to the astonishment of the barman, and went on down to
Taxton-on-Thames. I got there shortly after nine o’clock.”

“Didn’t you nearly run over a man as you neared the village?”

“Yes, I did,” said Hersham, in some astonishment. “But how do you know
that?”

“I’ll tell you later on,” replied Fanks, smiling. “But about the
result of your trip to Taxton-on-Thames?”

Hersham’s face fell. “There was no result,” he said, in a low voice.
“When I arrived I went at once to Briar Cottage and asked for Anne. I
was told that she had gone up to town by the five o’clock train.”

“Gone up to town!” repeated Fanks. “That is curious. Why did she go up
to town after sending you a wire to bring you down?”

“I can’t say. She returned by the night train, and I was at the
station to meet her. I asked her why she had gone to town, and she
refused to tell me. She merely said that she had sent the wire shortly
before five o’clock, and that she had found occasion to go up by the
five train.”

“Can you conjecture what took her to town?”

“No; and she will not tell me.”

Fanks said nothing. He was meditating on the strange story told to him
by Hersham, and on the stranger conduct of Anne Colmer. The mystery
concerning this young lady, which had begun in the chambers of Sir
Gregory, seemed to be thickening. Fanks was puzzled and gloomy.

On concluding the recital of his movements on the night of the
twenty-first of June, Hersham looked anxiously at Fanks to see what
the detective thought of the matter. The latter made no immediate
comment, whereupon the journalist, impatient of the silence, made the
first observation.

“I have told you all,” he said; “now what is your opinion?”

“Let me think for a minute or two,” replied Fanks, holding up his
hand. “I must consider.”

Thereupon he thrust his hands into his pocket and strolled to the
window, where he stood looking absently at the adjacent chimney-pots.
Hersham eyed him with continued anxiety, but he did not dare to
interrupt, so that Fanks had ample time to reflect over the strange
story which had been related to him.

He had heard the main facts of it before from Berry Jawkins, and these
corresponded entirely with the narrative of the journalist. Still, the
additional evidence concerning Anne Colmer disquieted Fanks not a
little. Her behaviour was strange, to say the least of it, and far
more suspicious than that of Hersham. Why had she sent a telegram to
withdraw her lover from London at the very time of the committal of
the crime? And why had she–so to speak–nullified that telegram by
going herself to town almost immediately after she had despatched it.
Such conduct was decidedly suspicious; and it looked as though she was
implicated in the matter in some underhand way. Why had she behaved in
so mysterious a fashion, and why had she refused to reveal her reason
for so acting to Hersham?

So far, so good; but there remained a greater mystery. It was Anne
Colmer herself who had instructed Hersham to confess to Fanks; yet she
must have known that her very extraordinary conduct would need
explanation. But would she explain? Fanks thought not. He recalled
his conversation with her; how she had refused to speak lest her
evidence–whatever it was–should be detrimental to an innocent
person. Clearly that innocent person could not be Hersham, for he had
established his innocence in the eyes of the detective. Then if the
person in question was not Hersham, who could he–or she–be? Mrs.
Colmer, Dr. Binjoy, Anne, or Caesar, the missing negro?

Not the first, thought Fanks, decidedly not the first, for Mrs. Colmer
was confined to her room by paralysis, and could not take an active
part in the business. Scarcely the second, for Anne could have no
reason to screen the doctor–at least no reason that Fanks could even
guess at. If the third–and seeing that Mrs. Boazoph was her aunt it
might be so–the motive might be that Anne desired aid to carry out a
scheme of revenge against the destroyer of her sister. As to Caesar,
Fanks had quite settled in his own mind that the negro was innocent,
and that his personality was being made use of merely to screen the
chief actor or actors in the tragedy.

The result of Fank’s meditations therefore resulted in his having an
increased suspicion of Mrs. Boazoph. Her behaviour at the time of the
discovery of the murder, her visit to Mere Hall, and her fainting at
the mention that Hersham was the probable criminal–all these things
were suspicious; and now the probable visit of Anne Colmer to her
aunt–although such visit was not yet proved–clinched the matter. All
the interest of Fanks now centred in Mrs. Boazoph; and he addressed
himself again to Hersham in the hope of learning something tangible,
likely to connect her more intimately with her niece either in London
or at Taxton-on-Thames. He was right to act in this way; an
indefinable instinct had placed him on the right path.

“I wish you had told me of this before,” he said to Hersham, as he
resumed his seat. “It would have saved me a lot of trouble.”

“I did not wish to tell you. I was afraid to speak lest I should
inculpate myself. I am sure my movements on that fatal night must
appear very suspicious to you. What is your opinion of me now?”

“The same as before. I am satisfied that you have told me the truth.
No, Hersham, it is not you whom I suspect.”

“Then who is it?” asked the young man, eagerly.

“I’ll tell you that later on,” replied Finks. “In the meantime you
must answer a few more questions. I am not yet quite clear on some
points. How did you obtain your disguise?”

“Oh, that was Miss Colmer’s suggestion.”

“The deuce it was!” said Fanks, rather startled at this admission.

“Yes! I told her of my idea to disguise myself in order to
obtain a thoroughly realistic description of street music, and of
those who make it. I asked her how she thought I should dress. In a
half-laughing way she advised me to take Binjoy’s servant Caesar as my
model.”

“Which you did?”

“Certainly. I thought the suggestion a good one. Caesar was rather an
oddity in his way, and dressed with that mixture of vivid colours
which is so dear to the black race. When off duty he usually wore a
red neck scarf, a brown felt hat, black trousers, and a long green
coat with large brass buttons, quite a noticeable garb in fact. He had
several of these quaint garments, and he had brought one to Anne’s
establishment to get yellow velvet cuffs and collar sewn on to it. On
the promise that I would not keep it more than a fortnight Anne lent
me the coat, which I wore for my purpose.”

“Strange,” said Fanks, thoughtfully. “So you wore the very coat of the
man whom we suspected in the first instance?”

“I did. It is odd now that you mention it.”

Fanks considered. “Did anyone suggest your disguising yourself as a
negro for this street music business, or was it your own fancy?”

“It was the suggestion of Dr. Binjoy.”

“Oh, was it? Humph! I am beginning to see daylight.”

“Why, you don’t think—-?”

“I think nothing at present,” said Fanks, quickly; “matters are in too
crude a state.”

This observation was hardly true, for Fanks was beginning to think
that the affair of the green coat looked singularly like a conspiracy.
He was unwilling to communicate his suspicions to Hersham, because of
necessity they included Anne Colmer; therefore he passed the matter
off as before mentioned. Nevertheless, he thought it doubtful that the
disguise was the result of an accident. That Binjoy should suggest the
idea of blackening the face, that Anne should induce Hersham to dress
up in the very clothes of Caesar, both these things seemed suspicious
and quite impossible to understand. He could guess Binjoy’s object,
presuming that Binjoy had designed the murder–it was to avert
suspicion from himself and servant by throwing it on Hersham. But what
Fanks could not see was why Anne should act as she did, when Hersham
was her lover. She surely did not wish to implicate Hersham in the
matter–if it could be presumed that she was connected with it
herself, of which Fanks was by no means sure–and yet Fanks was
honestly puzzled to understand the action, so at variance with her
position. With his usual sense he therefore abandoned the subject for
the present, and re-addressed himself to the examination of Hersham.

“Did you know Dr. Binjoy?”

“I did, and disliked him greatly. I don’t think he liked me either,”
added Hersham, smiling, “for I was his successful rival.”

“With Miss Colmer?”

“Yes! Fancy, that old man fell in love with Anne and wished to marry
her; asked her to be Mrs. Binjoy four or five times, in fact. Like his
impudence, wasn’t it? However, Anne told him that she was engaged to
me, and sent him off with a flea in his ear. I don’t think he liked me
any better for my triumph.”

“No,” said Fanks, dryly. “I have no doubt he would do his best to
injure you.”

“Fanks, do you think he designedly induced me to act as a duplicate of
Caesar?”

“That I can’t say. It looks suspicious. His being at the Red Star on
the night of the murder under an assumed name is still more
suspicious. All the same he has managed the business so cleverly that
I can bring nothing home to him.”

“Do you think that he designed the murder of Fellenger so as to get
the estates for Sir Louis?”

“His actions bear that interpretation,” said Fanks, scratching his
chin; “but I have no proof as yet. I may find out at Mere Hall.”

“Are you going there?”

“Next week. I wish to see my employer, Sir Louis, and tell him what I
have done; at the same time I intend to observe Binjoy. By the way,”
added the detective, “did you like Sir Louis?”

Hersham shrugged his shoulders. “So, so,” he replied. “He is a dry
stick, wrapped up in his scientific studies. He passes most of his
days with Binjoy in the laboratory making experiments. A tall, stout
fellow, he is, not at all like a dry-as-dust savant.”

“Humph!” said Fanks, twisting his ring; “a tall stout creature. Dr.
Binjoy is also tall and stout?”

“Yes! and so is the negro, Caesar. The trio are all fat and healthy.”

“Humph!” said Fanks again. “I wonder–but that is impossible.”

“What is impossible?”

“Something that came into my head. What it is, does not matter. I
shall no doubt prove its impossibility at Mere Hall.”

“You suspect Sir Louis?”

“Such a suspicion did cross my mind. But, as Sir Louis is employing me
to hunt down the murderer, he would hardly act in such a way. Never
mind that at the present moment, Hersham, but tell me if you have
written to your father?”

“About the tattooed cross? No, I have not done so yet. I don’t see how
my father can help you.”

“I am of another opinion,” said Fanks, dryly. “It is my firm
conviction that the whole secret of that murder in Tooley Alley lies
in the explanation of that tattooed cross. Do not look so scared,
Hersham. I do not suspect your father.”

“I should think not,” said Hersham, fiercely.

Fanks laughed indulgently, in nowise offended with the indignant tone
adopted by the young man. Indeed, he rather admired him for being so
ready to take up the cudgels on behalf of his parent. Nevertheless, he
stuck to his point, as he was determined to fathom the meaning of the
tattooed cross, and he saw no one was so likely to help him to an
interpretation as the Rev. George Hersham, Vicar of Fairview, Isle of
Wight.

“You must do as I ask,” he said, “and write to your father. I must
know why he had that cross tattooed on your arm.”

“I don’t believe my father had anything to do with it,” said Hersham,
angrily. “However, as you insist on it, I shall go home and see him.
If he tells me, I shall tell you. If he refuses, as he has done
before–”

“In that case I’ll come down to Fairview and see him myself.”

“As you please,” said Hersham, with a feigned air of indifference, but
real vexation. “I’ll do my best; I can do no more.”

“Don’t be angry, old fellow. I don’t wish to vex either you or your
father, but you must see that it is important that I should know the
meaning of this cross. You will go and see Mr. Hersham?”

“Yes; before the end of the week. Will that content you?”

“Yes,” replied Fanks, in his turn. “And now, before you go, just tell
me if you received a letter from Mrs. Boazoph, and if you have brought
it with you?”

“Now it is strange that you should have guessed that,” said Hersham,
in astonishment. “I did get a letter from Mrs. Boazoph; I brought it
to see what you thought of it. It quite slipped my memory till you
spoke of it. Here it is. Came yesterday from Fairview.”

“From Fairview!” repeated Fanks, making no attempt to take the letter
which Hersham held towards him. “Was it sent to that address?”

“Yes, care of my father, who forwarded it on to me. See for yourself.”

“Did Mrs. Boazoph know of your address in the Isle of Wight?”

“No, that’s odd,” added Hersham, staring at Fanks. “How did she get
it?”

“From Miss Colmer.”

“I have never given any but my London address to Miss Colmer. I had my
reasons for not doing so.”

“So Mrs. Boazoph knew of your address without your telling her,” said
the detective, stretching out his hand for the letter. “Queer! If I am
not mistaken I–By Jove!”

“What is the matter?”

“Wait. Wait,” said Fanks, in great excitement. “Let me read the letter
first. My word, here is a discovery.”

“What discovery?” asked Hersham, staring at the letter.

But Fanks paid no attention to him. He was already devouring the
communication from the landlady of the Red Star, which ran as
follows:–

“Dear Mr. Edward Hersham,–Come and see me at once. Important
business, and, in the meantime, hold no communication with the man who
calls himself Fanks. I will explain when we meet.–Yours, Louisa
Boazoph.”

“I wish you had shown me this before,” said Fanks.

“I was so anxious about what I had to confess, that I forgot, Fanks.
Is it important?”

“I should think so. You must see her at once, and tell me what she
says. We may find the key to the whole business in her conversation.”

“Do you think Mrs. Boazoph has anything to do with it?”

For answer, Fanks got out the photograph of the dead Emma Calvert, and
the envelope which had contained the red star. He pointed out the
handwritings on both to Hersham.

“You see that,” he said, eagerly. “The handwriting on the back of the
portrait, and that on the envelope are the same as that on your
letter.”

“True enough,” said Hersham, examining the three objects closely, “but
what of that?”

“Only this. That Mrs. Boazoph addressed the envelope, and enclosed the
red cardboard star, which lured the late Sir Gregory Fellenger to his
death on the evening of the twenty-first of June.”

Fanks was rather astonished when he learned that Mrs. Boazoph had
contrived the lure which had drawn Fellenger to his death. He had
given the landlady credit for more cleverly concealing her scheme, and
that she should have carried out a plan so compromising, in so open a
manner, seemed to him to be the height of folly. Nevertheless, he was
pleased that he had discovered who had directed the fatal envelope;
and he was still more pleased that Mrs. Boazoph had sent for Hersham.
If possible he intended to learn her reason for seeking an interview,
and to ascertain why she had fainted at the intelligence that Hersham
was likely to be arrested for committing the crime. A true report of
that conversation–and Fanks had no doubt that Hersham would repeat it
faithfully to him–might afford the clue to the mystery. At the
present moment Fanks was convinced that the landlady of the Red Star
could unravel the riddle if she chose, and he was resolved to force
her to do so. But here an element on which Fanks had not calculated
came into play.

As instructed by the detective, Hersham duly called at the Red Star
only to be informed that Mrs. Boazoph was dangerously ill, and could
not see him. This he reported to Fanks, and at first the detective
deemed the illness an excuse to postpone the interview, the more
especially as Dr. Turnor was the medical man in attendance. He
mistrusted Turnor as much as he did Binjoy, and thought that the
former had persuaded Mrs. Boazoph to relinquish the idea of seeing and
confiding in Hersham. Such confidence might prove as fatal to Turnor
as to Binjoy; and if so there was no doubt that Turnor had compelled
Mrs. Boazoph to hold her tongue lest she should compromise him. Thus
Fanks argued out the situation; and he sought Tooley’s Alley to
ascertain if Mrs. Boazoph was really ill, or merely feigning at the
order of Turnor.

A view of the sick woman showed him plainly that he was wrong. Mrs.
Boazoph was laid on a bed of sickness, incapable almost of speech, and
Fanks concluded promptly that there was no chance of learning anything
until she recovered. The result of the last interview had shaken her
terribly, and she was thoroughly worn out with nervous prostration.
Turnor, more like a ferret than ever, eyed Fanks complacently, and
seemed relieved that things were going so badly for the case. Fanks
questioned him, but could learn nothing definite, for, if the
detective was clever, the doctor was cleverer, and defeated Fanks on
every point. Indeed, he carried the war into the camp of the enemy.

“I suppose I am right in ascribing this illness to you, sir,” he said,
with a sly smile. “It seems that my patient fainted at her last
interview she had with you.”

“She did. I said something which startled her.”

“That was very wrong of you, Mr. Fanks. Mrs. Boazoph is a woman of
delicate organisation, and a sudden shock might bring about her death.
She has a weak heart.”

“I am sorry to hear so, sir,” retorted Fanks, gloomily. “I counted on
gaining some information from her. Do you think she will soon
recover?”

“Not for some time,” said Turnor, in a satisfied tone. “I presume you
wish to learn something from her, relative to the case you have in
hand?”

“You are quite right. I do wish to learn something relative to the
murder which took place in this hotel. But if Mrs. Boazoph cannot tell
me what I wish to know, you may be able to do so.”

Dr. Turnor spread out his hands in a deprecating manner. “I, my dear
friend,” he said, “what can I know about the case?”

“As much as Dr. Renshaw could tell you,” retorted Fanks, fixing Turnor
with his keen eye.

“Dr. Renshaw told me nothing, because he knew nothing.”

“I have my own opinion about that, Dr. Turnor.”

“Really; I thought you were satisfied that my friend had nothing to do
with the matter. He went to India, you know.”

“Are you sure he went to India, Dr. Turnor?”

“Oh, yes; he will be soon be at Bombay. I got a letter from him at
Aden, where he changed into the ‘Clyde.'”

“No doubt,” said Fanks, affably, “I expect you will hear from him when
he is settled in Bombay.”

“Certainly; Renshaw and I are great friends.”

“I am sure of that. You confide your secrets to one another, and work
in unison.”

“What do you mean by working in unison, Mr. Fanks?” said Turnor,
drawing himself up.

“I don’t think I need afford you any explanation, Dr. Turnor. You are
playing a dangerous game, sir.”

“You insult me, sir.”

“Is it possible to insult you, Dr. Turnor?” sneered Fanks.

“I’ll make you prove your words,” said Turnor, with rather a pale
face.

“There will not be much difficulty in doing that–at the proper time.”

The ferret of a man eyed Fanks nervously and savagely. “Do you think I
have anything to do with the matter of Sir Gregory’s death?” he burst
out.

“I’ll tell you that when I return from Mere Hall,” was Fank’s reply.

“Mere Hall?” repeated Turnor, betraying himself, which was the reason
Fanks had mentioned the name; “what do you know of Mere Hall?”

“That is just what I wish to ask you. What do _you_ know of Mere Hall,
sir?”

“Nothing, nothing. I merely repeated your words.”

“In a very singular fashion, doctor.”

The little man turned away with a scowl. “I shall defend myself from
your insinuations,” he said, in a stifled voice, “if you suspect me,
say so.”

“Suspect you of what?” asked Fanks, innocently; “you speak in
riddles.”

Turnor pointed to the woman lying on the bed. “Perhaps Mrs. Boazoph
can solve them,” he said.

“Perhaps she can,” retorted Fanks, with equal coolness; “and I trust
it will not be to your disadvantage when the answers come.”

“I can look after myself, Mr. Fanks,” said Turnor, and left the room
without the detective making any effort to detain him.

Fanks was suspicious of Turnor, from his connection with the so-called
Renshaw; and this conversation went a long way towards confirming
these suspicions. However, as he wished to go to Mere Hall and follow
up the Binjoy clue, he had no time to attend to the Turnor matter.
Nevertheless, on leaving Tooley’s Alley he sought out Crate, and
instructed him to look after the doctor.

“Find out his financial position,” said Fanks; “what kind of practice
he has, how he lives, what kind of character he bears, and all about
him.”

“Very well, Mr. Fanks,” said Crate, noting the instructions down, “and
what about Mrs. Boazoph?”

“Keep an eye on her, and should she recover so far as to see Mr.
Hersham or to journey to Taxton-on-Thames, let me know. You can write
or wire me at the Pretty Maid Inn, Damington.”

“That’s near Mere Hall, ain’t it, sir?”

“A quarter of a mile away. I shall stay there some time to watch
Binjoy and Sir Louis Fellenger.”

“Do you suspect him, Mr. Fanks?”

“If you remember the name I mentioned, you would not ask me that,
Crate.”

The underling was abashed and said no more, but turned the
conversation to the subject of Garth. “What am I to do about him,
sir?”

“Oh,” said Fanks, dryly, “you think he is guilty, so I will leave him
to you. But do not neglect my interests to look after that business. I
tell you, Crate, the man is innocent.”

“I have my own opinion about that.”

“Then keep to your opinion, but mind my instructions.”

“Well, I will tell you one thing, sir,” said Crate. “Mr. Garth has
left town.”

“You don’t say so,” said Fanks, frowning, “he did not say that he was
going away. Where has he gone to?”

“I can’t tell you that, sir, I lost him. But I’ll tell you where he
hasn’t gone–and that is to Taxton-on-Thames.”

“I didn’t expect he would go there, but it does not matter. I have my
hands full without thinking of Garth. I leave him to you. In the
meantime, goodbye; I am off to Hampshire.”

Fanks arrived at Damington about five o’clock, and put up at The
Pretty Maid Inn as he had done before when following Binjoy in the
disguise of a parson. But thanks to his cleverness in “making up,” no
one at the inn suspected that he was the same man. The landlady–a
genial soul with a plump person and a kindly face, quite an ideal
landlady of the Dickens type–welcomed him without suspicion, as a
gentleman come down for the fishing, and detailed all the gossip of
the neighbourhood. She was especially conversant with the affairs of
Sir Louis Fellenger.

“Such a nice gentleman,” said Mrs. Prisom, “rather melancholy and
given to hard study, which ain’t good for a young man. But he comes
here and takes a glass with a kind word and a smile always.”

“Does Dr. Binjoy come over with him?” said Fanks.

“Oh yes, sir; I am sorry to see that the doctor ain’t well lately, he
looks pale and mopey-like. Seems as if he had something on his mind.”

“And what do you think he has on his mind, Mrs. Prisom?”

“Well, it ain’t for me to say, sir; but I should think as he was sorry
he and Sir Louis did not get on so well as they might.”

“What makes you think they do not get on well?” said Fanks, pricking
up his ears.

“It is the way they look at one another,” said Mrs. Prisom,
reflectively. “And they say Dr. Binjoy is going away; though what Sir
Louis will do without him, I don’t know.”

“Dr. Binjoy going away,” murmured Fanks, rather startled, “now what is
that for?”

Mrs. Prison could not tell him; she could only say that the doctor was
departing from Mere Hall that day week; and that it was reported in
the village that he had quarrelled seriously with Sir Louis. “Though
of course,” added Mrs. Prisom, “it may not be true.”

“I must see to this,” thought Fanks. “I wonder if this sudden
departure has anything to do with the murder. Is it a case of thieves
falling out; I must keep my eyes open.” After which resolution, he
asked the landlady if she was well acquainted with the Fellenger
family.

“I should think so,” said Mrs. Prisom, with pride, “I knew that poor,
young man who was murdered in that wicked London, as well as I know
myself. A noble gentleman, but wild; ah me!” sighed Mrs. Prisom, “just
like his father.”

“Did you know Sir Gregory’s father?”

“Did I know Sir Gregory’s father,” echoed Mrs. Prisom, contemptuously,
“do I know the nose on my face, sir? The late Sir Francis and myself
were playmates. Yes, you may well look astonished, sir, but it is the
truth. I was the daughter of the steward at Mere Hall, and I was
brought up with the late Sir Francis almost like brother and sister. I
could tell you many a good story of him,” finished Mrs. Prisom, with a
nod and a smile.

“You must do so,” said Fanks, returning the smile, “I am fond of
stories.”

The fact is, he was wondering if he could find the motive for the
murder in the family history of the Fellengers. Many great families
had secrets, which, if divulged, might lead to trouble; and it might
be that the Mere Hall folk’s secret had to do with the tattooed cross.
If it proved to be so, then Fanks thought there might be a chance of
penetrating the mystery of Sir Gregory’s death. The family secret and
the death in Tooley’s Alley were widely apart; but there might be a
connecting link between them, at present hidden from his gaze. At all
events, it was worth while examining Mrs. Prisom, and hearing her
story.

This Fanks resolved to do that evening; but in the meantime he left
the garrulous landlady, and went out for a stroll in the direction of
Mere Hall. It was not his intention to see Sir Louis on that evening
but rather to wait till the morning. Nevertheless, he had a desire to
look again at the splendid mansion of the Fellengers, more to pass
away the time than with any ulterior motive. In the calm twilight he
strolled along, and soon left the village behind him. His way lay
through flowery hedges, bright with the blossoms of summer; and, under
the influence of the hour and the beauty of the landscape, Fanks quite
forgot that he was at Damington for the purpose of unmasking a
murderer. From his dreams he was rudely awakened, and brought back to
real life.

As he sauntered along, swinging his stick, he saw a man ahead, whose
figure and gait seemed to be familiar. In the clear, brown twilight he
could see fairly well; and so it appeared could the man he was looking
at; for the figure made a pause and jumped over the hedge. Fanks
wondered at this, for he had noted that the figure was that of a
gentleman, or, at all events, someone other than a labourer. With his
usual suspicion, and as much out of curiosity as anything else, Fanks
jumped over the hedge also; whereupon the stranger began to run across
the fields. By this time, Fanks was thoroughly convinced that
something was wrong; so he gave chase at once, with a chuckle of
delight at the excitement of the adventure.

Across the green meadow they raced, and Fanks saw the man fading into
the dim twilight. He redoubled his sped; so did the fellow, but in the
next field Fanks found that he was gaining. The fugitive sprang over
another hedge; with Fanks close on his heels. But when the detective
landed he could see nothing of the stranger. A backward glance showed
him that the man had doubled, and was running along beside the hedge.
The next instant, Fanks was following on his trail; and, although the
mysterious figure made the greatest efforts to escape, Fanks drew
closer. Then an accident brought the race to an end, for the man
stumbled over a clod, and rolled on the grass. The next moment Fanks,
panting for breath, stood over him.

The detective peered down, to see who it was he had caught, and, to
his surprise, he recognised Garth.

Share