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PAID IN HIS OWN COIN., Issue 7922, 1 June 1889, Supplement
PAID IN HIS OWN COIN.
By Edward J. Goodman, Author of ‘ Too Curious.’ VOL. IL— CHAPTER XII. A HUNCH Ob’ KEYS. Dr Abel Wjnd was not altogether satisfied with the way in which matters were going on at Eden Villa. So long ns the family seemed getting deeper and deeper into difficulty, all, in his opinion, went well, and in some respects progress was being made. True, ho could nut ascertain the state of affairs from the evidence of his own personal observation. He had become somewhat chaiy of his visits to the poet's house, us that embarrassing scene previously recorded, when Tessie asked him to assist her father again, had been more than once repeated in various forms, and such appeals were not easy to evade. Still, ho was keenly anxious to keep himself informed of all that was going on under the roof that sheltered the woman be so madly loved, and every detail was important. Failing such information at the fountain-head, ho endeavored to elicit it from his wife, to whom Helen told everything, In this task he hud some difficulty at first, owing to Jane’s natural reluctance to repeat the confidential conversation of her dearest friend. The hesitation she showed in answering some questions he had asked her gave him the opportunity he sought. “la there any secret in this that you want to keep from me ?” he inquired angrily. “ Do you think I am not to be trusted ?” “No, indeed, Abel,” replied his wife. “Itis no secret, and lam sure I would trust you in anything. But Helen told me this privately, and I ought not to betray her confidence, ought I ?” “ Confidence or not,” retorted her husband, “ I will not have these whisperings between you and Helen behind my back. And if so paltry a mutter is to be concealed from me, I shall not in future allow her to visit you or you her. Do you hear that ?” Idle as the threat was, he could not have uttered one more terrible to Jane Wyucl. To be separated from her beloved Helen! That would be worse than death. So she gave him the information he desired, in this instance only relating to some petty occurrence in the Musgrave household; but he bade her to understand that henceforth he would expect her to repeat to him all that Helen had told her, and dared her at her peril to inform Helen that he had made such a request. “ Confidence indeed !” ho exclaimed with a sneer. “If there is not to be confidence between man and wife, where is it to be found, I should like to know ?” Hence this order, although it caused Jane to feel a sense of painful restraint in talking to Helen, and often induced her to beg her cousin not to tell her certain things, had the effect of keeping him pretty well “ posted up” as to the condition of affairs at Eden Villa. Thus he heard all about Ralph’s engagement and his resolve to go into lodgings. That was so far satisfactory, as it deprived the family of one small source of support. The increasing difficulties with tradesmen also gratified him, and he was glad to learn that the shadow of Mr Copple’s claim was beginning to excite alarm. He was a little surprised that the publisher had not been more urgent in his demands, but that, no doubt, would come all in good time. Helen’s inability to find fresh situations gave him considerable satisfaction. That, too, he thought was in the rightjdirection. But he did not at all welcome the news of her engagement as governess to Mrs Fleming’s daughter. The payment she would receive for this service must be quite a little fortune to her, and would, at any rate, go far to render the Musgraves fearless of their debts t J the tradespeople. There was one point in the information he thus extorted from his wife that puzzled him not a little. He could not understand Mark Elliot’s renewal of his relations with Mrs Fleming after he had so ostentatiously refused to visit her. Whitf was the meanlag of this? There was some mystery about it that he could not fathom. He questioned Jane very closely indeed on this subject, and gathered facta from her reluctant admissions from which he began ta draw inferences. Mrs Fleming was an extremely handsome widow, very rich and generous, was she? And Dr Mark Elliot used to visit her day after day, although she had nothing the matter with her, did he? Then, after refusing to continue his visits, he went to visit her again because she had got a scratched face or something. Hum—ha! he could not quite make that out, But it looked a little curious. "Was there “anything up”—so he put it—between Elliot and the fair widow? And if so, why should he introduce Helen into her house? This puzzled him. Might it not be useful to make a few inquiries on the spot ? Ho would take a stroll one day in the neighborhood of that little house in Mayfair and reconnoitre. Perhaps he might pick up some information—perhaps DOt. He got more out of Jane than from Oliver Crayke, but that faithful ally did his best for him. He was still constant in bis visits to Eden Villa, where he was regarded as quite a friend of the family, and comforted the poet by his sympathy—or rather by his patient listening to the poet’s complainings —as he had previously flattered him by hearing and applauding his readings of the * Epic. But he did not learn much that the doctor regarded as important or useful. As an occasional visitor to the house, Mr Crayke pointed out, his opportunities of observation were naturally limited, and hence there were many things which Dr VVy ml desired to know, but on which his friend could give him no information whatever. “Of course, Crayke,”he would say, “yon quite understand why I ask these questions?” “ Quite,’” was the reply. “Naturally, I feel the greatest interest in the family,” continued the doctor, “and desire that they should get into no very serious scrape. You see, I cannot go there often, as it is so painful for me to observe their troubles and to feel that 1 have so little power to help them. But I wish to keep my eye upon them, for if anything really disastrous were to threaten them, I need hardly say that I would fly at once to their assistance.” “ It is very good of you,” Oliver Crayke was, indeed, beginning thoroughly to appreciate his excellent host. He saw that the doctor had some strong motive in his watchful care of the Musgraves and their interests, and being of an inquiring turn of mind, ho set himself to find out what that motive was. And he was not long in discovering the feeling which Dr Wynd entertained towards Helen Mus grave, as denoted by his demeanor in her firesence, nor was he slow in drawing an inerence therefrom. “Ah !” he said to himself, “ passions of I that sort lead men to do odd things sometimes. Many a great murder has sprung from a man’s love of a woman, even when it is as hopeless as in this case ; and but for that first experience of my friend, there is really no knowing what ho might not do to make the way clear for his purpose. And this wife of his stands very much in the way. Of course he could do nothing till she is gone, and he is setting to work in a very clever manner, though the process may be a little slow.” The proceedings on the part of Dr AA ynd which thus attracted his friend’s notice were of a kind that requires some explanation. It will be remembered that in many ways Abel Wynd did not display that care for his wife’s health which he so often professed. But his well-meant efforts to aggravate her pulmonary disease were often frustrated by Helen’s tender forethought and irresistible influence. Helen, however, could not always be at the Wynds’ house, and could not prevent certain well-considered arrangements which the doctor made for the sake of his wife. He never allowed her to have a fire in her solitary bed-chamber, no matter what was the state of the weather, owing to the high price of coals, and he constantly urged her to take plenty of open-air exercise, as coddling herself within doors tended to make her more delicate. It was, he said, even better that she should go out in the rain and fog than that she should miss her daily walk. This was the course he prescribed for her; but she was not to speak of it to Helen, as that young lady would be eure to mention it to her lover, Dr Mark Elliot, who was equally sure to condemn it, simply out of a spirit of contradiction and professional jealousy.
What his wife wanted, he declared, was air—plenty of fresh air. Hence it was the doctor’s invariable practice to compel his wife to sit with windows and doors at least partially open. The ventilation thus obtained, he argued, was the best thing possible for her lungs, and he gave scientific for his theory, too abstruse for exposition in these pages, but simply unanswerable by nowprofessional persons. Strange to say, notwithstanding all this tender care,_ Jane Wynd got nn better; but her tits of coughing became far more frequent and violent, so that the poor woman was wasted almost to a shadow. “ It's my belief,” said Sarah one day, “ that he w aits to kill you.” “ Sarah !” exclaimed her mistress, “ yon must not say that. If you repeat such an observation wc must part.” “ Oh, very well, missis,” replied Sarah rather sulkily ; “ then I says nothing.” But she made a mental note that sho would speak to Miss Musgrave about it, and she did. The result was that Helen interfered in more than one arrangement made for the benefit of her cousin’s health, and got it altered ; but Mrs Wynd easily learnt that her faithful servant had been speaking to Helen, and warned her not to do so in future. “If you talk to Miss Musgrave in this way,” she said, “and my husband comes to hear of it, you will not stop in this house another hour.” “ Ah ! well then,” muttered Sarah, “ 1 m shut up again.” And she offended no further than by making careless mistakes in closing windows that ought to have been left open ; throwing lighted matches into the unkindlcd fuel in the room where her mistress was sitting in her husband’s absence, and causing it to burn thereby ; losing Mrs Wynd’s boots on wet days when she ought to have gone out for her daily “ constitutional,” and declaring she “ could not find them anywhere,” and otherwise counteracting Dr Wynd’s best efforts. Abel Wynd himself was not always at home. He had literally no acquaintances but the Musgraves and his bosom friend, Oliver Crayke, The former, as we have seen, he now rarely visited ; while even the society of the latter, excellent listener ns he was, sometimes palled upon him. He needed change, recreation, and he took it freely. How and where he obtained it perhaps we need not ask too curiously. He was a temperate man, and was not in the habit of frequenting places where dissipation took the form of indulgence in intoxicating drinks. Still he had his simple pleasures, such ns they were, and these not unfrequently detained him from home to a very late hour of the night, and sometimes till early in the morning, When he came in, he entered the house very quietly with the aid of his latch-key : and his wife, sleeping as she did in her own room, rarely was aware of the hour of his arrival. Of course, this was a point of no consequence, as, even if she had known of his late return, Mrs Wynd, we need hardly say, would have been the last woman to take her husband to task for his wanderings from the domestic hearth. So Abel Wynd came and went as ho listed, and no man or woman said him nay. Naturally, in the absence of her husband, Mrs Wynd was left very much alone. Sho was not always solitary, as sometimes she enjoyed the pleasure of of the society of her dearly-loved Helen, undisturbed by any other visitor. Evenings which they could spend together for hours without interruption were the happiest moments of her life ; but Helen could not be with her every night, for must she not be at home, not only to pursue her studies, but to receive her lover, and enjoy those pleasant chats with him in the back parlor of Eden Villa ? Welcome, but many degrees less so, of course, than the visits of Helen, were those of Oliver Crayke, who, if ho did not do much to entertain her, was at least “ company,” and he spent many an evening at Dr Wynd’s house when the master was out, and consoled Mrs Wynd in her loneliness. lie did not talk much to her, or sho to him. She would sit there at her needlework, and he reading some book he had brought with him in one of the capacious pockets of his long gray coat; for the AVynds did not stand on ceremony with Mr Crayke, and ho made himself thoroughly “at home” in their house. Abel Wynd was not at all jealous. “ Who,” he reflected, “ would care to make love to that miserable bag of bones ?” So ho did not at all mind Oliver Crayke’s sitting alone with his wife in his absence. Besides, he trusted his tried friend implicitly, and that friend showed his friendship by sometimes sitting up for Wynd himself, after his wife had gone to bed, and welcoming him home at midnight, or later. There he w’ould sit reading by the fireside, making himself quite comfortable, and Dr Wynd was never surprised to see him there, however late the hour might be. When Mrs Wynd had gone to bed—she never, in her husband’s absence, sat up later than 11 p.m.—and Sarah also was wrapped in sweet slumber, Oliver Crayke did not always sit quietly by the fireside, and we have more than once described how he was engaged when alone in his friend’s apartments, and exposed to no risk of interruption, Yet nothing had come of his active researches. No accident had yet revealed to him the w hereabouts of that for which he pursued so unremitting and persevering a quest. But no cat sitting quietly at the mouse’s hole, no spider hiding itself in its lairwith finger on its slender tell-tale thread, awaiting the rush of some wandering fly into its mesh, watched for its prey more patiently than did Oliver Crayke for that which he sought. Important events are often surrounded by very trivial circumstances, and it is fre--1 quently necessary to consider the latter in order to arrive at a true appreciation of the former. And an event occurred at the house of Dr Wynd one night to which were attached circumstances that call for some observation, Oliver Crayke had recently left behind him at his friend’s residence a book. It was a curious old book, said by the owner to be rare and very valuable. It was a chronicle of various events in a certain period of the past century, and included an account of a notable murder which had attracted Di Wynd’s attention. He asked leave to borrow this volume, to w’hich Mr Crayke readily assented. Dr Wynd read what interested him in the book, and then told his friend that ho might take it back whenever it pleased him to do so. Now it so happened that some days after the volume was first left in Dr Wynd’s hands, that worthy gentleman went out on one of his evening expeditions—whither or for what purpose matters not. But shortly before his departure ho loft the borrowed volume on tho pedestal table in his back sitting room, or study, telling his wife that Mr Crayke might carry it away with him if he thought proper to do so, ami if he should chance to call. Ho had deposited the book on tho right-hand corner of the table in question nearest the door, so that it might more easily catch his visitor’s eye if he should enter the room. Dr Wynd went out for his evening’s pleasure, and ho had not been gone long when Oliver Crayke camo in. It was an old story, his reception hy the wifo in bet husband’s absence. Little conversation passed between them. Ho seated himself in an armchair by the fireside, drew out a book and proceeded to read it, while Mrs Wynd sat opposite to him, sewing. It might seem an unsociable sort of way of passing the evening, but it was their way, and satisfied both of them. In the course of this silent interview, Mrs Wynd chanced to remember her husband’s message. “ Dr Wynd,” she said, “has loft out that book you lent him, Mr Crayke. It is in the other room. Shall I fetch it for you ?” “ Fray do not trouble yourself, Mrs Wynd,” replied Mr Crayke. “I will take it myself before I go,” Little other conversation took place after that; and at last the hour arrived for Mrs Wynd to retire, and, bidding her visitor good-night, sho went up stairs to her bedroom. When she had withdrawn, when Sarah had also gone to bed, and the house was quiet, Oliver Crayke, as on so many previous occasions, began to bestir himself. He rose from his chair and softly stepped to the door and opened it, listening intently to assure himself that all was still. Then, lighting the candle left on the passage table for Dr Wynd’s use, he stole quietly into tho back parlor, at that moment in darkness. Hold-
ing the light above his head, he took a cursory survey of the chamber, when he perceived his own book lying on the pedestal tabic. He was about to lift it, when he paused, for another object caught his eye. It was lying close to the volume, and it glittered in the light of the candle. Bending his head to examine the gleaming object, he became aware of its nature. It was a bunch of keys. A bunch of keys lying there by accident—leftthcrcby accident. By whom? Obviously they could be no other than the keys belonging to hia host, Dr Abel Wynd. There were six smaller and two larger, and one of the latter was Dr W’ynd’s streetdoor latch-key. Oliver Crayke at first laid no hand on these precious articles, but surveyed them as they lay there, and reflected. That bunch of keys must have been left behind by their owner in a moment of forgetfulness. The presence of the latchkey argued that he could not obtain entrance unnoticed without it. He therefore could disturb no one in tho house without giving warning of his approach by ringing tho street door bell. And the other keys—the one larger, tho others smaller what jealously-locked drawers and cupboards might they not open ? To what hidden secrets might they not give access ? He noted the position of those keys ; how they lay on the right-hand corner of the table nearest the door, next to his own book; how the longest key crossed the others just as the bunch had been carelessly left behind. Then he lighted the gas and placed the candle on the table. Next he stole to the door and listened. All was still. He returned to the table and took the keys in his hand, carefully, noiselessly lifting them, and looked around the room. There was a long oaken cupboard in one corner of the apartment, and there was the table before him, while in another part of the room stood an iron safe. The smaller keys doubtless fitted the locks of the cupboard and tho table drawers, and the larger that of tho safe. Oliver Crayke now saw that he had secured a chance such as accident had never before offered him, and probably never would again. One by one he opened every drawer of the table with its appropriate key and examined its contents. But nothing, apparently, of importance met his eye. Next he unlocked the tall cupboard and searched in its every pigeon-hole and recess. Nothing he found there but old papers and odds and ends seemingly of little value. At last he tried the safe, unlocking it with the larger key. It contained various business books, together with money and more papers, folded and docketed. AN ithin the safe, and forming part of it, was a locker, and the smallest key on tho bunch fitted the lock. He inserted it and turned
1 Q e it, opening the locker-door. And there, e standing upright within the locker, were hj two small glass bottles with glass stoppers, r both containing liquid colorless as water, the one wholly, the other nearly full, j while beside them lay an old faded manu--3 script bound in vellum. e Oliver Cryko felt that the moment for c which he had so long watched and waited ,f had come, and that ho had at last discovered t Abel Wynd’a secret—the means by which t he had seemed the removal of Stephen v Musgrave. y The bottles with their contents cond stituted that secret; the manuscript the d key to it. Therefore he first secured the t manuscript. He took it out of the safe and carried it r to the tabic, and seated himself in the s doctor’s chair. And he sat there for mi t hour and more conning the aged manuscript r page by page, till he came to one on which t his whole attention was riveted. There ho e sat as though his very soul was absorbed in n that page, bending over it, with one hand s upon it, and the other straying through his y long yellow-red hair, as was his wont when d engaged in thought or study, d Tic read that page again and again, and d yet again, until the words upon it must have 0 been stamped upon his brain in letters indelh iblo. Then he rose, returned to the safe, i, took out the two bottles and carefully ex’B amined them. He paused for a moment to a reflect. Withdrawing the keys from the n safe, he opened the tall oak cupboard and r extracted from it one of a number of clean n unused phials secured by a Ho reIf locked the cupboard, and returning once a more to the safe, took out one of the bottles, ■s that which was full, and carefully poured t the whole of its contents into the phial, g Again ho paused to reflect and look about d him, and on the shelf above the fireplace he observed a carafe of water. This he s lifted down, and with a portion of its contents a he filled the bottle ho had emptied. Holding it up to the light he perceived that the ,t harmless fluid exactly resembled that which e it had replaced. And now the work was complete. Rea storing the bottles and the manuscript to t the secret spot where he had found them, Oliver Crayke closed and fastened the iron r locker and then the safe itself, while the a third bottle, with its precious contents, he r deposited in his pocket. He looked around him carefully to see that nothing had been dropped on the floor, hj nothing displaced, nothing forgotten; and a then ho placed the bunch of keys in prea cisely the same position as before—the e longest key crossing the others, on the r table beside his own book, where he bad c found them, g ’ After whioh he turned off the gas, took r the still burning candle in his hand, and 1 left the room. So quiet, so cautious, gp deliberate bad
t been liis every movement, that no one j listening outsifle the door of that room 1 could have guessed that it was tenanted. . With 1 footstep he passed into the passage, leaving on the hall table the \ candle he had used, aucl extinguishing it. Then, putting on his hat and ids long gray coat, he opened the street door, and crept out of the house. And as he crossed Abe! VV ynd 8 threshold he murmured to himself: At last—at last !” i (To be continued,)
PAID IN HIS OWN COIN., Issue 7922, 1 June 1889, Supplement
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