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PAID IN HIS OWN COIN.

■By Edward J. Goodman, Author of ‘ Too Curious.’

VOL. 111.-CHAPTER IX. INQUIRIES. Matthew Musgravo was convalescent. "Thanks to Dr Elliot’s skill and Helen’s ■careful nursing the effects of that noxious drug speedily disappeared, and the poet’s general health gradually improved. Yet he still needed medical attention, and Dr Elliot continued to visit him st intervals. But in thus continuing to call at Eden Villa Mark had another purpose beyond his desire to restore Mr Musgrave, and that purpose could not be curried out till his patient’s health was more completely reestablished.

Meanwhile the re’ations between Mark Und Helen remained as at the time when, fearing for her father’s life, she went to beg his assistance. To him she was still “ Miss Musgrave,” and his manner towards her, although always courteous and even kind, was cold and distant. Never on any occasion was the slightest allusion made by either to those events of the past which had parted them as lovers. Their conversation 'was strictly confined to the subject of Mr Musgrave’s health and indifferent matters. Mr Musgrave, though still partially crippled, was at last enabled to leave his bo 1 and join his family once more in their sitting room. This was a cause of satisfaction to all his household, but they were still in grievous trouble. At leugth that long-dreaded blow had fallen, and Mr Copple had commenced proceeding for the recovery of the large sum which ho claimed. In a few weeks Mr Musgrave must either satisfy the demand or face the alternative of bankruptcy and ruin.

What was to be done ? Helen, his sole resource, was powerless. The help derived from Oliver Crayke’s liberal payments for board and lodging bad been withdrawn; Helen had lost by tho departure of Mrs Fleming and Una her best engagement, and the duty of attending upon her father had compelled her to give up much of her other vork. Little by little Mrs Flemiug’s generous gift was melting away, and therefore was no longer available as a “sop” to ’the publisher. To him she went and made ■an appeal, but Mr Copple, though touched by the beautiful young lady’s pleadings, •declared that the matter of his claim was now in the hands of his lawyers, and he •could not possibly grant further delay. Ho had waited long and patiently already, as Helen was forced to admit, and really he could wait no longer. In all this, of course, he was acting under the instructions of Oliver Crayke, but he was bound not to reveal the nature of his compact with that profitable customer, who had made it a condition of his guarantee that Mr Copple should preserve absolute secrecy on the •Lubject. The publisher could depend upon him if all else failed, but only in that event.

Very bitter was the vexation of Mr Mus■gravo and his wife and younger daughter at the course which had alienated from them their most useful friends. Dr Wynd and Mr Crayke having been driven from the house, on whom could they rely ? “It is a dreadful position dreadful,” «aid Mrs Musgrave ; “and I really do not ace What is to bo done.”

Even Tessie, fertile as she was in expedients, had no suggestion to make. All she could say was : “ Well, Helen has got ks into this trouble, and she will have to get us cut of it somehow, though how she is to do it I haven’t the least idea.”

And now a fresh difficulty arose. Mark Elliot had resolved that Abel Wynd should be brought to punishment for the criminal attempt which he believed he had made. Such was tho secondary purpose for which he continued to visit Eden Villa. As soon as he considered Mr Musgrave well enough to discuss this subject, he began to press it upon him. “You must take some action, my dear sir,” he said ; “ that man’s attempt on your life must not be passed over. What he has done to you he may do—l believe has done already—to others, and it is time that his career of crime should he brought to an end.” “ I think you are wrong, Dr Elliot, replied the poet. “ I believe—l really believe—you arc mistaken, as you were before in my unfortunate brother’s case, I have not studied human nature in pursuit of my poetic labors for nothing, and I cannot reconcile tho idea of guilt on the part of my niece’s husband with any of my theories of life.” Mark Elliot felt strongly tempted to utter an exclamation of impatience, but he checked himself.

“At least,” he said, “some investigation should bo made to test the very strong suspicion that the case suggests.” “ How can I make investigations ? ’ pleaded the poet; “I have no means of doing so. I have no money, and even now I am threatened with proceedings from my publisher —I am a beggar, a dependent on my own children for bread.” Dr Elliot was alone with hia patient just then, but at this moment Mrs Miugraveand Tessio made their appearance. As soon as the former heard what had been the nature of the conversation between the doctor and her husband, she exclaimed : “ What! prosecute Dr Wynd, after all he has suffered ? That would almost be a crime in itself.” “1 really think, Dr Elliot,” sard Tessie pettishly, “ you must have been getting those ideas cut of novels. People’s relations and friends don’t go about trying to poison them in real life.” Mark Elliot saw it was useless to continue the discussion. A little more of this, and be felt ho should lose his temper. Helen, of course, was mere reasonable in her arguments and objscticLs. “ Even if Dr Wynd be guilty,” she said, “what proof have you of hia guilt, and where are you to obtain it ?” “By making inquiries,” replied Dr Elliot. “ I am determined, if possible, to bring this crime home to him, and if your father will not take action in the matter, I intend to do so mvsolf.” “ Bat what means have you of pursuing such an inquiry ?” asked Helen, “Do you propose to employ detectives ? ’ “ Not in the first instance, at any rate, answered Mark. “ But I have a plan which I shall at least attempt. That man, Oliver Crayke, is deeply compromised in this affair. Ho is either Wynd’s confederate or his dupe. If the former, I may, perhaps, be able to terrify him into admissions implicating that scoundrel. If he be merely a crackbrained and eccentric simpleton, which I think more probable, bis eyes may be opened to the real nature of bis friend’s character, and ho may bo able to give important evidence. At any rate, I shall begin with Oliver Crayke.” “ But how shall you find him ? “ I know where he lives. At a strange old mansion called Gore House, not very far from here. For some reason or other he has kept it up oven while he was residing with you. If he is innocent, he has probably gone back to hia old home ; if he has been in guilty partnership with Wynd, he will perhaps have disappeared. In that case I must adopt other measures, for I am determined to get to the bottom of this villainy.” . Helen was silent for a moment. She coaid not now speak with full confidence to tho man who was once her lover, and she felt some difficulty in expressing the misgiving that disturbed her mind. “ You will not,” she said with hesitation —“ you will not do anything—hasty ?” “ You may depend upon that, Mias Musgrave,” replied Mark. “ I will bo sure of my ground this time before taking public action. But lam resolved to do my best to freo your family from the danger of this man’s schemes. Jane Wynd must bo made safe from him, and when she is thus relieved from hia influence, no doubt she will be able to assist your father in hia difficulties.” “I am sure she-wonld do so, if she could, said Helen, with a sigh at tho thought that at one time her cousin’s aid would have been of inestimable benefit to herself and Mark, Of what avail would it be now that she and her lover were parted ? ..... Mark Elliot had no difficulty in finding Gore House, for it was well known to the local police. ... . . ~, >' £ queer place,” said the inspector at the

station nearest to his surgery; “ and there have been queer doings there in days gone by. How any deoent person could be got to live in such a haunt beats me. But they say about here that Mr Crayke is a rum customer.” Dr Elliot was unable to discover whether Oliver Crayko still occupied his uncanny dwelling, and felt that ho must be cautious in asking questions. If Crayke were to hear that he was making inquiries about him, it was not unlikely that ho might take alarm and escape. So he determined to visit Gore House without forewarning, and took an early opportunity of carrying out his intention. He proceeded to the district in which jt was situated, and was not long in discovering it. When ho arrived in front of the grim building he was struck at once with its darkly ominous aspect. “A strange looking don !” he thought. “It is just the eort of place that such a ghostly creature as Crayke might expected to inhabit. But does he inhabit it now ? We shall soon see.”

Thereupon ho pulled the boll at the outer gate, and listened to its long clanging in the distance. Ho had several minutes to wait, so many, indeed, that he was about to ting again. But just as he had placed his hand upon the bcll-handlo the gate turned on its rusty binges, and he found himself face to face with the grotesque dwarf, Jabez. The sight of the quaint, ugly creature gave him a shock of surprise, “ A curious janitor this!” was the thought that passed through his mind. “The man matches both the house and its master.”

“What’s your, business?” asked the dwarf, with a suspicious and halt-frightened glance. “ Does Mr Oliver Ciaj’ke live here?” inquired Dr Elliot. “ lie does.” “ Is he here now ?” “ lie is.” “ Can I speak with him ?” “ \\ ho are you ?” “ My name is Dr Mark Elliot.” Tho dwarf stared and seemed to have some difficulty in graspingthe name thus given, so Mark repeated it, and the deformed creature went shambling away, muttering it to himself, and shaking his head, as though the effort were too much for his memory. It was a blunt reception, but so far satisfaetoty that it proved to Dr Elliot that Mr Crayke had made no attempt to hide himself or escape. This gave him hope. Presently Jabez returned. “Como in,” was all he said, and Dr Elliot followed his uncouth form across the wild, neglected garden, up and the broken stones teps into the bouse. Mark with a rapid glance took in the most salient points that met his eye, as he penetrated further into the recesses of Oliver Crayke’s gloomy abode. “ A strange place, indeed !” he mused. “As strange as its occupier.” Then the dwarf pushed open tho of the panelled sitting room, and stepped aside for the visitor to enter.

Oliver Crayke was sitting very quietly by his table, before a book, a huge folio, which he had been reading; with his long thin hand toying with his yellow-red hair, just as Mark had seen him many a time in the sitting room at Eden Vida. He rose and bowed gravely as Dr Elliot entered, with no look of surprise or inquiry oa his mask-like face. He. only asked: “You wish to speak with me ?” and motioned Mark to take a seat. Then ho waited to learn his visitor’s bsuinese. “I have come on an unpleasant, but necessary, errand, Mr Crayke,” said Dr Elliot. ‘'You stances of Mr Mnsgrave’s recent illness were such as to excite grave suspicion.” “ Y’cs,” replied Mr Crayke, in a tone of quiet assent. “That suspicion, to my mind,” continued Mark, “ can point but in one direction.” “ Indeed ?” “It points to the possibility—the probability—that an attempt has been made by Dr Abel Wynd on Mr Musgrave’s life.” “ You think so ?” “ I do. Now, Mr Crayko, I am aware that yen regard that man as your friend.” “ I did." It was but a word, yet the slight emphasis placed on it was full of significance, and gave Mark Elliot much encouragement. “ I fear,” he went on, “that Dr Wynd has deceived you.” “ It may be so,” replied Mr Crayke. “ And,” continued Dr Elliot, “he has certainly placed you in a very false position.” “ He has.’’ “ You cannot but see that if poison were administered through your hands, however unknowingly on your part, the fact must lay you open to some unpleasant remark.” “No doubt.” “ I see you appreciate the position, and I am sure you did not, as a sensible man, complain of the order which I gave that none but his family should enter Mr Musgravo’s room.” “ I did not.” “ I can well understand that you felt uncomfortable in the house after what had happened, and therefore desired not to remain there.” “ That was so.” “It was only natural. I think, therefore, under the circumstances, I have a claim on your assistance to help me as far as you can to clear up this dark mystery.” “ You have.” “I am glad to hear you say so, Mr Crayko. Now, my dear sir, do you know of any fact or facts that may throw light upon that mystery ?” “ It may be that I do.” “Could you mention them, or any of them ?” “ Not at present.” “ Why not ?” “ It is a matter for consideration.” “ Do I understand that you yourself suspect Wynd of foul play ?” “Ido.” “ And you have grounds for such suspicion ?” “I think so.” “Then, after you have considered the matter, may I rely upon you to give me such information as you possess ?” “ You may.” “ Pardon me if I ask a farther question. Have you seen Dr Wynd since you left Eden Villa':” “No.” “ You have not called at.bis house ?’’ “No.” “ Nor he at yours?” “ No.” “And your ncqimintauce with him has therefore ceased ?” “It has.” Dr Elliot had got on so well thus far with Iris witness that he was strongly tempted to inquire more particularly as to the relations between him and his quondam friend, but Crayko stopped him, saying : “I would rather not answer auy more questions just now, Dr Elliot.” He spoke very quietly, very courteously, but there was a firmness in his tone which Mark did not fail to note. He saw it was useless then to pursue his inquiries, and, after all, ho had done very well. So be thanked Mr Crayke cordially for his frank replies, enlarged somewhat on the iniquity of Abel Wynd’s conduct, and expressed his belief that Mr Crayke desired as strongly as he himself did to bring that base man to justice. Mark was about to rise and take his leave, when Mr Crayke stopped him. “You will take a glass of wine?” he suggested. ~ In spite of himself Dr Elliot could not help showing a sign of embarrassment at this offer. He colored a little and courteously declined it. Mr Crayke never smiled, but there seemed almost a touch of humor in tho remark he then made. # . r)) “You would not care ta drink my wine .' Mark Elliot was quick to understand the meaning of tho observation. It implied that he feared to drink in the house the man who had been tho medium of administering poison to another. But he felt ashamed of being thought afraid, and after all, even if Mr Crayke were deceiving him, he was not likely to keep wine ready poisoned in his house for any chance visitor, like the villain in tho melodrama. So ho said : w _ “ I will not refuse your offer, Mr Crayke, since.you press it.” Mr Crayke then went to the door and called to Jabez. Tho dwarf appeared, and in Dr Elliot’s hearing his master ordered

him to bring a bottle of some particular wine which he described, together with R “ It is a very old sherry,” Mr Crayke explained. “ I found it in the collar of this house. It must have been there forty years, at least. 1 * This started a conversation about the strange house, and Dr Elliot asked many questions concerning it, which Mr Crayke briefly but freely answered. 110 admitted that it was not a dwelling that most persons would choose, but it happened to catch his taste or fancy. The life he lived in it suited him for a time ; and when tired of solitude and study he travelled, or sought a little quiet society. Altogether, Mr Craykc’s account of himself, though pointing to some eccentricity, was in no way extraordinary or astonishing. And his wine was indeed superb. It was a mellow brown sherry of that rare sort which connoisseurs covet and so seldom secure, and the bottle that it, sealed as when the liquor had been first transferred from the wood, was opened by Jabez on the spot. It was impossible, therefore, that it could have been tampered with.

Mr Crayke filled two glasses of the precious liquid, pledging his visitor, and drinking first, as in courtesy bound. Mark Elliot was by no means insensible to the good things of life, and he relished a glass of fine old wine as keenly as most men. Neycr had he tasted any liquor better of its kind than that ancient brown sherry, and Mr Crayke had no difficulty in persuading him to take another glass and yet another ere he departed. So, having shaken hards with his host, and promised to visit him again, he quitted Gore House, his spirits stimulated alike by tho generous liquor and the hope with which Mr Craykc’s words had inspired him. “ Ho is an odd creature,” he reflected ; “justa little cracked. That reluctance to speak at length is often as much a sign of madness as loquacity in other eases. He gives me tho impression of a man who had got something bottled up in his mind which he was afraid to let out, and keeps silent lost he should commit himself. But his conduct about Wynd is very satisfactory. Ho evidently has found out that that scoundrel has humbugged him, and understands the false position in which he is placed. I wonder what he knows or suspects about him. He must have discovered something by his frequent visits at tnat fellow’s house. But I must give him time to think it over, and I have no doubt he will throw valuable light on this business. Then if wo can only get that scamp locked up, and his wife free to help her family, ah ! it will not be long before Helen and I come to an understanding. At least, it will not be my fault if wo do not.”

So Mark Elliot went his way homeward more cheerful than he had felt for many a dav.

As soon as his visitor had left him, Oliver Crayke was ee'z d with one of those fits of excitement wKicK now and again disturbed him. He started up and paced Ids room with hasty steps, his eyes glaring, his fingers twitching, and his whole frame trembling with agitation. With a strong effort of self-control he contrived at last to calm himself. Then he resumed hia seat, and became plunged in thought. “ I have it now,” he mentally exclaimed. '* Now I see my course clear. I might have expected this—that the doctor would bestir himself and make inquiries. And this will serve my purpose well. Yes, yes ; suspecting Wynd, he comes to me for information. Ho does not suspect me, but Wynd does. He must suspect rao by this time. < J jod. Wo shall therefore the better understand one another. The period has arrived when I must show him my cards, or some of them, and then we shall play the game together. And I shall win this time. Ah ! it is a fine scheme. To be tried for the murder of the doctor who cut such a figure in that other trial, and yet with no more risk than I may choose to create. Yes ; I think that plan A'ill work. Abel Wynd will jump at my proposal; he will even overleap Ins fears ; and then—ah !it will bo a great case -u wonderful case!”

( To he continued.)

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD18890824.2.38.2

Bibliographic details

PAID IN HIS OWN COIN., Issue 7994, 24 August 1889, Supplement

Word Count
3,442

PAID IN HIS OWN COIN. Issue 7994, 24 August 1889, Supplement

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