THE UNEXPECTED OCCURS

Gebb found it impossible to discover the owner of that third-class
railway ticket. He went himself to Norminster to find out, if
possible, to whom it had been issued, but all in vain. The
station-master had taken another situation in Scotland, the ticket
clerk was absent on his annual holidays, and none of the porters could
remember any particular person who had gone up to London on that
particular day. On the whole, circumstances seemed to be against Gebb
in following this clue, and after several vain attempts he gave it up,
at all events for the present This he confessed to Parge, who at once
reproved him for faint-heartedness, and preached a lengthy sermon on
the folly of being discouraged.

“You don’t expect roast ducks to fly into your mouth, do you?” said
Parge, indignantly. “Of course, it is no easy task to hunt down a
criminal. We’d have all the bad ‘uns in gaol if such was the case.
You’ve only been a week looking after this ticket business, yet you
shy off just because you can’t find out about it straight away. You
never were a detective, Absalom, and you never will be!”

“But just look here,” cried the badgered Absalom. “What can I do? I’ve
been—-”

“I know where you’ve been–to Norminster,” growled Parge, “and I know
what you’ve done–nothing. You think I’m past work. I saw that the
other day. Well, from nat’ral infirmity, or too much fat, so I am; but
in nowise else, Absalom, so don’t you believe it. If I was in your
shoes, which I ain’t, I’d write up to that station-master in Scotland,
and ask him if he knows of any partic’ler person as left Norminster on
that day. It ain’t a big place, and if he’s a sharp one he might
remember.”

“I’ve written to the station-master,” cried Gebb, crossly.

“Oh, have you?” returned Parge, rather disappointed. “Then I’ll be
bound you don’t know what you’re going to do about that ticket clerk.”

“Yes, I do. I’m going to wait till he comes back, and then question
him at once. In about a week I’ll know all those two know, though I
dare say it won’t be much. And look you here, Simon,” cried Gebb,
warming up, “it’s all very well your pitching into me over this case;
but is it an easy one? ‘Cause if you say it is, it ain’t. I never in
my born days came across such a corker of a case as this one. Who
would have thought that Ferris and the girl would be mixed up in
it?–yet they were. And who would have thought them guilty? Everybody!
And were they guilty? You know they weren’t. Can you find Dean? No,
you can’t, though you tried yourself when his trail was still fresh.
Then how the devil do you expect me to find him after all these years?
It’s very easy to sit in your chair and pick holes, Simon, but when
you come to work the case for yourself, you’ll be as up a tree as I am
at this blessed moment.”

“I don’t deny that the case is hard, Absalom.”

“Hard!” echoed Gebb, with scorn; “it’s the most unnat’ral case as ever
was. I’ve only got one blessed clue after all my hard work, and that’s
the railway ticket; which, so far as I can see, is about as much good
as a clock would be to a baby.”

“Why don’t you question Mrs. Presk?”

“I have questioned her, and the servant too; and beyond the ticket,
she don’t know a blessed thing.”

“Can’t Basson help you, or Mr. Alder, or Mr. Ferris?”

“No, none of the three; they don’t know who killed Miss Gilmar, and if
it comes to a point, Simon, I don’t see why they should know.”

“It is queer that the lot of them, including the girl, should have
been in Grangebury on the very night of the murder,” said Parge, with
a musing air.

“It’s a coincidence, that’s all,” retorted Gebb, “and you know very
well in our profession there’s no end of coincidences, though if you
write them in a book people tell you they’re impossible. You can’t
accuse any one of the three of killing the old woman, as they were all
in the lecture hall the whole evening. You know all about Ferris, and
Miss Wedderburn; well, it couldn’t have been them. Mr. Basson was
lecturing; it couldn’t have been him. Mr. Alder was looking after the
money and the house, so as to get plenty of cash in for his friend; so
it couldn’t have been him. If not them, who is guilty?”

“Well, Dean must be the criminal.”

“I don’t believe it,” replied Gebb, obstinately. “And if he is, he’ll
not be hanged; for old Nick himself couldn’t hunt him out. By the way,
Simon, what kind of a man was he to look at–to the naked eye, so to
speak?”

“I don’t know what he’ll be like now,” replied Parge, briskly; “but he
was uncommonly good-looking in the dock, I can tell you. Just the man
to take a woman’s fancy: tall, and dark and smiling.”

“Any particular mark?” asked Gebb, professionally.

“Well, he wasn’t scarred or scratched in any way that I know of,”
replied Parge, reflectively, “but he had a frown.”

“Get along! Every one’s got a frown,” said Gebb, in a disgusted tone.

“Not of his sort,” was Parge’s answer. “Since sitting here, Absalom,
I’ve been reading a heap of books I never read before. Amongst others
one called ‘Redgauntlet,’ by a baronet, Sir Walter Scott. Know it?”

“No, I don’t. What has it got to do with Dean?”

“There was a fellow in it,” said Parge, following his own reflections,
“as had a horseshoe mark over his nose when he frowned. Quite queer it
was.”

“Must have been,” said Gebb, derisively. “And has Dean a horseshoe?”

“No. But when he scowls, or frowns, like this”–here Parge made a
hideous face–“he’s got a queer mark, deep as a well and quite
straight, between his eyebrows. I’d know him from among a thousand by
it. Seems to cut his forehead in two like. If you see a man with a
mark like that when he’s in a rage, Absalom, just you nab him, for
that’s Dean.”

“Stuff!” said Gebb, impatiently. “Lots of men wrinkle up into lines
when they get out of temper. I’ve seen foreheads like Clapham Junction
for lines.”

“Not so deep,” answered Parge, shaking his head, “and not straight
down between the eyes. Most men frown in lines which run across the
forehead when they raise their eyebrows like; but Dean draws
everything up to a deep mark as dips just between the eyebrows and on
to the nose. It’s the queerest mark I ever saw; and whatever disguise
he puts on he can’t smooth that furrow out. A baby could tell him by
it.”

“Hum!” said Gebb, who had been thinking. “Now you come to talk of it,
Simon, that young Ferris has a mark like that, but not very deep.”

“He’s young yet, Absalom; but I dare say he takes after his father.
Well, all I say is that there’s no other way in which you’ll spot
Dean. He may grow old, and white, and shaky, or he may disguise
himself in all kinds of ways, but he can’t rub out that brand of Cain
as Nature has set on him. I said it before, and I say it again.”

“I’ll look round for a man of that sort,” said Gebb, rising to take
his leave, “but I can’t say I’ve much hope of finding him. Dean’s been
lost for so long that I dare say he’s lost for ever. Well, good-bye,
Simon. I won’t see you for a day or two. There’s heaps for me to do.”

“Where are you going?” grunted the fat man.

“I’m off to ask Mr. Alder to let me search in Kirkstone Hall for that
confession of Miss Gilmar’s. Then I’m going down there to look it up.”

“That won’t do any good towards finding out who killed her,” said
Parge, shaking his head.

“I don’t know so much about that, Simon,” replied Gebb, coolly. “I
wouldn’t be a bit surprised to find as the person who killed Kirkstone
was some one quite different from those we suspect.”

“It must be either Miss G. or Miss K.,” said Parge, “and knowing the
truth about them won’t help you to spot the assassin. You look for
Dean first, Absalom, and leave the confession alone for a while.”

“No!” replied Gebb, obstinately. “I’ll look for the confession, and
fly round afterwards for Dean. You let me negotiate the job in my own
way, Simon.”

With this determination, of which Parge by no means approved, but was
unable to hinder, Gebb went off to make his last venture in solving
the mystery. By this time he was in a furious rage at his many
failures, and swore under his breath that come what might he would
hunt down and punish the unknown assassin of the wretched old woman
who had been strangled in Paradise Row. He had three designs in his
head, one of which he hoped might serve to attain the much-desired
end. Firstly, he intended to search for the confession of Miss Gilmar,
in the belief that it might throw some light on the later case.
Secondly, he resolved to follow the clue of the railway ticket, and
learn who had come up from Norminster on that fatal night to visit
Miss Gilmar, since such person–on the evidence of the ticket found in
the Yellow Boudoir–was undoubtedly her murderer. Thirdly, he was bent
upon making another search round the pawnshops to see if any of the
other jewels taken from the body had been turned into money. The
appearance of the necklace was accounted for by Edith, as she had
received it from the old woman before the assassin had arrived; but
the rings, bracelets, and hair ornaments were still missing. Sooner or
later, in order to benefit by his crime, the murderer would seek to
turn them into cash when he thought the storm had blown over. Then was
the time to trace and capture him.

The French have a proverb which runs in English, “that nothing is
certain but the unforeseen,” and certainly Gebb proved the truth of
this when he arrived at Alder’s lodgings. As yet the barrister,
pending the administration of the estate, had not moved from his rooms
in the Temple; but he intended to do so shortly, and already had
engaged handsome chambers in Half-moon Street. These, however, he was
never destined to occupy, for on the very day Gebb called to see him
he met with an accident which seemed likely to result in his death. As
one pleasure to be gained from his riches, Alder had purchased a
horse, shortly after coming into his fortune, and every morning went
riding in the Row. He was a good rider, but not having indulged in the
exercise for some years, by reason of his impecuniosity, he had lost a
portion of his skill, with the result that the horse, a fiery animal
with tricks of which Alder was ignorant, bolted unexpectedly, and
threw his rider against the rails. Alder fell across them with such
force that he had injured his spine, and now was lying in his rooms in
a crippled condition.

“Do you think he’ll get over it?” asked Gebb, when Alder’s servant was
relating the occurrence.

“No, sir,” answered the man, shaking his head. “The doctor says he’s
bound to die sooner or later. The spine is injured, and my poor master
can’t feel anything below his waist. It’s death in life already, and
the end is sure to come.”

“Can I see him?” asked the detective, after some thought.

“No, sir; the doctor left word that he was to see no one.”

With this Gebb was forced to be content; and as already he had
obtained Alder’s permission to search the Hall, he went away rather
low-spirited. It seemed hard that the man should come to an untimely
end, just when he inherited his kingdom. Moreover, he had behaved very
well in defending Ferris in the face of all evidence, and releasing
him from prison; therefore Gebb thought it just as well to send a line
to the artist and Edith, so that they might come forward in their turn
to do what they could for the man who had acted so generously towards
them both.

“It’s hard lines,” said Gebb to himself, when he had posted his
letter. “I do call it hard. Alder gained a fortune, it is true; but he
lost the woman he wished to marry, and now he loses his life. It’s a
queer world, that gives a man a pleasure only to take it away from him
again. I don’t understand the workings of Providence nohow.”

With this philosophical reflection, Gebb went home to make his plans
before going down to Norminster the next day. He had little hope of
success, however, and now that Alder was dying, he wondered, if he did
capture the murderer, if the reward would be paid to him.

“Of course it will,” he said to himself on reflection, “for if Alder
dies. Miss Wedderburn becomes mistress of the Hall.”

It was a bright and sunny day when Gebb found himself once more
at Kirkstone Hall. In the sunshine the building looked grim and
desolate. The smokeless chimneys, the closed doors, dusty windows, and
grass-grown terraces, gave the place a forlorn and wretched aspect;
and the absence of life, the silence broken only by the twittering of
the birds, the neglected gardens, created, even to the detective’s
prosaic mind, an atmosphere of menace and dread. It looked like a
place with a history; and Gebb wondered if Miss Wedderburn, on
becoming its mistress, would care to inhabit it again.

“When she marries Ferris and begins a new life, I dare say she will
seek some more cheerful abode,” he thought, as he stood on the
terrace, and looked on the silent house. “It would be foolish for a
young couple to dwell with the ghosts of the past. I am not
imaginative myself, but I should not care to live here; no, not if the
house was given to me rent free. If I were Miss Wedderburn I’d pull it
down and build a new place without a past or a ghost.”

While Gebb soliloquized thus, he heard a hoarse voice in the distance,
and saw Martin, spade on shoulder, passing across the lawn singing one
of his gruesome songs. Evidently he had caught sight of the detective
on the terrace, for not until he came towards him did he begin to
sing. Then he danced grotesquely over the green turf, croaking his
wild ditty, and looking a strange figure in the strong sunshine; yet
not unsuited to the lonely place, with its grim associations:–

“When moon shines clear my shadow and I
Dance in the silver light;
When moon lies hid in a cloudy sky
My shadow with her takes flight.
And I remain, in the falling rain,
Calling upon my shadow in vain:
‘Oh, shadow dear, I wait you here,
Alone in the lonely night.'”

When he came close to Gebb he stopped his song and dance suddenly, and
looked inquiringly at the detective with his head on one side. “What
do you want?” he croaked. “There is nothing here but death and
misery.”

“I’ve come to look at the house, Martin. Can you show me over it?”

“No, no,” said the gardener, shaking his head. “I don’t walk through
the valley of dry bones. If you sit in the Yellow Room you hear the
dead tell secrets.”

“What kind of secrets?” asked Gebb, humouring him.

“How the sister killed the brother, and how she who killed them both
laughed and laughed.

‘But she died at last in deep despair
When Satan caught her in his snare.'”

Gebb looked fixedly at the man. He had been in the house at the time
of the Kirkstone murder, so it might be that his poor wits retained a
memory of the tragedy. Was it possible that light could be thrown on
its darkness by this madman? The detective asked himself that question
once or twice as he listened to the poor creature rambling on, how
Laura had killed her brother at the instigation of Miss Gilmar.

“And is Mr. Dean innocent?” he asked suddenly.

“God and His saints know that he had no hand in it!” cried Martin,
with a remarkably sane look on his face. “A woman ruined one, a woman
slew the other; and the poor soul lies in chains–in chains.” And he
fell to weeping, as though his heart would break with sorrow and pain.

“I wonder if this is the truth,” thought Gebb. “Perhaps, after all,
Laura did murder her brother, and Miss Gilmar to save her denounced
Dean. But there is no sense to be got out of this lunatic; his
evidence would not stand in a court of law. The only thing is
to search for that confession, so the sooner I set to work the
better.–Martin,” he said, aloud, “can you show me over the house?”

“Not I! Not I! Ask old Jane. Come, and I’ll take you to old Jane;” and
shouldering his spade again, Martin walked off round the comer of the
terrace, singing:–

“God it far away, alas!
The Devil is beside us;
And as we wander thro’ the world,
He is the one to guide us.

“He gives with grin, the wage of sin;
And when the fiend hath paid us,
We stand outside the gate of Hell,
With Christ alone to aid us.”

Old Jane proved to be a grim and elderly female in a rusty black dress
and a still rustier bonnet She came out of a side door, and wiping her
hands on a coarse apron, curtsied to Gebb, while Martin, introducing
the pair with a regal wave of the hand, danced off round the corner.

“What may you be pleased to want?” asked old Jane, when the scarecrow
gardener had disappeared.

“I have received permission from Mr. Alder to look over the house,”
replied the detective, “and I wish you to show it to me.”

“There ain’t much to see, sir,” croaked the ancient dame, “it’s all
dust and darkness. I doubt if my old legs would carry me over it.”

“Oh, well, I can go by myself, Jane,” said Gebb, cheerfully.

“Mrs. Grix, if you please!” snapped Jane, indignantly. “I only allows
Miss Edith to call me by my first name. Poor pretty dear, and she’s
gone away for ever.”

“I wouldn’t be too sure of that,” rejoined Gebb, dryly. “Mr. Alder has
met with an accident and may die; in which case Miss Wedderburn will
return here as mistress.”

“Mr. Alder’s ill, is he?” said Jane, in no very regretful tone, “and
may die. Ah, well,” with a lachrymose whine, “all flesh is grass, that
it is; and if Miss Edith does come back I hope she’ll shut up the
Yeller Room.”

“For what reason, Mrs. Grix?”

“‘Cause it’s haunted by spirits,” replied Mrs. Grix, with a mysterious
look. “I’ve heard the two of ’em quarrelling there.”

“Which two? What two?” asked Gebb, who began to think that the old
lady had been at the bottle.

“Miss Gilmar and the master; they ‘aunts the Yeller Room and fights. I
knows it; ’cause I sleeps here all alone, save for Martin as lives in
the back part; an’ I hears voices, that I do.”

“I wonder you are not more afraid of that madman than of ghosts.”

Mrs. Grix smiled in a cunning and significant manner. “Oh, I ain’t
afraid of Martin, sir; no one as knows him fears him.”

“And why?” asked Gebb, sharply.

This question Mrs. Grix did not choose to hear; but mumbling and
shaking her old head, hobbled along the passages in the direction of
the Yellow Room. She ushered Gebb into this with a chuckle, and threw
open the shutters to let the sunlight shine on the faded and time-worn
decorations of the room.

“I s’pose you’ll want to see this first,” said Mrs. Grix; “most folks
likes to see a room as a murder’s been done in. There’s a stain of
blood over in that corner–master’s blood, which Miss Gilmar would
never let be wiped out I dessay master comes and looks at it, and
wishes he had his body again. He was an awful bad one–and mean!” Mrs.
Grix lifted up a pair of dirty and trembling hands. “They was both of
’em skinflints,” said she, with a nod.

“Whom are you speaking of, Mrs. Grix?”

“Of Miss Gilmar and Mr. Kirkstone, sir.”

“Did you know them?”

“Did I know them?” echoed the hag, with scorn. “Of course I knowed
them; and a bad lot the pair of ’em was. They give Miss Laurer a fine
time, I can tell you. I wonder she didn’t go off with Mr. Dean, I do.”

“Were you here when the murder took place?” asked Gebb.

“Lor’ bless yer ‘eart, I sawr the ‘ole of it,” croaked Mrs. Grix.
“Master was a-lying over there with a knife in his ‘eart, and Miss
Gilmar, she was ‘ollering for the police.”

“Did Dean kill Kirkstone?”

“Ah, that’s telling!” said Mrs. Grix, cunningly. “Don’t you ask no
questions, young man, and you won’t be told no lies.”

“You must tell me!” cried Gebb, seizing her by the wrist “I am from
Scotland Yard–a detective.” And he shook the beldame furiously.

Mrs. Grix raised a feeble wail of horror.

“Lor’, you’re perlice, are you?” she whimpered. “Jist let me go; I
know nothin’.”

“Did Laura Kirkstone kill her brother?”

“I dunno; I swear I dunno.”

“Was Miss Gilmar the criminal?”

Mrs. Grix leered. “She never told me she was, sir, but she didn’t
carry the Yeller Room about with her for nothing.”

“What do you mean?” said Gebb, releasing her.

Mrs. Grix rubbed her wrist, which had been somewhat bruised by his
clasp, and leered again. “Miss Gilmar wrote it all down,” she said.

“A confession?” cried the detective.

“I dunno what you call it, sir; but I know she wrote it down, ’cause
she said to me, ‘It’ll be all right when I’m dead.’ Well, she are
dead,” said Mrs. Grix, “and it ain’t all right, unless she left the
writin’ behind her.”

“Where is that confession?”

“I dunno. I wish I did. There’s money in it I’ve hunted all over the
‘ouse, and I can’t come across it nohow.”

“Well, Mrs. Grix, what is your opinion? Was it Dean, or Miss Gilmar,
or Miss Laura who killed the man?”

“You look about for the paper, lovey,” said Mrs. Grix, coaxingly, “and
it’ll tell ye all.”

“You tell me.”

“But I don’t know for certain.”

“Never mind. What is your opinion?”

“Will ye give me money for it?”

“That depends upon your information.”

“Then I shan’t tell ye,” cried Mrs. Grix, backing towards the door.
“You can look for what she wrote. I shan’t ‘elp you. Keep me fro’ the
work-‘ouse, and maybe I’ll tell ye summat to make you wink; but not
now, not now. Old Jane Grix ain’t no fool, lovey. No, no!”

Gebb made a step forward to detain her, but Mrs. Grix hobbled through
the door and vanished in the darkness as mysteriously as any of the
ghosts she had been talking about. At all events, when the detective
slipped out of the Yellow Room and into the twilight of the passage,
his eyes were somewhat dazzled by the sunlight and glare of colour
within, and he saw nothing for the moment, Mrs. Grix was quicker on
her old feet than he supposed, and in some way hobbled out of sight
into one of the numerous passages, so that when Gebb’s eyes became
accustomed to the gloom he did not know into which one she had gone.
Also he heard rapidly retreating footsteps–not the heavy hobble of
the old woman, but rather the light, dancing step of Martin. And as to
confirm this impression he heard the hoarse voice of the gardener
singing one of his wild songs:–

“Light shall come, but not from above,
Joy shall come, but not from love,
The glow of hell, the lust of hate,
Impatiently for these I wait.”

“Ha!” said Gebb to himself, as he hurried down the passage. “Martin
has been listening. I wonder why? I don’t believe he is mad, after
all, for neither that old woman nor Miss Wedderburn is afraid of him.
He must be feigning madness for some reason. Ha!” cried the detective
with a sudden start, “can Martin be the murderer of—-”

Before he could finish the sentence he heard a series of piercing
shrieks from Mrs. Grix, and a hoarse growling from Martin. These
noises sounded far in the distance, and Gebb ran down the passage,
through the sitting-room into which he had been shown by Miss
Wedderburn on the occasion of his first visit, and on to the terrace.
Here he saw Mrs. Grix running from Martin, who was rushing after her
with a furious face. Gebb stared, not at the terrified old woman, who
was hurrying towards him with wonderful activity for one of her years,
but at Martin’s face. It wore a savage scowl, and there between the
eyes was the deep mark spoken of by Parge.

“Dean!” cried Gebb, thunderstruck. “You are Dean!”

“Yes! yes!” screeched Mrs. Grix, getting behind Gebb, “he’s Dean sure
enough. He was going to kill me ’cause I wanted to tell ye.”

Martin–or rather Dean–stopped when he heard his name, then turned,
and leaping over the terrace ran like a hare down the avenue.