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Title: The Midnight Call Author: Fred M White * A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook * eBook No.: 1201401h.html Language: English Date first posted: February 2012 Date most recently updated: February 2012 This eBook was produced by: Roy Glashan Project Gutenberg Australia eBooks are created from printed editions which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular paper edition. Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this file. This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg Australia License which may be viewed online at http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html
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THE men stood facing each other, the one quick and eager, sanguine as to his eyes behind gold-rimmed glasses, the other bent and twisted with the reflection of some great tragedy on his face. A clock somewhere lazily chimed the half past eleven.
"What do I look like, Brownsden?" the twisted man asked hoarsely. "I know what a marvel you are in the indexing of the emotions. What do I look like?"
"Like a man who has done something years ago and just been found out, Ramsay," the other said. "It is almost a new expression to me, though I did see it once before in South Africa. He was a well-to-do, prosperous man, long married, respected, his crime twenty years old. And he was expecting hourly arrest Strange how those old things come to light. Make no mistake—yours is the face of an honest man. And yet!"
"Wonderful!" Ramsay muttered under his breath. "As a criminal psychologist, you have no equal in the world. It was your marvellous book on the ramifications of the criminal mind that first attracted you to me. And it was my privilege to do you some trifling service "
"To save my life and my reputation. If only I had your scientific knowledge!"
"Yes, yes," Ramsay said impatiently. "If ever I found myself in trouble, you promised to come and help me. Hence my telegram this morning. Brownsden, I am in the deepest distress—nobody but you can save me. Look round you."
The criminal specialist Brownsden looked around accordingly. Ramsay's dining-room in Upper Quadrant, Brighton, was an artistic one. It had evidently been furnished by a scholar and a man of taste. There was a marvellously carved oak sideboard, then a Queen Anne bookcase; a fireplace carved by Grindley Gibbons himself; the electric lights Were demurely shaded, only the flowers looked faded. The artistic reticence of it all struck the proper, soothing, refining chord.
"All mine," Ramsay said almost fiercely. "Gathered together bit by bit, pieced like some perfect old mosaic. It has been the one delight in a hard and gloomy life. All the house is the same. And the name of Dr. Alfred Ramsay is becoming known. Then it is all kicked away by a sudden and unexpected tragedy. Sit down."
Brownsden sat down obediently in a Cromwellian chair upholstered in speaking tapestry. It was his cue to get the other to talk. The deformed figure bobbed up and down over the soft red of the Persian carpet—words began to stream from him.
"I have been here now for four years," he began. "It was a hard struggle at first, but I had only myself to keep, and I managed to pull through. Then my books began to sell, but I did not get many patients—not that they mattered much. I kept to myself, with the result that I know nobody, and nobody here knows me except by name and sight. Yet I was not unhappy. I was making money until a month ago, when a sudden attack of nervous sleeplessness warned me that I was going too far. I decided on a month's cycling in the country—it has been very pleasant this Easter—and I went.
"A week before my departure it struck me as a good idea to let the house furnished, so I put an advertisement in the Morning Post. In reply I received a letter from a gentleman in London. I saw him by appointment, and—to make a long story short—he took the house for a month and paid the rent. Like me, my tenant was a man of the closet, an American, and he wanted a change. I was to leave the house just as it was, and my tenant would find his own servants. I gave my old housekeeper a holiday and started on my vacation.
"At the end of three weeks I was quite myself again, and longing to be in harness once more. Two days ago I was rather pleased to get a telegram from my tenant, saying that he had been called back to the States again by urgent business, and that he was leaving at once. He had sent the key to my agents. I telegraphed to my agents to send for my old housekeeper and explain to her what had happened, and to give her instructions to go home, saying that I would follow to-day. All this seems very bald, but I have not finished yet.
"I came back to-day, expecting no evil. I opened the door with my latch-key and came in here. To my surprise, I found the place dirty, the fire out, the flowers left by my tenant still in the rooms as you see them. Now, this is all so unlike my housekeeper that I was vaguely alarmed. I looked all over the house, finding nobody, until I entered my study and laboratory, which is at the back here. That was half an hour before I sent you my wire. As you are a man with no nerves, I will show you what I found. Come this way."
Brownsden rose and followed without a word. The laboratory and library had evidently been an artist's studio at one time —a large room with a dome-glazed roof. There was no carpet on the floor, the electric lights had not been turned on yet, so that Brownsden almost stumbled over some soft object that lay at his feet. He started back as the room suddenly flooded from the great arc light overhead and his eyes met the object on the floor. It was the body of an old woman in a neat black dress. Her silver hair was dabbled with blood; the scalp had been laid half open by a blow from some sharp instrument; the gnarled, knotted, hard-working hands were vigorously clenched. With an appearance of callousness, Brownsden bent over the body.
"This is your unfortunate housekeeper?" he asked. "How long has she been dead?"
Ramsay controlled himself with an effort; perhaps his companion's manner restrained him.
"I have not dared to. make a close examination," he said. "But there is little doubt that that brutal murder was committed between eighteen and twenty-four hours ago. Every symptom points to that being about the period of the crime."
"You have not discovered anything in the way of a clue, I suppose?"
Ramsay replied that he had not done so; in fact, he had not looked for anything of the kind. He had been too stunned at his discovery to be able to do anything logical. As soon as he had pulled himself together, he had stepped out and despatched his telegram to Brownsden.
"One more question," the latter said, "and that is an important one, as you will admit. Don't you think that it is a serious omission not to call in the police?"
"Well, yes," Ramsay said slowly, as if the words were being dragged from him. "Of course, I thought of that. A man like myself, who knows nobody, and who could not give anything very satisfactory in the way of a personal reference... But seeing that the crime is a day old "
"What does that matter?" Brownsden asked somewhat impatiently. "Of course, your hands are clean enough; one has only to look at the radiation of your eye-pupils to see that. But what with fools of officials and irresponsible cheap journalism--"
"I know, I know. But I wanted to have your views first. I could easily say that I got home at a later hour than was actually the truth; that you came with me--"
The old, strange terror was stealing over the man again, and Brownsden's manner changed. He was in the presence of no common fear; no ordinary case was here, he thought.
"All of which would be very unwise," he said. "Suppose somebody saw you come in? I dare say you rode from the station on your cycle? You did? Of course, you can get out of it by saying that you had no occasion to enter your study till a little time later. Also you would account for not seeing your housekeeper by the suggestion that she had mistaken your instructions. When did your tenant leave?"
"My tenant left at the time stated, or Mrs. Gannett would not be back at all. You need not speculate on my tenant, Brownsden. He was a man of standing; indeed, I met him to discuss terms, so he made the appointment at the American Legation in London. You may be sure that he does not count as a card in the game."
"Then we can rule that out," Brownsden muttered as he bent down to examine the body. "But one thing is quite certain—we must lose no time in sending for the police now. Hallo!"
The speech was broken off by the sharp intaking of the breath. As Ramsay drew near, he saw that Brownsden was gently opening the left hand of the murdered woman. A sharp edge of metal had caught his eye. Very gently he drew three coins from the knotted fingers, three half-crowns that seemed to be fresh from the Mint. On the face of it there was nothing unusual in their discovery, save that the suggestion that the murderer might have been fighting for some such small gain as that, for human life before now has been held more cheap. But there was a further discovery under the keen eye of Brownsden that gave the thing a deeper significance.
"This is very strange," he said, as he moved towards a shaded lamp on the table close by. "Here we have three brand new coins taken from the poor creature's hand, the bloom of the mould is still on them. Three perfect half-crowns with the head of Queen Victoria upon them. New coins fresh from the Mint, with the late Queen's head on them, and dated 1899!"
"Ring them," Ramsay burst out in a hoarse cry; "ring them!"
Brownsden proceeded to do so. But the coins rang true and clear—even the test by weight failed to prove them anything but perfect. Ramsay wiped his damp forehead and sighed in a kind of a subdued way. Brownsden's face was still corrugated in a frown.
"I don't understand it at all," he said. "These are genuine silver half-crowns, with never so much as a scratch on them, and yet dated nearly four years ago. Unless-- Ramsay, what kind of woman was your housekeeper? I mean as regards temperament."
"Hot-tempered and obstinate," Ramsay explained. "Inclined to have her own way. Very literal, too. You see, she had a lot of Scotch blood in her."
"I see. If anybody had come to her after your tenant had gone, to fetch some forgotten thing, she would not have given it without proof of the messenger's veracity, I suppose?"
"Indeed she wouldn't, not if it had been an empty sardine-tin."
"Um, that is quite what I expected. There is a pretty problem here, and I am already beginning to see my way clear. Your tenant departed in a breakneck hurry. Let us assume for the sake of argument that there was some pressing need for this. He either forgets something in his hurry, and somebody else who comes along is after the same thing. He tries to persuade your old housekeeper Gannett to part with that something, and she refuses. Hence the crime."
Ramsay nodded in a vague, unconcerned kind of way. Already Brownsden was on the way to the telephone that hung in a distant corner.
"The police," he explained tentatively. "There must be no hesitation any longer. You see--"
At the same moment the purring ripple of the telephone-bell rang out. Ramsay pulled himself together with an effort and took down the receiver. When he replaced the instrument, there was a particularly sickly green smile on his face.
"You ring up the police and explain for me," he said. "I have to go out at once. It appears that the East Sussex Hospital people are at their wits' ends for a surgeon for a case that came in half an hour ago. I must step round. Do you mind? I begin to wish I had never written that book on brain troubles."
Brownsden averred that he did not mind in the least. It was good to Ramsay to feel the fresh air on his face again. The house-surgeon apologised profoundly—he knew that Dr. Ramsay did not take cases like this as a rule; but operation-surgeons that were up to the particular case like this were few in Brighton, and unfortunately it had been impossible to get anyone of them on the telephone. It was a case of a motor accident. The gentleman had been driving his own car and in some way had come to grief. There was no wound to be seen, nothing to account for the deathlike trance in which the patient lay. Ramsay had forgotten his own troubles for the moment. He would be very pleased to see the patient at once.
The patient lay like a corpse on the bed— to all appearance he was dead. Ramsay's examination was thorough. He turned with a half -smile to the house-surgeon.
"No operation is necessary at all," he said. "There is nothing at all the matter with the brain. What the poor fellow is suffering from is paralysis of the spinal cord, due to the shock; I am prepared to stake my reputation upon it. An application of the battery will be all that is necessary. In three days your patient will be out again. Look here!"
Ramsay raised the lid of the sufferer's right eye. As he did so, he checked an exclamation. In an eager way he raised the lid of the other eye, and a half-puzzled, half-relieved expression crossed his face.
"You have run up against a stone wall?" the house-surgeon suggested.
"Indeed I have not," Ramsay said quickly. "I fancied that I had recognised the patient, but I appear to be mistaken. Try the battery, and let me know the result. Not that I have the least doubt what it will be, The spinal column is not injured; it is merely in a state of suspense. You will not mind if I run away now? I have a very unpleasant task before me."
Something like an hour had elapsed between the time that Ramsay had left Upper Quadrant and his return there. There were lights all over the house, and seated in the hall were two policemen, who sat stolidly nursing their helmets on their knees.
Inspector Swann was in the study, and he had many questions to ask. So far as Ramsay could see, very few of them were to the point. But to the relief of the doctor, no questions were put as to the time when the body was found in the house when the police were sent for. The inspector was puzzled over the matter of the half-crowns, which were apparently genuine. Brownsden stood alone, smiling grimly as Ramsay answered the flood of questions poured over him.
"And now as to this tenant of yours, sir," Swann said. "When did he go away?"
"Probably the day before yesterday," Ramsay replied. "He sent the key to my agents, as you will find on inquiry at their offices; otherwise Mrs. Gannett could not have made ber way into the house—I am quite sure that you will find that she called at my agents' offices and got the key. If you expect to discover anything in that direction, you will be disappointed. But perhaps I had better give you the letter which opened negotiations—I mean the first letter my tenant wrote to me."
Swann nodded approval. All the time a couple of detectives in private clothes were making a thorough search of the house. There was a long French window at the back of the study, leading into a square yard, and here a man was looking with the aid of a lantern. He tapped on the ground, and a hollow sound rang out. Swann's sharp ears caught the clang.
"What's that?" he asked. "Have you any well or anything of that kind?"
"Only the inspection-chamber," Ramsay said carelessly. "You could hardly expect--"
Something between a snarl and a cough came from the detective outside. He pulled up the cover of the chamber and dragged out a square box. It seemed to be heavy, for he staggered with the weight of it as he carried it into the study. Swann looked inquiringly at Ramsay, who shook his head— assuredly the box was no property of his.
"This grows interesting," he said. "I have never seen that box before. What have you there, officer?"
A box full of broken scraps of white metal, a box full of plaster moulds and files, and chemicals of various kinds, some iron discs, and a press were handed out, until the whole contents stood confessed upon the table. The detective grinned and wiped his heated forehead. "The finest coining-plant I've seen, sir," he said; " and I've had some experience, too. Never saw anything so perfect in my life. What shall we do with it, sir?"
Swann was of opinion that a cab had better be called, and the stuff carried away. He took his own departure a little later, with the suggestion that nothing further could be done to-night. He carefully locked up the study and sealed it. He hinted that there was a deeper mystery here than met the eye; he would come again in the morning. Ramsay closed the door behind him and then staggered like a drunken man into the dining-room. With a shaking hand he poured himself out some brandy.
"There is more here than meets the eye," Brownsden quoted from Swann significantly. "You asked me to come down and help you. If you will confide in me--"
"I am going to," Ramsay broke out hoarsely. "I am going to do so. But it is far worse than I anticipated. You spoke a while ago of a man in Africa who lived cleanly for years, and yet whose past rose up against him at a time when—my God! it is my own case all over."
"If you will confide in me," Brownsden repeated, " I dare say that "
"I am going to confide in you," Ramsay whispered. "Great Heavens! the ghastliness of it! For I have served my time—three years for counterfeit coining!"
"THERE you have it," Ramsay said, as Brownsden merely nodded. The half-defiant snarl in his voice was almost pathetic. "Here is my story in a nutshell. I am a gentleman by birth, by education, by instinct. Never mind what the temptation was—under the same circumstances I would do it again. After that I met with this accident, that has crippled me for life; but even that had its compensations, for it indirectly gave me a fresh start in life—under my proper name this time."
"I fancy I see what you are afraid of," Brownsden said.
"Of course you do. I am a solitary man; nobody knows anything about me. In any case, after the death of poor Gannett, my past would be dragged up. That is why I asked you to come here. But the thing is even more hideous than I imagined. The discovery of that coining-plant was a catastrophe that I did not anticipate. Questions will be asked. I shall be invited to clear myself. It is fortunate that owing to my accident that cursed Bertillon prison system cannot be applied to me. None of my old associates would recognise me. And yet the peril to my social and literary name is very great. Can you help me without—without--"
"Letting your name be mentioned?" Brownsden said. "I fancy so. To-morrow you must do nothing and leave everything to me. I am going to London, and you must give me the name of the man who took your house. Be guided entirely by me and think of nothing but your hospital patient. Is it a bad case?"
Ramsay replied that the case was not nearly so bad as it looked. His further services would hardly be required. He was more interested in the fact that the patient's one eye was a blue and the other brown than anything else. Brownsden smiled behind his cigarette.
"Different-coloured eyes, with largish red veins in the whites?" he suggested. "Ah! you need not be surprised. I have made eyes my study as much as anything else, and I have noticed that that peculiarity is common when the eyes are of different colour. Now you had better go to bed. And mind, you are entirely in my hands."
Ramsay gave the desired assurance. He was utterly tired and worn out, and he slept far into the next day. Brownsden seemed equal to the occasion, for he managed to get breakfast of sorts; and he volunteered the statement that he had been out since daylight. Pulling a blind back, Ramsay could see a couple of policemen outside, moving along the idle crowd of curious loafers that collected there from time to time.
"I suppose it is useless to ask if you have done anything?" Ramsay said moodily.
"Well, I have," Brownsden said. "For instance, I am every minute expecting the cabman who drove your tenant, Mr. Walters, to the station from here. Of the two servants who were in the house, I can hear nothing, not even from the domestics next door. It appears they kept themselves to themselves very much indeed."
The cabman came a little later with a little surprise in store. He had been called to Upper Quadrant two days before. He had been called by a grocer close by, who had been requested to send a cab from the rank near him by telephone from Upper Quadrant.
"I presume you went to the station?" Brownsden asked.
"No, I didn't, sir; I didn't go nowhere. I put two bags and a case that looked like one of them typewriters a-top of the cab, and I waited for the gentleman to come out. I hadn't any notion then what I was wanted for. Just as the gentleman got on the step, with his rug over his arm, a motor comes up—regular swagger affair--"
"Stop a minute," Brownsden asked. "Did she look like a racer? Tell me how many men were inside and how they were dressed?"
"She did look like a racer, sir," the cabman went on. "The gents inside had furs and goggles same as they most have on good cars... Recognise 'em again, sir? No, can't say as I could."
"Excellent idea for disguise," Brownsden said half aloud. "Quick way for a man who wanted to get about the country. What happened after that?"
"Well, a few words passed, sir, that I could not hear. Then the bags were transferred to the motor from my cab, and I was told that I wasn't wanted. I got a couple o' bob for my trouble, and there was an end of the matter as far as I was concerned."
Brownsden seemed to be satisfied with this explanation, but he vouchsafed no further information. He hurriedly turned over the pages of a time-table.
"So far, so good," he said. "Now I am going to London. If you take my advice, you will not stir out of the house all day, because I may have to telephone or telegraph you. And don't forget that you are entirely in my hands."
"I could not wish for a more capable man," Ramsay said gratefully.
It was nearly five before the telephone rang out in the startled house, and by instinct Ramsay seemed to know that Brownsden was calling him from London. Brownsden's voice was low and clear, but there was a certain pleased ring about it that the listener liked.
"That you, Ramsay?" the voice asked. "Very good. I'm calling you from an office in Hatton Garden where they deal in raw metals. Before you do anything else, call up the East Sussex Hospital and ask how your patient is. Don't go and see him in any case; even if they ask you to do so, make some excuse. Ring up the hospital now I'll wait."
There was some little difficulty with the Exchange, owing to the main-line trunk connection, but the voice of the house-surgeon was heard at last. His information was a startling confirmation of Ramsay's diagnosis on the night before. The electrical treatment had acted like magic. The patient had so far recovered that he had insisted on leaving the hospital an hour before, though, of course, he was still very white and shaky. The main point was that he had gone off in a cab, presumedly to the Hotel Metropole.
Brownsden heard all this subsequently with somethinglike a chuckle. He would like to know if the Hotel Metropole people had seen a guest arriving answering to the same description. An inquiry elicited the fact that the caravansary people had not.
"All this is excellent," Brownsden called down the long wire. "I was quite right to turn my attention in the direction of your late tenant, Ramsay. The address that your letters went to was merely a place where communications may be addressed at a penny each, and where they are called for. The American Legation has known nobody by the name of Walters. The apparent puzzle that you met him there is quite easy. Any American subject can see the Ambassador by waiting long enough in the anteroom; and your man probably knew that, hence he fixed a certain time to meet you there. After he had seen you, he had only to slip away, telling the porter that he would call again. There is no doubt that you have been the victim of a gang of swindlers."
Ramsay was of the same opinion. On the whole, it struck him that the counterfeiters had hit upon a most ingenious and original way of carrying out their work undisturbed. All they had to do was to secure some well-furnished house in a good locality and then go to work. Brighton was a large place, and the neighbours would not be too inquisitive; it was possible to live in Brighton for years and never know the name of your next-door tenants. There was only one thing that really troubled Ramsay—had those people by any chance got an inkling of his past? Or was it merely coincidence?
Brownsden came down by the last train, apparently satisfied with his day's work.
"It's all right," he said. "I am delighted. If the police have only kept their discovery as to the coining-plant to themselves, everything will work out splendidly. But I fear that I shall put you to a little inconvenience to-morrow."
"Anything so long as you solve the mystery," Kamsay cried. "What do you propose to do?"
"Well," Brownsden said slowly, as he flicked the ashes from his cigarette, "I am going to have you arrested for the wilful murder of Martha Gannett!"
Ramsay stared open-mouthed at the speaker. His face had grown a shade paler. He walked up and down the room as if he were the sport of uncontrolled emotions.
THE arrest of Alfred Ramsay the following morning on a charge of wilful murder of Martha Grannett caused a profound sensation. Not that the crowd overflowing out of the police-court at ten o'clock that day had much for their money. The police evidence was very brief and bald, not to say convincing, and after a hearing of a few minutes a remand was granted. A young advocate applied tentatively for bail for his client— the police had not even made out a prima facie case. After some discussion the magistrates agreed to allow bail in two sureties of £2,000 each, which was tantamount to a refusal.
"I have not a single friend in the world," said Ramsay. "I will go to prison."
"The bail will be forthcoming to-morrow," the lawyer said.
* * * * *
It was quite dark the same evening when two figures approached Upper Quadrant from the road behind that leads to the Downs. They climbed carefully over the wall, and one of them admitted his companion to the house by way of the French window of the studio laboratory, which had been left open on purpose. The figures proceeded to pull up the cover of the inspection-chamber in the yard and deposit a black box within. After that they wrapped themselves up in long overcoats and lay on the floor of the study. It was evident that they expected a long vigil, for one slept whilst the other kept an eye open.
It was past one before a slight noise in the yard attracted the watcher's attention. He reached out a hand and touched his companion, who immediately sat up.
"They're moving," he whispered. "Get as near to the door as you can, and switch on the light when I give the signal. I knew they would come to-night."
There was a sound of metal in the yard presently, and then the two watchers smiled. Then the gleam of a lantern flashed out, and a heavy footstep came into the room. Somebody was panting with the force of expended energy. Then the light showed the black box removed from the inspection-chamber by the police the night before, and just replaced by the two watchers in the greatcoats. The man pulling the box chuckled, but his chuckle changed to a snarl and an oath as another figure bounded out of the throat of the darkness and fell upon him.
"You dog!" a voice said. "So I have got you, after all. You escaped me two days ago by means of that infernal motorcar of yours; but it's my turn now. I knew you'd come back for this."
"I'll have a knife into you presently," the man underneath hissed.
One of the watchers gave the signal, and the room was flooded with light. Just for an instant the two men fighting like mad dogs did not heed; then strong hands were laid upon them and they were wrenched apart. They stood up sullenly at length, with the cool, blue rim of a revolver-barrel pressed to the temples of each.
"This is a pretty good haul, Mr. Brownsden, eh?" the second watcher said cheerfully. "No need to ask if you know me—Inspector Wallis, of Scotland Yard, at your service. I wondered what had become of you, Joe. And you, too, Pattison. So Joe had the best of you, and you had made up your mind to murder him. Afraid of him, ain't you, Joe?"
The man addressed as Joe said something to the effect that his soi-disant colleague was a most murderous ruffian. The other burst out into imprecations.
"I'd have done it, too!" he cried. "Who found all the money? Who got that plant made? Nothing like it has ever been seen before. And because I had to keep out of the way for a bit, Joe leaves me in the lurch and comes down here. But somebody got me on his track again, and he'd ha' died here instead of that poor old woman if he hadn't got away in time."
"It was you who killed the housekeeper, of course?" Wallis asked quite coolly.
"It was an accident," the man addressed as Pattison said sullenly. "I knew that Joe hadn't got time to get the plant away, so I called for it as if I came from him. And there was that old girl playing with a mould that had been forgotten by my dear friend Joe in his hurry, to say nothing of leaving some of the new-milled half-crowns about. So one thing led to another, and I hit the old girl harder than I intended. But I've said quite enough."
"Quite enough," Wallis replied grimly. "Go and fetch Dr. Ramsay in, Mr. Brownsden."
A cab stood outside at the corner of the road, and in it was Ramsay. By the time that he reached the house, the handcuffs were on both prisoners.
"I'll explain everything presently," Brownsden said hurriedly. "Will you look at this man, who seems to be known professionally as 'Joe'? Have you seen him before?"
"Of course I have!" Ramsay cried. "I saw him under the name of Walters at the American Legation. It was he who took my house. I saw him also last night and the night before, at the East Sussex Hospital, where he had been taken after a motor accident. I should have recognised him before by the different colour of his eyes, but the pallor of illness makes a difference."
"Do you remember the gentleman?" Brownsden asked of the man Joe. "Is his face familiar to you?"
"Only once," the other man said with a shifty grill—" when I took his house. But what is the use of all these fool questions? It's a fair knock-out, and there's an end of it."
* * * * *
It was a little later, and Ramsay and Brownsden were alone. For the first time for two days the former found zest in the food that Brownsden had prepared for him. When he had finished, he looked up eagerly and asked for an explanation. He was utterly puzzled, he said.
"And yet it's pretty easy when it comes to be told," Brownsden said thoughtfully. "From the very first it seemed to me to be inevitable that your tenant had something to do with it. When we found that coining-plant, I was certain of it. You were the victim of an ingenious and up-to-date scheme. The idea of getting into a house like yours was admirable. I surmised from the first that Mr. 'Walters' was the coiner. When he went off in such a hurry, I felt quite sure that it was a case of diamond cut diamond. There is no such thing as honour amongst thieves. But you, personally, gave me a pretty clue when you spoke of the man in the hospital with the different-coloured eyes who had had a spill from a motor. Your tenant had eyes of two colours he had gone off hot-foot in a motor. Therefore it was only fair to assume that here was the man we wanted. Wallis compared my suspicions, and told me that he was looking for a man with different eyes, and he proceeded to tell me the history of the fellow he called Joe.
"When I heard by the telephone that Mr. 'Joe' had left the hospital, I felt pretty certain that he would try and get that plant back. But you were in the way. That is why you were arrested, and bail for a preposterous amount fixed. I arranged to bail you out very late at night, so that not a soul outside the police-station should know. Therefore to Mr. 'Joe' the coast was quite clear, and he would rush to your house with impunity. You see, there was just the chance that you would get bail on the morrow, as your lawyer hinted, so there was no time to be lost. The task was rendered all the more easy by the fact that 'Joe' knew your house as well as you know it yourself. So he came for the spoil—which we replaced—and we caught him. The other man coming along was not quite the piece of luck that it looks, because there is no little doubt that he had been watching 'Joe' all day. The other man was rather bounced into confessing to the murder of the poor old woman; but it quite exonerates you."
"Only I shall have to give evidence," Ramsay said. "And it is just possible--"
"No, you will not be required. 'Joe' did not know you, because I asked him on purpose to see. Your fears are quite groundless, Ramsay, and I congratulate you on your escape. It would have been precious hard lines on you, after all these years, if--"
"I cannot sufficiently thank you," Ramsay said in a broken voice. "Some day I may be in a position to show my gratitude for your wonderful skill and kindness. But there is one thing that puzzes me. When we tried the so-called counterfeit coins, they rang true. What does that mean?"
Brownsden smiled as he took another cigarette.
"They are true," he said. "They are made from genuine silver. It is possible to melt silver and yet get, cent for cent, profit on it over the counter. Gold can be treated the same way. The coins we found were not quite finished—they had not been sweated to give them the appearance of having been in circulation. See how simple it all is."
"Ah, yes," Ramsay said. "And yet how simple it would have been to have fixed this on me if my past had come to light. Good night. And if any thanks of mine can--"
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