The Rayner-Slade Amalgamation by J. S. Fletcher
Chapter V. The Nastirsevitch JEWELS
Allerdyke, like all true Yorkshiremen, had been born into the world with a double portion of caution and a triple one of reserve, and instead of answering the question he took a leisurely look at the questioner. He saw before him a tall, good-looking, irreproachably attired man of from thirty to thirty-five years of age, whose dark eyes were ablaze with excitement, whose equally dark, carefully trimmed moustache did not conceal the agitation of the lips beneath. Mr. Franklin Fullaway, in spite of his broad shoulders and excellent muscular development, was evidently a highly strung, nervous, sensitive gentleman; nothing could be plainer than that he had travelled from town in a state of great mental activity which was just arriving at boiling-point. Everything about his movements and gestures denoted it--the way in which he removed his hat, laid aside his stick and gloves, ran his fingers through his dark, curly hair, and--more than anything--looked at Marshall Allerdyke. But Allerdyke had a habit of becoming cool and quiet when other men grew excited and emotional, and he glanced at his visitor with seeming indifference.
"Mr. Fullaway, I suppose?" he said, phlegmatically. "Aye, to be sure! Sit you down, Mr. Fullaway. Will you take anything?--it's a longish ride from London, and I daresay you'd do with a drink, what?"
"Nothing, nothing, thank you, Mr. Allerdyke," answered Fullaway, obviously surprised by the other's coolness. "I had lunch on the train."
"Very convenient, that," observed Allerdyke. "I can remember when there wasn't a chance of it. Aye--and what might this be that you're asking about, now, Mr. Fullaway? What do you refer to?"
Fullaway, after a moment's surprised look at the Yorkshireman's stolid face, elevated his well-marked eyebrows and shook his head. Then he edged his chair nearer to the table at which Allerdyke sat.
"You don't know, then, that your cousin had valuables on him?" he asked in an altered tone.
"I know exactly what my cousin had on him, and what was in his baggage, when I found him dead in his room," replied Allerdyke drily. "And what that was--was just what I should have expected to find. But--nothing more."
Fullaway almost leapt in his chair.
"Nothing more!" he exclaimed. "Nothing more than you would have expected to find! Nothing?"
Allerdyke bent across the table, giving his visitor a keen look.
"What would you have expected to find if you'd found him as I found him?" he asked. "Come--what, now?"
He was watching the American narrowly, and he saw that Fullaway's excitement was passing off, was being changed into an attentive eagerness. He himself thrust his hand into his breast pocket and drew out the papers which had been accumulating there since his arrival and discovery.
"We'd best be plain, Mr. Fullaway," he said. "I don't know you, but I gather that you knew James, and that you'd done business together."
"I knew Mr. James Allerdyke very well, and I've done business with him for the last two years," replied Fullaway.
"Just so," assented Allerdyke. "And your business--"
"That of a general agent--an intermediary, if you like," answered Fullaway. "I arrange private sales a good deal between European sellers and American buyers--pictures, curiosities, jewels, antiques, and so on. I'm pretty well known, Mr. Allerdyke, on both sides the Atlantic."
"Quite so," said Allerdyke. "I'm not in that line, however, and I don't know you. But I'll tell you all I do know and you'll tell me all you know. When I searched my cousin for papers, I found this wire from you--sent to James at St. Petersburg. Now then, what does it refer to? Those valuables you hinted at just now?"
"Exactly!" answered Fullaway. "Nothing less!"
"What valuables are they?" asked Allerdyke.
"Jewels! Worth a quarter of a million," replied Fullaway.
Fullaway laughed derisively.
"Dollars! No, pounds! Two hundred and fifty thousand pounds, my dear sir!" he answered.
"You think he had them on him?"
"I'm sure he had them on him!" asserted Fullaway. He, in his turn, began to produce papers. "At any rate, he had them on him when he was in Christiania the other day. He was bringing them over here--to me."
"On whose behalf?" asked Allerdyke.
"On behalf of a Russian lady, a Princess, who wished to find a purchaser for them," replied the American promptly.
"In that case--to come to the point," said Allerdyke, "if my cousin James had that property on him when he landed here last night and it wasn't--as it certainly wasn't--on him when I found him this morning---he's been robbed?"
"Robbed--and murdered that he might be robbed!" answered Fullaway.
The two men looked steadily at each other for a while. Then Allerdyke laid his papers on the table between them.
"You'd better tell me all you know about it," he said quietly. "Let's hear it all--then we shall be getting towards knowing what to do."
"Willingly!" exclaimed the American. He produced and spread out a couple of cablegrams on which he laid a hand while he talked. "As I have already said, I have had several deals in business with Mr. James Allerdyke. I last saw him towards the end of March, in town, and he then mentioned to me that he was just about setting out for Russia. On April 20th I received this cable from him--sent, you see, from St. Petersburg. Allow me to read it to you. He says. 'The Princess Nastirsevitch is anxious to find purchaser for her jewels, valued more than once at about a quarter of million pounds. Wants money to clear off mortgages on her son's estate, and set him going again. Do you know of any one likely to buy in one lot? Can arrange to bring over myself for buyers' inspection if chance of immediate good sale. James Allerdyke.' Now, as soon as I received that from your cousin I immediately thought of a possible and very likely purchaser--Mr. Delkin, a Chicago man, whose only daughter is just about to marry an English nobleman. I knew that Mr. Delkin had a mind to give his daughter a really fine collection of jewels, and I went at once to him regarding the matter. In consequence of my interview with Mr. Delkin, I cabled to James Allerdyke on April 21st, saying--"
"This is it, no doubt," said Allerdyke, producing the message of the date mentioned.
"That is it," assented Fullaway, glancing across the table. "Very well, you see what I said. He replied to that at once--here is his reply. It is, you see, very brief. It merely says, 'All right--shall wire details later--keep possible buyer on.' I heard no more until last Thursday, May 8th, when I received this cablegram, sent, you see, from Christiania. In it he says: 'Expect reach Hull Monday night next. Shall come London next day. Arrange meeting with your man. Have got all goods.' Now those last four words, Mr. Allerdyke, if they mean anything at all, mean that your cousin was bringing these valuable jewels with him; had them on him when he cabled from Christiania. And if you did not find them when you searched him--where are they? Two hundred and fifty thousand pounds' worth!"
Allerdyke took the three cablegrams from his visitor and carefully read them through, comparing them with the dates already known to him, and with Fullaway's messages in reply. Eventually he put all the papers together, arranging them in sequence. He laid them on the table between Fullaway and himself, and for a moment or two sat reflectively drumming the tips of his fingers on them.
"Who is this Princess Nastirsevitch?" he asked suddenly looking up. "Royalty, eh?"
"No," answered Fullaway, with a smile. "I don't know much about these European titles and dignities, but I don't think the title of Prince means in Russia what it does in England. A Prince there, I think, is some sort of nobleman, like your dukes and earls, and so on, here. But, anyway, the Princess Nastirsevitch isn't a Russian at all, except by marriage--she's a countryman of my own. I guess you've heard of her--she was Helen Hamilton, the famous dancer."
Allerdyke shook his head.
"Not my line at all," he said. "It was a bit in James's, though. Dancer, eh? And married a Prince?"
"Twenty-five years ago," replied Fullaway. "Ancient history, that. But I know a good deal about her. She made a big fortune with her dancing, and she invested largely in pearls and diamonds--I know that. I also happen to know that she'd one son by her marriage, of whom she's passionately fond. And I read this thing in this way: I guess the old Prince's estates (he's dead, a year or two ago) were heavily mortgaged, and she hit on the notion of clearing all off by selling her jewels, so that her son might start clear--no encumbrances on the property, you know."
Allerdyke pursed his lips and rubbed his chin.
"What I don't understand is that she confided a quarter of a million's worth of goods of that sort to a man whom she couldn't know so very well," he observed. "I never heard James speak of her."
"That may be." replied Fullaway. "But he may have known her very well for all that. However, there are the facts. And," he added, with emphasis, "there, Mr. Allerdyke, are those four words, sent from Christiania, 'Have got all goods!' Now, we can be reasonably sure of what he meant. He'd got the Princess's jewels. Very well! Where are they?"
Allerdyke got to his feet, and, thrusting his hands in his pockets, began to stride about the room. All this was not merely puzzling, but, in a way which he could not understand, distasteful to him. Somehow--he did not know why, nor at that moment try to think why--he resented the fact that any one knew more about his dead cousin than he did. And he began to wonder as he strode about the room how much this Mr. Franklin Fullaway knew.
"Did my cousin James ever mention this Princess to you?" he suddenly asked, stopping in his walk to and fro. "I mean--before he went over to Russia this last time?"
"He just mentioned that he knew her--mentioned it in casual conversation," answered Fullaway. "She and I being fellow Americans, the subject interested me, of course. But--he only said that he had met her in Russia."
"Aye, well," said Allerdyke musingly, "it's true he did go across to Russia a good deal, and no doubt he knew folk there that he never told me about."
"Well," he went on, throwing himself into his chair again, "what's to be done? Do you honestly think that he had those things on him when he came here last night? You do? Very well, then, he's been murdered by some devil or devils who's got 'em! But how? And who are they--or who's he--or--good Lord! it might be who's she?"
"Poisoned," said Fullaway. "That's my answer to your question of--how? As to your other question--is there no clue to anything? you forget--I don't know any details. I only know that he was found dead. Under what circumstances?"
Allerdyke pulled his chair nearer to his visitor.
"I'd forgotten," he said. "I'll tell you the lot. See if you can make aught out of it--they always say you Yankees have sharp brains. Try to see a bit of daylight! So far it licks me."
He gave the American a brief yet full account of all that had happened since his receipt of James Allerdyke's wireless message. And Fullaway listened in silence, taking everything in, making no interruption, and at the end he spoke quietly and with decision.
"We must find that woman--Miss Celia Lennard--and at once," he said. "That's absolutely necessary."
"Just so," agreed Allerdyke. "But look here--I've been thinking that over. Is it very likely that a woman who'd stolen two hundred and fifty thousand pounds' worth of stuff from an hotel would wire back to its manager, giving her address, for the sake of a shoe-buckle, even one set with diamonds?"
"I'm not--for the moment--supposing that she is the thief," answered Fullaway. "Why I want--and must--find her at once is to ask her a simple question. What was she doing in James Allerdyke's room? For--I've an idea."
"What?" demanded Allerdyke.
"This," replied Fullaway. "They were fellow-passengers on the Perisco. Your cousin--as I daresay you know--was the sort of man who readily makes friends, especially with women. My idea is that if this Miss Lennard went into his room last night it was to be shown the Princess Nastirsevitch's jewels. Your cousin was just the sort of man who knew how a woman would appreciate an exhibition of such things. And--"
At that moment a waiter tapped at the sitting-room door and announced Dr. Orwin.