Scarhaven Keep by J. S. Fletcher
Chapter XVI. In Touch with the Missing
Sir Cresswell Oliver took the cablegram from Petherton and read it over slowly, muttering the precise and plain wording to himself.
"Don't you think, Petherton, that we had better get a clear notion of our exact bearings?" he said as he laid it back on the solicitor's desk. "Seems to me that the time's come when we ought to know exactly where we are. As I understand it, the case is this--rightly or wrongly we suspect the present holder of the Scarhaven estates. We suspect that he is not the rightful owner--that, in short, he is no more the real Marston Greyle than you are. We think that he's an impostor--posing as Marston Greyle. Other people--Mrs. Valentine Greyle, for example--evidently think so, too. Am I right?"
"Quite!" responded Petherton. "That's our position--exactly."
"Then--in that case, what I want to get at is this," continued Sir Cresswell. "How does this relate to my brother's death? What's the connection? That--to me at any rate--is the first thing of importance. Of course I have a theory. This, that the impostor did see my brother last Sunday afternoon. That he knew that my brother would at once know that he, the impostor, was not the real Marston Greyle, and that the discovery would lead to detection. And therefore he put him out of the way. He might accompany him to the top of the tower and fling him down. It's possible. Do you follow me?"
"Precisely," replied Petherton. "I, too, incline to that notion, though I've worked it out in a different fashion. My reconstruction of what took place at Scarhaven Keep is as follows--I think that Bassett Oliver met the Squire--we'll call this man that for the sake of clearness--when he entered the ruins. He probably introduced himself and mentioned that he had met a Marston Greyle in America. Then the Squire saw the probabilities of detection--and what subsequently took place was most likely what you suggest. It may have been that the Squire recognized Bassett Oliver, and knew that he'd met Marston Greyle; it may have been that he didn't know him and didn't know anything until Bassett Oliver enlightened him. But--either way--I firmly believe that Bassett Oliver came to his death by violence--that he was murdered. So--there's the case in a nutshell! Murdered!--to keep his tongue still."
"What's to be done, then?" asked Sir Cresswell as Petherton tapped the cablegram.
"The first thing," he answered, "is to make use of this. We now know that the real Marston Greyle--who certainly did live in St. Louis, where his father had settled--left New York for England to take up his inheritance, on September 28th, 1912, and booked a passage to Falmouth. He would land at Falmouth from the Araconda about October 5th. Probably there is some trace of him at Falmouth. He no doubt stayed a night there. Anyway, somebody must go to Falmouth and make inquiries. You'd better go, Gilling, and at once. While you're away your partner had better resume his search for the man we know as the Squire. You've two good clues--the fact that he visited the Fragonard Club and that particular tobacconist's shop. Urge Swallow to do his best--the man must be kept in sight. See to both these things immediately."
"Swallow is at work already," replied Gilling. "He's got good help, too, and his failure yesterday has put him on his mettle. As for me, I'll go to Falmouth by the next express. Let me have that cablegram."
"I'll go with you," said Copplestone. "I may be of some use--and I'm interested. But," he paused and looked questioningly at the old solicitor. "What about the other news we brought you?" he asked. "About this sale of the estate, you know? If this man is an impostor--"
"Leave that to me," replied Petherton, with a shrewd glance at Sir Cresswell. "I know the Greyle family solicitors--highly respectable people--only a few doors away, in fact--and I'm going round to have a quiet little chat with them in a few minutes. There will be no sale! Leave me to deal with that matter--and if you young men are going to Falmouth, off you go!"
It was late that night when Copplestone and Gilling arrived at this far-off Cornish seaport, and nothing could be done until the following morning. To Copplestone it seemed as if they were in for a difficult task. Over twelve months had elapsed since the real Marston Greyle left America for England; he might not have stayed in Falmouth, might not have held any conversation with anybody there who would recollect him! how were they going to trace him? But Gilling--now free of his clerical attire and presenting himself as a smart young man of the professional classes type--was quick to explain that system, accurate and definite system, would expedite matters.
"We know the approximate date on which the Araconda would touch here," he said as they breakfasted together. "As things go, it would be from October 4th to 6th, according to the quickness of her run across the Atlantic. Very well--if Marston Greyle stayed here, he'd have to stay at some hotel. Accordingly, we visit all the Falmouth hotels and examine their registers of that date--first week of October, 1912. If we find his name--good! We can then go on to make inquiries. If we don't find any trace of him, then we know it's all up--he probably went straight away by train after landing. We'll begin with this hotel first."
There was no record of any Marston Greyle at that hotel, nor at the next half-dozen at which they called. A visit to the shipping office of the line to which the Araconda belonged revealed the fact that she reached Falmouth on October 5th at half-past ten in the evening, and that the name of Marston Greyle was on the list of first-class passengers. Gilling left the office in cheery mood.
"That simplifies matters," he said. "As the Araconda reached here late in the evening, the passengers who landed from her would be almost certain to stay the night in Falmouth. So we've only to resume our round of these hotels in order to hit something pertinent. This is plain and easy work, Copplestone--no corners in it. We'll strike oil before noon."
They struck oil at the very next hotel they called at--an old-fashioned house in close proximity to the harbour. There was a communicative landlord there who evidently possessed and was proud of a retentive memory, and he no sooner heard the reason of Gilling's call upon him than he bustled into activity, and produced the register of the previous year.
"But I remember the young gentleman you're asking about," he remarked, as he took the book from a safe and laid it open on the table in his private room. "Not a common name, is it? He came here about eleven o'clock of the night you've mentioned--there you are!--there's the entry. And there--higher up--is the name of the man who came to meet him. He came the day before--to be here when the Araconda got in."
The two visitors, bending over the book, mutually nudged each other as their eyes encountered the signatures on the open page. There, in the handwriting of the letters which Mr. Dennie had so fortunately preserved, was the name Marston Greyle. But it was not the sight of that which surprised them; they had expected to see it. What made them both thrill with the joy of an unexpected discovery was the sight of the signature inserted some lines above it, under date October 4th. Lest they should exhibit that joy before the landlord, they mutually stuck their elbows into each other and immediately affected the unconcern of indifference.
But there the signature was--Peter Chatfield. Peter Chatfield!--they both knew that they were entering on a new stage of their quest; that the fact that Chatfield had travelled to Falmouth to meet the new owner of Scarhaven meant much--possibly meant everything.
"Oh!" said Gilling, as steadily as possible. "That gentleman came to meet the other, did he? Just so. Now what sort of man was he?"
"Big, fleshy man--elderly--very solemn in manner and appearance," answered the landlord. "I remember him well. Came in about five o 'clock in the afternoon of the 4th just after the London train arrived--and booked a room. He told me he expected to meet a gentleman from New York, and was very fidgety about fixing it up to go off in the tender to the Araconda when she came into the Bay. However, I found out for him that she wouldn't be in until next evening, so of course he settled down to wait. Very quiet, reserved old fellow--never said much."
"Did he go off on the tender next night?" asked Gilling.
"He did--and came back with this other gentleman and his baggage--this Mr. Greyle," answered the landlord. "Mr. Chatfield had booked a room for Mr. Greyle."
"And what sort of man was Mr. Greyle?" inquired Gilling. "That's really the important thing. You've an exceptionally good memory--I can see that. Tell us all you can recollect about him."
"I can recollect plenty," replied the landlord, shaking his head. "As for his looks--a tallish, slightly-built young fellow, between, I should say, twenty-five and twenty-eight. Stooped a good bit. Very dark hair and eyes--eyes a good deal sunken in his face. Very pale--good-looking--good features. But ill--my sakes! he was ill!"
"Ill!" exclaimed Gilling, with a glance at Copplestone. "Really ill!"
"He was that ill," said the landlord, "that me and my wife never expected to see him get up that next morning. We wanted them to have a doctor but Mr. Greyle himself said that it was nothing, but that he had some heart trouble and that the voyage had made it worse. He said that if he took some medicine which he had with him, and a drop of hot brandy-and-water, and got a good night's sleep he'd be all right. And next morning he seemed better, and he got up to breakfast--but my wife said to me that if she'd seen death on a man's face it was on his! She's a bit of a persuasive tongue, has my wife, and when she heard that these two gentlemen were thinking of going a long journey--right away to the far north, it was, I believe--she got 'em to go and see the doctor first, for she felt that Mr. Greyle wasn't fit for the exertion."
"Did they go?" asked Gilling.
"They did! I talked, myself, to the old gentleman," replied the landlord. "And I showed them the way to our own doctor--Dr. Tretheway. And as a result of what he said to them, I heard them decide to break up their journey into stages, as you might term it. They left here for Bristol that afternoon--to stay the night there."
"You're sure of that?--Bristol?" asked Gilling.
"Ought to be," replied the landlord, with laconic assurance. "I went to the station with them and saw them off. They booked to Bristol--anyway--first class."
Gilling looked at his companion.
"I think we'd better see this Dr. Tretheway," he remarked.
Dr. Tretheway, an elderly man of grave manners and benevolent aspect, remembered the visit of Mr. Marston Greyle well enough when he had turned up its date in his case book. He also remembered the visitor's companion, Mr. Chatfield, who seemed unusually anxious and concerned about Mr. Greyle's health.
"And as to that," continued Dr. Tretheway, "I learnt from Mr. Greyle that he had been seriously indisposed for some months before setting out for England. The voyage had been rather a rough one; he had suffered much from sea-sickness, and, in his state of health, that was unfortunate for him. I made a careful examination of him, and I came to the conclusion that he was suffering from a form of myocarditis which was rapidly assuming a very serious complexion. I earnestly advised him to take as much rest as possible, to avoid all unnecessary fatigue and all excitement, and I strongly deprecated his travelling in one journey to the north, whither I learnt he was bound. On my advice, he and Mr. Chatfield decided to break that journey at Bristol, at Birmingham, and at Leeds. By so doing, you see, they would only have a short journey each day, and Mr. Greyle would be able to rest for a long time at a stretch. But--I formed my own conclusions."
"And they were--what?" asked Gilling.
"That he would not live long," said the doctor. "Finding that he was going to the neighbourhood of Norcaster, where there is a most excellent school of medicine, I advised him to get the best specialist he could from there, and to put himself under his treatment. But my impression was that he had already reached a very, very serious stage."
"You think he was then likely to die suddenly?" suggested Gilling.
"It was quite possible. I should not have been surprised to hear of his death," answered Dr. Tretheway. "He was, in short, very ill indeed."
"You never heard anything?" inquired Gilling.
"Nothing at all--though I often wondered. Of course," said the doctor with a smile, "they were only chance visitors--I often have trans-atlantic passengers drop in--and they forget that a physician would sometimes like to know how a case submitted to him in that way has turned out. No, I never heard any more."
"Did they give you any address, either of them?" asked Copplestone, seeing that Gilling had no more to ask.
"No," replied the doctor, "they did not. I knew of course, from what they told me that Mr. Greyle had come off the Araconda the night before, and that he was passing on. No--I only gathered that they were going to the neighbourhood of Norcaster from the fact that Mr. Greyle asked if a journey to that place would be too much for him--he said with a laugh, that over there in the United States a journey of five hundred miles would be considered a mere jaunt! He was very plucky, poor fellow, but--"
Dr. Tretheway ended with a significant shake of the head, and his two visitors left him and went out into the autumn sunlight.
"Copplestone!" said Gilling as they walked away. "That chap--the real Marston Greyle--is dead! That's as certain as that we're alive! And now the next thing is to find out where he died and when. And by George, that's going to be a big job!"
"How are you going to set about it?" asked Copplestone. "It seems as if we were up against a blank wall, now."
"Not at all, my son!" retorted Gilling, cheerfully. "One step at a time--that's the sure thing to go on, in my calling. We've found out a lot here, and quickly, too. And--we know where our next step lies. Bristol! Like looking for needles in a bundle of hay? Not a bit of it. If those two broke their journey at Bristol, they'd have to stop at an hotel. Well, now we'll adjourn to Bristol--bearing in mind that we're on the track of Peter Chatfield!"