Chapter Nineteen. Purdie Stands Firm
 

The effect produced by this announcement was evidently exactly that which the American expected, and he smiled, a little grimly, as he looked from one face to another. As for his hearers, they first looked at each other and then at him, and Guyler laughed and went on.

"That makes you jump!" he said. "Well, now, at the end of that inquest business in the papers the other day I noticed Spencer Levendale's name mentioned in connection with some old book that was left, or found in Mr. Daniel Multenius's back-parlour. Of course, I concluded that he was the same Spencer Levendale I'd known out there in South Africa, five years ago. And to tell you the truth, I've been watching your papers, morning and evening, since, to see if there was any more news of him. But so far I haven't seen any."

Purdie and Melky exchanged glances, and in response to an obvious hint from Melky, Purdie spoke.

"We can give you some news, then," he said. "It'll be common property tomorrow morning. Levendale has mysteriously disappeared from his house, and from his usual haunts!--and nobody knows where he is. And it's considered that this disappearance has something to do with the Praed Street affair."

"Sure!" assented Guyler. "That's just about a dead certainty. And in the Praed Street affair, these platinum stud things are going to play a good part, and when you and your police have got to the bottom of it, you'll sure find that something else has a big part, too!"

"What?" asked Purdie.

"Why, diamonds!" answered the American, with a quiet smile. "Just diamonds! Diamonds'll be at the bottom of the bag--sure!"

There was a moment of surprised silence, and then Melky turned eagerly to the American.

"Mister!" he said. "Let's be getting at something! What do you know, now, about this here Levendale?"

"Not much," replied Guyler. "But I'm open to tell what I do know. I've been a bit of a rolling stone, do you see--knocked about the world, pretty considerable, doing one thing and another, and I've falsified the old saying, for I've contrived to gather a good bit of moss in my rollings. Well, now, I was located in Cape Town for a while, some five years ago, and I met Spencer Levendale there. He was then a dealer in diamonds--can't say in what way exactly--for I never exactly knew--but it was well known that he'd made a big pile, buying and selling these goods, and he was a very rich man. Now I and five other men--all of different nationalities-- were very useful to Levendale in a big deal that he was anxious to carry through--never mind what it was--and he felt pretty grateful to us, I reckon. And as we were all warmish men so far as money was concerned, it wasn't the sort of thing that he could hand out cheques for, so he hit on the notion of having sets of studs made of platinum--which is, as you're aware, the most valuable metal known, and on every stud he had a device of his own invention carefully engraved. Here's my set!--and what Mr. Rubinstein's got there is part of another. Now, then, who's the man who's been dropping his cuff-links about?"

Purdie, who had listened with deep attention to the American's statement, immediately put a question.

"That's but answered by asking you something," he said. "You no doubt know the names of the men to whom those sets of studs were given?"

But to Purdie's disappointment, the American shook his head.

"Well, now, I just don't!" he replied. "The fact is--as you would understand if you knew the circumstances--this was a queer sort of a secret deal, in which the assistance of various men of different nationality was wanted, and none of us knew any of the rest. However, I did come across the Englishman who was in it--afterwards. Recognized him, as a matter of fact, by his being in possession of those studs."

"And who was he?" asked Purdie.

"A man named Purvis--Stephen Purvis," answered Guyler. "Sort of man like myself--knocked around, taking up this and that, as long as there was money in it. I came across him in Johannesburg, maybe a year after that deal I was telling of. He didn't know who the other fellows were, neither."

"You've never seen him since?" suggested Purdie. "You don't know where he is?"

"Not a ghost of a notion!" said Guyler. "Didn't talk with him more than once, and then only for an hour or so."

"Mister!" exclaimed Melky, eagerly. "Could you describe this here Purvis, now? Just a bit of a description, like?"

"Sure!" answered the American. "That is--as I remember him. Biggish, raw- boned, hard-bitten sort of a man--about my age--clean-shaven--looked more of a Colonial than an Englishman--he'd been out in South Africa, doing one thing and another, since he was a boy."

"S'elp me if that doesn't sound like the man who was in Mrs. Goldmark's restaurant!" said Melky. "Just what she describes, anyhow!"

"Why, certainly--I reckon that is the man," remarked Guyler. "That's what I've been figuring on, all through. I tell you all this mystery is around some diamond affair in which this lady's grandfather, and Mr. Spencer Levendale, and this man Purvis have been mixed up--sure! And the thing--in my humble opinion--is to find both of them! Now, then, what's been done, and what's being done, in that way?"

Melky nodded at Purdie, as much as to invite him to speak.

"The authorities at New Scotland Yard have the Levendale affair in hand," said Purdie. "We've been in and out there, with Mr. Multenius's solicitor, all the afternoon and evening. But, of course, we couldn't tell anything about this other man because we didn't know anything, till now. You'll have no objection to going there tomorrow?"

"Not at all!" replied Guyler, cheerfully. "I'm located at this hotel for a week or two. I struck it when I came here from the North, a few days back, and it suits me very well, and I guess I'll just stop here while I'm in London this journey. No, I've no objection to take a hand. But--it seems to me--there's still a lot of difficulty about this young gentleman here-- Mr. Lauriston. I read all the papers carefully, and sized up his predicament. Those rings, now?"

Zillah suddenly remembered all that Ayscough had told her that evening. She had forgotten the real motive of her visit to King's Cross in her excitement in listening to the American's story. She now turned to Purdie and the other two.

"I'd forgotten!" she exclaimed. "The danger's still there. Ayscough's been at the shop tonight. The police have had an expert examining those rings, and the rings in the tray. He says there are marks--private, jewellers' marks in the two rings which correspond with marks in our rings. In fact, there's no doubt of it. And now, the police are certain that the two rings did belong to our tray--and--and they're bent on arresting--Andie!"

Lauriston flushed hotly with sheer indignation.

"That's all nonsense--what the police say!" he exclaimed. "I've found out who gave those two rings to my mother! I can prove it! I don't care a hang for the police and their marks--those rings are mine!"

Purdie laid a quiet hand on Lauriston's arm.

"None of us know yet what you've done or found out at Peebles about the rings," he said. "Tell us! Just give us the brief facts."

"I'm going to," answered Lauriston, still indignant. "I thought the whole thing over as I went down in the train. I remembered that if there was one person living in Peebles who would be likely to know about my mother and those rings, it would be an old friend of hers, Mrs. Taggart--you know her, John."

"I know Mrs. Taggart--go on," said Purdie.

"I didn't know if Mrs. Taggart was still living," continued Lauriston. "But I was out early this morning and I found her. She remembers the rings well enough: she described them accurately--what's more she told me what I didn't know--how they came into my mother's possession. You know as well as I do, John, that my father and mother weren't over well off--and my mother used to make a bit of extra money by letting her rooms to summer visitors. One summer she had a London solicitor, a Mr. Killick, staying there for a month--at least he came for a month, but he was taken ill, and he was there more than two months. My mother nursed him through his illness--and after he'd returned to London, he sent her those rings. And-- if there are marks on them," concluded Lauriston, "that correspond with marks on the rings in that tray, all I have to say is that those marks must have been there when Mr. Killick bought them!--for they've never been out of our possession--my mother's and mine--until I took them to pawn."

Zillah suddenly clapped her hands--and she and Melky exchanged significant glances which the others did not understand.

"That's it!" she exclaimed. "That's what puzzled me at first. Now I'm not puzzled any more. Melky knows what I mean."

"What she means, mister," assented Melky, tapping Purdie's arm, "is precisely what struck me at once. It's just as Mr. Lauriston here says-- them private marks were on the rings when Mr. Killick bought them. Them two rings, and some of the rings in the tray what's been mentioned all come from the same maker! There ain't nothing wonderful in all that to me and my cousin Zillah there!--we've been brought up in the trade, d'ye see? But the police!--they're that suspicious that--well, the thing to do, gentlemen, is to find this here Mr. Killick."

"Just so," agreed Purdie. "Where is he to be found, Andie?"

But Lauriston shook his head, disappointedly.

"That's just what I don't know!" he answered. "It's five and twenty years since he gave my mother those rings, and according to Mrs. Taggart, he was then a middle-aged man, so he's now getting on in years. But--if he's alive, I can find him."

"We've got to find him," said Purdie, firmly. "In my opinion, he can give some evidence that'll be of more importance than the mere identifying of those rings--never mind what it is I'm thinking of, now. We must see to that tomorrow."

"But in the meantime," broke in Zillah. "Andie must not go home--to Mrs. Flitwick's! I know what Ayscough meant tonight--and remember, all of you, it was private between him and myself. If he goes home, he may be arrested, any minute. He must be kept out of the way of the police for a bit, and--"

Purdie rose from the table and shook his head determinedly.

"No," he said. "None of that! We're going to have no running away, no hiding! Andie Lauriston's not going to show the least fear of the police, or of any of their theories. He's just going to follow my orders--and I'm going to take him to my hotel for the night--leave him to me! I'm going to see this thing right through to the finish--however it ends. Now, let's separate. Mr. Guyler!"

"Sir?" answered the American. "At your service."

"Then meet me at my hotel tomorrow morning at ten," said Purdie. "There's a new chapter to open."