Chapter Twenty-Two. Mr. Killick Goes Back

Ayscough and the man from New Scotland Yard came out of the court at that moment in close and serious conversation: Melky Rubinstein left the other three, and hurried to the two detectives with his news; together, the six men set off for Praed Street. And Purdie, who by this time was developing as much excited interest as his temperament and business habits permitted, buttonholed the Scotland Yard man and walked alongside him.

"What's your professional opinion about what we've just heard in there?" he asked. "Between ourselves, of course."

The detective, who had already had several long conversations with Purdie at headquarters during the previous afternoon and evening, and knew him for a well-to-do young gentleman who was anxious to clear his friend Lauriston of all suspicion, shook his head. He was a quiet, sagacious, middle-aged man who evidently thought deeply about whatever he had in hand.

"It's difficult to say, Mr. Purdie," he answered. "I've no doubt that when we get to the bottom of this case it'll turn out to be a very simple one-- but the thing is to get to the bottom. The ways are complicated, sir-- uncommonly so! At present we're in a maze--seeking the right path."

"Do you think that this Parslett affair has anything to do with the Multenius affair?" asked Purdie.

"Yes--undoubtedly!" answered the detective. "There's no doubt whatever in my own mind that the man who poisoned Parslett is the man who caused the old pawnbroker's death--none! I figure it in this way. Parslett somehow, caught a glimpse of that man leaving Multenius's shop--by the side-door, no doubt--and knew him--knew him very well, mind you! When Parslett heard of what had happened in Multenius's back-parlour, he kept his knowledge to himself, and went and blackmailed the man. The man gave him that fifty pounds in gold to keep his tongue quiet--no doubt arranging to give him more, later on--and at the same time he cleverly poisoned him. That's my theory, Mr. Purdie."

"Then--the only question now is--who's the man?" suggested Purdie.

"That's it, sir--who's the man?" agreed the detective. "One thing's quite certain--if my theory's correct. He's a clever man--and an expert in the use of poisons."

Purdie walked on a minute or two in silence, thinking.

"It's no use beating about the bush," he said at last. "Do you suspect Mr. Levendale--after all you've collected in information--and after what I told you about what his butler saw--that bottle and phial?"

"I think that Levendale's in it," replied the detective, cautiously. "I'm sure he's in it--in some fashion. Our people are making no end of enquiries about him this morning, in various quarters--there's half-a- dozen of our best men at work in the City and the West End, Mr. Purdie. He's got to be found! So, too, has this man Stephen Purvis--whoever he is. We must find him, too."

"Perhaps these letters that Melky Rubinstein speaks of may throw some light on that," said Purdie. "There must be some way of tracing him, somewhere."

They were at the pawnshop by that time, and all six trooped in at the side-entrance. Old Daniel Multenius, unconscious of all the fuss and bother which his death had caused, was to be quietly interred that afternoon, and Zillah and Melky were already in their mourning garments. But Zillah had lost none of her business habits and instincts, and while the faithful Mrs. Goldmark attended to the funeral guests in the upstairs regions, she herself was waiting in the back-parlour for these other visitors. On the table before her, evidently placed there for inspection, lay three objects to which she at once drew attention--one, an old- fashioned, double-breasted fancy waistcoat, evidently of considerable age, and much worn, the others, two letters written on foreign notepaper.

"It never occurred to me," said Zillah, plunging into business at once, "at least, until an hour or two ago, to examine the clothes my grandfather was wearing at the time of his death. As a matter of fact he'd been wearing the same clothes for months. I've been through all his pockets. There was nothing of importance--except these letters. I found those in a pocket in the inside of that waistcoat--there! Read them."

The men bent over the unfolded letters, and Ayscough read them aloud.


"September 17th, 1912.

"Dear Sir,--I have sent the little article about which I have already written you and Mr. L. fully, to your address by ordinary registered post. Better put it in your bank till I arrive--shall write you later about date of my arrival. Faithfully yours,

"Stephen Purvis."

"That," remarked Ayscough, glancing at the rest, "clearly refers to whatever it was that Mr. Multenius took from his bank on the morning of his death. It also refers to Mr. Levendale--without doubt."

He drew the other letter to him and read it out.


"October 10th, 1912.

"Dear Sir,--Just a line to say I leave here by s.s. Golconda in a day or two--this precedes me by today's mail. I hope to be in England November 15th--due then, anyway--and shall call on you immediately on arrival. Better arrange to have Mr. S. L. to meet you and me at once. Faithfully,

"Stephen Purvis."

"November 15th?" remarked Ayscough. "Mr. Multenius died on November 19th. So--if Purvis did reach here on the 15th he'd probably been about this quarter before the 19th. We know he was at Mrs. Goldmark's restaurant on the 18th, anyway! All right, Miss Wildrose--we'll take these letters with us."

Lauriston stopped behind when the rest of the men went out--to exchange a few words alone with Zillah. When he went into the street, all had gone except Purdie, who was talking with Melky at the entrance to the side- alley.

"That's the sure tip at present, mister," Melky was saying. "Get that done--clear that up. Mr. Lauriston," he went on, "you do what your friend says--we're sorting things out piece by piece."

Purdie took Lauriston's arm and led him away.

"What Melky says is--go and find out what Mr. Killick can prove," he said. "Best thing to do, too, Andie, for us. Now that these detectives are fairly on the hunt, and are in possession of a whole multitude of queer details and facts, we'll just do our bit of business--which is to clear you entirely. There's more reasons than one why we should do that, my man!"

"What're you talking about, John?" demanded Lauriston. "You've some idea in that head of yours!"

"The idea that you and that girl are in love with each other!" said Purdie with a sly look.

"I'll not deny that!" asserted Lauriston, with an ingenuous blush. "We are!"

"Well, you can't ask any girl to marry you, man, while there's the least bit of suspicion hanging over you that you'd a hand in her grandfather's death!" remarked Purdie sapiently. "So we'll just eat a bit of lunch together, and then get a taxi-cab and drive out to find this old gentleman that gave your mother the rings. Come on to the hotel."

"You're spending a fine lot of money over me, John!" exclaimed Lauriston.

"Put it down that I'm a selfish chap that's got interested, and is following his own pleasure!" said Purdie. "Man alive!--I was never mixed up in a detective case before--it beats hunting for animals, this hunting for men!"

By a diligent search in directories and reference books early that morning, Purdie and Lauriston had managed to trace Mr. Edward Killick, who, having been at one time a well-known solicitor in the City, had followed the practice of successful men and retired to enjoy the fruit of his labours in a nice little retreat in the country. Mr. Killick had selected the delightful old-world village of Stanmore as the scene of his retirement, and there, in a picturesque old house, set in the midst of fine trees and carefully trimmed lawns, Purdie and Lauriston found him--a hale and hearty old gentleman, still on the right side of seventy, who rose from his easy chair in a well-stocked library to look in astonishment from the two cards which his servant had carried to him at the persons and faces of their presenters.

"God bless my soul!" he exclaimed. "Are you two young fellows the sons of old friends of mine at Peebles?"

"We are, sir," answered Purdie. "This is Andrew Lauriston, and I am John Purdie. And we're very glad to find that you remember something about our people, Mr. Killick."

Mr. Killick again blessed himself, and after warmly shaking hands with his visitors, bade them sit down. He adjusted his spectacles, and looked both young men carefully over.

"I remember your people very well indeed!" he said. "I used to do a bit of fishing in the Tweed and in Eddleston Water with your father, Mr. Purdie-- and I stopped some time with your father and mother, at their house, Mr. Lauriston. In fact, your mother was remarkably kind to me--she nursed me through an illness with which I was seized when I was in Peebles."

Lauriston and Purdie exchanged glances--by common consent Purdie became spokesman for the two.

"Mr. Killick," he said, "it's precisely about a matter arising out of that illness of yours that we came to see you! Let me explain something first-- Andie Lauriston here has been living in London for two years--he's a literary gift, and he hopes to make a name, and perhaps a fortune. I've succeeded to my father's business, and I'm only here in London on a visit. And it's well I came, for Andie wanted a friend. Now, Mr. Killick, before I go further--have you read in the newspapers about what's called the Praed Street Mystery?"

The old gentleman shook his head.

"My dear young sir!" he answered, waving his hand towards his books. "I'm not a great newspaper reader--except for a bit of politics. I never read about mysteries--I've wrapped myself up in antiquarian pursuits since I retired. No!--I haven't read about the Praed Street Mystery--nor even heard of it! I hope neither of you are mixed up in it?"

"Considerably!" answered Purdie. "In more ways than one. And you can be of great help. Mr. Killick--when you left Peebles after your illness, you sent Mrs. Lauriston a present of two valuable rings. Do you remember?"

"Perfectly--of course!" replied the old gentleman. "To be sure!"

"Can you remember, too, from whom you bought those rings?" enquired Purdie eagerly.

"Yes!--as if it were yesterday!" said Mr. Killick. "I bought them from a City jeweller whom I knew very well at that time--a man named Daniel Molteno!"