Chapter Twenty-Five. The Dead Man's Property

Old Daniel Multenius had been quietly laid to rest that afternoon, and at the very moment in which Mr. Killick and his companions were driving away from the police station to seek Stuyvesant Guyler at his hotel, Mr. Penniket was closeted with Zillah and her cousin Melky Rubinstein in the back-parlour of the shop in Praed Street--behind closed and locked doors which they had no intention of opening to anybody. Now that the old man was dead and buried, it was necessary to know how things stood with respect to his will and his property, and, as Mr. Penniket had remarked as they drove back from the cemetery, there was no reason why they should not go into matters there and then. Zillah and Melky were the only relations-- and the only people concerned, said Mr. Penniket. Five minutes would put them in possession of the really pertinent facts as regards the provisions of the will--but there would be details to go into. And now they were all three sitting round the table, and Mr. Penniket had drawn two papers from his inner pocket--and Zillah regarding him almost listlessly, and Melky with one of his quietly solemn expression. Each had a pretty good idea of what was coming and each regarded the present occasion as no more than a formality.

"This is the will," said Mr. Penniket, selecting and unfolding one of the documents. "It was made about a year ago--by me. That is, I drafted it. It's a short, a very short and practical will, drafted from precise instructions given to me by my late client, your grandfather. I may as well tell you in a few words what it amounts to. Everything that he left is to be sold--this business as a going concern; all his shares; all his house property. The whole estate is to be realized by the executors--your two selves. And when that's done, you're to divide the lot--equally. One half is yours, Miss Wildrose; Mr. Rubinstein, the other half is yours. And," concluded Mr. Penniket, rubbing his hands, "you'll find you're very fortunate--not to say wealthy--young people, and I congratulate you on your good fortune! Now, perhaps, you'd like to read the will?"

Mr. Penniket laid the will on the table before the two cousins, and they bent forward and read its legal phraseology. Zillah was the first to look up and to speak.

"I never knew my grandfather had any house property," she said. "Did you, Melky?"

"S'elp me, Zillah, if I ever knew what he had in that way!" answered Melky. "He had his secrets and he could be close. No--I never knew of his having anything but his business. But then, I might have known that he'd invest his profits in some way or other."

The solicitor unfolded the other document.

"Here's a schedule, prepared by Mr. Multenius himself, and handed by him to me not many weeks ago, of his property outside this business," he remarked. "I'll go through the items. Shares in the Great Western Railway. Shares in the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway. Government Stock. Certain American Railway Stock. It's all particularized--and all gilt- edged security. Now then, about his house property. There's a block of flats at Hampstead. There are six houses at Highgate. There are three villas in the Finchley Road. The rents of all these have been collected by Messrs. Holder and Keeper, estate agents, and evidently paid by them direct to your esteemed relative's account at his bank. And then--to wind up--there is a small villa in Maida Vale, which he let furnished--you never heard of that?"

"Never!" exclaimed Zillah, while Melky shook his head.

"There's a special note about that at the end of this schedule," said Mr. Penniket. "In his own hand--like all the rest. This is what he says. 'N. B. Molteno Lodge, Maida Vale--all the furniture, pictures, belongings in this are mine--I have let it as a furnished residence at L12 a month, all clear, for some years past. Let at present, on same terms, rent paid quarterly, in advance, to two Chinese gentlemen, Mr. Chang Li and Mr. Chen Li--good tenants."

Zillah uttered another sharp exclamation and sprang to her feet. She walked across to an old-fashioned standup desk which stood in a corner of the parlour, drew a bunch of keys from her pocket, and raised the lid.

"That explains something!" she said. "I looked into this desk the other day--grandfather used to throw letters and papers in there sometimes, during the day, and then put them away at night. Here's a cheque here that puzzled me--I don't know anything about it. But--it'll be a quarter's rent for that house. Look at the signatures!"

She laid a cheque before Melky and Mr. Penniket and stood by while they looked at it. There was nothing remarkable about the cheque--made out to Mr. Daniel Multenius on order for L36--except the two odd looking names at its foot--Chang Li: Chen Li. Otherwise, it was just like all other cheques--and it was on a local bank, in Edgware Road, and duly crossed. But Melky instantly observed the date, and put one of his long fingers to it.

"November 18th," he remarked. "The day he died. Did you notice that, Zillah?"

"Yes," answered Zillah. "It must have come in by post and he's thrown it, as he often did throw things, into that desk. Well--that's explained! That'll be the quarter's rent, then, for this furnished house, Mr. Penniket?"

"Evidently!" agreed the solicitor. "Of course, there's no need to give notice to these two foreigners--yet. It'll take a little time to settle the estate, and you can let them stay on awhile. I know who they are--your grandfather mentioned them--two medical students, of University College. They're all right. Well, now, that completes the schedule. As regards administering the estate--"

A sudden gentle but firm knock at the side-door brought Zillah to her feet again.

"I know that knock," she remarked. "It's Ayscough, the detective. I suppose he may come in, now?"

A moment later Ayscough, looking very grave and full of news, had joined the circle round the table. He shook his head as he glanced at Mr. Penniket.

"I came on here to give you a bit of information," he said. "There's been an important development this afternoon. You know the name of this Stephen Purvis that's been mentioned as having been about here? Well, this afternoon his brother turned up from Devonshire. He wanted to see us--to tell us something. He thinks Stephen's been murdered!"

"On what grounds?" asked the solicitor.

"It turns out Stephen had sent Mr. Multenius a rare fine diamond--uncut-- from South Africa," answered Ayscough. "Worth every penny of eighty thousand pounds!"

He was closely watching Zillah and Melky as he gave this piece of news, and he was quick to see their utter astonishment. Zillah turned to the solicitor; Melky slapped the table.

"That's been what the old man fetched from his bank that day!" he exclaimed. "S'elp me if I ain't beginning to see light! Robbery--before murder!"

"That's about it," agreed Ayscough. "But I'll tell you all that's come out."

He went on to narrate the events of the afternoon, from the arrival of Mr. Killick and his companions at the police station to the coming of John Purvis, and his three listeners drank in every word with rising interest. Mr. Penniket became graver and graver.

"Where's Mr. Killick now--and the rest of them?" he asked in the end.

"Gone to find that American chap--Guyler," answered Ayscough. "They did think he might be likely--having experience of these South African matters--to know something how Stephen Purvis may have been followed. You see--you're bound to have some theory! It looks as if Stephen Purvis had been tracked--for the sake of that diamond. The thieves probably tracked it to this shop--most likely attacked Mr. Multenius for it. They'd most likely been in here just before young Lauriston came in."

"But where does Stephen Purvis come in--then?" asked Mr. Penniket.

"Can't say yet--," replied Ayscough, doubtfully. "But--it may be that he-- and Levendale--got an idea who the thieves were, and went off after them, and have got--well, trapped, or, as John Purvis suggests, murdered. It's getting a nicer tangle than ever!"

"What's going to be done?" enquired the solicitor.

"Why!" said Ayscough. "At present, there's little more to be done than what is being done! There's no end of publicity in the newspapers about both Levendale and Purvis. Every newspaper reporter in London's on the stretch for a thread of news of 'em! And we're getting posters and bills out, all over, advertising for them--those bills'll be outside every police-station in London--and over a good part of England--by tomorrow noon. And, of course, we're all at work. But you see, we haven't so far, the slightest clue as to the thieves! For there's no doubt, now, that it was theft first, and the rest afterwards."

Mr. Penniket rose and gathered his papers together.

"I suppose," he remarked, "that neither of you ever heard of this diamond, nor of Mr. Multenius having charge of it? No--just so. An atmosphere of secrecy all over the transaction. Well--all I can say, Ayscough, is this --you find Levendale. He's the man who knows."

When the solicitor had gone, Ayscough turned to Zillah.

"You never saw anything of any small box, packet, or anything of that sort, lying about after your grandfather's death?" he asked. "I'm thinking of what that diamond had been enclosed in, when he brought it from the bank. My notion is that he was examining that diamond when he was attacked, and in that case the box he'd taken it from would be lying about, or thrown aside."

"You were in here yourself, before me," said Zillah.

"Quite so--but I never noticed anything," remarked Ayscough.

"Neither have I," replied Zillah. "And don't you think that whoever seized that diamond would have the sense to snatch up anything connected with it! I believe in what Mr. Penniket said just now--you find Levendale. If there's a man living who knows who killed my grandfather, Levendale's that man. You get him."

Mrs. Goldmark came in just then, to resume her task of keeping Zillah company, and the detective left. Melky snatched up his overcoat and followed him out, and in the side-passage laid a hand on his arm.

"Look here, Mr. Ayscough!" he whispered confidentially. "I want you! There's something turned up in there, just now, that I ain't said a word about to either Penniket or my cousin--but I will to you. Do you know what, Mr. Ayscough--listen here;"--and he went on to tell the detective the story of the furnished house in Maida Vale, its Chinese occupants, and their cheque. "Dated that very day the old man was scragged!" exclaimed Melky. "Now, Mr. Ayscough, supposing that one o' those Chinks called here with that cheque that afternoon when Zillah was out, and found the old man alone, and that diamond in his hand--eh?"

Ayscough started and gave a low, sharp whistle.

"Whew!" he said. "By George, that's an idea! Where's this house, do you say? Molteno Lodge, Maida Vale? I know it--small detached house in a garden. I say!--let's go and take a look round there!"

"It's what I was going to propose--and at once," responded Melky. "Come on--but on the way, we'll pay a bit of a call. I want to ask a question of Dr. Mirandolet."