Chapter Seven. The Member of Parliament

Melky Rubinstein came out of the side-passage by Multenius's shop as Lauriston neared it; he, too, had a newspaper bulging from his coat pocket, and at sight of Lauriston he pulled it out and waved it excitedly.

"What'd I tell you, mister?" exclaimed Melky, as Lauriston joined him, the shadowing plain-clothes man in his rear. "D'ye see this?" He pointed to an advertisement in his own paper, which he had marked with blue pencil. "There y'are, Mr. Lauriston!--that identical old book what's inside the parlour--advertised for--handsome reward, too, in the Daily Telegraph! Didn't I say we'd hear more of it?"

Lauriston pulled out the Times and indicated the Personal Column.

"It's there, too," he said. "This man, Mr. Levendale, is evidently very anxious to recover his book. And he's lost no time in advertising for it, either! But--however did it get to Multenius's?

"Mister!" said Melky, solemnly. "We'll have to speak to the police--now. There's going to be a fine clue in that there book. I didn't mean to say nothing to the police about it, just yet, but after this here advertisement, t'ain't no use keeping the thing to ourselves. Come on round to the police-station."

"That's just where I was going," replied Lauriston. "Let's get hold of Ayscough."

Ayscough was standing just inside the police-station when they went up the steps; he, too, had a newspaper in his hands, and at sight of them he beckoned them to follow him into an office in which two or three other police officials were talking. He led Lauriston and Melky aside.

"I say!" he said. "Here's a curious thing! That book we noticed on the table in Multenius's back room last night--that finely bound book--it's advertised for in the Daily Mail--handsome reward offered."

"Yes, and in the Times, too--and in the Daily Telegraph," said Lauriston. "Here you are--just the same advertisement. It's very evident the owner's pretty keen about getting it back."

Ayscough glanced at the two newspapers, and then beckoned to a constable who was standing near the door.

"Jim!" he said, as the man came up. "Just slip across to the newsagent's over there and get me the News, the Chronicle, the Standard, the Morning Post. If the owner's as keen as all that," he added, turning back to Lauriston, "he'll have put that advertisement in all the morning papers, and I'd like to make sure. What's known about that book at the shop?" he asked, glancing at Melky. "Does your cousin know anything?"

Melky's face assumed its most solemn expression.

"Mister!" he said earnestly. "There ain't nothing known at the shop about that there book, except this here. It wasn't there when my cousin Zillah left the old man alone at a quarter to five yesterday afternoon. It was there when this here gentleman found the old man. But it hadn't been pledged, nor yet sold, Mr. Ayscough--There'd ha' been an entry in the books if it had been taken in pawn, or bought across the counter--and there's no entry. Now then--who'd left it there?"

Another official had come up to the group--one of the men who had questioned Lauriston the night before. He turned to Lauriston as Melky finished.

"You don't know anything about this book?" he asked.

"Nothing--except that Mr. Ayscough and I saw it lying on the table in the back room, close by that tray of rings," replied Lauriston. "I was attracted by the binding, of course."

"Where's the book, now?" asked the official.

"Put safe away, mister," replied Melky. "It's all right. But this here gentleman what's advertising for it--"

Just then the constable returned with several newspapers and handed them over to Ayscough, who immediately laid them on a desk and turned to the advertisements, while the others crowded round him.

"In every one of 'em," exclaimed Ayscough, a moment later. "Word for word, in every morning newspaper in London! He must have sent that advertisement round to all the offices last night. And you'll notice," he added, turning to the other official, "that this Mr. Levendale only lost this book about four o'clock yesterday afternoon: therefore, it must have been taken to Multenius's shop between then and when we saw it there."

"The old man may have found it in the 'bus," suggested a third police officer who had come up. "Looks as if he had."

"No, mister," said Melky firmly. "Mr. Multenius wasn't out of the shop at all yesterday afternoon--I've made sure o' that fact from my cousin. He didn't find no book, gentlemen. It was brought there."

Ayscough picked up one of the papers and turned to Melky and Lauriston.

"Here!" he said. "We'll soon get some light on this. You two come with me --we'll step round to Mr. Levendale."

Ten minutes later, the three found themselves at the door of one of the biggest houses in Sussex Square; a moment more and they were being ushered within by a footman who looked at them with stolid curiosity. Lauriston gained a general impression of great wealth and luxury, soft carpets, fine pictures, all the belongings of a very rich man's house--then he and his companions were ushered into a large room, half study, half library, wherein, at a massive, handsomely carved desk, littered with books and papers, sat a middle-aged, keen-eyed man, who looked quietly up from his writing-pad at his visitors.

"S'elp me!--one of ourselves!" whispered Melky Rubinstein at Lauriston's elbow. "Twig him!"

Lauriston was quick enough of comprehension and observation to know what Melky meant. Mr. Spencer Levendale was certainly a Jew. His dark hair and beard, his large dark eyes, the olive tint of his complexion, the lines of his nose and lips all betrayed his Semitic origin. He was evidently a man of position and of character; a quiet-mannered, self-possessed man of business, not given to wasting words. He glanced at the card which Ayscough had sent in, and turned to him with one word.


Ayscough went straight to the point.

"I called, Mr. Levendale, about that advertisement of yours which appears in all this morning's newspapers," he said. "I may as well tell you that that book of yours was found yesterday afternoon, under strange circumstances. Mr. Daniel Multenius, the jeweller and pawnbroker, of Praed Street--perhaps you know him, sir?"

"Not at all!" answered Levendale. "Never heard of him."

"He was well known in this part of the town," remarked Ayscough, quietly. "Well, sir--Mr. Multenius was found dead in his back-parlour yesterday afternoon, about five-thirty, by this young man, Mr. Lauriston, who happened to look in there, and I myself was on the spot a few minutes later. Your book--for it's certainly the same--was lying on the table in the parlour. Now, this other young man, Mr. Rubinstein, is a relation of Mr. Multenius's--from enquiries he's made, Mr. Levendale, it's a fact that the book was neither pawned nor sold at Multenius's, though it must certainly have been brought there between the time you lost it and the time we found the old gentleman lying dead. Now, we--the police--want to know how it came there. And so--I've come round to you. What can you tell me, sir?"

Levendale, who had listened to Ayscough with great--and, as it seemed to Lauriston, with very watchful--attention, pushed aside a letter he was writing, and looked from one to the other of his callers.

"Where is my book?" he asked.

"It's all right--all safe, mister," said Melky. "It's locked up in a cupboard, in the parlour where it was found, and the key's in my pocket."

Levendale turned to the detective, glancing again at Ayscough's card.

"All I can tell you, sergeant," he said, "is--practically--what I've told the public in my advertisement. Of course, I can supplement it a bit. The book is a very valuable one--you see," he went on, with a careless wave of his hand towards his book-shelves. "I'm something of a collector of rare books. I bought this particular book yesterday afternoon, at a well-known dealer's in High Holborn. Soon after buying it, I got into a Cricklewood omnibus, which I left at Chapel Street--at the corner of Praed Street, as a matter of fact: I wished to make a call at the Great Western Hotel. It was not till I made that call that I found I'd left the book in the 'bus-- I was thinking hard about a business matter--I'd placed the book in a corner behind me--and, of course, I'd forgotten it, valuable though it is. And so, later on, after telephoning to the omnibus people, who'd heard nothing, I sent that advertisement round to all the morning papers. I'm very glad to hear of it--and I shall be pleased to reward you," he concluded, turning to Melky. "Handsomely!--as I promised."

But Melky made no sign of gratitude or pleasure. He was eyeing the rich man before him in inquisitive fashion.

"Mister!" he said suddenly. "I'd like to ask you a question."

Levendale frowned a little.

"Well?" he asked brusquely. "What is it?"

"This here," replied Melky. "Was that there book wrapped up? Was it brown- papered, now, when you left it?"

It seemed to Lauriston that Levendale was somewhat taken aback. But if he was, it was only for a second: his answer, then, came promptly enough.

"No, it was not," he said. "I carried it away from the shop where I bought it--just as it was. Why do you ask?"

"It's a very fine-bound book," remarked Melky. "I should ha' thought, now, that if it had been left in a 'bus, the conductor would ha' noticed it, quick."

"So should I," said Levendale. "Anything else?" he added, glancing at Ayscough.

"Well, no, Mr. Levendale, thank you," replied the detective. "At least not just now. But--the fact is, Mr. Multenius appears to have come to his death by violence--and I want to know if whoever took your book into his shop had anything to do with it."

"Ah!--however, I can't tell you any more," said Levendale. "Please see that my book's taken great care of and returned to me, sergeant. Good- morning."

Outside, Ayscough consulted his watch and looked at his companions.

"Time we were going on to the inquest," he remarked. "Come on--we'll step round there together. You're both wanted, you know."

"I'll join you at the Coroner's court, Mr. Ayscough," said Melky. "I've got a few minutes' business--shan't be long."

He hurried away by a short cut to Praed Street and turned into Mrs. Goldmark's establishment.

Mrs. Goldmark herself was still ministering to Zillah, but the young woman whom Melky had seen the night before was in charge. Melky drew her aside.

"I say!" he said, with an air of great mystery. "A word with you, miss!-- private, between you and me. Can you tell me what like was that fellow what you believed to ha' lost that there cuff stud you showed me in Mrs. Goldmark's desk?--you know?"

"Yes!" answered the young woman promptly. "Tall--dark--clean-shaved--very brown--looked like one of those Colonials that you see sometimes--wore a slouch hat."

"Not a word to nobody!" warned Melky, more mysteriously than ever. And nodding his head with great solemnity, he left the eating-house, and hurried away to the Coroner's Court.