Under Sealed Orders by H. A. Cody
Chapter XXXI. Paper Number Two
Mr. Westcote was about to begin the reading of the manuscript lying before him, when his lawyer was announced.
"Excuse me for a moment," he said, "I must speak to Dr. Turnsell at once."
"Suppose we go out for a while, Father," Margaret suggested. "You will wish to see him privately, I suppose."
"Remain just where you are," was the reply. "It is not necessary for you to leave."
When they were alone Lois and Margaret discussed what Mr. Westcote had just told them.
"Isn't it strange?" Margaret began. "Did you ever hear anything like it before?"
"No, I never did," was the reply. "But did you know about it?"
"Oh, yes. Father told me, of course, but I had to promise that I wouldn't say a word about it. And I didn't, did I, not even to you? I longed to tell you all I knew, but that would not have been right."
"I wonder what that paper contains," and Lois motioned to the desk. "It, no doubt, will explain everything. I wish your father would hurry back."
"Here he is now," Margaret replied. "He wasn't long with Dr. Turnsell."
"I am afraid that I shall have to leave you young ladies for a while," Mr. Westcote informed them as soon as he had closed the door behind him. "My lawyer wants me to go with him. It is too bad as I wished to read that paper to you."
"Why cannot we read it ourselves?" Margaret asked. "You surely will not keep us in suspense any longer."
"Why, certainly," was the reply. "That will do just as well. Strange that I never thought of that. Suppose you read it, Miss Sinclair," and he handed the manuscript to her. "I shall come back as soon as I can, so you had better wait here until I return unless I am too late."
"Hurry up, Lois," Margaret urged, when they were once more alone. "I can't wait another minute."
Lois was nothing loath, and in a clear, well-modulated voice she began:
"I, Simon Dockett, feeling keenly the weight of years, and knowing that my days on earth are but few, desire to unburden my soul and make amends as far as possible for a grievous wrong I have committed. That wrong can never be fully rectified in this world. If money could do it, then it would flow like water; if a troubled conscience and a wearied and a burdened soul could atone for what I have done, then surely I have made atonement enough. They greatly err who say that a man can sin and yet have peace of mind. I tell you it is hell; yes, hell here, and hell in the world to come.
"I have heaped up riches in my life, enough to satisfy the most avaricious. But at what cost have I acquired them, and of what comfort are they to me now? I am old, lonely, and menials serve me because of my money. How much better are my so-called friends? They fawn upon me with their lips, but deceit is in their hearts. They laugh at me behind my back, and joke about 'Old Dockett' and his money. In all the world there is none who loves me, but many who hate me. One especially there is who desires my death, thinking that he will get my money. That is part of what my riches have cost me, though not all.
"I have a brother, and when we were young our hearts were as one. He was gentle and thoughtful, while I was rough and impetuous. My one object was to make money for self, his, to assist others. Once I loved him as my own soul. But gold got into my heart and changed everything. I became a machine, nay, more, a brutal thinking machine, with gold as the one object in life.
"All natural affections died in me, and I think I would have betrayed my parents for gold, but thank God they were beyond my power. My only brother, Henry, however, was not, and him I betrayed, deceived and ruined. All that he had became mine, and I considered it shrewd business. He left England and I was glad that he was out of my sight. I have never seen him since, but I have kept track of him.
"Had my brother cursed me when I robbed him, it would have been easier for me in after years. But he reproached me not, except with his eyes, and the look that he gave me as we parted has haunted me ever since. I tried to forget what I had done to him, and plunged deeply into business. But all in vain. I could not banish the wrong I had committed, and my brother's face with the reproachful eyes was ever before me day and night.
"At last I could endure it no longer, and so resolved to make what amends I could. I found out where my brother was living, wrote to him, and sent him a considerable sum of money. He returned it, and that made me angry. But I knew that my brother was right, and I also learned that he would starve rather than accept a penny from me or help in any form.
"For several years I made no further attempt to assist him. But the remorse gnawing at my soul could not be silenced. I reasoned that I had done what I could to rectify my wrong, but that gave me no peace. Finally I resolved that I would help him in such a manner that he should never know that I had anything to do with it. I knew that he was living in Eastern Canada, but just where I was uncertain.
"After weeks of careful consideration I made arrangements that all that I possess should go to my brother Henry after my death. In the meantime I planned with my solicitors that a man of exceptional ability and unimpeachable character and integrity should be sent to Canada, backed with sufficient money, to find my brother and to devise some means of assisting him, and carrying out his every legitimate wish without his ever knowing that I was behind the scheme.
"I have also provided that he should be given two sealed papers, the first setting forth his instructions, which he is not to open until his arrival in Canada. He will then learn that this second which I am now writing must not be opened until after my brother's death, should he outlive me. If he should die first then this paper is to be returned to me with the seal unbroken. The man chosen for this special undertaking must not know anything about me, and he is not to have the least idea who my brother really is. When I am dead, my solicitors will notify the man so that he may break the seal of this paper immediately after my brother's death.
"My solicitors have full knowledge of my business affairs, and they will continue to manage them after my death. In case of my brother Henry dying without having made a will, they have full instructions as to the disposal of my property. Only one other living relative I have, and he is my sister's son, Melburne Telford. He cherishes the hope that my money will go to him after my death. In this, however, he is mistaken, for I have taken a great dislike to the young man. He is absolutely worthless, and travels over the country as an artist. I have given him considerable money at various times, for my dead sister's sake. But he has been very ungrateful, and lives a most evil life. He believes that my brother Henry is the only one who stands between him and my money. But I have so arranged that he shall not receive one penny of it, though he is not aware of the fact.
"I have now done all in my power to make amends for past wrongs to my only brother. I should like to see him again, and to hear from his own lips words of forgiveness. But that can never be. People have called me hard, and good reason have they had for such an opinion. But they have not known all. When I am gone and this story is told, perhaps they may think somewhat differently of me. But whether they do or not will not affect me then. I have made my bed, and so I must lie in it.
When Lois had finished, she laid the paper upon the desk and remained silent for a few seconds. The last part of the confession was what interested her most of all. She felt sure that Melburne Telford was none other than Sydney Bramshaw. But how was she to prove it? Where could the person be found who could identify him? she asked herself.
"What do you think of the story?" Margaret asked, as she studied Lois' face in an effort to divine her thoughts.
"It is most interesting," was the reply, "and it explains things I could not understand before. But how are we to prove that Sydney Bramshaw is really Simon Dockett's nephew?"
"Perhaps father may know more about it than we do," Margaret suggested. "He must have received notice of Simon Dockett's death."
Lois was about to reply when a sudden thought flashed into her mind, which caused her face to flush with excitement.
"What is it, dear?" Margaret questioned, noticing her agitation.
"Don't press me for an answer, please," and Lois rose to her feet. "I shall explain everything to you later. I must get home at once. A new idea has come into my mind, which makes me very restless."
As she was standing there, Mr. Westcote entered. His face bore a worried expression which Lois and Margaret were not slow to notice.
"Have they caught him?" Lois eagerly asked.
"No, not yet, but he will be taken no doubt at the station. You have finished reading the paper, I see," and he glanced toward the desk. "What do you think of it?"
"We have found it most interesting, but some of it quite puzzling."
"Where it speaks about Simon Dockett's nephew. Who is Melburne Telford, do you think?"
"Ah, that is where the present trouble lies, Miss Sinclair. I firmly believe that this Sydney Bramshaw is the man, but how are we to prove it without bringing people all the way from England? I thought there was a man in the city who could identify him, as he had done business with the Dockett Concern, as it is commonly called in England. My lawyer and I hunted him up this afternoon, but he told us that he never knew before that Simon Dockett had a nephew. Now if we could only unearth some one who knows that Sydney Bramshaw is in reality Melburne Telford then our case is complete."
"I believe I know the right man," Lois remarked in a low voice. "He is living at Creekdale, and if you will take me there at once we can have a talk with him. I know he will assist us all he can, and we can depend upon what he says."
"We shall go at once," Mr. Westcote replied. "I shall order the car immediately. You had better come too, Margaret."
Lois was now in a great whirl of excitement, and she could hardly wait for the arrival of the car. Mr. Westcote told the chauffeur to make good time, and though they travelled fast it seemed to Lois a long time before the Haven appeared in sight.
The captain and Mrs. Peterson were greatly surprised when the car swung up to the Haven and the young women and Mr. Westcote alighted. The captain was lying in his big chair upon the verandah with his wife knitting by his side.
"Well, this is a surprise," he exclaimed as he shook hands with his visitors. "I thought you were all in the city, and had forgotten your country friends."
"Oh, we can never forget you, Captain," Lois smilingly replied. "We have come on purpose to see you, and so you should feel very much elated and be on your best behaviour."
"Sure, sure, indeed I shall. But what do you want to see me about?" he enquired. "Has it anything to do with that murder case? I am most anxious to hear the latest news."
"I have come to ask you to get your thinking-cap on," Lois replied.
"My thinking-cap! Why, bless your heart, it's always on, day and night."
"That's good, Captain. But first I wish to ask you a few questions."
"Drive ahead, then, I'm ready."
"You have often sailed to Liverpool, have you not?"
"Sure. Know the place well."
"You knew also of the Dockett Concern there, didn't you? I have heard you mention that name."
"Yes, indeed I did. Knew old Simon Dockett himself, and saw him often. My, he was a cranky cuss, if ever there was one. He had a whale of a tongue, and knew how to use it."
"Did you know anything about his family?"
"Not much. He never married, as I guess no woman would have him. But I know for sure that he has a nephew. He sailed once on my ship, and that was the first time I met him. He was a gay one."
"Do you remember his name?" Lois was much excited now.
"Sure; it was Melburne Telford. I couldn't forget that for if he told it to us once on that trip he told it a hundred times. He was always boasting that he was the nephew of old Simon Dockett, and that he was to fall heir to his wealth."
"Have you ever seen him since, Captain?"
"Not until he struck this place, travelling under the name of Sydney Bramshaw. I knew him, though he didn't know me," and the captain smiled as he ran his hand over his bearded face. "I didn't have this then. At first I couldn't exactly make out where I had seen the fellow before, but when I remembered I gave such a whoop that the women folk thought I had gone out of my mind, and came running in to see what was wrong."
"So that was the matter with you that day, was it?" Mrs. Peterson asked as she paused in her knitting.
"Yes, that was it, and poor little Betty thought I had something in my head like 'Mr. David,' ho, ho!"
"But why didn't you tell us who Sydney Bramshaw really was?" Lois asked.
"At first I thought I would. But then I decided to await developments, and see what the fellow was doing around here, and why he was sailing under another name. If I told what I knew it would have been gabbled all over the place in no time, and the chap would have been looked upon with suspicion. He seemed to be harmless enough, and so I thought I might as well hold my tongue for a while anyway. But since he's gone and you've asked me point blank about him, I can't see any harm in telling what I know."
"Would it surprise you, Captain, to learn that Melburne Telford, alias Sydney Bramshaw, is David Findley's nephew?" Mr. Westcote asked.
"His nephew!" the captain exclaimed. "Old David's nephew!"
"Yes, that's who he is, and David and Simon Dockett were brothers."
"Good heavens!" the captain ejaculated. "What's the meaning of it all, I'd like to know?"
"Let me tell you," Mr. Westcote replied. "It is only right that you should know."
As briefly as possible he related the story of the two sealed papers, the captain and his wife listening with the keenest interest. He told also of Bramshaw's suspicious actions.
"And do you mean to tell me that old David was murdered by his nephew?" the captain asked in amazement when the story was finished.
"It looks very much like it, doesn't it?"
"It certainly does. My, my, who'd have thought such a thing!" and the captain leaned back overcome by what he had just heard.
Before the visitors left, Mrs. Peterson spread a little table with a spotless cloth, and brought forth some of her fresh bread, cake and preserves.
"It is no trouble, I assure you," she replied in answer to Lois' remonstrance. "You must have a cup of tea before you leave, and I thought it would be nice out here on the verandah."
"That looks good to me," Mr. Westcote remarked as he drew his chair up to the table. "I haven't eaten a bite since morning. I was all ready to go to the restaurant when Dobbins came to see me, and then you girls arrived. If this keeps up much longer I shall be a skeleton. But I must not remain too long," he added, as he consulted his watch. "I must be back in the city before the C. P. R. leaves."
"May I stay with Lois?" Margaret asked.
"Why yes, if you will not be in the way."
"She must stay," Lois replied. "I could not get along without her now. You will keep us informed, I hope, of how you make out."
"Yes, I shall write to-night, and if anything of great importance turns up I shall let you know at once."