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Sorsha - Book: Scars of the Heart ebook. Sorin - Book: Scent of Salvation. They made their way cautiously down the steps. With a sudden jerk Gossett opened the door. Both men stood on the threshold aghast. On the settee before the fixed table was seated the Right Honourable Lord Hurlby, his pen in his hand. Before him was a cunningly shaded light and there were at least a dozen sheets of paper, scattered about, covered with his thin, decisive handwriting.
He showed no surprise at the entrance of his visitors, but he dropped his eyeglass and frowned. I don't suppose you did, but I thought—this man Gossett too—". Chaplin, fold up these sheets, place them in an envelope and address them to the Home Secretary.
Gossett, grope about behind you there and see if you can find me another bottle of whisky. I finished the last one in twelve hours. Both men stared at him. A terrible conviction was creeping into Chaplin's mind. He reached for the papers with trembling fingers. Gossett, on the other hand, dragged down a bottle of whisky, drew the cork and filled the glass by Lord Hurlby's side. He raised the tumbler to his lips and drank nearly half of its contents without flinching.
The two men looked at him in amazement. Gossett was all the time on his guard. His companion was trembling. He stopped short. There was a puzzled look in his face. Gossett drank a liqueur glass full of the neat whisky. Yesterday I'm sorry to say we couldn't hit it off. I don't know why, but he has become peevish. After all we have been through together, that is foolish. Listen to him now. The two visitors held their breath. Distinctly they heard from the cabin behind a low groan as though of a man in deadly pain.
Gossett took a quick backward step and opened the door. Stretched upon the small bedstead was Alexander Hurlby, a ghastly sight. Blood had congealed upon his face from a wound at the side of the head. His arms were bound to the bedstead with stout cords, his legs were tied together. His eyes were glazed and bloodshot. His breath came with difficulty. They found a pail standing outside and Chaplin held some to his lips whilst Gossett cut his bonds. Even when he was free he was unable to move. They fetched him some whisky, which he drank cautiously. Strength came hack to his voice.
He began to move his limbs slowly. He thrust his fingers into the pail of water and bathed his eyes. Suddenly terror flashed back into them. The warning was just in time. Lord Hurlby, who had lounged into the cabin with a cigarette between his lips, suddenly flung himself savagely upon Gossett, bore him down on to the floor with his hand upon his throat and shook him like a rat. Chaplin dragged the aggressor off from behind, his arms linked around his neck, but it took the two of them to hold him. As soon as Hurlby felt himself overpowered, he ceased to struggle.
A cunning gleam came into his eyes. I came down to pay my brother a friendly little visit. What do you mean by following me here and bringing this ex-detective with you? I don't like him. He's got hold of some cock-and-bull story. Keep him away from the newspapers. He hit me with a hammer when I wasn't looking and tied me up when I was unconscious. You shouldn't have done that. Blackmailers were made to be killed. I'm not so sure about you," he went on, with a snarl in his tone again, struggling to get free and with murder in his eyes, as he leaned towards Gossett.
They were obliged to tie him up, and even then they had to call for the chauffeur before they could get him into the dinghy. In the car, he rolled over to face the mirror. It's the Holdings Bill, isn't it? You must get me another collar. One of the marvels of the whole affair, as it crept into the knowledge of a certain limited number of men and women in privileged official circles, was the beautiful accuracy, the unerring logic contained in those seventeen pages of foolscap which were duly perused by the Chief Commissioner of Scotland Yard, the Home Secretary and an even higher official.
In those moments of incipient lunacy, Hurlby had recorded his exact sensations as he had killed the blackmailer who had tormented him for ten years, and accepted his brother's sacrifice. His brother's career, as he incisively pointed out, brilliant though it had been, had no future. He himself, in a few years' time, already the leader of his party, was bound to become Prime Minister.
All might have gone according to plan if the hospital nurse on her downward path had not felt that mortal affection of pity and sought out first Gossett and afterwards Hurlby himself. The latter, with his concentrated selfishness, would never have given another thought to his brother. Alexander, having passed his word, whatever depths he might have sunk to through the slow growth of debasing instincts, would never break it, and the Right Honourable Lord Hurlby, whose peerage was fortunately an Irish one, would, without a doubt, have become Prime Minister of England.
As it was, the Press, Scotland Yard and the Home Secretary between them had to exercise all their cunning to bring back to life and reputation Captain Alexander Hurlby, D. Shell shock accounted more or less plausibly for Captain Hurlby's flight into hiding, and anyway, the year of his reappearance was a busy one, and the tendency of the world is to talk the most sensational event threadbare in twenty-four hours. The man who had to keep his tongue the stillest was ex-detective Gossett, but that, after all, was his job. FROM the first moment Gossett disliked and yet was fascinated by the man.
Disliked the bland smoothness of him, the hairless face, the childlike complexion, the carefully chosen, ingenuous words. At a chance remark the smoothness of him had suddenly disappeared, his rosy cheeks had puckered up, his eyes had narrowed. He was like the disinterred satyr of a pagan, sung-but-forgotten, posterity. Then a moment later he was Mr. Augustus Merrilies, who came from God knows where and who fenced all the time about his mission like a man living in the shadow of mysterious things. Gossett pulled himself together.
Merrilies," he said pleasantly, "you have occupied my best office chair for a quarter of an hour. At any moment another client may arrive and you have told me nothing. If I can help you, I want to. If you have business to put before me, I shall be glad to consider it; but my time, although it may not be worth much, is too valuable to be wasted in generalities. The little man made a movement as though to reach for his brown Homburg hat which lay on the carpet by his side. He checked himself, however, and looked steadily across at Gossett.
Gossett, is a simple one," he acknowledged. Littledale told me that you could answer that question better than he could. Before I offer you further confidences, I wish to be assured of your complete independence. Augustus Merrilies flicked a morsel of dust from his sleeve and his eyes, fixed upon Gossett's, were suddenly the eyes of a ferret, twisting, compelling, consuming. If you are suspected of being a criminal and seek for aid in escaping the law, I will help you to the best of my ability. I do not deal with self-confessed criminals. I don't think I can speak plainer than that.
There are forty pounds for you if you attempt it and eighty pounds if you succeed. Do not think that I am foolish with money, because I am not, but Mr. Littledale says that if anyone can succeed you can, and if you succeed, eighty pounds will not be too much. I am asking you to visit Emmeline, Countess of Blessbury and induce her, by any means which present themselves to you, to sell a curious yellow emerald which is in her possession. Very serious trouble. I gather that your professional inclinations, Mr.
Gossett, are against any serious infractions of the law. Very well then. I want to tell you this. If the woman I have spoken of refuses to sell that emerald, then some day or other she will be killed. There will be no chance of escape. She will be killed. And if the next of kin refuses to sell it, he or she will be killed too. You should listen to me earnestly, Mr. I am just a poor tradesman from down Wapping way, but there are things which I have some to know, and this is one of them.
I am spending my own money and I come to you in order to save bloodshed. Augustus Merrilies went on, "and, to leave off beating about the bush, there will be a commission to you of one per cent. Malcolm Gossett was suddenly more serious. He had not associated his strange visitor with such a sum of money. I can assure you of that.
You are foolish not to see that there is money in this commission which I am offering to you. Do I look like a millionaire? I am a small tradesman in an East End neighbourhood. I am not one of those who give forty pounds away for nothing. The Countess of Blessbury turned out to be unexpectedly easy of access. On sending up his card to her flat in Cadogan Square, Gossett was only asked to wait a few minutes and was then admitted. She was a remarkably pretty blonde American, indulging in her first widowhood. You announce yourself as 'Late of Scotland Yard.
Mostly heirlooms, worse luck. Gerald, my late husband's cousin, brought it home from India. I don't like it very much. Gresham, he's the lawyer, can find out. It seems to me that after all the taxes have been paid, we shall be glad of the money. The will lay on the table by her side but she did not at first offer to show it to her visitor. Have you brought me my fifty thousand pounds?
He assured me that if it was, the money would be forthcoming at once. Do you ever wear it? Would you like to see it? She rang the bell, and, with the butler and another man whom she sent for to be in attendance, they made their way into a smaller apartment at the rear of the house. In the corner of the room was the door to the safe.
She disappeared for a moment and came out with a plain wooden box in her hand. It opened with a spring and inside was a rather dull-looking stone of deep orange yellow. She rubbed it lightly on her gown, however, and it began to glow with a dull sudden fire. She led him back into the larger room and they finished their cocktails. Gossett glanced towards the will. She fidgeted for a moment with her fingers, then she flung herself back in her chair and looked at him defiantly.
With regard to the rare and very curious yellow emerald which it is understood was presented to my late cousin by an Indian potentate, whose name was never revealed, my advice to my wife would be not to dispose of this until she has made certain enquiries through our agents in India as to the source through which it came. I desire to offer this advice only to prevent any trouble that might arise later, and I do not wish to make it in any way binding upon my wife, in case she chooses to disregard it and sell the gem. I have no definite reason for believing that it came into the family treasures in any but an orthodox manner.
Gossett laid down the will. She had sprung to her feet and was standing by his side, with her hand resting upon his shoulder. Gossett was looking very thoughtful indeed. The advice does not prevent my selling it, does it? I shall take the risk. To-morrow I shall expect to hear from you. You won't be horrid, will you, and back out? It was a quarter to eight when he parked his car, mounted the stairs and, opening the door of his office with his latchkey, reached out for the switch of the electric light. It was ten minutes to ten when he sat up on the floor with a groan, aware of a frantic headache and a queer odour of mingled sandalwood and some heavy narcotic hanging about the room.
The light had been kindly turned on for him, and by his side, in a neat little pile, were the contents of all his pockets with nothing missing. There was also a square piece of paper on which was printed in his own violet ink:. You are warned to keep away from Blessbury House and to have nothing more to do with the purchase or sale of the Blessbury Yellow Emerald. In a very irritated frame of mind and with the remains of his headache still troubling him, Malcolm Gossett received the next morning the expected visit of Mr.
Augustus Merrilies. The latter had hurried up the two flights of stairs and was consequently out of breath, but he was still able to ask the crucial question. If you take my advice, you'll wrap up your head in cotton wool afterwards. A rapid change of expression transformed the appearance of Mr.
His smooth skin seemed all puckered up, his mouth wobbled, his eyes almost disappeared in creases of fat. Augustus Merrilies' fingers were trembling so that he was barely able to hold the square of paper which Gossett passed over. He read it, however, with consternation. Merrilies, I don't want anything more to do with them or your beastly emerald. Five hundred pounds is a very nice little fee to earn, but I like a whole skin. If what happened last night is a foretaste of what I'm going to have when I handle the damned emerald, I don't mind telling you as man to man that I'm off the whole business.
I'll keep the forty pounds. I consider I earned it. But you can go around and get the emerald yourself from her ladyship. She's expecting you at Blessbury House and I daresay a few others are expecting you afterwards. The would-be trafficker in yellow emeralds became a depressing sight. He buried his face in his hands and rocked slowly backwards and forwards in his chair. There were beads of perspiration upon his forehead and even his knees trembled. It is all in a peaceable way, however. I have never been in trouble with the police, I have never made an enemy amongst all the Eastern cut-throats who do their little business with me.
For once I became ambitious. I thought beyond myself. There was so much to be gained. Now the others have come. It is all spoilt. The yellow emerald is in Lady Blessbury's possession. She is willing to part with it for fifty thousand pounds. It will take you five minutes to get there, unless you have to call somewhere to get the money. Then it may take you a little! I should advise you to be off. Augustus Merrilies moaned. You are a wise man. You know that your skin is worth more than money.
I shall resign too. I'm going back to my shop. He picked up his hat from the floor and held a pudgy hand across the table, a hand which Gossett somewhat reluctantly clasped. I think I did not tell Mr. Littledale enough. I wanted to be safe. I am not a fighter. The others can have the yellow emerald for all I care. A more or less busy morning passed on, unmarked by any disturbing incident. His office boy entered with a highly glazed card and an awed expression. Gossett, who was not very well up in such matters, suspected to be confronted by a personage wearing a jewelled turban and at least partial Oriental robes.
A slim and elegant young man presented himself in a dark blue suit and wearing an Eton tie. He was beautifully dressed and turned out, his smile was ingratiating and his English perfect. The young man handed his hat, cane and gloves to the office boy with a royal gesture. The latter departed, stupefied, and the Prince sank gracefully into the client's chair. Gossett," he said, and the latter realised for the first time what the real Oxford accent was, "that you have already surmised the object of my visit.
The Prince lit a cigarette which he withdrew from an elegant platinum and gold case, rose to his feet and gracefully offered the same to Gossett. Gossett," he went on, "that, while acting in my interests last night, you were subjected to a wicked and unpardonable assault. I thought I was acting for a Mr. It is you, Prince, who wish to acquire the yellow emerald? She is only too anxious to sell. My life, for instance, is a matter of the greatest importance to several millions of my subjects in India.
For their sakes there are certain risks which I must avoid. That little rascal, Augustus Merrilies; had, I believe, the impertinence to speak of a one per cent. You must forgive the avarice of a shopkeeper Mr. My idea would be fifty thousand pounds which I would hand you to pay for the jewel and five thousand pounds for yourself when you delivered it to me at some fixed rendezvous. Why, with such an enormous store of jewels as you already possess, are you so anxious to obtain this yellow emerald of somewhat ordinary appearance?
Gossett," he said. It is numbered amongst the precious jewels there and for certain reasons its return is very much to be desired. The question is, are you prepared to accept my commission? Gossett considered for several moments.
Five thousand pounds was a marvellous fee but of little use if a portion of it had to go in funeral expenses. Why not buy the jewel from Lady Blessbury and then land over the transport of it to the police? Gossett," he said gently, "there are certain matters connected with our caste and, what you might term, our superstitions, which you could scarcely be expected to understand. The course which you suggest would be impossible. Gossett relapsed into a further brief interval of consideration. Then he made up his mind quite suddenly. Gossett returned from lunch, however, without having fully made up his mind.
He had scarcely lit his first cigarette when his office boy knocked at the door and entered. There was a scared expression upon his face. He passed the card which he was holding directly to his master. The boy obeyed and Gossett also received a shock. The young man who came in, smiling and imperturbable, resembled the visitor of the morning to an extraordinary degree. The only difference seemed to be that he was wearing a dark grey suit instead of blue, and a Harrow tie. He shook hands with Gossett, relapsed into the client's chair and began deliberately to take off his gloves.
He has, I believe, already approached you with regard to the purchase of the jewel. If you or your brother want that ugly emerald so much, why don't you go yourself or send a Bond Street jeweller in to purchase it from Lady Blessbury? Why do both of you come and seek to employ an almost unknown private agent? Gossett," he said, "if an accident were to happen to me, it would be a disaster for millions of my subjects. Is it possible, Mr. Gossett, that you do not know the story?
I don't know what either of you wants that yellow emerald for. We are not a country of newspapers and gossips. My people too have a sense of reverence. It may have been whispered in the bazaars but to have printed it would have been an outrage. My brother and I were his only two sons; we were twins. To whom then should go the kingdom? He took a month to think it out, and then he decided that the throne should go to the one of us two who should bring back the eye of the Sun Buddha, which had been thoughtlessly and injudiciously given away by my father to a nobleman of England.
My brother and I were apprised of this decision on the same day. We started at once for England. We are here. The eye of the Sun Buddha is, we know, in the possession of this Lady Blessbury. My brother and I both want it. We have our suites here to protect our interests. Is there anything more I can tell you? There is just a chance that you might escape. In that case, the emerald would find its way into the hands of one of us and the wretched uncertainty of this business would be at an end.
The Prince's silky black eyebrows were slowly lifted. He looked at his questioner in surprise. We travelled over by different steamers and we are staying at different hotels, but there are two reasons for this. One of them is that it is absolutely necessary for both of on to insist upon premier rights; the other is the slight difficulty connected with our suites. My brother and I have become largely Europeanised. Either of us could support exile with dignity and pleasure. To the members of our suites, however, it is different.
If they are attached to the reigning Maharajah, they become immediately people of great consequence and their position is of countless benefit to their relations and dependents. Why bother about a third person at all? The yellow emerald is part of the sacred relic. When it is recovered, it will be handed over to the High Priest himself. There are many ways in which it cannot be recovered. For one thing, no blood of its present owner or guardian must be spilt in its actual acquisition by either my brother or myself or anyone of our blood.
The intervention of a third person is therefore necessary. I was recommended," the Prince continued, "to a Mr. Littledale—one of your famous lawyers. My brother, on the advice of a member of his suite, consulted a person who is really only a bogus shopkeeper—a certain Augustus Merrilies.
Littledale recommended me to you as a likely person to deal with the business. Augustus Merrilies was also told to approach you, as I have done myself. May I without offence make a proposition to you? I wondered whether you and your brother would do me the honour of dining at any restaurant you might select at nine o'clock this evening. I will then discuss the matter with you both and do my best to satisfy you.
Gossett," he said, "my brother and I are well trained in the democracy of the West, and so far as we are concerned, it would give us great pleasure to accept your invitation. We are delighted to accept the hospitality of any English gentleman and to return it when he visits our country, but unfortunately there are the members of our suites.
No one of my own suite, for instance, whose attendance I might command, would permit me to sit anywhere but on the right of my host. The same thing would apply to my brother's staff. You will understand that we shall be entirely incognito and nameless. I will now venture to take my leave," he concluded, rising. I am convinced that my brother, who thinks always as I do, will feel the same emotion.
For a single minute after the arrival of the two brothers in the foyer of the Milan Hotel, Gossett fancied that his scheme was doomed to failure. They stopped short at the sight of the very beautiful blonde lady who was standing by Gossett's side, and amongst the little train of their followers one or two at least, English military men by their appearance, hurried forward to whisper cautions to their august masters. Gossett himself always fancied that it was the faint smile at the corner of her beautiful lips, the cryptic lure of that single glance which she ventured in their direction which decided the matter.
The two brothers waved back their followers, they advanced in dignified fashion towards their host, they accepted his carefully spoken introduction to the Countess of Blessbury. Gossett then took the bull by the horns. It seemed to me so sensible. The Countess is in possession of something which should, historically and religiously, find its way back to your country. It seemed to me that a little friendly discussion might simplify matters.
When in due course, that is to say at half-past twelve, the sommelier tendered confused apologies for the non-production of further bottles of champagne, Prince Ahmed beckoned the A. Malcolm Gossett. Engage a private room where we can dance and as many of the orchestra as are advisable. Have the same wine served there. It is our intention to, as you say, make a night of it. It was four mornings later when Gossett, fully recovered from his headache but intensely curious in view of the fact that he had received no further communication as to what might have happened to his royal friends, received a visit from Colonel Chalmers.
Gossett," the latter said, re-introducing himself. I was bear-cubbing one of those young Indian Princes the other night, and I'm afraid I wasn't too agreeable about your party. I have just come back from seeing them off at Tilbury. All through this trouble he has maintained that it would be a woman who should decide which of the two Princes became the lord of the country. Both of them proposed marriage to Lady Blessbury.
She chose my master. She brings him the yellow emerald and he becomes Maharajah and monarch of the richest of the Indian States. The latter's environment was sufficiently impressive. The butler who had escorted the caller into the room had the air and voice of a high ecclesiastic. The library itself, with its warm air of seclusion and the faint mingled odour of old Russian calf and roses, possessed a subtly distinctive atmosphere, and the famous Judge who received his visitor with a courteous word of apology for remaining seated was notably one of the most attractive personalities of his day.
Gossett," the latter said, holding out his hand. I am not in the best of health just now. Lord Harlowe had certainly the wasted appearance of a man who was suffering from some disease. His face was almost waxlike in its pallor, but his voice, for the qualities of which he had always been famous, was still clear and pleasant and the strength of his features remained.
It will perhaps make the remainder of our conversation more intelligible. In my case it has never been so. I have all my life, trusting chiefly of course to my judgment, been influenced by what, for want of a better word, I must call inspiration. That is to say that there have been times when, in dealing with a prisoner, I have been largely influenced, not only by the proven facts of the case, but by my own sentiments as to whether I believed the man guilty or not guilty. I am there making frank admission of what many people would no doubt consider a weakness in my mentality.
It exists and that is all there is to be said about it. It never existed more strongly, Mr. Gossett, than it did in the case of Peter Morton. Nevertheless, from the very first I was troubled with a haunting sense of the man's innocence. I must tell you, Mr. Gossett, that ever since I received my preferment as one of His Majesty's judges, I have always had the shadow of one fear lurking in the back of my mind, and that was that some day in the course of my duties I might sentence to death an innocent man.
When the time came for my summing up, I think every one in the Court was surprised at my earnestness. No one has ever accused me of partisanship—no one has ever accused me of not realising that the summing up of a judge must be neither an appeal to the jury on behalf of the prisoner nor a demand for his conviction. I tried to realise that, even on that day. On the other hand, my summing up, the result of my personal convictions, was so much in favour of the prisoner that I never for a moment believed in the possibility of their not being shared by the jury.
Yet, to my horror, after an absence of two hours, they brought in a verdict of 'Guilty. I had to assume the black cap and sentence Peter Morton to death. At the last minute and yielding entirely to my persuasions, the Home Secretary changed his sentence to penal servitude and his reprieve was forwarded to the prisoner. Now let me tell you a curious thing, Mr. I was spared even the chance of the great horror of my life. In the midst of a very strenuous life, the fate of Peter Morton faded into the background of my thoughts.
Now comes the time when, in writing my memoirs, I reach his case, and Mr. Gossett, I want you to sympathise with me as a human being and not from our official point of view, when I tell you that directly I went into that case again, I felt a complete return of my convictions as to the man's innocence.
Here is a strange thing for one of His Majesty's judges to admit to you, Mr. Gossett, but it is the truth.
On paper, the man would appear to be fairly condemned for the crime of murder. To-day I am as convinced that he is innocent as I was during that awful moment when I wax forced to sentence him to death.