The Experiences of Loveday Brooke, Lady Detective/Missing!

First published in The Ludgate Monthly, February 1894; pp. 356-372 (scan pp. 72-88)


" NOW, Miss Brooke, if this doesn't inspire you I don't know what will," said Mr. Dyer. And, taking up a handbill that lay upon his writing-table, he read aloud as follows:

"Five hundred pounds reward.—Missing, since Monday, September 20th, Irene, only daughter of Richard Golding, of Langford Hall, Langford Cross, Leicestershire. Age 18, height five feet seven; dark hair and eyes, olive complexion, small features; was dressed when she left home in dark blue serge walking costume, with white straw sailor hat trimmed with cream ribbon. Jewellery worn; plain gold brooch, leather strap bracelet holding small watch, and on the third finger of left hand a marquise ring consisting of one large diamond, surrounded with twelve rubies. Was last seen about ten o'clock on the morning of the 20th leaving Langford Hall Park for the high road leading to Langford Cross. The above reward will be paid to any one giving such information as will lead to the young lady's restoration to her home; or portions of the reward, according to the value of the information received. All communications to be addressed to the Chief Inspector, Police Station, Langford Cross."

"Was last seen on the 20th of September!" exclaimed Loveday, as Mr. Dyer finished reading. "Why, that is ten days ago! Do you mean to say that reward has not stimulated the energies of the local police and long ago put them on the traces of the missing girl?"

"It has stimulated their energies, not a doubt, for the local papers teem with accounts of the way in which the whole country about Langford has been turned upside down generally. Every river, far and near has been dragged; every wood scoured; every railway official at every station for miles round has been driven nearly mad with persistent cross-questioning. But all to no purpose. The affair remains as great a mystery as ever. The girl, as the handbill says, was seen leaving the Park for the high road by some children who chanced to be passing, but after that she seems to have disappeared as completely as if the earth had opened to receive her."

"Cannot her own people suggest any possible motive for her thus suddenly leaving home?"

"It appears not; they seem absolutely incapable of assigning any reason whatever for her extraordinary conduct. This morning I received a letter from Inspector Ramsay, asking me to get you to take up the case. Mr. Golding will not have the slightest objection to your staying at the Hall and thoroughly investigating the matter. Ramsay says it is just possible that they have concentrated too much attention on the search outside the house, and that a promising field for investigation may lie within."

"They should have thought of that before," said Loveday sharply. "I hope you declined the case. Here's the country inspector to the backbone! He'll keep a case in his own hands so long as there's a chance of success; then, when it becomes practically hopeless, hand it over to you just to keep his own failure in countenance by yours."

"Ye-es," said Mr. Dyer, slowly. "I suppose that's about it. But still, business has been slack of late—expenses are heavy—if you thought there was a ghost of a chance——"

"After ten days!" interrupted Miss Brooke, "when the house has settled down into routine, and every one has his story cut and dried, and all sorts of small details have been falsified or smudged over! Criminal cases are like fevers; they should be taken in hand within twenty-four hours."

"Yes, I know," said Mr. Dyer irritably, "but still, as I said before, business is slack——"

"Oh, well, if I'm to go, I'm to go, and there's an end of it," said Loveday resignedly. "I only say it would have been better, for the credit of the office, if you had declined such a hopeless affair. Tell me a little about this Mr. Richard Golding, who and what he is."

Mr. Dyer's temper grew serene again.

"He is a very wealthy man," he answered, "an Australian merchant. Came over to England about a dozen years ago, and settled down at Langford Hall. He had, however, been living in Italy for some six or seven years previously. On his way home from Australia he did Italy, as so many Australians do, fell in love with a pretty girl, whom he met at Naples, and married her, and by her had this one child, Irene, who is causing such a sensation at the present moment."

"Is this Italian wife living?"

"No, she died just before Mr. Golding came to England. He has not yet married again, but I hear is on the point of so doing. The lady he contemplates making the second Mrs. Golding is a certain Mrs. Greenhow, a widow, who for the past year or so has acted as chaperon to his daughter and housekeeper to himself."

"It is possible that Miss Irene was not too well pleased at the idea of having a stepmother."

"Such is the fact. From all accounts she and her future stepmother did not get on at all well together. Miss Irene has a very hasty, imperious temper, and Mrs. Greenhow seems to have been quite incapable of holding her own with her. She was to have left the hall this month to make her preparations for the approaching wedding; the young lady's disappearance, however, has naturally brought matters to a standstill."

[Illustration: THE YOUNG GIRL, IRENÉ]

"Did Miss Golding take any money away with her, do you know?"

"Ah, nobody seems sure on that head. Mr. Golding gave her a liberal allowance and exacted no accounts. Sometimes she had her purse full at the end of the quarter, sometimes it was empty before her quarterly cheque had been cashed a week. I fear you will have to do without exact information on that most important point.

"She had lovers, of course?"

"Yes; in spite of her quick temper she seems to have been a lovable and most attractive young woman, with her half-Australian half-Italian parentage, and to have turned the heads of all the men in the neighbourhood. Only two, however, appear to have found the slightest favour in her eyes—a certain Lord Guilleroy, who owns nearly all the land for miles round Langford, and a young fellow called Gordon Cleeve, the only son of Sir Gordon Cleeve, a wealthy baronet. The girl seems to have coquetted pretty equally with these two; then suddenly, for some reason or other, she gives Mr. Cleeve to understand that his attentions are distasteful to her, and gives unequivocal encouragement to Lord Guilleroy. Gordon Cleeve does not sit down quietly under this treatment. He threatens to shoot first his rival, then himself, then Miss Golding; finally, does none of these three things, but starts off on a three years' journey round the world."

"Threatens to shoot her; starts off on a journey round the world," summed up Loveday. "Do you know the date of the day on which he left Langford?"

"Yes, it was on the 19th; the day before Miss Golding disappeared. But Ramsay has already traced him down to Brindisi; ascertained that he went on board the Buckingham, en route for Alexandria, and has beaten out the theory that he can, by any possibility, be connected with the affair. So I wouldn't advise you to look in that quarter for your clue."

"I am not at all sanguine about finding a clue in any quarter," said Loveday, as she rose to take leave.

She did not feel in the best of tempers, and was a little disposed to resent having a case, so to speak, forced upon her under such disadvantageous conditions.

Her last words to Mr. Dyer were almost the first she addressed to Inspector Ramsay when, towards the close of the day, she was met by him at Langford Cross Station. Ramsay was a lanky, bony Scotchman, sandy-haired and slow of speech.

"Our hopes centre on you; we trust you'll not disappoint us," he said, by way of a greeting.

His use of the plural number made Loveday turn in the direction of a tall, good-looking man, with a remarkably frank expression of countenance, who stood at the inspector's elbow.

"I am Lord Guilleroy," said this gentleman, coming forward. "Will you allow me to drive you to Langford Hall? My cab is waiting outside."

"Thank you; one moment," answered Loveday, again turning to Ramsay. "Now, do you wish," she said, addressing him, "to tell me anything beyond the facts you have already communicated to Mr. Dyer?"

"No-o," answered the inspector, slowly and sententiously. "I would rather not bias your mind in any direction by any theory of mine." ("It would be rather a waste of time to attempt such a thing," thought Loveday.) "The only additional fact I have to mention is one you would see for yourself so soon as you arrived at the Hall, namely, that Mr. Golding is keeping up with great difficulty—in fact, is on the verge of a break-down. He has not had half an hour's sleep since his daughter left home,—a serious thing that for a man at his age."

Loveday was favourably impressed with Lord Guilleroy. He gave her the idea of being a man of strong common-sense and great energy. His conversation was marked by a certain reserve. Although, however, he evidently declined to wear his heart upon his sleeve, it was easy to see, from a few words that escaped him, that if the search for Miss Golding proved fruitless his whole life would be wrecked.

He did not share Inspector Ramsay's wish not to bias Loveday's mind by any theory of his own.

"If I had a theory you should have it in a minute," he said, as he whipped up his horse and drove rapidly along the country road; "but I confess at the present moment my mind is a perfect blank on the matter. I have had a dozen theories, and have been compelled, one by one, to let them all go. I have suspected every one in turn, Cleeve, her own father (God forgive me!), her intended step-mother, the very servants in the house, and, one by one, circumstances have seemed to exonerate them all. It's bewildering—it's maddening! And most maddening of all it is to have to sit here with idle hands, when I would scour the earth from end to end to find her!"

The country around Langford Hall, like most of the hunting districts in Leicestershire, was as flat as if a gigantic stream-roller had passed over it. The Hall itself was a somewhat imposing Gothic structure, of rough grey stone. Very grey and drear it showed in the autumn landscape as Loveday drove in through the park gates and caught her first glimpse of it between the all but leafless elms that flanked the drive. The equinoctial gales had set in early this year, and heavy rains had helped forward their work of wreckage and destruction. The green sward of the park was near akin to a swamp; and the trout stream that flowed across it at an angle showed swollen to its very banks. The sky was leaden with gathering masses of clouds; a flight of rooks, wheeling low and flapping their black wings, with their mournful cawing, completed the dreariness of the scene.

"A companion picture, this," Loveday thought, "to the desolation that must reign within the house with the fate of its only daughter unknown—unguessed at even."

As she alighted at the hall door, a magnificent Newfoundland dog came bounding forth. Lord Guilleroy caressed it heartily.

"It was her dog," he explained. "We have tried in vain to make him track down his mistress—these dogs haven't the scent of hounds."

He excused himself from entering the house with Loveday.

"It's like a vault—a catacomb; I can't stand it," he said. "No, I'll take back my horse;" this was said to the man who stood waiting. "Tell Mr. Golding he'll see me round in the morning without fail."

Loveday was shown into the library, where Mr. Golding was waiting to receive her. In the circumstances no disguise as to her name and profession had been deemed necessary, and she was announced simply as Miss Brooke from Lynch Court.


Mr. Golding greeted her warmly. One glance at him convinced her that Inspector Ramsay had given no exaggerated account of the bereaved father. His face was wan and haggard; his head was bowed; his voice sounded strained and weak. He seemed incapable of speaking on any save the one topic that filled his thoughts.

"We pin our faith on you, Miss Brooke," he said; "you are our last hope. Now, tell me you do not despair of being able to end this awful suspense one way or another. A day or two more of it will put me into my coffin!"

"Miss Brooke will perhaps like to have some tea, and to rest a little, after her long journey before she begins to talk?" said a lady, at that moment entering the room and advancing towards her. Loveday could only conjecture that this was Mrs. Greenhow, for Mr. Golding was too preoccupied to make any attempt to an introduction.

Mrs. Greenhow was a small, slight woman, with fluffy hair and green-grey eyes. Her voice suggested a purr; her eyes, a scratch.

"Cat-tribe!" thought Loveday; "the velvet paw and the hidden claw—the exact antithesis, I should say, to one of Miss Golding's temperament."

Mr. Golding went back to the one subject he had at heart.

"You have had my daughter's photograph given to you, I've no doubt," he said; "but this I consider a far better likeness." Here he pointed to a portrait in pastels that hung above his writing-table. It was that of a large-eyed, handsome girl of eighteen, with a remarkably sweet expression about the mouth.


Mrs. Greenhow again interposed. "I think, if you don't mind my saying so," she said, "you would slightly mislead Miss Brooke if you led her to think that that was a perfect likeness of dear René. Much as I love the dear girl," here she turned to Loveday, "I'm bound to admit that one seldom or never saw her wearing such a sweet expression of countenance."

Mr. Golding frowned, and sharply changed the subject.

"Tell me, Miss Brooke," he said, "what was your first impression when the facts of the case were submitted to you? I have been told that first impressions with you are generally infallible."

Loveday parried the question.

"I am not at present sure that I am in possession of all the facts," she answered. "There are one or two questions I particularly want to ask—you must forgive me if they seem to you a little irrelevant to the matter in hand. First and foremost, I want to know if any formal good-bye took place between your daughter and Mr. Gordon Cleeve?"

"I think not. A sudden coolness arose between them, and the young fellow went away without so much as shaking hands with me."

"I fear an irreparable breach has occurred between the Cleeves and yourself on account of dear René's extraordinary treatment of Gordon," said Mrs. Greenhow sweetly.

"There was no extraordinary treatment," said Mr. Golding, now almost in anger. "My daughter and Mr. Cleeve were good friends—nothing more, I assure you—until one day René saw him cruelly thrashing one of his setters, and after that she cut him dead—would have nothing whatever to do with him."

"Maddalena told Inspector Ramsay," said Mrs. Greenhow, sweetly still, "that on the evening before Gordon Cleeve left Langford dear René received a note from him——"

"Which she tossed unopened into the fire," finished Mr. Golding.

"Who is Maddalena?" interrupted Loveday.

"My daughter's maid. I brought her over from Naples twelve years ago as nurse, and as René grew older she naturally enough fell into her duties as René's maid. She is a dear, faithful creature; her aunt was nurse to René's mother."

"Is it possible for Maddalena to be told off to wait upon me while I am in the house?" asked Loveday, turning to Mrs. Greenhow.

"Certainly, if you wish it. At the same time, I warn you that she is not in a particularly amiable frame of mind just now, and will be very likely to be sullen and disobliging," answered the lady.

"Maddalena is not generally either one or the other," said Mr. Golding deprecatingly; "but just now she is a little unlike herself. The truth is, all the servants have been a little too rigorously cross-examined by the police on matters of which they could have absolutely no knowledge, and Ramsay made such a dead set at 'Lena that the girl felt herself insulted, grew sullen, and refused to open her lips."

"She must be handled judiciously. I suppose she was broken-hearted when Miss Golding did not return from her morning's walk?"

A reply was prevented by the entrance of a servant with a telegram in his hand.

Mr. Golding tore it open, and, in a trembling voice, read aloud as follows:

"Some one answering to the description of your daughter was seen yesterday in the Champs Elysées, but disappeared before she could be detained. Watch arrivals at Folkestone and Dover."

The telegram was dated from Paris, and was from M. Dulau, of the Paris police. Mr. Golding's agitation was pitiable.

"Great heavens! is it possible?" he cried, putting his hand to his forehead as if stunned. "I'll start for Dover—no, Paris, I think, at once." He staggered to his feet, looking around him in a dazed and bewildered fashion. He might as well have talked of starting for the moon or the north star.

"Pardon me," said Loveday, "Inspector Ramsay is the right person to deal with that telegram. It should be sent to him at once."

Mr. Golding sank back in his chair, trembling from head to foot.

"I think you are right," he said faintly. "I might break down and lose a possible chance."

Then he turned once more to the man, who stood waiting for orders, and desired him to take the fastest horse to the stables and ride at once with the telegram to the Inspector.

"And," he added, "on your way back call at the Castle, see Lord Guilleroy, and give him the news." He turned a pleading face towards Loveday. "This is good news—you consider it good news, do you not?" he asked piteously.

"It won't do to depend too much on it, will it?" said Mrs. Greenhow. "You see, there have been so many false alarms—if I may use the word."—This was said to Loveday.—"Three times last week we had telegrams from different parts of the country saying dear René had been seen—now here, now there, I think there must be a good many girls like her wandering about the world."

"The dress has something to do with it, no doubt," answered Loveday; "it is not a very distinctive one. Still, we must hope for the best. It is possible, of course, that at this very moment the young lady may be on her way home with a full explanation of what has seemed extraordinary conduct on her part. Now, if you will allow me, I will go to my room. And will you please give the order that Maddalena shall follow me there as quickly as possible?"

Loveday's thoughts were very busy when, in the quietude of her own room, she sank into an easy chair beside the fire. The case to which she had so unwillingly devoted her attention was beginning to present some interesting intricacies. She passed in view the dramatis personæ of the little drama which she could only hope might not end in a tragedy. The broken-hearted father; the would-be-step-mother, with her feline affinities; the faithful maid; the cruel-tempered lover; the open-faced, energetic one; each in turn received their meed of attention.

"That man would be one to depend on in an emergency," she said to herself, allowing her thoughts to dwell a little longer upon Lord Guilleroy than upon the others. "He has, I should say, a good head on his shoulders and——"

But here a tap-tap at the door brought her thinking to a standstill, and in response to her "come in" the door opened and the maid 'Lena entered.

She was a tall, black-eyed, dark-skinned woman of about thirty, dressed in a neat black stuff gown. Twelve years of English domestic life had considerably modified the outer tokens of her nationality; a gold dagger that kept a thick coil of hair in its place, and a massive Roman-cut cameo ring on the third finger of her right hand, were about the only things that differentiated her appearance from that of the ordinary English lady's maid. Possibly as a rule she wore a pleasant, smiling expression of countenance. For the moment, however, her face was shadowed by a sullen scowl, that said plainly as words could: "I am here very much against my will, and intend to render you the most unwilling of services."

Loveday felt that she must be taken in hand at once.

"You are Miss Golding's maid, I believe?" she said in a short, sharp tone.

"Yes, madame." This in a slow, sullen one.

"Very well, Kindly unstrap that portmanteau and open my dressing-bag. I am glad you are to wait upon me while I am here. I don't suppose you ever before in your life acted maid to a lady detective?"

"Never, madame." This in a still more sullen tone than before.

"Ah, it will be a new experience to you, and I hope that it may be made a profitable one also. Tell me, are you saving up money to get married?"

'Lena, on her knees unstrapping the portmanteau, started and looked up.

"How does madame know that?" she asked.

Loveday pointed to the cameo ring on her third finger. "I only guessed at such a possibility," she answered. "Well, now, 'Lena, I am going to make you an offer. I will give you fifty pounds—fifty, remember, in English gold—if you will procure for me certain information that I require in the prosecution of my work here."

The sullen look on 'Lena's face deepened.

"I am a servant of the house," she answered, bending lower over the portmanteau; "I do not sell its secrets even for English gold."

"But it is not the secrets of your master's house I am wanting to buy—no, nor anybody else's secrets; I only want you to procure for me certain information that I could easily have procured for myself if I had been a little sooner on the scene. And the information I want relates to no one inside the house, but some one outside of it—Mr. Gordon Cleeve."

The sullen look on 'Lena's face gave place to one of intense, unutterable relief.

"Mr. Gordon Cleeve!" she repeated. "Oh-h, for fifty pounds, I will undertake to bring madame a good deal of information about him; I know some of the servants in Sir Gordon's house. I know, too, the mother of Mr. Cleeve's valet who has started with him on his journey round the world."

"Good. So, then, it is a bargain. Now, 'Lena, tell me truly, is this Mr. Cleeve a great favourite with you?"

"With me! Ah, the good God forbid, madame! I never liked him; I used to say to Miss René when I brought her his flowers and his notes: 'Have nothing to do with him, he is cruel—bad at heart.'"

"Ah, yes; I read all that in your face when I mentioned his name. Now what I want you first and foremost to do for me is to find out how this young man spent the last day that he was at Langford. I want you to bring me a report of his doings—as exact a report as possible—on the 18th of this month."

"I will do my best, madame."

"Very good. Now, there is something else. Would you be greatly surprised if I told you that the young man did not sail in the Buckingham from Brindisi as is generally supposed?"

"Madame! Inspector Ramsay said he had ascertained beyond a doubt that Mr. Cleeve went on board the Buckingham at Brindisi!"

"Ah, to go on board is one thing; to sail is another! Now, listen, 'Lena, very carefully to what I am going to say. I am expecting daily to receive some most important information respecting this gentleman's movements, and I may want some one to set off at a minute's notice for Paris, perhaps; or, perhaps, Florence or Naples, to verify that information: would you do this for me?—of course, I would supply you with money and full details as to your journey."

A flush of pleasure passed over 'Lena's face.

"Yes, madame," she answered; "if you could get my master's permission for me to go."

"I will undertake to do so." She pondered a moment, then added a little tentatively, and closely watching 'Lena's face as she asked the question, "I suppose Miss Golding resembled her mother in appearance—I do not see any likeness between her portrait and her father."

'Lena's sullenness and stateliness had vanished together now, and once upon the topic of her nursling she was the warm-hearted, enthusiastic Italian woman once more. She became voluble in her description of her dear Miss René, her beauty, her fascinating ways, which she traced entirely to the Italian blood that flowed in her veins; and anecdote after anecdote she related of the happy time when they lived among the lakes and mountains of her native land.

The room grew dark and darker, while she gossiped apace, and presently the dressing-bell clanged through the house. "Light the candles now," said Loveday, rising from her seat beside the fire; "draw down the blinds and shut out that dreary autumn scene, it sets me shivering!"

It might well do so. The black clouds had fulfilled their threat, and rain was now dashing in torrents against the panes. A tall sycamore, immediately outside the window, creaked and groaned dismally in response to the wind that came whistling round the corner of the house, and between the swaying and all but leafless elms Loveday could catch a glimpse of the grey, winding trout stream, swollen now to its limits and threatening to overflow its banks.

Dinner that night was in keeping with the gloom that overhung the house within and without; although the telegram from Paris had seemed to let in a ray of hope, Mr. Golding was evidently afraid to put much trust in it.

"As Mrs. Greenhow says, 'we have had so many disappointments,'" he said sadly, as he took his place at table. "So many false clues—false scents started. Ramsay has at once put himself in communication with the police at Boulogne and Calais, as well as at Dover and Folkestone. We can only pray that something may come of it!"

"And dear Lord Guilleroy," chimed in Mrs. Greenhow, in her soft, purring voice, "has started for Paris immediately. The young man has such a vast amount of energy, and thinks he can do the work of the police better than they can do it for themselves."

"That's hardly a fair way of putting it, Clare," interrupted Mr. Golding irritably; "he is working heart and soul with the police, and thinks it advisable that some one representing me should be in Paris, in case an emergency should arise; also he wants himself to question Dulau respecting my daughter's sudden appearance and disappearance in the Paris streets. Guilleroy," here he turned to Loveday, "is devotedly attached to my daughter, and—why, Dryad, what's the matter, old man? down, down! Don't growl and whine in that miserable fashion."

He had broken off to address these words to the Newfoundland, who, until that moment, had been comfortably stretched on the hearth-rug before the fire, but who now had suddenly started to his feet with ears erect, and given a prolonged growl, that ended in something akin to a whine.

"It may be a fox trotting past the window," said Mrs. Greenhow, whipping at the dog with her lace handkerchief. But Dryad was not to be so easily subdued. With his nose to the ground now he was sniffing uneasily at and around the heavy curtains that half draped the long French windows of the room.

"Something has evidently disturbed him. Why not let him out into the garden?" said Loveday. And Mr. Golding, with a "Hey, Dryad, go find!" unfastened the window and let the dog out into the windy darkness.

Dinner was a short meal that night. It was easy to see that it was only by a strong effort of will that Mr. Golding kept his place at table, and made even a pretence of eating.

At the close of the meal Loveday asked for a quiet corner, in which to write some business letters, and was shown into the library by Mr. Golding.

"You'll find all you require here, I think," he said, with something of a sigh, as he placed a chair for her at a lady's davenport. "This was René's favourite corner, and here are the last flowers she gathered—dead, all dead, but I will not have them touched!" He broke off abruptly, set down the vase of dead asters which he had taken in his hand, and quitted the room, leaving Loveday to the use of René's pen, ink, paper, and blotting-pad.

Loveday soon became absorbed in her business letters. Time flew swiftly, and it was not until a clock on the mantelpiece chimed the hour—ten o'clock—that she gave a thought as to what might be the hour for retiring at the Hall.

Something else beside the striking of the clock almost simultaneously caught her ear—the whining and scratching of a dog at one of the windows. These, like those of the dining-room, opened as doors into an outside verandah. They were, however, closely shuttered, and Loveday had to ring for a servant to undo the patent fastener.

So soon as the window was opened Dryad rushed into the room, plastered with mud, and dripping with water from every hair.

"He must have been in the stream," said the footman, trying to collar the dog and lead him out of the room.

"Stop! one moment!" cried Loveday, for her eye had caught sight of something hanging in shreds between the dog's teeth. She bent over him, patting and soothing him, and contrived to disentangle those shreds, which a closer examination proved to be a few tattered fragments of dark blue serge.

"Is your letter-writing nearly ended, Miss Brooke?" asked Mr. Golding, at that moment entering the room.

For reply, Loveday held up the shreds of blue serge. His face grew ashen white; he needed no explanation; those shreds and the dripping dog seemed to tell their own tale.

"Great heavens!" he cried, "why did I not follow the dog out! There must be a search at once. Get men, lanterns, ropes, a ladder—the dog, too, will be of use."

A terrible energy took possession of him. "Find, Dryad, find!" he shouted to the dog, and then, hatless and thin-shoed as he was, he rushed out into the darkness with Dryad at his heels.


In less than five minutes afterwards the whole of the men-servants of the house, with lanterns, ropes, and a ladder long enough to span the stream, had followed him. The wind had fallen, the rain had ceased now, and a watery half-moon was struggling through the thin, flying clouds. Loveday and Mrs. Greenhow, standing beneath the verandah, watched the men disappear in the direction of the trout stream, whither Dryad had led the way. From time to time shouts came to them, through the night stillness, of "This way!" "No, here!" together with Dryad's sharp bark and the occasional distant flash of a bull's-eye lantern. It was not until nearly half an hour afterwards that one of the men came running back to the house with a solemn white face and a pitiful tale. He wanted something that would serve for a stretcher, he said in a subdued tone—the two-fold oak screen in the hall would do—and please, into which room was "it" to be brought?

On the following evening Mr. Dyer received a lengthy dispatch from Miss Brooke, which ran as follows:—

"Langford Hall.

"This is to supplement my telegram of an hour back, telling you of the finding of Miss Golding's body in the stream that runs through her father's grounds. Mr. Golding has himself identified the body, and has now utterly collapsed. At the present moment it seems rather doubtful whether he will be in a fit state to give evidence at the inquest, which will be held to-morrow. Miss Golding appears to be dressed as she was when she left home, with this notable exception—the marquise ring has disappeared from the third finger of her left hand, and in its stead she wears a plain gold wedding-ring. Now this is a remarkable circumstance, and strikes a strange keynote to my mind. I am writing hurriedly, and can only give you the most important points in this very singular case. The maid, 'Lena, a reserved, self-contained woman, gave way to a passion of grief when the young lady's body was brought in and laid upon her own bed. She insisted on performing all the last sad offices for the dead, however, in spite of her grief, and is now, I am glad to say, calmer and capable of a little quiet conversation with me. I keep her continually in attendance on me, as I am rather anxious to keep my eye on her just now. I have telegraphed to Lord Guilleroy, asking him, in spite of the terrible news which will in due course reach him, to be good enough to remain in Paris awaiting directions from me, which may have to be carried out at a minute's notice. I hope to have further news to send a little later on."

Mr. Dyer laid aside the letter with a grunt of dissatisfaction.

"Well," he said to himself, "I suppose she expects me to be able to read between the lines, but I'm bothered if I can make head or tail of it all. She seems to me to be going a little wide of the mark just now; it might be as well to give her a hint." So he dashed off a few brief lines as follows:—

"I suppose you are concentrating now on finding out what were Miss Golding's movements while absent from her home. It seems to me this could be better done in Paris than at Langford Hall. The ring on her finger necessarily implies that she has gone through a marriage service somewhere, and as she was seen in Paris a day or two ago, it is as likely as not that the ceremony took place there. The Paris police could give you 'yea or nay' on this matter within twenty-four hours. As to the maid, 'Lena, I think you are laying too much stress upon her possible knowledge of her mistress's movements.

"If she had been tied down to secrecy by promise of reward, she would naturally, now that all such promises are rendered futile, reveal all she knows on the matter—she has nothing to gain by keeping the secrets of the dead."

This letter crossed on its road a telegram from Loveday running thus:—

"Inquest over. Verdict, 'Found drowned, but how deceased got into the water there is no evidence to show.' Funeral takes place to-morrow; Mr. Golding delirious with brain fever."

On the day following Mr. Dyer received a second letter from Loveday. Thus it ran:—

"The funeral is over; Mr. Golding is much worse, I have dispatched 'Lena to Paris, telling her I require her services there to follow up a clue I hold respecting Mr. Gordon Cleeve, and promising her rewards commensurate with the manner in which she carries out my orders. I have also written to Lord Guilleroy, telling him the sort of assistance I require from him. If he is the man I take him for he will be more useful to me than all the Paris police put together. I will answer your letter in detail in a day or two. The neighbourhood is still in a state of great excitement, and all sorts of wild reports are flying about. Ramsay and Dulau have traced a lady, dressed in dark blue serge, and answering in other respects to Miss Golding's description, from the Station du Midi, Paris, step by step to her arrival at Langford Cross, whence, poor thing, she must have walked through the pouring rain to the Hall. I do not see, however, that this information helps us forward one step towards the solution of the mystery of the girl's disappearance. Ramsay is a little inclined to criticize what he calls my 'leisurely handling' of the case. Mrs. Greenhow, who is a terribly empty-headed, but at the same time essentially hard-natured little woman, appears disposed to follow suit, and has more than once thrown out hints that my stay in the house is being unnecessarily prolonged. As there is practically no further necessity for my remaining at the Hall, I have told her that I shall to-day take up my quarters at the Roebuck Inn (by courtesy hotel), at Langford Cross. I believe she is unfeignedly glad at what she considers the ending of the affair. The imperious yet fascinating young lady no doubt ruled her and the household generally with a rod of iron, and the little woman, I feel sure, if she had dared, would have ordered bonfires and a general rejoicing on the day of the funeral. Well, I have not much sympathy with her, and am preparing for her a shock to her not too-sensitive nerves which she little suspects. My chief anxiety at the present moment is Mr. Golding, who still remains unconscious. I have requested the doctors to send me two bulletins daily of his condition, which I fear is a most serious one."

There could be little doubt on this head. The doctors' verdict on the day that Loveday left Langford Hall for "The Roebuck" was "Absolutely no hope." The bulletin brought to her on the following morning was "Condition remains unchanged." On the third day, however, the report was "Slight improvement." Then followed the welcome bulletins of "Improvement maintained," and "Out of danger," to be followed by the most welcome report of all: "Is making steady progress towards recovery."

"It is Mr. Golding's illness that has kept me here so long," said Loveday to Inspector Ramsay, as if by way of apology for her continued presence on the scene. "I think, however, I can see my way to departure now. Going to Paris? Oh, dear me, no. I have telegraphed to Mr. Dyer to expect me back the day after to-morrow. I shall travel up by the night train to-morrow; if you will like to come to me here, or will meet me at Langford Cross Station, I will give you a full report of all I have done since I took the case in hand. Now I am going to the Hall to ascertain at what hour to-morrow it will be convenient for me to say good-bye to Mr. Golding."

More than this Ramsay was unable to extract from Miss Brooke. His open strictures upon what he called her "leisurely handling of the case" had put her upon her mettle, and she had decided that Ramsay and his colleagues should be taught that Lynch Court had a special way of doing things, and could hold its own with the best.

On her way to the Hall Loveday called at the post-office, and there had a letter with a London postmark handed to her. This she at once opened and read, and then dispatched a reply to it by telegram. The reply was an enigmatic one to the village post-master, for Loveday, after a few casual questions as to his knowledge of Continental languages, chose German as her medium of communication. The address, however, "To Lord Guilleroy, at Charing Cross Hotel," was plain reading enough.

At the Hall Loveday found Mrs. Greenhow in an active state of mind. Mr. Golding, she informed her with a sweet effusiveness, would come downstairs for a short time on the following day, and she was doing all that lay in her power to put out of sight anything that might awaken painful recollections. "I have had dear René's harp removed to a lumber room, her portrait taken down from the library wall," she said, in her usual purring tones; "and her davenport is being wheeled into my own sitting-room. Poor dear René! If only she could have been taught to govern her willful temper a happier fate might have befallen her. What that fate was I suppose we shall never know now."

[Illustration: LORD GUILLEROY.]

Loveday's only reply to this was to ask for an exact report of the doctor's opinion of Mr. Golding's condition. Mrs. Greenhow put her handkerchief to her eyes as she answered that Doctor Godwin's opinion was that, so far as bodily strength was concerned, he was considerably better, but that his mental condition was a serious one. His brain appeared to be in a state of semi-stupefaction, which it was possible might be indicative of the softening of its tissues.

Loveday expressed a wish to see this doctor—to time her farewell visit to Mr. Golding on the following day with Dr. Godwin's daily call. In fact, she would like a little private talk with him before she went in to see his patient.

To all this Mrs. Greenhow offered no objection. Lady detectives, she said to herself, were a race apart, and had a curious way of doing things; but, thank Heaven, she would soon see the last of this one!

The stormy autumnal weather had given place now to a brief spell of late summer sunshine, and on the last day of her visit to Langford, Miss Brooke had a cheerier view of the Hall and its surroundings than she had had on the day of her arrival there. The trout stream had retreated to its natural proportions, and showed like a streak of molten silver—not a grey, turbid flood—in the bright sunlight that played at hide-and-seek between the branches of the stript elms. Even the old rooks seemed to have a cheery undernote to their "caw, caw" as they wheeled about the old house; and Dryad himself, as he once more came bounding forth to greet her, appeared to her fancy to have a less dolorous ring in his noisy bark.

"That dog is a perfect nuisance—has been utterly spoilt. I must have him chained up," said Mrs. Greenhow, as she led the way into a room where Dr. Godwin sat awaiting Loveday. She introduced them one to the other. "Shall I remain, or do you wish to converse alone?" she asked.

And as Loveday answered with decision "Alone," the little woman had no choice but to withdraw, wondering once more over the vagaries of lady detectives.

Half-an-hour afterwards the doctor, a clever-looking, active little man, led the way into the library where Mr. Golding was seated.

Loveday was greatly shocked at the change which a few days' illness had wrought in him. His chair was drawn close to the window, and the autumn sunshine that filled the room threw into pitiful relief his shrunken frame and pallid face, aged now by about a dozen years. His eyes were closed, his head was bent low on his breast, and he did not lift it as the door opened.

"You need not remain," said Dr. Godwin to the nurse, who rose as they entered; and Loveday and the doctor were left alone with the patient.

Loveday drew near softly. "I am going back to town this evening, and have come to say good-bye," she said, extending her hand.

Mr. Golding opened his eyes, staring vaguely at the extended hand. "To say good-bye!" he repeated, in a dreamy, far-away tone.

"I am Miss Brooke," Loveday explained. "I came down from London to investigate the strange circumstances connected with your daughter's disappearance."

"My daughter's disappearance!" He started and began to tremble violently.

The doctor had his hand on his patient's pulse now.

"I have conducted my investigations under somewhat disadvantageous circumstances," Loveday went on quietly, "and, for a time, with but little result. A few days back, however, I received important information from Lord Guilleroy, and to-day I have seen and communicated with him. In fact, it was his carriage that brought me to your house this afternoon."

"Lord Guilleroy!" repeated Mr. Golding slowly. His voice had a more natural ring in it; recollection, although, perhaps, a painful one, seemed to sound in it.

"Yes. He said he would wander about the park until I had seen and prepared you for his visit. Ah! there he is coming up the drive."

Here she drew back the curtain that half draped the open window.

This window commanded a good view of the drive, with its over-arching elms, that led from the lodge gates to the house. Along that drive two persons were advancing at that moment in leisurely fashion; one of those two was undoubtedly Lord Guilleroy, the other was a tall, graceful girl, dressed in deep mourning.

Mr. Golding's eyes followed Loveday's at first with a blank, expressionless stare. Then, little by little, that stare changed into a look of intelligence and recognition. His face grew ashen white, then a wave of colour swept over it.

"Lord Guilleroy, yes," he said, panting and struggling for breath. "But—but who is that walking with him? Tell me, tell me quickly, for the love of Heaven!"

He tried to rise to his feet, but his limbs failed him. The doctor poured out a cordial, and put it to his lips.

"Drink this, please," he said. "Now tell him quickly," he whispered to Loveday.

"That young lady," she resumed calmly, "is your daughter René. She drove up with me and Lord Guilleroy from Langford Cross. Shall I ask her to come in and see you? She is only waiting for Dr. Godwin's permission to do so."

Time to grant or refuse that permission, however, was not accorded to Dr. Godwin. René—a sadder, sweeter-faced René than the one who had so impetuously discarded home and father—now stood outside in the "half-sun, half-shade" of the verandah, and had caught the sound of Loveday's last words.

She swept impetuously past her into the room.

"Father, father!" she said, as she knelt down beside his chair, "I have come back at last! Are you not glad to see me?"

"I daresay it all seems very mysterious to you," said Loveday to Inspector Ramsay, as together they paced the platform of Langford Cross Station, waiting for the incoming of the London train, "but, I assure you, it all admits of the easiest and simplest of explanations. 'Who on earth was it that the inquest was held over, and who was buried about a week ago,' do you say? Oh, that was Mr. Golding's wife, Irene, daughter of Count Mascagni, of Alguida, in South Italy, whom every one believed to be dead. It is her history that holds the key to the whole affair from first to last. I will begin at the beginning, and tell you her story as nearly as possible as it was told to me. To be quite frank with you, I would have admitted you long ago into my confidence, and told you, step by step, how things were working themselves out, if you had not offended me by criticizing my method of doing my work."

"I'm sure I'm very sorry," here broke in Ramsay in a deprecating tone.

"Oh, pray don't mention it. Let me see, where was I? Ah, I must go back some nineteen or twenty years in Mr. Golding's life in order to make things clear to you. The particulars which I had from Mr. Dyer, and which I fancy you supplied him with, respecting Mr. Golding's early life were so meagre that directly I arrived at the Hall I set to work to supplement them; this I contrived to do in a before-dinner chat with 'Lena, Miss Golding's maid. I found out through her that Irene Mascagni was a typical Italian woman of the half-educated, passionate, beautiful, animal kind, and that Mr. Golding's early married life was anything but a happy one. Irene was motherless, and had been so spoilt from babyhood upwards by her old nurse, 'Lena's aunt, that she could not brook the slightest opposition to her whims and wishes. She was a great coquette also; lovers were an absolute necessity to her. Remonstrance on Mr. Golding's part was useless; Irene met it by appeals to her father for protection against what she considered her husband's brutality; in consequence, a serious quarrel ensued between the Count and Mr. Golding, and when the latter announced his intention of breaking up his Italian home and buying an estate in England, Irene, accompanied by her nurse, Antonia, left her husband and little daughter and went back to her father's house, vowing that nothing would induce her to leave her beloved Italy. At this crisis in his affairs, Mr. Golding was suddenly compelled to undertake a journey to Australia to adjust certain complicated matters of business. He took with him on this voyage his little girl, René, and her nurse—now her maid, 'Lena. The visit to Australia in all occupied about six months. During that time no communication of any sort passed between him and his wife or her father. He resolved, however, to make one more effort to induce Irene to return to her home and her duty; and, with this object, he went to Naples on his return to Europe and wrote to his wife from there, asking her to appoint a day for a meeting. In reply to this letter he received a visit from Antonia, who, with a great show of sorrow, informed him that Irene had caught a fever during his absence, and had died, and now lay buried in the family vault at Alguida. Mr. Golding's grief at the tidings was no doubt mitigated by the recollection of the unfortunate married life he had led. He made no attempt to communicate with Count Mascagni, started at once for England, and set up his establishment at Langford Hall. All this, with the exception of the name of Irene's father and that of his estate, was told me by 'Lena, who, I may mention in passing, laid great stress upon the wonderful likeness that existed between Miss Golding and her mother. She was, she said, the exact counterpart of what her mother had been at her age."

"It is marvellous to me how you contrived to get anything out of that woman 'Lena," said Ramsay; "she was most obstinately taciturn with me."

"Pardon me if I say that was because she had been most injudiciously handled. In the circumstances it would never have occurred to me to put a single direct question to her, although I like you, felt convinced that she was the one and only person likely to be in her young mistress's confidence. So fully imbued was I with this idea that I felt certain that, if she could be sent out of the house on any pretext, by closely following her movements we should, sooner or later, come upon the traces of Miss Golding. To attain this end, I feigned suspicion of Mr. Gordon Cleeve, and promised her rewards if she would bring me tidings of his doings. This was to pave the way to dismissing her on a journey to Italy. It also had the most welcome effect of calming her mind and convincing her of my belief in her innocence. With her fears thus allayed, I found her no longer sullen but communicative to a degree."

"Pardon my interrupting you at this point, but will you kindly tell me what, in the first instance, aroused your suspicious as to the identity of the person 'found drowned' by the coroner's jury?"


"'Lena's conduct when the body was brought into the house. I should, however, tell you that a keynote of suspicion as to the possibility of Mrs. Golding being still alive had been struck when, as I sat writing at Miss Golding's davenport, I found the words 'Mia Madre' scribbled here and there on her blotting-pad. Now what, I said to myself, could, after all these years, have turned her thoughts to her mother and her early Italian home? The wedding-ring on the lady's finger, coupled with 'Lena's statement as to Miss Golding's marvellous likeness to her mother, together with an exclamation of Mr. Golding's, after identifying the body, that his daughter had 'aged by a dozen years,' made these suspicions grow stronger. It was, however, 'Lena's own conduct that resolved them into positive certainty. I watched her narrowly after the body had been brought into the house. At first her grief was passionate and intense, and in it she let fall—in Italian—the extraordinary exclamation that a woman should break her heart for her lover, not for her mother. Then she, too, went into the room where the body lay—went in weeping, came out dry-eyed, and in the most methodical manner set to work to perform the last sad offices for the dead."

"Ah, yes, I see. Pray go on."

"It was on the day of the funeral, if you remember, that I dispatched 'Lena to Paris. I had previously written to Lord Guilleroy, hinting my suspicions, and begging him, in spite of everything, to remain at Paris, and to carry out any directions I might send him to the very letter. On dispatching 'Lena, I again wrote to him, telling him when she would arrive, where she would put up, and bidding him keep his eye on her, and follow her movements step by step. From Paris, I sent 'Lena on to Naples, bidding her await further orders there, and, all unknown to her, the train that carried her thither, carried also Lord Guilleroy. Naples had been the only place she had mentioned to me by name in her gossip about her life in Italy, but I felt confident, from some casual remarks she had let fall, that Irene Mascagni's early home, as well, also, as the home of her own lover, was within easy reach of the city. It was only natural to conjecture that if I kept her waiting there for orders she would utilize the opportunity for paying a visit to her friends and relatives, and also to her young mistress, if she were, as I supposed, in that neighbourhood. The result proved my conjecture correct."

"And Lord Guilleroy, thus following her movements, step by step, came upon her and Miss Golding in company?"

"He did. I think Lord Guilleroy deserves high encomium for the way in which he performed his share in this somewhat intricate case. No trained detective could have done better. He tracked 'Lena home to Alguida, a small hamlet within fifteen miles of Naples, and came upon her talking to Miss Golding, who stood at the gate of her grandfather's chateau dressed in her mother's Neapolitan dress. Miss Golding was unfeignedly glad to be taken possession of, so to speak, by one of her father's English friends, for she was becoming nervous and distressed at the position in which she found herself. Her mother was dead; her grandfather, a man of a violent temper, refused to allow her to leave his chateau, as he alleged he required, in his old age, the attendance of one who was his own kith and kin. Also there was in her mind a natural shrinking from the story she would have to tell her father, and the fear lest he might not be willing to forgive her for the part she had played. Nothing could have been more opportune than Lord Guilleroy's arrival. Miss Golding accorded to him her full confidence, and from this point the story ceases to be mine and becomes Lord Guilleroy's as communicated to him by Miss Golding."

"It is, in fact, the other half of the story that was told you by 'Lena?"

"It is; it starts from the period, twelve years back, when Mrs. Golding was supposed by her husband and child to be dead. Instead of dying, however, she had, after a month's stay at her father's lonely country house, joined a company of actors, then passing through Alguida. Her great personal beauty ensured her ready admission to the corps; and in her new life, no doubt, her vanity and innate love of coquetry found ample gratification. The faithful old nurse had followed her in her new career; the dramatic corps was actually in Naples when Mr. Golding arrived there, and the two women, neither of whom was disposed to enter upon the dull routine of English domestic life, had fabricated the lie in order the more effectually to retain their liberty. It is most probable that Count Mascagni knew nothing whatever of his daughter's movements at this period of her career. It is possible that, after a time, he may have believed her to be dead, for eleven years passed without his receiving any communication from her."

"Eleven years! Was she on the stage the whole of that time?"

"I have not been able to ascertain—in fact, I have not been very keen in making inquiries on this point, for it really is of little or no importance to the case. So far as we are concerned, her career is of importance only after her return to her father's house, now about a year ago. She came back one day, attended by Antonia, evidently out of health and in great poverty. Her father received her back conditionally; she had disgraced him and his ancient name, he said; dead she was supposed to be by her friends, dead she must remain—she must go nowhere, she must see no one."

"Ah, a sad story! And I suppose after a time the poor woman's thoughts flew to her husband and little daughter?"

"Yes. Antonia wrote to 'Lena that the mother was dying for the sight of her child, and implored her to tell René that her mother lived—a mother who had been cruelly treated alike by husband and father—and beg her, at all hazards, to come to her, that she might clasp her in her arms before the shadows of death closed in around her. This part of the story I had from René herself as we drove together to the Hall. The girl told me that when she read that letter all her blood was stirred within her. She was seized with a burning desire there and then to kiss that mother and to right her wrongs. For the moment she hated her father, felt that she must at once confront him and denounce him for his cruelty. Second thoughts suggested another course. Her father might forbid her all intercourse with her mother; she had plenty of money, why not start for Italy at once, and from her mother's lips dictate to her father the terms on which she would return to her English home? So the journey was planned, and 'Lena was promised by the young lady a pair of her handsome diamond earrings if she kept her secret till she herself gave her permission to speak. Not so much as a hand-bag was packed, for fear of exciting attention in the house; the undistinctive blue serge and sailor hat—supplemented subsequently by a thick veil—were selected as a travelling dress. Market-day at Langford, with a crowded railway station, was chosen for the day of departure, and the young lady walked the two miles that lay between it and her father's house in easy, leisurely fashion, as if she contemplated nothing more serious than a morning walk."

"Of course, so soon as she reached London all was plain sailing to her?"

"Yes. 'Lena, no doubt, supplied her with all necessary details respecting her journey. When she arrived at the Chateau Mascagni, she appears to have at once thoroughly succumbed to her mother's influence. Out of health although that mother was, René described her to me as the most fascinating woman she had ever met. I suppose the likeness between the two must have been something remarkable, for René said, after she had been a few days in the house and the mother had rallied a little in strength, the servants declared it was only by their dress that they could distinguish one from the other. On the fourth day after Miss Golding's arrival at the Chateau, her mother met her with a plan which, for fear of the effect that a refusal might have upon her health, she at once fell in with. It was to the effect that, instead of attempting negotiations with Mr. Golding through lawyers or by letter, she should herself go to him at his country house, throw herself upon his generosity, plead for forgiveness, and beg to be taken back to his heart once more."

"But why did not Miss René accompany her mother on this journey?"

"René was a force to be held in reserve. If her father refused her mother's request, she in her turn would refuse to return to her home, but would live on with her mother and grandfather at Alguida. The girl appears to have entertained bitter feelings against her father at this juncture—feelings possibly intensified by the thought of the sort of step-mother he intended to bestow upon her."

"Well, anyhow, so far as I can make out, Miss René's own mother hadn't much to boast of—in the way of common sense, at any rate. In fact, the two together appear to me to have acted more like a couple of school-girls than anything else. What made Mrs. Golding dress up in her daughter's clothes?"

"That, I believe, was a matter of convenience merely. Mrs. Golding had no money, and her father was not over-burdened with riches, and what little he had he held tightly. She had, for some reason or other, returned home with next to no wardrobe; René's dress was suitable for travelling, and not likely to attract attention. They neither of them seem to have given a thought to the possibility of rewards being offered for tidings of René; and thus, no doubt, while waiting for her train in Paris, Mrs. Golding did not hesitate to show herself in Paris streets. I need not go into the details of her journey to Langford; they are already known to you. The poor woman, not seeing any conveyance at the country station, must have walked in the drenching rain to the Hall. At the hall door, possibly, her courage suddenly failed her, and, instead of ringing for admission, she creeps to a window to get a glimpse of the home-life within. That glimpse is fatal. She sees her husband and the woman he intends to marry seated together at table. She takes in at a glance the refinement of the home, together with the rigid conventionality of English domestic life. A wave of memory, perhaps, brings before her episodes in her past career altogether out of tune with this home picture. She feels the impracticability of the mission on which she is bent; a fit of her old impetuosity seizes her; she rushes away in the darkness, takes a wrong turning, perhaps—who knows?"

"Ah, yes; and the stream was there waiting for her, and she thought she would end it all. Poor soul!"

"Or it may be," said Loveday pityingly, "that some sweet story of sainthood and martyrdom that she had heard in her childish days came floating dimly into her brain as she made her way through the darkness, and she thought she would do her best to make atonement to the one whom she had so deeply injured by not standing in the way of his future happiness. Here is my train! Ah, yes; it is a sad, sad story!"

"Yes; for the present things are a trifle gloomy for the family at the Hall, I'll admit," said Ramsay, as he shut the carriage-door on Loveday; "but they'll turn over a new leaf there before long. There'll be a couple of weddings in the house before the year comes to an end, I'll be bound."

"No," said Loveday, as she steeled herself comfortably in a corner; "Mrs. Greenhow has shown herself in her true colours at this time of distress, and, from what I hear, will stand but little chance of becoming the second Mrs. Golding. Lord Guilleroy and the runaway René are the only two who will have to be congratulated as bride and bridegroom."

The End