Open main menu

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE
ARRESTED

Spargo hurried out to the hall, took the two telegrams from the boots of the "Dragon," and, tearing open the envelopes, read the messages hastily. He went back to Mr. Quarterpage.

"Here's important news," he said as he closed the library door and resumed his seat. "I'll read these telegrams to you, sir, and then we can discuss them in the light of what we've been talking about this morning. The first is from our office. I told you we sent over to Australia for a full report about Marbury at the place he said he hailed from—Coolumbidgee. That report's just reached the Watchman, and they've wired it on to me. It's from the chief of police at Coolumbidgee to the editor of the Watchman, London:—


"John Marbury came to Coolumbidgee in the winter of 1898-9. He was unaccompanied. He appeared to be in possession of fairly considerable means and bought a share in a small sheep-farm from its proprietor, Andrew Robertson, who is still here, and who says that Marbury never told him anything about himself except that he had emigrated for health reasons and was a widower. He mentioned that he had had a son who was dead, and was now without relations. He lived a very quiet, steady life on the sheep-farm, never leaving it for many years. About six months ago, however, he paid a visit to Melbourne, and on returning told Robertson that he had decided to return to England in consequence of some news he had received, and must therefore sell his share in the farm. Robertson bought it from him for three thousand pounds, and Marbury shortly afterwards left for Melbourne. From what we could gather, Robertson thinks Marbury was probably in command of five or six thousand when he left Coolumbidgee. He told Robertson that he had met a man in Melbourne who had given him news that surprised him, but did not say what news. He had in his possession when he left Robertson exactly the luggage he brought with him when he came—a stout portmanteau and a small, square leather box. There are no effects of his left behind at Coolumbidgee."


"That's all," said Spargo, laying the first of the telegrams on the table. "And it seems to me to signify a good deal. But now here's more startling news. This is from Rathbury, the Scotland Yard detective that I told you of, Mr. Quarterpage—he promised, you know, to keep me posted in what went on in my absence. Here's what he says:


"Fresh evidence tending to incriminate Aylmore has come to hand. Authorities have decided to arrest him on suspicion. You'd better hurry back if you want material for to-morrow's paper."


Spargo threw that telegram down, too, waited while the old gentleman glanced at both of them with evident curiosity, and then jumped up.

"Well, I shall have to go, Mr. Quarterpage," he said. "I looked the trains out this morning so as to be in readiness. I can catch the 1.20 to Paddington—that'll get me in before half-past four. I've an hour yet. Now, there's another man I want to see in Market Milcaster. That's the photographer—or a photographer. You remember I told you of the photograph found with the silver ticket? Well, I'm calculating that that photograph was taken here, and I want to see the man who took it—if he's alive and I can find him. "

Mr. Quarterpage rose and put on his hat.

"There's only one photographer in this town, sir," he said, "and he's been here for a good many years—Cooper. I'll take you to him—it's only a few doors away."

Spargo wasted no time in letting the photographer know what he wanted. He put a direct question to Mr. Cooper—an elderly man.

"Do you remember taking a photograph of the child of John Maitland, the bank manager, some twenty or twenty-one years ago?" he asked, after Mr. Quarterpage had introduced him as a gentleman from London who wanted to ask a few questions.

"Quite well, sir," replied Mr. Cooper. "As well as if it had been yesterday."

"Do you still happen to have a copy of it?" asked Spargo.

But Mr. Cooper had already turned to a row of file albums. He took down one labelled 1891, and began to search its pages. In a minute or two he laid it on his table before his callers.

"There you are, sir," he said. "That's the child!"

Spargo gave one glance at the photograph and turned to Mr. Quarterpage. "Just as I thought," he said. "That's the same photograph we found in the leather box with the silver ticket. I'm obliged to you, Mr. Cooper. Now, there's just one more question I want to ask. Did you ever supply any further copies of this photograph to anybody after the Maitland afifair?—that is, after the family had left the town?"

"Yes," replied the photographer. "I supplied half a dozen copies to Miss Baylis, the child's aunt, who, as a matter of fact, brought him here to be photographed. And I can give you her address, too," he continued, beginning to turn over another old file. "I have it somewhere."

Mr. Quarterpage nudged Spargo.

"That's something I couldn't have done!" he remarked. "As I told you, she'd disappeared from Brighton when enquiries were made after Maitland's release. "

"Here you are," said Mr. Cooper. "I sent six copies of that photograph to Miss Baylis in April, 1895. Her address was then 6, Chichester Square, Bayswater, W."

Spargo rapidly wrote this address down, thanked the photographer for his courtesy, and went out with Mr. Quarterpage. In the street he turned to the old gentleman with a smile.

"Well, I don't think there's much doubt about that!" he exclaimed. "Maitland and Marbury are the same man, Mr. Quarterpage. I'm as certain of that as that I see your Town Hall there."

"And what will you do next, sir?" enquired Mr. Quarterpage.

"Thank you—as I do—for all your kindness and assistance, and get off to town by this 1.20," replied Spargo. "And I shan't fail to let you know how things go on."

"One moment," said the old gentleman, as Spargo was hurrying away, "do you think this Mr. Aylmore really murdered Maitland?"

"No!" answered Spargo with emphasis. "I don't! And I think we've got a good deal to do before we find out who did."

Spargo purposely let the Marbury case drop out of his mind during his journey to town. He ate a hearty lunch in the train and talked with his neighbours; it was a relief to let his mind and attention turn to something else than the theme which had occupied it unceasingly for so many days. But at Reading the newspaper boys were shouting the news of the arrest of a Member of Parliament, and Spargo, glancing out of the window, caught sight of a newspaper placard:


The Marbury Murder Case
Arrest of Mr. Aylmore


He snatched a paper from a boy as the train moved out and, unfolding it, found a mere announcement in the space reserved for stop-press news:


"Mr. Stephen Aylmore, M.P., was arrested at two o'clock this afternoon, on his way to the House of Commons, on a charge of being concerned in the murder of John Marbury in Middle Temple Lane on the night of June 21st last. It is understood he will be brought up at Bow Street at ten o'clock tomorrow morning."


Spargo hurried to New Scotland Yard as soon as he reached Paddington. He met Rathbury coming away from his room. At sight of him, the detective turned back.

"Well, so there you are!" he said. "I suppose you've heard the news?"

Spargo nodded as he dropped into a chair.

"What led to it?" he asked abruptly. "There must have been something."

"There was something," he replied. "The thing—stick, bludgeon, whatever you like to call it, some foreign article—with which Marbury was struck down was found last night."

"Well?" asked Spargo.

"It was proved to be Aylmore's property," answered Rathbury. "It was a South American curio that he had in his rooms in Fountain Court."

"Where was it found?" asked Spargo.

Rathbury laughed.

"He was a clumsy fellow who did it, whether he was Aylmore or whoever he was!" he replied. "Do you know, it had been dropped into a sewer-trap in Middle Temple Lane—actually! Perhaps the murderer thought it would be washed out into the Thames and float away. But, of course, it was bound to come to light. A sewer man found it yesterday evening, and it was quickly recognized by the woman who cleans up for Aylmore as having been in his rooms ever since she knew them."

"What does Aylmore say about it?" asked Spargo. "I suppose he's said something?"

"Says that the bludgeon is certainly his, and that he brought it from South America with him," announced Rathbury; "but that he doesn't remember seeing it in his rooms for some time, and thinks that it was stolen from them."

"Um!" said Spargo, musingly. "But—how do you know that was the thing that Marbury was struck down with?"

Rathbury smiled grimly.

"There's some of his hair on it—mixed with blood," he answered. "No doubt about that. Well—anything come of your jaunt westward?"

"Yes, " replied Spargo. "Lots!"

"Good?" asked Rathbury.

"Extra good. I've found out who Marbury really was."

"No! Really?"

"No doubt, to my mind. I'm certain of it."

Rathbury sat down at his desk, watching Spargo with rapt attention.

"And who was he?" he asked.

"John Maitland, once of Market Milcaster," replied Spargo. "Ex-bank manager. Also ex-convict."

"Ex-convict!"

"Ex-convict. He was sentenced, at Market Milcaster quarter Sessions, in autumn, 1891, to ten years' penal servitude, for embezzling the bank's money, to the tune of over two hundred thousand pounds. Served his term at Dartmoor. Went to Australia as soon, or soon after, he came out. That's who Marbury was—Maitland. Dead—certain!"

Rathbury still stared at his caller.

"Go on!" he said. "Tell all about it, Spargo. Let's hear every detail. I'll tell you all I know after. But what I know's nothing to that."

Spargo told him the whole story of his adventures at Market Milcaster, and the detective listened with rapt attention.

"Yes," he said at the end. "Yes—I don't think there's much doubt about that. Well, that clears up a lot, doesn't it?"

Spargo yawned.

"Yes, a whole slate full is wiped off there," he said. "I haven't so much interest in Marbury, or Maitland now. My interest is all in Aylmore."

Rathbury nodded.

"Yes," he said. "The thing to find out is—who is Aylmore, or who was he, twenty years ago?"

"Your people haven't found anything out, then?" asked Spargo.

"Nothing beyond the irreproachable history of Mr. Aylmore since he returned to this country, a very rich man, some ten years since," answered Rathbury, smiling. "They've no previous dates to go on. What are you going to do next, Spargo?"

"Seek out that Miss Baylis," replied Spargo.

"You think you could get something there?" asked Rathbury.

"Look here!" said Spargo. "I don't believe for a second Aylmore killed Marbury. I believe I shall get at the truth by following up what I call the Maitland trail. This Miss Baylis must know something—if she's alive. "Well, now I'm going to report at the office. Keep in touch with me, Rathbury."

He went on then to the Watchmen office, and as he got out of his taxi-cab at its door, another cab came up and set down Mr. Aylmore's daughters.