The Vanity Box/Chapter 25
Gaylor tore open the brick-coloured envelope, without eagerness, for he received as well as sent many telegrams, and he was expecting an answer to one of no vast importance. But as he read the cipher message, the blood rushed up to his ears, tingling.
"Gold case answering description of Lady Hereward's missing vanity box at Ebbitt's, pawnbroker Brownell Street, Westbourne Grove. Call headquarters and receive instructions. Immediate.
This was news indeed!
Burrows was at the head of the Criminal Investigation Department of Scotland Yard; and Gaylor felt he might consider it a compliment to his previous work that he should be sent for in haste. What the "instructions" might be he could not guess; but he was glad the discovery of the brown hairpin had been made before he was obliged to leave for town.
He had a bicycle which took him to the nearest railway-station, and in half an hour he was in a quick train, on his way up to London. Another twenty minutes, and he had in his hand a gold case like a cigarette-case, set at the left upper corner with a small sapphire, round which rays as of a star were indicated, in tiny brilliants.
There was a chain attached, and inside the case was a mirror, behind which was a thin bit of ivory for memoranda, and a little claw of gold to hold a film of handkerchief. On the other side was a receptacle for a powder-puff, another for lip-salve, and a third for pins, or what-not. The powder-puff was faintly stained with pink, and there were traces of pale rose-coloured paste in the miniature box intended for lip salve.
The story of the finding of the vanity box redounded more to the credit of an honest pawnbroker than to that of the police; for, though all Europe was being ransacked for Lady Hereward's lost jewels—the rings, the brooch and the gold case which had disappeared at the time of her mysterious murder—until now no news had been obtained of any of the missing valuables. All pawnbrokers had an exact description of the jewels and the vanity box, but it was only to-day that one of the number had sent a communication to Scotland Yard; and unfortunately the statement Ebbitt of Westbourne Grove had made was so mutilated as to be far from satisfactory.
Ebbitt, it seemed, had been away on a honeymoon, of three days' duration. His principal assistant had been suffering from toothache, and the vanity box was pledged to a youth new to the business. This young man had been duly shown the description of Lady Hereward's jewelry, when it was first supplied by Scotland Yard; but this little gold case being so like many others of its kind, he had failed to associate it with the Hereward affair. Nothing was thought of the matter in the office until Ebbitt, the principal, returned, early in the afternoon of the day on which Gaylor received his telegram from Scotland Yard.
Ebbitt, acquainting himself with the business transactions which had taken place during his absence, at once saw the resemblance between the vanity box in his safe and the description of that which was "wanted" by the police. He lost no time, therefore, in sending to Scotland Yard; but the only information concerning the person who had pledged the gold case was the fact that she was a woman, rather tall, rather slender, rather well dressed in something black or very dark, and wearing a thick motor veil. The youth who had received the vanity box, at the busiest hour of the day, had "not had time" to think much about the woman. He had, however, taken her for a lady in reduced circumstances, who wore a thick veil because she did not want her face to be seen when she entered a pawnbroker's. There were many such! She had willingly agreed to a loan of five pounds, and had spoken as little as possible, in a low tone, almost a whisper. That was usual also, in the circumstances. If she had been frightened or anxious to get away, he had not noticed, though on being questioned, he thought that the lady had tried to disguise her voice. Exactly why this impression—if it really amounted to an impression—remained in his mind the young man could not be sure. He did not remember any marked peculiarity in the woman's voice, more than in her manner. Still, there must have been something—if he could only recall it. So far as he could say, the woman had never been in the place before. She had given the name of Mrs. Bayneson, and an address, Deodar Crescent, Westbourne Grove. But no such street as Deodar Crescent existed in Westbourne Grove or its neighbourhood, and up to the time of Gaylor's arrival at headquarters no one of the name of Bayneson (spelled as the client of the Brownell Street pawnbroker spelled it) had been discovered. Of course, however, it was not to be supposed that a person disposing of Lady Hereward's property would give her true name and address; the police had not expected to find her by means of such a simple clue as that. Gaylor had been sent for, to tell whether his latest discoveries in the neighbourhood of Riding St. Mary would tend to throw light upon the mystery of the pawned vanity box.
Suddenly a blinding flash seemed to illumine the detective's brain. But the twilight of bewilderment could not thus have been made bright without the finding of the brown silk hairpin, and the conversation which had followed with Mrs. Barnard. Gaylor could have shouted with joy, for the inspiration he believed had come to him would but incriminate Ian Barr the more hopelessly. He adored himself for unearthing that precious hairpin, and for every question he had put to the farmer s wife. It was providential that the summons to London had not come two hours earlier.
"I'll tell you exactly who pawned that little gold box—if it is Lady Hereward's," said he to his superior. "It's the late wearer of that hairpin," and he took from his pocket a handkerchief, in an end of which he had carefully wrapped the trophy of the View Tower.
"That comes from the upper room of the place where Lady Hereward was murdered," he added, proud of the light of interest in the great man's eyes, which complimented the coup he was about to describe.
"I can tell you, too," Gaylor went on, "the first name of the woman: Liane."
The lady s maid who disappeared!"
Burrows remembered at once the connection which the name of Liane had already with the Hereward case. "By what line exactly do you reach that conclusion—for I see what's in your mind?"
Gaylor was only just assembling his battalion of deductions and arguments; but he responded promptly. "Why, in the first place, I know that the maid who took Liane s place was in the habit of using her mistress's hairpins when she wanted any. Although they didn't suit the colour of her hair, they saved expense and bother. All lady's maids, it seems, do the same thing, without thinking it dishonest. To how much greater extent would a French girl be likely to take advantage of any such little opportunities to save her purse and her legs, than a sturdy Englishwoman? Besides, when I first went down to Riding St. Mary, I once had the curiosity to get Liane described to me by Mrs. Barnard, my landlady. The girl had big black eyes she said, that looked all the blacker in contrast with the chestnut-coloured hair which she dressed very becomingly, and which many people thought bleached from a much darker shade. This sort of pin wouldn't be out of the way in chestnut hair, no matter how fastidious the young woman might be.
"Secondly, the cause of the open quarrel between Lady Hereward and Barr, was Liane. Lady Hereward accused him of flirting with the French girl, causing her to leave the place where she was valued and generously treated. The question in my mind up to now was, whether or no Lady Hereward was right; for apparently soon after Barr fell in love with Miss Verney, who is much handsomer than Liane, besides being a lady. However, a man can love two women at once, as has been proved times without number; and I begin to think that her ladyship knew what she was talking about. Barr certainly was in the habit of going to the View Tower, and maybe it was to meet Liane, who most likely dropped this hairpin on one of her last visits there. If he was in communication with her, and feared suspicion falling on him after the murder (we know he did fear that or he would not have got out of the way so smartly), what more natural than he should hand the jewels over to the girl—maybe confiding the whole story to her? No doubt he has ordered her to hang on to everything like grim death, or she would probably have pawned some of the things before this. But if she was in difficulties, she might have been tempted to get rid of this vanity box—the least remarkable piece in the lot. And the curious quality in the veiled woman's voice, which the assistant couldn't clearly remember, must have been a slight French accent, which she would have tried to disguise as best she could. And it would have been slight, as I believe Liane had lived a number of years in England. Friars' Moat wasn't her first place."
"You make your points," said Burrows.
"Another thing, if another was needed, to make me think the woman at the pawnbroker's must have been Liane," continued Gaylor, "is the name and address she gave. Now, I m fairly observant, I hope. I went down to Riding St. Mary on purpose to observe, and I observed a lot of little things which didn't seem to have any particular bearing on the case. They went in with the rest, like a 'mixed lot' at a sale. I noticed names of places and streets and people. Below the village, and the house Barr occupied as steward on the Friars' Moat estate, is a small house, a sort of cross between a villa and a cottage, standing in a garden on the highroad. Liane must have passed it constantly. It's called Deodar Lodge; and the man who lived there, up till a short time ago, was named Ernest Bayne—a writer for socialist papers, and an intimate friend of Ian Barr's. You see the likelihood, don't you, that a Frenchwoman—unused to pawnshops, afraid or being caught, yet nerved by necessity—would snatch at anything familiar that sprang into her head, when hearing that she was obliged to give name and address? The fact that she wasn't English herself would make her cautious to choose something she felt sure was quite English, lest she should make a mistake, and rouse suspicion. She suddenly found herself thinking of Bayne and Deodar Lodge; so she changed Bayne into Bayneson, unconscious that she'd hit upon a weird sort of combination. And as she's very likely living in lodgings in some Crescent, in Westbourne Grove, she tacked that on to her Deodar."
"That hangs together plausibly," said Burrows, pleased with the young man's building up of one deduction on another. "I suppose you think she's in Westbourne Grove because she went to a small place like Ebbitt's, of whose existence she wouldn't have known unless she'd happen to pass it."
"Exactly," replied Gaylor.
"Can you get this Liane's photograph?"
"I shouldn't wonder if Mrs. Barnard of the Home Farm, or some one among the servants at Friars' Moat has it—if she ever had any taken; and it's likely she did, as she was said to be vain. Possibly she may have sat to the local photographer. In this case, he'll have the negative."
"When the girl disappeared some months ago, apparently neither Lady Hereward nor her husband applied to the police."
"No, I don't think they believed it a case for police interference. Lady Hereward may have said some hasty things to Barr, when she was in a rage with him, but there was no real idea that the French maid had met with foul play. Barr may have helped her with a little money, until after the murder, since when I should say he'd had his hands full—and perhaps his pockets empty. If supplies from him were stopped, that would account for the girl's pawning the vanity box."
"Of course we aren't absolutely certain yet that this thing's the one we've been after," remarked Burrows, indicating the little gold case in his desk. "It hasn't been identified by any one who knew Lady Hereward, though it answers the description. Unfortunately, there's nothing very distinctive about it. But Sir Ian Hereward arrives this evening, seven o'clock, Victoria Station. I thought of sending you to meet him; but the best thing you can do is to get on the track of Liane. Menzies can meet Sir Ian."
"My name isn't Gaylor if I don't find her by the time they've landed Barr at Dover," said the young detective, who was now in such good spirits that he couldn't resist the temptation to boast a little. "I think you can rely on me."
"You can have any help you want," suggested his superior.
Thank you, but I should like to do it on my own."