Beck Center English Dept. University Libraries Emory University
Emory Women Writers Resource Project Collections:
Emory Women Writers Resource Project

The Last Stroke, an electronic edition

by Lawrence L. Lynch [Van Deventer, Emma Murdoch]

date: [189-]
source publisher: Ward, Lock & Co., Limited
collection: Genre Fiction

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"HAS Doran been here, doctor?"

These were the detective's first words when he entered the sanctum upon his return from the Marcy cottage, and before his host could do more than shake his head, Ferrars dropped into a seat beside him and went on in a lower tone.

"The fact is, doctor, I've got myself interested in a thing which, after all, may lead me astray. Do you take the Lake County Herald?"

"Upon my word!" ejaculated the doctor. "I do; yes. Want to peruse the sheet?"

"I don't suppose you file them?" went on Ferrars.

"File the Herald! No, I fire them, or Jude does."

"I wish you had not. The fact is I want very much to get hold of a copy dated November last, the 27th. Do you recall the bit of paper I took from Charles | | 149 Brierly's desk-top to demonstrate that something had been hastily pulled from the letter file by that clever boy of whom Mrs. Fry could tell so little?"

"Yes; surely." The doctor now began to look seriously interested.

"Well, the stolen paper was a newspaper clipping, cut from the Herald of November 27th last."

"Upon my word! But there, I won't ask questions."

"You need not. Did you not observe me looking over the papers in the rack?"


"Possibly you saw me with a paper in my hand soon after?"

The doctor stared and shook his head. "I've no eye for sleight-of-hand," he grumbled.

"Decidedly not, for I folded up that paper and thrust it in a breast pocket before your very eyes. I kept that tiny bit, too, which I picked up on my forefinger. It fitted into a column from which a piece had been cut, and that's how I know that the stolen article came from that paper. Very simple, after all, you see!"

"For you, yes."

"The fact that the clipping was thought worth stealing, makes me fancy it worth a perusal. I tried for it here in town, in a quiet way, but failed. Then | | 150 I appealed to Doran, and he has written to Lake, to the editor, whom he happens to know."

"It would be hard to find hereabouts a man of any importance whatever whom Sam Doran does not know. He grew up in Lake County, and has held half the offices in the county's gift."

"There may be a clue for us in that clipping. I discovered another thing in that room. The dead man wrote, or began, a letter to his brother. I learned this from a scrap, dated and addressed, which I found in the waste basket, and I am led to believe the letter was re-written, or rather begun anew, and sent, from the fact that a fresh blotter showed a fragment of Brierly's name, and the city address. That letter, if mailed, must have passed him as he came down. Did he mention getting it?"

Doctor Barnes shook his head.

"He said nothing about such a letter," he replied. "Does he know about this--this newspaper business?"

"Not a word. No one knows it but yourself. If it should prove to be a clue in my hands, it may be better, it will be better, I am sure, to keep it at present between us two. I think, however, that I may decide to show Miss--my cousin--that anonymous letter, and tell her something about that mysterious boy and his visit to her lover's rooms." And then Ferrars | | 151 turned from this subject to explain to the doctor his present plans. How he had determined to continue his masquerade, and to remain for a time in Glenville; and, though Mrs. Jamieson's name was not uttered, the doctor found himself wondering, as had Hilda Grant, if the detective had not found the place attractive for personal, as well as business reasons; and if a detective's heart must needs be of adamant after all.

Next morning Samuel Doran, who knew the detective only as "Hilda Grant's cousin and a right good fellow," drove ostentatiously to the door to take "Mr. Grant" for a drive.

"I've had a line from Joe Howlett," he began the moment they were upon the road. "He was just setting out for a run out of town, but he says he told the boys to look up that paper and send it along. So, I guess we'll see it soon, if it's in existence." And Doran chirrupped to his team and promptly changed the subject. He did not know why this man beside him so much wished to obtain a six-months-old copy of a country newspaper, and he did not trouble himself to worry or wonder. "It was none of his business," he would have said if questioned, and Samuel Doran attended to his own business exclusively and was by so much the more a reliable helper when, his | | 152 aid being asked, the business of his neighbour became his own.

Ferrars was learning to know his man, and he knew that the time might soon come when Doran would be his closest confidant and strongest assistant in Glenville.

"We look for Brierly in a day or two," the detective said, casually, as they bowled along. "He will bring a professional gentleman with him," and he turned his head and the eyes of the two met. Ferrars had found that Doran could extract much meaning from a few words, at need.

"Something in the detective line, for instance? 'S that it?"

"That explanation will do for Glenville, Doran."

"Cert. Glenville ought to know it, too. We've been thinking 'twas about time one of 'em appeared," and Doran grinned.

Ferrars smiled, well satisfied. He knew that the dignified family lawyer and friend, who was coming to Glenville with Robert Brierly by his own desire, would be promptly accepted as the tardy and eagerly looked for "sleuth" who would "solve the mystery" at once and with the utmost ease.

And that is what happened.

The two men arrived a day earlier than they had | | 153 been expected, and the moment Robert Brierly found himself alone with Ferrars he drew from his pocket a letter, saying, as he unfolded it with gentle, careful touch:

"This letter, Mr. Ferrars, is the last written me by my brother. It was in the city, passing me on the way, before I had arrived here, and I found it, among others, at the office. I have not spoken of it even to the doctor. Read it, please."

Ferrars took the letter and read:


Since writing you, I have found in an old newspaper, quite by accident, something which has almost set my head to spinning. I know what you will say to that, old boy. It brings up something out of the past; something of which I may have to tell you and which should have been told you before. It's the only thing, concerning myself that is, which you do not know as well as I, and if I have not confided this to you, it was because I almost feared to. But then, why try to explain and excuse on paper when we are to meet, please God, so soon. Brother mine, what if that flood tide which comes, they say, to each, once in life, was on its way to you and to me? Well, it shall not separate us, Rob.; not by my will. But stop. I shall grow | | 154 positively oracular if I keep on, (no one ever could understand an oracle, you know) and so, till we meet,


When Ferrars had read this strange missive once, he sat for a moment as if thinking, and then deliberately re-read it slowly, and with here and there a pause; when at last he handed it back to Brierly, he asked:

"Do you understand that letter?"

"No more than I do the riddle of the sphinx, Ferrars," he leaned forward eagerly as he put a question, and his eyes were apprehensive, though his voice was firm. "Do you connect that letter in any way with my brother's death?"

For a moment the detective was silent, thinking of the newspaper and the missing clipping. Then he replied slowly as if considering between the words.

"Of course it's possible, Mr. Brierly, but as yet I cannot give an opinion. If you will trust that letter to me for a few days, however, perhaps I may see more clearly. It's a surprise, I'll admit. I had fully decided in my own mind that howsoever much the murderer may have premeditated and planned, his victim was wholly unaware of an en-- of his danger."

"You were about to say, of an enemy!"

| | 155

"Yes. It is what I have been saying before seeing that letter." He put out his hand, and as Brierly placed the letter in it, he added, "Let us not discuss this further. Does your friend, Mr. Myers, know of it?"

"Not a word."

"Then for the present let it rest between us."

Two days after this interview Doran dropped in at the doctor's office, and before he left had managed to put a newspaper, folded small, into the hands of the detective, quite unperceived by the other occupants of the room. For while since Brierley's [sic] return, accompanied by his friend, these two had occupied together the rooms at Mrs. Fry's, the doctor's cottage was still headquarters for them all, while Ferrars now had solitary possession of the guest chamber, formerly assigned to Brierly.

Mr. Myers was a shrewd lawyer, as well as a faithful family friend. He had felt from the first that there was mystery as well as crime behind the death of Charles Brierly, who had been near and dear to him, as dear as an own son, for the two families had been almost as one ever since John Myers and the elder Brierly, who had been school friends and fellow students, finally entered together the career of matrimony.

| | 156

There had been no children in the Myers homestead, and the two lads soon learned to look upon the Myers' house as their second home, and "Uncle" John Myers had ranked, in their regard, only second to their well beloved father. So that when the young men were left alone, in a broken and desolate home, that other door opened yet wider, and claimed them by right of affection.

Mr. Myers had been taken to the scene of the murder, had visited Hilda Grant, and by his own desire had examined the books, papers, and manuscripts in Charles Brierly's rooms, and on the day of Doran's call, a longer drive than he had yet taken had been arranged. He was going, accompanied by Brierly and driven by Doran, to look at the skiff, still unclaimed and waiting upon the lake shore below the town.

Ferrars, much to Doran's regret, had declined to accompany them from the first, and when he found himself in possession of the coveted newspaper, he joined the others in their desire that Doctor Barnes should take the fourth seat in the light surrey behind Doran's pet span; and the day being fine, and business by no means pressing, that gentleman consented.

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