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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FROM James Myers, Att'y, to Wendell Haynes, solicitor, with offices in Middle Temple Lane, off Fleet Street, which is London's legal heart and brain and life. Fleet Street, with such a history past, present, and to come, as may never be written in full by all the story-telling pens combined in this greatest literary centre, and working harmoniously; no, not in the space of a lifetime. Drafted in the office of the American lawyer, two days before his setting sail from New York, bound for London; and it was received, owing to stress of weather, five days before its writer set foot on British ground; and read by its recipient with no little surprise.

This is what it contained:

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WENDELL HAYNES, Esq., "Middle Temple Lane, etc., London. "DEAR SIR,--

After four years I find myself in the act of reminding you of my continued existence, and of your promise of proffered help, should a day come when you, on that side, could aid me, on this, because of what you chose to consider your debt to me. To proceed: in two days I set out for England, and it will take me, upon my arrival, many days, perhaps, to find out what you, with your knowledge of places and people, and your easy access to the records, can do in half a day, no doubt. I feel sure that I can rely upon you to do for me this personal favour, which is not in the direct line of your business routine, perhaps, but is quite within your ability, I trust and hope; and without taxing too much your time and energy. And now to business.

"I have reason to think that a certain Paisley estate over there awaits an heir; and that one Hugo Paisley, or his heirs, have been advertised for. To know the exact status of the case, and something about the people with whom I may have to deal, at once, upon my arrival, will help me much. And it is to ask for this information at your hands that I now address you, and, being sure of your will to aid me, as well as confident of your ability, I shall | | 223 trust to hear that which I so much wish to know, upon my arrival in London, and from you.

"I sail by the Etruria and shall stop at Brown's.

"Yours sincerely, "JAS. MYERS."

Wendell Haynes, solicitor, smiled as he read this missive. He had a most vivid remembrance of his first and only visit to America, and of his meeting with James Myers, quite by accident and shortly after his arrival in Chicago, which city had seemed, to the visitor, a more amazing thing than the howling wilderness which he had been in daily expectation of seeing, would have appeared to him.

In his efforts to run down a friend from the suburbs, Myers had consulted a hotel register, and seeing the name of the English lawyer, written by its owner just under his eye, he had first looked at the man, and then at the name, and, upon learning that he was an utter stranger to the city, and to the ways of its legal fraternity, he had presented his card.

Solicitor Haynes had visited America and the "States" to investigate what had appeared to be an effort, on the part of American agents, to cheat the widow of a certain English ranch owner out of her | | 224 just rights and lawful income, and the assistance rendered by Mr. Myers had earned him the lasting and earnestly expressed gratitude of his brother attorney, who asked for nothing better than an opportunity to repay the favour in kind, and no time was lost in the doing of it; so that when James Myers arrived at Brown's, and put his name upon the big register, the following letter was promptly handed him across the clerk's desk:

"JAMES MYERS, Esq., "Brown's Hotel, London. "DEAR SIR,--

Your favour of ... was very welcome, affording me, as it did, some small opportunity to return a very little of what I owe you for many past courtesies and most valuable service, and I have lost no time in looking up the information you desire.

"There is a large estate, that of the Paisleys of Illchester, awaiting the next of kin, who should be, so far as is known, the descendants of one Hugo Paisley who left this country nearly eighty years ago, and whose heirs, male or female, are entitled to inherit. There has been an effort made to hear from these heirs, and, strange to say, there has been no reply, nor has any other claimant appeared of lesser degree. If you | | 225 will call upon me upon your arrival I will give you all details and addresses so far as known to me, and shall be very glad if I can be of yet further use.

"Yours sincerely, "W. D. HAYNES."

"You see," said Solicitor Haynes, at the close of an hour's talk with Lawyer Myers, "thus far all is quite clearly traced, and there is no doubt of the rights of the Hugo Paisley heirs--if such are to be found, and if they can prove their heirship."

"And the family, here in England, is quite extinct, then?"

"In the direct male line, yes. There may be cousins, or more distant relatives, but the father of Hugo Paisley had four children, the three eldest being boys, the youngest a girl. This girl married young and died childless. The elder son married, had one son, who did not live to become of age, and himself died before he had reached his forty-second year. Then the second son, Martin, inherited, and the last of his decendants [sic] died not quite two years ago, a widow and of middle age, I hear."

"And there have been no claimants?"

"None, I am told. The case was advertised, both here and in the United States, but with no results | | 226 as yet, unless----" The solicitor stopped short and looked keenly at his visitor. "Something," he said, "has surprised, and I could almost imagine, disappointed you."

"You are quite sure of this?" the other urged, unheeding the last words. "There have been no claimants, near or remote?"

"Absolutely none." The solicitor looked again, questioningly, into the face of his vis-à-vis, and then something like surprise came into his own. "Upon my soul, Mr. Myers, if I were to express an opinion upon your state of mind, I should say--yes, upon my word I should say that you were disappointed, absurd as that would seem."


"Because, by Jove, there have not been any applicants or claimants for Hugo Paisley's money."

"Well, you wouldn't be far wrong. I am surprised, at any rate, and I shall have to admit that this fact disarranges my plans, stops my hand, as it were." He got up and took his hat from the table. "I came here with the intention of telling you a rather long story, in the hope of enlisting your interest, perhaps your aid. Now, I find that I must defer the story, and go at once and cable to friends at home."

He wasted no more words, but, promising to dine | | 227 with his friend later, hurried back to his hotel, where he found a cablegram awaiting him.

Previous to his departure from New York, Ferrars had given him a code by which to frame any needful cable messages, concerning the business of the journey, or the people whom it concerned. The detective had warned all of the little group, now so closely bound together by mutual interest and in the same endeavour, to be constantly on guard against spies.

"Unless I am greatly mistaken," he said, "every effort will be made to keep in view all who are known to be connected with the Brierlys and their interests, and the fact that we are fighting an unknown quantity makes it the more necessary that we use double caution. We don't want another 'blow in the dark,' any of us; and, above all, we do not want to be followed across the water, and shadowed when there."

The wisdom of this was admitted, for, since the attack upon Robert Brierly, the unseen foe had become a bugbear indeed to Hilda and Ruth; and they abetted Ferrars in all possible ways, no longer questioning and with growing confidence in his leadership, in spite of the seeming absence of results.

The cable message which Mr. Myers read was worded as follows:

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"Jas. Myers, etc., etc.

"H. has seen brother, who is watching affairs, unable to sail at present; letter follows. F."

These were the words; their meaning, according to the chart, was this:

"Hilda has seen the western tourist. He is watching us, and we will not attempt to sail until he is off the scent. F."

Half an hour later this message went speeding back to New York, and from thence westward:

"To F. Ferrars, etc., etc.

"Case all right; way clear; no claimants."

Which meant precisely what it said.

A few days later two letters passed each other in mid-ocean. The one westward-bound read thus:


It will not take me long to tell all that I have to tell concerning my mission. As I had anticipated, Mr. Wendell Haynes was more than ready to assist, and had the few facts I now give you | | 229 already tabulated and awaiting me. Here they are in the order of your written queries:

"1st. The Paisley fortune is no hoax. There is a fine country seat, a factory, a town house, and various stocks, bonds and city investments amounting in all to above a million in American dollars.

"2nd. The English Paisleys are quite extinct, and the claim to the whole estate can surely be established by our claimant.

"3rd. And this may change all your plans possibly, and will startle you quite as much as it has me. There has been no effort made by any one to claim or get possession of the property, and there is no clue to such a person if he, she, or they exist. This balks us. How shall I proceed? Was ever a trail so completely hidden?

"Mr. Haynes has placed himself, and his knowledge and resources--both being extensive--entirely at our disposal. If you still think well of the advertising plan, wire me. I am idle until I hear from you, and mean to employ myself doing London, which will render my part of the enforced waiting very pleasant.

"By the by, I omitted to say that there have been but two 'notices' published. No unseemly haste, you observe. Awaiting your reply, I am,

"Yours sincerely, "JAS. MYERS."
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The letter which passed this midway was from Ferrars, and contained some information.

"DEAR SIR AND FRIEND"--it began--

"This finds us all in the city, the ladies at the flats, and myself in the old quarters, with which you have lately grown familiar. I fancied that we were quite snugly placed and could pass our period of waiting your summons with some ease of mind. Your house, which looks as untenanted and forbidding as possible, has been viewed, your caretaker says, by a 'party' who, from the description, I take to be the man whom we have termed the 'westerner,' and who was seen for a day or two in Glenville.

"But I have been rudely aroused from my comfortable sense of security. Yesterday Miss Grant and Miss Glidden were down town, and were driven out of the avenue by a long political parade. Driving down a cross street their coachman turned up Clark Street, only to find that another contingent was moving into that street, at the upper corner of the block. It was moving toward them, and the man quickly reined his horses close to the curb to await the passage of the line. Directly opposite the carriage was the sign, so frequent upon that street, of three balls, and while Miss Hilda gazed with some idle curiosity at the, | | 231 to her, strange sight, a man came out tucking something into his waistcoat as he stepped down upon the pavement, glanced about him, and, without seeming to observe the carriage, or its occupants, walked quickly away. She had seen him, twice at least, at the Glenville, and she knew him at once. She ordered the driver home by a round-about road, but she is certain that the man was the same whom we thought a spy or worse. The most disagreeable feature of this is that I have not yet seen the man, watch as I would, and if he is watching us, he has the advantage. If the worst comes to the worst we shall have to spread out and go aboard our boat, when the time comes, singly and in disguise.


"Since writing the above I have visited the place of the three gilt balls and have found, at last, 'a straight tip.'

"The fellow had just redeemed a watch, pawned three days ago. It was a very pathetic story that we got out of the warm-hearted pawnbroker. The young man was overjoyed to be able to claim his watch so soon, for it was a keepsake given him by his dead father, and he 'prized it beyond words.' The watch was a fine foreign made affair, and on the inside was engraved Charles A. 'Braily' or | | 232 'Brierly'; he could not remember exactly. So, you see, the probability is that we have stumbled upon the watch stolen from Brierly's room in Glenville, which the fellow first pawned, from necessity perhaps, and then hastened to redeem, having taken the alarm in some way. He may even have been made aware that a description of the stolen watch and jewels had been lodged with the police. But all this is guessing. I am still confident that we shall find the solution of our problem on the other side of the Atlantic. Miss Glidden is still bent upon crossing, and your wife is her willing abettor. As for the fifth member of our party, he is at present like wax in our hands. Mind I say our, not mine alone.

"There is nothing new from Glenville--how could there be--now? I need not tell you about ourselves; Mrs. Myers, I know, keeps you well up in our personal history. And so, good luck to you. From yours in good hope,


Two days later this letter reached Ferrars.

"Glenville, July-- "FERRIS GRANT, ESQ. "DEAR SIR,--

Yesterday, too late for the mail, I struck luck, at least I hope you will call it luck. | | 233 It came through our 'girl,' that is, the young woman who presides in my kitchen; she has a chum in the kitchen of the Glenville, and last evening they were exchanging confidences upon my back porch. It appears--I'm going to cut the story short--it appears that the night clerk is a kodak fiend, and a month or two ago the fellow, after being guyed about his poor work until he got rattled, vowed he'd contrive to get a picture of every person who set foot in that house for the next month to come, and that they should be the judges as to whether the pictures were good or not. Now it turns out that our traveller from out west was one of the victims of this rash vow, and when I found it out I lost no time in getting that picture. The fellow likes to drive my horses, and he always owes me a pretty good bill. I enclose to you this masterpiece of art. As you never saw him, to your knowledge, and as I had one glimpse, you will be glad, I dare say, to be told that the Glenville House people think it a good likeness.

"There's nothing else in the way of news, and so, good luck to you, and a good voyage.


When Francis Ferrars had looked long at the picture enclosed in Doran's letter he started, and ejaculated, | | 234 in the short, jerky fashion in which he used habitually to commune with himself, "That face!--I've seen it before--but where?" And then he suddenly seemed to see himself approaching the City Hall, and noting, as he walked on, this same face.

It was the habit of the detective to see all that came within his range of vision, as he went about, but he might not have retained a memory so distinct if he had not, in leaving the very same place, encountered the man again, his position slightly shifted, but his attitude as before, that of one who waits, or watches.

For some moments he looked thoughtfully at the picture, which was that of a dark and bearded man wearing a double eyeglass, and then he placed it under a strong magnifier, and looked again.

"Ah!" he finally exclaimed, "I was sure of it! The man is in disguise!"

He took the picture at once to the ladies' sitting room, and held it before the eyes of Hilda Grant.

"Do you know it?" he asked.

"That!" She caught it from his hand, and held it toward the light. "It is the man whom----" She paused, looking at Ferrars, inquiringly.

"Whom you saw at the pawnshop?"

"Yes. And----"

"And at Glenville?"

| | 235

"Yes, at the hotel."

"And he was tall, you say, and broad-shouldered?"


"Strong looking, in fact. As if----" He checked himself at sight of the intent look upon Ruth Glidden's face, and she took the word from his lips.

"As if," she repeated, icily, "he could shoot straight, or strike a man down in the dark." She arose and took the picture. "It is a bad face," she said, with decision.

"It is a disguised face," replied Ferrars. "Nevertheless, I think I shall know it, even without the beard and thick, bushy wig. Let me see?" He took a piece of paper, and a pencil, and placing the photograph before him, began to sketch in the head, working from the nose, mouth, eyes and facial outlines outward, and drawing, instead of the thick, pointed beard, a thin-lipped mouth and smooth chin. Then, when the young ladies had studied this, he copied in the moustache of the photograph.

"It belongs to the face," he observed, as he worked; "and probably grew there."

Late that night, as the detective sat alone in his room with a pile of just completed letters before him, he again drew the photograph from its envelope and studied it with wrinkling brow.

"If you are the man," he said, with slow moving lips | | 236 that grew into hard, stern lines as he spoke--"If you are the man I will find you! If you have struck the first blow--and it's very possible--you also struck the second. But the work is not yet finished, and, unless my patience and skill desert me, the last stroke shall be mine."

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