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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AS the inspector and Ferrars approached the theatre they were obliged to slacken their pace, for, although the performance must have been well on its way, there was a crowd about the entrance.

"It's a first night for some new 'stars,' now that I think of it, and you'll find a lot of the sporting gentry here whenever a new and pretty face, that has had the right kind of advertising, is billed. That accounts for our friend's presence here, of course," said the inspector.

They made slowly their way toward the entrance, and as they reached it, and were about to pass within the brilliantly lighted vestibule, Inspector Hirsch grasped his companion's arm and pulled him back within the shadow of a friendly bill board.

"H'sh!" he whispered. "Here's Hobson!" He | | 270 drew Ferrars still further out of the crowd. "He must have lost his man, or else--hold on. Ferrars; I'll speak to him." And he glided into the crowd and Ferrars saw him pause by the side of a flashily-dressed young fellow, who seemed utterly absorbed in trying to revive a smouldering cigar stump. He gave no sign of a recognition as the inspector paused beside him, and seemed engrossed with his cigar and his own thoughts, but Inspector Hirsch was back in a moment with a grin upon his face.

"Your man has tired of the Vaudeville," he said, "and Hobson got close enough behind him--the other chap's still with him, too--to hear them planning to go on to the Savoy for a short time. Harry's evidently doing the theatres with his 'young duffer,' as the Swiss calls the fellow, and will probably pluck him if nothing intervenes." He looked hard at Ferrars. "My man won't lose sight of them. Want to go on to the Savoy?"

"By all means," replied Ferrars, and they set out, noting, as they skirted the crowd, that Hobson was no longer visible.

Crossing the street, they hastened their steps, and upon arriving at the Savoy, took up their station near the entrance once more. The crowd here was not dense, and they had not long to wait before two | | 271 men approached from the direction of the Vaudeville, walking slowly, and entered the vestibule of the Savoy.

The taller of the two was broad shouldered, dark and handsome, after a coarse fashion, while the other was smaller, with a weak face and uncertain manner. Both were in evening dress, and when they entered the theatre Ferrars and the inspector followed.

"I can stay with you an hour longer," said the latter. "Then I must go about my own affairs."

Ferrars nodded. He was watching "Quarrelsome Harry" closely, and after a time, as that personage began to look about as if in search of some expected face, he procured an opera glass, and with its aid began to sweep the house.

Then, suddenly, he started, and, after a long look at a certain point in the dress circle, he turned quickly toward the inspector.

"Do you know any one in authority here?" he asked.

"I know the head usher over there; or, rather, he knows me."

"That will do. Just call him, won't you? Introduce me. Tell him I'm after a crook who is up to mischief here, and ask him to help me."

After a time this was accomplished, and soon after the inspector took his leave.

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And now came the entre-acte, and a number of ladies left their places and went, some to the cloak-room, some to the foyer. The two men in whom Ferrars was interested went out among many others, and Ferrars followed. In the refreshment room they took places at the side, and the detective, contrary to his usual plan, passed them, and took a place midway between that occupied by the two men and a certain table, further down, where a party of six were seated.

To the waiter, who came to serve him, Ferrars said: "Send me your chief waiter," and slipped a coin into his willing hand.

When the chief waiter came, the two exchanged some whispered sentences, and then, as the man withdrew, our detective addressed himself to his light repast. He had been careful to keep himself unseen, so far as Harry Levey was concerned; and he had now chosen his seat behind a pillar, which hid him from view, while he still could, by moving slightly, look around it.

It was while taking one of his frequent peeps around this pillar that Ferrars saw "Quarrelsome Harry" tear a leaf from a small pocket-book and write a few words upon it, doing this in the most unobtrusive manner possible, with the bit of paper upon his knee.

Since they had exchanged those few whispered words | | 273 together, Ferrars and the head waiter had not lost sight of each other, and now a slight movement of the brows brought the man to Ferrars' table.

"Now," whispered the detective, "and be sure you are not observed."

The man nodded and passed on, seeming to scan, with equal interest, each table as he passed it. Nevertheless, he saw a note slipped into the hand of a vacant faced young waiter, and a few words of instruction given. Then the young man turned away, and began to move slowly toward the opposite side of the room.

A little beyond Ferrars' table he encountered the head waiter, present arbiter of his destiny.

"Kit," said this personage, in a low tone, "slip that note you carry into my hand and wait behind the screen yonder until I give it back to you. Quick! No nonsense, man; and mum's the word!"

As between a stranger with a liberal tip, and the august commander of the dining-room corps, Kit did not hesitate, and a moment later the head waiter dropped the note into Ferrars' palm with one hand, while he placed a bottle of wine beside his plate with the other.

Putting the bit of paper between the two leaves of the menu card, Ferrars boldly read its pencilled message.

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"Drive to the Cafe Royal. Ask to be shown to No. 9. I will join you there soon."

A moment later this note was placed, by Kit, beside the plate of the one for whom it was intended. The next, Ferrars, having tossed off his glass of light wine, arose and sauntered out of the refreshment room.

But he did not return to the theatre. Instead, he took a cab and was driven to the Café Royal.

Here again he sought out a person in authority, to whom he exhibited his star, and a card from Inspector Hirsch, and was at once shown to No. 8.

"If questions are asked," he said, as he slipped a goodly fee into the hand of authority, "remember that No. 8 is vacant, but is engaged for an hour later."

Left to himself, Ferrars moved a chair close to the wall between himself and number nine. It was but a flimsy barrier of wood and he nodded his approval, turned down the jet of gas, until it was the merest speck, and sat himself down to wait. But not for long; soon he heard the next door open, a sweeping, rustling sound, and the scraping of a chair. Then a bright light flashed up, the door closed, and all was still for a short time.

Then, again the door opened, there was a heavy step, low voices, and Ferrars knew that he might, if he would, | | 275 lay his hand upon those whom he had sought so long, and,for a time, it had seemed, so hopelessly.

"Are we quite alone here, do you suppose?" It was a man's voice, strong and somewhat gruff. "Let us see." And he rang the bell. The man who had admitted Ferrars, and who had no mind to fall out with the police, responded, and at once showed conclusively that the adjoining rooms, Nos. 8 and 10 were quite deserted, although, he admitted, he had locked No. 8 in order to secure it for a party at midnight; whereupon wine was ordered and he was at once dismissed.

"Well," began the heavier voice again, "why in the name of goodness haven't you pushed things more? I told you, from the first, that all was safe. There will be no crossing the big pond now. How long do you mean to dally?"

"We can't dally now," replied the lighter voice. "Didn't you see the notice in the papers? They are calling for the heirs. I don't understand it, but they tell me that unless we come forward now, the matter will be referred to some other court, and then there must be a long delay. No, I must produce those papers now, and if there should be any question, any flaw----"


| | 276

"Or if they should call for further proof of identity, you know. Suppose some one should be found, at the last moment, acquainted with her!"

"Bosh! How foolish!"

"Or who remembered me!"

"I tell you this is folly! Latham's first wife died so long ago, and at a Swedish spa. And she never had many friends. As for relatives, well, we know there are none now."

"Sometimes I fear the children will remember; that it will all come back to them, some day."

"I tell you this is simply idiotic; the time has come, and everything is in train. You have all the papers, certificate of marriage, copy of will, and who is to prove that the first Mrs. Latham died, and that she was the last of the Paisley line, on this side, or the other? You were married abroad, you have all her family papers and her jewels. Her children call you mother."

"And hate me!"

"Well, that won't cut any figure. Besides, we must have money. You and I have put our little all into this scheme. How much longer can we live decently unless you claim this estate soon? I must have money! Do you mean to see your brother starve?"

"Hush! You are not my brother, remember that; only my brother-in-law."

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"All right How lucky that Latham's brother never came back. Now, what did you especially want to say to-night?"

"This. I must meet those lawyers to-morrow."

"Oh! And I as nearest male kin, must be your escort, and support you through the trying ordeal."

"Not at all. I am especially requested to come alone."

"The d----!"

"But they will want corroborative testimony, and I want to beg of you not to take anything to-morrow, and not to stay out the rest of the night. Much depends upon the impression we make. And if we should fail--"

"We can't fail; or you can't. Aren't you next-of-kin?"

Ferrars got up and crept noiselessly to the door. He had heard enough, and he had much to do. A new enquiry to open up. He knew that he should find Hobson, who had not been dismissed, outside and near, and he meant to leave "Quarrelsome Harry" to him once more.

"Look after him sharp, Hobson," he said, when he had found the man in the outer room. "And ask the inspector to have a warrant ready in the morning. We must arrest him to-morrow. He is to be taken for | | 278 conspiracy and attempted murder. That will do for a beginning." And leaving the pair in No. 9 to their plotting, and to the watchful care of Hobson, Ferrars hastened from the place.

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