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   Chapter 27 No.27

The Slave of Silence By Fred M. White Characters: 11453

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


Meanwhile the fates were working in another direction. Field had stumbled, more or less by accident, upon a startling discovery. He had, it will be remembered, called upon the little actress to whom he had rendered so signal a service on the night of the theatre panic, and whom in the heat and confusion of the moment he had failed to recognize, but now he knew that he was face to face with the lady whom he had seen with Sartoris at Audley Place.

Field was not often astonished, but he gave full rein to that emotion now. For he had made more than one discovery at the same time. In the first place he had found Miss Violet Decié, Sir Charles Darryll's ward, who proved at the same time to be the actress known as Adela Vane. But that was a minor discovery compared to the rest. Here was the girl who at one time had been engaged to Carl Sartoris, and who was supposed to be connected more or less with his misfortunes.

Here was the girl, too, who might be in a position to supply the key to the mystery. Undoubtedly, the backbone of the whole thing was the desire for money. Sir Charles Darryll and his friend Lord Edward Decié had been engaged in some adventurous speculation together in Burmah. They had doubtless deemed that speculation to be worthless, but Carl Sartoris had found that they were mistaken. Therefore, trusting to his changed appearance and his disguise, he had asked his old sweetheart to call upon him. The conversation that Field had overheard in the conservatory was going to be useful.

The curious questioning look in the girl's eyes recalled Field to himself. He had instantly to make up his mind as to his line of action. Miss Decié, to give her her proper name, gave the inspector a little time to decide what to do.

"How can I ever sufficiently thank you?" she asked. "Really, I could not sleep all night for thinking about the horror of the thing and your brave action. It was splendid!"

"Not at all," Field said modestly. "I am accustomed to danger. You see I am a police officer, a detective inspector from Scotland Yard. It is a little strange that I should have been able to do you a service, seeing that I came to the theatre on purpose to see you."

The girl's eyes opened a little wider, but she said nothing.

"Perhaps I had better be quite candid," Field went on. "I want you to help me if you can."

"Most assuredly. After last night, I will do anything you like. Pray go on."

"Thank you very much," Field replied. "It is very good of you to make my task easier. You see I am closely connected with the inquiry into the sudden death of Sir Charles Darryll and the subsequent startling disappearance of his body. Were not your father and Sir Charles great friends in India long ago? Do you recollect that?"

The girl nodded; her eyes were dilated with curiosity. Field could not find it in his heart to believe that she was a bad girl.

"They had adventures together," she said. "They were going to make a fortune over some mine or something of that kind. But it never came to anything."

"You are absolutely sure of that?" Field asked.

"Well, so far as I know, the thing came to nothing. Some man was employed to make certain investigations, and he reported badly of the scheme. I only heard all this talk as a child, and I was not particularly interested. You see, I knew very little of Sir Charles, though he was my guardian. There were certain papers that he deposited with a solicitor who used to get him out of messes from time to time, but really I am as ignorant as you are."

"You don't even know the name of the solicitor?" Field asked.

"I do now," the girl said. "I found it among some letters. Do you know that a Mr. Sartoris, who claims to know my father and Sir Charles, also wrote me on the same matter? He asked me to go and see him at Wandsworth. He is a crippled gentleman, and very nice. He has a lovely conservatory-room full of flowers. I was at his house only last night, and he talked to me very much the same way as you are doing."

"I know that," Field said calmly. "I was hiding in the conservatory and listened."

Miss Decié gave a little cry of astonishment.

"Our profession leads us into strange places," Field said. "I heard all that conversation, so there is no occasion to ask you to repeat it. You will recollect saying that Mr. Sartoris reminded you of somebody that you knew years ago in India. Have you made up your mind who the gentleman in question does resemble?"

The girl's face grew white, and then the red blood flamed into her cheeks ago.

"I have a fancy," she said. "But are not these idle questions?"

"I assure you that they are vital to this strange investigation," Field said earnestly.

"Then I had better confess to you that Mr. Sartoris reminded me of a gentleman to whom I was once engaged in India; I was greatly deceived in the man to whom I was engaged; indeed it was a tragic time altogether. I don't like to speak of it."

"Loth as I am to give you pain, I must proceed," Field said. "Was the gentleman you speak of known as a Mr. Carl Grey, by any chance."

"Yes, that was the name. I see you know a great deal more than I anticipated. I suppose you have been making investigations. But I cannot possibly see what--"

"What this has to do with the death of Sir Charles Darryll? My dear young lady, this is a very complicated case; at least it looks like one at present, and its ramifications go a long way. I want to know all you can tell me about Carl Grey."

"I can tell you nothing that is good," the girl said. She had risen from the chair and was pacing up and down the room in a state of considerable agitation. "There was a tragedy behind it all. I don't t

hink that I really and truly loved Carl Grey; I fancy that he fascinated me. There was another man that I cared more for. He died trying to save my life."

Field nodded encouragement; a good deal of this he knew already.

"Let me make it easy for you if I can," he said. "I have found out a great deal from a little conversation, part of which I overheard between Colonel Berrington and Miss Mary Grey, or Miss Mary Sartoris, which you like. There was a mysterious affair, but it resulted in the death or disappearance of the other man and the permanent crippling of Carl Grey. Am I misinformed, or is this practically the case?"

"I cannot see what this has to do with Sir Charles Darryll," Violet Decié said slowly.

"Pardon me, but it has a great deal to do with the case," Field replied. "If you knew all that I do you would not hesitate for a moment. If you care to write it down--"

The girl stopped in her restless walk; her eyes were heavy with tears.

"I'll tell you," she said. "I must not forget that I owe my life to your bravery. As I said before, I was engaged to Carl Grey. But for his sister I don't think that I should ever have consented. But there it was, and I loved another man at the time. And the other man loved me. There was a deal of jealousy between the two, and I was frightened. Carl Grey was always queer and mysterious; he was ever seeking to penetrate the mysteries of the East. Strange men would come to his bungalow late at night, and I heard of weird orgies there. But I did not see anything of this till one day when I was riding on the hills with Mr. Grey. We had a kind of quarrel on the way, and he was very difficult that day. We came presently to a kind of temple in ruins, which we explored. There was a vault underneath, and Mr. Grey pressed me to enter. It all seems like a dream now; but there were natives there and some kind of ceremony progressing. The air of the place seemed to intoxicate me; I seemed to be dragged into the ceremony, Mr. Grey and I together. Somebody dressed me in long white robes. Even to this day I don't know whether it was a dream or a reality. Then there was a disturbance, and the other man came in; I do not recollect anything after but blows and pistol shots; when I came to myself I was in the jungle with my horse by my side. From that day to this I have never seen or heard of Mr. Grey, and I never again beheld the man I loved, and who gave his life to save me."

Field listened patiently enough to the strange story. He had yet a few questions to ask.

"You think that Mr. Grey had been initiated into the mysteries of those rites?" he asked. "And that his idea was to initiate you into them also?"

"I think so," Violet Decié said with a shudder. "There are such strange and weird things in the East that even the cleverest of our scholars know nothing of them. An old nurse used to tell the most dreadful tales. Perhaps the man who died for me could have explained. I presume that he followed me, expecting mischief of some kind."

"I dare say he did," Field replied. "Did an explanation follow?"

"No. I declined to see Mr. Grey again. I heard that he had met with an accident; they said that he was maimed for life. And people blamed me for being callous and heartless. As if they knew! Even Mr. Grey's sister was angry with me. But nothing could induce me to look upon the face of that man again, and I left Simla soon afterwards."

"And that is all you have to tell me?" Field asked.

"I don't think there is any more. It is rather strange that this thing should crop up again like this, so soon after I have been to see Mr. Sartoris, who reminded me so strangely of Carl Grey. Only of course, Mr. Sartoris is much older."

"I fancy there is not so much difference between their ages," Field said grimly. "You see, a clever disguise goes a long way. And you say that you never saw Mr. Grey after that supposed accident. A thing like that changes people dreadfully."

The girl looked up with a startled expression in her eyes.

"You don't mean to say," she faltered. "You don't mean to suggest that--"

"That Mr. Grey and Mr. Sartoris are one and the same person," Field said quietly. "My dear young lady, that is actually the fact. Mr. Sartoris knew or thought that you could give him certain information. It was necessary to see you. The name of Sartoris would convey nothing to you, and in that interview the man was right. But you might have recognised him, and so he disguised himself. I saw the disguise assumed; I saw you come into the room amongst the flowers. And long before you had finished what you had to say I began to see the motive for what looked like a purposeless and cruel crime. But you were certainly talking to Carl Grey last night."

The girl shuddered violently and covered her face with her hands. The whole thing had come back to her now; she blushed to the roots of her hair as she realised that she had kissed the man that she only thought of with horror and detestation.

"If I had known, no power on earth would have induced me to enter that house," she said. "That man seems to be as cruel and cunning as ever. But why should he have had a hand in the stealing of the body of Sir Charles Darryll?"

"We will come to that presently," Field said drily. "Sartoris wanted certain information from you, the address of a lawyer or something of that kind. You were not quite sure last night whether or not you could find the information. Did you?"

"Yes," Violet Decié said. "I found it in an old memorandum book of mine."

"And you were going to post the address to Mr. Sartoris?"

"I am afraid the mischief is done," the girl said. "It was posted early this morning."

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