A Disappearance

When Rupert returned to Marport next day, Burgh accompanied him.
The young squire of Royabay wished to give information to the
police regarding the guilt of Forge. But Clarence persuaded him
against doing so. “You’ll only get me into a row,” said he, in
his candid way. “You see I told a lie.”

“You tell so many lies,” said Rupert sharply, “I don’t know but
what I ought to give you in charge.”

“I guess not, seeing I saved your life last night.”

“No. You’re right there Burgh. But have you really anything to
do with this murder?”

“No, ‘cept as how I told old Tung-yu last night.”

“Just repeat what you said. I was so faint with the loss of
blood that I didn’t gather half you said.”

Burgh nodded. “You were pretty sick. I’d to help you back to
civilization, same as if you were drunk. If I hadn’t, you’d have
been robbed and killed down that Bowery gangway.”

Ainsleigh could not, but acknowledge that Clarence had acted
very well. He had saved him from the man who attacked him in the
street, and also, it was owing to him that the two had escaped
from the gang of Hwei. Finally Burgh had taken Rupert back to
the Guelph Hotel in Jermyn Street, when he was rather shaky from
the wound. It was much better this morning, but Ainsleigh looked
pale, and not at all himself. Still he did not grudge the
trifling wound–it was merely a scratch although it had bled
freely,–as the knowledge he had acquired, was well worth the
trouble. They had left the den in Penters Alley, some time after
midnight, and had returned safely to the West, where Rupert had
acted as host to Burgh. That was Clarence all over. Whenever he
did anyone a service, he always took it out of him in some way,
and but, for the dangerous position in which he found himself
would have quartered his carcase on Rupert for an indefinite
period.

“But there ain’t no denying that I’m in a fix,” said Burgh, as
the train drew near Marport. “That is, if you split Ainsleigh.”

“No, I won’t split on you. But if Forge is guilty he must be
arrested,” said Rupert decisively.

“But I don’t know if he strangled the old girl after all.”

“You said he did, last night.”

“Well I wanted to know the secret of that fan.”

Rupert shrugged his shoulders. “You know that the fan when
waved in a certain smoke–of which by the way you learned
nothing–reveals a hiding place which contains certain things
Tung-yu wants–”

“To ruin Lo-Keong,” said Burgh quickly. “So I guess if I can
pick up that fan from old Forge, I’ll yank in the dollars.”

“Aren’t you satisfied with what you have.”

“This thousand. Oh that’s all right. I cashed the cheque before
I joined you at the station–got it in gold so I can clear out
when it suits me. It’s always as well to be ready to git.”

“I suppose,” said Ainsleigh dryly, “in your varied career, you
have had frequent occasions to ‘git’ as you call it.”

“You bet. But git’s slang American and good Turkish lingo, so
you’ve no need to sneer old man. ‘Say, about Forge. What’s to be
done?”

“I’ll communicate with Rodgers and tell him what you say. If the
doctor is guilty he must suffer.”

“My eye,” said Clarence reflectively, “won’t aunty be mad. Well
I guess this will square us: she won’t play low down on me
again.”

“Burgh, you’re a blackguard.”

“I am, that’s a fact,” said the buccaneer in no wise disturbed.
“But don’t you say that in public or the fur’ll fly.”

“Pooh. You know I’m equal to you. But this story–”

“The one I told Tung-yu last night,” grinned Burgh, “I’ll reel
it out now, and you can sort it out as you choose. I believe
Forge to be the scragger of the old girl, because he had that
tie of yours.”

“How did he get the tie?”

“I gave it to him,” confessed Clarence candidly.

“Yes–I remember you said so last night. But I forget how you
explained the getting of it.”

“Huh,” drawled Burgh folding his arms. “You might call it
stealing old pard. Y’see Miss Pewsey–my old aunty that is–saw
Olivia–”

“Mrs. Ainsleigh, hang you.”

“Right oh,” continued Burgh imperturbably. “Well, aunty saw
Mrs. Ainsleigh pass the tie to you, and when you went to the
cloak-room she told me. I was real mad not knowing how things
were, as I wanted that tie for myself. I’d no notion of your
getting things made by the young lady I was sweet on.

“I wish you would leave out my wife’s name,” said Rupert
angrily, and wincing with pain, for his wound hurt him not a
little.

“I’ll try: don’t get your hair off. Well I cut along to the
card room–no t’wasn’t the card room–the cloak-room, and saw you
standing by your coat, just hanging it up again.”

“And you saw me put the tie in the pocket.”

“I guess not: but I fancied you might have done so. Then I
waited outside while you yarned with the Chinese cove and
Tidman. After that I cut in and you know the rest.”

“Up to the time I knocked you down. Well?”

“Smashing blow,” said Burgh coolly, “you can use your hands
pretty well I reckon–but a six shooter’s more in my line. Well,
when you cut, I lay down and saw stars for a time. Then I
thought I’d pay you out by annexing the tie.”

“You didn’t know it was there?”

“Thought it might be,” rejoined Burgh coolly, “anyhow there was
no harm in trying. I found the tie, and went out with it,
thinking you be pretty sick when you found it gone. I went into
the card-room where old Forge was cheating I guess, and had a
yarn along o’him. He just roared when I showed him the tie, for
he hates you like pie.”

“What’s that?” asked Rupert sharply, “you are mistaken.”

“I guess not. That old man would have been glad to see you
scragged, Mr. Ainsleigh. He asked me to let him have the tie–”

“What for?”

Burgh shrugged his shoulders. “He didn’t say. But I let him have
it anyhow. I wasn’t in a position to refuse. Y’see Ainsleigh I’m
not a holy Bill and–”

“And Forge knows a few of your escapades likely to land you
in–”

“Y’needn’t say the word,” interrupted Burgh in his turn,
“t’isn’t a pretty one. But I guess Forge could make things hot
for me if he liked, so that was why I lay low when I saw the tie
round the old girl’s throat. I guessed then. Forge had scragged
her and boned the fan. I asked him about it, and he lied like
billeo. Said he’d lost the tie, and never touched the old ‘un.
Then he said if I made any fuss, he’d tell the police about–”

“About what?” asked Ainsleigh, seeing the man hesitate.

“Huh,” replied Burgh, uncomfortably, “I guess that’s my
business. I told you I wasn’t a saint.”

“I suspect you’re a thorough paced gaol-bird.”

“No, I ain’t been in quod. Where I gavorted round, in the Naked
Lands, they don’t shove a man in chokey for every trifle.”

“Such as murder. Eh?”

“I haven’t murdered anyone yet,” confessed Clarence, easily,
“but one never knows. But I told about Forge last night, as I
wanted to get this thousand. Now I’ll try for the fan, and see
if I can’t get the fifteen thousand to come my way. If Forge
cuts up rough, I’ll light out with what I have”–he slapped his
pockets–“for Callao,” and he began to sing the old song:–

“On no occasion, is extradition,
Allowed in Callao.”

“And I know a daisy of a girl out there,” said the scamp,
winking.

Ainsleigh was too disgusted to speak. He felt that as he was as
big a ruffian as Burgh, to tolerate this conversation, and he
was relieved when the train steamed into Marport station. As
soon as it stopped he jumped out, and nodding to his companion,
he was about to take his leave, when Clarence stopped him. “Say.
You won’t round on Forge till I get this fan business settled.”

“I intend to write to Rodgers to-day,” said Ainsleigh, tartly,
“bad as your aunt is, she shan’t marry that scoundrel if I can
help it.”

“But I only know Forge got the scarf as I told you. He mightn’t
have scragged her y’know. He says he didn’t.”

“And relied on what he knows of you to keep things quiet. No,
Mr. Burgh, I intend to have the man arrested,” and Rupert turned
away, while Clarence, apparently not at all disturbed, went away
whistling his Callao ditty.

Rupert drove to Royabay and was welcomed with joy by his wife.
She was much alarmed when she saw his condition, and was very
angry when he told of his danger. She made him lie down, and
bathed the wound, of which Rupert made light. “It’s nothing,
dear,” he said.

“It might be dangerous. There might have been poison on that
knife, Rupert. You know what the Chinese are.”

“No, Olivia, I certainly don’t. All this business of the fan and
the god Kwang-ho is most ridiculous.”

“Tell me all about it,” said Olivia, when she had placed a tray,
with tea and toast, before him.

“I shall do so at once, as I want your advice,” and Rupert
related all that had occurred from the time of his meeting with
Clarence Burgh in the train on the previous night. Olivia
listened in silence. “Well,” asked Rupert, drinking his tea,
“what do you think?”

“I think Mr. Burgh is a scoundrel.”

“Anyone can see that!”

“And worthy of his aunt.”

“Perhaps. She’s a bad one that Miss Pewsey, but she may not know
what a rascal she has for a relative. And at all events, I can’t
let her marry Forge. Do you believe he is guilty?”

“He might be,” said Olivia cautiously, “but I would much rather
believe that Burgh gave the tie to his aunt and that she
strangled aunt Sophia.”

Rupert laughed. “What a vindictive person you are dearest,” said
he. “Miss Pewsey is bad but not so bad as that.”

“I’d credit her with anything,” said Olivia, who was truly
feminine in her detestation of Miss Pewsey. “She has insulted me
for years, and put aunt Sophia against me, and caused me to lose
the money.”

“Well–well,” said Rupert soothingly, “let us think the best of
her–she has her good points.

“Where are they–what are they? She is a–no,” Olivia checked
herself and looked penitent, “I really must not give way to such
unworthy feelings. I’ll try and think the best of her, and I
agree with you darling, that she must not marry Dr. Forge.”

“Do you think I should write to Rodgers?”

“Certainly. The marriage must be stopped. Write to-day.”

But Rupert did not write that day, for the simple reason that
the wound on his arm grew very painful, and he became delirious.
The doctor who was called in, said that there was poison in the
blood and then Olivia was alarmed lest Rupert should lose his
arm, and perhaps his life. However, the doctor was young and
clever and by careful treatment he drew out the poison and in a
few days, the young man’s arm had resumed its normal condition,
and his brain again became clear. Then he wrote a letter to
Rodgers asking him to come down to Royabay on a matter connected
with the murder of his wife’s aunt. After the letter had been
posted, Rupert went out for a walk with his wife, and strolled
round the grounds. As the two crossed the lawn admiring the
beauty of the day which was bright and clear and slightly
frosty, Mrs. Petley appeared, coming up the avenue. She made
straight for the young couple.

“Please Master Rupert, that gent’s called again.”

“What, Mr. Burgh?” said Olivia, and then in answer to her
husband’s enquiring look she explained. “He has called for the
last three days, dear, since you were ill. I never told you, as
I thought it might worry you.”

“And he just called to ask how you were. Master Rupert,” said
the old housekeeper, “and never come nearer than the lodge, as
old Payne can testify. I told him you were out walking and he
asked if he could come in and see you.”

“Certainly,” said Rupert–then, when Mrs. Petley hurried away,
he turned to Olivia. “Burgh simply wants to find out if I have
communicated with Rodgers. He’s frightened for his own skin.”

Shortly Mrs. Petley returned with the information that Mr. Burgh
was nowhere to be seen. This did not trouble Rupert who thought
that the buccaneer (always of an impatient disposition) might
have grown tired of waiting. With Olivia, he strolled round the
grounds for thirty minutes and at length entered the ruins of
the Abbey. Here the first thing they saw, was Mr. Clarence Burgh
seated on a stone under the copper beech. He jumped up and came
forward, with his usual grace and invariable impudence.

“Glad to see you out again, Ainsleigh,” said he taking off his
hat, “and you look well, Mrs. Ainsleigh–just like a picture.”

“Thank you,” replied Olivia, concealing her dislike with
difficulty, “you wish to see my husband I presume.”

“Just for two shakes,” said Clarence easily, “say old man, what
about Forge. Are y’ going to’ round on him?”

Rupert nodded, “I have written to Rodgers to-day. But I’ll give
him this chance of escape–warn him if you like.”

“Not me,” said Burgh coldly, “every man for his own durned
skin–begging your pardon Mrs. Ainsleigh. I saw him while you
were trying for Kingdom Come, and told him that he’d the fan.”

“What did he say?”

“Gave me the lie. Swore he’d been in the card-room between
eleven and twelve, and never saw the old girl. Said he’d had
enough of the fan, as it had nearly caused his death. Then he
said he’d split on me if I gave him away.”

“But you told him, you did confess to the Chinaman.”

“Oh that’s all right. Forge don’t care a red cent for their
telling the police. They won’t engineer the biznai into the
courts. So long as they get the fan, they don’t mind. Forge
knows they won’t make the matter public, but now he’s in mortal
fear, lest they should kill him.”

“Thinking he’s got the fan.”

“You bet–on my evidence. Well,” said Burgh calmly and with a
twinkle in his evil eyes. “I reckon old man Forge is in an
almighty fix. He’s in danger of being knifed by Hwei–thanks to
me, and of being hanged for killing the old girl–thanks to
you.”

Olivia’s face expressed her disgust. “If you have heard all you
wish to hear, we’ll go away,” she said to her husband.

“Right oh,” said Burgh. “Don’t mind me. Pretty place y’have
here,” he added looking round the beautiful cloisters, “that’s
the place where they lynched the old monk I reckon. I’ve heard
that silly rhyme of yours, Ainsleigh. I guess you’ve fulfilled
one part.”

“How so?” asked Rupert stiffly.

“About the marriage y’know. A poor Ainsleigh has wedded a poor
wife. So that’s all right. Now I–”

“I must be going,” interrupted Ainsleigh annoyed by the man’s
glib talk, “have you anything else to say?”

“Only this. Forge is going to hitch long-side Aunt Lavinia
to-morrow, and if you run him in, she’ll get left.”

“All the better for her,” said Ainsleigh calmly, “he’s a bad
lot.”

“That’s so. Much worse than you think. He was the man who tried
to stab you in Penter’s Alley.”

“No.”

“He was though. I saw his face under the lamp, as he let fly.
Then he cut and–you know the rest. But I’m off. My eye,”
Clarence chuckled, “what a shine there’ll be to-morrow, when
Aunty gets left.”

Burgh strolled away whistling, and Olivia expressed her disgust
at his free and easy manners. Rupert, reflecting on what
Clarence had told him of Forge’s assault, resolved to be a fair
and open enemy. He decided to call on Forge and tell him that he
had written to Rodgers. Also, he desired to ask why he attempted
the second crime. Olivia approved, so Rupert went early next day
to Tidman’s Avenue. The door was opened by Mrs. Bressy who was
wiping her mouth as though she had just been at the bottle,
which was probably the case. In reply to Rupert’s enquiry for
her master, she told him that Dr. Forge had gone. “He went to
Londing, sir–larst night,” said Mrs. Bressy.

“Did he leave any address?”

“No, Mr. Ainsleigh, he did not.”

The inference was easy. Forge had bolted.