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首页 » 英文短篇小说 » The Yellow Face » CHAPTER XIX. A BROKEN MELODY.
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There they stood in the empty room, neither speaking, and gazing about them as if they expected some solution of the strange mystery to fall upon them. The wildest part of the whole thing was that though the music continued in the same sweet, harmonious way, there was not the slightest suggestion or indication of where it came from. It could not possibly have been a phonograph or a gramophone or anything of that kind, as the instrument in that case would have been in sight. And yet the whole room was flooded with that beautiful melody as if an invisible choir had been there making the music of the gods.

"I declare it makes me feel quite queer," Rigby said; "but of course there must be some practical explanation of it. Can you suggest any common sense solution?"

"No, but I am quite sure that Anstruther could," Jack replied. "This has nothing to do with the other world. What's that?"

Though Jack spoke coolly enough, he was feeling just a little nervous himself. From the hall beyond came a quick, buzzing noise, like a muffled circular saw, which resolved itself presently into the wild whirling of the handle of the telephone, as if some one were trying to get a call in a desperate hurry. Rigby jumped at once to the explanation, and Jack proceeded immediately to make a close examination of the room.

He was still in the act of doing so, when a startled cry from Rigby brought him up all standing. An instant later and Anstruther was there, demanding to know the meaning of this unwarrantable intrusion. Rigby congratulated himself upon his disguise; he had no fancy at that moment to be recognized by Anstruther.

"Who is that loafer yonder?" Anstruther demanded passionately. "What is the blackguard doing in my study? And, if it comes to that, what are you doing here too?"

Jack proceeded to explain exactly what had happened. In spite of the confusion of the moment, he had not failed to notice the fact that the music had ceased directly Anstruther had entered the room. It was quite evident that Anstruther had not the slightest idea of Rigby's identity. He was clearly taken in by the story of the fire, and pitched Rigby a half-crown, which the latter acknowledged hoarsely, after the manner of the class he was made up to represent.

"Well, I suppose it is all right now," Anstruther muttered. Usually cool and collected enough, he looked white and very much agitated. Something had evidently gone terribly wrong with that man of blood and iron. "Get these fellows out of the house, please, Masefield. I have had a great deal to worry me to-night, and I want to be quiet."

There being nothing further to wait for, and Rigby, having practically gained his point, departed with an intimation to Jack that he would wait outside for him. Masefield could see that Anstruther was regarding him with an eye of deep suspicion. But it was no cue of Jack's to notice this; he w r anted to make matters as smooth as possible.

"I suppose you were not very faraway?" he said. "I heard your violin a few minutes before the fire broke out. I wonder you did not see it for yourself."

Anstruther's face cleared slightly, though Jack noticed that his hand trembled, and that his pallid lips were twitching. With a commonplace expression or two, Jack turned and left the house as if nothing out of the usual run had happened. He found Rigby patiently waiting for him at the corner.

"Well, what do you think of that?" Rigby asked. "I am exceedingly glad to find that Anstruther did not recognize me. A most unlucky thing that he should have come back like that. Given a half-an-hour alone in that room, it would have been an odd thing if we had not solved the mystery of the invisible musician. But it is hardly safe to stop and discuss the question here. Walk on to the Planet office, and wait for me there."

"Is there any more to be done to-night?" Jack asked, when he and his friend were alone once more, seated in the latter's office. "Shall we stop here, or do you want to proceed further before you go to bed?"

"Well, you can do as you please," Rigby said. "I don't know that I particularly desire your services at present. My notion is to go back to Panton Square, and hang about on the off-chance of seeing something."

"And spend half the night in dodging the police," Jack laughed. "That's a very primitive idea of yours; I flatter myself I have a much better idea than that. Anstruther will never betray himself; we haven't the slightest chance of trapping him. Now, unless I am altogether out of it, Padini is the man we want to get hold of. He is exceedingly vain; like most artists, there is nothing secretive about him, and I am told that he is particularly fond of a glass of champagne. Depend upon it, that fellow will talk fast enough when the time comes. If he doesn't, we can make him."

"But we must have something to go upon," Rigby observed thoughtfully. "I think we are justified in assuming that the fellow is a wrong 'un; anyway, our hands will be greatly strengthened if we can find something to his discredit."

"That's exactly what I mean to do," Jack said. "Now Bates is quite as much interested in this matter as we are, and though you have backed yourself against the police in this case, there is no reason why you shouldn't make use of them. Besides, we are not bound to tell Bates too much. If there is anything to be found out to the discredit of Padini, Bates is the very man for our purpose."

But, as it transpired subsequently, Bates was not available. He had just gone off, so the sergeant said, having been called in to investigate a burglary quite recently discovered in Belgrave Gardens. It was something exceedingly neat in the way of a burglary, the sergeant explained, with the air of a connoisseur in such matters; in fact, the place had been routed during the progress of a big reception. No ladders had been used, no wedges or commonplace implements of that kind; indeed, it was more than suspected that the burglary was the work of two of the guests.

An unfortunate footman, being where he ought not to have been, had had his suspicions aroused by the movements of two distinguished-looking men in evening dress. He had come quite unexpectedly upon them in one of the corridors, and had so far forgotten himself as to want to know what they were doing there. Immediately one of them had felled him with some blunt, heavy instrument, and he had only just time to yell a note of warning before he fainted. The cry was taken up at once, and immediately the corridor was filled with men guests. In the confusion, and owing to the fact that the thieves themselves were in evening dress, it was impossible to lay hands on the culprits. All this the sergeant told his visitors with an air of great enjoyment.

"If you give us the number we will walk round there," Rigby said. "Thank you very much."

The big house in Belgrave Gardens had lost most of its air of simmering excitement by the time the two friends reached there. They were informed that Bates had nearly finished his investigations, and, indeed, the inspector came into the hall at that moment, accompanied by Lord Longworth. He held in his hand a beautifully embroidered silk muffler--one of those choice affairs which are large enough to cover a dinner table, and yet small enough to go into a waistcoat pocket.

"Very strange indeed, your lordship," Bates was saying; "I can't understand it at all. Here is your injured footman prepared to swear that one of his assailants was wearing that muffler when he came into the house, that is, on his arrival. And here we have Mrs. Montague ready to swear that the muffler belongs to her. Whether she likes it or not, I really must insist upon my right to take this wrap away with me. If it proves to belong to Mrs. Montague, why, of course----"

And the detective shrugged his shoulders. A moment later, and he was in the street with Masefield and Rigby. He listened carefully enough to the dramatic version of the story they had to tell him, and professed himself ready to do anything required of him.

"Of course, I know nothing whatever about this violin mystery," he said. "I have quite enough to do to look after the native element in the way of rascality. But there are ways and means of getting the better of the gentle foreigner."

"But I always understood that Scotland Yard employed detectives of all nationalities?" Rigby observed. "Haven't you got anybody on your staff with a knowledge of international crime?"

Bates responded that such was the case. If the friends liked, he would go with them at once to the residence of Superintendent Zimburg, and there see what could be done. "As far as I am personally concerned, my own hands are very full to-night."

"Your sergeant told us that this was a very interesting case," Jack suggested. "Is it possible that this burglary was the work of some guests invited to the house?"

"Honestly, I believe it to be the case," Bates proceeded to explain. "After all said and done, modern society is a pretty queer mixture. Given a good presence and a good address, plus the appearance of the possession of money, it is quite possible for a man to get anywhere. Take a big reception like the one that Lord Longworth gave to-night. Now, it would be quite fair to assume that his lordship and his wife were not personally acquainted with at least a third of the guests present. Somebody takes a friend, and that friend takes somebody else, and there you are. Of course, you are aware of the fact that at all big weddings nowadays it is absolutely necessary to employ detectives. To-night's business was exceedingly neat and novel, and might have been wonderfully successful but for the footman. All the same I am quite certain that the thing was executed by somebody who is actually a guest of his lordship."

"And not so much as a clue left behind," Jack laughed.

"Well, there is, and there isn't," Bates admitted. "I had a good look round when everybody was gone, and the only thing I could lay my hands on was this wonderful silk muffler. Nobody owned it; the injured footman declares that he saw a gentleman arriving earlier in the evening who had this muffler about his neck. Here was a fine clue, I thought to myself. And then Mrs. Montague comes back in her brougham and claims this thing as her own. Distinctly annoying, don't you think?"

"Annoying enough," Rigby agreed; "but is the muffler in question so very much out of the common?"

Bates was emphatically of the opinion that such was the case. He produced the thing from his pocket, and the three men proceeded to examine it in the light of a street lamp. Jack appeared as if about to say something, then suddenly changed his mind, and began to whistle instead. They came at length once more to Shannon Street police station, where Bates telephoned to Superintendent Zimburg, asking the latter if he would come round immediately. He arrived a few moments later--a slim, dark little man, with a vivacious manner and a beard with an interrogative cock to it. He smiled in a greasy sort of way at the suggestion that there might be some prominent foreign scoundrel in London with whom he was not acquainted.

"I know the whole gang," he said. "That is exactly my business. Have I seen anything, or do I know anything of this Padini? Probably I do, but not under that name. Oh, yes, it is quite a usual thing for some of the pink of cosmopolitan rascals to be talented. For instance, I know at least three who might have made great names as artists, only they prefer the seamy side of life. There is another who might have been a poet. Therefore, I see no reason why this Padini, or whatever his proper name may be, should not be a really great violinist. If you have such a thing as a portrait----"

But Bates had nothing of the kind, and the whole thing looked like coming to a deadlock, when Rigby suddenly recollected that a portrait of Padini was to be obtained at the office of the Planet. The violinist's portrait had been produced in the Planet two days before, and the original was still lying about the office.

"I'll take a cab and be back in ten minutes," Rigby said.

He was back in the prescribed time, and produced a cabinet portrait of Padini, which he handed over to the superintendent.

"Now, what do you make of that?" he asked.


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