Annie Cory is a woman in love but also a feisty detective on a mission to solve a peculiar case involving-diamond, murder and of course villains! Excerpt: 'Confound that upset! I shall be two minutes behind time-I wish I had walked all the way, instead of trusting to the supposed extra speed of a 'bus, when the streets are so slippery that horses cannot keep their feet.' Thus soliloquised Harley Riddell, ruefully, as he hurriedly picked his way through the somewhat aggressive conglomeration of wagons, hansoms, 'buses and fourwheelers, which threatened to still further belate his arrival at the establishment of his employers, Messrs. Stavanger, Stavanger and Co., diamond merchants, of Hatton Garden...'
Elizabeth Burgoyne Corbett (1846-1930), also known as Mrs George Corbett, was an English feminist writer. She worked as a journalist for the Newcastle Daily Chronicle and as a popular writer of adventure and society novels. Many of her novels originated as magazine serials and not published in book form.Her writing was not universally well received, but Hearth and Home listed her along with Arthur Conan Doyle as one of the masters of the art of the detective novel.
CHAPTER XII. Table of Contents
BAITING THE TRAP.
"You would like to know my reasons for believing that your friend has met with foul play," said Captain Gerard, after the first horror and surprise of his hearers was over. "Well, here they are. It was only yesterday that our second mate, who is new to the ship, related a conversation he had had with the bo'sun. The latter asserts that on the night that saw the last of the man supposed to be William Trace, it was so unbearably stuffy down below that he coiled himself up beside the winch, between the third and after hatch, and went to sleep there. He says that it must have been approaching morning, when he suddenly awoke with a sensation of danger, such as we all experience at times when our sleep is disturbed. With his senses all on the alert, he looked about him, without at first noting anything. Then it struck him that the sound he had heard was a splash, and a moment after he saw Messrs. Cochrane and Torrens creeping stealthily towards the companion, down which they vanished. Shortly afterwards he fell asleep again, and did not connect the steward's disappearance with the splash he had heard, or with the skipper's stealthy movements, until he heard different members of the crew whispering their suspicions of foul play. Had the weather been bad, or had the steward been an unsteady man, it might have been supposed that he had fallen overboard while drunk, as the ship was not rolling. But the man was as steady as the weather was fine, and he could not have fallen overboard without deliberately trying to do so. The inference, therefore, is in favour of his having been pitched over. You may not think this much proof of my belief that he was murdered. But our Chippy stumbled upon a motive, or what would have struck a keen observer as a good equivalent for one. He was ordered by the captain to repair sundry holes which had been made in the wainscoting by the steward. Since I know who the steward was, I am sure these holes had been made for purposes of espionage; that he discovered collusion between Cochrane and the passenger; that they, in their turn, discovered who he was, and deliberately negatived his evidence against them by murdering him. There are also many other corroborative little incidents to be unearthed, I am sure, and I promise you that by the time the 'Merry Maid' has finished this voyage, there will have been gathered by me all the information possible concerning this suspected murder. Meanwhile, your best course will be to return to England, and try to secure Cochrane. He lives in Disraeli Road, Forest Gate, London. Before we separate I will give you his complete address."
"Is he married?"
"He has been, but his wife is dead. Since her death he has placed his son under the care of a sister, and he makes her house his home also when in port. Only secure him, and you will learn enough to liberate your friend from gaol. Cochrane will tell all he can about Stavanger to screen himself. He is notoriously of a sneakish disposition. If money is no object, I would suggest that you cable to somebody in England to see that the fellow does not give you the slip. And now I guess I had better be moving, as soon as you have given me an address that will always find you. We are going on to Bombay from here. Should I come across Stavanger, you may bet your bottom dollar that I will ensure his arrest."
A few weeks after the above conversation, an elderly gentleman in clerical garb was having a somewhat heated discussion with a private detective.
"How in the world could you bungle so seriously as to let the man slip through your fingers? I telegraphed the importance of his capture to you, warning you always to keep him in sight. And yet I find, on arriving here myself, that you have lost all trace of him."
So said the irate clergyman, to whom the detective replied-
"My dear sir, when you have lived a little longer, you will perhaps have a better understanding of the difficulties of my profession. The man whom I did watch tallied exactly with the description of the man I was instructed to watch, and it is not my fault that it turns out to be the brother-in-law whom I have shadowed. I do not believe Cochrane has been near the house."
"Perhaps you are right. But my vexation is none the less, for, somehow, every effort I have made, so far, has resulted in nothing but disappointment."
"Well, it's a long lane that never has a turning, and Cochrane is evidently dubious as to his safety and has chosen to obliterate himself for a while. We may take it for granted that he won't join the 'Merry Maid' again. Nor will the share of the stolen diamonds which he was seen with at Valetta be enough to support him permanently. I should imagine he will change his name and set up in some other line of business in London or its vicinity. If you care to empower me to do so, I will employ one of my men to investigate, and report the appearance of the proprietors of new enterprises, preferably those of a quiet, shady nature."
"London is such a big place, that we are as likely to stumble across our man in the street, as to discover him in the way you suggest. But I suppose it will be as well to be watchful."
It was only too true. Once more, when apparently on the eve of success, our friends had been most bitterly disappointed by the discovery that their quarry had escaped them. For a week his whilom home was carefully watched, but he did not put in an appearance there, and, after awhile, it was discovered that his relatives were greatly distressed about him, as he had neither visited them nor acquainted them with his place of abode for some time past.
All things considered, Harley's prospects of release seemed no better than they were at the time of his conviction. But it was at least a little satisfactory to learn that his health had so far not suffered quite so much as had been feared. His mother, too, bore up wonderfully under all her trials, and expressed her firm faith in the ultimate restoration of her son's liberty and reputation. Hilton's fate had been a great blow to her at first. Then, much to the surprise of friends, she declined to believe that he was really dead, in spite of the evidence that was forthcoming to that effect.
"Depend upon it," she said, "God wouldn't be so cruel as to deprive me of both my boys. I shall yet see them happy and well."
After a time nobody tried to argue her out of this belief, for it comforted her, and kept her from sinking into the despondency that would otherwise have overwhelmed her. Miss Margaret Cory was, as usual, a comfort and a consolation to everybody. Mr. Cory was glad to be at home again, but was as determined as ever to pursue his investigations further. Annie-quiet, subdued, and sad-was yet unremittent in her efforts to gain information likely to be useful. As time wore on, she became more brave, nay, positively daring, and showed such skill in safely following up clues that her father no longer felt any uneasiness about her, even though her absences from home were often unexpectedly lengthened.
The family had removed to a new house in a neighbourhood to which they were strange, and none but themselves knew that she was a daughter of the house, since, for prudential reasons, she had retained her masculine clothing, without which it would not have been so easy for her to penetrate unobserved into all sorts of places. Of course the case had been put into the hands of an official detective, who, however, was as much at a standstill as they were.
One day Annie, whom the servants and neighbours supposed to be Mr. Edgar Bootle, son of the Rev. Alexander Bootle, found among the letters on the breakfast table one bearing the Bombay postmark. She concluded at once that it was from Captain Gerard, as he had promised to write on his arrival at Bombay.
"Look here, father," she said eagerly, as the "Rev. Mr. Bootle" entered the breakfast room, "here is Captain Gerard's letter. Open it at once and see what he says."
The request was promptly obeyed, and what was in the letter is here transcribed:-
"SS. 'Merry Maid,' Bombay.
"Dear Sir,-As per promise, I am losing no time in affording you such information as is in my power. I find that the look-out man who was on duty on the night, and at the time of Mr. Hilton Riddell's disappearance, is also convinced that he heard a suspicious splash, but it is doubtful if either he or the carpenter would care to appear as witnesses in the event of a new trial, since they are afraid of being detained, without recompense sufficient, long enough to cause them to lose their ship. Perhaps, however, you may be able to make them an offer good enough to overcome hesitation in this direction. But I have, nevertheless, some very valuable information for you. Yesterday, having only been in port an hour or two, and having finished all business for the day, I was having a turn on the Apollo Bunda, when whom should I meet face to face but our late passenger. He recognised me at once as the former mate of the 'Merry Maid,' but would have passed by without apparent recognition if I had not buttonholed him, and made this course impossible. He acknowledged my salutation very stiffly, and would still have passed on had I not remarked, 'Look here, old man, it's lucky for you we have met; otherwise you would most certainly be in gaol to-morrow.'
"You should have seen his face. It went as white as a scared man's face ever can, and for a moment he looked as if he was going into a fit. Then he pulled himself together, and tried to make light of his emotion.
"'What a queer way you have of talking, Mr. Gerard,'...