Checkmate Part 85

But no distinct light was ever thrown upon this inquiry.

In a small and lonely house, tenanted by Longcluse, in the then less crowded region of Richmond, were found proofs, no longer needed, of Longcluse's ident.i.ty, both with the horseman who had met Paul Davies on Hampstead Heath, and the person who crossed the Channel from Southampton with David Arden, and afterwards met him in the streets of Paris, as we have seen. There he had been watching his movements, and traced him, with dreadful suspicion, to the house of Vanboeren. The turn of a die had determined the fate of David Arden that night. Longcluse had afterwards watched and seized an opportunity of entering Vanboeren's house. He knew that the baron expected the return of his messenger, rang the bell, and was admitted. The old servant had gone to her bed, and was far away in that vast house.

Longcluse would have stabbed him, but the baron recognised him, and sprang back with a yell. Instantly Longcluse had used his revolver; but before he could make a.s.surance doubly sure, his quick ear detected a step outside. He then made his exit through a window into a deserted lane at the side of the house, and had not lost a moment in commencing his flight for London.

With respect to the murder of Lebas, the letter of Longcluse pretty nearly explains it. That unlucky Frenchman had attended him through his recovery under the hands of Vanboeren; and Longcluse feared to trust, as it now might turn out, his life, in his giddy keeping. Of course, Lebas had no idea of the nature of his crime, or that in England was the scene of its perpetration. Longcluse had made up his mind promptly on the night of the billiard-match played in the Saloon Tavern. When every eye was fixed upon the b.a.l.l.s, he and Lebas met, as they had ultimately agreed, in the smoking-room. A momentary meeting it was to have been.

The dagger which he placed in his keeping, Longcluse plunged into his heart. In the stream of blood that instantaneously flowed from the wound Longcluse stepped, and made one distinct impression of his boot-sole on the boards. A tracing of this Paul Davies had made, and had got the signatures of two or three respectable Londoners before the room filled, attesting its accuracy, he affecting, while he did so, to be a member of the detective police, from which body, for a piece of _over_-cleverness, he had been only a few weeks before dismissed. Having made his tracing, he obscured the blood-mark on the floor.

The opportunity of distinguishing himself at his old craft, to the prejudice of the force, whom he would have liked to mortify, while earning, perhaps, his own restoration, was his first object. The delicacy of the shape of the boot struck him next. He then remembered having seen Longcluse--and his was the only eye that observed him--pa.s.s swiftly from the pa.s.sage leading to the smoking-room at the beginning of the game. His mind had now matter to work upon; and hence his visit to Bolton Street to secure possession of the boot, which he did by an audacious _ruse_.

His subsequent interview with Mr. Longcluse, in presence of David Arden, was simply a concerted piece of acting, on which Longcluse, when he had made his terms with Davies, insisted, as a security against the re-opening of the extortion.

Nothing will induce Alice to accept one farthing of Longcluse's magnificent legacy. Secretly Uncle David is resolved to make it up to her from his own wealth, which is very great.

Richard Arden's story is not known to any living person but the Jew Levi, and vaguely to his sister, in whose mind it remains as something horrible, but never approached.

Levi keeps the secret for reasons more cogent than charitable. First he kept it to himself as a future instrument of profit. But on his insinuating something that promised such relations to Sir Richard, the young gentleman met it with so bold a front, with fury so unaffected, and with threats so alarming, founded upon a trifling matter of which the Jew had never suspected his knowledge, that Mr. Levi has not ventured either to "utilise" his knowledge, in a profitable way, or afterwards to circulate the story for the solace of his malice. They seem, in Mr. Rooke's phrase, to have turned their backs on one another; and as some years have pa.s.sed, and lapse of time does not improve the case of a person in Mr. Levi's position, we may safely a.s.sume that he will never dare to circulate any definite stories to Sir Richard's prejudice. A sufficient motive, indeed, for doing so exists no longer, for Sir Richard, who had lived an unsettled life travelling on the Continent, and still playing at foreign tables when he could afford it, died suddenly at Florence in the autumn of '69.

Vivian Darnley has been in "the House," now, nearly four years. Uncle David is very proud of him; and more impartial people think that he will, at last, take an honourable place in that a.s.sembly. His last speech has been spoken of everywhere with applause. David Arden's immensely increased wealth enables him to entertain very magnificent plans for this young man. He intends that he shall take the name of Arden, and earn the transmission of the t.i.tle, or the distinction of a greater one.

A year ago Vivian Darnley married Alice Arden, and no two people can be happier.

Lady May, although her girlish ways have not forsaken her, has no present thoughts of making any man happy. She had a great cry all to herself when Sir Richard died, and she now persuades herself that he never meant one word he said of her, and that if the truth were known, although after that day she never spoke to him more, he had never really cared for more than one woman on earth. It was all spite of that odious Lady Wynderbroke!

Alice has never seen Mortlake since the night of her flight from its walls.

The two old servants, Crozier and Martha Tansey, whose acquaintance we made in that suburban seat of the Ardens, are both, I am glad to say, living still, and extremely comfortable.

Phbe Chiffinch, I am glad to add, was jilted by her uninteresting lover, who little knew what a fortune he was slighting. His desertion does not seem to have broken her heart, or at all affected her spirits.

The grat.i.tude of Alice Arden has established her in the prosperous little Yorkshire town, the steep roof, chimneys, and church tower of which are visible, among the trees, from the windows of Arden Court. She is the energetic and popular proprietress of the "Cat and Fiddle," to which thriving inn, at a nominal rent, a valuable farm is attached. A fortune of two thousand pounds from the same grateful friend awaits her marriage, which can't be far off, with the handsome son of rich Farmer Shackleton.


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