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An Old Meerschaum by David Christie Murray

But meantime where was Barndale


'I

know'd what it ud come to,' proclaimed Hodges loudly. 'They was a naggin' every night, like mad, they was. I told you all what it ud come to.'

'So a did,' said others in the crowd. Then some one asked 'Where's t'other chap?' and in the murmur Lilian heard her lover's name again and again repeated.

She knew well enough--she could not fail to know--the meaning of the murmurs; but she started as though she had been struck when Hodges said aloud, so that all might hear--

'They was a naggin' again last night, an' then theer was a shot; and then ten minutes arterwards that Barndale bolts and knocks me over at the bottom o' the station steps. What's all that pint to?'

'Oh,' said another, 'there can't be no mortal shadder of a doubt who done it.'

For a moment these cruel words turned her faint; but the swift reaction of certainty and resolve which followed them nerved her and braced her for all the troublous times to come. She waited calmly until all had been done that could be done. Then when the doctor had left his patient, she took him apart.

'My brother has been wounded by a pistol shot?' she asked him very bravely and steadily. The doctor nodded. 'I must find out who did it,' she went on, looking him full in the face with her hazel eyes.

'The

people here seem to suspect a Mr. ------'

She snatched the word out of the doctor's mouth.

'My brother's dearest friend, sir. Why, sir, they would have died for each other.'

'As you would for one of them?' said the doctor to himself.

'You have experience in these matters, sir. Will you help me to examine the boat? There may perhaps be something there to help us to track the criminal.'

The doctor had but the poorest opinion of this scheme. 'But, yes,' he said, he would go, and then fell to thinking aloud. 'Poor thing. Wonderfully plucky. Bears it well. Brother half killed. Lover suspected. Go! Of course I'll go. Why the devil shouldn't I?' And he marched along unconscious of his utterances or of the heightened colour and the look of momentary surprise in Lilian's face. 'Pretty girl, too,' said the doctor, in audible thought. 'Devilish pretty! Good girl, I should fancy. Like the looks of her. Hard lines, poor thing--hard lines!'

They reached the bank and walked across the punt into the house-boat. As she entered the door Lilian gave a cry, and dashed at the table; then turned and held up before the doctor's eyes a meerschaum pipe--the identical Antoletti meerschaum stolen in the Stamboul Bazaar by Demetri Agryopoulo.

'This is it!' she gasped. 'The clue! Oh, it is certain! It is true! Who else could have wished him ill?'

Then she told the doctor the story of the pipe. She told her tale in verbal lightning. Every sentence flashed forth a fact; and in sixty seconds or thereabouts the doctor was a man convinced.

But meantime where was Barndale? Poor Leland could tell them nothing. For many a day he would bear no questioning. Could her lover, Lilian asked herself, have started for the ball last night, and come to any damage by the way?

'Here is a letter,' said the doctor, quietly taking up something from the table. 'A lady's handwriting. Postmark, Constantinople.'

He drew the letter from its envelope and read it as coolly as if he had a right to read it.


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