Yet the fact that the man who lived there disguised himself when he went to a locked attic was certainly mysterious.
The Red Widow
Boyne is not expected home before half-past ten. I'll introduce you to my aunt, and before she goes to bed — as she always does at ten — I'll manage to unbolt the basement door. Then we'll go out, and return without her being any the wiser. Durrant," declared the deaf old lady without, of course, having heard Gerald's greeting as he shook her hand.
Boyne can just manage to do so. Felmore had then ushered them. He noted the cheapness of the furniture, combined with scrupulous cleanliness, as Mrs. Felmore, turning to him, said in that loud voice in which the deaf usually converse:. Any friend of my niece is welcome here. Would you like a cup of tea? I know Marigold will have one. He noticed the cupboards on either side of the fireplace, and on trying the handle of one, found it locked.
More insurance papers! I thought he kept them in the locked room upstairs!
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He keeps Nibby here. Nibby always feeds off his master's plate after he has finished. A sweet little thing, isn't he? Durrant agreed, but the possession of such a pet showed him that Boyne was a man of some eccentricity.
Le Queux, The Red Widow; or, The Death-Dealers of London, 1e
So while Marigold descended to the kitchen to talk to her aunt and help to prepare the cup of tea, young Durrant switched on his light and rushed up the stairs, half fearing lest the front door should suddenly open and Boyne appear. Arrived at the top of the stairs, he was confronted by the door which led into the attic, a stout one of oak, he noted. The doors of all the other rooms were of deal, painted and grained. This, however, was heavy, and of oiled oak.
After careful examination, he came to the conclusion that the particular door was much more modern than the others, and the circular brass keyhole of the Yale latch gave it the appearance of the front door of a house, rather than that of a room. If it had an occupant he would, in all probability, have a light, therefore he switched off his torch and tried to discover any ray of light shining through a crack.
Carefully he went around the whole door, until he drew away the mat before it, when, sure enough, a light showed from within! With bated breath he listened. He could, however, distinguish no sound, even though he placed his ear to the floor.
Then, raising himself, much gratified at his discovery, but nevertheless increasingly puzzled, he recollected that the occupant, whoever he might be, would no doubt have heard his footsteps and was now remaining quiet, little dreaming that his light had betrayed his presence. Suddenly, as he stood there straining his ears, he heard the sound of low ticking — the ticking of a clock. Again he bent his ear to the bottom of the door, and then at once established the fact that the clock was inside that locked room.
He heard Marigold coming up from below, and at once slipped down again, meeting her in the hall. When within the sitting-room, he said to her in a low, tense voice:. I wonder, however, who can be living up there in secret. At any rate, he has both light and the time of day. In this weather he only wants food and water. But there are dozens of people hidden away in London — people believed by their friends to be dead, or abroad," he said. I wonder," he added, "how many people whose obituary notices have appeared in the papers are living in secret in upstairs rooms or down in cellars, dragging out their lives in self-imprisonment, yet buoyed by the hope that one day they may, when changed in appearance by years, reappear among their fellow-men and laugh up their sleeves because nobody recognises them.
Boyne is concealing somebody here? That's quite another matter. We have yet to discover the motive. And we can only do so by watching vigilantly. Then he described to her how he had pulled away the mat from before the door, and how the light had been revealed. May I not be frank with auntie, and tell her what we suspect? It would only alarm her, and upset any plans we may make. Boyne, without a doubt. He must have some strange motive for concealing him. There's something very curious about the whole affair," declared the young man.
And yet he puts on a gown which makes him look — as you have described it — like a Spanish Inquisitor. Solitary confinement produces madness, remember. In Italy, where solitary confinement for life takes the place of capital punishment for murder, the criminal always ends his days as a lunatic — driven mad by that terrible loneliness which even a dog could not suffer. Boyne and serves him well. For the present let her hold him in high esteem. In the meantime we will watch, and endeavour to solve this mystery, Marigold. Hardly had the words left his mouth, when the old lady entered the room with two cups of tea upon a brass tray.
Durrant, it will be to your liking. Boyne often has a cup out of my teapot if he gets home before I go to bed. Durrant highly appreciates it. It's near ten o'clock now.
Auntie has no doubt bolted it. Then, when she's gone to bed, we can get in again. And a few moments later she left him.
William Le Queux
Five minutes later she reappeared, followed by Mrs. The young man rose, smiled pleasantly, and shook the deaf woman's hand in farewell. Then, a few moments later, the young pair descended the front steps and left the house. About ten minutes later, however, they returned to it, slipping unobserved down the area steps.
Marigold turned the handle of the door, and in the darkness they both entered the kitchen, where they waited eagerly, without lighting the gas, and conversing only in whispers. Felmore had gone upstairs, and stone-deaf that she was, would hear no noise below. She had left the gas turned low in the hall in readiness for her master's return, retiring fully satisfied with the appearance and manners of the young man to whom her niece had that night introduced her.
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