“I believe so myself, Mr. Allerdyke,” he said. “I do, indeed!—things are clearing, sir, though Heaven knows they’re thick enough still. You say you’ve fresh news!”
Allerdyke lighted a cigar and pushed the box to his guest.
“Your news first,” he said. “I daresay it’s a bit out of the complete web—let’s see if we can fit it in.”
“It’s this,” answered Chettle, pulling his chair nearer to the table at which he and his host sat. “When I got back to Hull they told me at the police headquarters that a young man had been in two or three times, while I was away, asking if he could see the London detective who was down about the Station Hotel affair. They told him I’d gone up to town again, and tried to find out what he wanted, but he wouldn’t tell them anything—said he’d either see me or go up to London himself. So then they let him know I was coming back, and told him he’d probably find me there at noon to-day. And at noon to-day he turns up at the police-station—a young fellow about twenty-five or so, who looked like what he was, a clerk. A very cute, sharp chap he was, the sort that’s naturally keen about his own interests—name of Martindale—and before he’d say a word he wanted to see my credentials, and made me swear to treat what he said as private, and then he pulled out a copy of that reward bill of yours, and wanted to know a rare lot about that, all of which amounted to wanting to find out what chance he had of getting hold of some of the fifty thousand, if not all. And,” continued Chettle with a laugh, “I’d a lot of talking and explaining and wheedling to do before he’d tell anything.”
“Had he aught to tell?” asked Allerdyke. “So many of ’em think they have, and then they haven’t.”
“Oh, he’d something to tell!” replied Chettle. “Right enough, he’d a good deal to tell. This—he told me at last, as if every word he let out was worth a ransom, that he was a parcels office clerk in the North Eastern Railway Station at Hull, and that since the 13th of May until the day before yesterday he’d been away in the North of Scotland on his holidays—been home to his people, in fact—he is a Scotsman, which, of course, accounts for his keenness about the money. Now, then—on the night of May 12th—the night, as you know, Mr. Allerdyke, of your cousin’s supposed murder, but anyway, of his arrival at Hull—this young man Martindale was on duty in the parcels office till a very late hour. About ten to a quarter past ten, as near as he could recollect, a gentleman came into the parcels office, carrying a small, square parcel, done up in brown paper and sealed in several places with black wax. He wanted to know when the next express would be leaving for London, and if he could send the parcel by it. Martindale told him there would be an express leaving for Selby very shortly, and there would be a connection there for a Great Northern express to King’s Cross. The gentleman then wanted to know what time his parcel