“If there’s been aught wrong, lad,” he said. “Aught foul or underhand, I’ll right thee!—by God, I will!”
Then he stooped lower and kissed the dead man’s cheek, and pressed the still hands. It was with an effort that he turned away and regained his self-command—and it was in that moment that his eyes, slightly blurred as they were, caught sight of an object which lay half-concealed by a corner of the hearth-rug—a glittering, shining object, which threw back the gleam of the still burning electric light. He strode across the room and picked it up—the gold buckle of a woman’s shoe, studded with real, if tiny, diamonds.
MR. FRANKLIN FULLAWAY
Allerdyke carried his find away to his own room and carefully examined it. The buckle was of real gold; the stones set in it were real diamonds, small though they were. He deduced two ideas from these facts—one, that the owner was a woman who loved pretty and expensive things; the other, that she must have a certain natural carelessness about her not to have noticed that the buckle was loose on her shoe. But as he put the buckle safely away in his own travelling bag, he began to speculate on matters of deeper import—how did it come to be lying there in James Allerdyke’s room? How long had it been lying there? Had its owner been into that room recently? Had she, in fact, been in the room since James Allerdyke took possession of it on his arrival at the hotel?
He realized the possibility of various answers to these questions. The buckle might have been dropped by a former occupant of the room. But was that likely? Would an object sparkling with diamonds have escaped the eyes of even a careless chambermaid? Would it have escaped the keener eyes of James Allerdyke? Anyhow, that question could easily be settled by finding out how long that particular room had been unoccupied before James was put into it. A much more important question was—had the owner of the buckle been in the room between nine o’clock of the previous evening and five o’clock that morning? Out of that, again, rose certain supplementary questions: What had she been doing there? And most important of all—who was she? That might possibly be solved by an inspection of the hotel register, and after he had drunk the coffee which was presently brought up to him, Allerdyke went down to the office to set about that necessary, yet problematic, task.
As he reached the big hall on the ground floor of the hotel, the manager came across to him, displaying a telegram.
“For your cousin, sir,” he announced, handing it over to Allerdyke. “Just come in.”
Allerdyke slowly opened the envelope, and as he unfolded the message, caught the name Franklin Fullaway at its foot—
“Let me know what time you arrive King’s Cross to-day and I will meet you, highly important we should both see my prospective client at once.”