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J. S. Fletcher
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 228 pages of information about The Rayner-Slade Amalgamation.

The door was open.

Allerdyke drew a sharp breath as he crossed the threshold.  He had stayed in that hotel often, and he knew where the switch of the electric light should be.  He lifted a hand, found the switch, and turned the light on.  And as it flooded the room, he pulled himself up to a tense rigidity.  There, sitting fully dressed in an easy chair, against which his head was thrown back, was his cousin—­unmistakably dead.

CHAPTER II

THE DEAD MAN

For a full minute Marshall Allerdyke stood fixed—­staring at the set features before him.  Then, with a quick catching of his breath, he made one step to his cousin’s side and laid his hand on the unyielding shoulder.  The affectionate, familiar terms in which they had always addressed each other sprang involuntarily to his lips.

“Why, James, my lad!” he exclaimed.  “James, lad!  James!”

Even as he spoke, he knew that James would never hear word or sound again in this world.  It needed no more than one glance at the rigid features, one touch of the already fixed and statue-like body, to know that James Allerdyke was not only dead, but had been dead some time.  And, with a shuddering sigh, Marshall Allerdyke drew himself up and looked round at his surroundings.

Nothing could have been more peaceful than that quiet hotel bedroom; nothing more orderly than its arrangements.  Allerdyke had always known his cousin for a man of unusually tidy and methodical habits; the evidence of that orderliness was there, where he had pitched his camp for presumably a single night.  His toilet articles were spread out on the dressing-table; his pyjamas were laid across his pillow; his open suit-case lay on a stand at the foot of the bed; by the bedside lay his slippers.  An overcoat hung from one peg of the door; a dressing-gown from another; on a chair in a corner lay, neatly folded, a couple of travelling rugs.  All these little details Allerdyke’s sharp eyes took in at a glance; he turned from them to the things nearer the dead man.

James Allerdyke sat in a big easy chair, placed at the side of a round table set towards a corner of the room.  He was fully dressed in a grey tweed suit, but he had taken off one boot—­the left—­and it lay at his feet on the hearthrug.  He himself was thrown back against the high-padded hood of the chair; there was a little frown on his set features, a tiny puckering of the brows above his closed eyes.  His hands were lying at his sides, unclasped, the fingers slightly stretched, the thumbs slightly turned inward; everything looked as if, in the very act of taking off his boots, some sudden spasm of pain had seized him, and he had sat up, leaned back, and died, as swiftly as the seizure had come.  There was a slight blueness under the lower rims of the eyes, a corresponding tint on the clean-shaven upper lip, but neither that nor the pallor which had long since settled on the rigid features had given anything of ghastliness to the face.  The dead man lay back in his chair in such an easy posture that but for his utter quietness, his intense immobility, he might have well been taken for one who was hard and fast asleep.

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