“It’s a lonely road, Mr. Smeaton,” I answered. “I know it well—what places there are, are more off than on it, but there’s no stretch of it that’s out of what you might term human reach. And how anybody could happen aught along it of a summer’s evening is beyond me!—unless indeed we’re going back to the old kidnapping times. And if you knew Maisie Dunlop, you’d know that she’s the sort that would put up a fight if she was interfered with! I’m wondering if this has aught to do with all yon Carstairs affair? There’s been such blackness about that, and such villainy, that I wish I’d never heard the name!”
“Aye!” he answered. “I understand you. But—it’s coming to an end. And in queer ways—queer ways, indeed!”
I made no reply to him—and I was sick of the Carstairs matters; it seemed to me I had been eating and drinking and living and sleeping with murder and fraud till I was choked with the thought of them. Let me only find Maisie, said I to myself, and I would wash my hands of any further to-do with the whole vile business.
But we were not to find Maisie during the long hours of that weary afternoon and the evening that followed it. Mr. Lindsey had bade me keep the car and spare no expense, and we journeyed hither and thither all round the district, seeking news and getting none. She had been seen just once, at East Ord, just outside Berwick, by a man that was working in his cottage garden by the roadside—no other tidings could we get. We searched all along the road that runs by the side of Bowmont Water, between Mindrum and the Yetholms, devoting ourselves particularly to that stretch as being the loneliest, and without result. And as the twilight came on, and both of us were dead weary, we turned homeward, myself feeling much more desperate than even I did when I was swimming for my very life in the North Sea.
“And I’m pretty well sure of what it is, now, Mr. Smeaton!” I exclaimed as we gave up the search for that time. “There’s been foul play! And I’ll have all the police in Northumberland on this business, or—”
“Aye!” he said, “it’s a police matter, this, without doubt, Moneylaws. We’d best get back to Berwick, and insist on Murray setting his men thoroughly to work.”
We went first to Mr. Lindsey’s when we got back, his house being on our way. And at sight of us he hurried out and had us in his study. There was a gentleman with him there—Mr. Ridley, the clergyman who had given evidence about Gilverthwaite at the opening of the inquest on Phillips.
I knew by one glance at Mr. Lindsey’s face that he had news for us; but there was only one sort of news I was wanting at that moment, and I was just as quick to see that, whatever news he had, it was not for me. And as soon as I heard him say that nothing had been heard of Maisie Dunlop during our absence, I was for going away, meaning to start inquiries of my own in the town, there and then, dead-beat though I was. But before I could reach the door he had a hand on me.