The Master Detective: Being Some Further Investigations of Christopher Quarles

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THE MASTER DETECTIVE

Being Some Further Investigations of Christopher Quarles

BY PERCY JAMES BREBNER

AUTHOR OF “CHRISTOPHER QUARLES.”

1916

CONTENTS

CHAPTER

I. THE STRANGE CASE OF SIR GRENVILLE RUSHOLM
II. THE KIDNAPING OF EVA WILKINSON
III. THE DELVERTON AFFAIR
IV. THE MYSTERIOUS HOUSE IN MANLEIGH ROAD
V. THE DIFFICULTY OF BROTHER PYTHAGORAS
VI. THE TRAGEDY IN DUKE’S MANSIONS
VII. THE STOLEN AEROPLANE MODEL
VIII. THE AFFAIR OF THE CONTESSA’S PEARLS
IX. THE DISAPPEARANCE OF MADAME VATROTSKI
X. THE MYSTERY OF THE MAN AT WARBURTON’S
XI. THE STRANGE CASE OF DANIEL HARDIMAN
XII. THE CRIME IN THE YELLOW TAXI
XIII. THE AFFAIR OF THE JEWELED CHALICE
XIV. THE ADVENTURE OF THE FORTY-TON YAWL
XV. THE SOLUTION OF THE GRANGE PARK MYSTERY

THE MASTER DETECTIVE

CHAPTER I

THE STRANGE CASE OF SIR GRENVILLE RUSHOLM

Sir Grenville Rusholm, Baronet, was dead. The blinds were down at the
Lodge, Queen’s Square. For the last few days lengthy obituary notices had
appeared in all the papers, innumerable wreaths and crosses had arrived
at the house, and letters of sympathy and condolence had poured in upon
Lady Rusholm. The dead man had filled a considerable space in the social
world, although politically he had counted for little. Politics were not
his metier, he had said. He had consistently refused to stand for
parliament, his wealth had supported neither party, and perhaps his
social success was due more to his wife’s charm than to his own
importance.

To-day the funeral was to take place. By his own desire his body was not
being taken to Moorlands, the family seat in Gloucestershire, but was to
be buried at Woking. The family chapel did not appeal to him. Indeed, he
had never spent much of his time at Moorlands, preferring his yacht or
the Continent when he was not at Queen’s Square.

Last night the coffin had been brought downstairs and placed in the large
drawing-room, the scene of many a brilliant function, although by day it
was a somewhat dreary apartment. The presence of the coffin there added
to the depression, and the scent of the flowers was almost overpowering.

Many of the mourners were going direct to Woking, but there was a large
number of guests at the house who were received by the young baronet.
Naturally, Sir Arthur was of a sunny disposition, and his personality and
expectations had made him a favorite in society since he had left
Cambridge a year ago. To-day his face was more than grave. It was drawn
as if he were in physical pain, and it was evident how keenly he felt his
father’s death. Lady Rusholm did not appear until the undertakers entered
the house. She came down the wide stairs, a pathetic figure in her deep
mourning, heavier than present-day fashion has made customary. She spoke
to no one, but went straight to the drawing-room and, standing just
inside the doorway, watched the men whose business is with death, as if
she feared some indignity might be offered to her dear one. In a few
moments her husband must pass out of that room for ever, and it was
hardly wonderful if she visualized for an instant the many occasions on
which he had been a central figure there.

The bearers stooped to lift the coffin from the trestles on to their
shoulders, then they straightened themselves under their burden, but they
did not move, at least only to start slightly, while their faces changed
from gravity to horror. Lady Rusholm uttered a short cry, and there was
consternation in the faces of the guests in the hall. There could be no
mistake; the sound, though dull and muffled, was too loud for that. It
was a knock from inside the coffin.

The man in charge whispered to the bearers. No, none of them had
inadvertently caused the sound. The coffin was replaced on the trestles,
and for a moment there was silence. No one moved; every one was waiting
for that knock again. It did not come.

The chief man stood looking at the coffin, then at the carpet, and, after
some hesitation, he crossed the room to Sir Arthur, who stood in the
doorway beside his mother.

“Was—was anything put into the coffin?” he whispered. “Something which

Sir Grenville wished buried with him, something which may have slipped?”

“No.”

“I think—I think the coffin should be opened,” whispered Dr. Coles, the
family physician.

“But he is dead! You know he is dead, doctor!”

“A trance—sometimes a mistake may happen, Sir Arthur. It was a distinct
knock. The coffin should certainly be opened.”

“And quickly—quickly!”

It was Lady Rusholm who spoke, in a strained and unnatural voice.

Sir Arthur tried to persuade his mother to leave the room while this
was done, but she would not go. With a great effort she calmed herself
and remained with her son, the doctor, and two or three guests while
the coffin was unscrewed. The lid was lifted off, and for a moment no
one spoke.

“Empty!” the doctor cried.

As he spoke Lady Rusholm swayed backwards, and would have fallen had not
her son caught her.

There were two masses of lead in the coffin. There was no body.

Sir Arthur Rusholm immediately communicated with Scotland Yard, and the
utter confusion which followed this gruesome discovery had only partially
subsided when I, Murray Wigan, entered the house to enquire into a
mystery which was certainly amongst the most remarkable I have ever had
to investigate.

Some of those invited to the funeral had left the house before I
arrived, but the more personal friends were still there, and the story
as I have set it down was corroborated by different people with a wealth
of detail which seemed to leave nothing unsaid. Besides interviewing Sir
Arthur and the doctor, I saw Lady Rusholm for a few moments. She was
exceedingly agitated, as was natural, and I only asked her one or two
questions of a quite unimportant nature, but I was glad to see her. I
like to get into personal touch with the various people connected with
my cases as soon as possible.

I was in the house two hours or more, questioning servants, examining
doors and windows, and, to be candid, my investigations told me little.
When I left Queen’s Square I knew I had a complex affair to deal with,
and it was natural my thoughts should fly to the one man who might help
me. If I could only interest Christopher Quarles in the case!

I remember speaking casually of a well-known person once and being met
with the question: Who is he? It may be that some of you have never heard
of Christopher Quarles, professor of philosophy, and one of the most
astute crime investigators of this or any other time. It has been my
privilege to chronicle some of our adventures together, and his help has
been of infinite benefit to me. Without it, not only should I have failed
to elucidate some of those mysteries the solving of which have made me a
power in the detective force, but I should never have seen his
granddaughter, Zena, who is shortly to become my wife.

For some months past the professor had given me no assistance at all.
He would not be interested in my cases, and would not enter the empty
room in his house in Chelsea where we had had so many discussions. It
was a fad of his that he could think more clearly in this room, which
had only three chairs and an old writing table in it, yet perhaps I
ought not to call it a fad, remembering the results of some of our
consultations there.

Months ago we had investigated a curious case in which jewels had been
concealed in a wooden leg. The solution had brought us a considerable
reward, and upon receiving the money Quarles had declared he would
investigate no more crimes. He had kept his word, had locked up the empty
room, and although I think I had sorely tempted him to break his vow on
more than one occasion, I had never quite succeeded.

As I got into a taxi I considered how very seldom it is that the ruling
passion ever dies. The Queen’s Square mystery ought to shake Quarles’s
resolution if anything could.

Zena was out when I got to Chelsea, but the professor seemed pleased

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