“Thank you,” said Tom, and went off through the wood with Kate upon his arm. On their way, she told him how, being unable to find her bonnet and cloak, which Rebecca had abstracted, she had determined to keep her appointment without them. Her delay rendered her a little late, however; but on reaching the withered oak she heard voices and steps in front of her, which she had followed. These had led her to the open gate, and the lighting of the lantern had revealed her to friends and foes. Ere she concluded her story Tom noticed that she leaned more and more heavily upon him, until by the time that they reached the Priory he was obliged to lift her up and carry her to prevent her from falling. The hardships of the last few weeks, and this final terrible and yet most joyful incident of all, had broken down her strength. He bore her into the house, and laying her by the fire in the dining-room, watched tenderly over her, and exhausted his humble stock of medical knowledge in devising remedies for her condition.
In the meantime the inspector, having thoroughly grasped the major’s lucid narrative, was taking prompt and energetic measures.
“You go down to the station, Constable Jones,” he ordered. “Wire to London, ‘John Girdlestone, aged sixty-one, and his son, aged twenty-eight, wanted for murder. Address, Eccleston Square and Fenchurch Street, City.’ Send a description of them. ‘Father, six feet one inch in height, hatchet-faced, grey hair and whiskers, deep-set eyes, heavy brows, round shoulders. Son, five feet ten, dark-faced, black eyes, black curly hair, strongly made, legs rather bandy, well dressed, usually wears a dog’s head scarf-pin.’ That ought to do!”
“Yes, that’s near enough,” observed the major.
“Wire to every station along the line to be on the look-out. Send a description to the chief constable of Portsmouth, and have a watch kept on the shipping. That should catch them!”
“It vill,” cried Von Baumser confidentially. “I’ll bet money dat it vill.” It was as well that the German’s sporting offer found no takers, otherwise our good friend would have been a poorer man.
“Let us carry the poor soul up to the house,” the inspector continued, after making careful examination of the ground all round the body.
The party assisted in raising the girl up, and in carrying her back along the path by which she had been brought.
Burt tramped stolidly along behind with the remaining policeman beside him. The Nihilist brought up the rear with his keen eye fixed upon the navvy, and his knife still ready for use. When they reached the Priory the prisoner was safely locked away in one of the numerous empty rooms, while Rebecca was carried upstairs and laid upon the very bed which had been hers.
“We must search the house,” the inspector said; and Mrs. Jorrocks having been brought out of her room, and having forthwith fainted and been revived again, was ordered to accompany the police in their investigation, which she did in a very dazed and stupefied manner. Indeed, not a word could be got from her until, entering the dining-room, she perceived her bottle of Hollands upon the table, on which she raised up her voice and cursed the whole company, from the inspector downwards, with the shrillest volubility of invective. Having satisfied her soul in this manner, she wound up by a perfect shriek of profanity, and breaking away from her guardians, she regained the shelter of her room and locked herself up there, after which they could hear by the drumming of her heels that she went into a violent hysterical attack upon the floor.
Kate had, however, recovered sufficiently to be able to show the police the different rooms, and to explain to them which was which. The inspector examined the scanty furniture of Kate’s apartment with great interest.
“You say you have been living here for three weeks?” he said.
“Nearly a month,” Kate answered.