The Starvel Hollow Tragedy
The concluding instalment of this thrilling detective story
FREEMAN WILLS CROFTS
WHO was this mysterious individual, this darkhaired man with moustache and glasses, bu Roper! Roper it was who had been going about buying wedding rings, and Roper it was who naturally found that he must get rid of such incriminating purchases at the earliest possible moment. The whole thing was clear! For every ring a twenty pound note, a tainted twenty pound note, a twenty pound note from Mr. Averili's wrecked safe up at Starvel. And for every twenty pound note got rid of over eighteen pounds of good, clean, untraceable money brought in. It was a scheme, a great scheme, worthy of the man who had devised the crime a3 a whole.
.As these thoughts passed through his mind French saw that the fact chat the elusive purchaser had a moustache and glasses while Roper wore neither by no means invalidated hi3 conclusion, but rather strengthened •it. To a person of Roper’s mental calibre a moustache would appear one of the bes: of disguises, while a man, with a squint had practically no option but to wear tinted glasses if he wished to preserve his incognito. From disgust at his job French had suddenly swung round to enthusiasm. He had not now the faintest doubt that some forty-eight hours earlier, Roper, alive and in the flesh, had been in that very shop, hating dealings with the salesman, Stanley. And then came the delightful thought that with so fresh a trail and with such a multiplicity of clues, the man’s capture was a question of a very short time only. The steps to be taken were obvious, and the first was to find the taxi-man who had driven him round. Thi3 must be put in hand without delay.
He crushed down his impatience and turned once more to his companions, who had been regarding him with not a little surprise.
“That is important information you have just given me, Mr, Stanley,” he declared. “Now can you tell me if this is the man?” He handed over one of Roper’s photographs.
And then his enthusiasm received a check. The salesman looked doubtfully at the card and shook his head.
"I don’t know,” he said slowly. “I couldn’t just be sure. It’s like him and it’s not like him, if you understand
what I mean. The man who came here had a moustache.” “A false one,” French suggested.
The other brightened up.
“My word, but it might have been,” he exclaimed. “I noticed it looked queer, now I come to think of it. It was very thick and long; thicker and longer than you generally see. And what you might call fuzzy round the top. Not like a real moustache. Yes, sir, I believe you’re right. It looked just like a wad of hair set on.”
French laid a scrap of paper over the mouth.
“Now look again.” Once more Stanley shook his head. “No, sir, it’s no
good. I couldn't say for sure. You see that photograph show's his hair and his forehead and his eyes. Well, I didn’t see any of those. He had tinted glasses and he w'ore his hat low down near his eyebrows. I couldn’t tell. It might have been him and it might not.”
“Well, if you can’t you can’t, and that’s all there is to it. Now another point. Have you the twenty-pound note?”
The manager disappeared, returning in a moment with a handful of money.
“Here are seven twenty-pound notes: all of that value we hold,” he explained. “I cannot tell you certainly whether that paid in by your friend is among them; but it probably is, as the cashier thinks she did not give such a note in change and no lodgment was made at the bank since the sale.”
Eagerly French compared the numbers of the seven with those on his list, but this time he had no luck. If one of these had come from Starvel it was one of which Tarkington had not retained the number.
In spite of this French was certain that he had discovered the truth. But he felt that before acting on his theory he must put it to the proof. Fortunately there was a very obvious way of doing so. If he traced another sale and found that another twenty-pound note had been tendered, no further doubt could possibly remain.
Pausing only to ascertain from the salesman that his customer had spoken with a Scotch accent, French hurried down the street to the next address on his list. There he had a somewhat different question to put to the manager. Pie was looking for a man who had within the last three or four days bought a wedding ring and who had paid for it with a twenty-pound note. No, the manager need not be apprehensive. The note was good and the whole business in order; it was simply a question of tracing the man.
Inquiries speedily produced the desired information. A Mr. Russell was sent for who had sold the ring in question. He remembered the purchaser, a slightish man of medium height with a heavy black moustache, a sallow complexion and tinted glasses. Owing to the latter he had not noted the color of the man’s eyes, but
he had observed that his hair was long and very dark and that his hands were small. He thought the man might be the original of the photograph, but he could not be sure. When the bill had been made out the man had searched his pockets and had been unable to produce sufficient change. He had said; “I’m afraid I’m short:
I thought I had another ten-shilling note. Can you change twenty pounds?” The salesman had replied, “Certainly, sir,” and the man had handed over a twentypound note. Both the salesman and the cashier had examined it carefully and both were satisfied it was genuine. Unfortunately it had since been paid away and they could not, therefore, produce it.
This information resolved French’s last doubt and he hailed a taxi and ordered the man to hurry to the Yard.
FOR some time after reaching his room French busied himself in putting in motion against the ingenious purchaser of rings the great machine of which he was a part. A telephone warning was sent to all stations that the man whose description had already been circulated in connection with the Starvel murders had disguised himself with a moustache and tinted glasses and had recently been in London occupied in certain business involving taxis and wedding rings. A number of men were put on to trace the taxi or taxis employed, others to try to obtain further information at the jewellers’, while still others were sent around the hotels in the hope of picking up a scent. It was not indeed until the late afternoon that French had time to settle down really to consider where he now stood.
In the first place it was clear not only that Roper had remained in the country, but that he had kept himself in touch with events in Thirsby. Of course, this latter did not mean much, for the circumstances of the Starvel case had created widespread interest and the details which came out at the inquest were fully reported in the papers. But Roper had evidently been uncertain as to how much the police knew, and French’s evidence had had the desired reassuring effect.
It might, of course, have happened that Roper’s hand had been forced. He might have run out of cash to live on or he might have required a lump sum, say, to leave the country. But whatever the reason, he had determined on a coup. And very cleverly he had arranged it. He must have made over eighteen pounds a purchase, and if he bought forty rings in a day his profits would amount to over seven hundred pounds. Seven hundred pounds a day was not bad.
The following day was Sunday, but by Monday evening reports had begun to come in from French’s little army of workers. Sixteen more shops had been found at which Roper had bought rings and changed twentypound notes, and one of these notes bore a Starvel number. Moreover, ic had been established that his activities had extended over at least three days. Inquiries at the fashionable restaurants had revealed the fact that on the Tuesday a man answering Roper’s description had paid for his lunch at the Carlton with a similar note. French received these items thankfully, and having made a skeleton time-table of the three days in question, fitted each item into its appropriate place.
But none of those who had come in contact with Roper had been able to add to his knowledge of the man or to give a clue to his present whereabouts. It was not indeed until the middle of the following forenoon that information came in which promised more satisfactory results.
Within ten minutes of each other two telephone messages were received stating that taximen who drove Roper had been found. These men on discovery had been ordered to report themselves at the Yard, and they arrived almost simultaneously. French had them up to his room in turn.
The first driver said he had been hailed by a man of the description in question about 10 a.rn. on Tuesday of last week. The fare had explained that he wished to engage his vehicle up till one o’clock. He was a traveller in precious stones and he wished to be taken to certain jewellers’ of which he had a list. The taximan had done as he was asked. Starting rear the Marble Arch, he had visited one jeweller’s after another during the whole morning. Shortly after one, the fare had instructed him to drive to Marylebone Station, which was then close by. There the taxi had been paid off, the fare disappearing into the station.
Asked if he could remember all the shops he called at, the man said he thought he could, and French at once despatched Sergeant Carter with him to drive over the same ground and make inquiries en route.
The second taximan had a very similar story to tell. About three o’clock on the Thursday afternoon he was driving slowly down Aldwych, when he was hailed by a man of the description the sergeant had given him. The man had engaged him by the hour and had told him of his business in precious stones and they had driven to a number of jewellers’ ending up about five-thirty at Malseed’s, in the Strand. There the man had paid him off and he had seen him entering the shop as he drove away.
This driver also said he could remember the places at which he had called, and French sent another of his satellites round with him to amass information.
As far as it went, this was satisfactory enough. If die other taximen could be found, every minute of Roper’s three days would soon be accounted for. And it would be a strange thing if among all those with whom he had come in contact, some one person had not learnt or noticed anything which would help to find him. French could recall many instances where a chance recollection of some physical peculiarity, of some word or phrase uttered, of some paper or small article dropped, had led to the identification of a criminal and he thought the chances of similar good fortune in the present instance were not too remote.
All through the afternoon information continued to come in, and when he had added the items to his skeleton time-table he found that he had learned where thirty-one rings had been bought and where Roper had lunched on each of the three days in question. Of course, this information did not directly help with his present problem, but there were two other items of news which seemed
The first was that seven of the thirty-one shop assistants who had been interviewed had noticed a fresh cut on Roper’s thumb, small, but peculiarly shaped. This was an additional identification which might be useful in dealing with waiters, dining-car attendants, hotel porters and others who would be likely to observe a customer’s hand.
The second item French received with deep satisfaction. Roper had spent the Tuesday night at the Strand Palace Hotel. This seemed to negative the suggestion that the man was living in London, and French, therefore, became much more hopeful of the prospects of finding his whereabouts on the Thursday night, the point at which he must start if he was to succeed in tracing him.
But it was not until the next afternoon that his hopes were fulfilled. When he reached the Yard after lunch he found that a telephone message had just been received from Sergeant Elliott, who was working the hotels in the Bloomsbury area. Roper, the man reported, had spent the Thursday night at the Peveril Hotel in Russell Square.
Within twenty minutes French had reached the building. Sergeant Elliott was waiting for him in the lounge.
“How did you get on to him?’’
French asked, after they had greeted each other heartily and withdrawn into a quiet corner.
“Just pegging away, sir; no special clue. This is the sixteenth hotel I’ve been to. But I think there’s no doubt it’s him.
He turned up here about 7.15 on Thursday evening and asked for a room. On the plea of having a chill he had a fire in his room and dined there. Next morning he paid his bill to the waiter and left about 9.45.“
“Did he take a taxi?”
“Not from the hotel, sir. He just walked out, carrying a small suitcase in his hand.”
“Wasn’t taking any risks. Confound him for giving us all this trouble. See Elliott, you look round and get hold of the men who were on point duty hereabouts on Friday morning. Some of them may have noticed him. Then go round to the nearby tube stations. I’ll go back to the Yard and get the taxis and the terminal stations worked. You follow me?”
“Right, sir. I’ll go now.”
French turned to the manager’s office to check his
subordinate’s information. There his inquiries speedily convinced him that Roper had indeed stayed in the hotel. It was true that he had registered under the name “Jas. Fulton, Manchester,” but the handwriting set the matter at rest. That it was Roper’s, French had no doubt whatever.
Except that one of the waiters had noticed the cut on the man’s right thumb, this unfortunately was the only result of his inquiries. Though he was as thorough and painstaking as ever, he could find no clue to the man’s present whereabouts.
Returning to the Yard, he recalled the men who were engaged on the hotels and jewellers’ shops and set them new tasks. Some of them were to look for a taximan who had taken up a fare of the suspect’s description in the neighborhood of Russell Square about 9.45 on the morning of the previous Friday, the remainder were to visit the great stations in the hope of learning that the same man had left by train.
French was accustomed to prompt and efficient service, but when within an hour the wanted taximan had been found, he could not but admit pleasurable surprise. He, therefore, paid a somewhat unusual compliment to his subordinate on his prowess, and told him to fetch the man along.
The driver proved to be a big brawny Irishman. He stated he had picked up a fare like the man described at the Russell Square end of Southampton Row about the hour named. The man had carried a small suitcase and had been walking away from the Square. The driver had not seen his face clearly, as he had his collar turned up and his hat pulled low, but when French heard that he spoke with a Scotch accent, he felt that things were going as they should. It was, therefore, with keen interest that he waited for a reply to the question, where had he driven him?”
“To Gracechurch Street, sorr,” the man answered, “to a block o’buildings half-way down the street on the left-hand side.”
“Could you find it again?”
“I could, sorr, surely.”
“Then drive there.”
An inspection of the plates at each side of the entrance door showed that the “block 0’ buildings” contained eleven suites of offices. French stood contemplating the names and wondering in which of the firms Roper had been interested.
None of them seemed very promising at first sight. There were two coal merchants, a chemical analyst, a stockbroker, an engineer and architect, three shipping firms and three commission agents. Of these, the shipping firms seemed the most hopeful and French decided to start with them.
Obtaining no information at the shipping offices, he went on to the remaining firms, and at the seventh
he struck oil. The office boy at Messrs. Dashwood and Munce’s stockbrokers, remembered such a man calling at the hour in question. He had, he believed, seen Mr. Dashwood, and it was noc long before French was seated in the senior partner’s room.
Mr. Dashwood, a tall, thin man with a shrewd expression and keen eyes, listened attentively while French stated his business.
“I admit,” he said, “that the description you give resembles that of our client. But you must be aware, inspector, that a client’s dealings are confidential, and unless you can prove to me that this is really the man you want and that it is my duty to discuss his business, I do not think I feel called on to say any more.”
“I thoroughly appreciate your position,” French returned suavely, “and under ordinary circumstances agree that you would be absolutely right. But these circumstances are not ordinary. Firstly, here are my credentials, so that you will see that I really am an officer of Scotland Yard. Secondly, I must take you into my confidence to the extent of telling you that the man is wanted for a very serious crime indeed—a triple murder, in fact You will see, therefore, that you cannot keep back any information about him which you may possess.”
Mr. Dashwood shrugged.
“What you say alters the matter. Tell me what you wish to know.”
“First, your client’s name and address.”
Mr. Dashwood consulted a small ledger.
“Mr. Arthur Lisle Whitman, c-o Mr. Andrew Macdonald, 18 Moray Street, Pentland Avenue, Edinburgh.” “Was he an old client?”
“No, I had never seen him before.”
“And what was his business?”
“He wished us to purchase some stock for him ”
“Oh,” said French. “Did he pay for it?”
“Yes, he paid in advance.”
“In notes of ten pounds and less in value, I suppose?” Mr. Dashwood shot a keen glance at the other.
“That’s right,” he admitted. “It seemed a peculiar way of doing things, but he explained that he was a book-
maker and had been doing some big business
“What was the amount?”
“Roughly two thousand pounds.”
“No twenty-pound notes, I suppose?”
None. He counted It out here, and ten was the highest value."
French was delighted. There was no doubt he was on the right track. Further, three days at seven hundred pounds just made the required sum.
“In what stock were you to invest?”
"Brazilian. A thousand in Government five per cents, and the rest in rails.”
This w'as satisfactory, too. French remembered Roper's Brazilian passport. At the same time he was slightly puzzled. Surely the man was not mad enough to imagine he could get out of the country? Still if he thought he was not suspected he might try to do so.
“Where was the interest to be paid? Did he say he was going out?”
“Ye*. He said he was sailing in a few weeks *nd that he already had an account in the Beira Bank at Rio, to which the dividends were to he paid.”
French laid his photograph and description on the other's desk.
“That the man?”
Mr. Dashwood examined the photograph and slowly read and re-read the description.
“1 don't know,” he said, at last. “At first glance I should say not, but on consideration “tn not so sure. If it was he, he was disguised.”
T have reason to believe he was disguised.”
“Then probably it was he. The features which he couldn’t alter, such as his height and build, correspond all right.”
“Have you got a specimen of his handwriting?”
\es, Mr. Dashwood had his signature to ertain forms. French gazed at the four specimens of 'Arthur Lisle Whitman' which were produced. And then he felt himself up against the same difficulty which had confronted Mr.
Dashwood. At first sight the signatures were not so obviously Roper’s as those in the Peveril register, but as French examined them he felt more and more satisfied that the man had indeed written them, though he had obviously made some attempt at disguise.
French was more than pleased with his interview when, after warning Mr. Dashwood to keep the affair secret, he took his departure. In the first place the whole of Roper’s scheme of escape was at last revealed. The man had evidently set himself two problems, first, to change his possibly incriminating twenty-pound notes in such a way that any which might afterwards be identified should not ba traceable to him, and secondly, to get this money into Brazilian securities, payable in Brazil, with a similar immunity from risk? And very cleverly he had solved both these problems.
But he had made an error, and French smiled grimly is hr thought of it. He had given an address to Dashwood and Munce. A bad, a fatal error! A trip to Edinburgh for French, and Master John Roper’s career would meet with a sudden check. And with that the Starvel Hollow crime would be avenged and French—he hoped igaiast hope—would come in for his reward.
Could he not, French wondered, find out something sbout that address without leaving London? He turned into a telegraph office and sent a wire to the Edinburgh police. Early next morning there was a reply.
It seemed that Mr. Andrews MacDonald of 18 Moray Street, Pentland Avenue, through whom ‘Mr. Arthur Lisle Whitman’ was to be approached, was a small tobacconist with a rather shady reputation. It was evident, therefore, that Roper had adopted a timehonored expedient to obtain his correspondence secretly. Letters could be addressed to Macdonald and for a consideration they would either be re-addressed to Roper or be kept till called for. In either case Macdonald would not know who his client really was or where he was to be round, in the event of questions from inquisitive seekers.
French saw that Macdonald, at least if he was a man of strong character, could give a lot of trouble. He would admit that he kept letters for “Whitman, but would state that Whitman always called for these and that he did not know here his dient was to be found. And the closest watch kept by the police might be quite unavailing, trench remembered a case in point in the East End. Here, a small news-agent had been chosen as the intermediary, and though the place was kept under observation for several weeks, the criminal was never seen. It was only when he was captured through an entirely d:itèrent line of research that the reason came out. The newsagent had guessed his establishment was being snadowed and he had exhibited a pre-arranged sign. He had placed a certain article in a certain place in his
window. The criminal, riding past in a bus, had seen the danger signal and had kept away.
In the present instance, French wished if possible to avoid the chance of a similar expensive and irritating delay. If he could devise some other attack, this clue of the tobacconist could be kept as a last resource.
He took his problem home with him that night, and after he had dined he drew an arm-chair up to the fire and settled down comfortably with his pipe to think the thing out. For a considerable time he pondered, then at last he thought he saw his way. He worked at the details of his plan until he was satisfied with them, then with a smile of triumph on his lips and deep satisfaction in his heart he knocked the ashes out of his pipe, switched off the lights and went up to bed.
NEXT morning Inspector French was early occupied in making the necessary preparations for his great coup. The first of these involved a visit to Messrs. Dashwood and Munce, and the business day had scarcely begun when he presented himself once more at their office.
“I am sorry, Mr. Dashwood, for troubling you so soon again,” he apologised, “but I want to ask you one other question. Can you tell me whether Mr. Whitman saw your partner during his call? In other words, if Mr. Whitman were to meet Mr. Munce, would he recognize him?”
Mr. Dashwood raised his eyebrows, but he answered without hesitation.
“Mr. Whitman was shown in to me, and so far as I know, he did not meet my partner. But Mr. Munce is in his room. We can ask him.”
The junior partner was a more good-natured looking man than Mr. Dashwood, and French was sorry he had not had to deal with him throughout.
‘No, I didn’t see him,” he said with a pleasant smile. “As a matter of fact I was out at the time you mention. I went over—” he looked at Dashwood—“to see Trough-
ton about eleven and I did not get back till after lunch.” French nodded. .
“Now gentlemen,” he went on, “I am obliged for what you have told me and I am going to ask for your further help in this matter. What I want is very simple. If any letter or wire or telephone call comes to you from Whitman will you please advise me before replying. That is all.” He repeated to Mr. Munce what he had already told Mr. Dashwood as to his suspicion of Whitman’s criminality, stating that under the circumstances he felt sure he could count on the assistance of both gentlemen.
Mr. Dashwood hemmed and hawed and was inclined to demur. He was, he pointed out, a stockbroker, not a detective, and he didn’t see why he should be involved in Inspector French’s machinations. If the inspector wished to make an arrest it was up to him to do it himself. But fortunately for French, Mr. Munce took the opposite view.
“Oh, come now, Dashwood, hang it all,” he protested, “we’ll have to do what the inspector wants. If this Whitman is a murderer we’re pretty well bound to. Besides, Mr. French doesn’t want us to make any move, only to sit tight and not spoil his plans. What do you say, now?”
Mr. Dashwood made a gesture as if washing his hands of the whole affair, and announced stiffly that if his partner considered such action in accordance with the traditional relations between stockbroker and client he would not press his own views. Mr. Munce thereupon smiled genially at French and assured him that he could count on his wishes being carried out.
This was all right so far as it went, and it paved the way for French’s next proceeding. Going to the nearest telegraph office, he saw the postmaster, showed him his credentials, and explained that he wished to send a reply prepaid telegram, the answer to which was not to be delivered at its address, but was to be sent to him at Scotland Yard. Then drawing a form towards him he wrote:
‘To Whitman, care of Macdonald, 18 Moray Street, Pentland Avenue, Edinburgh.
‘Serious fall in Brazilian stocks impending. Advise modifications of plans. Would like an interview. Munce travels to Aberdeen by 10 a.m. from King’s Cross, Tuesday. Could you see him at Waverley where train waits from 6.15 to 6.33? Dashwood & Munce.’
This, French thought, should draw Roper. Unless the man was extraordinarily well up in Brazilian politics, of which the chances were negligible, he would suspect nothing amiss. And, if he did not suspect a trap he would almost certainly turn up. Not only would he really be anxious about his money, but he would see thac it would be suspicious not to show such anxiety.
All the same French believed that the telegram should be confirmed by a letter. In the ordinary course of business such a letter would necessarily follow, and Roper might notice the omission.
To ascertain the form of Messrs. Dashwood and Munce’s correspondence French adopted a simple expedient. He wrote confidentially to the firm saying he had just learned that the man in whom he was interested had particularly small ears, and asking whether Mr. Dashwood had noticed Whitman’s. This letter he sent by hand and in an hour back came an answer. It took a comparatively short time to print a similar letter form, and on this French typed the following with the samecolored ribbon and spacing:
‘Dear Sir,—Confirming wire sent you to-day. We beg to state that we have just had confidential advices from our agents in Brazil, warning us that unsettled conditions are imminent which are likely to depress Government securities considerably. Under these circumstances we feel that we would like to discuss the question of your investments, as we think you would be wiser to modify your original proposals. In such matters a personal interview is more satisfactory than correspondence, and, as Mr. Munce happens to be passing through Edinburgh next Tuesday, we thought, perhaps, it might be convenient to you to see him at the station. The train waits long enough to enable him to explain the situation fully.
French copied the ‘Dashwood and Munce’ signature and despatched the letter by the evening mail. He was in hopes that it would allay any suspicion the telegram might have raised in Roper’s mind, while at the same time involving no reply to the stockbrokers other than that of the prepaid wire which Would be delivered at the Yard.
Continued on page 28
The Starvel Hollow Tragedy
Continued from page 22
The next point to be considered was the matter of Roper's identification. French did not believe he could manage this himself. He had never seen the man. He had, of course, a copy of the photograph on the passport, but he did not consider this sufficient. In a matter of such importance he dared not leave a loop-hole for mistake. He felt he must have some one who knew Roper there to assist him.
He thought at once of Ruth Averill. Of all the persons he had come across she probably knew Roper’s appearance best. But he felt the job was not one for a young girl and he cast round for some one else.
No one at Thirsby seemed suitable. Several people there had been acquainted with Roper, but he did not think any had known him sufficiently intimately to penetrate a disguise, should the man still be wearing one. Nor did he believe any one at Kintilloch would be much better,. though for a while he considered getting Sergeant McGregor.
Finally, he decided that he would ask Philpot. Philpot had known Roper intimately at the Ransome and had seen him at intervals up till the tragedy. He was now in Glasgow: nearer than any one else that French could get. Moreover, Philpot hated Roper and would no doubt be glad to put the final spoke in his wheel. French was sure he would come for the asking.
Accordingly, he drew a sheet of paper to him and wrote:
‘Strictly pricale and confidential,
New Scotland Yard.
‘Dear Dr. Philpot,—You will be surprised to hear from me, and particularly to learn that I believe I have got my hands on the man wanted for the affair I have been working on. I do not wish to give details in a letter, but it is a man whom you knew well and whom we all thought to be dead. You can probably guess from this.
‘We have found that under an alias he has been transferring his money abroad, and in the name of the stockbrokers concerned I have asked him to meet their junior partner at Waverley Station, Edinburgh, on Tuesday next at 6.15 p.m. on the arrival of the 10 a.m. from King’s Cross. The junior partner will not be there, but I shall, and I hope to make the arrest.
‘My difficulty is that I cannot, myself, identify the wanted man. In this I want your kind help. Will you please meet me under Scott’s Monument at five p.m.? I shall then ask you to accompany me to the station and from some inconspicuous place keep a look-out for him. When you see him you will tell me and I shall do the rest.
T ask you to assist me in this, and feel sure that when you consider all the circumstances of the case you will agree to do so.
‘Will you please wire your decision on receipt of this letter?
For the next few hours French was like the proverbial hen on the hot girdle. Every time his telephone bell rang he snatched up the receiver hoping that the caller was the post office from which he had sent his message. Every time the door opened he looked up eagerly to see it it was not an orange-colored telegraph message that was being brought in. He found it hard to settle to work, so much depended on his plans succeeding.
When, therefore, about four in the afternoon a wire was brought to him, he had to exercise real self-control not to snatch the paper from the messenger. And then he could have laughed with delight. The message had been handed in at the General Post Office in Edinburgh, and read:
‘To Dashwood and Munce,
‘Your wire. Will meet Munce as suggested. Whitman.’
So far, so very excellent! Here was the major difficulty overcome! On Tuesday evening the public career of John Roper would come to a sudden stop. The end of the case was at last in sight.
Early the next morning a second telegram was handed to French, which gave him almost equally great satisfaction. It was from Philpot and read*
‘Will meet you place and time stated.’
There was now just one other point to be settled. Roper was coming, to the station to meet Munce. But Munce was not going to Edinburgh. Some one must therefore take his place.
It would be better to have some one as like Munce in appearance as possible. In spite of the statement of the partners, Roper might have got a glimpse of Munce or at least have had his description. In view of this very summons he might make it his business to learn what the man was like. French considered his brother officers and he soon saw that Inspector Tanner, with a slight-make-up, could present himself as a very passable imitation of the junior partner. The men were about the same build and coloring, and an alteration in ;he cut of Tanner’s hair, a pair of spectacles, different clothes and a change of manner would do all that was necessary.
French went to Tanner’s room and arranged the matter. Tanner was to call and see Munce on some matter of a prospective investment which would afterwards fall through, and while |there observe his model. He would then make himself up and travel to Edinburgh by the 10 a.m. from King’s Cross. On reaching Waverley he would co-operate with French as circumstances demanded.
To enable him to keep his appointment with Philpot, French found he must leave London on the Monday night. He, therefore, took the 11.35 p.m. from Euston, and about eight o’clock the next morning reached Princes Street Station. He had not been to Edinburgh for years, and emerging from the station, he was struck afresh with the beauty of the gardens and the splendor of the Castle Rock. But Princes Street itself, which he had once thought so magnificent, seemed to have shrunk, and its buildings to have grown smaller and plainer. “Too much foreign travel,” he thought, vaguely regretful of his change of outlook; “the towns abroad certainly spoil one for ours.”
He spent most of the day in exploring the historic buildings of the old town, then as five o’clock approached he entered the Princes Street Gardens, and strolling towards Scott’s Monument, took his stand in an inconspicuous place and looked around him.
Almost immediately he saw Philpot. The doctor was muffled in a heavy coat, a thick scarf high about his ears, and furlined gloves—a get-up, French shrewdly suspected, intended more as a disguise from Roper than a protection from the cold. He was approaching from che Waverly Station direction, walking slowly as if conscious that he was early. French moved to meet him.
“Well, doctor, this is very good of you. A surprising development, isn’t it?”
Philpot shook hands, and glancing round, said eagerly:
“Look here, I want to understand about it. I was quite thrilled by your letter. You tell me you know the Starvel murderer, and you seem to hint that it is Roper—at least, I don’t know whom else you can refer to. But surely, inspector, you couldn’t mean that?”
"Why not? Why, because— I don’t know, but the idea seems absolutely absurd. Roper’s dead. If he is not dead, whose was the third body found? Are you really serious?”
“Ye?,” French said in a low tone. “I am quite satisfied that Roper escaped from that house and that some poor devil was murdered and buried in his place. And what’s more, I’ll have him in an hour’s time. Come. Let us walk to the station and take up a position before he arrives.”
They moved off, while Philpot clamored for further details. French, true to his traditions of caution, was not over communicative, but he explained some of the reasons which had led him to believe in Roper’s guilt, and told of the purchases of rings which the man had made to get rid of his tainted money. Philpot evinced the keenest interest and plied the other with questions.
French told him as much as his training would allow, which was as little as he conveniently could, and then he switched the conversation on to the coming scene. Did Philpot know the station? If so, where had they best hide so as to see the train arrive while remaining themselves unobserved?
On reaching the platform French introduced himself to the station-master and explained hia business. He had arranged for Tanner t ) travel in the last first-class compartment in the train, and he now found out from the station-master whert this coach would stop. Opposite was the window of one of the offices, and on French asking whether they might use it for reconnoitring purposes, the stationmaster at once gave them the unrestricted use of the room. There, hidden from view by a screen, the two men took up their positions and began to scrutinise those who were assembling on the platform to meet the train.
Philpot was fidgety and nervous, and from one or two remarks that he made, French saw the direction in which his thoughts were running. Evidently he was afraid that of he assisted in Roper’s capture, the man would round on him and try to make trouble for him about Mrs. Philpot’s death. In vain French attempted to reassure him. He was clearly uneasy in his mind, but presently he seemed to master his fears and concentrated his attention on the platform outside.
Time passed slowly until the train was almost due. A large number of persons had collected and were strolling slowly up and down or standing talking in little groups. French and his companion watched the moving throng from behind cheir screen, but no one resembling Roper put in an appearance. This, however, was not disconcerting. It was not unlikely that the man had also taken cover and was waiting until he saw some one who might be Munce before coming out into the open.
French, as the time dragged slowly away, was conscious of the thrill of the hunter who waits before a clump of jungle for a hidden man-eater. The crisis that was approaching was almost as important to him as the tiger’s exit to the sportsman. This was the last lap of his case, the climax of the work of many weeks. If he carried off his coup all would be well; it would bring the affair to a triumphant conclusion, and to himself possibly the reward he coveted. But if any slip took place it would be a bad look-out for him. There was his and Tanner’s time besides the expense of these journeys to Scotland, not to speak of his own loss of prestige. No, French felt he could not afford to miss this chance, and insensibly his brows contracted and his lips tightened as he stood waiting for what was coming.
Presently a movement amongst the passengers on the platform and a heavy rumble announced the advent of the express. The huge engine with its highpitched boiler and stumpy funnel rolled slowly past, followed by coach after coach, brightly lighted, luxurious, gliding
smoothly by. A first-class coach stopped opposite the window and French, gazing eagerly out, saw Tanner descend and glance up and down the platform.
Now was the moment! Roper could not be far away.
But Tanner continued to look searehingly about him. The traditional bustle of the arrival waxed and waned and the platform began to clear, people drifting away towards the exit or clustering round carriage doors close to the train. And still no sign of Roper.
The express was timed to wait for eighteen minutes, and of these at least fifteen had slipped away. Porters were already slamming doors, and the guard was coming forward, lamp in hand, ready to give the right away signal Tanner stepped forward clear of the train and once again gazed up and down the platform, then as the hands of the clock reached the starting time he turned back and retrieved his suitcase from the compartment. The guard whistled and waved his green lamp, the coaches began to glide slowly away, the dull rumble swelled up and died away, and in a second or two some rapidly dwindling red lights were all that were left of the train.
French was almost speechless from chagrin. Had his plan failed? Wa9 it possible that Roper had been one too many for him? Had the man suspected a plant and kept away from the station? Or was he even now in some hidden nook on the platform doubtful of Tanner’s identity and waiting to see what would materialise?
As the minutes slipped away, French, unspeakably disappointed, found himself forced to the conclusion that the affair had miscarried. Roper must have become alive to his danger. Perhaps he had suspected French’s wire and had replied as he did merely in order to gain time to disappear. Perhaps by this time the clue of the tobacconist’s shop itself was a washout. French swore bitterly.
But they could not remain in the office for ever, nor could Tanner be left to pace the platform indefinitely. With a word of explanation to Philpot, French passed out, and the two men strolled in the direction of Tanner. French greeted him quietly and introduced Philpot, and the three stood talking.
“Washout?” Tanner said laconically, glancing at his colleague.
“Looks like it,” French admitted, and turning to Philpot, began to apologise for having brought him from Glasgow on a wild goose chase. “I’m sorry that I can’t stay and offer you hospitality either,” he went on. “I must get round to police headquarters and start some further inquiries. But let us go and have a parting drink to our mutual good luck in the future.”
They passed into the refreshment room, French pre-occupied and, for him, somewhat brusque, Tanner frankly bored, and Philpot showing evidences of mixed feel! ings of disappointment and relief.
“I wish you people weren’t so infernally 1 close about your business,” the doctor ! complained as they stood at the bar waiting for the three small Scotches and sodas French had ordered. “Here am I, vastly interested in the affair and anxious ! to know what your further chances are, and you’re as close as a pair of limpets, i Surely I know so much that a little more I won’t hurt. Do you think you’ll get him soon?”
French laughed disagreeably.
“I don’t say exactly how soon.” he answered grimly, “but you may take it I from me that we’ll get him all right. We ! have a hot scent. We’ll have the man be1 fore any of us are much older. Well, doc! tor, here’s yours.”
He tossed off his whisky, while Philpot, j picking up his glass, murmured his toast, j And then suddenly French stiffened and S stood motionless, staring at the other’s I hand There in the flesh at the right hand j side of his right thumb and projecting slightly on to the nail was an almost healed 1 cut of a peculiar shape: a shape which
French had had described and sketched for him by seven of the men who had sold rings to the changer of twenty-pound notes in London! French’s brain whirled. Surely, surely, it couldn’t be!
Philpot noted the other’s change of expression and followed the direction of his gaze. Then with a sudden gesture of rage and despair he dropped his glass, and his left hand flashed to the side pocket of his coat. French had noticed that this pocket bulged as if it contained some round object of fair size such as an apple or an orange. Philpot drew out a dark-colored ball of some kind and began desperately fumbling at it with his right ha‘nd. And then French saw what the mail was doing. The object was a Mills’ bomb and he was pulling out the pin!
With a yell to Tanner for help, French flung himself on the doctor, ard clutching his left hand, squeezed it desperately over the bomb. The pin was out, but the man’s hand prevented the lever from moving. If his grasp were relaxed for even an instant nothing could save all three from being blown to atoms!
Philpot’s mild and gentle face was convulsed with fury. His lips receded from his teeth and he snarled like a wild beast as he struggled wildly to release his grip. His right fist smashed furiously into French’s face and he twisted like an eel in the other’s grasp. Then Tanner also seized him and the three men went swinging and rolling and staggering about the room, knocking over tables and chairs and sweeping a row of glasses from the bar. Philpot fought with the fury of desperation. To the others it seemed incredible that so slight a man could show such strength. He strove desperately to free his left hand from French’s clasp, while French with both hands tried for nothing but to keep it tightly closed on the bomb.
But the struggle was uneven and only one end was possible. Gradually Tanner improved his grip until at last he was able to use a k;nd of jiu-jitsu lock which held the other steady at the risk of a broken right arm. This lock he was able to maintain with his left hand, while with the other he took the pin of the bomb from the now nerveless fingers and with infinite care, French shifting his hands to allow of it, slipped the pin back into place. A moment later the bomb lay safely on the counter, while its owner sat faint and exhausted and securely handcuffed.
By the good offices of the barmaid French was able to wash the blood from his face, and a few minutes later a taxi was procured, and almost before the excited throng on the platform had learned what was amiss, the three actors in the little drama had vanished from their ken.
THE identity of the criminal known, it took Inspector French but a short time to compile a complete and detailed account of that terrible series of crimes which comprised what had become known as the Starvel Hollow Tragedy. Herbert Philpot once he understood that the evidence against him was overwhelming and that nothing could save him from the scaffold, broke down completely and made a confession which cleared up the few points which from their nature it was impossible that French could have learnt otherwise.
The first act of the inspector, on lodging his prisoner in jail, was to visit his rooms in Glasgow. There in a battered leather portmanteau he discovered a large cashbox of hardened steel which when broken open was found to contain the balance of Mr. Averill’s money. With the £2,000 which had been paid to Messrs. Dashwood and Munce, no less a sum than £36,562 was recovered, no doubt all the old miser had possessed. Ruth Averill therefore received her fortune intact, and between the consequent easing of her circumstances and her engagement to Pierce Whymper, she found the happiness which had been denied her during her early years.
The history of the crime, as French at
last presented it, made very terrible reading. Like most accounts of human weakness and guilt, it arose from small beginnings and increased stage by stage, until, at last, almost inevitably, it reached its frightful consummation.
The trouble first arose in that house near the Ransome Institute in Kintilloch, when Dr. Philpot discovered that he and his wife had nothing in common and that their marriage had been a fatal blunder. There is no need to recount the steps by which they drifted apart, it is enough to say that within two years of the wedding their hatred was mutual and bitter. Then Philpot became intimate with the nurse whom Roper afterwards found him embracing in the institute shrubbery, and from that time the idea of getting rid of his wife by murder was never far from the doctor’s mind. At first, he did not see how this could be done, but as he brooded over the problem a method presented itself, and coldly and deliberately he made bis preparations.
First, he selected a time when his wife should be alone with him in the house. Taking advantage of Flora’s absence one afternoon, he made a pretext to get Mrs. Philpot up to the bedroom landing. Silently, he slipped upstairs after her and across the top of the lower flight he tied a dark-brown silk cord. Then, returning to the study, he called to her for Heaven’s sake to come quickly for the house was on fire. She rushed down, caught her foot in the cord, and fell headlong to the hall below. She was stunned though not killed, but Philpot was prepared for this eventuality. Seizing the only implement he could find, a cricket bat, he struck her savagely on the temple, killing her instantaneously. As he expected, the blow made a bruise such as she might have received from the fall, and no suspicion was aroused by it.
But an unexpected contingency had given Philpot away. He had supposed that the servant, Flora, had really gone to visit her sick mother. But in this he was mistaken. It was to see, not her mother but her lover, Roper, that the girl had left the house, and this afternoon, like many another before it, she met him in a nearby copse. There, just after they had greeted each other, a heavy shower came on, and Flora had proposed an adjournment to the kitchen for shelter. To this Roper had agreed, and they had just settled down therein for their fifteen minutes’ chat when they heard Philpot’s shout to his wife, followed in a moment by Mrs. Philpot’s scream of terror and the crash of her fall. Flora involuntarily sprang to her feet and ran up the stairs from the basement to the hall. But she was transfixed by the sight which met her eyes and she stood rigid, gazing at Philpot. Roper had by this time crept up the stairs behind her, and both actually saw the doctor commit the murder. Flora was about to reveal herself, buc Roper’s grip tightened upon her wrist and held her motionless. Watching thus, they saw Philpot rapidly examine the body, and apparently satisfied that life was extinct, wipe the cricket bat and replace it in the stand. Then he ran upstairs and removed the silk cord, afterwards stooping over the floor on the half-way landing. They could not see what he was doing, but the evidence given later as to the hole in the carpet made his action clear.
'T'HEN followed a dramatic moment.
When Philpot came downstairs he found Roper and Flora standing in the hall, and they soon let him know that they had witnessed the whole of his terrible proceedings. Philpot attempted to bluster, but he was quite unable to carry it off, and at last he asked Roper what he proposed to do.
Roper, in his way quite as unscrupulous as the doctor, had instantly thought how he might turn the affair to his own advantage, and he quickly stated his terms. If Philpot would increase his ten shillings a week to forty, thus enabling Roper and Flora to marry in comfort, the evidence
against him would be withheld. Philpot protested, but Roper was adamant and the doctor had to give way. Had that been all that Roper required, the matter would have been settled in five minutes. But the attendant pointed out that unless he had some material proof of the crime, his hold over Philpot would be gone by the evening; if he did not give his testimony at once he would have to explain later why he had withheld it. He would therefore follow the precedent he had set in the case of the nurse, and would require from Philpot a signed confession of the murder. He swore solemnly to keep this secret as long as the money was paid, but with equal solemnity swore to send it anonymously to the police the first time the two pounds failed to materialise. Again Philpot olustered, but again he had to give way. But he pointed out that a confession would take some time to prepare, and that if he wrote it then and there the body would be cold before the police and another doctor were called in, which would give the whole aifair away. Roper admitted this difficulty and proposed the following solu tion. He would give Philpot until nine o’clock that night to write it. If it was not forthcoming Flora and he would visit the police station with the yarn that Flora alone had seen what had taken place—but without revealing herself to Philpot; that she had been so frightened she did not know what to do; that she had consulted him, Roper, and that he had told her she must immediately reveal what she knew.
Philpot had perforce to agree to this, and by nine o'clock the confession was ready. But Philpot with perverse ingenuity found a way of tricking his adversary and rendering it useless. He was an extraordinarily clever draughtsman and had frequently amused himself by forging the handwriting of others. Now he forged his own. He wrote the confession out, and then copied it, letter by letter, upside down. The result was a passable imitation of his own hand writing, but one which any expert would recognise as a forgery. If the document were produced his denial of its authorship would be accepted without question.
But Philpot did not wish the document to be produced. It was too horribly credible, and inquiries by the police might easily lead to some discovery which would convict him. With all the appearance of reluctant good faith he therefore handed over the document and promised to pay the £2 a week with the utmost regularity. Roper, believing in the value of his instrument and fearing Philpot might make an effort to regain it, rented a box in a safe deposit and stored it there.
Some four months later Philpot, as already stated, left the Ransome Institute and put up bis plate at Thirsby. There he speedily made the acquaintance of Mr. Averill. The old man indeed called him in, thinking that the fees of a newcomer who had to make his way would be less than those of a well-established practitioner.
When Roper was dismissed from the institute he wrote to Philpot asking if he could help him towards getting another job, and it was while thinking over this request that the first idea of the crime entered the doctor’s mind. His plan was, if possible, to get Averill to dismiss his servants and to employ the Ropers in their places. Then he intended to get the couple to join with him in the murder of Averill and the theft of his money.
At first Philpot’s only idea was to obtain as firm a hold over the Ropers as they had over him, so as to free himself not only from the serious financial drain of their blackmail, but also from the terrible haunting fear that sooner or later they would betray him. But further consideration showed him a way by which he could get enormously more than this. By it not only would he achieve absolute safety in connection with his wife’s death, but the whole of Averill’s wealth
might be his. It was, no doubt, a very terrible plan, for it involved committing two other murders, but fear and greed had by this time rendered Philpot almost inhuman and he cared for nothing but his own welfare. By this plan both the Ropers were to be done to death in such a way that suspicion could not possiby fall on himself. Even suspicion that a crime had been committed at all was unlikely, but if this, by some unforeseen circumstance, were aroused, it would certainly be believed that Roper had not died, but had committed the crime himself. After careful thought Philpot decided to put his plan into operation.
First, he sent Roper a note to meet him at a secluded point on Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh, and there he put up his proposal. Roper listened eagerly and accepted with alacrity. But in the course of conversation he made an admission and suggested a modification which amazed the doctor, but which, as it fell in with the latter’s secret plan, he agreed to after some show of objection. Roper, it appeared, had also made a mistake in his marriage. He had also grown to hate his wife and would go to any lengths to regain his freedom. In the light of the doctor’s proposal he saw his chance. Old Averill was to be murdered and to cover up the crime an accident was to be staged. Very well: Mrs. Roper could be got rid of at the same time. The same accident would account for both deaths.
The two men discussed the ghastly details, and by the time they parted the whole hideous affair was cut and dry. Briefly, the plan was as follows:
Roper should first arrange his getaway, and while still living at Kintilloch should apply for a passport for Brazil. Inquiries about him would come to the local police, who would certify that he was the original of the photograph enclosed and that the matter was in order. Roper would drop a hint that he had a brother in Santos whom he had often thought of joining, a course which he proposed to follow now that he had left the Ransome. On receipt of the passport he would obtain the necessary visa.
Philpot, in the meantime, was to see Averill and try to get him to dismiss his servants and install Roper and his wife in their places. As a matter of fact he found this an easy task. Working on the old man’s weakness, Philpot explained that having left the Ransome under a cloud, Roper would be thankful to take a job at a greatly reduced salary. This was enough for Averill, and he at once gave his people notice and offered their positions to the Ropers.
The couple thereupon settled down at Starvel, and by living exemplary lives sought to establish a reputation for integrity which would tend to support the accident theory to be put forward later. Philpot insisted that for at least a year they were to carry out their duties quietly, so that no one would think the ‘accident’ came suspiciously soon after their advent. “We are going to make all the money we want for the rest of our lives,” he would say to Roper. “No precaution is too great to be observed.”
Philpot told Roper quite openly that he wished to use the crime to free himself from the other’s blackmail. Roper on his part accepted the position, as he considered the money would be worth it, and also as he believed that his hold over Philpot would remain strong enough to protect him completely. The two scoundrels therefore concluded their evil compact, deciding to act jointly in all respects and so to bear equal responsibility. After the crime Roper was to emigrate to Brazil the idea that he had lost his life being suggested by the dreadful expedient of leaving a third body in the house, which, it was hoped, would be taken for his.
The procuring of this third body was not the least of their difficulties. Markham Giles was to be the victim: in fact it was Giles’ existence which had suggested the plan to Philpot. The man was known to be in poor health, and a few doses of a
mild poison would make it poorer still. The result was that his death at the critical time excited no comment.
Philpot was to assist in the murders, and partly as a safeguard against night callers, and partly to establish an alibi, he determined to fake illness. He therefore took to his bed on Thursday evening, telling his housekeeper he had influenza. The symptoms were easy to simulate and a doctor knows ways of raising the temperature. His housekeeper and the aged Dr. Emerson were easily deceived, and on the two dreadful nights of crime, he was able to leave his house unheard and unsuspected.
For the safe working of the scheme it was necessary that Ruth Averill should be got rid of. We have seen how this was done, but it unexpectedly involved drugging her uncle to prevent the fraud from, becoming known. The plan was, of course Philpot’s. He supplied all the necessary forged letters and the ten pounds, but Roper carried out the actual details. Ruth left for York on the Tuesday, and that evening after dusk had fallen, Roper and Philpot met secretly at Markham Giles’ cottage, and there in cold blood the two miscreants murdered the unfortunate man by a forcible injection of cocaine. They left him in bed, Roper undertaking to ‘discover’ his death next morning. On that fatal Wednesday morning he arranged the funeral in such wise that the body would be coffined and left in the house that night.
The Whymper episode had been thought out to learn whether or not,the numbers of Averill’s notes were known. Roper would not murder the old man without Philpot’s actual assistance, lest the doctor might evade his share of responsibility, so he kept him drugged to enable the £500 to be obtained. Whymper on that Wednesday evening was brought out to Starvel and made the accomplices’ dupe.
On that same fateful evening Roper laid the foundation of the accident theory by simulating drunkenness in Thirsby. Of course, it was a lucky chance for him that George Mellowes should overtake him on the way home, but even without this he believed he had arranged sufficient evidence of his condition.
Then came the hideous deeds of that tragic night. Under cover of darkness Philpot went out to Starvel and there with almost incredible callousness and deliberation first Mrs. Roper and then Averill were done to death by throttling, their bodies being laid on their respective beds. Next the safe was robbed and the contents packed in two despatch cases, half for Philpot and half for Roper. The newspapers were burned in the safe, the latter locked, and the key replaced under Averill’s pillow. Finally, petrol was poured ^>ver the house, ready to be set alight at the proper moment.
The next step was to bring over the body of Markham Giles. Philpot and Roper took the handcart from the outhouse and went across the moor to the unfortunate man’s cottage. There they opened the coffin, with diabolical coolness took out the remains, laid them on the handcart, placed a suitable weight of earth in the coffin and screwed down the lid. They wheeled the body to Starvel, and carrying it upstairs, left it on Roper’s bed.
All this time Philpot had carried out his part of the affair so wholeheartedly that any suspicion that might have lurked in Roper’s mind as to his companion’s good faith had been completely dispelled. But Philpot had been only biding his time until his dupe had given him all the assistance that he required with his own even more hideous plan.
As they turned to set fire to the house Philpot moved rapidly behind his victim and suddenly with all his strength struck him in the back with a large knife which he had secreted in his pocket. Roper, stabbed to the heart, fell and died in a few seconds.
Continued on page 37
Continued from page 32
There were now in that sinister house the bodies of no less than four murdered persons—Giles, Averill and two Ropers. But of these only three must be found. Philpot had foreseen the difficulty and quickly and methodically he proceeded to meet it. One of the four bodies must be buried, so that no suspicion of untoward or unusual events might afterwards be aroused, and no investigation as to the identity of the fourth victim might lead to the truth. He chose that of Giles for two reasons. First, it was the lightest, and second, if identification of any of them should prove possible, it would obviously be safer to have those of Averill and the Ropers found. The interment accomplished, he transferred Roper’s portion of the money to his own despatch case, set the house on fire and returned, unseen, to Thirsby.
Philpot was pretty certain that no suspicion would fall on him, but to safeguard himself still further he adopted yet another subterfuge. Some months before the crime he began deliberately to lose money by betting. When the crime was committed he was known to be in low water, and he was careful afterwards to continue gambling, even to the extent of ruining his ostensible career and going through the bankruptcy courts. In this way he hoped to dispel any suggestion that he had recently come into money, and give a reasonable excuse for quitting Thirsby.
From what French had told him, Philpot realized that the numbers of some of the stolen notes were known, and French’s announcement at the inquest he did not fully believe, fearing a trap. His ready money was, however, by this time exhausted, and he set to work to devise means not only to obtain more, but also to transfer a nest-egg to Brazil, to which country it had all along been his intention to emigrate.
The arrangements for this journey he had carried out with the same careful re
gard to detail which had characterised his other actions. Hidden in the cashbox with Averill’s money French found a passport made out for Brazil in the name of Arthur Lisle Whitman, with a photograph of Philpot, vised and complete and -—a forgery. The way in which this had been done showed the man’s extraordinary ingenuity once again. He had obtained in the ordinary way a passport for himself for holidaying in France. Roper’s passport with its Brazilian vise he had searched for and stolen before setting fire to the house. Of these two he had built up a new one, using certain pages from each. From his own book he took the description of himself, his stamped photograph and the vacant pages at the back. On certain blank pages from Roper’s he forged both the printing and writing where he could not suitably alter his own, as well as obtaining a model of the Brazilian vise, which he also forged.
The wretched criminal’s last move, the meeting with French at Waverley, was on his part a throw of the dice. On receipt of the wire to Whitman through the Edinburgh tobacconist he half-susj pected a trap, and, of course, the plan ! became apparent when French’s letter to himself arrived. He saw, however, that he was either quite safe or irretrievably lost. If French had no inkling of the truth it was evident that he must keep the appointment and continue to play his game. On the other hand, if French knew, nothing could save him, and he would make an end of things for all concerned with his Mills’ bomb.
To bring this tale of the Starvel Hollow Tragedy to a close it remains only to be said that after a dramatic trial Herbert Philpot paid for his crimes with his life, while to turn to a happier side of the picture, Pierce Whymper and Ruth Averill were united in the bonds of holy matrimony where both found the happiness which at one time had seemed likely to be denied them.