THE MAD GARDENER

Gebb was not easily surprised, being used by reason of his profession
to traffic in mysteries; but the unexpected fainting of Edith at his
apparently innocent question perplexed him beyond measure. Of course,
the girl had not told him the whole of her history, so no doubt in the
portions thus kept back lay the explanation of her violent emotion.
Gebb, being ignorant of the cause, was amazed at the result.

“Hullo!” said he, throwing open the window to admit fresh air, “there
is something queer about this. Prain hinted that if I asked about her
lover I might hear something strange, and her actions speak quite as
loud as words. This fainting has some meaning in it. Well, well! I
must revive her first and question her afterwards.”

This was easier said than done, as there was no restorative of any
sort at hand. Miss Wedderburn lay back on the couch motionless and
white, the image of death; even the breeze from the open window could
not restore her senses. Gebb was about to throw wide open the door,
and shout for assistance, when through the window he caught sight of a
man crossing the lawn, and immediately hailed him loudly. The man
jumped round suddenly as though startled by the call, and after some
hesitation moved forward slowly and unwillingly to crane his head into
the room. He was a queer old creature, with shaggy white hair and
untrimmed beard, and two glittering eyes set so closely together as to
give him an uncanny look. He was dressed in a suit of old clothes
discoloured and rusty; and, with his elbows on the window-sill, moped
and mowed in a smiling vacant way at the detective. At the first near
glance Gebb saw that the newcomer was not in his right mind.

“Here, my man,” he said, making the best of this doubtful assistant,
“bring some water; the lady has fainted.”

The man grinned, and turned his eyes towards the white face of Edith.
Over his own a shade passed, with the result of altering it from gay
to grave. He even looked terrified, and with a kind of hoarse cry,
pointed one lean finger at the unconscious girl.

“Is she dead? Did you kill her?” he asked in a harsh whisper.

“No! No!!” replied the detective, soothingly, as he would speak to a
child, “she has fainted. Bring some water.”

“Kill her!” whispered the man, nodding; “it’s a good room to kill
people in; we use it for that here. I won’t tell. I’d rather see her
dead than alive; it’s better for her. The grave’s the bed for a weary
head.”

“Hush! Bring the water,” cried Gebb, shrinking back from the horrible
creature. “Be off with you!”

The madman shrank back in his turn at the peremptory tone of the
detective, and vanished with a nod, just as a sigh sounded through the
room. The cool draught playing on the forehead of Edith had at length
produced its effect, and with a second sigh longer than the first, she
opened her eyes, and looked vacantly at Gebb. The detective caught her
hand, and slapped it vigorously, whereat the girl sat up with an
effort, and her faintness passed away. Still her brain was not quite
clear, and she looked languidly at Gebb, as though she were in a
dream.

“What did you say?” she asked in a low voice. “Am I–have I–what is
it?” and she passed a slow hand across her forehead.

“You fainted, Miss Wedderburn,” replied Gebb, softly.

“Yes! I remember! I fainted! You asked about—- Oh, God! I know;” and
she covered her eyes with one hand.

Before she could speak again, a harsh, cracked voice was heard singing
in the distance:–

“The raven is the fowl for me,
He sits upon the gallows tree,
And bravely, bravely doth he sing,
In a voice so low and rich:
While flaunting in a garb of pitch
The murderer’s corpse does gaily swing.
Ho! Ho! Ha! Ha! He! He! He!
The raven and the gallows tree.”

“Ah!” Miss Wedderburn shivered nervously as this gruesome ditty
sounded nearer, and put her fingers in her ears to shut out the
singing. “It is Martin with his fearful songs!” said she, softly.

“Martin! And who is Martin?” asked Gebb, amazed at these
extraordinary proceedings.

“Martin! Martin! Mad Martin!” croaked the harsh voice; and there at
the window stood the crazy man, leering in a fawning manner, and
holding a tin basin half full of water. Dipping his hand into this, he
sprinkled a few drops towards Edith, singing tunelessly the while:–

“Weep till tears roll as a flood,
I baptise thee now with blood.”

With an exclamation of annoyance Edith rose, and, snatching the basin
out of the man’s hand, shut the window hurriedly. Martin gave a
frightened whimper and slunk away; while his mistress, soaking a
handkerchief in the water, bathed her pale face. Gebb, judiciously
waiting the development of events, stood quietly by, wondering, but
silent.

“Is this a lunatic asylum, Miss Wedderburn?” he asked when she was
more composed, and he judged it judicious to recommence the
conversation.

“No, of course not!” she replied irritably; “the man is mad, but quite
harmless. Martin!–Martin!–I do not know his other name. He is an
excellent gardener, and usually quiet enough, although he will sing
those gruesome songs all about gallows and murders. To-day–for some
reason–he is worse than usual.”

“He ought to be placed under restraint,” said Gebb, carelessly, for he
was too bent on questioning his companion to be distracted by a
lunatic. “But this is not to the point. May I ask what caused you to
faint, Miss Wedderburn?”

The girl raised her head and directed a steady stare at Gebb. “In my
turn, may I ask why you come here to question me?” she said defiantly.

“I thought I explained my errand before,” replied the detective,
mildly. “I am here to learn–if possible–who killed Miss Gilmar.”

“I cannot tell you: I know nothing about it. Until you gave me the
news I was not aware even that she was dead.”

“Yet you were not so surprised by the information as I expected.”

“That can be easily explained, Mr. Gebb,” said Edith, wringing out her
wet handkerchief. “As I told you before, I knew of my cousin’s fears.
She was perhaps pursued by Mr. Dean when he escaped from prison, with
the avowed intention–it was reported–of killing her. She left her
home–as I know–in order to hide from him; but it is possible–I
say,” she added with emphasis, “it is possible that Dean tracked her
down and revenged himself for her conduct of twenty years ago. You
wish to learn who killed Miss Gilmar, sir? I tell you I do not know!
Mr. Dean, in my opinion, is innocent; but on the face of it, I admit
that appearances are against him. Perhaps if you find the man and
question him you may arrive at the truth.”

“It is not improbable,” replied Gebb, coolly; “but we must catch him
first. Still, Miss Wedderburn, your opinion of Dean’s guilt or
innocence does not explain your recent conduct. To put a plain
question, miss, ‘What made you faint?'”

“That is my business!” said Edith, haughtily, but with averted eyes.

“And mine too. Why should you faint because I ask if you have another
lover besides Mr. Alder?”

“I refuse to answer!”

“In that case,” observed Gebb, artfully, “there must be something
wrong with Arthur.”

“How dare you call him Arthur?” flashed out Miss Wedderburn.

“Call who Arthur?” asked Gebb, laying a trap for her hasty tongue.

“Mr. Fer—-” She stopped and bit her lip, hesitating, as it would
appear, whether to tell the name or not. After a momentary pause she
evidently deemed bold speaking the safest policy, for she continued
calmly: “After all, there is no reason why I should not tell you his
name.”

“None in the world, so far as I can see,” answered the detective, with
a shrug. “I know that his Christian name is Arthur, but what is the
surname of your lover, Miss Wedderburn?”

“How do you know that I have a lover?” retorted Edith, answering one
question by asking another.

“How do I know that you have two lovers?” corrected Gebb, coolly.
“Because you told me about one named Mr. John Alder, and Mr. Prain
spoke to me about the other. I came here with a certain amount of
knowledge, miss.”

“Mr. Prain? What has he to do with it?”

“I don’t know. I’m waiting for you to tell me.”

Edith clasped her hands together with a restless movement, and walked
up and down the room hastily. Suddenly, as though making up her mind
to the inevitable, she stopped before the detective.

“Mr. Gebb,” she said, clearly and distinctly, “I have no reason to
conceal anything in my life. I am engaged to a gentleman named Arthur
Ferris, whose occupation is that of an artist. He has nothing to do
with the murder of Miss Gilmar–that I swear.”

“There is no need to swear,” said Gebb, wondering at her vehemence;
“but why did you faint when I asked you about him?”

“I thought–I thought you might suspect him,” faltered Miss
Wedderburn, in a low tone. “I know how suspicious you detectives are.
You seem to think that I know more than I tell you; but you are
wrong–I do not.”

“I suspect neither you nor Mr. Ferris,” said Gebb, quietly; “but it
was so strange that you should faint at a simple question, that I
naturally wished to find out the reason.”

“Well, sir, you know it now.”

“I know the reason you choose to give,” replied Gebb, significantly,
“but you will excuse my saying that it is rather a weak one.”

“I can give no other.”

“You could if you wished.”

“Then I refuse to give any other,” rejoined Edith, with a frown.

“Quite so,” replied Gebb, rising. “Well, there is nothing for it but
for me to take my leave–for the present,” he added significantly.

“This sudden cessation of Gebb’s questions alarmed Edith more than the
questions themselves had done, and she looked uneasy. Once or twice
she appeared about to speak, but closed her lips again without a word,
and conducted Gebb silently out of the house. The detective was rather
annoyed by this self-control, as the sole reason of his man[oe]uvre
was to make Miss Wedderburn talk. Nine women out of ten would have
done so, and have defended themselves with many words; but this girl
was evidently the tenth, and knew the value of silence. However, Gebb
was too experienced to show his annoyance, and, mentally resolving to
question this Sphinx on a future occasion, when she was not so much on
her guard, he took his leave with a last warning.

“You ought to have that mad gardener locked up,” he said, looking up
to Miss Wedderburn as she stood on the terrace, “else there will be
another murder in the Yellow Boudoir.”

“Oh, Martin is quite harmless,” replied Edith, calmly. “I told you so
before.”

“So harmless, that had he lived in Grangebury I should have suspected
him of killing your cousin,” responded Gebb, dryly, and forthwith took
his departure, considerably puzzled, as well he might be, by the
attitude of the young lady. So far she had baffled him completely.

As he walked down the neglected avenue he heard the harsh, cracked
voice of Mad Martin piping a tuneless ditty, and shortly afterwards
met with the man himself face to face. With his lean, bent form,
picturesque rags, and venerable white beard, the man looked like Lear,
insane and wretched. When he saw Gebb, the creature stopped singing,
and broke into a cackling laugh, which had little mirth in it
Gebb–usually self-controlled and careless of impressions–shuddered
at that merriment of hell.

“Are you in love with her too?” he asked the detective.

“No,” replied Gebb, humouring the man. “Why do you think so?”

“John Alder came here and loved her,” said Martin, reflectively.
“Arthur Ferris came and loved her. I thought you might be a third. But
you won’t win her heart–oh no! Young Arthur has done that. Tall,
straight, dark, handsome Arthur, with the mark of Satan on his cheek.”

“The mark of Satan!” repeated Gebb, puzzled by this description of
Ferris.

“Hist!” cried Martin, with uplifted finger. “He is a wizard and she a
witch, and they dance in the Yellow Room when the moon is up. Young
Arthur has a red mark on his cheek; Satan baptized him there with
blood. Oh, blood! oh, blood!” moaned the wretched creature, “nothing
but blood.

“‘A knife for you, and a rope for me,
And death in the Yellow Room;
I am alive, and you are dead,
But each hath gotten a tomb.'”

And with a long, dolorous cry Martin ran up the avenue swinging his
arms, leaving Gebb to puzzle out his enigmatic verse as best he could.

Gebb, much to his disgust, returned to Norminster as wise as he had
left it. Beyond meeting a lunatic, and interviewing an obstinate young
woman, he had spent his time and money to little purpose; and it was
with a perplexed brain that he sat down to consider his future
movements. In the face of his failure he was at a loss how to act.
Miss Wedderburn, with what looked like deliberate intention, only
repeated the story he already knew.

Miss Gilmar had confessed to a fear of Dean. She had fled from the
Hall on account of that fear; her travels and hidings and
extraordinary precautions had been undertaken solely to thwart the
revenge of Dean. Gebb was aware of these facts; but there was nothing
more in them likely to instruct him. He had, so far, exhausted their
capabilities.

“What am I to do?” he asked himself for, say, the fiftieth time. “How
am I to act? In which direction am I to move? Miss Wedderburn, without
any given reason, says that Dean is innocent. Prain is of the same way
of thinking, and so am I. Parge alone seems to believe in Dean’s
guilt, and I don’t agree with him. The man himself may be able to
supply evidence to reveal the truth; but where is he to be found?”

Gebb could answer this question no more than he could the others he
propounded, and vainly racked his usually inventive brain to settle on
some course likely to elucidate the mystery. Finally, after mature
reflection, he resolved to call upon Prain, and ask him to explain the
meaning of Miss Wedderburn’s fainting. The lawyer had told him to ask
a certain question, and see what answer it would bring. Well, he had
done so; and the answer was that the girl, without any apparent cause,
had fainted. Perhaps Prain knew the reason; and since Edith refused to
reveal it, his sole course was to question the solicitor. So to Prain
the detective went, full of curiosity, two days after his return from
the country. The interval had been filled up in attending to business
unconnected with the Grangebury mystery; but now Gebb returned to it
again, and sought Mr. Prain in the hope of learning something
tangible. But his spirits were very low.

“Well, Mr. Gebb,” said brisk Mr. Prain, after greetings had passed, “I
have not been idle since I saw you last I have sent a description of
that necklace to the police. I have informed Mr. Alder of Miss
Gilmar’s death, and I have received his instructions about the will.”

“There is a will, then?”

“Without doubt. Miss Gilmar made her will before she left the Hall.”

“In favour of Mr. Alder?” said Gebb.

“Yes. Of course, by the will of Kirkstone’s ancestor Mr. Alder
becomes possessed of the Hall; but Miss Gilmar has left her personal
property–that is, the money which she inherited from Laura
Kirkstone–to him also. Miss Wedderburn, I am sorry to say, receives
nothing.”

“Poor girl. She will have to leave the Hall.”

Prain shrugged his shoulders. “That is at her own discretion,” he
said, coolly. “Mr. Alder is in love with her; so if she marries
him—-”

“She won’t marry him,” interrupted Gebb; “she is in love with, and
engaged to, Mr. Ferris.”

“Ah! she told you about that scamp? She told me very little, Mr.
Prain; but she fainted when I mentioned the man under the very general
description of a lover.”

“She fainted! Hum!” Prain looked so serious and perplexed that Gebb
was impelled to question him further touching the matter.

“Why did she faint?” asked the detective, bluntly.

“I don’t know–that is, I can’t exactly say,” stammered the other.

Gebb looked at the solicitor, who in his turn stared at the carpet,
the ceiling, at the papers on his desk; anywhere but at his
questioner.

“Mr. Prain,” he said seriously, “you are not treating me fairly.”

“I beg your pardon,” said Prain, nervously–and as a rule he was not a
nervous man, “I don’t see how you make that out.”

“I do!” replied Gebb, sharply. “You know the reason of that fainting.”

“Perhaps I do; but I am not at liberty to reveal my knowledge. The
secret is Miss Wedderburn’s.”

“Has it anything to do with this murder?”

“No,” replied Prain, decisively. “That it has not.”

“Then why did you tell me to ask her about Ferris?”

“Because I wanted to be sure of something; and that fainting has
enlightened me.”

“Can’t you tell me more?” cried Gebb, with some indignation.

“No, I cannot,” answered Prain, bluntly. “Get Miss Wedderburn’s
permission, and I will. But even if you did know, the knowledge would
be of no use to you.”

“Has Miss Wedderburn any theory about this murder?”

“Not that I know of. You saw her last, Mr. Gebb.”

“Does she know who killed Miss Gilmar?”

“Why not ask her?” said Prain, evading the question.

“I did; and I can’t make out what she means. She says that Dean is
innocent, but won’t give her reason. Now, Parge declares that Dean is
guilty.”

“Well, Mr. Gebb, perhaps he is.”

“Indeed!” sneered Gebb, who was growing irritated. “Last time I saw
you, Mr. Prain, you denied his guilt.”

“And I do so now!” cried Prain, warmly. “I believe, as you do, Gebb,
that Dean is innocent of both crimes. He killed neither Kirkstone nor
Miss Gilmar. I don’t know what Miss Wedderburn’s reasons are, but she
is right to defend Dean. Still,” added Prain with a shrug, “I don’t
deny that many people look on the man as a murderer.”

“Does Mr. Alder believe in Dean’s guilt–in his double guilt?”

“Yes. He is sure of it. You can ask him for yourself,” added Prain,
looking at his watch. “He’ll be here soon.”

“I’ll be glad to meet him. But what is your opinion about this crime?”

“I told you the last time I saw you,” replied the solicitor. “Miss
Gilmar was murdered by one of those fortune-tellers for the sake of
her diamonds. Recover that necklace, and you will soon trace the
assassin.”

“It’s not much of an idea,” said Gebb, scornfully.

“It’s the best I’ve got, at all events!” retorted Prain, with heat. “I
have done my best to prove its truth by sending a description of that
necklace to the police.”

“I dare say the description is in the hands of all pawnbrokers by this
time,” said Gebb, thoughtfully. “Well, we shall see what will come of
it. What about Ferris?”

“Ferris!” repeated Prain, in no wise astonished at this abrupt
question. “Well, he is an artist, and a bit of a scamp, with whom
Edith Wedderburn is in love. I don’t know why; perhaps because he is a
scamp. Women seem to like scamps, for some reason best known to
themselves.”

“Is he handsome?”

“Very. Tall and dark; rather military-looking.”

“Has he a mark on one cheek?”

“Yes, a birth-mark; but not disfiguring. How did you know about it?”

“That lunatic at Kirkstone Hall told me. He called it the mark of
Satan. By the way, who is that man?”

“A gardener who used to live at the Hall in Kirkstone’s time. I think
the tragedy of the Yellow Room must have sent him off his head. At all
events, he ran away after it occurred, and only turned up a year or
two ago, quite mad.”

“Why didn’t they lock him up?”

“Well, you see, Miss Wedderburn (who is rather a strong-minded young
woman) thinks kindness may cure him; so she gave him back his old post
of gardener. If Miss Gilmar had been there, I don’t think he would
have been allowed to stay. I don’t think, either, that Miss W.’s
experiment will be a success.”

“He sings the most gruesome songs–about murder, and blood, and the
Yellow Room.”

“I know,” replied Prain, cheerfully. “I am afraid that last muddled
his brain and inspired his muse. He didn’t sing or compose verse when
I knew him; but the man’s a complete wreck. He used to be rather
handsome and stupid; but his own father wouldn’t know him now. I’m
sorry for the poor devil, as now that Alder owns the Hall I dare say
hell be kicked out, and have to end his days in an asylum.”

“The best place for him, in my opinion,” said Gebb, emphatically. “He
is as mad as a March hare, and not half so harmless. Hullo! Who is
that knocking? Come in.”

It proved to be a note from Inspector Lackland, asking Gebb to come
down to Grangebury. In the first instance it had gone to Scotland
Yard, and, as it seemed important, had been sent on to the detective,
who had left word that he would be at Prain’s, in case he was wanted.

“Seems important,” said Gebb, reading it. “I wonder what Lackland
wants to see me about–eh, Prain?”

But Prain was not attending to him. He was busy shaking hands with a
tall, broad-shouldered man, fair-haired, blue-eyed, and altogether
comely to look upon. This gentleman was introduced to Gebb by the name
of Alder; whereby the detective was informed that he stood in the
presence of Miss Gilmar’s heir and Miss Wedderburn’s lover. Alder on
hearing Gebb’s name looked at him keenly, and saluted him with marked
cordiality.

“I am glad to meet you, Mr. Gebb,” he said, in loud and hearty tones;
indeed, he was rather like a fox-hunting squire than a barrister. “How
are getting on with the case of my poor cousin’s murder? Have you
caught Dean?”

“No,” answered Gebb, plainly; “and, to tell you the truth, I am not
sure that Dean is the culprit.”

“But if you knew what Dean said about—-”

“I know all that Dean said,” interrupted Gebb, “also that he escaped;
but, for all that, I do not think he killed Miss Gilmar–or Kirkstone
either, for the matter of that.”

“Hum!” said Alder, thoughtfully. “I see you are of Basson’s opinion.”

“Mr. Clement Basson! Do you know him?” asked the detective.

“I should think so!” replied Alder, smiling. “I have known him for
years. He was Dean’s counsel in the Kirkstone case.”

“I instructed him,” said Prain, complacently. “He believed in Dean’s
innocence as I did; but unfortunately our united efforts could not get
the poor devil off.”

“I think I’ll call on Mr. Basson,” said the detective, thoughtfully.
“Where is he to be found?”

“Na 40, Blackstone Lane, Fleet Street,” replied Alder promptly; “but
what do you expect to learn from him?”

“His reasons for believing Dean not guilty.”

“They are the same as mine,” cried Prain, “and I don’t know how his
stating them over again can help you. He does not know where Dean is.”

“Still Mr. Gebb had better see Basson,” suggested Alder, with
conviction. “Something may come of the visit. Will you call on me
afterwards, Mr. Gebb, and tell me what you learn from Basson? I am to
be found in the Temple, and, as you may guess, I am most anxious that
Dean should be traced. I intend to offer a reward of two hundred
pounds for his capture. I hope you will earn it.”

“I hope so, too,” answered Gebb, much pleased; “but you are certain
that Dean is guilty?”

“If he is not, I don’t know who is,” replied Alder, emphatically; and
for the time being the conversation ended.

Gebb left Alder to consult with Prain as to the necessity of exhuming
the body of Miss Gilmar for identification, and took his way down to
Grangebury to learn why the bluff Lackland had written so earnest and
urgent a note. He found the plethoric inspector in a state of
excitement bordering on apoplexy, and wondered what could have
occurred to stimulate the martinet to such unusual excitement.

“That you, Gebb?” cried Lackland, the moment the detective put his
nose inside the door. “George! I am glad to see you. It’s found,
sir–found! What do you think of that, hey?”

“What is found? the name of the murderer?”

“No, no; but something as useful. The diamond necklace,” said
Lackland, slowly.

“You don’t say so!” cried Gebb, excitedly. “Was it sold–pawned—-?”

“Pawned!” interrupted the inspector. “Aaron and Nathan’s, Harold
Street, City. It came into their possession the day after the murder.”

“The devil! Our assassinating friend lost no time. Who pawned it?”

“A young man who called himself James Brown.”

“James Fiddlesticks,” said Gebb, contemptuously–“a false name. What
was he like?”

“Tall, dark, handsome,” said Lackland, with military brevity. “Aaron
said that he put the necklace up the spout as cool as a cucumber. He
was—-”

“Hold on!” cried Gebb, eagerly. “Had he a mark on one cheek–a
birth-mark?”

“By George, he had! A purple spot; but not large enough to spoil his
looks.”

“I thought so!” said the detective, joyously. “So it was Arthur Ferris
did it.”

“Arthur who?” asked Lackland, gruffly.

“Arthur Ferris, of Chelsea, artist He pawned the necklace; he stole
the diamonds; he murdered Miss Gilmar. Hurrah! we’ve got him.”

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