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An Eye for an Eye

William Le Queux

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  An Eye for an Eye, by William Le Queux.


  ________________________________________________________________________AN EYE FOR AN EYE, BY WILLIAM LE QUEUX.



  "Hush! Think, if you were overheard!"

  "Well, my dear fellow, I only assert what's true," I said.

  "I really can't believe it," observed my companion, shaking his headdoubtfully.

  "But I'm absolutely satisfied," I answered. "The two affairs,mysterious as they are, are more closely connected than we imagine. Ithought I had convinced you by my arguments. A revelation will be madesome day, and it will be a startling one--depend upon it."

  "You'll never convince me without absolute proof--never. The idea isfar too hazy to be possible. Only a madman could dream such a thing."

  "Then I suppose I'm a madman?" I laughed.

  "No, old chap. I don't mean any insult, of course," my friend thejournalist, a youngish, dark-haired man, hastened to assure me. "Butthe whole thing is really too extraordinary to believe."

  We were seated together one June morning some years ago, in a train onthe Underground Railway, and had been discussing a very remarkableoccurrence which had been discovered a few days before--a discovery thatwas a secret between us. Scarcely, however, had he uttered his finaldenunciation of my theory when the train ran into the sulphurousever-murky station of Blackfriars, for the electrification of the linewas not then completed: and promising to continue our argument later, hebade me good-bye, sprang out, and hastened away in the crowd ofsilk-hatted City men on their way to their offices.

  He was rather tall, aged about thirty, with a well-cut, clever face, acomplexion unusually dark, a well-trimmed black moustache, and a smartgait which gave him something of a military bearing. Yet his cravat washabitually tied with carelessness, and he usually wore a light overcoatexcept through the month of August. His name was Richard Cleugh, one ofthe sharpest men in Fleet Street, being special reporter of London'smost up-to-date evening paper, the _Comet_.

  When alone, I sat back in the ill-lit railway carriage and, during myshort journey to Cannon Street, reflected deeply.

  The affair was, as he had said, absolutely bewildering.

  Indeed, this chain of curious facts, this romance of love and devotion,of guile, intrigue, and of the cardinal sins which it is my intention tohere record, proved one of the strangest that has ever occurred in ourgiant London. It was an absolute mystery. Readers of newspapers knowwell the many strange stories told in courts of justice, or unearthed bythe untiring "liner" and the reporter who is a specialist in thediscovery of crime. Yet when we walk the streets of our Metropolis,where the fevered crowd jostles in the mad race of life, there is moreromance around us, and of a character far more extraordinary than anythat has ever appeared in the public prints.

  The secrets of London's ever-throbbing heart, and her hidden andinexplicable mysteries which never get into the papers, are legion.

  This is one of them.

  In order to understand the facts aright, it is necessary to here explainthat I, Frank Urwin, am myself a member of that ubiquitous and muchmaligned profession, journalism, being engaged at the time of theopening of this narrative as special reporter of a highly respectableLondon daily newspaper--a journal which was so superior that it neverallowed itself to make any sensational statement. Its conductors asstudiously avoided sensationalism as they did libel, and although wewere very often in possession of "startling facts," and "sensationalstatements" which would have sold the paper, and caused it to be quotednext morning up and down the country, yet we of the staff, forbidden towrite anything so undignified, kept our information to ourselves, or, aswas once rumoured, the office boy, a thrifty youth, went forth andcalmly sold it to one of our more enterprising rivals. Hence, owing tothe heaviness of its articles, which usually contained "chunks" offoreign quotations, and the paucity of its news, the paper was dubbed byits staff "the Magazine."

  Before being appointed to this pseudo-newspaper, where, by the way, workwas light and remuneration good, I had been for several years engagedupon one of those enterprising evening journals who print their"specials" on tinted paper, and by reason of my constant investigationsI had become well-known to the police, and perhaps something of aspecialist in the revealing of hidden facts and the unravelling ofmysteries.

  Dick Cleugh was my most intimate friend, for we shared chambers inGray's Inn, a rather dingy and typical bachelor's abode, be it said; butit had the advantage of being in close proximity to Fleet Street, andsituated as we were, flying all over London day after day, we could notafford to live out in the peculiarly journalistic suburb of Brixton.Our little flat contained a very sad and shabby sitting-room--in whichstood a couple of writing-tables whereat we often worked, joining in,and re-echoing, each other's imprecations--a couple of bedrooms and asmall box-room which, containing a gas-stove over which the diurnalchops were fried, was termed by the Inn authorities a kitchen. We,however, irreverently termed it "the sink." Old Mrs. Joad, a worthy oldsoul who lived across in Fetter Lane, "did for" us, and was known as"the Hag," on account of her _passe_ and extremely _bizarre_ appearance.Her duties were not very onerous, consisting of preparing our morningtea, "doing up" the rooms, cooking the eternal chops or the everlastingsteaks at six, when, our respective "special editions" having gone topress, we both returned hungry to our dens, and lastly in drinking ourwhisky. She preferred gin, but took whisky in order to put us to noinconvenience.

  Cleugh was one of the queer figures in journalistic London. Essentiallyof the Bohemian type, easy-going and possessed of a quaint, dry humour,many were the stories told in Fleet Street of his utter disregard forthe _convenances_. Shrewd, witty, clever, well-educated, he was norespecter of persons. If he went forth to make an inquiry for hisjournal, he hesitated at nothing. With the constant companionship of anextremely foul briar pipe, it was his habit to "interview" people andobtain "latest details" of the day's sensation without removing it fromhis lips, and it was well-known down at the Press Club, that dingy butinteresting institution in Wine Office Court, that on one field-day atAldershot he had actually chatted with the Commander-in-Chief, pipe inmouth, and afterwards put the conversation "on the wire" in the form ofan interview. When having nothing to do he would clean that pipe forrecreation, and such operation usually caused a rapid exit from thevicinity. Known to all in Fleet Street as "the Mystery Man," he wasclever-looking and dignified, and could snuff out an uncommunicativesecretary, or a pompous policeman, with his marvellous control ofexpressions, sarcastic without being abusive. He was undoubtedly "asmart man"--and to be smart in journalism nowadays requires a good dealmore than ordinary intelligence. An ex-Jesus man, he had been a TrueBlue, been ploughed for the Army, studied medicine, and travelled prettywidely, until having been a brilliant failure he had drifted intojournalism, like so many other men have drifted, commencing as anoutside contributor, or "liner," and eventually, by dint of theswiftness and marvellous tact and ability with which he got at thebottom of the inquiries he made, he joined the regular staff of apopular evening sheet--which, by reason of having once tried theexperiment of printing on scented paper, was known in press circles as"The Stinker"--and subsequently became chief of the reporting staff ofthe _Comet_--as smart a staff as could be found in London.

  In common with many other men in Fleet Street, that never-sleeping worldof tape and flimsy, Dick had one failing--he had a penchant for aparticular brand of whisky sold at the _Cheese_, the ancient house ofsteak-pudding fame, but he was always moderate, for his great pride wasthat his sub-editors
could place the greatest reliance in him, as indeedthey could. Dick Cleugh was certainly smart, even though his hair wasoften unkempt and a bundle of copy-paper usually poked out of theside-pocket of his well-worn overcoat. Over and over again had heproved himself a very brilliant pressman and had startled London by the"latest details" he had elicited where the police had failed.

  I had arrived at our chambers about six, after a heavy day. I hadvisited Barking and Wandsworth, and had made an inquiry at Hammersmith,three districts far afield from one another, therefore I felt fagged andhungry. The Hag was engaged in fizzling the usual daily steak in thegas fumes, filling the place with a decidedly appetising odour;nevertheless, between Dick and I there was an arrangement that neithershould eat