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Guilty Bonds

William Le Queux

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  Guilty BondsBy William Le QueuxPublished by R.F. Fenno and Company, 112 Fifth Avenue, New York.This edition dated 1895.

  Guilty Bonds, by William Le Queux.


  ________________________________________________________________________GUILTY BONDS, BY WILLIAM LE QUEUX.



  "Come, have another hand, Burgoyne."

  "I'll have my revenge to-morrow, old fellow," I replied.

  "Why not to-night?"

  "It's past two, and I've a long walk home, remember."

  "Very well; as you wish."

  My friend, Robert Nugent, a journalist, was young man, tall and dark,twenty-seven at the outside, with a pleasant, smiling face. His wavyhair, worn rather long, and negligence of attire gave him a dash of thegenial good-for-nothing.

  It was in the card-room of that Bohemian--but, alas, now defunct--institution, the Junior Garrick Club, where we had been indulging in afriendly hand. Having finished our game, we ordered some refreshment,and seated ourselves upon the balcony on Adelphi Terrace, smoking ourlast cigarettes, and watching the ripple of the stream, the brokenreflection of the stars, and many lights that lined the Thames. All wasdark in the houses on the opposite shore; the summer wind whispered inthe leafy boughs on the Embankment, and a faint cold grey in the eastshowed that night was on the edge of morn.

  For some time we sat chatting, until Big Ben boomed forth three o'clock;then we rose, and wishing good-night to the men who were still playing,sought our hats and left the club.

  We walked together as far as Danes' Inn, where we parted, Nugententering the Inn, while I continued my homeward walk alone. From theStrand to Torrington Square is a considerable distance; but I did notfeel inclined for sleep, and sauntered along in the steely light,enjoying the silence and solitude of the deserted streets, absorbed inmy own thoughts.

  What need I say about myself? Some envied me, I knew, for I chanced tobe the only son of a wealthy man who had died a few months before,leaving me a handsome fortune, together with a stately old mansion inNorthamptonshire. In the choice of a profession I had not altogetherpleased my father, the result being that the old gentleman was somewhatniggardly regarding my allowance, and in consequence of this I had liveda devil-may-care Bohemian life, earning a moderate living by my pen.But upon my father's death a change came, and now, instead of ahand-to-mouth existence, I found myself with an income which farexceeded my wildest expectations. This sudden affluence might haveturned the head of many a man, but it made very little difference to me.My friends, for the most part struggling artists and literary men,congratulated me upon my good fortune, probably believing that now I wasrich I should cut them. They were mistaken; I continued to live prettymuch as before, though I gave up literary work and devoted more time topleasure.

  Dreamily pondering over what I should do in the future, and heedless ofwhere my footsteps led me, I had crossed Holborn and was passing alongBedford Place, Bloomsbury, before I was aroused from my reverie.

  At that moment I was passing a rather large, handsome-looking house, ofa character somewhat superior to its neighbours, inasmuch as its outwardappearance had an air of wealth and prosperity. The other houses werein darkness, but the drawing-room of this particular one was brilliantlylit, the window being almost on a level with the pavement.

  A faint agonised cry caused me to pause in my walk. For some moments Istood before the gilt-topped railings listening, but no other soundgreeted my ears.

  My idle, reflective mood suddenly fled. Recalled from it by thestartling distinctness of the appeal--half-moan, half-scream, with itsintonation of anguish--an overwhelming curiosity possessed me.

  An ominous sound: what could it mean?

  Impelled by an involuntary inquisitiveness I resolved to ascertain, ifpossible, the cause of this midnight cry of distress.

  The gate leading to the front door was open. I crept inside andadvanced cautiously.

  Upon tiptoe I placed my face close to the glass of the window. At firstmy expectations seemed doomed, but to my intense joy I found a smallaperture between the blind and window-sash through which a glimpse ofthe interior could be obtained.

  My eager eyes fell upon a scene which caused me to start back with ascarcely repressed ejaculation of horror and surprise!

  A tragedy had been enacted!

  Stretched at full length upon the carpet was the form of a woman in awhite flimsy evening dress, the breast of which bore a large crimsonstain--the stain of blood!

  Utterly unable to make up my mind how to act, I stood rooted to thespot. A violent gust of wind swept down the street, causing the lightsin the lamps to flicker, and the branches of the stunted trees to groanbeneath its power.

  Just then the front door opened and closed noiselessly, and as I drewback into the shadow a man passed me so closely that I could touch him;and after glancing anxiously up and down the street, walked hurriedlyaway.

  As he brushed past, the light from a neighbouring street-lamp disclosedthe face of a young and rather handsome man, with dark eyes andcarefully waxed moustache--a face it was impossible to mistake.

  I hesitated a few seconds whether I should give the alarm and followhim. The echo of his retreating footsteps brought me to my senses, andI started off after the fugitive.

  As soon as he heard my footsteps behind him, however, he quickened hispace. I had gained on him until he was within a hundred yards or so,when he suddenly turned half-fearfully around, and started running asfast as his legs could carry him.

  I called upon him to stop, but he took no heed. We were soon in RussellSquare, and, crossing it, turned the corner at the Alexandra Hospitaland continued along Guilford Street into Gray's Inn Road. I was afairly good runner, yet though I exerted every muscle in my endeavoursto catch the man, nevertheless he gradually increased the distancebetween us.

  It was an exciting chase. If I could only meet a policeman no doubt wemight run him to earth by our combined efforts; but after the lapse offive minutes, without meeting one of the guardians of the public peace,the mysterious man dived into some intricate turnings, with which he wasevidently too well acquainted, and I was compelled to relinquish thepursuit.

  He had escaped!



  With some difficulty I at last found my way back to the house, but allwas quiet, and the passer-by would little dream of the terrible tragedythat had taken place within. I had no time for reflection, however, forI heard the well-known creaking footstep, and saw the flashing of adistant bull's-eye, betokening the arrival of a policeman from theopposite direction.

  Hastening to meet the constable, with excited gesture and confusedaccents, I told him of my horrible discovery. At first the man seemedinclined to disbelieve it, but seeing I was in earnest, accompanied meto the house, and peeped in at the window as directed.

  He started when his gaze fell upon the prostrate woman.

  "Do you know who lives 'ere?" he asked.

  "No. Haven't I told you I'm an utter stranger?" I replied.

  As I spoke he ran up the short flight of stone steps and pulled thelarge brass knob beside the door.

  Clear and distinct the deep-toned bell clanged out somewhere in theregions at the rear, but there was no response.

  As suddenly as it had risen the wind sank; the streets were silent, thehouses gloomy as rows of sepulchres tenanted only by the departed; andas the day broke, cold and grey, light fleecy clouds gathered over thewaning moon.

  Twice the constable tugged at the bell in his efforts to awaken theinmates of the house, but all
was still, save for the bark of a distantdog. Although we both strained our ears, no sounds of life wereapparent within.

  "Shall I go round to the station for help? I can find it if you willdirect me," I said to the man.

  "No; you stay 'ere. There's no necessity," replied he gruffly. "I'llsoon call my mates," and applying his whistle to his lips, he blew aseries of shrill calls, which were immediately answered by others.

  Ten minutes later three policemen had arrived, and, finding there was noentrance from the rear, had burst open the door.

  The houses adjoining were both empty, so no neighbours were awakened bythe noise.

  We entered undisturbed.

  From the spacious hall several doors opened right and left; whileimmediately opposite was a broad staircase.

  With but a hasty glance around we passed to a door which stood open, andfrom which a flood of light was issuing. There our eyes encountered aterrible sight.

  Lying on her back upon the carpet, with her arms outstretched above herhead, was a tall and undeniably beautiful