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“A shock ?" He looked at me curiously. "What sort of a shock ?"
“I will tell you when you have ordered the brandy. I really am in need of something to revive me. I fancy my nervous system must be altogether out of order.”
He rang the bell. I sank into an easy-chair, really grateful for the support which it afforded me. Although he sat still I was conscious that his eyes were on me all the time. When the waiter had brought the brandy Mr. Davis gave reins to his curiosity.
“I hope that nothing serious has happened.”
“It depends upon what you call serious.” I paused to allow the spirit to take effect. It did me good. “You remember what I told you about the strange sound which was uttered by the creature which robbed me in the train. I have heard that sound again.”
“Indeed?” He observed me attentively. I had thought he would be sceptical—he was not. “ Can you describe the sound?”
“It is difficult to describe, though when it is once heard it is impossible not to recognise it when it is heard again." I shuddered as I thought of it. “It is like the cry of some wild beast when in a state of frenzy—just a short, jerky, half-strangled yelp."
“May I ask what were the circumstances under which you heard it ?"
“I was looking at the sea in front of Hesketh Crescent. I heard it close behind me, not once, but twice. And the second time 1--I saw the face which I saw in the train.”
I took another drink of brandy. I fancy that Mr. Davis saw how even the mere recollection affected me.
“Do you think that your assailant could by any possibility have been a woman?”
He produced from his pocket a pocket-book, and from the pocket-book a photograph. He handed it to me. I regarded it intently. It was not a good photograph, but it was a strange one. The more I looked at it the more it grew upon me that there was a likeness-a dim and fugitive likeness, but still a likeness to the face which had glared at me only half an hour before.
“But surely this is not a woman?”
“I do, and I don't. In the portrait the face, as I know it, is grossly flattered, and yet in the portrait it is sufficiently hideous,"
Mr. Davis stood up. He seemed a little excited.
“I believe I have hit it !"
“The portrait which you hold in your hand is the portrait of a criminal lunatic who escaped last week from Broadmoor.”
"A criminal lunatic !”
As I looked at the portrait I perceived that it was the face of a lunatic.
“The woman—for it is a woman-is a perfect devil, as artful as she is wicked. She was there during Her Majesty's pleasure for a murder which was attended with details of horrible cruelty. She was more than suspected of having had a hand in other crimes. Since that portrait was taken she deliberately burnt her face with a red-hot poker, disfiguring herself almost beyond recognition.”
"There is another circumstance which I should mention, Mr. Davis. Do you know that this morning I saw the young gentleman too ?”
The detective stared. “What young gentleman ?” “ The young fellow who got into the train at Swindon, and who offered me his flask."
“You saw him! Where?”.
“That is the odd part of the thing. You will say there is something odd about everything I tell you, and, I must confess, there is. When you left me this morning I wrote a letter ; when I had written it I left the room. As I was going along the corridor I saw, in front of me, the young man who was with me in the train.”
“You are sure it was he?”
“Certain! When first I saw him he had his back to me. I suppose he heard me coming. Anyhow, he turned, and we were face to face. The recognition, I believe, was mutual, because as I advanced— ”
" He cut his lucky ?"
“I did. I made no bones about it. I was not three seconds after him, but when I entered the room was empty.”
“Empty!" “ It was an ordinary sitting-room like this, but on the other side
of it there was a door. I tried that door. It was locked. I rapped
I laughed. The idea of instituting any comparison between the horror in the portrait and that vision of health and loveliness was too ludicrous.
“She was a lady who is stopping in the hotel, with whom I already had had some conversation, and who is about as unlike that portrait as anything could possibly be-a Mrs. Jaynes.”
“Jaynes ? A Mrs. Jaynes ?” The detective bit his finger-nails. He seemed to be turning something over in his mind. “And did you see the man ?"
“That is where the oddness of the thing comes in. She declared that there was no man.”
“What do you mean?”
“She declared that no one had been near her bedroom while she had been in it. That there was no one in it at that particular moment is beyond a doubt, because she opened the door to let me see. I am inclined to think, upon reflection, that, after all, the man may have been concealed in the outer room, that I overlooked him in my haste, and that he made good his escape while I was knocking at the lady's door.”
“But if he had a finger in the pie that knocks the other theory upon the head." He nodded towards the portrait which I still was holding in my hand. “A man like that would scarcely have such a pal as Mary Brooker.”
"I confess, Mr. Davis, that the whole affair is a mystery to me. I suppose that your theory is that the flask out of which I drunk was drugged ?"
“I should say upon the face of it that there can't be two doubts about that.” The detective stood reflecting. “I should like to have a look at this Mrs. Jaynes. I will have a look at her. I'll go down to the office here, and I think it's just possible that I may be treated to a peep at her room."
When he had gone I was haunted by the thought of that criminal lunatic, who was at least so far sane that she had been able to make good her escape from Broadmoor. It was when Mr. Davis had left me that I discovered that he had left the portrait behind him. I looked at it. What a face it was !
“ Think,” I said to myself, "of being left at the mercy of such a woman as that !”
The words had scarcely left my lips, when, without any warning, the door of my room opened, and, just as I was taking it for granted that it was Mr. Davis come back for the portrait, in walked the young man with whom I had travelled in the train ! He was dressed exactly as he had been yesterday, and wore the same indefinable but unmistakable something which denotes good breeding.
“Excuse me,” he observed, as he stood with the handle of the door in one hand and his hat in the other, “but I believe you are the gentleman with whom I travelled yesterday from Swindon ?" In my surprise I was for a moment tongue-tied. “I do not think I have made a mistake.”
"No," I said, or rather stammered, "you have not made a mistake.”
“It is only by a fortunate accident that I have just learnt that you are staying in the hotel. Pardon my intrusion, but when I changed carriages at Exeter I left behind me a cigar-case."
“A cigar-case ?"
“Did you notice it? I thought perhaps it might have caught your eye. It was a present to me, and one I greatly valued. It matched this Aask.”
Coming a step or two towards me he held out a flask—the identical flask from which I had drunk! I stared alternately at him and at his flask.
“I was not aware that you changed carriages at Exeter."
“A singular thing happened to me before I reached my journey's end-a singular and a disagreeable thing."
“ How do you mean?”
“ Did you notice anybody get into the carriage when you, as you say, got out?”
“Not that I am aware of. You know it was pretty dark. Why, good gracious! is it possible that after all it wasn't my imagination ?"
“What wasn't your imagination ? "
He came closer to me--so close that he touched my sleeve with his gloved hand.
“Do you know why I left the carriage when I did ? I left it
because I was bothered by the thought that there was someone in it besides us two."
“Someone in it besides us two ?”
“Someone underneath the seat. I was dozing off as you were doing. More than once I woke up under the impression that someone was twitching at my legs beneath the seat, pinching them-even pricking them."
“Did you not look to see if anyone was there?”
“You will laugh at me, but-I suppose I was silly-something restrained me. I preferred to make a bolt of it, and become the victim of my own imagination.”
“You left me to become the victim of something besides your imagination, if what you say is correct.”
All at once the stranger made a dart at the table. I suppose he had seen the portrait lying 'there, because, without any sort of ceremony, he picked it up and stared at it. As I observed him, , commenting inwardly upon the fellow's coolness, I distinctly saw a shudder
pass all over him. Possibly it was a shudder of aversion because, when he had stared his fill, he turned to me and asked
“Who, may I ask, is this hideous-looking creature?”
“That is a criminal lunatic who has escaped from Broadmoorone Mary Brooker.”
"Mary Brooker ! Mary Brooker ! Mary Brooker's face will haunt me for many a day.”
He laid the portrait down hesitatingly, as if it had for him some dreadful fascination which made him reluctant to let it go. Wholly at a loss what to say or do, whether to detain the man or to permit him to depart, I turned away and moved across the room. The instant I did so I heard behind me the sharp, frenzied yelp which I had heard in the train, and which I had heard again when I had been looking at the sea in front of Hesketh Crescent. I turned as on a pivot. The young man was staring at me.
“Did you hear that ?” he said.
“Good God !” He was shuddering so that it seemed to me that he could scarcely stand. “Do you know that it was that sound coming from underneath the seat in the carriage which made me make a bolt of it? I—I'm afraid you must excuse me. There-there's my card. I'm staying at the Royal. I will perhaps look you up again to-morrow."
Before I had recovered my presence of mind sufficiently to interfere he had moved to the door and was out of the room. As