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Chapter 27

  • For the next five or six weeks life ran on merrily enough for Cleek; s_errily, in fact, that Dollops came to be quite accustomed to hear hi_histling about the house and to see him go up the stairs two steps at a tim_henever he had occasion to mount them for any purpose whatsoever.
  • It would not have needed any abnormally acute mind, any process of subtl_easoning, to get at the secret of all this exuberance, this perennial flow o_igh spirits; indeed, one had only to watch the letter box at Number 204, Clarges Street, to get at the bottom of it instantly; for twice a week th_ostman dropped into it a letter addressed in an undoubtedly feminine "hand"
  • to Captain Horatio Burbage, and invariably postmarked "Lynhaven, Devon."
  • Dollops had made that discovery long ago and had put his conclusions regardin_t into the mournfully-uttered sentence: "A skirt's got him!" But, after on_iolent pang of fierce and rending jealousy, was grateful to that "skirt" fo_ringing happiness to the man he loved above all other things upon earth an_hose welfare was the dearest of his heart's desires. Indeed, he grew, i_ime, to watch as eagerly for the coming of those letters as did his maste_imself; and he could have shouted with delight whenever he heard th_ostman's knock, and saw one of the regulation blue-grey envelopes dro_hrough the slit into the wire cage on the door.
  • Cleek, too, was delighted when he saw them. It was nothing to him that th_otes they contained were of the briefest—mere records of the state of th_eather, the progress of his little lordship, the fact that Lady Chepsto_ished to be remembered and that the writer was well "and hoped he, too, was."
  • They were written by _her_ —that was enough. He gave so much that very littl_ufficed him in return; and the knowledge that he had been in her mind for th_ive or ten minutes which it had taken to write the few lines she sent him, made him exceedingly happy.
  • But she was not his only correspondent in these days—not even his mos_requent one. For a warm, strong friendship—first sown in those ante-Derb_ays—had sprung up between Sir Henry Wilding and himself and had deepene_teadily into a warm feeling of comradeship and mutual esteem. Frequen_etters passed between them; and the bond of fellowship had become so strong _hing that Sir Henry never came to town without their meeting and dinin_ogether.
  • "Gad! you know, I can't bring myself to think of you as a police-officer, ol_hap!" was the way Sir Henry put it on the day when he first invited him t_unch with him at his club. "I'd about as soon think of sitting down with on_f my grooms as breaking bread with one of that lot; and I shall never get i_ut of my head that you're a gentleman going in for this sort of thing as _obby—never b'Gad! if I live to be a hundred."
  • "I hope you will come nearer to doing that than you have to guessing the trut_bout me," replied Cleek, with a smile. "Take my word for it, won't you?—thi_hing is my profession. I don't do it as a mere hobby: I live by it—I have n_ther means of living _but_ by it. I am—what I am, and nothing more."
  • "Oh, gammon! Why not tell me at once that you are a winkle stall-keeper and b_one with it? You can't tell a fish that another fish is a turnip—at least yo_an't and expect him to believe it. Own up, old chap. I know a man of birt_hen I meet him. Tell me who you are, Cleek—I'll respect it."
  • "I don't doubt that—the addition is superfluous."
  • "Then who are you? What are you, Cleek? Eh?"
  • "What you have called me—'Cleek.' Cleek the detective, Cleek of the Fort_aces, if you prefer it; but just 'Cleek' and nothing more. Don't get t_uilding romances about me merely because I have the _instincts_ of _entleman, Sir Henry. Just simply remember that Nature _does_ make mistake_ometimes; that she has been known to put a horse's head on a sheep'_houlders and to make a navvy's son look more royal than a prince. I am Cleek, the detective—simply Cleek. Let it go at that."
  • And as there was no alternative, Sir Henry did.
  • It made no difference in their friendship, however. Police officer or not, h_iked and he respected the man, and made no visit to town without meeting an_ntertaining him.
  • So matters stood between them when on a certain Thursday in mid September h_ame up unexpectedly from Wilding Hall and 'phoned through to Clarges Street, asking Cleek to dine with him that night at the Club of the Two Services.
  • Cleek accepted the invitation gladly and was not a little surprised o_rriving to find that, in this instance, dinner was to be served in a littl_rivate room and that a third party was also to partake of it.
  • "Dear chap, pardon me for taking you unawares," said Sir Henry, as Clee_ntered the private room and found himself in the presence of a decidedl_ilitary-looking man long past middle life, "but the fact is that immediatel_fter I had telephoned you, I encountered a friend and a—er—peculia_ircumstance arose which impelled me to secure a private room and to—er—thro_yself upon your good graces as it were. Let me have the pleasure, dear chap, of introducing you to my friend, Major Burnham-Seaforth. Major, you are a_ast in the presence of the gentleman of whom I spoke—Mr. Cleek."
  • "Mr. Cleek, I am delighted," said the Major, offering his hand. "I have hear_our praises sung so continuously the past two hours that I feel as if _lready knew you."
  • "Ah, you mustn't mind all that Sir Henry says," replied Cleek, as he shoo_ands with him. "He makes mountains out of millstones, and would panegyriz_he most commonplace of men if he happened to take a fancy to him. You mustn'_elieve all that Sir Henry says and thinks, Major."
  • "I shall be happy, Mr. Cleek, if I can really hope to believe the half of it,"
  • replied the Major, enigmatically—and was prevented from saying more by th_rrival of the waiter and the serving of dinner.
  • It was not until the meal was over and coffee and cigars had been served an_he too attentive waiter had taken his departure that Cleek understood tha_emark or realised what it portended. But even then, it was not the Major wh_xplained.
  • "My dear Cleek," said Sir Henry, lowering his voice and leaning over th_able, "I hope you will not think I have taken a mean advantage of you, but _ave brought the Major here to-night for a purpose. He has, in fact, come t_onsult you professionally; and upon my recommendation. Do you object to that, or may I go on?"
  • "Go on by all means," replied Cleek. "I fancy you know very well that there i_othing you might ask of me that I would not at least attempt to do, dea_hap."
  • "Thanks very much. Well then, the Major has come, my dear Cleek, to ask you t_elp in unravelling a puzzle of singular and mystifying interest. Now you ma_r may not have heard of a Music Hall artiste—a sort of conjurer an_mpersonator combined—called Zyco the Magician, who was once very popular an_as assisted in his illusions by a veiled but reputedly beautiful Turkish lad_ho was billed on the programmes and posters as 'Zuilika, the Caliph'_aughter.'"
  • "I remember the pair very well indeed," said Cleek. "They toured the Musi_alls for years, and I saw their performance frequently. They were among th_irst, I believe, to produce that afterwards universal illusion known as 'Th_anishing Lady.' As I have not heard anything of them nor seen their name_illed for a couple of years past, I fancy they have either retired from th_rofession or gone to some other part of the world. The man was not only _ery clever magician, but a master of mimicry. I always believed, however, that in spite of his name he was of English birth. The woman's face I neve_aw, of course, as she was always veiled to the eyes after the manner o_urkish ladies. But although a good many persons suspected that her birthplac_as no nearer Bagdad than Peckham, I somehow felt that she was, after all, _enuine, native-born Turk."
  • "You are quite right in both suspicions, Mr. Cleek," put in the Majo_gitatedly. "The man _was_ an Englishman; the lady _is_ a Turk."
  • "May I ask, Major, why you speak of the lady in the present tense and of th_an in the past? Is he dead?"
  • "I hope so," responded the Major fervently. "God knows I do, Mr. Cleek. M_very hope in life depends upon that."
  • "May I ask why?"
  • "I am desirous of marrying his widow!"
  • "My dear Major, you cannot possibly be serious! A woman of that class?"
  • "Pardon me, sir, but you have, for all your cleverness, fallen a victim to th_revailing error. The lady is in every way my social equal—in her own countr_y superior. She _is_ a caliph's daughter. The title which the playgoin_ublic imagined was of the usual bombastic, just-on-the-programme sort, i_ers by right. Her late father, Caliph Al Hamid Sulaiman, was one of th_ichest and most powerful Mohammedans in existence. He died five months ago, leaving an immense fortune to be conveyed to England to his exiled bu_orgiven child."
  • "Ah, I see. Then, naturally, of course—"
  • "The suggestion is unworthy of you, Sir Henry, and anything but complimentar_o me. The inheritance of this money has had nothing whatever to do with m_eelings for the lady. That began two years ago, when, by accident, I wa_ermitted to look upon her face for the first, last, and only time. I shoul_till wish to marry her if she were an absolute pauper. I know what you ar_aying to yourself, sir: 'There is no fool like an old fool.' Well, perhap_here isn't. But—" he turned to Cleek—"I may as well begin at the beginnin_nd confess that even if I did not desire to marry the lady I should stil_ave a deep interest in her husband's death, Mr. Cleek. He is—or was, i_ead—the only son of my cousin, the Earl of Wynraven, who is now over ninet_ears of age. I am in the direct line, and if this Lord Norman Ulchester, who_ou and the public know only as 'Zyco the Magician,' were in his grave ther_ould only be that one feeble old man between me and the title."
  • "Ah, I see!" said Cleek, in reply; then, seating himself at the table, h_rranged the shade of the lamp so that the light fell full upon the Major'_ace while leaving his own in the shadow. "Then your interest in the affair, Major, may be said to be a double one."
  • "More, sir—a triple one. I have a rival in the shape of my own son. He, too, wishes to marry Zuilika—is madly enamoured of her, in fact; so wildly that _ave always hesitated to confess my own desires to him for fear of th_onsequences. He is almost a madman in his outbursts of temper; and wher_uilika is concerned—Perhaps you will understand, Mr. Cleek, when I tell yo_hat once when he thought her husband had ill-used her, he came within an ac_f killing the man. There was bad blood between them always—even as boys—and, as men, it was bitterer than ever because of _her_."
  • "Suppose you begin at the beginning and tell me the whole story, Major,"
  • suggested Cleek, studying the man's face narrowly. "How did the Earl o_ynraven's son come to meet this singularly fascinating lady, and where?"
  • "In Turkey—or Arabia—I forget which. He was doing his theatrical nonsense i_he East with some barn-storming show or other, having been obliged to get ou_f England to escape arrest for some shady transaction a year before. He wa_lways a bad egg—always a disgrace to his name and connections. That's why hi_ather turned him off and never would have any more to do with him. As a bo_e was rather clever at conjuring tricks and impersonations of all sorts—h_ould mimic anything or anybody he ever saw, from the German Emperor down to _aiety chorus girl, and do it to absolute perfection. When his father kicke_im out he turned these natural gifts to account, and, having fallen in wit_ome professional dancing-woman, joined her for a time and went on the stag_ith her.
  • "It was after he had parted from this dancer and was knocking about London an_eading a disgraceful life generally that he did the thing which caused him t_urry off to the East and throw in his lot with the travelling company I hav_lluded to. He was always a handsome fellow and had a way with him that wa_onderfully taking with women, so I suppose that that accounts as much a_nything for Zuilika's infatuation and her doing the mad thing she did. _on't know when nor where nor how they first met; but the foolish girl simpl_ent off her head over him, and he appears to have been as completel_nfatuated with her. Of course, in that land, the idea of a woman of her sect, of her standing, having anything to do with a Frank was looked upon a_omething appalling, something akin to sacrilege; and when they found that he_ather had got wind of it and that the fellow's life would not be safe if h_emained within reach another day, they flew to the coast together, shippe_or England, and were married immediately after their arrival."
  • "A highly satisfactory termination for the lady," commented Cleek. "One coul_ardly have expected that from a man so hopelessly unprincipled as yo_epresent him to have always been. But there's a bit of good in even th_evil, we are told."
  • "Oh, be sure that he didn't marry her from any principle of honour, my dea_ir," replied the Major. "If it were merely a question of that, he'd have cu_oose from her as soon as the vessel touched port. Consideration of self rule_im in that as in all other things. He knew that the girl's father fairl_dolised her; knew that, in time, his wrath would give way to his love, and, sooner or later, the old man—who had been mad at the idea of an_arriage—would be moved to settle a large sum upon her so that she might neve_e in want. But let me get on with my story. Having nothing when he returne_o England, and being obliged to cover up his identity by assuming anothe_ame, Ulchester, after vainly appealing to his father for help on the ple_hat he was now honourably married and settled down, turned again to th_tage, and, repugnant though such a thing was to the delicately-nurtured woma_e had married, compelled Zuilika to become his assistant and to go on th_oards with him. That is how the afterwards well-known music-hall 'team' of
  • 'Zyco and the Caliph's Daughter' came into existence.
  • "The novelty of their 'turn' caught on like wild fire, and they were a succes_rom the first, not a little of that success being due to the myster_urrounding the identity and appearance of Zuilika; for, true to th_raditions of her native land, she never appeared, either in public or i_rivate, without being closely veiled. Only her 'lord' was ever permitted t_ook upon her uncovered face; all that the world at large might ever hope t_ehold of it was the low, broad forehead and the two brilliant eyes tha_ppeared above the close-drawn line of her yashmak. Of course she shrank fro_he life into which she was forced; but it had its reward, for it kept her i_lose contact with her husband, whom she almost worshipped. So, for a time, she was proportionately happy; although, as the years passed by and her fathe_howed no inclination to bestow the coveted 'rich allowance' upon hi_aughter, Ulchester's ardour began to cool. He no longer treated her with th_ame affectionate deference; he neglected her, in fact, and, in the end, eve_egan to ill-use her.
  • "About two years ago, matters assumed a worse aspect. He again met Anit_osario, the Spanish dancer, under whose guidance he had first turned to th_alls for a livelihood, and once more took up with her. He seemed to have los_ll thought or care for the feelings of his wife, for, after torturing he_ith jealousy over his attentions to the dancer, he took a house adjoining m_wn—on the borders of the most unfrequented part of the common a_imbledon—established himself and Zuilika there, and brought the woman Anit_ome to live with them. From that period matters went from bad to worse.
  • Evidently having tired of the stage, both Ulchester and Anita abandoned it, and turned the house into a sort of club where gambling was carried on to _isgraceful extent. Broken-hearted over the treatment she was receiving, Zuilika appealed to me and to my son to help her in her distress—to devis_ome plan to break the spell of Ulchester's madness and to get that woman ou_f the house. It was then that I first beheld her face. In her excitement sh_anaged, somehow, to snap or loosen the fastening which held her yashmak, an_t fell—fell, and let my son realise, as I realised, how wondrously beautifu_t is possible for the human face to be!"
  • "Steady, Major, steady! I can quite understand your feelings—can realis_etter than most men!" said Cleek with a sort of sigh. "You looked int_eaven, and—well, what then? Let's have the rest of the story."
  • "I think my son must have put it into her head to give Ulchester a taste o_is own medicine—to attempt to excite his jealousy by pretending to fin_nterests elsewhere. At any rate, she began to show him a great deal o_ttention—or, at least, so he says, although I never saw it. All I know i_hat she—she—well, sir, she deliberately led _me_ on until I was half insan_ver her, and—that's all!"
  • "What do you mean by 'that's all'? The matter couldn't possibly have ende_here, or else why this appeal to me?"
  • "It ended for me, so far as her affectionate treatment of me was concerned; for in the midst of it the unexpected happened. Her father died, forgivin_er, as Ulchester had hoped, but doing more than his wildest dreams could hav_iven him cause to imagine possible. In a word, sir, the caliph not onl_estowed his entire earthly possessions upon her, but had them conveyed t_ngland by trusted allies and placed in her hands. There were coffers of gol_ieces, jewels of fabulous value—sufficient, when converted into Englis_oney, as they were within the week, and deposited to her credit in the Ban_f England, to make her the sole possessor of nearly three million pounds."
  • "Phew!" whistled Cleek. "When these Orientals do it they certainly do i_roperly. That's what you might call 'giving with both hands,' Major, eh?"
  • "The gift did not end with that, sir," the Major replied with a gesture o_epulsion. "There was a gruesome, ghastly, appalling addition in the shape o_wo mummy cases—one empty, the other filled. A parchment accompanying thes_tated that the caliph could not sleep elsewhere but in the land of hi_athers, nor sleep _there_ until his beloved child rested beside him. They ha_een parted in life, but they should not be parted in death. An Egyptian had, therefore, been summoned to his bedside, had been given orders to embalm hi_fter death, to send the mummy to Zuilika, and with it a case in which, whe_er own death should occur, _her_ body should be deposited; and followers o_he prophet had taken oath to see that both were carried to their native lan_nd entombed side by side. Until death came to relieve her of this ghastl_uty, Zuilika was charged to be the guardian of the mummy and daily to mak_he orisons of the faithful before it, keeping it always with its face toward_he East."
  • "By George! it sounds like a page from the 'Arabian Nights,'" exclaimed Cleek.
  • "Well, what next? Did Ulchester take kindly to this housing of the mummy o_is father-in-law and the eventual coffin of his wife? Or was he willing t_tand for anything so long as he got possession of the huge fortune the ol_an left?"
  • "He never did get it, Mr. Cleek—he never touched so much as one farthing o_t. Zuilika took nobody into her confidence until everything had bee_onverted into English gold and deposited in the bank to her credit. Then sh_ent straight to him and to Anita, showed them proof of the deposit, revile_hem for their treatment of her, and swore that not one farthing's benefi_hould accrue to Ulchester until Anita was turned out of the house in th_resence of their guests and the husband took oath on his knees to join th_ife in those daily prayers before the caliph's mummy. Furthermore, Ulcheste_as to embrace the faith of the Mohammedans that he might return with her a_nce to the land and the gods she had offended by marriage with a Frankis_nfidel."
  • "Which, of course, he declined to do?"
  • "Yes. He declined utterly. But it was a case of the crushed worm, wit_uilika. Now was _her_ turn; and she would not abate one jot or tittle. Ther_as a stormy scene, of course. It ended by Ulchester and the woman Anit_eaving the house together. From that hour Zuilika never again heard hi_iving voice, never again saw his living face! He seems to have gone wild wit_rath over what he had lost and to have plunged headlong into the maddest sor_f dissipation. It is known—positively known, and can be sworn to by reputabl_itnesses—that for the next three days he did not draw one sober breath. O_he fourth, a note from him—a note which he was _seen_ to write in a publi_ouse—was carried to Zuilika. In that note he cursed her with ever_onceivable term; told her that when she got it he would be at the bottom o_he river, driven there by her conduct, and that if it was possible for th_ead to come back and haunt people he'd do it. Two hours after he wrote tha_ote he was seen getting out of the train at Tilbury and going towards th_ocks; but from that moment to this every trace of him is lost."
  • "Ah, I see!" said Cleek reflectively. "And you want to find out if he reall_arried out that threat and did put an end to himself, I suppose? That's wh_ou have come to me, eh? Frankly, I don't believe that he did, Major. Tha_ort of a man never commits suicide upon so slim a pretext as that. If h_ommits it at all, it's because he is at the end of his tether—and our friend
  • 'Zyco' seems to have been a long way from the end of his. How does the lad_ake it? Seriously?"
  • "Oh, very, sir, very. Of course, to a woman of her temperament and with he_riental ideas regarding the supernatural, _et cetera_ , that threat to haun_er was the worst he could have done to her. At first she was absolutel_eside herself with grief and horror; swore that she had killed him by he_ruelty; that there was nothing left her but to die, and all that sort o_hing; and for three days she was little better than a mad woman. At the en_f that time, after the fashion of her people, she retired to her own room, covered herself with sackcloth and ashes, and remained hidden from all eye_or the space of a fortnight, weeping and wailing constantly and touchin_othing but bread and water."
  • "Poor wretch! She suffers like that, then, over a rascally fellow not worth _ingle tear. It's marvellous, Major, what women do see in men that they can g_n loving them. Has she come out of her retirement yet?"
  • "Yes, Mr. Cleek. She came out of it five days ago, to all appearances _horoughly heart-broken woman. Of course as she was all alone in the world, m_on and I considered it our duty, during the time of her wildness and despair, to see that a thoroughly respectable female was called in to take charge o_he house and to show respect for the proprieties, and for us to take up ou_bode there in order to prevent her from doing herself an injury. We are stil_omiciled there, but it will surprise you to learn that a most undesirabl_erson is there also. In short, sir, that the woman Anita Rosario, the caus_f all the trouble, is again an inmate of the house; and what is mor_emarkable still, this time by Zuilika's own request."
  • "What's that? My dear Major, you amaze me! What can possibly have caused th_ood lady to do a thing like that?"
  • "She hopes, she says, to appease the dead and to avert the threatened
  • 'haunting.' At all events, she sent for Anita some days ago. Indeed, I believ_t is her intention to take the Spaniard with her when she returns to th_ast."
  • "She intends doing that, then? She is so satisfied of her husband's death tha_he deems no further question necessary. Intends to take no further ste_oward proving it?"
  • "It has been proved to her satisfaction. His body was recovered the day befor_esterday."
  • "Oho! then he is dead, eh? Why didn't you say so in the beginning? When di_ou learn of it?"
  • "This very evening. That is what brings me here. I learned from Zuilika that _ody answering the description of his had been fished from the water a_ilbury and carried to the mortuary. It was horribly disfigured—by contac_ith the piers and passing vessels—but she and Anita—and—and my son—"
  • "Your son, Major? Your son?"
  • "Yes!" replied the Major in a sort of half-whisper. "They—they took him wit_hem when they went, unknown to me. He has become rather friendly with th_panish woman of late. All three saw the body; all three identified it a_eing Ulchester's beyond a doubt."
  • "And you? Surely when you see it you will be able to satisfy any misgiving_ou may have?"
  • "I shall never see it, Mr. Cleek. It was claimed when identified and burie_ithin twelve hours," said the Major, glancing up sharply as Cleek, receivin_his piece of information, blew out a soft, low whistle. "I was not tol_nything about it until this evening, and what I have done—in coming to you, _ean—I have done with nobody's knowledge. I—I am so horribly in the dark—_ave such fearful thoughts and—and I want to be sure. I must be sure or _hall go out of my mind. That's the 'case,' Mr. Cleek—tell me what you thin_f it."
  • "I can do that in a very few words, Major," he replied. "It is either _igantic swindle or it is a clear case of murder. If a swindle, then Ulcheste_imself is at the bottom of it and it will end in murder just the same.
  • Frankly, the swindle theory strikes me as being the more probable; in othe_ords, that the whole thing is a put-up game between Ulchester and the woma_nita; that they played upon Zuilika's fear of the supernatural for a purpose; that a body was procured and sunk in that particular spot for the furtheranc_f that purpose; and if the widow attempts to put into execution this plan—n_oubt instilled into her mind by Anita—of returning with her wealth to he_ative land, she will simply be led into some safe place and then effectuall_ut out of the way for ever. That is what I think of the case if it is to b_egarded in the light of a swindle; but if Ulchester is really dead, murder, not suicide, is at the back of his taking off, and—Oh, well, we won't sa_nything more about it just yet awhile. I shall want to look over the groun_efore I jump to any conclusions. You are still stopping in the house, you an_our son, I think you remarked? If you could contrive to put up an old arm_riend's son there for a night, Major, give me the address. I'll drop in o_ou to-morrow and have a little look round."