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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Daffodil Mystery - Chapter 11. "Thornton Lyne Is Dead"
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The Daffodil Mystery - Chapter 11. 'Thornton Lyne Is Dead' Post by :hectoryrosa Category :Long Stories Author :Edgar Wallace Date :May 2012 Read :1001

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The Daffodil Mystery - Chapter 11. "Thornton Lyne Is Dead"


For a time neither spoke. Tarling walked slowly forward, pulled a chair to the side of the bed and sat down, never once taking his eyes off the girl.

Odette Rider! The woman for whom the police of England were searching, against whom a warrant had been issued on a charge of wilful murder--and here, in a little country hospital. For a moment, and a moment only, Tarling was in doubt. Had he been standing outside the case and watching it as a disinterested spectator, or had this girl never come so closely into his life, bringing a new and a disturbing influence so that the very balance of his judgment was upset, he would have said that she was in hiding and had chosen this hospital for a safe retreat. The very name under which she was passing was fictitious--a suspicious circumstance in itself.

The girl's eyes did not leave his. He read in their clear depths a hint of terror and his heart fell. He had not realised before that the chief incentive he found in this case was not to discover the murderer of Thornton Lyne, but to prove that the girl was innocent.

"Mr. Tarling," she said with a queer little break in her voice, "I--I did not expect to see you."

It was a lame opening, and it seemed all the more feeble to her since she had so carefully rehearsed the statement she had intended making. For her waking moments, since the accident, had been filled with thoughts of this hard-faced man, what he would think, what he would say, and what, in certain eventualities, he would do.

"I suppose not," said Tarling gently. "I am sorry to hear you have had rather a shaking, Miss Rider."

She nodded, and a faint smile played about the corners of her mouth.

"It was nothing very much," she said. "Of course, it was very harried at first and--what do you want?"

The last words were blurted out. She could not keep up the farce of a polite conversation.

There was a moment's silence, and then Tarling spoke.

"I wanted to find you," he said, speaking slowly, and again he read her fear.

"Well," she hesitated, and then said desperately and just a little defiantly, "you have found me!"

Tarling nodded.

"And now that you have found me," she went on, speaking rapidly, "what do you want?"

She was resting on her elbow, her strained face turned towards him, her eyes slightly narrowed, watching him with an intensity of gaze which betrayed her agitation.

"I want to ask you a few questions," said Tarling, and slipped a little notebook from his pocket, balancing it upon his knee.

To his dismay the girl shook her head.

"I don't know that I am prepared to answer your questions," she said more calmly, "but there is no reason why you should not ask them."

Here was an attitude wholly unexpected. And Odette Rider panic-stricken he could understand. If she had burst into a fit of weeping, if she had grown incoherent in her terror, if she had been indignant or shame-faced--any of these displays would have fitted in with his conception of her innocence or apprehension of her guilt.

"In the first place," he asked bluntly, "why are you here under the name of Miss Stevens?"

She thought a moment, then shook her head.

"That is a question I am not prepared to answer," she said quietly.

"I won't press it for a moment," said Tarling, "because I realise that it is bound up in certain other extraordinary actions of yours, Miss Rider."

The girl flushed and dropped her eyes, and Tarling went on:

"Why did you leave London secretly, without giving your friends or your mother any inkling of your plans?"

She looked up sharply.

"Have you seen mother?" she asked quietly, and again her eyes were troubled.

"I've seen your mother," said Tarling. "I have also seen the telegram you sent to her. Come, Miss Rider, won't you let me help you? Believe me, a great deal more depends upon your answers than the satisfaction of my curiosity. You must realise how very serious your position is."

He saw her lips close tightly and she shook her head.

"I have nothing to say," she said with a catch of her breath. "If--if you think I have----"

She stopped dead.

"Finish your sentence," said Tarling sternly. "If I think you have committed this crime?"

She nodded.

He put away his notebook before he spoke again, and, leaning over the bed, took her hand.

"Miss Rider, I want to help you," he said earnestly, "and I can help you best if you're frank with me. I tell you I do not believe that you committed this act. I tell you now that though all the circumstances point to your guilt, I have absolute confidence that you can produce an answer to the charge."

For a moment her eyes filled with tears, but she bit her lip and smiled bravely into his face.

"That is good and sweet of you, Mr. Tarling, and I do appreciate your kindness. But I can't tell you anything--I can't, I can't!" She gripped his wrist in her vehemence, and he thought she was going to break down, but again, with an extraordinary effort of will which excited his secret admiration, she controlled herself.

"You're going to think very badly of me," she said, "and I hate the thought, Mr. Tarling--you don't know how I hate it. I want you to think that I am innocent, but I am going to make no effort to prove that I was not guilty."

"You're mad!" he interrupted her roughly "Stark, raving mad! You must do something, do you hear? You've got to do something."

She shook her head, and the little hand which rested on his closed gently about two of his fingers.

"I can't," she said simply. "I just can't."

Tarling pushed back the chair from the bed. He could have groaned at the hopelessness of the girl's case. If she had only given him one thread that would lead him to another clue, if she only protested her innocence! His heart sank within him, and he could only shake his head helplessly.

"Suppose," he said huskily, "that you are charged with this--crime. Do you mean to tell me that you will not produce evidence that could prove your innocence, that you will make no attempt to defend yourself?"

She nodded.

"I mean that," she said.

"My God! You don't know what you're saying," he cried, starting up. "You're mad, Odette, stark mad!"

She only smiled for the fraction of a second, and that at the unconscious employment of her Christian name.

"I'm not at all mad," she said. "I am very sane."

She looked at him thoughtfully, and then of a sudden seemed to shrink back, and her face went whiter. "You--you have a warrant for me!" she whispered.

He nodded.

"And you're going to arrest me?"

He shook his head.

"No," he said briefly. "I am leaving that to somebody else. I have sickened of the case, and I'm going out of it."

"He sent you here," she said slowly.


"Yes--I remember. You were working with him, or he wanted you to work with him."

"Of whom are you speaking?" asked Tarling quickly.

"Thornton Lyne," said the girl.

Tarling leaped to his feet and stared down at her.

"Thornton Lyne?" he repeated. "Don't you know?"

"Know what?" asked the girl with a frown.

"That Thornton Lyne is dead," said Tarling, "and that it is for his murder that a warrant has been issued for your arrest?"

She looked at him for a moment with wide, staring eyes.

"Dead!" she gasped. "Dead! Thornton Lyne dead! You don't mean that, you don't mean that?" She clutched at Tarling's arm. "Tell me that isn't true! He did not do it, he dare not do it!"

She swayed forward, and Tarling, dropping on his knees beside the bed, caught her in his arms as she fainted.

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