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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Daffodil Mystery - Chapter 19. Ling Chu Tells The Truth
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The Daffodil Mystery - Chapter 19. Ling Chu Tells The Truth Post by :hammer23 Category :Long Stories Author :Edgar Wallace Date :May 2012 Read :3373

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The Daffodil Mystery - Chapter 19. Ling Chu Tells The Truth

CHAPTER XIX. LING CHU TELLS THE TRUTH

The firm of Dashwood and Solomon occupied a narrow-fronted building in the heart of the City of London. Its reputation stood as high as any, and it numbered amongst its clients the best houses in Britain. Both partners had been knighted, and it was Sir Felix Solomon who received Tarling in his private office.

Sir Felix was a tall, good-looking man, well past middle age, rather brusque of manner but kindly withal, and he looked up over his glasses as the detective entered.

"Scotland Yard, eh?" he said, glancing at Tarling's card. "Well, I can give you exactly five minutes, Mr. Tarling. I presume you've come to see me about the Lyne accounts?"

Tarling nodded.

"We have not been able to start on these yet," said Sir Felix, "though we are hoping to go into them to-morrow. We're terribly rushed just now, and we've had to get in an extra staff to deal with this new work the Government has put on us--by-the-way, you know that we are not Lyne's accountants; they are Messrs. Purbrake & Store, but we have taken on the work at the request of Mr. Purbrake, who very naturally wishes to have an independent investigation, as there seems to be some question of defalcation on the part of one of the employees. This, coupled with the tragic death of Mr. Lyne, has made it all the more necessary that an outside firm should be called in to look into the books."

"That I understand," said Tarling, "and of course, the Commissioner quite appreciates the difficulty of your task. I've come along rather to procure information for my own purpose as I am doubly interested----"

Sir Felix looked up sharply.

"Mr. Tarling?" he repeated, looking at the card again. "Why, of course! I understand that letters of administration are to be applied for on your behalf?"

"I believe that is so," said Tarling quietly. "But my interest in the property is more or less impersonal at the moment. The manager of the business is a Mr. Milburgh."

Sir Felix nodded.

"He has been most useful and helpful," he said. "And certainly, if the vague rumours I have heard have any substantial foundation--namely, that Milburgh is suspected of robbing the firm--then he is assuredly giving us every assistance to convict himself."

"You have all the books in your keeping?"

"Absolutely," replied Sir Felix emphatically. "The last three books, unearthed by Mr. Milburgh himself, came to us only this morning. In fact, those are they," he pointed to a brown paper parcel standing on a smaller table near the window. The parcel was heavily corded and was secured again by red tape, which was sealed.

Sir Felix leaned over and pressed a bell on the table, and a clerk came in.

"Put those books with the others in the strong-room," he said, and when the man had disappeared, staggering under the weight of the heavy volumes he turned to Tarling.

"We're keeping all the books and accounts of Lyne's Stores in a special strong-room," he said. "They are all under seal, and those seals will be broken in the presence of Mr. Milburgh, as an interested party, and a representative of the Public Prosecutor."

"When will this be?" asked Tarling.

"To-morrow afternoon, or possibly to-morrow morning. We will notify Scotland Yard as to the exact hour, because I suppose you will wish to be represented."

He rose briskly, thereby ending the interview.

It was another dead end, thought Tarling, as he went out into St. Mary Axe and boarded a westward-bound omnibus. The case abounded in these culs-de-sac which seemed to lead nowhere. Cul-de-sac No. 1 had been supplied by Odette Rider; cul-de-sac No. 2 might very easily lead to the dead end of Milburgh's innocence.

He felt a sense of relief, however, that the authorities had acted so promptly in impounding Lyne's books. An examination into these might lead to the discovery of the murderer, and at any rate would dispel the cloud of suspicion which still surrounded Odette Rider.

He had gone to Dashwood and Solomon to make himself personally acquainted with that string in the tangled skein which he was determined to unravel; and now, with his mind at rest upon that subject, he was returning to settle matters with Ling Chu, that Chinese assistant of his who was now as deeply under suspicion as any suspect in the case.

He had spoken no more than the truth when he had told Inspector Whiteside that he knew the way to deal with Ling Chu. A Chinese criminal--and he was loath to believe that Ling Chu, that faithful servant, came under that description--is not to be handled in the Occidental manner; and he, who had been known throughout Southern China as the "Hunter of Men" had a reputation for extracting truth by methods which no code of laws would sanction.

He walked into his Bond Street flat, shut the door behind him and locked it, putting the key in his pocket. He knew Ling Chu would be in, because he had given him instructions that morning to await his return.

The Chinaman came into the hall to take his coat and hat, and followed Tarling into the sitting-room.

"Close the door, Ling Chu," said Tarling in Chinese. "I have something to say to you."

The last words were spoken in English, and the Chinaman looked at him quickly. Tarling had never addressed him in that language before, and the Chinaman knew just what this departure portended.

"Ling Chu," said Tarling, sitting at the table, his chin in his hand, watching the other with steady eyes, "you did not tell me that you spoke English."

"The master has never asked me," said the Chinaman quietly, and to Tarling's surprise his English was without accent and his pronunciation perfect.

"That is not true," said Tarling sternly. "When you told me that you had heard of the murder, I said that you did not understand English, and you did not deny it."

"It is not for me to deny the master," said Ling Chu as coolly as ever. "I speak very good English. I was trained at the Jesuit School in Hangkow, but it is not good for a Chinaman to speak English in China, or for any to know that he understands. Yet the master must have known I spoke English and read the language, for why should I keep the little cuttings from the newspapers in the box which the master searched this morning?"

Tarling's eyes narrowed.

"So you knew that, did you?" he said.

The Chinaman smiled. It was a most unusual circumstance, for Ling Chu had never smiled within Tarling's recollection.

"The papers were in certain order--some turned one way and some turned the other. When I saw them after I came back from Scotland Yard they had been disturbed. They could not disturb themselves, master, and none but you would go to my box."

There was a pause, awkward enough for Tarling, who felt for the moment a little foolish that his carelessness had led to Ling Chu discovering the search which had been made of his private property.

"I thought I had put them back as I had found them," he said, knowing that nothing could be gained by denying the fact that he had gone through Ling Chu's trunk. "Now, you will tell me, Ling Chu, did those printed words speak the truth?"

Ling Chu nodded.

"It is true, master," he said. "The Little Narcissus, or as the foreigners called her, the Little Daffodil, was my sister. She became a dancer in a tea-house against my wish, our parents being dead. She was a very good girl, master, and as pretty as a sprig of almond blossom. Chinese women are not pretty to the foreigner's eyes, but little Daffodil was like something cast in porcelain, and she had the virtues of a thousand years."

Tarling nodded.

"She was a good girl?" he repeated, this time speaking in Chinese and using a phrase which had a more delicate shade of meaning.

"She lived good and she died good," said the Chinaman calmly. "The speech of the Englishman offended her, and he called her many bad names because she would not come and sit on his knee; and if he put shame upon her by embracing her before the eyes of men, she was yet good, and she died very honourably."

Another interval of silence.

"I see," said Tarling quietly. "And when you said you would come with me to England, did you expect to meet--the bad Englishman?"

Ling Chu shook his head.

"I had put it from my mind," he said, "until I saw him that day in the big shop. Then the evil spirit which I had thought was all burnt out inside me, blazed up again." He stopped.

"And you desired his death?" said Tarling, and a nod was his answer.

"You shall tell me all, Ling Chu," said Tarling.

The man was now pacing the room with restless strides, his emotion betrayed only by the convulsive clutching and unclutching of his hands.

"The Little Daffodil was very dear to me," he said. "Soon I think she would have married and have had children, and her name would have been blessed after the fashion of our people; for did not the Great Master say: 'What is more worshipful than the mother of children?' And when she died, master, my heart was empty, for there was no other love in my life. And then the Ho Sing murder was committed, and I went into the interior to search for Lu Fang, and that helped me to forget. I had forgotten till I saw him again. Then the old sorrow grew large in my soul, and I went out----"

"To kill him," said Tarling quietly.

"To kill him," repeated the man.

"Tell me all," said Tarling, drawing a long breath.

"It was the night you went to the little girl," said Ling Chu (Tarling knew that he spoke of Odette Rider). "I had made up my mind to go out, but I could not find an excuse because, master, you have given me orders that I must not leave this place whilst you are out. So I asked if I might go with you to the house of many houses."

"To the flat?" nodded Tarling. "Yes, go on."

"I had taken your quick-quick pistol and had loaded it and put it in my overcoat pocket. You told me to trail you, but when I had seen you on your way I left you and went to the big shop."

"To the big shop?" said Tarling in surprise. "But Lyne did not live in his stores!"

"So I discovered," said Ling Chu simply. "I thought in such a large house he would have built himself a beautiful room. In China many masters live in their shops. So I went to the big store to search it."

"Did you get in?" asked Tarling in surprise, and again Ling Chu smiled.

"That was very easy," he said. "The master knows how well I climb, and there were long iron pipes leading to the roof. Up one of these I climbed. Two sides of the shop are on big streets. One side is on a smaller street, and the fourth side is in a very small-piece street with few lights. It was up this side that I went. On the roof were many doors, and to such a man as me there was no difficulty."

"Go on," said Tarling again.

"I came down from floor to floor, always in darkness, but each floor I searched carefully, but found nothing but great bundles and packing-cases and long bars----"

"Counters," corrected Tarling.

"Yes," nodded Ling Chu, "they are called counters. And then at last I came to the floor where I had seen The Man." He paused. "First I went to the great room where we had met him, and that was locked. I opened it with a key, but it was in darkness, and I knew nobody was there. Then I went along a passage very carefully, because there was a light at the other end, and I came to an office."

"Empty, of course?"

"It was empty," said the Chinaman, "but a light was burning, and the desk cover was open. I thought he must be there, and I slipped behind the bureau, taking the pistol from my pocket. Presently I heard a footstep. I peeped out and saw the big white-faced man."

"Milburgh!" said Tarling.

"So he is called," replied the Chinaman. "He sat at the young man's desk. I knew it was the young man's desk, because there were many pictures upon it and flowers, such as he would have. The big man had his back to me."

"What was he doing?" asked Tarling.

"He was searching the desk, looking for something. Presently I saw him take from one of the drawers, which he opened, an envelope. From where I stood I could see into the drawer, and there were many little things such as tourists buy in China. From the envelope he took the _Hong_."

Tarling started. He knew of the _Hong to which the man referred. It was the little red slip of paper bearing the Chinese characters which was found upon Thornton Lyne's body that memorable morning in Hyde Park.

"Yes, yes," he said eagerly. "What happened then?"

"He put the envelope in his pocket and went out. I heard him walking along the passage, and then I crept out from my hiding place and I also looked at the desk. I put the revolver down by my side, because I wanted both hands for the search, but I found nothing--only one little piece book that the master uses to write down from day to day all that happens to him."

"A diary?" thought Tarling. "Well, and what next?" he asked.

"I got up to search the room and tripped over a wire. It must have been the wire attached to the electric light above the desk, for the room suddenly became dark, and at that moment I heard the big man's footsteps returning and slipped out of the door. And that is all, master," said Ling Chu simply. "I went back to the roof quickly for fear I should be discovered and it should bring dishonour to you."

Tarling whistled.

"And left the pistol behind?" he said.

"That is nothing but the truth," said Ling Chu. "I have dishonoured myself in your eyes, and in my heart I am a murderer, for I went to that place to kill the man who had brought shame to me and to my honourable relation."

"And left the pistol behind?" said Tarling again. "And Milburgh found it!"

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