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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Daffodil Mystery - Chapter 31. Sam Stay Turns Up
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The Daffodil Mystery - Chapter 31. Sam Stay Turns Up Post by :bambito Category :Long Stories Author :Edgar Wallace Date :May 2012 Read :2799

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The Daffodil Mystery - Chapter 31. Sam Stay Turns Up

CHAPTER XXXI. SAM STAY TURNS UP

"I have seen you somewhere before, ain't I?"

The stout clergyman in the immaculate white collar beamed benevolently at the questioner and shook his head with a gentle smile.

"No, my dear friend, I do not think I have ever seen you before."

It was a little man, shabbily dressed, and looking ill. His face was drawn and lined; he had not shaved for days, and the thin, black stubble of hair gave him a sinister look. The clergyman had just walked out of Temple Gardens and was at the end of Villiers Street leading up to the Strand, when he was accosted. He was a happy-looking clergyman, and something of a student, too, if the stout and serious volume under his arm had any significance.

"I've seen you before," said the little man, "I've dreamt about you."

"If you'll excuse me," said the clergyman, "I am afraid I cannot stay. I have an important engagement."

"Hold hard," said the little man, in so fierce a tone that the other stopped. "I tell you I've dreamt about you. I've seen you dancing with four black devils with no clothes on, and you were all fat and ugly."

He lowered his voice and was speaking in a fierce earnest monotone, as though he was reciting some lesson he had been taught.

The clergyman took a pace back in alarm.

"Now, my good man," he said severely, "you ought not to stop gentlemen in the street and talk that kind of nonsense. I have never met you before in my life. My name is the Reverend Josiah Jennings."

"Your name is Milburgh," said the other. "Yes, that's it, Milburgh. _He used to talk about you! That lovely man--here!" He clutched the clergyman's sleeve and Milburgh's face went a shade paler. There was a concentrated fury in the grip on his arm and a strange wildness in the man's speech. "Do you know where he is? In a beautivault built like an 'ouse in Highgate Cemetery. There's two little doors that open like the door of a church, and you go down some steps to it."

"Who are you?" asked Milburgh, his teeth chattering.

"Don't you know me?" The little man peered at him. "You've heard him talk about me. Sam Stay--why, I worked for two days in your Stores, I did. And you--you've only got what _he's given you. Every penny you earned he gave you, did Mr. Lyne. He was a friend to everybody--to the poor, even to a hook like me."

His eyes filled with tears and Mr. Milburgh looked round to see if he was being observed.

"Now, don't talk nonsense!" he said under his breath, "and listen, my man; if anybody asks you whether you have seen Mr. Milburgh, you haven't, you understand?"

"Oh, I understand," said the man. "But I knew you! There's nobody connected with him that I don't remember. He lifted me up out of the gutter, he did. He's my idea of God!"

They had reached a quiet corner of the Gardens and Milburgh motioned the man to sit beside him on a garden seat.

For the first time that day he experienced a sense of confidence in the wisdom of his choice of disguise. The sight of a clergyman speaking with a seedy-looking man might excite comment, but not suspicion. After all, it was the business of clergymen to talk to seedy-looking men, and they might be seen engaged in the most earnest and confidential conversation and he would suffer no loss of caste.

Sam Stay looked at the black coat and the white collar in doubt.

"How long have you been a clergyman, Mr. Milburgh?" he asked.

"Oh--er--for a little while," said Mr. Milburgh glibly, trying to remember what he had heard about Sam Stay. But the little man saved him the labour of remembering.

"They took me away to a place in the country," he said, "but you know I wasn't mad, Mr. Milburgh. _He wouldn't have had a fellow hanging round him who was mad, would he? You're a clergyman, eh?" He nodded his head wisely, then asked, with a sudden eagerness: "Did he make you a clergyman? He could do wonderful things, could Mr. Lyne, couldn't he? Did you preach over him when they buried him in that little vault in 'Ighgate? I've seen it--I go there every day, Mr. Milburgh," said Sam. "I only found it by accident. 'Also Thornton Lyne, his son.' There's two little doors that open like church doors."

Mr. Milburgh drew a long sigh. Of course, he remembered now. Sam Stay had been removed to a lunatic asylum, and he was dimly conscious of the fact that the man had escaped. It was not a pleasant experience, talking with an escaped lunatic. It might, however, be a profitable one. Mr. Milburgh was a man who let very few opportunities slip. What could he make out of this, he wondered? Again Sam Stay supplied the clue.

"I'm going to settle with that girl----" He stopped and closed his lips tightly, and looked with a cunning little smile at Milburgh. "I didn't say anything, did I?" he asked with a queer little chuckle. "I didn't say anything that would give me away, did I?"

"No, my friend," said Mr. Milburgh, still in the character of the benevolent pastor. "To what girl do you refer?"

The face of Sam Stay twisted into a malignant smile.

"There's only one girl," he said between his teeth, "and I'll get her. I'll settle with her! I've got something here----" he felt in his pocket in a vague, aimless way. "I thought I had it, I've carried it about so long; but I've got it somewhere, I know I have!"

"So you hate Miss Rider, do you?" asked Milburgh.

"Hate her!"

The little fellow almost shouted the words, his face purple, his eyes starting from his head, his two hands twisted convulsively.

"I thought I'd finished her last night," he began, and stopped.

The words had no significance for Mr. Milburgh, since he had seen no newspapers that day.

"Listen," Sam went on. "Have you ever loved anybody?"

Mr. Milburgh was silent. To him Odette Rider was nothing, but about the woman Odette Rider had called mother and the woman he called wife, circled the one precious sentiment in his life.

"Yes, I think I have," he said after a pause. "Why?"

"Well, you know how I feel, don't you?" said Sam Stay huskily. "You know how I want to get the better of this party who brought him down. She lured him on--lured him on--oh, my God!" He buried his face in his hands and swayed from side to side.

Mr. Milburgh looked round in some apprehension. No one was in sight.

Odette would be the principal witness against him and this man hated her. He had small cause for loving her. She was the one witness that the Crown could produce, now that he had destroyed the documentary evidence of his crime. What case would they have against him if they stood him in the dock at the Old Bailey, if Odette Rider were not forthcoming to testify against him?

He thought the matter over cold-bloodedly, as a merchant might consider some commercial proposition which is put before him. He had learnt that Odette Rider was in London in a nursing home, as the result of a set of curious circumstances.

He had called up Lyne's Store that morning on the telephone to discover whether there had been any inquiries for him and had heard from his chief assistant that a number of articles of clothing had been ordered to be sent to this address for Miss Rider's use. He had wondered what had caused her collapse, and concluded that it was the result of the strain to which the girl had been subjected in that remarkable interview which she and he had had with Tarling at Hertford on the night before.

"Suppose you met Miss Rider?" he said. "What could you do?"

Sam Stay showed his teeth in a grin.

"Well, anyway, you're not likely to meet her for some time. She is in a nursing home," said Milburgh, "and the nursing home," he went on deliberately, "is at 304, Cavendish Place."

"304, Cavendish Place," repeated Sam. "That's near Regent Street, isn't it?"

"I don't know where it is," said Mr. Milburgh. "She is at 304, Cavendish Place, so that it is very unlikely that you will meet her for some time."

He rose to his feet, and he saw the man was shaking from head to foot like a man in the grip of ague.

"304, Cavendish Place," he repeated, and without another word turned his back on Mr. Milburgh and slunk away.

That worthy gentleman looked after him and shook his head, and then rising, turned and walked in the other direction. It was just as easy to take a ticket for the Continent at Waterloo station as it was at Charing Cross. In many ways it was safer.

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