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MR BALTIC EXPLAINS HIMSELF
It was Miss Whichello, who, on the statement of Mrs Pansey as reported by Mr Cargrim, had told George of his brother's presence on Southberry Heath at the time of Jentham's murder. She had casually mentioned the fact during an idle conversation; but never for one moment had she dreamed of connecting Gabriel with so atrocious a crime. Nor indeed did Captain Pendle, until the fact was rudely and unexpectedly brought home to him by the production of the pistol. Nevertheless, despite this material evidence, he vehemently refused to credit that so gentle a being as Gabriel had slain a fellow-creature deliberately and in cold blood, particularly as on the face of it no reason could be assigned for so hazardous an act. The curate, in his loyal brother's opinion, was neither a vindictive fool nor an aimless murderer.
With this latter opinion Sir Harry very heartily agreed. He had the highest respect for Gabriel as a man and a priest, and could not believe that he had wantonly committed a brutal crime, so repulsive to his benign nature, so contrary to the purity and teachings of his life. He was quite satisfied that the young man both could, and would, explain how the pistol had passed out of his possession; but he did not seek the explanation himself. Baltic, previous to his departure for London, had made Brace promise to question Captain Pendle about the pistol, and report to him the result of such conversation. Now that the pistol was proved to have been in the keeping of Gabriel, the baronet knew very well that Baltic would prefer to question so important a witness himself. Therefore, while waiting for the agent's return, he not only himself refrained from seeing Gabriel, but persuaded George not to do so.
'Your questions will only do more harm than good!' expostulated Brace, 'as you have neither the trained capacity nor the experience to examine into the matter. Baltic returns to-morrow, and as I have every faith in his judgment and discretion, it will be much better to let him handle it.'
'Who is this Baltic you talk of so much?' asked the captain, impatiently.
'He is a private inquiry agent who is trying to discover the man who killed Jentham.'
'On behalf of Tinkler, I suppose?'
'He is working with Tinkler in the matter,' replied Brace, evasively, for he did not want to inform George, the rash and fiery, of his father's peril and Cargrim's treachery.
'Baltic is a London detective, no doubt?'
'Yes, his brains are more equal than Tinkler's to the task of solving the riddle.'
'He won't arrest Gabriel, I hope,' said George, anxiously.
'Not unless he is absolutely certain that Gabriel committed the crime; and I am satisfied that he will never arrive at that certainty.'
'I--should--think--not,' cried Captain Pendle, with disdain. 'Gabriel, poor boy, would not kill a fly, let alone a man. Still, these legal bloodhounds are coarse and unscrupulous.'
'Baltic is not, George. He is quite a new type of detective, and works rather from a religious than a judicial point of view.'
'I never heard of a religious detective before,' remarked George, scornfully.
'Nor I; it is a new departure, and I am not sure but that it is a good one, incongruous as it may seem.'
'Is the man a hypocrite?'
'By no means. He is thoroughly in earnest. Here, in public, he calls himself a missionary.'
'Oh! oh! the wolf in the skin of a sheep!'
'Not at all. The man is--well, it is no use my explaining, as you will see him shortly, and then can judge for yourself. But if you will take my advice, George, you will let Baltic figure the matter out on his own slate, as the Americans say. Don't mention his name or actual business to anyone. Believe me, I know what I am talking about.'
'Very well,' grumbled George, convinced by Harry's earnestness, but by no means pleased to be condemned to an interval of ignorance and inactivity. 'I shall hold my tongue and close my eyes. But you agree with me that Gabriel did not kill the brute?'
'Of course! From the first I never had any doubts on that score.'
Here for the time being the conversation ended, and George went his way to play the part of a careless onlooker. But for his promise, he would have warned Gabriel of the danger which threatened him, and probably have complicated matters by premature anger. Luckily for all things, his faith in Brace's good sense was strong enough to deter him from so rash and headlong a course; therefore, at home and abroad, he assumed a gaiety he did not feel. So here in the episcopalian palace of Beorminster were three people, each one masking his real feelings in intercourse with the others. The bishop, his son and his scheming chaplain were actors in a comedy of life which--in the opinion of the last--might easily end up as a tragedy. No wonder their behaviour was constrained, no wonder they avoided one another. They were as men living over a powder magazine which the least spark would explode with thunderous noise and damaging effect.
Baltic was the deus ex machinā to strike the spark for ignition, but he seemed in no hurry to do so. Punctual to his promise he returned to Beorminster, and heard Sir Harry's report about the pistol with grave attention. Without venturing an opinion for or against the curate, he asked Sir Harry to preserve a strict silence until such time as he gave him leave to speak, and afterwards took his way to Gabriel's lodgings in the lower part of the town. There he was fortunate enough to find young Pendle within doors, and after a lengthy interview with him on matters connected with the crime, he again sought the baronet. A detailed explanation to that gentleman resulted in a visit of both to Sir Harry's bank, and an interesting conversation with its manager. When Brace and Baltic finally found themselves on the pavement, the face of the first wore an expression of exultation, while the latter, in his reticent way, looked soberly satisfied. Both had every reason for these signs of triumph, for they had touched the highest pinnacle of success.
'I suppose there can be no doubt about it, Baltic?'
'None whatever, Sir Harry. Every link in the chain of evidence is complete.'
'You are a wonderful man, Baltic; you have scored off that fool of a Tinkler in a very neat way.'
'The inspector is no fool in his own sphere, sir,' reproved the serious ex-sailor, 'but this case happened to be beyond it.'
'And beyond him also,' chuckled the baronet.
'There is no denying that, Sir Harry. However, the man is useful in his own place, and having done my part, I shall now ask him to do his.'
'What is his task, eh?'
'To procure a warrant on my evidence. The man must be arrested this afternoon.'
'And then, Baltic?'
'Then, sir,' said the man, solemnly, 'I shall be no longer an agent, but a missionary; and in my own poor way I shall strive to bring him to repentance.'
'After bringing him to the gallows. A queer way of inducing good, Baltic.'
'Whoso loseth all gaineth all,' quoted Baltic, in all earnestness; 'my mission is not to destroy souls but to save them.'
'Humph! you destroy the material part for the salvation of the spiritual. A man called Torquemada conducted his religious crusade in the same way some hundreds of years ago, and has been cursed for his system by humanity ever since. Your morality--or rather I should say your religiosity--is beyond me, Baltic.'
'Magnas veritas et praevalebit!' misquoted Baltic, solemnly, and, touching his hat roughly, turned away to finish the work he felt himself called upon by his religious convictions to execute.
Harry looked after him with a satirical smile. 'You filched that morsel of dog Latin out of the end of the English dictionary, my friend,' he thought, 'and your untutored mind does not apply it with particular relevancy. But I see that, like all fanatics, you distort texts and sayings into fitting your own peculiar views. Well, well, the ends you aim at are right enough, no doubt, but your method of reaching them is as queer a one as ever came under my notice. Go your ways, Torquemada Baltic, there are the germs of a mighty intolerant sect in your kind of teaching, I fear,' and in his turn Sir Harry went about his own affairs.
Inspector Tinkler, more purple-faced and important than ever, sat in his private office, twirling his thumbs and nodding his head for lack of business on which to employ his mighty mind. The afternoon, by some freak of the sun which had to do with his solar majesty's unusual spotty complexion, was exceptionally hot for a late September day, and the heat made Mr Inspector drowsy and indolent. He might have fallen into the condition of an official sleeping beauty, but that a sharp knock at the door roused him sufficiently to bid the knocker enter, whereupon a well-fed policeman presented himself with the information--delivered in a sleepy, beefy voice--that Mr Baltic wished to see Mr Tinkler. The name acted like a douche of iced water on the inspector, and he sharply ordered the visitor to be admitted at once. In another minute Baltic was in the office, saluting the head of the Beorminster police in his usual grave style.
'Ha, Mr Baltic, sir!' rasped out Tinkler, in his parade voice, 'I am glad to see you. There is a seat, and here am I; both at your service.'
'Thank you, Mr Inspector,' said Baltic, and, taking a seat, carefully covered his knees with the red bandanna, and adjusted his straw hat on top of it according to custom.
'Well, sir, well,' grunted Mr Inspector, pompously, 'and how does your little affair get on?'
'It has got on so far, sir, that I have come to ask you for a warrant of arrest.'
'By George! eh! what! Have you found him?' roared Tinkler, starting back with an incredulous look.
'I have discovered the man who murdered Jentham! Yes.'
'Good!' snapped Tinkler, trying to conceal his amazement by a reversion to his abrupt military manner. 'His name?'
'I'll tell you that when I have related my evidence incriminating him. It is as well to be orderly, Mr Inspector.'
'Certainly, Mr Baltic, sir. Order is at the base of all discipline.'
'I should rather say that discipline is the basis of order,' returned Baltic, with a dry smile; 'however, we can discuss that question later. At present I shall detail my evidence against'--Mr Inspector leaned eagerly forward--'against the man who killed Jentham.' Mr Inspector threw himself back with a disappointed snort.
''Tention!' threw out Tinkler, and arranged pen and ink and paper to take notes. 'Now, Mr Baltic, sir!'
'My knowledge of the man Jentham,' droned Baltic, in his monotonous voice, 'begins at the moment I was informed by Mr Cargrim that he called at the palace to see Bishop Pendle a few days before he met with his violent end. It would appear--although of this I am not absolutely certain--that the bishop knew Jentham when he occupied a more respectable position and answered to another name!'
'Memorandum,' wrote down Tinkler, 'to inquire if his lordship can supply information regarding the past of the so-called Jentham.'
'The bishop,' continued the narrator, with a covert smile at Tinkler's unnecessary scribbling, 'was apparently sorry to see an old friend in a homeless and penniless condition, for to help him on in the world he gave him the sum of two hundred pounds.'
'That,' declared Tinkler, throwing down his pen, 'is charity gone mad--if'--he emphasised the word--'if, mark me, it is true.'
'If it were not true I should not state it,' rejoined Baltic, gravely. 'As a Christian I have a great regard for the truth. Bishop Pendle drew that sum out of his London account in twenty ten-pound notes. I have the numbers of those notes, and I traced several to the possession of the assassin, who must have taken them from the corpse. On these grounds, Mr Inspector, I assert that Dr Pendle gave Jentham two hundred pounds.' Tinkler again took up his pen. 'Memo,' he set down, 'to ask his lordship if he helped the so-called Jentham with money. If so, how much?'
'As you know,' resumed Baltic, with deliberation, 'Jentham was shot through the heart, but the pistol could not be found. It is now in my possession, and I obtained it from Mother Jael!'
'What! did she kill the poor devil?'
'I have already said that the murderer is a man, Mr Inspector. Mother Jael knows nothing about the crime, save that she heard the shot and afterwards picked up the pistol near the corpse. I obtained it from her with considerable ease!'
'By threatening her with the warrant I gave you, no doubt.'
Baltic shook his head. 'I made no mention of the warrant, nor did I produce it,' he replied, 'but I happen to know something of the Romany tongue, and be what the Spaniards call "affeciado" to the gipsies. When Mother Jael was convinced that I was a brother of tent and road, she gave me the pistol without ado. It is best to work by kindness, Mr Inspector.'
'We can't all be gipsies, Mr Baltic, sir. Proceed! What about the pistol?'
'The pistol,' continued Baltic, passing over the envious sneer, 'had a silver plate on the butt, inscribed with the letters "G.P." I did not know if the weapon belonged to Bishop George Pendle, Captain George Pendle, or to Mr Gabriel Pendle.'
Inspector Tinkler looked up aghast. 'By Jupiter! sir, you don't mean to tell me that you suspected the bishop? Damme, Mr Baltic, how dare you?'
Now the missionary was not going to confide in this official thick-head regarding Cargrim's suspicions of the bishop, which had led him to connect the pistol with the prelate; so he evaded the difficulty by explaining that as the lent money was a link between the bishop and Jentham, and the initials on the pistol were those of his lordship, he naturally fancied that the weapon belonged to Dr Pendle, 'although I will not go so far as to say that I suspected him,' finished Baltic, smoothly.
'I should think not!' growled Tinkler, wrathfully. 'Bishops don't murder tramps in England, whatever they may do in the South Seas!' and he made a third note, 'Memo.--To ask his lordship if he lost a pistol.'
'As Captain George Pendle is a soldier, Mr Inspector, I fancied--on the testimony of the initials--that the pistol might belong to him. On putting the question to him, it appeared that the weapon was his property--'
'But that he had lent it to Mr Gabriel Pendle to protect himself from roughs when that young gentleman was a curate in Whitechapel, London.'
'Well, I'm--d--blessed!' ejaculated Tinkler, with staring eyes; 'so Mr Gabriel killed Jentham!'
'Don't jump to conclusions, Mr Inspector. Gabriel Pendle is innocent. I never thought that he was guilty, but I fancied that he might supply links in the chain of evidence to trace the real murderer. Of course, you know that Mr Gabriel lately went to Germany?'
'Yes, I know that.'
'Very good! As the initials "G. P." also stood for Gabriel Pendle, I was not at all sure but what the pistol might be his. For the moment I assumed that it was, that he had shot Jentham, and that the stolen money had been used by him.'
'But you hadn't the shadow of a proof, Mr Baltic.'
'I had the pistol with the initials,' retorted the missionary, 'but, as I said, I never suspected Mr Gabriel. I only assumed his guilt for the moment to enable me to trace the actual criminal. To make a long story short, Mr Inspector, I went up to London and called at Cook's office. There I discovered that Mr Gabriel had paid for his ticket with a ten-pound note. That note,' added Baltic, impressively, 'was one of those given by the bishop to Jentham and stolen by the assassin from the body of his victim. I knew it by the number.'
Tinkler thumped the desk with his hand in a state of uncontrolled excitement. 'Then Mr Gabriel must be guilty,' he declared in his most stentorian voice.
'Hush, if you please,' said Baltic, with a glance at the door. 'There is no need to let your subordinates know what is not true.'
'What is not true, sir?'
'Precisely. I questioned Mr Gabriel on my return, and learned that he had changed a twenty-pound note at The Derby Winner prior to his departure for Germany. Mosk, the landlord, gave him the ten I traced to Cook's and two fives. Hush, please! Mr Gabriel also told me that he had lent the pistol to Mosk to protect himself from tramps when riding to and from Southberry, so--'
'I see! I see!' roared Tinkler, purple with excitement. 'Mosk is the guilty man!'
'Quite so,' rejoined Baltic, unmoved. 'You have hit upon the right man at last.'
'So Bill Mosk shot Jentham. Oh, Lord! Damme! Why?'
'Don't swear, Mr Inspector, and I'll tell you. Mosk committed the murder to get the two hundred pounds. I suspected Mosk almost from the beginning. The man was almost always drunk and frequently in tears. I found out while at The Derby Winner that he could not pay his rent shortly before Jentham's murder. After the crime I learned from Sir Harry Brace, the landlord, that Mosk had paid his rent. When Mr Gabriel told me about the lending of the pistol and the changing of the note, I went to Sir Harry's bank, and there, Mr Inspector, I discovered that the bank-notes with which he paid his rent were those given by the bishop to Jentham. On that evidence, on the evidence of the pistol, on the evidence that Mosk was absent at Southberry on the night of the murder, I ask you to obtain a warrant and arrest the man this afternoon.'
'I shall see a magistrate about it at once,' fussed Tinkler, tearing up his now useless memoranda. 'Bill Mosk! Damme! Bill Mosk! I never should have thought a drunken hound like him would have the pluck to do it. Hang me if I did!'
'I don't call it pluck to shoot an unarmed man, Mr Inspector. It is rather the act of a coward.'
'Coward or not, he must swing for it,' growled Tinkler. 'Mr Baltic, sir, I am proud of you. You have done what I could not do myself. Take my hand and my thanks, sir. Become a detective, sir, and learn our trade. When you know our business you will do wonders, sir, wonders!'
In the same patronising way a rush-light might have congratulated the sun on his illuminating powers and have advised him to become--a penny candle.
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