Forged notes have started to appear everywhere. Mr. Cheyne Wells of Harley Street has been given one. So has Porter. Peter Clifton is rich, but no one is quite certain how he acquired his money - not even his new wife, the beautiful Jane Leith. One night someone puts a ladder to Jane’s window and enters her room. It is not her jewels they are after. Inspector Rouper and Superintendent Bourke are both involved in trying to solve this thrilling mystery.
299 pages, with a reading time of ~4.75 hours (74,785 words), and first published in 1927. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2014.
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The big consulting-room at 903, Harley Street differed as much from its kind as Mr. Cheyne Wells differed from the average consultant.
It was something between a drawing-room and the kind of a library which a lover of good books gathers together piecemeal as opportunity presents. There was comfort in the worn, but not too worn, furniture, in the deep, leather-covered settee drawn up before the red fire. Two walls were filled with shelves wedged with oddly bound, oddly sized volumes; there were books on the table, a newspaper dropped by a careless hand on the floor, but nothing of the apparatus of medicine–not so much as a microscope or test tube.
In one corner of the room, near the window where yellow sunlight was pouring in, was a polished door; beyond that a white-tiled bathroom without a bath but with many glass shelves and glass-topped table. You could have your fill of queer mechanisms there, and your nostrils offended by pungent antiseptics. There were cupboards, carefully locked, with rows and rows of bottles, and steel and glass cabinets full of little culture dishes. But though Peter Clifton had been a constant visitor for years, he had never seen that door opened.
He was sitting now on an arm of one of the big chairs, his fine head screwed round so that he could see the street, though he had no interest in the big car which stood at the kerb, or the upper floors of the houses on the opposite side of the road which filled his vision. But he was a sensitive man, with a horror of emotional display, and just then he did not wish any man–even Cheyne Wells–to see his face.
Presently he jerked back his head and met the dark eyes of the man who straddled before the fireplace, a cigarette drooping from his lips.
Mr. Wells was rather thin, and this gave the illusion of height which his inches did not justify. The dark, saturnine face with its neat black moustache was almost sinister in repose: when he smiled, the whole character of his face changed, and he was smiling now.
Peter heaved a deep sigh and stretched his six feet of bone and muscle.
“It was a good day for me when I mistook you for a dentist!” he said.
There was a nervous tension in his laugh which Mr. Donald Cheyne Wells did not fail to note.
“My good chap”–he shook his head–“it was a double-sided benefit, for you have been the most foolishly generous patient I have ever had. And I bless the telephone authorities that they made 903, Harley Street the habitation of a gentleman who left the week before I moved in.”
Again the other laughed.
“You even cured the old molar!” he said.
The smile left the surgeon’s face.
“I have cured nothing else–except your misgivings. The real assurance on which your faith must rest is Sir William Clewers’s. I would not have dared to be so definite as he; even now I tell you that although the big danger is wiped out you are liable to the attacks I spoke about. I did not think it was worth while discussing that possibility with Sir William, but you may have another consultation if you wish?”
Peter shook his head emphatically.
“In future I am making long detours to avoid Harley Street,” he said, and added hastily: “That’s pretty ungracious-“
But the surgeon waved his agreement.
“You’d be a fool if you didn’t,” he said, and then, turning the subject abruptly: “What time is this interesting ceremony?”
He saw a frown gather for an instant on the broad forehead of his patient. It was a surprising expression to observe on the face of a very rich and a very good-looking young man who was to marry the most beautiful girl Cheyne Wells had seen in his life, yet the consultant was not wholly surprised.
“Er–twelve-thirty. You’ll be there, of course? The reception is at the Ritz and we go on to Longford Manor. I thought Jane would have preferred the Continent–but she seems rather keen on Longford.”
There was no sound for a little while except the soft tick of the Swiss clock on the mantelpiece. Then: “Why the frown?” asked Wells, watching his patient’s face intently.
Peter threw out his arms in a gesture of uncertainty. “The Lord knows–really. Only…it has been such a queer courtship…with this thing hanging over my head. And sometimes Jane is rather–how shall I put it?–‘cold’ isn’t exactly the word–neither is ‘indifferent.’ ‘Impregnable’–that’s the word. One can’t get into her mind. She becomes a stranger, and that terrifies me. The whole thing started on the wrong note–we haven’t kept step. I’ll go on mixing my metaphors till I can get a little lucid.” The smile was twitching the corner of Cheyne Wells’s lips.
“I introduced you–here beginneth the first wrong note!” he said. “And–”