Read CHAPTER THE TWELFTH - “RED, GREEN AND GOLD!” of The Stretton Street Affair , free online book, by William Le Queux, on ReadCentral.com.

“I know you!” she cried, staring at me as though transformed by terror.  “They told me you would come!  You are my enemy ­you are here to kill me!”

“To kill you, Miss Tennison!” I gasped.  “No, I am certainly not your enemy.  I am your friend!”

She looked very hard at me, and I noticed that her lips twitched slightly.

“You ­you are Mr. Garfield ­Hugh Garfield?” she asked, her hands quivering nervously.

“Yes.  That is my name,” I replied.  “How do you know it?”

“They ­they told me.  They told me in Florence.  The doctor pointed you out.  He told me that you were my worst enemy ­that you intend to kill me!”

“Doctor Moroni told you that?” I inquired kindly.

“Yes.  One day you were in the Via Tornabuoni and he made me take note of you.  It was then that he told me you were a man of evil intentions, and warned me to be wary of you.”

I paused.  Here was yet another sinister action on the part of Moroni!  Besides, I was unaware that he had realized I had watched him!

“Ah! yes, I see,” I replied, in an attempt to humour her, for she was very sweet and full of grace and beauty.  “The doctor tried to set you against me.  And yet, strangely enough, I am your friend.  Why should he seek to do this?”

“How can I tell?” replied the girl in a strange blank voice.  “But he evidently hates you.  He told me that you were also his enemy, as well as mine.  He said that it was his intention to take steps to prevent you from seeking mischief against both of us.”

This struck me as distinctly curious.  Though the poor girl’s mind was unbalanced it was evident that she could recollect some things, while her memory did not serve her in others.  Of course it was quite feasible that Moroni, on discovering that I was on the alert, would warn her against me.

Suddenly, hoping to further stir the chords of her memory, I asked: 

“Have you seen Mr. De Gex lately?”

“Who?” she inquired blankly.

“Mr. Oswald De Gex ­who lives in Stretton Street.”

She shook her head blankly.

“I’m afraid I ­I don’t know him,” she replied.  “Who is he?”

“Surely you know Stretton Street?” I asked.

“No ­where is it?” she inquired in that strange inert manner which characterized her mentality.

I did not pursue the question further, for it was evident that she now had no knowledge of the man in whose house I had seen her lying ­apparently dead.  And if she were not dead whose body was it that had been cremated?  That was one of the main points of the problem which, try how I would, I failed to grasp.

Would the enigma ever be solved?

As she stood in her mother’s cosy little drawing-room Gabrielle Tennison presented a strangely tragic figure.  In the grey London light she was very beautiful it was true, but upon her pale countenance was that terribly vacant look which was the index of her overwrought brain.  Her memory had been swept away by some unknown horror ­so the doctors had declared.  And yet she seemed to remember distinctly what Doctor Moroni had alleged against me in Florence!

Therefore I questioned her further concerning the Italian, and found that she recollected quite a lot about him.

“He has been very kind to you ­has he not?” I asked.

“Yes.  He is an exceedingly kind friend.  He took me to see several doctors in Florence and Rome.  All of them said I had lost my memory,” and she smiled sweetly.

“And haven’t you lost your memory?”

“A little ­perhaps ­but not much.”

Here Mrs. Alford interrupted.

“But you don’t recollect what happened to you when you were away, until you were found wandering near Petersfield.  Tell us, dear.”

“No ­no, not exactly,” the girl answered.  “All I recollect is that it was all red, green and gold ­oh! such bright dazzling colours ­red, green and gold!  At first they were glorious ­until ­until sight of them blinded me ­they seemed to burn into my brain ­eh!” And she drew back and placed her right arm across her eyes as though to shut out from her gaze something that appalled her.  “There they are!” she shrieked.  “I see them again ­always the same, day and night ­red, green and gold! ­red, green and gold!”

I exchanged glances with the woman Alford.  It was apparent that the shock the girl had sustained had been somehow connected with the colours red, green and gold.

I tried to obtain from her some faint idea of the nature of what she had witnessed, but she was quite unable to explain.  That she had fallen victim to some deep-laid plot was evident.

She remembered much of her visit to Florence, I found, for when I recalled the great Duomo, where I had first seen her with Moroni, she became quite talkative and told me how much she admired the magnificent monuments ­the Battistero, the Bigallo, Giotto’s campanile and the magnificent pictures in the Pitti and Uffizi.

Moroni had apparently also taken her to Rome, presumably to consult another Italian professor, for she spoke vaguely of the Corso and St. Peter’s and described the Forum in such a manner that she must have visited it.

While I sat chatting with her it struck me that in the blank state of her mind certain things stood out very prominently ­a mental state well known to alienists ­while others were entirely blotted out.

I referred to the millionaire who lived in Stretton Street, but again she declared, and with truth, that she had no recollection of him.

“Perhaps, Miss Tennison, you knew him under some other name,” I said, and then proceeded to describe minutely the handsome, rather foreign-looking man who had bribed me to give that certificate of death.

“Have you an uncle?” I asked presently, recollecting that the man at Stretton Street had declared the victim to be his niece.

“I have an uncle ­my mother’s brother ­he lives in Liverpool.”

Again I fell to wondering whether the beautiful girl before me was actually the same person whose death I had certified to be due to heart disease, and who, according to the official records, had been cremated.  She was very like ­and yet?  Well, the whole affair was a problem which each hour became more inscrutable.

Still the fact remained that Gabrielle Tennison had disappeared suddenly on November the seventh, the night I had met with my amazing adventure.

In reply to my further questions, as she sat staring blankly into my face with those great dark eyes of hers, I at last gathered that Doctor Moroni, hearing of her case from a specialist in Harley Street, to whom she had been taken by the police-surgeon, had called upon her mother, and had had a long interview with her.  Afterwards he had called daily, and later Mrs. Tennison had allowed him to take her daughter to Florence to consult another specialist at the hospital of Santa Maria Nuova.

“I think you know a Mrs. Cullerton,” I remarked at last.

The effect of my words upon her was almost electrical.

“Dolly Cullerton!” she shrieked.  “Ah!  Don’t mention that woman’s name!  Please do not mention her!”

“I believed that she was a friend of yours,” I said, much surprised.

“Friend?  No, enemy ­a bitter enemy!”

“Then you have quarrelled?  She was once your friend ­eh?  Over what have you quarrelled?”

“That is my own affair!” she snapped in apparent annoyance.  “If you know her, don’t trust her.  I warn you!” Then she added:  “She is a wicked woman.”

“And her husband, Jack?”

“Ah! he’s an excellent fellow ­far too good for her!”

“Why do you entertain such antipathy toward her?” I asked.  “Do tell me, because it will make my inquiries so very much easier.”

“Inquiries?  What inquiries are you making?”

I was silent for a moment, then looking straight into her eyes, I replied very seriously: 

“I am making inquiries, Miss Tennison, into what happened to you during those days when you disappeared.  I am seeking to bring punishment upon those who are responsible for your present condition.”

She shook her head mournfully, and a faint smile played about her lips.  But she did not reply.

“Tell me more about Mrs. Cullerton,” I went on.  “She was in Florence when you were there.”

“In Florence!” exclaimed the girl, as though amazed.  “What could she be doing there?”

“She was living in a furnished villa with her husband.  And she went on several visits to Mr. De Gex who lives up at Fiesole.  Are you quite sure you do not know him?” I asked.  “He lives at the Villa Clementini.  Have you ever been there?  Does the Villa Clementini recall anything to you?”

She was thoughtful for a few moments, and then said: 

“I seem to have heard of the villa, but in what connexion I do not recollect.”

“You are certain you do not know the owner of the villa?” I asked again, and described him once more very minutely.

But alas! her mind seemed a perfect blank.

For what reason had Moroni come to London and taken her with him to Florence?  But for the matter of that, what could be the motive of the whole puzzling affair ­and further, whose was the body that had been cremated?

The points I had established all combined to form an enigma which now seemed utterly beyond solution.

The pale tragic figure before me held me incensed against those whose victim she had been, for it seemed that for some distinct reason her mental balance had been wantonly destroyed.

Again and again, as she sat with her hands lying idly in her lap, she stared at the carpet and repeated to herself in a horrified voice those strange words:  “Red, green and gold! ­red, green and gold!”

“Cannot you recollect about those colours?” I asked her kindly.  “Try and think about them.  Where did you see them?”

She drew a long breath, and turning her tired eyes upon mine, she replied wearily: 

“I ­I can’t remember.  I really can’t remember anything!”

Sometimes her eyes were fixed straight before her just as I had seen her in the Via Calzajoli in Florence ­when I had believed her to be blind.  At such times her gaze was vacant, and she seemed to be entirely oblivious to all about her.  At others she seemed quite normal, save that she could not recall what had occurred in those days when she was lost to her friends ­days when I, too, had been missing and had returned to my senses with my own memory either distorted or blotted out.

Could it be that the same drug, or other diabolical method, had been used upon us both, and that I, the stronger of the two, had recovered, while she still remained in that half demented state?

It certainly seemed so.  Hence the more I reflected the more intense became my resolve to fathom the mystery and bring those responsible to justice.

Further, she had been terrified by being told that I intended to come there to kill her!  Moroni had purposely told her that, evidently in anticipation that we might meet!  He had pointed me out in Florence and warned her that I was her bitterest enemy.  Was it therefore any wonder that she would not tell me more than absolutely obliged?

“Do you recollect ever meeting a French gentleman named Monsieur Suzor?” I asked her presently.

Instantly she exchanged glances with the woman Alford.

“No,” was her slow reply, her eyes again downcast.  “I have no knowledge of any such man.”

It was upon the tip of my tongue to point out that they had met that mysterious Frenchman in Kensington Gardens, but I hesitated.  They certainly were unaware that I had watched them.

Again, my French friend was a mystery.  I did not lose sight of the fact that our first meeting had taken place on the day before my startling adventure in Stretton Street, and I began to wonder whether the man from Paris had not followed me up to York and purposely joined the train in which I had travelled back to London.

Why did both the woman Alford and Gabrielle Tennison deny all knowledge of the man whom they had met with such precautions of secrecy, and who, when afterwards he discovered that I was following him, had so cleverly evaded me?  The man Suzor was evidently implicated in the plot, though I had never previously suspected it!  Twice he had travelled with me, meeting me as though by accident, yet I now saw that he had been my companion with some set purpose in view.

What could it be?

It became quite plain that I could not hope to obtain anything further from either Gabrielle or the servant, therefore I assumed a polite and sympathetic attitude and told them that I hoped to call again on Mrs. Tennison’s return.  Afterwards I left, feeling that at least I had gained some knowledge, even though it served to bewilder me the more.

Later I called upon Sir Charles Wendover in Cavendish Square, whom I found to be a quiet elderly man of severe professional aspect and demeanour, a man whose photograph I had often seen in the newspapers, for he was one of the best-known of mental specialists.

When I explained that the object of my visit was to learn something of the case of my friend Miss Tennison, he asked me to sit down and then switched on a green-shaded reading-lamp and referred to a big book upon his writing table.  His consulting room was dull and dark, with heavy Victorian furniture and a great bookcase filled with medical works.  In the chair in which I sat persons of all classes had sat while he had examined and observed them, and afterwards given his opinion to their friends.

“Ah! yes,” he exclaimed, when at last he found the notes he had made upon the case.  “I saw the young lady on the twenty-eighth of November.  A most peculiar case ­most peculiar!  Leicester and Franklyn both saw her, but they were just as much puzzled as myself.”

And through his big round horn spectacles he continued reading to himself the several pages of notes.

“Yes,” he remarked at last.  “I now recall all the facts.  A very curious case.  The young lady disappeared from her friends, and was found some days later wandering near Petersfield, in Hampshire, in an exhausted condition.  She could not account for her disappearance, or the state in which she was.  Her memory had completely gone, and she has not, I believe, yet recovered it.”

“No, she has not,” I said.  “But the reason I have ventured to call, Sir Charles, is to hear your opinion on the case.”

“My opinion!” he echoed.  “What opinion can I hold when the effect is so plain ­loss of memory?”

“Ah!  But how could such a state of mind be produced?” I asked.

“You ask me for the cause.  That, my dear sir, I cannot say,” was his answer.  “There are several causes which would produce a similar effect.  Probably it was some great shock.  But of what nature we cannot possibly discover unless she herself recovers her normal memory so far as to be able to assist us.  I see that I have noted how she constantly repeats the words ‘red, green and gold.’  That combination of colours has apparently impressed itself upon her mind to such an extent that it has become an obsession.  Often she will utter no other words than those.  She was seen by a number of eminent men, but nobody could suggest any cause other than shock.”

“Is it possible that some drug could have been administered to her?”

“Everything is possible,” Sir Charles answered.  “But I know of no drug which would produce such effect.  In brief, I confess that I have no idea what can have caused the sudden mental breakdown.”

I felt impelled to relate to him the whole story of my own adventures, but I hesitated.  As a matter of fact I feared that he might regard it, as he most probably would have done, as a mere chimera of my own imagination.

A girl I had seen dead ­or believed I had seen dead ­was now living!  And she was Gabrielle Tennison.

Of that I had no doubt, for the dates of our adventures corresponded.

And yet a girl also named Gabrielle had died and her body had been cremated!

The whole affair seemed to be beyond human credence.  And yet you, my reader, have in this record the exact, hard and undeniable facts.