Murder in the Family by Leigh Brackett

1

DANNY THAYER WALKED THROUGH the La Brea Tar Pits that night because he was looking for a place to sleep, free. He wasn’t thinking about anything in particular. His brain had grown rather numb these last few days.
He was hungry. So hungry it felt like rats chewing inside of him. Maybe he could forget that, if he went to sleep. Have to watch out for a cop, though. The signs at the park entrance said, CLOSED TO PUBLIC AFTER SUNDOWN.
The Pits stretched out before him, a great barren sweep of weeds and scrub and baked earth dotted with clumps of dark I trees and the pits themselves where scientists had dug up fossils, and white scattered glints where stone sculptures of I prehistoric beasts loomed in the cloudy moonlight.
Danny Thayer shivered. He was nineteen, homeless, jobless, and hungry, but he could feel the loneliness of the place. It was more than just empty. It was—ancient.
Wilshire Boulevard was just beyond the wall of eucalyptus trees and ornamental shrubs. The lights of Hollywood painted the clouds off to his left. But they seemed a million miles away.
He walked on. Just walking, a tall lanky kid trying to forget how hungry he was. Past asphalt funnels bubbling stickily behind low protective walls. Past the statue of a short-faced bear, and two ground-sloths, and across a choked and stagnant creek.
The path led between pits choked with reeds higher than his head, over a low stone bridge. There was a thick clump of trees up ahead. The place had a sullen, biting smell. It seemed to be waiting, somehow. Waiting, and hungry.
Then, sharp and sudden in the dead silence, a woman’s voice cried out.
“What are you doing? No! Oh God, don’t. . . !”
And she screamed. It was a short scream, choked off abruptly in a sort of gurgle, like thick muddy water between stones.
Danny stopped. Something like a strong cold hand held him, still and not breathing. Then he started to run, toward the clump of trees ahead, his feet ringing hollow on the stone bridge.
He stumbled out of the path between the trees. The moon was playing hide-and-seek in drifting clouds. And someone was running, fast, toward the Wilshire entrance.
Someone in a dark suit, with a dark head bent. Running doubled over, so that in that light you couldn’t see size and shape.
Danny Thayer yelled, almost as though his throat had done it alone.
The someone stopped, jerked around like a puppet on wires, already shadowed by the barrier trees. The moon broke out, clear and bright. For an instant they stood, the figure in the shadows, the boy clear in the cold brilliance. Then the dirt path was empty.
Danny stood stiff, his body needled with sweat, choking on his own heartbeats. The sullen pungence of the pits seemed suddenly triumphant, as though what they’d waited for had come.
He turned toward where the scream had come from.
There was a stone group under the trees, showing a bison mired in a pit and two sabre-tooth cats fighting over the carcass. One of them reared up over four feet, his head thrown back, fangs bared impotently while the other tore his throat.
Only now his fangs weren’t bared. They were buried deep in a woman’s throat.
A woman’s throat, wedged with savage strength into the gaping mouth. The cat’s fangs were metal, because they were too long for crumbly stone.
Metal. Not very sharp. But sharp enough.
Clouds nagged at the moon. Danny’s heart beat full and slow and very loud. He shivered, and the veins in his neck hurt.
She was small and slender, bent backward and hanging from the cat’s mouth. She wore an evening gown of some pale, shining stuff, tight across her small curved breasts. The blood had made a dark, glinting pool between them.
She must have been pretty, without her face so twisted and her eyes empty and staring. Her hair was dull gold against the stone.
It was very still and lonely there, and the pits smelt of death.
Danny put out his hands and tried to get her loose. But the curving fangs were hooked hard against her jaw. She was dead, anyway. Apart from the bleeding, the jerk of her body downward had snapped her neck.
He drew back. He wanted to be sick, but the retching was agony to the emptiness in him. And then he saw her purse, a little scrap of satin and seed-pearls, dropped in the dust beside one small foot.
He stood quite still, looking at it. His bony hands opened and closed. He could still feel her flesh against his palms.
Warm, but already cooling. Warm, but dead.
Just a dime, for a hamburger. It was stealing. But she wouldn’t need it any more. Maybe it wasn’t wrong to rob a person when he didn’t need money any more.
Danny’s jaw was long and jutting, covered with a dark soft stubble of beard. It set suddenly, hard, and his blue eyes narrowed.
“The hell with right or wrong! She’s dead. And I’m hungry.”
He stooped and caught up the purse and opened it. A roll of bills fell out into his hands. A thick, fat, solid roll of bills.
Not the sort a girl carries in case of taxi fare.
Danny stood there, staring at it. And suddenly there was light in his face that wasn’t moonlight, and a man’s voice yelling.
Danny Thayer reacted from sheer brute instinct. He dropped the purse and lurched back into the shadow of the trees, and ran.
A whistle shrilled. Heavy boots pounded on the baked earth.
A voice yelled, “Stop or I’ll fire!” A prowl car must have slopped out on Curson Street, too far away for him to hear.
Me regular patrolman, clearing bums and lovers out of the park.
Danny ran. Fear lent him strength. Stumbling, staggering, doubled over with his back-muscles tight for the rip of a bullet, lie raced around the pit where the bridge was, sheltered by the reeds.
He ducked in among the low walls. Something cracked like a dry branch behind him and there was a nasty whining sound over his head.
There were two sets of boots pounding, now. But the second ccop, summoned by the whistle, was way behind.
The gun cracked again. Dust and splinters exploded from the wall beside him. It was hard to breathe, and his feet weren’t sure.
He broke suddenly around a big pit with a sort of pump-house built over it, doubling back under the shelter of the tall cattails that choked the creek. The creek ran back almost to the Sixth Street side of the Pits. If he could make it. . . .
The first policeman went into the tangle of low walls, carefully, lest Danny have a gun. Danny tried to go quietly, but he couldn’t control his feet. His breath was hot and it had a saw-edge to it.
The second policeman, way behind the first, saw him.
He let out a whoop and pelted across the shortened distance. He must have thought the boy was wounded, the way he was running, for he held his fire. Danny moaned and struck out for the shrubbery bordering Sixth Street.
The first man vaulted a wall and came running. Danny could hear their boots hitting the ground. They were going to run him down, because they were strong and not hungry. They were going to take him. They were going to arrest him for murder, because he’d been standing by a body with a purse in his hands.
Murder for robbery. Twelve men, and the gas chamber. And he didn’t have even a description of the killer.
He was suddenly furious, the fury of an animal cornered and in pain. He grabbed up a big clod of earth and whirled around and threw it. His thin young lips were snarling, and his eyes were queer.
The leading policeman reached the creek. There was a gap in the reeds there, and he jumped. The clod took him, then, in the face. He lost his footing and crashed down, his head going under in strangling, acrid stuff, half water, half pure asphalt.
Danny ran on.
The other man yelled at him, and fired. Bullets kicked the dust, but he was weaving from sheer weakness, and the light was bad. They missed. He staggered into the shelter of the trees and looked back.
The cop had had to stop and pull his mate out of the creek. And now there were people coming into the pits from the Wilshire entrances, drawn by the whistles and the shots. He’d have to stay there, to guard the body and whatever clues there might be.
Danny Thayer stumbled on. No one was walking on Sixth Street at that hour, and the few cars went by fast. Nobody saw him, in the shadows. He went across into the grounds of a swank nursery, and then down on his knees in a dark corner, his breath knifing his lungs, his heart slamming his ribs like a hammer.
Far away a siren began to wail.
He had to get on. There’d be a cordon. He’d been a fool to run away. But his body did it without asking his mind, and I hen he’d been afraid to stop. Now nobody’d believe him.
But would they have believed him anyhow? A kid, broke and starving, standing beside a dead girl with his fists full of money?
Money. Bills, a thick roll of them, clenched in his sweating hand. He’d taken it, then. Now they’d never believe him. Never.
Money. Something he’d prayed for, with his belly crying for food. Blood money, to buy him the gas chamber. He got up, whimpering, and raised his hand, as if to throw it away.
he couldn’t throw it away. It meant bus fare, to get away from here, quick. It might save his life. And it meant food. Just one full meal, before they caught him.
He began to rip feverishly at the bills. Got to hurry. Sirens. God, let them be small. Fives, tens, twenties. A lot of money. Why was she carrying it? A fiver. He pulled it out, and a scrap of paper fell at his feet.
He scooped it up and began to run again.
Out onto Wilshire Boulevard. Slowly, so as not to attract attention. Sirens, coming fast, Fairfax Avenue. There was a bus coming, heading toward Hollywood. People were beginning to stop and look for the sirens.
He sprinted across the intersection against the lights and caught the bus. The driver grumbled about changing the five, digging for dollar bills. The sirens screamed closer. Danny forced his hands to be steady, taking the change and dropping a dime in the box.
They started, jamming through on the caution light, the driver still sore about the change. They were in the last batch of cars through before the cordon closed around Wilshire and Fairfax.
The bus was half empty. Danny sat by himself, trying not to sob when he breathed, trying to look peaceful. The roll fitted into his hand in his pocket, hard and accusing.
When they got as far north as Santa Monica Boulevard he began to relax a little. He got off there and went into a Log Cabin and ate. Then he took a red car and caught another bus on La Brea and went on to Hollywood. He went to three more drive-ins before he’d had enough to eat. He didn’t dare have it all in one place, for fear of drawing notice.
Then he went out onto Sunset Boulevard, not knowing where to go next, or what to do. And for the first time he was really afraid.
He’d been afraid back at the Pits, with the hot animal fear of death. But this was different, this was being lost in a dark, cold place, where there was nothing but silence and waiting.
The night fog was coming in, chilly and smelling of the sea. It made little halos around the glare of Earl Carroll’s. He could see people inside and hear music. The two big radio buildings across the street and the Palladium Ballroom radiated life and energy.
People, eating and drinking and having fun. Working. Fighting, maybe. not afraid. Not behind a wall, like he was.
He sat down on a bench, shivering. The roll of bills made a lump against his thigh.
The policeman had seen him pretty clearly by his flashlight. There’d be a description in the morning papers.
They’d get him. They always got you.
The cop he’d hit wasn’t dead, anyway. He’d moved and tried to get up when the other guy helped him.
If he could have caught the killer, or even seen his face. That girl, so little and golden-haired, with her throat ripped and jammed against those snarling fangs–and they thought Danny Thayer had done it!
How the killer must have hated her, to take her living throat in his hands and force it down. . . . What could a girl like that do to make anyone hate her so?
Surely, if he gave himself up, they’d know he couldn’t have (lone a thing like that. But somebody might say, “You hated her because she had money and you were hungry, so you killed her.”
Now he had money. Sure. Money. Money to buy the gas chamber.
It wasn’t till then that he remembered the bit of paper.
It was still in his pocket. He spread it out under the lights from Earl Carroll’s. Pencilled in a hasty, angry scrawl were he words, “This is all I can give you, ever, no matter what you do. Damn you, damn you, damn you!”
Danny turned the paper over. It was a strip torn from a department store sales slip. There was a name and address on it. Miss Cicely Rieff, who lived on Fountain Avenue.
The dead girl. She’d been taking that money to someone. Blackmail, sure as shooting. She must have been pretty desperate when she rolled the money up, to grab the nearest paper and scribble a note like that and wrap it in the heart of the wad.
Was the murderer the blackmailer? Maybe. The girl must have known him, to go into the Pits alone with him after dark. But why did he go off without his money, then? Had Danny scared him?
Danny Thayer, who was a fugitive from justice, with a roll of bills he couldn’t spend. Danny, who was going to die in the gas chamber, unless. . . .
Unless he could catch the murderer before the police caught him.

2

IT WAS ALMOST AS THOUGH his brain took hold and began to click without him, like a machine. He had clues–the note, the money, and the girl’s name and address. He knew he wasn’t the killer. That was more than the police had.
There hadn’t been anything else in the girl’s purse. Maybe it would take the police a little while to identify her. Until the morning papers came out, maybe, and somebody saw her picture.
It had been nearly ten when he found the body. It was nearly midnight now. Four or five hours he might hope for. Four or five hours to break into something from the outside and catch a killer.
It was hopeless, and he knew it. But it was better than just waiting, crouching in the dark with fear lying cold in his belly. He’d still be in trouble, of course, even if a miracle happened and he did find the murderer. He’d do time for stealing and hitting a cop. But he could face that all right. It was the terrible fear of dying, for something he didn’t do, that froze him.
He got up, thinking of the description the cop would give. There was a service station across the street. Nobody saw him go into the men’s room and lock the door. He still had his cheap razor. Nothing for that in a hock shop.
He managed to scrape his face pretty clean, using just soap and water. Then he used the blade to chop his hair shorter. It looked ragged, but at least it was short. Then he did what he could to make his clothes look decent.
When he came out he looked different enough so that cops hunting for a shag-haired, unshaven kid wouldn’t grab him straight off. He forced himself to walk with jaunty casualness, trying to keep in shadow without being too obvious about it.
It was well after midnight when he found the Fountain Avenue house.
It was one of those big old frame places–two stories and a half–left over from better days. A porch overgrown with bougainvillea ran around two sides. It was on a corner and there was a sign in the front bay window–ROOMS FOR RENT.
There were only one or two lights upstairs. That meant the police hadn’t identified the body yet. If they had, the place would be blazing and full of people. He went around to the driveway. It led between high lattice fences, grown heavy with morning glory vines, back to an old stable that was a garage now, with an apartment over it.
There were no lights in the back. Danny went softly down the drive. His heart was jumping like something trying to break loose.
The fog was heavier, but there was still moonlight. Everything was overgrown with vines and shrubs. It smelt musty and secret, and the lattice-covered back porch was a black hole with the garbage cans like ogre’s eyes looking dully from under it.
He stood still by the corner of the house, then. He was here, but what next? He couldn’t break into the house, yelling, “Who killed her?” The sharp chill of the air got inside him, and he felt the terrible, helpless weakness of an animal in a trap.
He went on, aimlessly, around the house. Noises came suddenly down to him from the garage apartment, so that he jumped and crouched trembling under a bush. A man’s low thick laughter and a scuffling sound, and one sharp high titter in a woman’s voice, and silence.
Danny crept on, still sweating with shock. He went along a dirt path between straggling flower beds, looking up at the dark house, wishing he were like Superman and could look right through walls.
Probably the killer wasn’t here at all. If he was, there was no way to get at him. He might as well go and give himself up, now.
He didn’t see the summer house until he almost ran into it. It was lattice like the fence, at the end of a pergola leading to a side porch. It was all choked with vines, smelling dusty and rotten in the damp night air.
And there were people inside.
A man’s voice spoke, right at Danny’s shoulder, just beyond the vines. A low voice, smooth and drawling and soft, and somehow worse than if it hadn’t been.
“I just want to know where she is, Frieda.”
“I tell you I don’t know!” It was a woman this time, breathless, frightened, almost crying. “I haven’t any control over Cicely.”
“Very well, Frieda,” said the man pleasantly. “I’m in no hurry.”
“I don’t understand.” The tone of the woman’s whisper did something to Danny’s insides. “Teddy, if you’ve harmed her. . . . ”
“Why should I harm Cicely? Just because Mother doesn’t love her darling niece?” There was a rustle of swift movement and a sharply indrawn breath.
“Don’t, Teddy! It hurts!”
The man said silkily, “Does it? I’m glad. Just remember it, in case. . . . What’s that? There’s someone outside!”
Danny got up and ran. A big moth had blundered suddenly into his face, so that he jerked his head and struck the vines and rustled them. He dodged into the shadows of a big tree and around it to the garage, where steps came down from the apartment.
Feet were running close behind him.
He knew he’d have nightmares about running feet all the rest of his life. He’d slip behind the garage to the street, and then. . . .
There was no way behind the garage, and the fence was too high to get over in time. He was caught.
He turned, then, his bony young face snarling, his fists balled. Scared, and angry because he was scared, and furious suddenly with fate for picking on him. A tall slender man in slacks and a sport coat was almost on him, running gracefully, like a dancer.
Danny lashed out at a smooth blond head, missed because the head moved aside a fraction, and felt something crash below his left ear.
He went sprawling, the breath knocked out of him against hard ground. A hand gripped his collar, dragged him upward, strangling, and then knuckles slashed him twice across the mouth.
The darkness turned suddenly red. Danny made an animal noise and doubled his feet up and kicked. The blond man grunted and lurched back, his handsome face twisted like a fiend’s in the moonlight.
The girl cried out sharply, then. She’d been a long way behind the man. Now she got between him and Danny, and said rapidly, “Wait, Teddy! Don’t! It’s my friend Dick Taylor, from back home.”
Teddy scowled down at her, his fists clenched and showing blood on the knuckles. “You’re lying,” he said.
“I’m not, I swear it! Dick, you tell him I’m not. Dicky!”
Danny’s brain was numbed with anger and pain and wondering if the girl was crazy. Almost without thinking, he mumbled, “Sure I’m her friend. Who’d you think I was–Hitler? Hi, Frieda.”
Lucky he’d heard her name. Teddy stood irresolute, swinging his fists in little tight arcs, like a cat swings its paws. And then the door opened, up above at the head of the stairs.
A man came out. He was wearing a big coat and carrying his hat, and his feet stumbled on the wooden platform. He said thickly, “G’nigh’, Princess. Thursday, huh?” He chuckled and turned, and then he saw the group at the foot of the stairs.
Danny saw his face for one stricken moment. Then the man slammed his hat on and pulled it hard over his face and ran down the stairs, hanging onto the rail and stumbling until
Danny thought he’d fall. He shoved past with his head down and went lurching down the drive.
Danny knew who the man was. He made a lot of money, kissing pretty women for the movies.
A woman came out of the door upstairs. She wore a thin silk robe, and she was a looker. She leaned over the rail, with her dark hair hanging over her shoulders, and blew a long plume of smoke. Her voice was tired and bored.
“What goes on?”
“Nothing,” said Frieda. “Just a friend of mine from back home. He hitch-hiked all the way out here, and then Teddy. . . .”
Teddy’s voice was sullen, but still smooth. “What’s he doing prowling in the yard at this time of night?”
Danny’s brain had been churning furiously. The girl must have her reason for this. And it gave him his chance to get inside. The least he could do was play up to her.
He got up, wiping the blood off his chin, and said, “Trying to get hold of Frieda. I’m broke, and I didn’t think the landlady would let me in, the way I look. Sure quick with your fists, aren’t you?”
“Quick,” said Teddy softly, “and accurate.”
The woman in the silk robe came down the stairs, her slipper heels clicking. Her legs showed white against the darkness.
“Spoils,” she said bitterly, and let something glitter in her hand. “Now I’ll go find the old highbinder.”
“The intricate pattern of crime,” said Teddy, almost absently. “So much more fascinating than a jigsaw puzzle. Isn’t it, Frieda?”
Frieda didn’t say anything. Danny had his first real look at her. She wore something plain and dark, and she wasn’t very tall. Her hair was the color of wheat, falling loose on her shoulders.
He thought her eyes were blue, but in that light all he knew was that they had hate in them. Hate, and fear, looking at Teddy.
“Come on, Dick,” she said. “I’ll get you a room.”
He followed her. Out in the street a motor roared and coughed, as though someone were in an awful hurry to get away. And a light went on in the second story, as though the motor was a signal.
Teddy laughed behind them, a soft nasty little sound. The woman in the silk robe plodded up into the black hole of the porch. And Frieda shrank suddenly against Danny and cried, “What’s that?”
There was something sprawled in the shadows of a clump of hydrangeas. Danny hadn’t seen it before. But the moonlight had shifted a bit, and one white hand showed up against the grass.
A man’s hand, lying across the dull metal of a gun.
They went to it, not speaking at first. Teddy knelt down and rolled the body partly over by the shoulder. The woman in the silk robe made a little choked scream and came back, her heels scuffing.
“It’s Halstead,” said Teddy. “Somebody’s knocked him on the head.”
Frieda said, in a queer flat whisper, “My God. Who would want to kill poor Mr. Halstead?”
Teddy’s eyes were slanted like a cat’s, glinting in the moonlight. He pointed to the gun. “Who did poor Mr. Halstead want to kill? Can’t guess, can you, Frieda?”
Frieda pressed tight against Danny, so tight he could feel the roll of bills in his pocket digging into her. She shivered and said wearily, “Haven’t you any heart at all?”
The woman gripped her thin robe together at the throat. “I’m getting out of here. The other I’m used to, but murder. . . !”
Teddy got up, dusting his knees. “No use, Princess. The police don’t like the contestants running out on their quiz shows.”
Policemen. Policemen coming from one murder to another and finding Danny Thayer. There wouldn’t be any time, now. They’d recognize him. Frieda would admit her lie. And if he ran away. . . .
He was scared. Cold inside, and scared, and kind of dazed, like an animal when it finds the steel jaws in its leg are there to stay.
The porch door opened. A woman’s harsh whisper said, “Get in here, you fools! Want everybody. . . . My God, what’s that!”
“A corpse, Mother,” said Teddy. “Your late boarder, Mr. Halstead.” There was a malicious, concealed amusement in his easy voice.
The porch door shut. A woman scuffed heavily out from under the shrouding vines and down the steps as fast as her heavy bulk could make it. Her frizzed white hair stuck out, quilled here and there with curlers. When she came across the wet grass she pulled up the straggling skirts of her nightgown and flannel wrapper, and Danny saw her ankles, thick and white and bunchy with veins.
“He must have had a heart attack,” she said. “A heart attack. His heart was weak, you know.” Then she saw the gun and slopped, her breath wheezing in her thick throat. “Suicide?”
“He hasn’t been shot. And I don’t think he cracked his own skull.” Danny saw the cat-glitter of his eyes, studying the woman, laughing.
“We’ll have to call the police,” said Frieda. Teddy shot her a bright, hard look, and smiled. He was handsome, like a blond Satan.
The fat woman said rapidly, “No, wait. Maybe he cut himself falling. Let’s get him inside–” Then she saw Danny. Her voice went suddenly ugly. “Who’s this?”
“I’m a pal of Frieda’s, from back home.” Her eyes were like small hard pebbles, staring right through Danny. They made him tighten inside. But she was scared, too. She didn’t want the police. If he could bluff this through, hang onto his chance. . . .
Her face was like a coarse, evil mask of stone in the moonlight. Danny could sense her thoughts running like rats behind it. Then she said, “All right. Grab hold of his feet and help Mr. Rieff.”
Teddy Rieff. The dead girl had been his cousin, then. Danny got the corpse around the knees. Everything was quiet. The people in the front hadn’t heard. The dead man was heavy, and his clothes were damp. Teddy pocketed the gun.
They went in through the dark porch, to a stale-smelling kitchen. A night light burned in the hall beyond. They went toward it, as quietly as they could, across a bare, creaky wooden floor.
They were almost there. And then a door opened suddenly, right at Danny’s shoulder, so that he almost dropped the body. Dim light from the hallway outlined a woman’s head against the darkness.
Hair flattened in wet curls under a net, with a face the shape of a pear sagging out from under it, a wide weak mouth and eyes that popped a little. Eyes that were wide open and staring, fixed on the dead man’s bloody face, lolling back against Teddy’s stomach.

3

SHE DIDN’T SPEAK. Danny didn’t know how long they stood there. Then Mrs. Rieff said sharply, “Go to your room. Princess. I’ll see you later.”
Princess went out, holding her silk robe away as she passed the corpse. And Mrs. Rieff moved, very quickly for a heavy woman.
Her right hand clamped just above the staring woman’s elbow. Her left smothered the whimpering cry of pain. She whispered savagely, “You know about this, Millie, don’t you?” Her fingers tightened. The woman strained away, her pale eyes stretched with fear.
“Tell me,” said Mrs. Rieff softly, “or you’ll get no nights off for six months.”
The woman made a strangled whining sound and tried to nod. Mrs. Rieff took her hand away. Millie started to speak, her mouth open as though once started the stream of words wouldn’t stop.
“Not here!” snapped Mrs. Rieff, and shook her viciously. “Upstairs, and be quiet!”
Down a dingy hall and up back stairs that must have been worked on lately, because they didn’t creak, Mrs. Rieff opened a door and motioned them in, listened a minute, and then came after them.
Lamps made a subdued purplish light. Danny guessed it was Mrs. Rieff’s room. There were photographs and expensive knicknacks all over the mantel and the tables. It was all crowded and choked and overdone.
He helped Teddy Rieff put the body down on a couch. Mr. Halstead had been a kindly-looking man, grey-haired and tired. There was a bruise and a big cut on his face.
Danny straightened up, waiting. He put his hands in his pockets to steady them, and the roll felt big and hard, like a judge’s hammer when he passes sentence.
He saw Frieda looking at him. A queer, desperate look. And then Mrs. Rieff’s pebble eyes were fixed on him.
Her face was coarse and puffed, with red broken veins under the skin. Danny was afraid of her, suddenly. She said sharply, “So you’re a friend of Frieda’s, eh?”
“Sure. My name’s Dick Taylor. I hitch-hiked out here, and landed broke. I wanted to get hold of Frieda first. I didn’t think you’d let me in, the way I look. I. . . . ”
“Well, you’re in now.” There was something terrible in the slow, reflective way she said it. “Frieda, where’s Cicely?”
“I don’t know.” She was pretty, now that you could see her face. She looked tired and sort of stony. Danny felt suddenly protective.
Mrs. Rieff smiled. It was like Teddy’s smile, catlike, malicious and secret. She turned suddenly on the staring, pale-eyed woman.
“All right, you, Millie. What about this?”
Millie licked her lips. She seemed drugged and dazed with fear. She stood utterly still, her big rough hands hanging, staring at the sprawling corpse. She wore bright green silk pajamas and a pink wrapper and pink slippers of quilted satin.
Her mouth worked for a long time before the words came, ragged and tumbling.
“‘I was coming back from the trashpile. I saw him, hiding in the bushes. He was waiting. . . . ”
“What were you doing at the trashpile at that hour?”
“I–please, Mrs. Rieff, I only took two slices. Don’t!”
Mrs. Rieff did, with relish. “Stealing bacon again, and trying to hide the grease. Well, stop rubbing your stupid face. Go on.”
Millie’s pale, protruding eyes swung again to the body.
“He had a gun,” she whispered. “He looked sick. He told me to go away, but I knew what he was doing. He was waiting to kill Miss Cicely. I heard him tell her he would, if she didn’t let him alone.”
Her big rough hands knotted together suddenly. “He wouldn’t stop. So I hit him with the skillet, on the head. He–he made a funny choking noise and fell down. I was scared. I ran inside. . . .”
Millie crumpled slowly down to her knees, staring straight ahead of her, her hands loose in her lap.
“I didn’t mean to kill him,” she said dully. “I only didn’t want him to hurt Miss Cicely. She’s kind to me. She’s the only person that ever was kind to me. She gives me pretty things, and money enough to go to two movies on my night off.”
She looked up then, with something bright and burning in her eyes.
“You all hate her,” she said. “You all wish she was dead. But she’s kind to me. And no one’s going to hurt her, if I can help it!”
She relaxed, as though there was nothing left in her, and just sat there, tears running silently down her flabby cheeks. Teddy had been bending over the body. He spoke now, rapidly.
“I don’t think this whack was hard enough to kill him, Mother. Stunned him, probably, and he raked his face on the bushes, falling. The old boy had a weak heart. Probably the strain of planning the murder, and getting caught, and the Mow, ow, brought on a fatal attack.”
Mrs. Rieff looked down at the body with hard, narrow eyes.
“So Cicely was blackmailing him, eh? Clever girl. Let that be a lesson to you, my son. Only a genius would have looked for profit in that dried-up old priss!”
She laughed suddenly, a startling wheeze of private mirth, and settled heavily into an overstuffed chair.
“Get up, Millie. Go to bed. And if you open your mouth about this, I’ll swear you killed him. Just forget Mr. Halstead, Millie. And you can forget your night off this week, too, so you’ll remember the bacon.”
Millie said, “Then I didn’t really kill him?”
“No. But I can swear you did. Now go and dream of Clark Gable.”
Millie got up. She looked at Mrs. Rieff with dumb, weary hate, like a beaten animal, and went. Mrs. Rieff said briskly, “That’s that. We’ll forget about the gun. Halstead had a heart attack and hurt his head falling. We brought him in, but it was too late. Teddy, you and the kid carry him to his room and then call a doctor. Make all the noise you want to. We want witnesses.”
She got up and took the gun out of Teddy’s pocket and wiped it carefully. Then she pressed Halstead’s stiffening fingers on it, in several places, wrapped it in a handkerchief, and gave it back.
“Stick it in one of his drawers. If he had a license they’ll look for it. If he hasn’t, well, we don’t know anything about it.”
She looked at Danny, with her hard, flat pebble eyes, and said, “Then you can have Number Eight, here in the rear. Any friend of my niece’s—we don’t want you to get away too soon.”
Teddy smiled. “Welcome to our happy home. Grab his feet again.”
Danny did. Frieda started out with them, but Mrs. Rieff said, “Stay here, dear. Two of them is enough.”
Frieda shot him a veiled, urgent look and stopped, reluctantly. They went on with the body, through a door that closed he back part of the hall off from the front. They made a lot of noise. Presently there were people swarming around, talking, questioning, staring.
They got Halstead into his room. Teddy palmed the gun somehow and got somebody busy calling a doctor and went out again with Danny. Danny was only vaguely conscious of what went on. His brain was spinning like a squirrel in a cage, and making about as much progress.
The things he had found out, instead of simplifying the problem, had only made it harder. Cicely Rieff had been a blackmailer. The servant said everybody hated her. Halstead had been driven to murder.
Who else in this house was Cicely blackmailing? And who I tad been blackmailing her? And what about?
Frieda, who must be Cicely’s sister, was afraid of Teddy Rieff. Why? And was there really some pleased and secret knowledge in Mrs. Rieff’s eyes, or had he just imagined it? The girl Frieda was the pivot. If he could be alone with
her….
Teddy Rieff closed the hall door behind them. “The Great Divide,” he chuckled. “The back is strictly family territory. The boarders even have to garage their cars elsewhere, and here are no keys to the back door given out.”
His slanting cat-eyes were fixed sharply on Danny. “Therefore you are the first outsider to see what you have seen.”
He meant about the apartment over the garage. Danny grinned. “I know how to keep quiet. Say, I’d like to see Frieda before I turn in. Been a long time, and we were pretty chummy.”
“Sure,” said Teddy. “Four years is a long time. How are things back in Kansas?”
“About the same,” said Danny warily. Teddy stopped before a door and opened it, snapping the light on inside. “This is your room, kid. Suit you?”
“Sure, anything.” He wanted to see Frieda, alone–and quick. A siren wailed suddenly over on Sunset, and his guts knotted tight inside him. But it went by. He started off down the hall.
He didn’t even have time to turn. The swift movement behind him melted right into the chopping blow on the side of his neck. His heart seemed to close up on him, and his body just folded, heavily.
He didn’t quite go out. He felt Teddy’s arms like lean steel cables around him, and knew dimly that he was dragged and lifted and stretched on something. He began to struggle then, glaring up at Teddy in a sort of dazed fury.
But it was too late. He was spread-eagled on the bed, tied wrist and ankle to the brass posts. Teddy smiled down at him. “Frieda’s only been out here two years,” he said gently, “and she came from Michigan. Better start talking, kid.”
The blood thundered in Danny’s head. It hurt, and he couldn’t think. He whispered, “You go to hell.”
“Inevitably. But not just yet.” Teddy’s long fingers twisted cruelly in Danny’s hair, lifting his head. “What’s between you and Frieda? Something about Cicely?”
Danny wasn’t afraid now. Just mad. He thrashed his head about and tried to bite Teddy’s wrist. Teddy laughed and slapped him, just hard enough to make his ears ring.
“Okay. We’ll do it the hard way.” He whipped his handkerchief tight around Danny’s jaws to keep him from yelling, and went through his pockets.
Then he stood silent for a long minute, looking at the roll of bills and the crumpled paper with the note and the address on it.
He pocketed them at last, slowly, and bent over Danny again. His handsome face had deep, cruel lines in it. “She’s dead, then.”
Danny nodded. No use trying to hide that any longer. Teddy ripped off the gag.
“What do you know about this?”
Danny burst out, “Nothing! I was just walking through the Tar Pits, looking for a place to sleep. I heard a woman scream, and saw someone running away. Then I found the body, and the money–and then the cops found me. They think I did it.”
“They do!” said Teddy softly. His hand closed on Danny’s shirt collar, pulled him up ruthlessly to the reach of his bound arms. Teddy’s cat-eyes were pale and cold and yet somehow blazing. He said, “Did you see the killer?”
“Only someone running.”
“Man or woman?”
“Someone in pants. Dark hair.”
“Dark hair. You’re sure of that?”
Danny looked at the light shining on Teddy’s smooth blond head. “You could have worn a cap,” he said grimly. Shot in the dark. He shivered, looking at Teddy’s face. Teddy laughed. A soft, secret little laugh. “Yes. I could, couldn’t I?” He let Danny down again and replaced the gag. “Just lie still, little one. Daddy has business to attend to. Oh, yes. Big, important business. And I need you!”
The lights went out. Teddy opened the door and closed it softly behind him, and Danny Thayer was alone.
He lay there with the blood pounding in his bruised neck, his legs and arms beginning to ache where they were tied, and thought, “He did it. He did it, and he’s going to pin it on me.”
His brain began to click over again, like a well-oiled engine. What motive could Teddy Rieff have for killing his cousin Cicely? Well, Cicely was blackmailing at least one other person so that he was willing to murder her. Why not Teddy, too? Or Teddy’s mother?
Teddy’s mother. That apartment over the garage, Princess, and the prominent actor. Mrs. Rieff was prosperous. Boardinghouse keepers don’t get that way solely from the boarders, and women who run small apartments over garages don’t get that way splitting diamond bracelets with the girls. There’s another, quicker way. . . .
Blackmail. You always came to blackmail in this house. Ten to one Mrs. Rieff blackmailed the men who came to the rear apartment. She’d want to keep her skirts clean, though, in case of trouble. She took plenty of precautions. It wouldn’t be easy to get anything on her.
But suppose somebody did. Wouldn’t she rather split her profits than be exposed or give the whole thing up? All right. Say Cicely Rieff, her niece and therefore admitted into the family circle, had proof of Mrs. Rieff’s business and blackmailed her with it. Remembering Mrs. Rieff’s heavy face and hard pebble eyes, Danny didn’t think she’d take it too long. She’d get busy figuring out a way to rid herself of the blackmailer.
She wouldn’t do it herself. She’d delegate someone else. And who better than her son, Teddy? Just like, a few minutes ago, she had said, “We don’t want you to get away too soon,” and Teddy had smiled. . . .
Perhaps Frieda Rieff knew too much. Perhaps that was why Teddy had threatened her in the summer house.
Danny groaned. Just guessing wouldn’t do him any good. He had to have proof. Time, the little time he had, was rushing by. And here he was, trussed up and waiting.
Waiting. Remembering Teddy’s long sinewy hands, Danny shuddered. And then, very softly, somebody opened the door.

4

DANNY LAY QUITE STILL, hardly breathing. His nails dug into his palms, but he didn’t feel them. He watched the dark huddled bulk come in, saw the door swing shut again, and listened to feet scuffing stealthily across the carpet.
A match flared and sputtered startlingly, close to his face. And Millie’s voice, hushed to a hoarse whisper, asked, “Are you all right?”
All the strength poured out of Danny’s rigid body. He said shakily, “Sure. Untie me, quick. What are you doing here?” The match went out. He could feel her rough fingers fumbling at his wrists. Her voice came raggedly, as though some great pent-up emotion in her forced it out against a barrier of fear.
“Miss Frieda sent me. She upset a vase on her dress, so she could get away from the old woman for a minute to change it, and she sent me up here. She thought they were going to do something to you. She needs your help. That’s why she lied about knowing you.”
Millie’s voice broke in a dry sob. “I heard through the wall, waiting in the next room for Teddy to go away. Poor Miss Cicely! She knew they wanted to kill her. She was afraid. I know she wasn’t bad! She was kind to me, and I loved her.She had one wrist free and started on the other. Teddy had tied hard knots in the handkerchiefs he used. Her voice stumbled on.
“I heard Mr. Halstead threaten her yesterday, and the old woman was in a black fury all day. I know Cicely was asking for more money, and I know she was in trouble. She hasn’t been herself ever since Frieda had to go back to Michigan on business, four months ago. “I wanted to help her.” But she’d never tell me what was wrong. Anyway, there was nothing I could do. There–never has been.”
Wrists free, and both of them working on ankles lashed tight with leather belts, Millie’s shaken voice went on again. “She was frightened, I tell you. She gave me three dollars this morning, and then she said, ‘This may be the last money
I’ll ever give you, Millie. If anything happens to me, Frieda will–’ And then Mrs. Rieff came into the kitchen and she stopped.
“I think she was going to say that Miss Frieda would give me things. I don’t think so. She’s a nice girl, but she lives inside herself so much. But I don’t care about that. I loved Miss Cicely. She’s the only person I ever had to love.”
Danny was glad it was dark. He hated to see women cry. He said, “Why haven’t you left this place, or called the police?”
“I didn’t have anything the all the police about. The old woman’s careful about that. I’d only have gotten Princess  and Miss Cicely in trouble. Besides–” She helped him off the bed, and he could hear her throat working, trying to keep the terror and the tears in check.
“Besides, I didn’t have anyplace else to go. I’m not young. It isn’t easy to find a place these days. Mrs. Rieff knows that, and she knows I’m too dumb and too scared to fight her.”
Her voice dropped suddenly to a strange tight whisper. “Only this time I’m not. They’ve killed Cicely, she and her wicked son. They’ve killed her. And I’m not going to let them get away with it!”
Danny said awkwardly, “Come on, then. We’ll get Frieda.” His hand was on the knob when Millie’s fingers closed
sharply on his wrist. He heard them, then. Slow, heavy foot-steps, coming closer.
The old woman,” whispered Millie. “Maybe she’s coming to make sure.                “They waited. No time, no place to hide or get away. There was sweat on Danny’s temples. The footsteps stopped outside the door. He could hear her heavy breathing beyond the thin panel.
The knob turned in his fingers.
The barrier door down the hall opened, and a voice said, rather timidly, “The doctor’s here, Mrs. Rieff.”
She said, “All right,” and let go of the knob and went on.
Danny’s knees sagged. He waited until the outside door closed, and went out.
There was nothing in the hall but silence and the dim glow of the night light, until they reached the door of Mrs. Rieff’s room. There were voices behind that, low but not very guarded, as though they were sure of not being overheard. Frieda’s voice, tight and shaken, saying, “What a filthy trick! You were blackmailing your own mother.”
“Naturally. Lucrative work, if you can get it. Of course, I knew it wouldn’t last forever. That’s why I kept asking for more, and Cissy had to shake more out of the victims in order to meet all her–er–obligations. Naturally, the victims began to kick. The last raise was just the final spur.”
He laughed. “This will be a shock to Mother. She trusts my filial devotion so completely!”
“And that boy?”
“That boy,” said Teddy softly, “is going to be a scapegoat. I’m going to tie all his little curiosities to his horns and run him straight back to the police–dead.”
There was a queer sharp edge to Frieda’s voice, a stillness. “And what about me?”
“Now that this game is played out, I’m thinking of taking over Mother’s business and enlarging it. I want. . . . ” He seemed to move closer to the girl, and his voice dropped so that Danny couldn’t hear.
Frieda’s voice came suddenly, sharp and harsh. “No! You devil, I won’t do it! Teddy, you . . . oh!”
Danny said quietly, “Millie, go phone the police. I’m going in there.”
He still had no direct, incriminating evidence. Teddy’s implied confession wouldn’t be enough to condemn him. But Danny figured he’d have at least a chance this way. And he couldn’t let Teddy just go on. Cicely had already died. Frieda might be next.
Millie gripped his arm tight. “Be careful–and I hope this’ll mean the rope for both of ’em!”
She went off down the hall, almost running, her bright green pajamas flapping around her thin legs. Danny, very quietly, opened the door.
They didn’t see him come in, for a moment. Teddy had his back to Danny, his hands on Frieda’s arms below the shoulders. She had changed into a dark blue wrapper with a long gold arrow on the collar. She was straining away from him, her eyes blazing out of a face white and hard as scraped bone.
Teddy murmured, “You’d be a pretty woman, Frieda, if you weren’t such a blasted martinet!”
She said something, so low and hissing that Danny couldn’t get it. Then she saw him, coming up behind Teddy. Her blue eyes widened.
Teddy turned swiftly, his handsome face startled and wicked as a blond Satan. Frieda cried out, “Help me! Please help me!”
Danny said evenly, “I’m just waiting for the chance.”
It was the first time in his short life he’d ever felt real hate. He went in on Teddy Rieff, watching the poise of his blond head, the swing of his fists and shoulders. His first blow just grazed Teddy’s jaw. He twisted to take the counterblow on his shoulder, crouched, and slashed upward.
His fist smashed into a belly tight and hard as board. It jolted both of them. Then a roundhouse swing connected, with Danny’s ear. He went down, grabbing at Teddy’s knees, pulling him off balance and into a table loaded with china and glass.
It went over with a crash. Frieda had closed the hall door and was standing flat against it, watching with wide, bright eyes. Teddy cut his hand on a broken vase, and there began to be red splashes over the rug and Danny Thayer.
There wasn’t much science to it. Danny just hung on, punching, kicking, grappling. Teddy was heavier and experienced. Danny’s long rangy frame hadn’t reached its real strength yet. But Danny had made up his mind to one thing. This time he wasn’t going to be licked.
Teddy’s knee ground agonizingly into his belly. Hard knuckles slashed and pounded at his face. His mouth was full of blood and his ears roared. He set his teeth and twisted like an eel, grabbing out blindly.
He got Teddy by the shirt collar. The cloth was stout. Danny’s arm was long, and his position gave him leverage. He dragged Teddy over, heaving his body underneath to break his balance. His eyes were swelling and full of blood, but he could feel.
He twisted the collar tight, working his fingers like a bulldog’s jaws, in and in, his head sunk and his back humped to take Teddy’s blows.
Teddy swore, viciously, between his teeth. He was dragging at Danny’s wrist now, but Danny’s long bony fingers were tangled in the cloth, twisting, twisting. Teddy lurched back and up, shaking himself.
Danny kicked at his ankles and brought him down again, hard. He got his other hand on the collar and his knee on Teddy’s right arm. Teddy’s left hand raged at his face, clawing. Danny put his head deep between his shoulders to save his eyes, and then Teddy found his ear.
Danny screamed, and Teddy laughed, a sort of strangled gurgle. Danny flung himself downward suddenly. Teddy’s nails slipped out of his ear. His right arm came free as Danny’s knee moved with his body.
Danny lay flat on top of Teddy, grinding his fingers in, twisting the cloth tighter and tighter. He could feel the hard, straining cords of Teddy’s throat, the softer spot beneath the Adam’s apple. He began to get scared. He didn’t want to kill.
Teddy’s nails were ripping his shirt and the flesh under it, He tore away suddenly and loosed one hand from Teddy’s throat and brought it crashing down against his temple.
Teddy’s hands faltered. Danny flailed his fist down twice more. Teddy Rieff lay still, breathing hoarsely through his mouth.
Danny got up. Very slowly, waiting for the pain to break through the numbness. Through a wavering red curtain he saw Frieda.
“Tie him up,” he said thickly. “Keep him. Police. . . . ” The golden arrow on her collar flashed at him. “Police?”
“Coming. Millie sent for them. Teddy killed your sister–”
“Yes,” she said. “Yes. I know that. Are you all right?”
“I guess so.” He wiped the blood out of his eyes and swallowed what was in his mouth. Teddy was groaning on the floor. Danny said, “We’ll have to take care of his mother somehow. Lock the door, maybe. Keep her out till the police come.”
Frieda nodded and turned the key. Teddy looked awful, bloody and choking on his breath. It scared Danny. What if Teddy died?
He was Danny’s only proof of innocence. There was no direct evidence against him. But the police would at least investigate, might find some, might even force him to confess. But with Teddy dead, at Danny’s hands. . . .
He wasn’t dead. He was tough. A little blood didn’t mean much. Danny pulled himself together and helped Frieda tie him with curtain cords.
Then he just sat, looking across at Frieda. Her hair looked even paler against the dark blue robe, gold and shining like the arrow on her collar. Her eyes were very blue. She smiled tremulously, and said, “This is what I prayed you’d do. I’ve been so frightened. My sister wasn’t good to me, and Teddy . . . I didn’t know anyone to ask help from, and when you came, I–you might have been killed. Can you ever forgive me?”
He waved a bruised hand awkwardly. “You gave me my chance. The cops think I killed your sister.”
“Teddy told me about that.”
“How did the old woman let herself get blackmailed?” Frieda shrugged wearily. “Cicely’s been working on it ever since we came out here to live with Aunt Grace. Our parents died, you see. Cicely never told me much, but I think she got a candid camera shot of Aunt Grace–Mrs. Rieff–taking a necklace from Princess. It didn’t mean much by itself. But Cicely had a case all built up in her mind, enough so that my aunt didn’t want to risk an investigation.”
She caught her breath suddenly, looking toward the door. “She’s coming back.”
Danny got up and went to the door. Fear began to knot his insides again, he didn’t know why. She was a woman, and locked out. But there was something about her, about her eyes. . . .
Her heavy footsteps came up, and stopped outside, and for the second time that night the knob turned under Danny’s fingers. He said, “The door’s locked, Mrs. Rieff. It’s going to stay locked until the police get here.”
There was a startled intake of breath, and a silence. Then her voice came, ominously quiet.
“Have you hurt Teddy?”
“He’ll be all right. Only he’s staying here, for the police.” And then, sharp and taut behind him, Frieda screamed. Danny whirled around. Frieda was half crouched over
Teddy, her hands pressed over her heart. She looked up at him, slowly.
“He’s dead,” she whispered. “You’ve killed him.”
Danny went forward, three wavering, leaden steps. Teddy lay utterly still, not groaning, not breathing. His lips were blue. Mrs. Rieff called from beyond the door, but Danny hardly heard her.
He stood staring down at the body. His bony hands opened and closed slowly, still feeling Teddy’s living throat against them.
Teddy’s throat. Cicely’s throat. They’d never believe him now. “Frieda. Frieda!”
The girl looked at him, dazed.
“Frieda, you’ll tell them how it happened. You’ll tell them. . . .”
She crumpled down gently at his feet, lying like a tired child with her cheek on her hand, the arrow glinting on her breast. It was then that Mrs. Rieff came in. There must have been another door into the hall. She came slowly through the bedroom door to Danny’s right. She carried a snub-nosed automatic, with a silencer on it.

5

HER EYES WERE LIKE SMALL polished bits of steel, sunk deep under heavy lids, seeing everything. Teddy’s battered body. Blood splashed over the carpet. Danny standing on wide-braced feet, beaten and torn and half stripped, wild with numb terror. And Frieda, lying quiet, her wheat-gold hair burning against the rug.
Without speaking or letting the automatic waver a fraction of an inch, Mrs. Rieff bent down and put her free hand on Teddy’s throat, feeling for the pulse under the jaw. Then she pilled back an eyelid and gave one swift, keen look.
She got up. Her heavy face was almost expressionless, but Danny’s heart twisted in him like a scared animal. She whispered, “I didn’t mean to kill him.”
“That’s too bad.” Her voice, held tight to a level, throaty whisper, betrayed what she was feeling. “That’s too bad!” ‘lime, the room, the universe, shrank in on Danny Thayer so lie could hardly breathe. The focal point of the whole cosmos was Mrs. Rieff’s finger, tightening on the trigger.
He said, stupidly, “Teddy killed the girl. He was going to kill me. I had to. . . . ”
“I know, I sent him to do both.”
Danny backed off a step. She followed, Death in a nightgown and a flannel wrapper, with curlers in its hair. She said softly, “I want to kill you. I want to kill you myself, for killing my son. And even if I didn’t, do you think I could let you leave this house alive after all you’ve learned this night?”
“They’ll get you for killing me. They’ll be here soon.”
She laughed, softly. “Look at this room, and you, and Teddy. Who’ll blame me for shooting a crazy killer, already wanted?”
“Frieda. Millie. They’ll tell. . . . ”
“I’ll take care of Frieda and Millie.”
The automatic came up, steadied, rock-like in her thick hand. Danny said, “Wait. Did you know Teddy was blackmailing Cicely and keeping the money? Your money?”
Her hard pebble eyes blinked. “You’re lying.”
“Why do you think she was demanding more and more money? Just yesterday, so that you and Halstead both wanted to kill her on the same night. Look in Teddy’s pockets. You’ll find the bills I stole from the body, and a note.”
“You’re a fool. Teddy wouldn’t have left money on her body, even if he had been lying to me.”
“I frightened him away, running across that stone bridge.”
Her eyes were ugly with pain and hate. She was only listening with the top of her mind, watching him, thinking how he was going to die.
“What stone bridge?”
“In the La Brea Pits, where he killed her.”
“You’re crazy,” said Mrs. Rieff dreamily. “He drove her car off the road into Coldwater Canyon.”
The round black eye of the automatic was staring at Danny’s heart.
He dropped, twisting sideways back of a chair. The bullet sang just over his head and thunked into the plaster.
He cried out, “I tell you he killed her in the Pits! He jammed her throat down into the mouth of that sabre-tooth cat. For God’s sake, look!”
Perhaps missing her shot had shaken her a little, or perhaps the truth was naked in Danny’s voice. She bent, slowly, never taking her eyes from the chair where the boy crouched, and felt Teddy’s pockets.
Danny could see part of her, under the chair. He saw her hand draw the bills out and hold them for a minute, and he listened for a siren, praying. But there was only silence.
Mrs. Rieff whispered, “You did. You lied to me, Teddy. You said you couldn’t get anything on her to make her stop. That’s why we had to kill her.”
Then her hand dropped the bills and lay for a moment tenderly on Teddy’s face. “It doesn’t matter now.” She got up. “It doesn’t matter now, does it, you there behind the chair? They’re both dead now, and it doesn’t matter!” Danny, under the chair, watched her thick white ankles come slowly toward him. Beyond them was Frieda, lying still, the golden arrow glittering softly as she breathed. Frieda knew what Teddy had on Cicely. She could tell the whole story of Teddy’s double-cross. But she was out. And it didn’t matter, anyway. They were both dead, and he was going to be.
The ankles stopped beyond the chair. He could see the veins up on them, blue and bunchy. His long jaw stiffened. If he got up suddenly, and pushed the chair over into her. . . . Frieda stirred, just the faintest contraction of the muscles, the golden arrow shot a wicked barb of light into his eyes.
Danny’s muscles tightened. There were fragments of glass and china on the floor from the table he and Teddy had knocked over. He got a handful, caught a deep breath, and surged up.
The chair crashed over, almost into Mrs. Rieff’s knees, so that she had to move back. And the handful of fragments shot out like shrapnel from Danny’s hand.
They struck Frieda Rieff full in the face and neck. She cried out and sprang up, startled and furious, her face twisted into a devil’s mask frighteningly like Teddy’s.
Danny shouted, “Don’t shoot. I didn’t kill your son. She did!”
For a long moment there was silence. Then Frieda began to cry softly, the look on her face gone so swiftly that it might have been imagination. Mrs. Rieff said, almost soundlessly, “What are you trying to do?”
“Save my neck,” said Danny. She had her balance again. She could shoot, any time. Frieda was standing with her face in her hands, her wheat-gold hair falling over them, shaking a little.
Danny said, “Frieda was faking. She was waiting for you to kill me. That way I’d take the blame for both murders.”
“That’s not true.” Frieda’s voice was a broken, childish sob. “I did faint. When I came to I was scared. I just lay there. How can you say I killed my own cousin?”
For an instant Danny was shaken. She was so soft, so lovely, so miserable. Mrs. Rieff saw his hesitation. She said, “You’re stalling.”
Faintly, then, there was a siren wailing. Far away, but coming. Sweat needled Danny’s face.
Frieda burst out, “How could I have killed Teddy? You were right with me all the time. And there’s no mark on him you didn’t put there!”
“Frieda,” he said quietly, “where does that golden arrow belong?”
Her hand flew to her collar, slid down slowly to her breast. “No place in particular. Anywhere. Anywhere I want to put it.
Mrs. Rieff said slowly, “It’s always on the collar. It was on the collar half an hour ago. Why did you move it?”
“I don’t know. What difference does it make. Why do you want to treat me this way?”
She crumpled into a chair, crying. Mrs. Rieff was staring at her with hard pebble eyes. Danny took a chance. He walked over to her and pulled her head back by the wheat-gold hair and said, “When I was standing at the door with my back turned you took the gold arrow off your robe. What did you do with it, Frieda?”
“I—nothing. I didn’t know I did it. Aunt Grace!”
Mrs. Rieff stood still, watching. Danny reached down suddenly and unfastened the pin and held it up.
There was blood, just a tiny smear of it, in the joint of the pin. A brass pin, five inches long, and sharp at the tip.
She sat there, quite still, her face hardening like soft clay glazing in the kiln. Danny said slowly, “You couldn’t stab him to the heart with that. You didn’t open a vein. But. . . . “He knelt suddenly by the body, looking down into the haltered, bloodstained face. He found what he was looking for, and felt sick.
“Through the eye,” he said. “Into the brain. She thought a little prick like that would never be noticed, in the corner of the eye.”
Mrs. Rieff looked down, and then up again, at Frieda. She shrank back, her eyes wide.
“I tell you I didn’t! He’s lying. Why should I kill Teddy?” “Because,” said Danny, “you killed Cicely, too, and he knew it.”
He felt suddenly weary. He didn’t even get up from the corpse. He just squatted there, and heard his voice run on. “You’ve had bad luck tonight, haven’t you, Frieda? You lost your temper and killed Cicely. I saw her body, and I know you lost your temper. Then I scared you away from the money, and you weren’t sure I hadn’t seen you.
“You saw me. I forgot that. When I turned up here you were scared. Maybe I’d recognize you. I had the money, too, and you wanted that. You felt it in my pocket when you leaned against me out there in the yard, when we found Halstead.
“Only there was Teddy. You wanted to use me against Teddy, and you succeeded. But Teddy got the money first. He knew then that Cicely was dead, that he hadn’t killed her, and that left only you.
“Because he knew all about you, Frieda. He tried to force you to come in with him. Then I knocked him out and tried to keep him for the police, and you knew he’d have to tell the truth in order to save his own neck. So you killed him, with the only weapon you had–that pin.
“You aren’t very used to murder, though. You got flustered, between doing it and putting on an act for me, and you got the pin back in the wrong place. You’d have been all right, if it hadn’t been for that. But I saw it was wrong, and I wondered why, and all of a sudden a lot of things lined right up and made sense.”
Mrs. Rieff said, “You don’t make sense, kid.” But she wasn’t going to shoot. She was looking at the gold arrow.
“I didn’t,” said Danny wearily. “I’m a hell of a detective. I was fooled, like everybody else, into thinking Cicely was a hard-boiled blackmailer. I went on from there and built up a perfect case against Teddy, just like everybody else. I was almost right, too.
“But I was an awful dope. I swallowed that picture of Cicely you all had, and didn’t pay any attention to the Cicely that Millie knew. A gentle, kindly girl who was scared out of her wits and knew something was going to happen to her.
“Would a hard-boiled criminal show all that to a servant? Wouldn’t she do something about it? She’d apparently done enough before. And what could Teddy have on her, to make her pay blackmail?
“I didn’t think much about that, either. I guess I thought he was threatening to expose her to the police. But he couldn’t have done that. He was in too deep himself. So it had to be something else–someone else that Cicely was afraid of.
“I’d never have guessed who, if Frieda hadn’t been forced to kill Teddy.”
Mrs. Rieff still hadn’t moved, but her hard little eyes were intent. Frieda hid her face in her hands. Her voice came small died soft and piteous, “You’re mad! Cicely’s always dominated me. I don’t know what was between her and Teddy, but I didn’t kill her! I wouldn’t have the strength. And you said yourself the killer was a man.”
“I thought so. I’m used to thinking of pants as masculine. But Cicely was awfully small, and you’re no weakling, Frieda. What did you do with your dark slack suit, Frieda, and the thing that goes around your head and covers up that blonde hair?”
She didn’t answer, and Mrs. Rieff said, “Yes. Where is it?”
“I gave it away. Yesterday. The War Relief people.”
“The police,” said Danny, “can trace it, then. Especially with all that blood on it.”
“All right!” Frieda was standing suddenly, her face white and hard, her eyes startingly like Teddy’s, narrow and cat-like. “I changed my clothes in my car. I wrapped the slack suit around a big rock and threw it in the sump of an abandoned oil well.
“Sure, I killed her. I didn’t mean to. I’ve used Cicely since we were kids, making her do my dirty work and take the blame. She was useful to me. But she went soft tonight. She said she was going to the police, that she couldn’t go on this way. I lost my temper. . . .
“I was mad anyway. I found out about Teddy. He made love to her while I was gone, and the fool fell for it. He found out all about me, and used Cicely’s fear of me to blackmail her. Pretty little set-up, wasn’t it, Aunt Grace? Me behind Cicely, Cicely blackmailing you and Halstead and a couple of others, and Teddy milking the lot of us.
“Cicely couldn’t keep it up. There just wasn’t enough money for both Teddy and me. She had to confess. And by that time, Teddy was dangerous to me. And the rest–well, you’re pretty clever, kid.”
She turned on her aunt. There wasn’t any fear or softness in her. Just tough flexible realism, seeing, weighing, acting.
“What do we do now, Aunt Grace? If you go ahead and shoot the boy, we’re both in the clear on those murders. If you shoot me, the police will get you. If you don’t shoot either of us, I’ll spill all I know about Rieff Blackmail, Incorporated, before I die.”
“But if I shoot both of you,” said Mrs. Rieff gently, “the boy will be saddled with three murders, and I’ll be clear.”
Danny hurled himself just as the silenced gun plopped softly. The bullet snarled past his ear, biting a little chunk of flesh from the cartilage. Then he had smashed into Mrs. Rieff.
She was too heavy to move fast enough. The gun spoke once more, harmlessly. Then Danny’s fingers had crushed it out of her hand.
He sat down, then, holding the gun on two women who looked more like trapped wolves than women. The sirens screamed up outside the house, and stopped, and presently there were feet tramping through the house.
Big, heavy feet. And for the first time, Danny Thayer was glad to hear them.

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The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE

by Robert Louis Stevenson

STORY OF THE DOOR

Mr. Utterson the lawyer was a man of a rugged countenance that was never lighted by a smile; cold, scanty and embarrassed in discourse; backward in sentiment; lean, long, dusty, dreary and yet somehow lovable. At friendly meetings, and when the wine was to his taste, something eminently human beaconed from his eye; something indeed which never found its way into his talk, but which spoke not only in these silent symbols of the after-dinner face, but more often and loudly in the acts of his life. He was austere with himself; drank gin when he was alone, to mortify a taste for vintages; and though he enjoyed the theater, had not crossed the doors of one for twenty years. But he had an approved tolerance for others; sometimes wondering, almost with envy, at the high pressure of spirits involved in their misdeeds; and in any extremity inclined to help rather than to reprove. “I incline to Cain’s heresy,” he used to say quaintly: “I let my brother go to the devil in his own way.” In this character, it was frequently his fortune to be the last reputable acquaintance and the last good influence in the lives of downgoing men. And to such as these, so long as they came about his chambers, he never marked a shade of change in his demeanour.

No doubt the feat was easy to Mr. Utterson; for he was undemonstrative at the best, and even his friendship seemed to be founded in a similar catholicity of good-nature. It is the mark of a modest man to accept his friendly circle ready-made from the hands of opportunity; and that was the lawyer’s way. His friends were those of his own blood or those whom he had known the longest; his affections, like ivy, were the growth of time, they implied no aptness in the object. Hence, no doubt the bond that united him to Mr. Richard Enfield, his distant kinsman, the well-known man about town. It was a nut to crack for many, what these two could see in each other, or what subject they could find in common. It was reported by those who encountered them in their Sunday walks, that they said nothing, looked singularly dull and would hail with obvious relief the appearance of a friend. For all that, the two men put the greatest store by these excursions, counted them the chief jewel of each week, and not only set aside occasions of pleasure, but even resisted the calls of business, that they might enjoy them uninterrupted.

It chanced on one of these rambles that their way led them down a by-street in a busy quarter of London. The street was small and what is called quiet, but it drove a thriving trade on the weekdays. The inhabitants were all doing well, it seemed and all emulously hoping to do better still, and laying out the surplus of their grains in coquetry; so that the shop fronts stood along that thoroughfare with an air of invitation, like rows of smiling saleswomen. Even on Sunday, when it veiled its more florid charms and lay comparatively empty of passage, the street shone out in contrast to its dingy neighbourhood, like a fire in a forest; and with its freshly painted shutters, well-polished brasses, and general cleanliness and gaiety of note, instantly caught and pleased the eye of the passenger.

Two doors from one corner, on the left hand going east the line was broken by the entry of a court; and just at that point a certain sinister block of building thrust forward its gable on the street. It was two storeys high; showed no window, nothing but a door on the lower storey and a blind forehead of discoloured wall on the upper; and bore in every feature, the marks of prolonged and sordid negligence. The door, which was equipped with neither bell nor knocker, was blistered and distained. Tramps slouched into the recess and struck matches on the panels; children kept shop upon the steps; the schoolboy had tried his knife on the mouldings; and for close on a generation, no one had appeared to drive away these random visitors or to repair their ravages.

Mr. Enfield and the lawyer were on the other side of the by-street; but when they came abreast of the entry, the former lifted up his cane and pointed.

“Did you ever remark that door?” he asked; and when his companion had replied in the affirmative. “It is connected in my mind,” added he, “with a very odd story.”

“Indeed?” said Mr. Utterson, with a slight change of voice, “and what was that?”

“Well, it was this way,” returned Mr. Enfield: “I was coming home from some place at the end of the world, about three o’clock of a black winter morning, and my way lay through a part of town where there was literally nothing to be seen but lamps. Street after street and all the folks asleep—street after street, all lighted up as if for a procession and all as empty as a church—till at last I got into that state of mind when a man listens and listens and begins to long for the sight of a policeman. All at once, I saw two figures: one a little man who was stumping along eastward at a good walk, and the other a girl of maybe eight or ten who was running as hard as she was able down a cross street. Well, sir, the two ran into one another naturally enough at the corner; and then came the horrible part of the thing; for the man trampled calmly over the child’s body and left her screaming on the ground. It sounds nothing to hear, but it was hellish to see. It wasn’t like a man; it was like some damned Juggernaut. I gave a few halloa, took to my heels, collared my gentleman, and brought him back to where there was already quite a group about the screaming child. He was perfectly cool and made no resistance, but gave me one look, so ugly that it brought out the sweat on me like running. The people who had turned out were the girl’s own family; and pretty soon, the doctor, for whom she had been sent put in his appearance. Well, the child was not much the worse, more frightened, according to the Sawbones; and there you might have supposed would be an end to it. But there was one curious circumstance. I had taken a loathing to my gentleman at first sight. So had the child’s family, which was only natural. But the doctor’s case was what struck me. He was the usual cut and dry apothecary, of no particular age and colour, with a strong Edinburgh accent and about as emotional as a bagpipe. Well, sir, he was like the rest of us; every time he looked at my prisoner, I saw that Sawbones turn sick and white with desire to kill him. I knew what was in his mind, just as he knew what was in mine; and killing being out of the question, we did the next best. We told the man we could and would make such a scandal out of this as should make his name stink from one end of London to the other. If he had any friends or any credit, we undertook that he should lose them. And all the time, as we were pitching it in red hot, we were keeping the women off him as best we could for they were as wild as harpies. I never saw a circle of such hateful faces; and there was the man in the middle, with a kind of black sneering coolness—frightened too, I could see that—but carrying it off, sir, really like Satan. `If you choose to make capital out of this accident,’ said he, `I am naturally helpless. No gentleman but wishes to avoid a scene,’ says he. `Name your figure.’ Well, we screwed him up to a hundred pounds for the child’s family; he would have clearly liked to stick out; but there was something about the lot of us that meant mischief, and at last he struck. The next thing was to get the money; and where do you think he carried us but to that place with the door?—whipped out a key, went in, and presently came back with the matter of ten pounds in gold and a cheque for the balance on Coutts’s, drawn payable to bearer and signed with a name that I can’t mention, though it’s one of the points of my story, but it was a name at least very well known and often printed. The figure was stiff; but the signature was good for more than that if it was only genuine. I took the liberty of pointing out to my gentleman that the whole business looked apocryphal, and that a man does not, in real life, walk into a cellar door at four in the morning and come out with another man’s cheque for close upon a hundred pounds. But he was quite easy and sneering. `Set your mind at rest,’ says he, `I will stay with you till the banks open and cash the cheque myself.’ So we all set off, the doctor, and the child’s father, and our friend and myself, and passed the rest of the night in my chambers; and next day, when we had breakfasted, went in a body to the bank. I gave in the cheque myself, and said I had every reason to believe it was a forgery. Not a bit of it. The cheque was genuine.”

“Tut-tut,” said Mr. Utterson.

“I see you feel as I do,” said Mr. Enfield. “Yes, it’s a bad story. For my man was a fellow that nobody could have to do with, a really damnable man; and the person that drew the cheque is the very pink of the proprieties, celebrated too, and (what makes it worse) one of your fellows who do what they call good. Black mail I suppose; an honest man paying through the nose for some of the capers of his youth. Black Mail House is what I call the place with the door, in consequence. Though even that, you know, is far from explaining all,” he added, and with the words fell into a vein of musing.

From this he was recalled by Mr. Utterson asking rather suddenly: “And you don’t know if the drawer of the cheque lives there?”

“A likely place, isn’t it?” returned Mr. Enfield. “But I happen to have noticed his address; he lives in some square or other.”

“And you never asked about the—place with the door?” said Mr. Utterson.

“No, sir: I had a delicacy,” was the reply. “I feel very strongly about putting questions; it partakes too much of the style of the day of judgment. You start a question, and it’s like starting a stone. You sit quietly on the top of a hill; and away the stone goes, starting others; and presently some bland old bird (the last you would have thought of) is knocked on the head in his own back garden and the family have to change their name. No sir, I make it a rule of mine: the more it looks like Queer Street, the less I ask.”

“A very good rule, too,” said the lawyer.

“But I have studied the place for myself,” continued Mr. Enfield. “It seems scarcely a house. There is no other door, and nobody goes in or out of that one but, once in a great while, the gentleman of my adventure. There are three windows looking on the court on the first floor; none below; the windows are always shut but they’re clean. And then there is a chimney which is generally smoking; so somebody must live there. And yet it’s not so sure; for the buildings are so packed together about the court, that it’s hard to say where one ends and another begins.”

The pair walked on again for a while in silence; and then “Enfield,” said Mr. Utterson, “that’s a good rule of yours.”

“Yes, I think it is,” returned Enfield.

“But for all that,” continued the lawyer, “there’s one point I want to ask: I want to ask the name of that man who walked over the child.”

“Well,” said Mr. Enfield, “I can’t see what harm it would do. It was a man of the name of Hyde.”

“Hm,” said Mr. Utterson. “What sort of a man is he to see?”

“He is not easy to describe. There is something wrong with his appearance; something displeasing, something down-right detestable. I never saw a man I so disliked, and yet I scarce know why. He must be deformed somewhere; he gives a strong feeling of deformity, although I couldn’t specify the point. He’s an extraordinary looking man, and yet I really can name nothing out of the way. No, sir; I can make no hand of it; I can’t describe him. And it’s not want of memory; for I declare I can see him this moment.”

Mr. Utterson again walked some way in silence and obviously under a weight of consideration. “You are sure he used a key?” he inquired at last.

“My dear sir…” began Enfield, surprised out of himself.

“Yes, I know,” said Utterson; “I know it must seem strange. The fact is, if I do not ask you the name of the other party, it is because I know it already. You see, Richard, your tale has gone home. If you have been inexact in any point you had better correct it.”

“I think you might have warned me,” returned the other with a touch of sullenness. “But I have been pedantically exact, as you call it. The fellow had a key; and what’s more, he has it still. I saw him use it not a week ago.”

Mr. Utterson sighed deeply but said never a word; and the young man presently resumed. “Here is another lesson to say nothing,” said he. “I am ashamed of my long tongue. Let us make a bargain never to refer to this again.”

“With all my heart,” said the lawyer. “I shake hands on that, Richard.”

 

SEARCH FOR MR. HYDE

That evening Mr. Utterson came home to his bachelor house in sombre spirits and sat down to dinner without relish. It was his custom of a Sunday, when this meal was over, to sit close by the fire, a volume of some dry divinity on his reading desk, until the clock of the neighbouring church rang out the hour of twelve, when he would go soberly and gratefully to bed. On this night however, as soon as the cloth was taken away, he took up a candle and went into his business room. There he opened his safe, took from the most private part of it a document endorsed on the envelope as Dr. Jekyll’s Will and sat down with a clouded brow to study its contents. The will was holograph, for Mr. Utterson though he took charge of it now that it was made, had refused to lend the least assistance in the making of it; it provided not only that, in case of the decease of Henry Jekyll, M.D., D.C.L., L.L.D., F.R.S., etc., all his possessions were to pass into the hands of his “friend and benefactor Edward Hyde,” but that in case of Dr. Jekyll’s “disappearance or unexplained absence for any period exceeding three calendar months,” the said Edward Hyde should step into the said Henry Jekyll’s shoes without further delay and free from any burthen or obligation beyond the payment of a few small sums to the members of the doctor’s household. This document had long been the lawyer’s eyesore. It offended him both as a lawyer and as a lover of the sane and customary sides of life, to whom the fanciful was the immodest. And hitherto it was his ignorance of Mr. Hyde that had swelled his indignation; now, by a sudden turn, it was his knowledge. It was already bad enough when the name was but a name of which he could learn no more. It was worse when it began to be clothed upon with detestable attributes; and out of the shifting, insubstantial mists that had so long baffled his eye, there leaped up the sudden, definite presentment of a fiend.

“I thought it was madness,” he said, as he replaced the obnoxious paper in the safe, “and now I begin to fear it is disgrace.”

With that he blew out his candle, put on a greatcoat, and set forth in the direction of Cavendish Square, that citadel of medicine, where his friend, the great Dr. Lanyon, had his house and received his crowding patients. “If anyone knows, it will be Lanyon,” he had thought.

The solemn butler knew and welcomed him; he was subjected to no stage of delay, but ushered direct from the door to the dining-room where Dr. Lanyon sat alone over his wine. This was a hearty, healthy, dapper, red-faced gentleman, with a shock of hair prematurely white, and a boisterous and decided manner. At sight of Mr. Utterson, he sprang up from his chair and welcomed him with both hands. The geniality, as was the way of the man, was somewhat theatrical to the eye; but it reposed on genuine feeling. For these two were old friends, old mates both at school and college, both thorough respectors of themselves and of each other, and what does not always follow, men who thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company.

After a little rambling talk, the lawyer led up to the subject which so disagreeably preoccupied his mind.

“I suppose, Lanyon,” said he, “you and I must be the two oldest friends that Henry Jekyll has?”

“I wish the friends were younger,” chuckled Dr. Lanyon. “But I suppose we are. And what of that? I see little of him now.”

“Indeed?” said Utterson. “I thought you had a bond of common interest.”

“We had,” was the reply. “But it is more than ten years since Henry Jekyll became too fanciful for me. He began to go wrong, wrong in mind; and though of course I continue to take an interest in him for old sake’s sake, as they say, I see and I have seen devilish little of the man. Such unscientific balderdash,” added the doctor, flushing suddenly purple, “would have estranged Damon and Pythias.”

This little spirit of temper was somewhat of a relief to Mr. Utterson. “They have only differed on some point of science,” he thought; and being a man of no scientific passions (except in the matter of conveyancing), he even added: “It is nothing worse than that!” He gave his friend a few seconds to recover his composure, and then approached the question he had come to put. “Did you ever come across a protege of his—one Hyde?” he asked.

“Hyde?” repeated Lanyon. “No. Never heard of him. Since my time.”

That was the amount of information that the lawyer carried back with him to the great, dark bed on which he tossed to and fro, until the small hours of the morning began to grow large. It was a night of little ease to his toiling mind, toiling in mere darkness and beseiged by questions.

Six o’clock struck on the bells of the church that was so conveniently near to Mr. Utterson’s dwelling, and still he was digging at the problem. Hitherto it had touched him on the intellectual side alone; but now his imagination also was engaged, or rather enslaved; and as he lay and tossed in the gross darkness of the night and the curtained room, Mr. Enfield’s tale went by before his mind in a scroll of lighted pictures. He would be aware of the great field of lamps of a nocturnal city; then of the figure of a man walking swiftly; then of a child running from the doctor’s; and then these met, and that human Juggernaut trod the child down and passed on regardless of her screams. Or else he would see a room in a rich house, where his friend lay asleep, dreaming and smiling at his dreams; and then the door of that room would be opened, the curtains of the bed plucked apart, the sleeper recalled, and lo! there would stand by his side a figure to whom power was given, and even at that dead hour, he must rise and do its bidding. The figure in these two phases haunted the lawyer all night; and if at any time he dozed over, it was but to see it glide more stealthily through sleeping houses, or move the more swiftly and still the more swiftly, even to dizziness, through wider labyrinths of lamplighted city, and at every street corner crush a child and leave her screaming. And still the figure had no face by which he might know it; even in his dreams, it had no face, or one that baffled him and melted before his eyes; and thus it was that there sprang up and grew apace in the lawyer’s mind a singularly strong, almost an inordinate, curiosity to behold the features of the real Mr. Hyde. If he could but once set eyes on him, he thought the mystery would lighten and perhaps roll altogether away, as was the habit of mysterious things when well examined. He might see a reason for his friend’s strange preference or bondage (call it which you please) and even for the startling clause of the will. At least it would be a face worth seeing: the face of a man who was without bowels of mercy: a face which had but to show itself to raise up, in the mind of the unimpressionable Enfield, a spirit of enduring hatred.

From that time forward, Mr. Utterson began to haunt the door in the by-street of shops. In the morning before office hours, at noon when business was plenty, and time scarce, at night under the face of the fogged city moon, by all lights and at all hours of solitude or concourse, the lawyer was to be found on his chosen post.

“If he be Mr. Hyde,” he had thought, “I shall be Mr. Seek.”

And at last his patience was rewarded. It was a fine dry night; frost in the air; the streets as clean as a ballroom floor; the lamps, unshaken by any wind, drawing a regular pattern of light and shadow. By ten o’clock, when the shops were closed the by-street was very solitary and, in spite of the low growl of London from all round, very silent. Small sounds carried far; domestic sounds out of the houses were clearly audible on either side of the roadway; and the rumour of the approach of any passenger preceded him by a long time. Mr. Utterson had been some minutes at his post, when he was aware of an odd light footstep drawing near. In the course of his nightly patrols, he had long grown accustomed to the quaint effect with which the footfalls of a single person, while he is still a great way off, suddenly spring out distinct from the vast hum and clatter of the city. Yet his attention had never before been so sharply and decisively arrested; and it was with a strong, superstitious prevision of success that he withdrew into the entry of the court.

The steps drew swiftly nearer, and swelled out suddenly louder as they turned the end of the street. The lawyer, looking forth from the entry, could soon see what manner of man he had to deal with. He was small and very plainly dressed and the look of him, even at that distance, went somehow strongly against the watcher’s inclination. But he made straight for the door, crossing the roadway to save time; and as he came, he drew a key from his pocket like one approaching home.

Mr. Utterson stepped out and touched him on the shoulder as he passed. “Mr. Hyde, I think?”

Mr. Hyde shrank back with a hissing intake of the breath. But his fear was only momentary; and though he did not look the lawyer in the face, he answered coolly enough: “That is my name. What do you want?”

“I see you are going in,” returned the lawyer. “I am an old friend of Dr. Jekyll’s—Mr. Utterson of Gaunt Street—you must have heard of my name; and meeting you so conveniently, I thought you might admit me.”

“You will not find Dr. Jekyll; he is from home,” replied Mr. Hyde, blowing in the key. And then suddenly, but still without looking up, “How did you know me?” he asked.

“On your side,” said Mr. Utterson “will you do me a favour?”

“With pleasure,” replied the other. “What shall it be?”

“Will you let me see your face?” asked the lawyer.

Mr. Hyde appeared to hesitate, and then, as if upon some sudden reflection, fronted about with an air of defiance; and the pair stared at each other pretty fixedly for a few seconds. “Now I shall know you again,” said Mr. Utterson. “It may be useful.”

“Yes,” returned Mr. Hyde, “It is as well we have met; and apropos, you should have my address.” And he gave a number of a street in Soho.

“Good God!” thought Mr. Utterson, “can he, too, have been thinking of the will?” But he kept his feelings to himself and only grunted in acknowledgment of the address.

“And now,” said the other, “how did you know me?”

“By description,” was the reply.

“Whose description?”

“We have common friends,” said Mr. Utterson.

“Common friends,” echoed Mr. Hyde, a little hoarsely. “Who are they?”

“Jekyll, for instance,” said the lawyer.

“He never told you,” cried Mr. Hyde, with a flush of anger. “I did not think you would have lied.”

“Come,” said Mr. Utterson, “that is not fitting language.”

The other snarled aloud into a savage laugh; and the next moment, with extraordinary quickness, he had unlocked the door and disappeared into the house.

The lawyer stood awhile when Mr. Hyde had left him, the picture of disquietude. Then he began slowly to mount the street, pausing every step or two and putting his hand to his brow like a man in mental perplexity. The problem he was thus debating as he walked, was one of a class that is rarely solved. Mr. Hyde was pale and dwarfish, he gave an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation, he had a displeasing smile, he had borne himself to the lawyer with a sort of murderous mixture of timidity and boldness, and he spoke with a husky, whispering and somewhat broken voice; all these were points against him, but not all of these together could explain the hitherto unknown disgust, loathing and fear with which Mr. Utterson regarded him. “There must be something else,” said the perplexed gentleman. “There is something more, if I could find a name for it. God bless me, the man seems hardly human! Something troglodytic, shall we say? or can it be the old story of Dr. Fell? or is it the mere radiance of a foul soul that thus transpires through, and transfigures, its clay continent? The last, I think; for, O my poor old Harry Jekyll, if ever I read Satan’s signature upon a face, it is on that of your new friend.”

Round the corner from the by-street, there was a square of ancient, handsome houses, now for the most part decayed from their high estate and let in flats and chambers to all sorts and conditions of men; map-engravers, architects, shady lawyers and the agents of obscure enterprises. One house, however, second from the corner, was still occupied entire; and at the door of this, which wore a great air of wealth and comfort, though it was now plunged in darkness except for the fanlight, Mr. Utterson stopped and knocked. A well-dressed, elderly servant opened the door.

“Is Dr. Jekyll at home, Poole?” asked the lawyer.

“I will see, Mr. Utterson,” said Poole, admitting the visitor, as he spoke, into a large, low-roofed, comfortable hall paved with flags, warmed (after the fashion of a country house) by a bright, open fire, and furnished with costly cabinets of oak. “Will you wait here by the fire, sir? or shall I give you a light in the dining-room?”

“Here, thank you,” said the lawyer, and he drew near and leaned on the tall fender. This hall, in which he was now left alone, was a pet fancy of his friend the doctor’s; and Utterson himself was wont to speak of it as the pleasantest room in London. But tonight there was a shudder in his blood; the face of Hyde sat heavy on his memory; he felt (what was rare with him) a nausea and distaste of life; and in the gloom of his spirits, he seemed to read a menace in the flickering of the firelight on the polished cabinets and the uneasy starting of the shadow on the roof. He was ashamed of his relief, when Poole presently returned to announce that Dr. Jekyll was gone out.

“I saw Mr. Hyde go in by the old dissecting room, Poole,” he said. “Is that right, when Dr. Jekyll is from home?”

“Quite right, Mr. Utterson, sir,” replied the servant. “Mr. Hyde has a key.”

“Your master seems to repose a great deal of trust in that young man, Poole,” resumed the other musingly.

“Yes, sir, he does indeed,” said Poole. “We have all orders to obey him.”

“I do not think I ever met Mr. Hyde?” asked Utterson.

“O, dear no, sir. He never dines here,” replied the butler. “Indeed we see very little of him on this side of the house; he mostly comes and goes by the laboratory.”

“Well, good-night, Poole.”

“Good-night, Mr. Utterson.”

And the lawyer set out homeward with a very heavy heart. “Poor Harry Jekyll,” he thought, “my mind misgives me he is in deep waters! He was wild when he was young; a long while ago to be sure; but in the law of God, there is no statute of limitations. Ay, it must be that; the ghost of some old sin, the cancer of some concealed disgrace: punishment coming, PEDE CLAUDO, years after memory has forgotten and self-love condoned the fault.” And the lawyer, scared by the thought, brooded awhile on his own past, groping in all the corners of memory, least by chance some Jack-in-the-Box of an old iniquity should leap to light there. His past was fairly blameless; few men could read the rolls of their life with less apprehension; yet he was humbled to the dust by the many ill things he had done, and raised up again into a sober and fearful gratitude by the many he had come so near to doing yet avoided. And then by a return on his former subject, he conceived a spark of hope. “This Master Hyde, if he were studied,” thought he, “must have secrets of his own; black secrets, by the look of him; secrets compared to which poor Jekyll’s worst would be like sunshine. Things cannot continue as they are. It turns me cold to think of this creature stealing like a thief to Harry’s bedside; poor Harry, what a wakening! And the danger of it; for if this Hyde suspects the existence of the will, he may grow impatient to inherit. Ay, I must put my shoulders to the wheel—if Jekyll will but let me,” he added, “if Jekyll will only let me.” For once more he saw before his mind’s eye, as clear as transparency, the strange clauses of the will.

 

DR. JEKYLL WAS QUITE AT EASE

A fortnight later, by excellent good fortune, the doctor gave one of his pleasant dinners to some five or six old cronies, all intelligent, reputable men and all judges of good wine; and Mr. Utterson so contrived that he remained behind after the others had departed. This was no new arrangement, but a thing that had befallen many scores of times. Where Utterson was liked, he was liked well. Hosts loved to detain the dry lawyer, when the light-hearted and loose-tongued had already their foot on the threshold; they liked to sit a while in his unobtrusive company, practising for solitude, sobering their minds in the man’s rich silence after the expense and strain of gaiety. To this rule, Dr. Jekyll was no exception; and as he now sat on the opposite side of the fire—a large, well-made, smooth-faced man of fifty, with something of a stylish cast perhaps, but every mark of capacity and kindness—you could see by his looks that he cherished for Mr. Utterson a sincere and warm affection.

“I have been wanting to speak to you, Jekyll,” began the latter. “You know that will of yours?”

A close observer might have gathered that the topic was distasteful; but the doctor carried it off gaily. “My poor Utterson,” said he, “you are unfortunate in such a client. I never saw a man so distressed as you were by my will; unless it were that hide-bound pedant, Lanyon, at what he called my scientific heresies. O, I know he’s a good fellow—you needn’t frown—an excellent fellow, and I always mean to see more of him; but a hide-bound pedant for all that; an ignorant, blatant pedant. I was never more disappointed in any man than Lanyon.”

“You know I never approved of it,” pursued Utterson, ruthlessly disregarding the fresh topic.

“My will? Yes, certainly, I know that,” said the doctor, a trifle sharply. “You have told me so.”

“Well, I tell you so again,” continued the lawyer. “I have been learning something of young Hyde.”

The large handsome face of Dr. Jekyll grew pale to the very lips, and there came a blackness about his eyes. “I do not care to hear more,” said he. “This is a matter I thought we had agreed to drop.”

“What I heard was abominable,” said Utterson.

“It can make no change. You do not understand my position,” returned the doctor, with a certain incoherency of manner. “I am painfully situated, Utterson; my position is a very strange—a very strange one. It is one of those affairs that cannot be mended by talking.”

“Jekyll,” said Utterson, “you know me: I am a man to be trusted. Make a clean breast of this in confidence; and I make no doubt I can get you out of it.”

“My good Utterson,” said the doctor, “this is very good of you, this is downright good of you, and I cannot find words to thank you in. I believe you fully; I would trust you before any man alive, ay, before myself, if I could make the choice; but indeed it isn’t what you fancy; it is not as bad as that; and just to put your good heart at rest, I will tell you one thing: the moment I choose, I can be rid of Mr. Hyde. I give you my hand upon that; and I thank you again and again; and I will just add one little word, Utterson, that I’m sure you’ll take in good part: this is a private matter, and I beg of you to let it sleep.”

Utterson reflected a little, looking in the fire.

“I have no doubt you are perfectly right,” he said at last, getting to his feet.

“Well, but since we have touched upon this business, and for the last time I hope,” continued the doctor, “there is one point I should like you to understand. I have really a very great interest in poor Hyde. I know you have seen him; he told me so; and I fear he was rude. But I do sincerely take a great, a very great interest in that young man; and if I am taken away, Utterson, I wish you to promise me that you will bear with him and get his rights for him. I think you would, if you knew all; and it would be a weight off my mind if you would promise.”

“I can’t pretend that I shall ever like him,” said the lawyer.

“I don’t ask that,” pleaded Jekyll, laying his hand upon the other’s arm; “I only ask for justice; I only ask you to help him for my sake, when I am no longer here.”

Utterson heaved an irrepressible sigh. “Well,” said he, “I promise.”

 

THE CAREW MURDER CASE

Nearly a year later, in the month of October, 18—, London was startled by a crime of singular ferocity and rendered all the more notable by the high position of the victim. The details were few and startling. A maid servant living alone in a house not far from the river, had gone upstairs to bed about eleven. Although a fog rolled over the city in the small hours, the early part of the night was cloudless, and the lane, which the maid’s window overlooked, was brilliantly lit by the full moon. It seems she was romantically given, for she sat down upon her box, which stood immediately under the window, and fell into a dream of musing. Never (she used to say, with streaming tears, when she narrated that experience), never had she felt more at peace with all men or thought more kindly of the world. And as she so sat she became aware of an aged beautiful gentleman with white hair, drawing near along the lane; and advancing to meet him, another and very small gentleman, to whom at first she paid less attention. When they had come within speech (which was just under the maid’s eyes) the older man bowed and accosted the other with a very pretty manner of politeness. It did not seem as if the subject of his address were of great importance; indeed, from his pointing, it some times appeared as if he were only inquiring his way; but the moon shone on his face as he spoke, and the girl was pleased to watch it, it seemed to breathe such an innocent and old-world kindness of disposition, yet with something high too, as of a well-founded self-content. Presently her eye wandered to the other, and she was surprised to recognise in him a certain Mr. Hyde, who had once visited her master and for whom she had conceived a dislike. He had in his hand a heavy cane, with which he was trifling; but he answered never a word, and seemed to listen with an ill-contained impatience. And then all of a sudden he broke out in a great flame of anger, stamping with his foot, brandishing the cane, and carrying on (as the maid described it) like a madman. The old gentleman took a step back, with the air of one very much surprised and a trifle hurt; and at that Mr. Hyde broke out of all bounds and clubbed him to the earth. And next moment, with ape-like fury, he was trampling his victim under foot and hailing down a storm of blows, under which the bones were audibly shattered and the body jumped upon the roadway. At the horror of these sights and sounds, the maid fainted.

It was two o’clock when she came to herself and called for the police. The murderer was gone long ago; but there lay his victim in the middle of the lane, incredibly mangled. The stick with which the deed had been done, although it was of some rare and very tough and heavy wood, had broken in the middle under the stress of this insensate cruelty; and one splintered half had rolled in the neighbouring gutter—the other, without doubt, had been carried away by the murderer. A purse and gold watch were found upon the victim: but no cards or papers, except a sealed and stamped envelope, which he had been probably carrying to the post, and which bore the name and address of Mr. Utterson.

This was brought to the lawyer the next morning, before he was out of bed; and he had no sooner seen it and been told the circumstances, than he shot out a solemn lip. “I shall say nothing till I have seen the body,” said he; “this may be very serious. Have the kindness to wait while I dress.” And with the same grave countenance he hurried through his breakfast and drove to the police station, whither the body had been carried. As soon as he came into the cell, he nodded.

“Yes,” said he, “I recognise him. I am sorry to say that this is Sir Danvers Carew.”

“Good God, sir,” exclaimed the officer, “is it possible?” And the next moment his eye lighted up with professional ambition. “This will make a deal of noise,” he said. “And perhaps you can help us to the man.” And he briefly narrated what the maid had seen, and showed the broken stick.

Mr. Utterson had already quailed at the name of Hyde; but when the stick was laid before him, he could doubt no longer; broken and battered as it was, he recognized it for one that he had himself presented many years before to Henry Jekyll.

“Is this Mr. Hyde a person of small stature?” he inquired.

“Particularly small and particularly wicked-looking, is what the maid calls him,” said the officer.

Mr. Utterson reflected; and then, raising his head, “If you will come with me in my cab,” he said, “I think I can take you to his house.”

It was by this time about nine in the morning, and the first fog of the season. A great chocolate-coloured pall lowered over heaven, but the wind was continually charging and routing these embattled vapours; so that as the cab crawled from street to street, Mr. Utterson beheld a marvelous number of degrees and hues of twilight; for here it would be dark like the back-end of evening; and there would be a glow of a rich, lurid brown, like the light of some strange conflagration; and here, for a moment, the fog would be quite broken up, and a haggard shaft of daylight would glance in between the swirling wreaths. The dismal quarter of Soho seen under these changing glimpses, with its muddy ways, and slatternly passengers, and its lamps, which had never been extinguished or had been kindled afresh to combat this mournful reinvasion of darkness, seemed, in the lawyer’s eyes, like a district of some city in a nightmare. The thoughts of his mind, besides, were of the gloomiest dye; and when he glanced at the companion of his drive, he was conscious of some touch of that terror of the law and the law’s officers, which may at times assail the most honest.

As the cab drew up before the address indicated, the fog lifted a little and showed him a dingy street, a gin palace, a low French eating house, a shop for the retail of penny numbers and twopenny salads, many ragged children huddled in the doorways, and many women of many different nationalities passing out, key in hand, to have a morning glass; and the next moment the fog settled down again upon that part, as brown as umber, and cut him off from his blackguardly surroundings. This was the home of Henry Jekyll’s favourite; of a man who was heir to a quarter of a million sterling.

An ivory-faced and silvery-haired old woman opened the door. She had an evil face, smoothed by hypocrisy: but her manners were excellent. Yes, she said, this was Mr. Hyde’s, but he was not at home; he had been in that night very late, but he had gone away again in less than an hour; there was nothing strange in that; his habits were very irregular, and he was often absent; for instance, it was nearly two months since she had seen him till yesterday.

“Very well, then, we wish to see his rooms,” said the lawyer; and when the woman began to declare it was impossible, “I had better tell you who this person is,” he added. “This is Inspector Newcomen of Scotland Yard.”

A flash of odious joy appeared upon the woman’s face. “Ah!” said she, “he is in trouble! What has he done?”

Mr. Utterson and the inspector exchanged glances. “He don’t seem a very popular character,” observed the latter. “And now, my good woman, just let me and this gentleman have a look about us.”

In the whole extent of the house, which but for the old woman remained otherwise empty, Mr. Hyde had only used a couple of rooms; but these were furnished with luxury and good taste. A closet was filled with wine; the plate was of silver, the napery elegant; a good picture hung upon the walls, a gift (as Utterson supposed) from Henry Jekyll, who was much of a connoisseur; and the carpets were of many plies and agreeable in colour. At this moment, however, the rooms bore every mark of having been recently and hurriedly ransacked; clothes lay about the floor, with their pockets inside out; lock-fast drawers stood open; and on the hearth there lay a pile of grey ashes, as though many papers had been burned. From these embers the inspector disinterred the butt end of a green cheque book, which had resisted the action of the fire; the other half of the stick was found behind the door; and as this clinched his suspicions, the officer declared himself delighted. A visit to the bank, where several thousand pounds were found to be lying to the murderer’s credit, completed his gratification.

“You may depend upon it, sir,” he told Mr. Utterson: “I have him in my hand. He must have lost his head, or he never would have left the stick or, above all, burned the cheque book. Why, money’s life to the man. We have nothing to do but wait for him at the bank, and get out the handbills.”

This last, however, was not so easy of accomplishment; for Mr. Hyde had numbered few familiars—even the master of the servant maid had only seen him twice; his family could nowhere be traced; he had never been photographed; and the few who could describe him differed widely, as common observers will. Only on one point were they agreed; and that was the haunting sense of unexpressed deformity with which the fugitive impressed his beholders.

 

INCIDENT OF THE LETTER

It was late in the afternoon, when Mr. Utterson found his way to Dr. Jekyll’s door, where he was at once admitted by Poole, and carried down by the kitchen offices and across a yard which had once been a garden, to the building which was indifferently known as the laboratory or dissecting rooms. The doctor had bought the house from the heirs of a celebrated surgeon; and his own tastes being rather chemical than anatomical, had changed the destination of the block at the bottom of the garden. It was the first time that the lawyer had been received in that part of his friend’s quarters; and he eyed the dingy, windowless structure with curiosity, and gazed round with a distasteful sense of strangeness as he crossed the theatre, once crowded with eager students and now lying gaunt and silent, the tables laden with chemical apparatus, the floor strewn with crates and littered with packing straw, and the light falling dimly through the foggy cupola. At the further end, a flight of stairs mounted to a door covered with red baize; and through this, Mr. Utterson was at last received into the doctor’s cabinet. It was a large room fitted round with glass presses, furnished, among other things, with a cheval-glass and a business table, and looking out upon the court by three dusty windows barred with iron. The fire burned in the grate; a lamp was set lighted on the chimney shelf, for even in the houses the fog began to lie thickly; and there, close up to the warmth, sat Dr. Jekyll, looking deathly sick. He did not rise to meet his visitor, but held out a cold hand and bade him welcome in a changed voice.

“And now,” said Mr. Utterson, as soon as Poole had left them, “you have heard the news?”

The doctor shuddered. “They were crying it in the square,” he said. “I heard them in my dining-room.”

“One word,” said the lawyer. “Carew was my client, but so are you, and I want to know what I am doing. You have not been mad enough to hide this fellow?”

“Utterson, I swear to God,” cried the doctor, “I swear to God I will never set eyes on him again. I bind my honour to you that I am done with him in this world. It is all at an end. And indeed he does not want my help; you do not know him as I do; he is safe, he is quite safe; mark my words, he will never more be heard of.”

The lawyer listened gloomily; he did not like his friend’s feverish manner. “You seem pretty sure of him,” said he; “and for your sake, I hope you may be right. If it came to a trial, your name might appear.”

“I am quite sure of him,” replied Jekyll; “I have grounds for certainty that I cannot share with any one. But there is one thing on which you may advise me. I have—I have received a letter; and I am at a loss whether I should show it to the police. I should like to leave it in your hands, Utterson; you would judge wisely, I am sure; I have so great a trust in you.”

“You fear, I suppose, that it might lead to his detection?” asked the lawyer.

“No,” said the other. “I cannot say that I care what becomes of Hyde; I am quite done with him. I was thinking of my own character, which this hateful business has rather exposed.”

Utterson ruminated awhile; he was surprised at his friend’s selfishness, and yet relieved by it. “Well,” said he, at last, “let me see the letter.”

The letter was written in an odd, upright hand and signed “Edward Hyde”: and it signified, briefly enough, that the writer’s benefactor, Dr. Jekyll, whom he had long so unworthily repaid for a thousand generosities, need labour under no alarm for his safety, as he had means of escape on which he placed a sure dependence. The lawyer liked this letter well enough; it put a better colour on the intimacy than he had looked for; and he blamed himself for some of his past suspicions.

“Have you the envelope?” he asked.

“I burned it,” replied Jekyll, “before I thought what I was about. But it bore no postmark. The note was handed in.”

“Shall I keep this and sleep upon it?” asked Utterson.

“I wish you to judge for me entirely,” was the reply. “I have lost confidence in myself.”

“Well, I shall consider,” returned the lawyer. “And now one word more: it was Hyde who dictated the terms in your will about that disappearance?”

The doctor seemed seized with a qualm of faintness; he shut his mouth tight and nodded.

“I knew it,” said Utterson. “He meant to murder you. You had a fine escape.”

“I have had what is far more to the purpose,” returned the doctor solemnly: “I have had a lesson—O God, Utterson, what a lesson I have had!” And he covered his face for a moment with his hands.

On his way out, the lawyer stopped and had a word or two with Poole. “By the bye,” said he, “there was a letter handed in to-day: what was the messenger like?” But Poole was positive nothing had come except by post; “and only circulars by that,” he added.

This news sent off the visitor with his fears renewed. Plainly the letter had come by the laboratory door; possibly, indeed, it had been written in the cabinet; and if that were so, it must be differently judged, and handled with the more caution. The newsboys, as he went, were crying themselves hoarse along the footways: “Special edition. Shocking murder of an M.P.” That was the funeral oration of one friend and client; and he could not help a certain apprehension lest the good name of another should be sucked down in the eddy of the scandal. It was, at least, a ticklish decision that he had to make; and self-reliant as he was by habit, he began to cherish a longing for advice. It was not to be had directly; but perhaps, he thought, it might be fished for.

Presently after, he sat on one side of his own hearth, with Mr. Guest, his head clerk, upon the other, and midway between, at a nicely calculated distance from the fire, a bottle of a particular old wine that had long dwelt unsunned in the foundations of his house. The fog still slept on the wing above the drowned city, where the lamps glimmered like carbuncles; and through the muffle and smother of these fallen clouds, the procession of the town’s life was still rolling in through the great arteries with a sound as of a mighty wind. But the room was gay with firelight. In the bottle the acids were long ago resolved; the imperial dye had softened with time, as the colour grows richer in stained windows; and the glow of hot autumn afternoons on hillside vineyards, was ready to be set free and to disperse the fogs of London. Insensibly the lawyer melted. There was no man from whom he kept fewer secrets than Mr. Guest; and he was not always sure that he kept as many as he meant. Guest had often been on business to the doctor’s; he knew Poole; he could scarce have failed to hear of Mr. Hyde’s familiarity about the house; he might draw conclusions: was it not as well, then, that he should see a letter which put that mystery to right? and above all since Guest, being a great student and critic of handwriting, would consider the step natural and obliging? The clerk, besides, was a man of counsel; he could scarce read so strange a document without dropping a remark; and by that remark Mr. Utterson might shape his future course.

“This is a sad business about Sir Danvers,” he said.

“Yes, sir, indeed. It has elicited a great deal of public feeling,” returned Guest. “The man, of course, was mad.”

“I should like to hear your views on that,” replied Utterson. “I have a document here in his handwriting; it is between ourselves, for I scarce know what to do about it; it is an ugly business at the best. But there it is; quite in your way: a murderer’s autograph.”

Guest’s eyes brightened, and he sat down at once and studied it with passion. “No sir,” he said: “not mad; but it is an odd hand.”

“And by all accounts a very odd writer,” added the lawyer.

Just then the servant entered with a note.

“Is that from Dr. Jekyll, sir?” inquired the clerk. “I thought I knew the writing. Anything private, Mr. Utterson?”

“Only an invitation to dinner. Why? Do you want to see it?”

“One moment. I thank you, sir;” and the clerk laid the two sheets of paper alongside and sedulously compared their contents. “Thank you, sir,” he said at last, returning both; “it’s a very interesting autograph.”

There was a pause, during which Mr. Utterson struggled with himself. “Why did you compare them, Guest?” he inquired suddenly.

“Well, sir,” returned the clerk, “there’s a rather singular resemblance; the two hands are in many points identical: only differently sloped.”

“Rather quaint,” said Utterson.

“It is, as you say, rather quaint,” returned Guest.

“I wouldn’t speak of this note, you know,” said the master.

“No, sir,” said the clerk. “I understand.”

But no sooner was Mr. Utterson alone that night, than he locked the note into his safe, where it reposed from that time forward. “What!” he thought. “Henry Jekyll forge for a murderer!” And his blood ran cold in his veins.

 

INCIDENT OF DR. LANYON

Time ran on; thousands of pounds were offered in reward, for the death of Sir Danvers was resented as a public injury; but Mr. Hyde had disappeared out of the ken of the police as though he had never existed. Much of his past was unearthed, indeed, and all disreputable: tales came out of the man’s cruelty, at once so callous and violent; of his vile life, of his strange associates, of the hatred that seemed to have surrounded his career; but of his present whereabouts, not a whisper. From the time he had left the house in Soho on the morning of the murder, he was simply blotted out; and gradually, as time drew on, Mr. Utterson began to recover from the hotness of his alarm, and to grow more at quiet with himself. The death of Sir Danvers was, to his way of thinking, more than paid for by the disappearance of Mr. Hyde. Now that that evil influence had been withdrawn, a new life began for Dr. Jekyll. He came out of his seclusion, renewed relations with his friends, became once more their familiar guest and entertainer; and whilst he had always been known for charities, he was now no less distinguished for religion. He was busy, he was much in the open air, he did good; his face seemed to open and brighten, as if with an inward consciousness of service; and for more than two months, the doctor was at peace.

On the 8th of January Utterson had dined at the doctor’s with a small party; Lanyon had been there; and the face of the host had looked from one to the other as in the old days when the trio were inseparable friends. On the 12th, and again on the 14th, the door was shut against the lawyer. “The doctor was confined to the house,” Poole said, “and saw no one.” On the 15th, he tried again, and was again refused; and having now been used for the last two months to see his friend almost daily, he found this return of solitude to weigh upon his spirits. The fifth night he had in Guest to dine with him; and the sixth he betook himself to Dr. Lanyon’s.

There at least he was not denied admittance; but when he came in, he was shocked at the change which had taken place in the doctor’s appearance. He had his death-warrant written legibly upon his face. The rosy man had grown pale; his flesh had fallen away; he was visibly balder and older; and yet it was not so much these tokens of a swift physical decay that arrested the lawyer’s notice, as a look in the eye and quality of manner that seemed to testify to some deep-seated terror of the mind. It was unlikely that the doctor should fear death; and yet that was what Utterson was tempted to suspect. “Yes,” he thought; “he is a doctor, he must know his own state and that his days are counted; and the knowledge is more than he can bear.” And yet when Utterson remarked on his ill-looks, it was with an air of great firmness that Lanyon declared himself a doomed man.

“I have had a shock,” he said, “and I shall never recover. It is a question of weeks. Well, life has been pleasant; I liked it; yes, sir, I used to like it. I sometimes think if we knew all, we should be more glad to get away.”

“Jekyll is ill, too,” observed Utterson. “Have you seen him?”

But Lanyon’s face changed, and he held up a trembling hand. “I wish to see or hear no more of Dr. Jekyll,” he said in a loud, unsteady voice. “I am quite done with that person; and I beg that you will spare me any allusion to one whom I regard as dead.”

“Tut-tut,” said Mr. Utterson; and then after a considerable pause, “Can’t I do anything?” he inquired. “We are three very old friends, Lanyon; we shall not live to make others.”

“Nothing can be done,” returned Lanyon; “ask himself.”

“He will not see me,” said the lawyer.

“I am not surprised at that,” was the reply. “Some day, Utterson, after I am dead, you may perhaps come to learn the right and wrong of this. I cannot tell you. And in the meantime, if you can sit and talk with me of other things, for God’s sake, stay and do so; but if you cannot keep clear of this accursed topic, then in God’s name, go, for I cannot bear it.”

As soon as he got home, Utterson sat down and wrote to Jekyll, complaining of his exclusion from the house, and asking the cause of this unhappy break with Lanyon; and the next day brought him a long answer, often very pathetically worded, and sometimes darkly mysterious in drift. The quarrel with Lanyon was incurable. “I do not blame our old friend,” Jekyll wrote, “but I share his view that we must never meet. I mean from henceforth to lead a life of extreme seclusion; you must not be surprised, nor must you doubt my friendship, if my door is often shut even to you. You must suffer me to go my own dark way. I have brought on myself a punishment and a danger that I cannot name. If I am the chief of sinners, I am the chief of sufferers also. I could not think that this earth contained a place for sufferings and terrors so unmanning; and you can do but one thing, Utterson, to lighten this destiny, and that is to respect my silence.” Utterson was amazed; the dark influence of Hyde had been withdrawn, the doctor had returned to his old tasks and amities; a week ago, the prospect had smiled with every promise of a cheerful and an honoured age; and now in a moment, friendship, and peace of mind, and the whole tenor of his life were wrecked. So great and unprepared a change pointed to madness; but in view of Lanyon’s manner and words, there must lie for it some deeper ground.

A week afterwards Dr. Lanyon took to his bed, and in something less than a fortnight he was dead. The night after the funeral, at which he had been sadly affected, Utterson locked the door of his business room, and sitting there by the light of a melancholy candle, drew out and set before him an envelope addressed by the hand and sealed with the seal of his dead friend. “PRIVATE: for the hands of G. J. Utterson ALONE, and in case of his predecease to be destroyed unread,” so it was emphatically superscribed; and the lawyer dreaded to behold the contents. “I have buried one friend to-day,” he thought: “what if this should cost me another?” And then he condemned the fear as a disloyalty, and broke the seal. Within there was another enclosure, likewise sealed, and marked upon the cover as “not to be opened till the death or disappearance of Dr. Henry Jekyll.” Utterson could not trust his eyes. Yes, it was disappearance; here again, as in the mad will which he had long ago restored to its author, here again were the idea of a disappearance and the name of Henry Jekyll bracketted. But in the will, that idea had sprung from the sinister suggestion of the man Hyde; it was set there with a purpose all too plain and horrible. Written by the hand of Lanyon, what should it mean? A great curiosity came on the trustee, to disregard the prohibition and dive at once to the bottom of these mysteries; but professional honour and faith to his dead friend were stringent obligations; and the packet slept in the inmost corner of his private safe.

It is one thing to mortify curiosity, another to conquer it; and it may be doubted if, from that day forth, Utterson desired the society of his surviving friend with the same eagerness. He thought of him kindly; but his thoughts were disquieted and fearful. He went to call indeed; but he was perhaps relieved to be denied admittance; perhaps, in his heart, he preferred to speak with Poole upon the doorstep and surrounded by the air and sounds of the open city, rather than to be admitted into that house of voluntary bondage, and to sit and speak with its inscrutable recluse. Poole had, indeed, no very pleasant news to communicate. The doctor, it appeared, now more than ever confined himself to the cabinet over the laboratory, where he would sometimes even sleep; he was out of spirits, he had grown very silent, he did not read; it seemed as if he had something on his mind. Utterson became so used to the unvarying character of these reports, that he fell off little by little in the frequency of his visits.

 

INCIDENT AT THE WINDOW

It chanced on Sunday, when Mr. Utterson was on his usual walk with Mr. Enfield, that their way lay once again through the by-street; and that when they came in front of the door, both stopped to gaze on it.

“Well,” said Enfield, “that story’s at an end at least. We shall never see more of Mr. Hyde.”

“I hope not,” said Utterson. “Did I ever tell you that I once saw him, and shared your feeling of repulsion?”

“It was impossible to do the one without the other,” returned Enfield. “And by the way, what an ass you must have thought me, not to know that this was a back way to Dr. Jekyll’s! It was partly your own fault that I found it out, even when I did.”

“So you found it out, did you?” said Utterson. “But if that be so, we may step into the court and take a look at the windows. To tell you the truth, I am uneasy about poor Jekyll; and even outside, I feel as if the presence of a friend might do him good.”

The court was very cool and a little damp, and full of premature twilight, although the sky, high up overhead, was still bright with sunset. The middle one of the three windows was half-way open; and sitting close beside it, taking the air with an infinite sadness of mien, like some disconsolate prisoner, Utterson saw Dr. Jekyll.

“What! Jekyll!” he cried. “I trust you are better.”

“I am very low, Utterson,” replied the doctor drearily, “very low. It will not last long, thank God.”

“You stay too much indoors,” said the lawyer. “You should be out, whipping up the circulation like Mr. Enfield and me. (This is my cousin—Mr. Enfield—Dr. Jekyll.) Come now; get your hat and take a quick turn with us.”

“You are very good,” sighed the other. “I should like to very much; but no, no, no, it is quite impossible; I dare not. But indeed, Utterson, I am very glad to see you; this is really a great pleasure; I would ask you and Mr. Enfield up, but the place is really not fit.”

“Why, then,” said the lawyer, good-naturedly, “the best thing we can do is to stay down here and speak with you from where we are.”

“That is just what I was about to venture to propose,” returned the doctor with a smile. But the words were hardly uttered, before the smile was struck out of his face and succeeded by an expression of such abject terror and despair, as froze the very blood of the two gentlemen below. They saw it but for a glimpse for the window was instantly thrust down; but that glimpse had been sufficient, and they turned and left the court without a word. In silence, too, they traversed the by-street; and it was not until they had come into a neighbouring thoroughfare, where even upon a Sunday there were still some stirrings of life, that Mr. Utterson at last turned and looked at his companion. They were both pale; and there was an answering horror in their eyes.

“God forgive us, God forgive us,” said Mr. Utterson.

But Mr. Enfield only nodded his head very seriously, and walked on once more in silence.

 

THE LAST NIGHT

Mr. Utterson was sitting by his fireside one evening after dinner, when he was surprised to receive a visit from Poole.

“Bless me, Poole, what brings you here?” he cried; and then taking a second look at him, “What ails you?” he added; “is the doctor ill?”

“Mr. Utterson,” said the man, “there is something wrong.”

“Take a seat, and here is a glass of wine for you,” said the lawyer. “Now, take your time, and tell me plainly what you want.”

“You know the doctor’s ways, sir,” replied Poole, “and how he shuts himself up. Well, he’s shut up again in the cabinet; and I don’t like it, sir—I wish I may die if I like it. Mr. Utterson, sir, I’m afraid.”

“Now, my good man,” said the lawyer, “be explicit. What are you afraid of?”

“I’ve been afraid for about a week,” returned Poole, doggedly disregarding the question, “and I can bear it no more.”

The man’s appearance amply bore out his words; his manner was altered for the worse; and except for the moment when he had first announced his terror, he had not once looked the lawyer in the face. Even now, he sat with the glass of wine untasted on his knee, and his eyes directed to a corner of the floor. “I can bear it no more,” he repeated.

“Come,” said the lawyer, “I see you have some good reason, Poole; I see there is something seriously amiss. Try to tell me what it is.”

“I think there’s been foul play,” said Poole, hoarsely.

“Foul play!” cried the lawyer, a good deal frightened and rather inclined to be irritated in consequence. “What foul play! What does the man mean?”

“I daren’t say, sir,” was the answer; “but will you come along with me and see for yourself?”

Mr. Utterson’s only answer was to rise and get his hat and greatcoat; but he observed with wonder the greatness of the relief that appeared upon the butler’s face, and perhaps with no less, that the wine was still untasted when he set it down to follow.

It was a wild, cold, seasonable night of March, with a pale moon, lying on her back as though the wind had tilted her, and flying wrack of the most diaphanous and lawny texture. The wind made talking difficult, and flecked the blood into the face. It seemed to have swept the streets unusually bare of passengers, besides; for Mr. Utterson thought he had never seen that part of London so deserted. He could have wished it otherwise; never in his life had he been conscious of so sharp a wish to see and touch his fellow-creatures; for struggle as he might, there was borne in upon his mind a crushing anticipation of calamity. The square, when they got there, was full of wind and dust, and the thin trees in the garden were lashing themselves along the railing. Poole, who had kept all the way a pace or two ahead, now pulled up in the middle of the pavement, and in spite of the biting weather, took off his hat and mopped his brow with a red pocket-handkerchief. But for all the hurry of his coming, these were not the dews of exertion that he wiped away, but the moisture of some strangling anguish; for his face was white and his voice, when he spoke, harsh and broken.

“Well, sir,” he said, “here we are, and God grant there be nothing wrong.”

“Amen, Poole,” said the lawyer.

Thereupon the servant knocked in a very guarded manner; the door was opened on the chain; and a voice asked from within, “Is that you, Poole?”

“It’s all right,” said Poole. “Open the door.”

The hall, when they entered it, was brightly lighted up; the fire was built high; and about the hearth the whole of the servants, men and women, stood huddled together like a flock of sheep. At the sight of Mr. Utterson, the housemaid broke into hysterical whimpering; and the cook, crying out “Bless God! it’s Mr. Utterson,” ran forward as if to take him in her arms.

“What, what? Are you all here?” said the lawyer peevishly. “Very irregular, very unseemly; your master would be far from pleased.”

“They’re all afraid,” said Poole.

Blank silence followed, no one protesting; only the maid lifted her voice and now wept loudly.

“Hold your tongue!” Poole said to her, with a ferocity of accent that testified to his own jangled nerves; and indeed, when the girl had so suddenly raised the note of her lamentation, they had all started and turned towards the inner door with faces of dreadful expectation. “And now,” continued the butler, addressing the knife-boy, “reach me a candle, and we’ll get this through hands at once.” And then he begged Mr. Utterson to follow him, and led the way to the back garden.

“Now, sir,” said he, “you come as gently as you can. I want you to hear, and I don’t want you to be heard. And see here, sir, if by any chance he was to ask you in, don’t go.”

Mr. Utterson’s nerves, at this unlooked-for termination, gave a jerk that nearly threw him from his balance; but he recollected his courage and followed the butler into the laboratory building through the surgical theatre, with its lumber of crates and bottles, to the foot of the stair. Here Poole motioned him to stand on one side and listen; while he himself, setting down the candle and making a great and obvious call on his resolution, mounted the steps and knocked with a somewhat uncertain hand on the red baize of the cabinet door.

“Mr. Utterson, sir, asking to see you,” he called; and even as he did so, once more violently signed to the lawyer to give ear.

A voice answered from within: “Tell him I cannot see anyone,” it said complainingly.

“Thank you, sir,” said Poole, with a note of something like triumph in his voice; and taking up his candle, he led Mr. Utterson back across the yard and into the great kitchen, where the fire was out and the beetles were leaping on the floor.

“Sir,” he said, looking Mr. Utterson in the eyes, “Was that my master’s voice?”

“It seems much changed,” replied the lawyer, very pale, but giving look for look.

“Changed? Well, yes, I think so,” said the butler. “Have I been twenty years in this man’s house, to be deceived about his voice? No, sir; master’s made away with; he was made away with eight days ago, when we heard him cry out upon the name of God; and who’s in there instead of him, and why it stays there, is a thing that cries to Heaven, Mr. Utterson!”

“This is a very strange tale, Poole; this is rather a wild tale my man,” said Mr. Utterson, biting his finger. “Suppose it were as you suppose, supposing Dr. Jekyll to have been—well, murdered what could induce the murderer to stay? That won’t hold water; it doesn’t commend itself to reason.”

“Well, Mr. Utterson, you are a hard man to satisfy, but I’ll do it yet,” said Poole. “All this last week (you must know) him, or it, whatever it is that lives in that cabinet, has been crying night and day for some sort of medicine and cannot get it to his mind. It was sometimes his way—the master’s, that is—to write his orders on a sheet of paper and throw it on the stair. We’ve had nothing else this week back; nothing but papers, and a closed door, and the very meals left there to be smuggled in when nobody was looking. Well, sir, every day, ay, and twice and thrice in the same day, there have been orders and complaints, and I have been sent flying to all the wholesale chemists in town. Every time I brought the stuff back, there would be another paper telling me to return it, because it was not pure, and another order to a different firm. This drug is wanted bitter bad, sir, whatever for.”

“Have you any of these papers?” asked Mr. Utterson.

Poole felt in his pocket and handed out a crumpled note, which the lawyer, bending nearer to the candle, carefully examined. Its contents ran thus: “Dr. Jekyll presents his compliments to Messrs. Maw. He assures them that their last sample is impure and quite useless for his present purpose. In the year 18—, Dr. J. purchased a somewhat large quantity from Messrs. M. He now begs them to search with most sedulous care, and should any of the same quality be left, forward it to him at once. Expense is no consideration. The importance of this to Dr. J. can hardly be exaggerated.” So far the letter had run composedly enough, but here with a sudden splutter of the pen, the writer’s emotion had broken loose. “For God’s sake,” he added, “find me some of the old.”

“This is a strange note,” said Mr. Utterson; and then sharply, “How do you come to have it open?”

“The man at Maw’s was main angry, sir, and he threw it back to me like so much dirt,” returned Poole.

“This is unquestionably the doctor’s hand, do you know?” resumed the lawyer.

“I thought it looked like it,” said the servant rather sulkily; and then, with another voice, “But what matters hand of write?” he said. “I’ve seen him!”

“Seen him?” repeated Mr. Utterson. “Well?”

“That’s it!” said Poole. “It was this way. I came suddenly into the theater from the garden. It seems he had slipped out to look for this drug or whatever it is; for the cabinet door was open, and there he was at the far end of the room digging among the crates. He looked up when I came in, gave a kind of cry, and whipped upstairs into the cabinet. It was but for one minute that I saw him, but the hair stood upon my head like quills. Sir, if that was my master, why had he a mask upon his face? If it was my master, why did he cry out like a rat, and run from me? I have served him long enough. And then…” The man paused and passed his hand over his face.

“These are all very strange circumstances,” said Mr. Utterson, “but I think I begin to see daylight. Your master, Poole, is plainly seized with one of those maladies that both torture and deform the sufferer; hence, for aught I know, the alteration of his voice; hence the mask and the avoidance of his friends; hence his eagerness to find this drug, by means of which the poor soul retains some hope of ultimate recovery—God grant that he be not deceived! There is my explanation; it is sad enough, Poole, ay, and appalling to consider; but it is plain and natural, hangs well together, and delivers us from all exorbitant alarms.”

“Sir,” said the butler, turning to a sort of mottled pallor, “that thing was not my master, and there’s the truth. My master”—here he looked round him and began to whisper—”is a tall, fine build of a man, and this was more of a dwarf.” Utterson attempted to protest. “O, sir,” cried Poole, “do you think I do not know my master after twenty years? Do you think I do not know where his head comes to in the cabinet door, where I saw him every morning of my life? No, sir, that thing in the mask was never Dr. Jekyll—God knows what it was, but it was never Dr. Jekyll; and it is the belief of my heart that there was murder done.”

“Poole,” replied the lawyer, “if you say that, it will become my duty to make certain. Much as I desire to spare your master’s feelings, much as I am puzzled by this note which seems to prove him to be still alive, I shall consider it my duty to break in that door.”

“Ah, Mr. Utterson, that’s talking!” cried the butler.

“And now comes the second question,” resumed Utterson: “Who is going to do it?”

“Why, you and me, sir,” was the undaunted reply.

“That’s very well said,” returned the lawyer; “and whatever comes of it, I shall make it my business to see you are no loser.”

“There is an axe in the theatre,” continued Poole; “and you might take the kitchen poker for yourself.”

The lawyer took that rude but weighty instrument into his hand, and balanced it. “Do you know, Poole,” he said, looking up, “that you and I are about to place ourselves in a position of some peril?”

“You may say so, sir, indeed,” returned the butler.

“It is well, then that we should be frank,” said the other. “We both think more than we have said; let us make a clean breast. This masked figure that you saw, did you recognise it?”

“Well, sir, it went so quick, and the creature was so doubled up, that I could hardly swear to that,” was the answer. “But if you mean, was it Mr. Hyde?—why, yes, I think it was! You see, it was much of the same bigness; and it had the same quick, light way with it; and then who else could have got in by the laboratory door? You have not forgot, sir, that at the time of the murder he had still the key with him? But that’s not all. I don’t know, Mr. Utterson, if you ever met this Mr. Hyde?”

“Yes,” said the lawyer, “I once spoke with him.”

“Then you must know as well as the rest of us that there was something queer about that gentleman—something that gave a man a turn—I don’t know rightly how to say it, sir, beyond this: that you felt in your marrow kind of cold and thin.”

“I own I felt something of what you describe,” said Mr. Utterson.

“Quite so, sir,” returned Poole. “Well, when that masked thing like a monkey jumped from among the chemicals and whipped into the cabinet, it went down my spine like ice. O, I know it’s not evidence, Mr. Utterson; I’m book-learned enough for that; but a man has his feelings, and I give you my bible-word it was Mr. Hyde!”

“Ay, ay,” said the lawyer. “My fears incline to the same point. Evil, I fear, founded—evil was sure to come—of that connection. Ay truly, I believe you; I believe poor Harry is killed; and I believe his murderer (for what purpose, God alone can tell) is still lurking in his victim’s room. Well, let our name be vengeance. Call Bradshaw.”

The footman came at the summons, very white and nervous.

“Put yourself together, Bradshaw,” said the lawyer. “This suspense, I know, is telling upon all of you; but it is now our intention to make an end of it. Poole, here, and I are going to force our way into the cabinet. If all is well, my shoulders are broad enough to bear the blame. Meanwhile, lest anything should really be amiss, or any malefactor seek to escape by the back, you and the boy must go round the corner with a pair of good sticks and take your post at the laboratory door. We give you ten minutes, to get to your stations.”

As Bradshaw left, the lawyer looked at his watch. “And now, Poole, let us get to ours,” he said; and taking the poker under his arm, led the way into the yard. The scud had banked over the moon, and it was now quite dark. The wind, which only broke in puffs and draughts into that deep well of building, tossed the light of the candle to and fro about their steps, until they came into the shelter of the theatre, where they sat down silently to wait. London hummed solemnly all around; but nearer at hand, the stillness was only broken by the sounds of a footfall moving to and fro along the cabinet floor.

“So it will walk all day, sir,” whispered Poole; “ay, and the better part of the night. Only when a new sample comes from the chemist, there’s a bit of a break. Ah, it’s an ill conscience that’s such an enemy to rest! Ah, sir, there’s blood foully shed in every step of it! But hark again, a little closer—put your heart in your ears, Mr. Utterson, and tell me, is that the doctor’s foot?”

The steps fell lightly and oddly, with a certain swing, for all they went so slowly; it was different indeed from the heavy creaking tread of Henry Jekyll. Utterson sighed. “Is there never anything else?” he asked.

Poole nodded. “Once,” he said. “Once I heard it weeping!”

“Weeping? how that?” said the lawyer, conscious of a sudden chill of horror.

“Weeping like a woman or a lost soul,” said the butler. “I came away with that upon my heart, that I could have wept too.”

But now the ten minutes drew to an end. Poole disinterred the axe from under a stack of packing straw; the candle was set upon the nearest table to light them to the attack; and they drew near with bated breath to where that patient foot was still going up and down, up and down, in the quiet of the night. “Jekyll,” cried Utterson, with a loud voice, “I demand to see you.” He paused a moment, but there came no reply. “I give you fair warning, our suspicions are aroused, and I must and shall see you,” he resumed; “if not by fair means, then by foul—if not of your consent, then by brute force!”

“Utterson,” said the voice, “for God’s sake, have mercy!”

“Ah, that’s not Jekyll’s voice—it’s Hyde’s!” cried Utterson. “Down with the door, Poole!”

Poole swung the axe over his shoulder; the blow shook the building, and the red baize door leaped against the lock and hinges. A dismal screech, as of mere animal terror, rang from the cabinet. Up went the axe again, and again the panels crashed and the frame bounded; four times the blow fell; but the wood was tough and the fittings were of excellent workmanship; and it was not until the fifth, that the lock burst and the wreck of the door fell inwards on the carpet.

The besiegers, appalled by their own riot and the stillness that had succeeded, stood back a little and peered in. There lay the cabinet before their eyes in the quiet lamplight, a good fire glowing and chattering on the hearth, the kettle singing its thin strain, a drawer or two open, papers neatly set forth on the business table, and nearer the fire, the things laid out for tea; the quietest room, you would have said, and, but for the glazed presses full of chemicals, the most commonplace that night in London.

Right in the middle there lay the body of a man sorely contorted and still twitching. They drew near on tiptoe, turned it on its back and beheld the face of Edward Hyde. He was dressed in clothes far too large for him, clothes of the doctor’s bigness; the cords of his face still moved with a semblance of life, but life was quite gone: and by the crushed phial in the hand and the strong smell of kernels that hung upon the air, Utterson knew that he was looking on the body of a self-destroyer.

“We have come too late,” he said sternly, “whether to save or punish. Hyde is gone to his account; and it only remains for us to find the body of your master.”

The far greater proportion of the building was occupied by the theatre, which filled almost the whole ground storey and was lighted from above, and by the cabinet, which formed an upper story at one end and looked upon the court. A corridor joined the theatre to the door on the by-street; and with this the cabinet communicated separately by a second flight of stairs. There were besides a few dark closets and a spacious cellar. All these they now thoroughly examined. Each closet needed but a glance, for all were empty, and all, by the dust that fell from their doors, had stood long unopened. The cellar, indeed, was filled with crazy lumber, mostly dating from the times of the surgeon who was Jekyll’s predecessor; but even as they opened the door they were advertised of the uselessness of further search, by the fall of a perfect mat of cobweb which had for years sealed up the entrance. No where was there any trace of Henry Jekyll dead or alive.

Poole stamped on the flags of the corridor. “He must be buried here,” he said, hearkening to the sound.

“Or he may have fled,” said Utterson, and he turned to examine the door in the by-street. It was locked; and lying near by on the flags, they found the key, already stained with rust.

“This does not look like use,” observed the lawyer.

“Use!” echoed Poole. “Do you not see, sir, it is broken? much as if a man had stamped on it.”

“Ay,” continued Utterson, “and the fractures, too, are rusty.” The two men looked at each other with a scare. “This is beyond me, Poole,” said the lawyer. “Let us go back to the cabinet.”

They mounted the stair in silence, and still with an occasional awestruck glance at the dead body, proceeded more thoroughly to examine the contents of the cabinet. At one table, there were traces of chemical work, various measured heaps of some white salt being laid on glass saucers, as though for an experiment in which the unhappy man had been prevented.

“That is the same drug that I was always bringing him,” said Poole; and even as he spoke, the kettle with a startling noise boiled over.

This brought them to the fireside, where the easy-chair was drawn cosily up, and the tea things stood ready to the sitter’s elbow, the very sugar in the cup. There were several books on a shelf; one lay beside the tea things open, and Utterson was amazed to find it a copy of a pious work, for which Jekyll had several times expressed a great esteem, annotated, in his own hand with startling blasphemies.

Next, in the course of their review of the chamber, the searchers came to the cheval-glass, into whose depths they looked with an involuntary horror. But it was so turned as to show them nothing but the rosy glow playing on the roof, the fire sparkling in a hundred repetitions along the glazed front of the presses, and their own pale and fearful countenances stooping to look in.

“This glass has seen some strange things, sir,” whispered Poole.

“And surely none stranger than itself,” echoed the lawyer in the same tones. “For what did Jekyll”—he caught himself up at the word with a start, and then conquering the weakness—”what could Jekyll want with it?” he said.

“You may say that!” said Poole.

Next they turned to the business table. On the desk, among the neat array of papers, a large envelope was uppermost, and bore, in the doctor’s hand, the name of Mr. Utterson. The lawyer unsealed it, and several enclosures fell to the floor. The first was a will, drawn in the same eccentric terms as the one which he had returned six months before, to serve as a testament in case of death and as a deed of gift in case of disappearance; but in place of the name of Edward Hyde, the lawyer, with indescribable amazement read the name of Gabriel John Utterson. He looked at Poole, and then back at the paper, and last of all at the dead malefactor stretched upon the carpet.

“My head goes round,” he said. “He has been all these days in possession; he had no cause to like me; he must have raged to see himself displaced; and he has not destroyed this document.”

He caught up the next paper; it was a brief note in the doctor’s hand and dated at the top. “O Poole!” the lawyer cried, “he was alive and here this day. He cannot have been disposed of in so short a space; he must be still alive, he must have fled! And then, why fled? and how? and in that case, can we venture to declare this suicide? O, we must be careful. I foresee that we may yet involve your master in some dire catastrophe.”

“Why don’t you read it, sir?” asked Poole.

“Because I fear,” replied the lawyer solemnly. “God grant I have no cause for it!” And with that he brought the paper to his eyes and read as follows:

“My dear Utterson,—When this shall fall into your hands, I shall have disappeared, under what circumstances I have not the penetration to foresee, but my instinct and all the circumstances of my nameless situation tell me that the end is sure and must be early. Go then, and first read the narrative which Lanyon warned me he was to place in your hands; and if you care to hear more, turn to the confession of

“Your unworthy and unhappy friend,

“HENRY JEKYLL.””There was a third enclosure?” asked Utterson.

“Here, sir,” said Poole, and gave into his hands a considerable packet sealed in several places.

The lawyer put it in his pocket. “I would say nothing of this paper. If your master has fled or is dead, we may at least save his credit. It is now ten; I must go home and read these documents in quiet; but I shall be back before midnight, when we shall send for the police.”

They went out, locking the door of the theatre behind them; and Utterson, once more leaving the servants gathered about the fire in the hall, trudged back to his office to read the two narratives in which this mystery was now to be explained.

 

DR. LANYON’S NARRATIVE

On the ninth of January, now four days ago, I received by the evening delivery a registered envelope, addressed in the hand of my colleague and old school companion, Henry Jekyll. I was a good deal surprised by this; for we were by no means in the habit of correspondence; I had seen the man, dined with him, indeed, the night before; and I could imagine nothing in our intercourse that should justify formality of registration. The contents increased my wonder; for this is how the letter ran:

“10th December, 18—.

“Dear Lanyon,—You are one of my oldest friends; and although we may have differed at times on scientific questions, I cannot remember, at least on my side, any break in our affection. There was never a day when, if you had said to me, `Jekyll, my life, my honour, my reason, depend upon you,’ I would not have sacrificed my left hand to help you. Lanyon my life, my honour, my reason, are all at your mercy; if you fail me to-night, I am lost. You might suppose, after this preface, that I am going to ask you for something dishonourable to grant. Judge for yourself.

“I want you to postpone all other engagements for to-night—ay, even if you were summoned to the bedside of an emperor; to take a cab, unless your carriage should be actually at the door; and with this letter in your hand for consultation, to drive straight to my house. Poole, my butler, has his orders; you will find him waiting your arrival with a locksmith. The door of my cabinet is then to be forced: and you are to go in alone; to open the glazed press (letter E) on the left hand, breaking the lock if it be shut; and to draw out, with all its contents as they stand, the fourth drawer from the top or (which is the same thing) the third from the bottom. In my extreme distress of mind, I have a morbid fear of misdirecting you; but even if I am in error, you may know the right drawer by its contents: some powders, a phial and a paper book. This drawer I beg of you to carry back with you to Cavendish Square exactly as it stands.

“That is the first part of the service: now for the second. You should be back, if you set out at once on the receipt of this, long before midnight; but I will leave you that amount of margin, not only in the fear of one of those obstacles that can neither be prevented nor foreseen, but because an hour when your servants are in bed is to be preferred for what will then remain to do. At midnight, then, I have to ask you to be alone in your consulting room, to admit with your own hand into the house a man who will present himself in my name, and to place in his hands the drawer that you will have brought with you from my cabinet. Then you will have played your part and earned my gratitude completely. Five minutes afterwards, if you insist upon an explanation, you will have understood that these arrangements are of capital importance; and that by the neglect of one of them, fantastic as they must appear, you might have charged your conscience with my death or the shipwreck of my reason.

“Confident as I am that you will not trifle with this appeal, my heart sinks and my hand trembles at the bare thought of such a possibility. Think of me at this hour, in a strange place, labouring under a blackness of distress that no fancy can exaggerate, and yet well aware that, if you will but punctually serve me, my troubles will roll away like a story that is told. Serve me, my dear Lanyon and save

“Your friend,

“H.J.”P.S.—I had already sealed this up when a fresh terror struck upon my soul. It is possible that the post-office may fail me, and this letter not come into your hands until to-morrow morning. In that case, dear Lanyon, do my errand when it shall be most convenient for you in the course of the day; and once more expect my messenger at midnight. It may then already be too late; and if that night passes without event, you will know that you have seen the last of Henry Jekyll.”

Upon the reading of this letter, I made sure my colleague was insane; but till that was proved beyond the possibility of doubt, I felt bound to do as he requested. The less I understood of this farrago, the less I was in a position to judge of its importance; and an appeal so worded could not be set aside without a grave responsibility. I rose accordingly from table, got into a hansom, and drove straight to Jekyll’s house. The butler was awaiting my arrival; he had received by the same post as mine a registered letter of instruction, and had sent at once for a locksmith and a carpenter. The tradesmen came while we were yet speaking; and we moved in a body to old Dr. Denman’s surgical theatre, from which (as you are doubtless aware) Jekyll’s private cabinet is most conveniently entered. The door was very strong, the lock excellent; the carpenter avowed he would have great trouble and have to do much damage, if force were to be used; and the locksmith was near despair. But this last was a handy fellow, and after two hour’s work, the door stood open. The press marked E was unlocked; and I took out the drawer, had it filled up with straw and tied in a sheet, and returned with it to Cavendish Square.

Here I proceeded to examine its contents. The powders were neatly enough made up, but not with the nicety of the dispensing chemist; so that it was plain they were of Jekyll’s private manufacture: and when I opened one of the wrappers I found what seemed to me a simple crystalline salt of a white colour. The phial, to which I next turned my attention, might have been about half full of a blood-red liquor, which was highly pungent to the sense of smell and seemed to me to contain phosphorus and some volatile ether. At the other ingredients I could make no guess. The book was an ordinary version book and contained little but a series of dates. These covered a period of many years, but I observed that the entries ceased nearly a year ago and quite abruptly. Here and there a brief remark was appended to a date, usually no more than a single word: “double” occurring perhaps six times in a total of several hundred entries; and once very early in the list and followed by several marks of exclamation, “total failure!!!” All this, though it whetted my curiosity, told me little that was definite. Here were a phial of some salt, and the record of a series of experiments that had led (like too many of Jekyll’s investigations) to no end of practical usefulness. How could the presence of these articles in my house affect either the honour, the sanity, or the life of my flighty colleague? If his messenger could go to one place, why could he not go to another? And even granting some impediment, why was this gentleman to be received by me in secret? The more I reflected the more convinced I grew that I was dealing with a case of cerebral disease; and though I dismissed my servants to bed, I loaded an old revolver, that I might be found in some posture of self-defence.

Twelve o’clock had scarce rung out over London, ere the knocker sounded very gently on the door. I went myself at the summons, and found a small man crouching against the pillars of the portico.

“Are you come from Dr. Jekyll?” I asked.

He told me “yes” by a constrained gesture; and when I had bidden him enter, he did not obey me without a searching backward glance into the darkness of the square. There was a policeman not far off, advancing with his bull’s eye open; and at the sight, I thought my visitor started and made greater haste.

These particulars struck me, I confess, disagreeably; and as I followed him into the bright light of the consulting room, I kept my hand ready on my weapon. Here, at last, I had a chance of clearly seeing him. I had never set eyes on him before, so much was certain. He was small, as I have said; I was struck besides with the shocking expression of his face, with his remarkable combination of great muscular activity and great apparent debility of constitution, and—last but not least—with the odd, subjective disturbance caused by his neighbourhood. This bore some resemblance to incipient rigour, and was accompanied by a marked sinking of the pulse. At the time, I set it down to some idiosyncratic, personal distaste, and merely wondered at the acuteness of the symptoms; but I have since had reason to believe the cause to lie much deeper in the nature of man, and to turn on some nobler hinge than the principle of hatred.

This person (who had thus, from the first moment of his entrance, struck in me what I can only, describe as a disgustful curiosity) was dressed in a fashion that would have made an ordinary person laughable; his clothes, that is to say, although they were of rich and sober fabric, were enormously too large for him in every measurement—the trousers hanging on his legs and rolled up to keep them from the ground, the waist of the coat below his haunches, and the collar sprawling wide upon his shoulders. Strange to relate, this ludicrous accoutrement was far from moving me to laughter. Rather, as there was something abnormal and misbegotten in the very essence of the creature that now faced me—something seizing, surprising and revolting—this fresh disparity seemed but to fit in with and to reinforce it; so that to my interest in the man’s nature and character, there was added a curiosity as to his origin, his life, his fortune and status in the world.

These observations, though they have taken so great a space to be set down in, were yet the work of a few seconds. My visitor was, indeed, on fire with sombre excitement.

“Have you got it?” he cried. “Have you got it?” And so lively was his impatience that he even laid his hand upon my arm and sought to shake me.

I put him back, conscious at his touch of a certain icy pang along my blood. “Come, sir,” said I. “You forget that I have not yet the pleasure of your acquaintance. Be seated, if you please.” And I showed him an example, and sat down myself in my customary seat and with as fair an imitation of my ordinary manner to a patient, as the lateness of the hour, the nature of my preoccupations, and the horror I had of my visitor, would suffer me to muster.

“I beg your pardon, Dr. Lanyon,” he replied civilly enough. “What you say is very well founded; and my impatience has shown its heels to my politeness. I come here at the instance of your colleague, Dr. Henry Jekyll, on a piece of business of some moment; and I understood…” He paused and put his hand to his throat, and I could see, in spite of his collected manner, that he was wrestling against the approaches of the hysteria—”I understood, a drawer…”

But here I took pity on my visitor’s suspense, and some perhaps on my own growing curiosity.

“There it is, sir,” said I, pointing to the drawer, where it lay on the floor behind a table and still covered with the sheet.

He sprang to it, and then paused, and laid his hand upon his heart: I could hear his teeth grate with the convulsive action of his jaws; and his face was so ghastly to see that I grew alarmed both for his life and reason.

“Compose yourself,” said I.

He turned a dreadful smile to me, and as if with the decision of despair, plucked away the sheet. At sight of the contents, he uttered one loud sob of such immense relief that I sat petrified. And the next moment, in a voice that was already fairly well under control, “Have you a graduated glass?” he asked.

I rose from my place with something of an effort and gave him what he asked.

He thanked me with a smiling nod, measured out a few minims of the red tincture and added one of the powders. The mixture, which was at first of a reddish hue, began, in proportion as the crystals melted, to brighten in colour, to effervesce audibly, and to throw off small fumes of vapour. Suddenly and at the same moment, the ebullition ceased and the compound changed to a dark purple, which faded again more slowly to a watery green. My visitor, who had watched these metamorphoses with a keen eye, smiled, set down the glass upon the table, and then turned and looked upon me with an air of scrutiny.

“And now,” said he, “to settle what remains. Will you be wise? will you be guided? will you suffer me to take this glass in my hand and to go forth from your house without further parley? or has the greed of curiosity too much command of you? Think before you answer, for it shall be done as you decide. As you decide, you shall be left as you were before, and neither richer nor wiser, unless the sense of service rendered to a man in mortal distress may be counted as a kind of riches of the soul. Or, if you shall so prefer to choose, a new province of knowledge and new avenues to fame and power shall be laid open to you, here, in this room, upon the instant; and your sight shall be blasted by a prodigy to stagger the unbelief of Satan.”

“Sir,” said I, affecting a coolness that I was far from truly possessing, “you speak enigmas, and you will perhaps not wonder that I hear you with no very strong impression of belief. But I have gone too far in the way of inexplicable services to pause before I see the end.”

“It is well,” replied my visitor. “Lanyon, you remember your vows: what follows is under the seal of our profession. And now, you who have so long been bound to the most narrow and material views, you who have denied the virtue of transcendental medicine, you who have derided your superiors—behold!”

He put the glass to his lips and drank at one gulp. A cry followed; he reeled, staggered, clutched at the table and held on, staring with injected eyes, gasping with open mouth; and as I looked there came, I thought, a change—he seemed to swell—his face became suddenly black and the features seemed to melt and alter—and the next moment, I had sprung to my feet and leaped back against the wall, my arms raised to shield me from that prodigy, my mind submerged in terror.

“O God!” I screamed, and “O God!” again and again; for there before my eyes—pale and shaken, and half fainting, and groping before him with his hands, like a man restored from death—there stood Henry Jekyll!

What he told me in the next hour, I cannot bring my mind to set on paper. I saw what I saw, I heard what I heard, and my soul sickened at it; and yet now when that sight has faded from my eyes, I ask myself if I believe it, and I cannot answer. My life is shaken to its roots; sleep has left me; the deadliest terror sits by me at all hours of the day and night; and I feel that my days are numbered, and that I must die; and yet I shall die incredulous. As for the moral turpitude that man unveiled to me, even with tears of penitence, I can not, even in memory, dwell on it without a start of horror. I will say but one thing, Utterson, and that (if you can bring your mind to credit it) will be more than enough. The creature who crept into my house that night was, on Jekyll’s own confession, known by the name of Hyde and hunted for in every corner of the land as the murderer of Carew.

HASTIE LANYON

 

HENRY JEKYLL’S FULL STATEMENT OF THE CASE

I was born in the year 18— to a large fortune, endowed besides with excellent parts, inclined by nature to industry, fond of the respect of the wise and good among my fellowmen, and thus, as might have been supposed, with every guarantee of an honourable and distinguished future. And indeed the worst of my faults was a certain impatient gaiety of disposition, such as has made the happiness of many, but such as I found it hard to reconcile with my imperious desire to carry my head high, and wear a more than commonly grave countenance before the public. Hence it came about that I concealed my pleasures; and that when I reached years of reflection, and began to look round me and take stock of my progress and position in the world, I stood already committed to a profound duplicity of me. Many a man would have even blazoned such irregularities as I was guilty of; but from the high views that I had set before me, I regarded and hid them with an almost morbid sense of shame. It was thus rather the exacting nature of my aspirations than any particular degradation in my faults, that made me what I was, and, with even a deeper trench than in the majority of men, severed in me those provinces of good and ill which divide and compound man’s dual nature. In this case, I was driven to reflect deeply and inveterately on that hard law of life, which lies at the root of religion and is one of the most plentiful springs of distress. Though so profound a double-dealer, I was in no sense a hypocrite; both sides of me were in dead earnest; I was no more myself when I laid aside restraint and plunged in shame, than when I laboured, in the eye of day, at the furtherance of knowledge or the relief of sorrow and suffering. And it chanced that the direction of my scientific studies, which led wholly towards the mystic and the transcendental, reacted and shed a strong light on this consciousness of the perennial war among my members. With every day, and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and the intellectual, I thus drew steadily nearer to that truth, by whose partial discovery I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck: that man is not truly one, but truly two. I say two, because the state of my own knowledge does not pass beyond that point. Others will follow, others will outstrip me on the same lines; and I hazard the guess that man will be ultimately known for a mere polity of multifarious, incongruous and independent denizens. I, for my part, from the nature of my life, advanced infallibly in one direction and in one direction only. It was on the moral side, and in my own person, that I learned to recognise the thorough and primitive duality of man; I saw that, of the two natures that contended in the field of my consciousness, even if I could rightly be said to be either, it was only because I was radically both; and from an early date, even before the course of my scientific discoveries had begun to suggest the most naked possibility of such a miracle, I had learned to dwell with pleasure, as a beloved daydream, on the thought of the separation of these elements. If each, I told myself, could be housed in separate identities, life would be relieved of all that was unbearable; the unjust might go his way, delivered from the aspirations and remorse of his more upright twin; and the just could walk steadfastly and securely on his upward path, doing the good things in which he found his pleasure, and no longer exposed to disgrace and penitence by the hands of this extraneous evil. It was the curse of mankind that these incongruous faggots were thus bound together—that in the agonised womb of consciousness, these polar twins should be continuously struggling. How, then were they dissociated?

I was so far in my reflections when, as I have said, a side light began to shine upon the subject from the laboratory table. I began to perceive more deeply than it has ever yet been stated, the trembling immateriality, the mistlike transience, of this seemingly so solid body in which we walk attired. Certain agents I found to have the power to shake and pluck back that fleshly vestment, even as a wind might toss the curtains of a pavilion. For two good reasons, I will not enter deeply into this scientific branch of my confession. First, because I have been made to learn that the doom and burthen of our life is bound for ever on man’s shoulders, and when the attempt is made to cast it off, it but returns upon us with more unfamiliar and more awful pressure. Second, because, as my narrative will make, alas! too evident, my discoveries were incomplete. Enough then, that I not only recognised my natural body from the mere aura and effulgence of certain of the powers that made up my spirit, but managed to compound a drug by which these powers should be dethroned from their supremacy, and a second form and countenance substituted, none the less natural to me because they were the expression, and bore the stamp of lower elements in my soul.

I hesitated long before I put this theory to the test of practice. I knew well that I risked death; for any drug that so potently controlled and shook the very fortress of identity, might, by the least scruple of an overdose or at the least inopportunity in the moment of exhibition, utterly blot out that immaterial tabernacle which I looked to it to change. But the temptation of a discovery so singular and profound at last overcame the suggestions of alarm. I had long since prepared my tincture; I purchased at once, from a firm of wholesale chemists, a large quantity of a particular salt which I knew, from my experiments, to be the last ingredient required; and late one accursed night, I compounded the elements, watched them boil and smoke together in the glass, and when the ebullition had subsided, with a strong glow of courage, drank off the potion.

The most racking pangs succeeded: a grinding in the bones, deadly nausea, and a horror of the spirit that cannot be exceeded at the hour of birth or death. Then these agonies began swiftly to subside, and I came to myself as if out of a great sickness. There was something strange in my sensations, something indescribably new and, from its very novelty, incredibly sweet. I felt younger, lighter, happier in body; within I was conscious of a heady recklessness, a current of disordered sensual images running like a millrace in my fancy, a solution of the bonds of obligation, an unknown but not an innocent freedom of the soul. I knew myself, at the first breath of this new life, to be more wicked, tenfold more wicked, sold a slave to my original evil; and the thought, in that moment, braced and delighted me like wine. I stretched out my hands, exulting in the freshness of these sensations; and in the act, I was suddenly aware that I had lost in stature.

There was no mirror, at that date, in my room; that which stands beside me as I write, was brought there later on and for the very purpose of these transformations. The night however, was far gone into the morning—the morning, black as it was, was nearly ripe for the conception of the day—the inmates of my house were locked in the most rigorous hours of slumber; and I determined, flushed as I was with hope and triumph, to venture in my new shape as far as to my bedroom. I crossed the yard, wherein the constellations looked down upon me, I could have thought, with wonder, the first creature of that sort that their unsleeping vigilance had yet disclosed to them; I stole through the corridors, a stranger in my own house; and coming to my room, I saw for the first time the appearance of Edward Hyde.

I must here speak by theory alone, saying not that which I know, but that which I suppose to be most probable. The evil side of my nature, to which I had now transferred the stamping efficacy, was less robust and less developed than the good which I had just deposed. Again, in the course of my life, which had been, after all, nine tenths a life of effort, virtue and control, it had been much less exercised and much less exhausted. And hence, as I think, it came about that Edward Hyde was so much smaller, slighter and younger than Henry Jekyll. Even as good shone upon the countenance of the one, evil was written broadly and plainly on the face of the other. Evil besides (which I must still believe to be the lethal side of man) had left on that body an imprint of deformity and decay. And yet when I looked upon that ugly idol in the glass, I was conscious of no repugnance, rather of a leap of welcome. This, too, was myself. It seemed natural and human. In my eyes it bore a livelier image of the spirit, it seemed more express and single, than the imperfect and divided countenance I had been hitherto accustomed to call mine. And in so far I was doubtless right. I have observed that when I wore the semblance of Edward Hyde, none could come near to me at first without a visible misgiving of the flesh. This, as I take it, was because all human beings, as we meet them, are commingled out of good and evil: and Edward Hyde, alone in the ranks of mankind, was pure evil.

I lingered but a moment at the mirror: the second and conclusive experiment had yet to be attempted; it yet remained to be seen if I had lost my identity beyond redemption and must flee before daylight from a house that was no longer mine; and hurrying back to my cabinet, I once more prepared and drank the cup, once more suffered the pangs of dissolution, and came to myself once more with the character, the stature and the face of Henry Jekyll.

That night I had come to the fatal cross-roads. Had I approached my discovery in a more noble spirit, had I risked the experiment while under the empire of generous or pious aspirations, all must have been otherwise, and from these agonies of death and birth, I had come forth an angel instead of a fiend. The drug had no discriminating action; it was neither diabolical nor divine; it but shook the doors of the prisonhouse of my disposition; and like the captives of Philippi, that which stood within ran forth. At that time my virtue slumbered; my evil, kept awake by ambition, was alert and swift to seize the occasion; and the thing that was projected was Edward Hyde. Hence, although I had now two characters as well as two appearances, one was wholly evil, and the other was still the old Henry Jekyll, that incongruous compound of whose reformation and improvement I had already learned to despair. The movement was thus wholly toward the worse.

Even at that time, I had not conquered my aversions to the dryness of a life of study. I would still be merrily disposed at times; and as my pleasures were (to say the least) undignified, and I was not only well known and highly considered, but growing towards the elderly man, this incoherency of my life was daily growing more unwelcome. It was on this side that my new power tempted me until I fell in slavery. I had but to drink the cup, to doff at once the body of the noted professor, and to assume, like a thick cloak, that of Edward Hyde. I smiled at the notion; it seemed to me at the time to be humourous; and I made my preparations with the most studious care. I took and furnished that house in Soho, to which Hyde was tracked by the police; and engaged as a housekeeper a creature whom I knew well to be silent and unscrupulous. On the other side, I announced to my servants that a Mr. Hyde (whom I described) was to have full liberty and power about my house in the square; and to parry mishaps, I even called and made myself a familiar object, in my second character. I next drew up that will to which you so much objected; so that if anything befell me in the person of Dr. Jekyll, I could enter on that of Edward Hyde without pecuniary loss. And thus fortified, as I supposed, on every side, I began to profit by the strange immunities of my position.

Men have before hired bravos to transact their crimes, while their own person and reputation sat under shelter. I was the first that ever did so for his pleasures. I was the first that could plod in the public eye with a load of genial respectability, and in a moment, like a schoolboy, strip off these lendings and spring headlong into the sea of liberty. But for me, in my impenetrable mantle, the safety was complete. Think of it—I did not even exist! Let me but escape into my laboratory door, give me but a second or two to mix and swallow the draught that I had always standing ready; and whatever he had done, Edward Hyde would pass away like the stain of breath upon a mirror; and there in his stead, quietly at home, trimming the midnight lamp in his study, a man who could afford to laugh at suspicion, would be Henry Jekyll.

The pleasures which I made haste to seek in my disguise were, as I have said, undignified; I would scarce use a harder term. But in the hands of Edward Hyde, they soon began to turn toward the monstrous. When I would come back from these excursions, I was often plunged into a kind of wonder at my vicarious depravity. This familiar that I called out of my own soul, and sent forth alone to do his good pleasure, was a being inherently malign and villainous; his every act and thought centered on self; drinking pleasure with bestial avidity from any degree of torture to another; relentless like a man of stone. Henry Jekyll stood at times aghast before the acts of Edward Hyde; but the situation was apart from ordinary laws, and insidiously relaxed the grasp of conscience. It was Hyde, after all, and Hyde alone, that was guilty. Jekyll was no worse; he woke again to his good qualities seemingly unimpaired; he would even make haste, where it was possible, to undo the evil done by Hyde. And thus his conscience slumbered.

Into the details of the infamy at which I thus connived (for even now I can scarce grant that I committed it) I have no design of entering; I mean but to point out the warnings and the successive steps with which my chastisement approached. I met with one accident which, as it brought on no consequence, I shall no more than mention. An act of cruelty to a child aroused against me the anger of a passer-by, whom I recognised the other day in the person of your kinsman; the doctor and the child’s family joined him; there were moments when I feared for my life; and at last, in order to pacify their too just resentment, Edward Hyde had to bring them to the door, and pay them in a cheque drawn in the name of Henry Jekyll. But this danger was easily eliminated from the future, by opening an account at another bank in the name of Edward Hyde himself; and when, by sloping my own hand backward, I had supplied my double with a signature, I thought I sat beyond the reach of fate.

Some two months before the murder of Sir Danvers, I had been out for one of my adventures, had returned at a late hour, and woke the next day in bed with somewhat odd sensations. It was in vain I looked about me; in vain I saw the decent furniture and tall proportions of my room in the square; in vain that I recognised the pattern of the bed curtains and the design of the mahogany frame; something still kept insisting that I was not where I was, that I had not wakened where I seemed to be, but in the little room in Soho where I was accustomed to sleep in the body of Edward Hyde. I smiled to myself, and in my psychological way, began lazily to inquire into the elements of this illusion, occasionally, even as I did so, dropping back into a comfortable morning doze. I was still so engaged when, in one of my more wakeful moments, my eyes fell upon my hand. Now the hand of Henry Jekyll (as you have often remarked) was professional in shape and size: it was large, firm, white and comely. But the hand which I now saw, clearly enough, in the yellow light of a mid-London morning, lying half shut on the bedclothes, was lean, corder, knuckly, of a dusky pallor and thickly shaded with a swart growth of hair. It was the hand of Edward Hyde.

I must have stared upon it for near half a minute, sunk as I was in the mere stupidity of wonder, before terror woke up in my breast as sudden and startling as the crash of cymbals; and bounding from my bed I rushed to the mirror. At the sight that met my eyes, my blood was changed into something exquisitely thin and icy. Yes, I had gone to bed Henry Jekyll, I had awakened Edward Hyde. How was this to be explained? I asked myself; and then, with another bound of terror—how was it to be remedied? It was well on in the morning; the servants were up; all my drugs were in the cabinet—a long journey down two pairs of stairs, through the back passage, across the open court and through the anatomical theatre, from where I was then standing horror-struck. It might indeed be possible to cover my face; but of what use was that, when I was unable to conceal the alteration in my stature? And then with an overpowering sweetness of relief, it came back upon my mind that the servants were already used to the coming and going of my second self. I had soon dressed, as well as I was able, in clothes of my own size: had soon passed through the house, where Bradshaw stared and drew back at seeing Mr. Hyde at such an hour and in such a strange array; and ten minutes later, Dr. Jekyll had returned to his own shape and was sitting down, with a darkened brow, to make a feint of breakfasting.

Small indeed was my appetite. This inexplicable incident, this reversal of my previous experience, seemed, like the Babylonian finger on the wall, to be spelling out the letters of my judgment; and I began to reflect more seriously than ever before on the issues and possibilities of my double existence. That part of me which I had the power of projecting, had lately been much exercised and nourished; it had seemed to me of late as though the body of Edward Hyde had grown in stature, as though (when I wore that form) I were conscious of a more generous tide of blood; and I began to spy a danger that, if this were much prolonged, the balance of my nature might be permanently overthrown, the power of voluntary change be forfeited, and the character of Edward Hyde become irrevocably mine. The power of the drug had not been always equally displayed. Once, very early in my career, it had totally failed me; since then I had been obliged on more than one occasion to double, and once, with infinite risk of death, to treble the amount; and these rare uncertainties had cast hitherto the sole shadow on my contentment. Now, however, and in the light of that morning’s accident, I was led to remark that whereas, in the beginning, the difficulty had been to throw off the body of Jekyll, it had of late gradually but decidedly transferred itself to the other side. All things therefore seemed to point to this; that I was slowly losing hold of my original and better self, and becoming slowly incorporated with my second and worse.

Between these two, I now felt I had to choose. My two natures had memory in common, but all other faculties were most unequally shared between them. Jekyll (who was composite) now with the most sensitive apprehensions, now with a greedy gusto, projected and shared in the pleasures and adventures of Hyde; but Hyde was indifferent to Jekyll, or but remembered him as the mountain bandit remembers the cavern in which he conceals himself from pursuit. Jekyll had more than a father’s interest; Hyde had more than a son’s indifference. To cast in my lot with Jekyll, was to die to those appetites which I had long secretly indulged and had of late begun to pamper. To cast it in with Hyde, was to die to a thousand interests and aspirations, and to become, at a blow and forever, despised and friendless. The bargain might appear unequal; but there was still another consideration in the scales; for while Jekyll would suffer smartingly in the fires of abstinence, Hyde would be not even conscious of all that he had lost. Strange as my circumstances were, the terms of this debate are as old and commonplace as man; much the same inducements and alarms cast the die for any tempted and trembling sinner; and it fell out with me, as it falls with so vast a majority of my fellows, that I chose the better part and was found wanting in the strength to keep to it.

Yes, I preferred the elderly and discontented doctor, surrounded by friends and cherishing honest hopes; and bade a resolute farewell to the liberty, the comparative youth, the light step, leaping impulses and secret pleasures, that I had enjoyed in the disguise of Hyde. I made this choice perhaps with some unconscious reservation, for I neither gave up the house in Soho, nor destroyed the clothes of Edward Hyde, which still lay ready in my cabinet. For two months, however, I was true to my determination; for two months, I led a life of such severity as I had never before attained to, and enjoyed the compensations of an approving conscience. But time began at last to obliterate the freshness of my alarm; the praises of conscience began to grow into a thing of course; I began to be tortured with throes and longings, as of Hyde struggling after freedom; and at last, in an hour of moral weakness, I once again compounded and swallowed the transforming draught.

I do not suppose that, when a drunkard reasons with himself upon his vice, he is once out of five hundred times affected by the dangers that he runs through his brutish, physical insensibility; neither had I, long as I had considered my position, made enough allowance for the complete moral insensibility and insensate readiness to evil, which were the leading characters of Edward Hyde. Yet it was by these that I was punished. My devil had been long caged, he came out roaring. I was conscious, even when I took the draught, of a more unbridled, a more furious propensity to ill. It must have been this, I suppose, that stirred in my soul that tempest of impatience with which I listened to the civilities of my unhappy victim; I declare, at least, before God, no man morally sane could have been guilty of that crime upon so pitiful a provocation; and that I struck in no more reasonable spirit than that in which a sick child may break a plaything. But I had voluntarily stripped myself of all those balancing instincts by which even the worst of us continues to walk with some degree of steadiness among temptations; and in my case, to be tempted, however slightly, was to fall.

Instantly the spirit of hell awoke in me and raged. With a transport of glee, I mauled the unresisting body, tasting delight from every blow; and it was not till weariness had begun to succeed, that I was suddenly, in the top fit of my delirium, struck through the heart by a cold thrill of terror. A mist dispersed; I saw my life to be forfeit; and fled from the scene of these excesses, at once glorying and trembling, my lust of evil gratified and stimulated, my love of life screwed to the topmost peg. I ran to the house in Soho, and (to make assurance doubly sure) destroyed my papers; thence I set out through the lamplit streets, in the same divided ecstasy of mind, gloating on my crime, light-headedly devising others in the future, and yet still hastening and still hearkening in my wake for the steps of the avenger. Hyde had a song upon his lips as he compounded the draught, and as he drank it, pledged the dead man. The pangs of transformation had not done tearing him, before Henry Jekyll, with streaming tears of gratitude and remorse, had fallen upon his knees and lifted his clasped hands to God. The veil of self-indulgence was rent from head to foot. I saw my life as a whole: I followed it up from the days of childhood, when I had walked with my father’s hand, and through the self-denying toils of my professional life, to arrive again and again, with the same sense of unreality, at the damned horrors of the evening. I could have screamed aloud; I sought with tears and prayers to smother down the crowd of hideous images and sounds with which my memory swarmed against me; and still, between the petitions, the ugly face of my iniquity stared into my soul. As the acuteness of this remorse began to die away, it was succeeded by a sense of joy. The problem of my conduct was solved. Hyde was thenceforth impossible; whether I would or not, I was now confined to the better part of my existence; and O, how I rejoiced to think of it! with what willing humility I embraced anew the restrictions of natural life! with what sincere renunciation I locked the door by which I had so often gone and come, and ground the key under my heel!

The next day, came the news that the murder had not been overlooked, that the guilt of Hyde was patent to the world, and that the victim was a man high in public estimation. It was not only a crime, it had been a tragic folly. I think I was glad to know it; I think I was glad to have my better impulses thus buttressed and guarded by the terrors of the scaffold. Jekyll was now my city of refuge; let but Hyde peep out an instant, and the hands of all men would be raised to take and slay him.

I resolved in my future conduct to redeem the past; and I can say with honesty that my resolve was fruitful of some good. You know yourself how earnestly, in the last months of the last year, I laboured to relieve suffering; you know that much was done for others, and that the days passed quietly, almost happily for myself. Nor can I truly say that I wearied of this beneficent and innocent life; I think instead that I daily enjoyed it more completely; but I was still cursed with my duality of purpose; and as the first edge of my penitence wore off, the lower side of me, so long indulged, so recently chained down, began to growl for licence. Not that I dreamed of resuscitating Hyde; the bare idea of that would startle me to frenzy: no, it was in my own person that I was once more tempted to trifle with my conscience; and it was as an ordinary secret sinner that I at last fell before the assaults of temptation.

There comes an end to all things; the most capacious measure is filled at last; and this brief condescension to my evil finally destroyed the balance of my soul. And yet I was not alarmed; the fall seemed natural, like a return to the old days before I had made my discovery. It was a fine, clear, January day, wet under foot where the frost had melted, but cloudless overhead; and the Regent’s Park was full of winter chirrupings and sweet with spring odours. I sat in the sun on a bench; the animal within me licking the chops of memory; the spiritual side a little drowsed, promising subsequent penitence, but not yet moved to begin. After all, I reflected, I was like my neighbours; and then I smiled, comparing myself with other men, comparing my active good-will with the lazy cruelty of their neglect. And at the very moment of that vainglorious thought, a qualm came over me, a horrid nausea and the most deadly shuddering. These passed away, and left me faint; and then as in its turn faintness subsided, I began to be aware of a change in the temper of my thoughts, a greater boldness, a contempt of danger, a solution of the bonds of obligation. I looked down; my clothes hung formlessly on my shrunken limbs; the hand that lay on my knee was corded and hairy. I was once more Edward Hyde. A moment before I had been safe of all men’s respect, wealthy, beloved—the cloth laying for me in the dining-room at home; and now I was the common quarry of mankind, hunted, houseless, a known murderer, thrall to the gallows.

My reason wavered, but it did not fail me utterly. I have more than once observed that in my second character, my faculties seemed sharpened to a point and my spirits more tensely elastic; thus it came about that, where Jekyll perhaps might have succumbed, Hyde rose to the importance of the moment. My drugs were in one of the presses of my cabinet; how was I to reach them? That was the problem that (crushing my temples in my hands) I set myself to solve. The laboratory door I had closed. If I sought to enter by the house, my own servants would consign me to the gallows. I saw I must employ another hand, and thought of Lanyon. How was he to be reached? how persuaded? Supposing that I escaped capture in the streets, how was I to make my way into his presence? and how should I, an unknown and displeasing visitor, prevail on the famous physician to rifle the study of his colleague, Dr. Jekyll? Then I remembered that of my original character, one part remained to me: I could write my own hand; and once I had conceived that kindling spark, the way that I must follow became lighted up from end to end.

Thereupon, I arranged my clothes as best I could, and summoning a passing hansom, drove to an hotel in Portland Street, the name of which I chanced to remember. At my appearance (which was indeed comical enough, however tragic a fate these garments covered) the driver could not conceal his mirth. I gnashed my teeth upon him with a gust of devilish fury; and the smile withered from his face—happily for him—yet more happily for myself, for in another instant I had certainly dragged him from his perch. At the inn, as I entered, I looked about me with so black a countenance as made the attendants tremble; not a look did they exchange in my presence; but obsequiously took my orders, led me to a private room, and brought me wherewithal to write. Hyde in danger of his life was a creature new to me; shaken with inordinate anger, strung to the pitch of murder, lusting to inflict pain. Yet the creature was astute; mastered his fury with a great effort of the will; composed his two important letters, one to Lanyon and one to Poole; and that he might receive actual evidence of their being posted, sent them out with directions that they should be registered. Thenceforward, he sat all day over the fire in the private room, gnawing his nails; there he dined, sitting alone with his fears, the waiter visibly quailing before his eye; and thence, when the night was fully come, he set forth in the corner of a closed cab, and was driven to and fro about the streets of the city. He, I say—I cannot say, I. That child of Hell had nothing human; nothing lived in him but fear and hatred. And when at last, thinking the driver had begun to grow suspicious, he discharged the cab and ventured on foot, attired in his misfitting clothes, an object marked out for observation, into the midst of the nocturnal passengers, these two base passions raged within him like a tempest. He walked fast, hunted by his fears, chattering to himself, skulking through the less frequented thoroughfares, counting the minutes that still divided him from midnight. Once a woman spoke to him, offering, I think, a box of lights. He smote her in the face, and she fled.

When I came to myself at Lanyon’s, the horror of my old friend perhaps affected me somewhat: I do not know; it was at least but a drop in the sea to the abhorrence with which I looked back upon these hours. A change had come over me. It was no longer the fear of the gallows, it was the horror of being Hyde that racked me. I received Lanyon’s condemnation partly in a dream; it was partly in a dream that I came home to my own house and got into bed. I slept after the prostration of the day, with a stringent and profound slumber which not even the nightmares that wrung me could avail to break. I awoke in the morning shaken, weakened, but refreshed. I still hated and feared the thought of the brute that slept within me, and I had not of course forgotten the appalling dangers of the day before; but I was once more at home, in my own house and close to my drugs; and gratitude for my escape shone so strong in my soul that it almost rivalled the brightness of hope.

I was stepping leisurely across the court after breakfast, drinking the chill of the air with pleasure, when I was seized again with those indescribable sensations that heralded the change; and I had but the time to gain the shelter of my cabinet, before I was once again raging and freezing with the passions of Hyde. It took on this occasion a double dose to recall me to myself; and alas! six hours after, as I sat looking sadly in the fire, the pangs returned, and the drug had to be re-administered. In short, from that day forth it seemed only by a great effort as of gymnastics, and only under the immediate stimulation of the drug, that I was able to wear the countenance of Jekyll. At all hours of the day and night, I would be taken with the premonitory shudder; above all, if I slept, or even dozed for a moment in my chair, it was always as Hyde that I awakened. Under the strain of this continually impending doom and by the sleeplessness to which I now condemned myself, ay, even beyond what I had thought possible to man, I became, in my own person, a creature eaten up and emptied by fever, languidly weak both in body and mind, and solely occupied by one thought: the horror of my other self. But when I slept, or when the virtue of the medicine wore off, I would leap almost without transition (for the pangs of transformation grew daily less marked) into the possession of a fancy brimming with images of terror, a soul boiling with causeless hatreds, and a body that seemed not strong enough to contain the raging energies of life. The powers of Hyde seemed to have grown with the sickliness of Jekyll. And certainly the hate that now divided them was equal on each side. With Jekyll, it was a thing of vital instinct. He had now seen the full deformity of that creature that shared with him some of the phenomena of consciousness, and was co-heir with him to death: and beyond these links of community, which in themselves made the most poignant part of his distress, he thought of Hyde, for all his energy of life, as of something not only hellish but inorganic. This was the shocking thing; that the slime of the pit seemed to utter cries and voices; that the amorphous dust gesticulated and sinned; that what was dead, and had no shape, should usurp the offices of life. And this again, that that insurgent horror was knit to him closer than a wife, closer than an eye; lay caged in his flesh, where he heard it mutter and felt it struggle to be born; and at every hour of weakness, and in the confidence of slumber, prevailed against him, and deposed him out of life. The hatred of Hyde for Jekyll was of a different order. His terror of the gallows drove him continually to commit temporary suicide, and return to his subordinate station of a part instead of a person; but he loathed the necessity, he loathed the despondency into which Jekyll was now fallen, and he resented the dislike with which he was himself regarded. Hence the ape-like tricks that he would play me, scrawling in my own hand blasphemies on the pages of my books, burning the letters and destroying the portrait of my father; and indeed, had it not been for his fear of death, he would long ago have ruined himself in order to involve me in the ruin. But his love of me is wonderful; I go further: I, who sicken and freeze at the mere thought of him, when I recall the abjection and passion of this attachment, and when I know how he fears my power to cut him off by suicide, I find it in my heart to pity him.

It is useless, and the time awfully fails me, to prolong this description; no one has ever suffered such torments, let that suffice; and yet even to these, habit brought—no, not alleviation—but a certain callousness of soul, a certain acquiescence of despair; and my punishment might have gone on for years, but for the last calamity which has now fallen, and which has finally severed me from my own face and nature. My provision of the salt, which had never been renewed since the date of the first experiment, began to run low. I sent out for a fresh supply and mixed the draught; the ebullition followed, and the first change of colour, not the second; I drank it and it was without efficiency. You will learn from Poole how I have had London ransacked; it was in vain; and I am now persuaded that my first supply was impure, and that it was that unknown impurity which lent efficacy to the draught.

About a week has passed, and I am now finishing this statement under the influence of the last of the old powders. This, then, is the last time, short of a miracle, that Henry Jekyll can think his own thoughts or see his own face (now how sadly altered!) in the glass. Nor must I delay too long to bring my writing to an end; for if my narrative has hitherto escaped destruction, it has been by a combination of great prudence and great good luck. Should the throes of change take me in the act of writing it, Hyde will tear it in pieces; but if some time shall have elapsed after I have laid it by, his wonderful selfishness and circumscription to the moment will probably save it once again from the action of his ape-like spite. And indeed the doom that is closing on us both has already changed and crushed him. Half an hour from now, when I shall again and forever reindue that hated personality, I know how I shall sit shuddering and weeping in my chair, or continue, with the most strained and fearstruck ecstasy of listening, to pace up and down this room (my last earthly refuge) and give ear to every sound of menace. Will Hyde die upon the scaffold? or will he find courage to release himself at the last moment? God knows; I am careless; this is my true hour of death, and what is to follow concerns another than myself. Here then, as I lay down the pen and proceed to seal up my confession, I bring the life of that unhappy Henry Jekyll to an end.

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The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

The Body in the Library

 

Agatha Christie

 

1942 For my friend Nan

 

 

 

2 Chapter 1

 

Mrs Bantry was dreaming. Her sweet peas had just taken a First at the flower show. The vicar, dressed in cassock and surplice, was giving out the prizes in church. His wife wandered past, dressed in a bathing suit, but, as is the blessed habit of dreams, this fact did not arouse the disapproval of the parish in the way it would assuredly have done in real life…

 

Mrs Bantry was enjoying her dream a good deal. She usually did enjoy those early-morning dreams that were terminated by the arrival of early-morning tea. Somewhere in her inner consciousness was an awareness of the usual early- morning noises of the household. The rattle of the curtain rings on the stairs as the housemaid drew them, the noises of the second housemaid’s dustpan and brush in the passage outside. In the distance the heavy noise of the front-door bolt being drawn back.

 

Another day was beginning. In the meantime she must extract as much pleasure as possible from the flower show, for already its dreamlike quality was becoming apparent.

 

Below her was the noise of the big wooden shutters in the drawing room being opened. She heard it, yet did not hear it. For quite half an hour longer the usual household noises would go on, discreet, subdued, not disturbing because they were so familiar. They would culminate in a swift, controlled sound of footsteps along the passage, the rustle of a print dress, the subdued chink of tea things as the tray was deposited on the table outside, then the soft knock and the entry of Mary to draw the curtains.

 

In her sleep Mrs Bantry frowned. Something disturbing was penetrating through the dream state, something out of its time. Footsteps along the passage, footsteps that were too hurried and too soon. Her ears listened unconsciously for the chink of china, but there was no chink of china.

 

The knock came at the door. Automatically, from the depths of her dream, Mrs Bantry said, “Come in.”

 

The door opened; now there would be the chink of curtain rings as the curtains were drawn back. But there was no chink of curtain rings. Out of the dull green light Mary’s voice came, breathless, hysterical.

 

“Oh, ma’am, oh, ma’am, there’s a body in the library!”

 

And then, with a hysterical burst of sobs, she rushed out of the room again.

 

3 II

 

Mrs Bantry sat up in bed.

 

Either her dream had taken a very odd turn or else – or else Mary had really rushed into the room and had said – incredibly fantastic! – that there was a body in the library.

 

“Impossible,” said Mrs Bantry to herself. “I must have been dreaming.”

 

But even as she said it, she felt more and more certain that she had not been dreaming; that Mary, her superior self-controlled Mary, had actually uttered those fantastic words.

 

Mrs Bantry reflected a minute and then applied an urgent conjugal elbow to her sleeping spouse.

 

“Arthur, Arthur, wake up.”

 

Colonel Bantry grunted, muttered and rolled over on his side.

 

“Wake up, Arthur. Did you hear what she said?”

 

“Very likely,” said Colonel Bantry indistinctly. “I quite agree with you, Dolly,” and promptly went to sleep again.

 

Mrs Bantry shook him.

 

“You’ve got to listen. Mary came in and said that there was a body in the library.”

 

“Eh, what?”

 

“A body in the library.”

 

“Who said so?”

 

“Mary.”

 

Colonel Bantry collected his scattered faculties and proceeded to deal with the situation. He said, “Nonsense, old girl! You’ve been dreaming.”

 

4 “No, I haven’t. I thought so, too, at first. But I haven’t. She really came in and said so.”

 

“Mary came in and said there was a body in the library?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“But there couldn’t be,” said Colonel Bantry.

 

“No, no, I suppose not,” said Mrs Bantry doubtfully. Rallying, she went on, “But then why did Mary say there was?”

 

“She can’t have.”

 

“She did.”

 

“You must have imagined it.”

 

“I didn’t imagine it.”

 

Colonel Bantry was by now thoroughly awake and prepared to deal with the situation on its merits. He said kindly, “You’ve been dreaming. Dolly. It’s that detective story you were reading – The Clue of the Broken Match. You know, Lord Edgbaston finds a beautiful blonde dead on the library hearth rug. Bodies are always being found in libraries in books. I’ve never known a case in real life.”

 

“Perhaps you will now,” said Mrs Bantry, “Anyway Arthur, you’ve got to get up and see.”

 

“But really, Dolly, it must have been a dream. Dreams often do seem wonderfully vivid when you first wake up. You feel quite sure they’re true.”

 

“I was having quite a different sort of dream about a flower show and the vicar’s wife in a bathing dress, something like that.”

 

Mrs Bantry jumped out of bed and pulled back the curtains. The light of a fine autumn day flooded the room.

 

“I did not dream it,” said Mrs Bantry firmly. “Get up at once, Arthur, and go downstairs and see about it.”

 

 

 

5 “You want me to go downstairs and ask if there’s a body in the library? I shall look a fool.”

 

“You needn’t ask anything,” said Mrs Bantry. “If there is a body – and of course it’s just possible that Mary’s gone mad and thinks she sees things that aren’t there – well, somebody will tell you soon enough. You won’t have to say a word.”

 

Grumbling, Colonel Bantry wrapped himself in his dressing gown and left the room. He went along the passage and down the staircase. At the foot of it was a little knot of huddled servants; some of them were sobbing. The butler stepped forward impressively.

 

“I’m glad you have come, sir. I have directed that nothing should be done until you came. Will it be in order for me to ring up the police, sir?”

 

“Ring ’em up about what?”

 

The butler cast a reproachful glance over his shoulder at the tall young woman who was weeping hysterically on the cook’s shoulder.

 

“I understood, sir, that Mary had already informed you. She said she had done so.”

 

Mary gasped out, “I was so upset, I don’t know what I said! It all came over me again and my legs gave way and my insides turned over! Finding it like that. Oh, oh, oh!”

 

She subsided again onto Mrs Eccles, who said, “There, there, my dear,” with some relish.

 

“Mary is naturally somewhat upset, sir, having been the one to make the gruesome discovery,” exclaimed the butler. “She went into the library, as usual, to draw the curtains, and – and almost stumbled over the body.”

 

“Do you mean to tell me,” demanded Colonel Bantry, “that there’s a dead body in my library – my library?”

 

The butler coughed. “Perhaps, sir, you would like to see for yourself.”

 

III

 

“Hullo, ‘ullo, ‘ullo. Police station here. Yes, who’s speaking?”

 

6 Police Constable Palk was buttoning up his tunic with one hand while the other held the telephone receiver.

 

“Yes, yes, Gossington Hall. Yes?… Oh, good morning, sir.”

 

Police Constable Palk’s tone underwent a slight modification. It became less impatiently official, recognizing the generous patron of the police sports and the principal magistrate of the district.

 

“Yes, sir? What can I do for you?… I’m sorry, sir, I didn’t quite catch… A body, did you say?… Yes?… Yes, if you please, sir… That’s right, sir… Young woman not known to you, you say?… Quite, sir… Yes, you can leave it all to me.”

 

Police Constable Palk replaced the receiver, uttered a long-drawn whistle and proceeded to dial his superior officer’s number.

 

Mrs Palk looked in from the kitchen, whence proceeded an appetizing smell of frying bacon.

 

“What is it?”

 

“Rummiest thing you ever heard of,” replied her husband. “Body of a young woman found up at the Hall. In the colonel’s library.”

 

“Murdered?”

 

“Strangled, so he says.”

 

“Who was she?”

 

“The colonel says he doesn’t know her from Adam.”

 

“Then what was she doing in ‘is library?”

 

Police Constable Palk silenced her with a reproachful glance and spoke officially into the telephone.

 

“Inspector Slack? Police Constable Palk here. A report has just come in that the body of a young woman was discovered this morning at seven-fifteen…”

 

 

 

 

 

7 IV

 

Miss Marple’s telephone rang when she was dressing. The sound of it flurried her a little. It was an unusual hour for her telephone to ring. So well ordered was her prim spinster’s life that unforeseen telephone calls were a source of vivid conjecture.

 

“Dear me,” said Miss Marple, surveying the ringing instrument with perplexity. “I wonder who that can be?”

 

Nine o’clock to nine-thirty was the recognized time for the village to make friendly calls to neighbours. Plans for the day, invitations, and so on, were always issued then. The butcher had been known to ring up just before nine if some crisis in the meat trade had occurred. At intervals during the day spasmodic calls might occur, though it was considered bad form to ring up after nine-thirty at night. It was true that Miss Marple’s nephew, a writer, and therefore erratic, had been known to ring up at the most peculiar times; once as late as ten minutes to midnight. But whatever Raymond West’s eccentricities, early rising was not one of them. Neither he nor anyone of Miss Marple’s acquaintance would be likely to ring up before eight in the morning. Actually a quarter to eight.

 

Too early even for a telegram, since the post office did not open until eight.

 

“It must be,” Miss Marple decided, “a wrong number.”

 

Having decided this, she advanced to the impatient instrument and quelled its clamour by picking up the receiver.

 

“Yes?” she said.

 

“Is that you, Jane?”

 

Miss Marple was much surprised.

 

“Yes, it’s Jane. You’re up very early, Dolly.”

 

Mrs Bantry’s voice came, breathless and agitated, over the wire. “The most awful thing has happened.”

 

“Oh, my dear!”

 

“We’ve just found a body in the library.” 8 For a moment Miss Marple thought her friend had gone mad. “You’ve found a what?”

 

“I know. One doesn’t believe it, does one? I mean I thought they only happened in books. I had to argue for hours with Arthur this morning before he’d even go down and see.”

 

Miss Marple tried to collect herself. She demanded breathlessly, “But whose body is it?”

 

“It’s a blonde.”

 

“A what?”

 

“A blonde. A beautiful blonde – like books again. None of us have ever seen her before. She’s just lying there in the library, dead. That’s why you’ve got to come up at once.”

 

“You want me to come up?”

 

“Yes, I’m sending the car down for you.”

 

Miss Marple said doubtfully, “Of course, dear, if you think I can be of any comfort to you.”

 

“Oh, I don’t want comfort. But you’re so good at bodies.”

 

“Oh, no, indeed. My little successes have been mostly theoretical.”

 

“But you’re very good at murders. She’s been murdered you see; strangled. What I feel is that if one has got to have a murder actually happening in one’s house, one might as well enjoy it, if you know what I mean. That’s why I want you to come and help me find out who did it and unravel the mystery and all that. It really is rather thrilling, isn’t it?”

 

“Well, of course, my dear, if I can be of any help.”

 

“Splendid! Arthur’s being rather difficult. He seems to think I shouldn’t enjoy myself about it at all. Of course, I do know it’s very sad and all that, but then I don’t know the girl and when you’ve seen her you’ll understand what I mean when I say she doesn’t look real at all.”

 

 

 

9 V

 

A little breathless Miss Marple alighted from the Bantrys’ car, the door of which was held open for her by the chauffeur.

 

Colonel Bantry came out on the steps and looked a little surprised.

 

“Miss Marple? Er – very pleased to see you.”

 

“Your wife telephoned to me,” explained Miss Marple.

 

“Capital, capital. She ought to have someone with her. She’ll crack up otherwise. She’s putting a good face on things at the moment, but you know what it is.”

 

At this moment Mrs Bantry appeared and exclaimed, “Do go back and eat your breakfast, Arthur. Your bacon will get cold.”

 

“I thought it might be the inspector arriving,” explained Colonel Bantry.

 

“He’ll be here soon enough,” said Mrs Bantry. “That’s why it’s important to get your breakfast first. You need it.”

 

“So do you. Much better come and eat something, Dolly.”

 

“I’ll come in a minute,” said Mrs Bantry. “Go on, Arthur.”

 

Colonel Bantry was shooed back into the dining room rather like a recalcitrant hen.

 

“Now!” said Mrs Bantry with an intonation of triumph. “Come on.”

 

She led the way rapidly along the long corridor to the east of the house. Outside the library door Constable Palk stood on guard. He intercepted Mrs Bantry with a show of authority.

 

“I’m afraid nobody is allowed in, madam. Inspector’s orders.”

 

“Nonsense, Palk,” said Mrs Bantry. “You know Miss Marple perfectly well.”

 

Constable Palk admitted to knowing Miss Marple.

 

 

 

10 “It’s very important that she should see the body,” said Mrs Bantry. “Don’t be stupid, Palk. After all, it’s my library, isn’t it?”

 

Constable Palk gave way. His habit of giving in to the gentry was life-long. The inspector, he reflected, need never know about it.

 

“Nothing must be touched or handled in any way,” he warned the ladies.

 

“Of course not,” said Mrs Bantry impatiently. “We know that. You can come in and watch, if you like.”

 

Constable Palk availed himself of this permission. It had been his intention anyway.

 

Mrs Bantry bore her friend triumphantly across the library to the big old- fashioned fireplace. She said, with a dramatic sense of climax, “There!”

 

Miss Marple understood then just what her friend had meant when she said the dead girl wasn’t real. The library was a room very typical of its owners. It was large and shabby and untidy. It had big, sagging armchairs, and pipes and books and estate papers laid out on the big table. There were one or two good old family portraits on the walls, and some bad Victorian water colours, and some would-be-funny hunting scenes. There was a big vase of flowers in the corner. The whole room was dim and mellow and casual. It spoke of long occupation and familiar use and of links with tradition.

 

And across the old bearskin hearth rug there was sprawled something new and crude and melodramatic.

 

The flamboyant figure of a girl. A girl with unnaturally fair hair dressed up off her face in elaborate curls and rings. Her thin body was dressed in a backless evening dress of white spangled satin; the face was heavily made up, the powder standing out grotesquely on its blue, swollen surface, the mascara of the lashes lying thickly on the distorted cheeks, the scarlet of the lips looking like a gash. The fingernails were enamelled a deep blood red, and so were the toenails in their cheap silver sandal shoes. It was a cheap, tawdry, flamboyant figure, most incongruous in the solid, old-fashioned comfort of Colonel Bantry’s library. Mrs Bantry said in a low voice, “You see what I mean? It just isn’t true?”

 

The old lady by her side nodded her head. She looked down long and thoughtfully at the huddled figure. She said at last in a gentle voice, “She’s very young.”

 

“Yes, yes, I suppose she is.”

 

11 Mrs Bantry seemed almost surprised, like one making a discovery.

 

There was the sound of a car crunching on the gravel outside. Constable Palk said with urgency, “That’ll be the inspector.”

 

True to his ingrained belief that the gentry didn’t let you down, Mrs Bantry immediately moved to the door. Miss Marple followed her.

 

Mrs Bantry said, “That’ll be all right, Palk.”

 

Constable Palk was immensely relieved.

 

VI

 

Hastily downing the last fragments of toast and marmalade with a drink of coffee Colonel Bantry hurried out into the hall and was relieved to see Colonel Melchett, the chief constable of the county, descending from a car, with Inspector Slack in attendance. Melchett was a friend of the colonel’s; Slack he had never very much taken to. An energetic man who belied his name and who accompanied his bustling manner with a good deal of disregard for the feelings of anyone he did not consider important.

 

“Morning, Bantry,” said the chief constable. “Thought I’d better come along myself. This seems an extraordinary business.”

 

“It’s – it’s -” Colonel Bantry struggled to express himself – “it’s incredible – fantastic!”

 

“No idea who the woman is?”

 

“Not in the slightest. Never set eyes on her in my life.”

 

“Butler knows anything?” asked Inspector Slack.

 

“Lorrimer is just as taken aback as I am.”

 

“Ah,” said Inspector Slack. “I wonder.”

 

Colonel Bantry said, “There’s breakfast in the dining room, Melchett, if you’d like anything.”

 

“No, no, better get on with the job. Haydock ought to be here any minute now… Ah, here he is.” 12 Another car drew up and big, broad-shouldered Doctor Haydock, who was also the police surgeon, got out.

 

A second police car had disgorged two plain-clothes men, one with a camera.

 

“All set, eh?” said the chief constable. “Right. We’ll go along. In the library, Slack tells me.”

 

Colonel Bantry groaned. “It’s incredible! You know, when my wife insisted this morning that the housemaid had come in and said there was a body in the library, I just wouldn’t believe her.”

 

“No, no, I can quite understand that. Hope your missus isn’t too badly upset by it all.”

 

“She’s been wonderful, really wonderful. She’s got old Miss Marple up here with her from the village, you know.”

 

“Miss Marple?” The chief constable stiffened. “Why did she send for her?”

 

“Oh, a woman wants another woman don’t you think so?”

 

Colonel Melchett said with a slight chuckle, “If you ask me, your wife’s going to try her hand at a little amateur detecting. Miss Marple’s quite the local sleuth. Put it over us properly once, didn’t she Slack?”

 

Inspector Slack said, “That was different.”

 

“Different from what?”

 

“That was a local case, that was, sir. The old lady knows everything that goes on in the village, that’s true enough. But she’ll be out of her depth here.”

 

Melchett said dryly, “You don’t know very much about it yourself yet, Slack.”

 

“Ah, you wait, sir. It won’t take me long to get down to it.”

 

VII

 

In the dining room Mrs Bantry and Miss Marple, in their turn, were partaking of breakfast.

 

After waiting on her guest, Mrs Bantry said urgently, “Well, Jane?”

 

13 Miss Marple looked up at her slightly bewildered.

 

Mrs Bantry said hopefully, “Doesn’t it remind you of anything?”

 

For Miss Marple had attained fame by her ability to link up trivial village happenings with graver problems in such a way as to throw light upon the latter.

 

“No,” said Miss Marple thoughtfully. “I can’t say that it does – not at the moment. I was reminded a little of Mrs Chetty’s youngest Edie, you know, but I think that was just because this poor girl bit her nails and her front teeth stuck out a little. Nothing more than that. And of course,” went on Miss Marple, pursuing the parallel further, “Edie was fond of what I call cheap finery too.”

 

“You mean her dress?” said Mrs Bantry. “Yes, very tawdry satin, poor quality.”

 

Mrs Bantry said, “I know. One of those nasty little shops where everything is a guinea.” She went on hopefully, “Let me see. What happened to Mrs Chetty’s Edie?”

 

“She’s just gone into her second place, and doing very well, I believe,” said Miss Marple.

 

Mrs Bantry felt slightly disappointed. The village parallel didn’t seem to be exactly hopeful.

 

“What I can’t make out,” said Mrs Bantry, “is what she could possibly be doing in Arthur’s study. The window was forced, Palk tells me. She might have come down here with a burglar, and then they quarrelled. But that seems such nonsense, doesn’t it?”

 

“She was hardly dressed for burglary,” said Miss Marple thoughtfully.

 

“No, she was dressed for dancing or a party of some kind. But there’s nothing of that kind down here or anywhere near.”

 

“N-no,” said Miss Marple doubtfully.

 

Mrs Bantry pounced. “Something’s in your mind, Jane.”

 

“Well, I was just wondering -”

 

“Yes?” 14 “Basil Blake.”

 

Mrs Bantry cried impulsively, “Oh, no!” and added as though in explanation, “I know his mother.”

 

The two women looked at each other.

 

Miss Marple sighed and shook her head. “I quite understand how you feel about it.”

 

“Selina Blake is the nicest woman imaginable. Her herbaceous borders are simply marvellous; they make me green with envy. And she’s frightfully generous with cuttings.”

 

Miss Marple, passing over these claims to consideration on the part of Mrs Blake, said, “All the same, you know, there has been a lot of talk.”

 

“Oh, I know, I know. And of course Arthur goes simply livid when he hears him mentioned. He was really very rude to Arthur, and since then Arthur won’t hear a good word for him. He’s got that silly slighting way of talking that these boys have nowadays – sneering at people, sticking up for their school or the Empire or that sort of thing. And then, of course, the clothes he wears! People say,” continued Mrs Bantry, “that it doesn’t matter what you wear in the country. I never heard such nonsense. It’s just in the country that everyone notices.” She paused and added wistfully, “He was an adorable baby in his bath.”

 

“There was a lovely picture of the Cheviot murderer as a baby in the paper last Sunday,” said Miss Marple.

 

“Oh, but, Jane, you don’t think he -”

 

“No, no, dear, I didn’t mean that at all. That would indeed be jumping to conclusions. I was just trying to account for the young woman’s presence down here. St Mary Mead is such an unlikely place. And then it seemed to me that the only possible explanation was Basil Blake. He does have parties. People come down from London and from the studios. You remember last July? Shouting and singing, the most terrible noise, everyone very drunk, I’m afraid, and the mess and the broken glass next morning simply unbelievable. So old Mrs Berry told me and a young woman asleep in the bath with practically nothing on!”

 

Mrs Bantry said indulgently, “I suppose they were young people.”

 

 

 

 

 

15 “Very likely. And then what I expect you’ve heard several weekends lately he’s brought down a young woman with him. A platinum blonde.”

 

Mrs Bantry exclaimed, “You don’t think it’s this one?”

 

“Well, I wondered. Of course, I’ve never seen her close, only just getting in and out of the car, and once in the cottage garden when she was sunbathing with just some shorts and a brassiere. I never really saw her face. And all these girls, with their make-up and their hair and their nails, look so alike.”

 

“Yes. Still, it might be. It’s an idea, Jane.”

 

 

 

16 Chapter 2

 

It was an idea that was being at that moment discussed by Colonel Melchett and Colonel Bantry.

 

The chief constable, after viewing the body and seeing his subordinates set to work on their routine tasks, had adjourned with the master of the house to the study in the other wing.

 

Colonel Melchett was an irascible-looking man with a habit of tugging at his short red moustache. He did so now, shooting a perplexed sideways glance at the other man. Finally he rapped out, “Look here, Bantry; got to get this off my chest. Is it a fact that you don’t know from Adam who this woman is?”

 

The other’s answer was explosive, but the chief constable interrupted him.

 

“Yes, yes, old man, but look at it like this: might be deuced awkward for you. Married man fond of your missus and all that. But just between ourselves, if you were tied up with this girl in any way, better say so now. Quite natural to want to suppress the fact; should feel the same myself. But it won’t do. Murder case. Facts bound to come out. Dash it all, I’m not suggesting you strangled the girl – not the sort of thing you’d do. I know that! But, after all, she came here to this house. Put it, she broke in and was waiting to see you, and some bloke or other followed her down and did her in. Possible, you know. See what I mean?”

 

“I’ve never set eyes on that girl in my life! I’m not that sort of man!”

 

“That’s all right then. Shouldn’t blame you, you know. Man of the world. Still, if you say so. Question is, what was she doing down here? She doesn’t come from these parts, that’s quite certain.”

 

“That whole thing’s a nightmare,” fumed the angry master of the house.

 

“The point is, old man, what was she doing in your library?”

 

“How should I know? I didn’t ask her here.”

 

“No, no. But she came here all the same. Looks as though she wanted to see you. You haven’t had any odd letters or anything?”

 

“No, I haven’t.”

 

Colonel Melchett inquired delicately, “What were you doing yourself last night?”

 

17 “I went to the meeting of the Conservative Association. Nine o’clock, at Much Benham.”

 

“And you got home when?”

 

“I left Much Benham just after ten. Had a bit of trouble on the way home, had to change a wheel. I got back at a quarter to twelve.”

 

“You didn’t go into the library?”

 

“No.”

 

“Pity.”

 

“I was tired. I went straight up to bed.”

 

“Anyone waiting up for you?”

 

“No. I always take the latchkey. Lorrimer goes to bed at eleven, unless I give orders to the contrary.”

 

“Who shuts up the library?”

 

“Lorrimer. Usually about seven-thirty this time of year.”

 

“Would he go in there again during the evening?”

 

“Not with my being out. He left the tray with whiskey and glasses in the hall.”

 

“I see. What about your wife?”

 

“She was in bed when I got home, and fast asleep. She may have sat in the library yesterday evening, or in the drawing room. I didn’t ask her.”

 

“Oh, well, we shall soon know all the details. Of course it’s possible one of the servants may be concerned, eh?”

 

Colonel Bantry shook his head. “I don’t believe it. They’re all a most respectable lot. We’ve had ’em for years.”

 

 

 

18 Melchett agreed. “Yes, it doesn’t seem likely that they’re mixed up in it. Looks more as though the girl came down from town perhaps with some young fellow. Though why they wanted to break into this house…”

 

Bantry interrupted. “London. That’s more like it. We don’t have goings-on down here – at least -”

 

“Well, what is it?”

 

“Upon my word!” exploded Colonel Bantry. “Basil Blake!”

 

“Who’s he?”

 

“Young fellow connected with the film industry. Poisonous young brute. My wife sticks up for him because she was at school with his mother, but of all the decadent useless young Jackanapes he wants his behind kicked. He’s taken that cottage on the Lansham Road you know, ghastly modern bit of building. He has parties there shrieking, noisy crowds and he has girls down for the weekend.”

 

“Girls?”

 

“Yes, there was one last week one of these platinum blondes.” The colonel’s jaw dropped.

 

“A platinum blonde, eh?” said Melchett reflectively.

 

“Yes. I say, Melchett, you don’t think…”

 

The chief constable said briskly, “It’s a possibility. It accounts for a girl of this type being in St Mary Mead. I think I’ll run along and have a word with this young fellow – Braid – Blake – what did you say his name was?”

 

“Blake. Basil Blake.”

 

“Will he be at home, do you know?” asked Melchett.

 

“Let me see, what’s today? Saturday? Usually gets here some time Saturday morning.”

 

Melchett said grimly, “We’ll see if we can find him.”

 

 

 

 

 

19 II

 

Basil Blake’s cottage, which consisted of all modern conveniences enclosed in a hideous shell of half timbering and sham Tudor, was known to the postal authorities and to William Booker, Builder, as “Chatsworth”; to Basil and his friends as “The Period Piece”; and to the village of St Mary Mead at large as “Mr Booker’s new house.”

 

It was little more than a quarter of a mile from the village proper, being situated on a new building estate that had been bought by the enterprising Mr Booker just beyond the Blue Boar, with frontage on what had been a particularly unspoiled country lane. Gossington Hall was about a mile farther on along the same road.

 

Lively interest had been aroused in St Mary Mead when the news went round that “Mr Booker’s new house” had been bought by a film star. Eager watch was kept for the first appearance of the legendary creature in the village, and it may be said that as far as appearances went Basil Blake was all that could be asked for. Little by little, however, the real facts leaked out. Basil Blake was not a film star, not even a film actor. He was a very junior person, rejoicing in the position of about fifteenth in the list of those responsible for set decorations at Lenville Studios, headquarters of British New Era Films. The village maidens lost interest and the ruling class of censorious spinsters took exception to Basil Blake’s way of life. Only the landlord of the Blue Boar continued to be enthusiastic about Basil and Basil’s friends. The revenues of the Blue Boar had increased since the young man’s arrival in the place.

 

The police car stopped outside the distorted rustic gate of Mr Booker’s fancy, and Colonel Melchett, with a glance of distaste at the excessive half timbering of Chatsworth, strode up to the front door and attacked it briskly with the knocker.

 

It was opened much more promptly than he had expected. A young man with straight, somewhat long black hair, wearing orange corduroy trousers and a royal-blue shirt, snapped out, “Well, what do you want?”

 

“Are you Mr Basil Blake?”

 

“Of course I am.”

 

“I should be glad to have a few words with you if I may, Mr Blake.”

 

“Who are you?”

 

“I am Colonel Melchett, the chief constable of the county.” 20 Mr Blake said insolently, “You don’t say so. How amusing.”

 

And Colonel Melchett, following the other in, understood precisely what Colonel Bantry’s reactions had been. The toe of his own boot itched.

 

Containing himself, however, he said, with an attempt to speak pleasantly, “You’re an early riser, Mr Blake.”

 

“Not at all. I haven’t been to bed yet.”

 

“Indeed?”

 

“But I don’t suppose you’ve come here to inquire into my hours of bed-going, or if you have it’s rather a waste of the county’s time and money. What is it you want to speak to me about?”

 

Colonel Melchett cleared his throat. “I understand, Mr Blake, that last weekend you had a visitor a… er… fair-haired young lady.”

 

Basil Blake stared, threw back his head and roared with laughter.

 

“Have the old cats been on to you from the village? About my morals? Damn it all, morals aren’t a police matter. You know that.”

 

“As you say,” said Melchett dryly, “your morals are no concern of mine. I have come to you because the body of a fair-haired young woman of slightly… er… exotic appearance has been found murdered.”

 

Blake stared at him. “Where?”

 

“In the library at Gossington Hall.”

 

“At Gossington? At old Bantry’s? I say, that’s pretty rich. Old Bantry! The dirty old man!”

 

Colonel Melchett went very red in the face. He said sharply through the renewed mirth of the young man opposite him, “Kindly control your tongue, sir. I came to ask you if you can throw any light on this business.”

 

“You’ve come round to ask me it I’ve missed a blonde? Is that it? Why should – Hullo, ‘ullo, ‘ullo! What’s this?”

 

 

 

21 A car had drawn up outside with a scream of brakes. Out of it tumbled a young woman dressed in flapping black-and-white pyjamas. She had scarlet lips, blackened eyelashes and a platinum-blond head. She strode up to the door, flung it open, and exclaimed angrily, “Why did you run out on me?”

 

Basil Blake had risen. “So there you are. Why shouldn’t I leave you? I told you to clear out, and you wouldn’t.”

 

“Why should I, because you told me to? I was enjoying myself.”

 

“Yes, with that filthy brute, Rosenberg. You know what he’s like.”

 

“You were jealous, that’s all.”

 

“Don’t flatter yourself. I hate to see a girl I like who can’t hold her drink and lets a disgusting Central European paw her about.”

 

“That’s a lie. You were drinking pretty hard yourself and going on with the black-haired Spanish girl.”

 

“If I take you to a party, I expect you to be able to behave yourself.”

 

“And I refuse to be dictated to, and that’s that. You said we’d go to the party and come on down here afterward. I’m not going to leave a party before I’m ready to leave it.”

 

“No, and that’s why I left you flat. I was ready to come down here and I came. I don’t hang round waiting for any fool of a woman.”

 

“Sweet, polite person you are.”

 

“You seem to have followed me down, all right.”

 

“I wanted to tell you what I thought of you.”

 

“If you think you can boss me, my girl, you’re wrong.”

 

“And if you think you can order me about, you can think again.”

 

They glared at each other. It was at this moment that Colonel Melchett seized his opportunity and cleared his throat loudly.

 

Basil Blake swung round on him. 22 “Hullo, I forgot you were here. About time you took yourself off, isn’t it? Let me introduce you Dinah Lee. Colonel Blimp, of the county police… And now, Colonel, that you’ve seen that my blonde is alive and in good condition, perhaps you’ll get on with the good work concerning old Bantry’s little bit of fluff. Good morning.”

 

Colonel Melchett said, “I advise you to keep a civil tongue in your head, young man, or you’ll let yourself in for trouble,” and stumped out, his face red and wrathful.

 

 

 

 

 

23 24 Chapter 3

 

In his office at Much Benham, Colonel Melchett received and scrutinized the reports of his subordinates.

 

“… so it all seems clear enough, sir,” Inspector Slack was concluding. “Mrs Bantry sat in the library after dinner and went to bed just before ten. She turned out the lights when she left the room, and presumably no one entered the room afterward. The servants went to bed at half past ten, and Lorrimer, after putting the drinks in the hall, went to bed at a quarter to eleven. Nobody heard anything out of the usual, except the third housemaid, and she heard too much! Groans and a bloodcurdling yell and sinister footsteps and I don’t know what. The second housemaid, who shares a room with her, says the other girl slept all night through without a sound. It’s those ones that make up things that cause us all the trouble.”

 

“What about the forced window?”

 

“Amateur job, Simmons says, done with a common chisel, ordinary pattern; wouldn’t have made much noise. Ought to be a chisel about the house, but nobody can find it. Still, that’s common enough where tools are concerned.”

 

“Think any of the servants know anything?”

 

Rather unwillingly Inspector Slack replied, “No, sir. I don’t think they do. They all seemed very shocked and upset. I had my suspicions of Lorrimer – reticent, he was, if you know what I mean – but I don’t think there’s anything in it.”

 

Melchett nodded. He attached no importance to Lorrimer’s reticence. The energetic Inspector Slack often produced that effect on the people he interrogated. The door opened and Doctor Haydock came in.

 

“Thought I’d look in and give you the rough gist of things.”

 

“Yes, yes, glad to see you. Well?”

 

“Nothing much. Just what you’d think. Death was due to strangulation. Satin waistband of her own dress, which was passed round the neck and crossed at the back. Quite easy and simple to do. Wouldn’t have needed great strength – that is, if the girl was taken by surprise. There are no signs of a struggle.”

 

“What about time of death?”

 

 

 

25 “Say between ten o’clock and midnight.”

 

“You can’t get nearer than that?”

 

Haydock shook his head with a slight grin. “I won’t risk my professional reputation. Not earlier than ten and not later than midnight.”

 

“And your own fancy inclines to which time?”

 

“Depends. There was a fire in the grate, the room was warm – all that would delay rigor and cadaveric stiffening.”

 

“Anything more you can say about her?”

 

“Nothing much. She was young – about seventeen or eighteen, I should say. Rather immature in some ways but well developed muscularly. Quite a healthy specimen. She was virgo intacta, by the way.” And with a nod of his head the doctor left the room.

 

Melchett said to the inspector, “You’re quite sure she’d never been seen before at Gossington?”

 

“The servants are positive of that. Quite indignant about it. They’d have remembered if they’d ever seen her about in the neighbourhood, they say.”

 

“I expect they would,” said Melchett. “Anyone of that type sticks out a mile round here. Look at that young woman of Blake’s.”

 

“Pity it wasn’t her,” said Slack. “Then we should be able to get on a bit.”

 

“It seems to me this girl must have come down from London,” said the chief constable thoughtfully. “Don’t believe there will be any local leads. In that case, I suppose, we should do well to call in the Yard. It’s a case for them, not for us.”

 

“Something must have brought her down here, though,” said Slack. He added tentatively, “Seems to me Colonel and Mrs Bantry must know something. Of course I know they’re friends of yours, sir.”

 

Colonel Melchett treated him to a cold stare. He said stiffly, “You may rest assured that I’m taking every possibility into account. Every possibility.” He went on, “You’ve looked through the list of persons reported missing, I suppose?”

 

26 Slack nodded. He produced a typed sheet. “Got ’em here. Mrs Saunders, reported missing a week ago, dark-haired, blue-eyed, thirty-six. ‘Tisn’t her. And anyway, everyone knows, except her husband, that she’s gone off with a fellow from Leeds commercial. Mrs Barnard – she’s sixty-five. Pamela Reeves, sixteen, missing from her home last night, had attended Girl Guide rally, dark brown hair in pigtails, five feet five -”

 

Melchett said irritably, “Don’t go on reading idiotic details Slack. This wasn’t a schoolgirl. In my opinion -” He broke off as the telephone rang.

 

“Hullo… Yes, yes. Much Benham police headquarters… What?… Just a minute.” He listened and wrote rapidly. Then he spoke again, a new tone in his voice. “Ruby Keene, eighteen, occupation, professional dancer, five feet four inches, slender, platinum-blond hair, blue eyes, retrousse nose, believed to be wearing white diamante evening dress, silver sandal shoes. Is that right?… What?… Yes, not a doubt of it, I should say. I’ll send Slack over at once.”

 

He rang off and looked at his subordinate with rising excitement. “We’ve got it, I think. That was the Glenshire police.” Glenshire was the adjoining county. “Girl reported missing from the Majestic Hotel, Danemouth.”

 

“Danemouth,” said Inspector Slack. “That’s more like it.”

 

Danemouth was a large and fashionable watering place on the coast not far away.

 

“It’s only a matter of eighteen miles or so from here,” said the chief constable. “The girl was a dance hostess or something at the Majestic. Didn’t come on to do her turn last night and the management was very fed up about it. When she was still missing this morning, one of the other girls got the wind up about her, or someone else did. It sounds a bit obscure. You’d better go over to Danemouth at once Slack. Report there to Superintendent Harper and cooperate with him.”

 

 

 

 

 

27 28 Chapter 4

 

Activity was always to Inspector Slack’s taste. To rush in a car, to silence rudely those people who were anxious to tell him things, to cut short conversations on the plea of urgent necessity all this was the breath of life to Inspector Slack.

 

In an incredibly short time, therefore, he had arrived at Danemouth, reported at police headquarters, had a brief interview with a distracted and apprehensive hotel manager, and, leaving the latter with the doubtful comfort of “Got to make sure it is the girl first, before we start raising the wind,” was driving back to Much Benham in company with Ruby Keene’s nearest relative.

 

He had put through a short call to Much Benham before leaving Danemouth, so the chief constable was prepared for his arrival, though not perhaps for the brief introduction of “This is Josie, sir.”

 

Colonel Melchett stared at his subordinate coldly. His feeling was that Slack had taken leave of his senses.

 

The young woman who had just got out of the car came to the rescue.

 

“That’s what I’m known as professionally,” she explained with a momentary flash of large, handsome white teeth. “Raymond and Josie, my partner and I call ourselves, and of course all the hotel know me as Josie. Josephine Turner’s my real name.”

 

Colonel Melchett adjusted himself to the situation and invited Miss Turner to sit down, meanwhile casting a swift professional glance over her.

 

She was a good-looking young woman of perhaps nearer thirty than twenty; her looks depending more on skilful grooming than actual features. She looked competent and good-tempered, with plenty of common sense. She was not the type that would ever be described as glamorous, but she had, nevertheless, plenty of attraction. She was discreetly made up and wore a dark tailor-made suit. She looked anxious and upset, but not, the colonel decided, particularly grief-stricken. As she sat down she said, “It all seems too awful to be true. Do you really think it’s Ruby?”

 

“That, I’m afraid, is what we’ve got to ask you to tell us. I’m afraid it may be rather unpleasant for you.”

 

Miss Turner said apprehensively, “Does she… does she look very terrible?”

 

 

 

29 “Well, I’m afraid it may be rather a shock to you.”

 

“Do do you want me to look at her right away?”

 

“It would be best, I think, Miss Turner. You see, it’s not much good asking you questions until we’re sure. Best get it over, don’t you think?”

 

“All right.”

 

They drove down to the mortuary.

 

When Josie came in after a brief visit she looked rather sick.

 

“It’s Ruby, right,” she said shakily. “Poor girl! Goodness, I do wish it wasn’t -” she looked round wistfully.

 

Whisky was not available, but brandy was and after a little while Miss Turner regained her composure. She said frankly, “It gives you a turn, doesn’t it, seeing anything like that? Poor little Ruby! What swine men are, aren’t they?”

 

“You believe it was a man?”

 

Josie looked slightly taken aback. “Wasn’t it? Well, I mean I naturally thought -”

 

“Any special man you were thinking of?”

 

She shook her head vigorously. “No, not me. I haven’t the least idea. Naturally, Ruby wouldn’t have let on to me if -”

 

“If what?”

 

Josie hesitated. “Well, if she’d been going about with anyone.”

 

Melchett shot her a keen glance. He said no more until they were back at his office. Then he began, “Now, Miss Turner, I want all the information you can give me.”

 

“Yes, of course. Where shall I begin?”

 

“I’d like the girl’s full name and address, her relationship to you and all that you know about her.”

 

30 Josephine Turner nodded. Melchett was confirmed in his opinion that she felt no particular grief. She was shocked and distressed, but no more. She spoke readily enough.

 

“Her name was Ruby Keene – her professional name, that is. Her real name was Rosy Legge. Her mother was my mother’s cousin. I’ve known her all my life, but not particularly well, if you know what I mean. I’ve got a lot of cousins; some in business, some on the stage. Ruby was more or less training for a dancer. She had some good engagements last year in pantomime and that sort of thing. Not really classy, but good provincial companies. Since then she’s been engaged as one of the dancing partners at the Palais de Danse in Brixwell, South London. It’s a nice, respectable place and they look after the girls well, but there isn’t a great deal of money in it.”

 

She paused. Colonel Melchett nodded.

 

“Now this is where I come in. I’ve been dance and bridge hostess at the Majestic in Danemouth for three years. It’s a good job, well paid and pleasant to do. You look after people when they arrive. Size them up, of course – some like to be left alone and others are lonely and want to get into the swing of things. You try and get the right people together for bridge and all that, and get the young people dancing with one another. It needs a bit of tact and experience.”

 

Again Melchett nodded. He thought that this girl would be good at her job. She had a pleasant, friendly way with her and was, he thought, shrewd without being in the least intellectual.

 

“Besides that,” continued Josie, “I do a couple of exhibition dances every evening with Raymond. Raymond Starr – he’s the tennis and dancing pro. Well, as it happens, this summer I slipped on the rocks bathing one day and gave my ankle a nasty turn.”

 

Melchett had noticed that she walked with a slight limp.

 

“Naturally, that put the stop to dancing for a bit and it was rather awkward. I didn’t want the hotel to get someone else in my place. There’s always a danger – ” for a minute her good-natured blue eyes were hard and sharp; she was the female fighting for existence – “that they may queer your pitch, you see. So I thought of Ruby and suggested to the manager that I should get her down. I’d carry on with the hostess business and the bridge and all that. Ruby would just take on the dancing. Keep it in the family, if you see what I mean.”

 

Melchett said he saw.

 

 

 

31 “Well, they agreed, and I wired to Ruby and she came down. Rather a chance for her. Much better class than anything she’d ever done before. That was about a month ago.”

 

Colonel Melchett said, “I understand. And she was a success?”

 

“Oh, yes,” Josie said carelessly. “She went down quite well. She doesn’t dance as well as I do, but Raymond’s clever and carried her through, and she was quite nice-looking, you know – slim and fair and baby-looking. Overdid the make-up a bit I was always at her about that. But you know what girls are. She was only eighteen, and at that age they always go and overdo it. It doesn’t do for a good- class place like the Majestic. I was always ticking her off about it and getting her to tone it down.”

 

Melchett asked, “People liked her?”

 

“Oh, yes. Mind you, Ruby hadn’t got much come-back. She was a bit dumb. She went down better with the older men than with the young ones.”

 

“Had she got any special friend?”

 

The girl’s eyes met his with complete understanding.

 

“Not in the way you mean. Or, at any rate, not that I knew about. But then, you see, she wouldn’t tell me.”

 

Just for a moment Melchett wondered why not. Josie did not give the impression of being a strict disciplinarian. But he only said, “Will you describe to me now when you last saw your cousin.”

 

“Last night. She and Raymond do two exhibition dances. One at ten-thirty and the other at midnight. They finished the first one. After it, I noticed Ruby dancing with one of the young men staying at the hotel. I was playing bridge with some people in the lounge. There’s a glass panel between the lounge and the ballroom. That’s the last time I saw her. Just after midnight Raymond came up in a terrible taking; said where was Ruby; she hadn’t turned up and it was time to begin. I was vexed, I can tell you! That’s the sort of silly things girls do and get the management’s back up, and then they get the sack! I went up with him to her room, but she wasn’t there. I noticed that she’d changed; the dress she’d been dancing in – a sort of pink, foamy thing with full skirts – was lying over a chair. Usually she kept the same dress on, unless it was the special dance night – Wednesdays, that is.

 

 

 

32 “I’d no idea where she’d got to. We got the band to play one more fox trot. Still no Ruby, so I said to Raymond I’d do the exhibition dance with him. We chose one that was easy on my ankle and made it short, but it played up my ankle pretty badly all the same. It’s all swollen this morning. Still Ruby didn’t show up. We sat about waiting up for her until two o’clock. Furious with her, I was.”

 

Her voice vibrated slightly. Melchett caught the note of real anger in it. Just for a moment, he wondered. He had a feeling of something deliberately left unsaid. He said, “And this morning, when Ruby Keene had not returned and her bed had not been slept in, you went to the police?”

 

He knew, from Slack’s brief telephone message from Danemouth, that that was not the case. But he wanted to hear what Josephine Turner would say.

 

She did not hesitate. She said, “No, I didn’t.”

 

“Why not, Miss Turner?”

 

Her eyes met his frankly. She said, “You wouldn’t – in my place!”

 

“You think not?”

 

Josie said, “I’ve got my job to think about! The one thing a hotel doesn’t want is scandal – especially anything that brings in the police. I didn’t think anything had happened to Ruby. Not for a minute! I thought she’d just made a fool of herself about some young man. I thought she’d turn up all right, and I was going to give her a good dressing down when she did! Girls of eighteen are such fools.”

 

Melchett pretended to glance through his notes. “Ah, yes, I see it was a Mr Jefferson who went to the police. One of the guests staying at the hotel?”

 

Josephine Turner said shortly, “Yes.”

 

Colonel Melchett asked, “What made this Mr Jefferson do that?”

 

Josie was stroking the cuff of her jacket. There was a constraint in her manner. Again Colonel Melchett had a feeling that something was being withheld.

 

She said rather sullenly, “He’s an invalid. He he gets upset rather easily. Being an invalid, I mean.”

 

Melchett passed from that. He asked, “Who was the young man with whom you last saw your cousin dancing?”

 

33 “His name’s Bartlett. He’s been there about ten days.”

 

“Were they on very friendly terms?”

 

“Not specially, I should say. Not that I knew, anyway.” Again a curious note of anger in her voice.

 

“What does he have to say?”

 

“Said that after their dance Ruby went upstairs to powder her nose.”

 

“That was when she changed her dress?”

 

“I suppose so.”

 

“And that is the last thing you know? After that, she just -”

 

“Vanished,” said Josie. “That’s right.”

 

“Did Miss Keene know anybody in St Mary Mead? Or in this neighbourhood?”

 

“I don’t know. She may have. You see, quite a lot of young men come in to Danemouth to the Majestic, from all round about. I wouldn’t know where they lived unless they happened to mention it.”

 

“Did you ever hear your cousin mention Gossington?”

 

“Gossington?” Josie looked patently puzzled.

 

“Gossington Hall.”

 

She shook her head. “Never heard of it.” Her tone carried conviction. There was curiosity in it too.

 

“Gossington Hall,” explained Colonel Melchett, “is where her body was found.”

 

“Gossington Hall?” She stared. “How extraordinary!”

 

Melchett thought to himself: Extraordinary’s the word. Aloud he said, “Do you know a Colonel or Mrs Bantry?”

 

Again Josie shook her head.

 

34 “Or a Mr Basil Blake?”

 

She frowned slightly. “I think I’ve heard that name. Yes, I’m sure I have, but I don’t remember anything about him.”

 

The diligent Inspector Slack slid across to his superior officer a page torn from his notebook. On it was pencilled: “Col. Bantry dined at Majestic last week.”

 

Melchett looked up and met the inspector’s eye. The chief constable flushed. Slack was an industrious and zealous officer and Melchett disliked him a good deal, but he could not disregard the challenge. The inspector was tacitly accusing him of favouring his own class, of shielding an “old school tie.” He turned to Josie.

 

“Miss Turner, I should like you, if you do not mind, to accompany me to Gossington Hall.”

 

Coldly, defiantly, almost ignoring Josie’s murmur of assent, Melchett’s eyes met Slack’s.

 

 

 

 

 

35 36 Chapter 5

 

St Mary Mead was having the most exciting morning it had known for a long time.

 

Miss Wetherby, a long-nosed, acidulated spinster, was the first to spread the intoxicating information. She dropped in upon her friend and neighbour Miss Hartnell.

 

“Forgive my coming so early, dear, but I thought perhaps you mightn’t have heard the news.”

 

“What news?” demanded Miss Hartnell. She had a deep bass voice and visited the poor indefatigably, however hard they tried to avoid her ministrations.

 

“About the body of a young woman that was found this morning in Colonel Bantry’s library.”

 

“In Colonel Bantry’s library?”

 

“Yes. Isn’t it terrible?”

 

“His poor wife!” Miss Hartnell tried to disguise her deep and ardent pleasure.

 

“Yes, indeed. I don’t suppose she had any idea.”

 

Miss Hartnell observed censoriously, “She thought too much about her garden and not enough about her husband. You’ve got to keep an eye on a man all the time, all the time,” repeated Miss Hartnell fiercely.

 

“I know. I know. It’s really too dreadful.”

 

“I wonder what Jane Marple will say? Do you think she knew anything about it? She’s so sharp about these things.”

 

“Jane Marple has gone up to Gossington.”

 

“What? This morning?”

 

“Very early. Before breakfast.”

 

 

 

37 “But really! I do think – well, I mean, I think that is carrying things too far. We all know Jane likes to poke her nose into things, but I call this indecent!”

 

“Oh, but Mrs Bantry sent for her.”

 

“Mrs Bantry sent for her?”

 

“Well, the car came. With Muswell driving it.”

 

“Dear me. How very peculiar.”

 

They were silent a minute or two, digesting the news.

 

“Whose body?” demanded Miss Hartnell.

 

“You know that dreadful woman who comes down with Basil Blake?”

 

“That terrible peroxide blonde?” Miss Hartnell was slightly behind the times. She had not yet advanced from peroxide to platinum. “The one who lies about in the garden with practically nothing on?”

 

“Yes, my dear. There she was on the hearth rug strangled!”

 

“But what do you mean – at Gossington?”

 

Miss Wetherby nodded with infinite meaning.

 

“Then Colonel Bantry too -”

 

Again Miss Wetherby nodded.

 

“Oh!”

 

There was a pause as the ladies savoured this new addition to village scandal.

 

“What a wicked woman!” trumpeted Miss Hartnell with righteous wrath. “Quite, quite abandoned, I’m afraid!”

 

“And Colonel Bantry such a nice quiet man…”

 

Miss Wetherby said zestfully, “Those quiet ones are often the worst. Jane Marple always says so.”

 

38 II

 

Mrs Price Ridley was among the last to hear the news. A rich and dictatorial widow, she lived in a large house next door to the vicarage. Her informant was her little maid, Clara.

 

“A woman, you say, Clara? Found dead on Colonel Bantry’s hearth rug?”

 

“Yes, mam. And they say, mam, as she hadn’t anything on at all, mam not a stitch!”

 

“That will do, Clara. It is not necessary to go into details.”

 

“No, mam, and they say, mam, that at first they thought it was Mr Blake’s young lady what comes down for the weekends with ‘im to Mr Booker’s new ‘ouse. But now they say it’s quite a different young lady. And the fishmonger’s young man, he says he’d never have believed it of Colonel Bantry not with him handing round the plate on Sundays and all.”

 

“There is a lot of wickedness in the world, Clara,” said Mrs Price Ridley. “Let this be a warning to you.”

 

“Yes, mam. Mother, she never will let me take a place where there’s a gentleman in the ‘ouse.”

 

“That will do, Clara,” said Mrs Price Ridley.

 

III

 

It was only a step from Mrs Price Ridley’s house to the vicarage.

 

Mrs Price Ridley was fortunate enough to find the vicar in his study.

 

The vicar, a gentle, middle-aged man was always the last to hear anything.

 

“Such a terrible thing,” said Mrs Price Ridley, panting a little because she had come rather fast. “I felt I must have your advice, your counsel about it, dear vicar.”

 

Mr Clement looked mildly alarmed. He said, “Has anything happened?”

 

 

 

 

 

39 “Has anything happened!” Mrs Price Ridley repeated the question dramatically. “The most terrible scandal! None of us had any idea of it. An abandoned woman, completely unclothed, strangled on Colonel Bantry’s hearth rug!”

 

The vicar stared. He said, “You… you are feeling quite well?”

 

“No wonder you can’t believe it! I couldn’t at first! The hypocrisy of the man! All these years.”

 

“Please tell me exactly what all this is about.”

 

Mrs Price Ridley plunged into a full-swing narrative. When she had finished, the Reverend Mr Clement said mildly, “But there is nothing, is there, to point to Colonel Bantry’s being involved in this?”

 

“Oh, dear vicar, you are so unworldly! But I must tell you a little story. Last Thursday – or was it the Thursday before – well, it doesn’t matter – I was going to London by the cheap day train. Colonel Bantry was in the same carriage. He looked, I thought, very abstracted. And nearly the whole way he buried himself behind The Times. As though, you know, he didn’t want to talk.”

 

The vicar nodded his head with complete comprehension and possible sympathy.

 

“At Paddington I said goodbye. He had offered to call me a taxi, but I was taking the bus down to Oxford Street; but he got into one, and I distinctly heard him tell the driver to go to – Where do you think?”

 

Mr Clement looked inquiring.

 

“An address in St John’s Wood!” Mrs Price Ridley bellowed triumphantly.

 

The vicar remained completely without understanding.

 

“That, I consider, proves it,” said Mrs Price Ridley.

 

IV

 

At Gossington Mrs Bantry and Miss Marple were in the drawing room.

 

“You know,” said Mrs Bantry, “I can’t help feeling glad they’ve taken the body away. It’s not nice to have a body in one’s house.”

 

40 Miss Marple nodded. “I know, dear. I know just how you feel.”

 

“You can’t,” said Mrs Bantry. “Not until you’ve had one. I know you had one next door once, but that’s not the same thing. I only hope,” she went on – “that Arthur won’t take a dislike to the library. We sit there so much. What are you doing, Jane?”

 

For Miss Marple, with a glance at her watch, was rising to her feet. “Well, I was thinking I’d go home, if there’s nothing more I can do for you.”

 

“Don’t go yet,” said Mrs Bantry. “The fingerprint men and the photographers and most of the police have gone, I know, but I still feel something might happen. You don’t want to miss anything.”

 

The telephone rang and she went off to answer. She returned with a beaming face.

 

“I told you more things would happen. That was Colonel Melchett. He’s bringing the poor girl’s cousin along.”

 

“I wonder why?” said Miss Marple.

 

“Oh, I suppose to see where it happened, and all that.”

 

“More than that, I expect,” said Miss Marple.

 

“What do you mean, Jane?”

 

“Well, I think, perhaps, he might want her to meet Colonel Bantry.”

 

Mrs Bantry said sharply, “To see if she recognizes him? I suppose oh, yes, I suppose they’re bound to suspect Arthur.”

 

“I’m afraid so.”

 

“As though Arthur could have anything to do with it!”

 

Miss Marple was silent. Mrs Bantry turned on her accusingly.

 

“And don’t tell me about some frightful old man who kept his housemaid, Arthur isn’t like that.”

 

“No, no, of course not”

 

41 “No, but he really isn’t. He’s just, sometimes, a little bit silly about pretty girls who come to tennis. You know, rather famous and avuncular. There’s no harm in it. And why shouldn’t he? After all,” finished Mrs Bantry rather obscurely, “I’ve got the garden.”

 

Miss Marple smiled.

 

“You must not worry Dolly,” she said.

 

“No, I don’t mean to. But all the same I do, a little. So does Arthur. It’s upset him. All these policemen looking about. He’s gone down to the farm. Looking at pigs and things always soothes him if he’s been upset… Hullo, here they are.”

 

The chief constable’s car drew up outside.

 

Colonel Melchett came in, accompanied by a smartly dressed young woman.

 

“This is Miss Turner, Mrs Bantry. The cousin of the… er… victim.”

 

“How do you do,” said Mrs Bantry, advancing with outstretched hand. “All this must be rather awful for you.”

 

Josephine Turner said frankly, “Oh, it is. None of it seems real, somehow. It’s like a bad dream.”

 

Mrs Bantry introduced Miss Marple.

 

Melchett said casually, “Your good man about?”

 

“He had to go down to one of the farms. He’ll be back soon.”

 

“Oh.” Melchett seemed rather at a loss.

 

Mrs Bantry said to Josie, “Would you like to see where, where it happened? Or would you rather not?”

 

Josephine said, after a moment’s pause, “I think I’d like to see.”

 

Mrs Bantry led her to the library, with Miss Marple and Melchett following behind.

 

“She was there,” said Mrs Bantry, pointing dramatically. “On the hearth rug.”

 

42 “Oh!” Josie shuddered. But she also looked perplexed. She said, her brow creased, “I just can’t understand it! I can’t!”

 

“Well, we certainly can’t,” said Mrs Bantry.

 

Josie said slowly, “It isn’t the sort of place -” and broke off.

 

Miss Marple nodded her head gently in agreement with the unfinished sentiment.

 

“That,” she murmured, “is what makes it so very interesting.”

 

“Come now Miss Marple,” said Colonel Melchett good-humouredly, “haven’t you got an explanation?”

 

“Oh, yes, I’ve got an explanation,” said Miss Marple. “Quite a feasible one. But of course it’s only my own idea. Tommy Bond,” she continued, “and Mrs Martin, our new schoolmistress. She went to wind up the clock and a frog jumped out.”

 

Josephine Turner looked puzzled. As they all went out of the room she murmured to Mrs Bantry, “Is the old lady a bit funny in the head?”

 

“Not at all,” said Mrs Bantry indignantly.

 

Josie said, “Sorry. I thought perhaps she thought she was a frog or something.”

 

Colonel Bantry was just coming in through the side door. Melchett hailed him and watched Josephine Turner as he introduced them. But there was no sign of interest or recognition in her face. Melchett breathed a sigh of relief. Curse Slack and his insinuations.

 

In answer to Mrs Bantry’s questions, Josie was pouring out the story of Ruby Keene’s disappearance.

 

“Frightfully worrying for you, my dear,” said Mrs Bantry.

 

“I was more angry than worried,” said Josie. “You see, I didn’t know then.”

 

“And yet,” said Miss Marple, “you went to the police. Wasn’t that, excuse me, rather premature?”

 

Josie said eagerly, “Oh, but I didn’t. That was Mr Jefferson.”

 

43 Mrs Bantry said, “Jefferson?”

 

“Yes, he’s an invalid.”

 

“Not Conway Jefferson? But I know him well. He’s an old friend of ours… Arthur, listen. Conway Jefferson, he’s staying at the Majestic, and it was he who notified the police! Isn’t that a coincidence?”

 

Josephine Turner said, “Mr Jefferson was there last summer too.”

 

“Fancy! And we never knew. I haven’t seen him for a long time.” She turned to Josie. “How how is he nowadays?”

 

Josie considered. “I think he’s wonderful, really quite wonderful. Considering, I mean. He’s always cheerful always got a joke.”

 

“Are the family there with him?”

 

“Mr Gaskell, you mean? And young Mrs Jefferson? And Peter? Oh, yes.”

 

There was something inhibiting in Josephine Turner’s rather attractive frankness of manner. When she spoke of the Jeffersons there was something not quite natural in her voice.

 

Mrs Bantry said, “They’re both very nice, aren’t they? The young ones, I mean.”

 

Josie said rather uncertainly, “Oh, yes; yes, they are. They are really.”

 

V

 

“And what,” demanded Mrs Bantry as she looked through the window at the retreating car of the chief constable, “did she mean by that? ‘They are really.’ Don’t you think, Jane, that there’s something -”

 

Miss Marple fell upon the words eagerly.

 

“Oh, I do; indeed I do. It’s quite unmistakable! Her manner changed at once when the Jeffersons were mentioned. She had seemed quite natural up to then.”

 

“But what do you think it is, Jane?”

 

“Well, my dear, you know them. All I feel is that there is something, as you say, about them which is worrying that young woman. Another thing. Did you notice 44 that when you asked her if she wasn’t anxious about the girl being missing, she said that she was angry? And she looked angry, really angry! That strikes me as interesting, you know. I have a feeling, perhaps I’m wrong, that that’s her main reaction to the fact of the girl’s death. She didn’t care for her, I’m sure. She’s not grieving in any way. But I do think, very definitely, that the thought of that girl, Ruby Keene, makes her angry. And the interesting point is: Why?”

 

“We’ll find out!” said Mrs Bantry. “We’ll go over to Danemouth and stay at the Majestic – yes, Jane, you too. I need a change for my nerves after what has happened here. A few days at the Majestic that’s what we need. And you’ll meet Conway Jefferson. He’s a dear, a perfect dear. It’s the saddest story imaginable. He had a son and a daughter, both of whom he loved dearly. They were both married, but they still spent a lot of time at home. His wife, too, was the sweetest woman, and he was devoted to her. They were flying home one year from France and there was an accident. They were all killed. The pilot, Mrs Jefferson, Rosamund and Frank. Conway had both legs so badly injured they had to be amputated. And he’s been wonderful, his courage, his pluck. He was a very active man, and now he’s a helpless cripple, but he never complains. His daughter-in-law lives with him; she was a widow when Frank Jefferson married her, and she had a son by her first marriage Peter Carmody. They both live with Conway. And Mark Gaskell, Rosamund’s husband, spends most of his time there. Well, it was all a great tragedy.”

 

“And now,” said Miss Marple, “there is another tragedy -”

 

“Oh yes, but it doesn’t involve the Jeffersons.”

 

“No?” asked Miss Marple. “It was Mr Jefferson who called the police.”

 

“Really, Jane… It is curious.”

 

 

 

 

 

45 46 Chapter 6

 

Colonel Melchett was facing a much annoyed hotel manager. With him was Superintendent Harper, of the Glenshire police, and the inevitable Inspector Slack – the latter rather disgruntled at the chief constable’s wilful usurpation of the case.

 

Superintendent Harper was inclined to be soothing with the almost tearful Mr Prestcott; Colonel Melchett tended toward a blunt brutality.

 

“No good crying over spilt milk,” he said sharply. “The girl’s dead, strangled. You’re lucky that she wasn’t strangled in your hotel. This puts the inquiry in a different county and lets your establishment down extremely lightly. But certain inquiries have got to be made, and the sooner we get on with it the better. You can trust us to be discreet and tactful. So I suggest you cut the cackle and come to the horses. Just what, exactly, do you know about the girl?”

 

“I know nothing of her nothing at all. Josie brought her here.”

 

“Josie’s been here some time?”

 

“Two years, no, three.”

 

“And you like her?”

 

“Yes, Josie’s a good girl, a nice girl. Competent. She gets on with people and smoothes over differences. Bridge, you know, is a touchy sort of game.”

 

Colonel Melchett nodded feelingly. His wife was a keen but an extremely bad bridge player.

 

Mr Prestcott went on, “Josie was very good at calming down unpleasantness. She could handle people well, sort of bright and firm, if you know what I mean.”

 

Again Melchett nodded. He knew now what it was that Miss Josephine Turner had reminded him of. In spite of the make-up and the smart turnout, there was a distinct touch of the nursery governess about her.

 

“I depend upon her,” went on Mr Prestcott. His manner became aggrieved. “What does she want to go playing about on slippery rocks in that damn-fool way for? We’ve got a nice beach here. Why couldn’t she bathe from that? Slipping and falling and breaking her ankle! It wasn’t fair to me! I pay her to dance and play bridge and keep people happy and amused, not to go bathing off

 

47 rocks and breaking her ankle. Dancers ought to be careful of their ankles, not take risks. I was very annoyed about it. It wasn’t fair to the hotel.”

 

Melchett cut the recital short. “And then she suggested that this girl, her cousin come down?”

 

Prestcott assented grudgingly. “That’s right. It sounded quite a good idea. Mind you, I wasn’t going to pay anything extra. The girl could have her keep, but as for salary, that would have to be fixed up between her and Josie. That’s the way it was arranged. I didn’t know anything about the girl.”

 

“But she turned out all right?”

 

“Oh, yes, there wasn’t anything wrong with her, not to look at, anyway. She was very young, of course; rather cheap in style, perhaps, for a place of this kind, but nice manners, quiet and well-behaved. Danced well. People liked her.”

 

“Pretty?”

 

It had been a question hard to answer from a view of the blue, swollen face. Mr Prestcott considered.

 

“Fair to middling. Bit weaselly – if you know what I mean. Wouldn’t have been much without make-up. As it was, she managed to look quite attractive.”

 

“Many young men hanging about after her?”

 

“I know what you’re trying to get at, sir,” Mr Prestcott became excited. “I never saw anything! Nothing special. One or two of the boys hung around a bit, but all in the day’s work, so to speak. Nothing in the strangling line, I’d say. She got on well with the older people, too; had a kind of prattling way with her. Seemed quite a kid, if you know what I mean. It amused them.”

 

Superintendent Harper said in a deep, melancholy voice, “Mr Jefferson, for instance?”

 

The manager agreed. “Yes, Mr Jefferson was the one I had in mind. She used to sit with him and his family a lot. He used to take her out for drives sometimes. Mr Jefferson’s very fond of young people and very good to them. I don’t want to have any misunderstandings. Mr Jefferson’s a cripple. He can’t get about much only where his wheelchair will take him. But he’s always keen on seeing young people enjoy themselves; watches the tennis and the bathing, and all that, and gives parties for young people here. He likes youth, and there’s nothing bitter

 

48 about him, as there well might be. A very popular gentleman and, I’d say, a very fine character.”

 

Melchett asked, “And he took an interest in Ruby Keene?”

 

“Her talk amused him, I think.”

 

“Did his family share his liking for her?”

 

“They were always very pleasant to her.”

 

Harper said, “And it was he who reported the fact of her being missing to the police?”

 

He contrived to put into the words a significance and a reproach to which the manager instantly responded, “Put yourself in my place, Mr Harper. I didn’t dream for a minute anything was wrong. Mr Jefferson came along to my office, storming and all worked up. The girl hadn’t slept in her room. She hadn’t appeared in her dance last night. She must have gone for a drive and had an accident, perhaps. The police must be informed at once. Inquiries made. In a state, he was, and quite high-handed. He rang up the police station then and there.”

 

“Without consulting Miss Turner?”

 

“Josie didn’t like it much. I could see that. She was very annoyed about the whole thing, annoyed with Ruby, I mean. But what could she say?”

 

“I think,” said Melchett, “we’d better see Mr Jefferson, eh Harper?”

 

Superintendent Harper agreed.

 

II

 

Mr Prestcott went up with them to Conway Jefferson’s suite. It was on the first floor, overlooking the sea.

 

Melchett said carelessly, “Does himself pretty well, eh? Rich man?”

 

“Very well off indeed, I believe. Nothing’s ever stinted when he comes here. Best rooms reserved, food usually � la carte, expensive wines, best of everything.”

 

Melchett nodded.

 

49 Mr Prestcott tapped on the outer door and a woman’s voice said, “Come in.”

 

The manager entered, the others behind him.

 

Mr Prestcott’s manner was apologetic as he spoke to the woman who turned her head, at their entrance, from her seat by the window.

 

“I am so sorry to disturb you, Mrs Jefferson, but these gentlemen are from the police. They are very anxious to have a word with Mr Jefferson. Er… Colonel Melchett, Superintendent Harper, Inspector er… Slack, Mrs Jefferson!”

 

Mrs Jefferson acknowledged the introduction by bending her head.

 

A plain woman, was Melchett’s first impression. Then, as a slight smile came to her lips and she spoke, he changed his opinion. She had a singularly charming and sympathetic voice, and her eyes, clear hazel eyes, were beautiful. She was quietly but not unbecomingly dressed and was, he judged, about thirty-five years of age.

 

She said, “My father-in-law is asleep. He is not strong at all, and this affair has been a terrible shock to him. We had to have the doctor, and the doctor gave him a sedative. As soon as he wakes he will, I know, want to see you. In the meantime, perhaps I can help you? Won’t you sit down?”

 

Mr Prestcott, anxious to escape, said to Colonel Melchett, “Well… er… if that’s all I can do for you -” and thankfully received permission to depart.

 

With his closing of the door behind him, the atmosphere took on a mellow and more social quality. Adelaide Jefferson had the power of creating a restful atmosphere. She was a woman who never seemed to say anything remarkable, but who succeeded in stimulating other people to talk and in setting them at their ease. She struck, now, the right note when she said, “This business has shocked us all very much. We saw quite a lot of the poor girl, you know. It seems quite unbelievable. My father-in-law is terribly upset. He was very fond of Ruby.”

 

Colonel Melchett said, “It was Mr Jefferson, I understand, who reported her disappearance to the police.”

 

He wanted to see exactly how she would react to that. There was a flicker, just a flicker of – annoyance? Concern? He could not say what exactly, but there was something, and it seemed to him that she had definitely to brace herself, as though to an unpleasant task, before going on.

 

50 She said, “Yes, that is so. Being an invalid, he gets easily upset and worried. We tried to persuade him that it was all right, that there was some natural explanation, and that the girl herself would not like the police being notified. He insisted. Well -” she made a slight gesture – “he was right and we were wrong!”

 

Melchett asked, “Exactly how well did you know Ruby Keene, Mrs Jefferson?”

 

She considered. “It’s difficult to say. My father-in-law is very fond of young people and likes to have them round him. Ruby was a new type to him; he was amused and interested by her chatter. She sat with us a good deal in the hotel and my father-in-law took her out for drives in the car.” Her voice was quite noncommittal.

 

Melchett thought: She could say more if she chose.

 

He said, “Will you tell me what you can of the course of events last night?”

 

“Certainly, but there is very little that will be useful, I’m afraid. After dinner Ruby came and sat with us in the lounge. She remained even after the dancing had started. We had arranged to play bridge later, but we were waiting for Mark, that is Mark Gaskell, my brother-in-law, he married Mr Jefferson’s daughter, you know, who had some important letters to write, and also for Josie. She was going to make a fourth with us.”

 

“Did that often happen?”

 

“Quite frequently. She’s a first-class player, of course, and very nice. My father- in-law is a keen bridge player and, whenever possible, liked to get hold of Josie to make the fourth, instead of an outsider. Naturally, as she has to arrange the fours, she can’t always play with us, but she does whenever she can, and as -” her eyes smiled a little – “my father-in-law spends a lot of money in the hotel, the management is quite pleased for Josie to favour us.”

 

Melchett asked, “You like Josie?”

 

“Yes, I do. She’s always good-humoured and cheerful, works hard and seems to enjoy her job. She’s shrewd without being at all intellectual and well, never pretends about anything. She’s natural and unaffected.”

 

“Please go on, Mrs Jefferson.”

 

“As I say, Josie had to get her bridge fours arranged and Mark was writing, so Ruby sat and talked with us a little longer than usual. Then Josie came along,

 

51 and Ruby went off to do her first solo dance with Raymond, he’s the dance and tennis professional. She came back to us afterward, just as Mark joined us. Then she went off to dance with a young man and we four started our bridge.”

 

She stopped and made a slight, significant gesture of helplessness.

 

“And that’s all I know! I just caught a glimpse of her once, dancing, but bridge is an absorbing game and I hardly glanced through the glass partition at the ballroom. Then, at midnight, Raymond came along to Josie very upset and asked where Ruby was. Josie, naturally, tried to shut him up, but -”

 

Superintendent Harper interrupted. He said in his quiet voice, “Why ‘naturally,’ Mrs Jefferson?”

 

“Well -” She hesitated; looked, Melchett thought, a little put out. “Josie didn’t want the girl’s absence made too much of. She considered herself responsible for her in a way. She said Ruby was probably up in her room, she telephoned up to Ruby’s room, but apparently there was no answer, and he came back in rather a state temperamental, you know. Josie went off with him and tried to soothe him down, and in the end she danced with him instead of Ruby. Rather plucky of her, because you could see afterward it had hurt her ankle. She came back to us when the dance was over and tried to calm down Mr Jefferson. He had got worked up by then. We persuaded him, in the end, to go to bed; told him Ruby had probably gone for a spin in a car and that they’d had a puncture. He went to bed worried and this morning he began to agitate at once.” She paused. “The rest you know.”

 

“Thank you, Mrs Jefferson. Now I’m going to ask you if you’ve any idea who could have done this thing?”

 

She said immediately, “No idea whatever. I’m afraid I can’t help you in the slightest.”

 

He pressed her. “The girl never said anything? Nothing about jealousy? About some man she was afraid of? Or intimate with?”

 

Adelaide Jefferson shook her head to each query. There seemed nothing more that she could tell them.

 

The superintendent suggested that they should interview young George Bartlett and return to see Mr Jefferson later. Colonel Melchett agreed and the three men went out, Mrs Jefferson promising to send word as soon as Mr Jefferson was awake.

 

52 “Nice woman,” said the colonel, as they closed the door behind them.

 

“A very nice lady indeed,” said Superintendent Harper.

 

 

 

 

 

53 54 Chapter 7

 

George Bartlett was a thin, lanky youth with a prominent Adam apple and an immense difficulty in saying what he meant. He was in such a state of dither that it was hard to get a calm statement from him.

 

“I say, it is awful, isn’t it? Sort of thing one reads about in the Sunday papers, but one doesn’t feel it really happens, don’t you know?”

 

“Unfortunately there is no doubt about it, Mr Bartlett,” said the superintendent.

 

“No, no, of course not. But it seems so rum somehow. And miles from here and everything in some country house, wasn’t it? Awfully country and all that. Created a bit of a stir in the neighbourhood, what?”

 

Colonel Melchett took charge. “How well did you know the dead girl, Mr Bartlett?”

 

George Bartlett looked alarmed. “Oh, n-n-not well at all, s-s-sir. No, hardly, if you know what I mean. Danced with her once or twice, passed the time of day, bit of tennis you know!”

 

“You were, I think, the last person to see her alive last night?”

 

“I suppose I was. Doesn’t it sound awful? I mean she was perfectly all right when I saw her, absolutely.”

 

“What time was that, Mr Bartlett?”

 

“Well, you know, I never know about time. Wasn’t very late, if you know what I mean.”

 

“You danced with her?”

 

“Yes, as a matter of fact well, yes, I did. Early on in the evening, though. Tell you what. It was just after her exhibition dance with the pro fellow. Must have been ten, half past, eleven I don’t know.”

 

“Never mind the time. We can fix that. Please tell us exactly what happened.”

 

“Well, we danced, don’t you know. Not that I’m much of a dancer.”

 

“How you dance is not really relevant, Mr Bartlett.”

 

55 George Bartlett cast an alarmed eye on the colonel and stammered, “No – er – n- n-no, I suppose it isn’t. Well, as I say, we danced round and round, and I talked, but Ruby didn’t say very much, and she yawned a bit. As I say, I don’t dance awfully well, and so girls well, inclined to give it a miss, if you know what I mean too. I know where I get off, so I said ‘righty ho,’ and that was that.”

 

“What was the last you saw of her?”

 

“She went off upstairs.”

 

“She said nothing about meeting anyone? Or going for a drive? Or – or having a date?”

 

The colonel used the colloquial expression with a slight effort.

 

Bartlett shook his head. “Not to me.” He looked rather mournful. “Just gave me the push.”

 

“What was her manner? Did she seem anxious, abstracted, anything on her mind?”

 

George Bartlett considered. Then he shook his head.

 

“Seemed a bit bored. Yawned, as I said. Nothing more.”

 

Colonel Melchett said, “And what did you do, Mr Bartlett?”

 

“Eh?”

 

“What did you do when Ruby Keene left you?”

 

George Bartlett gaped at him. “Let’s see now. What did I do?”

 

“We’re waiting for you to tell us.”

 

“Yes, yes, of course. Jolly difficult, remembering things, what? Let me see. Shouldn’t be surprised if I went into the bar and had a drink.”

 

“Did you go into the bar and have a drink?”

 

“That’s just it. I did have a drink. Don’t think it was just then. Have an idea I wandered out, don’t you know. Bit of air. Rather stuffy for September. Very nice outside. Yes, that’s it. I strolled around a bit, then I came in and had a drink, and 56 then I strolled back to the ballroom. Wasn’t much doing. Noticed – what’s-er- name – Josie was dancing again. With the tennis fellow. She been on the sick list, twisted ankle or something.”

 

“That fixes the time of your return at midnight. Do you intend us to understand that you spent over an hour walking about outside?”

 

“Well, I had a drink, you know. I was well, I was thinking of things.”

 

This statement received more incredulity than any other.

 

Colonel Melchett said sharply, “What were you thinking about?”

 

“Oh, I don’t know. Things,” said Mr Bartlett vaguely.

 

“You have a car, Mr Bartlett?”

 

“Oh, yes, I’ve got a car.”

 

“Where was it, in the hotel garage?”

 

“No, it was outside. I thought about going for a ride, you know.”

 

“And you didn’t go for a ride?”

 

“No, no. I didn’t. I swear I didn’t.”

 

“You didn’t go for a ride with, say, Miss Keene?”

 

“I already told you. Listen, what are you driving at? I didn’t, I swear.”

 

“Thanks, Mr Bartlett. That will be all for the moment. For the moment,” repeated Colonel Melchett.

 

They left Bartlett with an comical expression of alarm on his face.

 

“A fool,” said Colonel Melchett. “Or not?”

 

Inspector Harper shook his head.

 

“We still have a long way ahead.”

 

 

 

57 58 Chapter 8

 

Neither the night porter nor the barman proved helpful. The night porter remembered ringing up Miss Keene’s room just after midnight and getting no reply. He had not noticed Mr Bartlett leaving or entering the hotel. A lot of gentlemen and ladies were strolling in and out, the night being fine. And there were side doors off the corridor as well as the one in the main hall. He was fairly certain Miss Keene had not gone out by the main door, but if she had come down from her room, which was on the first floor, there was a staircase next to it and a door out at the end of the corridor leading onto the side terrace. She could have gone out of that, unseen, easily enough. It was not locked until the dancing was over at two o’clock.

 

The barman remembered Mr Bartlett being in the bar the preceding evening, but could not say when. Somewhere about the middle of the evening, he thought. Mr Bartlett had sat against the wall and was looking rather melancholy. He did not know how long he was in there. There were a lot of outside guests coming and going in the bar. He had noticed Mr Bartlett, but he couldn’t fix the time in any way.

 

II

 

As they left the bar they were accosted by a small boy about nine years old. He burst immediately into excited speech.

 

“I say, are you the detectives? I’m Peter Carmody. It was my grandfather, Mr Jefferson, who rang up the police about Ruby. Are you from Scotland Yard? You don’t mind my speaking to you, do you?”

 

Colonel Melchett looked as though he were about to return a short answer, but Superintendent Harper intervened. He spoke benignly and heartily.

 

“That’s all right, my son. Naturally interests you, I expect?”

 

“You bet it does. Do you like detective stories? I do. I read them all and I’ve got autographs from Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie and Dickson Carr and H.C. Bailey. Will the murder be in the papers?”

 

“It’ll be in the papers all right,” said Superintendent Harper grimly.

 

“You see, I’m going back to school next week and I shall tell them all that I knew her, really knew her well.”

 

 

 

59 “What did you think of her, eh?”

 

Peter considered.

 

“Well, I didn’t like her very much. I think she was rather a stupid sort of girl. Mum and Uncle Mark didn’t like her much, either. Only grandfather. Grandfather wants to see you, by the way. Edwards is looking for you.”

 

Superintendent Harper murmured encouragingly, “So your mother and your Uncle Mark didn’t like Ruby Keene much? Why was that?”

 

“Oh, I don’t know. She was always butting in. And they didn’t like grandfather making such a fuss of her. I expect,” said Peter cheerfully, “that they’re glad she’s dead.”

 

Superintendent Harper looked at him thoughtfully. He said, “Did you hear them – er – say so?”

 

“Well, not exactly. Uncle Mark said, ‘Well, it’s one way out anyway,’ and mum said, ‘Yes, but such a horrible one,’ and Uncle Mark said it was no good being hypocritical.”

 

The men exchanged glances. At that moment a clean-shaven man neatly dressed in blue serge came up to them.

 

“Excuse me, gentlemen. I am Mr Jefferson’s valet. He is awake now and sent me to find you, as he is very anxious to see you.”

 

Once more they went up to Conway Jefferson’s suite. In the sitting room Adelaide Jefferson was talking to a tall, restless man who was prowling nervously about the room. He swung around sharply to view the newcomers.

 

“Oh, yes. Glad you’ve come. My father-in-law’s been asking for you. He’s awake now. Keep him as calm as you can, won’t you? His health’s not too good. It’s a wonder, really, that this shock didn’t do for him.”

 

Harper said, “I’d no idea his health was as bad as that.”

 

“He doesn’t know it himself,” said Mark Gaskell. “It’s his heart, you see. The doctor warned Addie that he mustn’t be overexcited or startled. He more or less hinted that the end might come any time, didn’t he, Addie?”

 

Mrs Jefferson nodded. She said, “It’s incredible that he’s rallied the way he has.” 60 Melchett said dryly, “Murder isn’t exactly a soothing incident. We’ll be as careful as we can.”

 

He was sizing up Mark Gaskell as he spoke. He didn’t much care for the fellow. A bold, unscrupulous, hawklike face. One of those men who usually get their own way and whom women frequently admire.

 

But not the sort of fellow I’d trust, the colonel thought to himself.

 

Unscrupulous – that was the word for him. The sort of fellow who wouldn’t stick at anything.

 

III

 

In the big bedroom overlooking the sea, Conway Jefferson was sitting in his wheeled chair by the window.

 

No sooner were you in the room with him than you felt the power and magnetism of the man. It was as though the injuries which had left him a cripple had resulted in concentrating the vitality of his shattered body into a narrower and more intense focus.

 

He had a fine head, the red of the hair slightly grizzled. The face was rugged and powerful, deeply sun-tanned, and the eyes were a startling blue. There was no sign of illness or feebleness about him. The deep lines on his face were the lines of suffering, not the lines of weakness. Here was a man who would never rail against fate, but accept it and pass on to victory.

 

He said, “I’m glad you’ve come.” His quick eyes took them in. He said to Melchett, “You’re the chief constable of Radfordshire? Right. And you’re Superintendent Harper? Sit down. Cigarettes on the table beside you.”

 

They thanked him and sat down.

 

Melchett said, “I understand, Mr Jefferson, that you were interested in the dead girl?”

 

A quick, twisted smile flashed across the lined face.

 

“Yes, they’ll all have told you that! Well, it’s no secret. How much has my family said to you?”

 

He looked quickly from one to the other as he asked the question.

 

61 It was Melchett who answered. “Mrs Jefferson told us very little beyond the fact that the girl’s chatter amused you and that she was by way of being a proteg�e. We have only exchanged half a dozen words with Mr Gaskell.”

 

Conway Jefferson smiled. “Addie’s a discreet creature, bless her. Mark would probably have been more outspoken. I think, Melchett, that I’d better tell you some facts rather fully. It’s necessary, in order that you should understand my attitude. And, to begin with, it’s necessary that I go back to the big tragedy of my life. Eight years ago I lost my wife, my son and my daughter in an aeroplane accident. Since then I’ve been like a man who’s lost half himself and I’m not speaking of my physical plight! I was a family man. My daughter-in-law and my son-in-law have been very good to me. They’ve done all they can to take the place of my flesh and blood. But I’ve realized, especially of late, that they have, after all, their own lives to live. So you must understand that, essentially, I’m a lonely man. I like young people. I enjoy them. Once or twice I’ve played with the idea of adopting some girl or boy. During this last month I got very friendly with the child who’s been killed. She was absolutely natural, completely na�ve. She chattered on about her life and her experiences in pantomime, with touring companies, with mum and dad as a child in cheap lodgings. Such a different life from any I’ve known! Never complaining, never seeing it as sordid. Just a natural, uncomplaining, hard-working child, unspoilt and charming. Not a lady, perhaps, but thank God neither vulgar nor abominable. I got more and more fond of Ruby. I decided, gentlemen, to adopt her legally. She would become, by law, my daughter. That, I hope, explains my concern for her and the steps I took when I heard of her unaccountable disappearance.”

 

There was a pause. Then Superintendent Harper, his unemotional voice robbing the question of any offence, asked, “May I ask what your son-in-law and daughter-in-law said to that?”

 

Jefferson’s answer came back quickly.

 

“What could they say? They didn’t, perhaps, like it very much. It’s the sort of thing that arouses prejudice. But they behaved very well yes, very well. It’s not as though, you see, they were dependent on me. When my son Frank married, I turned over half my worldly goods to him then and there. I believe in that. Don’t let your children wait until you’re dead. They want the money when they’re young, not when they’re middle-aged. In the same way, when my daughter Rosamund insisted on marrying a poor man, I settled a big sum of money on her. That sum passed to him at her death. So, you see, that simplified the matter from the financial angle.”

 

“I see, Mr Jefferson,” said Superintendent Harper.

 

62 But there was a certain reserve in his tone. Conway Jefferson pounced upon it.

 

“But you don’t agree, eh?”

 

“It’s not for me to say, sir, but families, in my experience, don’t always act reasonable.”

 

“I dare say you’re right, superintendent, but you must remember that Mr Gaskell and Mrs Jefferson aren’t, strictly speaking, my family. They’re not blood relations.”

 

“That, of course, makes a difference,” admitted the superintendent.

 

For a moment Conway Jefferson’s eyes twinkled.

 

He said, “That’s not to say that they didn’t think me an old fool. That would be the average person’s reaction. But I wasn’t being a fool! I know character. With education and polishing Ruby Keene could have taken her place anywhere.”

 

Melchett said, “I’m afraid we’re being rather impertinent and inquisitive, but it’s important that we should get at all the facts. You proposed to make full provision for the girl that is, settle money upon her but you hadn’t already done so?”

 

Jefferson said, “I understand what you’re driving at – the possibility of someone’s benefiting by the girl’s death. But nobody could. The necessary formalities for legal adoption were under way, but they hadn’t yet been completed.”

 

Melchett said slowly, “Then, if anything happened to you?”

 

He left the sentence unfinished, as a query.

 

Conway Jefferson was quick to respond.

 

“Nothing’s likely to happen to me! I’m a cripple, but I’m not an invalid. Although doctors do like to pull long faces and give advice about not overdoing things. Not overdoing things! I’m as strong as a horse! Still, I’m quite aware of the fatalities of life. I’ve good reason to be! Sudden death comes to the strongest man especially in these days of road casualties. But I’d provided for that. I made a new will about ten days ago.”

 

“Yes?” Superintendent Harper leaned forward.

 

63 “I left the sum of fifty thousand pounds to be held in trust for Ruby Keene until she was twenty-five, when she would come into the principal.”

 

Superintendent Harper’s eyes opened. So did Colonel Melchett’s.

 

Harper said in an almost awed voice, “That’s a very large sum of money, Mr Jefferson.”

 

“In these days, yes, it is.”

 

“And you were leaving it to a girl you had only known a few weeks?”

 

Anger flashed into the vivid blue eyes. “Must I go on repeating the same thing over and over again? I’ve no flesh and blood of my own – no nieces or nephews or distant cousins, even! I might have left it to charity. I prefer to leave it to an individual.” He laughed. “Cinderella turned into a princess overnight! A fairy godfather instead of a fairy godmother. Why not? It’s my money. I made it.”

 

Colonel Melchett asked, “Any other bequests?”

 

“A small legacy to Edwards, my valet, and the remainder to Mark and Addie in equal shares.”

 

“Would – excuse me – the residue amount to a large sum?”

 

“Probably not. It’s difficult to say exactly; investments fluctuate all the time. The sum involved, after death duties and expenses had been paid, would probably have come to something between five and ten thousand pounds net.”

 

“I see.”

 

“And you needn’t think I was treating them shabbily. As I said, I divided up my estate at the time my children married. I left myself, actually, a very small sum. But after – after the tragedy – I wanted something to occupy my mind. I flung myself into business. At my house in London I had a private line put in, connecting my bedroom with my office. I worked hard; it helped me not to think, and it made me feel that my – my mutilation had not vanquished me. I threw myself into work -” his voice took on a deeper note; he spoke more to himself than to his audience – “and by some subtle irony, everything I did prospered! My wildest speculations succeeded. If I gambled, I won. Everything I touched turned to gold. Fate’s ironic way of righting the balance, I suppose.”

 

 

 

64 The lines of suffering stood out on his face again. Recollecting himself, he smiled wryly at them.

 

“So, you see, the sum of money I left Ruby was indisputably mine, to do with as my fancy dictated.”

 

Melchett said quickly, “Undoubtedly, my dear fellow. We are not questioning that for a moment.”

 

Conway Jefferson said, “Good. Now I want to ask my questions in my turn, if I may. I want to hear all about this terrible business. All I know is that she – that little Ruby was found strangled in a house some twenty miles from here.”

 

“That is correct. At Gossington Hall.”

 

Jefferson frowned. “Gossington? But that’s -”

 

“Colonel Bantry’s house.”

 

“Bantry! Arthur Bantry? But I know him. Know him and his wife! Met them abroad some years ago. I didn’t realize they lived in this part of the world. Why, it’s -” He broke off.

 

Superintendent Harper slipped in smoothly, “Colonel Bantry was dining in the hotel here Tuesday of last week. You didn’t see him?”

 

“Tuesday? Tuesday? No, we were back late. Went over to Harden Head and had dinner on the way back.”

 

Melchett said, “Ruby Keene never mentioned the Bantrys to you?”

 

Jefferson shook his head.

 

“Never. Don’t believe she knew them. Sure she didn’t. She didn’t know anybody but theatrical folk and that sort of thing.” He paused, and then asked abruptly, “What’s Bantry got to say about it?”

 

“He can’t account for it in the least. He was out at a Conservative meeting last night. The body was discovered this morning. He says he’s never seen the girl in his life.”

 

Jefferson nodded. He said, “It certainly seems fantastic.”

 

65 Superintendent Harper cleared his throat.

 

He said, “Have you any idea at all, sir, who can have done this?”

 

“Good God, I wish I had!” The veins stood out on his forehead. “It’s incredible, unimaginable! I’d say it couldn’t have happened, if it hadn’t happened!”

 

“There’s no friend of hers from her past life, no man hanging about or threatening her?”

 

“I’m sure there isn’t. She’d have told me if so. She’s never had a regular boy friend. She told me so herself.”

 

Superintendent Harper thought. Yes, I dare say that’s what she told you. But that’s as may be.

 

Conway Jefferson went on, “Josie would know better than anyone if there had been some man hanging about Ruby or pestering her. Can’t she help?”

 

“She says not.”

 

Jefferson said, frowning, “I can’t help feeling it must be the work of some maniac – the brutality of the method, breaking into a country house, the whole thing so unconnected and senseless. There are men of that type, men outwardly sane, but who decoy girls, sometimes children, away and kill them.”

 

Harper said, “Oh, yes, there are such cases, but we’ve no knowledge of anyone of that kind operating in this neighbourhood.”

 

Jefferson went on, “I’ve thought over all the various men I’ve seen with Ruby. Guests here and outsiders – men she’d danced with. They all seem harmless enough, the usual type. She had no special friend of any kind.”

 

Superintendent Harper’s face remained quite impassive, but unseen by Conway Jefferson, there was still a speculative glint in his eye.

 

It was quite possible, he thought, that Ruby Keene might have had a special friend, even though Conway Jefferson did not know about it. He said nothing, however.

 

The chief constable gave him a glance of inquiry and then rose to his feet. He said, “Thank you, Mr Jefferson. That’s all we need for the present.”

 

66 Jefferson said, “You’ll keep me informed of your progress?”

 

“Yes, yes, we’ll keep in touch with you.”

 

The two men went out.

 

Conway Jefferson leaned back in his chair.

 

His eyelids came down and veiled the fierce blue of his eyes. He looked, suddenly, a very tired man.

 

Then, after a minute or two, the lids flickered.

 

He called, “Edwards?”

 

From the next room the valet appeared promptly. Edwards knew his master as no one else did. Others, even his nearest, knew only his strength; Edwards knew his weakness. He had seen Conway Jefferson tired, discouraged, weary of life, momentarily defeated by infirmity and loneliness.

 

“Yes, sir?”

 

Jefferson said, “Get on to Sir Henry Clithering. He’s at Melborne Abbas. Ask him, from me, to get here today if he can, instead of tomorrow. Tell him it’s very urgent.”

 

 

 

 

 

67 68 Chapter 9

 

When they were outside Jefferson’s door, Superintendent Harper said, “Well, for what it’s worth, we’ve got a motive, sir.”

 

“Hm,” said Melchett. “Fifty thousand pounds, eh?”

 

“Yes, sir. Murder’s been done for a good deal less than that.”

 

“Yes, but -”

 

Colonel Melchett left the sentence unfinished. Harper, however, understood him.

 

“You don’t think it’s likely in this case? Well, I don’t either, as far as that goes. But it’s got to be gone into, all the same.”

 

“Oh, of course.”

 

Harper went on, “If, as Mr Jefferson says, Mr Gaskell and Mrs Jefferson are already well provided for and in receipt of a comfortable income, well, it’s not likely they’d set out to do a brutal murder.”

 

“Quite so. Their financial standing will have to be investigated, of course. Can’t say I like the appearance of Gaskell much, looks a sharp, unscrupulous sort of fellow, but that’s a long way from making him out a murderer.”

 

“Oh, yes, sir, as I say, I don’t think it’s likely to be either of them, and from what Josie said I don’t see how it would have been humanly possible. They were both playing bridge from twenty minutes to eleven until midnight. No, to my mind, there’s another possibility much more likely.”

 

Melchett said, “Boyfriend of Ruby Keene’s?”

 

“That’s it, sir. Some disgruntled young fellow; not too strong in the head perhaps. Someone, I’d say, she knew before she came here. This adoption scheme, if he got wise to it, may just have put the lid on things. He saw himself losing her, saw her being removed to a different sphere of life altogether, and he went mad and blind with rage. He got her to come out and meet him last night, had a row with her over it, lost his head completely and did her in.”

 

“And how did she come to be in Bantry’s library?”

 

69 “I think that’s feasible. They were out, say, in his car at the time. He came to himself, realized what he’d done, and his first thought was how to get rid of the body. Say they were near the gates of a big house at the time. The idea comes to him that if she’s found there the hue and cry will centre round the house and its occupants and will leave him comfortably out of it. She’s a little bit of a thing. He could easily carry her. He’s got a chisel in the car. He forces a window and plops her down on the hearth rug Being a strangling case, there’s no blood or mess to give him away in the car. See what I mean, sir?”

 

“Oh, yes, Harper, it’s all perfectly possible. But there’s still one thing to be done. Cherchez l’homme.”

 

“What? Oh, very good, sir.” Superintendent Harper tactfully applauded Melchett’s joke, although, owing to the excellence of the colonel’s French accent, he almost missed the sense of the words.

 

II

 

“Oh – er – I say – er – c-c-could I speak to you a minute?”

 

It was George Bartlett who thus waylaid the two men.

 

Colonel Melchett, who was not attracted to Mr Bartlett, and who was eager to see how Slack had got on with the investigation of the girl’s room and the questioning of the chambermaids, barked sharply, “Well, what is it, what is it?”

 

Young Mr Bartlett retreated a step or two, opening and shutting his mouth and giving an unconscious imitation of a fish in a tank.

 

“Well er… probably isn’t important, don’t you know. Thought I ought to tell you. Matter of fact, can’t find my car.”

 

“What do you mean, can’t find your car?”

 

Stammering a good deal, Mr Bartlett explained that what he meant was that he couldn’t find his car.

 

Superintendent Harper said, “Do you mean it’s been stolen?”

 

George Bartlett turned gratefully to the more placid voice.

 

“Well, that’s just it, you know. I mean, one can’t tell, can one? I mean someone may just have buzzed off in it, not meaning any harm, if you know what I mean.” 70 “When did you last see it, Mr Bartlett?”

 

“Well, I was tryin’ to remember. Funny how difficult it is to remember anything, isn’t it?”

 

Colonel Melchett said coldly, “Not, I should think, to a normal intelligence. I understood you to say that it was in the courtyard of the hotel last night.”

 

Mr Bartlett was bold enough to interrupt. He said, “That’s just it – was it?”

 

“What do you mean by ‘was it’? You said it was.”

 

“Well, I mean, I thought it was. I mean, well, I didn’t go out and look, don’t you see?”

 

Colonel Melchett sighed. He summoned all his patience. He said, “Let’s get this quite clear. When was the last time you saw – actually saw your car? What make is it, by the way?”

 

“Minoan Fourteen.”

 

“And you last saw it when?”

 

George Bartlett’s Adam’s apple jerked convulsively up and down.

 

“Been trying to think. Had it before lunch yesterday. Was going for a spin in the afternoon. But somehow – you know how it is – went to sleep instead. Then, after tea, had a game of squash and all that, and a bath afterward.”

 

“And the car was then in the courtyard of the hotel?”

 

“Suppose so. I mean, that’s where I’d put it. Thought, you see, I’d take someone for a spin. After dinner, I mean. But it wasn’t my lucky evening. Nothing doing. Never took the old bus out after all.”

 

Harper said, “But as far as you knew, the car was still in the courtyard?”

 

“Well, naturally. I mean, I’d put it there, what?”

 

“Would you have noticed if it had not been there?”

 

Mr Bartlett shook his head.

 

71 “Don’t think so, you know. Lot of cars going and coming and all that. Plenty of Minoans.”

 

Superintendent Harper nodded. He had just cast a casual glance out of the window. There were at that moment no fewer than eight Minoan 14’s in the courtyard. It was the popular cheap car of the year.

 

“Aren’t you in the habit of putting your car away at night?” asked Colonel Melchett.

 

“Don’t usually bother,” said Mr Bartlett. “Fine weather and all that, you know. Such a fag putting a car away in a garage.”

 

Glancing at Colonel Melchett, Superintendent Harper said, “I’ll join you upstairs, sir. I’ll just get hold of Sergeant Higgins and he can take down particulars from Mr Bartlett.”

 

“Right, Harper.”

 

Mr Bartlett murmured wistfully, “Thought I ought to let you know, you know. Might be important, what?”

 

III

 

Mr Prestcott had supplied his additional dancer with board and lodging. Whatever the board, the lodging was the poorest the hotel possessed.

 

Josephine Turner and Ruby Keene had occupied rooms at the extreme end of a mean and dingy little corridor. The rooms were small, faced north onto a portion of the cliff that backed the hotel, and were furnished with the odds and ends of suites that had once represented luxury and magnificence in the best suites. Now, when the hotel had been modernized and the bedrooms supplied with built-in receptacles for clothes, these large Victorian oak and mahogany wardrobes were relegated to those rooms occupied by the hotel’s resident staff, or given to guests in the height of the season when all the rest of the hotel was full.

 

As Melchett and Harper saw at once, the position of Ruby Keene’s room was ideal for the purpose of leaving the hotel without being observed, and was particularly unfortunate from the point of view of throwing light on the circumstances of that departure.

 

 

 

72 At the end of the corridor was a small staircase which led down to an equally obscure corridor on the ground floor. Here there was a glass door which led out on the side terrace of the hotel, an unfrequented terrace with no view. You could go from it to the main terrace in front, or you could go down a winding path and come out in a lane that eventually rejoined the cliff road. Its surface being bad, it was seldom used.

 

Inspector Slack had been busy harrying chambermaids and examining Ruby’s room for clues. They had been lucky enough to find the room exactly as it had been left the night before.

 

Ruby Keene had not been in the habit of rising early. Her usual procedure, Slack discovered, was to sleep until about ten or half past and then ring for breakfast. Consequently, since Conway Jefferson had begun his representations to the manager very early, the police had taken charge of things before the chambermaids had touched the room. They had actually not been down that corridor at all. The other rooms there, at this season of the year, were opened and dusted only once a week.

 

“That’s all to the good, as far as it goes,” Slack explained. “It means that if there were anything to find, we’d find it, but there isn’t anything.”

 

The Glenshire police had already been over the room for fingerprints, but there were none unaccounted for. Ruby’s own, Josie’s, and the two chambermaids’, one on the morning and one on the evening shift. There were also a couple of prints made by Raymond Starr, but these were accounted for by his story that he had come up with Josie to look for Ruby when she did not appear for the midnight exhibition dance.

 

There had been a heap of letters and general rubbish in the pigeonholes of the massive mahogany desk in the corner. Slack had just been carefully sorting through them, but he had found nothing of a suggestive nature. Bills, receipts, theatre programs, cinema stubs, newspaper cuttings, beauty hints torn from magazines. Of the letters, there were some from Lil, apparently a friend from the Palais de Danse, recounting various affairs and gossip, saying they “missed Rube a lot. Mr Findeison asked after you ever so often! Quite put out, he is! Young Reg has taken up with May now you’ve gone. Barney asks after you now and then. Things going much as usual. Old Grouser still as mean as ever with us girls. He ticked off Ada for going about with a fellow.”

 

Slack had carefully noted all the names mentioned. Inquiries would be made, and it was possible some useful information might come to light. Otherwise the room had little to yield in the way of information.

 

 

 

73 Across a chair in the middle of the room was the foamy pink dance frock Ruby had worn early in the evening, with a pair of satin high-heeled shoes kicked off carelessly on the floor. Two sheer silk stockings were rolled into a ball and flung down. One had a ladder in it. Melchett recalled that the dead girl had had bare legs. This, Slack learned, was her custom. She used make-up on her legs instead of stockings, and only sometimes wore stockings for dancing; by this means saving expense. The wardrobe door was open and showed a variety of rather flashy evening dresses and a row of shoes below. There was some soiled underwear in the clothes basket; some nail parings, soiled face-cleaning tissue and bits of cotton wool stained with rouge and nail polish in the wastepaper basket, in fact, nothing out of the ordinary. The facts seemed plain to read. Ruby had hurried upstairs, changed her clothes and hurried off again where?

 

Josephine Turner, who might be supposed to know most about Ruby’s life and friends, had proved unable to help. But this, as Inspector Slack pointed out, might be natural.

 

“If what you tell me is true, sir – about this adoption business, I mean – well, Josie would be all for Ruby breaking with any old friends she might have, and who might queer the pitch, so to speak. As I see it, this invalid gentleman gets all worked up about Ruby Keene being such a sweet, innocent, childish little piece of goods. Now supposing Ruby’s got a tough boy friend that won’t go down so well with the old boy. So it’s Ruby’s business to keep that dark. Josie doesn’t know much about the girl, anyway not about her friends and all that. But one thing she wouldn’t stand for Ruby’s messing up things by carrying on with some undesirable fellow. So it stands to reason that Ruby who, as I see it, was a sly little piece, would keep very dark about seeing any old friend. She wouldn’t let on to Josie anything about it; otherwise Josie would say, ‘No, you don’t, my girl.’ But you know what girls are especially young ones always ready to make a fool of themselves over a tough guy. Ruby wants to see him. He comes down here, cuts up rough about the whole business and wrings her neck.”

 

“I expect you’re right Slack,” said Colonel Melchett, disguising his usual repugnance for the unpleasant way Slack had of putting things. “If so, we ought to be able to discover this tough friend’s identity fairly easily.”

 

“You leave it to me, sir,” said Slack with his usual confidence. “I’ll get hold of this Lil girl at that Palais de Danse place and turn her right inside out. We’ll soon get at the truth.”

 

Colonel Melchett wondered if they would. Slack’s energy and activity always made him feel tired.

 

 

 

74 “There’s one other person you might be able to get a tip from, sir,” went on Slack. “And that’s the dance-and-tennis-pro fellow. He must have seen a lot of her, and he’d know more than Josie would. Likely enough she’d loosen her tongue a bit to him.”

 

“I have already discussed that point with Superintendent Harper.”

 

“Good, sir. I’ve done the chambermaids pretty thoroughly. They don’t know a thing. Looked down on these two, as far as I can make out. Scamped the service as much as they dared. Chambermaid was in here last at seven o’clock last night, when she turned down the bed and drew the curtains and cleared up a bit. There’s a bathroom next door, if you’d like to see it.”

 

The bathroom was situated between Ruby’s room and the slightly larger room occupied by Josie. It was unilluminating. Colonel Melchett silently marvelled at the amount of aids to beauty that women could use. Rows of jars of face cream, cleansing cream, vanishing cream, skin-feeding cream. Boxes of different shades of powder. An untidy heap of every variety of lipstick. Hair lotions and brightening applications. Eyelash black, mascara, blue stain for under the eyes, at least twelve different shades of nail varnish, face tissues, bits of cotton wool, dirty powder puffs. Bottles of lotions – astringent, tonic, soothing, and so on.

 

“Do you mean to say,” he murmured feebly, “that women use all these things?”

 

Inspector Slack, who always knew everything, kindly enlightened him.

 

“In private life, sir, so to speak, a lady keeps to one or two distinct shades – one for evening, one for day. They know what suits them and they keep to it. But these professional girls, they have to ring a change, so to speak. They do exhibition dances, and one night it’s a tango, and the next a crinoline Victorian dance, and then a kind of Apache dance, and then just ordinary ballroom, and of course the make-up varies a good bit.”

 

“Good Lord,” said the colonel. “No wonder the people who turn out these creams and messes make a fortune.”

 

“Easy money, that’s what it is,” said Slack. “Easy money. Got to spend a bit in advertisement, of course.”

 

Colonel Melchett jerked his mind away from the fascinating and age-long problem of woman’s adornments.

 

He said, “There’s still this dancing fellow. Your pigeon, superintendent.”

 

75 “I suppose so, sir.”

 

As they went downstairs Harper asked, “What did you think of Mr Bartlett’s story, sir?”

 

“About his car? I think, Harper, that that young man wants watching. It’s a fishy story. Supposing that he did take Ruby Keene out in that car last night, after all?”

 

 

 

76 Chapter 10

 

Inspector Harper’s attitude was calm and pleasing. This affairs where the police of two counties had to work together were always difficult. He liked Colonel Melchett and had him in mind as an able police officer. But even so he would have liked to lead alone the present interview. Never do too much at a single turn was Inspector Harper’s rule. Simple routine inquiries first. This left the interviewed person more comfortable and ready to be easier in a following interview.

 

Harper already had seen Raymond Starr around. A good-looking type, tall, lean and nice with very white teeth in a very tan face. He was dark and elegant, had nice cordial manners and was very popular at the hotel.

 

“I am sorry, Inspector, but I’m afraid I won’t be of much help to you. Of course I knew Ruby. She was here over a month and we rehearsed our numbers together. But there is really very little to say. She was quite a pleasant and rather stupid girl.”

 

“It’s her friendships we’re particularly anxious to know about. Her friendships with men.”

 

“So I suppose. Well, I don’t know anything. She’d got a few young men in tow in the hotel, but nothing special. You see, she was nearly always monopolized by the Jefferson family.”

 

“Yes, the Jefferson family.” Harper paused meditatively. He shot a shrewd glance at the young man. “What did you think of that business, Mr Starr?”

 

Raymond Starr said coolly, “What business?”

 

Harper said, “Did you know that Mr Jefferson was proposing to adopt Ruby Keene legally?”

 

This appeared to be news to Starr. He pursed up his lips and whistled.

 

He said, “The clever little devil! Oh, well, there’s no fool like an old fool.”

 

“That’s how it strikes you, is it?”

 

“Well, what else can one say? If the old boy wanted to adopt someone, why didn’t he pick upon a girl of his own class?”

 

 

 

77 “Ruby never mentioned the matter to you?”

 

“No, she didn’t. I knew she was elated about something, but I didn’t know what it was.”

 

“And Josie?”

 

“Oh, I think Josie must have known what was in the wind. Probably she was the one who planned the whole thing. Josie’s no fool. She’s got a head on her, that girl.”

 

Harper nodded. It was Josie who had sent for Ruby Keene. Josie, no doubt, who had encouraged the intimacy. No wonder she had been upset when Ruby had failed to show up for her dance that night and Conway Jefferson had begun to panic. She was envisaging her plans going awry.

 

He asked, “Could Ruby keep a secret, do you think?”

 

“As well as most. She didn’t talk about her own affairs much.”

 

“Did she ever say anything anything at all about some friend of hers, someone from her former life who was coming to see her or whom she had had difficulty with? You know the sort of thing I mean, no doubt.”

 

“I know perfectly. Well, as far as I’m aware, there was no one of the kind. Not by anything she ever said.”

 

“Thank you. Now will you just tell me in your own words exactly what happened last night?”

 

“Certainly. Ruby and I did our ten-thirty dance together.”

 

“No signs of anything unusual about her then?”

 

Raymond considered.

 

“I don’t think so. I didn’t notice what happened afterward. I had my own partners to look after. I do remember noticing she was not in the ballroom. At midnight she hadn’t turned up. I was very annoyed and went to Josie about it. Josie was playing bridge with the Jeffersons. She hadn’t any idea where Ruby was, and I think she got a bit of a jolt. I noticed her shoot a quick, anxious glance at Mr Jefferson. I persuaded the band to play another dance and I went to the office and got them to ring up Ruby’s room. There wasn’t any answer. I went 78 back to Josie. She suggested that Ruby was perhaps asleep in her room. Idiotic suggestion really, but it was meant for the Jeffersons, of course! She came away with me and said we’d go up together.”

 

“Yes, Mr Starr. And what did she say when she was alone with you?”

 

“As far as I can remember, she looked very angry and said, Damned little fool. She can’t do this sort of thing. It will ruin all her chances. Who’s she with? Do you know?”

 

“I said that I hadn’t the least idea. The last I’d seen of her was dancing with young Bartlett. Josie said, ‘She wouldn’t be with him. What can she be up to? She isn’t with that film man, is she?'”

 

Harper said sharply, “Film man? Who was he?”

 

Raymond said, “I don’t know his name. He’s never stayed here. Rather an unusual-looking chap, black hair and theatrical-looking. He has something to do with the film industry, I believe or so he told Ruby. He came over to dine here once or twice and danced with Ruby afterward, but I don’t think she knew him at all well. That’s why I was surprised when Josie mentioned him. I said I didn’t think he’d been here tonight. Josie said, ‘Well, she must be out with someone. What on earth am I going to say to the Jeffersons?’ I said what did it matter to the Jeffersons? And Josie said it did matter. And she said, too, that she’d never forgive Ruby if she went and messed things up. We’d got to Ruby’s room by then. She wasn’t there, of course, but she’d been there, because the dress she had been wearing was lying across a chair. Josie looked in the wardrobe and said she thought she’d put on her old white dress. Normally she’d have changed into a black velvet dress for our Spanish dance. I was pretty angry by this time at the way Ruby had let me down. Josie did her best to soothe me and said she’d dance herself, so that old Prestcott shouldn’t get after us all. She went away and changed her dress, and we went down and did a tango exaggerated style and quieted the Jeffersons down. She said it was important. So, of course, I did what I could.”

 

Superintendent Harper nodded.

 

He said, “Thank you, Mr Starr.”

 

To himself he thought ‘It was important all right. Fifty thousand pounds.’

 

He watched Raymond Starr as the latter moved gracefully away. He went down the steps of the terrace, picking up a bag of tennis balls and a racket on the way.

 

79 Mrs Jefferson, also carrying a racket, joined him, and they went toward the tennis courts.

 

“Excuse me, sir.”

 

Sergeant Higgins, rather breathless, was standing at Superintendent Harper’s side. The superintendent, jerked from the train of thought he was following, looked startled.

 

“Message just come through for you from headquarters, sir. Laborer reported this morning saw glare as of fire. Half an hour ago they found a burnt-out car near a quarry. Venn’s Quarry about two miles from here. Traces of a charred body inside.”

 

A flush came over Harper’s heavy features.

 

He said, “What’s come to Glenshire? An epidemic of violence?” He asked, “Could they get the number of the car?”

 

“No, sir. But we’ll be able to identify it, of course, by the engine number. A Minoan Fourteen, they think.”

 

 

 

80 Chapter 11

 

Sir Henry Clithering, as he passed through the lounge of the Majestic, hardly glanced at its occupants. His mind was preoccupied. Nevertheless, as is the way of life, something registered in his subconscious. It waited its time patiently.

 

Sir Henry was wondering, as he went upstairs, just what had induced the sudden urgency of his friend’s message. Conway Jefferson was not the type of man who sent urgent summonses to anyone. Something quite out of the usual must have occurred, decided Sir Henry.

 

Jefferson wasted no time in beating about the bush.

 

He said, “Glad you’ve come… Edwards, get Sir Henry a drink… Sit down, man. You’ve not heard anything, I suppose? Nothing in the papers yet?”

 

Sir Henry shook his head, his curiosity aroused.

 

“What’s the matter?”

 

“Murder’s the matter. I’m concerned in it, and so are your friends, the Bantrys.”

 

“Arthur and Dolly Bantry?” Clithering sounded incredulous.

 

“Yes; you see, the body was found in their house.”

 

Clearly and succinctly, Conway Jefferson ran through the facts. Sir Henry listened without interrupting. Both men were accustomed to grasping the gist of a matter. Sir Henry, during his term as commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, had been renowned for his quick grip on essentials.

 

“It’s an extraordinary business,” he commented when the other had finished. “How do the Bantrys come into it, do you think?”

 

“That’s what worries me. You see, Henry, it looks to me as though possibly the fact that I know them might have a bearing on the case. That’s the only connection I can find. Neither of them, I gather, ever saw the girl before. That’s what they say, and there’s no reason to disbelieve them. It’s most unlikely they should know her. Then isn’t it possible that she was decoyed away and her body deliberately left in the house of friends of mine?”

 

Clithering said, “I think that’s far-fetched.”

 

81 “It’s possible, though,” persisted the other.

 

“Yes, but unlikely. What do you want me to do?”

 

Conway Jefferson said bitterly, “I’m an invalid. I disguise the fact, refuse to face it, but now it comes home to me. I can’t go about as I’d like to, asking questions, looking into things. I’ve got to stay here meekly grateful for such scraps of information as the police are kind enough to dole out to me. Do you happen to know Melchett, by the way, the chief constable of Radfordshire?”

 

“Yes, I’ve met him.”

 

Something stirred in Sir Henry’s brain. A face and figure noted unseeingly as he passed through the lounge. A straight-backed old lady whose face was familiar. It linked up with the last time he had seen Melchett.

 

He said, “Do you mean you want me to be a kind of amateur sleuth? That’s not my line.”

 

Jefferson said, “You’re not an amateur, that’s just it.”

 

“I’m not a professional anymore. I’m on the retired list now.”

 

Jefferson said, “That simplifies matters.”

 

“You mean that if I were still at Scotland Yard I couldn’t butt in? That’s perfectly true.”

 

“As it is,” said Jefferson, “your experience qualifies you to take an interest in the case, and any cooperation you offer will be welcomed.”

 

Clithering said slowly, “Etiquette permits, I agree. But what do you really want, Conway? To find out who killed this girl?”

 

“Just that.”

 

“You’ve no idea yourself?”

 

“None whatever.”

 

Sir Henry said slowly, “You probably won’t believe me, but you’ve got an expert at solving mysteries sitting downstairs in the lounge at this minute. Someone

 

82 who’s better than I am at it, and who, in all probability, may have some local dope.”

 

“What are you talking about?”

 

“Downstairs in the lounge, by the third pillar from the left, there sits an old lady with a sweet, placid, spinsterish face and a mind that has plumbed the depths of human iniquity and taken it as all in the day’s work. Her name’s Miss Marple. She comes from the village of St Mary Mead, which is a mile and a half from Gossington; she’s a friend of the Bantrys and, where crime is concerned, she’s the goods, Conway.”

 

Jefferson stared at him with thick puckered brows. He said heavily, “You’re joking.”

 

“No, I’m not. You spoke of Melchett just now. The last time I saw Melchett there was a village tragedy. Girl supposed to have drowned herself. Police, quite rightly, suspected that it wasn’t suicide but murder. They thought they knew who did it. Along to me comes old Miss Marple, fluttering and dithering. She’s afraid, she says, they’ll hang the wrong person. She’s got no evidence, but she knows who did do it. Hands me a piece of paper with a name written on it. And, Jefferson, she was right!”

 

Conway Jefferson’s brows came down lower than ever. He grunted disbelievingly.

 

“Woman’s intuition, I suppose,” he said skeptically.

 

“No, she doesn’t call it that. Specialized knowledge is her claim.”

 

“And what does that mean?”

 

“Well, you know, Jefferson, we use it in police work. We get a burglary and we usually know pretty well who did it of the regular crowd, that is. We know the sort of burglar who acts in a particular sort of way. Miss Marple has an interesting, though occasionally trivial, series of parallels from village life.”

 

Jefferson said skeptically, “What is she likely to know about a girl who’s been brought up in a theatrical milieu and probably never been in a village in her life?”

 

“I think,” said Sir Henry Clithering firmly, “that she might have ideas.”

 

 

 

83 II

 

Miss Marple flushed with pleasure as Sir Henry bore down upon her.

 

“Oh, Sir Henry, this is indeed a great piece of luck, meeting you here.”

 

Sir Henry was gallant. He said, “To me, it is a great pleasure.”

 

Miss Marple murmured, flushing, “So kind of you.”

 

“Are you staying here?”

 

“Well, as a matter of fact we are.”

 

“We?”

 

“Mrs Bantry’s here too.” She looked at him sharply. “Have you heard yet? Yes, I can see you have. It is terrible, is it not?”

 

“What’s Dolly Bantry doing here? Is her husband here too?”

 

“No. Naturally, they both reacted quite differently. Colonel Bantry, poor man, just shuts himself up in his study or goes down to one of the farms when anything like this happens. Like tortoises, you know; they draw their heads in and hope nobody will notice them. Dolly, of course, is quite different.”

 

“Dolly, in fact,” said Sir Henry, who knew his old friend fairly well, “is almost enjoying herself, eh?”

 

“Well… er… yes. Poor dear.”

 

“And she’s brought you along to produce the rabbits out of the hat for her?”

 

Miss Marple said composedly, “Dolly thought that a change of scene would be a good thing and she didn’t want to come alone.” She met his eye and her own gently twinkled. “But of course your way of describing it is quite true. It’s rather embarrassing for me, because, of course, I am no use at all.”

 

“No ideas? No village parallels?”

 

“I don’t know much about it all yet.”

 

84 “I can remedy that, I think. I’m going to call you into consultation, Miss Marple.”

 

He gave a brief recital of the course of events. Miss Marple listened with keen interest.

 

“Poor Mr Jefferson,” she said. “What a very sad story. These terrible accidents. To leave him alive, crippled, seems more cruel than if he had been killed too.”

 

“Yes, indeed. That’s why all his friends admire him so much for the resolute way he’s gone on, conquering pain and grief and physical disabilities.”

 

“Yes, it is splendid.”

 

“The only thing I can’t understand is this sudden outpouring of affection for this girl. She may, of course, have had some remarkable qualities.”

 

“Probably not,” said Miss Marple placidly.

 

“You don’t think so?”

 

“I don’t think her qualities entered into it.”

 

Sir Henry said, “He isn’t just a nasty old man, you know.”

 

“Oh, no, no!” Miss Marple got quite pink. “I wasn’t implying that for a minute. What I was trying to say was very badly, I know that he was just looking for a nice bright girl to take his dead daughter’s place, and then this girl saw her opportunity and played it for all she was worth! That sounds rather uncharitable, I know, but I have seen so many cases of the kind. The young maidservant at Mr Harbottle’s, for instance. A very ordinary girl, but quiet, with nice manners. His sister was called away to nurse a dying relative, and when she got back she found the girl completely above herself, sitting down in the drawing room laughing and talking and not wearing her cap or apron. Miss Harbottle spoke to her very sharply, and the girl was impertinent, and then old Mr Harbottle left her quite dumbfounded by saying that he thought she had kept the house for him long enough and that he was making other arrangements.

 

“Such a scandal as it created in the village, but poor Miss Harbottle had to go and live most uncomfortably in rooms in Eastbourne. People said things, of course, but I believe there was no familiarity of any kind. It was simply that the old man found it much pleasanter to have a young, cheerful girl telling him how clever and amusing he was than to have his sister continually pointing out his faults to him, even if she was a good, economical manager.”

 

85 There was a moment’s pause and then Miss Marple resumed.

 

“And there was Mr Badger, who had the chemist’s shop. Made a lot of fuss over the young lady who worked in his cosmetics section. Told his wife they must look on her as a daughter and have her to live in the house. Mrs Badger didn’t see it that way at all.”

 

Sir Henry said, “If she’d only been a girl in his own rank of life, a friend’s child -”

 

Miss Marple interrupted him. “Oh, but that wouldn’t have been nearly as satisfactory from his point of view. It’s like King Cophetua and the beggar maid. If you’re really rather a lonely tired old man, and if, perhaps, your own family have been neglecting you -” she paused for a second – “well, to befriend someone who will be overwhelmed with your magnificence, to put it rather melodramatically, but I hope you see what I mean, well, that’s much more interesting. It makes you feel a much greater person, a beneficent monarch! The recipient is more likely to be dazzled, and that, of course, is a pleasant feeling for you.” She paused and said, “Mr Badger, you know, bought the girl in his shop some really fantastic presents, a diamond bracelet and a most expensive radio- gramophone. Took out a lot of his savings to do it. However, Mrs Badger, who was a much more astute woman than poor Miss Harbottle, marriage, of course, helps, took the trouble to find out a few things. And when Mr Badger discovered that the girl was carrying on with a very undesirable young man connected with the race-courses, and had actually pawned the bracelet to give him the money – well, he was completely disgusted and the affair passed over quite safely. And he gave Mrs Badger a diamond ring the following Christmas.”

 

Her pleasant, shrewd eyes met Sir Henry’s. He wondered if what she had been saying was intended as a hint.

 

He said, “Are you suggesting that if there had been a young man in Ruby Keene’s life, my friend’s attitude toward her might have altered?”

 

“It probably would, you know. I dare say in a year or two he might have liked to arrange for her marriage himself though more likely he wouldn’t. Gentlemen are usually rather selfish. But I certainly think that if Ruby Keene had had a young man she’d have been careful to keep very quiet about it.”

 

“And the young man might have resented that?”

 

“I suppose that is the most plausible solution. It struck me, you know, that her cousin, the young woman who was at Gossington this morning, looked definitely angry with the dead girl. What you’ve told me explains why. No doubt she was looking forward to doing very well out of the business.” 86 “Rather a cold-blooded character, in fact?”

 

“That’s too harsh a judgment, perhaps. The poor thing has had to earn her living, and you can’t expect her to sentimentalize because a well-to-do man and woman as you have described Mr Gaskell and Mrs Jefferson are going to be done out of a further large sum of money to which they have really no particular moral right. I should say Miss Turner was a hard-headed, ambitious young woman with a good temper and considerable joie de vivre. A little,” added Miss Marple, “like Jessie Golden, the baker’s daughter.”

 

“What happened to her?” asked Sir Henry.

 

“She trained as a nursery governess and married the son of the house, who was home on leave from India. Made him a very good wife, I believe.”

 

Sir Henry pulled himself clear of these fascinating side issues. He said, “Is there any reason, do you think, why my friend Conway Jefferson should suddenly have developed this ‘Cophetua complex,’ if you like to call it that?”

 

“There might have been.”

 

“In what way?”

 

Miss Marple said, hesitating a little, “I should think it’s only a suggestion, of course that perhaps his son-in-law and daughter-in-law might have wanted to get married again.”

 

“Surely he couldn’t have objected to that?”

 

“Oh, no, not objected. But, you see, you must look at it from his point of view. He has a terrible shock and loss; so have they. The three bereaved people live together and the link between them is the loss they have all sustained. But Time, as my dear mother used to say, is a great healer. Mr Gaskell and Mrs Jefferson are young. Without knowing it themselves, they may have begun to feel restless, to resent the bonds that tied them to their past sorrow. And so, feeling like that, old Mr Jefferson would have become conscious of a sudden lack of sympathy without knowing its cause. It’s usually that. Gentlemen so easily feel neglected. With Mr Harbottle it was Miss Harbottle going away. And with the Badgers it was Mrs Badger taking such an interest in spiritualism and always going out to s�ances.”

 

“I must say,” said Sir Henry ruefully, “that I do dislike the way you reduce us all to a general common denominator.”

 

87 Miss Marple shook her head sadly. “Human nature is very much the same anywhere, Sir Henry.”

 

Sir Henry said distastefully, “Mr Harbottle! Mr Badger! And poor Conway! I hate to intrude the personal note, but have you any parallel for my humble self in your village?”

 

“Well, of course, there is Briggs.”

 

“Who’s Briggs?”

 

“He was the head gardener up at Old Hall. Quite the best man they ever had. Knew exactly when the under-gardeners were slacking off, quite uncanny it was! He managed with only three men and a boy, and the place was kept better than it had been with six. And took several Firsts with his sweet peas. He’s retired now.”

 

“Like me,” said Sir Henry.

 

“But he still does a little jobbing, if he likes the people.”

 

“Ah,” said Sir Henry. “Again like me. That’s what I’m doing now. Jobbing. To help an old friend.”

 

“Two old friends.”

 

“Two?” Sir Henry looked a little puzzled.

 

Miss Marple said, “I suppose you meant Mr Jefferson. But I wasn’t thinking of him. I was thinking of Colonel and Mrs Bantry.”

 

“Yes, yes, I see.” He asked sharply, “Was that why you alluded to Dolly Bantry as ‘poor dear’ at the beginning of our conversation?”

 

“Yes. She hasn’t begun to realize things yet. I know, because I’ve had more experience. You see, Sir Henry, it seems to me that there’s a great possibility of this crime being the kind of crime that never does get solved. Like the Brighton trunk murders. But if that happens it will be absolutely disastrous for the Bantrys. Colonel Bantry, like nearly all retired military men, is really abnormally sensitive. He reacts very quickly to public opinion. He won’t notice it for some time, and then it will begin to go home to him. A slight here, and a snub there, and invitations that are refused, and excuses that are made, and then, little by

 

88 little, it will dawn upon him, and he’ll retire into his shell and get terribly morbid and miserable.”

 

“Let me be sure I understand you rightly, Miss Marple. You mean that, because the body was found in his house, people will think that he had something to do with it?”

 

“Of course they will! I’ve no doubt they’re saying so already. They’ll say so more and more. And people will cold-shoulder the Bantrys and avoid them. That’s why the truth has got to be found out and why I was willing to come here with Mrs Bantry. An open accusation is one thing and quite easy for a soldier to meet. He’s indignant and he has a chance of fighting. But this other whispering business will break him, will break them both. So, you see, Sir Henry, we’ve got to find out the truth.”

 

Sir Henry said, “Any ideas as to why the body should have been found in his house? There must be an explanation of that. Some connection.”

 

“Oh, of course.”

 

“The girl was last seen here about twenty minutes to eleven. By midnight, according to the medical evidence, she was dead. Gossington’s about twenty miles from here. Good road for sixteen of those miles, until one turns off the main road. A powerful car could do it in well under half an hour. Practically any car could average thirty-five. But why anyone should either kill her here and take her body out to Gossington or should take her out to Gossington and strangle her there, I don’t know.”

 

“Of course you don’t, because it didn’t happen.”

 

“Do you mean that she was strangled by some fellow who took her out in a car, and he then decided to push her into the first likely house in the neighbourhood?”

 

“I don’t think anything of the kind. I think there was a very careful plan made. What happened was that the plan went wrong.”

 

Sir Henry stared at her. “Why did the plan go wrong?”

 

Miss Marple said rather apologetically, “Such curious things happen, don’t they? If I were to say that this particular plan went wrong because human beings are so much more vulnerable and sensitive than anyone thinks, it wouldn’t sound sensible, would it? But that’s what I believe and -” She broke off. “Here’s Mrs Bantry now.”

 

89 90 Chapter 12

 

Mrs Bantry was with Adelaide Jefferson. The former came up to Sir Henry and exclaimed, “You!”

 

“I, myself.” He took both her hands and pressed them warmly. “I can’t tell you how distressed I am at all this, Mrs B.”

 

Mrs Bantry said mechanically, “Don’t call me Mrs B!” and went on, “Arthur isn’t here. He’s taking it all rather seriously. Miss Marple and I have come here to sleuth. Do you know Mrs Jefferson?”

 

“Yes, of course.”

 

He shook hands. Adelaide Jefferson said, “Have you seen my father-in-law?”

 

“Yes. I have.”

 

“I’m glad. We’re anxious about him. It was a terrible shock.”

 

Mrs Bantry said, “Let’s go out on the terrace and have drinks and talk about it all.”

 

The four of them went out and joined Mark Gaskell, who was sitting at the extreme end of the terrace by himself.

 

After a few desultory remarks and the arrival of the drinks, Mrs Bantry plunged straight into the subject with her usual zest for direct action.

 

“We can talk about it, can’t we?” she said. “I mean we’re all old friends except Miss Marple, and she knows all about crime. And she wants to help.”

 

Mark Gaskell looked at Miss Marple in a somewhat puzzled fashion.

 

He said doubtfully, “Do you… er… write detective stories?”

 

The most unlikely people, he knew, wrote detective stories. And Miss Marple, in her old-fashioned spinster’s clothes, looked a singularly unlikely person.

 

“Oh, no, I’m not clever enough for that.”

 

 

 

91 “She’s wonderful,” said Mrs Bantry impatiently. “I can’t explain now, but she is… Now, Addie, I want to know all about things. What was she really like, this girl?”

 

“Well -” Adelaide Jefferson paused, glanced across at Mark and half laughed. She said, “You’re so direct.”

 

“Did you like her?”

 

“No, of course I didn’t.”

 

“What was she really like?” Mrs Bantry shifted her inquiry to Mark Gaskell.

 

Mark said deliberately, “Common or garden gold digger. And she knew her stuff. She’d got her hooks into Jeff all right.”

 

Both of them called their father-in-law ‘Jeff.’

 

Sir Henry thought, looking disapprovingly at Mark, indiscreet fellow. Shouldn’t be so outspoken. He had always disapproved a little of Mark Gaskell. The man had charm, but he was unreliable, talked too much, was occasionally boastful not quite to be trusted, Sir Henry thought. He had sometimes wondered if Conway Jefferson thought so too.

 

“But couldn’t you do something about it?” demanded Mrs Bantry.

 

Mark said dryly, “We might have, if we’d realized it in time.”

 

He shot a glance at Adelaide and she coloured faintly. There had been reproach in that glance.

 

She said, “Mark thinks I ought to have seen what was coming.”

 

“You left the old boy alone too much, Addie. Tennis lessons and all the rest of it.”

 

“Well, I had to have some exercise.” She spoke apologetically. “Anyway, I never dreamed -”

 

“No,” said Mark, “neither of us ever dreamed. Jeff has always been such a sensible, level-headed old boy.”

 

Miss Marple made a contribution to the conversation.

 

92 “Gentlemen,” she said with her old maid’s way of referring to the opposite sex as though it were a species of wild animal, “are frequently not so level-headed as they seem.”

 

“I’ll say you’re right,” said Mark. “Unfortunately, Miss Marple, we didn’t realize that. We wondered what the old boy saw in that rather insipid and meretricious little bag of tricks. But we were pleased for him to be kept happy and amused. We thought there was no harm in her. No harm in her! I wish I’d wrung her neck.”

 

“Mark,” said Addie, “you really must be careful what you say.”

 

He grinned at her engagingly.

 

“I suppose I must. Otherwise people will think I actually did wring her neck. Oh, well, I suppose I’m under suspicion anyway. If anyone had an interest in seeing that girl dead, it was Addie and myself.”

 

“Mark,” cried Mrs Jefferson, half laughing and half angry, “you really mustn’t!”

 

“All right, all right,” said Mark Gaskell pacifically. “But I do like speaking my mind. Fifty thousand pounds our esteemed father-in-law was proposing to settle upon that half-baked, nit-witted little sly puss -”

 

“Mark, you mustn’t! She’s dead!”

 

“Yes, she’s dead, poor little devil. And after all, why shouldn’t she use the weapons that Nature gave her? Who am I to judge? Done plenty of rotten things myself in my life. No, let’s say Ruby was entitled to plot and scheme, and we were mugs not to have tumbled to her game sooner.”

 

Sir Henry said, “What did you say when Conway told you he proposed to adopt the girl?”

 

Mark thrust out his hands. “What could we say? Addie, always the little lady, retained her self-control admirably. Put a brave face upon it. I endeavoured to follow her example.”

 

“I should have made a fuss!” said Mrs Bantry.

 

“Well, frankly speaking, we weren’t entitled to make a fuss. It was Jeff’s money. We weren’t his flesh and blood. He’d always been damned good to us. There

 

 

 

93 was nothing for it but to bite on the bullet.” He added reflectively, “But we didn’t love little Ruby.”

 

Adelaide Jefferson said, “If only it had been some other kind of girl. Jeff had two godchildren, you know. If it had been one of them well, one would have understood it.” She added with a shade of resentment, “And Jeff’s always seemed so fond of Peter.”

 

“Of course,” said Mrs Bantry. “I always have known Peter was your first husband’s child, but I’d quite forgotten it. I’ve always thought of him as Mr Jefferson’s grandson.”

 

“So have I,” said Adelaide. Her voice held a note that made Miss Marple turn in her chair and look at her.

 

“It was Josie’s fault,” said Mark. “Josie brought her here.”

 

Adelaide said, “Oh, but surely you don’t think it was deliberate, do you? Why, you’ve always liked Josie so much.”

 

“Yes, I did like her. I thought she was a good sport.”

 

“It was sheer accident, her bringing the girl down.”

 

“Josie’s got a good head on her shoulders, my girl.”

 

“Yes, but she couldn’t foresee -”

 

Mark said, “No, she couldn’t. I admit it. I’m not really accusing her of planning the whole thing. But I’ve no doubt she saw which way the wind was blowing long before we did, and kept very quiet about it.”

 

Adelaide said with a sigh, “I suppose one can’t blame her for that.”

 

Mark said, “Oh, we can’t blame anyone for anything!”

 

Mrs Bantry asked, “Was Ruby Keene very pretty?”

 

Mark stared at her. “I thought you’d seen -”

 

Mrs Bantry said hastily, “Oh, yes, I saw her her body. But she’d been strangled, you know, and one couldn’t tell -” She shivered.

 

94 Mark said thoughtfully, “I don’t think she was really pretty at all. She certainly wouldn’t have been without any make-up. A thin ferrety little face, not much chin, teeth running down her throat, nondescript sort of nose -”

 

“It sounds revolting,” said Mrs Bantry.

 

“Oh, no, she wasn’t. As I say, with make-up she managed to give quite an effect of good looks… Don’t you think so, Addie?”

 

“Yes, rather chocolate-box, pink-and-white business. She had nice blue eyes.”

 

“Yes, innocent-baby stare, and the heavily blacked lashes brought out the blueness. Her hair was bleached, of course. It’s true, when I come to think of it, that in colouring, artificial colouring, anyway, she had a kind of spurious resemblance to Rosamund, my wife, you know. I dare say that’s what attracted the old man’s attention to her.” He sighed. “Well, it’s a bad business. The awful thing is that Addie and I can’t help being glad, really, that she’s dead.” He quelled a protest from his sister-in-law. “It’s no good, Addie. I know what you feel. I feel the same. And I’m not going to pretend! But at the same time, if you know what I mean, I really am most awfully concerned for Jeff about the whole business. It’s hit him very hard. I -”

 

He stopped and stared toward the doors leading out of the lounge onto the terrace.

 

“Well, well. See who’s here… What an unscrupulous woman you are, Addie.”

 

Mrs Jefferson looked over her shoulder, uttered an exclamation and got up, a slight colour rising in her face. She walked quickly along the terrace and went up to a tall, middle-aged man with a thin brown face who was looking uncertainly about him.

 

Mrs Bantry said, “Isn’t that Hugo McLean?”

 

Mark Gaskell said, “Hugo McLean it is. Alias William Dobbin.”

 

Mrs Bantry murmured, “He’s very faithful, isn’t he?”

 

“Dog-like devotion,” said Mark. “Addie’s only got to whistle and Hugo comes trotting along from any odd corner of the globe. Always hopes that someday she’ll marry him. I dare say she will.”

 

Miss Marple looked beamingly after them. She said, “I see. A romance?”

 

95 “One of the good old-fashioned kind,” Mark assured her. “It’s been going on for years. Addie’s that kind of woman.” He added meditatively, “I suppose Addie telephoned him this morning. She didn’t tell me she had.”

 

Edwards came discreetly along the terrace and paused at Mark’s elbow.

 

“Excuse me, sir. Mr Jefferson would like you to come up.”

 

“I’ll come at once.”

 

Mark sprang up. He nodded to them, said, “See you later,” and went off.

 

Sir Henry leaned forward to Miss Marple. He said, “Well, what do you think of the principal beneficiaries of the crime?”

 

Miss Marple said thoughtfully, looking at Adelaide Jefferson as she stood talking to her old friend, “I should think, you know, that she was a very devoted mother.”

 

“Oh, she is,” said Mrs Bantry. “She’s simply devoted to Peter.”

 

“She’s the kind of woman,” said Miss Marple, “that everyone likes. The kind of woman that could go on getting married again and again. I don’t mean a man’s woman – that’s quite different.”

 

“I know what you mean,” said Sir Henry.

 

“What you both mean,” said Mrs Bantry, “is that she’s a good listener.”

 

Sir Henry laughed. He said, “And Mark Gaskell?”

 

“Ah,” said Miss Marple. “He’s a downy fellow.”

 

“Village parallel, please?”

 

“Mr Cargill, the builder. He bluffed a lot of people into having things done to their houses they never meant to do. And how he charged them for it! But he could always explain his bill away plausibly. A downy fellow. He married money. So did Mr Gaskell, I understand.”

 

“You don’t like him.”

 

96 “Yes, I do. Most women would. But he can’t take me in. He’s a very attractive person, I think. But a little unwise, perhaps, to talk as much as he does.”

 

“Unwise is the word,” said Sir Henry. “Mark will get himself into trouble if he doesn’t look out.”

 

A tall dark young man in white flannels came to the terrace and paused just for a second, observing Adelaide Jefferson and Hugo McLean.

 

“That one,” said Sir Henry obligingly, “is X, whom we might describe as an interested party. He is the tennis dancing pro, Raymond Starr, Ruby Keene’s partner.”

 

Miss Marple looked at him with interest. She said, “He’s very nice-looking, isn’t he?”

 

“I suppose so.”

 

“Don’t be absurd, Sir Henry,” said Mrs Bantry. “There’s no supposing about it. He is good-looking.”

 

Miss Marple murmured, “Mrs Jefferson has been taking tennis lessons, I think she said.”

 

“Do you mean anything by that, Jane, or don’t you?”

 

Miss Marple had no chance of replying to this downright question. Young Peter Carmody came across the terrace and joined them. He addressed himself to Sir Henry.

 

“I say, are you a detective too? I saw you talking to the superintendent, the fat one is a superintendent, isn’t he?”

 

“Quite right, my son.”

 

“And somebody told me you were a frightfully important detective from London. The head of Scotland Yard or something like that.”

 

“The head of Scotland Yard is usually a complete dud in books, isn’t he?”

 

“Oh, no; not nowadays. Making fun of the police is very old-fashioned. Do you know who did the murder yet?”

 

97 “Not yet, I’m afraid.”

 

“Are you enjoying this very much, Peter?” asked Mrs Bantry.

 

“Well, I am rather. It makes a change, doesn’t it? I’ve been hunting round to see if I could find any clues, but I haven’t been lucky. I’ve got a souvenir, though. Would you like to see it? Fancy, mother wanted me to throw it away. I do think one’s parents are rather trying sometimes.”

 

He produced from his pocket a small match box. Pushing it open, he disclosed the precious contents.

 

“See, it’s a fingernail. Her fingernail. I’m going to label it Fingernail of the Murdered Woman and take it back to school. It’s a good souvenir, don’t you think?”

 

“Where did you get it?” asked Miss Marple.

 

“Well, it was a bit of luck, really. Because of course I didn’t know she was going to be murdered then. It was before dinner last night. Ruby caught her nail in Josie’s shawl and it tore it. Mum’s cut it off for her and gave it to me and said put it in the wastepaper basket, and I meant to, but I put it in my pocket instead, and this morning I remembered and looked to see if it was still there, and it was, so now I’ve got it as a souvenir.”

 

“Disgusting,” said Mrs Bantry.

 

Peter said politely, “Oh, do you think so?”

 

“Got any other souvenirs?” asked Sir Henry.

 

“Well, I don’t know. I’ve got something that might be.”

 

“Explain yourself, young man.”

 

Peter looked at him thoughtfully. Then he pulled out an envelope. From the inside of it he extracted a piece of brown tape-like substance.

 

“It’s a bit of that chap George Bartlett’s shoelace,” he explained. “I saw his shoes outside the door this morning and I bagged a bit just in case.”

 

“In case what?”

 

98 “In case he should be the murderer, of course. He was the last person to see her, and that’s always frightfully suspicious, you know… Is it nearly dinnertime, do you think? I’m frightfully hungry. It always seems such a long time between tea and dinner… Hullo, there’s Uncle Hugo. I didn’t know mums had asked him to come down. I suppose she sent for him. She always does if she’s in a jam. Here’s Josie coming… Hi, Josie!”

 

Josephine Turner, coming along the terrace, stopped and looked rather startled to see Mrs Bantry and Miss Marple.

 

Mrs Bantry said pleasantly, “How d’you do, Miss Turner. We’ve come to do a bit of sleuthing.”

 

Josie cast a guilty glance round. She said, lowering her voice, “It’s awful. Nobody knows yet. I mean it isn’t in the papers yet. I suppose everyone will be asking me questions, and it’s so awkward. I don’t know what I ought to say.”

 

Her glance went rather wistfully toward Miss Marple, who said, “Yes, it will be a very difficult situation for you, I’m afraid.”

 

Josie warmed to this sympathy.

 

“You see, Mr Prestcott said to me, ‘Don’t talk about it.’ And that’s all very well, but everyone is sure to ask me and you can’t offend people, can you? Mr Prescott said he hoped I’d feel able to carry on as usual, and he wasn’t very nice about it, so, of course, I want to do my best. And I really don’t see why it should all be blamed on me.”

 

Sir Henry said, “Do you mind me asking you a frank question?”

 

“Oh, do ask me anything you like,” said Josie a little insincerely.

 

“Has there been any unpleasantness between you and Mrs Jefferson and Mr Gaskell over all this?”

 

“Over the murder, do you mean?”

 

“No, I don’t mean the murder.”

 

Josie stood twisting her fingers together. She said rather sullenly, “Well, there has and there hasn’t, if you know what I mean. Neither of them has said anything. But I think they blame it on me, Mr Jefferson taking such a fancy to Ruby, I mean. It wasn’t my fault, though, was it? These things happen, and I

 

99 never dreamt of such a thing happening beforehand, not for a moment. I was quite dumbfounded.”

 

Her words rang out with what seemed undeniable sincerity.

 

Sir Henry said kindly, “I’m sure you were. But once it had happened?”

 

Josie’s chin went up.

 

“Well, it was a piece of luck, wasn’t it? Everyone’s got the right to have a piece of luck sometimes.”

 

She looked from one to the other of them in a slightly defiant, questioning manner, and then went on across the terrace and into the hotel.

 

Peter said judicially, “I don’t think she did it.”

 

Miss Marple murmured, “It’s interesting, that piece of fingernail. It had been worrying me, you know how to account for her nails.”

 

“Nails?” asked Sir Henry.

 

“The dead girl’s nails,” explained Mrs Bantry. “They were quite short and, now that Jane says so, of course it was a little unlikely. A girl like that usually has absolute talons!”

 

Miss Marple said, “But of course if she tore one off, then she might clip the others close so as to match. Did they find nail parings in her room, I wonder?”

 

Sir Henry looked at her curiously. He said, “I’ll ask Superintendent Harper when he gets back.”

 

“Back from where?” asked Mrs Bantry. “He hasn’t gone over to Gossington, has he?”

 

Sir Henry said gravely, “No. There’s been another tragedy. Blazing car in a quarry.”

 

Miss Marple caught her breath. “Was there someone in the car?”

 

“I’m afraid so, yes.”

 

100 Miss Marple said thoughtfully, “I expect that will be the Girl Guide who’s missing. Patience no, Pamela Reeves.”

 

Sir Henry stared at her.

 

“Now why on earth do you think that?”

 

Miss Marple got rather pink.

 

“Well, it was given out on the wireless that she was missing from her home since last night. And her home was Daneleigh Vale – that’s not very far from here and she was last seen at the Girl Guide rally up on Danebury Downs. That’s very close indeed. In fact, she’d have to pass through Danemouth to get home. So it does rather fit in, doesn’t it? I mean it looks as though she might have seen or perhaps heard something that no one was supposed to see and hear. If so, of course, she’d be a source of danger to the murderer and she’d have to be removed. Two things like that must be connected, don’t you think?”

 

Sir Henry said, his voice dripping a little, “You think a second murder?”

 

“Why not?” Her quiet, placid gaze met his. “When anyone has committed one murder he doesn’t shrink from another, does he? Nor even from a third.”

 

“A third? You don’t think there will be a third murder?”

 

“I think it’s just possible. Yes, I think it’s highly possible.”

 

“Miss Marple,” said Sir Henry, “you frighten me. Do you know who is going to be murdered?”

 

Miss Marple said, “I’ve a very good idea.”

 

 

 

 

 

101 102 Chapter 13

 

Colonel Melchett and Superintendent Harper looked at each other. Harper had come over to Much Benham for a consultation. Melchett said gloomily, “Well, we know where we are or rather where we aren’t!”

 

“Where we aren’t expresses it better, sir.”

 

“We’ve got two deaths to take into account,” said Melchett. “Two murders. Ruby Keene and the child, Pamela Reeves. Not much to identify her by, poor kid, but enough. One shoe escaped burning and has been identified as hers, and a button from her Girl Guide uniform. A fiendish business, superintendent.”

 

Superintendent Harper said very quietly, “I’ll say you’re right, sir.”

 

“I’m glad to say Haydock is quite certain she was dead before the car was set on fire. The way she was lying thrown across the seat shows that. Probably knocked on the head, poor kid.”

 

“Or strangled, perhaps.”

 

“You think so?”

 

“Well, sir, there are murderers like that.”

 

“I know. I’ve seen the parents. The poor girl’s mother’s beside herself. Damned painful, the whole thing. The point for us to settle is: are the two murders connected?”

 

The superintendent ticked off the points on his fingers. “Attended rally of Girl Guides on Danebury Downs. Stated by companion to be normal and cheerful. Did not return with three companions by the bus to Medchester. Said to them that she was going to Danemouth to Woolworth’s and would take the bus home from there. That’s likely enough. Woolworth’s in Danemouth is a big affair. The girl lived in the back country and didn’t get many chances of going into town. The main road into Danemouth from the downs does a big round inland; Pamela Reeves took a short cut over two fields and a footpath and lane which would bring her into Danemouth near the Majestic Hotel. The lane, in fact, actually passes the hotel on the west side. It’s possible, therefore, that she overheard or saw something, something concerning Ruby Keene which would have proved dangerous to the murderer say, for instance, that she heard him arranging to meet Ruby Keene at eleven that evening. He realizes that this schoolgirl has overheard and he has to silence her.”

 

103 Colonel Melchett said, “That’s presuming, Harper, that the Ruby Keene crime was premeditated, not spontaneous.”

 

Superintendent Harper agreed. “I believe it was, sir. It looks as though it would be the other way, sudden violence, a fit of passion or jealousy, but I’m beginning to think that that’s not so. I don’t see, otherwise, how you can account for the death of the child. If she was a witness of the actual crime it would be late at night, round about eleven p.m., and what would she be doing round about the Majestic Hotel at that time of night? Why, at nine o’clock her parents were getting anxious because she hadn’t returned.”

 

“The alternative is that she went to meet someone in Danemouth unknown to her family and friends, and that her death is quite unconnected with the other death.”

 

“Yes, sir, and I don’t believe that’s so. Look how even the old lady, old Miss Marple, tumbled to it at once that there was a connection. She asked at once if the body in the burnt car was the body of the Girl Guide. Very smart old lady, that. These old ladies are, sometimes. Shrewd, you know. Put their fingers on the vital spot.”

 

“Miss Marple has done that more than once,” said Colonel Melchett dryly.

 

“And besides, sir, there’s the car. That seems to me to link up her death definitely with the Majestic Hotel. It was Mr George Bartlett’s car.”

 

Again the eyes of the two men met. Melchett said, “George Bartlett? Could be! What do you think?”

 

Again Harper methodically recited various points. “Ruby Keene was last seen with George Bartlett. He says she went to her room, borne out by the dress she was wearing being found there, but did she go to her room and change in order to go out with him? Had they made a date to go out together earlier, discussed it, say, before dinner and did Pamela Reeves happen to overhear?”

 

Colonel Melchett said, “He didn’t report the loss of his car until the following morning, and he was extremely vague about it then; pretended that he couldn’t remember exactly when he had last noticed it.”

 

“That might be cleverness, sir. As I see it, he’s either a very clever gentleman pretending to be a silly ass, or else well, he is a silly ass.”

 

“What we want,” said Melchett, “is motive. As it stands, he had no motive whatever for killing Ruby Keene.” 104 “Yes, that’s where we’re stuck every time. Motive. All the reports from the Palais de Danse at Brixwell are negative, I understand.”

 

“Absolutely! Ruby Keene had no special boy friend. Slack’s been into the matter thoroughly. Give Slack his due; he is thorough.”

 

“That’s right, sir. ‘Thorough’ is the word.”

 

“If there was anything to ferret out he’d have ferreted it out. But there’s nothing there. He got a list of her most frequent dancing partners all vetted and found correct. Harmless fellows, and all able to produce alibis for that night.”

 

“Ah,” said Superintendent Harper. “Alibis. That’s what we’re up against.”

 

Melchett looked at him sharply. “Think so? I’ve left that side of the investigation to you.”

 

“Yes, sir. It’s been gone into very thoroughly. We applied to London for help over it.”

 

“Well?”

 

“Mr Conway Jefferson may think that Mr Gaskell and young Mrs Jefferson are comfortably off, but that is not the case. They’re both extremely hard up.”

 

“Is that true?”

 

“Quite true, sir. It’s as Mr Conway Jefferson said; he made over considerable sums of money to his son and daughter when they married. That was a number of years ago, though. Mr Frank Jefferson fancied himself as knowing good investments. He didn’t invest in anything absolutely wildcat, but he was unlucky and showed poor judgment more than once. His holdings have gone steadily down. I should say that Mrs Jefferson found it very difficult to make both ends meet and send her son to a good school.”

 

“But she hasn’t applied to her father-in-law for help?”

 

“No, sir. As far as I can make out she lives with him and, consequently, has no household expenses.”

 

“And his health is such that he wasn’t expected to live long?”

 

 

 

105 “That’s right, sir. Now for Mr Mark Gaskell, he’s a gambler, pure and simple. Got through his wife’s money very soon. Has got himself tangled up rather badly just at present. He needs money badly, and a good deal of it.”

 

“Can’t say I liked the looks of him much,” said Colonel Melchett. “Wild-looking sort of fellow, what? And he’s got a motive, all right. Twenty-five thousand pounds it meant to him, getting that girl out of the way. Yes, it’s a motive all right.”

 

“They both had a motive.”

 

“I’m not considering Mrs Jefferson.”

 

“No, sir, I know you’re not. And, anyway, the alibi holds for both of them. They couldn’t have done it. Just that.”

 

“You’ve got a detailed statement of their movements that evening?”

 

“Yes, I have. Take Mr Gaskell first. He dined with his father-in-law and Mrs Jefferson, had coffee with them afterward when Ruby Keene joined them. Then said he had to write letters and left them. Actually, he took his car and went for a spin down to the front. He told me quite frankly he couldn’t stick playing bridge for a whole evening. The old boy’s mad on it. So he made letters an excuse. Ruby Keene remained with the others. Mark Gaskell returned when she was dancing with Raymond. After the dance Ruby came and had a drink with them, then she went off with young Bartlett, and Gaskell and the others cut for partners and started their bridge. That was at twenty minutes to eleven, and he didn’t leave the table until after midnight. That’s quite certain, sir. Everyone says so: the family, the waiters, everyone. Therefore, he couldn’t have done it. And Mrs Jefferson’s alibi is the same. She, too, didn’t leave the table. They’re out, both of them out.” Colonel Melchett leaned back, tapping the table with a paper cutter.

 

Superintendent Harper said, “That is, assuming the girl was killed before midnight.”

 

“Haydock said she was. He’s a very sound fellow in police work. If he says a thing, it’s so.”

 

“There might be reasons – health, physical idiosyncrasy or something.”

 

“I’ll put it to him.” Melchett glanced at his watch, picked up the telephone receiver and asked for a number. He said, “Haydock ought to be in now. Now, assuming that she was killed after midnight -” 106 Harper said, “Then there might be a chance. There was some coming and going afterward. Let’s assume that Gaskell had asked the girl to meet him outside somewhere say at twenty past twelve. He slips away for a minute or two, strangles her, comes back, and disposes of the body later in the early hours of the morning.”

 

Melchett said, “Takes her by car twenty miles to put her in Bantry’s library? Dash it all, it’s not a likely story.”

 

“No, it isn’t,” the superintendent admitted at once.

 

The telephone rang. Melchett picked up the receiver. “Hullo, Haydock, is that you? Ruby Keene. Would it be possible for her to have been killed after midnight?”

 

“I told you she was killed between ten and midnight.”

 

“Yes, I know, but one could stretch it a bit, what?”

 

“No, you couldn’t stretch it. When I say she was killed before midnight I mean before midnight, and don’t try and tamper with the medical evidence.”

 

“Yes, but couldn’t there be some physiological whatnot? You know what I mean?”

 

“I know that you don’t know what you’re talking about. The girl was perfectly healthy and not abnormal in any way, and I’m not going to say she was just to help you fit a rope round the neck of some wretched fellow whom you police wallahs have got your knife into. Now, don’t protest. I know your ways. And, by the way, the girl wasn’t strangled willingly, that is to say, she was drugged first. Powerful narcotic. She died of strangulation, but she was drugged first.” Haydock rang off.

 

Melchett said gloomily, “Well, that’s that.”

 

Harper said, “Thought I’d found another likely starter, but it petered out.”

 

“What’s that? Who?”

 

“Strictly speaking, he’s your pigeon, sir. Name of Basil Blake. Lives near Gossington Hall.”

 

 

 

107 “Impudent young jackanapes!” The colonel’s brow darkened as he remembered Basil Blake’s outrageous rudeness. “How’s he mixed up in it?”

 

“Seems he knew Ruby Keene. Dined over at the Majestic quite often, danced with the girl. Do you remember what Josie said to Raymond when Ruby was discovered to be missing. ‘She isn’t with that film man, is she?’ I’ve found out it was Blake she meant. He’s employed with the Lenville Studios, you know. Josie has nothing to go upon except a belief that Ruby was rather keen on him.”

 

“Very promising. Harper, very promising.”

 

“Not so good as it sounds, sir. Basil Blake was at a party at the studios that night. You know the sort of thing. Starts at eight with cocktails and goes on and on until the air’s too thick to see through and everyone passes out. According to Inspector Slack, who’s questioned him, he left the show round about midnight. At midnight Ruby Keene was dead.”

 

“Anyone bear out his statement?”

 

“Most of them, I gather, sir, were rather… er… far gone. The… er… young woman now at the bungalow, Miss Dinah Lee, says that statement is correct.”

 

“Doesn’t mean a thing.”

 

“No, sir, probably not. Statements taken from other members of the party bear Mr Blake’s statement out, on the whole, though ideas as to time are somewhat vague.”

 

“Where are these studios?”

 

“Lenville, sir, thirty miles southwest of London.”

 

“It’s about the same distance from here.”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

Colonel Melchett rubbed his nose. He said in a rather dissatisfied tone, “Well, it looks as though we could wash him out.”

 

“I think so, sir. There is no evidence that he was seriously attracted by Ruby Keene. In fact,” Superintendent Harper coughed primly, “he seems fully occupied with his own young lady.”

 

108 Melchett said, “Well, we are left with X, an unknown murderer, so unknown Slack can’t find a trace of him. Or Jefferson’s son-in-law, who might have wanted to kill the girl, but didn’t have a chance to do so. Daughter-in-law ditto. Or George Bartlett, who has no alibi, but, unfortunately, no motive either. Or with young Blake, who has an alibi and no motive. And that’s the lot! No, stop. I suppose we ought to consider the dancing fellow, Raymond Starr. After all, he saw a lot of the girl.”

 

Harper said slowly, “Can’t believe he took much interest in her, or else he’s a thundering good actor. And, for all practical purposes, he’s got an alibi too. He was more or less in view from twenty minutes to eleven until midnight, dancing with various partners. I don’t see that we can make a case against him.”

 

“In fact,” said Colonel Melchett, “we can’t make a case against anybody.”

 

“George Bartlett’s our best hope,” Harper said. “If we could only hit on a motive.”

 

“You’ve had him looked up?”

 

“Yes, sir. Only child. Coddled by his mother. Came into a good deal of money on her death a year ago. Getting through it fast. Weak rather than vicious.”

 

“May be mental,” said Melchett hopefully.

 

Superintendent Harper nodded. He said, “Has it struck you, sir, that that may be the explanation of the whole case?”

 

“Criminal lunatic, you mean?”

 

“Yes, sir. One of those fellows who go about strangling young girls. Doctors have a long name for it.”

 

“That would solve all our difficulties,” said Melchett.

 

“There’s only one thing I don’t like about it,” said Superintendent Harper.

 

“What?”

 

“It’s too easy.”

 

“H’m – yes, perhaps. So, as I said at the beginning, where are we?”

 

109 “Nowhere, sir,” said Superintendent Harper.

 

 

 

110 Chapter 14

 

Conway Jefferson stirred in his sleep and stretched. His arms were flung out, long, powerful arms into which all the strength of his body seemed to be concentrated since his accident. Through the curtains the morning light glowed softly. Conway Jefferson smiled to himself. Always, after a night of rest, he woke like this, happy, refreshed, his deep vitality renewed. Another day! So, for a minute, he lay. Then he pressed the special bell by his hand. And suddenly a wave of remembrance swept over him. Even as Edwards, deft and quiet-footed, entered the room a groan was wrung from his master. Edwards paused with his hand on the curtains. He said, “You’re not in pain, sir?”

 

Conway Jefferson said harshly, “No. Go on, pull ’em.” The clear light flooded the room. Edwards, understanding, did not glance at his master.

 

His face grim, Conway Jefferson lay remembering and thinking. Before his eyes he saw again the pretty, vapid face of Ruby. Only in his mind he did not use the adjective “vapid.” Last night he would have said “innocent.” A na�ve, innocent child! And now? A great weariness came over Conway Jefferson. He closed his eyes. He murmured below his breath, “Margaret.” It was the name of his dead wife.

 

II

 

“I like your friend,” said Adelaide Jefferson to Mrs Bantry. The two women were sitting on the terrace.

 

“Jane Marple’s a very remarkable woman,” said Mrs Bantry.

 

“She’s nice too,” said Addie, smiling.

 

“People call her a scandal monger,” said Mrs Bantry, “but she isn’t really.”

 

“Just a low opinion of human nature?”

 

“You could call it that.”

 

“It’s rather refreshing,” said Adelaide Jefferson, “after having had too much of the other thing.” Mrs Bantry looked at her sharply. Addie explained herself. “So much high thinking idealization of an unworthy object!”

 

“You mean Ruby Keene?”

 

 

 

111 Addie nodded. “I don’t want to be horrid about her. There wasn’t any harm in her. Poor little rat, she had to fight for what she wanted. She wasn’t bad. Common and rather silly and quite good-natured, but a decided little gold digger. I don’t think she schemed or planned. It was just that she was quick to take advantage of a possibility. And she knew just how to appeal to an elderly man who was lonely.”

 

“I suppose,” said Mrs Bantry thoughtfully, “that Conway was lonely.”

 

Addie moved restlessly. She said, “He was this summer.” She paused and then burst out, “Mark will have it that it was all my fault! Perhaps it was; I don’t know.” She was silent for a minute, then, impelled by some need to talk, she went on speaking in a difficult, almost reluctant way. “I’ve had such an odd sort of life. Mike Carmody, my first husband, died so soon after we were married it – it knocked me out. Peter, as you know, was born after his death. Frank Jefferson was Mike’s great friend. So I came to see a lot of him. He was Peter’s godfather, Mike had wanted that. I got very fond of him and oh, sorry for him too.”

 

“Sorry?” queried Mrs Bantry with interest.

 

“Yes, just that. It sounds odd. Frank had always had everything he wanted. His father and his mother couldn’t have been nicer to him. And yet how can I say it, you see, old Mr Jefferson’s personality is so strong. If you live with it you can’t somehow have a personality of your own. Frank felt that.”

 

“When we were married he was very happy, wonderfully so. Mr Jefferson was very generous. He settled a large sum of money on Frank; said he wanted his children to be independent and not have to wait for his death. It was so nice of him so generous. But it was much too sudden. He ought really to have accustomed Frank to independence little by little.

 

“It went to Frank’s head. He wanted to be as good a man as his father, as clever about money and business, as farseeing and successful. And of course he wasn’t. He didn’t exactly speculate with the money, but he invested in the wrong things at the wrong time. It’s frightening, you know, how soon money goes if you’re not clever about it. The more Frank dropped, the more eager he was to get it back by some clever deal. So things went from bad to worse.”

 

“But, my dear,” said Mrs Bantry, “couldn’t Conway have advised him?”

 

“He didn’t want to be advised. The one thing he wanted was to do well on his own. That’s why we never let Mr Jefferson know. When Frank died there was very little left; only a tiny income for me. And I didn’t let his father know either. You see,” she turned abruptly, “it would have seemed like betraying Frank to 112 him. Frank would have hated it so. Mr Jefferson was ill for a long time. When he got well he assumed that I was a very-well-off widow. I’ve never undeceived him. It’s been a point of honour. He knows I’m very careful about money, but he just approves of that, thinks I’m a thrifty sort of woman. And of course Peter and I have lived with him practically ever since, and he’s paid for all our living expenses. So I’ve never had to worry.” She said slowly, “We’ve been like a family all these years, only – only, you see or don’t you see? I’ve never been Frank’s widow to him; I’ve been Frank’s wife.”

 

Mrs Bantry grasped the implication. “You mean he’s never accepted their deaths?”

 

“No. He’s been wonderful. But he’s conquered his own terrible tragedy by refusing to recognize death. Mark is Rosamund’s husband and I’m Frank’s wife, and though Frank, and Rosamund aren’t exactly here with us they are still existent.”

 

Mrs Bantry said softly, “It’s a wonderful triumph of faith.”

 

“I know. We’ve gone on, year after year. But suddenly, this summer, something went wrong in me. I felt – felt rebellious. It’s an awful thing to say, but I didn’t want to think of Frank any more! All that was over, my love and companionship with him, and my grief when he died. It was something that had been and wasn’t any longer.

 

“It’s awfully hard to describe. It’s like wanting to wipe the slate clean and start again. I wanted to be me, Addie, still reasonably young and strong and able to play games and swim and dance – just a person. Even Hugo, you know Hugo McLean? he’s a dear and wants to marry me, but of course I’ve never really thought of it, but this summer I did begin to think of it, not seriously, only vaguely.” She stopped and shook her head. “And so I suppose it’s true. I neglected Jeff. I don’t mean really neglected him, but my mind and thoughts weren’t with him. When Ruby, as I saw, amused him, I was rather glad. It left me freer to go and do my own things. I never dreamed, of course, I never dreamed, that he would be so so infatuated with her!”

 

Mrs Bantry asked, “And when did you find out?”

 

“I was dumbfounded, absolutely dumbfounded! And, I’m afraid, angry too.”

 

“I’d have been angry,” said Mrs Bantry.

 

“There was Peter, you see. Peter’s whole future depends on Jeff. Jeff practically looked on him as a grandson, or so I thought, but of course he wasn’t a

 

113 grandson. He was no relation at all. And to think that he was going to be disinherited!” Her firm, well-shaped hands shook a little where they lay in her lap. “For that’s what it felt like. And for a vulgar gold-digging little simpleton! Oh, I could have killed her!”

 

She stopped, stricken. Her beautiful hazel eyes met Mrs Bantry’s in a pleading horror. She said, “What an awful thing to say!”

 

Hugo McLean, coming quietly up behind them, asked, “What’s an awful thing to say?”

 

“Sit down, Hugo. You know Mrs Bantry, don’t you?”

 

McLean had already greeted the older lady. He said, now, in a slow, persevering way, “What was an awful thing to say?”

 

Addie Jefferson said, “That I’d like to have killed Ruby Keene.”

 

Hugo McLean reflected a minute or two. Then he said, “No, I wouldn’t say that if I were you. Might be misunderstood.” His eyes, steady, reflective gray eyes, looked at her meaningly. He said, “You’ve got to watch your step, Addie.” There was a warning in his voice.

 

III

 

When Miss Marple came out of the hotel and joined Mrs Bantry a few minutes later, Hugo McLean and Adelaide Jefferson were walking down the path to the sea together. Seating herself Miss Marple remarked, “He seems very devoted.”

 

“He’s been devoted for years! One of those men.”

 

“I know. Like Major Bury. He hung round an Anglo-Indian widow for quite ten years. A joke among her friends! In the end she gave in, but, unfortunately, ten days before they were to have been married she ran away with the chauffeur. Such a nice woman, too, and usually so well balanced.”

 

“People do do very odd things,” agreed Mrs Bantry. “I wish you’d been here just now, Jane. Addie Jefferson was telling me all about herself, how her husband went through all his money, but they never let Mr Jefferson know. And then, this summer, things felt different to her.”

 

Miss Marple nodded. “Yes. She rebelled, I suppose, against being made to live in the past. After all, there’s a time for everything. You can’t sit in the house with

 

114 the blinds down forever. I suppose Mrs Jefferson just pulled them up and took off her widow’s weeds, and her father-in-law, of course, didn’t like it. Felt left out in the cold, though I don’t suppose for a minute he realized who put her up to it. Still, he certainly wouldn’t like it. And so, of course, like old Mr Badger when his wife took up spiritualism, he was just ripe for what happened. Any fairly nice-looking young girl who listened prettily would have done.”

 

“Do you think,” said Mrs Bantry, “that that cousin, Josie, got her down deliberately that it was a family plot?”

 

Miss Marple shook her head. “No, I don’t think so at all. I don’t think Josie has the kind of mind that could foresee people’s reactions. She’s rather dense in that way. She’s got one of those shrewd, limited, practical minds that never do foresee the future and are usually astonished by it.”

 

“It seems to have taken everyone by surprise,” said Mrs Bantry. “Addie and Mark Gaskell, too, apparently.”

 

Miss Marple smiled. “I dare say he had his own fish to fry. A bold fellow with a roving eye! Not the man to go on being a sorrowing widower for years, no matter how fond he may have been of his wife. I should think they were both restless under old Mr Jefferson’s yoke of perpetual remembrance. Only,” added Miss Marple cynically, “it’s easier for gentlemen, of course.”

 

IV

 

At that very moment Mark was confirming this judgment on himself in a talk with Sir Henry Clithering. With characteristic candour Mark had gone straight to the heart of things.

 

“It’s just dawned on me,” he said, “that I’m Favourite Suspect Number One to the police! They’ve been delving into my financial troubles. I’m broke, you know; or very nearly. If dear old Jeff dies according to schedule in a month or two, and Addie and I divide the dibs also according to schedule, all will be well. Matter of fact, I owe rather a lot. If the crash comes, it will be a big one! If I can stave it off, it will be the other way round; I shall come out on top and be very rich.”

 

Sir Henry Clithering said, “You’re a gambler, Mark.”

 

“Always have been. Risk everything, that’s my motto! Yes, it’s a lucky thing for me that somebody strangled that poor kid. I didn’t do it. I’m not a strangler. I don’t really think I could ever murder anybody. I’m too easy-going. But I don’t suppose I can ask the police to believe that! I must look to them like the answer

 

115 to the criminal investigator’s prayer! Motive, on the spot, not burdened with high moral scruples! I can’t imagine why I’m not in the jug already. That superintendent’s got a very nasty eye.”

 

“You’ve got that useful thing, an alibi.”

 

“An alibi is the fishiest thing on God’s earth! No innocent person ever has an alibi! Besides, it all depends on the time of death, or something like that, and you may be sure if three doctors say the girl was killed at midnight, at least six will be found who will swear positively that she was killed at five in the morning and where’s my alibi then?”

 

“Well, you are able to joke about it.”

 

“Damned bad taste, isn’t it?” said Mark cheerfully. “Actually, I’m rather scared. One is, with murder! And don’t think I’m not sorry for old Jeff. I am. But it’s better this way, bad as the shock was, than if he’d found her out.”

 

“What do you mean, found her out?” Mark winked. “Where did she go off to last night? I’ll lay you any odds you like she went to meet a man. Jeff wouldn’t have liked that. He wouldn’t have liked it at all. If he’d found she was deceiving him, that she wasn’t the prattling little innocent she seemed, well, my father-in-law is an odd man. He’s a man of great self-control, but that self-control can snap. And then, look out!”

 

Sir Henry glanced at him curiously. “Are you fond of him or not?”

 

“I’m very fond of him, and at the same time I resent him – I’ll try and explain. Conway Jefferson is a man who likes to control his surroundings. He’s a benevolent despot, kind, generous and affectionate, but his is the tune and the others dance to his piping.” Mark Gaskell paused. “I loved my wife. I shall never feel the same for anyone else. Rosamund was sunshine and laughter and flowers, and when she was killed I felt just like a man in the ring who’s had a knockout blow. But the referee’s been counting a good long time now. I’m a man, after all. I like women. I don’t want to marry again, not in the least. Well, that’s all right. I’ve had to be discreet, but I’ve had my good times all right. Poor Addie hasn’t. Addie’s a really nice woman. She’s the kind of woman men want to marry. Give her half a chance and she would marry again, and be very happy and make the chap happy too.

 

“But old Jeff saw her always as Frank’s wife and hypnotized her into seeing herself like that. He doesn’t know it, but we’ve been in prison. I broke out, on the quiet, a long time ago. Addie broke out this summer, and it gave him a shock.

 

116 It broke up his world. Result, Ruby Keene.” Irrepressibly he sang: “But she is in her grave, and oh! The difference to me!

 

“Come and have a drink, Clithering.”

 

It was hardly surprising, Sir Henry reflected, that Mark Gaskell should be an object of suspicion to the police.

 

 

 

 

 

117 118 Chapter 15

 

Doctor Metcalf was one of the best-known physicians in Danemouth. He had no aggressive bedside manner, but his presence in the sickroom had an invariably cheering effect. He was middle-aged, with a quiet pleasant voice. He listened carefully to Superintendent Harper and replied to his questions with gentle precision. Harper said, “Then I can take it, Doctor Metcalf, that what I was told by Mrs Jefferson was substantially correct?”

 

“Yes, Mr Jefferson’s health is in a precarious state. For several years now the man has been driving himself ruthlessly. In his determination to live like other men he has lived at a far greater pace than the normal man of his age. He has refused to rest, to take things easy, to go slow, or any of the other phrases with which I and his other medical advisers have tendered to him. The result is that the man is an over-worked engine. Heart, lungs, blood-pressure – they’re all overstrained.”

 

“You say Mr Jefferson has resolutely refused to listen?”

 

“Yes. I don’t know that I blame him. It’s not what I say to my patients, superintendent, but a man may as well wear out as rust out. A lot of my colleagues do that, and take it from me, it’s not a bad way. In a place like Danemouth one sees most of the other thing. Invalids clinging to life, terrified of over-exerting themselves, terrified of a breath of drafty air, of a stray germ, of an injudicious meal.”

 

“I expect that’s true enough,” said Superintendent Harper. “What it amounts to, then, is this: Conway Jefferson is strong enough, physically speaking or I suppose I mean muscularly speaking. Just what can he do in the active line, by the way?”

 

“He has immense strength in his arms and shoulders. He was a very powerful man before his accident. He is extremely dexterous in his handling of his wheeled chair, and with the aid of crutches he can move himself about a room from his bed to the chair, for instance.”

 

“Isn’t it possible for a man injured as Mr Jefferson was to have artificial legs?”

 

“Not in his case. There was a spine injury.”

 

“I see. Let me sum up again. Jefferson is strong and fit in the muscular sense. He feels well and all that?”

 

 

 

119 Metcalf nodded.

 

“But his heart is in a bad condition; any over-strain or exertion, or a shock or a sudden fright, and he might pop off. Is that it?”

 

“More or less. Over-exertion is killing him slowly because he won’t give in when he feels tired. That aggravates the cardiac condition. It is unlikely that exertion would kill him suddenly. But a sudden shock or fright might easily do so. That is why I expressly warned his family.”

 

Superintendent Harper said slowly, “But in actual fact a shock didn’t kill him. I mean, doctor, that there couldn’t have been a much worse shock than this business, and he’s still alive.”

 

Doctor Metcalf shrugged his shoulders. “I know. But if you’d had my experience, superintendent, you’d know that case history shows the impossibility of prognosticating accurately. People who ought to die of shock and exposure don’t die of shock and exposure, et cetera, et cetera. The human frame is tougher than one can imagine possible. Moreover, in my experience, a physical shock is more often fatal than a mental shock. In plain language, a door banging suddenly would be more likely to kill Mr Jefferson than the discovery that a girl he was fond of had died in a particularly horrible manner.”

 

“Why is that, I wonder?”

 

“The breaking of a piece of bad news nearly always sets up a defence reaction. It numbs the recipient. They are unable, at first, to take it in. Full realization takes a little time. But the banged door, someone jumping out of a cupboard, the sudden onslaught of a motor as you cross a road, all those things are immediate in their action. The heart gives a terrified leap to put it in layman’s language.”

 

Superintendent Harper said slowly, “But as far as anyone would know, Mr Jefferson’s death might easily have been caused by the shock of the girl’s death?”

 

“Oh, easily.” The doctor looked curiously at the other. “You don’t think -”

 

“I don’t know what I think,” said Superintendent Harper vexedly.

 

II

 

“But you’ll admit, sir, that the two things would fit in very prettily together,” he said a little later to Sir Henry Clithering. “Kill two birds with one stone. First the

 

120 girl, and the fact of her death takes off Mr Jefferson, too, before he’s had any opportunity of altering his will.”

 

“Do you think he will alter it?”

 

“You’d be more likely to know that, sir, than I would. What do you say?”

 

“I don’t know. Before Ruby Keene came on the scene I happen to know that he had left his money between Mark Gaskell and Mrs Jefferson. I don’t see why he should now change his mind about that. But of course he might do so.”

 

Superintendent Harper agreed.

 

“You never know what bee a man is going to get in his bonnet; especially when he doesn’t feel there’s any moral obligation in the disposal of his fortune. No blood relations in this case.”

 

Sir Henry said, “He is fond of the boy, of young Peter.”

 

“D’you think he regards him as a grandson? You’d know better than I would, sir.”

 

Sir Henry said slowly, “No, I don’t think so.”

 

“There’s another thing I’d like to ask you, sir. It’s a thing I can’t judge for myself. But they’re friends of yours, and so you’d know, I’d like very much to know just how fond Mr Jefferson is of Mr Gaskell and young Mrs Jefferson. Nobody doubts that he was much attached to them both, but he was attached to them, as I see it, because they were, respectively, the husband and the wife of his daughter and his son. But supposing, for instance, one of them had married again?”

 

Sir Henry reflected. He said, “It’s an interesting point you raise there. I don’t know. I’m inclined to suspect – this is a mere opinion – that it would have altered his attitude a good deal. He would have wished them well, borne no rancour, but I think yes, I rather think that he would have taken very little more interest in them.”

 

Superintendent Harper nodded. “In both cases, sir?”

 

“I think so, yes. In Mr Gaskell’s, almost certainly, and I rather think in Mrs Jefferson’s also, but that’s not nearly so certain. I think he was fond of her for her own sake.”

 

 

 

121 “Sex would have something to do with that,” said Superintendent Harper sapiently. “Easier for him to look on her as a daughter than to look on Mr Gaskell as a son. It works both ways. Women accept a son-in-law as one of the family easily enough, but there aren’t many times when a woman looks on her son’s wife as a daughter.” Superintendent Harper went on, “Mind if we walk along this path, sir, to the tennis court? I see Miss Marple’s sitting there. I want to ask her to do something for me. As a matter of fact, I want to rope you both in.”

 

“In what way, superintendent?”

 

“To get at stuff that I can’t get at myself. I want you to tackle Edwards for me, sir.”

 

“Edwards? What do you want from him?”

 

“Everything you can think of. Everything he knows and what he thinks. About the relations between the various members of the family, his angle on the Ruby Keene business. Inside stuff. He knows better than anyone the state of affairs. And he wouldn’t tell me. But he’ll tell you. Because you’re a gentleman and a friend of Mr Jefferson’s.”

 

Sir Henry said grimly, “I’ve been sent for, urgently, to get at the truth. I mean to do my utmost.” He added, “Where do you want Miss Marple to help you?”

 

“With some girls. Some of those Girls Guides. We’ve found half a dozen or so, the ones who were most friendly with Pamela Reeves. It’s possible that they may know something. You see, I’ve been thinking. It seems to me that if that girl was going to Woolworth’s she would have tried to persuade one of the other girls to go with her. So I think it’s possible that Woolworth’s was only an excuse. If so, I’d like to know where the girl was really going. She may have let slip something. If so, I feel Miss Marple’s the person to get it out of these girls. I’d say she knows a thing or two about girls.”

 

“It sounds to me the kind of village domestic problem that is right up Miss Marple’s street. She’s very sharp, you know.”

 

The superintendent smiled. He said, “I’ll say you’re right. Nothing much gets past her.”

 

Miss Marple looked up at their approach and welcomed them eagerly. She listened to the superintendent’s request and at once acquiesced. “I should like to help you very much, superintendent, and I think that perhaps I could be of some use. What with the Sunday school, you know, and Brownies and our 122 Guides, and the orphanage quite near. I’m on the committee, you know, and often run in to have a little talk with the matron and their servants. I usually have very young maids. Oh, yes, I’ve quite a lot of experience in when a girl is speaking the truth and when she’s holding something back.”

 

“In fact, you’re an expert,” said Sir Henry.

 

Miss Marple flashed him a reproachful glance and said, “Oh, please don’t laugh at me, Sir Henry.”

 

“I shouldn’t dream of laughing at you. You’ve had the laugh on me too many times.”

 

“One does see so much evil in a village,” murmured Miss Marple in an explanatory voice.

 

“By the way,” said Sir Henry, “I’ve cleared up one point you asked me about. The superintendent tells me that there were nail clippings in Ruby’s wastepaper basket.”

 

Miss Marple said thoughtfully, “There were? Then that’s that.”

 

“Why did you want to know Miss Marple?” asked the superintendent.

 

Miss Marple said, “It was one of the things that well, that seemed wrong when I looked at the body. The hands were wrong somehow, and I couldn’t at first think why. Then I realized that girls who are very much made up, and all that, usually have very long fingernails. Of course, I know that girls everywhere do bite their nails; it’s one of those habits that are very hard to break oneself of. But vanity often does a lot to help. Still, I presumed that this girl hadn’t cured herself. And then the little boy Peter, you know, he said something which showed that her nails had been long, only she caught one and broke it. So then, of course, she might have trimmed off the rest to make an even appearance, and I asked about clippings and Sir Henry said he’d find out.”

 

Sir Henry remarked, “You said just now ‘one of the things that seemed wrong when I looked at the body.’ Was there something else?”

 

Miss Marple nodded vigorously. “Oh, yes!” she said. “There was the dress. The dress was all wrong.”

 

Both men looked at her curiously.

 

 

 

123 “Now, why?” said Sir Henry.

 

“Well, you see, it was an old dress. Josie said so, definitely, and I could see for myself that it was shabby and rather worn. Now, that’s all wrong.”

 

“I don’t see why.”

 

Miss Marple got a little pink. “Well, the idea is, isn’t it, that Ruby Keene changed her dress and went off to meet someone on whom she presumably had what my young nephews call a ‘crush’?”

 

The superintendent’s eyes twinkled a little. “That’s the theory. She’d got a date with someone, a boy friend, as the saying goes.”

 

“Then why,” demanded Miss Marple, “was she wearing an old dress?”

 

The superintendent scratched his head thoughtfully. He said, “I see your point. You think she’d wear a new one?”

 

“I think she’d wear her best dress. Girls do.”

 

Sir Henry interposed, “Yes, but look here, Miss Marple. Suppose she was going outside to this rendezvous. Going in an open car, perhaps, or walking in some rough going. Then she’d not want to risk messing a new frock and she’d put on an old one.”

 

“That would be the sensible thing to do,” agreed the superintendent.

 

Miss Marple turned on him. She spoke with animation. “The sensible thing to do would be to change into trousers and a pullover, or into tweeds. That, of course I don’t want to be snobbish, but I’m afraid it’s unavoidable, that’s what a girl of – of our class would do.”

 

“A well-bred girl,” continued Miss Marple, warming to her subject, “is always very particular to wear the right clothes for the right occasion. I mean, however hot the day was, a well-bred girl would never turn up at a point-to-point in a silk flowered frock.”

 

“And the correct wear to meet a lover?” demanded Sir Henry.

 

“If she were meeting him inside the hotel or somewhere where evening dress was worn, she’d wear her best evening frock, of course, but outside she’d feel

 

124 she’d look ridiculous in evening dress and she’d wear her most attractive sports wear.”

 

“Granted, Fashion Queen, but the girl Ruby -”

 

Miss Marple said, “Ruby, of course, wasn’t, well, to put it bluntly Ruby wasn’t a lady. She belonged to the class that wear their best clothes, however unsuitable to the occasion. Last year, you know, we had a picnic outing at Scrantor Rocks. You’d be surprised at the unsuitable clothes the girls wore. Foulard dresses and patent-leather shoes and quite elaborate hats, some of them. For climbing about over rocks and in gorse and heather. And the young men in their best suits. Of course, hiking’s different again. That’s practically a uniform, and girls don’t seem to realize that shorts are very unbecoming unless they are very slender.”

 

The superintendent said slowly, “And you think that Ruby Keene -”

 

“I think that she’d have kept on the frock she was wearing, her best pink one. She’d only have changed it if she’d had something newer still.”

 

Superintendent Harper said, “And what’s your explanation, Miss Marple?”

 

Miss Marple said, “I haven’t got one yet. But I can’t help feeling that it’s important.”

 

 

 

 

 

125 126 Chapter 16

 

Inside the wire cage, the tennis lesson that Raymond Starr was giving had come to an end. A stout middle-aged woman uttered a few appreciative squeaks, picked up a sky-blue cardigan and went off toward the hotel. Raymond called out a few gay words after her. Then he turned toward the bench where the three onlookers were sitting. The balls dangled in a net in his hand, his racket was under one arm. The gay, laughing expression on his face was wiped off as though by a sponge from a slate. He looked tired and worried. Coming toward them he said, “That’s over.” Then the smile broke out again, that charming, boyish, expressive smile that went so harmoniously with his sun-tanned face and dark, lithe grace. Sir Henry found himself wondering how old the man was. Twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five? It was impossible to say. Raymond said, shaking his head a little, “She’ll never be able to play, you know.”

 

“All this must,” said Miss Marple, “be very boring for you.”

 

Raymond said simply, “It is sometimes. Especially at the end of the summer. For a time the thought of the pay buoys one up, but even that fails to stimulate imagination in the end.”

 

Superintendent Harper got up. He said abruptly, “I’ll call for you in half an hour’s time, Miss Marple, if that will be all right?”

 

“Perfectly, thank you. I shall be ready.”

 

Harper went off. Raymond stood looking after him. Then he said, “Mind if I sit for a bit?”

 

“Do,” said Sir Henry. “Have a cigarette?” He offered his case, wondering as he did so why he had a slight feeling of prejudice against Raymond Starr. Was it simply because he was a professional tennis coach and dancer? If so, it wasn’t the tennis, it was the dancing. The English, Sir Henry decided, had a distrust for any man who danced too well. This fellow moved with too much grace. Ramon – Raymond – which was his name? Abruptly, he asked the question.

 

The other seemed amused. “Ramon was my original professional name. Ramon and Josie. Spanish effect, you know. Then there was rather a prejudice against foreigners, so I became Raymond, very British.”

 

Miss Marple said, “And is your real name something quite different?”

 

 

 

127 He smiled at her. “Actually my real name is Ramon. I had an Argentine grandmother, you see.” And that accounts for that swing from the hips, thought Sir Henry parenthetically. “But my first name is Thomas. Painfully prosaic.” He turned to Sir Henry. “You come from Devonshire, don’t you, sir? From Stane? My people lived down that way. At Alsmonston.”

 

Sir Henry’s face lit up. “Are you one of the Alsmonston Starrs? I didn’t realize that.”

 

“No, I don’t suppose you would.” There was a slight bitterness in his voice.

 

Sir Henry said, “Bad luck… er all that.”

 

“The place being sold up after it had been in the family for three hundred years? Yes, it was rather! Still, our kind have to go, I suppose! We’ve outlived our usefulness. My elder brother went to New York. He’s in publishing – doing well. The rest of us are scattered up and down the earth. I’ll say it’s hard to get a job nowadays when you’ve nothing to say for yourself except that you’ve had a public-school education. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you get taken on as a reception clerk at a hotel. The tie and the manner are an asset there. The only job I could get was showman in a plumbing establishment. Selling superb peach- and lemon-coloured porcelain baths. Enormous showrooms, but as I never knew the price of the damned things or how soon we could deliver them, I got fired.

 

“The only things I could do were dance and play tennis. I got taken on at a hotel on the Riviera. Good pickings there. I suppose I was doing well. Then I overheard an old colonel, real old colonel, incredibly ancient, British to the backbone and always talking about Poona. He went up to the manager and said at the top of his voice: “Where’s the gigolo? I want to get hold of the gigolo. My wife and daughter want to dance, yer know. Where is the feller? What does he sting yer for? It’s the gigolo I want.” Raymond said, “Silly to mind. But I did. I chucked it. Came here. Less pay, but pleasanter. Mostly teaching tennis to rotund women who will never, never be able to play. That and dancing with the wallflower daughters of rich clients! Oh, well, it’s life, I suppose. Excuse today’s hard-luck story.” He laughed. His teeth flashed out white, his eyes crinkled up at the corners. He looked suddenly healthy and happy and very much alive.

 

Sir Henry said, “I’m glad to have a chat with you. I’ve been wanting to talk with you.”

 

“About Ruby Keene? I can’t help you, you know. I don’t know who killed her. I knew very little about her. She didn’t confide in me.”

 

128 Miss Marple said, “Did you like her?”

 

“Not particularly. I didn’t dislike her.” His voice was careless, uninterested.

 

Sir Henry said, “So you’ve no suggestions?”

 

“I’m afraid not. I’d have told Harper if I had. It just seems to me one of those things! Petty, sordid little crime, no clues, no motive.”

 

“Two people had a motive,” said Miss Marple. Sir Henry looked at her sharply.

 

“Really?” Raymond looked surprised.

 

Miss Marple looked insistently at Sir Henry, and he said rather unwillingly, “Her death probably benefits Mrs Jefferson and Mr Gaskell to the amount of fifty thousand pounds.”

 

“What?” Raymond looked really startled, more than startled, upset. “Oh, but that’s absurd, absolutely absurd. Mrs Jefferson – neither of them could have had anything to do with it. It would be incredible to think of such a thing.”

 

Miss Marple coughed. She said gently, “I’m afraid, you know, you’re rather an idealist.”

 

“I?” He laughed. “Not me! I’m a hard-boiled cynic.”

 

“Money,” said Miss Marple, “is a very powerful motive.”

 

“Perhaps,” Raymond said. “But that either of those two would strangle a girl in cold blood -” He shook his head. Then he got up. “Here’s Mrs Jefferson now. Come for her lesson. She’s late.” His voice sounded amused. “Ten minutes late!”

 

Adelaide Jefferson and Hugo McLean were walking rapidly down the path toward them. With a smiling apology for her lateness, Addie Jefferson went onto the court. McLean sat down on the bench. After a polite inquiry whether Miss Marple minded a pipe, he lit it and puffed for some minutes in silence, watching critically the two white figures about the tennis court. He said at last, “Can’t see what Addie wants to have lessons for. Have a game, yes. No one enjoys it better than I do. But why lessons?”

 

“Wants to improve her game,” said Sir Henry.

 

 

 

129 “She’s not a bad player,” said Hugo. “Good enough, at all events. Dash it all, she isn’t aiming to play at Wimbledon.” He was silent for a minute or two. Then he said, “Who is this Raymond fellow? Where do they come from, these pros? Fellow looks like a Dago to me.”

 

“He’s one of the Devonshire Starrs,” said Sir Henry.

 

“What? Not really?”

 

Sir Henry nodded. It was clear that this news was unpleasing to Hugo McLean. He scowled more than ever. He said, “Don’t know why Addie sent for me. She seems not to have turned a hair over this business. Never looked better. Why send for me?”

 

Sir Henry asked with some curiosity, “When did she send for you?”

 

“Oh… er… when all this happened.”

 

“How did you hear? Telephone or telegram?”

 

“Telegram.”

 

“As a matter of curiosity, when was it sent off?”

 

“Well, I don’t know exactly.”

 

“What time did you receive it?”

 

“I didn’t exactly receive it. It was telephoned on to me, as a matter of fact.”

 

“Why, where were you?”

 

“Fact is, I’d left London the afternoon before. I was staying at Danebury Head.”

 

“What? Quite near here?”

 

“Yes, rather funny, wasn’t it? Got the message when I got in from a round of golf and came over here at once.”

 

Miss Marple gazed at him thoughtfully. He looked hot and uncomfortable. She said, “I’ve heard it’s very pleasant at Danebury Head and not very expensive.”

 

130 “No, it’s not expensive. I couldn’t afford it if it was. It’s a nice little place.”

 

“We must drive over there one day,” said Miss Marple.

 

“Eh? What? Oh or yes, I should.” He got up. “Better take some exercise, get an appetite.” He walked away stiffly.

 

“Women,” said Sir Henry, “treat their devoted admirers very badly.” Miss Marple smiled, but made no answer.

 

“Does he strike you as rather a dull dog?” asked Sir Henry. “I’d be interested to know.”

 

“A little limited in his ideas, perhaps,” said Miss Marple. “But with possibilities, I think – oh, definitely possibilities.”

 

Sir Henry, in his turn, got up. “It’s time for me to go and do my stuff. I see Mrs Bantry is on her way to keep you company.”

 

II

 

Mrs Bantry arrived breathless and sat down with a gasp. She said, “I’ve been talking to chambermaids. But it isn’t any good. I haven’t found out a thing more! Do you think that girl can really have been carrying on with someone without everybody in the hotel knowing all about it?”

 

“That’s a very interesting point, dear. I should say definitely not. Somebody knows, depend upon it, if it’s true. But she must have been very clever about it.”

 

Mrs Bantry’s attention had strayed to the tennis court. She said approvingly, “Addie’s tennis is coming on a lot. Attractive young man, that tennis pro. Addie’s quite nice-looking. She’s still an attractive woman. I shouldn’t be at all surprised if she married again.”

 

“She’ll be quite a rich woman, too, when Mr Jefferson dies,” said Miss Marple.

 

“Oh, don’t always have such a nasty mind, Jane. Why haven’t you solved this mystery yet? We don’t seem to be getting on at all. I thought you’d know at once.” Mrs Bantry’s tone held reproach.

 

“No, no, dear, I didn’t know at once, not for some time.”

 

 

 

131 Mrs Bantry turned startled and incredulous eyes on her. “You mean you know now who killed Ruby Keene?”

 

“Oh, yes,” said Miss Marple. “I know that!”

 

“But, Jane, who is it? Tell me at once.”

 

Miss Marple shook her head very firmly and pursed up her lips. “I’m sorry Dolly, but that wouldn’t do at all.”

 

“Why wouldn’t it do?”

 

“Because you’re so indiscreet. You would go round telling everyone or if you didn’t tell, you’d hint.”

 

“No, indeed, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t tell a soul.”

 

“People who use that phrase are always the last to live up to it. It’s no good, dear. There’s a long way to go yet. A great many things that are quite obscure. You remember when I was so against letting Mrs Partridge collect for the Red Cross and I couldn’t say why. The reason was that her nose had twitched in just the same way that that maid of mine, Alice, twitched her nose when I sent her out to pay the accounts. Always paid them a shilling or so short and said it could go on to next week, which, of course, was exactly what Mrs Partridge did, only on a much larger scale. Seventy-five pounds it was she embezzled.”

 

“Never mind Mrs Partridge,” said Mrs Bantry.

 

“But I had to explain to you. And if you care, I give you a hint. The trouble in this case is that everybody has been much too credulous and believing. You simply cannot afford to believe everything that people tell you. When there’s anything fishy about, I never believe anyone at all. You see, I know human nature so well.”

 

Mrs Bantry was silent for a minute or two. Then she said in a different tone of voice, “I told you, didn’t I, that I didn’t see why I shouldn’t enjoy myself over this case? A real murder in my own house! The sort of thing that will never happen again.”

 

“I hope not,” said Miss Marple.

 

“Well, so do I, really. Once is enough. But it’s my murder, Jane. I want to enjoy myself over it.”

 

132 Miss Marple shot a glance at her. Mrs Bantry said belligerently, “Don’t you believe that?”

 

Miss Marple said sweetly, “Of course, Dolly, if you tell me so.”

 

“Yes, but you never believe what people tell you, do you? You’ve just said so. Well, you’re quite right.” Mrs Bantry’s voice took on a sudden, bitter note. She said, “I’m not altogether a fool. You may think, Jane, that I don’t know what they’re saying all over St Mary Mead, all over the county! They’re saying, one and all, that there’s no smoke without fire; that if the girl was found in Arthur’s library, then Arthur must know something about it. They’re saying that the girl was Arthur’s mistress; that she was his illegitimate daughter; that she was blackmailing him; they’re saying anything that comes into their heads. And it will go on like that! Arthur won’t realize it at first; he won’t know what’s wrong. He’s such a dear old stupid that he’d never believe people would think things like that about him. He’ll be cold-shouldered – and looked at askance whatever that means! – and it will dawn on him little by little, and suddenly he’ll be horrified and cut to the soul, and he’ll fasten up like a clam and just endure, day after day. It’s because of all that’s going to happen to him that I’ve come here to ferret out every single thing about it that I can! This murder’s got to be solved! If it isn’t, then Arthur’s whole life will be wrecked, and I won’t have that happen. I won’t! I won’t! I won’t!” She paused for a minute and said, “I won’t have the dear old boy go through hell for something he didn’t do. That’s the only reason I came to Danemouth and left him alone at home – to find out the truth.”

 

“I know, dear,” said Miss Marple. “That’s why I’m here too.”

 

 

 

 

 

133 134 Chapter 17

 

In a quiet hotel room Edwards was listening deferentially to Sir Henry Clithering.

 

“There are certain questions I would like to ask you, Edwards, but I want you first to understand quite clearly my position here. I was at one time commissioner of the police at Scotland Yard. I am now retired into private life. Your master sent for me when this tragedy occurred. He begged me to use my skill and experience in order to find out the truth.” Sir Henry paused.

 

Edwards, his pale, intelligent eyes on the other’s face, inclined his head. He said, “Quite so. Sir Henry.”

 

Clithering went on slowly and deliberately, “In all police cases there is necessarily a lot of information that is held back. It is held back for various reasons – because it touches on a family skeleton, because it is considered to have no bearing on the case, because it would entail awkwardness and embarrassment to the parties concerned.”

 

Again Edwards said, “Quite so. Sir Henry.”

 

“I expect, Edwards, that by now you appreciate quite clearly the main points of this business. The dead girl was on the point of becoming Mr Jefferson’s adopted daughter. Two people had a motive in seeing that this should not happen. Those two people are Mr Gaskell and Mrs Jefferson.”

 

The valet’s eyes displayed a momentary gleam. He said, “May I ask if they are under suspicion, sir?”

 

“They are in no danger of arrest, if that is what you mean. But the police are bound to be suspicious of them and will continue to be so until the matter is cleared up.”

 

“An unpleasant position for them, sir.”

 

“Very unpleasant. Now to get at the truth, one must have all the facts of the case. A lot depends, must depend, on the reactions, the words and gestures, of Mr Jefferson and his family. How did they feel, what did they show, what things were said? I am asking you, Edwards, for inside information, the kind of inside information that only you are likely to have. You know your master’s moods. From observation of them you probably know what caused them. I am asking this, not as a policeman but as a friend of Mr Jefferson’s. That is to say, if

 

135 anything you tell me is not, in my opinion, relevant to the case, I shall not pass it on to the police.” He paused.

 

Edwards said quietly, “I understand you, sir. You want me to speak quite frankly; to say things that, in the ordinary course of events, I should not say, and that, excuse me sir, you wouldn’t dream of listening to.”

 

Sir Henry said, “You’re a very intelligent fellow, Edwards. That’s exactly what I do mean.”

 

Edwards was silent for a minute or two, then he began to speak. “Of course I know Mr Jefferson fairly well by now. I’ve been with him quite a number of years. And I see him in his ‘off’ moments, not only in his ‘on’ ones. Sometimes, sir, I’ve questioned in my own mind whether it’s good for anyone to fight fate in the way Mr Jefferson has fought. It’s taken a terrible toll of him, sir. If, sometimes, he could have given way, been an unhappy, lonely, broken old man – well, it might have been better for him in the end. But he’s too proud for that. He’ll go down fighting, that’s his motto. But that sort of thing leads, Sir Henry, to a lot of nervous reaction. He looks a good-tempered gentleman. I’ve seen him in violent rages when he could hardly speak for passion. And the one thing that roused him, sir, was deceit.”

 

“Are you saying that for any particular reason, Edwards?”

 

“Yes, sir. I am. You asked me, sir, to speak quite frankly.”

 

“That is the idea.”

 

“Well, then, Sir Henry, in my opinion the young woman that Mr Jefferson was so taken up with wasn’t worth it. She was, to put it bluntly, a common little piece. And she didn’t care tuppence for Mr Jefferson. All that play of affection and gratitude was so much poppycock. I don’t say there was any harm in her, but she wasn’t, by a long way, what Mr Jefferson thought her. It was funny, that, sir, for Mr Jefferson was a shrewd gentleman; he wasn’t often deceived over people. But there, a gentleman isn’t himself in his judgment when it comes to a young woman being in question. Young Mrs Jefferson, you see, whom he’d always depended upon a lot for sympathy, had changed a good deal this summer. He noticed it and he felt it badly. He was fond of her, you see. Mr Mark he never liked much.”

 

Sir Henry interjected, “And yet he had him with him constantly?”

 

 

 

136 “Yes, but that was for Miss Rosamund’s sake. Mrs Gaskell, that was. She was the apple of his eye. He adored her. Mr Mark was Miss Rosamund’s husband. He always thought of him like that.”

 

“Supposing Mr Mark had married someone else?”

 

“Mr Jefferson, sir, would have been furious.”

 

Sir Henry raised his eyebrows. “As much as that?”

 

“He wouldn’t have shown it, but that’s what it would have been.”

 

“And if Mrs Jefferson had married again?”

 

“Mr Jefferson wouldn’t have liked that either, sir.”

 

“Please go on, Edwards.”

 

“I was saying, sir, that Mr Jefferson fell for this young woman. I’ve often seen it happen with the gentlemen I’ve been with. Comes over them like a kind of disease. They want to protect the girl, and shield her, and shower benefits upon her, and nine times out of ten the girl is very well able to look after herself and has a good eye to the main chance.”

 

“So you think Ruby Keene was a schemer?”

 

“Well, Sir Henry, she was quite inexperienced, being so young, but she had the makings of a very fine schemer indeed when she’d once got well into her swing, so to speak. In another five years she’d have been an expert at the game.”

 

Sir Henry said, “I’m glad to have your opinion of her. It’s valuable. Now, do you recall any incidents in which this matter was discussed between Mr Jefferson and the members of his family?”

 

“There was very little discussion, sir. Mr Jefferson announced what he had in mind and stifled any protests. That is, he shut up Mr Mark, who was a bit outspoken. Mrs Jefferson didn’t say much – she’s a quiet lady – only urged him not to do anything in a great hurry.”

 

Sir Henry nodded. “Anything else? What was the girl’s attitude?”

 

With marked distaste the valet said, “I should describe it, Sir Henry, as jubilant.”

 

137 “Ah, jubilant, you say? You had no reason to believe, Edwards, that -” he sought about for a phrase suitable to Edwards – “that… er… her affections were engaged elsewhere?”

 

“Mr Jefferson was not proposing marriage, sir. He was going to adopt her.”

 

“Cut out the ‘elsewhere’ and let the question stand.”

 

The valet said slowly, “There was one incident, sir. I happened to be a witness of it.”

 

“That is gratifying. Tell me.”

 

“There is probably nothing in it, sir. It was just that one day, the young woman chancing to open her handbag, a small snapshot fell out. Mr Jefferson pounced on it and said, ‘Hullo, kitten, who’s this, eh?’

 

“It was a snapshot, sir, of a young man, a dark young man with rather untidy hair, and his tie very badly arranged. Miss Keene pretended that she didn’t know anything about it. She said, ‘I’ve no idea, Jeffie. No idea at all. I don’t know how it could have got into my bag. I didn’t put it there.'”

 

“Now, Mr Jefferson, sir, wasn’t quite a fool. That story wasn’t good enough. He looked angry, his brows came down heavy, and his voice was gruff when he said, ‘Now then, kitten, now then. You know who it is right enough.’ She changed her tactics quick, sir. Looked frightened. She said, ‘I do recognize him now. He comes here sometimes and I’ve danced with him. I don’t know his name. The silly idiot must have stuffed his photo into my bag one day. These boys are too silly for anything!’ She tossed her head and giggled and passed it off. But it wasn’t a likely story, was it? And I don’t think Mr Jefferson quite believed it. He looked at her once or twice after that in a sharp way, and sometimes, if she’d been out, he asked her where she’d been.”

 

Sir Henry said, “Have you ever seen the original of the photo about the hotel?”

 

“Not to my knowledge, sir. Of course I am not much downstairs in the public apartments.”

 

Sir Henry nodded. He asked a few more questions, but Edwards could tell him nothing more.

 

 

 

138 II

 

In the police station at Danemouth Superintendent Harper was interviewing Jessie Davis, Florence Small, Beatrice Henniker, Mary Price and Lilian Ridgeway. They were girls much of an age, differing slightly in mentality. They ranged from “county” to farmers’ and shopkeepers’ daughters. One and all, they told the same story. Pamela Reeves had been just the same as usual; she had said nothing to any of them except that she was going to Woolworth’s and would go home by a later bus.

 

In the corner of Superintendent Harper’s office sat an elderly lady. The girls hardly noticed her. If they did they may have wondered who she was. She was certainly no police matron. Possibly they assumed that she, like them, was a witness to be questioned. The last girl was shown out. Superintendent Harper wiped his forehead and turned around to look at Miss Marple. His glance was inquiring, but not hopeful. Miss Marple, however, spoke crisply, “I’d like to speak to Florence Small.”

 

The superintendent’s eyebrows rose, but he nodded and touched a bell. A constable appeared. Harper said, “Florence Small.”

 

The girl reappeared, ushered in by the constable. She was the daughter of a well-to-do farmer, a tall girl with fair hair, a rather foolish mouth and frightened brown eyes. She was twisting her hands and looked nervous. Superintendent Harper looked at Miss Marple, who nodded. The superintendent got up. He said, “This lady will ask you some questions.” He went out, closing the door behind him.

 

Florence looked uneasily at Miss Marple. Her eyes looked rather like those of one of her father’s calves.

 

Miss Marple said, “Sit down, Florence.”

 

Florence Small sat down obediently. Unrecognized by herself, she felt suddenly more at home, less uneasy. The unfamiliar and terrorizing atmosphere of a police station was replaced by something more familiar, the accustomed tone of command of somebody whose business it was to give orders.

 

Miss Marple said, “You understand, Florence, that it’s of the utmost importance that everything about poor Pamela’s doings on the day of her death should be known?”

 

Florence murmured that she quite understood.

 

139 “And I’m sure you want to do your best to help?”

 

Florence’s eyes were wary as she said of course she did.

 

“To keep back any piece of information is a very serious offence,” said Miss Marple.

 

The girl’s fingers twisted nervously in her lap. She swallowed once or twice.

 

“I can make allowances,” went on Miss Marple, “for the fact that you are naturally alarmed at being brought into contact with the police. You are afraid, too, that you may be blamed for not having spoken sooner. Possibly you are afraid that you may also be blamed for not stopping Pamela at the time. But you’ve got to be a brave girl and make a clean breast of things. If you refuse to tell what you know now, it will be a very serious matter, indeed very serious, practically perjury, and for that, as you know, you can be sent to prison.”

 

“I – I don’t -”

 

Miss Marple said sharply, “Now don’t prevaricate, Florence! Tell me all about it at once! Pamela wasn’t going to Woolworth’s, was she?”

 

Florence licked her lips with a dry tongue and gazed imploringly at Miss Marple, like a beast about to be slaughtered.

 

“Something to do with the films, wasn’t it?” asked Miss Marple.

 

A look of intense relief mingled with awe passed over Florence’s face. Her inhibitions left her. She gasped, “Oh, yes!”

 

“I thought so,” said Miss Marple. “Now I want you to tell me all the details, please.”

 

Words poured from Florence in a gush. “Oh, I’ve been ever so worried. I promised Pam, you see, I’d never say a word to a soul. And then, when she was found, all burned up in that car – oh, it was horrible and I thought I should die, I felt it was all my fault. I ought to have stopped her. Only I never thought, not for a minute, that it wasn’t all right. And then I was asked if she’d been quite as usual that day and I said ‘Yes’ before I’d had time to think. And not having said anything then, I didn’t see how I could say anything later. And after all, I didn’t know anything, not really, only what Pam told me.”

 

“What did Pam tell you?”

 

140 “It was as we were walking up the lane to the bus on the way to the rally. She asked me if I could keep a secret, and I said yes, and she made me swear not to tell. She was going into Danemouth for a film test after the rally! She’d met a film producer just back from Hollywood, he was. He wanted a certain type, and he told Pam she was just what he was looking for. He warned her, though, not to build on it. You couldn’t tell, he said, not until you saw how a person photographed. It might be no good at all. It was a kind of Bergner part, he said. You had to have someone quite young for it. A schoolgirl, it was, who changes places with a revue artist and has a wonderful career. Pam’s acted in plays at school and she’s awfully good. He said he could see she could act, but she’d have to have some intensive training. It wouldn’t be all beer and skittles, he told her; it would be hard work – did she think she could stick it?”

 

Florence Small stopped for breath. Miss Marple felt rather sick as she listened to the glib rehash of countless novels and screen stories. Pamela Reeves, like most other girls, would have been warned against talking to strangers, but the glamour of the films would have obliterated all that.

 

“He was absolutely businesslike about it all,” continued Florence. “Said if the test was successful she’d have a contract, and he said that as she was young and inexperienced she ought to let a lawyer look at it before she signed it. But she wasn’t to pass on that, he’d said that. He asked her if she’d have trouble with her parents, and Pam said she probably would, and he said, ‘Well, of course that’s always a difficulty with anyone as young as you are, but I think if it was put to them that this was a wonderful chance that wouldn’t happen once in a million times, they’d see reason.’ But anyway, he said, it wasn’t any good going into that until they knew the result of the test. She mustn’t be disappointed if it failed. He told her about Hollywood and about Vivien Leigh, how she’d suddenly taken London by storm, and how these sensational leaps into fame did happen. He himself had come back from America to work with the Lenville Studios and put some pep into the English film companies.”

 

Miss Marple nodded.

 

Florence went on, “So it was all arranged. Pam was to go into Danemouth after the rally and meet him at his hotel and he’d take her along to the studios. They’d got a small testing studio in Danemouth, he told her. She’d have her test and she could catch the bus home afterward. She could say she’d been shopping, and he’d let her know the result of the test in a few days, and if it was favourable Mr Harmsteiter, the boss, would come along and talk to her parents.”

 

“Well, of course, it sounded too wonderful! I was green with envy! Pam got through the rally without turning a hair – we always call her a regular poker face. Then, when she said that she was going into Danemouth to Woolworth’s, she just winked at me.

 

141 “I saw her start off down the footpath.” Florence began to cry. “I ought to have stopped her! I ought to have stopped her! I ought to have known a thing like that couldn’t be true! I ought to have told someone. Oh, dear, I wish I was dead!”

 

“There, there.” Miss Marple patted her on the shoulder. “It’s quite all right. No one will blame you, Florence. You’ve done the right thing in telling me.”

 

She devoted some minutes to cheering the child up.

 

Five minutes later she was telling the girl’s story to Superintendent Harper. The latter looked very grim. “The clever devil!” he said. “I’ll cook his goose for him! This puts rather a different aspect on things.”

 

“Yes, it does.”

 

Harper looked at her sideways. “It doesn’t surprise you?”

 

“I expected something of the kind,” Miss Marple said.

 

Superintendent Harper said curiously, “What put you on to this particular girl? They all looked scared to death and there wasn’t a pin to choose between them, as far as I could see.”

 

Miss Marple said gently, “You haven’t had as much experience with girls telling lies as I have. Florence looked at you very straight, if you remember, and stood very rigid and just fidgeted with her feet like the others. But you didn’t watch her as she went out of the door. I knew at once then that she’d got something to hide. They nearly always relax too soon. My little maid Janet always did. She’d explain quite convincingly that the mice had eaten the end of a cake and give herself away by smirking as she left the room.”

 

“I’m very grateful to you,” said Harper. He added thoughtfully, “Lenville Studios, eh?”

 

Miss Marple said nothing. She rose to her feet. “I’m afraid,” she said, “I must hurry away. So glad to have been able to help you.”

 

“Are you going back to the hotel?”

 

“Yes, to pack up. I must go back to St Mary Mead as soon as possible. There’s a lot for me to do there.”

 

 

 

142 Chapter 18

 

Miss Marple passed out through the French windows of her drawing room, tripped down her neat garden path, through a garden gate, in through the vicarage garden gate, across the vicarage garden and up to the drawing-room window, where she tapped gently on the pane. The vicar was busy in his study composing his Sunday sermon, but the vicar’s wife, who was young and pretty, was admiring the progress of her offspring across the hearth rug.

 

“Can I come in, Griselda?”

 

“Oh, do Miss Marple. Just look at David! He gets so angry because he can only crawl in reverse. He wants to get to something, and the more he tries the more he goes backward into the coal box.”

 

“He’s looking very bonny, Griselda.”

 

“He’s not bad, is he?” said the young mother, endeavouring to assume an indifferent manner. “Of course I don’t bother with him much. All the books say a child should be left alone as much as possible.”

 

“Very wise, dear,” said Miss Marple. “Ahem – I came to ask if there was anything special you are collecting for at the moment?”

 

The vicar’s wife turned somewhat astonished eyes upon her. “Oh, heaps of things,” she said cheerfully. “There always are.” She ticked them off on her fingers. “There’s the Nave Restoration Fund, and St Giles’ Mission, and our Sale of Work next Wednesday, and the Unmarried Mothers, and a Boy Scouts Outing, and the Needlework Guild, and the Bishop’s Appeal for Deep-Sea Fishermen.”

 

“Any of them will do,” said Miss Marple. “I thought I might make a little round with a book, you know if you would authorize me to do so.”

 

“Are you up to something? I believe you are. Of course I authorize you. Make it the Sale of Work; it would be lovely to get some real money instead of those awful sachets and comic pen wipers and depressing children frocks and dusters all done up to look like dolls… I suppose,” continued Griselda, accompanying her guest to the window, “that you wouldn’t like to tell me what it’s all about?”

 

“Later, my dear,” said Miss Marple, hurrying off.

 

With a sigh the young mother returned to the hearth rug and, by way of carrying out her principles of stern neglect, butted her son three times in the stomach, so

 

143 that he caught hold of her hair and pulled it with gleeful yells. They then rolled over and over in a grand rough and tumble until the door opened and the vicarage maid announced to the most influential parishioner, who didn’t like children, “Missus is in here.”

 

Whereupon Griselda sat up and tried to look dignified and more what a vicar’s wife should be.

 

II

 

Miss Marple, clasping a small black book with pencilled entries in it, walked briskly along the village street until she came to the crossroads. Here she turned to the left and walked past the Blue Boar until she came to Chatsworth, alias “Mr Booker’s new house.” She turned in at the gate, walked up to the front door and knocked on it briskly. The door was opened by the blond young woman named Dinah Lee. She was less carefully made up than usual and, in fact, looked slightly dirty. She was wearing gray slacks and an emerald jumper.

 

“Good morning,” said Miss Marple briskly and cheerfully. “May I just come in for a minute?” She pressed forward as she spoke, so that Dinah Lee, who was somewhat taken aback at the call, had no time to make up her mind.

 

“Thank you so much,” said Miss Marple, beaming amiably at her and sitting down rather gingerly on a period bamboo chair. “Quite warm for the time of year, is it not?” went on Miss Marple, still exuding geniality.

 

“Yes, rather. Oh, quite,” said Miss Lee. At a loss how to deal with the situation, she opened a box and offered it to her guest. “Er… have a cigarette?”

 

“Thank you so much, but I don’t smoke. I just called, you know, to see if I could enlist your help for our Sale of Work next week.”

 

“Sale of Work?” said Dinah Lee, as one who repeats a phrase in a foreign language.

 

“At the vicarage,” said Miss Marple. “Next Wednesday.”

 

“Oh!” Miss Lee’s mouth fell open. “I’m afraid I couldn’t -”

 

“Not even a small subscription, half a crown perhaps?” Miss Marple exhibited her little book.

 

 

 

144 “Oh er… well, yes. I dare say I could manage that.” The girl looked relieved and turned to hunt in her handbag.

 

Miss Marple’s sharp eyes were looking round the room. She said, “I see you’ve no hearth rug in front of the fire.” Dinah Lee turned round and stared at her. She could not but be aware of the very keen scrutiny the old lady was giving her, but it aroused in her no other emotion than slight annoyance. Miss Marple recognized that. She said, “It’s rather dangerous, you know. Sparks fly out and mark the carpet.”

 

Funny old tabby, thought Dinah, but she said quite amiably, if somewhat vaguely, “There used to be one. I don’t know where it’s got to.”

 

“I suppose,” said Miss Marple, “it was the fluffy woolly kind?”

 

“Sheep,” said Dinah. “That’s what it looked like.” She was amused now. An eccentric old bean, this. She held out a half crown. “Here you are,” she said.

 

“Oh, thank you, my dear.” Miss Marple took it and opened the little book. “Er… what name shall I write down?”

 

Dinah’s eyes grew suddenly hard and contemptuous. Nosy old cat, she thought. That’s all she came for, prying around for scandal. She said clearly and with malicious pleasure, “Miss Dinah Lee.”

 

Miss Marple looked at her steadily. She said, “This is Mr Basil Blake’s cottage, isn’t it?”

 

“Yes, and I’m Miss Dinah Lee!” Her voice rang out challengingly, her head went back, her blue eyes flashed.

 

Very steadily Miss Marple looked at her. She said, “Will you allow me to give you some advice, even though you may consider it impertinent?”

 

“I shall consider it impertinent. You had better say nothing.”

 

“Nevertheless,” said Miss Marple, “I am going to speak. I want to advise you, very strongly, not to continue using your maiden name in the village.”

 

Dinah stared at her. She said, “What, what do you mean?”

 

Miss Marple said earnestly, “In a very short time you may need all the sympathy and good will you can find. It will be important to your husband, too, that he

 

145 shall be thought well of. There is a prejudice in old-fashioned country districts against people living together who are not married. It has amused you both, I dare say, to pretend that that is what you are doing. It kept people away, so that you weren’t bothered with what I expect you would call ‘old frumps.’ Nevertheless, old frumps have their uses.”

 

Dinah demanded, “How did you know we are married?”

 

Miss Marple smiled a deprecating smile. “Oh, my dear,” she said.

 

Dinah persisted, “No, but how did you know? You didn’t, you didn’t go to Somerset House?”

 

A momentary flicker showed in Miss Marple’s eyes. “Somerset House? Oh, no. But it was quite easy to guess. Everything, you know, gets round in a village. The… er… the kind of quarrels you have typical of early days of marriage. Quite – quite unlike an illicit relationship. It has been said, you know, and I think quite truly, that you can only really get under anybody’s skin if you are married to them. When there is no – no legal bond, people are much more careful; they have to keep assuring themselves how happy and halcyon everything is. They have, you see, to justify themselves. They dare not quarrel! Married people, I have noticed, quite enjoy their battles and the… er… appropriate reconciliations.” She paused, twinkling benignly.

 

“Well, I -” Dinah stopped and laughed. She sat down and lit a cigarette. “You’re absolutely marvellous!” she said. Then she went on, “But why do you want us to own up and admit to respectability?”

 

Miss Marple’s face was grave now. She said, “Because any minute now your husband may be arrested for murder.”

 

 

 

146 Chapter 19

 

For an interval Dinah stared at Miss Marple. Then she said incredulously, “Basil? Murder? Are you joking?”

 

“No, indeed. Haven’t you seen the papers?”

 

Dinah caught her breath. “You mean that girl at the Majestic Hotel. Do you mean they suspect Basil of killing her?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“But it’s nonsense!”

 

There was the whir of a car outside, the bang of a gate. Basil Blake flung open the door and came in, carrying some bottles. He said, “Got the gin and the vermouth. Did you -” He stopped and turned incredulous eyes on the prim, erect visitor.

 

Dinah burst out breathlessly, “Is she mad? She says you’re going to be arrested for the murder of that girl Ruby Keene.”

 

“Oh, God!” said Basil Blake. The bottles dropped from his arms onto the sofa. He reeled to a chair and dropped down in it and buried his face in his hands. He repeated, “Oh, my God! Oh, my God!”

 

Dinah darted over to him. She caught his shoulders. “Basil, look at me! It isn’t true! I know it isn’t true! I don’t believe it for a moment!”

 

His hand went up and gripped hers. “Bless you, darling.”

 

“But why should they think – You didn’t even know her, did you?”

 

“Oh, yes, he knew her,” said Miss Marple.

 

Basil said fiercely, “Be quiet, you old hag!… Listen, Dinah, darling. I hardly knew her at all. Just ran across her once or twice at the Majestic. That’s all, I swear that’s all!”

 

Dinah said, bewildered, “I don’t understand. Why should anyone suspect you, then?”

 

Basil groaned. He put his hands over his eyes and rocked to and fro.

 

147 Miss Marple said, “What did you do with the hearth rug?”

 

His reply came mechanically. “I put it in the dustbin.”

 

Miss Marple clucked her tongue vexedly. “That was stupid, very stupid. People don’t put good hearth rugs in dustbins. It had spangles in it from her dress, I suppose?”

 

“Yes, I couldn’t get them out.”

 

Dinah cried, “What are you talking about?”

 

Basil said sullenly, “Ask her. She seems to know all about it.”

 

“I’ll tell you what I think happened, if you like,” said Miss Marple. “You can correct me, Mr Blake, if I go wrong. I think that after having had a violent quarrel with your wife at a party and after having had, perhaps, rather too much… er… to drink, you drove down here. I don’t know what time you arrived.”

 

Basil Blake said sullenly, “About two in the morning. I meant to go up to town first; then, when I got to the suburbs, I changed my mind. I thought Dinah might come down here after me. So I drove down here. The place was all dark. I opened the door and turned on the light and I saw – and I saw -” He gulped and stopped.

 

Miss Marple went on, “You saw a girl lying on the hearth rug. A girl in a white evening dress, strangled. I don’t know whether you recognized her then -”

 

Basil Blake shook his head violently. “I couldn’t look at her after the first glance; her face was all blue, swollen; she’d been dead some time and she was there in my living room!” He shuddered.

 

Miss Marple said gently, “You weren’t, of course, quite yourself. You were in a fuddled state and your nerves are not good. You were, I think, panic-stricken. You didn’t know what to do.”

 

“I thought, Dinah might turn up any minute. And she’d find me there with a dead body, a girl’s dead body, and she’d think I’d killed her. Then I got an idea. It seemed, I don’t know why, a good idea at the time. I thought: ‘I’ll put her in old Bantry’s library. Damned pompous old stick, always looking down his nose; sneering at me as artistic and effeminate. Serve the pompous old brute right,’ I thought. ‘He’ll look a fool when a dead lovely is found on his hearth rug.'” He

 

148 added with a pathetic eagerness to explain, “I was a bit drunk, you know, at the time. It really seemed positively amusing to me. Old Bantry with a dead blonde.”

 

“Yes, yes,” said Miss Marple. “Little Tommy Bond had very much the same idea. Rather a sensitive boy, with an inferiority complex, he said teacher was always picking on him. He put a frog in the clock and it jumped out at her. You were just the same,” went on Miss Marple, “only, of course, bodies are more serious matters than frogs.”

 

Basil groaned again. “By the morning I’d sobered up. I realized what I’d done. I was scared stiff. And then the police came here. Another damned pompous ass of a chief constable. I was scared of him, and the only way I could hide it was by being abominably rude. In the middle of it all, Dinah drove up.”

 

Dinah looked out of the window. She said, “There’s a car driving up now. There are men in it.”

 

“The police, I think,” said Miss Marple.

 

Basil Blake got up. Suddenly he became quite calm and resolute. He even smiled. He said, “So I’m in for it, am I? All right, Dinah, sweet, keep your head. Get onto old Sims, he’s the family lawyer, and go to mother and tell her about our marriage. She won’t bite. And don’t worry. I didn’t do it. So it’s bound to be all right, see, sweetheart?”

 

There was a tap on the cottage door. Basil called, “Come in.”

 

Inspector Slack entered with another man. He said, “Mr Basil Blake?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“I have a warrant here for your arrest on the charge of murdering Ruby Keene on the night of September twentieth last. I warn you that anything you say may be used at your trial. You will please accompany me now. Full facilities will be given you for communicating with your solicitor.”

 

Basil nodded. He looked at Dinah, but did not touch her. He said, “So long, Dinah.”

 

Cool customer, thought Inspector Slack. He acknowledged the presence of Miss Marple with a half bow and a “Good morning,” and thought to himself, smart old pussy; she’s on to it. Good job we’ve got that hearth rug. That and finding out from the car-park man at the studio that he left that party at eleven instead of

 

149 midnight. Don’t think those friends of his meant to commit perjury. They were bottled, and Blake told ’em firmly the next day it was twelve o’clock when he left, and they believed him. Well, his goose is cooked good and proper. Mental, I expect. Broadmoor, not hanging. First the Reeves kid, probably strangled her, drove her out to the quarry, walked back into Danemouth, picked up his own car in some side lane, drove to this party, then back to Danemouth, brought Ruby Keene out here, strangled her, put her in old Bantry’s library, then probably got the wind up about the car in the quarry, drove there, set it on fire and got back here. Mad sex and blood lust, lucky this girl’s escaped. What they call recurring mania, I expect.

 

Alone with Miss Marple, Dinah Blake turned to her. She said, “I don’t know who you are, but you’ve got to understand this: Basil didn’t do it.”

 

Miss Marple said, “I know he didn’t. I know who did do it. But it’s not going to be easy to prove. I’ve an idea that something you said just now may help. It gave me an idea the connection I’d been trying to find. Now, what was it?”

 

 

 

150 Chapter 20

 

“I’m home, Arthur!” declared Mrs Bantry, announcing the fact like a royal proclamation as she flung open the study door.

 

Colonel Bantry immediately jumped up, kissed his wife and declared heartily, “Well, well, that’s splendid!”

 

The colonel’s words were unimpeachable, the manner very well done, but an affectionate wife of as many years’ standing as Mrs Bantry was not deceived. She said immediately, “Is anything the matter?”

 

“No, of course not Dolly. What should be the matter?”

 

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Mrs Bantry vaguely. “Things are so queer, aren’t they?”

 

She threw off her coat as she spoke, and Colonel Bantry picked it up carefully and laid it across the back of the sofa. All exactly as usual, yet not as usual. Her husband, Mrs Bantry thought, seemed to have shrunk. He looked thinner, stooped more, there were pouches under his eyes, and those eyes were not ready to meet hers. He went on to say, still with that affectation of cheerfulness. “Well, how did you enjoy your time at Danemouth?”

 

“Oh, it was great fun. You ought to have come, Arthur.”

 

“Couldn’t get away, my dear. Lot of things to attend to here.”

 

“Still, I think the change would have done you good. And you like the Jeffersons.”

 

“Yes, yes, poor fellow. Nice chap. All very sad.”

 

“What have you been doing with yourself since I’ve been away?”

 

“Oh, nothing much; been over the farms, you know. Agreed that Anderson shall have a new roof. Can’t patch it up any longer.”

 

“How did the Radfordshire Council meeting go?”

 

“I – well, as a matter of fact, I didn’t go.”

 

“Didn’t go? But you were taking the chair -”

 

 

 

151 “Well, as a matter of fact, Dolly, seems there was some mistake about that. Asked me if I’d mind if Thompson took it instead.”

 

“I see,” said Mrs Bantry. She peeled off a glove and threw it deliberately into the wastepaper basket. Her husband went to retrieve it and she stopped him, saying sharply, “Leave it. I hate gloves.” Colonel Bantry glanced at her uneasily. Mrs Bantry said sternly, “Did you go to dinner with the Duffs on Thursday?”

 

“Oh, that? It was put off. Their cook was ill.”

 

“Stupid people,” said Mrs Bantry. She went on, “Did you go to the Naylors’ yesterday?”

 

“I rang up and said I didn’t feel up to it; hoped they’d excuse me. They quite understood.”

 

“They did, did they?” said Mrs Bantry grimly. She sat down by the desk and absentmindedly picked up a pass of gardening scissors. With them she cut off the fingers, one by one, of her second glove.

 

“What are you doing Dolly?”

 

“Feeling destructive,” said Mrs Bantry. She got up. “Where shall we sit after dinner, Arthur? In the library?”

 

“Well… er… I don’t think so – eh? Very nice in here or the drawing room.”

 

“I think,” said Mrs Bantry, “that we’ll sit in the library.”

 

Her steady eyes met his. Colonel Bantry drew himself up to his full height. A sparkle came into his eye. He said, “You’re right, my dear. We’ll sit in the library!”

 

II

 

Mrs Bantry put down the telephone receiver with a sigh of annoyance. She had rung up twice, and each time the answer had been the same. Miss Marple was out. Of a naturally impatient nature, Mrs Bantry was never one to acquiesce in defeat. She rang up, in rapid succession, the vicarage, Mrs Price Ridley, Miss Hartnell, Miss Wetherby and, as a last resort, the fishmonger, who by reason of his advantageous geographical position usually knew where everybody was in the village. The fishmonger was sorry, but he had not seen Miss Marple at all in

 

152 the village that morning. She had not been on her usual round. “Where can the woman be?” demanded Mrs Bantry impatiently, aloud.

 

There was a deferential cough behind her. The discreet Lorrimer murmured, “You were requiring Miss Marple, madam? I have just observed her approaching the house.”

 

Mrs Bantry rushed to the front door, flung it open and greeted Miss Marple breathlessly. “I’ve been trying to get you everywhere. Where have you been?” She glanced over her shoulder. Lorrimer had discreetly vanished. “Everything’s too awful! People are beginning to cold-shoulder Arthur. He looks years older. We must do something, Jane. You must do something!”

 

Miss Marple said, “You needn’t worry Dolly,” in a rather peculiar voice.

 

Colonel Bantry appeared from the study door. “Ah, Miss Marple. Good morning. Glad you’ve come. My wife’s been ringing you up like a lunatic.”

 

“I thought I’d better bring you the news,” said Miss Marple as she followed Mrs Bantry into the study.

 

“News?”

 

“Basil Blake has just been arrested for the murder of Ruby Keene.”

 

“Basil Blake?” cried the colonel.

 

“But he didn’t do it,” said Miss Marple.

 

Colonel Bantry took no notice of this statement. It was doubtful if he even heard it. “Do you mean to say he strangled that girl and then brought her along and put her in my library?”

 

“He put her in your library,” said Miss Marple, “but he didn’t kill her.”

 

“Nonsense. If he put her in my library, of course he killed her! The two things go together!”

 

“Not necessarily. He found her dead in his own cottage.”

 

“A likely story,” said the colonel derisively. “If you find a body why, you ring up the police, naturally, if you’re an honest man.”

 

153 “Ah,” said Miss Marple, “but we haven’t all got such iron nerves as you have Colonel Bantry. You belong to the old school. This younger generation is different.”

 

“Got no stamina,” said the colonel, repeating a well-worn opinion of his.

 

“Some of them,” said Miss Marple, “have been through a bad time. I’ve heard a good deal about Basil. He did ARP work, you know, when he was only eighteen. He went into a burning house and brought out four children, one after another. He went back for a dog, although they told him it wasn’t safe. The building fell in on him. They got him out, but his chest was badly crushed and he had to lie in plaster for a long time after that. That’s when he got interested in designing.”

 

“Oh!” The colonel coughed and blew his nose. “I… er… never knew that.”

 

“He doesn’t talk about it,” said Miss Marple.

 

“Er… quite right. Proper spirit. Must be more in the young chap than I thought. Shows you ought to be careful in jumping to conclusions.” Colonel Bantry looked ashamed. “But all the same,” his indignation revived, “what did he mean, trying to fasten a murder on me?”

 

“I don’t think he saw it like that,” said Miss Marple. “He thought of it more as a as a joke. You see, he was rather under the influence of alcohol at the time.”

 

“Bottled, was he?” said Colonel Bantry, with an Englishman’s sympathy for alcoholic excess. “Oh, well, can’t judge a fellow by what he does when he’s drunk. When I was at Cambridge, I remember I put a certain utensil… well… well, never mind. Deuce of a row there was about it.” He chuckled, then checked himself sternly. He looked at Miss Marple with eyes that were shrewd and appraising. He said, “You don’t think he did the murder, eh?”

 

“I’m sure he didn’t.”

 

“And you think you know who did?”

 

Miss Marple nodded.

 

Mrs Bantry, like all ecstatic Greek chorus, said, “Isn’t she wonderful?” to an unhearing world. “Well, who was it?”

 

Miss Marple said, “I was going to ask you to help me. I think if we went up to Somerset House we should have a very good idea.”

 

154 155 156 Chapter 21

 

Sir Henry’s face was very grave. He said, “I don’t like it.”

 

“I am aware,” said Miss Marple, “that it isn’t what you call orthodox. But it is so important, isn’t it, to be quite sure to ‘make assurance doubly sure,’ as Shakespeare has it? I think, if Mr Jefferson would agree -”

 

“What about Harper? Is he to be in on this?”

 

“It might be awkward for him to know too much. But there might be a hint from you. To watch certain persons, have them trailed, you know.”

 

Sir Henry said slowly, “Yes, that would meet the case.”

 

II

 

Superintendent Harper looked piercingly at Sir Henry Clithering. “Let’s get this quite clear, sir. You’re giving me a hint?”

 

Sir Henry said, “I’m informing you of what my friend has just informed me. He didn’t tell me in confidence that he purposes to visit a solicitor in Danemouth tomorrow for the purpose of making a new will.”

 

The superintendent’s bushy eyebrows drew downward over his steady eyes. He said, “Does Mr Conway Jefferson propose to inform his son-in-law and daughter-in-law of that fact?”

 

“He intends to tell them about it this evening.”

 

“I see.” The superintendent tapped his desk with a penholder. He repeated again, “I see.” Then the piercing eyes bored once more into the eyes of the other man. Harper said, “So you’re not satisfied with the case against Basil Blake?”

 

“Are you?”

 

The superintendent’s moustaches quivered. He said, “Is Miss Marple?” The two men looked at each other. Then Harper said, “You can leave it to me. I’ll have men detailed. There will be no funny business, I can promise you that.”

 

Sir Henry said, “There is one more thing. You’d better see this.” He unfolded a slip of paper and pushed it across the table.

 

157 This time the superintendent’s calm deserted him. He whistled. “So that’s it, is it? That puts an entirely different complexion on the matter. How did you come to dig up this?”

 

“Women,” said Sir Henry, “are eternally interested in marriages.”

 

“Especially,” said the superintendent, “elderly single women!”

 

III

 

Conway Jefferson looked up as his friend entered. His grim face relaxed into a smile. He said, “Well, I told ’em. They took it very well.”

 

“What did you say?”

 

“Told ’em that, as Ruby was dead, I felt that fifty thousand I’d originally left her should go to something that I could associate with her memory. It was to endow a hostel for young girls working as professional dancers in London. Damned silly way to leave your money. Surprised they swallowed it as though I’d do a thing like that.” He added meditatively, “You know, I made a fool of myself over that girl. Must be turning into a silly old man. I can see it now. She was a pretty kid, but most of what I saw in her I put there myself. I pretended she was another Rosamund. Same colouring, you know. But not the same heart or mind. Hand me that paper; rather an interesting bridge problem.”

 

IV

 

Sir Henry went downstairs. He asked a question of the porter.

 

“Mr Gaskell, sir? He’s just gone off in his car. Had to go to London.”

 

“Oh, I see. Is Mrs Jefferson about?”

 

“Mrs Jefferson, sir, has just gone up to bed.”

 

Sir Henry looked into the lounge and through to the ballroom. In the lounge Hugo McLean was doing a crossword puzzle and frowning a good deal over it. In the ballroom, Josie was smiling valiantly into the face of a stout, perspiring man as her nimble feet avoided his destructive tread. The stout man was clearly enjoying his dance. Raymond, graceful and weary, was dancing with an anaemic-looking girl with adenoids, dull brown hair and an expensive and exceedingly unbecoming dress. Sir Henry said under his breath, “And so to bed,” and went upstairs.

 

158 V

 

It was three o’clock. The wind had fallen, the moon was shining over the quiet sea. In Conway Jefferson’s room there was no sound except his own heavy breathing as he lay half propped up on pillows. There was no breeze to stir the curtains at the window, but they stirred. For a moment they parted and a figure was silhouetted against the moonlight. Then they fell back into place. Everything was quiet again, but there was someone else inside the room. Nearer and nearer to the bed the intruder stole. The deep breathing on the pillow did not relax. There was no sound, or hardly any sound. A finger and thumb were ready to pick up a fold of skin; in the other hand the hypodermic was ready. And then, suddenly, out of the shadows a hand came and closed over the hand that held the needle; the other arm held the figure in an iron grasp. An unemotional voice the voice of the law, said, “No, you don’t! I want that needle!” The light switched on, and from his pillows Conway Jefferson looked grimly at the murderer of Ruby Keene.

 

 

 

 

 

159 160 Chapter 22

 

Sir Henry Clithering said, “Speaking as Watson, I want to know your methods. Miss Marple.”

 

Superintendent Harper said, “I’d like to know what put you on to it first.”

 

Colonel Melchett said, “You’ve done it again, by Jove, Miss Marple. I want to hear all about it from the beginning.”

 

Miss Marple smoothed the pure silk of her best evening gown. She flushed and smiled and looked very self-conscious. She said, “I’m afraid you’ll think my ‘methods,’ as Sir Henry calls them, are terribly amateurish. The truth is, you see, that most people, and I don’t exclude policemen, are far too trusting for this wicked world. They believe what is told them. I never do. I’m afraid I always like to prove a thing for myself.”

 

“That is the scientific attitude,” said Sir Henry.

 

“In this case,” continued Miss Marple, “certain things were taken for granted from the first, instead of just confining oneself to the facts. The facts, as I noted them, were that the victim was quite young and that she bit her nails and that her teeth stuck out a little as young girls’ so often do if not corrected in time with a plate, and children are very naughty about their plates and take them out when their elders aren’t looking.

 

“But that is wandering from the point. Where was I? Oh, yes, looking down at the dead girl and feeling sorry, because it is always sad to see a young life cut short, and thinking that whoever had done it was a very wicked person. Of course it was all very confusing, her being found in Colonel Bantry’s library, altogether too like a book to be true. In fact, it made the wrong pattern. It wasn’t, you see, meant, which confused us a lot. The real idea had been to plant the body on poor young Basil Blake, a much more likely person, and his action in putting it in the colonel’s library delayed things considerably and must have been a source of great annoyance to the real murderer. Originally, you see, Mr Blake would have been the first object of suspicion. They’d have made inquiries at Danemouth, found he knew the girl, then found he had tied himself up with another girl, and they’d have assumed that Ruby came to blackmail him or something like that, and that he’d strangled her in a fit of rage. Just an ordinary, sordid, what I call night-club type of crime!

 

“But that, of course, all went wrong, and interest became focused much too soon on the Jefferson family to the great annoyance of a certain person.

 

161 “As I’ve told you, I’ve got a very suspicious mind. My nephew Raymond tells me in fun, of course, that I have a mind like a sink. He says that most Victorians have. All I can say is that the Victorians knew a good deal about human nature. As I say, having this rather insanitary – or surely sanitary? – mind, I looked at once at the money angle of it. Two people stood to benefit by this girl’s death – you couldn’t get away from that. Fifty thousand pounds is a lot of money; especially when you are in financial difficulties, as both these people were. Of course they both seemed very nice, agreeable people; they didn’t seem likely people, but one never can tell, can one?

 

“Mrs Jefferson, for instance. Everyone liked her. But it did seem clear that she had become very restless that summer and that she was tired of the life she led, completely dependent on her father-in-law. She knew, because the doctor had told her, that he couldn’t live long, so that was all right, to put it callously, or it would have been all right if Ruby Keene hadn’t come along. Mrs Jefferson was passionately devoted to her son, and some women have a curious idea that crimes committed for the sake of their offspring are almost morally justified. I have come across that attitude once or twice in the village. “Well, ’twas all for Daisy, you see, miss,” they say, and seem to think that that makes doubtful conduct quite all right. Very lax thinking.

 

“Mr Mark Gaskell, of course, was a much more likely starter, if I may use such a sporting expression. He was a gambler and had not, I fancied, a very high moral code. But for certain reasons I was of the opinion that a woman was concerned in this crime.

 

“As I say, with my eye on motive, the money angle seemed very suggestive. It was annoying, therefore, to find that both these people had alibis for the time when Ruby Keene, according to the medical evidence, had met her death. But soon afterward there came the discovery of the burnt-out car with Pamela Reeves’ body in it, and then the whole thing leaped to the eye. The alibis, of course, were worthless.

 

“I now had two halves of the case, and both quite convincing, but they did not fit. There must be a connection, but I could not find it. The one person whom I knew to be concerned in the crime hadn’t got a motive. It was stupid of me,” said Miss Marple meditatively. “If it hadn’t been for Dinah Lee I shouldn’t have thought of it the most obvious thing in the world. Somerset House! Marriage! It wasn’t a question of only Mr Gaskell or Mrs Jefferson; there was the further possibility of marriage. If either of those two was married, or even was likely to marry, then the other party to the marriage contract was involved too. Raymond, for instance, might think he had a pretty good chance of marrying a rich wife. He had been very assiduous to Mrs Jefferson, and it was his charm, I think, that awoke her from her long widowhood. She had been quite content

 

162 just ‘being a daughter to Mr Jefferson.’ Like Ruth and Naomi only Naomi, if you remember, took a lot of trouble to arrange a suitable marriage for Ruth.

 

“Besides Raymond, there was Mr McLean. She liked him very much, and it seemed highly possible that she would marry him in the end. He wasn’t well off and he was not far from Danemouth on the night in question. So, it seemed, didn’t it,” said Miss Marple, “as though anyone might have done it? But, of course, really, in my own mind, I knew. You couldn’t get away, could you, from those bitten nails?”

 

“Nails?” said Sir Henry. “But she tore her nail and cut the others.”

 

“Nonsense,” said Miss Marple. “Bitten nails and close-cut nails are quite different! Nobody could mistake them who knew anything about girls’ nails – very ugly, bitten nails, as I always tell the girls in my class. Those nails, you see, were a fact. And they could only mean one thing. The body in Colonel Bantry’s library wasn’t Ruby Keene at all.

 

“And that brings you straight to the one person who must be concerned. Josie! Josie identified the body. She knew – she must have known – that it wasn’t Ruby Keene’s body. She said it was. She was puzzled, completely puzzled, at finding that body where it was. She practically betrayed that fact. Why? Because she knew – none better – where it ought to have been found! In Basil Blake’s cottage. Who directed our attention to Basil? Josie, by saying to Raymond that Ruby might have been with the film man. And before that, by slipping a snapshot of him into Ruby’s handbag. Josie! Josie, who was shrewd, practical, hard as nails and all out for money.

 

“Since the body wasn’t the body of Ruby Keene, it must be the body of someone else. Of whom? Of the other girl who was also missing. Pamela Reeves! Ruby was eighteen, Pamela sixteen. They were both healthy, rather immature, but muscular girls. But why, I asked myself, all this hocus-pocus? There could be only one reason: to give certain persons an alibi. Who had alibis for the supposed time of Ruby Keene’s death? Mark Gaskell, Mrs Jefferson and Josie.

 

“It was really quite interesting, you know, tracing out the course of events, seeing exactly how the plan had worked out. Complicated and yet simple. First of all, the selection of the poor child, Pamela; the approach to her from the film angle. A screen test; of course the poor child couldn’t resist it. Not when it was put up to her as plausibly as Mark Gaskell put it. She comes to the hotel, he is waiting for her, he takes her in by the side door and introduces her to Josie, one of their make-up experts! That poor child, it makes me quite sick to think of it! Sitting in Josie’s bathroom while Josie bleaches her hair and makes up her face and varnishes her fingernails and toenails. During all this the drug was given. In

 

163 an ice-cream soda, very likely. She goes off into a coma. I imagine that they put her into one of the empty rooms opposite. They were only cleaned once a week, remember.

 

“After dinner Mark Gaskell went out in his car to the sea front, he said. That is when he took Pamela’s body to the cottage, arranged it, dressed in one of Ruby’s old dresses, on the hearth rug. She was still unconscious, but not dead, when he strangled her with the belt of the frock. Not nice, no, but I hope and pray she knew nothing about it. Really, I feel quite pleased to think of him hanging… That must have been just after ten o’clock. Then back at top speed and into the lounge where Ruby Keene, still alive, was dancing her exhibition dance with Raymond. I should imagine that Josie had given Ruby instructions beforehand. Ruby was accustomed to doing what Josie told her. She was to change, go into Josie’s room and wait. She, too, was drugged; probably in the after-dinner coffee. She was yawning, remember, when she talked to young Bartlett.

 

“Josie came up later with Raymond to ‘look for her,’ but nobody but Josie went into Josie’s room. She probably finished the girl off then with an injection, perhaps, or a blow on the back of the head. She went down, danced with Raymond, debated with the Jeffersons where Ruby could be and finally went up to bed. In the early hours of the morning she dressed the girl in Pamela’s clothes, carried the body down the side stairs and out. She was a strong, muscular young woman. Fetched George Bartlett’s car, drove two miles to the quarry, poured petrol over the car and set it alight. Then she walked back to the hotel, probably timing her arrival there for eight or nine o’clock. Up early in her anxiety about Ruby!”

 

“An intricate plot,” said Colonel Melchett.

 

“Not more intricate than the steps of a dance,” said Miss Marple.

 

“I suppose not.”

 

“She was very thorough,” said Miss Marple. “She even foresaw the discrepancy of the nails. That’s why she managed to break one of Ruby’s nails on her shawl. It made an excuse for pretending that Ruby had clipped her nails close.”

 

Harper said, “Yes, she thought of everything. And the only real proof you had was a schoolgirl’s bitten nails.”

 

“More than that,” said Miss Marple. “People will talk too much. Mark Gaskell talked too much. He was speaking of Ruby and he said, her teeth ran down her throat, but the dead girl in Colonel Bantry’s library had teeth that stuck out.”

 

164 Conway Jefferson said rather grimly, “And was the last dramatic finale your idea, Miss Marple?”

 

“Well, it was, as a matter of fact. It’s so nice to be sure, isn’t it?”

 

“Sure is the word,” said Conway Jefferson grimly.

 

“You see,” said Miss Marple, “once those two knew that you were going to make a new will, they’d have to do something. They’d already committed two murders on account of the money. So they might as well commit a third. Mark, of course, must be absolutely clear, so he went off to London and established an alibi by dining at a restaurant with friends and going on to a night club. Josie was to do the work. They still wanted Ruby’s death to be put down to Basil’s account, so Mr Jefferson’s death must be thought due to his heart failing. There was digitalis, so the superintendent tells me, in the syringe. Any doctor would think death from heart trouble quite natural in the circumstances. Josie had loosened one of the stone balls on the balcony and she was going to let it crash down afterward. His death would be put down to the shock of the noise.”

 

Melchett said, “Ingenious devil.”

 

Sir Henry said, “So the third death you spoke of was to be Conway Jefferson?”

 

Miss Marple shook her head. “Oh, no, I meant Basil Blake. They’d have got him hanged if they could.”

 

“Or shut up in Broadmoor,” said Sir Henry.

 

Through the doorway floated Adelaide Jefferson. Hugo McLean followed her. The latter said, “I seem to have missed most of this! Haven’t got the hang of it yet. What was Josie to Mark Gaskell?”

 

Miss Marple said, “His wife. They were married a year ago. They were keeping it dark until Mr Jefferson died.”

 

Conway Jefferson grunted. He said, “Always knew Rosamund had married a rotter. Tried not to admit it to myself. She was fond of him. Fond of a murderer! Well, he’ll hang, as well as the woman. I’m glad he went to pieces and gave the show away.”

 

Miss Marple said, “She was always the strong character. It was her plan throughout. The irony of it is that she got the girl down here herself, never

 

 

 

165 dreaming that she would take Mr Jefferson’s fancy and rum all her own prospects.”

 

Jefferson said, “Poor lass. Poor little Ruby.”

 

Adelaide laid her hand on his shoulder and pressed it gently. She looked almost beautiful tonight. She said, with a little catch in her breath, “I want to tell you something, Jeff. At once. I’m going to marry Hugo.”

 

Conway Jefferson looked up at her for a moment. He said gruffly, “About time you married again. Congratulations to you both. By the way, Addie, I’m making a new will tomorrow.”

 

She nodded. “Oh, yes. I know.”

 

Jefferson said, “No, you don’t. I’m settling ten thousand pounds on you. Everything else goes to Peter when I die. How does that suit you, my girl?”

 

“Oh, Jeff!” Her voice broke. “You’re wonderful!”

 

“He’s a nice lad. I’d like to see a good deal of him in – in the time I’ve got left.”

 

“Oh, you shall!”

 

“Got a great feeling for crime, Peter has,” said Conway Jefferson meditatively. “Not only has he got the fingernail of the murdered girl, one of the murdered girls, anyway, but he was lucky enough to have a bit of Josie’s shawl caught in with the nail. So he’s got a souvenir of the murderess too! That makes him very happy!”

 

II

 

Hugo and Adelaide passed by the ballroom. Raymond came up to them. Adelaide said rather quickly, “I must tell you my news. We’re going to be married.”

 

The smile on Raymond’s face was perfect a brave, pensive smile. “I hope,” he said, ignoring Hugo and gazing into her eyes, “that you will be very, very happy.”

 

They passed on and Raymond stood looking after her. “A nice woman,” he said to himself. “A very nice woman. And she would have had money too. The time I took to mug up that bit about the Devonshire Starrs. Oh, well, my luck’s out. Dance, dance, little friend,” and Raymond returned to the ballroom.

 

The End

 

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The Hardy Boys – The Hooded Hawk Mystery by Franklin W. Dixon

THE HOODED HAWK MYSTERY

By FRANKLIN W. DIXON

No. 34 in the Hardy Boys series.

This is the original 1954 text.

CHAPTER I

Sender Unknown

“Frank, come here!” Joe Hardy called excitedly to his brother from the front porch of their home.

It was early afternoon of a hot August day, but tall, dark-haired Frank, eighteen years old, ran down the stairs at top speed. He knew from the tone of Joe’s voice that something unusual was happening.

When he reached the porch, Frank stopped short and stared in amazement. An expressman, who stood there, grinning, had just delivered a burlap-covered crate and a package. Joe, blond and a year younger than Frank, had already removed the burlap. In the crate was a fine, proud-looking hawk.

“What a beauty!” Frank remarked. “Is it for us?”

“It says ‘Frank and Joe Hardy, Elm Street, Bay-port,’ ” the expressman answered, holding out his receipt book for the boy’s signature. As Frank wrote his name, the man added, “This is a peregrine falcon and you’d better take good care of the young lady.

She’s valued at five hundred dollars.”

i

2 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

“Phew!” Joe whistled. “I’ll say we’d better take care of her!”

“Who sent her?” Frank asked, then read, ” ‘Rah-mud Ghapur, Washington, D.C.’ Never heard of the man.”

“Nor I,” said Joe. “We’ll ask Dad when he gets home.”

As the expressman left, Frank opened the package. It contained several items which the boys decided were falconry equipment.

“Looks as though Mr. Ghapur expects us to become falconers,” Frank declared. “But why?”

They searched for a note in the wrappings but found none. “We’ll probably get a call or a letter of explanation,” said Joe.

Frank agreed, adding, “In the meantime, let’s learn something about falcons. Dad probably has some books on the subject in his study.”

All this time the hawk, which was blackish blue with a black-barred creamy breast, had been sitting quietly in the crate, eying her new masters. Now she raised up, fluttered her wings, and cried keer, keer, as if she wanted action. The boys laughed as they carried the bird and its trappings through the hall and upstairs to Mr. Hardy’s combination office and study.

Here the famous detective had several file cabinets of criminal cases and photographs of underworld characters. Frank and Joe, endowed with natural sleuthing ability, had had many opportunities

Sender Unknown 5

to work with their father. Frank was serious and an honor student, while Joe was rather impulsive but always dependable. Though they had different temperaments, the boys made an excellent team.

Frank placed the crate on top of a bookcase in which Joe was already looking for books on falconry. Taking out two volumes, he handed one to Frank and began to flip the pages of his own. When he came to a series of pictures of the very articles that the expressman had brought, he said:

“Look, Frank, this is the leather hood. It’s put over the hawk’s head, so that she will sit quiet when she’s being carried from one place to another. And one of these bells is fastened to each of her legs, in order that the owner can keep track of her movements.”

Frank nodded and looked at an illustration in his book. “Here are those two leather straps. They’re called jesses. One end of each jess is looped and tied around each of the hawk’s legs. The free ends of the straps are fastened to a swivel, which consists of two rings connected by a bolt that allows each ring to turn separately. Both straps are tied to one of the rings and this long leather leash to the other ring. Pretty tricky, Joe, because in that way the leash never gets tangled or twisted with the jesses.”

Joe’s eyes darted toward the crate. “Think we dare try all these trappings on Miss Peregrine?”

Frank laughed. “Maybe. But first, let’s find out some more about falcons.”

4 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

Joe, reading on, remarked, “She’s sure a fussy eater. Prefers pigeons to all other foods. But she can be brought back from a flight with any kind of meat or even this, if she’s well trained.” He picked up the lure, a short stick on the end of which was a thick bunch of feathers.

Frank, meanwhile, was studying the falconer’s glove which had come in the package. “Joe,” he said, “this glove must belong to someone from India or the Far East.”

“How do you know?”

“My book said that in those countries falconers use right-handed gloves, while Europeans and Americans wear left-handed ones.”

“Come to think of it,” said Joe, “the name Rah-mud Ghapur sounds Indian-or Far Eastern, anyhow.”

Frank agreed. “But the whole thing’s still a mystery. Well, let’s put the hawk’s gear on.”

As Frank held the equipment ready, Joe carefully opened the crate door. Although not sure how to handle the falcon, he quickly grabbed both legs so that the bird could not use her talons. She struggled while Frank fastened the jesses, then tied the straps and leash to the swivel. All this time the boys kept a wary eye on the hawk, in case she should suddenly slash at them with her beak. But the bird made no such attempt.

“I guess the book was right when it said a falcon

Sender Unknown 5

seldom uses its beak for defense,” Joe remarked.

After Joe attached the little bells to the hawk’s legs, Frank pulled on the glove, grasped both jesses, and lifted the falcon to his wrist. She sat there proud and defiant-a truly noble bird.

“So far, so good, Frank,” Joe said. “Now what?”

“We’ll take the hawk outside and let her fly around a bit,” his brother replied. “And let’s get that old block perch Aunt Gertrude once used for her parrot. It’s in the cellar.”

“Good idea,” replied Joe. “Miss Peregrine can sit on it in the fresh air when she’s not flying. By the way, the book said that hawks should get plenty of exercise.”

Frank nodded. “And while we’re flying her, we can watch for the mailman,” he said. “He’s sure late today. Maybe there’ll be a letter about the falcon.”

Before they started downstairs, Joe suggested putting the hood on the hawk, but Frank said he wanted to show the bird to their Aunt Gertrude who was in the kitchen.

The boys and their strange pet got only as far as the first-floor hall when suddenly the falcon yanked free and made a beeline for the living room. Just then, the doorbell and the telephone rang. Frank sprang toward the front door and Joe headed for the phone.

At that instant the kitchen door at the end of the

6 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

hall opened and a tall, angular woman rushed forward. She was Mr. Hardy’s spinster sister, who spent most of her time at his home.

“Aunt Gertrude, watch the hawk in the living room, will you?” Joe requested, picking up the receiver.

“Watch what?” his aunt exclaimed. But the bewildered woman received no further enlightenment. Joe was saying into the phone:

“Hello, Chet. Say, someone sent us a peregrine falcon.”

“Great! What’s that?” was the reply.

When Joe told him it was a hunting hawk, Chet said excitedly, “Bring it out to the farm, will you? I’ve never seen one.”

“We will. I’ll say good-by now because the bird’s loose. See you later.”

When Joe returned to the living room, Aunt Gertrude was standing stock-still, staring at the hawk, which was now alternately rising and diving from windows to furniture.

“Joe!” Miss Hardy finally managed to exclaim. “Get that beast out of here at once!”

Frank stepped to the doorway of the living room and reported to Joe that the mail had come, but there was no letter of explanation about the mysterious bird.

“What’s going on here?” Aunt Gertrude demanded.

“We’re flying a falcon,” Joe replied, grinning.

Sender Unknown 7

“Obviously!” his aunt replied tartly. “But where did you get it?”

“Well, we don’t know the person who sent her-” Frank began, and told her how the bird had arrived.

“Well, I know!” Aunt Gertrude exclaimed. “This Mr. Ghapur is probably some enemy of yours. One thing’s certain-the bird is an ill omen and undoubtedly has poison on its claws!”

“Poison on its claws!” Frank cried.

“Oh, yes, I’ve read about such things being done for revenge!” Aunt Gertrude went on, her voice rising. “You and your father have made many enemies through the cases you’ve solved. You boys should have had more sense than to have accepted this hawk.”

Before they had an opportunity to examine the hawk’s talons for any poison, the bird suddenly lunged at Aunt Gertrude and grasped at her hands.

“Help! It’s attacking me! Take it away!” she cried frantically.

Joe yelled, “It’s that piece of meat you’re holding, Auntie! She thinks it’s a lure!”

Aunt Gertrude looked in embarrassment at the stew meat she had absent-mindedly brought from the kitchen. Frank snatched it from her hand and immediately the falcon returned to his glove. Then, after feeding the hawk the raw meat, he and Joe looked carefully at its talons but found no evidence of poison.

“Anyway, the falcon wouldn’t live long if there

8 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

was poison on her claws,” Frank told his aunt. “She’d be sure to harm herself with it.”

“I suppose so,” Miss Hardy admitted.

Joe put his arm around Aunt Gertrude. “The falcon was only doing what she has been taught to do. Pieces of raw meat are used as lures for training these birds. The falcon meant no harm.”

“Well, maybe you’re right,” Aunt Gertrude conceded grudgingly. “But falconers don’t train their birds in a living room! Take her out of here.”

With this ultimatum, Aunt Gertrude turned on her heel and stalked back to the kitchen.

Joe looked at Frank, grinned, and told him of Chet’s invitation. “Let’s take Miss Peregrine out to the Morton farm,” he said.

Chet Morton, a school chum of the Hardys, lived on a farm about a mile outside of Bayport. A chubby, good-natured boy, Chet had frequently shared in the Hardys’ adventures.

Frank now took the hood from his pocket and attempted to put it over the head of the peregrine. The bird flew off his gloved hand, but the jesses and leash held her, and she soon stopped flapping and came up to a perching position on the glove.

“Boy, this is harder than I thought,” said Frank.

Joe, recalling what he had read in the falconry book on how to “break” a falcon to the hood, said, “We ought to lay a small piece of meat inside the hood before putting it on her. Then she’ll associate food with the hood and our troubles will be over.”

Sender Unknown 9

Frank nodded. He said that the falcon is also fed a choice morsel of food after the hood is put on. Thus she connects a pleasant experience with hooding and does not struggle or fear the temporary blindness that the cover imposes.

After Joe had begged several scraps of raw meat from Aunt Gertrude, Frank managed to hood the hawk. He was awkward at it and resolved to practice until he could do it with a more deft touch.

As he carried the bird to the back yard, Joe ran to the cellar for the block perch. When Joe reappeared, Frank took the perch and said:

“I’ll get the convertible and meet you in the driveway. You bring the hawk,” he said.

“Okay,” Joe agreed, taking the glove and bird.

He paused long enough to call good-by to Aunt Gertrude, then started toward the driveway.

“I’ll wait here for-”

Joe’s thought was suddenly interrupted. A figure, masked by a red-and-white bandanna and wearing a battered felt hat pulled low on his forehead, darted around a corner of the house and crashed into him!

The boy whirled and swung his free fist. But the short, heavy-set stranger dodged to one side and gave Joe a shove that sent him sprawling on the ground. At the same instant the man grabbed the leash, snatched the falcon from Joe’s grip, and sped down the driveway.

Quickly Joe got to his feet. Yelling to Frank to follow, he dashed off in pursuit of the thief!

CHAPTER II

Peregrine’s Prize

by the time Joe had reached the foot of the Hardy driveway, the thief was half a block down Elm Street. The man forced the hooded bird into a cloth sack as he ran. Then, seeing Joe in pursuit, he leaped a hedge and darted into a driveway between two houses.

As Joe reached it, a woman, leaning out a side window, gave a startled shriek. The masked man, evidently frightened, looked back to check Joe’s progress. The side of his neck struck a clothesline, throwing him off balance, and Joe closed some of the gap between them.

“Drop that bird, you thief!” Joe shouted furiously.

The man staggered a few paces, then regained his balance. He jumped a low fence to the adjoining property and sped down its driveway, back to the street, still holding the bagged falcon!

Joe’s shout and the woman’s scream had attracted

10

Peregrine’s Prize 11

the attention of a policeman on Elm Street. As the thief reached the sidewalk, he slammed into the portly figure of Patrolman Smuff, dropping the sack.

“Grab him!” Joe yelled to the officer.

But the masked man, recovering himself quickly, side-stepped Smuff. Forgetting the bird, he cut across the street and disappeared into the dense, flower-covered foliage behind a house. Just then, Frank swung the convertible alongside the curb. Joe picked up the sack and thrust it in beside his brother.

Patrolman Smuff had taken up the chase, and now Joe joined him. They searched the area thoroughly for two square blocks but were unable to find the fugitive or anyone who had seen him. As they retraced their steps to the convertible, Smuff asked:

“What’s this all about, anyway?”

“That fellow tried to steal our bird.”

“What kind of bird is it-a parrot?” the policeman inquired.

“No,” Joe replied. “A peregrine falcon-a hawk.”

“One of those hunting birds, eh? I didn’t know they had ’em around this part of the country.”

“This one was sent to us. It’s valuable.”

The patrolman grinned. “Valuable, eh? Did you notice anything special about that thief?” he asked.

“Well,” Joe replied, “his face was masked. But this might help. When he grabbed the falcon, I got a good look at his hands. They were deeply tanned, so I guess he spends a lot of time outdoors. And he was wearing a carved ring with a ruby in it.”

12 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

Patrolman Smuff jotted down this information. When they reached the convertible, he said, “Leave everything to me! I’ll catch the criminal!” and hurried off.

Joe turned to Frank and both boys grinned. When had they ever left a mystery to anyone else to solve?

Inside the car, Frank gently lifted the falcon from the sack. She did not seem disturbed by her recent adventure. Apparently, since the hood had prevented the bird from seeing, she had not become frightened by the experience that otherwise would have terrified her.

“Since Miss Peregrine seems to feel okay,” Frank said, “let’s go on to Chet’s as we planned.”

With the falcon perched on Joe’s wrist, the boys rode out of town. Twenty minutes later they were turning into the lane which led to the Morton farm. They saw Chet near a corner of the barn, making repairs on a door. The stout boy was alternately munching on an apple and hammering.

“Wow!” Joe grinned. “Chet’s working!”

Although the Hardys needled their easygoing chum a great deal, they were close friends. Chet had been working with them ever since the days of their earliest mystery, The Tower Treasure. Just recently, in the boys’ latest case, The Yellow Feather Mystery, his skill with machinery and the operation of his motor sled had helped rescue the Hardys from almost certain death in a sealed-up ice fort.

As Chet hurried over to see his friends, he called

Peregrine’s Prize 13

cheerfully, “Hi, fellows! Did you bring the hawk?”

The brothers hopped out, with the falcon perched on Frank’s wrist.

“Pretty nifty!” Chet remarked. “Let’s see her without her hat.” He reached out to remove it.

“Wait a minute,” said Frank, “she’s been through a rugged experience this afternoon,” and told what had happened.

Chet’s eyebrows lifted, then he grinned. “Sounds like the beginning of another mystery for you Hardys.”

“And maybe you,” said Joe.

“Oh, no,” Chet answered quickly. “You aren’t going to get me into the clutches of any masked man! “But,” he added with a wink, “if you want to leave your hawk with me while you’re off sleuthing-”

“Nothing doing,” said Joe. “I have a hunch we’ll need her.”

“The hawk seems real tame,” Chet remarked.

“She is,” Joe replied, as his brother removed the hood from the falcon. Chet studied the notched beak, which Frank said was characteristic of all falcons, and the long, tapered wings.

“She’s sure streamlined,” Chet remarked.

“Yes, and she’s a powerful flier,” Frank remarked. “According to the book, she’s very courageous-but gentle, too. Notice her dark eyes and the way she holds her head up. The ancient falconers called the peregrines noble and gentle birds. This breed was the prize of medieval kings.”

14 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

Chet was visibly impressed. “Some bird, all right. How about a trial flight?”

At that moment his sister lola appeared on the back porch of the farmhouse and called, “Hi, Hardys! How would you boys like some lemonade?”

Frank waved and said that he would have some later. But Joe immediately hurried toward the house. The slender, pretty girl, with dark hair and eyes, was his date on many occasions. lola was fond of sports, and had proved herself to be a capable assistant when called upon by the Hardys to help in their sleuthing.

Meanwhile, as they walked toward an open field, Chet was asking Frank to let him fly the falcon.

“Better let me fly the hawk first,” said Frank. “I’m not sure how successful I’ll be, since all I’ve got to depend on is what I read in the falconry book.”

By this time the two boys had reached the middle of the large field. Frank stopped, unfastened each jess from the swivel, and then, with a somewhat awkward movement of the glove, he threw the hawk into the air,

“I sure hope that she’s well trained,” Frank murmured as the bird took flight.

With long, powerful wing beats the falcon circled, rising higher and higher until she was merely a dot in the sky above them.

“Now what?” Chet asked.

“See this,” said Frank, holding out the feathered lure.

Peregrine’s Prize 15

“What on earth is that?” queried Chet.

Frank explained, “According to the book, the falconer waves this lure in the air and the well-trained falcon immediately drops earthward and strikes it.”

“You mean she’ll come back to that thing?” Chet said incredulously.

Frank nodded, watching the hawk intently.

“See how she keeps circling us!” he exclaimed. “That’s called ‘waiting on.’ She’ll maintain her pitch there until I call her back, either by waving the lure or flushing a bird.”

Frank swung the lure several times, then let it drop to the ground. Immediately the falcon turned over and plummeted toward them at terrific speed.

“She’s stooping!” yelled Frank. “Listen to the wind whistle through her feathers!”

The falcon came within a foot of striking the lure, then swung upward and mounted almost to her previous height in the sky.

“That was sensational!” breathed Chet, round-eyed.

The falcon made a wide circle and then headed off with deep, powerful wing beats.

“Hey! She’s flying away!” Chet cried out.

“No,” said Frank. “Look! She’s after something!”

“It’s a pigeon!” Chet gripped his friend’s arm.

“I’ll call the falcon to the lure,” said Frank tersely.

16 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

But it was already too late. With unbelievable speed the falcon closed the distance and then streaked earthward, striking the pigeon in mid-air.

The boys could see a tuft of feathers fly and hear the sharp report of the impact. The pigeon dropped to the ground, and the falcon, after mounting from her stoop, dropped down again to claim her prize.

Both Frank and Chet ran toward the two birds, hoping to rescue the pigeon. Frank slowed to a walk as he neared the falcon, and then slowly, in order not to frighten her, reached for the jesses. Wings and tail spread, the bird looked defiantly at him but made no attempt to fly off. The boy secured the jesses and put on the leash.

“Too bad,” said Frank, “but the pigeon’s dead.”

He stroked the hawk, and then slowly lifted pigeon and falcon with his gloved hand. As he did, he saw a small red capsule on one of the pigeon’s legs.

“Gosh, it’s a carrier pigeon!” exclaimed Chet.

Frank made no reply, concerned that the falcon had killed someone’s prized bird. He asked Chet to twist the cap off the small container. Chet did so and shook it gingerly over the palm of his hand. To the boys’ amazement, instead of a message, out fell two glittering red stones.

“That’s strange,” Frank remarked.

By this time, Joe, having witnessed the falcon’s performance, had joined his brother and Chet. Now the trio bent over the stones in Chet’s hands. Frank

Peregrine’s Prize 17

asked Joe to check the pigeon’s other leg for an identification band.

“Nothing here, Frank,” he reported.

Frank looked grim. “And maybe for a good reason. A carrier pigeon wouldn’t be flying two ordinary pieces of red glass.”

Chet and Joe agreed.

“I believe,” said Frank as he rubbed his fingers over the stones and recognized an oily feel to them, “that these are rubies-valuable rubies!”

CHAPTER III

Smugglers

“rubies!” Chet exclaimed in amazement. Then he laughed. “You’re fooling, Frank. In fact, I’ll treat you both to a dinner if those stones are anything but colored glass.”

“You’re on!” Joe grinned.

“Let’s get to a jeweler’s!” Frank urged.

Wrapping the stones in a handkerchief, he put them into his jacket pocket. The boys buried the pigeon, then drove to the center of Bayport and parked close to Bickford’s Jewelry Store. While Joe stayed with the falcon, Frank and Chet went into the shop. The owner, Arthur Bickford, knew the boys well. He looked up and smiled.

“Well, what brings you here?”

Frank opened the handkerchief and revealed the two red stones. “We found these,” he said, “and we’d like you to tell us whether or not they’re genuine.”

Bickford studied the gems for a moment, ran them through his fingers, then picked up his eyepiece and

is

Smugglers 19

set it in his eye. He peered at the stones one at a time, then whistled.

“You found these? They’re very fine rubies,” he announced. “They might well be worth a king’s ransom.”

“Gosh!” Chet exclaimed. “You mean it?”

“It’s the truth.” The jeweler took another look. “I’ve never seen more flawless rubies. Where’d you pick them up?”

Frank evaded the question but remarked, “If they’re so valuable, we’d better turn them over to the police.”

The two boys thanked the jeweler for his help and returned to the convertible. As Frank and Joe began to discuss their great find, Chet quickly reminded them that the rubies had been found on his farm.

“That’s right,” Joe admitted, “so it means you’ll have to help solve the mystery.”

Chet winced at the thought of the work involved, but said, “Sure, and then I’ll get my share of the reward for the rubies.”

“Which,” Frank added, “will make it easy for you to treat us to dinner. Let’s see. When shall we have dinner?”

“Okay, okay,” Chet said with a grin. “Any time you say.”

“Let’s make it right after we turn these gems over to Chief Collig,” Joe said. “Chet, will you stay here to mind the falcon?”

20 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

The Hardys crossed the street to police headquarters, and five minutes later were closeted with Chief Ezra Collig.

“What mystery have you boys turned up now?” the officer asked with a smile.

Frank handed over the rubies and said, “Mr. Bick-ford tells us these are valuable stones. Have you had a report of any robbery involving gems like these?”

Chief Collig said he could not recall any, but would ask one of his detectives, and buzzed for him. When the officer appeared, his superior relayed Frank’s inquiry.

“Nothing like that has been reported missing,” the detective replied. “And we’d sure hear about such a theft from other departments.”

The chief thanked him and the man withdrew. They talked about the stones and the carrier pigeon for some time but could come to no conclusion about the mystery.

The boys left the rubies with Collig for safekeeping. When they rejoined Chet, they decided to forego his dinner treat for the time being and return home, since it was time to feed the hawk. Chet suggested that they let him off at his father’s real-estate office. Mr. Morton would drive him back to the farm.

When Frank and Joe reached home they found their mother setting the table for dinner. Mrs. Hardy was a small, slim woman with blond hair and sparkling blue eyes. She welcomed the boys in a sweet,

Smugglers 21

soft-spoken voice, and it was obvious from her tone and expression that she adored her two sons.

“What a noble-looking bird!” she remarked, admiring the hawk.

Aunt Gertrude appeared from the kitchen just as Frank noticed there was a plate at his father’s place.

“Dad’s home from Washington!” he cried out.

“He’s in town all right,” Aunt Gertrude replied, adding with a frown, “And when he hears about that vicious hawk you boys are carrying, he’s not going to like it.”

“Perhaps he won’t mind when we tell him about the valuable rubies our bird got for us,” Frank said, grinning.

When the boys related the story, the women gasped in amazement.

At Aunt Gertrude’s insistence, Frank and Joe took the falcon to the garage, where they set up the block perch and put her on it, unhooded. They fed her some parrot seed, set the burglar alarm, and locked the door.

Fenton Hardy arrived a few minutes later. He was a tall, dark, distinguished-looking man of forty-five. His sons loved his keen sense of humor and admired his brilliant mind and thorough methods. Mr. Hardy’s preoccupied manner as the family sat down to dinner could mean only one thing. He was busy on an important case of his own. Sensing his sons’ curiosity, he said finally:

22 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

“I’ve been asked to help on an interesting problem which has the authorities baffled. Immigration officials have learned of the large-scale smuggling of aliens from India into the United States somewhere along the Atlantic seaboard. One suspected spot is Bayport.”

“Bayport!” Frank repeated in astonishment, adding, “Any other clues?”

“None. But maybe you boys can find some,” Mr. Hardy replied with a twinkle in his eye. “I’m working on another case right now that I’ll have to finish before I can concentrate on this smuggling racket.”

“In other words, Dad, you’re asking Joe and me to start from scratch. No leads or anything?”

“You know I wouldn’t do that, son,” Fenton Hardy replied, smiling. “I have two possible leads.

“A few days ago, while I was in Washington, I called on an old friend of mine-an Indian importer. I talked with him about the illegal entry of aliens from his country and told him I was going to ask you boys to work on the case. He naturally frowns on anything that will reflect on his country’s good reputation, and has offered to assist in every way he «;an.”

“Did he give you any leads?” Frank asked.

“No, but I mentioned to him that there must be some means of communication between the smugglers and their confederates on shore. We eliminated radio or telegraph because they could be monitored. But I thought that secret messages, instructing the

Smugglers 25

contact here to pick up the smuggled men, might be sent by carrier pigeons from the ships offshore to the racketeers’ hide-out on land. Ghapur agreed with me.”

“Ghapur!” Joe burst out. “Dad, is your Indian friend’s name Rahmud Ghapur?”

“Why, yes, son,” Mr. Hardy answered in surprise. “How did you know?”

The boys told their astonished father about the falcon from Ghapur, the attempted theft of the bird, and the ruby-bearing carrier pigeon which the peregrine had downed.

“That’s very interesting,” Mr. Hardy said. “A call to Ghapur will certainly throw some light on the matter. I’ll try to reach him at once.”

Fortunately, the importer was at home. The detective talked with him for some time, then returned to the table just as dessert was being served.

“Mr. Ghapur says he sent the falcon to aid you boys in bringing down pigeons you might be suspicious of. He sent you a letter of explanation. You say it didn’t arrive?”

“No,” Frank replied, adding thoughtfully, “The letter could have been intercepted by the smugglers if they suspected what the falcon was to be used for.”

“True,” Mr. Hardy declared. “And it could have been waylaid in Washington, or anywhere between there and Bayport. In Ghapur’s letter he asked you boys to get in touch with a fellow countryman of his who lives here in Bayport. He’s Ahmed, the rug

24 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

dealer. You know him. He’ll teach you how to handle the falcon properly.”

This statement caused Aunt Gertrude to speak up sharply, deploring the fact that the boys were getting mixed up in such a cruel sport.

“Auntie,” said Frank, “it’s in the line of duty. And anyway, wild hawks eat ten times as many pigeons and other birds a year than we’d let a trained falcon like Miss Peregrine go after.”

“Well, maybe so,” his aunt conceded, “but that hawk may turn on you any minute, as she did on me.”

Aunt Gertrude then gave her brother a colorful account of her adventure with the falcon. Mr. Hardy agreed that it was unfortunate she had had such a scare, but he was sure that it would not occur again.

“Humph!” Aunt Gertrude was unconvinced, and was about to continue her tirade when Mrs. Hardy arose and started clearing the table. Her husband and sons got up too and went to the garage to see the falcon. After examining her trappings, Mr. Hardy said with a smile:

“It will be rather unique to solve a mystery with a hooded hawk.”

“Yes,” agreed Frank. “Dad, do you think there might be a tie-in between the smugglers of aliens and the rubies?”

“Yes, I do,” Mr. Hardy replied. “And I have a hunch we’ll find that carrier pigeons are the link between our two mysteries.”

Smugglers 25

They talked for a while longer, then Fenton Hardy concluded with, “Well, boys, it will have to be your job for the time being to solve these mysteries. I must get back on my other case. From time to time I’ll be in touch with you, though.”

“You’re leaving?” Joe asked.

“Yes. I’m flying back to Washington. Will you drive me to the airport?”

“Certainly, Dad.”

After the boys had said good-by to Mr. Hardy at the airport, Joe said to his brother, “Let’s phone Ahmed. It’s not too late, and I’d like to find out how to use the hawk correctly, so that we can get to work.”

“Good idea,” replied Frank. “We should know more about properly training and flying the bird. We were just lucky this afternoon.”

He put through a call to the elderly rug merchant. After identifying himself, Frank told him about the message from Rahmud Ghapur.

Though surprised at the request, Ahmed gladly consented to teach the Hardys how to handle the falcon. He said that they must first obtain permission from the State Fish and Game Department to fly the hawk. It was agreed that the boys would do this the next morning, then the three would drive out to the country.

“The Morton farm’s the place,” Frank suggested.

At the Bayport office of the Fish and Game Department the next day, the clerk looked quizzical

26 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

when the boys made their request. When they explained it was in connection with a case of their father’s, he gave each of them special hunting permits.

With their falcon and its equipment, the brothers drove to Ahmed’s place of business. The rug dealer was standing in the doorway, waiting for them. Ahmed was a man close to sixty years old, but straight as a spear and lithe in his movements. His eyes had sparkle and life to them that demanded attention. The movements of his long, sinewy fingers had an almost hypnotic quality.

When the elderly man was seated in the car, he immediately turned his attention to the hawk. Putting on the gauntlet, Ahmed wristed the bird. As he stroked it, he remarked:

“This hawk is well trained. As a fledgling she was probably lured into a net, then hooded, and carried constantly on the glove for days and nights until she lost her fear of man and became tame. This is called ‘manning.’

“The trainer strokes her, talks gently to her, and feeds her. In this way, the falcon becomes completely dependent on her master and learns that he intends no harm. Gradually she is made hungry or ‘keen’ and thus learns to respond to the falconer. At first she jumps a short distance to the glove for food. Gradually the distance is increased until she is flying several hundred yards on a string. Finally she can be flown free.”

Smugglers 27

“Then she’s actually trained through her appetite?” Frank asked.

“Yes,” Ahmed replied. “And a young bird’s instincts are channeled so that she performs in a natural way for her trainer. She is never taught to do anything that she would not normally do in the wild.”

“Will she bring her quarry back to her master?” asked Joe.

“No,” Ahmed replied. “She goes to the ground with her kill, then the falconer hurries to his bird. The hawk does not come to him. However, if the bird misses her quarry, she will return to the lure to be fed.”

“It’s a complicated sport,” Frank remarked. “And I can see why it requires lots of time and patience.”

“Well, one thing we do know,” Joe spoke up. “Pigeons are a hawk’s favorite food.” He grinned. “But we didn’t have a squab in our refrigerator, so for breakfast I gave her raw oatmeal and parrot seed!”

Ahmed smiled. “You’ll have to feed her starlings, sparrows, mice, and lean beef. It’s obvious that she is used to people and normal sounds, since neither of these bother her.”

When they arrived at the Morton farm, lola informed them that Chet had gone to market with a load of sweet corn. She promised to tell Chet where they were as soon as he came in.

The visitors strolled to one of the large open fields and Ahmed began his instruction. He sug-

28 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

gested that Frank undertake flying the hawk first. Compared to Ahmed’s dexterity, the boy felt very clumsy in putting on and taking off the jesses and the hood. He also felt that due to his inexperience the hawk must be tiring from the procedure.

“Let’s give the poor bird a rest,” he suggested. “In the meantime, I’d like to learn more about the history of falconry.”

Ahmed agreed, and holding the falcon, he walked around the field with the Hardys. As they strolled along, the rug dealer told them about the short-winged hawks that are flown from the fist at such quarry as game birds and rabbits.

“These birds,” Ahmed said, “such as the goshawk, the sharp-shinned hawk, and the Cooper’s hawk are the best ones for a beginner to practice on.

“In my country, and in your country too, the peregrine falcon is considered the prize bird and only experienced falconers capture and train them. It is an unwritten law that novice falconers start on the less noble birds and by experience earn the right to train the bird of kings and maharajahs.”

“Someday we’ll train our own birds,” said Joe. “We’re fortunate to start off with a trained one.”

“Indeed you are,” replied Ahmed.

As the three walked back across the field, the elderly Indian gave the boys additional pointers on the care of their falcon, advising them to keep the bird with them at all times, so that she would recognize them as her masters.

Smugglers 29

“Remember,” he said, “to put water out for her bath, to keep her in the shade, and to place her perch where she can’t get tangled up. Above all,” he cautioned, “be kind and gentle to her and she will reciprocate. Always bear in mind that she puts great trust in you; don’t fail her.”

Frank and Joe were about to assure him that they would certainly do their best to take proper care of their falcon when they heard a loud yell.

“Hey, fellows!” It was Chet, standing at the edge of the field and waving at them. “Quick! I’ve got news!”

“Good or bad?” Joe shouted back, as he and Frank started running toward their friend.

“Don’t know-but you’ll find out at police headquarters!”

CHAPTER IV

A Suspicious Sailor

frank and Joe sprinted across the field to where Chet was waiting for them.

“What’s this news from police headquarters?” Joe demanded excitedly.

“All I know,” said the stout boy, “is the department called and said you should report there pronto. It’s real urgent!”

The same thoughts flashed through the brothers’ minds-was it news of the rubies or of Joe’s masked assailant?

“Okay, we’re on our way,” said Joe, as Ahmed caught up to them, the falcon still poised on his wrist.

The trio hurried to the convertible and drove to Bayport. After leaving Ahmed at his shop, the boys went at once to police headquarters. Frank remained in the car with the falcon while Joe hurried inside.

A Suspicious Sailor 31

To his surprise, Officer Smuff was waiting for him, a proud grin on his red face.

“You have some news for us?” Joe asked.

“News! I’ll say! I’ve caught your hawk thief!”

“What!” Joe stared at the patrolman incredulously.

Smuff strutted to the door at the back of the room. “Here-look for yourself!”

Joe walked over, feeling chagrined that Smuff had made the capture before Frank and he had picked up even a single clue to the thief’s identity. The patrolman led the boy into a small room.

“There’s your man!” he announced, waving his hand toward a sun-tanned figure slouched on a bench. Around his neck was a red-and-white bandanna, and he wore a battered felt hat. Smuff said elatedly, “I caught this fellow lurking around your house.”

Suddenly the prisoner jumped up. “Meester Joe, you-a come to save-a me?”

Smuff blinked at the boy. “You know this man?”

“He’s our gardener, Smuff!” Joe exclaimed. “Nicolo, I’m sorry about this mistake.”

“I go now? I no thief, I tell this policeman. He play bad joke on poor Nicolo.”

The patrolman, red-faced, murmured an apology and released the gardener at once. Then he accompanied Joe outside. “Well, no luck this time.”

“Never mind,” Joe said with a grin. “And don’t hesitate to call us if you need help,” he teased.

32 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

Policeman Smuff eyed him suspiciously, trying to decide whether Joe was serious or merely joking. When Frank heard the story, he laughed heartily.

Since it was nearly lunchtime, the boys went directly home. As Joe carried the falcon toward the back door, Mrs. Hardy appeared and asked that, for Aunt Gertrude’s sake, the falcon be kept out of the house.

“But Ahmed says it’s best to keep the hawk with us at all times,” Joe spoke up. “That’s the way they get used to their masters.”

Aunt Gertrude, overhearing, called from the kitchen, “I certainly don’t want her to get used to me. One attack was enough.”

Frank merely grinned and took the falcon to its perch in the garage, set the burglar alarm, and locked the door. When he sat down at the luncheon table, his aunt remarked:

“So you think you should keep that hawk with you all the time? Ridiculous! You wouldn’t sleep with it, would you?” She chuckled. “And I’m sure you wouldn’t take a shower bath with it!”

This remark brought a roar of laughter from the others, then the subject of falcons was dropped for the time being. As soon as the meal was over, Joe, with a mischievous expression on his face, headed for his father’s study. A few minutes later he returned to the first floor, carrying a volume of the encyclopedia with him.

“I don’t suppose it would do any real harm to take

A Suspicious Sailor 33

the hawk into the shower with me, Auntie,” he told Miss Hardy. “It says here, ‘Most hawks, peregrines especially, require a bath. The end of a cask, sawed off to give a depth of six inches, makes a good bathtub. Peregrines which are used to “waiting on” require a bath at least twice a week.’ ”

“Waiting on? You certainly do have to wait on them!” Aunt Gertrude retorted.

Frank and Joe exchanged grins, then told their aunt what the term meant.

Frank read on from the book in Joe’s hands. ” ‘If the bath is neglected, the falcon is inclined to soar when flown, and may even break away in search of water, and so be lost.’ How about that, Aunt Gertrude?”

Miss Hardy cleared her throat with a loud har-rumph, then replied, “That might be one way to get rid of that hawk!”

As Joe was about to protest, his mother gave him a warning look not to continue the discussion. She knew that if the hawk should become lost Aunt Gertrude would be one of the first in the family to go searching for her. So why argue about it?

During the afternoon the brothers made a cask tub for the falcon and let her bathe. Then they laid plans for beginning their work on the case Mr. Hardy had outlined for them.

“My guess is,” said Frank, “that anyone smuggling immigrants into the country would probably do it after dark. What say we take the Sleuth out in the

34 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

bay this evening and scout around for a few hours?”

“Good idea,” Joe agreed. “But remember, Miss Peregrine has to go along.”

About seven thirty the boys prepared to leave. They changed to old pants and sweaters, then hurried to the garage, where Joe put on the gauntlet and signaled for the hawk to come to his wrist. When the bird was in place, he hooded it, and Frank drove to their boathouse.

After climbing aboard the sleek motorboat, Joe attached the bird’s leash to the jesses on her legs and set her on a short pole in the wheel cabin, which was intended for raincoats and jackets. The bird accepted the roost readily.

Moments later Frank had the motorboat under way. As the craft knifed smoothly through the water, the boys were pleased to see that the falcon remained quiet. Presently Joe asked:

“What kind of boat, if any, do you think we ought to look for out here?”

“I surmise that the smugglers come close to the twelve-mile limit in a large boat,” his brother replied. “There they contact the shore and make arrangements to have the immigrants transported the rest of the way in a speedboat.”

“Sounds logical,” Joe agreed, his eyes constantly scanning the bay in every direction.

Feeling a drop of rain, Joe looked up at the sky. In the distance he spotted a pigeon flying toward

A Suspicious Sailor 35

land. Grabbing binoculars, he trained them on the bird. Frank, too, had seen the pigeon. Both boys wondered if it were a carrier.

“Suppose we let the hawk bring it down on the beach,” Joe suggested, starting toward the falcon in the cabin.

“I wouldn’t this time,” Frank said quickly. “It might help us more to know where the bird is going, so we can locate the owner. Get the pigeon’s direction, Joe.”

He handed his brother a pocket compass. Joe balanced it on his hand, and compensating for the bobbing of the speedboat, studied the movements of the settling needle carefully.

Frank and Joe were well aware that carrier pigeons’ actions are fairly predictable. When turned loose at their departure point, they fly straight up into the air, circle, pick up the beam to their home cote, and set off in a straight line.

By the speed and assurance with which the pigeon overhead was flying, the boys were convinced that it was making a beeline for home. When the bird was finally out of sight, Joe remarked:

“That was easy. The pigeon was heading straight southwest from here. The question is, How far inland is it going?”

“We have a starting point for our search, anyway,” Frank commented. “Say, that pigeon at Chet’s farm was headed in a southwest direction, too.”

36 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

“Right. And now, with a possible clue to the smugglers’ mainland hide-out, let’s do a bit of aerial sleuthing.”

“First thing tomorrow.”

Presently Frank turned the wheel over to Joe. He was just about to leave the bay and head into the ocean when his brother said:

“We have company.”

A deep-sea fishing cruiser was coming toward them from the open sea. Frank picked up the field glasses and read the name Daisy K. The Hardys were familiar with most of the fishing boats in the vicinity and recognized this one as a weather-beaten sports fishing craft used for charter trips. It was frequently tied up in Bayport. But they knew nothing about its owner.

“Think she’s suspicious?” Joe asked.

“We can’t overlook anything,” his brother replied.

While the vessel was still some distance away, Frank studied it with the glasses. Turning to Joe, he said:

“Take a look at the sailor leaning over the rail on the starboard side.”

As the Daisy K approached, Joe adjusted the glasses and peered at the heavy-set, dark-skinned man, who had piercing black eyes. Both of the man’s hands were resting on the rail, and at first glance he appeared to be just a tired sailor relaxing after a long, wearing day’s work.

A Suspicious Sailor 37

“What do you think, Joe?”

“Same as you do.”

For a reason they could not explain, the boys felt sure that this was the mysterious masked man who had tried to steal the falcon! But on neither of his hands was the telltale ruby ring. In a moment the Daisy K had passed the Sleuth.

“I don’t suppose,” said Joe, “that we ought to suspect every sun-tanned stranger who comes near us.” He grinned. “That’s Srnuffs approach. I did have a funny feeling, though, that he was our man. Shall we follow him?”

“We haven’t a shred of evidence against the fellow, Joe, and anyway, we know where to find him if we want him. I’d rather keep looking out here for clues to the smugglers.”

“Okay.”

It was choppy on the open sea, and as darkness settled, the wind grew strong.

“I guess we’d better go back,” Frank proposed. “The waves are getting pretty high and I don’t think our passenger Miss Peregrine likes it too well!”

The hawk was finding it hard to retain her perch and finally Frank took the bird on his wrist. Joe speeded up and made the bay just ahead of the advancing squall.

“Too bad we couldn’t continue our sleuthing,” Frank remarked. “But then, it would be impossible for us to get near another boat on a night like this.”

38 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

Joe nodded, turning to glance at the storm clouds. “We’re still going to get a taste of that squall before we can make the boathouse, Frank.”

“I know, and it may be rough even here in the bay. We’d better put on our oilskins.”

After they donned their slickers, the squall struck full force. Frank took the wheel, while Joe nestled the falcon under his oilskin.

In a fury of lashing wind and rain, the Sleuth pitched violently, and Frank fought to keep the boat on course. Then, as abruptly as it had started, the storm was over. The wind died and the rain slowed to a drizzle, then stopped.

“Whew!” Frank exclaimed. “These summer squalls! How did the lady take it?”

“Like a trouper,” Joe assured him, stroking the falcon. “And not a feather wet!”

About half an hour later they nosed the Sleuth into the slip of their boathouse. Joe set the falcon back on her pole perch, and had just closed the door behind them when there was a low rumble in one corner of the boathouse. The next instant, a blinding flash was followed by a sharp explosion that rocked the building!

A sheet of flame roared up the walls and across the boathouse directly toward the Sleuth!

CHAPTER V

Date Line: Delhi

stunned, the Hardys at first could see no escape from the flash fire which had trapped them in their boat-house. But as the initial shock wore off, Frank cried out:

“Open the doors, Joe!”

The youth swung them up as Frank gunned the boat’s motor. The Sleuth shot backward into open water a split second before the fire reached its prow.

“Whew!” said Joe. “Frank, that fire was set!”

His brother nodded as he docked nearby. Both boys jumped out and Joe fastened the hawk’s leash to a rowboat painter. Then he followed Frank, on a dead run, back to their boathouse. Frank, meanwhile, had grabbed a fire extinguisher from the wall of the neighboring boathouse.

Behind them, the boys could hear the watchman shout, “What’s wrong over there?”

“Fire!” Frank yelled.

40 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

One glance around the Hardy boathouse told the boys that a single extinguisher would do little good. Nevertheless, Frank played it around until it was empty. Joe said he would run to the nearest house and telephone the fire department.

Despite the danger, Frank decided to look for some clue to the fire’s origin. Just inside the boat-house door, he noticed a small wad of newspaper lying on the floor. He picked it up and shoved it into his pocket.

At that moment Joe returned with another extinguisher and the watchman ran up with a hand line from a nearby hydrant. With their combined efforts, the blaze was soon extinguished. But the boat-house was badly damaged.

The brothers surveyed it with a feeling of sadness. The place held many pleasant memories. Both boys vowed they would find the person who had set the fire.

A few minutes later the Bayport engines turned into the water-front street. But when the chief discovered that things were under control, he sent his men back to the firehouse. He himself remained to talk with the boys and the watchman for a while.

“How did the fire start?” he asked.

“We have no idea,” Joe replied, “except that there was an explosion.”

After a quick inspection, the chief was sure that an arsonist was responsible, and the Hardys agreed, but could offer no real clue as to who this might be.

Date Line: Delhi 41

When the chief had driven away, and the watchman had returned to his shack, Joe turned to Frank. “Who do you think set the fire?”

Suddenly a thought came to Frank. He pulled the wad of newspaper from his pocket. “This might tell us something,” he ventured. “But it’s too dark to read here.”

The boys returned to their boat to get a flashlight. To their amazement, they saw that the printing was in a strange, oriental-looking script.

“I’ll bet this paper was printed in India,” Frank said, “and if so, it’s my guess one of the smugglers may have set the fire.”

“There’s one man who can tell us if you’re right,” Joe reflected. “Looks like a translating job for Ahmed.”

“Think he’ll be up at this hour of the night?”

The brothers decided that it would be worth a try to find out. As they were about to leave, Joe suddenly halted and exclaimed, “Wait! I almost forgot our girl friend-the hawk.”

While he went to retrieve the falcon, Frank made arrangements with the watchman to leave the Sleuth at another dock. Then they drove to the small bungalow where Ahmed lived. The house was brightly lighted. They rang the bell, and the rug dealer, dressed in a flowing robe of his native country, admitted the boys and their falcon into an attractive living room, furnished in oriental style.

“What brings you boys out at this hour of the

42 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

night?” Ahmed asked, rolling up a scroll he had evidently been studying.

Frank and Joe took turns supplying the man with the details of their exploits that night. Frowning in concern, Ahmed took the pieces of wadded newspaper carefully in his hands and spread them on a bronze table top. As he scanned the lines closely a smile crossed the Indian’s face, and he beamed as he turned back to his callers.

“This paper contains good news. The date line is Delhi, India, two months past. It is part of a story which reports that Prince Dharmuk, the son of the Maharajah of Hatavab where I came from, is coming to the United States. The boy is eighteen years of age, and is to finish his education in this country. I know that he will gain knowledge and valuable experience here. Prince Tava, as he is called, is a handsome fellow indeed.”

Ahmed glanced over the rest of the newspaper but found nothing in any of the other items that could be interpreted as a clue to the identity of the firebug.

Frank asked, “How many people in or around Bayport would be likely to read a newspaper from India?”

The rug merchant wrinkled his brow, then replied, “A dozen, perhaps. I have six men from Delhi working for me, and there must be an equal number employed on the fishing boats in the vicinity.”

“Thank you very much, Ahmed,” Frank said, ris-

Date Line: Delhi 43

ing. “This information may shed some light on our case.”

The Hardys bade him good night, returned to their car, and headed for home.

They were up early the next morning. After breakfast Frank suggested that they make arrangements at once to have the boathouse repaired. He telephoned a builder, who agreed to start the work shortly. When he called the local airport, he found that they would have to postpone their aerial search for the smugglers’ hide-out, since the helicopter pilot was busy for the rest of that day.

Later that morning, Frank and Joe had a conference with Chief Collig about the fire and left the wad of Delhi newspaper with him. The chief promised to look into the matter thoroughly.

“Joe,” Frank said, as they left police headquarters, “if we’re going to use our hawk to help us solve the ruby mystery, we’d better do some more practicing with her. We may be needing Miss Peregrine in our pigeon hunt.”

“Right. Let’s go out to Chet’s after lunch.”

The Hardys decided to walk and carry the bird, since this would give the falcon an opportunity to become accustomed to them. Frank hooded the bird, picked up the falconer’s bag, and they started out.

The boys talked all the way, knowing that it was important for the falcon to come to recognize their voices and thus obey them more promptly. By now,

44 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

she came readily to either boy’s fist for food, as well as to the lure.

When they arrived at the Morton farm, the hired man informed them that Chet had gone to town but was expected back soon. Not wishing to waste time, they left a message for Chet to join them, and immediately set off for the isolated spot on the property where they would release the falcon. There, Joe un-hooded the bird and removed the leash. He then directed her attention to several crows which were flying over a clump of trees nearby and threw her off.

Some sixth sense seemed to warn the other birds, however, for almost as soon as the falcon had left Joe’s glove, they flew into a thicket. The hawk circled for a while, then climbed upward into the sky until she appeared no larger than a swallow.

“Maybe we’re going to lose her,” Joe said, worried.

“I don’t believe so,” Frank reassured him. “She’s ‘waiting on,’ expecting us to flush more suitable quarry for her to strike.”

“Well, we’ll give her some,” said Joe, taking the lure from a bag and waving it.

In the same small falconer’s bag was a little fresh meat with which the falcon would be rewarded after she struck the lure. But the falcon would not come down.

Frank now swung the lure and both boys looked expectantly into the sky. The next instant, puzzled expressions crossed their faces. The falcon was nowhere in sight.

Date Line: Delhi 45

“Now she is gone!” Joe exclaimed, frowning.

Frank, however, felt sure that hawk had not left them for good. “She might have dropped on something when we weren’t looking.” He suggested that perhaps Chet had returned and could help them search for the hawk. “I’ll run over to the house and see.”

When he reached the Morton kitchen, lola was there alone.

“No, Chet still hasn’t returned,” the girl said, when Frank told her of the hawk’s disappearance and their need of Chet’s help in hunting for her. “I was just coming to tell you that your father is home. He’s been trying to reach you on the telephone about something important. It’s in connection with your new case!”

CHAPTER VI

Indian Intrigue

surprised to learn that his father was back so soon from Washington, Frank dashed to the Mortons’ telephone and called his home.

“What’s up, Dad?” he asked excitedly.

“Hello, Frank. I’ve just received a message from Mr. Ghapur. He’s coming here from Washington with a friend of his from India who has a strange story to tell us.”

“What is it?”

“The matter was too confidential to discuss over the telephone, Frank. The men will arrive tonight. I thought you boys would want to be on hand.”

“We’ll be there all right,” Frank promised.

Then he told Mr. Hardy about the falcon not returning to the lure. The detective suggested that his sons keep swinging the lure where they had released the bird.

Indian Intrigue 47

“She’ll probably return when she’s tired of flying,” he added encouragingly.

Frank, however, sensed that his father felt the same concern as he-what would Mr. Ghapur think if the falcon were not retrieved?

“We’ll do our best,” Frank assured him. When he rejoined his brother, he continued to swing the lure. For what seemed like an eternity the Hardys strained their eyes for a glimpse of the falcon. They had just about given up hope when suddenly Joe gripped his brother’s arm.

“She’s coming back!” he cried. “Look high overhead!”

Elated, both boys watched a tiny speck hurtling toward them, growing larger by the second. With a swish of wind the hawk flashed by so fast that the boys could hardly follow her flight.

“She struck at the lure!” yelled Joe.

“Hold it on the ground,” said Frank.

In a long, graceful swoop the falcon came back in and struck the lure with a smack. Joe held it firmly and the hawk came to rest. He offered her the raw meat and then quickly hooded her. Both boys heaved sighs of relief.

“Guess Miss Peregrine’s had enough flying for today,” Frank remarked, setting the bird on his wrist.

As they approached the Morton house, Chet pulled into the driveway and invited the boys inside. The three friends consumed half a gallon of ice cream while they discussed the strange mystery

48 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

which the boys were trying to solve. Frank told Chet confidentially of the meeting to be held at their home that evening and of its highly secret nature.

“Maybe it’s about our rubies,” their stout friend suggested.

As suppertime approached, Chet drove the Hardys and their falcon home in his jalopy.

“Let me know what happens, fellows,” he called, waving good-by.

Fenton Hardy was waiting for his sons when they arrived. He was delighted to see that the hawk had come back to them.

“Our callers will arrive about nine o’clock,” he said.

Night had closed in at the Hardy home and they were waiting for the front-door bell to ring, when, to their surprise, a cautious knock sounded on the back door. The boys and their father hurried to the kitchen and Fenton Hardy opened the door. Two men were standing there.

“Mr. Ghapur!” the detective exclaimed.

“We thought we were being followed,” the importer explained, stepping in, “but I believe we have shaken off our pursuers. Please pardon this strange way of entering your home.”

Rahmud Ghapur was a dark-complexioned man, about fifty years old, with lines at his temples that indicated a normally jovial disposition. Right now, however, his expression was tempered by the seriousness of the situation. His companion, about ten years

Indian Intrigue 49

younger, was introduced as Mr. Delhi, a trusted emissary and cousin of the Maharajah of Hatavab.

Ghapur added that the nobleman from India had assumed the name Delhi because he wished to remain incognito while in the United States.

“And for easier pronunciation as well,” Mr. Delhi added, smiling. “My real name is Bhagnav.”

Mr. Hardy shook hands and introduced his sons. “We’ll go up to my study,” he said, “where we can be sure that our discussion will not be overheard by possible eavesdroppers at our doors or windows.”

He led the way to the second floor. After everyone was seated, Frank offered to bring the falcon to Mr. Ghapur, but the man advised against it.

“If the bird were to see me,” he said, “the fine progress you have made with her might be undone.”

Ghapur now turned to his companion. “Please tell your story,” he requested.

The maharajah’s cousin hesitated for a moment, then asked the Hardys, “Had you heard that Prince Tava was on his way to the United States in order to complete his education?”

“We learned it accidentally last night from a newspaper clipping,” Frank replied.

“The prince arrived in New York all right,” Mr. Delhi went on. “Then he was kidnaped!”

“Kidnaped!” chorused the Hardys, and Joe added, “When?”

“About a month ago. Ransom was demanded in rubies. We received orders to leave the gems in a

50 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

certain place in India. The orders were carried out and the rubies picked up. But the prince has not been released.”

“You haven’t heard anything since then?” Frank asked.

“Oh, yes. We have received a new ransom note which demands that more rubies be left at the designated spot. The note, like the first one, threatens the prince with death if payment is not made or if the story of his kidnaping is published,”

iMr. Delhi paused and looked thoughtfully at the floor. “I-I am afraid Tava may not even now be alive,” he said somberly. “But his father has not given up hope.”

Rahmud Ghapur picked up the thread of the story. “The maharajah sent Mr. Delhi to this country to see if he could track down the kidnapers. Since I am a native of the same province, he came to me for help. I suggested that we get in touch with you, Mr. Hardy. Can you and your sons look into this matter for us?”

“We’ll be glad to,” Fenton Hardy assured them. “In fact, my boys may have picked up a clue already.”

“Yes? How so?” both visitors asked in amazement.

The boys told them of the unhanded carrier pigeon brought down by the hawk.

“The pigeon carried two rubies. They may be part of the ransom,” Frank remarked.

The visitors were astounded to hear this news and

Indian Intrigue 51

agreed that the rubies might very well be part of the ransom. They thought, too, that the missing prince might be held at the place from which the pigeon had been released or at its home cote.

“More likely it’s the latter,” Mr. Hardy said. “We’ll do our best to find the spot.”

Mr. Ghapur leaned forward in his chair and said in a tense whisper, “Nothing must happen to the prince. He is like one of my own family. When he was just a small child, I was the guest of the mahara-jah for some hawk hunting and other sports.” Turning to Mr. Delhi, he asked, “Do you remember the cheetah hunt?”

“I certainly do,” Mr. Delhi recalled, “and the ma-harajah will never forget how you saved the prince’s life, at peril of your own, when the boy was attacked by the cheetah.”

“It was a great honor,” Ghapur said quietly. He turned back to Fenton Hardy and concluded, “I guess we’ve finished our mission here, and successfully. Mr. Delhi will return with me to my home in Washington. Our enemies must not know where he is, so we will leave the way we came. We are deeply grateful to you all.”

“We’ll try to justify your gratitude,” Fenton Hardy promised.

Mr. Delhi asked that they spare no expense in tracking down every possible clue.

When he and Rahmud Ghapur had left, as secretly as they had come, Mr. Hardy said to his sons, “I be-

52 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

lieve there’s definitely a connection between the kidnapers of the prince, the rubies on the pigeon, and the smugglers of aliens from India. You boys made a start checking the coast line for clues. You might follow up on that, as well as trying to locate the carrier pigeon’s cote while I’m away. I’m due back in Washington tomorrow.”

“We’ll keep after the water-front angle,” Frank assured him. “And we’re going to do some sleuthing from the air, too, in order to track down the pigeon’s owner.”

The family was up early the next morning so that Fenton Hardy could catch the first plane to Washington. While the boys were feeding and watering the falcon, their mother brought them two hundred dollars in cash and asked that they deposit it in the bank before two o’clock. They drove their father to the airport, then hunted up their friend George Simons, who owned a helicopter.

“No passengers ahead of us today, I hope,” said Frank.

“You’re the first. Climb in. What are you fellows chasing this time?” the pilot asked with a smile.

“Carrier pigeons and their home cotes,” Frank told him. “We’ll try to follow the direction a certain one took.”

First they flew to the end of the bay and from there headed in the southwesterly direction which the two suspicious pigeons had followed. The pilot kept his helicopter moving along at a low speed

Indian Intrigue 53

while Frank scanned the land below, searching for likely spots.

Meanwhile, Joe was watching the horizon behind them for any slow-moving ship or small boat that might be plying between some steamer and the shore. He saw none but suddenly cried out:

“Here comes a pigeon northeast of us!”

Simons held the helicopter stationary until the bird had come alongside and moved ahead of his craft. Then he trailed it. For about eight miles the pilot kept the pigeon in sight without difficulty, while Frank plotted its course on a map he had brought. Then, suddenly, the bird made a dive for a sparse woods.

At once Simons stopped his forward flight and lowered the helicopter to get a better look. But something seemed to be wrong-the craft was losing altitude much too fast!

There was a screeching, scraping sound as branches and leaves lashed at the undercarriage of the helicopter. Desperately Simons fought to pull up his craft. At last he succeeded and they whirred up into the blue sky.

“Whew! That was close!” Joe exclaimed.

Simons grinned weakly and said, “I thought we were goners! Our motor nearly quit.”

“Think we’d better go back to the airport?” Frank asked.

“Yes. No telling what this old windmill may do next.”

54 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

On their homeward course, the boys again carefully scrutinized the area. There was no sign of a house or barn with a cote in evidence. The brothers were puzzled about the pigeon and its destination, but finally concluded that it must have been a wild bird and had just happened to take the southwesterly route.

At the airport, as the boys climbed into their convertible, Joe asked, “Where do we go from here?”

“We ought to go to the bank,” his brother replied, starting the motor, “but let’s scout around the water front first for the heavy-set, sun-tanned man wearing a ruby ring.”

Joe nodded. “How about our looking for that suspicious sailor on the Daisy Kf If he’s the fellow, he may be wearing the ring now.”

Parking their car a block from the shore line, the boys walked briskly to the dock area, where fishing boats, excursion steamers, deep-sea charter cruisers, and pleasure craft tied up. As the two headed for the Daisy K, Joe suddenly gripped Frank’s arm and pointed toward an outdoor food stand.

“Look at the ring that fellow on the second stool is wearing,” he whispered excitedly.

A stocky, dark-skinned sailor, who might well have been from India, sat there eating. As the man lifted a fork, Joe saw the sun sparkle on a ruby ring-the same unusual ring the falcon snatcher had been wearing!

Frank and Joe moved in on either side of him and

They trailed the suspicious pigeon.

56 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

took seats. At once Frank whispered to the sailor, “Just what did you want with our falcon?”

The man looked up, startled. “Falcon? You’ve mistaken me for someone else,” he mumbled and backed off the stool.

Joe gripped him by the shoulder and retorted, “If you won’t tell us, you can explain it to the police.”

“The police? Say, what’s going on? I don’t know anything about a falcon. I swear it!” The sailor’s voice grew loud and he shook off Joe’s hand.

“Where did you get that ruby ring?” Frank broke in, stepping in front of the suspect.

This question brought a curious reaction. Apparently the man thought the boys intended to steal it, for he yelled, “Oh, no, you don’t!” and plunged headlong at Frank, trying to shove past him.

Frank thrust a leg in front of the sailor, who tripped over it and fell. Instantly Joe came down on the sailor’s back with a thud, pinning him to the ground.

“Now maybe we’ll get an answer, Frank,” he said.

CHAPTER VII

A Big Boner

an interested group of bystanders had gathered around the Hardy boys and the sailor.

“All right, talk!” Frank ordered, dragging the man to his feet.

The heavy-set, dark-skinned sailor straightened up. Glaring at the brothers, he asked, “What do you want to know about my ruby ring?”

“Where did you get it?” Joe repeated.

“Well, I didn’t steal it, if that’s what you think,” the man said sullenly. “I bought it from another sailor just last night. I got a good bargain, and figured it was worth the investment.”

“What did this man look like?” Frank asked.

The sailor suddenly reddened. “Why-er-I don’t know, but he looked something like me. Say, I can prove everything I told you!”

Turning, he yelled to the counterman to verify his story about the ring. To the Hardys’ chagrin the

57

58 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

counterman did so, saying he had seen the transaction. Frank and Joe looked sheepish.

“We’re sure sorry,” Frank apologized. “We-we made a mistake. We’d like to make up for it.”

The sailor grinned. “Well, all right, you can pay my lunch check,” he said. “I’m broke.”

“Maybe we can do better than that,” Joe spoke up. “Want to sell that ring?” he asked, recalling that Mr. Delhi had said to spare no expense in following up clues.

The sailor hesitated a moment, then removed the ring from his finger, named the price he had paid for it, and said he would sell it for a few dollars profit. Frank paid him for it, as well as the lunch check, out of his mother’s two hundred dollars. The sailor saluted crisply and hurried away.

Shaking their heads ruefully, the Hardys resolved to be less hasty in jumping to conclusions. They immediately went to the bank to deposit Mrs. Hardy’s few remaining dollars, then continued on toward the dock where the Daisy K tied up, but it was not in port.

“As long as we’re here,” said Joe, “we may as well make some inquiries about the crew.”

They quizzed supply men and ships’ captains. Finally one of the captains furrowed his brow, rubbed at the stubble on his chin, and declared:

“That sounds like a fellow named Ragu, first mate on the Daisy K. Heavy set. Piercing black eyes. Came from India. I’ve seen a ruby ring on him.”

A Big Boner 59

Frank and Joe could hardly believe their good fortune. That sailor they had seen leaning on the boat’s rail must have been the original owner of the ring! The captain said it was Ragu’s day off and he had just seen him in the Sea Foam Restaurant. The boys hurried there and spotted Ragu at a table in the far corner.

“Let’s go,” Joe said tersely.

He entered the restaurant and Frank followed. As the boys approached, Ragu glanced up and half rose from his chair, then slowly settled back.

“You’re Ragu, aren’t you?” Joe asked.

The man’s face became impassive, but his eyes were gleaming. “What importance is that to you?”

“We’d like to know something about a ruby ring you’ve been wearing,” Frank told him.

“I own no ruby ring,” the sailor replied belligerently.

Frank brought out the ring he had bought and held it in the palm of his hand. “You don’t own this now,” he said evenly, “but you did own it. Where did you get this ring?”

Ragu’s right hand whipped out, snatched the ring from Frank violently, and threw it across the room.

“You are evil boys!” he almost screamed.

Automatically Frank and Joe turned to recover the ring and Frank picked it up. When they whirled back at the sound of a clattering chair, Ragu was dashing out a side door.

The Hardys started after him, but suddenly Frank

60 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

stopped and said, “Joe, what say we let him go? I’m sure that Ragu’s the fellow who took the falcon from you. If he doesn’t think we’re after him, and if he’s connected with the senders of those rubies, maybe he’ll lead us to them.”

“Guess you’re right, Frank/

The brothers walked back to their convertible. As they started to climb into it, a vivacious voice said:

“What a beautiful ring you’re wearing, Frank. Is it a gift?”

Frank and Joe looked up into the smiling face of Gallic Shaw, a close friend of lola’s. Blond, quickwitted, and carefree, she appealed particularly to Frank. Although interested, and frequently very helpful, in the boys’ sleuthing, the pretty brown-eyed girl loved to tease the Hardys about their detective work.

“No, Gallic,” Frank replied with a smile. “It’s a clue in a new case we’ve taken on.”

lola Morton had joined the group now and was talking to Joe. She said gaily, “Just the same, don’t forget the picnic this afternoon. It’s going to be a fish fry.”

“Wouldn’t miss it for all the mysteries in Bay-port,” Joe replied.

“All our friends will be there,” lola said. “Why not bring along that hawk of yours to the farm and give us a demonstration?”

“What say, Joe?” Frank asked.

A Big Boner 61

“Count me in.” Joe grinned. “And I guess our falcon can take in a picnic, too.”

“It’s a date,” Gallic said. “Be there about three. Games first and we’ll eat at five.”

The girls waved good-by and headed for a waterfront fish shop.

“If we’re going to show off Miss Peregrine,” said Joe with a laugh, “we’d better go home and groom her.”

When they reached home, the boys showed their mother the ring and told her how they had paid for it. She smiled understandingly and said, “It’s all in a good cause and we’ll be reimbursed. But if you find out the ruby isn’t from the ransom, you will have bought a valuable ring cheap.”

After lunch Frank put it in his father’s safe. He and Joe fixed a bath for the falcon, then after changing their clothes and picking up bird, perch, bells, and lure, they set off for the Morton farm. They found a lively gathering of a dozen couples already playing spirited games of soft ball and badminton.

But the moment the falcon, hooded and seated on Frank’s gloved wrist, was noticed, attention focused on the bird. Joe set the perch on the ground and said he would let her fly later. The hawk remained quiet as he and Frank joined in the games.

Finally Chet, who was wearing a loud dark-green shirt splotched with brown and white, said, “Show them what Miss Peregrine can do, fellows.”

62 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

Frank looked around for a quarry. Suddenly a jay flew across the field at the edge of a woods. Frank yanked off the hood and flung the hawk in its direction. As the guests excitedly watched her fly toward the jay, a short-winged goshawk came rifling in from the woods and dived toward the jay.

“That’s a trained bird!” Frank exclaimed. “See the jungoli about its neck.”

“The what?” said Chet.

Frank explained that a jungoli is put around a goshawk’s neck to keep it from snapping when the bird is launched horizontally from the wrist.

Instantly the two hawks started to fight over the jay. Joe started forward, calling excitedly to the falcon. Frank held him back, saying:

“It’s too late now. They’ll fight to the death.”

But the falcon, suddenly alerted, shifted to avoid the vicious talons of the goshawk and then climbed up where she would have the advantage. While the hawks were maneuvering for position, the jay disappeared in the brush.

Frank and Joe now started to whistle and shout to Miss Peregrine, hoping to stop the fight. Suddenly the goshawk took flight and disappeared into the shelter of the woods. The falcon oriented herself, located the boys by the sound of their voices, and came down obediently to the feathered lure.

“Hey! You’re pretty good!” Chet exclaimed admiringly, and the other young people applauded.

The Hardys smiled, relieved that their falcon was

A Big Boner 63

safe, then looked inquiringly toward the woods into which the goshawk had vanished as mysteriously as she had come.

“Come on, Joe and Chet!” Frank urged. “Let’s find that hawk’s owner!”

Frank hooded the peregrine and placed her on her perch. Then the three boys hurried into the woods.

After a moment, Joe spotted a trail of recently trampled grass. Eagerly the trio followed it. They had gone only about a hundred yards when they were confronted by a large red-and-white sign:

DANGEROUS AREA! KEEP OUT!

The boys were puzzled, especially Chet, who was well acquainted with the woods. “Gosh, I never saw that warning before,” he said. “What’s going on here?”

The land looked undisturbed-no signs of digging, tree-felling, or other hazardous operations.

Frank noticed a similar sign some distance to their left, and Joe saw one to the right, both with the same words of warning. Nevertheless, they moved forward, but this time with caution. A hundred yards ahead was a string of similar signs.

Frank turned to Chet. “What could make this a dangerous area?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” his puzzled friend replied. “Old Mr. Smith who owns these woods used to encourage the public to come here.”

“It’s very strange,” said Frank. “If any big project

64 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

were under way, everybody in Bayport would have heard about it.”

“Let’s split up and see if we can find out what’s going on,” Joe suggested.

He and Chet worked in a wide sweep on either side of the trail, while Frank followed the trampled path. The boys lost sight of each other as the foliage became more dense. But Frank could check the others’ positions from the sounds of their passage through the tangled undergrowth. Soon even these were muffled, and the woods became a silent, twilight world.

Suddenly from Chet’s direction came a cry for help.

“Chet’s in trouble!” Frank yelled.

Instantly he and Joe were crashing through the underbrush to their friend’s aid.

CHAPTER VIII

The Double Attack

for several anxious moments Frank and Joe could not locate Chet. But at last they came upon him. huddled in a clump of brush near a brook.

“He’s unconscious!” gasped Joe.

They knelt beside Chet, then carefully brought their friend out of the thicket. As the boys placed him in a prone position, they noticed blood oozing from a wound on the back of his head.

“This proves he didn’t have an accident,” Frank said grimly. “Looks as if someone gave him a solid blow!”

Both boys glanced around cautiously to make sure none of them were in immediate danger, then gave Chet first aid. As Joe chafed the boy’s wrists, Frank started for the brook to soak a handkerchief for Chet’s brow.

He had gone only a few feet when he heard a slight rustling sound. Were they being watched? Looking

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66 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

around quickly, Frank spotted a movement in some bushes about fifty feet away. Without turning, he whispered:

“Joe, take care of Chet. I see someone. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

Frank headed for the bushes, but almost at the same moment, someone went crashing through the underbrush. Frank increased his own pace, following the fugitive by the sounds of flight.

Several hundred yards farther on, Frank spotted the back of a tall, thin man for a fleeting second.

Then a moment later he heard a cry which sounded like “Shabash!” and wondered what it meant.

Frank put on a burst of speed which brought him closer to the man he was pursuing. They were both making considerable noise, now, as twigs and leaves crackled under their feet. For this reason, Frank was not immediately aware that footsteps were pounding behind him. When he heard them, Frank started to turn. Before he could see who it was, a sharp, heavy blow seemed to shatter his head. Knees buckling, Frank pitched forward on his face and blacked out!

Back at the clearing, Joe had listened to the sounds of the chase for a minute, confident that his brother Frank would be more than a match for any adversary. Then he went to the brook, soaked his handkerchief in the cool, clear water, and bathed Chet’s wound. The boy’s eyes flickered open and he looked up dazedly.

The Double Attack 67

“What’s happened? Where are we?” he asked.

“Take it easy,” Joe advised him. “Someone knocked you out. But Frank’s after him now.”

“I remember. Someone rushed up behind me and I yelled for help. He conked me.” Chet relaxed, closing his eyes for a while.

Joe sat down on a nearby log to wait for Frank’s return. Glimpsing the sky through the trees, he could see that the afternoon was waning. It struck him that the picnickers probably were wondering about the boys’ long absence. Should he try to get Chet back to the Morton farm and not wait for Frank? But Joe decided against this.

“Chet should take it easy,” he thought.

As time passed and his brother still did not return, Joe grew worried. “Chet, I’d better look for Frank,” he said finally. “Do you think you can make it back to the farm alone?”

“Guess so.”

Joe helped him to his feet and the stout boy took a few steps, then stopped, admitting that he felt very dizzy.

“You better rest a while longer,” Joe said.

He rummaged in the undergrowth and found a strong, heavy stick. Handing it to Chet, he said, “You ought to be able to defend yourself with this. I’m going to hunt for Frank.”

“Okay. I’ll wait here.”

Joe moved off into the woods, trying to follow the general direction Frank had taken. Several times he

68 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

gave the Hardys’ secret whistle, which was a birdcall, and listened eagerly for his brother’s response. But it never came.

Joe trudged on, following a trail of trampled grass he had picked up. As he reached a dense section, he heard someone moving just ahead of him. Joe stopped and gave the whistle again. There was no reply, but the rustling grew louder. He looked about for a weapon. He found a heavy stick similar to the one he had left with Chet, picked it up, and went forward.

As Joe crept around the bole of a large tree, he saw Frank staggering along. His brother’s eyes were glazed and he obviously was trying to fight his way out of the woods on sheer nerve.

“Frank, you’ve been hurt!” Joe cried, gripping his brother around the shoulders and gently lowering him to the ground. As Frank looked up at him and tried to smile, Joe noticed that one of his brother’s hands clutched a small pouch.

“Where did you get this?” Joe asked.

Frank blinked his eyes, looked down at the pouch as if seeing it for the first time, and muttered, “Don’t know. Maybe-the fellow who attacked me- dropped it. Guess-I picked-it up.” He sank back, exhausted.

Joe opened the small pouch and saw that it contained several reddish-brown nuts. He had never seen any like them and concluded they might furnish a good clue to the identity of the boys’ assailant.

The Double Attack 69

Right now, Joe faced a dilemma. Should he go for help and leave Frank and Chet? But he discarded the idea at once. Their enemy might return. He must get both boys away as soon as possible!

“Suppose you rest for a few minutes, Frank,” he suggested. “Then we’ll take off.”

Frank closed his eyes but opened them ten minutes later, declaring he felt much better. Joe was seated beside him, gazing at the pouch.

“It’s possible that we’re close to the smugglers’ hide-out, Frank,” he remarked. “I’d say they might even own that goshawk, as well as carrier pigeons.”

A few minutes later Frank said that he felt strong enough to start back. Joe helped him up, and the brothers moved off slowly toward the spot where Chet waited. Shadows were creeping among the trees, and the sun was low on the horizon. Because of the dusk and the condition of the two boys, further sleuthing was out of the question for the time being.

“But we’ll pick up the trail first thing in the morning,” Frank said with determination.

As they walked on, the boys discussed their experiences of the afternoon.

“Those warning signs weren’t kidding,” Frank said, rubbing his head gingerly. “This is a dangerous area.”

“I have a hunch,” Joe said, “that the pouch may be an important clue.”

When they reached the spot where Joe had left Chet, the Hardys did not see him.

70 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

“I hope he wasn’t hit over the head again,” Frank said, worried.

Joe was concerned too, but he also recalled Chet’s prodigious appetite and said, “Maybe Chet’s stomach began to bother him more than his head, and he decided to go back to the picnic.”

“No such thing,” came a voice so close to them that the Hardys jumped.

The next instant, Chet’s perspiring head and face emerged from his splotched dark-green shirt, which blended well with the leaves and twigs of the underbrush. The stout boy got up from his hiding place, grinning.

“Well, for Pete’s sake!” Joe exclaimed. “You trying to play the hooded hawk?”

“I sure was! I need as much protection as your old bird,” Chet replied, putting the shirt back on.

Frank and Joe roared with laughter.

“You needn’t laugh!” Chet said seriously. “Those guys may still be around!”

CHAPTER IX

Hypnotic Music

As the laughter subsided, Chet explained to Frank and Joe that he had felt too weak to fight anyone, even with the clublike stick Joe had given him. When he thought someone was coming, he had ducked into the bushes and put the shirt over hi? head as camouflage.

“But I guess it was my imagination,” he said. “Haven’t heard a thing since. Let’s go!”

The boys made their way back to the trail and headed for the Morton farm. All the young guests had left except Gallic. She and lola were seated with Mr. and Mrs. Morton near the falcon’s perch, keeping a close watch on the valuable bird.

At sight of Chet and Frank, the whole group ran forward. Mr. Morton asked, “What happened?”

“Got banged up a bit,” Chet replied. “But there’s nothing wrong with us that something to eat and a night’s sleep won’t cure.”

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72 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

“You bet,” Frank spoke up, also trying to make light of their ordeal. “Anything left from the fish fry?”

“We’ve been saving some for you,” lola said. “Come and get it!”

While they were eating, the boys told the others of their strange experiences in the woods. Chet’s father said that he would try to find out if Mr. Smith had posted the warning signs and why.

“Tomorrow we’ll go back and investigate the place, anyway,” Joe declared.

The Mortons and Gallic begged the boys to be on their guard and they promised to do so. After breakfast the following day, a cold, dreary one for August, Frank declared he felt much better. He proposed that they take Ahmed along on their exploration.

“If we do come upon a group of Indians, his knowledge of the language and customs will come in mighty handy.”

“You’re right,” Joe agreed. “I’ll phone him while you get the car.”

Ahmed, amazed to hear about the previous day’s incident with the goshawk and the attacks on the boys, readily agreed to go. The boys asked Mrs. Hardy to keep an eye on the falcon, then set off in the convertible to pick up Ahmed at his bungalow. The rug dealer was hardly seated when he said tensely:

“If you have really found the hide-out of these despicable smugglers and can bring them to justice,

Hypnotic Music 73

India will never be able to repay you for stopping this vicious traffic involving her countrymen.”

Remembering the small pouch he had found in the woods, Frank pulled it out of his pocket and handed it to Ahmed. “I picked this up in the woods yesterday. Do you think it might be a clue?”

Ahmed’s eyes narrowed as he scrutinized the bag and its contents. Then he said cryptically, “I believe we are indeed approaching the end of the search. These are betel nuts. Only lower-caste Indians chew them.” Ahmed turned to Frank. “The person who attacked you and your friend may be one of the smuggled men or a servant to an Indian of wealth.”

The Hardys looked at each other. The kidnaped prince, perhaps? He was indeed one of great wealth. They wondered whether or not to tell Ahmed the secret of Prince Tava’s disappearance but decided not to do so unless it became necessary. “At least we should ask Mr. Delhi’s permission first,” they reflected.

A short time later Frank turned the car into the Morton lane and Chet joined them at the barn. Immediately the foursome set out for the woods on foot, taking a different route to the trampled trail they had followed the previous day. But just before they reached it, a new obstacle presented itself-a long, impenetrable wall of vines and branches.

“This will be tougher to get past than those danger signs we ran into yesterday,” Frank remarked.

Ahmed paused and studied the barrier carefully.

74 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

“These vines and branches,” he said, “are not growing here. They have been woven together by master craftsmen. Whoever had this constructed is indeed anxious to keep out strangers.”

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” remarked Frank. “Have you, Ahmed?”

“Yes, some of our hunters in India are clever vine craftsmen,” he explained. “You have heard tales of the beaters who go out to stir up the tiger and the wild boar. They often use this weaving technique to make sure that the animals will not escape while the maharajah is moving in with his elephant, or the pigsticker with his lance.”

“Looks as though we should have brought along a machete to cut through here,” Frank remarked.

Ahmed and the three boys picked up stout pieces of fallen tree limbs and started to beat their way through. Now and then they stopped to listen for sounds that might indicate trouble. But apparently they were alone in the woods.

Presently a disturbing thought came to Frank. “It looks,” he said, “as though we may have frightened our attackers away from the woods permanently.”

Joe nodded but made no comment. Finally the searchers broke through the thick mesh of vines. Joe spotted a fairly well-marked trail and went ahead, but suddenly darted back.

“Hold it! A snake! I almost stepped on him. Say, I’ve never seen one like this. Wonder if it’s dangerous?”

Hypnotic Music 75

Ahmed stepped forward. “Careful!” he ordered. “It’s a krait and extremely poisonous.”

The Hardys and Chet stared at the reptile in fascination. Between four and five feet long, it had smooth lustrous scales. The snake was dark brown in color and had pale crossbands, with occasional vivid yellow rings. Its head was small, and it was difficult to tell where head ended and body began.

“If the snake’s poisonous, let’s kill it,” Chet suggested, looking for a stone.

“No, no,” Ahmed said quickly. “It’s a reptile of great value. We must trap the snake and present it to the Bay-port Zoo.”

“But how?” Chet queried.

Ahmed smiled. “You boys quickly construct a cage of twigs and vines,” he said. “In the meantime, I’ll try to charm the snake.”

The man reached into the folds of his garments. To the boys’ amazement, Ahmed drew out a reed pipe which he said he always carried with him.

“I usually play this for pleasure,” he said. “Now it will be put to serious use.”

Ahmed placed the pipe to his lips and began playing an eerie, hypnotic song. The snake reacted at once, although sluggishly at first. The boys were so intrigued by the rhythmic rising and falling notes that the music almost had them moving in time with the swaying motions of the krait.

But Frank and Joe quickly gathered twigs and branches, while Chet went for some of the vines

76 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

which their enemies had used in the blockade. While they wove the materials into a sturdy, almost solid cage, and made a crude door, Ahmed kept the krait captivated.

When the cage was ready, Frank edged it slowly toward the krait. With the notes of his piping, Ahmed guided the reptile into the opening. Frank closed the door and carefully fastened it with a wooden peg and vine lashing. The three boys heaved sighs of relief and Ahmed put away his pipe.

“Good work, young men,” he praised them.

“But the hardest part was yours,” Chet said. “I think I’ll try playing a reed.”

“Hey! Who do you want to charm?” Joe asked, grinning. Then he became serious. “What shall we do with the snake while we’re hunting for those smugglers?”

“Speaking of smugglers,” said Chet, “do you think those guys put the snake here to poison us?”

“That is not impossible, of course,” Ahmed replied. “More likely the krait escaped from a cage. Its owner would be too fearful of being bitten himself to let it loose.”

The elderly man then told the boys that it was most unusual to find a krait in the United States. “The snake’s natural habitat,” he said, “is India.”

The Hardys exchanged glances. More proof, perhaps, of the smugglers or Prince Tava being nearby!

Though doubly eager to renew their search, the boys first asked Ahmed to check the snake’s cage. He

Hypnotic Music 77

did so, and said he felt sure that the poisonous reptile could not escape.

Frank set the cage to one side of the trail, where they would pick it up on the way back, and the group proceeded. They walked for some time, searching carefully for clues, but saw nothing suspicious. Presently the foliage began to thin out.

At the moment Frank was in the lead. He held up a hand for silence. Then, dropping to his knees, he crawled forward.

“There’s a large hunting lodge up ahead,” he whispered. “And there’s smoke coming from the chimney.”

Chet explained that Mr. Smith had built the lodge to entertain his friends during the hunting season, but that he never used it in the summer.

For several minutes Ahmed and the boys remained in hiding and observed the lodge, built of peeled logs. Then Frank said:

“It looks deserted, though someone must have built a fire recently. Let’s see what we can discover. But be careful!”

Up ahead, the windows challenged them like suspicious eyes. Did the lodge conceal dangerous smugglers-or the kidnapers of a prince?

CHAPTER X

Scarlet Clues

the searchers warily circled the hunting lodge, but they came upon no one, nor was there any sign of activity. Still cautious, however, Frank said in a whisper:

“Keep an eye on me, will you, while I get close enough to look through the windows?”

Frank hurried forward, zigzagging so that if anyone tried to attack him he would be an elusive target. At last he reached a corner of the low, wide veranda which ran around three sides of the building. Crossing to a large window, he looked into a handsomely furnished living room with a log fire burning. The room was unoccupied.

Frank moved stealthily from window to window. There were several rooms in the lodge, all well furnished. The bedrooms and kitchen showed evidence of a hasty exit of several people from the place. Dirty dishes were piled high in the sink, and bureau drawers were open.

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Scarlet Clues 79

Frank signaled to the others and they hurried forward. Moments later all were inside the lodge, looking for clues to the vanished occupants. At first glance they seemed to have removed everything.

Joe, who was more interested in where the occupants had gone than in the contents of the building, went through the kitchen and out to the back yard. At the edge of the woods he discovered a spring which flowed into a small creek. In the muddy earth around it were a number of footprints.

“Hey, come here!” he called. Ahmed, Frank, and Chet joined him. Joe said excitedly, “Here’s evidence. Let’s see where these tracks go.”

“And look!” cried Frank, pointing in turn to several bright-red splotches on the ground.

“Looks like blood!” Joe exclaimed.

“Dried blood would be dark,” Frank said. “That is brilliant red.”

“And there are more red spots over here,” called Chet. “Looks as if somebody was-spitting blood!”

“Your guess is close,” said Ahmed. “This is a real clue. A betel-nut chewer has been here. A user of betel nut spits a bright-red fluid.”

Their hopes raised by these latest discoveries, the searchers dashed into the woods, following the foot’ prints Joe had discovered. When the trail of footprints ended, the boys spotted crushed leaves and broken twigs that marked the recent flight of several people.

Also, the conspicuous red splotches made by the

80 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

betel-nut user showed up here and there along the way. The fact that the inhabitants of the lodge had been in a hurry had made them careless, and therefore, that much easier to follow.

The foursome followed the trail to the edge of a rock-filled brook. There it was lost. Frank and Joe knelt at various points along the opposite bank of the stream, looking for some sign to indicate where the fleeing group had come out. But they found nothing and concluded that the fugitives had gone far downstream.

Convinced that there was no way of picking up the trail beyond the stream, Frank suggested that they all return to the lodge and try to find some clues to the occupants’ identities.

“This time we’ll make a really thorough search,” Frank said.

Once inside the rambling log structure, each of the quartet took one of the bedrooms that opened off the living room. There were fingerprints visible everywhere but not one clear set.

Frank was going through the drawers of a bureau in one of the bedrooms when he chanced upon a small sealed box. The label, written in both English and what appeared to be Indian script, bore the words: Krait Serum.

“The people who lived here probably kept it around in case their krait got out of hand,” he thought, as he took the box and a bottle of alcohol

Scarlet Clues 81

that lay beside the serum and hurried to show the others.

Ahmed took the items from Frank and carefully opened the box. Inside were a number of sealed capsules, each with its own syringe.

“M-maybe there are lots of kraits around,” Chet said, wild-eyed. “We’d better get out of here pronto!”

The others were startled by the suggestion. Chet could be right!

“We’d better watch every step we take from now on,” said Frank with concern.

Ahmed put the box of serum and the bottle of alcohol inside his voluminous robe, in case they had any further encounter with kraits. Then he left the boys to resume his examination. A moment later he called:

“In here, boys! Look what I’ve found.”

The others ran to a bedroom which was furnished more luxuriously than the others. In his hand the elderly rug dealer was holding a dark-brown object the size of a robin’s egg. It looked like a salt shaker, was delicately carved, and had a number of colored bands for decoration.

“What is it?” Frank asked, puzzled.

“A sandalwood scent box,” Ahmed replied slowly. “It belongs in the luggage of an Indian prince!”

CHAPTER XI

Snake Trouble

“indian prince?” Chet repeated Ahmed’s words as he examined the box, sure that he could not have heard right.

In an undertone Joe said to Frank, “Prince Tava! This must have been his ‘prison’!”

Frank nodded, then said, “I guess now we’d better tell the others.”

Completely astounded, Ahmed and Chet listened to the story of the kidnaped prince and the Hardys’ suspicion that he had been held here.

“I ought to put myself behind bars for not continuing the search yesterday,” Joe berated himself.

Ahmed laid a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Do not blame yourself. Let your thoughts dwell rather on finding him,” he advised.

“But where have they taken him?” Chet asked, adding, “I don’t think I want to meet those kidnapers.”

“Wherever the prince has been taken,” said Frank,

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Snake Trouble 83

“you can be sure the place won’t be so easy to liud as this one was. His captors will see to that and will make it dangerous for anyone trying to find him.”

“Maybe now they’ll kill the prince,” Chet said dolefully.

A look of alarm crossed Ahmed’s face, but he said quietly, “We must hope for happiness and good fortune for Prince Tava.”

The boys felt slightly reprimanded by the remark and determined to follow the Indian’s advice.

“What’s next?” Chet asked, as he headed for the front veranda and relaxed in a comfortable rush-bottomed chair.

“I guess we’d better follow up the pigeon angle for further clues,” Frank replied, as all of them sat down to rest before starting back through the forest. “I haven’t seen any signs of cotes around here. I thought for a while that maybe pigeons were kept here, both as food for the goshawk and as carriers for the smugglers. But I guess that the pet goshawk had other food. Ahmed, do you think the bird could have belonged to the missing prince?”

“It is quite possible,” the man replied. “However, I am puzzled as to why Prince Tava did not escape from his captors yesterday when he was evidently within sight of you boys.”

Joe suggested that perhaps the prince was not being held against his will, but Ahmed scoffed at this thought. “More likely, guards watch over him every minute,” the rug dealer said.

84 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

“It could be,” said Frank, “that the prince has been given some wrong information. He believes it and is not trying to escape!”

“This is getting too deep for me.” Chet sighed. “Let’s go home. I’m hungry.” He went back inside the lodge, helped himself to an unopened box of crackers from the fugitives’ kitchen, and passed them around.

Both Frank and Joe felt that the mysterious house and grounds should not be left unguarded, so it was decided that as soon as the group reached Chet’s home they would phone Mr. Hardy’s operative, Sam Radley, to take on this job.

Radley and the boys worked closely together. He admired Frank and Joe’s sleuthing abilities, and encouraged them in every way he could. Now and then, when things were going slowly on a case, he would needle them, but more often he called on them for assistance when his own sleuthing led him to a dead end. In order to be close to Mr. Hardy and ready for his orders, Radley lived in a hotel in Bayport.

Feeling somewhat rested, Ahmed and the three boys started back through the forest. As they neared the spot where they had left the snake, there was a good deal of bantering among the boys as to who would present the krait to the zoo. They were considering drawing straws for the honor of making the presentation when suddenly Joe spoke up.

“Wasn’t it right here that we left the cage?”

Snake Trouble 85

The group came to a halt and studied the surrounding trees and shrubbery. All concluded that it was the spot, as Frank pointed to a number of broken stalks. “Those are the bushes we took the branches from to make the cage,” he said. “And you can see where the vines were torn out of the shrubbery over there. It was here, all right.”

“Golly,” Chet broke in, “the cage is gone! Maybe that krait moved it by twisting and turning around inside and then broke out!” He looked around, wide-eyed.

“I think not,” said Ahmed. “Someone has taken the snake. There are only two possible answers, both of them potentially dangerous. The owner may have come back and reclaimed his krait. That would mean that the kidnapers have not abandoned this area completely. Perhaps your Sam Radley will have more to do than you expected.”

As the rug dealer paused, Chet asked, “And the other possibility?”

“Someone walking along this path saw the snake in the cage, and not knowing that the krait was poisonous, picked it up. He may have taken the snake along, or he may have freed it.”

There was tense silence for a few moments, then Frank said, “If some uninformed person has the snake, we’d better find it-fast!”

They knew that this might be difficult. No one could know whether the cage with the snake in it

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had been found a few minutes after the Hardys had left it alongside the trail, or whether it had been carried off only a short time before their return.

Fortunately, there was a clearly marked trail leading away from the spot. The foursome hurried along it, peering ahead for anyone carrying the cage. Presently they came to a spot where a little rill moved across the trail, leaving a damp spot. In this moist dirt was a heel mark, which Chet spotted first.

“Someone’s not far ahead!” he cried. “The water hasn’t filled up this heel mark yet.”

“We must be careful,” Frank warned. “If it’s the original owner we may be in for trouble. He may even try to use the snake on us.”

“True,” said Ahmed. “And if it’s anyone not aware of the danger of the snake, he may become frightened and run off with it.”

Realizing the seriousness of the situation, the searchers continued quietly but with speed.

Suddenly Joe cried, “There they are! A couple of kids!”

Less than a hundred yards ahead of them, two boys who looked about ten and twelve years of age were walking briskly in single file. On his right shoulder, each boy held one end of a long stick from which, midway between the boys, swung the krait’s cage. The Hardys and their friends sighed in relief.

“Hey, boys!” Frank called.

The two lads halted and turned. When they saw

Snake Trouble 87

the three youths and the Indian following them, they became confused. One of them asked:

“What do you want?”

Joe, moving forward at a slow trot, said, “That cage you’re carrying-set it down and stand away from it. There’s a poisonous snake inside.”

“Poisonous snake?” the older boy in the rear repeated. With a startled cry, he jumped back, pulling the stick from his companion’s grasp. As the forward end hit the ground, the cage slid down the stick, striking hard against the ankles of the other boy. Thrown off balance, he toppled backward, smashing one corner of the cage.

“Roll away! Roll away!” Frank yelled.

Panic-stricken, the boy tried to comply, but part of his jacket had caught on the cage. A moment later he screamed.

“The snake bit me!” yelled the boy.

CHAPTER XII

A Strange Lead

the krait slithered off as the Hardys and their friends ran to help the stricken lad, who was clutching his ankle. Quickly Frank drew the boy away from the cage, stripped off his sock, and grimly noted the tiny twin punctures just above the ankle.

“I’ll use the serum,” Ahmed said. “Frank, give him the standard first-aid treatment.”

Unscrewing the bottle of alcohol, Frank quickly sterilized his pocketknife blade and swabbed the area around the wound. Then he made a cross cut over each fang mark, forcing them to bleed freely. Next, he put a tourniquet just above the knee to prevent the poison from circulating through the blood stream. The ten-year-old bravely gritted his teeth.

Meanwhile, Ahmed had taken out one of the capsules and prepared the syringe. He located a proper vein and administered serum to the boy.

“He’s going through shock,” Ahmed said. “We must keep him quiet and warm.”

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A Strange Lead 89

At once the Hardys wrapped the boy in their sports jackets.

Ahmed had arisen, saying, “I must get the snake before it bites someone else,” and had pulled out the reed.

He piped softly, hoping the krait had not gone far. Presently they saw the snake rear its head from behind a stone and soon Ahmed had charmed it back into the cage which Joe had repaired.

Now Ahmed turned his attention back to the boy who had been bitten. He observed him for a few minutes and said that he expected complete success from their efforts. The others, sharing his confidence, settled down to wait until the boy could be moved.

Chet, meanwhile, had tried to comfort the older boy who had been numb with fright.

“What made you decide to pick up the snake’s cage?” Chet asked.

“We saw it there beside the trail and decided it had been left by one of the zoo collectors,” the lad explained. “Fred and I are working for points in our Nature Club and we thought we might talk to the zoo men and learn something that would help us. So we waited a while. Then it got pretty late and we had to be home for lunch, so we decided to take it to the zoo.”

“So he’s Fred,” Joe said, pointing to the stricken boy. “What’s your name?”

“Gene, er-Eugene Moran. We’re brothers. Are you sure Fred’s going to be all right?” Gene asked.

90 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

“Yes, son,” Ahmed assured him. “The swelling is going down and he’s breathing easier.”

The frightened boy looked at his brother, who tried to smile. The Indian put a comforting arm about Gene’s shoulder and said, “If you came upon a snake captured by zoo employees, it would be in a sturdy collection box, and not in a handmade cage built of branches and vines.”

Gene’s eyes opened in amazement. “We didn’t think of that.”

After putting the boy at ease, Frank remarked, “If you fellows live close by and hike in these woods often, you probably know the people who live at the hunting lodge. Tell us something about them.”

Gene replied promptly, “Oh, this is the first time my brother and I have ever been in these woods.”

“Did you see anyone else in the woods today besides us?” Joe asked.

“Yes, a whole bunch of dark-skinned people who looked something like Mr. Ahmed.”

“Where?” the Hardys asked in unison.

Gene pointed in a southwesterly direction. “They seemed to be in a big hurry. Say, one of them, a fellow about your age, Frank, had a pet bird on his right wrist. It had something like a cap pulled over its head.”

The listeners exchanged excited glances. Could the bird have been the goshawk and its owner Prince Tava?

Joe told the Moran boys that he and his friends

A Strange Lead 91

were looking for such a group of people and asked, “Were they wearing foreign clothing?”

“Oh, no,” Gene replied positively. “They had on regular American suits.”

“Did they have a leader?”

Gene thought this over a moment. “Well, I guess you’d call the lightest one the leader. He was tall and cruel-looking. Wore a cap something like a ship’s captain, and a dark-blue coat. While they were running away, one of the other men called out to him.”

“What did he say?” Frank persisted.

“It sounded something like ‘Cap, got the stones?’ ”

Frank asked several more questions, but neither Gene nor his brother could give any further information. Presently Fred said he felt able to travel.

“All right,” said Frank, “but you must remain quiet. We’ll carry you to the Morton house and phone your parents.”

Frank and Chet made a chair carry to transport Fred and they all started off. Joe and Ahmed carried the snake cage.

As soon as they arrived at the farmhouse, Mrs. Morton put the injured boy on a couch in the living room while lola brought him a cup of bouillon. Gene phoned his father who agreed to come right over and take the boys home.

Frank then called Sam Radley, related the happenings in the woods, and described the location of the hunting lodge. Mr. Hardy’s operative assured him that he would start guarding the place at once.

92 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

“But I doubt if those people will return,” he said.

lola Morton, feeling she could do nothing further for Fred Moran, had gone to the kitchen to prepare lunch. Joe followed her and she insisted that the Hardys and Ahmed stay to eat.

“We don’t need a second invitation,” Joe said.

A short time later Mr. Moran arrived. When Frank explained the treatment which had been administered to his son, the man thanked everyone for his kindness.

After Mr. Moran left, the Mortons and their visitors sat down to lunch. When they finished, Ahmed declared that he thought the krait should be taken to the zoo as quickly as possible.

Frank brought the convertible to the front door and the krait’s cage was lifted into the trunk of the car.

The drive to the zoo was completed without further incident and the trio went in to talk to the curator of reptiles. The man accepted the krait gladly and said that the serum would be a welcome safeguard.

The Hardys drove Ahmed home. When they thanked the rug dealer for his help, he bowed politely at his doorway and replied:

“It is you who are helping my prince and my people. I shall be forever grateful to you.”

Frank and Joe waved a farewell, and the convertible moved away. As Frank turned into the Hardy driveway, Joe looked at him with a grin and said,

A Strange Lead 93

“Brother, I’m tired and hot. A shower will feel good!”

“That goes for me, too,” Frank admitted. “About the liveliest thing I’m going to do the rest of today is make up a list of pigeon fanciers nearby and try to find out if one of them has lost any carrier pigeons recently.”

Before locking the garage, they stopped to talk to the falcon which was bobbing back and forth on her perch as though in welcome. Joe brushed his fingers along the bird’s back between the shoulders and on the feathers of her wings.

“We sure deserted you today,” he remarked.

After they had showered and put on clean clothes, Frank and Joe went to their father’s study and started to check the classified telephone directory for pet shops.

“The owners ought to know something about pigeon fanciers,” Joe declared, and Frank nodded in agreement.

The younger boy picked up a pencil and jotted down the numbers of all pet shops in the county. They made a series of telephone calls which netted no information. Not discouraged, the boys kept on. There were only three left on the list when Frank and Joe heard a noisy car coming down Elm Street.

“Sounds like Chet’s jalopy,” Joe said, getting up to look out a window. He laughed. “It is! And from the looks of the steam coming out of the radiator, he sure is in a hurry. Wonder what’s up.”

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Usually the stout boy nursed along his prized possession as though it were made of solid gold.

Chet hurried inside the house and up the stairs so fast that he was out of breath for several moments and could not say a word. When he did begin talking, he could hardly speak above a whisper. Finally he extended his hand in which lay a capsule, similar to the one containing the rubies.

“Where did you get this?” Frank asked quickly.

Chet finally calmed down enough to speak and said, “I was standing outside the barn when I heard a plane heading for the airport. About the same time I spotted a pigeon overhead, too. Suddenly it looked as though the pigeon tried to pass beneath the plane. I guess they brushed together. A shower of feathers came down, then the bird circled and plummeted right into the middle of a field!

“And you should have seen that plane zoom,” Chet went on. “I’ll bet it gave the pilot a few bad moments. You know if that bird had smacked into the prop it would have meant real trouble. Why, I read in the newspaper just the other day about an accident like that-”

“But what about the pigeon?” Joe interrupted impatiently. “Was it dead?”

“No,” Chet replied, “but badly shaken up. I put it in a cage and removed this capsule from its leg. Wait till you see what’s in it!”

CHAPTER XIII

A Harsh Skipper

although Chet had opened the capsule when he had removed it from the pigeon, he would not reveal the contents to the Hardys. Instead, he waited as Frank removed the cap.

Inside was a tightly rolled bit of paper which he released with his fingernail. He smoothed out the note on his father’s desk and held it down at each end with paperweights. A message, printed in block letters, read:

CAUGHT L ABOUT TO SQUEAL.

HOLDING HERE.

NO DELIVERIES UNTIL REPLACEMENT ARRIVES.

There was no signature.

Frank straightened up and slapped Chet on the back. “Good work, pal. This may help to speed up our case.”

As Chet beamed, Frank turned to Joe. “I guess

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96 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

we’d better forget those pigeon fanciers for the time being and concentrate on this new clue.”

“You bet!”

They decided first to find out if the paper on which the cryptic message was written held any further clues. Holding it to the light, Frank studied the watermark. It looked like a fouled anchor insigne with several other figures that might have been porpoises or sea horses.

“Look at this, fellows,” he said. “The next step is to contact various paper manufacturers to see if we can trace the origin of the paper.”

From a list in Mr. Hardy’s files, they selected the best-known ones first and sent night letters to the manufacturers, describing the insigne and asking if it belonged to a special customer.

“Now all we can do is wait,” Frank said.

No report came in from the paper mills during the following morning. At lunchtime Joe said, “While we’re waiting, let’s check up on that man Gene Moran told us about yesterday-the one who might be a ship’s captain.”

“Okay. What say we try the Bayport water front again. Maybe the owner of that restaurant where we met Ragu can give us a clue.”

The Hardys drove to the docks and headed for the eating place. When they questioned the proprietor about a tall, cruel-looking sea captain, he grinned and looked toward two men who were busily eating steaks at a table in a far corner of the room.

A Harsh Skipper 97

“How about those two?” he asked.

One of them was bearded and had a scar alongside his right eye. His companion wore a ferocious scowl on his unshaven face.

Frank studied the pair, then, approaching them, remarked:

“Pardon me. We’re looking for a ship’s captain who was out near the hunting lodge in Smith’s woods yesterday. Was either of you there?”

The bearded man looked Frank over coolly, then asked, “What makes you think a seagoin’ man would be messin’ around in the woods? I was out on my ship all day yesterday. And a wasted day it was, too!”

Unseen by Frank and Joe, the restaurant owner had come up behind them. Wiping his hands on his apron, he said:

“These boys are looking for a tall, cruel-looking captain, men. Either one of you like to take the job?”

“What’s it for?” asked the second captain. Then laughing loudly, he said, “A high school play? Long John Silver or something. I’ll go home and get my wooden leg. Ho-ho!”

All three of the men roared with laughter. Frank and Joe reddened.

“I’m sorry we wasted your time,” Frank said.

As the Hardys headed for the door, they overheard one of the sea captains remark, “Luigi, who are those two whippersnappers?”

To the boys’ amazement, the restaurant man re-

98 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

plied, “The Hardy boys. Their father is a big-time detective.”

“Detective, eh? Zounds, Zeke, you and I will have to watch our step!”

Raucous laughter followed as the boys walked out of the restaurant. They visited other places along the water front but saw no one they thought was a likely suspect.

Finally the boys paused to rest near a small fishing craft. A jovial-looking man was seated in a rocking chair on the upper deck. Grinning, he called down:

“Are you the lads who are huntin’ for a cruel-lookin’ skipper?”

Frank and Joe admitted that they were. “How did you hear about it?” Frank asked.

“The joke’s all up and down the water front by now,” the man told them. “Just the same, maybe I can help you. If I were lookin’ for a fellow of that stripe, I’d check with Captain Flont of the Daisy K. He looks like old Captain Kidd himself!”

The Daisy K again, the Hardys thought excitedly!

“Was Captain Flont’s boat out at sea yesterday?” Joe asked.

“No, she wasn’t,” replied the man. “She was tied to her bollards all day long. I can swear to that, for I was a mite lazy myself yesterday and didn’t leave port.”

“Was the captain aboard the Daisy K?” Joe asked.

“Not until late in the evening.”

The Hardys thanked the man and walked along

A Harsh Skipper 99

the pier to the anchorage of the Daisy K. As they drew closer, they could see signs of activity aboard the fishing craft. Captain Flont was poring over some charts in the deckhouse. Ragu stood lounging in the sun on the rear deck.

Frank and Joe halted at the gangway, and with nautical courtesy, Frank called, “Ahoy, the Daisy K. May we come aboard?”

Captain Flont, cruel-looking and harsh, leaned out the window and said sourly, “What do you expect? A full-dress review and a bos’n with a pipe? If you’ve got business with us, come aboard but make it snappy!”

As Frank and Joe stepped on the deck, Ragu looked up with an insolent stare. Joe peered at him intently in return, but the mate did not flinch.

As Captain Flont came to the rear door of the deckhouse to meet the Hardys, Frank decided that the best way to obtain the information he wanted was by a ruse. He started his inquiries by saying, “We’re looking for some information about a couple of our friends who were going fishing with you yesterday,” he said.

“We didn’t go fishing yesterday,” Captain Flont replied quickly.

“Oh, then maybe you were the captain who was over in Smith’s woods yesterday,” Joe broke in.

Captain Flont’s grip tightened on the doorjamb. He scowled, then declared, “I wasn’t in any woods. Now get off this boat!”

100 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

The Hardy boys held their ground. “How about your man Ragu?” Frank asked. “Was he over there?”

At the mention of his name, Ragu came up behind them. He had picked up a heavy deck mop, and was wielding it as though he might turn it into a formidable weapon. Looking at his captain, the dark-skinned sailor said:

“I was with Captain Flont yesterday. We were on ship’s business.”

“Now you have your answers,” the skipper shouted. “Get off my ship!”

Frank and Joe did not move quickly enough to suit the captain. The captain’s shout had aroused the other two crew members who came up from below. They, with the willing help of Ragu, gripped the unwanted callers by the elbows and rushed them off the boat. The boys were thrown forcibly onto the dock.

As the sailors returned to the gangplank, Frank and Joe heard one of them mutter, “It’s lucky they didn’t show up for the moonlight ride!”

The boys brushed themselves off and walked back to their car. When they were almost home, Joe, still rubbing his bruised hip and black-and-blue arm, said:

“It sure is strange that it takes a captain, a mate, and two crew members to run a fifty-foot fishing cruiser. And what do you think that fellow meant about a moonlight ride?”

“I don’t know, but I believe we ought to find out if he meant tonight. There’ll be a full moon. Let’s

A Harsh Skipper 101

take the Sleuth out and keep an eye on the Daisy K.”

At home the boys found a telegram from one of the paper mills. Frank read it and said:

“Joe, did you ever hear of the Mediterranean Steamship Line? The records of this paper company show that the fouled anchor stationery was made for them and is used on all their ships. It was sold through the London office.”

Joe said he had never heard of the line, but went to one of his father’s bookcases and brought back a paper-covered book containing ships’ registries of various countries. He thumbed through it, then halted at one page.

“Here it is,” he announced. “Some of their ships ply between New York and the Middle East. Do you want me to check the recent arrivals and departures of any of them?”

“That’s a good idea,” Frank agreed.

As Joe scanned the shipping news in the Bayport Times, he said, “Here’s an item on one-the S.S. Continental. She arrived in New York early this week. Her normal course would have taken her close to the coast at Bayport. Say, do you think the Continental might be the boat that’s bringing aliens to the United States?”

“It could be,” Frank admitted. “But it might just be a ship on which a member of the gang was travel-ing.”

Determined to track down every possible clue, Frank called the Mediterranean Line’s New York

102 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

office. He explained that the Hardys were detectives, working on a government case, and asked for a list of Indian passengers on recent voyages of their ships to New York. The passenger agent assured him that it would be sent by mail at once, together with any other helpful information the line could give.

“With that co-operation, it sounds as if the company’s on the up and up,” he remarked to his brother.

Just as the moon was rising that evening, Frank and Joe headed for the Sleuth, which was still moored at a neighbor’s boathouse. They paused to note the progress of repairs on their own building which had been so badly burned.

“It’ll be at least two weeks before we can take the Sleuth back,” Frank commented.

“Yes, and the firebug who caused the trouble hasn’t been apprehended yet,” Joe said grimly.

Joe gassed up the Sleuth while Frank took the wheel. Soon they were speeding out of Bayport harbor. There were a number of islands near the inlet where they could wait for their quarry. Frank chose one that lay in shadows, cut the motor, and turned off their running lights.

“I feel like one of those falcons ‘waiting on’ until its prey comes along,” Joe remarked with a grin.

In the bright moonlight the boys could see other boats plying up and down the harbor, but all of them were pleasure craft. Finally, however, Frank whispered:

A Harsh Skipper 103

“I think this is it. There’s a boat with the Daisy K’s lines.”

Both boys positively identified Captain Flont’s craft as it moved past them. They gave it a reasonable lead, then started after it. The chase continued for about five miles, then the boys noticed the Daisy K slowing down. Frank cut the Sleuth’s engine.

A few minutes later a large motor dory appeared beyond the fishing boat and pulled alongside. A rope ladder clattered over the rail of Flont’s ship and two men scrambled down the rungs into the dory.

As the smaller boat pulled away toward the open sea, the Daisy K started up again, turned in a wide arc, and headed back toward Bayport.

“We must find out where that dory’s going!” Joe said.

The Sleuth took up the chase!

CHAPTER XIV

Hunting a Hawk

the Hardys had been following the mysterious motor dory in their own boat for some time when suddenly the Sleuth’s motor began to sputter and the craft lost way.

Joe, seated on the forward deck as lookout, whirled around and asked, “What’s the matter?”

“Sounds as if we’re out of gas,” Frank replied. “Didn’t you fill the tank?”

“Of course I did,” Joe insisted. “The gauge read full when I stopped pouring.”

Frank unscrewed the cap and beamed his flashlight inside. “I have news for you, Joe,” he said grimly. “The gauge still reads full, but there isn’t a drop of gas in the tank!”

“Well, for Pete’s sake!”

The Hardys examined the gauge carefully and discovered that it was jammed.

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Hunting a Hawk 105

“This didn’t jam by itself,” Frank declared. “Someone tampered with it!”

“Think it might have been someone from the Daisy K?” Joe asked.

“Could be. But it sure puts a monkey wrench in our plans for tonight.”

The motor dory was out of sight by this time. In disgust the boys brought out the emergency fuel can and emptied its contents into the tank. Since there was little hope now of locating the dory, even in the moonlight and with their limited fuel supply, the boys headed for home. While Frank fixed the gauge, they speculated about where the dory had come from. Perhaps from a ship waiting at sea? The boys could see no lights to indicate any vessel, however, and concluded that the dory might be planning to meet a passing ship later.

“I wonder who those two men were who climbed off the Daisy K,” Frank said thoughtfully.

Joe shrugged. “I guess our only hope of solving that is to keep the Daisy K’s crew under close observation,” he commented. “When we get back to town, let’s ask one of Dad’s operatives to watch them.”

“Jeff Kane’s in town. He’s a good man,” Frank suggested.

When the brothers reached Bayport, Frank telephoned the detective. Kane readily agreed to take over the assignment, leaving the boys free to track down their other clues.

Early the next morning, after feeding the falcon,

106 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

they took turns phoning the three pet shops which they had not had time to call the day before, plus several in nearby counties. This time they were more successful. Two of the owners supplied them with the names of six carrier-pigeon fanciers. Three of these were in Bayport, while the others were some distance away. With Frank at the wheel of the convertible, the boys started on their quest. The first place was only half a mile from their home. The pigeon keeper, a young man about twenty-five, proved to be a squab breeder who kept a few carrier pigeons as a hobby. He showed them to Frank and Joe.

“I enter these in cross-country races,” he said. “It’s a swell sport.” The pigeon fancier smiled. “My birds have brought me several cups and ribbons,” he added, stroking one of the racers fondly.

In reply to a question from Frank, the young man said he had never taken his birds out on the water and released them.

“In fact, I don’t know anyone around here who would have reason to,” he said, “because the contests are always from inland cities to the coast.”

The Hardys thanked him for the information and went on their way. Both of the other local men proved to be above suspicion as well.

The next name on their list was that of a Reed Newton who lived about five miles away. When Frank and Joe reached his home, they found him to be a retired man in late middle age, who had flown

Hunting a Hawk 107

pigeons as a hobby for many years. He had a large cote and several breeding cages.

“You raise more pigeons than you train and fly, don’t you, Mr. Newton?” Frank asked.

“Oh, yes,” the fancier replied. “I sell them.” He smiled boyishly. “I may sound a bit vain, but my pigeons are becoming known all over the world.”

“Has anyone purchased a large number of birds from you recently?”

Reed Newton wrinkled his brow for some moments, then replied, “Not recently. But about two years ago I had a big order. A young man from India, named Bhagnav, bought a whole flock of pigeons.”

“Bhagnav!” Joe exclaimed, but recovered quickly and added, “That’s an unusual name.”

“Can you describe this man?” Frank asked.

Mr. Newton hesitated, then answered, “Well, as I remember, he was a tall, slender, rather handsome fellow of about twenty-six. One thing I do particularly remember was that he had a scar at the base of his chin. It stood out clearly because it was a slightly lighter shade than the rest of his face.”

Frank and Joe could hardly believe their good fortune in picking up this clue. Was the Bhagnav who had purchased the pigeons related to the maha-rajah’s cousin who was now using the name of Delhi?

After the brothers had left Mr. Newton and were on their way to interview the next fancier, they began to speculate about the man named Bhagnav who had bought the pigeons.

108 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

“It’s possible,” said Frank, “that he was an impostor who had planned this smuggling racket as far back as two years ago.”

“Right. Figuring that if anyone uncovered the plot, the real Bhagnav would be blamed. We must phone Mr. Delhi about this as soon as we get home.”

The drive to the farm of John Fenwick, the last pigeon fancier on the boys’ list, took them some time and on the way they stopped at a roadside restaurant to have lunch. During the last part of the journey both boys breathed deeply of the clean country air and enjoyed the verdant rolling landscape. When Joe suddenly spotted a sign reading FENWICK at the foot of a lane, he exclaimed:

“What a weird setup for a pigeon fancier!”

On the lawn inside the cyclone fence that lined the property were several perches. Each of them held a hooded hawk!

“Fenwick must be breeding fighter pigeons!” Frank grinned as he turned the convertible into the driveway.

A pleasant-looking man in his middle thirties strode briskly from the back yard. He was dressed in rough clothing, had on a tight-fitting cap, and held two coils of nylon rope over his arm. At first the Hardys mistook him for a telephone lineman because of the climbing hooks he held in one hand.

“We’re looking for John Fenwick,” Frank announced.

Hunting a Hawk 109

“I’m your man,” he replied, smiling. “What can I do for you?”

“We’re interested in your pigeons,” Joe said.

Mr. Fenwick laughed and remarked, “You’re about two years too late for that. As you can see from the perches on the lawn, I’ve switched my interest to falconry. It’s an exciting sport, particularly if you begin by capturing the young hawks yourself to train.”

“We have a peregrine falcon,” Joe replied. “That’s the reason we came to talk to you. Our falcon brought down a pigeon and we were trying to find the owner so we could settle accounts.”

“Fine attitude, son,” Mr. Fenwick declared. “Since you’re interested in the birds yourself, you might like to come along with me today. I’m going up to Cliff Mountain to get a young hawk from an eyrie-that’s a nest-that I’ve been observing.”

Frank and Joe were thrilled at this idea. “If you don’t think we’d be in the way, we’d like to!” the older boy said.

“Not at all. In fact, you might be of great service.”

Frank suggested that Mr. Fenwick put his gear in their car and let them drive him to Cliff Mountain. He accepted, and as they drove along, he explained that he was particularly interested in duck hawks.

“I spotted one of their nests out on the mountain, and have been watching the tercel and the falcon. The eggs have been hatched now. There were four of

110 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

them. I will take only one young hawk out of the eyrie and leave the rest to fly away and raise broods of their own. Then, too, the parent birds will return next year to nest again.”

When he and the boys arrived at Cliff Mountain, Frank parked the car and Mr. Fenwick led the way up the trail to the precipice that had given the mountain its name. The going was rugged, but the boys’ enthusiasm for hawking and adventure spurred them on. When they reached the edge of the shaly cliff, Mr. Fenwick explained how he used his ropes for climbing down the rock face to the eyrie.

He tied a heavy rope around a sturdy oak which seemed to be growing right out of the rocks. The loose end was dropped over the side of the cliff, falling until its entire one hundred and twenty-five feet hung down.

“Usually,” Mr. Fenwick explained, “it’s a good idea to have a rope that will reach all the way to the bottom of the cliff. Then, if you can’t climb back to the top safely, you can at least get to the ground without injury. But this cliff is too high for that. No alternative but to come back up.”

The hawk hunter then took a smaller rope and tied a Spanish bowline in it. He stepped into this and tied the loose ends of the rope around his waist to make a sling, which would enable him to rest when he got tired of climbing the heavy vertical rope. It would also protect him from falling if he were hit by a tumbling rock or struck by a hawk.

Hunting a Hawk 111

The Hardys tended the ropes while Mr. Fenwick went over the edge of the cliff. He lowered himself about sixty feet, then called back:

“The mother isn’t here, but there are three fledglings. One egg didn’t hatch.”

The mother hawk was not in sight but Mr. Fen-wick called up again, “Keep your eyes open for the mother. She’s likely to resist an invasion of her nest. I don’t want any trouble, if I can help it. I’ve been attacked before and it’s no fun.”

But the falcon did not return and in a few minutes the hawk hunter announced that he had a young bird in his packsack and was coming up. He signaled to be lifted to the rim. As he came over the edge and the rest of the line was pulled up, Mr. Fenwick said:

“Funny, I haven’t seen any sign of the tercel, either. Usually he’ll do the hunting for food for the young. Then the falcon will take the quarry from him in mid-air, pluck it, and feed the fledglings.”

“Do you think someone might have shot the tercel and the falcon is getting the food?” Frank asked.

“That’s possible,” Mr. Fenwick replied. “And she will have to do all the work herself until the young ones can fly.”

Joe, curious to see the nest, asked, “Do you think I could get a look at the hawks in the eyrie?”

“Sure,” replied John Fenwick. “You can see them by leaning over the ledge and looking down.”

Joe moved along toward a good vantage point,

112 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

dropped to his knees, and wriggled to the edge of the cliff.

He was disappointed not to be able to see the young hawks because of a shaly overhang which hid the nest. He inched farther over.

Just then Frank happened to glance up. The mother hawk was banking overhead. The next second she plummeted toward Joe like a rocket!

“Look out! Get back!” Frank screamed.

But there was not time for his brother to pull himself back. The falcon slammed into Joe’s head, brushing his face with her talons. As Joe threw up both arms to protect his head, he lost his balance and disappeared over the edge of the cliff!

CHAPTER XV

Chef in Trouble

horrified at seeing his brother slip off the cliff, Frank ran toward the brink where Joe had been. John Fenwick followed.

But the earth, loosened by Joe’s plunge, made the footing unsure and it seemed for a moment as if they too would go over into the chasm. All this time the falcon was circling and screaming overhead.

“Joe!” Frank wailed. “Joe!”

But his brother could not answer. Plunging down the steep face of the cliff, Joe had clutched frantically at roots and vines, only to have them snap off or slip through his fingers.

At last, however, his hands gripped a large tree root. It held, and the muscles in his arms and shoulders jerked painfully as they caught the full force of his descent.

Now, coughing and half blinded from the dust stirred up by his slide, he could only grit his teeth

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114 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

and hang on. Blood from the deep scratches made by the falcon’s sharp talons was running down his cheek, and the whole experience had left him weak.

Gradually, however, his strength returned and he looked below. There was a smooth shelf of rock a short distance beneath him and in relief he dropped to it. The overhang of the cliff made it impossible for Frank and Mr. Fenwick to see him without leaning out dangerously over the cliff.

Frantic now, Frank cried, “Joe! Joe!”

“I’m all right!” his brother called back, but a grim smile crossed his face as he watched the mother hawk heading toward her nest and young.

“Where are you?” Frank called down.

“On a ledge below the rim of the cliff.”

Moments later Joe saw a lifeline swinging toward him. Because of the cliff’s overhang, the rope was a bit beyond his reach, and for a while it looked as though he might still plummet to the depths in trying to reach it. Finally, Joe broke off a length of curling root, and using it for a hook, managed to bring the rope close enough to grasp it.

Quickly he lashed it around his waist and yelled, “Haul away!”

As Frank and Mr. Fenwick pulled hand over hand on the line, Joe braced his legs against the rock wall and literally “walked” up the cliff with their help. When he came up over the edge, Frank gripped the back of Joe’s jacket and rolled him to complete safety.

Chet in Trouble 115

At sight of Joe’s blood-covered face, Frank asked in concern, “Are you hurt badly?”

Joe managed a grin. “I guess I look worse than I feel. It’s mostly my pride that’s hurt. I should have watched for that mother hawk. Thank goodness she finally returned to her nest.”

“You learned the hard way,” Mr. Fenwick remarked, then pointed out a mountain stream in which Joe could wash the blood from his face. “I feel it was my fault. We’re lucky it ended so well.”

Joe said, “Forget it. But how about my taking a look at the falcon you brought up? I’d like to see one fledgling, anyway!”

The falcon’s tail and wing feathers were short because the bird was so young. Small tufts of down clung to them. The young bird’s feet were a light greenish gray instead of brilliant orange like the adults’.

Both Frank and Joe noticed how large the feet were. They were already fully grown, even though its feathers were still developing.

The thing that amazed them most was that the young falcon was brownish black instead of blackish blue like their own hawk. Mr. Fenwick explained that the young birds never have the same plumage color and markings as the adults.

“Next spring this bird will begin to molt-that is, drop her old feathers and grow new ones. These will be the adult plumage like your peregrine’s.”

“Is that true for all hawks?” Joe asked.

116 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

“Yes,” Mr. Fenwick replied, as he put the young falcon back in the pack to begin the return journey to the Fenwick home.

When they reached there, Mr. Fenwick gave Joe an antiseptic patch to cover the cuts on his face. Then the boys left the falconer, who extended a cordial invitation to return soon.

Back at their own house, they found Sam Radley waiting for them. He was seated in the garden with Mrs. Hardy and Aunt Gertrude. The falcon sat on the perch beside them.

“Good night! What happened to you, Joe?” Radley exclaimed, seeing the boy’s swollen cheek with the bandage on it. Mrs. Hardy and Aunt Gertrude expressed horror when told of the accident.

“You might have been killed!” Aunt Gertrude stormed. “There ought to be a law against taking young hawks, then boys like you wouldn’t be tempted to do such foolish things!”

Mrs. Hardy examined the wounds but felt that no further treatment was necessary. “Nature will take care of it now,” she said.

As Radley began his report, the two women arose and went into the house.

“No one returned to the hunting lodge and I doubt that anyone will, since they’ll figure it’s being watched. I did learn something of importance, though. As I was leaving Smith’s woods, I met Mr. Morton. He asked me to give you this message. Mr. Smith’s lawyer told him that the woods were leased

Chet in Trouble 117

for the summer to a dark-skinned man by the name of Sutler. I have a feeling the name is a phony and that we’ll find he’s one of our Indian boys.”

Frank and Joe whistled. This was indeed important information!

At that moment a special-delivery letter arrived for the boys from the Mediterranean Line. It stated that no Indians had arrived on any of their vessels’ recent trips to New York.

“This information may interest you, however,” the letter went on. “A couple of years ago there was an Indian member of the Continental’s crew named Bangalore. He jumped ship. This company is particularly disturbed, because the Immigration authorities hold us responsible for such things.”

As he folded the letter, Frank said, “I wonder if we could get a photograph of this Bangalore. Maybe we could dig one up through the steamship company.”

“I’ll try to locate one,” Radley offered.

Frank then told Radley of the clue picked up from Mr. Newton about the pigeon fancier using the name Bhagnav, and the boys’ decision to phone Mr. Delhi about it. Joe put in a long-distance call, but there was no answer at Mr. Ghapur’s home, where the emissary was staying.

“Well, anything more I can do for you boys?” Radley asked. “Of course I’ll continue to keep an eye on the lodge.”

Frank and Joe could think of nothing else. They

118 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

mentioned Kane’s shadowing the Daisy K’s crew and that they expected a report from him soon.

“And I think we should talk to the Coast Guard,” Frank remarked.

“I did that while I was waiting for you,” Radley said. “The local men have found nothing suspicious on boats or ships in the area they cover. Of course they don’t go out too far beyond the twelve-mile limit. Does that suggest anything to you?”

“You bet it does!” Joe spoke up. “For one thing, it seems to back up our idea that a large steamer anchors offshore, receives some sort of signal-or maybe sends its own message by carrier pigeon. Then the smuggled Indians are taken off in boats like the motor dory we trailed last night.”

“But why couldn’t the Coast Guard fly out there and spot such a transfer?” Frank pointed out. “Then, when the dory reaches our waters, it could be nabbed.”

“I suppose they might,” Radley agreed. “But if the smuggled Indians swam a distance from a large ship to the smaller boat at night, the Coast Guard sure would have trouble spotting them.”

“And it’s impossible for them to cover every bit of shore line along Bayport at once,” Frank added with a grin, “especially at night when a dory could slip in. It might even be that the aliens swim in the last half mile.”

After Radley left, Frank and Joe talked over their

Chet in Trouble 119

next move. “I suggest that we use Miss Peregrine for a little sleuthing,” Frank said.

“How?”

“Let’s take the falcon out to Chet’s farm and have George Simons meet us there with his copter. It’s a shorter drive for us there than to the airport and maybe Chet would like to go along. We’ll go up in the egg beater and keep watch for a pigeon coming from the ocean and heading southwest. If we spot one, we’ll follow it until the bird starts down to its cote. Then we’ll turn the falcon loose and let her trail the pigeon right to its cote. That way we ought to be able to locate the hide-out, and also intercept any message it may be carrying.”

“You mean we’ll kill two clues with one bird?” Joe grinned, then added, “What say we try it right now?”

“You feel okay?”

“Sure.”

Frank first phoned Chet, who said, “Count me in. I sure would like to go along.”

Then Frank called George Simons, who agreed to meet them at the Morton farm in half an hour. Joe got the hawk’s equipment, hooded and wristed her, and the boys drove off. When they reached the farm, the helicopter was already settling in an open area behind the barn. The boys headed for it at once to tell Simons their plan.

Chet, seeing them from the kitchen window, came

120 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

outside and followed them. As he ambled past a corner of the barn, a masked figure moved up behind him. Before Chet could whirl around, his arms were pinned behind his back and a hand was clamped over his mouth!

In a low, fierce whisper, the masked man ordered, “Bring that falcon to your barn and leave it there. If you don’t, you and the Hardys will be in serious trouble! And don’t tell anyone why you’re doing it!”

Violently Chet squirmed and twisted in the grasp of his assailant but could not free himself.

“Agree!” the man hissed. “Agree quickly, or it will go hard with you-and even harder with the Hardys!”

CHAPTER XVI

A Ruse

the masked man tightened his grip and repeated the threat.

“Listen, fat boy! Get that hawk if you value your life and the Hardys’!”

Chet wanted to tackle the man but figured that there might be a second man in hiding. He told himself that after all the falcon was not so important as his friends’ safety! Certainly the helicopter could go anywhere the falcon could.

“All right,” he finally agreed. “I’ll do it.”

The masked man pushed Chet along until they were close to a small door in the barn. Then he turned him loose and darted into the darkness of the barn, closing the door behind him.

For a moment Chet was tempted not to heed the order, but for his friends’ sakes he decided to carry through. He headed toward the Hardys with trembling legs. As Frank and Joe explained their plans to Simons, Chet interrupted to say:

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122 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

“Sounds swell. M-mind if I hold the f-falcon on the trip?”

“But the bird isn’t accustomed to you,” Frank said. “She wouldn’t respond to your commands.”

“Well, can’t I at least h-hold her until you s-spot the pigeon?” Chet pleaded.

Frank and Joe exchanged puzzled glances. They both sensed something was wrong with Chet, for he was not usually so nervous.

“That wouldn’t work too well, either,” Frank told him.

Chet cast an anxious glance over his shoulder in the direction of the barn, then stared at the hooded falcon. She was standing quietly on Joe’s gauntlet. He was checking the jesses to make certain that they were firmly fastened to the bird’s legs. Then he un-snapped the swivel hook, so that he could release the falcon quickly.

Suddenly Chet dived at Joe and grabbed for the bird! With a startled cry, Joe stepped back and the falcon flapped her wings to hold her balance.

Frank clutched the stout boy’s arm. “What’s wrong with you, Chet? You act as though you’re crazy! This bird can be ruined if she’s disturbed. You mustn’t make a pass at her like that! Move gently and slowly or she will bate off the hand.”

Finally Chet decided that the Hardy boys would have to know of the threat. He glanced again at the barn, then said in a hoarse whisper:

A Ruse

“L-listen, fellows. A masked man stopped me at the barn a couple of minutes ago and ordered me to get the falcon from you. He told me to leave it inside the barn. If I don’t, your lives and mine won’t be worth a plugged nickel!”

Simons, who had heard Chet’s explanation, leaned out of the cockpit in amazement and said:

“Whew! Trouble! Can I help?”

Frank and Joe were grim, realizing that the only way out was by a ruse.

“You sure can help,” Frank told the pilot. “We’ll give the hawk to Chet. He can take his time about getting it to the barn. In the meantime, Joe and I will pretend we’ve gone off with you in the copter, but we’ll sneak out the other side, double back, and try to nab this guy and anybody who might be with him.”

Joe took the gauntlet from his wrist, handed it to Chet, and helped him put it on. Then he switched the falcon to the youth’s wrist and handed him the end of the leash. In a loud voice he called “Good luck!” as though Chet had asked to borrow the hawk for an afternoon’s hunting.

Simons jumped to the ground and the Hardys entered the passenger compartment. Then, while Chet and the pilot stood close together beside the helicopter to cut off any view from underneath the craft, Frank and Joe quickly slipped out the window on the far side and took cover in back of some rasp-

124 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

berry bushes. From there they made their way toward the barnyard fence as the helicopter rose and headed toward the woods.

Chet, who had started for the barn, was having trouble with the falcon. She bobbed up and down on his wrist, turned toward the throbbing sound of the rotors on the helicopter, and flew out to the end of the leash several times.

Chet, however, managed to get her to the barn, roll open the big door, and place the bird inside.

“Pretty rough on the hawk,” Frank whispered to Joe. “But I guess Chet is scared plenty.”

The frightened boy turned and hurried to the house. After he had climbed the rear steps and slammed the screen door to the kitchen behind him, the masked man slipped furtively out of the barn with the hawk under one arm.

Instantly the Hardys were upon him, and at a shrill whistle from Joe, Chet dashed back on the double. As Joe took the hawk, Frank pinned the prisoner to the ground and ripped off his mask.

Ragu! For a few seconds the first mate from the Daisy K stared insolently at the boys, then lowered his eyes.

“Well,” said Frank grimly, as he let the sailor up but kept hold of him, “suppose you talk.”

“What do you want me to say? I got your bird, but you caught me. I’ll go quiet!”

“Oh, no, you won’t,” Chet growled. “You threatened me and the Hardys.”

A Ruse 125

“That was just to make you get the hawk,” Ragu answered, watching Joe sullenly as he took the gauntlet from Chet and wristed the falcon.

“I know someone who will pay me well for a trained bird. I’m in debt. I need the money,” Ragu went on.

“You’ll have to give a better reason than that,” Frank told him. “How did you know we would have the falcon out here?”

“I-I was near your back yard this afternoon and overheard you make plans to bring the hawk here.”

“Keep talking,” Joe said grimly.

“I’ve told you all I know,” the sailor insisted.

“It will go easier with you if you tell the truth,” Frank said. “What do you know about the smuggling and kidnaping rackets that are going on around here?”

Ragu winced but remained silent. Joe burst out, “I’m sure you can tell plenty about Captain Flont and the Daisy K.”

The sailor gave a nervous twitch. “Let me go!” he shouted. “I don’t know anything.”

The boys marched their prisoner to the kitchen porch. Frank and Joe kept a close watch on him while Chet went to phone Chief Collig.

“Tell him,” Frank said, “that we have a prisoner for him. He can book Ragu for assault on you today and Joe a week ago, and attempted robberies of the falcon. If Collig can’t get a confession out of him, we’ll call in the FBI.”

126 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

At the mention of Federal authorities, Ragu visibly slumped. But it was obvious that his lips had been sealed, probably by fear.

The group waited until they saw the Bayport patrol car turning into the Morton driveway. Then, with Frank and Chet holding their prisoner firmly by the arms, they started toward the police car.

Chief Collig and Patrolman Smuff climbed out of the car. As they eyed the hawk, Frank explained the circumstances of the arrest, and told Smuff that Ragu was the “deeply tanned” thief they had been looking for.

Before Smuff or the chief had a chance to reply, Frank suddenly cried out:

“Joe, there’s a pigeon! It’s winging from the same direction as the other pigeons we’ve spotted. Let the hawk loose!”

Hearing this, Ragu tore himself free from the grip of Patrolman Smuff and dashed toward Joe and the hunting hawk. He snatched at the leash but was quickly subdued. When he began to rave and rant like a wild man, the Hardys were sure Ragu must know that the pigeon was carrying a message or more rubies!

Joe unhooded the falcon, which spotted the pigeon, took off into the air, and climbed toward it.

Meanwhile, Ragu continued to cry out oaths in both English and a foreign tongue. Frank commented on his actions to the police and added:

A Ruse 127

“Chief, I’m sure Ragu is guilty of a lot more than he’s admitting.”

“I’ll keep him in jail until he talks,” the officer said.

“We’ll be in to prefer charges against him sometime tonight,” Frank said.

“Good enough,” Chief Collig agreed.

Smuff hustled Ragu into the patrol car and the three rode away. Frank and Chet whirled around then and tried to spot the falcon.

Joe, hands shading his eyes, was following the flight of the bird. The peregrine and its prey had moved off over the wooded area and a moment later the pigeon was lost to view.

The Hardys’ hearts sank. Had the pigeon escaped?

CHAPTER XVII

Intercepted Ransom

“the hawk mustn’t lose that pigeon!” Joe cried.

As the boys stared hopefully, the peregrine poised for a second, then dived like a miniature rocket. At once Frank, Joe, and Chet ran across the fields, their eyes still following the hawk.

Suddenly, through a rift in the trees, they could see both birds.

“The hawk’s got her!” Frank cried a moment later, as both birds dropped into the woods.

“Come on!” Joe shouted gleefully, starting to run.

All three boys fully expected to locate at once the spot where the pigeon and hawk had fallen. When they did not immediately find them, Chet and the Hardys spread out and searched the bushes for some time, but without success.

“Do you think the hawk carried the pigeon off?” Chet asked.

“I doubt it,” Frank replied. “That’s not usually what a hawk does.”

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Intercepted Ransom 129

“Then your falcon’s got to be here some place,” Chet said.

The next moment they heard the whirring of the helicopter and hurried to a clearing, where they could spot the aircraft. They saw Simons, his helicopter window slid back, beckoning for them to follow him.

The boys nodded and moved along the edge of the woods, guided by their friend in the sky. Presently he turned the craft and flew directly over the trees. Now Simons whirled up, then lowered quickly.

Frank interpreted the maneuver. “Simons is trying to tell us the birds are right around here.”

Joe held out his gloved hand and whistled sharply. There was a movement in the brush a few yards ahead of the boys. Then they spotted the peregrine falcon and her quarry.

The younger Hardy moved in slowly and picked up the falcon and the mangled pigeon. The boys were sobered by the sight, but in a moment shook off the mood and Chet asked:

“Why don’t you fellows feed your bird at home?”

“This time she earned a meal,” Joe said, spotting a telltale red container fastened to one of the pigeon’s legs.

Frank removed the capsule and opened it. As he shook it gently, two rubies fell out into his hand.

“More ransom payments!” he declared.

“Looks as though you’re right,” Chet said in awe.

130 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

Excitedly the three boys headed back toward the Morton farm. The helicopter was still hovering overhead when they came out into the clearing. As Simons brought it down low, Joe held up the hawk and waved their thanks. Then the pilot headed for the airport to keep another appointment.

When Frank and Joe reached their car they said good-by to Chet and drove home. After putting the falcon in the garage and setting the alarm, the boys went indoors. A message was waiting for them from Jeff Kane, their father’s operative. He had shadowed the captain and crew members of the Daisy K, and had investigated their reputations, but could find nothing suspicious in their activities. He learned that Captain Flont ruled them with an iron hand and they seemed to fear him.

“If anything crooked is going on,” Frank said to Joe, “it’s well concealed, that’s sure.”

Joe put through another call to the home of Rahmud Ghapur, who answered at once. When the Hardys informed him that they had made two important discoveries for Mr. Delhi, the importer asked that the boys not reveal them on the phone.

“I’ll pass along your message to Mr. Delhi,” Ghapur promised. “He’ll probably want to fly up to Bayport sometime tonight.”

“We’ll be waiting for him.”

The Indian arrived about eight o’clock, and as before, he and the boys went up to Mr. Hardy’s study.

As the maharajah’s cousin settled himself in a

Intercepted Ransom 131

chair, Frank unwrapped the two rubies and explained how the Hardys had gotten them. Mr. Delhi examined them, then finally said:

“These are very valuable gems and cut exactly like some of the ransom rubies. I could almost swear that they are part of those payments. This poses a serious problem.”

He looked from one boy to the other and they felt that something had displeased him. “I do not want to seem ungrateful,” Delhi said, “but if these are part of the ransom, and are not received by the fiends who are holding Prince Tava, he may come to harm. You did not realize this phase of the matter, I am sure.”

Frank and Joe were thunderstruck. They had not thought of this angle!

“I’m afraid we didn’t,” Frank replied. “But we may be close enough to these kidnapers to catch them before they attempt anything drastic.”

The Hardys told Delhi of the lodge in the woods and the possible flight of the prince with his captors.

Then Frank showed him the sandalwood scent box which Ahmed had found at the lodge. Tenderly, Delhi cupped the box in his hands.

“My new friends,” he said with emotion, “you have made a wonderful discovery. This box was given Prince Tava by the maharajah at a ceremony I witnessed myself several years ago. May I keep it now?”

132 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

“Of course,” Frank replied.

“It-it brings back such happy memories. And Prince Tava will be so delighted when I return it to him.”

Delhi stopped and his expression changed abruptly. “This hunting lodge,” he said, “you have someone watching it at all times?”

The Hardys reassured him on this point. Then they concluded with the story of the man who had purchased carrier pigeons from Mr. Newton under the name Bhagnav.

“My name!” Delhi exclaimed in amazement. “But not one of my relatives has ever been in this coun-try.”

“We thought he was an impostor,” Frank said.

“What did this man look like?” Delhi asked.

“We were told he was tall, slender, handsome- about twenty-six years of age. He had a scar under his chin which stood out because it was lighter than the skin on the rest of his face.”

The Indian nobleman weighed this information, his brow furrowed. Then he pursed his lips and said, “The description sounds vaguely familiar. But it is not someone with whom I have been in regular contact. I shall speak to my friend Ghapur about this. Perhaps he will recognize the man. In any case, I’m sure the impostor is an enemy, trying to discredit my family’s name.”

Joe changed the subject. “Does the name Ragu mean anything to you?” he asked.

Intercepted Ransom 133

Mr. Delhi thought this over, then said no. “Can you describe him?” he asked.

But the description of a swarthy, short, heavy-set man did not help.

Frank said, “Ragu works here on a fishing boat called the Daisy K. Right now, though, he is in our local jail. We promised to go there tonight and prefer charges. Will you come with us and see if you know Ragu?”

“I shall be glad to go,” he said. “But I suggest, in case we should be followed, that we try to throw off any pursuers.”

Driving to police headquarters that night, Frank took every precaution to be sure that no one trailed them.

They learned, when they arrived, that Chief Collig was at home for a late dinner, but would return in a few minutes. The sergeant on duty assisted them in filing charges against Ragu. When the boys explained the reason for Mr. Delhi’s presence, he took the callers down to the cell where Ragu was being held. On the way he said that the prisoner had refused to admit anything.

When Ragu saw the Hardys, his face twisted into a snarl. He was about to say something, but suddenly his glance rested upon Mr. Delhi. A look of awe and fright spread over his face and he staggered backward.

“It’s Prince Bhagnav of Hatavab!” he almost screamed.

134 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

Mr. Delhi gazed at the prisoner, who seemed hypnotized that a nobleman of his country had come to see him.

The prince said to the boys, “I do not know this fellow, but evidently he recognizes me from newspaper photographs or public functions.”

Following up the advantage of the prisoner’s discomfiture, Frank asked him whether he was ready to talk. Ragu acted as if he had not heard the boy. Glassy-eyed, he dropped to his knees and touched his forehead to the floor before the nobleman’s feet.

Mr. Delhi spoke to the sailor in his native tongue and Ragu climbed to his feet. As he seated himself on a corner of his bunk, Chief Collig arrived. After the police chief was introduced to Prince Bhagnav, the boys turned the ransom rubies over to the officer for safekeeping.

When Ragu saw the gems he gasped but made no comment.

The police chief then ordered the jailer to unlock the cell door. They all went inside. Forming an arc about the prisoner, they began to question him.

Ragu remained defiant and unco-operative, but the Hardys felt he was almost frightened enough to make a full confession.

Chief Collig asked him to give the reason for his attempted thefts of the falcon and the threats to Chet and the Hardys, then added, “And tell us all you know about the operations of the Daisy K.”

Again the mention of Flont’s ship had a visible

Intercepted Ransom 135

effect on the first mate. Eyes wide, he stared at Chief Collig for a long moment. Then, abruptly, his shoulders sagged and he looked at the floor.

All further questions about Captain Flont or the Daisy K aroused no response.

Finally, Mr. Delhi went directly to the crux of the matter and asked Ragu probing questions about the smuggling of aliens from India into the United States, and more particularly about the kidnaping of Prince Tava.

Ragu looked up, eyes flashing, and uttered one brief phrase. Mr. Delhi nodded, then turned to the others.

“Ragu wishes to talk to me alone,” he said.

The boys and the police chief left the cell and waited at the end of the corridor.

Ten minutes later Mr. Delhi called, “It is settled.”

When the others returned to the cell, Mr. Delhi said, “Ragu has convinced me that he knows only a little about what is going on. But he is willing to tell us that much.”

The Hardys listened in eager anticipation. A break in the case at last!

CHAPTER XVIII

Attack in the Might

chief collig called in a police stenographer to take down Ragu’s statement. As Mr. Delhi nodded to Ragu, the Daisy K’s first mate began his story.

“First, I know nothing about any smuggling of my countrymen into the United States. I-I did join the group that was planning a kidnaping. But you must believe me-I did not know until too late that Prince Tava was to be the victim. I thought it was a rich Indian businessman, who would never miss the money.”

“Prince or businessman, it was a criminal act,” the police chief said severely. “Just what was your part in it?”

“A very small one,” Ragu insisted. “I ran errands. Once I took a letter from a man that came to our ship. He told me to deliver it to the Bayport Hotel.”

“What was the name of the man who came to the Daisy K?” Chief Collig broke in.

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Attack in the Night 137

“I do not know his name,” Ragu said emphatically. “The man at the hotel was called Mr. Louis.”

Delhi and the police chief glanced at the Hardys for some sign as to whether this name was familiar to them. Frank nodded, remembering the mysterious “L” mentioned in the note one of the pigeons carried.

“How did you expect to get paid for the job, if you didn’t know the name of the man who hired you?” Frank asked Ragu.

“He promised to pay me with a ruby ring. It was left in a secret place,” Ragu replied. “The only time I wore it was when I came to your house to take the falcon. After that, I was afraid and sold the ring. You know about that.”

Frank confirmed this, then Joe asked, “Who hired you to steal our falcon?”

“I don’t know that, either,” Ragu persisted. “1 got a phone call at my rooming house. An unfamiliar voice said if I could steal the falcon, I would receive another ruby in payment. I tried twice but failed.”

“What part do the pigeons play in this racket?” Frank asked Ragu.

“They carry messages, but I don’t know where they go. And I don’t know what the notes say.”

Chief Collig turned to Mr. Delhi and asked him if he had any further questions. The maharajah’s cousin said he had none.

Frank spoke up. “Ragu, tell us about Captain

138 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

Flont and his activities. He’s more than a fishing boat captain, isn’t he?”

Ragu bit his lip. He looked at Mr. Delhi, then settled back on his cot.

“I don’t know much about Captain Flont,” he said. “I’ve only worked for him a short time.”

All further questioning Ragu answered with a shrug. No amount of persuasion would unlock the first mate’s lips. It was evident, as Kane had learned, that the crew of the Daisy K was afraid of their captain.

“I guess we’ve found out all we can tonight,” said Chief Collig as the visitors left the cell. “After the stenographer types up that statement and Ragu signs it, there’ll be plenty of evidence to present to the grand jury.”

“I suggest,” said Mr. Delhi, “that since Ragu recognized me, he have no visitors.”

“Don’t worry about that, sir,” Collig said. “There are certain procedures that will have to be taken care of and that will require at least forty-eight hours.”

On the way back to the Hardy home Mr. Delhi was silent, but just before they turned into the Hardy driveway, he asked, “How will you boys proceed now? When Captain Flont hears of Ragu’s arrest he may make trouble.”

“We’ll have to take that chance,” Joe replied. Then he snapped his fingers. “Frank, what say you

Attack in the Night 139

and I disguise ourselves as elderly sportsmen and join a fishing party on the Daisy K for a day?”

“You mean to do some detecting?”

“Right.”

Joe decided to take the falcon indoors for the night. Ragu’s arrest might mean trouble, as Mr. Delhi had suggested. At any rate, the smugglers would be doubly determined to get the falcon. Frank agreed that the hawk should be given extra protection.

Mr. Delhi followed the boys through the kitchen door and into the living room where Mrs. Hardy and Aunt Gertrude were reading.

While Joe took the hawk to his room, Frank presented their visitor to the women. The boys’ mother smilingly said, “Mr. Delhi, it’s much too late for you to start back for Washington. We should like to have you spend the night with us.”

“I’m grateful for your thoughtfulness,” the Indian nobleman declared. “Thank you. I will accept.”

Aunt Gertrude left the room but returned in a few minutes with a tray containing cookies, coffee, and milk. Mr. Delhi smiled and said:

“This is what you Americans call a midnight snack, is it not?”

“Even when it’s served at ten o’clock,” Mrs. Hardy said, her eyes twinkling.

By eleven o’clock the boys and their visitor found it impossible to keep from yawning, despite the in-

140 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

teresting conversation on the differences in customs between India and the United States. Mrs. Hardy suggested that they retire if they wished.

“I shall wait for my husband,” she said. “He’ll reach here about midnight.”

The boys were pleased to hear that their father was coming and would have liked to talk to him as soon as he arrived. But they were very sleepy, and also they had to rise early for the fishing trip.

Kissing their mother and Aunt Gertrude good night, they laughingly reminded Mrs. Hardy to set the burglar alarm, then escorted their visitor to the guest room. The brothers provided him with pajamas, robe, and slippers.

The robe and pajamas looked as if they would be about the right size. But Frank and Joe could not help laughing at the expression of consternation on the Indian’s face when he tried on the slippers.

Mr. Delhi chuckled. “I am afraid I shall-how do you say it?-swim in these!”

This remark brought fresh gales of laughter from the boys, and Frank said, grinning, “Joe, I never knew you had such big feet!”

“What do you mean?” Joe replied with mock indignation. “Those are an extra pair I got from your closet!”

Still laughing, the three said good night and within half an hour Frank and Joe were sound asleep. But some time later, Frank awoke with a

The hooded figure froze, blinded by the glare.

142 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

start. He glanced at the luminous dial of their alarm clock. It was almost two o’clock.

Joe awoke a moment later and called from his bed, “What’s the matter? Is it time to get ready for the fishing trip already?”

“No, it’s only two o’clock. But do you hear someone moving around downstairs?” Frank asked.

“No.”

“An intruder couldn’t be in the house,” Frank mused. “Mother and Dad would have Set the burglar alarm before going to bed.”

Joe left his bed and tiptoed across to the door. He opened it and listened for several seconds.

“Not a sound,” he reported.

“That’s good,” Frank replied, stretching and relaxing again. “Now let’s go back to sleep.”

Joe closed the bedroom door, then walked over to the side window and opened it wider. As he did, he saw something move on the lawn.

“Psst-Frank! Come here quick!”

His brother was at his side in a second.

“What’s up?” Frank asked.

“Someone’s down at the edge of the lawn,” Joe said. “Over by the hedge.”

“Let’s throw the spotlights on him,” the older boy suggested.

The Hardy home had a bright spotlight under the eaves on each side of the house-a precaution occasioned by too many prowlers interested in the de-

Attack in the Night 143

tectives’ work. The lights were controlled from switches in the upper and lower halls.

“Okay,” Joe agreed.

Frank dashed from the room to snap on the switch. Instantly the front lawn was flooded with light. Outlined against the hedge was a hooded figure with one arm raised above its head. In that position, it froze for a moment, evidently blinded by the glare.

“Looks as if he was going to throw something!” Frank whispered, rejoining his brother at the window.

Before Joe could make a reply, the strange figure hurled a large, round object straight toward the boys.

Involuntarily they stepped back, but the man missed his mark and the object crashed into a side window of the living room directly below them.

Instantly the burglar alarm clanged, then was drowned out in a deafening roar! The spotlights went out and the Hardy home shuddered on its foundation!

Frank and Joe were flung violently to the floor!

CHAPTER XIX

Doubting a Friend

dazed and puzzled by the explosion in their home, Joe Hardy picked himself up in the pitch-dark bedroom and groped about.

“Frank, you okay?” he asked.

There was no reply. Fearful, Joe felt around the floor for his brother but could not locate him. Bumping into the bureau which had been shifted out of place by the impact, Joe opened the top drawer and found a flashlight.

Its beam revealed Frank’s unconscious form between the beds.

“His head must have hit the bedpost,” Joe decided as he kneeled beside his brother.

Suddenly Frank stirred, opened his eyes, and tried to get to his feet.

“What? Where-?” he asked, falling back still dazed.

“Our house was bombed,” Joe told him. “Are you all right now?”

144

Doubting a Friend 145

“Y-yes,” Frank replied weakly, his right hand going to the back of his head. With Joe’s assistance he got up. “How are the folks and Mr. Delhi?” he asked.

“I don’t know. We’d better find out pronto.”

As he opened the door to the hall, a wave of acrid smoke rolled toward the boys. Through it, Joe could see his father with a flashlight coming toward them.

“Is everybody all right?” Joe called.

“Your mother is. I don’t know about the others. We’d better check.”

Behind him, they could now see Mrs. Hardy and a moment later Aunt Gertrude’s door flew open. Relieved that her family was safe, she pointed toward the guest-room door.

“There’s your trouble!” she cried out. “If we weren’t entertaining all kinds of strange visitors, things like this wouldn’t happen. Respectable people have no business getting mixed up with such folks!” She began to sneeze and cough.

“You are right, Miss Hardy,” said a voice through the smoke, which had begun to clear. Mr. Delhi walked out of his room and came toward the group. “I am without doubt responsible for what has happened. Apparently my identity is known to my enemies, regardless of our precautions last evening. From now on, I shall come out into the open and strike back at them myself. I cannot subject good people like yourselves to further danger. I am relieving you from the case at once. You have already

146 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

suffered a great deal in trying to help me and my country.”

“Oh!” cried Aunt Gertrude. “Forgive me, sir. I didn’t mean-”

Mr. Hardy looked first at his sister, then at their guest. “Mr. Delhi,” he said, “we will see this thing through with you. We cannot bow out of a case- especially one that is so near a solution.”

“And I don’t believe,” Joe spoke up, “that the bomb was thrown into our house because of you, Mr. Delhi. I saw the fellow aim it directly at Frank and me as we stood in our bedroom window.”

Just then a voice at the foot of the stairs called, “Anyone up there hurt?”

They looked over the stair railing and in the beams from Mr. Hardy’s flashlight saw the anxious face of the night patrolman on the Elm Street beat.

“Everyone’s all right,” the detective assured him. “We’ll be right down.”

He and the boys hurriedly put on robes and ran downstairs to investigate the damage to their house and to make sure a fire had not started. There was no sign of a blaze, but they were horrified at what they saw! Part of one wall in the living room gaped open and the room was a shambles.

By this time a crowd of neighbors had gathered. All of them offered their sympathy and the accommodations of their homes for as long as the Hardys wished to stay.

Doubting a Friend 147

“Thank you,” Mr. Hardy said to each one, “but since the damage is so extensive, I believe we’d better move to the Bayport Hotel. It looks as though it will be several weeks before our home will be habitable again.”

Joe proposed to his father that he and Frank stay at the house to guard it from pilferers.

Mr. Hardy smiled. “You boys will be needed for sleuthing elsewhere,” he told his sons. “I’ll put Jeff Kane here, together with a few regulars the police will assign. Joe, go tell the others the plan. And insist that Mr. Delhi go with us to the hotel.”

Joe relayed the message and Mr. Delhi said he would accompany them and stay at least for the remainder of the night.

After everyone had dressed, and the Hardys had packed a few clothes, they gathered outdoors.

Chief Collig was on hand now, having been sum-moned from his home. He had ordered searchlights set up and had stationed men on every side of the Hardy house.

The chief reported that the hard ground had yielded no footprints and that his men had found not a single clue to the person who had thrown the bomb. However, in the living room they had found parts of the bomb scattered about. The remnants had been gathered up for the police laboratory to examine.

Satisfied that the situation was under control, Mr.

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Hardy and the others went to the Bayport Hotel. Dawn was breaking when they were finally settled in their suite.

By that time all desire for sleep had vanished for everyone except Mr. Hardy. The detective said he had worked late the previous two nights and needed a few hours’ rest before tackling several important problems. Not the least of these was the attempt on the lives of himself, his family, and their visitor.

After he had gone to bed, his sons talked with Mr. Delhi for some time about the mystery. But they could not figure out any lead to the identity of the hooded figure who had thrown the bomb. It was certainly not Ragu, since he was safely behind bars in the Bayport jail.

When the hotel coffee shop opened at six o’clock, the three went in to have breakfast. Halfway through the meal, Mr. Delhi excused himself to make a phone call. After several minutes, he returned, much dis turbed.

“Forgive me,” he began nervously. “I have just learned that I must fly to New York at once. Should you want to reach me, call Mr. Ghapur. He will know of my whereabouts. And please make my apologies to your family.”

“Let us drive you to the airport,” Frank offered.

The Indian, who seemed extremely upset, said quickly, “Thank you, no. You have been most kind to me. I shall take a cab. Good-by.”

With that, he strode out the door of the coffee

Doubting a Friend 149

shop, the boys following him to the hotel entrance. As he climbed into a brown-and-white cab, they waved farewell to the royal gentleman who had suddenly begun to act so mysteriously.

“What do you suppose upset him so?” Joe said quizzically as they returned to the coffee shop.

“He sure acted strange,” Frank agreed, but could not guess the reason.

When the boys finished eating, Frank suggested that they go back to their house to make a search for a clue to the person who had thrown the bomb, in the hope that the police might have overlooked it.

It was shortly after seven when they turned into Elm Street. The story of the explosion had spread all over Bayport, and scores of people had gathered outside the police lines. One of the officers approached the Hardys and said:

“There’s a young fellow over there by the barrier who says you boys would want to see him.”

Frank, turning, saw Chet waving at them excitedly and asked the officer to let him through. Chet hurried to the boys, his eyes popping as he studied the damage to their home.

“Gee, fellows, I’m sorry this happened,” he said. “Is everybody all right?” At a nod from Joe, he went on, “How’d Miss Peregrine take it?”

Frank’s and Joe’s mouths dropped open. In the excitement they had completely forgotten the prize bird!

They dashed up the porch steps two at a time and

150 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

ran pell-mell up the stairway. There was only a slim chance that the falcon would still be alive. The door to their room stood ajar and one glance inside revealed the bird’s perch lying in a corner.

But the falcon was gone!

After the first shock was over, Joe said:

“She couldn’t have flown away, Frank. Her leash was fastened to the ring at the base of the perch stand. It would have to be twisted or broken to free her. Someone took her!”

Frank nodded. “With all the police and bystanders around here, someone must have seen who it was. Let’s go and ask them.”

By this time Chet had caught up to the boys and was saying, “What ails you guys? I ask you a simple question and you act as if you’d been shot.” When the boys explained, the stout boy said thoughtfully, “Maybe the house was bombed so those smugglers could get your bird.”

“That might have been part of the plan,” Frank conceded, but he felt sure that there was much more behind it than that.

The three boys headed back downstairs. They checked with Jeff Kane and the policemen guarding the house, but none of them had seen the bird, nor had any one of them entered the house since the second shift of men had come on duty at seven o’clock.

“Let’s ask some of the people in the crowd if they saw anyone carry off the bird,” Joe suggested.

Doubting a Friend 151

The boys separated and began quizzing the bystanders. Finally a neighbor woman approached Frank and said:

“I saw your falcon. About six forty-five this morning a man in a taxi came up and spoke to the policeman on duty at the front door. He went upstairs with him and they came down a few minutes later with the falcon. The man drove off in the taxi-cab with it.”

“Which policeman was it?” Frank asked.

“I don’t see him around just now, so I guess he’s gone off duty. But I remember his badge number. It was eighty-two.”

“Did you notice what kind of taxicab the man who took the bird came in?” the boy asked.

“It was a brown-and-white cab of the Bayport Taxi Company, I think.”

Frank thanked the woman for her information and relayed it to Joe and Chet. Then they climbed into Chet’s jalopy and drove to police headquarters.

They traced the officer through the badge number and learned that he was at his home. Frank reached him by phone. The man said that the stranger had told him the Hardys wanted him to get the falcon, and he knew just which room the bird was in.

“No, he didn’t give his name,” the policeman said. “He was dark-skinned and seemed to be in an awful hurry.”

The Hardys were astonished. Dark-skinned man. Brown-and-white cab. Taking the falcon during the

152 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

time they were finishing breakfast. It all seemed to piece together-unfortunately. Could Mr. Delhi have taken the falcon? Had his phone call to New York prompted this? He certainly had started to act strangely all of a sudden.

As Frank started to ask the policeman for a fuller description of the thief, the connection was broken. He was about to call the officer again when Joe suggested that they get it from the taxi driver, as well as information on his passenger’s destination.

The boys headed for the office of the Bayport Taxi Company, a modern outfit with a fleet of radio-equipped taxis. Convinced of the importance of the Hardys’ request, the dispatcher willingly contacted his various drivers.

The one they sought appeared at the office about ten minutes later. Frank explained about the missing falcon and their desire to apprehend the thief. The taxi driver’s eyebrows went up.

“I remember the guy all right,” he said. “I picked him up in front of the Bayport Hotel between six thirty and seven this morning.

“After the man collected the falcon from a house on Elm Street,” the driver went on, “he ordered me to drive him down to a deserted wharf on the water front. I was curious about why he wanted to go there at that hour of the morning. But this guy claimed that someone was going to pick him up in a boat.”

“Could you give us a description of this man?” Frank asked excitedly.

Doubting a Friend 153

The taxi driver furrowed his brow for a moment, then replied, “Well, he was young and good-looking and dark-skinned, like one of them Indian rug makers down at Ahmed’s place. And he had a light scar on his chin. I mean a scar that really stood out-” looked lighter than the rest of his skin.”

Frank exchanged glances with Joe. They both heaved a sigh of relief. The falcon thief was not Mr. Delhi after all! It must have been the Indian who had bought pigeons from Mr. Newton two years before-the imposter who had used Mr. Delhi’s real name of Bhagnav!

The driver noticed the boys’ amazed expressions and asked, “Does that description help you?”

“It sure does,” Frank said. “Thanks a lot. Now will you drive us to the wharf where you left this man? He may still be there.”

The three boys climbed into the cab. Moments later the driver let them out on one of the wharves, promising to wait. They hurried down the length of the dock, but the dark-skinned man was not in sight, and no one they questioned on the small boats tied up at the dock had seen anyone carrying a hooded hawk.

“Looks like a dead end,” Joe declared, disappointment in his voice.

Frank agreed, but Chet tried to cheer them up, saying:

“Listen, fellows, you’re due for a real break. Wait and see!”

154 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

The boys smiled at Chet’s loyalty and Frank said, “Let’s head back to the hotel and brief Dad on this latest development. He ought to be awake by now.”

The taxi driver took them back to Chet’s jalopy and Chet in turn drove the Hardys to pick up their car at their home. Then Joe and Frank headed for the hotel.

The three adults listened in amazement to the boys’ story. When it was finished, Mr. Hardy leaned forward intently in his chair and reached for the telephone.

“I think we have our man,” he said, as he lifted the receiver and waited for the operator. “The light-colored scar on the chin is the give-away. The description fits an Indian by the name of Nanab. He is Rahmud Ghapur’s personal servant!”

CHAPTER XX

A Nautical Clue

ten minutes later Mr. Hardy replaced the instrument in its cradle and turned to them. “Well, boys, the pieces are beginning to fall into place. Ghapur says that his servant Nanab quit his job very suddenly the day before yesterday and has disappeared.”

“Wow!” cried Joe, adding, “Why didn’t Mr. Delhi recognize him while staying at Ghapur’s home?”

“Nanab apparently kept out of his sight on purpose,” Mr. Hardy replied. “He may have feared he might be recognized. The only relative in India that Nanab wrote to while he was in Washington,” Mr. Hardy continued, “was a brother whose name is Bangalore. So far as Ghapur knows, Bangalore is still in India.”

Frank broke in excitedly. “No, Dad. You were away when we learned this, but Bangalore was the name of an Indian who jumped ship on the Continental while the vessel was docked in New York. That happened two years ago.”

155

156 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

As he finished speaking, Radley came in, an envelope in his hand. He said he had been to the house and was amazed to learn of the bombing and was glad the Hardys wrere sate. He now handed over the envelope, saying:

“I came down here to check my mail. When I opened this, I knew you boys would want to see it.” He held up a photograph. “It’s a picture of that fellow Bangalore. The steamship line sent it.”

“Bangalore!” Mr. Hardy exclaimed. “He’s Na-nab’s brother all right. Looks just like him, except that the chin scar’s missing. Good work, fellows. It certainly looks as if Bangalore is one of the ringleaders in this smuggling and kidnaping business. Nanab has probably been working with him part of the time and is now spending full time on the rackets.”

“Dad, do you think he could have been the one who intercepted Mr. Ghapur’s letter to us?” Joe asked.

“No doubt of it. Unfortunately, Ghapur trusted Nanab implicitly and always confided in him. Nanab destroyed the letter, but why do you suppose he let the falcon come through to you?”

“That does seem strange,” Frank agreed. “Anyway, we know he learned all the plans and developments in the case by eavesdropping on Ghapur and Mr. Delhi.”

“There’s one bright side to this whole thing,” said his father. “You boys must be much nearer a

A Nautical Clue 157

solution than you think, or I doubt that Nanab would have left his job at Ghapur’s. He probably knew the net was closing around him.”

Frank and Joe, certain that part of the solution was to be found on the Daisy K, determined to carry through with their fishing plan. Since it was too late for the trip scheduled for that day, Frank phoned the booking office for Bayport’s charter boats to find out if the Daisy K was going out the following morning. He was delighted to learn there would be a trip.

Mr. Hardy said he would make the necessary arrangements for repairs to their home, then he must return to Washington on urgent business.

The phone rang and Joe answered. The caller was Chet, who said, “How about you fellows coming out here to live until your house is repaired? The folks say it’s fine with them.”

“Sounds good, Chet. Wait till I ask Dad and Mother.”

The family agreed that the brothers would enjoy staying with Chet far more than living in the hotel, so Joe promptly accepted. Then, at their parents’ request, Frank and Joe worked nearly all day at the bombed house storing away pictures, lamps, and other small furnishings, and moving clothes to the hotel. It was late afternoon when they arrived at the Morton farm.

“Before it gets dark today,” Frank proposed, “let’s go over to the deserted hunting lodge and see if Rad-ley has anything new to report.”

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After the Hardys had deposited their luggage in the Mortons’ guest room, the three boys set off for the lodge. Radley said there was no evidence that anyone had returned to the lodge and felt further watch of it was useless. He remarked that he would like to tackle the mystery from another angle.

“I’ve had a lot of time to think out here,” he said, “and just this morning I came up with an idea. Maybe these smugglers don’t send their pigeons from a boat at all. They may be working from an island.”

“An island! Maybe that’s it!” Joe replied enthusiastically. “When we get back to Chet’s, let’s take a look at a map to see what’s northeast of here.”

“And,” said Radley, “why not let me cut loose with a plane and see if I can spot something out there.”

“Okay,” Frank agreed. “Joe and I are planning a fishing trip on the Daisy K early tomorrow morning. Among the three of us we may uncover something either on the sea or from the air.”

Radley and the boys walked back to the Morton home where they pored over a map.

“Hmm,” said Radley. “Islands galore northeast of here. The closest ones are Shoals, Pine Haven, and Venus, but that doesn’t mean they’re the ones. The smugglers may be taking no chances and using an island quite a distance away. I’ll look over as many as I can from the plane, though.”

That evening, after Radley had left, Frank and Joe got their fishing disguises ready. Their father,

A Nautical Clue 159

an expert at disguise, had taught his sons many of the techniques. First came a make-up base: ruddy for Joe, slightly sallow for Frank. Then Frank pasted on a false chin stubble and sideburns, while Joe gummed on a small mustache and heavy false eyebrows, then plastered down his blond, slightly wavy hair. With slickers and sou’westers in case of rain, they looked like middle-aged fishermen. lola and Chet laughed heartily at their disguises.

“Nobody will know you,” lola declared.

Before dawn the next morning, Frank and Joe repaired their make-up and set out through a drizzle for the wharf where the Daisy K was tied up. Four other sports fishermen already were there, ready to go aboard. The Hardys kept a wary eye on Captain Flont, who did not give any indication that he recognized them. In fact, he paid little attention to his passengers.

The day’s fishing went along with reasonable success. All of the members of the Daisy K’s passenger list managed to net a fair-sized catch of tuna and mackerel. Under various reasonable pretexts during the trip, both Frank and Joe wandered all over the craft, but the falcon was not aboard. The boys had also made a point of trying to pick up conversations between the captain, his crew of two, and any passengers that might be in league with him, but learned nothing.

In the late afternoon, when the Daisy K started back for Bayport, Frank and Joe were seated inside

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the deckhouse as close as they dared to Captain Flont, who was at the wheel.

Suddenly, above the roar of the motors, they heard him say to one of his crew, “It beats me where Ragu went.”

“I’m afraid he’s in trouble,” the man replied.

“It’s going to be hard to take care of things at windward without him,” the captain said, then shifted the conversation to another subject.

Frank gripped Joe’s arm. At windward! His younger brother nodded.

The boys got up and walked out to the stern of the boat. When they were alone, Frank whispered, “Did you have the same thought I did? That it was strange for a nautical man to say ‘at windward?”

“I sure did,” Joe replied. “If he had meant a direction, the captain would have said ‘to windward.’ ”

“Right. Windward must be a place!”

The Daisy K reached port just before suppertime. As Frank and Joe walked along the water front with their day’s catch of fish, they questioned sailors from other boats about Windward. No one had heard of it. Finally they headed for the hotel, deciding to have supper with the family before going to Chet’s.

The boys, still in their disguises, turned their mackerel over to a startled bellhop and asked him to deliver them to the hotel chef. Then, learning from the desk clerk that Radley was back, they went at once to his room. The detective grinned at their

A Nautical Clue 161

disguise. While they were removing the make-up, he said:

“I flew all over the coast for about five hours, but I couldn’t spot any activity that would indicate smuggling operations. I did see several deserted sections along the shores of some of the islands that would make good hideaways. Guess we’ll have to investigate all of them.”

“Ever hear of a place called Windward?” Frank inquired.

“No,” Radley replied. “What about it?”

The older boy repeated the conversation that he and Joe had overheard on the Daisy K. Radley nodded thoughtfully, then remarked:

“Let’s go down to the Skippers Club. I know some of the old seafaring men who stay there. Maybe one of them will be able to help us out.”

After supper with Mrs. Hardy and Aunt Gertrude, the three went to the old salt-box building near the water front, where many of the old-timers played cribbage, chess, and billiards in between spinning sea yarns about the good old days. Sam Radley was hailed by several of the captains. He quizzed some of them about Windward. The name meant nothing to the first half dozen he spoke to, but finally a grizzled man of the sea looked up from a game of solitaire.

“Sure, I know the place. Windward was our old-timers’ name fer the windside o’ Venus Island,” he

162 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

said. “The lee side’s green and right purty. Folks live there. But Windward-it’s rocky and barren. Broken up by stretches o’ pine woods here and there.”

Radley thanked the old salt and the three left the club. Outside, Frank remarked, “That sounds like an ideal spot for smuggling operations!”

“Yes,” Radley replied.

“Let’s check on it right away,” Joe proposed. “Maybe we can round up some of the fellows to help us.”

“As a matter of fact,” said Frank, “Biff Hooper and Tony Prito were going out to Chet’s tonight. Let’s put all three of them to work on the case.”

Radley was game and said he was eager to go along. They stopped at a drugstore with a couple of phone booths. Joe called Chet to explain their plan to take the Sleuth out to Venus Island for a reconnoitering expedition.

“Sounds like a dangerous job,” said Chet, “but I’ll come and bring Tony and Biff. I expect them here any minute.”

“Meet us at our boathouse,” Joe directed. “And make it as soon as you can.”

Frank, meanwhile, had called the hotel from the other phone booth to apprise his mother of their plans. Next, he put in a call to Chief Collig, telling him of their new lead and asking if Ragu could be held for a day or two longer, without visitors if possible, while they tracked down the lead.

A Nautical Clue 163

“Don’t worry about that,” the chief replied. “He’s refused to see anyone, even an attorney! He’s made no attempt to raise the bail money, either. Frank, that fellow is plenty scared of someone!”

“And,” Frank said, “my guess would be it’s Captain Flont!” Pleased with the news about Ragu, he said good-by and hung up. Then he headed for the boathouse with Radley and Joe. A quick look around showed that repairs were well under way and that the Sleuth could be returned to its berth before long.

Presently Chet’s jalopy rattled up the street and pulled to a stop. Lanky, good-natured Biff Hooper swung his long legs over the side, and Tony PritG followed. Chet squeezed himself out of the driver’s seat and joined the group.

They all walked to the Sleuth and went aboard. It was just past midnight as Frank took them across Barmet Bay, out through the inlet, and into the swells of the ocean beyond. They talked over their program.

“When we get to Windward, we’ll cruise around and find out what we can,” Frank said. “If we don’t learn anything, then Joe and Radley and I will go ashore to investigate.”

Tony, who owned a boat of his own, would be left in charge of the Sleuth.

Two hours later the forbidding rocky slopes of Windward were etched in black against the moonlit sky. The motor of the Sleuth was throttled down

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and a search of the waters began. They found no boats anchored and none were visible in any of the many inlets among the rocks.

At three fifteen, Radley and the Hardys decided to go ashore. They donned their swimming trunks and slid over the side without a sound.

Treading water beside the boat, Frank said to the boys in the Sleuth, “You fellows cruise back and forth, keeping your eyes open for anything that might be stirring. We’ll swim out again just at daybreak and meet you.”

Chet, Tony, and Biff wished them luck, then started off. They cruised around for an hour without seeing another boat or sighting anything suspicious. Finally, as the first streak of light appeared in the east, Tony moved the Sleuth to the spot where they had left the swimmers.

After what seemed like a long wait, Tony said, “Fellows, I’m worried. Frank and Joe and Radley are overdue.”

The three in the boat gazed across the water but could not see anyone along the shore or in the water that lay between the Sleuth and the rocky beach. Tony moved the boat a little closer and got out the binoculars. There was not a sign of anyone on the rocks.

“I’ll-I’ll bet the smugglers got ’em!” Chet said nervously. “What’ll we do now?”

“Give ’em fifteen minutes,” Tony advised, “and then storm that island!”

CHAPTER XXI

Forbidding Island

frank, Joe, and Radley had swum easily to the narrow, rocky beach on the windward side of Venus Island. The water was chilly, but their brisk strokes had kept them from feeling the cold.

A jagged cliff that rose abruptly about twenty feet back from the shore was clearly outlined in the moonlight. The swimmers, sure now that no guard was on watch on the beach, walked out of the surf and brushed the water from their bodies. In the warm night air they gazed around the desolate beach but could see no evidence of anyone having been there recently.

“But we couldn’t be sure of finding any definite clues on the shore here,” Frank mused. “Footprints or signs of beaching a boat could have been washed out by the waves.”

They climbed a trail that wound up the face of the cliff and turned their attention to a woods of

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wind-swept pines, which came to within a hundred feet of the cliff’s edge. The three sleuths peered ahead intently. Frank, first to spy a light among the trees, said:

“I wonder if that light is coming from a house in there? I thought this place was uninhabited.”

“Let’s find out,” Joe urged.

They found a path that wound in and out among the trees and followed it until Joe held up his hand in warning.

“I think I hear voices!”

He and the others paused to listen. Not far from them several men were talking, part of the time in English, part in a foreign tongue the trio had come to recognize as a dialect of India.

The Hardys and Radley settled down behind a clump of bushes, trying to fathom the conversation which went on for some time. The voices carried clearly on the night air, and the listeners were provoked at not being able to translate the alien words. Presently, however, the sleuths were electrified upon hearing:

“Cap’s late. I hope he didn’t run into trouble. A motorboat was cruising around here a while ago. Better go take a look.”

There was no oral response to the command, but a blond man began to walk toward the sleuths, who dodged out of his sight just in time. After he had gone a short distance, they followed silently, hoping

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the Sleuth was now far enough from the island not to be noticed.

“If that fellow has a boat hidden nearby and tries to set out for the Sleuth,” Joe whispered tensely, “we’ll jump him!”

“You bet!” Frank replied.

The man paused briefly at the edge of the cliff, then gingerly made his way down the trail to the beach. Radley and the Hardys crept to the brink and peered below. They did not see the Sleuth, but a surprise awaited them. A large motor dory, its engine off, was being propelled by oars toward the beach. As they watched, it glided to a stop just beyond the rocky shore. The watchers could see two men in the dory, but the figures were not close enough to be identified.

“Say, Frank,” Joe whispered, “that sure looks like the same dory that met the Daisy K the night of the moonlight ride.”

The blond man on the stony shore gave a low whistle. Almost instantly Radley and the boys became aware of tramping feet and a few moments later a dozen dark-skinned men, carrying trousers and shoes, came down the trail, passing just a few feet from the intruders. They were followed by a second light-haired man. When they reached the beach, this man pointed to the dory and immediately the dark-skinned men splashed through the waves toward it.

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“Smuggled Indians!” Joe said in a hoarse whisper. “Let’s try to stop them!”

Radley gripped the boy’s arm. “That would only mean our capture. They outnumber us almost six to one!”

Joe calmed down as the aliens climbed aboard and the oars dipped into the surf. The dory was some distance from shore before the engine was started up.

As the two islanders came up the path and moved off among the trees, Frank suddenly gripped Joe’s arm.

“Those men are obviously guards here,” he said. “Do you suppose they’re the two we watched being transferred from the Daisy K to the motor dory?”

Suddenly Joe sprang into action, and without a sound set off on a run among the trees after the blond men.

“Come on!” he called in a hoarse whisper. “Let’s collar them.”

Frank and Radley tried to stop Joe, because they felt there might be more than two in the island gang. If the Hardys and Radley were captured, any chance of further spying was out of the question!

Frank and the operative hurried after Joe, but within a few seconds, sounds of a struggle reached their ears.

“This means trouble,” Frank whispered grimly.

Silently they rushed along the path and a few minutes later spotted the two guards and their prisoner approaching a group of small buildings set deep in a

Forbidding Island 169

grove and almost hidden from view. One of the men kicked open the door of the nearest building and Joe was thrust into a lighted room.

“We’ve got to free him!” Frank said. “I don’t care about the risk. This gang will stop at nothing!”

Radley restrained him. “Hold it, Frank,” he said sternly. “Brute force isn’t the answer. Look what just happened to Joe. The thing to do is to outwit these men.”

“You’re right, of course,” Frank replied. “Tell you what,” he said, noticing that the sky was lightening. “Tony, Chet, and Biff will be waiting offshore. Suppose you swim out to the Sleuth and try to follow the dory with the aliens in it. See where it goes. Then bring help back here. In the meantime, I’ll try to think up a way to free Joe and maybe pick up more evidence.”

His companion nodded and left at once. Frank waited until he heard the familiar roar of the Sleuth’s engine as it took off at high speed, before he started his own work. Moving swiftly and cautiously, he edged in close to Joe’s prison.

Through a closed window in the side of the cabin, he saw, to his dismay, that his brother had been bound to a chair. A coil of rope and a knife lay on a nearby table.

As he watched helplessly, the two middle-aged guards began cuffing Joe’s face. Quickly Frank moved to another window which was open. He heard one of the guards say:

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“This kid just won’t talk. Put the gag back in.”

“You can’t convince me,” the other man said as he replaced the gag, “that he came to Windward to swim all by himself in the middle of the night. He’s a spy. We ought to check the area to see if there are any pals of his lurking around.”

Frank ducked around the corner just in time. For, at that moment, the door of the cabin burst open and the two men rushed out. Frank, desperately realizing he must conceal himself, dodged behind a tree.

One of the guards announced he would circle the cabin. Frank held his breath, but the man passed without noticing him. The other zigzagged through the woods between the house and the beach, looking for trespassers, but shortly returned to report there was no evidence of other intruders.

The two men re-entered the house, but took up positions in such a way that Frank could not possibly move in on them without being seen.

A few minutes later one of the guards said, “Keep an eye on our prisoner while I eat breakfast. I’ll spell you later, after I’ve talked to Cap. I’ve got a hunch about this kid!”

Frank wondered what he meant, then smiled triumphantly. This was his chance to free Joe!

He ducked into hiding again as the guard came out, closed the door carefully behind him, and walked toward one of the other buildings. Frank waited until the man had entered the cabin, which

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stood about a hundred yards away, then quietly moved to the door of Joe’s prison and slowly turned the knob. The door was unlocked!

Picking up a piece of shale from the path, Frank flipped it at a windowpane. As the piece of rock crashed through, Joe’s guard whirled away from the boy’s side and dashed to the window. At the same time, Frank flattened himself against the door, his hand on the knob. As the guard gingerly leaned out the shattered window, Frank eased open the door and silently entered the room, his bare feet making no sound.

Joe was so relieved to see Frank he might have given his brother’s presence away if he had not been gagged. With lightning speed, Frank whipped the gag from Joe’s mouth with one hand, and with the other hand grabbed the knife from the table and slashed at the rope which bound Joe’s hands together.

This was barely accomplished when the man at the window pulled his head in and started to turn around. Before he could see what was going on behind him, Frank gripped the man around the throat, stuffed the gag in his mouth, and caught one of his arms in a judo hold. Frank threw him to the floor, and Joe, now free, bound the guard with the rope that had seconds before secured him.

Their prisoner glared at the brothers as they consulted in low tones. “I sure messed this deal up,” Joe remarked ruefully. “Thanks for turning the tables.”

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Frank grinned understandingly and said they must hurry or both of them might be caught. “I’ll keep a lookout in this room while you investigate the rest of the cabin,” he said.

Joe picked up a flashlight from the table in order to explore the dark rooms beyond. Frank posted himself at the door. In twenty seconds Joe was back at his brother’s side.

“There are two more rooms in this building,” Joe reported. “One’s locked and-what do you know?- in the other there are five carrier pigeons in cages!”

Frank was excited at this news. “That clinches it. We’ve come to the right place. Let’s go see if we can find out if Cap is who I think he is.”

The boys checked the bonds on their prisoner, then rolled him under one of the bunks which lined two walls, and left the cabin. As they approached the building which the other guard had entered, Frank pointed out a high radio aerial that rose from the roof. “That’s a powerful set,” he said.

They peered cautiously in a window, and noted that it must be the building where the guards and aliens ate their meals. At one end was an old-fashioned cooking stove. Two long dining tables, capable of seating a large number of people, filled the other side of the big room.

Seated at a smaller table which stood against the far wall was the guard. In front of him was a shortwave sending and receiving radio. Over it, he was sending the startling announcement:

Joe sent the man sprawling away from the short-wave radio.

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“We’ve captured a spy. From your description, I think it’s one of those Hardy boys!”

Frank and Joe gulped. The news was out! But no more must be sent!

Joe sprang through the doorway and threw himself at the man, knocking him away from the instrument and clipping him soundly on the jaw. The man sprawled on the floor, unconscious.

With the signal button released, the sending set was cut off. Frank, who had followed his brother into the room, instantly turned on the receiver. The cold, hard voice of Captain Flont was saying:

“I think we’re being followed! But I can’t afford any trouble! I’m going to open fire!”

Terror in their eyes, Frank’s and Joe’s hearts sank.

“The Sleuth!” both boys thought. “It must be the Sleuth that Captain Flont has spotted!”

CHAPTER XXII

An Escaped Prisoner

A feeling of utter hopelessness swept over both Hardy boys. They realized that there was no way to reach the Sleuth and warn their friends that Captain Flont intended to fire on them!

Frank paced up and down the cabin, clenching his fists. Then, suddenly, he thought of a way in which Captain Flont might be tricked into changing his mind.

Grabbing a paper napkin from one of the dining tables, Frank wrapped it around the mouthpiece of the short-wave sender. Perhaps the napkin would serve to muffle his voice enough to prevent its being recognized when he sent a message. He cleared his throat, pressed the sending button, and said:

“Flont! Don’t shoot! Orders from the boss!”

Frank clicked on the receiver but there was no answer. He kept repeating “Come in, Flont.” Still no reply. As Joe looked on tensely, Frank continued this call intermittently for ten minutes. Finally, re-

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ceiving no response from the captain, he gave up.

“Maybe Flont had turned off his set before I started sending my order,” Frank said, worried. “Or he may have recognized my voice.”

“You tried the only thing possible, Frank. It was a clever trick, too!” Joe assured his brother loyally. “Besides, even if there wasn’t any answer, Flont might have heard it and been fooled. All we can do is hope he obeys.”

Joe suggested that he hurry across to the other side of the island and contact the local police. “In the meantime, you stand by the radio, just in case Flont should call in again.”

“Okay,” Frank agreed. “But let’s tie this fellow up first. He’s coming to and we don’t want any more trouble.”

Using heavy twine, they bound the captive’s ankles and arms securely, and put a gag in his mouth. Joe found a pair of shoes and a sweater, put them on, and started off.

He located a rocky trail that seemed to lead toward the inhabited part of the island and followed it a couple of miles, until he came out of the woods. Finally, nearly an hour after leaving the smugglers’ hut, Joe spotted a farmhouse and dashed up to it.

Fortunately, the residents were awake. They listened in amazement and with some skepticism to the boy’s story. But they permitted Joe to use their phone and offered to drive him to the chief of police in Venus Village.

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Joe tried unsuccessfully to call one number after another on the mainland. He could not get through to either Chief Collig or his mother at the Bayport Hotel, due to the inadequate service between the island and Bayport. After several attempts, however, he finally contacted the Coast Guard. The young detective was told that men would be sent out at once to apprehend Captain Flont and learn what had happened to Chet and the others on the Sleuth.

On the drive to town the farmer remarked, “This is the first time I remember anything happening around here which needed the police. Chief Barton’s appointment was kind of an honorary one.”

When the farmer stopped at the police chief’s home in Venus Village, Joe thanked him for the lift, then rang the bell.

Chief Barton himself opened the door. He was a man past middle age, with a paunch and a good-natured smile.

“Well, what brings you around here so early in the morning, stranger?” the man asked, suppressing a yawn.

“I’m Joe Hardy from Bayport. My brother and I have located the hide-out of a ring of smugglers here on Venus Island. It’s on the windward side. We’ve got two of them tied up. We’d like you to come and make the arrests.”

“Smugglers on Venus Island!” The chief blinked, then roared with laughter. “Who you trying to kid, son?”

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“I tell you, sir, it’s true,” Joe insisted, trying not to show the annoyance he felt at the man’s reaction. “The Coast Guard and the Immigration Service have been trying to track them down for months. The State Department’s interested, too!”

“How does the State Department figure in this?” the officer asked curiously.

“These smugglers are also kidnapers,” Joe explained. “They’re holding an Indian prince captive -and are demanding one ransom payment after another.”

“Indian! That’s rich!” the chief guffawed. “Is he Sioux or Blackfoot?”

“He’s a native of India, not an American Indian,” Joe told him sharply, “and this is no laughing matter.”

The man finally seemed to realize the seriousness of the situation and said, “Well, there ain’t no one can say that Chief Barton don’t tend to business when it comes his way. I’ll phone my deputy and we’ll be right with you. Jest sit down in the parlor and wait.”

It seemed an eternity to Joe while Chief Barton made the contact with his deputy and dressed. But at last the chief brought in a tall, lanky man whom he introduced as Al Richards. The deputy, a quizzical expression on his face, studied Joe for a moment, then commented:

“So you’re one of them Hardy boys, eh? I’ve heard tell about all the trouble you fellows get mixed up

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in down around Bayport. What’s this wild-goose chase we’re going on now?”

“Smugglers!” Joe said tersely. “And let’s get going before it’s too late.”

The young sleuth had no intention of arguing with these men now that he had at least aroused their interest. The three drove part way back to the smugglers’ hide-out in a jeep, apparently the only vehicle Venus Village possessed in the way of a police patrol car. They pulled to a stop about a mile from the cabins, and Joe led the men the rest of the way on foot. A fork in the path brought them to the cabin where Joe had been a prisoner.

Frank, who had found shoes and a shirt to fit him, heard them coming and went to meet the group. He said he certainly was glad to see the police officers and reported that no radio messages had been received.

“One of the smugglers is in here,” he told the men, as they paused at the cabin door.

“Well,” drawled Deputy Richards, “we’re ready for him. Let’s see what a smuggler looks like.”

They opened the door and Joe walked across to the bunk. He knelt down to pull out the trussed-up figure.

He was not there!

“Our prisoner’s gone!” Joe cried, unable to believe his eyes.

“Gone!” echoed Frank. “But how?”

Deputy Richards looked at his chief and remarked

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laconically, “Told you this would be a wild-goose chase!”

For answer, the chief shook his head slowly and shrugged, eying Frank and Joe dubiously. The Hardys, however, were not looking at the chief. They were staring at each other, blaming themselves for the prisoner’s getaway. Apparently they had not tied him securely enough.

But perhaps he had not had time to go far, the boys thought. In fact, he might still be in the building! To satisfy their curiosity, they dashed into the adjoining room. The escaped man was not there and only three of the pigeons were left in the cages.

Frank tried the door to the next room-the one Joe had reported locked. It was unlocked now.

As the door swung open a strange and wholly unexpected scene met their eyes. Joe cried out, “Here he is!” and Frank yelled, “Stop!”

The police chief and his deputy rushed in. At a window the man who had been the Hardys’ prisoner was just releasing two carrier pigeons.

Joe, noticing there were capsules on the birds’ legs, leaped forward, trying to stop their flight. But he was too late!

“Where were those messages going?” he demanded, but the man made no reply.

Suddenly Frank saw a large perch in a corner. On it rested a hooded hawk. Certain that the falcon was their own, he picked up a heavy leather gauntlet from a window sill. Quickly donning the glove,

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Frank took the bird on his wrist. As he removed the hood, Frank spoke softly to her. The hawk recognized him instantly and uttered a joyful keer, keer. He stroked her a few times, then hooded her again.

Frank turned to the officers and said, “Here is support for our story. This is a prize hunting hawk, and it was stolen from our home in Bayport.”

“Arrest this man!” Joe said. “He’s in cahoots with the thief and he’s one of the smugglers.”

But Chief Barton made no move to take the man into custody. Instead, he blinked at the smuggler. “Why, John Cullen, what’s going on?” he asked. “What’re you doin’ here?”

Frank was puzzled by the chief’s friendliness, but he did not take time to ask questions. He was afraid that the pigeons might be carrying notes which would alert the men holding the prince. If so, there was no telling what harm might come to the Indian youth. Frank hurried outdoors with the falcon and unhooded her.

Looking up, he saw that the carrier pigeons were circling above the cabin, picking up their directional beam preparatory to making a beeline flight to their destination. There was not a second to lose!

Frank turned the falcon loose and murmured softly, “Get one, old girl! Get both, if you can!”

To Frank’s dismay, the falcon responded sluggishly. Her reactions were considerably slowed down as a result of being imprisoned for so long. There was nothing the impatient young detective could do

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to hasten matters, however. He must wait until she regained her keenness.

At that moment Chief Barton and Deputy Richards came out of the cabin with John Cullen and Joe. In an angry tone the chief of police said to the boys:

“If your whole story’s as phony as this part of it, I’m afraid we can’t help you.”

“What do you mean by that?” Joe demanded.

“This so-called smuggler, Mr. Cullen, is one of the leading citizens here on the island, though he has only lived here a couple of years. He’s a pigeon fancier and has been racing birds for a year or more. His cote’s on the mainland.”

The Hardys were not impressed. Turning to Cullen, Joe asked suspiciously:

“How do you account for our stolen falcon being in your cabin?”

“My assistant got overenthusiastic about the whole deal, I’m afraid,” the man replied suavely.

“What do you mean?” Joe probed.

“He knew that a number of my best pigeons had been killed by a hunting hawk. Someone told him that your falcon was responsible.”

Frank’s and Joe’s minds were racing. Surely none of their friends, including Ahmed, who knew the secret, would have given it away. Suddenly a thought came to them. Nanab! He had doubtless brought, the falcon to the island!

“Go on!” Frank said icily to Cullen.

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“My assistant brought the bird here, so that I could use it as evidence in my damage suit against you,” the man concluded triumphantly.

It was obvious that both Chief Barton and Deputy Richards believed the story and were about to reproach the boys when Joe challenged Cullen with:

“That sounds smooth enough. Now try to explain why the other man we captured was talking by short wave to a boat with smuggled aliens in it.”

“You’re crazy,” Cullen retorted. “Chief Barton, these boys are the ones who ought to be arrested!”

All this time Frank had not taken his eyes off the falcon. She had finally aroused from her lethargy and was now winging after the two pigeons. The hawk was still some distance from the birds, who were lining out for the mainland. Completely confident of the falcon’s skill, Frank remarked:

“Chief Barton, maybe our hunting hawk will prove to you that Mr. Cullen is not merely racing pigeons. She may prove he is aiding smugglers and kidnapers!”

All eyes turned toward the three birds in the morning sky. The falcon was making wide circles that carried her ever higher. Her deep, purposeful wing beats seemed slow to the anxious boys, but they noticed that she was rapidly outclimbing the pigeons!

CHAPTER XXIII

The Falcon’s Victory

the falcon was now only a tiny speck in the sky. The pigeons were out over the water but well below the climbing hawk. Frank turned to Joe and said:

“I guess this is what those old-time falconers called a ‘ringing flight.’ I’m going to the beach to watch it.” The others followed him.

At the height of her pitch the falcon plunged toward the pigeons in a long, angling stoop. Faster and faster she dropped-until the onlookers saw only a blur of moving wings. At a speed approaching a hundred and eighty miles an hour the hawk struck one of the pigeons. It plummeted into the water.

The peregrine mounted from her stoop and gave chase to the remaining pigeon.

Frank shouted, “Joe, take this and watch Cullen!” He thrust the hawk’s hood into Joe’s hand and ran into the surf. He set off at a strong, fast crawl toward the floating pigeon and soon reached it.

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The Falcon’s Victory 185

As Frank swam back to the beach with it, he glanced up. The second pigeon had reversed its course and was heading toward the brushy cover of the island. With awe and admiration he and Joe watched their falcon overtake her prey in a tail chase and bind to it in mid-air. In a long glide Miss Peregrine came to rest with her quarry in her talons.

“Good girl!” Joe cried. He ran forward and picked up the pigeon.

At that moment Frank came out of the surf and joined Joe. John Cullen cried angrily, “Leave those birds alone! They’re my property!” With a vicious lunge he grabbed for both of them.

To the boys’ dismay, Chief Barton said, “I guess he’s right, fellows. Let him have them.”

Frank and Joe were nonplused. “I’ll give them to you, Chief, but not to this man,” Frank said firmly.

As he spoke, Frank flipped off the capsule from the leg of the pigeon he was holding, while Joe removed the one on the other bird. Cullen tried to snatch the capsules, screaming in a hysterical, high-pitched voice that this was thievery and against the law. He demanded that the policemen do something.

But the chief and his deputy seemed paralyzed by the swift-moving events. Before the men could collect their wits, the Hardys had twisted open the tops of the capsules.

Into Frank’s hand dropped two rubies!

Joe’s capsule contained a tightly folded note which he opened and read aloud:

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” ’12 A’s gone. Spies here. We’re leaving island. Advise you move at once.’ ”

Chief Barton stared in amazement. Turning to Cullen, he demanded, “What does this mean?”

But Cullen was already fleeing pell-mell over the rocks.

“I guess that proves he’s guilty!” Joe exclaimed. “12 A’s must mean those aliens who left here in the dory!”

Stuffing the note into his pocket, he dashed after Cullen, with the police at his heels. The chase was soon over. As the fugitive attempted to get away in a motorboat hidden in a cove, he was caught and marched back.

“I guess you’re not innocent after all,” said Chief Barton. “But you sure had me fooled.”

Cullen’s jaw was grimly set and he looked with hatred at the Hardys. “You idiots!” he stormed. “I’ll get you for this!”

Frank suggested to the police officers that they pick up the other prisoner at once. Silently he and Joe hoped this man had not been able to loosen his bonds and send a message!

Frank hooded the falcon and led the way to the second cabin. They found the man on the floor, still bound and gagged. Chief Barton stared at him, then exclaimed in amazement:

“Arthur Daly! You mixed up with the smugglers, too!” He turned to the boys and remarked, “Mr.

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Daly owns one of our most successful lobster businesses.”

The Hardys did not comment on this revelation, but Frank said, “I suggest you handcuff these men to avoid any further trouble.”

At a gesture from Barton, Deputy Richards took care of this detail. Then the chief posed importantly before his prisoners and barked:

“Now let’s hear the truth about this whole thing!”

The men refused to talk, but the Hardys explained what they knew of the illicit entries of the Indians, the kidnaping of Prince Tava, and the ransom demanded in rubies.

“The pigeons carried the rubies and notes from here to their home cote,” said Joe. “And that’s the next place we’ll have to locate.”

The prisoners exchanged alarmed glances.

“Well, I swan!” Chief Barton cried. Addressing his deputy, he said ruefully, “With all this going on at Windward, I reckon we ought to turn in our badges.”

“Maybe you won’t have to,” Frank told them. “If you’ll take these men to jail and notify the Federal authorities, you’ll be doing a good job.”

Chief Barton suggested that they all proceed to town at once. Carrying the falcon and the three remaining pigeons, the group headed for the jeep. Barton promised to station men at Windward to take care of any smugglers who might show up.

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Back at Venus Village, the once-respected islanders were put in cells, then Barton dispatched special deputies to the Windward area. Next, he talked by phone to the Immigration authorities. Ten minutes later, a broad smile on his face, he leaned back in his chair and said:

“Things are moving along fine. The Federal men will be out soon to take over. They’ll get any more aliens or ransom being brought here.”

“Good,” said Joe. “And now may I phone the Coast Guard? I want to find out what happened to the friends who came out here with us.”

“Go ahead,” the chief replied.

At the first words of Lieutenant Commander Wilson, who answered, Joe let out a whistle, and turning his head, he said in an aside to Frank, “They caught Flont and his two crewmen as well as those twelve smuggled aliens! They’re at the Coast Guard station now.”

As Joe listened intently to the lieutenant commander he sobered. Putting down the phone, he reported that there was no news of their friends. Flont would not say whether he had fired on them before his capture. A Coast Guard helicopter was out now searching for the Sleuth.

The Hardys were greatly worried about their friends. Frank asked, “Chief, could someone take us back to the mainland right away?”

“Sure thing,” Barton agreed. “I’ll run you to Bay-port myself in my own motorboat. And say, will you

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fellows take these pigeons? I don’t know what to do with ’em and you might find the birds useful.”

“Okay. We will,” said Frank.

Chief Barton kept his boat in good shape, and a little over an hour later, the chief, Frank and Joe, the hooded hawk and the three pigeons were speeding across Barmet Bay toward Bayport. Suddenly, Joe, who had been scanning the water through binoculars, called:

“There’s the Sleuth now, Frank! And all our friends are aboard!”

About a quarter of a mile ahead was the Hardys’ boat. Barton sounded his siren and minutes later he drew alongside the Sleuth.

“You all right?” everyone asked simultaneously.

Upon being assured that all were unharmed, Frank introduced the police captain. Then Chet, his eyes bulging, said, “You got the falcon back! And are those the smugglers’ pigeons?”

“They sure are,” Chief Barton replied. “And we got the ringleaders behind bars, too!”

Frank and Joe let this remark go unchallenged, although they knew the hardest part of the case- catching the real ringleaders-still faced them. They told their friends that Captain Flont had been captured, then asked what had happened to the group in the Sleuth.

“We g-got fired on,” Chet answered promptly. “The captain missed, thank goodness, and he didn’t try again. I don’t know why.”

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“Because Frank short-waved him not to,” Joe said, and explained about the radio message. “Then what happened?”

Tony, Chet, and Biff tried to tell the story at the same time. At last Radley summarized the situation.

“We picked up the trail of the Daisy K shortly after I swam back to the Sleuth. Captain Flont had already picked up the smuggled Indians from the motor dory. What we didn’t know was that Flont had a long-range rifle and we were his target! I think Flont fired the first shot to scare us, because I don’t see how he could have missed!

“Before he could follow it up with another, Frank’s message must have reached him. Anyway, he stopped firing and started off, full speed ahead. When we followed, he kept the rifle trained on us. We finally gave up the chase, deciding to make a wide sweep around him, then race to shore and send the Coast Guard out for the Daisy K.”

Radley went on to say that as they headed for a cove, the Sleuth suddenly ran out of gas. “And to make matters worse,” he continued with a wry smile, “the emergency fuel can was empty.”

The operative said that another boat had finally come by. As it was transferring fuel, the Coast Guard helicopter flew over, hovered just above them, and dropped a note instructing them to proceed to Bay-port.

When Frank and Joe finished comparing notes with their friends on the night’s adventures, the

The Falcon’s Victory 191

Hardys climbed into their own boat, taking the birds with them. The police chief promised to keep the Hardys informed of island developments and added, “Thanks again for saving my job regarding those smugglers!”

As soon as they reached Bayport, Radley and the Hardys headed for the Coast Guard station. There they discovered that Lieutenant Commander Wilson was questioning the prisoners himself. He had been in touch with Washington, and was impressed with the importance of the capture. He looked up as Frank, Joe, and Radley came in and beckoned them toward empty chairs alongside his desk.

Captain Flont winced at seeing Radley and glared at the Hardys as he was asked to repeat his statement.

“I’ve told you a dozen times I’m innocent,” he declared. “I didn’t know those Indians were aliens. Someone radioed to me that a party of picnickers had been stranded on Venus Island. They offered to pay me my usual fishing fee to bring them back to Bayport.”

The lieutenant commander asked Frank, Joe, and Radley if they would like to question the captain.

Radley began. “Why did you fire on the Sleuth?”

Flont was ready with an answer. “You were following us, and it made my passengers nervous. I just fired in the air to scare you.”

Frank walked over to the group of aliens and asked if any of them spoke English. One young man came forward. Smiling at him, Frank said:

192 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

“We are friends of Rahmud Ghapur and of Prince Bhagnav, cousin of the Maharajah of Hatavab. We’ll be glad to help you if you will tell us the truth.”

Flont’s face turned purple with anger as he shouted, “You men shut up!”

The Indian talked with the other aliens for some time, then he turned back to Frank. “We sorry we break your law. We mean no harm. We pay these men lot of money for bring us to this country. Now bad trouble. We want to go home!”

Frank turned to the lieutenant commander and said, “I guess you’ve got your evidence.”

“One more question,” said Joe, looking at the young Indian. “While you were with these men who were trying to smuggle you in, did you ever hear anything about the kidnaping of Prince Tava?”

The spokesman shook his head violently. “Know nothing. Prince Tava kidnap, you say? What bad men do this?”

Joe did not answer the question. The Coast Guard officer thanked the Hardys and Radley for their help, then the three departed. The operative decided to return to Windward. He would wait for the Federal authorities and give them all available information on the case.

The boys went to the Bayport Hotel and immediately got in touch with their father in Washington. He was delighted with the turn the case had taken, and promised to fly home at once. He would ask Mr.

The Falcon’s Victory 193

Delhi, who had arrived from New York the day before, to accompany him. Working together, the detective said, they ought to be able to locate the missing prince and wind up the case.

When the call was completed, Frank said, “Joe, I have a hunch we can have the mainland hide-out located by the time Dad and Mr. Delhi get here.”

“How?”

Frank indicated the three cages with the pigeons in them. “We’ll turn these birds loose from three different parts of the surrounding countryside and keep an eye on them with our glasses. If we map their lines of flight, they’ll serve as bases for a tri-angulation fix.”

“That’s a swell idea,” Joe agreed, “but first let’s have lunch. I’m starved.”

Immediately after a hearty meal, the boys began their work. Joe found a piece of paper, similar to those on which the other messages had been written, and printed:

“Sit tight. Everything okay this end.”

He folded the message and inserted it in one of the capsules they had collected.

Meanwhile, Frank had hurried to see their jeweler friend. Mr. Bickford supplied him with four small imitation rubies that would lull the suspicions of the prince’s kidnapers until the showdown.

When Frank returned, the brothers went to the roof of the hotel. From there they released the first

194 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

pigeon with the message capsule. The Hardy«i watched the bird circle, then they lined up its course with a compass and marked the exact direction.

The boys divided the rubies between the two remaining pigeons. Joe took one bird five miles north of Bayport while Frank went five miles south with the other. When the brothers returned to the hotel they compared notes and marked the chart again. They grinned in satisfaction as they looked at the spot where the three lines crossed.

“I guess we’ve pinpointed the hide-out,” said Frank. “It’s at the top of Lion Mountain.”

The almost inaccessible spot was about twenty-five miles from Bayport, and it was reputed that mountain lions once had inhabited it. A few years ago the boys had climbed to the top and knew that it was a rugged hike.

“Frank,” Joe said, “I think you and I should investigate Lion Mountain at once.”

“You mean not wait for Dad?”

“We don’t dare wait, Frank. If Bangalore and Nanab learn that Flont has been captured, and realize their whole plot is falling apart, I’m afraid they’ll take revenge on the prince!”

“You mean kill him?”

“Yes.”

Frank weighed this suggestion a few moments, then nodded. “We’ll go at once.”

CHAPTER XXIV

Confessions

the boys told their mother of the proposed plan and gave her the pinpointed map for Mr. Hardy. She said she would agree to their going only on one condition. They were to do nothing more than try to get word to Prince Tava and help him to escape.

“Leave the capture of those smugglers and kidnapers to your father and the police,” she said, and Frank and Joe promised they would.

As the boys were about to depart, a telephone call came in from Radley, who said that the two men who ran the dory had been captured while docking it at Daly’s lobster pound.

“Well, that settles everything from this end of the case,” the operative said. “I’ll be back shortly.”

The boys told him their plan, and he wished them luck. When they arrived at the near side of Lion Mountain, Frank parked the convertible where it would not be spotted and they started off on foot.

“I wonder how near the top the hide-out is,”

195

196 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

Frank remarked. “Think we’d better circle the mountain to see if we can pick up a clue?”

“Yes. But I’ll bet it’s near the summit,” said Joe.

“On the other hand,” Frank said with a smile, “they might want to be nearer the bottom to get away in a hurry.”

The brothers had nearly completed the circle before they found a clue. It was an indistinct trail and at once they began to follow it upward.

Frank and Joe proceeded cautiously, constantly on the lookout for any traps. Half a mile up the trail, Frank spotted a suspicious-looking pile of leaves and twigs in the path. Picking up a long stick, he gently poked at the leaves and in a few seconds uncovered a bear trap.

“Wow!” Joe said softly, as Frank threw a stone at it, springing the trap. “Did the smugglers or some trapper set that?”

Frank thought that probably the smugglers had. Farther on, they came across an uprooted tree cleverly braced into position, with its roots and a taut rope stretched across the trail, covered with dirt and leaves. But it was ready to fall on anyone who might happen to trip over the rope.

About half a mile from the top in an open section, the boys came to a barbed-wire fence. It was about eight feet high and the upper strands were tilted outward, making it almost impossible to scale.

“Look!” whispered Joe from the shelter of the trees. “That fence is electrified!”

Confessions 197

“And probably has a charge heavy enough to knock a fellow out,” Frank remarked. “I’ll bet it sets off an alarm, too.”

“What a way to be stymied,” said Joe. “Just when we’re ready to break the case.”

Frank looked through the fence, his eyes probing the trees beyond. No one was in sight.

“What say we pole-vault over, Joe? Eight feet isn’t too high.”

“We’ll do it,” Joe said enthusiastically. “About a hundred yards back I saw some saplings that had blown down. We can use them.”

He located two stout saplings which suited their purpose. One he tossed over the fence to use when coming back. Meanwhile, Frank had dug a heel hole just short of the fence and braced it with flat stones.

“I’ll go first,” said Joe.

“For Pete’s sake, be careful,” Frank warned. “Don’t hit that fence!”

Joe ran forward lightly, hit the heel hole with a slight thud, and whipped up and over the fence. Frank grabbed the pole to keep it from striking the barrier.

Now Frank used the pole to vault over. His jump was a bit trickier than Joe’s, because at the height of it he had to thrust back on the pole to keep it from hitting the fence and sounding an alarm.

Once inside, the Hardys knew the hardest part of their job lay ahead. Through the scrubby bushes and trees they could see several crudely constructed huts.

198 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

Near one of them stood a handsome, pensive-looking youth about eighteen years of age. He was holding a hooded goshawk. From the color of his skin and his characteristic features the Hardys were sure he was an Indian.

The boy must be Prince Tava!

Some distance from the prince the boys spotted several dark-skinned men. They were no doubt some of the smuggled Indians.

In the shelter of the trees, the Hardys crawled toward the prince. When they were close enough to talk to him without betraying themselves to the others, Frank called in a whisper:

“Prince!”

As the young man turned and stared, Frank smiled and went on quickly, “We are American friends sent here by your cousin Bhagnav.”

The prince moved slowly toward the boys and asked in a low voice, “Why does Bhagnav send you here?”

“To rescue you from your kidnapers.”

“But I was not kidnaped,” the prince explained in some surprise. “The police are after me, and my friends are protecting me.”

“That’s not true,” Frank insisted. “Your father has already paid a fabulous ransom in rubies for your return, but these people continue to hold you and demand more payment.”

Prince Tava still did not seem to be convinced. The Hardys were trying hard to think of some way

Quickly he vaulted the electrified fence.

200 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

they could assure him of their sincerity. Finally Frank said:

“Your good friend Rahmud Ghapur is very much worried. He has engaged my father and brother and me to search for you. Mr. Ghapur told us of the time when he saved you in the cheetah hunt. He’s afraid that you’re in much greater danger now.”

The prince’s eyes widened. He whispered the name of Ghapur several times. Then he replied:

“If Rahmud Ghapur has sent you, then I will go with you.”

“Act as if you were just strolling around and follow us,” Frank directed.

The Hardys crawled away. The prince followed slowly, laughing and talking to the goshawk all the while. He acted as though he did not have a care in the world. When the three were well out of sight of the buildings, and close to the electrified fence, Joe said:

“I’m afraid you’ll have to leave the goshawk here for now. Once we’re out of this place and your abductors learn of your disappearance, they’ll probably make trouble. We may become separated. If this happens, take our car and meet us at the Bayport Hotel. My mother and aunt are staying there. Ask for them.” He added detailed instructions about the location of their hidden car and directions for reaching the hotel.

Prince Tava regretfully fastened his goshawk’s leash to a tree, picked up the pole, and gracefully

Confessions 201

vaulted the fence. He moved off quickly into the shadows of the trees beyond. Joe, pole in hand, was getting set to make his jump when Frank heard someone running toward them from the rear.

“Jump, Joe!” Frank whispered fiercely. The next second, a lariat slapped over his shoulders.

As he hit the ground, Frank caught a glimpse of his brother, back arched, halfway up in his leap. But suddenly Joe was snatched violently from mid-air. Frank, his heart sinking, knew Joe had been lassoed, too.

A half-dozen fiery-eyed men gripped both boys roughly and dragged them toward one of the buildings. They were thrust through the doorway into a well-furnished room, and confronted by two handsome young Indians who resembled each other strongly. One, however, bore a light-colored scar on his chin.

Bangalore and Nanab!

“The Hardy boys!” Nanab gloated. “A fine catch indeed.”

“What were you trying to accomplish here?” Bangalore demanded.

Joe tried to act casual and replied, “We came to get details of your smuggling and kidnaping plot. But I don’t suppose that now we’ll find out.”

Nanab smiled, winked at Bangalore, and said, “Why not? We’re proud of what we’ve done. We’ve fooled your authorities for a long time. Except for you two blundering boys, everything has run

202 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

smoothly. Now that you are prisoners, we can tell you the full story, then arrange a convenient accident for you.”

Bangalore gave his consent and Nanab began his story. “Captain Flont and his crew used the Daisy K to smuggle aliens into Bayport.”

So Ragu had been lying all the time!

“Captain Flont,” Bangalore went on, “is a clever man and will not betray us.”

Despite the gravity of the situation, the Hardys could hardly keep from smiling. It was plain these ringleaders were not aware of the various arrests that had been made. Frank’s message sent by the pigeon must have arrived. Now, if the Hardys could only keep these men talking long enough, Mr. Hardy and the police would have time to get there.

“We started making plans two years ago when Bangalore came to America,” Nanab went on. “We spread word to dissatisfied citizens of our country that legal entry into the United States was impossible. However, by paying us a large fee they could be brought in surreptitiously and protected by us.”

“How could you protect them?” Frank asked.

“We got them jobs and arranged for their social activities,” Nanab explained.

“The kidnaping of the prince was my idea,” Bangalore declared. “Both rackets were worked with Windward as the relay station. The property was bought cheap by two American friends of ours, John

Confessions 203

Cullen and Arthur Daly. They fed and housed the aliens who came in on a special American-Far East freighter, the Red Delta. It made an unscheduled stop outside a port in India to pick up the men, and another stop a few miles from Windward to discharge them onto a dory.”

“And who is the Mr. L who was going to squeal?” Frank asked.

Bangalore and Nanab both bristled at this. Then Nanab remarked, “Mr. Louis is a friend of Captain Flont’s. He owns the dory.”

“How did you get the ransom to this country?” Frank asked. “Not by the Red Delta, too?”

“Oh, no,” Nanab answered. “The ransom rubies were picked up in India, flown by private plane to Europe, and brought to America on an ocean liner which passed in the vicinity of Windward. To avoid customs, small pouches containing the stones were thrown off into Louis’s dory by a ship’s officer who is one of our group.

“Unfortunately, Louis kept too many of the second shipment for himself. When we exposed him, he threatened to squeal. That is why we are holding him a prisoner here.”

“You leased a hunting lodge under the name of Sutter,” Frank accused Bangalore, attempting to further prolong the conversation.

Bangalore nodded. “I wanted to impress the prince and make him comfortable. When you boys discov-

204 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

-ered the place, we left it, telling the prince that this was to avoid the authorities who were after him. He readily agreed to the move.”

“You were at the lodge, too?” Joe asked.

“Oh, yes.” Bangalore rubbed his hands in pleasure. “I was the one who knocked out your friend Chet Morton. One of the guards attended to you,” he said, looking at Frank. “When you found out too much, Nanab quit his job in Washington and came up here to help out.”

“Did you turn the krait loose deliberately?” the boy asked.

Bangalore jumped in surprise. “So you saw it? I wish it had bitten you. That snake was a particular pet of mine. I brought it from India. Sometimes it is necessary in matters of this kind to dispose of an enemy without suspicion being directed at the real killer. A krait is an excellent instrument for ‘accidental death.’ In the excitement of moving from the lodge, the snake got loose, and there was no time for us to search for it.”

“You, Nanab, destroyed the letter Mr. Ghapur sent us, but why did you let the falcon be shipped to us?”

Nanab smiled proudly. “I was in charge of sending it. I could have destroyed the bird, too, but Ghapur would have realized I was responsible if you never received it. So I let it go through, then commissioned Ragu to steal it. He failed! He is a fool!”

“You also threw the bomb into our house and stole

Confessions 205

the falcon yourself,” said Joe. “But who set our boat-house on fire and jammed the Sleuth’s gas gauge?”

“I did,” Bangalore admitted. “And now that you know the whole story, we will carry out our original plan.”

He clapped his hands and several men stepped into the room. In their hands were sturdy rawhide whips!

“You’re going to flog us first?” Frank shouted.

An evil smirk on his face, Bangalore said, “We usually plan a quick death with a sleeping potion for our enemies. But because you boys have caused us a great deal of trouble, Nanab and I have decided we will not make it so painless. Before you are put to sleep, we will use these whips and watch you squirm!”

He raised his hand then and cried:

“Flog them!”

CHAPTER XXV

A Touch-and-Go Triumph

frank and Joe were seized by four guards, while two others raised their whips. But the brothers did not flinch.

Instead, Frank leaned toward Joe. “Here we go again!” he whispered.

A knowing smile crossed Joe’s face. The expression was a signal for action. Before the whips could descend, the Hardys, using a jujitsu twist, flung their would-be floggers to the floor, and with the speed of Bengal tigers, tore the whips from the men’s hands. The guards shrank back as the boys raised the whips.

Bangalore’s jaw dropped. “How did you do that?” he asked, amazed, then added, “I like your courage. My men are skilled in wrestling, but you took them by surprise. It will entertain me to have you demonstrate your skill. Perhaps it can save you a flogging- or maybe even your lives.”

Frank and Joe knew that Indians are great lovers

A Touch-and-Go Triumph 207

of the sport of wrestling. If the brothers could prolong a match, their father might arrive in time to rescue them.

“We accept,” Frank said. “But let’s not decide our fate on a single fall. That’s not sporting. We’ll make it two out of three.”

Bangalore laughed raucously. “You are prisoners, yet you make the terms!”

Nanab spoke up. “Let our men punish them in the manner they suggest,” he said. “We’ll teach them that Indians are the greatest wrestlers.”

“Two out of three falls it is!” Bangalore conceded. “We will go outside,” he said, leading the way.

As Frank and Joe laid aside the whips, the smuggler selected two lithe and smooth-muscled guards. In a crouched position they moved forward quickly, hands outstretched. But Frank and Joe were ready. Playing for time, the brothers moved carefully, darting in, and then leaping back in an effort to catch their adversaries off balance.

Joe was first to find an opening. Seizing his opponent’s left wrist, he spun him around, and pulling with all his strength, sent the man flying over his shoulder. The guard landed on his back, groaning as Joe leaped on him and applied a pinning hold that in a moment gave Joe his first fall.

Frank’s foe cast his eyes on his defeated partner for a fraction of a second. With the speed of a stooping falcon, Frank charged, catching his adversary in a leg trip. The man hit the ground hard but jumped

208 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

up quickly. Before he recovered, Frank caught him in a headlock that sent both sprawling in the dirt. There was a flurry of dust as the two fought savagely for the advantage.

Suddenly the guard’s powerful legs closed about Frank’s stomach in a crushing scissors grip. Frank tried in vain to break the tightening hold. As the guard pressed Frank’s shoulders nearer and nearer the ground, it appeared that the boy would lose his first fall.

Then the guard shifted his hold slightly to make the pin. Frank, in spite of his weakened condition, saw his advantage and with all his strength he twisted free. Before his surprised opponent could recover, he spun around and seized the guard in a powerful cradle hold and drove him into the ground for a fall.

“Ready for the second fall?” Frank asked, breathing deeply.

The beaten man looked toward Bangalore and jabbered imploringly. The ringleader scowled and replied in their native tongue. Then, while the boys were resting, the Indian leader called forward two more of the guards.

The Hardys were to have new opponents for each fall! They realized it would be senseless, however, to object.

When time was called, they approached their new rivals, and from the start it was apparent that the Hardys had the upper hand through their knowledge

A Touch-and-Go Triumph 209

of the ancient Japanese art of jujitsu. In the midst of the second fall, a guard ran up, shouting:

“Prince Tava! He is gone! I cannot find him anywhere!”

For a moment everyone froze. Then Bangalore screamed, “This is a trick! And you Hardys are responsible. You must die at once. Nanab, the potion!”

Guards swarmed around Frank and Joe, pinning the boys’ arms back, so that they would be unable to resist. Nanab passed one of the poison pellets to his brother. He and Bangalore took up positions before the Hardys, forced their heads back, and pried open their jaws.

With all eyes on the scene, it came as a shock when a voice commanded, “Hands up!”

Fenton Hardy stood at the edge of the clearing. With him were Bhagnav, Ghapur, and Radley and several police officers. As everyone turned, a State Police captain announced:

“You’re all under arrest!”

The ringleaders and their guards were quickly seized and handcuffed. Then the officers went to round up the smuggled Indians.

Mr. Hardy ran to his sons. “Are you all right?”

“Yes,” Frank assured him. “And we rescued the prince. He’s on his way to the hotel.”

“Wonderful!” cried Bhagnav and Ghapur.

A search of the premises was instituted at once.

210 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

Under the floor boards in Bangalore’s bedroom they found the cache of rubies.

“Amazing!” Ghapur commented.

“Enough evidence for a conviction!” Mr. Hardy declared.

After the police left with the prisoners, the Hardys picked up the prince’s goshawk and with their friends hurried to Bayport. When they reached the hotel, Prince Tava was in the Hardy suite with Mrs. Hardy and Aunt Gertrude. Hugs, handshakes, and bowing followed with fervor and profusion in the happy reunion. Mr. Delhi and Rahmud Ghapur were particularly pleased to find Prince Tava healthy and unharmed.

After he had recounted his adventures, he pulled his countrymen aside and conversed in their native tongue. Returning shortly, he explained that they were trying to decide on some fitting reward for the Hardys other than the usual fee for services, plus expenses which Mr. Hardy would be paid.

The entire family protested, but Prince Tava turned to Mrs. Hardy and bowed. Then he took off his handsome ruby ring and presented it to her.

“Please accept this token of my deep gratitude,” he said with a gentle smile. “I give it to the mother of the two bravest boys I have ever known.”

Mrs. Hardy accepted the gift graciously, whereupon the happy group went to dinner in the hotel dining room. Even precise Aunt Gertrude enjoyed the victory celebration immensely.

A Touch-and-Go Triumph 211

Early the next morning Chet Morton burst into his friends’ room, demanding to hear the whole story. As they finished it, a cablegram was delivered to Frank and Joe.

“Listen to this,” Frank cried excitedly. “It’s from the Maharajah of Hatavab!” He read aloud:

” ‘Cannot thank you enough for aid to Prince Dharmuk. Tava is to continue his schooling. When he returns home next summer will you accompany him and bring the boy who helped you?’ ”

“That’s me!” cried Chet. “Wow, some reward!”

The three boys beamed. “We’ll go!” Joe declared. “What a whale of an invitation!”

When the whole group gathered for breakfast, Frank and Joe told their parents about the cablegram. Mr. and Mrs. Hardy heartily approved of their sons accepting the invitation. Silently the boys wondered if the next mystery they would solve would be in India. But long before the follo\ving summer arrived, they became involved in THE CLUE IN THE EMBERS.

When the excitement died down, Prince Bhagnav said, “I must explain something to you Hardy boys. I understand my leaving in such a hurry that morning after the bombing gave you cause to wonder about my motives.” He laughed. “My trip to New York was to meet another cousin of mine before he could be kidnapped!”

Frank and Joe smiled broadly. After a pause, Mr. Ghapur said: “I have a gift of my own to offer-the falcon. I want you boys to keep the noble, courageous bird.”

Frank and Joe accepted with alacrity, and added, “It would have been pretty hard to part with our hooded hawk.”

Suddenly Chet grinned. “Well,” he said, “I guess the least I can do is treat you fellows to that dinner I promised. How about all of you coming out to the farm for a big celebration?”

Everyone accepted.

“And bring the falcon with you,” Chet urged.

Joe grinned. “We will, if you’ll have a pound of raw beef ready for Miss Peregrine as her reward.”

Chet readily agreed. “But for all she did, the falcon deserves a sirloin steak!”

“You’re right,” Frank said. “Without her, we couldn’t have solved the mystery.”

“Bravo, Miss Peregrine!” Joe said.

And Prince Tava echoed, “Shabash! Bravo!”

THE END

THE HOODED HAWK MYSTERY

By FRANKLIN W. DIXON

No. 34 in the Hardy Boys series.

This is the original 1954 text.

Posted in Franklin Dixon | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers

WHOSE BODY?

By
DOROTHY L. SAYERS

BONI AND LIVERIGHT, INC.
PUBLISHERS :: NEW YORK

Copyright, 1923,
by
BONI & LIVERIGHT, Inc.
__________
Printed in the United States of America

To M. J.

DEAR JIM:

This book is your fault. If it had not been for your brutal insistence, Lord Peter would never have staggered through to the end of this enquiry. Pray consider that he thanks you with his accustomed suavity.

Yours ever,      

D. L. S.

The Singular Adventure of the
Man with the Golden Pince-Nez

 

I

“Oh, damn!” said Lord Peter Wimsey at Piccadilly Circus. “Hi, driver!”

The taxi man, irritated at receiving this appeal while negotiating the intricacies of turning into Lower Regent Street across the route of a 19 ‘bus, a 38-B and a bicycle, bent an unwilling ear.

“I’ve left the catalogue behind,” said Lord Peter deprecatingly, “uncommonly careless of me. D’you mind puttin’ back to where we came from?”

“To the Savile Club, sir?”

“No—110 Piccadilly—just beyond—thank you.”

“Thought you was in a hurry,” said the man, overcome with a sense of injury.

“I’m afraid it’s an awkward place to turn in,” said Lord Peter, answering the thought rather than the words. His long, amiable face looked as if it had generated spontaneously from his top hat, as white maggots breed from Gorgonzola.

The taxi, under the severe eye of a policeman, revolved by slow jerks, with a noise like the grinding of teeth.

The block of new, perfect and expensive flats in which Lord Peter dwelt upon the second floor, stood directly opposite the Green Park, in a spot for many years occupied by the skeleton of a frustrate commercial enterprise. As Lord Peter let himself in he heard his man’s voice in the library, uplifted in that throttled stridency peculiar to well-trained persons using the telephone.

“I believe that’s his lordship just coming in again—if your Grace would kindly hold the line a moment.”

“What is it, Bunter?”

“Her Grace has just called up from Denver, my lord. I was just saying your lordship had gone to the sale when I heard your lordship’s latchkey.”

“Thanks,” said Lord Peter; “and you might find me my catalogue, would you? I think I must have left it in my bedroom, or on the desk.”

He sat down to the telephone with an air of leisurely courtesy, as though it were an acquaintance dropped in for a chat.

“Hullo, Mother—that you?”

“Oh, there you are, dear,” replied the voice of the Dowager Duchess. “I was afraid I’d just missed you.”

“Well, you had, as a matter of fact. I’d just started off to Brocklebury’s sale to pick up a book or two, but I had to come back for the catalogue. What’s up?”

“Such a quaint thing,” said the Duchess. “I thought I’d tell you. You know little Mr. Thipps?”

“Thipps?” said Lord Peter. “Thipps? Oh, yes, the little architect man who’s doing the church roof. Yes. What about him?”

“Mrs. Throgmorton’s just been in, in quite a state of mind.”

“Sorry, Mother, I can’t hear. Mrs. Who?”

“Throgmorton—Throgmorton—the vicar’s wife.”

“Oh, Throgmorton, yes?”

“Mr. Thipps rang them up this morning. It was his day to come down, you know.”

“Yes?”

“He rang them up to say he couldn’t. He was so upset, poor little man. He’d found a dead body in his bath.”

“Sorry, Mother, I can’t hear; found what, where?”

“A dead body, dear, in his bath.”

“What?—no, no, we haven’t finished. Please don’t cut us off. Hullo! Hullo! Is that you, Mother? Hullo!—Mother!—Oh, yes—sorry, the girl was trying to cut us off. What sort of body?”

“A dead man, dear, with nothing on but a pair of pince-nez. Mrs. Throgmorton positively blushed when she was telling me. I’m afraid people do get a little narrow-minded in country vicarages.”

“Well, it sounds a bit unusual. Was it anybody he knew?”

“No, dear, I don’t think so, but, of course, he couldn’t give her many details. She said he sounded quite distracted. He’s such a respectable little man—and having the police in the house and so on, really worried him.”

“Poor little Thipps! Uncommonly awkward for him. Let’s see, he lives in Battersea, doesn’t he?”

“Yes, dear; 59 Queen Caroline Mansions; opposite the Park. That big block just around the corner from the Hospital. I thought perhaps you’d like to run round and see him and ask if there’s anything we can do. I always thought him a nice little man.”

“Oh, quite,” said Lord Peter, grinning at the telephone. The Duchess was always of the greatest assistance to his hobby of criminal investigation, though she never alluded to it, and maintained a polite fiction of its non-existence.

“What time did it happen, Mother?”

“I think he found it early this morning, but, of course, he didn’t think of telling the Throgmortons just at first. She came up to me just before lunch—so tiresome, I had to ask her to stay. Fortunately, I was alone. I don’t mind being bored myself, but I hate having my guests bored.”

“Poor old Mother! Well, thanks awfully for tellin’ me. I think I’ll send Bunter to the sale and toddle round to Battersea now an’ try and console the poor little beast. So-long.”

“Good-bye, dear.”

“Bunter!”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Her Grace tells me that a respectable Battersea architect has discovered a dead man in his bath.”

“Indeed, my lord? That’s very gratifying.”

“Very, Bunter. Your choice of words is unerring. I wish Eton and Balliol had done as much for me. Have you found the catalogue?”

“Here it is, my lord.”

“Thanks. I am going to Battersea at once. I want you to attend the sale for me. Don’t lose time—I don’t want to miss the Folio Dante* nor the de Voragine—here you are—see? ‘Golden Legend’—Wynkyn de Worde, 1493—got that?—and, I say, make a special effort for the Caxton folio of the ‘Four Sons of Aymon’—it’s the 1489 folio and unique. Look! I’ve marked the lots I want, and put my outside offer against each. Do your best for me. I shall be back to dinner.”

“Very good, my lord.”

“Take my cab and tell him to hurry. He may for you; he doesn’t like me very much. Can I,” said Lord Peter, looking at himself in the eighteenth-century mirror over the mantelpiece, “can I have the heart to fluster the flustered Thipps further—that’s very difficult to say quickly—by appearing in a top-hat and frock-coat? I think not. Ten to one he will overlook my trousers and mistake me for the undertaker. A grey suit, I fancy, neat but not gaudy, with a hat to tone, suits my other self better. Exit the amateur of first editions; new motif introduced by solo bassoon; enter Sherlock Holmes, disguised as a walking gentleman. There goes Bunter. Invaluable fellow—never offers to do his job when you’ve told him to do somethin’ else. Hope he doesn’t miss the ‘Four Sons of Aymon.’ Still, there is another copy of that—in the Vatican.** It might become available, you never know—if the Church of Rome went to pot or Switzerland invaded Italy—whereas a strange corpse doesn’t turn up in a suburban bathroom more than once in a lifetime—at least, I should think not—at any rate, the number of times it’s happened, with a pince-nez, might be counted on the fingers of one hand, I imagine. Dear me! it’s a dreadful mistake to ride two hobbies at once.”

He had drifted across the passage into his bedroom, and was changing with a rapidity one might not have expected from a man of his mannerisms. He selected a dark-green tie to match his socks and tied it accurately without hesitation or the slightest compression of his lips; substituted a pair of brown shoes for his black ones, slipped a monocle into a breast pocket, and took up a beautiful Malacca walking-stick with a heavy silver knob.

“That’s all, I think,” he murmured to himself. “Stay—I may as well have you—you may come in useful—one never knows.” He added a flat silver matchbox to his equipment, glanced at his watch, and seeing that it was already a quarter to three, ran briskly downstairs, and, hailing a taxi, was carried to Battersea Park.

 

Mr. Alfred Thipps was a small, nervous man, whose flaxen hair was beginning to abandon the unequal struggle with destiny. One might say that his only really marked feature was a large bruise over the left eyebrow, which gave him a faintly dissipated air incongruous with the rest of his appearance. Almost in the same breath with his first greeting, he made a self-conscious apology for it, murmuring something about having run against the dining-room door in the dark. He was touched almost to tears by Lord Peter’s thoughtfulness and condescension in calling.

“I’m sure it’s most kind of your lordship,” he repeated for the dozenth time, rapidly blinking his weak little eyelids. “I appreciate it very deeply, very deeply, indeed, and so would Mother, only she’s so deaf, I don’t like to trouble you with making her understand. It’s been very hard all day,” he added, “with the policemen in the house and all this commotion. It’s what Mother and me have never been used to, always living very retired, and it’s most distressing to a man of regular habits, my lord, and reely, I’m almost thankful Mother doesn’t understand, for I’m sure it would worry her terribly if she was to know about it. She was upset at first, but she’s made up some idea of her own about it now, and I’m sure it’s all for the best.”

The old lady who sat knitting by the fire nodded grimly in response to a look from her son.

“I always said as you ought to complain about that bath, Alfred,” she said suddenly, in the high, piping voice peculiar to the deaf, “and it’s to be ‘oped the landlord’ll see about it now; not but what I think you might have managed without having the police in, but there! you always were one to make a fuss about a little thing, from chicken-pox up.”

“There now,” said Mr. Thipps apologetically, “you see how it is. Not but what it’s just as well she’s settled on that, because she understands we’ve locked up the bathroom and don’t try to go in there. But it’s been a terrible shock to me, sir—my lord, I should say, but there! my nerves are all to pieces. Such a thing has never ‘appened—happened to me in all my born days. Such a state I was in this morning—I didn’t know if I was on my head or my heels—I reely didn’t, and my heart not being too strong, I hardly knew how to get out of that horrid room and telephone for the police. It’s affected me, sir, it’s affected me, it reely has—I couldn’t touch a bit of breakfast, nor lunch neither, and what with telephoning and putting off clients and interviewing people all morning, I’ve hardly known what to do with myself?”

“I’m sure it must have been uncommonly distressin’,” said Lord Peter, sympathetically, “especially comin’ like that before breakfast. Hate anything tiresome happenin’ before breakfast. Takes a man at such a confounded disadvantage, what?”

“That’s just it, that’s just it,” said Mr. Thipps, eagerly, “when I saw that dreadful thing lying there in my bath, mother-naked, too, except for a pair of eyeglasses, I assure you, my lord, it regularly turned my stomach, if you’ll excuse the expression. I’m not very strong, sir, and I get that sinking feeling sometimes in the morning, and what with one thing and another I ‘ad—had to send the girl for a stiff brandy or I don’t know what mightn’t have happened. I felt so queer, though I’m anything but partial to spirits as a rule. Still, I make it a rule never to be without brandy in the house, in case of emergency, you know?”

“Very wise of you,” said Lord Peter, cheerfully, “you’re a very far-seein’ man, Mr. Thipps. Wonderful what a little nip’ll do in case of need, and the less you’re used to it the more good it does you. Hope your girl is a sensible young woman, what? Nuisance to have women faintin’ and shriekin’ all over the place.”

“Oh, Gladys is a good girl,” said Mr. Thipps, “very reasonable indeed. She was shocked, of course, that’s very understandable. I was shocked myself, and it wouldn’t be proper in a young woman not to be shocked under the circumstances, but she is really a helpful, energetic girl in a crisis, if you understand me. I consider myself very fortunate these days to have got a good, decent girl to do for me and Mother, even though she is a bit careless and forgetful about little things, but that’s only natural. She was very sorry indeed about having left the bathroom window open, she reely was, and though I was angry at first, seeing what’s come of it, it wasn’t anything to speak of, not in the ordinary way, as you might say. Girls will forget things, you know, my lord, and reely she was so distressed I didn’t like to say too much to her. All I said was, ‘It might have been burglars,’ I said, ‘remember that, next time you leave a window open all night; this time it was a dead man,’ I said, ‘and that’s unpleasant enough, but next time it might be burglars,’ I said, ‘and all of us murdered in our beds.’ But the police-inspector—Inspector Sugg, they called him, from the Yard—he was very sharp with her, poor girl. Quite frightened her, and made her think he suspected her of something, though what good a body could be to her, poor girl, I can’t imagine, and so I told the inspector. He was quite rude to me, my lord—I may say I didn’t like his manner at all. ‘If you’ve got anything definite to accuse Gladys or me of, Inspector,’ I said to him, ‘bring it forward, that’s what you have to do,’ I said, ‘but I’ve yet to learn that you’re paid to be rude to a gentleman in his own ‘ouse—house.’ Reely,” said Mr. Thipps, growing quite pink on the top of his head, “he regularly roused me, regularly roused me, my lord, and I’m a mild man as a rule.”

“Sugg all over,” said Lord Peter, “I know him. When he don’t know what else to say, he’s rude, Stands to reason you and the girl wouldn’t go collectin’ bodies. Who’d want to saddle himself with a body? Difficulty’s usually to get rid of ’em. Have you got rid of this one yet, by the way?”

“It’s still in the bathroom,” said Mr. Thipps. “Inspector Sugg said nothing was to be touched till his men came in to move it. I’m expecting them at any time. If it would interest your lordship to have a look at it—”

“Thanks awfully,” said Lord Peter, “I’d like to very much, if I’m not puttin’ you out.”

“Not at all,” said Mr. Thipps. His manner as he led the way along the passage convinced Lord Peter of two things—first, that, gruesome as his exhibit was, he rejoiced in the importance it reflected upon himself and his flat, and secondly, that Inspector Sugg had forbidden him to exhibit it to anyone. The latter supposition was confirmed by the action of Mr. Thipps, who stopped to fetch the doorkey from his bedroom, saying that the police had the other, but that he made it a rule to have two keys to every door, in case of accident.

The bathroom was in no way remarkable. It was long and narrow, the window being exactly over the head of the bath. The panes were of frosted glass; the frame wide enough to admit a man’s body. Lord Peter stepped rapidly across to it, opened it and looked out.

The flat was the top one of the building and situated about the middle of the block. The bathroom window looked out upon the backyards of the flats, which were occupied by various small outbuildings, coal-holes, garages, and the like. Beyond these were the back gardens of a parallel line of houses. On the right rose the extensive edifice of St. Luke’s Hospital, Battersea, with its grounds, and, connected with it by a covered way, the residence of the famous surgeon, Sir Julian Freke, who directed the surgical side of the great new hospital, and was, in addition, known in Harley Street as a distinguished neurologist with a highly individual point of view.

This information was poured into Lord Peter’s ear at considerable length by Mr. Thipps, who seemed to feel that the neighbourhood of anybody so distinguished shed a kind of halo of glory over Queen Caroline Mansions.

“We had him round here himself this morning,” he said, “about this horrid business. Inspector Sugg thought one of the young medical gentlemen at the hospital might have brought the corpse round for a joke, as you might say, they always having bodies in the dissecting-room. So Inspector Sugg went round to see Sir Julian this morning to ask if there was a body missing. He was very kind, was Sir Julian, very kind indeed, though he was at work when they got there, in the dissecting-room. He looked up the books to see that all the bodies were accounted for, and then very obligingly came round here to look at this”—he indicated the bath—”and said he was afraid he couldn’t help us—there was no corpse missing from the hospital, and this one didn’t answer to the description of any they’d had.”

“Nor to the description of any of the patients, I hope,” suggested Lord Peter casually.

At this grisly hint Mr. Thipps turned pale.

“I didn’t hear Inspector Sugg enquire,” he said, with some agitation. “What a very horrid thing that would be—God bless my soul, my lord, I never thought of it.”

“Well, if they had missed a patient they’d probably have discovered it by now,” said Lord Peter. “Let’s have a look at this one.”

He screwed his monocle into his eye, adding: “I see you’re troubled here with the soot blowing in. Beastly nuisance, ain’t it? I get it, too—spoils all my books, you know. Here, don’t you trouble, if you don’t care about lookin’ at it.”

He took from Mr. Thipps’s hesitating hand the sheet which had been flung over the bath, and turned it back.

The body which lay in the bath was that of a tall, stout man of about fifty. The hair, which was thick and black and naturally curly, had been cut and parted by a master hand, and exuded a faint violet perfume, perfectly recognizable in the close air of the bathroom. The features were thick, fleshy and strongly marked, with prominent dark eyes, and a long nose curving down to a heavy chin. The clean-shaven lips were full and sensual, and the dropped jaw showed teeth stained with tobacco. On the dead face the handsome pair of gold pince-nez mocked death with grotesque elegance; the fine gold chain curved over the naked breast. The legs lay stiffly stretched out side by side; the arms reposed close to the body; the fingers were flexed naturally. Lord Peter lifted one arm, and looked at the hand with a little frown.

“Bit of a dandy, your visitor, what?” he murmured. “Parma violet and manicure.” He bent again, slipping his hand beneath the head. The absurd eyeglasses slipped off, clattering into the bath, and the noise put the last touch to Mr. Thipps’s growing nervousness.

“If you’ll excuse me,” he murmured, “it makes me feel quite faint, it reely does.”

He slipped outside, and he had no sooner done so than Lord Peter, lifting the body quickly and cautiously, turned it over and inspected it with his head on one side, bringing his monocle into play with the air of the late Joseph Chamberlain approving a rare orchid. He then laid the head over his arm, and bringing out the silver matchbox from his pocket, slipped it into the open mouth. Then making the noise usually written “Tut-tut,” he laid the body down, picked up the mysterious pince-nez, looked at it, put it on his nose and looked through it, made the same noise again, readjusted the pince-nez upon the nose of the corpse, so as to leave no traces of interference for the irritation of Inspector Sugg; rearranged the body; returned to the window and, leaning out, reached upwards and sideways with his walking-stick, which he had somewhat incongruously brought along with him. Nothing appearing to come of these investigations, he withdrew his head, closed the window, and rejoined Mr. Thipps in the passage.

Mr. Thipps, touched by this sympathetic interest in the younger son of a duke, took the liberty, on their return to the sitting-room, of offering him a cup of tea. Lord Peter, who had strolled over to the window and was admiring the outlook on Battersea Park, was about to accept, when an ambulance came into view at the end of Prince of Wales Road. Its appearance reminded Lord Peter of an important engagement, and with a hurried “By Jove!” he took his leave of Mr. Thipps.

“My mother sent kind regards and all that,” he said, shaking hands fervently; “hopes you’ll soon be down at Denver again. Good-bye, Mrs. Thipps,” he bawled kindly into the ear of the old lady. “Oh, no, my dear sir, please don’t trouble to come down.”

He was none too soon. As he stepped out of the door and turned towards the station, the ambulance drew up from the other direction, and Inspector Sugg emerged from it, with two constables. The Inspector spoke to the officer on duty at the Mansions, and turned a suspicious gaze on Lord Peter’s retreating back.

“Dear old Sugg,” said that nobleman, fondly, “dear, dear old bird! How he does hate me, to be sure.”

* This is the first Florence edition, 1481, by Niccolo di Lorenzo. Lord Peter’s collection of printed Dantes is worth inspection. It includes, besides the famous Aldine 8vo. of 1502, the Naples folio of 1477—”edizione rarissima,” according to Colomb. This copy has no history, and Mr. Parker’s private belief is that its present owner conveyed it away by stealth from somewhere or other. Lord Peter’s own account is that he “picked it up in a little place in the hills,” when making a walking-tour through Italy.

** Lord Peter’s wits were wool-gathering. The book is in the possession of Earl Spencer. The Brockelbury copy is incomplete, the five last signatures being altogether missing, but is unique in possessing the colophon.

II

“Excellent, Bunter,” said Lord Peter, sinking with a sigh into a luxurious armchair. “I couldn’t have done better myself. The thought of the Dante makes my mouth water—and the ‘Four Sons of Aymon.’ And you’ve saved me £60—that’s glorious. What shall we spend it on, Bunter? Think of it—all ours, to do as we like with, for as Harold Skimpole so rightly observes, £60 saved is £60 gained, and I’d reckoned on spending it all. It’s your saving, Bunter, and properly speaking, your £60. What do we want? Anything in your department? Would you like anything altered in the flat?”

“Well, my lord, as your lordship is so good”—the man-servant paused, about to pour an old brandy into a liqueur glass.

“Well, out with it, my Bunter, you imperturbable old hypocrite. It’s no good talking as if you were announcing dinner—you’re spilling the brandy. The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau. What does that blessed darkroom of yours want now?”

“There’s a Double Anastigmat with a set of supplementary lenses, my lord,” said Bunter, with a note almost of religious fervour. “If it was a case of forgery now—or footprints—I could enlarge them right up on the plate. Or the wide-angled lens would be useful. It’s as though the camera had eyes at the back of its head, my lord. Look—I’ve got it here.”

He pulled a catalogue from his pocket, and submitted it, quivering, to his employer’s gaze.

Lord Peter perused the description slowly, the corners of his long mouth lifted into a faint smile.

“It’s Greek to me,” he said, “and £50 seems a ridiculous price for a few bits of glass. I suppose, Bunter, you’d say £750 was a bit out of the way for a dirty old book in a dead language, wouldn’t you?”

“It wouldn’t be my place to say so, my lord.”

“No, Bunter, I pay you £200 a year to keep your thoughts to yourself. Tell me, Bunter, in these democratic days, don’t you think that’s unfair?”

“No, my lord.”

“You don’t. D’you mind telling me frankly why you don’t think it unfair?”

“Frankly, my lord, your lordship is paid a nobleman’s income to take Lady Worthington in to dinner and refrain from exercising your lordship’s undoubted powers of repartee.”

Lord Peter considered this.

“That’s your idea, is it, Bunter? Noblesse oblige—for a consideration. I daresay you’re right. Then you’re better off than I am, because I’d have to behave myself to Lady Worthington if I hadn’t a penny. Bunter, if I sacked you here and now, would you tell me what you think of me?”

“No, my lord.”

“You’d have a perfect right to, my Bunter, and if I sacked you on top of drinking the kind of coffee you make, I’d deserve everything you could say of me. You’re a demon for coffee, Bunter—I don’t want to know how you do it, because I believe it to be witchcraft, and I don’t want to burn eternally. You can buy your cross-eyed lens.”

“Thank you, my lord.”

“Have you finished in the dining-room?”

“Not quite, my lord.”

“Well, come back when you have. I have many things to tell you. Hullo! who’s that?”

The doorbell had rung sharply.

“Unless it’s anybody interestin’ I’m not at home.”

“Very good, my lord.”

Lord Peter’s library was one of the most delightful bachelor rooms in London. Its scheme was black and primrose; its walls were lined with rare editions, and its chairs and Chesterfield sofa suggested the embraces of the houris. In one corner stood a black baby grand, a wood fire leaped on a wide old-fashioned hearth, and the Sèvres vases on the chimneypiece were filled with ruddy and gold chrysanthemums. To the eyes of the young man who was ushered in from the raw November fog it seemed not only rare and unattainable, but friendly and familiar, like a colourful and gilded paradise in a mediæval painting.

“Mr. Parker, my lord.”

Lord Peter jumped up with genuine eagerness.

“My dear man, I’m delighted to see you. What a beastly foggy night, ain’t it? Bunter, some more of that admirable coffee and another glass and the cigars. Parker, I hope you’re full of crime—nothing less than arson or murder will do for us to-night. ‘On such a night as this—’ Bunter and I were just sitting down to carouse. I’ve got a Dante, and a Caxton folio that is practically unique, at Sir Ralph Brocklebury’s sale. Bunter, who did the bargaining, is going to have a lens which does all kinds of wonderful things with its eyes shut, and

We both have got a body in a bath,
We both have got a body in a bath—
    For in spite of all temptations
    To go in for cheap sensations
We insist upon a body in a bath—

Nothing less will do for us, Parker. It’s mine at present, but we’re going shares in it. Property of the firm. Won’t you join us? You really must put something in the jack-pot. Perhaps you have a body. Oh, do have a body. Every body welcome.

Gin a body meet a body
    Hauled before the beak,
Gin a body jolly well knows who murdered a body and that old Sugg is on the wrong tack,
    Need a body speak?

Not a bit of it. He tips a glassy wink to yours truly and yours truly reads the truth.”

“Ah,” said Parker, “I knew you’d been round to Queen Caroline Mansions. So’ve I, and met Sugg, and he told me he’d seen you. He was cross, too. Unwarrantable interference, he calls it.”

“I knew he would,” said Lord Peter, “I love taking a rise out of dear old Sugg, he’s always so rude. I see by the Star that he has excelled himself by taking the girl, Gladys What’s-her-name, into custody. Sugg of the evening, beautiful Sugg! But what were you doing there?”

“To tell you the truth,” said Parker, “I went round to see if the Semitic-looking stranger in Mr. Thipps’s bath was by any extraordinary chance Sir Reuben Levy. But he isn’t.”

“Sir Reuben Levy? Wait a minute, I saw something about that. I know! A headline: ‘Mysterious disappearance of famous financier.’ What’s it all about? I didn’t read it carefully.”

“Well, it’s a bit odd, though I daresay it’s nothing really—old chap may have cleared for some reason best known to himself. It only happened this morning, and nobody would have thought anything about it, only it happened to be the day on which he had arranged to attend a most important financial meeting and do some deal involving millions—I haven’t got all the details. But I know he’s got enemies who’d just as soon the deal didn’t come off, so when I got wind of this fellow in the bath, I buzzed round to have a look at him. It didn’t seem likely, of course, but unlikelier things do happen in our profession. The funny thing is, old Sugg has got bitten with the idea it is him, and is wildly telegraphing to Lady Levy to come and identify him. However, as Sir Reuben is a pious Jew of pious parents, and the chap in the bath obviously isn’t, I’m not going to waste my time. One thing is, the man would be really extraordinarily like Sir Reuben if he had a beard, and as Lady Levy is abroad with the family, somebody may say it’s him, and Sugg will build up a lovely theory, like the Tower of Babel, and destined so to perish.”

“You’re certain of your facts, I suppose.”

“Positive. Sugg, of course, says he doesn’t take account of fancy religions—”

“Sugg’s a beautiful, braying ass,” said Lord Peter. “He’s like a detective in a novel. Well, I don’t know anything about Levy, but I’ve seen the body, and I should say the idea was preposterous upon the face of it. What do you think of the brandy?”

“Unbelievable, Wimsey—sort of thing makes one believe in heaven. But I want your yarn.”

“D’you mind if Bunter hears it, too? Invaluable man, Bunter—amazin’ fellow with a camera. And the odd thing is, he’s always on the spot when I want my bath or my boots. I don’t know when he develops things—I believe he does ’em in his sleep. Bunter!”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Stop fiddling about in there, and get yourself the proper things to drink and join the merry throng.”

“Certainly, my lord.”

“Mr. Parker has a new trick: The Vanishing Financier. Absolutely no deception. Hey, presto, pass! and where is he? Will some gentleman from the audience kindly step upon the platform and inspect the cabinet? Thank you, sir. The quickness of the ‘and deceives the heye.”

“I’m afraid mine isn’t much of a story,” said Parker. “It’s just one of those simple things that offer no handle. Sir Reuben Levy dined last night with three friends at the Ritz. After dinner the friends went to the theatre. He refused to go with them on account of an appointment. I haven’t yet been able to trace the appointment, but anyhow, he returned home to his house—9 Park Lane—at twelve o’clock.”

“Who saw him?”

“The cook, who had just gone up to bed, saw him on the doorstep and heard him let himself in. He walked upstairs, leaving his greatcoat on the hall peg and his umbrella in the stand—you remember how it rained last night. He undressed and went to bed. Next morning he wasn’t there. That’s all,” said Parker abruptly, with a wave of the hand.

“It isn’t all, it isn’t all. Daddy, go on, that’s not half a story,” pleaded Lord Peter.

“But it is all. When his man came to call him he wasn’t there. The bed had been slept in. His pyjamas and all his clothes were there, the only odd thing being that they were thrown rather untidily on the ottoman at the foot of the bed, instead of being neatly folded on a chair, as is Sir Reuben’s custom—looking as though he had been rather agitated or unwell. No clean clothes were missing, no suit, no boots—nothing. The boots he had worn were in his dressing-room as usual. He had washed and cleaned his teeth and done all the usual things. The housemaid was down cleaning the hall at half-past six, and can swear that nobody came in or out after that. So one is forced to suppose that a respectable middle-aged Hebrew financier either went mad between twelve and six a. m. and walked quietly out of the house in his birthday suit on a November night, or else was spirited away like the lady in the ‘Ingoldsby Legends,’ body and bones, leaving only a heap of crumpled clothes behind him.”

“Was the front door bolted?”

“That’s the sort of question you would ask, straight off; it took me an hour to think of it. No; contrary to custom, there was only the Yale lock on the door. On the other hand, some of the maids had been given leave to go to the theatre, and Sir Reuben may quite conceivably have left the door open under the impression they had not come in. Such a thing has happened before.”

“And that’s really all?”

“Really all. Except for one very trifling circumstance.”

“I love trifling circumstances,” said Lord Peter, with childish delight; “so many men have been hanged by trifling circumstances. What was it?”

“Sir Reuben and Lady Levy, who are a most devoted couple, always share the same room. Lady Levy, as I said before, is in Mentone at the moment for her health. In her absence, Sir Reuben sleeps in the double bed as usual, and invariably on his own side—the outside—of the bed. Last night he put the two pillows together and slept in the middle, or, if anything, rather closer to the wall than otherwise. The housemaid, who is a most intelligent girl, noticed this when she went up to make the bed, and, with really admirable detective instinct, refused to touch the bed or let anybody else touch it, though it wasn’t till later that they actually sent for the police.”

“Was nobody in the house but Sir Reuben and the servants?”

“No; Lady Levy was away with her daughter and her maid. The valet, cook, parlourmaid, housemaid and kitchenmaid were the only people in the house, and naturally wasted an hour or two squawking and gossiping. I got there about ten.”

“What have you been doing since?”

“Trying to get on the track of Sir Reuben’s appointment last night, since, with the exception of the cook, his ‘appointer’ was the last person who saw him before his disappearance. There may be some quite simple explanation, though I’m dashed if I can think of one for the moment. Hang it all, a man doesn’t come in and go to bed and walk away again ‘mid nodings on’ in the middle of the night.”

“He may have been disguised.”

“I thought of that—in fact, it seems the only possible explanation. But it’s deuced odd, Wimsey. An important city man, on the eve of an important transaction, without a word of warning to anybody, slips off in the middle of the night, disguised down to his skin, leaving behind his watch, purse, cheque-book, and—most mysterious and important of all—his spectacles, without which he can’t see a step, as he is extremely short-sighted. He—”

“That is important,” interrupted Wimsey. “You are sure he didn’t take a second pair?”

“His man vouches for it that he had only two pairs, one of which was found on his dressing-table, and the other in the drawer where it is always kept.”

Lord Peter whistled.

“You’ve got me there, Parker. Even if he’d gone out to commit suicide he’d have taken those.”

“So you’d think—or the suicide would have happened the first time he started to cross the road. However, I didn’t overlook the possibility. I’ve got particulars of all to-day’s street accidents, and I can lay my hand on my heart and say that none of them is Sir Reuben. Besides, he took his latchkey with him, which looks as though he’d meant to come back.”

“Have you seen the men he dined with?”

“I found two of them at the club. They said that he seemed in the best of health and spirits, spoke of looking forward to joining Lady Levy later on—perhaps at Christmas—and referred with great satisfaction to this morning’s business transaction, in which one of them—a man called Anderson of Wyndham’s—was himself concerned.”

“Then up till about nine o’clock, anyhow, he had no apparent intention or expectation of disappearing.”

“None—unless he was a most consummate actor. Whatever happened to change his mind must have happened either at the mysterious appointment which he kept after dinner, or while he was in bed between midnight and 5:30 a. m.”

“Well, Bunter,” said Lord Peter, “what do you make of it?”

“Not in my department, my lord. Except that it is odd that a gentleman who was too flurried or unwell to fold his clothes as usual should remember to clean his teeth and put his boots out. Those are two things that quite frequently get overlooked, my lord.”

“If you mean anything personal, Bunter,” said Lord Peter, “I can only say that I think the speech an unworthy one. It’s a sweet little problem, Parker mine. Look here, I don’t want to butt in, but I should dearly love to see that bedroom to-morrow. ‘Tis not that I mistrust thee, dear, but I should uncommonly like to see it. Say me not nay—take another drop of brandy and a Villar Villar, but say not, say not nay!”

“Of course you can come and see it—you’ll probably find lots of things I’ve overlooked,” said the other, equably, accepting the proffered hospitality.

“Parker, acushla, you’re an honor to Scotland Yard. I look at you, and Sugg appears a myth, a fable, an idiot-boy, spawned in a moonlight hour by some fantastic poet’s brain. Sugg is too perfect to be possible. What does he make of the body, by the way?”

“Sugg says,” replied Parker, with precision, “that the body died from a blow on the back of the neck. The doctor told him that. He says it’s been dead a day or two. The doctor told him that, too. He says it’s the body of a well-to-do Hebrew of about fifty. Anybody could have told him that. He says it’s ridiculous to suppose it came in through the window without anybody knowing anything about it. He says it probably walked in through the front door and was murdered by the household. He’s arrested the girl because she’s short and frail-looking and quite unequal to downing a tall and sturdy Semite with a poker. He’d arrest Thipps, only Thipps was away in Manchester all yesterday and the day before and didn’t come back till late last night—in fact, he wanted to arrest him till I reminded him that if the body had been a day or two dead, little Thipps couldn’t have done him in at 10:30 last night. But he’ll arrest him to-morrow as an accessory—and the old lady with the knitting, too, I shouldn’t wonder.”

“Well, I’m glad the little man has so much of an alibi,” said Lord Peter, “though if you’re only gluing your faith to cadaveric lividity, rigidity, and all the other quiddities, you must be prepared to have some sceptical beast of a prosecuting counsel walk slap-bang through the medical evidence. Remember Impey Biggs defending in that Chelsea tea-shop affair? Six bloomin’ medicos contradictin’ each other in the box, an’ old Impey elocutin’ abnormal cases from Glaister and Dixon Mann till the eyes of the jury reeled in their heads! ‘Are you prepared to swear, Dr. Thingumtight, that the onset of rigor mortis indicates the hour of death without the possibility of error?’ ‘So far as my experience goes, in the majority of cases,’ says the doctor, all stiff. ‘Ah!’ says Biggs, ‘but this is a Court of Justice, Doctor, not a Parliamentary election. We can’t get on without a minority report. The law, Dr. Thingumtight, respects the rights of the minority, alive or dead.’ Some ass laughs, and old Biggs sticks his chest out and gets impressive. ‘Gentlemen, this is no laughing matter. My client—an upright and honourable gentleman—is being tried for his life—for his life, gentlemen—and it is the business of the prosecution to show his guilt—if they can—without a shadow of doubt. Now, Dr. Thingumtight, I ask you again, can you solemnly swear, without the least shadow of doubt—probable, possible shadow of doubt—that this unhappy woman met her death neither sooner nor later than Thursday evening? A probable opinion? Gentlemen, we are not Jesuits, we are straightforward Englishmen. You cannot ask a British-born jury to convict any man on the authority of a probable opinion.’ Hum of applause.”

“Biggs’s man was guilty all the same,” said Parker.

“Of course he was. But he was acquitted all the same, an’ what you’ve just said is libel.” Wimsey walked over to the bookshelf and took down a volume of Medical Jurisprudence. “‘Rigor mortis—can only be stated in a very general way—many factors determine the result.’ Cautious brute. ‘On the average, however, stiffening will have begun—neck and jaw—5 to 6 hours after death’—m’m—’in all likelihood have passed off in the bulk of cases by the end of 36 hours. Under certain circumstances, however, it may appear unusually early, or be retarded unusually long!’ Helpful, ain’t it, Parker? ‘Brown-Séquard states … 3 1/2 minutes after death…. In certain cases not until lapse of 16 hours after death … present as long as 21 days thereafter.’ Lord! ‘Modifying factors—age—muscular state—or febrile diseases—or where temperature of environment is high’—and so on and so on—any bloomin’ thing. Never mind. You can run the argument for what it’s worth to Sugg. He won’t know any better.” He tossed the book away. “Come back to facts. What did you make of the body?”

“Well,” said the detective, “not very much—I was puzzled—frankly. I should say he had been a rich man, but self-made, and that his good fortune had come to him fairly recently.”

“Ah, you noticed the calluses on the hands—I thought you wouldn’t miss that.”

“Both his feet were badly blistered—he had been wearing tight shoes.”

“Walking a long way in them, too,” said Lord Peter, “to get such blisters as that. Didn’t that strike you as odd, in a person evidently well off?”

“Well, I don’t know. The blisters were two or three days old. He might have got stuck in the suburbs one night, perhaps—last train gone and no taxi—and had to walk home.”

“Possibly.”

“There were some little red marks all over his back and one leg I couldn’t quite account for.”

“I saw them.”

“What did you make of them?”

“I’ll tell you afterwards. Go on.”

“He was very long-sighted—oddly long-sighted for a man in the prime of life; the glasses were like a very old man’s. By the way, they had a very beautiful and remarkable chain of flat links chased with a pattern. It struck me he might be traced through it.”

“I’ve just put an advertisement in the Times about it,” said Lord Peter. “Go on.”

“He had had the glasses some time—they had been mended twice.”

“Beautiful, Parker, beautiful. Did you realize the importance of that?”

“Not specially, I’m afraid—why?”

“Never mind—go on.”

“He was probably a sullen, ill-tempered man—his nails were filed down to the quick as though he habitually bit them, and his fingers were bitten as well. He smoked quantities of cigarettes without a holder. He was particular about his personal appearance.”

“Did you examine the room at all? I didn’t get a chance.”

“I couldn’t find much in the way of footprints. Sugg & Co. had tramped all over the place, to say nothing of little Thipps and the maid, but I noticed a very indefinite patch just behind the head of the bath, as though something damp might have stood there. You could hardly call it a print.”

“It rained hard all last night, of course.”

“Yes; did you notice that the soot on the window-sill was vaguely marked?”

“I did,” said Wimsey, “and I examined it hard with this little fellow, but I could make nothing of it except that something or other had rested on the sill.” He drew out his monocle and handed it to Parker.

“My word, that’s a powerful lens.”

“It is,” said Wimsey, “and jolly useful when you want to take a good squint at somethin’ and look like a bally fool all the time. Only it don’t do to wear it permanently—if people see you full-face they say, ‘Dear me! how weak the sight of that eye must be!’ Still, it’s useful.”

“Sugg and I explored the ground at the back of the building,” went on Parker, “but there wasn’t a trace.”

“That’s interestin’. Did you try the roof?”

“No.”

“We’ll go over it to-morrow. The gutter’s only a couple of feet off the top of the window. I measured it with my stick—the gentleman-scout’s vade-mecum, I call it—it’s marked off in inches. Uncommonly handy companion at times. There’s a sword inside and a compass in the head. Got it made specially. Anything more?”

“Afraid not. Let’s hear your version, Wimsey.”

“Well, I think you’ve got most of the points. There are just one or two little contradictions. For instance, here’s a man wears expensive gold-rimmed pince-nez and has had them long enough to be mended twice. Yet his teeth are not merely discoloured, but badly decayed and look as if he’d never cleaned them in his life. There are four molars missing on one side and three on the other and one front tooth broken right across. He’s a man careful of his personal appearance, as witness his hair and his hands. What do you say to that?”

“Oh, these self-made men of low origin don’t think much about teeth, and are terrified of dentists.”

“True; but one of the molars has a broken edge so rough that it had made a sore place on the tongue. Nothing’s more painful. D’you mean to tell me a man would put up with that if he could afford to get the tooth filed?”

“Well, people are queer. I’ve known servants endure agonies rather than step over a dentist’s doormat. How did you see that, Wimsey?”

“Had a look inside; electric torch,” said Lord Peter. “Handy little gadget. Looks like a matchbox. Well—I daresay it’s all right, but I just draw your attention to it. Second point: Gentleman with hair smellin’ of Parma violet and manicured hands and all the rest of it, never washes the inside of his ears. Full of wax. Nasty.”

“You’ve got me there, Wimsey; I never noticed it. Still—old bad habits die hard.”

“Right oh! Put it down at that. Third point: Gentleman with the manicure and the brilliantine and all the rest of it suffers from fleas.”

“By Jove, you’re right! Flea-bites. It never occurred to me.”

“No doubt about it, old son. The marks were faint and old, but unmistakable.”

“Of course, now you mention it. Still, that might happen to anybody. I loosed a whopper in the best hotel in Lincoln the week before last. I hope it bit the next occupier!”

“Oh, all these things might happen to anybody—separately. Fourth point: Gentleman who uses Parma violet for his hair, etc., etc., washes his body in strong carbolic soap—so strong that the smell hangs about twenty-four hours later.”

“Carbolic to get rid of the fleas.”

“I will say for you, Parker, you’ve an answer for everything. Fifth point: Carefully got-up gentleman, with manicured, though masticated, finger-nails, has filthy black toe-nails which look as if they hadn’t been cut for years.”

“All of a piece with habits as indicated.”

“Yes, I know, but such habits! Now, sixth and last point: This gentleman with the intermittently gentlemanly habits arrives in the middle of a pouring wet night, and apparently through the window, when he has already been twenty-four hours dead, and lies down quietly in Mr. Thipps’s bath, unseasonably dressed in a pair of pince-nez. Not a hair on his head is ruffled—the hair has been cut so recently that there are quite a number of little short hairs stuck on his neck and the sides of the bath—and he has shaved so recently that there is a line of dried soap on his cheek—”

“Wimsey!”

“Wait a minute—and dried soap in his mouth.”

Bunter got up and appeared suddenly at the detective’s elbow, the respectful man-servant all over.

“A little more brandy, sir?” he murmured.

“Wimsey,” said Parker, “you are making me feel cold all over.” He emptied his glass—stared at it as though he were surprised to find it empty. set it down, got up, walked across to the bookcase, turned round, stood with his back against it and said:

“Look here, Wimsey—you’ve been reading detective stories, you’re talking nonsense.”

“No, I ain’t,” said Lord Peter, sleepily, “uncommon good incident for a detective story, though, what? Bunter, we’ll write one, and you shall illustrate it with photographs.”

“Soap in his—Rubbish!” said Parker. “It was something else—some discoloration—”

“No,” said Lord Peter, “there were hairs as well. Bristly ones. He had a beard.”

He took his watch from his pocket, and drew out a couple of longish, stiff hairs, which he had imprisoned between the inner and the outer case.

Parker turned them over once or twice in his fingers, looked at them close to the light, examined them with a lens, handed them to the impassible Bunter, and said:

“Do you mean to tell me, Wimsey, that any man alive would”—he laughed harshly—”shave off his beard with his mouth open, and then go and get killed with his mouth full of hairs? You’re mad.”

“I don’t tell you so,” said Wimsey. “You policemen are all alike—only one idea in your skulls. Blest if I can make out why you’re ever appointed. He was shaved after he was dead. Pretty, ain’t it? Uncommonly jolly little job for the barber, what? Here, sit down, man, and don’t be an ass, stumpin’ about the room like that. Worse things happen in war. This is only a blinkin’ old shillin’ shocker. But I’ll tell you what, Parker, we’re up against a criminal—the criminal—the real artist and blighter with imagination—real, artistic, finished stuff. I’m enjoyin’ this, Parker.”

III

Lord Peter finished a Scarlatti sonata, and sat looking thoughtfully at his own hands. The fingers were long and muscular, with wide, flat joints and square tips. When he was playing, his rather hard grey eyes softened, and his long, indeterminate mouth hardened in compensation. At no other time had he any pretensions to good looks, and at all times he was spoilt by a long, narrow chin, and a long, receding forehead, accentuated by the brushed-back sleekness of his tow-coloured hair. Labour papers, softening down the chin, caricatured him as a typical aristocrat.

 

“That’s a wonderful instrument,” said Parker.

“It ain’t so bad,” said Lord Peter, “but Scarlatti wants a harpsichord. Piano’s too modern—all thrills and overtones. No good for our job, Parker. Have you come to any conclusion?”

“The man in the bath,” said Parker, methodically, “was not a well-off man careful of his personal appearance. He was a labouring man, unemployed, but who had only recently lost his employment. He had been tramping about looking for a job when he met with his end. Somebody killed him and washed him and scented him and shaved him in order to disguise him, and put him into Thipps’s bath without leaving a trace. Conclusion: the murderer was a powerful man, since he killed him with a single blow on the neck, a man of cool head and masterly intellect, since he did all that ghastly business without leaving a mark, a man of wealth and refinement, since he had all the apparatus of an elegant toilet handy, and a man of bizarre, and almost perverted imagination, as is shown in the two horrible touches of putting the body in the bath and of adorning it with a pair of pince-nez.”

“He is a poet of crime,” said Wimsey. “By the way, your difficulty about the pince-nez is cleared up. Obviously, the pince-nez never belonged to the body.”

“That only makes a fresh puzzle. One can’t suppose the murderer left them in that obliging manner as a clue to his own identity.”

“We can hardly suppose that; I’m afraid this man possessed what most criminals lack—a sense of humour.”

“Rather macabre humour.”

“True. But a man who can afford to be humourous at all in such circumstances is a terrible fellow. I wonder what he did with the body between the murder and depositing it chez Thipps. Then there are more questions. How did he get it there? And why? Was it brought in at the door, as Sugg of our heart suggests? or through the window, as we think, on the not very adequate testimony of a smudge on the window-sill? Had the murderer accomplices? Is little Thipps really in it, or the girl? It don’t do to put the notion out of court merely because Sugg inclines to it. Even idiots occasionally speak the truth accidentally. If not, why was Thipps selected for such an abominable practical joke? Has anybody got a grudge against Thipps? Who are the people in the other flats? We must find out that. Does Thipps play the piano at midnight over their heads or damage the reputation of the staircase by bringing home dubiously respectable ladies? Are there unsuccessful architects thirsting for his blood? Damn it all, Parker, there must be a motive somewhere. Can’t have a crime without a motive, you know.”

“A madman—” suggested Parker, doubtfully.

“With a deuced lot of method in his madness. He hasn’t made a mistake—not one, unless leaving hairs in the corpse’s mouth can be called a mistake. Well, anyhow, it’s not Levy—you’re right there. I say, old thing, neither your man nor mine has left much clue to go upon, has he? And there don’t seem to be any motives knockin’ about, either. And we seem to be two suits of clothes short in last night’s work. Sir Reuben makes tracks without so much as a fig-leaf, and a mysterious individual turns up with a pince-nez, which is quite useless for purposes of decency. Dash it all! If only I had some good excuse for takin’ up this body case officially—”

The telephone bell rang. The silent Bunter, whom the other two had almost forgotten, padded across to it.

“It’s an elderly lady, my lord,” he said, “I think she’s deaf—I can’t make her hear anything, but she’s asking for your lordship.”

Lord Peter seized the receiver, and yelled into it a “Hullo!” that might have cracked the vulcanite. He listened for some minutes with an incredulous smile, which gradually broadened into a grin of delight. At length he screamed, “All right! all right!” several times, and rang off.

“By Jove!” he announced, beaming, “sportin’ old bird! It’s old Mrs. Thipps. Deaf as a post. Never used the ‘phone before. But determined. Perfect Napoleon. The incomparable Sugg has made a discovery and arrested little Thipps. Old lady abandoned in the flat. Thipps’s last shriek to her, ‘Tell Lord Peter Wimsey.’ Old girl undaunted. Wrestles with telephone book. Wakes up the people at the exchange. Won’t take no for an answer (not bein’ able to hear it), gets through, says, ‘Will I do what I can?’ Says she would feel safe in the hands of a real gentleman. Oh, Parker, Parker! I could kiss her, I reely could, as Thipps says. I’ll write to her instead—no, hang it, Parker, we’ll go round. Bunter, get your infernal machine and the magnesium. I say, we’ll all go into partnership—pool the two cases and work ’em out together. You shall see my body to-night, Parker, and I’ll look for your wandering Jew to-morrow. I feel so happy, I shall explode. O Sugg, Sugg, how art thou suggified! Bunter, my shoes. I say, Parker, I suppose yours are rubber-soled. Not? Tut, tut, you mustn’t go out like that. We’ll lend you a pair. Gloves? Here. My stick, my torch, the lampblack, the forceps, knife, pill-boxes—all complete?”

“Certainly, my lord.”

“Oh, Bunter, don’t look so offended. I mean no harm. I believe in you, I trust you—what money have I got? That’ll do. I knew a man once, Parker, who let a world-famous poisoner slip through his fingers, because the machine on the Underground took nothing but pennies. There was a queue at the booking office and the man at the barrier stopped him, and while they were arguing about accepting a five-pound-note (which was all he had) for a twopenny ride to Baker Street, the criminal had sprung into a Circle train, and was next heard of in Constantinople, disguised as an elderly Church of England clergyman touring with his niece. Are we all ready? Go!”

They stepped out, Bunter carefully switching off the lights behind them.

*   *   *

As they emerged into the gloom and gleam of Piccadilly, Wimsey stopped short with a little exclamation.

“Wait a second,” he said, “I’ve thought of something. If Sugg’s there he’ll make trouble. I must short-circuit him.”

He ran back, and the other two men employed the few minutes of his absence in capturing a taxi.

Inspector Sugg and a subordinate Cerberus were on guard at 59, Queen Caroline Mansions, and showed no disposition to admit unofficial enquirers. Parker, indeed, they could not easily turn away, but Lord Peter found himself confronted with a surly manner and what Lord Beaconsfield described as a masterly inactivity. It was in vain that Lord Peter pleaded that he had been retained by Mrs. Thipps on behalf of her son.

“Retained!” said Inspector Sugg, with a snort, “she’ll be retained if she doesn’t look out. Shouldn’t wonder if she wasn’t in it herself, only she’s so deaf, she’s no good for anything at all.”

“Look here, Inspector,” said Lord Peter, “what’s the use of bein’ so bally obstructive? You’d much better let me in—you know I’ll get there in the end. Dash it all, it’s not as if I was takin’ the bread out of your children’s mouths. Nobody paid me for finding Lord Attenbury’s emeralds for you.”

“It’s my duty to keep out the public,” said Inspector Sugg, morosely, “and it’s going to stay out.”

“I never said anything about your keeping out of the public,” said Lord Peter, easily, sitting down on the staircase to thrash the matter out comfortably, “though I’ve no doubt pussyfoot’s a good thing, on principle, if not exaggerated. The golden mean, Sugg, as Aristotle says, keeps you from bein’ a golden ass. Ever been a golden ass, Sugg? I have. It would take a whole rose-garden to cure me, Sugg—

“You are my garden of beautiful roses,
My own rose, my one rose, that’s you!”

“I’m not going to stay any longer talking to you,” said the harassed Sugg, “it’s bad enough—hullo, drat that telephone. Here, Cawthorn, go and see what it is, if that old catamaran will let you into the room. Shutting herself up there and screaming,” said the Inspector, “it’s enough to make a man give up crime and take to hedging and ditching.”

The constable came back:

“It’s from the Yard, sir,” he said, coughing apologetically, “the Chief says every facility is to be given to Lord Peter Wimsey, sir. Um!” He stood apart noncommittally, glazing his eyes.

“Five aces,” said Lord Peter, cheerfully. “The Chief’s a dear friend of my mother’s. No go, Sugg, it’s no good buckin’ you’ve got a full house. I’m goin’ to make it a bit fuller.”

He walked in with his followers.

The body had been removed a few hours previously, and when the bathroom and the whole flat had been explored by the naked eye and the camera of the competent Bunter, it became evident that the real problem of the household was old Mrs. Thipps. Her son and servant had both been removed, and it appeared that they had no friends in town, beyond a few business acquaintances of Thipps’s, whose very addresses the old lady did not know. The other flats in the building were occupied respectively by a family of seven, at present departed to winter abroad, an elderly Indian colonel of ferocious manners, who lived alone with an Indian man-servant, and a highly respectable family on the third floor, whom the disturbance over their heads had outraged to the last degree. The husband, indeed, when appealed to by Lord Peter, showed a little human weakness, but Mrs. Appledore, appearing suddenly in a warm dressing-gown, extricated him from the difficulties into which he was carelessly wandering.

“I am sorry,” she said, “I’m afraid we can’t interfere in any way. This is a very unpleasant business, Mr.—I’m afraid I didn’t catch your name, and we have always found it better not to be mixed up with the police. Of course, if the Thippses are innocent, and I am sure I hope they are, it is very unfortunate for them, but I must say that the circumstances seem to me most suspicious, and to Theophilus too, and I should not like to have it said that we had assisted murderers. We might even be supposed to be accessories. Of course you are young, Mr.—”

“This is Lord Peter Wimsey, my dear,” said Theophilus mildly.

She was unimpressed.

“Ah, yes,” she said, “I believe you are distantly related to my late cousin, the Bishop of Carisbrooke. Poor man! He was always being taken in by impostors; he died without ever learning any better. I imagine you take after him, Lord Peter.”

“I doubt it,” said Lord Peter. “So far as I know he is only a connection, though it’s a wise child that knows its own father. I congratulate you, dear lady, on takin’ after the other side of the family. You’ll forgive my buttin’ in upon you like this in the middle of the night, though, as you say, it’s all in the family, and I’m sure I’m very much obliged to you, and for permittin’ me to admire that awfully fetchin’ thing you’ve got on. Now, don’t you worry, Mr. Appledore. I’m thinkin’ the best thing I can do is to trundle the old lady down to my mother and take her out of your way, otherwise you might be findin’ your Christian feelin’s gettin’ the better of you some fine day, and there’s nothin’ like Christian feelin’s for upsettin’ a man’s domestic comfort. Good-night, sir—good-night, dear lady—it’s simply rippin’ of you to let me drop in like this.”

“Well!” said Mrs. Appledore, as the door closed behind him.

And—

“I thank the goodness and the grace
That on my birth have smiled,”

said Lord Peter, “and taught me to be bestially impertinent when I choose. Cat!”

Two a. m. saw Lord Peter Wimsey arrive in a friend’s car at the Dower House, Denver Castle, in company with a deaf and aged lady and an antique portmanteau.

*   *   *

“It’s very nice to see you, dear,” said the Dowager Duchess, placidly. She was a small, plump woman, with perfectly white hair and exquisite hands. In feature she was as unlike her second son as she was like him in character; her black eyes twinkled cheerfully, and her manners and movements were marked with a neat and rapid decision. She wore a charming wrap from Liberty’s, and sat watching Lord Peter eat cold beef and cheese as though his arrival in such incongruous circumstances and company were the most ordinary event possible, which with him, indeed, it was.

“Have you got the old lady to bed?” asked Lord Peter.

“Oh, yes, dear. Such a striking old person, isn’t she? And very courageous. She tells me she has never been in a motor-car before. But she thinks you a very nice lad, dear—that careful of her, you remind her of her own son. Poor little Mr. Thipps—whatever made your friend the inspector think he could have murdered anybody?”

“My friend the inspector—no, no more, thank you, Mother—is determined to prove that the intrusive person in Thipps’s bath is Sir Reuben Levy, who disappeared mysteriously from his house last night. His line of reasoning is: We’ve lost a middle-aged gentleman without any clothes on in Park Lane; we’ve found a middle-aged gentleman without any clothes on in Battersea. Therefore they’re one and the same person, Q.E.D., and put little Thipps in quod.”

“You’re very elliptical, dear,” said the Duchess, mildly. “Why should Mr. Thipps be arrested even if they are the same?”

“Sugg must arrest somebody,” said Lord Peter, “but there is one odd little bit of evidence come out which goes a long way to support Sugg’s theory, only that I know it to be no go by the evidence of my own eyes. Last night at about 9:15 a young woman was strollin’ up the Battersea Park Road for purposes best known to herself, when she saw a gentleman in a fur coat and top-hat saunterin’ along under an umbrella, lookin’ at the names of all the streets. He looked a bit out of place, so, not bein’ a shy girl, you see, she walked up to him, and said, ‘Good-evening.’ ‘Can you tell me, please,’ says the mysterious stranger, ‘whether this street leads into Prince of Wales Road?’ She said it did, and further asked him in a jocular manner what he was doing with himself and all the rest of it, only she wasn’t altogether so explicit about that part of the conversation, because she was unburdenin’ her heart to Sugg, d’you see, and he’s paid by a grateful country to have very pure, high-minded ideals, what? Anyway, the old boy said he couldn’t attend to her just then as he had an appointment. ‘I’ve got to go and see a man, my dear,’ was how she said he put it, and he walked on up Alexandra Avenue towards Prince of Wales Road. She was starin’ after him, still rather surprised, when she was joined by a friend of hers, who said, ‘It’s no good wasting your time with him—that’s Levy—I knew him when I lived in the West End, and the girls used to call him Pea-green Incorruptible’—friend’s name suppressed, owing to implications of story, but girl vouches for what was said. She thought no more about it till the milkman brought news this morning of the excitement at Queen Caroline Mansions; then she went round, though not likin’ the police as a rule, and asked the man there whether the dead gentleman had a beard and glasses. Told he had glasses but no beard, she incautiously said: ‘Oh, then, it isn’t him,’ and the man said, ‘Isn’t who?’ and collared her. That’s her story. Sugg’s delighted, of course, and quodded Thipps on the strength of it.”

“Dear me,” said the Duchess, “I hope the poor girl won’t get into trouble.”

“Shouldn’t think so,” said Lord Peter. “Thipps is the one that’s going to get it in the neck. Besides, he’s done a silly thing. I got that out of Sugg, too, though he was sittin’ tight on the information. Seems Thipps got into a confusion about the train he took back from Manchester. Said first he got home at 10:30. Then they pumped Gladys Horrocks, who let out he wasn’t back till after 11:45. Then Thipps, bein’ asked to explain the discrepancy, stammers and bungles and says, first that he missed the train. Then Sugg makes enquiries at St. Pancras and discovers that he left a bag in the cloakroom there at ten. Thipps, again asked to explain, stammers worse an’ says he walked about for a few hours—met a friend—can’t say who—didn’t meet a friend—can’t say what he did with his time—can’t explain why he didn’t go back for his bag—can’t say what time he did get in—can’t explain how he got a bruise on his forehead. In fact, can’t explain himself at all. Gladys Horrocks interrogated again. Says, this time, Thipps came in at 10:30. Then admits she didn’t hear him come in. Can’t say why she didn’t hear him come in. Can’t say why she said first of all that she did hear him. Bursts into tears. Contradicts herself. Everybody’s suspicion roused. Quod ’em both.”

“As you put it, dear,” said the Duchess, “it all sounds very confusing, and not quite respectable. Poor little Mr. Thipps would be terribly upset by anything that wasn’t respectable.”

“I wonder what he did with himself,” said Lord Peter thoughtfully. “I really don’t think he was committing a murder. Besides, I believe the fellow has been dead a day or two, though it don’t do to build too much on doctors’ evidence. It’s an entertainin’ little problem.”

“Very curious, dear. But so sad about poor Sir Reuben. I must write a few lines to Lady Levy; I used to know her quite well, you know, dear, down in Hampshire, when she was a girl. Christine Ford, she was then, and I remember so well the dreadful trouble there was about her marrying a Jew. That was before he made his money, of course, in that oil business out in America. The family wanted her to marry Julian Freke, who did so well afterwards and was connected with the family, but she fell in love with this Mr. Levy and eloped with him. He was very handsome, then, you know, dear, in a foreign-looking way, but he hadn’t any means, and the Fords didn’t like his religion. Of course we’re all Jews nowadays and they wouldn’t have minded so much if he’d pretended to be something else, like that Mr. Simons we met at Mrs. Porchester’s, who always tells everybody that he got his nose in Italy at the Renaissance, and claims to be descended somehow or other from La Bella Simonetta—so foolish, you know, dear—as if anybody believed it; and I’m sure some Jews are very good people, and personally I’d much rather they believed something, though of course it must be very inconvenient, what with not working on Saturdays and circumcising the poor little babies and everything depending on the new moon and that funny kind of meat they have with such a slang-sounding name, and never being able to have bacon for breakfast. Still, there it was, and it was much better for the girl to marry him if she was really fond of him, though I believe young Freke was really devoted to her, and they’re still great friends. Not that there was ever a real engagement, only a sort of understanding with her father, but he’s never married, you know, and lives all by himself in that big house next to the hospital, though he’s very rich and distinguished now, and I know ever so many people have tried to get hold of him—there was Lady Mainwaring wanted him for that eldest girl of hers, though I remember saying at the time it was no use expecting a surgeon to be taken in by a figure that was all padding—they have so many opportunities of judging, you know, dear.”

“Lady Levy seems to have had the knack of makin’ people devoted to her,” said Peter. “Look at the pea-green incorruptible Levy.”

“That’s quite true, dear; she was a most delightful girl, and they say her daughter is just like her. I rather lost sight of them when she married, and you know your father didn’t care much about business people, but I know everybody always said they were a model couple. In fact it was a proverb that Sir Reuben was as well loved at home as he was hated abroad. I don’t mean in foreign countries, you know, dear—just the proverbial way of putting things—like ‘a saint abroad and a devil at home’—only the other way on, reminding one of the Pilgrim’s Progress.”

“Yes,” said Peter, “I daresay the old man made one or two enemies.”

“Dozens, dear—such a dreadful place, the City, isn’t it? Everybody Ishmaels together—though I don’t suppose Sir Reuben would like to be called that, would he? Doesn’t it mean illegitimate, or not a proper Jew, anyway? I always did get confused with those Old Testament characters.”

Lord Peter laughed and yawned.

“I think I’ll turn in for an hour or two,” he said. “I must be back in town at eight—Parker’s coming to breakfast.”

The Duchess looked at the clock, which marked five minutes to three.

“I’ll send up your breakfast at half past six, dear,” she said. “I hope you’ll find everything all right. I told them just to slip a hot-water bottle in; those linen sheets are so chilly; you can put it out if it’s in your way.”

IV

“—So there it is, Parker,” said Lord Peter, pushing his coffee-cup aside and lighting his after-breakfast pipe; “you may find it leads you to something, though it don’t seem to get me any further with my bathroom problem. Did you do anything more at that after I left?”

 

“No; but I’ve been on the roof this morning.”

“The deuce you have—what an energetic devil you are! I say, Parker, I think this co-operative scheme is an uncommonly good one. It’s much easier to work on someone else’s job than one’s own—gives one that delightful feelin’ of interferin’ and bossin’ about, combined with the glorious sensation that another fellow is takin’ all one’s own work off one’s hands. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours, what? Did you find anything?”

“Not very much. I looked for any footmarks of course, but naturally, with all this rain, there wasn’t a sign. Of course, if this were a detective story, there’d have been a convenient shower exactly an hour before the crime and a beautiful set of marks which could only have come there between two and three in the morning, but this being real life in a London November, you might as well expect footprints in Niagara. I searched the roofs right along—and came to the jolly conclusion that any person in any blessed flat in the blessed row might have done it. All the staircases open on to the roof and the leads are quite flat; you can walk along as easy as along Shaftesbury Avenue. Still, I’ve got some evidence that the body did walk along there.”

“What’s that?”

Parker brought out his pocketbook and extracted a few shreds of material, which he laid before his friend.

“One was caught in the gutter just above Thipps’s bathroom window, another in a crack of the stone parapet just over it, and the rest came from the chimney-stack behind, where they had caught in an iron stanchion. What do you make of them?”

Lord Peter scrutinized them very carefully through his lens.

“Interesting,” he said, “damned interesting. Have you developed those plates, Bunter?” he added, as that discreet assistant came in with the post.

“Yes, my lord.”

“Caught anything?”

“I don’t know whether to call it anything or not, my lord,” said Bunter, dubiously. “I’ll bring the prints in.”

“Do,” said Wimsey. “Hallo! here’s our advertisement about the gold chain in the Times—very nice it looks: ‘Write, ‘phone or call 110, Piccadilly.’ Perhaps it would have been safer to put a box number, though I always think that the franker you are with people, the more you’re likely to deceive ’em; so unused is the modern world to the open hand and the guileless heart, what?”

“But you don’t think the fellow who left that chain on the body is going to give himself away by coming here and enquiring about it?”

“I don’t, fathead,” said Lord Peter, with the easy politeness of the real aristocracy, “that’s why I’ve tried to get hold of the jeweler who originally sold the chain. See?” He pointed to the paragraph. “It’s not an old chain—hardly worn at all. Oh, thanks, Bunter. Now, see here, Parker, these are the finger-marks you noticed yesterday on the window-sash and on the far edge of the bath. I’d overlooked them; I give you full credit for the discovery, I crawl, I grovel, my name is Watson, and you need not say what you were just going to say, because I admit it all. Now we shall—Hullo, hullo, hullo!”

The three men stared at the photographs.

“The criminal,” said Lord Peter, bitterly, “climbed over the roofs in the wet and not unnaturally got soot on his fingers. He arranged the body in the bath, and wiped away all traces of himself except two, which he obligingly left to show us how to do our job. We learn from a smudge on the floor that he wore india rubber boots, and from this admirable set of fingerprints on the edge of the bath that he had the usual number of fingers and wore rubber gloves. That’s the kind of man he is. Take the fool away, gentlemen.”

He put the prints aside, and returned to an examination of the shreds of material in his hand. Suddenly he whistled softly.

“Do you make anything of these, Parker?”

“They seemed to me to be ravellings of some coarse cotton stuff—a sheet, perhaps, or an improvised rope.”

“Yes,” said Lord Peter—”yes. It may be a mistake—it may be our mistake. I wonder. Tell me, d’you think these tiny threads are long enough and strong enough to hang a man?”

He was silent, his long eyes narrowing into slits behind the smoke of his pipe.

“What do you suggest doing this morning?” asked Parker.

“Well,” said Lord Peter, “it seems to me it’s about time I took a hand in your job. Let’s go round to Park Lane and see what larks Sir Reuben Levy was up to in bed last night.”

*   *   *

“And now, Mrs. Pemming, if you would be so kind as give me a blanket,” said Mr. Bunter, coming down into the kitchen, “and permit of me hanging a sheet across the lower part of this window, and drawing the screen across here, so—so as to shut off any reflections, if you understand me, we’ll get to work.”

Sir Reuben Levy’s cook, with her eye upon Mr. Bunter’s gentlemanly and well-tailored appearance, hastened to produce what was necessary. Her visitor placed on the table a basket, containing a water-bottle, a silver-backed hairbrush, a pair of boots, a small roll of linoleum, and the “Letters of a Self-made Merchant to His Son,” bound in polished morocco. He drew an umbrella from beneath his arm and added it to the collection. He then advanced a ponderous photographic machine and set it up in the neighbourhood of the kitchen range; then, spreading a newspaper over the fair, scrubbed surface of the table, he began to roll up his sleeves and insinuate himself into a pair of surgical gloves. Sir Reuben Levy’s valet, entering at the moment and finding him thus engaged, put aside the kitchenmaid, who was staring from a front-row position, and inspected the apparatus critically. Mr. Bunter nodded brightly to him, and uncorked a small bottle of grey powder.

“Odd sort of fish, your employer, isn’t he?” said the valet, carelessly.

“Very singular, indeed,” said Mr. Bunter. “Now, my dear,” he added, ingratiatingly, to the parlourmaid, “I wonder if you’d just pour a little of this grey powder over the edge of the bottle while I’m holding it—and the same with this boot—here, at the top—thank you, Miss—what is your name? Price? Oh, but you’ve got another name besides Price, haven’t you? Mabel, eh? That’s a name I’m uncommonly partial to—that’s very nicely done, you’ve a steady hand, Miss Mabel—see that? That’s the finger marks—three there, and two here, and smudged over in both places. No, don’t you touch ’em, my dear, or you’ll rub the bloom off. We’ll stand ’em up here till they’re ready to have their portraits taken. Now then, let’s take the hairbrush next. Perhaps, Mrs. Pemming, you’d like to lift him up very carefully by the bristles.”

“By the bristles, Mr. Bunter?”

“If you please, Mrs. Pemming—and lay him here. Now, Miss Mabel, another little exhibition of your skill, if you please. No—we’ll try lampblack this time. Perfect. Couldn’t have done it better myself. Ah! there’s a beautiful set. No smudges this time. That’ll interest his lordship. Now the little book—no, I’ll pick that up myself—with these gloves, you see, and by the edges—I’m a careful criminal, Mrs. Pemming, I don’t want to leave any traces. Dust the cover all over, Miss Mabel; now this side—that’s the way to do it. Lots of prints and no smudges. All according to plan. Oh, please, Mr. Graves, you mustn’t touch it—it’s as much as my place is worth to have it touched.”

“D’you have to do much of this sort of thing?” enquired Mr. Graves, from a superior standpoint.

“Any amount,” replied Mr. Bunter, with a groan calculated to appeal to Mr. Graves’s heart and unlock his confidence. “If you’d kindly hold one end of this bit of linoleum, Mrs. Pemming, I’ll hold up this end while Miss Mabel operates. Yes, Mr. Graves, it’s a hard life, valeting by day and developing by night—morning tea at any time from 6:30 to 11, and criminal investigation at all hours. It’s wonderful, the ideas these rich men with nothing to do get into their heads.”

“I wonder you stand it,” said Mr. Graves. “Now there’s none of that here. A quiet, orderly, domestic life, Mr. Bunter, has much to be said for it. Meals at regular hours; decent, respectable families to dinner—none of your painted women—and no valeting at night, there’s much to be said for it. I don’t hold with Hebrews as a rule, Mr. Bunter, and of course I understand that you may find it to your advantage to be in a titled family, but there’s less thought of that these days, and I will say, for a self-made man, no one could call Sir Reuben vulgar, and my lady at any rate is county—Miss Ford, she was, one of the Hampshire Fords, and both of them always most considerate.”

“I agree with you, Mr. Graves—his lordship and me have never held with being narrow-minded—why, yes, my dear, of course it’s a footmark, this is the washstand linoleum. A good Jew can be a good man, that’s what I’ve always said. And regular hours and considerate habits have a great deal to recommend them. Very simple in his tastes, now, Sir Reuben, isn’t he? for such a rich man, I mean.”

“Very simple indeed,” said the cook, “the meals he and her ladyship have when they’re by themselves with Miss Rachel—well, there now—if it wasn’t for the dinners, which is always good when there’s company, I’d be wastin’ my talents and education here, if you understand me, Mr. Bunter.”

Mr. Bunter added the handle of the umbrella to his collection, and began to pin a sheet across the window, aided by the housemaid.

“Admirable,” said he. “Now, if I might have this blanket on the table and another on a towel-horse or something of that kind by way of a background—you’re very kind, Mrs. Pemming…. Ah! I wish his lordship never wanted valeting at night. Many’s the time I’ve sat up till three and four, and up again to call him early to go off Sherlocking at the other end of the country. And the mud he gets on his clothes and his boots!”

“I’m sure it’s a shame, Mr. Bunter,” said Mrs. Pemming, warmly. “Low, I calls it. In my opinion, police-work ain’t no fit occupation for a gentleman, let alone a lordship.”

“Everything made so difficult, too,” said Mr. Bunter, nobly sacrificing his employer’s character and his own feelings in a good cause; “boots chucked into a corner, clothes hung up on the floor, as they say—”

“That’s often the case with these men as are born with a silver spoon in their mouths,” said Mr. Graves. “Now, Sir Reuben, he’s never lost his good old-fashioned habits. Clothes folded up neat, boots put out in his dressing-room, so as a man could get them in the morning, everything made easy.”

“He forgot them the night before last, though.”

“The clothes, not the boots. Always thoughtful for others, is Sir Reuben. Ah! I hope nothing’s happened to him.”

“Indeed, no, poor gentleman,” chimed in the cook, “and as for what they’re sayin’, that he’d ‘ave gone out surrepshous-like to do something he didn’t ought, well, I’d never believe it of him, Mr. Bunter not if I was to take my dying oath upon it.”

“Ah!” said Mr. Bunter, adjusting his arc-lamps and connecting them with the nearest electric light, “and that’s more than most of us could say of them as pays us.”

*   *   *

“Five foot ten,” said Lord Peter, “and not an inch more.” He peered dubiously at the depression in the bed clothes, and measured it a second time with the gentleman-scout’s vade-mecum. Parker entered this particular in a neat pocketbook.

“I suppose,” he said, “a six-foot-two man might leave a five-foot-ten depression if he curled himself up.”

“Have you any Scotch blood in you, Parker?” enquired his colleague, bitterly.

“Not that I know of,” replied Parker. “Why?”

“Because of all the cautious, ungenerous, deliberate and cold-blooded devils I know,” said Lord Peter, “you are the most cautious, ungenerous, deliberate and cold-blooded. Here am I, sweating my brains out to introduce a really sensational incident into your dull and disreputable little police investigation, and you refuse to show a single spark of enthusiasm.”

“Well, it’s no good jumping at conclusions.”

“Jump? You don’t even crawl distantly within sight of a conclusion. I believe if you caught the cat with her head in the cream-jug you’d say it was conceivable that the jug was empty when she got there.”

“Well, it would be conceivable, wouldn’t it?”

“Curse you,” said Lord Peter. He screwed his monocle into his eye, and bent over the pillow, breathing hard and tightly through his nose.

“Here, give me the tweezers,” he said presently. “good heavens, man, don’t blow like that, you might be a whale.” He nipped up an almost invisible object from the linen.

“What is it?” asked Parker.

“It’s a hair,” said Wimsey grimly, his hard eyes growing harder. “Let’s go and look at Levy’s hats, shall we? And you might just ring for that fellow with the churchyard name, do you mind?”

Mr. Graves, when summoned, found Lord Peter Wimsey squatting on the floor of the dressing-room before a row of hats arranged upside-down before him.

“Here you are,” said that nobleman cheerfully, “now, Graves, this is a guessin’ competition—a sort of three-hat trick, to mix metaphors. Here are nine hats, including three top-hats. Do you identify all these hats as belonging to Sir Reuben Levy? You do? Very good. Now I have three guesses as to which hat he wore the night he disappeared, and if I guess right, I win; if I don’t, you win. See? Ready? Go. I suppose you know the answer yourself, by the way.”

“Do I understand your lordship to be asking which hat Sir Reuben wore when he went out on Monday night, your lordship?”

“No, you don’t understand a bit,” said Lord Peter. “I’m asking if you know—don’t tell me, I’m going to guess.”

“I do know, your lordship,” said Mr. Graves, reprovingly.

“Well,” said Lord Peter, “as he was dinin’ at the Ritz he wore a topper. Here are three toppers. In three guesses I’d be bound to hit the right one, wouldn’t I? That don’t seem very sportin’. I’ll take one guess. It was this one.”

He indicated the hat next the window.

“Am I right, Graves—have I got the prize?”

“That is the hat in question, my lord,” said Mr. Graves, without excitement.

“Thanks,” said Lord Peter, “that’s all I wanted to know. Ask Bunter to step up, would you?”

Mr. Bunter stepped up with an aggrieved air, and his usually smooth hair ruffled by the focussing cloth.

“Oh, there you are, Bunter,” said Lord Peter; “look here—”

“Here I am, my lord,” said Mr. Bunter, with respectful reproach, “but if you’ll excuse me saying so, downstairs is where I ought to be, with all those young women about—they’ll be fingering the evidence, my lord.”

“I cry you mercy,” said Lord Peter, “but I’ve quarrelled hopelessly with Mr. Parker and distracted the estimable Graves, and I want you to tell me what finger-prints you have found. I shan’t be happy till I get it, so don’t be harsh with me, Bunter.”

“Well, my lord, your lordship understands I haven’t photographed them yet, but I won’t deny that their appearance is interesting, my lord. The little book off the night table, my lord, has only the marks of one set of fingers—there’s a little scar on the right thumb which makes them easy recognized. The hairbrush, too, my lord, has only the same set of marks. The umbrella, the toothglass and the boots all have two sets: the hand with the scarred thumb, which I take to be Sir Reuben’s, my lord, and a set of smudges superimposed upon them, if I may put it that way, my lord, which may or may not be the same hand in rubber gloves. I could tell you better when I’ve got the photographs made, to measure them, my lord. The linoleum in front of the washstand is very gratifying indeed, my lord, if you will excuse my mentioning it. Besides the marks of Sir Reuben’s boots which your lordship pointed out, there’s the print of a man’s naked foot—a much smaller one, my lord, not much more than a ten-inch sock, I should say if you asked me.”

Lord Peter’s face became irradiated with almost a dim, religious light.

“A mistake,” he breathed, “a mistake, a little one, but he can’t afford it. When was the linoleum washed last, Bunter?”

“Monday morning, my lord. The housemaid did it and remembered to mention it. Only remark she’s made yet, and it’s to the point. The other domestics—”

His features expressed disdain.

“What did I say, Parker? Five-foot-ten and not an inch longer. And he didn’t dare to use the hairbrush. Beautiful. But he had to risk the top-hat. Gentleman can’t walk home in the rain late at night without a hat, you know, Parker. Look! what do you make of it? Two sets of finger-prints on everything but the book and the brush, two sets of feet on the linoleum, and two kinds of hair in the hat!”

He lifted the top-hat to the light, and extracted the evidence with tweezers.

“Think of it, Parker—to remember the hairbrush and forget the hat—to remember his fingers all the time, and to make that one careless step on the telltale linoleum. Here they are, you see, black hair and tan hair—black hair in the bowler and the panama, and black and tan in last night’s topper. And then, just to make certain that we’re on the right track, just one little auburn hair on the pillow, on this pillow, Parker, which isn’t quite in the right place. It almost brings tears to my eyes.”

“Do you mean to say—” said the detective, slowly.

“I mean to say,” said Lord Peter, “that it was not Sir Reuben Levy whom the cook saw last night on the doorstep. I say that it was another man, perhaps a couple of inches shorter, who came here in Levy’s clothes and let himself in with Levy’s latchkey. Oh, he was a bold, cunning devil, Parker. He had on Levy’s boots, and every stitch of Levy’s clothing down to the skin. He had rubber gloves on his hands which he never took off, and he did everything he could to make us think that Levy slept here last night. He took his chances, and won. He walked upstairs, he undressed, he even washed and cleaned his teeth, though he didn’t use the hairbrush for fear of leaving red hairs in it. He had to guess what Levy did with boots and clothes; one guess was wrong and the other right, as it happened. The bed must look as if it had been slept in, so he gets in, and lies there in his victim’s very pyjamas. Then, in the morning sometime, probably in the deadest hour between two and three, he gets up, dresses himself in his own clothes that he has brought with him in a bag, and creeps downstairs. If anybody wakes, he is lost, but he is a bold man, and he takes his chance. He knows that people do not wake as a rule—and they don’t wake. He opens the street door which he left on the latch when he came in—he listens for the stray passer-by or the policeman on his beat. He slips out. He pulls the door quietly to with the latchkey. He walks brisky away in rubber-soled shoes—he’s the kind of criminal who isn’t complete without rubber-soled shoes. In a few minutes he is at Hyde Park Corner. After that—”

He paused, and added:

“He did all that, and unless he had nothing at stake, he had everything at stake. Either Sir Reuben Levy has been spirited away for some silly practical joke, or the man with the auburn hair has the guilt of murder upon his soul.”

“Dear me!” ejaculated the detective, “you’re very dramatic about it.”

Lord Peter passed his hand rather wearily over his hair.

“My true friend,” he murmured, in a voice surcharged with emotion, “you recall me to the nursery rhymes of my youth—the sacred duty of flippancy:

‘There was an old man of Whitehaven
Who danced a quadrille with a raven,
    But they said: It’s absurd
    To encourage that bird—
So they smashed that old man of Whitehaven.’

That’s the correct attitude, Parker. Here’s a poor old buffer spirited away—such a joke—and I don’t believe he’d hurt a fly himself—that makes it funnier. D’you know, Parker, I don’t care frightfully about this case after all.”

“Which, this or yours?”

“Both. I say, Parker, shall we go quietly home and have lunch and go to the Coliseum?”

“You can if you like,” replied the detective; “but you forget I do this for my bread and butter.”

“And I haven’t even that excuse,” said Lord Peter; “well, what’s the next move? What would you do in my case?”

“I’d do some good, hard grind,” said Parker. “I’d distrust every bit of work Sugg ever did, and I’d get the family history of every tenant of every flat in Queen Caroline Mansions. I’d examine all their boxrooms and rooftraps, and I would inveigle them into conversations and suddenly bring in the words ‘body’ and ‘pince-nez,’ and see if they wriggled, like those modern psycho-what’s-his-names.”

“You would, would you?” said Lord Peter with a grin. “Well, we’ve exchanged cases, you know, so just you toddle off and do it. I’m going to have a jolly time at Wyndham’s.”

Parker made a grimace.

“Well,” he said, “I don’t suppose you’d ever do it, so I’d better. You’ll never become a professional till you learn to do a little work, Wimsey. How about lunch?”

“I’m invited out,” said Lord Peter, magnificently. “I’ll run round and change at the club. Can’t feed with Freddy Arbuthnot in these bags; Bunter!”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Pack up if you’re ready, and come round and wash my face and hands for me at the club.”

“Work here for another two hours, my lord. Can’t do with less than thirty minutes’ exposure. The current’s none too strong.”

“You see how I’m bullied by my own man, Parker? Well, I must bear it, I suppose. Ta-ta!”

He whistled his way downstairs.

The conscientious Mr. Parker, with a groan, settled down to a systematic search through Sir Reuben Levy’s papers, with the assistance of a plate of ham sandwiches and a bottle of Bass.

 

Lord Peter and the Honourable Freddy Arbuthnot, looking together like an advertisement for gents’ trouserings, strolled into the dining-room at Wyndham’s.

“Haven’t seen you for an age,” said the Honourable Freddy, “what have you been doin’ with yourself?”

“Oh, foolin’ about,” said Lord Peter, languidly.

“Thick or clear, sir?” enquired the waiter of the Honourable Freddy.

“Which’ll you have, Wimsey?” said that gentleman, transferring the burden of selection to his guest, “they’re both equally poisonous.”

“Well, clear’s less trouble to lick out of the spoon,” said Lord Peter.

“Clear,” said the Honourable Freddy.

“Consommé Polonais,” agreed the waiter. “Very nice, sir.”

Conversation languished until the Honourable Freddy found a bone in the filleted sole, and sent for the head waiter to explain its presence. When this matter had been adjusted Lord Peter found energy to say:

“Sorry to hear about your gov’nor, old man.”

“Yes, poor old buffer,” said the Honourable Freddy; “they say he can’t last long now. What? Oh! the Montrachet ’08. There’s nothing fit to drink in this place,” he added gloomily.

After this deliberate insult to a noble vintage there was a further pause, till Lord Peter said: “‘How’s ‘Change?”

“Rotten,” said the Honourable Freddy.

He helped himself gloomily to salmis of game.

“Can I do anything?” asked Lord Peter.

“Oh, no, thanks—very decent of you, but it’ll pan out all right in time.”

“This isn’t a bad salmis,” said Lord Peter.

“I’ve eaten worse,” admitted his friend.

“What about those Argentines?” enquired Lord Peter. “Here, waiter, there’s a bit of cork in my glass.”

“Cork?” cried the Honourable Freddy, with something approaching animation; “you’ll hear about this, waiter. It’s an amazing thing a fellow who’s paid to do the job can’t manage to take a cork out of a bottle. What you say? Argentines? Gone all to hell. Old Levy bunkin’ off like that’s knocked the bottom out of the market.”

“You don’t say so,” said Lord Peter; “what d’you suppose has happened to the old man?”

“Cursed if I know,” said the Honourable Freddy; “knocked on the head by the bears, I should think.”

“P’r’aps he’s gone off on his own,” suggested Lord Peter. “Double life, you know. Giddy old blighters, some of these City men.”

“Oh, no,” said the Honourable Freddy, faintly roused; “no, hang it all, Wimsey, I wouldn’t care to say that. He’s a decent old domestic bird, and his daughter’s a charmin’ girl. Besides, he’s straight enough—he’d do you down fast enough, but he wouldn’t let you down. Old Anderson is badly cut up about it.”

“Who’s Anderson?”

“Chap with property out there. He belongs here. He was goin’ to meet Levy on Tuesday. He’s afraid those railway people will get in now, and then it’ll be all U. P.”

“Who’s runnin’ the railway people over here?” enquired Lord Peter.

“Yankee blighter, John P. Milligan. He’s got an option, or says he has. You can’t trust these brutes.”

“Can’t Anderson hold on?”

“Anderson isn’t Levy. Hasn’t got the shekels. Besides, he’s only one. Levy covers the ground—he could boycott Milligan’s beastly railway if he liked. That’s where he’s got the pull, you see.”

“B’lieve I met the Milligan man somewhere,” said Lord Peter, thoughtfully; “ain’t he a hulking brute with black hair and a beard?”

“You’re thinkin’ of somebody else,” said the Honourable Freddy. “Milligan don’t stand any higher than I do, unless you call five-feet-ten hulking—and he’s bald, anyway.”

Lord Peter considered this over the Gorgonzola. Then he said:

“Didn’t know Levy had a charmin’ daughter.”

“Oh, yes,” said the Honourable Freddy, with an elaborate detachment. “Met her and Mamma last year abroad. That’s how I got to know the old man. He’s been very decent. Let me into this Argentine business on the ground floor, don’t you know?”

“Well,” said Lord Peter, “you might do worse. Money’s money, ain’t it? And Lady Levy is quite a redeemin’ point. At least, my mother knew her people.”

“Oh, she’s all right,” said the Honourable Freddy, “and the old man’s nothing to be ashamed of nowadays. He’s self-made, of course, but he don’t pretend to be anything else. No side. Toddles off to business on a 96 ‘bus every morning. ‘Can’t make up my mind to taxis, my boy,’ he says. ‘I had to look at every halfpenny when I was a young man, and I can’t get out of the way of it now.’ Though, if he’s takin’ his family out, nothing’s too good. Rachel—that’s the girl—always laughs at the old man’s little economies.”

“I suppose they’ve sent for Lady Levy,” said Lord Peter.

“I suppose so,” agreed the other. “I’d better pop round and express sympathy or somethin’, what? Wouldn’t look well not to, d’you think? But it’s deuced awkward. What am I to say?”

“I don’t think it matters much what you say,” said Lord Peter, helpfully. “I should ask if you can do anything.”

“Thanks,” said the lover, “I will. Energetic young man. Count on me. Always at your service. Ring me up any time of the day or night. That’s the line to take, don’t you think?”

“That’s the idea,” said Lord Peter.

*   *   *

Mr. John P. Milligan, the London representative of the great Milligan railroad and shipping company, was dictating code cables to his secretary in an office in Lombard Street, when a card was brought up to him, bearing the simple legend:

LORD PETER WIMSEY

         Marlborough Club

Mr. Milligan was annoyed at the interruption, but, like many of his nation, if he had a weak point, it was the British aristocracy. He postponed for a few minutes the elimination from the map of a modest but promising farm, and directed that the visitor should be shown up.

“Good-afternoon,” said that nobleman, ambling genially in, “it’s most uncommonly good of you to let me come round wastin’ your time like this. I’ll try not to be too long about it, though I’m not awfully good at comin’ to the point. My brother never would let me stand for the county, y’know—said I wandered on so nobody’d know what I was talkin’ about.”

“Pleased to meet you, Lord Wimsey,” said Mr. Milligan. “Won’t you take a seat?”

“Thanks,” said Lord Peter, “but I’m not the Duke, you know—that’s my brother Denver. My name’s Peter. It’s a silly name, I always think, so old-world and full of homely virtue and that sort of thing, but my godfathers and godmothers in my baptism are responsible for that, I suppose, officially—which is rather hard on them, you know, as they didn’t actually choose it. But we always have a Peter, after the third duke, who betrayed five kings somewhere about the Wars of the Roses, though come to think of it, it ain’t anything to be proud of. Still, one has to make the best of it.”

Mr. Milligan, thus ingeniously placed at that disadvantage which attends ignorance, manœuvred for position, and offered his interrupter a Corona Corona.

“Thanks, awfully,” said Lord Peter, “though you really mustn’t tempt me to stay here barblin’ all afternoon. By Jove, Mr. Milligan, if you offer people such comfortable chairs and cigars like these, I wonder they don’t come an’ live in your office.” He added mentally: “I wish to goodness I could get those long-toed boots off you. How’s a man to know the size of your feet? And a head like a potato. It’s enough to make one swear.”

“Say now, Lord Peter,” said Mr. Milligan, “can I do anything for you?”

“Well, d’you know,” said Lord Peter, “I’m wonderin’ if you would. It’s damned cheek to ask you, but fact is, it’s my mother, you know. Wonderful woman, but don’t realize what it means, demands on the time of a busy man like you. We don’t understand hustle over here, you know, Mr. Milligan.”

“Now don’t you mention that,” said Mr. Milligan; “I’d be surely charmed to do anything to oblige the Duchess.”

He felt a momentary qualm as to whether a duke’s mother were also a duchess, but breathed more freely as Lord Peter went on:

“Thanks—that’s uncommonly good of you. Well, now, it’s like this. My mother—most energetic, self-sacrificin’ woman, don’t you see, is thinkin’ of gettin’ up a sort of a charity bazaar down at Denver this winter, in aid of the church-roof, y’know. Very sad case, Mr. Milligan—fine old antique—early English windows and decorated angel roof, and all that—all tumblin’ to pieces, rain pourin’ in and so on—vicar catchin’ rheumatism at early service, owin’ to the draught blowin’ in over the altar—you know the sort of thing. They’ve got a man down startin’ on it—little beggar called Thipps—lives with an aged mother in Battersea—vulgar little beast, but quite good on angel roofs and things, I’m told.”

At this point, Lord Peter watched his interlocutor narrowly, but finding that this rigmarole produced in him no reaction more startling than polite interest tinged with faint bewilderment, he abandoned this line of investigation, and proceeded:

“I say, I beg your pardon, frightfully—I’m afraid I’m bein’ beastly long-winded. Fact is, my mother is gettin’ up this bazaar, and she thought it’d be all awfully interestin’ side-show to have some lectures—sort of little talks, y’know—by eminent business men of all nations. ‘How I did it’ kind of touch, y’know—’A Drop of Oil with Mr. Rockefeller’—’Cash and Conscience’ by Cadbury’s Cocoa and so on. It would interest people down there no end. You see, all my mother’s friends will be there, and we’ve none of us any money—not what you’d call money, I mean—I expect our incomes wouldn’t pay your telephone calls, would they?—but we like awfully to hear about the people who can make money. Gives us a sort of uplifted feelin’, don’t you know. Well, anyway, I mean, my mother’d be frightfully pleased and grateful to you, Mr. Milligan, if you’d come down and give us a few words as a representative American. It needn’t take more than ten minutes or so, y’know, because the local people can’t understand much beyond shootin’ and huntin’, and my mother’s crowd can’t keep their minds on anythin’ more than ten minutes together, but we’d really appreciate it very much if you’d come and stay a day or two and just give us a little breezy word on the almighty dollar.”

“Why, yes,” said Mr. Milligan, “I’d like to, Lord Peter. It’s kind of the Duchess to suggest it. It’s a very sad thing when these fine old antiques begin to wear out. I’ll come with great pleasure. And perhaps you’d be kind enough to accept a little donation to the Restoration Fund.”

This unexpected development nearly brought Lord Peter up all standing. To pump, by means of an ingenious lie, a hospitable gentleman whom you are inclined to suspect of a peculiarly malicious murder, and to accept from him in the course of the proceedings a large cheque for a charitable object, has something about it unpalatable to any but the hardened Secret Service agent. Lord Peter temporized.

“That’s awfully decent of you,” he said. “I’m sure they’d be no end grateful. But you’d better not give it to me, you know. I might spend it, or lose it. I’m not very reliable, I’m afraid. The vicar’s the right person—the Rev. Constantine Throgmorton, St. John-before-the-Latin-Gate Vicarage, Duke’s Denver, if you like to send it there.”

“I will,” said Mr. Milligan. “Will you write it out now for a thousand pounds, Scoot, in case it slips my mind later?”

The secretary, a sandy-haired young man with a long chin and no eyebrows, silently did as he was requested. Lord Peter looked from the bald head of Mr. Milligan to the red head of the secretary, hardened his heart and tried again.

“Well, I’m no end grateful to you, Mr. Milligan, and so’ll my mother be when I tell her. I’ll let you know the date of the bazaar—it’s not quite settled yet, and I’ve got to see some other business men, don’t you know. I thought of askin’ Lord Northcliffe to represent English newspapers, you know, and a friend of mine promises me a leadin’ German—very interestin’ if there ain’t too much feelin’ against it down in the country, and I’d better get Rothschild, I suppose, to do the Hebrew point of view. I thought of askin’ Levy, y’know, only he’s floated off in this inconvenient way.”

“Yes,” said Mr. Milligan, “that’s a very curious thing, though I don’t mind saying, Lord Peter, that it’s a convenience to me. He had a cinch on my railroad combine, but I’d nothing against him personally, and if he turns up after I’ve brought off a little deal I’ve got on, I’ll be happy to give him the right hand of welcome.”

A vision passed through Lord Peter’s mind of Sir Reuben kept somewhere in custody till a financial crisis was over. This was exceedingly possible, and far more agreeable than his earlier conjecture; it also agreed better with the impression he was forming of Mr. Milligan.

“Well, it’s a rum go,” said Lord Peter, “but I daresay he had his reasons. Much better not enquire into people’s reasons, y’know, what? Specially as a police friend of mine who’s connected with the case says the old johnnie dyed his hair before he went.”

Out of the tail of his eye, Lord Peter saw the red-headed secretary add up five columns of figures simultaneously and jot down the answer.

“Dyed his hair, did he?” said Mr. Milligan.

“Dyed it red,” said Lord Peter. The secretary looked up. “Odd thing is,” continued Wimsey, “they can’t lay hands on the bottle. Somethin’ fishy there, don’t you think, what?”

The secretary’s interest seemed to have evaporated. He inserted a fresh sheet into his loose-leaf ledger, and carried forward a row of digits from the preceding page.

“I daresay there’s nothin’ in it,” said Lord Peter, rising to go. “Well, it’s uncommonly good of you to be bothered with me like this, Mr. Milligan, my mother’ll be no end pleased. She’ll write you about the date.”

“I’m charmed,” said Mr. Milligan, “very pleased to have met you.”

Mr. Scoot rose silently to open the door, uncoiling as he did so a portentous length of thin leg, hitherto hidden by the desk. With a mental sigh Lord Peter estimated him at six-foot-four.

“It’s a pity I can’t put Scoot’s head on Milligan’s shoulders,” said Lord Peter, emerging into the swirl of the city, “and what will my mother say?”

V

Mr. Parker was a bachelor, and occupied a Georgian but inconvenient flat at No. 12 Great Ormond Street, for which he paid a pound a week. His exertions in the cause of civilization were rewarded, not by the gift of diamond rings from empresses or munificent cheques from grateful Prime Ministers, but by a modest, though sufficient, salary, drawn from the pockets of the British taxpayer. He awoke, after a long day of arduous and inconclusive labour, to the smell of burnt porridge. Through his bedroom window, hygienically open top and bottom, a raw fog was rolling slowly in, and the sight of a pair of winter pants, flung hastily over a chair the previous night, fretted him with a sense of the sordid absurdity of the human form. The telephone bell rang, and he crawled wretchedly out of bed and into the sitting-room, where Mrs. Munns, who did for him by the day, was laying the table, sneezing as she went.

Mr. Bunter was speaking.

“His lordship says he’d be very glad, sir, if you could make it convenient to step round to breakfast.”

If the odour of kidneys and bacon had been wafted along the wire, Mr. Parker could not have experienced a more vivid sense of consolation.

“Tell his lordship I’ll be with him in half an hour,” he said, thankfully, and plunging into the bathroom, which was also the kitchen, he informed Mrs. Munns, who was just making tea from a kettle which had gone off the boil, that he should be out to breakfast.

“You can take the porridge home for the family,” he added, viciously, and flung off his dressing-gown with such determination that Mrs. Munns could only scuttle away with a snort.

A 19 ‘bus deposited him in Piccadilly only fifteen minutes later than his rather sanguine impulse had prompted him to suggest, and Mr. Bunter served him with glorious food, incomparable coffee, and the Daily Mail before a blazing fire of wood and coal. A distant voice singing the “et iterum venturus est” from Bach’s Mass in B minor proclaimed that for the owner of the flat cleanliness and godliness met at least once a day, and presently Lord Peter roamed in, moist and verbena-scented, in a bathrobe cheerfully patterned with unnaturally variegated peacocks.

“Mornin’, old dear,” said that gentleman; “beast of a day, ain’t it? Very good of you to trundle out in it, but I had a letter I wanted you to see, and I hadn’t the energy to come round to your place. Bunter and I’ve been makin’ a night of it.”

“What’s the letter?” asked Parker.

“Never talk business with your mouth full,” said Lord Peter, reprovingly; “have some Oxford marmalade—and then I’ll show you my Dante; they brought it round last night. What ought I to read this morning, Bunter?”

“Lord Erith’s collection is going to be sold, my lord. There is a column about it in the Morning Post. I think your lordship should look at this review of Sir Julian Freke’s new book on ‘The Physiological Bases of the Conscience’ in the Times Literary Supplement. Then there is a very singular little burglary in the Chronicle, my lord, and an attack on titled families in the Herald—rather ill-written, if I may say so, but not without unconscious humour which your lordship will appreciate.”

“All right, give me that and the burglary,” said his lordship.

“I have looked over the other papers,” pursued Mr. Bunter, indicating a formidable pile, “and marked your lordship’s after-breakfast reading.”

“Oh, pray don’t allude to it,” said Lord Peter, “you take my appetite away.”

There was silence, but for the crunching of toast and the crackling of paper.

“I see they adjourned the inquest,” said Parker presently.

“Nothing else to do,” said Lord Peter, “but Lady Levy arrived last night, and will have to go and fail to identify the body this morning for Sugg’s benefit.”

“Time, too,” said Mr. Parker shortly.

Silence fell again.

“I don’t think much of your burglary, Bunter,” said Lord Peter. “Competent, of course, but no imagination. I want imagination in a criminal. Where’s the Morning Post?”

After a further silence, Lord Peter said: “You might send for the catalogue, Bunter, that Apollonios Rhodios* might be worth looking at. No, I’m damned if I’m going to stodge through that review, but you can stick the book on the library list if you like. His book on Crime was entertainin’ enough as far as it went, but the fellow’s got a bee in his bonnet. Thinks God’s a secretion of the liver—all right once in a way, but there’s no need to keep on about it. There’s nothing you can’t prove if your outlook is only sufficiently limited. Look at Sugg.”

“I beg your pardon,” said Parker, “I wasn’t attending. Argentines are steadying a little, I see.”

“Milligan,” said Lord Peter.

“Oil’s in a bad way. Levy’s made a difference there. That funny little boom in Peruvians that came on just before he disappeared has died away again. I wonder if he was concerned in it. D’you know at all?”

“I’ll find out,” said Lord Peter, “what was it?”

“Oh, an absolutely dud enterprise that hadn’t been heard of for years. It suddenly took a little lease of life last week. I happened to notice it because my mother got let in for a couple of hundred shares a long time ago. It never paid a dividend. Now it’s petered out again.”

Wimsey pushed his plate aside and lit a pipe.

“Having finished, I don’t mind doing some work,” he said. “How did you get on yesterday?”

“I didn’t,” replied Parker. “I sleuthed up and down those flats in my own bodily shape and two different disguises. I was a gas-meter man and a collector for a Home for Lost Doggies, and I didn’t get a thing to go on, except a servant in the top flat at the Battersea Bridge Road end of the row who said she thought she’d heard a bump on the roof one night. Asked which night, she couldn’t rightly say. Asked if it was Monday night, she thought it very likely. Asked if it mightn’t have been in that high wind on Saturday night that blew my chimney-pot off, she couldn’t say but what it might have been. Asked if she was sure it was on the roof and not inside the flat, said to be sure they did find a picture tumbled down next morning. Very suggestible girl. I saw your friends, Mr. and Mrs. Appledore, who received me coldly, but could make no definite complaint about Thipps except that his mother dropped her h’s, and that he once called on them uninvited, armed with a pamphlet about anti-vivisection. The Indian Colonel on the first floor was loud, but unexpectedly friendly. He gave me Indian curry for supper and some very good whisky, but he’s a sort of hermit, and all he could tell me was that he couldn’t stand Mrs. Appledore.”

“Did you get nothing at the house?”

“Only Levy’s private diary. I brought it away with me. Here it is. It doesn’t tell one much, though. It’s full of entries like: ‘Tom and Annie to dinner’; and ‘My dear wife’s birthday; gave her an old opal ring’; ‘Mr. Arbuthnot dropped in to tea; he wants to marry Rachel, but I should like someone steadier for my treasure.’ Still, I thought it would show who came to the house and so on. He evidently wrote it up at night. There’s no entry for Monday.”

“I expect it’ll be useful,” said Lord Peter, turning over the pages. “Poor old buffer. I say, I m not so certain now he was done away with.”

He detailed to Mr. Parker his day’s work.

“Arbuthnot?” said Parker, “is that the Arbuthnot of the diary?”

“I suppose so. I hunted him up because I knew he was fond of fooling round the Stock Exchange. As for Milligan, he looks all right, but I believe he’s pretty ruthless in business and you never can tell. Then there’s the red-haired secretary—lightnin’ calculator man with a face like a fish, keeps on sayin’ nuthin’—got the Tar-baby in his family tree, I should think. Milligan’s got a jolly good motive for, at any rate, suspendin’ Levy for a few days. Then there’s the new man.”

“What new man?”

“Ah, that’s the letter I mentioned to you. Where did I put it? here we are. Good parchment paper, printed address of solicitor’s office in Salisbury, and postmark to correspond. Very precisely written with a fine nib by an elderly business man of old-fashioned habits.”

Parker took the letter and read:

Salisbury.

Solicitors

MILFORD HILL, SALISBURY

17 November, 192—.

Sir:

With reference to your advertisement to-day in the personal column of The Times, I am disposed to believe that the eyeglasses and chain in question may be those I lost on the L. B. & S. C. Electric Railway while visiting London last Monday. I left Victoria by the 5:45 train, and did not notice my loss till I arrived at Balham. This indication and the optician’s specification of the glasses, which I enclose, should suffice at once as an identification and a guarantee of my bona fides. If the glasses should prove to be mine, I should be greatly obliged to you if you would kindly forward them to me by registered post, as the chain was a preappalled. “It’s impossible,” said his reason, feebly; “credo quia impossibile,” said his interior certainty with impervious self-satisfaction. “All right,” said conscience, instantly allying itself with blind faith, “what are you going to do about it?”

Lord Peter got up and paced the room: “Good Lord!” he said. “Good Lord!” He took down “Who’s Who” from the little shelf over the telephone, and sought comfort in its pages.

FREKE, Sir Julian. Kt. er. 1916; G. C. V. O. er. 1919; K.C.V.O. 1917; K.C.B. 1918; M.D., F.R.C.P., F.R.C.S., Dr. en Méd. Paris; D. Sci. Cantab.; Knight of Grace of the Order of S. John of Jerusalem; Consulting Surgeon of St. Luke’s Hospital, Battersea. b. Gryllingham, 16 March 1872, only son, of Edward Curzon Freke Esq. of Gryll Court, Gryllingham. Educ. Harrow and Trinity Coll. Cambridge; Col. A.M.S.; late Member of the Advisory Board of the Army Medical Service. Publications: Some Notes on the Pathological Aspects of Genius, 1892; Statistical Contributions to the Study of Infantile Paralysis in England and Wales, 1894; Functional Disturbances of the Nervous System, 1899; Cerebro-Spinal Diseases, 1904; The Borderland of Insanity, 1906; An Examination into the Treatment of Pauper Lunacy in the United Kingdom, 1906; Modern Developments in Psycho-Therapy: A Criticism, 1910; Criminal Lunacy, 1914; The Application of Psycho-Therapy to the Treatment of Shell-Shock, 1917; An Answer to Professor Freud, with a Description of Some Experiments Carried Out at the Base Hospital at Amiens, 1919; Structural Modifications Accompanying the More Important Neuroses, 1920. Clubs: White’s; Oxford and Cambridge; Alpine, etc. Recreations: Chess, Mountaineering, Fishing. Address: 82, Harley Street and St. Luke’s House, Prince of Wales Road, Battersea Park, S.W. 11.”

He flung the book away. “Confirmation!” he groaned. “As if I needed it!”

He sat down again and buried his face in his hands. He remembered quite suddenly how, years ago, he had stood before the breakfast table at Denver Castle—a small, peaky boy in blue knickers, with a thunderously beating heart. The family had not come down; there was a great silver urn with a spirit lamp under it, and an elaborate coffee-pot boiling in a glass dome. He had twitched the corner of the tablecloth—twitched it harder, and the urn moved ponderously forward and all the teaspoons rattled. He seized the tablecloth in a firm grip and pulled his hardest—he could feel now the delicate and awful thrill as the urn and the coffee machine and the whole of a Sèvres breakfast service had crashed down in one stupendous ruin—he remembered the horrified face of the butler, and the screams of a lady guest.

A log broke across and sank into a fluff of white ash. A belated motor-lorry rumbled past the window.

Mr. Bunter, sleeping the sleep of the true and faithful servant, was aroused in the small hours by a hoarse whisper, “Bunter!”

“Yes, my lord,” said Bunter, sitting up and switching on the light.

“Put that light out, damn you!” said the voice. “Listen—over there—listen—can’t you hear it?”

“It’s nothing, my lord,” said Mr. Bunter, hastily getting out of bed and catching hold of his master; “it’s all right, you get to bed quick and I’ll fetch you a drop of bromide. Why, you’re all shivering—you’ve been sitting up too late.”

“Hush! no, no—it’s the water,” said Lord Peter with chattering teeth, “it’s up to their waists down there, poor devils. But listen! can’t you hear it? Tap, tap, tap—they’re mining us—but I don’t know where—I can’t hear—I can’t. Listen, you! There it is again—we must find it—we must stop it . . . Listen! Oh, my God! I can’t hear—I can’t hear anything for the noise of the guns. Can’t they stop the guns?”

“Oh, dear!” said Mr. Bunter to himself. “No, no—it’s all right, Major—don’t you worry.”

“But I hear it,” protested Peter.

“So do I,” said Mr. Bunter stoutly; “very good hearing, too, my lord. That’s our own sappers at work in the communication trench. Don’t you fret about that, sir.”

Lord Peter grasped his wrist with a feverish hand.

“Our own sappers,” he said; “sure of that?”

“Certain of it,” said Mr. Bunter, cheerfully.

“They’ll bring down the tower,” said Lord Peter.

“To be sure they will,” said Mr. Bunter, “and very nice, too. You just come and lay down a bit, sir—they’ve come to take over this section.”

“You’re sure it’s safe to leave it?” said Lord Peter.

“Safe as houses, sir,” said Mr. Bunter, tucking his master’s arm under his and walking him off to his bedroom.

Lord Peter allowed himself to be dosed and put to bed without further resistance. Mr. Bunter, looking singularly un-Bunterlike in striped pyjamas, with his stiff black hair ruffled about his head, sat grimly watching the younger man’s sharp cheekbones and the purple stains under his eyes.

“Thought we’d had the last of these attacks,” he said. “Been overdoin’ of himself. Asleep?” He peered at him anxiously. An affectionate note crept into his voice. “Bloody little fool!” said Sergeant Bunter.

IX

Mr. Parker, summoned the next morning to 110 Piccadilly, arrived to find the Dowager Duchess in possession. She greeted him charmingly.

 

“I am going to take this silly boy down to Denver for the week-end,” she said, indicating Peter, who was writing and only acknowledged his friend’s entrance with a brief nod. “He’s been doing too much—running about to Salisbury and places and up till all hours of the night—you really shouldn’t encourage him, Mr. Parker, it’s very naughty of you—waking poor Bunter up in the middle of the night with scares about Germans, as if that wasn’t all over years ago, and he hasn’t had an attack for ages, but there! Nerves are such funny things, and Peter always did have nightmares when he was quite a little boy—though very often of course it was only a little pill he wanted; but he was so dreadfully bad in 1918, you know, and I suppose we can’t expect to forget all about a great war in a year or two, and, really, I ought to be very thankful with both my boys safe. Still, I think a little peace and quiet at Denver won’t do him any harm.”

“Sorry you’ve been having a bad turn, old man,” said Parker, vaguely sympathetic; “you’re looking a bit seedy.”

“Charles,” said Lord Peter, in a voice entirely void of expression, “I am going away for a couple of days because I can be no use to you in London. What has got to be done for the moment can be much better done by you than by me. I want you to take this”—he folded up his writing and placed it in an envelope—”to Scotland Yard immediately and get it sent out to all the workhouses, infirmaries, police stations, Y. M. C. A.’s and so on in London. It is a description of Thipps’s corpse as he was before he was shaved and cleaned up. I want to know whether any man answering to that description has been taken in anywhere, alive or dead, during the last fortnight. You will see Sir Andrew Mackenzie personally, and get the paper sent out at once, by his authority; you will tell him that you have solved the problems of the Levy murder and the Battersea mystery”—Mr. Parker made an astonished noise to which his friend paid no attention—”and you will ask him to have men in readiness with a warrant to arrest a very dangerous and important criminal at any moment on your information. When the replies to this paper come in, you will search for any mention of St. Luke’s Hospital, or of any person connected with St. Luke’s Hospital, and you will send for me at once.

“Meanwhile you will scrape acquaintance—I don’t care how—with one of the students at St. Luke’s. Don’t march in there blowing about murders and police warrants, or you may find yourself in Queer Street. I shall come up to town as soon as I hear from you, and I shall expect to find a nice ingenuous Sawbones here to meet me.” He grinned faintly.

“D’you mean you’ve got to the bottom of this thing?” asked Parker.

“Yes. I may be wrong. I hope I am, but I know I’m not.”

“You won’t tell me?”

“D’you know,” said Peter, “honestly I’d rather not. I say I may be wrong—and I’d feel as if I’d libelled the Archbishop of Canterbury.”

“Well, tell me—is it one mystery or two?”

“One.”

“You talked of the Levy murder. Is Levy dead?”

“God—yes!” said Peter, with a strong shudder.

The Duchess looked up from where she was reading the Tatler.

“Peter,” she said, “is that your ague coming on again? Whatever you two are chattering about, you’d better stop it at once if it excites you. Besides, it’s about time to be off.”

“All right, Mother,” said Peter. He turned to Bunter, standing respectfully in the door with an overcoat and suitcase. “You understand what you have to do, don’t you?” he said.

“Perfectly, thank you, my lord. The car is just arriving, your Grace.”

“With Mrs. Thipps inside it,” said the Duchess. “She’ll be delighted to see you again, Peter. You remind her so of Mr. Thipps. Good-morning, Bunter.”

“Good-morning, your Grace.”

Parker accompanied them downstairs.

When they had gone he looked blankly at the paper in his hand—then, remembering that it was Saturday and there was need for haste, he hailed a taxi.

“Scotland Yard!” he cried.

 

Tuesday morning saw Lord Peter and a man in a velveteen jacket swishing merrily through seven acres of turnip-tops, streaked yellow with early frosts. A little way ahead, a sinuous undercurrent of excitement among the leaves proclaimed the unseen yet ever-near presence of one of the Duke of Denver’s setter pups. Presently a partridge flew up with a noise like a police rattle, and Lord Peter accounted for it very creditably for a man who, a few nights before, had been listening to imaginary German sappers. The setter bounded foolishly through the turnips, and fetched back the dead bird.

“Good dog,” said Lord Peter.

Encouraged by this, the dog gave a sudden ridiculous gambol and barked, its ear tossed inside out over its head.

“Heel,” said the man in velveteen, violently. The animal sidled up, ashamed.

“Fool of a dog, that,” said the man in velveteen; “can’t keep quiet. Too nervous, my lord. One of old Black Lass’s pups.”

“Dear me,” said Peter, “is the old dog still going?”

“No, my lord; we had to put her away in the spring.”

Peter nodded. He always proclaimed that he hated the country and was thankful to have nothing to do with the family estates, but this morning he enjoyed the crisp air and the wet leaves washing darkly over his polished boots. At Denver things moved in an orderly way; no one died sudden and violent deaths except aged setters—and partridges, to be sure. He sniffed up the autumn smell with appreciation. There was a letter in his pocket which had come by the morning post, but he did not intend to read it just yet. Parker had not wired; there was no hurry.

*   *   *

He read it in the smoking-room after lunch. His brother was there, dozing over the Times—a good, clean Englishman, sturdy and conventional, rather like Henry VIII in his youth; Gerald, sixteenth Duke of Denver. The Duke considered his cadet rather degenerate, and not quite good form; he disliked his taste for police-court news.

The letter was from Mr. Bunter.

110, Piccadilly,
W.I.    

My Lord:

I write (Mr. Bunter had been carefully educated and knew that nothing is more vulgar than a careful avoidance of beginning a letter with the first person singular) as your lordship directed, to inform you of the result of my investigations.

I experienced no difficulty in becoming acquainted with Sir Julian Freke’s man-servant. He belongs to the same club as the Hon. Frederick Arbuthnot’s man, who is a friend of mine, and was very willing to introduce me. He took me to the club yesterday (Sunday) evening, and we dined with the man, whose name is John Cummings, and afterwards I invited Cummings to drinks and a cigar in the flat. Your lordship will excuse me doing this, knowing that it is not my habit, but it has always been my experience that the best way to gain a man’s confidence is to let him suppose that one takes advantage of one’s employer.

(“I always suspected Bunter of being a student of human nature,” commented Lord Peter.)

I gave him the best old port (“The deuce you did,” said Lord Peter), having heard you and Mr. Arbuthnot talk over it. (“Hum!” said Lord Peter.)

Its effects were quite equal to my expectations as regards the principal matter in hand, but I very much regret to state that the man had so little understanding of what was offered to him that he smoked a cigar with it (one of your lordship’s Villar Villars). You will understand that I made no comment on this at the time, but your lordship will sympathize with my feelings. May I take this opportunity of expressing my grateful appreciation of your lordship’s excellent taste in food, drink and dress? It is, if I may say so, more than a pleasure—it is an education, to valet and buttle your lordship.

 

Lord Peter bowed his head gravely.

“What on earth are you doing, Peter, sittin’ there noddin’ an’ grinnin’ like a what-you-may-call-it?” demanded the Duke, coming suddenly out of a snooze. “Someone writin’ pretty things to you, what?”

“Charming things,” said Lord Peter.

The Duke eyed him doubtfully.

“Hope to goodness you don’t go and marry a chorus beauty,” he muttered inwardly, and returned to the Times.

 

Over dinner I had set myself to discover Cummings’s tastes, and found them to run in the direction of the music-hall stage. During his first glass I drew him out in this direction, your lordship having kindly given me opportunities of seeing every performance in London, and I spoke more freely than I should consider becoming in the ordinary way in order to make myself pleasant to him. I may say that his views on women and the stage were such as I should have expected from a man who would smoke with your lordship’s port.

With the second glass I introduced the subject of your lordship’s enquiries. In order to save time I will write our conversation in the form of a dialogue, as nearly as possible as it actually took place.

Cummings: You seem to get many opportunities of seeing a bit of life, Mr. Bunter.

Bunter: One can always make opportunities if one knows how.

Cummings: Ah, it’s very easy for you to talk, Mr. Bunter. You’re not married, for one thing.

Bunter: I know better than that, Mr. Cummings.

Cummings: So do I—now, when it’s too late. (He sighed heavily, and I filled up his glass.)

Bunter: Does Mrs. Cummings live with you at Battersea?

Cummings: Yes; her and me we do for my governor. Such a life! Not but what there’s a char comes in by the day. But what’s a char? I can tell you it’s dull all by ourselves in that d—d Battersea suburb.

Bunter: Not very convenient for the Halls, of course.

Cummings: I believe you. It’s all right for you, here in Piccadilly, right on the spot as you might say. And I daresay your governor’s often out all night, eh?

Bunter: Oh, frequently, Mr. Cummings.

Cummings: And I daresay you take the opportunity to slip off yourself every so often, eh?

Bunter: Well, what do you think, Mr. Cummings?

Cummings: That’s it; there you are! But what’s a man to do with a nagging fool of a wife and a blasted scientific doctor for a governor, as sits up all night cutting up dead bodies and experimenting with frogs?

Bunter: Surely he goes out sometimes.

Cummings: Not often. And always back before twelve. And the way he goes on if he rings the bell and you ain’t there. I give you my word, Mr. Bunter.

Bunter: Temper?

Cummings: No-o-o—but looking through you, nasty-like, as if you was on that operating table of his and he was going to cut you up. Nothing a man could rightly complain of, you understand, Mr. Bunter, just nasty looks. Not but what I will say he’s very correct. Apologizes if he’s been inconsiderate. But what’s the good of that when he’s been and gone and lost you your nights rest?

Bunter: How does he do that? Keeps you up late, you mean?

Cummings: Not him; far from it. House locked up and household to bed at half past ten. That’s his little rule. Not but what I’m glad enough to go as a rule, it’s that dreary. Still, when I do go to bed I like to go to sleep.

Bunter: What does he do? Walk about the house?

Cummings: Doesn’t he? All night. And in and out of the private door to the hospital.

Bunter: You don’t mean to say, Mr. Cummings, a great specialist like Sir Julian Freke does night work at the hospital?

Cummings: No, no; he does his own work—research work, as you may say. Cuts people up. They say he’s very clever. Could take you or me to pieces like a clock, Mr. Bunter, and put us together again.

Bunter: Do you sleep in the basement, then, to hear him so plain?

Cummings: No; our bedroom’s at the top. But, Lord! what’s that? He’ll bang the door so you can hear him all over the house.

Bunter: Ah, many’s the time I’ve had to speak to Lord Peter about that. And talking all night. And baths.

Cummings: Baths? You may well say that, Mr. Bunter. Baths? Me and my wife sleep next to the cistern-room. Noise fit to wake the dead. All hours. When d’you think he chose to have a bath, no later than last Monday night, Mr. Bunter?

Bunter: I’ve known them to do it at two in the morning, Mr. Cummings.

Cummings: Have you, now? Well, this was at three. Three o’clock in the morning we was waked up. I give you my word.

Bunter: You don’t say so, Mr. Cummings.

Cummings: He cuts up diseases, you see, Mr. Bunter, and then he don’t like to go to bed till he’s washed the bacilluses off, if you understand me. Very natural, too, I daresay. But what I say is, the middle of the night’s no time for a gentleman to be occupying his mind with diseases.

Bunter: These great men have their own way of doing things.

Cummings: Well, all I can say is, it isn’t my way.

(I could believe that, your lordship. Cummings has no signs of greatness about him, and his trousers are not what I would wish to see in a man of his profession.)

Bunter: Is he habitually as late as that, Mr. Cummings?

Cummings: Well, no, Mr. Bunter, I will say, not as a general rule. He apologized, too, in the morning, and said he would have the cistern seen to—and very necessary, in my opinion, for the air gets into the pipes, and the groaning and screeching as goes on is something awful. Just like Niagara, if you follow me, Mr. Bunter, I give you my word.

Bunter: Well, that’s as it should be, Mr. Cummings. One can put up with a great deal from a gentleman that has the manners to apologize. And, of course, sometimes they can’t help themselves. A visitor will come in unexpectedly and keep them late, perhaps.

Cummings: That’s true enough, Mr. Bunter. Now I come to think of it, there was a gentleman come in on Monday evening. Not that he came late, but he stayed about an hour, and may have put Sir Julian behindhand.

Bunter: Very likely. Let me give you some more port, Mr. Cummings. Or a little of Lord Peter’s old brandy.

Cummings: A little of the brandy, thank you, Mr. Bunter. I suppose you have the run of the cellar here. (He winked at me.)

“Trust me for that,” I said, and I fetched him the Napoleon. I assure your lordship it went to my heart to pour it out for a man like that. However, seeing we had got on the right tack, I felt it wouldn’t be wasted.

“I’m sure I wish it was always gentlemen that come here at night,” I said. (Your lordship will excuse me, I am sure, making such a suggestion.)

(“Good God,” said Lord Peter, “I wish Bunter was less thorough in his methods.” )

Cummings: Oh, he’s that sort, his lordship, is he? (He chuckled and poked me. I suppress a portion of his conversation here, which could not fail to be as offensive to your lordship as it was to myself. He went on:) No, it’s none of that with Sir Julian. Very few visitors at night, and always gentlemen. And going early as a rule, like the one I mentioned.

Bunter: Just as well. There’s nothing I find more wearisome, Mr. Cummings, than sitting up to see visitors out.

Cummings: Oh, I didn’t see this one out. Sir Julian let him out himself at ten o’clock or thereabouts. I heard the gentleman shout “Good-night” and off he goes.

Bunter: Does Sir Julian always do that?

Cummings: Well, that depends. If he sees visitors downstairs, he lets them out himself; if he sees them upstairs in the library, he rings for me.

Bunter: This was a downstairs visitor, then?

Cummings: Oh, yes. Sir Julian opened the door to him, I remember. He happened to be working in the hall. Though now I come to think of it, they went up to the library afterwards. That’s funny. I know they did, because I happened to go up to the hall with coals, and I heard them upstairs. Besides, Sir Julian rang for me in the library a few minutes later. Still, anyway, we heard him go at ten, or it may have been a bit before. He hadn’t only stayed about three-quarters of an hour. However, as I was saying, there was Sir Julian banging in and out of the private door all night, and a bath at three in the morning, and up again for breakfast at eight—it beats me. If I had all his money, curse me if I’d go poking about with dead men in the middle of the night. If it was a nice live girl, now, Mr. Bunter—

I need not repeat any more of his conversation, as it became unpleasant and incoherent, and I could not bring him back to the events of Monday night. I was unable to get rid of him till three. He cried on my neck, and said I was the bird, and you were the governor for him. He said that Sir Julian would be greatly annoyed with him for coming home so late, but Sunday night was his night out and if anything was said about it he would give notice. I think he will be ill-advised to do so, as I feel he is not a man I could conscientiously recommend if I were in Sir Julian Freke’s place. I noticed that his boot-heels were slightly worn down.

I should wish to add, as a tribute to the great merits of your lordship’s cellar, that, although I was obliged to drink a somewhat large quantity both of the Cockburn ’68 and the 1800 Napoleon I feel no headache or other ill effects this morning.

Trusting that your lordship is deriving real benefit from the country air, and that the little information I have been able to obtain will prove satisfactory, I remain,

With respectful duty to all the family, their ladyships,

Obediently yours,        

MERVYN BUNTER.

 

“Y’know,” said Lord Peter thoughtfully to himself, “I sometimes think Mervyn Bunter’s pullin’ my leg. What is it, Soames?”

“A telegram, my lord.”

“Parker,” said Lord Peter, opening it. It said:

 

“Description recognized Chelsea Workhouse. Unknown vagrant injured street accident Wednesday week. Died workhouse Monday. Delivered St. Luke’s same evening by order Freke. Much puzzled. Parker.”

 

“Hurray!” said Lord Peter, suddenly sparkling. “I’m glad I’ve puzzled Parker. Gives me confidence in myself. Makes me feel like Sherlock Holmes. ‘Perfectly simple, Watson.’ Dash it all, though! this is a beastly business. Still, it’s puzzled Parker.”

“What’s the matter?” asked the Duke, getting up and yawning.

“Marching orders,” said Peter, “back to town. Many thanks for your hospitality, old bird—I’m feelin’ no end better. Ready to tackle Professor Moriarty or Leon Kestrel or any of ’em.”

“I do wish you’d keep out of the police courts,” grumbled the Duke. “It makes it so dashed awkward for me, havin’ a brother makin’ himself conspicuous.”

“Sorry, Gerald,” said the other, “I know I’m a beastly blot on the ‘scutcheon.”

“Why can’t you marry and settle down and live quietly, doin’ something useful?” said the Duke unappeased.

“Because that was a wash-out as you perfectly well know,” said Peter; “besides,” he added cheerfully, “I’m bein’ no end useful. You may come to want me yourself, you never know. When anybody comes blackmailin’ you, Gerald, or your first deserted wife turns up unexpectedly from the West Indies, you’ll realize the pull of havin’ a private detective in the family. ‘Delicate private business arranged with tact and discretion. Investigations undertaken. Divorce evidence a specialty. Every guarantee!’ Come, now.”

“Ass!” said Lord Denver, throwing the newspaper violently into his armchair. “When do you want the car?”

“Almost at once. I say, Jerry, I’m taking Mother up with me.”

“Why should she be mixed up in it?”

“Well, I want her help.”

“I call it most unsuitable,” said the Duke.

The Dowager Duchess, however, made no objection.

“I used to know her quite well,” she said, “when she was Christine Ford. Why, dear?”

“Because,” said Lord Peter, “there’s a terrible piece of news to be broken to her about her husband.”

“Is he dead, dear?”

“Yes; and she will have to come and identify him.”

“Poor Christine.”

“Under very revolting circumstances, Mother.”

“I’ll come with you, dear.”

“Thank you, Mother, you’re a brick. D’you mind gettin’ your things on straight away and comin’ up with me? I’ll tell you about it in the car.”

X

Mr. Parker, a faithful though doubting Thomas, had duly secured his medical student: a large young man like an overgrown puppy, with innocent eyes and a freckled face. He sat on the Chesterfield before Lord Peter’s library fire, bewildered in equal measure by his errand, his surroundings and the drink which he was absorbing. His palate, though untutored, was naturally a good one, and he realized that even to call this liquid a drink—the term ordinarily used by him to designate cheap whisky, post-war beer or a dubious glass of claret in a Soho restaurant—was a sacrilege; this was something outside normal experience: a genie in a bottle.

The man called Parker, whom he had happened to run across the evening before in the public-house at the corner of Prince of Wales Road, seemed to be a good sort. He had insisted on bringing him round to see this friend of his, who lived splendidly in Piccadilly. Parker was quite understandable; he put him down as a government servant, or perhaps something in the City. The friend was embarrassing; he was a lord, to begin with, and his clothes were a kind of rebuke to the world at large. He talked the most fatuous nonsense, certainly, but in a disconcerting way. He didn’t dig into a joke and get all the fun out of it; he made it in passing, so to speak, and skipped away to something else before your retort was ready. He had a truly terrible manservant—the sort you read about in books—who froze the marrow in your bones with silent criticism. Parker appeared to bear up under the strain, and this made you think more highly of Parker; he must be more habituated to the surroundings of the great than you would think to look at him. You wondered what the carpet had cost on which Parker was carelessly spilling cigar ash; your father was an upholsterer—Mr. Piggott, of Piggott & Piggott, Liverpool—and you knew enough about carpets to know that you couldn’t even guess at the price of this one. When you moved your head on the bulging silk cushion in the corner of the sofa, it made you wish you shaved more often and more carefully. The sofa was a monster—but even so, it hardly seemed big enough to contain you. This Lord Peter was not very tall—in fact, he was rather a small man, but he didn’t look undersized. He looked right; he made you feel that to be six-foot-three was rather vulgarly assertive; you felt like Mother’s new drawing-room curtains—all over great, big blobs. But everybody was very decent to you, and nobody said anything you couldn’t understand, or sneered at you. There were some frightfully deep-looking books on the shelves all round, and you had looked into a great folio Dante which was lying on the table, but your hosts were talking quite ordinarily and rationally about the sort of books you read yourself—clinking good love stories and detective stories. You had read a lot of those, and could give an opinion, and they listened to what you had to say, though Lord Peter had a funny way of talking about books, too, as if the author had confided in him beforehand, and told him how the story was put together, and which bit was written first. It reminded you of the way old Freke took a body to pieces.

“Thing I object to in detective stories,” said Mr. Piggott, “is the way fellows remember every bloomin’ thing that’s happened to ’em within the last six months. They’re always ready with their time of day and was it rainin’ or not, and what were they doin’ on such an’ such a day. Reel it all off like a page of poetry. But one ain’t like that in real life, d’you think so, Lord Peter?” Lord Peter smiled, and young Piggott, instantly embarrassed, appealed to his earlier acquaintance. “You know what I mean, Parker. Come now. One day’s so like another, I’m sure I couldn’t remember—well, I might remember yesterday, p’r’aps, but I couldn’t be certain about what I was doin’ last week if I was to be shot for it.”

“No,” said Parker, “and evidence given in police statements sounds just as impossible. But they don’t really get it like that, you know. I mean, a man doesn’t just say, ‘Last Friday I went out at ten o’clock a. m. to buy a mutton chop. As I was turning into Mortimer Street I noticed a girl of about twenty-two with black hair and brown eyes, wearing a green jumper, check skirt, Panama hat and black shoes riding a Royal Sunbeam Cycle at about ten miles an hour turning the corner by the Church of St. Simon and St. Jude on the wrong side of the road riding towards the market place!’ It amounts to that, of course, but it’s really wormed out of him by a series of questions.”

“And in short stories,” said Lord Peter, “it has to be put in statement form, because the real conversation would be so long and twaddly and tedious, and nobody would have the patience to read it. Writers have to consider their readers, if any, y’see.”

“Yes,” said Mr. Piggott, “but I bet you most people would find it jolly difficult to remember, even if you asked ’em things. I should—of course, I know I’m a bit of a fool, but then, most people are, ain’t they? You know what I mean. Witnesses ain’t detectives, they’re just average idiots like you and me.”

“Quite so,” said Lord Peter, smiling as the force of the last phrase sank into its unhappy perpetrator; “you mean, if I were to ask you in a general way what you were doin’—say, a week ago to-day, you wouldn’t be able to tell me a thing about it offhand.”

“No—I’m sure I shouldn’t.” He considered. “No. I was in at the Hospital as usual, I suppose, and, being Tuesday, there’d be a lecture on something or the other—dashed if I know what—and in the evening I went out with Tommy Pringle—no, that must have been Monday—or was it Wednesday? I tell you, I couldn’t swear to anything.”

“You do yourself an injustice,” said Lord Peter gravely. “I’m sure, for instance, you recollect what work you were doing in the dissecting-room on that day, for example.”

“Lord, no! not for certain. I mean, I daresay it might come back to me if I thought for a long time, but I wouldn’t swear to it in a court of law.”

“I’ll bet you half a crown to sixpence,” said Lord Peter, “that you’ll remember within five minutes.”

“I’m sure I can’t.”

“We’ll see. Do you keep a notebook of the work you do when you dissect? Drawings or anything?”

“Oh, yes.”

“Think of that. What’s the last thing you did in it?”

“That’s easy, because I only did it this morning. It was leg muscles.”

“Yes. Who was the subject?”

“An old woman of sorts; died of pneumonia.”

“Yes. Turn back the pages of your drawing-book in your mind. What came before that?”

“Oh, some animals—still legs; I’m doing motor muscles at present. Yes. That was old Cunningham’s demonstration on comparative anatomy. I did rather a good thing of a hare’s legs and a frog’s, and rudimentary legs on a snake.”

“Yes. Which day does Mr. Cunningham lecture?”

“Friday.”

“Friday; yes. Turn back again. What comes before that?”

Mr. Piggott shook his head.

“Do your drawings of legs begin on the right-hand page or the left-hand page? Can you see the first drawing?”

“Yes—yes—I can see the date written at the top. It’s a section of a frog’s hind leg, on the right-hand page.”

“Yes. Think of the open book in your mind’s eye. What is opposite to it?”

This demanded some mental concentration.

“Something round—coloured—oh, yes—it’s a hand.”

“Yes. You went on from the muscles of the hand and arm to leg- and foot-muscles?”

“Yes; that’s right. I’ve got a set of drawings of arms.”

“Yes. Did you make those on the Thursday?”

“No; I’m never in the dissecting-room on Thursday.”

“On Wednesday, perhaps?”

“Yes; I must have made them on Wednesday. Yes; I did. I went in there after we’d seen those tetanus patients in the morning. I did them on Wednesday afternoon. I know I went back because I wanted to finish ’em. I worked rather hard—for me. That’s why I remember.”

“Yes; you went back to finish them. When had you begun them, then?”

“Why, the day before.”

“The day before. That was Tuesday, wasn’t it?”

“I’ve lost count—yes, the day before Wednesday—yes, Tuesday.”

“Yes. Were they a man’s arms or a woman’s arms?”

“Oh, a man’s arms.”

“Yes; last Tuesday, a week ago to-day, you were dissecting a man’s arms in the dissecting-room. Sixpence, please.”

“By Jove!”

“Wait a moment. You know a lot more about it than that. You’ve no idea how much you know. You know what kind of man he was.”

“Oh, I never saw him complete, you know. I got there a bit late that day, I remember. I’d asked for an arm specially, because I was rather weak in arms, and Watts—that’s the attendant—had promised to save me one.”

“Yes. You have arrived late and found your arm waiting for you. You are dissecting it—taking your scissors and slitting up the skin and pinning it back. Was it very young, fair skin?”

“Oh, no—no. Ordinary skin, I think—with dark hairs on it—yes, that was it.”

“Yes. A lean, stringy arm, perhaps, with no extra fat anywhere?”

“Oh, no—I was rather annoyed about that. I wanted a good, muscular arm, but it was rather poorly developed and the fat got in my way.”

“Yes; a sedentary man who didn’t do much manual work.”

“That’s right.”

“Yes. You dissected the hand, for instance, and made a drawing of it. You would have noticed any hard calluses.”

“Oh, there was nothing of that sort.”

“No. But should you say it was a young man’s arm? Firm young flesh and limber joints?”

“No—no.”

“No. Old and stringy, perhaps.”

“No. Middle-aged—with rheumatism. I mean, there was a chalky deposit in the joints, and the fingers were a bit swollen.”

“Yes. A man about fifty.”

“About that.”

“Yes. There were other students at work on the same body.”

“Oh, yes.”

“Yes. And they made all the usual sort of jokes about it.”

“I expect so—oh, yes!”

“You can remember some of them. Who is your local funny man, so to speak?”

“Tommy Pringle.”

“What was Tommy Pringle doing?”

“Can’t remember.”

“Whereabouts was Tommy Pringle working?”

“Over by the instrument-cupboard—by sink C.”

“Yes. Get a picture of Tommy Pringle in your mind’s eye.”

Piggott began to laugh.

“I remember now. Tommy Pringle said the old Sheeny—”

“Why did he call him a Sheeny?”

“I don’t know. But I know he did.”

“Perhaps he looked like it. Did you see his head?”

“No.”

“Who had the head?”

“I don’t know—oh, yes, I do, though. Old Freke bagged the head himself, and little Bouncible Binns was very cross about it, because he’d been promised a head to do with old Scrooger.”

“I see; what was Sir Julian doing with the head?”

“He called us up and gave us a jaw on spinal hæmorrhage and nervous lesions.”

“Yes. Well, go back to Tommy Pringle.”

Tommy Pringle’s joke was repeated, not without some embarrassment.

“Quite so. Was that all?”

“No. The chap who was working with Tommy said that sort of thing came from overfeeding.”

“I deduce that Tommy Pringle’s partner was interested in the alimentary canal.”

“Yes; and Tommy said, if he’d thought they’d feed you like that he’d go to the workhouse himself.”

“Then the man was a pauper from the workhouse.”

“Well, he must have been, I suppose.”

“Are workhouse paupers usually fat and well-fed?”

“Well, no—come to think of it, not as a rule.”

“In fact, it struck Tommy Pringle and his friend that this was something a little out of the way in a workhouse subject?”

“Yes.”

“And if the alimentary canal was so entertaining to these gentlemen, I imagine the subject had come by his death shortly after a full meal.”

“Yes—oh, yes—he’d have had to, wouldn’t he?”

“Well, I don’t know,” said Lord Peter. “That’s in your department, you know. That would be your inference, from what they said.”

“Oh, yes. Undoubtedly.”

“Yes, you wouldn’t, for example, expect them to make that observation if the patient had been ill for a long time and fed on slops.”

“Of course not.”

“Well, you see, you really know a lot about it. On Tuesday week you were dissecting the arm muscles of a rheumatic middle-aged Jew, of sedentary habits, who had died shortly after eating a heavy meal, of some injury producing spinal hæmorrhage and nervous lesions, and so forth, and who was presumed to come from the workhouse.”

“Yes.”

“And you could swear to those facts, if need were?”

“Well, if you put it that way, I suppose I could.”

“Of course you could.”

Mr. Piggott sat for some moments in contemplation.

“I say,” he said at last, “I did know all that, didn’t I?”

“Oh, yes—you knew it all right—like Socrates’s slave.”

“Who’s h