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Title: The Stoneware Monkey (1939)
Author: R. Austin Freeman
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Language:  English
Date first posted: June 2007
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Title: The Stoneware Monkey (1939)
Author: R. Austin Freeman


CONTENTS

BOOK ONE - Narrated by James Oldfield, M.D.

CHAPTER I - HUE AND CRY
CHAPTER 2 - THE INQUIRY
CHAPTER 3 - PETER GANNET
CHAPTER 4 - DR. THORNDYKE TAKES A HAND
CHAPTER 5 - A TRUE BILL
CHAPTER 6 - SHADOWS IN THE STUDIO
CHAPTER 7 - MRS. GANNET BRINGS STRANGE TIDINGS
CHAPTER 8 - DR. OLDFIELD MAKES SURPRISING DISCOVERIES
CHAPTER 9 - INSPECTOR BLANDY INVESTIGATES
CHAPTER 10 - INSPECTOR BLANDY IS INQUISITIVE
CHAPTER 11 - MR. BUNDERBY EXPOUNDS
CHAPTER 12 - A SYMPOSIUM
CHAPTER 13 - THE INQUIRY

BOOK TWO - NARRATED BY CHRISTOPHER JERVIS, M.D.

CHAPTER 14 - DR. JERVIS IS PUZZLED
CHAPTER 15 - A MODERNIST COLLECTOR
CHAPTER 16 - AT THE MUSEUM
CHAPTER 17 - MR. SNUPER
CHAPTER 18 - MR. NEWMAN
CHAPTER 19 - THE MONKEY REVEALS HIS SECRET
CHAPTER 20 - THORNDYKE REVIEWS THE EVIDENCE




BOOK ONE - Narrated by James Oldfield, M.D.



CHAPTER I - HUE AND CRY


The profession of medicine has a good many drawbacks in the way of
interrupted meals, disturbed nights and long and strenuous working hours.
But it has its compensations, for a doctor's life is seldom a dull life.
Compared, for instance, with that of a civil servant or a bank official,
it abounds in variety of experience and surroundings, to say nothing of
the intrinsic interest of the work in its professional aspects. And then
it may happen at any moment that the medical practitioner's duties may
lead him into the very heart of a drama or a tragedy or bring him into
intimate contact with crime.

Not that the incident which I am about to describe was, in the first
place, directly connected with my professional duties. The initial
experience might have befallen anyone. But it was my medical status that
enlarged and completed that experience.

It was about nine o'clock on a warm September night that I was cycling at
an easy pace along a by-road towards the town, or village, of
Newingstead, in which I was temporarily domiciled as the locum-tenens of
a certain Dr. Wilson. I had been out on an emergency call to a small
village about three miles distant and had taken my bicycle instead of the
car for the sake of the exercise; and having ridden out at the speed that
the occasion seemed to demand, was now making a leisurely return,
enjoying the peaceful quiet of the by-way and even finding the darkness
restful with a good headlight to show the way and a rear light to secure
me from collisions from behind.

At a turn of the lane, a few twinkling lights seen dimly through spaces
in the hedgerow told me that I was nearing my destination. A little
reluctant to exchange the quiet of the countryside for the light and
bustle of the town, I dismounted, and, leaning my bicycle against a gate,
brought out my pipe and was just dipping into my pocket for my tobacco
pouch when I heard what sounded to me like the call of a police whistle.

I let go the pouch and put away my pipe as I strained my ears to listen.
The sound had come from no great distance but I had not been able exactly
to locate it. The cart track from the gate, I knew, skirted a small wood,
from which a footpath joined it, and the sound had seemed to come from
that direction. But the wood was invisible in the darkness, though I
could judge its position by a group of ricks, the nearest of which loomed
vaguely out of the murk.

I had switched off the lamps of my machine and was just considering the
expediency of walking up the cart track to explore, when the unmistakable
shriek of a police whistle rang out, considerably nearer than the last
and much shorter, and was succeeded by the sound of voices--apparently
angry voices--accompanied by obscure noises as of bodies bursting through
the undergrowth of the wood, from the direction of which the sounds now
clearly proceeded. On this I climbed over the gate and started up the
cart track at a quick pace, treading as silently as I could and keeping a
bright lookout. The track led through the groups of ricks, the great
shapes of which loomed up one after another, looking strangely gigantic
in the obscurity, and near the last of them I passed a farm wagon and was
disposed to examine it with my flashlight, but then judged it to be more
prudent not to show a light. So I pushed on with the flashlight in my
hand, peering intently into the darkness and listening for any further
sounds.

But there were none. The silence of the countryside--now no longer
restful, but awesome and sinister--was deepened rather than broken by the
faint sounds that belonged to it; the half-audible "skreek" of a bat, the
faint murmur of leaves and, far away, the fantastic cry of an owl.

Presently I was able to make out the wood as a vague shape of deeper
darkness and then I came on the little footpath that meandered away
towards it. Deciding that this was the right direction, I turned on to it
and followed it--not without difficulty, for it was but a narrow track
through the grass--until I found myself entering the black shadows of the
wood. Here I paused for a moment to listen while I peered into the
impenetrable darkness ahead. But no sounds came to my ear save the hushed
whisper of the trees. Whatever movement there had been was now stilled,
and as I resumed my advance toward the wood I began to ask myself
uneasily what this strange and sudden stillness might portend. But I had
not gone more than a score of paces and was just entering the wood when
the question was answered. Quite suddenly, almost at my feet, I saw the
prostrate figure of a man.

Instantly I switched on my flashlight and as its beam fell on him it told
the substance of the tragic story in a single flash. He was the constable
whose whistle I had heard--it was still hanging loose at the end of its
chain. He was bareheaded and at the first glance I thought he was dead;
but when I knelt down by his side I saw that he was still breathing, and
I now noticed a small trickle of blood issuing from an invisible wound
above his ear. Very carefully I sought the wound by a light touch of my
finger and immediately became aware of a soft area of the scalp, which
further cautious and delicate palpation showed to be a depression of the
skull.

I felt his pulse--a typical brain-compression pulse--and examined his
eyes, but there was no doubt as to his condition. The dent in the skull
was compressing his brain and probably the compression was being
increased from moment to moment by internal bleeding. The question was,
what was to be done? I could do nothing for him here, but yet I could
hardly leave him to go in search of help. It was a horrible dilemma;
whatever could be done for him would need to be done quickly, and the
sands of his life were running out while I knelt helplessly at his side.

Suddenly I bethought me of his whistle. The sound of it had brought me to
the spot and it must surely bring others. Picking it up, I put it to my
lips and blew a loud and prolonged blast, and, after a few moments'
pause, another and yet another. The harsh, strident screech, breaking in
on the deathly stillness of the wood and setting the sleeping birds
astir, seemed to strike my overstrung nerves a palpable blow. It was
positive pain to me to raise that hideous din, but there was nothing else
to do. I must keep it up until it should be heard and should attract
someone to this remote and solitary place.

It took effect sooner than I had expected, for I was in the act of
raising the whistle once more to my lips when I heard sounds from within
the wood as of someone trampling through the undergrowth. I threw the
beam of my flashlight in that direction but took the precaution to stand
up until I should have seen who and what the newcomer might be. Almost
immediately there appeared a light from the wood which flashed out and
then disappeared as if a lantern were being carried among tree trunks.
Then it became continuous and was evidently turned full on me as the
newcomer ran out of the wood and advanced towards me. For a few moments I
was quite dazzled by the glare of his light, but as he came nearer, mine
lighted him up and I then saw that he was a police constable. Apparently
he had just observed the figure lying at my feet, for he suddenly
quickened his pace and arrived so much out of breath that, for a moment
or two, he was unable to speak, but stood with the light of his lantern
cast on his unconscious comrade, breathing hard and staring down at him
with amazement and horror.

"God save us!" he muttered at length. "What the devil has been happening?
Who blew that whistle?"

"I did," I replied, upon which he nodded, and then, once more throwing
his light on me, and casting a searching glance at me, demanded:

"And who are you, and how do you come to be here?"

I explained the position very briefly and added that it was urgently
necessary that the injured man should be got to the hospital as quickly
as possible.

"He isn't dead, then?" said he. "And you say you are a doctor? Can't you
do anything for him?"

"Not here," I answered. "He has got a deep depressed fracture of the
skull. If anything can be done, it will have to be done at the hospital;
and he will have to be moved very gently. We shall want an ambulance.
Could you go and fetch one? My bicycle is down by the gate."

He considered for a few moments. Apparently he was in somewhat of a
dilemma, for he replied:

"I oughtn't to go away from here with that devil probably lurking in the
wood. And you oughtn't to leave this poor chap. But there was another man
coming along close behind me. He should be here any minute if he hasn't
lost his way. Perhaps I'd better go back a bit and look for him."

He threw the beam from his lantern into the opening of the wood and was
just starting to retrace his steps when there sounded faintly from that
direction the voice of someone apparently hailing us:

"Is that you, Mr. Kempster?" the constable roared.

Apparently it was, though I could not make out the words of the reply,
for a minute or so later a man emerged from the wood and approached us at
a quick walk. But Mr. Kempster, like the constable, was a good deal the
worse for his exertions, and, for a time, was able only to stand panting,
with his hand to his side, while he gazed in consternation at the
prostrate form on the ground.

"Can you ride a bicycle, Mr. Kempster?" the constable asked.

Mr. Kempster managed to gasp out that he could, though he wasn't much of
a rider.

"Well," said the constable, "we want an ambulance to take this poor
fellow to the hospital. Could you take the doctor's bicycle and run along
to the police station and just tell them what has happened?"

"Where is the bicycle?" asked Kempster.

"It is leaning against the gate at the bottom of the cart track," I
replied, adding, "You can have my flashlight to find your way and I will
see you down the path to the place where it joins the track."

He agreed, not unwillingly, I thought, having no great liking for the
neighbourhood, so I handed him my flashlight and conducted him along the
path to its junction with the cart track, when I returned to the place
where the constable was kneeling by his comrade, examining him by the
light of his lantern.

"I can't make this out," said he as I came up. "He wasn't taken unawares.
There seems to have been a considerable scrap. His truncheon's gone. The
fellow must have managed to snatch it out of his hand, but I can't
imagine how that can have happened. It would take a pretty hefty customer
to get a constable's truncheon out of his fist, especially as that's just
what he'd be on his guard against."

"He seems to have been a powerful ruffian," said I, "judging by the
character of the injury. He must have struck a tremendous blow. The skull
is stove in like an egg-shell."

"Blighter!" muttered the constable. Then, after a pause, he asked:

"Do you think he is going to die, Doctor?"

"I am afraid his chances are not very good," I replied, "and the longer
we have to wait for that ambulance, the worse they will be."

"Well," he rejoined, "if Mr. Kempster hustles along, we shan't have very
long to wait. They won't waste any time at the station."

He stood up and swept the beam of his lantern around, first towards the
wood and then in the direction of the ricks. Suddenly he uttered an
indignant snort and exclaimed, angrily:

"Well, I'm damned! Here's Mr. Kempster coming back." He kept the light of
his lantern on the approaching figure, and as it came within range he
roared out: "What's the matter, sir? We thought you'd be half way there."

Mr. Kempster hurried up, breathing hard and looking decidedly resentful
of the constable's tone.

"There is no bicycle there," he said, sulkily. "Somebody must have made
off with it. I searched all about there but there was not a sign of it."

The constable cursed as a well trained constable ought not to curse.

"But that's put the lid on it," he concluded. "This murderous devil must
have seen you come up, Doctor, and as soon as you were out of sight, he
must have just got on your machine and cleared out. I suppose you had a
headlight."

"I had both head and rear light," I replied, "but I switched them both
off before I started up the cart track. But, of course, if he was
anywhere near--hiding behind one of those ricks, for instance--he would
have seen my lights when I came up to the gate."

"Yes," the constable agreed, gloomily, "it was a bit of luck for him. And
now he's got clean away; got away for good and all unless he has left
some sort of traces."

Mr. Kempster uttered a groan. "If he has slipped through your fingers,"
he exclaimed, indignantly, "there's about ten thousand pounds' worth of
my property gone with him. Do you realize that?"

"I do, now you've told me," replied the constable, adding
unsympathetically, "and it's bad luck for you; but still, you know, you
are better off than my poor mate here who was trying to get it back for
you. But we mustn't stop here talking. If the man has gone, there is no
use in my staying here. I'll just run back the way I came and report at
the station. You may as well wait here with the doctor until I come back
with the ambulance."

But Mr Kempster had had enough of the adventure.

"There is no use in my waking here," said he, handing me my flashlight.
"I'll walk back through the wood with you and then get along home and see
exactly what that scoundrel has taken."

The constable made no secret of his disapproval of this course, but he
did not actually put it into words. With a brief farewell to me, he
turned the light of his lantern on the entrance to the wood and set off
at a pace that kept his companion at a brisk trot. And as the light faded
among the trees and the sound of their footsteps died away in the
distance, I found myself once more alone with my patient, encompassed by
the darkness and wrapped in a silence which was broken only by an
occasional soft moan from the unconscious man.

It seemed to me that hours elapsed after the departure of the constable;
hours of weary expectation and anxiety. I possessed myself of my
patient's lantern and by its light examined him from time to time.
Naturally, there was no improvement; indeed, each time that I felt his
pulse it was with a faint surprise to find it still beating. I knew that,
actually, his condition must be getting worse with every minute that
passed, and it became more and more doubtful whether he would reach the
hospital alive.

Then my thoughts strayed towards my bicycle and the unknown robber. We
had taken it for granted that the latter had escaped on the machine, and
in all probability he had. Yet it was possible that the cycle might have
been stolen by some tramp or casual wayfarer and that the robber might be
still lurking in the neighbourhood. However, that possibility did not
disturb me, since he could have no object in attacking me. I was more
concerned about the loss of my bicycle.

From the robber, my reflections drifted to the robbed. Who and what was
Mr. Kempster? And what sort of property was it that the thief had made
off with? There are not many things worth ten thousand pounds which can
be carried away in the pocket. Probably the booty consisted of something
in the nature of jewelry. But I was not much interested. The value of
property, and especially of such trivial property as jewelry, counts for
little compared with that of a human life. My momentarily wandering
attention quickly came back to the man lying motionless at my feet, whose
life hung so unsteadily in the balance.

At last my seemingly interminable vigil came to an end. From the road
below came the distinctive clang of an ambulance bell, and lights winked
over the unseen hedgerow. Then the glare from a pair of powerful
headlamps came across the field, throwing up the ricks in sharp
silhouette, and telling me that the ambulance was passing in through the
gate. I watched the lights growing brighter from moment to moment; saw
them vanish behind the ricks and presently emerge as the vehicle advanced
up the cart track and at length turned on to the footpath.

It drew up eventually within a few paces of the spot where the injured
man was lying, and immediately there descended from it a number of men,
including a police inspector and the constable who had gone with
Kempster. The former greeted me civilly, and, looking down on his
subordinate with deep concern, asked me a few questions while a couple of
uniformed men brought out a stretcher and set it down by the patient. I
helped them to lift him on to the stretcher and to convey the latter to
its place in the ambulance. Then I got in, myself, and, while the vehicle
was being turned round, the inspector came to take a last look at the
patient.

"I am not coming back with you. Doctor," said he. "I have got a squad of
men with some powerful lights to search the wood."

"But," said I, "the man has almost certainly gone off on my bicycle."

"I know," said he. "But we are not looking for him. It's this poor
fellow's truncheon that I want. If the thief managed to snatch it away
from him, there are pretty certain to be finger-prints on it. At any
rate, I hope so, for it's our only chance of identifying the man."

With this, as the ambulance was now ready to start, he turned away; and
as we moved off towards the cart track, I saw him, with the constable and
three plain-clothes men advancing towards the wood which, by the combined
effects of all their lights, was illuminated almost to the brightness of
daylight.

Once out on the road, the smoothly-running ambulance made short work of
the distance to the hospital. But yet the journey had not been short
enough. For when the stretcher had been borne into the casualty room and
placed on the table, the first anxious glance showed that the
feebly-flickering light had gone out. In vain the visiting surgeon--who
had been summoned by telephone--felt the pulse and listened to the heart.
Poor Constable Murray--such, I learned, was his name--had taken his last
turn of duty.

"A bad business," said the surgeon, putting away his stethoscope and
passing his fingers lightly over the depression in the dead man's skull.
"But I doubt whether we could have done much for him even if he had come
in alive. It was a devil of a blow. The man was a fool to hit so hard,
for now he'll have to face a charge of wilful murder--that is, if they
catch him. I hope they will."

"I hope so, too," said I, "but I doubt whether they will. He seems to
have found my bicycle and gone off on it, and I gather that nobody saw
him near enough to recognize him."

"H'm," grunted the surgeon, "that's unfortunate; and bad luck for you,
too, though I expect you will get your cycle back. Meanwhile, can I give
you a lift in my car?"

I accepted the offer gladly, and, after a last look at the dead
constable, we went out together to return to our respective homes.



CHAPTER 2 - THE INQUIRY


It was on the fourth day after my adventure that I received the summons
to attend the inquest--which had been kept back to enable the police to
collect such evidence as was available--and in due course presented
myself at the little Town Hall in which the inquiry was to be held. The
preliminaries had already been disposed of when I arrived, but I was in
time to hear the coroner's opening address to the jury. It was quite
short, and amounted to little more than the announcement of his intention
to take the evidence in its chronological order; a very sensible
proceeding, as it seemed to me, whereby the history of the tragedy would
evolve naturally from the depositions of the witnesses. Of these, the
first was Mr. Arthur Kempster, who, by the coroner's direction, began
with a narrative of the events known to him.

"I am a diamond merchant, having business premises in Hatton Garden and a
private residence at The Hawthorns, Newingstead. On Friday, the 16th of
September, I returned from a trip to Holland and came direct from Harwich
to The Hawthorns. At Amsterdam I purchased a parcel of diamonds and I had
them in a paper packet in my inside waistcoat pocket when I arrived home,
which I did just about dinner time. After dinner, I went to my study to
examine the diamonds and to check their weight on the special scales
which I keep for that purpose. When I had finished weighing them and had
looked them over, one by one, I put away the scales and looked about for
the lens which I use to examine stones as to their cutting. But I
couldn't find the lens. Then I had a faint recollection of having used it
in the dining room, which adjoins the study, and I went to that room to
see if I might have left it there. And I had. I found it after a very
short search and went back with it to the study. But when I went to the
table on which I had put the diamonds, to my amazement I found that they
had vanished. As nobody could possibly have come into the study by the
door, I looked at the window; and then I saw that it was open, whereas it
had been shut when I went to the dining room.

"I immediately rushed out through the dining room to the front door, and
as I came out of it I saw a man walking quickly down the drive. He was
nearly at the end of it when I ran out, and, as soon as he heard me, he
darted round the corner and disappeared. I ran down the drive as fast as
I could go, and, when I came out into the road, I could see him some
distance ahead, running furiously in the direction of the country. I
followed him as fast as I could, but I could see that he was gaining on
me. Then, as I came to a side turning--Bascombe Avenue--I saw a policeman
approaching along it and quite near. So I hailed him and gave the alarm;
and when he ran up, I told him, very briefly, what had happened; and, as
the thief was still in sight, he ran off in pursuit. I followed as well
as I could, but I was already out of breath and couldn't nearly keep up
with him. But I saw the thief make off along the country road and get
over a gate nearly opposite Clay Wood; and the policeman, who seemed to
be gaining on the fugitive, also got over the gate, and I lost sight of
them both.

"It seemed to me that it was useless to try to follow them, so I turned
back towards the town to see if I could get any further assistance. Then,
on the main road, I met Police Constable Webb and told him what had
happened, and we started off together to the place where the thief had
disappeared. We got over the gate, crossed a field, and entered the wood.
But there we rather lost ourselves as we had missed the path. We heard a
police whistle sounding from the wood while we were crossing the field;
and we heard another shorter one just after we had entered. But we
couldn't make out clearly the direction the sounds had come from, and we
still couldn't find the path.

"Then, after a considerable time, we heard three long blasts of a whistle
and at the same moment we saw a glimmer of light; so we ran towards the
light--at least the constable did, for I was too blown to run any
farther--and at last I found the path and came out of the wood and saw
Dr. Oldfield standing by the deceased, who was lying on the ground.
Constable Webb suggested that I should take Dr. Oldfield's bicycle and
ride to the police station and the doctor gave me his flashlight to light
me down the cart track to the gate where he had left the bicycle. But
when I got to the gate, there was no sign of any bicycle, so I returned
and reported to the constable, who then decided to go, himself, to the
station, and we went back together through the wood. When we got back to
the field he ran on ahead and I went back to my house."

"When you went to the dining room," said the coroner, "how long were you
absent from the study?"

"About two minutes, I should say. Certainly not more than three."

"You say that the study window was closed when you went out of the room.
Was it fastened?"

"No. It was open at the top. I opened it when I came in after dinner as
it was a warm night and the room seemed rather close."

"Was the blind down?"

"There is no blind; only a pair of heavy curtains. They were drawn when I
came into the room, but I had to pull them apart to open the window and I
may not have drawn them close afterwards; in fact, I don't think I did."

"Do you think that anyone passing outside could have seen into the room?"

"Yes. The study is on the ground floor--perhaps a couple of feet above
the level of the ground--and the window sill would be about the height of
a man's shoulder, so that a man standing outside could easily look into
the room."

"Does the window face the drive?"

"No. It looks on the alley that leads to the back premises."

"You, apparently, did not hear the sound of the window sash being
raised?"

"No, but I shouldn't, in the dining room. The sash slides up easily and I
have all the sash pulleys of my windows kept oiled to prevent them from
squeaking."

"Were the diamonds in an accessible position?"

"Yes, quite. They were lying, all together, on a square of black velvet
on the table."

"Were they of any considerable value?"

"They were, indeed. The whole parcel would be worth about ten thousand
pounds. There were fifteen of them, and they were all very exceptional
stones."

"Would you be able to recognize them if they could be traced?"

"I could easily identify the complete parcel, and I think I could
identify the individual stones. I weighed each one separately and the
whole group together, and I made certain notes about them of which I have
given a copy to the police."

"Was anything taken besides the diamonds?"

"Nothing, not even the paper. The thief must have just grabbed up the
stones and put them loose in his pocket."

This completed Mr. Kempster's evidence. Some of the jury would have liked
more detailed particulars of the diamonds, but the coroner reminded them
gently that the inquiry was concerned, not with the robbery but with the
death of Constable Alfred Murray. As there were no other questions, the
depositions were read and signed and the witness was released.

Following the chronological sequence, I succeeded Mr. Kempster, and, like
him, opened my evidence with a narrative statement. But I need not repeat
this, or the examination that amplified it, as I have already told the
story of my connection with the case. Nor need I record Constable Webb's
evidence, which was mainly a repetition of Kempster's. When the constable
had retired, the name of Dr. James Tansley was called and the surgeon
whom I had met at the hospital came forward.

"You have made an examination of the body of deceased," said the coroner
when the preliminary questions had been answered. "Will you tell us what
conditions you found?"

"On external examination," the witness replied, "I found a deep
depression in the skull two and a quarter inches in diameter starting
from a point an inch and a half above the left ear, and a contused wound
an inch and three quarters in length. The wound and the depressed
fracture of the skull both appeared to have been produced by a heavy blow
from some blunt instrument. There was no sign of more than one blow. On
removing the cap of the skull I found that the inner table--that is, the
hard inner layer of the skull--had been shattered and portions of it
driven into the substance of the brain, causing severe lacerations. It
had also injured one or two arteries and completely divided one, with the
result that extensive bleeding had occurred between the skull and the
brain, and this would have produced great pressure on the surface of the
brain."

"What would you say was the cause of death?"

"The immediate cause of death was laceration and compression of the
brain, but, of course, the ultimate cause was the blow on the head which
produced those injuries."

"It is a mere formality, I suppose, to ask whether the injury could have
been self-inflicted?"

"Yes. It is quite impossible that the blow could have been struck by
deceased himself."

This was the substance of the doctor's evidence. When it was concluded
and the witness had been released, the name of Inspector Charles Roberts
was called, and that officer took his place by the table. Like the
preceding witnesses, he began, at the coroner's invitation, with a
general statement.

"On receiving Constable Webb's report, as the Chief Constable was absent,
I ordered the sergeant to get out the ambulance and I collected a search
party to go with it. When we arrived at the spot where the deceased was
lying, I saw him transferred to the ambulance under the doctor's
supervision, and when it had gone, I took my party into the wood. Each
member of the party was provided with a powerful flashlight, so that we
had a good light to work by.

"We saw no sign of anyone hiding in the wood, but near the path we found
deceased's helmet. It was uninjured and had probably been knocked off by
a branch of a tree. We searched especially for deceased's truncheon and
eventually found it quite near to the place where he had been lying. I
picked it up by the wrist strap at the end of the handle and carried it
in that way until we reached the station, when I examined it carefully
and could see that there were several finger-prints on it. I did not
attempt to develop the prints, but hung up the truncheon by its strap in
a cupboard, which I locked. On the following morning I delivered the key
of the cupboard to the Chief Constable when I made my report."

"Did you find any traces of the fugitive?"

"No. We went down to the gate and found marks there on the earth where
the bicycle had stood; and we could see where it had been wheeled off on
to the road. But we were unable to make out any visible tracks on the
road itself."

"Has the bicycle been traced since then?"

"Yes. Two days after the robbery it was found hidden in a cart shed near
the London Road, about three miles from Clay Wood, towards London. I went
over it carefully with developing powder to see if there were any
finger-prints on it, but, although there were plenty of finger-marks,
they were only smears and quite unidentifiable."

This was the sum of the inspector's evidence; and as there were no
questions, the officer was released and was succeeded by Chief Constable
Herbert Parker, who took up and continued the inspector's account of the
dead constable's truncheon.

"The key of the cupboard at the police station was delivered to me by
Inspector Roberts as he has deposed. I unlocked the cupboard and took out
the truncheon, which I examined in a good light with the aid of a
magnifying lens. I could see that there were, on the barrel of the
truncheon, several finger-prints; and by their position and grouping, I
judged that they had been made by the thief when he snatched the
truncheon out of deceased's hand. They were quite distinct on the
polished surface, but not sufficiently so to photograph without
development; and I did not attempt to develop them because I thought
that, having regard to their importance, it would be better to hand the
truncheon intact to the experts at Scotland Yard. Accordingly, I packed
the truncheon in such a way that the marked surfaces should be protected
from any contact and took it up to the finger-print department at
Scotland Yard, where I delivered it to the Chief Inspector, who examined
it and developed the fingerprints with a suitable powder.

"It was then seen that there were four decipherable prints, evidently
those of a left hand; one was a thumb-print and was perfectly clear, and
the others, of the first three fingers, though less perfect, were quite
recognizable. As soon as they had been developed, they were photographed;
and when the photographs were ready, they were handed to the expert
searchers who took them to the place where the collections are kept and
went through the files with them. The result of the search was to make it
certain that no such finger-prints were in any of the files; neither in
those of the main collection nor in those containing single
finger-prints."

"And what does that amount to?"

"It amounts to this: that, since these finger-prints are not in the
principal files--those containing the complete sets taken by prison
officers--it is certain that this man has never been convicted; and since
they are not in the single finger-print files, there is no evidence that
he has ever been connected with any crime. In short--so far as the
finger-prints are concerned--this man is not known to the police."

"That is very unfortunate," said the coroner. "It would seem as if there
were practically no chance of ever bringing the crime home to him."

"There is little," he began, "that I need say to you, members of the
jury. You have heard the evidence, and the evidence tells the whole sad
story. I do not suppose that you will have any doubt that the gallant
officer whose tragic and untimely death is the subject of this inquiry,
was killed by the runaway thief. But I have to point out to you that if
that is your decision, you are legally bound to find a verdict of wilful
murder against that unknown man. The law is quite clear on the subject.
If any person, while engaged in committing a felony, and in furtherance
of such felony, kills, or directly causes the death of any other person,
he is guilty of wilful murder, whether he did or did not intend to kill
that person.

"Now, there is no evidence that this fugitive desired or intended to kill
the constable. But he dealt him a blow which might have killed him and
which, in fact, did kill him; and the fugitive was at the time engaged in
committing a felony. Therefore, he is guilty of wilful murder. That is
all, I think, that I need say."

The jury had apparently already made up their minds on the subject, for
after but the briefest whispered consultation with them, the foreman
announced that they had agreed on their verdict.

"We find," he continued as the coroner took up his pen, "that deceased
was murdered in Clay Wood by the unknown man who entered Mr. Kempster's
house to commit a robbery."

The coroner nodded. "Yes," he said, "I am in entire agreement with you
and I shall record a verdict of wilful murder against that unknown man;
and I am sure you will concur with me in expressing our deepest sympathy
with the family of this gallant officer whose life was sacrificed in the
performance of a dangerous duty."

Thus, gloomily enough, ended the adventure that had brought me for the
first time into intimate contact with serious crime. At least, it
appeared to me that the adventure was at an end and that I had heard the
last of the tragedy and of the sinister, shadowy figure that must have
passed so near to me on the margin of the wood. It was a natural belief,
since I had played but a super's part in the drama and seemed to be
concerned with it no more, and since my connection with Newingstead and
its inhabitants would cease when my principal. Dr. Wilson, should return
from his holiday.

But it was, nevertheless, a mistaken belief, as will appear at a later
stage of this narrative.



CHAPTER 3 - PETER GANNET


A problem that has occasionally exercised my mind is that of the
deterioration of London streets. Why do they always deteriorate and never
improve? The change seems to be governed by some mysterious law.
Constantly we meet with streets, once fashionable but now squalid, whose
spacious houses have fallen from the estate of mansions, tenanted by the
rich and great, to that of mere tenements giving shelter to all grades of
the poverty-stricken, from the shabby genteel to the definitely
submerged; streets where the vanished coaches have given place to the
coster's barrow and the van of the yelling coal vendor. But never, in my
experience, does one encounter a street that has undergone a change in
the reverse direction; that has evolved from obscurity to fashion, from
the shabby to the modish.

The reflection is suggested to me by the neighbourhood in which I had
recently taken up my abode, on the expiration of my engagement at
Newingstead. Not that Osnaburgh Street, Marylebone, could fairly be
described as squalid. On the contrary, it is a highly respectable street.
Nevertheless, its tall, flat-faced houses with their spacious rooms and
dignified doorways are evidently survivors from a more opulent past, and
the whole neighbourhood shows traces of the curious subsidence that I
have referred to.

The occasion of my coming to Osnaburgh Street was the purchase by me of a
"death vacancy"; very properly so described, for there was no doubt of
the decease of my predecessor, and the fact of the vacancy became clearly
established as I sat, day after day, the undisturbed and solitary
occupant of the consulting room, incredulously turning over the pages of
the old ledgers and wondering whether the names inscribed therein might
perchance appertain to mythical persons, or whether those patients could,
with one accord, have followed the late incumbent to his destination in
Heaven or Gehenna.

Yet there were occasional calls or messages, at first from casual
strangers or newcomers to the district; but presently, by introduction
and recommendation, the vacancy grew into a visible "nucleus," which,
expanding by slow degrees, seemed to promise an actual practice in the
not too far distant future. The hours of solitary meditation in the
consulting room began more frequently to be shortened by welcome
interruptions, and my brisk, business-like walks through the streets to
have some purpose other than mere geographical exploration.

Principally my little practice grew, as I have said, by recommendation.
My patients seemed to like me and mentioned the fact to their friends;
and thus it was that I made the acquaintance of Peter Gannet. I remember
the occasion very clearly, though it seemed so insignificant at the time.
It was a gloomy December morning, some three months after my departure
from Newingstead, when I set forth on my "round" (of one patient), taking
a short cut to Jacob Street, Hampstead Road, through the by-streets
behind Cumberland Market and contrasting the drab little thoroughfares
with the pleasant lanes around Newingstead. Jacob Street was another
instance of the "law of decay" which I have mentioned. Now at the
undeniably shabby genteel stage, it had formerly been the chosen resort
of famous and distinguished artists. But its glory was not utterly
departed; for, as several of the houses had commodious studios attached
to them, the population still included a leavening of artists, though of
a more humble and unpretentious type. Mr. Jenkins, the husband of my
patient, was a monumental mason, and from the bedroom window I could see
him in the small yard below, chipping away at a rather florid marble
headstone.

The introduction came when I had finished my leisurely visit and was
about to depart.

"Before you go, Doctor," said Mrs. Jenkins, "I must give you a message
from my neighbour, Mrs. Gannet. She sent her maid in this morning to say
that her husband is not very well and that she would be glad if you would
just drop in and have a look at him. She knows that you are attending me
and they've got no doctor of their own. It's next door but one; Number
12."

I thanked her for the introduction, and, having wished her good morning,
let myself out of the house and proceeded to Number 12, approaching it
slowly to take a preliminary glance at the premises. The result of the
inspection was satisfactory as an index to the quality of my new patient,
for the house was in better repair than most of its neighbours and the
bright brass knocker and door-knob and the whitened door-step suggested a
household rather above the general Jacob Street level. At the side of the
house was a wide, two-leaved gate with a wicket, at which I glanced
inquisitively. It seemed to be the entrance to a yard or factory, adapted
to the passage of trucks or vans, but it clearly belonged to the house,
for a bell-pull on the jamb of the gate had underneath it a small brass
plate bearing the inscription, "P. Gannet."

In response to my knock, the door was opened by a lanky girl of about
eighteen with long legs, a short skirt, and something on her head which
resembled a pudding cloth. When I had revealed my identity, she conducted
me along a tiled hall to a door, which she opened, and having announced
me by name, washed her hands of me and retired down the kitchen stairs.

The occupant of the room, a woman, of about thirty-five, rose as I
entered and laid down some needlework on a side table.

"Am I addressing Mrs. Gannet?" I asked.

"Yes," she replied. "I am Mrs. Gannet. I suppose Mrs. Jenkins gave you my
message?"

"Yes. She tells me--which I am sorry to hear--that your husband is not
very well."

"He is not at all well," said she, "though I don't think it is anything
that matters very much, you know."

"I expect it matters to him," I suggested.

"I suppose it does," she agreed. "At any rate, he seems rather sorry for
himself. He is sitting up in his bedroom at present. Shall I show you the
way? I think he is rather anxious to see you."

I held the door open for her, and when she passed through, I followed her
up the stairs, rapidly sorting out my first impressions. Mrs. Gannet was
a rather tall, slender woman with light brown hair and slightly chilly
blue eyes. She was decidedly good-looking but yet I did not find her
prepossessing. Comely as her face undoubtedly was, it was not--at least
to me--a pleasant face. There was a tinge of petulance in its expression,
a faint suggestion of unamiability. And I did not like the tone in which
she had referred to her husband.

Her introduction of me was as laconic as that of her maid. She opened the
bedroom door and standing at the threshold, announced:

"Here's the doctor." Then, as I entered, she shut me in and departed.

"Well, Doctor," said the patient, "I'm glad to see you. Pull up a chair
to the fire and take off your overcoat."

I drew a chair up to the fire gladly enough, but I did not adopt the
other suggestion; for already I had learned by experience that the doctor
who takes off his overcoat is lost. Forthwith he becomes a visitor and
his difficulties in making his escape are multiplied indefinitely.

"So you are not feeling very well?" said I, by way of opening the
proceedings.

"I'm feeling devilish ill," he replied. "I don't suppose it's anything
serious, but it's deuced unpleasant. Little Mary in trouble, you know."

I didn't know, not having heard the expression before, and I looked at
him inquiringly, and probably rather vacantly.

"Little Mary," he repeated. "Tummy. Bellyache, to put it bluntly."

"Ha!" said I, with sudden comprehension. "You are suffering from
abdominal pain. Is it bad?"

"Is it ever good?" he demanded, with a sour grin.

"It certainly is never pleasant," I admitted. "But is the pain severe?"

"Sometimes," he replied. "It seems to come and go--Whoo!"

A change of facial expression indicated that, just now, it had come.
Accordingly, I suspended the conversation until conditions should be more
favourable, and, meanwhile, inspected my patient with sympathetic
interest. He was not as good-looking as his wife, and his appearance was
not improved by a rather deep scar which cut across his right eyebrow,
but he made a better impression than she; a strongly-built man, though
not large, so far as I could judge, seeing him sitting huddled in his
easy chair, of a medium complexion and decidedly lean. He wore his hair
rather long and had a well-shaped moustache and a Vandyke beard. Indeed,
his appearance in general was distinctly Vandykish, with his brown
velveteen jacket, his open, deep-pointed collar, and the loose bow with
drooping ends which served as a necktie. I also noted that his eyes
looked red and irritable like those of a long-sighted person who is in
need of spectacles.

"Phoo!" he exclaimed after a spell of silence. "That was a bit of a
twister, but it's better now. Going to have a lucid interval, I suppose."

Thereupon I resumed the conversation, which, however, I need not report
in detail. I had plenty of time and could afford to encourage him to
enlarge on his symptoms, the possible causes of his illness, and his
usual habits and mode of life. And as he talked, I looked about me,
bearing in mind the advice of my teacher, Dr. Thorndyke, to observe and
take note of a patient's surroundings as a possible guide to his
personality. In particular I inspected the mantelpiece which confronted
me and considered the objects on it in their possible bearings on my
patient's habits and life history.

They were rather curious objects; examples of pottery of a singularly
uncouth and barbaric type which I set down as the gleanings gathered in
the course of travel in distant lands among primitive and aboriginal
peoples. There were several bowls and jars, massive, rude and unshapely,
of a coarse material like primitive stoneware, and presiding over the
whole collection, a crudely modeled effigy of similar material,
apparently the artless representation of some forest deity, or, perhaps a
portrait of an aboriginal man. The childish crudity of execution carried
my thoughts to Darkest Africa or the Ethnographical galleries of the
British Museum, or to those sham primitive sculptures which have recently
appeared on some of the public buildings in London. I looked again at Mr.
Gannet and wondered whether his present trouble might be the aftermath of
some tropical illness contracted in the forests or jungles where he had
collected these strange and not very attractive curios.

Fortunately, however, I did not put my thoughts into words, but in
pursuance of another of Dr. Thorndyke's precepts to "let the patient do
most of the talking," listened attentively while Mr. Gannet poured out
the tale of his troubles. For, presently, he remarked, after a pause:

"And it isn't only the discomfort. It's such a confounded hindrance. I
want to get on with my work."

"By the way, what its your work?" I asked.

"I am a potter," he replied.

"A potter!" I repeated. "I didn't know that there were any pottery works
in London--except, of course, Doultons."

"I am not attached to any pottery works," said he. "I am an artist
potter, an individual worker. The pieces that I make are what is usually
called studio pottery. Those are some of my works on the mantelpiece."

In the vulgar phrase, you could have knocked me down with a feather. For
the moment I was bereft of speech and could only sit like a fool, gazing
round-eyed and agape at these amazing products of the potter's art, while
Gannet observed me gravely, and, I thought, with slight disfavour.

"Possibly," he remarked, "you find them a little over-simplified."

It was not the expression that I should have used, but I grasped at it
eagerly.

"I think I had that feeling at the first glance," I replied; "that and
the--er--the impression that perhaps--ha--in the matter of precision
and--er--symmetry--that is, to an entirely inexpert eye--er--"

"Exactly!" he interrupted. "Precision and symmetry are what the inexpert
eye looks for. But they are not what the artist seeks. Mechanical
accuracy he can leave to the ungifted toiler who tends a machine."

"I suppose that is so," I agreed. "And the--" I was about to say "image"
but hastily corrected the word to "statuette"--"that is your work, too?"

"The figurine," he corrected; "yes, that is my work. I was rather pleased
with it when I had it finished. And apparently I was justified, for it
was extremely well received. The art critics were quite enthusiastic, and
I sold two replicas of it for fifty guineas each."

"That was very satisfactory," said I. "It is a good thing to have
material reward as well as glory. Did you give it any descriptive title?"

"No," he replied. "I am not like those anecdote painters who must have a
title for their pictures. I just called it 'Figurine of a monkey.'"

"Of a--oh, yes. Of a monkey. Exactly!"

I stood up, the better to examine it and then discovered that its
posterior aspect bore something like a coil of garden hose, evidently
representing a tail. So it obviously was a monkey and not a woodland god.
The tail established the diagnosis; even as, in those sculptures that I
have mentioned, the absence of a tail demonstrates their human character.

"And I suppose," said I, "you always sign your works?"

"Certainly," he replied. "Each piece bears my signature and a serial
number; and, of course, the number of copies of a single piece is rigidly
limited. You will see the signature on the base."

With infinite care and tenderness, I lifted the precious figurine and
inverted it to examine the base, which I found to be covered with a thick
layer of opaque white glaze, rather out of character with the rough grey
body but excellent for displaying the signature. The latter was in thin
blue lines as if executed with a pen and consisted of something
resembling a bird, supported by the letters, "P.G." and underneath, "Op.
571 A."

"The goose is, I suppose," said I, "your sign manual or personal mark--it
is a goose, isn't it?"

"No," he replied, a little testily. "It's a gannet."

"Of course it is," I agreed, hastily. "How dull of me not to recognize
your rebus, though a gannet is not unlike a goose."

He admitted this, and watched me narrowly as I replaced the masterpiece
on the little square of cloth which protected it from contact with the
marble shelf. Then it occurred to me that perhaps I had stayed long
enough, and as I buttoned my overcoat, I reverted to professional matters
with a few parting remarks.

"Well, Mr. Gannet, you needn't be uneasy about yourself. I shall send you
some medicine which I think will soon put you right. But if you have much
pain, you had better try some hot fomentations or a hot water bottle--a
rubber one, of course; and you would probably be more comfortable lying
down."

"It's more comfortable sitting by the fire," he objected; and as it
appeared that he was the best judge of his own comfort, I said no more,
but having shaken hands, took my departure.

As I was descending the stairs, I met a man coming up; a big man who wore
a monocle and was carrying a glass jug. He stopped for a moment when he
came abreast, and explained:

"I am just taking the invalid some barley water. I suppose that is all
right? He asked for it."

"Certainly," I replied. "A most suitable drink for a sick person."

"I'll tell him so," said he, and with this we went our respective ways.

When I reached the hall, I found the dining room door open, and as Mrs.
Gannet was visible within, I entered to make my report and give a few
directions, to which she listened attentively though with no great
appearance of concern. But she promised to see that the patient should
take his medicine regularly, and to keep him supplied with hot water
bottles, "though," she added, "I don't expect that he will use them. He
is not a very tractable invalid."

"Well, Mrs. Gannet," said I, pulling on my gloves, "we must be patient.
Pain is apt to make people irritable. I shall hope to find him better
tomorrow. Good morning!"

At intervals during the day, my thoughts reverted to my new patient, but
not, I fear, in the way that they should have done. For it was not his
abdomen--which was my proper concern--that occupied my attention but his
queer pottery and above all, the unspeakable monkey. My reflections
oscillated between frank incredulity and an admission of the possibility
that these pseudo-barbaric works might possess some subtle quality that I
had failed to detect. Yet I was not without some qualifications for
forming a judgment, for mine was a distinctly artistic family, Both my
parents could draw, and my maternal uncle was a figure painter of some
position who, in addition to his pictures, executed small, unpretentious
sculptures in terra-cotta and bronze; and I had managed, when I was a
student, to spare an evening a week to attend a life class. So I, at
least, could draw, and knew what the human figure was like; and when I
compared my uncle's graceful, delicately-finished little statuettes with
Gannet's uncouth effigy, it seemed beyond belief that this latter could
have any artistic quality whatever.

Yet it doesn't do to be too cocksure. It is always possible that one may
be mistaken. But yet, again, it doesn't do to be too humble and
credulous; for the simple, credulous man is the natural prey of the quack
and the impostor. And the quack and the impostor flourish in our midst.
The post-war twentieth century seems to be the golden age of "bunk."

So my reflections went around and around and brought me to no positive
conclusion; and meanwhile, poor Peter Gannet's abdomen received less
attention than it deserved. I assumed that a dose or two of bismuth and
soda, with that fine old medicament, once so overrated and now rather
under-valued--Compound Tincture of Cardamoms--would relieve the colicky
pains and set the patient on the road to recovery; and having dispatched
the mixture, I dismissed the medical aspects of the case from my mind.

But the infallible mixture failed to produce the expected effect, for
when I called on the following morning, the patient's condition was
unchanged. Which was disappointing (especially to him) but not
disturbing. There was no suspicion of anything serious; no fever and no
physical signs suggestive of appendicitis or any other grave condition, I
was not anxious about him, nor was he anxious about himself, though
slightly outspoken on the subject of the infallible mixture, which I
promised to replace by something more effectual, repeating my
recommendations as to hot water bottles or fomentations.

The new treatment, however, proved no better than the old. At my third
visit I found my patient in bed, still complaining of pain and in a state
of deep depression. But even now, though the man looked definitely ill,
neither exhaustive questioning nor physical examination threw any light
either on the cause or the exact nature of his condition. Obviously, he
was suffering from severe gastro-intestinal catarrh. But why he was
suffering from it, and why no treatment gave him any relief, were
mysteries on which I pondered anxiously as I walked home from Jacob
Street, greatly out of conceit with myself and inclined to commiserate
the man who had the misfortune to be my patient.



CHAPTER 4 - DR. THORNDYKE TAKES A HAND


It was on the sixth day of my attendance on Mr. Gannet that my vague but
increasing anxiety suddenly became acute. As I sat down by the bedside
and looked at the drawn, haggard, red-eyed face that confronted me over
the bedclothes, I was seized by something approaching panic. And not
without reason. For the man was obviously ill--very ill--and was getting
worse from day to day; and I had to admit--and did admit to myself--that
I was completely in the dark as to what was really the matter with him.
My diagnosis of gastro-enteritis was, in effect, no diagnosis at all. It
was little more than a statement of the symptoms; and the utter failure
of the ordinary empirical treatment convinced me that there was some
essential element in the case which had completely eluded me.

It was highly disturbing. A young, newly established practitioner cannot
afford to make a hash of a case at the very outset of his career, as I
clearly realized, though to do myself justice, I must say that this was
not the consideration that was uppermost in my mind. What really troubled
me was the feeling that I had failed in my duty towards my patient and in
ordinary professional competence. My heart was wrung by the obvious
suffering of the quiet, uncomplaining man who looked to me so
pathetically for help and relief--and looked in vain. And then there was
the further, profoundly disquieting consideration that the man was now
very seriously ill and that if he did not improve, his condition would
presently become actually dangerous.

"Well, Mr. Gannet," I said, "we don't seem to be making much progress. I
am afraid you will have to remain in bed for the present."

"There's no question about that, Doctor," said he, "because I can't get
out, at least I can't stand properly if I do. My legs seem to have gone
on strike and there is something queer about my feet; sort of pins and
needles, and a dead kind of feeling, as if they had got a coat of varnish
over them."

"But," I exclaimed, concealing as well as I could my consternation at
this fresh complication, "you haven't mentioned this to me before."

"I hadn't noticed until yesterday," he replied, "though I have been
having cramps in my calves for some days. But the fact is that the pain
in my gizzard occupies my attention pretty completely. It may have been
coming on before I noticed it. What do you suppose it is?"

To this question I gave no direct answer. For I was not supposing at all.
To me the new symptoms conveyed nothing more than fresh and convincing
evidence that I was completely out of my depth. Nevertheless, I made a
careful examination which established the fact that there was an
appreciable loss of sensibility in the feet and some abnormal conditions
of the nerves of the legs. Why there should be I had not the foggiest
idea, nor did I make any great effort to unravel the mystery; for these
new developments brought to a definite decision a half-formed intention
that I had been harbouring for the last day or two.

I would seek the advice of some more experienced practitioner. That was
necessary as a matter of common honesty, to say nothing of humanity. But
I had hesitated to suggest a second opinion since that would not only
have involved the frank admission that I was graveled--an impolitic
proceeding in the case of a young doctor--but it would have put the
expense of the consultant's fee on the patient; whereas I felt that,
since the need for the consultation arose from my own incompetence, the
expense should fall upon me.

"What do you think, Doctor, of my going into a nursing home?" he asked,
as I resumed my seat by the bed.

I rather caught at the suggestion, for it seemed to make my plan easier
to carry out.

"There is something to be said for a nursing home," I replied. "You would
be able to have more constant and skilled attention."

"That is what I was thinking," said he; "and I shouldn't be such a damned
nuisance to my wife."

"Yes," I agreed, "there's something in that. I will think about your idea
and make a few inquiries; and I will look in again later in the day and
let you know the result."

With this I rose, and having shaken his hand, took my departure, closing
the door audibly and descending the stairs with a slightly heavy tread to
give notice of my approach to the hall. When I arrived there, however, I
found no sign of Mrs. Gannet and the dining room door was shut; and
glancing towards the hat-rack on which my hat was awaiting me, I noted
another hat upon an adjoining peg and surmised that it possibly accounted
for the lady's non-appearance. I had seen that hat before. It was a
somewhat dandified velour hat which I recognized as appertaining to a
certain Mr. Boles--the man whom I had met on the stairs at my first visit
and had seen once or twice since--a big, swaggering, rather good-looking
young man with a noisy, bullying manner and a tendency to undue
familiarity. I had disliked him at sight. I resented his familiarity, I
suspected his monocle of a merely ornamental function, and I viewed with
faint disapproval his relations with Mrs. Gannet--though, to be sure,
they were some sort of cousins, as I had understood from Gannet, and he
obviously knew all about their friendship.

So it was no affair of mine. But still, the presence of that hat gave me
pause. It is awkward to break in on a tete-a-tete. However, my difficulty
was solved by Boles himself, who opened the dining room door a short
distance, thrust out his head, and surveyed me through his monocle--or
perhaps with the less-obstructed eye.

"Thought I heard you sneaking down, Doc," said he. "How's the sufferer?
Aren't you coming in to give us the news?"

I should have liked to pull his nose. But a doctor must learn early to
control his temper--especially in the case of a man of Boles's size. As
he held the door open, I walked in and made my bow to Mrs. Gannet, who
returned my greeting without putting down her needlework. Then I
delivered my report, briefly and rather vaguely, and opened the subject
of the nursing home. Instantly, Boles began to raise objections.

"Why on earth should he go to a nursing home?" he demanded. "He is
comfortable enough here. And think of the expense."

"It was his own suggestion," said I, "and I don't think it a bad one."

"No," said Mrs. Gannet. "Not at all. He would get better attention there
than I can give him."


There followed something like a wrangle between the two, to which I
listened impassively, inwardly assessing their respective motives.
Obviously the lady favoured the prospect of getting the invalid off her
hands, while as to Boles, his opposition was due to mere contrariety; to
an instinctive impulse to object to anything that I might propose.

Of course, the lady had her way--and I had intended to have mine in any
case. So, when the argument had petered out, I took my leave with a
promise to return some time later to report progress.

As I turned away from the house, I rapidly considered the position. I had
no further visits to make, so for the present, my time was my own; and as
my immediate purpose was to seek the counsel of some more experienced
colleague, and as my hospital was the most likely place in which to
obtain such counsel, I steered a course for the nearest bus route by
which I could travel to its neighbourhood. There, having boarded the
appropriate omnibus, I was presently delivered at the end of the quiet
street in which St. Margaret's Hospital is situated.

It seemed but a few months since I had reluctantly shaken from my feet
the dust of that admirable institution and its pleasant, friendly medical
school, and now, as I turned into the familiar street, I looked about me
with a certain wistfulness as I recalled the years of interesting study
and companionship that I had spent here as I slowly evolved from a raw
freshman to a fully qualified practitioner. And as, approaching the
hospital, I observed a tall figure emerge from the gate and advance
towards me, the sight brought back to me one of the most engrossing
aspects of my life as a student. For the tall man was Dr. John Thorndyke,
a lecturer on Medical Jurisprudence, perhaps the most brilliant and the
most popular member of the teaching staff.

As we approached, Dr. Thorndyke greeted me with a genial smile and held
out his hand.

"I think," said he, "this is the first time we have met since you
fluttered out of the nest."

"We used to call it the incubator," I remarked.

"I think 'nest' sounds more dignified," he rejoined. "There is something
rather embryonic about an incubator. And how do you like general
practice?"

"Oh, well enough," I replied. "Of course, it isn't as thrilling as
hospital practice--though mine happens, at the moment, to be a bit more
full of thrills than I care for."

"That sounds as if you were having some unpleasant experiences."

"I am," said I. "The fact is that I am up a tree. That is why I am here.
I am going to the hospital to see if one of the older hands can give me
some sort of tip."

"Very wise of you, Oldfield," Thorndyke commented. '"Would it seem
impertinent if I were to ask what sort of tree it is that you are
marooned in?"

"Not at all, sir," I replied, warmly. "It is very kind of you to ask. My
difficulty is that I have got a rather serious case, and I am fairly
graveled in the matter of diagnosis. It seems to be a pretty acute case
of gastro-enteritis, but why the fellow should have got it and why none
of my treatment should make any impression on it, I can't imagine at
all."

Dr. Thorndyke's kindly interest in an old pupil seemed to sharpen into
one more definitely professional.

"The term 'gastro-enteritis,'" said he, "covers a good many different
conditions. Perhaps a detailed description of the symptoms would be a
better basis for discussion."

Thus encouraged, I plunged eagerly into a minute description of poor
Gannet's symptoms--the abdominal pain, the obstinate and distressing
nausea and physical and mental depression--with some account of my futile
efforts to relieve them; to all of which Dr. Thorndyke listened with
profound attention. When I had finished, he reflected for a few moments
and then asked:

"And that is all, is it? Nothing but the abdominal trouble? No neuritic
symptoms, for instance?"

"Yes, by Jove, there are!" I exclaimed. "I forgot to mention them. He has
severe cramps in his calves and there is quite distinct numbness of the
feet with loss of power in the legs; in fact, he is hardly able to stand,
at least so he tells me."

Dr. Thorndyke nodded, and after a short pause, asked:

"And as to the eyes--anything unusual about them?"

"Well," I replied, "they are rather red and watery, but he put that down
to reading in a bad light; and then he seems to have a slight cold in his
head."

"You haven't said anything about the secretions," Dr. Thorndyke remarked.
"I suppose you made all the routine tests?"

"Oh yes," I replied, "most carefully. But there was nothing in the least
abnormal; no albumen, no sugar, nothing out of the ordinary."

"I take it," said Thorndyke, "that it did not occur to you to try Marsh's
test?"

"Marsh's test!" I repeated, gazing at him in dismay. "Good Lord, no! The
idea never entered my thick head. And you think it may actually be a case
of arsenic poisoning?"

"It is certainly a possibility," he replied. "The complex of symptoms
that you have described is entirely consistent with arsenic poisoning,
and it doesn't appear to me to be consistent with anything else."

I was thunderstruck. But yet no sooner was the suggestion made than its
obviousness seemed to stare me in the face.

"Of course!" I exclaimed. "It is almost a typical case. And to think that
I never spotted it, after attending all your lectures, too! I am a fool.
I am not fit to hold a diploma."

"Nonsense, Oldfield," said Thorndyke, "you are not exceptional. The
general practitioner nearly always misses a case of poisoning. Quite
naturally. His daily experience is concerned with disease, and as the
effects of a poison simulate disease, he is almost inevitably misled. He
has, by habit, acquired an unconscious bias towards what we may call
normal illness; whereas an outsider, like myself, coming to the case with
an open mind, or even a bias towards the abnormal, is on the lookout for
suspicious symptoms. But we mustn't rush to conclusions. The first thing
is to establish the presence or absence of arsenic. That would be a good
deal easier if we had him in hospital, but I suppose there would be some
difficulty--"

"There would be no difficulty at all, sir," said I. "He has asked me to
arrange for him to go to a nursing home."

"Has he?" said Thorndyke. "That almost seems a little significant; I mean
that there is a slight suggestion of some suspicions on his own part. But
what would you like to do? Will you make the test yourself, and carry on,
or would you like me to come along with you and have a look at the
patient?"

"It would be an enormous relief to me if you would see him, sir," I
replied, "and it is awfully good of you to--"

"Not at all," said Thorndyke. "The question has to be settled, and
settled without delay. In a poisoning case, the time factor may be vital.
And if we should bring in a true bill, he should be got out of that house
at once. But you understand, Oldfield, that I come as your friend. My
visit has no financial implications."

I was disposed to protest, but he refused to discuss the matter, pointing
out that no second opinion had been asked for by the patient. "But," he
added, "we may want some reagents. I had better run back to the hospital
and get my research case, which I had left to be called for, and see that
it contains all that we are likely to need."

He turned and retraced his steps to the hospital where he entered the
gateway, leaving me to saunter up and down the forecourt. In a few
minutes he came out, carrying what looked like a small suitcase covered
with green Willesden canvas; as there happened to to be a disengaged taxi
at the main entrance, where it had just set down a passenger, Thorndyke
chartered it forthwith. When I had given the driver the necessary
directions, I followed my senior into the interior of the vehicle and
slammed the door.

During the journey Dr. Thorndyke put a few discreet questions respecting
the Gannet household, to which I returned correspondingly discreet
answers. Indeed, I knew very little about the three persons--or four,
including Boles--of whom it consisted and I did not think it proper to
eke out my slender knowledge with surmises. Accordingly I kept strictly
to the facts actually known to me, leaving him to make his own
inferences.

"Do you know who prepares Gannet's food?" he asked.

"To the best of my belief," I replied, "Mrs. Gannet does all the cooking.
The maid is only a girl. But I am pretty sure that Mrs. Gannet prepares
the invalid's food; in fact, she told me that she did. There isn't much
of it, as you may imagine."

"What is Gannet's business or profession?"

"I understand that he is a potter; an artist potter. He seems to
specialize in some sort of stoneware. There are one or two pieces of his
in the bedroom."

"And where does he work?"

"He has a studio at the back of the house; quite a big place, I believe,
though I haven't seen it. But it seems to be bigger than he needs, as he
lets Boles occupy part of it. I don't quite know what Boles does, but I
fancy it is something in the goldsmithing and enamelling line."

Here, as the taxi turned from Euston Road into Hampstead Road, Thorndyke
glanced out of the window and asked:

"Did I hear you mention Jacob Street to the driver?"

"Yes, that is where Gannet lives. Rather a seedy-looking street. You
don't know it, I suppose?"

"It happens that I do," he replied. "There are several studios in it,
relics of the days when it was a more fashionable neighbourhood. I knew
the occupant of one of the studios. But here we are, I think, at our
destination."

As the taxi drew up at the house, we got out and he paid the cabman while
I knocked at the door and rang the bell. Almost immediately the door was
opened by Mrs. Gannet herself, who looked at me with some surprise and
with still more at my companion. I hastened to anticipate questions by a
tactful explanation.

"I've had a bit of luck, Mrs. Gannet. I met Dr. Thorndyke, one of my
teachers at the hospital, and when I mentioned to him that I had a case
which was not progressing very satisfactorily, he very kindly offered to
come and see the patient and give me the benefit of his great experience."

"I hope we shall all benefit from Dr. Thorndyke's kindness," said Mrs.
Gannet, with a smile and a bow to Thorndyke, "and most of all my poor
husband. He has been a model of patience, but it has been a weary and
painful business for him. You know the way up to his room."

While we were speaking, the dining room door opened softly and
Boles's head appeared in the space, adorned with the inevitable eye-glass
through which he inspected Thorndyke critically and was not, himself,
entirely unobserved by the latter. But the mutual inspection was brief,
for I immediately led the way up the stairs and was closely followed by
my senior.

As we entered the sickroom after a perfunctory knock at the door, the
patient raised himself in bed and looked at us in evident surprise. But
he asked no question, merely turning to me interrogatively; whereupon I
proceeded at once concisely to explain the situation "It is very good of
Dr. Thorndyke," said Gannet, "and I am most grateful and pleased to see
him, for I don't seem to be making much progress. In fact, I seem to be
getting worse."

"You certainly don't look very flourishing," said Thorndyke, "and I see
that you haven't taken your arrowroot, or whatever it is."

"No," said Gannet, "I tried to take some, but I couldn't keep it down.
Even the barley water doesn't seem to agree with me, though I am parched
with thirst. Mr. Boles gave me a glassful when he brought it up with the
arrowroot but I've been uncomfortable ever since. Yet you'd think that
there couldn't be much harm in barley water."

While the patient was speaking, Thorndyke looked at him thoughtfully as
if appraising his general appearance, particularly observing the drawn,
anxious face and the red and watery eyes. Then he deposited his research
case on the table, and remarking that the latter was rather in the way,
carried it, with my assistance, away from the bedside over to the window,
and in place of it drew up a couple of chairs. Having fetched a writing
pad from the research case, he sat down, and without preamble, began a
detailed interrogation with reference to the symptoms and course of the
illness, writing down the answers in shorthand and noting all the dates.
The examination elicited the statement that there had been fluctuations
in the severity of the condition, a slight improvement being followed by
a sudden relapse. It also transpired that the relapses, on each occasion,
had occurred shortly after taking food or a considerable drink. "It
seems," Gannet concluded, dismally, "as if starvation was the only
possible way of avoiding pain."

I had heard all this before, but it was only now, when the significant
facts were assembled by Thorndyke's skilful interrogation, that I could
realize their unmistakable meaning. Thus set out they furnished a
typical picture of arsenic poisoning. And so with the brief but thorough
physical examination. The objective signs might have been taken from a
text-book case.

"Well, Doctor," said Gannet, as Thorndyke stood up and looked down at him
gravely, "what do you think of me?"

"I think," replied Thorndyke, "that you are very seriously ill and that
you require the kind of treatment and attention that you cannot possibly
get here. You ought to be in a hospital or a nursing home, and you ought
to be removed there without delay."

"I rather suspected that myself," said Gannet; "in fact, the doctor was
considering some such arrangement. I'm quite willing."

"Then," said Thorndyke, "if you agree, I can give you a private ward or a
cubicle at St. Margaret's Hospital; and as the matter is urgent, I
propose that we take you there at once. Could you bear the journey in a
cab?"

"Oh, yes," replied Gannet, with something almost like eagerness, "if
there is a chance of some relief at the end of it."

"I think we shall soon be able to make you more comfortable," said
Thorndyke. "But you had better just look him over, Oldfield, to make sure
that he is fit to travel."

As I got out my stethoscope to listen to the patient's heart, Thorndyke
walked over to the table, apparently to put away his writing pad. But
that was not his only purpose. For as I stooped over the patient with the
stethoscope at my ears, I could see him (though the patient could not)
carefully transferring some arrowroot from the bowl to a wide-mouthed
jar. When he had filled it and put in the rubber stopper, he filled
another jar from the jug of barley water and then quietly closed the
research case.

Now I understood why he had moved the table away from the bed to a
position in which it was out of the range of the patient's vision. Of
course, the specimens of food and drink could not have been taken in
Gannet's presence without an explanation, which we were not in the
position to give; for although neither of us had much doubt on the
subject, still, the actual presence of arsenic had yet to be proved.

"Well, Oldfield," said Thorndyke, "do you think he is strong enough to
make the journey?"

"Quite," I replied, "if he can put up with the discomfort of traveling in
a taxi."

As to this, Gannet was quite confident, being evidently keen on the
change of residence.

"Then," said Thorndyke, "perhaps you will run down and explain matters to
Mrs. Gannet; and it would be just as well to send out for a cab at once.
I suppose Madame is not likely to raise objections?"

"No," I replied. "She has already agreed to his going to a nursing home;
and if she finds our methods rather abrupt, I must make her understand
that the case is urgent."

The interview, however, went quite smoothly so far as the lady was
concerned, though Boles was disposed to be obstructive.

"Do you mean that you are going to cart him off to the hospital now?" he
demanded.

"That is what Dr. Thorndyke proposes," I replied.

"But why?" he protested. "You say that there is no question of an
operation. Then why is he being bustled off in this way?"

"I think," said I, "if you will excuse me, I had better see about that
cab," and I made a move towards the hall, whereupon Mrs. Gannet
intervened, a little impatiently.

"Now, don't waste time, Fred. Run along and get a taxi while I go up with
the doctor and make Peter ready for the journey."

On this, Boles rather sulkily swaggered out into the hall, and without a
word, snatched down the velour hat, jammed it on his head and departed on
his quest, slamming the street door after him. As the door closed, Mrs.
Gannet turned towards the staircase and began to ascend and I followed,
passing her on the landing to open the bedroom door.

When we entered the room, we found Thorndyke standing opposite the
mantelpiece, apparently inspecting the stoneware image; but he turned,
and bowing to the lady, suavely apologized for our rather hurried
proceedings.

"There is no need to send any clothes with him," said he, "as he will
have to remain in bed for the present. A warm dressing-gown and one or
two blankets or rugs will do for the journey."

"Yes," she replied. "Rugs, I think, will be more presentable than
blankets." Then turning to her husband, she asked: "Is there anything
that you will want to take with you, Peter?"

"Nothing but my attache case," he replied. "That contains all that I am
likely to want, excepting the book that I am reading. You might put that
in, too. It is on the small table."

When this had been done, Mrs. Gannet proceeded to make the few
preparations that were necessary while Thorndyke resumed his study of the
pottery on the mantelpiece. The patient was assisted to rise and sit on
the edge of the bed while he was inducted into a thick dressing gown,
warm woollen socks and a pair of bedroom slippers.

"I think we are all ready, now," said Mrs. Gannet. Then, as there seemed
to be a pause in the proceedings, she took the opportunity to address a
question to Thorndyke.

"Have you come to any conclusion," she asked, "as to what it is exactly
that my husband is suffering from?"

"I think," Thorndyke replied, "that we shall be able to be more definite
when we have had him under observation for a day or two."

The lady looked a little unsatisfied with this answer--which certainly
was rather evasive--as, indeed, the patient also seemed to note. But here
the conversation was interrupted, providentially, by the arrival of Boles
to announce that the cab was waiting.

"And now, old chap," said he, "the question is, how are we going to get
you down to it?"

That problem, however, presented no difficulty, for when the patient had
been wrapped in the rugs, Thorndyke and I carried him, by the approved
ambulance method, down the stairs and deposited him in the taxi, while
Boles and Mrs. Gannet brought up the rear of the procession, the latter
carrying the invaluable attache case. A more formidable problem was that
of finding room in the taxi for two additional large men; but we managed
to squeeze in, and amidst valedictory hand wavings from the two figures
on the doorstep, the cab started on its journey.

It seemed that Thorndyke must have given some instructions at the
hospital for our arrival appeared to be not unexpected. A wheeled chair
was quickly procured and in this the patient was trundled, under
Thorndyke's direction, through a maze of corridors to the little private
ward on the ground floor which had been allotted to him. Here we found a
nurse putting the finishing touches to its appointments, and presently
the sister from the adjacent ward came to superintend the establishment
of the new patient. We stayed only long enough to see Gannet comfortably
settled in bed, and then took leave of him; and in the corridor outside
we parted after a few words of explanation.

"I am just going across to the chemical laboratories," said Thorndyke,
"to hand Professor Woodfield a couple of samples for analysis. I shall
manage to see Gannet tomorrow morning, and I suppose you will look in on
him from time to time."

"Yes," I replied. "If I may, I will call and see him tomorrow."

"But of course you may," said he. "He is still your patient. If there is
anything to report--from Woodfield, I mean--I will leave a note for you
with Sister. And now I must be off."

We shook hands and went our respective ways; and as I looked back at the
tall figure striding away down the corridor, research case in hand, I
speculated on the report that Professor Woodfield would furnish on a
sample of arrowroot and another of barley water.



CHAPTER 5 - A TRUE BILL


Impelled by my anxiety to clear up the obscurities of the Gannet case, I
dispatched the only important visit on my list as early on the following
morning as I decently could and then hurried off to the hospital in the
hope that I might be in time to catch Thorndyke before he left. It turned
out that I had timed my visit fortunately, for as I passed in at the main
entrance, I saw his name on the attendance board and learned from the
hall porter that he had gone across to the school. Thither, accordingly,
I directed my steps, but as I was crossing the garden, I met him coming
from the direction of the laboratories and turned to walk back with him.

"Any news yet?" I asked.

"Yes," he replied. "I have just seen Woodfield and had his report. Of the
two samples of food that I gave him for analysis, one--some of the
arrowroot that you saw--contained no arsenic. The other--a specimen of
the barley water--contained three-quarters of a grain of arsenic in the
five fluid ounces of my sample. So, assuming that the jug held twenty
fluid ounces, it would have contained about three grains of arsenic--that
is, of arsenious acid."

"My word!" I exclaimed. "Why, that is a fatal dose, isn't it?"

"It is a possibly fatal dose," he replied. "A two grain dose has been
known to cause death, but the effects of arsenic are very erratic. Still,
we may fairly well say that if he had drunk the whole jugful, the chances
are that it would have killed him."

I shuddered to think of the narrow escape that he--and I--had had. Only
just in time had we--or rather Thorndyke--got him away from that house.

"Well," I said, "the detection of arsenic in the barley water settles any
doubts that we might have had. It establishes the fact of arsenic
poisoning."

"Not quite," Thorndyke dissented. "But we have established the fact by
clinical tests. Woodfield and the House Physician have ascertained the
presence of arsenic in the patient's body. The quantity was quite small;
smaller than I should have expected, judging by the symptoms. But arsenic
is eliminated pretty quickly; so we may infer that some days have elapsed
since the last considerable dose was taken."

"Yes," said I, "and you were just in time to save him from the next
considerable dose, which would probably have been the last. By the way,
what are our responsibilities in this affair? I mean, ought we to
communicate with the police?"

"No," he replied, very decidedly. "We have neither the duty nor the right
to meddle in a case such as this, where the patient is a responsible
adult in full control of his actions and his surroundings. Our duty is to
inform him of the facts which are known to us and to leave him to take
such measures as he may think fit."

That, in effect, is what we did when we had made the ordinary inquiries
as to the patient's condition--which, by the way, was markedly improved.

"Yes," Gannet said, cheerfully, "I am worlds better; and it isn't from
the effects of the medicine, because I haven't had any. I seem to be
recovering of my own accord. Queer, isn't it? Or perhaps it isn't. Have
you two gentlemen come to any conclusion as to what is really the matter
with me?"

"Yes," Thorndyke replied in a matter-of-fact tone. "We have ascertained
that your illness was due to arsenic poisoning."

Gannet sat up in bed and stared from one to the other of us with dropped
jaw and an expression of the utmost astonishment and horror.

"Arsenic poisoning!" he repeated, incredulously. "I can't believe it. Are
you sure that there isn't some mistake? It seems impossible."

"It usually does," Thorndyke replied, drily. "But there is no mistake. It
is just a matter of chemical analysis, which can be sworn to and proved,
if necessary, in a court of law. Arsenic has been recovered from your own
body and also from a sample of barley water that I brought away for
analysis."

"Oh!" said Gannet, "so it was in the barley water. I suppose you didn't
examine the arrowroot?"

"I brought away a sample of it," replied Thorndyke, "and it was examined,
but there was no arsenic in it."

"Ha!" said Gannet. "So it was the barley water. I thought there was
something wrong with that stuff. But arsenic! This is a regular facer!
What do you think I ought to do about it, Doctor?"

"It is difficult for us to advise you, Mr. Gannet," Thorndyke replied.
"We know no more than that you have been taking poisonous doses of
arsenic. As to the circumstances in which you came to take that poison,
you know more than we do. If any person knowingly administered that
poison to you, he, or she, committed a very serious crime; and if you
know who that person is, it would be proper for you to inform the
police."

"But I don't," said Gannet. "There are only three persons who could have
given me the arsenic, and I can't suspect any one of them. There is the
servant maid. She wouldn't have given it to me. If she had wanted to
poison anybody, it would have been her mistress. They don't get on very
well, whereas the girl and I are on quite amiable terms. Then there is my
wife. Well, of course, she is outside the picture altogether. And then
there is Mr. Boles. He often brought up my food and drink, so he had the
opportunity; but I couldn't entertain the idea of his having tried to
poison me. I would as soon suspect the doctor--who had a better
opportunity than any of them." He paused to grin at me, and then summed
up the position. "So, you see, there is nobody whom I could suspect, and
perhaps there isn't any poisoner at all. Isn't it possible that the stuff
might have got into my food by accident?"

"I wouldn't say that it is actually impossible," Thorndyke replied, "but
the improbability is so great that it is hardly worth considering."

"Well," said Gannet, "I don't feel like confiding in the police and
possibly stirring up trouble for an innocent party."

"In that," said Thorndyke, "I think you are right. If you know of no
reason for suspecting anybody, you have nothing to tell the police. But I
must impress on you, Mr. Gannet, the realities of your position. It is
practically certain that some person has tried to poison you, and you
will have to be very thoroughly on your guard against any further
attempts."

"But what can I do?" Gannet protested. "You agree that it is of no use to
go to the police and raise a scandal. But what else is there?"

"The first precaution that you should take," replied Thorndyke, "would be
to tell your wife all that you know, and advise her to pass on the
information to Mr. Boles--unless you prefer to tell him, yourself--and to
anyone else whom she thinks fit to inform. The fact that the poisoning
has been detected will be a strong deterrent against any further
attempts, and Mrs. Gannet will be on the alert to see that there are no
opportunities. Then you will be wise to take no food or drink in your own
house which is not shared by someone else; and, perhaps, as an extra
precaution, it might be as well to exchange your present maid for
another."

"Yes," Gannet agreed, with a grin, "there will be no difficulty about
that when my wife hears about the arsenic. She'll send the girl packing
at an hour's notice."

"Then," said Thorndyke, "I think we have said all that there is to say. I
am glad to see you looking so much better, and if you continue to improve
at the same rate, we shall be able to send you out in a few days to get
back to your pottery."

With this, he took leave of the patient, and I went out with him in case
he should have anything further to say to me; but it was not until we had
passed out at the main entrance and the porter had duly noted his
departure, that he broke the silence. Then, as we crossed the court-yard,
he asked:

"What did you make of Gannet's statement as to the possible suspects?"

"Not very much," I replied; "but I rather had the feeling that he was
holding something back."

"He didn't hold it back very far," Thorndyke commented, with a smile. "I
gathered that he viewed Mr. Boles with profound suspicion and that he was
not unwilling that we should share that suspicion. By the way, are you
keeping notes of this case?"

I had to admit that I had nothing beyond the entries in the Day Book.

"That won't do," said he. "You may not have heard the last of this case.
If there should, in the future, be any further developments, you ought
not to be dependent on your memory alone. I advise you to write out now,
while the facts are fresh, a detailed account of the case, with all the
dates and full particulars of the persons who were in any way connected
with the affair. I will send you a certified copy of Woodfield's
analysis, and I should be interested to see your memoranda of the case to
compare with my own notes."

"I don't suppose you will learn much from mine," said I.

"They will be bad notes if I don't," said he. "But the point is that if
anything should hereafter happen to Gannet--anything, I mean, involving
an inquest or a criminal charge--you and I would be called, or would
volunteer, as witnesses, and our evidence ought to agree. Hence the
desirability of comparing notes now when we can discuss any
disagreements."

Our conversation had brought us to the cross roads; and here, as our ways
led in opposite directions, we halted for a few final words and then
parted, Thorndyke pursuing his journey on foot and I waiting at the bus
stop for my omnibus.

During Gannet's stay in the hospital, I paid him one or two visits,
noting his steady improvement and copying into my notebook the entries on
his case sheet. But his recovery was quite uneventful, and after a few
days, I struck him off my visiting list, deciding to await his return
home to wind up the case.

But in the interval I became aware that he had, at least in one
particular, acted on Thorndyke's advice. The fact was conveyed to me by
Mrs. Gannet, who appeared one evening, in a very disturbed state, in my
consulting room. I guessed at once what her mission was, but there was
not much need for guessing as she came to the point at once.

"I have been to see Peter this afternoon," said she, "and he has given me
a most terrible shock. He told me--quite seriously--that his illness was
really not an illness at all, but that his condition was due to poison.
He says that somebody had been putting arsenic into his food, and he
quotes you and Dr. Thorndyke as his authorities for this statement. Is he
off his head or did you really tell him this story?"

"It is perfectly true, Mrs. Gannet," I replied.

"But it can't be," she protested. "It is perfectly monstrous. There is
nobody who could have had either the means or the motive. I prepared all
his food with my own hands and I took it up to him myself. The maid never
came near it--though I have sent her away all the same--and even if she
had had the opportunity, she had no reason for trying to poison Peter.
She was really quite a decent girl and she and he were on perfectly good
terms. But the whole thing is impossible--fantastic. Dr. Thorndyke must
have made some extraordinary mistake."

"I assure you, Mrs. Gannet," said I, "that no mistake has been made. It
is just a matter of chemical analysis. Arsenic is nasty stuff, but it has
one virtue; it can be identified easily and with certainty. When Dr.
Thorndyke saw your husband, he at once suspected arsenic poisoning, so he
took away with him two samples of the food--one of arrowroot and one of
barley water--for analysis.

"They were examined by an eminent analyst and he found in the barley water
quite a considerable quantity of arsenic--the whole jugful would have
contained enough to cause death. You see, there is no doubt. There was
the arsenic in the barley water. It was extracted and weighed, and the
exact amount is known; and the arsenic itself has been kept and can be
produced in evidence if necessary."

Mrs. Gannet was deeply impressed--indeed, for the moment, she appeared
quite overwhelmed, for she stood speechless, gazing at me in the utmost
consternation. At length she asked, almost in a whisper:

"And the arrowroot? I took that up to him, myself."

"There was no arsenic in the arrowroot," I replied; and it seemed to me
that she was a little relieved by my answer, though she still looked
scared and bewildered. I could judge what was passing in her mind, for I
realized that she remembered--as I did--who had carried the barley water
up to the sickroom. But whatever she thought, she said nothing, and the
interview presently came to an end after a few questions as to her
husband's prospects of complete recovery and an urgent request that I
should come and see him when he returned from the hospital.

That visit, however, proved unnecessary, for the first intimation that I
received of Gannet's discharge from the hospital was furnished by his
bodily presence in my wailing room. I had opened the communicating door
in response to the "ting" of the bell ("Please ring and enter") and
behold! there he was with velveteen jacket and Vandyke beard, all
complete. I looked at him with the momentary surprise that doctors and
nurses often experience on seeing a patient for the first time in his
ordinary habiliments and surroundings; contrasting this big, upstanding,
energetic-looking man with the miserable, shrunken wretch who used to
peer at me so pitifully from under the bedclothes.

"Come to report, sir," said he, with a mock naval salute, "and to let you
see what a fine job you and your colleagues have made of me."

I shook hands with him and ushered him through into the consulting room,
still pleasantly surprised at the completeness of his recovery.

"You didn't expect to see me looking so well," said he.

"No," I admitted. "I was afraid you would feel the effects for some
time."

"So was I," said he, "and in a sense I do. I am still aware that I have
got a stomach; but apart from that dyspeptic feeling, I am as well as I
ever was. I am eternally grateful to you and Dr. Thorndyke. You caught me
on the hop--just in time. Another few days and I suspect it would have
been a case of Hic jacet. But what a rum affair it was. I can make
nothing of it. Can you? Apparently, it couldn't have been an accident."

"No," I replied. "If the whole household had been poisoned, we might have
suspected an accident, but the continued poisoning of one person could
hardly have been accidental. We are forced to the conclusion that the
poison was administered knowingly and intentionally by some person."

"I suppose we are," he agreed, "But what person? It's a regular corker.
There are only three, and two of them are impossible. As to Boles, it is
a fact that he brought up that jug of barley water and he poured out half
a tumblerful and gave it me to drink. And he has brought me up barley
water on several other occasions. But I really can't suspect Boles. It
seems ridiculous."

"It is not for me to suggest any suspicions," said I. "But the facts that
you mention are rather striking. Are there any other facts? What about
your relations with Boles? There is nothing, I suppose, to suggest a
motive?"

"Not a motive for poisoning me," he replied. "It is a fact that Boles and
I are not as good friends as we used to be. We don't hit it off very well
nowadays, though we remain, in a sort of way, partners. But I suspect
that Boles would have cut it and gone off some time ago if it had not
been for my wife. She and he have always been the best of friends--they
are distant cousins of some kind--and I think they are quite attached to
each other. So Boles goes on working in my studio for the sake of keeping
in touch with her. At least, that is how I size things up."

It seemed to me that this was rather like an affirmative answer to my
question, and perhaps it appeared so to him. But it was a somewhat
delicate matter and neither of us pursued it any farther. Instead, I
changed the subject and asked:

"What do you propose to do about it?"

"I don't propose to do anything," he replied. "What could I do? Of
course, I shall keep my weather eyelid lifting, but I don't suppose
anything further will happen now that you and Dr. Thorndyke have let the
cat so thoroughly out of the bag. I shall just go on working in my studio
in the same old way, and I shall make no difference whatever in my
relations with Boles. No reason why I should as I really don't suspect
him."

"Your studio is somewhere at the back of the house, isn't it?" I asked.

"At the side," he replied, "across the yard. Come along one day and see
it," he added, cordially, "and I will unfold the whole art and mystery of
making pottery. Come whenever you like and as soon as you can. I think
you will find the show interesting."

As he issued this invitation (which I accepted gladly) he rose and picked
up his hat; and we walked out together to the street door and said
farewell on the door-step.



CHAPTER 6 - SHADOWS IN THE STUDIO


Peter Gannet's invitation to me to visit his studio and see him at work
was to develop consequences that I could not then have foreseen; nor
shall I hint at them now, since it is the purpose of this narrative to
trace the course of events in the order in which they occurred. I merely
mention the consequences to excuse the apparent triviality of this part
of my story.

At my first visit I was admitted by Mrs. Gannet, to whom I explained that
this was a friendly call and not a professional visit. Nevertheless, I
loitered awhile to hear her account of her husband and to give a few
words of advice. Then she conducted me along the hall to a side door
which opened on a paved yard, in which the only salient object was a
large galvanized dust-bin. Crossing this yard, we came to a door which
was furnished with a large, grotesque, bronze knocker and bore in dingy
white lettering the word "Studio."

Mrs. Gannet executed a characteristic rat-tat on the knocker, and without
waiting for an answer, opened the door and invited me to enter; I did,
and found myself in a dark space, the front of which was formed by a
heavy black curtain. As Mrs. Gannet had shut the door behind me, I was
plunged in complete obscurity, but groping at the curtain, I presently
drew its end aside and then stepped out into the light of the studio.

"Excuse my not getting up," said Gannet, who was seated at a large bench,
"and also not shaking hands. Reasons obvious," and in explanation he held
up a hand that was plastered with moist clay. "I am glad to see you,
Doctor," he continued, adding. "Get that stool from Boles's bench and set
it alongside mine."

I fetched the stool and placed it beside his at the bench, and having
seated myself, proceeded to make my observations. And very interesting
observations they were, for everything that met my eye--the place itself
and everything in it--was an occasion of surprise. The whole
establishment was on an unexpected scale. The studio, a great barn of a
place, evidently, by its immense north window, designed and built as
such, would have accommodated a sculptor specializing in colossal
statues. The kiln looked big enough for a small factory; and the various
accessories--a smaller kiln, a muffle furnace, a couple of grinding
mills, a large iron mortar with a heavy pestle, and some other
appliances--seemed out of proportion to what I supposed to be the actual
output.

But the most surprising object was the artist, himself, considered in
connection with his present occupation. Dressed correctly for the part in
an elegant gown or smock of blue linen, and wearing a black velvet skull
cap, "The Master" was, as I have said, seated at the bench, working at
the beginnings of a rather large bowl. I watched him for a while in
silent astonishment, for the method of work used by this "Master
Craftsman" was that which I had been accustomed to associate with the
Kindergarten. It was true that the latter had simply adopted, as suitable
for children, the methods of ancient and primitive people, but these
seemed hardly appropriate to a professional potter. However, such as the
method was, he seemed to be quite at home with it and to work neatly and
skilfully; and I was interested to note how little he appeared to be
incommoded by a stiff joint in the middle finger of the right hand.
Perhaps I might as well briefly describe the process.

On the large bench before him was a stout, square board, like a cook's
pastry board, and on this was a plaster "bat," or slab, the upper surface
of which had a dome-like projection (now hidden) to impart the necessary
hollow to the bottom of the bowl. This latter (I am now speaking from
subsequent experience) was made by coiling a roll, or cord, of clay into
a circular disc, somewhat like a Catharine-wheel, and then rubbing the
coils together with the finger to produce a flat plate. When the bottom
was finished and cut true, the sides of the bowl were built up in the
same way. At the side of the pastry board was an earthenware pan in which
was a quantity of the clay cord, looking rather like a coil of gas
tubing, and from this the artist picked out a length, laid it on top of
the completed part of the side, and, having carried it round the
circumference, pinched it off and then pressed it down lightly, and
rubbed and stroked it with his finger and a wooden modelling tool until it
was completely united to the part below.

"Why do you pinch it off?" I inquired. "Why not coil it up continuously?"

"Because," he explained, "if you built a bowl by just coiling the clay
cord round and round without a break, it would be higher one side than
the other. So I pinch it off when I have completed a circle; and you
notice that I begin the next tier in a different place, so that the joins
don't come over each other. If they did, there would be a mark right up
the side of the bowl."

"Yes," I agreed, "I see that, though it hadn't occurred to me. But do you
always work in this way?"

"With the clay coils?" said he. "No. This is the quick method and the
least trouble. But for more important pieces, to which I seek to impart
the more personal and emotional qualities and at the same time to express
the highest degree of plasticity, I dispense with the coil and work, as a
sculptor does, with simple pellets of clay."

"But," said I, "what about the wheel? I see you have one, and it looks
quite a high-class machine. Don't you throw any of your work on it?"

He looked at me solemnly, almost reproachfully, as he replied:

"Never. The machine I leave to the machinist; to the mass-producer and
the factory. I don't work for Woolworth's or the crockery shops. I am not
concerned with speed of production or quantity of output or mechanical
regularity of form. Those things appertain to trade. I, in my humble way,
am an artist; and though my work is but simple pottery, I strive to
infuse into it qualities that are spiritual, to make it express my own
soul and personality. The clay is to me, as it was to other and greater
masters of the medium--such as Della Robbia and Donatello--the instrument
of emotional utterance."

To this I had nothing to say. It would not have been polite to give
expression to my views, which were that his claims seemed to be
extravagantly disproportionate to his achievements. But I was profoundly
puzzled, and became more so as I watched him; for it appeared to me that
what he was doing was not beyond my own powers, at least with a little
practice, and I found myself half-unconsciously balancing the three
obvious possibilities but unable to reach a conclusion.

Could it be that Gannet was a mere impostor, a pretender to artistic
gifts that were purely fictitious? Or was he, like those mentally
unbalanced "modernists" who honestly believe their crude and childish
daubings to be great masterpieces, simply suffering from a delusion? Or
was it possible that his uncouth, barbaric bowls and jars did really
possess some subtle aesthetic qualities that I had failed to perceive
merely from a lack of the necessary special sensibility? Modesty
compelled me to admit the latter possibility. There are plenty of people
to whom the beauties of nature or art convey nothing, and it might be
that I was one of them.

My speculations were presently cut short by a thundering flourish on the
knocker, at which Gannet started with a muttered curse. Then the door
burst open and Mr. Frederick Boles swaggered into the studio, humming a
tune.

"I wish you wouldn't make that damned row when you come in, Boles,"
Gannet exclaimed, irritably.

He cast an angry glance at his partner, or tenant, to which the latter
responded with a provocative grin.

"Sorry, dear boy," said he. "I'm always forgetting the delicate state of
your nerves. And here's the doctor. How de do, Doc? Hope you find your
patient pretty well. Hm? None the worse for all that arsenic that they
tell me you put into his medicine? Ha ha!"

He bestowed on me an impudent stare through his eyeglass, removed the
latter to execute a solemn wink, and then replaced it; after which, as I
received his attentions quite impassively (though I should have liked to
kick him), he turned away and swaggered across to the part of the studio
which appeared to be his own domain, followed by a glance of deep dislike
from Gannet which fairly expressed my own sentiments.

Mr. Boles was not a prepossessing person. Nevertheless, I watched his
proceedings with some interest, being a little curious as to the kind of
industry that he carried on; and presently, smothering my distaste--for I
was determined not to quarrel with him--I strolled across to observe him
at close quarters. He was seated on a rough, box-like stool, similar to
the one which I had borrowed, at an ordinary jeweler's bench fitted with
a gas blowpipe and a tin tray in place of the usual sheep-skin. At the
moment he was engaged in cutting with an engraving tool a number of
shallow pits in a flattened gold object which might have been a sketchy
model of a plaice or turbot. I watched him for some time, a little
mystified as to the result aimed at, for the little pits seemed,
themselves, to have no determinate shape nor could I make out any plan in
their arrangement. At length I ventured on a cautious inquiry.

"Those little hollows, I suppose, form the pattern on this--er--object?"

"Don't call it an object. Doc," he protested. "It's a pendant, or it will
be when it is finished; and those hollows will form the pattern--or more
properly, the surface enrichment--when they are filled with enamel."

"Oh, they are to be filled with enamel," said I, "and the spots of enamel
will make the pattern. But I don't quite see what the pattern
represents."

"Represents!" he repeated, indignantly, fixing his monocle (which he did
not use while working) to emphasize the reproachful stare that he turned
on me. "It doesn't represent anything. I'm not a photographer. The enamel
spots will just form a symphony of harmonious, gem-like colour with a
golden accompaniment. You don't want representation on a jewel. That can
be left to the poster artist. What I aim at is harmony--rhythm--the
concords of abstract colour. Do you follow me?"

"I think I do," said I. It was an outrageous untruth, for his explanation
sounded like mere meaningless jargon. "But," I added, "probably I shall
understand better when I have seen the finished work."

"I can show you a finished piece of the same kind now," said he; and
laying down his work and the scorer, he went to the small cupboard in
which he kept his materials and produced from it a small brooch which he
placed in my hand and requested me to consider as "a study in
polychromatic harmony."

It was certainly a cheerful and pleasant-looking object but strangely
devoid of workmanship (though I noticed, on turning it over, that the pin
and catch seemed to be quite competently finished); a simple elliptical
tablet of gold covered with irregular-shaped spots of many-coloured
enamel distributed over the surface in apparently accidental groups. The
effect was as if drops of wax from a number of coloured candles had
fallen on it.

"You see," said Boles, "how each of these spots of colour harmonizes and
contrasts with all the others and reinforces them?"


"Yes, I see that," I replied, "but I don't see why you should not have
grouped the spots into some sort of pattern."

Boles shook his head. "No," said he, "that would never do. The intrusion
of form would have destroyed the natural rhythm of contrasting colour.
The two things must be kept separate. Gannet is concerned with abstract
form mainly uncomplicated with colour. My concern is with abstract colour
liberated from form."

I made shift to appear as if this explanation conveyed some meaning to me
and returned the brooch with a few appreciative comments. But I was
completely fogged; so much so that I presently took the opportunity to
steal away in order that I might turn matters over in my mind.

It was quite a curious problem. What was it that was really going on in
that studio? There was a singular air of unreality about the industries
that were carried on there. Gannet, with his archaic pottery, had been
difficult enough to accept as a genuine artist; but Boles was even more
incredible. And different as the two men were in all other respects, they
were strangely alike in their special activities. Both talked what
sounded like inflated, pretentious nonsense. Both assumed the airs of
artists and virtuosi. And yet each of them appeared to be occupied with
work which--to my eye--showed no sign of anything more than the simplest
technical skill, and nothing that I could recognize as artistic ability.

Yet I had to admit that the deficiency might be in my own powers of
perception. The curious phase of art known as "modernism" made me aware
of widespread taste for pictures and sculpture of a pseudo-barbaric or
primitive type; and the comments of the art critics on some of these
works were not so very unlike the stuff that I had heard from Boles and
Gannet. So perhaps these queer productions were actually what they
professed to be and I was just a Philistine who couldn't recognize a work
of art when I saw it.

But there was one practical question that rather puzzled me. What became
of these wares? Admittedly, neither of these men worked for the retail
shops. Then how did they dispose of their works, and who bought them?
Both men were provided with means and appliances on a quite considerable
scale and it was to be presumed that their output corresponded to the
means of production; moreover, both were apparently obtaining a
livelihood by their respective industries. Somewhere there must be a
demand for primitive pottery and barbaric jewelry. But where was it? I
decided--though it was none of my business--to make a few cautious
inquiries.

Another matter, of more legitimate interest to me, was that of the
relations of these two men. Ostensibly they were friends, comrades,
fellow-workers, and in a sense, partners. But real friends they certainly
were not. That had been frankly admitted by Gannet; and even if it had
not been, his dislike of Boles was manifest and hardly dissembled. And,
of course, it was natural enough if he suspected Boles of having tried to
poison him, to say nothing of the rather doubtful relations of that
gentleman with Mrs. Gannet. Indeed, I could not understand why, if he
harboured this suspicion--of which Thorndyke seemed to entertain no
doubt--he should have allowed the association to continue.

But if Gannet's sentiments towards Boles were unmistakable, the converse
was by no means true. Boles's manners were not agreeable. They were
coarse and vulgar--excepting when he was talking "high-brow"--and
inclined to be rude. But though he was a bounder he was not consciously
uncivil, and--so far as I could at present judge--he showed no signs of
unfriendliness towards Gannet. The dislike appeared to be all on the one
side.

Yet there must have been something more than met the eye. For if it was
the fact--and I felt convinced that it was--that Boles had made a
deliberate, cold-blooded attempt to poison Gannet, that attempt implied a
motive which, to put it mildly, could not have been a benevolent one.

These various problems combined to make the studio a focus of profound
interest to me, and as my practice at this period was productive
principally of leisure, I spent a good deal of my time there; more,
indeed, than I should have if Gannet had not made it so plain that my
visits were acceptable. Sometimes I wondered whether it was my society
that he enjoyed, or whether it might have been that my frequenting the
studio gave him some sort of feeling of security. It might easily have
been so, for, whenever I found him alone, I took the opportunity to
satisfy myself that all was well with him. At any rate, he seemed always
glad to see me, and for my part, I found the various activities of the
two workers interesting to watch, quite independently of the curious
problems arising out of their very odd relations.

By degrees my status changed from that of a mere spectator to something
like that of a co-worker. There were many odd jobs to be done requiring
no special skill and in these I was able to "lend a hand." For instance,
there was the preparation of the "grog"--why so-called I never learned,
for it was a most unconvivial material, being simply a powder made by
pounding the fragments of spoiled or defective earthenware or broken
saggars and used to temper the clay to prevent it from cracking in the
fire. The broken pots or saggars were pounded in a great iron mortar
until they were reduced to small fragments, when the latter were
transferred to the grog mill and ground to powder. Then the powder was
passed through a series of sieves, each marked with the number of meshes
to the inch, and the different grades of powder--coarse, medium and
fine--stored in their appropriate bins.

Then there was the plaster work. Both men used plaster, and I was very
glad to learn the technique of mixing, pouring and trimming.
Occasionally, Gannet would make a plaster mould of a successful bowl or
jar (much to my surprise, for it seemed totally opposed to his professed
principles) and "squeeze" one or two replicas; a process in which I
assisted until I became quite proficient. I helped Boles to fire his
queer-looking enamel plaques and to cast his uncouth gold ornaments and
took over some of the pickling and polishing operations. And then,
finally, there was the kiln, which interested me most of all. It was a
coal-fired kiln and required a great deal of attention both before and
during the firing. The preparation of the kiln Gannet attended to
himself, but I stood by and watched his methods; observed the way in
which he stacked the pieces, bedded in ground flint or bone-ash--he
mostly used bone-ash--in the "saggars" (fire-clay cases or covers to
protect the pieces from the flames) and at length closed the opening of
the kiln with slabs of fire-clay.

But when the actual firing began, we were all kept busy. Even Boles left
his work to help in feeding the fires, raking out the ashes and clearing
the hearths, leaving Gannet free to control the draught and modify the
fire to the required intensity. I was never able to observe the entire
process from start to finish, for even at this time my practice called
for some attention; but I was present on one occasion at the opening of
the kiln--forty-eight hours after the lighting of the fires--and noted
the care with which Gannet tested the temperature of the pieces before
bringing them out into the cool air.

One day when I was watching him as he built up a wide-mouthed jar from a
rough drawing--an extraordinarily rough drawing, very unskilfully
executed, as I thought--which lay on the bench beside him, he made a new
suggestion.

"Why shouldn't you try your hand at a bit of pottery, Doctor?" said he.
"Just a simple piece. The actual building isn't difficult and you've seen
how I do it. Get some of the stoneware body out of the bin and see what
sort of job you can make of it."

I was not very enthusiastic about built pottery, for recently I had
purchased a little treatise on the potter's art and had been particularly
thrilled by the directions for "throwing" on the wheel. I mentioned the
fact to Gannet, but he gave me no encouragement. For some reason he
seemed to have an invincible prejudice against the potter's wheel.

"It's all right for commercial purposes," said he, "for speed and
quantity. But there's no soul in the mechanical stuff. Building is the
artist's method; the skilled hand translating thought directly into
form."

I did not contest the matter. With a regretful glance at the wheel,
standing idle in its corner, I fetched a supply of the mixed clay from
the bin and proceeded to roll it into cords on the board that was kept
for the purpose. But it occurred to me as an odd circumstance that,
hating the wheel as he appeared to, he should have provided himself with
one.

"I didn't buy the thing," he explained, when I propounded the question.
"I took over this studio as a going concern from the executors of the
previous tenant. He was a more or less commercial potter and his outfit
suited his work. It doesn't suit mine. I don't want the wheel or that big
mixing mill and I would sooner have had a smaller, gas-fired kiln. But
the place was in going order and I got it dirt cheap with the outfit
included, so I took it as it was and made the best of it."

My first attempt, a simple bowl, was no great success, being distinctly
unsymmetrical and lopsided. But Gannet seemed to think quite well of
it--apparently for these very qualities--and even offered to fire it.
However, it did not satisfy me, and eventually I crumpled it up and
returned it to the clay-bin, whence, after re-moistening, it emerged to
be rolled out into fresh coils of cord. For I was now definitely embarked
on the industry. The work had proved more interesting than I had
expected, and as usually happens in the case of any art, the interest
increased as the difficulties began to be understood and technical skill
developed and grew.

"That's right, Doctor," said Gannet. "Keep it up and go on trying; and
remember that the studio is yours whenever you like to use it, whether I
am here or not." (As a matter of fact, he frequently was not, for both he
and Boles took a good many days off, and rather oddly, I thought, their
absences often coincided.) "And you needn't trouble to come in through
the house. There is a spare key of the wicket which you may as well have.
I'll give it to you now."

He took a couple of keys from his pocket and handed me one, whereby I
became, in a sense, a joint tenant of the studio. It was an insignificant
circumstance, and yet, as so often happens, it developed unforeseen
consequences, one of which was a little adventure for the triviality of
which I offer no apology since it, in its turn, had further consequences
not entirely irrelevant to this history.

It happened that on the very first occasion on which I made use of the
key, I found the studio vacant, and the condition of the benches
suggested that both my fellow tenants were taking a day off. On the bench
that I used was a half-finished pot, covered with damp cloths. I removed
these and fetched a fresh supply of moist clay from the bin with the
intention of going on with the work, when the wheel happened to catch my
eye; instantly I was assailed by a great temptation. Here was an ideal
opportunity to satisfy my ambition; to try my prentice hand with this
delightful toy, which, to me, embodied the real romance of the potter's
art.

I went over to the wheel and looked at it hungrily. I gave it a tentative
spin and tried working the treadle, and finding it rather stiff, fetched
Boles's oil can and applied a drop of oil to the pivots. Then I drew up a
stool and took a few minutes' practice with the treadle until I was able
to keep up a steady rotation. It seemed quite easy to me, as I was
accustomed to riding a bicycle, and I was so far encouraged that I
decided to try my skill as a thrower. Placing a basin of water beside the
wheel, I brought the supply of clay from the bench, and working it into
the form of a large dumpling, slapped it down on the damped hardwood
disc, and having wetted my hands, started the rotation with a vigorous
spin.

The start was not a perfect success, as I failed to centre the clay ball
correctly and put on too much speed, with the result that the clay flew
off and hit me in the stomach. However, I collected it from my lap,
replaced it on the wheel-head, and made a fresh start with more care and
caution. It was not so easy as it had appeared. Attending to the clay, I
was apt to forget the treadle, and then the wheel stopped; and when I
concentrated on the treadle, strange things happened to the clay. Still,
by degrees, I got the "hang" of the process, recalling the instructions
in my handbook and trying to practice the methods therein prescribed.

It was a fascinating game. There was something almost magical in the
behaviour of the revolving clay. It seemed, almost of its own accord, to
assume the most unexpected shapes. A light pressure of the wet hands and
it rose into the form of a column, a cylinder or a cone. A gentle touch
from above turned it miraculously into a ball; and a little pressure of
the thumbs on the middle of the ball hollowed it out and transformed it
into a bowl. It was wonderful and most delightful. And all the
transformations had the charm of unexpectedness. The shapes that came
were not designed by me; they simply came of themselves, and an
inadvertent touch instantly changed them into something different and
equally surprising.

For more than an hour I continued, with ecstatic pleasure and growing
facility, to play this incomparable game. By that time, however, signs of
bodily fatigue began to make themselves felt, for it was a pretty
strenuous occupation, and it occurred to me that I had better get
something done. I had just made a shallow bowl (or, rather, it had made
itself), and as I took it gently between my hands, it rose, narrowed
itself, and assumed the form of a squat jar with slightly in-turned
mouth. I looked at it with pleased surprise. It was really quite an
elegant shape and it seemed a pity to spoil it by any further
manipulation. I decided to let well alone and treat it as a finished
piece.

When I took my foot off the treadle and let the wheel run down, some new
features came into view. The jar at rest was rather different from the
jar spinning. Its surface was scored all over with spiral traces of "the
potter's thumb," which stamped it glaringly as a thrown piece. This would
not quite answer my purpose, which was to practice a playful fraud on
Peter Gannet by foisting the jar on him as a built piece. The telltale
spirals would have to be eliminated and other deceptive markings
substituted.

Accordingly, I attacked it cautiously with a modelling tool and a piece of
damp sponge, stroking it lightly in vertical lines and keeping an eye on
one of Gannet's own jars, until all traces of the wheel had been
obliterated and the jar might fairly have passed for a hand-built piece.
Of course, a glance at the inside, which I did not dare to touch, would
have discovered the fraud, but I took the chance that the interior would
not be examined.

The next problem was the decoration. Gannet's usual method--following the
tradition of primitive and barbaric ornament--was either to impress an
encircling cord into the soft clay or to execute simple thumb-nail
patterns. He did not actually use his thumb-nail for this purpose. A bone
mustard-spoon produced the same effect and was more convenient.
Accordingly I adopted the mustard-spoon, with which I carried a sort of
rude guilloche round the jar, varied by symmetrically placed dents, made
with the end of my clinical thermometer. Finally, becoming ambitious for
something more distinctive, I produced my latch-key, and, having made a
few experiments on a piece of waste clay, found it quite admirable as a
unit of pattern, especially if combined with the thermometer. A circle of
key impressions radiating from a central thermometer dent produced a
simple but interesting rosette which could be further developed by a
circle of dents between the key-marks. It was really quite effective, and
I was so pleased with it that I proceeded to enrich my masterpiece with
four such rosettes, placing them as symmetrically as I could (not that
the symmetry would matter to Gannet) on the bulging sides below the
thumb-nail ornaments.

When I had finished the decoration and tidied it up with the modelling
tool I stood back and looked at my work, not only with satisfaction but
with some surprise. For, rough and crude as it was, it appeared to my
possibly indulgent eye quite a pleasant little pot; and comparing it with
the row of Gannet's works which were drying on the shelf, I asked myself
once again what could be the alleged subtle qualities imparted by the
hand of the master?

Having made a vacancy on the shelf by moving one of Gannet's pieces from
the middle to the end, I embarked on the perilous task of detaching my
jar from the wheel-head. The instrument that I employed was a thin wire
with a wooden handle at each end, which we used for cutting slices of
clay; a dangerous tool, for a false stroke would have cut the bottom off
my jar. But Providence, which--sometimes--watches over the activities of
the tyro, guided my hand, and at last the wire emerged safely, leaving
the jar free of the surface to which it had been stuck. With infinite
care and tenderness--for it was still quite soft--I lifted it with both
hands and carried it across to the shelf, where I deposited it safely in
the vacant space. Then I cleaned up the wheel, obliterating all traces of
my unlawful proceedings, threw my half-finished built piece back into the
clay-bin, and departed, chuckling over the surprise that awaited Gannet
when he should come to inspect the pieces that were drying on the shelf.

As events turned out, my very mild joke fell quite flat, so far as I was
concerned, for I missed the denouement. A sudden outbreak of measles at a
local school kept me so busy that my visits to the studio had to be
suspended for a time, and when at last I was able to make an afternoon
call, the circumstances were such as to occupy my attention in a more
serious and less agreeable manner. As this episode was later to develop a
special significance, I shall venture to describe it in some detail.

On this occasion, I did not let myself in, as usual, by the wicket, for
at the end of Jacob Street I overtook Mrs. Gannet and we walked together
to the house, which I entered with her. It seemed that she had some
question to ask her husband, and when I had opened the side door, she
came out to walk with me across the yard to the studio. Suddenly, as we
drew near to the latter, I became aware of a singular uproar within; a
clattering and banging, as if the furniture were being thrust about and
stools overturned, mingled with the sound of obviously angry voices. Mrs.
Gannet stopped abruptly and clutched my arm.

"Oh, dear," she exclaimed, "there are those two men quarreling again. It
is dreadful. I do wish Mr. Boles would move to another workshop. If they
can't agree, why don't they separate?"

"They don't hit it off very well, then?" I suggested, listening
attentively and conscious of a somewhat unfortunate expression--for they
seemed to be hitting it off rather too well.

"No," she replied, "especially since--you know. Peter thinks Mr. Boles
gave him the stuff, which is ridiculous, and Mr. Boles--I think I won't
go in now," and with this she turned about and retreated to the house,
leaving me standing near the studio door, doubtful whether I had better
enter boldly or follow the lady's discreet example and leave the two men
to settle their business.

It was very embarrassing. If I went in, I could not pretend to be unaware
of the disturbance. On the other hand, I did not like to retreat when my
intervention might be desirable. Thus I stood hesitating between
considerations of delicacy and expediency until a furious shout in
Boles's voice settled the question.

"You're asking for it, you know!" he roared; whereupon, flinging delicacy
to the winds, I rapped on the door with my knuckles and entered. I had
opened the door deliberately and rather noisily and I now stood for a few
moments in the dark lobby behind the curtain while I closed it after me
in the same deliberate manner to give time for any necessary adjustments.
Sounds of quick movement from within suggested that these were being
made, and when I drew aside the curtain and stepped in, the two men were
on opposite sides of  the studio. Gannet was in the act of buttoning a
very crumpled collar and Boles was standing by his bench, on which lay a
raising hammer that had a suspicious appearance of having been hastily
put down there. Both men were obviously agitated: Boles, purple-faced,
wild-eyed and furiously angry; Gannet, breathless, pale and venomous.

I greeted them in a matter-of-fact tone as if I had noticed nothing
unusual, and went on to excuse and explain the suspension of my visits.
But it was a poor pretense, for there were the overturned stools and
there was Boles, scowling savagely and still trembling visibly, and there
was that formidable-looking hammer the appearance of which suggested that
I had entered only just in time.

Gannet was the first to recover himself, though even Boles managed to
growl out a sulky greeting, and when I had picked up a fallen stool and
seated myself on it, I made shift to keep up some sort of conversation
and to try to bring matters back to a normal footing. I glanced at the
shelf, but it was empty. Apparently the pieces that I had left drying on
it had been fired and disposed of. What had happened to my jar, I could
not guess and did not very much care. Obviously, the existing
circumstances did not lend themselves to any playful interchanges between
Gannet and me, nor did they seem to lend themselves to anything else; and
I should have made an excuse to steal away but for my unwillingness to
leave the two men together in their present moods.

I did not, however, stay very long; no longer, in fact, than seemed
desirable. Presently, Boles, after some restless and apparently aimless
rummaging in his cupboard, shut it, locked its door, and with a sulky
farewell to me, took his departure; and as I had no wish to discuss the
quarrel and Gannet seemed to be in a not very sociable mood, I took an
early opportunity to bring my visit to an end.

It had been a highly disagreeable episode, and it had a permanent effect
on me. Thenceforward, the studio ceased to attract me. Its pleasant,
friendly atmosphere seemed to have evaporated. I continued to look in
from time to time, but rather to keep an eye on Gannet, than to interest
myself in the works of the two artists. Like Mrs. Gannet, I wondered why
these two men, hating each other as they obviously did, should perversely
continue their association. At any rate, the place was spoiled for me by
the atmosphere of hatred and strife that seemed to pervade it, and even
if the abundance of my leisure had continued--which it did not--I should
still have been but an occasional visitor.



CHAPTER 7 - MRS. GANNET BRINGS STRANGE TIDINGS


The wisdom of our ancestors has enriched us with the precept that the
locking of the stable door fails in its purpose of security if it is
postponed until after the horse has been stolen. Nevertheless (since it
is so much easier to be wise after the event than before) this futile
form of post-caution continues to be prevalent; of which truth my own
proceedings furnished an illustrative instance. For having allowed my
patient to be poisoned with arsenic under my very nose, and that, too, in
the crudest and most blatant fashion, I now proceeded to devote my
leisure to an intense study of Medical Jurisprudence and Toxicology.

Mine, however, was not a truly representative case. The actual horse had
indeed been stolen, but still the stable contained a whole stud of
potential horses. I might, and probably should, never encounter another
case of poisoning in the practice of a life-time. On the other hand, I
might meet with one tomorrow; or if not a poisoning case, perhaps some
other form of crime which lay within the province of the medical jurist.
There seemed to be plenty of them, judging by the lurid accounts of the
authorities whose works I devoured, and I began almost to hope that my
labours in their study would not be entirely wasted.

It was natural that my constant preoccupation with the detection and
demonstration of crime should react more or less on my habitual state of
mind. And it did. Gradually I acquired a definitely Scotland Yardish
outlook and went about my practice--not neglectful, I trust, of the
ordinary maladies of my patients--with the idea of criminal
possibilities, if not consciously present, yet lurking on the very top
surface of the subconscious. Little did my innocent patients or their
equally innocent attendants suspect the toxicological balance in which
symptoms and ministrations alike were being weighed; and little did the
worthy Peter Gannet guess that, even while he was demonstrating the
mysteries of stoneware, my perverted mind was canvassing the
potentialities of the various glazes that he used for indirect and secret
poisoning.

I mention these mental reactions to my late experience and my recent
profound study of legal medicine in explanation of subsequent events. And
I make no apology. The state of mind may seem odd, but yet it was very
natural. I had been caught napping once and I didn't intend to be caught
again; and that involved these elaborate precautions against
possibilities whose probability was almost negligible.

It happened on a certain evening that in the intervals of my evening
consultations, my thoughts turned to my friend, Peter Gannet. It was now
some weeks since I had seen him, my practice having of late made a
temporary spurt and left me little leisure. I had also been acting as
locum tenens for the Police Surgeon, who was on leave; this further
diminished my leisure and possibly accentuated the state of mind that I
have described. Nevertheless, I was a little disposed to reproach myself,
for, solitary man as he was, he had made it clear that he was always
pleased to see me. Indeed, it had seemed to me that I was the only friend
that he had, for certainly Boles could not be regarded in that light; and
if the quarrel between them had given me a distaste for the studio, that
very occurrence did, in fact, emphasize those obligations of friendship
which had led me at first visit to the studio.

I had then felt that it was my duty to keep an eye on him, since some
person had certainly tried to poison him. That person had some reason for
desiring his death and had no scruple about seeking to compass it; and as
the motive, presumably, still existed, there was no denying that, calmly
as he had taken the position, Peter Gannet stood definitely in peril of a
further and more successful attempt--to say nothing of the chance of his
being knocked on the head with a raising hammer in the course of one of
his little disagreements with Boles. I ought not to have left him so long
without at least a brief visit of inspection.

Thus reflecting, I decided to walk round to the studio as soon as the
consultations were finished and satisfy myself that all was well; and as
the time ran on and no further patients appeared, my eye turned
impatiently to the clock, the hands of which were creeping towards eight,
when I should be free to go. There were now only three minutes to run and
the clock had just given the preliminary hiccup by which clocks announce
their intention to strike, when I heard the door of the adjoining waiting
room open and close, informing me that a last minute patient had arrived.

It was very provoking; but after all it was what I was there for. So
dismissing Gannet from my mind, I rose, opened the communicating door and
looked into the waiting room.

The visitor was Mrs. Gannet and at the first glance at her my heart sank.
For her troubled, almost terrified, expression told me that something was
seriously amiss; and my imagination began instantly to frame lurid
surmises.

"What is the matter, Mrs. Gannet?" I asked, as I ushered her through into
the consulting room. "You look very troubled."

"I am very troubled," she replied. "A most extraordinary and alarming
thing has happened. My husband has disappeared."


"Disappeared!" I repeated in astonishment. "Since when?"

"That I can't tell you," she answered. "I have been away from home for
about a fortnight, and when I came back I found the house empty. I didn't
think much of it at the time, as I had said, when I wrote to him, that I
was not certain as to what time I should get home, and I simply thought
that he had gone out. But then I found my letter in the letter box, which
seemed very strange, as it must have been lying there two days. So I went
up and had another look at his bedroom, but everything was in order
there. His bed had not been slept in--it was quite tidily made--and his
toilet things and hair brushes were in their usual place. Then I looked
over his wardrobe, but none of his clothes seemed to be missing excepting
the suit that he usually wears. And then I went down to the hall to see
if he had taken his stick or his umbrella, but he hadn't taken either.
They were both there; and what was more remarkable, both his hats were on
their pegs."

"Do you mean to say," I exclaimed, "that there was no hat missing at
all?"

"No. He has only two hats, and they were both there. So it seems as if he
must have gone away without a hat."

"That is very extraordinary," said I. "But surely your maid knows how
long he has been absent."

"There isn't any maid," she replied. "Our last girl, Mabel, was under
notice and she left a week before I went away; and, as there was no time
to get a fresh maid, Peter and I agreed to put it off until I came back.
He said that he could look after himself quite well and get his meals out
if necessary. There are several good restaurants near.

"Well, I waited all yesterday in hopes of his return and I sat up until
nearly one in the morning, but he never came home, and there has been no
sign of him today."

"You looked in at the studio, I suppose?" said I.

"No, I didn't," she replied almost in a whisper. "That is why I have come
to you. I couldn't summon up courage to go there."

"Why not?" I asked.

"I was afraid," she answered in the same low, agitated tone, "that there
might be something--something there that--well, I don't quite know what I
thought, but you know--"

"Yes, I understand," said I, rising--for the clock had struck and I was
free. "But that studio ought to be entered at once. Your husband may have
had some sudden attack or seizure and be lying there helpless."

I went out into the hall and wrote down on the slate the address where I
was to be found if any emergency should arise. Then Mrs. Gannet and I set
forth together, taking the short cuts through the back streets, with
which I was now becoming quite familiar. We walked along at a quick pace,
exchanging hardly a word, and as we went, I cogitated on the strange and
disquieting news that she had brought. There was no denying that things
had a decidedly sinister aspect. That Gannet should have gone away from
home hatless and unprovided with any of his ordinary kit, and leaving no
note or message, was inconceivable. Something must have happened to him.
But what? My own expectation was that I should find his dead body in the
studio, and that was evidently Mrs. Gannet's, too, as was suggested by
her terror at the idea of seeking him there. But that terror seemed to me
a little unnatural. Why was she so afraid to go into the studio, even
with the expectation of finding her husband dead? Could it be that she
had some knowledge or suspicion that she had not disclosed? It seemed not
unlikely. Even if she had not been a party to the poisoning, she must
have known, or at least strongly suspected who the poisoner was; and it
was most probable that she had been able to guess at the motive of the
crime. But she would then realize, as I did, that the motive remained and
might induce another crime.

When we reached the house, I tried the wicket in the studio gate, but it
was locked, and the key which Gannet had given me was not in my pocket.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Gannet had opened the street door with her latch-key and
we entered the house together.

"Are you coming into the studio with me?" I asked, as we went through the
hall to the side door that opened on the yard.

"No," she replied. "I will come with you to the door and wait outside
until you have seen whether he is there or not."

Accordingly, we walked together across the yard, and when we came to the
studio door, I tried it. But it was locked; and an inspection by means of
my flashlight showed that it had been locked from the inside and that the
key was in the lock.

"Now," said I, "what are we to do? How are we going to get in?"

"There is a spare key," she replied. "Shall I go and get it?"

"But," I objected, "we couldn't get it into the lock. There is a key
there already. And the wicket is locked, too. Have you got a spare key of
that?"

She had, so we returned to the house, where she found the key and gave it
to me. And as I took it from her trembling hand, I could see--though she
made no comment--that the locked door with the key inside had given her a
further shock. And certainly it was rather ominous. But if the wicket
should prove also to be locked from the inside, all hope or doubt would
be at an end. It was, therefore, with the most acute anxiety that I
hurried out into the street, leaving her standing in the hall, and ran to
the wicket. But to my relief, the key entered freely and turned in the
lock and I opened the little gate and stepped through into the studio.
Lighting myself across the floor with my flashlight I reached the switch
and turned it on, flooding the place with light. A single glance around
the studio showed that there was no one in it, alive or dead. Thereupon,
I unlocked the yard door and threw it open, when I perceived Mrs. Gannet
standing outside.

"Well, he isn't here," I reported, whereupon she came, almost on tiptoe,
into the lobby and peered round the curtain.

"Oh dear!" she exclaimed, "what a relief! But still, where can he be? I
can't help thinking that something must have happened to him."

As I could not pretend to disagree with her, I made no reply to this, but
asked: "I suppose you have searched the house thoroughly?"

"I think so," she replied, "and I don't feel as if I could search any
more. 'But if you would be so kind as to take a look round and make sure
that I haven't overlooked anything--"

"Yes," said I, "I think that would be just as well. But what are you
going to do tonight? You oughtn't to be in the house all alone."

"I couldn't be," she replied. "Last night was dreadful, but now my nerves
are all on edge. I couldn't endure another night. I shall go to my
friend, Miss Hughes--she lives in Mornington Crescent--and see if she
will come and keep me company."

"It would be better if she would put you up for the night," said I.

"Yes, it would," she agreed. "Much better. I would rather not stay in
this house tonight. As soon as you have made your inspection, I will run
round and ask her."

"You needn't wait for me," said I. "Go round to her at once, as it is
getting late. Give me the number of her house and I will call on my way
home and tell you whether I have discovered any clue to the mystery."

She closed with this offer immediately, being, evidently, relieved to get
away from the silent, desolate house. I walked back with her across the
yard, and when I had escorted her to the street door and seen her start
on her mission, I closed the door and went back into the house, not
displeased to have the place to myself and the opportunity to pursue my
investigations at my leisure and free from observation.

I made a very thorough examination, beginning with the attics at the very
top of the house and working my way systematically downwards. On the
upper floors there were several unoccupied rooms, some quite empty and
others more or less filled with discarded furniture and miscellaneous
lumber. All these I searched minutely, opening up every possible--and
even impossible--hiding-place, and peering, with the aid of my pocket
flashlight, into the dim and musty recesses of the shapeless closets in
the corners of the roof or under the staircases. In the occupied bedrooms
I knelt down to look under the beds, I opened the cupboards and wardrobes
and prodded the clothes that hung from the pegs to make sure that they
concealed no other hanging object. I even examined the chimneys with my
lamp and explored their cavities with my walking-stick, gathering a
little harvest of soot up my sleeves but achieving no other result and
making no discoveries, excepting that, when I came to examine Gannet's
bedroom, I noticed that the pots and pans and the effigy of the monkey
had disappeared from the mantelpiece.

It was an eerie business and seemed to become more so (by a sort of
autosuggestion) as I explored one room after another. By the time I had
examined the great stone-paved kitchen and the rather malodorous scullery
and searched the cavernous, slug-haunted cellars, even probing the mounds
of coal with my stick, I had worked myself up into a state of the most
horrid expectancy.

But still there was no sign of Peter Gannet. The natural conclusion
seemed to be that he was not there. But this was a conclusion that my
state of mind made me unable to accept. His wife's statement set forth
that he had disappeared in his ordinary indoor apparel, in which it was
hardly imaginable that he could have gone away from the house. But if he
had not, then he must be somewhere on the premises. Thus I argued, with
more conviction than logic, as I ascended the uncarpeted basement stairs,
noting the surprisingly loud sound that my footsteps made as they broke
in on the pervading silence.

As I passed into the hall, I paused at the hat-stand to verify Mrs.
Gannet's statement. There were the two hats, sure enough; a shabby,
broad-brimmed, soft felt which I knew well by sight, and a rather trim
billycock which I had never seen him wear, but which bore his initials in
the crown, as I ascertained by taking it down and inspecting it. And
there was his stick, a rough oak crook, and his umbrella with a legible
P. G. on the silver band. There was also another stick which I had never
seen before and which struck me as being rather out of character with the
Bohemian Gannet; a smart, polished cane with a gilt band and a gilt tip
to the handle. I took it out of the stand, and as it seemed to me rather
long, I lifted out the oak stick and compared the two, when I found that
the cane was the longer by a full inch. There was nothing much in this,
and as the band bore no initials, I was putting it back in the stand when
my eye caught a minute monogram on the gilt tip. It was a confused
device, as monograms usually are, but eventually I managed to resolve it
into the two letters F. and B.

Then it was pretty certain that the stick belonged to Frederick Boles.
From which it followed that Boles had been to the house recently. But
there was nothing abnormal in this, since he worked pretty regularly in
the studio and usually approached it through the house. But why had he
left his stick? And why had Mrs. Gannet made no mention of it, or,
indeed, of Boles himself? For if he had been working here, he must have
known when Gannet was last seen, for unless he had a latch-key, he must
have been admitted by Gannet himself. Turning this over in my mind, I
decided, before leaving the house, to take another look at the studio. It
had certainly been empty when I had looked in previously, and there were
no large cupboards or other possible hiding places. Still there was the
chance that a more thorough examination might throw some light on
Gannet's activities and on the question as to the time of his
disappearance. Accordingly, I passed out by the side door, and crossing
the yard, opened the studio door, switched on the lights, drew aside the
curtain and stepped in.



CHAPTER 8 - DR. OLDFIELD MAKES SURPRISING DISCOVERIES


On entering the studio, I halted close by the curtain and stood awhile
surveying the vast, desolate, forbidding interior with no definite idea
in my mind. Obviously, there was no one there, dead or alive, nor any
closed space large enough to form a hiding place. And yet as I stood
there, the creepy feeling that had been growing on me as I had searched
the house seemed to become even more intense. It may have been that the
deathly silence and stillness of the place, which I had known only under
the cheerful influence of work and companionship, cast a chill over me.

At any rate, there I stood, vaguely looking about me with a growing
uncomfortable feeling that this great, bare room which had been the scene
of Gannet's labours and the centre of his interests, had been in some way
connected with his unaccountable disappearance.

Presently my vague, general survey gave place to a more detailed
inspection. I began to observe the various objects in the studio and to
note what they had to tell of Gannet's recent activities. There was the
potter's wheel, carefully cleaned--though never used--according to his
invariable orderly practice, and there was a row of "green" unfired jars
drying on a shelf until they should be ready for the kiln. But when I
looked at the kiln itself, I was struck by something quite unusual,
having regard to Gannet's habitual tidiness. The fire-holes which led
into the interior of the kiln were all choked with ash; and opposite to
each was a large mound of the ash which had been raked out during the
firing and left on the hearths. Now, this was singularly unlike Gannet's
practice. Usually, as he raked out the ash, he shovelled it up into a
bucket and carried it out to the ash-bin in the yard; and as soon as the
fires were out, he cleared each of the fireplaces of the remaining ash,
leaving them clean and ready for the next firing.

Here, then, was something definitely abnormal. But there was a further
discrepancy. The size of the mounds made it clear that there had been a
rather prolonged firing and a "high fire." But where were the fired
pieces? The shelves on which the pots were usually stored after firing
were all empty and there was not a sign of any pottery other than the
unfired jars. The unavoidable conclusion was that the "batch" must be
still in the kiln. But if this were so, then Gannet's disappearance must
have coincided with the end of the firing. But that seemed entirely to
exclude the idea of a voluntary disappearance. It was inconceivable that
he should have gone away leaving the fires still burning and the kiln
unopened.

However, there was no need to speculate. The question could be settled at
once by opening the kiln if it was sufficiently cool to handle.
Accordingly, I walked over to it and cautiously touched the outside brick
casing, which I found to be little more than lukewarm, and then I boldly
unlatched and pulled open the big iron, fire-clay lined door, bringing
into view the loose fire-bricks which actually closed the opening. As
these, too, were only moderately warm, I proceeded to lift them out, one
by one, which I was able to do the more easily since they had been only
roughly fitted together.

It was not really necessary for me to take them all out, for, as soon as
the upper tier was removed, I was able to throw the beam of my flashlight
into the interior. And when I did so, I discovered, to my astonishment,
that the kiln was empty.

The mystery, then, remained. Indeed, it grew more profound. For not only
was the problem as to what had become of the fired pottery still
unsolved, but there was the remarkable fact that the kiln must have been
opened while it was still quite hot; a thing that Gannet would never have
done, since a draught of cold air on the hot pottery would probably
result in a disaster. And when I took away the rest of the fire-bricks
and the interior of the kiln was fully exposed to view, another anomaly
presented itself. The floor of the kiln, which during the firing would be
covered with burnt flint or bone-ash, was perfectly clean. It had been
carefully and thoroughly swept out, and this while the kiln was hot and
while the fire-holes remained choked with ash.

As to the missing pottery, there was one possibility, though an unlikely
one. It might have been treated with glaze and put into the glost oven.
But it had not, for when I opened the oven and looked in, I found it
empty and showing no sign of recent use.

It was all very strange; and the strangeness of it did nothing to allay
my suspicion that the studio held the secret of Gannet's disappearance. I
prowled round with uneasy inquisitiveness, scrutinizing all the various
objects in search of some hint or leading fact. I examined the grog mill
and noted that something white had been recently ground in it, and
apparently ground dry, to judge by the coating of fine powder on the
floor around it. I looked into the big iron mortar and noted that some
white material had been pounded in it. I examined the rows of cupels on
the shelves by Boles's little muffle, noted that they were badly made and
of unusually coarse material, and wondered when Boles had made them. I
even looked into the muffle--finding nothing, of course--and observing
that the floor of the studio seemed to have been washed recently,
speculated on the possible reason for this very unusual proceeding.

But speculation got me no more forward. Obviously, there was something
abnormal about the kiln. There had been a prolonged and intense fire, but
of the fired ware there was not a trace. What conceivable explanation
could there be of such an extraordinary conflict of facts? The
possibility occurred to me that the whole batch might have been disposed
of by a single transaction or sent to an exhibition. But a moment's
reflection showed me that this would not do. There had not been time for
the batch to be cooled, finished, glazed and refired, for the kiln was
still quite warm inside.

The rough, box-like stool that Gannet had made to sit on at the bench was
standing near the kiln. I slipped my hand through the lifting hole and
drew the stool up to the open door in order more conveniently to examine
the interior. But the examination yielded nothing. I threw the beam of
light from my flashlight into every corner, but it simply confirmed my
original observation. The kiln was empty, and no trace of its late
contents remained beyond the few obscure white smears that the brush had
left on the fire-clay floor.

I sat there for some minutes facing the open door and reflecting
profoundly on this extraordinary problem. But I could make nothing of it,
and at length, I started up to renew my explorations. For it had suddenly
occurred to me that I had forgotten to examine the contents of the bins.
But as I rose and turned round, I noticed a small white object on the
floor which had evidently been covered by the stool before I had moved
it. I stooped and picked it up, and at the first glance at it all my
vague and formless suspicions seemed to run together into a horrible
certainty.

The little object was the ungual phalanx, or terminal joint, of a
finger--apparently a forefinger--burned to the snowy whiteness
characteristic of incinerated bone. It was unmistakable. For if I lacked
experience in some professional matters, at least my osteology was fresh;
and as the instant recognition flashed on me, I stood as if rooted to the
ground, staring at the little relic with a shuddering realization of all
that it meant.

The mystery of the absent pottery was solved. There had never been any
pottery. That long and fierce fire had burned to destroy the evidence of
a hideous crime. And the other mysteries, too, were solved. Now I could
guess what the white substance was that had been ground in the grog mill;
how it came that the hastily-made cupels were of such abnormally coarse
material; and why it had been necessary to wash the studio floor. All the
anomalies now fell into a horrid agreement and each served to confirm and
explain the others.

I laid the little fragile bone tenderly on the stool and proceeded to
re-examine the place by the light of this new and dreadful fact. First I
went to the shelves by Boles's muffle and looked over the cupels, taking
them in my hand the better to examine them. Their nature was now quite
obvious. Instead of the finely powdered bone-ash of which they were
ordinarily composed, they had been made by cramming fragments of crushed,
incinerated bone into the cupel press; and the cohesion of these was so
slight that one of the cupels fell to pieces in my hand.

Laying the loose fragments on the shelf, I turned away to examine the
bins, of which there was a row standing against the wall. I began
with the clay-bins, containing the material for the various
"bodies"--stoneware, earthenware and porcelain. But when I lifted the
lids, I saw that they contained clay and could contain nothing else. The
grog-bins were nearly empty and showed nothing abnormal, and the same
was true of the plaster-bin, though I took the precaution of dipping my
hand deeply into the plaster to make sure that there was nothing
underneath. When I came to the bone-ash-bin I naturally surveyed it more
critically; for here, with the aid of the mill, the residue of a
cremated body could have been concealed beyond the possibility of
recognition.

I lifted off the lid and looked in, but at the first glance perceived
nothing unusual. The bin was three parts full, and its contents appeared
to be the ordinary finely powdered ash. But I was not prepared to accept
the surface appearances. Rolling my sleeve up above the elbow, I thrust
my hand deep down into the ash, testing its consistency by working it
between my fingers and thumb. The result was what the cupels had led me
to expect. About eight inches from the surface, the feel of the fine,
smooth powder gave place to a sensation as if I were grasping a mixture
of gravel and sand with occasional fragments of appreciable size. Some of
these I brought up to the surface, dropping them into my other hand and
dipping down for further specimens until I had collected a handful, when
I carried them over the cupel shelves and, having deposited them on a
vacant space, picked out one or two of the larger fragments and carried
them across to the modelling stand to examine them by the light of the big
studio lamp.

Of course, there could be no doubt as to their nature. Even to the naked
eye, the characteristic structure of bone was obvious, and rendered more
so by the burning away of the soft tissues. But I confirmed the diagnosis
with the aid of my pocket lens, and then, having replaced the fragments
on the shelf, I put the lid back on the bin and began seriously to
consider what I should do next. There was no need for further
exploration. I had all the essential facts. I now knew what had happened
to Peter Gannet, and any further elucidation lay outside my province and
within that of those whose business it is to investigate crime.

Before leaving the studio, I looked about for some receptacle in which to
pack the little finger bone; for I knew that it would crumble at a touch,
and that, as it was the one piece of undeniable evidence, it must be
preserved intact at all costs. Eventually I found a nearly empty match
box, and, having tipped out the remaining matches and torn a strip from
my handkerchief, I rolled the little relic in this, packed it tenderly in
the match box and bestowed the latter in my breast pocket. Then I took up
my stick and prepared to depart; but just as I was starting towards the
door, it occurred to me that I might as well take a few of the small
fragments from the bin to examine more thoroughly at my leisure. Not that
I had any doubts as to their nature, but the microscope would put the
matter beyond dispute. Accordingly, I collected a handful from the shelf,
and having wrapped them in the remainder of my handkerchief, put the
little parcel in my pocket and then made my way to the door, switched off
the lights and went out, taking the door-key with me.

Coming out from the glare of the studio into the darkness, I had to light
myself across the yard with my flashlight, and, as I flashed it about,
its beam fell on the big rubbish-bin which stood in a corner waiting for
the dustman. For a moment, I was disposed to stop and explore it; but
then I reflected that it was not my concern to seek further details, and
as it was getting late and I still had to report to Mrs. Gannet, I went
on into the house, and passing through the hall, let myself out into the
street.

The distance from Jacob Street to Mornington Crescent is quite short; all
too short for the amount of thinking that I had to do on the way thither.
For it was only when I had shut the door and set forth on my errand that
the awkwardness of the coming interview began to dawn on me. What was I
to say to Mrs. Gannet? As I asked myself the question, I saw that it
involved two others. The first was, how much did she know? Had she any
suspicion that her husband had been made away with? I did not for a
moment believe that she had been privy to the gruesome events that the
studio had witnessed, but her agitation, her horror at the idea of
spending the night in the house, and above all, her strange fear of
entering the studio, justified the suspicion that, even if she knew
nothing of what had happened, she had made some highly pertinent
surmises.

Then, how much did I know? I had assumed quite confidently that a body
had been cremated in the kiln and that the body was that of Peter Gannet.
And I believed that I could name the other party to that grim
transaction. But here I recalled Dr. Thorndyke's oft-repeated warnings to
his students never to confuse inference or belief with knowledge and
never to go beyond the definitely ascertained facts. But I had done this
already; and now when I revised my convictions by the light of this
excellent precept, I realized that the actual facts that I had
ascertained (though they justified my inferences) were enough only to
call for a thorough investigation.

Then should I tell Mrs. Gannet simply what I had observed and leave her
to draw her own conclusions? Considered, subject to my strong distrust of
the lady, this course did not commend itself. In fact, it was a very
difficult question, and I had come to no decision when I found myself
standing on Miss Hughes's door-step, and in response to my knock, the
door was opened by Mrs. Gannet herself.

Still temporizing in my own mind, I began by expressing the hope that
Miss Hughes was able to accommodate her.

"Yes," she replied, as she ushered me into the drawing room, "I am glad
to say that she can give me the spare bedroom. She has been most kind and
sympathetic. And how have you got on? You have been a tremendous time. I
expected you at least half an hour ago."

"The search took quite a long time," I explained, "for I went through the
whole house from the attics to the cellars and examined every nook and
corner."

"And I suppose you found nothing, after all?"

"Not a trace in any part of the house."

"It was very good of you to take so much trouble," said she. "I don't
know how to thank you and you such a busy man, too. I suppose you didn't
go into the studio again?"

"Yes," I replied. "I thought I would have another look at it, in rather
more detail, and I did pick up some information there as to the
approximate time when he disappeared, for I opened the big kiln and found
it quite warm inside. I don't know how long it takes to cool. Do you?"

"Not very exactly," she answered, "but quite a long time, I believe, if
it is kept shut up. At any rate, the fact that it was warm doesn't tell
us much more than we know. It is all very mysterious, and I don't know
what on earth to do next."

"What about Mr. Boles?" I suggested. "He must have been at the studio
some time quite lately. Wouldn't it be as well to look him up and see if
he can throw any light on the mystery?"

She shook her head, disconsolately. "I have," she said. "I went to his
flat yesterday and again this morning, but I could get no answer to my
knocking and ringing. And the caretaker man in the office says that he
hasn't seen him for about a week, though he has been on the lookout for
him on account of a parcel that the postman left. He has been up to the
flat several times, but could get no answer. And there hasn't been any
light in the windows at night. So he must be away from home."

"Did he know when you would be returning?"

"Yes," she replied. "And there is another strange thing. I wrote and told
him what day I should be back and asked him to drop in and have tea with
me. But he not only never came, but he didn't even answer my letter."

I reflected on this new turn of events, which seemed less mysterious to
me than it appeared to her. Then I cautiously approached the inevitable
proposal.

"Well, Mrs. Gannet," said I, "it is, as you say, all very mysterious.
But we can't just leave it at that. We have got to find out what has
happened to your husband; and as we haven't the means of doing it
ourselves, we must invoke the aid of those who have. We shall have to
apply for help to the police."

As I made this proposal, I watched her attentively and was a little
relieved to note that it appeared to cause her no alarm. But she was not
enthusiastic.

"Do you think it is really necessary?" she asked. "If we call in the
police, it will be in all the papers and there will be no end of fuss and
scandal; and after all, he may come back tomorrow."

"I don't think there is any choice," I rejoined, firmly. "The police will
have to be informed sooner or later, and they ought to be notified at
once while the events are fresh and the traces more easy to follow. It
would never do for us to seem to have tried to hush the affair up."

That last remark settled her. She agreed that perhaps the police had
better be informed of the disappearance, and to my great satisfaction,
she asked me to make the communication.

"I don't feel equal to it," said she, "and as you have acted as police
surgeon and know the officers, it will be easier for you. Hadn't you
better have the latch-key in case they want to look over the house?"

"But won't you want it yourself?" I asked.

"No," she replied. "Miss Hughes has invited me to stay with her for the
present. Besides, I have a spare key and I brought it away with me; and
of course, if Peter should come back, he has his own key."

With this she handed me the latch-key and when I had pocketed it I took
my leave and set forth at a swinging pace for home, hoping that I should
find no messages awaiting me and that a substantial meal would be ready
for instant production. I was very well pleased with the way in which the
interview had gone off and congratulated myself on having kept my own
counsel. For now I need not appear in the investigation at all. The
police would, of course, examine the studio, and the discoveries that
they would make, on my prompting, could be credited to them.

When I let myself in, I cast an anxious glance at the message slate and
breathed a benediction on the blank surface that it presented. And as a
savoury aroma ascending from the basement told me that all was well
there, too, I skipped off to the bathroom, there to wash and brush
joyfully and reflect on the delight of being really hungry--under
suitable conditions.

As I disposed of the excellent dinner--or supper--that my thoughtful
housekeeper had provided, it was natural that I should ruminate on the
astonishing events of the last few hours. And now that the excitement of
the chase had passed off, I began to consider the significance of my
discoveries. Those discoveries left me in no doubt (despite Thorndyke's
caution) that my friend, Peter Gannet, had been made away with; and I
owed it to our friendship, to say nothing of my duty as a good citizen,
to do everything in my power to establish the identity of the murderer in
order that he--or she--might be brought within the grasp of the law.

Now who could it be that had made away with my poor friend? I had not the
faintest doubt as to, at least, the protagonist in that horrid drama. In
the very moment of my realization that a crime had been committed, I had
confidently identified the criminal. And my conviction remained unshaken.
Nevertheless, I turned over the available evidence as it would have to be
presented to a stranger and as I should have to present it to the police.

What could we say with certainty as to the personality of the murderer?
In the first place, he was a person who had access to the studio. Then he
knew how to prepare and fire the kiln. He understood the use and
management of the grog mill and of the cupel press, and he knew which of
the various bins was the bone-ash-bin. But, so far as I knew, there was
only one person in the world to whom this description would
apply--Frederick Boles.

Then, to approach the question from the other direction, were there any
reasons for suspecting Boles? And the answer was that there were several
reasons. Boles had certainly been at the house when Gannet was there
alone, and had thus had the opportunity. He had now unaccountably
disappeared, and his disappearance seemed to coincide with the date of
the murder. He had already, to my certain knowledge, violently assaulted
Gannet on at least one occasion. But far more to the point was the fact
that he was under the deepest suspicion of having made a most determined
attempt to kill Gannet by means of poison. Indeed, the word "suspicion"
was an understatement. It was nearly a certainty. Even the cautious
Thorndyke had made no secret of his views as to the identity of the
poisoner. It was at this stage of my reflections that I had what, I
think, Americans call a 'hunch'--a brain wave, or inspiration. Boles
had made at least one attempt to poison poor Gannet. We suspected more
than one attempt, but of the one I had practically no doubt. Now one of
the odd peculiarities of the criminal mind is its strong tendency to
repetition. The coiner, on coming out of prison, promptly returns to the
coining industry; the burglar, the forger, the pickpocket, all tend to
repeat their successes or even their failures. So, too, the poisoner,
foiled at a first attempt, tries again, not only by the same methods, but
nearly always makes use of the same poison.

Now Boles had been alone in the house with Gannet. He had thus had the
opportunity, and it might be assumed that he had the means. Was it
possible that he might have made yet another attempt and succeeded? It
was true that the appearances rather suggested violence, and that this
would be, from the murderer's point of view, preferable to the relatively
slow method of poisoning. Nevertheless, a really massive dose of arsenic,
if it could be administered, would be fairly rapid in its effects; and
after all, in the assumed circumstances, the time factor would not be so
very important.

But there was another consideration. Supposing Boles had managed to
administer a big, lethal dose of arsenic, would any trace of the poison
be detectible in the incinerated remains of the body? It seemed doubtful,
though I had no experience by which to form an opinion. But it was
certainly worth while to try; for if the result of the trial should be
negative, no harm would have been done, whereas if the smallest trace of
arsenic should be discoverable, demonstrable evidence of the highest
importance would have been secured.

I have mentioned that, since the poisoning incident, I had taken various
measures to provide against any similar case in the future, and among
other precautions, I had furnished myself with a very complete apparatus
for the detection of arsenic. It included the appliances for Marsh's
test--not the simple and artless affair that is used for demonstration in
chemistry classes, but a really up-to-date apparatus, capable of the
greatest delicacy and precision. And as a further precaution, I had made
several trial analyses with it to make sure that, should the occasion
arise, I could rely on my competence to use it.

And now the occasion had arisen. It was not a very promising one, as the
probability of a positive result seemed rather remote. But I entered into
the investigation with an enthusiasm that accelerated considerably my
disposal of the rest of my dinner, and as soon as I had swallowed the
last mouthful, I rose and proceeded forthwith to the dispensary which
served also as a laboratory. Here I produced from my pocket the match box
containing the finger bone and the parcel of crushed fragments from the
bin. The match box I opened and tenderly transferred the little bone to a
corked glass tube with a plug of cotton wool above and below it, and put
the tube away in a locked drawer. Then I opened the parcel of fragments
and embarked on the investigation.

I began by examining one or two of the fragments with a low power of the
microscope and thereby confirming beyond all doubt my assumption that
they were incinerated bone; and having disposed of this essential
preliminary, I fell to work on the chemical part of the investigation.
With the details of these operations--which, to tell the truth, I found
rather tedious and troublesome--I need not burden the reader. Roughly,
and in bare outline, the procedure was as follows: First, I divided the
heap of fragments into two parts, reserving one part for further
treatment if necessary. The other part I dissolved in strong hydrochloric
acid and distilled the mixture into a receiver containing a small
quantity of distilled water; a slow and tedious business which tried my
patience severely, and which was, after all, only a preliminary to the
actual analysis. But at last, the fluid in the retort dwindled to a
little half-dry residue, whereupon I removed the lamp and transferred my
attention to the Marsh's apparatus. With this I made the usual
preliminary trial to test the purity of the reagents and then set the
lamp under the hard glass exit tube, watching it for several minutes
after it had reached a bright red heat. As there was no sign of any
darkening or deposit in the tube, I was satisfied that my chemicals were
free from arsenic--as indeed I knew them to be from previous trials.

And now came the actual test. Detaching the receiver from the retort, I
emptied its contents--the distilled fluid--into a well-washed measure
glass and from this poured it slowly, almost drop by drop, into the
thistle funnel of the flask in which the gas was generating. I had no
expectation of any result--at least, so I persuaded myself. Nevertheless,
as I poured in the "distillate" I watched the exit tube with almost
tremulous eagerness. For it was my first real analysis; and after all the
trouble that I had taken, a completely negative result would have seemed
rather an anticlimax. Hence the yearning and half-expectant eye that
turned ever towards the exit tube.

Nevertheless, the result, when it began to appear, fairly astonished me.
It was beyond my wildest hopes. For even before I had finished pouring in
the distillate, a dark ring appeared on the inside of the glass exit
tube, just beyond the red hot portion, and grew from moment to moment in
intensity and extent until a considerable area of the tube was covered
with a typical "arsenic mirror." I sat down before the apparatus and
watched it ecstatically, moved not only by the natural triumph of the
tyro who has "brought it off" at the first trial, but by satisfaction at
the thought that I had forged an instrument to put into the hands of
avenging justice.

For now the cause of poor Gannet's death was established beyond cavil. My
original surmise was proved to be correct. By some means, the murderer
had contrived to administer a dose of arsenic so enormous as to produce
an immediately fatal result. It must have been so. The quantity of the
poison in the body must have been prodigious; for even after the
considerable loss of arsenic in the kiln, there remained in the ashes a
measurable amount, though how much I had not sufficient experience to
judge.

I carried the analysis no farther. The customary procedure is to cut off
the piece of tube containing the "mirror" of metallic arsenic and subject
it to a further, confirmatory test. But this I considered unnecessary
and, in fact, undesirable. Instead. I carefully detached the tube from
the flask and, having wrapped it in several layers of paper, packed it in
a cardboard postal tube and put it away with the finger bone in readiness
for my interview with the police on the morrow.



CHAPTER 9 - INSPECTOR BLANDY INVESTIGATES


On the following morning, as soon as I had disposed of the more urgent
visits, I collected the proceeds of my investigations--the finger bone,
the remainder of the bone fragments, and the glass tube with the arsenic
mirror--and bustled off to the police station, all agog to spring my mine
and set the machinery of the law in motion. My entry was acknowledged by
the sergeant, who was perched at his desk, with an affable smile and the
inquiry as to what he could do for me.

"I wanted rather particularly to see the Superintendent, if he could
spare me a few minutes," I replied.

"I doubt whether he could," said the sergeant. "He's pretty busy just
now. Couldn't I manage your business for you?"

"I think I had better see the Superintentendent," I answered. "The matter
is one of some urgency and I don't know how far it might be considered
confidential. I think I ought to make my communication to him, in the
first place."

"Sounds mighty mysterious," said the sergeant, regarding me critically,
"however, we'll see what he says. Go in, Dawson, and tell the
Superintendent that Dr. Oldfield wants to speak to him and that he won't
say what his business is."

On this, the constable proceeded to the door of the inner office, on
which he knocked, and having been bidden in a loud, impatient voice to
"come in," went in. After a brief delay, occupied probably by
explanations, he reappeared, followed by the Superintendent, carrying in
one hand a large note-book and in the other a pencil. His expression was
not genial, but rather irritably interrogative, conveying the question,
"Now, then. What about it?" And in effect, that was also conveyed by his
rather short greeting.

"I should like to have a few words with you, Superintendent." I said,
humbly.

"Well," he replied, "they will have to be very few. I am in the middle of
a conference with an officer from Scotland Yard. What is the nature of
your business?"

"I have come to inform you that I have reason to believe that a murder
has been committed," I replied.

He brightened up considerably at this, but still he accepted the
sensational statement with disappointing coolness.

"Do you mean that you think, or suspect, that a murder has been
committed?" he asked in an obviously sceptical tone.

"It is more than that," I replied. "I am practically certain. I came to
give you the facts that are known to me; and I have brought some things
to show you which I think you will find pretty convincing."

He reflected for a moment; then, still a little irritably, he said:

"Very well. You had better come in and let us hear what you have to tell
us."

With this, he indicated the open door, and when I had passed through, he
followed me and closed it after us.

As I entered the office I was confronted by a gentleman who was seated at
the table with a number of papers before him. A rather remarkable-looking
gentleman, slightly bald, with a long, placid face and a still longer,
and acutely pointed nose, and an expression in which concentrated
benevolence beamed on an undeserving world. I don't know what his
appearance suggested, but it certainly did not suggest a detective
inspector of the Criminal Investigation Department. Yet that was his
actual status, as appeared when the Superintendent introduced him to
me--by the name of Blandy--adding:

"This is Dr. Oldfield who has come to give us some information about a
case of suspected murder."

"How good of him!" exclaimed Inspector Blandy, rising to execute a
deferential bow and beaming a benediction on me as he pressed my hand
with affectionate warmth. "I am proud, sir, to make your acquaintance. I
am always proud to make the acquaintance of members of your learned and
invaluable profession."

The Superintendent smiled sourly and offered me a chair.

"I suppose, Inspector," said he, "we had better adjourn our other
business and take the doctor's information?"

"Surely, surely," replied Blandy. "A capital crime must needs take
precedence. And as the doctor's time is even more valuable than ours, we
can rely on him to economize both."

Accordingly, the Superintendent, with a distinct return to the "what
about it?" expression, directed me shortly to proceed, which I did; and
bearing in mind the Inspector's polite hint, I plunged into the matter
without preamble.

I need not record my statement in detail since it was but a repetition,
suitably condensed, of the story that I have already told. I began with
the disappearance of Peter Gannet, went on to my search of the house (to
which the Superintendent listened with undissembled impatience) and then
to my examination of the studio and my discoveries therein, producing the
finger bone and the packet of fragments in corroboration. To the latter
part of my statement both officers listened with evidently aroused
interest, asking only such questions as were necessary to elucidate the
narrative; as, for instance, how I came to know so much about the kiln
and Gannet's method of work.

At the conclusion of this part of my statement, I paused while the two
officers pored over the little bone in its glass container and the open
package of white, coral-like fragments. Then I prepared to play my trump
card. Taking off the paper wrapping from the cardboard case, I drew out
from the latter the glass tube and laid it on the table.

The Superintendent glared at it suspiciously while the Inspector picked
it up and regarded it with deep and benevolent interest.

"To my untutored eye," said he, "this dark ring seems to resemble an
arsenic mirror."

"It is an arsenic mirror," said I.

"And what is its connection with these burnt remains?" the Superintendent
demanded.

"That arsenic," I replied, impressively, "was extracted from a quantity
of bone fragments similar to those that I have handed to you;" and with
this, I proceeded to give them an account of my investigations with the
Marsh's apparatus, to which the Superintendent listened with open
incredulity.

"But," he demanded, when I had finished, "what on earth led you to test
these ashes for arsenic? What suggested to you that there might be
arsenic in them?"

Of course, I had expected this question, but yet, curiously enough, I was
hardly ready for it. The secret of the poisoning had been communicated to
Gannet, but otherwise I had, on Thorndyke's advice, kept my own counsel.
But now this was impossible. There was nothing for it but to give the
officers a full account of the poisoning affair, including the fact that
the discovery had been made and confirmed by Dr. Thorndyke.

At the mention of my teacher's name, both men pricked up their ears, and
the Superintendent commented:

"Then Dr. Thorndyke would be available as a witness."

"Yes," I replied, "I don't suppose he would have any objection to giving
evidence on the natter."

"Objection be blowed!" snorted the Superintendent, "He wouldn't be asked.
He could be subpoenaed as a common witness to the fact that this man,
Gannet, was suffering from arsenic poisoning. However, before we begin to
talk of evidence, we have got to be sure that there is something like a
prima facie case. What do you think, Inspector?"

"I agree with you, Superintendent, as I always do," the Inspector
replied. "We had better begin by checking the doctor's observations on
the state of affairs in Gannet's studio. If we find the conditions to be
as he has described them--which I have no doubt that we shall--and if we
reach the same conclusions that he has reached, there will certainly be a
case for investigation."

"Yes," the Superintendent agreed. "But our conclusions on the primary
facts would have to be checked by suitable experts; and I suppose an
independent analysis would be desirable. The doctor's evidence is good
enough, but counsel likes to produce a specialist with a name and a
reputation."

"Very true," said the Inspector. "But the analysis can wait. It is quite
possible that the arsenic issue may never be raised. If we find clear
evidence that a human body has been burned to ashes in that kiln, we
shall have the very strongest presumptive evidence that a murder has been
committed. The method used doesn't really concern us, and an attempt to
prove that deceased was killed in some particular manner might only
confuse and complicate the case."

"I was thinking," said the Superintendent, "of what the doctor has told
us about the attempt to poison Gannet. The presence of arsenic in the
bones might point to certain possible suspects, considered in connection
with that previous attempt."

"Undoubtedly," agreed the Inspector, "if we could prove who administered
that arsenic. But we can't. And if Gannet is dead, I don't see how we are
going to, he being the only really competent witness. No, Superintendent.
My feeling is that we shall be wise to ignore the arsenic, or at any rate
keep it up our sleeves for the present. But to come back to the immediate
business, we want to see that studio, Doctor. How can it be managed
without making a fuss?"

"Quite easily," I replied. "I have the keys, and I have Mrs. Gannet's
permission to enter the house and to admit you, if you want to inspect
the premises. I could hand you the keys if necessary, but I would much
rather admit you myself."

"And very proper, too," said the Inspector. "Besides, we should want you
to accompany us, as you know all about the studio and we don't. Now when
could you manage the personally conducted exploration? The sooner the
better, you know, as the matter is rather urgent."

"Well," I replied, "I have got several visits to make, and it is about
time that I started to make them. It won't do for me to neglect my
practice."

"Of course it won't," the Inspector agreed. "If duty calls you must away;
and after all, a live patient is better than a dead potter. What time
shall we say?"

"I think I shall be clear by four o'clock. Will that do?"

"It will do for me," replied the Inspector, glancing inquiringly at his
brother officer; and as the latter agreed, it was arranged that they
should call at my house at four o'clock and that we should proceed
together to the studio.

As I rose to depart, my precious mirror tube--despised by Blandy but dear
to me--caught my eye, and I proceeded unostentatiously to resume
possession of it, remarking that I would take care of it in case it
should ever be wanted. As neither officer made any objection, I returned
it to its case; and the packet of bone ash having served its purpose, I
closed it and slipped it into my pocket with the tube.

On leaving the police station, I glanced rapidly through the entries in
my visiting list, and having planned out a convenient route, started on
my round, endeavouring--none too successfully--to banish from my mind all
thoughts of the Gannet mystery that I might better concentrate my
attention on the clinical problems that my patients presented. But if I
suffered some distraction from my proper business, there was compensation
in the matter of speed, for I dispatched my round of visits in record
time, and even after a leisurely lunch, found myself with half an hour to
spare before my visitors were due to arrive. This half hour I spent with
my hat on, pacing my consulting room in an agony of apprehension lest an
inopportune professional call should hinder me from keeping my
appointment. But fortunately no message came, and punctually at four
o'clock Inspector Blandy was announced and conducted me to a large roomy
car which was drawn up outside the house.

"The Superintendent couldn't come," Blandy explained, as he ushered me
into the car. "But it doesn't matter. This is not a case for the local
police. If there is anything in it, the C.I.D. will have to carry out the
investigation."

"And what are you proposing to do now?" I asked.

"Just to check your report," he replied. "Personally, having seen you and
noted your careful and exact methods, I accept it without any hesitation.
But our people take nothing on hearsay if they can get observed facts, so
I must be in a position to state those facts on my own knowledge and the
evidence of my own eyesight; though as you and I know, my eyesight would
have been of no use without yours."

I was beginning a modest disclaimer, suggesting that I was but an amateur
investigator, but he would have none of it, exclaiming:

"My dear Doctor, you undervalue yourself. The whole discovery is your
own. Consider now what would have happened if I had looked into the
studio as you did. What should I have seen? Nothing, my dear sir,
nothing. My mere bodily senses would have perceived the visible objects
but their significance would never have dawned on me. Whereas you,
bringing an expert eye to bear on them, instantly detected the signs of
some abnormal happenings. By the way, I am assuming that I am going to
have the benefit of your co-operation and advice on this occasion."

I replied that I should be very pleased to stay for a time and help him
(being, in fact, on the very tip-toe of curiosity as to his proceedings),
on which he thanked me warmly, and was still thanking me when the car
drew up opposite the Gannets' front door. We both alighted, Blandy
lifting out a large, canvas covered suit-case, which he set down on the
pavement while he stood taking a general view of the premises.

"Does that gate belong to Gannet's house?" he asked, indicating the wide,
double-leaved studio door.

"Yes," I replied. "It opens directly into the studio. Would you like to
go in that way? I have the key of the wicket."

"Not this time," said he. "We had better go in through the house so that
I may see the lie of the premises."

Accordingly, I let him in by the front door and conducted him through the
hall, where he looked about him inquisitively, giving special attention
to the hat-rack and stand. Then I opened the side door and escorted him
out into the yard, where again he inspected the premises and especially
the walls and houses which enclosed the space. Presently he espied the
rubbish-bin, and walking over to it, lifted its lid and looked
thoughtfully into its interior.

"Is this domestic refuse?" he inquired, "or does it belong to the
studio?"

"I think it is a general dump," I replied, "but I know that Gannet used
it for ashes and anything that the dustmen would take away."

"Then," said he, "we had better take it in with us and look over the
contents before the dustman has his innings."

As I had by this time got the studio door unlocked, we took the bin by
its two handles and carried it in. Then, at the Inspector's suggestion, I
shut the door and locked it on the inside.

"Now, I suppose," said I, "you would like me to show you round the studio
and explain the various appliances."

"Thank you, Doctor," he replied, "but I think we will postpone that, if
it should be necessary after your singularly lucid description, and get
on at once with the essential part of the inquiry."

"What is that?" I asked

"Our present purpose," he replied, beaming on me benevolently, "is to
establish what the lawyers call the corpus delicti. To ascertain whether
a crime has been committed, and if so, what sort of crime it is. We begin
by finding out what those bone fragments really amount to. I have brought
a small sieve with me, but probably there is a better one here;
preferably a fairly fine one."

"There is a set of sieves for sifting grog and other powders," said I.
"The coarser ones are of wire gauze and the finer of bolting cloth, so
you can take your choice. The number of meshes to the linear inch is
marked on the rims."

I took him across to the place where the sieves were stacked, and, when
he had looked through the collection, he selected the finest of the wire
sieves, which had twenty meshes to the inch. Then I found him a scoop,
and when he had tipped the contents of one grog bin into another and
placed the empty bin by the side of that containing the bone-ash, he
spread out on the bench a sheet of white paper from his case, laid the
sieve on the empty bin and fell to work.

For a time, the proceedings were quite uneventful, as the upper part of
the bin was occupied by the finely-ground ash, and when a scoopful of
this was thrown on to the sieve, it sank through at once. But presently,
as the deeper layers were reached, larger fragments, recognizable as
pieces of burnt bone, began to appear on the wire-gauze surface, and
these, when he had tapped the sieve and shaken all the fine dust through,
the Inspector carefully tipped out on to the sheet of paper. Soon he had
worked his way down completely past the deposit of fine powder, and now
each scoopful consisted almost entirely of bone fragments; and as these
lay on the gauze surface, Blandy bent over them, scrutinizing them with
amiable intentness and shaking the sieve gently to spread them out more
evenly.

"There can be no doubt," said he, as he ran his eye over a fresh scoopful
thus spread out, "that these are fragments of bone; but it may be
difficult to prove that they are human bones. I wish our unknown friend
hadn't broken them up quite so small."

"You have the finger bone," I reminded him. "There's no doubt that that
is human."

"Well," he agreed, "if you are prepared to swear positively that it is a
human bone, that will establish a strong probability that the rest of the
fragments are human. But we want proof if we can get it. In a capital
case, the court isn't taking anything for granted."

Here he stooped closer over the sieve with his eyes riveted on one spot.
Then very delicately with finger and thumb, he picked out a small object,
and laying it on the palm of his other hand, held it out to me with a
smile of concentrated benevolence. I took it from his palm, and placing
it on my own, examined it closely, first with the naked eye and then with
my pocket lens.

"And what is the diagnosis?" he asked, as I returned it to him.

"It is a portion of a porcelain tooth," I replied. "A front tooth, I
should say, but it is such a small piece that it is impossible to be
sure. But it is certainly part of a porcelain tooth."

"Ha!" said he, "there is the advantage of expert advice and cooperation.
It is pronounced authoritatively to be certainly a porcelain tooth. But
as the lower animals do not, to the best of my knowledge and belief, ever
wear porcelain teeth, we have corroborative evidence that these remains
are human. That is a great step forward. But how far does it carry us?
Can you suggest any particular application of the fact?"

"I can," said I. "It is known to me that Peter Gannet had a nearly
complete upper dental plate. I saw it in a bowl when he was ill."

"Excellent!" the Inspector exclaimed. "Peter Gannet wore porcelain teeth,
and here is part of a porcelain tooth. The evidence grows. But if he wore
a dental plate, he must have had a dentist. I suppose you cannot give
that dentist a name?"

"It happens that I can. He is a Mr. Hawley of Wigmore Street!"

"Really, now," exclaimed the Inspector, "you are positively spoiling me.
You leave me nothing to do. I have only to ask for information and it is
instantly supplied."

He laid the fragment of tooth tenderly on the corner of the sheet of
paper and made an entry in his note-book of the dentist's address. Then,
having tipped the contents of the sieve on to the paper, he brought up
another scoopful of bone fragments and shook it out on the gauze surface.

I need not follow the proceedings in detail. Gradually we worked our way
through the entire contents of the bone-ash-bin, finishing up by holding
the bin itself upside down over the sieve and shaking out the last
grains. The net result was a considerable heap of bone fragments on the
sheet of paper and no less than four other pieces of porcelain. As to the
former, they were for the most part, mere crumbs of incinerated bone with
just a sprinkling of lumps large enough to have some recognizable
character. But the fragments of porcelain were more informative, for
close examination and a few tentative trials at fitting them together
left little doubt that they were all parts of the same tooth.

"But we won't leave it at that," said Blandy, as he dropped them one by
one into a glass tube that he produced from his case. "We've got a man at
Headquarters who is an expert at mending up broken articles. He'll be
able to cement these pieces together so that the joins will hardly be
visible. Then I'll take the tooth along to Mr. Hawley and see what he has
to say to it."

He slipped the tube into his pocket and then, having produced from his
case a large linen bag, shovelled the bone fragments into it, tied up its
mouth and stowed it away in the case.

"This stuff," he remarked, "will have to be produced at the inquest; if
we can identify it definitely enough to make an inquest possible. But I
shall go over it again, a teaspoonful at a time, to make sure that we
haven't missed anything; and then it will be passed to the Home Office
experts. If they decide that the remains are certainly human remains, we
shall notify the coroner."

While he was speaking his eyes turned from one object to another, taking
in all the various fittings of the studio, and finally his glance lighted
on Boles's cupboard and there remained fixed.

"Do you happen to know what is in that cupboard?" he asked.

"I know that it belongs to Mr. Boles," I replied, "and I think he uses it
to keep his materials in."

"What are his materials?" the Inspector asked.

"Principally gold and silver, especially gold. But he keeps some of his
enamel material there and the copper plates for his plaques."

The Inspector walked over to the cupboard and examined the keyhole
narrowly.

"It isn't much of a lock," he remarked, "for a repository of precious
metals. Looks like a common ward lock that almost any key would open. I
think you said that Mr. Boles is not available at the moment?"

"I understand from Mrs. Gannet that he has disappeared from his flat and
that no one knows where he is."

"Pity," said Blandy. "I hate the idea of opening that cupboard in his
absence, but we ought to know what is in it. And, as I have a search
warrant, it is my duty to search. H'm! I happen to have one or two keys
in my case. Perhaps one of them might fit this very simple lock."

He opened his case and produced from it a bunch of keys, and very
odd-looking keys they were; so much so that I ventured to inquire:

"Are those what are known as skeleton keys?"

He beamed on me with a slightly deprecating expression.

"The word 'skeleton,'" said he, "as applied to keys, has disagreeable
associations. I would rather call these simplified keys; just ordinary
ward keys without wards. You will see how they act."

He illustrated their function by trying them one after another on the
keyhole. At the third trial the key entered the hole, whereupon he gave
it a turn and the door came open.

"There, you see," said he. "We break nothing, and when we go away we
leave the cupboard locked as we found it."

The opened door revealed one or two shelves on which were glass pots of
the powdered enamels, an agate mortar and a few small tools. Below the
shelves were several small but deep drawers. The Inspector pulled out one
of these and looked inquisitively into it as he weighed it critically in
his hand.

"Queer-looking stuff, this, Doctor," said he, "and just feel the weight
of it. All these lumps of gold in a practically unlocked cupboard. Are
these the things that Mr. Boles makes?"

As he spoke he turned the drawer upside down on the paper that still
covered the bench and pointed contemptuously to the heap of pendants,
rings and brooches that dropped out of it.

"Did you ever see such stuff?" he exclaimed. "Jewelry, indeed! Why, it
might have been made by a plumber's apprentice. And look at the quantity
of metal in it. Look at that ring. There's enough gold in it to make a
bracelet. This stuff reminds me of the jewelry that the savages produce,
only it isn't nearly so well made. I wonder who buys it. Do you happen to
know?"

"I have heard," I replied, "that Mr. Boles exhibits it at some of the
private galleries, and I suppose some of it gets sold. It must, you know,
or he wouldn't go on making it."

Inspector Blandy regarded me with a rather curious, cryptic smile, but he
made no rejoinder. He simply shot "the stuff" back into the drawer,
replaced the latter, and drew out the next.

The contents of this seemed to interest him profoundly for he looked into
the drawer with an expression of amiable satisfaction and seemed to
meditate on what he saw as if it conveyed some new idea to him. At length
he tipped the contents out on to the paper and smilingly invited me to
make any observations that occurred to me. I looked at the miscellaneous
heap of rings, brooches, lockets and other trinkets and noted that they
seemed to resemble the ordinary jewelry that one sees in shop windows
excepting that the stones were missing.

"I don't think Mr. Boles made any of these," said I.

"I am quite sure he didn't," said Blandy, "but I think he took the stones
out. But what do you make of this collection?"

"I should guess," I replied, "that it is old jewelry that he bought cheap
to melt down for his own work."

"Yes," agreed Blandy, "he bought it to melt down and work up again. But
he didn't buy it cheap if he bought from the trade. You can't buy gold
cheap in the open market. Gold is gold, whether old or new. It has its
standard price per ounce and you can't get it any cheaper; and you can
always sell it at that price. I am speaking of the open market."

Once more he regarded me with that curious, inscrutable smile, and then,
sweeping the jewelry back into its drawer, he passed on to the next.

This drawer contained raw material proper: little ingots of gold, buttons
from cupels or crucibles, and a few pieces of thin gold plate. It did not
appear to me to present any features of interest, but evidently Blandy
thought otherwise, for he peered into the drawer with a queer, benevolent
smile for quite a considerable time. And he did not tip out its contents
on to the bench. Instead, he took a pair of narrow-nosed pliers from one
of the shelves and with these he delicately picked out the pieces of gold
plate, and having examined them on both sides, laid them carefully on the
paper.

"You seem to be greatly interested in those bits of plate," I remarked.

"I am," he replied. "There are two points of interest in them. First
there is the fact that they are pieces of gold plate such as are supplied
to the trade by bullion dealers. That goes to show that he bought some of
his gold from the dealers in the regular way. He didn't get it all second
hand. The other point is this."

He picked up one of the pieces of plate with the pliers and exhibited it
to me, and I then observed that its polished surface was marked with the
impression of a slightly greasy finger.

"You mean that finger-print?" I suggested.

"Thumb-print," he corrected, "apparently a left thumb; and on the other
side, the print of a forefinger. Both beautifully clear and distinct, as
they usually are on polished metal."

"Yes," said I, "they are clear enough. But what about it? They are Mr.
Boles's finger-prints. But this is Mr. Boles's cupboard. We knew that he
had used it and that he had frequented this studio. I don't see that the
finger-prints tell you anything that you didn't know."

The Inspector smiled at me, indulgently. "It is remarkable," said he,
"how the scientific mind instantly seizes the essentials. But there is a
little point that I think you have missed. We find that Mr. Boles is a
purchaser of second-hand jewelry. Now, in the Fingerprint Department we
have records of quite a number of gentlemen who are purchasers of
second-hand jewelry. Of course, it is quite incredible that Mr. Boles's
finger-prints should be among them. But the scientific mind will realize
that proof is better than belief. The finger-print experts will be able
to supply the proof."

The hint thus delicately expressed conveyed a new idea to me and caused
me to look with rather different eyes on the contents of the next, and
last drawer. These consisted of three small cardboard boxes, which, being
opened, were found to contain unmounted stones. One was nearly
half-filled with the less precious kinds; moonstones, turquoises,
garnets, agates, carnelians and the like. The second held a smaller
number of definitely precious stones such as rubies, sapphires and
emeralds, while the third contained only diamonds, mostly quite small.
The Inspector's comments expressed only the thought which had instantly
occurred to me.

"These stones," said he, "must have been picked out of the secondhand
stuff. I shouldn't think he ever buys any stones from the dealers, for
only two of his pieces are set with gems, and those only with moonstone
and carnelian. He doesn't seem to use stones often; too much trouble;
easier to stick on a blob of enamel. So he must sell them. I wonder who
buys them from him."

I could offer no suggestion on this point, and the Inspector did not
pursue the subject. Apparently the examination was finished, for he began
to pack up the various objects that we had found in the drawers,
bestowing especial care on the pieces of gold plate.

"As Mr. Boles seems to have disappeared," said he, "I shall take these
goods into my custody. They are too valuable to leave in an unoccupied
studio. And I must take temporary possession of these premises, as we may
have to make some further investigations. We haven't examined the
dust-bin yet, and it is too late to do it now. In fact, it is time to go.
And what about the key, Doctor? I shall seal these doors before I
leave--the wicket on the inside and the yard door on the outside--and the
place will have to be watched. I should take it as a favour if you would
let me have the key so that I need not trouble Mrs. Gannet. You won't be
using it yourself."

As I saw that he meant to have it, and as it was of no further use to me,
I handed it to him, together with the spare key of the wicket, on which
he thanked me profusely and made ready to depart.

"Before we go," said he, "I will just make a note of Mrs. Gannet's
present address in case we have to communicate with her, and you may as
well give me Mr. Boles's, too. We shall have to get into touch with him,
if possible."

I gave him both addresses, rather reluctantly as to the former, for I
suspected that Mrs. Gannet was going to suffer some shocks. But there was
no help for it. The police would have to communicate with her if only to
acquaint her with the fact of her husband's death. But I was sorry for
her, little as I liked her and little as I approved of her relations with
Boles.

When the Inspector had locked, bolted and sealed the wicket, he took up
his case and we went into the yard, where he locked the door with the key
that I had left in it, pocketed the latter and sealed the door. Then we
went out to the car, and, when the driver had put away his book and his
cigarette, we started homeward and arrived at my premises just in time
for my evening consultations.



CHAPTER 10 - INSPECTOR BLANDY IS INQUISITIVE


My forebodings concerning Mrs. Gannet were speedily and abundantly
justified. On the morning of the third day after the search of the
studio, an urgent note from Miss Hughes, delivered by hand, informed me
that her guest had sustained a severe shock and was in a state of
complete nervous prostration. She had expressed a wish to see me and Miss
Hughes hoped that I would call as soon as possible.

As the interview promised to be a somewhat lengthy one, I decided to
dispose of the other patients on my modest visiting list and leave myself
ample time for a leisurely talk, apart from the professional
consultation. As a result, it was well past noon when I rang the bell at
the house in Mornington Crescent. The door was opened by Miss Hughes
herself, from whom I received forthwith the first instalment of the news.

"She is in an awful state, poor thing," said Miss Hughes. "Naturally, she
was a good deal upset by her husband's extraordinary disappearance. But
yesterday a gentleman called to see her--a police officer he turned out
to be, though you'd never have suspected it to look at him. I don't know
what he told her--it seems that she was sworn to secrecy--but he stayed a
long time, and when he had gone and I went into the sitting room, I found
her lying on the sofa in a state of collapse. But I mustn't keep you here
talking. I made her stay in bed until you'd seen her, so I will take you
up to her room."

Miss Hughes had not overstated the case. I should hardly have recognized
the haggard, white-faced woman in the bed as the sprightly lady whom I
had known. As I looked at her pallid, frightened face, turned so
appealingly to me, all my distaste of her--it was hardly dislike--melted
away in natural compassion for her obvious misery.

"Have you heard of the awful thing that has happened. Doctor?" she
whispered when Miss Hughes had gone, discreetly shutting the door after
her. "I mean what the police found in the studio."

"Yes, I know about that," I replied, not a little relieved to find that
my name had not been mentioned in connection with the discovery. "I
suppose that the officer who called on you was Inspector Blandy?"

"Yes, that was the name, and I must say that he was most polite and
sympathetic. He broke the horrible news as gently as he could and told me
how sorry he was to be the bearer of such bad tidings; and he did seem to
be genuinely sorry for me. I only wished he would have left it at that.
But he didn't. He stayed ever so long telling me over and over again how
sincerely he sympathized with me, and then asking questions; dozens of
questions he asked until I got quite hysterical. I think he might have
given me a day or two to recover a little before putting me through such
a catechism."

"It does seem rather inconsiderate," said I, "but you must make
allowances. The police have to act promptly and they naturally want to
get at the facts as quickly as possible."

"Yes. That is the excuse he made for asking so many questions. But it was
an awful ordeal. And although he was so polite and sympathetic, I
couldn't help feeling that he suspected me of knowing more about the
affair than I admitted. Of course he didn't say anything to that effect."

"I think that must have been your imagination," said I. "He couldn't have
suspected you of any knowledge of the--er--the tragedy, seeing that you
were away from home when it happened."

"Perhaps not," said she. "Still, he questioned me particularly about my
movements while I was away and wanted all the dates, which, of course, I
couldn't remember off-hand. And then he asked a lot of questions about
Mr. Boles, particularly as to where he was on certain dates; and somehow
he gave the impression that he knew a good deal about him."

"What sort of questions did he put about Mr. Boles?" I asked with some
curiosity, recalling Blandy's cryptic reference to the fingerprint files
at Scotland Yard.

"It began with his asking me whether the two men, Peter and Fred, were
usually on good terms. Well, as you know, Doctor, they were not. Then he
asked me if they had always been on bad terms; and when I told him that
they used to be quite good friends, he wanted to know exactly when the
change in their relationship occurred and whether I could account for it
in any way. I told him, quite truthfully, that I could not; and as to the
time when they first fell out, I could only say that it was some time in
the latter part of last year. Then he began to question me about Mr.
Boles's movements; where he was on this and that date, and, of course, I
couldn't remember, if I had ever known. But his last question about dates
I was able to answer. He asked me to try to remember where Mr. Boles was
on the 19th of last September. I thought about it a little and then I
remembered, because Peter had gone to spend a long week-end with him
and I had taken the opportunity to make a visit to Eastbourne. As I was
at Eastbourne on the 19th of September, I knew that Peter and Mr. Boles
must have been at Newingstead on that date."

"Newingstead!" I exclaimed, and then stopped short.

"Yes," said she, looking at me in surprise. "Do you know the place?"

"I know it slightly," I replied, drawing in my horns rather suddenly as
the finger-print files came once more into my mind. "I happen to know a
doctor who is in practice there."

"Well, Mr. Blandy seemed to be very much interested in Mr. Boles's visit
to Newingstead and particularly with the fact that Peter was there with
him on that day; and he pressed me to try to remember whether that date
seemed to coincide with the change in their feelings to each other. It
was an extraordinary question. I can't imagine what could have put the
idea into his head. But when I came to think about it, I found that he
was right, for I remember quite clearly that when I came back from
Eastbourne I saw at once that there was something wrong. They weren't a
bit the same. All the old friendliness seemed to have vanished and they
were ready to quarrel on the slightest provocation. And they did quarrel
dreadfully. I was terrified, for they were both strong men and both
inclined to be violent."

"Did you ever get any inkling as to what it was that had set them against
each other?"

"No. I suspected that something had happened when they were away
together, but I could never find out what it was. I spoke to them both
and asked them what was the matter, but I couldn't get anything out of
either of them. They simply said that there was nothing the matter; that
it was all my imagination. But I knew that it wasn't, and I was in a
constant state of terror as to what might happen."

"So I suppose," said I, "that the--er--the murder has not come as a
complete surprise?"

"Oh, don't call it a murder!" she protested. "It couldn't have been that.
It must have been some sort of accident. When two strong and violent men
start fighting, you never know how it will end. I am sure it must have
been an accident--that is, supposing that it was Mr. Boles who killed
Peter. We don't know that it was. It's only a guess."

I thought that it was pretty safe guess but I did not say so. My
immediate concern was with the future. For Mrs. Gannet was my patient and
I chose to regard her as my friend. She had been subjected to an
intolerable strain, and I suspected that there was worse to come. The
question was, what was to be done about it?

"Did the Inspector suggest that he would require any further information
from you?" I asked.

"Yes. He said that he would want me to come to his office at Scotland
Yard one day pretty soon to make a statement and sign it. That will be an
awful ordeal. It makes me sick with terror to think of it."

"I don't see why it should," said I. "You are not in any way responsible
for what has happened."

"You know that I am not," said she, "but the police don't; and I am
absolutely terrified of Mr. Blandy. He is a most extraordinary man. He is
so polite and sympathetic and yet so keen and searching and he asks such
unexpected questions and seems to have such uncanny knowledge of our
affairs. And as I told you, I am sure he suspects that I had something to
do with what has happened."

"I suppose he didn't seem to know anything about that mysterious affair
of the arsenic poisoning?" I suggested.

"No," she replied, "but I am certain that he will worm it out of me when
he has me in his office; and then he will think that it was I who put the
poison into poor Peter's food."

At this point she broke down and burst into tears, sobbing hysterically
and mingling incoherent apologies with her sobs. I tried to comfort her
as well as I could, assuring her--with perfect sincerity--of my deep
sympathy. For I realized that her fears were by no means unfounded. She
probably had more secrets than I knew; and once within the dreaded office
in the presence of a committee of detective officers, taking down in
writing every word that she uttered, she might easily commit herself to
some highly incriminating statements.

"It is a great comfort to me. Doctor," said she, struggling to control
her emotion, "to be able to tell you all my troubles. You are the only
friend that I have; the only friend, I mean, that I can look to for
advice and help."

It wrung my heart to think of this poor, lonely woman in her trouble and
bereavement, encompassed by perils at which I could only guess, facing
those perils, friendless, alone and unprotected save by me--and who was I
that I could give her any effective support? As I met the look of appeal
that she cast on me, so pathetic and so confiding, it was borne in on me
that she needed some more efficient adviser and that the need was urgent
and ought to be met without delay.

"I am very willing," said I, "to help you, but I am not very competent.
The advice that you want is legal, not medical. You ought to have a
lawyer to protect your interests and to advise you."

"I suppose I ought," she agreed, "but I don't know any lawyers; and I
trust in you because you know all about my affairs and because you have
been such a kind friend. But I will do whatever you advise. Perhaps you
know a lawyer whom you could recommend."

"The only lawyer whom I know is Dr. Thorndyke," I replied.

"Is he a lawyer?" she exclaimed in surprise. "I thought he was a doctor."

"He is both," I explained, "and what is more to the point, he is a
criminal lawyer who knows all the ropes. He will understand your
difficulties and also those of the police. Would you like me to see him
and ask him to advise us?"

"I should be most grateful if you would," she replied, earnestly. "And
you may take it that I agree to any arrangements that you may make with
him. But," she added, "you will remember that my means are rather small."

I brushed this proviso aside in view of Thorndyke's known indifference to
merely financial considerations and the fact that my own means admitted
of my giving material assistance if necessary. So it was agreed that I
should seek Thorndyke's advice forthwith and that whatever he might
advise should be done.

"That will be a great relief," said she. "I shall have somebody to think
for me, and that will leave me free to think about all that has to be
done. There will be quite a lot of things to attend to. I can't stay here
for ever, though dear Miss Hughes protests that she loves having me. And
then there are the things at the gallery. They will have to be removed
when the exhibition closes. And there are some pieces on loan at another
place--but there is no hurry about them."

"What exhibition are you referring to?" I asked.

"The show at the Lyntondale Gallery in Bond Street. It is a mixed
exhibition and some of Peter's work is being shown and a few pieces of
Mr. Boles's. Whatever is left unsold will have to be fetched away at once
to make room for the next show."

"And the other exhibition?" I asked, partly from curiosity and partly to
keep her attention diverted from her troubles.

"That is a sort of small museum and art gallery at Haxton. They show loan
collections there for the purpose of educating the taste of the people,
and Peter has lent them some of his pottery on two or three occasions.
This time he sent only a small collection--half a dozen bowls and jars
and the stoneware figure that used to be on his bedroom mantelpiece. I
daresay you remember it."

"I remember it very well," said I. "It was a figure of a monkey."

"Yes, that was what he called it, though it didn't look to me very much
like a monkey. But then I don't understand much about art. At any rate,
he sent it, and as he set a good deal of value on it, I took it myself
and delivered it to the director of the museum."

As we talked, principally on topics not directly connected with the
tragedy, her agitation subsided by degrees until, by the time when my
visit had to end, she had become quite calm and composed.

"Now don't forget," said I, as I shook her hand at parting, "that you
have nothing further to fear from Inspector Blandy. You are going to have
a legal adviser, and he won't let anybody put undue pressure on you."

Her gratitude was quite embarrassing, and as she showed signs of a slight
recrudescence of emotion, I withdrew my hand (which she was pressing
fervently) at the first opportunity and bustled out of the room.

On my way home, I considered my next move. Obviously, no time ought to be
lost in making the necessary arrangements. But, although I had the
afternoon free, Thorndyke probably had not. He was a busy man and it
would be futile for me to make a casual call on the chance of finding him
at home and disengaged. Accordingly, as soon as I had let myself in and
ascertained that there were no further engagements, I rang him up on the
telephone to inquire when I could have a few words with him. In reply, a
voice, apparently appertaining to a person named Polton, informed me that
the doctor was out; that he would be in at three-thirty and that he had
an engagement elsewhere at four-fifteen. Thereupon I made an appointment
to call at three-thirty, and having given my name, rang off, and
proceeded without delay to dispatch my immediate business, including the
dispensing of medicine, the writing up of the Day Book and the wash and
brush up preliminary to lunch.

As I had no clear idea of the geography of the Temple, I took the
precaution of arriving at the main gate well in advance of the appointed
time; with the result that having easily located King's Bench Walk, I
found myself opposite the handsome brick portico of Number 5A at the very
moment when a particularly soft-toned bell ventured most politely to
suggest that it was a quarter past three.

There was, therefore, no need to hurry. I whiled away a few minutes
inspecting the portico and surveying the pleasant surroundings of the
dignified old houses--doubtless still more pleasant before the fine,
spacious square had become converted into a parking lot--then I entered
and took my leisurely way up the stairs to the first floor landing, where
I found myself confronted by a grim-looking, iron bound door, above which
was painted the name "Dr. Thorndyke." I was about to press the electric
bell at the side of the door when I perceived, descending the stairs from
an upper floor, a gentleman who appeared to belong to the premises; a
small gentleman of a sedate and even clerical aspect, but very lively and
alert.

"Have I the honour, sir, of addressing Dr. Oldfield?" he inquired,
suavely.

I replied that I was, in fact, Dr. Oldfield. "But," I added, "I think I
am a little before my time."

Thereupon, like Touchstone, he "drew a dial from his poke," and regarding
it thoughtfully (but by no means "with a lacklustre eye"), announced that
it was now twenty-four minutes and fifteen seconds past three. While he
was making his inspection I looked at the watch, which was a rather large
silver timepiece with an audible and very deliberate tick, and as he was
putting it away, I ventured to remark that it did not appear to be quite
an ordinary watch.

"It is not, sir," he replied, hauling it out again and gazing at it
fondly. "It is an eight-day pocket chronometer; a most admirable
timepiece, sir, with the full chronometer movement and even a helical
balance spring."

Here he opened the case and then, in some miraculous way, turned the
whole thing inside out, exhibiting the large, heavy balance and an
unusual-looking balance spring which I accepted as helical.

 "You can't easily see the spring detent," said he, "but you can hear it;
 and you will notice that it beats half-seconds."

He held the watch up towards my ear and I was able to distinguish the
peculiar sound of the escapement. But at this moment he also assumed a
listening attitude; but he was not listening to the watch, for after a
few moments of concentrated attention, he remarked, as he closed and put
away the chronometer:

"You are not much too early, sir. I think I hear the doctor coming along
Crown Office Row and Dr. Jervis with him."

I listened attentively and was just able to make out the faint sound of
quick footsteps which seemed to be approaching; but I had not my small
friend's diagnostic powers, which, however, were demonstrated when the
footsteps passed in at the entry, ascended the stairs and materialized
into bodily forms of Thorndyke and Jervis. Both men looked at me a little
curiously but any questions were forestalled by my new acquaintance.

"Dr. Oldfield, sir, made an appointment by telephone to see you at
half-past three. I told him of your engagement at four-fifteen."

"Thank you, Polton," said Thorndyke. "So now, Oldfield, as you know the
position, let us go in and make the best use of the available half-hour;
that is, if this is anything more than a friendly call."

"It is considerably more," said I, as Mr. Polton opened the two doors and
ushered us into a large room. "I have come on quite urgent business, but
I think we can dispatch it easily in half an hour."

Here, Mr. Polton, after an interrogative glance at Thorndyke, took
himself off, closing after him both the inner and outer doors.

"Now, Oldfield," said Jervis, setting out three chairs in a triangle,
"sit down and let the engine run."

Thereupon we all took our seats facing one another and I proceeded,
without preamble, to give a highly-condensed account of the events
connected with Gannet's disappearance with a less-condensed statement of
Mrs. Gannet's position in relation to them. To this account Thorndyke
listened with close attention, but quite impassively and without question
or comment. Not so Jervis. He did, indeed, abstain from interruptions;
but he followed my recital with devouring interest, and I had hardly
finished when he burst out:

"But, my good Oldfield, this is a first-class murder mystery. It is a sin
to boil it down into a mere abstract. I want details, and more details,
and, in short--or rather, in long--the whole story."

"I am with you, Jervis," said Thorndyke. "We must get Oldfield to tell us
the story in extenso. But not now. We have an immediate and rather urgent
problem to solve; how to protect Mrs. Gannet."

"Does she need protecting?" demanded Jervis. "The English police are not
in the habit of employing 'third degree' methods."

"True," Thorndyke agreed. "The English police have usually the desire and
the intention to deal fairly with persons who have to be interrogated.
But an over-zealous officer may easily be tempted to press his
examination--in the interests of justice, as he thinks--beyond the limits
of what is strictly admissible. We must remember that, under our system
of police procedure in the matter of interrogation, the various
restrictions tend to weight the dice rather against the police and in
favour of the accused person."

"But Mrs. Gannet is not an accused person," I protested.

"No," Thorndyke agreed. "But she may become one, particularly if she
should make any indiscreet admissions. That is what we have to guard
against. We don't know what the views of the police are, but one notes
that our rather foxy friend, Blandy, was not disposed to be
over-scrupulous. To announce to a woman that her husband has been
murdered and his body burned to ashes, and then, while she is still dazed
by the shock, to subject her to a searching interrogation, does not
impress one as a highly considerate proceeding. I think her fear of
Blandy is justified. No further interrogation ought to take place
excepting in the presence of her legal adviser."

"She isn't legally bound to submit to any interrogation until she is
summoned as a witness," Jervis suggested.

"In practice, she is," said Thorndyke. "It would be highly improper for
her to withhold from the police any assistance that she could give them.
And it would be extremely impolitic, as it would suggest that she had
something serious to conceal. But it would be perfectly proper for her to
insist that her legal adviser should accompany her and be present at the
interrogation. And that is what will have to be done. She will have to be
legally represented. But by whom? Can you make any suggestion, Jervis? It
is a solicitor's job."

"What about the costs?" asked Jervis. "Is the lady pretty well off?"

"We can waive that question," said I. "The costs will be met. I will make
myself responsible for that."

"I see," said Jervis. "Your sympathy takes a practical form. Well, if you
are going to back the bill, we must see that it doesn't get too obese. A
swagger solicitor wouldn't do; besides, he would be too busy to attend in
person. But we should want a good man. Preferably a young man with a
rather small practice. Yes, I think I know the very man. What do you say,
Thorndyke, to young Linnell? He was Marchmont's managing clerk, but he
has gone into practice on his own account and he has distinct leanings
towards criminal work."

"I remember him," said Thorndyke. "A very promising yeung man. Could you
get into touch with him?"

"I will see him today before he leaves his office and I think there is no
doubt that he will undertake the case gladly. At any rate, Oldfield, you
can take it that the matter is in our hands and that the lady will be
fully protected, even if I have to accompany her to Scotland Yard myself.
But you must play your hand, too. You are her doctor, and it is for you
to see that she is not subjected to any strain that she is not fit to
bear. A suitable medical certificate will put the stopper even on
Blandy."

As Jervis ceased speaking, the soft-voiced bell of the unseen clock,
having gently chimed the quarters, now struck (if one may use so violent
an expression) the hour of four. I rose from my chair, and, having
thanked both my friends profusely for their help, held out my hand.

"One moment, Oldfield," said Thorndyke. "You have tantalized us with a
bare precis of the astonishing story that you have to tell. But we want
the unabridged edition. When are we to have it? We realize that you are
rather tied to your practice. But perhaps we could look in on you when
you have some time to spare, say, one evening after dinner. How would
that do?"

"Why after dinner?" I demanded. "Why not come and dine with me and do the
pow-wow after?"

"That would be very pleasant," said Thorndyke. "Don't you agree, Jervis?"

Jervis agreed emphatically; and as it appeared that both my friends were
free that very evening, it was settled that we should meet again at
Osnaburgh Street and discuss the Gannet case at length.

"And remember," said I, pausing in the doorway, "that consultation hours
are usually more or less blank, so you can come as early as you like."

With this parting admonition, I shut the door after me and went on my
way.



CHAPTER 11 - MR. BUNDERBY EXPOUNDS


As I emerged from the Temple gateway into Fleet Street I was confronted
by a stationary omnibus, held up temporarily by a block in the traffic;
and glancing at it casually, my eye caught, among the names on its rear
board, those of Piccadilly and Bond Street. The latter instantly
associated itself with the gallery of which Mrs. Gannet had spoken that
morning, and the effect of the association was to cause me to jump on to
the omnibus just as it started to move. I had nearly two hours to spare
and in that time could easily inspect the exhibition of Gannet's work.

I was really quite curious about this show, for Gannet's productions had
always been somewhat of a mystery to me. They were so amazingly crude and
so deficient, as I thought, in any kind of ceramic quality. And yet I
felt there must be something more in them than I had been able to
discover. There must be some deficiency in my own powers of perception
and appreciation; for it was a fact that they had not only been publicly
exhibited but actually sold, and sold at quite impressive prices; and one
felt that the people who paid those prices must surely know what they
were about. At any rate, I should now see the pottery in its appropriate
setting and perhaps hear some comments from those who were better able
than I to form a judgment.

I had no difficulty in finding the Lyntondale Gallery, for a flag bearing
its name hung out boldly from a first floor window; and when I had paid
my shilling entrance fee and a further shilling for a catalogue, I passed
in through the turnstile and was straightway spirited aloft in an
elevator.

On entering the principal room of the gallery I was aware of a knot of
people--about a dozen--gathered before a large glass case and appearing
to surround a stout, truculent-looking gentleman with a fine, rich
complexion and a mop of white hair which stood up like the crest of a
cockatoo. But my attention was more particularly attracted by another
gentleman, who stood apart from the knot of visitors and appeared to be
either the proprietor of the gallery or an attendant. What drew my
attention to him was an indefinite something in his appearance that
seemed familiar. I felt that I had seen him somewhere before. But I could
not place him; and while I was trying to remember where I might have seen
him, he caught my eye and approached with a deferential smile.

"You have arrived quite opportunely, sir," said he. "Mr. Bunderby, the
eminent art critic, is just about to give us a little talk on the subject
of Peter Gannet's very remarkable pottery. It will be worth your while to
hear it. Mr. Bunderby's talks are always most illuminating."

I thanked him warmly for the information, for an illuminating talk on
this subject by a recognized authority was precisely what I wanted to
hear; and as the cockatoo gentleman--whom I diagnosed as Mr.
Bunderby--had just opened a show case and transferred one of the pieces
to a small revolving stand, like a modeler's turntable, I joined the
group that surrounded him and prepared to "lend him my ears."

The piece that he had placed on the stand was one of Gannet's roughest;
an uncouth vessel, in appearance something between a bird's nest and a
flower pot. I noticed that the visitors stared at it in obvious
bewilderment and Mr. Bunderby watched their expressions with a satisfied
smile.

"Before speaking to you," said he, "of these remarkable works, I must say
just a few words about their creator. Peter Gannet is a unique artist.
Whereas the potters of the past have striven after more and yet more
sophistication, Gannet has perceived the great truth that pottery should
be simple and elemental, and with wonderful courage and insight, he has
set himself to retrace the path along which mankind has strayed, back to
that fountainhead of culture, the New Stone Age. He has cast aside the
potter's wheel and all other mechanical aids, and relies solely on that
incomparable instrument, the skilled hand of the artist.

"So in these works, you must not look for mechanical accuracy or surface
finish. Gannet is, first and foremost, a great stylist, who subordinates
everything to the passionate pursuit of essential form. So much for the
man. And now we will turn to the pottery."

He paused a few moments and stood with half-closed eyes and his head on
one side, contemplating the bowl on the stand. Then he resumed his
discourse.

"I begin," said he, "by showing you this noble and impressive work
because it is typical of the great artist by whose genius it was created.
It presents in a nutshell" (he might have said a coconut shell) "the
aims, the ambitions and the inmost thoughts and emotions of its maker.
Looking at it, we realize with respectful admiration the wonderful power
of analysis, the sensibility--at once subtle and intense--that made its
conception possible; and we can trace the deep thought, the profound
research--the untiring search for the essentials of abstract form."

Here a lady, who spoke with a slight American intonation, ventured to
remark that she didn't quite understand this piece. Mr. Bunderby fixed
her with his truculent blue eye and replied, impressively:

"You don't understand it! But of course you don't. And you shouldn't try
to. A great work of art is not to be understood. It is to be felt. Art is
not concerned with intellectual expositions. Those it leaves to science.
It is the medium of emotional transfer whereby the soul of the artist
conveys to kindred spirits the reactions of his own sensibility to the
problems of abstract form."

Here another Philistine intervened with the objection that he was not
quite clear as to what was meant by "abstract form."

"No," said Mr. Bunderby, "I appreciate your difficulty. Mere verbal
language is a clumsy medium for the expression of those elusive qualities
that are to be felt rather than described. How shall I explain myself?
Perhaps it is impossible. But I will try.

"The words 'abstract form,' then, evoke in me the conception of that
essential, pervading, geometric sub-structure which persists when all the
trivial and superficial accidents of mere visual appearances have been
eliminated. In short, it is the fundamental rhythm which is the basic
aesthetic factor underlying all our abstract conceptions of spatial
limitation. Do I make myself clear?"

"Oh, perfectly, thank you," the Philistine replied, hastily, and
forthwith retired deep into his shell and was heard no more.

I need not follow Mr. Bunderby's discourse in detail. The portion that I
have quoted is a representative sample of the whole. As I listened to the
sounding phrases with their constantly recurring references to "rhythm"
and "essential abstract form," I was conscious of growing disappointment.
All this nebulous verbiage conveyed nothing to me. I seemed merely to be
listening to Peter Gannet at second hand (though probably it was the
other way about; that I had, in the studio talks, been listening to
Bunderby at second hand). At any rate, it told me nothing about the
pottery; and so far from resolving my doubts and misgivings, left me only
still more puzzled and bewildered.

But enlightenment was to come. It came, in fact, when the whole
collection seemed to have been reviewed. There was an impressive pause
while Mr. Bunderby passed his fingers through his crest, making it stand
up another two inches, and glared at the empty stand.

"And now," said he, "as a final bonne bouche, I am going to show you
another facet of Peter Gannet's genius. May we have the decorated jar,
Mr. Kempster?"

As the name was uttered, my obscure recognition of the proprietor was
instantly clarified. But close as his resemblance was to the diamond
merchant of Newingstead, he was obviously not the same man. Indeed he
could not have been. Nevertheless, I observed him with interest as he
advanced with slow steps, treading delicately and holding the precious
jar in both hands as if it had been the Holy Grail or a live bomb. At
length he placed it, with infinite care and tenderness, on the stand;
slowly withdrew his hands and stepped back a couple of paces, still
gazing at it reverentially.

"There," said Bunderby, "look at that!"

They looked at it and so did I,--with bulging eyes and mouth agape. It
was amazing--incredible. And yet it was impossible that I could be
mistaken. Every detail of it was familiar, including the marks of my own
latch-key and the little dents made by the clinical thermometer. Eagerly
I awaited Bunderby's exposition; and when it came it surpassed even my
expectations.

"I have reserved this, the gem of the collection, to the last because,
though at first glance it is different from the others, it is typical. It
affords the perfect and unmistakable expression of Peter Gannet's
artistic personality. Even more than the other it testifies to the
rigorous, single-minded search for essential form and abstract rhythm. It
is the fine flower of hand-built pottery. And mark you, not only does its
hand-built character leap to the eye (the expert eye, of course), but it
is obvious that by no method but that of direct modelling by hand could it
have been created.

"Then consider the ornament. Note this charming guilloche, executed with
the most masterly freedom with the thumb-nail--just the simple
thumb-nail; a crude instrument, you may say; but no other could produce
exactly this effect, as the ancient potters knew."

He ran his finger lovingly over the mustard-spoon impressions and
continued:

"Then look at these lovely rosettes. They tell us that when the artist
created them he had in his mind the idea of 'what o'clocks'--the
dandelion head. Profoundly stylized as the form is, generalized from the
representational plane to that of ultimate abstraction, we can still
trace the thought."

As he paused, one of the spectators remarked that the rosettes seemed to
have been executed with the end of a key.

"They do," Bunderby agreed, "and it is quite possible that they were. And
why not? The genius asks for no special apparatus. He uses the simple
means that lie to his hand. But that hand is the hand of a master which
transmutes to gold the very clay that feels its touch.

"So it has done in this little masterpiece. It has produced what we feel
to be a complete epitome of abstract three-dimensional form. And then the
rhythm! The rhythm!"

He paused, having apparently exhausted his vocabulary (if such a thing
were possible). Then suddenly he looked at his watch and started.

"Dear me!" he exclaimed. "How the time flies! I must be running away. I
have four more galleries to inspect. Let me thank you for the courteous
interest with which you have listened to my simple comments and express
the hope that some of you may be able to secure an example of the work of
a great and illustrious artist. I had intended to say a few words about
Mr. Boles's exquisite neo-primitive jewelry but my glass has run out. I
wish you all good afternoon."

He bowed to the assembly and to Mr. Kempster and bustled away, and I
noticed that with his retirement all interest in the alleged masterpieces
seemed to lapse. The visitors strayed away to other parts of the gallery
and the majority soon strayed towards the door.

Meanwhile, Mr. Kempster took possession of the jar and carried it
reverently back to its case. I followed him with my eyes and then with
the rest of my person. For, like Mr. Tite Barnacle (or, rather, his
visitor), I "wanted to know, you know." I had noticed a red wafer stuck
to the jar, and this served as an introduction.

"So the masterpiece is sold," said I. "Fifteen guineas, according to the
catalogue. It seems a long price for a small jar."

"It does," he admitted. "But it is a museum piece; hand-built and by an
acknowledged master."

"It looks rather different from most of Gannet's work. I suppose there is
no doubt that it is really from his hand?"

Mr. Kempster was shocked. "Good gracious, no!" he replied. "He drew up
the catalogue himself. Besides--"

He picked up the jar quickly (no Holy Grail touch this time) and turned
it up to exhibit the bottom.

"You see," said he, "the piece is signed and numbered. There is no
question as to its being Gannet's work."

If the inference was erroneous, the fact was correct. On the bottom of
the jar was Gannet's distinctive mark; a sketchy gannet, the letters "P.
G." with the number, Op. 961. That disposed of the possibility which had
occurred to me that the jar might have been put among Gannet's own works
by mistake, possibly by Mrs. Gannet. The fraud had evidently been
deliberate.

As he replaced the jar on its shelf, I ventured to indulge my curiosity
on another point.

"I heard Mr. Bunderby mention your name. Do you happen to be related to
Mr. Kempster of Newingstead?"

"My brother," he replied. "You noticed the likeness, I suppose. Do you
know him?"

"Very slightly. But I was down there at the time of the robbery; in fact,
I had to give evidence at the inquest on the unfortunate policeman. It
was I who found him by the wood."

"Ah, then you will be Dr. Oldfield. I read the report of the inquest,
and, of course, heard all about it from my brother. It was a disastrous
affair. It appears that the diamonds were not covered by insurance and I
am afraid that it looks like a total loss. The diamonds are hardly likely
to be recovered now. They are probably dispersed, and it would be
difficult to identify them singly."

"I was sorry," said I, "to miss Mr. Bunderby's observations on Mr.
Boles's jewelry. It seems to me to need some explaining."

"Yes," he admitted, "it isn't to everybody's taste. My brother, for
instance, won't have it at any price, though he knows Mr. Boles and
rather likes him. And speaking of Newingstead, it happens that Mr. Boles
is a native of that place."

"Indeed. Then I suppose that is how your brother came to know him?"

"I can't say, but I rather think not. Probably he made the acquaintance
through business channels. I know that he has had some dealings--quite
small transactions--with Mr. Boles."

"But surely," I exclaimed, "Mr. Boles doesn't ever use diamonds in his
neolithic jewelry?"

"Neo-primitive," he corrected with a smile. "No, I should think he was a
vendor rather than a buyer or he may have made exchanges. Like most
jewelers, Mr. Boles picks up oddments of old or damaged jewelry, when he
can get it cheap, to use as scrap. Any diamonds or faceted stones would
be useless to him as he uses only simple stones, cabochon cut, and not
many of those. But that is only a surmise based on remarks that Mr. Boles
has let fall; I don't really know much about his affairs."

At this moment I happened to glance at a clock at the end of the gallery,
and to my dismay saw that it stood at ten minutes to six. With a few
words of apology and farewell, I rushed out of the gallery, clattered
down the stairs and darted out into the street. Fortunately, an
unoccupied taxi was drifting towards me and slowed down as I hailed it.
In a moment I had given my address, scrambled in and slammed the door and
was moving on at a pace that bid fair to get me home within a minute or
two of six.

The short journey gave me little time for reflection. Yet in those few
minutes I was able to consider the significance of my recent experiences
sufficiently to be conscious of deep regret and disillusionment. Of the
dead, one would wish not only to speak but to think nothing but good; and
though Peter Gannet had been more an acquaintance than a friend, and one
for whom I had entertained no special regard, I was troubled that I could
no longer even pretend to think of him with respect. For the doubts that
I had felt and tried to banish were doubts no longer. The bubble was
pricked. Now I knew that his high pretensions were mere clap-trap, his
"works of art" a rank imposture.

But even worse than this was the affair of "the decorated jar." To pass
off as his own work a piece that had been made by another--though that
other were but an incompetent beginner--was unspeakably shabby; to offer
it for sale was sheer dishonesty. Not that I grudged the fifteen guineas,
since they would benefit poor Mrs. Gannet, nor did I commiserate the
"mug" who had paid that preposterous price. Probably, he deserved all he
got--or lost. But it irked me to think that Gannet, whom I had assumed to
be a gentleman, was no more than a common rogue.

As to Bunderby, obviously, he was an arrant quack. An ignoramus, too, if
he really believed my jar to have been hand-built, for a glance at its
interior would have shown the most blatant traces of the wheel. But at
this point my meditations were interrupted by the stopping of the taxi
opposite my house. I hopped out, paid the driver, fished out my latch-key
and had it in the keyhole at the very moment when the first--and, as it
turned out, also the last--of the evening's patients arrived on the
door-step.



CHAPTER 12 - A SYMPOSIUM


To the ordinary housewife, the casual invitation to dinner of two large,
able-bodied men would seem an incredible proceeding. But such is the way
of bachelors; and perhaps it is not, after all, a bad way. Still, as I
immured the newly-arrived patient in the waiting room, it did dawn on me
that my housekeeper, Mrs. Gilbert, ought to be notified of the expected
guests. Not that I had any anxiety, for Mrs. Gilbert appeared to credit
me with the appetite of a Gargantua (and, in fact, I had a pretty good
"twist"), and she seemed to live in a state of chronic anxiety lest I
should develop symptoms of impending starvation.

Having discharged my bombshell down the kitchen stairs, I proceeded to
deal with the patient--fortunately, a "chronic" who required little more
than a "repeat"--and having safely launched him, bottle in hand, from the
door step, repaired to the little glory-hole, known as "the study," to
make provision for my visitors. Of their habits I knew nothing; but it
seemed to me that a decanter of whiskey, another of sherry, a siphon and
a box of cigars would meet all probable exigencies; and I had just
finished these preparations when my guests arrived.

As they entered the study, Jervis looked at the table on which the
decanters were displayed and grinned.

"It's all right, Thorndyke," said he. "Oldfield has got the restoratives
ready. You won't want your smelling salts. But he is evidently going to
make our flesh creep properly."

"Don't take any notice of him, Oldfield," said Thorndyke. "Jervis is a
perennial juvenile. But he takes quite an intelligent interest in this
case, and we are both all agog to hear your story. Where shall I put my
note-book? I want to take rather full notes."

As he spoke, he produced a rather large block of ruled paper and fixed a
wistful eye on the table; whereupon, having, after a brief discussion,
agreed to take the restoratives as read, we transferred the whole
collection--decanters, siphon and cigar box--to the top of a cupboard and
Thorndyke laid his block on the vacant table and drew up a chair.

"Now, Oldfield," said Jervis, when we had all taken our seats and filled
our pipes, "fire away. Art is long but life is short. Thorndyke is
beginning to show signs of senile decay already, and I'm not as young as
I was."

"The question is," said I, "where shall I begin?"

"The optimum place to begin," replied Jervis, "is at the beginning."

"Yes, I know. But the beginning of the case was the incident of the
arsenic poisoning, and you know all about that."

"Jervis doesn't," said Thorndyke, "and I only came in at the end. Tell us
the whole story. Don't be afraid of repetition and don't try to
condense."

Thus directed, I began with my first introduction to the Gannet household
and traced the history of my attendance up to the point at which
Thorndyke came into the case, breaking off at the cessation of my visits
to the hospital.

"I take it," said Jervis, "that full notes and particulars of the
material facts are available if they should be wanted."

"Yes," Thorndyke replied, "I have my own notes and a copy of Woodfield's,
and I think Oldfield has kept a record."

"I have," said I, "and I had intended to send you a copy. I must write
one out and send it to you."

"Don't do that," said Jervis. "Lend it to me and I will have a
typewritten copy made. But get on with the story. What was the next
phase?"

"The next phase was the return home of Peter Gannet. He called on me to
report and informed me that, substantially, he was quite fit."

"Was he, by Jove?" exclaimed Jervis. "He had made a pretty rapid
recovery, considering the symptoms. And how did he seem to like the idea
of coming home? Seem at all nervous?"

"Not at all. His view was that, as the attempt had been spotted and we
should be on our guard, they wouldn't risk another. And apparently he was
right--up to a certain point. I don't know what precautions he took--if
he took any. But nothing further happened until--but we shall come to
that presently. I will carry the narrative straight on."

This I did, making a brief and sketchy reference to my visits to the
studio and the activities of Gannet and Boles. But at this point Jervis
pulled me up.

"A little vague and general, this, Oldfield. Better follow the events
more closely and in full detail."

"But," I protested, "all this has really nothing to do with the case."

"Don't you let Thorndyke hear you say that, my child. He doesn't admit
that there is such a thing as an irrelevant fact, ascertainable in
advance as such. Detail, my friend, detail; and again I say detail."

I did not take him quite literally, but I acted as if I did. Going back
to the beginning of the studio episode, I recounted it with the minutest
and most tedious circumstantiality, straining my memory in sheer malice
to recall any trivial and unmeaning incident that I could recover, and
winding up with a prolix and exact description of my prentice efforts
with the potter's wheel and the creation of the immortal jar. I thought I
had exhausted their powers of attention, but to my surprise Thorndyke
asked:

"And what did your masterpiece look like when you had finished it?"

"It was very thick and clumsy, but it was quite a pleasant shape. The
wheel tends to produce pleasant shapes if you let it."

"Do you know what became of it?"

"Yes. Gannet fired it and passed it off as his own work. But I will tell
you about that later. I only discovered the fraud this afternoon."

He nodded and made a note on a separate slip of paper and I then resumed
my narrative; and as this was concerned with the discovery of the crime,
I was genuinely careful not to omit any detail, no matter how unimportant
it might appear to me. They both listened with concentrated attention,
and Thorndyke apparently took my statement down verbatim in shorthand.

When I had finished with the gruesome discoveries in the studio, I paused
and prepared to play my trump card, confident that, unlike Inspector
Blandy, they would appreciate the brilliancy of my inspiration and its
important bearing on the identity of the criminal. And I was not
disappointed, at least as to the impression produced, for as I described
how the "brain wave" had come to me, Thorndyke looked up from his
note-book with an appearance of surprise and Jervis stared at me,
open-mouthed.

"But, my dear Oldfield!" he exclaimed, "what in the name of Fortune gave
you the idea of testing the ashes for arsenic?"

"Well, there had been one attempt," I replied, "and it was quite possible
that there might have been another. That was what occurred to me."

"Yes, I understand," said he. "But surely you did not expect to get an
arsenic reaction from incinerated bone?"

"I didn't, very much. It was just a chance shot; and I must admit that
the result came quite as a surprise."

"The result!" he exclaimed. "What result?"

"I will show you," said I; and forthwith I produced from a locked drawer
the precious glass tube with its unmistakable arsenic mirror.

Jervis took it from me and stared at it with a ludicrous expression of
amazement, while Thorndyke regarded him with a quiet twinkle.

"But," the former exclaimed, when he had partially recovered from his
astonishment, "the thing is impossible. I don't believe it!" Whereupon
Thorndyke chuckled aloud.

"My learned friend," said he, "reminds me of that German professor who,
meeting a man wheeling a tall cycle--a thing that he had never before
seen the like of--demonstrated conclusively to the cyclist that it was
impossible to ride the machine for the excellent reason that, if you
didn't fall off to the right, you must inevitably fall off to the left."

"That's all very well," Jervis retorted, "but you don't mean to tell me
that you accept this mirror at its face value?"

"It is certainly a little unexpected," Thorndyke replied, "but you will
remember that Soderman and O'Connell state definitely that it has been
possible to show the presence of arsenic in the ashes of cremated
bodies."

"Yes. I remember noting their statement and finding myself unable to
accept it. They cited no instances and they gave no particulars. A mere
ipse dixit has no evidential weight. I am convinced that there is some
fallacy in this case. What about your reagents, Oldfield? Is there a
possibility that any of them might have been contaminated with arsenic?"

"No," I replied, "it is quite impossible. I tested them exhaustively.
There was no sign of arsenic until I introduced the bone ash."

"By the way," Thorndyke asked, "did you use up all your material, or have
you some left?"

"I used only half of it, so if you think it worth while to check the
analysis, I can let you have the remainder."

"Excellent!" said Thorndyke. "A control experiment will settle the
question whether the ashes do, or do not, contain arsenic. Meanwhile,
since the mirror is an undeniable fact, we must provisionally adopt the
affirmative view. I suppose you told the police about this?"

"Yes, I showed them the tube. Inspector Blandy spotted the arsenic mirror
at a glance, but he took a most extraordinary attitude. He seemed to
regard the arsenic as of no importance whatever; quite irrelevant, in
fact. He would, apparently, like to suppress it altogether; which appears
to me a monstrous absurdity."

"I think you are doing Blandy an injustice," said Thorndyke. "From a
legal point of view, he is quite right. What the prosecution has to prove
is, first, the fact that a murder has been committed; second, the
identity of the person who has been murdered; and third, the identity of
the person who committed the murder. Now the fact of murder is
established by the condition of the remains and the circumstances in
which they were found. The exact cause of death is, therefore,
irrelevant. The arsenic has no bearing as proof of murder, because the
murder is already proved. And it has no bearing on the other two
questions."

"Surely," said I, "it indicates the identity of the murderer, in view of
the previous attempt to poison Gannet."

"Not at all," he rejoined. "There was never any inquiry as to who
administered that poison and there is no evidence. The court would not
listen to mere surmises or suspicions. The poisoner is an unknown person,
and at present the murderer is an unknown person. But you cannot
establish the identity of an unknown quantity by proving that it is
identical with another unknown quantity. No, Oldfield, Blandy is
perfectly right. The arsenic would only be a nuisance and a complication
to the prosecution. But it would be an absolute godsend to the defense."

"Why?" I demanded.

"Well," he replied, "you saw what Jervis's attitude was. That would be
the attitude of the defense. The defending counsel would pass lightly
over all the facts that had been proved and that he could not contest,
and fasten on the one thing that could not be proved and that he could
make a fair show of disproving. The element of doubt introduced by the
arsenic might wreck the case for the prosecution and be the salvation of
the accused. But we are wandering away from your story. Tell us what
happened next."

I resumed my narrative, describing my visit to the police station and
Blandy's investigations at the studio, dwelling expecially on the
interest shown by the Inspector in Boles's works and materials. They
appeared to arouse a similar interest on the part of my listeners, for
Jervis commented:

"The plot seems to thicken. There is a distinct suggestion that the
studio was the scene of activities other than pottery and the making of
modernist jewelry. I wonder if those finger-prints will throw any light
on the subject?"

"I rather suspect that they have," said I, "judging by the questions that
Blandy put to Mrs. Gannet. He had got some information from somewhere."

"I don't want to interrupt the narrative," said Thorndyke, "but when we
have finished with the studio, we might have Blandy's questions. They
probably represent his views on the case, and as you say, they may enable
us to judge whether he knows more about it than we do."

"There is only one more point about the studio," said I, "but it is a
rather important one, as it seems to bear on the motive for the murder."
And with this I gave a detailed account of the quarrel between Gannet and
Boles, an incident that, in effect, brought my connection with the place
and the men to an end.

"Yes," Thorndyke agreed, "that is important, for all the circumstances
suggest that it was not a mere casual falling out but the manifestation
of a deep-seated enmity."

"That was what I thought," said I, "and so, evidently, did Mrs. Gannet;
and it was on this point that Blandy's questions were so particularly
searching. First, he elicited the fact that the two men were formerly
quite good friends and that the change had occurred quite recently. He
inquired as to the cause of the change, but she was quite unable to
account for it. Then he wanted to know when the change had occurred, but
she was only able to say that it occurred some time in the latter part of
last year. The next questions related to Boles's movements about that
time, and naturally, she couldn't tell him very much. And then he asked a
most remarkable question, which was, could she remember where Boles was
on the l9th of last September? And it happened that she could. For at
that time Gannet had gone to spend a week-end with Boles and she had
taken the opportunity to spend a week-end at Eastbourne. And as she
remembered clearly that she was at Eastbourne on the 19th of September,
it followed that on that date Boles and Gannet were staying together at a
place called Newingstead."

At the mention of Newingstead, Thorndyke looked up quickly, but he made
no remark, and I continued:

"This information seemed greatly to interest Inspector Blandy, especially
the fact that the two men were at Newingstead together on that date; and
he pressed Mrs. Gannet to try to remember whether the sudden change from
friendship to enmity seemed to coincide with that date. The question
naturally astonished her; but on reflection, she was able to recall that
she first noticed the change when she returned from Eastbourne."

"There is evidently something significant," said Jervis, "about that date
and that place, but I can't imagine what it can be."

"I think," said I, "that I can enlighten you to some extent, for it
happens that I also was at Newingstead on the 19th of last September."

"The deuce you were!" exclaimed Jervis. "Then it seems that you did not
begin your story at the beginning, after all."

"I take it," said Thorndyke, "that you are the Dr. Oldfield who gave
evidence at the inquest on Constable Murray?"

"That is so. But how do you come to know about that inquest? I suppose
you read about it in the papers? But it is odd that you should happen to
remember it."

"It isn't, really," said Thorndyke. "The fact is that Mr. Kempster--the
man who was robbed, you remember--consulted me about the case. He wanted
me to trace the thief, and if possible, to trace the diamonds, too. Of
course, I told him that I had no means of doing anything of the kind. It
was purely a police case. But he insisted on leaving the matter in my
hands and he provided me with a verbatim report of the inquest from the
local paper. Don't you remember the case, Jervis? I know you read the
report."

"Yes," replied Jervis. "I begin to have a hazy recollection of the case.
I remember now that a constable was murdered in a wood; killed with his
own truncheon, wasn't he?"

"Yes," I replied; "and some very distinct finger-prints were found on the
truncheon--finger-prints from a left hand, with a particularly clear
thumb-print."

"Ha!" said Jervis. "Yes, of course, I remember; and I think I begin to
'rumble' Mr. Blandy, as Miller would say. Did you see those finger-prints
on the gold plate?"

"I just had a look at them, though I was not particularly interested. But
they were extremely clear--they would be, on polished gold plate. There
was a thumb on one side and a forefinger on the reverse."

"Do you know whether they were left or right?"

"I couldn't tell; but Blandy said they were from a left hand."

"I expect he was right," said Jervis. "I am not fond of Blandy, but he
certainly does know his job. It looks as if there were going to be some
startling developments in this case. What do you think, Thorndyke?"

"It depends," replied Thorndyke, "on what Blandy found at the studio. If
the finger-prints on the gold plate were the same as those found on the
truncheon, they can be assumed to be those of the man who murdered the
constable; and as Blandy will have assumed--quite properly--that they
were the finger-prints of Boles, we can understand his desire to
ascertain where Boles was on the day of the murder, and his intense
interest in learning from Mrs. Gannet that Boles was actually at
Newingstead on that very day. Further, I think we can understand his
disinclination to have any dealings with the arsenic."

"I don't quite see why," said I.

"It is partly a matter of legal procedure," he explained. "Boles cannot
be charged with any crime until he is caught. But, if he is arrested, and
his finger-prints are found to be the same as those on the truncheon, he
will be charged with the murder of the constable. He may also be charged
with the murder of Gannet. Thus when it comes to the trial, there will be
two indictments. But, whereas--in the circumstances that we are
assuming--the evidence against him in the matter of the murder at
Newingstead appears to be conclusive and unanswerable, that relating to
the murder of Gannet is much less convincing; in fact, there is hardly
enough at present to support the charge.

"Hence it is practically certain that the first indictment would be the
one to be proceeded with; and as this would almost certainly result in a
conviction, the other would be of no interest. The police would not be
willing to waste time and effort on preparing a difficult and
inconclusive case which would never be brought to trial. That is how the
matter presents itself to me."

"Yes," Jervis agreed, "that seems to be the position. But yet we can't
dismiss the Gannet murder altogether. Boles is the principal suspect, but
he hasn't the monopoly. He might have had an accomplice--an accessory,
either before or after the fact. As I see the case, it seems to leave Mr.
Boles fairly in the soup and Mrs. Gannet, so to speak, sitting on the
edge of the tureen. But I may be wrong."

"I think you are," said I, with some warmth. "I don't believe that Mrs.
Gannet has any guilty knowledge of the crime at all."

"I am inclined to agree with you, Oldfield," said Thorndyke. "But I think
Jervis was referring to the views of the police, which may be different
from ours."

At this moment the clock in the adjacent consulting room struck eight,
and, before its reverberations had died away, the welcome sound of the
gong was heard summoning us to dinner. I conducted my guests to the
dining room, and a quick glance at the table as I entered assured me that
Mrs. Gilbert had been equal to the occasion. And that conviction deepened
as the meal proceeded and evidently communicated itself to my guests, for
Jervis remarked, after an appreciative sniff at his claret glass:

"Oldfield seems to do himself pretty well for a struggling G.P."

"Yes," Thorndyke agreed. "I think we may congratulate him on his
housekeeper."

"And his wine merchant," added Jervis. "I propose a vote of thanks to
them both."

I bowed my acknowledgments and promised to convey the sentiments of the
company to the proper quarters (which I did, subsequently, to our mutual
satisfaction), and we then reverted to the activities proper to the
occasion. Presently Jervis looked up at me as if a sudden thought had
struck him.

"When you were describing Gannet's method of work, Oldfield, you didn't
give us a very definite idea of the result. I gather that he posed as a
special kind of artist potter. Did you consider that his productions
justified that claim?"

"To tell the truth," I replied, "I didn't know what to think. To my eye
his pottery looked like the sort of rough, crude stuff that is made by
primitive people--but not so good--or the pottery that children turn out
at the kindergartens. But you see I am not an expert. It seemed possible
that it might have some subtle qualities which I was too ignorant to
detect."

"A very natural state of mind for a modest man," said Thorndyke, "and a
perfectly proper one; but a dangerous one, nevertheless. For it is just
that self-distrust, that modest assumption that 'there must be something
in it, after all,' that lets in the charlatan and the impostor. I saw
some of Gannet's pottery in his bedroom, including that outrageous
effigy, and I am afraid that I was less modest than you were, for I
decided definitely that the man who made it was no potter."

"And you were absolutely right," said I. "The question has been settled
conclusively, so far as I am concerned, this very day. I have just
visited an exhibition of Gannet's works, and the bubble of his reputation
was burst before my eyes. I will give you the particulars. It was quite a
quaint experience."

With this I produced the catalogue from my pocket and having read to them
Bunderby's introduction, I gave them a full description of the
proceedings, including as much of Bunderby's discourse as I could
remember, and finishing up with the amazing incident of the "decorated
jar." They both listened with deep interest and with appreciative
chuckles, and when I had concluded, Jervis remarked:

"Well, the jar incident fairly puts the lid on it. Obviously, the whole
of the pottery business was what the financiers call a ramp. And I should
say that Bunderby was in it up to the neck."

"That is not so certain," said Thorndyke. "He is either an ignoramus or a
sheer impostor, and possibly both. It doesn't matter much, as he is
apparently not our pigeon. But the affair of the jar--a mere beginner's
experiment--is more interesting, for it concerns Gannet, who is our
pigeon. As Jervis says, it explodes Gannet's pretensions as a skilled
artist, and thus convicts him of deliberate imposture, but it also proves
him guilty of an act, not only mean but quite definitely dishonest. For
the jar might conceivably be sold."

"It is sold," said I, "for fifteen guineas."

"Which," Jervis pronounced, oracularly, "illustrates the proverbial lack
of cohesion between a fool and his money. I wonder who the mug is."

"I didn't discover that; in fact, I didn't ask. But I picked up some
other items of information. I had quite a long chat with Mr. Kempster,
the proprietor of the gallery."

"Mr. Kempster?" Thorndyke repeated, with a note of interrogation.

"Yes, but not your Mr. Kempster. This man is the brother of your client
and a good deal like him. That is how I came to speak to him."

"And what did you learn from Mr. Kempster?" Thorndyke asked.

"I learned, in the first place, that Boles is a Newingstead man; that he
is acquainted with your Mr. Kempster, and that they have had certain
business transactions."

"Of what kind?" asked Thorndyke.

"Either the sale or exchange of stones. It seems that Boles buys up
oddments of old or damaged jewelry to melt down for his own work. If they
contain any diamonds, he picks them out and passes them on to Kempster,
either in exchange for the kind of stones that he uses, or else, I
suppose, for cash. Apparently the transactions are on quite a small
scale."

"Small or large," said Jervis, "it sounds a bit fishy. Wouldn't Blandy be
interested?"

"I don't quite see why," said I. "Blandy is all out on the murder charge.
It wouldn't help him if he could prove Boles to be a receiver, or even a
thief."

"I think you are wrong there," said Thorndyke. "If you recall the
circumstances of the diamond robbery, which led to the murder of the
constable, you will see that what you have told us has a distinct
bearing. It was assumed that the thief was a chance stranger who had
strayed into the premises. But a man who was suspected of being either a
receiver or a thief, who had had dealings with Kempster--possibly in that
very house--and knew something of his habits, and who happened to be in
Newingstead at the time of the robbery, would fit into the picture much
better than a chance stranger. However, that case really turns on the
finger-print. If the print on the truncheon is Boles's print, Boles will
hang if he is caught; and if it is not, he is innocent both of the murder
and of the robbery."

I did not pursue the topic any farther, and the conversation drifted into
other channels. But suddenly it occurred to me that nothing had been said
on the very subject that had occasioned the present meeting.

"By the way," said I, "you haven't told me what has been done about poor
Mrs. Gannet. I hope you have been able to make some arrangements."

"We have," said Jervis. "You need have no further anxiety about her. I
called on Linnell this afternoon and put the proposal to him, and he
agreed, not only quite willingly but with enthusiasm, to undertake the
case. He is keen on criminal practice, and for a solicitor he has an
unusual knowledge of criminal law and procedure. So we can depend on him
in both respects. He will see that Mrs. Gannet's rights and interests are
properly safeguarded, and on the other hand, he won't obstruct and
antagonize the police."

"I am relieved to hear that," said I, "for I was most distressed to think
of the terrible position that this poor lady finds herself in. I feel the
deepest sympathy for her."

"Very properly," said Thorndyke, "as her medical adviser, and I think I
am disposed to agree with your view of the case. But we must be cautious.
We must not take sides. In the words of a certain ecclesiastic, 'we must
keep a warm heart and a cool head.' You will remember that when the
arsenic poisoning occurred, both you and I, having regard to Mrs.
Gannet's relations with Boles, felt that she was a possible suspect,
either as an accessory or a principal. That view was perfectly correct
and I must remind you that nothing has changed since then. The general
probabilities remain. I do not believe that she had any hand in this
crime, but you and I may both be wrong. At any rate, the police will
consider all the possibilities, and our business is to see that Mrs.
Gannet gets absolutely fair treatment; and that we shall do."

"Thank you, sir," said I. "It is most kind of you to take so much
interest, and so much trouble, in this case, seeing that you have no
personal concern in it. Indeed, I don't quite know why you have
interested yourselves in it in the way that you have done."

"That is easily explained," replied Thorndyke. "Jervis and I are
medico-legal practitioners, and here is a most unusual crime of the
greatest medico-legal interest. Such cases we naturally study for the
sake of the knowledge and experience that may be gleaned from them. But
there is another reason. It has repeatedly happened that when we have
studied some unusual case from the outside for its mere professional
interest, we have suddenly acquired a personal interest in it by being
called on to act for one of the parties. Then we have had the great
advantage of being able to take it up with full and considered knowledge
of most of the facts."

"Then," I asked somewhat eagerly, "if you were asked to take up this case
on behalf of Mrs. Gannet, would you be willing--assuming, of course, that
the costs would be met?"

"The costs would not be an essential factor," he replied. "I think that
if a charge should be brought against Mrs. Gannet, I would be willing to
investigate the case--with an open mind and at her risk as to what I
might discover--and if I were satisfied of her innocence, to undertake
her defense."

"Only if you were satisfied of her innocence?"

"Yes. Reasonably satisfied when I had all the facts. Remember, Oldfield,
that I am an investigator. I am not an advocate."

I found this slightly disappointing, but as no charge was probable, and
as Thorndyke's view of the case was substantially similar to my own, I
pursued the subject no farther. Shortly afterwards, we adjourned to the
study and spent the remainder of the evening discussing Gannet's pottery
and the various aspects of modernist art.



CHAPTER 13 - THE INQUIRY


The results of Mr. Linnell's activities on Mrs. Gannet's behalf were
slightly disappointing, though she undoubtedly derived great
encouragement from the feeling that his advice and support were always
available. But Inspector Blandy was quietly but doggedly persistent in
his search for information. Characteristically, he welcomed Linnell with
almost affectionate warmth. It was such a relief to him to know that this
poor lady now had a really competent and experienced legal adviser to
watch over her interests. He had formerly been so distressed at her
friendless and solitary condition. Now he was quite happy about her,
though he deplored the necessity of troubling her occasionally with
tiresome questions.

Nevertheless, he returned to the charge again and again in spite of
Linnell's protests that all available information had been given. There
were two points on which he yearned for more exact knowledge. The first
related to the movements of Mr. Boles; the second to her own movements
during the time that she had been absent from home. As to the first, the
last time she had seen Boles was about a week before she went away, and
she then understood that he was proposing to take a short holiday to
Burnham-on-Crouch. Whether, in fact, he did go to Burnham she could not
say. She had never seen or heard from him since that day. As to his usual
places of resort, he had an aunt at Newingstead with whom he used to stay
from time to time as a paying guest. She knew of no other place which he
was in the habit of visiting, and she had no idea whatever as to where he
might be now.

As to her own movements, she had been staying at Westcliff-on-Sea with an
old servant who had a house there and let lodgings to visitors. While
there, she had usually walked along the sea front to Southend in the
mornings and returned to tea or dinner. Sometimes she spent the whole day
at Southend and went to a theatre or other entertainment, coming back at
night by train. Naturally she could not give exact dates or say
positively where she was at a certain time on a given day, though she
tried to remember. And when the questions were repeated on subsequent
occasions, the answers that she gave inevitably tended to vary.

From these repeated questionings, it was evident to Linnell (from whom,
as well as from Mrs. Gannet, I had these particulars) that, in the
intervals, Blandy had checked all these statements by exhaustive
inquiries on the spot; and further, that he had been carefully studying
the fast train service between Southend and London. Apparently he had
discovered no discrepancy, but yet it seemed that he was not satisfied;
that he still harboured a suspicion that Mrs. Gannet knew more about the
affair than she had admitted and that she could, if she chose, give a
useful hint as to where Boles was in hiding.

Such was the state of affairs when I received a summons to attend and
give evidence at an inquest "on certain remains, believed to be human,
found on the premises of No. 12 Jacob Street." The summons came rather as
a surprise, and on receiving it I gave very careful consideration to the
questions that I might be asked and the evidence that I should give.
Should I, for instance, volunteer any statements as to the arsenic
poisoning and my analysis of the bone-ash? As to the latter, I knew that
Blandy would have liked me to suppress it, and my own enthusiasm on the
subject had largely evaporated after witnessing Jervis's open
incredulity. But I would be sworn to tell the whole truth, and as the
analysis was a fact, it would have to be mentioned. However, as will be
seen, the choice was not left to me; the far-sighted Blandy had
anticipated my difficulty and provided the necessary counterblast.

On the morning of the inquest, I made a point of calling on Mrs. Gannet
to satisfy myself that she was in a fit state to attend and to ascertain
whether Linnell would be there to represent her. On both points I was
reassured; for, though naturally a little nervous, she was quite composed
and prepared to face courageously what must necessarily be a rather
painful ordeal.

"I can never be grateful enough to you and Dr. Thorndyke," said she, "for
sending Mr. Linnell to me. He is so kind and sympathetic and so wise. I
should have been terrified of this inquest if I had had to go to it
alone; but now that I know Mr. Linnell will be there to support me, I
feel quite confident. For you know I really haven't anything that I need
conceal."

"Of course you haven't," I replied, cheerfully, though without any
profound conviction, "and there is nothing at all for you to worry about.
You can trust Mr. Linnell to keep Inspector Blandy in order."

With this I took my departure, greatly relieved to find her in so
satisfactory a state, and proceeded to dispatch my visits so as to leave
the afternoon clear. For my evidence would probably occupy a considerable
time and I wanted, if possible, to hear the whole of the inquiry; I
managed this so successfully that I was able to present myself only a few
minutes late and before the business had actually commenced.

Looking round the room as I entered, I was surprised to find but a mere
handful of spectators; not more than a dozen, and these occupied two
benches at the back, while the witnesses were accommodated on a row of
chairs in front of them. Before seating myself on the vacant chair at the
end, I glanced along the row, which included Blandy, Thorndyke, Jervis,
Mrs. Gannet, Linnell and one or two other persons who were unknown to me.

I had hardly taken my seat when the coroner opened the proceedings with a
brief address to the jury.

"The general nature of this inquiry," said he, "has been made known to
you in the course of your visit to the studio in Jacob Street. There are
three questions to which we have to find answers. First, are these
fragments of burnt bones the remains of a human being? Second, if they
are, can we give a name and identity to that person? And third, how did
that person come by his death? To these questions the obvious appearances
and the known circumstances suggest certain answers; but we must
disregard all preconceived opinions and consider the facts with an open
mind. To do that, I think the best plan will be to trace, in the order of
their occurrence, the events which seem to be connected with the subject
of our inquiry. We will begin by taking the evidence of Dr. Oldfield."

Here I may say that I shall not follow the proceedings in detail since
they dealt with matters with which the reader is already acquainted; and
for such repetition as is unavoidable, I hereby offer a comprehensive
apology.

When the preliminaries had been disposed of, the coroner opened his
examination with the question:

"When, and in what circumstances, did you first meet Peter Gannet?"

"On the 16th of December, 1930," I replied. "I was summoned
 to attend him professionally. He was then an entire stranger to me."

"What was the nature of his illness?"

"He was suffering from arsenic poisoning."

"Did you recognize the condition immediately?"

"No. The real nature of his illness was discovered by Dr. Thorndyke, whom
I consulted."

Here, in answer to a number of questions, I described the circumstances
of the illness up to the time when Peter Gannet called on me to report
his recovery.

"Were you able to form any opinion as to whom administered the poison to
Gannet?"

"No. I had no facts to go upon other than those that I have mentioned."

"You have referred to a Mr. Frederick Boles as being in attendance on
Gannet. What was his position in the household?"

"He was a friend of the family and he worked with Gannet in the studio."

"What were his relations with Gannet? Were they genuinely friendly?"

"I thought so at the time, but afterwards I changed my opinion."

"What were the relations of Boles and Mrs. Gannet?"

"They were quite good friends."

"Should you say that their relations were merely friendly? Nothing more?"

"I never had any reason to suppose that they were anything more than
friends. They seemed to be on the best of terms, but their mutual liking
was known to Gannet and he used to refer to it without any sign of
disapproval. He seemed to accept their friendship as quite natural and
proper."

The questions now concerned themselves with what I may call the second
stage; my relations with Gannet up to the time of the disappearance,
including the quarrel in the studio which I had overheard. This evidently
produced a deep impression and evoked a number of searching questions
from the coroner and from one or two of the jury. Then came the
disappearance itself, and as I told the story of my search of the house
and my discoveries in the studio, the profound silence in the court and
the intent looks of the jury testified to the eager interest of the
listeners. When I had finished the account of my doings in the studio,
the coroner (who I suspected had been primed by Blandy) asked:

"What about the sample of bone-ash that you took away with you? Did you
make any further examination of it?"

"Yes. I examined it under the microscope and confirmed my belief that it
was incinerated bone; and I also made a chemical test to ascertain
whether it contained any arsenic."

"Had you any expectation that it would contain arsenic?"

"I thought it just possible that it might contain traces of arsenic. It
was the previous poisoning incident that suggested the examination."

"Did you, in fact, find any arsenic?"

"Yes. To my surprise, I discovered a considerable quantity. I don't know
how much, as I did not attempt to estimate it, but I could see that there
was a comparatively large amount."

"And what conclusion did you reach from this fact?"

"I concluded that deceased, whoever he was, had died from the effects of
a very large dose of arsenic."

"Is that still your opinion?"

"I am rather doubtful. There may have been some source of error which is
not known to me, but the arsenic was certainly there. Really, its
significance is a matter for an expert, which I am not."

This, substantially, brought my evidence to an end. I was followed by Sir
Joseph Armadale, the eminent medico-legal authority, acting for the Home
Office. As he took his place near the coroner, he produced and laid on
the table a shallow, glass-topped box. In reply to the coroner's
question, he deposed:

"I have examined a quantity of fragments of incinerated bone submitted to
me by the Commissioner of Police. Most of them were too small to have any
recognizable character, but some were large enough to identify as parts
of particular bones. These I found, in every case, to be human bones."

"Would you say that all these fragments are the remains of a human
being?"

"That, of course, is an inference, but it is a reasonable inference. All
I can say is that every fragment that I was able to recognize as part of
a particular bone was part of a human bone. It is reasonable to infer
that the unrecognisable fragments were also human. I have picked out all
the fragments that were identifiable and put them in this box, which I
submit for your inspection."

Here the box was passed round and examined by the jury, and while the
inspection was proceeding, the coroner addressed the witness.

"You have heard Dr. Oldfield's evidence as to the arsenic that he found
in the ashes. Have you any comments to make on his discovery?"

"Yes. The matter was mentioned to me by Inspector Blandy and I
accordingly made an analysis to check Dr. Oldfield's findings. He is
perfectly correct. The ashes contain a considerable quantity of arsenic.
From two ounces of the ash I recovered nearly a tenth of a grain."

"And do you agree that the presence of that arsenic is evidence that
deceased died from arsenic poisoning?"

"No. I do not associate the arsenic with the body of deceased at all. The
quantity is impossibly large. As a matter of fact, I do not believe that,
if deceased had been poisoned even by a very large dose of arsenic, any
trace of the poison would have been discoverable in the ashes. Arsenic is
a volatile substance which changes into a vapour at a comparatively low
temperature--about 300 degrees Fahrenheit. But these bones had been
exposed for hours to a very high temperature--over 2000° Fahrenheit. I
should say that the whole of the arsenic would have been driven off in
vapour. At any rate, the quantity which was found in the ashes was quite
impossible as a residue. The arsenic must have got into the ashes in some
way after they had become ashes."

"Can you suggest any way in which it could have got into the ashes?"

"I can only make a guess. Inspector Blandy has informed me that he found
a jar of arsenic in the studio among the materials for making glazes or
enamels. So it appears that arsenic was one of the materials used, in
which case it would have been possible for it to have got mixed with the
ashes either in the grinding apparatus or in the bin. But that is only a
speculative suggestion. There may be other possibilities."

"Yes," the coroner agreed. "But it doesn't matter much. The important
point is that the arsenic was not derived from the body of deceased, and
you are clear on that?"

"Perfectly clear," replied Sir Joseph; and that completed his evidence.

The next witness was Mr. Albert Hawley, who described himself as a dental
surgeon and deposed that he had attended Mr. Peter Gannet professionally
and had made for him a partial upper denture which included the four
incisors. The coroner then handed to him a small stoppered tube which
I could see contained a tooth, remarking:

"I think you have seen that before, but you had better examine it."

"Yes," the witness replied as he withdrew the stopper and shook the tooth
out into the palm of his hand. "It was shown to me by Inspector Blandy.
It is a porcelain tooth--a right upper lateral incisor--which has been
broken into several fragments and very skilfully mended. It is of the
type known as Du Trey's."

"Does it resemble any of the teeth in the denture which you made for
Peter Gannet?"

"Yes. I used Du Trey's teeth in that denture, so this is exactly like the
right upper lateral incisor in that denture."

"You can't say, I suppose, whether this tooth actually came from that
denture?"

"No. The teeth are all alike when they come from the makers, and if I
have to make any small alterations in adjusting the bite, no record is
kept. But nothing seems to have been done to this tooth."

"If it were suggested to you that this tooth came from Gannet's denture,
would you have any reason to doubt the correctness of that suggestion?"

"None whatever. It is exactly like a tooth in his denture and it may
actually be that tooth. Only I cannot say positively that it is."

"Thank you," said the coroner. "That is all that we could expect of you,
and I think we need not trouble you any further."

Mr. Hawley was succeeded by Inspector Blandy who gave his evidence with
the ease and conciseness of the professional witness. His description of
the researches in the studio and the discovery of the fragments of the
tooth were listened to by the jury with the closest interest, though in
the matter of sensation I had rather "stolen his thunder." But the
turning out of Boles's cupboard was a new feature and several points of
interest arose from it. The discovery, for instance, of a two-pound jar
of arsenic, three-quarters full, was one of them.

"You had already learned of Dr. Oldfield's analysis?"

"Yes. He showed me the tube with the arsenic deposit in it, but I saw at
once that there must be some mistake. It was too good to be true. There
was too much arsenic for a cremated body."

"Did you gather what the arsenic was used for?"

"No. The cupboard contained a number of chemicals, apparently used for
preparing enamels and fluxes, and I presumed that the arsenic was used
for the same purpose."

The discovery of the finger-prints raised some other interesting
questions, particularly as to their identity, concerning which the
coroner asked:

"Can you say whose finger-prints those were?"

"Not positively. But there were quite a lot of them on various objects,
on bottles and jars, and some on tool-handles, and they were all from the
same person; and as the cupboard was Boles's cupboard and the tools and
bottles were his, it is fair to assume that the finger-prints were his."

"Yes," the coroner agreed, "that seems a reasonable assumption. But I
don't see the importance of it, unless the finger-prints are known to the
police. Is it expedient to ask whether they are?"

"I don't want to go into particulars," said Blandy, "but I may say that
these finger-prints are known to the police and that their owner is
wanted for a very serious crime against the person; a crime involving
extreme violence. That is their only bearing on this case. If they are
Boles's finger-prints, then Boles is known to be a violent criminal; and
there seems to be evidence in this case that a violent crime has been
committed."

"Have you had an opportunity of interviewing Mr. Boles?" the coroner
asked.

The Inspector smiled, grimly. "No," he replied. "Mr. Boles disappeared
just about the time when the body was burned, and so far, he has managed
to keep out of sight. Apparently he doesn't desire an interview."

That was the substance of the Inspector's evidence, and, as he was
disposed to be evasive and reticent, the coroner discreetly refrained
from pressing him. Accordingly, when the depositions had been read and
signed, he was allowed to retire to his seat and the name of Letitia
Gannet was called. As she advanced to the table, where a chair was placed
for her, I watched her with some uneasiness; for though I felt sure that
she knew nothing that she had not already disclosed, the atmosphere of
the court was not favourable. It was easy to see that the jury regarded
her with some suspicion, and that Blandy's habitually benevolent
expression but thinly disguised a watchful attention which was not
entirely friendly.

As I had expected, the coroner began with an attempt to get more light on
the incident of the arsenic poisoning, and Mrs. Gannet recounted the
history of the affair in so far as it was known to her.

"Of what persons did your household consist at that time?" the coroner
asked.

"Of my husband, myself and one maid. Perhaps I should include Mr. Boles
as he worked in the studio with my husband and usually took his meals
with us and was at the house a good deal."

"Who prepared your husband's food?"

"I did while he was ill. The maid did most of the other cooking."

"And the barley water? Who prepared that?"

"Usually I did; but sometimes Mr. Boles made it."

"And who took the food and drink to your husband's room?"

"I usually took it up to him myself, but sometimes I sent the maid up
with it and occasionally Mr. Boles took it up."

"Is the maid still with you?"

"No. As soon as I heard from my husband that there had been arsenic in
his food, I sent the girl away with a month's wages in lieu of notice."

"Why did you do that? Did you suspect her of having put the arsenic in
the food?"

"No, not in the least, but I thought it best to be on the safe side."

"Did you form any opinion as to who might have put it in?"

"No, there was nobody whom I could suspect. At first I thought that there
must have been some mistake, but when Dr. Oldfield explained to me that
no mistake was possible, I supposed that the arsenic must have got in by
accident; and I think so still."

The next questions were concerned with the relations existing between
Gannet and Boles and the time and circumstances of the break-up of their
friendship.

"As to the cause of this sudden change from friendship to enmity--did you
ever learn from either of the men what the trouble was?"

"Neither of them would admit that there was any trouble, though I saw
that there must be. But I could never guess what it was."

"Did it ever occur to you that your husband might be jealous on account
of your intimacy with Mr. Boles?"

"Never, and I am sure he was not. Mr. Boles and I were relatives--second
cousins--and had known each other since we were children. We were always
the best of friends, but there was never anything between us that could
have occasioned jealousy on my husband's part, and he knew it. He never
made the least objection to our friendship."

"You spoke of Mr. Boles as working with your husband in the studio. What,
precisely, does that mean? Was Mr. Boles a potter?"

"No. He sometimes helped my husband, particularly in firing the kiln; but
his own work, for the last year or two, was the making of certain kinds
of jewellery and enamels."

"You say 'for the last year or two'--what was his previous occupation?"

"He was originally a dental mechanic; but when my husband took the
studio, as it contained a jeweler's and enameler's plant, Mr. Boles came
there and began to make jewellery."

Here I caught the eye of Inspector Blandy, and a certain fluttering of
the eyelid recalled his observations on Mr. Boles's "neo-primitive"
jewelry. But a dental mechanic is not quite the same as a plumber's
apprentice.

The inquiry now proceeded to the circumstances of Peter Gannet's
disappearance and the dates of the various events.

"Can you remember exactly when you last saw Mr. Boles?"

"I think it was on Tuesday, the 21st of April; about a week before I went
away. He came to the studio and had lunch with us, and then he told us
that he was going to spend a week or ten days at Burnham in Essex. I
never saw or heard from him after that."

"You say that you went away. Can we have particulars as to when and where
you went?"

"I left home on the 29th of April to stay for a fortnight at
Westcliff-on-Sea with an old servant, Mrs. Hardy, who has a house there
and lets rooms to visitors in the season. I returned home on Thursday,
the 14th of May."

"Between those two dates, were you continuously at Westcliff, or did you
go to any other places?"

To this she replied in the same terms that she had used in her answers to
Blandy, which I have already recorded. Here again I suspected that the
coroner had received some help from the Inspector for he inquired
minutely into the witness's doings from day to day while she was staying
at Westcliff.

"In effect," said he, "you slept at Westcliff, but you frequently spent
whole days elsewhere. During that fortnight, did you ever come to
London?"

"No."

"If you had wished to spend a day in London, could you have done so
without your landlady being aware of it?"

"I suppose so. There is a very good train service. But I never did."

"And what about Burnham? That is not so very far from Westcliff. Did you
ever go there during your stay?"

"No. I never went farther than Southend."

"During that fortnight, did you ever write to your husband?"

"Yes, twice. The first letter was sent a day or two after my arrival at
Westcliff and he replied to it a couple of days later. The second letter
I wrote a few days before my return, telling him when he might expect me
home. I received no answer to that, and when I got home I found it in the
letter box."

"Can you give us the exact dates of those letters? You see that they are
important as they give, approximately, the time of the disappearance. Can
you remember the date of your husband's reply to your first letter? Or
perhaps you have the letter itself."

"I have not. It was only a short note, and when I had read it I tore it
up. My first letter was written and posted, I am nearly sure, on Monday,
the 4th of May. I think his reply reached me by the first post on Friday,
the 8th, so it would have been sent off on Thursday, the 7th. My second
letter, I remember quite clearly, was written and posted on Sunday, the
10th of May, so it would have been delivered at our house early on
Monday, the 11th."

"That is the one that you found in the letter box. Is it still in
existence?"

"No. Unfortunately, I destroyed it. I took it from the letter box and
opened it to make sure that it was my letter, and then, when I had
glanced at it, I threw it on the fire that I had just lit. But I am quite
sure about the date."

"It is a pity you destroyed the letter," said the coroner, "but no doubt
your memory as to the date is reliable. Now we come to the incidents
connected with the disappearance. Just give us an account of all that
happened from the time when you arrived home."

In reply to this, Mrs. Gannet told the story of her alarming discovery in
much the same words as she had used in telling it to me, but in greater
detail, including her visit to me and our joint examination of the
premises. Her statement was amplified by various questions from the
coroner, but her answers to them conveyed nothing new to me with one or
two exceptions. For instance, the coroner asked: "You looked at the hall
stand and noticed that your husband's hats and stick were there. Did you
notice another walking-stick?"

"I saw that there was another stick in the stand."

"Did you recognize it as belonging to any particular person?"

"No, I had never seen it before."

"Did you form any opinion as to whose stick it was?"

"I felt sure that it did not belong to my husband. It was not the kind of
stick that he would have used; and as there was only one other person who
was likely to be the owner--Mr. Boles--I assumed that it was his."

"Did you take it out and examine it?"

"No, I was not interested in it. I was trying to find out what had become
of my husband."

"But you assumed that it was Mr. Boles's stick. Did it not occur to you
as rather strange that he should have left his stick in your stand?"

"No. I suppose that he had gone out of the studio by the wicket and had
forgotten about his stick. He was sometimes inclined to be forgetful. But
I really did not think much about it."

"Was that stick in the stand when you went away from home?"

"No. I am sure it was not."

"You have mentioned that you called at Mr. Boles's flat. Why did you do
that?"

"For two reasons. I had written to him telling him when I should be home
and asking him to come and have tea with us. As he had not answered my
letter and did not come to the house, I thought that something unusual
must have happened. But especially I wanted to find out whether he knew
anything about my husband."

"When you found that he was not at his flat, did you suppose that he was
still at Burnham?"

"No, because I learned that he had returned about a week previously at
night and had slept at the flat and had the next day gone away again."

"Did you know, or could you guess, where he had gone?"

"No, I had not the least idea."

"Have you any idea as to where he maybe at this moment?"

"Not the slightest."

"Do you know of any places to which he is in the habit of going?"

"The only place I know of is his aunt's house at Newingstead. But I
understand from Inspector Blandy that inquiries have been made there and
that his aunt has not seen or heard of him for some months. I know of no
other place where he might be."

"When you were describing your search of the premises, you said that you
did not look in the studio. Why did you not? Was it not the most likely
place in which he might be?"

"Yes, it was. But I was afraid to go in. Since my husband and Mr. Boles
had been on bad terms, they had quarrelled dreadfully. And they were both
rather violent men. On one occasion--which Dr. Oldfield has mentioned--I
heard them actually fighting in the studio, and I think it had happened
on other occasions. So, when I could find no trace of my husband in the
house, I began to fear that something might have happened in the studio.
That was why I was afraid to go there."

"In short, you were afraid that you might find your husband's dead body
in the studio. Isn't that what you mean?"

"Yes, I think that was in my mind. I suspected that something awful had
happened."

"Was it only a suspicion? Or did you know that there had been some
trouble?"

"I knew nothing whatever about any trouble. I did not even know whether
the two men had met since I went away. And it was hardly a suspicion;
only, remembering what had happened in the past, the possibility occurred
to me."

When the coroner had written down this answer, he sat for a few moments
looking reflectively at the witness. Apparently, he could think of
nothing further to ask her, for, presently, turning to the jury, he said:

"I think the witness has told us all that she knows about this affair,
but possibly some members of the jury might wish to ask a further
question."

There was a short pause, during which the members of the jury gazed
solemnly at the witness. At length one enterprising juryman essayed a
question.

"Could we ask Mrs. Gannet if she knows, or has any idea, who murdered her
husband?"

"I don't believe," the coroner replied with a faint smile, "that we could
ask that question, even if it were a proper one to put to a witness,
because we have not yet decided that anyone murdered Peter Gannet, or
even that he is dead. Those are precisely the questions that you will
have to answer when you come to consider your verdict."

He paused and still regarded the jury inquiringly, but none of them made
any sign; then, after waiting for yet a few more moments, he read the
depositions, took the signature, released the witness, and pronounced the
name of her successor, Dr. Thorndyke; who came forward and took the place
which she vacated. Having been sworn, he deposed, in answer to the
coroner's question:

"I attended Peter Gannet in consultation with Dr. Oldfield last January.
I formed the opinion that he was suffering from arsenic poisoning."

"Had you any doubt on the subject?"

"No. His symptoms were the ordinary symptoms of poisoning by arsenic,
and, when I had him in the hospital under observation, it was
demonstrated chemically that there was arsenic in his body. The chemical
tests were made by Professor Woodfield and by me."

He then went on to confirm the account which I had given, including the
analysis of the arrowroot and the barley water. When he had finished his
statement, the coroner asked, tentatively:

"I suppose you were not able to form an opinion as to how, or by whom,
the poison was administered, or whether the poisoning might have been
accidental?"

"No. I had no first-hand knowledge of the persons or the circumstances.
As to accidental poisoning, I would not say that it was impossible, but I
should consider it too improbable to be seriously entertained. The
poisoning affected only one person in the house, and when the patient
returned home after the discovery it did not recur. Those facts are
entirely opposed to the idea of accidental poisoning."

"What do you say about the arsenic that Dr. Oldfield found in the ashes?"

"I agree with Sir Joseph Armadale that there must have been some
contamination of the ashes. I do not associate the arsenic with the body
of the person who was burned--assuming the ashes to be those of a burned
human body."

"On that matter," said the coroner, "perhaps you will give us your
opinion on the fragments which Sir Joseph Armadale has shown us."

He handed the box to Thorndyke, who took it and examined the contents
with an appearance of the deepest interest, assisting his eyesight with
his pocket lens. When he had--apparently--inspected each separate
fragment, he handed the box back to the coroner, who asked, as he
replaced it on the table:

"Well, what do say about those fragments?"

"I have no doubt," replied Thorndyke, "that they are all fragments of
human bones."

"Would it be possible to identify deceased from these fragments?"

"I should say that it would be quite impossible."

"Do you agree that the ashes as a whole may be assumed to be the remains
of a burned human body?"

"That is an obviously reasonable assumption, though it is not susceptible
of proof. It is the assumption that I should make in the absence of any
reasons to the contrary."

That concluded Thorndyke's evidence, and when he retired, his place was
taken by Professor Woodfield. But I need not record the Professor's
evidence since it merely repeated and confirmed that of Thorndyke and Sir
Joseph. With the reading and signing of his depositions the body of
evidence was completed and when he had returned to his seat, the coroner
proceeded to his summing up.

"In opening this inquiry," he began, "I said that there were three
questions to which we had to find answers. First, are these ashes the
remains of a human being? Second, if they are, can we identify that human
being as any known person? And third, if we can so identify him, can we
decide how he came by his death?

"Let us take these questions in their order. As to the first, it is
definitely answered for us by the medical evidence. Sir Joseph Armadale
and Dr. Thorndyke, both authorities of the highest eminence, have told us
that all the fragments which are large enough to have any recognizable
characters are undoubtedly portions of human bones; and they agree--as,
indeed, common sense suggests--that the unrecognisable remainder of the
ashes must also be presumed to be fragments of human bones. Thus our
first question is answered in the affirmative. The bone ashes found in
the studio are the remains of a human being.

"The next question presents much more difficulty. As you have heard from
Dr. Thorndyke, the fragments are too small to furnish any clue to the
identity of deceased. Our efforts to discover who this person was must be
guided by evidence of another kind. We have to consider the persons, the
places and the special circumstances known to us.

"As to the place, these remains were found in the studio occupied by
Peter Gannet; and we learn that Peter Gannet has disappeared under most
mysterious circumstances. I need not repeat the evidence in detail, but
the fact that when he disappeared he was wearing only his indoor
clothing, seems to preclude the possibility of his having gone away from
his home in any ordinary manner. Now the connection between a man who has
mysteriously disappeared, and unrecognisable human remains found on his
premises after his disappearance, appears strongly suggestive and invites
the inquiry, What is the nature of the connection? To answer this, we
must ask two further questions: When did the man disappear and when did
the remains make their appearance?

"Let us take the first question. We learn from Mrs. Gannet's evidence
that she received a letter from her husband on the 8th of May. That
letter, we may presume, was written on the 7th. Then she wrote and posted
a letter to him on the 10th of May, and we may assume that it was
delivered on the 11th. Most unfortunately, she destroyed that letter, so
we can not be absolutely certain about the date on which it was
delivered, but we can feel little doubt that it was delivered in the
ordinary way on the 11th of May. If that is so, we can say with
reasonable confidence that Peter Gannet was undoubtedly alive on the 7th
of May; but inasmuch as Mrs. Gannet found her letter in the letter box,
we must conclude that at the date of its delivery, Peter Gannet had
already disappeared. That is to say that his disappearance occurred at
some time between the 7th and the 11th of May.

"Now let us approach the problem from another direction. You have seen
the kiln. It is a massive structure of brick and fire-clay with
enormously thick walls. During the burning of the body, we know from the
condition of the bones that its interior must have been kept for several
hours at a temperature which has been stated in evidence as well over
2000° Fahrenheit; that is to say, at a bright red heat. When Dr. Oldfield
examined it, the interior was just perceptibly warm. Now I don't know how
long a great mass of brick and fire-clay such as this would take to cool
down to that extent. Allowing for the fact that it had been opened to
extract the ashes, as it had then been reclosed, its condition was
undoubtedly favourable to slow cooling. We can confidently put down the
time taken by the cooling which had occurred at several days; probably
somewhere about a week. Now Dr. Oldfield's inspection was made on the
evening of the 15th. A week before that was the 8th. But we have seen
that the disappearance occurred between the 7th and the 11th of May; and
the temperature of the kiln shows that the burning of the body must have
occurred at some time before the 11th and almost certainly after the 7th.
It thus appears that the disappearance of Peter Gannet and the
destruction of the body both occurred between those two dates. The
obvious suggestion is that the body which was burned was the body of
Peter Gannet.

"Is there any evidence to support that conclusion? There is not very
much. The most striking is the discovery among the ashes of a porcelain
tooth. You have heard Mr. Hawley's evidence. He identifies that tooth as
one of a very distinctive kind, and he tells us that it is identically
and indistinguishably similar to a tooth on the denture which he supplied
to Peter Gannet. He will not swear that it is the same tooth; only that
is is the exact facsimile of that tooth. So you have to consider what are
the probabilities that the body of some unknown person should have been
burned in Peter Gannet's kiln and that that person should have worn a
denture containing a right upper lateral incisor of the type known as Du
Trey's, in all respects identical with that in Peter Gannet's denture;
and how such probabilities compare with the alternative probability that
the tooth came from Peter Gannet's own denture.

"There is one other item of evidence. It is circumstantial evidence and
you must consider it for what it seems to be worth. You have heard from
Dr. Oldfield and Dr. Thorndyke that some months ago Peter Gannet suffered
from arsenic poisoning. Both witnesses agree that the suggestion of
accidental poisoning cannot be entertained. It is therefore practically
certain that some person or persons administered this poison to Gannet
with the intention of causing his death. That intention was frustrated by
the alertness of the doctors. The victim survived and recovered.

"But let us see how those facts bear on this inquiry. Some unknown person
or persons desired the death of Peter Gannet and sought, by means of
poison, to compass it. The attempted murder failed; but we have no reason
to suppose that the motive ceased to exist. If it did not, then Peter
Gannet went about in constant peril. There was some person who desired
his death and who was prepared, given the opportunity, to take
appropriate means to kill him.

"Apply these facts to the present case. We see that there was some person
who wished Gannet to die and who was prepared to realize that wish by
murdering him. We find in Gannet's studio the remains of a person who may
be assumed to have been murdered. Gannet has unaccountably disappeared,
and the date of his disappearance coincides with that of the appearance
of these remains in his studio. Finally, among these remains, we find a
tooth of a rather unusual kind which is in every respect identical with
one known to have been worn by Peter Gannet. Those are the facts known to
us, and I think you will agree with me that they yield only one
conclusion: that the remains found in Peter Gannet's studio were the
remains of Peter Gannet, himself.

"If you agree with that conclusion, we have answered two of the three
questions to which we had to find answers. We now turn to the third: How,
and by what means, did deceased come by his death? It appears almost an
idle question, for the body of deceased was burned to ashes in a kiln. By
no conceivable accident could this have happened, and deceased could not
have got into the kiln by himself. The body must have been put in by some
other person and deliberately destroyed by fire. But such destruction of
a body furnishes the strongest presumptive evidence that the person who
destroyed the body had murdered the dead person. We can have no
reasonable doubt that deceased was murdered.

"That is as far as we are bound to go. It is not our function to fix the
guilt of this crime on any particular person. Nevertheless, we are bound
to take notice of any evidence that is before us which seems to point to
a particular person as the probable perpetrator of the crime. And there
is, in fact, a good deal of such evidence. I am not referring to the
arsenic poisoning. We must ignore that, since we have no certain
knowledge as to who the poisoner was. But there are several important
points of evidence bearing on the probable identity of the person who
murdered Peter Gannet. Let us consider them.

"In the first place, there is the personality of the murderer. What do we
know about him? Well, we know that he must have been a person who had
access to the studio, and he must have had some acquaintance with its
arrangements; knew where the various appliances were to be found, which
of the bins was the bone-ash-bin, and so on. Then he must have known how
to prepare and fire the kiln and where the fuel was kept; and he must
have understood the use and management of the appliances that he
employed--the grinding-mills and the cupel press, for instance.

"Do we know of any person to whom this description applies? Yes, we know
of one such person, and only one--Frederick Boles. He had free access to
the studio, for it was also his own workshop and he had the key. He was
familiar with all its arrangements, and some of the appliances, such as
the cupel press, were his own. He knew all about the kiln, for we have it
in evidence that he was accustomed to helping Gannet light and stoke it
when pottery was being fired. He agrees completely with the description,
in these respects, which we know must have applied to the murderer; and,
I repeat, we know of no other person to whom it would apply.

"Thus there is a prima facie probability that the murderer was Frederick
Boles. But that probability is conditioned by possibility. Could Boles
have been present in the studio when the murder was committed? Our
information is that he had been staying at Burnham. But he came home one
night and passed that night at his flat and then went away again. What
night was it that he spent at the flat? Now, Mrs. Gannet came home on the
14th of May, and she called at Boles's flat on the following day, the
15th. There she learned that he had come to the flat about a week
previously, spent the night there and gone away the next day. Apparently,
then, it would have been the night of the 8th that he spent at the flat;
or it might have been the 7th or the 9th. But Gannet's death occurred
between the 7th or the 11th. Consequently, Boles would appear to have
been in London at the time when the murder was committed.

"But is there any evidence that he was actually on these premises at this
time? There is. A walking-stick was found by Dr. Oldfield in the
hall-stand on the night of the 15th. You have seen that stick and I pass
it round again. On the silver mount of the handle you can see the
initials 'F. B.'--Boles's initials. Mrs. Gannet had no doubt that it
belonged to Boles, and indeed there is no one else to whom it could
belong. But she has told us that it was not in the hall-stand when she
went away. Then it must have been deposited there since. But there is
only one day on which it could have been deposited; the day after Boles's
arrival at the flat. We thus have clear evidence that Boles was actually
on the premises on the 8th, the 9th, or the 10th, that is to say, his
presence on these premises seems to coincide in time with the murder of
Peter Gannet; and we further note the significant fact that at the time
when Boles came to the house, Gannet--if still alive--was there all
alone.

"Thus the circumstantial evidence all points to Boles as the probable
murderer and we know of no other person against whom any suspicion could
rest. Add to this the further fact that the two men--Boles and the
deceased--are known to have been on terms of bitter enmity and actually,
on at least one occasion, to have engaged in violent conflict; and that
evidence receives substantial confirmation.

"I think I need say no more than this. You have heard the evidence and I
have offered you these suggestions as to its bearing. They are only
suggestions. It is you who have to decide on your verdict; and I think
you will have little difficulty in answering the three questions that I
mentioned in opening this inquiry."

The coroner was right up to a certain point. The jury had apparently
agreed on their verdict before he had finished speaking, but found some
difficulty in putting it into words. Eventually, however, after one or
two trials on paper, the foreman announced that he and his fellow jurors
had reached a conclusion; which was that the ashes found in the studio
were the remains of the body of Peter Gannet, and that the said Peter
Gannet had been murdered by Frederick Boles at some time between the 7th
and the 11th of May.

"Yes," said the coroner, "that is the only verdict possible on the
evidence before us. I shall record a verdict of wilful murder against
Frederick Boles." He paused, and glancing at Inspector Blandy, asked the
latter: "Is there any object in my issuing a warrant?"

"No, sir," Blandy replied. "A warrant has already been issued for the
arrest of Boles on another charge."

"Then," said the coroner, "that brings these proceedings to an end, and I
can only hope that the perpetrator of this crime may shortly be arrested
and brought to trial."

On this, the court rose. The reporters hurried away, intent on gorgeous
publicity; the spectators drifted out into the street; and the four
experts (including myself for this occasion only), after a brief chat
with the coroner and the Inspector, departed also and went their
respective ways. And here it is proper for me to make my bow to the
reader and retire from the post of narrator. Not that the story is ended,
but that the pen now passes into another, and I hope more capable, hand.
My function has been to trace the antecedents and describe the intimate
circumstances of this extraordinary crime, and this I have done to the
best of my humble ability. The rest of the story is concerned with the
elucidation, and the centre of interest is now transferred from the
rather drab neighbourhood of Cumberland Market to the historic precinct
of the Inner Temple.




BOOK TWO - NARRATED BY CHRISTOPHER JERVIS, M.D.



CHAPTER 14 - DR. JERVIS IS PUZZLED


The stage which the train of events herein recorded had reached when the
office of narrator passed to me from the hands of my friend Oldfield,
found me in a state of some mental confusion. It seemed that Thorndyke
was contemplating some kind of investigation. But why? The Gannet case
was no concern of ours. No client had engaged us to examine it, and a
mere academic interest in it would not justify a great expenditure of
valuable time and effort.

But further, what was there to investigate? In a medico-legal sense there
appeared to be nothing. All the facts were known, and though they were
lurid enough, they were of little scientific interest. Gannet's death
presented no problem, since it was a bald and obvious case of murder; and
if his mode of life seemed to be shrouded in mystery, that was not our
affair, nor, indeed, that of anybody else, now that he was dead.

But it was precisely this apparently irrelevant matter that seemed to
engage Thorndyke's attention. The ostensible business of the studio had,
almost certainly, covered some other activities, doubtful if not actually
unlawful, and Thorndyke seemed to be set on ascertaining what they were;
whereas, to me, that question appeared to be exclusively the concern of
the police in their efforts to locate the elusive Boles.

I had the first inkling of Thorndyke's odd methods of approach to this
problem on the day after our memorable dinner at Osnaburgh Street. On our
way home, he had proposed that we should look in at the gallery where
Gannet's pottery was on view, and I had agreed readily, being quite
curious as to what these remarkable works were really like. So it
happened naturally enough that when, on the following day, we entered the
temple of the fine arts, my attention was at first entirely occupied with
the exhibits.

I will not attempt to describe those astonishing works for I feel that my
limited vocabulary would be unequal to the task. There are some things
that must be seen to be believed, and Gannet's pottery was one of them.
Outspoken as Oldfield had been in his description of them, I found myself
totally unprepared for the outrageous reality. But I need not dwell on
them. Merely remarking that they looked to me like the throw-outs from
some very juvenile handiwork class, I will dismiss them--as I did, in
fact--and proceed to the apparent purpose of our visit.

Perhaps the word "apparent" is inappropriate, for in truth, the purpose
of our visit was not apparent to me at all. I can only record this
incomprehensible course of events, leaving their inner meaning to emerge
at a later stage of this history. By the time that I had recovered from
the initial shock and convinced myself that I was not the subject of an
optical illusion, Thorndyke had already introduced himself to the gallery
proprietor, Mr. Kempster, and seemed to be discussing the exhibits in
terms of the most extraordinary irrelevance.

"Having regard," he was saying, as I joined them, "to the density of the
material and the thickness of the sides, I should think that these pieces
must be rather inconveniently ponderous."

"They are heavy," Mr. Kempster admitted, "but you see they are
collector's pieces. They are not intended for use. You wouldn't want, for
instance, to hand this one across the dinner table."

He picked up a large and massive bowl and offered it to Thorndyke, who
took it and weighed it in his two hands with an expression of ridiculous
earnestness.

"Yes," he said, as he returned it to Mr. Kempster, "it is extremely
ponderous for its size. What should you say it weighs? I should guess it
at nearly eight pounds."

He looked solemnly at the obviously puzzled Kempster, who tried it again
and agreed to Thorndyke's estimate. "But," he added, "there's no need to
guess. If you are interested in the matter, we can try it. There is a
pair of parcel scales in my office. Would you like to see what it really
does weigh?"

"If you would be so kind," Thorndyke replied; whereupon Kempster picked
up the bowl and we followed him in procession to the office, as if we
were about to perform some sacrificial rite, where the uncouth pot was
placed on the scale and found to be half an ounce short of eight pounds.

"Yes," said Thorndyke, "it is abnormally heavy even for its size. That
weight suggests an unusually dense material."

He gazed reflectively at the bowl, and then, producing a spring tape from
his pocket, proceeded carefully to measure the principal dimensions of
the piece while Mr. Kempster looked on like a man in a dream. But not
only did Thorndyke take the measurements. He made a note of them in his
note-book together with one of the weight.

"You appear," said Mr. Kempster, as Thorndyke pocketed his note-book, "to
be greatly interested in poor Mr. Gannet's work.'''

"I am," Thorndyke replied, "but not from the connoisseur's point of view.
As I mentioned to you, I am trying, on Mrs. Gannet's behalf, to elucidate
the very obscure circumstances of her husband's death."

"I shouldn't have supposed," said Kempster, "that the weight of his
pottery would have had much bearing on that. But of course you know more
about evidence than I do; and you know--which I don't--what obscurities
you want to clear up."

"Thank you," said Thorndyke. "If you will adopt that principle, it will
be extremely helpful."

Mr. Kempster bowed. "You may take it, Doctor," said he, "that, as a
friend of poor Gannet's, though not a very intimate one, I shall be glad
to be of assistance to you. Is there anything more that you want to know
about this work?"

"There are several matters," Thorndyke replied; "in fact, I want to know
all that I can about his pottery, including its disposal and its economic
aspects. To begin with, was there much of it sold? Enough, I mean, to
yield a living to the artist?"

"There was more sold than you might have expected, and the pieces
realized good prices; ten to twenty guineas each. But I never supposed
that Gannet made a living by his work. I assumed that he had some
independent means."

"The next question," said Thorndyke, "is what became of the pieces that
were sold? Did they go to museums or to private collectors?"

"Of the pieces sold from this gallery--and I think that this was his
principal market--one or two were bought by provincial museums, but all
the rest were taken by private collectors."

"And what sort of people were those collectors?"

"That," said Kempster, with a deprecating smile, "is a rather delicate
question. The things were offered for sale in my gallery and the
purchasers were, in a sense, my clients."

"Quite so," said Thorndyke. "It was not really a fair question; and not
very necessary as I have seen the pottery. I suppose you don't keep any
records of the sales or the buyers?"

"Certainly I do," replied Kempster. "I keep a Day Book and a ledger. The
ledger contains a complete record of the sales of each of the exhibitors.
Would you like to see Mr. Gannet's account?"

"I am ashamed to give you so much trouble," Thorndyke replied, "but if
you would be so very kind--"

"It's no trouble at all," said Kempster, stepping across to a tall
cupboard and throwing open the doors. From the row of books therein
revealed, he took out a portly volume and laid it on the desk, turning
over the leaves until he found the page that he was seeking.

"Here," he said, "is a record of all of Mr. Gannet's works that have been
sold from this gallery. Perhaps you may get some information from it."

I glanced down the page while Thorndyke was examining it and was a little
surprised at the completeness of the record. Under the general heading,
"Peter Gannet Esq." was a list of the articles sold, with a brief
description of each, and in separate columns, the date, the price and the
name and address of each purchaser.

"I notice," said Thorndyke, "that Mr. Francis Broomhill of Stafford
Square has made purchases on three occasions. Probably he is a collector
of modernist work?"

"He is," replied Kempster, "and a special admirer of Mr. Gannet. You will
observe that he bought one of the two copies of the figurine in stoneware
of a monkey. The other copy, as you see, went to America."

"Did Mr. Gannet ever execute any other figurines?" Thorndyke asked.

"No," Kempster replied. "To my surprise, he never pursued that form of
art, though it was a striking success. Mr. Bunderby, the eminent art
critic, was enthusiastic about it, and as you see, the only copies
offered realized fifty guineas each. But perhaps if he had lived he might
have given his admirers some further examples."

"You speak of copies," said Thorndyke, "so I presume that they were
admittedly replicas, probably squeezed in a mould or possibly slip-casts?
It was not pretended that they were original modellings?"

"No, they couldn't have been. A small pottery figure must be made in a
mould, either squeezed or cast, to get it hollow. Of course it would be
modelled in the solid in the first place and the mould made from the
solid model."

"There was a third specimen of this figurine," said Thorndyke, "I saw it
in Gannet's bedroom. Would that also be a squeeze, or do you suppose it
might be the original? It was certainly stoneware."

"Then it must have been squeezed from a mould," replied Kempster. "It
couldn't have been fired solid; it would have cracked all to pieces. The
only alternative would have been to excavate the solid original; which
would have been extremely difficult and quite unnecessary, as he
certainly had a mould."

"From your recollection of the figurines, should you say that they were
as thick and ponderous as the bowls and jars?"

"I can't say, positively," replied Kempster, "but they could hardly have
been. A figure is more likely to crack in the fire than an open bowl or
jar, but the thinner it is, in reason, the safer it is from fire cracks.
And it is just as easy to make a squeeze thin as thick."

This virtually brought our business with Mr. Kempster to an end. We
walked out into the gallery with him, when Thorndyke had copied out a few
particulars from the ledger, but our conversation, apart from a brief
discussion of Boles's jewellery exhibits, obviously had no connection
with the purpose of our visit--whatever that might be. Eventually, having
shaken his hand warmly and thanked him for his very courteous and helpful
treatment of us, we took our departure, leaving him, I suspect, as much
puzzled by our proceedings as I was myself.

"I suppose, Thorndyke," said I, as we walked away down Bond Street, "you
realize that you have enveloped me in a fog of quite phenomenal density?"

"I can understand," he replied, "that you find my approach to the problem
somewhat indirect."

"The problem!" I exclaimed. "What problem? I don't see that there is any
problem. We know that Gannet was murdered and we can fairly assume that
he was murdered by Boles. But whether he was or not is no concern of
ours. That is Blandy's problem; and in any case, I can't imagine that the
weight and density of Gannet's pottery has any bearing on it, unless you
are suggesting that Boles biffed deceased on the head with one of his own
pots."

Thorndyke smiled indulgently as he replied:

"No, Jervis. I am not considering Gannet's pots as possible lethal
weapons, but the potter's art has its bearing on our problem, and even
the question of weight may be not entirely irrelevant."

'"But what problem are you alluding to?" I persisted.

"The problem that is in my mind," he replied, "is suggested by the very
remarkable story that Oldfield related to us last night. You listened to
that story very attentively and no doubt you remember the substance of
it. Now, recalling that story as a whole and considering it as an account
of a series of related events, doesn't it seem to you to suggest some
very curious and interesting questions?"

"The only question that it suggested to me was how the devil that arsenic
got into the bone-ash. I could make nothing of that."

"Very well," he rejoined, "then try to make something of it. The arsenic
was certainly there. We agree that it could not have come from the body.
Then it must have got into the ash after the firing. But how? There is
one problem. Take it as a starting point and consider what explanations
are possible; and further, consider what would be the implications of
each of your explanations."

"But," I exclaimed, "I can't think of any explanation. The thing is
incomprehensible. Besides, what business is it of ours? We are not
engaged in the case."

"Don't lose sight of Blandy," said he. "He hasn't shot his bolt yet. If
he can lay hands on Boles, he will give us no trouble, but if he fails in
that, he may think it worth while to give some attention to Mrs. Gannet.
I don't know whether he suspects her of actual complicity in the murder,
but it is obvious that he does suspect her of knowing and concealing the
whereabouts of Boles. Consequently, if he can get no information from her
by persuasion, he might consider the possibility of charging her as an
accessory either before or after the fact."

"But," I objected, "the choice wouldn't lie with him. You are surely not
suggesting that either the police or the Public Prosecutor would
entertain the idea of bringing a charge for the purpose of extorting
information--virtually as a measure of intimidation?"

"Certainly not," he replied, "unless Blandy could make out a prima facie
case. But it is possible that he knows more than we do about the
relations of Boles and Mrs. Gannet. At any rate, the position is that I
have made a conditional promise to Oldfield that if any proceedings
should be taken against her I will undertake the defense. It is not
likely that any proceedings will be taken, but still it is necessary for
me to know as much as I can learn about the circumstances connected with
the murder. Hence these inquiries."

"Which seem to me to lead nowhere. However, as Kempster remarked, you
know--which I do not--what obscurities you are trying to elucidate. Do
you know whether there is going to be an inquest?"

"I understand," he replied, "that an inquest is to be held in the course
of a few days and I expect to be summoned to give evidence concerning the
arsenic poisoning. But I should attend in any case, and I recommend you
to come with me. When we have heard what the various witnesses, including
Blandy, have to tell, we shall have a fairly complete knowledge of the
facts, and we may be able to judge whether the Inspector is keeping
anything up his sleeve."

As the reader will have learned from Oldfield's narrative--which this
account overlaps by a few days--I adopted Thorndyke's advice and attended
the inquest. But though I gained thereby a knowledge of all the facts of
the case, I was no nearer to any understanding of the purpose that
Thorndyke had in view in his study of Gannet's pottery; nor did I find
myself entirely in sympathy with his interest in Mrs. Gannet. I realized
that she was in a difficult and trying position, but I was less convinced
than he appeared to be of her complete innocence of any complicity in the
murder or the very suspicious poisoning affair that had preceded it.

But his interest in her was quite remarkable. It went so far as actually
to induce him to attend the funeral of her husband and even to persuade
me to accept the invitation and accompany him. Not that I needed much
persuasion, for the unique opportunity of witnessing a funeral at which
there was no coffin and no corpse--where "our dear departed brother"
might almost have been produced in a paper bag--was not to be missed.

But it hardly came up to my expectations, for it appeared that the ashes
had been deposited in the urn before the proceedings began, and the
funeral service took its normal course, with the terra-cotta casket in
place of the coffin. But I found a certain grim humour in the
circumstance that the remains of Peter Gannet should be enshrined in a
pottery vessel of obviously commercial origin which in all its
properties--in its exact symmetry and mechanical regularity--was the
perfect antithesis of his own masterpieces.



CHAPTER 15 - A MODERNIST COLLECTOR


My experiences at Mr. Kempster's gallery were only a foretaste of what
Thorndyke could do in the way of mystification, for I need not say that
the most profound cogitation on Oldfield's story and on the facts which
had transpired at the inquest had failed completely to enlighten me. I
was still unable to perceive that there was any real problem to solve, or
that, if there were, the physical properties of Gannet's pottery could
possibly be a factor in its solution.

But obviously I was wrong. For Thorndyke was no wild goose hunter or
discoverer of mare's nests. If he believed that there was a problem to
investigate, I could safely assume that there was such a problem; and if
he believed that Gannet's pottery held a clue to it, I could assume--and
did assume--that he was right. Accordingly, I waited, patiently and
hopefully, for some further developments which might dissipate the fog in
which my mind was enshrouded.

The further developments were not long in appearing. On the third day
after the funeral, Thorndyke announced to me that he had made, by letter,
an appointment, which included me, with Mr. Francis Broomhill of Stafford
Square, for a visit of inspection of his famous collection of works of
modernist art. I gathered, subsequently, by the way in which we were
received, that Thorndyke's letter must have been somewhat misleading, in
tone if not in matter. But any little mental reservations as to our views
on contemporary art were, I suppose, admissible in the circumstances.

Of course I accepted gleefully for I was on the tiptoe of curiosity as to
Thorndyke's object in making the appointment. Moreover, the collection
included Gannet's one essay in the art of sculpture; which, if it matched
his pottery, ought certainly to be worth seeing. Accordingly, we set
forth together in the early afternoon and made our way to the exclusive
and aristocratic region in which Mr. Broomhill had his abode.

The whole visit was a series of surprises. In the first place, the door
was opened by a footman, a type of organism that I supposed to be
virtually extinct. Then, no sooner had we entered the grand old Georgian
house than we seemed to become enveloped in an atmosphere of unreality
suggestive of Alice in Wonderland or of a nightmare visit to a lunatic
asylum. The effect began in the entrance hall, which was hung with
strange, polychromatic picture frames enclosing objects which obviously
were not pictures but appeared to be panels or canvases on which some
very extravagant painter had cleaned his palette. Standing about the
spacious floor were pedestals supporting lumps of stone or metal,
some--to my eye--completely shapeless, while others had faint hints of
obscure anthropoidal character such as one might associate with the
discarded failures from the workshop of some Easter Island sculptor. I
glanced at them in bewilderment as the footman, having taken possession
of our hats and sticks, solemnly conducted us along the great hall to a
fine pedimented doorway, and opening a noble, many-panelled, mahogany
door, ushered us into the presence.

Mr. Francis Broomhill impressed me favourably at the first glance; a
tall, frail-looking man of about forty with a slight stoop and the
forward poise of the head that one associates with near sight. He wore a
pair of deep concave spectacles mounted in massive tortoise-shell frames;
looking at those spectacles with a professional eye, I decided that
without them his eyesight would have been negligible. But though the pale
blue eyes, seen through those powerful lenses, appeared ridiculously
small, they were kindly eyes that conveyed a friendly greeting, and the
quiet, pleasant voice confirmed the impression.

"It is exceedingly kind of you," said Thorndyke, when we had shaken
hands, "to give us this opportunity of seeing your treasures."

"But not at all," was the reply. "It is I who am the beneficiary. The
things are here to be looked at and it is a delight to me to show them to
appreciative connoisseurs. I don't often get the chance; for even in this
golden age of artistic progress, there still lingers a hankering for the
merely representational and anecdotal aspects of art."

As he was speaking, I glanced round the room and especially at the
pictures which covered the walls, and as I looked at them they seemed
faintly to recall an experience of my early professional life when, for a
few weeks, I had acted as locum-tenens for the superintendent of a small
lunatic asylum (or "mental hospital" as we say nowadays). The figures in
them--when recognizable as such--all seemed to have a certain queer
psychopathic quality as if they were looking out at me from a padded
cell.

After a short conversation, during which I maintained a cautious
reticence and Thorndyke was skilfully elusive, we proceeded on a tour of
inspection round the room under the guidance of Mr. Broomhill, who
enlightened us with comment and exposition, somewhat in the Bunderby
manner. There was a quite considerable collection of pictures, all by
modern artists--mostly foreign, I was glad to note--and all singularly
alike. The same curious psychopathic quality pervaded them all, and the
same odd absence of the traditional characteristics of pictures. The
drawing--when there was any--was childish, the painting was barbarously
crude, and there was a total lack of any sort of mental content or
subject matter.

"Now," said our host, halting before one of these masterpieces, "here is
a work that I am rather fond of though it is a departure from the
artist's usual manner. He is not often as realistic as this."

I glanced at the gold label beneath it and read: "Nude. Israel Popoff";
and nude it certainly was--apparently representing a naked human being
with limbs like very badly made sausages. I did not find it painfully
realistic. But the next picture--by the same artist--fairly "got me
guessing," for it appeared to consist of nothing more than a disorderly
mass of streaks of paint of various rather violent colours. I waited for
explanatory comments as Mr. Broomhill stood before it, regarding it
fondly.

"This," said he, "I regard as a truly representative example of the
Master; a perfect piece of abstract painting. Don't you agree with me?"
he added, turning to me, beaming with enthusiasm.

The suddenness of the question disconcerted me. What the deuce did he
mean by "abstract painting"? I hadn't the foggiest idea. You might as
well--it seemed to me--talk about "abstract amputation at the hip-joint."
But I had got to say something, and I did.

"Yes," I burbled incoherently, gazing at him in consternation.
"Certainly--in fact, undoubtedly--a most remarkable and--er--" (I was
going to say "cheerful" but mercifully saw the red light in time) "most
interesting demonstration of colour contrast. But I am afraid I am not
perfectly clear as to what the picture represents."

"Represents!" he repeated in a tone of pained surprise. "It doesn't
represent anything. Why should it? It is a picture. But a picture is an
independent entity. It doesn't need to imitate something else."

"No, of course not," I spluttered mendaciously. "But still, one has been
accustomed to find in pictures representations of natural objects--"

"But why?" he interrupted. "If you want the natural objects, you can go
and look at them; and if you want them represented, you can have them
photographed. So why allow them to intrude into pictures?"

I looked despairingly at Thorndyke but got no help from that quarter. He
was listening impassively; but from long experience of him, I knew that
behind the stony calm of his exterior his inside was shaking with
laughter. So I murmured a vague assent, adding that it was difficult to
escape from the conventional ideas that one had held from early youth;
and so we moved on to the next "abstraction." But warned by this terrific
experience, I maintained thereafter a discreet silence tempered by
carefully prepared ambiguities, and thus managed to complete our tour of
the room without further disaster.

"And now," said our host as we turned away from the last of the pictures,
"you would like to see the sculptures and pottery. You mentioned in your
letter that you were especially interested in poor Mr. Gannet's work.
Well, you shall see it in appropriate surroundings, as he would have
liked to see it."

He conducted us across the hall to another fine door which he threw open
to admit us to the sculpture gallery. Looking around me as we entered, I
was glad that I had seen the pictures first; for now I was prepared for
the worst and could keep my emotions under control.

I shall not attempt to describe that chamber of horrors. My first
impression was that of a sort of infernal Mrs. Jarley's; and the place
was pervaded by the same madhouse atmosphere as I had noticed in the
other room. But it was more unpleasant, for debased sculpture can be much
more horrible than debased painting; and in the entire collection there
was not a single work that could be called normal. The exhibits ranged
from almost formless objects, having only that faint suggestion of a
human head or figure that one sometimes notices in queer-shaped potatoes
or flint nodules, to recognizable busts or torsos; but in these the faces
were hideous and bestial and the limbs and trunks misshapen and
characterized by a horrible obesity suggestive of dropsy or myxoedema.
There was a little pottery, all crude and coarse, but Gannet's pieces
were easily the worst.

"This, I think," said our host, "is what you specially wanted to see."

He indicated a grotesque statuette labelled "Figurine of a Monkey: Peter
Gannet," and I looked at it curiously. If I had met it anywhere else it
would have given me quite a severe shock; but here, in this collection of
monstrosities, it looked almost like the work of a sane barbarian.

"There was some question," Mr. Broomhill continued, "that you wanted to
settle, was there not?"

"Yes," Thorndyke replied, "in fact, there are two. The first is that of
priority. Gannet executed three versions of this figurine. One has gone
to America, one is on loan at a London Museum, and this is the third. The
question is, which was made first?"

"There ought not to be any difficulty about that," said our host. "Gannet
used to sign and number all his pieces and the serial number should give
the order of priority at a glance."

He lifted the image carefully, and having inverted it and looked at its
base, handed it to Thorndyke.

"You see," said he, "that the number is 571 B. Then there must have been
a 571 A and a 571 C. But clearly, this must have been the second one
made, and if you can examine the one at the museum, you can settle the
order of the series. If that is 571 A, then the American copy must be 571 C,
or vice versa. What is the other question?"

"That relates to the nature of the first one made. Is it the original
model or is it a pressing from a mould? This one appears to be a squeeze.
If you look inside, you can see traces of the thumb impressions, so it
can't be a cast."

He returned it to Mr. Broomhill who peered into the opening of the base
and then, having verified Thorndyke's observation, passed it to me. I was
not deeply interested, but I examined the base carefully and looked into
the dark interior as well as I could. The flat surface of the base was
smooth but unglazed and on it was inscribed in blue around the central
opening "Op. 571 B P. G." with a rudely drawn figure of a bird, which
might have been a goose but which I knew was meant for a gannet,
interposed between the number and the initials. Inside, on the uneven
surface, I could make out a number of impressions of a thumb--apparently
a right thumb. Having made these observations, I handed the effigy back
to Mr. Broomhill who replaced it on its stand, and resumed the
conversation.

"I should imagine that all of the three versions were pressings, but that
is only an opinion. What is your view?"

"There are three possibilities, and bearing in mind Gannet's personality,
I don't know which of them is the most probable. The original figure was
certainly modelled in the solid. Then Opus 571 A may either be that
model, fired in the solid, or that model excavated and fired, or a
squeeze from the mould."

"It would hardly have been possible to fire it in the solid," said Mr.
Broomhill.

"That was Mr. Kempster's view, but I am not so sure. After all, some
pottery articles are fired solid. Bricks, for instance."

"Yes, but a few fire cracks in a brick don't matter. I think he would
have had to excavate it, at least. But why should he have taken that
trouble when he had actually made a mould?"

"I can imagine no reason at all," replied Thorndyke, "unless he wished to
keep the original. The one now at the museum was his own property and I
don't think it had ever been offered for sale."

"If the question is of any importance," said our host--who was obviously
of opinion that it was not--"it could perhaps be settled by inspection of
the piece at the museum, which was probably the first one made. Don't you
think so?"

"It might," Thorndyke replied, "or it might not. The most satisfactory
way would be to compare the respective weights of the two pieces. An
excavated figurine would be heavier than a pressing, and, of course, a
solid one would be much heavier."

"Yes," Mr. Broomhill agreed with a slightly puzzled air, "that is true.
So I take it that you would like to know the exact weight of this piece.
Well, there is no difficulty about that."

He walked over to the fireplace and pressed the bell-push at its side. In
a few moments the door opened and the footman entered the room.

"Can you tell me, Hooper," Mr. Broomhill asked, "if there is a pair of
scales that we could have to weigh this statuette?"

"Certainly, sir," was the reply. "There is a pair in Mr. Laws's pantry.
Shall I bring them up, sir?"

"If you would. Hooper--with the weights, of course. And you might see
that the pan is quite clean."

Apparently the pan was quite clean, for in a couple of minutes Hooper
reappeared carrying a very spick and span pair of scales with a complete
set of weights. When the scales had been placed on the table with the
weights beside them, Mr. Broomhill took up the effigy with infinite care
and lowered it gently on to the scale pan. Then, with the same care to
avoid jars or shocks, he put on the weights, building up a little pile
until the pan rose, when he made the final adjustment with a half-ounce
weight.

"Three pounds, three and a half ounces," said he. "Rather a lot for a
small figure."

"Yes," Thorndyke agreed, "but Gannet used a dense material and was pretty
liberal with it. I weighed some of his pottery at Kempster's gallery and
found it surprisingly heavy."

He entered the weight of the effigy in his note-book, and, when the
masterpiece had been replaced on its stand and the scales borne away to
their abiding place, we resumed our tour of the room. Presently Hooper
returned, bearing a large silver tray loaded with the materials for
afternoon tea, which he placed on a small circular table.

"You needn't wait, Hooper," said our host. "We will help ourselves when
we are ready." As the footman retired, we turned to the last of the
exhibits--a life-sized figure of a woman, naked, contorted and obese,
whose brutal face and bloated limbs seemed to shout for thyroid
extract--and having expatiated on its noble rendering of abstract form
and its freedom from the sickly prettiness of "mere imitative sculpture,"
our host dismissed the masterpieces and placed chairs for us by the
table.

"Which museum is it," he asked, as we sipped the excellent China tea,
"that is showing Mr. Gannet's work?"

"It is a small museum at Hoxton," Thorndyke replied, "known as 'The
People's Museum of Modern Art.'"

"Ah!" said Broomhill, "I know it; in fact, I occasionally lend some of my
treasures for exhibition there. It is an excellent institution. It gives
the poor people of that uncultured region an opportunity of becoming
acquainted with the glories of modern art; the only chance they have."

"There is the Geffrye Museum close by," I reminded him.

"Yes," he agreed, "but that is concerned with the obsolete furniture and
art of the bad old times. It contains nothing of this sort," he added,
indicating his collection with a wave of the hand. Which was certainly
true. Mercifully, it does not.

"And I hope," he continued, "that you will be able to settle your
question when you examine the figurine there. It doesn't seem to me to
matter very much, but you are a better judge of that than I am."

When we had taken leave of our kind and courteous host and set forth on
our homeward way we walked for a time in silence, each occupied with his
own thoughts. As to Thorndyke's ultimate purpose in this queer
transaction, I could not make the vaguest guess and I gave it no
consideration. But the experience, itself, had been an odd one with a
peculiar interest of its own. Presently I opened the subject with a
question.

"Could you make anything of this stuff of Broomhill's or of his attitude
to it?"

Thorndyke shook his head. "No," he replied. "It is a mystery to me.
Evidently Broomhill gets a positive pleasure from these things, and that
pleasure seem to be directly proportionate to their badness; to the
absence in them of all the ordinary qualities--fine workmanship, truth to
nature, intellectual interest and beauty--which have hitherto been
considered to be the essentials of works of art. It seems to be a cult, a
fashion, associated with a certain state of mind; but what that state of
mind is, I cannot imagine. Obviously it has no connection with what has
always been known as art, unless it is a negative connection. You noticed
that Broomhill was utterly contemptuous of the great work of the past,
and that, I think, is the usual modernist attitude. But what can be the
state of mind of a man who is completely insensitive to the works of the
accomplished masters of the older schools, and full of enthusiasm for
clumsy imitations of the works of savages or ungifted children, I cannot
begin to understand."

"No," said I, "that is precisely my position," and with this the subject
dropped.



CHAPTER 16 - AT THE MUSEUM


"It is curious to reflect," Thorndyke remarked, as we took our way
eastward along Old Street, "that this, which is commonly accounted one of
the meanest and most squalid regions of the town, should be, in a sense,
the last outpost of a disappearing culture."

"To what culture are your referring?" I asked.

"To that of the industrial arts," he replied, "of which we may say that
it is substantially the foundation of all artistic culture. Nearly
everywhere else those arts are dead or dying, killed by machinery and
mass production, but here we find little groups of surviving craftsmen
who still keep the lamp burning. To our right in Curtain Road and various
small streets adjoining, are skilled cabinet makers, making chairs and
other furniture in the obsolete tradition of what Broomhill would call
the bad old times of Chippendale and his contemporaries; near by in
Bunhill Row the last of the makers of fine picture frames have their
workshops, and farther ahead in Bethnal Green and Spitalfields a remnant
of the ancient colony of silk weavers is working with the hand-loom as
was done in the eighteenth century."

"Yes," I agreed, "it seems rather an anomaly; and our present mission
seems to rub in the discrepancy. I wonder what inspired the founders of
The People's Museum of Modern Art to dump it down in this neighbourhood
and almost in sight of the Geffrye Museum?"

Thorndyke chuckled softly. "The two museums," said he, "are queer
neighbours; the one treasuring the best work of the past and the other
advertising the worst work of the present. But perhaps we shan't find it
as bad as we expect."

I don't know what Thorndyke expected, but it was bad enough for me. We
located it without difficulty by means of a painted board inscribed with
its name and description set over what looked like a reconstructed shop
front, to which had been added a pair of massive folding doors. But those
doors were closed and presumably locked, for a large card affixed to the
panel with drawing pins bore the announcement, "Closed temporarily.
Re-open 11:15."

Thorndyke looked at his watch. "We have a quarter of an hour to wait,"
said he, "but we need not wait here. We may as well take a stroll and
inspect the neighbourhood. It is not beautiful, but it has a character of
its own which is worth examining."

Accordingly, we set forth on a tour of exploration through the narrow
streets where Thorndyke expounded the various objects of interest in
illustration of his previous observations. In one street we found a row
of cabinet makers' shops, through the windows of which we could see the
half-finished carcases of wardrobes and sideboards and "period" chairs,
seatless and unpolished; and I noticed that the names above the shops
were mostly Jewish and many of them foreign. Then, towards Shoreditch, we
observed a timber yard with a noble plank of Spanish mahogany at the
entrance, and noted that the stock inside seemed to consist mainly of
hardwoods suitable for making furniture. But there was no time to make a
detailed examination for the clock of a neighbouring church now struck
the quarter and sent us hurrying back to the temple of modernism, where
we found that the card had vanished and the doors stood wide open,
revealing a lobby and an inner door.

As we opened the latter and entered the gallery we were met by an
elderly, tired-looking man who regarded us expectantly.

"Are you Mr. Sancroft?" Thorndyke asked.

"Ah!" said our friend, "then I was right. You will be Dr. Thorndyke. I
hope I haven't kept you waiting."

"Only a matter of minutes," Thorndyke replied, in his suavest manner,
"and we spent those quite agreeably."

"I am so very sorry," said Sancroft, with evidently genuine concern, "but
it was unavoidable. I had to go out, and as I am all alone here, I had to
lock up the place while I was away. It is very awkward having no one to
leave in charge."

"It must be," Thorndyke agreed, sympathetically. "Do you mean that you
have no assistant of any kind, not even a doorkeeper?"

"No one at all," replied Sancroft. "You see, the society which runs this
museum has no funds but the members' contributions. There's only just
enough to keep the place going, without paying any salaries. I am a
voluntary worker, but I have my living to earn. Mostly I can do my work
in the curator's room--I am a law writer--but there are times when I have
to go out on business, and then--well, you saw what happened this
morning."

Thorndyke listened to this tale of woe, not only with patience but with a
concern that rather surprised me.

"But," said he, "can't you get some of your friends to give you at least
a little help? Even a few hours a day would solve your difficulties."

Mr. Sancroft shook his head wearily. "No," he replied, "it is a dull job,
minding a small gallery, especially as so few visitors come to it, and I
have found nobody who is willing to take it on. I suppose," he added,
with a sad smile, "you don't happen to know of any enthusiast in modern
art who would make the sacrifice in the interests of popular
enlightenment and culture?"

"At the moment," said Thorndyke, "I can think of nobody but Mr.
Broomhill, and I don't suppose he could spare the time. Still, I will
bear your difficulties in mind, and if I should think of any person who
might be willing to help, I will try my powers of persuasion on him."

I must confess that this reply rather astonished me. Thorndyke was a
kindly man, but he was a busy man and hardly in a position to enter into
Mr. Sancroft's difficulties. And with him a promise was a promise, not a
mere pleasant form of words; a fact which I think Sancroft hardly
realized for his expression of thanks seemed to imply gratitude for a
benevolent intention rather than any expectation of actual performance.

"It is very kind of you to wish to help me," said he. "And now, as to
your own business. I understand that you want to make some sort of
inspection of the works of Mr. Gannet. Does that involve taking them out
of the case?"

"If that is permissible," Thorndyke replied. "I wanted, among other
matters, to feel the weight of them."

"There is no objection to your taking them out," said Sancroft, "for a
definite purpose. I will unlock the case and put the things in your
custody for the time being. And then I will ask you to excuse me. I have
a lease to engross, and I want to get on with it as quickly as I can."

With this he led us to the glass case in which Gannet's atrocities were
exposed to view, and having unlocked it, made us a little bow and retired
into his lair.

"That lease," Thorndyke remarked, "is a stroke of luck for us. Now we can
discuss the matter freely."

He reached into the case and lifting out the effigy, began to examine it
in the closest detail, especially as to the upturned base.

"The questions, as I understand them," said I, "are, first, priority, and
second, method of work; whether it was fired solid, or excavated, or
squeezed in a mould. The priority seems to be settled by the signature.
This is 571 A. Then it must have been the first piece made."

"Yes," Thorndyke agreed, "I think we may accept that. What do you say as
to the method?"

"That, also, seems to be settled by the character of the base. It is a
solid base without any opening, which appears to me to prove that the
figure was fired solid."

"A reasonable inference," said Thorndyke, "from the particular fact. But
if you look at the sides, you will notice on each a linear mark which
suggests that a seam or join had been scraped off. You probably observed
similar marks on Broomhill's copy, which were evidently the remains of
the seam from the mould. But the question of solidity will be best
determined by the weight. Let us try that."

He produced from his pocket a portable spring balance and a piece of
string. In the latter he made two "running bowlines," and, hitching them
over the figure near its middle, hooked the "bight" of the string on to
the balance. As he held up the latter, I read off from the index, "Three
pounds, nine and a half ounces. If I remember rightly, Broomhill's image
weighed three pounds, three and a half ounces, so this one is six ounces
heavier. That seems to support the view that this figure was fired in the
solid."

"I don't think it does, Jervis," said he. "Broomhill's copy was
undoubtedly a pressing with a considerable cavity and not very thick
walls. I should say that the solid figure would be at least twice the
weight of the pressing."

A moment's reflection showed me that he was right. Six ounces obviously
could not account for the difference between a hollow and a solid figure.

"Then," said I, "it must have been excavated. That would probably just
account for the difference in weight."

"Yes," Thorndyke agreed, but a little doubtfully, "so far as the weight
is concerned, that is quite sound. But there are these marks, which
certainly look like the traces of a seam which has been scraped down.
What do you say to them?"

"I should say that they are traces of the excavating process. It would be
necessary to cut the figure in halves in order to hollow out the
interior. I say that these marks are the traces of the join where the two
halves were put together."

"The objection to that," said he, "is that the figure would not have been
cut in halves. When a clay work, such as a terra-cotta bust, is hollowed
out, the usual practice is to cut off the back in as thin a slice as
possible, excavate the main mass of the bust, and when it is as hollow as
is safe, to stick the back on with slip and work over the joins until
they are invisible. And that is the obvious and reasonable way in which
to do it. But these marks are in the middle, just where the seams would
be in a pressing, and in the same position as those in Broomhill's copy.
So that, in spite of the extra weight, I am disposed to think that this
figure is really a pressing, like Broomhill's. And that is, on other
grounds, the obvious probability. A mould was certainly made, and it must
have been made from the solid figure. But it would have been much more
troublesome to excavate the solid model than to make a squeeze from the
mould."

As he spoke, he tapped the figure lightly with his knuckle as it hung
from the balance, but the dull sound that he elicited gave no information
either way, beyond proving--which we knew already from the weight--that
the walls of the shell were thick and clumsy. Then he took off the
string, and having offered the image to me for further examination (which
I declined), he put it back in the case. Then we went into the curator's
room to let Mr. Sancroft know that we had finished our inspection, and to
thank him for having given us the facilities for making it.

"Well," said he, laying aside his pen, "I suppose that now you know all
about Peter Gannet's works, which is more than I do. They are rather over
the heads of most of our visitors, and mine, too."

"They are not very popular, then," Thorndyke ventured.

"I wouldn't say that," Sancroft replied with a faint smile. "The monkey
figure seems to afford a good deal of amusement. But that is not quite
what we are out for. Our society seeks to instruct and elevate, not to
give a comic entertainment. I shan't be sorry when the owner of that
figure fetches it away."

"The owner?" Thorndyke repeated. "You mean Mrs. Gannet?"

"No," replied Sancroft, "it doesn't belong to her. Gannet sold it, but as
the purchaser was making a trip to America he got permission to lend it
to us until such time as the owner should return and claim it. I am
expecting him at any time now; and as I said, I shall be glad when he
does come, for the thing is making the gallery a laughing stock among the
regular visitors. They are not advanced enough for the really extreme
modernist sculpture."

"And suppose the owner never does turn up?" Thorndyke asked.

"Then I suppose we should hand it back to Mrs. Gannet. But I don't
anticipate any difficulty of that sort. The purchaser--a Mr. Newman, I
think--gave fifty pounds for it, so he is not likely to forget to call
for it."

"No, indeed," Thorndyke agreed. "It is an enormous price. Did Gannet
himself tell you what he sold it for?"

"Not Gannet. I never met him. It was Mrs. Gannet who told me when she
brought it with the pottery."

"I suppose," said Thorndyke, "that the owner, when he comes to claim his
property, will produce some evidence of his identity? You would hardly
hand over a valuable piece such as this seems to be, to anyone who might
come and demand it, unless you happen to know him by sight?"

"I don't," replied Sancroft. "I've never seen the man. But the question
of identity is provided for. Mrs. Gannet left a couple of letters with me
from her husband which will make the transaction quite safe. Would you
like to see them? I know you are interested in Mrs. Gannet's affairs."

Without waiting for a reply, he unlocked and pulled out a drawer in the
writing table, and having turned over a number of papers, took out two
letters pinned together.

"Here they are," said he, handing them to Thorndyke, who spread them out
so that we could both read them. The contents of the first one were as
follows:

"12, Jacob Street.

"April 13th, 1931.

"Dear Mr. Sancroft,

"In addition to the collection of pottery, for exhibition on loan, I am
sending you a stoneware figurine of a monkey. This is no longer my
property as I have sold it to a Mr. James Newman. But as he is making a
business trip to the United States, he has given me permission to deposit
it on loan with you until he returns to England; this he expects to do in
about three months' time. He will then call on you and present the letter
of introduction of which I attach a copy; and you will then deliver the
figurine to him and take a receipt from him which I will ask you kindly
to send on to me.

"Yours sincerely.

"Peter Gannet."



The second letter was the copy referred to, and read thus:

"Dear Mr. Sancroft,

"The bearer of this, Mr. James Newman, is the owner of the figurine of a
monkey which I deposited on loan with you. Will you kindly deliver it to
him, if he wants to have possession of it, or take his instructions as to
its disposal? If he wishes to take it away with him, please secure a
receipt for it before handing it over to him.

"Yours sincerely,

"Peter Gannet."

"You see," said Sancroft, as Thorndyke returned the letters, "he wrote on
the 13th of April, so, as this is the 7th of July, he may turn up at any
moment; as he will bring the letter of introduction with him, I shall be
quite safe in delivering the figure to him, and the sooner the better. I
am tired of seeing the people standing in front of that case and
sniggering."

"You must be," said Thorndyke. "However, I hope Mr. Newman will come soon
and relieve you of the occasion of sniggers. And I must thank you once
more for the valuable help that you have given us; and you may take it
that I shall not forget my promise to try to find you a deputy so that
you can have a little more freedom."

With this, and a cordial handshake, we took our leave; once more I was
surprised and even a little puzzled by Thorndyke's promise to seek a
deputy for Mr. Sancroft. I could understand his sympathy with that
overworked curator, but really, Mr. Sancroft's troubles were no affair of
ours. Indeed, so abnormal did Thorndyke's attitude appear that I began to
ask myself whether it was possible that some motive other than sympathy
might lie behind it. No one, it is true, could be more ready than
Thorndyke to do a little act of kindness if the chance came his way, but
on the other hand, experience had taught me that no one's motives could
be more difficult to assess than Thorndyke's. For there was always this
difficulty--that one never knew what was at the back of his mind.



CHAPTER 17 - MR. SNUPER


When we arrived at our chambers we were met on the landing by Polton, who
had apparently observed our approach from an upper window, and who
communicated to us the fact that Mr. Linnell was waiting to see us.

"He has been here more than half an hour, so perhaps you will invite him
to stay to lunch. I've laid a place for him, and lunch is ready now in
the breakfast room."

"Thank you, Polton," said Thorndyke, "we will see what his arrangements
are," and as Polton retired up the stairs, he opened the oak door with
his latch-key and we entered the room. There we found Linnell pacing the
floor with a distinctly unrestful air.

"I am afraid I have come at an inconvenient time, sir," he began,
apologetically, but Thorndyke interrupted:

"Not at all. You have come in the very nick of time; for lunch is just
ready, and as Polton has laid a place for you, he will insist on your
joining us."

Linnell's rather careworn face brightened up at the invitation, which he
accepted gratefully, and we adjourned forthwith to the small room on the
laboratory floor which we had recently, for labour-saving reasons,
adopted as the place in which meals were served. As we took our places at
the table, Thorndyke cast a critical glance at our friend and remarked:

"You are not looking happy, Linnell. Nothing amiss, I hope?"

"There is nothing actually amiss, sir," Linnell replied, "but I am not at
all happy about the way things are going. It's that confounded fellow,
Blandy. He won't let matters rest. He is still convinced that Mrs. Gannet
knows, or could guess, where Boles is hiding; whereas, I am perfectly
sure that she has no more idea where he is than I have. But he won't
leave it at that. He thinks that he is being bamboozled and he is getting
vicious--politely vicious, you know--and I am afraid he means mischief."

"What sort of mischief?" I asked.

"Well, he keeps letting out obscure hints of a prosecution."

"But," said I, "the decision for or against a prosecution doesn't rest
with him. He is just a detective inspector."

"I know," said Linnell. "That's what he keeps rubbing in. For his part,
he would be entirely opposed to subjecting this unfortunate lady to the
peril and indignity of criminal proceedings--you know his oily way of
speaking--but what can he do? He is only a police officer. It is his
superiors and the Public Prosecutor who will decide. And then he goes on,
in a highly confidential, friend-of-the-family sort of way, to point out
the various unfortunate (and, as he thinks, misleading) little
circumstances that might influence the judgment of persons unacquainted
with the lady. And after all, he remarked to me in confidence, he found
himself compelled to admit that if his superiors should decide (against
his advice) to prosecute, they would be able, at least, to make out a
prima facie case."

"I doubt whether they could," said I, "unless Blandy knows more than we
know after attending the inquest."

"That is just the point," said Thorndyke. "Does he? Has he got anything
up his sleeve? I don't think he can have; for if he had knowledge of any
material facts, he would have to communicate them to his superiors. And
as those superiors have not taken any action so far, we may assume that
no such facts have been communicated. I suppose Blandy's agitations are
connected with Boles?"

"Yes," Linnell replied. "He keeps explaining to me, and to Mrs. Gannet,
how the whole trouble would disappear if only we could get into touch
with Boles. I don't see how it would, but I do think that if Blandy could
lay his hands on Boles, his interest in Mrs. Gannet would cease. All this
fuss is to bring pressure on her to make some sort of statement.'

"Yes," said Thorndyke, "that seems to be the position. It is not very
creditable, and very unlike the ordinary practice of the police. But
there is this to remember: Blandy's interest in Boles, and that of the
police in general, is not connected with the murder in the studio, but
with the murder of the constable at Newingstead. Blandy's idea is, I
suspect--assuming that he seriously entertains a prosecution--that if
Mrs. Gannet were brought to trial, she would have to be put into the
witness box and then some useful information might be extracted from her
in cross-examination. He is not likely to have made any such suggestions
to his superiors, but seeing how anxious the police naturally are to find
the murderer of the constable, they might be ready to give a sympathetic
consideration to Blandy's view, if he could make out a really plausible
case. And that is the question. What sort of case could he make out? Have
you any ideas on that subject, Linnell? I take it that he would suggest
charging Mrs. Gannet as an accessory after the fact."

"Yes, he has made that clear to both of us. If the Public Prosecutor
decided to take action, the charge would be that she, knowing that a
felony had been committed, subsequently sheltered or relieved the felon
in such a way as to enable him to evade justice. Of course, it is the
only charge that would be possible."

"So it would seem," said I. "But what facts has he got to support it? He
can't prove that she knows where Boles is hiding."

"No," Linnell agreed, "at least, I suppose he can't. But there is that
rather unfortunate circumstance that, when her husband was missing, she
was--as she has admitted--afraid to enter the studio to see if he was
there. Blandy fears that her behaviour might be interpreted as proving
that she had some knowledge of what had happened."

"There isn't much in that," said I. "What are the other points?"

"Well, Blandy professes to think that the relations between Boles and
Mrs. Gannet would tend to support the charge. No one suggests that their
relations were in any way improper, but they were admittedly on
affectionate terms."

"There is still less in that," said I. "The suggestion of a possible
motive for doing a certain act is no evidence that the act was done. If
Blandy has nothing better than what you have mentioned, he would never
persuade a magistrate to commit her for trial. What do you say,
Thorndyke?"

"It certainly looks as if Blandy held a remarkably weak hand," he
replied. "Of course, we have to take all the facts together; but even so,
assuming that he has nothing unknown to us in reserve, I don't see how he
could make out a prima facie case."

"He has also," said Linnell, "dropped some obscure hints about that
affair of the arsenic poisoning."

"That," said Thorndyke, "is pure bluff. He would not be allowed to
mention it, and he knows he wouldn't. He said so explicitly, to Oldfield.
It looks as if the threat of a prosecution were being made to exert
pressure on Mrs. Gannet to make some revelation. Still, it is possible
that he may manage to work up a case sufficiently plausible to induce the
authorities to launch proceedings. Blandy is a remarkably ingenious and
resourceful man, and none too scrupulous. He is a man whom one has to
take seriously."

"And suppose he does manage to get a prosecution started," said Linnell,
"what do you advise me to do?"

"Well, Linnell," Thorndyke replied, "you know the ordinary routine. We
are agreed that the lady is innocent and you will act accordingly. As to
bail, we will settle the details of that later, but we can manage any
amount that may be required."

"Do you think that she might be admitted to bail?"

"But why not?" said Thorndyke. "She will be charged only as an accessory
after the fact. That is not a very grave crime. The maximum penalty is
only two years' imprisonment, and in practice, the sentences are usually
quite lenient. You will certainly ask for bail, and I don't see any
grounds on which the police could oppose it.

"And now as to the general conduct of the case, I advise you very
strongly to play for time. Delay the proceedings as much as you can. Find
excuses to ask for remands, and in all possible ways keep the pot boiling
as slowly as you can contrive. The longer the date of the final hearing
can be postponed, the better will be the chance of finding a conclusive
answer to the charge. I will tell you why, following Blandy's excellent
example by taking you into my confidence.

"I have been examining this case in considerable detail, partly in Mrs.
Gannet's interests and partly for other reasons; and I have a clear and
consistent theory of the crime, both as to its motive and approximate
procedure. But at present it is only a theory. I can prove nothing. The
one crucial fact which will tell me whether my theory is right or wrong
is still lacking. I cannot test the truth of it until certain things have
happened. I hope that they may happen quite soon, but still, I have to
wait on events. If those events turn out as I expect, I shall know that
my construction of the crime has been correct; and then I shall be able
to show that Mrs. Gannet could not possibly have been an accessory to it.
But I can give no date because I cannot control the course of events."

Linnell was visibly impressed, and so was I--though less visibly. I was
still in the same state of bewilderment as to Thorndyke's proceedings. I
still failed to understand why he was busying himself in a case which did
not seem to concern him--apart from his sympathy with Mrs. Gannet. Nor
could I yet see that there was anything to discover beyond what we
already knew.

Of course I had realized all along that I must have missed some essential
point in the case, and now this was confirmed. Thorndyke had a consistent
theory of the crime, which, indeed, might be right or wrong. But long
experience with Thorndyke told me that it was pretty certainly right,
though what sort of theory it might be I was totally unable to imagine. I
could only, like Thorndyke, wait on events.

The rest of the conversation concerned itself with the question of bail.
Oldfield we knew could be depended on for one surety, and by a little
manoeuvring, it was arranged that Thorndyke should finance the other
without appearing in the transaction. Eventually Linnell took his
departure in greatly improved spirits, cheered by Thorndyke's
encouragement and all the better for a good lunch and one or two glasses
of sound claret.

Thorndyke's "confidence," if it mystified rather than enlightened me, had
at least the good effect of arousing my interest in Mrs. Gannet and her
affairs. From time to time during the next few days I turned them over in
my mind, though with little result beyond the beneficial mental exercise.
But in another direction I had better luck, for I did make an actual
discovery. It came about in this way.

A few days after Linnell's visit, I had occasion to go to the London
Hospital to confer with one of the surgeons concerning a patient in whom
I was interested. When I had finished my business there and came out into
the Whitechapel Road, the appearance of the neighbourhood recalled our
expedition to the People's Museum, and I suddenly realized that I was
within a few minutes' walk of that shrine of the fine arts. Now I had
occasionally speculated on Thorndyke's object in making that visit of
inspection and on his reasons for interesting himself in Sancroft's
difficulties. Was it pure benevolence or was there something behind it?
And there was the further question, had his benevolent intentions taken
effect? The probability was that they had. He had given Sancroft a very
definite promise, and it was quite unlike him to leave a promise
unfulfilled.

These questions recurred to me as I turned westward along the Whitechapel
Road, and I decided that at least some of them should be answered
forthwith. I could now ascertain whether any deputy for Mr. Sancroft had
been found, and if so, who that deputy might be. Accordingly, I turned up
Commercial Street and presently struck the junction of Norton Folegate
and Shoreditch; and, traversing the length of the latter, came into
Kingsland Road and so to the People's Museum.

One of my questions was answered as soon as I entered. There was no sign
of Mr. Sancroft, but the priceless collection was being watched over by a
gentleman of studious aspect who was seated in an armchair--a
representative specimen of Curtain Road Chippendale--reading a book with
the aid of a pair of horn-framed spectacles. So engrossed was he with his
studies that he appeared to be unaware of my entrance, though, as I was
the only visitor, I must have been a rather conspicuous object and worthy
of some slight notice.

Taking advantage of his preoccupation, I observed him narrowly; and
though I could not place him or give him a name, I had the distinct
impression that I had seen him before. Continuing a strategic advance in
his direction under cover of the glass cases, and still observing him as
unobtrusively as I could, I had a growing sense of familiarity until,
coming within a few yards of him, I suddenly realized who he was.

"Why," I exclaimed, "it is Mr. Snuper!"

He lowered his book and smiled, blandly. "Mr. Snuper it is," he admitted.
"And why not? You seem surprised."

"So I am," I replied. "What on earth are you doing here?"

"To tell the truth," said he, "I am doing very little. You see me here,
taking my ease and spending my very acceptable leisure profitably in
reading books that I usually have not time to read."

I glanced at the book which he was holding and was not a little surprised
to discover that it was Bell's British Stalk-eyed Crustacea. Observing my
astonishment, he explained, apologetically:

"I am a collector of British Crustacea in a small way, a very small way.
The beginnings were made during a seaside holiday, and now I occasionally
secure small additions from the fishmongers' shops."

"I shouldn't have thought," said I, "that the fishmongers' shops would
have yielded many rare specimens."

"No," he agreed, "you wouldn't. But it is surprising how many curious and
interesting forms of life you may discover among the heaps of shell-fish
on a fishmonger's slab; especially the mussels and winkles. Only the day
before yesterday, I obtained a nearly perfect specimen of Stenorhynchus
phalangium from a winkle stall in the Mile End Road."

Now this was very interesting. I have often noticed how the discovery of
some unlikely hobby throws most unexpected light on a man's character and
personality. And so it was now. The enthusiastic pursuit of this
comparatively erudite study presented a feature of Mr. Snuper's rather
elusive personality that was quite new to me, and somewhat surprising.
But I had not come here to study Mr. Snuper, and it suddenly occurred to
me that that very discreet gentleman might be making this conversation
expressly to divert my attention from other topics. Accordingly, I
returned to my business with a direct question.

"But how do you come to be here?"

"It was Dr. Thorndyke's idea," he replied. "You see there was nothing
doing in my line at the moment, and Mr. Sancroft was badly in need of
someone who could look after the place while he went about his business,
so the doctor suggested that I might as well spend my leisure here as at
home, and do a kindness to Mr. Sancroft at the same time."

This answer left me nothing to say. The general question that I had asked
was all that was admissible. I could not pursue the matter further, for
that would have been a discourtesy to Thorndyke, to say nothing of the
certainty that the discreet Snuper would keep his own counsel if there
were any counsel to keep. So I brought the conversation gracefully to an
end with a few irrelevant observations, and having wished my friend good
day, went forth and set a course for Shoreditch Station.

But if it was not admissible for me to question Snuper, I was at liberty
to turn the matter over in my mind. But that process had the effect
rather of raising questions than of disposing of them. Snuper's account
of his presence at the gallery was perfectly reasonable and plausible.
Thorndyke had no use for him at the moment and Sancroft had. That seemed
quite simple. But was it the whole explanation? I had my doubts, and they
were based principally on what I knew of Mr. Snuper.

Now Mr. Snuper was a very remarkable man. Originally he had been a
private inquiry agent whom Thorndyke had employed occasionally to carry
out certain observation duties which could not be discharged by either of
us. But Snuper had proved so valuable--so dependable, so discreet, and so
quick in the uptake--that Thorndyke had taken him on as a regular member
of our staff. For apart from his other good qualities, he had a most
extraordinary gift of inconspicuousness. Not only was he at all times
exactly the kind of person whom you would pass in the street without a
second glance, but in some mysterious way he was able to keep his visible
personality in a state of constant change. Whenever you met him, you
found him a little different from the man whom you had met before, with
the natural result that you were constantly failing to recognize him.
That was my experience, as it had been on this very occasion. I never
discovered how he did it. He seemed to use no actual disguise (though I
believe that he was a master of the art of make-up), but he appeared to
be able, in some subtle way, to manage to look like a different person.

But whatever his methods may have been, the results made him invaluable
to Thorndyke, for he could keep up a continuous observation on persons or
places with practically no risk of being recognized.

Reflecting on these facts--on Mr. Snuper's remarkable personality, his
peculiar gifts and the purposes to which they were commonly applied--I
asked myself once more, could there be anything behind his presence at
the People's Museum of Modern Art? And--so far as I was concerned--answer
there was none. My discovery had simply landed me with one more problem
to which I could find no solution.



CHAPTER 18 - MR. NEWMAN


The premonitory rumblings which had so disturbed Linnell continued for
some days, warning him to make all necessary preparations for the
defense; and in spite of the scepticism which we all felt as to the
practicability of a prosecution, the tension increased from day to day.

And then the bombshell exploded. The alarming fact was communicated to us
in a hurried note from Linnell which informed us that a summons had been
served on Mrs. Gannet that very morning, citing her to appear at the
Police Court on the third day after that on which it was issued to answer
to the charge of having, as an accessory after the fact of the murder of
Peter Gannet, harboured, sheltered, or otherwise aided the accused person
to evade justice.

Thorndyke appeared to be as surprised as I was, and a good deal more
concerned. He read Linnell's note with a grave face and reflected on it
with what seemed to me to be uncalled for anxiety.

"I can't imagine," said I, "what sort of evidence Blandy could produce.
He can't know where Boles is, or he would have arrested him. And if he
doesn't, he couldn't have discovered any evidence of any communications
between Boles and Mrs. Gannet."

"No," Thorndyke agreed, "that seems quite clear. There can have been no
intercepted letters from her, for the obvious reason that such letters
would have had to be addressed in such a way as to reach him and thus
reveal his whereabouts. And yet one feels that the police would not have
taken action unless Blandy had produced enough facts to enable them to
make out a prima facie case. Blandy might have been ready to gamble on
his powers of persuasion, but the responsible authorities would not risk
having the case dismissed by the magistrate. It is very mysterious. On my
theory of the crime, it is practically certain that Mrs. Gannet could not
have been an accessory either before or after the fact."

These observations gave me some clue to Thorndyke's anxiety; for they
conveyed to me that Blandy's case, if he really had one, would not fit
Thorndyke's theory. I put the suggestion to him in so many words, and he
agreed frankly.

"The trouble is," said he, "that my scheme of the crime is purely
hypothetical. It is based on a train of deductive reasoning from the
facts which are known to us all. I am in possession of no knowledge other
than that which is possessed equally by Blandy and by you. The reasoning
by which I reached my conclusions seems to me perfectly sound. But I may
have fallen into some fallacy, or it may be that there are some material
facts which are not known to me, but which are known to Blandy. One of us
is mistaken. Naturally, I hope that the mistake is Blandy's; but it may
be mine. However, we shall see when the prosecution opens the case."

"I assume," said I, "that you will attend at the hearing."

"Undoubtedly," he replied. "We must be there to hear what Blandy has to
say, if he gives evidence, and what sort of case the prosecution proposes
to make out; and then we have to give Linnell any help that he may
require. I suppose you will lend us the support of your presence?"

"Of course I shall come," I replied. "I am as curious as you are to hear
what the prosecution has to say. I shall make a very special point of
being there."

But that visit to the Police court was never to take place, for on that
very night the "events" on which Thorndyke had been waiting began to loom
up on our horizon. They were ushered in by the appearance at our chambers
of a young man of Jewish aspect and secretive bearing who, having been
interviewed by Polton, had demanded personal audience of Thorndyke and
had refused to indicate his name or business to any other person.
Accordingly, he was introduced to us by Polton, who, having conducted him
into the presence, stood by and kept him under observation until he was
satisfied that the visitor had no unlawful or improper designs; then he
retired and shut the door.

As the door closed, the stranger produced from an inner pocket a small
packet wrapped in newspaper which he proceeded to open; and, having
extracted from it a letter in a sealed envelope, silently handed the
letter to Thorndyke; who broke the seal and read through the evidently
short note which it contained.

"If you will wait a few minutes," said he, placing a chair for the
messenger, "I will give you a note to take with you. Are you going
straight back?"

"Yes," was the reply. "He's waiting for me."

Thereupon Thorndyke sat down at the writing table, and having written a
short letter, put it in an envelope, which he sealed with wax and handed
to the messenger, together with a ten shilling note.

"That," said he, "is the fee for services rendered so far. There will be
another at the end of the return journey. I have mentioned the matter in
my letter."

The messenger received the note with an appreciative grin and a few words
of thanks, and having disposed of it in some secret receptacle, wrapped
the letter in the newspaper which had enclosed the other, stowed it away
in an inner pocket and took his departure.

"That," said Thorndyke, when he had gone, "was a communication from
Snuper, who is deputizing for Sancroft at the People's Museum. He tells
me that the owner of Gannet's masterpiece is going to call tomorrow
morning and take possession of his property."

"Is that any concern of ours?" I asked.

"It is a concern of mine," he replied. "I am anxious not to lose sight of
that monkey. There are several things about it which interest me, and if
it is to be taken away from the museum, I want to learn, if I can, where
it is going, in case I might wish at some future time to make a further
examination of it. So I propose to go to the museum tomorrow morning and
try to find out from Mr. Newman where he keeps his collection and how the
monkey is to be disposed of. It is possible, for instance, that he may be
a dealer, in which case there would be the danger of the monkey's
disappearing to some unknown destination."

"I shouldn't think that he is a dealer," said I. "He would never get his
money back. Probably he is a sort of Broomhill, but, of course, he may
live in the provinces or even abroad. At what time do you propose to turn
up at the museum?"

"The place opens at nine o'clock in the morning and Snuper expects Mr.
Newman to arrive at about that time. I have told him that I shall be
there at half-past eight."

Now on the face of it, the transaction did not promise any very thrilling
experiences, but there was something a little anomalous about the whole
affair. Thorndyke's interest in that outrageous monkey was quite
incomprehensible to me, and I had the feeling that there was something
more in this expedition than was conveyed in the mere statement of
Thorndyke's intentions and objects. Accordingly, I threw out a tentative
suggestion. "If I should propose to make one of the party, would my
presence be helpful or otherwise?"

"My dear fellow," he replied, "your presence is always helpful. I had, in
fact, intended to ask you to accompany me. Up to the present you have not
seemed to appreciate the importance of the monkey in this remarkable
case; but it is possible that you may gather some fresh ideas on the
subject tomorrow morning. So come by all means. And now I must go and
make the necessary preparations, and you had better do the same. We shall
start from here not later than a quarter to eight."

With this he went up to the laboratory floor, whence, presently, I heard
the distant tinkle of the telephone bell. Apparently he was making some
kind of appointment, for shortly afterwards his footsteps were audible on
the stairs descending to the entry, and I saw him no more until he came
in to smoke a final pipe before going to bed.

On the following morning, Polton, having aroused me by precautionary (and
as I thought, premature) thumpings on my door, served a ridiculously
early breakfast and then took his stand on the door-step to keep a
lookout for the taxi which had been chartered overnight. Evidently he had
been duly impressed with the importance of the occasion, as apparently
had the taxi man, for he arrived at half-past seven and his advent was
triumphantly reported by Polton just as I was pouring out my second cup
of tea. But after all there was not so very much time to spare, for in
Fleet Street, Cornhill and Bishopsgate, all the wheeled vehicles in
London seemed to have been assembled to do us honour and retard our
progress; it was a quarter past eight when we alighted opposite the
Geffrye Museum, and having dismissed the taxi, began to walk at a
leisurely pace northward along the Kingsland Road.

When we were a short distance from our destination, I observed a man
walking towards us, and at a second glance, I actually recognized Mr.
Snuper. As soon as he saw us, he turned about and walked back to the
People's Museum, where he unlocked the door and entered. On our arrival
we found the door ajar and Mr. Snuper lurking just inside, ready to close
the door as soon as we had passed in.

"Well, Snuper," said Thorndyke, as we emerged from the lobby into the
main room, "everything seems to have gone according to plan so far. You
didn't give any particulars in your letter. How did you manage the
adjournment?"

"It didn't require much management, sir," Snuper replied. "The affair
came off by itself quite naturally. Mr. Sancroft didn't come to the
museum yesterday. He had to go out of town on business and, of course, as
I was here, there was no reason why he shouldn't go. So I was here all
alone when Mr. Newman came just before closing time. He told me what he
had come for and showed me the letter of introduction and the receipt
which he had written out and signed. But I explained to him that I was
not the curator and had no authority to allow any of the exhibits to be
taken away from the museum. Besides, the case was locked and Mr. Sancroft
had the key of the safe in which the other keys were kept, so I could not
get the figure out even if I had been authorized to part with it.

"He was very disappointed and inclined to be huffy, but it couldn't be
helped, and after all, he had only to wait a few hours. I told him that
Mr. Sancroft would be here today and would arrive in time to open the
museum as usual, so I expect Newman will turn up pretty punctually about
nine o'clock. Possibly, he will be waiting outside when Mr. Sancroft
comes to let himself in."

This forecast, however, was falsified a few minutes later, for Mr.
Sancroft arrived before his time and locked the door when he had entered.
Naturally, he knew nothing of what had been happening in his absence and
was somewhat surprised to find Thorndyke and me in the museum. But
whatever explanations were called for must have been given by Snuper, who
followed Sancroft into the curator's room and shut the door behind him;
and, judging by the length of the interview, I assumed that Sancroft was
being put in possession of such facts as it was necessary for him to
know.

While this conference was proceeding, Thorndyke reconnoitered the
galleries in what seemed to me a very odd way. He appeared to be
searching for some place whence he could observe the entrance and the
main gallery without being himself visible. Having tried one or two of
the higher cases, and apparently finding them unsuitable, owing to his
exceptional stature, he turned his attention to the small room which
opened from the main gallery and was devoted entirely to water colours.
The entrance of this room was exactly opposite the case which contained
the "Figurine of a Monkey," and it also faced the main doorway. But it
seemed to have a further attraction for Thorndyke; for, on the wall
nearly opposite to the entrance, hung a large water colour painting, the
glass of which, taken at the proper angle, reflected the whole of the
principal room, the main doorway, and the case in which the monkey was
exhibited. I tried it when Thorndyke had finished his experiments, and
found that, not only did it reflect a perfectly clear image, owing to the
very dark colouring of the picture, but that the observer looking into it
was quite invisible from the main gallery, or indeed, to anyone who did
not actually enter the small room.

This was an interesting discovery, in its way. But the most interesting
part of it was Thorndyke's motive in seeking this secret point of
observation. Once more I decided that things were not quite what they had
seemed. As I had understood the programme, Thorndyke was going to
introduce himself to Mr. Newman and try to ascertain the destination and
future whereabouts of the monkey. But with this purpose, Thorndyke's
present proceedings seemed to have no connection.

However, there was not much time for speculation on my part, for, at this
point Mr. Snuper emerged from the curator's room and, walking up the
gallery, unlocked the front door and threw it open; and, as he returned,
accompanied by a man who had slipped in as the door opened, I realized
that the proceedings, whatever they might be, had begun.

"Keep out of sight for the present," Thorndyke directed me in a whisper;
and, forthwith, I flattened myself against the wall and fixed an eager
gaze on the picture as well as I could without obstructing Thorndyke's
view. In the reflection I could see Snuper and his companion advance
until they were within a few yards of the place where we were lurking,
and then I heard Snuper say:

"If you will give me the letter and the receipt, I will take them in to
Mr. Sancroft and get the key of the case, unless he wishes to hand the
figure to you himself."

With this, he retired into the curator's room and shut the door; and as
he disappeared, the stranger--presumably Mr. Newman--who, I could now
see, carried a largish hand-bag, advanced to the case which contained the
monkey and stood peering into it with his back to us, and so near that I
could have put out my hand and touched him. As he stood thus, Thorndyke
put his head round the jamb of the doorway to examine him by direct
vision, and after a few moments' inspection, stepped out, moving quite
silently on the solid parquet floor, and took up a position close behind
him. Whereupon I, following his example, came out into the middle of the
doorway and stood behind Thorndyke to see what was going to happen next.

For a few moments nothing happened; but just then I became aware of two
men lurking in the lobby of the main entrance, half hidden by the inner
door and quite hidden from Newman by the case at which he was standing.
Suddenly Newman seemed to become conscious of the presence of someone
behind him, for he turned sharply and faced Thorndyke. Then I knew that
something critical was going to happen, and I realized, too, that
Thorndyke had got his "one crucial fact." For as the stranger's eyes met
Thorndyke's, he gave one wild stare of horror and amazement and his face
blanched to a deathly pallor. But he uttered no word; and after that one
ghastly stare, turned about and appeared to resume his contemplation of
the figurine.

Then three things happened in quick succession: First, Thorndyke took off
his hat; then the door of the curator's room opened and Snuper and
Sancroft emerged; and then the two men whom I had noticed came out of the
lobby and walked quickly up to the place where Newman and Thorndyke were
standing. I looked at them curiously as they approached, and recognized
them both. One was Detective Sergeant Wills of the C.I.D. The other was
no less a person than Detective Inspector Blandy.

By this time Newman seemed, to some extent, to have recovered his
self-possession, whereas Blandy, on the contrary, looked nervous and
embarrassed. The former, ignoring the police officers, addressed himself
to Sancroft, demanding the speedy conclusion of his business. But here
Blandy intervened, with little confidence but more than his usual
politeness.

"I must ask you to pardon me, sir," he began, "for interrupting your
business, but there are one or two questions that I want you to be so
kind as to answer."

Newman looked at him in evident alarm but replied gruffly:

"I have no time to answer questions. Besides, you are a stranger to me,
and I don't think I have any concern in your affairs."

"I am a police officer," Blandy explained, "and I--"

"Then I am sure I haven't," snapped Newman.

"I wanted to ask you a few questions in connection with a most
unfortunate affair that happened at Newingstead last September," Blandy
continued persuasively; but Newman cut him short with the brusque
rejoinder:

"Newingstead? I never heard of the place, and of course I know nothing
about it."

Blandy looked at him with a baffled expression and then turned an
appealing face to Thorndyke.

"Can you give us something definite, sir?" he asked.

"I thought I had," Thorndyke replied. "At any rate, I now accuse this
man, Newman, as he calls himself, of having murdered Constable Murray at
Newingstead on the 19th of last September. That justifies you in making
the arrest; and then--well, you know what to do."

But still Blandy seemed undecided. The man's evident terror and the glare
of venomous hatred that he cast on Thorndyke, proved nothing.
Accordingly, the Inspector, apparently puzzled and unconvinced, sought to
temporize.

"If you would allow me, Mr. Newman," said he, "to take an impression of
your left thumb, any mistake that may have been made could be set right
in a moment. Now what do you say?"

"I say that I will see you damned first," Newman replied fiercely, edging
away from the Inspector and thereby impinging on the massive form of
Sergeant Wills, which occupied the only avenue of escape.

"You've got a definite charge, you know, Inspector," Thorndyke reminded
him in a warning tone, still narrowly watching the accused man; and
something significant in the way the words were spoken helped Blandy to
make up his mind.

"Well, then, Mr. Newman," said he, "if you won't give us any assistance,
it's your own look-out. I arrest you on the charge of having murdered
Police Constable Murray at Newingstead on the 19th of last September and
I caution you that--"

The rest of the caution faded out, for Newman made a sudden movement and
was in an instant clasped in the arms of Sergeant Wills, who had
skilfully seized the prisoner's wrists from behind and held them
immovably pressed against his chest. Almost at the same moment, Blandy
sprang forward and grasped the prisoner's ears in order to secure his
head and defeat his attempts to bite the sergeant's hands. But Newman was
evidently a powerful ruffian, and his struggles were so violent that the
two officers had the greatest difficulty in holding him, even when Snuper
and I tried to control his arms. In the narrow interval between two glass
cases, we all swayed to and fro, gyrating slowly and making uncomfortable
contacts with sharp corners. Presently Blandy turned his streaming face
towards Thorndyke and gasped: "Could you manage the print, Doctor? You
can see I can't let go. The kit is in my right hand coat pocket."

"I have brought the necessary things, myself," said Thorndyke, producing
from his pocket a small metal box. "It is understood," he added, as he
opened the box, "that I am acting on your instructions."

Without waiting for a reply, he took out of the box a tiny roller which
had been fixed by its handle in a clip, and having run it along the
inside of the lid, which formed an inking-plate, he approached the
squirming prisoner; waiting his opportunity, he suddenly seized the left
thumb, and holding it steady, ran the little roller over its bulb. Then
he produced a small pad of smooth paper, and again watching for a moment
when the thumb was fixed immovably, quickly pressed the pad on the inked
surface. The resulting print was not a very perfect impression, but it
showed the pattern clearly enough for practical purposes.

"Have you got the photograph with you?" he asked.

"Yes," replied Blandy, "but I can't--could you take hold of his head for
a moment?"

Thorndyke laid the pad on the top of the nearest case and then, following
Blandy's instructions, grasped the prisoner's head so as to relieve the
Inspector; Blandy then stepped back, and having taken up the pad, thrust
his hand into his pocket and brought out a photograph mounted on a card.
For a few moments he stood, eagerly glancing from the pad to the
photograph and evidently comparing them point by point.

"Is it the right print?" Thorndyke asked.

Blandy did not answer immediately but continued his scrutiny with
evidently growing excitement. At length he looked up, and forgetting his
usual bland smile, replied, almost in a shout:

"Yes, by God! It's the man himself."

And then came the catastrophe.

Whether it was that the sergeant's attention was for the moment
distracted by the absorbing interest of Blandy's proceedings, or that
Newman had been watching his opportunity, I cannot say, but, after a
brief cessation of his struggles, as if he had become exhausted, he made
a sudden violent effort and twisted himself out of his captors' grasp,
darting instantly into the passage between two cases. Thither the
sergeant followed, but the prisoner, with incredible quickness and
dexterity, delivered a smashing blow on the chest which sent the officer
staggering backwards; the next moment, the prisoner was standing in the
narrow space with an automatic pistol covering his pursuers.

I will do Blandy the justice (which I am glad to do, as I never liked the
man) to say that he faced the deadly danger without a sign of fear or a
moment's hesitation. How he escaped with his life I have never
understood, for he dashed straight at the prisoner, looking into the very
muzzle of the pistol. But by some miracle the bullet passed him by, and
before another shot could be fired, he had grabbed the man's wrist and
got some sort of control of the weapon. Then the sergeant and Snuper and
I came to his assistance, and the old struggle began again, but with the
material difference that each and all of us had to keep a wary eye on the
barrel of the pistol.

Of the crowded and chaotic events of the next minute I have but the
obscurest recollection. There comes back to me a vague idea of violent,
strenuous effort; a succession of pistol shots with a sort of infernal
obbligato accompaniment of shattering glass; the struggles of the
sergeant to reach a back pocket without losing his hold on the prisoner;
and the manoeuvres of Mr. Sancroft, at first ducking at every shot and
finally retreating hurriedly--almost on all fours--into his sanctum. Nor
when the end came, am I at all clear as to the exact manner of its
happening. I know only that the firing ceased, and that almost as the
last shot was fired, the writhing, struggling body became suddenly still
and began limply to sag towards the floor; and that I then noticed in the
man's right temple a small hole from which issued a little trickle of
blood.

Blandy rose, and looking down gloomily at the prostrate body, cursed
softly under his breath.

"What infernal luck!" he exclaimed. "I suppose he is dead?"

"I am afraid there is no doubt of that," I replied, as the last faint
twitchings died away.

"Infernal luck," he repeated, "to have him slip through our fingers just
as we had made sure of him."

"It was the making sure of him that did it," growled the sergeant. "I
mean the finger-prints. We ought to have waited for them until we had got
the darbies on."

"I know," said Blandy. "But you see I wasn't sure that we had got the
right man. He didn't seem to me to answer to the description at all."

"The description of whom?" asked Thorndyke.

"Of Frederick Boles," replied Blandy. "This is Boles, isn't it?"

"No," replied Thorndyke. "This is Peter Gannet."

Blandy was thunderstruck. "But," he exclaimed, incredulously, "it can't
be. We identified Gannet's remains quite conclusively."

"Yes," Thorndyke agreed, blandly, "that is what you were intended to do.
The remains were actually those of Boles--with certain additions."

Blandy smiled sourly. "Well," said he, "this is a knockout. To think that
we have been barking up the wrong tree all the time. But you might have
given us the tip a bit sooner, Doctor."

"My dear Blandy," Thorndyke protested, "I told you all that I knew as
soon as I knew it."

"You didn't tell us who this man Newman was."

"But, my dear Inspector," Thorndyke replied, "I didn't know myself. When
I came here today, I suspected that Mr. Newman was Peter Gannet. But I
didn't know until I had seen the man and recognized him and seen that he
recognized me. I told you last night that it was merely a case of
suspicion."

"Well, well," said Blandy, "it's no use crying over spilt milk. Is there
a telephone in the office? If there is, you had better ring up the Police
Station, Sergeant, and tell them to send an ambulance along as quickly as
they can."

The tinkle of the telephone bell answered Blandy's question, and while
the message was being sent and answered, Thorndyke and I proceeded to lay
out the body, in view of the probability of premature rigor mortis. Then
we adjourned to the curator's room, where Blandy showed a tendency to
revert to the topic of the might-have-been. But our stay there was short,
for the ambulance arrived in an almost incredibly short time; and when
the body had been carried out by the stretcher bearers and the outer door
shut, the Inspector and the Sergeant made ready to depart.

"There are some other particulars, Doctor," said Blandy, "that we shall
want you to give us, if you will; but now I must get back to the Yard and
report what has happened. They won't be over-pleased, but at least we
have cleared up a rather mysterious case."

With this, he and the Sergeant went forth to their car, being let out by
Mr. Sancroft, who, having affixed a notice to the main door, shut it and
locked it. Then he came back to the room and gazed round ruefully at the
wreck of the People's Museum of Modern Art.

"The Lord knows," said he, "who is going to pay for all this damage.
Seven glass cases smashed and the nose knocked off Israel Popoff's
Madonna. It has been a shocking business; and there is that damned
image--if you will excuse me--which has been the cause of all the
trouble, still standing in one of the few undamaged cases. But I will
soon have it out of there; only the question is, what on earth is to be
done with it? The beastly thing seems to be nobody's property now."

"It is the property of Mrs. Gannet," said Thorndyke. "I think it would be
best if I were to take custody of it and hand it over to her. I will give
you a receipt for it."

"You need not trouble about a receipt," said Sancroft, hauling out his
keys and joyfully unlocking the case. "I accept you as Mrs. Gannet's
representative and I am only too delighted to get the thing out of the
museum. Shall I make it up into a parcel?"

"There is no need," replied Thorndyke, picking up Gannet's bag from the
floor, on which it had been dropped when the struggle began. "This will
hold it, and there is probably some packing inside."

He opened the bag, and finding it lined with a thick woollen scarf, took
the figure from the open case, carefully deposited it in the folds of the
scarf and shut the bag.

That seemed to conclude our business, and after a few more words with the
still agitated Sancroft and a brief farewell to Mr. Snuper, we
accompanied the former to the door, whence we were let out into the
street.



CHAPTER 19 - THE MONKEY REVEALS HIS SECRET


By lovers of paradox we are assured that it is the unexpected that will
always happens. But this is, to put it mildly, an exaggeration. Even the
expected happens sometimes. It did, for instance, on the present
occasion, for when we passed into the entry of our chambers on our
return from the museum, and began to ascend the stairs, I expected that
Thorndyke would pass by the door of our sitting room and go straight up
to the laboratory floor. And that is precisely what he did. He made
directly for the larger workshop, and having greeted Polton as we
entered, laid Gannet's bag on the bench.

"We need not disturb you, Polton," said he, noting that our assistant was
busily polishing the pallets of a dead beat escapement appertaining to a
"regulator" that he was constructing. But Polton had already fixed an
inquisitive eye on the bag, and, coupling its  presence with our
mysterious expedition, had evidently sniffed something more exciting than
clockwork.

"You are not disturbing me, sir," said he, laying the pallets on the
table of the polishing lathe and bearing down with a purposeful air on
the bag. "The clock is a spare time job. Can I give you any assistance?"

Thorndyke smiled appreciatively, and opening the bag, carefully took out
the figure and stood it up on the bench.

"There, Polton," said he, "what do you think of that for a work of art?"

"My word!" exclaimed Polton, regarding the figure with profound
disfavour, "but he is an ugly fellow. Now what part of the world might he
have come from? South Sea Islands he looks like."

Thorndyke lifted the image, and turning it up to exhibit the base, handed
it to Polton, who examined it with fresh astonishment.

"Why," he exclaimed, "it seems to have been made by a civilized man! It's
English lettering, though I don't recognize the mark."

"It was made by an Englishman," said Thorndyke. "But do you find anything
abnormal about it apart from its ugliness?"

Polton looked long and earnestly at the base, turned the figure over and
examined every part of it, finally tapping it with his knuckles and
listening attentively to the sound elicited.

"I don't think it is solid," said he, "though it is mighty thick."

"It is not solid," said Thorndyke, "We have ascertained that."

"Then," said Polton, "I don't understand it. The body looks like ordinary
stoneware. But it can't be if it's hollow. There is no opening in it
anywhere. But it couldn't have been fired without a vent-hole of some
kind. It would have blown to pieces."

"Yes," Thorndyke agreed. "That is the problem. But have another look at
the base. What do you say to that white glazed slip on which the
signature is written?"

Polton inspected it afresh, and finally stuck a watchmaker's eyeglass in
his eye to assist in the examination.

"I don't know what to make of it," said he. "It looks a little like a tin
glaze, but I don't think it is. I don't see how it could be. What do you
think it is, sir?"

"I suspect that it is some kind of hard white cement--possibly
Keene's--covered with a clear varnish."

Polton looked up at him, and his expressive countenance broke out into a
characteristic crinkly smile.

"I think you have hit it, sir," said he; "and I think I begin to ogle, as
Mr. Miller would say. What are we going to do about it?"

"The obvious thing," said Thorndyke, "is to make what surgeons would call
an exploratory puncture; drill a small hole in it and see what the base
is really made of and what its thickness is."

"Would a drill go into stoneware?" I asked.

"No," replied Thorndyke, "not an ordinary drill. But I do not think that
there is any stoneware in the middle of the base. You remember
Broomhill's specimen? There was a good-sized elliptical opening in the
base, and I imagine that this figure was originally the same, but that
the opening has been filled up. What we have to ascertain is what it has
been filled with and how far the filling goes into the cavity."

"We had better do it with a hand-drill," said Polton, "and steady the
image on the bench, as it wouldn't be safe to fix it in the vise. Then it
will be convenient if we want to enlarge the hole."

He wrapped the "image" in one or two thick dusters and laid it on the
bench, when I took charge of it and held it as firmly as I could to
resist the pressure of the drill. Then, having fitted an eighth-inch
Morse into the stock, he began operations, cautiously, and with only a
light pressure; but I noticed that at first the hard drill-point seemed
to make very little impression.

"What do you suppose the filling consists of, sir?" Polton asked, as he
withdrew the drill to examine the shallow pit its point had made, "and
how far do you suppose it goes in?"

"My idea is," replied Thorndyke--"but it is only a guess--that there is a
comparatively thin layer of Keene's cement and then a plug of plaster,
perhaps three or four inches thick. Beyond that, I should expect to come
to the cavity. I hope I am right, for if it should turn out to be Keene's
cement all the way, we shall have some trouble in making a hole large
enough for our purpose."

"What is our purpose?" I asked. "To see if there is anything in the
cavity, I presume."

"Yes," Thorndyke replied, "though it is practically certain that there
is. Otherwise, there would have been no object in stopping up the
opening."

Here Polton returned to the charge, now sensibly increasing the pressure.
Still, for a while, the drill seemed to make little progress. Then quite
suddenly, as if some obstruction had been removed, it began to enter
freely and had soon penetrated as far as the chuck would allow it to go.

"You said, three or four inches, I think, sir?" Polton remarked, as he
withdrew the drill and examined the white powder in the grooves.

"Yes," Thorndyke replied, "but possibly more. A six-inch drill would be
best; and you might use a stouter one--say a quarter-inch--to avoid the
risk of its bending."

Polton made the necessary change and resumed operations with the larger
drill, which soon enlarged the opening and then began quickly to
penetrate the softer plaster. When it had entered about four inches, even
this slight resistance seemed to cease, for it ran in suddenly right up
to the chuck.

"Four inches it is, sir," said Polton, with a triumphant crinkle, as he
withdrew the drill and inspected the grooves. "How big an opening will
you want?"

"An inch might do," replied Thorndyke, "but an inch and a half would be
better. I think that is possible without encroaching on the stoneware
body. But you will see."

On this, Polton produced a set of reamers and a brace, and beginning with
one which would just enter the hole, turned the brace cautiously while I
continued to steady the figure. Meanwhile, Thorndyke, having cut off a
piece of stout copper wire about eight inches long, fixed it in the vise,
and with an adjustable die, cut a screw thread about an inch long on one
end.

"We may as well see what the conditions are," said he, "before we go any
further."

He took the wire out of the vise, and as Polton withdrew the third
reamer--which had enlarged the hole to about half an inch--he passed the
wire into the hole and began gently to probe the bottom of the cavity.
Then he pressed it in somewhat more firmly and gave it one or two turns,
slowly drawing it out while he continued to turn. When it finally
emerged, its end held a small knob of cotton wool from which a little
twisted strand of the same material extended into the invisible interior.
I watched its emergence with profound interest and a certain amount of
self-contempt; for obviously he had expected to find the interior filled
with cotton wool as was demonstrated by the making of the cotton wool
holder. And yet I, who knew as much of the essential facts as he did, had
never guessed, and even now had only a vague suspicion of what its
presence suggested.

As the operations with the reamers progressed, it became evident that the
larger opening was possible, for the material cut through was still only
cement and plaster. When the full inch and a half had been reached,
Thorndyke fixed his wire in the chuck of the hand-drill, and passing the
former into the wide hole, pressed the screw end into the mass of cotton
wool, and began to turn the handle, slowly withdrawing it as he turned.
When the end of the wire appeared at the opening, it bore a ball of
cotton wool from which a thick strand, twisted by the rapid rotation of
the wire into a firm cord, extended to the mass inside; and as Thorndyke
slowly stepped back, still turning the handle, the cord grew longer and
longer until at last its end slipped out of the opening, showing that the
whole of the cotton wool had been extracted.

"Now," said Thorndyke, "let us see what all that cotton wool enclosed."

He laid aside the drill, and carefully lifting the figure, held it
upright over the bench, when there dropped out a small, white paper
packet tied up with thread. Having cut the thread, he laid the packet on
the bench and opened it, while Polton and I craned forward inquisitively.
I suppose we both knew approximately what to expect, and I was better
able to guess than Polton; but the reality was quite beyond my
expectations, and as for Polton, he was, for the moment, struck dumb.
Only for the moment, however, for recovering himself, he exclaimed
impressively, with his eyes fixed on the packet:

"Never in all my life have I seen the like of this. Fifteen diamonds and
every one of them a specimen stone. And look at the size of them! Why,
that little lot must be worth a king's ransom!"

"I understand," said Thorndyke, "that they represent about ten thousand
pounds. That will be their market price; and you can add to that three
human lives--not as their value, which it is not, but as their cost."

"I take it," said I, "that you are assuming these to be Kempster's
diamonds?"

"It is hardly a case of assuming," he replied. "The facts seem to admit
of no other interpretation. This was an experiment to test the
correctness of my theory of the crime. I expected to find in this figure
fifteen large diamonds. Well, we have opened the figure and here are the
fifteen large diamonds. This figure belonged to Peter Gannet, and
whatever was in it was put in by him, as is shown by the sealing on the
base which bears his signature. But Peter Gannet has been proved to be
the murderer of the constable, and that murderer was undoubtedly the man
who stole Kempster's diamonds; and these diamonds correspond in number
and appearance with the diamonds which were stolen. However, we won't
leave it at a mere matter of appearance. Kempster gave me full
particulars of the diamonds, including the weight of each stone, and of
course the total weight of the whole parcel. We need hardly take the
weight of each stone separately, but if we weigh the whole fifteen
together and we find that the total weight agrees with that given by
Kempster, even my learned and sceptical friend will admit that the
identity is proved sufficiently for our present purposes."

I ventured mildly to repudiate the alleged scepticism but agreed that the
verification was worth while; and when Thorndyke had carefully closed the
packet, we all adjourned to the chemical laboratory, where Polton slid up
the glass front of the balance and went through the formality of testing
the truth of the latter with empty cans.

"What weight shall I put on, sir?" he asked.

"Mr. Kempster put the total weight at 380.4 grains. Let us try that."

Polton selected the appropriate weights, and when they had been checked
by Thorndyke, they were placed in the pan and the necessary "rider" put
on the beam to make up the fraction. Then Polton solemnly closed the
glass front and slowly depressed the lever; and as the balance rose, the
index deviated barely a hair's breadth from the zero mark.

"I think that is near enough," said Thorndyke, "to justify us in deciding
that these are the diamonds that were stolen from Kempster."

"Yes," I agreed; "at any rate, it is conclusive enough for me. What do
you propose to do with them? Shall you hand them to Kempster?"

"No," he replied. "I don't think that would be quite in order. Stolen
property should be delivered to the police, even if its ownership is
known. I shall hand these diamonds to the Commissioner of Police, explain
the circumstances, and take his receipt for them. Then I shall notify
Kempster and leave him to collect them. He will have no difficulty in
recovering them as the police have a complete description of the stones.
And that will finish the business, so far as I am concerned. I have more
than fulfilled my obligations to Kempster and I have proved that Mrs.
Gannet could not possibly have been an accessory to the murder of her
husband. Those were the ostensible objects of my investigation, apart
from the intrinsic interest of the case, and now that they have both been
achieved, it remains only to sing Nunc Dimittis and celebrate our success
with a modest festivity of some kind."

"There is one other little matter that remains," said I. "Today's events
have proved that your theory of the crime was correct, but they haven't
shown how you arrived at that theory, and I have only the dimmest ideas
on the subject. But perhaps the festivity will include a reasoned
exposition of the evidence."

"I see nothing against that," he replied. "It would be quite interesting
to me to retrace the course of the investigation; and if it would also
interest you and Oldfield--who must certainly be one of the party--then
we shall all be pleased."

He paused for a few moments, having, I think, detected a certain
wistfulness in Polton's face, for he continued:

"A restaurant dinner would hardly meet the case, if a prolonged and
necessarily confidential pow-wow is contemplated. What do you think,
Polton?"

"I think, sir," Polton replied, promptly and with emphasis, "that you
would be much more comfortable and more private in your own dining room,
and you'd get a better dinner, too. If you will leave the arrangements to
me, I will see that the entertainment does you credit."

I chuckled inwardly at Polton's eagerness. Not but that he would at any
time have delighted in ministering, in our own chambers, to Thorndyke's
comfort and that of his friends. But apart from these altruistic
considerations, I felt sure that on this present occasion the
"arrangements" would include some very effective ones for enabling him to
enjoy the exposition.

"Very well, Polton," said Thorndyke. "I will leave the affair in your
hands. You had better see Dr. Oldfield and find out what date will suit
him, and then we will wind up the Gannet case with a flourish."



CHAPTER 20 - THORNDYKE REVIEWS THE EVIDENCE


Our invitation to Oldfield came very opportunely, for he was just
preparing for his holiday and had already got a locum-tenens installed.
So when, on the appointed evening, he turned up in buoyant spirits, it
was as a free man, immune from the haunting fear of an urgent call.

Polton's artful arrangements for unostentatious eavesdropping had come to
naught, for Thorndyke and I had insisted on his laying a place for
himself at the table and joining us as the colleague that he had actually
become in late years, rather than the servant that he still proclaimed
himself to be. For the gradual change of status from servant to friend
had occurred quite smoothly and naturally. Polton was a man in whom
perfect manners were inborn; and as for his intellect, well, I would
gladly have swapped my brain for his.

"This is very pleasant," said Oldfield, as he took his seat and cast an
appreciative glance round the table, "and it is most kind of you, sir, to
have invited me to the celebration, especially when you consider what a
fool I have been and what a mess I made of my part of the business."

"You didn't make a mess of it at all," said Thorndyke.

"Well, sir," Oldfield chuckled, "I made every mistake that was humanly
possible, and no man can do more than that."

"You are doing yourself a great injustice, Oldfield," Thorndyke
protested. "Apparently you don't realize that you were the actual
discoverer of the crime."

Oldfield laid down his knife and fork to gaze at Thorndyke.

"I, the discoverer!" he exclaimed; and then, "Oh, you mean that I
discovered the ashes. But any other fool could have done that. There they
were, plainly in sight, and it just happened that I was the first person
to go into the studio."

"I am not so sure even of that," said Thorndyke. "There was some truth in
what Blandy said to you. It was the expert eye which saw at once that
something strange had happened. Most persons, going into the studio,
would have failed to observe anything abnormal. But that is not what I am
referring to. I mean that it was you who made the discovery that exposed
the real nature of the crime and led to the identification of the
criminal."

Oldfield shook his head, incredulously, and looked at Thorndyke as if
demanding further enlightenment.

"What I mean," the latter explained, "is that here we had a crime,
carefully and subtly planned and prepared in detail with admirable
foresight and imagination. There was, only a single mistake, and but for
you, that mistake would have passed unnoticed and the scheme would have
worked according to plan. It very nearly did, as you know."

Oldfield still looked puzzled, as well he might; for he knew, as I did,
that all his conclusions had been wrong; and I was as far as he was from
understanding what Thorndyke meant.

"Perhaps," Oldfield suggested, "you will explain in a little more detail
what my discovery was?"

"Not now," replied Thorndyke. "Presently, we are going to have a reasoned
analysis of the case. You will see plainly enough then."

"I suppose I shall," Oldfield agreed, doubtfully, "but I should have said
that the entire discovery was your own, sir. I know that it came as a
thunder-bolt to me, and so I expect it did to Blandy. And he must have
been pretty sick at losing his prisoner, after all."

"Yes," said I, "he was. And it was unfortunate. Gannet ought to have been
brought to trial and hanged."

"I am not sorry that he wasn't, all the same," said Oldfield. "It would
have been horrible for poor Mrs. Gannet."

"Yes," Thorndyke agreed, "a trial and a hanging would have ruined her
life. I am inclined to feel that the suicide, or accident, was all for
the best, especially as there are signs that very warm and sympathetic
relations are growing up between her and our good friend Linnell. One
likes to feel that the future holds out to her the promise of some
compensation for all the trials and troubles that she has had to endure."

"Still," I persisted, "the fellow was a villain and ought to have been
hanged."

"He wasn't the worst kind of villain," said Thorndyke. "The murder of the
constable was, if not properly accidental, at least rather in the nature
of 'chance medley.' There could have been no intention to kill. And as to
Boles, he probably offered considerable provocation."

From this point the conversation tended to peter out, the company's jaws
being otherwise engaged. What there was ranged over a variety of
topics--including Polton's magnum opus, the regulator, now in a fair way
of being completed--and kept us entertained until the last of the dishes
had been dealt with and removed and the port and the dessert had been set
on the table. Then, when Oldfield and I had filled our pipes (Polton did
not smoke but took an occasional, furtive pinch of snuff), Thorndyke, in
response to our insistent demands, put down his empty pipe and proceeded
to the promised analysis.

"In order," he began, "to appreciate the subtlety and imagination with
which this crime was planned, it is necessary to recall the whole
sequence of events and to note how naturally and logically it evolved. It
begins with a case of arsenic poisoning; a perfectly simple and ordinary
case with all the familiar features. A man is poisoned by arsenic in his
food. That food is prepared by his wife. The wife has a male friend to
whom she is rather devoted, and she is not very devoted to her husband.
Taken at its face value, there is no mystery at all. It appears to be
just the old, old story.

"The poisoning is detected, the man recovers and returns home to resume
his ordinary habits. But any observer, noting the facts, must feel that
this is not the end. There will surely be a sequel. A murder has been
attempted and has failed; but the will to murder has been proved, and it
presumably still exists, awaiting a fresh opportunity. Anyone knowing
what has happened, will naturally be on the lookout for some further
attempt.

"Then, during his wife's absence at the seaside, the man disappears. She
comes home and finds that he is missing. He has not gone away in any
ordinary sense, for he has taken nothing with him, not even a hat. In her
alarm she naturally seeks the advice of the doctor. But the doctor,
recalling the poisoning incident, at once suspects a tragedy, and the
more so since he knows of the violent enmity existing between the husband
and the wife's friend. But he does not merely suspect a tragedy in the
abstract. His suspicions take a definite shape. The idea of murder comes
into his mind, and when it does it is associated naturally enough with
the man who was suspected of having administered the poison. He is not,
perhaps, fully conscious of his suspicions; but he is in such a state of
mind that in the instant when the fact of the murder becomes evident, he
confidently fills in the picture and identifies not only the victim but
the murderer, too.

"Thus, you see how perfectly the stage had been set for the events that
were to follow; how admirably the minds of all who knew the facts had
been prepared to follow out a particular line of thought. There is the
preliminary crime with Boles as the obvious suspect. There is the
expectation that, since the motive remains, there will be a further
attempt--by Boles. Then comes the expected sequel, and instantly, by the
most natural and reasonable association, the dramatis personae of the
first crime are transferred, in the same roles, to the second crime. It
is all quite plain and consistent. Taking things at their face value, it
seemed obvious that the murdered man must be Peter Gannet and his
murderer, Frederick Boles. I think that I should have been prepared to
accept that view, myself, if there had been nothing to suggest a
different conclusion.

"But it was just at this point that Oldfield made his valuable
contribution to the evidence. Providence inspired him to take a sample of
the bone-ash and test it for arsenic; and to his surprise, and still more
to mine, he proved that the ash did contain arsenic. Moreover, the metal
was present, not as a mere trace but in measurable quantities. And there
could be no doubt about it. Oldfield's analysis was carried out skilfully
and with every precaution against error, and I repeated the experiment
with the remainder of the sample and confirmed his results.

"Now here was a definite anomaly, a something which did not seem to fit
in with the rest of the facts; and I am astonished that neither Blandy
nor the other investigators appreciated its possible importance. To me an
anomalous fact--a fact which appears unconnected, or even discordant with
the body of known facts--is precisely the one on which attention should
be focused. And that is what I did in this present case. The arsenic was
undeniably present in the ashes, and its presence had to be accounted
for.

"How did it come to be there? Admittedly, it was not in the body before
the burning. Then it must have found its way into the ashes after their
removal from the kiln. But how? To me there appeared to be only two
possible explanations, and I considered each, comparing it with the other
in terms of probability.

"First, there was the suggestion made at the inquest that the ashes might
have become contaminated with arsenic in the course of grinding or
transference to the bin. That, perhaps, sounded plausible if it was only
a verbal formula for disposing of a curious but irrelevant fact. But when
one tried to imagine how such contamination could have occurred, no
reasonable explanation was forthcoming. What possible source of
contamination was there? Arsenic is not one of the potter's ordinary
materials. It would not have been present in the bin, nor in the iron
mortar nor in the grinding mills. It was a foreign substance, so far as
the pottery studio was concerned, and the only arsenic known to exist in
the place was that which was contained in a stoppered jar in Boles's
cupboard.

"Moreover, it had not the character of a mere chance contamination. Not
only was it present in a measurable quantity; it appeared to be fairly
evenly distributed throughout the ashes, as was proved by the fact that
the Home Office chemist obtained results substantially similar to
Oldfield's and mine. After a critical examination of this explanation, I
felt that it explained nothing, that it did not agree with the facts, and
was itself inexplicable.

"Then, if one could not accept the contamination theory, what was the
alternative? The only other explanation that could be suggested was that
the arsenic had been intentionally mixed with the ashes. At the first
glance this did not look very probable. But, if it was not the true
explanation, it was at least intelligible. There was no impossibility;
and in fact, the more I considered it, the less improbable did it appear.

"When this hypothesis was adopted provisionally, two further questions at
once arose: if the arsenic was intentionally put into the ashes, who put
it there and for what purpose? Taking the latter question first, a
reasonable answer immediately suggested itself. The most obvious purpose
would be that of establishing a connection between the present crime and
the previous arsenic poisoning; and when I asked myself what could be the
object of trying to establish such a connection, again a perfectly
reasonable answer was forthcoming. In the poisoning crime, the victim was
Peter Gannet, and the would-be murderer was almost certainly Frederick
Boles. Then the introduction of the arsenic as a common factor linking
together the two crimes would have the purpose of suggesting a repetition
of the characters of victim and murderer. That is to say, the ultimate
object of putting the arsenic into the ashes would be to create the
conviction that the ashes were the remains of Peter Gannet, that he had
been murdered by means of arsenic, and that the murderer was Frederick
Boles.

"But who would wish to create this conviction? Remember that our picture
contains only three figures: Gannet, his wife and Boles. If the arsenic
had been planted, it must have been planted by one of those three. But by
which of them? By Mrs. Gannet? Certainly not, seeing that she was under
some suspicion of having been an accessory to the poisoning. And
obviously Boles would not wish to create the belief that he was the
murderer.

"Thus, of the three possible agents of this imposture, we had excluded
two. There remained only Gannet. The suggestion was that he was dead and,
therefore, could not have planted the arsenic. But could we accept that
suggestion? The arsenic was (by the hypothesis) admittedly an imposture.
But with the evidence of imposture, we could no longer take the
appearances at their face value. The only direct evidence that the
remains were those of Gannet was the tooth that was found in the ashes.
It was, however, only a porcelain tooth and no more an integral part of
Gannet's body than his shirt button or his collar stud. If the arsenic
had been planted to produce a particular belief, it was conceivable that
the tooth might have been planted for the very same purpose. It was in
fact conceivable that the ashes were not those of Gannet and that
consequently Gannet was not dead.

"But if Gannet had not been the victim of this murder, then he was almost
certainly the murderer; and if Boles had not been the murderer, then he
must almost certainly have been the victim. Both men had disappeared and
the ashes were undoubtedly the remains of one of them. Suppose the
remains to be those of Boles and the murderer to be Peter Gannet? How
does that affect our question as to the planting of the arsenic?

"At a glance we can see that Gannet would have had the strongest reasons
for creating the belief that the remains were those of his own body. So
long as that belief prevailed, he was absolutely safe. The police would
have written him off as dead and would be engaged in an endless and
fruitless search for Boles. With only a trifling change in his
appearance--such as the shaving off of his beard and moustache--he could
go his way in perfect security. Nobody would be looking for him; nobody
would even believe in his existence. He would have made the perfect
escape.

"This result appeared to me very impressive. The presence of the arsenic
was a fact. The hypothesis that it had been planted was the only
intelligible explanation of that fact. The acceptance of that hypothesis
was conditional on the discovery of some motive for planting it. Such a
motive we had discovered, but the acceptance of that motive was
conditional on the assumption that Peter Gannet was still alive.

"Was such an assumption unreasonable? Not at all. Gannet's death had
rather been taken for granted. He had disappeared mysteriously, and
certain unrecognisable human remains had been found on his premises. At
once it had been assumed that the remains were his. The actual
identification rested on a single porcelain tooth; but as that tooth was
no part of his body and could, therefore, have been purposely planted in
the ashes, the evidence that it afforded as to the identity of the
remains was not conclusive. If any grounds existed for suspecting
imposture, it had no evidential value at all. But apart from that tooth
there was not, and never had been, any positive reasons for believing
that those ashes were the remains of Peter Gannet.

"The completeness and consistency of the results thus arrived at, by
reasoning from the hypothesis that the arsenic had been planted,
impressed me profoundly. It really looked as if that hypothesis might be
the true one and I decided to pursue the argument and see whither it led;
and especially to examine one or two other slight anomalies that I had
noticed.

"I began with the crime itself. The picture presented (and accepted by
the police) was this: Boles had murdered Gannet and cremated his body in
the kiln, after dismembering it, if necessary, to get it into the cavity.
He had then pounded the incinerated bones and deposited the fragments in
the bone-ash-bin. Then, after having done all this, he was suddenly
overcome by panic and fled.

"But why had he fled? There was no reason whatever for him to flee. He
was in no danger. He was alone in the studio and could lock himself in.
There was no fear of interruption, since Mrs. Gannet was away at the
seaside, and even if any chance visitor should have come, there was
nothing visible to excite suspicion. He had done the difficult and
dangerous part of the work and all that remained were the few finishing
touches. If he had cleaned up the kiln and put it into its usual
condition, the place would have looked quite normal, even to Oldfield;
and as to the bone fragments, there was not only the grog-mill but also a
powerful edge-runner mill in which they could have been ground to fine
powder. If this powder had been put into the bone-ash-bin--the ordinary
contents of which were powdered bone ash--every trace of the crime would
have been destroyed. Then Boles could have gone about his work in the
ordinary way or taken a holiday if he had pleased. There would have been
nothing to suggest that any abnormal events had occurred in the studio or
that Gannet was not still alive.

"Contrast this with the actual conditions that were found. The kiln had
been left in a state that would instantly attract the attention of anyone
who knew anything about the working of a pottery studio. The incinerated
bones had been pounded into fragments, just too small to be recognizable
as parts of any known person, but large enough to be recognized, not only
as bones, but as human bones. After all the risk and labour of cremating
the body and pounding the bones, there had still been left clear evidence
that a man had been murdered.

 "I think you will agree that the suggested behaviour of Boles is quite
 unaccountable; is entirely at variance with reasonable probabilities. On
 the other hand, if you consider critically the conditions that were
 found, they will convey to you, as they did to me, the impression of a
 carefully arranged tableau. Certain facts, such as the murder and the
 cremation, were to be made plain and obvious, and certain issues, such
 as the identities of victim and murderer, were to be confused. But
 furthermore, they conveyed to me a very interesting suggestion, which
 was that the tableau had been set for a particular spectator. Let us
 consider this suggestion.

"The crime was discovered by Oldfield, and it is possible that he was the
only person who would have discovered it. His potter's eye, glancing at
the kiln, noted its abnormal state and saw that something was wrong.
Probably there was a good deal of truth, as well as politeness, in
Blandy's remark that if he had come to the studio without his expert
guide and adviser, though he would have seen the visible objects, he
would have failed to interpret their meaning. But Oldfield had just the
right knowledge. He knew all about the kiln, he knew the various bins
and what was in them, and what the mills were for. So, too, with the
little finger bone. Most persons would not have known what it was; but
Oldfield, the anatomist, recognizes it at once as the ungual phalanx of a
human index finger. He would seem to have been the pre-appointed
discoverer.

"The suggestion is strengthened by what we know of the previous events;
of Gannet's eagerness to cultivate the doctor's friendship, to induct him
into all the mysteries of the studio and all the routine of the work that
was carried on there. There is an appearance of Oldfield's being prepared
to play the part of discoverer--a part that would naturally fall to him,
since it was certain that when the blow fell, Mrs. Gannet would seek the
help and advice of the doctor.

"The suggestion of preparation applies also to the arsenic in the ashes.
If that arsenic was planted, the planting of it must have been a mere
gamble, for it was most unlikely that anyone would think of testing the
ashes for arsenic. But if there was any person in the world who would
think of doing so, that person was most assuredly Oldfield. Any young
doctor who has the misfortune to miss a case of arsenic poisoning is
pretty certain thereafter to develop what the psychological jargonists
would call 'an arsenic complex.' When any abnormal death occurs, he is
sure to think first of arsenic.

"The whole group of appearances then suggested that Oldfield had been
prepared to take a particular view and to form certain suspicions. But
did not that suggestion carry us back still farther? What of the
poisoning affair itself? If all the other appearances were false
appearances, was it not possible that the poisoning was an imposture,
too? When I came to consider that question, I recalled certain anomalies
in the case which I had observed at the time. I did not attach great
importance to them, since arsenic is a very erratic poison, but I noted
them and I advised Oldfield to keep full notes of the case; and now that
the question of imposture had arisen, it was necessary to reconsider
them, and to review the whole case critically.

"We had to begin our review by reminding ourselves that practically the
whole of our information was derived from the patient's statements. The
phenomena were virtually all subjective. Excepting the redness of the
eyes, which could easily have been produced artificially, there were no
objective signs; for the appearance of the tongue was not characteristic.
Of the subjective symptoms we were told; we did not observe them for
ourselves. The abdominal pain was felt by the patient, not by us. So with
the numbness, the loss of tactile sensibility, the tingling, the cramps
and the inability to stand; we learned of their existence from the
patient and we could not check his statements. We accepted those
statements as there appeared to be no reason for doubting them; but it
was quite possible for them all to have been false. To an intelligent
malingerer who had carefully studied the symptoms of arsenic poisoning,
there would have been little difficulty in making up a quite convincing
set of symptoms."

"But," Oldfield objected, "there really was arsenic in the body. You were
not forgetting that?"

"Not at all," replied Thorndyke. "That was the first of the anomalies.
You will remember my remarking to you that the quantity of arsenic
obtained by analysis of the secretions was less than I expected.
Woodfield and I were both surprised at the smallness of the amount; which
was, in fact, not much greater than might have been found in a patient
who was taking arsenic medicinally. But it was not an extreme
discrepancy, since arsenic is rapidly eliminated, though the symptoms
persist, and we explained it by assuming that no considerable dose had
been taken quite recently. Nevertheless, it was rather remarkable, as the
severity of the symptoms would have led us to expect a considerable
quantity of the poison.

"The next anomaly was the rapidity and completeness of Gannet's recovery.
Usually, in severe cases, recovery is slow and is followed by a somewhat
long period of ill-health. But Gannet began to recover almost
immediately, and when he left the hospital he seemed to be quite well.

"The third anomaly--not a very striking one, perhaps--was his state of
mind on leaving hospital. He went back home quite happily and
confidently, though his would-be murderer was still there; and he would
not entertain any sort of inquiry or any measures to ascertain that
murderer's identity. He seemed to assume that the affair was finished and
that there was nothing more to fear.

"Now, looking at the case as a whole with the idea of a possible
imposture in our minds, what did it suggest? Was there not the
possibility that all the symptoms were simulated? That Gannet took just
enough arsenic to supply the means of chemical demonstration (a fairly
full daily dose of Fowler's solution would do) and on the appropriate
occasion, put a substantial quantity of arsenic into the barley water? In
short, was it not possible that the poisoning affair was a deception from
beginning to end?

"The answer to this question obviously was that it was quite possible,
and the next question was as to its probability. But the answer to this
also appeared to be affirmative; for on our hypothesis, the appearances
in the studio were false appearances, deliberately produced to create a
certain erroneous belief. But those appearances were strongly supported
by the previous poisoning crime and obviously connected with it. The
reasonable conclusion seemed to be that the poisoning affair was a
deception calculated to create this same erroneous belief (that an
attempt had been made to murder Gannet) and to lead on naturally to the
second crime.

"Now let us pause for a moment to see where we stand. Our hypothesis
started with the assumption that the arsenic had been put into the ashes
for a definite purpose. But we found that the only person who could have
had a motive for planting it was Peter Gannet. Thus we had to conclude
that Gannet was the murderer and Boles the victim. We have examined this
conclusion, point by point, and we have found that it agrees with all the
known facts and that it yields a complete, consistent and
reasonable scheme of the studio crime. Accordingly, we adopt that
conclusion--provisionally, of course, for we are still in the region of
hypothesis and have, as yet, actually proved nothing.

"But assuming that Gannet had committed this murder, it was evident that
it must have been a very deliberate crime; long premeditated, carefully
planned and carried out with extraordinary foresight and infinite
patience. A crime of this kind implies a proportionate motive; a deep
seated, permanent and intense motive. What could it have been? Was there
anything known to us in Gannet's circumstances that might seem to account
for his entertaining murder as a considered policy? Taking the usual
motives for planned and premeditated murder, I asked myself whether any
of them could apply to him. We may put them roughly into five categories:
jealousy, revenge, cupidity, escape and fear. Was there any suggestion
that Gannet might have been affected by any of them?

"As to jealousy, there was the undeniable fact that Mrs. Gannet's
relations with Boles were unusual and perhaps indiscreet. But there was
no evidence of any impropriety and no sign that the friendship was
resented by Gannet. It did not appear to me that jealousy as a motive
could be entertained.

"As to revenge, this is a common motive among Mediterranean peoples but
very rare in the case of Englishmen. Boles and Gannet disliked each other
to the point of open enmity. An unpremeditated murder might easily have
occurred, but there was nothing in their mere mutual dislike to suggest a
motive for a deliberately planned murder. So, too, with the motive of
cupidity; there was nothing to show that either stood to gain any
material benefit by the death of the other. But when I came to consider
the last two motives--escape and fear--I saw that there was a positive
suggestion which invited further examination; and the more it was
examined, the more definite did it become."

"What, exactly, do you mean by escape?" I asked.

"I mean," he replied, "the desire to escape from some intolerable
position. A man, for instance, whose life is being made unbearable by the
conduct of an impossible wife, may contemplate getting rid of her,
especially if he sees the opportunity of making a happy and desirable
marriage; or who is haunted by a blackmailer who will never leave him to
live in peace. In either case, murder offers the only means of escape,
and the motive to adopt that means will tend to develop gradually. From a
mere desirable possibility, it will grow into a definite intention; and
then there will be careful consideration of practicable and safe methods
of procedure. Now in the present case, as I have said, it appeared to me
that such a motive might have existed; and when I considered the
circumstances, that impression became strongly confirmed. The possible
motive came into view in connection with certain facts which were
disclosed by Inspector Blandy's activities, and which were communicated
to me by Oldfield when he consulted me about Mrs. Gannet's difficulties.

"It appeared that Blandy, having finished with the bone fragments,
proceeded to turn out Boles's cupboard. There he found fairly conclusive
evidence that Boles was a common receiver, which was not our concern. But
he also found a piece of gold plate on which were some very distinct
finger-prints. They were the prints from a left hand, and there was a
particularly fine and clear impression of a left thumb. Of this plate
Blandy took possession with the expressed intention of taking it to the
Finger-print Department at Scotland Yard to see if Boles happened to be a
known criminal. Presumably, he did so, and we may judge of the result by
what followed. Two days later he called on Mrs. Gannet and subjected her
to a searching interrogation, asking a number of leading questions, among
which were two of very remarkable significance. He wanted to know where
Boles was on the 19th of last September, and when it was that his
friendship with Gannet suddenly turned to enmity. Both these questions
she was able to answer; and the questions and the answers were highly
illuminating.

"First, as to the questions. The 19th of September was the date of the
Newingstead murder; and the murdered constable's truncheon bore a very
distinct print of a left thumb--evidently that of the murderer. At a
glance, it appeared to me obvious that the thumb-print on the gold plate
had been found to correspond with the thumb print on the truncheon and
that Boles had been identified thereby as the murderer of the constable.
That was the only possible explanation of Blandy's question. And this
assumption was confirmed by the answer; by which it transpired that Boles
was at Newingstead on that fatal day and that, incidentally, Gannet was
with him, the two men, apparently, staying at the house of Boles's aunt.

"Blandy's other question and Mrs. Gannet's answer were also profoundly
significant; for she recalled, clearly, that the sudden change in the
relations of the two men was first observed by her when she met them
after their return from Newingstead. They went there friends; they came
back enemies. She knew of no reason for the change; but those were the
facts.

"Here we may pause to fill in, as I did, the picture thus presented to us
in outline. There are two men (whom we may conveniently call A and B)
staying together at a house in Newingstead. On the 19th of September, one
of them, A, goes forth alone. Between eight and nine in the evening he
commits the robbery. At about nine o'clock he kills the constable. Then
he finds Oldfield's bicycle and on it he pedals away some four miles
along the London Road. Having thus got away from the scene of the crime,
he dismounts and seeks a place in which to hide the bicycle. He finds a
cart shed, and having concealed the bicycle in it, sets out to return to
Newingstead. Obviously, he would not go back by the same route, with the
chance of encountering the police, for he probably suspects that he has
killed a man, and at any rate, he has the stolen diamonds on his person.
He must necessarily make a detour so as to approach Newingstead from a
different direction, and his progress would not be rapid, as he would
probably try to avoid being seen. The cart shed was over four miles from
Newingstead along the main road, and his detour would have added
considerably to that distance. By the time that he arrived at his
lodgings it would be getting late; at least eleven o'clock and probably
later. Quite a late hour by village standards.

"The time of his arrival home would probably be noted by B. But there is
something else he would note. A had been engaged in a violent encounter
with the constable and could hardly fail to bear some traces of it on his
person. The constable was by no means passive. He had drawn his truncheon
and was using it when it was snatched away from him. We may safely assume
that A's appearance, when he sneaked home and let himself into the house,
must have been somewhat unusual.

"By the next morning the hue and cry was out. All the village knew of the
robbery and the murder, and it would be inevitable that B should connect
the crime with A's late homecoming and disordered condition. Not only did
the times agree but the man robbed, Arthur Kempster, was known to them
both, and known personally at least by one of them. Then came the inquest
with full details of the crime and the vitally important fact that a
clear finger-print, left by the murderer, was in the possession of the
police. Both the men must have known what was proved at the inquest for a
very full report of it was published in the local paper, as I know from
having read a copy that Kempster gave me. Both men knew of the existence
of the thumb-print; and one knew, and the other was convinced, that it
was A's thumb-print.

"From these facts it was easy to infer what must have followed. For it
appears that it was just at this time that the sudden change from mutual
friendship to mutual enmity occurred. What did that change (considered in
connection with the aforesaid facts) imply? To me it suggested the
beginning of a course of blackmail. B was convinced that A was the robber
and he demanded a share of the proceeds as the price of his silence. But
A could not admit the robbery without also admitting the murder.
Consequently, he denied all knowledge of either.

"Then began the familiar train of events that is characteristic of
blackmail; that so commonly leads to its natural end in either suicide or
murder. B felt sure that A had in his possession loot to the value of ten
thousand pounds and he demanded, with menaces, his share of that loot;
demands that A met with stubborn denials. And so it went on with
recurring threats and recriminations and violent quarrels.

"But it could not go on forever. To A the conditions were becoming
intolerable. A constant menace hung over him. He lived in the shadow of
the gallows. A word from B could put the rope round his neck; a mere
denunciation without need of proof. For there was the deadly thumb-print,
and they both knew it. To A a simple accusation showed the way directly
to the execution shed.

"Was there no escape? Obviously, mere payment was of no use. It never is
of use in the case of blackmail. For the blackmailer may sell his silence
but he retains his knowledge. If A had surrendered the whole of the loot
to B he would still not have been safe. Still B would have held him in
the hollow of his hand, ready to blackmail again when the occasion should
arise. Clearly, there was no escape that way. As long as B remained
alive, the life of A hung upon a thread.

"From this conclusion the corollary was obvious. If B's existence was
incompatible with the safe and peaceful existence of A, then B must be
eliminated. It was the only way of escape. And having come to this
decision, A could give his attention, quietly and without hurry, to the
question of ways and means; to the devising of a plan whereby B could be
eliminated without leaving a trace, or, at any rate, a trace that would
lead in the direction of A. And thus came into being the elaborate,
ingeniously devised scheme which I had been examining and which looked,
at that time, so much like a successful one.

"The next problem was to give a name to each of the two men. A and B
represented Boles and Gannet; but which was which? Was Boles, for
instance, A the murderer, or B the blackmailer? By Blandy, Boles was
confidently identified as the Newingstead murderer. But then Blandy
accepted all the appearances at their face value. In his view Gannet was
not in the picture. He was not a person: he was a mere basketful of
ashes. The thumb-print had been found in Boles's cupboard on Boles's own
material. Therefore it was Boles's thumb-print.

"But was this conclusion in accordance with ordinary probabilities? From
Blandy's point of view it may have been, but from mine it certainly was
not. So great was the improbability that it presented that, even if I had
known nothing of the other facts, I should have approached it with
profound scepticism. Consider the position: Here is a man whose
thumb-print is filed at Scotland Yard. That print is capable of hanging
him, and he knows it. Then is it conceivable that, if he were not an
abject fool--which Boles was not--he would be dabbing that print on
surfaces that anyone might see? Would he not studiously avoid making that
print on anything? Would he not, when working alone, wear a glove on his
left hand? And if by chance he should mark some object with that print,
would he not be careful to wipe it off? Above all, if he were absconding
as he was assumed to have absconded, would he leave a perfect specimen of
that incriminating print in the very place which the police would be
quite certain to search for the express purpose of discovering
finger-prints? The thing was incredible. The very blatancy of it was
enough to raise a suspicion of imposture.

"That, as I have said, is taking the thumb-print apart from any other
facts or deductions. But now let us consider it in connection with what
we have deduced. If we suggest that the thumb-print was Gannet's and that
he had planted it where it was certain to be found by the police, at once
we exchange a wild improbability for a very striking probability. For
thus he would have contrived to kill an additional, very important, bird
with the same stone. He has got rid of Boles, the blackmailer. But now he
has also got rid of the Newingstead murderer. He has attached the
incriminating thumb-print to the person of Boles, and as Boles has ceased
to exist, the fraud can never be discovered. He has made himself
absolutely safe; for the police have an exact description of Boles--who
was at least three inches taller than Gannet and had brown eyes. So that
even if, by some infinitely remote chance, Gannet should leave his
thumb-print on some object and it should be found by the police, still he
would be in no danger. They would assume as a certainty that it had been
made by a tall, brown-eyed man, and they would search for that man--and
never find him.

 "Here, then, is a fresh agreement; and you notice that our deductions
 are mounting up, and that they conform to the great rule of
 circumstantial evidence; that all the facts shall point to the same
 conclusion. Our hypothesis is very largely confirmed, and we are
 justified in believing it to be the true one. That, at least, was my
 feeling at this stage. But still there remained another matter that had
 to be considered; an important matter, too, since it might admit of an
 actual experimental test. Accordingly I gave it my attention.

"I had concluded (provisionally) that Gannet was the Newingstead
murderer. If he were, he had in his possession fifteen large diamonds of
the aggregate value of about ten thousand pounds. How would he have
disposed of those diamonds? He could not carry them on his person, for
apart from their great value, they were highly incriminating. Merely
putting them under lock and key would hardly be sufficient, for Boles was
still frequenting the house and he probably knew all about the methods of
opening drawers and cupboards. Something more secure would be needed;
something in the nature of an actual hiding place. But he was planning to
dispose of Boles and then to disappear; and naturally, when the time
should come for him to disappear, he would want to take the diamonds with
him. But still he might be unwilling to have them on his person. How was
this difficulty to be met?

"Here, once more, enlightenment came from the invaluable Oldfield. In the
course of his search of the deserted house he observed that the pottery
which had been on the mantelpiece of Gannet's bedroom had disappeared.
Now this was a rather remarkable circumstance. The disappearance of the
pottery seemed to coincide with the disappearance of Gannet, and one
naturally asked oneself whether there could be any connection between the
two events, and if so, what the nature of that connection might be. The
pottery consisted, as I remembered, of a number of bowls and jars and a
particularly hideous stoneware figure. The pots seemed to be of no
special interest. But the figure invited inquiry. A pottery figure is
necessarily made hollow, for lightness and to allow of even shrinkage
during the firing; and the cavity inside would furnish a possible hiding
place, though not, perhaps, a very good one, if the figure were of the
ordinary type.

"But this figure was not of the ordinary type. I ascertained the fact
from Oldfield, who had examined it and who gave me an exact description
of it. And a most astonishing description it was; for it seemed to
involve a physical impossibility. The figure, he informed me, had a flat
base covered with some sort of white enamel on which was the artist's
signature. There was no opening in it, nor was there any opening either
at the back or the top. That was according to his recollection, and he
could hardly have been mistaken, for he had examined the figure all over
and he was certain that there was no hole in it anywhere.

"Now, here was a most significant fact. What could be the explanation?
There were only two possibilities, and one of them could be confidently
rejected. Either the figure was solid or an opening in it had been filled
up. But it could not be solid, for there must be some cavity in a pottery
figure to allow for shrinkage without cracking. But if it was hollow,
there must have been some opening in it originally. For a hollow figure
in which there was no opening would be blown to pieces by the expansion
of the imprisoned air during the firing. The only possible conclusion was
that an opening originally existing had been filled up; and this
conclusion was supported by the condition of the base. It is there that
the opening is usually placed, as it is hidden when the figure is
standing; and there it had apparently been in this case; for the white,
glazed enamel looked all wrong, seeing that the figure itself was
salt-glazed, and in any case, it was certainly an addition. Moreover, as
it must have been added after the firing, it could hardly have been a
ceramic enamel but was more probably some kind of hydraulic cement such
as Keene's. But whatever the material may have been, the essential fact
was that the opening had been filled up and concealed, and the open
cavity converted into a sealed cavity.

"Here, then, was an absolutely perfect hiding place, which had the
additional virtue of being portable. But if it contained the diamonds, as
I had no doubt that it did, it was necessary to find out without delay
what had become of it. For wherever the diamonds were, sooner or later
Gannet would be found there. In short, it seemed that the stoneware
monkey might supply the crucial fact which would tell us whether our
hypothesis was true or false.

"There was no difficulty in tracing the monkey, for Oldfield had learned
that it had been sent, with the other pottery, to a loan exhibition at a
museum in Hoxton. But before going there to examine it and check
Oldfield's description, I had to acquire a few preliminary data. From Mr.
Kempster of the Bond Street gallery I obtained the name and address of
the owner of a replica of the figure; and as the question of weight might
arise, I took the opportunity to weigh and measure one of Gannet's bowls.

"The owner of the replica, a Mr. Broomhill, gave us every facility for
examining it, even to weighing it. We found that it was hollow, and
judging by the weight, that it had a considerable interior cavity. There
was an oval opening in the base of about an inch and a half in the longer
diameter, through which we could see the marks of a thumb, showing that
the figure was a squeeze from a mould; and it was a little significant
that all the impressions appeared to be those of a right thumb.

"Armed with these data, we went to the museum, where we were able to
examine, handle and weigh Gannet's figure. It corresponded completely
with Oldfield's description, for there was no opening in any part of it.
The appearance of the base suggested that the original opening had been
filled with Keene's cement and glazed with cellulose varnish. That the
figure was hollow was proved by its weight, but this was about six
ounces greater than that of Broomhill's replica; a difference that would
represent, roughly, the weight of the diamonds, the packing and the
cement stopping. Thus the observed facts were in complete agreement with
the hypothesis that the diamonds had been concealed in the figure; and
you will notice that they were inexplicable on any other supposition.

"We now went into the office and made a few inquiries, and the answers to
these--quite freely and frankly given by the curator, Mr.
Sancroft--disclosed a most remarkable and significant group of facts. It
appeared that the figure had been sold a short time before it had been
sent to the museum. The purchaser, Mr. James Newman, had then gone abroad
but expected to return in about three months, when he proposed to call at
the museum and claim his property. The arrangements to enable him to do
so were very simple but very interesting. As Mr. Newman was not known
personally to Mr. Sancroft (who also, by the way, had never met Peter
Gannet), he would produce a letter of introduction and a written order to
Mr. Sancroft to deliver the figurine to Newman, who would then give a
receipt for it.

"These arrangements presented a rather striking peculiarity. They
involved the very minimum of contacts. There was no correspondence by
which an address would have had to be disclosed. Mr. Newman, a stranger
to Sancroft, would appear in person, would present his order, receive his
figurine and then disappear, leaving no clue as to whence he had come or
whither he had gone. The appearances were entirely consistent with the
possibility that Mr. Newman and Peter Gannet were one and the same
person. And this I felt convinced was the fact.

"But if Newman was Gannet, what might we predict as to his personal
appearance? He would almost certainly be clean shaven and there might be
a certain amount of disguise. But the possibilities of disguise off the
stage are very limited, and the essential personal characteristics
remain. Stature cannot be appreciably disguised, and eye colour not at
all. Gannet's height was about five feet eight and his eyes were of a
pale grey. He had a scar across his left eyebrow and the middle finger of
his right hand had an ankylosed joint. Neither the scar nor the stiff
joint could be disguised, and it would be difficult to keep them out of
sight.

"We learned from Sancroft that the three months had expired and that Mr.
Newman might be expected at any moment. Evidently, then, whatever was to
be done must be done at once. But what was to be done? The final test was
the identity of Newman, and that test could be applied only by me. I had
to contrive, if possible, to be present when Newman arrived, for no
subsequent shadowing of him was practicable. Until he was identified as
Gannet he could not be stopped or prevented from leaving the country.

"At first it looked almost like an impossible problem, but certain
peculiar circumstances made it comparatively easy. I was able to install
my man, Snuper, at the museum to hold the fort in my absence. I gave him
the description of Gannet and certain instructions which I need not
repeat in detail as it never became necessary to act on them. By good
luck it happened that Newman arrived in the evening when Snuper was in
charge alone. He had no authority to deliver up the figure so he made an
appointment for the following morning. Then he sent me a message stating
what had happened and that Mr. Newman seemed to answer my description;
whereupon I got into communication with Blandy and advised him to come to
the museum on the chance that Newman might be the man whom he wanted for
the Newingstead affair.

"You know the rest. Jervis and I were at the museum when Newman arrived
and Blandy was lurking in the entry. But, even then, the case was still
only a train of hypothetical reasoning. Nothing had really been proved.
Even when I stood behind Newman waiting for him to discover my presence,
it was still possible that he might turn and reveal himself as a
perfectly innocent stranger. Only at the very last moment, when he turned
to face me and I recognized him as Gannet and saw that he recognized me,
did I know that there had been no flaw in my reasoning. It was a dramatic
moment, and a more unpleasant one I hope never to experience."

"It was rather horrible," I agreed. "The expression on the poor devil's
face when he saw you, haunts me to this day. I was almost sorry for him."

"Yes," said Thorndyke, "it was a disagreeable duty. The pursuit had been
full of interest, but the capture I would gladly have left to the police,
if that had been possible. But it was not. Our mutual recognition was the
crucial fact.

"And now, after all this logic chopping, perhaps a glass of wine would
not come amiss. Let us pledge our colleague, Oldfield, who set our feet
on the right track. And I may remark, Polton, that one fluid drachm is
not a glass of wine within the meaning of the act."

The abstemious Polton crinkled guiltily and poured another thirty minims
into the bottom of his glass. Then we solemnly pledged our friend, who
received the tribute with a rather sheepish smile.

"It is very good of you, sir," said he, "to give me so much undeserved
credit, and most kind of you all to drink my health. I realize my
limitations, but it is a satisfaction to me to know that, if my wits are
none of the most brilliant, I have at least been the occasion of wit in
others."

There is little more to tell. The repentant Blandy, by way of making
amends to his late victim (and possibly of casting a discreet veil over
his own mistakes), so arranged matters with the coroner that the inquest
on "a man who called himself James Newman" was conducted with the utmost
tact and the minimum of publicity; whereby the future of Mrs. Gannet was
left unclouded and the susceptibilities of our friend Linnell unoffended.

As to the monkey, it experienced various vicissitudes before it finally
came to rest in appropriate surroundings. First, by Mrs. Gannet, it was
presented to Thorndyke "as a memorial." But we agreed that it was too
ugly even for a memorial, and I secretly took possession of it and
conveyed it to Oldfield; who accepted it gleefully with a cryptic grin
which I did not, at the time, understand. But I understood it later when
he informed me--with a grin which was not at all cryptic--that he had
presented it to Mr. Bunderby.



THE END



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