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Title: A Shilling for Candles (1936)
Author: Josephine Tey
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0800901.txt
Language:  English
Date first posted: August 2008
Date most recently updated: August 2008

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Title: A Shilling for Candles (1936)
Author: Josephine Tey




Chapter 1


It was a little after seven on a summer morning, and William Potticary
was taking his accustomed way over the short down grass of the cliff-top.
Beyond his elbow, two hundred feet below, lay the Channel, very still and
shining, like a milky opal. All around him hung the bright air, empty as
yet of larks. In all the sunlit world no sound except for the screaming
of some seagulls on the distant beach; no human activity except for the
small lonely figure of Potticary himself, square and dark and
uncompromising. A million dewdrops sparkling on the virgin grass
suggested a world new-come from its Creator's hand. Not to Potticary, of
course. What the dew suggested to Potticary was that the ground fog of
the early hours had not begun to disperse until well after sunrise. His
subconscious noted the fact and tucked it away, while his conscious mind
debated whether, having raised an appetite for breakfast, he should turn
at the Gap and go back to the Coastguard Station, or whether, in view of
the fineness of the morning, he should walk into Westover for the morning
paper, and so hear about the latest murder two hours earlier than he
would otherwise. Of course, what with wireless, the edge was off the
morning paper, as you might say. But it was an objective. War or peace, a
man had to have an objective. You couldn't go into Westover just to look
at the front. And going back to breakfast with the paper under your arm
made you feel fine, somehow. Yes, perhaps he would walk into the town.

The pace of his black, square-toed boots quickened slightly, their
shining surface winking in the sunlight. Proper service, these boots
were. One might have thought that Potticary, having spent his best years
in brushing his boots to order, would have asserted his individuality, or
expressed his personality, or otherwise shaken the dust of a meaningless
discipline off his feet by leaving the dust on his boots. But no,
Potticary, poor fool, brushed his boots for love of it. He probably had a
slave mentality, but had never read enough for it to worry him. As for
expressing one's personality, if you described the symptoms to him he
would, of course, recognize them. But not by name; In the Service they
call that "contrariness."

A seagull flashed suddenly above the cliff-top, and dropped screaming
from sight to join its wheeling comrades below. A dreadful row these
gulls were making. Potticary moved over to the cliff edge to see what
jetsam the tide, now beginning to ebb, had left for them to quarrel over.

The white line of the gently creaming surf was broken by a patch of
verdigris green. A bit of cloth. Baize, or something. Funny it should
stay so bright a color after being in the water so--

Potticary's blue eyes widened suddenly, his body becoming strangely
still. Then the square black boots began to run. _Thud, thud, thud,_
on the thick turf, like a heart beating. The Gap was two hundred yards
away, but Potticary's time would not have disgraced a track performer. He
clattered down the rough steps hewn in the chalk of the Gap, gasping;
indignation welling through his excitement. That was what came of going
into cold water before breakfast! Lunacy, so help him. Spoiling other
people's breakfasts, too. Schaefer's best, except where ribs broken. Not
likely to be ribs broken. Perhaps only a faint after all. Assure the
patient in a loud voice that he is safe. Her arms and legs were as brown
as the sand. That was why he had thought the green thing a piece of
cloth. Lunacy, so help him. Who wanted cold water in the dawn unless they
had to swim for it? He'd had to swim for it in his time. In that Red Sea
port. Taking in a landing party to help the Arabs. Though why anyone
wanted to help the lousy bastards--that was the time to swim. When you
had to. Orange juice and thin toast, too. No stamina. Lunacy, so help
him.

It was difficult going on the beach. The large white pebbles slid
maliciously under his feet, and the rare patches of sand, being about
tide level, were soft and yielding. But presently he was within the cloud
of gulls, enveloped by their beating wings and their wild crying.

There was no need for Schaefer's, nor for any other method. He saw that
at a glance. The girl was past all help. And Potticary, who had picked
bodies unemotionally from the Red Sea surf, was strangely moved. It was
all wrong that someone so young should be lying there when all the world
was waking up to a brilliant day; when so much of life lay in front of
her. A pretty girl, too, she must have been. Her hair had a dyed look,
but the rest of her was all right.

A wave washed over her feet and sucked itself away, derisively, through
the scarlet-tipped toes. Potticary, although the tide in another minute
would be yards away, pulled the inanimate heap a little higher up the
beach, beyond reach of the sea's impudence.

Then his mind turned to telephones. He looked around for some garment
which the girl might have left behind when she went in to swim. But there
seemed to be nothing. Perhaps she had left whatever she was wearing below
high-water level and the tide had taken it. Or perhaps it wasn't here
that she had gone into the water. Anyhow, there was nothing now with
which to cover her body, and Potticary turned away and began his hurried
plodding along the beach again, and so back to the Coastguard Station and
the nearest telephone.

"Body on the beach," he said to Bill Gunter as he took the receiver from
the hook and called the police.

Bill clicked his tongue against his front teeth, and jerked his head
back. A gesture which expressed with eloquence and economy the
tiresomeness of circumstances, the unreasonableness of human beings who
get themselves drowned, and his own satisfaction in expecting the worst
of life and being right. "If they want to commit suicide," he said in his
subterranean voice, "why do they have to pick on us? Isn't there the
whole of the south coast?"

"Not a suicide," Potticary gasped in the intervals of hulloing.

Bill took no notice of him. "Just because the fare to the south coast is
more than to here! You'd think when a fellow was tired of life he'd stop
being mean about the fare and bump himself off in style. But no! They
take the cheapest ticket they can get and strew themselves over our
doorstep!"

"Beachy Head get a lot," gasped the fair-minded Potticary. "Not a
suicide, anyhow."

"Course it's a suicide. What do we have cliffs for? Bulwark of England?
No. Just as a convenience to suicides. That makes four this year. And
there'll be more when they get their income tax demands."

He paused, his ear caught by what Potticary was saying.

"--a girl. Well, a woman. In a bright green bathing dress." (Potticary
belonged to a generation which did not know swimsuits.) "Just south of
the Gap. 'Bout a hundred yards. No, no one there. I had to come away to
telephone. But I'm going back right away. Yes, I'll meet you there. Oh,
hullo, Sergeant, is that you? Yes, not the best beginning of a day, but
we're getting used to it. Oh, no, just a bathing fatality. Ambulance? Oh,
yes, you can bring it practically to the Gap. The track goes off the main
Westover road just past the third milestone, and finishes in those trees
just inland from the Gap. All right, I'll be seeing you."

"How can you tell it's just a bathing fatality," Bill said.

"She had a bathing dress on, didn't you hear?"

"Nothing to hinder her putting on a bathing dress to throw herself into
the water. Make it look like accident."

"You can't throw yourself into the water this time of year. You land on
the beach. And there isn't any doubt what you've done."

"Might have walked into the water till she drowned," said Bill, who was a
last-ditcher by nature.

"Ye'? Might have died of an overdose of bull's-eyes," said Potticary, who
approved of last-ditchery in Arabia but found it boring to live with.



Chapter 2


They stood around the body in a solemn little group: Potticary, Bill, the
sergeant, a constable, and the two ambulance men. The younger ambulance
man was worried about his stomach, and the possibility of its disgracing
him, but the others had nothing but business in their minds.

"Know her?" the sergeant asked.

"No," said Potticary. "Never seen her before."

None of them had seen her before.

"Can't be from Westover. No one would come out from town with a perfectly
good beach at their doors. Must have come from inland somewhere."

"Maybe she went into the water at Westover and was washed up here," the
constable suggested.

"Not time for that," Potticary objected. "She hadn't been that long in
the water. Must have been drowned hereabouts."

"Then how did she get here?" the sergeant asked.

"By car, of course," Bill said.

"And where is the car now?"

"Where everyone leaves their car: where the track ends at the trees."

"Yes?" said the sergeant. "Well, there's no car there."

The ambulance men agreed with him. They had come up that way with the
police--the ambulance was waiting there now--but there was no sign of any
other car.

"That's funny," Potticary said. "There's nowhere near enough to be inside
walking distance. Not at this time in the morning."

"Shouldn't think she'd walk anyhow," the older ambulance man observed.
"Expensive," he added, as they seemed to question him.

They considered the body for a moment in silence. Yes, the ambulance man
was right; it was a body expensively cared for.

"And where are her clothes, anyhow?"

The sergeant was worried.

Potticary explained his theory about the clothes; that she had left them
below high-water mark and that they were now somewhere at sea.

"Yes, that's possible," said the sergeant.

"But how did she get here?"

"Funny she should be bathing alone, isn't it?" ventured the young
ambulance man, trying out his stomach.

"Nothing's funny, nowadays," Bill rumbled. "It's a wonder she wasn't
playing jumping off the cliff with a glider. Swimming on an empty
stomach, all alone, is just too ordinary. The young fools make me tired."

"Is that a bracelet around her ankle, or what?" the constable asked.

Yes, it was a bracelet. A chain of platinum links. Curious links, they
were. Each one shaped like a C.

"Well," the sergeant straightened himself, "I suppose there's nothing to
be done but to remove the body to the mortuary, and then find out who she
is. Judging by appearances that shouldn't be difficult. Nothing 'lost,
stolen or strayed' about that one."

"No," agreed the ambulance man. "The butler is probably telephoning the
station now in great agitation."

"Yes." The sergeant was thoughtful. "I still wonder how she came here,
and what--"

His eyes had lifted to the cliff face, and he paused.

"So! We have company!" he said.

They turned to see a man's figure on the cliff-top at the Gap. He was
standing in an attitude of intense eagerness, watching them. As they
turned towards him he did a swift right-about and disappeared.

"A bit early for strollers," the sergeant said. "And what's he running
away for? We'd better have a talk with him."

But before he and the constable had moved more than a pace or two it
became evident that the man, far from running away, had been merely
making for the entrance to the Gap. His thin dark figure shot now from
the mouth of the Gap and came towards them at a shambling run, slipping
and stumbling, and giving the little group watching his advent an
impression of craziness. They could hear the breath panting through his
open mouth as he drew near, although the distance from the Gap was not
long and he was young.

He stumbled into their compact circle without looking at them, pushing
aside the two policemen who had unconsciously interposed their bulk
between him and the body.

"Oh, yes, it is! Oh, it is, it is!" he cried, and without warning sat
down and burst into loud tears.

Six flabbergasted men watched him in silence for a moment. Then the
sergeant patted him kindly on the back and said, idiotically, "It's all
right, son!"

But the young man only rocked himself to and fro and wept the more.

"Come on, come on," rallied the constable, coaxing. (Really, a dreadful
exhibition on a nice bright morning.) "That won't do anyone any good, you
know. Best pull yourself together--sir," he added, noting the quality of
the handkerchief which the young man had produced.

"A relation of yours?" the sergeant inquired, his voice suitably
modulated from its former businesslike pitch.

The young man shook his head.

"Oh, just a friend?"

"She was so good to me, so good!"

"Well, at least you'll be able to help us. We were beginning to wonder
about her. You can tell us who she is."

"She's my--hostess."

"Yes, but I meant, what is her name?"

"I don't know."

"You--don't--know! Look here, sir, pull yourself together. You're the
only one that can help us. You must know the name of the lady you were
staying with."

"No, no; I don't."

"What did you call her, then?"

"Chris."

"Chris, what?"

"Just Chris."

"And what did she call you?"

"Robin."

"Is that your name?"

"Yes, my name's Robert Stannaway. No, Tisdall. It used to be Stannaway,"
he added, catching the sergeant's eye and feeling apparently that
explanation was needed.

What the sergeant's eye said was "God give me patience!" What his tongue
said was "It all sounds a bit strange to me, Mr.--er--"

"Tisdall."

"Tisdall. Can you tell me how the lady got here this morning?"

"Oh, yes. By car."

"By car, eh? Know what became of the car?"

"Yes. I stole it."

"You what?"

"I stole it. I've just brought it back. It was a swinish thing to do. I
felt a cad so I came back. When I found she wasn't anywhere on the road,
I thought I'd find her stamping about here. Then I saw you all standing
around something--oh dear, oh dear!" He began to rock himself again.

"Where were you staying with this lady?" asked the sergeant, in
exceedingly businesslike tones. "In Westover?"

"Oh, no. She has--had, I mean--oh dear!--a cottage. Briars, it's called.
Just outside Medley."

"'Bout a mile and a half inland," supplemented Potticary, as the
sergeant, who was not a native, looked a question.

"Were you alone, or is there a staff there?"

"There's just a woman from the village--Mrs. Pitts--who comes in and
cooks."

"I see."

There was a slight pause.

"All right, boys." The sergeant nodded to the ambulance men, and they
bent to their work with the stretcher. The young man drew in his breath
sharply and once more covered his face with his hands.

"To the mortuary, Sergeant?"

"Yes."

The man's hands came away from his face abruptly.

"Oh, no! Surely not! She had a home. Don't they take people home?"

"We can't take the body of an unknown woman to an uninhabited bungalow."

"It isn't a bungalow," the man automatically corrected. "No. No, I
suppose not. But it seems dreadful--the mortuary. Oh, God in heaven
above!" he burst out, "why did this have to happen!"

"Davis," the sergeant said to the constable, "you go back with the others
and report. I'm going over to--what is it?--Briars? with Mr. Tisdall."

The two ambulance men crunched their heavy way over the pebbles, followed
by Potticary and Bill. The noise of their progress had become distant
before the sergeant spoke again.

"I suppose it didn't occur to you to go swimming with your hostess?"

A spasm of something like embarrassment ran across Tisdall's face. He
hesitated.

"No. I not much in my line, I'm afraid: swimming before breakfast.
I--I've always been a rabbit at games and things like that."

The sergeant nodded, noncommittal. "When did she leave for a swim?"

"I don't know. She told me last night that she was going to the Gap for a
swim if she woke early. I woke early myself, but she was gone."

"I see. Well, Mr. Tisdall, if you've recovered I think we'll be getting
along."

"Yes. Yes, certainly. I'm all right." He got to his feet and together and
in silence they traversed the beach, climbed the steps at the Gap, and
came on the car where Tisdall said he had left it: in the shade of the
trees where the track ended. It was a beautiful car, if a little too
opulent. A cream-colored two-seater with a space between the seats and
the hood for parcels, or, at a pinch, for an extra passenger. From this
space, the sergeant, exploring, produced a woman's coat and a pair of the
sheepskin boots popular with women at winter race-meetings.

"That's what she wore to go down to the beach. Just the coat and boots
over her bathing things. There's a towel, too."

There was. The sergeant produced it: a brilliant object in green and
orange.

"Funny she didn't take it to the beach with her," he said.

"She liked to dry herself in the sun usually."

"You seem to know a lot about the habits of a lady whose name you didn't
know." The sergeant inserted himself into the second seat. "How long have
you been living with her?"

"Staying with her," amended Tisdall, his voice for the first time showing
an edge. "Get this straight, Sergeant, and it may save you a lot of
bother: Chris was my hostess. Not anything else. We stayed in her cottage
unchaperoned, but a regiment of servants couldn't have made our relations
more correct. Does that strike you as so very peculiar?"

"Very," said the sergeant frankly. "What are these doing here?"

He was peering into a paper bag which held two rather jaded buns.

"Oh, I took these along for her to eat. They were all I could find. We
always had a bun when we came out of the water when we were kids. I
thought maybe she'd be glad of something."

The car was slipping down the steep track to the main Westover-Stonegate
road. They crossed the high road and entered a deep lane on the other
side. A signpost said "Medley 1, Liddlestone 3."

"So you had no intention of stealing the car when you set off to follow
her to the beach?"

"Certainly not!" Tisdall said, as indignantly as if it made a difference.
"It didn't even cross my mind till I came up the hill and saw the car
waiting there. Even now I can't believe I really did it. I've been a
fool, but I've never done anything like that before."

"Was she in the sea then?"

"I don't know. I didn't go to look. If I had seen her even in the
distance I couldn't have done it. I just slung the buns in and beat it.
When I came to I was halfway to Canterbury. I just turned her around
without stopping, and came straight back."

The sergeant made no comment.

"You still haven't told me how long you've been staying at the cottage?"

"Since Saturday midnight."

It was now Thursday.

"And you still ask me to believe that you don't know your hostess's last
name?"

"No. It's a bit queer, I know. I thought so, myself, at first. I had a
conventional upbringing. But she made it seem natural. After the first
day we simply accepted each other. It was as if I had known her for
years." As the sergeant said nothing, but sat radiating doubt as a stove
radiates heat, he added with a hint of temper, "Why shouldn't I tell you
her name if I knew it!"

"How should I know?" said the sergeant, unhelpfully. He considered out of
the corner of his eye the young man's pale, if composed, face. He seemed
to have recovered remarkably quickly from his exhibition of nerves and
grief. Lightweights, these moderns. No real emotion about anything. Just
hysteria. What they called love was just a barnyard exercise; they
thought anything else "sentimental." No discipline. No putting up with
things. Every time something got difficult, they ran away. Not slapped
enough in their youth. All this modern idea about giving children their
own way. Look what it led to. Howling on the beach one minute and as cool
as a cucumber the next.

And then the sergeant noticed the trembling of the too fine hands on the
wheel. No, whatever else Robert Tisdall was he wasn't cool.

"This is the place?" the sergeant asked, as they slowed down by a hedged
garden. "This is the place."

It was a half-timbered cottage of about five rooms; shut in from the road
by a seven-foot hedge of briar and honeysuckle, and dripping with roses.
A godsend for Americans, weekenders, and photographers. The little
windows yawned in the quiet, and the bright blue door stood hospitably
open, disclosing in the shadow the gleam of a brass warming pan on the
wall. The cottage had been "discovered."

As they walked up the brick path, a thin small woman appeared on the
doorstep, brilliant in a white apron; her scanty hair drawn to a knob at
the back of her head, and a round bird's-nest affair of black satin set
insecurely at the very top of her arched, shining poll.

Tisdall lagged as he caught sight of her, so that the sergeant's large
official elevation should announce trouble to her with the clarity of a
sandwich board.

But Mrs. Pitts was a policeman's widow, and no apprehension showed on her
tight little face. Buttons coming up the path meant for her a meal in
demand; her mind acted accordingly.

"I've been making some griddle cakes for breakfast. It's going to be hot
later on. Best to let the stove out. Tell Miss Robinson when she comes
in, will you, sir?" Then, realizing that buttons were a badge of office,
"Don't tell me you've been driving without a license, sir!"

"Miss--Robinson, is it? Has met with an accident," the sergeant said.

"The car! Oh, dear! She was always that reckless with it. Is she bad?"

"It wasn't the car. An accident in the water."

"Oh," she said slowly. "_That_ bad!"

"How do you mean: that bad?"

"Accidents in the water only mean one thing."

"Yes," agreed the sergeant.

"Well, well," she said, sadly contemplative. Then, her manner changing
abruptly, "And where were _you_?" she snapped, eyeing the drooping
Tisdall as she eyed Saturday-night fish on a Westover fishmonger's slab.
Her superficial deference to "gentry" had vanished in the presence of
catastrophe. Tisdall appeared as the "bundle of uselessness" she had
privately considered him.

The sergeant was interested but snubbing. "The gentleman wasn't there."

"He ought to have been there. He left just after her."

"How do you know that?"

"I saw him. I live in the cottage down the road."

"Do you know Miss Robinson's other address? I take it for granted this
isn't her permanent home."

"No, of course it isn't. She only has this place for a month. It belongs
to Owen Hughes." She paused, impressively, to let the importance of the
name sink in. "But he's doing a film in Hollywood. About a Spanish count,
it was to be, so he told me. He said he's done Italian counts and French
counts and he thought it would be a new experience for him to be a
Spanish count. Very nice, Mr. Hughes is. Not a bit spoiled in spite of
all the fuss they make of him. You wouldn't believe it, but a girl came
to me once and offered me five pounds if I'd give her the sheets he had
slept in. What I gave her was a piece of my mind. But she wasn't a bit
ashamed. Offered me twenty-five shillings for a pillow slip. I don't know
what the world is coming to, that I don't, what with--"

"What other address had Miss Robinson?"

"I don't know any of her addresses but this one."

"Didn't she write and tell you that she was coming?"

"Write! No! She sent telegrams. I suppose she could write, but I'll take
my alfred davy she never did. About six telegrams a day used to go to the
post office in Liddlestone. My Albert used to take them, mostly; between
school. Some of them used three or four forms, they were that long."

"Do you know any of the people she had down here, then?"

"She didn't have any folks here. 'Cept Mr. Stannaway, that is."

"No one!"

"Not a one. Once--it was when I was showing her the trick of flushing the
W.C.; you have to pull hard and then let go smart-like--once she said:
'Do you ever, Mrs. Pitts,' she said, 'get sick of the sight of people's
faces?' I said I got a bit tired of some. She said: 'Not some, Mrs.
Pitts. All of them. Just sick of people.' I said when I felt like that I
took a dose of castor oil. She laughed and said it wasn't a bad idea.
Only everyone should have one and what a good new world it would be in
two days. 'Mussolini never thought of that one,' she said."

"Was it London she came from?"

"Yes. She went up just once or twice in the three weeks she's been here.
Last time was last weekend, when she brought Mr. Stannaway back." Again
her glance dismissed Tisdall as something less than human. "Doesn't
_he_ know her address?" she asked.

"No one does," the sergeant said. "I'll look through her papers and see
what I can find."

Mrs. Pitts led the way into the living room; cool, low-beamed, and
smelling of sweet peas.

"What have you done with her--with the body, I mean?" she asked.

"At the mortuary."

This seemed to bring home tragedy for the first time.

"Oh, deary me." She moved the end of her apron over a polished table,
slowly. "And me making griddle cakes."

This was not a lament for wasted griddle cakes, but her salute to the
strangeness of life.

"I expect you'll need breakfast," she said to Tisdall, softened by her
unconscious recognition of the fact that the best are but puppets.

But Tisdall wanted no breakfast. He shook his head and turned away to the
window, while the sergeant searched in the desk.

"I wouldn't mind one of those griddle cakes," the sergeant said, turning
over papers.

"You won't get better in Kent, though it's me that's saying it. And
perhaps Mr. Stannaway will swallow some tea."

She went away to the kitchen.

"So you didn't know her name was Robinson?" said the sergeant, glancing
up.

"Mrs. Pitts always addressed her as 'miss.' And anyhow, did she look as
if her name was Robinson?"

The sergeant, too, did not believe for a moment that her name was
Robinson, so he let the subject drop.

Presently Tisdall said: "If you don't need me, I think I'll go into the
garden. It--it's stuffy in here."

"All right. You won't forget I need the car to get back to Westover."

"I've told you. It was a sudden impulse. Anyhow, I couldn't very well
steal it now and hope to get away with it."

Not so dumb, decided the sergeant. Quite a bit of temper, too. Not just a
nonentity, by any means.

The desk was littered with magazines, newspapers, half-finished cartons
of cigarettes, bits of a jigsaw puzzle, a nail file and polish, patterns
of silk, and a dozen more odds and ends; everything, in fact, except
notepaper. The only documents were bills from the local tradesmen, most
of them receipted. If the woman had been untidy and unmethodical, she had
at least had a streak of caution. The receipts might be crumpled and
difficult to find if wanted, but they had never been thrown away.

The sergeant, soothed by the quiet of the early morning, the cheerful
sounds of Mrs. Pitts making tea in the kitchen, and the prospect of
griddle cakes to come, began as he worked at the desk to indulge in his
one vice. He whistled. Very low and round and sweet, the sergeant's
whistling was, but, still--whistling. "Sing to Me Sometimes" he warbled,
not forgetting the grace notes, and his subconscious derived great
satisfaction from the performance. His wife had once shown him a bit in
the Mail that said that whistling was the sign of an empty mind. But it
hadn't cured him.

And then, abruptly, the even tenor of the moment was shattered. Without
warning there came a mock tattoo on the half-open sitting-room
door--_tum-te-ta-tum-tumta-TA!_ A man's voice said, "So this is
where you're hiding out!" The door was flung wide with a flourish and in
the opening stood a short dark stranger.

"_We-e-ell_," he said, making several syllables of it. He stood
staring at the sergeant, amused and smiling broadly. "I thought you were
Chris! What is the Force doing here? Been a burglary?"

"No, no burglary." The sergeant was trying to collect his thoughts.

"Don't tell me Chris has been throwing a wild party! I thought she gave
that up years ago. They don't go with all those highbrow roles."

"No, as a matter of fact, there's--"

"Where is she, anyway?" He raised his voice in a cheerful shout directed
at the upper story. "Yo-hoo! Chris. Come on down, you old so-and-so!
Hiding out on me!" To the sergeant: "Gave us all the slip for nearly
three weeks now. Too much Kleig, I guess. Gives them all the jitters
sooner or later. But then, the last one was such a success they naturally
want to cash in on it." He hummed a bar of "Sing to Me Sometimes," with
mock solemnity. "That's why I thought you were Chris; you were whistling
her song. Whistling darned good, too."

"Her--her song?" Presently, the sergeant hoped, a gleam of light would be
vouchsafed him.

"Yes, her song. Who else's? You didn't think it was mine, my dear good
chap, did you? Not on your life. I wrote the thing, sure. But that
doesn't count. It's her song. And perhaps she didn't put it across!
Eh? Wasn't that a performance?"

"I couldn't really say." If the man would stop talking, he might sort
things out.

"Perhaps you haven't seen _Bars of Iron_ yet?"

"No, I can't say I have."

"That's the worst of wireless and gramophone records and what not: they
take all the pep out of a film. Probably by the time you hear Chris sing
that song you'll be so sick of the sound of it that you'll retch at the
ad lib. It's not fair to a film. All right for songwriters and that sort
of cattle, but rough on a film, very rough. There ought to be some sort
of agreement. Hey, Chris! Isn't she here, after all my trouble in
catching up on her?" His face drooped like a disappointed baby's. "Having
her walk in and find me isn't half such a good one as walking in on her.
Do you think--"

"Just a minute, Mr.--er--I don't know your name."

"I'm Jay Harmer. Jason on the birth certificate. I wrote 'If It Can't Be
in June.' You probably whistle that as--"

"Mr. Harmer. Do I understand that the lady who is--was--staying here is a
film actress?"

"Is she a film actress!" Slow amazement deprived Mr. Harmer for once of
speech. Then it began to dawn on him that he must have made a mistake.
"Say, Chris is staying here, isn't she?"

"The lady's name is Chris, yes. But--well, perhaps you'll be able to help
us. There's been some trouble--very unfortunate--and apparently she said
her name was Robinson."

The man laughed in rich amusement. "Robinson! That's a good one. I always
said she had no imagination. Couldn't write a gag. Did you believe she
was a Robinson?"

"Well, no; it seemed unlikely."

"What did I tell you! Well, just to pay her out for treating me like bits
on the cutting-room floor, I'm going to split on her. She'll probably put
me in the icebox for twenty-four hours, but it'll be worth it. I'm no
gentleman, anyhow, so I won't damage myself in the telling. The lady's
name, Sergeant, is Christine Clay."

"Christine Clay!" said the sergeant. His jaw slackened and dropped, quite
beyond his control.

"Christine Clay!" breathed Mrs. Pitts, standing in the doorway, a
forgotten tray of griddle cakes in her hands.



Chapter 3


"Christine Clay! Christine Clay!" yelled the midday posters.

"Christine Clay!" screamed the headlines. "Christine Clay!" chattered the
wireless. "Christine Clay!" said neighbor to neighbor.

All over the world people paused to speak the words. Christine Clay was
drowned! And in all civilization only one person said, "Who is Christine
Clay?"--a bright young man at a Bloomsbury party. And he was merely being
"bright."

All over the world things happened because one woman had lost her life.
In California a man telephoned a summons to a girl in Greenwich Village.
A Texas airplane pilot did an extra night flight carrying Clay films for
rush showing. A New York firm canceled an order. An Italian nobleman went
bankrupt: he had hoped to sell her his yacht. A man in Philadelphia ate
his first square meal in months, thanks to an "I knew her when" story. A
woman in Le Touquet sang because now her chance had come. And in an
English cathedral town a man thanked God on his knees.

The Press, becalmed in the doldrums of the silly season, leaped to
movement at so unhoped-for a wind. The _Clarion_ recalled Bart
Bartholomew, their "descriptive" man, from a beauty contest in Brighton
(much to Bart's thankfulness--he came back loudly wondering how butchers
ate meat), and "Jammy" Hopkins, their "crime and passion" star, from a
very dull and low-class poker killing in Bradford. (So far had the
_Clarion_ sunk.) News photographers deserted motor race tracks,
reviews, society weddings, cricket, and the man who was going to Mars in
a balloon, and swarmed like beetles over the cottage in Kent, the
maisonette in South Street, and the furnished manor in Hampshire. That,
having rented so charming a country retreat as this last, Christine Clay
had yet run away to an unknown and inconvenient cottage without the
knowledge of her friends made a very pleasant appendage to the main
sensation of her death. Photographs of the manor (garden front, because
of the yews) appeared labeled "The place Christine Clay owned" (she had
only rented it for the season, but there was no emotion in renting a
place); and next to these impressive pictures were placed photographs of
the rose-embowered home of the people, with the caption "The place she
preferred."

Her press agent shed tears over that. Something like that _would_
break when it was too late.

It might have been observed by any student of nature not too actively
engaged in the consequences of it that Christine Clay's death, while it
gave rise to pity, dismay, horror, regret, and half a dozen other
emotions in varying degrees, yet seemed to move no one to grief. The only
outburst of real feeling had been that hysterical crisis of Robert
Tisdall's over her body. And who should say how much of that was
self-pity? Christine was too international a figure to belong to anything
so small as a "set." But among her immediate acquaintances dismay was the
most marked reaction of the dreadful news. And not always that. Coyne,
who was due to direct her third and final picture in England, might be at
the point of despair, but Lejeune (late Tomkins), who had been engaged to
play opposite her, was greatly relieved; a picture with Clay might be a
feather in your cap but it was a jinx in your box office. The Duchess of
Trent, who had arranged a Clay luncheon which was to rehabilitate her as
a hostess in the eyes of London, might be gnashing her teeth, but Lydia
Keats was openly jubilant. She had prophesied the death, and even for a
successful society seer that was a good guess. "Darling, how wonderful of
you!" fluttered her friends. "Darling how wonderful of you!" On and on.
Until Lydia so lost her head with delight that she spent all her days
going from one gathering to another so that she might make that delicious
entrance all over again, hear them say: "Here's Lydia! Darling how--" and
bask in the radiance of their wonder. No, as far as anyone could see, no
hearts were breaking because Christine Clay was no more. The world dusted
off its blacks and hoped for invitations to the funeral.



Chapter 4


But first there was the inquest. And it was at the inquest that the first
faint stirring of a much greater sensation began to appear. It was Jammy
Hopkins who noted the quiver on the smooth surface. He had earned his
nickname because of his glad cry of "Jam! Jam!" when a good story broke,
and his philosophical reflection when times were thin that "all was jam
that came to the rollers." Hopkins had an excellent nose for jam, and so
it was that he stopped suddenly in the middle of analyzing for
Bartholomew's benefit the various sensation seekers crowding the little
Kentish village hall. Stopped dead and stared. Because, between the
flyaway hats of two bright sensationalists, he could see a man's calm
face which was much more sensational than anything in that building.

"Seen something?" Bart asked.

"Have I seen something!" Hopkins slid from the end of the form, just as
the coroner sat down and tapped for silence. "Keep my place," he
whispered, and disappeared out of the building. He entered it again at
the back door, expertly pushed his way to the place he wanted, and sat
down. The man turned his head to view this gate-crasher. "Morning,
Inspector," said Hopkins. The Inspector looked his disgust.

"I wouldn't do it if I didn't need the money," Hopkins said, _vox
humana_.

The coroner tapped again for silence, but the Inspector's face relaxed.

Presently, under cover of the bustle of Potticary's arrival to give
evidence, Hopkins said, "What is Scotland Yard doing here, Inspector?"

"Looking on."

"I see. Just studying inquests as an institution. Crime slack these
days?" As the Inspector showed no sign of being drawn: "Oh, have a heart,
Inspector. What's in the wind? Is there something phony about the death?
Suspicions, eh? If you don't want to talk for publication I'm the
original locked casket."

"You're the original camel fly."

"Oh, well, look at the hides I have to get through!" This produced a grin
and nothing else. "Look here. Just tell me one thing, Inspector. Is this
inquest going to be adjourned?"

"I shouldn't be surprised."

"Thank you. That tells me everything," Hopkins said, half sarcastic, half
serious, as he made his way out again. He prised Mrs. Pitts's Albert away
from the wall where he clung limpetlike by the window, persuaded him that
two shillings were better than a partial view of dull proceedings, and
sent him to Liddlestone with a telegram which set the _Clarion_
office buzzing. Then he went back to Bart.

"Something wrong," he said out of the corner of his mouth in answer to
Bart's eyebrows. "The Yard's here. That's Grant, behind the scarlet hat.
Inquest going to be adjourned. Spot the murderer!"

"Not here," Bart said, having considered the gathering.

"No," agreed Jammy. "Who's the chap in the flannel bags?"

"Boyfriend."

"Thought the boyfriend was Jay Harmer."

"Was. This one newer."

"'Love nest killing'?"

"Wouldn't mind betting."

"Supposed to be cold, I thought?"

"Yes. So they say. Fooled them, seemingly. Good enough reason for murder,
I should think."

The evidence was of the most formal kind the finding and identification
of the body--and as soon as that had been offered the coroner brought the
proceedings to an end, and fixed no date for resumption.

Hopkins had decided that, the Clay death being apparently no accident,
and Scotland Yard not being able so far to make any arrest, the person to
cultivate was undoubtedly the man in the flannel bags. Tisdall, his name
was. Bart said that every newspaper man in England had tried to interview
him the previous day (Hopkins being then en route from the poker murder)
but that he had been exceptionally tough. Called them ghouls, and
vultures, and rats, and other things less easy of specification, and had
altogether seemed unaware of the standing of the Press. No one was rude
to the Press anymore--not with impunity, that was.

But Hopkins had great faith in his power to seduce the human mind.

"Your name Tisdall, by any chance?" he asked casually, "finding" himself
alongside the young man in the crowded procession to the door.

The man's face hardened into instant enmity.

"Yes, it is," he said aggressively.

"Not old Tom Tisdall's nephew?"

The face cleared swiftly.

"Yes. Did you know Uncle Tom?"

"A little," admitted Hopkins, no whit dismayed to find that there
really was a Tom Tisdall.

"You seem to know about my giving up the Stannaway?"

"Yes, someone told me," Hopkins said, wondering if the Stannaway was a
house, or what? "What are you doing now?"

By the time they had reached the door, Hopkins had established himself.
"Can I give you a lift somewhere? Come and have lunch with me?"

A pip! In half an hour he'd have a front-page story. And this was the
baby they said was difficult! No, there was no doubt of it: he, James
Brooke Hopkins, was the greatest newspaper man in the business.

"Sorry, Mr. Hopkins," said Grant's pleasant voice at his shoulder. "I
don't want to spoil your party, but Mr. Tisdall has an appointment with
me." And, since Tisdall betrayed his astonishment and Hopkins his instant
putting two and two together, he added, "We're hoping he can help us."

"I don't understand," Tisdall was beginning. And Hopkins, seeing that
Tisdall was unaware of Grant's identity, rushed in with glad
maliciousness.

"That is Scotland Yard," he said. "Inspector Grant. Never had an unsolved
crime to his name."

"I hope you write my obituary," Grant said.

"I hope I do!" the journalist said, with fervor.

And then they noticed Tisdall. His face was like parchment, dry and old
and expressionless. Only the pulse beating hard at his temple suggested a
living being. Journalist and detective stood looking in mutual
astonishment at so unexpected a result of Hopkins's announcement. And
then, seeing the man's knees beginning to sag, Grant took him hastily by
the arm.

"Here! Come and sit down. My car is just here."

He edged the apparently blind Tisdall through the dawdling, chattering
crowd, and pushed him into the rear seat of a dark touring car.

"Westover," he said to the chauffeur, and got in beside Tisdall.

As they went at snail's pace towards the high road, Grant saw Hopkins
still standing where they had left him. That Jammy Hopkins should stay
without moving for more than three consecutive minutes argued that he was
being given furiously to think. From now on--the Inspector sighed--the
camelfly would be a bloodhound.

And the Inspector, too, had food for his wits. He had been called in the
previous night by a worried County Constabulary who had no desire to make
themselves ridiculous by making mountains out of molehills, but who found
themselves unable to explain away satisfactorily one very small, very
puzzling obstacle to their path. They had all viewed the obstacle, from
the Chief Constable down to the sergeant who had taken charge on the
beach, had been rude about each other's theories, and had in the end
agreed on only one thing: that they wanted to push the responsibility on
to someone else's shoulders. It was all very well to hang on to your own
crime, and the kudos of a solution, when there _was_ a crime. But to
decide in cold blood to announce a crime, on the doubtful evidence of
that common little object on the table; to risk, not the disgrace of
failure, but the much worse slings of ridicule, was something they could
not find it in their hearts to do. And so Grant had canceled his seat at
the Criterion and had journeyed down to Westover. He had inspected the
stumbling block, listened with patience to their theories and with
respect to the police surgeon's story, and had gone to bed in the small
hours with a great desire to interview Robert Tisdall. And now here was
Tisdall, beside him, still speechless and half-fainting because he had
been confronted without warning by Scotland Yard. Yes, there was a case;
no doubt of it. Well, there couldn't be any questioning with Cork in the
driving seat, so until they got back to Westover Tisdall might be left to
recover. Grant took a flask from the car pocket and offered it to him.
Tisdall took it shakily but made good use of it. Presently he apologized
for his weakness.

"I don't know what went wrong. This affair has been an awful shock to me.
I haven't been sleeping. Keep going over things in my mind. Or rather, my
mind keeps doing it; I can't stop it. And then, at the inquest it
seemed--I say, is something not right? I mean, was it not a simple
drowning? Why did they postpone the end of the inquest?"

"There are one or two things that the police find puzzling."

"As what, for instance?"

"I think we won't discuss it until we get to Westover."

"Is anything I say to be used in evidence against me?" The smile was wry
but the intention was good.

"You took the words out of my mouth," the Inspector said lightly, and
silence fell between them.

By the time they reached the Chief Constable's room in the County Police
offices, Tisdall was looking normal if a little worn. In fact, so normal
did he look that when Grant said, "This is Mr. Tisdall," the Chief
Constable, who was a genial soul except when someone jumped in his pocket
out hunting, almost shook hands with him, but recollected himself before
any harm was done.

"Howdyudo. Harrump!" He cleared his throat to give himself time. Couldn't
do that, of course. My goodness, no. Fellow suspected of murder. Didn't
look it, no, upon his soul he didn't. But there was no telling these
days. The most charming people were--well, things he hadn't known till
lately existed. Very sad. But couldn't shake hands, of course. No,
definitely not. "Harrump! Fine morning! Bad for racing, of course. Going
very hard. But good for the holiday makers. Mustn't be selfish in our
pleasures. You a racing man? Going to Goodwood? Oh, well, perhaps--No.
Well, I expect you and--and our friend here--" somehow one didn't want to
rub in the fact of Grant's inspectorship. Nice-looking chap. Well brought
up, and all that--"would like to talk in peace. I'm going to lunch. The
Ship," he added, for Grant's benefit, in case the Inspector wanted him.
"Not that the food's very good there, but it's a self-respecting house.
Not like these Marine things. Like to get steak and potatoes without
going through sun lounges for them." And the Chief Constable took himself
out.

"A Freedy Lloyd part," Tisdall said.

Grant looked up appreciatively from pulling forward a chair.

"You're a theater fan."

"I was a fan of most things."

Grant's mind focused on the peculiarity of the phrase. "Why 'was'?" he
asked.

"Because I'm broke. You need money to be a fan."

"You won't forget that formula about 'anything you say,' will you?"

"No, thanks. But it doesn't make any difference. I can only tell you the
truth. If you draw wrong deductions from it then that's your fault, not
mine."

"So it's I who am on trial. A nice point. I appreciate it. Well, try me
out. I want to know how you were living in the same house with a woman
whose name you didn't know? You did tell the County Police that, didn't
you?"

"Yes. I expect it sounds incredible. Silly, too. But it's quite simple.
You see, I was standing on the pavement opposite the Gaiety one night,
very late, wondering what to do. I had fivepence in my pocket, and that
was fivepence too much, because I had aimed at having nothing at all. And
I was wondering whether to have a last go at spending the fivepence
(there isn't much one can do with fivepence) or to cheat, and forget
about the odd pennies. So--"

"Just a moment. You might explain to a dullard just why these five
pennies should have been important."

"They were the end of a fortune, you see. Thirty thousand. I inherited it
from my uncle. My mother's brother. My real name is Stannaway, but Uncle
Tom asked that I should take his name with the money. I didn't mind. The
Tisdalls were a much better lot than the Stannaways, anyhow. Stamina and
ballast and all that. If I'd been a Tisdall I wouldn't be broke now, but
I'm nearly all Stannaway. I've been the perfect fool, the complete Awful
Warning. I was in an architect's office when I inherited the money,
living in rooms and just making do; and it went to my head to have what
seemed more than I could ever spend. I gave up my job and went to see all
the places I'd wanted to see and never hoped to. New York and Hollywood
and Budapest and Rome and Capri and God knows where else. I came back to
London with about two thousand, meaning to bank it and get a job. It
would have been easy enough two years before--I mean, to bank the money.
I hadn't anyone to help spend it then. But in those two years I had
gathered a lot of friends all over the world, and there were never less
than a dozen of them in London at the same time. So I woke up one morning
to find that I was down to my last hundred. It was a bit of a shock. Like
cold water. I sat down and thought for the first time for two years. I
had the choice of two things: sponging--you can live in luxury anywhere
in the world's capitals for six months if you're a good sponger: I know;
I supported dozens of that sort--and disappearing. Disappearing seemed
easier. I could drop out quite easily. People would just say, 'Where's
Bobby Tisdall these days?' and they'd just take it for granted that I was
in some of the other corners of the world where their sort went, and that
they'd run into me one of these days. I was supposed to be suffocatingly
rich, you see, and it was easier to drop out and leave them thinking of
me like that than to stay and be laughed at when the truth began to dawn
on them. I paid my bills, and that left me with fifty-seven pounds. I
thought I'd have one last gamble then, and see if I could pick up enough
to start me off on the new level. So I had thirty pounds--fifteen each
way; that's the bit of Tisdall in me--on Red Rowan in the Eclipse. He
finished fifth. Twenty-odd pounds isn't enough to start anything except a
barrow. There was nothing for it but tramping. I wasn't much put out at
the thought of tramping--it would be a change--but you can't tramp with
twenty-seven pounds in the bank, so I decided to blue it all in one grand
last night. I promised myself that I'd finish up without a penny in my
pocket. Then I'd pawn my evening things for some suitable clothes and hit
the road. What I hadn't reckoned with was that you can't pawn things in
the west-end on a Saturday midnight. And you can't take to the road in
evening things without being conspicuous. So I was standing there, as I
said, feeling resentful about these five pennies and wondering what I was
to do about my clothes and a place to sleep. I was standing by the traffic
lights at the Aldwych, just before you turn around into Lancaster Place,
when a car was pulled up by the red lights. Chris was in it, alone--"

"Chris?"

"I didn't know her name, then. She looked at me for a little. The street
was very quiet. Just us two. And we were so close that it seemed natural
when she smiled and said, 'Take you anywhere, mister?' I said: 'Yes.
Land's End.' She said: 'A bit off my route. Chatham, Faversham,
Canterbury, and points east?' Well, it was one solution. I couldn't go on
standing there, and I couldn't think of a water-tight tale that would get
me a bed in a friend's house. Besides, I felt far away from all that
crowd already. So I got in without thinking much about it. She was
charming to me. I didn't tell her all I'm telling you, but she soon found
out I was broke to the wide. I began to explain, but she said: 'All
right, I don't want to know. Let's accept each other on face value.
You're Robin and I'm Chris.' I'd told her my name was Robert Stannaway,
and without knowing it she used my family pet name. The crowd called me
Bobby. It was sort of comforting to hear someone call me Robin again."

"Why did you say your name was Stannaway?"

"I don't know. A sort of desire to get away from the fortune side of
things. I hadn't been much ornament to the name, anyhow. And in my mind I
always thought of myself as Stannaway."

"All right. Go on."

"There isn't much more to tell. She offered me hospitality. Told me she
was alone, but that--well, that I'd be just a guest. I said wasn't she
taking a chance. She said, 'Yes, but I've taken them all my life and it's
worked out pretty well, so far.' It seemed an awkward arrangement to me,
but it turned out just the opposite. She was right about it. It made
things very easy, just accepting each other. In a way (it was queer, but
it was like that) it was as if we had known each other for years. If we
had had to start at scratch and work up, it would have taken us weeks to
get to the same stage. We liked each other a lot. I don't mean
sentimentally, although she was stunning to look at; I mean I thought her
grand. I had no clothes for the next morning, but I spent that day in a
bathing suit and a dressing gown that someone had left. And on Monday
Mrs. Pitts came in to my room and said, 'Your suitcase, sir,' and dumped
a case I'd never seen before in the middle of the floor. It had a
complete new outfit in it--tweed coat and flannels, socks, shirt,
everything. From a place in Canterbury. The suitcase was old, and had a
label with my name on it. She had even remembered my name. Well, I can't
describe to you what I felt about these things. You see, it was the first
time for years that anyone had given me anything. With the crowd it was
take, take, all the time. 'Bobby'll pay.' 'Bobby'll lend his car.' They
never thought of me at all. I don't think they ever stopped to look at
me. Anyhow, those clothes sort of broke me up. I'd have died for her. She
laughed when she saw me in them--they were reach-me-downs, of course, but
they fitted quite well--and said: 'Not exactly Bruton Street, but they'll
do. Don't say I can't size a man up.' So we settled down to having a good
time together, just lazing around, reading, talking, swimming, cooking
when Mrs. Pitts wasn't there. I put out of my head what was going to
happen after. She said that in about ten days she'd have to leave the
cottage. I tried to go after the first day, out of politeness, but she
wouldn't let me. And after that I didn't try. That's how I came to be
staying there, and that's how I didn't know her name." He drew in his
breath in a sharp sigh as he sat back. "Now I know how these
psychoanalysts make money. It's a long time since I enjoyed anything like
telling you all about myself."

Grant smiled involuntarily. There was an engaging childlikeness about the
boy.

Then he shook himself mentally, like a dog coming out of water.

Charm. The most insidious weapon in all the human armory. And here it
was, being exploited under his nose. He considered the good-natured
feckless face dispassionately. He had known at least one murderer who had
had that type of good looks; blue-eyed, amiable, harmless; and he had
buried his dismembered fiancée in an ash pit. Tisdall's eyes were of that
particular warm opaque blue which Grant had noted so often in men to whom
the society of women was a necessity of existence. Mother's darlings had
those eyes; so sometimes, had womanizers.

Well, presently he would check up on Tisdall. Meanwhile--

"Do you ask me to believe that in your four days together you had no
suspicion at all of Miss Clay's identity?" he asked, marking time until
he could bring Tisdall unsuspecting to the crucial matter.

"I suspected that she was an actress. Partly from things she said, but
mostly because there were such a lot of stage and film magazines in the
house. I asked her about it once, but she said: 'No names, no pack drill.
It's a good motto, Robin. Don't forget.'"

"I see. Did the outfit Miss Clay bought for you include an overcoat?"

"No. A mackintosh. I had a coat."

"You were wearing a coat over your evening things?"

"Yes. It had been drizzling when we set out for dinner--the crowd and I,
I mean."

"And you still have that coat?"

"No. It was stolen from the car one day when we were over at Dymchurch."
His eyes grew alarmed suddenly. "Why? What has the coat got to do with
it?"

"Was it dark- or light-colored?"

"Dark, of course. A sort of gray-black. Why?"

"Did you report its loss?"

"No, neither of us wanted attention called to us. What has it--"

"Just tell me about Thursday morning, will you?" The face opposite him
was steadily losing its ingenuousness and becoming wary and inimical
again. "I understand that you didn't go with Miss Clay to swim. Is that
right?"

"Yes. But I awoke almost as soon as she had gone--"

"How do you know when she went if you were asleep?"

"Because it was still only six. She couldn't have been gone long. And
Mrs. Pitts said afterwards that I had followed down the road on her
heels."

"I see. And in the hour and a half--roughly--between your getting up and
the finding of Miss Clay's body you walked to the Gap, stole the car,
drove it in the direction of Canterbury, regretted what you had done,
came back, and found that Miss Clay had been drowned. Is that a complete
record of your actions?"

"Yes, I think so."

"If you felt so grateful to Miss Clay, it was surely an extraordinary
thing to do."

"Extraordinary isn't the word at all. Even yet I can't believe I did it."

"You are quite sure that you didn't enter the water that morning?"

"Of course I'm sure. Why?"

"When was your last swim? Previous to Thursday morning, I mean?"

"Noon on Wednesday."

"And yet your swimming suit was soaking wet on Thursday morning."

"How do you know that! Yes, it was. But not with salt water. It had been
spread to dry on the roof below my window, and when I was dressing on
Thursday morning I noticed that the birds in the tree--an apple tree
hangs over that gable--had made too free with it. So I washed it in the
water I had been washing in."

"You didn't put it out to dry again, though, apparently?"

"After what happened the last time? No! I put it on the towel rail. For
God's sake, Inspector, tell me what all this has to do with Chris's
death? Can't you see that questions you can't see the reason of are
torture? I've had about all I can stand. The inquest this morning was the
last straw. Everyone describing how they found her. Talking about 'the
body,' when all the time it was Chris. Chris! And now all this mystery
and suspicion. If there was anything not straightforward about her
drowning, what has my coat got to do with it anyway?"

"Because this was found entangled in her hair."

Grant opened a cardboard box on the table and exhibited a black button of
the kind used for men's coats. It had been torn from its proper place,
the worn threads of its attachment still forming a ragged "neck." And
around the neck, close to the button, was twined a thin strand of bright
hair.

Tisdall was on his feet, both hands on the table edge, staring down at
the object.

"You think someone _drowned_ her? I mean--like _that_! But
that isn't mine. There are thousands of buttons like that. What makes you
think it is mine?"

"I don't think anything, Mr. Tisdall. I am only eliminating
possibilities. All I wanted you to do was to account for any garment
owned by you which had buttons like that. You say you had one but that it
was stolen."

Tisdall stared at the Inspector, his mouth opening and shutting
helplessly.

The door breezed open, after the sketchiest of knocks, and in the middle
of the floor stood a small, skinny child of sixteen in shabby tweeds, her
dark head hatless and very untidy.

"Oh, sorry," she said. "I thought my father was here. Sorry."

Tisdall slumped to the floor with a crash.

Grant, who was sitting on the other side of the large table sprang to
action, but the skinny child, with no sign of haste or dismay, was there
first.

"Dear me!" she said, getting the slumped body under the shoulders from
behind and turning it over.

Grant took a cushion from a chair.

"I shouldn't do that," she said. "You let their heads stay back unless
it's apoplexy. And he's a bit young for that, isn't he?"

She was loosening collar and tie and shirt band with the expert
detachment of a cook paring pastry from a pie edge. Grant noticed that
her sunburnt wrists were covered with small scars and scratches of
varying age, and that they stuck too far out of her out-grown sleeves.

"You'll find brandy in the cupboard, I think. Father isn't allowed it,
but he has no self-control."

Grant found the brandy and came back to find her slapping Tisdall's
unconscious face with a light insistent _tapotement_.

"You seem to be good at this sort of thing," Grant said.

"Oh, I ran the Guides at school." She had a voice at once precise and
friendly. "A _ve_-ry silly institution. But it varied the routine.
That is the main thing, to vary the routine."

"Did you learn this from the Guides?" he asked, nodding at her
occupation.

"Oh, no. They burn paper and smell salts and things. I learned this in
Bradford Pete's dressing room."

"Where?"

"You know. The welterweight. I used to have great faith in Pete, but I
think he's lost his speed lately. Don't you? At least, I _hope_ it's
his speed. He's coming to nicely." This last referred to Tisdall. "I
think he'd swallow the brandy now."

While Grant was administering the brandy, she said: "Have you been giving
him the third degree, or something? You're police aren't you?"

"My dear young lady--I don't know your name?"

"Erica. I'm Erica Burgoyne."

"My dear Miss Burgoyne, as the Chief Constable's daughter you must be
aware that the only people in Britain who are subjected to the third
degree are the police."

"Well, what did he faint for? Is he guilty?"

"I don't know," Grant said, before he thought.

"I shouldn't think so." She was considering the now spluttering Tisdall.
"He doesn't look capable of much." This with the same grave detachment as
she used to everything she did.

"Don't let looks influence your judgment, Miss Burgoyne."

"I don't. Not the way you mean. Anyhow, he isn't at all my type. But it's
quite right to judge on looks if you know enough. You wouldn't buy a
washy chestnut narrow across the eyes, would you?"

This, thought Grant, is quite the most amazing conversation.

She was standing up now, her hands pushed into her jacket pockets so much
the much-tried garment sagged to two bulging points. The tweed she wore
was rubbed at the cuffs and covered all over with "pulled" ends of thread
where briars had caught. Her skirt was too short and one stocking was
violently twisted on its stick of leg. Only her shoes--scarred like her
hands, but thick, well-shaped, and expensive--betrayed the fact that she
was not a charity child.

And then Grant's eyes went back to her face. Except her face. The calm
sureness of that sallow little triangular visage was not bred in any
charity school.

"There!" she said encouragingly, as Grant helped Tisdall to his feet and
guided him into a chair. "You'll be all right. Have a little more of
Father's brandy. It's a much better end for it than Father's arteries.
I'm going now. Where is Father, do you know?" This to Grant.

"He has gone to lunch at The Ship."

"Thank you." Turning to the still dazed Tisdall, she said, "That shirt
collar of yours is far too tight." As Grant moved to open the door for
her, she said, "You haven't told me _your_ name?"

"Grant. At your service." He gave her a little bow.

"I don't need anything just now, but I might some day." She considered
him. Grant found himself hoping with a fervor which surprised him that he
was not being placed in the same category as "washy chestnuts."

"You're much more my type. I like people broad across the cheekbones.
Good-bye, Mr. Grant."

"Who was that?" Tisdall asked, in the indifferent tones of the newly
conscious. "Colonel Burgoyne's daughter."

"She was right about my shirt."

"One of the reach-me-downs?"

"Yes. Am I being arrested?"

"Oh, no. Nothing like that."

"It mightn't be a bad idea."

"Oh? Why?"

"It would settle my immediate future. I left the cottage this morning and
now I'm on the road."

"You mean you're serious about tramping?"

"As soon as I have got suitable clothes."

"I'd rather you stayed where I could get information from you if I
wanted."

"I see the point. But how?"

"What about that architect's office? Why not try for a job?"

"I'm never going back to an office. Not an architect's anyhow. I was
shoved there only because I could draw."

"Do I understand that you consider yourself permanently incapacitated
from earning your bread?"

"Phew! That's nasty. No, of course not. I'll have to work. But what kind
of job am I fit for?"

"Two years of hitting the high spots must have educated you to something.
Even if it is only driving a car."

There came a tentative tap at the door, and the sergeant put his head in.

"I'm very sorry indeed to disturb you, Inspector, but I'd like something
from the Chief's files. It's rather urgent."

Permission given, he came in.

"This coast's lively in the season, sir," he said, as he ran through the
files. "Positively continental. Here's the chef at the Marine--it's just
outside the town, so it's our affair--the chef at the Marine's stabbed a
waiter because he had dandruff, it seems. The waiter, I mean, sir. Chef
on the way to prison and waiter on the way to hospital. They think maybe
his lung's touched. Well, thank you, sir. Sorry to disturb you."

Grant eyed Tisdall, who was achieving the knot in his tie with a
melancholy abstraction. Tisdall caught the look, appeared puzzled by it,
and then, comprehension dawning, leaped into action.

"I say, Sergeant, have they a fellow to take the waiter's place, do you
know?"

"That they haven't. Mr. Toselli--he's the manager--he's tearing his
hair."

"Have you finished with me?" he asked Grant.

"For today," Grant said. "Good luck."



Chapter 5


"No. No arrest," said Grant to Superintendent Barker over the telephone
in the early evening. "But I don't think there's any doubt about its
being murder. The surgeon's sure of it. The button in her hair might be
an accident--although if you saw it you'd be convinced it wasn't--but her
fingernails were broken with clawing at something. What was under the
nails has gone to the analyst, but there wasn't much after an hour's
immersion in salt water...'M?...Well, indications point one way
certainly, but they cancel each other out, somehow. Going to be
difficult, I think. I'm leaving Williams here on routine inquiry, and
coming back to town tonight. I want to see her lawyer--Erskine. He
arrived just in time for the inquest, and afterward I had Tisdall on my
hands so I missed him. Would you find out for me when I can talk to him
tonight. They've fixed the funeral for Monday. Golders Green. Yes,
cremation. I'd like to be there, I think. I'd like to look over the
intimates. Yes, I may look in for a drink, but it depends how late I am.
Thanks."

Grant hung up and went to join Williams for a high tea, it being too
early for dinner and Williams having a passion for bacon and eggs
garnished with large pieces of fried bread.

"Tomorrow being Sunday may hold up the button inquiries," Grant said as
they sat down. "Well, what did Mrs. Pitts say?"

"She says she couldn't say whether he was wearing a coat or not. All she
saw was the top of his head over her hedge as he went past. But whether
he wore it or not doesn't much matter, because she says the coat
habitually lay in the back of the car along with that coat that Miss Clay
wore. She doesn't remember when she saw Tisdall's dark coat last. He wore
it a fair amount, it seems. Mornings and evenings. He was a 'chilly
mortal,' she said. Owing to his having come back from foreign parts, she
thought. She hasn't much of an opinion of him."

"You mean she thinks he's a wrong 'un?"

"No. Just no account. You know, sir, has it occurred to you that it was a
clever man who did this job?"

"Why?"

"Well, but for that button coming off no one would ever have suspected
anything. She'd have been found drowned after going to bathe in the early
morning--all quite natural. No footsteps, no weapon, no signs of
violence. Very neat."

"Yes. It's neat."

"You don't sound very enthusiastic about it."

"It's the coat. If you were going to drown a woman in the sea, would you
wear an overcoat to do it?"

"I don't know. 'Pends how I meant to drown her."

"How _would_ you drown her?"

"Go swimming with her and keep her head under."

"You'd have scratches that way, ten to one. Evidence."

"Not me. I'd catch her by the heels in shallow water and upend her. Just
stand there and hold her till she drowned."

"Williams! What resource. And what ferocity."

"Well, how would you do it, sir?"

"I hadn't thought of aquatic methods. I mightn't be able to swim, or I
mightn't like early-morning dips, or I might want to make a quick getaway
from a stretch of water containing a body. No, I think I'd stand on a
rock in deep water, wait till she came to talk to me, grip her head and
keep it under. The only part of me that she could scratch that way would
be my hands. And I'd wear leather gloves. It takes only a few seconds
before she is unconscious."

"Very nice, sir. But you couldn't use that method anywhere within miles
of the Gap."

"Why not?"

"There aren't any rocks."

"No. Good man. But there are the equivalent. There are stone groins."

"Yes. Yes, so there are! Think that was how it was done, sir?"

"Who knows? It's a theory. But the coat still worries me."

"I don't see why it need, sir. It was a misty morning, a bit chilly at
six. Anyone might have worn a coat."

"Y-es," Grant said doubtfully, and let the matter drop, this being one of
those unreasonable things which occasionally worried his otherwise
logical mind (and had more than once been the means of bringing success
to his efforts when his logic failed).

He gave Williams instructions for his further inquiries, when he himself
should be in town. "I've just had another few minutes with Tisdall," he
finished. "He has got himself a waiter's job at the Marine. I don't
think he'll bolt, but you'd better plant a man. Sanger will do. That's
Tisdall's car route on Thursday morning, according to himself." He
handed a paper to the sergeant. "Check up on it. It was very early but
someone may remember him. Did he wear a coat or not? That's the main
thing. I think, myself, there's no doubt of his taking the car as he
said. Though not for the reason he gave."

"I thought it a silly reason myself, when I read that statement. I just
thought: 'Well, he might have made up a better one!' What's your theory,
sir?"

"I think that when he had drowned her his one idea was to get away. With
a car he could be at the other end of England, or out of the country,
before they found her body! He drove away. And then something made him
realize what a fool he was. Perhaps he missed the button from his cuff.
Anyhow, he realized that he had only to stay where he was and look
innocent. He got rid of the telltale coat--even if he hadn't missed the
button the sleeve almost up to the elbow must have been soaking with salt
water--came back to replace the car, found that the body had been
discovered thanks to an incoming tide, and put on a very good act on the
beach. It wouldn't have been difficult. The very thought of how nearly he
had made a fool of himself would have been enough to make him burst into
tears."

"So you think he did it?"

"I don't know. There seems to be a lack of motive. He was penniless and
she was a liberal woman. That was every reason for keeping her alive. He
was greatly interested in her, certainly. He says he wasn't in love with
her, but we have only his word for it. I think he's telling the truth
when he says there was nothing between them. He may have suffered from
frustration, but if that were so he would be much more likely to beat her
up. It was a queerly cold-blooded murder, Williams."

"It was certainly that, sir. Turns my stomach." Williams laid a large
forkful of best Wiltshire lovingly on a pink tongue.

Grant smiled at him: the smile that made Grant's subordinates "work their
fingers to the bone for him." He and Williams had worked together often,
and always in amity and mutual admiration. Perhaps, in a large measure
because Williams, bless him, coveted no one's shoes. He was much more the
contented husband of a pretty and devoted wife than the ambitious
detective-sergeant.

"I wish I hadn't missed her lawyer after the inquest. There's a lot I
want to ask him, and heaven knows where he'll be for the weekend. I've
asked the Yard for her dossier, but her lawyer would be much more
helpful. Must find out whom her death benefits. It was a misfortune for
Tisdall, but it must have been lucky for a lot of people. Being an
American, I suppose her will's in the States somewhere. The Yard will
know by the time I get up."

"Christine Clay was no American, sir!" Williams said in a
well-I-am-surprised-at-you voice.

"No? What then?"

"Born in Nottingham."

"But everyone refers to her as an American."

"Can't help that. She was born in Nottingham and went to school there.
They do say she worked in a lace factory, but no one knows the truth of
that."

"I forgot you were a film fan, Williams. Tell me more."

"Well, of course, what I know is just by reading _Screenland_ and
_Photoplay_ and magazines like that. A lot of what they write is
hooey, but on the other hand they'll never stop at truth as long as it
makes a good story. She wasn't fond of being interviewed. And she used to
tell a different story each time. When someone pointed out that that
wasn't what she had said last time, she said: 'But that's so dull! I've
thought of a much better one.' No one ever knew where they were with her.
Temperament, they called it, of course."

"And don't you call it that?" asked Grant, always sensitive to an
inflection.

"Well, I don't know. It always seemed to me more like--well, like
protection, if you know what I mean. People can only get at you if they
know what you're like--what matters to you. If you keep them guessing,
they're the victims, not you."

"A girl who'd pushed her way from a lace factory in Nottingham to the top
of the film world couldn't be very vulnerable."

"It's _because_ she was from a lace factory that she was
what-d'you-call-it. Every six months she was in a different social
sphere, she went up at such a rate. That takes a lot of living up
to--like a diver coming up from a long way below. You're continually
adjusting yourself to the pressure. No, I think she needed a shell to get
into, and keeping people guessing was her shell."

"So you were a Clay fan, Williams."

"Sure I was," said Williams in the appropriate idiom. His pink cheeks
grew a shade pinker. He slapped marmalade with venom onto his slab of
toast. "And before this affair's finished I'm going to put bracelets on
the chap that did it. It's a comforting thought."

"Got any theories yourself?"

"Well, sir, if you don't mind my saying so, you've passed over the person
with the obvious motive."

"Who?"

"Jason Harmer. What was he doing snooping around at half past eight of a
morning?"

"He'd come over from Sandwich. Spent the night at the pub there."

"So he said. Did the County people verify that?"

Grant consulted his notes.

"Perhaps they haven't. The statement was volunteered before they found
the button, and so they weren't suspicious. And since then everyone has
concentrated on Tisdall."

"Plenty of motive, Harmer has. Clay walks out on him, and he runs her to
earth in a country cottage, alone with a man."

"Yes, very plausible. Well, you can add Harmer to your list of chores.
Find out about his wardrobe. There's an SOS out for a discarded coat. I
hope it brings in something. A coat's a much easier clue than a button.
Tisdall, by the way, says he sold his wardrobe complete (except for his
evening things) to a man called--appropriately enough--Togger, but
doesn't know where his place of business is. Is that the chap who used to
be in Craven Road?"

"Yes, sir."

"Where is he now?"

"Westbourne Grove. The far end."

"Thanks. I don't doubt Tisdall's statement. But there's just a chance
there's the duplicate of that button on another coat. It might lead us to
something." He got to his feet. "Well, on with the job of making bricks
without straw! And talking of that Israelitish occupation, here's a grand
sample of it to flavor your third cup." He pulled from his pocket the
afternoon edition of the _Sentinel_, the _Clarion's_ evening
representative, and laid it, with its staring headlines, "Was Clay's
Death an Accident?" upward, by Williams's plate.

"Jammy Hopkins!" Williams said, with feeling, and flung sugar violently
into his black tea.



Chapter 6


Marta Hallard, as befitted a leading lady who alternated between the St.
James's and the Haymarket, lived in the kind of apartment block which has
deep carpet on the stairs and a cloistered hush in the corridors. Grant,
climbing the stairs with weary feet, appreciated the carpet even while
his other self wondered about the vacuum cleaning. The dim pink square of
the lift had fled upward as he came through the revolving door, and
rather than wait for its return he was walking the two flights. The
commissionaire had said that Marta was at home: had arrived about eleven
from the theater with several people. Grant regretted the people, but was
determined that this day was not going to end without his obtaining some
light on Christine Clay and her entourage. Barker had failed to find the
lawyer, Erskine, for him; his man said he was suffering from the shock of
the last three days and had gone into the country over Sunday; address
unknown. ("Ever heard of a lawyer suffering from shock?" Barker had
said.) So the matter which most interested Grant--the contents of
Christine Clay's will--must wait until Monday. At the Yard he had read
through the dossier--still, of course, incomplete--which they had
gathered together in the last twelve hours. In all the five sheets of it
Grant found only two things remarkable.

Her real name, it appeared, was Christina Gotobed.

And she had had no lovers.

No public ones, that is. Even in those crucial years when the little
Broadway hoofer was blossoming into the song-and-dance star, she seemed
to have had no patron. Nor yet when, tiring of song-and-dance pictures,
her ambition had reached out to drama; her rocket had shot to the stars
under its own power, it would seem. This could only mean one of two
things: that she had remained virgin until her marriage at twenty-six (a
state of affairs which Grant, who had a larger experience of life than of
psychology textbooks, found quite possible) or that her favor was given
only when her heart (or her fancy, according to whether you are
sentimentalist or cynic) was touched. Four years ago Lord Edward
Champneis (pronounced Chins), old Bude's fifth son, had met her in
Hollywood, and in a month they were married. She was at that time
shooting her first straight film, and it was generally agreed that she
had "done well for herself" in her marriage. Two years later Lord Edward
was "Christine Clay's husband."

He took it gracefully, it was reported; and the marriage had lasted. It
had become a casual affair of mutual friendliness; partly owing to the
demands of time and space that her profession made on Christine, and
partly to the fact that Edward Champneis's main interest in life (after
Christine) was to invade the uncomfortable interiors of ill-governed and
inaccessible countries and then to write books about them. During the
book-writing solstice he and Christine lived more or less under one roof,
and were apparently very happy. The fact that Edward, although a fifth
son, had nevertheless a large fortune of his own, inherited from his
mother's brother (Bremer, the leather king), had done much to save the
marriage from its most obvious dangers. And Edward's delighted pride in
his wife did the rest.

Now, where in that life, as shown in the dossier, did a murder fit in?
Grant asked himself, toiling up the padded stairs. Harmer? He had been
her constant companion for the three months she had been in England.
True, they had work in common (producers still liked to insert a song
somewhere in the plot of Christine's films: the public felt cheated if
they did not hear her sing), but the world which amuses itself had no
doubt of their relations, whatever their colleagues thought. Or Tisdall?
An ill-balanced boy, picked up in a moment of waywardness or generosity,
at a time when he was reckless and without direction.

Well, he himself would find out more about Tisdall. Meanwhile he would
find out about the Harmers of her life.

As he came to the top of the second flight, he heard the gentle sound of
the lift closing, and he turned the corner to find Jammy Hopkins just
taking his thumb from the bell push.

"Well, well," said Jammy, "it's a party!"

"I hope you have an invitation."

"I hope you have a warrant. People shriek for their lawyer nowadays at
the very sight of a policeman on the mat. Look, Inspector," he said
hurriedly in a different voice, "let's not spoil each other's game. We
both thought of Marta. Let's pool results. No need for crowding."

From which Grant deduced that Hopkins was doubtful of his reception. He
followed Grant into the little hall without giving his name, and Grant,
while appreciating the ingenuity, rebelled at providing a cloak for the
press.

"This gentleman is, I believe, from the _Clarion_," he said to the
servant who had turned away to announce them.

"Oh!" she said, turning back and eyeing Hopkins without favor. "Miss
Hallard is always very tired at night, and she has some friends with her
at the moment--"

But luck saved Hopkins from any necessity for coercion. The double doors
to the living room stood open, and from the room beyond came welcome in
high excited tones.

"Mr. Hopkins! How charming! Now _you_ can tell us what all these
midday editions were talking about. I didn't know you knew Mr. Hopkins,
Marta darling!"

"Who'd have thought I'd ever be glad to hear that voice!" Jammy murmured
to Grant as he moved forward to greet the speaker, and Grant turned to
meet Marta Hallard, who had come from the room into the hall.

"Alan Grant!" she said, smiling at him. "Is this business or pleasure?"

"Both. Do me a favor. Don't tell these people who I am. Just talk as you
were talking before I came. And if you can get rid of them fairly soon,
I'd like to talk to you alone for a little."

"I'd do a lot more than that for you. Every time I tie these around my
neck," she indicated a rope of pearls, "I remember you."

This was not because Grant had given her the pearls but because he had
once recovered them for her.

"Come and meet the others. Who is your friend?"

"Not a friend. Hopkins of the _Clarion_."

"Oh. Now I understand Lydia's welcome. And they say professional people
are publicity hounds!" She led Grant in, introduced people as they came.
The first was Clement Clements, the society photographer, radiant in
purple "tails" and a soft shirt of a pale butter color. He had never
heard of an Alan Grant, and made it perfectly clear. The second was a
Captain Somebody, a nondescript and humble follower of Marta's, who clung
to his glass of whisky and soda as being the only familiar object in an
unknown terrain. The third was Judy Sellers, a sulky fair girl who played
"dumb" blondes from year's end to year's end, and whose life was one long
fight between her greed and her weight. And the fourth was that intimate
of the stars, Miss Lydia Keats, who was now talking all over Jammy
Hopkins and enjoying herself immensely.

"_Mr._ Grant?" Jammy said, nastily, as Grant was introduced.

"_Isn't_ it 'Mr.'?" Lydia asked, her ears pricked, her eyes snapping
with curiosity. "No, it isn't!"

But Hopkins met Grant's eye and lacked the courage of his desire. It
would be folly to make an enemy of a C.I.D. Inspector.

"He has one of those Greek titles, you know, but he's ashamed to own it.
Got it for rescuing a Greek royalist's shirt from a Greek laundry."

"Don't pay any attention to him, Mr. Grant. He loves to hear himself
talk. I know, you see. He has interviewed me so often. But he never
listens to a word I say. Not his fault, of course. Aries people are often
talkative. I knew the first time he crossed my threshold that he was
April born. Now you, Mr. Grant, are a Leo person. Am I right? No, you
don't need to tell me. I know. Even if I couldn't feel it--here--" she
thumped her skinny chest, "you have all the stigmata."

"I hope they're not very deadly?" Grant asked, wondering how soon he
could disengage himself from this harpy.

"Deadly! My dear Mr. Grant! Don't you know anything of astrology? To be
born in Leo is to be a king. They are the favorites of the stars. Born to
success, predestined to glory. They are the great ones of the world."

"And when does one have to be born to qualify for a Leo benefit?"

"Between the middle of July and the middle of August. I should say that
you were born in the first weeks of August." Grant hoped he didn't look
as surprised as he felt. He had certainly been born on the 4th of August.

"Lydia's uncanny," Marta broke in, handing Grant a drink. "She did poor
Christine Clay's horoscope about a year ago, you know, and foretold her
death."

"And wasn't that a break!" drawled the Judy girl, poking among the
sandwiches.

Lydia's thin face was convulsed with fury, and Marta hastened to pour
oil. "You know that's not fair, Judy! It isn't the first time Lydia has
been right. She warned Tony Pickin about an accident before he was
smashed up. If he'd listened to her and taken a little more care, he'd
have two legs today. And she told me about not accepting the Clynes'
offer, and she--"

"Don't bother to defend me, Marta darling. The credit is not mine, in any
case. I only read what is there. The stars don't lie. But one does not
expect a Pisces person to have either the vision or the faith!"

"Seconds out of the ring," murmured Jammy, and hit the rim of his glass
with his fingernail so that it made a light "ping."

But there was to be no fight. Clements provided a distraction.

"What I want to know," he drawled, "is not what Lydia found in the stars
but what the police found at Westover."

"What I want to know is who did her in?" Judy said, taking a large bite
of sandwich. "Judy!" Marta protested.

"Oh, bunk!" said Judy. "You know we're all thinking the same thing. Going
around the possibilities. Personally I plump for Jason. Has anyone any
advance on Jason?"

"Why Jason?" Clements asked.

"He's one of these smoldering types, all passion and hot baths."

"Smolder! Jason!" Marta protested. "What nonsense! He simmers. Like a
merry kettle." Grant glanced at her. So she was sticking up for Jason?
How much did she like him? "Jason's much too volatile to smolder."

"Anyhow," Clements said, "men who take hot baths don't commit murder.
It's the cold-plungers who see red. They are possessed by a desire to get
back on life for the suffering they have endured."

"I thought masochists were rarely sadists," Grant said.

"Whether or not, you can put Jason out of it," insisted Marta. "He
wouldn't hurt a fly."

"Oh, wouldn't he," Judy said, and they all paused to look at her.

"What exactly does that mean?" Clements asked.

"Never mind. My bet's on Jason."

"And what was the motive?"

"She was running out, I suspect."

Marta interrupted sharply. "You know that's nonsense, Judy. You know
quite well that there was nothing between them."

"I know nothing of the sort. He was never out of her sight."

"A bitch thinks all the world a bitch," murmured Jammy into Grant's ear.

"I suspect"--it was Lydia's turn to break into a growing squabble--"that
Mr. Hopkins knows much more about it than we do. He's been down at
Westover today for his paper."

Jammy was instantly the center of attraction. What did he think? What had
the police got? Who did they think had done it? Were all these hints in
the evening papers about her living with someone true?

Jammy enjoyed himself. He was suggestive about murderers, illuminating on
murder, discursive about human nature, and libelously rude about the
police and their methods, all with a pleased eye on the helpless Grant.

"They'll arrest the boy she was living with," he finished. "Take it from
me. Tisdall's his name. Good-looking boy. He'll create a sensation in the
dock."

"Tisdall?" they said, puzzled. "Never heard of him."

All but Judy Sellers.

Her mouth opened in dismay, stayed that way helplessly for a moment, and
then shut tightly; and a blind came down over her face. Grant watched the
display in surprised interest.

"I think it's utterly ridiculous," Marta was saying, scornfully. "Can you
imagine Christine Clay in a furtive business like that! It's not in the
part at all. I'd as soon--as soon--I'd as soon believe that Edward could
commit a murder!"

There was a little laugh at that.

"And why not?" asked Judy Sellers. "He comes back to England to find his
adored wife being unfaithful, and is overcome with passion."

"At six of a morning on a cold beach. Can't you see Edward!"

"Champneis didn't arrive in England till Thursday," offered Hopkins, "so
that lets him out."

"I do think this is the most heartless and reprehensible conversation,"
Marta said. "Let's talk of something else."

"Yes, do," said Judy. "It's a profitless subject. Especially since
_you_, of course, murdered her yourself."

"I!" Marta stood motionless in an aura of bewildered silence. Then the
moment broke.

"Of course!" Clement said. "You wanted the part she was due to play in
the new film! We'd forgotten that!"

"Well, if we're looking for motives, Clement, my sweet, you were raving
mad with fury because she refused to be photographed by you. If I
remember rightly, she said your works were like spilt gravy."

"Clement wouldn't drown her. He'd poison her," Judy said. "With a box of
chocolates, Borgia-wise. No, come to think of it, Lejeune did it, in case
he'd have to act with her. He's the virile type. His father was a
butcher, and he probably inherited a callous mentality! Or how about
Coyne? He would have killed her on the Bars of Iron set, if no one had
been looking." She apparently had forgotten about Jason.

"Will you all kindly stop this silly chatter!" Marta said, with angry
emphasis. "I know that after three days a shock wears off. But Christine
was a friend of ours, and it's disgusting to make a game of the death of
a person we all liked."

"Hooey!" said Judy, rudely. She had consumed her fifth drink. "Not one of
us cared a brass farthing for her. Most of us are tickled to death she's
out of the way."



Chapter 7


In the bright cool of Monday morning Grant drove himself down Wigmore
Street. It was still early and the street was quiet; Wigmore Street's
clients do not stay in town for weekends. The flower shops were making up
Saturday's roses into Victorian posies where their errant petals could be
gently corseted. The antique shops were moving that doubtful rug to the
other side of the window out of the too questioning gaze of the morning
sun. The little cafes were eating their own stale buns for their morning
coffee and being pained and haughty with inconsiderates who asked for
fresh scones. And the dress shops took Saturday's bargains out of the
cupboard and restored the original prices.

Grant, who was en route to see Tisdall's tailor, was a little disgruntled
at the perversity of things. If Tisdall's coat had been made by a London
tailor it would have been a simple matter to have the button identified
by them as one used by them for coats, and for Tisdall's coat in
particular. That wouldn't clinch the matter but it would bring the
clinching appreciably nearer. But Tisdall's coat had been made, of all
places, in Los Angeles. "The coat I had," he explained, "was too heavy
for that climate, so I got a new one."

Reasonable, but trying. If the coat had been made by a London firm of
standing, one could walk into their shop at any time in the next fifty
years and be told without fuss and with benevolent politeness (provided
they knew who you were) what kind of buttons had been used. But who was
to say whether a Los Angeles firm would know what buttons they put on a
coat six months ago! Besides, the button in question was wanted here. It
could not very well be sent to Los Angeles. The best one could do was to
ask them to supply a sample of the buttons used. _If_ they
remembered!

Grant's main hope was that the coat itself would turn up. An abandoned
coat which could be identified as Tisdall's, with one button missing,
would be the perfect solution. Tisdall was wearing the coat when he drove
away the car. That was Sergeant Williams's contribution to the cause of
justice and due promotion. He had found a farmer who had seen the car at
the Wedmarsh crossroads a little after six on Thursday morning. About
twenty past, he reckoned, but he hadn't a watch. Didn't need one. Tell
the time any time of day, sun or no sun. He was driving sheep, and the
car slowed down because of them. He was positive that the man driving was
young and wore a dark coat. He didn't think he'd be able to identify the
man, not on his oath, he wouldn't--but he had identified the car. It was
the only car he had seen that morning.

Williams's other contribution had not been so happy. He reported that
Jason Harmer had not stayed at the hotel he had given as his sleeping
place at Sandwich. Had not stayed at Sandwich at all, in fact.

Grant had left his Sunday kidney and bacon untouched and had gone out
without ado to interview Mr. Harmer. He found him in his pinkish flat at
Devonshire House, covered in a purple silk dressing gown, black stubble,
and sheet music.

"It's not often I'm up at this hour," he offered, pushing sheets of
scrawled paper off a chair to make room for Grant. "But I've been sort of
upset about Chris. Very good friends, we were, Inspector. Some people
found her difficult, but me, no. 'Cause why? D'you know why? 'Cause we
both felt no account and were afraid people'd find it out. Humans are
awful bullies, you know. If you look and act like a million dollars
they'll lick your boots. But you let them suspect that you don't think
much of yourself and they're on you like ants on a dying wasp. I knew
Chris was bluffing first time I set eyes on her. You can't tell me
anything about bluffing. I bluffed my way into the States and I bluffed
the publishers into printing my first song. They didn't find out about it
till the song was a wow, and then they sort of thought it might be a good
idea to forget about having one put over on them. Have a drink? Yes, it's
a bit early. I don't usually myself till lunchtime, but it's the next
best thing to sleep. And I've got two songs to finish on contract.
For--for--" his voice died away "for Coyne's new film," he went on with a
rush. "Ever tried writing a song without an idea in your head? No. No, I
suppose you haven't. Well, it's just plain torture. And who's going to
sing them anyhow? That Hallard dame can't sing. Did you hear Chris sing
'Sing to Me Sometimes'?"

Grant had.

"Now that's what I call putting over a song. I've written better songs, I
admit. But she made it sound like the best song that was ever written.
What's the good of writing songs anyway, for that up-stage Hallard bird
to make a mess of?"

He was moving about the room, picking up a pile of papers here only to
set it down in an equally inappropriate place there. Grant watched him
with interest. This was Marta's "merry kettle" and Judy's "smoldering
type." To Grant he seemed neither. Just one of those rather ordinary
specimens of humanity from some poor corner of Europe who believes he's
being continually exploited and persecuted by his fellow men,
self-pitying, ill-educated, emotional, and ruthless. Not good-looking,
but attractive to women, no doubt. Grant remembered that two such widely
differing types as Marta Hallard and Judy Sellers had found him
remarkable; each reading her own meaning into his personality. He
apparently had the ability to be all things to all men. He had been
friendly to the disliked Marta, that was certain: Marta did not hotly
defend indifferent worshippers at her shrine. He spent his life, that is
to say, "putting on an act." He had admitted so much himself a moment
ago. Was he putting on an act now? For Grant?

"I'm sorry to disturb you so early, but it was a matter of business. You
know that we are investigating Miss Clay's death. And in the course of
investigation it is necessary to check the movements of everyone who knew
her, irrespective of persons or probabilities. Now, you told the sergeant
of the County police force, when you talked to him on Thursday, that you
had spent the night in a hotel at Sandwich. When this was checked in the
ordinary course it was found that you hadn't stayed there."

Harmer fumbled among the music, without looking up.

"Where _did_ you stay, Mr. Harmer?"

Harmer looked up with a small laugh. "You know," he said, "it's pretty
funny at that! Charming gentleman calls in a perfectly friendly way about
breakfast time, apologizing for disturbing you and hopes he isn't going
to be a trouble to you but he's an inspector of police and would you be
so very kind as to give some information because last time your
information wasn't as accurate as it might have been. It's lovely, that's
what it is. And you get results with it, too. Perhaps they just break
down and sob, on account of all the friendliness. Pie like mother made.
What I'd like to know is if that method goes in Pimlico or if you keep it
for Park Lane."

"What I would like to know is where you stayed last Wednesday night, Mr.
Harmer."

"The Mr., too, I guess that's Park Lane as well. In fact, if you'd been
talking to the Jason of ten years back, you'd have had me to the station
and scared hell out of me just like the cops of any other country.
They're all the same; dough worshippers."

"I haven't your experience of the world's police forces, I'm afraid, Mr.
Harmer."

Harmer grinned. "Stung you! A limey's got to be plenty stung before he's
rude-polite like that. Don't get me wrong, though, Inspector. There
aren't any police brands on me. As for last Wednesday night, I spent it
in my car."

"You mean you didn't go to bed at all?"

"That's what I mean."

"And where was the car?"

"In a lane with hedges as high as houses each side, parked on the grass
verge. An awful lot of space goes to waste in England in these verges.
The ones in that lane were about forty feet wide."

"And you say you slept in the car? Have you someone who can bear witness
to that?"

"No. It wasn't that kind of park. I was just sleepy and lost and couldn't
be bothered going any further."

"Lost! In the east of Kent!"

"Yes, anywhere in Kent, if it comes to that. Have you ever tried to find
a village in England after dark? Night in the desert is nothing to it.
You see a sign at last that says Whatsit two and a half miles and you
think: Good old Whatsit! Nearly there! Hurrah for England and signposts!
And then half a mile on you come to a place where three ways fork, and
there's a nice tidy signpost on the little bit of green in the middle and
every blame one of that signpost's arms has got at least three names on
it, but do you think one of them mentions Whatsit? Oh, no! That would
make it far too easy! So you read 'em all several times and hope
someone'll come past before you have to decide, but no one comes. Last
person passed there a week last Tuesday. No houses; nothing but fields,
and an advertisement for a circus that was there the previous April. So
you take one of the three roads, and after passing two more signposts
that don't take any notice of Whatsit, you come to one that says Whatsit,
six and three-quarters. So you start off all over again, four miles to
the bad, as it were, and it happens all over again. And again! And by the
time Whatsit has done that on you half a dozen times, you don't care what
happens as long as you can stop driving around corners and go to sleep.
So I just stopped where I was and went to sleep. It was too late to drop
in on Chris by that time, anyway."

"But not too late to get a bed at an inn."

"Not if you know where an inn is. 'Sides, judging by some of the inns
I've seen here, I'd just as soon sleep in the car."

"You grow a heavy beard, I notice." Grant nodded at Harmer's unshaven
chin.

"Yes. Have to shave twice a day, sometimes. If I'm going to be out late.
Why?"

"You were shaved when you arrived at Miss Clay's cottage. How was that?"

"Carry my shaving things in the car. Have to, when you have a beard like
mine."

"So you had no breakfast that morning?"

"No, I was planning to get breakfast from Chris. I don't eat breakfast
anyway. Just coffee, or orange juice. Orange juice in England. My God,
your coffee--what do you think they do to it? The women, I mean. It's--"

"Leaving the coffee aside for a moment, shall we come to the main point?
Why did you tell the sergeant on duty that you had slept at Sandwich?"

The man's face changed subtly. Until then he had been answering at ease,
automatically; the curves of his broad, normally good-natured face slack
and amiable. Now the slackness went; the face grew wary, and--was
it?--antagonistic.

"Because I felt there was something wrong, and I didn't want to be mixed
up in it."

"That is very extraordinary, surely? I mean, that you should be conscious
of evil before anyone knew that it existed."

"That's not so funny. They told me Chris was drowned. I knew Chris could
swim like an eel. I knew that I had been out all night. And the sergeant
was looking at me with a Who-are-you-and-what-are-you-doing-here
expression."

"But the sergeant had no idea that the drowning was more than an
accident. He had no reason to look at you in that way."

Then he decided to drop the subject of Harmer's lie to the sergeant.

"How did you know, by the way, where to find Miss Clay? I understood that
she kept her retreat a secret."

"Yes, she'd run away. Gave us all the runaround, in fact, including me.
She was tired and not very pleased at the way her last picture had turned
out. On the floor, I mean; it isn't released yet. Coyne didn't know how
to take her. A bit in awe of her, and afraid at the same time she'd put
one over on him. You know. If he'd called her 'kid' and 'chocolate' the
way old Joe Myers used to back in the States, she'd have laughed and
worked like a black for him. But Coyne's full of his own dignity, the
'big director' stuff, and so they didn't get on too good. So she was fed
up, and tired, and everyone wanted her to go to different places for
holidays, and it seemed she couldn't make up her mind, and then one day
we woke up and she wasn't there. Bundle--that's her housekeeper--said she
didn't know where she was, but no letters were to be forwarded and she'd
turn up again in a month, so no one was to worry. Well, for about a
fortnight no one heard of her, and then last Tuesday I met Marta Hallard
at a sherry party at Libby Seemon's--she's going into that new play of
his--and she said that on Saturday she had run into Chris buying
chocolates at a place in Baker Street--Chris never could resist
chocolates between pictures!--and she tried to worm out of Chris where
she was hiding out. But Chris wasn't giving anything away. At least she
thought she wasn't. She said: 'Perhaps I'm never coming back. You know
that old Roman who grew vegetables with his own hands and was so stuck on
the result that he made the arrangement permanent. Well, yesterday I
helped pull the first cherries for Covent Garden market and, believe me,
getting the Academy Award for a picture is nothing to it!'"

Harmer laughed under his breath. "I can hear her," he said,
affectionately. "Well, I went straight from Seemon's to Covent Garden and
found out where those cherries came from. An orchard at a place called
Bird's Green. And on Wednesday morning bright and early Jason sets off
for Bird's Green. That took a bit of finding, but I got there about three
o'clock. Then I had to find the orchard and the people who were working
in it on Friday. I expected to find Chris straightaway, but it seemed
that they didn't know her. They said that when they were picking, early
on Friday morning, a lady passing in a car had stopped to watch and then
asked if she might help. The old boy who owned the place said they didn't
need paid help, but if she liked to amuse herself good and well. 'She
were a good picker,' he said, 'wouldn't mind paying her another time.'
Then his grandson said he'd seen the lady--or thought he'd seen her--one
day lately in the post office at Liddlestone--about six miles away. So I
found Liddlestone, but the post office regular staff was 'home to her
tea' and I had to wait till she came back. She said that the lady who
sent 'all the telegrams'--seems they never saw so many telegrams in their
lives as Chrissent--was living over at Medley. So I set out in the
half-dark to find Medley, and ended by sleeping in a lane. And sleeping
out or no sleeping out, that was a better piece of detective work than
you're doing this morning, Inspector Grant!"

Grant grinned good-humoredly. "Yes? Well, I've nearly done." He got up to
go. "I suppose you had a coat with you in the car?"

"Sure."

"What was it made of?"

"Brown tweed. Why?"

"Have you got it here?"

"Sure." He turned to a wardrobe, built in the passage where the sitting
room led into the bedroom, and pulled the sliding door open. "Have a look
at my whole wardrobe. You're cleverer than I am if you can find the
button."

"What button?" Grant asked, more quickly than he intended.

"It's always a button, isn't it?" Harmer said, the small pansy-brown
eyes, alert under their lazy lids, smiling confidently into Grant's.

Grant found nothing of interest in the wardrobe. He had taken his leave
not knowing how much to believe of Jason Harmer's story, but very sure
that he had "nothing on him." The hopes of the police, so to speak, lay
in Tisdall.

Now, as he pulled up by the curb in the cool bright morning, he
remembered Jason's wardrobe, and smiled in his mind. Jason did not get
his clothes from Stacey and Brackett. As he considered the dark, small,
and shabby interior which was revealed to him as he opened the door, he
could almost hear Jason laugh. The English! They'd had a business for a
hundred and fifty years and this was all they could make of it. The
original counters probably. Certainly the original lighting. But Grant's
heart warmed. This was the England he knew and loved. Fashions might
change, dynasties might fall, horses' shoes in the quiet street change to
the crying of a thousand taxi hooters, but Stacey and Brackett continued
to make clothes with leisured efficiency for leisured and efficient
gentlemen.

There was now neither a Stacey nor a Bracken, but Mr. Trimley--Mr.
Stephen Trimley (as opposed to Mr. Robert and Mr. Thomas!)--saw Inspector
Grant and was entirely at Inspector Grant's service. Yes, they had made
clothes for Mr. Robert Tisdall, Yes, the clothes had included a dark coat
for wear with evening things. No, that certainly was not a button from
the coat in question. That was not a button they had ever put on any
coat. It was not a class of button they were in the habit of using. If
the Inspector would forgive Mr. Trimley (Mr. Stephen Trimley), the button
in question was in his opinion of a very inferior make, and would not be
used by any tailor of any standing. He would not be surprised, indeed, to
find that the button was of foreign origin.

"American, perhaps?" suggested Grant.

Perhaps. Although to Mr. Trimley's eye it suggested the Continent. No, he
certainly had no reason for such a surmise. Entirely instinctive.
Probably wrong. And he hoped the Inspector would not put any weight on
his opinion. He also hoped that there was no question of Mr. Tisdall
being in trouble. A very charming young man, indeed. The Grammar
schools--especially the older Grammar schools of the country--turned out
a very fine type of boy. Better often, didn't the Inspector think so?
than came from the minor public schools. There was a yeoman quality of
permanence about Grammar-school families--generation after generation
going to the same school--that was not matched, outside the great public
schools.

There being, in Grant's opinion, no yeoman quality of permanence whatever
about young Tisdall, he forbore to argue, contenting himself by assuring
Mr. Trimley that as far as he knew Mr. Tisdall was in no trouble up to
date.

Mr. Trimley was glad to hear that. He was getting old, and his faith in
the young generation which was growing up was too often sadly shaken.
Perhaps every generation thought that the rising one lacked due standards
of behavior and spirit, but it did seem to him this one...Ah, well, he
was growing old, and the tragedy of young lives weighed more heavily on
him than it used to. This Monday morning was blackened for him, yes,
entirely blackened, by the thought that all the brightness that was
Christine Clay was at this hour being transformed into ashes. It would be
many years, perhaps generations (Mr. Trimley's mind worked in
generations: the result of having a hundred-and-fifty-year-old business)
before her like would be seen again. She had quality, didn't the
Inspector think so? Amazing quality. It was said that she had a very
humble origin, but there must be breeding somewhere. Something like
Christine Clay did not just happen in space, as it were. Nature must plan
for it. He was not what is known, he believed, as a film fan, but there
was no picture of Miss Clay's which he had not seen since his niece had
taken him to view her first essay in a dramatic role. He had on that
occasion entirely forgotten that he was in a cinema. He was dazed with
delight. Surely if this new medium could produce material of this
strength and richness one need not continue to regret Bernhardt and Duse.

Grant went out into the street, marveling at the all-pervading genius of
Christine Clay. The mind of all the world it seemed was in that building
at Golders Green. A strange end for the little lace-hand from Nottingham.
Strange, too, for the world's idol. "And they put him in an oven just as
if he were--" Oh, no, he mustn't think of that. Hateful. Why should it be
hateful? He didn't know. The suburbanity of it, he supposed. Sensible,
and all that. And probably much less harrowing for everyone. But someone
whose brilliance had flamed across the human firmament as Clay's had
should have a hundred-foot pyre. Something spectacular. A Viking's
funeral. Not ovens n the suburb. Oh, my God, he was growing morbid,
if not sentimental. He pressed the starter, and swung into the traffic.

He had yesterday changed his mind about going to the Clay funeral. The
Tisdall evidence progressing normally, he had seen no need to give
himself a harrowing hour which he could avoid. But only now did he
realize how very glad he was to have escaped it, and (being Grant) began
instantly to wonder whether after all he should have gone. Whether his
subconscious desire to get out of it had influenced his decision. He
decided that it had not. There was no need for him now to study the
psychology of unknown friends of Christine's. He had had a good
cross-section of them at Marta's, and had learned very little, after all.
The party had stubbornly refused to break up. Jammy had begun to talk
again, hoping that they would dance to his piping. But Marta vetoed any
more talk of Christine, and although they had come back to her several
times, not even Jammy's genius for evocation could keep them on the
subject. Lydia, who could never stay off her own subject for long, had
read their palms, chiromancy being a sideline of hers when horoscopes
were not available (she had given a shrewd enough reading of Grant's
character and had warned him about making a mistaken decision in the
immediate future: "a nice safe thing to say to anyone," he had reflected)
and it was not until one o'clock that the hostess had managed to shepherd
them all to the door. Grant had lingered, not, curiously enough, because
he had questions to ask her (the conversation had provided answers for
him), but because she was anxious to question him. Was Scotland Yard
called in to investigate Christine's death? What was wrong? What had they
found? What did they suspect?

Grant had said that yes, they had been called in (so much would by now be
common property) but that so far there was only suspicion. She had wept a
little, becomingly, with not too disastrous effect on the mascara, had
treated him to a short appreciation of Christine as artist and woman. "A
grand person. It must have taken tremendous character to overcome her
initial disadvantages." She enumerated the disadvantages.

And Grant had gone out into the warm night with a sigh for human
nature--and a shrug for the sigh.

But there were bright spots even in human nature. Grant edged in toward
the curb, and came to a halt, his brown face glad and welcoming.

"Good morning!" he called to the little gray figure.

"Oh, good morning, Mr. Grant," Erica said, crossing the pavement to him.
She gave him a brief little smile, but seemed pleased to see him; so much
was apparent through her schoolboy matter-of-factness. She was dressed in
her "town" clothes, he noticed; but they did not seem to be an
improvement on her country ones. They were neat, certainly, but they had
an unused look; and the gray suit she was wearing, although undoubtedly
"good," was dowdy. Her hat had been got to match, and matched also in
dowdiness.

"I didn't know you ever stayed in town."

"I don't. I came up to get a bridge."

"A _bridge_?"

"But it seems you can't get them by the yard. They have to be made to
measure. So I've got to come up another day. All he did today was put a
lot of clay in my mouth."

"Oh, the dentist. I see. I thought only old ladies had bridges."

"Well, you see, the silly thing he put in the last time doesn't hold. I'm
always picking it out of bits of toffee. I lost a lot of side teeth when
Flight fell with me at a post-and-rails last winter. I had a face like a
turnip. So it had to be a bridge, he says."

"A misnomer, Flight."

"In one way. Not in another. He was nearly at the other end of Kent
before they caught him."

"Where are you going now? Can I give you a lift anywhere?"

"I suppose you wouldn't like to show me Scotland Yard?"

"I would. Very much. But in twenty minutes I have an appointment with a
lawyer in the Temple."

"Oh. In that case perhaps you would drop me in Cockspur Street. I have an
errand to do for Nannie."

Yes, he thought, as she inserted herself beside him, it would be a
Nannie. No mother had chosen those clothes. They were ordered from the
tailor just as her school clothes had been. "One gray flannel suit and
hat to match." In spite of her independence and her sureness of spirit,
there was something forlorn about her, he felt.

"This is nice," she said. "They're not very high, but I hate walking in
them."

"What are?"

"My shoes." She held up a foot and exhibited her very modest Cuban heel.
"Nannie thinks they are the right thing to wear in town, but I feel
dreadful in them. Teetery."

"I expect one gets used to them in time. One must conform to the taboos
of the tribe."

"Why must one?"

"Because an unquiet life is a greater misery than wearing the badge of
conformity."

"Oh, well. I don't come to town often. I suppose you haven't time to have
an ice with me?"

"I'm afraid not. Let's postpone it until I'm back in Westover, shall we?"

"Of course, you'll be back. I had forgotten that. I saw your victim
yesterday," she added conversationally.

"My victim?"

"Yes, the man who fainted."

"You saw him! Where?"

"Father took me over to luncheon at the Marine."

"But I thought your father hated the Marine?"

"He does. He said he'd never seen such a set of poisonous bloaters in his
life. I think 'bloaters' is a little strong. They weren't so very bad.
And the melon was very good."

"Did your father tell you that Tisdall was waiting there?"

"No, the sergeant did. He doesn't look very professional. Mr. Tisdall,
not the sergeant. Too friendly and interested. No professional waiter
looks interested. Not really. And he forgets the spoons for the ices. But
I expect you upset him pretty thoroughly the day before."

"_I_ upset him!" Grant took a deep breath and expressed his hope
that Erica was not going to let the plight of a good-looking young man
play havoc with her heart.

"Oh, no. Nothing like that. His nose is too long. Besides, I'm in love
with Togare."

"Who is Togare?"

"The lion tamer, of course." She turned to look at him doubtfully. "Do
you _really_ mean that you haven't heard of Togare?"

Grant was afraid that that was so.

"Don't you go to Olympia at Christmas? But you should! I'll get Mr. Mills
to send you seats."

"Thank you. And how long have you been in love with this Togare?"

"Four years. I'm very faithful."

Grant admitted that she must be.

"Drop me at the Orient office, will you?" she said, in the same tone as
she had announced her faithfulness. And Grant set her down by the
yellow-funneled liner.

"Going cruising?" he asked.

"Oh, no. I go round the offices collecting booklets for Nannie. She loves
them. She's never been out of England because she's terrified of the sea,
but she likes to sit in safety and imagine. I got her some marvelous
mountain ones from the Austrian place in Regent Street in the spring. And
she's very knowledgeable about the German spas. Good-bye. Thank you for
the lift. How shall I know when you come to Westover? For the ice, I
mean."

"I shall send you word through your father. Will that do?"

"Yes. Good-bye." And she disappeared into the office.

And Grant went on his way to meet Christine Clay's lawyer and Christine
Clay's husband, feeling better.



Chapter 8


It was obvious at once why no one called Edward Champneis anything but
Edward. He was a very tall, very dignified, very good-looking, and very
orthodox person, with a manner of grave, if kindly, interest, and a rare
but charming smile. Alongside the fretful movements of the fussy Mr.
Erskine, his composure was like that of a liner suffering the
administrations of a tug.

Grant had not met him before. Edward Champneis had arrived in London on
Thursday afternoon, after nearly three months' absence, only to be
greeted by the news of his wife's death. He had gone down immediately to
Westover and identified the body, and on Friday he had interviewed the
worried County Constabulary, puzzling over the button, and helped them to
make up their minds that it was a case for the Yard. The thousand things
waiting in town to be done as a result of his wife's death and his own
long absence had sent him back to London just as Grant left it.

He looked very tired, now, but showed no emotion. Grant wondered under
what circumstances this orthodox product of five hundred years of
privilege and obligation would show emotion. And then, suddenly, as he
drew the chair under him, it occurred to him that Edward Champneis was
anything but orthodox. Had he conformed to the tribe, as his looks
conformed, he would have married a second cousin, gone into the Service,
looked after an estate, and read the Morning Post. But he had done none
of those things. He had married an artist picked up at the other side of
the world, he explored for fun, and he wrote books. There was something
almost eerie in the thought that an exterior could be so utterly
misleading.

"Lord Edward has, of course, seen the will," Erskine was saying. "He was,
in fact, aware of its most important provisions some time ago, Lady
Edward having acquainted him with her desires at the time the testament
was made. There is, however, one surprise. But perhaps you would like to
read the document for yourself."

He turned the impressive-looking sheet round on the table so that it
faced Grant.

"Lady Edward had made two previous wills, both in the United States, but
they were destroyed, on her instructions, by her American lawyers. She
was anxious that her estate should be administered from England, for the
stability of which she had a great admiration."

Christine had left nothing to her husband. "I leave no money to my
husband, Edward Champneis, because he has always had, and always will
have, more than he can spend, and because he has never greatly cared for
money." Whatever he cared to keep of her personal possessions were to be
his, however, except where legacies specifically provided otherwise.
There were various bequests of money, in bulk or in annuities, to friends
and dependents. To Bundle, her housekeeper and late dresser. To her Negro
chauffeur. To Joe Myers, who had directed her greatest successes. To a
bellhop in Chicago "to buy that gas station with." To nearly thirty
people in all, in all parts of the globe and in all spheres of existence.
But there was no mention of Jason Harmer.

Grant glanced at the date. Eighteen months ago. She had at that time
probably not yet met Harmer.

The legacies, however generous, left the great bulk of her very large
fortune untouched. And that fortune was left, surprisingly, not to any
individual, but "for the preservation of the beauty of England."

There was to be a trust, in which would be embodied the power to buy any
beautiful building or space threatened by extinction and to provide for
its upkeep.

That was Grant's third surprise. The fourth came at the end of the list
of legacies. The last legacy of all read, "To my brother Herbert, a
shilling for candles."

"A brother?" Grant said, and looked up inquiring.

"Lord Edward was unaware that Lady Edward had a brother until the will
was read. Lady Edward's parents died many years ago, and there had been
no mention of any surviving family except for herself."

"A shilling for candles. Does it convey anything to you, sir?" He turned
to Champneis, who shook his head.

"A family feud, I expect. Perhaps something that happened when they were
children. These are often the things one is more unforgiving about." He
glanced toward the lawyer. "The thing I remember when I meet Alicia is
always that she smashed my birds'-egg collection."

"But not _necessarily_ a childhood quarrel," Grant said. "She must
have known him much later."

"Bundle would be the person to ask. She dressed my wife from her early
days in New York. But is it important? After all, the fellow was being
dismissed with a shilling."

"It's important because it is the first sign of real enmity I have
discovered among Miss Clay's relationships. One never knows what it might
lead us to."

"The Inspector may not think it so important when he has seen this,"
Erskine said. "This, which I will give you to read, is the surprise I
spoke of."

So the surprise had not been one of those in the will.

Grant took the paper from the lawyer's dry, slightly trembling hand. It
was a sheet of the shiny, thick, cream-colored notepaper to be obtained
in village shops all over England, and on it was a letter from Christine
Clay to her lawyer. The letter was headed "Briars, Medley, Kent," and
contained instructions for a codicil to her will. She left her ranch in
California, with all stock and implements, together with the sum of five
thousand pounds, to one Robert Stannaway, late of Yeoman's Row, London.

"That," said the lawyer, "was written on Wednesday, as you see. And on
Thursday morning--" He broke off, expressively.

"Is it legal?" Grant asked.

"I should not like to contest it. It is entirely handwritten and properly
signed with her full name. The signature is witnessed by Margaret Pitts.
The provision is perfectly clear, and the style eminently sane."

"No chance of a forgery?"

"Not the slightest. I know Lady Edward's hand very well--you will
observe that it is peculiar and not easy to reproduce--and moreover I am
very well acquainted with her style, which would be still more difficult
to imitate."

"Well!" Grant read the letter again, hardly believing in its existence.
"That alters everything. I must get back to Scotland Yard. This will
probably mean an arrest before night." He stood up.

"I'll come with you," Champneis said.

"Very good, sir," Grant agreed automatically. "If I may, I'll telephone
first to make sure that the Superintendent will be there."

And as he picked up the receiver, the looker-on in him said: Harmer was
right. We do treat people variously. If the husband had been an insurance
agent in Brixton, we wouldn't take it for granted that he could horn in
on a Yard conference!

"Is Superintendent Barker in the Yard, do you know?...Oh...At half past?
That's in about twenty minutes. Well, tell him that Inspector Grant has
important information and wants a conference straightaway. Yes, the
Commissioner, too, if he's there." He hung up.

"Thank you for helping us so greatly," he said, taking farewell of
Erskine. "And by the way, if you unearth the brother, I should be glad to
know."

And he and Champneis went down the dark, narrow stairs and out into the
hot sunshine.

"Do you think," Champneis asked, pausing with one hand on the door of
Grant's car, "there would be time for a drink, I feel the need of some
stiffening. It's been a--a trying morning."

"Yes, certainly. It won't take us longer than ten minutes along the
Embankment. Where would you like to go?"

"Well, my club is in Carlton House Terrace, but I don't want to meet
people I know. The Savoy isn't much better--"

"There's a nice little pub up here," Grant said, and swung the car
around. "Very quiet at this time. Cool, too."

As they turned the corner Grant caught sight of the news-sellers'
posters. CLAY FUNERAL: UNPRECEDENTED SCENES. TEN WOMEN FAINT. LONDON'S
FAREWELL TO CLAY. And (the _Sentinel_) CLAY'S LAST AUDIENCE.

Grant's foot came down on the accelerator.

"It was unbelievably ghastly," said the man beside him, quietly.

"Yes, I can imagine."

"Those women. I think the end of our greatness as a race must be very
near. We came through the war well, but perhaps the effort was too great.
It left us--epileptic. Great shocks do, sometimes." He was silent for a
moment, evidently seeing it all again in his mind's eye. "I've seen
machine guns turned on troops in the open--in China--and rebelled against
the slaughter. But I would have seen that subhuman mass of hysteria
riddled this morning with more joy than I can describe to you. Not
because it was--Chris, but because they made me ashamed of being human,
of belonging to the same species."

"I had hoped that at that early hour there would be very little
demonstration. I know the police were counting on that."

"We counted on it too. That is why we chose that hour. Now that I've seen
with my own eyes, I know that nothing could have prevented it. The people
are insane."

He paused, and gave an unamused laugh. "She never did like people much.
It was because she found people--disappointing that she left her money as
she did. Her fans this morning have vindicated her judgment."

The bar was all that Grant had promised, cool, quiet, and undemanding. No
one took any notice of Champneis. Of the six men present three nodded to
Grant and three looked wary. Champneis, observant even in his pain, said:
"Where do you go when you want to be unrecognized?" and Grant smiled.
"I've not found a place yet," he admitted. "I landed in Labrador from a
friend's yacht once, and the man in the village store said, 'You wear
your mustache shorter now, Sergeant.' After that I gave up expecting."

They talked of Labrador for a little, and then of Galeria, where
Champneis had spent the last few months.

"I used to think Asia primitive, and some of the Indian tribes of South
America, but the east of Europe has them all beaten. Except for the
towns, Galeria is still in the primeval dark."

"I see they've mislaid their spectacular patriot," Grant said.

"Rimnik? Yes. He'll turn up again when his party is ready. That's the way
they run the benighted country."

"How many parties are there?"

"About ten, I think, not counting subdivisions. There are at least twenty
races in that boiling pot of a country, all of them clamoring for
self-government, and all of them medieval in their outlook. It's a
fascinating place. You should go there someday. The capital is their
shop window--as nearly a replica of every other capital as they can make
it. Opera, trams, electric light, imposing railway station, cinemas--but
twenty miles into the country you'll find bride barter. Girls set in rows
with their dowry at their feet, waiting to go to the highest bidder. I've
seen an old country woman led raving mad out of a lift in one of the town
buildings. She thought she was the victim of witchcraft. They had to take
her to the asylum. Graft in the town and superstition in the country--and
yet a place of infinite promise."

Grant let him talk, glad that for even a few minutes he might be able to
forget the horror of the morning. His own thoughts were not in Galeria
but in Westover. So he had done it, that good-looking emotionalist! He
had screwed a ranch and five thousand out of his hostess and then made
sure that he would not have to wait for it. Grant's own inclination to
like the boy died an instant death. From now on Robert Tisdall would be
no more to him than the bluebottle he swatted on the windowpane, a
nuisance to be exterminated as quickly and with as little fuss as
possible. If, away in the depths, he was sorry that the pleasant person
who was the surface Tisdall did not exist, his main and overwhelming
emotion was relief that the business was going to be cleared up so
easily. There was little doubt of the result of the conference. They had
evidence enough. And they would have more before it came to a trial.

Barker, his Superintendent, agreed with him, and so did the Commissioner.
It was a clear enough case. The man is broke, homeless, and at his wit's
end. He is picked up by a rich woman at the psychological moment. Four
days later a will is made in his favor. On the following morning very
early, the woman goes to swim. He follows her ten minutes later. When her
body is found he has disappeared. He reappears with an unbelievable tale
about stealing the car and bringing it back. A black button is found
twisted in the dead woman's hair. The man's dark coat is missing. He says
it was stolen two days before. But a man identifies him as wearing it
that morning.

Yes, it was a good enough case. The opportunity, the motive, the clue.

The only person to protest against the issue of the warrant was,
strangely enough, Edward Champneis.

"It's too pat, don't you think?" he said. "I mean, would any man in his
senses commit the murder the very next morning?"

"You forget, Lord Edward," Barker said, "that but for the merest chance
there would be no question of murder at all."

"And moreover, time was precious to him," Grant pointed out. "There were
only a few days left. The tenancy of the cottage expired at the end of
the month. He knew that. She might not go bathing again. The weather
might break, or she might be seized with a desire to go inland. More
especially she might not go swimming in the early morning again. It was
an ideal setting: a lonely beach in the very early morning, with the mist
just rising. Too perfect a chance to let go to waste."

Yes, it was a good case. Edward Champneis went back to the house in
Regent's Park which he had inherited with the Bremer fortune, and which
between his peregrinations he called home. And Grant went down to
Westover with a warrant in his pocket.



Chapter 9


If there was one thing Toselli hated more than another it was the police.
All his life he had been no poor hater, Toselli. As _commis_ he had
hated the maitre maitre d'hôtel, as maitre d'hôtel he had hated the
management, as the management he hated many things: the chef, wet
weather, his wife, the head porter's mustache, clients who demanded to
see him at breakfast time--oh, many things! But more than all he hated
the police. They were bad for business and bad for the digestion. It
stopped his digestive juices flowing just to see one of them walk in
through the glass doors. It was bad enough to remember his annual bill
for New Year "presents" to the local officers--thirty bottles of Scotch,
thirty of gin, two dozen champagne, and six of liqueur brandy it had come
to last year--but to suffer the invasion of officers not so far "looked
after," and therefore callous to the brittle delicacy of hotel
well-being--well, it was more than Toselli's abundant flesh and
high-pressured blood could stand.

That is why he smiled so sweetly upon Grant--all his life Toselli's smile
had been stretched across his rage, like a tight-rope spanning a
chasm--and gave him one of the second-best cigars. Inspector Grant wanted
to interview the new waiter, did he? But certainly! This was the waiter's
hour off--between lunch and afternoon tea--but he should be sent for
immediately.

"Stop!" said Grant. "You say the man is off duty? Do you know where he
will be?"

"Very probably in his room. Waiters like to take the weight off their
feet for a little, you understand."

"I'd like to see him there."

"But certainly. Tony!" Toselli called to a page passing the office door.
"Take this gentleman up to the room of the new waiter."

"Thank you," Grant said. "You'll be here when I come down? I should like
to talk to you."

"I shall be here." Toselli's tone expressed dramatic resignation. His
smile deepened as he flung out his hands. "Last week it was a stabbing
affair in the kitchen, this week it is--what? theft? affiliation?"

"I'll tell you all about it presently, Mr. Toselli."

"I shall be here." His smile became ferocious "But not for long, no! I am
going to buy one of those businesses where one puts sixpence into a slot
and the meal comes out. Yes. There, but there, would be happiness."

"Even there, there are bent coins," Grant said as he followed Tony to the
lift.

"Sanger, you come up with me," he said as they passed through the busy
hall. "You can wait for us here, Williams. We'll bring him out this way.
Much less fuss than through the servants' side. No one will notice
anything. Car waiting?"

"Yes, sir."

Grant and Sanger went up in the lift. In those few seconds of sudden
quiet and suspended action, Grant found time to wonder why he had not
shown his warrant and told Toselli what he had come for. That would have
been his normal course. Why was he so anxious to have the bird in his
hand? Was it just the canniness of his Scots ancestry coming out, or was
there a presentiment that--that what? He didn't know. He knew only that
he was here, he could not wait. Explanations could follow. He must have
the man in his hands.

The soft sound of the lift in the silence was like the sound of the
curtain going up.

At the very top of the colossal building which was the Westover Marine
Hotel, were the quarters of those waiters who were resident: small single
rooms set in a row close together under the roof. As the page put out a
bony fist to knock on a door, Grant restrained him. "All right, thank
you," he said, and page and liftman disappeared into the crowded and
luxurious depths, leaving the two policemen on the deserted
coconut-matted landing. It was very quiet up there.

Grant knocked.

Tisdall's indifferent voice bade him come in.

The room was so small that Grant's involuntary thought was that the cell
that waited would be no great change. A bed on one side, a window on the
other, and in the far wall two cupboard doors. On the bed lay Tisdall in
his shirt sleeves, his shoes on the floor. A book lay open, face down, on
the coverlet.

He had expected to see a colleague. That was obvious. At the sight of
Grant his eyes widened, and as they traveled to Sanger, standing behind
Grant in the doorway, realization flooded them.

Before Grant could speak, he said, "You can't mean it!"

"Yes, I'm afraid we do," Grant said. He said his regulation piece of
announcement and warning, Tisdall sitting with feet dangling on the bed's
edge, not apparently listening.

When he had finished Tisdall said slowly: "I expect this is what death is
like when you meet it. Sort of wildly unfair but inevitable."

"How were you so sure what we had come for?"

"It doesn't need two of you to ask about my health." His voice rose a
little. "What I want to know is why you're doing it? What have you
against me? You can't have proved that button was mine because it wasn't.
Why don't you tell me what you have found so that I can explain away
whatever it was? If you have new evidence you can surely ask me for an
explanation. I have a right to know, haven't I? Whether I can explain or
not?"

"There isn't anything you could explain away, Tisdall. You'd better get
ready to come with us."

Tisdall got to his feet, his mind still entangled in the unbelievableness
of what was happening to him. "I can't go in these things," he said,
looking down at his waiter's dress. "Can I change?"

"Yes, you can change, and take some things with you." Grant's hands ran
over his pockets in expert questioning, and came away empty. "But you'll
have to do it with us here. Don't be too long about it, will you? You can
wait there, Sanger," he added, and swung the door to, leaving Sanger
outside. He himself moved over to lean against the windowsill. It was a
long way to the ground, and Tisdall, in Grant's opinion, was the suicide
type. Not enough guts to brazen a thing out. Not enough vanity, perhaps
to like the limelight at any price. Certainly the "everyone sorry when
I'm dead" type.

Grant watched him now with minute attention. To an outsider he was a
casual visitor, propped casually in the window while he indulged in
casual conversation. In reality he was ready for instant emergency.

But there was no excitement. Tisdall pulled his suitcase from under the
bed, and began with automatic method to change into his tweed and
flannels. Grant felt that if the man carried poison, it would be
somewhere in his working garments, and unconsciously relaxed a little as
the waiter's dress was cast aside. There was going to be no trouble. The
man was coming quietly.

"I needn't have worried as to how I was going to live," Tisdall was
saying. "There seems to be a moral somewhere in this very immoral
proceeding. What do I do about a lawyer, by the way, when I have no money
and no friends?"

"One will be provided."

"Like a table napkin. I see."

He opened the cupboard nearest to Grant, and began to take things from
their hangers and fold them into his case.

"At least you can tell me what my motive was?" he said presently, as if a
new thought had struck him. "You can mistake buttons; you can even wish a
button on to a coat that never had it; but you can't pin a motive where
there couldn't be one!"

"So you had no motive?"

"Certainly not. Quite the opposite. What happened last Thursday morning
was the worst thing that has ever happened to me in my life. I should
have thought that was obvious even to an outsider."

"And of course you had not the faintest idea that Miss Clay had made a
codicil to her will leaving you a ranch and a large sum of money."

Tisdall had been readjusting the folds of a garment. He stopped now, his
hands still holding the cloth, but motionless, and stared at Grant.

"Chris did that!" he said. "No. No, I didn't know. How wonderful of her!"

And for a moment doubt stirred in Grant. That had been beautifully done.
Timing, expression, action. No professional actor could have done it
better. But the doubt passed. He recrossed his legs, by way of shaking
himself, recalled the charm and innocence of murderers he had known
(Andrew Hamey, who specialized in marrying women and drowning them and
who looked like a choir soloist, and others of even greater charm and
iniquity) and then composed his mind to the peace of a detective who has
got his man.

"So you've raked up the perfect motive. Poor Chris! She thought she was
doing me such a good turn. Have I any defense at all, do you know?"

"That is not for me to say."

"I have a great respect for you, Inspector Grant. I think it probable
that I shall be unavailingly protesting my innocence on the scaffold."

He pushed the nearer cupboard door to, and opened the further one. The
door opened away from Grant, so that the interior of the cupboard was not
visible. "But you disappoint me in one way. I thought you were a better
psychologist, you know. When I was telling you the story of my life on
Saturday morning, I really thought you were too good a judge to think
that I could have done what you suspected me of. Now I find you're just a
routine policeman."

Still keeping his hand on the doorknob, he bent down to the interior of
the cupboard as if to take shoes from the floor of it.

There was the rasp of a key torn from its lock, the cupboard door swung
shut, and even as Grant leaped the key turned on the inside.

"Tisdall!" he shouted. "Don't be a fool! Do you hear!" His mind raced
over the antidotes for the various poisons. Oh, God, what a fool he had
been! "Sanger! Help me to break this open. He's locked himself in."

The two men flung their combined weight on the door. It resisted their
best efforts.

"Listen to me, Tisdall," Grant said between gasps, "poison is a fool's
trick. We'll get you soon enough to give you an antidote, and all that
will happen is that you'll suffer pain for nothing. So think better of
it."

But still the door resisted them.

"Fire axe!" Grant said. "Saw it when we came up. On wall at the end of
the passage. Quick!"

Sanger fled and in eight seconds was back with the axe.

As the first blow of it fell, a half-dressed and sleepy colleague of
Tisdall's appeared from next door and announced, "You mek a noise like
thet you hev the cops een!"

"Hey!" he added, seeing the axe in Sanger's grasp. "What the hell you
theenk you do, eh?"

"Keep away, you fool! There's a man in that cupboard committing suicide."

"Suicide! Cupboard!" The waiter rubbed his black hair in perplexity, like
a half-awakened child. "That is not a cupboard!"

"_Not a cupboard_!"

"No, that is the what you call eet--leetle back stairs. For fire, you
know."

"God!" said Grant, and made for the door.

"Where does it come out--the stairway?" he called back to the waiter.

"In the passage to the front hall."

"Eight flights," Grant said to Sanger. "Lift's quicker, perhaps." He
rang. "Williams will stop him if he tries to go out by the door," he
said, searching for comfort.

"Williams has never seen him, sir. At least I don't think so."

Grant used words he had forgotten since he stopped campaigning in France.

"Does the man on duty at the back back know him?"

"Oh, yes, sir. That's what he's there for, to stop him. But Sergeant
Williams was just waiting for us."

Words failed Grant altogether. The lift appeared.

Thirty seconds later they were in the hall.

The pleased expectancy on Williams's pink face told them the worst.
Williams had certainly not intercepted anyone.

People were arriving, people were departing, people were going to tea in
the restaurant, people were going to eat ices in the sun lounge, to drink
in the bar, to meet other people and go to tea at Lyons--the hall of the
Marine was American in the catholicity of its inhabitants. To make
oneself noticeable in that assembly it would be necessary to stand on
one's hands and proceed so.

Williams said that a young brown-haired man, without a hat and wearing a
tweed jacket and flannels had gone out about five minutes previously. In
fact, two of them had gone out.

"Two of them! You mean together!"

No, Williams meant that two separate men answering to that description
had gone out in the last five minutes. If it came to that, here was
another.

Yes, there was another. And watching him, Grant was filled with a despair
that ran up from his feet like a wave hitting him and flooding his whole
being. Yes, _indeed_ there would be others. In Kent alone at this
moment were ten thousand men whose description corresponded to Tisdall's.

Grant pulled himself together and turned to the ungrateful task of
forming a police cordon.



Chapter 10


That was the biggest scoop of Jammy Hopkins's life. The other papers that
evening appeared on the street with horrifying photographs of the mob at
Golders Green--Medusa-like heads, close-up, screaming into the camera:
disheveled Furies with streaming locks and open mouths clawing each other
in an abandon of hate--and thought that they were doing rather well.
Nothing, surely, was as important today as the Clay funeral. And their
photographers had done them proud. They could afford to be pleased.

But not for nothing had Hopkins trailed Grant from Wigmore Street to the
Orient offices, and from the Orient offices to the Temple, and from the
Temple to the Yard. Not for nothing had he cooled his heels round the
corner while his paid henchman kept watch on the Yard and gave him the
sign when Grant left. Not for nothing had he followed him all the way to
Westover. "CLAY MURDERED" announced the _Sentinel_ posters. "CLAY
MURDERED: ARREST!" And the crowds milled around the excited newsboys, and
in the other offices there was tearing of hair, and much talk of sacking.
In vain to point out to irate editors that Scotland Yard had said that
when there was publishable news they should be told. What were they paid
for, the editors would like to know? Sitting on their behinds waiting to
be called up, and given official scraps of information? What did they
think they were? Tote officials?

But Jammy was in high favor with the powers who signed his paycheck.
Jammy settled into residence at the Marine--much more palatially than
Grant, who also had a bedroom there but was to spend most of his life in
the immediate future at the police station--and gave thanks to the stars
which had ordained so spectacular an end for Christine Clay.

As for Grant, he was--as he had known he would be--snowed under with
information. By Tuesday noon Tisdall had been seen in almost every corner
of England and Wales, and by teatime was beginning to be seen in
Scotland. He had been observed fishing from a bridge over a Yorkshire
stream and had pulled his hat suspiciously over his face when the
informant had approached. He had been seen walking out of a cinema in
Aberystwyth. He had rented a room in Lincoln and had left without paying.
(He had quite often left without paying, Grant noticed.) He had asked to
be taken on a boat at Lowestoft. (He had also asked to be taken on a boat
at half a dozen other places. The number of young men who could not pay
their landladies and who wanted to leave the country was distressing.) He
was found dead on a moor near Penrith. (That occupied Grant the best part
of the afternoon.) He was found intoxicated in a London alley. He had
bought a hat in Hythe, Grantham, Lewes, Tonbridge, Dorchester, Ashford,
Luton, Aylesbury, Leicester, Chatham, East Grinstead, and in four London
shops. He had also bought a packet of safety pins in Swan and Edgars. He
had eaten a crab sandwich at a quick lunch counter in Argyll Street, two
rolls and coffee in a Hastings bun shop, and bread and cheese in a
Haywards' Heath inn. He had stolen every imaginable kind of article in
every imaginable kind of place--including a decanter from a
glass-and-china warehouse in Croydon. When asked what he supposed Tisdall
wanted a decanter for, the informant said that it was a grand weapon.

Three telephones kept ringing like demented things, and by post,
telegram, wireless, and personal appearance the information poured in.
Nine-tenths of it quite useless, but all of it requiring a hearing: some
of it requiring much investigation before its uselessness became
apparent. Grant looked at the massed pile of reports, and his
self-control deserted him for a little.

"It's a big price to pay for a moment's lack of wit," he said.

"Cheer up, sir," said Williams. "It might be worse."

"Might be worse! Would you tell me what occurrence would, in your
opinion, augment the horror of the situation?"

"Oh, well, so far no nut has come to confess to the crime, and waste our
time that way."

But the nut arrived next morning.

Grant looked up from inspecting a dew-drenched coat which had just been
brought in, to see Williams closing the door mysteriously and
mysteriously advancing on him.

"What is it, Williams?" he asked, his voice sharp with anticipation.

"The nut," Williams said.

"The what?"

"The person to make a confession, sir." Williams's tone held a shade of
guilt now, as if he felt that by mentioning the thing yesterday he had
brought the evil to pass. Grant groaned.

"Not a bit the usual kind, sir. Quite interesting. Very smart."

"Outside or inside?"

"Oh, her clothes, I meant, sir."

"Her! Is it a woman?"

"Yes. A lady, sir."

"Bring her in." Rage ran over him in little prickles. How dare some
sensation-mad female waste his time in order to satisfy her perverted and
depraved appetite.

Williams swung the door back and ushered in a bright fashionable figure.

It was Judy Sellers.

She said nothing, but came into the room with a sulky deliberation. Even
in his surprise at seeing her, Grant thought how Borstal she was in spite
of her soigne exterior. That air of resentment against the world in
general and her own fate in particular was very familiar to him.

He pulled out a chair in silence. Grant could be very intimidating.

"All right, Sergeant," he said, "there won't be any need for you to
stay." And then, to Judy as Williams went: "Don't you think this is a
little unfair, Miss Sellers?"

"Unfair?"

"I am working twenty-three hours out of the twenty-four, on dreadfully
important work, and you see fit to waste my time by treating us to a
bogus confession."

"There's nothing bogus about it."

"It's so bogus that I have a good mind to dismiss you now, without
another word."

She stayed his half-movement to the door. "You can't do that. I'll just
go to another police station and confess and they'll send me on to you. I
_did_ it, you see!"

"Oh, no, you didn't."

"Why not?"

"For one thing, you weren't near the place."

"How do you know where I was?"

"You forget that in the course of conversation on Saturday night it was
apparent that on Wednesday night you were at Miss Keats's house in
Chelsea."

"I was only there for cocktails. I left early because Lydia was going to
a party up the river."

"Even so, that makes it rather unlikely that you should be on a beach
near Westover shortly after dawn next morning."

"It wouldn't be at all surprising if I were in the north of England next
morning. I motored down if you want to know. You can inquire at my flat.
The girl I live with will tell you that I didn't come home till lunchtime
on Thursday."

"That hardly proves that your activities were murderous."

"They were, though. I drove to the Gap, hid in the wood, and waited till
she came to swim."

"You were, of course, wearing a man's coat?"

"Yes, though I don't know how you knew. It was cold driving, and I wore
one of my brother's that was lying in the car."

"Did you wear the coat to go down to the beach?"

"Yes. It was dithering cold. I don't like bathing in the dawn."

"You went bathing!"

"Of course I did. I couldn't drown her from the shore, could I?"

"And you left the coat on the beach?"

"Oh, no," she said with elaborate sarcasm. "I went swimming in it."

And Grant breathed again. For a moment he had had a fright.

"So you changed into swimming things, walked down to the beach with your
brother's coat over you, and--then what?"

"She was a fair way out. I went in, swam up to her, and drowned her."

"How?"

"She said, 'Hello, Judy.' I said, 'Hello.' I gave her a light tap on the
chin. My brother taught me where to hit a person's chin, so as to addle
them. Then I dived under her and pulled her through the water by the
heels until she was drowned."

"Very neat," Grant said. "You've thought it all out, haven't you? Have
you invented a motive for yourself, too?"

"Oh, I just didn't like her. I hated her, if you want to know. Her
success and her looks and her self-sufficiency. She got in my hair until
I couldn't bear it another day."

"I see. And will you explain why, having achieved the practically perfect
murder, you should calmly come here and put a noose around your neck?"

"Because you've got someone for it."

"You mean because we've got Robert Tisdall. And that explains everything.
And now having wasted some precious minutes of my time, you might
recompense me and rehabilitate yourself at the same time, by telling me
what you know of Tisdall."

"I don't know anything. Except that he would be the very last person in
the world to commit a murder. For any reason."

"You knew him fairly well, then?"

"No. I hardly knew him at all."

"You weren't--friends?"

"No, nor lovers, if that's what you're trying to say. Bobby Tisdall
didn't know I was alive, except to hand me a cocktail."

Grant's tone changed. "And yet you'd go even to this length to get him
out of a jam?" he said, quite kindly.

She braced into resentment at the kindness, "If you'd committed a murder
wouldn't you confess to save an innocent person?"

"Depends on how innocent I thought the police were. You underrate us,
Miss Sellers."

"I think you're a lot of idiots. You got a man who is innocent. You're
busy hounding him to death. And you won't listen to a perfectly good
confession when you get one."

"Well, you see, Miss Sellers, there are always things about a case that
are known only to the police and are not to be learned from newspapers.
The mistake you made was to get up your story from the newspaper
accounts. There was one thing you didn't know. And one thing you forgot."

"What did I forget?"

"That no one knew where Christine Clay was staying."

"The murderer did."

"Yes. That is my point. And now--I'm very busy."

"So you don't believe a word I say."

"Oh, yes. Quite a lot of it. You were out all night on Wednesday, you
probably went swimming, and you arrived back at lunchtime on Thursday.
But none of that makes you guilty of murder."

She got up, in her reluctant, indolent way, and produced her lipstick.
"Well," she drawled between applications, "having failed in my little bid
for publicity, I suppose I must go on playing blonde nitwits for the rest
of my life. It's good I bought a day-return."

"You don't fool me," Grant said, with a not too grim smile as he opened
the door for her.

"All right, then, maybe you're right about that, and blast you anyhow,"
she burst out. "But you're wrong about his doing it. So wrong that your
name will stink before this case is over."

And she brushed past an astonished Williams and two clerks, and
disappeared.

"Well," said Williams, "that's the first. Humans are queer, aren't they,
sir? You know, if we announced the fact that the coat we want has a
button missing, there'd be people who would pull the button off their
coats and bring it in. Just for fun. As if things weren't difficult
enough without that. Not just the usual type, though, was she, sir?"

"No. What did you make of her, Williams?"

"Musical comedy. Looking for publicity to help her career. Hard as
nails."

"All wrong. Legitimate stage. Hates her career. Softhearted to the point
of self-sacrifice."

Williams looked a little crestfallen. "Of course, I didn't have a chance
to talk to her," he reminded.

"No. On looks it was quite a good reading, Williams. I wish I could read
this case as well." He sat down and ran his fingers through his hair.
"What would you do, Williams, once you had got clear of the Marine?"

Williams understood that he was supposed to be Tisdall.

"I'd take a fairly crowded bus somewhere. First that came to hand. Get
off with a crowd of others, and walk off as if I knew where I was going.
In fact, wherever I went I'd look as if I knew where I was going."

"And then, what?"

"I'd probably have to take another bus to get out of townified parts."

"You'd get out of built-up areas, would you?"

"Sure!" said Williams, surprised.

"A man's much more conspicuous in open country."

"There are woods. In fact, some of the woods in this part of the world
would hide a man indefinitely. And if a man got as far west as Ashdown
Forest, well, it'd take about a hundred men to comb Ashdown properly."

Grant shook his head. "There's food. And lodging."

"Sleep out. It's warm weather."

"He's been out two nights now. If he has taken to the country he must be
looking shopworn by this time. But has he? Have you noticed that no one
has reported him as buying a razor? There's just the chance that he's
with friends. I wonder--" his eyes strayed to the chair where Judy had
been sitting. "But no! She'd never risk as big a bluff as that. No need
for it."

Williams wished to himself that Grant would go to the hotel and have some
sleep. He was taking far too much to heart his failure to arrest Tisdall.
Mistakes happened to the best of people, and everyone knew that Grant was
all right. He had the Yard solid behind him. Why need he worry himself
sick over something that might have happened to anyone? There were one or
two crabbers, of course--people who wanted his job--but no one paid any
attention to the likes of them. Everyone knew what they were getting at.
Grant was all right, and everyone knew it. It was silly of him to get so
worked up over a little slip.

If a policeman's heart can be said to ache, then Williams's stout heart
ached for his superior.

"You can get rid of this disgusting object," Grant said, indicating the
coat. "It's twenty years old, at least, and hasn't had a button on it for
the last ten. That's one thing that puzzles me, you know, Williams. He
had it at the beach, and it was missing when he came back. He had to get
rid of that coat somewhere along his route. It isn't a very extensive
route, when all is said. And there wasn't time for him to go far off it.
He'd be too anxious to get back and cover up his mistake in going away.
And yet we haven't turned the coat up. Two duck ponds, both shallow, both
well dragged. Three streams that wouldn't hide a penny and wouldn't float
a paper boat. Ditches beaten, garden walls inspected on the wrong side,
two copses scoured. Nothing! What did he do with it? What would you do
with it?"

"Burn it."

"No time. It's damp too. Soaking wet, probably."

"Roll it small and stick it in the fork of a tree. Everyone looks on the
ground for things."

"Williams, you're a born criminal. Tell Sanger your theory and ask him to
make use of it this afternoon. I'd rather have that coat than have
Tisdall. In fact, I've got to have that coat!"

"Talking of razors, you don't think maybe, he took his razor with him,
sir?"

"I didn't think of it. Shouldn't think he had the presence of mind. But
then I didn't think he'd have the nerve to bolt. I concentrated on
suicide. Where are his things?"

"Sanger took them over here in the case. Everything he had."

"Just see if his razor is there? It's just as well to know whether he's
shaved or not." There was no razor.

"Well!" said Grant. "Who'd have thought it! 'You disappoint me,
Inspector,' says he, quietly pocketing the razor, and arranging his
getaway with the world's prize chump of a detective watching him. I'm all
wrong about that lad, Sergeant. All wrong. I thought first, when I took
him from the inquest that he was one of these hysterical,
do-it-on-the-spur-of-the-moment creatures. Then, after I knew about the
will, I changed my mind. Still thought him a 'poor thing,' though. And
now I find he was planning a getaway under my very nose--and he brought
it off! It isn't Tisdall who's a washout, it's me!"

"Cheer up, sir. Our luck is out at the moment. But you and I between us,
and no one else, so help me, are going to put that cold-blooded brute
where he belongs," Williams said fervently, not knowing that the person
who was to be the means of bringing the murderer of Christine Clay to
justice was a rather silly little woman in Kansas City who had never
heard of any of them.



Chapter 11


Erica stood on the brake and brought her disreputable little car to a
standstill. She then backed it the necessary yards, and stopped again.
She inspected with interest the sole of a man's boot, visible in the
grass and gorse, and then considered the wide empty landscape and the
mile-long straight of chalky lane with its borders of speedwell and
thrift, shining in the sun.

"You can come out," she said. "There's no one in sight for miles."

The boot sole disappeared and a man's astonished face appeared in the
bushes above it.

"That's a great relief to me," Erica observed. "I thought for a moment
that you might be dead."

"How did you know it was me? I suppose you _did_ know it was me?"

"Yes. There's a funny squiggle on the instep part of your sole where the
price has been scored off. I noticed it when you were lying on the floor
of Father's office."

"Oh, yes; that's who you are, of course. You're a very good detective."

"You're a very bad escaper. No one could have missed your foot."

"You didn't give me much time. I didn't hear your car till it was nearly
on me."

"You must be deaf. She's one of the County jokes, poor Tinny. Like Lady
Middleway's hat and old Mr. Dyne's shell collection."

"Tinny?"

"Yes. She used to be Christina, but the inevitable happened. You couldn't
_not_ have heard her."

"I think perhaps I was asleep for a minute or two. I--I'm a bit short of
sleep."

"Yes, I expect so. Are you hungry?"

"Is that just an academic question, or--or are you offering me food?"

Erica reached into the back of the car and produced half a dozen rolls, a
glass of tongue, half a pound of butter, and four tomatoes.

"I've forgotten a tin opener," she said, passing him the tongue, "but if
you hit the tin lid hard with a flint it will make a hole." She split a
roll with a penknife produced from her pocket and began to butter it.

"Do you always carry food about with you?" he asked, doubtfully.

"Oh, always. I'm a very hungry person. Besides I'm often not home from
morning till night. Here's the knife. Cut a hunk of the tongue and lay it
on that." She gave him the buttered roll. "I want the knife back for the
other roll."

He did as he was bidden, and she busied herself with the knife again,
politely ignoring him so that he should not have to pretend to an
indifference that would be difficult of achievement.

Presently he said, "I suppose you know that all this is very wrong."

"Why is it wrong?"

"For one thing, you're aiding an escaped criminal, which is wrong in
itself, and doubly wrong in your father's daughter. And for another--and
this is much worse--if I were what they think me you'd be in the gravest
danger at this minute. You shouldn't do things like that, you know."

"If you were a murderer it wouldn't help you much to commit another one
just to keep me from saying I saw you."

"If you've committed one, I suspect you don't easily stop at another. You
can only be hanged once. And so you don't think I did it?"

"I'm quite sure you didn't."

"What makes you so sure?"

"You're not capable of it."

"Thank you," he said gratefully.

"I didn't mean it that way."

"Oh! Oh, I see." A smile actually broke through. "Disconcerting but
invigorating. George an ancestor of yours?"

"George? Oh. No. No, I can tell lies with the best."

"You'll have to tonight. Unless you are going to give me up."

"I don't suppose anyone will question me at all," she said, ignoring the
latter half of his remark. "I don't think a beard becomes you, by the
way."

"I don't like it myself. I took a razor with me but couldn't manage to do
anything without soap and water. I suppose you haven't soap in the car?"

"I'm afraid not. I don't wash as often as I eat. But there's a frothy
stuff in a bottle--Snowdrop, they call it--that I use to clean my hands
when I change a wheel. Perhaps that would work." She got out the bottle
from the car pocket. "You must be much cleverer than I thought you were,
you know."

"Yes? How clever does that make me actually?"

"To get away from Inspector Grant. He's very good at his job, Father
says.

"Yes, I think he probably is. If I didn't happen to have a horror of
being shut up, wouldn't have had the nerve to run. As it was, that half
hour was the most exciting thing that ever happened to me. I know now
what living at top speed means. I used to think having money and doing
what you liked--twenty different things a day--was living at speed. But I
just didn't know anything about it."

"Was she nice, Christine Clay?"

He looked disconcerted. "You do jump about, don't you? Yes, she was a
grand person." He forgot his food for a moment. "Do you know what she
did? She left me her ranch in California because she knew I had no money
and hated an office."

"Yes, I know."

"You know?"

"Yes, I've heard Father and the others discussing it."

"Oh. Oh, yes...And you still believe I didn't do it? I must be very
bargain counter in your eyes!"

"Was she very beautiful?"

"Haven't you ever seen her, then? On the screen, I mean?"

"No. I don't think so."

"Neither have I. Funny, isn't it. I suppose, roaming from place to place
it's easy to miss pictures."

"I'm afraid I don't go to the cinema often. It's a long way to a good one
from our place. Have some more tongue."

"She meant to do me such a good turn--Chris. Irony, isn't it? That her
gift should be practically my death warrant."

"I suppose you have no idea who could have done it?"

"No. I didn't know any of her friends, you know. She just picked me up
one night." He considered the schoolgirlish figure before him. "I suppose
that sounds dreadful to you?"

"Oh, no. Not if you liked the look of each other. I judge a lot on
looks."

"I can't help feeling that the police may be making a mistake--I mean,
that it was just an accident. If you'd seen the country that morning.
Utterly deserted. No one going to be awake for at least another hour.
It's almost incredible that someone should have been out for murder at
that time and in that place. That button _might_ be an accident, after
all."

"If your coat turned up with the buttons on it, would that prove you had
nothing to do with it?"

"Yes, I think so. That seemed to be all the evidence the police had." He
smiled a little. "But you know more about it than I do.

"Where were you when you lost it--the coat, I mean?"

"We'd gone over to Dymchurch one day: Tuesday, it was. And we left the
car to walk along the seawall for about half an hour. Our coats were
always left lying in the back. I didn't miss mine till we stopped for
petrol about halfway home, and I turned around to get the bag Chris had
flung there when she got in." His face suddenly flamed scarlet, and Erica
watched him in surprise and then in embarrassment. It was moments later
before it occurred to her that the tacit admission that the woman was
paying was more humiliating to him than any murder accusation. "The coat
wasn't there then," he went on hurriedly, "so it could only have gone
while we were walking."

"Gypsies?"

"I don't think so. I didn't see any. A casual passerby, more likely."

"Is there anything to tell that the coat is yours? You'd have to prove it
to the police, you know."

"My name is on the lining--one of those tailor's tags, you know."

"But if it was stolen that would be the first thing they'd take off."

"Yes. Yes, I suppose so. There's another thing, though. There's a small
burn on the right-hand side below the pocket, where someone held a
cigarette against it."

"That's better, isn't it! That would settle it very nicely."

"_If_ the coat were found!"

"Well, no one who stole a coat is likely to bring it to the police
station just because the police want it. And the police are not looking
for coats _on_ people. They're looking for discarded ones. So far no
one has done anything about getting _your_ coat. On your behalf, I
mean. To be evidence for you."

"Well, what can I do?"

"Give yourself up."

"What!"

"Give yourself up. Then they'll give you a lawyer and things. And it will
be his business to look for the coat."

"I couldn't do that. I just couldn't, What's-Your-Name."

"Erica."

"Erica. The thought of having a key turned on me gives me the jitters."

"Claustrophobia?"

"Yes. I don't really mind closed spaces as long as I know that I can get
out. Caves and things. But to have a key turned on me, and then to have
nothing to do but sit and think of--I just couldn't do it."

"No, I suppose you couldn't, if you feel like that about it. It's a pity.
It's much the most sensible way. What are you going to do now?"

"Sleep out again, I suppose. There's no rain coming."

"Haven't you any friends who'd look after you?"

"With a murder charge against me? No! You overrate human friendship." He
paused a moment, and added, in a surprised voice: "No. No, perhaps you
don't, at that. I've just not met the right kind before."

"Then we had better decide on a place where I can meet you tomorrow and
bring you some more food. Here, if you like."

"No!"

"Where then?"

"I didn't mean that. I mean that you're not meeting me anywhere."

"Why not?"

"Because you'd be committing a felony, or whatever it is. I don't know
what the penalty is, but you'd be a criminal. It can't be done."

"Well, you can't stop me dropping food out of the car, can you? There is
no law against that, that I know of. It will just happen that a cheese
and a loaf and some chocolates will fall out of the car into these bushes
tomorrow morning. I must go now. The landscape looks deserted, but if you
leave a car standing long enough someone always pops up to make
inquiries."

She swept the refuse of the food into the car, and got in herself.

He made a movement to get to his feet. "Don't be foolish," she said
sharply. "Keep down."

He swiveled around on his knees. "All right. You can't object to this
position. And it expresses my feelings much better."

She shut the car door, and leaned over it.

"Nut or plain?"

"What?"

"The chocolate."

"Oh! The kind with raisins in it, please. Some day, Erica Burgoyne, I
shall crown you with rubies and make you to walk on carpets rich as--"

But the sentence was lost in the roar of Tinny's departure.



Chapter 12


"Kindness," said Erica, to her father's head groom, "have you anything
laid by?"

Kindness paused in his checking the corn account, shot her a pale glance
from a wrinkled old eye, and went on with his adding.

"Tuppence!" he said at length, in the tone one uses instead of a spit.

This referred to the account, and Erica waited. Kindness hated accounts.

"Enough to bury me decent," he said, having reached the top of the column
again.

"You don't want to be buried yet a while. Could you lend me ten pounds,
do you think?"

The old man paused in licking his stub of pencil, so that the lead made a
purple stain on the exposed tip of his tongue.

"So that's the way it is!" he said. "What have you been doing now?"

"I haven't _been_ doing anything. But there are some things I might
want to do. And petrol is a dreadful price."

The mention of petrol was a bad break.

"Oh, the car is it?" he said jealously.

Kindness hated Tinny. "If it's the car you want it for, why don't you ask
Hart?"

"Oh, I _couldn't_." Erica was almost shocked. "Hart is quite new."
Hart being a newcomer with only eleven years' service.

Kindness looked mollified.

"It isn't anything shady," she assured him. "I would have got it from
Father at dinner tonight; the money, I mean; but he has gone to Uncle
William's for the night. And women are so inquisitive," she added after a
pause.

This, which could only refer to Nannie, made up the ground she had lost
over the petrol. Kindness hated Nannie.

"Ten pounds is a big bit out of my coffin," he said with a sideways jerk
of the head.

"You won't need it before Saturday. I have eight pounds in the bank, but
I don't want to waste time tomorrow morning going into Westover for it.
Time is awfully precious just now. If anything happens to me, you're sure
of eight pounds anyhow. And Father is good for the other two."

"And what made you come to Kindness?"

There was complacence in the tone, and anyone but Erica would have said:
because you are my oldest friend, because you have always helped me out
of difficulties since I was three years old and first put my legs astride
a pony, because you can keep my counsel and yours, because in spite of
your cantankerousness you are an old darling.

But Erica said, "I just thought how much handier tea caddies were than
banks."

"_What's that!_"

"Oh, perhaps I shouldn't have said that. Your wife told me about that,
one day I was having tea with her. It wasn't her fault, really. I saw the
notes peering through the tea. A bit germy, I thought. For the tea, I
mean. But an awfully good idea." As Kindness was still speechless.
"Boiling water kills most things, anyhow. Besides," she said, bringing up
as support what she should have used for attack, "who else could I go
to?"

She reached over and took the stub of pencil from him, turned over a
handbill of the local gymkhana which was lying on the saddle-room table,
and wrote in schoolgirl characters on the back:

_I owe Bartholomew Kindness ten pounds. Erica Meir Burgoyne._

"That will do until Saturday," she said. "My checkbook is finished,
anyhow."

"I don't like you frittering away my brass handles all over Kent,"
Kindness grumbled.

"I think brass handles are very showy," Erica said. "You'd do much better
to have wrought iron."

As they went through the gardens together towards his cottage and the tea
caddy, Erica said:

"About how many pawnbrokers are there in Kent?"

"'Bout two thousand."

"Oh, dear!" said Erica. And let the conversation lapse.

But the two thousand pawnbrokers slept with her that night, and leaped
awake before her waking eyes.

Two thousand! My hat!

But of course Kindness was just guessing. He probably had never pawned
anything in his life. How could he know in the very least how many
pawnbrokers there were in a county? Still, there was bound to be quite a
number. Even in a well-to-do county like Kent. She had never noticed even
one. But she supposed you wouldn't notice one unless you happened to be
looking for it. Like mushrooms.

It was half-past six of a hot, still morning as she backed Tinny out of
the garage, and no one was awake in the bland white house that smiled at
her as she went. Tinny made a noise at any time, but the noise she made
in the before-breakfast silence of a summer morning was obscene. And for
the first time Erica was guilty of disloyalty in her feeling for Tinny.
Exasperated she had been often; yes, furious; but it had always been the
fury of possession, the anger one feels for someone so loved as to be
part of oneself. Never in her indignation, never in the moments of her
friends' laughter, had she ever been tempted to disown Tinny. Still less
to give her up.

But now she thought quite calmly, I shall really have to get a new car.

Erica was growing up.

Tinny expostulated her way through the quiet shining lanes, chuffing,
snorting, and shaking, while Erica sat upright in the old-fashioned seat
and ceased to think about her. Beside her was a box containing half a
spring chicken, bread and butter, tomatoes, shortbread, and a bottle of
milk. This--"Miss Erica's lunch"--was the Steynes housekeeper's unwitting
contribution to the confounding of the Law. Beyond it, in a brown paper
parcel, was Erica's own subscription--a less delicate but more filling
one than the housekeeper's--purchased at Mr.-Deeds-in-the-village.
("Eastindiaman and provision Merchant. All the Best in Season.") Mr.
Deeds had provided pink and shining slices of jellied veal ("Do you
really want it as thick as that, Miss Erica?") but he had not been able
to supply a brand of chocolates with raisins in it. No demand for that,
there wasn't.

It had not even crossed Erica's mind that she was tired, that there
remained less than an hour before closing time, and that a starving man
might just as well have good solid lumps of plain chocolate as be
indulged in his light preference for raisins. No; Erica--although she
could not have told you about it--knew all about the importance of little
things. Especially the importance of little things when one was unhappy.
In the hot and dusty evening she had toured the neighboring villages with
a determination that grew with her lack of success. So that now, in the
torn and gaping pocket of Tinny's near door, lay four half-pound slabs of
chocolate with raisins in it, the whole stock of Mrs.-Higgs-at-Leytham,
who at a quarter past seven had been persuaded to leave her high tea
("only for you I'd do it, Miss Burgoyne, not for another soul") and turn
the enormous key in her small blistered door.

It was after seven before she had clamored her way through sleeping
Mallingford and entered the hot, shadeless country beyond. As she
turned into the long straight of the chalky lane where her quick
country-trained eyes had noticed that boot yesterday, she wished that
Tisdall might have better cover than those gorse bushes. Not cover from
the Law, but cover from the sky there was going to be at midday. A
blazing day, it was going to be. Tisdall would need all of that bottle of
milk and those tomatoes. She debated whether or not it would be a good
move to transport the fugitive to other climes. Over to Charing, for
instance. There were woods enough there to house an army in safety from
sun and law. But Erica had never much liked woods, and had never felt
particularly safe in one. It was better to be hot in gorse bushes and be
able to see a long way away, than have strangers stumbling over you in
the cool of thick trees. Besides, the Tisdall man might refuse the offer
of a lift.

There is no doubt as to what the Tisdall man's answer would have been,
but the proposition was never put to him. Either he was so dead asleep
that not even the uproar of Tinny's advent could rouse him, or he was no
longer in that piece of country. Erica went to the end of the mile-long
straight, Tinny full out and making a noise like an express train, and
came back to the spot where she had stopped yesterday. As she shut off
the engine, the silence fell about her, absolute. Not even a lark sang,
not a shadow stirred.

She waited there, quietly, not looking about her, her arms propped on the
wheel in the attitude of one considering her future movements. There must
be no expectancy in her appearance to arouse suspicion in the mind of
stray countrymen. For twenty minutes she sat, relaxed and incurious. Then
she stretched herself, made sure during the stretch that the lane was
still unoccupied, and got out. If Tisdall had wanted to speak to her, he
would have reached her before now. She took the two parcels and the
chocolate and cached them where Tisdall had been lying yesterday. To
these she added a packet of cigarettes produced from her own sagging
pocket. Erica did not smoke herself--she had tried it, of course, had not
much liked it, and with the logic that was her ruling characteristic had
not persisted--and she did not know that Tisdall smoked. These, and the
matches, were just "in case." Erica never did a job that was not
thorough.

She climbed in again, pressed Tinny into life, and without a pause or
backward glance headed down the lane, her face and thoughts turned to the
far-off coast and Dymchurch.

It was Erica's very sound theory that no "local" had stolen that coat.
She had lived all her life in a country community, and knew very well
that a new black overcoat cannot make its appearance even on the meanest
back without receiving a truly remarkable amount of attention. She knew,
too, that your countryman is not versed in the ways of pawnshops, and
that a coat lying in a car would not represent to him a possible cash
value, as it would to someone "on the road." If he coveted it at all, it
would be for possession; and the difficulty of explaining its appearance
would result in his leaving it where it was. The coat, therefore,
according to Erica's reasoning, had been taken by a "casual."

This made things at once easier and more difficult. A "casual" is a much
more noticeable person than a "local," and so easier to identify. On the
other hand, a "casual" is a movable object and difficult to track. In the
week that had passed since the theft, that coat might have traversed most
of Kent. It might now be--

Hunger gave wings to Erica's imagination. By the time she was in sight of
Dymchurch she had, thanks to modern methods of hitchhiking and
old-fashioned methods of stowing away, placed the coat on the back of a
clerk in the office of the Mayor of Bordeaux. He was a little pale clerk
with a delicate wife and puny baby, and Erica's heart was sore at the
thought of having to take the coat from him, even for Tisdall.

At this point Erica decided that she must eat. Fasting was good for the
imagination but bad for logic. She stepped on the brake at sight of The
Rising Sun, "good pull-up for car men, open all night." It was a tin
shed, set down by the roadside with the inconsequence of a matchbox,
painted gamboge and violet, and set about with geraniums. The door was
hospitably open, and the sound of voices floated out on the warm air.

In the tiny interior were two very large men. The proprietor was cutting
very large slices from a very fresh loaf, and the other man was sipping
very hot liquid from a very large mug with very great noise. At sight of
Erica on the doorstep all these activities ceased abruptly.

"Good morning," said Erica into the silence.

"Morning, miss," said the proprietor. "Cup of tea, perhaps?"

"Well--" Erica looked around. "You haven't any bacon, by any chance?"

"Lovely bacon," said the owner promptly.

"Melt in your mouth."

"I'll have a lot," said Erica happily. "Egg with it, perhaps?"

"Three," said Erica.

The owner craned his neck to see out the door, and found that she really
was alone.

"Come," he said. "That's something like. Nice to see a young girl that
can appreciate her vittles these days. Have a seat, miss." He dusted an
iron chair for her with the corner of his apron. "Bacon be ready in no
time. Thick or thin?"

"Thick, please. Good morning." This to the other man, in more particular
greeting, as she sat down and so definitely became a partner in this
business of eating and drinking. "Is that your lorry out there? I have
always wanted to drive one of those."

"Ye'? I've always wanted to be a tightrope walker."

"You're the wrong build," said Erica seriously. "Better stick to lorry
driving." And the owner paused in his slicing of the bacon to laugh.

The lorry driver decided that sarcasm was wasted on so literal a mind. He
relaxed into amiability.

"Oh, well; nice to have ladies' company for a change, eh, Bill?"

"Don't you have lots of it?" asked Erica. "I thought lorries were very
popular." And before the astounded man could make up his mind whether
this skinny child was being rude, provocative, or merely matter-of-fact,
she went on, "Do you give lifts to tramps, ever, by the way?"

"Never!" said the driver promptly, glad to feel his feet on firm ground.

"That's a pity. I'm interested in tramps."

"Christian interest?" inquired Bill, turning the sizzling bacon in the
pan.

"No. Literary."

"Well, now. You writing a book?"

"Not exactly. I'm gathering material for someone else. You must see a lot
of tramps, even if you don't give them lifts," she persisted, to the
driver.

"No time to see anyone when you're driving that there."

"Tell her about Harrogate Harry," prompted Bill, breaking eggs. "I saw
him in your cab last week sometime."

"Never saw anyone in my cab, you didn't."

"Oh, come unstuck, will you. The little lady's all right. She's not the
sort to go blabbing even if you did give an odd tramp a lift."

"Harrogate isn't a tramp."

"Who is he, then?" asked Erica.

"He's a china merchant. Traveling."

"Oh, I know. A blue-and-white bowl in exchange for a rabbit skin."

"No. Nothing like that. Mends teapot handles and such."

"Oh. Does he make much?" This for the sake of keeping the driver on the
subject.

"Enough to be going on with. And he cadges an old coat or a pair of boots
now and then."

Erica said nothing for a moment, and she wondered if the thumping of her
heart was as audible to these two men as it was in her ears. An old coat,
now and then. What should she say now? She could not say: Did he have a
coat the day you saw him? That would be a complete giveaway.

"He sounds interesting," she said, at last. "Mustard, please," to Bill.
"I should like to meet him. But I suppose he is at the other end of the
country by now. What day did you see him?"

"Lemme see. I picked him up outside Dymchurch and dropped him near
Ton-bridge. That was a week last Monday."

So it hadn't been Harrogate. What a pity! He had sounded so hopeful a
subject, with his desire for coats and boots, his wandering ways, and his
friendliness with lorry drivers who get a man away quickly from possibly
unfriendly territory. Oh, well, it was no good imagining that it was
going to be as easy as this had promised to be.

Bill set down the mustard by her plate. "Not Monday," he said. "Not that
it makes any difference. But Jimmy was here unloading stores when you
went by. Tuesday, it was."

Not that it made any difference! Erica took a great mouthful of eggs and
bacon to quiet her singing heart.

For a little there was silence in The Rising Sun; partly because Erica
had a masculine habit of silence while she ate, partly because she had
not yet made up her mind what it would be both politic and productive to
say next. She was startled into anxiety when the lorry driver thrust his
mug away from him and rose to go.

"But you haven't told me about Harrogate What's-His-Name!"

"What is there to tell?"

"Well, a traveling china-mender must be chock full of interest. I
_would_ like to meet him and have a talk."

"He isn't much of a talker."

"I'd make it worth his while."

Bill laughed, "If you was to give Harrogate five bob, he'd talk his head
off. And for ten he'll tell you how he found the south pole."

Erica turned to the more sympathetic one of the two.

"You know him? Does he have a home, do you know?"

"In winter he stays put, mostly, I think. But in summer he lives in a
tent."

"Living with Queenie Webster somewhere near Pembury," put in the driver,
who didn't like the shift of interest to Bill.

He put down some coppers on the scrubbed table and moved to the door.

"And if you're making it worth anyone's while, I'd square Queenie first
if I was you."

"Thank you," said Erica. "I'll remember. Thank you for your help."

The genuine warmth of gratitude in her voice made him pause. He stood in
the doorway considering her. "Tramps are a queer taste for a girl with a
healthy appetite," he said, and went out to his lorry.



Chapter 13


Erica's healthy appetite extended to bread and marmalade and several cups
of tea, but she absorbed little information with the nourishment. Bill,
for all his willingness to give her anything she wanted, knew very little
about Harrogate Harry. She had now to decide whether or not to leave a
"warm" Dymchurch and follow the unknown and elusive Harry into the "cold"
of the Ton-bridge country.

"Are most tramps honest, would you say?" she asked as she was paying her
bill.

"We--11," said Bill, thinking it out, "honest up to the point of
opportunity, if you know what I mean."

Erica knew. Not one tramp in fifty would refuse the gift of a coat lying
unattended. And Harrogate Harry definitely liked to acquire coats and
boots. And Harry had been in Dymchurch a week last Tuesday. Her job,
therefore, was to follow the china-mender through the summer landscape
until she caught up with him. If night overtook her in her search she
must think of some really reassuring lie which could be telephoned to her
father at Steynes to account for her absence. The need for lying caused
her the first pang she had suffered so far in her self-appointed crusade;
she had never needed to shut out her father from any ploy of hers. For
the second time in a few hours her loyalty was divided. She had not
noticed her disloyalty to Tinny; but this time she noticed and cared.

Oh, well, the day was young, and days just now were long. And Tinny might
be a veteran but she was never sick or sorry. If luck held as it had
begun she might still be back in her own bed at Steynes tonight. Back at
Steynes--_with the coat_!

Her breath stopped at the very prospect.

She said good-bye to the admiring Bill, promised to recommend his
breakfasts to all her friends, and set Tinny's nose west and north
through the hot flowery country. The roads were blinding now in the glare
of the sky, the horizons beginning to swim. Tinny sweltered stoutly
through the green furnace, and was soon as comfortable as a frying pan.
In spite of her eagerness Erica was forced every few miles to pause and
open both doors while Tinny cooled. Yes, she really must get another car.

Near Kippings Cross, on the main Ton-bridge road, she repeated as tactics
what she had by accident found serviceable: she pulled up for lunch at a
wayside hut. But this time luck was lacking in the service. The hut was
kept by a jolly woman with a flow of conversation but no interest in
tramps. She had all the normal woman's intolerance of a waster, and
"didn't encourage vagrants." Erica ate sparingly and drank her bottled
coffee, glad of the temporary shade; but presently she rose and went out
to find a "better place." The "better" referring not to food but to
possible information. With a self-control beyond praise she turned her
eyes away from the endless tea gardens, green and cool, with gay cloths
gleaming like wet stones in the shadows. Not for her that luxury today.
Tea gardens knew nothing of tramps.

She turned down a lane to Goudhurst, and sought an inn. Inns had always
china to mend, and now that she was in Harrogate's home country, so to
speak, she would surely find someone who knew him.

She ate cold underdone beef and green salad in a room as beautiful as any
at Steynes, and prayed that one, at least, of the dishes on her table,
should be cracked. When the tinned fruit appeared in a broken china
rose-bowl she nearly whooped aloud.

Yes, the waitress agreed, it was a pretty bowl. She didn't know if it was
valuable or not, she was only there for the season (it being understood
that the possible value of household goods could not interest anyone
whose playground was the world). Yes, she supposed that someone local
mended their china but she didn't know. Yes, she _could_ ask, of
course.

The landlord, asked who had mended the china bowl so beautifully, said
that that particular bowl was bought just as it was, in a job lot of
stuff over at Matfield Green. And anyhow it was so old a mend that the
man that did it was probably dead by now. But if Erica wanted a man to
mend her china, there was a good traveling man who came around now and
then. Palmer, by name. He could put fifty pieces together when he was
sober without showing a join. But you'd got to be sure he was sober.

Erica listened to the vices and virtues of Palmer, and asked if he was
the only one in the district.

The only one the landlord knew. But you couldn't find a better than
Harry.

"Harry?"

That was his name. Harrogate Harry they called him. No, the landlord did
not know where he was to be found. Lived in a tent Brenchley way, so he
understood. Not the kind of household that Erica had better visit alone,
he thought he had better say. Harry was no example as a citizen.

Erica went out into the heat encouraged by the news that for days,
sometimes weeks, together, Harry did not stir away from his temporary
home. As soon as he made a little extra money, he sat back and drank it.

Well, if one is going to interview a china-mender one's first necessity
is broken china. Erica drove into Tunbridge Wells, hoping that the
great-aunt who lived somberly in Calverly Park was sleeping off her
forbidden pastry and not promenading under the lime trees, and in an
antique shop spent some of Kindness's coffin money on a frivolous little
porcelain figure of a dancer. She drove back to Pembury and in the
afternoon quiet of a deep lane proceeded to drop the dancer with abandon
on the running board of the car. But the dancer was tough. Even when
Erica took her firmly by the feet and tapped her on the jamb of the door,
she remained whole. In the end, afraid that greater violence might
shatter her completely, she snapped off an arm with her finger and thumb,
and there was her passport to Harrogate Harry.

You cannot ask questions about a vague tramp who, you think, may have
stolen a coat. But to look for a china-mender is quite a legitimate
search, involving no surprise or suspicion in the minds of the
questioned. It took Erica only ninety minutes to come face-to-face with
Harrogate. It would have taken her less, but the tent was a long way from
any made road; first up a cart track through woods, a track impassable
even for the versatile Tinny, then across an open piece of gorse land
with far views of the Medway valley, and into a second wood to a clearing
at its further edge, where a stream ran down to a dark pool.

Erica wished that the tent had not been in a wood. From her earliest
childhood she had been fearless by nature (the kind of child of whom
older people say out hunting: not a nerve in her body), but there was no
denying that she didn't like woods. She liked to see a long way away. And
though the stream ran bright and clear and merry in the sunlight, the
pool in the hollow was still and deep and forbidding. One of those
sudden, secret cups of black water more common in Sussex than in Kent.

As she came across the clearing carrying the little dancer in her hand, a
dog rushed out at her, shattering the quiet with hysterical protest. And
at the noise a woman came to the tent door and stood there watching Erica
as she came. She was a very tall woman, broad-shouldered and straight,
and Erica had the mad feeling that this long approach to her over an open
floor should end in a curtsey.

"Good afternoon," she called, cheerfully, above the clamor of the dog.
But the woman waited without moving. "I have a piece of china--can't you
make that dog be quiet?" She was face-to-face with her now, only the
noise of the dog between them.

The woman lifted a foot to the animal's ribs, and the high yelling died
into silence. The murmur of the stream came back.

Erica showed the broken porcelain figure.

"Harry!" called the woman, her black inquisitive eyes not leaving Erica.
And Harry came to the tent door: a small weaselish man with bloodshot
eyes, and evidently in the worst of tempers. "A job for you."

"I'm not working," said Harry, and spat.

"Oh. I'm sorry. I heard you were very good at mending things."

The woman took the figure and broken piece from Erica's hands. "He's
working, all right," she said.

Harry spat again, and took the pieces. "Have you the money to pay?" he
asked, angrily.

"How much will it be?"

"Two shillings."

"Two and six," said the woman.

"Oh, yes, I have that much."

He went back into the tent, and the woman stood in the way so that Erica
could neither follow nor see. Unconsciously she had, in imagining this
moment, always placed herself inside the tent--with the coat folded up in
the corner. Now she was not even to be allowed to see inside.

"He won't be long," Queenie said. "By the time you've cut a whistle from
the ash tree, it'll be ready."

Erica's small sober face broke into one of its rare smiles. "You thought
I couldn't do that, didn't you?" For the woman's phrase had been a flick
in the face of a supposed town dweller.

She cut the wood with her pocketknife, shaped it, nicked it, and damped
it in the stream, hoping that a preoccupation might disarm Queenie and
her partner. She even hoped that the last processes of whistle
manufacture might be made in friendly company with the mending of china.
But the moment she moved back to the tent, Queenie came from her
desultory stick gathering in the wood to stand guard. And Erica found her
whistle finished and the mended figure in her hands, without being one
whit wiser or richer than she was when she left the car in the road. She
could have cried.

She produced her small purse (Erica hated a bag) and paid her half crown,
and the sight of the folded notes in the little back partition all
waiting to do their work of rescue, drove her to desperation. Without any
warning and without knowing she was going to say it, she asked the man:

"What did you do with the coat you took at Dymchurch?"

There was a moment of complete stillness, and Erica rushed on:

"I don't want to do anything about it. Prosecuting, or anything like
that, I mean. But I do want that coat awfully bad. I'll buy it back from
you if you still have it. Or if you've pawned it--"

"You're a nice one!" the man burst out. "Coming here to have a job of
work done and then accusing a man of battle and blue murder. You be out
of here before I lose my temper good and proper and crack you one on the
side of the jaw. Impudent little--with your loose tongue. I've a good
mind to twist it out of, your bloody head, and what's s more I--"

The woman pushed him aside and stood over Erica, tall and intimidating.

"What makes you think my man took a coat?"

"The coat he had when Jake, the lorry driver, gave him a lift a week last
Tuesday was taken from a car at Dymchurch. We know that." She hoped the
"we" sounded well. And she hoped she didn't sound as doubtful as she
felt. They were both very innocent and indignant-looking. "But it isn't a
matter of making a case. We only want the coat back. I'll give you a
pound for it," she added, as they were about to break in on her again.

She saw their eyes change. And in spite of her predicament a great relief
flooded her. The man was _the_ man. They knew what coat she was
talking about.

"And if you've pawned it, I'll give you ten shillings to tell me where."

"What do you get out of this?" the woman said. "What do _you_ want
with a man's coat?"

"I didn't say anything about it being a man's." Triumph ran through her
like an electric shock.

"Oh, never mind!" Queenie dismissed with rough impatience any further
pretense. "What is it to you?"

If she mentioned murder they would both panic, and deny with their last
breath any knowledge of the coat. She knew well, thanks to her father's
monologues, the petty offender's horror of major crime. They would go to
almost any lengths to avoid being mixed up, even remotely, in a capital
charge.

"It's to get Hart out of trouble," she said. "He shouldn't have left the
car unattended. The owner is coming back tomorrow, and if the coat isn't
found by then Hart will lose his job."

"Who's Art?" asked the woman. "Your brother?"

"No. Our chauffeur."

"Chauffeur!" Harry gave a high skirl of laughter that had little
amusement in it. "That's a good one. I suppose you have two Rolls-Royces
and five Bentleys." His little red eyes ran over her worn and outgrown
clothes.

"No. Just a Lanchester and my old Morris." As their disbelief penetrated:
"My name is Erica Burgoyne. My father is Chief Constable."

"Ye'? My name is John D. Rockefeller, and my father was the Duke of
Wellington."

Erica whipped up her short tweed skirt, gripped the elastic waistband of
the gym knickers she wore summer and winter, and pushed the inner side of
it towards him on an extended thumb.

"Can you read?" she said.

"Erica M. Burgoyne" read the astonished man, in red on a Cash's label.

"It's a great mistake to be too skeptical," she said, letting the elastic
snap back into place.

"So you're doing it for a chauffeur, eh?" Harry leered at her, trying to
get back his lost ground. "You're very concerned about a chauffeur,
aren't you?"

"I'm desperately in love with him," Erica said, in the tone in which one
says: "And a box of matches, please." At school theatricals Erica had
always had charge of the curtains.

But it passed. Their minds were too full of speculation to be concerned
with emotion.

"How much?" said the woman.

"For the coat?"

"No. For telling you where to find it."

"I told you, I'll give you ten shillings."

"Not enough."

"But how do I know you'll tell me the truth?"

"How do we know you're telling the truth?"

"All right, I'll give you a pound. I shall still have to buy it from the
pawnshop, you know."

"It isn't in a pawnshop," the man said. "I sold it to a stone-breaker."

"W-h-a-t!" cried Erica in a despairing wail. "Do I have to begin looking
for someone else?"

"Oh, no need to look, no need at all. You hand over the cash, and I'll
tell you where to find the bloke."

Erica took out a pound note and showed it to him. "Well?"

"He's working at the Five Wents crossroad, Paddock Wood way. And if he
ain't there, he lives in a cottage in Capel. Near the church."

Erica held out the note. But the woman had seen the contents of the
purse.

"Wait, Harry! She'll pay more." She moved between Erica and the path
through the wood.

"I won't give you a penny more," Erica said incisively. Indignation
overcame her awareness of the black pool, the silence, and her dislike of
woods. "That's cheating."

The woman grabbed at her purse; but Erica had played lacrosse for her
school only last winter. Queenie's eager hand, to her great astonishment,
met not the purse but Erica's other arm, and came up and hit her own face
with surprising violence. And Erica was around her stately bulk and
running across the clearing, as she had swerved and run, half-bored,
half-pleased, through many winter afternoons.

She heard them come after her, and wondered what they would do to her if
they caught up with her. She wasn't afraid of the woman, but the man was
small and light, and for all his drinking might be speedy. And he knew
the path. In the shade of the trees, after the bright sunlight, she could
hardly see a path at all. She wished she had said that someone was
waiting for her in the car. It would have been--

Her foot caught in a root, and she rolled over and over.

She heard him coming thudding down the soft path, and as she sat up his
face appeared, as if it were swimming towards her, above the undergrowth.
In a few seconds he would be on her. She had fallen heavily because she
was still clutching something in either hand. She looked to see what she
was holding. In one hand was the china figure; in the other her purse
and--the whistle.

The whistle! She put it to her mouth and blew a sort of tattoo. Long and
short, like a code. A signal.

At the sound the man stopped, only a few yards from her, doubtfully.

"Hart!" she called with all the force of her very good lungs. "Hart!" And
whistled again.

"All right," said the man, "all right! You can have your--Hart. Someday
I'll tell your pa what's going on around his house. And I'll bet you pay
me more than a few quid then, me lady!"

"Good-bye," said Erica. "Thank your wife from me for the whistle."



Chapter 14


"And of course, what you want, Inspector, is a rest. A little
relaxation." The Chief Constable heaved himself into his raincoat.
"Overworking yourself disgracefully. That never got a man anywhere.
Except into his grave. Here it is Friday, and I dare swear you haven't
had a night's sleep or a proper meal this week. Ridiculous! Mustn't take
the thing to heart like that. Criminals have escaped before and will
escape again."

"Not from me."

"Overdue, then. That's all I can say. Very overdue. Everyone makes
mistakes. Who was to think a door in a bedroom was a fire escape,
anyhow?"

"I should have looked in the cupboards."

"Oh, my dear good sir--"

"The first one opened towards me, so that I could see inside. And by the
time he came to the second he had lulled me into--"

"I told you you were losing your sense of proportion! If you don't get
away for a little, you'll be seeing cupboards everywhere. You'll be what
your Sergeant Williams calls 'falling down on the job.' You are coming
back to dinner with me. You needn't 'but' me! It's only twenty miles."

"But meanwhile something may--"

"We have a telephone. Erica said I was to bring you. Said something about
ordering ices specially. You fond of ices? Anyhow, she said she had
something to show you."

"Puppies?" Grant smiled.

"Don't know. Probably. Never a moment in the year, it seems to me, when
there isn't a litter of sort at Steynes. Here is your excellent
substitute. Good evening, Sergeant."

"Good evening, sir," said Williams, rosily pink from his high tea.

"I'm taking Inspector Grant home to dinner with me."

"Very glad, sir. It'll do the Inspector good to eat a proper meal."

"That's my telephone number, in case you want him."

Grant's smile broadened as he watched the spirit that won the empire in
full blast. He was very tired. The week had been a long purgatory. The
thought of sitting down to a meal in a quiet room among leisured people
was like regaining some happier sphere of existence that he had known a
long time ago and half-forgotten about.

Automatically he put together the papers on the desk.

"To quote one of Sergeant Williams's favorite sayings: 'As a detective
I'm a grand farmer.' Thank you, I'd like to come to dinner. Kind of Miss
Erica to think of me." He reached for his hat.

"Thinks a lot of you, Erica. Not impressionable as a rule. But you are
the big chief, it seems."

"I have a picturesque rival, I'm afraid."

"Oh, yes. Olympia. I remember. I don't know much about bringing up
children, you know, Grant," he said as they went out to the car. "Erica's
my only one. Her mother died when she was born, and I made her a sort of
companion instead of letting her grow up in the nursery. Her old nurse
and I were always having words about it. Great stickler for the _comme
il faut_ and all that, Nannie. Then she went to school. Must find your
own level, that's all education is: learning to deal with people. She
didn't like it, but she stuck it. A good plucked 'un, she is."

"I think she is a charming child," Grant said heartily, answering the
"justifying" tone and the Colonel's worried look.

"That's just it, Grant, that's just it! She isn't a child any longer. She
should be coming out. Going to dances. Staying with her aunts in town and
meeting people. But she doesn't want to. Just stays at home and runs
wild. Doesn't care for clothes or pretties or any of the things she
should care about at her age. She's seventeen, you know. It worries me.
She's taken to gadding about all over the place in that little car of
hers. I don't know where she has been half the time. Not that she doesn't
tell me if I ask. Always a truthful child. But it worries me."

"I don't think it need, sir. She'll make her own happiness. You'll see.
It's rare to meet anyone of that age who has so sure a knowledge of what
she wants."

"Hrrmp!" said the Colonel. "And gets it! George will be there for
dinner," he added. "George Meir. Cousin of my wife's. Perhaps you know
him? Nerve specialist."

"I know him well by reputation, but I've never met him."

"That's Erica's doing. Nice fellow, George, but a bit of a bore. Don't
understand what he's talking about half the time. Reactions, and things.
But Erica seems to understand the lingo. Good shot, though: George. Nice
fellow."

Sir George was a nice fellow. Grant liked him at sight, and noticing his
narrow cheekbones, felt that some other attribute in him must weigh very
strongly with Erica to overcome his physical characteristics. He was
certainly a pleasant person, with neither the slight flamboyance nor the
condescension so common in Wimpole Street. That he could commiserate with
Grant on his nonsuccess without making Grant want to hit him, was a test
of his worth. Grant, in fact, turned to him in his sore state, as to
someone who would understand. This was a man to whom human failure must
be a very ordinary affair.

Colonel Burgoyne had forbidden mention of the Clay affair during dinner,
but he might as well have bidden the tides cease. They were all talking
Tisdall, Colonel included, before the fish had disappeared. All but
Erica, who sat at the end of the table in her demure school-supper white
dress, listening quietly. She had powdered her nose, but looked no more
grown up than she did by day.

"We never picked up his trail at all," Grant said in answer to a question
of Meir. "He just disappeared from the moment he left the hotel. Oh,
there were dozens of accounts of men like him, of course. But they all
led to nothing. We don't know a thing more than we did last Monday. He
might have been sleeping out, the first three nights. But you know what
last night was like. Torrents. Not even an animal could have stayed out
in it. He must have found shelter somewhere, if he's still alive. It
wasn't local, the storm. There are floods from here to the Tyne. And yet
another whole day has gone past and not a hint of him."

"No chance of his escaping by sea?"

"Not likely. Curiously enough, not one criminal in a thousand escapes
that way."

"So much for our island race!" laughed Meir. "The sea's the last thing
they think of. You know, Inspector, I don't know if you know it, but you
have made the man very vivid in the half hour we've been talking. And
there's something else you've made clear, I think; something you probably
are not aware of yourself."

"What is that?"

"You were surprised in your heart of hearts that he had done it. Perhaps
even sorry. You hadn't believed it."

"Yes, I think that's true. You'd have been sorry yourself, Sir George,"
Grant grinned. "He's very plausible. And he stuck to truth as far as it
served him. As I told you, we've checked his statement from beginning to
end. It's true as far as it can be checked. But that thin story about
stealing the car! And losing his coat--the all-important coat!"

"Curiously enough, I don't think the stealing episode is as incredible as
it sounds. His main thought for the past few weeks had been escape.
Escape from the disgrace of his spent fortune, from the crowd (whom he
seems to have begun to value at their proper worth), from the necessity
of earning his living again (tramping was just as mad a notion, in the
case of a boy with influential connections, as stealing a car: the escape
motif again), and latterly escape from the equivocal situation at the
cottage. He must have looked forward, you know, with subconscious dread
to the leave-taking that was due in a day or two. He was in a highly
emotional condition due to his self-disgust and self-questioning (at
bottom what he wanted to escape from was himself). At a moment of low
vitality (six in the morning) he is presented with the means of physical
escape. A deserted countryside and abandoned car. He is possessed for the
time being. When he recovers he is horrified, just as he says. He turns
the car without having to think twice, and comes back at the best speed
he can make. To his dying day he'll never understand what made him steal
the car."

"Stealing will pretty soon not be a crime at all, what with all you
specialists," the Colonel remarked with a sort of tart resignation.

"Not a bad theory, sir," Grant said to Meir. "Can you make the thin tale
about the coat thicker too?"

"Truth is often terribly thin, don't you think?"

"Are you taking the view that the man may be innocent?"

"I had thought of it."

"Why?"

"I have an excellent opinion of your judgment."

"_My_ judgment?"

"Yes. You were surprised the man had done it. That means that your first
impression was clouded by circumstantial evidence."

"In fact, I'm logical as well as imaginative. Mercifully, since I'm a
police officer. The evidence may be circumstantial but it is very
satisfying and neat."

"Much too neat, don't you feel?"

"Lord Edward said that. But no policeman feels that evidence is too neat,
Sir George."

"Poor Champneis!" the Colonel said. "Dreadful for him. Very devoted they
were, I'm told. A nice fellow. Didn't know him, but knew the family in my
young days. Nice people. Dreadful for them!"

"I traveled up from Dover with him on Thursday," Meir said. "I had come
over from Calais--I've just come back from a medical conference in
Vienna--and he joined the boat train with the usual Champneis lordliness
at Dover. He seemed very happy to be back. Showed me some topazes he had
brought from Galeria for his wife. They corresponded every day by
telegram, it seemed. I found that more impressive than the topazes, if I
must be frank. European telegrams being what they are."

"Just a moment, Sir George. Do you mean that Champneis hadn't come over
on the boat from Calais?"

"No, oh, no. He came home by yacht. The _Petronel_. It belongs to
his elder brother, but he lent it to Edward for the voyage back from
Galeria. A charming little ship. She was lying in the harbor."

"Then when had Lord Edward arrived in Dover?"

"The night before, I believe. Too late to go up to town." He paused and
looked quizzically at Grant. "Neither logic nor imagination will make
Edward Champneis suspect."

"I realize that." Grant went on calmly to prise the stone from a peach,
an operation he had suspended abruptly at Meir's phrase about Champneis
joining the boat train. "It is of no importance. The police habit of
checking up."

But his mind was full of surprise and conjecture. Champneis had
distinctly let him understand that he had crossed from Calais on Thursday
morning. Not in words but by implication. Grant had made some idle
remark, something about the accommodation in the new steamers, and
Champneis in his reply had implied that he had been on board that
morning. Why? Edward Champneis was in Dover on Wednesday night, and was
reluctant to have the fact known. Why? In the name of all that was
logical, why?

Because an awkward pause had succeeded the revelation of Champneis's
presence in England, Grant said lightly, "Miss Erica hasn't produced the
puppies, or whatever it was I was to be shown."

To everyone's surprise Erica grew pink. This was so unheard-of a
happening that all three men stared.

"It isn't puppies," she said. "It's something you wanted very much. But
I'm terribly afraid you're not going to be happy about it."

"It sounds exciting," admitted Grant, wondering what the child had
imagined he wanted. He hoped she hadn't brought him something. Hero
worship was all very well, but it was embarrassing to be given something
in full view of the multitude. "Where is it?"

"It's in a parcel up in my room. I thought I'd wait till you had finished
your port."

"Is it something you can bring into a dining room?" her father asked.

"Oh, yes."

"Then Burt will fetch it."

"Oh, no!" she cried, arresting her father's hand on the bell. "I'll get
it. I shan't be a minute."

She came back carrying a large brown paper parcel, which her father said
looked like a Salvation Army gift day. She unwrapped it and produced a
man's coat, of a grayish black.

"That is the coat you wanted," she said. "But it has all its buttons."

Grant took the coat automatically, and examined it.

"Where in Heaven's name did you get that, Erica?" her father asked,
astonished.

"I bought it for ten shillings from a stone breaker at Paddock Wood. He
gave a tramp five shillings for it, and thought it such a bargain that he
didn't want to part with it. I had to have cold tea with him, and listen
to what the Border Regiment did on the first of July, and see the bullet
scar on his shin, before he would give up the coat. I was afraid to go
away and leave him with it in case he sold it to someone else, or I
couldn't find him again."

"What makes you think this is Tisdall's coat?" Grant asked.

"This," she said, and showed the cigarette burn. "He told me to look for
that."

"Who did?"

"Mr. Tisdall!"

"Who?" said all three men at once.

"I met him by accident on Wednesday. And since then I've been searching
for the coat. But it was great luck coming across it.

"You met him! Where?"

"In a lane near Mallingford."

"And you didn't report it?" Grant's voice was stern.

"No." Hers quavered just a little, and then went on equably. "You see, I
didn't believe he had done it. And I really do like you a lot. I thought
it would be better for you if he could be proved innocent before he was
really arrested. Then you wouldn't have to set him free again. The papers
would be awful about that."

There was a stunned silence for a moment.

Then Grant said, "And on Wednesday Tisdall told you to look for this." He
held forward the burned piece, while the others crowded from their places
to inspect.

"No sign of a replaced button," Meir observed. "Do you think it's the
coat?"

"It may be. We can't try it on Tisdall, but perhaps Mrs. Pitts may be
able to identify it."

"But--but," stammered the Colonel--"if it is the coat do you realize what
it means?"

"Completely. It means beginning all over again."

His tired eyes, cold with disappointment, met Erica's kind gray ones, but
he refused their sympathy. It was too early to think of Erica as his
possible savior. At the moment she was just someone who had thrown a
wrench into the machinery.

"I shall have to get back," he said. "May I use your telephone?"



Chapter 15


Mrs. Pitts identified the coat. She had dried it at the kitchen fire one
day when a thermos bottle of hot water had leaked on it. She had noticed
the cigarette burn then.

Sergeant Williams, interviewing the farmer who had identified Tisdall's
car, found that he was color blind.

The truth stuck out with painful clarity. Tisdall had really lost his
coat from the car on Tuesday. He had really driven away from the beach.
He had not murdered Christine Clay.

By eleven that Friday evening Grant was faced with the fact that they
were just where they were a week previously, when he had canceled a
theater seat and come down to Westover. Worse still, they had hounded a
man into flight and hiding, and they had wasted seven days on a dud
investigation while the man they wanted made his escape.

Grant's mind was a welter of broken ends and unrelated facts.

Harmer. He came into the picture now, didn't he? They had checked his
story as far as it went. He really had made inquiries from the owner of
the cherry orchard, and from the post office at Liddlestone at the times
he said. But after that, what? After that no one knew anything about his
movements until he walked into the cottage at Medley, sometime after
eight the next morning.

There was--incredibly!--Edward Champneis, who had brought back topazes
for his wife, but who, for some reason, was unwilling that his movements
on that Wednesday night should be investigated. There could be no other
reason for his desire to make Grant believe that he had arrived in
England on Thursday morning. He had not come to England secretly. If you
want to arrive secretly in a country, arriving in a populous harbor by
yacht is not the way to do it. Harbor master and customs' officials are a
constitutionally inquisitive race. Therefore it was not the fact of his
arrival that he wanted to hide, but the way in which he had occupied his
time since. The more Grant thought about it, the queerer it became.
Champneis was at Dover on Wednesday night. At six on Thursday morning his
well-loved wife had met her death. And Champneis did not want his
movements investigated. Very queer!

There was, too, the "shilling for candles." That, which had first caught
his interest and had been put aside in favor of more obvious lines of
inquiry, that would have to be looked into.

On Saturday morning the newspapers, beginning to be bored with a
four-day-old manhunt, carried the glad news that the hunted man was
innocent. "New information having come to police." It was confidently
expected that Tisdall would present himself before nightfall, and in that
hope reporters and photographers lingered around the County police
station in Westover; with more optimism than logic, it would seem, since
Tisdall was just as likely to present himself at a station miles away.

But Tisdall presented himself nowhere.

This caused a slight stirring of surprise in Grant's busy mind when he
had a moment to remember Tisdall; but that was not often. He wondered why
Tisdall hadn't enough sense to come in out of the wet. It had rained
again on Friday night and it had been blowing a northeaster and raining
all Saturday. One would have thought he would have been glad to see a
police station. He was not being sheltered by any of his old friends,
that was certain. They had all been shadowed very efficiently during the
four days that he was "wanted." Grant concluded that Tisdall had not yet
seen a newspaper, and dismissed the thing from his mind.

He had set the official machinery moving to discover the whereabouts of
Christine Clay's brother; he had started a train of inquiries which had
the object of proving that Jason Harmer had once had a dark coat which he
had lately discarded and which had a missing button. And he himself took
on the investigation of Lord Edward Champneis. He noticed with his usual
self-awareness that he had no intention of going to Champneis and asking
for an account of his movements on Wednesday night. It would be highly
embarrassing, for one thing, if Champneis proved that he had slept
peacefully in his bunk all night. Or at the Lord Warden. Or otherwise had
a perfect alibi. For another--oh, well, there was no getting away from
the fact; one didn't demand information from the son of a ducal house as
one demanded it from a coster. A rotten world, no doubt, but one must
conform.

Grant learned that the _Petronel_ had gone around to Cowes, where
her owner, Giles Champneis, would live in her for Cowes's week. On Sunday
morning, therefore, Grant flew down to Gosport, and got a boat across the
glittering Spithead to the island. What had been a white flurry of
rain-whipped water yesterday was now a Mediterranean sea of the most
beguiling blue. The English summer was being true to form.

Grant flung the Sunday papers on the seat beside him and prepared to
enjoy the crossing. And then his eye caught the _Sunday Newsreel's_
heading: THE TRUTH ABOUT CLAY'S EARLY LIFE. And once more the case drew
him into it. On the previous Sabbath, the Sunday Wire had had as its
chief "middle" a tear-compelling article by that prince of newspapermen,
Jammy Hopkins. The article had consisted of an interview with a
Nottingham lace-hand, Miss Helen Cozens, who had, it appeared, been a
contemporary of Christine Clay's in the factory. It had dealt touchingly
with Chris's devotion to her family, her sunny disposition, her excellent
work, the number of times Miss Helen Cozens had helped her in one way or
another, and it had finished with a real Hopkins touch of
get-togetherness. It had been the fate of one of these two friends, he
pointed out, to climb to the stars, to give pleasure to millions, to
irradiate the world. But there were other fates as glowing if less
spectacular; and Helen Cozens, in her little two-room home, looking after
a delicate mother, had had a destiny no less wonderful, no less worthy of
the world's homage. It was a good article, and Jammy had been pleased
with it.

Now the _Sunday Newsreel_ appeared with an interview of its own. And
it caused Grant the only smile he had enjoyed that week. Meg Hindler was
the lady interviewed. Once a factory hand but now the mother of eight.
And she wanted to know what the hell that goddamned old maid Nell Cozens
thought she was talking about, and she hoped she might be struck down for
her lies, and if her mother drank the lord knew it was no wonder with a
nagging dyspeptic piece of acid like her daughter around, and everyone
knew that Christina Gotobed was out of the factory and away from the town
long before Nell Cozens put her crooked nose into the place at all.

It was not put just like that, but to anyone reading between the lines it
was perfectly clear.

Meg really had known Christine. She was a quiet girl, she said, always
trying to better herself. Not very popular with her contemporaries. Her
father was dead and she lived with her mother and brother in a three-room
tenement house. The brother was older, and was the mother's favorite.
When Chris was seventeen the mother had died, and the family had
disappeared from Nottingham. They did not belong to the town and had had
no roots there, and no one had regretted them when they went. Least of
all people who hadn't come into the town until years afterwards.

Grant wondered how Jammy would enjoy being taken for a ride by the
imaginative Nell. So the elder brother had been the mother's favorite,
had he? Grant wondered how much that meant. A shilling for candles. What
family row had left such a mark that she should immortalize it in her
will? Oh, well! Reporters thought they were clever, but the Yard had ways
and means that were not open to the Press, however powerful. By the time
he got back tonight, Christine Clay's early life would be on his desk in
full detail. He discarded the _Wire_ and turned to the other papers
in the bundle. The _Sunday Telegraph_ had a symposium--a very
dignified and conveniently cheap method of filling a page. Everyone from
the Archbishop of Canterbury to Jason Harmer had given their personal
view of Christine Clay and her influence on her art. (The _Sunday
Telegraph_ liked influence and art. Even boxers never described
punches to it: they explained their art.) The silly little paragraphs
were all conventional, except Jason's, which had a violent sincerity
beneath its sickly phrases. Marta Hallard was graceful about Clay's
genius, and for once omitted to condone her lowly origin. The heir to a
European throne extolled her beauty. A flying ace her courage. An
ambassador her wit. It must have cost the _Telegraph_ something in
telephones.

Grant turned to the _Courier_, and found Miss Lydia Keats being
informative all over the middle pages on the signs of the Zodiac. Lydia's
stock had dropped a little in her own circles during the last week. It
was felt that if she had foreseen the Clay end so clearly it was a little
weak of her to overlook a small detail like murder. But in the public eye
she was booming. There was no fraud about Lydia. She had stated in
public, many months ago, what the stars foretold for Christine Clay, and
the stars were right. And if there is anything the public loves it is a
prophecy come true. They pushed their shuddering spines more firmly into
the cushions and asked for more. And Lydia was giving it to them. In
small type at the end of the article appeared the information that,
thanks to the _Courier's_ generosity, its readers might obtain
horoscopes from the infallible Miss Keats at the cost of one shilling,
coupon on the back page.

Grant tucked the smaller illustrateds under his arm, and prepared to get
off the boat. He watched a sailor twisting a hawser around a bollard and
wished that he had chosen a profession that dealt with things and not
with people.

The _Petronel_ was moored in the roads. Grant engaged a boatman and
was rowed out to her. An elderly deckhand pushed a pipe into a pocket and
prepared to receive them. Grant asked if Lord Giles were on board,
happily aware that he was in Buckinghamshire. On hearing that he was not
expected for a week, Grant looked suitably disappointed and asked if he
might come on board: he had hoped that Giles would show him the craft.
The man was pleased and garrulous. He was alone on board and had been
very bored. It would be a pleasant diversion to show the good-looking
friend of Lord Giles around the ship, and no doubt there would be a tip
forthcoming. He did the honors with a detail that wearied Grant a little,
but he was very informative. When Grant remarked on the splendid sleeping
accommodation, the man said that Lord Giles wasn't one for ever sleeping
ashore if he could help it. Never so happy as on salt water, Lord Giles
wasn't.

"Lord Edward isn't so fond of it," Grant remarked, and the man chuckled.

"No, not Lord Edward, he wasn't. He was ashore the minute the dinghy
could be swung out or a hawser slapped on a quay."

"I suppose he stayed with the Beechers the night you made Dover?"

The deckhand didn't rightly know where he slept. All he knew was that he
didn't sleep on board. In fact, they hadn't seen him again. His hand
luggage had been sent to the boat train and the rest had been sent to
town after him. Because of the sad thing that happened to his lady, that
was. Had Grant ever seen her? A film actress, she was. Very good, too. It
was dreadful wasn't it, the things that happened in good families
nowadays. Even murders. Changed days indeed.

"Oh, I don't know," Grant said. "The older families of England made a
pastime of murder if my history books told the truth."

The man was so pleased with his tip that he offered to make cocoa for the
visitor, but Grant wanted to get ashore so that he could talk to the
Yard. On the way back he wondered just how Champneis had spent that night
ashore. The most likely explanation was that he had stayed with friends.
But if he had stayed with friends, why the desire to avoid attention? The
more Grant thought of it the more out-of-character it was in the man to
want to hide anything. Edward Champneis was a person who did what he
wanted to in broad daylight and cared not a straw for opinions or
consequences. Grant found it difficult to associate him in his mind with
any furtive activity whatever. And that very thought led to a logical and
rather staggering sequel. It was no petty thing that Champneis had to
hide. Nothing but some matter of vast importance would have driven
Champneis to prevarication. Grant could dismiss, therefore, any thought
of a light love affair. Champneis had, in any case, a reputation that
bordered on the austere. And if one dismissed a love affair what was
left? What possible activity could a man of Champneis's stamp want to
keep secret? Except murder!

Murder was just possible. If that calm security were once shattered, who
knew what might flame out? He was a man who would both give and demand
fidelity--and be unforgiving to the faithless. Supposing--! There was
Harmer. Christine Clay's colleagues may have doubted that she and Harmer
were lovers, but the _beau monde_, unused to the partnership of
work, had no doubt. Had Champneis come to believe that? His and
Christine's love for each other was an equable affair, but his pride
would be a very real thing, fragile and passionate. Had he--? That was an
idea! Had he driven over to the cottage that night? He was, after all,
the only person who knew where she was: nearly all her telegrams had been
to him. He was in Dover, and she was only an hour away. W-hat more
natural than that he should have motored over to surprise her? And if
so--

A picture swam into Grant's mind. The cottage in the summer dark, the lit
windows open to the night, so that every word, every movement almost, is
audible outside. And in the rose-tangled mass of the garden a man
standing, arrested by the voices. He stands there, quite silent, quite
still, watching. Presently the lights go out. And in a little while the
figure in the garden moves away. Where? To brood on his homecoming; on
his cuckold state? To tramp the downs till morning? To see her come to
the beach, unexpected, alone? To--

Grant shook himself and picked up the telephone receiver.

"Edward Champneis didn't spend the night of Wednesday on board," he said,
when he had been connected. "I want to know where he did spend it. And
don't forget, discretion is the better part. You may find that he spent
it with the Warden of the Cinque Ports, or something equally orthodox,
but I'll be surprised if he did. It would be a good idea if someone got
friendly with his valet and went through his wardrobe for a dark coat.
You know the strongest card we have is that no one outside the force
knows about that button. The fact that we asked for any discarded coat
that was found to be brought in doesn't convey much to anyone. The
chances are ten to one, I think, that the coat is still with its owner.
Keeping a coat, even with a missing button, is less conspicuous than
getting rid of one. And that SOS for the coat was only a police circular,
anyhow, not a public appeal. So inspect the Champneis wardrobe...No, I
haven't got anything on him...Yes, I know it is mad. But I'm not taking
any more chances in this case. Only be discreet, for Heaven's sake. I'm
in bad enough odor as it is. What is the news? Has Tisdall turned
up?...Oh, well, I expect he will by night. He might give the Press
a break. They're waiting breathless for him. How is the Clay
dossier coming?...Oh. Has Vine come back from interviewing the
dresser--what's-her-name? Bundle--yet? No? All right, I'm coming straight
back to town."

As Grant hung up he shut his mind quickly on the thought that tried to
jump in. Of _course_ Tisdall was all right. What could happen to an
adult in the English countryside in summer? Of course he was all right.



Chapter 16


The dossier was filling up nicely. Henry Gotobed had been an estate
carpenter near Long Eaton, and had married a laundry maid at the "big
house." He had been killed in a threshing-mill accident, and--partly
because his father and grandfather had been estate servants, partly
because she was not strong enough to work--the widow had been given a
small pension. The cottage at Long Eaton having to be vacated, she had
brought her two children to Nottingham, where there was better hope of
ultimate employment for them. The girl was then twelve and the boy
fourteen. It had been curiously difficult to obtain information about
them after that. Information other than the bare official record, that is
to say. In the country, changes were slow, interests circumscribed, and
memories long. But in the fluctuating life of the town, where a family
stayed perhaps six months in a house and moved elsewhere, interest was
superficial where it existed at all.

Meg Hindler, the _Newsreel's_ protegée, had proved the only real
help. She was an enormous, hearty, loud-voiced, good-natured woman, who
cuffed her numerous brood with one hand and caressed with the other. She
was still suffering a little from a Nell Cozens phobia, but when she
could be kept off the Cozens tack she was genuinely informative. She
remembered the family not because there was anything memorable about
them, but because she had lived with her own family across the landing
from them, and had worked in the same factory as Chris, so that they
sometimes came home together. She had liked Chris Gotobed in a mild way;
didn't approve of her stuck-up ideas, of course; if you had to earn your
living by working in a factory, then you had to earn your living by
working in a factory, and why make a fuss about it? Not that Chris made a
fuss, but she had a way of shaking the dust of the factory off her as if
it was dirt. And she wore a hat always; a quite unnecessary piece of
affectation. She had adored her mother, but her mother couldn't see
anything in life but Herbert. A nasty piece of work, if ever there was
one, Herbert. As slimy, sneaking, cadging, self-satisfied a piece of
human trash as you'd meet in a month of Sundays. But Mrs. Gotobed thought
he was the cat's whiskers. He was always making it difficult for Chris.
Chris had once talked her mother into letting her have dancing
lessons--though what you wanted dancing lessons for, Meg couldn't think:
you'd only to watch the others hopping around for a little and you'd got
the general idea: after that it was only practice--but when Herbert had
heard about it he had quickly put a stop to anything like that. They
couldn't afford it, he said--they never could afford anything unless
Herbert wanted it--and besides, dancing was a light thing, and the Lord
wouldn't approve. Herbert always knew what the Lord would like. He not
only stopped the dancing lesson idea but he found some way of getting the
money Chris had saved and that she had hoped her mother would make up to
the required amount. He had pointed out how selfish it was of Chris to
save money for her own ends when their mother was so poorly. He talked
such a lot about their mother's bad health that Mrs. Gotobed began to
feel very poorly indeed, and took to her bed. And Herbert helped eat the
delicacies that Chris bought. And Herbert went with his mother for four
days to Skegness because Chris couldn't leave the factory and it just
happened that this was one of the numerous occasions when Herbert was
without a job.

Yes, Meg had been helpful. She did not know what had become of the
family, of course. Chris had left Nottingham the day after her mother's
funeral, and because the rent was paid up to the end of the week Herbert
had stayed on alone in the house for several days after. Meg remembered
that because he had had one of his "meetings" in the house--he was always
having meetings where he could hear the sound of his own voice--and the
neighbors had to complain about the noise of the singing. As if there
wasn't enough row always going on in a tenement without adding meetings
to the din! What kind of meetings? Well, as far as she could remember he
had begun with political harangues, but very soon took to religion;
because it doesn't matter how you rave at your audience, when it's
religion they don't throw things. She personally didn't think it mattered
to him what he was talking about as long as he was the person who was
talking. She never knew anyone who had a better opinion of himself with
less cause than Herbert Gotobed.

No, she didn't know where Chris had gone, or whether Herbert knew her
whereabouts. Knowing Herbert, she thought that Chris had probably gone
without saying good-bye. She hadn't said good-bye to anyone, if it came
to that. Meg's younger brother, Sydney--the one that was now in
Australia--had had a fancy for her, but she didn't give him any
encouragement. Didn't have any beau, Chris didn't. Funny, wasn't it, that
she should have seen Christine Clay on the screen often and often, and
never recognized Chris Gotobed. She had changed a lot, that she had.
She'd heard that they made you over in Hollywood. Perhaps that was it.
And of course it was a long time between seventeen and thirty. Look what
a few years had done to her, come to think of it.

And Meg had laughed her ample laugh and revolved her ample figure for the
detective's inspection, and had given him a cup of stewed tea and Rich
Mixed Biscuits.

But the detective--who was the Sanger who had assisted at the non arrest
of Tisdall, and who was also a Clay fan--remembered that even in a city
there are communities who have interests as narrow and memories as long
as any village dwellers, and so he had come eventually to the little
house in a suburb beyond the Trent where Miss Stammers lived with a toy
Yorkshire terrier and the wireless. Both terrier and wireless had been
given her on her retirement. She would never have had the initiative
after thirty years of teaching at Beasley Road Elementary School to
acquire either on her own behalf. School had been her life, and school
still surrounded her. She remembered Christina Gotobed very clearly
indeed. What did Mr. Sanger want to know about her? Not Mr.? A detective?
Oh, dear! She did hope that there was nothing serious the matter. It was
all a very long time ago, and of course she had not kept in touch with
Christina. It was impossible to keep in touch with all one's pupils when
one had as many as sixty in a class. But she had been an exceptionally
promising child, exceptionally promising.

Sanger had asked if she was unaware that her exceptionally promising
pupil was Christine Clay?

"Christine Clay? The film actress you mean? Dear me. Dear me!"

Sanger had thought the expression a little inadequate until he noticed
her small eyes grow suddenly large with tears. She took off her pince-nez
and wiped them away with a neatly folded square of handkerchief.

"So famous?" she murmured. "Poor child. Poor child."

Sanger reminded her of the reason for Christine's prominence in the news.
But she seemed less occupied with the woman's cruel end than with the
achievement of the child she had known.

"She was very ambitious, you know," she said. "That is how I remember her
so well. She was not like the others: anxious to get away from school and
become wage earners. That is what appeals to most elementary children,
you know, Mr. Sanger: a weekly wage in their pockets and the means of
getting out of their crowded homes. But Christine wanted to go to the
secondary school. She actually won a scholarship--a 'free place,' they
call it. But her people could not afford to let her take it. She came to
me and cried about it. It was the only time I had known her to cry: she
was not an emotional child. I asked her mother to come to see me. A
pleasant enough woman, but without force of character. I couldn't
persuade her. Weak people can be very stubborn. It was a regret in my
mind for years, that I had failed. I had great feeling for the child's
ambition. I had been very ambitious once myself, and had--had to put my
desire aside. I understood what Christina was going through. I lost sight
of her when she left school. She went to work in the factory, I remember.
They needed the money. There was a brother who was not earning. An
unsympathetic character. And the mother's pension was small. But she made
her career, after all. Poor child. Poor child!"

Sanger had asked, as he was taking his departure, how it was that she had
missed the articles in the newspapers about Christine Clay's childhood.

She never saw Sunday newspapers, she said, and the daily paper was handed
on to her a day late by her very kind neighbors, the Timpsons, and at
present they were at the seaside, so that she was without news, except
for the posters. Not that she missed the papers much. A matter of habit,
didn't Mr. Sanger think? After three days without one, the desire to read
a newspaper vanished. And really, one was happier without. Very
depressing reading they made these days. In her little home she found it
difficult to believe in so much violence and hatred.

Sanger had made further inquiries from many people about that
unsympathetic character Herbert Gotobed. But hardly anyone remembered
him. He had never stayed in a job for more than five months (the five
months was his record: in an ironmonger's) and no one had been sorry to
see him go. No one knew what had become of him.

But Vine, coming back from interviewing the onetime dresser, Bundle, in
South Street, had brought news of him. Yes. Bundle had known there was a
brother. The snapping brown eyes in the wizened face had snapped
ferociously at the very mention of him. She had only seen him once, and
she hoped she never saw him again. He had sent in a note to her lady one
night in New York, to her dressing room. It was the first dressing room
she had ever had to herself, the first show she had been billed in,
_Let's Go!_ it was. And she was a success. Bundle had dressed her as
a chorus girl, along with nine others, but when her lady had gone up in
the world she had taken Bundle with her. That's the sort her lady was:
never forgot a friend. She had been talking and laughing till the note
was brought in. But when she read that she was just like someone who was
about to take a spoonful of ice cream and noticed a beetle in it. When he
came in she had said, "So _you've_ turned up!" He said he'd come to
warn her that she was bound for perdition, or something. She said, "Come
to see what pickings there are, you mean." Bundle had never seen her so
angry. She had just taken off her day makeup to put on her stage one, and
there wasn't a spark of color anywhere in her face. She had sent Bundle
out of the room then, but there had been a grand row. Bundle, standing
guard before the door--there were lots even then, who thought they would
like to meet her lady--couldn't help hearing some of it. In the end she
had to go in because her lady was going to be late for her entrance if
she didn't. The man had turned on her for interrupting, but her lady had
said that she would give him in charge if he didn't go. He had gone then,
and had never to her knowledge turned up again. But he had written.
Letters came from him occasionally--Bundle recognized the writing--and he
always seemed to know where they were, because the address was the
correct one, not a forwarded affair. Her lady always had acute depression
after a letter had come. Sometimes for two days or more. She had said
once, "Hate is very _lowering_, isn't it, Bundle?" Bundle had never
hated anyone except a cop who was habitually rude to her, but she had
hated him plenty, and she agreed that hate was very weakening. Burned you
up inside till there was nothing left.

And to Bundle's account of Christine's brother was added the report of
the American police. Herbert Gotobed had entered the States about five
years after his sister. He had worked for a short while as a sort of
houseman for a famous Boston divine who had been taken (in) by his
manners and his piety. He had left the divine under some sort of
cloud--the exact nature of the cloud was doubtful since the divine,
either from Christian charity or more likely from a reluctance to have
his bad judgment made public, had preferred no charges--and had
disappeared from the ken of the police. It was supposed, however, that he
was the man who, under the name of the Brother of God, had toured the
States in the role of prophet, and had been, it was reported, both an
emotional and financial success. He had been jailed in Kentucky for
blasphemy, in Texas for fraud, in Missouri for creating a riot, in
Arkansas for his own safety, and in Wyoming for seduction. In all
detentions he had denied any connection with Herbert Gotobed. He had no
name, he said, other than the Brother of God. When the police had pointed
out that relation to the deity would not be considered by them an
insuperable obstacle to deportation, he had taken the hint and had
disappeared. The last that had been heard of him was that he had run a
mission in the islands somewhere--Fiji, they thought--and had decamped
with the funds to Australia.

"A charming person," Grant said, looking up from the dossier.

"That's our man, sir, never a doubt of it," Williams said.

"He certainly has all the stigmata: greed, enormous conceit, and lack of
conscience. I rather hope he is our man. It would be doing the world a
good turn to squash that slug. But why did he do it?"

"Hoped for money, perhaps."

"Hardly likely. He must have known only too well how she felt about him."

"I wouldn't put it past him to forge a will, sir."

"No, neither would I. But if he has a forged will, why hasn't he come
forward? It will soon be a fortnight since her death. We haven't a thing
to go on. We don't even know that he's in England."

"He's in England all right, sir. 'Member what her housekeeper said: that
he always knew where she was? Clay had been more than three months in
England. You bet he was here, too."

"Yes. Yes, that's true. Australia? Let me see." He looked up the New York
report again. "That's about two years ago. He'd be difficult to trace
there, but if he came to England after Clay he shouldn't be difficult to
trace. He can't keep his mouth shut. Anything quite so vocal must be
noticeable."

"No letters from him among her things?"

"No, Lord Edward has been through everything. Tell me, Williams, on what
provocation, for what imaginable reason, would a Champneis, in your
opinion, tell a lie?"

"Noblesse oblige," said Williams promptly.

Grant stared. "Quite right," he said at length. "I hadn't thought of
that. Can't imagine what he could have been shielding, though."



Chapter 17


So the candles weren't the kind you go to bed with, Grant thought, as the
car sped along the embankment that Monday afternoon en route for the
Temple; they were the kind you put on altars. The Brother of God's
tabernacle had been none of your bare mission tents. It had been hung
with purple and fine linen and furnished with a shrine of great
magnificence. And what had been merely an expression of Herbert's own
love of the theatrical had in most cases (Kentucky was an exception)
proved good business. A beauty-starved and theatrically-minded people had
fallen hard--in hard cash.

Christine's shilling was the measure of her contempt. Her return,
perhaps, for all those occasions when Herbert's Lord had seen fit to deny
her the small things her soul needed.

In the green subaqueous light of Mr. Erskine's small room beside the
plane tree, Grant put his proposition to the lawyer. They wanted to bring
Herbert Gotobed to the surface, and this was the way to do it. It was
quite orthodox, so the lawyer needn't mind doing it. Lord Edward had
approved.

The lawyer hummed and hawed, not because he had any real objections but
because it is a lawyer's business to consider remote contingencies, and a
straightforward agreement to anything would be wildly unprofessional. In
the end he agreed that it might be done.

Grant said: "Very well, I leave it to you. In tomorrow's papers, please,"
and went out wondering why the legal mind delighted in manufacturing
trouble when there was so much ready-made in the world. There was plenty
in poor Grant's mind at the moment. "Surrounded by trouble," as the
spaewives said when they told your cards: that's what he was. Monday
would soon be over and there was no sign that Robert Tisdall was in the
world of men. The first low howl had come from the _Clarion_ that
morning, and by tomorrow the whole wolf pack would be on him. Where was
Robert Tisdall? What were the police doing to find him? To do Grant
justice the discomfort in his mind was less for the outcry that was
imminent than for the welfare of Tisdall. He had genuinely believed for
the last two days that Tisdall's nonappearance was due to lack of
knowledge on Tisdall's part. It is not easy to see newspapers when one is
on the run. But now doubt like a chill wind played through his thoughts.
There was something wrong, Every newspaper poster in every village in
England had read: TISDALL INNOCENT. HUNTED MAN INNOCENT. How could he
have missed it? In every pub, railway carriage, bus, and house in the
country the news had been the favorite subject of conversation. And yet
Tisdall was silent. No one had seen him since Erica drove away from him
last Wednesday. On Thursday night the whole of England had been swamped
by the worst storm for years, and it had rained and blown for two days
afterwards. Tisdall had picked up the food left by Erica on Thursday, but
not afterwards. The food she left on Friday was still there, a sodden
pulp, on Saturday. Grant knew that Erica had spent all that Saturday
scouring the countryside; she had quartered the country with the
efficiency and persistence of a game dog, every barn, every shelter of
any description, being subjected to search. Her very sound theory was
that shelter he _must_ have had on Thursday night--no human being
could have survived such a storm--and since he had been in that chalky
lane on Thursday morning to pick up the food she left, then he could not
have gone far afield.

But her efforts had come to nothing. Today an organized gang of amateur
searchers had undertaken the work--the police had no men to spare--but so
far no news had come. And in Grant's mind was growing a slow fear that he
tried with all his self-awareness to beat down. But it was like a moor
fire. You whipped it to cinder only to see it run under the surface and
break out ahead of you.

News from Dover was slow, too. The investigation was hampered beyond any
but police patience by the necessity of (a) not offending the peerage,
and (b) not frightening the bird: the first applying to a possibly
innocent, the second to a possibly guilty. It was all very complicated.
Watching Edward Champneis's calm face--he had eyebrows which gave a
peculiar expression of repose--while he discussed with him the trapping
of Herbert, Grant had several times forcibly to restrain himself from
saying: "Where were you on Wednesday night?" What would Champneis do?
Look a little puzzled, think a moment, and then say: "The night I arrived
in Dover? I spent it with the So-and-sos at Such-and-such." And then
realization of what the question entailed would dawn, and he would look
incredulously at Grant, and Grant would feel the world's prize fool.
More! In Edward Champneis's presence he felt that it was sheer insult to
suggest that he might have been responsible for his wife's death. Away
from him, that picture of the man in the garden, watching the lighted
house with the open windows, might swim up in his mind more often than he
cared to admit. But in his presence, any such thought was fantastic.
Until his men had accounted--or failed to account--for Champneis's
movements that night, any direct inquiry must be shelved.

All he knew so far was that Champneis had stayed in none of the obvious
places. The hotels and the family friends had both been drawn blank. The
radius was now being extended. At any moment news might come that my lord
had slept in a blameless four-poster and the county's best linen sheets,
and Grant would be forced to admit that he had been mistaken when he
imagined that Lord Edward was deliberately misleading him.



Chapter 18


On Tuesday morning word came from Collins, the man who was investigating
Champneis's wardrobe. Bywood, the valet, had proved "very sticky going,"
he reported. He didn't drink and he didn't smoke and there seemed to be
no plane on which Collins could establish a mutual regard. But every man
has his price, and Bywood's proved to be snuff. A very secret vice, it
was. Lord Edward would dismiss him on the spot if he suspected such
indulgence. (Lord Edward would probably have been highly pleased by
anything so eighteenth century.) Collins had procured him "very special
snuff," and had at last got within inspecting distance of the wardrobe.
On his arrival in England--or rather, in London--Champneis had weeded out
his wardrobe. The weeding out had included two coats, one dark and one
camel hair. Bywood had given the camel hair one to his brother-in-law, a
chorus boy; the other he had sold to a dealer in London. Collins gave the
name and address of the dealer.

Grant sent an officer down to the dealer, and as the officer went through
the stock the dealer said: "That coat came from Lord Edward Champneis,
the Duke of Bude's son. Nice bit of stuff."

It was a nice bit of stuff. And it had all its buttons; with no sign of
replacements.

Grant sighed when the news came, not sure whether he was glad or sorry.
But he still wanted to know where Champneis had spent the night.

And what the Press wanted to know was where Tisdall was. Every newspaper
in Britain wanted to know. The C.I.D. were in worse trouble than they had
been for many years. The _Clarion_ openly called them murderers, and
Grant, trying to get a line on a baffling case, was harassed by the fury
of colleagues, the condolences of his friends, a worried Commissioner,
and his own growing anxiety. In the middle of the morning Jammy Hopkins
rang up to explain away his "middle" in the _Clarion_. It was "all
in the way of business," and he knew his good friends at the Yard would
understand. Grant was out, and it was Williams at the other end of the
telephone. Williams was not in the mood for butter. He relieved his
overburdened soul with a gusto which left Hopkins hoping that he had not
irretrievably put himself in the wrong with the Yard. "As for hounding
people to death," Williams finished, "you know very well that the Press
do more hounding in a week than the Yard has since it was founded. And
_all_ your victims are innocent!"

"Oh, have a heart, Sergeant! You know we've got to deliver the goods. If
we don't make it hot and strong, we'll be out on our ear. St. Martin's
Crypt, or the Embankment. And you pushing people off the seats. We've got
our jobs to keep just as much as--"

The sound of Williams's hang-up was eloquent. It was action and comment
compressed into one little monosyllable. Jammy felt hardly used. He had
enjoyed writing that article. He had in fact been full of righteous
indignation as the scarifying phrases poured forth. When Jammy was
writing his tongue came out of its habitual position in his cheek, and
emotion flooded him. That the tongue went back when he had finished did
not matter; the popular appeal of his article was secure; it was "from
the heart"; and his salary went up by leaps and bounds.

But he was a little hurt that all his enemieson-paper couldn't see just
what a jape it was. He flung his hat with a disgusted gesture onto his
right eyebrow and went out to lunch.

And less than five minutes away Grant was sitting in a dark corner, a
huge cup of black coffee before him, his head propped in his hands. He
was "telling it to himself in words of one syllable."

Christine Clay was living in secret. But the murderer knew where she was.
That eliminated a lot of people.

Champneis knew.

Jason Harmer knew.

Herbert Gotobed almost certainly knew.

The murderer had worn a coat dark enough to be furnished with a black
button and black sewing thread.

Champneis had such a coat, but there was no missing button.

Jason Harmer had no such coat; and had not lately worn any such coat.

No one knew what Herbert Gotobed wore.

The murderer had a motive so strong and of such duration that he could
wait for his victim at six of a morning and deliberately drown her.

Champneis had a possible motive.

Jason Harmer had a possible motive if they had been lovers, but there was
no proof of that.

Herbert Gotobed had no known motive but had almost certainly hated her.

On points Gotobed won. He knew where his sister was; he had the kind of
record that was "headed for murder"; and he had been on bad terms with
the victim.

Oh, well! By tomorrow Gotobed might have declared himself. Meanwhile he
would drug himself with black coffee and try to keep his mind off the
Press.

As he raised the cup to his lips, his eyes lighted on a man in the
opposite corner. The man's cup was half-empty, and he was watching Grant
with amused and friendly eyes.

Grant smiled, and hit first. "Hiding that famous profile from the public
gaze? Why don't you give your fans a break?"

"It's all break for them. A fan can't be wrong. You're being given a hell
of a time, aren't you? What do they think the police are? Clairvoyants?"

Grant rolled the honey on his tongue and swallowed it.

"Someday," Owen Hughes said, "someone is going to screw Jammy Hopkins's
head off his blasted shoulders. If my face wasn't insured for the sum
total of the world's gold, I'd do it myself. He once said I was 'every
girl's dream'!"

"And aren't you?"

"Have you seen my cottage lately?"

"No. I saw the photograph of the wreck in the paper one day."

"I don't mind telling you I wept when I got out of the car and saw it.
I'd like to broadcast that photograph to the ends of the earth as a
sample of what publicity can do. Fifty years ago a few people might have
come a few miles to look at the place, and then gone home satisfied. They
came in charabanc loads to see Briars. My lawyer tried to stop the
running of the 'trips,' but there was nothing he could do. The County
Police refused to keep a man there after the first few days. About ten
thousand people have come in the last fortnight, and every one of the ten
thousand has peered through the windows, stood on the plants, and taken
away a souvenir. There is hardly a scrap of hedge left--it used to be
twelve feet high, a mass of roses--and the garden is a wilderness of
trampled mud. I was rather attached to that garden. I didn't croon to the
pansies, exactly, but I got a lot of kick out of planting things people
gave me, and seeing them come up. Not a vestige left."

"Rotten luck! And no redress. Maddening for you. Perhaps by next year the
plants will have taken heart again."

"Oh, I'm selling the place. It's haunted. Had you ever met Clay? No? She
was grand. They don't make that kind in pairs."

"Do you know of anyone who would be likely to want to murder her, by any
chance?"

Hughes smiled one of the smiles which made his fans grip the arms of
their cinema seats. "I know lots who would gladly have murdered her on
the spot. But only on the spot. The minute you cooled off, you'd
cheerfully die for her. It's most unlikely death for Chris--the one that
happened to her. Did you know that Lydia Keats prophesied it from her
horoscope? She's a marvel, Lydia. She should have been drowned when she
was a pup, but she really is a marvel. I sent her Marie Dacre's year,
day, and minute of birth from Hollywood. Marie made me swear an oath
before she divulged the awful truth of the year. Lydia hadn't the
faintest notion whose horoscope she was doing, and it was marvelously
accurate. She'd be a wow in Hollywood."

"She seems to be heading that way," Grant said dryly. "Do you like the
place?"

"Oh, yes. It's restful." As Grant raised his eyebrows: "There are so many
pebbles on the beach that you're practically anonymous."

"I thought they ran rubbernecking tours for Midwest fans."

"Oh, yes, they run motor coaches down your street, but they don't tramp
your flowers into the ground."

"If you were murdered they might."

"Not they. Murders are ten cents the dozen. Well, I must get along. Good
luck. And God bless you. You've done me a power of good, so help me you
have."

"I?"

"You've brought to my notice one profession that is worse than my own."
He dropped some money on the table and picked up his hat. "They pray for
judges on Sundays, but never a word for the police!"

He adjusted the hat at the angle which after much testing had been found
by cameramen to be the most becoming, and strolled out, leaving Grant
vaguely comforted.



Chapter 19


The person who wasn't comforted was Jammy. The buoyant, the resilient,
the hard-boiled but bouncing Jammy. He had eaten at his favorite pub
(black coffee might be all very well for worried police officials and
actors who had to think of their figure, but Jammy dealt only in other
people's worries and remembered his figure only when his tailor measured
him) and nothing during lunch had been right. The beef had been a shade
too "done," the beer had been a shade too warm, the waiter had had
hiccoughs, the potatoes were soapy, the cabinet pudding had tasted of
baking soda, and they were out of his usual cigarettes. And so his
feeling of being ill-used and misunderstood, instead of being charmed
away by food and drink, had grown into an exasperation with the world in
general. He looked sourly over his glass at his colleagues and
contemporaries, laughing and talking over the coarse white cloths, and
they, unused to a glower on his brow, paused in their traffic to tease
him.

"What is it, Jammy? Pyorrhea?"

"No. He's practicing to be a dictator. You begin with the expression."

"No you don't," said a third. "You begin with the hair."

"And an arm movement. Arms are very important. Look at Napoleon. Never
been more than a corporal if he hadn't thought up that arm-on-chest
business. Pregnant, you know."

"If it's pregnant Jammy is, he'd better have the idea in the office, not
here. I don't think the child's going to be a pleasant sight."

Jammy consigned them all to perdition, and went out to find a tobacconist
who kept his brand of cigarettes. What did the Yard want to take it like
that for? Everyone knew that what you wrote in a paper was just eyewash.
When it wasn't bilgewater. If you stopped being dramatic over little
tuppenny no-account things, people might begin to suspect that they were
no-account, and then they'd stop buying papers. And where would the Press
barons, and Jammy, and a lot of innocent shareholders be then? You'd got
to provide emotions for all those moribund wage-earners who were too
tired or too dumb to feel anything on their own behalf. If you couldn't
freeze their blood, then you could sell them a good sob or two. That
story about Clay's early days in the factory had been pure jam--even if
that horse-faced dame _had_ led him up the garden about knowing
Chris, blast her. But you couldn't always rise to thrills or sobs, and if
there was one emotion that the British public loved to wallow in it was
being righteously indignant. So he, Jammy, had provided a wallow for
them. The Yard knew quite well that tomorrow all these indignant people
wouldn't remember a thing about it, so what the hell! What was there to
get sore about? That "hounding innocents to death" was just a phrase.
Practically a cliche it was. Nothing in that to make a sensible person
touchy. The Yard were feeling a bit thin in the skin, that was what. They
knew quite well that this shouldn't have been allowed to happen. Far be
it from him to crab another fellow's work, but some of that article had
been practically true, now he came to think of it. Not the "hounding to
death," of course. But some of the other bits. It really _was_
something amounting to a disgrace--oh, well, disgrace was a bit strong;
but regrettable, anyhow, that such a thing should occur in a force that
thought it was efficient. They were so very superior and
keep-off-the-grass when times were good; they couldn't expect sympathy
when they made a bloomer. Now if they were to let the Press in on the
inside, the way they did in America, things like that simply wouldn't
happen. He, Jammy Hopkins, might be only a crime reporter, but he knew
just as much about crime and its detection as any police force. If the
"old man" were to give him leave, and the police the use of their files,
he would have the man who killed Clay inside prison walls--and on the
front page, of course--inside a week. Imagination, that's what the Yard
needed. And he had plenty of it. All he needed was a chance.

He bought his cigarettes, emptied them gloomily into the gold case his
provincial colleagues had given him when he left for London (it was
whispered that the munificence was more the expression of thankfulness
than of devotion), and went gloomily back to the office. In the front
entrance of that up-to-the-minute cathedral which is the headquarters of
the _Clarion_, he encountered young Musker, one of the junior
reporters, on his way out. He nodded briefly, and without stopping made
the conventional greeting.

"Where you off to?"

"Lecture on stars," said Musker, with no great enthusiasm.

"Very interesting, astronomy," reproved Jammy.

"Not astronomy. Astrology." The boy was turning from the shade of the
entrance into the sunlit street. "Woman called Pope or something."

"Pope!" Jammy stood arrested halfway to the lift door. "You don't mean
Keats, do you?"

"Is it Keats?" Musker looked at the card again. "Yes, so it is. I knew it
was a poet. Hey, what's the matter?" as Jammy caught him by the arm and
dragged him back into the hall.

"Matter is you're not going to any astrology lecture," said Jammy,
propeling him into the lift.

"Well!" said the astonished Musker. "For this relief much thanks, but
why? You got a 'thing' about astrology?"

Jammy dragged him into an office and assaulted with his rapid speech the
placid pink man behind the desk.

"But, Jammy," said the placid one when he could get a word in edgeways,
"it was Blake's assignment. He was the obvious person for it: doesn't he
tell the world every week on Page 6 what is going to happen to it for the
next seven days? It's his subject: astrology. What he didn't foresee was
that his wife would have a baby this week instead of next. So I let him
off and sent Musker instead."

"Musker!" said Jammy. "Say, don't you know that this is the woman who
foretold Clay's death? The woman the _Courier_ is running to give
horoscopes at a shilling a time?"

"What of it?"

"What of it! Man, she's news!"

"She's the _Courier's_ news. And about dead at that. I killed a
story about her yesterday."

"All right, then, she's dead. But a lot of 'interesting' people must be
interested in her at this moment. And the most interested of the lot is
going to be the man who made her prophecy come true! For all we know she
may have been responsible for giving him the idea; her and her
prophecies. Keats may be dead, but her vicinity isn't. Not by a long
chalk." He leaned forward and took the card that the Musker boy was still
holding. "Find something for this nice boy to do this afternoon. He
doesn't like astrology. See you later."

"But what about that story for--"

"All right, you'll have your story. And perhaps another one into the
bargain!"

As Jammy was shot downwards in the lift he flicked the card in his hand
with a reflective thumb. The Elwes Hall! Lydia was coming on!

"Know the best way to success, Pete?" he said to the liftman.

"All right, I'll buy," said Pete.

"Choose a good brand of hooey."

"You should know!" grinned Pete, and Jammy made a pass at him as he
stepped through the doors. Pete had known him since--well, if not since
his short-pant days, at least since his wrong-kind-of-collar days.

The Elwes Hall was in Wigmore Street: a nice neighborhood; which had been
responsible in no small measure for its success. Chamber music was much
more attractive when one could combine it with tea at one's club and
seeing about that frock at Debenham's. And the plump sopranos who were
flattered at the hush that attended their lieder never guessed at the
crepe-versussatin that filled their listeners' minds. It was a pleasant
little place: small enough to be intimate, large enough not to be
huddled. As Jammy made his way to a seat, he observed that it was filled
with the most fashionable audience that he had seen at any gathering
since the Beaushire-Curzon wedding. Not only was "smart" society present
in bulk, but there was a blue-blooded leaven of what Jammy usually called
"duchessesup-for-the-day": of those long-shoed, long-nosed,
long-pedigreed people who lived on their places and not on their wits.
And sprinkled over the gathering, of course, were the cranks.

The cranks came not for the thrill, nor because Lydia's mother had been
the third daughter of an impoverished marquis, but because the Lion, the
Bull, and the Crab were household pets of theirs, the houses of the
Zodiac their spiritual home. There was no mistaking them: their pale eyes
rested on the middle distance, their clothes looked like a bargain
basement after a stay-in strike, and it seemed that they all wore the
same string of sixpenny beads around their thin necks.

Jammy refused the seat which had been reserved for the _Clarion_
representative, and insisted on having one among the palms on the far
side of the hall below the platform. This had been refused, with varying
degrees of indignation, by both those who had come to see Lydia and those
who had come to be seen. But Jammy belonged to neither of these. What
Jammy had come to see was the audience. And the seat half buried in
Messrs. Willoughby's decorations provided as good a view of the audience
as anything but the platform itself could afford.

Next to him was a shabby little man of thirty-five or so, who eyed Jammy
as he sat down and presently leaned over until his rabbit-mouth was an
inch from Jammy's ear, and breathed:

"Wonderful woman!"

This Jammy took to refer to Lydia. "Wonderful," he agreed. "You know
her?"

The shabby man ("crank," said Jammy's mind, placing him) hesitated, and
then said: "No. But I knew Christine Clay." And further converse was
prevented by the arrival of Lydia and her chairman on the platform.

Lydia was at the best of times a poor speaker. She had a high thin voice,
and when she became enthusiastic or excited her delivery was painfully
like a very old gramophone record played on a very cheap gramophone.
Jammy's attention soon wandered. He had heard Lydia on her favorite
subject too often. His eyes began to quarter the crowded little hall. If
he had bumped off Clay, and was still, thanks to the inadequacy of the
police, both unsuspected and at large, would he or would he not come to
see the woman who had prophesied for Clay the end he had brought about?

Jammy decided that, on the whole, he would. The Clay murderer was clever.
That was admitted. And he must now be hugging himself over his
cleverness. Thinking how superior a man of his caliber was to the
ordinary rules that hedged common mortals. That was a common frame of
mind in persons who achieved a planned murder. They had planned something
forbidden, and had brought it off. It went to their heads like wine. They
looked around for more "dares" to bring off, as children play "last
across the road." This, this orthodox gathering of orthodox people in one
of the most orthodox districts in London, was a perfect "dare." In every
mind in that hall the thought of Christine's death was uppermost. It was
not mentioned from the platform, of course; the dignities must be
observed. The lecture was a simple lecture on astrology; its history and
its meaning. But all these people--or nearly all--had come to the
gathering because nearly a year ago Lydia had had that lucky brain wave
about the manner of Christine Clay's death. Christine was almost as much
part of the gathering as Lydia herself; the hall was full of her. Yes, it
would give Jammy, hypothetical murderer, a great kick to be one of that
audience.

He looked at the audience now, pluming himself on the imagination that
had got him where he was; the imagination that Grant, poor dear idiot,
could never aspire to. He wished he had brought Bartholomew along. Bart
was much better informed where the society racket was concerned than he
was. It was Bart's business to be descriptive: and at whatever was
"descriptive"--weddings, motor racing, launches, or whatnot--the same
faces from the racket turned up. Bart would have been useful.

But Jammy knew enough of those faces to keep him interested.

"On the other hand," said Lydia, "Capricorn people are often melancholic,
doubtful of themselves, and perverse. On a lower plane still, they are
gloomy, miserly, and deceptive." But Jammy was not listening. In any case
he did not know which of the signs had had the honor of assisting at his
birth, and did not care. Lydia had several times told him that he was
"typically, oh, but typically, Aries" but he never remembered. All hooey.

There was the Duchess of Trent in the third row. She, poor, silly,
unhappy wretch, had the perfect alibi. She had been going to have a
luncheon for Christine: a luncheon that would make her the most envied
hostess in London instead of a rather tiresome back number, and Christine
had gone and died on her.

Jammy's eye wandered, and paused at a good-looking dark face in the
fourth row. Very familiar that face; as familiar as the head on a coin.
Why? He didn't know the man; would swear he had never seen him in the
flesh.

And then it came to him. It was Gene Lejeune; the actor who had been
engaged to play opposite Clay in her third and last picture in England:
the picture she had never made. It was rumored that Lejeune was glad that
he would never have to make that picture; Clay's brilliance habitually
made her men look like penny candles; but that was hardly a good reason
for getting up at dawn to hold her head under water until she died. Jammy
wasn't greatly interested in Lejeune. Next to him was a fashion plate in
black and white. Marta Hallard. Of course. Marta had been given the part
that Clay had been scheduled to play. Marta was not in the Clay class,
but holding up production was likely to prove expensive, and Marta had
poise, sophistication, sufficient acting ability, sufficient personality,
and what Coyne called "class." She was now Lejeune's leading woman. Or
was he her leading man? It would be difficult to say which of these two
was the "supporting" one. Neither of them was in the first flight.
Considered simply as a partnership, it was likely to prove much more
successful than the Clay-Lejeune one would have been. A step up--a big
step up for Marta--and more chance to shine for Lejeune. Yes, Christine's
death had been a lucky break for both of them.

He heard in his mind a girl's voice saying, "You, of course, murdered her
yourself." Who had said that? Yes, that Judy girl who played dumb
blondes. And she had said it about Marta. That Saturday night when he and
Grant had met on the doorstep of Marta's flat and had been entertained by
her. The Judy person had said it with that sulky air of defiance that she
used to life's most trivial activities. And they had taken it as a joke.
Someone else had laughed and agreed, supplying the motive: "Of course!
You wanted that part for yourself?" And the conversation had flowed on in
unbroken superficiality.

Well, ambition was one of the better-known incentives to murder. It came,
well up the list, just below passion and greed. But Marta Hallard was
Marta Hallard. Murder and that brittle, insincere sophisticate were
poles apart. She didn't even play murder well on the stage, now he came
to think of it. She had always the air of saying at the back of her mind,
"Too tiresome, all this earnestness." If she didn't find murder
humorless, she would undoubtedly find it plebeian. No, he could imagine
Marta being a murderee, but not a murderer.

He became aware that Marta was paying no attention whatever to Lydia. All
her interest--and it was a fixed and whole-hearted interest--was centered
on someone to her right in the row in front. Jammy's eyes followed the
imaginary dotted line of her glance and came to rest, a little surprised,
on a nondescript little man. Incredulous, he traveled the dotted line
again. But the answer was still the small round-faced man with the sleepy
expression. Now what could interest Marta Hallard in that very commercial
exterior and that far from exciting--

And then Sammy remembered who that little man was. He was Jason Harmer,
the songwriter. One of Christine's best friends. Marta's "merry kettle."
And, if women's judgment was to be accepted, anything but unexciting. In
fact, that was the chap who was popularly supposed to have been Christine
Clay's lover. Jammy's mind did the equivalent of a long, low whistle.
Well, well, so that was Jay Harmer. He had never seen him off a song
cover until now. Queer taste women had, and no mistake.

Harmer was listening to Lydia with a rapt and childlike interest. Jammy
wondered how anyone could remain unaware of so concentrated a battery of
attention as Marta Hallard was directing on him. There he sat,
short-necked and placid, while Marta's brilliant eyes bored into the side
of his head. A lot of hooey, that about making people turn by just
looking at them. And what, in any case, was the reason for Marta's secret
interest? For secret it was. The brim of her hat hid her eyes from her
escort, and she had taken it for granted that the eyes of everyone else
were on the lecturer. Unconscious of being watched, she was letting her
eyes have their fill of Harmer. Why?

Was it a "heart" interest--and if so, just how much of a heart interest?
Or was it that, in spite of her companionship of him that night at her
flat, she was seeing Jason Harmer as a possible murderer?

For nearly fifteen minutes Jammy watched them both, his mind full of
speculation. Again and again his glance went over the crowded little hall
and came back to them. Interest there was plenty elsewhere, but not
interest like this.

He remembered Marta's instant refutal of the suggestion that there was
more than friendship between Harmer and Christine Clay. What did that
mean? Was she interested in him herself? And how much? How much
_would_ Marta Hallard be interested? Enough to get rid of a rival?

He found himself wondering if Marta was a good swimmer, and pulled
himself up. Fifteen minutes ago he had laughed at the very thought of
Marta as a person passionate to the point of murder. The very idea had
been ludicrous.

But that was before he had observed her interest--her strange consuming
interest--in Jason. Supposing--just supposing; to pass the time while
that woman made her boring way through the planets and back again--that
Marta _was_ in love with this Harmer fellow. That made Christine a
double rival of hers, didn't it? Christine had been where Marta, for all
her fashionable crust of superficiality and indifference, would have
given her right hand to be: at the top of her professional tree. So often
Marta had been within sight of that top, only to have the branch she
relied on break and let her down. Certainly, and beyond any doubt, Marta
wanted professional success. And certainly, for all her fair words, she
had bitterly grudged the little factory hand from the Midlands her
staggering, and as it seemed too easy, achievement. Five years ago Marta
had been very nearly where she was now: famous, successful, financially
sound, and with the top of the tree--that elusive, giddy top--somewhere
in sight. It had been somewhere in sight for five years. And meanwhile an
unknown dancer from a Broadway musical had sung, danced, and acted her
way to canonization.

It was no wonder if Marta's fair words where Christine was concerned were
the merest lip service. And supposing that Christine had not only the
position she had thirsted after, but the man she desired? What then? Was
that enough to make Marta Hallard hate to the point of murder?

Where was Marta when Christine was drowned? In Grosvenor Square,
presumably. After all, she was playing in that thing at the St. James's.
No, wait! At that Saturday night party something was said about her being
away! What was it? What was it? She had said something about hard-working
actresses, and Clement Clements had mocked, saying: "Hard-working,
forsooth. And you've just had a week off to go dashing around the
Continent!" She had said: "Not a week, Clement! Only four days. And an
actress can presumably play with a broken spine but never with a
gumboil."

Clement had said that the gumboil didn't prevent her having a grand time
at Deauville. And she had said: "Not Deauville. Le Touquet."

Le Touquet. That was where she had been. And she had come back in time
for the Saturday matinee. They had talked about the reception she had
had, and the size of the "house," and the rage of her understudy. She had
come back after four days at Le Touquet! She was in Le Touquet, just
across the channel, when Christine died.

"If parents would only study their children's horoscopes with the same
diligence that they use to study their diets," Lydia was saying, shrill
as a sparrow and about as impressive, "the world would be a much happier
place."

"Le Touquet! Le Touquet!" exulted Jammy's mind. Now he was getting
somewhere! Marta Hallard was not only within reach of Christine on that
fatal morning, but _she had the means to cover the distance easily_.
Le Touquet had opened the doors of his memory. Clements and she and Jammy
in that far corner by the cocktail cupboard, and she answering Clements's
idle questions. She had flown over, it appeared, with someone in a
private plane, and had come back by the same method. And the plane had
been an amphibian!

On that misty morning a plane had landed either on the downs or on the
sea, had stayed a little, and had gone again without having entered into
the consciousness of any but one lonely swimmer. Jammy was so sure of it
that he could see the thing come out of the fog like a great bird and
drop onto the water.

Who had piloted that plane? Not Harmer. Harmer hadn't been out of
England. That was why the police were taking such an interest in him.
Harmer had been only too much on the spot. He had an alibi of sorts, but
Jammy didn't know whether it was a good one or not. The police were so
damned secretive. Well, he was on the track of something that the police,
for all their vaunted efficiency, had missed. Marta was a friend of
Grant's: it was natural that he should overlook her: he had never seen
her look at Harmer, as Jammy was seeing her now; and he didn't know about
that plane, Jammy would take his oath. And the plane made all the
difference.

And if it was a case of a plane, then there were two in the business. The
pilot, if not an accomplice, was certainly an accessory before the fact.

At this point Jammy mentally stopped to draw breath. He looked
surprisedly along the well-dressed silent rows to the smart
black-and-white figure in the middle distance. What connection had that
familiar presence with the person his mind had drawn? There was the real
Marta Hallard, her soigne, gracious, serene self. How had he let his mind
make her into something so tortured, so desperate?

But she was still looking every now and then at Jason, her eyes resting
longer on him than they did on Lydia. And there was something in that
unguarded face that joined the real Marta to that shadowy one that his
imagination had created. Whatever she might be, Marta Hallard was after
all capable of strong feeling.

A patter like rain fell into Jammy's thoughts; the polite percussion of
gloved hand on gloved hand. Lydia had apparently reached her peroration.
Jammy sighed happily and felt for his hat. He wanted to get out into the
air and think what his next move was to be. He hadn't been so excited
since Old Man Willindon had given him the exclusive story of how and why
he had beaten his wife into pulp.

But there was going to be a question time, it would seem. Miss Keats,
sipping water and smiling benevolently between sips, was waiting for the
audience to collect its wits. Then some bold spirit began, and presently
questions were raining around her. Some were amusing; and the audience, a
little tired by the warm air, Lydia's voice, and the dullish lecture,
laughed easily in relief. Presently the questions grew more intimate, and
then--so inevitably that half the audience could see it coming--the query
came:

Was it true that Miss Keats accurately foretold the manner of Christine
Clay's death?

There was a shocked and eager silence. Lydia said, simply and with more
dignity than she usually possessed, that it was true; that she had often
foretold the future truly from a horoscope. She gave some instances.

Emboldened by the growing intimacy of the atmosphere, someone asked if
she was helped in her reading of horoscopes by second sight. She waited
so long before answering that stillness fell back on the moving heads
and hands; their eyes watched her expectantly.

"Yes," she said, at length. "Yes. It is not a matter that I like to
discuss. But there are times when I have known, beyond reason, that a
thing is so." She paused a moment, as if in doubt, and then took three
steps forward to the edge of the platform with such impetuosity that it
seemed that she meant to walk forward on to thin air. "And one thing I
have known ever since I stepped on the platform. The murderer of
Christine Clay is here in this hall."

It is said that ninety-nine people out of a hundred, receiving a telegram
reading _All is discovered: fly_, will snatch a toothbrush and make
for the garage. Lydia's words were so unexpected, and their meaning when
understood so horrifying, that there was a moment of blank silence. And
then the rush began, like the first breath of a hurricane through palm
trees. Above the rising babel, chairs shrieked like human beings as they
were thrust out of the way. And the more they were thrust aside, the
greater the chaos and the more frantic the anxiety of the escapers to
reach the door. Not one in the crowd knew what they were escaping from.
With most of them it began as a desire to escape from a tense situation;
they belonged, as a class, to people who hate "awkwardness." But the
difficulty of reaching the door through the scattered chairs and the
densely packed crowd increased their natural desire to escape, into
something like panic.

The chairman was saying something that was meant to be reassuring, to
tide over the situation: but he was quite inaudible. Someone had gone to
Lydia, and Jammy heard her say:

"What made me say that? Oh, what made me say that?"

He had moved forward to mount the platform, all the journalist in him
tingling with anticipation. But as he laid his hand on the platform edge
to vault, he recognized Lydia's escort. It was the fellow from the
_Courier_. She was practically the _Courier_'s property, he
remembered. It was a million to one against his getting a word with her,
and, at these odds, it wasn't worth the effort. There was better game,
after all. When Lydia had made that incredible statement, Jammy, having
abruptly pulled his own jaw into place, had turned to see how two people
took the shock.

Marta had gone quite white, and a look of something like fury had come
into her face. She had been one of the first to get to her feet, moving
so abruptly that Lejeune was taken by surprise and had to fish his hat
from under her heels. She had made for the door without a second glance
at the platform or Lydia, but since she had had a seat in the front rows
she had become firmly wedged halfway down the hall, where confusion
became worse confounded by someone having violent hysteria.

Jason Harmer, on the other hand, had not moved a muscle. He had gone on
looking at Lydia with the same pleased interest during and after her
staggering announcement as he had shown before. He had made no move to
get up until people began to walk over him. Then he rose leisurely,
helped a woman to climb over a chair that was blocking her path, patted
his pocket to assure himself that something or other was there (his
gloves probably), and turned to the door.

It took Jammy several minutes of scientific shoving to reach Marta,
wedged in an alcove between two radiators.

"The silly fools!" she said viciously, when Jammy had reminded her who he
was. And she glared, with most un-Hallard-like lack of poise, at her
fellow beings.

"Nicer with an orchestra pit between, aren't they?"

Marta remembered that these were her public, and he could see her
automatically pull herself together. But she was still what Jammy called
"het up."

"Amazing business," he said, prompting. And in explanation: "Miss Keats."

"An utterly disgusting exhibition!"

"Disgusting?" said Jammy, at a loss. "Why doesn't she turn cartwheels in
the Strand?"

"You think this was just a publicity stunt?"

"What do you call it? A sign from Heaven?"

"But you said yourself, Miss Hallard, that night you were so kind as to
put up with me, that she isn't a quack. That she really--"

"Of course she isn't a quack! She has done some amazing horoscopes. But
that is a very different matter from this finding of murderers at a penny
a time. If Lydia doesn't take care," she said after a pause and with
venom, "she will end by being an Aimee McPherson!"

It occurred to Jammy that this was hardly the line he had expected Marta
to hand out. He didn't know what he had expected. But somehow it wasn't
this. Into the pause that tone: e: doubt made, she said in a new crisp
tone.

"This isn't by any chance an interview, is it, Mr. Hopkins? Because if
so, please understand quite clearly that I have said none of these
things."

"All right, Miss Hallard, you haven't said a word. Unless the police ask
me, of course," he added, smiling.

"I don't think the police are on speaking terms with you," she said. "And
now, if you will be so kind as to stand a little to your left, I think I
can get past you into that space over there."

She nodded to him, smiled a little, pushed her scented person past him
into the place of vantage, and was swallowed up in the crowd.

"Not a ha'penny change!" said Jammy to himself. And ruefully began to
push his way back to where he had last seen Jason Harmer. Dowagers cursed
him and debutantes glared, but half Jammy's life had been spent in
getting through crowds. He made a good job of it.

"And what do _you_ think of this, Mr. Harmer?"

Jason eyed him in a good-humored silence. "How much?" he said at last.
"How much what?"

"How much for my golden words?"

"A free copy of the paper."

Jason laughed, then his face grew sober. "Well, I think it has been a
most instructive afternoon. You believe in this star stuff?"

"Can't say I do."

"Me, I'm not so sure. There's a lot in that crack about more things in
heaven and earth whatever-it-is. I've seen some funny things happen in
the village where I was born. Witchcraft and that. No accounting for any
of it by any natural means. Makes you wonder."

"Where was that?"

Jason looked suddenly startled for the first time that afternoon. "East
of Europe," he said abruptly. And went on: "That Miss Keats, she's a
wonder. Not a canny thing to have around the house, though. No, sir! Must
spoil your chances of matrimony quite a bit to be able to see what's
going to happen. To say nothing of what has been happening. Every man has
a right to his alibis."

Was no one, thought Jammy in exasperation, going to take the expected
line of country this afternoon! Perhaps if he pushed his way into Lydia's
presence, she at least would behave according to the pattern he had
marked out for her.

"You believe that Miss Keats was genuinely feeling the presence of evil
when she made that statement?" he pursued hopefully.

"Sure, sure!" Jason looked a little surprised. "You don't make a fool of
yourself that way unless you're pretty worked up.

"I noticed you weren't very surprised by the statement."

"I been in the States fifteen years. Nothing surprises me anymore. Ever
seen Holy Rollers? Ever seen Coney Island? Ever seen a tramp trying to
sell a gold mine? Go west, young man, go west!"

"I'm going home to bed," said Jammy, and took his pushing way through the
crowd.

But by the time he had reached the vestibule, he had recovered a little.
He adjusted his collar and waited to see the crowd move past. Once
outside the inner door, and breathing the secure air of Wigmore Street,
they recovered from their fright and broke with one accord into excited
speech.

But Jammy gleaned little from their unguarded chatter.

And then over their heads he saw a face that made him pause. A fair face
with light lashes and the look of a rather kind terrier. He knew that
man. His name was Sanger. And the last time he had seen him was sitting
at a desk in Scotland Yard.

So Grant had had a little imagination after all!

Jammy flung his hat disgustedly on and went out to think things over.



Chapter 20


Grant had imagination, yes. But it was not Jammy's kind. It would never
have occurred to him to waste the time of a perfectly good detective by
sending him to look at an audience for two hours. Sanger was at the Ewes
Hall because his job for the moment was to tail Jason Harmer.

He brought back an account of the afternoon's drama, and reported that
Harmer had been, as far as he could see, quite unmoved. He, Jason, had
been accosted by Hopkins from the _Clarion_ directly afterwards; but
Hopkins didn't seem to get very far with him.

"Yes?" said Grant, lifting an eyebrow. "If he's a match for Hopkins, we
must begin to consider him again. Cleverer than I thought!" And Sanger
grinned.


On Wednesday afternoon Mr. Erskine telephoned to say that the fish had
bitten. What he said, of course, was that "the line of investigation
suggested by Inspector Grant had, it would appear, proved unexpectedly
successful," but what he meant was that the fish had risen. Would Grant
come along as soon as he could to inspect a document which Mr. Erskine
was anxious to show him?

Grant would! In twelve minutes he was in the little green-lighted room.

Erskine, his hand trembling a little more than usual, gave him a letter
to read.

Sir,

Having seen your advertisement saying that if Herbert Gotobed will call
at your office he will hear of something to his advantage, I beg to state
that I am unable to come personally but if you will communicate your news
to me by letter to 5, Threadle Street, Canterbury, I will get the letter.

Yours faithfully,

HERBERT GOTOBED

"Canterbury!" Grant's eyes lighted. He handled the letter lovingly. The
paper was cheap, and the ink poor. The style and the writing vaguely
illiterate. Grant remembered Christine's letter with its easy sentences
and its individual hand, and marveled for the thousandth time at the
mystery of breeding.

"Canterbury! It's almost too good to be true. An accommodation address. I
wonder why? Is our Herbert 'wanted,' by any chance? The Yard certainly
don't know him. Not by that name. Pity we haven't got a photograph of
him.

"And what is our next move, Inspector?"

"You write saying that if he doesn't put in a personal appearance you
have no guarantee that he is Herbert Gotobed, and that it is therefore
necessary for him to come to your offices!"

"Yes. Yes, certainly. That would be quite in order."

As if it mattered a hoot whether it was in order, Grant thought. How did
these fellows imagine criminals were caught? Not by wondering what would
be in order, that was certain!

"If you post it straightaway, it will be in Canterbury tonight. I'll go
down tomorrow morning and be waiting for the bird when he arrives. May I
use your telephone?"

He called the Yard and asked, "Are you sure that none of the list of
'wanted' men has a passion for preaching or otherwise indulging in
theatricality?"

The Yard said no, only Holy Mike, and everyone in the force had known him
for years. He was reported from Plymouth, by the way.

"How appropriate!" Grant said, and hung up. "Strange!" he said to
Erskine. "If he isn't wanted, why lie low? If he has nothing on his
conscience--no, he hasn't a conscience. I mean, if we have nothing on
him, I should have thought the same lad would have been in your office by
return of post. He'd do almost anything for money. Clay knew where to
hurt him when she left him that shilling."

"Lady Edward was a shrewd judge of character. She had, I think, been
brought up in a hard school, and the fact helped her to discriminate."

Grant asked if he had known her well.

"No, I regret to say, no. A very charming woman. A little impatient of
orthodox form, but otherwise--"

Yes. Grant could almost hear her saying, "And in plain English what does
that mean?" She, too, must have suffered from Mr. Erskine.

Grant took his leave, warned Williams to be ready to accompany him next
morning to Canterbury, arranged for a substitute in the absence of them
both, and went home and slept for ten hours. In the morning, very early,
he and Williams left a London not yet awake and arrived in a Canterbury
shrouded in the smoke of breakfast.

The accommodation address proved to be, as Grant had expected, a small
newsagent in a side street. Grant considered it, and said: "I don't
suppose our friend will show up this end of the day, but one never knows.
You go across to the pub over the way, engage that room above the saloon
door, and have breakfast sent up to you. Don't leave the window, and keep
an eye on everyone who comes. I'm going inside. When I want you I'll sign
from the shop window."

"Aren't you going to have breakfast, sir?"

"I've had it. You can order lunch for one o'clock, though. It doesn't
look the kind of place that would have a chop in the house."

Grant lingered until he saw Williams come to the upper window. Then he
turned into the small shop. A round bald man with a heavy black mustache
was transferring cartons of cigarettes from a cardboard box to a glass
case.

"Good morning. Are you Mr. Rickett?"

"That's me," Mr. Rickett said, with caution.

"I understand that you sometimes use these premises as an accommodation
address?"

Mr. Rickett looked him over. His experienced eye asked, Customer or
police? and decided correctly.

"And what if I do? Nothing wrong in that, is there?"

"Not a thing!" Grant answered cheerfully. "I wanted to know whether you
knew a Mr. Herbert Gotobed?"

"This a joke?"

"Certainly not. He gave your shop as an address for letters, and I
wondered if you knew him."

"Not me. I don't take no interest in the people who has letters. They pay
their fee when they come for them, and that finishes it as far as I am
concerned."

"I see. Well, I want you to help me. I want you to let me stay in your
shop until Mr. Gotobed comes to claim his letter. You have a letter for
him?"

"Yes, I have a letter. It came last night. But--you police?"

"Scotland Yard," Grant showed his credentials.

"Yes. Well, I don't want no arrests on my premises. This is a respectable
business, this is, even if I do a little on the side. I don't want no bad
name hanging around my business."

Grant assured him that no arrest was contemplated. All he wanted was to
meet Mr. Gotobed. He wanted information from him.

Oh, well, if that was all.

So Grant was established behind the little tower of cheap editions at
the end of the counter, and found the morning passing not so slowly as
he had feared. Humanity, even after all his years in the force, still
had a lively interest in Grant's eyes--except in moments of
depression--and interest proved plentiful. It was Williams, watching a
very ordinary small-town street, who was bored. He welcomed the half
hour of conversation behind the books when Grant went to lunch, and went
back reluctantly to the frowsy room above the saloon. The long summer
afternoon, clouded and warm, wore away into a misty evening, and a too
early dusk. The first lights appeared, very pale in the daylight.

"What time do you close?" Grant asked anxiously.

"Oh, tennish."

There was still plenty of time.

And then, about half-past nine, Grant became aware of a presence in the
shop. There had been no warning of footsteps, no announcement at all
except a swish of drapery. Grant looked up to see a man in monk's garb.

A high-pitched peevish voice said, "You have a letter addressed to Mr.
Herbert--"

A light movement on Grant's part called attention to his presence.

Without a moment's pause the man turned and disappeared, leaving his
sentence unfinished.

The apparition had been so unexpected, the disappearance so abrupt, that
it was a second or two before mortal wits could cope with the situation.
But Grant was out of the shop before the stranger was more than a few
yards down the street. He saw the figure turn into an alley, and he ran.
It was a little back court of two storey houses, all the doors open to
the warm evening, and two transverse alleys leading out of it. The man
had disappeared. He turned to find Williams, a little breathless, at his
back.

"Good man!" he said. "But it isn't much use. You take that alley and I'll
take this one. A monk of sorts!"

"I saw him!" Williams said, making off. But it was no good. In ten
minutes they met at the newsagent's, blank.

"Who was that?" Grant demanded of Mr. Rickett.

"Don't know. Never saw him before as far as I know."

"Is there a monastery here?"

"In Canterbury? No!"

"Well, in the district?"

"Not as I knows."

A woman behind them put down sixpence on the counter. "Goldflake," she
said. "You looking for a monastery? There's that brotherhood place in
Bligh Vennel. They're by way of being monks. Ropes around their middles
and bare heads."

"Where is--what is it? Bligh Vennel?" Grant asked. "Far from here?"

"No. 'Bout two streets. Less as the crow flies, but that won't be much
good to you in Canterbury. It's in the lanes behind the Cock and
Pheasant. I'd show you myself, if Jim wasn't waiting for his smoke. A
sixpenny packet, Mr. Rickett, please."

"After hours," said Mr. Rickett, gruffly, avoiding the detective's eye.
The woman's confidence was a conviction in itself.

She looked surprised, and before she should commit herself further Grant
pulled his own cigarette case from his pocket. "Madam, they say a nation
gets the laws it deserves. It is not in my weak power to obtain the
sixpenny packet for you, but please let me repay your help by providing
Jim's smoke." He poured his cigarettes into her astonished hands, and
dismissed her, protesting.

"And now," he said to Rickett, "about this brotherhood or whatever it is.
Do you know it?"

"No. There is such a thing, now I remember. But I don't know where they
hang out. You heard what she said. Behind the Cock and Pheasant. Half the
cranks in the world has branches here, if it comes to that. I'm shutting
up now."

"I should," Grant said. "People wanting cigarettes are a nuisance."

Mr. Rickett growled.

"Come on, Williams. And remember, Rickett, not a word of this to anyone.
You'll probably see us tomorrow."

Rickett was understood to say that if he never saw them again it would be
too soon.

"This is a rum go, sir," Williams said, as they set off down the street.
"What's the program now?"

"I'm going to call on the brotherhood. I don't think you had better come
along, Williams. Your good healthy Worcestershire face doesn't suggest
any yearning after the life ascetic."

"You mean I look like a cop. I know, sir. It's worried me often. Bad for
business. You don't know how I envy you your looks, sir. People think
'Army' the minute they see you. It's a great help always to be taken for
Army."

"Considering all the dud checks on Cox's, I find that surprising! No, I
wasn't considering your looks, Williams, not that way. I was just talking
'thoughtless.' It's a one-man party, this. You'd better go back to the
aspidistra and wait for me. Have a meal."

They found the place after some search. A row of first-storey windows
looked down upon the alley, but the only opening on the ground floor was
a narrow door, heavy and studded. The building apparently faced into a
court or garden. There was neither plate nor inscription at the door to
give information to the curious. But there was a bell.

Grant rang, and after a long pause there was the sound, faint through the
heavy door, of footsteps on a stone floor. A small grill in the door shot
back, and a man asked Grant's business.

Grant asked to see the principal.

"_Whom_ do you wish to see?"

"The principal," said Grant firmly. He didn't know whether they called
their Number One abbot or prior; principal seemed to him good enough.

"The Reverend Father does not give audience at this hour."

"Will you give the Reverend Father my card," Grant said, handing the
little square through the grill, "and tell him that I shall be grateful
if he would see me on a matter of importance."

"No worldly matter is of importance."

"The Reverend Father may decide differently when you have given him my
card."

The grill shot back with an effect which might in a community less
saintly have been described as snappish, and Grant was left in the
darkening street. Williams saluted silently from some paces' distance and
turned away. The distant voices of children playing came clearly from
adjoining streets, but there was no traffic in the alley. Williams's
footsteps had faded out of hearing long before there was the sound of
returning ones in the passage beyond the door. Then there was the creak
of bolts being drawn and a key turned. (What did they shut out? Grant
wondered. Life? Or were the bars to keep straying wills indoors?) The
door was opened sufficiently to admit him, and the man bade him enter.

"Peace be with you and with all Christian souls and the blessing of the
Lord God go with you now and for ever, amen," gabbled the man as he shot
the bolts again and turned the key. If he had hummed a line of "Sing to
Me Sometimes" the effect would have been exactly similar, Grant thought.

"The Reverend Father in his graciousness will see you," the man said, and
led the way up the stone passage, his sandals slapping with a slovenly
effect on the flags. He ushered Grant into a small whitewashed room, bare
except for a table, chairs, and a Crucifix, said "Peace be with you," and
shut the door, leaving Grant alone. It was very chilly there, and Grant
hoped that the Reverend Father would not discipline him by leaving him
there too long.

But in less than five minutes the doorkeeper returned and with great
impressiveness bowed in his principal. He uttered another of his gabbled
benedictions and left the two men together. Grant had expected the
fanatic type; he was confronted instead with the successful preacher;
bland, entrenched, worldly.

"Can I help you, my son?"

"I think you have in your brotherhood a man of the name of Herbert
Gotobed--"

"There is no one of that name here."

"I had not expected that that was the name he is known by in your
community, but you are no doubt aware of the real names of the men who
enter your order."

"The worldly name of a man is forgotten on the day he enters the door to
become one of us."

"You asked if you could help me."

"I still wish to help you."

"I want to see Herbert Gotobed. I have news for him."

"I know of no one of that name. And there can be no 'news' for a man who
has joined the Brotherhood of the Tree of Lebanon."

"Very well. You may not know the man as Gotobed. But the man I want to
interview is one of your number. I have to ask that you will let me find
him."

"Do you suggest that I should parade my community for your inspection?"

"No. You have some kind of service to which all the brothers come,
haven't you?"

"Certainly."

"Let me be present at the service."

"It is a most unusual request."

"When is the next service?"

"In half an hour the midnight service begins."

"Then all I ask is a seat where I can see the faces of your community."

The Reverend Father was reluctant, and mentioned the inviolability of the
holy house, but Grant's casually dropped phrases on the attractive but
obsolete custom of sanctuary and the still-surviving magic of King's
Writ, made him change his mind.

"By the way, will you tell me--I'm afraid I'm very ignorant of your rules
and ways of life--do the members of your community have business in the
town?"

"No. Only when charity demands it."

"Have the brothers no traffic with the world at all then?" Herbert was
going to have a perfect alibi, if that were so!

"For twenty-four hours once every moon, a brother goes into the world.
That is contrived lest the unspottedness of communal life should breed
self-righteousness. For the twelve hours of the day he must help his
fellow beings in such ways as are open to him. For the twelve hours of
the night he must meditate in a place alone: in summer in some open
place, in winter in some church."

"I see. And the twenty-four hours begin--when?"

"From a midnight to a midnight."

"Thank you."



Chapter 21


The service was held in a bare chapel, candlelit and white-washed, very
simple except for the magnificence of the altar at the east gable. Grant
was surprised by the appearance of the altar. Poor the brothers might be,
but there was wealth somewhere. The vessels on the white velvet cloth,
and the Crucifix, might have been a pirate's loot from a Spanish American
cathedral. He had found it difficult to associate the Herbert Gotobed he
knew by reputation with this cloistered and poverty-struck existence.
Being theatrical to no audience but oneself must soon pall. But the sight
of that altar gave him pause. Herbert was perhaps running true to form
after all.

Grant heard no word of the service. From his seat in the dim recess of a
side window he could see all the faces of the participants; more than a
score of them; and he found it a fascinating study. Some were cranks (one
saw the faces at "anti" meetings and folk-dance revivals), some fanatics
(masochists looking for a modern hair shirt), some simple, some at odds
with themselves and looking for peace, some at odds with the world and
looking for sanctuary. Grant, looking them over with a lively interest,
found his glance stayed as it came to one face. Now what had brought the
owner of that face to a life of seclusion and self-denial? A round sallow
face on a round ill-shaped head, the eyes small, the nose fleshly, the
lower lip loose, so that it hung away from his teeth as he repeated the
words of the service. All the others in that little chapel had been types
that fitted easily into recognized niches in the everyday world; the
principal to a bishopric, this one to a neurologist's waiting room, this
to a depot for unemployed. But where did that last one fit?

There was only one answer. In the dock.

"So that," said Grant's otherself to him, "is Herbert Gotobed." He could
not be sure, of course, until he had seen the man walk. That was all he
had ever seen of him: his walk. But he was ready to stake much on his
judgment. The best of judges were at fault sometimes--Gotobed might turn
out to be that lean and harmless-looking individual in the front row--but
he would be surprised if Gotobed were any but that unctuous creature with
the loose lower lip.

As the men filed out after midnight, he had no more doubt. Gotobed had a
peculiar walk, a gangling, shoulder-rotating progression which was quite
his own.

Grant followed them out and then sought the Reverend Father. What was the
name of the last man to leave the chapel?

That was Brother Aloysius.

And after a little persuasion Brother Aloysius was sent for.

As they waited Grant talked conventionally of the Order and its rules and
learned that no member could own any worldly property or have
communication for worldly purposes with human beings. Such trivial
worldlinesses as newspapers were, of course, not even thought of. He also
learned that the principal intended in about a month's time to take over
a new Mission in Mexico, which they had built out of their funds, and
that the privilege of electing his successor lay entirely with him.

A thought occurred to Grant.

"I don't want to be impertinent--please don't think this idle
curiosity--but would you tell me whether you have decided in your mind on
any particular person?"

"I have practically decided."

"May I know who it is?"

"I really do not know why I should tell to a stranger what I am not
prepared to tell to the brothers of my own Order, but there is no reason
to conceal it if I may trust your secrecy." Grant gave his word. "My
successor is likely to be the man you have asked to see."

"But he is a newcomer!" Grant said before he thought.

"I am at a loss to know how you knew that," the Reverend Father said
sharply. "It is true Brother Aloysius has been with us only a few months,
but the qualities necessary for the priorship" (so he was a prior!) "are
not developed with length of service."

Grant murmured agreement, and then asked which of their community had
been on an errand in the streets this evening.

None of them, the prior said firmly; and the conversation was brought to
an end by the entrance of the man Grant wanted.

He stood there passively, his hands folded within the wide sleeves of his
dark brown gown. Grant noticed that his feet were not sandaled but bare,
and remembered that there had been no warning of his approach when he had
presented himself in the newsagent's. The looker-on in Grant wondered
whether it was an appearance of humility or the convenience of a
noiseless tread which appealed so greatly to Herbert.

"This is Brother Aloysius," the prior said, and left them with a
blessing, a much more poetic performance than the doorkeeper's.

"I am from Messrs. Erskine, Smythe, and Erskine, the lawyers in the
Temple," Grant said. "You are Herbert Gotobed."

"I am Brother Aloysius."

"You were Herbert Gotobed."

"I never heard of him."

Grant considered him for a moment. "I'm sorry," he said. "We're looking
for Gotobed about a legacy that has been left him."

"Yes? If he is a brother of this Order, your news will be of little
interest to him."

"If the legacy were big enough, he might realize that he could do far
more for the cause of charity outside these walls than in them."

"Our oath is for life. Nothing that happens outside these walls is of
interest to any member of our Order."

"So you deny that you are Herbert Gotobed?"

Grant was conducting the conversation automatically. What his mind was
occupied with, he found, was that the expression in the man's small pale
eyes was hate. He had rarely seen such hate. But why hate? That was what
his mind asked. It should be fear, surely?

Grant felt that to this man he was not a pursuer but someone who had
butted in. The feeling stayed with him while he took his leave and all
the way back to the hotel opposite the tobacconist's.

Williams was brooding over a cold meal he had caused to be set for his
superior. "Any news?" Grant asked.

"No, sir."

"No word of Tisdall? Have you telephoned?"

"Yes, I telephoned about twenty minutes ago. Not a word, sir."

Grant slapped some slices of ham between two pieces of bread. "Pity," he
said. "I'd work much better if Tisdall were out of my mind. Come on.
There isn't going to be much bed for us tonight."

"What is it, sir? Did you find him?"

"Yes, he's there all right. Denied he was Gotobed. They're not allowed to
have any worldly transactions. That is why he was so shy in the shop.
Didn't even wait to see who the second person behind the counter was:
just fled at the very prospect of a watcher. That's what's worrying me,
Williams. He seems much more occupied with not being chucked out of the
order than with being run in for murder."

"But his running out of the shop might have been because he wanted to
keep on in hiding. That monastery place is as good a hideout as a
murderer could wish for."

"Ye-s. Yes, but he's not frightened. He's angry. We're spoiling something
for him."

They had been going quietly downstairs, Grant eating large mouthfuls of
his improvised sandwich. As they approached the ground floor they were
confronted by an enormous female who blocked their exit from the
stairway. She had no poker in her hand, but the effect was the same.

"So that's what you are!" she said, with concentrated venom. "A couple of
sneaking fly-by-nights. Come in here, as large as life, you do, and make
me and my poor husband buy the best of everything for your meals--chops
at tenpence each, and tongue at two-and-eightpence the pound, to say
nothing of English tomatoes to suit your very particular tastes--and all
we get for our expense and our trouble is a couple of empty rooms in the
morning. I've a good mind to ring up the police and give you in
charge--if it weren't for--"

"Oh, for God's sake!" Grant said angrily; and then began to laugh. He
hung over the banisters laughing helplessly, while Williams talked to the
angry hostess.

"Well, why didn't you say you were bobbies?" she said.

"We're _not_ bobbies," Williams said, ferociously, and Grant laughed
the more, and dragged him from the scene.

"Gilbertian!" he said, wiping his eyes. "Quite Gilbertian. Did me a lot
of good. Now, listen. These monks, or whatever they esteem themselves,
retire to their cells at midnight and don't move out of them till six.
But Herbert gets in and out of that building more or less when he likes.
I don't know how he works it: those first-floor windows are low enough to
drop from but much too high to get back into, and he doesn't look like a
gymnast. But get out he does. No one knew--or at least, the powers that
be didn't know--he was out tonight. Well, I have a hunch that he's going
walking again tonight, and I want to see where to."

"What makes you think so, sir?"

"Just instinct. If I were Herbert I'd have a base to conduct operations
from. I walked around the block before I came back to the hotel. There
are only two points where the monastery property abuts on the street. At
the side where the door is; and at the very opposite side where the
garden ends in a wall that looks fifteen feet high. There's a long gate
there; iron and very solid. It's a long way from the living quarters, and
I think our original side is the most helpful, But I want you to keep
watch on the garden side, and tail anyone who comes out. I'll do the same
on the door side. If nothing happens by six o'clock you can creep home
and go to bed."



Chapter 22


Grant had been waiting for what seemed an eternity. The night was soft,
with a damp air, and smelled pleasantly of green things and flowers.
Somewhere there was a lime tree. There was no sky, only a thick misty
dark above. Bells chimed every now and then, with aloof sweetness. In
spite of himself, Grant found the peace of the night invading him; his
mind grew blurred and incurious and he had to whip it to wakefulness.

And then, a few moments after half-past two had struck, something
happened, and his mind leaped without any goading. He had heard no sound,
but in the lane in front of the monastery there was movement. It was too
dark to see a shape; all that happened was that the darkness moved, as a
curtain might stir in a current of air. Someone was in the street.

Grant waited. The movement grew less, became more blurred, and ceased.
Whoever was there had moved away from him. Grant slipped his unlaced
boots from his feet and strung them across his shoulder; every step on a
shod foot would be audible on a night like this. Silently he moved down
the lane and past the high wall of the house. Out of its shadows the
visibility was slightly better: he could see the movement in front of him
again. He followed it with every sense alert; it was not only difficult
to gauge his exact distance from it, but almost impossible to tell if it
stopped for a moment. In the street beyond it was easier; the movement in
the darkness became a form. A form retreating swiftly and effortlessly
into the night. Grant set out to keep pace with it. Down the little
streets of two-story houses. Past small houses with small gardens. Past
an occasional small paddock.

And then Grant felt gravel pavement under his stocking feet and cursed.
The man was making for the country; for the outer suburbs at least.

For about twenty minutes Grant followed that half-seen figure through a
dark and silent world. He did not know his surrounding; he had to follow
the figure blindly. He did not know when a step came, or a declivity, or
an obstacle. And a bad stumble might be fatal to the night's work. But as
far as he could see, his quarry never hesitated. This was not a flight;
it was a journey he had done often before.

Presently Grant could tell that they were in more or less open country.
If there were houses they were built behind the original field hedges--a
new suburb, probably. The hedges made it difficult to see the man he was
following; their dark mass made a gloomy background for a moving figure.
And then Grant suddenly found that he had lost him. Nothing moved in
front of him anymore. He stood still instantly. Was the man waiting for
him? Or had he disappeared into an opening? Several times, when pebbles
had slid under his own tread, he had wondered if the man suspected his
presence. There had been as far as he could see no pause for
reconnoitering in the man's progress. But now there was a complete
absence of any movement at all.

Grant went forward step by step, and found himself level with an opening
in the hedge. A gate. He wished passionately that he could use his torch.
This blindfold moving through an unknown country was getting on his
nerves. He decided to risk a guess that this was where the man had gone,
and moved into the entrance. Immediately there was soft sand under his
feet. He paused doubtfully. Was it only a sandpit? What was the man
planning? An attack?

Then he remembered that fine red sand which decorates the trim approaches
to new villas, and breathed again. Reassured he moved forward, finding
with one foot the cut edge of turf, and letting it lead him to the
building which must be in front of him somewhere. It loomed quite
suddenly in the darkness. A white-washed house of perhaps eight rooms.
Its paleness made it slightly luminous even on so dark a night; and
against its ghostly shimmer he saw the man again. He was standing still,
and it seemed to Grant that he was looking back at him. He realized too
late that he too was now standing where a wing of the house made a
background for him. He dropped to his knees. And after a moment the man
moved on and vanished round the corner of the house.

Grant made the best of his way to the corner and waited, pressed up
against the wall. But there was no sound, no breathing, not a movement;
the man had gone on; he was wasting time. He stepped around the corner. A
soft wool substance smothered him, falling over his face and being drawn
tightly about his neck. A split second before the folds closed on his
throat, he got his fingers between the stuff and his flesh. He held on
with all his might, and then, using the material as purchase, bent
forward abruptly and felt the man's body come sliding over him, head
first to the ground. The weight knocked Grant down, and the vile
suffocating thing was still over his head, but his hands were free. He
reached out for his opponent and felt with passionate gladness the
restriction around his throat relax. He was still blind and suffocating,
but he was in no immediate danger of being throttled. He was, in fact,
doing his best to throttle the other man, if only he could find his
throat. But the man was twisting like an eel, and using his knees with
malicious art. This was not the first time that Herbert Gotobed had
fought foul. Grant wished, hitting blindly and finding only seed-sown
grass, that he could see for just thirty seconds. He let go the part of
his assailant he happened to be holding--he was not sure whether it was a
leg or an arm--and did his best to roll away. It was not successful,
since the man had just as firm a grip of him. But he had time to reach
into his pocket and close his fingers around his torch. His hand was
prisoned there as he was rolled onto his back, but with all his might
Grant hit with the free hand into the breath that was sobbing into his
face. His knuckles hit bone and he heard the snap of teeth meeting. The
man's full weight descended on him. He wrenched himself free from it, and
dragged the torch from his pocket. Before he had got it out, the man was
moving again. He had only rocked him. He flashed the torch on him, and
before the light had reached his face the man leaped. Grant stepped aside
and swung the weapon at him as he came. It missed him by a hair's breadth
and they went down together. Grant lacked stance for the reception of
such a weight: all his attention had been on his own blow; he hit the
ground with violence. In the dimness of the moment, when all his
faculties were trying to summon his stunned body to its duty, he wondered
detachedly how the man would kill him.

To his surprise he felt the weight of the man's body lift, something hit
him across the side of the head, and he was aware, even while his ears
sang, that the man had gone from his side.

He dragged himself to a sitting position; sitting, incidentally, on the
stone he had been hit with (by its feel its proper place was a rockery),
and was groping for his torch preparatory to following the man, when a
woman's voice said out of the dark in a whisper:

"Is that you, Bert? Is anything wrong?"

Grant's hand lighted on the torch, and he got to his feet.

The light shone into eyes big and brown and soft as a deer's. But the
rest of the face was not soft.

She drew in her breath as the light flashed, and made a movement
backwards.

"Stay still," said Grant in a voice that brooked no disobedience, and the
movement ceased.

"Don't talk so loud," she said urgently. "Who are you, anyway? I thought
you were--a friend of mine."

"I'm a detective inspector--a policeman."

This statement, Grant had found, produced invariably one of two
expressions: fear or wariness. Quite innocent people often showed the
first; but the second was a giveaway. It gave away the woman now.

Grant's light flashed on the house--a one-story building with small attic
rooms.

"Don't do that!" she hissed. "You'll waken her."

"Who is 'her'?"

"The old lady. My boss."

"You a maid here?"

"I'm the housekeeper."

"Just the two of you in the house?"

"Yes."

He indicated with his light the open window behind her. "Is that your
room?"

"Yes."

"We'll go in there and talk."

"You can't come into the house. You can't do anything to me. I haven't
done anything."

"Would you mind!" said Grant, in a tone that belied the meaning of the
phrase.

"You can't come into the house without a warrant. I know!" She was
standing against the windowsill now, defending her rooms.

"You don't need a warrant for murder," Grant said.

"Murder!" She stared at him. "What have I to do with murder?"

"Will you get in, please, and put on the light?"

She did as she was bidden, climbing over the sill with the ease of
practice. As the light clicked, Grant stepped over the sill and drew the
curtains.

It was a very pleasant bedroom, with eiderdown on the bed and shaded
light on the table.

"Who is your employer?" he asked.

She gave her employer's name, and admitted that she had been there only a
few months.

"Where was your last reference from?"

"A place in Australia."

"And what relation are you to Herbert Gotobed?"

"Who's that?"

"Come, don't let's waste time, Miss What name do you use, by the way?"

"I use my own name," she glared at him. "Rosa Freeson."

Grant tilted the lamp for a better view of her. He had never seen her
before. "Herbert Gotobed came out here to see you tonight and you were
waiting for him. You will save yourself a lot of trouble if you tell me
all about it, now."

"I was waiting, if you must know, for Bert. He's the milk roundsman. You
can't run me in for that. You can't blame me much, either. A girl has to
have a little fun in a place like this."

"Yes?" He moved toward the built-in wardrobe. "Stay where you are," he
said.

The wardrobe held nothing but women's clothes; rather too good for her
position but none of them very new. Grant asked to see the contents of
the chest of drawers, and she showed them sullenly. They were all quite
normal. He asked where her boxes were.

"In the box room in the attic," she said.

"And what are the suitcases under the bed?"

She looked ready to strike him.

"Let me see what is in these."

"You have no right! Show me your warrant. I won't open anything for you."

"If you have nothing to hide, you can't possibly object to my seeing what
is inside."

"I've lost the key."

"You're making me very suspicious."

She produced the key from a string around her neck and pulled out the
first suitcase. Grant, watching her, thought for the first time that she
was not all white. Something in her movements, in the texture of her
hair, was--what? Negro? Indian? And then he remembered the South Sea
Mission which Herbert had run.

"How long since you left the Islands?" he asked conversationally.

"About--" She stopped, and finished immediately, "I don't know what
you're talking about."

The first suitcase was empty. The second was full to the brim with men's
clothes.

"Male impersonator?" asked Grant, who in spite of his swollen feet and
aching head was beginning to feel happier. "Or just old clothes dealer?"

"These are the clothes of my dead fiancé. I'll thank you not to be funny
about them."

"Didn't your fiance wear a coat?"

"Yes, but it was mussed up when he was killed."

"Oh? How was he killed?" Grant asked amiably, his hands running through
the clothes.

"Motor accident."

"You disappoint me."

"Come again?"

"I'd expected a more imaginative end from you. What was your fiancé's
name?"

"John Starboard."

"Starboard! That cancels out the motor accident."

"I suppose you know what you're talking about. I don't."

"It wasn't your fiance's coat you kept in that now empty suit-case, by
any chance?"

"It was not."

Grant's searching hand paused. He withdrew it holding a bundle of
passports: four in all. One was a British one issued to Herbert Gotobed;
one was an American one in the name of Alexander Byron Black; one a
Spanish one, issued to a deaf-mute, one Jose Fernandez; and the fourth an
American one for William Cairns Black and his wife. But the photographs
were all of the same man: Herbert Gotobed; and the wife's photograph was
that of Rosa Freeson.

"A collector, your fiance. An expensive hobby, I've always understood."
He put the passports into his pocket.

"You can't do that. They're not yours. I'll scream the house down. I will
say you came in and attacked me. Look!" She pulled her wrap open and
began to tear her nightdress.

"Scream as much as you like. Your old lady would be very interested in
these passports. And if you have any designs on the old lady, by the way,
I should advise you to reconsider them. Now I shall retrieve my boots.
They are lying somewhere in the garden. Though God alone knows if my feet
will go into them. My advice to you, Mrs. Cairns Black, is to do nothing
at all until you hear from me. We have nothing against _you_, so
far, so don't begin putting ideas into our heads by doing anything you
might regret."



Chapter 23


Grant managed to get his boots on (by dint of thinking strenuously of
something else, his childhood's recipe for painful moments), but after
two or three steps hastily took them off again, and hobbled homeward as
he had come: stocking-soled. It was not easy to find his way back, but he
had an excellent bump of locality (it was said at the Yard that if you
blindfolded Grant and turned him until he was dizzy he still knew where
north was) and the general direction was clear enough to him. He stood in
a doorway on the opposite side of the street and watched the officer on
the beat go by, rather than ask a direction and have to explain himself.
No member of the C.I.D. likes to appear before a borough policeman with
his boots in his hands.

He wrote a note asking Williams to telephone the Yard when he came in at
six and ask for any information they might have about a sect or order or
whatnot called the Tree of Lebanon, and to waken him when the answer
came. He then fell into bed, and slept dreamlessly, the passports under
his pillow until Williams called him just before ten o'clock.

"News of Tisdall?" Grant said as his eyes opened.

But there was no news.

The Yard said that the Holy Order of the Tree of Lebanon had been founded
by a rich bachelor in 1862, for the furtherance of the monastic life, he
having been what was then known as jilted by the object of his
affections. He himself had been the first prior, and all his wealth had
been used to endow the foundation. The rule of poverty had been very
strict, money being used only for charities approved by the prior of the
moment, so that by the present day the order had the reputation of having
a lot of money laid away. A prior was nominated by his predecessor, but a
prior could be superseded at any moment by the unanimous vote of the
brethren.

Grant drank the horrible coffee supplied by the establishment, and
considered things. "That is what our Herbert wants: the prior-ship. He
has the prior dancing on a stick. It's almost incredible that a man like
the prior could be such a fool. But then! Think of the fools we've known,
Williams."

"I'm thinking, sir," Williams said, eloquently.

"All those hardheaded self-made pieces of original conglomerate who fall
for a few honeyed words from a confidence man in a hotel lobby! And of
course Herbert has no ordinary gift of tongues. Perhaps he worked his
churches in America as leaven to the prior's interest. Anyhow, he's the
prior's fair-haired boy at the moment. With the prospect of having a
fortune in his hands if he plays his cards rightly for the next few
weeks. Not much wonder he was scared of getting in wrong. He wanted to
know just how much his sister had left him, without compromising himself
with his brethren. If she had left him enough to make it worth his while,
he'd give up the monastic life. I shouldn't think it appeals greatly to
him. Even with occasional visits to the villa."

"How long do you think he'd stay in any case, sir?"

"Till he had transferred enough hard cash to his own particular
charities. Oh, well, these," he indicated the passports, "will be enough
to frame a nice little indictment on, so that we can have him under our
hands when we want him. The thing that disappoints me, Williams, is where
is the murder in all this? I don't mean that he didn't do it. I've no
doubt that he was having his twenty-four hours off at the time. But why
did he do it? He came to England when he heard that she was coming. I
think, judging by his woman's clothes, that he was possibly broke when he
arrived. That was why he took to the Tree of Lebanon. But the
possibilities of the Tree must have occurred to him pretty soon. Why kill
his sister?"

"Went to see her and had a quarrel. The queer hour that's puzzled us all
would be quite normal for him. Six o'clock would be just as usual as
lunchtime."

"Yes, that's true. I'm going now to find out from the Reverend Father
whether Brother Aloysius was out of the monastery a fortnight yesterday.
The Reverend Father would have sat on a very high horse yesterday, but
he'll talk when he sees what his favorite looks like on these passports."

But the Reverend Father was not receiving callers. The little
_guichet_ displayed the sour face of the doorkeeper, who delivered
his stolid message in answer to all Grant's questions, whether the phrase
was relevant or not. Herbert's golden tongue had been at work. The
_guichet_ shut, and Grant was left helpless in the little lane.
There was nothing for it but a warrant. He went slowly away, his feet
still aching; admired the job Herbert had made of oiling the cellar
entrance in the pavement, and climbed into his car. Yes, he had better
get that warrant.

He went back to the hotel for his pajamas, razor, and toothbrush (he had
no intention of spending another night there) and was leaving a message
for the sleeping Williams, when he was called to the telephone by the
Yard.

Would he go to Dover? The man there wanted him. Something had turned up,
it seemed.

He changed the message for Williams, threw his things into the car, found
time to wonder why he overtipped the frowsy virago for her inattendance,
disgusting food, and deplorable cooking, and set out for Dover.

Something had turned up. That could only mean Champneis. Something out of
the ordinary. If they had merely found where Champneis had spent the
night, it would have been reported by telephone in the ordinary way.
But--something had turned up.

Rimell, the detective in charge--a kind, melancholy-looking boy, whose
greatest asset was his unlikeness to the popular conception of a
detective--was waiting for Grant at that police-station door, and Grant
drew him into the car. Rimell said that he had, after endless delving,
unearthed an old fellow called Searle, a retired deckhand, who had been
coming home from his grand-daughter's engagement party about half past
twelve on the Wednesday night--or rather, the Thursday morning. He was
alone, because very few people lived down the harborway nowadays. They'd
got ideas and lived up the hill in gimcrack villas you'd be afraid to
sneeze in. He had stopped a minute or two when he had got to the sea
level, to look at the harbor. It still made him feel fine to look at
riding lights at night. It was beginning to mist over, but it was still
clear enough to see the outlines of everything. He knew the
_Petronel_ was coming in--had seen her through his glasses before he
went to the party--and so he looked for her now, and saw her lying not at
the jetty, but out in the water at anchor. As he watched, a small
motorboat came out from her side and made for the shore, going slowly
with a quiet _chug-chug_ as if not anxious to call attention to
itself. As it touched the jetty steps a man moved out of the shadows by
the quay. A tall figure whom Searle identified as Lord Edward (he had
seen him often and had in fact once served aboard a previous yacht of his
brother's) appeared from the boat and said, "Is that you, Harmer?" and
the smaller man had said, "It's me," and then, in a low tone, "Customs
all right?" Lord Edward had said, "No trouble at all," and they had gone
down into the motorboat together and pushed off. The mist had come down
quickly after that, blotting out the harbor. After about fifteen minutes
Searle had gone on his way. But as he was going up the street, he heard a
motorboat leave the _Petronel_. Whether it came ashore or went out
of the harbor he didn't know. He didn't think at the moment any of all
this was of any importance.

"Great Heavens!" said Grant. "I can't believe it. There just--there just
isn't one single thing in all the world that these two men have in
common." (His subconscious added before he could stop it: except a
woman.) "They just don't touch anywhere. And yet they're as thick as
thieves." He sat silent a little. "All right, Rimell. Good work. I'm
going to have lunch and think this over."

"Yes, sir. May I give you a friendly piece of advice, sir?"

"If you must. It's a bad habit in subordinates."

"No black coffee, sir. I expect you had four cups for breakfast and
nothing else."

Grant laughed. "Why should you worry," he said, pressing the starter.
"The more breakdowns, the quicker the promotion."

"I grudge the money for wreaths, sir."

But Grant was not smiling as he drove lunchwards. Christine Clay's
husband and her reputed lover had midnight business together. That was
strange enough. But that Edward Champneis, fifth son of the seventh Duke
of Bude, and a reputable if unorthodox member of his race, should have
underhand traffic with Jason Harmer, of Tin Pan Alley, was definitely
stranger. What was the common bond? Not murder. Grant refused to consider
anything _so_ outré as murder in couples. One or the other might
have wanted to murder her, but that they should have forgathered on the
subject was unimaginable. The motorboat had left the _Petronel_
again, Searle said. Supposing only one of them had been in it? It was
only a short distance north along the coast to the Gap at Westover; and
Harmer had turned up at Clay's cottage two hours after her death. To
drown Clay from a motorboat was the ideal way. As good as his groin
theory, with escape both quicker and easier. The more he thought of the
motorboat, the more enamored of the method he grew. They had checked the
boats in the vicinity as a matter of routine at the time of the first
investigation; but a motorboat has a wide cruising radius. But--oh, well,
just "but"! The theory was fantastic. Could one imagine Jason saying,
"You lend me your boat and I'll drown your wife," or Champneis
suggesting, "I'll lend you the boat if you'll do the work." These two had
met for some other reason altogether. If murder had resulted, then it had
been unplanned, incidental.

What then had they met for? Harmer had said something about Customs. It
had been his first greeting. He had been anxious about it. Was Harmer a
drug fiend?

There were two things against that. Harmer didn't look like an addict.
And Champneis would never have supplied the stuff. Risk might be the
breath of life to him, but that kind of risk would be very definitely
out.

What, then, was to be kept from the eyes of the Customs? Tobacco? Jewels?
Champneis had shown George Meir, next morning, the topazes he had brought
back for Christine.

There was one thing against all of it. Smuggling Edward Champneis might
descend to, as a ploy, a mere bit of excitement; but Grant could not see
him smuggling for the benefit of Jason Harmer. One ran one's head
continually against that. What had these two men in common? They had
something. Their association proved it. But what? They were, as far as
anyone knew, the merest acquaintances. Not even that. Champneis had
almost certainly left England before Harmer had arrived, and Christine
had not known Harmer until they worked together on these English
pictures.

No digestive juices flowed in Grant's alimentary tracts during that
lunch; his brain was working like an engine. The sweetbreads and green
peas might as well have been thrown into the chef's waste bin. By the
time coffee had arrived he was no nearer a solution. He wished he was one
of these marvelous creatures of superinstinct and infallible judgment who
adorned the pages of detective stories, and not just a hard-working,
well-meaning, ordinarily intelligent Detective Inspector. As far as he
could see, the obvious course was to interview one or other of these men.
And the obvious one to interview was Harmer. Why? Oh, because he'd talk
more easily. Oh, yes, all right, and because there was less chance of
running into trouble! What it was to have someone inside you checking up
your motives for everything you did or thought!

He refrained from his second cup of coffee, with a smile for the absent
Rimell. Nice kid. He'd make a good detective someday.

He rang up Devonshire House, and asked if Mr. Harmer could make it
convenient to see Alan Grant (no need to advertise his profession) this
evening between tea and dinner.

He was told that Mr. Harmer was not in London. He had gone down to see
Leni Primhofer, the continental star, who was staying at Whitecliffe. He
was writing a song for her. No, he was not expected back that night. The
address was Tall Hatch, Whitecliffe, and the telephone number Whitecliffe
3025.

Grant rang Whitecliffe 3025, and asked when Mr. Harmer could see him.
Harmer was in the country motoring with Fraülein Primhofer and would not
be back before dinner.

Whitecliffe is a continuation of Westover: a collection of plutocratic
villas set on the cliff beyond the cries of trippers and the desecration
of blown newspaper pages. Grant still had a room at the Marine, and so to
Westover he went, and there Williams joined him. All he could do now was
to wait for a warrant from the Yard and a visit from Harmer.

It was cocktail time when Harmer presented himself.

"Are you asking me to dinner, Inspector? If not, say you are and let the
dinner be on me, will you; there's a good sport. Another hour of that
woman and I shall be daffy. Loco. Nuts. I have known stars in my time,
but holy mackerel! she takes the cake. You'd think with her English being
on the sticky side that she'd let up now and then to think a bit. But no!
Jabbers right along, with German to fill in, and bits of French dressing
here and there to make it look nice. Waiter! What's yours, Inspector? Not
drinking? Oh, come on! No? That's too bad. One gin and mixed, waiter. You
don't need to climb on the wagon with a waist like that, Inspector. Don't
say you're Prohibition from conviction!"

Grant disclaimed any crusading interest in the drink traffic.

"Well, what's the news? You have got news, haven't you?" He became
serious, and looked earnestly, at Grant. "Something real turned up?"

"I just wanted to know what you were doing in Dover on that Wednesday
night."

"In Dover?"

"A fortnight last Wednesday."

"Someone been pulling your leg?"

"Listen, Mr. Harmer, your lack of frankness is complicating everything.
It's keeping us from running down the man who killed Christine Clay. The
whole business is cock-eyed. You come clean about your movements on that
Wednesday night, and half the irrelevant bits and pieces that are
weighing the case down can be shorn off and thrown away. We can't see the
outline of it with all the bits that are covering it up and hanging on to
it. You want to help us get our man, don't you? Well, prove it!"

"I like you a lot, Inspector. I never thought I'd like a cop so much. But
I told you already: I lost my way looking for Chris's cottage, and slept
in the car."

"And if I bring witnesses to prove that you were in Dover after
midnight?"

"I still slept in the car."

Grant was silent, disappointed. Now he would have to go to Champneis.

Harmer's little brown eyes watched him with something like solicitude.

"You're not getting your sleep these days, Inspector. Heading for a
breakdown. Change your mind and have a drink. Wonderful how a drink puts
things in their place."

"If you didn't insist on sleeping in the car, I'd have a better chance of
sleeping in my bed," Grant said angrily, and took his leave with less
than his usual grace.

He wanted to get at Champneis before Jason Harmer had time to tell him
that Grant had been making inquiries. The best way to do that was to
telephone and ask Champneis to come down to Westover. Offer to send a
police car for him at once And if necessary keep Harmer talking until
Champneis would have left town.

But Champneis had already left town. He was in Edinburgh addressing a
polite gathering on "The Future of Galeria."

That settled it. Long before anyone could get to him, Harmer would have
communicated with him either by telegram or telephone. Grant asked that
both means of communication should be tapped, and went back to the lounge
to find Jason still sitting over his drink.

"I know you don't like me, Inspector, but honest to God I like you, and
honest to God that woman is a holy terror. Do you think you could sort of
forget that we are famous-detective and worm-of-a-suspect, and eat
together after all?"

Grant smiled, against his will. He had no objections.

Jason smiled, too, a little knowingly. "But if you think by the end of
dinner I won't have slept in that car, don't kid yourself."

In spite of himself, Grant enjoyed that meal. It was a good game: trying
to trap Jason into some kind of admission. The food was good. And Jason
was amusing.

Another telephone message came to say that Lord Edward was returning on
the first train in the morning, and would be in London by teatime. Grant
could expect the warrant for Gotobed by the first post in the morning.

So Grant went to bed at the Marine, puzzled but not suicidal; at least
there was a program for the morrow. Jason, too, slept at the Marine,
having declared his inability to face Leni anymore that day.



Chapter 24


The kitchen of the Marine was in the roof; the latest discovery of
architects being that smells go upward. It had set out to be an
all-electric kitchen, that being also in the recent creed of architects.
But it was not in the creed of Henri, chef of chefs. Henri was Provencal,
and to cook by electricity, my God, it was a horror, but a horror! If God
had meant us to cook by lightning, He would not have invented fire. So
Henri had his stoves and his braziers. And so now, at three in the
morning, a soft glow from the banked-up fires filled the enormous white
room. Full of high lights, the room was: copper, silver, and enamel. (Not
aluminum. Henri fainted at the mention of aluminum.) The door stood half
open, and the fire made a quiet ticking now and then.

Presently the door moved. Was pushed a little further ajar. A man stood
in the opening, apparently listening. He came in, silent as a shadow, and
moved to the cutlery table. A knife gleamed in the dimness as he took it
from the drawer. But he made no sound. From the table he moved to the
wall where the keys hung on their little board, each on its appointed
hook. Without fumbling he took the key he wanted. He hesitated as he was
about to leave the room, and came back to the fire as if it fascinated
him. His eyes in the light were bright and excited, his face shadowed.

By the hearth lay kindling wood for some morning fire. It had been spread
on a newspaper to dry thoroughly. The man noticed it. He pushed the cut
wood to one side and lifted the rest of the paper into the small square
of firelight. For a moment he read, so still in that silent room that it
might have been empty.

And suddenly all was changed. He leaped to his feet, ran to the electric
button, and switched on the lights. Ran back to the paper and snatched it
from its bed of sticks. He spread it on the table with shaking hands,
patting it and smoothing it as if it were a live thing. Then he began to
laugh. Softly and consumedly, drumming with his fists on the scrubbed
wood. His laughter grew, beyond his control. He ran to the switch again
and snapped on all the lights in the kitchen; one, two, three, four,
five, six, seven, eight. A new thought possessed him. He ran out of the
kitchen, along the tiled corridors, silent as a shadow. Down the dim
stairs he sped, flight after flight, like a bat. And now he began to
laugh again, in sobbing gusts. He shot into the darkness of the great
lounge and across it to the green light of the reception desk. There was
no one there. The night porter was on his rounds. The man turned a page
of the registration book, and ran a wavering finger down it. Then he made
off up the stairs again, silent except for his sobbing breath. In the
service room on the second floor he took a master key from its hook, and
ran to the door of Room 73. The door yielded, he put out his hand to the
switch, and leaped on the man in the bed.

Grant struggled out of his dream of contraband, to defend himself against
a maniac who was kneeling on his bed shaking him and repeating between
sobs: "So you were wrong, and it's all right! You were wrong, and it's
all right!"

"Tisdall!" said Grant. "My God, I'm glad to see you. Where have you
been?"

"Among the cisterns."

"In the Marine? All the time?"

"Since Thursday night. How long is that? I just walked in at the service
door late at night. Rain like stair rods. You could have walked the
length of the town in your birthday suit, and there wouldn't have been
anyone to see. I knew about the little attic place because I saw it when
workmen were here one day. No one's ever there but workmen. I come out at
night to get food from the larder. I expect someone's in trouble about
that food. Or perhaps they never missed it? Do you think?"

His unnaturally bright eyes scanned Grant anxiously. He had begun to
shiver. It did not need much guesswork to place his probable temperature.

Grant pushed him gently down to a sitting position on the bed, took a
pair of pajamas from the drawer, and handed them over.

"Here. Get into these and into bed at once. I suppose you were soaking
when you arrived at the hotel?"

"Yes. My clothes weighed so much I could hardly walk. But it's dry up in
the roof. Warm, too. Too warm in the daytime. You have a n-n-nice taste
in n-n-night wear." His teeth were chattering; reaction was flooding him.

Grant helped him with the pajamas and covered him up. He rang for the
porter and ordered hot soup and the presence of a doctor. Then he sat
down at the telephone and told the good news to the Yard, Tisdall's
overbright eyes watching him, quizzically. When he had finished he came
over to the bed and said: "I can't tell you how sorry I am about all
this. I'd give a lot to undo it."

"Blankets!" said Tisdall. "Sheets! Pillows! Eiderdown! Gosh!" He grinned
as far as his chattering teeth and his week's growth of beard would let
him. "Say 'Now I Lay Me' for me," he said. And fell abruptly asleep.



Chapter 25


In the morning, because the doctor said that "there was a certain
congestion which in the subject's weakened condition might at any moment
develop into pneumonia," Grant summoned Tisdall's Aunt Muriel, whom the
Yard obligingly found, Tisdall having refused to consider the presence of
any aunts. Williams was sent to Canterbury to arrest Brother Aloysius,
and Grant planned to go back to town after lunch to interview Champneis.
He had telephoned the good news of Tisdall's reappearance to Colonel
Burgoyne, and the telephone had been answered by Erica.

"Oh, I'm so glad for you!" she said. "For _me?_"

"Yes, it must have been awful for you."

And it was only then that Grant realized quite how awful it had been.
That continual pushing down of an unnamed fear. What a nice child she
was.

The nice child had sent over for the patient in the course of the morning
a dozen fresh eggs taken from the Steynes nests that very hour. Grant
thought how typical it was of her to send fresh eggs, and not the
conventional flowers or fruit.

"I hope she didn't get into trouble for giving me food that time?"
Tisdall asked. He always talked as if the occurrences of the last week
were many years away; the days in the attic had been a lifetime to him.

"On the contrary. She saved your neck and my reputation. It was she who
found your coat. No, I can't tell you about it now. You're supposed not
to talk or be talked to."

But he had had to tell all about it. And had left Tisdall saying softly
to himself, "Well!" Over and over again: "Well!" in a wondering tone.

The shadow of the Champneis interview had begun to loom over Grant.
Supposing he said frankly: "Look here, both you and Jason Harmer went out
of your way to lie to me about your movements on a certain night, and now
I find that you were together at Dover. What were you doing?" What would
the answer be? "My dear sir, I can't answer for Harmer's prevarications,
but he was my guest on the _Petronel_ and we spent the night fishing
in our motorboat." That would be a good alibi.

And still his mind dwelled on the contraband idea. What contraband was of
interest to both Champneis and Harmer? And it didn't take a whole night
to hand over even a whole cargoload of contraband. Yet neither of them
had an alibi for that night. What had they done with the hours from
midnight to breakfast?

He had felt, ever since Rimell's revelation at Dover, that if he could
remember what Champneis had been talking about just before his fib about
the day of his arrival, all would be clear to him.

He decided to go downstairs and have his hair cut before he left the
Marine. He was to remember that haircut.

As he put out his hand to push the swing door open, he heard Champneis's
voice in his mind, drawling a sentence.

So _that_ was what he had been talking about!

Yes. Yes. Pictures ran together in Grant's mind to make a sequence that
made sense. He turned from the saloon door to the telephone and called
the Special Branch. He asked them half a dozen questions, and then went
to have his hair cut, smiling fatuously. He knew now what he was going to
say to Edward Champneis.

It was the busy time of the morning and all the chairs were full.

"Won't be a minute, sir," an anxious supervisor said. "Not a minute if
you will wait."

Grant sat down by the wall and reached for a magazine from the pile on a
shelf. The pile fell over; a well-thumbed collection, most of them far
from new. Because it had a frontispiece of Christine Clay, he picked up a
copy of the _Silver Sheet_, an American cinema magazine, and idly
turned over the pages. It was the usual bouquet. The "real truth" was
told about someone for the fifty-second time, being a completely
different real truth from all the other fifty-one real truths. A nitwit
blonde explained how she read new meaning into Shakespeare. Another told
how she kept her figure. An actress who didn't know one end of a frying
pan from the other was photographed in her kitchen making griddle cakes.
A he-man star said how grand he thought all the other he-man stars. Grant
turned the pages more impatiently. He was on the point of exchanging the
magazine for another when his attention was suddenly caught. He read
through an article with growing interest. At the last paragraph he got to
his feet, still holding the paper and staring at the page.

"Your turn now, sir," the barber said. "This chair, please."

But Grant took no notice.

"We're quite ready for you now, sir. Sorry you've been kept waiting."

Grant looked up at them, only half-conscious of them.

"Can I have this?" he asked, indicating the magazine. "It's six months
old. Thank you," and rushed out of the room.

They stared after him, and laughed a little, speculating as to what had
taken his fancy.

"Found his affinity," someone suggested.

"Thought they were extinct, affinities," another countered.

"Found something to cure his corns."

"No, gone to consult his best friend."

And they laughed and forgot him.

Grant was in the telephone booth, and the impatient gentleman in the
patent leather shoes was beginning to wonder if he was ever coming out of
it. He was talking to Owen Hughes, the cinema star. That was why the
patent leather gentleman didn't go upstairs to the numerous booths on the
ground floor. He was hoping to hear some of the conversation. It was
about whether someone had mentioned something in a letter to someone.

"You _did!_" Grant said. "Thanks! That's all I wanted to know. Keep
it under your hat. That I asked, I mean."

Then he had asked for the Thames police, pulling the door tighter and so
exasperating the waiting gentleman.

"Has 276 River Walk a motorboat, do you know?"

There was a consultation at the other end.

Yes, 276 had a boat. Yes, very fast. Seagoing? Oh, yes, if necessary.
Used it for fowling along the Essex flats, they thought. Used for
navigation of the lower river, anyhow? Oh, yes.

Grant asked if they would have a boat ready for him in about an hour and
a half, by which time he'd be in town, he hoped. He'd take it as a great
favor.

Certainly, they would.

Grant telephoned to Barker--at which point the patent leather gentleman
gave it up--and asked that if Williams was back in town within the next
ninety minutes he should meet Grant at Westminster Pier. If Williams was
not back in time, then Sanger.

Grant took full advantage of the lunchtime lull in traffic, and in
unrestricted areas excelled himself in the gentle art of speed with
safety. He found Williams waiting for him, a little breathless, since he
had that moment arrived from the Yard and sent the disappointed Sanger
back. Williams had no intention of being out of anything, if he could
help it. And the Superintendent had said that something exciting was due
to break.

"Well, was the Reverend Father shocked?" Grant asked.

"Not as shocked as Brother Aloysius. He didn't for a moment imagine we'd
got anything on him. By the way he behaved, I should think some other
police forces must be anxious to catch up with him."

"I shouldn't wonder."

"Where are we going, sir?"

"Chelsea Reach. Beloved of painters and folk dancers."

Williams looked benignly at his superior and noticed how much better he
was looking now that the Tisdall boy had turned up.

The police boat drew in to the bank at 276 River Walk where a large
grayish motorboat was moored. The police boat edged gingerly nearer until
only a foot separated the gunwales.

Grant stepped across. "Come with me, Williams. I want witnesses."

The cabin was locked. Grant glanced up at the house opposite and shook
his head. "I'll have to risk it. I'm sure I'm right, anyhow."

While the river police stood by, he forced the lock and went in. It was a
tidy, seamanlike cabin; everything was neat and ship-shape. Grant began
to go through the lockers. In the one under the starboard bunk he found
what he was looking for. An oilskin coat. Black. Bought in Cannes. With
the button missing from the right cuff.

"You take that, Williams, and come up to the house with me."

The maid said that Miss Keats was in, and left them in a dining room on
the ground floor; a very austere and up-to-the-minute apartment.

"Looks more like a place to have your appendix out than to put roast beef
into you," Williams observed.

But Grant said nothing.

Lydia came in, smiling, her bracelets jangling and her beads clashing.

"I'm sorry I couldn't take you upstairs, my dear Leo person, but I have
some clients who mightn't understand that this is just a friendly visit."

"So you knew who I was, at Marta's?"

"Of course. You don't flatter my powers of divination, my dear Mr. Grant.
Won't you present your friend?"

"This is Sergeant Williams."

She looked faintly disconcerted, Grant thought, but managed to be
gracious to the sergeant. Then she saw what was under Williams's arm.

"What are you doing with my coat?" she asked sharply.

"Then it is your coat? The one in the locker of the boat?"

"Of course it is my coat! How dare you force my cabin! It is always kept
locked."

"The lock will be repaired, Miss Keats. Meanwhile I regret to tell you
that I must arrest you for the murder of Christine Clay at the Gap at
Westover on Thursday morning, the 15th, and warn you that anything you
say may be used in evidence against you."

Her face changed from her habitual expression of satisfaction to the
convulsed fury he had seen when Judy Sellers had made light of her
powers. "You can't arrest me," she said. "It is not in my stars. Who
should know if not I? The stars have no secrets from me. The stars have
predicted a glorious destiny for me. It is you, poor mistaken fool, who
will go on stumbling and making mistakes. My sign is achievement.
Whatever I will I can do. It is set there in the sky that it shall be so.
Destiny. 'Some are born great'--that is true and the rest is lies. One is
born great or is not great at all. I was born to achieve. To be a leader.
To be looked up to by mankind--"

"Miss Keats, I should be grateful if you would prepare to come with us at
once. Any clothes you want can be sent after you."

"Clothes? What for?"

"For use in prison."

"I don't understand. You can't put me in prison. It isn't in my stars.
They said that what I wanted I could do."

"Everyone can do what they want if they want it enough. But no one with
impunity. Will you send for your maid and explain to her? She will fetch
your hat if you want it."

"I don't want it. I am not going with you. I am going to a party this
afternoon at Marta's. She's got Christine's part, you know. In the new
film. That's one good turn I did. It was all written a long time ago what
we should do. It falls into place, like the cog things in a musical box,
you know. Or perhaps you don't know. Are you musical? And from Marta's
I'm going to Owen Hughes. After that we shall see. If you come back in
the evening we can talk about it. Do you know Owen? A charming person. He
had his appointed place, too. If it hadn't been for Owen it would never
have come into my head. No, I don't mean that. Great enterprises belong
to great minds. They would happen in any case. But the releasing agent is
often very small. Like electric light and the switch. I used that simile
in a lecture in Scotland the other week. It went very well. Neat, don't
you think? Will you have some sherry? I'm afraid I'm very remiss. It's
the consciousness of these people upstairs waiting to be told."

"Told what?"

"About me, of course. No, about themselves. That is what they came for.
I'm a little muddled. They want to know what destiny has in store for
them. And only I can tell them. Only I, Lydia Keats--"

"May I use your telephone, Miss Keats?"

"Certainly. It is in the cupboard place in the hall. One of the new
colored kind. The telephone, not the cupboard. What was I saying?"

Grant said to Williams, "Ask them to send Reynolds around at once."

"Is that the painter? I shall be glad to meet him. He was born to
greatness. It is not a matter of application, or mixing pigments, you
know. It is having the matter in you. And that the stars arrange. You
must let me do a horoscope for you. You are a Leo person. Very attractive
people. Kingly born. I have been sorry sometimes that I was not August
born. But Aries people are leaders. Talkative, too, I'm afraid." She
giggled. "I do talk a lot they tell me. Chatterbox, they called me as a
child."



Chapter 26


Half an hour later Reynolds, the police surgeon, gave the screaming,
raving thing that had been Lydia Keats a morphine injection so that they
might remove her to the station in some sort of decency.

Grant and Williams, standing in the door, watching the disappearing
ambulance, found no words.

"Well," Grant said at length, pulling himself together, "I suppose I'd
better get along and see Champneis."

"The people that made the laws of this country ought to be shot,"
Williams said with sudden venom.

Grant looked startled. "Capital punishment, you mean?"

"No! Closed hours."

"Oh, I see. There's a flask in my cupboard. You can help yourself."

"Thank you, sir. Don't take on, miss!" This to the sobbing maid in the
background. "Things like that will happen."

"She was a very kind mistress to me," she said. "It hurts me to see her
like that."

"Take care of that coat, Williams," Grant said as they went down the path
to the car that had been sent for them, glad beyond speech to leave the
house behind.

"Tell me, sir, how did you find out it was that woman of all people?"

Grant produced the pages he had torn from the magazine.

"I found that in a magazine in the barbershop at the Marine. You can read
it for yourself."

It was an article written by some Midwest sob sister, who had been in New
York for a vacation. New York was full of film stars who had either run
out on their studies or were on their way back to them, and in New York
also was Miss Lydia Keats. And the thing that most impressed the sob
sister was not shaking hands with Grace Marvel, but the success of Miss
Keats's prophecies. She had made three startling ones. She had prophesied
that within three months Lyn Drake would have a serious accident; and
everyone knew that Lyn Drake was still on his back. She had said that
Millard Robinson would within a month lose a fortune by fire; and
everyone knew how the reels of the new million-dollar film had been
burned to a cinder. And her third statement prophesied the death by
drowning of a woman star of the first magnitude, whose name, of course,
she gave, but the sob sister equally of course could not reveal. "If this
third prophecy, so circumstantial, so unequivocal, comes true, then Miss
Keats is established as the possessor of one of the most uncanny talents
in the world. All humanity will be besieging her. But don't go swimming
with Miss Keats, little blonde star! The temptation might be too much for
her!"

"Well, I'll be damned," said Williams, and was silent until Grant dropped
him at the Yard.

"Tell the Superintendent I'll be in as soon as I've seen Lord Edward,"
Grant said, and was driven on to Regent's Park.

In an atmosphere of marble mantelpieces and sheepskin rugs he waited half
an hour before Champneis arrived.

"How are you, Inspector? I hear from Binns that you've been waiting.
Sorry to subject you to the furnishings longer than is vitally necessary.
I hope you drink tea? But if you don't there are what my uncle called
'cordials.' A much nicer word than 'drinks,' don't you think? Have you
news?"

"Yes, sir. I'm sorry to break in with it when you're just after a
journey."

"It can't be worse than the drawing-room lecture of my great-aunt's
yesterday. I only went for the old lady's sake, but I found that she
thought I should have canceled it. It would have been more 'fitting.' So
tell me the bad news."

Grant told him what had happened, and he listened gravely, the unusual
defensive flippancy gone.

"Is she insane?" he asked, when Grant had finished.

"Yes. Reynolds thinks so. It may be hysteria, but he thinks it's
insanity. Delusions of greatness, you know."

"Poor wretch. But how did she know where my wife was?"

"Owen Hughes told her in a letter from Hollywood. He forgot that it was a
secret that she had taken his cottage. He even mentioned the
early-morning swimming."

"So simple. I see...Was she very expert with a motorboat, then?"

"She had been practically brought up on one, it seems. Used the river
constantly. No one would have thought of questioning her comings and
goings. She may have made that night journey down the river more than
once before the opportunity she was looking for turned up. Curious, but
one never thinks of the river as a high road to anywhere. We had
considered the possibility of a motorboat, naturally, but not a motorboat
from London. Not that it would have helped us very much if it had. The
man's coat she wore was very misleading. Lots of women wear men's
oilskins yachting; but I don't think it would have occurred to me."

There was a short silence.

Each man watched in his mind that boat's journey down the misty river,
out to the many-lighted estuary, and along the many-lighted coast. One
little town after another, from flaring dockyard lights among the flats
to twinkling villa lights among the cliffs, must have lit that progress.
But later, there must have been darkness; complete darkness and silence,
as the summer fog pressed down on the water. What had her thoughts been,
in that time of waiting? Alone, with time to reflect. And with no stars
to remind her of her greatness. Or was her madness even then so sure that
she had no doubts?

And afterwards--each man watched that, too. The surprise. The friendly
greeting. Chris's green cap bobbing alongside the gray hull--the cap that
had never been found. The woman leaning over to talk to her. And then--

Grant remembered those broken nails on Christine's hands. It had not been
so easy, then.

"That finishes the case, sir, but it was really something else that
brought me to see you. Another case altogether."

"Yes? Here's tea. You needn't wait, Binns. Sugar, Inspector?"

"I want to know where you took Rimnik."

Champneis paused with the sugar poised. He looked both surprised and
amused and--somehow--admiring.

"He is with friends of Harmer's, near Tunbridge Wells."

"May I have the exact address?"

Champneis gave it, and also gave Grant his tea. "Why do you want Rimnik?"

"Because he is in this country without a passport--thanks to you!"

"He _was_. The office issued him a landing permit this morning. It
took a lot of eloquence--Britain the lover of justice, the defender of
the persecuted, the home of the righteous homeless: all that stuff--but
it worked. Chests still swell in Whitehall, do you know? They were like
a collection of pouter pigeons when I finished."

He looked at the Inspector's disapproving face. "I didn't know that that
little business had been a worry to you."

"Worry!" Grant burst out. "It nearly ruined everything. You and Harmer
both lying about what you had done that night--" He found that he was
treading on delicate ground and pulled himself up.

But Champneis had understood. "I really am sorry, Inspector. Are you
going to arrest me? Can one be arrested retrospectively, so to speak?"

"I don't think so. I shall have to inquire about it. It would give me
great pleasure." Grant had recovered his temper.

"All right. Let's postpone the arrest. But tell me how you found out? I
thought we'd been so clever."

"I might never have found out if it hadn't been for a good bit of work by
a young officer--Rimell--at Dover."

"I must meet Rimell."

"He found that you and Harmer had met that night and had been worried
about the Customs."

"Yes. Rimnik was in a cupboard in my cabin. It was an exciting half hour.
But the Customs and Harbor Masters are only human."

This Grant took to mean that they knocked off the Champneis pegs and
lacked the nerve to knock on the bulkheads. "It was then I began to feel
that if I could remember something you had said just before--you misled
me about the time of your arrival in Dover, I would have the key to
everything. And I remembered it! You said that Galeria's only hope was
Rimnik, and that Rimnik would turn up again when his party was ready. But
the big stumbling block was in seeing the connection between you and
Harmer. It was so simple and so obvious I couldn't find it. You liked and
admired one another immediately when your wife introduced you. I must say
he did a beautiful job of throwing dust in my eyes, putting on that
resentful, underprivileged classes act. I should have thought more about
my recognition of your--"

"My what?"

"Unorthodoxy." Both men smiled. "Once I groped my way through that
difficulty, the rest was easy. The Special Branch knew all about Rimnik's
disappearance, his being refused a passport, and Britain's refusal to
have him here. They even knew that he was supposed to be in England, but
had no confirmation of it. So the motorboat came ashore a second time?"

"That night, you mean? Yes. Harmer drove us over to his friend's place.
He has guts; he was scared stiff, I think, but he went through with it. I
see Tisdall has turned up," he said as Grant rose to go. "That must be an
enormous relief to you. Is he ill?"

"No. He has a chill, and he's overwrought, of course. But I hope he's
going to be all right."

"In the midday edition I bought at York, I read a harrowing description
of his sufferings. Knowing the Press, I believed with confidence that not
a word of it was true."

"Not a word. That was just Jammy Hopkins."

"Who is Jammy Hopkins?"

"Who is--" Words failed the Inspector. He looked enviously at Champneis.
"Now I know," he said, "why men go out into the waste places of the
earth!"



Chapter 27


Herbert Gotobed left England about a month later on his way to explain to
the inquisitive police of Nashville, Tennessee, what he had done with the
two thousand dollars old Mrs. Kinsley had given him to build a church
with.

And on the day that he sailed--although neither party knew of the other's
activities--Erica had a dinner party at Steynes "to take the taste of the
last one away," as she said bluntly to Grant when she invited him. The
only addition to the original personnel was Robin Tisdall, and Grant
found himself ridiculously relieved to find that her small nose was still
as casually powdered, and her frock still as childish as on the first
occasion. He was afraid that contact with anyone as good-looking and
ill-used as Robin Tisdall would have bred a self-awareness that would be
the end of her girlhood. But it seemed as if nothing could make Erica
self-conscious. She treated Tisdall with the same grave
matter-of-factness she had used when she had told him that his shirt
collar was too tight. Grant saw Sir George's eyes going from one to the
other in glad amusement. Their glances met, and moved by a common impulse
the two men raised their glasses in a small gesture of mutual
congratulation.

"Are you drinking a toast?" Erica asked. "I'll give you one. To Robin's
success in California!"

They drank it with a will.

"If you don't like the ranch," Erica said, "wait till I am twenty-one and
I'll buy it from you."

"Would you like that sort of life?" His tone was eager.

"Of course I should." She turned to Grant, beginning to say something.

"You'll have to come out and see it long before you're twenty-one," Robin
persisted.

"Yes, that would be nice." She was sincere but inattentive. "Mr. Grant"
(for some reason she never called him Inspector) "if I get those tickets
from Mr. Mills myself will you come with me to the Circus at Christmas?"

She was very faintly pink, as if she had asked a forward thing. A
phenomenon in Erica, who was forward by nature and never knew it.

"Of course I will," Grant said, "with the greatest pleasure."

"All right," she said. "That's a promise." She lifted her glass. "To
Olympia, at Christmas!"

"To Olympia at Christmas!" Grant said.



THE END



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