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Title: The Shrieking Pit
Author: Arthur J. Rees
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1202321.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: June 2012
Date most recently updated: June 2012

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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: The Shrieking Pit
Author: Arthur J. Rees

*

Published 1918,

*

TO
MY SISTERS IN AUSTRALIA
ANNIE AND FRANCES

*

  _The sea beats in at Blakeney--
  Beats wild and waste at Blakeney;
    O'er ruined quay and cobbled street,
    O'er broken masts of fisher fleet,
  Which go no more to sea._

  _The bitter pools at ebb-tide lie,
  In barren sands at Blakeney;
    Green, grey and green the marshes creep,
    To where the grey north waters leap
  By dead and silent Blakeney._

  _And Time is dead at Blakeney--
  In old, forgotten Blakeney;
    What care they for Time's Scythe or Glass;
    Who do not feel the hours pass,
  Who sleep in sea-worn Blakeney?_

  _By the old grey church in Blakeney,
  By quenched turret light in Blakeney,
    They slumber deep, they do not know,
    If Life's told tale is Death and Woe;
  Through all eternity._

  _But Love still lives at Blakeney,
  'Tis graven deep at Blakeney;
    Of Love which seeks beyond the grave,
    Of Love's sad faith which fain would save--
  The headstones tell the story._

  _Grave-grasses grow at Blakeney
  Sea pansies, sedge, and rosemary;
    Frail fronds thrust forth in dim dank air,
    A message from those lying there:
  Wan leaves of memory._

  _I send you this from Blakeney--
  From distant, dreaming Blakeney;
    Love and Remembrance: These are sure;
    Though Death is strong they shall endure,
  Till all things cease to be._

_A. J. R._

_Blakeney,
Norfolk._

*


PREFACE


As the scenes of this story are laid in a part of Norfolk which will be
readily identified by many Norfolk people, it is perhaps well to state
that all the personages are fictitious, and that the Norfolk police
officials who appear in the book have no existence outside these pages.
They and the other characters are drawn entirely from imagination.

To East Anglian readers I offer my apologies for any faults there may be
in reproducing the Norfolk dialect. My excuse is the fascination the
language produced on myself, and that it is as essential to the scene of
the story as the marshes and the sea. Though I have found it impossible
to transliterate the pronunciation into the ordinary English alphabet, I
hope I have been able to convey enough of the characteristic speech of
the native to enable those familiar with it to put it for themselves
into the accents of their own people. To those who are not familiar with
the dialect, I can only say, "Go and study this relic of old English in
that remote part of the country where the story is laid, where the
ghosts of a ruined past mingle with the primitive survivors of to-day,
who walk very near the unseen."


A. J. R.
LONDON

*



CHAPTER I


Colwyn had never seen anything quite so eccentric in a public room as
the behaviour of the young man breakfasting alone at the alcove table in
the bay embrasure, and he became so absorbed in watching him that he
permitted his own meal to grow cold, impatiently waving away the waiter
who sought with obtrusive obsequiousness to recall his wandering
attention by thrusting the menu card before him.

To outward seeming the occupant of the alcove table was a good-looking
young man, whose clear blue eyes, tanned skin and well-knit frame
indicated the truly national product of common sense, cold water, and
out-of-door pursuits; of a wholesomely English if not markedly
intellectual type, pleasant to look at, and unmistakably of good birth
and breeding. When a young man of this description, your fellow guest at
a fashionable seaside hotel, who had been in the habit of giving you a
courteous nod on his morning journey across the archipelago of
snowy-topped tables under the convoy of the head waiter to his own
table, comes in to breakfast with shaking hands, flushed face, and
passes your table with unseeing eyes, you would probably conclude that
he was under the influence of liquor, and in your English way you would
severely blame him, not so much for the moral turpitude involved in his
excess as for the bad taste, which prompted him to show himself in public
in such a condition. If, on reaching his place, the young man's conduct
took the additional extravagant form of picking up a table-knife and
sticking it into the table in front of him, you would probably enlarge
your previous conclusion by admitting the hypotheses of drugs or
dementia to account for such remarkable behaviour.

All these things were done by the young man at the alcove table in the
breakfast room of the Grand Hotel, Durrington, on an October morning in
the year 1916; but Colwyn, who was only half an Englishman, and,
moreover, had an original mind, did not attribute them to drink,
morphia, or madness. Colwyn flattered himself that he knew the outward
signs of these diseases too well to be deceived into thinking that the
splendid specimen of young physical manhood at the far table was the
victim of any of them. His own impression was that it was a case of
shell-shock. It was true that, apart from the doubtful evidence of a
bronzed skin and upright frame, there was nothing about him to suggest
that he had been a soldier: no service lapel or regimental badge in his
grey Norfolk jacket. But an Englishman of his class would be hardly
likely to wear either once he had left the Army. It was almost certain
that he must have seen service in the war, and by no means improbable
that he had been bowled over by shell-shock, like many thousands more of
equally splendid specimens of young manhood. Any other conclusion to
account for the strange condition of a young man like him seemed
unworthy and repellent.

"It _must_ be shell-shock, and a very bad case--probably supposed to be
cured, and sent up here to recuperate," thought Colwyn. "I'll keep an
eye on him."

As Colwyn resumed his breakfast it occurred to him that some of the
other guests might have been alarmed by the young man's behaviour, and
he cast his eyes round the room to see if anybody else had noticed him.

There were about thirty guests in the big breakfast apartment, which had
been built to accommodate five times the number--a charming, luxuriously
furnished place, with massive white pillars supporting a frescoed
ceiling, and lighted by numerous bay windows opening on to the North
Sea, which was sparkling brightly in a brilliant October sunshine. The
thirty people comprised the whole of the hotel visitors, for in the year
1916 holiday seekers preferred some safer resort than a part of the
Norfolk coast which lay in the track of enemy airships seeking a way to
London.

Two nights before a Zeppelin had dropped a couple of bombs on the
Durrington front, and the majority of hotel visitors had departed by the
next morning's train, disregarding the proprietor's assurance that the
affair was a pure accident, a German oversight which was not likely to
happen again. Off the nervous ones went, and left the big hotel, the
long curved seafront, the miles of yellow sand, the high green
headlands, the best golf-links in the East of England, and all the other
attractions mentioned in the hotel advertisements, to a handful of
people, who were too nerve-proof, lazy, fatalistic, or indifferent to
bother about Zeppelins.

These thirty guests, scattered far and wide over the spacious isolation
of the breakfast-room, in twos and threes, and little groups, seemed,
with one exception, too engrossed in the solemn British rite of
beginning the day well with a good breakfast to bother their heads about
the conduct of the young man at the alcove table. They were, for the
most part, characteristic war-time holiday-makers: the men, obviously
above military age, in Norfolk tweeds or golf suits; two young officers
at a table by the window, and--as indifference to Zeppelins is not
confined to the sterner sex--a sprinkling of ladies, plump and matronly,
or of the masculine walking type, with two charmingly pretty girls and a
gay young war widow to leaven the mass.

The exception was a tall and portly gentleman with a slightly bald head,
glossy brown beard, gold-rimmed eye-glasses perilously balanced on a
prominent nose, and an important manner. He was breakfasting alone at a
table not far from Colwyn's, and Colwyn noticed that he kept glancing at
the alcove table where the young man sat. As Colwyn looked in his
direction their eyes met, and the portly gentleman nodded portentously
in the direction of the alcove table, as an indication that he also had
been watching the curious behaviour of the occupant. A moment afterwards
he got up and walked across to the pillar against which Colwyn's table
was placed.

"Will you permit me to take a seat at your table?" he remarked urbanely.
"I am afraid we are going to have trouble over there directly," he
added, sinking his voice as he nodded in the direction of the distant
alcove table. "We may have to act promptly. Nobody else seems to have
noticed anything. We can watch him from behind this pillar without his
seeing us."

Colwyn nodded in return with a quick comprehension of all the other's
speech implied, and pushed a chair towards his visitor, who sat down and
resumed his watch of the young man at the alcove table. Colwyn bestowed
a swift glance on his companion which took in everything. The tall man
in glasses looked too human for a lawyer, too intelligent for a
schoolmaster, and too well-dressed for an ordinary medical man. Colwyn,
versed in judging men swiftly from externals, noting the urbane,
somewhat pompous face, the authoritative, professional pose, the
well-shaped, plump white hands, and the general air of well-being and
prosperity which exuded from the whole man, placed him as a successful
practitioner in the more lucrative path of medicine--probably a
fashionable Harley Street specialist.

Colwyn returned to his scrutiny of the young man at the alcove table,
and he and his companion studied him intently for some time in silence.
But the young man, for the moment, was comparatively quiet, gazing
moodily through the open window over the waters of the North Sea, an
untasted sole in front of him, and an impassive waiter pouring out his
coffee as though the spectacle of a young man sticking a knife into the
table-cloth was a commonplace occurrence at the Grand Hotel, and all in
the day's doings. When the waiter had finished pouring out the coffee
and noiselessly departed, the young man tasted it with an indifferent
air, pushed it from him, and resumed his former occupation of staring
out of the window.

"He seems quiet enough now," observed Colwyn, turning to his companion.
"What do you think is the matter with him--shell-shock?"

"I would not care to hazard a definite opinion on so cursory an
observation," returned the other, in a dry, reticent, ultra-professional
manner. "But I will go so far as to say that I do not think it is a case
of shell-shock. If it is what I suspect, that first attack was the
precursor of another, possibly a worse attack. Ha! it is commencing.
Look at his thumb--that is the danger signal!"

Colwyn looked across the room again. The young man was still sitting in
the same posture, with his gaze bent on the open sea. His left hand was
extended rigidly on the table in front of him, with the thumb, extended
at right angles, oscillating rapidly in a peculiar manner.

"This attack may pass away like the other, but if he looks round at
anybody, and makes the slightest move, we must secure him immediately,"
said Colwyn's companion, speaking in a whisper.

He had barely finished speaking when the young man turned his head from
the open window and fixed his blue eyes vacantly on the table nearest
him, where an elderly clergyman, a golfing friend, and their wives, were
breakfasting together. With a swift movement the young man got up, and
started to walk towards this table.

Colwyn, who was watching every movement of the young man closely, could
not determine, then or afterwards, whether he meditated an attack on the
occupants of the next table, or merely intended to leave the breakfast
room. The clergyman's table was directly in front of the alcove and in a
line with the pair of swinging glass doors which were the only exit from
the breakfast-room. But Colwyn's companion did not wait for the matter
to be put to the test. At the first movement of the young man he sprang
to his feet and, without waiting to see whether Colwyn was following
him, raced across the room and caught the young man by the arm while he
was yet some feet away from the clergyman's table. The young man
struggled desperately in his grasp for some moments, then suddenly
collapsed and fell inert in the other's arms. Colwyn walked over to the
spot in time to see his portly companion lay the young man down on the
carpet and bend over to loosen his collar.

The young man lay apparently unconscious on the floor, breathing
stertorously, with convulsed features and closed eyes. After the lapse
of some minutes he opened his eyes, glanced listlessly at the circle of
frightened people who had gathered around him, and feebly endeavoured
to sit up. Colwyn's companion, who was bending over him feeling his
heart, helped him to a sitting posture, and then, glancing at the faces
crowded around, exclaimed in a sharp voice:

"He wants air. Please move back there a little."

"Certainly, Sir Henry." It was a stout man in a check golfing suit who
spoke. "But the ladies are very anxious to know if it is anything
serious."

"No, no. He will be quite all right directly. Just fall back, and give
him more air. Here, you!"--this to one of the gaping waiters--"just slip
across to the office and find out the number of this gentleman's room."

The waiter hurried away and speedily returned with the proprietor of the
hotel, a little man in check trousers and a frock coat, with a bald head
and an anxious, yet resigned eye which was obviously prepared for the
worst. His demeanour was that of a man who, already overloaded by
misfortune, was bracing his sinews to bear the last straw. As he
approached the group near the alcove table he smoothed his harassed
features into an expression of solicitude, and, addressing himself to
the man who was supporting the young man on the floor, said, in a voice
intended to be sympathetic,

"I thought I had better come myself, Sir Henry. I could not understand
from Antoine what you wanted or what had happened. Antoine said
something about somebody dying in the breakfast-room----"

"Nothing of the sort!" snapped the gentleman addressed as Sir Henry,
shifting his posture a little so as to enable the young man to lean
against his shoulder. "Haven't you eyes in your head, Willsden? Cannot
you see for yourself that this gentleman has merely had a fainting
fit?"

"I'm delighted to hear it, Sir Henry," replied the hotel proprietor. But
his face expressed no visible gratification. To a man who had had his
hotel emptied by a Zeppelin raid the difference between a single guest
fainting instead of dying was merely infinitesimal.

"Who is this gentleman, and what's the number of his room?" continued
Sir Henry. "He will be better lying quietly on his bed."

"His name is Ronald, and his room is No. 32--on the first floor, Sir
Henry."

"Very good. I'll take him up there at once."

"Shall I help you, Sir Henry? Perhaps he could be carried up. One of the
waiters could take his feet, or perhaps it would be better to have two."

"There's not the slightest necessity. He'll be able to walk in a
minute--with a little assistance. Ah, that's better!" The abrupt manner
in which Sir Henry addressed the hotel proprietor insensibly softened
itself into the best bedside manner when he spoke to the patient on the
carpet, who, from a sitting posture, was now endeavouring to struggle to
his feet. "You think you can get up, eh? Well, it won't do you any harm.
That's the way!" Sir Henry assisted the young man to rise, and supported
him with his arm. "Now, the next thing is to get him to his room. No,
no, not you, Willsden--you're too small. Where's that gentleman I was
sitting with a few minutes ago? Ah, thank you"--as Colwyn stepped
forward and took the other arm--"now, let us take him gently upstairs."

The young man allowed himself to be led away without resistance. He
walked, or rather stumbled, along between his guides like a man in a
dream. Colwyn noticed that his eyes were half-closed, and that his head
sagged slightly from side to side as he was led along. A waiter held
open the glass doors which led into the lounge, and a palpitating
chambermaid, hastily summoned from the upper regions, tripped ahead up
the broad carpeted stairs and along the passage to show the way to the
young man's bedroom.



CHAPTER II


Sir Henry dismissed the chambermaid at the door, and Colwyn and he
lifted the young man on to the bed. He lay like a man in a stupor,
breathing heavily, his face flushed, his eyes nearly closed. Sir Henry
drew up the blind, and by the additional light examined him thoroughly,
listening closely to the action of his heart, and examining the pupils
of his eyes by rolling back the upper lid with some small instrument he
took from his pocket.

"He'll do now," he said, after loosening the patient's clothes for his
greater comfort. "He'll come to in about five minutes, and may be all
right again shortly afterwards. But there are certain peculiar features
about this case which are new in my experience, and rather alarm me.
Certainly the young man ought not to be left to himself. His friends
should be sent for. Do you know anything about him? Is he staying at the
hotel alone? I only arrived here last night."

"I believe he is staying at the hotel alone. He has been here for a
fortnight or more, and I have never seen him speak to anybody, though I
have exchanged nods with him every morning. His principal recreation
seems to lie in taking long solitary walks along the coast. He has been
in the habit of going out every day, and not returning until dinner is
half over. Perhaps the hotel proprietor knows who his friends are."

"Would you be so kind as to step downstairs and inquire? I do not wish
to leave him, but his friends should be telegraphed to at once and asked
to come and take charge of him."

"Certainly. And I'll send the telegram while I am down there."

But Colwyn returned in a few moments to say that the hotel proprietor
knew nothing of his guest. He had never stayed in the house before, and
he had booked his room by a trunk call from London. On arrival he had
filled in the registration paper in the name of James Ronald, but had
left blank the spaces for his private and business addresses. He looked
such a gentleman that the proprietor had not ventured to draw his
attention to the omissions.

"Another instance of how hotels neglect to comply with the requirements
of the Defence of the Realm Act!" exclaimed Sir Henry. "Really, it is
very awkward. I hardly know, in the circumstances, how to act. Speaking
as a medical man, I say that he should not be left alone, but if he
orders us out of his room when he recovers his senses what are we to do?
Can you suggest anything?" He shot a keen glance at his companion.

"I should be in a better position to answer you if I knew what you
consider him to be really suffering from. I was under the impression it
was a bad case of shell-shock, but your remarks suggest that it is
something worse. May I ask, as you are a medical man, what you consider
the nature of his illness?"

Sir Henry bestowed another searching glance on the speaker. He noted,
for the first time, the keen alertness and intellectuality of the
other's face. It was a fine strong face, with a pair of luminous grey
eyes, a likeable long nose, and clean-shaven, humorous mouth--a man to
trust and depend upon.

"I hardly know what to do," said Sir Henry, after a lengthy pause, which
he had evidently devoted to considering the wisdom of acceding to his
companion's request. "This gentleman has not consulted me
professionally, and I hardly feel justified in confiding my hurried and
imperfect diagnosis of his case, without his knowledge, to a perfect
stranger. On the other hand, there are reasons why somebody should know,
if we are to help him in his weak state. Perhaps, sir, if you told me
your name----"

"Certainly: my name is Colwyn--Grant Colwyn."

"You are the famous American detective of that name?"

"You are good enough to say so."

"Why not? Who has not heard of you, and your skill in the unraveling of
crime? There are many people on both sides of the Atlantic who regard
you as a public benefactor. But I am surprised. You do not at all
resemble my idea of Colwyn."

"Why not?"

"You do not talk like an American, for one thing."

"You forget I have been over here long enough to learn the language.
Besides, I am half English."

Sir Henry laughed good-humouredly.

"That's a fair answer, Mr. Colwyn. Of course, your being Colwyn alters
the question. I have no hesitation in confiding in you. I am Sir Henry
Durwood--no doubt you have heard of me. Naturally, I have to be
careful."

Colwyn looked at his companion with renewed interest. Who had not heard
of Sir Henry Durwood, the nerve specialist whose skill had made his name
a household word amongst the most exclusive women in England, and,
incidentally, won him a knighthood? There were professional detractors
who hinted that Sir Henry had climbed into the heaven of Harley Street
and fat fees by the ladder of social influence which a wealthy,
well-born wife had provided, with no qualifications of his own except
"the best bedside manner in England" and a thorough knowledge of the
weaknesses of the feminine temperament. But his admirers--and they were
legion--declared that Sir Henry Durwood was the only man in London who
really understood how to treat the complex nervous system of the present
generation. These thoughts ran through Colwyn's mind as he murmured that
the opinion of such an eminent specialist as Sir Henry Durwood on the
case before them must naturally outweigh his own.

"You are very good to say so." Sir Henry spoke as though the tribute
were no more than his due. "In my opinion, the symptoms of this young
man point to epilepsy, and his behaviour downstairs was due to a seizure
from which he is slowly recovering."

"Epilepsy! Haut or petit mal?"

"The lesser form--petit mal, in my opinion."

"But are his symptoms consistent with the form of epilepsy known as
petit mal, Sir Henry? I thought in that lesser form of the disease the
victim merely suffered from slight seizures of transient
unconsciousness, without convulsions, regaining control of himself after
losing himself, to speak broadly, for a few seconds or so."

"Ah, I see you know something of the disease. That simplifies matters.
The layman's mind is usually at sea when it comes to discussing a
complicated affection of the nervous system like epilepsy. You are more
or less right in your definition of petit mal. But that is the simple
form, without complications. In this case there are complications, in my
opinion. I should say that this young man's attack was combined with the
form of epilepsy known as _furor epilepticus_."

"I am afraid you are getting beyond my depth, Sir Henry. What is _furor
epilepticus_?"

"It is a term applied to the violence sometimes displayed by the
patient during an attack of petit mal. The manifestation is extreme
violence--usually much greater than in violent anger, as a rule."

"I believe there are cases on record of epileptics having committed the
most violent outrages against those nearest and dearest to them. Is that
what you mean by _furor epilepticus_?"

"Yes; but that attacks are generally directed towards strangers--rarely
towards loved ones, though there have been such cases."

"I begin to understand. When we were at the breakfast table your
professional eye diagnosed this young man's symptoms--his nervous
tremors, his excitability, and the extravagant action with the knife--as
premonitory symptoms of an attack of _furor epilepticus_, in which the
sufferer would be liable to a dangerous outburst of violence?"

"Exactly. The minor symptoms suggested petit mal, but the act of
sticking the knife into the table pointed strongly to the complication
of _furor epilepticus_. That was why I went over to your table to have
your assistance in case of trouble."

"You feared he would attack one of the guests?"

"Yes, epileptics are extremely dangerous in that condition, and will
commit murder if they are in possession of a weapon. There have been
cases in which they have succeeded in killing the victims of their
fury."

"Without being conscious of it?"

"Without being conscious of it then or afterwards. After the patient
recovers from one of these attacks his mind is generally a complete
blank, but occasionally he will have a troubled or confused sense of
something having happened to him--like a man awakened from a bad dream,
which he cannot recall. This young man may come to his senses without
remembering anything which occurred downstairs, or he may be vaguely
alarmed, and ask a number of questions. In either case, it will be some
time--from half an hour to several hours--before his mind begins to work
normally again."

"Do you think it was his intention, when he got up from his table, to
attack the group at the table nearest him--that elderly clergyman and
his party?"

"I think it highly probable that he would have attacked the first person
within his reach--that is why I wanted to prevent him."

"But he didn't carry the knife with him from his table."

"My dear sir"--Sir Henry's voice conveyed the proper amount of
professional superiority--"you speak as though you thought a victim of
_furor epilepticus_ was a rational being. He is nothing of the kind.
While the attack lasts he is an uncontrollable maniac, not responsible
for his actions in the slightest degree."

"But, if he is capable of conceiving the idea of attacking his fellow
creatures, surely he is capable of picking up a knife for the purpose,
particularly when he has just previously had one in his hand?" urged
Colwyn. "I have no intention of setting up my opinion against yours, Sir
Henry, but there are certain aspects of this young man's illness which
are not altogether consistent with my own experience of epileptics. As a
criminologist, I have given some study to the effect of epilepsy and
other nervous diseases on the criminal temperament. For instance, this
young man did not give the usual cry of an epileptic when he sprang up
from the table. And if it is merely an attack of petit mal, why is he so
long in recovering consciousness?"

"The so-called epileptic cry is not invariably present, and petit mal
is sometimes the half-way house to haut mal," responded Sir Henry. "I
have said that this case presents several unusual features, but, in my
opinion, there is nothing absolutely inconsistent with epilepsy,
combined with _furor epilepticus_. And here is one symptom rarely found
in any fit except an epileptic seizure." The specialist pointed to a
faint fleck of foam which showed beneath the young man's brown
moustache.

Colwyn bent over him and wiped his lips with his handkerchief. As he did
so the young man's eyes unclosed. He regarded Colwyn languidly for a
moment or two, and then sat upright on the bed.

"Who are you?" he exclaimed.

"It's quite all right, Mr. Ronald," said the specialist, in his most
soothing bedside manner. "Just take things easily. You have been ill,
but you are almost yourself again. Let me feel your pulse--ha, very good
indeed! We will have you on your legs in no time."

The young man verified the truth of the latter prediction by springing
off his bed and regarding his visitors keenly. There was now, at all
events, no lack of sanity and intelligence in his gaze.

"What has happened? How did I get here?"

"You fainted, and we brought you up to your room," interposed Colwyn
tactfully, before Sir Henry could speak.

"Awfully kind of you. I remember now. I felt a bit seedy as I went
downstairs, but I thought it would pass off. I don't remember much more
about it. I hope I didn't make too much of an ass of myself before the
others, going off like a girl in that way. You must have had no end of a
bother in dragging me upstairs--very good of you to take the trouble."
He smiled faintly, and produced a cigarette case.

"How do you feel now?" asked Sir Henry Durwood solemnly, disregarding
the proffered case.

"A bit as though I'd been kicked on the top of the head by a horse, but
it'll soon pass off. Fact is, I got a touch of sun when I was out
there"--he waved his hand vaguely towards the East--"and it gives me a
bit of trouble at times. But I'll be all right directly. I'm sorry to
have given you so much trouble."

He proffered this explanation with an easy courtesy, accompanied by a
slight deprecating smile which admirably conveyed the regret of a
well-bred man for having given trouble to strangers. It was difficult to
reconcile his self-control with his previous extravagance downstairs.
But to Colwyn it was apparent that his composure was simulated, the
effort of a sensitive man who had betrayed a weakness to strangers, for
the fingers which held a cigarette trembled slightly, and there were
troubled shadows in the depths of the dark blue eyes. Colwyn admired the
young man's pluck--he would wish to behave the same way himself in
similar circumstances, he felt--and he realised that the best service he
and Sir Henry Durwood could render their fellow guest was to leave him
alone.

But Sir Henry was far from regarding the matter in the same light. As a
doctor he was more at home in other people's bedrooms than his own, for
rumour whispered that Lady Durwood was so jealous of her husband's
professional privileges as a fashionable ladies' physician that she was
in the habit of administering strong doses of matrimonial truths to him
every night at home. Sir Henry settled himself in his chair, adjusted
his eye-glasses more firmly on his nose and regarded the young man
standing by the mantelpiece with a bland professional smile, slightly
dashed by the recollection that he was not receiving a fee for his
visit.

"You have made a good recovery, but you'll need care," he said.
"Speaking as a professional man--I am Sir Henry Durwood--I think it
would be better for you if you had somebody with you who understood your
case. With your--er--complaint, it is very desirable that you should not
be left to the mercy of strangers. I would advise, strongly advise you,
to communicate with your friends. I shall be only too happy to do so on
your behalf if you will give me their address. In the meantime--until
they arrive--my advice to you is to rest."

A look of annoyance flashed through the young man's eyes. He evidently
resented the specialist's advice; indeed, his glance plainly revealed
that he regarded it as a piece of gratuitous impertinence. He answered
coldly:

"Many thanks, Sir Henry, but I think I shall be able to look after
myself."

"That is not an uncommon feature of your complaint," said the
specialist. An oracular shake of the head conveyed more than the words.

"What do you imagine my complaint, as you term it, to be?" asked the
young man curtly.

Colwyn wondered whether even a fashionable physician, used to the
freedom with which fashionable ladies discussed their ailments, would
have the courage to tell a stranger that he regarded him as an
epileptic. The matter was not put to the test--perhaps fortunately--for
at that moment there was a sharp tap at the door, which opened to admit
a chambermaid who seemed the last word in frills and smartness.

"If you please, Sir Henry," said the girl, with a sidelong glance at the
tall handsome young man by the mantelpiece, "Lady Durwood would be
obliged if you would go to her room at once."

It speaks well for Sir Henry Durwood that the physician was instantly
merged in the husband. "Tell Lady Durwood I will come at once," he said.
"You'll excuse me," he added, with a courtly bow to his patient.
"Perhaps--if you wish--you might care to see me later."

"Many thanks, Sir Henry, but there will be no need." He bowed gravely to
the specialist, but smiled cordially and held out his hand to Colwyn, as
the latter prepared to follow Sir Henry out of the room. "I hope to see
you later," he said.

But when Colwyn, after a day spent on the golf-links, went into the
dining-room for dinner that evening, the young man's place was vacant.
After the meal Colwyn went to the office to inquire if Mr. Ronald was
still unwell, and learnt, to his surprise, that he had departed from the
hotel an hour or so after his illness.



CHAPTER III


Lunch was over the following day, and the majority of the hotel guests
were assembled in the lounge, some sitting round a log fire which roared
and crackled in the old-fashioned fireplace, others wandering backwards
and forwards to the hotel entrance to cast a weather eye on the black
and threatening sky.

During the night there had been one of those violent changes in the
weather with which the denizens of the British Isles are not altogether
unfamiliar; a heavy storm had come shrieking down the North Sea, and
though the rain had ceased about eleven o'clock the wind had blown hard
all through the night, bringing with it from the Arctic a driving sleet
and the first touch of bitter, icy, winter cold.

The ladies of the hotel, who the previous day had paraded the front in
light summer frocks, sat shivering round the fire in furs; and the men
walked up and down in little groups discussing the weather and the war.
The golfers stood apart debating, after their wont, the possibility of
trying a round in spite of the weather. The elderly clergyman was
prepared to risk it if he could find a partner, and, with the aid of an
umbrella held upside down, was demonstrating to an attentive circle the
possibility of going round the most open course in England in the teeth
of the fiercest gale that ever blew, provided that a brassy was used
instead of a driver.

"I don't see how you could drive a ball with either to-day," said one
of the doubtful ones. "You'd be driving right against the wind for the
first four holes, and when you have the wind behind you at the bend in
the cliff by the fifth, the force of the gale would probably carry your
ball half a mile out to sea. These links here are supposed to be the
most exposed in England."

"My dear sir, you surely do not call this a gale," retorted the
clergyman. "I have played some of my best games in a stronger wind than
this. And as for this being the most exposed course in England--well,
let me ask you one question: have you ever played over the Worthing
course with a strong northeast gale--a gale, mind you, not a
wind--sweeping over the Downs?"

"Can't say I have," grunted the previous speaker, a tall cadaverous man,
wrapped from head to foot in a great grey ulster, and wearing woollen
gloves. "In fact, I've never been on the Worthing course."

"I thought not." The clergyman's face showed a golfer's satisfaction at
having tripped a fellow player. "The Worthing course is the most
difficult course in England, all up hill and down dale, and full of
pitfalls for those who don't know its peculiarities. I had a very
remarkable experience there, last year, with the crack local player--his
handicap was plus two. We played a round in a gale with the wind
whistling over the high downs at the rate of seventy or eighty miles an
hour. My partner didn't want to play at first because of the weather,
but I persuaded him to go round, and I beat him by two up and four to
play solely by relying on the brassy and midiron. He stuck to the
driver, and lost in consequence. I'll just show you how the game went.
Suppose the first hole to be just beyond the hall door there, and you
drive off from here. Now, imagine that umbrella stand--would you mind
moving away a little from it, sir? Thank you--to be a group of fir trees
fully a hundred yards to the right of the fairway. Well, I got a shot
160 yards up the fairway with a low straight ball which never lifted
more than a yard from the green, but my opponent, instead of sticking to
the brassy, as I did, preferred to use his big driver, and what do you
think happened to him? The wind took his ball clean over the fir trees."

The story was interrupted by the sudden entrance from outside of a young
officer who had been taking a turn on the front. He strode hurriedly
into the lounge, with a look of excitement on his good-humoured boyish
face, and accosted the golfers, who happened to be nearest the door.

"I say, you fellows, what do you think has happened? You remember that
chap who fainted yesterday morning? Well, he's wanted for committing a
murder!"

The piece of news created the sensation that its imparter had counted
upon. "A murder!" was echoed from different parts of the lounge in
varying degrees of horror, amazement and dread, and the majority of the
guests came eagerly crowding round to hear the details.

"Yes, a murder!" repeated the young officer, with relish. "And, what's
more, he committed it after he left here yesterday. He walked across to
some inn a few miles from here along the coast, put up there for the
night, and in the middle of the night stabbed some old chap who was
staying there."

There was a lengthy pause while the hotel guests digested this startling
information, and endeavoured to register anew their previous faint
impressions of the young man of the alcove table in the new light of his
personality as an alleged murderer. The pause was followed by an excited
hum of conversation and eager questions, the ladies all talking at once.

"What a providential escape we have all had!" exclaimed the clergyman's
wife, her fresh comely face turning pale.

"That's just what I said myself, madam, when I heard the news," replied
the young officer.

"I presume this murderous young ruffian has been secured?" asked the
clergyman, who had turned even paler than his wife. "The police, I hope,
have him under arrest."

The young officer shook his head.

"He's shown them a clean pair of heels. He may be heading back this way,
for all I know. There will be a hue and cry over the whole of Norfolk
for him by to-night, but murderers are usually very crafty, and
difficult to catch. I bet they won't catch him before he murders
somebody else."

The men looked at one another gravely, and some of the ladies gave vent
to cries of alarm, and clung to their husband's arms. The clergyman
turned angrily on the man who had brought the news.

"What do you mean, sir, by blurting out a piece of news like this before
a number of ladies?" he said sternly. "It was imprudent and foolish in
the last degree. You have alarmed them exceedingly."

"Oh, that's all tosh!" replied the other rudely. "They were bound to
hear of it sooner or later; why, everybody on the front is talking about
it. I thought you'd be awfully bucked to hear the news, seeing that you
were sitting at the next table to him yesterday morning."

"Who gave you this information?" asked Colwyn, who had just come down
stairs wearing a motor coat and cap, and paused on his way to the door
on hearing the loud voices of the excited group round the young officer.

"One of the fishermen on the front. The police constable at the place
where the murder was committed--a little village with some outlandish
name--came over here to report the news. This is the nearest police
station to the spot, it seems."

"But is he quite certain that the man who is supposed to have committed
the murder is the young man who fainted yesterday morning?" asked Sir
Henry Durwood, who had joined the group. "Has he been positively
identified?"

"The fisherman tells me that there's no doubt it's him--the
description's identical. He cleared out before the murder was
discovered. There's a rare hue and cry all along the coast. They are
organizing search parties. There's one going out from here this
afternoon. I'm going with it."

Colwyn left the group of hotel guests, and went to the front door. Sir
Henry Durwood, after a moment's hesitation, followed him. The detective
was standing in the hotel porch, thoughtfully smoking a cigar, and
looking out over the raging sea. He nodded cordially to the specialist.

"What do you think of this story?" asked Sir Henry.

"I was just about to walk down to the police station to make some
inquiries," responded Colwyn. "It is impossible to tell from that man's
story how much is truth and how much mere gossip."

"I'm afraid it's true enough," replied Sir Henry Durwood. "You'll
remember I warned him yesterday to send for his friends. A man in his
condition of health should not have been permitted to wander about the
country unattended. He has probably had another attack of _furor
epilepticus_, and killed somebody while under its influence. Dear, dear,
what a dreadful thing! It may be said that I should have taken a firmer
hand with him yesterday, but what more could I have done? It's a very
awkward situation--very. I hope you'll remember, Mr. Colwyn, that I did
all that was humanly possibly for a professional man to do--in fact, I
went beyond the bounds of professional decorum, in tendering advice to a
perfect stranger. And you will also remember that what I told you about
his condition was in the strictest confidence. I should like very much
to accompany you to the police station, if you have no objection--I feel
strongly interested in the case."

"I shall be glad if you will come," replied the detective.

Colwyn turned down the short street to the front, where a footpath
protected by a hand rail had been made along the edge of the cliff for
the benefit of jaded London visitors who wanted to get the best value
for their money in the bracing Norfolk air. At the present moment that
air, shrieking across the North Sea with almost hurricane force, was too
bracing for weak nerves on the exposed path, and it was real hard work
to force a way, even with the help of the handrail, against the wind, to
say nothing of the spray which was flung up in clouds from the
thundering masses of yellow waves dashing at the foot of the cliffs
below. Sir Henry Durwood, at any rate, was very glad when his companion
turned away from the cliffs into one of the narrow tortuous streets
running off the front into High Street.

Colwyn paused in front of a stone building, half way up the street,
which displayed the words, "County Police," on a board outside. Knots of
people were standing about in the road--fishermen in jerseys and
sea boots, some women, and a sprinkling of children--brought together by
the news of murder, but kept from encroaching on the sacred domain of
law and order by a massive red-faced country policeman, who stood at
the gate in an awkward pose of official dignity, staring straight in
front of him, ignoring the eager questions which were showered on him by
the crowd. The group of people nearest the gate fell back a little as
they approached, and the policeman on duty looked at them inquiringly.

Colwyn asked him the name of the officer in charge of the district, and
received the reply that it was Superintendent Galloway. The policeman
looked somewhat doubtful when Colwyn asked him to take in his card with
the request for an interview. He compromised between his determination
to do the right thing and his desire not to offend two well-dressed
gentlemen by taking Colwyn into his confidence.

"Well, you see, sir, it's like this," he said, sinking his voice so that
his remarks should not be heard by the surrounding rabble. "I don't like
to interrupt Superintendent Galloway unless it's very important. The
chief constable is with him."

"Do you mean Mr. Cromering, from Norwich?" asked Colwyn.

The policeman nodded.

"He came over here by the morning train," he explained.

"Very good. I know Mr. Cromering well. Will you please take this card to
the chief constable and say that I should be glad of the favour of a
short interview? This is a piece of luck," he added to Sir Henry, as the
constable took the card and disappeared into the building. "We shall now
be able to find out all we want to know."

The police constable came hastening back, and with a very respectful air
informed them that Mr. Cromering would be only too happy to see Mr.
Colwyn. He led them forthwith into the building, down a passage, knocked
at a door, and without waiting for a response, ushered them into a
large room and quietly withdrew.

There were two officials in the room. One, in uniform, a heavily built
stout man with sandy hair and a red freckled face, sat at a large
roll-top desk writing at the dictation of the other, who wore civilian
clothes. The second official was small and elderly, of dry and meagre
appearance, with a thin pale face, and sunken blue eyes beneath
gold-rimmed spectacles. This gentleman left off dictating as Colwyn and
Sir Henry Durwood entered, and advanced to greet the detective with a
look which might have been mistaken for gratitude in a less important
personage.

Mr. Cromering's gratitude to Colwyn was not due to any assistance he had
received from the detective in the elucidation of baffling crime
mysteries. It arose from an entirely different cause. Wolfe is supposed
to have said that he would sooner have been remembered as the author of
Gray's "Elegy in a Country Churchyard" than as the conqueror of Quebec.
Mr. Cromering would sooner have been the editor of the _English Review_
than the chief constable of Norfolk. His tastes were bookish; Nature had
intended him for the librarian of a circulating library: the safe pilot
of middle class ladies through the ocean of new fiction which overwhelms
the British Isles twice a year. His particular hobby was paleontology.
He was the author of _The Jurassic Deposits of Norfolk, with Some
Remarks on the Kimeridge Clay_--an exhaustive study of the geological
formation of the county and the remains of prehistoric reptiles, fishes,
mollusca and crustacea which had been discovered therein. This work,
which had taken six years to prepare, had almost been lost to the world
through the carelessness of the Postal Department, which had allowed
the manuscript to go astray while in transit from Norfolk to the London
publishers.

The distracted author had stirred up the postal authorities at London
and Norwich, and had ultimately received a courteous communication from
the Postmaster General to the effect that all efforts to trace the
missing packet had failed. A friend of Mr. Cromering's suggested that he
should invoke the aid of the famous detective Colwyn, who had a name for
solving mysteries which baffled the police. Mr. Cromering took the
advice and wrote to Colwyn, offering to mention his name in a preface to
_The Jurassic Deposits_ if he succeeded in recovering the missing
manuscript. Colwyn, by dint of bringing to bear a little more
intelligence and energy than the postal officials had displayed, ran the
manuscript to earth in three days, and forwarded it to the owner with a
courteous note declining the honour of the offered preface as too great
a reward for such a small service.

"Very happy to meet you, Mr. Colwyn," said the chief constable, as he
came forward with extended hand. "I've long wanted to thank you
personally for your kindness--your great kindness to me last year.
Although I feel I can never repay it, I'm glad to have the opportunity
of expressing it."

"I'm afraid you are over-estimating a very small service," said Colwyn,
with a smile.

"Very small?" The chief constable's emphasis of the words suggested that
his pride as an author had been hurt. "If you had not recovered the
manuscript, a work of considerable interest to students of British
paleontology would have been lost. I must show you a letter I have just
received from Sir Thomas Potter, of the British Museum, agreeing with my
conclusions about the fossil remains of Ichthyosaurus, Plesiosaurus, and
Mosasaurs, discovered last year at Roslyn Hole. It is very gratifying
to me; very gratifying. But what can I do for you, Mr. Colwyn?"

"First let me introduce to you Sir Henry Durwood," said Colwyn.

"Durwood? Did you say Durwood?" said the little man, eagerly advancing
upon the specialist with outstretched hand. "I'm delighted to meet one
of our topmost men of science. Your illuminating work on Elephas
Meridionalis is a classic."

"I'm afraid you're confusing Sir Henry with a different Durwood," said
the detective, coming to the rescue. "Sir Henry Durwood is the
distinguished specialist of Harley Street, and not the paleontologist of
that name. We have called to make some inquiries about the murder which
was committed somewhere near here last night."

"The ruling passion, Mr. Colwyn, the ruling passion! Personally I should
be only too glad of your assistance in the case in question, but I'm
afraid there's no deep mystery to unravel--it's not worth your while. It
would be like cracking a nut with a steam hammer for you to devote your
brains to this case. All the indications point strongly to one man."

"A young man who was staying at the _Grand_ till yesterday?" inquired
the detective.

The chief constable nodded.

"We're looking for a young man who's been staying at the _Grand_ for
some weeks past under the name of Ronald. He's a stranger to the
district, and nobody seems to know anything about him. Perhaps you
gentlemen can tell me something about him."

"Very little, I'm afraid," replied Colwyn. "I've seen him at meal
times, and nodded to him, but never spoken to him till yesterday, when
he had a fainting fit at breakfast. Sir Henry Durwood and I helped him
to his bedroom, and exchanged a few remarks with him on his recovery."

"Yes, I've been told of that illness," said Mr. Cromering, meditating.
"Did he do or say anything while you were with him that would throw any
light on the subsequent tragic events of the night, for which he is now
under suspicion?"

Colwyn related what had happened at breakfast and afterwards. Mr.
Cromering listened attentively, and turning to Sir Henry Durwood asked
him if he had seen Ronald before the previous day.

"I saw him yesterday for the first time at the breakfast table," replied
Sir Henry Durwood. "I arrived only the previous night. He was taken ill
at breakfast. Mr. Colwyn and I assisted him to his room and left him
there. I know nothing whatever about him."

"What was the nature of his illness?" inquired the chief constable.

"It had some of the symptoms of a seizure," replied Sir Henry guardedly.
"I begged him, when he recovered, not to leave his room. I even offered
to communicate with his friends, by telephone, if he would give me their
address, but he refused."

"It is a pity he did not take your advice," responded the chief
constable. "He appears to have left the hotel shortly after his illness,
and walked along the coast to a little hamlet called Flegne, about ten
miles from here. He reached there in the evening, and put up at the
village inn, the _Golden Anchor_, for the night. He left early in the
morning, before anybody was up. Shortly afterwards the body of Mr. Roger
Glenthorpe, an elderly archæologist, who had been staying at the inn
for some time past making researches into the fossil remains common to
that part of Norfolk, was found in a pit near the house. The tracks of
boot-prints from near the inn to the mouth of the pit, and back again,
indicate that Mr. Glenthorpe was murdered in his bedroom at the inn, and
his body afterwards carried by the murderer to the pit in which it was
found."

"In order to conceal the crime?" said Colwyn.

"Precisely. Two men employed by Mr. Glenthorpe saw the footprints
earlier in the morning, and when it was discovered that Mr. Glenthorpe
was missing, one of them was lowered into the pit by a rope and found
the body at the bottom. The pit forms a portion of a number of so-called
hut circles, or prehistoric shelters of the early Briton, which are not
uncommon in this part of Norfolk."

"And you have strong grounds for believing that this young man Ronald,
who was staying at the _Grand_ till yesterday, is the murderer?"

"The very strongest. He slept in the room next to the murdered man's,
and disappeared hurriedly in the early morning from the inn some time
before the body was discovered. It is his boot-tracks which led to and
from the pit where the body was found. A considerable sum of money has
been stolen from the deceased, and we have ascertained that Ronald was
in desperate straits for money. Another point against Ronald is that Mr.
Glenthorpe was stabbed, and a knife which was used by Ronald at the
dinner table that night is missing. It is believed that the murder was
committed with this knife. But if you feel interested in the case, Mr.
Colwyn, you had better hear the report of Police Constable Queensmead."

The chief constable touched a bell, and directed the policeman who
answered it to bring in Constable Queensmead.

The policeman who appeared in answer to this summons was a thickset
sturdy Norfolk man, with an intelligent face and shrewd dark eyes. On
the chief constable informing him that he was to give the gentlemen the
details of the _Golden Anchor_ murder, he produced a notebook from his
tunic, and commenced the story with official precision.

Ronald had arrived at the inn before dark on the previous evening, and
had asked for a bed for the night. A little later Mr. Glenthorpe, the
murdered man, who had been staying at the inn for some time past, had
come in for his dinner, and was so pleased to meet a gentleman in that
rough and lonely place that he had asked Ronald to dine with him. The
dinner was served in an upstairs sitting-room, and during the course of
the meal Mr. Glenthorpe talked freely of his scientific researches in
the district, and informed his guest that he had that day been to
Heathfield to draw £300 to purchase a piece of land containing some
valuable fossil remains which he intended to excavate. The two gentlemen
sat talking after dinner till between ten and eleven, and then retired
to rest in adjoining rooms, in a wing of the inn occupied by nobody
else. In the morning Ronald departed before anybody, except the servant,
was up, refusing to wait for his boots to be cleaned. The servant, who
had had the boots in her hands, had noticed that one of the boots had a
circular rubber heel on it, but not the other. Ronald gave her a pound
to pay for his bed, and the note was one of the first Treasury issue,
as were the notes which Mr. Glenthorpe had drawn from the bank at
Heathfield the day before. The men who had seen the footprints to the
pit earlier in the morning, informed Queensmead of their discovery on
learning that Mr. Glenthorpe had disappeared. Queensmead examined the
footprints, and, with the assistance of the men, recovered the body.
Queensmead telephoned a description of Ronald to the police stations
along the coast, then mounted his bicycle and caught the train at
Leyland in order to report the matter to the district headquarters at
Durrington.

"I suppose there is no doubt that the young man who stayed at the inn is
identical with Ronald," said the detective, when the constable had
finished his story. "Do the descriptions tally in every respect?"

"Read the particulars you have prepared for the hand-bills,
Queensmead," said the chief constable.

The constable produced a paper from his pocket and read: "Description of
wanted man: About 28 years of age, five feet nine or ten inches high,
fair complexion rather sunburnt, blue eyes, straight nose, fair hair,
tooth-brush moustache, clean-cut features, well-shaped hands and feet,
white, even teeth. Was attired in grey Norfolk or sporting lounge
jacket, knickerbockers and stockings to match, with soft grey hat of
same material. Wore a gold signet-ring on little finger of left hand.
Distinguishing marks, a small star-shaped scar on left cheek, slightly
drags left foot in walking. Manner superior, evidently a gentleman."

"That is conclusive enough," said Colwyn. "It tallies in every respect.
The scar is an unmistakable mark. I noticed it the first time I saw
Ronald."

"I noticed it also," said Sir Henry Durwood.

"It seems a clear case to me," said the chief constable. "I have signed
a warrant for Ronald's arrest, and Superintendent Galloway has notified
all the local stations along the coast to have the district searched. We
think it very possible that Ronald is in hiding somewhere in the
marshes. We have also notified the district railway stations to be on
the lookout for anybody answering his description, in case he tries to
escape by rail."

"It seems a strange case," remarked the detective thoughtfully. "Why
should a young man of Ronald's type leave his hotel and go across to
this remote inn, and commit this brutal murder?"

"He was very short of money. We have ascertained that he had been
requested to leave the hotel here because he could not pay his bill. He
has paid nothing since he has been here, and owed more than £30. The
proprietor told him yesterday morning, as he was going in to breakfast,
that he must leave the hotel at once if he could not pay his bill. He
went away shortly after the scene in the breakfast room which was
witnessed by you gentlemen, and left his luggage behind him. I suspect
the proprietor would not allow him to take his luggage until he had
discharged his bill."

"It strikes me as a remarkable case, nevertheless," said Colwyn. "I
should like to look into it a little further, with your permission."

"Certainly," replied the chief constable courteously. "Superintendent
Galloway will be in charge of the case. I suggested that he should ask
for a man to be sent down from Scotland Yard, but he does not think it
necessary. I feel sure that he will be delighted to have the assistance
of such a celebrated detective as yourself. When are you starting for
Flegne, Galloway?"

"In half an hour," replied the superintendent. "I shall have to walk
from Leyland--five miles or more. The train does not go beyond there."

"Then I will drive you over in my car," said the detective.

"In that case perhaps you'll permit me to accompany you," said the chief
constable. "I should very much like to observe your methods."

"And I too," said Sir Henry Durwood.



CHAPTER IV


The road to Flegne skirted the settled and prosperous cliff uplands,
thence ran through the sea marshes which stretched along that part of
the Norfolk coast as far as the eye could reach until they were merged
and lost to view in the cold northern mists.

The road, after leaving the uplands, descended in a sinuous curve
towards the sea, but the party in the motor car were stopped on their
way down by a young mounted officer, who, on learning of their
destination, told them they would have to make an inland detour for some
miles, as the military authorities had closed that part of the coast to
ordinary traffic.

As they turned away from the coast, the chief constable informed Colwyn
that the prohibited area was full of troops guarding a little bay called
Leyland Hoop, where the water was so deep that hostile transports might
anchor close inshore, and where, according to ancient local tradition,


  "He who would Old England win,
  Must at the Leyland Hoop begin."


After traversing a mile or so of open country, and passing through one
or two scattered villages, they turned back to the coast again on the
other side of a high green headland which marked the end of the
prohibited area, and, crossing the bridge of a shallow muddy river,
found themselves in the area of the marshes.

It was a region of swamps and stagnant dykes, of tussock land and wet
flats, with scarcely a stir of life in any part of it, and nothing to
take the eye except a stone cottage here and there.

The marshes stretched from the road to the sea, nearly a mile away. Man
had almost given up the task of attempting to wrest a living from this
inhospitable region. The boat channels which threaded the ooze were
choked with weed and covered with green slime from long disuse, the
little stone quays were thick with moss, the rotting planks of a broken
fishing boat were foul with the encrustations of long years, the stone
cottages by the roadside seemed deserted. Here and there the marshes had
encroached upon the far side of the road, creeping half a mile or more
farther inland, destroying the wholesome earth like rust corroding
steel, and stretching slimy tentacles towards the farmlands on the rise.

Humanity had retreated from the inroads of the sea only after a stubborn
fight. The ruins of an Augustinian priory, a crumbling fragment of a
Norman tower, the mouldering remnant of a castellated hall, showed how
prolonged had been the struggle with the elements of Nature before Man
had acknowledged his defeat and retreated, leaving hostages behind him.
And--significant indication of the bitterness of the fight--it was to be
noted that, while the builders of a bygone generation had built to face
the sea, the handful of their successors who still kept up the losing
fight had built their beach-stone cottages with sturdy stone backs to the
road, for the greater protection of the inmates from the fierce winter
gales which swept across the marshes from the North Sea.

The car had travelled some miles through this desolate region when the
chief constable directed Colwyn's attention to a spire rising from the
flats a mile or so away, and said it was the church of Flegne-next-sea.
Colwyn increased his speed a little, and in a few minutes the car had
reached the outskirts of the little hamlet, which consisted of a
straggling row of beach-stone cottages, a few gaunt farm-houses on the
rise, and a cruciform church standing back from the village on a little
hill, with high turret or beacon lights which had warned the North Sea
mariners of a former generation of the dangers of that treacherous
coast.

In times past Flegne-next-sea--pronounced "Fly" by the natives, "Fleen"
by etymologists, and "Flegney" by the rare intrusive Cockney--had
doubtless been a prosperous little port, but the encroaching sea had
long since killed its trade, scattered its inhabitants, and reduced it
to a spectre of human habitation compelled to keep the scene of its
former activities after life had departed. Half the stone cottages were
untenanted, with broken windows, flapping doors, and gardens overgrown
with rank marsh weeds. The road through the village had fallen into
disrepair, and oozed beneath the weight of the car, a few boards thrown
higgledy-piggledy across in places representing the local effort to
preserve the roadway from the invading marshes. The little canal quay--a
wooden one--was a tangle of rotting boards and loose piles, and the
stagnant green water of the shallow canal was abandoned to a few grey
geese, which honked angrily at the passing car. There was no sign of
life in the village street, and no sound except the autumn wind moaning
across the marshes and the boom of the distant sea against the
breakwater.

"There's the inn--straight in front," said Police-Constable Queensmead,
pointing to it.

The _Golden Anchor_ inn must have been built in the days of Sir
Cloudesley Shovel, for nothing remained of the maritime prosperity
which had originally bestowed the name upon the building. It was of
rough stone, coloured a dirty white, with two queer circular windows
high up in the wall on one side, the other side resting on a little,
round-shouldered hill. It was built facing away from the sea like the
beach-stone cottages, from which it was separated by a patch of common.
From the rear of the inn the marshes stretched in unbroken monotony to
the line of leaping white sea dashing sullenly against the breakwater
wall, and ran for miles north and south in a desolate uniformity, still
and grey as the sky above, devoid of life except for a few migrant birds
feeding in the salt creeks or winging their way seaward in strong,
silent flight. The rays of the afternoon sun, momentarily piercing the
thick clouds, fell on the white wall and round glazed windows of the
inn, giving it a sinister resemblance to a dead face.

Colwyn brought his car to a standstill on the edge of the saturated
strip of common.

"We shall have to walk across," he said.

"Nobody will run off with the car," said Galloway, scrambling down from
his seat.

"The murderer brought the body from the back of the house across this
green, and carried it up that rise in front of the inn," said
Queensmead. "You cannot see the pit from here, but it is close to that
little wood on the summit. The footprints do not show in the grass, but
they are very plain in the clay a little farther on, and lead straight
to the pit."

"How deep is the pit?" asked Colwyn.

"About thirty feet. It was not an easy matter to bring up the body."

"We will examine the pit and the footprints later," said Mr. Cromering.
"Let us go inside first."

Picking their way across the common to the front of the inn, they
encountered a little group of men conversing underneath the rusty old
anchor signboard which dangled from a stout stanchion above the front
door of the inn. Some men, wearing sea-boots and jerseys, others in
labouring garb, splashed with clay and mud, were standing about. They
ceased their conversation as the party from the motor-car appeared
around the corner, and, moving a respectful distance away, watched them
covertly.

The front door of the inn was closed. Superintendent Galloway tapped at
it sharply, and after the lapse of a moment or two the door was opened,
and a man appeared on the threshold. Seeing the police uniforms he
stepped outside as if to make more room for the party to enter the
narrow passage from which he had emerged. Colwyn noticed that he was so
tall that he had to stoop in the old-fashioned doorway as he came out.

Seen at close quarters, this man was a strange specimen of humanity. He
was well over six feet in height, and so cadaverous, thin and gaunt that
he might well have been mistaken for the presiding genius of the marshes
who had stricken that part of the Norfolk coast with aridity and
barrenness. But there was no lack of strength in his frame as he
advanced briskly towards his visitors. His face was not the least
remarkable part of him. It was ridiculously small and narrow for so big
a frame, with a great curved beak of a nose, and small bright eyes set
close together. Those eyes were at the present moment glancing with
bird-like swiftness from one to the other of his visitors.

"You are the innkeeper--the landlord of this place?" asked Mr.
Cromering.

"At your service, sir. Won't you go inside?" His voice was the best
part of him; soft and gentle, with a cultivated accent which suggested
that the speaker had known a different environment at some time or
other.

"Show us into a private room," said Mr. Cromering.

The innkeeper escorted the party along the passage, and took them into a
room with a low ceiling and sanded floor, smelling of tobacco,
explaining, as he placed chairs, that it was the bar parlour, but they
would be quiet and free from interruption in it, because he had closed
the inn that day in anticipation of the police visit.

"Quite right--very proper," said the chief constable.

"Will you and the other gentlemen take any refreshment, after your
journey?" suggested the innkeeper. "I'm afraid the resources of the inn
are small, but there is some excellent old brandy."

He stretched out an arm towards the bell rope behind him. Colwyn noticed
that his hand was long and thin and yellow--a skeleton claw covered with
parchment.

"Never mind the brandy just now," said Mr. Cromering, taking on himself
to refuse on behalf of his companions the proffered refreshment. "We
have much to do and it will be time enough for refreshments afterwards.
We will view the body first, and make inquiries after. Where is the
body, Benson?"

"Upstairs, sir."

"Take us to the room."

The innkeeper led the way upstairs along a dark and narrow passage. When
he reached a door near the end, he opened it and stood aside for them to
enter.

"This is the room," he said, in a low voice. It was Colwyn's keen eye
that noted the key in the door. "What is that key doing in the door, on
the outside?" he asked. "How long has it been there?"

"The maid found it there this morning, sir, when she went up with Mr.
Glenthorpe's hot water. That made her suspect something must be wrong,
because Mr. Glenthorpe was in the habit of locking his door of a night
and placing the key under his pillow. So, after knocking and getting no
answer, she opened the door, and found the room empty."

"The door was not locked, though the key was in the door?"

"No, sir, and everything in the room was just as usual. Nothing had been
disturbed."

"And was that bedroom window open when you found the room empty?" asked
Superintendent Galloway, pointing to it through the open doorway.

"Yes, sir--just as you see it now. I gave orders that nothing was to be
touched."

"Ronald slept in this room," said Queensmead, indicating the door of the
adjoining bedroom.

"We will look at that later," said Galloway.

The interior of the room they entered was surprisingly light and
cheerful and spacious, having nothing in common with those low gloomy
vaults, crammed with clumsy furniture and moth-eaten stuffed animals,
which generally pass muster as bedrooms in English country inns. Instead
of the small circular windows of the south side, there was a large
modern two-paned window in a line with the door, opening on to the other
side of the house. The bottom pane was up, and the window opened as wide
as possible. A very modern touch, unusual in a remote country inn, was a
rose coloured gas globe suspended from the ceiling, in the middle of the
room. The furniture belonged to a past period, but it was handsome and
well-kept--a Spanish mahogany wardrobe, chest of drawers and washstand
with chairs to match. Modern articles, such as a small writing-desk near
the window, some library books, a fountain pen, a reading-lamp by the
bedside, and an attaché case, suggested the personal possessions and
modern tastes of the last occupant. A comfortable carpet covered the
floor, and some faded oil-paintings adorned the walls.

The bed--a large wooden one, but not a fourposter--stood on the
left-hand side of the room from the entrance, with the head against the
wall nearest the outside passage, and the foot partly in line with the
open window, which was about eight feet away from it. The door when
pushed back swung just clear of a small bedroom table beside the bed, on
which the reading lamp stood, with a book beside it. The other side of
the bed was close to the wall which divided the room from the next
bedroom, so that there was a large clear space on the outside, between
the bed and the door. The gas fitting, which was suspended from the
ceiling in this open space, hung rather low, the bottom of the globe
being not more than six feet from the floor. The globe was cracked, and
the incandescent burner was broken.

The murdered man had been laid in the middle of the bed, and covered
with a sheet. Superintendent Galloway quietly drew the sheet away,
revealing the massive white head and clear-cut death mask of a man of
sixty or sixty-five; a fine powerful face, benign in expression, with a
chin and mouth of marked character and individuality. But the distorted
contour of the half-open mouth, and the almost piteous expression of the
unclosed sightless eyes, seemed to beseech the assistance of those who
now bent over him, revealing only too clearly that death had come
suddenly and unexpectedly.

"He was a great archæologist--one of the greatest in England," said Mr.
Cromering gently, with something of a tremor in his voice, as he gazed
down at the dead man's face. "To think that such a man should have been
struck down by an assassin's blow. What a loss!"

"Let us see how he was murdered," said the more practical Galloway, who
was standing beside his superior officer. He drew off the covering sheet
as he spoke, and dropped it lightly on the floor.

The body thus revealed was that of a slightly built man of medium
height. It was clad in a flannel sleeping suit, spattered with mud and
clay, and oozing with water. The arms were inclining outwards from the
body, and the legs were doubled up. There were a few spots of blood on
the left breast, and immediately beneath, almost on the left side, just
visible in the stripe of the pyjama jacket, was the blow which had
caused death--a small orifice like a knife cut, just over the heart.

"It is a very small wound to have killed so strong a man," said Mr.
Cromering. "There is hardly any blood."

Sir Henry examined the wound closely. "The blow was struck with great
force, and penetrated the heart. The weapon used--a small, thin, steel
instrument--and internal bleeding, account for the small external flow."

"What do you mean by a thin, steel instrument?" asked Superintendent
Galloway. "Would an ordinary table-knife answer that description?"

"Certainly. In fact, the nature of the wound strongly suggests that it
was made by a round-headed, flat-bladed weapon, such as an ordinary
table or dinner knife. The thrust was made horizontally,--that is,
across the ribs and between them, instead of perpendicularly, which is
the usual method of stabbing. Apparently the murderer realised that his
knife was too broad for the purpose, and turned it the other way, so as
to make sure of penetrating the ribs and reaching the heart."

"Does not that suggest a rather unusual knowledge of human anatomy on
the murderer's part?" asked Mr. Cromering.

"I do not think so. Anybody can tell how far apart the human ribs are by
feeling them."

"It is easy to see, Sir Henry, that the wound was made by a thin-bladed
knife, but why do you think it was also round-headed?" asked
Superintendent Galloway. "Might it not have been a sharp-pointed one?"

"Or even a dagger?" suggested Mr. Cromering.

"Certainly not a dagger. The ordinary dagger would have made a wider
perforation with a corresponding increase in the blood-flow. My theory of
a round-headed knife is based on the circumstance of a portion of the
deceased's pyjama jacket having been carried into the wound. A
sharp-pointed knife would have made a clean cut through the jacket."

"I see," said Superintendent Galloway, with a sharp nod.

"Therefore, we may assume, in the case before us,"--Sir Henry Durwood
waved a fat white hand in the direction of the corpse as though he were
delivering an anatomical lecture before a class of medical
students--"that the victim was killed with a flat, round knife with a
round edge, held sideways. Furthermore, the position of the wound
reveals that the blow was too much on the left side to pierce the centre
of the heart directly, but was a slanting blow, delivered with such
force that it has probably pierced the heart on the _right_ side,
causing instant death."

"The weapon, then, entered the body in a lateral direction, that is,
from left to right?" asked Colwyn, who had been closely following the
specialist's remarks.

"That is what I meant to convey," responded Sir Henry, in his most
professional manner. "The blade entered on the left side, and travelled
towards the centre of the body."

"From the nature of the wound would you say that the knife entered
almost parallel with the ribs, though slanting slightly downwards, in
order to pierce the heart on the right side?"

"That would be the general direction, though it is impossible to
ascertain, without a postmortem examination, the exact spot where the
heart was pierced."

"But the wound slants in such a way as to prove that the blow was struck
from left to right?" persisted Colwyn.

"Undoubtedly," responded Sir Henry.



CHAPTER V


During the latter part of the conversation Superintendent Galloway
walked to the open window, and looked out. He turned round swiftly, with
a look of unusual animation on his heavy features, and exclaimed:

"The murderer entered through the window."

The others went over to the window. The inn on that side had been built
into a small hill of beehive shape, which had been partly levelled to
make way for the foundations. Seen from outside, the inn, with its back
to the sea and a corner of its front entering the hillside, bore a
remote resemblance to some nakedly ugly animal with its nose burrowed
into the earth. Part of the bar was actually underground, and the
windows of the rooms immediately above looked out on the hillside. The
window of Mr. Glenthorpe's room, which was above the bar parlour, was
not more than four or five feet away from the round-shouldered side of
the hill. From that point the hill fell away rapidly, and the
first-story windows at the back, where the house rose from the flat edge
of the marsh, were about fifteen feet from the ground. The space between
the inn wall and the beehive curve of the hill, which was very narrow
under Mr. Glenthorpe's window, but widened as the hill fell away, was
covered with a russet-coloured clay, which contrasted vividly with the
sombre grey and drab tints of the marshes.

"It was an easy matter to get in this window," said Superintendent
Galloway. "And here's the proof that the murderer came in this way." He
stooped and picked up something from the floor, close to the window,
and held it out in the palm of his hand for the inspection of his
companions. It was a small piece of red clay, like the russet-coloured
clay outside the window.

"Here is another clue," said Colwyn, pointing to a fragment of black
material adhering to a nail near the bottom of the window.

"Ronald ripped something he was wearing while getting through the
window," said Galloway, detaching the fragment, which he and Colwyn
examined closely.

"Have you noticed that?" said Colwyn, pointing to a pool of water which
had collected near the open window, between the edge of the carpet and
the skirting board.

"Yes," replied Galloway. "It was raining heavily last night."

With eyes sharpened by his discoveries, Galloway made a careful search
of the carpet, and found several more crumbs of red clay between the
window and the bed. Near the bed he detected some splashes of
candle-grease, which he detached from the carpet with his pocket-knife.
He also picked up the stump of a burnt wooden match, and the broken
unlighted rink head of another. After showing these things to his
companions he placed them carefully in an empty match-box, which he put
in his pocket.

"Somebody has bumped against this gas globe pretty hard," said Colwyn.
"The glass is broken and the incandescent burner smashed."

He bent down to examine the white fragments of the burner which were
scattered about the carpet, and as he did so he noticed another broken
wooden match, and two more splashes of candle-grease directly beneath
the gas-jet. He removed the candle-grease carefully, and showed it to
Galloway.

"More candle-grease!" the latter said. "Well, that's not likely to prove
anything except that Ronald was careless with his light. I suppose the
wind caused the candle to gutter. I would willingly exchange the
candle-grease for some finger-prints. There's not a sign of
finger-prints anywhere. Ronald must have worn gloves. Now, let us have a
look at Ronald's room. I want to see if he could get out of his own
window on to the hillside. His window is higher from the ground than
this window. The hill falls away very sharply."

The bedroom Ronald had occupied was small and narrow, and its meagre
furniture was in striking contrast with the comfortable appointments of
the room they had just left. It contained a single bed, a chest of
drawers, a washstand, and a wardrobe. The latter, a cumbrous article of
furniture, stood between the bed and the wall, against the side nearest
to Mr. Glenthorpe's room.

Galloway strode across to the window, which was open, and looked out.
The hillside fell away so rapidly that the bottom of the window was
quite eight feet from the ground outside.

"Not much of a drop for an athletic young fellow like Ronald," said
Galloway to Colwyn, who had joined him.

"The window is very much smaller than the one in Mr. Glenthorpe's
bedroom," said Colwyn.

"But large enough for a man to get through. Look here! I can get my head
and shoulders through, and where the head and shoulders go the rest of
the body will follow. Ronald got through it last night and into the next
room by the other window. There can be no doubt that that was how the
murder was committed."

Galloway left the window, and examined the bedroom carefully. He turned
down the bed-clothes, and scrutinised the sheets and pillows.

"I thought he might have left some blood-stains on the linen, after
carrying the body downstairs," he explained. "But he hasn't."

"Sir Henry says the bleeding was largely internal," remarked Mr.
Cromering. "That would account for the absence of any tell-tale marks on
the bed-clothes."

"He was too clever to wash his hands when he came back," grumbled
Galloway, turning to the washstand and examining the towels. "He's a
cool customer."

"I notice that the candle in the candlestick is a wax one," said Colwyn.

"And burnt more than half-way down," commented Galloway, glancing at it.

"You attach no significance to the fact that the candle is a wax one?"
questioned the detective.

"No, do you?" replied Galloway, with a puzzled glance.

Colwyn did not reply to the question. He was looking attentively at the
large wardrobe by the side of the bed.

"That's a strange place to put a wardrobe," he said. "It would be
difficult to get out of bed without barking one's shins against it."

"It was probably put there to hide the falling wall-paper,--the place is
going to rack and ruin," said Galloway, pointing to the top of the
wardrobe, where the faded wall-paper, mildewed and wet with damp, was
hanging in festoons. "Now, Queensmead, lead the way outside. I've seen
all I want to see in this room."

"Would you like to see the room where Ronald and Mr. Glenthorpe dined?"
suggested the constable. "It's on this floor, on the other side of Mr.
Glenthorpe's bedroom."

"We can see that later. I want to examine outside before it gets dark."

They left the room. The innkeeper was waiting patiently in the passage,
standing motionless at the head of the staircase, with his head
inclining forward, like a marsh heron fishing in a dyke. He hastened
towards them.

"I noticed a reading-lamp by Mr. Glenthorpe's bedside, Mr. Benson," said
Colwyn. "Did he use that as well as the gas?"

"He rarely used the gas, sir, though it was put into the room at his
request. He found the reading-lamp suited his sight better."

"Did he use candles? I saw no candlestick in the room."

"He never used candles, sir--only the reading-lamp."

"When was the gas-globe smashed? Last night?"

"It must have been, sir. Ann says it was quite all right yesterday."

"I've got my own idea how that was done," said Galloway, who had been an
attentive listener to the innkeeper's replies to Colwyn's questions.
"Show the way downstairs to the back door, Mr. Benson."

The innkeeper preceded them down the stairs and along the passage to
another one, which terminated in a latched door, which he opened.

"How was this door fastened last night?" asked Galloway.

"By this bolt at the top," said the innkeeper, pointing to it. "There is
no key--only this catch."

"Is this the only back outlet from the inn?" asked Colwyn.

"Yes, sir."

At Galloway's suggestion they first went to the side of the inn, in
order to examine the ground beneath the windows. The fence enclosing the
yard had fallen into disrepair, and had many gaps in it. There were no
footprints visible in the red clay of the natural passage-way between
the inn wall and the hill, either beneath the window of Ronald's room or
Mr. Glenthorpe's window.

"The absence of footprints means nothing," said Galloway. "Ronald may
have climbed from one room to the other in his stocking feet, and then
put on his boots to remove the body. Even if he wore his boots he might
have left no marks, if he walked lightly."

"I am not so sure of that," said Colwyn. "But what do you make of this?"

He pointed to an impression in the red earth underneath Mr. Glenthorpe's
window--a line so faint as to be barely noticeable, running outward from
the wall for about eighteen inches, with another line about the same
length running at right angles from it. Superintendent Galloway examined
these two lines closely and then shook his head as though to intimate he
could make nothing of them.

"What do you think they are?" said Mr. Cromering, turning to Colwyn.

"I think they may have been made by a box," was the reply.

"You are not suggesting that the murderer threw a box out of the
window?" exclaimed Superintendent Galloway, staring at the detective.
"Look how straight the line from the wall is! A box would have fallen
crookedly."

"I do not suggest anything of the kind. If it was a box, it is more
likely it was placed outside the window."

"For what purpose?"

"To help the murderer climb into the room."

"He didn't need it," replied Galloway. "It's an easy matter to get
through this window from the ground. I can do it myself." He placed his
hands on the sill, sprang on to the window ledge, and dropped back
again. "I attach no importance to these lines. They are so faint that
they might have been made months ago. There is nothing to be seen here,
so we may as well go and look at the footprints. Show us where the marks
of the footsteps commence, Queensmead."

The constable led the way to the other side of the house and across the
green. The grass terminated a little distance from the inn in a clay
bank bordering a wide tract of bare and sterile land, which extended
almost to the summit of the rise. Clearly defined in the clay and the
black soft earth were two sets of footprints, one going towards the
rise, and the other returning. The outgoing footsteps were deeply and
distinctly outlined from heel to toe. The right foot plainly showed the
circular mark of a rubber heel, which was missing in the other, though a
sharp indentation showed the mark of the spike to which the rubber had
been fastened.

"The footprints lead straight to the mouth of the pit where the body was
thrown," said Queensmead.

"What a clue!" exclaimed Superintendent Galloway, his eyes sparkling
with excitement. "You are quite certain the inn servant can swear that
these marks were made by Ronald's boots, Queensmead?"

"There's no doubt on that point, sir," replied the constable. "She had
the boots in her hands this morning, just before Ronald put them on, and
she distinctly noticed that there was a rubber heel on the right boot,
but not on the other."

"It seems a strange thing for a young man of Ronald's position to have
rubber heels affixed to his boots," remarked Mr. Cromering. "I was under
the impression that they were an economical device of the working
classes. But perhaps he found them useful to save his feet from
jarring."

"We shall find them useful to hang him," responded Galloway curtly. "Let
us proceed to the pit, gentlemen. May I ask you to keep clear of the
footprints? I do not want them obliterated before I can take plaster
casts."

They followed the footsteps up the rise. Near the summit they
disappeared in a growth of nettles, but reappeared on the other side,
skirting a number of bowl-shaped depressions clustered in groups along
the brow of the rise. These were the hut circles--the pit dwellings of
the early Britons, shallow excavations from six to eight feet deep, all
running into one another, and choked with a rank growth of weeds.
Between them and a little wood which covered the rest of the summit was
an open space, with a hole gaping nakedly in the bare earth.

"That's the pit where the body was thrown," said Queensmead, walking to
the brink.

The pit descended straight as a mining shaft until the sides disappeared
in the interior gloom. It was impossible to guess at its depth because
of the tangled creepers which lined its sides and obscured the view, but
Mr. Cromering, speaking from his extensive knowledge of Norfolk geology,
said it was fully thirty feet deep. He added that there was considerable
difference of opinion among antiquaries to account for its greater
depth. Some believed the pit was simply a larger specimen of the
adjoining hut circles, running into a natural underground passage which
had previously existed. But the more generally accepted theory was that
the hut circles marked the site of a prehistoric village, and the deeper
pit had been the quarry from which the Neolithic men had obtained the
flints of which they made their implements. These flints were imbedded
in the chalk a long way from the surface, and to obtain them the cave
men burrowed deeply into the clay, and then excavated horizontal
galleries into the chalk. Several of the red-deer antler picks which
they used for the purpose had been discovered when the pit was first
explored twenty-five years ago.

"Mr. Glenthorpe was very much interested in the prehistoric and late
Stone Age remains which are to be found in abundance along the Norfolk
coast," he added. "He has enriched the national museums with a valuable
collection of prehistoric man's implements and utensils, which he
recovered in various parts of Norfolk. For some time past he had been
carrying out explorations in this district in order to add to the
collection. It is sad to think that he met his death while thus
employed, and that his murdered body was thrown in the very pit which
was, as it were, the centre of his explorations and the object of his
keenest scientific curiosity."

"Did you ever see clearer footprints?" exclaimed the more
practical-minded Galloway. "Look how deep they are near the edge of the
pit, where the murderer braced himself to throw the body off his back
into the hole. See! there is a spot of blood on the edge."

It was as he had said. The footprints were clear and distinct to the
brink of the pit, but fainter as they turned away, showing that the man
who had carried the body had stepped more lightly and easily after
relieving himself of his terrible burden.

"I must take plaster casts of those prints before it rains," said
Galloway. "They are far too valuable a piece of evidence to be lost.
They form the final link in the case against Ronald."

"You regard the case as conclusive, then?" said Colwyn.

"Of course I do. It is now a simple matter to reconstruct the crime from
beginning to end. Ronald got through Mr. Glenthorpe's window last night
in the dark. As the catch has not been forced, he either found it
unlocked or opened it with a knife. After getting into the room he
walked towards the foot of the bed. He listened to make sure that Mr.
Glenthorpe was asleep, and then struck the match I picked up near the
foot of the bed, lit the candle he was carrying, put it on the table
beside the bed, and stabbed the sleeping man. Having secured the money,
he unlocked the door, carried the corpse out on his shoulder, closed the
door behind him but did not lock it, then took the body downstairs, let
himself out of the back door, carried it up here and cast it into the
pit. That's how the murder was committed."

"I agree with you that the murderer entered through the window," said
Colwyn. "But why did he do so? It strikes me as important to clear that
up. If Ronald is the murderer, why did he take the trouble to enter the
room from the outside when he slept in the next room?"

"Surely you have not forgotten that the door was locked from inside?
Benson says Mr. Glenthorpe was in the habit of locking his door and
sleeping with the key under the pillow. Ronald no doubt first tried to
enter the room by the door, but, finding it locked, climbed out of his
window, and got into the room through the other window. He dared not
break open the door for fear of disturbing the inmate or alarming the
house."

"Then how do you account for the key being found in the outside of Mr.
Glenthorpe's door this morning?"

"Quite easily. During the struggle or in the victim's death convulsions
the bed-clothes were disarranged, and Ronald saw the key beneath the
pillow. Or he may have searched for it, as he knew he would need it
before he could open the door and remove the body. It was easy for him
to climb through the window to commit the murder, but he couldn't remove
the body that way. After finding the key he unlocked the door, and put
the key in the outside, intending to lock the door and remove the key as
he left the room, so as to defer the discovery that Mr. Glenthorpe was
missing until as long after his own departure in the morning as
possible. He may have found it a difficult matter to stoop and lock the
door and withdraw the key while he was encumbered with the corpse, so
left it in the door till he returned from the pit. When he returned he
was so exhausted with carrying the body several hundred yards, mostly
uphill, that he forgot all about the key. That is my theory to account
for the key being in the outside of the door."

"It's an ingenious one, at all events," commented Colwyn. "But would
such a careful deliberate murderer overlook the key when he returned?"

"Nothing more likely," said the confident superintendent. "It's in
trifles like this that murderers give themselves away. The notorious
Deeming, who murdered several wives, and disposed of their bodies by
burying them under hearthstones and covering them with cement, would
probably never have been caught if he had not taken away with him a
canary which belonged to the last woman he murdered. It was a clue that
couldn't be missed--like the silk skein in Fair Rosamond's Bower."

"Here's another point: why did not Ronald, having disposed of the body,
disappear at once, instead of waiting for the morning?"

"Because if his room had been found empty in the morning, as well as
that of Mr. Glenthorpe's, the double disappearance would have aroused
instant suspicion and search. Ronald gauged the moment of his departure
very cleverly, in my opinion. On the one hand, he wanted to get away
before the discovery of Mr. Glenthorpe's empty bedroom; and, on the
other hand, he wished to stay at the inn long enough to suggest that he
had no reason for flight, but was merely compelled to make an early
departure. The trouble and risk he took to conceal the body outside
prove conclusively that he thought the pit a sufficiently safe
hiding-place to retard discovery of the crime for a considerable time,
and he probably thought that even when it was discovered that Mr.
Glenthorpe was missing his absence would not, at first, arouse
suspicions that he had met with foul play.

"It was not as though Mr. Glenthorpe was living at home with relatives
who would have immediately raised a hue and cry. He was a lonely old man
living in an inn amongst strangers, who were not likely to be interested
in his goings and comings. That suggests another alternative theory to
account for the key in the door: Ronald may have left it in the door to
convey the impression that Mr. Glenthorpe had gone out for an early
walk. That belief would at least gain Ronald a few hours to make good
his escape from this part of the country and get away by train before
any suspicions were aroused. The fact that none of Mr. Glenthorpe's
clothes were missing was not likely to be discovered in an inn until
suspicion was aroused. Ronald laid his plans well, but how was he to
know that in his path to the pit he walked over soil as plastic and
impressionable as wax?"

"But in spite of that you assume he knew exactly where this pit was
situated?"

"Nothing more likely. It is well-known to archæologists. Ronald may well
have heard of it while staying at Durrington, or he may have known of
it personally through some previous visit to this part of the world. And
there is also evidence that Mr. Glenthorpe told him of the hut circles
and the pit during dinner last night."

"Just one more doubt, Superintendent. How do you account for the cracked
gas globe and the broken incandescent mantle?"

"Ronald probably knocked his head against it as he approached the bed,"
said Galloway promptly.

"Hardly. Ronald's height, according to the description, is five feet ten
inches. That happens to be also my height, and I can pass under the gas
globe without touching it."

"Then it was broken when Ronald was carrying the corpse downstairs,"
replied Galloway, after a moment's reflection. "He carried the corpse on
his shoulders and part of the body would be above his head."

"Superintendent Galloway has an answer for everything," said Colwyn with
a smile, to Mr. Cromering. "He is persuasive if not always convincing."

"The case seems clear enough to me," said the chief constable
thoughtfully. "Come, gentlemen, let us return to the inn. We have a
number of things to do, and not much time to do them in."



CHAPTER VI


The inn, seen in the grey evening of a grey day, had a stark and
sinister aspect, an atmosphere of mystery and secretiveness, an air of
solitary aloofness in the dreary marshes, standing half shrouded in the
night mists which were sluggishly crawling across the oozing flats from
the sea. It was not a place where people could be happy--this battered
abode of a past age on the edge of the North Sea, with the bitter waters
of the marshes lapping its foundations, and the cold winds for ever
wailing round its gaunt white walls.

The portion buried in the hillside, with only the tops of the windows
peering above, suggested the hidden holes and burrowing byways of a dead
and gone generation of smugglers who had used the inn in the heyday of
Norfolk's sea prosperity. It may have been a thought of the
possibilities of the inn as a hiding place which prompted Mr. Cromering
to exclaim, after gazing at it attentively for some seconds:

"We had better go through this place from the bottom."

As they approached the inn a stout short man, who was looking out from
the low and narrow doorway, retreated into the interior, and immediately
afterwards the long figure of the innkeeper emerged as though he had
been awaiting the return of the party, and had posted somebody to watch
for them.

The innkeeper showed no surprise on receiving Mr. Cromering's
instruction to show them over the inn. Walking before them he led them
along a side passage opposite the bar, opening doors as he went, and
drawing aside for them to enter and look at the rooms thus revealed.

It was a strange rambling old place inside, full of nooks and crannies,
and unexpected odd corners and apertures, short galleries and stone
passages winding everywhere and leading nowhere; the downstairs rooms on
different levels, with stone steps into them, and queer slits of windows
pierced high up in the thick walls. On the ground floor a central
passage divided the inn into two portions. On the one side were several
rooms, some empty and destitute of furniture, others barely furnished
and empty, and a big gloomy kitchen in which a stout countrywoman, who
shook and bobbed at the sight of the visitors, was washing greens at a
dirty deal table. Off the kitchen were two small rooms, poorly furnished
as servants' bedrooms, and the windows of these looked out on the
marshes at the back of the house. On the other side of the centre
passage was the bar, which was subterranean at the far end, with the
cellar adjoining tunnelled into the hillside. In the recesses of the
cellar the short stout man they had seen at the doorway was, by the
light of a tallow candle, affixing a spigot to one of the barrels which
stood against the earthen wall. Behind the bar was a small bar parlour,
and behind that two more rooms, the house on that side finishing in a
low and narrow gallery running parallel with the outside wall.

The staircase upstairs opened into a stone passage, running from the
front of the inn to the back. On the left-hand side of the passage,
going from the head of the stairs to the back of the house, were four
rooms. The first was a small, comfortably furnished sitting room, where
Mr. Glenthorpe and his guest had dined the previous night. The bed
chamber of the murdered man adjoined this room. Next came the room in
which Ronald had slept, and then an empty lumber room. There were four
bedrooms on the other side, all unfurnished, except one at the far end
of the passage, the lumber-room. The innkeeper explained that the
murdered man had been the sole occupant of that wing of the house until
the previous night, when Mr. Ronald had occupied the room next to him.
At this end of the passage another and narrower passage ran at right
angles from it along the back of the house, with several rooms opening
off it on one side only. The first of these rooms was empty; the next
room contained a small iron bedstead, a chair, and a table, and the
innkeeper said that it was his bedroom. At the next door he paused, and
turning to Mr. Cromering hesitatingly remarked:

"This is my mother's room, sir. She is an invalid."

"We will not disturb your mother, we will merely glance into the room,"
said the kindly chief constable.

"It is not that, sir. She is----" He broke off abruptly, and knocked at
the door.

After a few moments' pause there was the sound of somebody within
turning a key in the lock, then the door was opened by a young girl,
who, at the sight of the visitors, walked hurriedly across to a bedstead
at the far end of the room, on which something grey was moving, and
stood in front of it as though she would guard the occupant of the bed
from the intruding eyes of strangers.

"It's all right, Peggy," said the innkeeper. "We shall not be here long.
My daughter is afraid you will disturb her grandmother," he said turning
to the gentlemen. "My mother is----" A motion of his finger towards his
forehead completed the sentence more significantly than words.

The figure on the bed in the corner was in the shadow, but they could
make it out to be that of an old and shrivelled woman in a grey flannel
nightdress, who was sitting up in bed, swinging backward and forward,
holding some object in her arms, clasped tightly to her breast, while
her small dark eyes, deepset under furrowed brows, gazed at the visitors
with the unmeaning stare of an animal.

But Colwyn's eyes were drawn to the girl at the bedside. She was
beautiful, of a type sufficiently rare to attract attention anywhere.
Her delicate profile and dainty grace shone in the shadow of the sordid
room like an exquisite picture. He was aware of a skin of transparent
whiteness, a wistful sensitive mouth, a pair of wonderful eyes with the
green-grey colour of the sea in their depths, and a crown of red-gold
hair. She was poorly, almost shabbily, dressed, but the crude cheap
garbing of a country dressmaker was unable to mar the graceful outlines
of her slim young figure. But it was the impassivity of the face and
detachment of attitude which chained Colwyn's attention and stimulated
his intellectual curiosity. The human face is usually an index to the
owner's character, but this girl's face was a mask which revealed
nothing. The features might have been marble for anything they
displayed, as she stood by the bedside regarding with grave inscrutable
eyes the group of men in the doorway. There was something pathetic in
the contrast between her grace and beauty and stillness and the uncouth
gestures and meaningless stare of the old woman in the bed behind her.

The old woman, moving from side to side with the unhappy restlessness
which characterises the insane, dropped over the side of the bed the
object she had been nursing in her arms, and looked at the girl with the
dumb entreaty of an animal. The girl stooped down by the side of the
bed, picked up the fallen article, and restored it to the mad woman. It
was a doll.

Mr. Cromering, who saw the action and the article, flushed like a man
who had seen something which should be kept secret, and turned to leave
the room. The others followed, and immediately afterwards they heard the
door closed after them, and the key turned in the lock.

Superintendent Galloway, who had more of the inquiring turn of mind of
the police official than the chief constable, asked the innkeeper
several questions about his mother and her condition. The innkeeper said
her insanity was the outcome of an accident which had happened two years
before. She was sitting dozing by the kitchen fire when a large boiler
of water overturned, scalding her terribly, and the shock and pain had
sent her mad. She had never left the bedroom since, and had gradually
become reduced to a condition of imbecility, alternated by occasional
outbursts of violence.

"Is she ever allowed out of the room?" asked Superintendent Galloway
quickly, as though a sudden thought had struck him.

"Never, sir; she never tries to get out of bed except when she's
violent. She will sit there for hours, playing with a doll, but when she
has her paroxysms she runs round and round the room, crying out as you
heard her just now, and throwing the things about. Did you notice, sir,
that there was no glassware in the room? She has tried to injure herself
with glass and crockery in her violent fits."

"How often does she have paroxysms of violent madness?" asked the chief
constable.

"Not often, sir; usually about the turn of the moon, or when there is a
gale at sea."

"There was a gale at sea last night," said Colwyn. "Did your mother have
an attack then?"

"Peggy said when she came downstairs last night she thought there were
signs of an attack coming on, but when I looked in on Mother as I was
going to bed, shortly before eleven, she seemed quiet enough, so I
locked her door and went to bed."

"Do you mean to say that you leave this poor mad woman in her bedroom
all night alone?" asked the chief constable.

"It's the best thing to be done, sir," replied the innkeeper, with an
apologetic air. "We tried having somebody to sleep with her, but it only
made her worse, and the doctor who saw her last year said it wasn't
necessary. Peggy is with her a lot in the daytime, and often until she
goes to bed. So she's really not left alone very much, because Ann goes
into her room as soon as she gets up in the morning--about six o'clock."

"And is your mother always secured in her room--is the door always
locked?" asked Superintendent Galloway.

"Yes, sir: the door is always locked inside or outside, and when I go to
bed at night I take the key into my room and hang it on a nail. Ann
comes in and gets it in the morning."

"You did that last night, as usual?"

"Yes, sir. Mother was quiet--just as you saw her now. She is quiet most
of the time."

"God help her, poor soul!" exclaimed the chief constable. "Where does
this passage lead to, Benson?" he asked, as if to change the
conversation, pointing to a gloomy gallery running off the passage in
which they were standing.

"It leads to two rooms looking out over the end of the inn, sir,"
replied the innkeeper. "They are the only two rooms you haven't seen."

"Who occupies this room?" asked Superintendent Galloway, opening the
door of the first, and disclosing a small, plainly furnished bedroom.

"My daughter, sir."

"The next one is empty and unfurnished, like many of the others,"
observed the chief constable. "This place seems too big for you, Benson.
Were all these rooms destitute of furniture when you took over the inn?"

"Not all, sir, but the inn being too big for me I sold the furniture for
what it would fetch. It was no use to me."

"Why don't you take a smaller place?" asked Superintendent Galloway,
abruptly. "You'll never do any good on this part of the coast--it's
played out, and there's no population."

"I'm well aware of that, sir, but it's difficult for a man like me to
make a shift once he gets into a place. There's Mother for one thing."

"She ought to be placed in a lunatic asylum," said the superintendent,
looking sternly at the innkeeper.

"It's a hard thing, sir, to put your own mother away. Besides, begging
your pardon, she's hardly bad enough for a lunatic asylum."

"Let us go downstairs, Galloway, if we have seen the whole of the inn,"
said the chief constable, breaking into this colloquy. "Time is really
getting on."

They went downstairs again to the small room they had been shown into
when they first entered the inn, Mr. Cromering after despatching the
innkeeper for refreshments for the party glanced once more at his watch,
and remarked to Colwyn that he was afraid he would have to ask him to
drive him in his car back to Durrington without delay.

"Galloway will stay here for the inquest to-morrow," he added. "But I
must get back to Norwich to-night."

"It is not necessary to go back to Durrington, to get to Norwich," said
Colwyn; "there's a train passes through Heathfield on the branch line,
at 5.40." He consulted his own watch as he spoke. "It's now just four
o'clock. Heathfield cannot be more than six miles away across country. I
can run you over there in twenty minutes. That would give you an hour or
so more here. I am speaking for myself as well as you," he added, with a
smile. "I should like to know a little more about this case."

"But I shall be taking you out of your way, and delaying the return of
you and Sir Henry to Durrington."

"I should like to return here and stay until after the inquest. Perhaps
Sir Henry would not mind returning to Durrington from Heathfield. He
will be able to catch the Durrington train at Cottenden, and get back to
his hotel in time for dinner. Would you mind, Sir Henry?"

"Not in the least," replied Sir Henry politely.

"Then I think I might stay a little longer," said the chief constable.
"What's the road like to Heathfield, Galloway? You know something about
this part of the country."

"Very bad," replied the superintendent uncompromisingly, who had his own
reasons for wanting to get rid of his superior officer and the
detective.

"It will be all right in daylight, and I'll risk it coming back," said
the detective cheerfully.

He spoke with the resolute air of one used to making prompt decisions,
and Mr. Cromering yielded with the feeble smile of a man who was rather
glad to be released of the task of making up his own mind. The entrance
of the innkeeper with refreshments put an end to the discussion. He
thrust upon the police officials present the responsibility of breaking
the licensed hours in which liquor might be drunk in war time by serving
them with sherry, old brandy, and biscuits.

The chief constable made himself a party to this breach of the law by
helping himself to a glass of sherry. The wine was excellent and dry,
and he poured himself out another. The result of this stimulant was
directly apparent in the firm tones with which he announced his
intention of examining those inmates of the inn who could throw any
light on the murder of the previous night. He directed Superintendent
Galloway to sit beside him and take notes of the information thus
elicited for the use of the coroner the following day.

"I think it would be as well to begin with the story of the innkeeper,"
he added. "Please pull that bell-rope, Galloway."



CHAPTER VII


The innkeeper answered the bell in person, and was ordered by the chief
constable to take a seat and tell everything he knew about the previous
night's events, without equivocation or reserve. He took a chair at the
table, his bright bird's glance wandering from one to the other of the
faces opposite him as he smoothed with one claw-like hand the thatch of
iron-grey hair which hung down over his forehead almost to his eyes.

"Where shall I begin?" he asked.

"You had better start by telling us how this young man Ronald came to
your house yesterday afternoon, and then give us an account of the
subsequent events, so far as you know them," said the chief constable.

"I was down near the breakwater yesterday evening, setting some
eel-lines in the canal, when he arrived," commenced the innkeeper. "When
I came in, Charles--that's the waiter--told me there was a young
gentleman in the bar parlour waiting to see me. I went into the parlour,
and saw the young man sitting near the door. He looked very tired and
weary, and said he wished to stay at the inn for the night."

"How was he dressed?" asked Superintendent Galloway, looking up from his
note-book.

"In a grey Norfolk suit, with knickerbockers, and a soft felt hat."

"Had you ever seen him before?"

"No, sir. He was a complete stranger to me. I could see he was a
gentleman. I told him I could not take him in, as the inn was only a
poor rough place, with no accommodation for gentlefolk at the best of
times, let alone war-time. The young gentleman said he was very tired
and would sleep anywhere, and was not particular about food. He told me
he had lost his way on the marshes, and a fisherman had directed him to
the inn."

"Did he say where he had come from?" asked the chief constable.

"No, sir, and I didn't think to ask him. I might have done so, but Mr.
Glenthorpe walked into the parlour just then, carrying some partridges
in his hand. He didn't see the young gentleman at first--he was sitting
in the corner behind the door--but told me to have one of the partridges
cooked for his dinner. They had just been given to him, he said, by the
farmer whose land he was going to excavate next week. As he turned to go
out he saw the young gentleman sitting in the corner, and he said, in
his hearty way: 'Good evening, sir; it is not often that we have any
society in these parts.' The young gentleman told him what he had told
me--how he had wandered away from Durrington and got lost, and had come
to the inn in the hopes of getting a bed for the night. 'Glad to see a
civilised human being in these parts,' said Mr. Glenthorpe. 'I hope
you'll give me the pleasure of your company at dinner. Benson, tell Ann
to cook another partridge.' 'I don't know whether the innkeeper will
allow me that pleasure,' replied the young gentleman. 'He says he cannot
put me up for the night.' 'Of course he'll put you up,' said Mr.
Glenthorpe. 'Not even a Norfolk innkeeper would turn you out on to the
North Sea marshes at this time of year.' That settled the question,
because I couldn't afford to offend Mr. Glenthorpe, and besides, his
providing the dinner helped me out of a difficulty. So I went out to
give orders about the dinner, leaving Mr. Glenthorpe and him sitting
together talking."

"Did you get him to fill in a registration form?" asked Superintendent
Galloway.

"I forgot to ask him, sir," replied the innkeeper.

"That is gross and inexcusable carelessness on your part, Benson," said
Galloway sternly. "I shall have to report it."

"I do not understand much about these things, sir," replied the
innkeeper apologetically. "It is so rarely that we have a visitor to the
place."

"The authorities will hold you responsible. You are supposed to know the
law, and help to carry it out. What's the use of devising regulations
for the security of the country if they are not carried out? You
innkeepers and hotel-keepers are really very careless. Go on with your
story, Benson."

"He and Mr. Glenthorpe had dinner together in the little upstairs
sitting room which Mr. Glenthorpe kept for his own private use. He did
his writing in it, and the flints and fossils he discovered in his
excavations were stored in the cupboards. His meals were always taken up
there, and last night he ordered the dinner to be taken up there as
usual, and the table to be laid for two. Charles waited at table, but I
was up there twice--first time with some sherry, and the second time was
about an hour afterwards, when the gentlemen had finished dinner. I took
up a bottle of some old brandy that the inn used to be famous for--it's
the same that you gentlemen have been drinking. When I knocked at the
door with the brandy it was Mr. Glenthorpe who called 'Come in!' He was
standing in front of the fire, with a fossil in his hand, and he was
telling the young man about how he came to discover it. I put the
brandy on the table and left the room.

"That was the last time I saw him alive. Charles came down with the
dinner things about half-past nine, and said he was not wanted upstairs
any more. Charles went to bed shortly afterwards--he sleeps in one of
the two rooms off the kitchen. I went to my own bedroom before ten,
after first telling Ann, the servant, who was doing some ironing in the
kitchen, to turn off the gas at the meter if the gentlemen retired
before she finished, but not to bother if they were still sitting up. It
had been decided that the young gentleman should occupy the bedroom next
to Mr. Glenthorpe, and Ann was a bit late with her ordinary work because
it had taken her some time to get his room ready. The room had not been
occupied for some time, and she'd had to air the bed-clothes and make
the bed afresh.

"The next morning I was a bit late getting down--there's nothing to open
the inn for in the mornings--and Ann told me as soon as I got down that
the young gentleman had left nearly an hour before. She had taken him up
an early cup of tea at seven o'clock, and he opened the door to her
knock, and took it from her. He was fully dressed, except for his boots,
which he had in his hand, and he asked her to clean them, as he wanted
to leave at once. She was walking away with the boots, when he called
her back and took them from her, saying that it didn't matter about
cleaning them, as he was in a hurry. When she gave him the boots he put
a note into her hand, and said that was to pay for his bill.

"It was the key in the outside of Mr. Glenthorpe's room which led to us
finding out that he was not in the room. As I told you upstairs, sir, he
used to always lock his door when he went to bed and put the key under
the pillow. Ann noticed the key in the outside of the door when she
went up with his breakfast tray--he never took early morning tea but he
always breakfasted in his room. That would be about eight o'clock. She
thought it strange to see the key in the door, and as she could get no
answer to her knock she tried the door, found it unlocked and the room
empty. She came downstairs and told me. I thought at first that Mr.
Glenthorpe might have got up early to go and look at his excavations,
but I went up to his room and saw the signs of a struggle and
blood-stains on the bed-clothes, and I knew that something must have
happened to him. I went into the village and told Constable Queensmead.
He came to the inn, and made a search inside and outside and found the
footprints leading to the pit on the rise. One of Mr. Glenthorpe's men
who had been down the pit for flints was lowered by a rope, and brought
up the body."

The innkeeper took a leather wallet from his pocket and produced from it
a Treasury £1 note. "This is the note the young gentleman left behind
with Ann to pay his bill," he explained, pushing it across the table to
the chief constable.

"I would draw your attention, sir, to the fact that this Treasury note
is one of the first issue--printed in black on white paper," remarked
Superintendent Galloway to his superior officer. "Constable Queensmead
has ascertained that the £300 which Mr. Glenthorpe drew out of the bank
yesterday was all in £1 notes of the first issue. That money is missing
from the dead man's effects."

The chief constable looked thoughtfully at the note through his glasses,
and then passed it to Colwyn, who examined it closely, and took a note
of the number, and held it up to the light to see the watermark.

"Did you or the servant find any weapon in Mr. Glenthorpe's room?" asked
the chief constable.

"No, sir."

"You have missed a knife though, have you not?" asked Superintendent
Galloway.

"Yes, sir."

"What sort of a knife?"

"A table-knife."

"Was it one of the knives sent up to the sitting-room last night?"

"Yes, sir. At least Charles says so. He has charge of the cutlery."

"Then Charles had better tell us about it," interposed the chief
constable. "You say you went to bed before ten o'clock, Benson. Did you
hear anything in the night?"

"No, sir, I fell asleep almost immediately. My room is a good distance
from Mr. Glenthorpe's room."

"I do not think we have any more questions to ask you, Benson."

"Pardon the curiosity of a medical man, Mr. Cromering," remarked Sir
Henry, "but would it be possible to ask the innkeeper whether he noticed
anything peculiar about Mr. Ronald's demeanour, when he arrived at the
inn, or when he saw him at dinner subsequently?"

"You hear that question, Benson?" said the chief constable. "Did you
notice anything strange about Mr. Ronald's conduct when first he came to
the inn or at any time?"

"I cannot say I did, sir. I thought he looked very tired when he first
came into the inn, and his eyes were heavy as though with want of
sleep."

"He seemed quite sane and rational?"

"Quite, sir."

"Did you notice any symptoms of mental disturbance or irritability about
him at any time?" struck in Sir Henry Durwood.

"No, sir. He was a little bit angry at first when I said I couldn't take
him in, but he struck me as quite cool and collected."

Sir Henry looked a little disappointed at this reply. He asked no more
questions, but entered a note in a small note-book which he took from
his waistcoat pocket. Mr. Cromering intimated to the innkeeper that he
had finished questioning him, and would like to examine the waiter,
Charles.

"If you wouldn't mind pulling the bell-rope behind you, sir," hinted the
innkeeper.

In response to a pull at the old-fashioned bell-rope, the stout country
servant, who had been washing greens in the kitchen, entered the room.

"Where is Charles, Ann?" asked the innkeeper.

"He's in the kitchen," replied the woman nervously.

"Then tell him he is wanted here immediately."

"You run your inn in a queer sort of way, Benson," remarked
Superintendent Galloway, in his loud voice, as the woman went away on
her errand. "Why couldn't Charles have answered the bell himself, if he
is in the kitchen? What does he wait on, if not the bar parlour?"

"Charles is stone deaf, sir," replied the innkeeper.



CHAPTER VIII


The man who entered the room was of sufficiently remarkable appearance
to have attracted attention anywhere. He was short, but so fat that he
looked less than his actual height, which was barely five feet. His
ponderous head, which was covered with short stiff black hair, like a
brush, seemed to merge into his body without any neck, and two black
eyes glittered like diamond points in the white expanse of his hairless
face. As he advanced towards the table these eyes roved quickly from one
to the other of the faces on the other side of the table. He was in
every way a remarkable contrast to his employer, and a painter in search
of a subject might have been tempted to take the pair as models for a
picture of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.

"Take that chair and answer my questions," said Mr. Cromering,
addressing the waiter in a very loud voice. "Oh, I forgot," he added, to
the innkeeper. "How do you manage to communicate with him if he is stone
deaf?"

"Quite easily, sir. Charles understands the lip language--he reads your
lips while you speak. It is not even necessary to raise your voice, so
long as you pronounce each word distinctly."

"Sit down, Charles--do you understand me?" said the chief constable
doubtfully. By way of helping the waiter to comprehend he pointed to the
chair the innkeeper had vacated.

The waiter crossed the room and took the chair. Like so many fat men,
his movements were quick, agile, and noiseless, but as he came forward
it was noticeable that his right arm was deformed, and much shorter than
the other.

The chief constable eyed the strange figure before him in some
perplexity, and the fat white-faced deaf man confronted him stolidly,
with his black twinkling eyes fixed on his face. His gaze, which was
directed to the mouth and did not reach the eyes, was so disconcerting
to Mr. Cromering that he cleared his throat with several nervous "hems"
before commencing his examination:

"Your name is----?"

"Charles Lynn, sir."

The reply was delivered in a whispered voice, the not infrequent result
of prolonged deafness, complete isolation from the rest of humanity
causing the gradual loss of sound values in the afflicted person; but
the whisper, coming from such a mountain of flesh, conveyed the
impression that the speaker's voice was half-strangled in layers of fat,
and with difficulty gasped a way to the air. Mr. Cromering looked hard
at the waiter as though suspecting him of some trick, but Charles' eyes
were fixed on the mouth of his interrogator, awaiting his next question.

"I understand that you waited on the two gentlemen in the upstairs
sitting-room last night"--Mr. Cromering still spoke in such an
unnecessarily loud voice that he grew red in the face with the
exertion--"the gentleman who was murdered, and the young man Ronald, who
came to the inn last night. Do you understand me?"

"Yes, sir. I waited on the gentlemen, sir."

"Very well. I want you to tell us all that took place between these
gentlemen while you were in the room. You were there all through the
dinner, I suppose?"

"Yes, sir, but I didn't follow all of the conversation because of my
infirmity." He touched his ears as he spoke. "I gathered some remarks of
Mr. Glenthorpe's, because he told me to stand opposite him and watch his
lips for orders, but I didn't get much of what the young gentleman said,
because I was standing behind his chair most of the time so as to see
Mr. Glenthorpe's lips better."

"Well, tell us all you did gather of the conversation, and everything
you saw."

"I beg your pardon, sir"--the interruption came from Superintendent
Galloway--"but would it not be advisable to get from the waiter first
something of what passed between him and Ronald when Ronald came to the
inn last night? The waiter was the first to see him, Benson says."

"Quite right. I had forgotten. Tell us, Charles, what passed when Ronald
first came to the inn in the afternoon."

"It was between five and six o'clock, sir, when the young gentleman came
to the front door and asked for the landlord. I told him he was out, but
would be back shortly. The young gentleman said he was very tired, as he
had walked a long distance and lost his way in the marshes, and would I
show him into a private room and send him some refreshments. I took him
into the bar parlour--this room, sir--and brought him refreshments. He
seemed very tired--hardly able to lift one leg after the other."

"Did he look ill--or strange?"

"I didn't notice anything strange about him, sir, but he dropped into a
chair as though he was exhausted, and told me to send the landlord to
him as soon as he came in. I left him sitting there, and when Mr. Benson
returned I told him, and he went in to him. I didn't see the young
gentleman again until I waited on him and Mr. Glenthorpe at dinner in
the upstairs sitting-room."

"Very good. Tell us what happened there."

"I laid the table, and took up the dinner at half-past seven. Those were
Mr. Glenthorpe's orders. When I went up the first time the table was
covered with flints and fossils, which Mr. Glenthorpe was showing the
young gentleman, and I helped Mr. Glenthorpe put these back into the
cupboards, and then I laid the table. When I took up the dinner the
gentlemen sat down to it, and Mr. Glenthorpe rang for Mr. Benson, and
told him to bring up some sherry. When the sherry came up Mr. Glenthorpe
told the young gentleman that it was a special wine sent down by his
London wine merchants, and he asked Mr. Ronald what he thought of it.
Mr. Ronald said he thought it was an excellent dry wine. The gentlemen
didn't talk much during dinner, though Mr. Glenthorpe was a little upset
about the partridges. He said they had been cooked too dry. He asked the
young gentleman what he thought of them, but I don't know what he
replied, for I was not watching his lips.

"Mr. Glenthorpe quite recovered himself by the time coffee was served,
and was talking a lot about his researches in the neighbourhood. It was
very learned talk, but it seemed to interest Mr. Ronald, for he asked a
number of questions. Mr. Glenthorpe seemed very pleased with his
interest, and told him about a valuable discovery made in a field near
what he called the hut circles. He said he had bought the field off the
farmer for £300, and was going to commence his excavations immediately.
As the farmer refused to take a cheque for the land he had been over to
the bank at Heathfield for the money, and had brought it back with him
so as to pay it over in the morning and take possession of the field.
Mr. Glenthorpe complained that the bank had made him take all the money
in Treasury notes, and he took them out of his pocket and showed them to
the young gentleman, saying how bulky they were, and pointing out that
they were all of the first issue."

"And what did Ronald say to that?"

If the chief constable's question covered a trap, the waiter seemed
unconscious of it.

"I wasn't looking at him, sir, and did not hear his reply. After putting
the money back in his pocket, Mr. Glenthorpe told me to go downstairs
and tell Mr. Benson to bring up some of the old brandy. Mr. Benson came
back with me, and Mr. Glenthorpe took the bottle from him and filled the
glasses himself, telling the young gentleman that the brandy was the
best in England, a relic of the old smuggling days, but far too good for
scoundrels who had never paid the King's revenue one half-penny. Then
when Mr. Benson had left the room he began to talk about the field
again, and how anxious he was to start the excavations. That was about
all I heard, sir, for shortly afterwards Mr. Glenthorpe told me to clear
away the things, which took me several trips downstairs, because, not
having the full use of my right hand, I have to use a small tray. It was
not till this morning, when I was cleaning the cutlery, that I noticed
that one of the knives I had taken upstairs the night before was
missing. I think that is all, sir."

The silence which followed, broken only by the rapid travelling of
Superintendent Galloway's pen across the paper, revealed how intently
the fat man's auditors had followed his whispered recital of the events
before the murder. It was Superintendent Galloway who, putting down his
fountain pen, asked the waiter to describe the knife he had missed.

"It was a small, white-handled knife, sir--not one of the dinner knives,
but one of the smaller ones."

"Are you sure it was one of the knives you took upstairs last night?"

"Quite sure, sir. We are very short of good cutlery, and I picked out
this knife to put by the young gentleman's plate because it was a very
good one. It and the carving-knife are the only two knives we have in
that particular white-handled pattern."

"Was this knife sharp?"

"Very sharp, with a rather thin blade. I keep all my cutlery in good
order, sir."

"You seem to have heard a lot that passed last night in spite of your
deafness," said Superintendent Galloway, in the blustering manner he had
found very useful in browbeating rural witnesses in the police courts.
"Is it customary for waiters to listen to everything that is said when
they are waiting at table?"

"I did not hear everything, sir," rejoined the waiter, and his soft
whisper was in striking contrast to the superintendent's hectoring
tones. "I explained to the other gentleman that I heard very little the
young gentleman said, because I wasn't watching his lips. It was
principally Mr. Glenthorpe's part of the conversation I have related. I
followed almost everything he said because I was watching his lips
closely the whole of the time."

"Why?" snapped Superintendent Galloway.

"It was Mr. Glenthorpe's strict instructions that I was to watch his
lips closely every time I waited on him, because of my infirmity. He
disliked very much being waited on by a deaf waiter when first he came
to the inn. He said he didn't want to have to bellow out when he wanted
anything. But when he found that I could understand lip language, and
could follow what he was saying by watching his lips, he allowed me to
wait on him, but he gave me strict instructions never to take my eyes
off him when I was waiting on him, because he disliked having to repeat
an order."

At the request of Sir Henry, Superintendent Galloway asked the waiter if
he had noticed anything peculiar in the actions of the murdered man's
guest during the dinner. The waiter replied that he had not noticed the
young gentleman particularly. So far as his observation went the young
gentleman had acted just like an ordinary young gentleman, and he had
noticed nothing strange or eccentric about him.

Mr. Cromering decided to occupy the remaining time at his disposal by
questioning Ann. The stout servant was brought from the kitchen in a
state of trepidation, and, after curtsying awkwardly to the assembled
gentlemen, flopped heavily into a chair, covered her face with her
apron, and burst into sobs. Her story--which was extracted from her with
much difficulty--bore out the innkeeper's account of her early morning
interview with Ronald. She said the poor young gentleman had opened the
door when she knocked with his tea. He was fully dressed, with his boots
in his hand, and he said he wouldn't wait for any breakfast, though she
had offered to cook him some fresh fish the master had caught the day
before. He asked her to clean his boots, but as she was carrying them
away he called her back and said he would wear them as they were. They
were all covered with mud--a regular mask of mud. She wanted to rub the
mud off, but he said that didn't matter: he was in a hurry to get away.
While she had them in her hands she turned them up and looked at the
bottoms, intending to put them to the kitchen fire to dry them if the
soles were wet, and it was then she noticed that there was a circular
rubber heel on one which was missing on the other--only the iron peg
being left. She took particular notice of the peg, because she intended
to hammer it down in the kitchen, thinking it must be very uncomfortable
to walk on, but the young gentleman didn't give her the chance--he just
took the boots from her and walked into his room, shutting the door
behind him.

Thus far Ann proceeded, between convulsive sobs and jelly-like tremors
of her fat frame. By dint of further questioning, it was elicited from
her that during this colloquy at the bedroom door the young gentleman
had put a pound note into her hand, and told her to give it to her
master in payment of his bill. "It won't be so much as that, sir," she
had said. "What about the change?"

"Oh, damn the change!" the young gentleman had said, very
impatient-like, and then he had said, "Here's something for yourself,"
and put five shillings into her hand.

"Did the young gentleman seem at all excited during the time you saw
him?" asked the chief constable, anticipating the inevitable question
from Sir Henry.

"I don't know what you mean by excited, sir. He seemed rarely impatient
to be gone, though anybody might be excited at having to walk across
them nasty marshes in the morning mist without a bite to stay the
stomach. I only hope he didn't catch a chill, the poor young man."

Further questions on this point only brought forth another shower of
tears, and a sobbing asseveration that she hadn't taken particular
notice of the young gentleman, who was a kind, liberal-hearted
gentleman, no matter what some folk might think. It was evident that the
tip of five shillings had won her heart.

The chief constable waited for the storm to subside before he was able
to extract the information that Ann hadn't seen the young gentleman
leave the house. He had gone when she took up Mr. Glenthorpe's breakfast
nearly an hour later, and made the discovery that the key of Mr.
Glenthorpe's room was in the outside of the door, and his room empty.
The young gentleman could easily have left the inn without being seen,
for she and Charles were in the kitchen, and nobody else was downstairs
at the time.

It was in response to Colwyn's whispered suggestion that the chief
constable asked Ann if she had turned off the gas at the meter the
previous night. Yes, she had, she said. She heard the gentlemen leave
the sitting-room upstairs and say good-night to each other as they went
to their bedrooms, and she turned off the gas at the meter underneath
the stair five minutes afterwards, when she had finished her ironing,
and went to bed herself. That would be about half-past ten.

Mr. Cromering, who did not understand the purport of the question, was
satisfied with the answer, and allowed the servant to retire. But
Colwyn, as he went out to the front to get the motor ready for the
journey to Heathfield, was of a different opinion.

"Ann may have turned off the gas as she said," he thought, "but it was
turned on again during the night. Did Ann know this, and keep it back,
or was it turned on and off again without her knowledge?"



CHAPTER IX


"Everything fits in beautifully," said Superintendent Galloway
confidently. "I never knew a clearer case. All that remains for me to do
is to lay my hands on this chap Ronald, and an intelligent jury will see
to the rest."

The police official and the detective had dined together in the small
bar parlour on Colwyn's return from driving Mr. Cromering and Sir Henry
Durwood to Heathfield Station. The superintendent had done more than
justice to the meal, and a subsequent glass of the smugglers' brandy had
so mellowed the milk of human kindness in his composition that he felt
inclined for a little friendly conversation with his companion.

"You are very confident," said Colwyn.

"Of course I am confident. I have reason to be so. Everything I have
seen to-day supports my original theory about this crime."

"And what is your theory as to the manner in which this crime was
committed? I have gathered a general idea of the line you are taking by
listening to your conversation this afternoon, but I should like you to
state your theory in precise terms. It is an interesting case, with some
peculiar points about it which a frank discussion might help to
elucidate."

Superintendent Galloway looked suspiciously at Colwyn out of his small
hard grey eyes. His official mind scented an attempt to trap him, and
his Norfolk prudence prompted him to get what he could from the
detective but to give nothing away in return.

"I see you're suspicious of me, Galloway," continued Colwyn with a
smile. "You've heard of city detectives and their ways, and you're
thinking to yourself that a Norfolk man is more than a match for any of
them."

This sally was so akin to what was passing in the superintendent's mind
that a grim smile momentarily relaxed his rugged features.

"My thoughts are my own, I suppose," he said.

"Not when you've just given them away," replied Colwyn, in a bantering
tone. "My dear Galloway, your ingenuous countenance is a mirror to your
mind, in which he who runs may read. But you are quite wrong in
suspecting me. I have no ulterior motive. My only interest in this
crime--or in any crime--is to solve it. Anybody can have the credit, as
far as I am concerned. Newspaper notoriety is nothing to me."

"You've managed to get a good deal of it without looking for it, then,"
retorted the superintendent cannily. "It was only the other day I was
reading a long article in one of the London newspapers about you,
praising you for tracking the criminals in the Treasury Bonds case. The
police were not mentioned."

"Fame--or notoriety--sometimes comes to those who seek it least,"
replied the detective genially. "I assure you that article came unasked.
I'm a stranger to the political art of keeping sweet with the
journalists--it was a statesman, you know, who summed up gratitude as a
lively sense of favours to come. Now, in this case, let us play fair,
actuated by the one desire to see that justice is done. This case does
not strike me as quite such a simple affair as it seems to you. You
approach it with a preconceived theory to which you are determined to
adhere. Your theory is plausible and convincing--to some extent--but
that is all the more reason why you should examine and test every link
in the chain. You cannot solve difficult points by ignoring them and, to
my mind, there are some difficult and perplexing features about this
case which do not altogether fit in with your theory."

"If my mind is an open book to you perhaps you'll tell me what my theory
is," responded Superintendent Galloway, sourly.

"Yes; that's a fair challenge." The detective pushed back his chair, and
stood with his back against the mantelpiece, with a cigar in his mouth.
"Your theory in this case is that chance and opportunity have made the
crime and the criminal. Chance brings this young man Ronald to this
lonely Norfolk inn, and sees to it that he is allowed to remain when the
landlord wants to turn him away. Chance throws him into the society of a
man of culture and education, who is only too glad of the opportunity of
relieving the tedium of his surroundings in this rough uncultivated
place by passing a few hours in the companionship of a man of his own
rank of life. Chance contrives that this gentleman shall have in his
possession a large sum of money which he shows to Ronald, who is greatly
in need of money. Opportunity suggests the murder, provides the weapon,
and gives Ronald the next room to his intended victim in a wing of the
inn occupied by nobody else.

"Your theory as to how the murder was actually committed strikes me as
possible enough--up to a certain point. You think that Ronald, after
waiting until everybody in the inn is likely to be asleep, steals out of
his own room to the room of his victim. He finds the door locked.
Chance, however, has thoughtfully provided him with a window opening on
to a hillside, which enables him to climb out of his own window and
into the window of the next room. He gets in, murders Mr. Glenthorpe,
secures his money, and, finding the key of his bedroom under the pillow,
carries the body of his victim downstairs, and outside, casting it into
a deep hole some distance from the house, in the hope of preventing or
retarding discovery of the crime. Through an oversight he forgets the
key in the door, which he had placed in the outside before carrying off
the body, intending when he returned to lock the door and carry the key
away with him.

"Next morning you have the highly suspicious circumstance of the young
man's hurried departure, his refusal to have his boots cleaned, the
incident of the £1 note, and the unshakable fact that the footprints
leading to and from the pit where the body was discovered had been made
by his boots.

"As a further contributory link in the chain of evidence against Ronald,
you intend to use the fact that he was turned out of the Grand Hotel,
Durrington, the previous day because he couldn't pay his hotel bill,
because this fact, combined with the fact that Mr. Glenthorpe showed him
the money he had drawn from the bank at Heathfield, supplies a strong
motive for the crime. In this connection you intend to try to establish
that the Treasury note which Ronald left to pay his inn bill was one of
those in Mr. Glenthorpe's possession, because it happens to be one of
the First Treasury issue, printed in black and white, and all Mr.
Glenthorpe's notes were of that issue, according to the murdered man's
own statement. That, I take it, is the police theory of this case."

"It is," said Superintendent Galloway. "You've put it a bit more
fancifully than I should, but it comes to the same thing. But what do
you make out of the incident at the Grand Hotel, Durrington, yesterday
morning? You were there, and saw it all. Does it seem strange to you
that Ronald should have come straight to this inn and committed a murder
after making that scene at the hotel? Do you think it suggests that
Ronald has, well--impulses of violence, let us say?" Superintendent
Galloway poured himself out another glass of old brandy and sipped it
deliberately, watching the detective cautiously between the sips.

Colwyn was silent for a moment. He was quick to comprehend the
double-barrelled motive which underlay the superintendent's question,
and he had no intention of letting the police officer pump him for his
own ends.

"Sir Henry Durwood would be better able to answer that question than I,"
he said.

"I asked him when we were driving over here this afternoon, but he shut
up like an oyster--you know what these professional men are, with their
stiff-and-starched ideas of etiquette," grumbled the superintendent.

A flicker of amusement showed in Colwyn's eyes. Really the
superintendent was easily drawn, for an East Anglian countryman. "After
all, it is only Sir Henry Durwood's opinion that Ronald intended
violence at the _Grand_," he said. "Sir Henry did not give him the
opportunity to carry out his intention--if he had such an intention."

"Exactly my opinion," exclaimed Superintendent Galloway, eagerly rising
to the fly. "I have ascertained that Ronald's behaviour during the time
he was staying at the hotel was that of an ordinary sane Englishman. The
proprietor says he was quite a gentleman, with nothing eccentric or
peculiar about him, and the servants say the same. They are the best
judges, after all. And nobody noticed anything peculiar about him at the
breakfast table except yourself and Sir Henry--and what happened?
Nothing, except that he was a bit excited--and no wonder, after the
young man had just been ordered to leave the hotel. Then Sir Henry
grabbed hold of him and he fainted--or pretended to faint; it may have
been all part of his game. Sir Henry may have thought he intended to do
something or other, but no British judge would admit that as evidence
for the defence. This chap Ronald is as sane as you or me, and a deep,
cunning cold-blooded scoundrel to boot. If the defence try to put up a
plea of insanity they'll find themselves in the wrong box. There's not a
jury in the world that wouldn't hang him on the evidence against him."

This time Colwyn could not forbear smiling at the guileless way in which
Superintendent Galloway had revealed the thoughts which had been passing
through his mind. But his amusement was momentary, and it was in a
grave, earnest tone that he replied:

"The hotel incident is a puzzling one, but I agree with you that it
doesn't enter into the police case against Ronald. It is your duty to
deal with the facts of the case, and if you think that Ronald committed
this murder----"

"If I think that Ronald committed this murder!" Superintendent
Galloway's interruption was both amazed and indignant. "I'm as certain
he committed the murder as if I saw him do it with my own eyes. Did you,
or anybody else, ever see a clearer case?"

"It is because the circumstantial evidence against him is so strong that
I speak as I do," continued Colwyn, in the same earnest tones. "Innocent
men have been hanged in England before now on circumstantial evidence.
It is for that very reason that we should guard ourselves against the
tendency to accept the circumstantial evidence against him as proof of
his guilt, instead of examining all the facts with an open mind. We are
the investigators of the circumstances: it is not for us to prejudge.
That is the worst of circumstantial evidence: it tends to prejudgment,
and sometimes to the ignoring of circumstances and facts which might
tell in favour of the suspect, if they were examined with a more
impartial eye. It is for these reasons that I am always careful to
suspend judgment in cases of circumstantial evidence, and examine
carefully even the smallest trifles which might tell in favour of the
man to whom circumstantial evidence points.

"Have you discovered anything, since you have been at the inn, which
shakes the theory that Ronald is the murderer?"

"I have come to the conclusion that the case is much more complex and
puzzling than was at first supposed."

"I should like to know what makes you think that," returned
Superintendent Galloway. "Up to the present I have seen nothing to shake
my conviction that Ronald is the guilty man. What have you discovered
that makes you think otherwise?"

"I do not go as far as that--yet. But I have come across certain things
which, to my mind, need elucidation before it is possible to pronounce
definitely on Ronald's guilt or innocence. To take them consecutively,
let me repeat that I cannot reconcile Ronald's excitable conduct at the
Durrington hotel with his supposed actions at the inn. In the former
case he behaved like a man who, whether insane or merely excited, had
not the slightest fear of the consequences. At this inn he acted like a
crafty cautious scoundrel who had weighed the consequences of his acts
beforehand, and took every possible precaution to save his own skin.
You see nothing inconsistent in this----"

"I do not," interjected the superintendent firmly.

"Quite so. Then, the next point that perplexes me is why Ronald took the
trouble to carry the body of his victim to the pit and throw it in."

"For the motive of concealment, and to retard discovery. But for the
footprints it would probably have given him several days--perhaps
weeks--in which to make good his escape."

"Did he not run a bigger risk of discovery by carrying the body
downstairs in an occupied house, and across several hundred yards of
open land close to the village?"

"Not in a remote spot like this. They keep early hours in this part of
the country. I guarantee if you walked through the village now you
wouldn't see a soul stirring."

"Ronald was not likely to know that. Next, how did Ronald, a stranger to
the place, know the locality of this pit so accurately as to be able to
walk straight to it?"

"Easily. He might have approached the inn from that side, and passed it
on his way. And nothing is more likely than Mr. Glenthorpe would tell
him about the pit in the course of his conversation about the
excavations. There is also the possibility that Ronald knew of the
existence of the pit from a previous visit to this part of the country."

"My next point is that Ronald was put to sleep in what he imagined was
an upstairs bedroom. How did he discover that his bedroom, and the
bedroom of Mr. Glenthorpe's adjoining, opened on to a hillside which
enabled him to get out of one bedroom and into the other?"

"Again, Mr. Glenthorpe probably told him--he seems to have been a
garrulous old chap, according to all accounts. Or Ronald may have
looked out of his window when he was retiring, and seen it for himself.
I always look out of a bedroom window, and particularly if it is a
strange bedroom, before getting into bed."

"These are matters of opinion, and, though your explanations are
possible ones, I do not agree with you. We are looking at this case from
entirely different points of view. You believe that Ronald committed the
murder, and you are allowing that belief to colour everything connected
with the case. I am looking at this murder as a mystery which has not
yet been solved, and, without excluding the possibility that Ronald is
the murderer, I am not going, because of the circumstantial evidence
against him, to accept his guilt as a foregone conclusion until I have
carefully examined and tested all the facts for and against that theory.

"The one outstanding probability is that Mr. Glenthorpe was murdered for
his money. Now, excluding for the time being the circumstantial evidence
against Ronald--though without losing sight of it--the next point that
arises is was he murdered by somebody in the inn or by somebody from
outside--say, for example, one of the villagers employed on his
excavation works. The waiter's story of the missing knife suggests the
former theory, but I do not regard that evidence as incontrovertible.
The knife might have been stolen from the kitchen by a man who had been
drinking at the bar; indeed, until we have recovered the weapon it is
not even established that this was the knife with which the murder was
committed. It might have been some other knife. We must not take the
waiter's story for granted until we have recovered the knife, and not
necessarily then. But that story, as it stands, inclines to support the
theory that the murder was committed by somebody in the inn. On the
other hand, the theory of an outside murderer lends itself to a very
plausible reconstruction of the crime. Suppose, for example, the murder
had been committed by one of Mr. Glenthorpe's workmen, actuated by the
dual motives of revenge and robbery, or by either motive. Apparently the
whole village knew of Mr. Glenthorpe's intention to draw this money
which was in his possession when he was murdered--he seems to have been
a man who talked very freely of his private affairs--and the amount,
£300, would be a fortune to an agricultural labourer or a fisherman.
Such a man would know all about the bedroom windows on that side of the
inn opening on to the hillside, and would naturally choose that means of
entry to commit the crime. And, if he were a labourer in Mr.
Glenthorpe's employ, the thought of concealing the body by casting it
into the pit would probably occur to him."

"I do not think there is much in that theory," said Superintendent
Galloway thoughtfully. "Still, it is worth putting to the test. I'll
inquire in the morning if any of the villagers are suspicious
characters, or whether any of Glenthorpe's men had a grudge against
him."

"Now let us leave theories and speculations and come to facts. Our
investigations of the murdered man's room this afternoon gave us several
clues, not the least important of which is that we are enabled to fix
the actual time of the murder with some degree of accuracy. It is always
useful, in a case of murder, to be able to establish the approximate
time at which it was committed. In this case, the murder was certainly
committed between the hours of 11 p.m. and 11.30 p.m., and, in all
probability, not much before half-past eleven."

"How do you fix it so accurately as that?" asked the police officer,
looking keenly at the detective.

"According to Ann, the gentlemen went to their rooms about half-past
ten, and she turned off the gas downstairs shortly afterwards, and went
to bed herself. When we examined the room this afternoon, we found
patches of red mud of the same colour and consistency of the soil
outside the window leading from the window to the bedside, and a
pool--a small isolated pool--of water near the open window. There were,
as you recollect, no footprints outside the window. On the other hand,
the footprints from the inn to the pit are clear and distinct. Rain
commenced to fall last night shortly before eleven, but it did not fall
heavily until eleven o'clock. From then till half-past eleven it was a
regular downpour, when it ceased, and it has not rained since. Now, the
patches of red mud in the bedroom, and the obliteration of footprints
outside the window, prove that the murderer entered the room during the
storm, but the footprints leading to the pit prove that the body was not
removed from the room until the rain had completely ceased, otherwise
they would have been obliterated also, or partly obliterated. These
facts make it clear that the murder was committed between eleven and
half-past, but the pool of water near the window enables us to fix the
time more accurately still, and say that he entered the room during the
time the rain was at its heaviest--that is, between ten minutes past and
half-past eleven."

"I'm hanged if I see how you fix it so definitely," said the
superintendent, who had been following the other's deductions with
interest. "The pool of water may have collected at any time, once the
window was open."

"My dear Galloway, you are working on the rule-of-thumb deduction that
the rain blew in the open window and formed the pool. As a matter of
fact, it did nothing of the kind. The wind was blowing the other way,
and _away_ from that side of the house. Furthermore, the hill on that
side of the inn acts as a natural barrier against rain and weather."

"Then how the deuce do you account for the water in the room?"

"Surely you have not forgotten the piece of black material we found
sticking on the nail outside the window?"

"I have not forgotten it, but I do not see how you connect it with the
pool of water."

"Because it is a piece of umbrella silk. The murderer was carrying an
umbrella--and an open umbrella--have you the piece of silk? If so, let
us look at it."

The superintendent produced the square inch of silk from his waistcoat
pocket, and examined it closely: "Of course it's umbrella silk," he
exclaimed, slapping his leg. "Funny I didn't recognise it at the time."

"Perhaps I wouldn't have recognised it myself, but for the fact that a
piece of umbrella silk formed an important clue in a recent case I was
engaged upon," replied the detective. "Experience counts for a
lot--sometimes. See, this piece of silk is hemmed on the edge--pretty
conclusive proof that the murderer was carrying the umbrella open, to
shield him from the rain, and that it caught on the nail outside the
window, tearing off the edge. He closed it as he got inside the window,
and placed it near the window-sill, and the rain dripped off it and
formed the pool of water. The size of the pool, and the fact that the
murderer carried an open umbrella to shield him, prove pretty
conclusively that he made his entrance into the room during the time the
rain was falling heaviest--which was between 11.10 p.m. and 11.30.

"We now come to what is the most important discovery of all--the pieces
of candle-grease we found in the murdered man's bedroom. They help to
establish two curious facts, the least important of which is that
somebody tried to light the gas in Mr. Glenthorpe's room last night,
and, failing to do so, went downstairs and turned on the gas at the
meter."

"What if they did?" grunted Superintendent Galloway, pouring out another
glass of brandy. He was secretly annoyed at having overlooked the clue
of the umbrella silk, and was human enough to be angry with the
detective for opening his eyes to the fact. "I don't see how you're
going to prove it, and, even if you did, it doesn't matter a dump one
way or the other."

"We'll let that point go," rejoined Colwyn curtly. "Your attitude in
shutting your eyes to facts hardly encourages me to proceed, but I'll
try. Would you mind showing me those bits of candle-grease you picked up
in the bedroom?"

Superintendent Galloway produced a metal match-box from his pocket,
emptied some pieces of candle-grease, a burnt wooden match and a broken
matchhead from it, and sat back eyeing the detective with a supercilious
smile. Colwyn, after examining them closely, brought from his own pocket
an envelope, and shook several more pieces of candle-grease on the
table.

"Look at these pieces of candle-grease side by side," he said. "Yours
were picked up alongside the bed; I found mine underneath the gas
burner."

Superintendent Galloway glanced at the pieces of candle-grease with the
same supercilious smile. "I see them," he said. "They are pieces of
candle-grease. What of them?"

"Do you not see that they are different kinds of candle-grease? The
pieces you picked up alongside the bed are tallow; mine, picked up from
underneath the gas-globe, are wax."

The Superintendent had not noticed the difference in the candle-grease,
but he thought it beneath his dignity to examine them again. "The
murderer may have had two candles," he said oracularly. "Anyway, what
does it matter? They're both candle-grease."

Colwyn swept his fragments back into his pocket with a quick impatient
gesture. "Both candle-grease, as you say," he returned sharply. "We do
not seem to be making much progress in our investigations, so let us
discontinue them. Good-night."



CHAPTER X


Colwyn went to bed, but not to sleep. Hour after hour he lay awake,
staring into the darkness, endeavouring to put together the facts he had
discovered during the afternoon's investigations at the inn. But they
resembled those irritating odd-shaped pieces of a puzzle which refuse to
fit into the remainder no matter which way they are turned. Try as he
would, he could not fit his clues into harmony with the police theory of
the murder.

On the other hand, he could not, nor did he attempt, to shut his eyes to
the strong case against Ronald, for he fully realised that there was
much to be explained in the young man's actions before any alternative
theory to that held by the police could be sustained. But so far he did
not see his way to an alternative theory. He sought vainly for a
foundation on which to build his clues and discoveries; for some
overlooked trifle which would help him to read aright the true order and
significance of the jumbled assortment of events in this strange case.

In the first place, was Ronald's explanation, about losing his way and
wandering to the inn by chance, the true one? The police accepted it
without question, but was it likely that a man who was in the habit of
taking long walks about the coast would lose his way easily? As against
that doubt, there were the statements of the innkeeper and the deaf
waiter that they had never seen Ronald before. If Ronald were not
guilty, why had he departed so hurriedly from the inn that morning? And
if he were not the murderer what was the explanation of the damning
evidence of the footprints leading to the pit in which the body of the
murdered man had been flung? If the discovery of the two kinds of
candle-grease in Mr. Glenthorpe's bedroom indicated that two persons
were in the room on the night of the murder, who were those two persons,
and what did they both go there for?

He reflected that his only tangible reason, so far, for not accepting
the police theory was based on the belief that two people had been in
the murdered man's room, and that belief rested on the discovery of a
spot of candle-grease which in itself was merely presumptive, but not
conclusive evidence. It was necessary to establish beyond doubt the
supposition that two people had been in the room before he could presume
to draw inferences from it. And, if he succeeded in establishing that
supposition, might not Ronald have been one of the two persons, and the
actual murderer? What was the significance of the broken incandescent
burner, the turned-on gas, and the faint mark under the window?

These questions revolved in Colwyn's head in a circle, always bringing
him back to his starting point that the solution of the case did not lie
on the surface, and that the police theory could not be made to fit in
with his own discoveries. The latter were in themselves internal
evidence that the whole truth had not yet been brought to light.

Gradually the line of the circle grew nebulous, and Colwyn was fast
falling asleep through sheer weariness, when a slight sharp sound, like
that made by turning a key in a lock, brought him back to wide-eyed
wakefulness. He sat up in bed, listening with strained ears, feeling for
the box of matches at his bedside. He found them, and endeavoured to
strike a light. But the matches were war matches, and one after another
broke off in his hand against the side of the box. He tried holding the
next close to the head, but the head flew off. With a muttered
malediction on British manufacturers, Colwyn struck several more in
rapid succession before he succeeded in lighting the candle at his
bedside. He got quietly out of bed, and, leaving the candle on the
table, opened his door noiselessly and looked out into the passage.

He had been put to sleep in a small bedroom in the deserted upstairs
wing where the murder had been committed. His room was opposite the
lumber room, which was three doors away from the room in which the body
of the dead man lay. When the question of accommodation for
Superintendent Galloway and himself had been discussed, the former had
chosen to have a bed made up in the bar parlour downstairs as more
comfortable and snug than any of the bedrooms upstairs, but Colwyn had
consented to sleep in the deserted wing. The innkeeper, who had lighted
him upstairs, had apologised for the humble room and scanty furniture,
but Colwyn had laughingly accepted the shortcomings of the room as a
point of no importance, and had stood at his door for some moments
watching a queer effect in shadows caused by the innkeeper's candle
throwing gigantic wavering outlines of his gaunt retreating figure on
the bare stone wall as he went down the side passage to his own bedroom.

Colwyn, looking out into the passage, could hear or see nothing to
account for the sound that had startled him into wakefulness. The candle
by his bedside gave a feeble glimmer which did not reach to the door,
and the passage was as dark and silent as the interior of a vault. The
stillness and blackness seemed to float into the bedroom like a cloud.
But he was certain he had not been mistaken. A door had been unlocked
somewhere in the darkness, and it had been unlocked by human hands. Who
had come to that deserted wing of the inn in the small hours, and on
what business? He decided to explore the passage and find out.

He left the door of his room partly open while he donned a few articles
of clothing, and pulled a pair of slippers on his feet. He glanced at
his watch, and noted with surprise that it wanted but a few minutes to
three o'clock. He extinguished his candle and, taking his electric
torch, crept silently into the passage.

He recalled the arrangements of the rooms as he had observed them the
previous afternoon. There were three more bedrooms adjoining his, all
empty. On the other side of the passage was the lumber room opposite,
next came the room in which Ronald slept, then the dead man's room, and
finally the sitting-room he had occupied. The door of the sitting-room
opened not very far from the head of the stairs.

Colwyn first examined the bedrooms on his side of the passage, stepping
as noiselessly as a cat, opening and shutting each door without a sound,
and scrutinising the interiors by the light of his torch. They were
empty and deserted, as he had seen them the previous afternoon. On
reaching the end of the passage he glanced over the head of the
staircase, but there was no light glimmering in the square well of
darkness and no sound in the lower part of the house to suggest that
anybody was stirring downstairs. He turned away, and made his way back
along the passage, trying the doors on the other side with equal
precaution as he went. The first three doors--the sitting-room, the
murdered man's bedroom, and Ronald's bedroom--were locked, as he had
seen them locked the previous afternoon by Superintendent Galloway, who
had carried the keys away with him until after the inquest on the body.

The lumber room at the other end of the passage had not been locked, and
the door stood ajar. Colwyn entered it, and by the glancing light of the
torch looked over the heavy furniture, mouldering linen, and stiffly
upended bedpoles and curtain rods which nearly filled the room. The
clock of a bygone generation stood on the mantel-piece, and the black
winding hole in its white face seemed to leer at him like an evil eye as
the light of the torch fell on it. But nobody had been in the room. The
dust which encrusted the furniture and the floor had not been disturbed
for months.

Colwyn returned, puzzled, to his own room. Could he have been mistaken?
Was it possible that the sound he had heard had been caused by the door
of the lumber room swinging to? No! the sound had been too clear and
distinct to admit the possibility of mistake, and it had been made by
the grating of a key in a lock, not by a swinging door. He stood in the
darkness by his open door, listening intently. Several minutes passed in
profound silence, and then there came a scraping, spluttering sound.
Somebody not far away had struck a match. Looking cautiously out into
the passage, he saw, to his utter amazement, a gleam of light appear
beneath the door in which the dead man lay. The next moment the gleam
moved up the line of the door sideways, cutting into the darkness
outside like a knife. The gleam became broader until the whole door was
revealed. Somebody inside was opening it. Even as he looked a hand stole
forth from the aperture through which the light streamed, and rested on
the jamb outside.

Colwyn was a man of strong nerves, but that sudden manifestation of
light and a human hand from a sealed death chamber momentarily
unbalanced his common sense, and caused it to swing like a pendulum
towards the supernatural. He would not have been surprised if the light
and the hand had been followed by the apparition of the murdered man on
the threshold, demanding vengeance on his murderer. The feeling passed
immediately, and with the return of reason the detective stepped back
into his room, closed his door quietly, and watched through a knife's
edge slit for the visitor to the death chamber to appear.

The door of the dead man's room opened gently, and the face of the
innkeeper's daughter peered forth into the darkness, her impassive face,
behind which everything was hid, showing like a beautiful waxen mask
against the light of the candle she held in her hand. Her clear gaze
rested on Colwyn's door, and it seemed to him for a moment as though
their glances met through the slit, then her eyes swept along the
passage from one end to the other. As if satisfied by the scrutiny that
she had nothing to fear, she stepped forth from the death chamber,
closed and locked the door behind her, withdrew the key, walked swiftly
along the passage to the head of the stairs, and descended them.

Colwyn opened his door and followed her. He paused outside to pick up
the boots which he had placed there to be cleaned, and carrying them in
his hand, ran quickly to the head of the stairs. Looking over the
landing, he saw the girl reach the bottom of the stairs and turn down
the passage towards the back door, still carrying the lighted candle in
her hand.

When Colwyn reached the bottom, the girl and the light had disappeared.
But a swift gust of wind in the passage revealed to him that she had
gone out by the back door, and closed it after her. He followed along
the passage till he felt the latch of the back door in his hand. The
door yielded to the lifting of the latch, and he found himself in the
open air.

It was a grey northern night, with a bitter wind driving the sea mist in
billows over the marshes, and a waning half moon shining fitfully
through the dingy clouds which scudded across a lead-coloured sky. By
the light of the moon he saw the figure of the girl, already some
distance from the house, swiftly making her way along the reedy canal
path which threaded the oozing marshes.

Colwyn was not a stranger to marshlands. He had waded knee-deep from dawn
to dusk through Irish bogs after wild geese; he had followed the
migratory seafowl of Finland, Russia and Serbia into their Scottish
breeding haunts, and he had once tried to keep pace with the sweep of
the Bore over the Solway Marshes, but he had never undertaken a task so
difficult as following this girl across a Norfolk marshland. The path
she trod so unhesitatingly was narrow, and slippery, with the canal on
one side and the marshes on the other. In keeping clear of the canal
Colwyn frequently found himself slipping into the marshes. His feet and
legs speedily became wet and caked with ooze, and once he nearly lost
one of his boots, which he had pulled on hurriedly outside the inn, and
left unlaced.

But the girl walked straight on with a swift and even gait, treading the
narrow path across the morass as securely as though she had been on the
high road. Colwyn soon realised that the path they were following was
taking them straight across the marshes to the sea. The surging of the
waves against the breakwater sounded increasingly loud on his ears, and
after a while he saw the breakwater itself rise momentarily out of the
darkness like a yellow wall, only to disappear again. But presently it
was visible once more, looming out in increasing clearness, with a
ghostly glimmering of the grey waters of the North Sea heaving
turbulently outside.

As they neared the breakwater the path became drier and firmer, and the
light of the moon, falling through a ragged rift in the scurrying
clouds, showed a line of sand banks and strips of tussock-land emerging
from the marshes as the marshes approached the sea.

The girl kept on with the same resolute pace, until she reached a spot
where the canal found its outlet to the sea. There she turned aside and
skirted the breakwater wall for a little distance, as if searching for
something. The next moment she was scaling the breakwater wall. Colwyn
was too far away to intercept her, or reach her if she slipped. He
stopped and watched her climb to the top of the wall, and stand there,
like a creature of the sea, with the spray leaping hungrily at her
slight figure. He saw her take something from the bosom of her dress and
cast it into the wild waste of seething waters in front of her. Having
done this she turned to descend the breakwater. Colwyn had barely time
to leave the path, and take refuge in the shadow of the wall, before she
reached the path again and set out to retrace her steps across the
lonely marshes.



CHAPTER XI


Colwyn waited on the marshes until the coming of the dawn revealed the
breakwater and the sea crashing against it. A brief scrutiny of the
white waste of waters, raging endlessly against the barrier, convinced
him of the futility of attempting to discover what the innkeeper's
daughter had thrown from the breakwater wall an hour before. The sea
would retain her secret.

The sea mist hung heavily over the marshes as Colwyn cautiously picked
his way back along the slippery canal path. Sooner than he expected, the
inn appeared from the grey mist like a sheeted ghost. Colwyn stood for a
few moments regarding the place attentively. There was something weird
and sinister about this lonely inn on the edge of the marshes. Strange
things must have happened there in the past, but the lawless secrets of
a bygone generation of smugglers had been safely kept by the old inn.
The cold morning light imparted the semblance of a leer to the circular
windows high up in the white wall, as though they defied the world to
discover the secret of the death of Roger Glenthorpe.

There was no sign of life about the inn as Colwyn approached it. The
back door yielded to his pull on the latch, and he gained his room
unobserved; apparently all the inmates were still wrapped in slumber.
Colwyn spent half an hour or so in making some sort of a toilet. He had
brought a suit-case with him in the car, so he changed his wet clothes,
shaved himself in cold water, washed, and brushed his hair. He looked
at his watch, and found that it was after six o'clock. He wondered if
the girl Peggy was sleeping after her night's adventure.

A swishing noise, somewhere in the lower regions, broke the profound
stillness of the house. Somebody was washing the floor, somewhere.
Colwyn opened his door and went downstairs. Ann, the stout servant, was
washing the passage. She was on her hands and knees, with her back
towards the staircase, swabbing vigorously, and did not see the
detective descending the stairs.

"Good morning, Ann," said Colwyn, pleasantly.

She turned her head quickly, with a start, and Colwyn could have sworn
that the quick glance she gave him was one of fear. But she merely said,
"Good morning, sir," and went on with her work, while the detective
stood looking at her. She finished the passage in a few minutes and got
awkwardly to her feet, wiping her red hands on her coarse apron.

"You and I are the only early risers in the house, it seems, Ann," said
Colwyn, still regarding her attentively.

"If you please, sir, Charles is up, and gone out to the canal to see if
there are any fish for breakfast on the master's night lines."

"Fresh fish for breakfast! Well, that's a very good thing," replied the
detective, reflecting it was just as well that he had got in before
Charles went out. "What time does Mr. Benson come down?"

"About half-past seven, sir, as a general rule, but sometimes he has his
breakfast in bed."

"That's not a bad idea at times, Ann. But I see you are impatient to get
on with your work. Would you mind if I went into the kitchen and talked
to you while you are preparing breakfast?"

Again there was a gleam of fear in the woman's eyes as she looked
quickly at the detective, but her voice was self-possessed as she
replied:

"Very well, sir," and turned down the passage which led to the kitchen.

"What time was it when you turned off the gas the night before last?"
asked Colwyn, when the kitchen was reached. "You told us yesterday that
it was about half-past ten, but you did not seem very sure of the exact
time. Can you not fix it accurately? Try and think."

The look the woman gave Colwyn this time was undoubtedly one of relief.

"Well, sir," she said, "I usually turn off the gas at ten o'clock, but,
to tell you the truth, I was a little bit late that night."

"A little bit late, eh? That means you forgot all about it."

"I did forget about it, and that's the truth. The master told me not to
turn off the meter until the gentlemen in the parlour upstairs had gone
to bed. Charles told me when he came down from the upstairs parlour with
the last of the dinner things that the gentlemen were still sitting in
front of the fire talking, but some time after Charles had come down and
gone to bed I heard them moving about upstairs, as though they were
going to their rooms."

"What time was that?" asked the detective.

"Just half-past ten. I happened to glance at the kitchen clock at the
time. Charles, who had been told that he wouldn't be wanted upstairs
again, had gone to bed quite half an hour before, but I didn't go until
I had folded some clothes which I had airing in front of the kitchen
fire. When I did get to bed, and was just falling off to sleep, I
suddenly remembered that I had forgotten to turn off the gas at the
meter. I got out of bed again, lit my candle, and went up the passage to
the meter, which is just under the foot of the stairs, turned off the
gas, and went back to bed."

"Did you notice the time then?"

"The kitchen clock was just chiming eleven as I got back to my bed."

"You are sure it was not twelve?"

"Quite sure, sir."

"Did you hear any sound upstairs?"

"No, sir. It was as quiet as the dead."

"Was it raining at that time?"

"It started to rain heavens hard just as I got back to bed, but before
that the wind was moaning round the house, as it do moan in these parts,
and I knew we was in for a storm. I was glad enough to get back to my
warm bed."

"You might have seen something, if you had been a little later. The
staircase is the only way the body could have been brought down from
_there_." The detective pointed to the room above where the dead man
lay.

The woman trembled violently.

"It's God's mercy I didn't see something," she said, and her voice fell
to a husky whisper. "I should 'a' died wi' fright if I had seen _it_
being brought downstairs. All day long I've been thanking God I didn't
see anything."

"Do nobody else but you and Charles sleep downstairs?"

"Nobody, sir. I sleep in a small room off the kitchen, but Charles
sleeps in one of the rooms in the passage which leads off the kitchen,
the first room, not far from my own. But that'd been no help to me if
I'd seen anything. I might have screamed the house down before Charles
would have heard me, he being stone deaf."

"Quite true, Ann. And now is that all you have to tell me about the
gas?"

The woman seemed to have some difficulty in replying, but finally she
stammered out in an embarrassed voice, plucking at her apron the while:

"Yes, sir."

"Look at me, Ann, and tell me the truth. Come now, it will be better for
everybody."

The countrywoman looked at the detective with whitening face, and there
was something in his penetrating gaze that kept her frightened eyes
fixed on his.

"Please, sir----"

"Yes, Ann, go on," prompted the detective encouragingly.

But the woman didn't go on; there crept into her face instead an
obstinate look, her mouth closed tightly, and her hands ceased
twitching.

"I've told you everything, sir," she said quietly.

"You've not told me you found the meter turned on when you got up next
morning," replied the detective sternly.

The woman's fat face turned haggard with anxiety, and then she began to
cry softly with her apron to her eyes.

"Why did you not tell us this, Ann?"

"If you please, sir, I thought that the master mightn't like it if he
knew. He's very particular about having the gas turned off at night, and
he might have thought I had forgotten it."

Colwyn gave her another searching look.

"Even if that were true, Ann, you have no right to keep back anything
that may tend to shield the guilty, or injure the innocent."

"I didn't think it mattered, sir."

"You still say that you heard nothing after you went to bed?"

"No, sir. I fell asleep as soon as I got into bed."

"So you said before, but you did not tell us the whole truth yesterday,
you know, and I do not know whether to believe you now."

"Hush, sir, there's somebody coming down the passage."

Colwyn strolled into the passage and encountered Superintendent Galloway
coming towards the kitchen. He stared at the detective and exclaimed:

"Hello, you're up early."

"Yes; I found it difficult to sleep, so I came downstairs."

"I hope you've not been making love to Ann," said Galloway, who had his
own sense of humour. "I'm looking for this infernal waiter, Charles. He
is never about when he's wanted. Charles! Charles!"

Superintendent Galloway's shouts brought Ann hurrying from the kitchen,
and she explained to him, as she had explained to Colwyn, that Charles
had gone on to the marshes to look for fish.

"Send him to my room as soon as he comes in; I've other fish for him to
fry," grumbled the superintendent. "A queer household this," he said to
Colwyn, as they walked along the passage. "Ah, here is Charles, fish and
all."

The fat waiter was hurrying in with a string of fish in his hand, and he
came towards them in response to Superintendent Galloway's commanding
gesture. The superintendent told him to go out and intercept Constable
Queensmead before he went out with his search party, and bring him to
the inn. Charles nodded an indication that he understood the
instruction, and turned away to execute it.

"I want Queensmead to get a dozen of the village blockheads together for
a jury," he said to Colwyn. "The coroner sent me word before we left
Durrington yesterday that he'd be over this morning, but he did not say
what time, and I forgot to ask him. He's the man to kick up a devil of a
shindy if he came and found we were not ready for him."

Queensmead speedily appeared in response to the summons, listened
quietly to Superintendent Galloway's laconic command to catch a jury and
catch them quick, and went back to the village to secure twelve good men
and true.

Colwyn and Galloway meanwhile breakfasted together in the bar parlour,
on some of the fish which Charles had brought in. As nothing followed
the fish Superintendent Galloway, who was an excellent trencherman, rang
the bell and ordered the waiter to bring some eggs and bacon. The waiter
hesitated a moment, and then said that he believed they were out of
bacon. There were some eggs, if they would do.

"Bring me a couple, boiled, as quick as you like," said the
superintendent. "This is a queer kind of inn," he grumbled to Colwyn.
"They don't give you enough to eat."

"I think they're a little short themselves," replied Colwyn.

"By Jove, I believe you're right!" said the superintendent, staring hard
at the edibles on the table before him. "There's not much here--a piece
of butter no bigger than a walnut, a spoonful of jam, and tea as weak
as water. Come to think of it, they gave us nothing but some of
Glenthorpe's left over game for dinner last night. You're right, they
are _hard up_."

Superintendent Galloway looked at Colwyn with as much animation on his
heavy features as though he had lighted on some new and important
discovery. Colwyn, who had finished his breakfast and was not
particularly interested in the conversation, strolled out with the
intention of smoking a cigar outside the front door. In the passage he
encountered Ann, bearing a tray with two cups and saucers, a pot of tea
and some bread and butter which she proceeded to carry upstairs. Colwyn
wondered for whom the breakfast was intended. There were three people
upstairs--the father, his daughter, and the poor mad woman, and the
breakfast was laid for two. The appearance of the innkeeper descending
the stairs, answered the question. Colwyn accosted him as he came down.

"You're a late riser, Benson."

"Yes, sir, it's a bit difficult to handle Mother in the morning: the
only way to keep her quiet is for me to stay with her until Peggy is
ready to go to her and give her her breakfast. Mother is quiet enough
with Peggy and me, but nobody else can do anything with her, and
sometimes nobody can do anything with her except my daughter. She spends
a lot of time with her, sir."

The innkeeper looked more like a bird than ever as he proffered this
explanation, standing at the foot of the stairs dressed as he had been
the previous night, with his bright bird's eyes peering from beneath his
shock of iron-grey hair at the man in front of him. Colwyn noticed that
his hair had been recently wet, and plastered straight down so that it
hung like a ridge over his forehead--just as it had been the previous
night. Colwyn wondered why the man wore his hair like that. Did he
always affect that eccentric style of hairdressing, or had he adopted it
to alter his personal appearance--to disguise himself, or to conceal
something?

"It's no life for a young girl," said the detective, in answer to the
innkeeper's last remark.

"I know that, sir. But what am I to do? I cannot afford to keep a nurse.
Peggy never complains. She's used to it. But if you'll excuse me, sir. I
must go and get the room ready for the inquest."

"What room is it going to be held in?"

"Superintendent Galloway told me to put a table and some chairs into the
last empty room off the passage leading into the kitchen. It's the
biggest room in the house, and there are plenty of chairs in the lumber
room upstairs."

"It should do excellently for the purpose, I should think," said Colwyn.

A few moments later he saw the innkeeper and the waiter carrying chairs
from the lumber room downstairs into the empty room, where Ann dusted
them. Then they carried in a small table from another room.
Superintendent Galloway, with inky fingers and a red face, and a sheaf
of foolscap papers in his hand, came bustling out of the bar parlour to
superintend the arrangements. When the chairs had been placed to his
liking he ordered the innkeeper to bring him a glass of ale. While he
was drinking it Constable Queensmead entered the front door with a file
of shambling, rough-looking villagers trailing behind him, and announced
to his superior officer that the men were intended to form a jury.
Superintendent Galloway seemed quite satisfied with their appearance,
and remarked to Colwyn that he didn't care how soon the coroner
arrived--now he had the jury and witnesses ready for him.

"How many witnesses do you propose to call?" said Colwyn.

"Five: Queensmead, Benson, the waiter, and the two men who found the
footprints leading to the pit and who recovered the body and brought it
here. That's enough for a committal. The coroner will no doubt bring a
doctor from Heathfield to certify the cause of death. I've got all the
statements ready. I took Benson's and the waiter's yesterday. The
waiter's evidence is the principal thing, of course. Do you remember
suggesting to me last night the possibility of this murder having been
committed by one of Mr. Glenthorpe's workmen with a grudge against him?
Well, it's a very strange thing, but Queensmead was telling me this
morning that one of Mr. Glenthorpe's workmen had a grudge against him.
He's a chap named Hyson, the local ne'er-do-well, who was almost
starving when Mr. Glenthorpe came to the district. Glenthorpe was warned
against employing him, but the fellow got round him with a piteous tale,
and he put him on. He proved to be just as ungrateful as the average
British workman, and caused the old gentleman a lot of trouble. He seems
to have been a bit of a sea lawyer, and tried to disaffect the other
workmen by talking to them about socialism, and the rights of labour,
and that sort of rubbish. When I heard this I had the chap brought to
the inn and cross-questioned him a bit, but I am certain that he had
nothing to do with the murder. He's a weak, spineless sort of chap, full
of argument and fond of beer--that's his character in the village--and
the last man in the world to commit a murder like this. I flatter
myself," added Superintendent Galloway in a tone of mingled
self-complacency and pride, "that I know a murderer when I see one."

"Have you made any inquiries about umbrellas?" asked Colwyn.

"Yes. Apparently Ronald did not bring an umbrella with him, though it's
cost me some trouble to establish that fact. It is astonishing how
unobservant people are about such things as umbrellas, sticks, and
handbags. Most people remember faces and clothes with some accuracy, but
cannot recall whether a person carried an umbrella or walking-stick.
Charles is not sure whether Ronald carried an umbrella, Benson thinks he
did not, and Ann is sure he didn't. The balance of evidence being on the
negative side, I assume that Ronald did not bring an umbrella to the
inn, because it was more likely to have been noticed if he had. I next
inquired about the umbrellas in the house. At first I was told there
were only two--a cumbrous, Robinson Crusoe sort of affair, kept in the
kitchen and used by the servant, and a smaller one, belonging to
Benson's daughter. I have examined both. The covering of the girl's
umbrella is complete. Ann's is rent in several places, but the covering
is blue, whereas the piece of umbrella covering we found adhering to Mr.
Glenthorpe's window is black. While I was questioning Ann she suddenly
remembered that there was another umbrella in that lumber-room upstairs.
We went upstairs to look for it, but we couldn't find it, though Ann
says she saw it there a day or two before the murder. I think we may
assume that Ronald took it."

"But Ronald was a stranger to the place. How would he know the umbrella
was in the lumber-room?" said Colwyn, who had followed Galloway's
narrative with close attention.

"The door of the lumber-room stands ajar. Ronald probably looked in from
curiosity, and saw the umbrella."

The easy assurance with which Superintendent Galloway dismissed or got
over difficulties which interfered with his own theory did not commend
itself to Colwyn, but he did not pursue the point further.

"Is the umbrella still missing?" he asked.

"Yes. It seems that even a murderer cannot be trusted to return an
umbrella." Superintendent Galloway laughed shortly at his grim joke and
walked away to supervise the preparations for the inquest.

The coroner presently arrived from Heathfield in a small runabout
motor-car which he drove himself, with a tall man sitting beside him,
and a short pursy young man in the back seat nursing a portable
typewriter and an attaché case on his knees. Toiling in the rear, some
distance behind the car, was a figure on a bicycle, which subsequently
turned out to be the reporter of the Heathfield local paper, who had
come over with instructions from one of the London agencies to send a
twenty line report of the inquest for the London press. In peace times
"specials" would probably have been despatched from the metropolis to
"do a display story," and interview some of the persons concerned, but
the war had discounted by seventy-five per cent the value of murders as
newspaper "copy."

The coroner, a short, stout, commonplace little man, jumped out of the
car as soon as it stopped, and bustled into the inn with an air of fussy
official importance, leaving his companions to follow.

"Good day, Galloway," he exclaimed, as that officer came forward to
greet him. "I hope you've got everything ready."

"Everything's ready, Mr. Edgehill. Do you intend to commence before
lunch?"

"Of course I do. Are you aware that it is war-time? How many witnesses
have you?"

"Five, sir. Their statements have all been taken."

"Then I shall go straight through--it seems a simple case--merely a
matter of form, from what I have heard of it. I have another inquest at
Downside at four o'clock. Where's the body? Upstairs? Doctor"--this to
the tall thin man who had sat beside him in the run-about--"will you go
upstairs with Queensmead and make your examination? Where's the jury?
Pendy"--this to the young man with the typewriter and attaché case--"get
everything ready and swear in the jury. Galloway will show you the room.
What's that? Oh, that's quite all right"--this in reply to some murmured
apology on the part of Superintendent Galloway for the mental incapacity
of the jury--"we ought to be glad to get juries at all--in war-time."

Colwyn had feared that the result of the inquest was a foregone
conclusion the moment he saw the coroner alighting from his motor-car
outside the inn. Ten minutes later, when the little man had commenced
his investigations, he realised that the proceedings were merely a
formal compliance with the law, and in no sense of the word an inquiry.

Mr. Edgehill, the coroner, was one of those people who seized upon the
war as a pretext for the exercise of their natural proclivity to
interfere in other people's affairs. He took the opportunity that every
inquest gave him to lecture the British public on their duties and
responsibilities in war-time. The body on which he was sitting formed
his text, the jury was his congregation, and the newspaper reporters the
vehicles by which his admonitions were conveyed to the nation. Mr.
Edgehill saw a shirker in every suicide, national improvidence in a
corpse with empty pockets, and had even been able to discover a
declining war _morale_ in death by misadventure. He thanked God for air
raids and food queues because they brought the war home to civilians,
and he was never tired of asserting that he lived on half the voluntary
rations scale, did harder work, felt ten years younger, and a hundred
times more virtuous, in consequence.

If he did not actually insert the last clause his look implied a
superior virtue to his fellow creatures, and was meekly accepted as
such. He never held an inquest without introducing some remarks upon
uninterned aliens, the military age, Ireland and conscription, soldiers'
wives and drinking, the prevalence of bigamy, and other popular war-time
topics. In short, Mr. Edgehill, like many other people, had used the war
to emerge from a chrysalis existence as a local bore into a butterfly
career as a public nuisance. In that capacity he was still good "copy"
in some of the London newspapers, and was even occasionally referred to
in leading articles as a fine example of the sturdy country spirit which
Londoners would do well to emulate.

Before commencing his inquiry into the death of Mr. Glenthorpe, the
coroner indignantly expressed his surprise that a small hamlet like
Flegne could produce so many able-bodied men to serve on a jury in
war-time. But after ascertaining that all the members of the jury were
over military age, with the exception of one man who was afflicted with
heart disease, he suffered the inquest to proceed.

The evidence of the innkeeper and the waiter was a repetition of the
story they had told to the chief constable on the preceding day.
Constable Queensmead, in his composed way, gave an account of his
preliminary investigations into the crime, and the finding of the body.

The only additional evidence brought forward was given by two of the men
who had been in the late Mr. Glenthorpe's employ. These men, Herward and
Duney, had found the track of the footprints in the clay near the pit on
going to work the previous morning. After the discovery that Mr.
Glenthorpe was missing from the inn, Herward had been let down into the
pit by a rope, and had brought up the body. Both these men told their
story with a wealth of unlettered detail, and Duney, who was one of the
aboriginals of the district, added his personal opinion that t'oud
ma'aster mun 'a' been very dead afore the chap got him in the pit, else
he would 'a' dinged one of the chap's eyes in, t'oud ma'aster not bein'
a man to be taken anywhere against his will. However, the chap that
carried him must 'a' been powerful strong, because Herward told him his
own arms were begunnin' ter ache good tidily just a-howdin' him up to
the rope when they wor being a-hawled out the pit.

The coroner, in his summing up, dwelt upon the strong circumstantial
evidence against Ronald, and the folly of the deceased in withdrawing a
large sum of money from the bank for the purpose of carrying out
scientific research in war-time. "Had he invested that money in war
bonds he would have probably been alive to-day," said Mr. Edgehill
gravely. The jury had no hesitation in returning a verdict of wilful
murder against James Ronald.

The coroner, the doctor, the clerk carrying the typewriter and the
attaché case, and Superintendent Galloway departed in the runabout
motor-car shortly afterwards. Before evening a mortuary van, with two
men, appeared from Heathfield and removed the body of the murdered man.



CHAPTER XII


If the inmates of the inn felt any surprise at Colwyn's remaining after
the inquest, they did not betray it. That evening Ann nervously
intercepted him to ask if he would have a partridge for his dinner, and
Colwyn, remembering the shortness of the inn larder, replied that a
partridge would do very well. Later on Charles served it in the bar
parlour, and waited with his black eyes fixed on Colwyn's lips,
sometimes anticipating his orders before they were uttered. He brought a
bottle of claret from the inn cellar, assuring Colwyn in his soft
whisper that he would find the wine excellent, and Colwyn, after
sampling it, found no reason for disagreeing with the waiter's judgment.

At the conclusion of the meal Colwyn sent for the innkeeper, and asked
him a number of questions about the district and its inhabitants. The
innkeeper intimated that Flegne was a poor place at the best of times,
but the war had made it worse, and the poorer folk--the villagers who
lived in the beach-stone cottages--were sometimes hard-pressed to keep
body and soul together. They did what they could, eking out their scanty
earnings by eel-fishing on the marshes, and occasionally snaring a few
wild fowl. Mr. Glenthorpe's researches in the district had been a
godsend because of the employment he had given, which had brought a
little ready money into the place.

It was obvious to Colwyn's alert intelligence that the innkeeper did not
care to talk about his dead guest.

There was no visible reluctance--indeed, it would have been hard to
trace the sign of any particular emotion on his queer, bird-like
face--but his replies were slow in coming when questioned about Mr.
Glenthorpe, and he made several attempts to turn the conversation in
another direction. When he had finished a glass of wine Colwyn offered
him, he got up from the table with the remark that it was time for him
to return to the bar.

"I will go with you," said Colwyn. "It will help to pass away an hour."

There were about a dozen men in the bar--agricultural labourers and
fishermen--clustered in groups of twos and threes in front of the
counter, or sitting on stools by the wall, drinking ale by the light of
a smoky oil lamp which hung from the rafters. The fat deaf waiter was in
the earthy recess behind the counter, drawing ale into stone mugs.

A loud voice which had been holding forth ceased suddenly as Colwyn
entered. The inmates of the bar regarded him questioningly, and some
resentfully, as though they considered his presence an intrusion. But
Colwyn was accustomed to making himself at home in all sorts of company.
He walked across the bar, called for some whisky, and, while it was
being served, addressed a friendly remark to the nearest group to him.
One of the men, a white-bearded, keen-eyed Norfolk man, answered his
question civilly enough. He had asked about wild fowl shooting in the
neighbourhood, and the old man had been a water bailiff on the Broads in
his younger days. The question of sport will draw most men together. One
after another of the villagers joined in the conversation, and were soon
as much at home with Colwyn as though they had known him from boyhood.
Some of them were going eel-fishing that night, and Colwyn violated the
provisions of the "no treating" order to give them a glass of whisky to
keep out the cold of the marshes. The rest of the tap room he regaled
with ale.

From these Norfolk fishermen Colwyn learnt many of the secrets of the
wild and many cunning methods of capturing its creatures, but the real
object of his visit to the bar--to discover whether any of the
frequenters of the _Golden Anchor_ had ever seen Ronald in the district
before the evening of the murder--remained unsatisfied. He was a
stranger to "theer" parts, the men said, in response to questions on the
subject.

But "theer" parts were limited to a mile or so of the marshland in which
they spent their narrow, lonely lives. Their conversation revealed that
they seldom went outside that narrow domain. Durrington, which was
little more than ten miles away, was only a name to them. Many of them
had not been as far as Leyland for months. They spent their days
catching eels in the marsh canals, or in setting lobster and crab traps
outside the breakwater. The agricultural labourers tilled the same patch
of ground year after year. They had no recreations except an occasional
night at the inn; their existence was a lifelong struggle with Nature
for a bare subsistence. Most of them had been born in the beach-stone
cottages where their fathers had been born before them, and most of them
would die, as their fathers had died, in the little damp bedrooms where
they had first seen the light, passing away, as their fathers had passed
away, listening to the sound of the North Sea restlessly beating against
the breakwater. That sound was never out of their ears while they lived,
and it was the dirge to which they died. Such was their life, but they
knew no other, and wished no other.

Colwyn was early astir the following morning, and after breakfast went
out. His purpose was to try to discover something which would throw
light on Ronald's appearance at Flegne. With that object he scoured the
country for some miles in the direction of Heathfield, for he deemed the
possibility of Ronald having come by that route worth inquiring into.
But his time was wasted; none of his inquiries brought to light anything
to suggest that Ronald had ever been in the district before.

When he returned to the village the day was more than half spent. As he
entered the inn, he encountered Charles, who stopped when he saw him.

"There are two men in the bar asking to see you, sir," he said, in his
soft whisper. "Duney and Backlos are their names. They say they saw you
in the bar last night, and they would like to speak to you privately, if
you have no objection."

"Show them into the bar parlour," the detective said. "And, Charles, you
might ask Ann to let me have a little lunch when they are gone."

Colwyn proceeded to the bar parlour. A moment or two afterwards the
waiter ushered in two men and withdrew, closing the door after him.

In response to Colwyn's request, his two visitors seated themselves
awkwardly, but they seemed to have considerable difficulty in stating
the object of their visit. Duney, one of the men who had helped to
recover Mr. Glenthorpe's body from the pit, was a short, thickset,
hairy-faced man, with round surprised eyes, which he kept intently fixed
upon the detective's face, as though seeking inspiration for speech from
that source. The other man, Backlos, was a tall, hawk-featured man with
a sweeping black moustache, who needed only gaudy habiliments to make
him the ideal pirate king of the comic opera stage. It was he who spoke
first.

"If you please, ma'aster, we uns come to you thinkin' as you might gi'
us a bit o' advice."

"About somefin' we seed last night," explained Mr. Duney, finding his
own voice at the sound of his companion's.

"I thowt 'ow 'twas agreed 'tween us I wor to tell the gentleman, bor?"
growled the pirate king, turning a pair of dusky eyes on his companion.
"Yow allus have a way o' overdoin' things, you know, Dick."

"Right, bor, right," replied Mr. Duney. "Yow oughter know I only wanted
to help yow out, Billy."

"I dawn't want onny helpin' out," replied the pirate. "It's loike this
'ere, ma'aster," he continued, turning again to Colwyn. "Arter Dick and
I left the _Anchor_ las' night, we thowt we'd be walkin' a spell. We wor
a talkin' o' th' murder at th' time, and wonderin' what we wor to do fur
another job o' work, things bein' moighty bad heerabouts, when, as we
neared top o' th' rise, we heered the rummiest kind o' noise a man ever
heerd, comin' from that theer wood by th' pits. Dick says to me, in a
skeered kind of voice, 'That's fair a rum un,' says he. There wornt much
mune at th' time, but we could see things clar enough, and thow we
looked around us we couldn't see a livin' thing a movin' either nigh th'
woods nor on th' ma'shes. While we looked we seed a big harnsee rise out
o' th' woods and go a flappin' away across th' ma'shes. Then all of a
suddint we saw somefin' come a-wamblin' outer the shadder o' the wood,
and run along by th' edge of ut. We couldn't make out a' furst what it
moight be, thow for sure we got a rare fright. For my part, I thowt it
might a' been ole Black Shuck, thow th' night didn't seem windy enough
for un."

"Stop a bit," said Colwyn. "What do you mean by Black Shuck? Oh, I
remember. It's a Norfolk tradition or ghost story, isn't it? Black Shuck
is supposed to be a big black dog, with one eye in the middle of the
head, who runs without sound and howls louder than the wind. Whoever
meets him is sure to die before the year is out."

"That's him," said Mr. Backlos, affirming, with a grave nod of his head,
his own profound belief in the canine apparition in question. "My
grandfeyther seen un once not a hundred yards from the very spot were we
wor standin' last night, and, sure enough, he died afore three months
wor out. Dick and I couldn't tell what it wor we see creepin' out o' th'
shadder o' th' wood, an' to tell yow th' trewth, ma'aster, we didn't
care to look agen. I asked Dick if he didn't think it wor Black Shuck.
'Naw daywt,' says Dick, 'if it ain't somefin' worse.' 'What do'st a'
mean, bor?' says I. 'Well,' says Dick slowly like, 'it might be the
sperrit from th' pit, for 'twas in no mortal man to holler out like that
cry we just heered.' Wornt those yower words, bor?"

Mr. Duney, thus appealed to, nodded portentously, as though to indicate
that his words were well justified.

"Never mind the spirit from the pit," said Colwyn. "Go on with your
story."

"Well, ma'aster, just as we wor walkin' away from th' wood as fast as
ever we could, th' mune come out from behind th' shadder of a cloud, and
threw a light right ower th' wood. We just happened to give a glance
round ahind us at th' time, to see if we wor bein' follered, and, by its
light, we saw a man a creepin' back into th' wood."

"A man? Are you sure it was a man?"

"There's no manner o' doubt about that, ma'aster. We both saw it once,
and we didn't wait to look again. We run as hard as we could pelt to
Dick's cottage by the ma'shes, and got inside and stood listenin' to
heer if we were bein' follered. Dick says to me, says 'e, 'S'posen it
wor the chap who murdered owd Mr. Glenthorpe at the _Anchor_?' I thowt
as much meself, but a' tried to laugh it off, and says to Dick, 'What
for should it be him? He's far enough away by this time, for we s'arched
the place round fur miles, and we took in that theer wood where we just
see un.' 'We never s'arched th' wood,' says Dick, 'leastways, not
proper, an' it's a rare hidin' place for un.' 'So it be, to be sure,'
says I. 'If he sees that there light we'll be browt out from heer dead
men,' says Dick. 'So we will, for sartin,' says I. 'Let's put out th'
light, so th' bloody-minded murderer won't ha' narthin' to go by if he
ain't seen it yet.' So we put out th' light and stayed theer till th'
mornin', when we went out to work, and then when I seed Dick later we
thowt we'd come and tell you all about it, seein' as yower a gentleman,
and in consiquence a man of larnin', and might p'rhaps tell us what we'd
better do."

"You have certainly done the proper thing in disclosing what you have
seen," said the detective, after a thoughtful pause. "But why have you
come to me in the matter? It seems to me that the proper course to
pursue would be to lay your information before Constable Queensmead."

The two men exchanged a glance of conscious embarrassment. Then Mr.
Backlos, with the air of a man who had made up his mind to take the bull
by the horns, blurted out:

"It's like this, ma'aster. We be in a bit o' a fix about that. Yow see,
last night we were out arter conies, and thow I can swar we were out in
th' open and not lookin' for conies on annybody's land, cos Dick an' I
have already bin fined ten bob for snarin' conies on Farmer Cranley's
land, an' if we went to Queensmead he moight think we'd been a snarin'
there again. So Dick says to me, says he, 'Why not see the chap wot came
into th' _Anchor_ bar last night? Annybody can see wi' half an eye that
he's a real swell, for didn't he stand treat all round--an' wot he says
we'll go by, and 'e won't treat us dirty, whatever he says, though, mind
ye, bor, there's narthin' to gi' away. So let's go to thissun, an' tell
un all about it.'"

"I also tol' yow, Billy, that if thar be a reward out for this chap wot
killed Mr. Glenthorpe, thissun 'ud tell us how to get it without sharin'
wi' Queensmead, who does narthin' but take th' bread owt o' ower mouths,
he bein' so sharp about th' conies. For if this chap in th' woods is the
one wot killed owd Mr. Glenthorpe, we have a right to th' money for
cotchin' un. Didn't I say that, Billy?"

"Yow did, bor, yow did; them wor yower vaery words," acquiesced Mr.
Backlos.

"I think you had better leave the matter in my hands," said Colwyn, with
difficulty repressing a smile at this exceedingly Norfolk explanation.
"And now, you had better have a drink, for I am sure you must be dry
after all that talk."

The men, after drinking Colwyn's health in two mugs of ale, departed
with placid countenances, and Colwyn was left to meditate over the news
they had imparted. The result of his meditations was that he presently
went forth in search of Police Constable Queensmead.

The constable lived in the village street--in a beach-stone cottage which
was in slightly better repair than its neighbours, and much better kept.
There were white curtains in the windows, and in the garden a few late
stocks and hardy climbing roses were making a brave effort to bloom in
depressing surroundings. It was Queensmead who answered the door to the
detective's knock, and he led the way inside to his little office when
he saw who his visitor was.

"I do not think these chaps saw anything except what their own fears
created," he said, after Colwyn had told him as much of the two men's
story as he saw fit to impart. "I searched the wood thoroughly the day
after the murder. Ronald was not there then."

"He may have come back since."

Queensmead's dark eyes lingered thoughtfully on the detective's face, as
though seeking to gather the meaning underlying his words.

"Why should he do such a foolish thing, sir?" he asked.

"It is not always easy to account for a man's actions."

"It is hard to account for a man wanted by the police running his head
into a noose."

"Ronald may not know he is wanted by the police."

"Why, of course he must know. If he doesn't----" Queensmead broke off
suddenly and looked at the detective queerly, as if suddenly realising
all that the remark implied. "You must have some strange ideas about
this case," he added slowly.

"I have, but we won't go into them now," said the detective, with a
slight smile. He appreciated the fact that the other was, to use an
American colloquialism, "quick on the uptake." "Your immediate duty is
clear."

"You mean I should search the wood again?" said Queensmead, with the
same quick comprehension as before. "Very well. Will you come with me?"

Colwyn nodded, and Queensmead, without more ado, took a revolver and a
pair of handcuffs from a cupboard, slipped them into his pockets, and
announced that he was ready. He opened the door for his visitor to
precede him, and they set forth.

The hut circles on the rise looked more desolate than ever in the waning
afternoon light. The excavations commenced by Mr. Glenthorpe had been
abandoned, and a spade left sticking in the upturned earth had rusted in
the damp air. The track of the footprints to the pit in which the body
had been flung still showed distinctly in the clay, and the splash of
blood gleamed dully on the edge of the hole. On the other side of the
pit the trees of the wood stood in stunted outline against a lowering
black sky.

The two men entered the wood silently. The trees were of great age, the
trunks thick and gnarled, with low twisted boughs, running and
interlacing in every direction. So thickly were they intertwined that it
was twilight in the sombre depths of the wood, although the fierce winds
from the North Sea had already stripped the upper branches of leaves.
The ground was covered with a rank and rotting undergrowth, from which
tiny spirals of vapour, like gnomes' fires, floated upwards. The silence
was absolute; even the birds of the coast seemed to shun the place,
which looked as if it had been untrodden since the days when the beast
men of the Stone Age prowled through its dim recesses to the hut circles
on the rise.

Colwyn and Queensmead searched the wood and the matted undergrowth as
they progressed, closely scrutinising the ferny hollows, looking up into
the trees, examining the thickets and clumps of shrubs. They had reached
the centre of the wood, and were picking their way through a rank growth
of nettles which covered the decayed bracken, when Colwyn experienced a
mental perception as tangible as a cold hand placed upon the brow of a
sleeper. He had the swift feeling that there was somebody else besides
themselves in the solitude of the wood--somebody who was watching them.
He looked around him intently, and his eyes fell upon a screen of
interlaced branches which grew on the other side of the dip they were
traversing. Without any conscious effort on his own part, his eyes
travelled to the thickest part of the obstruction, and encountered
another pair of eyes gazing at him steadily from the depths of the leafy
screen. That gaze held his own for a moment, and then vanished. He
looked again, but the screen was now unbroken, and not the rustle of a
leaf betrayed the person who was concealed within.

Colwyn touched Queensmead's arm.

"There is somebody hiding in those bushes ahead of us," he whispered.

Queensmead's eyes ran swiftly along the clump of bushes ahead, and he
raised his revolver.

"Come out, or I'll fire!" he cried.

His sharp command shattered the heavy silence like the crack of a
firearm. The next moment the figure of a man broke from the twisted
branches and walked down the slope towards them. It was Ronald.

"Put up your hands, Ronald," commanded Queensmead sternly, poising the
revolver at the advancing man. "Put them up, or I'll fire."

"Fire if you like."

The words fell from Ronald's lips wearily, but he did not put up his
hands. His clothes were torn and stained, his face gaunt and lined, and
in his tired eyes was the look of a man who had lived in the solitudes
with no other companion but despair. Queensmead stepped forward and with
a swift gesture snapped the handcuffs on his wrist.

"I arrest you for the murder of Roger Glenthorpe," he said.

"I could have got away from you if I had wanted," said the young man
wearily. "But what was the use? I'm glad it is over."

"I warn you, Ronald, that any statement you now make may be used against
you on your trial," broke in Queensmead harshly.

"My good fellow, I know all about that." The sudden note of
imperiousness in his manner reminded Colwyn of the way in which he had
snubbed Sir Henry Durwood in his bedroom at the Durrington hotel three
mornings before. But it was in his previous indifferent tone that the
young man added: "Have either of you a spirit flask?"

Police Constable Queensmead eyed his captive with the critical eye of an
officer of justice upon whom devolved the responsibility of bringing his
man fit and well to trial. Ronald's face had gone haggard and white, and
he lurched a little in his walk. Then he stood still, and regarded the
two men weakly.

"I'm about done up," he admitted.

"We'd better take him to the inn and get him some brandy," said
Queensmead. "Take his other arm, will you?"

They returned slowly with Ronald between them. He did not ask where they
were taking him, but stumbled along on their supporting arms like a man
in a dream, with his eyes fixed on the ground. When clear of the wood,
Queensmead led his prisoner past the pit where Mr. Glenthorpe's body had
been cast, but Ronald did not even glance at the yawning hole alongside
of him. It was when they were descending the slope towards the inn that
Colwyn noticed a change in his indifferent demeanour. He raised his
head and surveyed the inn with sombre eyes, and then his glance
travelled swiftly to his pinioned hands. For a moment his frame
stiffened slightly, as though he were about to resist being taken
farther. But if that were his intention the mood passed. The next moment
he was walking along with his previous indifference.

When they reached the inn Queensmead asked Colwyn in a whisper to keep
an eye on the prisoner while he went inside and got the brandy. As soon
as he had gone Colwyn turned to Ronald and earnestly said:

"You may not know me, apart from our chance meeting at Durrington, but I
am anxious to help you, if you are innocent."

"I have heard of you. You are Colwyn, the private detective."

"That makes it easier then, for you will know that I have no object in
this case except to bring the truth to light. If you have anything to
say that will help me to do that I beg of you to do so. You may safely
trust me."

"I know that, Mr. Colwyn, but I have nothing to say." Ronald spoke
wearily--almost indifferently.

"Nothing?" Astonishment and disappointment were mingled in the
detective's voice.

"Nothing."

Before anything more could be said Queensmead reappeared from the inn
with some brandy in a glass. Ronald raised it to his lips with his
manacled hands, then turned away in response to an imperative gesture
from Queensmead. Colwyn stood where he was for a moment, watching them,
then turned to enter the inn. As he did so, his eyes fell upon the white
face of Peggy, framed in the gathering gloom of the passage, staring
with frightened eyes at the retreating forms of the village constable
and his prisoner. She slipped out of the door and took a few hurried
steps in their direction. But when she reached the strip of green which
bordered the side of the inn she stopped with a despairing gesture, as
though realising the futility of her effort, and turned to retrace her
steps. Colwyn advanced rapidly towards her.

"I want to speak to you," he said curtly.

She stood still, but there was a prescient flash in her eyes as she
looked at him.

"You were in the dead man's room last night," he said. "What were you
doing there?"

"I do not know that it is any business of yours," she replied, in a low
tone.

"I do not think you had better adopt that attitude," he said quietly.
"You know you had no right to go into that room. I do not wish to
threaten you, but you had better tell me the truth."

She stood silent for a moment, as though weighing his words. Then she
said:

"I will tell you why I went there, not because I am afraid of anything
you can do, but because I am not afraid of the truth. I went there
because of a promise I made to Mr. Glenthorpe. He was very kind and good
to me--when he was alive. Only two days before he met his death he asked
me, if anything happened to him at any time, to go to his bedroom and
remove a packet I would find in a little secret drawer in his writing
table, and destroy it without opening it. He showed me where the packet
was, and how to open the drawer. After he was dead I thought of my
promise, and tried several times to slip into the room and get the
packet, but there was always somebody about. So I went in last night,
after everybody was in bed, because I thought the police might find the
packet in searching his desk, and I should have been very unhappy if I
had not been able to keep my promise."

"How did you get into the room? The door was locked, and Superintendent
Galloway had the key."

"He left it on the mantelpiece downstairs. I saw it there earlier in the
evening, and when he was out of the room I slipped in and took it, and
put the key of my own room in its place. I replaced it next morning."

"What did you do with the packet you removed?"

"I took it across the marshes and threw it into the sea," she replied,
looking steadily into his face.

"Why did you go to that trouble? Why did you not burn it?"

"I had no fire, and I dared not keep it till the morning. Besides, there
were rings and things in the packet--his dead wife's jewellery. He told
me so."

He looked at her keenly. She had told him the truth about her visit to
the breakwater, but how much of the rest of her story was true?

"So that is your explanation?" he said.

"Yes."

"I am sorry to say that I find it difficult to believe. If you are
deceiving me you are very foolish."

"I have told you the truth, Mr. Colwyn," she said, and, turning away,
returned to the inn.



CHAPTER XIII


Ronald's strange silence after his arrest decided Colwyn to relinquish
his investigations and return to Durrington. His tacit admissions,
coupled with the damaging evidence against him, enforced conviction in
the young man's guilt in spite of the detective's previous belief to the
contrary. In assisting Queensmead in his search Colwyn had cherished the
hope that Ronald, if captured, would declare his innocence and gladly
respond to his overture of help. But, instead of doing so, Ronald had
taken up an attitude which was suspicious in the highest degree, and one
which caused the detective to falter in his belief that the Glenthorpe
murder case was a much deeper mystery than the police imagined. Ronald's
attitude, by its accordance with the facts previously known or believed
about the case, belittled the detective's own discoveries, and caused
him to come to the conclusion that it was hardly worth while to go
farther into it.

Nevertheless, it was in a perplexed and puzzled state of mind that he
returned to Durrington, and his perplexity was not lessened by a piece
of information given to him at luncheon by Sir Henry. The specialist
started up from his seat as soon as he saw the detective, and made his
way across to his table.

"My dear fellow," he burst out, "I have the most amazing piece of news.
Who do you think this chap Ronald turns out to be? None other than James
Ronald Penreath, only son of Sir James Penreath--Penreath of
Twelvetrees--one of the oldest families in England, dating back before
the Conquest! Not very much money, but very good blood--none better in
England, in fact. The family seat is in Berkshire, and the family take
their name from a village near Reading, where a battle was fought in 800
odd between the Danes and Saxons under Ethelwulf. You won't get a much
older ancestry than _that_. Sir James married the daughter of Sir
William Shirley, the member for Carbury, Cheshire--her family was not so
good as his, but an honourable county family, nevertheless. This young
man is their only child. A nice disgrace he's brought on the family
name, the foolish fellow!"

"Who told you this?" asked Colwyn.

"Superintendent Galloway told me last night. The description of the
young man was published in the London press in order to assist his
capture, and it appears it was seen by the young lady to whom he is
affianced, Miss Constance Willoughby, who is at present in London,
engaged in war work. I have never met Miss Willoughby, but her aunt,
Mrs. Hugh Brewer, with whom she is living at Lancaster Gate, is
well-known to me. She is an immensely wealthy woman, who devotes her
life to public works, and moves in the most exclusive philanthropic
circles. The young lady was terribly distressed at the similarity of
details in the description of the wanted man and that of her betrothed,
particularly the scar on the cheek. Although she could not believe they
referred to Mr. Penreath, she deemed it advisable to communicate with
the Penreath family solicitor, Mr. Oakham, of Oakham and Pendules.

"Mr. Oakham called up Superintendent Galloway on the trunk line
yesterday, to make inquiries, and shortly afterwards the news came
through of Ronald's arrest. Superintendent Galloway was rather perturbed
at learning that the arrested man resembled the description of the heir
of one of the oldest baronetcies in England, and sought me to ask my
advice. As he rather vulgarly put it, he was scared at having flushed
such high game, and he thought, in view of my professional connection
with some of the highest families in the land, that I might be able to
give him information which would save him from the possibility of making
a mistake--if such a possibility existed."

"Superintendent Galloway did not seem much worried by any such fears the
last time I saw him," said Colwyn. "His one idea then was to catch
Ronald and hang him as speedily as possible."

"The case wears another aspect now," replied Sir Henry gravely,
oblivious of the irony in the detective's tones. "To arrest a nobody
named Ronald is one thing, but to arrest the son of Penreath of
Twelvetrees is quite a different matter. The police--quite rightly, in
my opinion--wish to guard against the slightest possibility of mistake."

"There is no certainty that Ronald is the son of Sir James Penreath,"
said Colwyn thoughtfully. "Printed descriptions of people are very
misleading."

"Exactly my contention," replied Sir Henry eagerly. "I told Galloway
that the best way to settle the point was to let the young lady see the
prisoner. The police are acting on the suggestion. Mr. Oakham is coming
down with Miss Willoughby and her aunt from London by the afternoon
train. They will go straight to Heathfield, where they will see Ronald
before his removal to Norwich gaol. Superintendent Galloway is driving
over from here in a taxicab to meet them at the station and escort them
to the lock-up, and I am going with him. It is a frightful ordeal for
two highly-strung ladies to have to undergo, and my professional skill
may be needed to help them through with it. I shall suggest that they
return here with me afterwards, and stay for the night at the hotel,
instead of returning to London immediately. The night's rest will serve
to recuperate their systems after the worry and excitement."

"No doubt," said Colwyn, who began to see how Sir Henry Durwood had
built up such a flourishing practice as a ladies' specialist.

Sir Henry, having imparted his information, promised to acquaint him
with the result of the afternoon's interview, and bustled out of the
breakfast room in response to the imperious signalling of his wife's
eye.

It was after dinner that evening, in the lounge, that Sir Henry again
approached Colwyn, smoking a cigar, which represented the amount of a
medical man's fee in certain London suburbs. But as Sir Henry counted
his fees in guineas, and not in half-crowns, he could afford to be
luxurious in his smoking. He took a seat beside the detective and,
turning upon him his professionally portentous "all is over" face,
remarked:

"There is no mistake. Ronald is Sir James Penreath's son."

"Miss Willoughby identified him, then?"

"It was a case of mutual identification. Mr. Penreath, to give him his
proper name, was brought under escort into the room where we were
seated. He started back at the sight of Miss Willoughby--I suppose he
had no idea whom he was going to see--and said, 'Why, Constance!' The
poor girl looked up at him and exclaimed, 'Oh, James, how could you?'
and burst into a flood of tears. It was a very painful scene."

"I have no doubt it was--for all concerned," was Colwyn's dry comment.
"Why did Miss Willoughby greet her betrothed husband in that way, as
though she were convinced of his guilt? What does she know about the
case?"

"Superintendent Galloway prepared her mind for the worst during the ride
from the station to the gaol. She asked him a number of questions, and
he told her that there was no doubt that the man she was going to see
was the man who had murdered Mr. Glenthorpe."

"I suspected as much. But what else transpired during the interview? How
did Penreath receive Miss Willoughby's remark?"

"Most peculiarly. He seemed about to speak, then checked himself with a
half smile, looked down on the ground, and said no more. Superintendent
Galloway signed to the policemen to remove him, and we withdrew. The
interview did not last more than a minute or so."

"Miss Willoughby did not see him alone, then?"

"No. Galloway told her that she would not be permitted to see him
alone."

"And nothing more was said on either side while Penreath was in the
room?"

"Nothing. Penreath's attitude struck me as that of a man who did not
wish to speak. He appeared self-conscious and confused, like a man with
a secret to hide."

"Perhaps his silence was due to pride. After Miss Willoughby's tactless
remark he may have thought there was no use saying anything when his
sweetheart believed him guilty." Colwyn spoke without conviction; the
memory of Penreath's demeanour to him after his arrest was too fresh in
his mind.

"You wrong Miss Willoughby. She is only too anxious to catch at any
straw of hope. When she learnt that you had been making some
investigations into the case she expressed an anxiety to see you. She
and her aunt yielded to my advice, and returned here to spend the night
at the hotel before going back to London. As they did not feel inclined
to face the ordeal of public scrutiny after the events of the day they
are dining in private, and they have asked me to take you to their room
when you are at liberty. Mr. Oakham has gone to Norwich, where he will
stay for some days to prepare the defence of this unhappy young man, but
he is coming here in the morning to see the ladies before they depart
for London. He asked me to tell you that he would like to see you also."

"I shall be glad to see him, and Miss Willoughby as well. Have the
ladies asked you your opinion of the case?"

"Naturally they did. I gave them the best comfort I could by hinting
that in my opinion Mr. Penreath is not in a state of mind at present in
which he can be held responsible for his actions. I did not say anything
about epilepsy--the word is not a pleasant one to use before ladies."

"Did you tell them this in front of Galloway?"

"Certainly not. A professional man in my position cannot be too careful.
I am glad now that I was so circumspect about this matter in my dealings
with the police--very glad indeed. It was my duty to tell Mr. Oakham,
and I did so. He was interested in what I told him--exceedingly so, and
was anxious to know if I had given my opinion of Penreath's condition to
anybody else. I mentioned that I had told you--in confidence."

"And it was then, no doubt, that Mr. Oakham said he would like to see
me. I fancy I gather his drift. And now shall we visit Miss Willoughby?"

"Yes, I should say the ladies will be expecting us," said Sir Henry,
looking at a fat watch with jewelled hands which registered golden
minutes for him in Harley Street. He beckoned a waiter, and asked him to
conduct them to Mrs. Brewer's sitting-room. The waiter led them along a
corridor on the first floor, tapped deferentially, opened the door
noiselessly in response to a feminine injunction to "come in," waited
for the gentlemen to enter, and then closed the door behind them.

Two ladies rose to greet them. One was small and overdressed, with
fluffy hair and China blue eyes. She carried some knitting in her hand,
and a pet dog under her arm. Colwyn had no difficulty in identifying her
with the frequent photographs of Mrs. Brewer which appeared in Society
and illustrated papers. She belonged to a class of women who took
advantage of the war to advertise themselves by philanthropic
benefactions and war work, but she was able to distance most of her
competitors for newspaper notoriety by reason of her wealth. Her niece,
Miss Constance Willoughby, was of a different type. She was tall and
graceful, with dark eyes and level brows. A straight nose and a firm
chin indicated that their possessor was not lacking in a will of her
own. Her manner was self-possessed and assured--a trifle too much so for
a sensitive girl in the circumstances, Colwyn thought. Then he
remembered having read in some paper that Miss Willoughby was one of the
leaders of the new feminist movement which believed that the war had
brought about the complete emancipation of English woman-hood, and with
it the right to possess and display those qualities of character which
hitherto were supposed to be peculiarly masculine. It was perhaps owing
to her advocacy of these claims that Miss Willoughby felt herself called
upon to display self-possession and self-control at a trying time.
Colwyn, appraising her with his clear eye as Sir Henry introduced him,
found himself speculating as to the reasons which had caused Penreath
and her to fall in love with one another.

"Please sit down, Mr. Colwyn," said Mrs. Brewer, resuming a comfortable
arm-chair in front of the fire, and adjusting the Pekingese on her lap.
"I am so grateful to you for coming to see us in this unconventional
way. I have been so anxious to see you! Everybody has heard of you, Mr.
Colwyn--you're so famous. It was only the other day that I was reading a
long article about you in some paper or other. I forget the name of the
paper, but I remember that it said a lot of flattering things about you
and your discoveries in crime. It said----Oh, you naughty, naughty
Jellicoe." This to the dog, which had become entangled in the skein of
wool on her lap, and was making frantic efforts to free itself. "Bad
little doggie, you've ruined this sock, and some poor soldier will have
to go with bare feet because you've been naughty! Are you a judge of
Pekingese, Mr. Colwyn? Don't you think Jellicoe a dear?"

"Do you mean Sir John Jellicoe, Mrs. Brewer?"

"Of course not! I mean my Pekingese. I've named him after our great
gallant commander, because it is through him we are all able to sleep
safe and sound in our beds these dreadful nights."

"Sir John Jellicoe ought to feel flattered," said Colwyn gravely.

"Yes, I really think he should," replied Mrs. Brewer innocently.
"Jellicoe is not a pretty name for a dog, but I think we should all be
patriotic just now. But tell me what you think of this dreadful case,
Mr. Colwyn. I am so frightfully distressed about it that I really don't
know what to do. How could Mr. Penreath do such a shocking thing? Why
didn't he go back to the front, if he had to kill somebody, instead of
hiding away from everybody and murdering this poor old man in this wild
spot? Such a disgrace to us all!"

"Mr. Penreath has been in the Army, then?" asked Colwyn.

"Of course. Didn't you know? He was in Mesopotamia, but was sent to the
West Front recently, where he won the D.S.O. for an act of great
gallantry under heavy fire, but was shortly afterwards invalided out of
the Army. It was in all the papers at the time."

"You forget, my dear lady, that Mr. Penreath did not disclose his full
name while he was staying here," interposed Sir Henry solemnly. "I
myself was in complete ignorance of his identity until last night."

"Why, of course--you told me this afternoon. My poor head! Whatever
induced Mr. Penreath to do such a thing as to conceal his name? So
common and vulgar! What motive could he have? What do you think his
motive was, Mr. Colwyn?"

"I think, Aunt Florence, as your nerves are bad, that you had better
permit me to talk to Mr. Colwyn," said Miss Willoughby, speaking for the
first time. "Otherwise we shall get into a worse tangle than the
Pekingese."

"I am sure I shall be only too relieved if you will talk to Mr. Colwyn,"
rejoined the elder woman. "My head is really not equal to the task--my
nerves are so frightfully unstrung."

Mrs. Brewer returned to the task of untangling the dog from the knitting
wool, and the girl faced the detective earnestly.

"Mr. Colwyn," she said, "I understand you have been investigating this
terrible affair. Will you tell me what you think of it? Do you believe
that Mr. Penreath is guilty? You need not fear to be frank with me."

"I will not hesitate to be so. I shall be pleased to give you my
conclusions about this case--so far as I have formed any--but I should
be greatly obliged if you would answer a few questions first. That might
help me to clear up one or two points on which I am at present in doubt,
and make my statement to you clearer."

"Ask me any questions you wish."

"Thank you. In the first place, how long is it since Mr. Penreath
returned from the front, invalided out of the Army?"

"About two months ago."

"Was he wounded?"

"No. I understand that he broke down through shell-shock, and the
doctors said that it would be some time before he completely recovered.
I do not know the details. Mr. Penreath was very sensitive and reticent
about the matter, and so I forbore questioning him."

Colwyn nodded sympathetically.

"I understand. Have you noticed much difference in his demeanour since
he returned from the front?"

"That question is a little difficult to answer," said the girl,
hesitating.

"I can quite understand how you feel about it. My motive in asking the
question is to see if we can ascertain why Penreath came to Norfolk
under a concealed name, and then wandered over to this place, Flegne, in
an almost penniless condition, when he had plenty of friends who would
have supplied his needs, and, I should say, had money of his own in the
bank, for it is quite certain that he would be in receipt of an
allowance from his father. He acted most unusually for a young man of
his standing and position, and I am wondering if shell-shock left him in
that restless, unsettled, reckless condition which is one of its worst
effects."

"I have seen so little of him since he returned from the front that it
is difficult for me to answer you," said the girl, after a pause. "He
went down to Berkshire to his father's place on his return, and stayed
there a month. Then he came to London, and we met several times, but
rarely alone. I am very deeply engaged in war work, and was unable to
give him much of my time. When I did see him he struck me as rather
moody and distrait, but I put that down to his illness, and the fact
that he must naturally feel unhappy at his forced inaction. My friends
paid him much attention and sent him many invitations--in fact, they
would have made quite a fuss of him if he had let them--and, of course,
he had friends of his own, but he didn't seem to want to go anywhere,
and he told me once or twice that he wished people would let him alone.
I pointed out to him that he had his duty to do in Society as well as at
the front, but he said he disliked Society, particularly in war-time.
About three weeks ago he told me one night at a dance that he was sick
of London, and thought he would be better for a change of air. He was
looking rather pale, and I agreed he would be the better for a change. I
asked him where he intended going, and he said he thought he would try
the east coast--he didn't say what part. He left me with the intention
of going away the next day. That was the last I saw of him--until
to-day."

"You got no letter from him?"

"I did not hear from him--nor of him--until I saw his description
published in the London newspapers as that of a criminal wanted by the
police."

Miss Willoughby uttered the last sentence in some bitterness, with a
sparkle of resentment in her eyes. It was apparent that she considered
she had been badly treated by her lover, and that his arrest had
hardened, instead of softening, her feelings of resentment.

"I am much obliged to you for answering my questions, Miss Willoughby,"
said the detective. "As I told you before, they are not dictated by
curiosity, but in the hope of eliciting some information which would
throw light on this puzzling case."

"A puzzling case! You consider it a puzzling case, Mr. Colwyn?" She
glanced at him with a more eager and girlish expression than he had yet
seen on her face. "I understood from the police officer that there was
no room for doubt in the matter. Sir Henry Durwood shares the police
view." She turned a swift questioning glance in the specialist's
direction.

Sir Henry caught the glance, and felt it incumbent upon himself to utter
a solemn commonplace.

"I beg of you not to raise false hopes in Miss Willoughby's breast, Mr.
Colwyn," he said.

"I have no intention of doing so," returned the detective. "On the other
hand, I protest against everybody condemning Penreath until it is
certain he is guilty. And now, Miss Willoughby, I will tell you what I
have discovered."

He entered upon a brief account of his investigations at the inn, with
the exception that he omitted the visit of Peggy to the murdered man's
chamber and her subsequent explanation. Miss Willoughby listened
attentively, and, when he had concluded, remarked:

"Do you think the wax and tallow candle-grease dropped in the room
suggests the presence of two persons?"

"I feel sure that it does."

"And who do you think the other was?"

"It is not yet proved that Penreath was one of them."

She flushed under the implied reproof, and hurriedly added:

"Have you acquainted the police with your discoveries, Mr. Colwyn?"

"I have, and I am bound to say that they attach very little importance
to them."

"Do you propose to go any further with your investigations?"

"I would prefer not to answer that question until I have seen Mr. Oakham
to-morrow."



CHAPTER XIV


When Colwyn went in to lunch the following day after a walk on the
front, he found Sir Henry awaiting him in the lounge with a visitor
whose identity the detective guessed before Sir Henry introduced him.

"This is Mr. Oakham," said Sir Henry. "I have told him of your
investigation into this painful case which has brought him to Norfolk."

"An investigation in which you helped," said Colwyn, with a smile.

"I am afraid it would be stretching the fable of the mouse and the lion
to suggest that I was able to help such a renowned criminal investigator
as yourself," returned Sir Henry waggishly. "When Mr. Oakham learnt that
you had been investigating this case he expressed a strong desire to see
you."

"I am returning to London by the afternoon express, Mr. Colwyn," said
the solicitor. "I should be glad if you could spare me a little of your
time before I go."

"Certainly," replied Colwyn, courteously. "It had better be at once, had
it not? You have not very much time at your disposal."

"If it does not inconvenience you," replied Mr. Oakham politely. "But
your lunch----"

"That can wait," said the detective. "I feel deeply interested in this
case of young Penreath."

"Mr. Oakham saw him this morning before coming over," said Sir Henry.
"He is quite mad, and refuses to say anything. Therefore, we have come
to the conclusion----"

"Really, Sir Henry, you shouldn't have said that." Mr. Oakham's tone was
both shocked and expostulatory.

"Why not?" retorted Sir Henry innocently. "Mr. Colwyn knows all about
it--I told him myself. I thought you wanted him to help you?"

"I am aware of that, but, my dear sir, this is an extremely delicate and
difficult business. As Mr. Penreath's professional adviser, I must beg
of you to exercise more reticence."

"Then I had better go and have my lunch while you two have a chat," said
Sir Henry urbanely, "or I shall only be putting my foot in it again. Mr.
Oakham, I shall see you before you go." Sir Henry moved off in the
direction of the luncheon room.

"Perhaps you will come to my sitting-room," said Colwyn to Mr. Oakham.
"We can talk quietly there."

"Thank you," responded Mr. Oakham, and he went with the detective
upstairs.

Mr. Oakham, of Oakham and Pendules, Temple Gardens, was a little
white-haired man of seventy, attired in the sombre black of the
Victorian era, with a polished reticent manner befitting the senior
partner of a firm of solicitors owning the most aristocratic practice in
England; a firm so eminently respectable that they never rendered a bill
of costs to a client until he was dead, when the amount of legal
expenses incurred during his lifetime was treated as a charge upon the
family estate, and deducted from the moneys accruing to the next heir,
who, in his turn, was allowed to run his allotted course without a bill
from Oakham and Pendules. They were a discreet and dignified firm, as
ancient as some of the names whose family secrets were locked away in
their office deed boxes, and were reputed to know more of the inner
history of the gentry in Burke's Peerage than all the rest of the legal
profession put together.

The arrest of the only son of Sir James Penreath, of Twelvetrees, Berks,
on a charge of murder, had shocked Mr. Oakham deeply. Divorces had come
his way in plenty, though he remembered the day when they were
considered scandalous in good families. But the modern generation had
changed all that, and Mr. Oakham had since listened to so many stories
of marital wrongs, and had assisted in obtaining so many orders for
restitution of conjugal rights, that he had come to regard divorce as
fashionable enough to be respectable. He was intimately versed in most
human failings and follies, and a past master in preventing their
consequences coming to light. Financial embarrassments he was well used
to--they might almost be said to be his forte--for many of his clients
had more lineage than money, but the crime of murder was a thing outside
his professional experience.

The upper classes of the present generation had, in this respect at
least, improved on the morals of their freebooting ancestors, and murder
had gone so completely out of fashion among the aristocracy that Mr.
Oakham had never been called upon to prepare the defence of a client
charged with killing a fellow creature. Mr. Oakham regarded murder as an
ungentlemanly crime. He believed that no gentleman would commit murder
unless he were mad. Since his arrival in Norfolk he had come to the
conclusion that young Penreath was not only mad, but that he had
committed the murder with which he stood charged. Sir Henry Durwood had
been responsible for the first opinion, and the police had helped him to
form the second. Two interviews he had had with his client since his
arrest had strengthened and deepened both convictions.

It was in this frame of mind that Mr. Oakham seated himself in the
detective's sitting room. He accepted a cigar from Colwyn's case, and
looked amiably at his companion, who waited for him to speak. The
interview had been of the solicitor's seeking, and it was for him to
disclose his object in doing so.

"This is a very unfortunate case, Mr. Colwyn," the solicitor remarked.

"Yes; it seems so," replied Colwyn.

"I am afraid there is not the slightest doubt that this unhappy young
man has committed this murder."

"You have arrived at that conclusion?"

"It is impossible to arrive at any other conclusion, in view of the
evidence."

"It is purely circumstantial. I thought that perhaps Penreath would have
some statement to make which would throw a different light on the case."

"I will be frank with you, Mr. Colwyn," said the solicitor. "You are
acquainted with all the facts of the case, and I hope you will be able
to help us. Penreath's attitude is a very strange one. Apparently he
does not apprehend the grave position in which he stands. I am forced to
the conclusion that he is suffering from an unhappy aberration of the
intellect, which has led to his committing this crime. His conduct since
coming to Norfolk has not been that of a sane man. He has hidden himself
away from his friends, and stayed here under a false name. I understand
that he behaved in an eccentric and violent way in the breakfast room of
this hotel on the morning of the day he left for the place where the
murder was subsequently committed."

"You have learnt this from Sir Henry, I presume?"

"Yes. Sir Henry has conveyed to me his opinion, based on his observation
of Mr. Penreath's eccentricity at the breakfast table the last morning
of his stay here, that Mr. Penreath is an epileptic, liable to attacks
of _furor epilepticus_--a phase of the disease which sometimes leads to
outbreaks of terrible violence. He thought it advisable that I should
know this at once, in view of what has happened since. Sir Henry
informed me that he confided a similar opinion to you, as you were
present at the time, and assisted him to convey Penreath upstairs. May I
ask what opinion you formed of his behaviour at the breakfast table, Mr.
Colwyn?"

"I thought he was excited--nothing more."

"But the violence, Mr. Colwyn! Sir Henry Durwood says Penreath was about
to commit a violent assault on the people at the next table when he
interfered."

"The violence was not apparent--to me," returned the detective, who did
not feel called upon to disclose his secret belief that Sir Henry had
acted hastily. "Apart from the excitement he displayed on this
particular morning, Penreath seemed to me a normal and average young
Englishman of his class. I certainly saw no signs of insanity about him.
It occurred to me at the time that his excitement might be the outcome
of shell-shock. We had had an air raid two nights before, and some
shell-shock cases are badly affected by air raids. I have since been
informed that Penreath was invalided out of the Army recently, suffering
from shell-shock."

"In Sir Henry's opinion the shell-shock has aggravated a tendency to the
disease."

"Has Penreath ever shown any previous signs of epilepsy?"

"Not so far as I am aware, but his mother developed the disease in later
years, and ultimately died from it. Her illness was a source of great
worry and anxiety to Sir James. And epilepsy is hereditary."

"Pathologists differ on that point. I know something of the disease, and
I doubt whether Penreath is an epileptic. He showed none of the symptoms
which I have always associated with epilepsy."

"An eminent specialist like Sir Henry is hardly likely to be mistaken.
The fact that Penreath seemed a sane and collected individual to your
eye proves nothing. Epileptic attacks are intermittent, and the sufferer
may appear quite sane between the attacks. Epilepsy is a remarkable
disease. A latent tendency to it may exist for years without those
nearest and dearest to the sufferer suspecting it, so Sir Henry says.
Penreath's case is a very strange and sad one."

"It is a strange case in very way," said Colwyn earnestly. "Why should a
young man like Penreath go over to this remote Norfolk village, where he
had not been before, and murder an old man whom he had never seen
previously? The police theory that this murder was committed for the
sake of £300 which the victim had drawn out of the bank that day seems
incredible to me, in the case of a young man like Penreath."

"The only way of accounting for the whole unhappy business is on Sir
Henry's hypothesis that Penreath is mad. In acute epileptic mania there
are cases in which there is a seeming calmness of conduct, and these are
the most dangerous of all. The patient walks about like a man in a
dream, impelled by a force which he cannot resist, and does all sorts of
things without conscious purpose. He will take long walks to places he
has never been, will steal money or valuables, and commit murder or
suicide with apparent coolness and cunning. Sir Henry describes this as
automatic action, and he says that it is a notable characteristic of
the form of epileptic mania from which Penreath is suffering. You will
observe that these symptoms fit in with all the facts of the case
against Penreath. The facts, unfortunately, are so clear that there is
no gainsaying them."

"It seems so now," said Colwyn thoughtfully. "Yet, when I was
investigating the facts at the time, I came across several points which
seemed to suggest the possibility of an alternative theory to the police
theory."

"I should like to know what those points are."

"I will tell you."

The detective proceeded to set forth the result of his visit to the inn,
and the solicitor listened to him with close attention. When he had
finished Mr. Oakham remarked:

"I am afraid there is not much in these points, Mr. Colwyn. Your
suggestion that there were two persons in the murdered man's room is
interesting, but you have no evidence to support it. The girl's
explanation of her visit to the room is probably the true one. Far be it
from me, as Penreath's legal adviser, to throw away the slightest straw
of hope, but your conjectures--for, to my mind, they are nothing
more--are nothing against the array of facts and suspicious
circumstances which have been collected by the police. And even if the
police case were less strong, there is another grave fact which we
cannot overlook."

"You mean that Penreath refuses to say anything?" said Colwyn.

"He appears to be somewhat indifferent to the outcome," returned the
lawyer guardedly.

"It is his silence which baffles me," said Colwyn. "I saw him alone
after his arrest, and told him I was willing to help him if he could
tell me anything which would assist me to establish his innocence--if
he were innocent. He replied that he had nothing to say."

"What you tell me deepens my conviction that Penreath does not realise
the position in which he is placed, and cannot be held accountable for
his actions."

"Is it your intention to plead mental incapacity at the trial?"

"Sir Henry Durwood has offered to give evidence that, in his opinion,
Penreath is not responsible for his actions. The Penreath family is
under a debt of gratitude to Sir Henry. I consider it little short of
providential that Sir Henry was staying here at the time." Like most
lawyers, Mr. Oakham had a firm belief in the interposition of
Providence--particularly in the affairs of the families of the great.
"And that is the reason for my coming over here to see you this morning,
Mr. Colwyn. You were present at the breakfast table scene--you witnessed
this young man's eccentricity and violence. The Penreath family is
already under a debt of gratitude to you--will you increase the
obligation? In other words, will you give evidence in support of the
defence at the trial?"

"You want me to assist you in convincing the jury that Penreath is a
criminal lunatic," said Colwyn. "That is what your defence amounts to.
It is a grave responsibility. Doctors and specialists are sometimes
mistaken, you know."

"I am afraid there is very little doubt in this case. Here is a young
man of birth and breeding, who hides from his friends under an assumed
name, behaves in public in an eccentric manner, is turned out of his
hotel, goes to a remote inn, and disappears before anybody is up. The
body of a gentleman who occupied the room next to him is subsequently
discovered in a pit close by, and the footprints leading to the pit are
those of our young friend. The young man is subsequently arrested close
to the place where the body was thrown, and not then, or since, has he
offered his friends any explanation of his actions. In the
circumstances, therefore, I shall avail myself of Sir Henry's evidence.
In my own mind--from my own observation and conversation with
Penreath--I am convinced that he cannot be held responsible for his
actions. In view of the tremendously strong case against him, in view of
his peculiar attitude to you--and others--in the face of accusation, and
in view of his previous eccentric behaviour, I shall take the only
possible course to save the son of Penreath of Twelvetrees from the
gallows. I had hoped, Mr. Colwyn, that you, who witnessed the scene at
this hotel, and subsequently helped Sir Henry Durwood convey this
unhappy young man upstairs, would see your way clear to support Sir
Henry's expert opinion that this young man is insane. Your reputation
and renown would carry weight with the jury."

"I am sorry, but I am afraid you must do without me," replied Colwyn.
"In view of Penreath's silence I can come to no other conclusion, though
against my better judgment, than that he is guilty, but I cannot take
upon myself the responsibility of declaring that he is insane. In spite
of Sir Henry Durwood's opinion, I cannot believe that he is, or was. It
will be a difficult defence to establish in the case of Penreath. If you
wish the jury to say that Penreath is the victim of what French writers
call _epilepsie larvée_, in which an outbreak of brutal or homicidal
violence takes the place of an epileptic fit, with a similar break in
the continuity of consciousness, you will first have to convince the
judge that Penreath's preceding fits were so slight as to permit the
possibility of their being overlooked, and you will also have to
establish beyond doubt that the break in his consciousness existed from
the time of the scene in the hotel breakfast-room until the time the
murder was committed. The test of that state is the unintelligent
character of some of the acts of the sufferer. In my opinion, a defence
of insanity is not likely to be successful. Personally, I shall go no
further in the case, but I cannot give up my original opinion that the
whole of the facts in this case have not been brought to light. Probably
they never will be--now."



CHAPTER XV


Although no hint of the defence was supposed to transpire, the magic
words "No precedent" were whispered about in legal circles as the day
for Penreath's trial approached, and invested the case with more than
ordinary interest in professional eyes. Editors of London legal journals
endeavoured to extract something definite from Mr. Oakham when he
returned to London to brief counsel and prepare the defence, but the
lunches they lavished on him in pursuit of information might have been
spent with equal profit on the Sphinx.

The editors had to content themselves with sending shorthand writers to
Norwich to report the case fully for the benefit of their circle of
readers, whose appetite for a legal quibble was never satiated by
repetition.

On the other hand, the case aroused but languid interest in the breasts
of the ordinary public. The newspapers had not given the story of the
murder much prominence in their columns, because murders were only good
copy in war-time in the slack season between military offensives, and,
moreover, this particular case lacked the essentials of what modern
editors call, in American journalese jargon, "a good feature story." In
other words, it was not sufficiently sensational or immoral to appeal to
the palates of newspaper readers. It lacked the spectacular elements of
a filmed drama; there was no woman in the case or unwritten law.

It was true that the revelation of the identity of the accused man had
aroused a passing interest in the case, bringing it up from paragraph
value on the back page to a "two-heading item" on the "splash" page, but
that interest soon died away, for, after all, the son of a Berkshire
baronet was small beer in war's levelling days, when peers worked in
overalls in munition factories, and personages of even more exalted rank
sold pennyworths of ham in East-end communal kitchens.

Nevertheless, because of the perennial interest which attaches to all
murder trials, the Norwich Assizes Court was filled with spectators on
the dull drizzling November day when the case was heard, and the fact
that the accused was young and good-looking and of gentle birth probably
accounted for the sprinkling of well-dressed women amongst the audience.
The younger ones eyed him with sympathy as he was brought into the dock:
his good looks, his blue eyes, his air of breeding, his well-cut
clothes, appealed to their sensibilities, and if they had been given the
opportunity they would have acquitted him without the formality of a
trial as far "too nice a boy" to have committed murder.

To the array of legal talent assembled together by the golden wand of
Costs the figure of the accused man had no personal significance but the
actual facts at issue entered as little into their minds as into the
pitying hearts of the female spectators. The accused had no individual
existence so far as they were concerned: he was merely a pawn in the
great legal game, of which the lawyers were the players and the judge
the referee, and the side which won the pawn won the game. As this
particular game represented an attack on the sacred tradition of
Precedent, both sides had secured the strongest professional intellects
possible to contest the match, and the lesser legal fry of Norwich had
gathered together to witness the struggle, and pick up what points they
could.

The leader for the prosecution was Sir Herbert Templewood, K.C., M.P., a
political barrister, with a Society wife, a polished manner, and a
deadly gift of cross-examination. With him was Mr. Grover Braecroft, a
dour Scotch lawyer of fifty-five, who was currently believed to know the
law from A to Z, and really had an intimate acquaintance with those five
letters which made up the magic word Costs. Apart from this valuable
knowledge, he was a cunning and crafty lawyer, picked in the present
case to supply the brains to Sir Herbert Templewood's brilliance, and do
the jackal work which the lion disdained. The pair were supported by a
Crown Solicitor well versed in precedents--a little prim figure of a man
who sat with so many volumes of judicial decisions and reports of test
cases piled in front of him that only the upper portion of his grey head
was visible above the books.

The defence relied mainly upon Mr. Reginald Middleheath, the eminent
criminal counsel, who depended as much upon his portly imposing stage
presence to bluff juries into an acquittal as upon his legal
attainments, which were also considerable. Mr. Middleheath's cardinal
article of legal faith was that all juries were fools, and should be
treated as such, because if they once got the idea into their heads that
they knew something about the case they were trying they were bound to
convict in order to sustain their reputation for intelligence. One of
Mr. Middleheath's favourite tricks for disabusing a jury of the belief
that they possessed any common sense was, before addressing them, to
stare each juryman in the face for half a minute or so in turn with his
piercing penetrative eyes, accompanying the look with a pitying
contemptuous smile, the gaze and the smile implying that counsel for the
opposite side may have flattered them into believing that their
intelligences were fit to try such an intricate case, but they couldn't
deceive _him_.

Having robbed the jury of their self-esteem by this means, Mr.
Middleheath would proceed to put them on good terms with themselves
again by insinuating in persuasive tones that the case was one
calculated to perplex the most astute legal brain. He would frankly
confess that it had perplexed him at first, but as he had mastered its
intricacies the jury were welcome to his laboriously acquired knowledge
in order to help them in arriving at a right decision. Mr. Middleheath's
junior was Mr. Garden Greyson, a thin ascetic looking lawyer whose
knowledge of medical jurisprudence had brought him his brief in the
case. Mr. Oakham sat beside Mr. Greyson with various big books in front
of him.

The judge was Mr. Justice Redington, whose presence on the bench was
always considered a strengthening factor in the Crown case. Judges
differ as much as ordinary human beings, and are as human in their
peculiarities as the juries they direct and the prisoners they try.
There are good-tempered and bad-tempered judges, harsh and tender
judges, learned and foolish judges, there are even judges with an eye to
self-advertisement, and a few wise ones. Mr. Justice Redington belonged
to that class of judges who, while endeavouring to hold the balance
fairly between the Crown and the defence, see to it that the accused
does not get overweight from the scales of justice. Such judges take
advantage of their judicial office by cross-examining witnesses for the
defence after the Crown Prosecutor has finished with them, in the effort
to bring to light some damaging fact or contradiction which the previous
examination has failed to elicit. In other respects, Mr. Justice
Redington was a very fair judge, and he worked as industriously as any
newspaper reporter, taking extensive notes of all his cases with a gold
fountain pen, which he filled himself from one of the court inkstands
whenever it ran dry. In appearance he was a florid and pleasant looking
man, and his hobby off the bench was farming his own land and breeding
prize cattle.

There were the usual preliminaries, equivalent to the clearing of the
course or the placing of the pieces, which bored the regular habitués of
the court but whetted the appetites of the more unsophisticated
spectators. First there was the lengthy process of empanelling a jury,
with the inevitable accompaniment of challenges and objections, until
the most unintelligent looking dozen of the panel finally found
themselves in the jury box. Then the Clerk of Arraigns gabbled over the
charges: wilful murder of Roger Glenthorpe on 26th October, 1916, and
feloniously stealing from the said Roger Glenthorpe the sum of £300 on
the same date. To these charges the accused man pleaded "Not guilty" in
a low voice. The jury were directed on the first indictment only, and
Sir Herbert Templewood got up to address the jury.

Sir Herbert knew very little about the case, but his junior was well
informed; and what Mr. Braecroft didn't know he got from the Crown
Solicitor, who sat behind the barristers' table, ready to lean forward
at the slightest indication and supply any points which were required.
Under this system of spoon-feeding Sir Herbert ambled comfortably along,
reserving his showy paces for the cross-examination of witnesses for the
defence.

Sir Herbert commenced by describing the case as a straightforward one
which would offer no difficulty to an intelligent jury. It was true that
it rested on circumstantial evidence, but that evidence was of the
strongest nature, and pointed so clearly in the one direction, that the
jury could come to no other conclusion than that the prisoner at the bar
had committed the murder with which he stood charged.

With this preamble, the Crown Prosecutor proceeded to put together the
chain of circumstantial evidence against the accused with the deliberate
logic of the legal brain, piecing together incidents, interpreting
clues, probing motives, and fashioning together the whole tremendous
apparatus of circumstantial evidence with the intent air of a man
building an unbreakable cage for a wild beast. As Colwyn had
anticipated, the incident at the Durrington hotel had been dropped from
the Crown case. That part of the presentment was confined to the
statement that Penreath had registered at the hotel under a wrong name,
and had left without paying his bill. The first fact suggested that the
accused had something to hide, the second established a motive for the
subsequent murder.

Sir Herbert Templewood concluded his address in less than an hour, and
proceeded to call evidence for the prosecution. There were nine
witnesses: that strangely assorted pair, the innkeeper and Charles, the
deaf waiter, Ann, the servant, the two men who had recovered Mr.
Glenthorpe's body from the pit, the Heathfield doctor, who testified as
to the cause of death, Superintendent Galloway, who gave the court the
result of the joint investigations of the chief constable and himself at
the inn, Police-Constable Queensmead, who described the arrest and
Inspector Fredericks, of Norwich, who was in charge of the Norwich
station when the accused was taken there from Flegne. In order to save
another witness being called, Counsel for the defence admitted that
accused had registered at the Grand Hotel, Durrington, under a wrong
name, and left without paying his bill.

Mr. Middleheath cross-examined none of the witnesses for the prosecution
except the last one, and his forensic restraint was placed on record by
the depositions clerk in the exact words of the unvarying formula
between bench and bar. "Do you ask anything, Mr. Middleheath?" Mr.
Justice Redington would ask, with punctilious politeness, when the Crown
Prosecutor sat down after examining a witness. To which Mr. Middleheath
would reply, in tones of equal courtesy: "I ask nothing, my lord."
Counsel's cross-examination of Inspector Fredericks consisted of two
questions, intended to throw light on the accused's state of mind after
his arrest. Inspector Fredericks declared that he was, in his opinion,
quite calm and rational.

Mr. Middleheath's opening address to the jury for the defence was brief,
and, to sharp legal ears, vague and unconvincing. Although he pointed
out that the evidence was purely circumstantial, and that in the absence
of direct testimony the accused was entitled to the benefit of any
reasonable doubt, he did not attempt to controvert the statements of the
Crown witnesses, or suggest that the Crown had not established its case.
His address, combined with the fact that he had not cross-examined any
of the Crown witnesses, suggested to the listening lawyers that he had
either a very strong defence or none at all. The point was left in
suspense for the time being by Mr. Justice Redington suggesting that, in
view of the lateness of the hour, Counsel should defer calling evidence
for the defence until the following day. As a judicial suggestion is a
command, the court was adjourned accordingly, the judge first warning
the jury not to try to come to any conclusion, or form an opinion as to
what their verdict should be, until they had heard the evidence for the
prisoner.

When the case was continued the next day, the first witness called for
the defence was Dr. Robert Greydon, an elderly country practitioner with
the precise professional manner of a past medical generation, who stated
that he practised at Twelvetrees, Berkshire, and was the family doctor
of the Penreath family. In reply to Mr. Middleheath he stated that he
had frequently attended the late Lady Penreath, the mother of the
accused, for fits or seizures from which she suffered periodically, and
that the London specialist who had been called into consultation on one
occasion had agreed with him that the seizures were epileptic.

"I want to give every latitude to the defence," said Sir Herbert
Templewood, rising in dignified protest, "but I am afraid I cannot
permit this conversation to go in. My learned friend must call the
London specialist if he wants to get it in."

"I will waive the point as my learned friend objects," said Mr.
Middleheath, satisfied that he had "got it in" the jury's ears, "and
content myself with asking Dr. Greydon whether, from his own knowledge,
Lady Penreath suffered from epilepsy."

"Undoubtedly," replied the witness.

"One moment," said the judge, looking up from his notes. "Where is this
evidence tending, Mr. Middleheath?"

"My lord," replied Mr. Middleheath solemnly, "I wish the court to know
all the facts on which we rely."

The judge bowed his head and waved his gold fountain-pen as an
indication that the examination might proceed. The witness said that
Lady Penreath was undoubtedly an epileptic, and suffered from attacks
extending over twenty years, commencing when her only son was five years
old, and continuing till her death ten years ago. For some years the
attacks were slight, without convulsions, but ultimately the grand mal
became well developed, and several attacks in rapid succession
ultimately caused her death. In the witness's opinion epilepsy was an
hereditary disease, frequently transmitted to the offspring, if either
or both parents suffered from it.

"Have you ever seen any signs of epilepsy in Lady Penreath's son--the
prisoner at the bar?" asked Sir Herbert, who began to divine the
direction of the defence.

"Never," replied the witness.

"Was he under your care in his infancy and boyhood? I mean were you
called in to attend to his youthful ailments?"

"Yes, until he went to school."

"And was he a normal and healthy boy?"

"Quite."

"Did you see him when he returned home recently?" asked Mr. Middleheath,
rising to re-examine.

"Yes."

"You are aware he was discharged from the Army suffering from
shell-shock?"

"Yes."

"And did you notice a marked change in him?"

"Very marked indeed. He struck me as odd and forgetful at times, and
sometimes he seemed momentarily to lose touch with his surroundings. He
used to be very bright and good-tempered, but he returned from the war
irritable and moody, and very silent, disliking, above all things, to be
questioned about his experiences at the front. He used to be the very
soul of courtesy, but when he returned from the front he refused to
attend a 'welcome home' at the village church and hear the vicar read a
congratulatory address."

"I hope you are not going to advance the latter incident as a proof of
_non compos mentis_, Mr. Middleheath," said the judge facetiously.

In the ripples of mirth which this judicial sally aroused, the little
doctor was permitted to leave the box, and depart for his native
obscurity of Twelvetrees. He had served his purpose, so far as Mr.
Middleheath was concerned, and Sir Herbert Templewood was too good a
sportsman to waste skilful flies on such a small fish, which would do no
honour to his bag if hooked.

Sir Herbert Templewood and every lawyer in court were by now aware that
the defence were unable to meet the Crown case, but were going to fight
for a verdict of insanity. The legal fraternity realised the
difficulties of that defence in a case of murder. It would be necessary
not only to convince the jury that the accused did not know the
difference between right and wrong, but to convince the judge, in the
finer legal interpretation of criminal insanity, that the accused did
not know the nature of the act he was charged with committing, in the
sense that he was unable to distinguish whether it was right or wrong at
the moment of committing it. The law, which assumes that a man is sane
and responsible for his acts, throws upon the defence the onus of
proving otherwise, and proving it up to the hilt, before it permits an
accused person to escape the responsibility of his acts. Such a defence
usually resolves itself into a battle between medical experts and the
counsel engaged, the Crown endeavouring to upset the medical evidence
for the defence with medical evidence in rebuttal.

The lawyers in court settled back with a new enjoyment at the prospect
of the legal and medical hair-splitting and quibbling which invariably
accompanies an encounter of this kind, and Crown Counsel and solicitors
displayed sudden activity. Sir Herbert Templewood and Mr. Braecroft held
a whispered consultation, and then Mr. Braecroft passed a note to the
Crown Solicitor, who hurried from the court and presently returned
carrying a formidable pile of dusty volumes, which he placed in front of
junior counsel. The most uninterested person in court seemed the man in
the dock, who sat looking into a vacancy with a bored expression on his
handsome face, as if he were indifferent to the fight on which his
existence depended.

The next witness was Miss Constance Willoughby, who gave her testimony
in low clear tones, and with perfect self-possession. It was observed by
the feminine element in court that she did not look at her lover in the
dock, but kept her eyes steadily fixed on Mr. Middleheath. Her story was
a straightforward and simple one. She had become engaged to Mr. Penreath
shortly before the war, and had seen him several times since he was
invalided out of the Army. The last occasion was a month ago, when he
called at her aunt's house at Lancaster Gate. She had noticed a great
change in him since his return from the front. He was moody and
depressed. She did not question him about his illness, as she thought he
was out of spirits because he had been invalided out of the Army, and
did not want to talk about it. He told her he intended to go away for a
change until he got right again--he had not made up his mind where, but
he thought somewhere on the East Coast, where it was cool and bracing,
would suit him best--and he would write to her as soon as he got
settled anywhere. She did not see him again, and did not hear from him
or know anything of his movements till she read his description in a
London paper as that of a man wanted by the Norfolk police for murder.
Her aunt, who showed her the paper, communicated with the Penreaths'
solicitor, Mr. Oakham. The following day she and her aunt were taken to
Heathfield and identified the accused.

"Your aunt took action to allay your anxiety, I understand?" said Mr.
Heathfield, whose watchful eye had noted the unfavourable effect of this
statement on the jury.

The witness bowed.

"Yes," she replied. "I was terribly anxious, as I had not heard from Mr.
Penreath since he went away. Anything was better than the suspense."

"You say accused was moody and depressed when you saw him?" asked Sir
Herbert Templewood.

"Yes."

"May I take it that there was nothing terrifying in his
behaviour--nothing to indicate that he was not in his right mind?"

"No," replied the witness slowly. "He did not frighten me, but I was
concerned about him. He certainly looked ill, and I thought he seemed a
little strange."

"As though he had something on his mind?" suggested Sir Herbert.

"Yes," assented the witness.

"Were you aware that the accused, when he went to see you at your aunt's
home before he departed for Norfolk, was very short of money?"

"I was not. If I had known----"

"You would have helped him--is that what you were going to say?" asked
Mr. Middleheath, as Sir Herbert resumed his seat without pursuing the
point.

"My aunt would have helped Mr. Penreath if she had known he was in
monetary difficulties."

"Thank you." Mr. Middleheath sat down, pulling his gown over his
shoulders.

The witness was leaving the stand when the sharp authoritative voice of
the judge stopped her.

"Wait a minute, please, I want to get this a little clearer. You said
you were aware that the accused was discharged from the Army suffering
from shell-shock. Did he tell you so himself?"

"No, my lord. I was informed so."

"Really, Mr. Middleheath----"

The judge's glance at Counsel for the Defence was so judicial that it
brought Mr. Middleheath hurriedly to his feet again.

"My lord," he explained, "I intend to prove in due course that the
prisoner was invalided out of the Army suffering from shell-shock."

"Very well." The judge motioned to the witness that she was at liberty
to leave the box.

The appearance of Sir Henry Durwood in the box as the next witness
indicated to Crown Counsel that the principal card for the defence was
about to be played. Lawyers conduct defences as some people play
bridge--they keep the biggest trump to the last. Sir Henry represented
the highest trump in Mr. Middleheath's hand, and if he could not score
with him the game was lost.

Sir Henry seemed not unconscious of his importance to the case as he
stepped into the stand and bowed to the judge with bland professional
equality. His evidence-in-chief was short, but to the point, and
amounted to a recapitulation of the statement he had made to Colwyn in
Penreath's bedroom on the morning of the episode in the breakfast-room
of the Grand Hotel, Durrington. Sir Henry related the events of that
morning for the benefit of the jury, and in sonorous tones expressed his
professional opinion that the accused's strange behaviour on that
occasion was the result of an attack of epilepsy--petit mal, combined
with _furor epilepticus_.

The witness defined epilepsy as a disease of the nervous system, marked
by attacks of unconsciousness, with or without convulsions. The loss of
consciousness with severe convulsive seizures was known as grand mal,
the transient loss of consciousness without convulsive seizures was
called petit mal. Attacks of petit mal might come on at any time, and
were usually accompanied by a feeling of faintness and vertigo. The
general symptoms were sudden jerkings of the limbs, sudden tremors,
giddiness and unconsciousness. The eyes became fixed, the face slightly
pale, sometimes very red, and there was frequently some almost automatic
action. In grand mal there was always warning of an attack, in petit mal
there was no warning as a rule, but sometimes there was premonitory
giddiness and restlessness. _Furor epilepticus_ was a medical term
applied to the violence displayed during attacks of petit mal, a
violence which was much greater than extreme anger, and under its
influence the subject was capable of committing the most violent
outrages, even murder, without being conscious of the act.

"There is no doubt in your mind that the accused man had an attack of
petit mal in the breakfast-room of the Durrington hotel the morning
before the murder?" asked Mr. Middleheath.

"None whatever. All the symptoms pointed to it. He was sitting at the
breakfast table when he suddenly ceased eating, and his eyes grew
fixed. The knife which he held in his hand was dropped, but as the
attack increased he picked it up again and thrust it into the table in
front of him--a purely automatic action, in my opinion. When he sprang
up from the table a little while afterwards he was under the influence
of the epileptic fury, and would have made a violent attack on the
people sitting at the next table if I had not seized him.
Unconsciousness then supervened, and, with the aid of another of the
hotel guests, I carried him to his room. It was there I noticed foam on
his lips. When he returned to consciousness he had no recollection of
what had occurred, which is consistent with an epileptic seizure. I saw
that his condition was dangerous, and urged him to send for his friends,
but he refused to do so."

"It would have been better if he had followed your advice. You say it is
consistent with epilepsy for him to have no recollection of what
occurred during this seizure in the hotel breakfast room. What would a
man's condition of mind be if, during an attack of petit mal, he
committed an act of violence, say murder, for example?"

"The mind is generally a complete blank. Sometimes there is a confused
sense of something, but the patient has no recollection of what has
occurred, in my experience."

"In this case the prisoner is charged with murder. Could he have
committed this offence during another attack of _furor epilepticus_ and
recollect nothing about it afterwards? Is that consistent?"

"Yes, quite consistent," replied the witness.

"Is epilepsy an hereditary disease?"

"Yes."

"And if both parents, or one of them, suffered from epilepsy, would
there be a great risk of the children suffering from it?"

"Every risk in the case of both persons being affected; some probability
in the case of one."

"What do you think would be the effect of shell-shock on a person born
of one epileptic parent?"

"It would probably aggravate a tendency to epilepsy, by lowering the
general health."

"Thank you, Sir Henry."

Mr. Middleheath resumed his seat, and Sir Herbert Templewood got up to
cross-examine.



CHAPTER XVI


Sir Herbert Templewood did not believe the evidence of the specialist,
and he did not think the witness believed it himself. Sir Herbert did
not think any the worse of the witness on that account. It was one of
the recognised rules of the game to allow witnesses to stretch a point
or two in favour of the defence where the social honour of highly
respectable families was involved.

Sir Herbert saw in the present defence the fact that the hand of his
venerable friend, Mr. Oakham, had not lost its cunning. Mr. Oakham was a
very respectable solicitor, acting for a very respectable client, and he
had called a very respectable Harley Street specialist--who, by a most
fortuitous circumstance, had been staying at the same hotel as the
accused shortly before the murder was committed--to convince the jury
that the young man was insane, and that his form of insanity was
epilepsy, a disease which had prolonged lucid intervals.

A truly ingenious and eminently respectable defence, and one which, in
his heart of hearts, perhaps, Sir Herbert might not have been sorry to
see succeed, for he knew Sir James Penreath of Twelvetrees, and was
sorry to see his son in such a position. But he had his duty to perform,
and that duty was to discredit in the eyes of the jury the evidence of
the witness in the box, because juries were prone to look upon
specialists as men to whom all things had been revealed, and return a
verdict accordingly.

Sir Herbert made one mistake in his analysis of the defence. Sir Henry,
at least, believed in his own evidence and took himself very seriously
as a specialist. Like most stupid men who have got somewhere in
life, Sir Henry became self-assertive under the least semblance
of contradiction, and he grew violent and red-faced under
cross-examination. He would not hear of the possibility of a mistake in
his diagnosis of the accused's symptoms, but insisted that the accused,
when he saw him at the Durrington hotel, was suffering from an epileptic
seizure, combined with _furor epilepticus_, and was in a state of mind
which made him a menace to his fellow creatures. It was true he
qualified his statements with the words "so far as my observation goes,"
but the qualification was given in a manner which suggested to the jury
that five minutes of Sir Henry Durwood's observation were worth a
month's of a dozen ordinary medical men.

Sir Henry's vehement insistence on his infallibility struck Sir Herbert
as a flagrant violation of the rules of the game. He did not accept the
protestations as genuine; he thought Sir Henry was overdoing his part,
and playing to the gallery. He grew nettled in his turn, and, with a
sudden access of vigour in his tone, said:

"You told my learned friend that it is quite consistent with the
prisoner's malady that he could have committed the crime with which he
stands charged, and remember nothing about it afterwards. Is that a
fact?"

"Certainly."

"In that case, will you kindly explain how the prisoner came to leave
the inn hurriedly, before anybody was up, the morning after the murder
was committed? Why should he run away if he had no recollection of his
act?"

"I must object to my learned friend describing the accused's departure
from the inn as 'running away,'" said Mr. Middleheath, with a bland
smile of protest. "It is highly improper, as nobody knows better than
the Crown Prosecutor, and calculated to convey an altogether erroneous
impression on the minds of the jury. There is not the slightest evidence
to support such a statement. The evidence is that he saw the servant and
paid his bill before departure. That is not running away."

"Very well, I will say hastened away," replied Sir Herbert impatiently.
"Why should the accused hasten away from the inn if he retained no
recollection of the events of the night?"

"He may have had a hazy recollection," replied Sir Henry. "Not of the
act itself, but of strange events happening to him in the
night--something like a bad dream, but more vivid. He may have found
something unusual--such as wet clothes or muddy boots--for which he
could not account. Then he would begin to wonder, and then perhaps there
would come a hazy recollection of some trivial detail. Then, as he came
to himself, he would begin to grow alarmed, and his impulse, as his
normal mind returned to him, would be to leave the place where he was as
soon as he could. This restlessness is a characteristic of epilepsy. In
my opinion, it was this vague alarm, on finding himself in a position
for which he could not account, which was the cause of the accused
leaving the Durrington hotel. His last recollection, as he told me at
the time, was entering the breakfast-room; he came to his senses in his
bedroom, with strangers in the room."

"Does not recollection return completely in attacks of petit mal?"

"Sometimes it does; sometimes not. I remember a case in my student days
where an epileptic violently assaulted a man in the street--almost
murdered him in fact--then assaulted a man who tried to detain him, ran
away, and remembered nothing about it afterwards."

"Is it consistent with petit mal, combined with _furor epilepticus_, for
a man to commit murder, conceal the body of his victim, and remember
nothing about it afterwards?"

"Quite consistent, though the probability is, as I said before, for him
to have some hazy recollection when he came to his senses, which would
lead to his leaving that place as quickly as he could."

"Would it be consistent with petit mal for a man to take a weapon away
beforehand, and then, during a sudden fit of petit mal, use it upon the
unfortunate victim?"

"If he took the weapon for another purpose, it is quite possible that he
might use it afterwards."

"I should like to have that a little clearer," said the judge,
interposing. "Do you mean to get the weapon for another, possibly quite
innocent purpose, and then use it for an act of violence?"

"Yes, my lord," replied Sir Henry. "That is quite consistent with an
attack of petit mal."

"When a man has periodical attacks of petit mal, would it not be
possible, by observation of him between the attacks, or when he was
suffering from the attacks, to tell whether he had a tendency to them?"

"No, only in a very few and exceptional cases."

"In your opinion epilepsy is an hereditary disease?"

"Undoubtedly."

"Are you aware that certain eminent French specialists, including Marie,
are of the opinion that hereditary influences play a very small part in
epilepsy?"

"That may be." Sir Henry dismissed the views of the French specialists
with a condescending wave of his fat white hand.

"That does not alter your own opinion?"

"Certainly not."

"And do you say that because this man's mother suffered from epilepsy
the chances are that he is suffering from it?"

"Pardon me, I said nothing of the kind. I think the chances are that he
would have a highly organised nervous system, and would probably suffer
from some nervous disease. In the case of the prisoner, I should say
that shell-shock increased his predisposition to epilepsy."

"Do you suggest that shell-shock leads to epilepsy?"

"In general, no; in this particular case, possibly. A man may have
shell-shock, and injury to the brain, which is not necessarily
epileptic."

"It is possible for shell-shock alone to lead to a subsequent attack of
insanity?" asked the judge.

"It is possible--certainly."

"How often do these attacks of petit mal occur?" asked Sir Herbert.

"They vary considerably according to the patient--sometimes once a week,
sometimes monthly, and there have been cases in which the attacks are
separated by months."

"Are not two attacks in twenty-four hours unprecedented?"

"Unusual, but not unprecedented. The excitement of going from one place
to another, and walking miles to get there, would be a predisposing
factor. Prisoner would have been suffering from the effects of the first
attack when he left the Durrington hotel, and the excitement of the
change and the fatigue of walking all day would have been very
prejudicial to him, and account for the second and more violent attack."

"How long do the after effects last--of an attack of petit mal, I mean."

"It depends on the violence of the attack. Sometimes as long as five or
six hours. The recovery is generally attended with general lassitude."

"There is no evidence to show that the prisoner displayed any symptoms
of epilepsy before the attack which you witnessed at the Durrington
hotel. Is it not unusual for a person to reach the age of twenty-eight
or thereabouts without showing any previous signs of a disease like
epilepsy?"

"There must be a first attack--that goes without saying," interposed the
judge testily.

That concluded the cross-examination. Mr. Middleheath, in
re-examination, asked Sir Henry whether foam at the lips was a
distinguishing mark of epilepsy.

"It generally indicates an epileptic tendency," replied Sir Henry
Durwood.

At the conclusion of Sir Henry Durwood's evidence Mr. Middleheath called
an official from the War Office to prove formally that Lieutenant James
Penreath had been discharged from His Majesty's forces suffering from
shell-shock.

"I understand that, prior to the illness which terminated his military
career, Lieutenant Penreath had won a reputation as an exceedingly
gallant soldier, and had been awarded the D.S.O," said Mr. Middleheath.

"That is so," replied the witness.

"Is that the case?" asked the judge.

"That, my lord, is the case," replied Mr. Middleheath.

Sir Herbert Templewood, on behalf of the Crown, proceeded to call
rebutting medical evidence to support the Crown contention that the
accused was sane and aware of the nature of his acts. The first witness
was Dr. Henry Manton, of Heathfield, who said he saw the accused when he
was brought into the station from Flegne by Police Constable Queensmead.
He seemed perfectly rational, though disinclined to talk.

"Did you find any symptom upon him which pointed to his having recently
suffered from epilepsy of any kind?" asked Sir Herbert.

"No."

"Do you agree with Sir Henry Durwood that between attacks of epilepsy
the patient would exhibit no signs of the disease?" asked Mr.
Middleheath.

"What do you mean by between the attacks?"

"I mean when he had completely recovered from one fit and before the
next came on," explained counsel.

"I quite agree with that," replied the witness.

"How long does it usually take for a man to recover from an attack of
epilepsy?"

"It depends on the severity of the attack."

"Well, take an attack serious enough to cause a man to commit murder."

"It may take hours--five or six hours. He would certainly be drowsy and
heavy for three or four hours afterwards."

"But not longer--he would not show symptoms for thirty-six hours?"

"Certainly not."

"Then, may I take it from you, doctor, that after the five or six hours
recovery after a bad attack an epileptic might show no signs of the
disease--not even to medical eyes--till the next attack?"

"I should say so," replied the witness. "But I am not an authority on
mental diseases."

"Thank you."

The next witness was Dr. Gilbert Horbury, who described himself as
medical officer of His Majesty's prison, Norwich, and formerly medical
officer of the London detention prison. In reply to Sir Herbert
Templewood, he said he had had much experience in cases of insanity and
alleged insanity. He had had the accused in the present case under
observation since the time he had been brought to the gaol. He was very
taciturn, but he was quiet and gentlemanly in his behaviour. His
temperature and pulse were normal, but he slept badly, and twice he
complained of pains in the head. Witness attributed the pains in the
head to the effect of shell-shock. He had seen no signs which suggested,
to his mind, that prisoner was an epileptic. In reply to a direct
question by Sir Herbert Templewood, he expressed his deliberate
professional opinion that the accused was not suffering from epilepsy in
any form. Epilepsy did not start off with a bad attack ending in
violence--or murder. There were premonitory symptoms and slight attacks
extending over a considerable period, which must have manifested
themselves, particularly in the case of a man who had been through an
arduous military campaign. His illness might have had a bad effect on
the brain, but if it had led to mental disease he would have expected it
to show itself before.

From this point of view the witness, a dour, grey figure of a man,
refused to be driven by cross-examination. His many professional years
within the sordid atmosphere of gaol walls had taught him that most
criminals were malingerers by instinct, and that pretended insanity was
the commonest form of their imposition to evade the consequence of
their misdeeds. The number of false cases which had passed through his
hands had led him to the very human conclusion that all such defences
were merely efforts to defraud the law, and, as a zealous officer of the
law, he took a righteous satisfaction in discomfiting them, particularly
when--as in the present instance--the defence was used to shield an
accused of some social standing. For Dr. Horbury's political tendencies
were levelling and iconoclastic, and he had a deep contempt for caste,
titles, and monarchs.

He was too sophisticated as a witness to walk into Mr. Middleheath's
trap and contradict Sir Henry's evidence directly, but he contrived to
convey the impression that his own observation of accused, covering a
period of nine days, was a better guide for the jury in arriving at a
conclusion as to the accused's state of mind than Sir Henry's opinion,
formed after a single and limited opportunity of diagnosing the case. He
also managed to infer, in a gentlemanly professional way, that Sir Henry
Durwood was deservedly eminent in the medical world as a nerve
specialist, rather than as a mental specialist, whereas witness's own
experience in mental cases had been very wide. He talked learnedly of
the difficulty of diagnosing epilepsy except after prolonged
observation, and cited lengthily from big books, which a court constable
brought into court one by one, on symptoms, reflex causes, auras, grand
mal, petit mal, Jacksonian epilepsy, and the like.

The only admission of any value that Mr. Middleheath could extract from
Dr. Horbury was a statement that while he had seen no symptoms in the
prisoner to suggest that he was an epileptic, epileptics did not, as a
rule, show symptoms of the disease between the attack.

"Therefore, assuming the fact that Penreath is subject to epilepsy, you
would not necessarily expect to find any symptoms of the disease during
the time he was awaiting trial?" asked Mr. Middleheath, eagerly
following up the opening.

"Possibly nothing that one could swear to," rejoined the witness, in an
exceedingly dry tone.

Mr. Middleheath essayed no more questions, but got the witness out of
the box as quickly as possible, trusting to his own address to remove
the effect of the evidence on the mind of the jury. At the outset of
that address he pointed out that the case for the Crown rested upon
purely circumstantial evidence, and that nobody had seen the prisoner
commit the murder with which he was charged. The main portion of his
remarks was directed to convincing the jury that the prisoner was the
unhappy victim of epileptic attacks, in which he was not responsible for
his actions. He scouted the theory of motive, as put forward by the
Crown. It was not fair to suggest that the Treasury note which the
accused paid to the servant at the inn was necessarily part of the dead
man's money which had disappeared on the night of the murder and had not
since been recovered. The fact that the accused had been turned out of
the Grand Hotel, for not paying his hotel bill, was put forward by the
Crown to show that he was in a penniless condition, but that assumption
went too far. It might well be that a man in the accused's social
standing would have a pound or two in his pocket, although he might not
be able to meet an hotel bill of £30.

"Can you conceive this young man, this gallant soldier, this heir to an
old and honourable name, with everything in life to look forward to,
committing an atrocious murder for £300?" continued Mr. Middleheath.
"The traditions of his name and race, his upbringing, his recent gallant
career as a soldier, alike forbid the sordid possibility. Moreover, he
had no need to commit a crime to obtain money. His father, his friends,
or the woman who was to be his wife, would have instantly supplied him
with the money he needed, if they had known he was in want. To a young
man in his station of life £300 is a comparatively small sum. Is it
likely that he would have committed murder to obtain it?"

"On the other hand, the prisoner's actions, since returning to England,
strongly suggest that his mind has been giving way for some time past.
He was invalided from the Army suffering from shell-shock, with the
result that his constitution became weakened, and the fatal taint of
inherited epilepsy, which was in his blood, began to manifest itself.
His family doctor and his fiancée have told you that his behaviour was
strange before he left for Norfolk; since coming to Norfolk it has been
unmistakably that of a man who is no longer sane. Was it the conduct of
a sane man to conceal his whereabouts from his friends, and stay at an
hotel without money till he was turned out, when he might have had
plenty of money, or at all events saved himself the humiliation of being
turned out of the hotel, at the cost of a telegram? And why did he
subsequently go miles across country to a remote and wretched inn, where
he had never been before, and beg for a bed for the night? Were these
the acts of a sane man?"

In his peroration Mr. Middleheath laid particular emphasis on the
evidence of Sir Henry Durwood, whose name was known throughout England
as one of the most eminent specialists of his day. Sir Henry Durwood,
Mr. Middleheath pointed out, had seen the prisoner in a fit at the
Durrington hotel, and he emphatically declared that the accused was an
epileptic, with homicidal tendencies. Such an opinion, coming from such
a quarter, was, to Mr. Middleheath's mind, incontrovertible proof of
the prisoner's insanity, and he did not see how the jury could go behind
it in coming to a decision.

Sir Herbert Templewood's address consisted of a dry marshalling of the
facts for and against the theory of insanity. Sir Herbert contended that
the defence had failed to establish their contention that the accused
man was not in his right mind. He impressed upon the jury the decided
opinion of Dr. Horbury, who, as doctor of the metropolitan receiving
gaol, had probably a wider experience of epilepsy and insanity than any
specialist in the world. Dr. Horbury, after nine days close observation
of the accused, had come to the conclusion that he was perfectly sane
and responsible for his actions.

The general opinion among the bunch of legal wigs which gathered
together at the barristers' table as Sir Herbert Templewood resumed his
seat was that the issue had been very closely fought on both sides, and
that the verdict would depend largely upon the way the judge summed up.

His lordship commenced his summing up by informing the jury that in the
first place they must be satisfied that the prisoner was the person who
killed Mr. Glenthorpe. He did not think they would have much difficulty
on that head, because, although the evidence was purely circumstantial,
it pointed strongly to the accused, and the defence had not seriously
contested the charge. Therefore, if they were satisfied that the accused
did, in fact, cause the death of Mr. Glenthorpe, the only question that
remained for them to decide was the state of the prisoner's mind at the
time. If they were satisfied that he was not insane at the time, they
must find him guilty of murder. If, however, they came to the conclusion
that he was insane at the time he committed the act, they would return
a verdict that he was guilty of the act charged against him, but that he
was insane at the time.

His lordship painstakingly defined the difference between sanity and
insanity in the eyes of the law, but though his precise and legal
definition called forth appreciative glances from the lawyers below him,
it is doubtful whether the jury were much wiser for the explanation.
After reviewing the evidence for the prosecution at considerable length,
his lordship then proceeded, with judicial impartiality, to state the
case for the defence. The case for the prisoner, he said, was that he
had been strange or eccentric ever since he returned from the front
suffering from shell-shock, that his eccentricity deepened into
homicidal insanity, and that he committed the act of which he stood
charged while suffering under an attack of epilepsy, which produced a
state of mind that led the sufferer to commit an act of violence without
understanding what he was doing. In view of the nature of this defence
the jury were bound to look into the prisoner's family and hereditary
history, and into his own acts before the murder, before coming to a
conclusion as to his state of mind.

The defence, he thought, had proved sufficient to enable the jury to
draw the conclusion that Lady Penreath, the mother of the prisoner, was
an epileptic. The assertion that the prisoner was an epileptic rested
upon the evidence of Sir Henry Durwood, for the evidence of Miss
Willoughby and the family doctor went no further than to suggest a
slight strangeness or departure from the prisoner's usual demeanour. Sir
Henry Durwood, by reason of his professional standing, was entitled to
be received with respect, but he had himself admitted that he had had no
previous opportunity of diagnosing the case of accused, and that it was
difficult to form an exact opinion in a disease like epilepsy. Dr.
Horbury, on the other hand, had declared that the prisoner showed
nothing symptomatic of epilepsy while awaiting remand. In Dr. Horbury's
opinion, he was not an epileptic. Therefore the case resolved itself
into a direct conflict of medical testimony, and it was for the jury to
decide, and form a conclusion as to the man's state of mind in
conjunction with the other evidence.

"The contention for the defence," continued his lordship, leaning
forward and punctuating his words with sharp taps of his fountain pen on
the desk in front of him, "is this: 'Look at this case fairly and
clearly, and you are bound to come to the conclusion that this man is
not in a sound frame of mind.' The prosecution, on the other hand, say,
'The facts of this case do not point to insanity at all, but to
deliberate murder for gain.' The defence urge further, 'You have got to
look at the probabilities. No man in prisoner's position, a gentleman by
birth and upbringing, the heir of an old and proud name, with a hitherto
unblemished reputation, and the prospects of a long and not
inconspicuous career in front of him, would in his senses have murdered
this old man.' That is a matter for you to consider, because we do know
that brutal crimes are committed by the most unlikely persons. But the
prosecution also allege motive, and you must consider the question of
motive. It is suggested, and it is for you to consider whether rightly
or wrongly suggested, that there was a motive in killing this man,
because the prisoner was absolutely penniless and wanted to get money."

"Gentlemen, you will first apply your minds to considering all the
evidence, and you will next consider whether you are satisfied that the
prisoner knew the difference between right and wrong so far as the act
with which he is charged is concerned. You must decide whether he knew
the nature and quality of the act, and whether he knew the difference
between that act being right, and that act being wrong. I have already
pointed out to you that the law presumes him to be of sane mind, and
able to distinguish between right and wrong, and it is for him to
satisfy you, if he is to escape responsibility for this act, that he
could not tell whether it was right or wrong. If you are satisfied of
that, you ought to say that he is guilty of the act alleged, but insane
at the time it was committed. If you are not satisfied on that point,
then it is your duty to find him guilty of murder. Gentlemen, you will
kindly retire and consider your verdict."

The jury retired, and there ensued a period of tension, which the
lawyers employed in discussing the technicalities of the case and the
probabilities of an acquittal. Mr. Oakham thought an acquittal was a
certainty, but Mr. Middleheath, with a deeper knowledge of the ways of
provincial juries, declared that the defence would have stood a better
chance of success before a London jury, because Londoners had more
imagination than other Englishmen.

"You never can tell how a d----d muddle-headed country jury will decide
a highly technical case like this," said the K.C. peevishly. "I've lost
stronger cases than this before a Norfolk jury. Norfolk men are
clannish, and Horbury's evidence carried weight. He is a Norfolk man,
though he has been in London. One never knows, of course. If the jury
remain out over an hour I think we will pull it off."

But the jury returned into court after an absence of forty minutes. The
judge, who was waiting in his private room, was informed, and he entered
the court and resumed his seat. The jury answered to their names, and
then the Clerk of Arraigns, in a sing-song voice, said:

"Gentlemen, have you agreed upon your verdict? Do you find the prisoner
guilty or not guilty of wilful murder?"

"Guilty!" answered the foreman, in a loud, clear voice.

"You say that he is guilty of murder, and that is the verdict of you
all?"

"That is the verdict of us all," was the response.

"James Ronald Penreath," continued the clerk, turning to the accused
man, and speaking in the same sing-song tones of one who repeated a
formula by rote, "you stand convicted of the crime of wilful murder.
Have you anything to say for yourself why the Court should not give you
judgment of death according to law?"

The man in the dock, who had turned very pale, merely shook his head.

The judge, with expressionless face and in an expressionless voice,
pronounced sentence of death.



CHAPTER XVII


Colwyn returned to Durrington in a perplexed and dissatisfied frame of
mind. The trial, which he had attended and followed closely, had failed
to convince him that all the facts concerning the death of Roger
Glenthorpe had been brought to light. Really, the trial had not been a
trial at all, but merely a battle of lawyers about the state of
Penreath's mind.

If Penreath was really sane--and Colwyn, who had watched him closely
during the trial, believed that he was--the Crown theory of the murder
by no means accounted for all the amazing facts of the case.

Should he have done more? Colwyn asked himself this question again and
again. But that query always led to another one--_Could_ he have done
more? In his mental probings the detective could rarely get away from
the point--and when he did get away from it he always returned to
it--that Penreath, by his dogged silence, had been largely responsible
for his own conviction. If a man, charged with murder, refused to
account for actions which pointed to him as the murderer, how could
anybody help him? Silence, in certain circumstances, was the strongest
presumptive proof of guilt. A man was the best judge of his own actions
and, if he refused to speak when his own life might pay the forfeit for
silence, he must have the strongest possible reason for holding his
tongue. What other reason could Penreath have except the consciousness
of guilt, and the hope of escaping the consequences through a loop-hole
of the law?

Colwyn, however, was unable to accept this line of argument as
conclusive, so he tried to put the case out of his mind. But the
unsolved points of the mystery--the points that he himself had
discovered during his visit to the inn--kept returning to his mind at
all sorts of odd times, in the night, and during his walks. And each
recurrence was accompanied by the consciousness that he had not done his
best in the case, but had allowed the silence of the accused man to
influence his judgment and slacken his efforts to unravel the clues he
had originally discovered. Thus he travelled back to his starting-point,
that the conviction of Penreath had not solved the mystery of the murder
of Roger Glenthorpe.

The hotel and its guests bored him. The season was over, and the few
people who remained were elderly and commonplace, prone to overeating,
and to falling asleep round the lounge fire after dinner. The only
topics of conversation were the weather, the war, and food. Sometimes
the elderly clergyman, who still lingered, though the other golfers had
gone, sought to turn the conversation to golf, but nobody listened to
him except his wife, who sat opposite to him in the warmest part of the
lounge placidly knitting socks for the War Comforts Fund. The Flegne
murder and its result were not discussed; by tacit mutual understanding
the guests never referred to the unpleasant fact that they had lived for
some weeks under the same roof with a man who had since been declared a
murderer by the laws of his country.

Colwyn decided to return to London, although the month he had allowed
himself for a holiday was not completed. He was restless and uneasy and
bored, and he thought that immersion in work would help him to forget
the Glenthorpe case. He came to this decision at breakfast one morning.
Within an hour he had paid his bill, received the polite regrets of the
proprietor at his departure, and was motoring leisurely southward along
the cliff road towards its junction with the main London road.

Important consequences frequently spring from trifling incidents.
Colwyn, turning his car to the side of the road to avoid a flock of
sheep, punctured a tyre on a sharp jagged piece of rock concealed in the
loose sand at the side of the road. He had not a spare tyre on the car,
and the shepherd informed him that the nearest town where he could hope
to get the tyre replaced was Faircroft, but even that was doubtful,
because Faircroft was a small town without a garage, and the one
tradesman who did motor-car repairs was, just as likely as not, without
the right kind of tyres, or equally likely to have none at all. As he
had left Durrington barely three miles behind Colwyn decided to return
there, to have the car repaired, and defer his departure till the
following day.

He reached Durrington with a deflated tyre, took the car to the garage,
and then went back to the hotel. It wanted nearly an hour to lunch-time,
and on his way in he paused at the office window to inform the clerk
that he had returned, and would stay till the following day. The
proprietor was in the office, checking some figures. The latter looked
up as Colwyn informed the lady clerk of his altered plans, and informed
him that a young lady had been at the hotel inquiring for him shortly
after his departure.

"What was her name?" asked the detective, in some surprise.

"She didn't give her name. She seemed very disappointed when she learnt
that you had departed for London, and went away at once."

"What was she like?"

The proprietor and the lady clerk described her at the same time. In the
former's eyes the visitor had appeared pretty and young with golden hair
and a very clear complexion. The lady clerk, without the least departure
from the standard of courtesy imposed upon her by her position, managed
to indicate that the impression made upon her feminine mind was that of
a white-faced girl with red hair. From both descriptions Colwyn had no
difficulty in identifying the visitor as Peggy.

Why had she come to Durrington to see him? Obviously the visit was
connected with the murder at the inn. Colwyn recalled his last
conversation with her on the marshes the day after he had seen her come
out of the dead man's room.

He hurried out in the hope of finding her. She had probably come by
train from Leyland, and would go back the same way. Colwyn looked at his
watch. It was a quarter past twelve, and there was no train back to
Leyland till half-past one--so much Colwyn remembered from his study of
the local time-table. Therefore, unless she had walked back to Flegne
she should not be difficult to find--probably she was somewhere on the
cliffs, or near the sea. Somehow, Peggy seemed to belong to the sea and
Nature. It was difficult to picture her in a conventional setting.

It was by the sea that he found her, sitting in one of the shelters on
the parade, with her hands clasped in her lap, looking listlessly at a
fisher-boat putting out from the yellow sands below. She glanced round
at the sound of his footsteps, and, seeing who it was, came out from the
shelter and advanced to meet him.

"They told me at the hotel somebody had been asking for me, and I
guessed it was you. You wanted to see me?"

"Yes." She did not express any surprise at his return, as another girl
would, but stood with her hands still clasped in front of her, and a
look of entreaty in her eyes. Colwyn noticed that her face had grown
thinner, and that in the depths of her glance there lurked a troubled
shadow.

"Shall we walk a little and you can tell me what you wish to say?"

"It is very kind of you."

He turned away from the front and towards the cliffs, judging that the
girl would feel more disposed to talk freely away from human habitation
and people. They went on for some distance in silence, the girl walking
with a light quick step, looking straight in front of her, as though
immersed in thought.

They reached a part of the cliffs where a low wall divided the foreland
from an old churchyard which was fast crumbling into the sea. Peggy
paused with her hand on the wall, and looked seaward. The sun, piercing
a rift in the dark clouds, lighted the sullen grey waters with patches
of gold. Colwyn, in the hope of inducing his companion to talk, pointed
out the beautiful effect of the light and shadow on the sea.

"I hate the sea! I have never looked at it since the war started without
seeing the many, many dead sailor boys at the bottom, staring up with
their dead eyes through the weight of waters for a God of Justice in the
heavens, and looking in vain." She turned her eyes from the sea, and
looked at him passionately. "You do not care about the sea, either. You
are only trying to put me at my ease--to help me say what I want to
say. It is kind of you, but it is not necessary. I feel I can trust
you--I must trust you. I am only a girl and there is nobody else in the
world I dare trust. It is about--_him_. Have you seen him? Have you
spoken to him? Did he speak about me?"

"I saw him only at the trial," replied Colwyn, with his ready
comprehension. "I had no opportunity of speaking to him alone."

"I read about the trial in the paper," she went on. "They said that he
was mad in order to try and save him, but he is not mad--he was too good
and kind to be mad. Oh, why did he kill Mr. Glenthorpe? Will they kill
him for that? You are clever, can you not save him? I have come to beg
you to save him. Ever since they took him away I have seen his eyes
wherever I go, looking at me reproachfully, as though calling upon me to
save him. Last night, while I was in my grandmother's room, I thought I
saw him standing there, and heard his voice, just as he used to speak.
And in the night I woke up and thought I heard him whisper, 'Peggy, it
is better to tell the truth.' This morning I could endure it no longer,
and I came across to find you."

"You have known him before, then?"

"Yes." The girl met Colwyn's grave glance with clear, unafraid eyes. "I
did not tell you before, not because I was afraid to trust you, for I
liked you from the first, but I was afraid that if I told you all you
would think him guilty, and not try to help him. And when you spoke to
me on the marshes that day you believed he might be innocent."

"How do you know that?"

"I heard you say so to that police officer--Superintendent
Galloway--after dinner the first night you were at Flegne. I was passing
the bar parlour when you and he were talking about the murder, and I
heard you say that you thought somebody else might have done it. The day
after, when you saw me on the marshes, I was frightened to tell you the
truth, because I thought if you knew it you might go away and not try to
save him."

"You had better tell the whole truth to me now. Nothing you can now say
will make it worse for Penreath, and it may be possible to help him.
When did you first meet him?"

"Nearly three weeks before--it happened. I used to go out for long
walks, when I could get away from grandmother, and this day I walked
nearly as far as Leyland. He came walking along the sands a little while
afterwards, and he looked at me as he passed. Presently he came back
again, and stopped to ask me if there was a shorter way back to
Durrington than by the coast road. I told him I didn't know, and he
stopped to talk to me for a while. He told me he was in Norfolk for a
holiday, and was spending the time in country rambles.

"I will tell you the whole truth. I returned to the headland next day in
the hope that I might see him again. After I had been there a little
while I saw him walking along the sands. He waved his hand when he saw
me, as though we had been old friends, and that afternoon we stayed
talking much longer.

"I saw him nearly every afternoon after that--whenever I could get away
I walked down to the headland, and he was always there. The spot where
we used to meet was hidden from the road by some fir-trees, and I do not
think we were ever seen by anybody. He told me all about himself, but I
did not tell him anything about myself or my home. I knew he was a
gentleman, and I thought if I told him that my father kept an inn he
might not want to see me any more, and I could not bear that. I told
him my Christian name, and he liked it, and used to call me by it, but I
would not tell him my other name.

"The night that he came to the inn I met him in the afternoon at the
headland as usual, and we stayed talking until it was time for me to go
home. He was very troubled that day, and it grieved me to see him
looking so white and ill. When I questioned him he told me that he had
been slightly ill that morning, and that he was very much worried about
money matters. I felt very unhappy to think that he was troubled about
money, and when he saw that he said he was sorry he had told me.

"When I left him it was later than usual. I was supposed to look after
my grandmother every afternoon, and when I went to the headland I
usually got Ann to sit in her room until I returned. I was always
careful to get back before my father came in from fishing on the
marshes. He would have been very angry if he had returned and found me
absent, and I should not have been able to get out again. It was nearly
four that afternoon when I left the headland, and I walked very quick so
as to be back in time. It was getting on towards dusk when I reached
home.

"I went straight up to my grandmother's room, so that Ann could go down
and get dinner for Mr. Glenthorpe, who usually came in about dark. I sat
with grandmother till past six o'clock, and then, as Ann hadn't brought
grandmother's tea, I went down to the kitchen to get it myself. Ann was
very busy getting dinner, and she told me a young gentleman had arrived
at the inn half an hour before, and he was going to dine upstairs with
Mr. Glenthorpe, and stay for the night. I was surprised, for we rarely
had visitors at the inn. I asked Ann some questions about him, but she
could tell me very little. Charles, the waiter, came into the kitchen to
get the things ready to take upstairs, and he told me that the visitor
was young, good-looking, and seemed a gentleman.

"I got grandmother's tea ready, and was carrying it along the passage
from the kitchen when I fancied I heard Mr. Penreath's voice in the bar
parlour. I thought at first that I must be mistaken; then the door of
the parlour opened, and Mr. Glenthorpe and Mr. Penreath came out. I was
so surprised and frightened that I almost dropped the tray I was
carrying. If they had looked down the side passage they would have seen
me. But he and Mr. Glenthorpe turned the other way, and went upstairs.
Then Charles came along carrying a dinner tray, and went upstairs also.
I knew then that Mr. Penreath was the gentleman who was going to dine
with Mr. Glenthorpe, and stay the night.

"I did not know what to do. I took grandmother's tea upstairs, and crept
past the room where they were having dinner, because I did not want him
to see me till I had made up my mind what to do. The door was shut, and
they couldn't see me, though I could hear them talking inside. When I
got to my grandmother's room I tried to think what was best to do. My
first thought was that he had found out who I was. Then it seemed to me
that he might have come by accident, in some way that I didn't
understand, because why should he dine with Mr. Glenthorpe, and stay
with him, if he had come to see me? Then I wondered if it were possible
that he knew Mr. Glenthorpe, who was a gentleman like himself, and had
come to ask him to help him. I had never told him anything about Mr.
Glenthorpe or myself.

"I determined to try and see him that night to let him know that the inn
was my home. If he had come to the inn by accident it was better that he
should not meet me in front of my father, because in his surprise he
might say that he had met me before. My father would have been very
angry if he knew I had been meeting a stranger. So I went along the
passage several times in the hope of seeing him as he came from dinner.
But once my father was going into the room where they were having
dinner, and he nearly saw me, so I dared not go again.

"A little after ten o'clock my grandmother began to get restless, as she
always does when a storm is coming on, and I had to stay with her to
keep her quiet. I can do more with her than anybody else when she is
like that, and it is not safe to leave her. Sometimes my father goes and
sits with her a while before he goes to bed, but this night he did not.
She got very bad as the storm came on, and while it lasted I sat
alongside of her holding her hand and soothing her. After about half an
hour the rain ceased as suddenly as it had commenced, and grandmother
fell asleep. I knew she was all right until the morning, so I left her
for the night.

"As I turned to go to my room, I thought I saw a light in the other
passage, and I went down to see what it was. I thought perhaps Mr.
Penreath might be waiting up reading before going to bed.

"I crept along to the bend of the passage, and looked down it, thinking
perhaps I might see him and speak to him. There was nobody in the
passage, but the door of Mr. Glenthorpe's room was half open and a light
was streaming through it.

"I do not know really what took me to Mr. Glenthorpe's room. I have
tried to think it out clearly since, but I cannot. I know I was
distressed and troubled about Mr. Penreath's presence at the inn, and I
was afraid he would be cross and angry with me for not having told him
the truth about myself. And before that, when I was walking home after
meeting him that afternoon, I had been unhappy about his wanting money,
and wished that I could do something to help him. These thoughts kept
going through my head as I sat with grandmother during the storm.

"When I saw the door of Mr. Glenthorpe's room open, and the light
burning, all these thoughts seemed to come back into my head together. I
remembered how good and kind Mr. Glenthorpe had always been to me. I had
heard my father tell Charles that morning that Mr. Glenthorpe had gone
to the bank at Heathfield that day to draw out a large sum of money to
buy Mr. Cranley's field.

"I think I had a confused idea that I would go and confide in Mr.
Glenthorpe, and ask him to help Mr. Penreath. Perhaps I have not made
myself very clear about this, but I do not remember very clearly myself,
for I acted on a sudden impulse, and ran along the passage quickly, in
case he should shut his door before I got there, because I knew if he
did that I should not have the courage to knock. Through the half-open
door I could see the inside of the room between the door and the window.
It seemed to me to be empty. I gave a little tap at the door, but there
was no reply. It was then I noticed that the bedroom window was wide
open, and that a current of air was blowing into the room and causing
the light behind the door to cast flickering shadows across the room.

"That struck me as strange. I knew Mr. Glenthorpe always used a reading
lamp, and never a candle, and I knew that the reading lamp wouldn't
cast shadows because of the lamp glass. I do not know what I feared, but
I know a dreadful shiver of fear crept over me, and that some force
stronger than myself seemed to compel me to step inside the room in
spite of my fears."



CHAPTER XVIII


"He was lying on the bed, quite dead. There was blood on his breast, and
his hands were held out, as though he had tried to push off the man who
had killed him. On the table, by the head of the bed, was a lighted
candle, and it was the light of the candle which had cast the flickering
shadows I had seen before entering the room. On the bed, near the
pillow, was a match-box, and I remember picking it up and placing it in
the candlestick--mechanically, for I am sure I did not know what I was
doing, and I did not recall the act till afterwards. I have a clearer
recollection of touching something with my foot, and stooping to pick it
up. It was a knife--a white handled knife, with blood on the blade. And
as I stood there, with it in my hand, there came to my mind, clear and
distinct, the memory of having seen that knife on the dinner tray
Charles had carried past me upstairs, as I stood in the passage near the
kitchen, where I first discovered that Mr. Penreath was in the house.

"I do not know how long I stood there, with the knife in my hand,
looking at the body--perhaps it was not more than a moment. There seemed
to be two individualities in me, one urging me to fly, the other keeping
me rooted to the spot, petrified.

"Then I heard a sound downstairs. A wild panic came over me, and my head
grew dizzy. The shadows in the corners of the room seemed full of
mocking eyes, and I thought I heard stealthy steps creeping up the
stairs. I dared not stay where I was, but I was too afraid to go out
into the passage in the dark. Then my eyes fell on the candle, and I
picked it up and was going to rush from the room, when I remembered that
I had the knife in my hand.

"I did not know what to do with it. I wanted to shield him, but some
feeling within me would not let me carry it away. I looked round the
room for somewhere to hide it, and my eye fell on a picture against the
wall, close to the door. Quick as thought I put the knife behind the
picture as I ran from the room.

"There was nobody in the passage, and I gained my own room and locked
the door. I think I must have fainted, or become unconscious, for I
remember nothing more after throwing myself on my bed, and when I came
to my senses the dawn was creeping in through my bedroom window. I was
very cold, and dazed. I crept into bed without taking off my clothes,
and fell asleep. When I awoke it was broad daylight, and as I lay in bed
I heard the kitchen clock chime seven.

"I got up, and went into grandmother's room. A little while afterwards
Ann came up with some tea, and she told me that Mr. Penreath had gone
away early, without having any breakfast. She told me that she had found
Mr. Glenthorpe's room empty, with the key in the outside of the door.
She was afraid something had happened to him, so she had sent for
Constable Queensmead. I did not tell her what I had seen in the night. I
wanted to be alone, to think. I could not understand how Mr.
Glenthorpe's body had disappeared from his room. I think I hoped that I
would presently wake up and find that what I had seen during the night
was some terrible dream. But Ann came up a little later and told me that
Mr. Glenthorpe's body had been discovered in the pit on the rise, and
that Mr. Ronald, as she called Mr. Penreath, was suspected of having
murdered him.

"When she told me that I felt as though my blood turned to ice. I knew
it was true--I knew that he had killed Mr. Glenthorpe because he wanted
money--but I knew that in spite of all I wanted to shield and help him.
I kept in my grandmother's room all day, determined to keep silence, and
tell nobody about what I had seen during the night. The one thing that
worried me was the knife which I had put behind the picture on the wall.
I tried once to go into the room and get it, but the door was locked,
and I dared not ask for the key.

"Then in the afternoon the police came from Durrington. I did not know
who you were when you came with them into my grandmother's room, but as
soon as I saw you I was afraid, though I tried hard not to let you see
it. I knew you were cleverer than the others. But your eyes seemed to go
right into mine, and search my soul. I asked my father afterwards who
you were, and he said your name was Mr. Colwyn, and that you were a
London detective. I had read about you; I knew that you were famous and
clever, and after seeing you I felt that you would be sure to discover
my secret, and put Mr. Penreath in prison.

"That night when I was downstairs, I heard you and the police officer
talking in the room where you had dined, and I listened at the door.
When I heard you say that you were not certain who committed the murder,
I was very much surprised, because up till then I felt quite certain
that you would think Mr. Penreath was guilty. I believed if you found
the knife you would alter your opinion, Ann having told me that the
police knew that Mr. Glenthorpe had been murdered with a knife which Mr.
Penreath had used at dinner. The idea came into my head that if I could
get the knife before you found it, you might go on thinking that
somebody else had committed the crime, and perhaps persuade the police
to think so as well.

"I made up my mind I would go into the room that night and get the
knife. I knew that the door was locked, and that the police officer had
placed the key on the mantelpiece in the bar parlour. During the evening
I kept downstairs at the back of the passage waiting for an opportunity
to get it. You both stayed there so long that I did not think I should
get the chance.

"After you went upstairs to bed Mr. Galloway called Charles to get him
some brandy. Charles came out from his room to get it. Mr. Galloway
followed him into the bar. While he was there I slipped into the room
and got the key, and left the key of my own room in its place. I did not
think the police officer would notice the difference, but it was a risk
I had to take. Then I ran up to my room.

"Although I had got the key I was for some time afraid to use it. I
could not bear the thought of going into that room, and to get there I
had to go past your door; I did not like that.

"Then I crept out along the passage as quietly as I could, carrying my
shoes, for I had made up my mind that after I got the knife I would take
it across the marshes to the breakwater and throw it into the sea. That
was the one place where I felt sure you would not find it. I carried a
candle in my hand, but I dared not light it until I got past your door,
in case you were awake and saw the light. When I reached Mr.
Glenthorpe's room I lit the candle and unlocked the door, turning the
key as gently as I could. But it made a noise, and, as I stood
listening, I thought I heard a movement in your room. I blew out the
candle, stepped inside the room, took the key out, and locked the door
on the inside.

"I do not know how long I stood there listening in the dark, but I know
that I was not as frightened as I had expected to be--at first. I kept
telling myself that Mr. Glenthorpe had always been kind to me while he
was alive, and that he would not harm me now that he was dead. I did not
look towards the bed, but kept close to the door, straining my ears to
catch any sound in the passage outside. But after a while I began to get
frightened in that dark room with the door locked, and dreadful thoughts
came into my mind. I remembered a story I had read about a man who was
locked up all night in a room with a dead body, and was found mad in the
morning, and the position of the corpse had changed. It seemed to me as
though Mr. Glenthorpe was sitting up in bed looking at me, but I dared
not turn round to see. I knew that I must get out of the room or scream.
I lit the candle, felt for the knife behind the picture, and opened the
door. As soon as the candle was alight I felt braver, and I looked out
of the door before going into the passage. I could see nothing--all
seemed quiet--so I came out of the room and locked the door behind me
and went downstairs.

"Once I was outside the house and could see the friendly stars all my
fears vanished. I know the marshes so well that I can find my way across
them at any time. And in my heart I had the feeling that I had been
brave and helped him. When I had thrown the knife into the sea from the
breakwater I felt almost lighthearted, and when I reached my room again
I fell asleep as soon as I got into bed.

"Until you spoke to me the next day I had no idea that you had seen and
followed me. But I knew it the moment you stopped me and said you
wanted to speak to me. Then I realised you had watched me, and the story
I told you to account for my visit to the room came into my head. I did
not know whether you believed me or not, but I did not care much,
because I knew you could not have seen what I threw into the sea. That
secret was safe as long as I kept silence; and you couldn't make me
speak against my will."

Peggy, as she concluded, glanced up wistfully to see how her companion
received her story, but she could learn nothing from the detective's
inscrutable face. Colwyn, on his part, was thinking rapidly. He believed
that the innkeeper's daughter, yielding to the strain of a secret too
heavy to be borne alone, had this time told him the truth, but, as he
ran over the main points of her narrative in his mind, he could not see
that it shed any additional light on the murder. The only new fact that
she had revealed was that she and Penreath had been acquainted before.
She had also, perhaps unconsciously, given away the fact that she and
Penreath were in love with each other; at all events, her story proved
that she was so deeply in love with Penreath that she had displayed
unusual force of character in her efforts to shield him. But that
knowledge did not carry them any further towards a solution of the
mystery. It was with but a faint hope of eliciting anything of real
value that he turned to her and said:

"There is one point of your story on which I am not quite clear. You
said that in the morning, when you heard of the recovery of Mr.
Glenthorpe's body from the pit, you knew that Mr. Penreath was the
murderer. Why were you so sure of that? Was is because you picked up the
knife with which the murder was committed? The knife was a clue--the
police theory of course is that Penreath secreted the knife at the
dinner table for the purpose of committing the murder--but, by itself,
it was hardly a convincing clue. Was there something else that made you
feel sure he was guilty of this crime?"

"Yes, there was something else," she repeated slowly.

"I thought as much. And that something else was the match-box--is that
not so?"

"Yes, it was the match-box," she repeated again, this time almost in a
whisper.

"What was there about the match-box that made you feel so certain?"

"Must I tell you that?" she said, looking at him helplessly.

"Of course you must tell me." Colwyn's face was stern. "As I told you
before, nothing you can do or say can hurt him now, and the only hope of
helping him is by telling the whole truth."

"It was his match-box. It had his monogram on it."

"You have brought it with you?"

For answer she took something from the bosom of her dress and laid it,
with a heart-broken look, in Colwyn's hand. The article was a small
match-box, with a regimental badge in enamel on one side, and on the
other some initials in monogram. Colwyn examined it closely.

"I see the initials are J.R.P.," he said. "How did you know they were
his initials? You knew his name?"

"Yes. He used to light cigarettes with matches from that match-box when
I was with him, and one day I asked him to show it to me. He did so, and
I asked him what the initials were for, and he told me they stood for
his own name--James Ronald Penreath. And then he told me much about
himself and his family, and--and he said he cared for me, but he was not
free."

She gave out the last few words in a low tone, and stood looking at him
like a girl who had exposed the most sacred secret of her heart in
order, to help her lover. But Colwyn was not looking at her. He had
opened the match-box, and was shaking out the few matches which remained
in the interior. They fell, half a dozen of them, into the palm of his
hand. They were wax matches, with blue heads. A sudden light leapt into
the detective's eyes as he saw them--a look so strange and angry that
the girl, who was watching him, recoiled a little.

"What is it? What have you found?" she cried.

"It is a pity you did not tell me the truth in the first instance
instead of deceiving me," he retorted harshly. "Listen to me. Does any
one at the inn know of your visit to me to-day? I do not suppose they
do, but I want to make sure."

"Nobody. I told them I was going to Leyland to see the dressmaker."

"So much the better." Colwyn looked at his watch. "You have just time to
catch the half-past one train back. You had better go at once. I will go
to the inn some time this evening, but you must not let any one know
that I am coming, or that you have seen me to-day. Do you understand?
Can I depend on you?"

"Yes," she replied. "I will do anything you tell me. But, oh, do tell me
before I go whether you are going to save him."

"I cannot say that," he replied, in a gentler voice. "But I am going to
try to help him. Go at once, or you will not catch the train."



CHAPTER XIX


Colwyn formed his plans on his way back to the hotel. He stopped at the
office as he went in to lunch, and informed the lady clerk that he had
changed his mind about leaving, and would keep on his room, but expected
to be away in the country for two or three days. The lady clerk, who had
mischievous eyes and wore her hair fluffed, asked the detective if he
had been successful in finding the young lady who had called to see him.
On Colwyn gravely informing her that he had, she smiled. It was obvious
that she scented a romance in the guest's changed plans.

As the detective wished to attract as little attention as possible in
the renewed investigations he was about to make, he decided not to take
his car to Flegne. After lunch he packed a few necessaries in a handbag,
and caught the afternoon train to Heathfield. Arriving at that wayside
station, he asked the elderly functionary who acted as station-master,
porter and station cleaner the nearest way across country to Flegne,
and, receiving the most explicit instructions in a thick Norfolk
dialect, set out with his handbag.

The road journey to Flegne was five miles. By the footpath across the
fields it was something less than four, and Colwyn, walking briskly,
reached the rise above the marshes in a little less than an hour. The
village on the edge of the marshes looked grey and cheerless and
deserted in the dull afternoon light, and the sighing wind brought from
the North Sea the bitter foretaste of winter. The inn was cut off from
the village by a new accession of marsh water which had thrust a slimy
tongue across the road, forming a pool in which frogs were vociferously
astir.

As Colwyn descended the rise the front door of the inn opened, and the
gaunt figure of the innkeeper emerged, carrying some fishing lines in
his hands. He paused beneath the inn signboard, the rusty swinging
anchor, and looked up at the sky, which was lowering and black. As he
did so, he turned, and saw Colwyn. He waited for him to approach, and
left it to the visitor to speak first. He showed no surprise at Colwyn's
appearance, but his bird-like face did not readily lend itself to the
expression of human emotions. It would have been almost as easy for a
toucan to display joy, grief, or surprise.

"Good afternoon, Benson," said the detective cheerfully. "Going to be
rather wet for a fishing excursion, isn't it?"

"That's just what I can't make up my mind, sir," replied the other.
"Clouds like these do not always mean rain in this part of the world.
The clouds seem to gather over the marshes more, and sometimes they hang
like this for days without rain. But I do not think I'll go fishing
to-night. The rain in these parts goes through you in no time, and
there's no shelter on the marshes."

"In that case you'll be able to attend to me."

"I'd do that in any case, sir," replied the other quickly.

"I think of spending a few days here before returning to London. I am
interested in archæological research, and this part of the Norfolk coast
is exceedingly rich in archæological and prehistoric remains, as, of
course, you are well aware."

"Yes, sir. Many scientific gentlemen used to visit the place at one
time. We had one who stayed at the inn for a short time last year--Dr.
Gardiner, perhaps you have heard of him. He was very interested in the
hut circles on the rise, and when he went back to London he wrote a book
about them. Then there was poor Mr. Glenthorpe. He was never tired of
talking of the ancient things which were under the earth hereabouts."

"Quite so. I should like to make a few investigations on my own account.
That is why I have come over this afternoon. I have left my car and my
luggage at Durrington, where I have been staying, thinking you might
find it easier to put me up without them. I presume you can accommodate
me, Benson?"

"Well, sir, you know the place is rough and I haven't much to offer you.
But if you do not mind that----"

"Not in the least. You need not go to any trouble on my account."

"Then, sir, I shall be pleased to do what I can to make you comfortable.
Will you step inside? This way, sir--I must ask Ann about your room
before I can take you upstairs."

The innkeeper opened the door of the bar parlour, and asked Colwyn to
excuse him while he consulted the servant. He returned in a few minutes
with Ann lumbering in his wake. The stout countrywoman bobbed at the
sight of the detective, and proceeded to explain in apologetic tones,
with sundry catches of the breath and jelly-like movements of her fat
frame, that she was sorry being caught unawares, and not expecting
visitors, but the fact was that Mr. Colwyn couldn't have the room he
slept in before, because she had given it a good turn out that day, and
everything was upside down, to say nothing of it being as damp as damp
could be. There was only poor Mr. Glenthorpe's room--of course, that
wouldn't do--and the room next, which the poor young gentleman had
slept in. Would Mr. Colwyn mind having that room? If he didn't mind, she
could make it quite comfortable, and would have clean sheets aired in
front of the kitchen fire in no time.

Colwyn felt that he had reason to congratulate himself that he had been
asked to occupy the very room which he desired to examine closely. The
lucky accident of turning out the other room would save him a midnight
prowl from the one room to the other, with the possible risk of
detection. He told Ann that the room Mr. Penreath had slept in would do
very well, and assured her that she was not to bother on his account.
But Ann was determined to worry, and her mind was no sooner relieved
about the bedroom than she propounded the problem of dinner. She had
been taken unawares in that direction also. There was nothing in the
house but a little cold mutton, and some hare soup left over from the
previous day. If she warmed up a plateful of soup--it was lovely soup,
and had set into a perfect jelly--and made rissoles of the mutton, and
sent them to table with some vegetables, with a pudding to follow; would
_that_ do? Colwyn replied smilingly that would do excellently, and Ann
withdrew, promising to serve the meal within an hour.

Colwyn passed that time in the bar parlour. The innkeeper, of his own
accord, brought in some of the famous smuggled brandy, and willingly
accepted the detective's invitation to drink a glass of it. With an
old-fashioned long-footed liqueur glass of the brown brandy in front of
him, the innkeeper waxed more loquacious than Colwyn had yet found him,
and related many strange tales of the old smuggling days of the inn,
when cargoes of brandy were landed on the coast, and stowed away in the
inn's subterranean passages almost under the noses of the excise
officers. According to local history, the inn had been built into the
hillside to afford better lurking-places, for those who were continually
at variance with His Majesty's excise officers. There was one local
worthy named Cranley, the lawless ancestor of the yeoman who had sold
the piece of land to Mr. Glenthorpe, who was reported to be the most
brazen smuggler in Norfolk, which was saying something, considering the
greater portion of the coastal population were engaged in smuggling in
those days.

Cranley was a local hero, with a hero's love for the brandy he smuggled
so freely, and tradition declared of him that on one occasion he set
light to some barns and hayricks in order to warn some of his smuggling
companions who were "running a cargo" that a trap had been laid for
them. The farmers who had suffered by the blaze had sought to carry
Cranley before the justices, but he, with a few choice spirits, had
barricaded himself in the inn, defying the countryside for months,
subsisting on bread and brandy, and shooting from the circular windows
on the south side of the house at the soldiers sent to take him. Local
tradition varied as to the ultimate fate of Cranley and his desperate
band.

According to some authorities, they escaped through the marshes and put
to sea; but another version of the story declared that they had been
captured and tried in the inn, and then ingloriously hanged, one after
the other, from the stanchion outside the door from which the anchor
suspended. This version added the touch that Cranley's last request was
for a bumper of the famous old brandy he had lost his life for, and when
it was given him he quaffed it to the bottom, dashed the cup in the
hangman's face, and swung himself off into eternity. Confirmatory
evidence of the siege of Cranley and his merry men was to be seen in
the outside wall, which was dinted with bullet marks made by the King's
troops as they tried to hit the smugglers, firing through the circular
windows.

The innkeeper rambled on in this fashion until the entry of Charles with
a table-cloth reminded him of the flight of time, and he withdrew with a
halting apology for having sat there talking so long. The fat waiter
saluted Colwyn with a grave bow, and proceeded to lay the cloth. When he
had done this he left the room and returned with a bottle of claret,
which he put down in front of the fire, and proceeded to warm the wine,
keeping his hand on the bottle as he did so. Then he lifted the bottle
and held it to the light before setting it carefully on the table.

"Your knowledge of wine is not of much use to you in Flegne, Charles,"
remarked Colwyn. "You do not belong to these parts, I fancy."

"No, sir. I'm a Londoner born and bred," replied the waiter, in his soft
whisper.

"Why did you leave it? Londoners, as a rule, prefer their city to any
other part of the world."

"I'd starve there now that my hearing is gone. London takes everything
from you, but gives you nothing in return. I'm only too grateful to Mr.
Benson for employing me here, considering the nature of my affliction.
No London hotel would give me a job now. But though I do say it, sir, I
think I make myself useful to Mr. Benson, and earn my keep and the few
shillings he gives me. I save him all the trouble I can."

This was undoubtedly true, as Colwyn had observed during his former
visit to the inn. The deaf waiter was, to all intents and purposes, the
real manager of the inn, leaving the innkeeper free to pursue his
solitary life while he attended to the bar and the cellar, helped Ann
with the work, and waited on infrequent travellers. Doubtless the
arrangement suited both, though it could not have been profitable to
either, for there was little more than a bare living for one in such a
place.

Looking up suddenly from his plate, Colwyn caught the waiter's black
eyes fixed on him in a keen penetrating gaze. Meeting the detective's
eyes, Charles instantly lowered his own. But for the latter action
Colwyn would have thought nothing of the incident, for he was aware that
Charles, on account of his deafness, had to watch the lips of people he
was serving in order to read their lips. But if Charles had been merely
watching for him to speak he would not have felt impelled to avert his
gaze when detected. The sudden lowering of his eyes was the swift
unconscious action of a man taken by surprise. The detective realised
that Charles did not accept the reason he had given to account for his
second visit to the inn. Charles evidently suspected that that reason
masked some ulterior motive.

Colwyn finished his dinner and produced his cigar-case. Selecting a
cigar, he lit it with a match from the box Peggy had given him that day.

"Have you ever seen this box before, Charles?" he said, placing the box
on the table.

The waiter picked up the little silver and enamel box and examined it
attentively.

"I have, sir," he said, handing it back. "It is Mr. Penreath's."

"How do you recognise it?"

"By the letters in enamel, sir. I noticed them that night at the dinner
table, when I was holding Mr. Penreath's candlestick while he lit it
with a match from that box."

"Did he put it back in his pocket after lighting the candle?"

"Yes, sir; into his vest pocket."

"It was picked up in Mr. Glenthorpe's room after the murder was
committed. A strong clue, Charles! Many a man has been hanged on less."

"No doubt, sir."

The waiter, balancing a tray on his deformed arm, proceeded to clear the
table. When he had completed his task he asked the detective if he
needed him any more, because if he did not it was time for him to go
into the bar. On Colwyn saying that he needed nothing further he
noiselessly withdrew, steadying the loaded tray with his sound hand.

Colwyn spent the evening sitting by the fire, smoking. It was fortunate
he had plenty to think about, for the inn did not offer any resources in
the way of reading to occupy the mind of the chance visitor to its roof.
There were a few books in the recess by the fireplace, but they
consisted of bound volumes of _The Norfolk Sporting Gazette_ from 1860
to 1870, with an odd volume on _Fishing on the Broads_ and an obsolete
_Farmers' Annual_. The past occupants of the inn had evidently been keen
sportsmen, for there were specimens of stuffed fowl and fish ranged in
glass cases around the walls, and two old rusty fowling pieces and a
fishing rod hung suspended near the ceiling.

Shortly after nine o'clock the innkeeper entered the room with a
candlestick, which he placed on the table. He explained that it was his
custom to go upstairs early, in order to sit with his mother for a
little while before he retired. The poor soul looked for it, he said,
and grew restless if he was late.

"Who is sitting with her at present?" inquired the detective.

"My daughter, sir. She always waits till I go up."

"You never leave her alone, then?"

"Only at night-time, sir. The doctor told me she could be safely left at
night. She sleeps fairly well, considering, though when there's wild
weather I always go in to her. The sound of the wind shrieking across
the marshes from the sea excites her, and we get a lot of that sort of
weather on the Norfolk coast, particularly in the winter months. I wish
I could afford to have her better looked after, but I cannot, and that's
the long and short of it."

"Things are pretty bad with you, Benson?"

"Very bad, indeed, sir. It keeps me awake at night, wondering where it's
all going to end. However, I don't want to burden you with my
troubles--I suppose we all have our own to bear. I merely came in to
bring your candlestick, and to ask you if there is anything you want
before I go to bed. Charles is gone to his room, but Ann is still up."

"Tell Ann she need not sit up on my account. I need nothing further, and
I can find my way to my room. Is it ready yet?"

"Quite, sir. Ann has just been up there, putting on some fresh sheets.
Perhaps you wouldn't mind turning off the gas at the meter as you go
up--it is just underneath the stairs. If you would not mind the trouble
Ann could then go to bed. We keep early hours here, as a rule. There is
nothing to sit up for."

"I'll turn off the gas--I know where the meter is. How is it, Benson,
that the gas is laid on in only two of the rooms upstairs--the rooms Mr.
Glenthorpe used to occupy? It would have been an easy matter to lay it
on to the adjoining rooms, once the pipes had been taken upstairs."

"That's quite true, sir, but the gas was taken upstairs on Mr.
Glenthorpe's account, shortly after he came here. He thought he would
like it, and he paid the bill for having it fixed. But after it was laid
on he rarely used it. He said he found the gaslight trying for his eyes
when he wanted to read in bed, so he got a reading lamp."

"And yet the gas tap was partly turned on in his room the morning after
the murder," remarked Colwyn meditatively.

"Perhaps the murderer turned it on," suggested the innkeeper in a low
tone.

But there was a slight tremor in his voice that did not escape the keen
ears of the detective.

"That is possible, but the point was not cleared up at the trial; it
probably never will be now," he replied, eyeing the innkeeper
attentively. "And the incandescent burner was broken too. Have you had a
new burner attached, Benson?"

"No, sir. The room has never been used since."

"It's a queer thing about that broken burner. That's another point in
this case that was not cleared up at the trial. Who do you think broke
it?"

"How should I know, sir?" His bird's eyes, in their troubled shadow,
turned uneasily from the detective's glance.

"Nevertheless, you can hazard an opinion. Why not? The case is over and
done with now, and Penreath--or Ronald, as he called himself--is
condemned to death. So who do you think broke that burner, Benson?"

"Who else but the murderer, sir?"

"That's the police theory, I know, but I doubt whether Penreath was tall
enough to strike it with his head. It's more than six feet from the
ground." The detective threw a critical glance over the innkeeper's
figure as though he were measuring his height with his eye. "You are
well over six feet, Benson--you might have done it."

It was a chance shot, but the effect was remarkable. The innkeeper swung
his small head on the top of his long neck in the direction of the
detective, with a strange gesture, like a pinioned eagle twisting in a
trap.

"What makes you say that!" he cried, and his voice had a new and
strident note. "I had nothing whatever to do with it."

"What do you mean?" replied the detective sternly. "What do you suppose
I am suggesting?"

"I beg your pardon, sir," replied the other. "The fact is I have not
been myself for some time past."

His voice broke off in an odd tremor, and Colwyn noticed that the long
thin hand he stretched out, as though to deprecate his previous
violence, was shaking violently.

"What's the matter with you, man?" The detective eyed him keenly. "Your
nerve has gone."

"I know it has, sir. What happened in this house a fortnight ago upset
me terribly, and I haven't got over it yet. I have other troubles as
well--private troubles. I've had to sit up with mother a good deal
lately."

"You'd better take a few doses of bromide," said the detective
brusquely. "A man with your nerves should not live in a place like this.
You had better go to bed now. Good night."

"Good night, sir." The innkeeper hurried out of the room without another
word.

Colwyn sat by the fire for some time longer pondering over this
unexpected incident, until the kitchen clock chiming eleven warned him
to go to bed. He turned off the gas at the meter underneath the stairs
as Benson had requested. When he reached the room in which Mr.
Glenthorpe had been murdered, he paused outside the door, and turned the
handle. The door was locked.

As he was about to enter the adjoining bedroom which had been allotted
to him, a slender pencil of light pierced the darkness of the passage
leading off the one in which he stood. As he watched the gleam grew
brighter and broader; somebody was walking along the other passage. A
moment later the innkeeper's daughter came into view, carrying a candle.
She advanced quickly to where the detective was standing.

"I heard you coming upstairs," she explained, in a whisper. "I have been
waiting and listening at my door. I wanted to see you, but it is
difficult for me to do so without the others knowing. So I thought I
would wait. I wanted to let you know that if you wish to see me at any
time--if you need me to do anything--perhaps you would put a note under
my door, and I could meet you down by the breakwater at any time you
appoint. Nobody would see us there."

Colwyn nodded approvingly. Decidedly this girl was not lacking in
resource and intelligence.

"I am so glad you are here," she went on earnestly. "I was afraid, after
I left you to-day, that you might change your mind. I waited at one of
the upstairs windows all the afternoon till I saw you coming. You will
save him, won't you?"

She looked up at him with a faint smile, which, slight as it was, gave
her face a new rare beauty.

"I will try," responded Colwyn, gravely. "Can you tell where the key of
Mr. Glenthorpe's room is kept?"

"It hangs in the kitchen. Do you want it? I will get it for you. If Ann
or Charles see me, they, will not think it as strange as if they saw
you."

She was so eager to be of use to him that she did not wait for his
reply, but ran quickly and noiselessly along the passage, and down the
stairs. In a very brief space she returned with the key, which she
placed in his hand. "Is there anything else I can do?" she asked.

"Nothing, except to tell me where you got the key. I want to put it back
again without anybody knowing it has been used."

"It hangs on the kitchen dresser--the second hook. You cannot mistake
it, because there is a padlock key and one of my father's fishing lines
hanging on the same hook."

"Then that is all you can do. I will let you know if I want to see you
at any time."

"Thank you. Good night!" She was gone without another word.

Colwyn stood at his door watching her until she disappeared into the
passage which led to her own room. Then he turned into his bedroom and
shut the door behind him.

He walked to the window and threw it open. The sea mist, driving over
the silent marshes like a cloud, touched his face coldly as he stood
there, meditating on the strange turn of events which had brought him
back to the inn to pursue his investigations into the murder at the
point where he had left them more than a fortnight before. In that brief
period how much had happened! Penreath had been tried and sentenced to
death for a crime which Colwyn now believed he had not committed.
Chance--no, Destiny--by placing in his hand a significant clue, had
directed his footsteps thither, and left it for his intelligence to
atone for his past blunder before it was too late.

It was with a feeling that the hand of Destiny was upon him that Colwyn
turned from the window and regarded the little room with keen
curiosity. Its drab interior held a secret which was a challenge to his
intelligence to discover. What had happened in that room the night
Ronald slept there? He noted the articles of furniture one by one.
Nothing seemed changed since he had last been in the room, the day after
the murder was committed. There was a washstand near the window, a chest
of drawers, a dressing table and a large wardrobe at the side of the
bed. Colwyn looked at this last piece of furniture with the same
interest he had felt when he saw it the first time. It was far too big
and cumbrous a wardrobe for so small a room, about eight feet high and
five feet in width, and it was placed in the most inconvenient part of
the room, by the side of the bed, not far from the wall which abutted on
the passage. He opened its double doors and looked within. The wardrobe
was empty.

Colwyn made a methodical search of the room in the hope of discovering
something which would throw light on the events of the night of the
murder. Doubtless the room had not been occupied since Penreath had
slept there, and he might have left something behind him--perhaps some
forgotten scrap of paper which might help to throw light on this strange
and sinister mystery. In the detection of crime seeming trifles often
lead to important discoveries, as nobody was better aware than Colwyn.
But though he searched the room with painstaking care, he found nothing.

It was while he was thus engaged that a faint rustle aroused his
attention, and looking towards the corner of the room whence it
proceeded, he saw a large rat crouching by the skirting-board watching
him with malevolent eyes. Colwyn looked round for a weapon with which to
hit it. The creature seemed to divine his intentions, for it scuttled
squeaking across the room, and disappeared behind the wardrobe.

Colwyn approached the wardrobe and pushed it back. As he did so, he had
a curious sensation which he could hardly define. It was as though an
unseen presence had entered the room, and was silently watching him. His
actions seemed not of his own volition; it was as though some force
stronger than himself was urging him on. And, withal, he had the uncanny
feeling that the whole incident of the rat and the wardrobe, and his
share in it, was merely a repetition of something which had happened in
the room before.

The wardrobe moved much more easily than he had expected, considering
its weight and size. There was no rat behind it, but a hole under the
skirting showed where the animal had made its escape. But it was the
space where the wardrobe had stood that claimed Colwyn's attention. The
reason why it had been placed in its previous position was made plain.
The damp had penetrated the wall on that side, and had so rotted the
wall paper that a large portion of it had fallen away.

In the bare portion of the wall thus revealed, about two feet square,
was a wooden trap door, fastened by a button. Colwyn unfastened the
button, and opened the door. A black hole gaped at him.

The light of the candle showed that the wall was hollow, and the trap
opened into the hollow space. There was nothing unusual in such a door
in an old house; Colwyn had seen similar doors in other houses built
with the old-fashioned thick walls. It was the primitive ventilation of
a past generation; the doors, when opened, permitted a free current of
air to percolate through the building, and get to the foundations. But a
further examination of the hole revealed something which Colwyn had
never seen before--a corresponding door on the other side of the wall.
The other door opened into the bedroom which had been occupied by Mr.
Glenthorpe. Colwyn pushed it with his hand, but it did not yield. It was
doubtless fastened with a button on the outside, like the other.

Colwyn, scrutinising the second door closely, noticed that the wood was
worm-eaten and shrunken. For that reason it fitted but loosely into the
aperture of the wall, and on the one side there was a wide crack which
arrested Colwyn's attention. It ran the whole length of the door, along
the top--that is, horizontally--and was, perhaps, a quarter of an inch
wide.

With the tightened nerves which presage an important discovery, Colwyn
felt for his pocket knife, opened the largest blade, and thrust it into
the crack. It penetrated up to the handle. He ran the knife along the
whole length of the crack without difficulty. There was no doubt it
opened into the next room.

Colwyn closed the trap-door carefully, and started to push the wardrobe
back into its previous position. As he did so, his eye fell upon several
tiny scraps of paper lying in the vacant space. He stooped, and picked
them up. They were the torn fragments of a pocket-book leaf, which had
been written upon. Colwyn endeavoured to place the fragments together
and read the writing. But some of the pieces were missing, and he could
only decipher two disjointed words--"Constance" and "forgive."

Slowly, almost mechanically, the detective felt for his pipe, lit it,
and stood for a long time at the open window, gazing with set eyes into
the brooding darkness, wrapped in profound thought, thinking of his
discoveries and what they portended.



CHAPTER XX


Colwyn was astir with the first glimmering of a grey dawn. He wanted to
test the police theory that the murder was committed by climbing from
one bedroom to the other, but he did not desire to be discovered in the
experiment by any of the inmates of the inn.

The window of his bedroom was so small that it was difficult to get
through, and there was a drop of more than eight feet from the ledge to
the hillside. After one or two attempts Colwyn got out feet foremost,
and when half way through wriggled his body round until he was able to
grasp the window-ledge and drop to the ground. The fall caused his heels
to sink deeply into the clay of the hillside, which was moist and sticky
after the rain.

Colwyn closely examined the impression his heels had made, and then
walked along until he stood underneath the window of the next room. It
was an easy matter to climb through this window, which was larger, and
closer to the ground--five feet from the hillside, at the most. Colwyn
sprang on to the ledge, and tried the window with his hand. It was
unlocked. He pushed up the lower pane, and entered the room.

From the window he walked straight to the bedside, noting, as he walked,
that his footsteps left on the carpet crumbs of the red earth from
outside, similar to those which had been found in the room the morning
after the murder. He next examined the broken incandescent burner in the
chandelier in the middle of the room, and took careful measurements of
the distances between the gas jet, the bedside and the door, observing,
as he did so, that the gaslight was almost in a line with the foot of
the bed. That was a point he had marked previously when Superintendent
Galloway had suggested that the incandescent burner was broken by the
murderer striking it with the corpse he was carrying. Colwyn had found
it difficult to accept that point of view at the time, but now, in the
light of recent discoveries, and the new theory of the crime which was
gradually taking shape in his mind, it seemed almost incredible that the
murderer, staggering under the weight of his ghastly burden, should have
taken anything but the shortest track to the door.

After examining the bed with an attentive eye, Colwyn next looked for
the small door in the wall. It was not apparent: the wall-paper appeared
to cover the whole of the wall on that side of the room in unbroken
continuity. But a closer inspection revealed a slight fissure or crack,
barely noticeable in the dark green wall-paper, extending an inch or so
beyond a small picture suspended near the door of the room. When the
picture was taken down the crack was more apparent, for it ran nearly
the whole length of the space. The door had been papered over when the
room was last papered, which was a long time ago, judging by the dingy
condition of the wall-paper, and the crack had been caused by the
shrinking of the woodwork of the door, as Colwyn had noticed the
previous night.

Colwyn let himself out of the room with the key Peggy had given him,
locked the door behind him, and took the key down to the kitchen. It was
still very early, and nobody was stirring. Having hung the key on the
hook of the dresser, he returned to his room.

At breakfast time that morning Charles informed him, in his husky
whisper, that he had to go over to Heathfield that day, to ascertain why
the brewer had not sent a consignment of beer, which was several days
overdue. Charles' chief regret was that for some hours his guest would
be left to the tender mercies of Ann, and he let it be understood that
he had the poorest opinion of women as waitresses. But he promised to
return in time to minister to Colwyn's comforts at dinner. Somewhat
amused, Colwyn told the fat man not to hurry back on his account, as Ann
could look after him very well.

As Colwyn was smoking a cigar in front of the inn after breakfast, he
saw Charles setting out on his journey, and watched his short fat form
toil up the rise and disappear on the other side. Immediately
afterwards, the gaunt figure of the innkeeper emerged from the inn,
prepared for a fishing excursion. He hesitated a moment on seeing
Colwyn, then walked towards him and informed him that he was going to
have a morning's fishing in a river stream a couple of miles away,
having heard good accounts in the bar overnight of the fish there since
the recent rain.

"Who will look after the inn, with both you and Charles away?" asked
Colwyn, with a smile.

The innkeeper, carefully bestowing a fishing-line in the capacious side
pocket of his faded tweed coat, replied that as the inn was out of beer,
and not likely to have any that day, there was not much lost by leaving
it. That seemed to exhaust the possibilities of the conversation, but
the innkeeper lingered, looking at his guest as though he had something
on his mind.

"I do not know if you care for fishing, sir," he remarked, after a
rather lengthy pause. "If you do, I should be happy at any time to show
you a little sport. The fishing is very good about this district--as
good as anywhere in Norfolk."

Colwyn was quick to divine what was passing in the innkeeper's mind. He
had been brooding over the incident in the bar parlour of the previous
night, and hoped by this awkward courtesy to remove the impression of
his overnight rudeness from his visitor's mind. As Colwyn was equally
desirous of allaying his fears, he thanked him for his offer, and stood
chatting with him for some moments. His pleasant and natural manner had
the effect of putting the innkeeper at his ease, and there was an
obvious air of relief in his bearing as he wished the detective good
morning and departed on his fishing expedition.

Colwyn spent the morning in a solitary walk along the marshes, thinking
over the events of the night and morning. He returned to the inn for an
early lunch, which was served by Ann, who gossiped to him freely of the
small events which had constituted the daily life of the village since
his previous visit. The principal of these, it seemed, had been the
reappearance, after a long period of inaction, of the White Lady of the
Shrieking Pit--an apparition which haunted the hut circles on the rise.
Colwyn, recalling that Duney and Backlos imagined they had encountered a
spectre the night they saw Penreath on the edge of the wood, asked Ann
who the "White Lady" was supposed to be. Ann was reticent at first. She
admitted that she was a firm believer in the local tradition, which she
had imbibed with her mother's milk, but it was held to be unlucky to
talk about the White Lady. However, her feminine desire to impart
information soon overcame her fears, and she launched forth into full
particulars of the legend. It appeared that for generations past the
deep pit on the rise in which Mr. Glenthorpe's body had been thrown had
been the haunt of a spirit known as the White Lady, who, from time to
time, issued from the depths of the pit, clad in a white trailing
garment, to wander along the hut circles on the rise, shrieking and
sobbing piteously. Whose ghost she was, and why she shrieked, Ann was
unable to say. Her appearances were infrequent, with sometimes as long
as a year between them, and the timely warning she gave of her coming by
shrieking from the depths of the pit before making her appearance,
enabled folk to keep indoors and avoid her when she was walking. As long
as she wasn't seen by anybody, not much harm was done, but the sight of
her was fatal to the beholder, who was sure to come to a swift and
violent end.

Ann related divers accredited instances of calamity which had followed
swiftly upon an encounter with the White Lady, including that of her own
sister's husband, who had seen her one night going home, and the very
next day had been kicked by a horse and killed on the spot. Ann's
grandmother, when a young girl, had heard her shrieking one night when
she was going home, but had had the presence of mind to fall flat on her
face until the shrieking had ceased, by which means she avoided seeing
her, and had died comfortably in her bed at eighty-one in consequence.

Colwyn gathered from the countrywoman's story that the prevailing
impression in the village was that Mr. Glenthorpe's murder was due to
the interposition of the White Lady of the Shrieking Pit. The White
Lady, after a long silence, had been heard to shriek once two nights
before the murder, but the warning had not deterred Mr. Glenthorpe from
taking his nightly walk on the rise, although Ann, out of her liking and
respect for the old gentleman, had even ventured to forget her place
and beg and implore him not to go. But he had laughed at her, and said
if he met the White Lady he would stop and have a chat with her about
her ancestors. Those were his very words, and they made her blood run
cold at the time, though she little thought how soon he would be
repenting of his foolhardiness in his coffin. If he had only listened to
her he might have been alive that blessed day, for she hadn't the
slightest doubt he met the White Lady that night in his walk, and his
doom was brought about in consequence.

Ann concluded by solemnly urging Colwyn, as long as he remained at the
inn, to keep indoors at night as he valued his life, for ever since the
murder the White Lady had been particularly active, shrieking nearly
every night, as though seeking another victim, and the whole village was
frightened to stir out in consequence. Ann had reluctantly to admit that
she had never actually heard her shrieking herself--she was a heavy
sleeper at any time--but there were those who had, plenty of them.
Besides, hadn't he heard that Charles, while shutting up the inn the
very night poor Mr. Glenthorpe's body had been taken away, had seen
something white on the rise? On Colwyn replying that he had not heard
this, Ann assured him the whole village believed that Charles had seen
the White Lady, and regarded him as good as dead, and many were the
speculations as to the manner in which his inevitable fate would fall.

The relation of the legend of the White Lady lasted to the conclusion of
lunch, and then Colwyn sauntered outside with a cigar, in order to make
another examination of the ground the murderer had covered in going to
the pit. The body had been carried out the back way, across the green
which separated the inn from the village, and up the rise to the pit.
The green was now partly under water, and the track of the footprints
leading to the rise had been obliterated by the heavy rains which had
fallen since, but the soft surface retained the impression of Colwyn's
footsteps with the same distinctness with which it had held, and
afterwards revealed, the track of the man who had carried the corpse to
the pit.

Colwyn examined the pit closely. The edges were wet and slippery, and in
places the earth had been washed away. The sides, for some distance
down, were lined with a thick growth of shrubs and birch. Colwyn knelt
down on the edge and peered into the interior of the pit. He tested the
strength of the climbing and creeping plants which twisted in snakelike
growth in the interior. It seemed to him that it would be a
comparatively easy matter to descend into the pit by their support, so
far as they went. But how far did they go?

While he was thus occupied he heard the sound of footsteps crashing
through the undergrowth of the little wood on the other side of the pit.
A moment later a man, carrying a rabbit, and followed by a mongrel dog,
came into view. It was Duney. He stared hard at Colwyn and then advanced
towards him with a grin of recognition.

"Yow be lookin' to see how t'owd ma'aster was hulled dune th' pit?" he
asked.

"I was wondering how far the pit ran straight down," replied Colwyn. "It
seems to take a slight slope a little way down. Does it?"

"I doan't know narthin' about th' pit, and I doan't want to," replied
Mr. Duney, backing away with a slightly pale face. "Doan't yow meddle
wi' un, ma'aster. It's a quare place, thissun."

"Why, what's the matter with it?"

"Did you never hear that th' pit's haunted? Like enough nobody'd tell
yow. Folk hereabowts aren't owerfond of talkin' of th' White Lady of th'
Shrieking Pit, for fear it should bring un bad luck."

"I've been hearing a little about her to-day. Is she any relation of
Black Shuck, the ghost dog you were telling me about?"

"It's no larfin' matter, ma'aster. You moind the day me and Billy
Backlog come and towld yow about us seein' that chap on th' edge of yon
wood that night? Well, just befower we seed un we heerd th' rummiest
kind of noise--summat atween a moan and a shriek, comin' from this 'ere
pit. I reckon, from what's happened to that chap Ronald since, that it
wor the White Lady of th' Pit we heered. It's lucky for us we didn't see
un."

"I remember at the time you mentioned something about it."

"Ay, she be a terr'ble bad sperrit," said Mr. Duney, wagging his head
unctuously. "She comes out of this yare pit wheer t'owd man was chucked,
and wanders about the wood and th' rise, a-yellin' somefin awful. It's
nowt to hear her--we've all heerd her for that matter--but to see her is
to meet a bloody and violent end within the month. That's why they call
this 'ere pit 'the Shrieking Pit.' I'm thinkin' that owd Mr. Glenthorpe,
who was allus fond of walkin' up this way at nights, met her one night,
and that'll account for his own bloody end. And it's my belief that she
appeared to the young chap who was hidin' in th' woods the night we saw
un. And look what's happened to un! He's got to be hanged, which is a
violent end, thow p'r'aps not bloody."

"If that's the local belief, I wonder anybody went down into the pit to
recover Mr. Glenthorpe's body."

"Nobody wouldn't 'a' gone down but Herward. I wouldn't 'a' gone down for
untowd gowd, but Herward comes from th' Broads, and don't know nartin'
about this part of the ma'shes. Besides, he ain't no Christian, down't
care for no ghosts nor sperrits. I've often heerd un say so."

"Is it true that the White Lady has been seen since Mr. Glenthorpe was
murdered?"

"She's been heered, shure enough. Billy Backlog, who lives closest to
the rise, was a-tellin' us in the _Anchor_ bar that she woke him up two
nights arter th' murder, a-yowlin' like an old tomcat, but Billy knew
it worn't a cat--it weer far more fearsome, wi gasps at th' end. The
deaf fat chap at Benson's arst him what time this might be. Billy said
he disremembered th' time--mebbe it wor ten or a bit past. Then the fat
chap said it wor just about that time the same night, as he wor shuttin'
up, he saw somefin white float up to th' top of th' pit. He thowt at th'
time it might be mist, thow there weren't much mist on th' ma'shes that
night, but now he says 'es sure that it wor the White Lady from the
Shrieking Pit that he saw. 'Then Gawdamighty help yow, poor fat chap,'
says Billy, looking at him solemn-like. 'The hearin' of her is narthin',
it's th' seein' o' her that's the trouble.' The poor fat chap a' been
nigh skeered out o' his wits ever since, and nobody in th' village wud
go near th' pit a' nighttimes--no, not for a fortin. I ain't sure as
it's safe to be here even in daytimes, thow I never heered of her comin'
out in the light." Mr. Duney turned resolutely away from the pit, and
called to his dog, who was sitting near the edge, regarding his master
with blinking eyes and lolling tongue. "I'll be goin', in case that
Queensmead sees me from th' village. I cot this coney fair and square in
th' open, but it be hard to make Queensmead believe it. Well, I'll be
goin'. Good mornin', ma'aster."

He trudged away across the rise, with his dog following at his heels.
Colwyn was about to turn away also, when his eye was caught by a scrap
of stained and discoloured paper lying near the edge of the pit, where
the rain had washed away some of the earth. He stooped, and picked it
up. It was a slip of white paper, about five inches long, and perhaps
three inches in width, quite blank, but with a very apparent watermark,
consisting of a number of parallel waving lines, close together, running
across the surface. Although the watermark was an unusual one, it seemed
strangely familiar to Colwyn, who tried to recall where he had seen it
before. But memory is a tricky thing. Although Colwyn's memory instantly
recognised the watermark on the paper, he could not, for the moment,
recollect where he had seen it, though it seemed as familiar to him as
the face of some old acquaintance whose name he had temporarily
forgotten. Colwyn ultimately gave up the effort for the time being, and
placed the piece of paper in his pocket-book, knowing that his memory
would, sooner or later, perform unconsciously the task it refused to
undertake when asked.

Colwyn spent the afternoon in another solitary walk, and darkness had
set in before he returned to the village. As he reached the inn he
glanced towards the hut circles, and was startled to see something white
move slowly along by the edge of the Shrieking Pit and vanish in the
wood. There was something so weird and ghostly in the spectacle that
Colwyn was momentarily astounded by it. Then his eye fell on the sea
mist which covered the marshes in a white shroud, and he smiled
slightly. It was not the White Lady of the Shrieking Pit he had seen,
but a spiral of mist, floating across the rise.

The sight brought back to his mind the stories he had heard that day,
and when he was seated at dinner a little later he casually asked
Charles if he believed in ghosts. The fat man, with a sudden uplifting
of his black eyes, as though to ascertain whether Colwyn was speaking
seriously, replied that he did not.

"I'm surprised to hear of your scepticism, Charles, for I'm told that
the apparition from the pit--the White Lady, as she is called--has
favoured you with a special appearance," said Colwyn, in a bantering
tone.

"I see what you mean now, sir. I didn't understand you at first. It was
like this: some of the villagers were talking about this ghost in the
bar a few nights back, and one or two of the villagers, who all firmly
believed in it, declared that they had heard her wandering about the
previous night, moaning and shrieking, as is supposed to be her custom.
I, more by way of a joke than anything else, told them I had seen
something white on the rise the previous night, when I was shutting up
the inn. But the whole village has got it into their heads that I saw
the White Lady, and they think because I've seen her I'm a doomed man.
The country folk round about here are an ignorant and superstitious lot,
sir."

"And did you actually see anything, Charles, the night you speak of?"

"I saw something, sir--something long and white--like a moving white
pillar, if I may so express myself. While I looked it vanished into the
woods."

"It was probably mist. I saw something similar this evening!"

"Very likely, sir. I do not think it was a ghost."

Colwyn did not pursue the subject further, though he was struck by the
wide difference between Charles' account of the incident and that given
to him by Duney at the pit that afternoon.

When Charles had cleared the table Colwyn sat smoking and thinking until
late. After he was sure that the rest of the inmates of the inn had
retired, he went to the kitchen and took the key of Mr. Glenthorpe's
room from the hook of the dresser. When he reached his own bedroom, his
first act was to push back the wardrobe and open the trap door he had
discovered the previous night. He looked at his watch, and found that
the hour was a little after eleven. He decided to wait for half an hour
before carrying out the experiment he contemplated. By midnight he would
be fairly safe from the fear of discovery. He lay down on his bed to
pass the intervening time, but he was so tired that he fell asleep
almost immediately.

He awakened with a start, and sat up, staring into the black darkness.
For a moment or two he did not realise his surroundings, then the sound
of stealthy footsteps passing his door brought him back to instant
wakefulness. The footsteps halted--outside his door, it seemed to
Colwyn. There followed the sound of a hand fumbling with a lock,
followed by the shooting of a bolt and the creaking of a door. The truth
flashed upon the detective; somebody was entering the next room. As he
listened, there was the scrape of a match, and a moment later a narrow
shaft of light streamed through the open wall-door into his room.

Colwyn got noiselessly off his bed and looked through the crack in the
inner small door into the other room. The picture on the other side of
the wall narrowed his range of vision, but through the inch or so of
crack extending beyond the picture he was able to see clearly that
portion of the adjoining bedroom in which the bed stood. Near the bed,
examining with the light of a candle the contents of the writing table
which stood alongside of it, was Benson, the innkeeper.

He was searching for something--rummaging through the drawers of the
table, taking out papers and envelopes, and tearing them open with a
furious desperate energy, pausing every now and again to look hurriedly
over his shoulder, as though he expected to see some apparition start up
from the shadowy corners. The search was apparently fruitless, for
presently he crammed the papers back into the drawers with the same
feverish haste, and, walking rapidly across the room, passed out of the
view of the watcher on the other side, for the picture which hung on the
inside wall prevented Colwyn seeing beyond the foot of the bed. Although
the innkeeper could not now be seen, the sound of his stealthy quick
movements, and the flickering lights cast by the candle he carried,
suggested plainly enough that he was continuing his search in that
portion of the room which was not visible through the crack.

In a few minutes he came back into Colwyn's range of vision, looking
dusty and dishevelled, with drops of perspiration starting from his
face. With a savage gesture, which was akin to despair, he wiped the
perspiration from his face, and tossed back his long hair from his
forehead. It was the first time Colwyn had seen his forehead uncovered,
and a thrill ran through him as he noticed a deep bruise high upon the
left temple. The next moment the innkeeper walked swiftly out of the
room, and Colwyn heard him close the door softly behind him.

Colwyn waited awhile. When everything seemed quiet, he cautiously opened
his door in the dark, and tried the door of the adjoining room. It was
locked.

The innkeeper, then, had another key which fitted the murdered man's
door. And what was he searching for? Money? The treasury notes which Mr.
Glenthorpe had drawn out of the bank the day he was murdered, which had
never been found? Money--notes!

By one of those hidden and unaccountable processes of the human brain,
the association of ideas recalled to Colwyn's mind where he had
previously seen the peculiar watermark of waving lines visible on the
piece of paper he had picked up at the brink of the pit that afternoon:
it was the Government watermark of the first issue of War Treasury
notes.

Colwyn lit his bedroom candle, and examined the piece of paper in his
pocket-book with a new and keen interest. There was no doubt about it,
the mark on the dirty blank paper was undoubtedly the Treasury
watermark. But how came such a mark, designed exclusively for the
protection of the Treasury against bank-note forgeries, to appear on a
dirty scrap of paper?

As he stood there, turning the bit of paper over and over, in his hand,
puzzling over the problem, the solution flashed into his mind--a
solution so simple, yet, withal, so remarkable, that he hesitated to
believe it possible. But a further examination of the paper removed his
doubts. Chance had placed in his hands another clue, and the most
important he had yet discovered, to help him in the elucidation of the
mystery of the murder of Roger Glenthorpe. But to verify that clue it
would be necessary for him to descend the pit.



CHAPTER XXI


An orange crescent of a waning moon was sinking in a black sky as Colwyn
let himself quietly out of the door and took his way up to the rise. But
the darkness of the night was fading fast before the grey dawn of the
coming day, and in the marshes below the birds were beginning to stir
and call among the reeds.

Colwyn waited for the first light of dawn before attempting the descent
of the pit. His plan was to climb down by the creepers as far as they
went, and descend the remainder of the distance by the rope, which he
would fasten to one of the shrubs growing in the interior. He realised
that his chances of success depended on the slope of the pit and the
depth to which the shrubs grew, but the attempt was well worth making.
Assistance would have made the task much easier, but publicity was the
thing Colwyn desired most to avoid at that stage of his investigations.
There would be time enough to consider the question of seeking help if
he failed in his individual effort.

He made his plans carefully before commencing the descent. He first
tested a rope he had found in the lumber room of the inn; it was thin
but strong and capable of bearing the weight of a heavier man than
himself. The rope was not more than fifteen feet in length, but if the
hardy climbing plants which lined the sides of the pit were capable of
supporting him ten or twelve feet down, that length should be sufficient
for his purpose. Having tested the rope and coiled it, he slipped it
into the right-hand pocket of his coat with one end hanging out. Next he
opened his knife, and placed it with a candle and a box of matches in
his other pocket. Then turning on his electric torch, he lowered himself
cautiously into the pit by the creepers which fringed the surface.

There was no difficulty about the descent for the first eight or ten
feet. Then the shrubs that had afforded foothold for his feet suddenly
ceased, and the foot that he had thrust down for another perch touched
nothing but the slippery side of the pit. Clinging firmly with his left
hand to the network of vegetation which grew above his head, Colwyn
flashed his electric torch into the blackness of the pit beneath him.
One or two long tendrils of the climbing plants which grew higher up
dangled like pendulous snakes, but the vegetable growth ceased at that
point. Beneath him the naked sides of the pit gleamed sleek and wet in
the rays of the torch.

Pulling himself up a little way to gain a securer footing, Colwyn took
the coil of rope from his pocket, and selecting a strong withe which
hung near him, sought to fasten the end of the rope to it. It took him
some time to do this with the hand he had at liberty, but at length he
accomplished it to his satisfaction, and then he allowed the coils of
the rope to fall into the pit. He next essayed to test the strength of
the support, by pulling at it. To his disappointment, his first vigorous
tug snapped the withe to which the rope was attached. He tied the rope
to a stronger growth, but with no better result: the growths seemed
brittle, and incapable of bearing a great strain when tested separately.
It was the twisted network of the withes and twigs which gave the
climbing plants inside the pit sufficient toughness to support his
weight. Taken singly, they had very little strength.

Colwyn reluctantly realised that it would be folly to endeavour to
attempt the further descent of the pit by their frail support, and he
decided to relinquish the attempt.

As he was about to ascend, the light of the torch brought into view that
part of the pit to which he was clinging, and he noticed that the
testing of the withes had torn away a portion of the leafy screen,
revealing the black and slimy surface of the pit's side. Colwyn was
amazed to see a small peg, with a fishing line attached to it, sticking
in the bare earth thus exposed. Somebody had been down the pit and
placed it there--recently, judging by the appearance of the peg, which
was clean and newly cut. What was at the other end of the line, which
dangled in the darkness of the pit? A better hiding place for anything
valuable could not have been devised. The thin fishing line was
indiscernible against the slimy side of the pit, and Colwyn realised
that he would never have discovered it had it not been for the lucky
accident which had exposed the peg to which the line was anchored. A
place of concealment chosen at the expense of so much trouble and risk
indicated something well worth concealing, and it was with a strong
premonition of what was suspended down the pit that the detective,
taking a firmer hold of the twining tendrils above his head, began to
haul up the line. The weight at the end was slight; the line came up
readily enough, foot after foot running through his hand, and then,
finally, a small oblong packet, firmly fastened and knotted to the end
of the line.

Colwyn examined the packet by the light of the torch. It was a man's
pocket-book of black morocco leather, a large and serviceable article,
thick and heavy. The detective did not need the information conveyed by
the initials "R. G." stamped in silver lettering on one side, to
enlighten him as to the owner of the pocket-book and what it contained.

Removing the peg from the earth, Colwyn was about to place the
pocket-book and the line in his pocket, but on second thoughts he
restored the peg to its former position, and endeavoured to untie the
knots by which the pocket-book was fastened to the line. It was
difficult to do this with one hand, but, by placing the pocket-book in
his pocket, and picking at the knots one by one, he at length unfastened
it from the line. He tied his own pocket-book to the end of the line,
and dropped it back into the pit. He next replaced the greenery torn
from the spot where the peg rested. When he had restored, as far as he
could, the original appearance of the hiding place, he ascended swiftly
to the surface.

The first act, on reaching the fresh air, was to examine the contents of
the pocket-book. As he anticipated, it was crammed full of notes of the
first Treasury issue. He did not take them out to count them; a rook,
watching him curiously from the edge of the wood, warned him of the
danger of human eyes.

Here, then, was the end of his investigations, and a discovery which
would necessitate his departure from the inn sooner than he had
anticipated. Nothing remained for him to do but to acquaint the
authorities with the fresh facts he had brought to light, indicate the
man to whom those facts pointed, and endeavour to see righted the
monstrous act of injustice which had condemned an innocent man to the
ignominy of a shameful death. The sooner that task was commenced the
better. The law was swift to grasp and slow to release, and many were
the formalities to be gone through before the conviction of a wrongly
convicted man could be quashed, especially in a grave charge like
murder. Only on the most convincing fresh evidence could the jury's
verdict be upset, and none knew better than Colwyn that such evidence
had not yet been obtained. But the additional facts discovered during
his second visit to the inn, if not in themselves sufficient to upset
the verdict against Penreath, nevertheless threw an entirely new light
on the crime, which, if speedily followed up, would prove Penreath's
innocence by revealing the actual murderer. The only question was
whether the police would use the clues he was going to place in their
hands in the manner he wished them to be used. If they didn't--but
Colwyn refused to contemplate that possibility. His mind reverted to the
chief constable of Norfolk. He felt he was on firm ground in believing
that Mr. Cromering would act promptly once he was certain that there had
been a miscarriage of justice in the Glenthorpe case.

It would be necessary to arrange his departure from the inn in such a
manner as not to arouse suspicion, and also to have the pit watched in
case any attempt was made to recover the money he had found that
morning. Colwyn, after some consideration, decided to invoke the aid of
Police Constable Queensmead. His brief association with Queensmead had
convinced him that the village constable was discreet and intelligent.

It was still very early as he descended to the village and sought the
constable's house. His knock at the door was not immediately answered,
but after the lapse of a minute or two the door was unbolted, and the
constable's face appeared. When he saw who his visitor was he asked to
be excused while he put on some clothes. He was back speedily, and
ushered Colwyn into the room in which he did his official business.

"Queensmead," said the detective earnestly, "I have to go to Norwich,
and I want you to do something for me in my absence. I am going to tell
you something in strict confidence. Fresh facts have come to light in
the Glenthorpe case. You remember Mr. Glenthorpe's money, which was
supposed to have been stolen by Penreath, but which was never recovered.
I found it this morning down the pit where the body was thrown."

"How did you get down the pit?" asked Queensmead.

"I climbed down the creepers as far as they went. I had a rope for the
rest of the descent, but it wasn't needed, for I found Mr. Glenthorpe's
pocket-book suspended by a cord about ten feet down. Here it is."

Queensmead scrutinised the pocket-book and its contents, and on handing
it back remarked:

"Do you think Penreath returned and concealed himself in the wood to
recover these notes?"

Colwyn was struck by the penetration of this remark.

"No, quite the contrary," he replied. "Your deduction is drawn from an
isolated fact. It has to be taken in conjunction with other fresh facts
which have come to light--facts which put an entirely fresh complexion
on the case, and tend to exculpate Penreath."

"I would rather not know what they are, then," replied Queensmead
quietly. "It is better I should not know too much. You see, it might be
awkward, in more ways than one, if things are turning out as you say.
What is it you want me to do?"

"I want you to watch the pit on the rise while I am away, chiefly at
night. It is of paramount importance that the man whom I believe to be
the thief and murderer should not be allowed to escape in my absence. I
do not think that he has any suspicions, so far, and it is practically
certain nobody saw me descend the pit. But if he should, by any chance,
go down to the pit for his money, and find it gone, he would know he
had been discovered, and instantly seek safety in flight. That must be
prevented."

"How?"

"You must arrest him."

"I do not see how that can be done," replied Queensmead. "I cannot take
upon myself to arrest a man simply for descending the pit. It's not
against the law."

"In order to get over that difficulty I left my own pocket-book tied to
the cord in the pit," replied Colwyn. "It's a black leather one, like
Mr. Glenthorpe's. If the thief goes down he is hardly likely to discover
the difference till he gets to the surface. You can arrest him for the
theft of my pocket-book, which contains a little money. You can make a
formal entry of my complaint of my loss."

"Well, I've heard that you were a cool customer, Mr. Colwyn, and now I
believe it," replied Queensmead, laughing outright. "Fancy thinking out
a plan like that down in the pit! But as you've made the complaint it's
my duty to enter it, and keep a look out for your lost pocket-book. I'll
watch the pit, and if anybody goes down it I'll arrest him."

"If the attempt is made it will not be in daytime--it will be in the
night, you may be sure of that. I want you to watch the pit at night.
The life of an innocent man may depend on your vigilance. It will only
be for two nights, or three at the most. I shall certainly return within
three days."

"You may depend on me," replied the constable. "I will go to the pit as
soon as it grows dark, and watch from the edge of the wood till
daylight."

"Thank you," said Colwyn. "I felt sure you would do it when you knew
what was at stake. I have an idea that your vigil will not be
disturbed, but I want to be on the safe side. I suppose you are not
afraid of the ghost?"

"You have heard of the White Lady of the Shrieking Pit?" said
Queensmead, looking at the other curiously.

"I have heard of her, but I have not heard her, or seen her. Have you?"

"I cannot say I have, but I live at the wrong end of the village, and I
never go out at night. But there are plenty of villagers, principally
customers of the _Anchor_, who are prepared to take their Bible oath
that they have heard her--if not seen her. The White Lady has terrorised
the whole village--since the murder."

There was something in the tone of the last three words which attracted
the detective's attention.

"There was not much talk of the ghost before the murder, then?" he
asked.

"Very little. I have been stationed here for two years, and hardly knew
of its existence. Of course, it's a deep-rooted local tradition, and
every villager has heard the story in childhood, and most of them
believe it. Many of them actually think they have heard moans and
shrieks coming from the rise during this last week or so. It's a lonely
sort of place, with very little to talk about; it doesn't take much to
get a story like that going round."

"Then you think there is some connection between the reappearance of the
ghost and the hiding of the money in the pit it is supposed to haunt?"

"It's not my business to draw inferences of that kind, sir. I leave that
to my betters, if they think fit to do so. I am only the village
constable."

"But you've already inferred that the legend has been spread round again
by means of gossip at the _Anchor_. Was it started there?"

"It was and it wasn't. A fool of a fellow named Backlog burst into the
tap-room one night and said he had heard the White Lady shrieking, and
Charles--that's the waiter--declared that he had seen something white
the same night. That was the start of the business."

"So I have heard. But what has kept it going ever since?"

"Well, from what I hear--I never go to the inn myself, but a local
policeman learns all the gossip in a small place like this--the subject
is brought up in the bar-room every evening, either by the innkeeper or
Charles, and discussed till closing time, when the silly villagers go
home, huddled together like a flock of sheep, not daring to look round
for fear of seeing the White Lady."

"Do Benson and Charles both believe in the ghost?"

"It seems as if they do." The constable's voice was noncommittal.

As Colwyn rose to go, Queensmead looked at him with a trace of
hesitation in his manner.

"Perhaps you'd answer me a question, sir," he said in a low tone, as
though afraid of being overheard. "That greenery that grows inside the
pit, by which you climbed down, will it support a heavy weight?"

"It will hold a far heavier man than you, if you are thinking of making
the descent," said Colwyn laughingly. "It's a case of unity is strength.
The tendrils of the climbing plants are so twisted together that they
are as tough as ropes."

"Thank you. What time will you reach here when you return?"

"Probably not before dusk, but certainly by then. In the meantime, of
course, you will not breathe a word of this to anybody."

"I am not likely to do that. I shall keep a close watch on the pit till
I see you again."

"That's right. Good day."

"Good day, sir."

It still wanted a few minutes to seven when Colwyn returned to the inn.
The front door was as he had left it, closed, but unlocked. The house
was silent: nobody was yet stirring. He locked the door after him, and
proceeded to his room, pleased to think he had not been seen going or
coming. His first act on reaching his room was to lock the door and
count the money in the pocket-book. The money was all in single Treasury
notes, with one five-pound note. The case contained nothing else except
a faded newspaper clipping on Fossil Sponges. Colwyn replaced the notes,
and put the case in an inside breast pocket. He next performed the best
kind of toilet the primitive resources of the inn permitted, and
occupied himself for an hour or so in completing his notes of his
investigations.

While he was breakfasting he saw the innkeeper passing the half-open
door, and he called him into the room and told him to let him have his
bill without delay, as he was returning to Durrington that morning. The
innkeeper made no comment on hearing his guest's intention, and Charles
brought in the bill a little later. Colwyn, as he paid it, casually
asked Charles if he happened to know the time of the morning trains from
Heathfield.

"There's one to Durrington at eleven o'clock, sir," said the waiter,
consulting a greasy time-table. "There's one at 9:30, but it's a good
long walk to the station, and you could not catch it because there's no
way of getting there except by walking, as you know, sir."

"The eleven o'clock train will suit me," said Colwyn, consulting his
watch.

"Shall I go and get your bag, sir?"

"No, thanks, I've not packed it yet."

Colwyn went upstairs shortly afterwards determined to pack his bag and
leave the place as soon as possible. As he was about to enter his room
he saw Peggy appear at the end of the passage. She looked at him with a
timid, wistful smile, and made a step towards him, as though she would
speak to him. Colwyn pretended not to see her, and hurried into his room
and shut the door. How could he tell her what she had so innocently done
in recalling him to the inn? How inform her what the cost of saving her
lover would be to her? Somebody else must break the news to her, when it
came to that. He packed his things quickly, anxious only to leave a
place which had grown repugnant to him, and to drop the dissimulation
which had become hateful. Never had he so acutely realised how little a
man is master of his actions when entangled in the strange current of
Destiny which men label Chance.

When he emerged from the room with his bag, Peggy was no longer visible.
The innkeeper was standing in the passage as he went downstairs, and
Colwyn nodded to him as he passed. He breathed easier in the fresh
morning air, and set out briskly for the station.

He reached Heathfield an hour later, and found he had nearly half an
hour to wait for his train. The first ten minutes of that time he
utilised despatching two telegrams. One was to the chief constable of
Norfolk, at Norwich, and the other to Mr. Oakham, in London. In the
latter telegram he indicated that fresh discoveries had come to light in
Penreath's case, and he asked the solicitor to go as soon as possible to
Norwich where he would await him at his hotel.



CHAPTER XXII


Colwyn reached Durrington by midday, and proceeded to the hotel for his
letters and lunch. After a cold meal served by a shivering waiter in the
chilly dining room he went to the garage where he had left his car, and
set out for Norwich. He arrived at the cathedral city late in the
afternoon, and drove to the hotel where Mr. Oakham had stayed. While
engaging a room, he told the clerk that he expected Mr. Oakham from
London, and asked to be informed immediately he arrived. After making
these arrangements the detective left the hotel and went to the city
library, where he spent the next couple of hours making notes from legal
statutes and the Criminal Appeal Act.

When he returned to the hotel for dinner the clerk informed him that Mr.
Oakham had arrived a short time previously, and had requested that Mr.
Colwyn would join him at dinner. Colwyn proceeded to the dining-room,
and saw Mr. Oakham dining in solitary state at a large table, reading a
London evening newspaper between the courses. He looked up as Colwyn
approached, and rose and shook hands.

"This is an unexpected pleasure," said the detective. "I hardly thought
you would get here before the morning."

"I had arranged to visit Norwich to-morrow, but in view of the urgent
nature of your telegram I decided to catch the afternoon train instead,"
replied the solicitor. "Will you dine with me, Mr. Colwyn, and we can
talk business afterwards."

Colwyn complied, and when the meal was finished, Mr. Oakham turned to
him with an eagerness which he did not attempt to conceal, and said:

"Now for your news, Mr. Colwyn. But, first, where shall we talk?"

"As well here as anywhere. There is nobody within hearing."

The solicitor followed his glance round the almost empty dining-room,
and nodded acquiescence. Drawing his chair a little nearer the
detective, he begged him to begin.

"I have not very much to tell you--at present. But since the conviction
of your client, James Ronald Penreath, I have been back to the inn where
the murder was committed, and I have discovered fresh evidence which
strengthens considerably my original belief that Penreath is an innocent
man. But I have reached a stage in my investigations when I need your
assistance in completing my task before I go to the authorities with my
discoveries. It is hardly necessary for me to tell a man of your
experience that it is one of the most difficult things in the world to
upset a jury's verdict in a case of murder."

"What have you discovered?"

"This, for one thing." Colwyn produced the pocket-book, and displayed
the contents on the table. "This is the murdered man's pocket-book,
containing the missing notes which Penreath is supposed to have murdered
him for. The prosecution dropped the charge of robbery, but the theft
formed an important part of the Crown theory of the crime, as
establishing motive."

"Where did you find this pocket-book?"

"Suspended by a piece of cord, half way down the pit where the body was
flung."

"It's an interesting discovery," replied Mr. Oakham thoughtfully
tapping his nose with his gold-rimmed eye-glasses as he stared at the
black pocket-book on the white tablecloth. "Speaking personally, it is
proof of what I have thought all along, that a Penreath of Twelvetrees
would not commit a robbery. Therefore, on that line of reasoning, one
could argue that as Penreath did not commit the robbery, and the Crown
hold that the murder was committed for the money, Penreath must be
innocent. But the Crown is more likely to hold that as Penreath threw
the body in the pit, he concealed the money there afterwards, and was
hiding in the wood to recover it when he was arrested. The real point
is, Mr. Colwyn, can you prove that it was not Mr. Penreath who placed
the money in the pit?"

"I believe I can prove, at all events, that it was not Penreath who
threw the body into the pit."

"You can! Then who was it?"

"I am not prepared to answer that question at the moment. During my
visit to the inn I made a number of other discoveries besides that of
the pocket-book, which, though slight in themselves, all fit in with my
present theory of the murder. But before disclosing them, I want to
complete my investigations by testing my theory to the uttermost. It is
just possible that I may be wrong, though I do not think so. When I have
taken the additional step which completes my investigations, I will go
to the chief constable, reconstruct the crime for him as I see it now,
and ask him to take action."

"Then why have you sent for me?"

"To help me to complete my task. Part of my theory is that Penreath is
deliberately keeping silent to shield some one else. The solicitor of a
convicted man has access to him even when he is condemned to death. I
want you to take me with you to see Penreath."

"For what purpose?"

"In order to get him to speak."

"It would be quite useless." The lawyer spoke in some agitation. "I have
seen him twice since the verdict, and implored him to speak if he has
anything to say, but he declared that he had nothing to say."

"Nevertheless, I shall succeed where you have failed. Penreath is an
innocent man."

"Then why does he not speak out, even now--more so now than ever?"

"He has his reasons, and they seem sufficient to him to keep him silent
even under the shadow of the gallows."

"And why do you think he will confide them to you, when he refuses to
divulge them to his professional adviser?"

"He will not willingly reveal them to me. My hope of getting his story
depends entirely upon my success in springing a surprise upon him. That
is one of my reasons for not telling you more just now. The mere fact
that you knew would hamper my handling a difficult situation. The
slightest involuntary gesture or look might put him on his guard, and
the opportunity would be lost. It is not absolutely essential that I
should gain Penreath's statement before going to the police, but if his
statement coincides with my theory of the crime it will strengthen my
case considerably when I reconstruct the crime for the police."

"Your way of doing business strikes me as strange, Mr. Colwyn," said the
solicitor stiffly. "As Mr. Penreath's professional adviser, surely I am
entitled to your fullest confidence. You are asking me to behave in a
very unprofessional way, and take a leap in the dark. There are proper
ways of doing things. I will be frank with you. I have come to Norwich
in order to urge Penreath for the last time to permit me to lodge an
appeal against his conviction. That interview has been arranged to take
place in the morning."

"Has he previously refused to appeal?"

"He has--twice."

"May I ask on what grounds you are seeking permission to appeal?"

"If he consents, my application to the Registrar would be made under
Section Four of the Criminal Appeal Act," was the cautious reply.

"That means you are persisting in your original defence--that Penreath
is guilty, but insane. Therefore your application for leave to appeal
against the sentence on the ground of insanity only enables you to
appeal to the Court to quash the sentence on the ground that Penreath is
irresponsible for his acts. Even if you succeed in your appeal he will
be kept in gaol as a criminal lunatic. In a word, you intend to persist
in a defence which, as I told you before the trial, had very little
chance of success. In my opinion it has no more chance of success before
the Court of Appeal. You have not sufficient evidence for a successful
defence on the grounds of insanity. The judge, in his summing up at the
trial, was clearly of the opinion that Sir Henry Durwood was wrong in
thinking Penreath insane, and he directed the jury accordingly.

"In my opinion the judge was right. I do not think Penreath is insane,
or even subject to fits of impulsive insanity. If you ask my opinion, I
think he is still suffering from the effects of shell shock, and, like
many other brave men who have been similarly affected, he endeavoured to
conceal the fact. I have come to the conclusion that Penreath's peculiar
conduct at the Durrington hotel, on which Sir Henry based his theory of
_furor epilepticus_, was nothing more than the combined effect of
mental worry and an air raid shock on a previously shattered nervous
system. Penreath is a sane man--as sane as you or I--and my late
investigations at the scene of the murder have convinced me that he is
an innocent man also. The question is, are you going to allow
professional etiquette to stand in the way of proving his innocence?"

"But you have not shown me anything to convince me that he _is_ an
innocent man. Your statement comes as a great surprise to me, and you
cannot expect that I should credit your bare assumption. It would be
exceedingly difficult to believe without the most convincing proofs,
which you have not brought forward. I prepared the case for the defence
at the trial, and I only permitted that defence to be put forward
because there was no other course--the evidence was so overwhelming, and
Penreath's obstinate silence in the face of it pointed so conclusively
to his guilt."

"Nevertheless, you were wrong. The question is, are you going to help me
undo that wrong?"

"You have not yet proved to me that it is a wrong," quibbled the
solicitor.

"Mr. Oakham, let me make this quite clear to you," said the detective
sternly. "I have sent for you out of courtesy, because, as I said
before, I like to do things in a regular way. As you force me to speak
plainly, there is another reason, which is that I did not wish to make
you look small, or injure your professional reputation, by acting
independently of you. It would be a bad advertisement for Oakham and
Pendules if it got abroad--as it assuredly will if you persist in your
attitude--that an innocent client of yours was almost sent to the
gallows through your wrong defence at his trial. It is in your hands to
prevent such a scandal from becoming public property. But if you are
going to stand on professional etiquette it is just as well you should
understand that I am quite prepared to act independently of you. I have
sufficient influence to obtain an order from the governor of the gaol
for an interview with the condemned man, and I shall do so. I have
discovered sufficient additional evidence in this case to save Penreath,
and I am going to save him, with or without your assistance. You have
had your way--it was a wrong way. Now I am going to have my way. I only
ask you to trust me for a few hours. After I have seen Penreath you are
at liberty to accompany me to the chief constable, to whom I shall tell
everything. That is my last word."

"I will do as you ask, Mr. Colwyn," replied the solicitor, after a short
pause. "Not because I am apprehensive of the consequences, but because
you have convinced me that it would be foolish and wrong on my part to
place any obstacles in the way of establishing my client's innocence,
even if it is only the smallest chance. You must forgive my hesitation.
I am an old man, and your story has been such a shock that I am unable
to realise it yet. But I will not stand on punctilio when it is a
question of trying to save a Penreath of Twelvetrees from the gallows. I
think I can arrange it with the governor of the gaol to permit you to
accompany me when I see Penreath in the morning. That interview is to
take place at twelve o'clock. We can go together from here to the gaol,
if that will suit you."

"That will suit me excellently. And before that interview takes place I
should be glad if you would tell me the facts of Penreath's engagement
to Miss Willoughby."

"I really know very little about it," said Mr. Oakham, looking somewhat
surprised at the question. "I have heard, though, that Penreath met
Miss Willoughby in London before the war, and became engaged after a
very brief acquaintance. Ill-natured people say that the girl's aunt
threw her at Penreath's head. The aunt is a Mrs. Brewer, a wealthy
manufacturer's widow, a pushing nobody----"

"I have met her."

"I had forgotten. Well, you know that type of woman, with an itch to get
into Society. Perhaps she thought that the marriage of her niece to a
Penreath of Twelvetrees would open doors for her. At any rate, I
remember there was a great deal of tittle-tattle at the time to the
effect that she manoeuvred desperately hard to bring about the
engagement. On the other hand, there can be no harm in stating now that
Ronald Penreath's father was almost equally keen on that match for
monetary reasons. The Penreaths are far from wealthy. From that point of
view the match seemed suitable enough--money on one side, and birth and
breeding on the other. I am not sure that there was very much love in
the case, or that the young people's feelings were deeply involved on
either side. There is no reason why I should not mention these things
now, for the match has been broken off. It was broken off shortly after
Penreath's arrest."

"By the young lady?"

"By the aunt, in her presence. It happened the day after they went to
Heathfield to identify Penreath. Mrs. Brewer was furious about the whole
business as soon as she ascertained that it wasn't a mistake, as she had
hoped at first, and that there was likely to be much unpleasant
publicity over it. She said she would never be able to hold up her head
in Society after the disgrace, and all that sort of thing. It all came
about through my asking Miss Willoughby if she would like to see her
lover while he was awaiting trial. The girl replied, coldly enough, that
it would be time enough to see him after he had cleared himself of the
dreadful charge hanging over his head. By the way she spoke she seemed
to think herself a deeply injured person, as perhaps she was. Then the
aunt had her say, and insisted that I must tell Penreath the engagement
was broken off. I asked Miss Willoughby if that was her wish also, and
she replied that it was. I told Penreath the following day, but I do not
think that it worried him very much."

"I do not think it would," replied Colwyn with a smile.



CHAPTER XXIII


Colwyn found Mr. Oakham awaiting him in the hotel lobby, a little before
eleven the following morning, to inform him that the necessary
arrangements had been made to enable him to be present at his interview
with Penreath. Colwyn forbore to ask him on what pretext he had obtained
the gaol governor's consent to his presence, but merely signified that
he was ready. Mr. Oakham replied that they had better go at once, and
asked the porter to call a taxi.

On arriving at the gaol they passed through the double entrance gates,
Mr. Oakham turned to a door on the left just within the gates, and
entered. The door opened into a plainly furnished office, with walls
covered with prison regulations. Behind a counter, at a stand-up desk
opposite the door, a tall burly man in a uniform of blue and silver was
busily writing in a large ledger. Ranged in rows, on hooks alongside
him, were bunches of immense keys, and as he turned to attend to Oakham
and Colwyn another bunch of similar keys could be seen dangling at his
side. Mr. Oakham explained the purpose of their visit, and produced the
order for the interview. The functionary in blue and silver, who was the
entrance gaoler, perused it attentively, and pushed over two forms for
the solicitor and the detective to fill in. It was the last formality
that the law insisted on--a grim form of visiting card whereon the
visitor inscribes his name and business, which is sent to the condemned
man, who must give his consent to the interview before it is granted.

When Mr. Oakham and Colwyn had filled in their forms the entrance gaoler
took them and pulled a rope. Somewhere in a corridor a bell clanged, and
a moment afterwards a gaoler opened a small door on the other side of
the counter. The entrance gaoler gave him the forms, and he disappeared
with them. There ensued a long period of waiting, and nearly half an
hour elapsed before he reappeared again, accompanied by a warder. The
blue and silver functionary silently lifted the flap of the counter, and
beckoned Mr. Oakham and Colwyn to accompany the warder through the small
door at the other end of the room.

They went through and the bell clanged once more as the door closed
behind them. The warder took them along a corridor to a door at the
farther end, and ushered them into a room--a large apartment, not unlike
a board room, furnished with a table and chairs ranged on each side. It
was the governor of the gaol's room, where the interview was to take
place. Colwyn took one of the chairs at the table, Mr. Oakham took
another, and silently they awaited the coming of the condemned man.

Another quarter of an hour elapsed before the door at the other end of
the room opened, and Penreath appeared between two warders. They
conducted him to the table, and placed a chair for him. With a quick
glance at his visitors he sat down, and the warders seated themselves on
each side of him. The warder who had brought the visitors in then nodded
to Mr. Oakham, as an indication that the interview might begin.

In the brief glance that the young man cast at his visitors Colwyn
observed both calmness of mind and self-possession. Although deep
shadows under the eyes and the tenseness of the muscles round the mouth
revealed sleepless nights and mental agony, Penreath's face showed no
trace of insanity or the guilty consciousness of evil deeds, but had the
serene expression of a man who had fought his battle and won it.

Mr. Oakham began the interview with him in a dry professional way, as
though it were an interview between solicitor and client in the sanctity
of a private room, with no hearers. And, indeed, the prison warders
sitting there with the impassive faces of officialdom might have been
articles of furniture, so remote were they from displaying the slightest
interest in the private matters discussed between the two. No doubt they
had been present at many similar scenes, and custom is a deadening
factor. Mr. Oakham's object was to urge his client to consent to the
lodgement of an appeal against the jury's verdict, and to that end he
advanced a multitude of arguments and a variety of reasons. The young
man listened patiently, but when the solicitor had concluded he shook
his head with a gesture of finality which indicated an unalterable
refusal.

"It's no use, Oakham," he said. "My mind is quite made up. I'm obliged
to you for all the trouble you have taken in my case, but I cannot alter
my decision. I shall go through with it--to the end."

"In that case it is no use my urging you further." Mr. Oakham spoke
stiffly, and put his eye-glasses in his pocket with an air of vexation.
"Mr. Colwyn has something to say to you on the subject. Perhaps you will
listen to him. He believes he can help you."

"He helped to arrest me," said Penreath, with a slight indifferent look
at the detective.

"But not to convict you," said Colwyn. "I had hoped to help you."

"What do you want of me?" Penreath's tone was cold.

"In the first place, I have to say that I believe you innocent."

The young man lifted his eyebrows slightly, as if to indicate that the
other's opinion was a matter of indifference to him, but he remained
silent.

"I have come to beg of you, even at this late hour, to break your
silence, and give an account of your actions that night at the inn."

"You might have saved yourself the trouble of coming here. I have
nothing whatever to say."

"That means that you continue in your refusal to speak. Will you answer
one or two questions?"

"No."

"Will you not tell me why you kept silence about what you saw in Mr.
Glenthorpe's room that night of the murder?"

"Man, how did you find that out?" Penreath's calm disappeared in a
sudden fury of voice and look. "What do you know?"

"I know whom you are trying to shield," replied the detective, with his
eyes fixed on Penreath's face. "You are wrong. She----"

"I beg of you to be silent! Do not mention names, for God's sake."
Penreath's face had grown suddenly white.

"It is in your power to ensure my silence."

"How?"

"By speaking yourself."

"That I will never do."

"Then you compel me to go to the authorities and tell them what I have
discovered. I will save you in spite of yourself."

"Do you think that I want to be saved--like that?"

Struggling desperately for self-control Penreath turned to Mr. Oakham.
"Why did you bring Mr. Colwyn here?" he asked the solicitor fiercely.
"To torture me?"

Before Mr. Oakham could reply Colwyn laughed aloud. A clear ringing
laugh of unmistakable satisfaction. The laugh sounded strangely
incongruous in such a place.

"Penreath," he said, "you've told me all that I came here to know.
You're a splendid young Briton, but finesse is not your strong point.
You've acted like a quixotic young idiot in this case, and got yourself
into a nice muddle for nothing. The girl is as innocent as you are, and
you are a pair of simpletons! Yes. I mean what I say," continued the
detective, answering the young man's amazed look with a reassuring
smile. "Do you think that I would want to save you at her expense? Now
perhaps, when I have told you what happened that night, you will answer
a few questions. Before you went to bed you sat down and wrote a letter
on a leaf torn from your pocket-book. That letter was to Miss
Willoughby, breaking off your engagement. After writing it you went to
bed. At that time it was raining hard.

"You must have fallen asleep almost immediately, and slept for half an
hour--perhaps a little more--for when you awoke the rain had ceased. You
heard a slight noise in your room, and lit your candle to see what it
was. There was a rat in the corner of the room. You got up to throw
something at it, but as soon as you moved the rat darted across the room
and disappeared behind the wardrobe at the side of the bed. You pushed
back the wardrobe and----"

"For God's sake, say no more!" said Penreath. His face was grey, and he
was staring at the detective with the eyes of a man who saw his heart's
secret--the secret for which he was prepared to die--being dragged out
into the light of day. "How did you learn all this?"

"That does not matter much just now. What you saw through the wall made
you determine to leave the house as speedily as possible, and also
caused you to destroy the letter you had written to Miss Willoughby.

"You were wrong in what you did. In the first place, you misinterpreted
what you saw through the door in the wall. By thinking Peggy guilty and
leaving the inn early in the morning, you not only wronged her
grievously, but brought suspicion on yourself. Peggy's presence in the
room was quite by accident. She had gone to ask Mr. Glenthorpe to assist
you in your trouble, by lending you money, and, finding the door open,
she impulsively went in and found him dead--murdered. And at the bedside
she picked up the knife--the knife you had used at dinner--and this."

Colwyn produced Penreath's match-box from his pocket and laid it on the
table in front of him.

"Because of the knife and this match-box she thought you guilty."

"I! Why I never left my room after I went into it," exclaimed Penreath.
"I left the match-box in the room where I had dined with Mr. Glenthorpe.
When I awoke after falling asleep, and heard the noise in the room--just
as you describe--I could not find my match-box when I wanted a match to
light my candle, then I remembered that I had left it in the
sitting-room on the mantelpiece. I happened to find a loose match in my
vest pocket."

"Peggy came to see me at my hotel, after the trial, and told me all she
knew," continued Colwyn. "It was well she did, for my second visit to
the inn brought to light a number of facts which will enable me to
establish your innocence."

"And what about the real murderer?" asked Penreath, in a hesitating
voice, without looking at the detective.

"We will not go into that just now, unless you have anything to tell me
that will throw further light on the events of the night." Colwyn shot a
keen, questioning glance at the young man.

"I will answer any questions you wish to put to me. It is the least I
can do after having made such a fool of myself. It was the shock of
seeing Peggy in the room that robbed me of my judgment. I should have
known her better, but you must remember that I had no idea she was in
the house until I looked through the door in the wall which I had
accidentally discovered, and saw her standing at the bedside, with the
knife in her hand. I started to follow her home that day because I
wished to know more about her. I lost my way in the mist. I met a man on
the marshes who directed me to the village and the inn."

"When she heard your voice, and saw you going upstairs, she waited about
in the hope of seeing you before she went to bed, as she wished to avoid
meeting you in the presence of her father. When she saw Mr. Glenthorpe's
door open she acted on a sudden impulse, and went in."

"I have been rightly punished for my stupidity and my folly," said
Penreath. "I have wronged her beyond forgiveness."

"You really have not much to blame yourself for except your obstinate
silence. That was really too quixotic, even if things had been as you
imagined. No man is justified in sacrificing his life foolishly. And you
had much to live for. You had your duty to do in life. Nobody knew that
better than you--a soldier who had served his country gallantly and
well. In fact, your silence has been to me one of the puzzles of this
case, and even now it seems to me that you must have had a deeper motive
than that of shielding the girl, because you could have asserted your
innocence without implicating her."

"You are a very clever man, Colwyn," said the other slowly. "There was
another reason for my silence."

"What was it?"

"I am supposed to be an epileptic. I happen to know a little of the
course of that frightful disease, and it seemed to me that it was better
to die--even at the hands of the hangman--than to live on to be a burden
to my friends and relations, particularly when by dying I could shield
the girl I loved. That is why I was glad when the plea put up for my
defence failed. I preferred to die rather than live branded as a
criminal lunatic. So, you see, it was not such a great sacrifice on my
part, after all."

"What brought you back to the wood where you were arrested?"

"To see her. I do not know if I wanted to speak to her; but I wanted
above all things to see her once again. When I left the inn that morning
I had no idea that I might fall under suspicion for having committed the
murder, but I was desperately unhappy after what I had seen the night
before, and I didn't care what I did or where I went. Instead of walking
back to Durrington I struck across the marshes in the opposite
direction. I walked along all day, through a desolate area of marshes,
meeting nobody except an old eel fisherman in the morning, and, later
on, a labourer going home from his work. I was very tired when I saw the
labourer, and I asked him to direct me to some place where I could
obtain rest and refreshment. He pointed to a short cut across the
marshes, which, he said, led to a hamlet with an inn. I went along the
path he had pointed out, but I lost my way in the gathering darkness.
After wandering about the marshes for some time I saw the light of a
cottage window some distance off, and went there to inquire my way. The
occupant, an old peasant woman, could not have heard anything about the
murder, for she was very kind to me, and gave me tea and food.
Afterwards I set out for the inn again, and when I reached the road I
sat down by the side of it to rest awhile.

"While I was sitting there two men came along. They did not see me in
the dark, and I heard them talking about the murder, and from what they
said I knew that I was suspected, and that the whole country side was
searching for me. It seemed incredible to me, and my first instinct was
to fly. I sat there until the men's voices died away in the distance,
then I turned off the road, and hurried across some fields, looking for
a place to hide. After walking some distance I came to a large barn,
standing by itself. The door was open, and I went in. I had no matches,
but I felt some hay or straw on the floor. I lay down and pulled some
over me, and fell fast asleep.

"I had only intended to rest in the barn for a while, but I was so tired
that I slept all night. When I awoke it was broad daylight. I did not
know where I was at first, but it all came back to me, and I started up
in a fright, determined to leave the barn as quickly as possible, for I
knew it was an unsafe hiding place, and likely to be searched at any
time. But before I could get away I heard loud voices approaching, and I
knew I should be seen. I looked hastily around for some place of
concealment. It was just a big empty shed with one or two shelves
covered with apples, and a lot of straw on the floor. In desperation,
as the voices came nearer, I lay down on the floor again, and pulled
straw over me till I was completely hidden from view.

"The door opened, and some men looked in. Through the straw that covered
me I could see them quite distinctly--three fishermen and a farm
labourer--though apparently they couldn't see me. From their
conversation I gathered that they formed part of a search party looking
for me, and had been told off to search the barn. This apparently they
were not anxious to do, for they merely peeped in at the door, and one
of them, in rather a relieved tone, said I wasn't in there, wherever I
was. One of the fishermen replied that he expected that I was far enough
off by that time. They stood at the door for a few moments, talking
about the murder, and then they went away.

"I stayed in the barn all day, but nobody else came near me. When it was
dark, I filled my pockets with apples from the shelves, and went out. I
wandered about all night, and found myself close to a railway station at
daybreak. I had been in that part of the country before, so I knew where
I was--not far from Heathfield, with Flegne about three miles away
across the fields. The country was nearly all open, and consequently
unsafe. As I walked through a field I spied a little hut, almost hidden
from view in a clump of trees. The door was open, and I could see it was
empty. I went in, lay down, and fell fast asleep.

"When I awoke it was getting dusk. I was very stiff and cold, so I
started out walking again to get myself warm. It was then, I remember
well, that the longing came over me to see Peggy again. I cursed myself
for my weakness, knowing what I knew--or thought I knew, God forgive
me.

"I found myself making my way back to Flegne as fast as my legs would
carry me--which wasn't very fast, because I was weak from want of food,
and so footsore that I could hardly stumble along. But I got over the
three miles somehow, and reached the wood, where I crawled into some
undergrowth, and lay there all night, sometimes dozing, sometimes wide
awake, and sometimes a bit light-headed, I think. It was there you found
me next day, and I was glad you did. I was about finished when I saw you
looking through the bushes and only too glad to come out. I didn't care
what happened to me then. And now, I have told you all."

The young man, as he finished his story, buried his face in his hands,
as though overcome by the recollection of the mental anguish he had been
through, and what he had endured.

"Not quite all, I think," said Colwyn, after a pause.

"I have told you everything that counts," said Penreath, without looking
up.

"You have not," replied the detective firmly. "You have not told me all
you saw when you were looking through the door between the two rooms the
night of the murder."

Penreath raised his head and regarded the other with startled eyes.

"What do you mean?" he said, in a whisper.

"I mean that you have kept back that you saw the body removed," he said
grimly.

"Are you a man or a wizard?" cried Penreath fiercely. "God! how did you
find that out?"

"By guess work, if you like," responded the other coolly. "Listen to me!
There has been too much concealment about this case already, so let us
have no more of it. It was because of what you saw afterwards that your
suspicions were doubly fastened on the girl, is that not so? I thought
as much," he continued, as the other nodded without speaking. "How long
after Peggy left the room was it before the body was removed?"

"Not very long," replied Penreath. "After she went out of the room I sat
on the bedside. I did not close the small door I had discovered, or
replace the wardrobe. I was too overwhelmed. In a little while--perhaps
ten minutes--I saw a light shine through the hole again. I went to it
and looked through--God knows why--and I saw somebody walking stealthily
into the room, carrying a candle. He went to the bedside and, with a
groan, lifted the body on to his shoulders, and carried it out of the
room. I crept to my door, and looked out and saw him descending the
stairs. God in heaven, what a horror, what a horror!

"I waited to see no more. I shut the door in the wall, pulled the
wardrobe back into its place and determined to leave the accursed inn as
soon as it was daylight. In my cell at nights, when I hear the footsteps
of the warder sounding along the corridor and dying away in the
distance, it reminds me of how I stood at the door that night, listening
to the sound of the footsteps stumbling down the staircase."

"You heard the footsteps distinctly, then?" said the detective.

"Distinctly and clearly. The staircase is a stone one, as you know."

"Did you put your boots out to be cleaned before you went to bed?"

"Yes."

"And were they there when you looked out of the door?"

"I do not remember. But I know they were there in the morning, dirty
and covered with clay. I took them in, and was about to put them on,
when the servant knocked at the door with a cup of morning tea. I
answered the door with the boots in my hand. She offered to clean them
for me, and was taking them away, but I called her back and said I would
not wait for them. I was too anxious to get away from the place."

"Do you remember when you lost the rubber heel of one of them?"

"It must have been when I was walking the previous day. They were only
put on the day before. I happened to mention to a bootmaker at
Durrington that my left heel had become jarred with walking. He
recommended me to try rubber heels to lessen the strain, and he put them
on for me. I had never worn them before, and found them very
uncomfortable when I was walking along the marshes. They seemed to hold
and stick in the wet ground."

"And now there are one or two other points I want you to make clear. Why
did you register in the name of James Ronald at the Durrington Hotel?"

"That was merely a whim. I was disgusted with London and society after
my return from the front. Those who have been through this terrible war
learn to see most things at their true worth, and the frivolity, the
snobbishness, and the shams of London society at such a time sickened
and disgusted me. They tried to lionise me in drawing rooms and make me
talk for their entertainment. They put my photograph in the illustrated
papers, and interviewed me, and all that kind of thing. What had I done!
Nothing! Not a tithe of what thousands of better men are doing every day
out there. So I went away from it all. I had no intention, when I went
into the hotel, of not registering in my full name though. That came
about in a peculiar way. It was the first registration form I had
seen--it was the first hotel I had stayed at after nearly eighteen
months at the front--and I put down my two christian names, James
Ronald, in the wrong space, the space for the surname, which is the
first column. I saw my error as I glanced over the form, but the girl,
thinking I had filled it up, took it away from me. It then struck me
that it was just as well to let it go; it would prevent my being worried
by fools."

"And how came it that you ran so short of money that you had to leave
the hotel?"

"I have practically nothing except what my father allows me, and which
is paid quarterly through his bankers in London. I left London with a
few pounds in my pocket, and thought no more about money until the hotel
proprietor stopped me one morning and asked me politely to discharge my
bill, as I was a stranger to him. It was then that I first realised the
difference between a name like Penreath of Twelvetrees and plain James
Ronald. I was furious, and told him he should have the money in two
days, as soon as I could communicate with my London bankers. I wrote
straight away, and asked them to send me some money. The money came, the
morning I was turned out of the hotel; I saw the letter in the rack,
addressed to J. R. Penreath, but what good was that to me? I could not
claim it because I was booked in the name of James Ronald. I knew nobody
in the place to whom I could apply. I had some thoughts of confiding in
the hotel proprietor, but one look at his face was sufficient to put
that out of the question.

"So I went in to breakfast, desperately angry at being treated so, and
feeling more than a little ill. You know what happened at the breakfast
table. I began to feel pretty seedy, and left my place to get to the
fresh air, when that doctor--Sir Henry Durwood--jumped up and grabbed
me. I tried to push him off, but he was too strong for me, and I found
myself going. The next thing I knew was that I was lying in my bedroom,
and hearing somebody talk. After you had left the room I determined to
leave the hotel as quickly as possible. I packed a small handbag, and
told the hotel-keeper on my way downstairs that he could keep my things
until I paid my bill. Then I walked to Leyland Hoop, where I had an
appointment with Peggy, as you know. I seem to have acted as a pretty
considerable ass all round," said the young man, with a rueful smile.
"But I had a bad gruelling from shell-shock. I wouldn't mention this,
but it's really affected my head, you know, and I don't think I'm always
quite such a fool as this story makes me appear to be."

"And your nerves were a bit rattled by the Zeppelin raid at Durrington,
were they not?" said Colwyn sympathetically.

"You seem to know everything," said the young man, flushing. "I am
ashamed to say that they were."

"You have no cause to be ashamed," replied Colwyn gently. "The bravest
men suffer that way after shell-shock."

"It's not a thing a man likes to talk about," said Penreath, after a
pause. "But if you have had experience of this kind of thing, will you
tell me if you have ever seen a man completely recover--from
shell-shock, I mean?"

"I should say you will be quite yourself again shortly. There cannot be
very much the matter with your nerves to have stood the experience of
the last few weeks. After we get you out of here, and you have had a
good rest, you will be yourself again."

"And what about this other thing--this _furor epilepticus_, whatever it
is?" asked Penreath, anxiously.

"As you didn't murder anybody, you haven't had the epileptic fury,"
replied Colwyn, laughing.

"But Sir Henry Durwood said at the trial that I was an epileptic,"
persisted the other.

"He was wrong about the _furor epilepticus_, so it is just as likely
that he was wrong about the epilepsy. His theory was that you were going
to attack somebody at the breakfast table of the hotel, and you have
just told us that you had no intention of attacking anybody--that your
only idea was to get out of the room. You are neither an epileptic nor
insane, in my opinion, but at that time you were suffering from the
after effects of shell-shock. Take my advice, and forget all about the
trial and what you heard there, or, if you must think of it, remember
the excellent certificate of sanity and clear-headedness which the
doctors for the Crown gave you! When you get free I'll take you to half
a dozen specialists who'll probably confirm the Crown point of view."

Penreath laughed for the first time.

"You've made me feel like a new man," he said. "How can I thank you for
all you have done?"

"The only way you can show your gratitude is by instructing Mr. Oakham
to lodge an appeal for you--at once. Have you the necessary forms with
you, Mr. Oakham?"

"I have," said the solicitor, finding voice after a long silence.



CHAPTER XXIV


Mr. Oakham did not discuss what had taken place in the prison as he and
Colwyn drove to the office of the chief constable after the interview.
He sat silent in his corner of the taxi, his hands clasped before him,
and gazing straight in front of him with the look of a man who sees
nothing. From time to time his lips moved after the fashion of the old,
when immersed in thought, and once he audibly murmured, "The poor lad;
the poor lad." Colwyn forbore to speak to him. He realised that he had
had a shock, and was best left to himself.

By the time the taxi reached the office of the chief constable Mr.
Oakham showed symptoms of regaining his self-possession. He felt for his
eye-glasses, polished them, placed them on his nose and glanced at his
watch. It was in something like his usual tones that he asked Colwyn, as
they alighted from the cab, whether he had an appointment with the chief
constable.

"I wired to you both at the same time," replied the detective. "I asked
him to keep this afternoon free," he explained with a smile.

A police constable in the outer office took in their names. He speedily
returned with the message that the chief constable would be glad to see
them, and would they step this way, please. Following in his wake, they
were conducted along a passage and into a large comfortably furnished
room, where Mr. Cromering was writing at a small table placed near a
large fire. He looked up as the visitors entered, put down his pen, and
came forward to greet them.

"I am pleased to see you again, Mr. Colwyn, and you also, Mr. Oakham.
Please draw your chairs near the fire gentlemen--there's a decided nip
in the air. I got your telegram, Mr. Colwyn, and I am at your disposal,
with plenty of time. Your telegram rather surprised me. What has
happened in the Glenthorpe case?"

"Fresh facts have come to light--facts that tend to prove the innocence
of Penreath, who was accused and convicted for the murder."

"Dear me! This is a very grave statement. What proofs have you?"

"Sufficient to warrant further steps in the case. It is a long story,
but I think when you have heard it you will feel justified in taking
prompt action."

Before Mr. Cromering could reply, the police constable who had shown in
Colwyn and Mr. Oakham entered the room and said that Superintendent
Galloway, from Durrington, was outside.

"Bring him in, Johnson," said Mr. Cromering. He turned to Colwyn and
added: "When I received your telegram I telephoned to Galloway and asked
him to be here this afternoon. As he worked up the case against
Penreath, I thought it better that he should be present and hear what
you have to say. You have no objection, I suppose?"

"On the contrary, I shall be very glad for Galloway to hear what I have
to say."

The police constable returned, ushering in Superintendent Galloway, who
looked rather surprised when he saw his superior officer's visitors. He
nodded briefly to Colwyn, and looked inquiringly at the chief constable.

"Mr. Colwyn has discovered some fresh facts in the Glenthorpe murder,
Galloway," explained Mr. Cromering. "I sent for you in order that you
might hear what they are."

"What sort of facts?" asked Galloway, with a quick glance at the
detective.

"That is what Mr. Colwyn proposes to explain to us."

"I shall have to go back to the beginning of our investigations to do
so--to the day when we motored from Durrington to Flegne," said the
detective. "We went there with the strong presumption in our minds that
Penreath was the criminal, because of suspicious facts previously known
about him. He was short of money, he had concealed his right name when
registering at the hotel, and his behaviour at the breakfast table the
morning of his departure suggested an unbalanced temperament. It is a
legal axiom that men's minds are influenced by facts previously known or
believed, and we set out to investigate this case under the strong
presumption that Penreath, and none other, was the murderer.

"The evidence we found during our visit to the inn fitted in with this
theory, and inclined the police to shut out the possibility of any
alternative theory because of the number of concurrent points which
fitted in with the presumption that Penreath was the murderer. There
was, first, the fact that the murderer had entered through the window.
Penreath had been put to sleep in the room next the murdered man, in an
unoccupied part of the inn, and could easily have got from one window to
the other without being seen or heard. Next was the fact that the murder
had been committed with a knife with a round end. Penreath had used such
a knife when dining with Mr. Glenthorpe, and that knife was afterwards
missing. Next, we have him hurriedly departing from the inn soon after
daybreak, refusing to wait till his boots were cleaned, and paying his
bill with a Treasury note.

"Then came the discovery of the footprints to the pit where the body had
been thrown, and those footprints were incontestably made by Penreath's
boots. The stolen notes suggested a strong motive in the case of a man
badly in need of money, and the payment of his bill with a Treasury note
of the first issue suggested--though not very strongly--that he had
given the servant one of the stolen notes. These were the main points in
the circumstantial evidence against Penreath. The stories of the
landlord of the inn, the deaf waiter, and the servant supported that
theory in varying degrees, and afforded an additional ground for the
credibility of the belief that Penreath was the murderer. The final and
most convincing proof--Penreath's silence under the accusation--does not
come into the narrative of events at this point, because he had not been
arrested.

"It was when we visited the murdered man's bedroom that the first doubts
came to my mind as to the conclusiveness of the circumstantial evidence
against Penreath. The theory was that Penreath, after murdering Mr.
Glenthorpe, put the body on his shoulder, and carried it downstairs and
up the rise to the pit. The murderer entered through the window--the
bits of red mud adhering to the carpet prove that conclusively
enough--but if Penreath was the murderer where had he got the umbrella
with which he shielded himself from the storm? The fact that the
murderer carried an umbrella is proved by the discovery of a small patch
of umbrella silk which had got caught on a nail by the window. Again,
why should a man, getting from one window to another, bother about using
an umbrella for a journey of a few feet only? He would know that he
could not use it when carrying the body to the pit, for that task would
require both his hands. And what had Penreath done with the umbrella
afterwards?

"The clue of the umbrella silk, and the pool of water near the window
where the murderer placed the umbrella after getting into the room,
definitely fixed the time of the murder between eleven and 11.30 p.m.,
because the violent rainstorm on that night ceased at the latter hour.
If Penreath was the murderer, he waited until the storm ceased before
removing the body. There were no footprints outside the window where the
murderer got in, because they were obliterated by the rain. On the other
hand, the footsteps to the pit where the body was thrown were clear and
distinct, proving conclusively that no rain fell after the murderer left
the house with his burden. It seemed to me unlikely that a man after
committing a murder would coolly sit down beside his victim and wait for
the rain to cease before disposing of the body. His natural instinct
would be to hide the evidence of his crime as quickly as possible.

"These points, however, were of secondary importance, merely tending to
shake slightly what lawyers term the probability of the case against
Penreath. But a point of more importance was my discovery that the
candle-grease dropped on the carpet was of two different kinds--wax and
tallow--suggesting that two different persons were in the room on the
night of the murder. Mr. Glenthorpe did not use a candle, but a reading
lamp. Neither did Mr. Glenthorpe use the gas globe in the middle of the
room. Yet that gas tap was turned on slightly when we examined the room,
and the globe and the incandescent burner smashed. Who turned on the
tap, and who smashed the globe? Penreath is not tall enough to have
struck it with his head. Superintendent Galloway's theory was that it
might have been done by the murderer when throwing the body of his
victim over his shoulder.

"An ideal case of circumstantial evidence may be weakened, but not
destroyed, by the destruction of one or more of the collateral facts
which go to make it up. There are two kinds of circumstantial evidence.
In one kind presumption of guilt depends on a series of links forming a
chain. In the other, the circumstances are woven together like the
strands of a rope. That is the ideal case of circumstantial evidence,
because the rope still holds when some of the strands are severed. The
case against Penreath struck me as resembling a chain, which is no
stronger than its weakest link. The strongest link in the chain of
circumstances against Penreath was the footprints leading to the pit.
They had undoubtedly been made by his boots, but circumstances can lie
as well as witnesses, and in both cases the most plausible sometimes
prove the greatest liars. Take away the clue of the footprints, and the
case against Penreath was snapped in the most vital link. The remaining
circumstances in the case against him, though suspicious enough, were
open to an alternative explanation. The footprints were the damning
fact--the link on which the remaining links of the chain were hung.

"But the elimination of the clue of the footprints did not make the
crime any easier of solution. From the moment I set foot in the room it
struck me as a deep and baffling mystery, looking at it from the point
of view of the police theory or from any other hypothesis. If Penreath
had indeed committed the murder, who was the second visitor to the room?
And if Penreath had not committed the murder, who had?

"That night, in my room, I sought to construct two alternative theories
of the murder. In the first place, I examined the case thoroughly from
the police point of view, with Penreath as the murderer. In view of what
has come to light since the trial, there is no need to take up time with
giving you my reasons for doubting whether Penreath had committed the
crime. I explained those reasons to Superintendent Galloway at the time,
pointing out, as he will doubtless remember, that the police theory
struck me as illogical in some aspects, and far from convincing as a
whole. There were too many elements of uncertainty in it, too much
guess-work, too much jumping at conclusions. Take one point alone, on
which I laid stress at the time. The police theory originally started
from the point of Penreath's peculiar behaviour at the Durrington hotel,
which, from their point of view, suggested homicidal mania. To my mind,
there was no evidence to prove this, although that theory was actually
put forth by the defence at Penreath's trial. I witnessed the scene at
the breakfast table, and, in my opinion, Sir Henry Durwood acted hastily
and wrongly in rushing forward and seizing Penreath. There was nothing
in his behaviour that warranted it. He was a little excited, and nothing
more, and from what I have heard since he had reason to be excited.
Neither at the breakfast table nor in his room subsequently did his
actions strike me as the actions of a man of insane, neurotic, or
violent temperament. He was simply suffering from nerves. It is
important to remember, in recalling the events which led up to this
case, that Penreath was invalided out of the Army suffering from
shell-shock, and that two nights before the scene at the hotel there was
an air raid at Durrington. Shell-shock victims are always prejudicially
affected by air raids.

"Even if the police theory had been correct on this point, it seemed
inconceivable to me that a man affected with homicidal tendencies would
have displayed such cold-blooded caution and cunning in carrying out a
murder for gain, as the murderer at the _Golden Anchor_ did. The Crown
dropped this point at the trial. I merely mention it now in support of
my contention that the case of circumstantial evidence against Penreath
was by no means a strong one, because it originally depended, in part,
on inferred facts which the premises did not warrant.

"Next, the discoveries made in the room where the murder was committed,
and certain other indications found outside, did not fit in with the
police case against Penreath. Superintendent Galloway's reconstruction
of the crime, after he had seen the body and examined the inn premises,
did not account for the existence of all the facts. There were
circumstances and clues which were not consistent with the police theory
of the murder. The probability of the inference that Penreath was the
murderer was not increased by the discoveries we made. I am aware that
absolute proof is not essential to conviction in a case of
circumstantial evidence, but, on the other hand, to ignore facts which
do not accord with a theory is to go to the other extreme, for by so
doing you are in danger of excluding the possibility of any alternative
theory.

"On the other hand, when I sought to account for the crime by any other
hypothesis I found myself puzzled at every turn. The presence of two
persons in the room was the baffling factor. The murderer had entered
through the window in the storm, lighted the tallow candle which he
brought with him, walked straight to the bed and committed the murder.
Then he had waited till the rain ceased before carrying the body
downstairs to the pit. But what about the second person--the person who
had carried the wax candle and dropped spots of grease underneath the
broken gas globe? Had he come in at a different time, and why? Why had
he sought to light the gas, when he carried a candle? Why had he--as I
subsequently ascertained--left the room and gone downstairs to turn on
the gas at the meter?

"Eliminating Penreath for the time being, I tried next to fit in the
clues I had discovered with two alternative theories. Had the murder
been committed from outside by a villager, or by somebody in the inn?
There were possibilities about the former theory which I pointed out to
Superintendent Galloway, who subsequently investigated them, and
declared that there was no ground for the theory that the murder had
been committed from outside. The theory that the murder had been
committed by somebody inside the inn turned my attention to the inmates
of the inn. Excluding Penreath for the time being, there were five
inmates inside the walls the night the murder was committed--the
innkeeper, his daughter, his mother, the waiter, and Ann, the servant.
The girl could hardly have committed the murder, and could certainly not
have carried away the body. The old mad woman might have committed the
murder if she could have got out of her room, but she could not have
carried the body to the pit--neither could the servant. By this process
of elimination there remained the landlord and the deaf waiter.

"For a reason which it is not necessary to explain now, my thoughts
turned to the waiter when I first saw the body of the murdered man. The
possibility that he was the murderer was strengthened by the slight clue
of the line in the clay which I found underneath the murdered man's
bedroom window. That window is about five feet from the ground outside,
and the waiter, who is short and stout, could not have climbed through
the window without something to stand on. But the waiter could not
possibly have carried the body to the pit. His right arm is malformed,
and only a very strong man, with two strong arms, could have performed
that feat.

"There remained the innkeeper. He was the only person on the inn
premises that night, except Penreath, who could have carried the corpse
downstairs and thrown it into the pit. Although thin, I should say he is
a man of great physical strength. It is astonishing to think, in looking
back over all the circumstances of this extraordinary case, that some
suspicion was not diverted to him in the first instance. He was very
hard-pressed for money, and he knew for days beforehand that Mr.
Glenthorpe was going to draw £300 from the bank--a circumstance that
Penreath could not possibly have known when he sought chance shelter at
the inn that night. He was the only person in the place tall enough to
have smashed the gas globe and incandescent burner in Mr. Glenthorpe's
room by striking his head against it. He knew the run of the place and
the way to the pit intimately--far better than a stranger like Penreath
could. I was struck with that fact when we were examining the
footprints. The undeviating course from the inn to the mouth of the pit
suggested an intimate acquaintance with the way. The man who carried the
body to the pit in the darkness knew every inch of the ground.

"It is easy to be wise after the event, but my thoughts and suspicions
were centering more and more around the innkeeper when Penreath was
arrested. His attitude altered the whole aspect of the case. His
hesitating answers to me in the wood, his fatalistic acceptance of the
charge against him, seemed to me equivalent to a confession of guilt,
so I abandoned my investigations and returned to Durrington.

"I was wrong. It was a mistake for which I find it difficult to forgive
myself. Penreath's hesitation, his silence--what were they in the
balance of probabilities in such a strange deep crime as this murder? In
view of the discoveries I had already made--discoveries which pointed to
a most baffling mystery--I should not have allowed myself to be swerved
from my course by Penreath's silence in the face of accusation,
inexplicable though it appeared at the time. You know what happened
subsequently. Penreath, persisting in his silence, was tried, convicted,
and sentenced to death--because of that silence, which compelled the
defence to rely on a defence of insanity which they could not sustain.

"I went back to the inn a second time, not of my own volition, but
because of a story told me by the innkeeper's daughter, Peggy, at
Durrington four days ago. The night before the inquest Peggy paid a
visit to the room in which the murdered man lay. I did not see her go
in, but I saw her come out. She went downstairs and hurried across the
marshes and threw something into the sea from the top of the breakwater.
The following day, after Penreath's arrest, I questioned her. She gave
me an explanation which was hardly plausible, but Penreath's silence,
coming after the accumulation of circumstances against him, had caused
me to look at the case from a different angle, and I did not
cross-examine her. The object of her visit to me after the trial was to
admit that she had not told me the truth previously. Her amended story
was obviously the true one. She and Penreath had met by chance on the
seashore near Leyland Hoop two or three weeks before, and had met
secretly afterward. The subsequent actions of these two foolish young
people prove, convincingly enough, that they had fallen passionately in
love with each other. Peggy, however, had never told Penreath her name
or where she lived--because she knew her position was different from
his, she says--and she could not understand how he came to be at the inn
that night. Naturally, she was very much perturbed at his unexpected
appearance. She waited for an opportunity to speak to him after hearing
his voice, but was compelled to attend on her mad grandmother until it
was very late.

"Before going to bed she went down the passage to see if by any chance
he had not retired. There was a light in Mr. Glenthorpe's room, and,
acting on a sudden girlish impulse, she ran along the passage to Mr.
Glenthorpe's door, intending to confide her troubles in one who had
always been very good and kind to her. The door was partly open, and as
she got no reply to her knock, she entered. Mr. Glenthorpe was lying on
his bed, murdered, and on the floor--at the side of the bed--she found
the knife and this silver and enamel match-box. She hid the knife behind
a picture on the wall. She did a very plucky thing the following night
by going into the dead man's room and removing the knife in order to
prevent the police finding it, for by that time she was aware that the
knife formed an important piece of evidence in the case against her
lover. It was the knife she threw into the sea, but she kept the
match-box, which she recognised as Penreath's. When she came to me she
did not intend to tell me anything about the match-box if she could help
it. She was frank enough up to a point, but beyond that point she did
not want to go.

"After Penreath's conviction she began, womanlike, to wonder if she had
not been too hasty in assuming his guilt, and as the time slipped by and
brought the day of his doom nearer she grew desperate, and as a last
resource she came to me. It was a good thing she did so. For her story,
though apparently making the case against Penreath blacker still,
incidentally brought to light a clue which threw a new light on the case
and decided me to return to Flegne. That clue is contained in the
match-box."



CHAPTER XXV


Colwyn opened the silver and enamel box, and emptied the matches on the
table.

"I showed this match-box to Charles on my return to the inn, and he told
me that Penreath used it in the upstairs sitting-room the night he dined
there with Mr. Glenthorpe. Therefore, it is a reasonable deduction to
assume that he had no other matches in his possession the night of the
murder.

"This fact is highly significant, because the matches in Penreath's
silver box are, as you see, blue-headed wax matches, whereas the matches
struck in Mr. Glenthorpe's room on the night of the murder were of an
entirely different description--wooden matches with pink heads, of
British manufacture--so-called war matches, with cork pine sticks. The
sticks of these matches break rather easily unless they are held near
the head. Two broken fragments of this description of match, with
unlighted heads, were found in Mr. Glenthorpe's room the morning after
the murder. Superintendent Galloway picked up one by the foot of the
bed, and I picked up the other under the broken gas-globe. The recovery
of Penreath's match-box in the murdered man's room suggested several
things. In the first place, if he had no other matches in his possession
except those in his silver and enamel box, he was neither the murderer
nor the second person who visited the room that night. But if my
deduction about the matches was correct, how was it that his match-box
was found in the murdered man's room? The inference is that Penreath
left his match-box in the dining room after lighting his candle before
going to bed, and the murderer found it and took it into Mr.
Glenthorpe's bedroom to point suspicion towards Penreath.

"This fact opened up a new possibility about the crime--the possibility
that Penreath was the victim of a conspiracy. When we were examining the
footprints which led to the pit, the possibility of somebody else having
worn Penreath's boots occurred to me, because I have seen that trick
worked before, but the servant's story suggested that Penreath did not
put his boots outside his door to be cleaned, but came to the door with
them in his hand in the morning. But Penreath told me this morning that
he put out his boots overnight to be cleaned, but had taken them back
into his room before Ann brought up his tea. The murderer, therefore,
had ample opportunity to use them for his purpose of carrying the body
to the pit and to put them back afterwards outside Penreath's door.

"But Peggy's belated admissions did more than suggest that Penreath was
the victim of a sinister plot--they narrowed down the range of persons
by whom it could have been contrived. The plotter was not only an inmate
of the inn, but somebody who had seen the match box and knew that it
belonged to Penreath.

"I returned to Flegne to resume the investigations I had broken off
nearly three weeks before, and from that point my discoveries were very
rapid, all tending to throw suspicion on Benson. The first indication
was the outcome of a remark of mine about his height, and the broken gas
light in Mr. Glenthorpe's bedroom. It was purely a chance shot, but it
threw him into a pitiable state of excitement. I let him think, however,
that it was nothing more than a chance remark. That night I was put to
sleep in Penreath's room, and there I made two discoveries. The first
was the existence of a small door, behind the wardrobe, opening on a
corresponding door on the other side, which in its turn opens into Mr.
Glenthorpe's room. Thus it would be possible for a person in the room
Penreath occupied, discovering these doors as I did, to see into the
next bedroom--under certain conditions. My second discovery was the
outcome of my first discovery--I picked up underneath the wardrobe a
fragment of an appealing letter which Penreath had commenced to write to
his fiancée, and had subsequently torn up. It was a long time before I
grasped the full significance of these two discoveries. Why should a
man, after writing a letter of appeal to his fiancée, decide not to send
it and destroy it? The most probable reason was that something had
happened to cause him to change his mind. What could have happened to
change the conditions so quickly? The hidden doors in the wall, which
looked into the next room, supplied an answer to the question. Penreath
had looked through, and seen--what? My first thought was that he had
seen the murder committed, but that theory did not account for the
destruction of the letter, and his silence when arrested, unless,
indeed, the girl had committed the murder. The girl--Peggy! It came to
me like a flash, the solution of the strangest aspect of this puzzling
case--the reason why Penreath maintained his dogged silence under an
accusation of murder.

"It came to me, the clue for which I had been groping, with the
recollection of a phrase in the girl's story to me--her second story--in
which she not only told me of her efforts to shield Penreath, but
revealed frankly to me her relations with Penreath, innocent enough, but
commenced in chance fashion, and continued by clandestine meetings in
lonely spots. I remembered when she told me about it all that I was
impressed by Penreath's absolute straightforwardness in his dealings
with this girl. He was open and sincere with her throughout, gave her
his real name, and told her much about himself: his family, his
prospects, and even his financial embarrassment. He went further than
that: he told her that he was engaged to be married, and that if he
could get free he would marry her. A young man who talks in this strain
is very much in love. The artless story of Peggy revealed that Penreath
was as much in love with the girl as she was with him. 'If he could get
free!' That was the phrase that gave me the key to the mystery. He had
set out to get free by writing to Miss Willoughby, breaking off his
engagement. Later he had torn up the letter because through the door in
the wall he had seen Peggy standing by the bedside of the murdered man,
and had come to the conclusion that she had murdered him.

"If you think it a little strange that Penreath should have jumped to
this conclusion about the woman he loved, you must remember the
circumstances were unusual. Peggy had surrounded herself with mystery;
she refused to tell her lover where she lived, she would not even tell
him her name. When he looked into the room he did not even know she was
in the house, because she had kept out of his way during the previous
evening, waiting for an opportunity to see him alone. Consequently he
experienced a great shock at the sight of her, and the mystery with
which she had always veiled her identity and movements recurred to him
with a terrible and sinister significance as he saw her again under such
damning conditions, standing by the bedside of the dead man with a knife
in her hand.

"Penreath's subsequent actions--his destruction of the letter he had
written to Miss Willoughby, his hurried departure from the inn, and his
silence in the face of accusation--are all explained by the fact that he
saw the girl Peggy in the next room, and believed that she had committed
this terrible crime.

"I now come to the clues which point directly to Benson's complicity in
the murder. I have already told you of his alarm at my chance remark
about his height and the smashed gas globe. You also know that he was in
need of money. The next point is rather a curious one. When Benson was
telling us his story the day after the murder I observed that he kept
smoothing his long hair down on his forehead. There was something in the
action that suggested more than a mannerism. The night after I
discovered the door in the wall, I left it open in order to watch the
next room. During the night Benson entered and searched the dead man's
chamber. I do not know what he was looking for--he did not find it,
whatever it was--but during the search he grew hot, and threw back his
hair from his forehead, revealing a freshly healed scar on his temple.
The reason he had worn his hair low was explained: he wanted to hide
from us the fact that it was he who had smashed the gas-globe in Mr.
Glenthorpe's room, and had cut his head by the accident.

"But his visit to the dead man's room revealed more than the scar on his
forehead. How did Benson get into the room? The room had been kept
locked since the murder. That night I had taken the key from a hook on
the kitchen dresser in order to examine the room when the inmates of the
place had retired. Benson, therefore, had let himself in with another
key. This was our first knowledge of another key. Hitherto we had
believed that the only key was the one found in the outside of the door
the morning after the murder. The police theory is partly based on that
supposition. Benson's possession of a second key, and his silence
concerning it, point strongly to his complicity in the crime. He knew
that Mr. Glenthorpe was accustomed to lock his door and carry the key
about with him, so he obtained another key in order to have access to
the room whenever he desired. There would have been nothing in this if
he had told his household about it. A second key would have been useful
to the servant when she wanted to arrange Mr. Glenthorpe's room. But
Benson kept the existence of the second key a close secret. He said
nothing about it when we questioned him concerning the key in the door.
An innocent man would have immediately informed us that there was a
second key to the room. Benson kept silence because he had something to
hide.

"I now come to the events of the next morning. My investigation of the
rise and the pit during the afternoon had led to a discovery which
subsequently suggested to my mind that the missing money had been hidden
in the pit. I determined to try and descend it. I arose before daybreak,
as I did not wish any of the inmates of the inn to see me. Before going
to the pit I got out of the window and into the window of the next room,
as Penreath is supposed to have done. That experiment brought to light
another small point in Penreath's favour. The drop from the first window
is an awkward one--more than eight feet--and my heels made a deep
indentation in the soft red clay underneath the window. If Penreath had
dropped from the window, even in his stocking feet, the marks of his
heels ought to have been visible. There was not enough rain after the
murder was committed to obliterate them entirely. There were no such
marks under his window when we examined the ground the morning after
the murder.

"I next proceeded to the rise and lowered myself down the pit by the
creepers inside. About ten feet down the vegetable growth ceased, and
the further descent was impossible without ropes. But at the limit of
the distance to which a man can climb down unaided, I saw a peg sticking
into the side of the pit, with a fishing line suspended from it. I drew
up the line, and found attached to it the murdered man's pocket-book
containing the £300 he had drawn out of the bank at Heathfield the day
he was murdered.

"Let me now try to reconstruct the crime in the light of the fresh
information we have gained. Benson was in desperate straits for money,
and he knew that Mr. Glenthorpe had drawn £300 from the bank that
morning, all in small notes, which could not be traced. The fact that he
obtained a second key to the room suggests that he had been meditating
the act for some time past. It will be found, I think, when all the
facts are brought to light, that he obtained the second key when he
learnt that Mr. Glenthorpe intended to take a large sum of money out of
the bank. Penreath's chance arrival at the inn on the day that the money
was drawn out, probably set him thinking of the possibility of murdering
and robbing Mr. Glenthorpe in circumstances that would divert suspicion
to the stranger. Penreath unconsciously helped him by leaving his
match-box in the room where he had dined with Mr. Glenthorpe. Benson
found the match-box on looking into the room to see that everything was
all right when his guests had retired, and determined to commit the
murder that night, and leave it by the murdered man's bedside, as a clue
to direct attention to Penreath. His next idea, to murder Mr.
Glenthorpe with the knife which Penreath had used at dinner, probably
occurred to him as he considered the possibilities of the match-box.

"It is difficult to decide why Benson chose to enter the room from the
window instead of by the door when he had a second key of the room. He
may have attempted to open the door with the key, and found that Mr.
Glenthorpe had locked the door and left the key on the inside. Or he may
have thought that as Penreath was sleeping in the next room, he ran too
great a risk of discovery by entering from the door, and so decided to
enter by the window. We must presume that Benson subsequently found Mr.
Glenthorpe's key, either inside the door or under his pillow, and kept
it. He entered the window, stabbed Mr. Glenthorpe, and placed the
match-box and the knife at the side of the bed. His next act would be to
search for the money. Finding it difficult to search by the light of the
tallow candle, he decided to go downstairs and turn on the gas.

"During his absence Peggy entered the room, saw the dead body, and
picked up the knife and the match-box. Then she picked up the
candlestick by the bed, and fled in terror. Benson, after turning on the
gas at the meter, returned to find the room in darkness. Thinking that
the wind had blown out the candle, he walked to the gas with the
intention of lighting it. In doing so he knocked his head against the
globe, cutting his forehead, and smashing the incandescent burner.

"Benson, when he found that the candlestick had disappeared must, in his
fright, have rushed downstairs for another. He could not light the gas,
because he had smashed the burner. In no other way can I account for the
second lot of candle-grease that I found in the room underneath the
gas-light, which made me believe at first that the room had been
visited by two persons on the night of the murder. There _were_ two
persons, Benson and his daughter, but Peggy did not bring a candlestick
into the room. It looks to me as though Benson, on returning with the
second candle, attempted to light the gas with it and failed. That
action would account for the gas tap being turned on, and the spilt
grease directly underneath. He then searched the room till he found the
pocket-book containing the money.

"The subsequent removal of the body to the pit strikes me as an
afterthought. The complete plan was too diabolically ingenious and
complete to have formed in the murderer's mind at the outset. The man
who put the match-box and knife by the bedside of the murdered man in
order to divert suspicion to Penreath had no thought, at that stage, of
removing the body. That idea came afterwards, probably when he went
upstairs the second time with the lighted candle, and saw Penreath's
boots outside the door. I cannot help thinking that the clue of the
footprints, which was such a damning point in the case against Penreath,
was quite an accidental one so far as the murderer was concerned. The
thought that the boots would leave footprints which would subsequently
be identified as Penreath's was altogether too subtle to have occurred
to a man like Benson. That is the touch of a master criminal--of a much
higher order of criminal brain than Benson's.

"It is my belief that he originally intended to leave the murdered man
in his room, thinking that the match-box and knife would point suspicion
to Penreath. But after killing Mr. Glenthorpe he was overcome with the
fear that his guilt would be discovered, in spite of his precautions to
throw suspicions on another man, and he decided to throw the body into
the pit in the hope that the crime would never be found out. The fact
that he had entered the room in his stocking feet supports this theory,
because he would be well aware that he would not be able to carry the
body over several hundred yards of rough ground in his bare feet. He
took Penreath's boots, which were close at hand, in preference to the
danger and delay which he would have incurred in going to his own room,
some distance away, for his own boots. Having put on the boots, he took
the body on his shoulders and conveyed it to the pit.

"There are two or three points in this case which I am unable to clear
up to my complete satisfaction. Why did Benson leave the key in the
outside of the door? Was it merely one of those mistakes--those
oversights--which all murderers are liable to commit, or did he do it
deliberately, in the hope of conveying the impression that Mr.
Glenthorpe had gone out and left the key in the outside of the door. In
the next place, I cannot account for the mark of the box underneath the
window. There is a third point--the direction of the wound in the
murdered man's body, which gave me some ideas at the time that I am now
compelled to dismiss as erroneous. But these are points that I hope will
be cleared up by Benson's arrest, and confession, for I am convinced, by
my observation of the man, that he will confess.

"There are one or two more points. Benson is an ardent fisherman, who
spends all his spare time fishing on the marshes. The stolen pocket-book
was suspended in the pit by a piece of fishing line. But I attach more
importance to the second point, which is that since the murder has been
committed the nightly conversation at the inn tap-room has centred
around a local ghost, known as the White Lady of the Shrieking Pit, who
is supposed from time immemorial to have haunted the pit where the body
was thrown, and to bring death to anybody who encounters her at night.
This spectre, which is profoundly believed in by the villagers, had not
been seen for at least two years before the murder, but she made a
reappearance a night or two after the crime, and is supposed to have
been seen frequently ever since. It looks to me as though Benson set the
story going again in order to keep the credulous villagers away from the
pit where the money was concealed.

"This morning, in company with Mr. Oakham, I saw Penreath in the gaol,
and by a ruse induced him to break his stubborn silence. His story,
which it is not necessary for me to give you in detail, testifies to his
innocence, and supports my own theory of the crime. He did not see the
murder committed, but he saw the girl go into the room, and subsequently
he saw her father enter and remove the body. It was the latter spectacle
that robbed him of any lingering doubts he may have had of the girl's
guilt, and forced him to the conclusion that she and her father were
accomplices in the crime. But he loved her so much that he determined to
keep silence and shield her."



CHAPTER XXVI


"This is a remarkable story, Mr. Colwyn," said the chief constable,
breaking the rather lengthy silence which followed the conclusion of the
detective's reconstruction of the crime. "It has been quite entrancing
to listen to your syllogistical skill. You would have made an excellent
Crown Prosecutor." The chief constable's official mind could conceive no
higher compliment. "Your statements seem almost too incredible for
belief, but undoubtedly you have made out a case for the further
investigation of this crime. What do you think, Galloway?"

"The question, to my mind, is what Mr. Colwyn's discoveries really
represent," replied Galloway. "He has built up a very ingenious and
plausible reconstruction, but let us discard mere theory, and stick to
the facts. What do they amount to? Apart from Penreath's statement in
the gaol that he saw the body carried down stairs----"

"You can leave that out of the question," said the detective curtly. "My
reconstruction of the crime is independent of Penreath's testimony,
which is open to the objection that it should have been made before."

"Exactly what I was going to point out," rejoined Galloway bluntly.
"Well, then, let us examine the fresh facts. There are five as I see
them. The recovery of Penreath's match-box, the discovery of the door
between the two rooms, the wound on the innkeeper's forehead, the
additional key, and the finding of the pocket-book in the pit. Exclude
the idea of conspiracy, and the recovery of the match-box becomes an
additional point against Penreath, because it strikes me as guess work
to assume that he had no other matches in his possession except that
particular box and the loose one he found in his vest pocket. Smokers
frequently carry two or three boxes of matches. The discovery of the
hidden door is interesting, but has no direct bearing on the crime. The
wound on the innkeeper's head looks suspicious, but there is no proof
that it was caused by his knocking his head against the gas globe in the
murdered man's room on the night of the murder. As Mr. Colwyn himself
has pointed out, there is not much in Benson having a second key of
Glenthorpe's room. Many hotel-keepers and innkeepers keep duplicate keys
of bedrooms. The significance of this discovery is that Benson kept
silence about the existence of this key. Undoubtedly he should have told
us about it, but I am not prepared to accept, offhand, that his silence
was the silence of a guilty man. He may have kept silence regarding it
through a foolish fear of directing suspicion to himself. That theory
seems to me quite as probable as Mr. Colwyn's theory. There remains the
recovery of the money in the pit. In considering that point I find it
impossible to overlook that Penreath returned to the wood after making
his escape. That suggests, to my mind, that he hid the money in the pit
himself, and took the risk of returning in order to regain possession of
it."

"You are worthier of the chief constable's compliment than I, my dear
Galloway," said Colwyn genially. "Your gift of overcoming points which
tell against you by ignoring them, and your careful avoidance of
tell-tale inferences, would make you an ideal Crown Prosecutor."

"I don't believe in inferences in crime," replied Galloway, flushing
under the detective's sarcasm. "I am a plain man, and I like to stick to
facts."

"What was the whole of your case against Penreath but a series of
inferences?" retorted Colwyn. "Circumstantial evidence, and the
circumstances on which you depended in this case, were never fully
established. Furthermore, your facts were not consistent with your
original hypothesis, and had to be altered when the case went to trial.
Now that I have discovered other facts and inferences which are
consistent with another hypothesis, you strive to shut your eyes to
them, or draw wrong conclusions from them. Your suggestion that Penreath
must have hidden the money in the pit because he was arrested near it is
a choice example of false deduction based on the wrong premise that
Penreath hid the money there on the night of the murder. He could not
have done so because he had no rope, and how was he, a stranger to the
place, to know that the inside of the pit was covered with creeping
plants of sufficient strength to bear a man's weight? The choice of the
pit as a hiding place for the money argues an intimate local knowledge."

"You have not yet told us how you came to deduce that the money was in
the pit," said Mr. Cromering, who had been examining the pocket-book and
money.

"While I was examining the mouth of the pit the previous afternoon I
found this piece of paper at the brink, trodden into the clay. Later on
I recognised the peculiar watermark of waving lines as the Government
watermark in the first issue of Treasury war notes. From that I deduced
that the money was hidden in the pit. It was all in Treasury notes, as
you see."

"I'm afraid I don't quite follow you now," said the chief constable,
with a puzzled glance at the piece of dirty paper in his hand. "This
piece of paper is not a Treasury note."

"Not now, perhaps, but it was once," said the detective with a smile.
"It puzzled me at first. I could not account for the Treasury watermark,
designed to prevent forgery of the notes, appearing on a piece of blank
paper. Then it came to me. The first issue of Treasury notes were very
badly printed. Ordinary black ink was used, which would disappear if the
note was immersed in water. It was an official at Somerset House who
told me this. He informed me that they had several cases of munition
workers who, after being paid in Treasury notes, had put them into the
pockets of their overalls, and forgotten about them until the overalls
came back from the wash with every vestige of printing washed out from
the notes, leaving nothing but the watermarks. It occurred to me that
the same thing had happened in this case. The murderer, when about to
descend to the pit to conceal the money, had accidentally dropped a note
and trodden it underfoot, and it had lain out in the open exposed to
heavy rains and dew until every scrap of printing was obliterated."

"By Jove, that's very clever, very clever indeed!" exclaimed Galloway.
He picked up a magnifying glass which was lying on the table, and
closely examined the dirty piece of white paper which Colwyn had found
at the mouth of the pit. "It was once a Treasury note, sure enough--the
watermark is unmistakable. You've scored a point there that I couldn't
have made, and I'm man enough to own up to it. You see more deeply into
things than I do, Mr. Colwyn. And I'm willing to admit that you've made
some new and interesting discoveries about this case, though in my
opinion you are inclined to read too much into them. But I certainly
think they ought to be investigated further. If Penreath's statement to
you this morning is true, Benson is the murderer, and there has been a
miscarriage of justice. But what makes me doubt the truth of it is
Penreath's refusal to speak before. I mistrust confessions made out at
the last moment. And his explanation that he kept silence to save the
girl strikes me as rather thin. It is too quixotic."

"There is more than that in it," replied Colwyn. "He had a double
motive. Penreath heard Sir Henry Durwood depose at the trial that he
believed him to be suffering from epilepsy."

"How does that constitute a second motive?"

"In this way. Penreath has a highly-strung, introspective temperament.
He went to the front from a high sense of duty, but he was
temperamentally unfit for the ghastly work of modern warfare, and broke
down under the strain. Men like Penreath feel it keenly when they are
discharged through shell-shock. They feel that the carefully hidden
weaknesses of their temperaments have been dragged out into the light of
day, and imagine they have been branded as cowards in the eyes of their
fellow men. I suspect that the real reason why Penreath left London and
sought refuge in Norfolk under another name was because he had been
discharged from the Army through shell-shock. He wanted to get away from
London and hide himself from those who knew him. To his wounded spirit
the condolences of his friends would be akin to taunts and sneers. When
Sir Henry Durwood questioned him he was careful to conceal the fact that
he had been a victim of shell-shock. As a matter of fact, Penreath's
behaviour in the breakfast room that morning was nothing more than the
effects of the air raid on his disordered nerves, but he would sooner
have died than admit that to strangers. After listening to the evidence
for the defence at the trial, he came to the conclusion that he was an
epileptic as well as a neurasthenic. He might well believe that life
held little for him in these circumstances, and that conviction would
strengthen him in his determination to sacrifice his life as a thing of
little value for the girl he loved."

"If that is true he must be a very manly young fellow," said the chief
constable.

"Supposing it is true, what is to be done?" asked Galloway, earnestly.
"Penreath has been tried and convicted for the murder."

"The conviction will be upset on appeal," replied the detective
decisively.

"But I do not see that carries us much further forward as regards
Benson," persisted Galloway. "If he is the murderer, as you say, he will
clear out as soon as he hears that Penreath is appealing."

"He will not be able to clear out if you arrest him."

"On what grounds? I cannot arrest him for a murder for which another man
has been sentenced to death."

"True. But you can arrest him as accessory after the fact, on the ground
that he carried the body downstairs and threw it into the pit."

"And suppose he denies having done so? Look here, Mr. Colwyn, I want to
help you all I can, but if I have made one mistake, I do not want to
make a second one. Frankly, I do not know what to think of your story.
It may be true, or it may not. But speaking from a police point of view,
we have mighty little to go on if we arrest Benson. If he likes to bluff
us we may find ourselves in an awkward position. Nobody saw him commit
the murder."

"I realise the truth of what you say because I thought it all over
before coming to see you," replied Colwyn. "If Benson denies the truth
of the points I have discovered against him, or gives them a different
interpretation, it may be difficult to prove them. But he will not--he
will confess all he knows."

"What makes you think so?"

"Because his nerve has gone. If I had confronted him that night when I
saw him in the room I would have got the whole truth from him."

"Why did you not do so?"

"Because I had not the power to detain him. I am merely a private
detective, and can neither arrest a man nor threaten him with arrest.
That is why I have come to you. You, with the powers of the law behind
you, can frighten Benson into a confession much more effectually than I
could."

"I don't half like it," grumbled Galloway. "There's a risk about it----"

"It's a risk that must be taken, nevertheless." It was Mr. Cromering who
intervened in the discussion between the two, and he spoke with unusual
decision. "I agree with Mr. Colwyn that this is the best course to
pursue. I will go with you and take full responsibility, Galloway."

"There is no need for that," said Galloway quickly. "I am quite willing
to go."

"I will accompany you and Mr. Colwyn. It has been a remarkable case
throughout, and I want to see the end--if this is the end. I feel keenly
interested in this young man's fate."

"I should like to go also, but an engagement prevents me," said Mr.
Oakham. "I am quite content to leave Penreath's interests in Mr.
Colwyn's capable hands." He rose as he spoke, and held out his hand to
the detective. "We have all been in error, but you have saved us from
having an irreparable wrong on our consciences. I cannot forgive myself
for my blindness. Perhaps you will acquaint me with the result of your
visit when you return. I shall be anxious to know."

"I will not fail to do so," replied Colwyn, grasping the solicitor's
hand. "We had better catch the five o'clock train to Heathfield and walk
across to Flegne," he added, turning to the others. "It will be as quick
as motoring across, and the sound of the car might put Benson on his
guard. We want to take him unawares."

"He'll have got wind of something already if he finds the pocket-book
gone," said Galloway. "He may have bolted while we have been talking
over things here."

"I've seen to that," replied the detective. "I tied my own pocket-book
to the fishing line in the pit, and left Queensmead watching the pit. If
Benson tries to escape with my pocket-book Queensmead will arrest him
for robbery. I've made a complaint of the loss."

"You haven't left much to chance," replied Galloway, with a grim smile.



CHAPTER XXVII


It was characteristic of Mr. Cromering to beguile the long walk in the
dark from Heathfield Station by discussing Colwyn's theory that Benson
had circulated the reappearance of the White Lady of the Shrieking Pit
in order to keep the villagers away from the place where the stolen
money was hidden. Mr. Cromering had been much impressed--he said
so--with the logical skill and masterly deductive powers by which Colwyn
had reconstructed the hidden events of the night of the murder, like an
Owen reconstructing the extinct moa from a single bone, but he was loath
to accept that part of the theory which seemed to throw doubt on the
authenticity of a famous venerable Norfolk legend which had at least two
hundred years of tradition behind it.

Mr. Cromering, without going so far as to affirm his personal belief in
the story, declared that there were several instances extant of
enlightened and educated people who had seen the ghost, and had suffered
an untimely end in consequence. He cited the case of a visiting
magistrate, who had been visiting in the district some twenty years ago,
and knew nothing about the legend. He was riding through Flegne one
night, and heard dismal shrieks from the wood on the rise. Thinking
somebody was in need of help, he dismounted from his horse, and went up
to the rise to investigate. As he neared the pit the White Lady appeared
from the pit and looked at him with inexpressibly sad eyes, drew her
hand thrice across her throat, and disappeared again in the pit. The
magistrate was greatly startled at what he had seen, and related the
experience to his host when he got home. The latter did not tell him of
the tragic significance which was attached to the apparition, but the
magistrate cut his throat three days after his return to London.
"Surely, _that_ was more than a mere coincidence?" concluded Mr.
Cromering.

"I do not wish to undermine the local belief in the White Lady of the
Shrieking Pit," said Colwyn, with a smile which the darkness hid. "All I
say is that her frequent reappearances since the money was hidden in the
pit were exceedingly useful for the man who hid the money. I can assure
you that none of the villagers would go near the pit for twice the
amount. There are plenty of them who will go to their graves convinced
that they have heard her nightly shrieks since the murder was
committed."

"It is difficult to believe that they are all mistaken," said Mr.
Cromering slowly.

"I do not think they are mistaken--at least, not all of them. Some have
probably heard shrieks."

"Then how do you account for the shrieks?" asked the chief constable
eagerly.

"I think they have heard Benson's mother shrieking in her paroxysms of
madness."

"By Jove, that's a shrewd notion!" chuckled Superintendent Galloway.
"You don't miss much, Mr. Colwyn. Whether you're right or not, there's
not the slightest doubt that the whole village is in terror of the
ghost, and avoids the Shrieking Pit like a pestilence. I was talking to
a Flegne farmer the other day, and he assured me, with a pale face, that
he had heard the White Lady shrieking three nights running, and when his
men went to the inn after dark they walked half a mile out of their way
to avoid passing near the pit. He told me also that the general belief
among the villagers is that Mr. Glenthorpe saw the White Lady a night or
so before he was murdered."

"I heard that story also," responded Colwyn. "He was in the habit of
walking up to the rise after dark. He appears to have been keenly
interested in his scientific work."

"He was absorbed in it to the exclusion of everything else," said the
chief constable, with a sigh. "His death is a great loss to British
science, and Norfolk research in particular. I was very much interested
in that newspaper clipping which was found in his pocket-book with the
money. It was a London review on a brochure he had published on sponge
spicules he had found in a flint at Flegne, and was his last
contribution to science, published two days before he was struck down.
What a loss!"

Their conversation had brought them to the top of the rise. Beneath them
lay the little hamlet on the edge of the marshes, wrapped in a white
blanket of mist. Colwyn asked his companions to remain where they were,
while he went to see if Queensmead was on the watch. He walked quickly
across the hut circles until he reached the pit. There his keen eyes
detected a dark figure standing motionless in the shadow of the wood.

"Is that you, Queensmead?" he said, in a low voice.

"Yes, Mr. Colwyn." The figure advanced out of the shadow.

"Is everything all right?"

"Quite all right, sir. I've watched from this spot from dark till dawn
since you've been away, and there's not been a soul near the pit. I've
not been disturbed--not even by the White Lady."

"You have done excellently. The chief constable and Superintendent
Galloway have come over with me, and we are going to the inn now. You
had better keep watch here for half an hour longer, so as to be on the
safe side. If anybody comes to the pit during that time you must detain
him, and call for assistance. I will come and relieve you myself."

"Very good, sir, you can depend on me," said Queensmead quietly, as he
returned to his post.

Colwyn rejoined his companions, and told them what had passed.

"I want to be on the safe side in case Benson tries to bolt when he sees
us," he explained. "He's hardly likely to go without making an effort to
get the money. Now, let us go to the inn."

"One moment," said the chief constable. "How do you propose to proceed
when we get there?"

"Get Benson by himself and frighten him into a confession," was the
terse reply. "I want your authority to threaten him with arrest. In
fact, I should prefer that you or Superintendent Galloway undertook to
do that. It would come with more force."

"Let it be Galloway," responded the chief constable. "You will act just
as if I were not present, Galloway, and it is my wish that you do
whatever Mr. Colwyn asks you."

"Thank you," replied the detective. "Let us go, now. There is no time to
be lost. Somebody may have seen me speaking to Queensmead."

They descended the rise and, reaching the flat, discerned the gaunt
walls of the old inn looming spectrally from the mist. A light glimmered
in the bar, and loud voices were heard within. Colwyn felt for the door.
It was shut and fastened. He knocked sharply; the voices within ceased
as though by magic, and presently there was the sound of somebody
coming along the passage. Then the door was opened, and the white face
of Charles appeared in the doorway, framed in the yellow light of a
candle which he held above his head as he peered forth into the mist.
His black eyes roved from Colwyn to the forms behind him.

"I'm sorry you were kept waiting, sir," he said, in his strange whisper,
which seemed to have a tremor in it. "But the customers will have the
door locked at night now. They are frightened of this ghost--this White
Lady--she's been heard shrieking----"

"Never mind that now," replied Colwyn. He had determined how to act, and
stepped quickly inside. "Where's Benson?"

"He's sitting upstairs with his mother, sir. Shall I tell him you want
him?"

"No. I will go myself. Take these gentlemen into the bar parlour, and
return to the bar."

Colwyn made his way upstairs in the dark. He passed the rooms where Mr.
Glenthorpe had been murdered and Penreath had slept, and the room from
which he had watched Peggy's nocturnal visit to the death chamber. That
wing of the inn was as empty and silent as it had been the night of the
murder, but a lighted candle, placed on an old hall stand which Colwyn
remembered having seen that night in the lumber room, flickered in the
wavering shadows--a futile human effort to ward off the lurking terrors
of darkness by the friendly feeble companionship of a light which could
be extinguished even more quickly than a life.

Colwyn took the candle to light him down the second passage to the mad
woman's room. As he reached it, the door opened, and Peggy stepped
forth. She recoiled at the sight of the detective.

"You!" she breathed. "Oh, why----"

"I have come to see your father," said Colwyn. It went to his heart to
see the entreaty in her eyes, the pitiful droop of her lips and the
thinness of her face.

The door was opened widely, and the innkeeper appeared on the threshold
beside his daughter. Behind him, Colwyn could see the old mad woman in
her bed in the corner of the room, mumbling to herself and fondling her
doll. The innkeeper fastened his bird-like eyes on the detective's face.

"What are you doing here?" he said, and there was no mistaking the note
of terror in his voice. "What is it you want?"

"I want to speak to you downstairs," said the detective.

The innkeeper looked swiftly to the right and left with the instinct of
a trapped animal seeking an avenue of escape. Then his eyes returned to
the detective's face with the resigned glance of a man who had made up
his mind.

"I will come down with you," he said. "Peggy, you must look after your
grandmother till I return."

The girl went back into the room and shut the door behind her, without a
word or a glance. Once more Colwyn felt admiration for her as a rare
type of woman-hood. Truly, she had self-control, this girl.

He and the innkeeper took their way along the passages and descended the
stairs without exchanging a word. When they got to the foot of the
stairs Benson half hesitated, and turned to Colwyn as if for direction.
The latter nodded towards the door of the bar parlour, and motioned the
innkeeper to enter. Following closely behind, he saw the innkeeper start
with surprise at the sight of the two inmates of the room. Mr. Cromering
was seated at the table, but Superintendent Galloway was standing up
with his back to the fireplace. There was a moment's tense silence
before the latter spoke.

"We have sent for you to ask you a few questions, Benson."

"I was under the impression--that is, I was led to believe--that it was
Mr. Colwyn who wanted to see me."

"Never mind what you thought," retorted Galloway impatiently. "You know
perfectly well what has brought us here. I'm going to ask you some
questions about the murder which was committed in this inn less than
three weeks ago."

"I know nothing about it, sir, beyond what I told you before."

"You will be well advised, in your own interests, not to lie, Benson.
Why did you not tell us you had a second key to Mr. Glenthorpe's room?"

There was a perceptible pause before the reply came.

"I didn't think it mattered, sir."

"Then you admit you have a second key?"

"Yes, sir."

"Very well." Superintendent Galloway took out a pocket-book and made a
note of the reply. "Now, where did you conceal the money?"

"What money, sir?"

"Don't equivocate, man!" Superintendent Galloway produced the
pocket-book Colwyn had recovered from the pit, and held it at arm's
length in front of the innkeeper. "I mean the £300 in Treasury notes in
this pocket-book, which Mr. Glenthorpe drew from the bank, and which you
took from his room the night he was murdered."

"I know nothing about it."

To Colwyn at least it seemed that the expression on the innkeeper's face
as he glanced at the pocket-book might have been mistaken by an
unprejudiced observer for genuine surprise.

"I suppose you never saw it before, eh?" sneered Galloway.

"I never did."

"Nor hid it in the pit?"

"No, sir."

Galloway paused in his questioning in secret perplexity. Benson's
answers to his last three questions were given so firmly and
unhesitatingly that some of his former doubts of Colwyn's theory
returned to him with redoubled force. But it was in his most truculent
and overbearing manner that he next remarked:

"Do you also deny that you carried Mr. Glenthorpe's body from his room
and threw it down the pit?"

The spasm of sudden terror which contorted the innkeeper's face was a
revelation to the three men who were watching him closely.

"I don't know anything about it," he quavered weakly.

"That won't go down, Benson!" Galloway was quick to follow up his
stroke, shaking his head fiercely, like a dog worrying a rat. "You were
seen carrying the body downstairs, the night of the murder. You might as
well own up to it, first as last. Lies will not help you. We know too
much for you to wriggle out of it. And never mind smoothing your hair
down like that. We know all about that scar on your forehead, and how
you got it."

A wooden clock, standing on the mantelpiece, measured off half a minute
in heavy ticks. Then the innkeeper, in a voice which was little more
than a whisper, spoke:

"It is true. I carried the body downstairs."

"Why did you not tell us this before?"

"It would not have made any difference."

"What!" Superintendent Galloway's indignation and amazement threatened
to choke his utterance. "You keep silence till an innocent man is almost
hanged for your misdeeds, and now have the brazen effrontery to say it
makes no difference."

"Is Mr. Penreath innocent?"

"Nobody should know that better than you."

"Then who murdered Mr. Glenthorpe?"

"Let us have no more of this fooling, Benson." Superintendent Galloway's
voice was very stern. "You have already admitted that you carried Mr.
Glenthorpe's body downstairs."

"Oh!" The wretched man cried out wildly, like one who sees an engulfing
wave too late. "I see what you mean--you think I murdered him. But I did
not--I did not! Before God I am innocent." His voice rang out loudly.

"We don't want to listen to this talk," interrupted Galloway roughly.
"You are under arrest, Benson, for complicity in this murder, and the
less you say the better for yourself."

"But I tell you I am innocent." The innkeeper brought his skeleton hands
together in a gesture which was almost tragic in its despair. "I carried
the body downstairs, but I did not murder him. Let me explain. Let me
tell you----"

"My advice to you is to keep silence, man. Keep your story for the
trial," replied the police official. "You'd better get ready to go to
Heathfield with me. I'll go upstairs with you, and give you five minutes
to get ready."

"Let him tell his story before you take him away, Galloway," said
Colwyn, who had been keenly watching the innkeeper's face during the
dialogue between him and his accuser. "I want to hear it."

"I do not see what good it will do," grumbled Superintendent Galloway.
"However, as you want to hear it, let him go ahead. But let me first
warn you, Benson, that anything you say now may be used in evidence
against you afterwards."

"I do not care for that--I am not afraid of the truth being known,"
replied the innkeeper. He turned from the uncompromising face of the
police officer to Colwyn, as though he divined in him a more
unprejudiced listener. "I did not murder Mr. Glenthorpe, but I went to
his room with the intention of robbing him the night he was murdered,"
he commenced. "I was in desperate straits for money. The brewer had
threatened to turn me out of the inn because I couldn't pay my way. I
knew Mr. Glenthorpe had taken money out of the bank that morning, and in
an evil moment temptation overcame me, and I determined to rob him. I
told myself that he was a wealthy man and would never feel the loss of
the money, but if I was turned out of the inn my daughter and my old
mother would starve.

"My plan was to go to his room after everybody was asleep, let myself in
with my key, and secure the pocket-book containing the money. I knew
that Mr. Glenthorpe was a sound sleeper, and I was aware that he
generally locked his door and slept with the key under his pillow.

"I went to my room early that night, and waited a long time before
making the attempt. It came on to rain about eleven o'clock, and I
waited some time longer before leaving my room. I walked in my stocking
feet, so as to make no sound, and I carried a candle, but it was not
lighted. When I got to the door I stood and listened awhile outside,
thinking I might judge by Mr. Glenthorpe's breathing whether he was
asleep, but I could hear nothing. I unlocked the door quietly, and felt
my way towards the bed in the dark, hoping to find his coat and the
money in it without running the risk of striking a light.

"But I could not lay my hands on the coat in the dark, so I struck a
match to light the candle. I had made up my mind that if Mr. Glenthorpe
should wake up and see me at his bedside I would tell him the truth and
ask him to lend me some money.

"By the light of the candle I saw Mr. Glenthorpe lying on his back, with
his arms thrown out from his body. He was uncovered, and the bed-clothes
were lying in a tumbled heap at the foot of the bed. I stood looking at
him for a minute, not knowing what to do. I did not realise at the time
that he was dead, because the wind blowing in at the open window caused
the candle to flicker, and I could not see very clearly. I thought he
must be in a fit, and I wondered what I could do to help him. As the
candle still kept flickering in the wind, I picked up the candlestick
and walked to the gas-jet in the centre of the room, turned on the tap
and tried to light it with the candle. It would not light, and then I
remembered that I had told Ann to turn it off at the meter before going
to bed. I walked back to the bedside, put the candle down on the table,
and had a closer look at Mr. Glenthorpe. As he was still in the same
attitude I put my hand on his heart to see if it was beating. I felt
something warm and wet, and when I drew back my hand I saw that it was
covered with blood.

"When I realised that he was dead--murdered--I lost my nerve and rushed
from the room, leaving the candle burning at the bedside. My one thought
was to get downstairs and wash the blood off my hand. It was not until I
had reached the kitchen that I remembered that I had left the candle
burning upstairs. I considered whether I should return for it at once or
wash my hands first. I decided on the latter course, and went into the
kitchen.

"I had just lit a candle, when I heard a door open behind me, and,
turning round, I saw Charles coming out of his room in his shirt and
trousers, with a candle in his hand. He said he had seen the light under
his door, and wondering who had come into the kitchen had got up to see.
Then his face changed when he saw my hands, and he asked me how the
blood came to be on them.

"I tried to put him off at first by telling him I had knocked my hand
upstairs. He didn't say any more, but stood there watching me wash my
hands, and when I had finished he said that if I was going upstairs he
would come with me, as he remembered he had left his corkscrew in Mr.
Glenthorpe's sitting room, and would want it in the morning.

"I could see that he suspected me, and that if he went upstairs he would
see the light burning in Mr. Glenthorpe's bedroom, and might go in. So,
in desperation, I confessed to him that I had gone into Mr. Glenthorpe's
room, and found him dead. I asked Charles what I should do. He heard me
very quietly, but when he learnt that I had left my candle burning in
Mr. Glenthorpe's room he said the first thing was to go and get that,
and then we could discuss what had better be done.

"I realised that was good advice, and went upstairs to get the
candlestick. But when I got to the door I was amazed to find the room in
darkness. The door was on the jar, just as I remembered leaving it, but
there was not a glimmer of light. I was in a terrible fright, but as I
stood there in the dark, listening intently, the sound of the wind
roaring round the house reminded me how the candle had flickered in the
wind while I was in the room before, and I concluded that it must have
blown out the light. So I went into the room, feeling my way along the
walls with my hands. When I got near the bed I struck a match and looked
for the candlestick. But it was gone.

"Then I knew somebody had been in the room, and I made my way downstairs
again as fast as I could, and told Charles, and asked him what he
thought of it. Charles said it was clear that the murderer, whoever he
was, had revisited the room since I had been there, and finding the
candle, had carried it off with him. I asked Charles for what purpose?
Charles turned it over in his mind for a moment, and then said that it
seemed to him that he might have done it to secure himself, in case he
was caught, by being able to prove that somebody else had been in Mr.
Glenthorpe's room that night.

"I saw the force of that and was greatly alarmed, and asked Charles what
he thought I had better do. Charles, after thinking it over for a while,
said in my own interests I would be well advised if I carried the body
away and concealed it somewhere where it was not likely to be found. He
pointed out that if the facts came to light it would be very awkward for
me. On my own admission I had gone into Mr. Glenthorpe's room in the
middle of the night, and had come away leaving him dead in bed, with his
blood on my hands, and my bedroom candlestick alight at his bedside.
Charles pointed out that these facts were sure to come to light if the
body was left where it was, but if the body was removed and safely
hidden, it might be thought that Mr. Glenthorpe had simply disappeared.

"I was struck by the force of these arguments, and we next discussed
where the body should be hidden. We both thought of the pit, but I
didn't like that idea at first because I thought the police would be
sure to search the pit when they learnt of Mr. Glenthorpe's
disappearance, because his excavations were near the pit. Charles, on
the other hand, thought it was the safest place--much safer than the
sea, which was sure to cast up the body. He said it would never occur to
the police to search the pit, until the body had lain there so long that
it would be impossible to say how he came by his death. Perhaps it would
never be searched, in which case the body would never be recovered.

"We decided on the pit, and Charles said he would keep watch downstairs
while I went up and got the body. But first I went and opened the back
door and went to the side of the inn to see if anybody was about. The
rain had ceased, it was a dark and stormy night, and everybody long
since gone to bed. The rough stones outside cut my feet, and recalled to
my mind that I was without boots. I knew I could not carry the body all
the way up the rise without boots, and I was about to go to my room to
get them when I remembered that I had seen Penreath's boots outside his
bedroom door. I decided to wear them and avoid the risk of going back to
my room for my own boots. I have a small foot, and I had no doubt that
they would fit me.

"Charles suggested that I should go into the room in the dark, so as to
lessen the risk of being seen, and light the candle when I got inside. I
took the candle, but I said I would turn on the gas at the meter, in
case the wind blew out the candle. I will keep nothing back now. The
real reason was that I wanted the better light to make quite sure if the
money was gone. I thought perhaps the murderer might have overlooked it,
and I hoped to find it because I needed it so badly. When I got upstairs
I stopped outside Mr. Penreath's room, picked up his boots, and put them
on. I went into the room in the dark, intending to strike a match, and
light the gas, and search for the money. I miscalculated the distance,
and bumped into the gas globe in the dark, cutting my head badly. When I
struck a match I found that I couldn't light the gas because the
incandescent burner had been broken by the blow, so I lit the candle.

"I shuddered at the ordeal of carrying the body downstairs, and only
nerved myself to the task by reflecting on the risk to myself if I
allowed it to remain where it was. As I stood by the bedside, I noticed
Mr. Glenthorpe's key of the room lying by the pillow, and I picked it up
and put it in my pocket. I then lifted the body on my shoulders, carried
it downstairs, steadying it with one hand, and carrying the candle in
the other. Charles was waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs, and
he took the candle from me and lighted me to the back door.

"A late moon was just beginning to show above the horizon when I got
outside, and by its light I had no difficulty in finding my way up the
rise and to the pit. It was a terrible task, and I was glad when I had
accomplished it. I returned to the back door, where Charles was awaiting
me. We then fastened the back door, and he went to his room off the
kitchen, and I went upstairs to my room. As I passed Mr. Glenthorpe's
room I saw the door was open, and I pulled it quickly to, but I forgot
to take out the key I had left in the door when I first entered the
room.

"I remembered the key in the morning when Ann told me Mr. Glenthorpe's
room was empty, but I dared not remove it then because I knew Ann must
have seen it. And later on, when you were questioning me about the key
in the door, I was afraid to tell you about the second key, because I
knew you would question me.

"When I learnt from Ann that Mr. Penreath had left early in the morning,
and wouldn't stay for breakfast, I felt sure it was he who had committed
the murder. It was a little later that Charles took me aside in the bar
and told me that he had walked up to the rise early that morning to see
if everything was all right, and that I had left traces of my footprints
across the clay to the mouth of the pit. I was very much upset when I
heard this, for I knew the body was sure to be found. But Charles said
that, as things turned out, it was a very lucky accident.

"Charles said there was no doubt Mr. Penreath was the murderer. He had
not only cleared out, but the knife he had used at dinner had
disappeared. Charles said he had not missed the knife the night before,
but he had discovered the loss when counting the cutlery that morning.
If the police found out that it was his boots which made the prints
leading to the pit it would only be another point against him, and as he
was sure to be hanged in any case the best thing I could do was to go
and inform Constable Queensmead of Mr. Glenthorpe's disappearance and
Mr. Penreath's departure, but to keep silence about my own share in
carrying the body to the pit. Even if the murderer denied removing the
body nobody would believe him. I thought the advice good, and I followed
it. I don't know whether I could have kept it up if I had been
cross-questioned, but from first to last nobody seemed to have the least
suspicion of me. The only time I was really afraid was when one of you
gentlemen asked me about the key in the outside of the door, but you
passed it over and went on to something else.

"And now you know the whole truth. But I should like to say that I kept
silence about carrying the body away because I didn't think I was
injuring anybody. I believed Mr. Penreath to be guilty. Now you tell me
he is innocent. If I had had any idea of that I would have told the
truth at once, even though you had hanged me for it."



CHAPTER XXVIII


"You're a nice scoundrel, Benson," said Superintendent Galloway, nodding
his head at the innkeeper with a kind of ferocious banter. "You're
really a first-class villain, upon my soul! But this precious story with
which you've tried to bamboozle us is not complete. Would it be putting
too much strain on your inventive faculties to ask you, while you are
about it, to give us your version of how the money which was stolen from
Mr. Glenthorpe came to be hidden in the pit in which you flung his
body?"

"But I didn't know the money was hidden in the pit," said the wretched
man, glancing uneasily at the pocket-book, which was still lying on the
table. "I never saw the money, though I've confessed to you that I would
have taken it if I had seen it. That's the truth, sir--every word I've
told you to-night is true! Charles will bear me out."

"I've no doubt he will. I'll have something to say to that scoundrel
later on. There's a pair of you. I've no doubt he caught you in the act
of carrying away the body of your victim, and that you bribed him to
keep silence. You planned together to let an innocent man go to the
gallows in order to save your own skin. Now, my man----"

"Wait a moment, Galloway."

It was Colwyn who spoke. The innkeeper's story had been to him like a
finger of light in a murky depth, revealing unseen and unimagined
abominations, but supplying him with those missing pieces of the puzzle
for which he had long and vainly searched. During the brief colloquy
between Galloway and the innkeeper his brain had been busy fitting
together the whole intricate design of knavery.

"I want to ask a question," he continued, in answer to the other's
glance of inquiry. "What time was it you went to Mr. Glenthorpe's
room--the first time I mean, Benson. Can you fix it definitely?"

"Yes, sir. I kept looking at my watch in my room, waiting for the time
to pass. It was twenty past eleven the last time I looked, and I left my
room about five minutes later."

"Was it raining then?"

"Yes, sir, but not so hard as previously, and it stopped altogether
before I entered the room, though the wind was blowing."

"That is as I thought. Benson's story is true, Galloway."

"What!" The police officer's vociferous exclamation was in striking
contrast to the detective's quiet tones. "How do you make that out?"

"He couldn't have committed the murder. Mr. Glenthorpe was killed during
the storm, between eleven and half-past. Benson says he didn't enter the
room till nearly half-past eleven."

"If that's all you're going on----"

"It isn't." There was a trace of irritation in the detective's voice.
"But Benson's story fills in the gaps of my reconstruction in a
remarkable way--so completely, that he couldn't have invented it to save
his life, because he does not know all we know. In this extraordinarily
complicated case the times are everything. My original theory was right.
There were two persons in the room the night of the murder--three,
really, but Peggy doesn't affect the reconstruction one way or the
other. The murderer, who carried an umbrella to shield himself from the
rain, entered the room about twenty past eleven. He murdered Mr.
Glenthorpe, took the money, and escaped the same way he entered--by the
window. Benson entered by the door at half-past eleven, certainly not
later, and after standing at the bedside for two or three minutes,
rushed downstairs, as he related, leaving his candle burning at the
bedside. During his absence downstairs his daughter entered the room.
Benson returned for the candle and found it gone. Had he returned a
minute or two earlier he would have seen his daughter carrying it away,
because in her story to me she said she thought she heard somebody
creeping up the stairs as she left the room. I thought at the time that
she imagined this, but now I have very little doubt that it was her
father she heard, going upstairs again to get the candle. Finally,
Benson, after planning it with Charles, removed the body to the pit some
time after midnight."

"This is mere guess-work. Let us stick to facts. On Benson's own
confession he entered the room nefariously and removed the dead man's
body."

"Yes, but it was a dead body when he got there--just dead. Mr.
Glenthorpe was alive and well not ten minutes before."

"Oh, come, Mr. Colwyn, this is going too far," Galloway expostulated.
"Again, I say, let us have no guess-work."

"This is not guess-work. There can be no doubt that the murderer left
the room by the window just before Benson entered it by the door."

"How do you know that?" asked Galloway.

"_Because he was watching Benson from the window._"

Galloway looked startled.

"You go too deep for me," he said. "Was it Penreath who got out of the
window?"

"No, Penreath, like Benson, was the victim of a deep and subtle
villain."

"Then who was it?"

Before Colwyn could reply a shriek rang out--a single hoarse and
horrible cry, which went reverberating and echoing over the marshes,
rising to a piercing intensity at its highest note, and then ceasing
suddenly. In the hush that ensued the chief constable looked nervously
at Colwyn.

"It came from the rise," he said in a voice barely raised above a
whisper. "Do you think----"

Colwyn read the unspoken thought in his mind.

"I'll go and see what it was," he said briefly.

He opened the door and went out. In the passage he encountered Ann
shaking and trembling, with a face blanched with terror.

"It came from the pit, sir--the Shrieking Pit," she whispered. "It's the
White Lady. Don't leave me, I'm like to drop. God a' mercy, what's
that?" she cried, finding her voice in a fresh access of terror as a
heavy knock smote the door. "For God's sake, don't 'ee go, sir, don't
'ee go, as you value your life. It's the White Lady at the door, come to
take her toll again from this unhappy house. You be mad to face her,
sir--it's certain death."

But Colwyn loosened himself quickly from her detaining grasp, and strode
to the door. As he passed the bar he caught a glimpse of a ring of
cowering frightened faces within, huddled together like sheep, and
staring with saucer eyes. The mist spanned the doorway like a sheet.

"Who's there?" he cried.

"It's me, sir." Constable Queensmead stepped out of the mist into the
passage, looking white and shaken. "Something's happened up at the pit.
While I was watching from the corner of the wood I saw somebody appear
out of the mist and come creeping up the rise towards the pit. I waited
till he got to the brink, and when he made to climb down, I knew he was
the man you were after, so I went over to the pit. He had disappeared
inside, but I could hear the creepers rustling as he went down. After a
bit, I heard him coming up again, tugging and straining at the creepers,
and gasping for breath. When he was fairly out, I turned my torch on him
and told him to stand still. It is difficult to say exactly how it
happened, sir, but when he saw he was trapped he made a kind of spring
backwards, slipped on the wet clay, lost his balance, and fell back into
the pit. I sprang forward and tried to save him, but it was too late. He
caught at the creepers as he fell, hung for a second, then fell back
with a loud cry."

"Who was it, Queensmead?"

"Charles, the waiter, sir."

"We must get him out at once," said Colwyn. "We shall need a rope and
some men. Can you get some ropes, Queensmead? There's some men in the
bar--we'll get them to help.

"I don't think they're likely to come, sir. They're all too frightened
of the Shrieking Pit, and the ghost."

"I'll go and talk to them. Meanwhile, you go and get ropes."

Colwyn returned to the bar parlour and, after explaining to Mr.
Cromering and Galloway what had happened, went into the bar.

"Men," said Colwyn, "Charles has fallen into the pit on the rise, and I
need the help of some of you to get him out. Queensmead has gone for
ropes. Who will come with me?"

There was no response. The villagers looked at each other in silence,
and moved uneasily. Then a man in jersey and sea-boots spoke:

"None of us dare go up to th' pit, ma'aster."

"Why not?"

"Life be sweet, ma'aster. It be a suddint and bloody end to meet th'
White Lady of th' pit. Luke what's happened to Charles, who went out of
this bar not ten minutes agone! Who knows who she may take next?"

"Very well, then stay where you are. You are a lot of cowards," said
Colwyn, turning away.

The faces of the men showed that the epithet rankled, as Colwyn intended
that it should. There was a brief pause, and then another fisherman
stepped forward and said:

"I'm a Norfolk man, and nobbut agoin' to say I'm afeered. I'll go wi'
yow, ma'aster."

"If yower game, Tom, I'll go too," said another.

By the time Queensmead returned with the ropes there was no lack of
willing helpers, and the party immediately set forth. When they arrived
at the pit Colwyn said that it would be best for two men to descend by
separate ropes, so as to be able to carry Charles to the surface in a
blanket if he were injured, and not killed. Colwyn had brought a blanket
from the inn for the purpose.

"I'll go down, for one," said the seaman who had acted as spokesman in
the bar. "I'm used to tying knots and slinging a hammock, so maybe I
can make it a bit easier for the poor chap if he's not killed outright."

"And I'll go with you," said Colwyn.

Mr. Cromering drew the detective aside.

"My good friend," he said, "do you think it is wise for you to descend?
This man Charles, if he is still alive, may be actuated by feelings of
revenge towards you, and seek to do you an injury."

"I am not afraid of that," returned Colwyn. "I laid the trap for him,
and it is my duty to go down and bring him up."

Colwyn left the chief constable and returned to the pit. The next moment
he and the seaman commenced the descent. They carried electric torches,
and took with them a blanket and a third rope. They were carefully
lowered until the torches they carried twinkled more faintly, and
finally vanished in the gloom. A little while afterwards the strain on
the ropes slackened. The rescuers had reached the bottom of the pit. A
period of waiting ensued for those on top, until a jerk of the ropes
indicated the signal for drawing up again. The men on the surface pulled
steadily. Soon the torches were once more visible down the pit, and then
the lanterns on the surface revealed Colwyn and the fisherman,
supporting between them a limp bundle wrapped in the blanket, and tied
to the third rope. As they reached the air they were helped out, and the
burden they carried was laid on the ground near the mouth of the pit.
The blanket fell away, exposing the face of Charles, waxen and still in
the rays of the light which fell upon it.

"Dead?" whispered Mr. Cromering.

"Dying," returned Colwyn. "His back is broken."

The dying man unclosed his eyelids, and his dark eyes, keen and
brilliant as ever, roved restlessly over the group who were standing
around him. They rested on Colwyn, and he lifted a feeble hand and
beckoned to him. The detective knelt beside him, and rested his head on
his arm. The white lips formed one word:

"Closer."

Colwyn bent his head nearer, and those standing by could see the dying
man whispering into the detective's ear. He spoke with an effort for
some minutes, and hurriedly, like one who knew that his time was short.
Then he stopped suddenly, and his head fell back grotesquely, like a
broken doll's. Colwyn felt his heart, and rose to his feet.

"He is dead," he said.



CHAPTER XXIX


"There are several things that I do not understand," said Superintendent
Galloway to Colwyn a little later. "How were you able to decide so
quickly that Benson had told the truth when he declared that he had not
committed the murder, after he had made the damning admission that he
had removed the body?"

"Partly because it was extremely unlikely that Benson could have
invented a story which fitted so nicely with the facts. The slightest
mistake in his times would have proved him to be a liar. But I had more
than that to go upon. I said this afternoon that my reconstruction was
not wholly satisfactory, because there were several loose ends in it. At
that time I believed he was the murderer, and I was anxious to frighten
the truth out of him in order to see where my reconstruction was at
fault. His story proved that my original conception of the crime was the
correct one, and my mistake was in departing from it, and ignoring some
of my original clues in order to square the new facts with a fresh
theory. I should never have lost sight of my first conviction that there
were two persons in Mr. Glenthorpe's room the night he was murdered.

"When Benson told his story I asked myself, Could Charles' conduct be
dictated by the desire to have a hold over Benson--with a view to
blackmail later on? But he was not likely to risk his own neck by
becoming an accomplice in the concealment of the murdered man's body!
Charles, if he were innocent himself, must have thought that Benson was
the murderer. It was impossible that he could have come to any other
conclusion. He discovers a man washing blood off his hands at midnight,
and this man admits to him that he has just come from a room which he
had no right to enter, and found a dead man there. Why had Charles
believed--or pretended to believe--Benson's story?

"It came to me suddenly, with the recollection of the line under the
murdered man's window--one of the clues which I had discarded--and the
whole of this baffling sinister mystery became clear in my mind. The
murder was committed by Charles, who got out of the window by which he
had entered just before Benson came into the room. Charles saw a light
in the room he had left, and returned to the window to investigate.
Crouching outside the window, he saw Benson in the room, examining the
body, and it came into his mind as he watched that his employer had
conceived the same idea as himself--had seized on the presence of a
stranger staying at the inn in order to rob Mr. Glenthorpe, hoping that
the crime would be attributed to the man who slept in the next room.
Charles was quick to see how Benson's presence in the room might be
turned to his own advantage. Charles had taken precautions, in
committing the murder, to leave clues in the room which should direct
suspicion to Penreath, but the innkeeper's visit to the room suggested
to him an even better plan for securing his own safety. When Benson left
the room Charles got through the window again, and followed him
downstairs.

"Charles' story, told to me when he was dying, filled in the gaps which
I have omitted. He said that he watched the whole of Benson's movements
from the window. He saw him searching for the money, saw him feel the
body, and saw the blood on his hands. When Benson turned to leave the
room he forgot the candle, and it was then that the idea of following
him leapt into Charles' mind. He divined that Benson would go downstairs
and wash the blood off his hands. Charles' idea was to go after him and
surprise him in the act. He followed him swiftly, and was never more
than a few feet behind. While Benson was striking a match and lighting
the kitchen candle Charles slipped into his own room, lit his own
candle, and then emerged from his door as though he had been disturbed
in his sleep. The rest of his plan was easily carried out through the
fears of Benson, who agreed, in his own interests, to conceal the body
of the man whom the other had murdered.

"The clue by which Penreath was virtually convicted--the track of
bootmarks to the pit--was an accidental one so far as Charles was
concerned. It is strange to think that Chance, which removed the clues
Charles deliberately placed in the room, should have achieved Charles'
aim by directing suspicion to Penreath in a different, yet more
convincing manner.

"The murderer's revelation clears up those points which I was unable to
settle this afternoon. He entered Mr. Glenthorpe's room during the
heaviest part of the storm. He carried a box, under his arm, because he
was too short to get into the window without something to stand on, he
shielded himself from the rain with an umbrella, which got caught on the
nail by the window, and he lit a tallow candle which he had brought from
the bar.

"Another clue, which I originally discovered and laid aside, is also
explained. The wound in Mr. Glenthorpe's body struck me as an unusual
one. You heard Sir Henry Durwood say, in answer to my questions, that
the blow was a slanting one, struck from the left side, entering almost
parallel with the ribs, yet piercing the heart on the right side. The
manner in which Mr. Glenthorpe's arms were thrown out, his legs drawn
up, proved that he was lying on his back when murdered. For that reason,
the direction of the blow suggested Charles as the murderer."

"I am afraid I do not follow you there," said Mr. Cromering.

"Charles had a malformed right hand; his left hand was his only
serviceable one. The blow that killed Mr. Glenthorpe struck me at the
time as a left-handed blow. The natural direction of a right-handed
blow, with the body in such a position, would be from right to left--not
from left to right. But, after considering this point carefully, I came
to the conclusion that the blow might have been struck by a right-handed
man. I was wrong."

"I do not think you have much cause to blame yourself," said the chief
constable. "You were right in your original conception of the crime, and
right in your later reconstruction in every particular except----"

"Except that I picked the wrong man," said Colwyn, with a slightly
bitter laugh. "My consolation is that Benson's confession brought the
truth to light, as I expected it would."

"It took you to see the truth," said Galloway. "I should never have
picked it. I suppose there has never been a case like it."

"There is nothing new--not even in the annals of crime," returned
Colwyn. "But this was certainly a baffling and unusual case. The
murderer was such a deep and subtle scoundrel that I feel a respect for
his intelligence, perverted though it was. His master stroke was the
disposal of the body. That shielded him from suspicion as completely as
an alibi. I put aside my first suspicion of him largely because I
realised that it was impossible for a man with a deformed arm to carry
away the body. Such a sardonic situation as a murderer persuading
another man that he was likely to be suspected of the murder unless he
removed the body was one that never occurred to me. That, at all events,
is something new in my experience."

"It is a wonder that Charles, with his deformed arm, was able to go down
the pit and conceal the money," said the chief constable.

"He did not go down very far. It is not a difficult matter to climb down
the creepers inside with the support of one hand, and he was able to use
the other sufficiently to thrust the small peg into the soft earth. He
first hid the money in the breakwater wall, being too careful and clever
to hide it in the pit until after the inquest. When he had concealed it
in the pit he revived the story of the White Lady of the Shrieking Pit
so as to keep the credulous villagers away from the spot. He need not
have taken that precaution, because the hiding place was an excellent
one, and it was only by chance that I discovered the money when I
descended the pit. But he left nothing to chance. The use of the
umbrella on the night of the murder proves that. Murderers do not
usually carry umbrellas, but he did, because he feared that if his
clothes got wet they might be seen in his room the following day, and
direct suspicion to him. He chose to commit the crime when the storm was
at its height because he thought he was safest from the likelihood of
discovery then.

"The callous scoundrel told me with his last breath that he was waiting
until Penreath was safely hanged before disappearing with the money.
When he opened the door to us to-night, he knew that he was at the end
of his tether, and he decided to try to bolt. He realised that Benson
would tell the truth when he was questioned and, although the
innkeeper's story did not implicate him directly, he did our common
intelligence the justice to believe that, through his dupe's confession,
we should arrive at the truth."



THE END


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