Part 4 out of 6
"It came from the hillside," he muttered. "Off you go, Knox."
And even as I started on my unpleasant errand, he had set out running
toward the gate in the southern corner of the garden.
For my part I scrambled unceremoniously up the bank, and emerged where
the yews stood sentinel beside the path. I ran through the gap in the
box hedge just as the main doors were thrown open by Pedro.
He started back as he saw me.
"Pedro! Pedro!" I cried, "have the ladies been awakened?"
"Yes, yes! there is terrible trouble, sir. What has happened? What has
"A tragedy," I said, shortly. "Pull yourself together. Where is Madame
Pedro uttered some exclamation in Spanish and stood, pale-faced,
swaying before me, a dishevelled figure in a dressing gown. And now in
the background Mrs. Fisher appeared. One frightened glance she cast in
my direction, and would have hurried across the hall but I intercepted
"Where are you going, Mrs. Fisher?" I demanded. "What has happened
"To Madame, to Madame," she sobbed, pointing toward the corridor which
communicated with Madame de Stämer's bedchamber.
I heard a frightened cry proceeding from that direction, and recognized
the voice of Nita, the girl who acted as Madame's maid. Then I heard
"Go and fetch Mrs. Fisher, Nita, at once--and try to behave yourself. I
have trouble enough."
I entered the corridor and pulled up short. Val Beverley, fully
dressed, was kneeling beside Madame de Stämer, who wore a kimono over
her night-robe, and who lay huddled on the floor immediately outside
the door of her room!
"Oh, Mr. Knox!" cried the girl, pitifully, and raised frightened eyes
to me. "For God's sake, what has happened?"
Nita, the Spanish girl, who was sobbing hysterically, ran along to join
"I will tell you in a moment," I said, quietly, rendered cool, as one
always is, by the need of others. "But first tell me--how did Madame de
Stämer get here?"
"I don't know, I don't know! I was startled by the shot. It has
awakened everybody. And just as I opened my door to listen, I heard
Madame cry out in the hall below. I ran down, turned on the light, and
found her lying here. She, too, had been awakened, I suppose, and was
endeavouring to drag herself from her room when her strength failed her
and she swooned. She is too heavy for me to lift," added the girl,
pathetically, "and Pedro is out of his senses, and Nita, who was the
first of the servants to come, is simply hysterical, as you can see."
I nodded reassuringly, and stooping, lifted the swooning woman. She was
much heavier than I should have supposed, but, Val Beverley leading the
way, I carried her into her apartment and placed her upon the bed.
"I will leave her to you," I said. "You have courage, and so I will
tell you what has happened."
"Yes, tell me, oh, tell me!"
She laid her hands upon my shoulders appealingly, and looked up into my
eyes in a way that made me long I to take her in my arms and comfort
her, an insane longing which I only crushed with difficulty.
"Someone has shot Colonel Menendez," I said, in a low voice, for Mrs.
Fisher had just entered.
Val Beverley opened and closed her eyes, clutching at me dizzily for a
"I think," she whispered, "she must have known, and that was why she
swooned. Oh, my God! how horrible."
I made her sit down in an armchair, and watched her anxiously, but
although every speck of colour had faded from her cheeks, she was
splendidly courageous, and almost immediately she smiled up at me, very
wanly, but confidently.
"I will look after her," she said. "Mr. Harley will need your
When I returned to the hall I found it already filled with a number of
servants incongruously attired. Carter the chauffeur, who lived at the
lodge, was just coming in at the door, and:
"Carter," I said, "get a car out quickly, and bring the nearest doctor.
If there is another man who can drive, send him for the police. Your
master has been shot."
INSPECTOR AYLESBURY OF MARKET HILTON
"Now, gentlemen," said Inspector Aylesbury, "I will take evidence."
Dawn was creeping grayly over the hills, and the view from the library
windows resembled a study by Bastien-Lepage. The lamps burned yellowly,
and the exotic appointments of the library viewed in that cold light
for some reason reminded me of a stage set seen in daylight. The
Velasquez portrait mentally translated me to the billiard room where
something lay upon the settee with a white sheet drawn over it; and I
wondered if my own face looked as wan and comfortless as did the faces
of my companions, that is, of two of them, for I must except Inspector
Squarely before the oaken mantel he stood, a large, pompous man, but in
this hour I could find no humour in Paul Harley's description of him as
resembling a walrus. He had a large auburn moustache tinged with gray,
and prominent brown eyes, but the lower part of his face, which
terminated in a big double chin, was ill-balanced by his small
forehead. He was bulkily built, and I had conceived an unreasonable
distaste for his puffy hands. His official air and oratorical manner
Harley sat in the chair which he had occupied during our last interview
with Colonel Menendez in the library, and I had realized--a realization
which had made me uncomfortable--that I was seated upon the couch on
which the Colonel had reclined. Only one other was present, Dr.
Rolleston of Mid-Hatton, a slight, fair man with a brisk, military
manner, acquired perhaps during six years of war service. He was
standing beside me smoking a cigarette.
"I have taken all the necessary particulars concerning the position of
the body," continued the Inspector, "the nature of the wound, contents
of pockets, etc., and I now turn to you, Mr. Harley, as the first
person to discover the murdered man."
Paul Harley lay back in the armchair watching the speaker.
"Before we come to what happened here to-night I should like to be
quite clear about your own position in the matter, Mr. Harley. Now"--
Inspector Aylesbury raised one finger in forensic manner--"now, you
visited me yesterday afternoon, Mr. Harley, and asked for certain
information regarding the neighbourhood."
"I did," said Harley, shortly.
"The questions which you asked me were," continued the Inspector,
slowly and impressively, "did I know of any negro or coloured people
living in, or about, Mid-Hatton, and could I give you a list of the
residents within a two-mile radius of Cray's Folly. I gave you the
information which you required, and now it is your turn to give me
some. Why did you ask those questions?"
"For this reason," was the reply--"I had been requested by Colonel
Menendez to visit Cray's Folly, accompanied by my friend, Mr. Knox, in
order that I might investigate certain occurrences which had taken
"Oh," said the Inspector, raising his eyebrows, "I see. You were here
to make investigations?"
"And these occurrences, will you tell me what they were?"
"Simple enough in themselves," replied Harley. "Someone broke into the
house one night."
"Broke into the house?"
"But this was never reported to us."
"Possibly not, but someone broke in, nevertheless. Secondly, Colonel
Menendez had detected someone lurking about the lawns, and thirdly, the
wing of a bat was nailed to the main door."
Inspector Aylesbury lowered his eyebrows and concentrated a frowning
glance upon the speaker.
"Of course, sir," he said, "I don't want to jump to conclusions, but
you are not by any chance trying to be funny at a time like this?"
"My sense of humour has failed me entirely," replied Harley. "I am
merely stating bald facts in reply to your questions."
"Oh, I see."
The Inspector cleared his throat.
"Someone broke into Cray's Folly, then, a fact which was not reported
to me, a suspicious loiterer was seen in the grounds, again not
reported, and someone played a silly practical joke by nailing the wing
of a bat, you say, to the door. Might I ask, Mr. Harley, why you
mention this matter? The other things are serious, but why you should
mention the trick of some mischievous boy at a time like this I can't
"No," said Harley, wearily, "it does sound absurd, Inspector; I quite
appreciate the fact. But, you see, Colonel Menendez regarded it as the
most significant episode of them all."
"What! The bat wing nailed on the door?"
"The bat wing, decidedly. He believed it to be the token of a negro
secret society which had determined upon his death, hence my enquiries
regarding coloured men in the neighbourhood. Do you understand,
Inspector Aylesbury took a large handkerchief from his pocket and blew
his nose. Replacing the handkerchief he cleared his throat, and:
"Am I to understand," he enquired, "that the late Colonel Menendez had
expected to be attacked?"
"You may understand that," replied Harley. "It explains my presence in
"Oh," said the Inspector, "I see. It looks as though he might have done
better if he had applied to me."
Paul Harley glanced across in my direction and smiled grimly.
"As I had predicted, Knox," he murmured, "my Waterloo."
"What's that you say about Waterloo, Mr. Harley?" demanded the
"Nothing germaine to the case," replied Harley. "It was a reference to
a battle, not to a railway station."
Inspector Aylesbury stared at him dully.
"You quite understand that you are giving evidence?" he said.
"It were impossible not to appreciate the fact." "Very well, then. The
late Colonel Menendez thought he was in danger from negroes. Why did he
"He was a retired West Indian planter," replied Harley, patiently, "and
he was under the impression that he had offended a powerful native
society, and that for many years their vengeance had pursued him.
Attempts to assassinate him had already taken place in Cuba and in the
"What sort of attempts?"
"He was shot at, several times, and once, in Washington, was attacked
by a man with a knife. He maintained in my presence and in the presence
of my friend, Mr. Knox, here, that these various attempts were due to
members of a sect or religion known as Voodoo."
"Voodoo, Inspector, also known as Obeah, a cult which has spread from
the West Coast of Africa throughout the West Indies and to parts of the
United States. The bat wing is said to be a sign used by these people."
Inspector Aylesbury scratched his chin.
"Now let me get this thing clear," said he: "Colonel Menendez believed
that people called Voodoos wanted to kill him? Before we go any
"Twenty years ago in the West Indies he had shot an important member of
"Twenty years ago?"
"According to a statement which he made to me, yes."
"I see. Then for twenty years these Voodoos have been trying to kill
him? Then he comes and settles here in Surrey and someone nails a bat
wing to his door? Did you see this bat wing?"
"I did. I have it upstairs in my bag if you would care to examine it."
"Oh," said the Inspector, "I see. And thinking he had been followed to
England he came to you to see if you could save him?"
Paul Harley nodded grimly.
"Why did he go to you in preference to the local police, the proper
authorities?" demanded the Inspector.
"He was advised to do so by the Spanish ambassador, or so he informed
"Is that so? Well, I suppose it had to be. Coming from foreign parts. I
expect he didn't know what our police are for." He cleared his throat.
"Very well, I understand now what you were doing here, Mr. Harley. The
next thing is, what were you doing tonight, as I see that both you and
Mr. Knox are still in evening dress?"
"We were keeping watch," I replied.
Inspector Aylesbury turned to me ponderously, raising a fat hand. "One
moment, Mr. Knox, one moment," he protested. "The evidence of one
witness at a time."
"We were keeping watch," said Harley, deliberately echoing my words.
"More or less we were here for that purpose. You see, on the night of
the full moon, according to Colonel Menendez, Obeah people become
"Why on the night of the full moon?"
"This I cannot tell you."
"Oh, I see. You were keeping watch. Where were you keeping watch?"
"In my room."
"In which part of the house is your room?"
"Northeast. It overlooks the Tudor garden."
"At what time did you retire?"
"About half-past ten."
"Did you leave the Colonel well?"
"No, he had been unwell all day. He had remained in his room."
"Had he asked you to sit up?"
"Not at all; our vigil was quite voluntary."
"Very well, then, you were in your room when the shot was fired?"
"On the contrary, I was on the path in front of the house."
"Oh, I see. The front door was open, then?"
"Not at all. Pedro had locked up for the night."
"And locked you out?"
"No; I descended from my window by means of a ladder which I had
brought with me for the purpose."
"With a ladder? That's rather extraordinary, Mr Harley."
"It is extraordinary. I have strange habits."
Inspector Aylesbury cleared his throat again and looked frowningly
across at my friend.
"What part of the grounds were you in when the shot was fired?" he
"Halfway along the north side."
"What were you doing?"
"I was running."
"You see, Inspector, I regarded it as my duty to patrol the grounds of
the house at nightfall, since, for all I knew to the contrary, some of
the servants might be responsible for the attempts of which the Colonel
complained. I had descended from the window of my room, had passed
entirely around the house east to west, and had returned to my
starting-point when Mr. Knox, who was looking out of the window,
observed Colonel Menendez entering the Tudor garden."
"Oh. Colonel Menendez was not visible to you?"
"Not from my position below, but being informed by my friend, who was
hurriedly descending the ladder, that the Colonel had entered the
garden, I set off running to intercept him."
"He had acquired a habit of walking in his sleep, and I presumed that
he was doing so on this occasion."
"Oh, I see. So being told by the gentleman at the window that Colonel
Menendez was in the garden, you started to run toward him. While you
were running you heard a shot?"
"Where do you think it came from?"
"Nothing is more difficult to judge, Inspector, especially when one is
near to a large building surrounded by trees."
"Nevertheless," said the Inspector, again raising his finger and
frowning at Harley, "you cannot tell me that you formed no impression
on the point. For instance, was it near, or a long way off?"
"It was fairly near."
"Ten yards, twenty yards, a hundred yards, a mile?"
"Within a hundred yards. I cannot be more exact."
"Within a hundred yards, and you have no idea from which direction the
shot was fired?"
"From the sound I could form none."
"Oh, I see. And what did you do?"
"I ran on and down into the sunken garden. I saw Colonel Menendez lying
upon his face near the sun-dial. He was moving convulsively. Running up
to him, I that he had been shot through the head."
"What steps did you take?"
"My friend, Mr. Knox, had joined me, and I sent him for assistance,"
"But what steps did you take to apprehend the murderer?"
Paul Harley looked at him quietly.
"What steps should you have taken?" he asked.
Inspector Aylesbury cleared his throat again, and:
"I don't think I should have let my man slip through my fingers like
that," he replied. "Why! by now he may be out of the county."
"Your theory is quite feasible," said Harley, tonelessly.
"You were actually on the spot when the shot was fired, you admit that
it was fired within a hundred yards, yet you did nothing to apprehend
"No," replied Harley, "I was ridiculously inactive. You see, I am a
mere amateur, Inspector. For my future guidance I should be glad to
know what the correct procedure would have been."
Inspector Aylesbury blew his nose.
"I know my job," he said. "If I had been called in there might have
been a different tale to tell. But he was a foreigner, and he paid for
his ignorance, poor fellow."
Paul Harley took out his pipe and began to load it in a deliberate and
Inspector Aylesbury turned his prominent eyes in my direction.
I am afraid of this man Aylesbury," said Paul Harley. We sat in the
deserted dining room. I had contributed my account of the evening's
happenings, Dr. Rolleston had made his report, and Inspector Aylesbury
was now examining the servants in the library. Harley and I had
obtained his official permission to withdraw, and the physician was
visiting Madame de Stämer, who lay in a state of utter prostration.
"What do you mean, Harley?"
"I mean that he will presently make some tragic blunder. Good God,
Knox, to think that this man had sought my aid, and that I stood by
idly whilst he walked out to his death. I shall never forgive myself."
He banged the table with his fist. "Even now that these unknown fiends
have achieved their object, I am helpless, helpless. There was not a
wisp of smoke to guide me, Knox, and one man cannot search a county."
I sighed wearily.
"Do you know, Harley," I said, "I am thinking of a verse of Kipling's."
"I know!" he interrupted, almost savagely.
"A Snider squibbed in the jungle.
Somebody laughed and fled--"
"Oh, I know, Knox. I heard that damnable laughter, too."
"My God," I whispered, "who was it? What was it? Where did it come
"As well ask where the shot came from, Knox. Out amongst all those
trees, with a house that might have been built for a sounding-board,
who could presume to say where either came from? One thing we know,
that the shot came from the south."
He leaned upon a corner of the table, staring at me intently.
"From the south?" I echoed.
Harley glanced in the direction of the open door.
"Presently," he said, "we shall have to tell Aylesbury everything that
we know. After all, he represents the law; but unless we can get
Inspector Wessex down from Scotland Yard, I foresee a miscarriage of
justice. Colonel Menendez lay on his face, and the line made by his
recumbent body pointed almost directly toward--"
I nodded, watching him.
"I know, Harley--toward the Guest House."
Paul Harley inclined his head, grimly.
"The first light which we saw," he continued, "was in a window of the
Guest House. It may have had no significance. Awakened by the sound of
a rifle-shot near by, any one would naturally get up."
"And having decided to come downstairs and investigate," I continued,
"would naturally light a lamp."
"Quite so." He stared at me very hard. "Yet," he said, "unless Mr.
Colin Camber can produce an alibi I foresee a very stormy time for
"So do I, Harley. A deadly hatred existed between these two men, and
probably this horrible deed was done on the spur of the moment. It is
of his poor little girl-wife that I am thinking. As though her troubles
were not heavy enough already."
"Yes," he agreed. "I am almost tempted to hold my tongue, Knox, until I
have personally interviewed these people. But of course if our
blundering friend directly questions me, I shall have no alternative. I
shall have to answer him. His talent for examination, however, scarcely
amounts to genius, so that we may not be called upon for further
details at the moment. I wonder how I can induce him to requisition
He rested his chin in his hand and stared down reflectively at the
carpet. I thought that he looked very haggard, as he sat there in the
early morning light, dressed as for dinner. There was something
pathetic in the pose of his bowed head.
Leaning across, I placed my hand on his shoulder.
"Don't get despondent, old chap," I said. "You have not failed yet."
"Oh, but I have, Knox!" he cried, fiercely, "I have! He came to me for
protection. Now he lies dead in his own house. Failed? I have failed
I turned aside as the door opened and Dr. Rolleston came in.
"Ah, gentlemen," he said, "I wanted to see you before leaving. I have
just been to visit Madame de Stämer again."
"Yes," said Harley, eagerly; "how is she?"
Dr. Rolleston lighted a cigarette, frowning perplexedly the while.
"To be honest," he replied, "her condition puzzles me."
He walked across to the fireplace and dropped the match, staring at
Harley with a curious expression.
"Has any one told her the truth?" he asked.
"You mean that Colonel Menendez is dead?"
"Yes," replied Dr. Rolleston. "I understood that no one had told her?"
"No one has done so to my knowledge," said Harley.
"Then the sympathy between them must have been very acute," murmured
the physician, "for she certainly knows!"
"Do you really think she knows?" I asked.
"I am certain of it. She must have had knowledge of a danger to be
apprehended, and being awakened by the sound of the rifle shot, have
realized by a sort of intuition that the expected tragedy had happened.
I should say, from the presence of a small bruise which I found upon
her forehead, that she had actually walked out into the corridor."
"Walked?" I cried.
"Yes," said the physician. "She is a shell-shock case, of course, and
we sometimes find that a second shock counteracts the effect of the
first. This, temporarily at any rate, seems to have happened to-night.
She is now in a very curious state: a form of hysteria, no doubt, but
very curious all the same."
"Miss Beverley is with her?" I asked.
Dr. Rolleston nodded affirmatively.
"Yes, a very capable nurse. I am glad to know that Madame de Stämer is
in such good hands. I am calling again early in the morning, and I have
told Mrs. Fisher to see that nothing is said within hearing of the room
which could enable Madame de Stämer to obtain confirmation of the idea,
which she evidently entertains, that Colonel Menendez is dead."
"Does she actually assert that he is dead?" asked Harley.
"My dear sir," replied Dr. Rolleston, "she asserts nothing. She sits
there like Niobe changed to stone, staring straight before her. She
seems to be unaware of the presence of everyone except Miss Beverley.
The only words she has spoken since recovering consciousness have been,
'Don't leave me!'"
"Hm," muttered Harley. "You have not attended Madame de Stämer before,
"No," was the reply, "this is the first time I have entered Cray's
Folly since it was occupied by Sir James Appleton."
He was about to take his departure when the door opened and Inspector
Aylesbury walked in.
"Ah," said he, "I have two more witnesses to interview: Madame de
Stämer and Miss Beverley. From these witnesses I hope to get
particulars of the dead man's life which may throw some light upon the
identity of his murderer."
"It is impossible to see either of them at present," replied Dr.
"What's that, doctor?" asked the Inspector. "Are they hysterical, or
"As a result of the shock, Madame de Stämer is dangerously ill,"
replied the physician, "and Miss Beverley is remaining with her."
"Oh, I see. But Miss Beverley could come out for a few minutes?"
"She could," admitted the physician, sharply, "but I don't wish her to
"Oh, but the law must be served, doctor."
"Quite so, but not at the expense of my patient's reason."
He was a resolute man, this country practitioner, and I saw Harley
smiling in grim approval.
"I have expressed my opinion," he said, finally, walking out of the
room; "I shall leave the responsibility to you, Inspector Aylesbury.
Good morning, gentlemen."
Inspector Aylesbury scratched his chin.
"That's awkward," he muttered. "The evidence of this woman is highly
He turned toward us, doubtingly, whereupon Harley stood up, yawning.
"If I can be of any further assistance to you, Inspector," said my
friend, "command me. Otherwise, I feel sure you will appreciate the
fact that both Mr. Knox and myself are extremely tired, and have passed
through a very trying ordeal."
"Yes," replied Inspector Aylesbury, "that's all very well, but I find
myself at a deadlock."
"You surprise me," declared Harley.
"I can see nothing to be surprised about," cried the Inspector. "When I
was called in it was already too late."
"Most unfortunate," murmured Harley, disagreeably. "Come along, Knox,
you look tired to death."
"One moment, gentlemen," the Inspector insisted, as I stood up. "One
moment. There is a little point which you may be able to clear up."
Harley paused, his hand on the door knob, and turned.
"The point is this," continued the Inspector, frowning portentously and
lowering his chin so that it almost disappeared into the folds of his
neck, "I have now interviewed all the inmates of Cray's Folly except
the ladies. It appears to me that four people had not gone to bed.
There are you two gentlemen, who have explained why I found you in
evening dress, Colonel Menendez, who can never explain, and there is
He paused, looking from Harley to myself.
It had come, the question which I had dreaded, the question which I had
been asking myself ever since I had seen Val Beverley kneeling in the
corridor, dressed as she had been when we had parted for the night.
"I refer to Miss Val Beverley," the police-court voice proceeded. "This
lady had evidently not retired, and neither, it would appear, had the
"Neither had I," murmured Harley, "and neither had Mr. Knox."
"Your reason I understand," said the Inspector, "or at least your
explanation is a possible one. But if the party broke up, as you say it
did, somewhere about half-past ten o'clock, and if Madame de Stämer had
gone to bed, why should Miss Beverley have remained up?" He paused
significantly. "As well as Colonel Menendez?" he added.
"Look here, Inspector Aylesbury," I interrupted, I speaking in a very
quiet tone, I remember, "your insinuations annoy me."
"Oh," said he, turning his prominent eyes in my direction, "I see. They
annoy you? If they annoy you, sir, perhaps you can explain this point
which is puzzling me?"
"I cannot explain it, but doubtless Miss Beverley can do so when you
"I should like to have asked her now, and I can't make out why she
refuses to see me."
"She has not refused to see you," replied Harley, smoothly, "She is
probably unaware of the fact that you wish to see her."
"I don't know so much," muttered the Inspector. "In my opinion I am
being deliberately baffled on all sides. You can throw no light on this
"None," I answered, shortly, and Paul Harley shook his head.
"But you must remember, Inspector," he explained, "that the entire
household was in a state of unrest."
"In other words, everybody was waiting for this very thing to happen?"
"Consciously, or subconsciously, everybody was."
"What do you mean by consciously or subconsciously?"
"I mean that those of us who were aware of the previous attempts on
the life of the Colonel apprehended this danger. And I believe that
something of this apprehension had extended even to the servants."
"Oh, to the servants? Now, I have seen all the servants, except the
chef, who lives at a house on the outskirts of Mid-Hatton, as you may
know. Can you give me any information about this man?"
"I have seen him," replied Harley, "and have congratulated him upon his
culinary art. His name, I believe, is Deronne. He is a Spaniard, and a
little fat man. Quite an amiable creature," he added.
"Hm." The Inspector cleared his throat noisily.
"If that is all," said Harley, "I should welcome an opportunity of a
few hours' sleep."
"Oh," said the Inspector. "Well, I suppose that is quite natural, but I
shall probably have a lot more questions to ask you later."
"Quite," muttered Harley, "quite. Come on, Knox. Good-night, Inspector
Harley walked out of the dining room and across the deserted hall. He
slowly mounted the stairs and I followed him into his room. It was now
quite light, and as my friend dropped down upon the bed I thought that
he looked very tired and haggard.
"Knox," he said, "shut the door."
I closed the door and turned to him.
"You heard that question about Miss Beverley?" I began.
"I heard it, and I am wondering what her answer will be when the
Inspector puts it to her personally."
"Surely it is obvious?" I cried. "A cloud of apprehension had settled
on the house last night, Harley, which was like the darkness of Egypt.
The poor girl was afraid to go to bed. She was probably sitting up
"Hm," said Harley, drumming his feet upon the carpet. "Of course you
realize that there is one person in Cray's Folly who holds the clue to
the heart of the mystery?"
"Madame de Stämer?"
He nodded grimly.
"When the rifle cracked out, Knox, she knew! Remember, no one had told
her the truth. Yet can you doubt that she knows?"
"I don't doubt it."
"Neither do I." He clenched his teeth tightly and beat his fists upon
the coverlet. "I was dreading that our friend the Inspector would ask a
question which to my mind was very obvious."
"You mean?--" "Well, what investigator whose skull contained anything
more useful than bubbles would have failed to ask if Colonel Menendez
had an enemy in the neighbourhood?"
"No one," I admitted; "but I fear the poor man is sadly out of his
"He is wading hopelessly, Knox, but even he cannot fail to learn about
He stared at me in a curiously significant manner.
"Do you mean, Harley," I began, "that you really think----"
"My dear Knox," he interrupted, "forgetting, if you like, all that
preceded the tragedy, with what facts are we left? That Colonel
Menendez, at the moment when the bullet entered his brain, must have
been standing facing directly toward the Guest House. Now, you have
seen the direction of the wound?"
"He was shot squarely between the eyes. A piece of wonderful
"Quite," Harley nodded his head. "But the bullet came out just at the
vertex of the spine."
He paused, as if waiting for some comment, and:
"You mean that the shot came from above?" I said, slowly.
"Obviously it came from above, Knox. Keep these two points in your
mind, and then consider the fact that someone lighted a lamp in the
Guest House only a few moments after the shot had been fired."
"I remember. I saw it."
"So did I," said Harley, grimly, "and I saw something else."
"What was that?"
"When you went off to summon assistance I ran across the lawn,
scrambled through the bushes, and succeeded in climbing down into the
little gully in which the stream runs, and up on the other side. I had
proceeded practically in a straight line from the sun-dial, and do you
know where I found myself?"
"I can guess," I replied.
"Of course you can. You have visited the place. I came out immediately
beside a little hut, Knox, which stands at the end of the garden of the
Guest House. Ahead of me, visible through a tangle of bushes in the
neglected garden, a lamp was burning. I crept cautiously forward, and
presently obtained a view of the interior of a kitchen. Just as I
arrived at this point of vantage the lamp was extinguished, but not
before I had had a glimpse of the only occupant of the room--the man
who had extinguished the lamp."
"Who was it?" I asked, in a low voice.
"It was a Chinaman."
"Ah Tsong!" I cried.
"Good heavens, Harley, do you think--"
"I don't know what to think, Knox. A possible explanation is that the
household had been aroused by the sound of the shot, and that Ah Tsong
had been directed to go out and see if he could learn what had
happened. At any rate, I waited no longer, but returned by the same
route. If our portly friend from Market Hilton had possessed the eyes
of an Auguste Dupin, he could not have failed to note that my dress
boots were caked with light yellow clay; which also, by the way,
besmears my trousers."
He stooped and examined the garments as he spoke.
"A number of thorns are also present," he continued. "In short, from
the point of view of an investigation, I am a most provoking object."
He sighed wearily, and stared out of the window in the direction of the
Tudor garden. There was a slight chilliness in the air, which, or
perhaps a sudden memory of that which lay in the billiard room beneath
us, may have accounted for the fact that I shivered violently.
Harley glanced up with a rather sad smile.
"The morning after Waterloo," he said. "Sleep well, Knox."
A SPANISH CIGARETTE
Sleep was not for me, despite Harley's injunction, and although I was
early afoot, the big house was already astir with significant movements
which set the imagination on fire, to conjure up again the moonlight
scene in the garden, making mock of the song of the birds and of the
glory of the morning.
Manoel replied to my ring, and prepared my bath, but it was easy to see
that he had not slept.
No sound came from Harley's room, therefore I did not disturb him, but
proceeded downstairs in the hope of finding Miss Beverley about. Pedro
was in the hall, talking to Mrs. Fisher, and:
"Is Inspector Aylesbury here?" I asked.
"No, sir, but he will be returning at about half-past eight, so he
"How is Madame de Stämer, Mrs. Fisher?" I enquired.
"Oh, poor, poor Madame," said the old lady, "she is asleep, thank God.
But I am dreading her awakening."
"The blow is a dreadful one," I admitted; "and Miss Beverley?"
"She didn't go to her room until after four o'clock, sir, but Nita
tells me that she will be down any moment now."
"Ah," said I, and lighting a cigarette, I walked out of the open doors
into the courtyard.
I dreaded all the ghastly official formalities which the day would
bring, since I realized that the brunt of the trouble must fall upon
the shoulders of Miss Beverley in the absence of Madame de Stämer.
I wandered about restlessly, awaiting the girl's appearance. A little
two seater was drawn up in the courtyard, but I had not paid much
attention to it, until, wandering through the opening in the box hedge
and on along the gravel path, I saw unfamiliar figures moving in the
billiard room, and turned, hastily retracing my steps. Officialdom was
at work already, and I knew that there would be no rest for any of us
from that hour onward.
As I reëntered the hall I saw Val Beverley coming down the staircase.
She looked pale, but seemed to be in better spirits than I could have
hoped for, although there were dark shadows under her eyes.
"Good morning, Miss Beverley," I said.
"Good morning, Mr. Knox. It was good of you to come down so early."
"I had hoped for a chat with you before Inspector Aylesbury returned,"
She looked at me pathetically.
"I suppose he will want me to give evidence?"
"He will. We had great difficulty in persuading him not to demand your
presence last night."
"It was impossible," she protested. "It would have been cruel to make
me leave Madame in the circumstances."
"We realized this, Miss Beverley, but you will have to face the ordeal
We walked through into the library, where a maid white-faced and
frightened looking, was dusting in a desultory fashion. She went out as
we entered, and Val Beverley stood looking from the open window out
into the rose garden bathed in the morning sunlight.
"Oh, Heavens," she said, clenching her hands desperately, "even now I
cannot realize that the horrible thing is true." She turned to me. "Who
can possibly have committed this cold-blooded crime?" she said in a low
voice. "What does Mr. Harley think? Has he any idea, any idea
"Not that he has confided to me," I said, watching her intently. "But
tell me, does Madame de Stämer know yet?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean has she been told the truth?"
The girl shook her head.
"No," she replied; "I am positive that no one has told her. I was with
her all the time, up to the very moment that she fell asleep. Yet--"
"She knows! Oh, Mr. Knox! to me that is the most horrible thing of all:
that she knows, that she must have known all along--that the mere sound
of the shot told her everything!"
"You realize, now," I said, quietly, "that she had anticipated the
"Yes, yes. This was the meaning of the sorrow which I had seen so often
in her eyes, the meaning of so much that puzzled me in her words, the
explanation of lots of little things which have made me wonder in the
I was silent for a while, then:
"If she was so certain that no one could save him," I said, "she must
have had information which neither he nor she ever imparted to us."
"I am sure she had," declared Val Beverley.
"But can you think of any reason why she should not have confided in
"I cannot, I cannot--unless--"
"Unless, Mr. Knox," she looked at me strangely, "they were both under
some vow of silence. Oh! it sounds ridiculous, wildly ridiculous, but
what other explanation can there be?"
"What other, indeed? And now, Miss Beverley, I know one of the
questions Inspector Aylesbury will ask you."
"What is it?"
"He has learned, from one of the servants I presume, as he did not see
you, that you had not retired last night at the time of the tragedy."
"I had not," said Val Beverley, quietly, "Is that so singular?"
"To me it is no more than natural."
"I have never been so frightened in all my life as I was last night.
Sleep was utterly out of the question. There was mystery in the very
air. I knew, oh, Mr. Knox, in some way I knew that a tragedy was going
"I believe I knew, too," I said. "Good God, to think that we might have
"Do you think--" began Val Beverley, and then paused.
"Yes?" I prompted.
"Oh, I was going to say a strange thing that suddenly occurred to me,
but it is utterly foolish, I suppose. Inspector Aylesbury is coming
back at nine o'clock, is he not?"
"At half-past eight, so I understand."
"I am afraid I have very little to tell him. I was sitting in my room
in an appalling state of nerves when the shot was fired. I was not even
reading; I was just waiting, waiting, for something to happen."
"I understand. My own experience was nearly identical."
"Then," continued the girl, "as I unlocked my door and peeped out,
feeling too frightened to venture farther in the darkness, I heard
Madame's voice in the hall below."
"Crying for help?"
"No," replied the girl, a puzzled frown appearing between her brows.
"She cried out something in French. The intonation told me that it was
French, although I could not detect a single word. Then I thought I
heard a moan."
"And you ran down?"
"Yes. I summoned up enough courage to turn on the light in the corridor
and to run down to the hall. And there she was lying just outside the
door of her room."
"Was her room in darkness?"
"Yes. I turned on the light and succeeded in partly raising her, but
she was too heavy for me to lift. I was still trying to revive her when
Pedro opened the door of the servants' quarters. Oh," she closed her
eyes wearily, "I shall never forget it."
I took her hand and pressed it reassuringly.
"Your courage has been wonderful throughout," I declared, "and I hope
it will remain so to the end."
She smiled, and flushed slightly, as I released her hand again.
"I must go and take a peep at Madame now," she said, "but of course I
shall not disturb her if she is still sleeping."
We turned and walked slowly back to the hall, and there just entering
from the courtyard was Inspector Aylesbury.
"Ah!" he exclaimed, "good morning, Mr. Knox. This is Miss Beverley, I
"Yes, Inspector," replied the girl. "I understand that you wish to
speak to me?"
"I do, Miss, but I shall not detain you for many minutes."
"Very well," she said, and as she turned and retraced her steps, he
followed her back into the library.
I walked out to the courtyard, and avoiding the Tudor garden and the
billiard room, turned in the other direction, passing the stables where
Jim, the negro groom, saluted me very sadly, and proceeded round to the
south side of the house.
Inspector Aylesbury, I perceived, had wasted no time. I counted no
fewer than four men, two of them in uniform, searching the lawns and
the slopes beyond, although what they were looking for I could not
Giving the library a wide berth, I walked along the second terrace, and
presently came in sight of the east wing and the tower. There,
apparently engaged in studying the rhododendrons, I saw Paul Harley.
He signalled to me, and. crossing the lawn, I joined him where he
Without any word of greeting:
"You see, Knox," he said, speaking in the eager manner which betokened
a rapidly working brain, "this is the path which the Colonel must have
followed last night. Yonder is the door by which, according to his own
account, he came out on a previous occasion, walking in his sleep. Do
"I remember," I replied.
"Well, Pedro found it unlocked this morning. You see it faces
practically due south, and the Colonel's bedroom is immediately above
us where we stand." He stared at me queerly. "I must have passed this
door last night only a few moments before the Colonel came out, for I
was just crossing the courtyard and could see you at my window at the
moment when you saw poor Menendez enter the Tudor garden. He must have
actually been walking around the east wing at the same time that I was
walking around the west. Now, I am going to show you something, Knox,
something which I have just discovered."
From his waistcoat pocket he took out a half-smoked cigarette. I stared
at it uncomprehendingly.
"Of course," he continued, "the weather has been bone dry for more than
a week now, and it may have lain there for a long time, but to me,
Knox, to me it looks suspiciously fresh."
"What is the point?" I asked, perplexedly.
"The point is that it is a hand-made cigarette, one of the Colonel's.
Don't you recognize it?"
"Good heavens!" I said; "yes, of course it is."
He returned it to his pocket without another word.
"It may mean nothing," he murmured, "or it may mean everything. And
now, Knox, we are going to escape."
"To escape?" I cried.
"Precisely. We are going to anticipate the probable movements of our
blundering Aylesbury. In short, I wish you to present me to Mr. Colin
"What?" I exclaimed, staring at him incredulously.
"I am going to ask you," he began, and then, breaking off: "Quick,
Knox, run!" he said.
And thereupon, to my amazement, he set off through the rhododendron
bushes in the direction of the tower!
Utterly unable to grasp the meaning of his behaviour, I followed,
nevertheless, and as we rounded the corner of the tower Harley pulled
up short, and:
"I am not mad," he explained rather breathlessly, "but I wanted to
avoid being seen by that constable who is prowling about at the bottom
of the lawn making signals in the direction of the library. Presumably
he is replying to Inspector Aylesbury who wants to talk to us. I am
determined to interview Camber before submitting to further official
interrogation. It must be a cross-country journey, Knox. I am afraid we
shall be a very muddy pair, but great issues may hang upon the success
of our expedition."
He set off briskly toward a belt of shrubbery which marked the edge of
the little stream. Appreciating something of his intentions, I followed
his lead unquestioningly; and, scrambling through the bushes:
"This was the point at which I descended last night," he said. "You
will have to wade, Knox, but the water is hardly above one's ankles."
He dropped into the brook, waded across, and began to climb up the
opposite bank. I imitated his movements, and presently, having
scrambled up on the farther side, we found ourselves standing on a
narrow bank immediately under that summer house which Colin Camber had
told me he had formerly used as a study.
"We can scarcely present ourselves at the kitchen door," murmured
Harley; "therefore we must try to find a way round to the front. There
is barbed wire here. Be careful."
I had now entered with zest into the business, and so the pair of us
waded through rank grass which in places was waist high, and on through
a perfect wilderness of weeds in which nettles dominated. Presently we
came to a dry ditch, which we negotiated successfully, to find
ourselves upon the high road some hundred yards to the west of the
"I predict an unfriendly reception," I said, panting from my exertions,
and surveying my friend, who was a mockery of his ordinarily spruce
"We must face it," he replied, grimly. "He has everything to gain by
being civil to us."
We proceeded along the dusty high road, almost overarched by trees.
"Harley," I said, "this is going to be a highly unpleasant ordeal for
Harley stopped short, staring at me sternly.
"I know, Knox," he replied; "but I suppose you realize that a man's
life is at stake."
"I mean that when we are both compelled to tell all we know, I doubt if
there is a counsel in the land who would undertake the defence of Mr.
"Good God! then you think he is guilty?"
"Did I say so?" asked Harley, continuing on his way. "I don't recollect
saying so, Knox; but I do say that it will be a giant's task to prove
"Then you believe him to be innocent?" I cried, eagerly.
"My dear fellow," he replied, somewhat irritably, "I have not yet met
Mr. Colin Camber. I will answer your question at the conclusion of the
THE WING OF A BAT
For a long time our knocking and ringing elicited no response. The
brilliant state of the door-brass afforded evidence of the fact that Ah
Tsong had arisen, even if the other members of the household were still
sleeping, and Harley, growing irritable, executed a loud tattoo upon
the knocker. This had its effect. The door opened and Ah Tsong looked
"Tell your master that Mr. Paul Harley has called to see him upon
"Master no got," replied Ah Tsong, and proceeded to close the door.
Paul Harley thrust his hand against it and addressed the man rapidly in
Chinese. I could not have supposed the face of Ah Tsong capable of
expressing so much animation. At the sound of his native tongue his
eyes lighted up, and:
"_Tchée, tchée,_" he said, turned, and disappeared.
Although he had studiously avoided looking at me, that Ah Tsong would
inform his master of the identity of his second visitor I did not
doubt. If I had doubted I should promptly have been disillusioned, for:
"Tell them to go away!" came a muffled cry from somewhere within. "No
spy of Devil Menendez shall ever pass my doors again!"
The Chinaman, on retiring, had left the door wide open, and I could see
right to the end of the gloomy hall. Ah Tsong presently re-appeared,
shuffling along in our direction. Unemotionally:
"Master no got," he repeated.
Paul Harley stamped his foot irritably.
"Good God, Knox," he said, "this unreasonable fool almost exhausts my
Again he addressed Ah Tsong in Chinese, and although the man's wrinkled
ivory face exhibited no trace of emotion, a deep understanding was to
be read in those oblique eyes; and a second time Ah Tsong turned and
trotted back to the study. I could hear a muttered colloquy in
progress, and suddenly the gaunt figure of Colin Camber burst into
He was shaved this morning, but arrayed as I had last seen him. Whilst
he was not in that state of incoherent anger which I remembered and
still resented, he was nevertheless in an evil temper.
He strode along the hallway, his large eyes widely opened, and fixing a
cold stare upon the face of Harley.
"I learn that your name is Mr. Paul Harley," he said, entirely ignoring
my presence, "and you send me a very strange message. I am used to the
ways of Señor Menendez, therefore your message does not deceive me. The
gateway, sir, is directly behind you."
Harley clenched his teeth, then:
"The scaffold, Mr. Camber," he replied, "is directly in front of you."
"What do you mean, sir?" demanded the other, and despite my resentment
of the treatment which I had received at his hands, I could only admire
the lofty disdain of his manner.
"I mean, Mr. Camber, that the police are close upon my heels."
"The police? Of what interest can this be to me?"
Harley's keen eyes were searching the pale face of the man before him.
"Mr. Camber," he said, "the shot was a good one."
Not a muscle of Colin Camber's face moved, but slowly he looked Paul
Harley up and down, then:
"I have been called a hasty man," he replied, coldly, "but I can
scarcely be accused of leaping to a conclusion when I say that I
believe you to be mad. You have interrupted me, sir. Good morning."
He stepped back, and would have closed the door, but:
"Mr. Camber," said Paul Harley, and the tone of his voice was
Colin Camber paused.
"My name is evidently unfamiliar to you," Harley continued. "You regard
myself and Mr. Knox as friends of the late Colonel Menendez--"
At that Colin Camber started forward.
"The _late_ Colonel Menendez?" he echoed, speaking almost in a
But as if he had not heard him Harley continued:
"As a matter of fact, I am a criminal investigator, and Mr. Knox is
assisting me in my present case."
Colin Camber clenched his hands and seemed to be fighting with some
emotion which possessed him, then:
"Do you mean," he said, hoarsely--"do you mean that Menendez is--dead?"
"I do," replied Harley. "May I request the privilege of ten minutes'
private conversation with you?"
Colin Camber stood aside, holding the door open, and inclining his head
in that grave salutation which I knew, but on this occasion, I think,
principally with intent to hide his emotion.
Not another word did he speak until the three of us stood in the
strange study where East grimaced at West, and emblems of remote devil-
worship jostled the cross of the Holy Rose. The place was laden with
tobacco smoke, and scattered on the carpet about the feet of the
writing table lay twenty or more pages of closely written manuscript.
Although this was a brilliant summer's morning, an old-fashioned
reading lamp, called, I believe, a Victoria, having a nickel receptacle
for oil at one side of the standard and a burner with a green glass
shade upon the other, still shed its light upon the desk. It was only
reasonable to suppose that Colin Camber had been at work all night.
He placed chairs for us, clearing them of the open volumes which they
bore, and, seating himself at the desk:
"Mr. Knox," he began, slowly, paused, and then stood up, "I accused you
of something when you last visited my house, something of which I would
not lightly accuse any man. If I was wrong, I wish to apologize."
"Only a matter of the utmost urgency could have induced me to cross
your threshold again," I replied, coldly. "Your behaviour, sir, was
He rested his long white hands upon the desk, looking across at me.
"Whatever I did and whatever I said," he continued, "one insult I laid
upon you more deadly than the rest: I accused you of friendship with
Juan Menendez. Was I unjust?"
He paused for a moment.
"I had been retained professionally by Colonel Menendez," replied
Harley without hesitation, "and Mr. Knox kindly consented to accompany
Colin Camber looked very hard at the speaker, and then equally hard at
"Was it at behest of Colonel Menendez that you called upon me, Mr.
"It was not," said Harley, tersely; "it was at mine. And he is here now
at my request. Come, sir, we are wasting time. At any moment--"
Colin Camber held up his hand, interrupting him.
"By your leave, Mr. Harley," he said, and there was something
compelling in voice and gesture, "I must first perform my duty as a
He stepped forward in my direction.
"Mr. Knox, I have grossly insulted you. Yet if you knew what had
inspired my behaviour I believe you could find it in your heart to
forgive me. I do not ask you to do so, however; I accept the
humiliation of knowing that I have mortally offended a guest."
He bowed to me formally, and would have returned to his seat, but:
"Pray say no more," I said, standing up and extending my hand. Indeed,
so impressive was the man's strange personality that I felt rather as
one receiving a royal pardon than as an offended party being offered an
apology. "It was a misunderstanding. Let us forget it."
His eyes gleamed, and he seized my hand in a warm grip.
"You are generous, Mr. Knox, you are generous. And now, sir," he
inclined his head in Paul Harley's direction, and resumed his seat.
Harley had suffered this odd little interlude in silence but now:
"Mr. Camber," he said, rapidly, "I sent you a message by your Chinese
servant to the effect that the police would be here within ten minutes
to arrest you."
"You did, sir," replied Colin Camber, drawing toward him a piece of
newspaper upon which rested a dwindling mound of shag. "This is most
disturbing, of course. But since I have not rendered myself amenable to
the law, it leaves me moderately unmoved. Upon your second point, Mr.
Harley, I shall beg you, to enlarge. You tell me that Don Juan Menendez
He had begun to fill his corn-cob as he spoke the words, but from where
I sat I could just see his face, so that although his voice was well
controlled, the gleam in his eyes was unmistakable.
"He was shot through the head shortly after midnight."
Colin Camber dropped the corn-cob and stood up again, the light of a
dawning comprehension in his eyes.
"Do you mean that he was murdered?"
"Good God," whispered Camber, "at last I understand."
"That is why we are here, Mr. Camber, and that is why the police will
be here at any moment."
Colin Camber stood erect, one hand resting upon the desk.
"So this was the meaning of the shot which we heard in the night," he
Crossing the room, he closed and locked the study door, then,
returning, he sat down once more, entirely, master of himself. Frowning
slightly he looked from Harley in my direction, and then back again at
"Gentlemen," he resumed, "I appreciate the urgency of my danger.
Preposterous though I know it to be, nevertheless it is perhaps no more
than natural that suspicion should fall upon me."
He was evidently thinking rapidly. His manner had grown quite cool, and
I could see that he had focussed his keen brain upon the abyss which he
perceived to lie in his path.
"Before I commit myself to any statements which might be used as
evidence," he said, "doubtless, Mr. Harley, you will inform me of your
exact standpoint in this matter. Do you represent the late Colonel
Menendez, do you represent the law, or may I regard you as a perfectly
"You may regard me, Mr. Camber, as one to whom nothing but the truth is
of the slightest interest. I was requested by the late Colonel Menendez
to visit Cray's Folly."
"To endeavour to trace the origin of certain occurrences which had led
him to believe his life to be in danger."
Harley paused, staring hard at Colin Camber.
"Since I recognize myself to be standing in the position of a suspect,"
said the latter, "it is perhaps unfair to request you to acquaint me
with the nature of these occurrences?"
"The one, sir," replied Paul Harley, "which most intimately concerns
yourself is this: Almost exactly a month ago the wing of a bat was
nailed to the door of Cray's Folly."
"What?" exclaimed Colin Camber, leaning forward eagerly--"the wing of a
bat? What kind of bat?"
"Of a South American Vampire Bat."
The effect of those words was curious. If any doubt respecting Camber's
innocence had remained with me at this time I think his expression as
he leaned forward across the desk must certainly have removed it. That
the man was intellectually unusual, and intensely difficult to
understand, must have been apparent to the most superficial observer,
but I found it hard to believe that these moods of his were simulated.
At the words "A South American Vampire Bat" the enthusiasm of the
specialist leapt into his eyes. Personal danger was forgotten. Harley
had trenched upon his particular territory, and I knew that if Colin
Camber had actually killed Colonel Menendez, then it had been the act
of a maniac. No man newly come from so bloody a deed could have acted
as Camber acted now.
"It is the death-sign of Voodoo!" he exclaimed, excitedly.
Yet again he arose, and crossing to one of the many cabinets which were
in the room, he pulled open a drawer and took out a shallow tray.
My friend was watching him intently, and from the expression upon his
bronzed face I could deduce the fact that in Colin Camber he had met
the supreme puzzle of his career. As Camber stood there, holding up an
object which he had taken from the tray, whilst Paul Harley sat staring
at him, I thought the scene was one transcending the grotesque. Here
was the suspected man triumphantly producing evidence to hang himself.
Between his finger and thumb Camber held the wing of a bat!
COLIN CAMBER'S SECRET
"I brought this bat wing from Haiti," he explained, replacing it in the
tray. "It was found beneath the pillow of a negro missionary who had
died mysteriously during the night."
He returned the tray to the drawer, closed the latter, and, standing
erect, raised clenched hands above his head.
"With no thought of blasphemy," he said, "but with reverence, I thank
God from the bottom of my heart that Juan Menendez is dead."
He reseated himself, whilst Harley regarded him silently, then:
"'The evil that men do lives after them,'" he murmured. He rested his
chin upon his hand. "A bat wing," he continued, musingly, "a bat wing
was nailed to Menendez's door." He stared across at Harley. "Am I to
believe, sir, that this was the clue which led you to the Guest House?"
Paul Harley nodded.
"I understand. I must therefore take no more excursions into my special
subject, but must endeavour to regard the matter from the point of view
of the enquiry. Am I to assume that Menendez was acquainted with the
significance of this token?"
"He had seen it employed in the West Indies."
"Ah, the black-hearted devil! But I fear I am involving myself more
deeply in suspicion. Perhaps, Mr. Harley, the ends of justice would be
better served if you were to question me, and I to confine myself to
"Very well," Harley agreed: "when and where did you meet the late
"I never met him in my life."
"Do you mean that you had never spoken to him?"
"Hm. Tell me, Mr. Camber, where were you at twelve o'clock last night?"
"And where was Ah Tsong?"
"Ah Tsong?" Colin Camber stared uncomprehendingly. "Ah Tsong was in
"Oh, Did anything disturb you?"
"Yes, the sound of a rifle shot."
"You knew it for a rifle shot?"
"It was unmistakable."
"What did you do?"
"I was in the midst of a most important passage, and I should probably
have taken no steps in the matter but that Ah Tsong knocked upon the
study door, to inform me that my wife had been awakened by the sound of
the shot. She is somewhat nervous and had rung for Ah Tsong, asking him
to see if all were well with me."
"Do I understand that she imagined the sound to have come from this
"When we are newly awakened from sleep, Mr. Harley, we retain only an
imperfect impression of that which awakened us."
"True," replied Paul Harley; "and did Ah Tsong return to his room?"
"Not immediately. Permit me to say, Mr. Harley, that the nature of your
questions surprises me. At the moment I fail to see their bearing upon
the main issue. He returned and reported to my wife that I was writing,
and she then requested him to bring her a glass of milk. Accordingly,
he came down again, and going out into the kitchen, executed this
"Ah. He would have to light a candle for that purpose, I suppose?"
"A candle, or a lamp," replied Colin Camber, staring at Paul Harley.
Then, his expression altering: "Of course!" he cried. "You saw the
light from Cray's Folly? I understand at last."
We were silent for a while, until:
"How long a time elapsed between the firing of the shot and Ah Tsong's
knocking at the study door?" asked Harley.
"I could not answer definitely. I was absorbed in my work. But probably
only a minute or two."
"Was the sound a loud one?"
"Fairly loud. And very startling, of course, in the silence of the
"The shot, then, was fired from somewhere quite near the house?"
"I presume so."
"But you thought no more about the matter?"
"Frankly, I had forgotten it. You see, the neighbourhood is rich with
game; it might have been a poacher."
"Quite," murmured Harley, but his face was very stern. "I wonder if you
fully realize the danger of your position, Mr. Camber?"
"Believe me," was the reply," I can anticipate almost every question
which I shall be called upon to answer."
Paul Harley stared at him in a way which told me that he was comparing
his features line for line with the etching of Edgar Alien Poe which
hung in his office in Chancery Lane, and:
"I do believe you," he replied, "and I am wondering if you are in a
position to clear yourself?"
"On the contrary," Camber assured him, "I am only waiting to hear that
Juan Menendez was shot in the grounds of Cray's Folly, and not within
the house, to propose to you that unless the real assassin be
discovered, I shall quite possibly pay the penalty of his crime."
"He was shot in the Tudor garden," replied Harley, "within sight of
"Ah!" Colin Camber resumed the task of stuffing shag into his corn-cob.
"Then if it would interest you, Mr. Harley, I will briefly outline the
case against myself. I had never troubled to disguise the fact that I
hated Menendez. Many witnesses can be called to testify to this. He was
in Cuba when I was in Cuba, and evidence is doubtless obtainable to
show that we stayed at the same hotels in various cities of the United
States prior to my coming to England and leasing the Guest House.
Finally, he became my neighbour in Surrey."
He carefully lighted his pipe, whilst Harley and I watched him
"Menendez had the bat wing nailed to the door of his house," he
continued. "He believed himself to be in danger, and associated this
sign with the source of his danger. Excepting himself and possibly
certain other members of his household it is improbable that any one
else in Surrey understands the significance of the token save myself.
The unholy rites of Voodoo are a closed book to the Western nations. I
have opened that book, Mr. Harley. The powers of the Obeah man, and
especially of the arch-magician known and dreaded by every negro as
'Bat Wing,' are familiar to me. Since I was alone at the time that the
shot was fired, and for some few minutes afterward, and since the Tudor
garden of Cray's Folly is within easy range of the Guest House, to fail
to place me under arrest would be an act of sheer stupidity."
He spoke the words with a sort of triumph. Like the fakir, he possessed
the art of spiritual detachment, which is an attribute of genius. From
an intellectual eminence he was surveying his own peril. Colin Camber
in the flesh had ceased to exist; he was merely a pawn in a fascinating
Paul Harley glanced at his watch.
"Mr. Camber," he said, "I have just sustained the most crushing defeat
of my career. The man who had summoned me to his aid was killed almost
before my eyes. One thing I must do or accept professional oblivion."
"I understand." Colin Camber nodded. "Apprehend his murderer?"
"Ultimately, yes. But, firstly, I must see that to the assassination of
Colonel Menendez a judicial murder is not added." "You mean--?" asked
"I mean that if you killed Menendez, you are a madman, and I have
formed the opinion during our brief conversation that you are
Colin Camber rose and bowed in that old-world fashion which was his.
"I am obliged to you, Mr. Harley," he replied. "But has Mr. Knox
informed you of my bibulous habits?"
Paul Harley nodded.
"They will, of course, be ascribed,' continued Camber, "and there are
many suitable analogies, to deliberate contemplation of a murderous
deed. I would remind you that chronic alcoholism is a recognized form,
His mood changed again, and sighing wearily, he lay back in the chair.
Over his pale face crept an expression which I knew, instinctively, to
mean that he was thinking of his wife.
"Mr. Harley," he said, speaking in a very low tone which scorned to
accentuate the beauty of his voice, "I have suffered much in the quest
of truth. Suffering is the gate beyond which we find compassion.
Perhaps you have thought my foregoing remarks frivolous, in view of the
fact that last night a soul was sent to its reckoning almost at my
doors. I revere the truth, however, above all lesser laws and above all
expediency. I do not, and I cannot, regret the end of the man Menendez.
But for three reasons I should regret to pay the penalty of a crime
which I did not commit, These reasons are--one," he ticked them off
upon his delicate fingers--"It would be bitter to know that Devil
Menendez even in death had injured me; two--My work in the world,
which is unfinished; and, three--My wife."
I watched and listened, almost awed by the strangeness of the man who
sat before me. His three reasons were illuminating. A casual observer
might have regarded Colin Camber as a monument of selfishness. But it
was evident to me, and I knew it must be evident to Paul Harley, that
his egotism was quite selfless. To a natural human resentment and a
pathetic love for his wife he had added, as an equal clause, the claim
of the world upon his genius.
"I have heard you," said Paul Harley, quietly, "and you have led me to
the most important point of all."
"What point is that, Mr. Harley?"
"You have referred to your recent lapse from abstemiousness. Excuse me
if I discuss personal matters. This you ascribed to domestic troubles,
or so Mr. Knox has informed me. You have also referred to your
undisguised hatred of the late Colonel Juan Menendez. I am going to ask
you, Mr. Camber, to tell me quite frankly what was the nature of those
domestic troubles, and what had caused this hatred which survives even
the death of its object?"
Colin Camber stood up, angular, untidy, but a figure of great dignity.
"Mr. Harley," he replied, "I cannot answer your questions."
Paul Harley inclined his head gravely.
"May I suggest," he said, "that you will be called upon to do so under
circumstances which will brook no denial."
Colin Camber watched him unflinchingly.
"'The fate of every man is hung around his neck,'" he replied.
"Yet, in this secret history which you refuse to divulge, and which
therefore must count against you, the truth may lie which exculpates
"It may be so. But my determination remains unaltered."
"Very well," answered Paul Harley, quietly, but I could see that he was
exercising a tremendous restraint upon himself. "I respect your
decision, but you have given me a giant's task, and for this I cannot
thank you, Mr. Camber."
I heard a car pulled up in the road outside the Guest House. Colin
Camber clenched his hands and sat down again in the carved chair.
"The opportunity has passed," said Harley. "The police are here."
INSPECTOR AYLESBURY CROSS-EXAMINES
"Oh, I see," said Inspector Aylesbury, "a little private confab, eh?"
He sank his chin into its enveloping folds, treating Harley and myself
each to a stare of disapproval.
"These gentlemen very kindly called to advise me of the tragic
occurrence at Cray's Folly," explained Colin Camber. "Won't you be
"Thanks, but I can conduct my examination better standing."
He turned to Paul Harley.
"Might I ask, Mr. Harley," he said, "what concern this is of yours?"
"I am naturally interested in anything appertaining to the death of a
client, Inspector Aylesbury."
"Oh, so you slip in ahead of me, having deliberately withheld
information from the police, and think you are going to get all the
credit. Is that it?"
"That is it, Inspector," replied Harley, smiling. "An instance of
"Professional jealousy?" cried the Inspector. "Allow me to remind you
that you have no official standing in this case whatever. You are
merely a member of the public, nothing more, nothing less."
"I am happy to be recognized as a member of that much-misunderstood
"Ah, well, we shall see. Now, Mr. Camber, your attention, please."
He raised his finger impressively.
"I am informed by Miss Beverley that the late Colonel Menendez looked
upon you as a dangerous enemy."
"Were those her exact words?" I murmured.
The inspector turned rapidly, confronting me. "I have already warned
your friend. But if I have any interruptions from you, I will have you
He continued to glare at me for some moments, and then, turning again
to Colin Camber:
"I say, I have information that Colonel Menendez looked upon you as a
"In that event," replied Colin Camber, "why did he lease an adjoining
"That's an evasion, sir. Answer my first question, if you please."
"You have asked me no question, Inspector."
"Oh, I see. That's your attitude, is it? Very well, then. Were you, or
were you not, an enemy of the late Colonel Menendez?"
"I say I was. I hated him, and I hate him no less in death than I hated
I think that I had never seen a man so taken aback, Inspector
Aylesbury, drawing out a large handkerchief blew his nose. Replacing
the handkerchief, he produced a note-book.
"I am placing that statement on record, sir," he said.
He made an entry in the book, and then:
"Where did you first meet Colonel Menendez?" he asked.
"I never met him in my life."
Colin Camber merely shrugged his shoulders.
"I will repeat my question," said the Inspector, pompously. "Where did
you first meet Colonel Juan Menendez?"
"I have answered you. Inspector."
"Oh, I see. You decline to answer that question. Very well, I will make
a note of this." He did so. "And now," said he, "what were you doing at
midnight last night?"
"I was writing.'
Very succinctly Colin Camber repeated the statement which he had
already made to Paul Harley, and, at its conclusion:
"Send for the man, Ah Tsong," directed Inspector Aylesbury.
Colin Camber inclined his head, clapped his bands, and silently Ah
The Inspector stared at him for several moments as a visitor to the Zoo
might stare at some rare animal; then:
"Your name is Ah Tsong?" he began.
"Ah Tsong," murmured the Chinaman.
"I am going to ask you to give an exact account of your movements last
Inspector Aylesbury cleared his throat.
"I say I wish to know exactly what you did last night. Answer me."
Ah Tseng's face remained quite expressionless, and:
"No sabby," he repeated.
"Oh, I see," said the Inspector, "This witness refuses to answer at
all." "You are wrong," explained Colin Camber, quietly. "Ah Tsong is a
Chinaman, and his knowledge of English is very limited. He does not
"He understood my first question. You can't draw wool over my eyes. He
knows well enough. Are you going to answer me?" he demanded, angrily,
of the Chinaman.
"No sabby, master," he said, glancing aside at Colin Camber. "Number-
one p'licee-man gotchee no pidgin."
Paul Harley was leisurely filling his pipe, and:
"If you think the evidence of Ah Tsong important, Inspector," he said,
"I will interpret if you wish."
"You will do what?"
"I will act as interpreter."
"Do you want me to believe that you speak Chinese?"
"Your beliefs do not concern me, Inspector; I am merely offering my
"Thanks," said the Inspector, dryly, "but I won't trouble you. I should
like a few words with Mrs. Camber."
Colin Camber bent his head gravely, and gave an order to Ah Tsong, who
turned and went out.
"And what firearms have you in the house?" asked Inspector Aylesbury.
"An early Dutch arquebus, which you see in the corner," was the reply.
"That doesn't interest me. I mean up-to-date weapons."
"And a Colt revolver which I have in a drawer here."