Part 2 out of 5
on my guard.
"Mr. Crone," said I, gazing straight at him, "what's this you have to
say to me?"
"Sit you down," he answered, pointing at a chair that was shoved under
one side of the little table. "Pull that out and sit you down. What we
shall have to say to each other'll not be said in five minutes. Let's
confer in the proper and comfortable fashion."
I did what he asked, and he took another chair himself and sat down
opposite me, propping his elbow on the table and leaning across it, so
that, the table being but narrow, his sharp eyes and questioning lips
were closer to mine than I cared for. And while he leaned forward in his
chair I sat back in mine, keeping as far from him as I could, and just
staring at him--perhaps as if I had been some trapped animal that
couldn't get itself away from the eyes of another that meant presently to
kill it. Once again I asked him what he wanted.
"You didn't answer my question," he said. "I'll put it again, and you
needn't be afraid that anybody'll overhear us in this place, it's safe! I
say once more, what for did you not tell in your evidence at that inquest
that you saw Sir Gilbert Carstairs at the cross-roads on the night of the
"That's my business!" said I
"Just so," said he. "And I'll agree with you in that. It is your
business. But if by that you mean that it's yours alone, and nobody
else's, then I don't agree. Neither would the police."
We stared at each other across the table for a minute of silence, and
then I put the question directly to him that I had been wanting to put
ever since he had first spoken. And I put it crudely enough.
"How did you know?" I asked.
He laughed at that--sneeringly, of course.
"Aye, that's plain enough," said he. "No fencing about that! How did I
know? Because when you saw Sir Gilbert I wasn't five feet away from you,
and what you saw, I saw. I saw you both!"
"You were there?" I exclaimed.
"Snug behind the hedge in front of which you planted yourself," he
answered. "And if you want to know what I was doing there, I'll tell you.
I was doing--or had been doing--a bit of poaching. And, as I say, what
you saw, I saw!"
"Then I'll ask you a question, Mr. Crone," I said. "Why haven't you told,
"Aye!" he said. "You may well ask me that. But I wasn't called as a
witness at yon inquest."
"You could have come forward," I suggested.
"I didn't choose," he retorted.
We both looked at each other again, and while we looked he swigged off
his drink and helped himself, just as generously, to more. And, as I was
getting bolder by that time, I set to work at questioning him.
"You'll be attaching some importance to what you saw?" said I.
"Well," he replied slowly, "it's not a pleasant thing--for a man's
safety--to be as near as what he was to a place where another man's just
been done to his death."
"You and I were near enough, anyway," I remarked.
"We know what we were there for," he flung back at me. "We don't know
what he was there for."
"Put your tongue to it, Mr. Crone," I said boldly. "The fact is, you
"I suspicion a good deal, maybe," he admitted. "After all, even a man of
that degree's only a man, when all's said and done, and there might be
reasons that you and me knows nothing about. Let me ask you a question,"
he went on, edging nearer at me across the table. "Have you mentioned it
to a soul?"
I made a mistake at that, but he was on me so sharp, and his manner was
so insistent, that I had the word out of my lips before I thought.
"No!" I replied. "I haven't."
"Nor me," he said. "Nor me. So--you and me are the only two folk
"Well?" I asked.
He took another pull at his liquor and for a moment or two sat silent,
tapping his finger-nails against the rim of the glass.
"It's a queer business, Moneylaws," he said at last. "Look at it anyway
you like, it's a queer business! Here's one man, yon lodger of your
mother's, comes into the town and goes round the neighbourhood reading
the old parish registers and asking questions at the parson's--aye,
and he was at it both sides of the Tweed--I've found that much out
for myself! For what purpose? Is there money at the back of
it--property--something of that sort, dependent on this Gilverthwaite
unearthing some facts or other out of those old books? And then comes
another man, a stranger, that's as mysterious in his movements as
Gilverthwaite was, and he's to meet Gilverthwaite at a certain lonely
spot, and at a very strange hour, and Gilverthwaite can't go, and he gets
you to go, and you find the man--murdered! And--close by--you've seen
this other man, who, between you and me--though it's no secret--is as
much a stranger to the neighbourhood as ever Gilverthwaite was or
"I don't follow you at that," I said.
"No?" said he. "Then I'll make it plainer to you. Do you know that until
yon Sir Gilbert Carstairs came here, not so long since, to take up his
title and his house and the estate, he'd never set foot in the place,
never been near the place, this thirty year? Man! his own father, old
Sir Alec, and his own sister, Mrs. Ralston of Craig, had never clapped
Eyes on him since he went away from Hathercleugh a youngster of
"Do you tell me that, Mr. Crone?" I exclaimed, much surprised at his
words. "I didn't know so much. Where had he been, then?"
"God knows!" said he. "And himself. It was said he was a doctor in
London, and in foreign parts. Him and his brother--elder brother, you're
aware, Mr. Michael--they both quarrelled with the old baronet when they
were little more than lads, and out they cleared, going their own ways.
And news of Michael's death, and the proofs of it, came home not so long
before old Sir Alec died, and as Michael had never married, of course the
younger brother succeeded when his father came to his end last winter.
And, as I say, who knows anything about his past doings when he was away
more than thirty years, nor what company he kept, nor what secrets he
has? Do you follow me?"
"Aye, I'm following you, Mr. Crone," I answered. "It comes to this--you
suspect Sir Gilbert?"
"What I say," he answered, "is this: he may have had something to do
with the affair. You cannot tell. But you and me knows he was near the
place--coming from its direction--at the time the murder would be in the
doing. And--there is nobody knows but you--and me!"
"What are you going to do about it?" I asked.
He had another period of reflection before he replied, and when he spoke
it was to the accompaniment of a warning look.
"It's an ill-advised thing to talk about rich men," said he. "Yon man not
only has money of his own, in what you might call considerable quantity,
but his wife he brought with him is a woman of vast wealth, they tell me.
It would be no very wise action on your part to set rumours going,
Moneylaws, unless you could substantiate them."
"What about yourself?" I asked. "You know as much as I do."
"Aye, and there's one word that sums all up," said he. "And it's a short
one. Wait! There'll be more coming out. Keep your counsel a bit. And when
the moment comes, and if the moment comes--why, you know there's me
behind you to corroborate. And--that's all!"
He got up then, with a nod, as if to show that the interview was over,
and I was that glad to get away from him that I walked off without
SIGNATURES TO THE WILL
I was so knocked out of the usual run of things by this conversation with
Crone that I went away forgetting the bits of stuff I had bought for Tom
Dunlop's rabbit-hutches and Tom himself, and, for that matter, Maisie as
well; and, instead of going back to Dunlop's, I turned down the
riverside, thinking. It was beyond me at that moment to get a clear
understanding of the new situation. I could not make out what Crone was
at. Clearly, he had strong suspicions that Sir Gilbert Carstairs had
something to do with, or some knowledge of, the murder of Phillips, and
he knew now that there were two of us to bear out each other's testimony
that Sir Gilbert was near the scene of the murder at the time it was
committed. Why, then, should he counsel waiting? Why should not the two
of us go to the police and tell what we knew? What was it that Crone
advised we should wait for? Was something going on, some inquiry being
made in the background of things, of which he knew and would not tell me.
And--this, I think, was what was chiefly in my thoughts--was Crone
playing some game of his own and designing to use me as a puppet in it?
For there was a general atmosphere of subtlety and slyness about the man
that forced itself upon me, young as I was; and the way he kept eyeing me
as we talked made me feel that I had to do with one that would be hard to
circumvent if it came to a matter of craftiness. And at last, after a lot
of thinking, as I walked about in the dusk, it struck me that Crone might
be for taking a hand in the game of which I had heard, but had never seen
The more I thought over that idea, the more I felt certain of it. His
hints about Sir Gilbert's money and his wealthy wife, his advice to wait
until we knew more, all seemed to point to this--that evidence might
come out which would but require our joint testimony, Crone's and mine,
to make it complete. If that were so, then, of course, Crone or I,
or--as he probably designed--the two of us, would be in a position to go
to Sir Gilbert Carstairs and tell him what we knew, and ask him how much
he would give us to hold our tongues. I saw all the theory of it at
last, clear enough, and it was just what I would have expected of Abel
Crone, knowing him even as little as I did. Wait until we were sure--and
then strike! That was his game. And I was not going to have anything to
do with it.
I went home to my bed resolved on that. I had heard of blackmailing, and
had a good notion of its wickedness--and of its danger--and I was not
taking shares with Crone in any venture of that sort. But there Crone
was, an actual, concrete fact that I had got to deal with, and to come to
some terms with, simply because he knew that I was in possession of
knowledge which, to be sure, I ought to have communicated to the police
at once. And I was awake much during the night, thinking matters over,
and by the time I rose in the morning I had come to a decision. I would
see Crone at once, and give him a sort of an ultimatum. Let him come,
there and then, with me to Mr. Murray, and let the two of us tell what we
knew and be done with it: if not, then I myself would go straight to Mr.
Lindsey and tell him.
I set out for the office earlier than usual that morning, and went round
by way of the back street at the bottom of which Crone's store stood
facing the river. I sometimes walked round that way of a morning, and I
knew that Crone was as a rule at his place very early, amongst his old
rubbish, or at his favourite game of gossiping with the fishermen that
had their boats drawn up there. But when I reached it, the shop was still
shut, and though I waited as long as I could, Crone did not come. I knew
where he lived, at the top end of the town, and I thought to meet him as
I walked up to Mr. Lindsey's; but I had seen nothing of him by the time I
reached our office door, so I laid the matter aside until noon, meaning
to get a word with him when I went home to my dinner. And though I could
have done so there and then, I determined not to say anything to Mr.
Lindsey until I had given Crone the chance of saying it with me--to him,
or to the police. I expected, of course, that Crone would fly into a rage
at my suggestion--if so, then I would tell him, straight out, that I
would just take my own way, and take it at once.
But before noon there was another development in this affair. In the
course of the morning Mr. Lindsey bade me go with him down to my
mother's house, where Mrs. Hanson had been lodged for the night--we
would go through Gilverthwaite's effects with her, he said, with a view
to doing what we could to put her in possession. It might--probably
would--be a lengthy and a difficult business that, he remarked, seeing
that there was so much that was dark about her brother's recent
movements; and as the woman was obviously poor, we had best be stirring
on her behalf. So down we went, and in my mother's front parlour, the
same that Gilverthwaite had taken as his sitting-room, Mr. Lindsey
opened the heavy box for the second time, in Mrs. Hanson's presence, and
I began to make a list of its contents. At the sight of the money it
contained, the woman began to tremble.
"Eh, mister!" she exclaimed, almost tearfully, "but that's a sight of
money to be lying there, doing naught! I hope there'll be some way of
bringing it to me and mine--we could do with it, I promise you!"
"We'll do our best, ma'am," said Mr. Lindsey. "As you're next of kin
there oughtn't to be much difficulty, and I'll hurry matters up for you
as quickly as possible. What I want this morning is for you to see all
there is in this chest; he seems to have had no other belongings than
this and his clothes--here at Mrs. Moneylaws', at any rate. And as you
see, beyond the money, there's little else in the chest but cigars, and
box after box of curiosities that he's evidently picked up in his
travels--coins, shells, ornaments, all sorts of queer things--some of 'em
no doubt of value. But no papers--no letters--no documents of any sort."
A notion suddenly occurred to me.
"Mr. Lindsey," said I, "you never turned out the contents of any of
these smaller boxes the other night. There might be papers in one or
other of them."
"Good notion, Hugh, my lad!" he exclaimed. "True--there might. Here goes,
then--we'll look through them systematically."
In addition to the half-dozen boxes full of prime Havana cigars, which
lay at the top of the chest, there were quite a dozen of similar boxes,
emptied of cigars and literally packed full of the curiosities of which
Mr. Lindsey had just spoken. He had turned out, and carefully replaced,
the contents of three or four of these, when, at the bottom of one,
filled with old coins, which, he said, were Mexican and Peruvian, and
probably of great interest to collectors, he came across a paper, folded
and endorsed in bold letters. And he let out an exclamation as he took
this paper out and pointed us to the endorsement.
"Do you see that?" said he. "It's the man's will!"
The endorsement was plain enough--My will: _James Gilverthwaite_. And
beneath it was a date, 27-8-1904.
There was a dead silence amongst the four of us--my mother had been with
us all the time--as Mr. Lindsey unfolded the paper--a thick, half-sheet
of foolscap, and read what was written on it.
"This is the last will and testament of me, James Gilverthwaite, a
British subject, born at Liverpool, and formerly of Garston, in
Lancashire, England, now residing temporarily at Colon, in the Republic
of Panama. I devise and bequeath all my estate and effects, real and
personal, which I may be possessed of or entitled to, unto my sister,
Sarah Ellen Hanson, the wife of Matthew Hanson, of 37 Preston Street,
Garston, Lancashire, England, absolutely, and failing her to any children
she may have had by her marriage with Matthew Hanson, in equal shares.
And I appoint the said Sarah Ellen Hanson, or in the case of her death,
her eldest child, the executor of this my will; and I revoke all former
wills. Dated this twenty-seventh day of August, 1904. _James
Gilverthwaite_. Signed by the testator in the presence of us--"
Mr. Lindsey suddenly broke off. And I, looking at him, saw his eyes screw
themselves up with sheer wonder at something he saw. Without another word
he folded up the paper, put it in his pocket, and turning to Mrs. Hanson,
clapped her op the shoulder.
"That's all right, ma'am!" he said heartily. "That's a good will, duly
signed and attested, and there'll be no difficulty about getting it
admitted to probate; leave it to me, and I'll see to it, and get it
through for you as soon as ever I can. And we must do what's possible to
find out if this brother of yours has left any other property; and
meanwhile we'll just lock everything up again that we've taken out of
It was close on my dinner hour when we had finished, but Mr. Lindsey, at
his going, motioned me out into the street with him. In a quiet corner,
he turned to me and pulled the will from his pocket.
"Hugh!" he said. "Do you know who's one of the witnesses to this will?
Aye, who are the two witnesses? Man!--you could have knocked me down with
a feather when I saw the names! Look for yourself!"
He handed me the paper and pointed to the attestation clause with which
it ended. And I saw the two names at once--John Phillips, Michael
Carstairs--and I let out a cry of astonishment.
"Aye, you may well exclaim!" said he, taking the will back. "John
Phillips!--that's the man was murdered the other night! Michael
Carstairs--that's the elder brother of Sir Gilbert yonder at
Hathercleugh, the man that would have succeeded to the title and estates
if he hadn't predeceased old Sir Alexander. What would he be doing now, a
friend of Gilverthwaite's?"
"I've heard that this Mr. Michael Carstairs went abroad as a young man,
Mr. Lindsey, and never came home again," I remarked. "Likely he
foregathered with Gilverthwaite out yonder."
"Just that," he agreed. "That would be the way of it, no doubt. To be
sure! He's set down in this attestation clause as Michael Carstairs,
engineer, American Quarter, Colon; and John Phillips is described as
sub-contractor, of the same address. The three of 'em'll have been
working in connection with the Panama Canal. But--God bless us!--there's
some queer facts coming out, my lad! Michael Carstairs knows
Gilverthwaite and Phillips in yon corner of the world--Phillips and
Gilverthwaite, when Michael Carstairs is dead, come home to the corner of
the world that Michael Carstairs sprang from. And Phillips is murdered as
soon as he gets here--and Gilverthwaite dies that suddenly that he can't
tell us a word of what it's all about! What is it all about--and who's
going to piece it all together? Man!--there's more than murder at the
bottom of all this!"
It's a wonder that I didn't let out everything that I knew at that
minute. And it may have been on the tip of my tongue, but just then he
gave me a push towards our door.
"I heard your mother say your dinner was waiting you," he said. "Go in,
now; we'll talk more this afternoon."
He strode off up the street, and I turned back and made haste with my
dinner. I wanted to drop in at Crone's before I went again to the office:
what had just happened, had made me resolved that Crone and I should
speak out; and if he wouldn't, then I would. And presently I was hurrying
away to his place, and as I turned into the back lane that led to it I
ran up against Sergeant Chisholm.
"Here's another fine to-do, Mr. Moneylaws!" said he. "You'll know yon
Abel Crone, the marine-store dealer? Aye, well, he's been found drowned,
not an hour ago, and by this and that, there's queer marks, that looks
like violence, on him!"
THE SALMON GAFF
I gave such a jump on hearing this that Chisholm himself started, and
he stared at me with a question in his eyes. But I was quick enough to
let him know that he was giving me news that I hadn't heard until he
opened his lips.
"You don't tell me that!" I exclaimed. "What!--more of it?"
"Aye!" he said. "You'll be thinking that this is all of a piece with the
other affair. And to be sure, they found Crone's body close by where you
found yon other man--Phillips."
"Where, then?" I asked. "And when?"
"I tell you, not an hour ago," he replied. "The news just came in. I was
going down here to see if any of the neighbours at the shop saw Crone in
any strange company last night."
I hesitated for a second or two, and then spoke out.
"I saw him myself last night," said I. "I went to his shop--maybe it was
nine o'clock--to buy same bits of stuff to make Tom Dunlop a door to his
rabbit-hutch, and I was there talking to him ten minutes or so. He was
all right then--and I saw nobody else with him."
"Aye, well, he never went home to his house last night," observed
Chisholm. "I called in there on my way down--he lived, you know, in a
cottage by the police-station, and I dropped in and asked the woman that
keeps house for him had she seen him this morning, and she said he never
came home last night at all. And no wonder--as things are!"
"But you were saying where it happened," I said.
"Where he was found?" said he. "Well, and it was where Till runs into
Tweed--leastways, a bit up the Till. Do you know John McIlwraith's
lad--yon youngster that they've had such a bother with about the
school--always running away to his play, and stopping out at nights, and
the like--there was the question of sending him to a reformatory, you'll
remember? Aye, well, it turns out the young waster was out last night in
those woods below Twizel, and early this morning--though he didn't let on
at it till some time after--he saw the body of a man lying in one of them
deep pools in Till. And when he himself was caught by Turndale, who was
on the look out for him, he told of what he'd seen, and Turndale and some
other men went there, and they found--Crone!"
"You were saying there were marks of violence," said I.
"I haven't seen them myself," he answered. "But by Turndale's account--it
was him brought in the news--there is queer marks on the body. Like as
if--as near as Turndale could describe it--as if the man had been struck
down before he was drowned. Bruises, you understand."
"Where is he?" I asked.
"He's where they took Phillips," replied Chisholm. "Dod!--that's two of
'em that's been taken there within--aye, nearly within the week!"
"What are you going to do, now?" I inquired.
"I was just going, as I said, to ask a question or two down here--did
anybody hear Crone say anything last night about going out that way?" he
answered. "But, there, I don't see the good of it. Between you and me,
Crone was a bit of a night-bird--I've suspected him of poaching, time and
again. Well, he'll do no more of that! You'll be on your way to the
"Straight there," said I. "I'll tell Mr. Lindsey of this."
But when I reached the office, Mr. Lindsey, who had been out to get his
lunch, knew all about it. He was standing outside the door, talking to
Mr. Murray, and as I went up the superintendent turned away to the police
station, and Mr. Lindsey took a step or two towards me.
"Have you heard this about that man Crone?" he asked.
"I've heard just now," I answered. "Chisholm told me."
He looked at me, and I at him; there were questions in the eyes of both
of us. But between parting from the police-sergeant and meeting Mr.
Lindsey, I had made up my mind, by a bit of sharp thinking and
reflection, on what my own plan of action was going to be about all this,
once and for all, and I spoke before he could ask anything.
"Chisholm," said I, "was down that way, wondering could he hear word of
Crone's being seen with anybody last night. I saw Crone last night. I
went to his shop, buying some bits of old stuff. He was all right then--I
saw nothing. Chisholm--he says Crone was a poacher. That would account,
likely, for his being out there."
"Aye!" said Mr. Lindsey. "But--they say there's marks of violence on the
body. And--the long and short of it is, my lad!" he went on, first
interrupting himself, and then giving me an odd look; "the long and short
of it is, it's a queer thing that Crone should have come by his death
close to the spot where you found yon man Phillips! There may be nothing
but coincidence in it--but there's no denying it's a queer thing. Go and
order a conveyance, and we'll drive out yonder."
In pursuance of the determination I had come to, I said no more about
Crone to Mr. Lindsey. I had made up my mind on a certain course, and
until it was taken I could not let out a word of what was by that time
nobody's secret but mine to him, nor to any one--not even to Maisie
Dunlop, to whom, purposely, I had not as yet said anything about my
seeing Sir Gilbert Carstairs on the night of Phillips's murder. And all
the way out to the inn there was silence between Mr. Lindsey and me, and
the event of the morning, about Gilverthwaite's will, and the odd
circumstance of its attestation by Michael Carstairs, was not once
mentioned. We kept silence, indeed, until we were in the place to which
they had carried Crone's dead body. Mr. Murray and Sergeant Chisholm had
got there before us, and with them was a doctor--the same that had been
fetched to Phillips--and they were all talking together quietly when we
went in. The superintendent came up to Mr. Lindsey.
"According to what the doctor here says," he whispered, jerking his head
at the body, which lay on a table with a sheet thrown over it, "there's a
question as to whether the man met his death by drowning. Look here!"
He led us up to the table, drew back the sheet from the head and face,
and motioning the doctor to come up, pointed to a mark that was just
between the left temple and the top of the ear, where the hair was
"D'ye see that, now?" he murmured. "You'll notice there's some sort of a
weapon penetrated there--penetrated! But the doctor can say more than I
can on that point."
"The man was struck--felled--by some sort of a weapon," said the doctor.
"It's penetrated, I should say from mere superficial examination, to the
brain. You'll observe there's a bruise outwardly--aye, but this has been
a sharp weapon as well, something with a point, and there's the
puncture--how far it may extend I can't tell yet. But on the surface of
things, Mr. Lindsey, I should incline to the opinion that the poor
fellow was dead, or dying, when he was thrown into yon pool. Anyway,
after a blow like that, he'd be unconscious. But I'm thinking he was dead
before the water closed on him."
Mr. Lindsey looked closer at the mark, and at the hole in the
centre of it.
"Has it struck any of you how that could be caused?" he asked suddenly.
"It hasn't? Then I'll suggest something to you. There's an implement in
pretty constant use hereabouts that would do just that--a salmon gaff!"
The two police officials started--the doctor nodded his head.
"Aye, and that's a sensible remark," said he. "A salmon gaff would just
do it." He turned to Chisholm with a sharp look. "You were saying this
man was suspected of poaching?" he asked. "Likely it'll have been some
poaching affair he was after last night--him and others. And they may
have quarrelled and come to blows--and there you are!"
"Were there any signs of an affray close by--or near, on the bank?" asked
"We're going down there now ourselves to have a look round," answered Mr.
Murray. "But according to Turndale, the body was lying in a deep pool in
the Till, under the trees on the bank--it might have lain there for many
a month if it hadn't been for yon young McIlwraith that has a turn for
prying into dark and out-of-the-way corners. Well, here's more matter for
Mr. Lindsey and I went back to Berwick after that. And, once more, he
said little on the journey, except that it would be well if it came out
that this was but a poaching affair in which Crone had got across with
some companion of his; and for the rest of the afternoon he made no
further remark to me about the matter, nor about the discovery of the
morning. But as I was leaving the office at night, he gave me a word.
"Say nothing about that will, to anybody," said he. "I'll think that
matter over to-night, and see what'll come of my thinking. It's as I said
before, Hugh--to get at the bottom of all this, we'll have to go
back--maybe a far way."
I said nothing and went home. For now I had work of my own--I was going
to what I had resolved on after Chisholm told me the news about Crone. I
would not tell my secret to Mr. Lindsey, nor to the police, nor even to
Maisie. I would go straight and tell it to the one man whom it
concerned--Sir Gilbert Carstairs. I would speak plainly to him, and be
done with it. And as soon as I had eaten my supper, I mounted my bicycle,
and, as the dusk was coming on, rode off to Hathercleugh House.
SIR GILBERT CARSTAIRS
It was probably with a notion of justifying my present course of
procedure to myself that during that ride I went over the reasons which
had kept my tongue quiet up to that time, and now led me to go to Sir
Gilbert Carstairs. Why I had not told the police nor Mr. Lindsey of what
I had seen, I have already explained--my own natural caution and reserve
made me afraid of saying anything that might cast suspicion on an
innocent man; and also I wanted to await developments. I was not
concerned much with that feature of the matter. But I had undergone some
qualms because I had not told Maisie Dunlop, for ever since the time at
which she and I had come to a serious and sober understanding, it had
been a settled thing between us that we would never have any secrets from
each other. Why, then, had I not told her of this? That took a lot of
explaining afterwards, when things so turned out that it would have been
the best thing ever I did in my life if I only had confided in her; but
this explanation was, after all, to my credit--I did not tell Maisie
because I knew that, taking all the circumstances into consideration, she
would fill herself with doubts and fears for me, and would for ever be
living in an atmosphere of dread lest I, like Phillips, should be found
with a knife-thrust in me. So much for that--it was in Maisie's own
interest. And why, after keeping silence to everybody, did I decide to
break it to Sir Gilbert Carstairs? There, Andrew Dunlop came in--of
course, unawares to himself. For in those lecturings that he was so fond
of giving us young folk, there was a moral precept of his kept cropping
up which he seemed to set great store by--"If you've anything against a
man, or reason to mistrust him," he would say, "don't keep it to
yourself, or hint it to other people behind his back, but go straight to
him and tell him to his face, and have it out with him." He was a wise
man, Andrew Dunlop, as all his acquaintance knew, and I felt that I could
do no better than take a lesson from him in this matter. So I would go
straight to Sir Gilbert Carstairs, and tell him what was in my mind--let
the consequences be what they might.
It was well after sunset, and the gloaming was over the hills and the
river, when I turned into the grounds of Hathercleugh and looked round me
at a place which, though I had lived close to it ever since I was born, I
had never set foot in before. The house stood on a plateau of ground high
above Tweed, with a deep shawl of wood behind it and a fringe of
plantations on either side; house and pleasure-grounds were enclosed by a
high ivied wall on all sides--you could see little of either until you
were within the gates. It looked, in that evening light, a romantic and
picturesque old spot and one in which you might well expect to see
ghosts, or fairies, or the like. The house itself was something between
an eighteenth-century mansion and an old Border fortress; its centre part
was very high in the roof, and had turrets, with outer stairs to them, at
the corners; the parapets were embattled, and in the turrets were
arrow-slits. But romantic as the place was, there was nothing gloomy
about it, and as I passed to the front, between the grey walls and a sunk
balustered garden that lay at the foot of a terrace, I heard through the
open windows of one brilliantly lighted room the click of billiard balls
and the sound of men's light-hearted laughter, and through another the
notes of a piano.
There was a grand butler man met me at the hall door, and looked sourly
at me as I leaned my bicycle against one of the pillars and made up to
him. He was sourer still when I asked to see his master, and he shook his
head at me, looking me up and down as if I were some undesirable.
"You can't see Sir Gilbert at this time of the evening," said he. "What
do you want?"
"Will you tell Sir Gilbert that Mr. Moneylaws, clerk to Mr. Lindsey,
solicitor, wishes to see him on important business?" I answered, looking
him hard in the face. "I think he'll be quick to see me when you give him
He stared and growled at me a second or two before he went off with an
ill grace, leaving me on the steps. But, as I had expected, he was back
almost at once, and beckoning me to enter and follow him. And follow him
I did, past more flunkeys who stared at me as if I had come to steal the
silver, and through soft-carpeted passages, to a room into which he led
me with small politeness.
"You're to sit down and wait," he said gruffly. "Sir Gilbert will attend
to you presently."
He closed the door on me, and I sat down and looked around. I was in a
small room that was filled with books from floor to ceiling--big books
and little, in fine leather bindings, and the gilt of their letterings
and labels shining in the rays of a tall lamp that stood on a big desk in
the centre. It was a fine room that, with everything luxurious in the way
of furnishing and appointments; you could have sunk your feet in the
warmth of the carpets and rugs, and there were things in it for comfort
and convenience that I had never heard tell of. I had never been in a
rich man's house before, and the grandeur of it, and the idea that it
gave one of wealth, made me feel that there's a vast gulf fixed between
them that have and them that have not. And in the middle of these
philosophies the door suddenly opened, and in walked Sir Gilbert
Carstairs, and I stood up and made my politest bow to him. He nodded
affably enough, and he laughed as he nodded.
"Oh!" said he. "Mr. Moneylaws! I've seen you before--at that inquest the
other day, I think. Didn't I?"
"That is so, Sir Gilbert," I answered. "I was there, with Mr. Lindsey."
"Why, of course, and you gave evidence," he said. "I remember. Well, and
what did you want to see me about, Mr. Moneylaws? Will you smoke a
cigar?" he went on, picking up a box from the table and holding it out to
me. "Help yourself."
"Thank you, Sir Gilbert," I answered, "but I haven't started that yet."
"Well, then, I will," he laughed, and he picked out a cigar, lighted it,
and flinging himself into an easy chair, motioned me to take another
exactly opposite to him. "Now, then, fire away!" he said. "Nobody'll
interrupt us, and my time's yours. You've some message for me?"
I took a good look at him before I spoke. He was a big, fine, handsome
man, some five-and-fifty years of age, I should have said, but uncommonly
well preserved--a clean-shaven, powerful-faced man, with quick eyes and a
very alert glance; maybe, if there was anything struck me particularly
about him, it was the rapidity and watchfulness of his glances, the
determination in his square jaw, and the extraordinary strength and
whiteness of his teeth. He was quick at smiling, and quick, too, in the
use of his hands, which were always moving as he spoke, as if to
emphasize whatever he said. And he made a very fine and elegant figure as
he sat there in his grand evening clothes, and I was puzzled to know
which struck me most--the fact that he was what he was, the seventh
baronet and head of an old family, or the familiar, easy, good-natured
fashion which he treated me, and talked to me, as if I had been a man of
his own rank.
I had determined what to do as I sat waiting him; and now that he had
bidden me to speak, I told him the whole story from start to finish,
beginning with Gilverthwaite and ending with Crone, and sparing no detail
or explanation of my own conduct. He listened in silence, and with more
intentness and watchfulness than I had ever seen a man show in my life,
and now and then he nodded and sometimes smiled; and when I had made an
end he put a sharp question.
"So--beyond Crone--who, I hear, is dead--you've never told a living soul
of this?" he asked, eyeing me closely.
"Not one, Sir Gilbert," I assured him. "Not even--"
"Not even--who?" he inquired quickly.
"Not even my own sweetheart," I said. "And it's the first secret ever I
kept from her."
He smiled at that, and gave me a quick look as if he were trying to get a
fuller idea of me.
"Well," he said, "and you did right. Not that I should care two pins, Mr.
Moneylaws, if you'd told all this out at the inquest. But suspicion is
easily aroused, and it spreads--aye, like wildfire! And I'm a stranger,
as it were, in this country, so far, and there's people might think
things that I wouldn't have them think, and--in short, I'm much obliged
to you. And I'll tell you frankly, as you've been frank with me, how I
came to be at those cross-roads at that particular time and on that
particular night. It's a simple explanation, and could be easily
corroborated, if need be. I suffer from a disturbing form of
insomnia--sleeplessness--it's a custom of mine to go long walks late at
night. Since I came here, I've been out that way almost every night, as
my servants could assure you. I walk, as a rule, from nine o'clock to
twelve--to induce sleep. And on that night I'd been miles and miles out
towards Yetholm, and back; and when you saw me with my map and electric
torch, I was looking for the nearest turn home--I'm not too well
acquainted with the Border yet," he concluded, with a flash of his white
teeth, "and I have to carry a map with me. And--that's how it was; and
I rose out of my chair at that. He spoke so readily and ingenuously that
I had no more doubt of the truth of what he was saying than I had of my
"Then it's all for me, too, Sir Gilbert," said I. "I shan't say a word
more of the matter to anybody. It's--as if it never existed. I was
thinking all the time there'd be an explanation of it. So I'll be bidding
"Sit you down again a minute," said he, pointing to the easy-chair. "No
need for hurry. You're a clerk to Mr. Lindsey, the solicitor?"
"I am that," I answered.
"Are you articled to him?" he asked.
"No," said I. "I'm an ordinary clerk--of seven years' standing."
"Plenty of experience of office work and routine?" he inquired.
"Aye!" I replied. "No end of that, Sir Gilbert!"
"Are you good at figures and accounts?" he asked.
"I've kept all Mr. Lindsey's--and a good many trust accounts--for the
last five years," I answered, wondering what all this was about.
"In fact, you're thoroughly well up in all clerical matters?" he
suggested. "Keeping books, writing letters, all that sort of thing?"
"I can honestly say I'm a past master in everything of that sort,"
He gave me a quick glance, as if he were sizing me up altogether.
"Well, I'll tell you what, Mr. Moneylaws," he said. "The fact is, I'm
wanting a sort of steward, and it strikes me that you're just the man I'm
DEAD MAN'S MONEY
I was so much amazed by this extraordinary suggestion, that for the
moment I could only stand staring at him, and before I could find my
tongue he threw a quick question at me.
"Lindsey wouldn't stand in your way, would he?" he asked. "Such jobs
don't go begging, you know."
"Mr. Lindsey wouldn't stand in my way, Sir Gilbert," I answered. "But--"
"But what?" said he, seeing me hesitate. "Is it a post you wouldn't care
about, then? There's five hundred a year with it--and a permanency."
Strange as it may seem, considering all the circumstances, it never
occurred to me for one moment that the man was buying my silence, buying
me. There wasn't the ghost of such a thought in my head--I let out what
was there in my next words.
"I'd like such a post fine, Sir Gilbert," I said. "What I'm thinking
of--could I give satisfaction?"
He laughed at that, as if my answer amused him.
"Well, there's nothing like a spice of modesty, Moneylaws," said he. "If
you can do all we've just talked of, you'll satisfy me well enough. I
like the looks of you, and I'm sure you're the sort that'll do the thing
thoroughly. The post's at your disposal, if you like to take it."
I was still struggling with my amazement. Five hundred pounds a
year!--and a permanency! It seemed a fortune to a lad of my age. And I
was trying to find the right words in which to say all that I felt, when
he spoke again.
"Look here!" he said. "Don't let us arrange this as if we'd done it
behind your present employer's back--I wouldn't like Mr. Lindsey to think
I'd gone behind him to get you. Let it be done this way: I'll call on Mr.
Lindsey myself, and tell him I'm wanting a steward for the property, and
that I've heard good reports of his clerk, and that I'll engage you on
his recommendation. He's the sort that would give you a strong word by
way of reference, eh?"
"Oh, he'll do that, Sir Gilbert!" I exclaimed. "Anything that'll
help me on--"
"Then let's leave it at that," said he. "I'll drop in on him at his
office--perhaps to-morrow. In the meantime, keep your own counsel.
But--you'll take my offer?"
"I'd be proud and glad to, Sir Gilbert," said I. "And if you'll make
allowance for a bit of inexperience--"
"You'll do your best, eh?" he laughed. "That's all right, Moneylaws."
He walked out with me to the door, and on to the terrace. And as I
wheeled my bicycle away from the porch, he took a step or two alongside
me, his hands in his pockets, his lips humming a careless tune. And
suddenly he turned on me.
"Have you heard any more about that affair last night?" he asked. "I mean
"Nothing, Sir Gilbert," I answered.
"I hear that the opinion is that the man was struck down by a gaff," he
remarked. "And perhaps killed before he was thrown into the Till."
"So the doctor seemed to think," I said. "And the police, too, I
"Aye, well," said he, "I don't know if the police are aware of it, but
I'm very sure there's night-poaching of salmon going on hereabouts,
Moneylaws. I've fancied it for some time, and I've had thoughts of
talking to the police about it. But you see, my land doesn't touch either
Till or Tweed, so I haven't cared to interfere. But I'm sure that it is
so, and it wouldn't surprise me if both these men, Crone and Phillips,
met their deaths at the hands of the gang I'm thinking of. It's a notion
that's worth following up, anyway, and I'll have a word with Murray about
it when I'm in the town tomorrow."
Then, with a brief good night, he left me and went into the house, and I
got outside Hathercleugh and rode home in a whirl of thoughts. And I'll
confess readily that those thoughts had little to do with what Sir
Gilbert Carstairs had last talked about--they were not so much of
Phillips, nor of Crone, nor of his suggestion of a possible gang of
night-poachers, as about myself and this sudden chance of a great change
in my fortunes. For, when all is said and done, we must needs look after
ourselves, and when a young man of the age I was then arrived at is asked
if he would like to exchange a clerkship of a hundred and twenty a year
for a stewardship at more than four times as much--as a permanency--you
must agree that his mind will fix itself on what such an exchange means
to him, to the exclusion of all other affairs. Five hundred a year to me
meant all sorts of fine things--independence, and a house of my own, and,
not least by a long way, marriage with Maisie Dunlop. And it was a wonder
that I managed to keep cool, and to hold my tongue when I got home--but
hold it I did, and to some purpose, and more than once. During the half
hour which I managed to get with Maisie last thing that night, she asked
me why I was so silent, and, hard though it was to keep from doing so, I
let nothing out.
The truth was, Sir Gilbert Carstairs had fascinated me, not only with his
grand offer, but with his pleasant, off-hand, companionable manners. He
had put me at my ease at once; he had spoken so frankly and with such
evident sincerity about his doings on that eventful night, that I
accepted every word he said. And--in the little that I had thought of
it--I was very ready to accept his theory as to how those two men had
come by their deaths--and it was one that was certainly feasible, and
worth following up. Some years before, I remembered, something of the
same sort had gone on, and had resulted in an affray between
salmon-poachers and river-watchers--why should it not have cropped up
again? The more I thought of it, the more I felt Sir Gilbert's
suggestion to have reason in it. And in that case all the mystery would
be knocked clean out of these affairs--the murder of Phillips, the death
of Crone, might prove to be the outcome of some vulgar encounter between
them and desperadoes who had subsequently scuttled to safety and were
doubtless quaking near at hand, in fear of their misdeeds coming to
light; what appeared to be a perfect tangle might be the simplest matter
in the world. So I judged--and next morning there came news that seemed
to indicate that matters were going to be explained on the lines which
Sir Gilbert had suggested.
Chisholm brought that news to our office, just after Mr. Lindsey had come
in. He told it to both of us; and from his manner of telling it, we both
saw--I, perhaps, not so clearly as Mr. Lindsey--that the police were
already at their favourite trick of going for what seemed to them the
obvious line of pursuit.
"I'm thinking we've got on the right clue at last, as regards the murder
of yon man Phillips," announced Chisholm, with an air of satisfaction.
"And if it is the right clue, as it seems to be, Mr. Lindsey, there'll be
no great mystery in the matter, after all. Just a plain case of murder
for the sake of robbery--that's it!"
"What's your clue?" asked Mr. Lindsey quietly.
"Well," answered Chisholm, with a sort of sly wink, "you'll understand,
Mr. Lindsey, that we haven't been doing nothing these last few days,
since yon inquest on Phillips, you know. As a matter of fact, we've
been making inquiries wherever there seemed a chance of finding
anything out. And we've found something out--through one of the banks
yonder at Peebles."
He looked at us as if to see if we were impressed; seeing, at any rate,
that we were deeply interested, he went on.
"It appears--I'll tell you the story in order, as it were," he said--"it
appears that about eight months ago the agent of the British Linen Bank
at Peebles got a letter from one John Phillips, written from a place
called Colon, in Panama--that's Central America, as you'll be
aware--enclosing a draft for three thousand pounds on the International
Banking Corporation of New York. The letter instructed the Peebles agent
to collect this sum and to place it in his bank to the writer's credit.
Furthermore, it stated that the money was to be there until Phillips came
home to Scotland, in a few months' time from the date of writing. This,
of course, was all done in due course--there was the three thousand
pounds in Phillips's name. There was a bit of correspondence between him
at Colon and the bank at Peebles--then, at last, he wrote that he was
leaving Panama for Scotland, and would call on the bank soon after his
arrival. And on the morning of the day on which he was murdered, Phillips
did call at the bank and established his identity, and so on, and he then
drew out five hundred pounds of his money--two hundred pounds in gold,
and the rest in small notes; and, Mr. Lindsey, he carried that sum away
with him in a little handbag that he had with him."
Mr. Lindsey, who had been listening with great attention, nodded.
"Aye!" he said. "Carried five hundred pounds away with him. Go on, then."
"Now," continued Chisholm, evidently very well satisfied with himself for
the way he was marshalling his facts, "we--that is, to put it plainly, I
myself--have been making more searching inquiries about Cornhill and
Coldstream. There's two of the men at Cornhill station will swear that
when Phillips got out of the train there, that evening of the murder, he
was carrying a little handbag such as the bank cashier remembers--a
small, new, brown leather bag. They're certain of it--the
ticket-collector remembers him putting it under his arm while he searched
his pocket for his ticket. And what's more, the landlord of the inn
across the bridge there at Coldstream he remembers the bag, clearly
enough, and that Phillips never had his hand off it while he was in his
house. And of course, Mr. Lindsey, the probability is that in that bag
was the money--just as he had drawn it out of the bank."
"You've more to tell," remarked Mr. Lindsey.
"Just so," replied Chisholm. "And there's two items. First of all--we've
found that bag! Empty, you may be sure. In the woods near that old ruin
on Till side. Thrown away under a lot of stuff--dead stuff, you'll
understand, where it might have lain till Doomsday if I hadn't had a
most particular search made. But--that's not all. The second item is
here--the railway folk at Cornhill are unanimous in declaring that by
that same train which brought Phillips there, two men, strangers, that
looked like tourist gentlemen, came as well, whose tickets were
from--where d'ye think, then, Mr. Lindsey?"
"Peebles, of course," answered Mr. Lindsey.
"And you've guessed right!" exclaimed Chisholm, triumphantly; "Peebles it
was--and now, how do you think this affair looks? There's so many
tourists on Tweedside this time of the year that nobody paid any great
attention that night to these men, nor where they went. But what could be
plainer, d'ye think?--of course, those two had tracked Phillips from the
bank, and they followed him till they had him in yon place where he was
found, and they murdered him--to rob him!"
FIVE HUNDRED A YEAR
It was very evident that Chisholm was in a state of gleeful assurance
about his theory, and I don't think he was very well pleased when Mr.
Lindsey, instead of enthusiastically acclaiming it as a promising one,
began to ask him questions.
"You found a pretty considerable sum on Phillips as it was when you
searched his body, didn't you?" he asked.
"Aye--a good lot!" assented Chisholm. "But it was in a pocket-book in an
inner pocket of his coat, and in his purse."
"If it was robbery, why didn't they take everything?" inquired Mr.
"Aye, I knew you'd ask that," replied Chisholm. "But the thing is that
they were interrupted. The bag they could carry off--but it's probable
that they heard Mr. Moneylaws here coming down the lane before they could
search the man's pockets."
"Umph!" said Mr. Lindsey. "And how do you account for two men getting
away from the neighbourhood without attracting attention?"
"Easy enough," declared Chisholm. "As I said just now, there's numbers of
strangers comes about Tweedside at this time of the year, and who'd
think anything of seeing them? What was easier than for these two to
separate, to keep close during the rest of the night, and to get away by
train from some wayside station or other next morning? They could manage
it easily--and we're making inquiries at all the stations in the district
on both sides the Tweed, with that idea."
"Well--you'll have a lot of people to follow up, then," remarked Mr.
Lindsey drily. "If you're going to follow every tourist that got on a
train next morning between Berwick and Wooler, and Berwick and Kelso, and
Berwick and Burnmouth, and Berwick and Blyth, you'll have your work set,
"All the same," said Chisholm doggedly, "that's how it's been. And the
bank at Peebles has the numbers of the notes that Phillips carried off in
his little bag--and I'll trace those fellows yet, Mr. Lindsey."
"Good luck to you, sergeant!" answered Mr. Lindsey. He turned to me when
Chisholm had gone. "That's the police all over, Hugh," he remarked. "And
you might talk till you were black in the face to yon man, and he'd stick
to his story."
"You don't believe it, then?" I asked him, somewhat surprised.
"He may be right," he replied. "I'm not saying. Let him attend to his
business--and now we'll be seeing to ours."
It was a busy day with us in the office that, being the day before court
day, and we had no time to talk of anything but our own affairs. But
during the afternoon, at a time when I had left the office for an hour
or two on business, Sir Gilbert Carstairs called, and he was closeted
with Mr. Lindsey when I returned. And after they had been together some
time Mr. Lindsey came out to me and beckoned me into a little
waiting-room that we had and shut the door on us, and I saw at once from
the expression on his face that he had no idea that Sir Gilbert and I
had met the night before, or that I had any notion of what he was going
to say to me.
"Hugh, my lad!" said he, clapping me on the shoulder; "you're evidently
one of those that are born lucky. What's the old saying--'Some achieve
greatness, some have greatness thrust upon them!'--eh? Here's
greatness--in a degree--thrusting itself on you!"
"What's this you're talking about, Mr. Lindsey?" I asked. "There's not
much greatness about me, I'm thinking!"
"Well, it's not what you're thinking in this case," he answered; "it's
what other folks are thinking of you. Here's Sir Gilbert Carstairs in my
room yonder. He's wanting a steward--somebody that can keep accounts, and
letters, and look after the estate, and he's been looking round for a
likely man, and he's heard that Lindsey's clerk, Hugh Moneylaws, is just
the sort he wants--and, in short, the job's yours, if you like to take
it. And, my lad, it's worth five hundred a year--and a permanency, too! A
fine chance for a young fellow of your age!"
"Do you advise me to take it, Mr. Lindsey?" I asked, endeavouring to
combine surprise with a proper respect for the value of his counsel.
"It's a serious job that for, as you say, a young fellow."
"Not if he's got your headpiece on him," he replied, giving me another
clap on the shoulder. "I do advise you to take it. I've given you the
strongest recommendations to him. Go into my office now and talk it over
with Sir Gilbert by yourself. But when it comes to settling details, call
me in--I'll see you're done right to."
I thanked him warmly, and went into his room, where Sir Gilbert was
sitting in an easy-chair. He motioned me to shut the door, and, once that
was done, he gave a quick, inquiring look.
"You didn't let him know that you and I had talked last night?" he
asked at once.
"No," said I.
"That's right--and I didn't either," he went on. "I don't want him to
know I spoke to you before speaking to him--it would look as if I were
trying to get his clerk away from him. Well, it's settled, then,
Moneylaws? You'll take the post?"
"I shall be very glad to, Sir Gilbert," said I. "And I'll serve you to
the best of my ability, if you'll have a bit of patience with me at the
beginning. There'll be some difference between my present job and this
you're giving me, but I'm a quick learner, and--"
"Oh, that's all right, man!" he interrupted carelessly. "You'll do all
that I want. I hate accounts, and letter-writing, and all that sort
of thing--take all that off my hands, and you'll do. Of course,
whenever you're in a fix about anything, come to me--but I can explain
all there is to do in an hour's talk with you at the beginning. All
right!--ask Mr. Lindsey to step in to me, and we'll put the matter on
a business footing."
Mr. Lindsey came in and took over the job of settling matters on my
behalf. And the affair was quickly arranged. I was to stay with Mr.
Lindsey another month, so as to give him the opportunity of getting a new
head clerk, then I was to enter on my new duties at Hathercleugh. I was
to have five hundred pounds a year salary, with six months' notice on
either side; at the end of five years, if I was still in the situation,
the terms were to be revised with a view to an increase--and all this was
to be duly set down in black and white. These propositions, of course,
were Mr. Lindsey's, and Sir Gilbert assented to all of them readily and
promptly. He appeared to be the sort of man who is inclined to accept
anything put before him rather than have a lot of talk about it. And
presently, remarking that that was all right, and he'd leave Mr. Lindsey
to see to it, he rose to go, but at the door paused and came back.
"I'm thinking of dropping in at the police-station and telling Murray my
ideas about that Crone affair," he remarked. "It's my opinion, Mr.
Lindsey, that there's salmon-poaching going on hereabouts, and if my land
adjoined either Tweed or Till I'd have spoken about it before. There are
queer characters about along both rivers at nights--I know, because I go
out a good deal, very late, walking, to try and cure myself of insomnia;
and I know what I've seen. It's my impression that Crone was probably
mixed up with some gang, and that his death arose out of an affray
"That's probable," answered Mr. Lindsey. "There was trouble of that sort
some years ago, but I haven't heard of it lately. Certainly, it would be
a good thing to start the idea in Murray's mind; he might follow it up
and find something out."
"That other business--the Phillips murder--might have sprung out of the
same cause," suggested Sir Gilbert. "If those chaps caught a stranger in
a lonely place--"
"The police have a theory already about Phillips," remarked Mr. Lindsey.
"They think he was followed from Peebles, and murdered for the sake of
money that he was carrying in a bag he had with him. And my experience,"
he added with a laugh, "is that if the police once get a theory of their
own, it's no use suggesting any other to them--they'll ride theirs,
either till it drops or they get home with it."
Sir Gilbert nodded his head, as if he agreed with that, and he suddenly
gave Mr. Lindsey an inquiring look.
"What's your own opinion?" he asked.
But Mr. Lindsey was not to be drawn. He laughed and shrugged his
shoulders, as if to indicate that the affair was none of his.
"I wouldn't say that I have an opinion, Sir Gilbert," he answered.
"It's much too soon to form one, and I haven't the details, and I'm not
a detective. But all these matters are very simple--when you get to the
bottom of them. The police think this is going to be a very simple
affair--mere vulgar murder for the sake of mere vulgar robbery. We
Then Sir Gilbert went away, and Mr. Lindsey looked at me, who stood a
little apart, and he saw that I was thinking.
"Well, my lad," he said; "a bit dazed by your new opening? It's a fine
chance for you, too! Now, I suppose, you'll be wanting to get married. Is
it that you're thinking about?"
"Well, I was not, Mr. Lindsey," said I. "I was just wondering--if you
must know--how it was that, as he was here, you didn't tell Sir
Gilbert about that signature of his brother's that you found on
He shared a sharp look between me and the door--but the door was
"No!" he said. "Neither to him nor to anybody, yet a while! And don't
you mention that, my lad. Keep it dark till I give the word. I'll
find out about that in my own way. You understand--on that point,
I replied that, of course, I would not say a word; and presently I
went into the office to resume my duties. But I had not been long at
that before the door opened, and Chisholm put his face within and
looked at me.
"I'm wanting you, Mr. Moneylaws," he said. "You said you were with
Crone, buying something, that night before his body was found. You'd be
paying him money--and he might be giving you change. Did you happen to
see his purse, now?"
"Aye!" answered I. "What for do you ask that?"
"Because," said he, "we've taken a fellow at one of those riverside
publics that's been drinking heavily, and, of course, spending money
freely. And he has a queer-looking purse on him, and one or two men
that's seen it vows and declares it was Abel Crone's."
THE MAN IN THE CELL
Before I could reply to Chisholm's inquiry, Mr. Lindsey put his head out
of his door and seeing the police-sergeant there asked what he was after.
And when Chisholm had repeated his inquiry, both looked at me.
"I did see Crone's purse that night," I answered, "an old thing that he
kept tied up with a boot-lace. And he'd a lot of money in it, too."
"Come round, then, and see if you can identify this that we found on the
man," requested Chisholm. "And," he added, turning to Mr. Lindsey,
"there's another thing. The man's sober enough, now that we've got
him--it's given him a bit of a pull-together, being arrested. And he's
demanding a lawyer. Perhaps you'll come to him, Mr. Lindsey."
"Who is he?" asked Mr. Lindsey. "A Berwick man?"
"He isn't," replied Chisholm. "He's a stranger--a fellow that says he was
seeking work, and had been stopping at a common lodging-house in the
town. He vows and declares that he'd nothing to do with killing Crone,
and he's shouting for a lawyer."
Mr. Lindsey put on his hat, and he and I went off with Chisholm to the
police-station. And as we got in sight of it, we became aware that there
was a fine to-do in the street before its door. The news of the arrest
had spread quickly, and folk had come running to get more particulars.
And amongst the women and children and loafers that were crowding around
was Crone's housekeeper, a great, heavy, rough-haired Irishwoman called
Nance Maguire, and she was waving her big arms and shaking her fists at a
couple of policemen, whom she was adjuring to bring out the murderer, so
that she might do justice on him then and there--all this being mingled
with encomiums on the victim.
"The best man that ever lived!" she was screaming at the top of her
voice. "The best and kindest creature ever set foot in your murdering
town! And didn't I know he was to be done to death by some of ye? Didn't
he tell me himself that there was one would give his two eyes to be
seeing his corpse? And if ye've laid hands on him that did it, bring him
out to me, so, and I'll--"
Mr. Lindsey laid a quiet hand on the woman's arm and twisted her round in
the direction of her cottage.
"Hold your wisht, good wife, and go home!" he whispered to her. "And if
you know anything, keep your tongue still till I come to see you. Be
away, now, and leave it to me."
I don't know how it was, but Nance Maguire, after a sharp look at Mr.
Lindsey, turned away as meekly as a lamb, and went off, tearful enough,
but quiet, down the street, followed by half the rabble, while Mr.
Lindsey, Chisholm, and myself turned into the police-station. And there
we met Mr. Murray, who wagged his head at us as if he were very well
satisfied with something.
"Not much doubt about this last affair, anyhow," said he, as he took us
into his office. "You might say the man was caught red-handed! All the
same, Mr. Lindsey, he's in his rights to ask for a lawyer, and you can
see him whenever you like."
"What are the facts?" asked Mr. Lindsey. "Let me know that much first."
Mr. Murray jerked his thumb at Chisholm.
"The sergeant there knows them," he answered. "He took the man."
"It was this way, d'ye see, Mr. Lindsey," said Chisholm, who was becoming
an adept at putting statements before people. "You know that bit of a
public there is along the river yonder, outside the wall--the Cod and
Lobster? Well, James Macfarlane, that keeps it, he came to me, maybe an
hour or so ago, and said there was a fellow, a stranger, had been in and
out there all day since morning, drinking; and though he wouldn't say the
man was what you'd rightly call drunk, still he'd had a skinful, and he
was in there again, and they wouldn't serve him, and he was getting
quarrelsome and abusive, and in the middle of it had pulled out a purse
that another man who was in there vowed and declared, aside, to
Macfarlane, was Abel Crone's. So I got a couple of constables and went
back with Macfarlane, and there was the man vowing he'd be served, and
with a handful of money to prove that he could pay for whatever he
called for. And as he began to turn ugly, and show fight, we just clapped
the bracelets on him and brought him along, and there he is in the
cells--and, of course, it's sobered him down, and he's demanding his
rights to see a lawyer."
"Who is he?" asked Mr. Lindsey.
"A stranger to the town," replied Chisholm. "And he'll neither give name
nor address but to a lawyer, he declares. But we know he was staying at
one of the common lodging-houses--Watson's--three nights ago, and that
the last two nights he wasn't in there at all."
"Well--where's that purse?" demanded Mr. Lindsey. "Mr. Moneylaws here
says he can identify it, if it's Crone's."
Chisholm opened a drawer and took out what I at once knew to be Abel
Crone's purse--which was in reality a sort of old pocket-book or wallet,
of some sort of skin, with a good deal of the original hair left on it,
and tied about with a bit of old bootlace. There were both gold and
silver in it--just as I had seen when Crone pulled it out to find me some
change for a five-shilling piece I had given him--and more by token,
there was the five-shilling piece itself!
"That's Crone's purse!" I exclaimed. "I've no doubt about that. And
that's a crown piece I gave him myself; I've no doubt about that either!"
"Let us see the man," said Mr. Lindsey.
Chisholm led us down a corridor to the cells, and unlocked a door. He
stepped within the cell behind it, motioning us to follow. And there, on
the one stool which the place contained, sat a big, hulking fellow that
looked like a navvy, whose rough clothes bore evidence of his having
slept out in them, and whose boots were stained with the mud and clay
which they would be likely to collect along the riverside. He was sitting
nursing his head in his hands, growling to himself, and he looked up at
us as I have seen wild beasts look out through the bars of cages. And
somehow, there was that in the man's eyes which made me think, there and
then, that he was not reflecting on any murder that he had done, but was
sullenly and stupidly angry with himself.
"Now, then, here's a lawyer for you," said Chisholm. "Mr. Lindsey,
"Well, my man!" began Mr. Lindsey, taking a careful look at this queer
client. "What have you got to say to me?"
The prisoner gave Chisholm a disapproving look.
"Not going to say a word before the likes of him!" he growled. "I know my
rights, guv'nor! What I say, I'll say private to you."
"Better leave us, sergeant," said Mr. Lindsey. He waited till Chisholm, a
bit unwilling, had left the cell and closed the door, and then he turned
to the man. "Now, then," he continued, "you know what they charge you
with? You've been drinking hard--are you sober enough to talk sense? Very
well, then--what's this you want me for?"
"To defend me, of course!" growled the prisoner. He twisted a hand round
to the back of his trousers as if to find something. "I've money of my
own--a bit put away in a belt," he said; "I'll pay you."
"Never mind that now," answered Mr. Lindsey. "Who are you?--and what do
you want to say?"
"Name of John Carter," replied the man. "General labourer--navvy
work--anything of that sort. On tramp--seeking a job. Came here, going
north, night before last. And--no more to do with the murder of yon man
than you have!"
"They found his purse on you, anyway," remarked Mr. Lindsey bluntly.
"What have you got to say to that?"
"What I say is that I'm a damned fool!" answered Carter surlily. "It's
all against me, I know, but I'll tell you--you can tell lawyers anything.
Who's that young fellow?" he demanded suddenly, glaring at me. "I'm not
going to talk before no detectives."
"My clerk," replied Mr. Lindsey. "Now, then--tell your tale. And just
remember what a dangerous position you're in."
"Know that as well as you do," muttered the prisoner. "But I'm sober
enough, now! It's this way--I stopped here in the town three nights
since, and looked about for a job next day, and then I heard of something
likely up the river and went after it and didn't get it, so I started
back here--late at night it was. And after crossing that bridge at a
place called Twizel, I turned down to the river-bank, thinking to take a
short cut. And--it was well after dark, then, mind you, guv'nor--in
coming along through the woods, just before where the little river runs
into the big one, I come across this man's body--stumbled on it. That's
"Well!" said Mr. Lindsey.
"He was lying--I could show you the place, easy--between the edge of the
wood and the river-bank," continued Carter. "And though he was dead
enough when I found him, guv'nor, he hadn't been dead so long. But dead
he was--and not from aught of my doing."
"What time was this?" asked Mr. Lindsey.
"It would be past eleven o'clock," replied Carter. "It was ten when I
called by Cornhill station. I went the way I did--down through the woods
to the river-bank--because I'd noticed a hut there in the morning that I
could sleep in--I was making for that when I found the body."
"Well--about the purse?" demanded Mr. Lindsey shortly. "No lies, now!"
The prisoner shook his head at that, and growled--but it was evident he
was growling at himself.
"That's right enough," he confessed. "I felt in his pockets, and I did
take the purse. But--I didn't put him in the water. True as I'm here,
guv'nor. I did no more than take the purse! I left him there--just as he
was--and the next day I got drinking, and last night I stopped in that
hut again, and today I was drinking, pretty heavy--and I sort of lost my
head and pulled the purse out, and--that's the truth, anyway, whether you
believe it or not. But I didn't kill yon man, though I'll admit I robbed
his body--like the fool I am!"
"Well, you see where it's landed you," remarked Mr. Lindsey. "All
right--hold your tongue now, and I'll see what I can do. I'll appear for
you when you come before the magistrate tomorrow."
He tapped at the door of the cell, and Chisholm, who had evidently waited
in the corridor, let us out. Mr. Lindsey said nothing to him, nor to the
superintendent--he led me away into the street. And there he clapped me
on the arm.
"I believe every word that man said!" he murmured. "Come on, now--we'll
see this Nance Maguire."
THE IRISH HOUSEKEEPER
I was a good deal surprised that Mr. Lindsey should be--apparently--so
anxious to interview Crone's housekeeper, and I said as much. He turned
on me sharply, with a knowing look.
"Didn't you hear what the woman was saying when we came across her there
outside the police-station?" he exclaimed. "She was saying that Crone had
said to her that there was some man who would give his two eyes to be
seeing his corpse! Crone's been telling her something. And I'm so
convinced that that man in the cells yonder has told us the truth, as
regards himself, that I'm going to find out what Crone did tell her. Who
is there--who could there be that wanted to see Crone's dead body? Let's
try to find that out."
I made no answer--but I was beginning to think; and to wonder, too, in a
vague, not very pleasant fashion. Was this--was Crone's death, murder,
whatever it was--at all connected with the previous affair of Phillips?
Had Crone told me the truth that night I went to buy the stuff for Tom
Dunlop's rabbit-hutches? or had he kept something back? And while I was
reflecting on these points, Mr. Lindsey began talking again.
"I watched that man closely when he was giving me his account of what
happened," he said, "and, as I said just now, I believe he told us the
truth. Whoever it was that did Crone to death, he's not in that cell,
Hugh, my lad; and, unless I'm much mistaken, all this is of a piece with
Phillips's murder. But let's hear what this Irishwoman has to say."
Crone's cottage was a mean, miserable shanty sort of place down a narrow
alley in a poor part of the town. When we reached its door there was a
group of women and children round it, all agog with excitement. But the
door itself was closed, and it was not opened to us until Nance Maguire's
face had appeared at the bit of a window, and Nance had assured herself
of the identity of her visitors. And when she had let us in, she shut the
door once more and slipped a bolt into its socket.
"I an't said a word, your honour," said she, "since your honour told me
not to, though them outside is sharp on me to tell 'em this and that. And
I wouldn't have said what I did up yonder had I known your honour would
be for supporting me. I was feeling there wasn't a soul in the place
would see justice done for him that's gone--the poor, good man!"
"If you want justice, my good woman," remarked Mr. Lindsey, "keep your
tongue quiet, and don't talk to your neighbours, nor to the police--just
keep anything you know till I tell you to let it out. Now, then, what's
this you were saying?--that Crone told you there was a man in the place
would give his two eyes to see him a corpse?"
"Them very words, your honour; and not once nor twice, but a good many
times did he say it," replied the woman. "It was a sort of hint he was
giving me, your honour--he had that way of speaking."
"Since when did he give you such hints?" asked Mr. Lindsey. "Was it
"It was since that other bloody murder, your honour," said Nance Maguire.
"Only since then. He would talk of it as we sat over the fire there at
nights. 'There's murder in the air,' says he. 'Bloody murder is all
around us!' he says. 'And it's myself will have to pick my steps
careful,' he says, 'for there's him about would give his two eyes to see
me a stark and staring corpse,' he says. 'Me knowing,' he says, 'more
than you'd give me credit for,' says he. And not another word than them
could I get out of him, your honour."
"He never told you who the man was that he had his fears of?" inquired
"He did not, then, your honour," replied Nance. "He was a close man, and
you wouldn't be getting more out of him than he liked to tell."
"Now, then, just tell me the truth about a thing or two," said Mr.
Lindsey. "Crone used to be out at nights now and then, didn't he?"
"Indeed, then, he did so, your honour," she answered readily. "'Tis true,
he would be out at nights, now and again."
"Poaching, as a matter of fact," suggested Mr. Lindsey.
"And that's the truth, your honour," she assented. "He was a clever hand
with the rabbits."
"Aye; but did he never bring home a salmon, now?" asked Mr. Lindsey.
"Come, out with it."
"I'll not deny that, neither, your honour," admitted the woman. "He was
clever at that too."
"Well, now, about that night when he was supposed to be killed,"
continued Mr. Lindsey; "that's Tuesday last--this being Thursday. Did he
ever come home that evening from his shop?"
I had been listening silently all this time, and I listened with
redoubled attention for the woman's answer to the last question. It was
on the Tuesday evening, about nine o'clock, that I had had my talk with
Crone, and I was anxious to know what happened after that. And Nance
Maguire replied readily enough--it was evident her memory was clear on
"He did not, then," she said. "He was in here having his tea at six
o'clock that evening, and he went away to the shop when he'd had it, and
I never put my eyes on him again, alive, your honour. He was never home
that night, and he didn't come to his breakfast next morning, and he
wasn't at the shop--and I never heard this or that of him till they come
and tell me the bad news."
I knew then what must have happened. After I had left him, Crone had gone
away up the river towards Tillmouth--he had a crazy old bicycle that he
rode about on. And most people, having heard Nance Maguire's admissions,
would have said that he had gone poaching. But I was not so sure of that.
I was beginning to suspect that Crone had played some game with me, and
had not told me anything like the truth during our conversation. There
had been more within his knowledge than he had let out--but what was it?
And I could not help feeling that his object in setting off in that
direction, immediately after I had left him, might have been, not
poaching, but somebody to whom he wished to communicate the result of his
talk with me. And, in that case, who was the somebody?
But just then I had to leave my own thoughts and speculations alone, and
to attend to what was going on between my principal and Nance Maguire.
Mr. Lindsey, however, appeared to be satisfied with what he had heard. He
gave the woman some further advice about keeping her tongue still, told
her what to do as regards Crone's effects, and left the cottage. And when
we were out in the main street again on our way back to the office he
turned to me with a look of decision.
"I've come to a definite theory about this affair, Hugh," he said. "And
I'll lay a fiver to a farthing that it's the right one!"
"Yes, Mr. Lindsey?" said I, keenly interested at hearing that.
"Crone knew who killed Phillips," he said. "And the man who killed
Phillips killed Crone, too, because Crone knew! That's been the way of
it, my lad! And now, then, who's the man?"
I could make no reply to such a question, and presently he went
on--talking as much to himself, I think, as to me.
"I wish I knew certain things!" he muttered. "I wish I knew what Phillips
and Gilverthwaite came here for. I wish I knew if Gilverthwaite ever had
any secret dealings with Crone. I wish--I do wish!--I knew if there has
been--if there is--a third man in this Phillips-Gilverthwaite affair who
has managed, and is managing, to keep himself in the background.
But--I'll stake my professional reputation on one thing--whoever killed
Phillips, killed Abel Crone! It's all of a piece."
Now, of course I know now--have known for many a year--that it was at
this exact juncture that I made a fatal, a reprehensible mistake in my
share of all this business. It was there, at that exact point, that I
ought to have made a clean breast to Mr. Lindsey of everything that I
knew. I ought to have told him, there and then, of what I had seen at the
cross-roads that night of the murder of Phillips; and of my conversation
about that with Abel Crone at his shop; and of my visit to Sir Gilbert
Carstairs at Hathercleugh House. Had I done so, matters would have become
simplified, and much more horror and trouble avoided, for Mr. Lindsey was
just then at the beginning of a straight track and my silence turned him
away from it, to get into more twisted and obscure ones. But--I said
nothing. And why? The answer is simple, and there's the excuse of human
nature in it--I was so much filled with the grand prospects of my
stewardship, and of all it would bring me, and was so highly pleased with
Sir Gilbert Carstairs for his advancement of my fortunes, that--here's
the plain truth--I could not bring myself to think of, or bother with,
anything else. Up to then, of course, I had not said a word to my mother
or to Maisie Dunlop of the stewardship--I was impatient to tell both. So
I held my peace and said nothing to Mr. Lindsey--and presently the office
work for the day was over and I was free to race home with my grand news.
Is it likely that with such news as that I would be troubling my head any
longer about other folks' lives and deaths?
That, I suppose, was the most important evening I had ever spent in my
life. To begin with, I felt as if I had suddenly become older, and
bigger, and much more important. I became inclined to adopt magisterial
airs to my mother and my sweetheart, laying down the law to them as to
the future in a fashion which made Maisie poke fun at me for a crowing
cockerel. It was only natural that I should suffer a little from swelled
head that night--I should not have been human otherwise. But Andrew
Dunlop took the conceit out of me with a vengeance when Maisie and I told
him the news, and I explained everything to him in his back-parlour. He
was at times a man of many words, and at times a man of few words--and
when he said little, he meant most.
"Aye!" said he. "Well, that's a fine prospect, Hugh, my man, and I wish
you well in it. But there'll be no talk of any wedding for two years--so
get that notion out of your heads, both of you! In two years you'll just
have got settled to your new job, and you'll be finding out how you suit
your master and how he suits you--we'll get the preliminaries over, and
see how things promise in that time. And we'll see, too, how much money
you've saved out of your salary, my man--so you'll just not hear the
wedding-bells calling for a couple of twelvemonths, and'll behave
yourselves like good children in the meanwhile. There's a deal of things
may happen in two years, I'm thinking."
He might have added that a deal of things may happen in two weeks--and,
indeed, he would have had good reason for adding it, could he have looked
a few days ahead.
THE ICE AX
The police put Carter in the dock before a full bench of magistrates next
morning, and the court was so crowded that it was all Mr. Lindsey and I
could do to force our way to the solicitors' table. Several minor cases
came on before Carter was brought up from the cells, and during this
hearing I had leisure to look round the court and see who was there. And
almost at once I saw Sir Gilbert Carstairs, who, though not yet a justice
of the peace--his commission to that honourable office arrived a few days
later, oddly enough,--had been given a seat on the bench, in company with
one or two other local dignitaries, one of whom, I observed with some
curiosity, was that Reverend Mr. Ridley who had given evidence at the
inquest on Phillips. All these folk, it was easy to see, were in a high
state of inquisitiveness about Crone's murder; and from certain whispers
that I overheard, I gathered that the chief cause of this interest lay in
a generally accepted opinion that it was, as Mr. Lindsey had declared to
me more than once, all of a piece with the crime of the previous week.
And it was very easy to observe that they were not so curious to see
Carter as to hear what might be alleged against him.
There appeared to be some general surprise when Mr. Lindsey quietly
announced that he was there on behalf of the prisoner. You would have
thought from the demeanour of the police that, in their opinion, there
was nothing for the bench to do but hear a bit of evidence and commit
Carter straight away to the Assizes to take his trial for wilful murder.
What evidence they did bring forward was, of course, plain and
straightforward enough. Crone had been found lying in a deep pool in the
River Till; but the medical testimony showed that he had met his fate by
a blow from some sharp instrument, the point of which had penetrated the
skull and the frontal part of the brain in such a fashion as to cause
instantaneous death. The man in the dock had been apprehended with
Crone's purse in his possession--therefore, said the police, he had
murdered and robbed Crone. As I say, Mr. Murray and all of them--as you
could see--were quite of the opinion that this was sufficient; and I am
pretty sure that the magistrates were of the same way of thinking. And
the police were not over well pleased, and the rest of the folk in court
were, to say the least, a little mystified, when Mr. Lindsey asked a few
questions of two witnesses--of whom Chisholm was one, and the doctor who
had been fetched to Crone's body the other. And before setting down what
questions they were that Mr. Lindsey asked, I will remark here that there
was a certain something, a sort of mysterious hinting in his manner of
asking them, that suggested a lot more than the mere questions
themselves, and made people begin to whisper amongst each other that
Lawyer Lindsey knew things that he was not just then minded to let out.
It was to Chisholm that he put his first questions--casually, as if they
were very ordinary ones, and yet with an atmosphere of meaning behind
them that excited curiosity.
"You made a very exhaustive search of the neighbourhood of the spot where
Crone's body was found, didn't you?" he inquired.
"A thorough search," answered Chisholm.
"You found the exact spot where the man had been struck down?"
"Judging by the marks of blood--yes."
"On the river-bank--between the river and a coppice, wasn't it?"
"Just so--between the bank and the coppice."
"How far had the body been dragged before it was thrown into the river?"
"Ten yards," replied Chisholm promptly.
"Did you notice any footprints?" asked Mr. Lindsey.
"It would be difficult to trace any," explained Chisholm. "The grass is
very thick in some places, and where it isn't thick it's that close and
wiry in texture that a boot wouldn't make any impression."
"One more question," said Mr. Lindsey, leaning forward and looking
Chisholm full in the face. "When you charged the man there in the dock
with the murder of Abel Crone, didn't he at once--instantly!--show the
greatest surprise? Come, now, on your oath--yes or no?"
"Yes!" admitted Chisholm; "he did."
"But he just as readily admitted he was in possession of Crone's purse?
Again--yes or no?"
"Yes," said Chisholm. "Yes--that's so."
That was all Mr. Lindsey asked Chisholm. It was not much more that he
asked the doctor. But there was more excitement about what he did ask
him--arising out of something that he did in asking it.
"There's been talk, doctor, as to what the precise weapon was which
caused the fatal injury to this man Crone," he said. "It's been suggested
that the wound which occasioned his death might have been--and probably
was--caused by a blow from a salmon gaff. What is your opinion?"
"It might have been," said the doctor cautiously.
"It was certainly caused by a pointed weapon--some sort of a spiked
weapon?" suggested Mr. Lindsey.
"A sharp, pointed weapon, most certainly," affirmed the doctor.
"There are other things than a salmon gaff that, in your opinion, could
have caused it?"
"Oh, of course!" said the doctor.
Mr. Lindsey paused a moment, and looked round the court as if he were
thinking over his next question. Then he suddenly plunged his hand under
the table at which he was standing, and amidst a dead silence drew out a
long, narrow brown-paper parcel which I had seen him bring to the office
that morning. Quietly, while the silence grew deeper and the interest
stronger, he produced from this an object such as I had never seen
before--an implement or weapon about three feet in length, its shaft made
of some tough but evidently elastic wood, furnished at one end with a
strong iron ferrule, and at the other with a steel head, one extremity of
which was shaped like a carpenter's adze, while the other tapered off to
a fine point. He balanced this across his open palms for a moment, so
that the court might see it--then he passed it over to the witness-box.
"Now, doctor," he said, "look at that--which is one of the latest forms
of the ice-ax. Could that wound have been caused by that--or something
very similar to it?"
The witness put a forefinger on the sharp point of the head.
"Certainly!" he answered. "It is much more likely to have been caused by
such an implement as this than by a salmon gaff."
Mr. Lindsey reached out his hand for the ice-ax, and, repossessing
himself of it, passed it and its brown-paper wrapping to me.
"Thank you, doctor," he said; "that's all I wanted to know." He turned to
the bench. "I wish to ask your worships, if it is your intention, on the
evidence you have heard, to commit the prisoner on the capital charge
today?" he asked. "If it is, I shall oppose such a course. What I do ask,
knowing what I do, is that you should adjourn this case for a week--when
I shall have some evidence to put before you which, I think, will prove
that this man did not kill Abel Crone."
There was some discussion. I paid little attention to it, being
considerably amazed at the sudden turn which things had taken, and
astonished altogether by Mr. Lindsey's production of the ice-ax. But the
discussion ended in Mr. Lindsey having his own way, and Carter was
remanded in custody, to be brought up again a week later; and presently
we were all out in the streets, in groups, everybody talking excitedly
about what had just taken place, and speculating on what it was that
Lawyer Lindsey was after. Mr. Lindsey himself, however, was more
imperturbable and, if anything, cooler than usual. He tapped me on the
arm as we went out of court, and at the same time took the parcel
containing the ice-ax from me.
"Hugh," he said; "there's nothing more to do today, and I'm going out of
town at once, until tomorrow. You can lock up the office now, and you
and the other two can take a holiday. I'm going straight home and then
to the station."
He turned hurriedly away in the direction of his house, and I went off to
the office to carry out his instructions. There was nothing strange in
his giving us a holiday--it was a thing he often did in summer, on fine
days when we had nothing much to do, and this was a gloriously fine day
and the proceedings in court had been so short that it was not yet noon.
So I packed off the two junior clerks and the office lad, and locked up,
and went away myself--and in the street outside I met Sir Gilbert
Carstairs. He was coming along in our direction, evidently deep in
thought, and he started a little as he looked up and saw me.
"Hullo, Moneylaws!" he said in his off-hand fashion. "I was just wanting
to see you. I say!" he went on, laying a hand on my arm, "you're dead
certain that you've never mentioned to a soul but myself anything about
that affair of yours and Crone's--you know what I mean?"
"Absolutely certain, Sir Gilbert!" I answered. "There's no living being
"That's all right," he said, and I could see he was relieved. "I don't
want mixing up with these matters--I should very much dislike it. What's
Lindsey trying to get at in his defence of this man Carter?"
"I can't think," I replied. "Unless it is that he's now inclining to the
theory of the police that Phillips was murdered by some man or men who
followed him from Peebles, and that the same man or men murdered Crone. I
think that must be it: there were some men--tourists--about, who haven't
been found yet."
He hesitated a moment, and then glanced at our office door.
"Lindsey in?" he asked.
"No, Sir Gilbert," I replied. "He's gone out of town and given us
"Oh!" he said, looking at me with a sudden smile. "You've got a holiday,
have you, Moneylaws? Look here--I'm going for a run in my bit of a
yacht--come with me! How soon can you be ready?"
"As soon as I've taken my dinner, Sir Gilbert," I answered, pleased
enough at the invitation. "Would an hour do?"
"You needn't bother about your dinner," he said. "I'm having a lunch
basket packed now at the hotel, and I'll step in and tell them to put in
enough for two. Go and get a good thick coat, and meet me down at the
front in half an hour."
I ran off home, told my mother where I was going, and hurried away to the
river-side. The Tweed was like a mirror flashing back the sunlight that
day, and out beyond its mouth the open sea was bright and blue as the sky
above. How could I foresee that out there, in those far-off dancing
waters, there was that awaiting me of which I can only think now, when it
is long past, with fear and horror?
I had known for some time that Sir Gilbert Carstairs had a small yacht
lying at one of the boathouses on the riverside; indeed, I had seen her
before ever I saw him. She was a trim, graceful thing, with all the
appearance of an excellent sea-boat, and though she looked like a craft
that could stand a lot of heavy weather, she had the advantage of being
so light in draught--something under three feet--that it was possible for
her to enter the shallowest harbour. I had heard that Sir Gilbert was
constantly sailing her up and down the coast, and sometimes going well
out to sea in her. On these occasions he was usually accompanied by a
fisherlad whom he had picked up somehow or other: this lad, Wattie Mason,
was down by the yacht when I reached her, and he gave me a glowering look
when he found that I was to put his nose out for this time at any rate.
He hung around us until we got off, as a hungry dog hangs around a table
on the chance of a bone being thrown to him; but he got no recognition
from Sir Gilbert, who, though the lad had been useful enough to him
before, took no more notice of him that day than of one of the pebbles on
the beach. And if I had been more of a student of human nature, I should
have gained some idea of my future employer's character from that small
circumstance, and have seen that he had no feeling or consideration for
anybody unless it happened to be serving and suiting his purpose.
But at that moment I was thinking of nothing but the pleasure of taking a
cruise in the yacht, in the company of a man in whom I was naturally
interested. I was passionately fond of the sea, and had already learned
from the Berwick sea-going folk how to handle small craft, and the
management of a three-oar vessel like this was an easy matter to me, as I
soon let Sir Gilbert know. Once outside the river mouth, with a nice
light breeze blowing off the land, we set squaresail, mainsail, and
foresail and stood directly out to sea on as grand a day and under as
fair conditions as a yachtsman could desire; and when we were gaily
bowling along Sir Gilbert bade me unpack the basket which had been put
aboard from the hotel--it was a long time, he said, since his breakfast,
and we would eat and drink at the outset of things. If I had not been
hungry myself, the sight of the provisions in that basket would have made
me so--there was everything in there that a man could desire, from cold
salmon and cold chicken to solid roast beef, and there was plenty of
claret and whisky to wash it down with. And, considering how readily and
healthily Sir Gilbert Carstairs ate and drank, and how he talked and
laughed while we lunched side by side under that glorious sky, gliding
away over a smooth, innocent-looking sea, I have often wondered since if
what was to come before nightfall came of deliberate intention on his
part, or from a sudden yielding to temptation when the chance of it
arose--and for the life of me I cannot decide! But if the man had murder
in his heart, while he sat there at my side, eating his good food and
drinking his fine liquor, and sharing both with me and pressing me to
help myself to his generous provision--if it was so, I say, then he was
of an indescribable cruelty which it makes me cringe to think of, and I
would prefer to believe that the impulse to bring about my death came
from a sudden temptation springing from a sudden chance. And yet--God
knows it is a difficult problem to settle!
For this was what it came to, and before sunset was reddening the western
skies behind the Cheviots. We went a long, long way out--far beyond the
thirty-fathom line, which is, as all sailors acquainted with those waters
know, a good seven miles from shore; indeed, as I afterwards reckoned, we
were more than twice that distance from Berwick pier-end when the affair
happened--perhaps still further. We had been tacking about all the
afternoon, first south, then north, not with any particular purpose, but
aimlessly. We scarcely set eyes on another sail, and at a little after
seven o'clock in the evening, when there was some talk of going about and
catching the wind, which had changed a good deal since noon and was now
coming more from the southeast, we were in the midst of a great waste of
sea in which I could not make out a sign of any craft but ours--not even
a trail of smoke on the horizon. The flat of the land had long since
disappeared: the upper slopes of the Cheviots on one side of Tweed and
of the Lammermoor Hills on the other, only just showed above the line of
the sea. There was, I say, nothing visible on all that level of scarcely
stirred water but our own sails, set to catch whatever breeze there was,
when that happened which not only brought me to the very gates of death,
but, in the mere doing of it, gave me the greatest horror of any that I
have ever known.
I was standing up at the moment, one foot on the gunwale, the other on
the planking behind me, carelessly balancing myself while I stared across
the sea in search of some object which he--this man that I trusted so
thoroughly and in whose company I had spent so many pleasant hours that
afternoon, and who was standing behind me at the moment--professed to see
in the distance, when he suddenly lurched against me, as if he had
slipped and lost his footing. That was what I believed in that startling
moment--but as I went head first overboard I was aware that his fall was
confined to a sprawl into the scuppers. Overboard I went!--but he
remained where he was. And my weight--I was weighing a good thirteen
stone at that time, being a big and hefty youngster--carried me down and
down into the green water, for I had been shot over the side with
considerable impetus. And when I came up, a couple of boat's-lengths from
the yacht, expecting to find that he was bringing her up so that I could
scramble aboard, I saw with amazed and incredulous affright that he was
doing nothing of the sort; instead, working at it as hard as he could
go, he was letting out a couple of reefs which he had taken up in the
mainsail an hour before--in another minute they were out, the yacht moved
more swiftly, and, springing to the tiller, he deliberately steered her
clear away from me.
I suppose I saw his purpose all at once. Perhaps it drove me wild, mad,
frenzied. The yacht was going away from me fast--faster; good swimmer
though I was, it was impossible for me to catch up to her--she was making
her own length to every stroke I took, and as she drew away he stood
there, one hand on the tiller, the other in his pocket (I have often
wondered if it was fingering a revolver in there!), his eyes turned
steadily on me. And I began first to beg and entreat him to save me, and
then to shout out and curse him--and at that, and seeing that we were
becoming further and further separated, he deliberately put the yacht
still more before the freshening wind, and went swiftly away, and looked
at me no more.
So he left me to drown.
We had been talking a lot about swimming during the afternoon, and I had
told him that though I had been a swimmer ever since boyhood, I had never
done more than a mile at a stretch, and then only in the river. He knew,
therefore, that he was leaving me a good fourteen miles from land with
not a sail in sight, not a chance of being picked up. Was it likely that
I could make land?--was there ever a probability of anything coming along
that would sight me? There was small likelihood, anyway; the likelihood
was that long before the darkness had come on I should be exhausted,
give up, and go down.
You may conceive with what anger, and with what fierce resentment, I
watched this man and his yacht going fast away from me--and with what
despair too. But even in that moment I was conscious of two facts--I now
knew that yonder was the probable murderer of both Phillips and Crone,
and that he was leaving me to die because I was the one person living who
could throw some light on those matters, and, though I had kept silence
up to then, might be tempted, or induced, or obliged to do so--he would
silence me while he had so good a chance. And the other was, that
although there seemed about as much likelihood of my ever seeing Berwick
again as of being made King of England, I must do my utmost to save my
strength and my life. I had a wealth of incentives--Maisie, my mother,
Mr. Lindsey, youth, the desire to live; and now there was another added
to them--the desire to circumvent that cold-hearted, cruel devil, who, I
was now sure, had all along been up to some desperate game, and to have
my revenge and see justice done on him. I was not going to give in
without making a fight for it.
But it was a poor chance that I had--and I was well aware of it. There
was small prospect of fishing boats or the like coming out that evening;
small likelihood of any coasting steamer sighting a bit of a speck like
me. All the same, I was going to keep my chin up as long as possible, and
the first thing to do was to take care of my strength. I made shift to
divest myself of a heavy pea-jacket that I was wearing and of the
unnecessary clothing beneath it; I got rid, too, of my boots. And after
resting a bit on my back and considering matters, I decided to make a try
for land--I might perhaps meet some boat coming out. I lifted my head
well up and took a glance at what I could see--and my heart sank at what
I did see! The yacht was a speck in the distance by that time, and far
beyond it the Cheviots and the Lammermoors were mere bits of grey outline
against the gold and crimson of the sky. One thought instantly filled and
depressed me--I was further from land than I had believed.
At this distance from it I have but confused and vague recollections of
that night. Sometimes I dream of it--even now--and wake sweating with
fear. In those dreams I am toiling and toiling through a smooth sea--it
is always a smooth, oily, slippery sea--towards something to which I make
no great headway. Sometimes I give up toiling through sheer and desperate
aching of body and limbs, and let myself lie drifting into helplessness
and a growing sleep. And then--in my dream--I start to find myself going
down into strange cavernous depths of shining green, and I wake--in my
dream--to begin fighting and toiling again against my compelling desire
to give up.