Part 2 out of 5
"There are people who firmly believe that Peter Chatfield should have
been hanged long since," she remarked quietly. "I'm one of them.
Chatfield is a bad old man--thoroughly bad! But I'll circumvent him in
this, anyhow. I know how to get into the Keep in spite of him and of his
locks and bolts. There's a big curtain wall, twenty feet high, all round
the Keep, but I know where there's a hole in it, behind some bushes, and
we'll get in there. Come along!"
She led him up the same path through the woods along which Bassett Oliver
had gone, according to Ewbank's account. It wound through groves of fir
and pine until it came out on a plateau, in the midst of which,
surrounded by a high irregular wall, towered at the angles and buttressed
all along its length, stood Scarhaven Keep. And there, at the head of a
path which evidently led up from the big house, stood Chatfield, angry
and threatening. Beyond him, distributed at intervals about the other
paths which converged on the plateau were other men, obviously estate
labourers, who appeared to be mounting guard over the forbidden spot.
"Now there's going to be a row!--between me and Chatfield," murmured
Audrey. "You play spectator--don't say a word. Leave it to me. We are on
our rights along this path--take no notice of Peter."
But Chatfield was already bearing down on them, his solemn-featured face
dark with displeasure. He raised his voice while he was yet a dozen
"I thought I'd told you as you wasn't to come near these here ruins!" he
said, addressing Audrey in a fashion which made Copplestone's fingers
itch to snatch the oak staff from the agent and lay it freely about his
person. "My orders was to that there effect! And when I give orders I
mean 'em to be obeyed. You'll turn straight back where you came from,
miss, and in future do as I instruct--d'ye hear that, now?"
"If you expect me to keep quiet or dumb under that sort of thing,"
whispered Copplestone, bending towards Audrey, "you're very much mistaken
in me! I shall give this fellow a lesson in another minute if--"
"Well, wait another minute, then," said Audrey, who had continued to walk
forward, steadily regarding the agent's threatening figure. "Let me talk
a little, first--I'm enjoying it. Are you addressing me, Mr. Chatfield?"
she went on in her sweetest accents. "I hear you speaking, but I don't
know if you are speaking to me. If so, you needn't shout."
"You know very well who I'm a-speaking to," growled Chatfield. "I told
you you wasn't to come near these ruins--it's forbidden, by order. You'll
take yourself off, and that there young man with you--we want no paid
"If you speak to me like that again I'll knock you down!" exclaimed
Copplestone, stepping forward before Audrey could stop him. "Or to this
lady, either. Stand aside, will you?"
Chatfield twisted on his heel with a surprising agility--not to stand
aside, but to wave his arm to the men who stood here and there,
"Here, you!" he shouted. "Here, this way, all of you! This here fellow's
threatening me with assault. You lay a finger on me, you young snapper,
and I'll have you in the lock-up in ten minutes. Stand between us, you
men!--he's for knocking me down. Now then!" he went on, as the bodyguard
got between him and Copplestone, "off you go, out o' these grounds, both
of you--quick! I'll have no defiance of my orders from neither gel nor
boy, man nor woman. Out you go, now--or you'll be put out."
But Audrey continued to advance, still watching the agent. "You're under
a mistake, Mr. Chatfield," she said calmly. "You will observe that Mr.
Copplestone and I are on this path. You know very well that this is a
public foot-path, with a proper and legal right-of-way from time
immemorial. You can't turn us off it, you know--without exposing yourself
to all sorts of pains and penalties. You men know that, too," she
continued, turning to the labourers and dropping her bantering tone. "You
all know this is a public footpath. So stand out of our way, or I'll
summon every one of you!"
The last words were spoken with so much force and decision that the three
labourers involuntarily moved aside. But Chatfield hastened to oppose
Audrey's progress, planting himself in front of a wicket-gate which there
stood across the path, and he laughed sneeringly.
"And where would you find money to take summonses out?" he said, with a
look of contempt, "I should think you and your mother's something better
to do with your bit o' money than that. Now then, no more words!--back
Copplestone's temper had been gradually rising during the last few
minutes. Now, at the man's carefully measured taunts, he let it go.
Before Chatfield or the labourers saw what he was at, he sprang on the
agent's big form, grasped him by the neck with one hand, twisted his oak
staff away from him with the other, flung him headlong on the turf, and
raised the staff threateningly.
"Now!" he said, "beg Miss Greyle's pardon, instantly, or I'll split your
wicked old head for you. Quick, man--I mean it!"
Before Chatfield, moaning and groaning, could find his voice capable
of words, Marston Greyle, pale and excited, came round a corner of
"What's this, what's all this?" he demanded. "Here, yon sir, what are
you doing with that stick! What--"
"I'm about to chastise your agent for his scoundrelly insolence to your
cousin," retorted Copplestone with cheerful determination. "Now then, my
man, quick--I always keep my word!"
"Hand the stick to Mr. Marston Greyle, Mr. Copplestone," said Audrey in
her demurest manner. "I'm sure he would beat Chatfield soundly if he had
heard what he said to me--his cousin."
"Thank you, but I'm in possession," said Copplestone, grimly. "Mr.
Marston Greyle can kick him when I've thrashed him. Now, then--are you
going to beg Miss Greyle's pardon, you hoary sinner?"
"What on earth is it all about?" exclaimed Greyle, obviously upset and
afraid. "Chatfield, what have you been saying? Go away, you men--go away,
all of you, at once. Mr. Copplestone, don't hit him. Audrey, what is it?
Hang it all!--I seem to have nothing but bother--it's most annoying. What
is it, I say?"
"It is merely, Marston, that your agent there, after trying to turn Mr.
Copplestone and myself off this public foot-path, insulted me with
shameful taunts about my mother's poverty," replied Audrey. "That's all!
Whereupon--as you were not here to do it--Mr. Copplestone promptly and
very properly knocked him down. And now--is Mr. Copplestone to punish him
Copplestone, keeping a sharp eye on the groaning and sputtering agent,
contrived at the same time to turn a corner of it on Marston Greyle. That
momentary glance showed him much. The Squire was mortally afraid of his
man. That was certain--as certain as that they were there. He stood, a
picture of vexation and indecision, glancing furtively at Chatfield, then
at Audrey, and evidently hating to be asked to take a side.
"Confound it all, Chatfield!" he suddenly burst out. "Why don't you mind
what you're saying? It's all very well, Audrey, but you shouldn't have
come along here--especially with strangers. The fact is, I'm so upset
about this Oliver affair that I'm going to have a thorough search and
examination of the Keep and the ruins, and, of course, we can't allow any
one inside the grounds while it's going on. You should have kept to
"And since when has a Greyle of Scarhaven kept to a servant's orders?"
interrupted Audrey, with a sneer that sent the blood rushing to the
Squire's face. "Never!--until this present régime, I should think.
Orders, indeed!--from an agent! I wonder what the last Squire of
Scarhaven would have said to a proposition like that? Mr.
Copplestone--you've punished that bad old man quite sufficiently. Will
you open the gate for me--and we'll go on our way."
The girl spoke with so much decision that Copplestone moved away from
Chatfield, who struggled to his feet, muttering words that sounded very
much like smothered curses.
"I'll have the law on you!" he growled, shaking his fist at Copplestone.
"Before this day's out, I'll have the law!"
"Sooner the better," retorted Copplestone. "Nothing will please me so
much as to tell the local magistrates precisely what you said to your
master's kinswoman. You know where I'm to be found--and there," he
added, throwing a card at the agent's feet, "there you'll find my
"Give me my walking-stick!" demanded Chatfield.
"Not I!" exclaimed Copplestone. "That's mine, my good man, by right of
conquest. You can summon me, or arrest me, if you like, for stealing it."
He opened the wicket-gate for Audrey, and together they passed through,
skirted the walls of the ruins, and went away into the higher portion of
the woods. Once there the girl laughed.
"Now there'll be another row!" she said. "Between master and man
"I think not!" observed Copplestone, with unusual emphasis. "For the
master is afraid of the man."
"Ah!--but which is master and which is man?" asked Audrey in a low voice.
Copplestone stopped and looked narrowly at her.
"Oh?" he said quietly, "so you've seen that?"
"Does it need much observation?" she replied. "My mother and I have known
for some time that Marston Greyle is entirely under Peter Chatfield's
thumb. He daren't do anything--save by Chatfield's permission."
Copplestone walked on a few yards, ruminating.
"Why!" he asked suddenly.
"How do we know?" retorted Audrey.
"Well, in cases like that," said Copplestone, "it generally means that
one man has a hold on the other. What hold can Chatfield have on your
cousin? I understand Mr. Marston Greyle came straight to his inheritance
from America. So what could Chatfield know of him--to have any hold?"
"Oh, I don't know--and I don't care--much," replied Audrey, as they
passed out of the woods on to the headlands beyond. "Never mind all
that--here's the sea and the open sky--hang Chatfield, and Marston, too!
As we can't see the Keep, let's enjoy ourselves some other way. What
shall we do?"
"You're the guide, conductress, general boss!" answered Copplestone.
"Shall I suggest something that sounds very material, though? Well, then,
can't we go along these cliffs to some village where we can find a nice
old fishing inn and get a simple lunch of some sort?"
"That's certainly material and eminently practical," laughed Audrey. "We
can--that place, along there to the south--Lenwick. And so, come on--and
no more talk of Squire and agent. I've a remarkable facility in throwing
away unpleasant things."
"It's a grand faculty--and I'll try to imitate you," said Copplestone.
"So--today's our own, eh? Is that it?"
"Say until the middle of this afternoon," responded Audrey. "Don't forget
that I have a mother at home."
It was, however, well past the middle of the afternoon when these two
returned to Scarhaven, very well satisfied with themselves. They had
found plenty to talk about without falling back on Marston Greyle, or
Peter Chatfield, or the event of the morning, and Copplestone suddenly
remembered, almost with compunction, that he had been so engrossed in
his companion that he had almost forgotten the Oliver mystery. But that
was sharply recalled to him as he entered the "Admiral's Arms." Mrs.
Wooler came forward from her parlour with a mysterious smile on her
"Here's a billet-doux for you, Mr. Copplestone," she said. "And I can't
tell you who left it. One of the girls found it lying on the hall table
an hour ago." With that she handed Copplestone a much thumbed, very
grimy, heavily-sealed envelope.
Copplestone carried the queer-looking missive into his private
sitting-room and carefully examined it, back and front, before slitting
it open. The envelope was of the cheapest kind, the big splotch of red
wax at the flap had been pressed into flatness by the summary method of
forcing a coarse-grained thumb upon it; the address was inscribed in
ill-formed characters only too evidently made with difficulty by a bad
pen, which seemed to have been dipped into watery ink at every third or
fourth letter. And it read thus:--
"THE YOUNG GENTLEMAN STAYING AT 'THE ADMIRAL '--PRIVATE"
The envelope contained nothing but a scrap of paper obviously torn from a
penny cash book. No ink had been used in transcribing the two or three
lines which were scrawled across this scrap--the vehicle this time was an
indelible pencil, which the writer appeared to have moistened with his
tongue every now and then, some letters being thicker and darker than
others. The message, if mysterious, was straightforward enough. "_Sir,"_
it ran, "_if so be as you'd like to have a bit of news from one as has
it, take a walk through Hobkin's Hole tomorrow morning and look out for
Yours truly--Him as writes this_."
Like most very young men Copplestone on arriving at what he called
manhood (by which he meant the age of twenty-one years), had drawn up for
himself a code of ethics, wherein he had mentally scheduled certain
things to be done and certain things not to be done. One of the things
which he had firmly resolved never to do was to take any notice of an
anonymous letter. Here was an anonymous letter, and with it a conflict
between his principles and his inclinations. In five minutes he learnt
that cut-and-dried codes are no good when the hard facts of every-day
life have to be faced and that expediency is a factor in human existence
which has its moral values. In plain English, he made up his mind to
visit Hobkin's Hole next morning and find out who the unknown
He was half tempted to go round to the cottage and show the queer scrawl
to Audrey Greyle, of whom, having passed six delightful hours in her
company--he was beginning to think much more than was good for him,
unless he intended to begin thinking of her always. But he was still
young enough to have a spice of bashfulness about him, and he did not
want to seem too pushing or forward. Again, it seemed to him that the
anonymous letter conveyed, in some subtle fashion, a hint that it was to
be regarded as sacred and secret, and Copplestone had a strong sense of
honour. He knew that Mrs. Wooler was femininely curious to hear all about
that letter, but he took care not to mention it to her. Instead he
quietly consulted an ordnance map of the district which hung framed and
glazed in the hall of the inn, and discovering that Hobkin's Hole was
marked on it as being something or other a mile or two out of Scarhaven
on the inland side, he set out in its direction next morning after
breakfast, without a word to anyone as to where he was going. And that he
might not be entirely defenceless he carried Peter Chatfield's oaken
staff with him--that would certainly serve to crack any ordinary skull,
if need arose for measure of defence.
The road which Copplestone followed out of the village soon turned off
into the heart of the moorlands that lay, rising and falling in irregular
undulations, between the sea and the hills. He was quickly out of sight
of Scarhaven, and in the midst of a solitude. All round him stretched
wide expanses of heather and gorse, broken up by great masses of rock:
from a rise in the road he looked about him and saw no sign of a human
habitation and heard nothing but the rush of the wind across the moors
and the plaintive cry of the sea-birds flapping their way to the
cultivated land beyond the barrier of hills. And from that point he saw
no sign of any fall or depression in the landscape to suggest the place
which he sought. But at the next turn he found himself at the mouth of a
narrow ravine, which cut deep into the heart of the hill, and was dark
and sombre enough to seem a likely place for secret meetings, if for
nothing more serious and sinister. It wound away from a little bridge
which carried the road over a brawling stream; along the side of that
stream were faint indications of a path which might have been made by
human feet, but was more likely to have been trodden out by the mountain
sheep. This path was quickly obscured by dwarf oaks and alder bushes,
which completely roofed in the narrow valley, and about everything hung a
suggestion of solitude that would have caused any timid or suspicious
soul to have turned back. But Copplestone was neither timid nor
suspicious, and he was already intensely curious about this adventure;
wherefore, grasping Peter Chatfield's oaken cudgel firmly in his right
hand, he jumped over the bridge and followed the narrow path into the
gloom of the trees.
He soon found that the valley resolved itself into a narrow and rocky
defile. The stream, level at first, soon came tumbling down amongst huge
boulders; the path disappeared; out of the oaks and alder high cliffs of
limestones began to lift themselves. The morning was unusually dark and
grey, even for October, and as leaves, brown and sere though they were,
still clustered thickly on the trees, Copplestone quickly found himself
in a gloom that would have made a nervous person frightened. He also
found that his forward progress became increasingly difficult. At the
foot of a tall cliff which suddenly rose up before him he was obliged to
pause; on that side of the stream it seemed impossible to go further. But
as he hesitated, peering here and there under the branches of the dwarf
oaks, he heard a voice, so suddenly, that he started in spite of himself.
Copplestone looked around and saw nothing. Then came a low laugh, as if
the unseen person was enjoying his perplexity.
"Look overhead, guv'nor," said the voice. "Look aloft!"
Copplestone glanced upward, and saw a man's head and face, framed in a
screen of bushes which grew on a shelf of the limestone cliff. The head
was crowned by a much worn fur cap; the face, very brown and seamed and
wrinkled, was ornamented by a short, well-blackened clay pipe, from the
bowl of which a wisp of blue smoke curled upward. And as he grew
accustomed to the gloom he was aware of a pair of shrewd, twinkling eyes,
and a set of very white teeth which gleamed like an animal's.
"Hullo!" said Copplestone. "Come out of that!"
The white teeth showed themselves still more; their owner laughed again.
"You come up, guv'nor," he said. "There's a natural staircase round the
corner. Come up and make yourself at home. I've a nice little parlour
here, and a matter of refreshment in it, too."
"Not till you show yourself," answered Copplestone. "I want to see what
I'm dealing with. Come out, now!"
The unseen laughed again, moved away from his screen, and presently
showed himself on the edge of the shelf of rock. And Copplestone found
himself staring at a queer figure of a man--an under-sized,
quaint-looking fellow, clad in dirty velveteens, a once red waistcoat,
and leather breeches and gaiters, a sort of compound between a poacher, a
game-keeper, and an ostler. But quainter than figure or garments was the
man's face--a gnarled, weather-beaten, sea-and-wind stained face, which,
in Copplestone's opinion, was holiest enough and not without abundant
traces of a sense of humour.
Copplestone at once trusted that face. He swung himself up by the nooks
and crannies of the rock, and joined the man on his ledge.
"Well?" he said. "You're the chap who sent me that letter? Why?"
"Come this way, guv'nor," replied the brown-faced one. "Well talk more
comfortable, like, in my parlour. Here you are!"
He led Copplestone along the ridge behind the bushes, and presently
revealed a cave in the face of the overhanging limestone, mostly natural,
but partly due to artifice, wherein were rude seats, covered over with
old sacking, a box or two which evidently served for pantry and larder,
and a shelf on which stood a wicker-covered bottle in company with a row
of bottles of ale.
The lord of this retreat waved a hospitable hand towards his cellar.
"You'll not refuse a poor man's hospitality, guv'nor?" he said politely.
"I can give you a clean glass, and if you'll try a drop of rum, there's
fresh water from the stream to mix it with--good as you'll find in
England. Or, maybe, it being the forepart of the day, you'd prefer ale,
now? Say the word!"
"A bottle of ale, then, thank you," responded Copplestone, who saw that
he had to deal with an original, and did not wish to appear
stand-offish. "And whom am I going to drink with, may I ask?"
The man carefully drew the cork of a bottle, poured out its contents with
the discrimination of a bartender, handed the glass to his visitor with a
bow, helped himself to a measure of rum, and bowed again as he drank.
"My best respects to you, guv'nor," he said. "Glad to see you in Hobkin's
Hole Castle--that's here. Queer place for gentlemen to meet in, ain't it?
Who are you talking to, says you? My name, guv'-nor--well-known
hereabouts--is Zachary Spurge!"
"You sent me that note last night?" asked Copplestone, taking a seat and
filling his pipe. "How did you get it there--unseen?"
"Got a cousin as is odd-job man at the 'Admiral's Arms,'" replied
Spurge. "He slipped it in for me. You may ha' seen him there,
guv'nor--chap with one eye, and queer-looking, but to be trusted. As I
am!--down to the ground."
"And what do you want to see me about?" inquired Copplestone. "What's
this bit of news you've got to tell?"
Zachary Spurge thrust a hand inside his velveteen jacket and drew out a
much folded and creased paper, which, on being unwrapped, proved to be
the bill which offered a reward for the finding of Bassett Oliver. He
held it up before his visitor.
"This!" he said. "A thousand pound is a vast lot o' money, guv'nor! Now,
if I was to tell something as I knows of, what chances should I have of
getting that there money?"
"That depends," replied Copplestone. "The reward is to be given to--but
you see the plain wording of it. Can you give information of that sort?"
"I can give a certain piece of information, guv'nor," said Spurge.
"Whether it'll lead to the finding of that there gentleman or not I can't
say. But something I do know--certain sure!"
Copplestone reflected awhile.
"Ill tell you what, Spurge," he said. "I'll promise you this much. If you
can give any information I'll give you my word that--whether what you can
tell is worth much or little--you shall be well paid. That do?"
"That'll do, guv'nor," responded Spurge. "I take your word as between
gentlemen! Well, now, it's this here--you see me as I am, here in a
cave, like one o' them old eremites that used to be in the ancient days.
Why am I here! 'Cause just now it ain't quite convenient for me to show
my face in Scarhaven. I'm wanted for poaching, guv'nor--that's the fact!
This here is a safe retreat. If I was tracked here, I could make my way
out at the back of this hole--there's a passage here--before anybody
could climb that rock. However, nobody suspects I'm here. They
think--that is, that old devil Chatfield and the police--they think I'm
off to sea. However, here I am--and last Sunday afternoon as ever was, I
was in Scarhaven! In the wood I was, guv'nor, at the back of the Keep.
Never mind what for--I was there. And at precisely ten minutes to three
o'clock I saw Bassett Oliver."
"How did you know him?" demanded Copplestone.
"Cause I've had many a sixpenn'orth of him at both Northborough and
Norcaster," answered Spurge. "Seen him a dozen times, I have, and knew
him well enough, even if I'd only viewed him from the the-ayter gallery.
Well, he come along up the path from the south quay. He passed within a
dozen yards of me, and went up to the door in the wall of the ruins,
right opposite where I was lying doggo amongst some bushes. He poked the
door with the point of his stick--it was ajar, that door, and it went
open. And so he walks in--and disappears. Guv'nor!--I reckon that'ud be
the last time as he was seen alive!--unless--unless--"
"Unless--what?" asked Copplestone eagerly.
"Unless one other man saw him," replied Spurge solemnly. "For there was
another man there, guv'nor. Squire Greyle!"
Copplestone looked hard at Spurge; Spurge returned the stare, and nodded
two or three times.
"Gospel truth!" he said. "I kept where I was--I'd reasons of my own. May
be eight minutes or so--certainly not ten--after Bassett Oliver walked in
there, Squire Greyle walked out. In a hurry, guv'nor. He come out quick.
He looked a bit queer. Dazed, like. You know how quick a man can think,
guv'nor, under certain circumstances? I thought quicker'n lightning. I
says to myself 'Squire's seen somebody or something he hadn't no taste
for!' Why, you could read it on his face! plain as print. It was there!"
"Well?" said Copplestone. "And then?"
"Then," continued Spurge. "Then he stood for just a second or two,
looking right and left, up and down. There wasn't a soul in
sight--nobody! But--he slunk off--sneaked off--same as a fox sneaks away
from a farm-yard. He went down the side of the curtain-wall that shuts in
the ruins, taking as much cover as ever he could find--at the end of the
wall, he popped into the wood that stands between the ruins and his
house. And then, of course, I lost all sight of him."
"And--Mr. Oliver?" said Copplestone. "Did you see him again?"
Spurge took a pull at his rum and water, and relighted his pipe.
"I did not," he answered. "I was there until a quarter-past three--then I
went away. And no Oliver had come out o' that door when I left."
THE INVALID CURATE
Spurge and his visitor sat staring at each other in silence for a few
minutes; the silence was eventually broken by Copplestone.
"Of course," he said reflectively, "if Mr. Oliver was looking round those
ruins he could easily spend half an hour there."
"Just so," agreed Spurge. "He could spend an hour. If so be as he was one
of these here antiquarian-minded gents, as loves to potter about old
places like that, he could spend two hours, three hours, profitable-like.
But he'd have come out in the end, and the evidence is, guv'nor, that he
never did come out! Even if I am just now lying up, as it were, I'm fully
what they term o-fay with matters, and, by all accounts, after Bassett
Oliver went up that there path, subsequent to his bit of talk with
Ewbank, he was never seen no more 'cepting by me, and possibly by Squire
Greyle. Them as lives a good deal alone, like me guv'nor, develops what
you may call logical faculties--they thinks--and thinks deep. I've
thought. B.O.--that's Oliver--didn't go back by the way he'd come, or
he'd ha' been seen. B.O. didn't go forward or through the woods to the
headlands, or he'd ha' been seen, B.O. didn't go down to the shore, or
he'd ha' been seen. 'Twixt you and me, guv'nor, B.O.'s dead body is in
that there Keep!"
"Are you suggesting anything?" asked Copplestone.
"Nothing, guv'nor--no more than that," answered Spurge. "I'm making no
suggestion and no accusation against nobody. I've seen a bit too much of
life to do that. I've known more than one innocent man hanged there at
Norcaster Gaol in my time all through what they call circumstantial
evidence. Appearances is all very well--but appearances may be against a
man to the very last degree, and yet him be as innocent as a new born
baby! No--I make no suggestions. 'Cepting this here--which has no doubt
occurred to you, or to B.O.'s brother. If I were the missing gentleman's
friends I should want to know a lot! I should want to know precisely what
he meant when he said to Dan'l Ewbank as how he'd known a man called
Marston Greyle in America. 'Taint a common name, that, guv'nor."
Copplestone made no answer to these observations. His own train of
thought was somewhat similar to his host's. And presently he turned to a
"You saw no one else about there that afternoon?" he asked.
"No one, guv'nor," replied Spurge.
"And where did you go when you left the place?" inquired Copplestone.
"To tell you the truth, guv'nor, I was waiting there for that cousin o'
mine--him as carried you the letter," answered Spurge. "It was a fixture
between us--he was to meet me there about three o'clock that day. If he
wasn't there, or in sight, by a quarter-past three I was to know he
wasn't able to get away. So as he didn't come, I slipped back into the
woods, and made my way back here, round by the moors."
"Are you going to stay in this place?" asked Copplestone.
"For a bit, guv'nor--till I see how things are," replied Spurge. "As I
say, I'm wanted for poaching, and Chatfield's been watching to get his
knife into me this long while. All the same, if more serious things drew
his attention off, he might let it slide. What do you ask for, guv'nor?"
"I wanted to know where you could be found in case you were required to
give evidence about seeing Mr. Oliver," replied Copplestone. "That
evidence may be wanted."
"I've thought of that," observed Spurge. "And you can always find that
much out from my cousin at the 'Admiral.' He keeps in touch with me--if
it got too hot for me here, I should clear out to Norcaster--there's a
spot there where I've laid low many a time. You can trust my cousin--Jim
Spurge, that's his name. One eye, no mistaking of him--he's always about
the yard there at Mrs. Wooler's."
"All right," said Copplestone. "If I want you, I'll tell him. By-the-bye,
have you told this to anybody?"
"Not to a soul, guv'nor," replied Spurge. "Not even to Jim. No--I kept it
dark till I could see you. Considering, of course, that you are left in
charge of things, like."
Copplestone presently went away and returned slowly to Scarhaven,
meditating deeply on what he had heard. He saw no reason to doubt the
truth of Zachary Spurge's tale--it bore the marks of credibility. But
what did it amount to? That Spurge saw Bassett Oliver enter the ruins of
the Keep, by the one point of ingress; that a few moments later he saw
Marston Greyle come away from the same place, evidently considerably
upset, and sneak off in a manner which showed that he dreaded
observation. That was all very suspicious, to say the least of it, taken
in relation to Oliver's undoubted disappearance--but it was only
suspicion; it afforded no direct proof. However, it gave material for a
report to Sir Cresswell Oliver, and he determined to write out an account
of his dealings with Spurge that afternoon, and to send it off at once by
He was busily engaged in this task when Mrs. Wooler came into his
sitting-room to lay the table for his lunch. Copplestone saw at once that
she was full of news.
"Never rains but it pours!" she said with a smile. "Though, to be sure,
it isn't a very heavy shower. I've got another visitor now, Mr.
"Oh?" responded Copplestone, not particularly interested. "Indeed!"
"A young clergyman from London--the Reverend Gilling," continued the
landlady. "Been ill for some time, and his doctor has recommended him to
try the north coast air. So he came down here, and he's going to stop
awhile to see how it suits him."
"I should have thought the air of the north coast was a bit strong for
an invalid," remarked Copplestone. "I'm not delicate, but I find it quite
strong enough for me."
"I daresay it's a case of kill or cure," replied Mrs. Wooler. "Chest
complaint, I should think. Not that the young gentleman looks
particularly delicate, either, and he tells me that he's a very good
appetite and that his doctor says he's to live well and to eat as much as
ever he can."
Copplestone got a view of his fellow-visitor that afternoon in the hall
of the inn, and agreed with the landlady that he showed no evident signs
of delicacy of health. He was a good type of the conventional curate,
with a rather pale, good-humoured face set between his round collar and
wide brimmed hat, and he glanced at Copplestone with friendly curiosity
and something of a question in his eyes. And Copplestone, out of good
neighbourliness, stopped and spoke to him.
"Mrs. Wooler tells me you're come here to pick up," he remarked. "Pretty
strong air round this quarter of the globe!"
"Oh, that's all right!" said the new arrival. "The air of Scarhaven
will do me good--it's full of just what I want." He gave Copplestone
another look and then glanced at the letters which he held in his hand.
"Are you going to the post-office?" he asked. "May I come?--I want to
go there, too."
The two young men walked out of the inn, and Copplestone led the way
down the road towards the northern quay. And once they were well out
of earshot of the "Admiral's Arms," and the two or three men who
lounged near the wall in front of it, the curate turned to his
companion with a sly look.
"Of course you're Mr. Copplestone?" he remarked. "You can't be anybody
else--besides, I heard the landlady call you so."
"Yes," replied Copplestone, distinctly puzzled by the other's manner.
The curate laughed quietly, and putting his fingers inside his heavy
overcoat, produced a card which he handed over.
"My credentials!" he said.
Copplestone glanced at the card and read "Sir Cresswell Oliver," He
turned wonderingly to his companion, who laughed again.
"Sir Cresswell told me to give you that as soon as I conveniently could,"
he said. "The fact is, I'm not a clergyman at all--not I! I'm a private
detective, sent down here by him and Petherton. See?"
Copplestone stared for a moment at the wide-brimmed hat, the round
collar, the eminently clerical countenance. Then he burst into laughter.
"I congratulate you on your make-up, anyway!" he exclaimed. "Capital!"
"Oh, I've been on the stage in my time," responded the private detective.
"I'm a good hand at fitting myself to various parts; besides I've played
the conventional curate a score of times. Yes, I don't think anybody
would see through me, and I'm very particular to avoid the clergy."
"And you left the stage--for this?" asked Copplestone. "Why, now?"
"Pays better--heaps better," replied the other calmly. "Also, it's more
exciting--there's much more variety in it. Well, now you know who I
am--my name, by-the-bye is Gilling, though I'm not the Reverend Gilling,
as Mrs. Wooler will call me. And so--as I've made things plain--how's
this matter going so far?"
Copplestone shook his head.
"My orders," he said, with a significant look, "are--to say nothing
to any one."
"Except to me," responded Gilling. "Sir Cresswell Oliver's card is my
passport. You can tell me anything."
"Tell me something first," replied Copplestone. "Precisely what are you
here for? If I'm to talk confidentially to you, you must talk in the same
fashion to me."
He stopped at a deserted stretch of the quay, and leaning against the
wall which separated it from the sand, signed to Gilling to stop also.
"If we're going to have a quiet talk," he went on, "we'd better have it
now--no one's about, and if any one sees us from a distance they'll
only think we're, what we look to be--casual acquaintances. Now--what
is your job?"
Gilling looked about him and then perched himself on the wall.
"To watch Marston Greyle," he replied.
"They suspect him?" asked Copplestone.
"Sir Cresswell Oliver said as much to me--but no more. Have they said
more to you?"
"The suspicion seemed to have originated with Petherton. Petherton, in
spite of his meek old-fashioned manners, is as sharp an old bird as
you'll find in London! He fastened at once on what Bassett Oliver said
to that fisherman, Ewbank. A keen nose for a scent, Petherton's! And he
's determined to find out who it was that Bassett Oliver met in the
United States under the name of Marston Greyle. He's already set the
machinery in motion. And in the meantime, I'm to keep my eye on this
Squire--as I shall!"
"Why watch him particularly?"
"To see that he doesn't depart for unknown regions--or, if he does, to
follow in his track. He's not to be lost sight of until this mystery is
cleared. Because--something is wrong."
Copplestone considered matters in silence for a few moments, and decided
not to reveal the story of Zachary Spurge to Gilling--yet awhile at any
rate. However, he had news which there was no harm in communicating.
"Marston Greyle," he said, presently, "or his agent, Peter Chatfield, or
both, in common agreement, are already doing something to solve the
mystery--so far as Greyle's property is concerned. They've closed the
Keep and its surrounding ruins to the people who used to be permitted to
go in, and they're conducting an exhaustive search--for Bassett Oliver,
Gilling made a grimace.
"Of course!" he said, cynically. "Just so! I expected something of that
sort. That's all part of a clever scheme."
"I don't understand you," remarked Copplestone. "How--a clever scheme?"
"Whitewash!" answered Gilling. "Sheer whitewash! You don't suppose that
either Greyle or Chatfield are fools?--I should say they're far from it,
from what little I've heard of 'em. Well--don't they know very well that
Marston Greyle is under suspicion? All right--they want to clear him. So
they close their ruins and make a search--a private search, mind you--and
at the end they announce that nothing's been found--and there you are!
And--supposing they did find something--supposing they found Bassett
Oliver's body--What is it?" he asked suddenly, seeing Copplestone staring
hard across the sands at the opposite quay. "Something happened?"
"By Gad!--I believe something has happened!" exclaimed Copplestone. "Look
there--men running down the hillside from the Keep. And listen--they're
shouting to those fellows on the other quay. Come on across! Will it be
out of keeping with your invalid pose if you run?"
Gilling answered that question by lightly vaulting the wall and dropping
to the sands beneath.
"I'm not an invalid in my legs, anyhow," he answered, as they began to
splash across the pools left by the recently retreated tide. "By
George!--I believe something has happened, too! Look at those people,
running out of their cottages!"
All along the south quay the fisher-folk, men, women, and children, were
crowding eagerly towards the gate of the path by which Bassett Oliver had
gone up towards the Keep. When Copplestone and his companion gained the
quay and climbed up its wall they were pouring in at this gate, and
swarming up to the woods, all talking at the top of their voices.
Copplestone suddenly recognized Ewbank on the fringe of the crowd and
called to him.
"What is it?" he demanded. "What's happened?"
Ewbank, a man of leisurely movement, paused and waited for the two young
men to come up. At their approach he took his pipe out of his mouth, and
inclined his head towards the Keep.
"They're saying something's been found up there." he replied. "I don't
know what. But Chatfield, he's sent two men down here to the village. One
of 'em's gone for the police and the doctor, and t'other's gone to the
'Admiral,' looking for you. You're wanted up there--partiklar!"
BENEATH THE BRAMBLES
By the time Copplestone and the pseudo-curate had reached the plateau of
open ground surrounding the ruins it seemed as if half the population of
Scarhaven had gathered there. Men, women and children were swarming about
the door in the curtain wall, all manifesting an eager desire to pass
through. But the door was strictly guarded. Chatfield, armed with a new
oak cudgel stood there, masterful and lowering; behind him were several
estate labourers, all keeping the people back. And within the door stood
Marston Greyle, evidently considerably restless and perturbed, and every
now and then looking out on the mob which the fast-spreading rumour had
called together. In one of these inspections he caught sight of
Copplestone, and spoke to Chatfield, who immediately sent one of his
body-guard through the throng.
"Mr. Greyle says will you go forward, sir?" said the man. "Your friend
can go in too, if he likes."
"That's your clerical garb," whispered Copplestone as he and Gilling made
their way to the door. "But why this sudden politeness?"
"Oh, that's easy to reckon up," answered Gilling. "I see through it. They
want creditable and respectable witnesses to something or other. This
big, heavy-jowled man is Chatfield, of course?"
"That's Chatfield," responded Copplestone. "What's he after?"
For the agent, as the two young men approached, ostentiously turned away
from them, moving a few steps from the door. He muttered a word or two to
the men who guarded it and they stood aside and allowed Copplestone and
the curate to enter. Marston Greyle came forward, eyeing Gilling with a
sharp glance of inspection. He turned from him to Copplestone.
"Will you come in?" he asked, not impolitely and with a certain anxiety
of manner. "I want you to--to be present, in fact. This gentleman is a
friend of yours?"
"An acquaintance of an hour," interposed Gilling, with ready wit. "I have
just come to stay at the inn--for my health's sake."
"Perhaps you'll be kind enough to accompany us?" said Greyle. "The fact
is, Mr. Copplestone, we've found Mr. Bassett Oliver's body."
"I thought so," remarked Copplestone.
"And as soon as the police come up," continued Greyle, "I want you all to
see exactly where it is. No one's touched it--no one's been near it. Of
course, he's dead!"
He lifted his hand with a nervous gesture, and the two others, who were
watching him closely, saw that he was trembling a good deal, and that his
face was very pale.
"Dead!--of course," he went on. "He--he must have been killed
instantaneously. And you'll see in a minute or two why the body wasn't
found before--when we made that first search. It's quite explainable. The
A sudden bustle at the door in the wall heralded the entrance of two
policemen. The Squire went forward to meet them. The prospect of
immediate action seemed to pull him together and his manner changed to
one of assertive superintendence of things.
"Now, Mr. Chatfield!" he called out. "Keep all these people away! Close
the door and let no one enter on any excuse. Stay there yourself and see
that we are not interrupted. Come this way now," he went on, addressing
the policemen and the two favoured spectators.
"You've found him, then, sir?" asked the police-sergeant in a thick
whisper, as Greyle led his party across the grass to the foot of the
Keep. "I suppose it's all up with the poor gentleman; of course? The
doctor, he wasn't in, but they'll send him up as soon--"
"Mr. Bassett Oliver is dead," interrupted Greyle, almost harshly. "No
doctors can do any good. Now, look here," he continued, pulling them to a
sudden halt, "I want all of you to take particular notice of this old
tower--the Keep. I believe you have not been in here before, Mr.
Copplestone--just pay particular attention to this place. Here you see is
the Keep, standing in the middle of what I suppose was the courtyard of
the old castle. It's a square tower, with a stair-turret at one angle.
The stair in that turret is in a very good state of preservation--in
fact, it is quite easy to climb to the top, and from the top there's a
fine view of land and sea: the Keep itself is nearly a hundred feet in
height. Now the inside of the Keep is completely gutted, as you'll
presently see--there isn't a floor left of the five or six which were
once there. And I'm sorry to say there's very little protection when
one's at the top--merely a narrow ledge with a very low parapet, which in
places is badly broken. Consequently, any one who climbs to the top must
be very careful, or there's the danger of slipping off that ledge and
falling to the bottom. Now in my opinion that's precisely what happened
on Sunday afternoon. Oliver evidently got in here, climbed the stairs in
the turret to enjoy the view and fell from the parapet. And why his body
hasn't been found before I'll now show you."
He led the way to the extreme foot of the Keep, and to a very low-arched
door, at which stood a couple of the estate labourers, one of whom
carried a lighted lantern. To this man the Squire made a sign.
"Show the way," he said, in a low voice.
The man turned and descended several steps of worn and moss-covered stone
which led through the archway into a dark, cellar-like place smelling
strongly of damp and age. Greyle drew the attention of his companions to
a heap of earth and rubbish at the entrance.
"We had to clear all that out before we could get in here," he said.
"This archway hadn't been opened for ages. This, of course, is the very
lowest story of the Keep, and half beneath the level of the ground
outside. Its roof has gone, like all the rest, but as you see, something
else has supplied its place. Hold up your lantern, Marris!"
The other men looked up and saw what the Squire meant. Across the tower,
at a height of some fifteen or twenty feet from the floor, Nature, left
unchecked, had thrown a ceiling of green stuff. Bramble, ivy, and other
spreading and climbing plants had, in the course of years, made a
complete network from wall to wall. In places it was so thick that no
light could be seen through it from beneath; in other places it was thin
and glimpses of the sky could be seen from above the grey, tunnel-like
walls. And in one of those places, close to the walls, there was a
distinct gap, jagged and irregular, as if some heavy mass had recently
plunged through the screen of leaf and branch from the heights above, and
beneath this the startled searchers saw the body, lying beside a heap of
stones and earth in the unmistakable stillness of death.
"You see how it must have happened," whispered Greyle, as they all bent
round the dead man. "He must have fallen from the very top of the
Keep--from the parapet, in fact--and plunged through this mass of green
stuff above us. If he had hit that where it's so thick--there!--it might
have broken his fall, but, you see, he struck it at the very thinnest
part, and being a big and heavyish man, of course, he'd crash right
through it. Now of course, when we examined the Keep on Monday morning,
it never struck us that there might be something down here--if you go up
the turret stairs to the top and look down on this mass of green stuff
from the very top, you'll see that it looks undisturbed; there's scarcely
anything to show that he fell through it, from up there. But--he did!"
"Whose notion was it that he might be found here?" asked Copplestone.
"Chatfield's," replied the Squire. "Chatfield's. He and I were up at the
top there, and he suddenly suggested that Oliver might have fallen from
the parapet and be lying embedded in that mass of green stuff beneath. We
didn't know then--even Chatfield didn't know--that there was this empty
space beneath the green stuff. But when we came to go into it, we found
there was, so we had that archway cleared of all the stone and rubbish
and of course we found him."
"The body'll have to be removed, sir," whispered the police-sergeant.
"It'll have to be taken down to the inn, to wait the inquest."
Marston Greyle started.
"Inquest!" he said. "Oh!--will that have to be held? I suppose so--yes.
But we'd better wait until the doctor comes, hadn't we? I want him--"
The doctor came into the gloomy vault at that moment, escorted by
Chatfield, who, however, immediately retired. He was an elderly,
old-fashioned somewhat fussy-mannered person, who evidently attached
much more importance to the living Squire than to the dead man, and he
listened to all Marston Greyle's explanations and theories with great
deference and accepted each without demur. "Ah yes, to be sure!" he said,
after a perfunctory examination of the body. "The affair is easily
understood. It is precisely as you suggest, Squire. The unfortunate man
evidently climbed to the top of the tower, missed his footing, and fell
headlong. That slight mass of branch and leaf would make little
difference--he was, you see, a heavy man--some fourteen or fifteen stone,
I should think. Oh, instantaneous death, without a doubt! Well, well,
these constables must see to the removal of the body, and we must let my
friend the coroner know--he will hold the inquest tomorrow, no doubt.
Quite a mere formality, my dear sir!--the whole thing is as plain as a
pikestaff. It will be a relief to know that the mystery is now
Outside in the welcome freshness, Copplestone turned to the doctor.
"You say the inquest will be held tomorrow?" he asked. The doctor looked
his questioner up and down with an inquiry which signified doubt as to
Copplestone's right to demand information.
"In the usual course," he replied stiffly.
"Then his brother, Sir Cresswell Oliver, and his solicitor, Mr.
Petherton, must be wired for from London," observed Copplestone, turning
to Greyle. "I'll communicate with them at once. I suppose we may go up
the tower?" he continued as Greyle nodded his assent. "I'd like to see
the stairs and the parapet."
Greyle looked a little doubtful and uneasy.
"Well, I had meant that no one should go up until all this was gone
into," he answered. "I don't want any more accidents. You'll be careful?"
"We're both young and agile," responded Copplestone.
"There's no need for alarm. Do you care to go up, Mr. Gilling?"
The pseudo-curate accepted the invitation readily, and he and
Copplestone entered the turret. They had climbed half its height before
"Well?" he whispered. "What do you think?"
"It may be accident," muttered Gilling. "It--mayn't."
"You think he might have been--what?--thrown down?"
"Might have been caught unawares, and pushed over. Let's see what there
is up above, anyway."
The stair in the turret, much worn, but comparatively safe, and lighted
by loopholes and arrow-slits, terminated in a low arched doorway, through
which egress was afforded to a parapet which ran completely round the
inner wall of the Keep. It was in no place more than a yard wide; the
balustrading which fenced it in was in some places completely gone, a
mere glance was sufficient to show that only a very cool-headed and
extremely sure-footed person ought to traverse it. Copplestone contented
himself with an inspection from the archway; he looked down and saw at
once that a fall from that height must mean sure and swift death: he saw,
too, that Greyle had been quite right in saying that the sudden plunge of
Oliver's body through the leafy screen far beneath had made little
difference to the appearance of that screen as seen from above. And now
that he saw everything it seemed to him that the real truth might well
lie in one word--accident.
"Coming round this parapet?" asked Gilling, who was looking narrowly
"No!" replied Copplestone. "I can't stand looking down from great
heights. It makes my head swim. Are you?"
"Sure!" answered Gilling. He took off his heavy overcoat and handed it to
his companion. "Mind holding it?" he asked. "I want to have a good look
at the exact spot from which Oliver must have fallen. There's the
gap--such as it is, and it doesn't look much from here, does it?--in the
green stuff, down below, so he must have been here on the parapet exactly
above it. Gad! it's very narrow, and a bit risky, this, when all's said
Copplestone watched his companion make his way round to the place from
which it was only too evident Oliver must have fallen. Gilling went
slowly, carefully inspecting every yard of the moss and lichen-covered
stones. Once he paused some time and seemed to be examining a part of the
parapet with unusual attention. When he reached the precise spot at which
he had aimed, he instantly called across to Copplestone.
"There's no doubt about his having fallen from here!" he said. "Some of
the masonry on the very edge of this parapet is loose. I could dislodge
it with a touch."
"Then be careful," answered Copplestone. "Don't cross that bit!"
But Gilling quietly continued his progress and returned to his companion
by the opposite side from which he had set out, having thus accomplished
the entire round. He quietly reassumed his overcoat.
"No doubt about the fall," he said as they turned down the stair. "The
next thing is--was it accidental?"
"And--as regards that--what's to be done next?" asked Copplestone.
"That's easy. We must go at once and wire for Sir Cresswell and old
Petherton," replied Gilling. "It's now four-thirty. If they catch an
evening express at King's Cross they'll get here early in the morning. If
they like to motor from Norcaster they can get here in the small hours.
But--they must be here for that inquest."
Greyle was talking to Chatfield at the foot of the Keep when they got
down. The agent turned surlily away, but the Squire looked at both with
an unmistakable eagerness.
"There's no doubt whatever that Oliver fell from the parapet," said
Copplestone. "The marks of a fall are there--quite unmistakably."
Greyle nodded, but made no remark, and the two made their way through
the still eager crowd and went down to the village post-office. Both were
wondering, as they went, about the same thing--the evident anxiety and
mental uneasiness of Marston Greyle.
GOOD MEN AND TRUE
Copplestone saw little of his bed that night. At seven o'clock in the
evening came a telegram from Sir Cresswell Oliver, saying that he and
Petherton were leaving at once, would reach Norcaster soon after
midnight, and would motor out to Scarhaven immediately on arrival.
Copplestone made all arrangements for their reception, and after
snatching a couple of hours' sleep was up to receive them. By two o'clock
in the morning Sir Cresswell and the old solicitor and Gilling--smuggled
into their sitting-room--had heard all he had to tell about Zachary
Spurge and his story.
"We must have that fellow at the inquest," said Petherton. "At any cost
we must have him! That's flat!"
"You think it wise?" asked Sir Cresswell. "Won't it be a bit previous?
Wouldn't it be better to wait until we know more?"
"No--we must have his evidence," declared Petherton. "It will serve as an
opening. Besides, this inquest will have to be adjourned--I shall ask for
that. No--Spurge must be produced."
"If Spurge comes into Scarhaven," observed Copplestone, "he'll be
promptly collared by the police. They want him for poaching."
"Then they can get him when the proceedings are over," retorted the old
lawyer, dryly. "They daren't touch him while he's giving evidence and
that's all we want. Perhaps he won't come?--Oh he'll come all right if
we make it worth his while. A month in Norcaster gaol will mean nothing
to him if he knows there's a chance of that reward or something
substantial out of it at the end of his sentence. You must go out to
this retreat of his and bring him in--we must have him. Better go very
early in the morning.
"I'll go now," said Copplestone. "It's as easy to go by night as by day."
He left the other three to seek their beds, and himself slipped quietly
out of the hotel by one of the ground-floor windows and set off in a
pitch-black night to seek Spurge in his lair. And after sundry barkings
of his shins against the rocks and scratchings of his hands and cheeks by
the undergrowth of Hobkin's Hole he rounded the poacher out and delivered
Spurge, blinking at his visitor in the pale light of a guttering candle,
shook his head.
"I'll come, guv'nor," he said. "Of course. I'll come--and I'll trust to
luck to get away, and it don't matter a deal if the luck's agen me--I've
done a month in Norcaster before today, and it ain't half a bad
rest-cure, if you only take it that way. But guv'nor--that old lawyer's
making a mistake! You didn't ought to have my bit of evidence at this
stage. It's too soon. You want to work up the case a bit. There's such a
thing, guv'nor, in this world as being a bit previous. This here's too
previous--you want to be surer of your facts. Because you know, guv'nor
nobody'll believe my word agen Squire Greyle's. Guv'nor--this here
inquest'll be naught but a blooming farce! Mark me! You ain't a native o'
this part--I am. D'you think as how a Scarhaven jury's going to say aught
agen its own Squire and landlord? Not it! I say, guv'nor--all a blooming
farce! Mark my words!"
"All the same, you'll come?" asked Copplestone, who was secretly of
Spurge's opinion. "You won't lose by it in the long run."
"Oh, I'll be there," responded Spurge. "Out of curiosity, if for nothing
else. You mayn't see me at first, but, let the lawyer from London call my
name out, and Zachary Spurge'll step forward."
There was abundant cover for Zachary Spurge and for half-a-dozen like him
in the village school-house when the inquest was opened at ten-o'clock
that morning. It seemed to Copplestone that it would have been a physical
impossibility to crowd more people within the walls than had assembled
when the coroner, a local solicitor, who was obviously testy, irritable,
self-important and afflicted with deafness, took his seat and looked
sourly on the crowd of faces. Copplestone had already seen him in
conversation with the village doctor, the village police, Chatfield, and
Marston Greyle's solicitor, and he began to see the force of Spurge's
shrewd remarks. What, of course, was most desired was secrecy and
privacy--the Scarhaven powers had no wish that the attention of all the
world should be drawn to this quiet place. But outsiders were there in
plenty. Stafford and several members of Bassett Oliver's company had
motored over from Norcaster and had succeeded in getting good places:
there were half-a-dozen reporters from Norcaster and Northborough, and
plain-clothes police from both towns. And there, too, were all the
principal folk of the neighbourhood, and Mrs. Greyle and her daughter,
and, a little distance from Audrey, alert and keenly interested, was
It needed very little insight or observation on the part of an
intelligent spectator to see how things were going. The twelve good men
and true, required under the provisions of the old statute to form a
jury, were all of them either Scarhaven tradesmen or Scarhaven
householders or labourers on the estate. Their countenances, as they took
their seats under the foremanship of a man whom Copplestone already knew
as Chatfield's under-steward, showed plainly that they regarded the whole
thing as a necessary formality and that they were already prepared with a
verdict. This impression was strengthened by the coroner's opening
remarks. In his opinion, the whole affair--to which he did not even refer
as unfortunate--was easily and quickly explained and understood. The
deceased had come to the village to look round--on a Sunday be it
observed--had somehow obtained access to the Keep, where, the ruins being
strictly private and not open to the public on any consideration on
Sunday, he had no right to be; had indulged his curiosity by climbing to
the top of the ancient tower and had paid for it by falling down from
that terrible height and breaking his neck. All that was necessary was
for them to hear evidence bearing out these facts--after which they would
return a verdict in accordance with what they had heard. Very fortunately
the facts were plain, and it would not be necessary to call many
Sir Cresswell Oliver turned to Copplestone who sat at one side of him,
while Petherton sat on the other.
"I don't know if you notice that Greyle isn't here?" he whispered grimly.
"In my opinion, he doesn't intend to show! We'll see!"
Certainly the Squire was not in the place. And there were soon signs that
those who conducted the proceedings evidently did not consider his
presence necessary. The witnesses were few; their examinations was
perfunctory; they were out of the extemporised witness-box as soon as
they were in it. Sir Cresswell Oliver--to give formal identification.
Mrs. Wooler--to prove that the deceased man came to her house. One of the
foremen of the estate--to prove the great care with which the Squire had
searched for traces of the missing man. One of the estate labourers--to
prove the actual finding of the body. The doctor--to prove, beyond all
doubt, that the deceased had broken his neck.
The coroner, an elderly man, obviously well satisfied with the trend of
things, took off his spectacles and turned to the jury.
"You have heard everything there is to be heard, gentlemen," said he. "As
I remarked at the opening of this inquest, the case is one of great
simplicity. You will have no difficulty in deciding that the deceased
came to his death by accident--as to the exact wording of your verdict,
you had better put it in this way:--that the deceased Bassett Oliver died
as the result--"
Petherton, who, noticing the coroner's deafness, had contrived to seat
himself as close to his chair of office as possible, quietly rose.
"Before the jury consider any verdict," he said in his loudest tones,
"they must hear certain evidence which I wish to call. And first of
all--is Mr. Marston Greyle present in this room?"
The coroner frowned, and the Squire's solicitor turned to Petherton.
"Mr. Greyle is not present," he said. "He is not at all well. There is no
need for his presence--he has no evidence to give."
"If you don't have Mr. Greyle down here at once," said Petherton,
quietly, "this inquest will have to be adjourned for his attendance.
You had better send for him--or I'll get the authorities to do so. In
the meantime, we '11 call one or two witnesses,--Daniel Ewbank!--to
There was a brief and evidently anxious consultation between Greyle's
solicitor and the coroner; there were dark looks at Petherton and his
companions. Then the foreman of the jury spoke, sullenly.
"We don't want to hear no Ewbanks!" he said. "We're quite satisfied, us
as sits here. Our verdict is--"
"You'll have to bear Ewbank and anybody I like to call, my good sir,"
retorted Petherton quietly. "I am better acquainted with the law than you
are." He turned to the coroner's officer. "I warned you this morning to
produce Ewbank," he said. "Now, where is he?"
Out of a deep silence a shrill voice came from the rear of the crowd.
"Knows better than to be here, does Dan'l Ewbank, mister! He's off!"
"Very good--or bad--for somebody," remarked Petherton, quietly.
"Then--until Mr. Marston Greyle comes--we will call Zachary Spurge."
The assemblage, jurymen included, broke into derisive laughter as Spurge
suddenly appeared from the most densely packed corner of the room, and it
was at once evident to Copplestone that whatever the poacher might say,
no one there would attach any importance to it. The laughter continued
and increased while Spurge was under examination. Petherton appealed to
the coroner; the coroner affected not to hear. And once more the foreman
of the jury interrupted.
"We don't want to hear no more o' this stuff!" he said. "It's an insult
to us to put a fellow like that before us. We don't believe a word o'
what he says. We don't believe he was within a mile o' them ruins on
Sunday afternoon. It's all a put-up job!"
Petherton leaned towards the reporters.
"I hope you gentlemen of the press will make a full note of these
proceedings," he observed suavely. "You at any rate are not biassed or
The coroner heard that in spite of his deafness, and he grew purple.
"Sir!" he exclaimed. "That is a most improper observation! It's a
reflection on my position, sir, and I've a great mind--"
"Mr. Coroner," observed Petherton, leaning towards him, "I shall hand in
a full report concerning your conduct of these proceedings to the Home
Office tomorrow. If you attempt to interfere with my duty here, all the
worse for you. Now, Spurge, you can stand down. And as I see Mr. Greyle
there--call Marston Greyle!"
The Squire had appeared while Spurge was giving his evidence, and had
heard what the poacher alleged. He entered the box very pale, angry, and
disturbed, and the glances which he cast on Sir Cresswell Oliver and his
party were distinctly those of displeasure.
"Swear him!" commanded Petherton. "Now, Mr. Greyle--"
But Greyle's own solicitor was on his legs, insisting on his right to put
a first question. In spite of Petherton, he put it.
"You heard the evidence of the last witness?--Spurge. Is there a word of
truth in it?"
Marston Greyle--who certainly looked very unwell--moistened his lips.
"Not one word!" he answered. "It's a lie!"
The solicitor glanced triumphantly at the Coroner and the jury, and the
crowd raised unchecked murmurs of approval. Again the foreman endeavoured
to stop the proceedings.
"We regard all this here as very rude conduct to Mr. Greyle," he said
angrily. "We're not concerned--"
"Mr. Foreman!" said Petherton. "You are a foolish man--you are
interfering with justice. Be warned!--I warn you, if the Coroner doesn't.
Mr. Greyle, I must ask you certain questions. Did you see the deceased
Bassett Oliver on Sunday last?"
"I needn't remind you that you are on your oath. Have you ever met the
deceased man in your life?"
"You never met him in America?"
"I may have met him--but not to my recollection. If I did, it was in such
a casual fashion that I have completely forgotten all about it."
"Very well--you are on your oath, mind. Where did you live in America,
before you succeeded to this estate?"
The Squire's solicitor intervened.
"Don't answer that question!" he said sharply. "Don't answer any more. I
object altogether to your line," he went on, angrily, turning to
Petherton. "I claim the Coroner's protection for the witness."
"I quite agree," said the Coroner. "All this is absolutely irrelevant.
You can stand down," he continued, turning to the Squire. "I will have no
more of this--and I will take the full responsibility!"
"And the consequences, Mr. Coroner," replied Petherton calmly. "And the
first consequence is that I now formally demand an adjournment of this
inquest, _sine die_."
"On what grounds, sir?" demanded the Coroner.
"To permit me to bring evidence from America," replied Petherton, with a
side glance at Marston Greyle. "Evidence already being prepared."
The Coroner hesitated, looked at Greyle's solicitor, and then turned
sharply to the jury.
"I refuse that application!" he said. "You have heard all I have to say,
gentlemen," he went on, "and you can return your verdict."
Petherton quietly gathered up his papers and motioned to his friends to
follow him out of the schoolroom. The foreman of the jury was returning a
verdict of accidental death as they passed through the door, and they
emerged into the street to an accompaniment of loud cheers for the Squire
and groans for themselves.
"What a travesty of justice!" exclaimed Sir Cresswell. "That fellow
Spurge was right, you see, Copplestone. I wish we hadn't brought him
Copplestone suddenly laughed and touched Sir Cresswell's arm. He pointed
to the edge of the moorland just outside the school-yard. Spurge was
disappearing over that edge, and in a moment had vanished.
Amongst the little group of actors and actresses who had come over from
Norcaster to hear all that was to be told concerning their late manager,
sat an old gentleman who, hands folded on the head of his walking cane,
and chin settled on his hands, watched the proceedings with silent and
concentrated attention. He was a striking figure of an old
gentleman--tall, distinguished-looking, handsome, with a face full of
character, the strong lines and features of which were further
accentuated by his silvery hair. He was a smart old gentleman, too, well
and scrupulously attired and groomed, and his blue bird's-eye necktie,
worn at a rakish angle, gave him the air of something of a sporting man
rather than of a follower of Thespis. His fellow members of the Oliver
company seemed to pay him great attention, and at various points of the
proceedings whispered questions to him as to an acknowledged authority.
This old gentleman, when the inquest came to its extraordinary end and
the crowd went out murmuring and disputing, separated himself from his
companions and made his way towards Mrs. Greyle and her daughter, who
were quietly setting out homewards. To Audrey's surprise the two elders
shook hands in silence, and inspected each other with a palpable
wistfulness of look.
"And yet it's twenty-five years since we met, isn't it?" said the old
gentleman, almost as if he were talking to himself. "But I knew you at
once--I was wondering if you remembered me?"
"Why, of course," responded Mrs. Greyle. "Besides, I've had an
advantage over you. I've seen you, you know, several times--at
Norcaster. We go to the theatre now and then. Audrey--this is Mr.
Dennie--you've seen him, too."
"On the stage--on the stage!" murmured the old actor, as he shook hands
with the girl. "Um!--I wonder if any of us are ever really off it! This
affair, for instance--there's a drama for you! By the-bye--this young
Squire--he's your relation, of course?"
"My nephew-in-law, and Audrey's cousin," replied Mrs. Greyle. Mr. Dennie,
who had walked along with them towards their cottage, stopped in a quiet
stretch of the quay, and looked meditatively at Audrey.
"Then this young lady," he said, "is next heir to the Greyle estates, eh?
For I understand this present Squire isn't married. Therefore--"
"Oh, that's something that isn't worth thinking about," replied Mrs.
Greyle hastily. "Don't put such notions into the girl's head, Mr. Dennie.
Besides, the Greyle estates are not entailed, you know. The present owner
can do what he pleases with them--besides that, he's sure to marry."
"All the same," observed Mr. Dennie, imperturbably, "if this young man
had not been in existence, this child would have succeeded, eh?"
"Why, of course," agreed Mrs. Greyle a little impatiently. "But what's
the use of talking about that, my old friend! The young man is in
possession--and there you are!"
"Do you like the young man?" asked Mr. Dennie. "I take an old fellow's
privilege in asking direct questions, you know. And--though we haven't
seen each other for all these years--you can say anything tome."
"No, we don't," replied Mrs. Greyle. "And we don't know why we don't--so
there's a woman's answer for you. Kinsfolk though we are, we see little
of each other."
Mr. Dennie made no remark on this. He walked along at Audrey's side,
apparently in deep thought, and suddenly he looked across at her mother.
"What do you think about this extraordinary story of Bassett Oliver's
having met a Marston Greyle over there in America?" he asked abruptly.
"What do people here think about it?"
"We're not in a position to hear much of what other people think,"
answered Mrs. Greyle. "What I think is that if this Marston Greyle ever
did meet such a very notable and noticeable man as Bassett Oliver it's a
very, very strange thing that he's forgotten all about it!"
Mr. Dennie laughed quietly.
"Aye, aye!" he said. "But--don't you think we folk of the profession are
a little bit apt to magnify our own importance? You say 'Bless me, how
could anybody ever forget an introduction to Bassett Oliver!' But we must
remember that to some people even a famous actor is of no more importance
than--shall we say a respectable grocer? Marston Greyle may be one of
those people--it's quite possible he may have been introduced, quite
casually, to Oliver at some club, or gathering, something-or-other, over
there and have quite forgotten all about it. Quite possible, I think."
"I agree with you as to the possibility, but certainly not as to the
probability," said Mrs. Greyle, dryly. "Bassett Oliver was the sort of
man whom nobody would forget. But here we are at our cottage--you'll come
in, Mr. Dennie?"
"It will only have to be for a little time, my dear lady," said the old
actor, pulling out his watch. "Our people are going back very soon, and I
must join them at the station."
"I'll give you a glass of good old wine," said Mrs. Greyle as they went
into the cottage. "I have some that belonged to my father-in-law, the old
Squire. You must taste it--for old times' sake."
Mr. Dennie followed Audrey into the little parlour as Mrs. Greyle
disappeared to another part of the house. And the instant they were
alone, he tapped the girl's arm and gave her a curiously warning look.
"Hush, my dear!" he whispered. "Not a word--don't want your mother to
know! Listen--have you a specimen--letter--anything--of your cousin, the
Squire's handwriting? Anything so long as it's his. You have? Give it to
me--say nothing to your mother. Wait until tomorrow morning. I'll run
over to see you again--about noon. It's important--but silence!"
Audrey, scarcely understanding the old man's meaning, opened a desk and
drew out one or two letters. She selected one and handed it to Mr.
Dennie, who made haste to put it away before Mrs. Greyle returned. He
gave Audrey another warning look.
"That was what I wanted!" he said mysteriously. "I thought of it during
the inquest. Never mind why, just now--you shall know tomorrow."
He lingered a few minutes, chatting to his hostess about old times as he
sipped the old Squire's famous port; then he went off to the little
station, joined Stafford and his fellow actors and actresses, and
returned with them to Norcaster. And at Norcaster Mr. Dennie separated
himself from the rest and repaired to his quiet lodgings--rooms which he
had occupied for many years in succession whenever he went that way on
tour--and once safely bestowed in them he pulled out a certain
old-fashioned trunk, which he had owned since boyhood and lugged about
wherever he went in two continents, and from it, after much methodical
unpacking, he disinterred a brown paper parcel, neatly tied up with green
ribbon. From this parcel he drew a thin packet of typed matter and a
couple of letters--the type script he laid aside, the letters he opened
out on his table. Then he took from his pocket the letter which Audrey
Greyle had given him and put it side by side with those taken from the
parcel. And after one brief glance at all three Mr. Dennie made
typescript and letters up again into a neat packet, restored them to his
trunk, locked them up, and turned to the two hours' rest which he always
took before going to the theatre for his evening's work.
He was back at Scarhaven by eleven o'clock the next morning, with his
neat packet under his arm and he held it up significantly to Audrey who
opened the door of the cottage to him.
"Something to show you," he said with a quiet smile as he walked in.
"To show you and your mother." He stopped short on the threshold of the
little parlour, where Copplestone was just then talking to Mrs. Greyle.
"Oh!" he said, a little disappointedly, "I hoped to find you
Mrs. Greyle explained who Copplestone was, and Mr. Dennie immediately
brightened. "Of course--of course!" he explained. "I know! Glad to meet
you, Mr. Copplestone--you don't know me, but I know you--or your
work--well enough. It was I who read and recommended your play to our
poor dear friend. It's a little secret, you know," continued Mr. Dennie,
laying his packet on the table, "but I have acted for a great many years
as Bassett Oliver's literary adviser--taster, you might say. You know, he
had a great number of plays sent to him, of course, and he was a very
busy man, and he used to hand them over to me in the first place, to take
a look at, a taste of, you know, and if I liked the taste, why, then he
took a mouthful himself, eh? And that brings me to the very point, my
dear ladies and my dear young gentleman, that I have come specially to
Scarhaven this morning to discuss. It's a very, very serious matter
indeed," he went on as he untied his packet of papers, "and I fear that
it's only the beginning of something more serious. Come round me here at
this table, all of you, if you please."
The other three drew up chairs, each wondering what was coming, and
the old actor resumed his eyeglasses and gave obvious signs of
making a speech.
"Now I want you all to attend to me, very closely," he said. "I shall
have to go into a detailed explanation, and you will very soon see what
I am after. As you may be aware, I have been a personal friend of
Bassett Oliver for some years, and a member of his company without break
for the last eight years. I accompanied Oliver Bassett on his two trips
to the United States--therefore, I was with him when he was last there,
"Now, while we were at Chicago that time, Bassett came to me one day with
the typescript of a one-act play and told me that it had been sent to him
by a correspondent signing himself Marston Greyle; who in a covering
letter, said that he sprang from an old English family, and that the play
dealt with a historic, romantic episode in its history. The principal
part, he believed, was one which would suit Bassett--therefore he begged
him to consider the matter. Bassett asked me to read the play, and I took
it away, with the writer's letter, for that purpose. But we were just
then very busy, and I had no opportunity of reading anything for a time.
Later on, we went to St. Louis, and there, of course, Bassett, as usual,
was much fêted and went out a great deal, lunching with people and so on.
One day he came to me, 'By-the-bye, Dennie!' he said, 'I met that Mr.
Marston Greyle today who sent me that romantic one-act thing. He wanted
to know if I'd read it, and I had to confess that it was in your hands.
Have you looked at it?' I, too, had to confess--I hadn't. 'Well,' said
he, 'read it and let me know what you think--will it suit me?' I made
time to read the little play during the following week, and I told
Bassett that I didn't think it would suit him, but I felt sure it might
suit Montagu Gaines, who plays just such parts. Bassett thereupon wrote
to the author and said what I, his reader, thought, and kindly offered,
as he knew Gaines intimately, to show the little work to him on his
return to England. And this Mr. Marston Greyle wrote back, thanking
Bassett warmly and accepting his kind offer. Accordingly, I brought the
play with me to England. Montagu Gaines, however, had just set off on a
two years' tour to Australia--consequently, the play and the author's two
letters have remained in my possession ever since. And--here they are!"
Mr. Dennie laid his hand dramatically on his packet, looked significantly
at his audience, and went on.
"Now, when I heard all that I did hear at that inquest yesterday," he
said, "I naturally remembered that I had in my possession two letters
which were undoubtedly written to Bassett Oliver by a young man named
Marston Greyle, whom Oliver--just as undoubtedly!--had personally met in
St. Louis. And so when the inquest was over, Mr. Copplestone, I recalled
myself to Mrs. Greyle here, whom I had known many years ago, and I walked
back to this house with her and her charming daughter, and--don't be
angry, Mrs. Greyle--while the mother's back was turned--on hospitable
thoughts intent--I got the daughter to lend me--secretly--a letter
written by the present Squire of Scarhaven. Armed with that, I went home
to my lodgings in Norcaster, found the letter written by the American
Marston Greyle, and compared it with them. And--here is the result!"
The old actor selected the two American letters from his papers, laid
them out on the table, and placed the letter which Audrey had given him
"Now!" he said, as his three companions bent eagerly over these exhibits,
"Look at those three letters. All bear the same signature, Marston
Greyle--but the hand-writing of those two is as different from that of
this one as chalk is from cheese!"
BY PRIVATE TREATY
There was little need for the three deeply interested listeners to look
long at the letters--one glance was sufficient to show even a careless
eye that the hand which had written one of them had certainly not written
the other two. The letter which Audrey had handed to Mr. Dennie was
penned in the style commonly known as commercial--plain, commonplace,
utterly lacking in the characteristics which are supposed to denote
imagination and a sense of artistry. It was the sort of caligraphy which
one comes across every day in shops and offices and banks--there was
nothing in any upstroke, downstroke or letter which lifted it from the
very ordinary. But the other two letters were evidently written by a man
of literary and artistic sense, possessing imagination and a liking for
effect. It needed no expert in handwriting to declare that two totally
different individuals had written those letters.
"And now," observed Mr. Dennie, breaking the silence and putting into
words what each of the others was vaguely feeling, "the question is--what
does all this mean? To start with, Marston Greyle is a most uncommon
name. Is it possible there can be two persons of that name? That, at any
rate, is the first thing that strikes me."
"It is not the first thing that strikes me," said Mrs. Greyle. She took
up the typescript which the old actor had brought in his packet, and held
its title-page significantly before him. "That is the first thing that
strikes me!" she exclaimed. "The Marston Greyle who sent this to Bassett
Oliver said according to your story--that he sprang from a very old
family in England, and that this is a dramatization of a romantic episode
in its annals. Now there is no other old family in England named Greyle,
and this episode is of course, the famous legend of how Prince Rupert
once sought refuge in the Keep yonder and had a love-passage with a lady
of the house. Am I right, Mr. Dennie?"
"Quite right, ma'am, quite correct," replied the old actor. "It is
so--you have guessed correctly!"
"Very well, then--the Marston Greyle who wrote this, and those letters,
and who met Bassett Oliver was without doubt the son of Marcus Greyle,
who went to America many years ago. He was the same Marston Greyle, who,
his father being dead, of course succeeded his uncle, Stephen John
Greyle--that seems an absolute certainty. And in that case," continued
Mrs. Greyle, looking earnestly from one to the other, "in that case--who
is the man now at Scarhaven Keep?"
A dead silence fell on the little room. Audrey started and flushed at her
mother's eager, pregnant question; Mr. Dennie sat up very erect and took
a pinch of snuff from his old-fashioned box. Copplestone pushed his chair
away from the table and began to walk about. And Mrs. Greyle continued to
look from one face to the other as if demanding a reply to her question.
"Mother!" said Audrey in a low voice. "You aren't suggesting--"
"Ahem!" interrupted Mr. Dennie. "A moment, my dear. There is nothing, I
believe," he continued, waxing a little oracular, "nothing like plain
speech. We are all friends--we have a common cause--justice! It may be
that justice demands our best endeavours not only as regards our deceased
friend, Bassett Oliver, but in the interests of--this young lady. So--"
"I wish you wouldn't, Mr. Dennie!" exclaimed Audrey. "I don't like this
at all. Please don't!"
She turned, almost instinctively, to seek Copplestone's aid in repressing
the old man. But Copplestone was standing by the window, staring moodily
at the wind-swept quay beyond the garden, and Mr. Dennie waved his
snuff-box and went on.
"An old man's privilege!" he said. "In your interests, my dear. Allow
me." He turned again to Mrs. Greyle. "In plain words, ma'am, you are
wondering if the present holder of the estates is really what he claims
to be. Plain English, eh?"
"I am!" answered Mrs. Greyle with a distinct ring of challenge and
defiance. "And now that it comes to the truth, I have wondered that ever
since he came here. There!"
"Why, mother?" asked Audrey, wonderingly.
"Because he doesn't possess a single Greyle characteristic," replied Mrs.
Greyle, readily enough, "I ought to know--I married Valentine Greyle,
and I knew Stephen John, and I saw plenty of both, and something of their
father, too, and a little of Marcus before he emigrated. This man does
not possess one Single scrap of the Greyle temperament!"
Mr. Dennie put away his snuff-box and drumming on the table with his
fingers looked out of his eye corners at Copplestone who still stood with
his back to the rest, staring out of the window.
"And what," said Mr. Dennie, softly, "what--er, does our good friend Mr.
Copplestone turned swiftly, and gave Audrey a quick glance.
"I say," he answered in a sharp, business-like fashion, "that Gilling,
who's stopping at the inn, you know, is walking up and down outside here,
evidently looking out for me, and very anxious to see me, and with your
permission, Mrs. Greyle, I'd like to have him in. Now that things have
got to this pitch, I'd better tell you something--I don't see any good in
concealing it longer. Gilling isn't an invalid curate at all!--he's a
private detective. Sir Cresswell Oliver and Petherton, the solicitor,
sent him down here to watch Greyle--the Squire, you know--that's
Gilling's job. They suspect Greyle--have suspected him from the very
first--but of what I don't know. Not--not of this, I think. Anyway, they
do suspect him, and Gilling's had his eye on him ever since he came here.
And I'd like to fetch Gilling in here, and I'd like him to know all that
Mr. Dennie's told us. Because, don't you see, Sir Cresswell and
Petherton ought to know all that, immediately, and Gilling's their man."
Audrey's brows had been gathering in lines of dismay and perplexity
all the time Copplestone was talking, but her mother showed no
signs of anything but complete composure, crowned by something very
like satisfaction, and she nodded a ready acquiescence in
"By all means!" she responded. "Bring Mr. Gilling in at once."
Copplestone hurried out into the garden and signalled to the
pseudo-curate, who came hurrying across from the quay. One glance at him
showed Copplestone that something had happened.
"Gad!--I thought I should never attract your attention!" said Gilling
hastily. "Been making eyes at you for ten minutes. I say--Greyle's off!"
"Off!" exclaimed Copplestone. "How do you mean--off?"
"Left Scarhaven, anyhow--for London," replied Gilling. "An hour ago I
happened to be at the station, buying a paper, when he drove up--luggage
and man with him, so I knew he was off for some time. And I took good
care to dodge round by the booking-office when the man took the tickets.
King's Cross. So that's all right, for the time being."
"How do you mean--all right?" asked Copplestone. "I thought you were to
keep him in sight?"
"All right," repeated Gilling. "I have more eyes than these, my boy! I've
a particularly smart partner in London--name of Swallow--and he and I
have a cypher code. So soon as the gentleman had left, I repaired to the
nearest post office and wired a code message to Swallow. Swallow will
meet that train when it strikes King's Cross. And it doesn't matter if
Greyle hides himself in one of the spikes on top of the Monument or
inside the lion house at the Zoo--Swallow will be there! No man ever got
away from Swallow--once Swallow had set eyes on him."
Copplestone looked, listened, and laughed.
"Professional pride!" he said. "All right. I want you to come in here
with me--to Mrs. Greyle's. Something's happened here, too. And of such a
serious nature that I've taken the liberty of telling them who and what
you really are. You'll forgive me when you hear what it is that we've
learnt here this morning."
Gilling had looked rather doubtful at Copplestone's announcement, but he
immediately turned towards the cottage.
"Oh, well!" he said good-naturedly. "I'm sure you wouldn't have told if
you hadn't felt there was good reason. What is this fresh news?--something
"Very much about him," answered Copplestone. "Come in."
He himself, at Mrs. Greyle's request, gave Gilling a brief account of
Mr. Dennie's revelations, the old actor supplementing it with a shrewd
remark or two. And then all four turned to Gilling as to an expert in
"Queer!" observed Gilling. "Decidedly queer! There may be some
explanation, you know: I've known stranger things than that turn out to
be perfectly straight and plain when they were gone into. But--putting
all the facts together--I don't think there's much doubt that there's
something considerably wrong in this case. I should like to repeat it to
my principals--I must go up to town in any event this afternoon. Better
let me have all those documents, Mr. Dennie--I'll give you a proper
receipt for them. There's something very valuable in them, anyhow."
"What?" asked Copplestone.
"The address in St. Louis from which that Marston Greyle wrote to Bassett
Oliver." replied Gilling. "We can communicate with that address--at once.
We may learn something there. But," he went on, turning to Mrs. Greyle,
"I want to learn something here--and now. I want to know where and under
what circumstances the Squire came to Scarhaven. You were here then, of
course, Mrs. Greyle? You can tell me?"
"He came very quietly," replied Mrs. Greyle. "Nobody in Scarhaven--unless
it was Peter Chatfield--knew of his coming. In fact, nobody in these
parts, at any rate--knew he was in England. The family solicitors in
London may have known. But nothing was ever said or written to me, though
my daughter, failing this man, is the next in succession."
"I do wish you'd leave all that out, mother!" exclaimed Audrey. "I
don't like it."
"Whether you like it or not, it's the fact," said Mrs. Greyle
imperturbably, "and it can't be left out. Well, as I say, no one knew the
Squire had come to England, until one day Chatfield calmly walked down
the quay with him, introducing him right and left. He brought him here."
"Ah!" said Gilling. "That's interesting. Now I wonder if you found out if
he was well up in the family history?"
"Not then, but afterwards," answered Mrs. Greyle. "He is particularly
well up in the Greyle records--suspiciously well up."
"Why suspiciously?" asked Cobblestone.
"He knows more--in a sort of antiquarian and historian fashion--than
you'd suppose a young man of his age would," said Mrs. Greyle. "He gives
you the impression of having read it up--studied it deeply. And--his
usual tastes don't lie in that direction."
"Ah!" observed Mr. Dennie, musingly. "Bad sign, ma'am,--bad sign! Looks
as if he had been--shall we say put up to overstudying his part. That's
possible! I have known men who were so anxious to be what one calls
letter-perfect, Mr. Copplestone, that though they knew their parts, they
didn't know how to play them. Fact, sir!"
While the old actor was chuckling over this reminiscence, Gilling turned
quietly to Mrs. Greyle.
"I think you suspect this man?" he said.
"Frankly--yes," replied Mrs. Greyle. "I always have done, though I have
said so little--"
"Mother!" interrupted Audrey. "Is it really worth while saying so much
now! After all, we know nothing, and if this is all mere
supposition--however," she broke off, rising and going away from the
group, "perhaps I had better say nothing."
Copplestone too rose and followed her into the window recess.
"I say!" he said entreatingly. "I hope you don't think me interfering? I
"You!" she exclaimed. "Oh, no!--of course. I think you're anxious to
clear things up about Mr. Oliver. But I don't want my mother dragged into
it--for a simple reason. We've got to live here--and Chatfield is a
"You're frightened of him?" said Copplestone incredulously. "You!"
"Not for myself," she answered, giving him a warning look and glancing
apprehensively at Mrs. Greyle, who was talking eagerly to Mr. Dennie and
Gilling. "But my mother is not as strong as she looks and it would be a
blow to her to leave this place and we are the Squire's tenants, and
therefore at Chatfield's mercy. And you know that Chatfield does as he
likes! Now do you understand?"
"It maddens me to think that you should be at Chatfield's mercy!"
muttered Copplestone. "But do you really mean to say that if--if
Chatfield thought you--that is, your mother--were mixed up in anything
relating to the clearing up of this affair he would--"
"Drive us out without mercy," replied Audrey. "That's dead certain."
"And that your cousin would let him?" exclaimed Copplestone.
"I don't think the Squire has any control over Chatfield," she answered.
"You have seen them together."
"If that's so," said Copplestone, "I shall begin to think there is
something queer about the Squire in the way your mother suggests. It
looks as if Chatfield had a hold on him. And in that case--"
He suddenly broke off as a smart automobile drove up to the cottage door
and set down a tall, distinguished-looking man who after a glance at the
little house walked quickly up the garden. Audrey's face showed surprise.
"Mother!" she said, turning to Mrs. Greyle. "There's Lord Altmore here!
He must want you. Or shall I go?"
Mrs. Greyle quitted the room hastily. The others heard her welcome the
visitor, lead him up the tiny hall; they heard a door shut. Audrey looked
"You've heard of Lord Altmore, haven't you?" she said. "He's our
biggest man in these parts--he owns all the country at the back,
mountains, valleys, everything. The Greyle land shuts him off from the
sea. In the old days, Greyles and Altmores used to fight over their
Mrs. Greyle suddenly showed herself again and looked at her daughter.
"Will you come here, Audrey?" she said. "You gentlemen will excuse both
of us for a few minutes?"
Mother and daughter went away, and the two young men drew up their
chairs to the table at which Mr. Dennie sat and exchanged views with him
on the curious situation. Half-an-hour went by; then steps and voices
were heard in the hall and the garden; Mrs. Greyle and Audrey were seeing
their visitor out to his car. In a few minutes the car sped away, and
they came back to the parlour. One glance at their faces showed Gilling
that some new development had cropped up and he nudged Copplestone.
"Here is remarkable news!" said Mrs. Greyle as she went back to her
chair. "Lord Altmore called to tell me of something that he thought I
ought to know. It is almost unbelievable, yet it is a fact. Marston
Greyle--if he is Marston Greyle!--has offered to sell Lord Altmore the
entire Scarhaven estate, by private treaty. Imagine it!--the estate which
has belonged to the Greyles for five hundred years!"
THE CABLEGRAM FROM NEW YORK
The two younger men received this announcement with no more than looks
of astonished inquiry, but the elder one coughed significantly, had
further recourse to his snuff-box and turned to Mrs. Greyle with a
"My dear lady!" he said impressively. "Now this is a matter in which I
believe I can be of service--real service! You may have forgotten the
fact--it is all so long ago--and perhaps I never mentioned it in the old
days--but the truth is that before I went on the stage, I was in the law.
The fact is, I am a duly and fully qualified solicitor--though," he
added, with a dry chuckle, "it is a good five and twenty years since I
paid the six pounds for the necessary annual certificate. But I have not
forgotten my law--or some of it--and no doubt I can furbish up a little
more, if necessary. You say that Mr. Marston Greyle, the present owner of
Scarhaven, has offered to sell his estate to Lord Altmore? But--is not
the estate entailed?"
"No!" replied Mrs. Greyle. "It is not."
Mr. Dennie's face fell--unmistakably. He took another pinch of snuff and
shook his head.
"Then in that case," he said dryly, "all the lawyers in the world can't
help. It's his--absolutely--and he can do what he pleases with it. Five
hundred years, you say? Remarkable!--that a man should want to sell land
his forefathers have walked over for half a thousand years!
"Did Lord Altmore say if any reason had been given him as to why Mr.
Greyle wished to sell?" asked Gilling.
"Yes," replied Mrs. Greyle, who was obviously greatly upset by the recent
news. "He did. Mr. Greyle gave as his reason that the north does not suit
him, and that he wishes to buy an estate in the south of England. He
approached Lord Altmore first because it is well-known that the Altmores
have always been anxious to extend their own borders to the coast."
"Does Lord Altmore want to buy?" asked Gilling.
"It is very evident that he would be quite willing to buy," said
"What made him come to you," continued Gilling. "He must have had
"He had a reason," Mrs. Greyle answered, with a glance at Audrey. "He
knows the family history, of course--he is very well aware that my
daughter is at present the heir apparent. He therefore thought we ought
to know of this offer. But that is not quite all. Lord Altmore has, of
course, read the accounts of the inquest in this morning's paper. Also
his steward was present at the inquest. And from what he has read, and
from what his steward told him, Lord Altmore thinks there is something
wrong--he thinks, for instance, that Marston Greyle should explain this
mystery about the meeting with Bassett Oliver in America. At any rate,
he will go no further in any negotiations until that mystery is
properly cleared up. Shall I tell you what Lord Altmore said on that
point? He said--"
"Is it worth while, mother?" interrupted Audrey. "It was only his
"It is worth while--amongst ourselves--" insisted Mrs. Greyle. "Why not?
Lord Altmore said--in so many words--'I have a sort of uneasy feeling,
after reading the evidence at that inquest, and hearing what my
steward's impressions were, that this man calling himself Marston Greyle
may not be Marston Greyle at all and I shall want good proof that he is
before I even consider the proposal he has made to me.' There!
So--what's to be done?"
"The law, ma'am," observed Mr. Dennie, solemnly, "the law must step in.
You must get an injunction, ma'am, to prevent Mr. Marston Greyle from
dealing with the property until his own title to it has been established.
That, at any rate, is my opinion."
"May I ask a question?" said Copplestone who had been listening
and thinking intently. "Did Lord Altmore say when this offer was
made to him?"
"Yes," replied Mrs. Greyle. "A week ago."
"A week ago!" exclaimed Copplestone. "That is, before last Sunday--before
the Bassett Oliver episode. Then--the offer to sell is quite independent
of that affair!"
"Strange--and significant!" muttered Gilling.
He rose from his chair and looked at his watch.
"Well," he went on, "I am going off to London. Will you give me leave,