Part 2 out of 6
"Well, Joe, what is it?" asked Crewe, as he came to a halt in
front of them.
"If you don't want me for half an hour, sir, I'd like to take a run up
the street. There is a real good picture house just been opened." The boy
spoke eagerly, with his bright eyes fixed on Crewe.
"I may want you any minute, Joe," replied Crewe. "Don't go away."
The boy nodded his head, and turned away. As he went down the hall again
to the front door he gave an imitation of a man walking with extended
arms across a plank spanning a chasm.
"Picture mad," commented Crewe, as he watched him.
"I didn't quite understand you, sir," replied the butler.
"Spends all his spare time in cinemas," said Crewe, "and when he is not
there he is acting picture dramas. His ambition in life is to be a
Crewe engaged Police-Constable Flack in conversation while waiting for
Mr. Holymead to take his departure. Flack had so little professional
pride that he was pleased at meeting a gentleman who usurped the
functions of a detective without having had any police training, and who
could beat the best of the Scotland Yard men like shelling peas, as he
confided to his wife that night. He was especially flattered at the
interest Crewe seemed to display in his long connection with the police
force, and also in his private affairs. The constable was explaining with
parental vanity the precocious cleverness of his youngest child, a girl
of two, when Holymead made his appearance, and he became aware that Mr.
Crewe's interest in children was at an end.
"Look at that man," said Crewe, in a sharp imperative tone to the
police-constable, as the K.C. was walking down the path of the Italian
garden to the plantation. "You saw him come in?"
"Do you see any difference?"
"No, sir; he's the same man," said Flack, with stolid certainty.
"Anything about him that is different?" continued Crewe.
Police-Constable Flack looked at Crewe in some bewilderment. He was not
a deductive expert, and, as he told his wife afterwards, he did not know
what the detective was "driving at." He took another long look at
Holymead, who was then within a few yards of the plantation on his way
to the gates, and remarked, in a hesitating tone, as though to justify
"Well, you see, sir, when he was coming in it was the front view I saw,
now I can only see his back."
But before he had finished speaking Crewe had left him and was following
the K.C. Holymead had gone into the house without a walking-stick, and
had reappeared carrying one on his arm. Crewe admired the cool audacity
which had prompted Holymead to go into a house where a murder had been
committed to recover his stick under the very eyes of the police, and he
immediately formed the conclusion that the K.C. had come to the house to
recover the stick for some urgent reason possibly not unconnected with
the crime. And it was apparent that Holymead was a shrewd judge of human
nature, Crewe reflected, for he calculated that the rareness of the
quality of observation, even in those who, like Flack, were supposed to
keep their eyes open, would permit him to do so unnoticed.
As Crewe went down the path he beckoned to the boy Joe, who at the moment
was acting the part of a comic dentist binding a recalcitrant patient to
a chair, using an immense old-fashioned straight-backed chair which stood
in the hall, for his stage setting. Joe overtook his master as he entered
the ornamental plantation in front of the house, and Crewe quickly
whispered his instructions, as the retreating figure of the K.C. threaded
the wood towards the gates.
"When I catch up level with him, Joe, you are to run into him
accidentally from behind, and knock his stick off his arm, so that it
falls near me. I will pick it up and return it to him. I must handle the
stick--you understand? Do not wait to see how he takes it when you bump
into him--get off round the corner at once and wait for me."
Crewe quickened his pace to overtake the man in front of him. He gave no
glance backward at the boy, for he knew his instructions would be carried
out faithfully and intelligently. He allowed Holymead to reach the big
open gates, and turn from the gravelled carriage drive into the private
street. Then he hurried after him and drew level with Holymead. As he did
so there was a sound of running footsteps from behind, and then a shout.
Joe had cleverly tripped and fallen heavily between the two men, bringing
down Holymead in his fall. The K.C.'s stick flew off his arm and bounded
half a dozen yards away. Crewe stepped forward quickly, secured the
stick, glanced quickly at the monogram engraved on it, and held it out to
Holymead, who was brushing the dust off his clothes with vexatious
remarks about the clumsiness and impudence of street boys. For a moment
he seemed to hesitate about taking the stick.
"I believe this is yours," said Crewe politely.
"Ah--yes. Thank you," said the K.C., giving him a keen suspicious glance.
Crewe had well-furnished offices in Holborn but lived in a luxurious flat
in Jermyn Street. Although he went to and fro between them daily, his
personality was almost a dual one, though not consciously so; his passion
for crime investigation was distinct--in outward seeming, at all
events--from his polished West End life of wealthy ease. Grave,
self-contained, and inscrutable, he slipped from one to the other with an
effortless regularity, and the fashionable folk with whom he mixed in his
leisured bachelor existence in the West End, apart from knowing him as
the famous Crewe, had even less knowledge of the real man behind his
suave exterior than the clients who visited his inquiry rooms in Holborn
to confide in him their stories of suffering, shame, or crimes committed
against them. His commissionaire and body-servant, Stork, had once, in a
rare--almost unique--convivial moment, declared to the caretaker of the
building that he knew no more about his master after ten years than he
did the first day he entered his service. He was deep beyond all belief,
was Stork's opinion, delivered with reluctant admiration.
Although Crewe did not allow the externals of his two existences to
become involved, his chief interest in life was in his work. He had
originally taken up detective work more as a relief from the boredom of
his lot as a wealthy young man, leading an aimless, useless life with
others of his class, than by deliberate choice of his vocation. His
initial successes surprised him; then the work absorbed him and became
his life's career. He had achieved some memorable successes and he had
made a few failures, but the failures belonged to the earlier portion of
his career, before he had learnt to trust thoroughly in his own great
gifts of intuition and insight, and that uncanny imagination which
sometimes carried him successfully through when all else failed.
Serious devotees of chess knew the name of Crewe in another capacity--as
the name of a man who might have aspired to great deeds if he had but
taken the game as his life's career. He had flashed across the chess
horizon some years previously as a player of surpassing brilliance by
defeating Turgieff, when the great Russian master had visited London and
had played twelve simultaneous boards at the London Chess Club. Crewe was
the only player of the twelve to win his game, and he did so by a
masterly concealed ending in which he handled his pawns with consummate
skill, proffering the sacrifice of a bishop with such art that Turgieff
fell into the trap, and was mated in five subsequent moves. Crewe proved
this was not merely a lucky win by defeating the young South American
champion, Caranda, shortly afterwards, when the latter visited England
and played a series of exhibition games in London on his way to Moscow,
where he was engaged in the championship tourney. Once again it was
masterly pawn play which brought Crewe a fine victory, and aged chess
enthusiasts who followed every move of the game with trembling
excitement, declared afterwards that Crewe's conception of this
particular game had not been equalled since Morphy died.
They predicted a dazzling chess career for Crewe, but he disappointed
their aged hearts by retiring suddenly from match chess, and they mourned
him as one unworthy of his great chess gifts and the high hopes they had
placed in him. But, as a matter of fact, Crewe's intellect was too
vigorous and active to be satisfied with the triumphs of chess, and his
disappearance from the chess world was contemporary with his entrance
into detective work, which appealed to his imagination and found scope
for his restless mental activity. But if detective work so absorbed him
that he gave up match chess entirely, he still retained an interest in
the science of chess, reserving problem play for his spare moments, and,
when not immersed in the solution of a problem of human mystery, he would
turn to the chessboard and seek solace and relaxation in the mysteries of
an intricate "four-mover."
He had once said that there was a certain affinity between solving chess
problems and the detection of crime mystery: once the key-move was found,
the rest was comparatively easy. But he added with a sigh that a really
perfect crime mystery was as rare as a perfect chess problem: human
ingenuity was not sufficiently skilful, as a rule, to commit a crime or
construct a chess problem with completely artistic concealment of the
key-move, and for that reason most problems and crimes were far too easy
of detection to absorb one's intellectual interests and attention.
It was the morning after Crewe's visit to Riversbrook, and the detective
sat in his private office glancing through a note-book which contained a
summary of the Hampstead mystery. Crewe was a painstaking detective as
well as a brilliant one, and it was his custom to prepare several
critical summaries of any important case on which he was engaged, writing
and rewriting the facts and his comments, until he was satisfied that he
had a perfect outline to work upon, with the details and clues of the
crime in consecutive order and relation to one another. Experience had
taught him that the time and labour this task involved were well-spent.
If an unexpected development of the case altered the facts of the
original summary Crewe prepared another one in the same painstaking way.
The summaries, when done with, were methodically filed and indexed and
stored in a strong room at the office for future reference, where he also
kept full records of all the cases upon which he had been engaged,
together with the weapons and articles that had figured in them: huge
volumes of newspaper reports and clippings; photographs of criminals with
their careers appended; and a host of other odds and ends of his
detective investigations--the whole forming an interesting museum of
crime and mystery which would have furnished a store of rich material
for a fresh Newgate Calendar. It was an axiom of Crewe's that a detective
never knew when some old scrap of information or some trifling article of
some dead and forgotten crime might not afford a valuable clue. Expert
criminals frequently repeated themselves, like people in lesser walks of
life, and Crewe's "library and museum," as he called it, had sometimes
furnished him with a simple hint for the solution of a mystery which had
defied more subtle methods of analysis.
Crewe, after carefully reading his summary of the murder of Sir Horace
Fewbanks, and making a few alterations in the text, drew from his pocket
the glove which Inspector Chippenfield had handed him as a clue, took it
to the window, and carefully examined it through a large magnifying
glass. He was thus engrossed when the door was noiselessly opened, and
Stork, the bodyguard, entered. Stork belied his name. He was short and
fat, with a red mottled face; a model of discretion and imperturbability,
who had served Crewe for ten years, and bade fair to serve him another
ten, if he lived that long. In his heart of hearts he often wondered why
a gentleman like Crewe should so far forget what was due to his birth and
position as to have offices in Holborn--Holborn, of all parts of London!
But the awe he felt for Crewe prevented his seeking information on the
point from the only person who could give it to him, so he served him and
puzzled over him in silence, his inward perturbation of spirits being
made manifest occasionally by a puzzled glance at his master when the
latter was not looking. It was nothing to Stork that his master was a
famous detective; the problem to him was _why_ he was a detective when he
had no call to be one, having more money than any man--and let alone a
single man--could spend in a lifetime.
Stork coughed slightly to attract Crewe's attention.
"If you please, sir," he said, "the boy has come."
While Crewe was busy with his magnifying glass Stork returned with the
boy who had accompanied Crewe on his visit to Riversbrook on the
The boy, a thin white-faced, sharp-eyed London street urchin, seemed
curiously out of place in the handsomely furnished office, with his legs
tucked up under the carved rail of a fine old oak chair, and his big
dark eyes fixed intently on Crewe's face. The tie between him and the
detective was an unusual one. It dated back some twelve months, when
Crewe, in the investigation of a peculiarly baffling crime, found it
advisable to disguise himself and live temporarily in a crowded criminal
quarter of Islington. The rooms he took were above a secondhand clothing
shop kept by a drunken female named Leaver; a supposed widow who lived
at the back of the shop with her two children, Lizzie, a bold-eyed girl
of 17, who worked at a Clerkenwell clothing factory, and Joe, a typical
Cockney boy of fourteen, who sold papers in the streets during the day
and was fast qualifying for a thief at night when Crewe went to the
place to live.
Crewe soon discovered, through overhearing a loud quarrel between his
landlady and her daughter, that Mrs. Leaver's husband was alive, though
dead to his wife for all practical purposes, inasmuch as he was serving a
life's imprisonment for manslaughter. A fortnight after he had taken up
his temporary quarters above the shop the woman was removed to the
hospital suffering from the effects of a hard drinking bout, and died
there. The girl disappeared, and the boy would have been turned out on
the streets but for Crewe, who had taken a liking to him. Joe was
self-reliant, alert, and precocious, like most London street boys, but in
addition to these qualities he had a vein of imagination unusual in a lad
of his upbringing and environment. He devoured the exciting feuilleton
stories in the evening papers he vended, and spent his spare pennies at
the cinema theatres in the vicinity of his poor home. His appreciation of
the crude mysteries of the filmed detective drama amused the famous
expert in the finer art of actual crime detection, until he discovered
that the boy possessed natural gifts of intuition and observation,
combined with penetration. Crewe grew interested in developing the boy's
talent for detective work. When the lad's mother died Crewe decided to
take him into his Holborn offices as messenger-boy. Crewe soon discovered
that Joe had a useful gift for "shadowing" work, and his street training
as a newspaper runner enabled him not only to follow a person through the
thickest of London traffic, but to escape observation where a man might
have been noticed and suspected.
"Well, Joe," said Crewe, as the boy entered on the heels of Stork, "I
have a job for you this morning. I want you to find the glove
corresponding to this one."
Crewe, having finished his examination of the glove, handed it to the
boy, whose first act was to slip it on his left hand and move his fingers
about to assure himself that they were in good working order in spite of
being hidden. It was the first occasion on which Joe had worn a glove.
"It was found in the room in which Sir Horace Fewbanks was murdered,"
continued Crewe. "The other one was not there. The question I want to
solve is, did it belong to Sir Horace, or to some one who visited him on
the night he was murdered? The police think it belonged to Sir Horace
because it is the same size as the gloves he wore, and because Sir
Horace's hosier stocks the same kind--as does nearly every fashionable
hosier in London. They think he lost the right-hand glove on his way up
from Scotland. It will occur to you, Joe, though you don't wear gloves,
that it is more common for men to lose the right-hand glove than the
left-hand, because the right hand is used a great deal more than the
left, and even men who would not be seen in the street without gloves
find there are many things they cannot do with a gloved hand. For
instance, to dive one's hand into one's trouser pocket where most men
keep their loose change the glove has to be removed."
"Then the gentleman would take off his right glove when he paid for his
taxi-cab from St. Pancras," said Joe, who was familiar through the
accounts in the newspapers with the main details of the Fewbanks mystery.
"Right, Joe," said his master approvingly. "And in that case he dropped
the glove between the taxi-cab outside his front gates and his room, and
it would have been found. I have made inquiries and I am satisfied it was
"He might have lost it when he was getting into the train at Scotland,"
suggested the lad. "He had to change trains at Glasgow--he might have
lost it there."
"That is a rule-of-thumb deduction," said Crewe, with a kindly smile. "It
is good enough for the police, for they have apparently adopted it, but
it is not good enough for me. What you don't understand, Joe, is that an
odd glove is of no value in the eyes of a man who wears gloves. He
doesn't take it home as a memento of his carelessness in losing the
other. He throws it away. Therefore if this is Sir Horace's glove he took
it home because he was unaware that he had lost the other. He would put
on his gloves before leaving the train at St. Pancras. And he would pull
off the right-hand one--he was not left-handed--when the taxi-cab was
nearing his home so as to be able to pay the fare. Therefore, if it is
Sir Horace's glove the fellow to it was dropped in the taxi-cab, or
dropped between the taxi-cab and the house. If the glove had been lost at
the other end of the journey in Scotland Sir Horace would have flung this
one out of the carriage window when he became aware of the loss. As I
have told you no glove was found between the gate at Riversbrook and the
room in which Sir Horace was murdered. I got from the police the number
of the taxi-cab in which Sir Horace was driven from St. Pancras, and the
driver tells me that no glove was left in his cab. So what have we to do
"To find the missing glove? It's a tough job, ain't it, sir?"
"Yes and no," replied Crewe. "It is possible to make some reasonable
safe deductions in regard to it. These would indicate what had happened
to it, and knowing where to look, or, rather, in what circumstances we
might expect to find it, we might throw a little light on it. In the
first place, it might be assumed that if the glove did not belong to Sir
Horace it belonged to some one who visited him on the night he returned
unexpectedly from Scotland. That indicates that his visitor knew Sir
Horace was returning; a most important point, for if he knew Sir Horace
was returning he knew why he was returning--which no one else knows up to
the present as far as I have been able to gather--and in all probability
was responsible for his return, say, sent him a letter or a telegram
which brought him to London. So we come to the possibility of an angry
scene in the room in which Sir Horace's dead body was subsequently found.
We have the possibility of the visitor leaving the house in a high state
of excitement, hastily snatching up the hat and gloves he had taken off
when he arrived, and in his excitement dropping unnoticed the right-hand
glove on the floor."
"And leaving his gold-mounted stick behind him," said Joe, who was
following his master's line of reasoning with keen interest.
"Right, Joe," said Crewe. "That was placed in the stand in the hall, and
when the visitor left hurriedly was entirely forgotten. But at what stage
did the visitor become conscious of the loss of his glove? Not until his
excitement cooled down a little. How long he took to cool down depends
upon the cause of his excitement and his temperament, things which, at
present, we can only guess at. He would probably walk a long distance
before he cooled down. Then he would resume his normal habits and among
other things would put on his gloves--if he had them. He would find that
he had lost one and that he had left his stick behind. He would know that
the stick had been left behind in the hall, but he would not know the
glove had been dropped in the house. The probabilities are that he would
think he had dropped it while walking. But if he felt that he had dropped
it in the house, and he had the best of all reasons for not wishing
anyone to know that he had visited Sir Horace that night, he would
destroy the remaining glove and our chance of tracing it would be gone.
The fact that he had left his stick behind was a minor matter that he
could easily account for if he had been a friend of Sir Horace who had
been in the habit of visiting Riversbrook. If anything cropped up
subsequently about the stick he could say that he had left it there
before Sir Horace closed up his house and went to Scotland.
"But the problem of the glove is a different matter, Joe. There are three
phases to it: first, if the visitor thought he had dropped it in the
house and wanted to keep his visit there a profound secret from
subsequent inquiry he would take home the remaining glove and destroy
it--probably by burning it. Secondly, if he thought he had dropped it
after leaving the house he would not feel that safety necessitated the
destruction of the remaining one, but he would probably throw it away
where it would not be likely to be found. In the third place, if he had
no particular reason for wishing to hide the fact that he had visited
Riversbrook he would throw it away anywhere when he became conscious that
he had lost the other. He would throw it away merely because an odd glove
is of no use to a man who wears gloves. The man who doesn't wear gloves
would pick up an odd glove from the ground and think he had made a find.
He would take it home to his wife and she would probably keep it for
finger-stalls for the children."
Crewe put down his notes and got up from his chair. "Your job is this,
Joe. Go to Riversbrook and make a careful search on both sides of the
road for the missing glove. I do not think he threw it away--if he did
throw it away--until he had walked some distance, but you mustn't act on
that assumption. Look over the fences of the houses and into the hedges.
Walk along in the direction of Hampstead Underground. Search the gutters
and all the trees and hedges along the road. Take one side of the street
to the Underground station and if you do not find the glove go back to
Riversbrook along the other side. Make a thorough job of it, as it is
most important that the glove should be found--if it is to be found."
After Joe had departed Crewe put on his hat and left his office for the
Strand. His first call was at the shop of Bruden and Marshall, hosiers,
in order to find out if any information was to be obtained there about
the ownership of the glove. He was aware that the police had been there
on the same mission, but his experience had often shown that valuable
information was to be gathered after the police had been over the ground.
On introducing himself to the manager of the shop that gentleman
displayed as much humble civility as he would have done towards a valued
customer. He could not say anything about the ownership of the glove
which Crewe had brought, and he could not even say if it had come from
their shop. It was an excellent glove, the line being known in the trade
as "first-choice reindeer." They stocked that particular kind of article
at 10/6 the pair. They had the pleasure of having had the late Sir Horace
Fewbanks on their books. He was quite an old account, if he might use the
expression. He was one of their best customers, being a gentleman who was
particular about his appearance and who would have nothing but the best
in any line that he fancied. On the subject of Sir Horace's taste in hose
the manager had much to say, and, in spite of Crewe's efforts to confine
the conversation to gloves, the manager repeatedly dragged in socks. He
did it so frequently that he became conscious his visitor was showing
signs of annoyance, so he apologised, adding, with an inspiration, "After
all, hose is really gloves for the feet."
Crewe ascertained that a large number of legal gentlemen were
customers of Bruden and Marshall. He innocently suggested that the
reason was because the shop was the nearest one of its kind to the Law
Courts, but this explanation offended the shopman's pride. It was
because they stocked high-class goods and gave good value in every way,
combined with attention and civility and a desire to please, that they
did such an excellent business with legal gentlemen. In refutation of
the idea that proximity to the Courts was the direct reason of their
having so many legal gentlemen among their customers the manager
declared that they received orders from all parts of the world--India,
Canada, Australia, and South Africa, to say nothing of American
gentlemen who liked their hosiery to have the London hall-mark. Their
orders from the Colonies came from gentlemen who found that these
things in the Colonies were not what they had been used to, and so they
sent their orders to Bruden and Marshall.
Crewe's interest was in the legal customers and he asked for the names of
some. The manager ran through a list of names of judges, barristers and
solicitors, but the name Crewe wanted to hear was not among them. He was
compelled to include the name among half a dozen others he mentioned to
the manager. He ascertained that Mr. Charles Holymead was a customer of
the firm, but it was apparent from the manager's spiritless attitude
towards Mr. Holymead that the famous K.C. was not a man who ran up a big
bill with his hosier, or was very particular about what he wore. The
world regarded some of the men of this type famous or distinguished, but
in the hosier's mind they were all classed as commonplace. But the
manager would not go so far as to say that Mr. Holymead would not buy
such a glove as that which Crewe had brought in. He might and he might
not, but, as a general rule, he did not pay more than 8/6 for his gloves.
Crewe took a taxi to Princes Gate in order to have a look at the house
in which Holymead lived. It occurred to him that if Holymead was not
particular about what he spent on his clothes he was extravagant about
the amount he spent in house rent. Of course, a leading barrister
earning a huge income could afford to live in a palatial residence in
Princes Gate, but it was not the locality or residence that an
economically-minded man would have chosen for his home. But Crewe had
little doubt that the beautiful wife Holymead possessed was responsible
for the choice of house and locality.
After looking at the house Crewe walked back to the cab-stand at Hyde
Park Corner. He had arrived at the conclusion that it was necessary to
settle beyond doubt whether the K.C. had visited Riversbrook the night Sir
Horace had returned from Scotland. If the K.C. had done so, he was
anxious to keep the visit secret, for not only had he not informed the
police of his visit but he had kept it from Miss Fewbanks. Crewe had
ascertained from Miss Fewbanks that Mr. Holymead when he had called at
Riversbrook on a visit of condolence had not mentioned to her anything
about having left his stick in the hall stand on a previous visit. On
leaving Miss Fewbanks Mr. Holymead had gone up to the hall stand and
taken both his hat and stick as if he had left them both there a few
Crewe reasoned that if Holymead had gone out to see Sir Horace Fewbanks
at Riversbrook and had desired to keep his visit a secret he would not
have taken a cab at Hyde Park Corner to Hampstead, but would have
travelled by underground railway or omnibus. In all probability the Tube
had been used because of its speed being more in harmony with the
feelings of a man impatient to get done with a subject so important that
Sir Horace had been recalled from Scotland to deal with it. He would
leave the Tube at Hampstead and take a taxi-cab. He would not be likely
to go straight to Riversbrook in the taxi-cab, if he were anxious that
his movements should not be traced subsequently. He would dismiss the
taxi-cab at one of the hotels bordering on Hampstead Heath, for they
were the resort of hundreds of visitors on summer nights, and his actions
would thus easily escape notice. From the hotel he would walk across to
Riversbrook. But the return journey would be made in a somewhat different
way. If Holymead left Riversbrook in a state of excitement he would walk
a long way without being conscious of the exertion. He would want to be
alone with his own thoughts. Gradually he would cool down, and becoming
conscious of his surroundings would make his way home. Again he would use
the Tube, for it would be more difficult for his movements to be traced
if he mixed with a crowd of travellers than if he took a cab to his home.
It was impossible to say what station he got in at, for that would depend
on how far he walked before he cooled down, but he would be sure to get
out at Hyde Park Corner because that was the station nearest to his
house. Allowing for a temperamental reaction during a train journey of
about twenty minutes, he would feel depressed and weary and would
probably take a taxi-cab outside Hyde Park station to his home. That was
a thing he would often be in the habit of doing when returning late at
night from the theatre or elsewhere, and therefore could be easily
explained by him if the police happened to make inquiries as to his
As Crewe anticipated, he had no difficulty in finding the driver of the
taxi-cab in which Holymead had driven home on the night of Wednesday
last. The K.C. frequently used cabs, and he was well-known to all the
drivers on the rank. Crewe got into the cab he had used and ordered the
man to drive him to his office, and there invited him upstairs. He
adopted this course because he knew that the driver, who gave his name as
Taylor, would be more likely to talk freely in an office where he could
not be overheard than he would do on the cab-rank with his fellow-drivers
crowding him, or in an hotel parlour where other people were present.
"Tell me exactly what happened when you drove Mr. Holymead home on
Wednesday night," said Crewe. "Did you notice anything strange about
him, or was his manner much the same as on other occasions that he used
"Well, I don't see whether I should tell you whether he was or whether he
wasn't," replied the taxi-cab driver, who was as surly as most of his
class. "What's it to do with you, anyway? He's a regular customer of mine
on the rank, and he's not one of your tuppenny tipsters, either. He's a
gentleman. And if he got to know that I had been telling tales about him
it would not do me any good."
"It would not," replied Crewe, with cordial acquiescence. "Therefore,
Taylor, I give you my word of honour not to mention anything you tell me.
Furthermore, I'll see that you don't lose by it now or at any other time.
I cannot say more than that, but that's a great deal more than the police
would say. Now, would you sooner tell me or tell the police? Here's a
sovereign to start with, and if you have an interesting story to tell
you'll have another one before you leave."
The appeal of money and the conviction that the police would use less
considerate methods if Crewe passed him over to them abolished Taylor's
scruples about discussing a fare, and it was in a much less surly tone
that he responded:
"I didn't notice anything strange about him when he called me off the
rank, but I did afterwards. First of all, I didn't drive him home. That
is, I did drive him home, but he didn't go inside. When I drew up outside
his house in Princes Gate, I looked around expecting to see him get out.
As he didn't move I got down and opened the door. 'Aren't you getting out
here, sir?' I said, in a soft voice. 'No,' he said. 'Drive on.' 'This is
your house, sir,' I ventured to say. 'I'm not going in,' he replied,
'drive on.' I was surprised. I thought he was the worse for drink, and
I'd never seen him that way before. But some gentlemen are so obstinate
in liquor that you can't get them to do anything except the opposite of
what you ask them. I thought I'd try and coax him. 'Better go inside,
sir,' I said. 'You'll be better off in bed.' 'Do you think I am drunk?'
he said sharply. You could have knocked me down with a feather. He was as
sober as a judge, all in a moment. 'No, sir, I didn't,' I said. 'I
wouldn't take the liberty,' I said. 'Then get back on your seat and drive
me to the Hyde Park Hotel--no, I think I'll go to Verney's. But don't go
there direct. Drive me round the Park first. I feel I want a breath of
"Go on," said Crewe, in a tone which indicated approval of Taylor's
method of telling his story.
"Well, I turned the cab round and drove through the Park. But I was
puzzled about him and looked back at him once or twice pretending that I
was looking to see if a cab or car was coming up behind. And as we passed
over the Serpentine Bridge I saw him throw something out of the window."
"A glove?" suggested Crewe quickly.
The driver looked at him in profound admiration.
"Well, if you don't beat all the detectives I've ever heard of."
"He tried to throw it in the water," continued Crewe, as if explaining
the matter to himself rather than to his visitor. "Did you get it?"
"Hold on a bit," said Taylor, who had his own ideas of how to give value
for the extra sovereign he hoped to obtain. "I couldn't see what it was
he had thrown away, and, of course, I couldn't pull up to find out. I
drove on, but I kept my eye on him, though I had my back to him. As we
were driving back along the Broad Walk I had another look at him, and
bless me if he wasn't crying--crying like a child. He had his hands up to
his face and his head was shaking as if he was sobbing. I said to myself,
'He's barmy--he's gone off his rocker.' I thought to myself I ought to
drive him to the police station, but I reckoned it was none of my
business, after all, so I'll take him to Verney's and be done with it.
So I drove to Verney's. He got out, and paid me, but I couldn't see that
he had been crying, and he looked much as usual, so far as I could see. I
thought to myself that perhaps, after all, he'd only had a queer turn;
however, I said to myself I'd drive back to the bridge and see what he'd
thrown out of the window. It _was_ a glove, sure enough. It had fallen
just below the railing. I looked about for the other one, but I couldn't
find it, so I suppose it must have fallen into the water."
"No, it didn't," said Crewe. "I have it here." He opened a drawer in his
desk and produced a glove. "It was a right-hand glove you found. Just
look at this one and see if it corresponds to the one you picked up."
Taylor looked at the glove.
"They're as like as two peas," he said.
"What did you do with the one you found?" inquired Crewe. "I hope you
didn't throw it away?"
"I'm not a fool," retorted Taylor. "I've had odd gloves left in my cab
before. I kept this one thinking that sooner or later somebody might
leave another like it, and then I'd have a pair for nothing."
"Well, I'll buy it from you," said Crewe. "Have you anything more
to tell me?"
"I went back to the rank and one of the chaps was curious that I'd been
so long away, for he knew that Mr. Holymead's place isn't more than ten
minutes' drive from the station. But he got nothing out of me. I know how
to keep my mouth shut. You're the first man I've told what happened, and
I hope you won't give me away."
"I've already promised you that," said Crewe, flipping another sovereign
from his sovereign case and handing it to Taylor, "and I'll give you five
shillings for the glove."
Taylor looked at him darkly.
"Five shillings isn't much for a glove like that," he said insolently.
"What about my loss of time going home for it? I suppose you'll pay the
taxi-fare for the run down from Hyde Park?"
"No, I won't," said Crewe cheerfully.
"Then I don't see why I should bring it for a paltry five shillings,"
said Taylor. "If you want the glove you'll have to pay for it."
"But I don't want the glove," said Crewe, who disliked being made the
victim of extortion. "What made you think so? I'll sell you this one for
five shillings. We may as well do a deal of some kind; it is no use each
of us having one glove. What do you say, Taylor? Will you buy mine for
five shillings, or shall I buy yours?"
Taylor smiled sourly.
"You're a deep one," he said. "Here's the other glove." He dipped his
hand into the deep pocket of his driving coat and produced a glove. "I
suppose you knew I'd have it on me. Five shillings, and it's yours."
"The pair are worth about five shillings to me," said Crewe as he paid
over the money. "Do you remember what time it was when Mr. Holymead
engaged you at Hyde Park?"
"You are quite sure as to the time?"
"I heard one of the big clocks striking as he was getting into my cab."
Taylor took his departure, and Crewe, after wrapping up the left-hand
glove which he had to return to Inspector Chippenfield, put the other one
in his safe.
"We are getting on," he said in a pleased tone. "This means a trip to
Scotland, but I'll wait until the inquest is over."
At the inquest on the body of Sir Horace Fewbanks, which was held at
the Hampstead Police Court, there was an odd mixture of classes in the
crowd that thronged that portion of the court in which the public were
allowed to congregate. The accounts of the crime which had been
published in the press, and the atmosphere of mystery which enshrouded
the violent death of one of the most prominent of His Majesty's judges,
had stirred the public curiosity, and therefore, in spite of the fact
that every one was supposed to be out of town in August, the attendance
at the court included a sprinkling of ladies of the fashionable world,
and their escorts.
Both branches of the legal profession were numerously represented. All of
the victim's judicial colleagues were out of town, and though some of
them intended as a mark of respect for the dead man to come up for the
funeral, which was to take place two days later, they were too familiar
with legal procedure to feel curiosity as to the working of the machinery
at a preliminary inquiry into the crime. They were emphatic among their
friends on the degeneracy of these days which rendered possible such an
outrageous crime as the murder of a High Court judge. The fact that it
was without precedent in the history of British law added to its enormity
in the eyes of gentlemen who had been trained to worship precedent as the
only safe guide through the shifting quicksands of life. They were
insistent on the urgency of the murderer being arrested and handed over
to Justice in the person of the hangman, for--as each asked
himself--where was this sort of crime to end? In spite of the degeneracy
of the times they were reluctant to believe in such a far-fetched
supposition as the existence of a band of criminals who, in revenge for
the judicial sentences imposed on members of their class, had sworn to
exterminate the whole of His Majesty's judges; but, until the murderer
was apprehended and the reason for the crime was discovered, it was
impossible to say that the English judicature would not soon be called
upon to supply other victims to criminal violence. The murder of a judge
seemed to them a particularly atrocious crime, in the punishment of which
the law might honourably sacrifice temporarily its well-earned reputation
The bar was represented chiefly by junior members. The senior members
were able to make full use of the long vacation, spending it at health
resorts or in the country, but the incomes of the young shoots of the
great parasitical profession did not permit them to enjoy more than a
brief holiday out of town. Of course it would never have done for them
to admit even to each other that they could not afford to go away for an
extended holiday, and therefore they told one another in bored tones
that they had not been able to make up their minds where to go. The
junior bar included old men, who, through lack of influence, want of
energy, want of advertisement, want of ability, or some other
deficiency, had never earned more than a few guineas at their
profession, though they had spent year after year in chambers. They
lived on scanty private means. Broken in spirit they had even ceased to
attend the courts in order to study the methods and learn the tricks of
successful counsel. But the murder of a High Court judge was a thing
which stirred even their sluggish blood, and in the hope of some
sensational development they had put on faded silk hats and shabby black
suits and gone out to Hampstead to attend the inquest.
The interest of the junior bar in the crime was as personal as that of
the members of the Judicial Bench, though it manifested itself in an
entirely different direction. They speculated among themselves as to who
would be appointed to the vacancy on the High Court Bench. A leading K.C.
with a political pull would of course be selected by the
Attorney-General, but there were several K.C.'s who possessed these
qualifications, and therefore there was room for differences of opinion
among the junior bar as to who would get the offer. The point on which
they were all united was that vacancies of the High Court Bench were a
good thing for the bar as a whole, for they removed leading K.C.'s, and
the dispersion of their practice was like rain on parched ground.
Metaphorically speaking, every one--including even the junior bar--had
the chance of getting a shove up when a leading K.C. accepted a judicial
appointment. Some of the more irreverent spirits among the junior bar, in
drawing attention to the fact that Sir Horace Fewbanks had been one of
the youngest members of the High Court Bench, expressed the hope that the
shock of his death would be felt by some of the extremely aged members of
the bench who were too infirm in health to be able to stand many shocks.
The members of the junior bar chatted with the representatives of the
lower branch of the profession who ranged from articled clerks whose
young souls had not been entirely dried up by association with parchment,
to hard old delvers in dusty documents who had lived so long in the legal
atmosphere of quibbling, obstruction, and deceit, that they were as
incapable of an honest impetuous act as of an illegal one. The gossip
concerning the murdered judge in which the two branches of the profession
joined had reference to his moral character in legal circles. There had
always been gossip of the kind in his life-time. Sir Horace's judicial
reputation was beyond reproach and he had known his law a great deal
better than most of his judicial colleagues. Comparatively few of his
decisions had been upset on appeal. But every one about the courts knew
that he was susceptible to a pretty feminine face and a good figure.
Many were the conflicts that arose in court between bench and bar as the
result of Mr. Justice Fewbanks's habit of protecting pretty witnesses
from cross-examining questions which he regarded as outside the case.
There was no suggestion that his judicial decisions were influenced by
the good looks of ladies who were parties to the cases heard by him, but
there were rumours that on occasions the relations between the judge and
a pretty witness begun in court had ripened into something at which moral
men might well shake their heads.
While the members of the legal profession struggled to obtain seats in
the body of the court, an entirely different class of spectators
struggled to get into the gallery. For the most part they were badly
dressed men who needed a shave, but there were a few well-dressed men
among them, and also a few ladies. Detective Rolfe took a professional
interest in the occupants of the gallery. "What a collection of crooks,"
he whispered to Inspector Chippenfield. "A regular rogues' gallery.
Look--there is 'Nosey George'; it is time he was in again. And behind him
is that cunning old 'drop' Ikey Samuels--I wish we could get him. Look at
the other end of the first row. Isn't that 'Sunny Jim'? I hardly knew
him. He's grown a beard since he's been out. We'll soon have it off again
for him. He's got the impudence to scowl at us. He'll lay for you one of
these nights, Inspector."
The judicial duties of the murdered man had been concerned chiefly with
civil cases at the Royal Courts of Justice, but when the criminal
calender had been heavy he had often presided at Number One Court at the
Old Bailey. It was this fact which had given the criminal class a sort of
personal interest in his murder and accounted for the presence of many
well-known criminals who happened to be out of gaol at the time. The
spectators in the gallery included men whom the murdered man had
sentenced and men who had been fortunate enough to escape being sentenced
by him owing to the vagaries of juries. There were pickpockets, sneak
thieves, confidence men, burglars, and receivers among the occupants of
the gallery, and many of them had brought with them the ladies who
assisted them professionally or presided over their homes when they were
not in gaol.
"I wouldn't be surprised if the man we want is among that bunch," said
Rolfe to Inspector Chippenfield.
"You've a lot to learn about them, my boy," said his superior.
"There is Crewe up among them," continued Rolfe. "I wonder what he thinks
Inspector Chippenfield gave a glance in the direction of Crewe, but did
not deign to give any sign of recognition. The fact that Crewe by his
presence in the gallery seemed to entertain the idea that the murderer
might be found among the occupants of that part of the court could not be
as lightly dismissed as Rolfe's vague suggestion. It annoyed Inspector
Chippenfield to think that Crewe might be nearer at the moment to the
murderer than he himself was, even though that proximity was merely
physical and unsupported by evidence or even by any theory. It would have
been a great relief to him if he had known that Crewe's object in going
to the gallery was not to mix with the criminal classes, but in order to
keep a careful survey of what took place in the body of the court without
making himself too prominent.
Mr. Holymead, K.C., arrived, and members of the junior bar deferentially
made room for him. He shook hands with some of these gentlemen and also
with Inspector Chippenfield, much to the gratification of that officer.
Miss Fewbanks arrived in a taxi-cab a few minutes before the appointed
hour of eleven. She was accompanied by Mrs. Holymead, and they were shown
into a private room by Police-Constable Flack, who had received
instructions from Inspector Chippenfield to be on the lookout for the
murdered man's daughter.
Miss Fewbanks and Mrs. Holymead had been almost inseparable since the
tragedy had been discovered. Immediately on the arrival of Miss Fewbanks
from Dellmere, Mrs. Holymead had gone out to Riversbrook to condole with
her, and to support her in her great sorrow. But the murdered man's
daughter, who, on account of having lived apart from her father, had
developed a self-reliant spirit, seemed to be less overcome by the
horror of the tragedy than Mrs. Holymead was. It was with a feeling that
there was something lacking in her own nature, that the girl realised
that Mrs. Holymead's grief for the violent death of a man who had been
her husband's dearest friend was greater than her own grief at the loss
of a father.
One of the directions in which Mrs. Holymead's grief found expression was
in a feverish desire to know all that was being done to discover the
murderer. She displayed continuous interest in the investigations of the
detectives engaged on the case, and she had implored Miss Fewbanks to let
her know when any important discovery was made. She applauded the action
of her young friend in engaging such a famous detective as Crewe, and
declared that if anyone could unravel the mystery, Crewe would do it. She
had been particularly anxious to hear through Miss Fewbanks what Crewe's
impressions were, with regard to the tragedy.
The court was opened punctually, the coroner being Mr. Bodyman, a stout,
clean-shaven, white-haired gentleman who had spent thirty years of his
life in the stuffy atmosphere of police courts hearing police-court
cases. Police-Inspector Seldon nodded in reply to the inquiring glance of
the coroner, and the inquest was opened.
The first witness was Miss Fewbanks. She was dressed in deep black and
was obviously a little unnerved. In a low tone she said she had
identified the body as that of her father. She was staying at her
father's country house in Dellmere, Sussex, when the crime was committed.
She had no knowledge of anyone who was evilly disposed towards her
father. He had never spoken to her of anyone who cherished a grudge
Evidence relating to the circumstances in which the body was found
was given by Police-Constable Flack. He described the position of the
room in which the body was found, and the attitude in which the body
was stretched. He was on duty in the neighbourhood of Tanton Gardens
on the night of the murder, but saw no suspicious characters and
heard no sounds.
The evidence of Hill was chiefly a repetition of what he had told
Inspector Chippenfield as to his movements on the day of the crime, and
his methods of inspecting the premises three times a week in accordance
with his master's orders. He knew nothing about Sir Horace's sudden
return from Scotland. His first knowledge of this was the account of the
murder, which he read in the papers.
Inspector Chippenfield gave evidence for the purpose of producing the
letter received at Scotland Yard announcing that Sir Horace Fewbanks had
been murdered. The letter was passed up to the coroner for his
inspection, and when he had examined it he sent it to the foreman of the
jury. Then followed medical evidence, which showed that death was due to
a bullet wound and could not have been self-inflicted.
The coroner, in his summing-up, dwelt upon the loss sustained by the
Judiciary by the violent death of one of its most distinguished members,
and the jury, after a retirement of a few minutes, brought in a verdict
of wilful murder by some person or persons unknown.
As the occupants of the court filed out into the street, Crewe, who was
watching Holymead, noticed the K.C. give a slight start when he saw Miss
Fewbanks and his wife. Mr. Holymead went up to the ladies and shook hands
with Miss Fewbanks, and to Crewe it seemed as if he was on the point of
shaking hands with his wife, but he stopped himself awkwardly. He saw the
ladies into their cab, and, raising his hat, went off. As Mr. Holymead
had seen Miss Fewbanks in court when she gave evidence, it was obvious to
Crewe that he could not have been surprised at meeting her outside. It
was therefore the presence of his wife which had surprised him. That
fact--if it were a fact--opened a limitless field of speculation to
Crewe, but in spite of the possibility of error--a possibility which he
frankly recognised--he was pleased with himself for having noticed the
incident. To him it seemed to provide another link in the chain he was
constructing. It harmonised with Taylor's story of Mr. Holymead's
decision to stay at Verney's instead of entering his own home the night
Taylor drove him from Hyde Park Corner.
Rolfe also possessed the professional faculty of observation, but in a
different degree. He had seen Mr. Holymead talking to his wife and Miss
Fewbanks, but he had noticed nothing but gentlemanly ease in the
barrister's manner. What did astonish him in connection with Mr. Holymead
was that after he had left the ladies and was walking in the direction of
the cab-rank he spoke to one of the former occupants of the gallery. This
was a man known to the police and his associates as "Kincher." His name
was Kemp, and how he had obtained his nick-name was not known. He was a
criminal by profession and had undergone several heavy sentences for
burglary. He was a thick-set man of medium height, about fifty years of
age. Apart from a rather heavy lower jaw, he gave no external indication
of his professional pursuits, but looked, with his brown and
weather-beaten face and rough blue reefer suit, not unlike a seafaring
man. The likeness was heightened by a tattooed device which covered the
back of his right hand, and a slight roll in his gait when he walked. But
appearances are deceptive, for Mr. Kemp, at liberty or in gaol, had never
been out of London in his life. He was born and bred a London thief, and
had served all his sentences at Wormwood Scrubbs. For over a minute he
and Mr. Holymead remained in conversation. Rolfe would have described it
officially as familiar conversation, but that description would have
overlooked the deference, the sense of inferiority, in "Kincher's"
manner. For a time Rolfe was puzzled by the incident, but he eventually
lighted on an explanation which satisfied himself. It was that in the
earlier days before Mr. Holymead had reached such a prominent position at
the bar, he had been engaged in practice in the criminal courts, and
"Kincher" had been one of his clients.
With a cheerful smile Holymead brought the conversation to an end and
went on his way. Kemp walked on hurriedly in the opposite direction. He
had his eyes on a young man whom he had seen in the gallery, and who had
seemed to avoid his eye. It was obvious to him that this young man, for
whom he had been on the watch when Mr. Holymead spoke to him, had seized
the opportunity to slip past him while he was talking to the eminent K.C.
The young man, even from the back view, seemed to be well-dressed.
"Hallo, Fred," exclaimed Mr. Kemp, as he reached within a yard or two of
"Hallo, Kincher," replied the young man, turning round. "I didn't notice
you. Were you up at the court?"
"Yes, I looked in," said Mr. Kemp. "There wasn't much doing, was there?"
"No," said Fred.
"He won't trouble us any more," pursued Mr. Kemp.
"No." The young man seemed to have a dread of helping along the
conversation, and therefore sought refuge in monosyllables.
Mr. Kemp coughed before he formed his question.
"Did you go up there that night?"
"No." The reply came instantaneously, but the young man followed it up
with a look of inquiry to ascertain if his denial was believed.
"A good thing as it happened," said Mr. Kemp.
"I had nothing to do with it," said Fred, earnestly.
"I never said you had," replied Mr. Kemp.
"Nothing whatever to do with it," continued the young man with emphasis.
"That's not my sort of game."
"I'm not saying anything, Fred," replied the elder man. "But whoever done
it might have done it by accident-like."
"Accident or no accident, I had nothing to do with it, thank God."
"That is all right, Fred. I'm not saying you know anything about it. But
even if you did you'd find I could be trusted. I don't go blabbing round
"I know you don't. But as I said before I had nothing to do with it. I
didn't go there that night--I changed my mind."
"A very lucky thing then, because if they do look you up you can prove
"Yes," said Fred, "I can prove an alibi easy enough. But what makes you
talk about them looking me up? Why should they get into me--why should
they look me up? I've told you I didn't go there."
"That is all right, Fred," said the other, in a soothing tone. "If that
pal of yours keeps his mouth shut there is nothing to put them on your
tracks. But I don't like the looks of him. He seems to me a bit nervous,
and if they put him through the third degree he'll squeak. That's my
"If he squeaks he'll have to settle with me," said Fred. "And he'll find
there is something to pay. If he tries to put me away I'll--I'll--I'll
do him in."
"Kincher" instead of being horrified at this sentiment seemed to approve
of it as the right thing to be done. "I'd let him know if I was you,
Fred," he said. "I didn't like the look of him. The reason I came out
here to-day was to have a look at him. And when I saw him in the box I
said to myself, 'Well, I'm glad I've staked nothing on you, for it seems
to me that you'll crack up if the police shake their thumb-screws in your
face.' I felt glad I hadn't accepted your invitation to make it a
two-handed job, Fred. It was the fact that some one else I'd never seen
had put up the job that kept me out of it when you asked me to go with
you. A man can't be too careful--especially after he's had a long spell
in 'stir,' But of course you're all right if you changed your mind and
didn't go up there. But if I was you I'd have my alibi ready. It is no
good leaving things until the police are at the door and making one up on
the spur of the moment."
"Yes, I'll see about it," said Fred. "It's a good idea."
"Come in and have a drink, Fred," said "Kincher." "It will do you good.
It was dry work listening to them talking up there about the murder."
Fred accompanied Mr. Kemp into the bar of the hotel they reached, and the
elder man, after an inquiring glance at his companion, ordered two
whiskies. "Kincher" added water to the contents of each glass, and,
lifting his glass in his right hand, waited until Fred had done the same
and then said:
"Well, here's luck and long life to the man that did it--whoever he is."
Fred offered no objection to this sentiment and they drained glasses.
"And so you've had no luck, Rolfe?"
Inspector Chippenfield, glancing up from his official desk in Scotland
Yard, put this question in a tone of voice which suggested that the
speaker had expected nothing better.
"I've seen the heads of at least half a dozen likely West End shops,"
Rolfe replied, "and they tell me there is nothing to indicate where the
handkerchief was bought. The scrap of lace merely shows that it was torn
off a good handkerchief, but there is nothing about it to show that the
handkerchief was different in any marked way from the average filmy scrap
of muslin and lace which every smart woman carries as a handkerchief. I
thought so myself, before I started to make inquiries."
"Well, Rolfe, we must come at it another way," said the inspector.
"Undoubtedly there is a woman in the case, and it ought not to be
impossible to locate her. Your theory, Rolfe, is that the murder was
committed by some one who broke into the place while Sir Horace was
entertaining a lady friend or waiting for the arrival of a lady he
expected. Either the lady had not arrived or had left the room
temporarily when the burglar broke into the house. He had spotted the
place some days before and ascertained that it was empty, and when he
found that Sir Horace had returned alone he decided to break in, and,
covering Sir Horace with a revolver, try to extort money from him. A
riskier but more profitable game than burgling an empty house--if it came
off. With his revolver in his hand he made his way up to the library. Sir
Horace parleyed with him until he could reach his own revolver, and then
got in the first shot but missed his man. The burglar shot him and then
bolted. The lady heard the shots, and, rushing in, found Sir Horace in
his death agony. She was stooping over him with her handkerchief in her
hand, and in his convulsive moments he caught hold of a corner of it and
the handkerchief was torn. The lady left the place and on arrival home
concocted that letter which was sent here telling us that Sir Horace had
been murdered. Is that it?"
"Yes," assented Rolfe. "Of course, I don't lay it down that everything
happened just as you've said. But that's my idea of the crime. It
accounts for all the clues we've picked up, and that is something."
"It is an ingenious theory and it does you credit," said the inspector,
who had not forgotten that he had proposed to Rolfe that they should help
one another to the extent of taking one another fully into each other's
confidence, for the purpose of getting ahead of Crewe. "But you have
overlooked the fact that it is possible to account in another way for all
the clues we have picked up. Suppose Sir Horace's return from Scotland
was due to a message from a lady friend; suppose the lady went to see him
accompanied by a friend whom Sir Horace did not like--a friend of whom
Sir Horace was jealous. Suppose they asked for money--blackmail--and
there was a quarrel in which Sir Horace was shot. Then we have your idea
as to how the lady's handkerchief was torn--I agree with that in the
main. The lady and her friend fled from the place. Later in the night the
place is burgled by some one who has had his eye on it for some time, and
on entering the library he is astounded to find the dead body of the
owner. Suppose he went home, and on thinking things over sent the letter
to Scotland Yard with the idea that if the police got on to his tracks
about the burglary the fact that he had told us about the murder would
show he had nothing to do with killing Sir Horace."
"That is a good theory, too," said Rolfe, in a meditative tone. "And the
only person who can tell us which is the right one is Sir Horace's lady
friend. The problem is to find her."
"Right," said the inspector approvingly. "And while you have been making
inquiries at the shops about the handkerchief I have been down to the Law
Courts branch of the Equity Bank where Sir Horace kept his account. It
occurred to me that a look at Sir Horace's account might help us. You
know the sort of man he was--you know his weakness for the ladies. But he
was careful. I looked through his private papers out at Riversbrook
expecting to get on the track of something that would show some one had
been trying to blackmail him over an entanglement with a woman, but I
found nothing. I couldn't even find any feminine correspondence. If Sir
Horace was in the habit of getting letters from ladies he was also in the
habit of destroying them. No doubt he adopted that precaution when his
wife was alive, and found it such a wise one that he kept it up when
there was less need for it. But a weakness for the ladies costs money,
Rolfe, as you know, and that is why I had a look at his banking account.
He made some payments that it would be worth while to trace--payments to
West End drapers and that sort of thing. Of course, Sir Horace, being a
cautious man and occupying a public position, might not care to flaunt
his weakness in the eyes of West End shopkeepers, and instead of paying
the accounts of his lady friend of the moment, may have given her the
money and trusted to her paying the bills--a thing that women of that
kind are never in a hurry to do. In that case the payments to West End
shopkeepers are for goods supplied to his daughter. However, I've taken a
note of the names, dates, and amounts of a number of them, and I want you
to see the managers of these shops."
"We are getting close to it now," said Rolfe, approvingly.
"I think so," was the modest reply of his superior. "There is one thing
about Sir Horace's account which struck me as peculiar. Every four weeks
for the past eight months Sir Horace drew a cheque for L24, and every
cheque of the kind was made payable to Number 365. Now, unless he wished
to hide the nature of the transaction from his bankers, why not put in
the cheque in the name of the person who received the money? It couldn't
have been for his personal use, for in that case he would have made the
cheques payable to self. Besides, a man with a banking account doesn't
draw a regular L24 every four weeks for personal expenses. He draws a
cheque just when he wants a few pounds, instead of carrying five-pound
notes about with him. I asked the bank manager about these cheques and he
looked up a couple of them and found they had been cashed over the
counter. So he called up the cashier and from him I learnt that Sir
Horace came in and cashed them. As far as he can remember Sir Horace
cashed all these L24 cheques. I assume he did so because he realised that
there was less likely to be comment in the bank than if a well-dressed
good-looking young lady arrived at the bank with them. This L24 a month
suggests that Sir Horace had something choice and not too expensive
stowed away in a flat. That is a matter on which Hill ought to be able to
throw some light. If he knows anything I'll get it out of him. It struck
me as extraordinary that Sir Horace should have taken Hill into his
service knowing what he was. But this, apparently, is the explanation. He
knew that Hill wouldn't gossip about him for fear of being exposed, for
that would mean that Hill would lose his situation and would find it
impossible to get another one without a reference from him. We'll have
Hill brought here--"
There was a knock at the door, and a boy in buttons entered and handed
Inspector Chippenfield a card.
"Seldon from Hampstead," he explained to Rolfe. "Don't go away yet. It
may be something about this case."
Police-Inspector Seldon entered the office, and held the door ajar for a
man behind him. He shook hands with Inspector Chippenfield and Rolfe, and
then motioned his companion to a chair.
"This is Mr. Robert Evans, the landlord of the Flowerdew Hotel, Covent
Garden," he explained. He looked at Mr. Evans with the air of a
police-court inspector waiting for a witness to corroborate his
statement, but as that gentleman remained silent he sharply asked,
"Isn't that so?"
"Quite right," said Mr. Evans, in a moist, husky voice.
He was a short fat man, with an extremely red face and bulging eyes,
which watered very much and apparently required to be constantly mopped
with a handkerchief which he carried in his hand. This peculiarity gave
Mr. Evans the appearance of a man perpetually in mourning, and this
effect was heightened by a species of incipient palsy which had seized on
his lower facial muscles, and caused his lips to tremble violently. He
was bald in the front of the head but not on the top. The baldness over
the temples had joined hands and left isolated over the centre of the
forehead a small tuft of hair, which, with the playfulness of second
childhood, showed a tendency to curl.
"Yes, you're quite right," he repeated huskily, as though some one had
doubted the statement. "Evans is my name and I'm not ashamed of it."
"He came to me this morning and told me that Hill gave false evidence at
the inquest yesterday," Inspector Seldon explained. "So I brought him
along to see you."
"False evidence--Hill?" exclaimed Inspector Chippenfield, with keen
interest. "Let us hear about it."
"Well, you will remember Hill said he was at home on the night of the
murder," pursued Inspector Seldon. "I looked up his depositions before I
came away and what he said was this: 'I took my daughter to the Zoo in
the afternoon. We left the Zoo at half past five and went home and had
tea. My wife then took the child to the picture-palace and I remained at
home. I did not go out that night. They returned about half-past ten, and
after supper we all went to bed.' But Evans tells me he saw Hill in his
bar at three o'clock on the morning of the 19th of August. He has an
early license for the accommodation of the Covent Garden traffic. He can
swear to Hill. A man who goes to bed at half-past ten has no right to be
wandering about Covent Garden at 3 a. m. And besides, Hill told us
nothing about this. So I brought Evans along to see what you make of it."
Inspector Chippenfield had taken up a pencil and was making a few notes.
"Very interesting indeed," he said. Then he turned to Evans and asked,
"Are you sure you saw Hill in your bar at three a. m.? There is no
possibility of a mistake?"
"He is the man who was knocked down outside by a porter running into
him," said Mr. Evans, mopping his eyes. "I could bring half a dozen
witnesses who will swear to him."
"You see, it's this way," interpolated Inspector Seldon, taking up the
landlord's narrative. His police-court training had taught him to bring
out the salient points of a story, and he was naturally of the opinion
that he could tell another man's story better than the man could tell it
himself. "Hill was staring about him--it was probably the first time he
had been to Covent Garden in the early morning--and got knocked over. He
was stunned, and some porters took him in to the bar, sat him on a form,
and poured some rum into him. Some of the porters were for ringing up the
ambulance; others were for carrying Hill off to the hospital, but he soon
recovered. However, he sat there for about twenty minutes, and after
having several drinks at his own expense he went away. Evans served him
with the drinks."
"Good," said Inspector Chippenfield, who liked the circumstantial details
of the story. "And you can get half a dozen porters to identify him?"
"Bill Cribb, Harry Winch, Charlie Brown, a fellow they call 'Green
Violets'--I don't know his real name--"
Mr. Evans was calling on his memory for further names but was stopped by
"That will do very well. And how did you happen to be at the inquest at
Hampstead? That is a bit out of your way."
Mr. Evans mopped his eyes, and Inspector Seldon took upon himself to
reply for him. "He has a brother-in-law in the trade at Hampstead--keeps
the _Three Jugs_ in Coulter Street. Evans had to go out to see his
brother-in-law on business, and his brother-in-law took him along to the
court out of curiosity."
Inspector Chippenfield nodded.
"Rolfe," he said, "take down Mr. Evans's statement outside and get him to
sign it. Don't go away when you've finished. I want you."
Mr. Evans, even if he felt that full justice had been done to his story
by Inspector Seldon, was disappointed at the police officer's failure to
do justice to his manly scruples in coming forward to give evidence
against a man who had never done him any harm. Addressing Inspector
Chippenfield he said:
"I don't altogether like mixing myself up in this business. That isn't my
way. If I have a thing to say to a man I like to say it to his face. I
don't like a man to say things behind a man's back, that is, if he calls
himself a man. But I thought over this thing after leaving the court and
hearing this chap Hill say he hadn't left home that night, and I talked
it over with my wife--"
"You did the right thing," said Inspector Chippenfield, with the emphasis
of a man who had profited by the triumph of right.
Mr. Evans was under the impression that the inspector's approval referred
chiefly to the part he had played as a husband in talking over his
perplexity with his wife, rather than the part he had played as a man in
revealing that Hill had lied in his evidence.
"I always do," he said. "My wife's one of the sensible sort, and when a
man takes her advice he don't go far wrong. She advised me to go straight
to the police-station and tell them all I know. 'It is a cruel murder,'
she said, 'and who knows but it might be our turn next?'"
This example of the imaginative element in feminine logic made no
impression on the practical official who listened to the admiring
"That is all right," said Inspector Chippenfield soothingly. "I
understand your scruples. They do you credit. But an honest man like you
doesn't want to shield a criminal from justice--least of all a
When Rolfe returned to his superior with Evans's signed statement in his
hand, he found the inspector preparing to leave the office.
"Put on your hat and come with me," said the inspector. "We will go out
and see Mrs. Hill. I'll frighten the truth out of her and then tackle
Hill. He is sure to be up at Riversbrook, and we can go on there from
While on the way to Camden Town by Tube, Inspector Chippenfield
arranged his plans with the object of saving time. He would interview
Mrs. Hill and while he was doing so Rolfe could make inquiries at the
neighbouring hotels about Hill. It was the inspector's conviction that
a man who had anything to do with a murder would require a steady
supply of stimulants next day.
Mrs. Hill kept a small confectionery shop adjoining a cinema theatre to
supplement her husband's wages by a little earnings of her own in order
to support her child. Although the shop was an unpretentious one, and
catered mainly for the ha'p'orths of the juvenile patrons of the picture
house next door, it was called "The Camden Town Confectionery Emporium,"
and the title was printed over the little shop in large letters.
Inspector Chippenfield walked into the empty shop, and rapped sharply on
A little thin woman, with prematurely grey hair, and a depressed
expression, appeared from the back in response to the summons. She
started nervously as her eye encountered the police uniform, but she
waited to be spoken to.
"Is your name Hill?" asked the inspector sternly. "Mrs. Emily Hill?"
The woman nodded feebly, her frightened eyes fixed on the
"Then I want to have a word with you," continued the inspector, walking
through the shop into the parlour. "Come in here and answer my
Mrs. Hill followed him timidly into the room he had entered. It was a
small, shabbily-furnished apartment, and the inspector's massive
proportions made it look smaller still. He took up a commanding position
on the strip of drugget which did duty as a hearth-rug, and staring
fiercely at her, suddenly commenced:
"Mrs. Hill, where was your husband on the night of the 18th of August,
when his employer, Sir Horace Fewbanks, was murdered?"
Mrs. Hill shrank before that fierce gaze, and said, in a low tone:
"Please, sir, he was at home."
"At home, was he? I'm not so sure of that. Tell me all about your
husband's movements on that day and night. What time did he come home, to
"He came home early in the afternoon to take our little girl to the
Zoo--which was a treat she had been looking forward to for a long while.
I couldn't go myself, there being the shop to look after. So Mr. Hill and
Daphne went to the Zoo, and after they came home and had tea I took her
to the pictures while Mr. Hill minded the shop. It was not the
picture-palace next door, but the big one in High Street, where they were
showing 'East Lynne,' Then when we come home about ten o'clock we all
had supper and went to bed."
"And your husband didn't go out again?"
"No, sir. When I got up in the morning to bring him a cup of tea he was
still sound asleep."
"But might he not have gone out in the night while you were asleep?"
"No, sir. I'm a very light sleeper, and I wake at the least stir."
Mrs. Hill's story seemed to ring true enough, although she kept her eyes
fixed on her interrogator with a kind of frightened brightness. Inspector
Chippenfield looked at her in silence for a few seconds.
"So that's the whole truth, is it?" he said at length.
"Yes, sir," the woman earnestly assured him. "You can ask Mr. Hill and
he'll tell you the same thing."
Something reminiscent in Inspector Chippenfield's mind responded to this
sentence. He pondered over it for a moment, and then remembered that Hill
had applied the same phrase to his wife. Evidently there had been
collusion, a comparing of tales beforehand. The woman had been tutored by
her cunning scoundrel of a husband, but undoubtedly her tale was false.
"The whole truth?" said the inspector, again.
"Yes, sir," answered Mrs. Hill.
"Now, look here," said the police officer, in his sternest tones, as he
shook a warning finger at the little woman, "I know you are lying. I know
Hill didn't sleep in the house, that night. He was seen near Riversbrook
in the early part of the night and he was seen wandering about Covent
Garden after the murder had been committed. It is no use lying to me,
Mrs. Hill. If you want to save your husband from being arrested for this
murder you'll tell the truth. What time did he leave here that night?"
"I've already told you the truth, sir," replied the little woman. "He
didn't leave the place after he came back from the Zoo."
Inspector Chippenfield was puzzled. It seemed to him that Mrs. Hill was
a woman of weak character, and yet she stuck firmly to her story. Perhaps
Evans had made a mistake in identifying Hill as the man who had been
carried into his bar after being knocked down. Nothing was more common
than mistakes of identification. His glance wandered round the room, as
though in search of some inspiration for his next question. His eye took
mechanical note of the trumpery articles of rickety furniture; wandered
over the cheap almanac prints which adorned the walls; but became riveted
in the cheap overmantel which surmounted the fire-place. For, in the slip
of mirror which formed the centre of that ornament, Inspector
Chippenfield caught sight of the features of Mrs. Hill frowning and
shaking her head at somebody invisible. He turned his head warily, but
she was too quick for him, and her features were impassive again when he
looked at her. Following the direction indicated by the mirror, Inspector
Chippenfield saw Mrs. Hill had been signalling through a window which
looked into the back yard. He reached it in a step and threw open the
window. A small and not over-clean little girl was just leaving the yard
by the gate.
Inspector Chippenfield called to her pleasantly, and she retraced her
steps with a frightened face.
"Come in, my dear, I want you," said the inspector, wreathing his red
face into a smile. "I'm fond of little girls."
The little girl smiled, nodded her head, and presently appeared in
response to the inspector's invitation. He glanced at Mrs. Hill, noticed
that her face was grey and drawn with sudden terror. She opened her mouth
as though to speak, but no words came.
The inspector lifted the child on to his knee. She nestled to him
confidingly enough, and looked up into his face with an artless glance.
"What is your name, my dear?"
"Daphne, sir--Daphne Hill."
"How old are you, Daphne?"
"Please, sir, I'm eight next birthday."
"Why, you're quite a big girl, Daphne! Do you go to school?"
"Oh, yes, sir. I'm in the second form."
"Do you like going to school, Daphne?"
"I suppose you like going to the Zoo better? Did you like going with
father the other day?"
The child's eyes sparkled with retrospective pleasure.
"Oh, yes," she said, delightedly. "We saw all kinds of things: lions and
tigers, and elephants. I had a ride on a elephant"--her eyes grew big
with the memory--"an' 'e took a bun with his long nose out of my hand."
"That was splendid, Daphne! Which did you like best--the Zoo or the
"I liked them both," she replied.
"Was Father at home when you came home from the pictures?"
"No," said the little girl innocently. "He was out."
Mrs. Hill, standing a little way off with fear on her face, uttered
an inarticulate noise, and took a step towards the inspector and
"Better not interfere, Mrs. Hill, unless you want to make matters worse,"
said the inspector meaningly. "Now, tell me, Daphne, dear, when did your
father come home?"
"Not till morning," replied the little girl, with a timid glance at
"How do you know that?"
"Because I slept in Mother's bed that night with Mother, like I always do
when Father is away, but Father came home in the morning and lifted me
into my own bed, because he said he wanted to go to bed."
"What time was that, Daphne?"
"I don't know, sir."
"It was light, Daphne? You could see?"
"Oh, yes, sir."
Inspector Chippenfield told the child she was a good girl, and gave her
sixpence. The little one slipped off his knee and ran across to her
mother with delight, to show the coin; all unconscious that she had
betrayed her father. The mother pushed the child from her with a
A heavy step was heard in the shop, and the inspector, looking through
the window, saw Rolfe. He opened the door leading from the shop and
beckoned his subordinate in.
Rolfe was excited, and looked like a man burdened with weighty news. He
whispered a word in Inspector Chippenfield's ear.
"Let's go into the shop," said Inspector Chippenfield promptly. "But,
first, I'll make things safe here." He locked the door leading to the
kitchen, put the key into his pocket, and followed his colleague into the
shop. "Now, Rolfe, what is it?"
"I've found out that Hill put in nearly the whole day after the murder
drinking in a wine tavern. He sat there like a man in a dream and spoke
to nobody. The only thing he took any interest in was the evening papers.
He bought about a dozen of them during the afternoon."
"Where was this?" asked the inspector.
"At a little wine tavern in High Street, where he's never been seen
before. The man who keeps the place gave me a good description of him,
though. Hill went there about ten o'clock in the morning, and started
drinking port wine, and as fast as the evening papers came out he sent
the boy out for them, glanced through them, and then crumpled them up. He
stayed there till after five o'clock. By that time the 6.30 editions
would reach Camden Town, and if you remember it was the six-thirty
editions which had the first news of the murder. The tavern-keeper
declares that Hill drank nearly two bottles of Tarragona port, in
threepenny glasses, during the day."
"I should have credited Hill with a better taste in port, with his
opportunities as Sir Horace Fewbanks's butler," said Inspector
Chippenfield drily. "What you have found out, Rolfe, only goes to bear
out my own discovery that Hill is deeply implicated in this affair. I
have found out, for my part, that Hill did not spend the night of the
murder at home here."
There was a ring of triumph in Inspector Chippenfield's voice as he
announced this discovery, but before Rolfe could make any comment upon
it there was a quick step behind them, and both men turned, to see Hill.
The butler was astonished at finding the two police officers in his
wife's shop. He hesitated, and apparently his first impulse was to turn
into the street again; but, realising the futility of such a course, he
came forward with an attempt to smooth his worried face into a
"Hill!" said Inspector Chippenfield sternly. "Once and for all, will you
own up where you were on the night of the murder?"
Hill started slightly, then, with admirable self-command, he recovered
himself and became as tight-lipped and reticent as ever.
"I've already told you, sir," he replied smoothly. "I spent it in my own
home. If you ask my wife, sir, she'll tell you I never stirred out of the
house after I came back from taking my little girl to the Zoo."
"I know she will, you scoundrel!" burst out the choleric inspector.
"She's been well tutored by you, and she tells the tale very well. But
it's no good, Hill. You forgot to tutor your little daughter, and she's
innocently put you away. What's more, you were seen in London before
daybreak the night after the murder. The game's up, my man."
Inspector Chippenfield produced a pair of handcuffs as he spoke. Hill
passed his tongue over his dry lips before he was able to speak.
"Don't put them on me," he said imploringly, as Inspector Chippenfield
advanced towards him. "I'll--I'll confess!"
Inspector Chippenfield's first words were a warning.
"You know what you are saying, Hill?" he asked. "You know what this
means? Any statement you make may be used in evidence against you at
"I'll tell you everything," faltered Hill. The impassive mask of the
well-trained English servant had dropped from him, and he stood revealed
as a trembling elderly man with furtive eyes, and a painfully shaken
manner. "I'll be glad to tell you everything," he declared, laying a
twitching hand on the inspector's coat. "I've not had a minute's peace or
rest since--since it happened."
The dry official manner in which Inspector Chippenfield produced a
note-book was in striking contrast to the trapped man's attitude.
"Go ahead," he commanded, wetting his pencil between his lips.
Before Hill could respond a small boy entered the shop--a ragged,
shock-headed dirty urchin, bareheaded and barefooted. He tapped loudly on
the counter with a halfpenny.
"What do you want, boy?" roughly asked the inspector.
"A 'a'porth of blackboys," responded the child, in the confident tone of
a regular customer.
"If you'll permit me, sir, I'll serve him," said Hill and he glided
behind the little counter, took some black sticky sweetmeats from one of
the glass jars on the shelf and gave them to the boy, who popped one in
his mouth and scurried off.
"I think we had better go inside and hear what Hill has to say,
Inspector, while Mrs. Hill minds the shop," said Rolfe. He had caught a
glimpse of Mrs. Hill's white frightened face peering through the dirty
little glass pane in the parlour door.
Inspector Chippenfield approved of the idea.
"We don't want to spoil your wife's business, Hill--she's likely to need
it," he said, with cruel official banter. "Come here, Mrs. Hill," he
said, raising his voice.
The faded little woman appeared in response to the summons, bringing the
child with her. She shot a frightened glance at her husband, which
Inspector Chippenfield intercepted.
"Never mind looking at your husband, Mrs. Hill," he said roughly.
"You've done your best for him, and the only thing to be told now is the
truth. Now you and your daughter can stay in the shop. We want your
Mrs. Hill clasped her hands quickly.
"Oh, what is it, Henry?" she said. "Tell me what has happened? What have
they found out?"
"Keep your mouth shut," commanded her husband harshly. "This way, sir, if
Inspector Chippenfield and Rolfe followed him into the parlour.
"Now, Hill," impatiently said Inspector Chippenfield.
The butler raised his head wearily.
"I suppose I may as well begin at the beginning and tell you
everything," he said.
"Yes," replied the inspector, "it's not much use keeping anything
"Oh, it's not a case of keeping anything back," replied Hill. "You're too
clever for me, and I've made up my mind to tell you everything, but I
thought I might be able to cut the first part short, so as to save your
time. But so that you'll understand everything I've got to go a long way
back--shortly after I entered Sir Horace Fewbanks's service. In fact, I
hadn't been long with him before I began to see he was leading a strange
life--a double life, if I may say so. A servant in a gentleman's
house--particularly one in my position--sees a good deal he is not meant
to see; in fact, he couldn't close his eyes to it if he wanted to, as no
doubt you, from your experience, sir, know very well. A confidential
servant sees and hears a lot of things, sir."
Inspector Chippenfield nodded his head sharply, but he did not speak.
"I think Sir Horace trusted me, too," continued Hill humbly, "more than
he would have trusted most servants, on account of my--my past. I fancy,
if I may say so, that he counted on my gratitude because he had given me
a fresh start in life. And he was quite right--at first." Hill dropped
his voice and looked down as he uttered the last two words. "I'd have
done anything for him. But as I was saying, sir, I hadn't been long in
his house before I found out that he had a--a weakness--" Hill timidly
bowed his head as though apologising to the dead judge for assailing his
character--"a weakness for--for the ladies. Sometimes Sir Horace went
off for the week-end without saying where he was going and sometimes he
went out late at night and didn't return till after breakfast. Then he
had ladies visiting him at Riversbrook--not real ladies, if you
understand, sir. Sometimes there was a small party of them, and then they
made a noise singing music-hall songs and drinking wine, but generally
they came alone. Towards the end there was one who came a lot oftener
than the others. I found out afterwards that her name was Fanning--Doris
Fanning. She was a very pretty young woman, and Sir Horace seemed very
fond of her. I knew that because I've heard him talking to her in the
library. Sir Horace had rather a loud voice, and I couldn't help
overhearing him sometimes, when I took things to his rooms.
"One night,--it was before Sir Horace left for Scotland--a rainy gusty
night, this young woman came. I forgot to mention that when Sir Horace
expected visitors he used to tell me to send the servants to bed early.
He told me to do so this night, saying as usual, 'You understand, Hill?'
and I replied, 'Yes, Sir Horace,' The young woman came about half-past
ten o'clock, and I let her in the side door and showed her up to the
library on the first floor, where he used to sit and work and read. Half
an hour afterwards I took up some refreshments--some sandwiches and a
small bottle of champagne for the young lady--and then went back
downstairs till Sir Horace rang for me to let the lady out, which was
generally about midnight. But this night, I'd hardly been downstairs more
than a quarter of an hour, when I heard a loud crash, followed by a sort
of scream. Before I could get out of my chair to go upstairs I heard the
study door open, and Sir Horace called out, 'Hill, come here!'
"I went upstairs as quick as I could, and the door of the study being
wide open, I could see inside. Sir Horace and the young lady had
evidently been having a quarrel. They were standing up facing each other,
and the table at which they had been sitting was knocked over, and the
refreshments I had taken up had been scattered all about. The young woman
had been crying--I could see that at a glance--but Sir Horace looked
dignified and the perfect gentleman--like he always was. He turned to me
when he saw me, and said, 'Hill, kindly show this young lady out,' I
bowed and waited for her to follow me, which she did, after giving Sir
Horace an angry look. I let her out the same way as I let her in, and
took her through the plantation to the front gate, which I locked after
her. When I got inside the house again, and was beginning to bolt up
things for the night Sir Horace called me again and I went upstairs.
'Hill,' he said, in the same calm and collected voice, 'if that young
lady calls again you're to deny her admittance. That is all, Hill,' And
he turned back into his room again.
"I didn't see her again until the morning after Sir Horace left for
Scotland. I had arranged for the female servants to go to Sir Horace's
estate in the country during his absence, as he instructed before his
departure, and they and I were very busy on this morning getting the
house in order to be closed up--putting covers on the furniture and
locking up the valuables.
"It was Sir Horace's custom to have this done when he was away every
year instead of keeping the servants idling about the house on board
wages, and the house was then left in my charge, as I told you, sir, and
after the servants went to the country it was my custom to live at home
till Sir Horace returned, coming over two or three times a week to look
over the place and make sure that everything was all right. On this
morning, sir, after superintending the servants clearing up things, I
went outside the house to have a final look round, and to see that the
locks of the front and back gates were in good working order. I was going
to the back first, sir, but happening to glance about me as I walked
round the house, I saw the young woman that Sir Horace had ordered me to
show out of the house the night before he went to Scotland, peering out
from behind one of the fir trees of the plantation in front of the house.
As soon as she saw that I saw her she beckoned to me.
"I would not have taken any notice of her, only I didn't want the women
servants to see her. Sir Horace, I knew, would not have liked that. So I
went across to her. I asked her what she wanted, and I told her it was no
use her wanting to see Sir Horace, for he had gone to Scotland. 'I don't
want to see him,' she said, as impudent as brass. 'It's you I want to
see, Field or Hill or whatever you call yourself now.' It gave me quite a
turn, I assure you, to find that this young woman knew my secret, and I
turned round apprehensive-like, to make sure that none of the servants
had heard her. She noticed me and she laughed. 'It's all right, Hill,'
she said. 'I'm not going to tell on you. I've just brought you a message
from an old friend--Fred Birchill--he wants to see you to-night at this
address,' And with that she put a bit of paper into my hand. I was so
upset and excited that I said I'd be there, and she went away.
"This Fred Birchill was a man I'd met in prison, and he was in the cell
next to me. How he'd got on my tracks I had no idea, but I seemed to see
all my new life falling to pieces now he knew. I'd tried to run straight
since I served my sentence, and I knew Sir Horace would stand to me, but
he couldn't afford to have any scandal about it, and I knew that if there
was any possibility of my past becoming known I should have to leave his
employ. And then there was my poor wife and child, and this little
business, sir. Nothing was known about my past here. So I determined to
go and see this Birchill, sir. The address she had given me was in
Westminster, and, as my time was practically my own when Sir Horace
wasn't home, I went down that same evening, and when I got up the flight
of stairs and knocked at the door it was a woman's voice that said 'Come
in,' I thought I recognised the voice. When I opened the door, you can
imagine my surprise when I saw the young woman to be Doris Fanning, who
had had the quarrel with Sir Horace that night and had brought me the
note that morning. Birchill was sitting in a corner of the room, with his
feet on another chair, smoking a pipe. 'Come in, No. 21,' he says, with
an unpleasant smile, 'come in and see an old friend. Put a chair for him,
Doris, and leave the room.'
"The girl did so, and as soon as the door was closed behind her Birchill
turned round to me and burst out, 'Hill, that damned employer of yours
has served me a nasty trick, but I'm going to get even with him, and
you're going to help me!' I was taken back at his words, but I wanted to
hear more before I spoke. Then he told me that the young woman I had seen
had been brutally treated by Sir Horace. She had been living in a little
flat in Westminster on a monthly allowance which Sir Horace made her, but
he'd suddenly cut off her allowance and she'd have to be turned out in
the street to starve because she couldn't pay her rent. 'A nice thing,'
said Birchill fiercely, 'for this high-placed loose liver to carry on
like this with a poor innocent girl whose only fault was that she loved
him too well. If I could show him up and pull him down, I would. But I've
done time, like you, Hill. He was the judge who sentenced me, and if I
tried to injure him that way my word would carry no weight; but I'll put
up a job on him that'll make him sorry the longest day he lives, and
you'll help me. Sir Horace is in Scotland, Hill, and you're in charge of
his place. Get rid of the servants, Hill, and we'll burgle his house. We
can easily do it between us.'"
At this stage of his narrative, Hill stopped and looked anxiously at his
audience as though to gather some idea of their feelings before he
proceeded further. But Inspector Chippenfield, with a fierce stare,
"And you consented?"
"I didn't at first," Hill retorted earnestly, "but when I refused he
threatened me--threatened that he'd expose me and drag me and my wife and
child down to poverty. I pleaded with him, but it was of no use, and at
last I had to consent. I had some hope that in doing so I might find an
opportunity to warn Sir Horace, but Birchill did not give me a chance. He
insisted that the burglary should take place without delay. All I was to
do was to give him a plan of the house, explain where to find the most
valuable articles that had been left there, and wait for him at the flat
while he committed the burglary. His idea in making me wait for him at
the flat was to make sure that I didn't play him false--put the double on
him, as he called it--and he told the girl not to let me out of her sight
till he came back, if anything went wrong I should have to pay for it
when he came back.
"In accordance with Sir Horace's instructions, I sent the servants off to
his country estate. It had been arranged that Birchill was to wait for me
to come over to the flat on the 18th of August, the night fixed for the
burglary. But about 7 o'clock, while I was at Riversbrook, I heard the
noise of wheels outside, and looking out, I saw to my dismay Sir Horace
getting out of a taxi-cab with a suit-case in his hand. My first impulse
was to tell him everything--indeed, I think that if I had had a chance I
would have--but he came in looking very severe, and without saying a word
about why he had returned from Scotland, said very sharply, 'Hill, have
the servants been sent down to the country, as I directed?' I told him
that they had. 'Very good,' he said, 'then you go away at once, I won't
want you any more. I want the house to myself to-night.' 'Sir Horace,' I
began, trembling a little, but he stopped me. 'Go immediately,' he said;
'don't stand there,' And he said it in such a tone that I was glad to go.
There was something in his look that frightened me that night. I got
across to Birchill's place and found him and the girl waiting for me. I
told him what had happened, and begged him to give up the idea of the
burglary. But he'd been drinking heavily, and was in a nasty mood. First
he said I'd been playing him false and had warned Sir Horace, but when I
assured him that I hadn't he insisted on going to commit the burglary
just the same. With that he pulled out a revolver from his pocket, and
swore with an oath that he'd put a bullet through me when he came back if
I'd played him false and put Sir Horace on his guard, and that he'd put a
bullet in the old scoundrel--meaning Sir Horace--if he interrupted him
while he was robbing the house.
"He sat there, cursing and drinking, till he fell asleep with his head on
the table, snoring. I sat there not daring to breathe, hoping he'd sleep
till morning, but Miss Fanning woke him up about nine, and he staggered
to his feet to get out, with his revolver stuck in his coat pocket. He
was away over three hours and the girl and I sat there without saying a
word, just looking at each other and waiting for a clock on the
mantelpiece to chime the quarters. It was a cuckoo clock, and it had just
chimed twelve when we heard a quick step coming upstairs to the flat. The
girl fixed her big dark eyes inquiringly on me, and then we heard a
hoarse whisper through the keyhole telling us to open the door.
"The girl ran to the door and let him in, but she shrieked at the sight
of him when she saw him in the light. For he looked ghastly, and there
was a spot of blood on his face, and his hands were smeared with it. He
was shaking all over, and he went to the whisky bottle and drained the
drop of spirit he'd left in it. Then he turned to us and said, 'Sir
Horace Fewbanks is dead--murdered!' I suppose he read what he saw in our
eyes, for he burst out angrily, 'Don't stand staring at me like a pair of
damned fools. You don't think I did it? As God's my judge, I never did
it. He was dead and stiff when I got there.'
"Then he told us his story of what had happened. He said that when he got
to Riversbrook there was a light in the library and he got over the fence
and hid himself in the garden. Then he noticed that there was a light in
the hall and that the hall door was open. He thought Sir Horace had left
it open by mistake, and he was going to creep into the house and hide
himself there till after Sir Horace went to bed. But suddenly the light
in the library went out and Birchill again hid behind a tree, for he
thought Sir Horace was retiring for the night. Then the light in the hall
went out and immediately after Birchill heard the hall door being closed.
Then he heard a step on the gravel path and saw a woman walking quickly
down the path to the gate. She was a well-dressed woman, and Birchill
naturally thought that she was one of Sir Horace's lady friends. But he
thought it odd that Sir Horace, who was always a very polite gentleman to
the ladies, should not have shown her off the premises. He waited in the
garden about half an hour, and as everything in the house seemed quite
still, he made his way to a side window and forced it open. He had an
electric torch with him, and he used this to find his way about the
house. First of all, he wanted to find out in which room Sir Horace was
sleeping, and he knew from the plan he'd made me draw for him which was
Sir Horace's bedroom, so he went there and opened the door quietly and
listened. But he could not hear anyone breathing. Then he tried some of
the other rooms and turned on his torch, but could see no one. He thought
that perhaps Sir Horace had fallen asleep in a chair in the library, and
he went there. He listened at the door but could hear no sound. Then he
turned on his torch and by its light he saw a dreadful sight. Sir Horace
was lying huddled up near the desk--dead--just dead, he thought, because
there were little bubbles of blood on his lips as if they had been blown
there when breathing his last. He didn't wait to see any more, but he
turned and ran out of the house.
"I didn't believe his story, though Miss Fanning did, but he stuck to it
and seemed so frightened that I thought there might be something in it
till he brought out that he'd lost his revolver somewhere. Then I
remembered the horrid threats he'd used against Sir Horace, and I was
convinced that he had committed the murder. But of course I dared not let
him think I suspected him, and I pretended to console him. But the
feeling that kept running through my head was that both of us would be
suspected of the murder.
"I told this to Birchill, and that frightened him still more. 'What are
we to do?' he kept saying. 'We shall both be hanged.' Then, after a
while, we recovered ourselves a bit and began to look at it from a more
common-sense point of view. Nobody knew about Birchill's visit to the
house except our two selves and the girl, and there was no reason why
anybody should suspect us as long as we kept that knowledge to ourselves.
Birchill's idea, after we'd talked this over, was that I should go
quietly home to bed, and pay a visit to Riversbrook on Friday as usual,
discover Sir Horace Fewbanks's body, and then tell the police. But I
didn't like to do that for two reasons. I didn't think that my nerves
would be in a fit state to tell the police how I found the body without
betraying to them that I knew something about it; and I couldn't bear to
think of Sir Horace's body lying neglected all alone in that empty house
till the following day--though I kept that reason to myself.
"It was the girl who hit on the idea of sending a letter to the police.
She said that it would be the best thing to do, because if they were
informed and went to the house and discovered the body it wouldn't be so
difficult for me to face them afterwards. I agreed to that, and so did
Birchill, who was very frightened in case I might give anything away, and
consented on that account. The girl showed us how to write the letter,
too--she said she'd often heard of anonymous letters being written that
way--and she brought out three different pens and a bottle of ink and a
writing pad. After we'd agreed what to write, she showed us how to do it,
each one printing a letter on the paper in turn, and using a different
pen each time."
"You took care to leave no finger-prints," said Inspector Chippenfield.
"We used a handkerchief to wrap our hands in," said Hill. "Birchill got
tired of passing the paper from one to another and wrote all his letters,
leaving spaces for the girl and me to write in ours. When the letter was
written we wrote the address on the envelope the same way, and stamped
it. Then I went out and posted the letter in a pillar-box."
"At Covent Garden?" suggested Inspector Chippenfield.
"Yes, at Covent Garden," said Hill.
"When I got home my wife was awake and in a terrible fright. She wanted
to know where I'd been, but I didn't tell her. I told her, though, that
my very life depended on nobody knowing I'd been out of my own home that
night, and I made her swear that no matter who questioned her she'd stick
to the story that I'd been at home all night, and in bed. She begged me
to tell her why, and as I knew that she'd have to be told the next day, I
told her that Sir Horace Fewbanks had been murdered. She buried her face
in her pillow with a moan, but when I took an oath that I had had no hand
in it she recovered, and promised not to tell a living soul that I had
been out of the house and I knew I could depend on her.
"Next morning, as soon as I got up, I hurried off to a little wine tavern
and asked to see the morning papers. It was a foolish thing to do,
because I might have known that nothing could have been discovered in
time to get into the morning papers, for I hadn't posted the letter until
nearly four o'clock. But I was all nervous and upset, and as I couldn't
face my wife or settle to anything until I knew the police had got the
letter and found the body, I--though a strictly temperate man in the
ordinary course of life, sir--sat down in one of the little compartments
of the place and ordered a glass of wine to pass the time till the first
editions of the evening papers came out--they are usually out here about
noon. But there was no news in the first editions, and so I stayed there,
drinking port wine and buying the papers as fast as they came out. But it
was not till the 6.30 editions came out, late in the afternoon, that the
papers had the news. I hurried home and then went up to Riversbrook and
reported myself to you, sir."
As Hill finished his story he buried his face in his hands, and bowed his
head on the table in an attitude of utter dejection. Rolfe, looking at
him, wondered if he were acting a part, or if he had really told the
truth. He looked at Inspector Chippenfield to see how he regarded the
confession, but his superior officer was busily writing in his note-book.
In a few moments, however, he put the pocket-book down on the table and
turned to the butler.
"Sit up, man," he commanded sternly. "I want to ask you some questions."
Hill raised a haggard face.
"Yes, sir," he said, with what seemed to be a painful effort.
"What is this girl Fanning like?"
"Rather a showy piece of goods, if I may say so, sir. She has big black
eyes, and black hair and small, regular teeth."
"And Sir Horace had been keeping her?"
"I think so, sir."
"And a fortnight before Sir Horace left for Scotland there was a
quarrel--Sir Horace cast her off?"
"That is what it looked like to me," said the butler.
"What was the cause of the quarrel?"
"That I don't know, sir."
"Didn't Birchill tell you?"
"Well, not in so many words. But I gathered from things he dropped that
Sir Horace had found out that he was a friend of Miss Fanning's and
didn't like it."
"Naturally," said the philosophic police official. "Is Birchill still at
this flat and is the girl still there?"
"The last I heard of them they were, sir. Of course they had been talking
of moving after Sir Horace stopped the allowance."
"Well, Hill, I'll investigate this story of yours," said the inspector,
as he rose to his feet and placed his note-book in his pocket. "If it is
true--if you have given us all the assistance in your power and have kept
nothing back, I'll do my best for you. Of course you realise that you are
in a very serious position. I don't want to arrest you unless I have to,
but I must detain you while I investigate what you have told us. You will
come up with us to the Camden Town Station and then your statement will
be taken down fully. I'll give you three minutes in which to explain
things to your wife."