Part 4 out of 6
answering his description, boarded a tramcar at Euston Road at 9.30 p.m.,
and journeyed in it to Hampstead. He was observed both at Euston Road and
the Hampstead terminus by the conductor, because of his obvious desire to
avoid attention. There were only two other passengers on the top of the
car when it left Euston Road. The conductor directed the attention of the
driver to his movements, and they both watched him till he disappeared in
the direction of the Heath. In fairness to the prisoner, it was necessary
to point out, however, that neither the conductor nor the driver can
identify him positively as the man they had seen on their car that night,
but both will swear that to the best of their belief Birchill is the man.
Assuming that it was the prisoner who travelled to Hampstead by the
Euston Road tram--a route he would probably prefer because it took him to
Hampstead by the most unfrequented way--he would have a distance of
nearly a mile to walk across Hampstead Heath to Tanton Gardens, where
Sir Horace Fewbanks's house was situated. The evidence of the tram-men is
that he set off across the Heath at a very rapid rate. The tram reached
Hampstead at four minutes past ten, so that, by walking fast, it would be
possible for a young energetic man to reach Riversbrook before a quarter
to eleven. Another five minutes would see an experienced housebreaker
like Birchill inside the house. At twenty minutes past eleven a young man
named Ryder, who had wandered into Tanton Gardens while endeavouring to
take a short cut home, heard the sound of a report, which at the time he
took to be the noise of a door violently slammed, coming from the
direction of Riversbrook. A few moments afterwards he saw a man climb
over the front fence of Riversbrook to the street. He drew back
cautiously into the shade of one of the chestnut trees of the street
avenue, and saw the man plainly as he ran past him. Ryder will swear that
the man he saw was Birchill."
"It's a lie! It's a lie! You're trying to hang him, you wicked man. Oh,
The cry proceeded from the girl Doris Fanning. Her unbalanced temperament
had been unable to bear the strain of sitting there and listening to Mr.
Walters' cold inexorable construction of a legal chain of evidence
against her lover. She rose to her feet, shrieking wildly, and
gesticulating menacingly at Mr. Walters. The Society ladies turned
eagerly in their seats to take in through their _lorgnons_ every detail
of the interruption.
"Remove that woman," the judge sternly commanded.
Several policemen hastened to her, and the girl was partly hustled and
partly carried out of court, shrieking as she went. When the commotion
caused by the scene subsided, the judge irritably requested to be
informed who the woman was.
"I don't know, my lord," replied Mr. Walters. "Perhaps--" He stopped and
bent over to Detective Rolfe, who was pulling at his gown. "Er--yes, I'm
informed by Detective Rolfe of Scotland Yard, my lord, that the young
woman is a witness in the case."
"Then why was she permitted to remain in court?" asked Sir Henry Hodson
angrily. "It is a piece of gross carelessness."
"I do not know, my lord. I was unaware she was a witness until this
moment," returned Mr. Walters, with a discreet glance in the direction of
Detective Rolfe, as an indication to His Honour that the judicial storm
might safely veer in that direction. Sir Henry took the hint and
administered such a stinging rebuke to Detective Rolfe that that
officer's face took on a much redder tint before it was concluded. Then
the judge motioned to Mr. Walters to resume the case.
Counsel, with his index finger still in the place in his brief where he
had been interrupted, rose to his feet again and turned to the jury.
"Birchill returned to the flat at Westminster shortly after midnight," he
continued. "Hill had been compelled by Birchills threats to remain at the
flat with the girl while Birchill visited Riversbrook, and the first
thing Birchill told him on his return was that he had found Sir Horace
Fewbanks dead in his house when he entered it. On his way back from
committing the crime belated caution had probably dictated to Birchill
the wisdom of endeavouring to counteract his previous threat to murder
Sir Horace Fewbanks. He probably remembered that Hill, who had heard the
threat, was an unwilling participator in the plan for the burglary, and
might therefore denounce him to the police for the greater crime if he
(Birchill) admitted that he had committed it. In order to guard against
this contingency still further Birchill forced Hill to join in writing a
letter to Scotland Yard, acquainting them with the murder, and the fact
that the body was lying in the empty house. Birchill's object in acting
thus was a twofold one. He dared not trust Hill to pretend to discover
the body the next day and give information to the police, for fear he
should not be able to retain sufficient control of himself to convince
the detectives that he was wholly ignorant of the crime, and he also
thought that if Hill had a share in writing the letter he would feel an
additional complicity in the crime, and keep silence for his own sake.
Birchill was right in his calculations--up to a point. Hill was at first
too frightened to disclose what he knew, but as time went on his
affection for his murdered master, and his desire to bring the murderer
to justice, overcame his feelings of fear for his own share in bringing
about the crime, and he went and confessed everything to the police,
regardless of the consequences that might recoil upon his own head. The
case against Birchill depends largely on Hill's evidence, and the jury,
when they have heard his story in the witness-box, and bearing in mind
the extenuating circumstances of his connection with the crime, will have
little hesitation in coming to the conclusion that the prisoner in the
dock murdered Sir Horace Fewbanks."
The first witness called was Inspector Seldon, who gave evidence as to
his visit to Riversbrook shortly before 1 p. m. on the 19th of August as
the result of information received, and his discovery of the dead body of
Sir Horace Fewbanks. He described the room in which the body was found;
the position of the body; and he identified the blood-stained clothes
produced by the prosecution as being those in which the dead man was
dressed when the body was discovered. In cross-examination by Holymead he
stated that Sir Horace Fewbanks was fully dressed when the body was
found. The witness also stated in cross-examination that none of the
electric lights in the house were burning when the body was discovered.
The next witness was Dr. Slingsby, the pathological expert from the Home
Office who had made the post mortem examination, and who was much too
great a man to be kept waiting while other witnesses of more importance
to the case but of less personal consequence went into the box. Dr.
Slingsby stated that his examinations had revealed that death had been
caused by a bullet wound which had penetrated the left lung, causing
Mr. Finnis, the junior counsel for the defence, suggested to the witness
that the wound might have been self-inflicted, but Dr. Slingsby permitted
himself to be positive that such was not the case. With professional
caution he assured Mr. Finnis, who briefly cross-examined him, that it
was impossible for him to state how long Sir Horace Fewbanks had been
dead. _Rigor mortis_, in the case of the human body, set in from eight to
ten hours after death, and it was between three and four o'clock in the
afternoon of the day the crime was discovered that he first saw the
corpse. The body was quite stiff and cold then.
"Is it not possible for death to have taken place nineteen or twenty
hours before you saw the body?" asked Mr. Finnis, eagerly.
"Quite possible," replied Dr. Slingsby.
"Is it not also possible, from the state of the body when you examined
it, that death took place within sixteen hours of your examination of the
body?" asked Mr. Walters, as Mr. Finnis sat down with the air of a man
who had elicited an important point.
"Quite possible," replied Dr. Slingsby, with the prim air of a
professional man who valued his reputation too highly to risk it by
committing himself to anything definite.
Dr. Slingsby was allowed to leave the box, and Inspector Chippenfield
took his place. Inspector Chippenfield did not display any professional
reticence about giving his evidence--at least, not on the surface, though
he by no means took the court completely into his confidence as to all
that had passed between him and Hill. On the other hand he told the judge
and jury everything that his professional experience prompted him as
necessary and proper for them to know in order to bring about a
conviction. In the course of his evidence he made several attempts to
introduce damaging facts as to Birchill's past, but Mr. Holymead
protested to the judge. Counsel for the defence protested that he had
allowed his learned friend in opening the case a great deal of latitude
as to the relations which had previously existed between the witness Hill
and the prisoner, because the defence did not intend to attempt to hide
the fact that the prisoner had a criminal record, but he had no intention
of allowing a police witness to introduce irrelevant matter in order to
prejudice the jury against the prisoner. His Honour told the witness to
confine himself to answering the questions put to him, and not to
After this rebuke Inspector Chippenfield resumed giving evidence. He
related what Birchill had said when arrested, and declared that he was
positive that the footprints found outside the kitchen window were made
by the boots produced in court which Birchill had been wearing at the
time he was arrested. He produced a jemmy which he had found at Fanning's
flat, and said that it fitted the marks on the window at Riversbrook
which had been forced on the night of the 18th of August.
Inspector Chippenfield's evidence was followed by that of the two tramway
employees, who declared that to the best of their belief Birchill was the
man who boarded their tram at half-past nine on the night of the 18th of
August, and rode to the terminus at Hampstead, which they reached at 10.4
p. m. Both the witnesses showed a very proper respect for the law, and
were obviously relieved when the brief cross-examination was over and
they were free to go back to their tram-car.
"James Hill!" called the court crier.
The butler stepped forward, mounted the witness-stand, and bowed his head
deferentially towards the judge. He was neatly dressed in black, and his
sandy-grey hair was carefully brushed. His face was as expressionless as
ever, but a slight oscillation of the Court Bible in his right hand as he
was sworn indicated that his nerves were not so calm as he strove to
appear. He looked neither to the right nor left, but kept his glance
downcast. Only once, as he stood there waiting to be questioned, did he
cast a furtive look towards the man whose life hung on his evidence, but
the malevolent vindictive gaze Birchill shot back at him caused him to
lower his eyelids instantly.
Hill commenced his evidence in a voice so low that Mr. Walters stopped
him at the outset and asked him to speak in a louder tone. It soon became
apparent that his evidence was making a deep impression on the court. Sir
Henry Hodson listened to him intently, and watched him keenly, as Hill,
with impassive countenance and smooth even tones, told his strange story
of the night of the murder. When he had drawn to a conclusion he gave
another furtive glance at the dock, but Birchill was seated with his head
bowed down, as though tired, and with one hand supporting his face.
Mr. Walters methodically folded up his brief and sat down, with a
sidelong glance in the direction of Mr. Holymead as he did so. Every eye
in court was turned on Holymead as the great K.C. settled his gown on his
shoulders and got up to cross-examine the principal Crown witness.
His cross-examination was the admiration of those spectators whose
sympathies were on the side of the man in the dock as one of themselves.
Hill was cross-examined as to the lapse from honesty which had sent him
to gaol, and he was reluctantly forced to admit, that so far from the
theft being the result of an impulse to save his wife and child from
starvation, as the Counsel for the prosecution had indicated, it was the
result of the impulse of cupidity. He had robbed a master who had trusted
him and had treated him with kindness. Having extracted this fact, in
spite of Hill's evasions and twistings, Holymead straightened himself to
his full height, and, shaking a warning finger at the witness, said:
"I put it to you, witness, that the reason Sir Horace Fewbanks engaged
you as butler in his household at Riversbrook was because he knew you to
be a man of few scruples, who would be willing to do things that a more
upright honest man would have objected to?"
"That is not true," replied Hill.
"Is it not true that your late master frequently entertained women of
doubtful character at Riversbrook?" thundered the K.C.
Hill gasped at the question. When he had first heard that his late
master's old friend, Mr. Holymead, was to appear for Birchill, he had
immediately come to the conclusion that Mr. Holymead was taking up the
case in order to save Sir Horace's name from exposure by dealing
carefully with his private life at Riversbrook. But here he was
ruthlessly tearing aside the veil of secrecy. Hill hesitated. He glanced
round the curious crowded court and saw the eager glances of the women as
they impatiently awaited his reply. He hesitated so long that Holymead
repeated the question.
"Women of doubtful character?" faltered the witness. "I do not
"You understand me perfectly well, Hill. I do not mean women off the
streets, but women who have no moral reputation to maintain--women who do
not mind letting confidential servants see that they have no regard for
the conventional standards of life. I mean, witness, that your late
master frequently entertained at Riversbrook, women--I will not call them
ladies--who were not particular at what hour they went home. Sometimes
one or more of them stayed all night, and you were entrusted with the
confidential task of smuggling them out of the house without other
servants knowing of their presence. Is not that so?"
"Answer the question without equivocation, witness."
There was a slight stir in the body of the court due to the fact that
Miss Fewbanks and Mrs. Holymead had risen and were making their way to
the door. The fashionably-dressed women in the court stared with much
interest at the daughter of the murdered man, whom most of them knew, in
order to see how she was taking the disclosures about her dead father's
"And sometimes there were quarrels between your late master and these
visitors, were there not?" continued Holymead.
"Surely you know that under the influence of wine some people become
"Well, did your late master's nocturnal visitors ever become
"In the exercise of your confidential duties did you sometimes see
quarrelsome ladies off the premises?"
"And it was no uncommon thing for them to say things to you about your
"Sometimes they didn't care what they said."
"Quite so," commented Counsel drily. "They indulged in threats?"
"Not all of them," replied Hill, who at length saw where the
cross-examination was tending.
"I do not suggest that all of them did--only that the more violent of
them did so."
"Quite so, sir."
"So we may take it that the quarrel between your late master and
Miss Fanning was not the only quarrel of the kind which came under
"There were not many others," said Hill.
"It was not the only one?" persisted Counsel.
"In your evidence-in-chief you said nothing about Miss Fanning using
threats against your master when you were showing her out?"
"She did not use any?"
"Not in my hearing, sir."
There was a pause at this stage while Mr. Holymead consulted the notes he
had made of Mr. Walters's cross-examination of the witness.
"What o'clock was it when you left Riversbrook on the 18th of August
after your master's return from Scotland?"
"About half-past seven, sir."
"And what time did Sir Horace arrive home?"
"About seven o'clock, sir."
"What were you doing between seven and seven-thirty?"
"I unpacked his bags and got his bedroom ready. I took him some
refreshment up to the library."
"And he told you he wouldn't want you again until the following night
about eight o'clock?"
"Yes, sir. He said he thought he would be going back to Scotland by the
night express, and I was to get his bag packed and lock up the house."
"You told Counsel for the prosecution in the course of your evidence
that you were afraid of Birchill," continued Holymead.
"Were you afraid of physical violence from him, or only that he would
expose your past to the other servants?"
"I was afraid of him both ways," said Hill.
"Was it because of this fear that you made out for him a plan of
Riversbrook to assist him in the burglary?"
"When did you make out this plan?"
"The day after Sir Horace left for Scotland."
"Was that on your first visit to Miss Fanning's flat in Westminster
after the prisoner had sent her to Riversbrook to tell you he wanted
to see you?"
"Did Birchill stand over you while you made out this plan?"
"Would you know the plan again if you saw it?"
Mr. Finnis, who had been hiding the plan under the papers before him,
handed a document up to his chief.
Mr. Holymead unfolded it, and with a brief glance at it handed it up to
"Is that the plan?" he asked.
Hill was somewhat taken aback at the production of the plan. It was drawn
in ink on a white sheet of paper of foolscap size, with a slightly bluish
tint. The paper was by no means clean, for Birchill had carried it about
in his pocket. The witness reluctantly admitted that the plan was the one
he had given to Birchill. To his manifest relief Counsel asked no further
questions about it. In a low tone Mr. Holymead formally expressed his
intention to put the plan in as evidence. He handed it to Mr. Walters,
who, after a close inspection of it, passed it along to the judge's
Associate for His Honour's inspection.
The rest of Hill's cross-examination concerned what happened at the flat
on the night of the burglary. He adhered to the story he had told, and
could not be shaken in the main points of it. But Mr. Holymead made some
effective use of the discrepancy between the witness's evidence at the
inquest as to his movements on the night of the murder and his evidence
in court. He elicited the fact that the police had discovered his
evidence at the inquest was false and had forced him to make a confession
by threatening to arrest him for the murder.
Mr. Holymead signified that he had nothing further to ask the witness,
and Mr. Walters called his last witness, a young man named Charles Ryder,
a resident of Liverpool, who had spent a week's holiday in London from
the 14th to the 21st of August. Ryder had stayed with some friends at
Hampstead, and when making his way home on the night of the 18th of
August had walked down Tanton Gardens in the belief that he was taking a
short cut. The time was about 11.20. He saw a man running towards him
along the footpath from the direction of Riversbrook. He caught a good
glimpse of the man, who seemed to be very excited. He was sure the
prisoner was the man he had seen. In cross-examination by Mr. Holymead he
was far less positive in his identification of the prisoner, and finally
admitted that the man he saw that night might be somebody else who
resembled the prisoner in build.
The second day of the trial began promptly when Mr. Justice Hodson took
his seat. Mr. Holymead's opening statement to the jury was brief. He
reminded them that the life of a fellow creature rested on their verdict.
If there was any doubt in their minds whether the prisoner had fired the
shot which killed Sir Horace Fewbanks the prisoner was entitled to a
verdict of "not guilty." It was obligatory on the prosecution to prove
guilt beyond all reasonable doubt.
He submitted that the prosecution had not established their case. After
hearing the case for the prosecution the jury must have grave doubts as
to the guilt of the prisoner, and it was his duty as Counsel for the
prisoner to put before the jury facts which would not only increase their
doubts but bring them to the positive conclusion that the prisoner was
not guilty. He was not going to attempt to deny that the prisoner went to
Riversbrook on the night of the murder. He went there to commit a
burglary. But so far from Hill being terrorised into complicity in that
crime it was he who had first suggested it to Birchill and had arranged
it. Material evidence on that point would be submitted to the jury.
Hill was a man who was incapable of gratitude. His disposition was to
bite the hand that fed him. After being well treated by Sir Horace
Fewbanks he had made up his mind to rob him as he had robbed his former
master Lord Melhurst. He knew that Sir Horace had quarrelled with this
girl Fanning because of her association with Birchill, and he went to
Birchill and put before him a proposal to rob Riversbrook. Birchill
consented to the plan, and when on the night of the 18th August he
broke into the house he found the murdered body of Sir Horace in the
library. That was the full extent of the prisoner's connection with
the crime. To the superficial and suspicious mind it might seem an
improbable story, but to an earnest mind it was a story that carried
conviction because of its simple straightforwardness--its crudity, if
the jury liked to call it that. It lacked the subtlety and the finish
of a concocted story. The murder took place before Birchill reached
Riversbrook on his burglarious errand.
"It is my place," added Mr. Holymead, in concluding his address, "to
convince you that my client is not guilty, or, in other words, to
convince you that the murder was committed before he reached the house.
It is only with the greatest reluctance that I take upon myself the
responsibility of pointing an accusing finger at another man. In crimes
of this kind you cannot expect to get anything but circumstantial
evidence. But there are degrees of circumstantial evidence, and my duty
to my client lays upon me the obligation of pointing out to you that
there is one person against whom the existing circumstantial evidence is
stronger than it is against my client."
Crewe, who had secured his former place in the gallery of the court,
looked down on the speaker. He had carefully followed every word of
Holymead's address, but the concluding portion almost electrified him. He
flattered himself that he was the only person in court who understood the
full significance of the sonorous sentences with which the famous K.C.
concluded his address to the jury.
As his eyes wandered over the body of the court below, Crewe saw that
Mrs. Holymead and Mademoiselle Chiron were sitting in one of the back
seats, but that they were not accompanied by Miss Fewbanks. It was
evident to him by the way in which Mrs. Holymead followed the proceedings
that her interest in the case was something far deeper than wifely
interest in her husband's connection with it as counsel for the defence.
Leaning forward in her seat, with her hands clasped in her lap, she
listened eagerly to every word. During the day his gaze went back to her
at intervals, and on several occasions he became aware that she had been
watching him while he watched her husband.
The first witness for the defence was Doris Fanning. The drift of her
evidence was to exonerate the prisoner at the expense of Hill. She
declared that she had not gone to Riversbrook to see Hill after the final
quarrel with Sir Horace. Hill had come to her flat in Westminster of his
own accord and had asked for Birchill. She went out of the room while
they discussed their business, but after Hill had gone Birchill told her
that Hill had put up a job for him at Riversbrook. Birchill showed her
the plan of Riversbrook that Hill had made, and asked her if it was
correct as far as she knew. Yes, she was sure she would know the plan
again if she saw it.
The judge's Associate handed it to Mr. Holymead, who passed it to
"Is this it?" he asked.
"Yes," she replied emphatically, almost without inspecting it.
"I want you to look at it closely," said Counsel. "When Birchill showed
you the plan immediately after Hill's departure, what impression did you
get regarding it?"
She looked at him blankly.
"I don't understand you," she said.
"You can tell the difference between ink that has been newly used and ink
that has been on the paper some days. Was the ink fresh?"
"No, it was old ink," she said.
"How do you know that?"
"Because ink doesn't go black till a long while after it is written. At
least, the letters _I_ write don't." She shot a veiled coquettish glance
at the big K.C. from under her long eyelashes.
The K.C. returned the glance with a genial smile.
"What do you write your letters on, Miss Fanning?"
She almost giggled at the question.
"I use a writing tablet," she replied.
"Ruled or unruled?"
"Ruled. I couldn't write straight if there weren't lines." She
"And what colour do you affect--grey, rose-pink or white paper?"
"Is that all the paper you have at your flat for writing purposes?"
"Then what did Birchill write on when he wanted to write a letter?"
"He used mine."
"Are you sure of that?"
"Yes. When he wanted to write a letter he used to ask me for my tablet
and an envelope. And generally he used to borrow a stamp as well." She
pouted slightly, with another coquettish glance.
"Look at that plan again," said the K.C. "Have you ever had paper like it
at your flat?"
She shook her head.
"Have you ever seen paper of that kind in Birchill's possession before he
showed you the plan?"
"When he showed you the plan had the paper been folded?"
The K.C. took the witness, now very much at her ease, to the night of the
murder. She denied strenuously that Hill tried to dissuade Birchill from
carrying out the burglary because Sir Horace Fewbanks had returned
unexpectedly from Scotland. It was Birchill who suggested postponing the
burglary until Sir Horace left, but Hill urged that the original plan
should be adhered to. He declared that Sir Horace would remain at home at
least a fortnight, and perhaps longer. His master was a sound sleeper, he
said, and if Birchill waited until he went to bed there would be no
danger of awakening him. She contradicted many details of Hill's evidence
as to what took place when the prisoner returned from breaking into
Riversbrook. It was untrue, she said, that there was a spot of blood on
Birchill's face or that his hands were smeared with blood. He was a
little bit excited when he returned, but after one glass of whisky he
spoke quite calmly of what had happened.
The next witness was a representative of the firm of Holmes and Jackson,
papermakers, who was handed the plan of Riversbrook which Hill had drawn.
He stated that the paper on which the plan was drawn was manufactured by
his firm, and supplied to His Majesty's Stationery Office. He identified
it by the quality of the paper and the watermark. In reply to Mr. Walters
the witness was sure that the paper he held in his hand had been
manufactured by his firm for the Government. It was impossible for him to
be mistaken. Other firms might manufacture paper of a somewhat similar
quality and tint, but it would not be exactly similar. Besides, he
identified it by his firm's watermark, and he held the plan up to the
light and pointed it out to the court.
Counsel for the defence called two more witnesses on this point--one to
prove that supplies of the paper on which the plan was drawn were issued
to legal departments of the Government, and an elderly man named Cobb,
Sir Horace Fewbanks's former tipstaff, who stated that he took some of
the paper in question to Riversbrook on Sir Horace's instructions. And
then, to the astonishment of junior members of the bar who were in court
watching his conduct of the case in order to see if they could pick up a
few hints, he intimated that his case was closed. It seemed to them that
the great K.C. had put up a very flimsy case for the defence, and that in
spite of the fact that the prosecutor's case rested mainly on the
evidence of a tainted witness Holymead would be very hard put to it to
get his man off.
"Isn't my learned friend going to call the prisoner?" suggested Mr.
Walters, with the cunning design of giving the jury something to think of
when they were listening to his learned friend's address.
"It's scarcely necessary," said Mr. Holymead, who saw the trap, and
replied in a tone which indicated that the matter was not worth a
He began his address to the jury by emphasising the fact that a fellow
creature's life depended on the result of their deliberations. The duty
that rested upon them of saying whether the prosecution had established
beyond all reasonable doubt that the prisoner shot Sir Horace Fewbanks
was a solemn and impressive one. He asked them to consider the case
carefully in all its bearings. He could not claim for his client that
he was a man of spotless reputation. The prisoner belonged to a class
who earned their living by warring against society. But that fact did
not make him a murderer. On what did the case for the prosecution rest?
On the evidence of Hill and three other witnesses who, on the night of
the murder, had seen a man somewhat resembling the prisoner in the
vicinity of Riversbrook, or making towards the vicinity of that house.
But so far from wishing to emphasise the weakness of identification he
admitted that the prisoner went to Riversbrook with the intention of
committing a burglary.
"We admit that he went there the night Sir Horace Fewbanks returned from
Scotland," he continued. "Counsel for the prosecution will make the most
of those admissions in the course of his address to you, but the point to
which I wish to direct your attention is that we make this damaging
admission so that you may decide between the prisoner and the man who
led him into a trap by instigating the burglary. Now we come to the
evidence of Hill. I know you will not convict a man of murder on the
unsupported evidence of a fellow criminal. But I want to point out to you
that even if Hill's evidence were true in every detail, even if Hill had
not swerved one iota from the truth, there is nothing in his evidence to
lead to the positive conclusion that the prisoner murdered Hill's master,
Sir Horace Fewbanks. What does Hill's evidence against the prisoner
amount to? Let us accept it for the moment as absolutely true. Later on I
will show you plainly that the man is a liar, that he is a cunning
scoundrel, and that his evidence is utterly unreliable. But accepting for
the moment his evidence as true the case against the prisoner amounts to
this: by threats of exposure Birchill compelled Hill to consent to
Riversbrook being robbed while the owner was in Scotland.
"Hill's complicity, according to his own story, extended only to
supplying a plan of the house and giving Birchill some information as to
where various articles of value would be found. On the 18th of August
Hill went to Riversbrook to see that everything was in order for the
burglary that night. While he was there his master returned unexpectedly.
Hill then went to the flat in Westminster and told Birchill that Sir
Horace had returned. His own story is that he tried to get Birchill to
abandon the idea of the burglary, but that Birchill, who had been
drinking, swore that he would carry out the plan, and that if he came
across Sir Horace he would shoot him. What grudge had Birchill against
Sir Horace Fewbanks? The fact that Sir Horace had discarded the woman
Fanning because of her association with Birchill. Gentlemen, does a man
commit a murder for a thing of that kind?
"Let us test the credibility of the man who has tried to swear away the
life of the prisoner. You saw him in the witness-box, and I have no doubt
formed your own conclusions as to the type of man he is. Did he strike
you as a man who would stand by the truth above all things, or a man who
would lie persistently in order to save his own skin? That the man cannot
be believed even when on his oath has been publicly demonstrated in the
courts of the land. The story he told the court yesterday in the
witness-box of his movements on the day of the murder is quite different
to the story he told on his oath at the inquest on the body of Sir Horace
Fewbanks. Let me read to you the evidence he gave at the inquest."
Mr. Finnis handed to his leader a copy of Hill's evidence at the inquest,
and Mr. Holymead read it out to the jury. He then read out a shorthand
writer's account of Hill's evidence on the previous day.
"Which of these accounts are we to believe?" he said, turning to the
jury. "The latter one, the prosecution says. But why, I ask? Because it
tallies with the statement extorted from Hill by the police under the
threat of charging him with the murder. Does that make it more credible?
Is a man like Hill, who is placed in that position, likely to tell the
truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? It is an insult to the
jury as men of intelligence to ask you to believe Hill's evidence. I do
not ask you to believe the story he told at the inquest in preference to
the story he told here in the witness-box yesterday. I ask you to regard
both stories as the evidence of a man who is too deeply implicated in
this crime to be able to speak the truth.
"I will prove to you, gentlemen of the jury, that the man is a criminal
by instinct and a liar by necessity--the necessity of saving his own
skin. He robbed his former master, Lord Melhurst, and he planned to rob
his late master, Sir Horace Fewbanks. But knowing that his former crime
would be brought against him when the police came to investigate a
robbery at Riversbrook he was too cunning to rob Riversbrook himself. He
looked about him for an accomplice and he selected Birchill. You heard
him say in the witness-box that he drew Birchill a plan of
Riversbrook--the plan I now hold in my hand. I will ask you to inspect
the plan closely. Hill told us that Birchill terrorised him into drawing
this plan by threats of exposure. Exposure of what? His master, Sir
Horace Fewbanks, knew he had been in gaol, so what had he to fear from
exposure? His proper course, if he were an honest man, would have been to
tell his master that Birchill was planning to rob the house and had
endeavoured to draw him into the crime. But he did nothing of the kind,
for the simple reason that the plan to rob Riversbrook was his own, and
"Now, gentlemen, you have all seen the plan which this tainted witness
declares was drawn by him because Birchill terrorised him and stood over
him while he drew it. Is there anything in that plan to suggest that it
was drawn by a man in a state of nervous terror? Why, the lines are as
firmly drawn as if they had been made by an architect working at his
leisure in his office. Was this plan drawn by a man in a state of nervous
terror with his tormentor standing threateningly over him, or was it
drawn up by a man working at leisure, free not only from terror but from
interruption? The answer to that question is supplied in the evidence
given by three witnesses as to the paper used. Hill says the plan was
drawn at the flat. Two other witnesses swore that it was paper supplied
exclusively for Government Departments, and another witness swore that he
had taken such paper to Riversbrook for the use of Sir Horace Fewbanks,
who, like every one of His Majesty's judges, found it necessary to do
some of his judicial work at home. What is the inevitable inference? I
ask you if you can have any doubt, after looking at that plan and after
hearing the evidence given to-day about the paper, that the proposal to
rob Riversbrook was Hill's own proposal, that Hill drew a plan of the
house on paper he abstracted from his master's desk--paper which this
confidential servant was apparently in the habit of using for private
purposes--and that he gave it to Birchill when he asked Birchill to join
him in the crime?
"When one of the main features of Hill's story is proved to be false, how
can you believe any of the rest? In the light in which we now see him,
with his cunning exposed, what significance is to be attached to his
statement that Birchill in his presence threatened to shoot Sir Horace
Fewbanks if the master of Riversbrook interfered with him? Such a threat
was not made, but why should Hill say it was made? For the same reason
that he lied about the plan--to save his own skin. I submit to you,
gentlemen, that when Hill went to see Birchill at the Westminster flat on
the night arranged for the burglary Sir Horace Fewbanks was
dead--murdered--and that Hill knew he was murdered. His own story is that
he tried to persuade Birchill to abandon the proposed burglary, but,
according to the witness Fanning, he did all in his power to induce
Birchill to carry out the original plan when he saw that Birchill was
disposed to postpone the burglary in view of the return of the master of
Riversbrook. Why did he want Birchill to carry out the burglary? Because
he knew that his master's murdered body was lying in the house, and he
wanted to be in the position to produce evidence against Birchill as the
murderer if he found himself in a tight corner as the result of the
subsequent investigations of the police. Remember that the body of the
victim was fully dressed when it was discovered by the police, and that
none of the electric lights were burning. Does not that prove
conclusively that the murder was not committed by Birchill, that Sir
Horace Fewbanks was dead when Birchill broke into the house?
"Birchill, an experienced criminal, would not break into the house while
there was anybody moving about. He would wait until the house was in
darkness and the inmates asleep. To do otherwise would increase
enormously the risks of capture. But the fact that the police found the
body of the murdered man fully dressed shows that Sir Horace was murdered
before he went to bed--before Birchill broke into the house. It shows
conclusively that the murder was committed before dusk. Your only
alternatives to that conclusion are that the murdered man went to bed
with his clothes on, or that the murderer broke into the house before Sir
Horace had gone to bed and after killing Sir Horace went coolly round the
house turning out the lights instead of fleeing in terror at his deed
without even waiting to collect any booty. I am sure that as reasonable
men you will reject both these alternatives as absurd. No evidence has
been produced to show that anything has been stolen from the place. It
was evidently the theory of the prosecution that the prisoner, after
shooting Sir Horace, had fled. The evidence of Hill was that he arrived
at Fanning's flat in a state of great excitement. His excitement would be
consistent with his story of having discovered the body of a murdered
man, but not consistent with the conduct of a cold-blooded calculating
murderer who had broken into the house before Sir Horace had undressed
for bed, had shot him, and had then gone round the house turning out the
lights without having any apparent object in doing so.
"Gentlemen, I think you will admit that the crime must have been
committed before dusk; before any lights were turned on. I do not ask you
to say that Hill is guilty. The responsibility of saying what man other
than the prisoner shot Sir Horace Fewbanks does not rest with you. But I
do urge you to ask yourselves whether, as between Hill and the prisoner,
the probability of guilt is not on the side of this witness who lied to
the coroner's court about his movements on the night of the murder, and
who lied to this court about the plan for the robbery of Riversbrook. I
have shown you that Hill was the master mind in planning the burglary,
and, that being so, would not Birchill have consented to the postponement
of the burglary if Hill had urged him to do so when he visited the flat
after the unexpected return of the master of Riversbrook? Is not the
evidence of the witness Fanning, that Hill urged Birchill to carry out
the burglary after Sir Horace had gone to sleep, more credible than
Hill's statement that he endeavoured to induce Birchill to abandon the
proposed crime? Knowing what you know of Hill's past as a man who will
rob his master, knowing that he attempted to deceive you with regard to
this plan of Riversbrook in order that you might play your part in his
cunning scheme, I urge you to ask yourselves whether it is not more
probable that Hill fired the shot which killed Sir Horace Fewbanks than
that the prisoner did so. Is it not extremely probable that the
unexpected return of Sir Horace upset Hill, who was giving a final look
round the house before the burglary took place? That, instead of
answering his master with the suave obsequious humility of the
well-trained servant, he revealed the baffled ferocity of a criminal
whose carefully arranged plan seemed to have miscarried; that his master
angrily rebuked him, and Hill, losing control of himself, sprang at Sir
Horace, and the struggle ended with Hill drawing a revolver and shooting
"The rest of the story from that point can be constructed without
difficulty. The murderer's first thought was to divert suspicion from
himself, and the best way to do that was to divert suspicion elsewhere.
He locked up the house and went to see Birchill. He urged Birchill to
break into Riversbrook, in which the dead body of the murdered man lay.
It is true that he need not have told Birchill that Sir Horace had
returned unexpectedly; but his object in doing so was to make Birchill
search about the house until he inadvertently stumbled across the dead
body. Had Birchill been under the impression that he had broken into an
entirely empty house he would have collected the valuables and might not
have entered the library in which the dead body lay. It was necessary
for Hill's purpose that Birchill should come across the corpse; then he
would be vitally interested in diverting suspicion from himself
(Birchill) and that is why he cunningly revealed to Birchill that Sir
Horace had returned. I put it to the jury that such is a more probable
explanation of how Sir Horace met his death than that he was shot down
by Birchill. I ask you again to remember that the body was fully dressed
when it was found by the police. I put it to you that in this matter the
prisoner walked into a trap prepared by his more cunning fellow
criminal. And I urge you, with all the earnestness it is possible for a
man to use when the life of a fellow creature is at stake, not to be led
into a trap--not to play the part this cunning criminal Hill has
designed for you--in the sacrifice of the life of an innocent man for
the purpose of saving himself from his just deserts. Looking at the
whole case--as you will not fail to do--with the breadth of view of
experienced men of the world, with some knowledge of the workings of
human nature, with a natural horror of the depths of cunning of which
some natures are capable, with a deep sense of the solemn responsibility
for a human life upon you, I confidently appeal to you to say that the
prisoner was not the man who shot Sir Horace Fewbanks, and to bring in a
verdict of 'not guilty,'"
A short discussion arose between the bench and bar on the question of
adjourning the court or continuing the case in the hope of finishing it
in a few hours. Sir Henry Hodson wanted to finish the case that night,
but Counsel for the prosecution intimated that his address to the jury
would take nearly two hours. As it was then nearly five o'clock, and His
Honour had to sum up before the jury could retire, it was hardly to be
hoped that the case could be finished that night, as the jury might be
some time in arriving at a verdict. His Honour decided to adjourn the
court and finish the case next day.
Mr. Walters began his address to the jury on orthodox lines. He referred
to the fact that his learned friend had warned them that the life of a
fellow creature rested on their verdict. It was right that they should
keep that in mind; it was right that they should fully realise the
responsible nature of the duty they were called upon to perform, but it
would be wrong for them to over-estimate their responsibility, or to feel
weighed down by it. It would be wrong for them to be influenced by
sentimental considerations of the fact that a fellow creature's life was
at stake. Strictly speaking, that had nothing whatever to do with them.
Their responsibility ended with their verdict. If their verdict was
"guilty" the responsibility of taking the prisoner's life would rest upon
the law--not on the jury, not on His Honour who passed the sentence of
death, not on the prison officials who carried out the execution. The
jury would do well to keep in mind the fact that their responsibility in
this trial, impressive and important as every one must acknowledge it to
be, was nevertheless strictly limited as far as the taking of the life of
the prisoner was concerned.
He then went over the evidence in detail, building up again the case for
the prosecution where Mr. Holymead had made breaches in it, and
attempting to demolish the case for the defence. Hill, he declared, was
an honest witness. The man had made one false step but he had done his
best to retrieve it, and with the help he had received from his late
master, Sir Horace Fewbanks, he would have buried the past effectively if
it had not been for the fact that the prisoner, who was a confirmed
criminal, had determined to drag him down. There was no doubt that
Hill's association with Birchill had been unfortunate for him. It had
dragged his past into the light of day, and he stood before them a ruined
man. He had tried to live down the past, and but for Birchill he would
have succeeded in doing so. But now no one would employ him as a house
servant after the revelations that had been made in this court. They had
seen Hill in the witness-box, and he would ask the jury whether he looked
like the masterful cunning scoundrel which the defence had described, or
a weak creature who would be easily led by a man of strong will, such as
the prisoner was.
As to what took place at the flat, they had a choice between the
evidence of Hill and the evidence of the girl Fanning. Hill had told
them that he had tried to dissuade the prisoner from going to
Riversbrook to burgle the premises, because his master had returned
unexpectedly; Fanning had told them that the prisoner was in favour of
postponing the crime, but that Hill had urged him to carry it out. Which
story was the more probable? What reliance could they place on the
evidence of Fanning? He did not wish to say that the witness was utterly
vicious and incapable of telling the truth--a description that the
defence had applied to Hill--but they must take into consideration the
fact that Fanning was the prisoner's mistress. Was it likely that a
woman, knowing her lover's life was at stake, would come here and speak
the truth, if she knew the truth would hang him? He was sure that the
jury, as men who knew the world thoroughly, would not hesitate between
the evidence of Hill and that of Fanning.
The case for the defence depended to a great extent on the plan of
Riversbrook which Hill candidly admitted he had drawn. His learned
friend had called evidence to show that the paper on which the plan was
drawn was of a quality which was not procurable by the general public.
That might be so, but what his learned friend had not succeeded in
doing, and could not possibly have hoped to succeed in doing, was to
show that Birchill could not have obtained possession in any other way
of paper of that kind. Yet it was necessary for the defence to prove
that, in order to prove that the plan was not drawn at Fanning's flat by
Hill under threats from Birchill, but that Hill had drawn it at
Riversbrook, and that he gave it to Birchill in order to induce him to
consent to the proposal to break into the house. There were dozens of
ways in which paper of this particular quality might have got to the
flat. Might not Birchill have a friend in His Majesty's Stationery
Office? Was it impossible that the witness Fanning had a friend in that
Office, or in one of the Government Departments to which the paper was
supplied? Was it impossible in view of her relations with the victim of
this crime for Fanning to have obtained some of the paper at Riversbrook
and to have taken it home to her flat? She had sworn in the witness-box
that she had not had paper of that kind in her possession, but with her
lover's life at stake was she likely to stick at a lie if it would help
to get him off?
Counsel for the defence had endeavoured to make much of the fact that the
dead body of Sir Horace Fewbanks was fully dressed when the police
discovered it. He endeavoured to persuade them that such a fact
established the complete innocence of the prisoner and that because of it
they must bring in a verdict of "not guilty." He asked them to accept it
as evidence not only that Sir Horace Fewbanks was dead when the prisoner
broke into the house, but that he was dead when Hill left Riversbrook at
7.30 p. m. to meet Birchill at Fanning's flat. With an ingenuity which
did credit to his imagination, he put before them as his theory of the
crime that a quarrel took place between Sir Horace Fewbanks and Hill at
Riversbrook, that Hill shot his master and then went to Fanning's flat so
as to see that Birchill carried out the burglary as arranged, and at the
same time found Sir Horace's dead body, and thus directed suspicion to
himself. The only support for this, far-fetched theory was that the body
when discovered by the police was fully dressed, and that none of the
electric lights were burning. Counsel for the defence contended that
these two facts established his theory that the murder was committed
before dusk. They established nothing of the kind. There were half a
dozen more credible explanations of these things than the one he asked
the jury to accept. What mystery was there in a man being fully dressed
in his own house at midnight? The defence had been at great pains to show
that Sir Horace Fewbanks was a man of somewhat irregular habits in his
private life. Did not that suggest that he might have turned off the
lights and gone to sleep in an arm-chair in the library with the
intention of going out in an hour or two to keep an appointment? If he
had an appointment--and his sudden and unexpected return from Scotland
would suggest that he had a secret and important appointment--he would be
more likely to take a short nap in his chair than to undress and go to
bed. Might not the prisoner, who was a bold and reckless man, have broken
into the house when the lights were burning and his victim was awake and
fully dressed? In that case what was to prevent his turning off the
lights before leaving the house instead of leaving them burning to
attract attention? What was to prevent the prisoner turning off the
lights in order to convey the impression that the crime had been
committed in daylight?
"I want you to keep in mind, when arriving at your verdict, that there
are certain material facts which have been admitted by the defence," said
Mr. Walters in concluding his address to the jury. "It has been admitted
that the prisoner was a party to a proposal to break into Riversbrook. As
far as that goes, there is no suggestion that he walked into a trap.
Whether he arranged the burglary and compelled Hill to help him, or
whether Hill arranged it and sought out the prisoner's assistance is,
after all, not very material. What is admitted is that the prisoner went
to Riversbrook with the intention of committing a crime. It is admitted
that he knew Sir Horace Fewbanks had returned home. In that case is it
not reasonable to suppose that the prisoner would arm himself, I do not
say with the definite intention of committing murder, but for the purpose
of threatening Sir Horace if necessary in order to make good his escape?
What is more likely than that Sir Horace heard the burglar in the house,
crept upon him, and then tried to capture him? There was a struggle, and
the prisoner, determined to free himself, drew his revolver and shot Sir
Horace. Is not such a theory of the crime--that Sir Horace was shot while
trying to capture the prisoner--more probable than the theory of the
defence that Hill, the weak-willed, frightened-looking man you saw in the
witness-box, was a masterful, cunning criminal who for some inexplicable
reason had turned ferociously on the master who had befriended him and
given him a fresh start in life, had killed him and left the body in the
house, and had then managed to direct suspicion to the prisoner? The
theory of the defence does great credit to my learned friend's
imagination, but it is one which I am sure the jury will reject as too
highly coloured. Looking at the plain facts of the case and dismissing
from your minds the attempt to make them fit into a purely imaginative
theory, I am sure that you will come to the conclusion that Sir Horace
Fewbanks met his death at the hands of the prisoner."
The junior bar agreed that the case was one which might go either way. If
they had possessed any money the betting market would have shown scarcely
a shade of odds. Everything depended on the way the jury looked at the
case, on the particular bits of evidence to which they attached most
weight, on the view the most argumentative positive-minded members of the
jury adopted, for they would be able to carry the others with them. In
the opinion of the junior bar the summing up of Mr. Justice Hodson would
not help the jury very much in arriving at a verdict. There were some
judges who summed up for or against a prisoner according to the view they
had formed as to the prisoner's guilt or innocence. There were other
judges who summed up so impartially and gave such even-balanced weight to
the points against the prisoner and to the points in his favour, as to
make on the minds of the jurymen the impression that the only way to
arrive at a well-considered verdict was to toss a coin. Another type of
judge conveyed to the jury that the prosecution had established an
unanswerable case, but the defence had shown equal skill in shattering
it, and therefore he did not know on which side to make up his mind, and
fortunately English legal procedure did not render it necessary for him
to do so. The prisoner might be guilty and he might be innocent. Some of
the jury might think one thing and the rest of the jury might think
another. But it was the duty of the jury to come to an unanimous verdict.
It did not matter if they looked at some things in different ways, but
their final decision must be the same.
Mr. Justice Hodson belonged to the impartial, impersonal type of judge.
He had no personal feelings or conviction as to the guilt or innocence of
the prisoner. It was for the jury to settle that point and it was his
duty to assist them to the best of his ability. He went over his notes
carefully and dealt with the evidence of each of the witnesses. It was
for the jury to say what evidence they believed and what they
disbelieved. There was a pronounced conflict of evidence between Hill and
Fanning. They were the chief witnesses in the case, but the guilt or
innocence of the prisoner did not rest entirely upon the evidence of
either of these witnesses. Hill might be speaking the truth and the
prisoner might be innocent though the presumption would be, if Hill's
evidence were truthful in every detail, that the prisoner was guilty.
Fanning's evidence might be true as far as it went, but it would not in
itself prove that the prisoner was innocent. Hill had admitted that he
had drawn the plan of Riversbrook to assist Birchill to commit burglary.
It was for the jury to determine for themselves whether he had been
terrorised into drawing the plan for Birchill or whether he was the
instigator of the burglary.
The defence had contended that Hill had drawn the plan at his leisure
at a time when he had access to a special quality of paper supplied to
his master. If that were so, Hill's version of how he came to draw the
plan was deliberately false and had been concocted for the purpose of
exculpating himself. But they would not be justified in dismissing
Hill's evidence entirely from their minds because they were satisfied
he had perjured himself with regard to the plan. They would be
justified, however, in viewing the rest of his evidence with some
degree of distrust. Counsel for the defence had made an ingenious use
of the facts that the body of the victim was fully dressed when
discovered and that none of the electric lights in the house were
burning. These facts lent support to the idea that the murder was
committed in daylight, but they by no means established the theory as
unassailable. They did not establish the innocence of the prisoner,
although to some extent they told in his favour. Counsel for the
prosecution had put before them several theories to account for these
two facts consistent with his contention that the murder had been
committed by the prisoner. The jury must give full consideration to
these theories as well as to the theory of the defence. They were not
called upon to say which theory was true except in so far as their
opinions might be implied in the verdict they gave.
The defence, continued His Honour, was that Hill had committed the murder
and had then decided to direct suspicion to the prisoner. If the jury
acquitted the prisoner, their verdict would not necessarily mean that
they endorsed the theory of the defence. It might mean that, but it might
mean only that they were not satisfied that the prisoner had committed
the murder. If the jury were convinced beyond all reasonable doubt that
the prisoner had committed the murder, they must bring in a verdict of
"guilty," and if they were not satisfied they must bring in a verdict of
The jury filed out of their apartment, and as they retired to consider
their verdict the judge retired to his own room. The prisoner was removed
from the dock and taken down the stairs out of sight. There was an
immediate hum of voices in the court. Inspector Chippenfield approached
the table and whispered to Mr. Walters. The latter nodded affirmatively
and left the court room in company with Mr. Holymead. The sibilant sound
of whispering voices died down after a few minutes and then began the
long tedious wait for the return of the jury.
The occupants of the gallery, who had no difficulty in coming to an
immediate decision on the guilt or innocence of the prisoner, could not
understand what was keeping the jury away so long. They failed to
understand the jury's point of view. These gentlemen had sat in court for
three days listening intently to proceedings concerning a matter in which
their degree of personal interest was only a form of curiosity. And now
the end of the case had been reached, except for the climax, which was in
their control. To arrive at an immediate decision in a case that had
occupied the court for three days would indicate they had no proper
realisation of the responsibilities of their position. A verdict was a
thing that had to be nicely balanced in relation to the evidence. Where
the case against the prisoner was weak or overwhelmingly strong, the jury
might arrive at a verdict with great speed as an indication that too much
of their valuable time had already been wasted on the case. But where the
evidence for and against the prisoner was fairly equal it behoved the
jury to indicate by the time they took in arriving at their verdict that
they had given the case the most careful consideration.
Two hours and twenty minutes after the jury had retired, the prisoner was
brought back into the dock. This was an indication that the jury had
arrived at their verdict and were ready to deliver it. The prisoner
looked worn and anxious, but he received encouraging smiles from his
friends in the gallery. A minute later the judge entered the court and
resumed his seat. The jury filed into court and entered the jury-box.
Amid the noise of barristers resuming their seats and court officials
gliding about, the judge's Associate called over the names of the
jurymen. The suspense reached its climax as the Associate put the formal
questions to the foreman whether the jury had agreed on their verdict.
"What say you: guilty or not guilty?" asked the Associate in a hard
metallic voice in which there was no trace of interest in the answer.
"Not guilty," replied the foreman.
There was a muffled cheer from the gallery, which was suppressed by the
stentorian cry of the ushers, "Silence in the court!"
"A pack of damned fools," said the exasperated Inspector Chippenfield.
Rolfe understood that his chief referred to the jury, and he nodded the
assent of a subordinate.
"HILL has bolted!"
Rolfe flung the words at Inspector Chippenfield in a tone which he was
unable to divest entirely of satisfaction. "Fancy his being the guilty
party after all," he added, with the tone of satisfaction still more
evident in his voice. "I often thought that he was our man, and that he
was playing with you--I mean with us."
Inspector Chippenfield had betrayed surprise at the news by dropping his
pen on the official report he was preparing. But it was in his usual tone
of cold official superiority that he replied:
"Do you mean that Hill, the principal witness in the Riversbrook murder
trial, has disappeared from London?"
"Disappeared from London? He's bolted clean out of the country by this
time, I tell you! Cleared out for good and left his unfortunate wife and
child to starve."
"How have you learnt this, Rolfe?"
"His wife told me herself. I went to the shop this afternoon to have a
few words with Hill and see how he felt after the way Holymead had gone
for him at the trial. His wife burst out crying when she saw me, and she
told me that her husband had cleared out last night after he came home
from court. The hardened scoundrel took with him the few pounds of her
savings which she kept in her bedroom, and had even emptied the contents
of the till of the few shillings and coppers it contained. All he left
were the half-pennies in the child's money-box. He cleared out in the
middle of the night after his wife had gone to bed. He left her a note
telling her she must get along without him. I have the note here--his
wife gave it to me."
Rolfe took a dirty scrap of paper out of his pocket-book and laid it
before Inspector Chippenfield. The paper was a half sheet torn from an
exercise-book, and its contents were written in faint lead pencil.
"I have got to leave you. I have thought it out and this is the only
thing to do. I am too frightened to stay after what took place in the
court to-day. I'll make a fresh start in some place where I am not known,
and as soon as I can send a little money I will send for you and Daphne.
Keep your heart up and it will be all right.
"Keep on the shop.
"YOUR LOVING HUSBAND."
"The poor little woman is heartbroken," continued Rolfe, when his
superior officer had finished reading the note. "She wants to know if we
cannot get her husband back for her. She says the shop won't keep her and
the child. Unless she can find her husband she'll be turned into the
streets, because she's behind with the rent, and Hill's taken every penny
she'd put by."
"Then she'd better go to the workhouse," retorted Inspector Chippenfield
brutally. "We'd have something to do if Scotland Yard undertook to trace
all the absconding husbands in London. We can do nothing in the matter,
and you'd better tell her so."
Inspector Chippenfield handed back Hill's note as he spoke. Rolfe eyed
him in some surprise.
"But surely you're going to take out a warrant for Hill's arrest?" he
"Certainly not," responded Inspector Chippenfield impatiently. "I've
already said that Scotland Yard has something more to do than trace
absconding husbands. There's nothing to prevent your giving a little of
your private time to looking for him, Rolfe, if you feel so
tender-hearted about the matter. But officially--no. I'm astonished at
your suggesting such a thing."
"It isn't that," replied Rolfe, flushing a little, and speaking with
slight embarrassment. "But surely after Hill's flight you'll apply for a
warrant for his arrest on--the other ground."
"On what other ground?" asked his chief coldly.
"Why, on a charge of murdering Sir Horace Fewbanks," Rolfe burst out
indignantly. "Doesn't this flight point to his guilt?"
"Not in my opinion." Inspector Chippenfield's voice was purely official.
"Why, surely it does!" Rolfe's glance at his chief indicated that there
was such a thing as carrying official obstinacy too far. "This letter he
left behind suggests his guilt, clearly enough."
"I didn't notice that," replied Inspector Chippenfield impassively.
"Perhaps you'll point out the passage to me, Rolfe."
Rolfe hastily produced the note again.
"Look here!"--his finger indicated the place--"'I'm frightened to stay
after what took place in the court to-day,' Doesn't that mean, clearly
enough, that Hill realised the acquittal pointed to him as the murderer,
and he determined to abscond before he could be arrested?"
"So that's your way of looking at it, eh, Rolfe?" said Inspector
"Certainly it is," responded Rolfe, not a little nettled by his chief's
contemptuous tone. "It's as plain as a pikestaff that the jury acquitted
Birchill because they believed Hill was guilty. Holymead made out too
strong a case for them to get away from--Hill's lies about the plan and
the fact that the body was fully dressed when discovered."
"You're a young man, Rolfe," responded Inspector Chippenfield in a
tolerant tone, "but you'll have to shed this habit of jumping impulsively
to conclusions--and generally wrong conclusions--if you want to succeed
in Scotland Yard. This letter of Hill's only strengthens my previous
opinion that a damned muddle-headed jury let a cold-blooded murderer
loose on the world when they acquitted Fred Birchill of the charge of
shooting Sir Horace Fewbanks. Why, man alive, Holymead no more believes
Hill is guilty than I do. He set himself to bamboozle the jury and he
succeeded. If he had to defend Hill to-morrow he would show the jury that
Hill couldn't have committed the murder and that it must have been
committed by Birchill and no one else. He's a clever man, far cleverer
than Walters, and that is why I lost the case."
"He led Hill into a trap about the plan of Riversbrook," said Rolfe.
"When I saw that Hill had been trapped on that point I felt we had lost
"Only because the jury were a pack of fools who knew nothing about
evidence. Granted that Hill lied about the plan--that he drew it up
voluntarily in his spare time to assist Birchill--it proves nothing. It
doesn't prove that Hill committed the murder. It only proves that Hill
was going to share in the proceeds of the burglary; that he was a willing
party to it. The one big outstanding fact in all the evidence, the fact
that towered over all the others, is that Birchill broke into the house
on the night Sir Horace Fewbanks was murdered. The defence made no
attempt to get away from that fact because they could not do so. But
Holymead vamped up all sorts of surmises and suppositions for the purpose
of befogging the jury and getting their minds away from the outstanding
feature of the case for the prosecution. We proved that Birchill was in
the house on a criminal errand. What more could they expect us to prove?
They couldn't expect us to have a man looking through the window or
hiding behind the door when the murder was committed. If we could get
evidence of that kind we could do without juries. We could hang our man
first and try him afterwards. I don't think a verdict of acquittal from a
befogged jury would do so much harm in such a case."
"You are still convinced that Birchill did it?" said Rolfe
"I have never wavered from that opinion," said his superior. "If I had,
this note of Hill's would restore my conviction in Birchill's guilt."
"Why, how do you make out that?" replied Rolfe blankly.
"Hill says he's clearing out of the country because he's frightened.
What's he frightened of? His own guilty conscience and the long arm of
the law? Not a bit of it! Hill's an innocent man. If he had been guilty
he'd never have stood the ordeal of the witness-box and the
cross-examination. Hill's cleared out because he was frightened of
"Yes. Didn't Birchill tell Hill, just before he set out for Riversbrook
on the night of the murder, that if Hill played him false he'd murder
him? Hill _did_ play him false, not then, but afterwards, when he made
his confession and Birchill was arrested for the murder in consequence.
When Birchill was acquitted at the trial his first thought would be to
wreak vengeance on Hill. A man with one murder on his soul would not be
likely to hesitate about committing another. Hill knew this, and fled to
save his life when Birchill was acquitted. That's the explanation of his
"So that's the way you look at it?" said Rolfe.
"Of course I do! It's the only way Hill's flight can be looked at in the
light of all that's happened. The theory dovetails in every part. I'm
more used than you to putting these things together, Rolfe. Hill's as
innocent of the murder as you are."
"And where do you think Hill's gone to?"
"Certainly not out of London. He's too much of a Cockney for that.
Besides, he's a man who is fond of his wife and child. He's hiding
somewhere close at hand, and I shouldn't wonder if the whole thing's a
plant between him and his wife. Have you forgotten how she tried to
hoodwink us before? I'll go to the shop to-morrow and see if I can't
frighten the truth out of her. Meanwhile, you'd better put the Camden
Town police on to watching the shop. If he's hiding in London he's bound
to visit his wife sooner or later, or she'll visit him, so we ought not
to have much difficulty in getting on to his tracks again."
Rolfe departed, to do his chief's bidding, a little crestfallen. He was
at first inclined to think that he had made a bit of a fool of himself in
his desire to prove to Inspector Chippenfield that he had been hoodwinked
by Hill into arresting Birchill. But that night, as he sat in his bedroom
smoking a quiet pipe, and reviewing this latest phase of the puzzling
case, the earlier doubts which had assailed him on first learning of
Hill's flight recurred to him with increasing force. If Hill were
innocent he would have been more likely to seek police protection before
flight. Hill's flight was hardly the action of an innocent man. It
pointed more to a guilty fear of his own skin, now that the man he had
accused of the murder was free to seek vengeance. Chippenfield's theory
seemed plausible enough at first sight, but Rolfe now recalled that he
knew nothing of the missing letters and Hill's midnight visit to
Riversbrook to recover them. Rolfe had concealed that episode from his
superior officer because he lacked the courage to reveal to him how he
had been hoodwinked by Mrs. Holymead's fainting fit the morning he was
conducting his official inquiry at Riversbrook into the murder.
"It's an infernally baffling case," muttered Rolfe, refilling his pipe
from a tin of tobacco on the mantelpiece, and walking up and down the
cheap lodging-house drugget with rapid strides. "If Birchill is not the
murderer who is? Is it Hill?"
He lit his pipe, closed the window, opened his pocket-book and sat down
to peruse the notes he had taken during his investigation of Sir Horace
Fewbanks's murder. He read and re-read them, earnestly searching for a
fresh clue in the pencilled pages. After spending some time in this
occupation he took a clean sheet of paper and a pencil, and copied afresh
the following entries from his notebook:
August 19. Went Riversbrook. Saw Sir H.F.'s body. Discovered fragment of
lady's handkerchief clenched in right hand.
August 22. Made inquiries handkerchief. Unable find where purchased.
September 8. Found Hill at Riversbrook searching Sir H.F.'s papers. Told
me about bundle of lady's letters tied up with pink ribbon which had been
taken from secret drawer. Says they disappeared morning after murder when
investigation was taking place. C.'s visitors that day: Dr. Slingsby /
Seldon to arrange inquest / newspaper men / undertaker's representatives
/ Crewe. C. saw one visitor alone, Hill says. Mrs. H----, who fainted. C.
fetched glass of water, leaving her alone in room. Hill suggests her
letters indicate friendly relations between her and Sir H.F. Sir H.F.
expected visit, probably from lady, night of murder. Hurried Hill off
when he returned from Scotland. Mem: Inadvisable disclose this to C.
Underneath his entries of the case Rolfe had written finally:
Points to be remembered:
(1) Crewe said before the trial that Birchill was not the murderer and
would be acquitted. Birchill was acquitted.
(2) Crewe suggested we had not got the whole truth out of Hill. Hill
disappears the night after the trial. Is Hill the murderer?
(3) The handkerchief and the letters point to a woman in the case,
although this was not brought out at the trial. Is it possible that
woman is Mrs. H.?
Rolfe realised that the chief pieces of the puzzle were before him, but
the difficulty was to put them together. He felt sure there was a
connection between these facts, which, if brought to light, would solve
the Riversbrook mystery. Without knowing it, he had been so influenced by
Crewe's analysis of the case that he had practically given up the idea
that Birchill had anything to do with the murder. His real reason for
going to Hill's shop that morning was to try and extract something from
Hill which might put him on the track of the actual murderer. He believed
Hill knew more than he had divulged. Hill, before his disappearance, had
placed in his hands an important clue, if he only knew how to follow it
up. That incident of the missing letters must have some bearing on the
case, if he could only elucidate it.
Should he disclose to Chippenfield Hill's story of the missing letters?
Rolfe dismissed the idea as soon as it crossed his mind. He knew his
superior officer sufficiently well to understand that he would be very
angry to learn that he had been deceived by Mrs. Holymead, and, as she
was outside the range of his anger, he would bear a grudge against his
junior officer for discovering the deception which had been practised on
him, and do all he could to block his promotion in Scotland Yard in
consequence. Apart from that, he could offer Chippenfield no excuse for
not having told him before.
Should he consult Crewe?
Rolfe dismissed that thought also, but more reluctantly. Hang it all, it
was too humiliating for an accredited officer of Scotland Yard to consult
a private detective! Rolfe had acquired an unwilling respect for Crewe's
abilities during the course of the investigations into the Riversbrook
case, but he retained all the intolerance which regular members of the
detective force feel for the private detectives who poach on their
preserves. Rolfe's professional jealousy was intensified in Crewe's case
because of the brilliant successes Crewe had achieved during his career
at the expense of the reputation of Scotland Yard. Rolfe had an
instinctive feeling that Crewe's mind was of finer quality than his own,
and would see light where he only groped in darkness. If Crewe had been
his superior officer in Scotland Yard, Rolfe would have gone to him
unhesitatingly and profited by his keener vision, but he could not do so
in their existing relative positions. He ransacked his brain for some
After long consideration, Rolfe decided to go and see Mrs. Holymead and
question her about the packet of letters which Hill declared she had
removed from Riversbrook after the murder. He realised that this was
rather a risky course to pursue, for Mrs. Holymead was highly placed and
could do him much harm if she got her husband to use his influence at the
Home Office, for then he would have to admit that he had gone to her
without the knowledge of his superior officer, on the statement of a
discredited servant who had arranged a burglary in his master's house the
night he was murdered. Nevertheless, Rolfe decided to take the risk. The
chance of getting somewhere nearer the solution of the Riversbrook
mystery was worth it, and what a feather in his cap it would be if he
solved the mystery! He was convinced that Chippenfield had shut out
important light on the mystery by doggedly insisting, in order to
buttress up his case against Birchill, that the piece of handkerchief
which had been found in the dead man's hand was a portion of a
handkerchief which had belonged to the girl Fanning, and had been brought
by Birchill from the Westminster flat on the night of the murder. It was
more likely, in view of Hill's story of the letters, that the
handkerchief belonged to Mrs. Holymead. Rolfe had not made up his mind
that Mrs. Holymead had committed the murder, but he was convinced that
she and her letters had some connection with the baffling crime, and he
determined to try and pierce the mystery by questioning her. Having
arrived at this decision, he replaced his notebook in his coat pocket,
knocked the ashes out of his pipe, and went to bed.
Rolfe went to Hyde Park next day and walked from the Tube station
to Holymead's house at Princes Gate. The servant who answered his
ring informed him, in reply to his question, that Mrs. Holymead was
"Not at home."
"Do you know when she will be home?" persisted Rolfe, forestalling an
evident desire on the servant's part to shut the door in his face.
The man looked at Rolfe doubtfully. Well-trained English servant though
he was, and used to summing up strangers at a glance, he could not quite
make out who Rolfe might be. But before he could come to a decision on
the point a feminine voice behind him said:
"What is it, Trappon?"
The servant turned quickly in the direction of the voice. "It's a
er--er--party who wants to see Madam, mademoiselle," he replied.
"_Parti?_ What mean you by _parti_? Explain yourself, Trappon."
"A person--a gentleman, mademoiselle," replied Trappon, determined to be
on the safe side.
"Open the door, Trappon, that I may see this gentleman."
Trappon somewhat reluctantly complied, and a young lady stepped forward.
She was tall and dark, with charming eyes which were also shrewd; she had
a fine figure which a tight-fitting dress displayed rather too boldly for
good taste, and she was sufficiently young to be able to appear quite
girlish in the half light.
"You wish to see Madame Holymead?" she said to Rolfe. Her manner was
engagingly pleasant and French.
Rolfe felt it incumbent upon him to be gallant in the presence of the
fair representative of a nation whom he vaguely understood placed
gallantry in the forefront of the virtues. He took off his hat with a
"I do, mademoiselle," he replied, "and my business is important."
"Then, monsieur, step inside if you will be so good, and I will see you."
She led Rolfe to a small, prettily-furnished room at the end of the hall,
and carefully shut the door. Then she invited Rolfe to be seated, and
asked him to state his business.
But this was precisely what Rolfe was not anxious to do except to Mrs.
"My business is private, and must be placed before Mrs. Holymead," he
said firmly. "I wish to see her."
"I regret, monsieur, but Madame Holymead is out of town. She went last
week. If you had only come before she went"--Mademoiselle Chiron looked
Rolfe was a little taken aback at this intelligence, and showed it.
"Out of town!" he repeated. "Where has she gone to?"
She looked at him almost timidly.
"But, monsieur, I do not know if I ought to tell you without knowing who
you are. Are you a friend of Madame's?"
"My name is Detective Rolfe--I come from Scotland Yard," replied Rolfe,
in the authoritative tone of a man who knew that the disclosure was sure
to command respect, if not a welcome.
"Scotland? You come from Scotland? Madame will regret much that she has
"Scotland Yard, I said," corrected Rolfe, "not Scotland."
"Is it not the same?" Mademoiselle Chiron looked at him helplessly.
"Scotland Yard--is it not in Scotland? What is the difference?"
Rolfe, with a Londoner's tolerance for foreign ignorance, painstakingly
explained the difference. She looked so puzzled that he felt sure she did
not understand him. But that, he reflected, was not his fault.
"So you see, mademoiselle, my business with Mrs. Holymead is important,
therefore I'll be obliged if you will tell me where I can find her," he
said. "In what part of the country is she?"
Mademoiselle Chiron looked distressed. "Really, monsieur, I cannot tell
you. She is motoring, and I should have been with her but that I have _un
gros rhume"_--she produced a tiny scrap of lace handkerchief and held it
to her nose as though in support of her statement--"and she rings me on
the telephone from different places and tells me the things she does
need, and I do send them on to her."
"Where does she ring you up from?" asked Rolfe, eyeing Mademoiselle
Chiron's handkerchief intently.
"From Brighton--from Eastbourne--wherever she stops."
"What place was she stopping at when you heard from her last?"
"And when will she return here?"
"That, monsieur, I do not know. To-night--to-morrow--next week--she does
not tell me. If Monsieur will leave me a message I will see that she gets
it, for it is always me she wants, and it is always me that talks to her.
What shall I tell her when next she rings the telephone? If Monsieur will
state his business I will tell Madame what he tells me. I am Madame's
cousin by marriage--in me she has confidence."
She spoke in a tone which invited confidence, but Rolfe was not prepared
to go to the length of trusting the young woman he saw before him,
despite her assurance that she was in the confidence of Mrs. Holymead. He
rose to his feet with a keen glance at Mademoiselle Chiron's
handkerchief, which she had rolled into a little ball in her hand.
"I cannot disclose my business to you, mademoiselle," he said
courteously. "I must see Mrs. Holymead personally, so I shall call again
when she has returned."
"But, monsieur, why will you not tell me?" she asked coaxingly. "You are
a police agent? Have you therefore come to see Madame about the case?"
Rolfe showed that he was taken aback by the direct question.
"The case!" he stammered. "What case?"
"Why, monsieur, what case should it be but that of which I have so often
heard Madame speak? Le judge--the good friend of Monsieur and Madame
Holymead, who was killed by the base assassin! Madame is disconsolate
about his terrible end!" Mademoiselle Chiron here applied the
handkerchief to her eyes on her own account. "Have you come to tell her
that you have caught the wicked man who did assassinate him? Madame will
"Why, hardly that," replied Rolfe, completely off his guard. "But we're
on the track, mademoiselle--we're on the track."
"And is it that you wanted me to tell Madame?" persisted
"I wanted to ask her a question or two about several things," said Rolfe,
who had determined to disclose his hand sufficiently to bring Mrs.
Holymead back to London if she had anything to do with the crime. "I want
to ask her about some letters that were stolen--no, I won't say
stolen--letters that were removed from Riversbrook. I have been informed
that even if these letters are no longer in existence she can give the
police a good idea of what was in them."
The telephone bell in the corner of the room rang suddenly. Mademoiselle
Chiron ran to answer it, and accidentally dropped her handkerchief on the
floor in picking up the receiver.
Mademoiselle Chiron began speaking on the telephone, but she stopped
suddenly, staring with frightened eyes into the mirror at the other side
of the room. The glass reflected the actions of Rolfe at the table.
Seated with his back towards her, he had taken advantage of her being
called to the telephone to examine her handkerchief, which he had picked
up from the floor. He had produced from his pocketbook the scrap of lace
and muslin which he had found in the murdered man's hand. He had the two
on the table side by side comparing them, and Mademoiselle Chiron noticed
a smile of satisfaction flit across his face as he did so. While she
looked he restored the scrap to his pocket-book, and the pocket-book to
his pocket. Hastily she turned to the telephone again and continued, in a
voice which a quick ear would have detected was slightly hysterical.
Then she hung up the receiver and turned to Rolfe.
"But, monsieur, you were saying--"
Rolfe handed the handkerchief to its owner with a courtly bow which he
flattered himself was equal to the best French school.
"I picked this up off the floor, mademoiselle. It is yours, I think?"
"This?" Mademoiselle Chiron touched the handkerchief with a dainty
forefinger. "It is my handkerchief. I dropped it."
"It is very pretty," said Rolfe, with simulated indifference. "I suppose
you bought that in Paris. It does not look English,''
"But no, monsieur, it is quite Engleesh. I bought it in the shop."
"Indeed! A London shop?" inquired Rolfe, with equal indifference.
"The _lingerie_ shop in Oxford Street--what do you call it--Hobson's?"
"I'm sure I don't know--these ladies' things are a bit out of my line,"
said Rolfe, rising as he spoke with a smile, in which there was more
than a trace of self-satisfaction.
He felt that he had acquitted himself with an adroitness which Crewe
himself might have envied. He had made an important discovery and
extracted the name of the shop where the handkerchief had been bought
without--so he flattered himself--arousing any suspicions on the part of
the lady. Rolfe knew from his inquiries in West End shops that
handkerchiefs of that pattern and quality were stocked by many of the
good shops, but the fact that he had found a handkerchief of this kind in
the house of a lady who had abstracted secret letters from the murdered
man's desk, and had, moreover, discovered the name of the shop where she
bought her handkerchiefs, convinced him that he had struck a path which
must lead to an important discovery.
Mademoiselle Chiron followed Rolfe into the hall and watched his
departure from a front window. When she saw his retreating figure turn
the corner of the street she left the window, ran upstairs quickly, and
knocked lightly at the closed door.
The door was opened by Mrs. Holymead, who appeared to be in a state of
nervous agitation. Her large brown eyes were swollen and dim with
weeping, her hair had become partly unloosened, her face was white and
her dress disordered. She caught the Frenchwoman by the wrist and drew
her into the bedroom, closing the door after her.
"What did he want, Gabrielle?" she gasped. "What did he say? Has he come
Gabrielle nodded her head.
"Gabrielle!" Mrs. Holymead's voice rose almost to a cry. "Oh, what are we
to do? Did he come to arrest--"
"No, no! He was not so bad. He did not come to do dreadful things, but
just to have a little talk.''
"A little talk? What about?"
"He wanted to see you, and ask you one or two little questions. I put
him off. He was like wax in my hands. Pouf! He has gone, so why trouble?"
"But he will come again! He is sure to come again!"
"No doubt. He says he will come again--in a week--when you return."
Mrs. Holymead wrung her hands helplessly.
"What are we to do then?" she wailed.
"We will look the tragedy in the face when it comes. _Ma foi!_ What have
you been doing to yourself? For nothing is it worth to look like _that_."
With deft and loving fingers Gabrielle began to arrange Mrs. Holymead's
hair. "We will have everything right before this little police agent
returns. We will show him he is the complete fool for suspecting you know
about the murder."
"But what can you do, Gabrielle?" asked Mrs. Holymead.
She looked at Gabrielle with her large brown eyes, as though she were
utterly dependent on the other's stronger will for support and
assistance. Mademoiselle Chiron stopped in her arrangement of Mrs.
Holymead's hair and, bending over, kissed her affectionately.
"_Ma petite_," she said, "do not worry. I have thought of a plan--oh, a
most excellent plan--which I will myself execute to-morrow, and then
shall all your troubles be finished, and you will be happy again."
"A lady to see you, sir."
"What sort of a lady, Joe?"
"Furren, I should say, sir, by the way she speaks. I arskt her if she had
an appointment, and she said no, but she said she wanted to see you on
very urgent and particular business. I told her most people says that wot
comes to see you, but she says hers was _reely_ important. Arskt me to
tell you, sir, that it was about the Riversbrook case."
"The Riversbrook case? I'll see her, Joe. Has not Stork returned yet?"
"Tell him to go to his dinner when he comes back. Show the lady in, Joe."
Crewe regarded his caller keenly as Joe ushered her in, placed a chair
for her, and went out, closing the door noiselessly behind him. She was a
tall, well-dressed, graceful woman, fairly young, with dark hair and
eyes. She looked quickly at the detective as she entered, and Crewe was
struck by the shrewd penetration of her glance.
"You are Monsieur Crewe, the great detective--is it not so?" she asked,
as she sat down. The glance she now gave the detective at closer range
from her large dark eyes was innocent and ingenuous, with a touch of
admiration. The contrast between it and her former look was not lost on
Crewe, and he realised that his visitor was no ordinary woman.
"My name is Crewe," he said, ignoring the compliment. "What do you wish
to see me for?"
The visitor did not immediately reply. She nervously unfastened a bag she
carried, and taking out a singularly unfeminine-looking handkerchief--a
large cambric square almost masculine in its proportions, and guiltless
of lace or perfume--held it to her face for a moment. But Crewe noticed
that her eyes were dry when she removed it to remark:
"What I say to you, monsieur, is in strictest confidence--as sacred as
"Anything you say to me will be in strict confidence," said Crewe a
"And the boy? Can he not hear through the keyhole?" Crewe's visitor
glanced expressively at the door by which she had entered.
"You are quite safe here, madame--mademoiselle, I should say," he added,
with a quick glance at her left hand, from which she slowly removed the
glove as she spoke.
"Mademoiselle Chiron, monsieur," said Gabrielle, flashing another smile
at him. "I am Madame Holymead's relative--her cousin. I come to see you
about the dreadful murder of the judge, Madame's friend."
"You come from Mrs. Holymead?" said Crewe quickly. "Then, Mademoiselle
"No, no, monsieur, no!" Her agitation was unmistakably genuine. "I do not
come _from_ Madame Holymead. I am her relative, it is true, but I
come--how shall I say it?--from myself. I mean she does not know of my
visit to you, monsieur."
"I quite understand," replied Crewe.
"Monsieur Crewe," said Gabrielle hurriedly, "although I have not come
from Madame Holymead, it is for her sake that I come to see you--to save
her from the persecution of one of your police agents who wants to ask
her questions about this so sordid--so terrible a crime! He has come
once, this agent--last night he came--and he told me he wanted to
question Madame Holymead about the murder of her dear friend the judge. I
do not want Madame worried with these questions, so I told him Madame was
away in the motor in the country; but he says he will come again and
again till he sees her. Madame is distracted when she learns of his
visit; it opens up her bleeding heart afresh, for she and her husband
were _intime_ with the dead judge, and deeply, terribly, they deplore his
so dreadful end. I see Madame cry, and I say to myself I will not let
this little police agent spoil her beauty and give her the migraine: his
visits must be, shall be, prevented. I have heard of the so great and
good Monsieur Crewe, and I will go and see him. We will--as you say in
your English way--put our heads together, this famous detective and I,
and we will find some way of--how do you call it?--circumventing this
police agent so that my dear Madame shall cry no more. Monsieur Crewe, I
am here, and I beg of you to help me."
Crewe listened to this outburst with inward surprise but impassive
features. Apparently the police had come to the conclusion that they had
blundered in arresting Birchill for the murder of Sir Horace Fewbanks,
and had recommenced inquiries with a view to bringing the crime home to
somebody else. He did not know whether their suspicions were now directed
against Mrs. Holymead, but they had conducted their preliminary inquiries
so clumsily as to arouse her fears that they did. So much was apparent
from Mademoiselle Chiron's remarks, despite the interpretation she sought
to place on Mrs. Holymead's fears. He wondered if the "police agent" was
Rolfe or Chippenfield. It was obvious that the cool proposal that he
should help to shield Mrs. Holymead against unwelcome police attentions
covered some deeper move, and he shaped his conversation in the endeavour
to extract more from the Frenchwoman.
"I am very sorry to hear that Mrs. Holymead has been subjected to this
annoyance," he said warily. "This police agent, did he come by himself?"
"But yes, monsieur, I have already said it."
"I know, but I thought he might have had a companion waiting for him in
a taxi-cab outside. Scotland Yard men frequently travel in pairs."
"He had no taxi-cab," declared Mademoiselle Chiron, positively. "He
walked away on foot by himself. I watched him from the window."
Crewe registered a mental note of this admission. If she had watched the
detective's departure from the window she evidently had some reason for
wanting to see the last of him. Aloud he said:
"I expect I know him. What was he like?"
"Tall, as tall as you, only bigger--much bigger. And he had the great
moustache which he caressed again and again with his fingers." Gabrielle
daintily imitated the action on her own short upper lip.
"I know him," declared Crewe with a smile. "His name is Rolfe. There
should be nothing about him to alarm you, mademoiselle. Why, he is quite
a ladies' man."
Gabrielle shrugged her shoulders disdainfully.
"That may be," she replied; "but I like him not, and I do not wish him to
worry Madame Holymead."
"But why not let him see Mrs. Holymead?" suggested Crewe, after a short
pause. "As he only wants to ask her a few short questions, it seems to me
that would be the quickest way out of the difficulty, and would save you
all the trouble and worry you speak of."
"I tell you I will not," declared Gabrielle vehemently. "I will not have
Madame Holymead worried and made ill with the terrible ordeal. Bah! What
do you men--so clumsy--know of the delicate feelings of a lady like
Madame Holymead? The least soupcon of excitement and she is disturbed,
distraite, for days. After last night--after the visit of the police
agent--she was quite hysterical."
"Why should she be when she had nothing to be afraid of?" rejoined Crewe.
He spoke in a tone of simple wonder, but Gabrielle shot a quick glance
at him from under her veiled lashes as she replied:
"Bah! What has that to do with it? I repeat: Monsieur Crewe, you men
cannot understand the feelings of a lady like Madame Holymead in a matter
like this. She and her husband were, as I have said before, _intime_ with
the great judge. They visited his house, they dined with him, they met
him in Society. Behold, he is brutally, horribly killed. Madame, when she
hears the terrible news, is ill for days; she cannot eat, she cannot
sleep; she can interest herself in nothing. She is forgetting a little
when the police agents they catch a man and say he is the murderer. Then
comes the trial of this man at the court with so queer a name--Old
Bailee. The papers are full of the terrible story again; of the dead man;
how he looked killed; how he lay in a pool of blood; how they cut him
open! Madame Holymead cannot pick up a paper without seeing these things,
and she falls ill again. Then the jury say the man the police agents
caught is not the murderer. He goes free, and once more the talk dies
away. Madame Holymead once more begins to forget, when this police agent
comes to her house to remind her once more all about it. It is too cruel,
monsieur, it is too cruel!"
Gabrielle's voice vibrated with indignation as she concluded, and Crewe
regarded her closely. He decided that her affection for Mrs. Holymead
was not simulated, and that it would be best to handle her from that
point of view.
"I am sorry," he said coldly, "but I do not see how I can help you."
"Monsieur," said the Frenchwoman, clasping her hands, "I entreat you not
to say so. It would be so easy for you to help--not me, but Madame."
"You know this police agent. You also are a police agent, though so much
greater. Therefore you whisper just one little word in the ear of your
friend the police agent, and he will not bother Madame Holymead again. I
think you could do this. And if you need money to give to the police
agent, why, I have brought some." She fumbled nervously at her hand-bag.
"Stay," said Crewe. "What you ask is impossible. I have nothing whatever
to do with Scotland Yard. I could not interfere in their inquiries, even
if I wished to. They would only laugh at me."
Gabrielle's dark eyes showed her disappointment, but she made one more
effort to gain her end. She leant nearer to Crewe, and laid a persuasive
hand on his arm.
"If you would only make the effort," she said coaxingly, "my beautiful
Madame Holymead would be for ever grateful."
"Mademoiselle, once more I repeat that what you ask is impossible,"
returned Crewe decisively. "I repeat, I cannot see why Mrs. Holymead
should object to answering a few questions the police wish to ask her.
She is too sensitive about such a trifle."
Gabrielle shrugged her shoulders slightly in tacit recognition of the
fact that the man in front of her was too shrewd to be deceived by
"There is another reason, monsieur," she whispered.
"You had better tell it to me."
"If you had been a woman you would have guessed. The great judge who was
killed was in his spare moments what you call a gallant--he did love my
sex. In France this would not matter, but in England they think much of
it--so very much. Madame Holymead is frightened for fear the least breath
of scandal should attach to her name, if the world knew that the police
agent had visited her house on such an errand. Madame is innocent--it is
not necessary to assure you of that; but the prudish dames of England are
"The Scotland Yard people are not likely to disclose anything about it,"
"That may be so, but these things come out," retorted Gabrielle.
"Monsieur," she added, after a pause, and speaking in a low tone, "I
know that you can do much--very much--if you will, and can stop Madame
Holymead from being worried. Would you do so if you were told who the
murderer was--I mean he who did really kill the great judge?" Crewe was
genuinely surprised, but his control over his features was so complete
that he did not betray it. "Do you know who Sir Horace Fewbanks's
murderer is?" he asked, in quiet even tones. "Monsieur, I do. I will tell
you the whole story in secret--how do you say?--in confidence, if you
promise me you will help Madame Holymead as I have asked you." "I cannot
enter into a bargain like that," rejoined Crewe. "I do not know whether
Mrs. Holymead may not be implicated--concerned--in what you say."
"Monsieur, she is not!" flashed Gabrielle indignantly. "She knows nothing
about it. What I have to tell you concerns myself alone."
"In that case," rejoined Crewe, "I think you had better speak to me
frankly and freely, and if I can I will help you."
"You are perhaps right," she replied. "I will tell you everything,
provided you give me your word of honour that you will not inform the
police of what I will tell you."
"If you bind me to that promise I do not see how I can help you in the
direction you indicate," said Crewe, after a moment's thought. "If the
police are asked to abandon their inquiries about Mrs. Holymead, they
will naturally wish to know the reason."
"You are quite right," said Gabrielle. "I did not think of that. But if
I tell you everything, and you have to tell the police agents so as to
help Madame, will you promise that the police agents do not come and
"Provided you have not committed murder or been in any way accessory to
it, I think I can promise you that," rejoined Crewe.
"Monsieur, I do not understand you, but I can almost divine your meaning.
Your promise is what you call a guarded one. Nevertheless, I like your
face, and I will trust you."
Gabrielle relapsed into silence for some moments, looking at Crewe
"Monsieur," she said at length, "it is a terrible story I have to relate,
and it is difficult for me to tell a stranger what I know. Nevertheless,
I will begin. I knew the great judge well."
"You knew Sir Horace Fewbanks?" exclaimed Crewe.
"He was--my lover, monsieur."
She brought the last two words out defiantly, with a quick glance
at Crewe to see how he took the avowal. She seemed to find
something reassuring in his answering glance, and she continued, in
more even tones:
"I had often seen him at the house of Madame Holymead when I came to
London to visit her. I admired Sir Horace when I saw him--often he used
to call and dine, for he was the friend of Monsieur Holymead. But Madame
told me that the great judge was what in England you call a lover of the
ladies--that he was dangerous--so I must be careful of him. I used to
look at him when he called, and thought he was handsome in the English