Part 5 out of 6
way, and sometimes he looked at me when he was unobserved, and smiled at
me. But Madame did not like me looking at him; she said I was foolish;
she warned me to be careful."
Gabrielle shrugged her shoulders expressively.
"Of what use was Madame's warning? It did but make me wish to know more
of this great lover of my sex. He saw that, and made the opportunity, and
made love to me. He was so ardent, so fervid a lover that I was
"After we had been lovers I told him my secret--that I was married.
Pierre Simon, my husband, was a bad man, and so I left him. But Madame
must not know that I was married, for that is my secret. It does not do
to tell everything--besides, it would have distressed her.
"Monsieur, I was happy with my lover, the great judge. He was charming.
He had that charm of manner which you English lack. Faithful? I do not
know. Often we were together, and often we wrote letters when to meet was
impossible. He kept my letters--they amused him so, he said--they were so
French, so piquant, so different to English ladies' letters. Alas,
monsieur, there had been others--many others there must have been, for he
understood my sex so well.
"One afternoon I was out for a walk looking in the great shops in Regent
Street, when I felt a hand placed on my shoulder, and looking round I saw
Pierre, my husband. He was pleased at the meeting, but I was not pleased.
He took me to a cafe where we could talk. It was what he always did talk
about--money, money, money. He always wanted money. He said I must find
him some, and when I told him I had none he said I must find some way of
getting it, or he would come to the house and expose my secret. I walked
away out of the cafe and left him there. But I soon saw him again, and
again. He followed me and talked to me against my will.
"Monsieur, I was very much distressed, and for a long time I tried to
think of a way to get rid of Pierre, for I was afraid that he would come
to the house and tell Madame Holymead I was married. Then I thought of
the great judge, my lover. He would know how to send Pierre away, for
Pierre would be frightened of him. But Sir Horace was in Scotland,
shooting the poor birds. But I wrote to him and asked him for my sake to
come at once, because I was in distress and needed help. Monsieur, he
came--but he came to his death. He sent me a letter to meet him at
Riversbrook at half-past ten o'clock. He was sorry it was so late, but
he thought it would be safer not to come to the house till after dark in
the long summer evening, for people were so censorious. I was to tell
Madame Holymead that I was going to the theatre with a friend.
"I was so pleased to think that I would get rid of Pierre, that on the
morning, when he stopped me to ask me again about the money, I showed him
the letter of the great judge, and told him I would make the judge put
him in prison if he did not go away and leave me alone. 'He is your
lover,' said Pierre. 'I will kill him.' But I laughed, for I knew Pierre
did not care if I had many lovers. I said to him, 'Pierre, you would
extort the money'--blackmail, the English call it, do they not, Monsieur
Crewe?--'but you would not kill. Sir Horace is not afraid of you. If you
go near him he would have you taken off to gaol,' But Pierre he was deep
in thought. Several times he said, 'I want money,' Each time I said to
him, 'Then you must work for it,' 'That is no way to get money,' he
answered. 'This great judge, he has much money, is it not so?'
"I left him, monsieur, thinking of money. But I did not know how bad his
thoughts were. I returned home, and I told Madame Holymead I would go to
the theatre that night. I left the house at eight o'clock, and after
walking along Piccadilly and Regent Street took the train to Hampstead.
Then I walked up to the house of Sir Horace so as not to be too early.
The gate was open and I thought that strange, but I had no thought of
murder. As I walked up the garden I heard a shot--two shots--and then a
cry, and the sound of something falling on the floor. The door of the
house was open, and the light was burning in the hall. Upstairs I heard
the noise of footsteps--quick footsteps--and then I heard them coming
down the staircase. I was afraid, and I hid myself behind the curtains in
the hall. The footsteps came down, and nearer and nearer, and when they
passed me I looked out to see. Monsieur, it was Pierre. I called to him
softly, 'Pierre, Pierre!' He looked round, and his face, it was so
different--so dreadful. He did not know my voice, and he ran away from me
with a cry.
"Monsieur, my heart is a brave one. I have not what you call nerves, but
when I knew I was alone in the great house with I knew not what, a great
fear clutched me. I stood still in the hall with my eyes fixed on the
stairs above. At first all was silent, then I heard a dreadful sound--a
groan. I wanted to run away then, monsieur, but the good God commanded me
to go up and into the room, where a fellow creature needed me. I went
upstairs, and along to the door of a room which was half open. I pushed
it wide open and went in.
"_Mon Dieu!_ the judge was alone there, dying. Pierre had shot him. He
lay along the floor, gasping, groaning, and the blood dripping from his
breast. When I saw this I ran forward and took his poor head on my knee,
and tried to stop the blood with my handkerchief. But as I did this the
judge groaned once more. He knew me not, though I called him by name. In
terrible agony he writhed his head off my breast. His hand clutched at
the hole in his breast, closing on my handkerchief. And so he died.
"Monsieur, strange it may seem, but I do assure you that I became calm
again when he was dead. I rose to my feet and looked round me in the
room. On the floor near him I saw a revolver. I picked it up and hid it
in my bag. The tube of it was warm. Then I sat down in a chair and
thought what I must do. The police must not know I was there. They must
not know he was my lover. I thought of my letters that I wrote to him. He
had them hidden in a little drawer at the back of his desk--a secret
drawer. Often had he showed me my letters there, and once he had showed
me where to find the spring that opened the drawer. So I searched for the
spring and I found it. The drawer opened and there were my letters tied
together. I took them all and hid them in my bag, and then I closed the
hiding place. There remained but the handkerchief which my lover held in
his hand. I tried to get it out, but I could not. In my hurry I dragged
it out--it came away then, but left a little bit in his hand. It did not
show. I dared not wait longer. I turned out the light, and hurried out of
the room and downstairs. Again I turned out the light, and closed the
door, and hurried away.
"That, monsieur, is my story."
As Gabrielle finished her story, she cast a quick glance at Crewe's face
as though seeking to divine his decision. But apparently she could read
nothing there, and with an imperious gesture she exclaimed:
"You will do what I ask now that I have exposed my secret--my shame to
you--and told everything? You will save Madame Holymead from being
persecuted by these police agents?"
"I must ask you a few questions first."
The contrast between the detective's quiet English tones and the
Frenchwoman's impetuous appeal was accentuated by the methodical way in
which Crewe slowly jotted down an entry in his open notebook. Her dark
eyes sparkled in an agony of impatience as she watched him.
"Ask them quick, monsieur, for I burn in the suspense."
"In the first place, then, have you any--"
"Hold, monsieur! I know what you would ask! You would say if I have any
proofs? Stupid that I am to forget things so important. I have brought
you the proofs."
She fumbled at the clasp of her hand-bag, as she spoke, and before she
had finished speaking she had torn it open and emptied its contents on
the table in front of Crewe--a dainty handkerchief and a revolver.
"See, monsieur!" she cried; "here is the handkerchief of which I told
you. It is that which the judge seized when I tried to stop the blood
flowing in his breast--look at the corner and you will see that a little
bit has been torn off by his almost dead hand. And the revolver--it is
that which I picked up on the floor near him. I have had it locked up
Crewe examined both articles closely. The revolver was a small,
nickel-plated weapon with silver chasing, with the murdered man's
initials engraved in the handle. It had five chambers, and one of the
cartridges had been discharged. The other four chambers were still
loaded. Crewe carefully extracted the cartridges, and examined them
closely. One of them he held up to the light in order to inspect it
"Did you do this?" he asked: "Have you been trying to fire off the
"No, no, monsieur," she exclaimed quickly. "I would not fire it, I do not
understand it. I have been careful not to touch the little thing that
sets it going."
"The trigger," said Crewe. He again studied the cartridge that had
attracted his attention. It had missed fire, for on the cap was a dint
where the hammer had struck it. He placed the four cartridges on the
table and turning his attention to the handkerchief examined it minutely.
It was one of those filmy scraps of muslin and lace which ladies call a
handkerchief--an article whose cost is out of all proportion to its
usefulness. Gabrielle, who was watching him keenly as he examined it,
"The handkerchief--a box of them--were given me by Sir Horace because he
knew I love pretty things."
She laid a finger on the missing corner, which might indeed have been
torn off in the manner described. A scrap of the lace was missing, and it
was evident that it had been removed with violence, for the lace around
the gap was loosened, and the muslin slightly frayed.
"You say that the corner was torn off when you wrenched the handkerchief
from the dead man's hold?" said Crewe. "But it was not found in his hand
by the police or anyone else. And he was not buried with it, for I
examined the body carefully. What became of it?"
Gabrielle looked at him quickly as though she suspected some trap.
"You would play with me," she said at length. "What became of it? Why,
you must surely know that the police of Scot--Scotland Yard have it. The
police agent who called on Madame had it. What is his name--Rudolf?"
"Rolfe?" exclaimed Crewe. "Has he got it?"
"Yes," she replied. "He did not show it to me, but I saw it nevertheless.
I dropped my handkerchief when I spoke at the telephone and Monsieur
Rolfe picked it up. Quickly he studied my handkerchief--not this one,
monsieur, but one of the same kind--and from his pocket-book he took out
the missing piece that was in the dead man's hand and he studied them
side by side. He thought I did not see--that my back was turned--but I
saw in the mirror which hung on the wall. Then, when I finished my
telephone, he bowed and said, 'Your handkerchief, mademoiselle.' It was
not so badly done--for a clumsy police agent."
She was not able to recognise how keen was Crewe's interest in her
statement, but she saw that she had pleased him.
"It is because of this that he will come again," she continued. "It is
because of this that he would question Madame Holymead. And then what
will happen? I do not know. The police make so many mistakes--blunders
you English call them. Would they arrest her with their blunders? That is
why I come to you to ask you to save her."
"May I have the revolver and the handkerchief?" asked Crewe. "I will take
great care of them."
"They are at your disposal, for you will use them to confront the
Crewe again examined the articles in silence before taking them to his
secretaire and locking them up in one of the pigeon-holes. Then he turned
to Gabrielle, whose large luminous eyes met his unhesitatingly. She even
smiled slightly--a frank engaging smile, as she remarked:
"And now, monsieur, any more questions?"
Crewe smiled back at her.
"You have told a remarkable story, mademoiselle, and corroborated it with
two important pieces of evidence, which are in themselves almost
sufficient to carry conviction," he said. "But the Scotland Yard police
are a suspicious lot, and it is necessary for me to have further
information in order to convince them--if I am to help you as you wish."
Gabrielle flashed a look of gratitude at Crewe. She understood from his
words that he believed her story and was disposed to help her, although
the police of Scotland Yard might prove harder to convince than him.
"Bah! those police agents--they are the same everywhere," she exclaimed.
"They deal so much with crime that their minds get the taint, and between
the false and true they cannot tell the difference. _Que voulez-vous?_
They are but small in brains. With you, the case is different. You have
it here--and there." She touched her temples lightly with a finger of
each hand. "Proceed, monsieur: ask me what questions you will. I shall
endeavour to answer them."
"You said that as you were hiding behind the curtains on the stairway
landing, Pierre, your husband, rushed down past you. You are quite sure
it was he?"
"Of that, monsieur, unfortunately there is no doubt. I saw his face quite
distinctly when he passed me, and when he turned round."
"The light would be shining from behind, and would not reveal his face
very closely," suggested Crewe.
"Nevertheless, monsieur, it was quite sufficient for me to see Pierre
clearly. His head was half-turned as he ran, as though he was looking
back expecting to see the judge rise up and punish him for his dreadful
deed, and I saw him _en silhouette_, oh, most distinctly--impossible him
to mistake. I called softly--'Pierre!' just like that, and he turned his
face right round, and then with a cry he disappeared along the path."
"About what time was this?"
"The time--it was half-past ten, for that was the time I was to be there
according to the letter the judge sent me."
"But are you sure it was half-past ten? Weren't you early? Wasn't it just
about ten o'clock?"
"No, monsieur," she replied sadly. "If it had been ten o'clock I would
have been in time to save the life of my lover--to prevent this great
tragedy which brings grief to so many."
Crewe looked at her sharply, and then nodded his head in acquiescence of
the fact that much misery would have been averted if she had been in time
to save the life of Sir Horace Fewbanks.
"When you went into the room, Sir Horace Fewbanks, you say, was lying on
the floor, dying. Whereabouts in the room was he?"
"If he had been in this room he would have been lying just behind you,
with his head to the wall and his feet pointing towards that window. He
struggled and groaned after I went in, and altered his position a little,
but not much. He died so."
Crewe rapidly reviewed his recollection of the room in which the judge
had been killed. Once again Gabrielle's statement tallied with his own
reconstruction of the crime and the manner of its perpetration. If the
murder had been committed in his office the second bullet would have gone
through the window instead of imbedding itself in the wall, and the judge
would have fallen in the spot where she indicated.
"And where was the writing-desk from where you got your letters?" was
Crewe's next question.
"It was over there--almost by that--your little bookcase there."
She pointed to a small oaken bookstand which stood slightly in advance
of the more imposing shelves in which reposed the portentous volumes
of newspaper clippings and photographs which constituted Crewe's
"Now we come to the letters. You took them from the secret drawer in the
desk. Why did you remove them?"
"Because I would not have the police agents find them, for then they
would want to know so much."
"And what did you do with them?"
"Monsieur Crewe, I destroyed them. When I got home I burnt them all--I
was so frightened."
"You mean you were frightened to keep them in your possession after the
judge was killed?"
"Yes. What place had I to keep them safe from prying eyes? So, monsieur,
I burnt them all--one by one--and the charred fragments I kept and took
into the Park next day, where I scattered them unobserved."
"And what became of the letter you wrote to Sir Horace Fewbanks at
Craigleith Hall, asking him to come to London and save you from your
She looked at him earnestly in the endeavour to ascertain if he had laid
a trap for her.
"Sir Horace destroyed it in Scotland, I suppose, if the police did
not find it."
"Strange that he should have kept all your other letters so carefully and
destroyed that one. Perhaps it was in his pocket-book that was stolen."
"I do not know. What does it matter? It has gone." She shrugged her
shoulders lightly and indifferently.
"Do you know who stole the pocket-book?"
"No, monsieur. I thought it was stolen in the train."
"That is the police theory," replied Crewe. "But let that go. Have you,
since the night of the murder, seen anything of Pierre?"
"Monsieur, I have not. It is as though the earth has him swallowed. He
keeps silent with the silence of the grave."
"He is wise to do so," responded Crewe. "Now, mademoiselle, I have no
more questions to ask you. Your confidence is safe; you need be under no
apprehensions on that score."
"I care not for myself, Monsieur Crewe, so long as Madame Holymead is
freed from the persecutions of the police agents," replied Gabrielle,
rising from her seat as she spoke. "If, after hearing my story, you could
but give me the assurance--"
"I think I can safely promise you that Mrs. Holymead will not be troubled
with any further police attentions," said Crewe, after a moment's pause.
Gabrielle broke into profuse expressions of gratitude as she
turned to go.
"For the rest then, I care not what happens. I am--how do you say it--I
am overjoyed. _Je vous remercie_, monsieur, I beg you not, I can find my
way out unattended."
But Crewe showed her to the stairs, where again he had to listen to her
profuse thanks before she finally departed. He watched her graceful
figure till it was lost to sight in the winding staircase, and then he
turned back to his office. In the outer office he stopped to speak to
Joe, who, perched on an office-footstool, was tapping quickly on the
office-table with his pen-knife, swaying backwards and forwards
dangerously on his perch in the intensity of his emotions as he played
the hero's part in the drama of saving the runaway engine from dashing
into the 4.40 express by calling up the Red Gulch station on the wire.
"Joe," said Crewe, "I'll see nobody for an hour at least--nobody. You
Joe came out of the cinema world long enough to nod his head in emphatic
understanding of the instructions. In his own room Crewe pulled out his
notebook and once more gave himself up to the study of the baffling
Riversbrook mystery, in the new light of Gabrielle's confession.
Part of her story, he reflected, must be true. She had produced Sir
Horace's revolver, and, still more important, a handkerchief which he had
clutched in his dying struggles. It was obvious that she or some other
woman had been at Riversbrook the night of the murder, and in the room
with the murdered man before he died. That tallied with Birchill's
statement to Hill that he had seen a woman close the front door and walk
along the garden path while he was hiding in the garden. Crewe, recalling
Gabrielle's description of the room, came to the conclusion that it was
probably she who had been with the judge in his dying moments. No one but
a person who had actually seen it could have described the room with such
She had been in the room, then. For what object? For the reasons stated
in her confession? Crewe shook his head doubtfully.
"She evaded the trap about the pocket-book, but she made one bad
mistake," he mused. "The letters in the secret drawer were taken away,
and I have no doubt were burnt as she says. But were they her letters?
Was Sir Horace her lover? At any rate, she did not get hold of them in
the way she said. They were not taken away on the night Sir Horace was
murdered, for the simple reason that they were not in the secret drawer
at the time."
Rolfe was spending a quiet evening in his room after a trying day's
inquiries into a confidence trick case; inquiries so fruitless that they
had brought down on his head an official reproof from Inspector
Rolfe had left Scotland Yard that evening in a somewhat despondent frame
of mind in consequence, but a brisk walk home and a good supper had done
him so much good, that with a tranquil mind and his pipe in his mouth, he
was able to devote himself to the hobby of his leisure hours with keen
This hobby would have excited the wondering contempt of Joe Leaver, whose
frequent attendance at cinema theatres had led him to the conclusion that
police detectives--who, unlike his master, had to take the rough with the
smooth--spent their spare time practising revolver shooting, and throwing
daggers at an ace of hearts on the wall. Rolfe's hobby was nothing more
exciting than stamp collecting. He was deeply versed in the lore of
stamps, and his private ambition was to become the possessor of a "blue
Mauritius." His collection, though extensive, was by no means of fabulous
value, being made up chiefly of modest purchases from the stamp
collecting shops, and finds in the waste-paper-baskets at Scotland Yard
after the arrival of the foreign mails.
That day he had made a particularly good haul from the
waste-paper-baskets, for his "catch" included several comparatively good
specimens from Japan and Fiji. He sat gloating over these treasures,
examining them carefully and holding each one up to the light as he
separated it from the piece of paper to which it had been affixed. He
pasted them one by one in his stamp album with loving, lingering fingers,
adjusting each stamp in its little square in the book with meticulous
care. He was so absorbed in this occupation that he did not hear the
ascending footsteps drawing nearer to his door, and did not see a visitor
at the door when the footsteps ceased. It was Crewe's voice that recalled
him back from the stamp collector's imaginary world.
"Why, Mr. Crewe," said Rolfe, with evident pleasure, "who'd have thought
of seeing you?"
"Your landlady asked me if I'd come up myself," said Crewe, in explaining
his intrusion. "She's 'too much worried and put about, to say nothing of
having a bad back,' to show me upstairs."
"I've never known her to be well," said Rolfe, with a laugh. "Every
morning when she brings up my breakfast I've got to hear details of her
bad back which should be kept for the confidential ear of the doctor. But
she regards me as a son, I think--I've been here so long. But now you are
here, Mr. Crewe--" Rolfe waited in polite expectation that his visitor
would disclose the object of his visit.
But Crewe seemed in no hurry to do so. He produced his cigar case and
offered Rolfe a cigar, which the latter accepted with a pleasant
recollection of the excellent flavour of the cigars the private detective
kept. When each of them had his cigar well alight, Crewe glanced at the
open stamp album and commenced talking about stamps. It was a subject
which Rolfe was always willing to discuss. Crewe declared that he was an
ignorant outsider as far as stamps were concerned, but he professed to
have a respectful admiration for those who immersed themselves in such a
fascinating subject. Rolfe, with the fervid egoism of the collector,
talked about stamps for half an hour without recalling that his visitor
must have come to talk about something else.
"I've got a small stamp collection in my office," said Crewe, when Rolfe
paused for a moment. "It belonged to that Jewish diamond merchant who was
shot in Hatton Gardens two years ago. You remember his case?"
"Rather! That was a smart bit of work of yours, Mr. Crewe, in laying
your hands on the woman who did it and getting back the diamond."
Crewe smiled in response.
"The Jew was very grateful, poor fellow. He died in the hospital after
the trial, so she was lucky to escape with twelve years. He left me a
diamond ring and a stamp album that had come into his possession."
"I should like to see it," said Rolfe eagerly. "It is more than likely
that there are some good specimens in it. The Jews are keen
collectors. If you let me have a look at it, I'll tell you what the
collection is worth."
"You can have it altogether," said Crewe. "I'll send my boy Joe round
with it in the morning."
"Oh, Mr. Crewe, it's very good of you," said Rolfe, with the covetousness
of the collector shining in his eyes.
"Nonsense! Why shouldn't you have it? But I didn't come round here solely
to talk about stamps, Rolfe. I came to have a little chat about the
Riversbrook case. How are you getting on with it?"
"Why, really," said Rolfe, "I've not done much with it since, since--"
"Since Birchill was acquitted, eh! But you are not letting it drop
altogether, are you? That would be a pity--such an interesting case.
Whom have you your eye on now as the right man?"
Rolfe, who thought he detected a suspicion of banter in Crewe's
remarks, evaded the latter question by answering the first part of
"Why hardly that, Mr. Crewe. But the chief is not very keen on the case.
Birchill's acquittal was too much of a blow to him. He reckons that
nowadays juries are too soft-hearted to convict on a capital charge."
"It's just as well that they are too soft-hearted to convict the wrong
man," said Crewe.
"Yes; you told me from the first that we were on the wrong track," was
the reply. "I haven't forgotten that and the chief is not allowed to
forget it, either. All the men at the Yard know that you held the
opinion that we had got hold of the wrong man when we arrested Birchill,
and he has had to stand so much chaff in the office, that he's pretty raw
about it." Rolfe spoke in the detached tone of a junior who had no share
in his chief's mistakes or their attendant humiliation, and he added,
"That's once more that you've scored over Scotland Yard, Mr. Crewe, and
you ought to be proud of it." He glanced covertly at Crewe to see how he
took the flattery.
"So you've done very little about the case since Birchill was acquitted?"
was his only remark.
"I've been so busy," replied Rolfe, again evading the question, and
avoiding meeting Crewe's glance by turning over the leaves of his stamp
album. "You see, there has been a rush of work at Scotland Yard lately.
There is that big burglary at Lord Emden's, and the case of the woman
whose body was found in the river lock at Peyton, and half a dozen other
cases, all important in their way. There has been quite an epidemic of
crime lately, as you know, Mr. Crewe. I don't seem to get a minute to
myself these times."
"Rolfe," said Crewe drily, "you protest too much. You don't suppose that
after coming over here to see you that I can be deceived by such talk?"
Rolfe flushed at these uncompromising words, but before he could speak
Crewe proceeded in a milder tone.
"I don't blame you a bit for trying to put me off. It's all part of the
game. We're rivals, in a sense, and you are quite right not to lose sight
of that fact. But as a detective, Rolfe, your methods lack polish.
Really, I blush for them. You might have known that I came over here to
see you to-night because I had an important object in view, and you
should have tried to find out what it was before playing your own
cards,--and such cards, too! You're sadly lacking in finesse, Rolfe.
You'd never make a chess player; your concealed intentions are too
easily discovered. You must try not to be so transparent if you want to
succeed in your profession."
Crewe delivered his reproof with such good humour that Rolfe stared at
him, as if unable to make out what his visitor was driving at.
"I don't know what you are talking about, Mr. Crewe," he said at length.
"Oh, yes, you do. You know I'm speaking about your latest move in the
Riversbrook case, which you've been so busy with of late. And I've come
to tell you in a friendly way that once more you're on the wrong track."
"What do you mean?" asked Rolfe quickly.
"Why, Princes Gate, of course," replied Crewe cheerily. "You don't
suppose that a fine-looking young man like yourself could be seen in the
neighbourhood of Princes Gate without causing a flutter among feminine
hearts there, do you?"
"So the servants have been talking, have they?" muttered Rolfe.
"They have and they haven't. But that's beside the point. What I want to
say is that you're on the wrong track in suspecting Mrs. Holymead, and I
strongly advise you to drop your inquiries if you don't want to get
yourself into hot water. She's as innocent of the murder of Sir Horace
Fewbanks as Birchill is, but you cannot afford to make a false shot in
the case of a lady of her social standing, as you did with a criminal
At this rebuke Rolfe gave way to irritation.
"Look here, Mr. Crewe, I'll thank you to mind your own business," he
said. "It's got nothing to do with you where I make inquiries. I'll have
you remember that! I don't interfere with you, and I won't have you
interfering with me."
"But I'm interfering only for your own good, man! What do you suppose I'm
doing it for? I tell you you're riding for a very bad fall in suspecting
Mrs. Holymead and shadowing her."
Crewe's plain words were an echo of a secret fear which Rolfe had
entertained from the time his suspicions were directed towards Mrs.
Holymead. But he was not going to allow Crewe to think he was alarmed.
"If I'm making inquiries about Mrs. Holymead, it's because I have ample
justification for doing so," he said stiffly.
"And I tell you that you have not."
"Prove it!" exclaimed Rolfe defiantly.
Crewe produced from his pocket a revolver and a lady's handkerchief, and
handed them to Rolfe without speaking.
Rolfe's embarrassment was almost equal to his astonishment as he examined
the articles. In the handkerchief with its missing corner, he speedily
recognised something for which he had searched in vain. He had never
confided to Crewe the discovery of the missing corner in the dead man's
hand, and therefore the production of the handkerchief by Crewe
considerably embarrassed him. He longed to ask Crewe how he had obtained
possession of the handkerchief, but he could not trust his voice to frame
the question without betraying his feelings, so he picked up the revolver
and examined it closely. Then he put it down and again gave his attention
to the handkerchief, bending his head over it so that Crewe should not
see his face.
"You do not seem very astonished at my finds, Rolfe," said Crewe
quizzically. "Perhaps you've seen these articles before?"
"No, I haven't," said Rolfe, still avoiding his visitor's eye.
"Well, the torn handkerchief is not exactly new to you," said Crewe.
"You've got the missing part; you found it in Sir Horace's hand after he
"You're too clever for me, and that's the simple truth, Mr. Crewe,"
said Rolfe, in a mortified tone. "I did find a small piece of a
lady's handkerchief in his hand, and here it is." He produced his
pocket-book and took out the piece. "How you found out I had it, is
more than I know."
"Mere guess-work," said Crewe.
Rolfe shook his head slowly.
"I know better than that," he said. "You're deep. You don't miss much. I
wish now that I had told you about that bit of handkerchief at the first.
But Chippenfield and I wanted to have all the credit of elucidating the
Riversbrook mystery. I hunted high and low to get trace of this
handkerchief, but I couldn't. And now you've beaten me, although you
couldn't have known at first that there was such a thing as a missing
handkerchief in the case. I hope you bear me no malice, Mr. Crewe."
"What for, Rolfe?"
"For not telling you about the handkerchief, after I found this piece in
Sir Horace's hand."
"Not in the least," said Crewe. "Why should you have told me? I don't
tell you everything that I find out. It's all part of the game. That
piece of the handkerchief was a good find, Rolfe, and I congratulate you
on getting it. How did you come to discover it?"
"I was trying to force open the murdered man's hand, and I found it
clenched between the little finger and the next. Of course it was not
visible with his hand closed. Chippenfield, who missed it, didn't
half like my discovery, and all along he underestimated the value of
it as a clue."
"Well, he has had to pay for his folly."
"He has, and serves him right," replied Rolfe viciously. "He's the most
pig-headed, obstinate, vain, narrow-minded man you could come across." It
occurred to Rolfe that it was not exactly good form on his part to
condemn his superior officer so vigorously in the presence of a rival, so
he broke off abruptly and asked Crewe how he came into possession of the
revolver and handkerchief.
Crewe's reply was that he had obtained these articles under a promise of
secrecy from some one who had assured him that Mrs. Holymead had no
connection with the crime. When he was at liberty to tell the story as it
had been told to him, Rolfe would be the first to hear it.
"Mrs. Holymead had no connection with the crime?" exclaimed Rolfe
impatiently. "Perhaps you don't know that the morning after the murder
was discovered she went out to Riversbrook and removed some secret papers
from the murdered man's desk--papers that he had been in the habit of
hiding in a secret drawer?"
"Yes, I know that," said Crewe.
"Well, doesn't that look as if she knew something about the crime?"
"Well, to me it does. What were these secret papers? They were letters,
I am told."
"I believe so. And you, Rolfe, as a man of the world, know that a married
woman would not like the police to get possession of letters she had
written to a man of the reputation of Sir Horace Fewbanks."
"I admit that her action is capable of a comparatively innocent
interpretation, but taken in conjunction with other things it looks to me
mighty suspicious. In Hill's statement to us he told us that on the night
of the murder, Birchill when hiding in the garden waiting for the lights
to go out before breaking into the house, heard the front door slam and
saw a stylish sort of woman walk down the path to the gate."
"That was not Mrs. Holymead," said Crewe.
"How do you know? If it was not her, who was it? Do you know?"
"I think I know, and when I am at liberty to speak I will tell you."
"Then there is a third point," continued Rolfe. "Look at this
handkerchief you brought. I saw a handkerchief of exactly similar pattern
at Mrs. Holymead's house when I called there."
"Wasn't that the property of her French cousin, Mademoiselle Chiron?"
"Yes, she dropped it on the floor while I was there. But it is probable
the handkerchief was one of a set given her by Mrs. Holymead."
"Quite probably, Rolfe. But scores of ladies who are fond of expensive
things have handkerchiefs of a similar pattern. You will find if you
inquire among the West End shops, that although it is a dainty, expensive
article from the man's point of view, there is nothing singular about the
quality or the pattern."
"Perhaps so," said Rolfe, "but the possession of handkerchiefs of this
kind is surely suspicious when taken in conjunction with her removal of
the letters. I wish I could get hold of that infernal scoundrel Hill
again. I am convinced that he knows a great deal more about this murder
than he has yet told us, and a great deal more about Mrs. Holymead and
her letters. I've had his shop watched day and night since he
disappeared, but he keeps close to his burrow, and I've not been able to
get on his track."
"I'd give up watching for him if I were you," said Crewe, as he flicked
the ash of his cigar into the fireplace. "You're not likely to find him
now. As a matter of fact, he has left the country."
"Hill left the country?" echoed Rolfe. "I think you are mistaken there,
Mr. Crewe. He had no money; how could he get away?"
Crewe selected another cigar from his case and lighted it before
"The fact is, I advanced him the money," he said. "Technically it's a
loan, but I do not think any of it will be paid back."
Rolfe stared hard at Crewe to see if he was joking.
"What on earth made you do that?" he demanded at length. "Hill may be the
actual murderer for all we know."
"Not at all," was the reply. "Before I helped him to leave England I
satisfied myself that he had absolutely nothing to do with the murder. He
does not know who shot Sir Horace Fewbanks, though, of course, he still
half believes that it was Birchill. When I got in touch with him after
his disappearance he was in a pitiable state of fright--waking or
sleeping, he couldn't get his mind off the gallows. There were two or
three points on which I wanted his assistance in clearing up the
Riversbrook case, and I promised to get him out of the country if he
would make a clean breast of things and tell me the truth as far as he
knew it. He made a confession--a true one this time. I took it down and
I'll let you have a copy. There are a few interesting points on which it
differs materially from the statement he made to the police when you and
Chippenfield cornered him."
"What are they?" asked Rolfe.
"In the first place the burglary was his idea, and not Birchill's,"
replied Crewe. "After the quarrel between Sir Horace and the girl
Fanning, he went out to her flat and suggested to Birchill that he should
rob Riversbrook. Hill's real object in arranging this burglary was to get
possession of the letters which Mrs. Holymead subsequently removed, but
he did not tell Birchill this. His plan was to go to Riversbrook the
morning after the burglary and then break open Sir Horace's desk and open
the secret drawer before informing the police of the burglary. To the
police and Sir Horace it would look as though the burglar had
accidentally found the spring of the secret drawer. With these letters in
his possession Hill intended to blackmail Sir Horace, or Mrs. Holymead,
without disclosing himself in the transaction.
"When Sir Horace returned unexpectedly from Scotland on the 18th of
August, Hill had just removed the letters from the desk, being afraid
that when Birchill broke into the house he might find them accidentally.
He was naturally in a state of alarm at Sir Horace's return. He tried to
get an opportunity to put the letters back as Sir Horace might discover
they had been removed, but Sir Horace dismissed him for the night before
he could get such an opportunity. Then he went to Fanning's flat and
told Birchill that Sir Horace had returned. Birchill was in favour of
postponing the burglary, but Hill, who had possession of the letters,
and did not know when he would get an opportunity to put them back,
urged Birchill to carry out the burglary. He assured Birchill that Sir
Horace was a very sound sleeper and that there would be no risk. In
order to arouse Birchill's cupidity and to protect himself from the
suspicions of Sir Horace regarding the letters, he told Birchill that he
had seen a large sum of money in his possession when he returned, and
that this money would probably be hidden in the secret drawer of the
desk, until Sir Horace had an opportunity of banking it. He told
Birchill to break open the desk, and explained to him how to find the
spring of the secret drawer."
"What a damned cunning scoundrel he is," exclaimed Rolfe, in unwilling
admiration of the completeness of Hill's scheme. "Don't you think, Mr.
Crewe, that, after all, he may be the actual murderer--that he told you a
lot of lies just as he did to us? Holymead in his address to the jury
made out a pretty strong case against him."
"No one knows better than Holymead that Hill did not commit the
murder," said Crewe. "Hill is an incorrigible liar, but he has no nerve
"Did he put the letters back?" asked Rolfe. "He told me that Mrs.
Holymead stole them the day after the murder was discovered. But he is
such a liar--"
"I believe he spoke the truth in that case," said Crewe. "He told me he
put the letters back in the secret drawer the night after the murder,
when he went to Riversbrook to report himself to Chippenfield. He put
them back because he was afraid that if the police found them in his
possession, they would think he had a hand in the murder. His idea was to
remove them from the secret drawer after the excitement about the murder
died down, and then blackmail Mrs. Holymead, but she acted with a skill
and decision that robbed him of his chance to blackmail her."
"How did you get hold of the cunning scoundrel?" asked Rolfe. "I've had
his wife's shop watched day and night, as I've said. I made sure he would
try to communicate with her sooner or later, but he didn't."
"It was Joe who found him," said Crewe. "I knew you were watching Mrs.
Hill's shop, so it was superfluous for me to set anybody to watch it.
Besides, I didn't think Hill would visit his wife or attempt to
communicate with her, for he would think that the police, if they wanted
him, would be sure to watch the shop. I tried to consider what a man like
Hill would do in the circumstances. He had no money--I knew that--and, so
far as I was able to ascertain, he had no friends who were likely to hide
him. Without friends or money he could not go very far. Finally it
occurred to me that he might be hiding somewhere in Riversbrook--either
in that unfinished portion of the third floor, or in one of the
outbuildings. He knew the run of the rambling old place so well. Have you
ever been over it carefully? No. Well, there are several good places in
the upper stories where a man might conceal himself. I put Joe on the
job, and after watching for several nights Joe got him. Hill had made a
hiding place in the loft above the garage. It appears that he subsisted
on the stores that had been left in the house; he was able to make his
way into the main building through one of the kitchen windows. He was on
one of these foraging expeditions when Joe discovered him--emaciated,
dirty, and half demented through terror of the gallows."
"So that is how you got him!" said Rolfe. "I never thought of looking for
him at Riversbrook. Sometimes I am inclined to agree with you that he had
no nerve for murder. But an unpremeditated murder doesn't want much
nerve. He might have done it in a moment of passion." Rolfe was
endeavouring to take advantage of Crewe's communicative mood and to
arrive by a process of elimination at the person against whom Crewe had
accumulated his evidence.
"It was not Hill," said Crewe. "The murder was committed in a moment of
passion, and yet it was far from being unpremeditated."
"You are trying to mystify me," said Rolfe despairingly.
"No; it is the case itself which has mystified you," replied Crewe.
"It has," was Rolfe's candid confession. "The more thought I give it, the
more impossible it seems to see through it. Was Sir Horace killed before
dusk--before the lights were turned on? If he was killed after dark, who
turned out the lights?"
"He was killed between 10 and 10.30 at night," said Crewe. "The lights
were turned out by the woman Birchill saw leaving the house about 10.30.
But she was not the murderer, and she was not present in the room, or
even in the house, when Sir Horace was shot. She arrived a few minutes
too late to prevent the tragedy. Turning out the lights was an
instinctive act due to her desire to hide the crime, or rather to hide
"How do you know all this?" asked Rolfe, who had been staring at Crewe
with open-mouthed astonishment.
"That woman was not Mrs. Holymead," continued Crewe. "I had a visit
to-day from the woman who did these things, and as evidence of the truth
of her story she brought me the revolver and the handkerchief."
"What did she come to you for?" asked Rolfe, with breathless interest.
"What did she want?"
"She came to me to make a full confession," said Crewe, in even tones.
"A confession!" exclaimed Rolfe. "She ought to have come to the police.
Why didn't she come to us?"
Crewe smiled at the puzzled, indignant detective.
"I think she came to me because she wanted to mislead me," he said.
Joe Leaver, worn out after nearly a week's work of watching the movements
of Mr. Holymead, had fallen asleep in an empty loft above a garage which
overlooked Verney's Hotel in Mayfair. He had seen Mr. Holymead disappear
into the hotel, and he knew from the experience gained in his watch that
the K.C. would spend the next couple of hours in dressing for dinner,
sitting down to that meal, and smoking a cigar in the lounge. So Joe had
relaxed, for the time being, the new task which his master had set him,
and had flung himself on some straw in the loft to rest. He did not
intend to go to sleep, but he was very tired, and in a few minutes he was
in a profound slumber.
In his sleep Joe dreamed that he had attained the summit of his ambition,
and was being paid a huge salary by an American film company to display
himself in emotional dramas for the educational improvement of the
British working classes. In his dream he had to rescue the heroine from
the clutches of the villains who had carried her off. They had imprisoned
her at the top of a "skyscraper" building and locked the lift, but Joe
climbed the fire escape and caught the beautiful girl in his arms. The
villains, who were on the watch, set fire to the building, and when Joe
attempted to climb out of the window with the heroine clinging round his
neck, the flames drove him back. As he stood there the wind swept a sheet
of flame towards Joe until it scorched his face. The pain was so real
that Joe opened his eyes and sprang up with a cry.
A man was standing over him, a man past middle age, short and broad in
figure, whose clean-shaven face directed attention to his protruding
jaw. He was wearing a blue serge suit which had seen much use.
"You are a sound sleeper, sonny," said the man, grinning at Joe's alarm.
"But when you wake--why you wake up properly; I'll say that for you. You
nearly broke my pipe, you woke up that sudden."
He made this remark with such a malicious grin that Joe, whose face was
still smarting, had no hesitation in connecting his sudden awakening with
the hot bowl of the man's pipe. It was a joke Joe had often seen played
on drunken men in Islington public-houses in his young days.
"You just leave me alone, will you?" he said, rubbing his cheek ruefully.
"It's nothing to do with you whether I'm a sound sleeper or not."
"That's just where you're wrong, young fellow," was the reply. "It's a
lot to do with me. Ain't your name Joe Leaver?"
Joe nodded his head.
"How did you find out?" he asked.
"Perhaps a friend of mine pointed you out to me."
"Perhaps he did, and perhaps he didn't," said Joe. "Anyway, what is
"Mr. Kemp is my name, my boy. And unless you're pretty civil I'll give
you cause to remember it."
"What have you got to do with me?" asked the boy in an injured tone.
"I've never done nothing to you."
"You mind your P's and Q's and me and you'll get along all right," said
Mr. Kemp, in a somewhat softer tone. "When you ask me what I've got to do
with you, my answer is I've got a lot to do with you, for I'm your
guardian, so to speak."
Joe looked at Mr. Kemp with a gleam of comprehension in his amazement. He
had had some experience in his Islington days of the strange phenomena
produced by drink.
"Rats!" he retorted rudely. "I've never had a guardian and I don't want
none. What made you a guardian, I'd like to know?"
"Your father did," was the reply.
"Oh, him!" said Joe, in a tone which indicated pronounced antipathy to
his parent. "Do you know him? Are you one of his sort?"
"Now don't try to be insulting, my boy, or I'll take you across my knee.
We won't say nothing about where your father is, because in high society
Wormwood Scrubbs isn't mentioned. All we'll say is that he has been
unfortunate like many another man before him, and that for the present he
can't come and go as he likes. But he has still got a father's heart,
Joe, and there are times when he worries about his family and about there
being no one with them to keep an eye on them and see they grow up a
credit to him. He has been particularly worried about you, Joe. So when I
was coming away he asked me to look you up if I had time, and let him
know how you was getting on, seeing that none of his family has gone near
him for a matter of three years or so, though there is one regular
visiting day each week."
"I don't want to see him no more," said Joe. "He's no good."
"That's a nice way for a boy to talk about his own father," said Mr.
Kemp, in a reproving tone. "I don't know what the young generation is
"If you want to send him word about me, you can tell him that I'm not
going to be a thief," said Joe defiantly.
"No," said Mr. Kemp tauntingly, "you'd sooner be a nark."
"Yes, I would," said the boy.
"And that's what you are now," declared the man wrathfully. "You're a
nark for that fellow Crewe. I know all about you."
"I'm earning an honest living," said Joe.
"As a nark," said Mr. Kemp, with a sneer.
"I'm earning an honest living," said the boy doggedly. So much of his
youth had been spent among the criminal classes that he still retained
the feeling that there was an indelible stigma attached to those
individuals described as narks.
"How can any one earn a respectable honest living by being a nark?" asked
Mr. Kemp contemptuously. "And more than that, it's one of the best men
that ever breathed that you are a-spying on. I'll have you know that he's
a friend of mine. That is to say he's done things for me that I ain't
likely to forget. There's nothing I won't do for him, if the chance comes
my way. I'll see that no harm happens to him through you and your Mr.
Crewe. You've got to stop this here spying. Stop it at once, do you
understand? For if you don't, by God, I'll deal with you so that you'll
do no more spying in this world! And I'd have you and your master know
that I'm a man what means what he says." Mr. Kemp shook his fist angrily
at Joe as he moved away to the door of the loft after having delivered
his menacing warning. "My last words to you is, Stop it!" he said, as he
turned to go down the stairs.
Half an hour later Mr. Kemp entered the lounge of Verney's Hotel as
though in quest of some one. Most of the hotel guests had finished their
after-dinner coffee and liqueurs, and the hall was comparatively empty,
but a few who remained raised their eyes in well-bred protest at the
intrusion of a member of the lower orders into the corridor of an
exclusive hotel. Mr. Kemp felt somewhat out of place, and he stared about
the luxuriously furnished lounge with a look in which awe mingled with
admiration. Before he could advance further, a liveried porter of massive
proportions came up to him and barred the way.
"Now, now, my man," said the porter haughtily, "what do you think you
are doing here? This ain't your place, you know. You've made a mistake.
Out you go."
"I want to see Mr. Holymead," said Mr. Kemp in a gruff voice.
Verney's was such a high-class hotel that seedy-looking persons seldom
dared to put a foot within the palatial entrance. The porter, unused to
dealing with the obtrusive impecunious type to which he believed Mr. Kemp
to belong, made the mistake of trying to argue with him.
"Want to see Mr. Holymead?" he repeated. "How do you know he's here? Who
told you? What do you want to see him for?"
"What's that got to do with you?" retorted Mr. Kemp. "You don't think Mr.
Holymead would like me to discuss his business with the likes of you?
That ain't what you're here for. You go and tell Mr. Holymead that some
one wants to see him. Tell him Mr. Kemp wants to see him." Mr. Kemp drew
himself up and buttoned the coat of his faded serge suit.
The porter, uncertain how to deal with the situation, looked around for
help. The manager of the hotel emerged from the booking office at that
moment, and the porter's appealing look was seen by him. The manager
approached. He was faultlessly attired, suave in demeanour, and walked
with a noiseless step, despite his tendency to corpulence. It was his
daily task to wrestle with some of the manifold difficulties arising out
of the eccentricities of human nature as exhibited by a constant stream
of arriving and departing guests. But though he approached the distressed
porter with full confidence in his ability to deal with any situation,
his eyebrows arched in astonishment as he took in the full details of the
"What does this mean, Hawkins?" he exclaimed, in a tone of disapproval.
The porter trembled at the implication that he had grievously failed in
his duty by allowing such an individual as Mr. Kemp to get so far within
the exclusive portals of Verney's, and in his nervousness he relaxed from
the polish of the hotel porter to his native cockney.
"This 'ere party says 'e wants to see Mr. Holymead, Sir."
The manager went through the motion of washing a spotlessly clean pair of
hands, and then brought the palms together in a gentle clap. He smiled
pityingly at Hawkins and then looked condescendingly at Mr. Kemp.
"Wants to see Mr. Holymead, does he?" he said, transferring his glance to
the worried porter. "And didn't you tell him that Mr. Holymead has gone
to the theatre and won't be back for some considerable time?"
"That's a lie!" said Mr. Kemp, who had acquired none of the art of
dealing with his fellow men, and was too uneducated to appreciate art in
any form. "I've been watching over the other side of the street, and I
saw him passing a window not ten minutes ago. I'm going to see him if I
wait here all night. I'll soon make meself comfortable on one of them big
chairs." He pointed to an empty chair beside a man in evening dress, who
was holding a conversation with a haughty looking matron. "You tell Mr.
Holymead Mr. Kemp wants to see him," he said to the manager.
"What name did you say?" asked the manager in a tone which seemed to
express astonishment that the lower orders had names.
"Mr. Kemp. You tell him Mr. Kemp wants to see him on important business."
He walked towards the vacant chair and seated himself on it. He dug his
toes into the velvet pile carpet with the air of a man who was trying to
take anchor. Fortunately the man on the adjoining chair, and the haughty
matron, were so engrossed in their conversation that they did not notice
that the air in their immediate vicinity was being polluted by the
presence of a man in shabby clothes and heavy boots.
The manager despatched the porter in search of Mr. Holymead and then went
in pursuit of Mr. Kemp.
"Will you come this way, if you please, Mr. Kemp?" he said, with a low
He saw that Mr. Kemp was following him and led the way into an
unfrequented corner of the smoking room, where, with the information
that Mr. Holymead would come to him in a few moments, he asked Mr. Kemp
to be seated.
The manager withdrew a few yards, and then took up a position which
enabled him to guard the hotel guests from having their digestions
interfered with by the contaminating spectacle of a seedy man. To the
manager's great relief, Mr. Holymead appeared, having been informed by
the hall porter that a party who said his name was Kemp had asked to see
him. The manager hurried towards Mr. Holymead and endeavoured to explain
and apologise, but the K.C. assured him that there was nothing to
apologise for. He went over to the corner of the smoking room, where the
visitor who had caused so much perturbation was waiting for him.
"Well, Kemp, what do you want?" There was nothing in his manner to
indicate that he was put out by Mr. Kemp's appearance. He spoke in quiet
even tones such as would seem to suggest that he was well acquainted with
"Can I speak to you on the quiet for a moment, sir?" whispered
Holymead looked round the room. The manager had gone back to the booking
office and Hawkins had vanished. The few people who were in the room
seemed occupied with their own affairs.
"No one will overhear us if we speak quietly," he said as he took a seat
close to Kemp. "What is it?"
"You're watched and followed, sir," said Kemp in a whisper. "Somebody has
been watching this place for days past and whenever you go out you're
"By whom?" asked Holymead.
"By a varmint of a boy--a slippery young imp whose father's in gaol for
a long stretch. I got hold of him this afternoon and told him what I'd
do to him if he kept on with his game. He's living in an old loft at
the back of the hotel garage, and he keeps a watch on you day and
night. I thought I'd better come here and tell you, as you mightn't
know about him."
"You did quite right, Kemp. What's this boy like?"
"An undersized putty-faced brat with a big head. He's about fourteen or
fifteen, I should say."
"Who is he? Do you know him?"
"Leaver is the name, sir. To tell you the truth, I don't know him as well
as I know his father. His father is a 'lifer' for manslaughter. I've
known him both in and out of gaol. And when I was coming out four months
ago Bob Leaver, this here boy's father, asked me to look up his family
and send him word about them. I went to the address Bob told me, in
Islington, but I found they had all gone. The mother was dead and the
kids--a girl and this here boy--had cleared out. The old Jew who had the
second-hand clothes shop Mrs. Leaver used to keep told me that the boy
had gone off with that private detective, Crewe, more than two years ago.
So it looks to me as if he has turned nark and Crewe has put him on to
"Can you describe this boy more closely?"
"Well, sir, I don't know if I can say anything more about him except that
he has red hair and big bright eyes that are too large for his face."
"I thought so," said Holymead as if speaking to himself. "It's the
"What did you say, sir?" asked Kemp.
"Nothing, Kemp, except that I think I've seen a boy of this description
hanging about the street near the hotel."
Holymead rose to his feet as he spoke, as an indication that the
interview was at an end. Kemp got up and looked at him anxiously.
"I beg your pardon, sir, for coming here," he said, fumbling with the rim
of his hat as he spoke. "I didn't know how you'd take it, but I hope I've
done right. They didn't want to let me see you."
"You did quite right, Kemp. I am very much obliged to you." He was
feeling in his pocket for silver, but Kemp stopped him.
"No, no, sir. I don't want to be paid anything. I wanted to oblige you
like; I wanted to do you a good turn. I'd do anything for you, sir--you
know I would."
"I believe you would, Kemp. Good night."
"Good night, sir."
As Kemp passed down the hall he met the manager, who was obviously
pleased to see such an unwelcome visitor making his departure. Kemp
scowled at the manager as if he were a valued patron of the hotel and
said, "It seems to me that you don't know how to treat people properly
when they come here."
It was the first occasion on which Mrs. Holymead had visited her
husband's chambers in the Middle Temple. Mr. Mattingford, who had been
Mr. Holymead's clerk for nearly twenty years, seemed to realise that the
visit was important, though as a married man he knew that a meeting
between husband and wife in town was usually so commonplace as to verge
on boredom for the husband. There were occasions when he had to meet Mrs.
Mattingford, but these meetings were generally for the purpose of handing
over to the lady her weekly dress allowance of ten shillings out of his
salary, so that she might attend the sales at the big drapery shops in
the West End and inspect the windows containing expensive articles that
she could not hope to buy. Mr. Mattingford was an exceedingly thrifty
man, and his wife possessed some of the qualities of a spendthrift. Thus
it came about that Mr. Mattingford kept up the fiction that he had no
savings and that each week's salary must see him through till the next
week. Mrs. Mattingford knew that her husband had saved money, and
theoretically she would have given a great deal to know how much. She
repeatedly accused him of being a miser, but this is a wifely
denunciation which in all classes of life is lightly made when the
purchase of feminine finery is under discussion. There are some men who
resent it, but Mr. Mattingford was not one of these. Protests and
prayers, abuse and cajolery, were alike powerless to win his consent to
his wife's perpetual proposal that she should be allowed to draw her
dress allowance for some months, or even some weeks ahead. Mr.
Mattingford had a horror of bad debts. He endeavoured to show his wife
that the transaction she proposed was unsound from a business point of
view and reckless from a legal point of view. She had no security to
offer for the repayment of the advance--even if he were in a financial
position to make the advance--and he stoutly declared that he was not.
She might die at any moment, and then he would be left with no means of
redress against her estate because she had no estate. Of course, if she
first insured her life out of her dress allowance and handed the policy
to him it would constitute protection for the repayment of the advance,
in the event of her death, but it was not any real protection in the
event of her continuing to live, for a newly-executed policy had no
surrender value. As his own legal adviser, Mr. Mattingford strongly urged
himself not to consider his wife's proposal, and such was his respect for
the law and for those who had been brought up in a legal atmosphere that
he had no hesitation in accepting the advice.
He was a little man of nearly fifty years, with a very bald head and an
extremely long moustache, which when waxed at the ends made him look as
fierce as a clipped poodle. He knew Mrs. Holymead from his having called
frequently at his chief's house in Princes Gate on business matters, and
he admired her for her good looks, but still more for her good taste in
staying away from her husband's chambers. There were some ladies, the
wives of barristers, who almost haunted their husbands' chambers--a
practice of which Mr. Mattingford strongly disapproved. It seemed to him
an insidious attempt on the part of an insidious sex to force the legal
profession to throw open its doors to women. As a man who lived in the
mouldy atmosphere of precedent, Mr. Mattingford hated the idea of change,
and to him the thought of a lady in wig and gown pleading in the law
courts indicated not merely change but a revolution which might well
usher in the end of the world. So strict was he in keeping the precincts
of the law sacred from the violating tread of women that he never
allowed his wife to set foot in the Middle Temple. Their meetings on
those urgent occasions when Mrs. Mattingford came to town for her dress
allowance in order to go bargain-hunting took place at one of the cheap
tearooms in Fleet Street.
Although Mr. Mattingford was somewhat flustered by the unexpected
appearance of Mrs. Holymead, he did not depart from precedent to the
extent of regarding her as entitled to any other treatment than that
accorded to clients who called on business. He asked her if she wanted to
see Mr. Holymead, placed a chair for her, then knocked deferentially at
his chief's door, went inside to announce Mrs. Holymead to her husband,
and came out with the information that Mr. Holymead would see her. He
held open the door leading into his chief's private room, and after Mrs.
Holymead had entered closed it softly and firmly.
But the formal business manner of Mr. Mattingford to his chief's wife
seemed to her friendly and cordial compared with the strained greetings
she received from her husband. He motioned her to a chair and then got up
from his own.
"I wrote to you to come and see me here instead of going to the house
to see you," he said, "because I thought it would be better for both.
It would have given the servants something to talk about. I hope you
She looked at him with her large dark eyes in which there was more than a
suggestion of tears. What she had read into his note, when she received
it, was his determination not to go to his home to see her for fear she
would interpret that as a first step towards reconciliation.
"What I wanted to speak to you about is this detective Crewe whom Miss
Fewbanks has employed in connection with her father's death," he
Her breath came quickly at this unwelcome information. She noted that he
had spoken of Sir Horace's death and not his murder.
He began pacing backwards and forwards across the room as if with the
purpose of avoiding looking at her.
"This man Crewe is a nuisance--I might even say a danger. I don't know
what he has found out, but I object to his ferreting into my affairs. He
must be stopped."
She nodded her assent, for she could not trust herself to speak. Each
time he turned his back on her as he crossed the room her eyes followed
him, but as he faced her she turned her gaze on the floor.
"There is no legal redress--no legal means of dealing with his
impertinent curiosity," he went on. "He is within his rights in trying to
find out all he can. But if he is allowed to go on unchecked the thing
may reach a disastrous stage. I have no doubt that he knows that I was at
Riversbrook the night that man was killed. He was not long in getting on
the track of that. And the more mysterious my visit seems to him--and the
fact that I have not disclosed to the police that I went up to
Riversbrook and saw Sir Horace on the night of the tragedy is to his way
of thinking very significant--the more reason is there for suspecting me
of complicity in the crime."
When he turned to cross the room her eyes lingered on him and she glanced
quickly at his face.
"I don't want to dwell on matters that must pain you--that must pain us
both," he said slowly, "but it is necessary that you should be made
acquainted with the danger that threatens me from this man. I am anxious
to avoid anything in the nature of a public scandal--I am anxious quite
as much if not more on your account than my own. But if this wretched man
is allowed to go on trying to build up a case against me--and I must
admit that he would probably obtain circumstantial evidence of a kind
which would make some sort of a case for the prosecution--there is grave
danger of everything coming out. If he went to the length of having me
arrested and charged with the crime, there are bound to be some
disclosures and the newspapers would make the most of them. It is
impossible to foresee the exact nature of them, but I do not see how I
could adopt any line of defence which would not hint at things that are
best unrevealed. You yourself might be so ill-advised as to tell the
whole story in the end. Of course, I would try to prevent you, and as far
as the trial is concerned, I think I could use means to prevent you. But
if the result was unfavourable--and knowing what eccentric things juries
do, we must recognise the possibility of an unfavourable verdict--you
might consider it advisable to disclose everything in the hope of having
the conviction quashed by an appeal."
For the first time since she had sat down he looked at her, and as he
caught her upward gaze he flushed.
"I would tell everything if you were arrested," she said, in a low voice.
"Ah, so I thought," he said, in a tone of disapproval. "The question now
is what means can be adopted to prevent a catastrophe. I have thought
earnestly about it, and as you are almost as much concerned in preventing
public disclosures as I am, I desired to consult you before taking any
definite course. It is this man Crewe who is the danger, and the question
is how are we to stop him proceeding to extremes. One way is for me to
see him and take him into my confidence--to explain fully to him what
happened. He would not be satisfied with less than the full story. If I
kept anything back his suspicions would remain; in fact, they would be
strengthened. I would have to explain to him why and how I induced Sir
Horace to return unexpectedly from Scotland on that fatal night, and what
took place at Riversbrook. You will understand why I have hesitated to
adopt that course. I would not suggest it to you now except that I see it
would save you from the danger of something a great deal worse. Of
course it would save me from the annoyance of being suspected of knowing
something about the actual murder, but it is your interests that come
first in the matter. It would be effective in putting an end to all our
fears--all my fears. I would bind him to secrecy, of course. I do not ask
you to come to a decision immediately, but I do ask you to think it over
and let me know. I have been extremely reluctant to put this proposal
before you, because I should hate carrying it out, because I should hate
telling this man of things which are really no concern of anyone but
ourselves. But I cannot disguise from myself that it would remove a
greater danger. I believe the secret would be safe with him. I understand
that in private life he is a gentleman, and that I would be safe in
taking his word of honour. It would not be necessary for him to tell the
police--still less to tell Miss Fewbanks."
"Is there no other way?" she asked. "Have you thought of any other way?"
"Yes. The only other way out that I have been able to find is for me to
see Miss Fewbanks and ask her to withdraw the case from Crewe. I would
not tell her everything--I would not bring you into it at all. But I
could tell her that I had had an urgent matter to discuss with her
father; that he came from Scotland to discuss it with me, and that after
I left him he was murdered. I would tell her that it was quite impossible
for me to disclose what the business was about, but that Crewe, having
learnt that I had seen her father that night, was extremely suspicious. I
would ask her to accept my word of honour that I had no knowledge of who
killed her father, and to relieve me of the annoyance of the attentions
of this man Crewe. I think she would agree to that proposal. That is the
other way out, and from something which has happened this morning I am
inclined to think that it is the better and quicker course to pursue."
She was thinking so deeply that she did not reply. At length she became
conscious of a long silence.
"It is very good of you to ask my opinion--to consult with me at all. It
is you that have everything at stake. I would like to do my best, but I
think if you gave me time--Is there any great urgency? Two days at most
is all I want."
"I cannot give you two days," he replied, with a sombre smile. "You must
decide to-day--at once--otherwise it will be too late."
She looked at him with parted lips and alarm in her eyes.
"What do you mean?" she breathed. "What have you hidden? Is the danger
"I think so. For some days past my movements have been dogged by a boy in
Crewe's employ. Nearly a week ago I decided, after the worry and anxiety
of this--this unhappy affair, to go away for a short trip. I thought a
sea-voyage to America and back might do me good and fit me for my work
again." He sighed unconsciously, and went on: "Crewe has become
acquainted with my intended departure and has placed his own
interpretation on it. He assumes that I am seeking safety in flight--that
I have no intention of coming back to England. The result has been that
the boy Crewe had set to watch my movements has been replaced by two men
from Scotland Yard--one watching these chambers from the front, and the
other from the rear." He walked across to the window and glanced quickly
through the curtain. "Yes, they are still here."
She sprang from her seat and followed him to the window.
"Where are they?" she gasped. "Show them to me."
"There. Do not move the curtain or they will suspect we are watching
them. Look a little to the left, by the lamp-post. The other you can
catch a glimpse of if you look between those two trees."
"What does it mean? Why are they waiting?" she burst out. Her face had
gone very pale, and her big dark eyes glared affrightedly from the window
to her husband.
"Hush! I beg you not to lose your self-control; it is essential neither
of us should lose our heads," he said, warningly.
She regained command of herself with an effort, and whispered, rather
than spoke, with twitching lips;
"What does the presence of these men mean?"
"It means that Crewe has already communicated with Scotland Yard."
"And that you will be arrested for _his_ murder?" Her trembling lips
could hardly frame the words.
"I think so--it's almost certain. But apparently the warrant is not yet
issued, or those men would come here and arrest me. But they are watching
to prevent my escape--if I thought of escaping. We may yet have a few
hours to arrange something, but you must come to a prompt decision."
"Tell me what to do, and I will do it. Oh, let me help you if I can. What
is the best thing to do? To see Crewe?"
"No. I forbid you to see Crewe," he said harshly. "If we decide on that
course I will see him myself."
"And you may be arrested the moment you go out of these chambers," she
returned. "Oh, no, no; that is not a good plan--we have not the time. I
will go to Mabel Fewbanks at once, and beg her, for all our sakes, not to
allow this to go any further."
He shook his head.
"You must not sacrifice yourself," he said. "That would be foolish."
"I will not sacrifice myself. I would tell her just what you have told
me--that her father came from Scotland to discuss an urgent matter with
you, and that he was murdered after you left. I feel certain this man
Crewe is going to extremes without her knowledge or consent, and that she
will be the first to bury this awful thing when she learns that you have
been implicated. Is not this the best thing to do?"
"It is," he reluctantly admitted. "But I do not wish you to be mixed up
in it at all."
"I am not mixing myself up in it--I am too selfish for that. But I swear
to you if you do not let me do this I will confess everything. I know
Mabel Fewbanks, and I repeat, she is not aware of what this man Crewe has
done. She would not--will not, permit it. I shall go down to Dellmere at
once." Her face was pale, and her eyes glittered as she looked at her
husband, but she spoke with unnatural self-possession. With feverish
energy she pulled on a glove she had taken off when she entered, and
buttoned it. "I will--I shall--arrive in time. In two hours--in three at
most--you will hear from me."
She passed out into the outer office before her husband could reply, and
closed the door behind her. Mr. Mattingford dashed to open the outer door
of his room leading into the main staircase. He thought Mrs. Holymead
looked strange as she passed him and descended the stairs, and he rubbed
his hands gleefully. He came to the conclusion that she had come in for a
cheque for L50 as an advance of her dress allowance, and that her request
had been refused.
She left her husband's chambers with her brain in a whirl, hardly knowing
where she was going until she found herself held up with a stream of
pedestrians at the island intersection of Waterloo Bridge and the Strand.
She thought the policeman who was regulating the traffic eyed her
curiously, and, more with the object of evading his eye than with any set
plan in her mind, she stepped into an empty taxi-cab which was waiting to
cross the street.
"Where to, ma'am?" asked the driver.
"Where to?" she repeated vacantly. With an effort of will she
concentrated her thoughts on the task in front of her, and hastily added,
"To Victoria, as quick as you can. No--wait--driver, first take me to the
The taxi-cab took her to a bookstall in the Strand, where she got out and
purchased a railway guide. As the taxi-cab proceeded towards Victoria she
hastily turned the pages to the trains for Dellmere. She had never been
to Dellmere, but she had heard from Miss Fewbanks that her father's place
was reached from a station called Horleydene, on the main line to
Wennesden, and that though there were many through trains, comparatively
few stopped at Horleydene. But she was unused to time-tables, and found
it difficult to grasp the information she required. There was such a
bewildering diversity of letters at the head of the lists of trains for
that line, and so many reference notes on different pages to be looked up
before it was possible to ascertain with any degree of certainty what
trains stopped at Horleydene on week-days, that, in her shaken frame of
mind, with the necessity for hurry haunting her, she became confused,
and failed to comprehend the perplexing figures. She signalled to the
driver to stop, and handed him the book.
"I cannot understand this time-table," she said, in an agitated way.
"Would you find out for me, please, when the next train leaves Victoria
The driver consulted the time-table with a businesslike air.
"The next train leaves at 12.40," he informed her. "After that there
isn't another one stopping there till 4.5."
Mrs. Holymead consulted her watch anxiously.
"It's almost half-past twelve now. Can you catch the 12.40?" she asked.
The driver looked dubious.
"I'll try, ma'am, but it'll take some doing. It depends whether I get a
clear run at Trafalgar Square."
"Try, try!" she cried. "Catch it, and I will double your fare."
She caught the train with a few seconds to spare. She had a first-class
compartment to herself, and as the train rushed out of London, and the
grimy environs of the metropolis gradually gave place to green fields,
she endeavoured to compose her mind and collect her thoughts for her
coming interview with the daughter of the murdered man. But her mind was
in such a distraught condition that she could think of no plan but to
sacrifice herself in order to save her husband. With cold hands pressed
against her hot forehead, she muttered again and again, as if offering up
an invocation that gained force by repetition:
"I must save him. I will tell her everything."
The train ran into Horleydene shortly after two, and Mrs. Holymead was
the only passenger who alighted at the lonely little wayside station
which stood in a small wood in a solitude as profound as though it had
been in the American prairie, instead of the heart of an English
county. The only sign of life was a dilapidated vehicle with an
elderly man in charge, which stood outside the station yard all day
waiting for chance visitors.
"Cab, ma'am?" exclaimed the driver of this vehicle in an ingratiating
voice, touching his hat.
"No, thank you," replied Mrs. Holymead. "I'll walk."
Miss Fewbanks was astonished when the parlourmaid announced the arrival
of Mrs. Holymead. She hurried to the drawing-room to meet her visitor,
but the warm greeting she offered her was checked by her astonishment at
the ill and worn appearance of her beautiful friend.
"Please, don't," said the visitor, as she held up a warning hand to keep
away a sisterly kiss. She looked at Miss Fewbanks with the air of a woman
nerving herself for a desperate task, and said quickly: "I have dreadful
things to tell you. You can never think of me again except with
The impression Miss Fewbanks received was that her visitor had taken
leave of her senses. This impression was deepened by Mrs. Holymead's
"I want you to save my husband."
There was an awkward pause while Mrs. Holymead waited for a reply and
Miss Fewbanks wondered what was the best thing to do.
"Say you will save him!" exclaimed Mrs. Holymead. "Do what you like with
me, but save him."
"Don't you think, dear, you would be better if you had a rest and a
little sleep?" said Miss Fewbanks. "I am sure you could sleep if you
tried. Come upstairs and I'll make you so comfortable."
"You think I am mad," said the elder woman. "Would to God that I was."
"Come, dear," said Miss Fewbanks coaxingly. She turned to the door and
prepared to lead the way upstairs.
"Sleep!" exclaimed Mrs. Holymead bitterly. "I have not had a peaceful
sleep since your father was killed. I have been haunted day and night. I
"I know it was a dreadful shock to you, but you must not take it so much
to heart. You must see your doctor and do what he tells you. Mr. Holymead
should send you away."
At the mention of her husband's name Mrs. Holymead came back to the
thought that had been foremost in her mind.
"Will you save him?" she exclaimed.
"You know I will do anything I can for him," answered the girl gently.
Her intention was to humour her visitor, for she was quite sure that Mr.
Holymead was in no danger.
"Will you stop Mr. Crewe?"
"Stop Mr. Crewe?" Miss Fewbanks repeated the words in a tone that showed
her interest had been awakened. "Stop him from what?"
"Stop him from arresting my husband."
"Do you mean to say that Mr. Crewe thinks Mr. Holymead had anything to do
with the murder of my father?"
"If I tell you everything will you stop him? Oh, Mabel, darling, for the
sake of the past--before I came on the scene to mar the lives of both of
them--will you save him? It is I--not he--who should pay the penalty of
this awful tragedy. Will you save him?"
"Tell me everything," said the girl firmly.
To the stricken wife there was a promise in the demand for light, and in
broken phrases she poured out her story of shame and sorrow. With a
feeling that everything was falling away from her the girl learnt from
her visitor's disconnected story that there had been a liaison between
her murdered father and her friend. Mr. Holymead had discovered it after
Sir Horace had gone to Scotland and husband and wife were away in the
country. He was at first distracted at finding that his lifelong friend
had seduced his wife, then he made her promise not to see or communicate
with Sir Horace until he made up his mind what course of action to take.
Three days later he caught an evening train to London and told her he
was not returning, but would write to her.
It crossed her mind that he had gone up to London to meet Sir Horace, and
in her distress at the thought of what might happen when they met she
consulted her cousin Gabrielle, who had always been in her confidence.
Gabrielle had offered to go to Riversbrook to see if Sir Horace had
returned from Scotland, or was expected back. Her train was delayed by an
accident, and when she arrived at Riversbrook it was after half-past ten.
She arrived a few minutes too late to prevent the tragedy. She found the
front door open and the electric light burning in the hall. She went up
the staircase and in the library she found Sir Horace, who was lying on
the floor at the point of death. She tried to lift him to a sitting
position, but with a convulsive gasp he died in her arms.
She laid him down and then looked hurriedly around the room with the
object of removing any evidence of how or why the crime had been
committed, her main thought being to save her friend from the shame of a
public scandal. She picked up a revolver which was lying on the floor
near Sir Horace, turned out the lights in the library and in the hall so
that the house was in darkness, and then closed the hall door after her
as she went out. But Mr. Crewe had discovered in some way that Mr.
Holymead had visited Sir Horace that night. Only a week ago Gabrielle had
gone to him and tried to put him off the track, but it was no use.
The wretched woman made a pathetic appeal for her husband's life. She
deplored the sinfulness which had resulted in the tragedy. She took on
herself the blame for it all. She had sent one man to his death, and her
husband stood in peril of a shameful death on the gallows. But it was in
the power of Mabel to save him. On her knees she pleaded for his life;
she pleaded to be saved from the horror of sending her husband to the
gallows. If Mabel's father could make his wishes known he too would
plead for the life of the friend he had betrayed.
The door opened and the parlourmaid entered. Miss Fewbanks stepped
quickly across the room so that she should not witness the distress of
Mrs. Holymead. The servant handed her a card and waited for instructions.
Miss Fewbanks looked at the card in an agony of indecision. Then she made
up her mind firmly.
"Show him into my study," she whispered to the girl.
She returned to her visitor, who was sitting with her face buried in
"Mr. Crewe has just motored down," she said. "I will save your husband
if I can."
She was conscious that the revelation that her father had been killed
by Mr. Holymead was a less shock than the revelation that her father
had dishonoured the great friendship of his life by seducing his
friend's wife. Her father had been dead three months, and her grief had
run its course. The shock caused by the discovery that he had been
murdered had passed away, and she had begun to accept his violent death
as part of her own experience of life. But the discovery that he had
betrayed his best friend, in a way that a pure-minded woman regards as
the most dishonourable way possible, was a fresh revelation to her of
The knowledge that her father had been a man of immoral habits was not
new to her. His predilection for fast women had long ago made it
impossible for her to live in the same house with him for more than a
week at a time. But that he had trampled in the mire the lifelong
friendship of an honourable man for the sake of an ignoble passion
revealed an unexpected depth of shame. That Mr. Holymead had killed him
seemed almost a natural result of the situation. It was not that she felt
that a just retribution had overtaken her father, but rather that she was
glad his shameful conduct had come to an end. As she thought of her dead
father--dead these three months--she gave a sigh of relief. The wretched
guilty woman, who had shared with him the shame of his ignoble intrigue,
had said that if her father could make his wishes known he would plead
for the life of the friend he had dishonoured. But it was not her
father's plea for the life of his friend that would have impressed her so
much as a plea to bury the whole unsavoury scandal from the light. She
had promised to save Mr. Holymead if she could, but that promise had
sprung less from the spirit of mercy than from the desire to save her
father's name from a scandal, which would hold him up to public obloquy.
She greeted Crewe with friendly warmth in spite of the feeling of
oppression caused by the consciousness of the situation in front of her.
He did not sit down again after greeting her, but stood with one hand
resting on an inlaid chess table, with wonderful carved red and white
Japanese chessmen ranged on each side, which he had been examining when
she entered the room.
"I came down to make my report to you because I think my work is
finished," he said.
"You have found out who killed my father?" she asked quietly.
Crewe had sufficient personal pride to feel a little hurt when he saw the
calm way in which she accepted the result of his investigations, instead
of congratulating him on his success in a difficult task.
"I think so," he said. "Before I tell you who it is you must prepare
yourself for a great shock."
"I know who it is" she said--"Mr. Holymead."
There was no pretence about his astonishment.
"How on earth did you find out?"
She smiled a little at such a revelation of his appreciation of his own
cleverness in having probed the mystery.
"I did not find it out," she said. "I had to be told."
"And who told you, Miss Fewbanks?" he asked. "Has he confessed to you?
How long have you known it?"
"I have known it only a few minutes," she said. "Will you tell me how you
got on the track and all you have done? I am greatly interested. You have
been wonderfully clever to find out. I should never have guessed Mr.
Holymead had anything to do with it--I should never have thought it
possible. When you have finished I will tell you how I came to know. The
story is extremely simple--and sordid."
The fact that the key of the mystery had been in her hands only a few
minutes was a solace to Crewe, as it detracted but little from the story
he had to tell of patient investigations extending over weeks.
He pieced together the story of the tragedy as he had unravelled it.
Hill, he said, had conceived the idea of blackmailing her father after he
had discovered the existence of some letters in a secret drawer of Sir
Horace's desk. The fact that Sir Horace had kept these letters instead of
destroying them as he had destroyed other letters of a somewhat similar
kind showed that he was very much infatuated with the lady who wrote
them. That lady, as doubtless Miss Fewbanks had guessed, was Mrs.
Holymead--a lady with whom Sir Horace had been on very friendly terms
before she married Mr. Holymead.
"What became of the letters?" asked Miss Fewbanks. "Have you got them?"
"I think they are destroyed," he said. "Mrs. Holymead removed them from
the secret drawer the day after the discovery of the murder. She
removed them when the police had charge of the house, and almost from
under the eyes of Inspector Chippenfield. It was a daring plan and well
Miss Fewbanks heaved a sigh of relief on learning the fate of the
letters. It had been her intention to endeavour to obtain them if they
were in Crewe's possession, and destroy them.
Crewe explained that Hill was afraid to take the letters and then boldly
blackmail Sir Horace. The butler conceived the plan of getting Birchill
to break into the house. He did not take Birchill into his confidence
with regard to the blackmailing scheme, but in order to induce Sir Horace
to believe the burglar had stolen the letters he told Birchill to force
open the desk, as he would probably find money or papers of value there.
But in order to prevent Birchill getting the letters if he should happen
to stumble across the secret drawer, Hill removed them the day before.
His plan was to go to Riversbrook in the morning after the burglary, and
after leaving open the secret drawer which had contained the letters, to
report the burglary to the police. When Sir Horace came home unexpectedly
Hill had just removed the letters and had them in his possession. Hill
was greatly perturbed at his master's unexpected return, and had to get
an opportunity to replace the letters in the secret drawer, but Sir
Horace told him to go home, as he was not wanted till the morning. Hill
went to that girl's flat in Westminster, and there saw Birchill. He told
Birchill that Sir Horace had returned unexpectedly, but he urged Birchill
to carry out the burglary as arranged, and assured him that as Sir Horace
was a heavy sleeper there would be no risk if he waited until Sir Horace
went to bed. Hill's position was that if the burglary was postponed Sir
Horace might make the discovery that the letters had been stolen from the
secret drawer. In that case Sir Horace would immediately suspect Hill,
who, he knew, was an ex-convict. It was just possible that Sir Horace,
before going to bed, would discover that the letters had been
stolen--that is, if he went to bed before Birchill got into the
place--but Hill had to take that risk.
It was the fact that the burglary Hill had arranged with Birchill took
place on the night Sir Horace was killed that had given rise to the false
clues which had misled the police. Crewe, as he himself modestly put it,
was so fortunate as to get on the right track from the start His
suspicions were directed to Holymead when he saw the latter carrying away
a walking-stick from Riversbrook after his visit of condolence to Miss
Fewbanks. Crewe explained what tactics he had adopted to obtain a brief
inspection of the stick in order to ascertain for his own satisfaction if
it had belonged to Holymead. His suspicions against Holymead were
strengthened when he discovered that the latter, when driving to his
hotel on the night of the tragedy, had thrown away a glove which was the
fellow of the one found by the police in Sir Horace's library.
"The next point to settle was whether Holymead had had anything to do
with your father's sudden return from Scotland," said Crewe, continuing
his story. "If that proved to be the case, and if evidence could be
obtained on which to justify the conclusion that these two old friends
had had a deadly quarrel, the circumstantial evidence against Holymead as
the man who killed your father was very strong. I may say that before I
went to Scotland I came across evidence of the estrangement of Holymead
and his wife. Do you remember when you and Mrs. Holymead were leaving the
court after the inquest that Mr. Holymead came up and spoke to you? He
shook hands with you and was on the point of shaking hands with his wife
as if she were a lady he had met casually. Then, on the night of the
murder, the taxi-cab driver at Hyde Park Corner drove him to his house at
Princes Gate, but was ordered to drive back and take him to Verney's
Hotel. All this was interesting to me--doubly interesting in the light of
the fact that Sir Horace had known Mrs. Holymead before her second
marriage, and had paid her every attention.
"I went to Scotland and made inquiries at Craigleith Hall, where Sir
Horace had been shooting. My object was to endeavour to obtain a clue to
the reason for his sudden journey to London. The local police had made
inquiries on this point on behalf of Scotland Yard, and had been unable
to obtain any clue. No telegram had been received by Sir Horace, and he
had sent none. Of course he had received some letters. He had told none
of the other members of the shooting party the object of his departure
for London, but he had declared his intention of being back with them in
less than a week. It had occurred to me when the crime was discovered
that his missing pocket-book might not have been stolen by his murderer,
but might have been lost in Scotland. I made inquiries in that direction
and eventually found that the man who had attended to Sir Horace on the
moors had the pocket-book. His story was that Sir Horace had lost it the
day before his departure for London. He had taken off his coat owing to
the heat on the moor, and the pocket-book had dropped out. He
ascertained his loss before he left for London, and told this man
Sanders where he thought the pocket-book had dropped out. Sanders was to
look for it, and if he found it was to keep it until Sir Horace came
back. He did find it, and after learning of your father's death was
tempted to keep it, as it contained four five-pound notes. Sanders is an
ignorant man, and can scarcely read. He professed to know nothing of the
pocket-book when I questioned him, but I became suspicious of him, and
laid a trap which he fell into. Then he handed me the pocket-book, which
he had hidden on the moor, under a stone. In the pocket-book I found a
letter from Holymead asking your father to come to London at once as
there were to be two new appointments to the Court of Appeal, and that
Sir Horace had an excellent chance of obtaining one if he came to London
and used his influence with the Chancellor and the Chief Justice, who
were still in town. The writer indicated that he was doing all that was
possible in Sir Horace's interests, and that he would meet Sir Horace at
Riversbrook at 9.30 on Wednesday night and let him know the exact
position. There is nothing suspicious in such a letter, but my inquiries
concerning new appointments to the Court of Appeal suggest that the
statements in the letter are false.
"Now let us consider the conduct of Holymead and his wife since the night
of the murder. His course of action has not been that of a man anxious to
assist the police in the discovery of the murderer of his old friend. We
have first of all his secrecy regarding his visit to Riversbrook that
night; the fact of the visit being established by the stick, and the
glove he left behind. We have the estrangement of husband and wife. We
have Mrs. Holymead's visit to Riversbrook on the morning that the first
details of the crime appeared in the newspapers. Ostensibly she came to
see you and pay her condolences, but as she knew that you had been away
in the country she ought to have telephoned to learn if you had come up
to London. Instead of telephoning, she went to Riversbrook direct, and
when she found you were not there she was admitted to the presence of my
old friend, Inspector Chippenfield. He is an excellent police officer,
but I do not think he is a match for a clever woman. And Mrs. Holymead is
such a fine-looking woman that I feel sure Chippenfield was so impressed
by her appearance that he forgot he was a police officer and remembered
only that he was a man. She managed to get him out of the room long
enough to enable her to open the secret drawer in Sir Horace's desk and
remove the letters. No doubt Sir Horace had shown her where he kept them,
as their neat little hiding place was an indication of the value he
placed upon them. She was under the impression that no one knew about the
letters, and her object in removing them was to prevent the police
stumbling across them and so getting on the track of her husband. But as
I have already told you, Hill knew about the letters, and on the night of
the murder had them in his possession. On the night after the murder,
while Inspector Chippenfield was making investigations at Riversbrook,
Hill had managed to obtain the opportunity to put the letters back. He
naturally thought that if the police discovered some of Sir Horace's
private papers in his possession they would conclude that he had had
something to do with the murder.
"The next point of any consequence is Holymead's defence of Birchill
and the deliberate way in which he blackened your father's name while
cross-examining Hill. If we regard Holymead's conduct solely from the
standpoint of a barrister doing his best for his client his defence of
Birchill is not so remarkable. But we have to remember that your
father and Holymead had been life-long friends. His acceptance of the
brief for the defence was in itself remarkable. The fee, as I took the
trouble to find out, was not large; indeed, for a man of Holymead's
commanding eminence at the bar it might be called a small one, and he
should have returned the brief because the fee was inadequate. We have,
therefore, two things to consider--his defence of the man charged with
the murder of your father, and his readiness to do the work without
regard to the monetary side of it. Much was said at the time in some of
the papers about a barrister being a servant of the court and compelled
by the etiquette of the bar to place his services at the disposal of
anyone who needs them and is prepared to pay for them. A great deal of
nonsense has been said and written on that subject. A barrister can
return a brief because for private reasons he does not wish to have
anything to do with the case. It was Holymead's duty to do his best to
get Birchill off whether he believed his client was guilty or innocent.
Could Holymead have done his best for Birchill if he had believed that
Birchill was the murderer of his lifelong friend? Would he have trusted
himself to do his best? No, Holymead knew that Birchill was innocent;
he knew who the guilty man was, and, knowing that, knowing that his
action in defending the man charged with the murder of an old friend
would weigh with the jury, he took up the case because he felt there
was a moral obligation on him to get Birchill off. His conduct of the
defence, during which he attacked the moral character of your father,
was remarkable, coming from him--the friend of the dead man. As the
action of defending counsel it was perfectly legitimate. It gave rise
to some discussion in purely legal circles--whether Holymead did right
or wrong in violating a long friendship in order to get his man off.
The academic point is whether he ought to have violated his personal
feelings for an old friend, or violated his duty to his client by
doing something less than his best for him.
"Apart from the circumstantial and inferential evidence against Holymead,
there is the fact that his wife knows that he committed the crime. Her
acts point to that; her conduct throughout springs from the desire to
shield him. Even the removal of the letters from the secret drawer was
prompted more by the desire to save him than to save herself. Their
discovery would not have been very serious for her, but it would have put
the police on her husband's track. If I remember rightly, she asked you
to keep her in touch with all the developments of the investigations of
the police and myself. You told me that she was greatly interested in the
fact that I did not believe Birchill was guilty, and particularly anxious
to know if I suspected anyone. At Birchill's trial she did me the honour
of watching me very closely. I was watching both her and her husband.
When she discovered through her womanly intuition that I suspected her
husband; that I was accumulating evidence against him; she sent round her
friend, Mademoiselle Chiron, with some interesting information for me. An
extremely clever young woman that--like all her countrywomen she is
wonderfully sharp and quick, with a natural aptitude for intrigue. Of
course, the information she gave me was intended to mislead me--intended
to show me that Mr. Holymead had nothing to do with the crime. But some
of it was extremely interesting when it dealt with actual facts, and some
of the facts were quite new to me. For instance, I had not previously