Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Hunt Ball Mystery by Magnay, William

Part 2 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

"A woman in it, no doubt. One can quite sympathize with the brother's
incredulity as to the suicide theory, though hardly with his manner of
showing it. The dead man was not that sort. The idea is simply

Gifford made no response, and for a while they walked on in silence.
Presently he asked, "How did you get on to-day--I mean with Colonel

"Oh, everything went off beautifully," Kelson answered, his tone
brightening with the change of subject. "The old boy gave me his consent
and his blessing. I've scarcely been able as yet to appreciate my luck,
with this affair at Wynford Place intervening."

"No," Gifford responded mechanically. "It is calculated to drive
everything else out of one's head."

"It is suggested," said Kelson, "that we should be married quite soon.
The Tredworths are going abroad next month and don't propose to hurry
back. So it means that if the wedding does not take place before they
leave it must be postponed till probably the autumn."

"I should think the latter would be the best plan."

Kelson turned quickly to his companion. "To postpone it?" he exclaimed in
a rather hurt tone. "Why on earth should we? We have nothing to wait for,
I mean money or anything of that sort."

"No; but settlements take a long time to draw up."

"Not if the lawyers are told to hurry up with them."

"Then you will have to find a house, and get furniture. And there is the
trousseau," Gifford urged.

"Oh," Kelson returned with a show of impatience, "all these details can
be got over in two or three weeks if we set ourselves to do it. I don't
believe in waiting once the thing is settled."

"I don't believe in rushing matters," Gifford rejoined. "Least of all

Kelson stopped dead. "Why, Hugh," he said in an expostulatory tone, "what
is the matter with you? You are most confoundedly unsympathetic. Any one
would think you did not want me to marry the girl."

"I certainly don't want you to be in too great a hurry," Gifford
returned calmly.

"But why? Why?"

"I feel it is a mistake."

Kelson laughed. "You are not going to suggest we don't know our
own minds."

"Hardly. But why not wait till the family returns? Of course it is no
business of mine."

"No," Kelson replied with a laugh of annoyance; "and you can't be
expected to enter into my feelings on the subject. But I think you might
be a little less grudging of your sympathy."

"You quite mistake me, Harry," Gifford replied warmly. "It is only in
your own interest that I counsel you not to be in a hurry."

"But why? What, in heaven's name, do you mean?" Kelson demanded, vaguely

"It is a mistake to rush things, that is all," was the
unsatisfactory answer.

"If I saw the slightest chance of danger I would not hesitate to take
your advice," Kelson said. "But I don't. Nor do you. Since when have you
become so cautious?"

Gifford forced a laugh. "It is coming on with age."

Kelson clapped him on the shoulder. "Don't encourage it, my dear Hugh. It
will spoil all the enjoyment in your life, and in other people's too, if
you force the note. I promise you I won't hurry on the wedding more than
is absolutely necessary."

"Very well," Gifford responded, and the subject dropped.

They had finished dinner, at which the absorbing subject of the tragedy
at Wynford Place was the main topic of their conversation, when the
landlord came in to say that Mr. Gervase Henshaw, who was staying at the
hotel, would like to see them if they were disengaged.

Kelson looked across at his friend. "Shall we see him?"

Gifford nodded. "We had better hear what he has to say. We don't want him
worrying Morriston."

"Ask Mr. Henshaw up," Kelson said to the landlord, and in a minute he was
ushered in.

With a quick, decisive movement Henshaw took the seat to which Kelson
invited him.

"I trust you won't think me intrusive, gentlemen," he began in his sharp
mode of speaking, "but you will understand I am very much upset and
horribly perplexed by the terrible fate which has overtaken my poor
brother. I am setting myself to search for a clue, if ever so slight, to
the mystery, the double mystery, I may say, and it occurred to me that
perhaps a talk with you gentlemen who are, so far, the last known
persons who spoke with him, might possibly give me a hint."

"I'm afraid there is very little we can tell you," Gifford replied. "But
we are at your service."

"Thank you." It seemed the first civil word of acknowledgment they had
heard him utter. "First of all," he proceeded, falling back to his dry,
lawyer-like tone, "I have been to see the medical man who was summoned to
look at the body, Dr. Page. He tells me that, so far as his cursory
examination went, the position of the wound hardly suggests that it was

"Is he sure of it?" Kelson asked.

"He won't be positive till he has made the autopsy," Henshaw answered.
"He merely suggests that it was a very awkward and altogether unlikely
place for a man to wound himself. Anyhow that guarded opinion is enough
to strengthen my inclination to scout the idea of suicide."

"Then," said Kelson, "we are faced by the difficulty of the locked door."

Henshaw made a gesture of indifference.

"That at first sight presents a problem, I admit," he said, "but not so
complete as to look absolutely insoluble. I have, as you may be aware,
made a study of criminology, and in my researches, which have included
criminality, have come across incidents which to the smartest detective
brains were at the outset quite as baffling. Clement's tragic end is a
great blow to me, and I am not going quietly to accept the easy, obvious
conclusion of suicide. I knew and appreciated my brother better than
that. I mean to probe this business to the bottom."

"You will be justified," Kelson murmured.

"I think so--by the result," was the quick rejoinder.

Gifford spoke. "What do you think was the real object in your brother
coming down here?"

Henshaw looked at his questioner keenly before he answered. "It is my
opinion, my conviction, there was a lady in the case. May I ask what
prompted you to ask the question?"

Gifford shrugged. "Some idea of the sort was in my own mind," he replied,
with a reserve which could scarcely be satisfying to Henshaw.

"Perhaps," he said keenly, "you have also an idea who the lady was."

Gifford shook his head. "Not at all," he returned promptly.

"Then why should the idea have suggested itself to you," came the
cross-examining rejoinder.

"Your brother was not a member of the Hunt, and it seemed to

Henshaw took him up quickly. "That he should come to the ball? No doubt.
I will be perfectly frank with you, as I expect you to be with me. It is
perhaps not quite seemly to discuss my brother's failings at this time,
but we want to get at the truth about his death. He had, I fear, rather
irregular methods in his treatment of women. One can hardly blame him,
poor fellow. His was a fascinating personality, at any rate so far as
women were concerned. They ran after him, and one can scarcely blame him
if he acquired a derogatory opinion of them. After all, he held them no
cheaper than they made themselves in his eyes. That note I looked at
which came from his pocket was written by him to make an assignation."

"Was it addressed?" Gifford put the question quickly, almost eagerly.

"No," Henshaw answered. "I wish it had been. In that case we should be
near the end of the mystery."

Kelson was staring at the glib speaker with astounded eyes. "Do you
suppose a woman killed your brother?" he almost gasped.

"Such things have been known," Henshaw returned with the flicker of an
enigmatical smile. "But no, I don't suggest that--yet. At present I have
got no farther than the conviction that Clement did not kill himself. I
mean to find out for whom that note of his was intended."

"Not an easy task," Gifford remarked, with his eye furtively on Kelson,
who had become strangely interested.

"It may or may not be easy," Henshaw returned. "But it is to be done. The
woman who, intentionally or otherwise, drew my brother down here has to
be found, and I mean to find her."

Kelson was now staring almost stupidly at Gifford.

"Neither of you gentlemen saw my brother dancing?" Henshaw demanded
sharply. "I saw nothing of him at all in the ballroom," Gifford answered,
"as I did not arrive till about midnight. Did you see him, Harry?" he
asked, as though with the design of rousing Kelson from his rather
suspicious attitude.

Kelson seemed to pull himself together by an effort.

"No--yes; I caught a glimpse of him, I think, with a girl in green."

"You know who she was?" Henshaw demanded.

"I've not the vaguest idea," Kelson answered mechanically. "I did not see
her face."

Henshaw rose. Perhaps from Kelson's manner he gathered that the men were
tired, and had had enough of him. He shook hands, with a word of thanks
and an apology. "We may know more after the inquest to-morrow afternoon,"
he remarked, "although I doubt it. You will let me consult you again, if
necessary? Thanks. Goodnight."

As the door closed on Henshaw, Kelson turned quickly to Gifford with a
scared face. "Hugh!" he cried hoarsely, in a voice subdued by fear. "The
blood stain on my cuff that night. How did it come there? Was it--?"

Gifford forced a smile. "My dear Harry, how absurd! What could that have
had to do with it?"

Kelson gave an uncomfortable laugh. "It is a grim coincidence," he said.



At the inquest which was held next day nothing was elicited which could
offer any solution of the mystery of Clement Henshaw's death. It seemed
to be pretty generally accepted to be a case of suicide, although that
view was opposed in evidence, not only by Gervase Henshaw on general
grounds, but also by the medical witnesses, who had grave doubts whether
the mortal wound had been self-inflicted.

"Just possible but decidedly improbable, both from the position of the
wound and the direction of the blow," was Dr. Page's opinion.

It was a downward, oblique stab in the throat which had pierced the
larynx and penetrated the jugular vein. The deceased would have been
unable to cry out and would probably have quickly become insensible from
asphyxiation. Unless he was left-handed the stab could scarcely have been

The police authorities committed themselves to no definite theory at that
stage, and at their request the inquiry was adjourned for a month.

Morriston, leaving the hall with Kelson and Gifford, asked them to walk
back with him to Wynford Place.

"Let us throw off this depressing business as well as we can," he said.
"Of course I have had to break it to my sister and the others; they would
have seen it to-day in print. Thank goodness the papers don't look beyond
the suicide idea, so they are not making much fuss about it. If they took
a more sensational view, as I fear they will now after the medical
evidence, it would be a terrible nuisance."

"I hope the ladies were not much upset when you told them,"
Gifford remarked.

"Well, they already had an idea that something was seriously wrong, and
that took the edge off the announcement. Of course they were horribly
shocked at the idea of the tragedy so close at hand, though I softened
the details as well as I could."

"If the suicide idea is to be abandoned," said Kelson, speaking with an
unusually gloomy, preoccupied air, "the police have an uncommonly
difficult and delicate task before them."

"Yes, indeed," Morriston responded. "And I should say that abnormally
keen person, the brother, will keep them up to collar."

"He means to," Kelson replied rather grimly. "We had him for an hour
last night cross-examining us, naturally to no purpose; we could tell
him nothing."

"He won't leave a stone unturned," Morriston said. "He proposes to return
here after the funeral in town."

"And I should say," observed Kelson, "if the mystery is to be solved he
is the man to solve it. What do you think, Hugh?"

Gifford seemed to rouse himself by an effort from an absorbing train of
thought. "Oh, yes," he answered. "Except that it is possible to be a
little too clever and so overlook the obvious."

"If," said Morriston, obsessed by the subject, "the case is not one of
suicide it must be one of murder. Where is Mr. Gervase Henshaw, or any
one else, going to look for the criminal?"

"Not among your guests, let's hope," Kelson said with a touch of

"For one thing," Morriston replied, "they, or a good part of them, were
not exactly my guests. I can't tell who may have got a ticket and been
present. There was a great crowd. We may have easily rubbed shoulders
with the murderer, if murder it was."

"Yes, so we may," said Kelson alertly, though with something of a

"Not a pleasant idea," continued Morriston. "But I don't see, if a bad
character did get in and mix with the company, why he should have done a
fellow guest to death, nor how he contrived to leave his victim and get
out of the room after he had locked the door."

"If the two men had a row over a girl, or anything else," Kelson said,
"there is still that difficulty to be surmounted."

Gifford spoke. "From what one could judge of the dead man's personality
and character it is not a far-fetched supposition that he must have
had enemies."

"Down here?" Morriston objected incredulously. "Where he was a stranger?
Unless some ingenious person, bent on vengeance, tracked him here and
then lured him into the tower. Then how did the determined pursuer
contrive to leave him and the key inside the locked room?"

At Wynford Place, where they had now arrived, they found several callers.
The subject of the tragedy was naturally uppermost in everybody's mind,
and the principal topic of conversation. Morriston and his companions
were eagerly questioned as to what had come out at the inquest, but,
except that the medical evidence was rather sceptical of the suicide
theory, were unable to relieve the curiosity.

"I think, my dear Dick," remarked Lord Painswick, who was there, "we can
furnish more evidence in this room than you seem to have got hold of at
the inquest." And he looked round the company with a knowing smile.

"What do you mean, Painswick?" Morriston asked eagerly. "Has anything
more come to light?"

"Only we have had a lady here, Miss Elyot, who says she danced with the
poor fellow."

"I only just took a turn with him, for the waltz was nearly over when he
asked me," said the girl thus alluded to.

"Did you wear a green dress?" Kelson asked eagerly.

"Yes. Why?"

"Only that it must have been you I saw with him."

"And can you throw any light on the mystery?" Morriston asked.

The girl shook her head. "None at all, I'm afraid."

"Did Mr. Henshaw's manner or state of mind strike you as being peculiar?"

"Not in the least," Miss Elyot answered with decision. "During the short
time we were together our talk was quite commonplace, mostly of the
changes in the county."

"Did he, Henshaw, know it formerly?" Morriston asked with some surprise.

"Oh, yes," Miss Elyot answered, "he used to stay with some people over
at Lamberton; you remember the Peltons, Muriel?" she turned to Miss
Tredworth. "Of course you do."

"Oh, yes," Muriel Tredworth answered. "I remember them quite well,
although we didn't know much about them."

"Don't you recollect," Miss Elyot continued, "meeting this very Mr.
Henshaw at a big garden party they gave. I know you played tennis
with him."

"Did I?" Miss Tredworth replied. "What a memory you have, Gladys. You
can't expect me to recollect every one of the scores of men I must have
played tennis with."

As she spoke she caught Gifford's eye; he was watching her keenly, more
closely perhaps than manners or tact warranted. "And do you find the
place much changed since your time, Mr. Gifford?" she inquired, as though
to relieve the awkwardness.

"Not as much as I could have imagined," he answered, through what seemed
a fit of preoccupation.

"Mr. Gifford has not had much opportunity yet of seeing how far it has
altered, with this tragic affair to upset everything," Morriston put in.

"No, it has been a most unlucky time for him to revisit Wynford," Miss
Morriston added in her cold tone. "I hope Mr. Gifford is not going to
hurry away from the neighbourhood in consequence."

"Not if I can prevent it," Kelson replied, with a laugh.

"I hope," Morriston said hospitably, "that whether his stay be short or
long Mr. Gifford will consider himself quite at home here. And I need not
say, my dear Kelson, that invitation includes you."

Both men thanked him. "We have already done a little trespassing in your
park," Kelson observed with a laugh.

"Please don't call it trespassing again," Miss Morriston commanded. "Let
me give you another cup of tea, Muriel."

"The old house looks most picturesque by moon-light," observed Lord Pains
wick. "I was quite fascinated by it the other night."

"There is a full moon now," Gifford said. "We will stroll round and
admire when we leave."

"Don't stroll over the edge of the haha as I very nearly did one night,"
Morriston said laughingly. "When it lies in the shadow of the house it is
a regular trap."

"Moonlight has its dangers as well as its beauties," Painswick murmured

"The friendly cloak of night is apt to trip one up," Gifford added.

As he spoke the words there came a startling little cry from Miss
Tredworth accompanied by the crash and clatter of falling crockery.
Gifford's remark had been made with his eyes fixed on his friend's
_fiancee_, to whom at that moment Miss Morriston was handing the refilled
cup of tea. A hand of each girl was upon the saucer as the words were
uttered; by whose fault it was let fall it was impossible to say. But the
slight cry of dismay had come from Miss Tredworth.

"Oh, I am so sorry," she exclaimed, colouring with vexation. "How stupid
and clumsy of me. Your lovely china."

"It was my fault," Edith Morriston protested, her clear-cut face showing
no trace of annoyance. "I thought you had hold of the cup, and I let it
go too soon. Ring the bell, will you, Dick."

"Please don't distress yourself, Miss Tredworth," Mr. Morriston entreated
her as he crossed to the bell. "I'm sure it was not your fault."

"Was that a quotation, Mr. Gifford?" Miss Morriston asked, clearly with
the object of dismissing the unfortunate episode.

"My remark about the cloak of night?" he replied. "Perhaps. I seem to
have heard something like it somewhere."

And as he spoke he glanced curiously at Miss Tredworth.



Next evening the two friends at the _Golden Lion_ were engaged to dine
with the Morristons. They had been out with the hounds all day, and,
beyond the natural gossip of the country-side, had heard nothing fresh
concerning the tragedy. Gervase Henshaw had gone up to town for his
brother's funeral, and Host Dipper had no fresh development to report. In
answer to a question from Gifford, he said he expected Mr. Henshaw back
on the morrow, or at latest the day after.

"It is altogether a most mysterious affair," he observed sagely, being
free, now that his late guest's perplexing disappearance was accounted
for, even in that tragic fashion, to regard the business and to moralize
over it without much personal feeling in the matter. "I fancy Mr. Gervase
Henshaw means to work the police up to getting to the bottom of it. For
I don't fancy that he is by any means satisfied that his unfortunate
brother took his own life. And I must say," he added in a pronouncement
evidently the fruit of careful deliberation, "I don't know how it strikes
you, gentlemen, but from what I saw of the deceased it is hard to imagine
him as making away with himself."

"Yes," Gifford replied. "But before any other conclusion can be fairly
arrived at the police will have to account for the locked door."

Evidently Mr. Dipper's lucubrations had not, so far, reached a
satisfactory explanation of that puzzle; he could only wag his head and
respond generally, "Ah, yes. That will be a hard nut for them to crack,
I'm thinking."

The dinner at Wynford Place was made as cheerful as, with the gloom of a
tragedy over the house, could be possible.

"We had the police with a couple of detectives here all this morning,"
Morriston said, "and a great upset it has been. After having made the
most minute scrutiny of the room in the tower they had every one of the
servants in one by one and put them through a most searching examination.
But, I imagine, without result. No one in the house, and I have
questioned most of them casually myself, seems to be able to throw the
smallest light on the affair."

"Have the police arrived at any theory?" Gifford inquired.

"Apparently they have come to no definite conclusion," Morriston
answered. "They seemed to have an idea, though--to account for the
problem of the locked door--that thieves might have got into the house
with the object of making a haul in the bedrooms while every one's
attention was engaged down below, have secreted themselves in the tower,
been surprised by Henshaw, and, to save themselves, have taken the only
effectual means of silencing him, poor fellow."

"Then how, with the door locked on the inside did they make their
escape?" Miss Morriston asked.

"That can so far be only a matter of conjecture," her brother answered,
with a shrug. "Of course they might have provided themselves with some
sort of ladder, but there are no signs of it. And the height of the
window in that top room is decidedly against the theory."

"We hear at the _Lion_" Kelson remarked, "that the brother, Gervase
Henshaw, is returning to-morrow or next day."

Morriston did not receive the news with any appearance of satisfaction.
"I hope he won't come fussing about here," he said, with a touch of
protest. "Making every allowance for the sudden shock under which he was
labouring I thought his attitude the other day most objectionable,
didn't you?"

"I did most certainly," Gifford answered promptly.

"His manners struck me as deplorable," Kelson agreed.

"Yes," their host continued. "It never seemed to occur to the fellow that
some little sympathy was due also to us. But he seemed rather to suggest
that the tragedy was our fault. In ordinary circumstances I should have
dealt pretty shortly with him. But it was not worth while."

"No," Kelson observed, "All the same, you need not allow a continuation
of his behaviour."

"I don't intend to," Morriston replied with decision. "I hope the man
won't want to come ferreting in the place; that may well be left to the
police; but if he does I can't very well refuse him leave. He must be
free of the house, or at any rate of the tower."

"Or," put in Kelson, "he'll have a grievance against you, and accuse you
of trying to burk the mystery."

"Is he a very objectionable person?" Miss Morriston asked. "We passed one
another in the hall as he left the house and I received what seemed a
rather unmannerly stare."

Her brother laughed. "My dear Edith, the type of man you would simply
loathe. Abnormally, unpleasantly sharp and suspicious; with a cleverness
which takes no account of tact or politeness, he questions you as though
you were in the witness-box and he a criminal barrister trying to trap
you. I don't know whether he behaves more civilly to ladies, but from our
experience of the man I should recommend you to keep out of his way."

"I shall," his sister replied.

"I should say no respecter of persons--or anything else," Kelson remarked
with a laugh.

"Let us hope he won't take it into his head to worry us," Miss Morriston
said with quiet indifference.

"I am sorry to see," Morriston observed later on when the ladies had
left them, "that the papers are beginning to take a sensational, view of
the affair."

"Yes," Kelson responded; "we noticed that. It will be a nuisance for

"The trouble has already begun," his host continued somewhat ruefully.
"We have had two or three reporters here to-day worrying the servants
with all sorts of absurd questions. It is, of course, all to be accounted
for by the medical evidence. That has put them on the scent of what they
will no doubt call a sensational development. So long as it looked like
nothing beyond suicide there was not so much likelihood of public
interest in the case."

"The police--" Gifford began.

"The police," Morriston took up the word, "are fairly nonplussed. It
seems the farther they get the less obvious does the suicide theory
become. Well, we shall see."

"In the meantime I'm afraid you and Miss Morriston are in for a heap of
undeserved annoyance," Kelson observed sympathetically.

"Yes," Morriston agreed gloomily; "I am sorry for Edith; she is plucky,
and feels it, I expect, far more than she cares to show."

When the men went into the drawing-room Muriel Tredworth made a sign to
Kelson; he joined her and, sitting down some distance apart from the
rest, they carried on in low tones what seemed to be a serious

"I want to tell you of something extraordinary which has happened to me,
Hugh." Gifford just caught the words as the girl led the way out of
earshot. He had noticed that she had been rather preoccupied during
dinner, an unusual mood for so lively a girl, and now he could not help
watching the pair in the distance, she talking with an earnest, troubled
expression, and he listening to her story in grave wonderment, now and
again interposing a few words. Once they looked at Gifford, and he was
certain they were speaking of him.

With the gloom of a tragedy over the house the little party could not be
very festive; avoid it as they set themselves to do, the brooding subject
could not be ignored, general conversation flagged, and it soon became
time for the visitors to say good-night.

As they walked back to the town together Gifford noticed that his
companion was unusually silent, and he tactfully forbore to break in upon
his preoccupation. At length Kelson spoke.

"Muriel has just been telling me of an unpleasant and unaccountable
thing which happened to her this evening. A discovery of a rather
alarming character. I said I would take your advice about it, Hugh, and
she agreed."

"Does it concern the affair at Wynford?"

"It may," Kelson answered in a perplexed tone; "and yet I don't well see
how it can. Anyhow it is uncommonly mysterious. We won't talk about it
here," he added gravely, "but wait till we get in."

"Miss Morriston looked well to-night," Gifford remarked, falling in with
his friend's wish to postpone the more engrossing subject.

"Yes," Kelson agreed casually. "She takes this ghastly business quietly
enough. But that is her way."

"I have been wondering," Gifford said, "how much she cares for
Painswick. He is manifestly quite smitten, but I doubt her being nearly
as keen on him."

Kelson laughed. "If you ask me I don't think she cares a bit for him. And
one can scarcely be surprised. He is not a bad fellow, but rather a prig,
and Edith Morriston is not exactly the sort of girl to suffer that type
of man gladly. But her brother is all for the match; from Painswick's
point of view she is just the wife for him, money and a statuesque style
of beauty; altogether I shall be surprised if it does not come off."

"They are not engaged, then?"

"I think not. They say he proposes regularly once a week. But she
holds him off."

Arrived at the _Golden Lion_ they went straight up to Kelson's room,
where with more curiosity than he quite cared to show, Gifford settled
himself to hear what the other had to tell him.

"I dare say you noticed how worried Muriel looked all dinner-time,"
Kelson began. "I thought that what had happened in the house had got on
her nerves; but it was something worse than that; I mean touching her
more nearly."

"Tell me," Gifford said quietly.

"You know," Kelson proceeded, "they are going to this dance at Hasborough
to-morrow. Well, it appears that when her maid was overhauling her
ball-dress, the same she wore here the other night, she found blood
stains on it."

"That," Gifford remarked coolly, "may satisfactorily account for the
marks on your cuff."

Kelson stared in surprise at the other's coolness.

"I dare say it does," he exclaimed with a touch of impatience. "I had
hardly connected the two. But what do you think of this? How in the name
of all that's mysterious can it be accounted for?"

"Hardly by the idea that Miss Tredworth had anything to do with the late
tragedy," was the quiet answer.

"Good heavens, man, I should hope not," Kelson cried vehemently. "That
is too monstrously absurd."

"What is Miss Tredworth's idea?"

"She has none. She is completely mystified. And inclined to be horribly

"Naturally," Gifford commented in the same even tone.

His manner seemed to irritate Kelson. "I wish, my dear Hugh, I could take
it half as coolly as you do," he exclaimed resentfully.

"I don't know what you want me to do or say, Harry," Gifford
expostulated. "The whole affair is so utterly mysterious that I can't
pretend even to hazard an explanation."

"In the meantime Muriel and I are in the most appalling position. Why,
man, she may at any moment be arrested on suspicion if this discovery
leaks out, as it is sure to do."

"You can't try to hush it up; that would be a fatal mistake," Gifford
said thoughtfully, "and would immediately arouse suspicion."

"Naturally I am not going to be such a fool as to advise that," Kelson
returned. "The discovery will be the subject of the servants' talk till
it gets all over the place and into the papers. No, what I have
determined to do, unless you see any good reason for the contrary, is to
go first thing in the morning to the police and tell them. What do you
say?" he added sharply, as Gifford was silent.

"I should not do anything in a hurry," Gifford answered.

"But surely," Kelson remonstrated, "the sooner we take the line of
putting ourselves in the right the better."

Again Gifford paused before replying.

"Can Miss Tredworth give no explanation, has she no idea as to how the
stains came on her dress?"

"None whatever," was the emphatic answer.

"You are absolutely sure of that?"

Kelson jumped up from his chair. "Hugh, what are you driving at?" he
cried, his eyes full of vague suspicion. "I--I don't understand the cool
way you are taking this. There is something behind it. Tell me. I will
know; I have a right."

Evidently the man was almost beside himself with the fear of something he
could not comprehend. Gifford rose and laid a hand sympathetically on
his shoulder. "I am sorry to seem so brutal, Harry," he said gently, "but
this discovery does not surprise me."

Kelson recoiled as from a blow, staring at his friend with a
horror-struck face. "Why, good heavens, what do you mean?" he gasped.

"Only," Gifford answered calmly, "that when you introduced me to
Miss Tredworth at the dance I noticed the stains on the white
flowers she wore."

"You did?" Kelson was staring stupidly at Gifford. "And you knew they
were bloodstains?"

"I could not tell that," was the answer. "But now it is pretty certain
they were."

For some seconds neither man spoke. Then with an effort Kelson seemed to
nerve himself to put another question.

"Hugh," he said, his eyes pitiful with fear, "you--you don't think Muriel
Tredworth had anything to do with Henshaw's death?"

Gifford turned away, and leaned on the mantelpiece.

"I don't know what to think," he said gloomily.



Next morning directly after breakfast Kelson started for Wynford Place.
As the result of deliberating fully upon the anxious problem before them,
he and Gifford had come to the conclusion that it might be a grave
mistake to try to keep secret the maid's discovery. It would doubtless by
this time have become a subject of gossip and speculation in the
household and consequently would very soon become public. Accordingly it
was arranged that Kelson should arrive first and have a private interview
with Muriel Tredworth with a view to ascertaining finally and for certain
whether she could in any way account for the stain on her dress. Gifford
was to follow half an hour later, when they would have a conference with
the Morristons and afterwards, with their approval, go into the town and
see the chief constable on the subject. If Gifford was doubtful as to
the expediency of the plan, and it was with a considerable amount of
hesitation that he brought himself to agree to it, he seemed to have no
good reason to urge against it. And, after all, it appeared, in the
circumstances, the only politic course to follow. Secrecy was practically
now out of the question, and any attempt in that direction would
inevitably fail and would in all probability produce results unpleasant
to contemplate.

When Gifford arrived at Wynford Place he found Kelson pacing the drive
and impatiently expecting him.

"Come along," he exclaimed, "the Morristons are waiting for us."

"Miss Tredworth--?"

"Is utterly unable to account for the state of her dress," Kelson
declared promptly. "She is positive that if she noticed the man she never
spoke a word to him, nor danced with him. She says that if she ever met
him before, as according to that girl the other day was the case, she had
quite forgotten the circumstance. So the sooner we communicate this
discovery to the police the better. As it is, they say the servants are
talking of it; so the present position is quite intolerable."

In the library they found Morriston and his sister with the Tredworths.
The situation was discussed and there seemed no doubt in the mind of
any one of the party that the only thing to be done was to inform the
police at once.

"The whole affair is so mysterious," Morriston said, "that all sorts of
absurd rumours will be afloat if we don't take a strong, straightforward
line at once. Don't you agree, Edith?"

"Certainly I do," Miss Morriston answered with decision. "I don't
suppose," she added with a smile, "that any one would be mad enough to
suggest, my dear Muriel, that you were in any way implicated in the
affair; but the world is full of stupid and ill-natured people and one
can't be too careful to put oneself in the right. Don't you agree,
Captain Kelson?"

"Most decidedly," Kelson replied, with a troubled face. Charlie Tredworth
was also quite emphatically of opinion that his sister should make no
secret of what had been found.

"The inspector, who is here," Morriston said, "tells me that Major
Freeman, our chief constable, intends to come here this morning. I'll say
we want to see him directly he arrives."

It was not long before the chief constable was shown into the library.
Morriston lost no time in telling him of the mysterious circumstance
which had come to light. Major Freeman, a keen soldierly man, with the
stern expression and uncompromising manner naturally acquired by those
whose business is to deal with crime, received the information with grave
perplexity. He turned a searching look upon Muriel Tredworth.

"I understand you are quite unable to account for the stains on your
dress, Miss Tredworth?" he asked in a tone of courteous insistence.

"Quite," she answered. "I did not speak to Mr. Henshaw or even notice him
in the ball-room."

"You had--pardon these questions; I am putting this in your own
interest--you had at no time any acquaintance with Mr. Clement Henshaw?"

"I can hardly say that I had," the girl replied; "although a friend has
told me that I played tennis with him at a garden-party some years ago."

"A circumstance which you do not recollect?" The question was put
politely, even sympathetically, yet with a certain uncomfortable

"No," Muriel answered. "Even when I was reminded of it, my recollection
was of the vaguest description. So far as that goes I could neither admit
nor deny it with any certainty."

"And naturally you never, to your knowledge, saw or communicated with the
deceased man since?"

Muriel flushed. "No; absolutely no," she returned with a touch of
resentment at the suggestion.

Major Freeman forbore to distress the girl by any further questioning.
"Thank you," he said simply. "I am sorry to have even appeared to suggest
such a thing, but you and your friends will appreciate that it was my
duty to ask these questions. This looks at the moment," he continued,
addressing himself now to the party in general, "like proving a very
mysterious, and I will add, peculiarly delicate affair. The medical
evidence is inclined to scout the idea of suicide, and my men who have
the case in hand are coming round to the conclusion that the theory is

"The locked door--" Morriston suggested.

"The locked door," said Major Freeman, "presents a difficulty, but still
one not absolutely incapable of solution. We know," he added, with a
faint smile, "from the way the door was eventually opened, that a key can
be turned from the other side, given the right instrument to effect it."

"Which only a burglar or a locksmith would be likely to have," Kelson

Major Freeman nodded. "Quite so. I am not for a moment suggesting that as
an explanation of the mystery. It goes naturally much deeper than that.
Mr. Gervase Henshaw is to look into his brother's affairs and papers
while in town, and I am hoping that on his return here he may be able to
give some information which will afford a clue on which we can work. In
the meantime my men are not relaxing their efforts in this rather
baffling case."

"In which," Morriston suggested, "this new piece of evidence does not
afford any useful clue."

Major Freeman smiled, a little awkwardly, it seemed. "If anything, it
would appear to complicate the problem still further," he replied
guardedly. "Still, I am very glad to have it, and thank you for informing
me so promptly. Miss Tredworth may rest assured that should we find it
necessary to go still farther into this piece of evidence, it will be
done with as little annoyance as possible."

Some of the chief constable's habitual sternness of manner seemed to
have returned to him as he now rose to take leave. "I will just confer
with my men who are on the premises before I leave," he said to
Morriston in a quiet authoritative tone. "They may have something to
report." With that he bowed to the company and quitted the room, leaving
behind him a rather uncomfortable feeling which every one seemed to make
an effort to throw off.

But there was clearly nothing to be done except to let the police
researches take their course and to wait for developments. The party
at Wynford was going over to the dance at Stowgrave that evening and
it was arranged that they would call for Kelson and Gifford and all go
on together.

Accordingly at the appointed time the carriage stopped at the _Golden
Lion_; Kelson joining Miss Tredworth and her brother, while Gifford drove
with Morriston.

In answer to his companion's inquiry Morriston said that he had heard of
nothing fresh in the Henshaw case.

"I saw Major Freeman for a moment as he was leaving," he said, "and
gathered that the police were still at a loss for any satisfactory
explanation as to how the crime was committed."

"He made no suggestion as to the stains on Miss Tredworth's dress?"
Gifford asked.

"No. Although I fancy he is a good deal exercised by that piece of
evidence. Mentioned, as delicately as possible, that it might be
necessary to have the stains analyzed, but did not wish the girl to be
alarmed or worried about it. I can't understand," Morriston added in a
puzzled tone, "how on earth she could possibly have had anything to
do with it."

"No," Gifford assented thoughtfully; "it is inconceivable, unless by the
supposition that she may by some means have come in contact with some one
who was concerned in the crime."

"You mean if a man had a stain on his coat and danced with her--"

"Something of the sort. If there were blood on his lapel or sleeve."

"H'm! It would be easy to ascertain for certain whom she danced with,"
Morriston said reflectively. "But that again is almost unthinkable."

"And," Gifford added, "it seems to go no way towards elucidating the
problem of how Henshaw came to his death. As a matter of fact I should
say Miss Tredworth danced and sat out nearly the whole of the evening
with Kelson. You know he proposed at the dance?"

"Yes, I understood that. Poor Kelson; I am sorry for him, and for them
both. It is an ominous beginning of their betrothal."

"It is horrible," Gifford observed sympathetically. "Although one tries
to think there is really nothing in it for them to be concerned about."

The dance was an enjoyable affair, and, at any rate for the time,
dispersed the depression which had hung over the party from Wynford.
Gifford had engaged Miss Morriston for two waltzes, and after a turn or
two in the second his partner said she felt tired and suggested they
should sit out the rest of it. Accordingly they strolled off to an
adjoining room and made themselves comfortable in a retired corner,
Gifford, nothing loath to have a quiet chat with the handsome girl whose
self-possessed manner with its suggestion of underlying strength of
feeling was beginning to fascinate and intrigue his imagination.

"It is rather pleasant," she said a little wearily, "to get away from
the atmosphere of mystery and police investigation we have been living
in at home."

"Which I hope and believe will very soon be over," Gifford responded

Miss Morriston glanced at him curiously. "You believe that?" she returned
almost sharply. "How can you think so? It seems to me that with little
apparent likelihood of clearing up the mystery, the affair may drag on
for weeks."

Gifford answered with a reassuring smile. "Hardly that. If the police
can make nothing of it, and they seem to be quite nonplussed, they will
have to give up their investigations and fall back on their first theory
of suicide."

Leaning back and watching his companion's face in profile as she sat
forward, he could see that his suggestion was by no means convincing.

"I wish I could take your view, Mr. Gifford," she returned, with the
suggestion of a bitter smile. "I dare say if the authorities were left to
themselves they might give up. But you forget a very potent factor in the
tiresome business, the brother, Mr. Gervase Henshaw; he will keep them up
to the work of investigation, will he not?"

"Up to a certain point, and one can scarcely blame him. But even then,
the police are not likely to continue working on his theories when they
lead to no result."

"No?" Miss Morriston replied in an unconvinced tone. "But he is--" she
turned to him. "Tell me your candid opinion of this Mr. Gervase Henshaw.
Is he very--"

"Objectionable?" Gifford supplied as she hesitated. "Unpleasantly sharp
and energetic, I should say. Although it is, perhaps, hardly fair to
judge a man labouring under the stress of a brother's tragic death."

"He is determined to get to the explanation of the mystery?" The tinge of
excitement she had exhibited in her former question had now passed away:
she now spoke in her habitual cold, even tone.

"He says so. Naturally he will do all he can to that end. Of course it
would be a satisfaction to know for certain how the tragedy came about:
not that it matters much otherwise. But unfortunately he rather poses as
an expert in criminology, and that will make for pertinacity."

For a moment Miss Morriston kept silent. "It is very unfortunate," she
murmured at length. "It will worry poor old Dick horribly. I think he is
already beginning to wish he had never seen Wynford."

Gifford leaned forward. "Oh, but, my dear Miss Morriston," he said
earnestly, "you and your brother must really not take the matter so
seriously. It is all very unpleasant, one must admit, but, after all,
except that it happened in your house, I don't see that it affects you."

"You think not," Miss Morriston responded mechanically.

"Indeed I think so." As he spoke Gifford could not help a slight feeling
of wonder that this girl, from whom he would have expected an attitude
rather of indifference, should allow herself to be so greatly worried by
the affair. For that she was far more troubled than she allowed to appear
he was certain. It is her pride, he told himself. A high-bred girl like
this would naturally hate the very idea of a sensational scandal under
her roof, and all its unpleasant, rather sordid accompaniments. "I wish,"
he added with a touch of fervour, "that I could persuade you to dismiss
any fear of annoyance from your mind."

"I wish you could," she responded dully, with an attempt at a smile.
Suddenly she turned to him with more animation in her manner than she had
hitherto shown. "Mr. Gifford, you--I--" she hesitated as though at a loss
how to put what she wished to say; "I have no right to ask you, who are a
comparative stranger, to help us in this--this worry, but if you cared
to be of assistance I am sure you could."

"Of course, of course I will," he answered with eager gladness. "Only let
me know what you wish and you may command the very utmost I can do. And
please don't think of me as a stranger."

Edith Morriston smiled, and to Gifford it was the most fascinating smile
he had ever seen. "Only let me know how I can serve you," he said, his
pulses tingling.

"I am thinking of my brother," she replied, in a tone so friendly that it
neutralized the rather damping effect of the words. "He is worrying over
this business more than one who does not know him well would think. I had
an idea, Mr. Gifford, that you might help us by, in a way, standing
between us, so far as might be possible, and this Mr. Gervase Henshaw. He
stays at your hotel, does he not?"

"Yes; he is expected there to-morrow morning, if not to-night."

"You may perhaps," the girl proceeded, "be able--I don't know how, and I
have no right to ask it--"

"Please, Miss Morriston!" Gifford pleaded.

"To minimize any annoyance we are likely to suffer through his--his
uncomfortable zeal," she resumed hesitatingly. "If not that, you may, if
he is friendly with you, have an opportunity of getting to hear something
of his plans and ideas, and warning me if he is likely to worry us at
Wynford. We don't want the tragedy kept alive indefinitely; it would be
intolerable. I am sure you understand how I feel. That is all."

"You may rely on me to the utmost," Gifford assured her fervently, in
answer to the question in her eyes.

"Thank you," she said, as she rose. "I felt sure I might ask you this
favour and trust you."

She made a slight movement of putting out her hand. The gesture was
coldly made; it might, indeed, have been checked, and gone for nothing.
But Gifford, keenly on the alert for a sign of regard, was quick to take
the hand and press it impulsively.

"You may trust me, Miss Morriston," he murmured.

"Thank you," she responded simply, but, he was glad to notice, with a
touch of relief.

She lightly took his arm and they went back to the ball-room.



Next day Gervase Henshaw made his expected reappearance in Branchester.
He left his luggage at the _Golden Lion_ and then went off to the
police-station where he had a long interview with the chief constable.
Mindful of his promise to Edith Morriston, Hugh Gifford kept about the
town with the object of coming across Henshaw and getting to know, if
possible, something of his intentions. The attraction he had, even from
their first introduction, felt towards Miss Morriston had become quickly
intensified by their strangely confidential talk on the previous
evening. So far she was to him something of a puzzle, but a puzzle of
the most fascinating kind. It was, perhaps, strangely unaccountable that
she should have chosen to invoke his help who was little more than a
casual acquaintance; still, he argued as he reviewed the situation, she
had probably been drawn to him as the one man on the spot who was
likely to be of use to them. Her brother, a good, sensible fellow of
some character, was nevertheless an ordinary country gentleman, given up
to sport of all kinds and naturally quite unversed in the subtleties of
life and character which can be studied only by those who live in the
more intellectual atmosphere of cities. The same judgment would apply to
his friend Kelson, a chivalrous sportsman, who would unselfishly do
anything in his power to be of help, but whose ability and penetration
by no means matched his willingness. And probably these men were types
of the bulk of the Morristons' friends and acquaintances, at any rate of
those who were immediately available. Consequently, Gifford concluded,
it had been to himself she had turned in this trouble, influenced no
doubt by the idea that a Londoner with legal training and experience of
the world in its many aspects would be the best man she could enlist to
help her. That her confidence had been drawn by any particular personal
liking he never for one moment admitted; that unfortunately was so far
all on one side, whatever hopes the future might hold out to him.
Anyhow he blessed his luck that an accident had so quickly broken the
ice and established a state of confidential relationship between them.
As to there being an adequate reason for alarm Gifford was not inclined
to question, since he quite realized that this man Henshaw might easily
constitute himself a grave annoyance to the Morristons. A clever girl
like Edith Morriston, more sensitive than to a casual observer would
appear, had naturally recognized this danger and was anxious to have the
man, with his, perhaps, none too scrupulous methods, held in check; and
to this service Gifford was only too happy to devote himself, glad
beyond measure that the opportunity had been given him by the girl who
had filled his thoughts.

It was not until evening that he came across Henshaw, it being to his
mind essential not to appear anxious or to seek out the criminologist
with the obvious view of getting information as to his plans.

"So you are back again, Mr. Henshaw," he said with a careless nod of
greeting as they encountered in the hall of the hotel. "I hear the
police have not yet arrived at any satisfactory conclusion."

Henshaw drew back his lips in a slight smile. To Gifford the expression
was an ugly one, and he wondered what it portended.

"There is a likelihood of our not being at a loss much longer," Henshaw
replied, speaking through his teeth with a certain grim satisfaction.

"What, you have made a discovery?" Gifford exclaimed.

Henshaw's face hardened. "I am not yet at liberty to say what I have
found," he returned in an uncompromising tone. "But I think you may
take it from me as absolutely certain that my brother did not take his
own life."

With pursed lips Gifford nodded acceptance of the statement. "That makes
the affair look serious, not to say sensational," he responded. "I
suppose one must not ask you whether you have a clue to the perpetrator."

"No, I can hardly say that yet," Henshaw answered with a rather cunning
look. "You, as one of our profession, Mr. Gifford, will understand that
and the unwisdom of premature statements."

"Certainly I do," Gifford agreed promptly. "And am quite content to
restrain my curiosity till I get information from the papers."

Henshaw laughed intriguingly. "There are certain things that don't find
their way into the Press," he said meaningly. "The real story in this
case may turn out to be one of them."

Eager as he was, Gifford resolved to show no further curiosity. "You know
best," he rejoined almost casually. "But I hope for the Morristons' sake
the mystery will be soon satisfactorily cleared up."

There was a peculiar glitter in Henshaw's eyes as he replied, "No doubt
they are anxious."

"Naturally. They are getting rather worried by all this police fuss."

"Naturally." Henshaw repeated Gifford's word with a curious emphasis. "It
is unfortunate for them," he added. "But all the same it is imperative
that the manner of my brother's death should be thoroughly investigated."

He nodded, and as unwilling to discuss the matter further, opened a
newspaper and turned away.

About noon next day Gifford went with Kelson to Wynford Place. They had
seen nothing more of Henshaw who, it seemed, was rather inclined to hold
away from them, possibly with a view to avoiding an opportunity of
discussing the affair, or because he was occupied in following up some
clue he had, or thought he had, got hold of. This was naturally a
disappointment to Gifford, who was anxious, on Miss Morriston's behalf,
to keep himself posted as to Henshaw's intentions.

"Of course," said Kelson, "the fellow will have heard of the stains found
on Muriel's dress, and will set himself to make the most of that
discovery. I only hope he won't take to worrying her. She is quite enough
upset about it without that."

"Doubtless that is why he is keeping away from us," Gifford observed. "He
probably has heard of your engagement."

"And has the decency to see that he cannot very well discuss the matter
with us," Kelson added.

On their arrival at Wynford Place Morriston told them that Gervase
Henshaw was there with a detective in the room of the tragedy. "There is
a decided improvement in his manner to-day," he said with a laugh. "He
has been quite considerate and apologetic; so much so that I think I
shall have to ask him to stay to luncheon; it seems rather churlish in
the circumstances not to do so when the man is actually in the house on
what should be to him a very sad business. But you fellows must stay too,
to take off some of the strain."

They accepted; Gifford not sorry, for more reasons than one, to stay.

He presently took an opportunity of joining Edith Morriston in the

"I have been keeping a look-out for Mr. Henshaw," he said, as they
strolled off down a secluded walk, "but so far have had a chance of
speaking to him only once, when I ran across him in the hotel."

"Yes?" she responded, with a scarcely concealed curiosity to hear what
had passed.

"He has evidently got hold of some clue, or at least thinks he has,"
Gifford proceeded. "But what it is he did not tell me. In fact he rather
declined to discuss the affair. I fancy he had had a long consultation
with the police authorities."

"And he would tell you nothing?"

"Nothing. I rather expected he might have come, as before, to discuss the
case with us, but he has made a point of keeping away. I hear, however,
from your brother that he seems far less objectionable this time."

Somewhat to Gifford's surprise, she gave a rather grudging assent. "Yes,
I suppose he is. I happened to see him on his arrival, and he certainly
was polite enough, but it is possible to be even objectionably polite."

Gifford glanced at her curiously, wondering what had taken place to call
forth the remark. "I know that," he said. "I do hope the man has not
annoyed you. From what your brother told us--"

"Oh, no," she interrupted, "I can't say he has annoyed me--from his
point of view." She laughed. "The man tried to be particularly
agreeable, I think."

"And succeeded in being the reverse," Gifford added. "I can quite
understand. Still, it might be worse."

"Oh, yes," she agreed in a tone which did nothing to abate his curiosity.

The luncheon bell rang out and they turned.

"I haven't thanked you for looking after our interests, Mr. Gifford," the
girl said.

"I have unfortunately been able to do nothing," he replied deprecatingly.

"But you have tried," she rejoined graciously, "and it is not your fault
if you have not succeeded. It is a comfort to think that we have a friend
at hand ready to help us if need be, and I am most grateful."

The unusual feeling in her tone thrilled him.

"I should love to do something worthy of your gratitude," he responded,
in a subdued tone.

"You take a lower view of your service than I do," she rejoined as they
reached the house, and no more could be said.

At luncheon the improvement which their host had mentioned in Henshaw's
attitude was strikingly apparent. His dogmatic self-assertiveness which
had before been found so irritating was laid aside; his manner was
subdued, his tone was sympathetic as he apologized for all the annoyance
to which his host and hostess were being put. Gifford, watching him
alertly, wondered at the change, and more particularly at its cause,
which set him speculating. What did it portend? It seemed as though the
complete alteration in the man's attitude and manner might indicate that
he had got the solution of the mystery, and no longer had that problem to
worry him. Certainly there was little to find fault with in him to-day.

One thing, however, Gifford did not like, and that was Henshaw's rather
obvious admiration for Edith Morriston. When they took their places at
table, she had motioned to Gifford to sit beside her, and from that
position it gradually forced itself upon his notice that Henshaw
scarcely took his eyes off his hostess, addressing most of his
conversation, and he was a fluent talker, to her. It was, of course,
scarcely to be wondered at that this handsome, capable girl should call
forth any man's admiration. Gifford himself was indeed beginning to fall
desperately in love with her, but this naturally made Henshaw's rather
obvious prepossession none the less disagreeable to him. This, then, he
reflected, was the explanation of what Miss Morriston had hinted at,
what she had described as his objectionable excess of politeness at
their meeting that morning. Happily, however, Gifford felt secure in his
position as her accredited ally and in her expressed dislike to the man
whom it seemed she had unwittingly fascinated. It was indeed unthinkable
that this splendid, high-bred girl could ever be responsive to the
advances of this unpleasantly sharp, rather underbred man, and he was a
little surprised that she could respond to his remarks quite so
genially, with more graciousness indeed than even her position as
hostess called forth.

He could not quite reconcile it with the way she had spoken of him
previously; but then he told himself that he was making too much of the
business, and saw what was mere politeness through the magnifying glasses
of jealousy. And so, secure in his position, he proceeded to view
Henshaw's attempts to ingratiate himself with an amused equanimity.



During the next day or two Gifford saw next to nothing of Gervase
Henshaw. They had parted amicably enough after luncheon at Wynford Place;
indeed, the change in Henshaw's demeanour had been something of a puzzle
to the two friends, although Kelson did not seem much exercised by it.
"The fellow has evidently come to the conclusion that in dealing with
people like the Morristons an offensive brow-beating manner does not
pay," he remarked casually. Gifford, however, had an idea that the reason
for the change lay somewhat deeper than that. He wondered whether in the
absence of any other apparent cause, Edith Morriston's attractiveness had
had anything to do with it. It was not a pleasant idea; still, if it
saved her annoyance that would be something gained, he thought; and that
it should have any farther result was out of the question.

He had not had that day an opportunity of any private talk with Miss
Morriston, for she had driven out after luncheon to pay a call. But a
certain suggestion of warmth in her leave-taking had assured him that she
still looked for his help and that the conditions were not changed.

What he had undertaken so eagerly was now, however, not easy of
accomplishment. For reasons at which Gifford could only guess, Henshaw
seemed to be playing an elusive game; he kept out of sight, or, at any
rate, avoided all intercourse with the two friends, and on the rare
occasions when they met he was to Gifford tantalizingly uncommunicative.
That something was evidently behind his reticence made it all the more
unsatisfactory, since the result was that Gifford had no object in going
to Wynford Place, for he had nothing to tell. Indeed he learnt more from
the Morristons than from Henshaw. The police had concluded their
investigations on the premises, much to the relief of the household, who
were now left in peace.

"They don't seem to have come to any definite conclusion as to how the
tragedy happened," Morriston said. "They have an idea, as I gather from
Major Freeman, where to look for the murderer, if murder it was; which I
am rather inclined to doubt."

"Is Henshaw likely to give up the search?" Gifford asked.

Morriston looked puzzled. "I can't make out," he answered in a slightly
perplexed tone. "Even Freeman does not seem to know what his idea is. He
is still about here."

"Yes," Gifford replied. "I caught a glimpse of him this morning."

"Curious," Morriston remarked. "I came across the fellow yesterday
afternoon in the big plantation here. He was mooning about and didn't
seem best pleased to see me, but he was quite duly apologetic, said he
was puzzling over the tragedy and hoped I didn't mind his trespassing on
my property. Of course I told him he was free to come and go as he
liked, but it did strike me as peculiar that he should be thinking out
the case in that plantation which has no possible connexion with the
scene of the crime."

"Yes, it was curious," Gifford agreed reflectively. "Did he tell you
what he was doing about the business?"

Morriston shook his head. "No; he wasn't communicative; didn't seem to
have much to go upon. Of course one can't tell what the fellow has at the
back of his mind, but I was rather surprised that a Londoner of his
energy and smartness should spend his time loafing about down here with
what seems a poor chance of any result; and I nearly told him so."

"Perhaps it is as well you didn't," Gifford replied. "He is suspicious
enough to imagine you might have a motive in wanting to get rid of him."

Morriston laughed. "I have. He is not exactly the man one wants to have
prowling about the place; but it would not be polite to hint as much."

The episode, trivial as it seemed to Morriston, gave Gifford food for
disagreeable reflection. Why, indeed, should Henshaw be hanging about in
the grounds of Wynford, and give so unconvincing a reason? What troubled
Gifford most was that the man's reticent attitude precluded all hope of
his learning anything of his plans which could usefully be imparted to
Miss Morriston. Evidently there was nothing to be got out of him; the
rather open confidence he had displayed on his first appearance at
Branchester had quite disappeared, and if Gifford was to find out
anything worth reporting it would assuredly not be due to any
communication from the man himself.

He had accordingly to be content with the resolve to keep a wary eye on
Henshaw's movements.

He was now pretty free to do this. The Tredworths had ended their visit
at Wynford and had returned home, and naturally Kelson spent much of his
time over there, leaving Gifford to his own devices. It had, in view of
Gifford's commission from Miss Morriston, been arranged that he should
share Kelson's rooms at the _Golden Lion_, no longer as a guest, so that
both men were now independent of each other. The date of Kelson's wedding
seemed now likely to be put off for some months, as his friend had
suggested. The unpleasant episode of the stains on Muriel Tredworth's
dress had, although there was no indication of attaching serious
importance to them, nevertheless cast an uncomfortable shadow over the
happiness of her betrothal, and without giving any specific reason she
had declared for a postponement of the wedding, for which there was,
after all, a quite natural reason.

"Perhaps it is just as well," Kelson remarked to his friend. "Although it
is absolutely unthinkable that Muriel could have had anything to do with
the affair, yet one can quite appreciate her wish to wait till perhaps
something crops up to give us the explanation beyond all question. It is
rather a blow to me, and I hope if the mysterious Mr. Gervase Henshaw is
really on the track of the crime he will produce his solution without
much more delay. For a girl like Muriel to have even the faintest
suspicion hanging over her is simply hateful."

Meanwhile the mysterious Mr. Henshaw seemed in no hurry to make known his
theory, if he had one. Yet he still remained in Branchester, writing all
the morning and going out in the afternoon, usually with a handful of
letters for post. He always nodded affably to Gifford when they met, but
beyond a casual remark on the weather or the events of the day, showed no
disposition to chat.

But now while Gifford was in this unsatisfactory state of mind,
persevering yet baffled in what he had undertaken to do, a very singular
thing came to pass. He strolled out one afternoon, aimlessly, wondering
whether the negative result of his efforts justified his remaining in the
place, and yet loath to leave it, held there as he was by the attraction
of Edith Morriston. He felt he could be making but little way in her
favour seeing how he was failing in what he had undertaken to do for her,
and as he walked he discussed with himself whether it would not be
possible to hit on some more active plan of becoming acquainted with
Henshaw's knowledge and intentions. It was obviously a delicate business,
and after all, he thought, now that the man's undesirable presence had
practically ceased to be an annoyance to the Morristons there scarcely
seemed any need to bother about him. On the other hand, however, there
was a certain strong curiosity on his own part to know Henshaw's design
and what kept him in the town.

Gifford's walk took him over well remembered ground. He was strolling
along a path which led through the Wynford property, over a rustic bridge
across a stream he had often fished when a boy, and so on into a wood
which formed one of the home coverts. Making his way through this
familiar haunt of by-gone days he came to one of the long rides which
bisected the wood for some quarter of a mile. He turned into this and was
just looking out for a comfortable trunk where he might sit and smoke,
when he caught sight of two figures in the distance ahead walking slowly
just on the fringe of the ride. A man and a woman; their backs were
towards him, but his blood gave a leap at the sight as their identity
flashed upon him. It was, in its unexpectedness, an almost appalling
sight to him, as he realised that the two were none other than Henshaw
and Edith Morriston.



Next moment Gifford had instinctively sprung back into the covert of
the trees, almost dazed by what he had seen. Henshaw and Edith
Morriston! Could it be possible? His eyes must have deceived him. About
the girl there could be no doubt. Her tall, graceful figure was
unmistakable. But the man. Surely he had been mistaken there; it must
have been her brother, or perhaps a friend who had been lunching with
them. Had Gifford, his mind obsessed by Henshaw, jumped to a false
conclusion? He stooped, and creeping warily beyond the fringe of trees
looked after the pair.

They were now some thirty yards away. There could be no doubt that the
lady was Edith Morriston; and the man? Incredible as it might seem, he
was surely Gervase Henshaw. Gifford had seen him some two hours earlier,
and now recognized his grey suit and dark felt hat. He stayed, crouched
down, looking after the amazing pair, seeking a sign that the man was
not Henshaw. After all, it was, he told himself, more likely that he had
made a mistake than that Miss Morriston could be strolling in
confidential talk (for such seemed the case) with that fellow. It was too
astounding for belief.

They had stopped now, at the end of the ride; the man talking earnestly,
it seemed; Miss Morriston standing with head bent down and scoring the
grass with her walking-stick as though in doubt or consideration. Would
they turn and put the man's identity beyond uncertainty?

Gifford had not long to wait. Miss Morriston seemed to draw off and began
to walk back down the ride; her companion turned and promptly put himself
by her side. There was no doubt now as to who he was. Gervase Henshaw.

As one glance, now that the face was revealed, proved that, Gifford drew
back quickly and hurried deeper into the thick wood fearful lest his
footsteps should be heard. When he had gone a safe distance an intense
curiosity made him halt and turn. From his place of hiding he could just
see the light of the ride along which the couple would pass. He hated
the idea of spying upon Edith Morriston; after all, if she chose to walk
and talk with this man it was no business of his; but a supreme distrust
of Henshaw, unreasonable enough, perhaps, but none the less keen, made
him suspicious that the man might be playing some cowardly game, might
have drawn the girl to him by unfair means. Otherwise it was surely
inconceivable that she should have consented--condescended indeed--to
meet him in that clandestine manner.

As Gifford stayed, hesitating between a breach of good form and a
legitimate desire to learn whether the girl was being subjected to
unfair treatment, the sound of Henshaw's rather penetrating voice came
into earshot, and a few seconds later they passed across the line of
Gifford's sight.

He could catch but a glimpse of them through the intervening trees as
they went by slowly, but it was enough to tell him that Henshaw was
talking earnestly, arguing, it seemed, and on Edith Morriston's clear-cut
face was a look of trouble which was not good to see. It made Gifford
flush with anger to think that this lovely high-bred girl was being
worried, probably being made love to, by a man of that objectionable
type; for that she could be in that situation without coercion was not to
be believed. The reason for Henshaw's prolonged and rather puzzling stay
in the place was now accounted for. Moreover, to Gifford's bitter
reflection the whole business seemed clear enough. Henshaw had been
caught and fascinated by Edith Morriston's beauty, and being, as was
obvious, a man of energy and determination, was now in some subtle way
making use of the tragedy as a means of forcing his unwelcome attentions
on her. How otherwise could this astounding familiarity be arrived at?
Sick with disgust and indignation, Gifford turned away and retraced his
steps through the wood, dismissing, as likely to lead to a false
position, his first impulse to appear on the scene and stop, at any rate
for that day, Henshaw's designs. He felt that to act precipitately might
do less good than harm. He was, after all, on private ground there, and
had no right to intrude upon what in all likehood Miss Morriston wished
to be a secluded interview. What course he would take in the future was
another matter, and one which demanded instant and serious consideration.
The right line to adopt was indeed a perplexing problem.

Gifford recalled Morriston's story of having met Henshaw hanging about
more or less mysteriously in the plantation, and the annoyance he had
expressed at the encounter. The reason was plain enough now. Of course
the man was waiting either to waylay Edith Morriston or to meet her by
appointment. It was not a pleasant reflection; since the fact showed that
these clandestine meetings had probably been going on for some days past.
That Henshaw's object was more or less disreputable could not be doubted,
and to Gifford the amazing and troubling part of it was that Edith
Morriston, the very last woman he would have suspected of consenting to
such a course, who had professed an absolute dislike and repugnance to
Henshaw, and fear of his annoying presence, should be meeting him thus
willingly. Had he not seen them with his own eyes he would have scoffed
at the idea as something inconceivable.

Now what was he to do? For it was clear that, justified or not as he
might be thought in interfering in matters which did not concern him,
something must be done. The one obvious course which it seemed he ought
to take was to give Richard Morriston a hint of what was on foot, if not
a stronger and more explicit statement. For that Morriston could be privy
to the correspondence between his sister and Henshaw was quite unlikely.
If anything underhand was going on, if Henshaw was holding some threat
over the girl or pursuing her with unwelcome attentions her brother, as
her natural guardian, should be warned. That seemed to Gifford his
manifest duty. And yet he shrank from anything which might seem treachery
towards the girl. For, if she needed her brother's help and protection
against the man, it would be an easy matter for her to complain of his
persecution. Why, he wondered, had she not done so? It was all very
mysterious. He tried to imagine how the position had come about. On
Henshaw's side it was plain enough. Miss Morriston was not only a
strikingly handsome girl, but she was an heiress, possessing, according
to Kelson, a considerable fortune in her own right. There, clearly, was
Henshaw's motive; an incentive to an unscrupulous man to use every art,
fair and unfair, to force himself into her favour. But how had he
succeeded so quickly as to make this rather haughty, reserved girl
consent to meet in secret the man whom she professed to dislike and
avoid? That this unpleasantly sharp, pushing product of the less
dignified side of the law could have any personal attraction for one of
Edith Morriston's taste and discrimination was impossible. And yet there
the challenging fact remained that confidential relations had been
established between the disparate pair. Was it possible that this man
could have found out something connecting Edith Morriston with his
brother's death? The feasibility of the idea came as a shock to Gifford.
He stopped dead in his walk as the notion took form in his brain. The
possibilities of this most mysterious case were too complicated to be
grasped at once. And so with his mind in a whirl of vague conjecture and
apprehension he reached his hotel. And there a new development in the
mystery awaited him.



Kelson was in their sitting-room reading the _Field_. He started up as
Gifford entered, and flung away the paper. "My dear Hugh, I've been
waiting for you," he exclaimed.

"What's the matter? Anything wrong?" Gifford asked with a certain
apprehensive curiosity, as he noticed signs of suppressed excitement in
his friend's face.

"I don't know whether it's all wrong or whether it is all right," Kelson
replied. "Anyhow it has relieved my mind a good deal."

Controlling his own tendency to excitement, Gifford put aside his hat and
stick and sat down. "Let's hear it," he said quietly.

"Well, another unaccountable thing has, it appears, happened at Wynford
Place. A pendant, or whatever you call it, to that which has been
troubling Muriel. What do you think? As I was riding along the Loxford
road this afternoon I met Dick Morriston, and he told me that another
discovery of blood-stains has been made at Wynford. On a girl's
ball-dress too. And on whose do you suppose it is?"

"Not Miss Morriston's?" Gifford suggested breathlessly.

Kelson nodded, with a slight look of surprise at the correctness of the
guess. "Yes. Isn't it queer? Poor old Dick is in rather a way about it,
and I must say the whole business is decidedly mysterious."

Gifford was thinking keenly. "How did it come out? Who found the
marks?" he asked.

"Well," Kelson answered, "it appears that Edith Morriston's maid found
them some days ago, in fact the day after a similar discovery had been
made on Muriel's gown. She had brought the dress which her mistress had
worn at the Hunt Ball out of the wardrobe where it hung, in order to fold
it away. She appears to have spread it on the bed where the sun shone on
it and in the strong light she noticed on the dark material some
brownish discolorations. With what had happened about the other dress in
her mind, she examined the marks closely, and with such intentness as to
raise the curiosity of a housemaid who happened to come into the room. At
first Miss Morriston's maid tried to put her off, but the other girl, who
was sharp-eyed, had seen the marks, was not to be hood-winked, and the
mischief was done. The housemaid seems to be a foolish, babbling
creature, and the discovery soon became the talk of the servants' hall,
whence it spread till it reached the police."

"And what are they doing about it?" Gifford asked.

"Morriston says they've had a detective up at the house examining the
gown; being so utterly at sea over the affair the police are doubtless
glad to catch at anything. There seems little question that the stains
are blood, and that makes the whole business still more puzzling. Dick
Morriston is naturally very exercised about it, but I am very glad for
Muriel's sake that the second discovery has been made. In fact I have
been just waiting till I saw you before riding over to tell her of it,
and relieve her mind."

"Yes," Gifford responded mechanically, "of course it removes any serious
suspicion from Miss Tredworth."

"And," said Kelson eagerly, "it divides the odium, if there is any. In
fact, to my mind, it reduces the whole suspicion to an absurdity. For
that both girls could have been concerned in Henshaw's death is
absolutely incredible."

"Yes," Gifford agreed thoughtfully; "they could not both have had a
hand in it."

"Or either, for that matter," Kelson returned with a laugh. "Don't you
admit that the idea is in the highest degree ridiculous?" he added more
sharply as Gifford remained silent.

"It is--inconceivable," he admitted abstractedly.

Kelson, who had taken up his hat and crop and was turning to the door,
wheeled round quickly. "My dear Hugh," he exclaimed impatiently, "what is
the matter with you? What monstrous idea have you got in your head? You
owe it to me, and I really must ask you, to speak out plainly. It seems
almost an insult to Muriel to ask the question, but do you still persist
in the notion that she had, even in the most innocent way, anything to do
with Henshaw's death? Because I have her positive assurance that she
knows nothing of it, beyond what is common knowledge."

"I too am quite certain of that now," Gifford answered.

"Why do you say now?" Kelson demanded sourly. "Surely you never seriously
entertained such an abominable idea."

"You must admit, my dear Harry," Gifford replied calmly, "that with a man
stabbed to death in practically the next room, the bloodstains on Miss
Tredworth's dress were bound to give rise to conjecture. One would
suspect an archbishop in a similar position. But that is all over now. I
am as convinced as you can be that Miss Tredworth knew nothing of the

"On your honour that is your opinion?"

"On my honour."

"This new discovery has changed your opinion?"

"It has at least shown me how dangerous it may be to jump to

Kelson drew in a breath. "Yes, indeed. Poor Muriel has suffered from the
suspicion as well as from the horrible shock of the discovery. Still,
this new development, though it acquits her, does nothing towards solving
the mystery. I wonder whether Edith Morriston has any idea as to how her
dress got marked."

"I wonder," Gifford responded abstractedly.

"Well," said Kelson, "I'm off to carry the good news to Muriel. Don't
wait dinner for me if I'm not back by seven-thirty."

It was rather a relief to Gifford to be left alone that he might review
the situation without interruption. His first thought had been, could
this last discovery be accountable for what he had seen that afternoon?
Doubtless, after the information reached the police it would not be long
in being conveyed to Henshaw. And he was now making use of it to put the
screw on, using the hold he had gained over Edith Morriston to bend her
to his will. What was that? Marriage? To Gifford the thought was
monstrous; yet if it should be that Henshaw had information which put
the girl in his power, what could she do? That she had consented to meet
him secretly and listen to him went to show that she felt her position to
be weak. If so she might need help, an adviser, a man to stand between
her and her persecutor.

Thinking out the situation strenuously Gifford determined to seek a
private interview with Edith Morriston and offer himself as her
protector. At the worst she could but snub him, and the chances were, he
thought, greatly in favour of her accepting his offer of help. For from
her character he judged she was not a girl to make a stronger appeal to
him than the casual invoking of his assistance which had already taken
place. He had a very cogent reason for believing that he could be of
assistance, although there were certain elements in the mystery which
might, in his ignorance of them, upset his calculations.

Anyhow in consideration of the trust Edith Morriston had shown in him he
would seek an interview with her and chance what it might bring forth.



In pursuance of this plan Gifford proposed to his friend that they should
call at Wynford Place on the next day. Kelson had returned from the
Tredworths in high spirits, the news he carried there having lifted a
weight off his fiancee's mind and indeed restored the happiness of the
whole family. There was no cloud over the engagement now, and they could
all look forward to the marriage without a qualm.

If Kelson might, in ordinary circumstances, have wondered at the motive
for his friend's proposal, which was but thinly disguised, he was in too
happy a state of preoccupation to trouble his head about it.

"I'm your man," he responded promptly. "It so happens that Muriel is
lunching at Wynford to-morrow, so it will suit me well enough. I
shouldn't be surprised if we get a note in the morning asking us to
lunch there too."

The morning, however, brought no note of invitation; a failure
which rather surprised Kelson, although Gifford thought he could
account for it.

Nevertheless he determined to go and do his best to get a private talk
with Edith Morriston, however disinclined she might be to grant it. The
two men went up to Wynford early in the afternoon, but it was a long time
before Gifford got the opportunity he sought. Edith Morriston seemed as
friendly and gracious as ever, but whether by accident or design she gave
no chance for Gifford to get in a private word. With the knowledge of
what he had seen on the previous afternoon and of the change in her
attitude he was too shrewd to show any anxiety for a confidential talk.
He watched her closely when he could do so unobserved, but her face gave
no sign of trouble or embarrassment. He wondered if there could after all
be anything in his idea of persecution, and the more curious he became
the more determined he grew to find out. But somehow Miss Morriston
contrived that they should never be alone together; when Kelson and
Muriel Tredworth strolled off lover-like, Miss Morriston kept her brother
with her to make a third.

The three went round to the stables and inspected the hunters, then
through the shrubbery to admire a wonderful bed of snowdrops. As they
stood there looking over the undulating park, and Gifford, curbing his
impatience, was talking of certain changes which had taken place since
his early days there, the butler was seen hurrying towards them.

"Callers, I suppose," Morriston observed with a half-yawn. "What is
it, Stent?"

"Could I speak to you, sir?" the man said, stopping short a little
distance away.

Morriston went forward to him, and after they had spoken together he
turned round, and with an "Excuse me for a few minutes," went off towards
the house with the butler.

So at last the opportunity had come. Gifford glanced at his companion and
noticed that her face had gone a shade paler than before the

"I wonder what can be the matter," she observed, a little anxiously
Gifford thought. Then she laughed. "I dare say it is nothing; Stent is
becoming absurdly fussy; and all the alarms and discoveries we have had
lately have not diminished the tendency."

"The latest discovery must have come rather as a relief," Gifford
ventured tentatively.

"The marks on my dress you mean?" She laughed. "So far that I now share
with Muriel Tredworth the suspicion of knowing all about the tragedy."

"Hardly that," Gifford replied with a smile. "There can be no cause for
that fear. By the way," he added more seriously, "I owe you an account of
my failure to gain any information for you with regard to Mr. Gervase
Henshaw's plans."

"He is not communicative?" Miss Morriston suggested casually.

Gifford shook his head. "No, I am never able to get hold of him. In fact,
it seems as though he rather makes a point of avoiding us. And if we do
meet, he is vagueness and reticence personified."

They were walking slowly back along the shrubbery path. The girl turned
to him for an instant, her expression softened in a look of gratitude.
"It is very kind of you, Mr. Gifford, to take all this trouble for us.
And I am sure it is not your fault that the result is not what you might
wish. It was rather absurd of me to set you the task. But I am none the
less grateful. Please think that, and do not bother about it any more."

"But if the man is likely to annoy you," he urged. "Have you longer any
reason to fear him?"

She turned swiftly. "Fear him? What do you mean?"

"We thought he might be unscrupulous and might make himself

She shrugged. "I dare say it is possible."

"I must confess," he pursued, "I can't quite make the fellow out. Nor his
motive for remaining in the place. Your brother told me he came across
him hanging about in one of your plantations."

He thought the blood left her face for an instant, but otherwise she
showed no sign of discomposure.

"How did he account for his being there?" she asked calmly.

"Unsatisfactorily enough. I forget his actual excuse."

"Was that all?" she demanded coldly.

"I believe so. But it is hardly desirable, as your brother said, to have
the man prowling about the property."

For a moment she was silent. "No," she said as though by an afterthought.

Her manner troubled him. "I hope he is not attempting to annoy you," he
said searchingly.

She looked surprised and, he thought, a little resentful at his question.
"Me?" she returned coldly. "By hanging about in the plantation?"

"If he goes no farther than that--"

"Why should he?" she demanded in the same rather chilling tone.

"I don't know," Gifford replied, set back by her manner. "Except that I
have no high opinion of the fellow. It occurred to me he might possibly
attempt to persecute you."

She glanced round at him curiously with a little disdainful smile. "What
makes you think he would do that?" she returned.

Her attitude was to him not convincing. He felt there was a certain
reservation beneath the rather cutting tone. "I am glad to know there is
no question of that," he replied with quiet earnestness. "I hope if
anything of the kind should occur and you should need a friend you will
not overlook me."

"You are very kind," she responded, but without turning towards him. He
thought, however, that her low tone had softened, and it gave him hope.

"I should scarcely take upon myself to suggest this," he said, "but I am
emboldened by two facts. One that you have already asked me to be your
ally, your friend, in this business, the other that there is something
about Henshaw and his actions which I do not understand. I hope you will
forgive my boldness."

His companion had glanced round now, keenly, as though to probe for the
meaning which might lie beneath his words. He speculated whether she
might be wondering how much he knew; was he cognisant of her meeting
with Henshaw?

But, whatever her thought, she answered in the same even voice, "There is
nothing to forgive. On the contrary I am most grateful."

They were nearing the house, and Gifford was debating whether he dared
suggest another turn along the shrubbery path, when Richard Morriston
appeared at the hall door, beckoned to them, and went in again.

"I wonder what Dick wants. Has anything more come to light?" Miss
Morriston observed with a rather bored laugh as she slightly
quickened her pace.

As they went in she called, "Dick!" and he answered her from the library.
There they found him with Kelson and Muriel Tredworth. A glance at their
faces told Gifford that they were all in a state of scarcely suppressed

"I say, Edith, what do you think?" her brother exclaimed. "We've made a
rather important discovery. Were you in the middle room of the tower
during the dance?"

For a moment his sister did not answer.

"No; I don't think I was," she said, with what seemed to Gifford a
certain amount of apprehension in her eyes, although her expression was
calm enough.

"Oh, but, my dear girl, you must have been," Morriston insisted
vehemently. "We have found the explanation of the stains on Miss
Tredworth's dress and on yours."

"You have?" his sister replied, looking at him curiously.

"Yes; beyond all doubt. The mystery is made clear. Come and see."

He led the way across the hall and up the first story of the tower.
"There's the explanation," he said, pointing to some dark red patches on
the back of a sofa and on the carpet below.

"It is not a pleasant idea," Morriston said; "but you see these marks are
directly under the place where the dead man lay in the room above. The
blood from his wound evidently ran through the chinks of the flooring on
to the beams of the ceiling here and so fell drop by drop on the couch
and on any one sitting there. Rather gruesome, but I am sure we must be
all very glad to get the simple explanation. The only wonder is that no
one thought of it before."

"Muriel was sitting just at that end of the sofa when I proposed to her,"
Kelson said in a low voice to Gifford.

"I am delighted the matter is so completely accounted for," his friend
returned. "What fools we were ever to have taken it so tragically."

But his expression changed as he glanced at Edith Morriston; she had
denied that she had been in the room.

"I have sent down to the police to tell them of the discovery," Morriston
was saying. "The fact is that since the tragedy the servants appear to
have rather shunned this part of the house, or at any rate to have
devoted as little time to it as possible. Otherwise this would have come
to light sooner. Anyhow it is a source of congratulation to Miss
Tredworth and you, Edith. Of course you must have been in here."

"I remember sitting just there; ugh!" Miss Tredworth said with a shudder.

"I can swear to that," Kelson corroborated with a knowing smile.

"You must have done the same or brushed against the sofa, Edith,"
Morriston said cheerfully. "Well, I'm glad that's settled, although it
brings us no nearer towards solving the mystery of what happened

"No," Kelson remarked. "It looks as though that was going to remain
a mystery."

The butler came in. "Major Freeman is here, sir," he said, "with Mr.
Henshaw, and would like to speak to you."

Morriston looked surprised. "Alfred has been very quick. We sent him off
only about a quarter of an hour ago."

"Alfred met Major Freeman and Mr. Henshaw with the detective just beyond
the lodge gates, sir."

"Then they were coming up here independently of my message?"

"Yes, sir. Alfred gave Major Freeman the message and came back."

Morriston moved towards the door. "I will see these gentlemen at
once," he said.

"In the library, sir."

Involuntarily Gifford had glanced at Edith Morriston. She was standing
impassively with set face; and at his glance she turned away to the
window. But not before he had caught in her eyes a look which he hated to
see, a look which seemed to confirm a suspicion already in his mind.



With Morriston's departure a rather uncomfortable silence fell upon the
party left in the room. Every one seemed to feel that there was
something in the air, the shadow of a possibly serious development in
the case. Even Kelson, who was otherwise inclined to be jubilant over
the freeing of his fiancee from suspicion, seemed to feel it was no time
or place just then for gaiety, and his expression grew as grave as that
of the rest.

"I wonder what these fellows have come to say," he observed as he
paced the room.

"Let's hope to announce that at last they are going to leave you in

Book of the day: