Part 1 out of 4
Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Mary Meehan
and PG Distributed Proofreaders
THE LOUDWATER MYSTERY
BY EDGAR JEPSON
Lord Loudwater was paying attention neither to his breakfast nor to the
cat Melchisidec. Absorbed in a leader in _The Times_ newspaper, now and
again he tugged at his red-brown beard in order to quicken his
comprehension of the weighty phrases of the leader-writer; now and again
he made noises, chiefly with his nose, expressive of disgust. Lady
Loudwater paid no attention to these noises. She did not even raise her
eyes to her husband's face. She ate her breakfast with a thoughtful air,
her brow puckered by a faint frown.
She also paid no attention to her favourite, Melchisidec. Melchisidec,
unduly excited by the smell of grilled sole, came to Lord Loudwater, rose
on his hind legs, laid his paws on his trousers, and stuck some claws
into his thigh. It was no more than gentle, arresting pricks; but the
tender nobleman sprang from his chair with a short howl, kicked with
futile violence a portion of the empty air which Melchisidec had just
vacated, staggered, and nearly fell.
Lady Loudwater did not laugh; but she did cough.
Her husband, his face a furious crimson, glared at her with reddish eyes,
and swore violently at her and the cat.
Lady Loudwater rose, her face flushed, her lips trembling, picked up
Melchisidec, and walked out of the room. Lord Loudwater scowled at the
closed door, sat down, and went on with his breakfast.
James Hutchings, the butler, came quietly into the room, took one of the
smaller dishes from the sideboard and Lady Loudwater's teapot from the
table. He went quietly out of the room, pausing at the door to scowl at
his master's back. Lady Loudwater finished her breakfast in the
sitting-room of her suite of rooms on the first floor. She was no longer
inattentive to Melchisidec.
During her breakfast she put all consideration of her husband's behaviour
out of her mind. As she smoked a cigarette after breakfast she considered
it for a little while. She often had to consider it. She came to the
conclusion to which she had often come before: that she owed him nothing
whatever. She came to the further conclusion that she detested him. She
had far too good a brow not to be able to see a fact clearly. She wished
more heartily than ever that she had never married him. It had been a
grievous mistake; and it seemed likely to last a life-time--her
life-time. The last five ancestors of her husband had lived to be eighty.
His father would doubtless have lived to be eighty too, had he not broken
his neck in the hunting-field at the age of fifty-four. On the other
hand, none of the Quaintons, her own family, had reached the age of
sixty. Lord Loudwater was thirty-five; she was twenty-two; he would
therefore survive her by at least seven years. She would certainly be
bowed down all her life under this grievous burden.
It was an odd calculation for a young married woman to make; but Lady
Loudwater came of an uncommon family, which had produced more brilliant,
irresponsible, and passably unscrupulous men than any other of the
leading families in England. Her father had been one of them. She took
after him. Moreover, Lord Loudwater would have induced odd reveries in
any wife. He had been intolerable since the second week of their
honeymoon. Wholly without power of self-restraint, the furious outbursts
of his vile temper had been consistently revolting. She once more told
herself that something would have to be done about it--not on the
instant, however. At the moment there appeared to her to be months to do
it in. She dropped her cigarette end into the ash-tray, and with it any
further consideration of the manners and disposition of Lord Loudwater.
She lit another cigarette and let her thoughts turn to that far more
appealing subject, Colonel Antony Grey. They turned to him readily and
wholly. In less than three minutes she was seeing his face and hearing
certain tones in his voice with amazing clearness. Once she looked at the
clock impatiently. It was half-past ten. She would not see him till
three--four and a half hours. It seemed a long while to her. However,
she could go on thinking about him. She did.
While she considered her ill-tempered husband her eyes had been hard and
almost shallow. While she considered Colonel Grey, they grew soft and
deep. Her lips had been set and almost thin; now they grew most kissable.
Lord Loudwater finished his breakfast, the scowl on his face fading
slowly to a frown. He lit a cigar and with a moody air went to his
smoking-room. The criminal carelessness of the cat Melchisidec
As he entered the room, half office and half smoking-room, Mr. Herbert
Manley, his secretary, bade him good morning. Lord Loudwater returned his
greeting with a scowl.
Mr. Herbert Manley had one of those faces which begin well and end badly.
He had a fine forehead, lofty and broad, a well-cut, gently-curving-nose,
a slack, thick-lipped mouth, always a little open, a heavy, animal jaw,
and the chin of an eagle. His fine, black hair was thin on the temples.
His moustache was thin and straggled. His black eyes were as good as his
brow, intelligent, observant, and alert. It was plain that had his lips
been thinner and his chin larger he would not have been the secretary of
Lord Loudwater--or of any one else. He would have been a masterless man.
The success of two one-act plays on the stage of the music-halls had
given him the firm hope of one day becoming a masterless man as a
successful dramatist. His post gave him the leisure to write plays. But
for the fact that it brought him into such frequent contact with the Lord
Loudwater it would have been a really pleasant post: the food was
excellent; the wine was good; the library was passable; and the servants,
with the exception of James Hutchings, liked and respected him. He had
the art of making himself valued (at far more than his real worth, said
his enemies), and his air of importance continuously impressed them.
With a patient air he began to discuss the morning's letters, and ask for
instructions. Lord Loudwater was, as often happened, uncommonly captious
about the letters. He had not recovered from the shock the inconsiderate
Melchisidec had given his nerves. The instructions he gave were somewhat
muddled; and when Mr. Manley tried to get them clearer, his employer
swore at him for an idiot. Mr. Manley persisted firmly through much abuse
till he did get them clear. He had come to consider his employer's furies
an unfortunate weakness which had to be endured by the holder of the post
he found so advantageous. He endured them with what stoicism he might.
Lord Loudwater in a bad temper always produced a strong impression of
redness for a man whose colouring was merely red-brown. Owing to the fact
that his fierce, protruding blue eyes were red-rimmed and somewhat
bloodshot, in moments of emotion they shone with a curious red glint, and
his florid face flushed a deeper red. In these moments Mr. Manley had a
feeling that he was dealing with a bad-tempered red bull. His employer
made very much the same impression on other people, but few of them had
the impression of bullness so clear and so complete as did Mr. Manley.
Lady Loudwater, on the other hand, felt always, whether her husband was
ramping or quiet, that she was dealing with a bad-tempered bull.
Presently they came to the end of the letters. Lord Loudwater lit another
cigar, and scowled thoughtfully. Mr. Manley gazed at his scowling face
and wondered idly whether he would ever light on another human being whom
he would detest so heartily as he detested his employer. He thought it
indeed unlikely. Still, when he became a successful dramatist there might
be an actor-manager--
Then Lord Loudwater said: "Did you tell Mrs. Truslove that after
September her allowance would be reduced to three hundred a year?"
"Yes," said Mr. Manley.
"What did she say?"
Mr. Manley hesitated; then he said diplomatically: "She did not seem
to like it."
"What did she _say_?" cried Lord Loudwater in a sudden, startling bellow,
and his eyes shone red.
Mr. Manley winced and said quickly: "She said it was just like you."
"Just like me? Hey? And what did she mean by that?" cried Lord Loudwater
loudly and angrily.
Mr. Manley expressed utter ignorance by looking blank and shrugging his
"The jade! She's had six hundred a year for more than two years. Did she
think it would go on for ever?" cried his employer.
"No," said Mr. Manley.
"And why didn't she think it would go on for ever? Hey?" said Lord
Loudwater in a challenging tone.
"Because there wasn't an actual deed of settlement," said Mr. Manley.
"The ungrateful jade! I've a good mind to stop it altogether!" cried
Mr. Manley said nothing. His face was blank; it neither approved nor
disapproved the suggestion.
Lord Loudwater scowled at him and said: "I expect she said she wished
she'd never had anything to do with me."
"No," said Mr. Manley.
"I'll bet that's what she thinks," growled Lord Loudwater.
Mr. Manley let the suggestion pass without comment. His face was blank.
"And what's she going to do about it?" said Lord Loudwater in a tone of
"She's going to see you about it."
"I'm damned if she is!" cried Lord Loudwater hastily, in a much less
Mr. Manley permitted a faint, sceptical smile to wreathe his lips.
"What are you grinning at? If you think she'll gain anything by doing
that, she won't," said Lord Loudwater, with a blustering truculence.
Mr. Manley wondered. Helena Truslove was a lady of considerable force of
character. He suspected that if Lord Loudwater had ever been afraid of a
fellow-creature, he must at times have been afraid of Helena Truslove.
He fancied that now he was not nearly as fearless as he sounded. He did
not say so.
His employer was silent, buried in scowling reflection. Mr. Manley gazed
at him without any great intentness, and came to the conclusion that he
did not merely detest him, he loathed him.
Presently he said: "There's a cheque from Hanbury and Johnson for twelve
thousand and forty-six pounds for the rubber shares your lordship sold.
It wants endorsing."
He handed the cheque across the table to Lord Loudwater. Lord
Loudwater dipped his pen in the ink, transfixed a struggling
bluebottle, and drew it out.
"Why the devil don't you see that the ink is fresh?" he roared.
"It is fresh. The bluebottle must have just fallen into it," said Mr.
Manley in an unruffled tone.
Lord Loudwater cursed the bluebottle, restored it to the ink-pot,
endorsed the cheque, and tossed it across the table to Mr. Manley.
"By the way," said Mr. Manley, with some hesitation, "there's another
"Why didn't you burn it? I told you to burn 'em all," snapped his
"This one is not about you. It's about Hutchings," said Mr. Manley in an
"Hutchings? What about Hutchings?"
"You'd better read it," said Mr. Manley, handing him the letter. "It
seems to be from some spiteful woman."
The letter was indeed written in female handwriting, and it accused the
butler, wordily enough, of having received a commission from Lord
Loudwater's wine merchants on a purchase of fifty dozen of champagne
which he had bought from them a month before. It further stated that he
had received a like commission on many other such purchases.
Lord Loudwater read it, scowling, sprang up from his chair with his eyes
protruding further than usual, and cried: "The scoundrel! The blackguard!
I'll teach him! I'll gaol him!"
He dashed at the electric bell by the fireplace, set his thumb on it, and
kept it there.
Holloway, the second footman, came running. The servants knew their
master's ring. They always ran to answer it, after some discussion as to
which of them should go.
He entered and said: "Yes, m'lord?"
"Send that scoundrel Hutchings to me! Send him at once!" roared
"Yes, m'lord," said Holloway, and hurried away.
He found James Hutchings in his pantry, told him that their master wanted
him, and added that he was in a tearing rage.
Hutchings, who never expected his sanguine and irascible master to be in
any other mood, finished the paragraph of the article in the _Daily
Telegraph_ he was reading, put on his coat, and went to the study. His
delay gave Lord Loudwater's wrath full time to mature.
When the butler entered his master shook his fist at him and roared: "You
scoundrel! You infernal scoundrel! You've been robbing me! You've been
robbing me for years, you blackguard!"
James Hutchings met the charge with complete calm. He shook his head and
said in a surly tone: "No; I haven't done anything of the kind, m'lord."
The flat denial infuriated his master yet more. He spluttered and was for
a while incoherent. Then he became again articulate and said: "You have,
you rogue! You took a commission--a secret commission on that fifty dozen
of champagne I bought last month. You've been doing it for years."
James Hutchings' surly face was transformed. It grew malignant; his
fierce, protruding, red-rimmed blue eyes sparkled balefully, and he
flushed to a redness as deep as that of his master. He knew at once who
had betrayed him, and he was furious--at the betrayal. At the same time,
he was not greatly alarmed; he had never received a cheque from the wine
merchants; all their payments to him had been in cash, and he had always
cherished a warm contempt for his master.
"I haven't," he said fiercely. "And if I had it would be quite
regular--only a perquisite."
For the hundredth time Mr. Manley remarked the likeness between Lord
Loudwater and his butler. They had the same fierce, protruding,
red-rimmed blue eyes, the same narrow, low forehead, the same large ears.
Hutchings' hair was a darker brown than Lord Loudwater's, and his lips
were thinner. But Mr. Manley was sure that, had he worn a beard instead
of whiskers, it would have been difficult for many people to be sure
which was Lord Loudwater and which his butler.
Lord Loudwater again spluttered; then he roared: "A perquisite! What
about the Corrupt Practices Act? It was passed for rogues like you!
I'll show you all about perquisites! You'll find yourself in gaol
inside of a month."
"I shan't. There isn't a word of truth in it, or a scrap of evidence,"
said Hutchings fiercely.
"Evidence? I'll find evidence all right!" cried his master. "And if I
don't, I'll, anyhow, discharge you without a character. I'll get you one
way or another, my fine fellow! I'll teach you to rob me!"
"I haven't robbed your lordship," said Hutchings in a less surly tone.
He was much more moved by the threat of discharge than the threat of
"I tell you you have. And you can clear out of this. I'll wire to town at
once for another butler--an honest butler. You'll clear out the moment he
comes. Pack up and be ready to go. And when you do go, I'll give you
twenty-four hours to clear out of the country before I put the police on
your track," cried Lord Loudwater.
Mr. Manley observed that it was exactly like him to take no risk, in
spite of his fury, of any loss of comfort from the lack of a butler. The
instinct of self-protection was indeed strong in him.
"Not a bit of it. You've told me to go, and I'm going at once--this very
day. The police will find me at my father's for the next fortnight," said
Hutchings with a sneer. "And when I go to London I'll leave my address."
"A lot of good your going to London will do you. I'll see you never get
another place in this country," snarled Lord Loudwater.
Hutchings gave him a look of vindictive malignity so intense that it
made Mr. Manley quite uncomfortable, turned, and went out of the room.
Lord Loudwater said: "I'll teach the scoundrel to rob me! Write at once
for a new butler."
He took some lumps of sugar from a jar on the mantelpiece, and went
through the door which opened into the library.
In the library he stopped and shouted back: "If Morton comes about the
timber, I shall be in the stables."
Then he went through one of the long windows of the library into the
garden and took his way to the stables. As he drew near them the scowl
cleared from his face. But it remained a formidable face; it did not grow
pleasant. None the less, he spent a pleasant hour in the stables, petting
his horses. He was fond of horses, not of cats, and he never bullied and
seldom abused his horses as he abused and bullied his fellow men and
women. This was the result of his experience. He had learnt from it that
he might bully and abuse his human dependents with impunity. As a boy he
had also bullied and abused his horses. But in his eighteenth year he had
been savaged by a young horse he had maltreated, and the lesson had stuck
in his mind. It was a simple, obtuse mind, but it had formed the theory
that he got more out of human beings, more deference and service, by
bullying them and more out of horses by treating them kindly. Besides, he
Mr. Manley did not set about answering the letters at once. He reflected
for a while on the likeness between Hutchings and his master. He thought
the physical likeness of little interest. There was a whole clan of
Hutchingses in the villages and woods round the castle, the bulk of them
gamekeepers; and there had been for generations. Mr. Manley was much more
interested in the resemblance in character between Hutchings and Lord
Loudwater. Hutchings, probably under the pressure of circumstances, was
much less of a bore than his master, but quite as much of a bully. Also,
he was more intelligent, and consequently more dangerous. Mr. Manley
would on no account have had him look at him with the intense malignity
with which he had looked at his master. Doubtless the butler had far
greater self-control than Lord Loudwater; but if ever he did lose it it
would be uncommonly bad for Lord Loudwater.
It would be interesting to find in the Loudwater archives the common
ancestor to whom they both cast so directly back. He fancied that it must
be the third Baron. At any rate, both had his protruding blue eyes,
softened in his portrait doubtless by the natural politeness of the
fashionable painter. Was it worth his while to look up the record of the
third Lord Loudwater? He decided that, if he found himself at sufficient
leisure, he would. Then he decided that he was glad that Hutchins was
going; the butler had shown him but little civility. Then he set about
answering the letters.
When he had finished them he took up the stockbroker's cheque and
considered it with a thoughtful frown. He had never before seen a cheque
for so large a sum; and it interested him. Then he wrote a short note of
instructions to Lord Loudwater's bankers. The ink in his fountain-pen ran
out as he came to the end of it, and he signed it with the pen with which
Lord Loudwater had endorsed the cheque. He put the cheque into the
envelope he had already addressed, put stamps on all the letters, carried
them to the post-box on a table in the hall, went through the library out
into the garden, and smoked a cigarette with a somewhat languid air. Then
he went into the library and took up his task of cataloguing the books at
the point at which he had stopped the day before. He often paused to dip
at length into a book before entering it in the catalogue. He did not
believe in hasty work.
Lord Loudwater came to lunch in a better temper than that in which he had
left the breakfast-table. He had ridden eight miles round and about his
estate, and the ride had soothed that seat of the evil humours--his
liver. Lady Loudwater had been careful to shut Melchisidec in her
boudoir; James Hutchings had no desire in the world to see his master's
florid face or square back, and had instructed Wilkins and Holloway, the
first and second footmen, to wait at table. Lord Loudwater therefore
could, without any ruffling of his sensibilities, give all his thought to
his food, and he did. The cooking at the castle was always excellent. If
it was not, he sent for the chef and spoke to him about it.
There was little conversation at lunch. Lady Loudwater never spoke to her
husband first, save on rare occasions about a matter of importance. It
was not that she perceived any glamour of royalty about him; she did not
wish to hear his voice. Besides, she had never found a conversational
opening so harmless that he could not contrive, were it his whim, to be
offensive about it. Besides, she had at the moment nothing to say to him.
In truth, owing to the fact that she took so many practically silent
meals with him, she was becoming rather a gourmet. The food, naturally
the most important fact, had become really the most important fact at the
meals they took together. She had come to realize this. It was the only
advantage she had ever derived from her intercourse with her husband.
At this lunch, however, she did not pay as much attention to the food as
usual, not indeed as much as it deserved. Her mind would stray from it to
Colonel Grey. She wondered what he would tell her about herself that
afternoon. He was always discovering possibilities in her which she had
never discovered for herself. She only perceived their existence when he
pointed them out to her. Then they became obvious. Also, he was always
discovering fresh facts, attractive facts, about her--about her eyes and
lips and hair and figure. He imparted each discovery to her as he made
it, without delay, and with the genuine enthusiasm of a discoverer. Of
course, he should not have done this. It was, indeed, wrong. But he had
assured her that he could not help it, that he was always blurted things
out. Since it was a habit of long standing, now probably ingrained, it
was useless to reproach him with any great severity for his frankness.
She did not do so.
For his part, the Lord Loudwater had but little to say to his wife. She
was fond of Melchisidec and indifferent to horses. For the greater part
of the meal he was hardly aware that she was at the other end of the
table. Immersed in his food and its deglutition, he was hardly sensible
of the outside world at all. Once, disturbed by Holloway's removing his
empty plate, he told her that he had seen a dog-fox on Windy Ridge;
again, when Holloway handed the cheese-straws to him, he told her that
Merry Belle's black colt had a cold. Her two replies, "Oh, did you?" and
"Has he?" appeared to fall on deaf ears. He did not continue either
Then Lord Loudwater broke into an eloquent monologue. Wilkins had poured
out a glass of port for both of them to drink with their cheese-straws.
Lord Loudwater finished his cheese-straws, took a long sip from his
glass, rolled it lovingly over his tongue, gulped it down with a hideous
grimace, banged down his fist on the table, and roared in a terrible,
"It's corked! It's corked! It's that scoundrel Hutchings! This is his way
of taking it out of me for sacking him. He's done it on purpose, the
scoundrel! Now I will gaol him! Hanged if I don't!"
"I'll get another bottle, m'lord," said Wilkins, catching up the
decanter, and hurrying towards the door.
"Get it! And be quick about it! And tell that scoundrel I'll gaol him!"
cried Lord Loudwater.
Wilkins rushed from the room bearing in his hand the decanter of
offending port; Holloway followed him to help.
Lady Loudwater sipped a little port from her glass. She was rather
inclined to take no one's word for anything which she could herself
verify. Then she took another sip.
Then she said; "Are you sure this wine's corked?"
Corked wine at the end of a really good meal is a bitter blow to any man,
an exceedingly bitter blow to a man of Lord Loudwater's sensitiveness in
"Am I sure? Hey? Am I sure? Yes! I am sure, you little fool!" he
bellowed. "What do you know about wine? Talk about things you
Lady Loudwater's face was twisted by a faint spasm of hate which left it
flushed. She would never grow used to being bellowed at for a fool. Once
more her husband's refusal to let her take her meals apart from him
seemed monstrous. Hardly ever did she rise from one at which she had not
been abused and insulted. She realized indeed that she had been foolish
to ask the question. But why should she sit tongue-tied before the brute?
She took another sip and said quietly: "It isn't corked."
Then she turned cold with fright.
Lord Loudwater could not believe his ears. It could not be that his wife
had contradicted him flatly. It--could--_not_--be.
He was still incredulous, breathing heavily, when the door opened and
James Hutchings appeared on the threshold. In his right hand he held the
decanter of offending port, in his left a sound cork.
He said firmly: "This wine isn't corked, m'lord. Its flavour is perfect.
Besides, a cork like this couldn't cork it."
A less sensitive man than Lord Loudwater might have risen to the
double emergency. Lord Loudwater could not. He sat perfectly still.
But his eyes rolled so horribly that the Lady Loudwater started from
her chair, uttered a faint scream, and fairly ran through the long
window into the garden.
James Hutchings advanced to the table, thumped the decanter down on
it--no way to treat an old vintage port--at Lord Loudwater's right hand,
walked out of the room, and shut the door firmly behind him.
In the great hall he smiled a triumphant, malevolent smile. Then he
called Wilkins and Holloway, who stood together in the middle of it,
cowardly dogs and shirkers, and strode past them to the door to the
A few moments later Lord Loudwater rose to his feet and staggered
dizzily along to the other end of the table. He picked up his wife's
half-emptied glass and sipped the port. It was _not_ corked. It was
incredible! He would never forgive her!
He rang the bell. Both Wilkins and Holloway answered it. He bade them
tell Hutchings to pack his belongings and go at once. If he were not out
of the castle by four o'clock, they were to kick him out. Then he went,
still scowling, to the stables.
Mr. Manley had already finished his lunch. Halfway through his
after-lunch pipe he rose, took his hat and stick, and set out to pay a
visit to Mrs. Truslove.
As he came out of the park gates he came upon the Rev. George Stebbing,
the _locum tenens_ in charge of the parish, for the vicar was away on a
holiday, enjoying a respite from his perpetual struggle with the patron
of the living, Lord Loudwater.
They fell into step and for a while discussed the local weather and local
affairs. Then Mr. Manley, who had been gifted by Heaven with a lively
imagination wholly untrammelled by any straining passion for exactitude,
entertained Mr. Stebbing with a vivid account of his experiences as
leader of the first Great Push. Mr. Manley was one of the many rather
stout, soft men who in different parts of Great Britain will till their
dying days entertain acquaintances with vivid accounts of their
experiences as leaders of the Great Pushes. Like that of most of them,
his war experience, before his weak heart had procured him his discharge
from the army, had consisted wholly of office work in England. His
account of his strenuous fighting lacked nothing of fire or
picturesqueness on that account. He was too modest to say in so many
words that but for his martial qualities there would have been no Great
Push at all, and that any success it had had was due to those martial
qualities, but that was the impression he left on Mr. Stebbing's simple
and rather plastic mind. When therefore they parted at the crossroads,
Mr. Manley went on his way in a pleasant content at having once more made
himself valued; and Mr. Stebbing went on his way feeling thankful that he
had been brought into friendly contact with a really able hero. Both of
them were the happier for their chance meeting.
Mr. Manley found Helena Truslove in her drawing-room, and when the door
closed behind the maid who had ushered him into it, he embraced her with
affectionate warmth. Then he held her out at arm's-length, and for the
several hundredth time admired her handsome, clear-skinned,
high-coloured, gipsy face, her black, rather wild eyes, and the black
hair wreathed round her head in so heavy a mass.
"It has been an awful long time between the kisses," he said.
She sighed a sigh of content and laughed softly. Then she said: "I
sometimes think that you must have had a great deal of practice."
"No," said Mr. Manley firmly. "I have never had occasion to be in
He put her back into the chair from which he had lifted her, sat down
facing her, and gazed at her with adoring eyes. He was truly very much in
love with her.
They were excellent complements the one of the other. If Mr. Manley had
the brains for two--indeed, he had the brains for half a dozen--she had
the character for two. Her chin was very unlike the chin of an eagle. She
was not, indeed, lacking in brains. Her brow forbade the supposition. But
hers was rather the practical intelligence, his the creative. That she
had the force of character, on occasion the fierceness, which he lacked,
was no small source of her attraction for him.
"And how was the hog this morning?" she said, ready to be soothing.
"The hog" was their pet name for Lord Loudwater.
"Beastly. He's an utterly loathsome fellow," said Mr. Manley with
"Oh, no; not utterly--at any rate, not if you're independent of him," she
"Does he ever come into contact with any one who is not dependent on him?
I believe he shuns them like the pest."
"Not into close contact," she said--"at any rate, nowadays. But
I've known him to do good-natured things; and then he's very fond of
"That makes the way he treats every human being who is in any way
dependent on him all the more disgusting," said Mr. Manley firmly.
"Oh, I don't know. It's something to be fond of animals," she said
"This morning he had a devil of a row with Hutchings, the butler, you
know, and discharged him."
"That was a silly thing to do. Hutchings is not at all a good person to
have a row with," she said quickly. "I should say that he was a far more
dangerous brute than Loudwater and much more intelligent. Still, I don't
know what he could do. What was the row about?"
"Some woman sent Loudwater an anonymous letter accusing Hutchings of
having received commissions from the wine merchants."
"That would be Elizabeth Twitcher's mother. Elizabeth and Hutchings were
engaged, and about ten days ago he jilted her," said Mrs. Truslove. "I
suppose that when he was in love with her he bragged about these
commissions to her and she told her mother."
"Her mother has certainly taken it out of him for jilting her daughter.
But what an unsavoury place the castle is!" said Mr. Manley.
"With such a master--what can you expect?" said Mrs. Truslove. "Did the
hog say anything more about halving my allowance?"
Mr. Manley frowned. A few days before he had been greatly surprised to
learn from Lord Loudwater that the bulk of Helena Truslove's income was
an allowance from him. The matter had greatly exercised his mind. Why
should his employer allow her six hundred a year? It was a matter which
should be cleared up.
He said slowly: "Yes, he did. He asked what you said when I told you that
he was going to halve it, and he did not seem to like the idea of your
seeing him about it."
"He'll like my seeing him about it even less than the idea of it,"
said Mrs. Truslove firmly, and there was a sudden gleam in her wild
Mr. Manley looked at her, frowning faintly. Then he said in a rather
hesitating manner: "I've never asked you about it. But why does the hog
make you this allowance?"
"That's my dark past," she said in a teasing tone, smiling at him. "I
suppose that as we're going to be married so soon I ought to make a clean
breast of it, if you really want to know."
"Just as you like," said Mr. Manley, his face clearing a little at her
"Well, the hog treated me badly--not really badly, because I didn't care
enough about him to make it possible for him to treat me really badly,
but just as badly as he could. For when he and I first met I was on the
way to get engaged to a man, named Hardwicke--a rich city man, rather a
bore, but a man who would make an excellent husband. Loudwater knew that
Hardwicke was ready and eager to marry me, and I suppose that that helped
to make him keen on me. At any rate, he made love to me, not nearly so
badly as you'd think, and persuaded me to promise to marry him."
"I can't think how you could have done it!" cried Mr. Manley.
"How was I to know what a hog he was at home? At Trouville he was quite
nice, as I tell you. Besides, there was the title--I thought I should
like to be Lady Loudwater. You know, I do have strong impulses, and I
act on them."
"Well, after all, you didn't marry him," said Mr. Manley in a tone of
relief. "What did happen?"
"We were engaged for about two months. Then, about a month before the
date fixed for our marriage, he met Olivia Quainton, fell in love with
her, and broke off our engagement a week before our wedding-day."
"Well, of all the caddish tricks!" cried Mr. Manley.
"You can imagine how furious I was. And I wasn't going to stand it--not
from Loudwater, at any rate. I had learnt a good deal more about him in
the eleven weeks we were engaged, and, naturally, I wasn't pleased with
what I had learnt. I set out to make myself very disagreeable. I saw him
and did make myself very disagreeable. I told him a good many unpleasant
things about himself which made him much more furious than I was myself."
"I'm glad some of it got through his thick skin," said Mr. Manley.
"A good deal of it did. Then I made it clear to him that he had robbed me
of John Hardwicke and an excellent settlement in life, and told him that
I was going to bring an action for breach of promise against him. That
certainly got through his thick skin, for it's very painful to him to
spend money on any one but himself. But he made terms at once, gave me
this house furnished, and promised to allow me six hundred a year for
life. You don't think I was wrong to take it?" she added anxiously.
"Certainly not," said Mr. Manley quickly and firmly.
Her face cleared and she said: "So many people would say that it was not
nice my taking money for an injury like that."
"Rubbish! It wasn't as if you'd been in love with him," said Mr. Manley
with the firmest conviction.
"That's the exact point. You do see things," she said, smiling at him
gratefully. "If I had been, it would have been quite different."
"And how else were you to score off him except by hitting him in the
pocket? That and his stomach are his only vulnerable points," said Mr.
He was ignorant of Melchisidec's discovery of another.
"They are. And he certainly had robbed me of an income. It was only fair
that he should make up for it," she said rather plaintively.
"Well, those were the terms. The house is mine all right; it was properly
made over to me. But, stupidly, I didn't have a proper deed drawn up
about the money. I had his promise. One supposes that one can take the
word of an English Peer. But I think that it's really all right. I have
his letters about it."
"There's no saying. You'd better see a lawyer about it and find out. But
this isn't a very dark past," he said, and rose and came to her and
He was, indeed, relieved and reassured. In these circumstances the six
hundred a year was not an allowance at all. It was merely the payment of
a debt--a just debt.
"But it won't be nearly so nice for us, if the hog does manage to cut the
six hundred down to three hundred. My husband only left me a hundred a
year," she said, frowning.
"To be with you will be perfection, whatever our income is," said Mr.
Manley, with ringing conviction, and he kissed her again.
She smiled happily and said: "He shan't cut it down. I'll see that he
doesn't. When I've had a talk with him, he'll be glad enough to leave it
as it is."
"It's very likely that he's only trying it on. It's the kind of thing he
would do. But you'll find it difficult to get that talk. He's bent on
shirking it," said Mr. Manley.
"I'll see that he doesn't get the chance of shirking it," she said, and
her eyes gleamed again.
"I believe you're the only person in the world he's afraid of," he said
in a tone of admiration.
"I shouldn't wonder," she said. "At any rate, I seem to be the only
person in the world to whom he's always been civil. At least, I've never
heard of any one else."
"I'm afraid he won't be civil when you get that talk with him--if ever
you do get it," said Mr. Manley, frowning rather anxiously.
"That'll be all the worse for him," she said dauntlessly. "But, after
all, if I did fail to make him leave my income at six hundred, we should
still have this house and four hundred a year. We should still be quite
comfortable. Besides, you could keep on as his secretary, and that would
be another two hundred a year."
"I can't do that! It's out of the question!" cried Mr. Manley. "I'm
getting so to loathe the brute that I shall soon be quite unable to stand
him. As it is, I sometimes have a violent desire to wring his neck. Now
that I know that he played this measly trick on you, it will be more
violent than ever. Besides, we must have a flat in town. It's really
necessary to my work! I can do my actual writing down here fairly well.
But what I really need is to get in touch with the right people, with the
people who are really stimulating. Besides, I'm gregarious; I like mixing
"Yes. You're right. We must have a flat in town. Therefore, I must make
the hog keep to his bargain, and I will," she said firmly.
"I believe you may," he said, gazing at her determined face with
There was a pause. Then she said carelessly: "When are we going to tell
people that we're engaged?"
"Not yet awhile," said Mr. Manley quickly. "At least I don't want the
people about here to know about it. And if you come to think of it,
things being as they are, Loudwater would probably make himself more
infernally disagreeable to me than he does at present. He'd not only try
to take it out of me to annoy you, but it's just as likely as not that he
would consider my getting engaged to you as poaching on his
preserves--infernal cheek. He's the most hopelessly vain and
unreasonable sweep in the British Isles."
"I shouldn't be a bit surprised if he did. He couldn't possibly help
being a dog in the manger," she said thoughtfully. "And there's another
thing. It has just occurred to me that if he tries to halve my income for
nothing at all, he might try to stop it altogether if I got married. No;
I must get that matter settled for good and all. I'll have that talk with
him at once."
"If you can get it," said Mr. Manley doubtfully.
"I can get it," she said confidently. "You must remember that, having
lived here for nearly two years, I know all about his habits. I shall
take him by surprise. But we've talked enough about these dull things;
let's talk about something interesting. How's the play going?"
They talked about the play he was writing, and then they talked about one
another. They had their afternoon tea soon after four, for Mr. Manley had
to return to the Castle to deal with any letters that the five o'clock
post might bring.
At twenty minutes to five he left Mrs. Truslove and walked back to the
Castle. He was truly in love with Helena. She was intelligent and
appreciative. She was of his own class, with his own practical outlook on
life, born of having belonged to a middle-class family of moderate means
like himself. She was the daughter of a country architect. He could
nowhere have found a more suitable wife. He was relieved about the matter
of the reason why she received an allowance from Lord Loudwater; but he
was not relieved about the matter of its being halved. Seven hundred a
year had been an excellent income for the wife of a struggling playwright
to enjoy. It had promised him the full social life in which his genius
would most rapidly develop. He had regarded that income with great
pleasure. Ever since Lord Loudwater had bidden him inform Helena of his
intention of halving her allowance he had been bitterly angered by this
barefaced attempt to rob her and consequently her future husband. In the
light of her story the attempt had grown yet more disgraceful, and he
resented it yet more bitterly.
The further danger that Lord Loudwater might attempt to stop her income
altogether if she married, though he perceived that it was a real, even
imminent danger, did not greatly trouble him. He was full of resentment,
not fear. He felt that he loathed his employer more than ever and with
Holloway brought the post-bag to the library, and waited while Mr.
Manley sorted the letters, that he might take those addressed to Lady
Loudwater to her rooms and those addressed to the servants to the
As Mr. Manley inverted the bag and poured its contents on to the table,
the footman said: "'Utchings 'as gone, sir."
"We must bear up," said Mr. Manley, in a tone wholly void of any sympathy
with Hutchings in his misfortune.
"He was that furious. The things 'e said 'e'd do to his lordship!" said
Holloway in a deeply-impressed tone.
"Threatened men live long," said Mr. Manley carelessly.
There is in the collection of the Earl of Ellesmere a picture of the head
of a girl which the connoisseurs of the nineteenth century ascribed to
Leonardo da Vinci. The connoisseurs of the twentieth century ascribe it
to Luini. But for the colour of the hair it might have been a portrait of
Lady Loudwater, a faded portrait. It might also very well be a portrait
of one of her actual ancestresses, for her grandmother was a lady of an
old Tuscan family.
Be that as it may, Lady Loudwater had the soft, dark, dreamy eyes, set
rather wide apart, the straight, delicate nose, the alluring lips,
promising all the kisses, the broad, well-moulded forehead, and the
faint, exactly curving eyebrows of the girl in the picture. Above all,
when Lord Loudwater was not present, the mysterious, enchanting,
lingering smile, which is perhaps the chief charm of Luini's women,
rested nearly always on her face. But while the hair of the girl in the
picture is a deep, dull red, the hair of Olivia was dark brown with
glimmers of gold in it. Also, her colouring was warmer than that of the
girl in the picture, and her alluring charm stronger.
At a quarter to three that afternoon she came out on to the East lawn in
a silk frock and hat of a green rather sombre for the summer day. She had
been bidden by a fashionable fortune-teller never to wear green, for it
was her unlucky colour. But that tint had so given her colouring its full
values and her dark, liquid eyes so deep a depth, that she had paid no
heed to the warning. There was a bright light of expectation in her eyes,
and the alluring smile lingered on her face.
She walked quickly across the lawn with the easy, graceful gait proper to
the accomplished golfer she was, into the shrubbery on the other side of
it. A few feet along the path through it she looked sharply back over her
shoulder. She saw no one at those windows of the East wing which looked
on to the lawn and shrubbery, but a movement on the lawn itself caught
her eye. The cat Melchisidec was following her. She did not slacken her
pace, but for a moment the smile faded from her face at the remembrance
of her husband's outburst at breakfast. Then the smile returned, subtile
She did not wait for Melchisidec. She knew his way of pretending to
follow her like a dog; she knew that if she displayed any interest in
him, even showed that she was aware of his presence, he would probably
come no further. She went on at the same brisk pace till she came to the
gate in the East wood. She went through it, shut it gently, paused, and
again looked back. All of the path through the shrubbery that she could
see was empty. She turned and walked briskly along the narrow path
through the wood, and came into the long, turf-paved aisle which ran at
right angles to it.
The middle of the aisle was deeply rutted by the wheels of the carts
which had carried away the timber from the spring thinning of the wood.
She turned to the left and sauntered slowly up the smooth turf along the
side of the aisle, a brighter light of expectation in her eyes, her smile
even more mysterious and alluring.
She had not gone fifty yards up the aisle when Colonel Grey came limping
out of the entrance of a path on the other side of it, and quickened his
pace as he crossed it.
She stood still, flushing faintly, gazing at him with her lips parted a
little. He looked, as he was, very young to be a Lieutenant-Colonel, and
uncommonly fragile for a V. C. At any time he would look delicate, and
he was the paler for the fact that at times he still suffered
considerable pain from his wound. But there was force in his delicate,
distinguished face. His sensitive lips could set very firm; his chin was
square; his nose had a rather heavy bridge, and usually his grey eyes
were cold and very keen. He gave the impression of being wrought of
His eyes were shining so brightly at the moment that they had lost their
keenness with their coldness. He marked joyfully the flush on her face,
and did not know that he was flushing himself.
About five feet away he stopped, gazing, or rather staring, at her, and
said in a tone of fervent conviction: "Heavens, Olivia! What a beautiful
and entrancing creature you are!"
She smiled, flushing more deeply. He stepped forward, took her hand, and
held it very tightly.
"Goodness! But I have been impatient for you to come!" he cried.
"I'm not late," she said in her low, sweet, rather drawling voice.
He let go of her hand and said: "I don't know how it is, but I've been as
restless as a cat all the morning. I'm never sure that you will be able
to come; and the uncertainty worries me."
"But you saw me for three hours yesterday," she said, moving forward.
"Yesterday?" he said, falling into step with her. "Yesterday is a
thousand years away. I wasn't sure that you'd come today."
"Why shouldn't I come?" she said.
"Loudwater might have got to know of it and stopped you coming."
"Fortunately he doesn't take enough interest in my doings. Of course, if
I didn't turn up at a meal, he'd make a fuss, though why he should make
such a point of our having all our meals together I can't conceive. I
should certainly enjoy mine much more if I had them in my sitting-room,"
she said in a dispassionate tone, for all the world as if she were
discussing the case of some one else.
"I _am_ so worried about you," he said with a harassed air. "Ever since
that evening I heard him bullying you I've been simply worried to death
"It was nice of you to interfere, but it was a pity," she said gently.
"It didn't do any good as far as his behaviour is concerned, and we saw
so much more of one another when you could come to the Castle."
"Then you do want to see more of me?" he said eagerly.
Lady Loudwater lost her smiling air; she became demureness itself, and
she said: "Well, you see--thanks to Egbert's vile temper--we have so
Grey frowned; she was always quick to elude him. Then he growled: "What a
"He can't help that. It was given him. Besides, it's a family name," she
said in a tone of fine impartiality.
"It would be. Hogbert!" said Grey contemptuously.
Mrs. Truslove and Mr. Manley were not the only people to ignore the
essential bullness of Lord Loudwater.
They went on a few steps in silence; then she said: "Besides, I don't
mind his outbursts. I'm used to them."
"I don't believe it! You're much too delicate and sensitive!" he cried.
"But I _am_ getting used to them," she protested.
"You never will. Has he been bullying you again?" he said, looking
anxiously into her eyes.
"Not more than usual," she said in a wholly indifferent tone.
"Then it is usual! I was afraid it was," he said in a miserable voice.
"What on earth is to be done about it?"
"Why, there's nothing to be done, except just grin and bear it," she said
bravely enough, and with the conviction of one who has thought a matter
"Then it's monstrous! Just monstrous, that the most charming and
loveliest creature in the world should be bullied by that infernal
brute!" he cried, and put his arm around her.
The Countess was on the very point of slipping out of it when the cat
Melchisidec came out of the bushes a dozen yards ahead of them, and
with Melchisidec came a very distinct vision of Lord Loudwater's
flushed, distorted, and revolting face as he swore at her at breakfast
She did not slip out of the encircling arm, and Grey bent his head and
kissed her lightly on the lips.
It was the gentlest, lightest kiss, the kiss he might have given a
pretty child, just a natural tribute to beauty and charm.
But the harm was done. The population of Great Britain cannot really be
more than one and a half persons to the acre, and the great majority of
them live, thousands to the acre, in towns; yet it is indeed difficult
to kiss a girl during the daytime in any given acre, however thickly
wooded, without being seen by some superfluous sojourner on that acre;
and whether, or no, it was that the green frock and hat brought the
Countess the bad luck the fortuneteller had foretold, there was a
witness to that kiss.
Undoubtedly, too, it was not the right kind of witness. If it had been an
indulgent elder not given to gossip, or a chivalrous young man not averse
himself from kisses, all might have been well. But William Roper,
under-gamekeeper, was a young man without a spark of chivalry in him, and
he had been soured in the matter of kisses by the steadfast resolve of
the young women of the village to suffer none from him. He was an
unattractive young man, not unlike the ferrets he kept at his cottage. He
was the last young man in the world, or at any rate in the neighbourhood,
to keep silent about what he had seen.
Even so, no great harm might have been done. He might have blabbed about
the matter in the village, and the whole village and the servants of the
Castle might have talked about it for weeks and months, or even years,
without it reaching the ears of Lord Loudwater. But William Roper saw in
that kiss his royal road to Fortune. Ambitious in the grain, he was not
content with his post of under-gamekeeper; he desired to oust William
Hutchings from the post of head-gamekeeper, and though there were two
under-gamekeepers senior to him with a greater claim on that post, occupy
it himself. Here was the way to it; his lordship could not but be
grateful to the man who informed him of such goings-on; he could not but
promote him to the post of his desire.
He wholly misjudged his lordship. Ordinary gratitude was not one of his
Olivia slipped out of Grey's arm, and they walked on up the aisle. But
they walked on, changed creatures--trembling, a little bemused.
William Roper, the ill-favoured minister of Nemesis, followed them.
At the top of the aisle they came to the pavilion, a small white marble
building in the Classic style, standing in the middle of a broad glade.
As they went into it, Olivia said wistfully: "It's a pity I couldn't have
tea sent here."
"I did. At least I brought it," said Grey, waving his hand towards a
basket which stood on the table. "I knew you'd be happier for tea."
"No one has ever been so thoughtful of me as you are," she said, gazing
at him with grateful, troubled eyes.
"Let's hope that your luck is changing," he said gravely, gazing at her
with eyes no less troubled.
Then Melchisidec scratched at the door and mewed. Olivia let him in.
Purring in the friendliest way, he rubbed his head against Grey's leg. He
never treated Lord Loudwater with such friendliness.
William Roper chose a tree about forty yards from the pavilion and set
his gun against the trunk. Then he filled and lit his pipe, leaned back
comfortably against the trunk, hidden by the fringe of undergrowth, and,
with his eyes on the door of the pavilion, waited. For Grey and Olivia,
never dreaming of this patient watcher, the minutes flew; they had so
many things to tell one another, so many questions to ask. At least Grey
had; Olivia, for the most part, listened without comment, unless the
flush which waxed and waned should be considered comment, to the things
he told her about herself and the many ways in which she affected him.
For William Roper the minutes dragged; he was eager to start briskly up
the royal road to Fortune. He was a slow smoker and he smoked a strong,
slow-burning twist; but he had nearly emptied the screw of paper which
held it before they came out of the door of the pavilion.
It was a still evening, but some drift of air had carried the rank smoke
from William Roper's pipe into the glade, and it hung there. Colonel Grey
had not taken five steps before his nostrils were assailed by it.
"Damn!" he said softly.
"What's the matter?" said Olivia.
She was too deeply absorbed in Grey for her senses to be alert, and
the reek of William Roper's twist had reached her nostrils, but not
"There's some one about," he said. "Can't you smell his vile tobacco?"
"Bother!" said Olivia softly, and she frowned. They walked quietly on.
Grey was careful not to look about him with any show of earnestness, for
there was nothing to be gained by letting the watcher know that they had
perceived his presence. Indeed, he would have seen nothing, for the
undergrowth between him and the glade was too thin to form a good screen,
and William Roper was now behind the tree-trunk.
Thirty yards down the broad aisle Grey said in a low voice: "This is an
"Why?" said Olivia.
"If it comes to Loudwater's ears, he'll make himself devilishly
unpleasant to you."
"He can't make himself more unpleasant than he does," she said, in a tone
of quiet certitude and utter indifference. "But why shouldn't I have tea
with you in the pavilion? It's what it's there for."
"All the same, Loudwater will make an infernal fuss about it, if it gets
to his ears. He'll bully you worse than ever," he said in an unhappy
tone, frowning heavily.
"What do I care about Loudwater--now?" she said, smiling at him, and she
brushed her fingertips across the back of his hand.
He caught her fingers and held them for a moment, but the frown
did not lift.
"The nuisance is that, whoever it was, he had been there a long time," he
said gravely. "The glade was full of the reek of his vile tobacco.
Suppose he saw me kiss you in the drive here and then followed us?"
"Well, if you will do such wicked things in the open air--" she
"It isn't a laughing matter, I'm afraid," he said rather heavily,
"Well, I should have to consider your reputation and say that you didn't.
It would be very bad for your career if it became known that you did such
things, and Egbert would never rest till he had done everything he could
do to injure you. I should certainly declare that you didn't, and you'd
have to do the same."
"Oh, leave me out of it! Hogbert can't touch me. It's you I'm thinking
about," he said.
"But there's no need to worry about me. I'm not afraid of Egbert any
longer," she said, and her eyes, full of confidence and courage, met his
steadily. Then, resolved to clear the anxiety away from his mind, she
went on: "It's no use meeting trouble half-way. If some one did see us,
Egbert may not get to hear of it for days, or weeks--perhaps never."
She did not know that they had to reckon with the ambition of
"Lord, how I want to kiss you again!" he cried.
"You'll have to wait till tomorrow," she said.
It was as well that he did not kiss her again, for fifty yards behind
them, stealing through the wood, came William Roper, all eyes. And he had
already quite enough to tell.
Grey walked with her through the rest of the wood and nearly to the end
of the path through the shrubbery. She spared no effort to set his mind
at ease, protesting that she did not care a rap how furiously her husband
abused her. A few yards from the edge of the East lawn they stopped, but
they lingered over their parting. She promised to meet him in the East
wood at three on the morrow.
She walked slowly across the lawn and up to her suite of rooms, thinking
of Grey. She changed into a _peignoir_, lit a cigarette, lay down on a
couch, and went on thinking about him. She gave no thought to the matter
of whether they had been watched. Lord Loudwater had become of less
interest than ever to her; his furies seemed trivial. She had a feeling
that he had become a mere shadow in her life.
As she lay smoking that cigarette William Roper was telling his story to
Lord Loudwater. He had waited in the wood till Colonel Grey had gone
back through it; then he had walked briskly to the back door of the
Castle and asked to see his lordship. Mary Hutchings, the second
housemaid, who had answered his knock, took him to the servants' hall,
and told Holloway what he asked. Both of them regarded him curiously;
they themselves never wanted to see his lordship, though seeing him was
part of their jobs, and one who could go oat of his way to see him must
indeed be remarkable. William Roper was hardly remarkable. He was merely
somewhat repulsive. Holloway said that he would inquire whether his
lordship would see him, and went.
As he went out of the door William Roper said, with an air of great
importance: "Tell 'is lordship as it's very partic'ler."
Mary Hutchings' curiosity was aroused, and she tried to discover what it
was. All she gained by doing so was an acute irritation of her curiosity.
William Roper grew mysterious to the very limits of aggravation, but he
told her nothing.
Her irritation was not alleviated when he said darkly: "You'll 'ear all
about these goings-on in time."
She wished to hear all about them then and there.
Holloway came back presently, looking rather sulky, and said that his
lordship would see William Roper.
"Though why 'e should curse me because you want to see 'im very
partic'ler, I can't see," he added, with an aggrieved air.
He led the way, and for the first time in his life William Roper found
himself entering the presence of the head of the House of Loudwater
without any sense of trepidation. He carried himself unusually upright
with an air of conscious rectitude.
Lord Loudwater was in the smoking-room in which he had that morning dealt
with his letters with Mr. Manley. It was his favourite room, his
smoking-room, his reading-room, and his office. He had been for a long
ride, and was now lying back in an easy chair, with a long
whisky-and-soda by his side, reading the _Pall Mall Gazette_. In
literature his taste was blameless.
Holloway, ushering William Roper into the room, said: "William Roper,
m'lord," and withdrew.
Lord Loudwater went on reading the paragraph he had just begun. William
Roper gazed at him without any weakening of his courage, so strong was
his conviction of the nobility of the duty he was discharging, and
cleared his throat.
Lord Loudwater finished the paragraph, scowled at the interrupter, and
said: "Well, what is it? Hey? What do you want?"
"It's about 'er ladyship, your lordship. I thought your lordship oughter
be told about it--its not being at all the sort of thing as your lordship
would be likely to 'old with."
There are noblemen who would, on the instant, have bidden William Roper
go to the devil. Lord Loudwater was not of these. He set the newspaper
down beside the whisky-and-soda, leaned forward, and said in a hushed
voice: "What the devil are you talking about? Hey?"
"I seed Colonel Grey--the gentleman as is staying at the 'Cart and
'Orses'--kiss 'er in the East wood," said William Roper.
The first emotion of Lord Loudwater was incredulous amazement. It was his
very strong conviction that his wife was a cold-blooded, passionless
creature, incapable of inspiring or feeling any warm emotion. He had
forgotten that he had married her for love--violent love.
"You infernal liar!" he said in a rather breathless voice.
"It ain't no lie, your lordship. What for should I go telling lies about
'er?" said William Roper in an injured tone.
Lord Loudwater stared at him. The fellow was telling the truth.
"And what did she do? Hey? Did she smack his face for him?" he cried.
"No. She let 'im do it, your lordship."
"She did?" bellowed his lordship.
"Yes. She didn't seem a bit put out, your lordship," said William
"And what happened then?" bellowed Lord Loudwater, and he got to his
"They walked on to the pavilion, your lordship. An' they had their tea
there. Leastways, I seed'er ladyship come to the door an' empty hot water
out of a tea-pot."
"Tea? Tea?" said Lord Loudwater in the tone of one saying: "Arson!
Then, in all his black wrath, he perceived that he must have himself in
hand to deal with the matter. He took a long draught of whisky-and-soda,
rose, walked across the room and back again, grinding his teeth, rolling
his eyes, and snapping the middle finger and thumb of his right hand.
Never had the flush of rage been so deep in his face. It was almost
purple. Never had his eyes protruded so far from his head.
He stopped and said thickly: "How long were they in the pavilion?"
"In the pavilion, your lordship? They were there a longish while--an hour
and a half maybe," said William Roper, with quiet pride in the impression
his information had made on his employer.
His employer looked at him as if it was the dearest wish of his heart to
shake the life out of him then and there. It _was_ the dearest wish of
his heart. But he refrained. It would be a senseless act to slay the
goose which lay these golden eggs of information.
"All right. Get out! And keep your tongue between your teeth, or I'll cut
it out for you! Do you understand? Hey?" he roared, approaching William
Roper with an air so menacing that the conscientious fellow backed
against the door with his arm up to shield his face.
"I ain't a-going to say a word to no one!" he cried.
"You'd better not! Get out!" snarled his employer.
William Roper got out. Trembling and perspiring freely, he walked
straight through the Castle and out of the back door without pausing to
say a word to any one, though he heard the voice of Holloway discussing
his mysterious errand with Mary Hutchings in the servants' hall. He had
walked nearly a mile before he succeeded in convincing himself that his
feet were firmly set on the royal road to Fortune. His conviction was
For a good three minutes after the departure of William Roper the Lord
Loudwater walked up and down the smoking-room. His redly-glinting eyes
still rolled in a terrifying fashion, and still every few seconds he
snapped his fingers in the throes of an effort to make up his raging mind
whether to begin by an attack on his wife or on Colonel Grey. He could
not remember ever having been so angry in his life; now and again his red
eyes saw red.
Then of a sudden he made up his mind that he was at the moment
angrier with Colonel Grey. He would deal with him first. Olivia could
wait. He hurried out to the stables and bellowed for a horse with
such violence that two startled grooms saddled one for him in little
more than a minute.
He made no attempt to think what he would say to Colonel Grey. He was
too angry. He galloped the two miles to the "Cart and Horses" at
Bellingham, where Colonel Grey was staying, in order to restore his
health and to fish.
At the door of the inn he bellowed: "Ostler! Ostler!" Then without
waiting to see whether an ostler came, he threw the reins on his horse's
neck, left it to its own devices, strode into the tap-room, and bellowed
to the affrighted landlady, Mrs. Turnbull, to take him straight to
Colonel Grey. Trembling, she led him upstairs to Grey's sitting-room on
the first floor. Before she could knock, he opened the door, bounced
through it, and slammed it.
Grey was sitting at the other side of the table, looking through a book
of flies. He appeared to be quite unmoved by the sudden entry of the
infuriated nobleman, or by his raucous bellow:
"So here you are, you infernal scoundrel!"
He looked at him with a cold, distasteful eye, and said in a clear, very
unpleasant voice: "Another time knock before you come into my room."
Lord Loudwater had not expected to be received in this fashion; dimly he
had seen Grey cowering.
He paused, then said less loudly: "Knock? Hey? Knock? Knock at the door
of an infernal scoundrel like you?" His voice began to gather volume
again. "Likely I should take the trouble! I know all about your
Colonel Grey remembered that Olivia had said that she proposed to deny
the kiss, and his course was quite clear to him.
"I don't know whether you're drunk, or mad," he said in a quiet,
This again was not what Lord Loudwater had expected. But Grey was a
strong believer in the theory that the attacker has the advantage, and
he had an even stronger belief that an enemy in a fury is far less
dangerous than an enemy calm.
"You're lying! You know I'm neither!" bellowed Lord Loudwater. "You
kissed Olivia--Lady Loudwater--in the East wood. You know you did. You
were seen doing it."
"You're raving, man," said Colonel Grey quietly, in a yet more
The interview was not going as Lord Loudwater had seen it. He had to
swallow violently before he could say: "You were seen doing it! Seen! By
one of my gamekeepers!"
"You must have paid him to say so," said Colonel Grey with quiet
Lord Loudwater was a little staggered by the accusation. He gasped and
stuttered: "D-D-Damn your impudence! P-P-Paid to say it!"
"Yes, paid," said Colonel Grey, without raising his voice. "You happened
to hear that we had tea in the pavilion in the wood--probably from Lady
Loudwater herself--and you made up this stupid lie and paid your
gamekeeper to tell it in order to score off her. It's exactly the dog's
trick a bullying ruffian like you would play a woman."
"D-D-Dog's trick? Me?" stammered Lord Loudwater, gasping.
He was used to saying things of this kind to other people; not to have
them said to him.
"Yes, you. You know that you're a wretched bully and cad," said Colonel
Grey, with just a little more warmth in his tone.
Had Lord Loudwater's belief that William Roper had told him the truth
about the kiss been weaker, it might have been shaken by the
whole-hearted thoroughness of Grey's attack. But William Roper had
impressed that belief on him deeply. He was sure that Grey had kissed
The certainty spurred him to a fresh effort, and he cried: "It's no good
your trying to humbug me--none at all. I've got evidence--plenty of
evidence! And I'm going to act on it, too. I'm going to hound you out of
the Army and that jade of a wife of mine out of decent society. Do you
think, because I don't spend four or five months every year in that
rotten hole, London, I haven't got any influence? Hey? If you do, you're
damn well wrong. I've got more than enough twice over to clear a
scoundrel like you out of the Army."
"Don't talk absurd nonsense!" said Grey calmly.
"Nonsense? Hey? Absurd nonsense?" howled Lord Loudwater on a new note of
"Yes, nonsense. A disreputable cad like you can't hurt me in any way, and
well you know it," said Grey with painstaking distinctness.
"Not hurt you? Hey? I can't hurt the corespondent in a divorce case?
Hey?" said Lord Loudwater rather breathlessly.
"As if a man who has abused and bullied his wife as you have could get a
divorce!" said Grey, and he laughed a gentle, contemptuous laugh, galling
It galled Lord Loudwater surely enough; he snapped his fingers four times
"I tell you what it is: I've had enough of your manners," said Grey.
"What you want is a lesson. And if I hear that you've been bullying Lady
Loudwater about this simple matter of my having had tea with her, I'll
give it you--with a horsewhip."
"You'll give me a lesson? You?" whispered Lord Loudwater, and he danced a
"Yes. I'll give you the soundest thrashing any man hereabouts has had for
the last twenty years, if I have to begin by knocking your ugly head off
your shoulders," said Grey, raising his clear voice, so that for the
first time Mrs. Turnbull, trembling, but thrilled, on the landing, heard
what was being said.
The enunciation of Lord Loudwater had been thick, his words had
"You? You thrash me?" he howled.
"Yes, me. Now get out!"
Lord Loudwater gnashed his teeth at him and again snapped his fingers. He
burned to rush round the table and hammer the life out of Grey, but he
could not do it; violent words, not violent deeds, were his
accomplishment. Moreover, there was something daunting in Grey's cold
and steady eye. He snapped his fingers again, and, pouring out a stream
of furious abuse, turned to the door and flung out of it. Mrs. Turnbull
scuttled aside into Grey's bedroom.
Half-way down the stairs Lord Loudwater paused to bellow: "I'll ruin you
yet, you scoundrel! Mark my word! I _will_ hound you out of the Army!"
He flung out of the house and found that the ostler had taken his horse
round to the stable, removed its bridle, and given it a feed of corn. He
cursed him heartily.
Grey rose, shut the door, and laughed gently. Then he frowned. Of a
sudden he perceived that, natural as had been his manner of dealing with
Lord Loudwater, he had handled him badly. At least, it was possible that
he had handled him badly. It would have been wiser, perhaps, to have been
suave and firm rather than firm and provoking. But it was not likely that
suavity would have been of much use; the brute would probably have
regarded it as weakness. But for Olivia's sake he ought probably to have
tried to soothe him. As it was, the brute had gone raging off and would
vent his fury on her.
What had he better do?
He was not long perceiving that there was nothing that he could do. The
natural thing was to go to the Castle and prevent her husband--by force,
if need be--from abusing and bullying Olivia. That was what his
strongest instincts bade him do. It was quite impossible. It would
compromise her beyond repair. He had done her harm enough by his
impulsive indiscretion in the wood. His face slowly settled into a set
scowl as he cudgelled his brains to find a way of coming effectually to
her help. It seemed a vain effort, but a way had to be found.
Lord Loudwater galloped half-way to the Castle in a furious haste to
punish Olivia for allowing Grey to make love to her, and even more for
the contemptuous way in which Grey had treated him. He had hopes also
of bullying her into a confession of the truth of William Roper's
story. But Grey had excited him to a height of fury at which not even
he could remain without exhaustion. In a reaction he reined in his
horse to a canter, then to a trot, and then to a walk. He found that he
was feeling tired.
He continued, however, to chafe at his injuries, but with less vehemence,
and he was still resolved to make a strong effort to draw the confession
from Olivia. On reaching the Castle, he did not go to her at once. He sat
down in an easy chair in his smoking-room and drank two
In the background of Olivia's mind, meditating pleasantly on her pleasant
afternoon, there had been a patient and resigned expectation that
presently her conscience would begin to reproach her for allowing Grey to
make love to her. But the minutes slipped by, and she did not begin to
feel that she had been wicked. The meditation remained pleasant. At last
she realized suddenly that she was not going to feel wicked. She was
surprised and even a trifle horror-stricken by her insensibility. Then,
fairly faced by it, she came to the conclusion that, in a woman cursed
with such a brute of a husband, such insensibility was not only natural,
it was even proper.
Her woman's craving to be loved and to love was the strongest of her
emotions, and it had gone unsatisfied for so long. Her husband had
killed, or rather extirpated, her fondness for him before they had been
married a month. She was inclined to believe that she had never really
loved him at all. He had certainly ceased to love her before they had
been married a fortnight, if, indeed, he had ever loved her at all. She
had no child; she was an orphan without sisters or brothers. Her husband
let her see but little of the friends who were fond of her. She began to
suspect that her conscience did not reproach her because she had merely
acted on her natural right to love and be loved. This conclusion brought
her mind again to the consideration of Antony Grey, and again she let her
thoughts dwell on him.
The gong, informing her that it was time to dress for dinner, interrupted
this pleasant occupation. She had her bath, put herself into the hands of
her maid, Elizabeth Twitcher, and resumed her meditation. She was at
once so deeply absorbed in it that she did not observe her maid's sullen
and depressed air.
She was presently interrupted again, and in a manner far more violent and
startling than the summons of the gong. The door was jerked open, and her
refreshed husband strode into the room.
"I know all about your little game, madam!" he cried. "You've been
letting that blackguard Grey make love to you! You kissed him in the East
wood this afternoon!"
The mysterious smile faded from the face of Olivia, and an expression of
the most natural astonishment took its place.
"I sometimes think that you are quite mad, Egbert," she said in her slow,
Elizabeth Twitcher continued her deft manipulation of a thick strand of
hair without any change in her sullen and depressed air. To all seeming,
she was uninterested, or deaf.
Lord Loudwater had expected, in the face of Olivia's gentleness, to have
to work himself up to a proper height of indignant fury by degrees. The
echo of Grey's accusation from the mouth of his wife raised him to it on
the instant and without an effort.
"Don't lie to me!" he bellowed. "It's no good whatever! I tell
you, I know!"
Olivia was surprised to find herself wholly free from her old fear of
him. The fact that she was in love with Grey and he with her had already
worked a change in her. These were the only things in the world of any
real importance. That clear knowledge gave her a new confidence and a new
strength. Her husband had been able to frighten her nearly out of her
wits. Now he could not; and she could use them.
"I'm not lying at all. I really do believe you're mad--often," she said
Once more Lord Loudwater was compelled to grind his teeth. Then he
laughed a harsh, barking laugh, and cried: "It's no good! I've just had
a short interview with that scoundrel Grey. And I put the fear of God
into him, I can tell you. I made him admit that you'd kissed him in the
For a breath Olivia was taken aback. Then she perceived clearly that it
was a lie. He could not put the fear of God into Grey. Besides, Grey had
kissed her, not she him.
"It's you who are lying," she said quickly and with spirit. "How could
Colonel Grey admit a thing that never happened?"
Lord Loudwater perceived that it was going to be harder to wring the
confession from her than he had expected. Checked, he paused. Then
Elizabeth Twitcher caught his attention.
"Here: you--clear out!" he said.
Elizabeth Twitcher caught her mistress's eye in the glass. Olivia
made no sign.
"I can't leave her ladyship's hair in this state, your lordship," said
Elizabeth Twitcher with sullen firmness.
"You do as you're told and clear out!" bellowed his lordship.
"I don't want to be half an hour late for dinner," said Olivia, accepting
the diversion and ready to make the most of it.
Elizabeth Twitcher looked at Lord Loudwater, saw more clearly than
ever his likeness to the loathed James Hutchings, and made up her mind
to do nothing that he bade her do. She went on dressing her mistress's
"Are you going? Or am I to throw you out of the room?" cried Lord
Loudwater in a blustering voice.
"Don't be silly, Egbert!" said Olivia sharply.
From the height of her new emotional experience she felt that her husband
was merely a noisy and obnoxious boy. This was, indeed, quite plain to
her. She felt years older than he and very much wiser.
Lord Loudwater, with a quite unusual glimmer of intelligence, perceived
that bringing Elizabeth Twitcher into the matter had been a mistake. It
had weakened his main action. In a less violent but more malevolent
voice he said:
"Silly? Hey? I'll show you all about that, you little jade! You clear
out of this first thing to-morrow morning. My lawyers will settle your
hash for you. I'll deal with that blackguard Grey myself. I'll hound him
out of the Army inside of a month. Perhaps it'll be a consolation to you
to know that you've done him in as well as yourself."
He turned on his heel, left the room with a positively melodramatic
stride, and slammed the door behind him.
Olivia was stricken by a sudden panic. She had lost all fear of her
husband as far as she herself was concerned. He had become a mere
offensive windbag. She did not care whether he did, or did not, try to
divorce her. Even on the terms of so great a scandal it would be a cheap
deliverance. But Antony was another matter.... She could not bear that he
should be ruined on her account.... It was intolerable ... not to be
thought of.... She must find some way of preventing it.
She began to cudgel her brains for that way of preventing it, but in
vain. She could devise no plan. The more she considered the matter, the
worse it grew. She could not bear to be associated in Antony's mind with
disaster; she desired most keenly to stand for everything that was
pleasant and delightful in his life. She would not let her brute of a
husband spoil both their lives. He had already spoiled enough of hers.
After his injunction to her to leave the Castle first thing next
morning, she took it that they would hardly dine together, and told
Elizabeth Twitcher to tell Wilkins to serve her dinner in her boudoir.
Also, she refused to put on an evening gown, saying that the _peignoir_
she was wearing was more comfortable on such a hot night. Last of all,
she told her to pack some of her clothes that night.
Elizabeth Twitcher, stirred somewhat out of her brooding on her own
troubles by this trouble of her mistress, looked at her thoughtfully and
said: "I shouldn't go, m'lady. It'll look as if you agreed with what his
lordship said. And it's only William Roper as has been telling these
lies. He asked to see his lordship about something very partic'ler before
his lordship went out. And who's going to pay any heed to William Roper?"
"William Roper? Who is William Roper? What kind of a man is he?" said
"He's an under-gamekeeper, m'lady, and the biggest little beast on the
estate. Everybody hates William Roper," said Elizabeth with conviction.
This was satisfactory as far as it went. The worse her husband's evidence
was the freer it left her to take her own course of action. But it was no
great comfort, for she was but little concerned about the harm he could
do her. Indeed, she was only concerned about the harm he could do Antony.
She returned to her search for a method of preventing that harm during
her dinner, and after her dinner she continued that search without any
success. This injury to Antony, for her the central fact of the
situation, weighed on her spirit more and more heavily.
The longer she pondered it the more harassed she grew. The most fantastic
schemes for baulking her husband and saving Antony came thronging into
her mind. She rose and walked restlessly up and down the room, working
herself up into a veritable fever.
Mr. Manley, having dealt with the letters which had come by the
five-o'clock post, read half a dozen chapters of the last published novel
of Artzybachev with the pleasure he never failed to draw from the works
of that author. Then he dressed and set forth, in a very cheerful spirit,
to dine with Helena Truslove. His cheerful expectations were wholly
fulfilled. She had divined that he was endowed, not only with a romantic
spirit, but with a hearty and discriminating appetite, and was careful to
give him good food and wine and plenty of both. With his coffee he smoked
one of Lord Loudwater's favourite cigars. Expanding naturally, he talked
with spirit and intelligence during dinner, and made love to her after
dinner with even more spirit and intelligence. As a rule, he stayed on
the nights he dined with her till a quarter to eleven. But that night she
dismissed him at ten o'clock, saying that she was feeling tired and
wished to go to bed early. Smoking another of Lord Loudwater's favourite
cigars, he walked briskly back to the Castle, more firmly convinced than
ever that every possible step must be taken to prevent any diminution of
the income of a woman of such excellent taste in food and wine. It would
be little short of a crime to discourage the exercise of her fine natural
gift for stimulating the genius of a promising dramatist.
He was not in the habit of going to bed early, and having put on slippers
and an old and comfortable coat, he once more turned to the novel by
Artzybachev. He read two more chapters, smoking a pipe, and then he
became aware that he was thirsty.
He could have mixed himself a whisky and soda then and there, for he had
both in the cupboard, in his sitting-room. But he was a stickler for the
proprieties: he had drunk red wine, Burgundy with his dinner and port
after it, and after red wine brandy is the proper spirit. There would be
brandy in the tantalus in the small dining-room.
He went quietly down the stairs. The big hall, lighted by a single
electric bulb, was very dim, and he took it that, as was their habit, the
servants had already gone to bed. As he came to the bottom of the stairs
the door at the back of the hall opened; James Hutchings came through the
doorway and shut the door quietly behind him.
Mr. Manley stood still. James Hutchings came very quietly down the hall,
saw him, and started.
"Good evening, Hutchings. I thought you'd left us," said Mr. Manley, in a
rather unpleasant tone.
"You may take your oath to it!" said James Hutchings truculently, in a
much more unpleasant tone than Mr. Manley had used. "I just came back to
get a box of cigarettes I left in the cupboard of my pantry. I don't want
any help in smoking them from any one here."
He opened the library door gently, went quietly through it, and drew it
to behind him, leaving Mr. Manley frowning at it. It was a fact that
Hutchings carried a packet, which might very well have been cigarettes;
but Mr. Manley did not believe his story of his errand. He took it that
he was leaving the Castle by one of the library windows. Well, it was no
business of his.
At a few minutes past eight the next morning he was roused from the
deep dreamless sleep which follows good food and good wine well
digested, by a loud knocking on his door. It was not the loud, steady
and prolonged knocking which the third housemaid found necessary to
wake him. It was more vigorous and more staccato and jerkier. Also, a
voice was calling loudly:
"Mr. Manley, sir! Mr. Manley! Mr. Manley!"
For all the noise and insistence of the calling Mr. Manley did not awake
quickly. It took him a good minute to realize that he was Herbert Manley
and in bed, and half a minute longer to gather that the knocking and
calling were unusual and uncommonly urgent. He sat up in bed and yawned
Then he slipped out of bed--the knocking and calling still
continued--unlocked the door, and found Holloway, the second footman, on
the threshold looking scared and horror-stricken.
"Please, sir, his lordship's dead!" he cried. "He's bin murdered! Stabbed
through the 'eart!"
"Murdered? Lord Loudwater?" said Mr. Manley with another terrific yawn,
and he rubbed his eyes. Then he awoke completely and said: "Send a groom
for Black the constable at once. Yes--and tell Wilkins to telephone the
news to the Chief Inspector at Low Wycombe. Hurry up! I'll get dressed
and be down in a few minutes. Hurry up!"
Holloway turned to go.
"Stop!" said Mr. Manley. "Tell Wilkins to see that no one disturbs Lady
Loudwater. I'll break the news myself when she is dressed."
"Yes, sir," said Holloway, and ran down the corridor.
Mr. Manley was much quicker than usual making his toilet, but thorough.
He foresaw a hard and trying day before him, and he wished to start it
fresh and clean. He would come into contact with new people; he saw
himself playing an important rôle in a most important affair; he would
naturally and as usual make himself valued. A slovenly air did not
conduce to that. It seemed fitting to put on his darkest tweed suit and a
When he came--briskly for him--downstairs he found a group of women
servants in the hall, outside the door of the smoking-room, three of them
snivelling, and Wilkins and Holloway in the smoking-room itself, standing
and staring with a wholly helpless air at the body of Lord Loudwater,
huddled in the easy chair in which he had been wont to sleep after dinner
"He's been stabbed, sir. There's that knife which was in the inkstand on
the library table stickin' in 'is 'eart," said Wilkins in a dismal voice.
Mr. Manley glanced at the dead man. He looked to have been stabbed as he
slept. His body had sagged down in the chair, and his head was sunk
between his shoulders, so that he appeared almost neckless. His once so
florid face was of an even, dead, yellowish pallor.
Mr. Manley's glance at the dead man was brief. Then he saw that the door
between the smoking-room and the library was ajar. He could not see the
library windows without crossing the smoking-room. That he would not do.
He was a stickler for correctness in all matters, and he knew that the
scene of a crime must be left untrampled.
He turned and said: "We will leave everything just as it is till the
police come. And telephone at once to Doctor Thornhill, and ask him to
come. If he is out, tell them to get word to him, Wilkins."
Wilkins and Holloway filed out of the room before him; he followed them
out, locked the door and put the key in his pocket. Then he opened the
door from the hall into the library. The long window nearest the
smoking-room door was open.
The group of servants were all watching him; never had he moved or
acted with an air of graver or greater importance. His portliness gave
"Has any of you opened the windows of the library this morning?" he said.
No one answered.
Then Mrs. Carruthers, the housekeeper, said: "Clarke does the library
every morning. Have you done it this morning, Clarke?"
"No, mum. I hadn't finished the green droring-room when Mr. Holloway
brought the sad news," said one of the housemaids.
Mr. Manley locked the library door and put that key also in his pocket.
Then he said in a tone of authority: "I think, Mrs. Carruthers, that the
sooner we all have breakfast the better. I for one am going to have a
hard day, and I shall need all my strength. We all shall."
"Certainly, Mr. Manley. You're quite right. We shall all need our
strength. You shall have your breakfast at once. I'll have it sent to
the little dining-room. You would like to be on the spot. Come along,
girls. Wilkins, and you, Holloway, get on with your work as quickly as
you can," said Mrs. Carruthers, driving her flock before her towards the
"Thank you. And will you see that no one wakes Lady Loudwater before
her usual hour, or tells her what has happened? I will tell her myself
and try to break the news with as little of a shock as possible," said
"Twitcher hasn't bin downstairs yet. She doesn't know anything about it,"
said one of the maids.
"Send her straight to me--to the terrace when she does come down," said
Mr. Manley, walking towards the hall door.
He felt that after the sight of the dead man's face the fresh morning air
would do him good.
There came a sudden burst of excited chatter from the women as they
passed beyond the door into the back of the Castle. All their tongues
seemed to be loosed at once. Mr. Manley went out of the Castle door,
crossed the drive, and walked up and down the lawn. He took long breaths
through his nostrils; the sight of the dead man's yellowish face had been
unpleasant indeed to a man of his sensibility.
In about five minutes Elizabeth Twitcher came out of the big door and
across the lawn to him. She was looking startled and scared.
"Mrs. Carruthers said you wished to speak to me, sir?" she said quickly.
"Yes. I propose to break the news of this very shocking affair to Lady
Loudwater myself. She's rather fragile, I fancy. And I think that it
needs doing with the greatest possible tact--so as to lessen the shock,"
said Mr. Manley in an impressive voice.
Elizabeth Twitcher gazed at him with a growing suspicion in her eyes.
Then she said: "It isn't--it isn't a trap?"
"A trap? What kind of a trap? What on earth do you mean?" said Mr.
Manley, in a not unnatural bewilderment at the odd suggestion.
"You might be trying to take her off her guard," said Elizabeth Twitcher
in a tone of deep suspicion.
"Her guard against what?" said Mr. Manley, still bewildered.
Elizabeth's Twitcher's eyes lost some of their suspicion, and he heard
her breathe a faint sigh of relief.
"I thought as 'ow--as how some of them might have told you what his
lordship was going to do to her, and that she--she stuck that knife into
him so as to stop it," she said.
"What on earth are you talking about? What was his lordship going to do
to her?" cried Mr. Manley, in a tone of yet greater bewilderment.
"He was going to divorce her ladyship. He told her so last night when I
was doing her hair for dinner," said Elizabeth Twitcher.
She paused and stared at him, frowning. Then she went on: "And, like a
fool, I went and talked about it--to some one else."
Mr. Manley glared at her in a momentary speechlessness; then found his
voice and cried: "But, gracious heavens! You don't suspect her ladyship
of having murdered Lord Loudwater?"
"No, I don't. But there'll be plenty as will," said Elizabeth Twitcher
"It's absurd!" cried Mr. Manley.
Elizabeth Twitcher shook her head.
"You must allow as she had reason enough--for a lady, that is. He was
always swearing at her and abusing her, and it isn't at all the kind of
thing a lady can stand. And this divorce coming on the top of it all,"
she said in a dispassionate tone.
"You mustn't talk like this! There's no saying what trouble you may
make!" cried Mr. Manley in a tone of stern severity.
"I'm not going to talk like that--only to you, sir. You're a gentleman,
and it's safe. What I'm afraid of is that I've talked too much
already--last night that is," she said despondently.
"Well, don't make it worse by talking any more. And let me know when your
mistress is dressed, and I'll come up and break the news of this shocking
affair to her."
"Very good, sir," said Elizabeth, and with a gloomy face and depressed
air she went back into the Castle.
She had scarcely disappeared, when Holloway came out to tell Mr. Manley
that his breakfast was ready for him in the little dining-room. Mr.
Manley set about it with the firmness of a man preparing himself against
a strenuous day. The frown with which Elizabeth Twitcher's suggestion had
puckered his brow faded from it slowly, as the excellence of the chop he
was eating soothed him. Holloway waited on him, and Mr. Manley asked him
whether any of the servants had heard anything suspicious in the night.
Holloway assured him that none of them had.
Mr. Manley had just helped himself a second time to eggs and bacon when
Wilkins brought in Robert Black, the village constable. Mr. Manley had
seen him in the village often enough, a portly, grave man, who regarded
his position and work with the proper official seriousness. Mr. Manley
told him that he had locked the door of the smoking-room and of the
library, in order that the scene of the crime might be left undisturbed
for examination by the Low Wycombe police. Robert Black did not appear
pleased by this precaution. He would have liked to demonstrate his
importance by making some preliminary investigations himself. Mr. Manley
did not offer to hand the keys over to him. He intended to have the
credit of the precautions he had taken with the constable's superiors.
He said: "I suppose you would like to question the servants to begin
with. Take the constable to the servants' hall, give him a glass of beer,
and let him get to work, Wilkins."
He spoke in the imperative tone proper to a man in charge of such an
important affair, and Robert Black went. Mr. Manley could not see that
the grave fellow could do any harm by his questions, or, for that
matter, any good.
He finished his breakfast and lighted his pipe. Elizabeth Twitcher came
to tell him that Lady Loudwater was dressed. He told her to tell her that
he would like to see her, and followed her up the stairs. The maid went
into Lady Loudwater's sitting-room, came out, and ushered him into it.
His strong sense of the fitness of things caused him to enter the room
slowly, with an air grave to solemnity. Olivia greeted him with a faint,
rather forced smile.
He thought that she was paler than usual, and lacked something of her
wonted charm. She seemed rather nervous. She thought that he had come
from her husband with an unpleasant and probably most insulting message.