Part 2 out of 4
He cleared his throat and said in the deep, grave voice he felt
appropriate: "I've come on a very painful errand, Lady Loudwater--a very
"Indeed?" she said, and looked at him with uneasy, anxious eyes.
"I'm sorry to tell you that Lord Loudwater has had an accident, a very
bad accident," he said.
"An accident? Egbert?" she cried, in a tone of surprise that sounded
It gave Mr. Manley to understand that she had expected some other kind of
painful communication--doubtless about the divorce Lord Loudwater had
threatened. But he had composed a series of phrases leading up by a nice
gradation to the final announcement, and he went on: "Yes. There is very
little likelihood of his recovering from it."
Olivia looked at him queerly, hesitating. Then she said: "Do you mean
that he's going to be a cripple for life?"
"I mean that he will not live to be a cripple," said Mr. Manley, pleased
to insert a further phrase into his series.
"Is it as bad as that?" she said, in a tone which again gave Mr. Manley
the impression that she was thinking of something else and had not
realized the seriousness of his words.
"I'm sorry to say that it's worse than that. Lord Loudwater is dead," he
said, in his deepest, most sympathetic voice.
"Dead?" she said, in a shocked tone which sounded to him rather forced.
"Murdered," he said.
"Murdered?" cried Olivia, and Mr. Manley had the feeling that there was
less surprise than relief in her tone.
"I have sent for Dr. Thornhill and the police from Low Wycombe," he said.
"They ought to have been here before this. And I am going to telegraph to
Lord Loudwater's solicitors. You would like to have their help as soon as
possible, I suppose. There seems nothing else to be done at the moment."
"Then you don't know who did it?" said Olivia.
Her tone did not display a very lively interest in the matter or any
great dismay, and Mr. Manley felt somewhat disappointed. He had expected
much more emotion from her than she was displaying, even though the death
of her ill-tempered husband must be a considerable relief. He had
expected her to be shocked and horror-stricken at first, before she
realized that she had been relieved of a painful burden. But she seemed
to him to be really less moved by the murder of her husband than she
would have been, had the Lord Loudwater carried out his not infrequent
threat of shooting, or hanging, or drowning the cat Melchisidec.
"No one so far seems to be able to throw any light at all on the crime,"
said Mr. Manley.
Olivia frowned thoughtfully, but seemed to have no more to say on
"Well, then, I'll telegraph to Paley and Carrington, and ask Mr.
Carrington to come down," said Mr. Manley.
"Please," said Olivia.
Mr. Manley hesitated; then he said: "And I suppose that I'd better be
getting some one to make arrangements about the funeral?"
"Please do everything you think necessary," said Olivia. "In fact, you'd
better manage everything till Mr. Carrington comes. A man is much better
at arranging important matters like this than a woman."
"You may rely on me," said Mr. Manley, with a reassuring air, and greatly
pleased by this recognition of his capacity. "And allow me to assure you
of my sincerest sympathy."
"Thank you," said Olivia, and then with more animation and interest she
added: "And I suppose I shall want some black clothes."
"Shall I write to your dressmaker?" said Mr. Manley.
"No, thank you. I shall be able to tell her what I want better myself."
Mr. Manley withdrew in a pleasant temper. It was true that as a student
of dramatic emotion he had been disappointed by the calmness with which
Olivia had received the news of the murder; but she had instructed him to
do everything he thought fit. He saw his way to controlling the
situation, and ruling the Castle till some one with a better right should
supersede him. He was halfway along the corridor before he realized that
Olivia had asked no single question about the circumstance of the crime.
Indifference could go no further. But--he paused, considering--was it
indifference? Could she--could she have known already?
As he came down the stairs Wilkins opened the door of the big hall, and a
man of medium height, wearing a tweed suit and carrying a soft hat and a
heavy malacca cane, entered briskly. He looked about thirty. On his heels
came a tall, thin police inspector in uniform.
Mr. Manley came forward, and the man in the tweed suit said: "My name is
Flexen, George Flexen. I'm acting as Chief Constable. Major Arbuthnot is
away for a month. I happened to be at the police station at Low Wycombe
when your news came, and I thought it best to come myself. This is
Mr. Manley introduced himself as the secretary of the murdered man, and
with an air of quiet importance told Mr. Flexen that Lady Loudwater had
put him in charge of the Castle till her lawyer came. Then he took the
keys of the smoking-room and the library door from his pocket and said:
"I locked up the room in which the dead body is, and the library through
which there is also access to it, leaving everything just as it was when
the body was found. I do not think that any traces which the criminal has
left, if, that is, he has left any, can have been obliterated."
He spoke with the quiet pride of a man who has done the right thing in
"That's good," said Mr. Flexen, in a tone of warm approval. "It
isn't often that we get a clear start like that. We'll examine these
rooms at once."
Mr. Manley went to the door of the smoking-room and was about to unlock
it, when Dr. Thornhill, a big, bluff man of fifty-five, bustled in. Mr.
Manley introduced him to Mr. Flexen; then he unlocked the door and
The doctor was leading the way into the smoking-room when Mr. Flexen
stepped smartly in front of him and said: "Please stay outside all of
you. I'll make the examination myself first."
He spoke quietly, but in the tone of a man used to command.
"But, for anything we know, his lordship may still be alive," said Dr.
Thornhill in a somewhat blustering tone, and pushing forward. "As his
medical adviser, it's my duty to make sure at once."
"I'll tell you whether Lord Loudwater is alive or not. Don't let any one
cross the threshold, Perkins," said Mr. Flexen, with quiet decision.
Perkins laid a hand on the doctor's arm, and the doctor said: "A nice way
of doing things! Arbuthnot would have given his first attention to his
"I'm going to," said Mr. Flexen quietly.
He went to the dead man, looked in his pale face, lifted his hand, let
it fall, and said: "Been dead hours."
Then he examined carefully the position of the knife. He was more than a
minute over it. Then he drew it gingerly from the wound by the ring at
the end of it. It was one of these Swedish knives, the blades of which
are slipped into the handle when they are not being used.
"I think that's the knife that lay, open, in the big ink-stand in the
library. We used it as a paper-knife, and to cut string with," said Mr.
Manley, who was watching him with most careful attention.
"It may have some evidence on the handle," said Mr. Flexen, still holding
it by the ring, and he drove the point of it into the pad of blotting
paper on which Mr. Manley had been wont to write letters at the murdered
"And how am I to tell whether the wound was self-inflicted, or not?"
cried the doctor in an aggrieved tone.
"If you will get some of the servants, you can remove the body to any
room convenient and make your examination. It's a clean stab into the
heart, and it looks to me as if the person who used that knife had some
knowledge of anatomy. Most people who strike for the heart get the middle
of the left lung," said Mr. Flexen.
So saying, he gently drew the easy chair, in which the body was huddled,
nearer the door by its back. Mr. Manley bade Holloway fetch Wilkins and
two of the grooms, and then, eager for hints of the actions of a
detective, so useful to a dramatist, gave all his attention again to the
proceedings of Mr. Flexen, who was down on one knee on the spot in which
the chair had stood, studying the carpet round it. He rose and walked
slowly towards the door which opened into the library, paused on the
threshold to bid Perkins examine the chair and the clothes of the
murdered man, and went into the library.
He was still in it when the footman and the grooms lifted the body of
Lord Loudwater out of the chair, and carried it up to his bedroom. Mr.
Manley stayed on the threshold of the smoking-room. His interest in the
doings of Mr. Flexen forbade him leaving it to superintend decorously the
removal of the body.
Presently Mr. Flexen came back, and as he walked round the room,
examining the rest of it, especially the carpet, Mr. Manley studied the
man himself, the detective type. He was about five feet eight,
broad-shouldered out of proportion to that height, but thin. He had an
uncommonly good forehead, a square, strong chin, a hooked nose and thin,
set lips, which gave him a rather predatory air, belied rather by his
pleasant blue eyes. The sun wrinkles round their corners and his sallow
complexion gave Mr. Manley the impression that he had spent some years in
the tropics and suffered for it.
When Mr. Flexen had examined the room, though Inspector Perkins had
already done so, he felt round the cushions of the easy chair in which
Lord Loudwater had been stabbed, found nothing, and stood beside it in
Then he looked at Mr. Manley and said: "The murderer must have been some
one with whom Lord Loudwater was so familiar that he took no notice of
his or her movements, for he came up to him from the front, or walked
round the chair to the front of him, and stabbed him with a quite
straightforward thrust. Lord Loudwater should have actually seen the
knife--unless by any chance he was asleep."
"He was sure to be asleep," said Mr. Manley quickly. "He always did sleep
in the evening--generally from the time he finished his cigar till he
went to bed. I think he acquired the habit from coming back from hunting,
tired and sleepy. Besides, I came down for a drink between eleven and
twelve, and I'm almost sure I heard him snore. He snored like the devil."
"Slept every evening, did he? That puts a different complexion on the
business," said Mr. Flexen. "The murderer need _not_ have been any one
with whom he was familiar."
"No. He need not. But are you quite sure that the wound wasn't
self-inflicted--that it wasn't a case of suicide?" said Mr. Manley.
"No, I'm not; and I don't think that that doctor--what's his name?
Thornhill--can be sure either. But why should Lord Loudwater have
"Well, he had found out, or thought he had found out, something about
Lady Loudwater, and was threatening to start an action against her for
divorce. At least, so her maid told me this morning. And as he wholly
lacked balance, he might in a fury of jealousy have made away with
himself," said Mr. Manley thoughtfully.
"Was he so fond of Lady Loudwater?" said Mr. Flexen in a somewhat
He had heard stories about Lord Loudwater's treatment of his wife.
"He didn't show any great fondness for her, I'm bound to say. In fact,
he was always bullying her. But he wouldn't need to be very fond of any
one to go crazy with jealousy about her. He was a man of strong passions
and quite unbalanced. I suppose he had been so utterly spoilt as a
child, a boy, and a young man, that he never acquired any power of
self-control at all."
"M'm, I should have thought that in that case he'd have been more likely
to murder the man," said Mr. Flexen.
"He was," said Mr. Manley in ready agreement. "But the other's always
"Yes; one has to bear every possibility in mind," said Mr. Flexen. "I've
heard that he was a bad-tempered man."
"He was the most unpleasant brute I ever came across in my life," said
Mr. Manley with heartfelt conviction.
"Then he had enemies?" said Mr. Flexen.
"Scores, I should think. But, of course, I don't know. Only I can't
conceive his having had a friend," said Mr. Manley in a tone of some
"Then it's certainly a case with possibilities," said Mr. Flexen in a
pleased tone. "But I expect that the solution will be quite simple. It
He said it rather sadly, as if he would have much preferred the solution
to be difficult.
"Let's hope so. A big newspaper fuss will be detestable for Lady
Loudwater. She's a charming creature," said Mr. Manley.
"So I've heard. Do you know who the man was that Loudwater was making a
"I haven't the slightest idea. Probably the maid, Elizabeth Twitcher,
will be able to tell you," said Mr. Manley.
Mr. Flexen walked across the room and drew the knife out of the pad of
blotting-paper by the ring in its handle, and studied it.
"I suppose this is the knife that was in the library? They're pretty
common," he said.
Mr. Manley came to him, looked at it earnestly, and said: "That's it all
right. I tried to sharpen it a day or two ago, so that it would sharpen a
pencil. I generally leave my penknife in the waist-coat I'm not wearing.
But I couldn't get it sharp enough. It's rotten steel."
"All of them are, but good enough for a stab," said Mr. Flexen.
Olivia had very little appetite for breakfast. It is to be doubted,
indeed, whether she was aware of what she was eating. Elizabeth Twitcher
hovered about her, solicitous, pressing her to eat more. She was fond of
her mistress, and very uneasy lest she should have harmed her seriously
by her careless gossiping the night before. But she was surprised by the
exceedingly anxious and worried expression which dwelt on Olivia's face.
Her air grew more and more harassed. The murder of her husband had
doubtless been a shock, but he had been such a husband. Elizabeth
Twitcher had expected her mistress to cry a little about his death, and
then grow serene as she realized what a good riddance it was. But Olivia
had not cried, and she showed no likelihood whatever of becoming serene.
At the end of her short breakfast she lit a cigarette, and began to pace
up and down her sitting-room with a jerky, nervous gait, quite unlike her
wonted graceful, easy, swinging walk. She had to relight her cigarette,
and as she did so, Elizabeth Twitcher, who was clearing away the
breakfast, perceived that her hands were shaking. There was plainly more
in the matter than Elizabeth Twitcher had supposed, and she wondered,
growing more and more uneasy.
When she went downstairs with the tray she learned that Dr. Thornhill was
examining the wound which had caused the Lord Loudwater's death, and that
Mr. Flexen and Inspector Perkins were questioning Wilkins. Talking to the
other servants, she found of a sudden that she had reason for anxiety
herself, and hurried back in a panic to her mistress's boudoir. She found
Olivia still walking nervously up and down.
"The inspector and the gentleman who is acting Chief Constable are
questioning the servants, m'lady," said Elizabeth.
Olivia stopped short and stared at her with rather scared eyes.
Then she said sharply: "Go down and learn what the servants have told
them--all the servants--everything."
Her mistress's plainly greater anxiety eased a little Elizabeth
Twitcher's own panic in the matter of James Hutchings, and she went down
again to the servants' quarters.
Mr. Flexen and Inspector Perkins learnt nothing of importance from
Wilkins; but he made it clearer to Mr. Flexen that the temper of the
murdered man had indeed been abominable. Holloway, on the other hand,
proved far more enlightening. From him they learnt that Hatchings had
been discharged the day before without notice, and that he had uttered
violent threats against his employer before he went. Also they learnt
that Hatchings, who had left about four o'clock in the afternoon, had
come back to the Castle at night. Jane Pittaway, an under-house-maid, had
heard him talking to Elizabeth Twitcher in the blue drawing-room between
eleven and half-past.
Mr. Flexen questioned Holloway at length, and learned that James
Hatchings was a man of uncommonly violent temper; that it had been a
matter of debate in the servants' hall whether his furies or those of
their dead master were the worse. Then he dismissed Holloway, and sent
for Jane Pittaway. A small, sharp-eyed, sharp-featured young woman, she
was quite clear in her story. About eleven the night before she had gone
into the great hall to bring away two vases full of flowers, to be
emptied and washed next morning, and coming past the door of the blue
drawing-room, had heard voices. She had listened and recognized the
voices of Hutchings and Elizabeth Twitcher. No; she had not heard what
they were saying. The door was too thick. But he seemed to be arguing
with her. Yes; she had been surprised to find him in the house after he
had gone off like that. Besides, everybody thought that he had jilted
Elizabeth Twitcher and was keeping company with Mabel Evans, who had come
home on a holiday from her place in London to her mother's in the
village. No; she did not know how long he stayed. She minded her own
business, but, if any one asked her, she must say that he was more likely
to murder some one than any one she knew, for he had a worse temper than
his lordship even, and bullied every one he came near worse than his
lordship. In fact, she had never been able to understand how Elizabeth
Twitcher could stand him, though of course every one knew that Elizabeth
could always give as good as she got.
When Mr. Flexen thanked her and said that she might go, she displayed a
desire to remain and give them her further views on the matter. But
Inspector Perkins shooed her out of the room.
Then Wilkins came to say that Dr. Thornhill had finished his examination
and would like to see them.
He came in with a somewhat dissatisfied air, sat down heavily in the
chair the inspector pushed forward for him, and said in a
"The blade pierced the left ventricle, about the middle, a good inch and
a half. Death was practically instantaneous, of course."
"I took it that it must have been. The collapse had been so complete. I
suppose the blade stopped the heart dead," said Mr. Flexen.
"Absolutely dead," said the doctor. "But the thing is that I can't swear
to it that the wound was not self-inflicted. Knowing Lord Loudwater, I
could swear to it morally. There isn't the ghost of a chance that he
took his own life. But physically, his right hand might have driven that
blade into his heart."
"I thought so myself, though of course I'm no expert," said Mr. Flexen.
"And I agree with you when you say that you are morally certain that the
wound was not self-inflicted. Those bad-tempered brutes may murder other
people, but themselves never."
"Well, I've not your experience in crime, but I should say that you were
right," said the doctor.
"All the same, the fact that you cannot swear that the wound was not
self-inflicted will be of great help to the murderer, unless we get an
absolute case against him," said Mr. Flexen.
"Well, I'm sure I hope you will. Lord Loudwater had a bad temper--an
infernal temper, in fact. But that's no excuse for murdering him," said
"None whatever," said Mr. Flexen. "What about the inquest? I suppose we'd
better have it as soon as possible."
"Yes. Tomorrow morning, if you can," said the doctor, rising.
"Very good. Send word to the coroner at once, Perkins. Don't go yourself.
I shall want you here," said Mr. Flexen.
He shook hands with the doctor and bade him good-day. As Inspector
Perkins went out of the room to send word to the coroner, he bade him
send Elizabeth Twitcher to him.
She was not long coming, for, in obedience to Olivia's injunction, she
was engaged in learning what the other servants knew, or thought they
knew, about the murder.
When she came into the dining-room, Mr. Flexen's keen eyes examined her
with greater care than he had given to the other servants. On Jane
Pittaway's showing, she should prove an important witness. Now Elizabeth
Twitcher was an uncommonly pretty girl, dark-eyed and dark-haired, and
her forehead and chin and the way her eyes were set in her head showed
considerable character. Mr. Flexen made up his mind on the instant that
he was going to learn from Elizabeth Twitcher exactly what Elizabeth
Twitcher thought fit to tell him and no more, for all that he perceived
that she was badly scared.
He did not beat about the bush; he said: "You had a conversation with
James Hutchings last night, about eleven o'clock, in the blue
drawing-room. Did you let him in?"
Elizabeth Twitcher's cheeks lost some more of their colour while he was
speaking, and her eyes grew more scared. She hesitated for a moment;
then she said:
"Yes. I let him in at the side door."
He had not missed her hesitation; he was sure that she was not telling
"How did you know he was at the side door?" he said.
She hesitated again. Then she said: "He whistled to me under my window
just as I was going to bed."
Again he did not believe her.
"Did you let him out of the Castle?" he said.
"No, I didn't. He let himself out," she said quickly.
"Out of the side door?"
"How else would he go out?" she snapped.
"You don't know that he went out by the side door?" said Mr. Flexen.
Elizabeth hesitated again. Then she said sullenly: "No, I don't. I left
him in the blue drawing-room."
"In a very bad temper?" said Mr. Flexen.
"I don't know what kind of a temper he was in," she said.
Mr. Flexen paused, looking at her thoughtfully. Then he said: "I'm told
that you and he were engaged to be married, and that he broke the
"_I_ broke it off!" said Elizabeth angrily, and she drew herself up very
stiff and frowning.
It was Mr. Flexen's turn to hesitate. Then he made a shot, and said: "I
see. He wanted you to become engaged to him again, and you wouldn't."
Elizabeth looked at him with an air of surprise and respect, and said:
"It wasn't quite like that, sir. I didn't say as I wouldn't be his fioncy
again. I said I'd see how he behaved himself."
"Then he wasn't in a good temper," said Mr. Flexen.
"He was in a better temper than he'd any right to expect to be," said
Elizabeth with some heat.
"That's true," said Mr. Flexen, smiling at her. "But after the trouble he
had had with Lord Loudwater he couldn't be in a very good temper."
"He was too used to his lordship's tantrums to take much notice of them.
He was too much that way himself," said Elizabeth quickly.
"I see," said Mr. Flexen. "What time was it when he left you?"
"I can't rightly say. But it wasn't half-past eleven," she said.
He perceived that that was true. At the moment there was no more to be
learned from her. If she could throw any more light on the doings of
James Hutchings, she was on her guard and would not. But he had learned
that James Hutchings had not entered the Castle by the side door. Had he
entered it and left it by the library window?
He asked Elizabeth a few more unimportant questions and dismissed her.
Inspector Perkins, having sent a groom to inform the coroner of the
murder, and of the need for an early inquest into it, came back to him.
They discussed the matter of James Hutchings, and decided to have him
watched and arrest him on suspicion should he try to leave the
neighbourhood. The inspector telephoned to Low Wycombe for two of his
Mr. Flexen questioned the rest of the servants and learned nothing new
from them. By the time he had finished the two detectives from Low
Wycombe arrived, and he sent them out to make inquiries in the village,
though he thought it unlikely that anything was to be learnt there,
unless Hutchings had been talking again.
He had risen and was about to go to the smoking-room to look round it
again, on the chance that something had escaped his eye, when Mrs.
Carruthers, the housekeeper, entered the room. None of the servants had
mentioned her to him, and it had not occurred to him that there would of
course be a housekeeper.
"Good morning, Mr. Flexen. I'm Mrs. Carruthers, the housekeeper," she
said. "You didn't send for me. But I thought I ought to see you, for
I know something which may be important, and I thought you ought to
know it, too."
"Of course. I can't know too much about an affair like this," said Mr.
"Well, there was a woman, or rather I should say a lady, with his
lordship in the smoking-room last night--about eleven o'clock."
"Indeed?" said Mr. Flexen. "Won't you sit down? A lady you say?"
"Yes; she was a lady, though she seemed very angry and excited, and was
talking in a very high voice. I didn't recognize it, so I can't tell you
who it was. You see, I don't belong to the neighbourhood. I've only been
here six weeks."
"And how long did this interview last?" said Mr. Flexen.
"I can't tell you. It was no business of mine. I was making my round last
thing to see that the servants had left nothing about. I always do. You
know how careless they are. I went round the hall, and then I went to
bed. But, of course, I wondered about it," said Mrs. Carruthers.
Mr. Flexen looked at her refined, rather delicate face, and he did not
wonder how she had repressed her natural curiosity.
"Can you tell me whether the French window in the library, the end one,
was open at that time?" he said.
"I can't," she said in a tone of regret. "I couldn't very well open the
library door. If the door between the library and the smoking-room was
open, I should have been certain to hear something that was not meant
for my ears. And it generally is open in summer time. But I should think
it very likely that the lady came in by that window. It's always open in
summer time. In fact, his lordship always went out into the garden
through it, going from his smoking-room."
"And what time was it that you heard this?" he said.
"A few minutes past eleven. I looked round the drawing-room and the two
dining-rooms, and it was a quarter-past eleven when I came into my room."
"That's the first exact time I've got from any one yet," said Mr. Flexen
in a tone of satisfaction. "And that's all you heard?"
She hesitated, and a look of distress came over her face. Then she said:
"You have questioned Elizabeth Twitcher. Did she tell you anything about
his lordship's last quarrel with her ladyship?"
"She did not," said Mr. Flexen. "Mr. Manley told me that she had told
him about the quarrel. But I did not question her about it. I left it
Mrs. Carruthers hesitated; then she said: "It's so difficult to see what
one's duty is in a case like this."
"Well, one's obvious duty is to make no secret of anything that may throw
a light on the crime. Was it anything out of the way in the way of
quarrels? Wasn't Lord Loudwater always quarrelling with Lady Loudwater?
I've been told that he was always insulting and bullying her."
"Well, this one was rather out of the common," said Mrs. Carruthers
reluctantly. "He accused her of having kissed Colonel Grey in the East
wood and declared that he would divorce her."
"It was Colonel Grey, was it?" said Mr. Flexen.
"That is what Elizabeth Twitcher told me after supper last night. It
seems that his lordship burst in upon them when she was dressing her
ladyship's hair for dinner and blurted it out before her. I've no doubt
she was telling the truth. Twitcher is a truthful girl."
"Moderately truthful," said Mr. Flexen in a somewhat ironical tone.
"Of course she may have exaggerated. Servants do," said Mrs. Carruthers.
"And how did Lady Loudwater take it?" said Mr. Flexen.
"Twitcher said that she denied everything, and did not appear at all
upset about it. Of course, she was used to Lord Loudwater's making
scenes. He had a most dreadful temper."
"M'm," said Mr. Flexen, and he played a tune on the table with his
finger-tips, frowning thoughtfully. "Was Colonel Grey--I suppose it is
Colonel Antony Grey--the V.C. who has been staying down here?"
"Yes," said Mrs. Carruthers. "He's at the 'Cart and Horses' at
"Was he on good terms with Lord Loudwater?"
"They were quite friendly up to about a fortnight ago. The Colonel used
to play billiards with his lordship and stay on to dinner two or three
times a week. Then they had a quarrel--about the way his lordship
treated her ladyship. Holloway, the footman, heard it, and the Colonel
told his lordship that he was a cad and a blackguard, and he hasn't been
"But he met Lady Loudwater in the wood?"
"So his lordship declared," said Mrs. Carruthers in a non-committal tone.
"Do you know how Lord Loudwater came to hear of their meeting?"
"Twitcher said that he must have had it from one of the
under-gamekeepers, a young fellow called William Roper. Roper asked to
see his lordship that evening and was very mysterious about his errand,
so that it looks as if she might be right. None of the servants ever went
near his lordship, if they could help it. It had to be something very
important to induce William Roper to go to him of his own accord."
"I see," said Mr. Flexen thoughtfully. "Well, I'm glad you told me about
this. Do you suppose that this Twitcher girl has talked to any one but
you about it?"
"That I can't say at all. But she has a bedroom to herself," said Mrs.
Carruthers. "Besides, if she had talked to any of the others, they would
have told you about it."
"Yes; there is that. I think it would be a good thing if you were to
give her a hint to keep it to herself. It may have no bearing whatever
on the crime. It's not probable that it has. But it's the kind of
thing to set people talking and do both Lady Loudwater and Colonel
Grey a lot of harm."
"I will give her a hint at once," said Mrs. Carruthers, rising. "But the
unfortunate thing is that if Twitcher doesn't talk, this young fellow
Roper will. And, really, Lord Loudwater gave her ladyship quite enough
trouble and unhappiness when he was alive without giving her more now
that he's dead."
"I may be able to induce William Roper to hold his tongue," said Mr.
Flexen dryly. "Certainly his talking cannot do any good in any case. And
I have gathered that Lady Loudwater has suffered quite enough already
from her husband."
"I'm sure she has; and I do hope you will be able to keep that young man
quiet," said Mrs. Carruthers, moving towards the door. As she opened it,
she paused and said: "Will you be here to lunch, Mr. Flexen?"
"To lunch and probably all the afternoon." He hesitated and added: "It
would be rather an advantage if I could sleep here, too. I do not think
that I shall need to look much further than the Castle for the solution
of this problem, though there's no telling. At any rate, I should like to
have exhausted all the possibilities of the Castle before I leave it. And
if I'm on the spot, I shall probably exhaust them much more quickly."
"Oh, that can easily be arranged. I'll see her ladyship about it at
once," said Mrs. Carruthers quickly.
"And would you ask her if she feels equal to seeing me yet?"
"Certainly, Mr. Flexen; and if she does, I'll let you know at once," she
said and went through the door.
Mr. Flexen was considering the new facts she had given him, when about
three minutes later Inspector Perkins returned; and Mr. Flexen bade him
find William Roper and bring him to him without delay. The inspector
departed briskly. He was not used to having the inquiry into a crime
conducted by the Chief Constable himself; but Mr. Flexen had impressed
the conviction on him that it was work which he thoroughly understood.
Moreover, he had been appointed acting Chief Constable of the district
during the absence of Major Arbuthnot, on the ground of his many years'
experience in the Indian Police. Also, the inspector realized that this
was, indeed, an exceptional case worthy of the personal effort of any
Chief Constable. He could not remember a case of the murder of a peer;
they had always seemed to him a class immune from anything more serious
than ordinary assault. He was pleased that Mr. Flexen was conducting the
inquiry himself, for he did not wish Scotland Yard to deal with it. Not
only would that cast a slur on the capacity of the police of the
district, but he was sure that he himself would get much more credit for
his work, if he and Mr. Flexen were successful in discovering the
murderer, than he would get if a detective inspector from Scotland Yard
were in charge of the case. Such a detective inspector might or might not
earn all the credit, but he would certainly know how to get it and
probably insist on having it.
He had not been gone a minute when Elizabeth Twitcher came into the
dining-room, said that her ladyship would be pleased to see Mr. Flexen,
and led him upstairs to her sitting-room.
He found Olivia paler than her wont, but quite composed. She had lost her
nervous air, for she had perceived very clearly that it would be
dangerous, indeed, to display the anxiety which was harassing her. It was
only natural that she should appear upset by the shock, but not that she
should appear in any way fearful.
Mr. Flexen had been told that Lady Loudwater was pretty, but he had not
been prepared to find her as charming a creature as Olivia. He made up
his mind at once to do the best he could to save her from the trouble
that the gossip about her and Colonel Grey would surely bring upon
her--if always he were satisfied that neither of them had a hand in the
crime. Looking at Olivia, nothing seemed more unlikely than that she
should be in any way connected with it. But he preserved an open mind. As
such reasons go, she was not without reasons, substantial reasons, for
getting rid of her husband, and she appeared to him to be a creature of
sufficiently delicate sensibilities to feel that husband's brutality more
than most women. At the same time he found it hard to conceive of her
using that fatal knife herself. Yet the knife is most frequently the
For her part, Olivia liked his face; but she had an uneasy feeling that
he would go further than most men in solving any problem with which he
set his mind to grapple.
They greeted one another; he sat down in a chair facing the light, though
he would have preferred that Olivia should have faced it, and expressed
his concern at the trouble which had befallen her.
Then he said: "I came to see you, Lady Loudwater, in the hope that you
might be able to throw some light on this deplorable event."
"I don't think I can," said Olivia gently. "But of course, if I can do
anything to help you find out about it I shall be very pleased to try."
She looked at him with steady, candid eyes that deepened his feeling
that she had had no hand in the crime.
"And, of course, I'll make it as little distressing for you as I can,"
he said. "Do you know whether your husband had anything worrying
him--any serious trouble of any kind which would make him likely to
"Suicide? Egbert?" cried Olivia, in a tone of such astonishment that, as
far as Mr. Flexen was concerned, the hypothesis of suicide received its
death-blow. "No. I don't know of anything which would have made him
"Of course he had no money troubles; but were there any domestic troubles
which might have unhinged his mind to that extent?" said Mr. Flexen.
He wished to be able to deal with the hypothesis of suicide, should it be
Olivia did not answer immediately. She was thinking hard. The possibility
that her husband had committed suicide, or that any one could suppose
that he had committed suicide, had never entered her head. She perceived,
however, that it was a supposition worth encouraging. At the same time,
she must not seem eager to encourage it.
"But they told me that he'd been murdered," she said.
"We cannot exclude any possibility from a matter like this, and the
possibility of suicide must be taken into account," said Mr. Flexen
quickly. "You don't know of any domestic trouble which might have induced
Lord Loudwater to make an end of himself?"
"No, I don't know of one," said Olivia firmly. "But, of course, he was
sometimes quite mad."
"Mad?" said Mr. Flexen.
"Yes, quite. I told him so last night--just before dinner. He was quite
mad. He said that I had kissed a friend of ours--at least he was a friend
of both of us till he quarrelled with my husband some weeks ago--in the
East wood. He raged about it, and declared he was going to start a
divorce action. But I didn't take much notice of it. He was always
falling into dreadful rages. There was one at breakfast about my cat and
another at lunch about the wine. He fancied it was corked."
Olivia had perceived clearly that since Elizabeth Twitcher had been a
witness of her husband's outburst about Grey, it would be merely foolish
not to be frank about it.
"But the last matter was very much more serious than the matter of the
cat or the wine," said Mr. Flexen. "You don't think that your husband
brooded on it for the rest of the evening and worked himself up into a
dangerous frame of mind?"
Olivia hesitated. She was quite sure that her husband had done nothing of
the kind, for if he had worked himself up into a dangerous frame of mind
he would assuredly have made some effort to get at her and give some
violent expression to it. But she said:
"That I can't say. I wish I'd gone down to dinner--now. But I was too
much annoyed. I dined in my boudoir. I'd had quite enough unpleasantness
for one day. Perhaps one of the servants could tell you. They may have
noticed something unusual in him--perhaps that he was brooding."
"Wilkins did say that Lord Loudwater seemed upset at dinner, and that he
was frowning most of the meal," said Mr. Flexen.
"That wasn't unusual," said Olivia somewhat pathetically. "Besides--"
She stopped short, on the very verge of saying that she was sure that
those frowns cleared from her husband's face before the sweets, for he
would never take afternoon tea, in order to have a better appetite for
dinner, and consequently was wont to begin that meal in a tetchy humour.
Such an explanation would have gone no way to support the hypothesis of
suicide. Instead of making it she said:
"Of course, he did seem frightfully upset."
"But you don't think that he was sufficiently upset to do himself an
injury?" said Mr. Flexen.
Olivia had formed a strong impression that her husband would not in any
circumstance do himself an injury; it was his part to injure others.
But she said:
"I can't say. He might have gone on working himself up all the evening. I
didn't see him after he left my dressing-room. It was there he made the
row--while I was dressing for dinner."
Mr. Flexen paused; then he said: "Mr. Manley tells me that Lord Loudwater
used to sleep every evening after dinner. Do you think that he was too
upset to go to sleep last night?"
"Oh, dear no! I've known him go to sleep in his smoking-room after a much
worse row than that!" cried Olivia.
"With you?" said Mr. Flexen quickly.
"No; with Hutchings--the butler," said Olivia.
"But that wouldn't be such a serious matter--not one to brood upon," said
"I suppose not," said Olivia readily.
Mr. Flexen paused again; then he said in a somewhat reluctant tone:
"There's another matter I must go into. Have you any reason to believe
that there was any other woman in Lord Loudwater's life--anything in the
nature of an intrigue? It's not a pleasant question to have to ask, but
it's really important."
"Oh, I don't expect any pleasantness where Lord Loudwater is concerned,"
said Olivia, with a sudden almost petulant impatience, for this
inquisition was a much more severe strain on her than Mr. Flexen
perceived. "Do you mean now, or before we were married?"
"Now," said Mr. Flexen.
"I haven't the slightest idea," said Olivia.
"Do you think it likely?" said Mr. Flexen.
"No, I don't--not very. I don't see how he could have got another woman
in. He was always about--always. Of course, he rode a good deal, though."
"He did, did he?" said Mr. Flexen quickly.
"Every afternoon and most mornings."
That was important. Mr. Flexen thought that he might not have to go very
far afield to find the woman who had been quarrelling with Lord Loudwater
at a few minutes past eleven the night before. She probably lived within
an easy ride of the Castle.
"I'm very much obliged to you for helping me so readily in such
distressing circumstances," he said in a grateful voice as he rose. "If
anything further occurs to you that may throw any light on the matter,
you might let me hear it with as little delay as possible."
"I will," said Olivia. "By the way, Mrs. Carruthers told me that you
would like to stay here while you were making your inquiry; please do;
and please make any use of the servants and the cars you like. My
husband's heir is still in Mesopotamia, and I expect that I shall have
to run the Castle till he comes back."
"Thank you. To stay here will be very convenient and useful," said Mr.
Flexen gratefully, and left her.
He came down the stairs thoughtfully. It seemed to him quite unlikely
that she had had anything to do with the crime, or knew anything more
about it than she had told him. Nevertheless, there was this business of
Colonel Grey and her murdered husband's threat to divorce her. They must
be borne in mind.
He would have been surprised, intrigued, and somewhat shaken in his
conviction that she had been in no way connected with the murder, had he
heard the gasp of intense relief which burst from Olivia's lips when the
door closed behind him, and seen her huddle up in her chair and begin to
cry weakly in the reaction from the strain of his inquisition.
Mr. Flexen found Inspector Perkins waiting for him in the dining-room
with the information that James Hutchings was at his father's cottage in
the West wood, and that he had set one of his detectives to watch him.
Also, he told him that he had learned that Hutchings was generally
disliked in the village as well as at the Castle, as a violent,
bad-tempered man, with a habit of fixing quarrels on any one who would
quarrel with him, and as often as not on mild and inoffensive persons,
quite incapable of bearing themselves in a quarrel with any unpleasant
Mr. Flexen discussed with the inspector the question of taking out a
warrant for the arrest of Hutchings, and they decided that there was no
need to take the step--at any rate, at the moment; it was enough to have
him watched. He would learn doubtless that it was known that he had been
in the Castle late the night before. If, on learning it, he took fright
and bolted, it would rather simplify the case.
Then Mr. Flexen sent again for Elizabeth Twitcher and questioned her at
length about Lord Loudwater's onslaught on Lady Loudwater the night
before and about the condition in which he had been at the end of it.
Elizabeth was somewhat sulky in her manner, for she felt that she was to
blame for that onslaught having come to Mr. Flexen's ears. She was the
more careful to make it plain that however violently Lord Loudwater may
have been affected, Olivia had taken the business lightly enough, and
decided to ignore his injunction to her to leave the Castle. Mr. Flexen
did not miss the point that Lord Loudwater had threatened to hound
Colonel Grey out of the Army; but at the moment he did not attach
importance to it. It was the kind of threat that an angry man would be
pretty sure to make in the circumstances.
Having dismissed Elizabeth Twitcher, he came to lunch with the impression
strong on him that he had made as much progress as could be expected in
one morning towards the solution of the problem. He was quite undecided
whether Hutchings' presence in the Castle at so late an hour, and the
probability that he had entered and left it by the library window, or the
matter of the woman who had had the stormy interview with the murdered
man, was the more important. It must be his early task to discover who
that woman was.
He found Mr. Manley awaiting him in the little dining-room, ready to play
host. Over their soup and fish they talked about ordinary topics and a
little about themselves. Mr. Manley learned that Mr. Flexen had been in
the Indian Police for over seven years, and had been forced to resign his
post by the breaking down of his health; that during the war he had twice
acted as Chief Constable and three times as stipendiary magistrate in
different districts. Mr. Flexen gathered that Mr. Manley had fought in
France with a brilliant intrepidity which had not met with the public
recognition it deserved, and learned that he had been invalided out of
the Army owing to the weakness of his heart. This common failure of
health was a bond of sympathy between them, and made them well disposed
to one another.
There came a pause in this personal talk, and either of them addressed
himself to the consumption of the wing of a chicken with a certain
absorption in the occupation. It was not uncharacteristic of Mr. Manley
that his high sense of the fitness of things had not prevailed on him to
accord the liver wing to the guest. He was firmly eating it himself.
Then Mr. Flexen said: "I suppose you came across Hutchings, the butler,
pretty often. What kind of a fellow was he?"
"He was rather more like his master than if he had been his twin brother,
except that he wore whiskers and not a beard," said Mr. Manley, in a tone
of hearty dislike.
"He does not appear to have been at all popular with the other servants,"
said Mr. Flexen.
"He certainly wasn't popular with me," said Mr. Manley dryly.
"What did Lord Loudwater discharge him for?"
"A matter of a commission on the purchase of some wine," said Mr. Manley.
Then in a more earnest tone he added: "Look here: the trenches knock a
good deal of the nonsense out of one, and I tell you frankly that if I
could help you in any way to discover the criminal, I wouldn't. My
feeling is that if ever any one wanted putting out of the way, Lord
Loudwater did; and as he was put out of the way quite painlessly,
probably it was a valuble action, whatever its motive."
"I expect that a good many people have come back from the trenches with
very different ideas about justice," said Mr. Flexen in an indulgent
tone. "The Indian Police also changes your ideas about it. But it's my
duty to see that justice is done, and I shall. Besides, I'm very keen on
solving this problem, if I can. It seems that Hutchings was in the Castle
last night about eleven o'clock, and as you said something about coming
down for a drink about that time, I thought you might possibly know
something about his movements."
"Well, as it happens," said Mr. Manley and stopped short, paused, and
went on: "You seem to have made up your mind that it was a murder and not
"So you do know something about the movements of Hutchings," said Mr.
Flexen, smiling. "You'll be subpoenaed, you know, if he is charged with
"That would, of course, be quite a different matter," said Mr.
"As to its being a murder, I've pretty well made up my mind that it was,"
said Mr. Flexen.
Mr. Manley looked at him gravely: "You have, have you?" he said. Then he
added: "About that knife and the finger-prints on it, if it happens to
have recorded any: I've been thinking that you may find yourself
suffering from an embarrassment of riches. I know that mine will be on
it, and Lady Loudwater's, who used it to cut the leaves of a volume of
poetry the day before yesterday, and Hutchings', who cut the string of a
parcel of books with it yesterday, and very likely the fingerprints of
Lord Loudwater. You know how it is with a knife like that, which lies
open and handy. Every one uses it. I've seen Lady Loudwater use it to cut
flowers, and Lord Loudwater to cut the end off a cigar--cursing, of
course, because he couldn't lay his hands on a cigar-cutter, and the
knife was blunt--and I've cut all kinds of things with it myself."
"Yes; but the finger-prints of the murderer, if it does record them, will
be on the top of all those others. I shall simply take prints from all of
you and eliminate them."
"Of course; you can get at it that way," said Mr. Manley.
They were silent while Holloway set the cheese-straws on the table.
When he had left the room Mr. Flexen said in a casual tone: "You don't
happen to know whether Lord Loudwater was mixed up with any woman in the
Mr. Manley paused, then laughed and said: "It's no use at all. When I
told you that I would throw no light on the matter, if I could help it, I
really meant it. At the same time, I don't mind saying that, with his
reputation for brutality, I should think it very unlikely."
"You can never tell about women. So many of them seem to prefer brutes.
And, after all, a peer is a peer," said Mr. Flexen.
"There is that," said Mr. Manley in thoughtful agreement.
But he was frowning faintly as he cudgelled his brains in the effort to
think what had set Mr. Flexen on the track of Helena Truslove, for it
must be Helena.
"I expect I shall be able to find out from his lawyers," said Mr. Flexen.
"This promises to be interesting--the intervention of Romance," said Mr.
Manley in a tone of livelier interest. "I took it that the murder, if it
was a murder, would be a sordid business, in keeping with Lord
Loudwater himself. But if you're going to introduce a lady into the
case, it promises to be more fruitful in interest for the dramatist. I'm
But Mr. Flexen was not going to divulge the curious fact that about the
time of his murder Lord Loudwater had had a violent quarrel with a lady.
He had no doubt that Mrs. Carruthers would keep it to herself.
"Oh, one has to look out for every possible factor in a problem like
this, you know," he said carelessly.
The faint frown lingered on Mr. Manley's brow. Mr. Flexen supposed that
it was the result of his refraining from gratifying his appetite for the
dramatic. They were silent a while.
"When are you going to take our finger-prints?" said Mr. Manley
"Not till I've learned whether there are any on the handle of the knife,"
said Mr. Flexen. "Perkins has already sent it off to Scotland Yard."
"I never thought of that. It would be rather a waste of time to take them
before knowing that," said Mr. Manley.
Holloway brought the coffee; Mr. Manley gave Mr. Flexen an excellent
cigar, and they talked about the war. Mr. Flexen drank his coffee
quickly, said that he must get back to his work, and added that he hoped
that he would enjoy the company of Mr. Manley at dinner. Mr. Manley had
been going to dine with Helena Truslove; but after Mr. Flexen's question
whether Lord Loudwater had been entangled with any woman in the
neighbourhood, he thought that he had better dine with him. He might
learn something useful, if he could induce Mr. Flexen to expand under the
relaxing influence of dinner. He resolved to use his authority to have
the most engaging wine the cellar held. He was determined to make every
endeavour to keep Helena's name out of the affair, and he thought that he
Mr. Flexen left him. He finished his coffee, the second cup, slowly,
wondering about Mr. Flexen's question about Lord Loudwater and a woman.
Then, since he had done all the work he could think of, in the way of
making arrangements for the funeral, during the morning, he set out
briskly to Helena's house, hoping that she would be able to throw some
light on it.
He greeted her with his usual warmth, and then, when he came to look at
her at his leisure, it was plain to him that the murder had been a much
greater shock to her than he had expected. He was surprised at it, for
she had assured him that she had never been really in love with Lord
Loudwater, and he had believed her. But there was no doubt that she had
been greatly upset by the news of his death. Her high colouring was
dimmed; she wore a harassed air, and she was uncommonly nervous and ill
at ease. He thought it strange that she should be so deeply affected by
the death of a man she had such good reason to detest. But, of course,
there was no telling how a woman would take anything; Lady Loudwater's
distress had fallen as far short of what he had expected as Helena's had
To Mr. Manley's credit it must be admitted that in less than twenty
minutes Helena Truslove was looking another creature; her face had
recovered all its colour; the harassed air had vanished from it, and she
was sitting on his knee in a condition of the most pleasant repose. It
was his theory that a woman was never too ill, or too ill at ease, or too
unhappy to be made love to. He had acted on it.
When he had thus restored her peace of mind, he told her that Mr. Flexen
had asked him whether the late Lord Loudwater had been mixed up with any
lady in the neighbourhood, and asked her if she could suggest any reason
for his having asked the question. She appeared greatly startled to hear
of it. But she could not suggest any reason for his having asked the
question. He then asked her about the manner in which the allowance had
been paid to her, and was pleased to learn that there was little
likelihood of Mr. Flexen's learning that she had received such an
allowance from Lord Loudwater, for it had been paid her through a young
lawyer of the name of Shepherd, at Low Wycombe, the lawyer who had dealt
with the matter of the transference of the house they were in to her,
from the rents of some houses Lord Loudwater owned in that town, and that
lawyer was somewhere in Mesopotamia, his practice in abeyance.
She was in entire accord with Mr. Manley about the advantage of her name
not being connected in any way with the tragedy at the Castle. She
pointed out that it was also an advantage that she had just, been paid
her allowance for the present quarter, and there would not be another
payment for three months. By that time it was probable that the murder
would have passed out of people's minds and Mr. Flexen be busy with other
work. It seemed to Mr. Manley that Mr. Flexen would not easily learn
about the allowance unless Mr. Carrington also knew it, which seemed
unlikely, though it was always possible that there was some record of it
among the Lord Loudwater's papers at the Castle. Soon after seven he left
her to walk back to dine with Mr. Flexen.
Mr. Flexen had had a considerable surprise that afternoon. He had told
Robert Black to find William Roper and bring him to him. He wished to
hear the story he had told Lord Loudwater the evening before, for it
might be of a triviality to make the hypothesis that Lord Loudwater had
committed suicide yet less worthy of serious consideration. Black was a
long while finding William Roper, for he was at work in the woods.
Indeed, he had not yet heard that Lord Loudwater had been murdered, for
he had been up most of the night, risen late, got his own breakfast in
his out-of-the-way cottage in the depths of the West wood, and gone out
on his rounds. The constable found him at the cottage, in the act of
preparing his dinner, or rather his tea and dinner, at a quarter to four.
William Roper was startled, indeed, to hear of the murder, and then
bitterly annoyed. All the while on his rounds he had been congratulating
himself on his coming promotion, and reckoning up the many advantages
which would accrue from it, not the least of which was a wider prospect
of finding a wife. The cup was dashed from his lips. He had acquired no
merit in the eyes of the new Lord Loudwater, and he had most probably
made the present Lady Loudwater his enemy, if the murdered man had
divulged the source of his knowledge of her goings-on with Colonel Grey.
He ate his mixed meal very sulkily, listening to the constable's account
of the circumstances of the crime. Slowly, however, his face grew
brighter as he listened; the new information he had obtained for his
murdered employer might very well have an important bearing on the crime
itself. He might yet establish himself as the benefactor of the family.
On the way to the Castle he was so mysterious with Robert Black that the
stout constable became a prey to mingled curiosity and doubt. He could
not make up his mind whether William Roper really knew something of
importance or was merely vapouring. William Roper neither gratified his
curiosity, nor banished his doubt. He was alive to the advantage of
reserving his information for the most important ear, so as to gain the
greatest possible credit for it.
At the first sight of him Mr. Flexen felt that he had before him an
important witness, for he took a violent dislike to him, and he had
observed, in the course of his many years' experience in the detection of
crime, that the most important witness in hounding down a criminal was
very often of a repulsive type, the nark type. William Roper was of that
type, but his story was indeed startling.
He first told how he had seen Colonel Grey kiss Lady Loudwater in the
afternoon--Mr. Flexen noted that Lord Loudwater had accused her of
kissing Grey--and of their spending most of the afternoon in the pavilion
in the East wood. The time of his watching had already lengthened in
William Roper's memory. There was nothing new in these facts, and Mr.
Flexen saw no reason to suppose that they had any bearing on the crime.
But William Roper went on to say that soon after ten in the evening he
had been on his round in the East wood, when he saw Colonel Grey walking
in the direction of the Castle. His curiosity had been aroused by what he
had seen in the afternoon, and thinking it not unlikely that he was on
his way to another meeting with the Lady Loudwater, and that it was the
duty of a faithful retainer to make sure about it, with a view to
informing his master should his surmise prove correct, he followed him.
The Colonel went straight through the wood into the Castle garden, walked
round the Castle, keeping in its shadow as he went, till he stood under
the window of Lady Loudwater's suite of rooms.
There he appeared to suffer a check. There was a light in the room on the
ground floor under her boudoir. The Colonel had waited quite a while;
then he had walked round the Castle and into it by the library window.
William, greatly surprised by the Colonel's audacity, had taken up his
position in a clump of tall rhododendrons, opposite the library window,
from which he could keep watch on it.
"What time would this be?" said Mr. Flexen.
"It couldn't have been more than twenty minutes past ten, sir," said
"And what happened then?" said Mr. Flexen.
"Nothing 'appened for a good ten minutes. Then James Hutchings, the
butler, come across the gardens from the south gate, as if 'e'd come from
the village, and 'e went in through the libery winder--the same winder."
Mr. Flexen had thought it not unlikely that Hatchings had entered the
Castle by that entrance. He was pleased to have his guess corroborated.
"That would be about half-past ten," he said. "Could you see into the
library at all?"
"Only a very little way, sir."
"You couldn't see whether Colonel Grey and then James Hutchings went
straight through it into the hall, or whether either of them went into
"No; I couldn't see so far in as that, though there was a light burning
in the libery," said William Roper.
That was a new fact. Any one passing through the library would be able to
see the open knife lying in the big inkstand.
"Go on," said Mr. Flexen. "What happened next?"
"Nothing 'appened for a long while--twenty minutes, I should think--and
then there come a woman round the right-'and corner of the Castle wall
and along it and into the libery winder. At first I thought it was Mrs.
Carruthers, or one of the maids--she were too tall for her ladyship--but
"Are you quite sure?" said Mr. Flexen.
"Quite, sir. I should have known 'er if she had been. Besides, she was
all muffled up like. You couldn't see 'er face."
"Did she hesitate before going through the library window?" said
"Not as I noticed. She seemed to go straight in."
"As if she were used to going into the Castle that way?" said Mr. Flexen.
William Roper scratched his head. Then he said cautiously: "She seemed to
know that way in all right, sir."
"And how was she dressed?" said Mr. Flexen.
"She wasn't in black. It wasn't as dull as black, but it was dullish. It
might have been grey and again it might not. It might have been blue or
brown. You see, there was a fair moon, sir, but it was be'ind the Castle,
an' I never seed 'er in the full moonlight, as you may say, seeing as,
coming and going, she come along the wall and went round the right 'and
corner of it, in the shadder."
"And which of these three people came away first?" said Mr. Flexen.
"She did. She wasn't in the Castle more nor twenty minutes--if that."
"Did she seem to be in a hurry when she came out? Did she run, or
"No. I can't say as she did. She went away just about as she came--in no
purtic'ler 'urry," said William Roper.
Mr. Flexen paused, considering; then he said: "And who was the next
"The Colonel, 'e come out next--in about ten minutes."
"Did he seem in a hurry?"
"'E walked pretty brisk, and 'e was frowning, like as if 'e was in a
rage. 'E passed me close, so I 'ad a good look at 'im. Yes; I should say
'e was fair boilen', 'e was," said William Roper, in a solemn, pleased
tone of one giving damning evidence.
Mr. Flexen did not press the matter. He said: "So James Hutchings came
"Yes; about five minutes after the Colonel. And 'e was in a pretty fair
to-do, too. Leastways, he was frowning and a-muttering of to 'imself. He
passed me close."
"Did _he_ seem in any hurry?" said Mr. Flexen.
"'E was walkin' fairly fast," said William Roper.
Mr. Flexen paused again, pondering. He thought that William Roper had
thrown all the light on the matter he could; and he had certainly
revealed a number of facts which looked uncommonly important.
"And that was all you saw?" he said.
"That was all--except 'er ladyship," said William Roper.
"Her ladyship?" said Mr. Flexen sharply.
"Yes. You see, there was no 'urry for me to go back to the woods, sir;
an' I sat down on one of them garden seats along the edge of the
Wellin'tonia shrubbery to smoke a pipe and think it ou'. I felt it was my
dooty like to let 'is lordship know about these goings-on, never thinking
as 'ow 'e was sitting there all the time with a knife in 'im. I should
think it was twenty minutes arter that I saw 'er ladyship come out. Of
course, I was farther away from the window, but I saw 'er quite plain."
"And where did she go?" said Mr. Flexen.
"She didn't go nowhere, so to speak. She just walked up an' down the
gravel path--like as if she'd come out for a breath of fresh air.
Then she went in. She wasn't out more nor ten minutes, or a quarter
of an hour."
Mr. Flexen was silent in frowning thought; then he looked earnestly at
William Roper for a good minute; then he said: "Well, this may be
important, or it may not. But it is very important that you should keep
it to yourself." He looked hard again at William, decided that an appeal
to his vanity would be best, and added: "You're pretty shrewd, I fancy,
and you can see that it is most important not to put the criminal on his
guard--if it was a crime."
"I suppose I shall 'ave to tell what I know at the inquest?" said William
Roper, with an air of importance.
Mr. Flexen gazed at him thoughtfully, weighing the matter. Here were a
number of facts which might or might not have an important bearing on the
murder, but which would give rise to a great deal of painful and harmful
scandal if they were given to the world at this juncture.
Besides the publication of them might force his hand, and he preferred to
have a free hand in this matter as he had been used to have a free hand
in India. There he had dealt with more than one case in such a manner as
to secure substantial justice rather than the exact execution of the law.
It might be that in this case justice would be best secured by leaving
the murderer to his, or her, conscience rather than by causing several
people great unhappiness by bringing about a conviction. He was inclined
to think, with Mr. Manley, that the murderer might have performed a
public service by removing Lord Loudwater from the world he had so ill
adorned. At any rate, he was resolved to have a free hand to deal with
the case, and most certainly he was not going to allow this noxious young
fellow to hamper his freedom of action and final decision.
"Your evidence seems to me of much too great importance to be given at
the inquest. It must be reserved for the trial," he said in an impressive
tone. "But if it gets abroad that you have seen what you have told me,
the criminal will be prepared to upset your evidence; and it will
probably become quite worthless. You must not breathe a word about what
you saw to a soul till we have your evidence supported beyond all
possibility of its being refuted. Do you understand?"
For a moment William Roper looked disappointed. He had looked to become
famous that very day. But he realized his great importance in the affair,
and his face cleared.
"I understands, sir," he said with a dark solemnity.
"Not a word," said Mr. Flexen yet more impressively.
That morning Olivia went to meet Grey in a mood very different from that
of the afternoon before. Then she had moved on light feet, in high
spirits, expectant, even excited. She had not known what was coming, but
the prospect had been full of possibilities; and, thanks to the sudden
appearance of the cat Melchisidec at the crucial moment, she had not been
disappointed. Today she would have gone to meet the man who loved her in
yet higher spirits, for there is no blinking the fact that she was wholly
unable to grieve for her husband. He had with such thoroughness
extirpated the girlish fondness she had felt for him when she married
him, that she could not without hypocrisy make even a show of grieving
for him. His death had merely removed the barrier between her and the man
But today she did not go to her tryst in spirits higher for the removal
of that barrier. She went more slowly, on heavier, lingering feet. Her
eyes were downcast, and her forehead was furrowed by an anxious,
The sight of Colonel Grey, waiting for her at the door of the Pavilion,
smoothed the furrows from her forehead and quickened her steps. When the
door closed behind them he caught her in his arms and kissed her. It was
early in her widowhood to be kissed, but she made no protest. She did not
feel a widow; she felt a free woman again. It is even to be feared that
her lips were responsive.
Antony, too, was changed. He was paler and almost careworn. There was no
doubt of his joy at her coming, no doubt that it was greater than the day
before. But it was qualified by some other troubling emotion. Now and
again he looked at her with different eyes--eyes from which the joy had
of a sudden faded, rather fearful eyes that looked a question which could
not be asked. Her eyes rather shrank from his, and when they did look
into them it was with a like question.
But they were too deeply in love with one another for any other emotion
to hold them for long at a time. Presently in the joy of being together,
looking at one another, touching one another, the fearfulness and the
question passed from their eyes.
There was nothing rustic about the Pavilion inside or out. It was of
white marble, brought from Carrara for the fifth Baron Loudwater at the
end of the eighteenth century; and a whim of her murdered husband had led
him to replace the original, delicate, rather severe furniture by a most
comfortable broad couch, two no less comfortable chairs with arms, a
small red lacquer table and a dozen cushions. He had hung on each wall a
drawing of dancing-girls by Degas. Since the coverings of the couch and
the cushions were of Chinese silken embroideries, the interior appeared a
somewhat bizarre mixture of the Oriental and the French.
Antony had been in some doubt that Olivia would come. But he had thought
it natural that she should come to him in such an hour of distress, for
he knew the simple directness of her nature. Therefore he had taken no
chance. He had gone to High Wycombe, ransacked its simple provision
shops, and brought away a lunch basket.
She was for returning to the Castle to lunch. But he persuaded her to
stay. She needed no great pressing; she had a feeling that every hour was
precious, that it was unsafe to lose a single one of them: a foreboding
that she and Antony might not be together long. It almost seemed that a
like foreboding weighed on him. At times they seemed almost feverish in
their desire to wring the last drop of sweetness out of the swiftly
After lunch again the thought came to her that she ought to go back to
the Castle, that she might be needed, and missed; but it found no
expression. She could not tear herself away. She had been denied joy too
long, and it was intoxicating.
It was five o'clock before she left the Pavilion. She walked briskly,
with her wonted, easy, swinging gait, back to the Castle, in a dream, her
anxiety and fear for the while forgotten. On her way up to her suite of
rooms she met no one. She was quick to take off her hat and ring for her
tea. Elizabeth Twitcher brought it to her, and from her Olivia learned
that only Mr. Manley had asked for her. She realized that, after all,
thanks to her dead husband, she was but an inconspicuous person in the
Castle. No one had been used to consult her in any matter. She was glad
of it. At the moment all she desired was freedom of action, freedom to be
with Antony; and the fact that the life of the Castle moved smoothly
along in the capable hands of Mrs. Carruthers and Mr. Manley gave her
After her tea she went out into the rose-garden and was strolling up and
down it when Mr. Flexen, pondering the information which he had obtained
from William Roper, saw her and came out to her. He thought that she
shrank a little at the sight of him, but assured himself that it must be
fancy; surely there could be no reason why she should shrink from him.
"I'm told, Lady Loudwater, that you went out through the library window
into the garden for a stroll about a quarter to twelve last night. Did
you by any chance, as you went in or came out, hear Lord Loudwater snore?
I want to fix the latest hour at which he was certainly alive. You see
how important it may prove."
She hesitated, wrinkling her brow as she weighed the importance of her
answer. Then she looked at him with limpid eyes and said:
He knew--the sixth sense of the criminal investigator told him--that she
lied, and he was taken aback. Why should she lie? What did she know? What
had she to hide?
"Did you hear him snore going out, or coming in?" he said.
"Both," said Olivia firmly.
Mr. Flexen hesitated. He did not believe her. Then he said: "How long did
Lord Loudwater sleep after dinner as a rule? What time did he go to bed?"
"It varied a good deal. Generally he awoke and went to bed before twelve.
But sometimes it was nearer one, especially if he was disturbed and went
to sleep again."
"Thank you," said Mr. Flexen, and he left her and went back into
Lord Loudwater had certainly been disturbed by the woman with whom he
had quarrelled. He might have slept on late. But why had Lady Loudwater
lied about the snoring? What did she know? What on earth was she
hiding? Whom was she screening? Could it be Colonel Grey? Was he mixed
up in the actual murder? Mr. Flexen decided that he must have more
information about Colonel Grey, that he would get into touch with him,
and that soon.
He had information about him sooner than he expected and without seeking
it. Inspector Perkins was awaiting him, with Mrs. Turnbull, the landlady
of the "Cart and Horses." The inspector had learned from her that the
Lord Loudwater had paid a visit to her lodger the evening before, and
that they had quarrelled fiercely. Mr. Flexen heard her story and
questioned her. The important point in it seemed to him to be Lord
Loudwater's threats to hound Colonel Grey out of the Army.
Mrs. Turnbull left him plenty to ponder. Mr. Manley had told him that the
handle of the famous knife would probably provide him with an
embarrassment of riches in the way of finger-prints. It seemed to him
that the stories of William Roper, Mrs. Carruthers, and Mrs. Turnbull had
provided him with an embarrassment of riches in the way of possible
murderers. It grew clearer than ever to him that the inquest must be
conducted with the greatest discretion, that as few facts as possible
must be revealed at it. It was also clear to him that, unless the handle
of the knife told a plain story, he would get nothing but circumstantial
evidence, and so far he had gotten too much of it.
He made up his mind that it would be best to see Colonel Grey at once and
form his impression as to the likelihood of his having had a hand in the
crime. He was loth to believe that a V.C. would murder in cold blood
even as detestable a bully as the Lord Loudwater appeared to have been.
But he had seen stranger things. Moreover, it depended on the type of
V.C. Colonel Grey was. V.C.s varied.
Mr. Flexen lost no time. It was nearly six o'clock. It was likely that
the Colonel would be back at his inn after his fishing. Mrs. Turnbull was
sure that he had as usual gone fishing, for, when he set out in the
morning, he had taken his rod with him. Antony Grey was not the man to
omit a simple precaution like that. Therefore, Mr. Flexen ordered a car
to be brought round, and was at the "Cart and Horses" by twenty past six.
He found that Colonel Grey had indeed returned. He sent up his card;
the maid came back and at once took him up to the Colonel's
sitting-room. Grey received him with an air of inquiry, which grew yet
more inquiring when Mr. Flexen told him that he was engaged in
investigating the affair of Lord Loudwater's death. Therefore, Mr.
Flexen came to the point at once.
"I have been informed that Lord Loudwater paid you a visit last night,
and that a violent quarrel ensued, Colonel Grey," he said.
"Pardon me; but the violence was all on Lord Loudwater's part," said
Colonel Grey in an exceedingly unpleasant tone. "I merely made myself
nasty in a quiet way. Violence is not in my line, unless I'm absolutely
driven to it; and any one less likely to drive any one to violence than
that obnoxious and noisy jackass I've never come across. The fellow was
all words--abusive words. He'd no fight in him. I gave him every reason I
could think of to go for me because I particularly wanted to hammer him.
But he hadn't got it in him."
Grey spoke quietly, without raising his voice, but there was a rasp in
his tone that impressed Mr. Flexen. If a man could give such an
impression of dangerousness with his voice, what would he be like in
action? He realized that here was a quite uncommon type of V. C. He
realized, too, that Lord Loudwater had made the mistake of a lifetime in
his attempt to bully him. Moreover, he had a strong feeling that if it
had seemed to Colonel Grey that Lord Loudwater was better out of the
way, and a favourable opportunity had presented itself, he might very
well have displayed little hesitation in putting him out of the way. He
felt that the obnoxious peer would have been little more than a
dangerous dog to him.
He did not speak at once. He looked into Colonel Grey's grey eyes, and
cold and hard they were, weighing him. Then he said: "Lord Loudwater
threatened to hound you out of the Army, I'm told."
"Among other things," said Grey carelessly.
Mr. Flexen guessed that the other things were threats to divorce Lady
"That would have been a very serious blow to you," he said.
"You're quite--right," said Colonel Grey.
Mr. Flexen could have sworn that he had started to say: "You're quite
wrong," and changed his mind.
The Colonel seemed to hesitate for words; then he went on: "It would have
been a very heavy blow indeed. You can see that for a man who enlisted in
the Artists' Rifles in 1914, and fought his way up to the command of a
regiment, nothing could be more painful. It would have been
heartbreaking; I should have been years getting over it."
The rasp had gone out of his voice. He was speaking in a pleasant,
confidential tone, and Mr. Flexen did not believe a word he said. At the
least he was exaggerating the distress he would have felt at leaving the
Army; but Mr. Flexen had the strongest feeling that he would have felt
next to no distress at all. Again he was astonished. Colonel Grey was
lying to him just as Lady Loudwater had lied. What could be their reason?
What on earth had they done?
He kept his astonishment out of his face, and said in a sympathetic
voice: "Yes, I can see that. And then, again, it would have been painful
and very unpleasant to feel that your thoughtlessness had landed Lady
Loudwater in the Divorce Court."
"Oh, Lord, no!" said Colonel Grey quickly. "There was no chance of any
divorce proceedings. Even for a divorce case, at any rate one brought by
the husband, there must be _some_ grounds; he must have _some_ evidence.
The cock-and-bull story of a gamekeeper is hardly enough to found a
divorce case on, is it?"
"Oh, I don't know. The gamekeeper might convince a jury. You know what
juries are. You can never tell what form their stupidity will take," said
"But apart from the lack of evidence, there was no chance of a divorce
case. I tell you, Loudwater hadn't got it in him," said Grey
confidently. "He'd have threatened and been abusive. He'd have gone on
throwing that cock-and-bull story at Lady Loudwater for as long as she
continued to stick to him; but it would have stopped at that. His
infernal temper never went any deeper than his lungs. Lady Loudwater had
nothing to fear."
"Yet you think that he would have done his best to hound you out of the
Army?" said Mr. Flexen, finding this conception of Lord Loudwater as a
harmless, if violent, vapourer somewhat inconsistent.
"That's quite another matter," said Grey quickly. "It merely meant using
his influence behind my back with some scurvy politician. There wouldn't
have been any publicity attached to that, any exposure of his bullying.
He'd have done that all right."
"I should have thought that a man of Lord Loudwater's violent temper
would rather have sought an open row," Mr. Flexen persisted.
"Of course--if he'd been really violent. But he wasn't, I tell you. He
was only a blustering bully where women and servants were
concerned--people he could cow. I tell you, I made it quite clear that he
crumpled up directly you stood up to him. Why, hang it all! Any man with
the soul of a mouse who really believed that I had been making love to
his wife, couldn't have taken the things I told him without going for me
at any risk. And as I'm still rather crocked up, and he knew it, there
must have seemed precious little risk about it. I tell you that he was
just a blustering ruffian."
Mr. Flexen had a strong impression that Colonel Grey was unused to being
as expansive as this, that he was talking for talking's sake, possibly
to put him off asking some question which would be difficult or
dangerous to answer. He could not for the life of him think what that
question could be.
"I daresay you're right," he said carelessly. "Bullies aren't over-fond
of a real scrap. But I am told that you paid a visit to the Castle last
night and came away about a quarter past eleven. Did you?"
Colonel Grey showed no faintest disquiet on hearing that his visit to
Olivia the night before was known. But he did not give Mr. Flexen time to
finish the sentence.
He interrupted him, saying quickly: "Yes. I went to see Lady Loudwater. I
thought it likely that she would attach a good deal more importance to
Loudwater's silly threats than they deserved and might be worrying. It
would have been quite natural. I wanted to talk it over with her and set
her mind at rest about it. It didn't take very long to do that, partly
because it was a long time since he had really frightened her. She had
got used to his tantrums and bullying; and even this new game had not
disturbed her very much. We both came to the conclusion that he was just
blustering again, and wouldn't do anything. As a matter of fact, I don't
think she cared very much what he did. She had got so fed up with him
that she didn't care whether they separated or not."
Mr. Flexen felt more sure than ever that this garrulity was unusual in
Colonel Grey. He was talking with a purpose, apparently to induce him to
believe that both he and Lady Loudwater had taken her husband's threat of
divorce proceedings lightly. He began to think that they had not taken it
lightly at all, or, at any rate, one or other of them had not.
"Yes," he said. "That's what always happens with those blustering'
fellows. In the end no one takes them seriously. But what I came to ask
you was: Did you, as you came through the library or went out through it,
hear Lord Loudwater snore?"
Colonel Grey hesitated, just as Lady Loudwater had hesitated over that
question. Plainly he was weighing the effect of his answer.
Then he said: "No."
Mr. Flexen's instinct assured him that Colonel Grey had lied just as Lady
Loudwater had lied.
"Are you sure that nothing in the nature of a snore came to your ears as
you came out? Did you hear any sound from the room? You can see how
important it is to fix as near as we possibly can the hour of Lord
Loudwater's death," he said earnestly.
"No, I heard nothing," said Colonel Grey firmly.
"Bother!" said Mr. Flexen. "It's very important. Possibly I shall be able
to find out from some one else."
"I hope you will," said Grey politely.
Mr. Flexen bade him good-night cordially enough, and drove back to the
Castle in a considerable perplexity. Both Colonel Grey and Lady Loudwater
were behaving in an uncommonly odd, not to say suspicious manner.
He was quite sure that both of them had lied about the dead man's
snoring. But it was plain that either had lied with a different object.
Lady Loudwater had lied to make it appear that her husband had been alive
at midnight. Colonel Grey had lied to make it appear that he was dead at
a quarter-past eleven. But Mr. Flexen was sure that Colonel Grey had
heard Lord Loudwater snore and that Lady Loudwater had not.
What did they know? What had they done? Or what had one of them done?
When Mr. Flexen reached the Castle Wilkins took him to a bedroom in the
west wing. He found that his portmanteau had arrived, had been unpacked,
and that his dress clothes were laid out ready for him on the bed.
As he dressed he cudgelled his brains for the reason why Lady
Loudwater and Colonel Grey had lied. Then an idea came to him: were
they lying to shield the unknown woman with whom Lord Loudwater had
had that violent quarrel? The longer he considered this hypothesis the
more possible it grew.
He must find that unknown woman, and at once. Possibly Mr. Carrington, as
Lord Loudwater's legal adviser, would be able to put him on her track.
He came to dinner, still perplexed, to find Mr. Manley waiting to
bear him company. They talked for a while about public affairs and
Then Mr. Flexen said: "Was Lord Loudwater the kind of man to confide in
"Not if he could help it," said Mr. Manley with conviction.
Mr. Flexen hoped that Lord Loudwater had not been able to help confiding
in his lawyers about this unknown woman.
Then he said: "By the way, do you know Colonel Grey?"
"Oh, yes. He was here a lot up to a little while ago. Then he had a row,
the inevitable row, with Lord Loudwater, and he hasn't been here since.
He dropped on to Lord Loudwater for bullying Lady Loudwater, and he
didn't drop on him lightly either. Hell, I fancy, was what he gave him."
"Yes; I gathered that something of the kind had taken place. What kind of
a man is the Colonel?" said Mr. Flexen carelessly.
"The best man in the world not to have a row with. He's a cold terror,"
said Mr. Manley, in a tone of enthusiastic conviction. "He always seems
rather cooler than a cucumber. But my belief is that that coolness is
just the mask of really violent emotions. I saw them working once. I came
in on the end of his row with Loudwater--just the end of it--my goodness!
From my point of view, the dramatist's, you know, he's the most
interesting person in the county--bar Lady Loudwater, of course."
"I should never have thought him a terror," said Mr. Flexen, in a tone of
somewhat incredulous surprise. "I had a talk with him this evening about
Lord Loudwater's death, and he seemed to me to be a pleasant enough
fellow and an excellent soldier. I take it that he's very keen on his
career in the Army?"
"Not a bit of it. The war is merely a side issue with him," said Mr.
Manley in an assured tone. "I know from what he told me himself. We were
talking over our experiences."
"But, hang it all! he's a V. C.!" cried Mr. Flexen.
"Yes, he's a V. C. all right. But that's because he's one of those men
who have the knack of taking an interest in everything they turn their
hands to, and doing it well. But his two passions are Chinese art and
women," said Mr. Manley.
"Women?" said Mr. Flexen. "He didn't strike me as being that kind of man
at all. He seemed a quite simple, straightforward soldier."
"Simplicity and a passion for Chinese art don't go together--at least,
not what is usually called simplicity," said Mr. Manley dryly. "A friend
of mine, who knows all about him, told me that he had had more really
serious love affairs than any other man in London. He seems to be one of
those men who fall in love hard every time they fall in love. He said
that it was one of the mysteries of the polite world how he had kept out
of the Divorce Court."
"Sounds an odd type," said Mr. Flexen, storing up the information, and
marking how little it agreed with his own observation of Colonel Grey.
"And you say that Lady Loudwater is interesting too?"
"Oh, come! Are you pumping me or merely pulling my leg?" said Mr. Manley.
"Surely you can see that Lady Loudwater is pure Italian Renaissance. She
is one of those subtle, mysterious creatures that Leonardo and Luini were
always painting, compact of emotion."
"It's so long since I was at Balliol, and then I was doing Indian Civil
work--the languages, you know. I've forgotten all I knew about the
Renaissance in Italy, and I don't look at many pictures. All the same, I
think you're wrong--your dramatic imagination, you know. My own idea is
that Lady Loudwater, at any rate, is a quite simple creature."
"It isn't mine," said Mr. Manley firmly. "She's a great deal too
intelligent to be simple, and she comes of far too intelligent a family."
"What family?" said Mr. Flexen.
"She's a Quainton, with Italian blood in her veins."
"The deuce she is!" cried Mr. Flexen, and half a dozen stories of the
Quaintons rose in his mind.
He must amend his impressions of Lady Loudwater.
"And she has a keener sense of humour than any woman I ever came across,"
said Mr. Manley, driving his contention home.
"Has she?" said Mr. Flexen.
There was a pause. Then Mr. Manley said in a musing tone: "Do you suppose
that Colonel Grey finds her simple?"
"What? You don't think that there is really anything serious between
them?" said Mr. Flexen quickly.
"No, not really serious--at any rate, on Colonel Grey's part. You can
hardly expect a man, recovering very slowly from three bad wounds and
still crocked up, to fall in love, can you? Especially a man who, when he
does fall in love, falls in love with the violence with which Grey is
charged," said Mr. Manley.
"There is that," said Mr. Flexen. "But that wouldn't prevent Lady
Loudwater from falling in love with Colonel Grey. And after the way her
husband treated her, she must have needed something in the way of
"It's no good a woman falling in love with a man unless he falls in love
with her," said Mr. Manley, in the tone of a philosopher. "Besides, women
don't fall in love with men who are so feeble from illness as the Colonel
seems to be. How can there be the attraction? She might, of course, want
to mother him very keenly. But that's quite a different thing." He
paused, then added in a tone of some anxiety: "I say, you're not trying
to mix her up with the murder--if it was a murder?"
"I'm not trying to mix anybody up in it," said Mr. Flexen slowly. "But I
don't mind telling you that it is growing quite a pretty problem, and to
solve a problem you must have every factor in it. You see that the
strong point about both Lady Loudwater and Colonel Grey is, on your own
showing, that they are uncommonly clever; and only stupid people commit
murder--except, of course, once in a blue moon."
"But what about these gangs of criminals we sometimes read about, with
extraordinarily clever men at the head of them? Don't they exist?" said
Mr. Manley, in a tone of surprise.
"They exist; but they don't commit murders--not in Europe, at any rate,"
said Mr. Flexen. "In the East and in the United States it's different
perhaps. Murder is always as much of a blunder as a crime. It makes
people so keen after the criminal. No: no really intelligent criminal
"Of course, that's true," said Mr. Manley readily. He paused, then added
in a thoughtful tone: "I wonder whether the war has weakened our
conception of the sanctity of human life?"
"I shouldn't wonder," said Mr. Flexen; and their talk drifted into a
discussion of generalities.
He was glad that he was staying at the Castle. His talk with Mr. Manley
had been illuminating.
Olivia dined in her sitting-room, and with a poor appetite. Away from
Grey, she had fallen back into her anxiety and fearfulness. Wilkins was
waiting on her, an insensible block of a fellow; but even he perceived
that she was very little aware of what she was eating, and now and again
paused, and in some worrying train of thought forgot that she was
dining at all.
After dinner, however, her mood changed. The fearfulness and anxiety at
times vanished from her face, and a pleasant, eager expectancy took
At a quarter to nine she took a dark wrap from her wardrobe, went quietly
down the stairs, and slipped out of the side door, across the east lawn,
and into the path through the shrubbery, unseen. Grey had suggested that
he should come to the Castle after dinner to spend the evening with her;
but they had decided that it would be wiser to meet in the pavilion.
There would be talk if he spent the evening with her so soon after her
husband's death, with his body still unburied in the house. This was the
only mention they made of him all the time they spent together. Besides,
both of them found the pavilion in the wood a far more delightful
meeting-place than the Castle. In the pavilion they felt that they were
out of the world.
Grey, too anxious and restless to await her at the pavilion, had come
down the wood and into the end of the path through the shrubbery. It
startled her to come upon him so suddenly. But when they came out of the
shrubbery into the moonlit aisle of the wood, the fearfulness and
anxiety and restlessness had vanished utterly from their faces; both of
them were smiling.
They walked slowly, saying little, touching now and again as they
swayed in their walk along the turf. It seemed wiser not to light the
candles in the pavilion. The moonlight, shining through the high
windows, gave them light enough to see one another's eyes. It was all
they needed. The time passed quickly in the ineffable confidences of
lovers. They had a hundred things to tell one another, a hundred things
to ask one another, in their effort to attain that oneness which is the
aim of all true love. But in their joy in being together, in the joy of
both of them, there was a feverishness, a sense that it was a menaced
joy which must needs be brief. Again they were striving to wring the
most out of the hour which was so swiftly passing. At times the sense of
danger which hung over them was so strong, that they clung to one
another like frightened children in the dark.
Though Mr. Flexen had at the time shown himself somewhat unbelieving in
the matter of Mr. Manley's conclusions about the character and
temperament of Grey and Olivia, the impression they had made on him grew
stronger. He was too good a judge of men not to perceive that the budding
dramatist had the intelligent imagination which makes for real
shrewdness, and he was not disposed to underrate the value of the
imagination in forming judgments of men and women. Probably Colonel Grey
was a man of less intensity of emotion than Mr. Manley had declared, and
Lady Loudwater less subtile and intelligent. But, after making these
reductions, he had here possible actors in a drama of passion; and though
it was his experience that money, not passion, is the most frequent
motive of murder, he must take the probability of Lord Loudwater's murder
being a crime of passion into account, though, of course, the violent
Hutchings, threatened with ruin, would undoubtedly benefit from a
monetary point of view by the murder. At the same time, Hutchings had
just had an interview, which had gone better probably than he had
expected, with an uncommonly pretty girl.
Mr. Carrington arrived soon after breakfast next morning, and Mr. Flexen
at once discussed the matter of the inquest with him and the Coroner. He
found the lawyer chiefly eager to have as little scandal as possible, and
the Coroner took his cue from the lawyer. This suited Mr. Flexen
admirably. He had no wish to show his hand so early. He foresaw that if
the story of William Roper were told, and the story of Lord Loudwater's
quarrel with Colonel Grey at the "Cart and Horses," there would be a
painful scandal. The majority of the people of the neighbourhood would at
once believe and declare that Lady Loudwater, or Colonel Grey, or both,
had murdered Lord Loudwater. Such a scandal would in no way serve his
purpose. It might rather hamper him. Pressure might be put on him which
might force him to take steps before the time was ripe for them.
There was no difficulty in their having exactly the kind of inquest they
wanted, for it was wholly in the hands of Mr. Flexen and the Coroner.
After careful discussion they decided to limit it to Dr. Thornhill's
evidence, and that of the servants with regard to the dead nobleman's
mood on the night of his death. Mr. Carrington urged strongly that full
prominence should be given to the fact that the wound might have been
self-inflicted, and the Coroner promised that this should be done.
When the Coroner had left them the lawyer said to Mr. Flexen: "In the
case of a man like the late Lord Loudwater, you can't be too careful, you
know. Really, it would be better if the jury brought in a verdict of
suicide. A suicide in a family is always better than a murder."
"H'm! You could hardly expect me to rest content with such a verdict,"
said Mr. Flexen. "Not, I mean, on the evidence."
"Oh, no; I shouldn't," said Mr. Carrington. "All I want to avoid is a lot
of quite unnecessary painful scandal, which won't lead to anything of use
to you, about innocent people connected with my late client. You won't
act without something pretty definite to go upon, while the
scandalmongers will talk on no grounds at all. Lord Loudwater was a queer
customer, and goodness knows what will come to light, for, of course,
you'll investigate the affair thoroughly."
The inquest accordingly was conducted on these lines. Only Dr. Thornhill,
Wilkins and Holloway were called as witnesses; and the Coroner directed
the jury to bring in a verdict to the effect that Lord Loudwater had died
of a knife-wound, and that there was no evidence to show whether it was
self-inflicted or not.
But in this he failed. The jury, muddle-headed, obstinate country folk,
had made up their minds that Lord Loudwater was the kind of man to be
murdered, and that, therefore, he had been murdered. They brought in
the verdict that Lord Loudwater had been murdered by some person or
Mr. Flexen, Mr. Carrington and the Coroner were annoyed, but they had had
too wide an experience of juries to be surprised.
"This will let loose a horde of reporters on us," said Mr. Carrington
"It will," said Mr. Flexen. "The pet sleuths of the _Wire_ and the
_Planet_ will leave London in about an hour."
"Well, they'll have to be dealt with," said Mr. Carrington.