Part 3 out of 4
"Oh, they're all right. I probably know them. I'll get them to work with
me. They must be treated very nicely," said Mr. Flexen cheerfully.
"They're always a confounded nuisance," said Mr. Carrington, frowning.
"Not if they're kindly treated. Indeed, I shall very likely find them
really useful," said Mr. Flexen. "But you might give the servants a
hint to be careful of what they say. The hint will come best from you,
and be much more effective than if it came from any one else. You
represent the family."
"I'll see about it," said Mr. Carrington, and he went to Olivia's boudoir
to confer with her about the invitations to the funeral.
Mr. Flexen was, indeed, little disturbed by the prospect of the coming of
the newspaper men. A popular member of the chief literary and
journalistic club in London, he would probably know them, or they would
know of him; and he would find them ready enough to work with him.
Besides, even if they discovered that the quarrel between Colonel Grey
and Lord Loudwater had its origin in Lady Loudwater, in the present state
of mind of the country, they would have to move very cautiously indeed in
the case of a V.C.
He did not, indeed, think it likely that they would discover the cause of
the quarrel for some time--possibly not before their papers had tired of
the business and sent them on other errands. Mrs. Turnbull only knew of
Lord Loudwater's threat to hound Colonel Grey out of the Army; she did
not know the reason of his fury and his threat. Elizabeth Twitcher would
certainly hold her tongue about Lord Loudwater's subsequent quarrel with
Lady Loudwater, and his accusations and threats; Mrs. Carruthers was even
more unlikely to tell of it. It was unlikely that William Roper would
come within the ken of the newspaper men. No one could tell them that he
was the great repository of facts in the case, and Mr. Flexen believed
that he had given him good cause to keep his mouth shut till he called on
him to open it.
Taking one thing with another, he thought it more than likely that the
newspaper men would not hinder him in his purpose of dealing with the
affair in his own way.
On the other hand, they might very well be used to help him discover the
unknown woman who had had the furious quarrel with Lord Loudwater at
about eleven o'clock. Indeed, he regarded the information about that
quarrel as a sop to be thrown to them. She afforded just the element of
melodrama in the case which would be most grateful to their different
newspapers, and provide them with plenty of the kind of headlines which
best sold them. It was certain that James Hutchings would also occupy
their attention. The fact that he had been discharged with contumely and
threats, that he had departed uttering violent threats against the dead
man, and that he had returned to visit Elizabeth Twitcher late that
night, were doubtless being discussed by the whole neighbourhood.
However, only himself and William Roper knew, at present, that James
Hutchings had come and gone by the library window, had actually passed
twice within a few feet of his sleeping, or dead, master. That fact,
also, Mr. Flexen proposed to keep to himself till he saw reason to
divulge it. His next business must be to question Hutchings.
It was quite likely that there lay the solution of the mystery.
It would have been easy enough for Mr. Flexen to send for Hutchings to
the Castle and question him there. But he did not. In the first place, he
did not think it fair to a man who had already prejudiced himself so
seriously by his threats against the murdered man. Besides, he would be
at a disadvantage, under a greater strain at the Castle, and Mr. Flexen
wanted him where he would be at his best, for he wished to be able to
form an exact judgment of the likelihood of his being the murderer.
Indeed, it must be a very careful and exact judgment, for he felt that he
was moving in deep waters; that it was a case in which it was possible,
even easy, to go hopelessly wrong. Also, he was fully alive to the fact
that if threatened men live long, the men who threaten are to blame for
it, and that threats such as Hutchings' are the commonest things in the
world, and, as a rule, of very little importance. But there was always
the chance that Hutchings was the unusual threatener; and, if he were, he
had assuredly been in circumstances most favourable to the carrying out
of his threats.
Accordingly he learnt from Inspector Perkins the way to the gamekeeper's
cottage in the West Wood, where Hutchings was staying with his father,
and drove the car to it himself. Hutchings was alone in the cottage, for
his father was out on his rounds. He invited Mr. Flexen to come in. Mr.
Flexen came in, sat down in an arm-chair, and examined Hutchings' face.
He saw that the man was plainly very anxious and ill at ease. It was
natural enough. He must perceive quite clearly how black against him
He was forced also to admit to himself that Hutchings had not a pleasant
face. It was choleric and truculent, and in spite of the man's evident
anxiety, there was a sullen fierceness on it which gave him no little of
the air of a wild beast trapped.
Mr. Flexen wasted no time beating about the bush, but said to him: "When
you visited Elizabeth Twitcher last night you entered and left the Castle
by the library window."
"You got that from that young blighter Manley," said Hutchings bitterly.
"Not at all. I did not know that Mr. Manley knew it," said Mr. Flexen.
"So you did?"
"Yes, sir, I did. I always went to the village that way in the
summer-time. It's the shortest. Besides, his lordship was nearly always
asleep; and if he wasn't and did 'ear me, there was always something I
could be doing in the library, sir."
He spoke with eager, rather humble civility.
"Well, did you, as you went through the library, coming or going, hear
Lord Loudwater snore?"
Hutchings knitted his brow, thinking; then he said: "I can't call to mind
as I did, sir. But, then, I wasn't giving him any attention. I was
thinking about other things altogether. Of course, I went out quietly
enough. But that was habit."
"That sounds as if you had not heard him snore--as if you thought that he
was awake," said Mr. Flexen.
"I don't think I thought about him at all, sir, at the moment. I was
thinking about other things," said Hutchings.
"You say that Mr. Manley saw you go out?"
"Yes, sir. I passed him in the hall and went into the library. We had a
few words, and I told him I had come to fetch some cigarettes as I'd
"Do you know what the time was?" said Mr. Flexen.
"No, sir--not exactly. But it must have been nearly half-past eleven, I
"It is very important to fix the time at which Lord Loudwater died," said
Mr. Flexen. "You can't tell me nearer than that?"
"No, sir. It was nearly ten to twelve when I got home, and I reckon it's
about twenty minutes' walk from the Castle to the cottage here."
"And all you went to the Castle for was to speak to Elizabeth Twitcher?"
said Mr. Flexen.
"That was all I went for--every single thing. And it was all I did
there--every mortal thing I did there, sir," Hatchings asseverated, and
he wiped his brow.
"H'm!" said Mr. Flexen. "As you passed through the library, did you
happen to notice whether the knife was in its place in the big inkstand?"
Hutchings hesitated, and his lips twitched. Then he said: "Yes, I did,
sir. It was in the big inkstand."
Mr. Flexen could not make up his mind whether he was telling the truth or
not. He thought that he was not. But he did not attach much importance to
the matter. People who knew themselves to be suspected of a crime had
often told him quite stupid and unnecessary lies and been proved innocent
"I should have thought that your mind was too full of other things to
notice a thing like that," he said in a somewhat incredulous tone.
Then there came an outburst. Mr. Flexen had thought that Hutchings was
worked up to a high degree of nervous tension, and he was. He cried out
that he knew that every one believed that he had done it; but he hadn't.
He'd never thought of it. He was damned if he didn't wish he had done it.
He might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, anyhow. He broke off to
curse Lord Loudwater at length. He had been a curse to every one who came
into contact with him while he was alive, and now he was getting people
into trouble when he was dead. Yes: he wished it had occurred to him to
stick that knife into him. He'd have done it like a shot, and he'd have
done the right thing. The world was well rid of a swine like that!
His face was contorted, and his eyes kept gleaming red as he talked, and
he came to the end of his outburst, trembling and panting.
Mr. Flexen was unmoved and unenlightened. It was merely the outburst
of a badly-frightened man lacking in self-control, and told him
nothing. It left it equally likely that Hutchings had, or had not,
committed the crime.
"There's nothing to get so frantic about," he said quietly to the panting
man. "It doesn't do any good."
"It's all very well to talk like that, sir," said Hutchings in a shaky
voice. "But I know what people are saying. It's enough to make any one
lose their temper."
"I should think that yours was pretty easy to lose," said Mr.
"I know it. It is very short, sir. It always was; and I can't help it,"
said Hutchings in an apologetic voice.
"Then you'd better set about learning to help it, my man," said
He took out his pipe and filled it slowly. The flush faded a little from
Hutchings' face. Mr. Flexen lighted his pipe and rose.
Then as he went to the door he said: "I should advise you to get that
stupid temper well in hand. It makes a bad impression. Good afternoon."
Mr. Flexen drove back to the Castle, considering Hutchings carefully.
There was no doubt that he was, indeed, badly frightened; but he had
reason to be. Mr. Flexen could not decide whether he had worn the air of
a guilty man or an innocent. He could not decide whether the butler had
been too deeply absorbed in his own affairs to hear the snoring of Lord
Loudwater as he went through the library. It was possible that Lord
Loudwater was alive, asleep, and yet not snoring at the time. Snoring is
He considered Hutchings' violent outburst. Certainly such an outburst
showed the man uncommonly unbalanced; it might, indeed, on occasion take
the form of uncontrollable murderous fury. But it seemed to him that an
actual meeting with Lord Loudwater would have been necessary to provoke
that. But Lord Loudwater had been sitting in his chair when he died; and
if he had not killed himself, he had been killed in his sleep. At any
rate, there was probably sufficient evidence, seeing what juries are, to
convict Hatchings. If he had been one of those not uncommon ministers of
the law, whose only desire is to secure a conviction, he would doubtless
arrest him at once. But it was not his only desire to secure a
conviction; it was his very keen desire to find the right solution of the
problem. He could not see where any more evidence against Hutchings was
to come from. What Mr. Manley had told him about the knife, that it had
been in general use, and that he had seen Hutchings cut string with it
the day before the murder, greatly lessened its value as evidence, even
if Hutchings' finger-prints were thick on it. He decided to dismiss
Hutchings from his mind for the time being, and devote all his energies
to discovering the mysterious woman with whom Lord Loudwater had had the
furious quarrel between eleven and a quarter-past.
With this end in view, on his return to the Castle, he went straight to
the library, where Mr. Carrington was engaged, along with Mr. Manley, in
an examination of the murdered man's papers. They were uncommonly few,
and Mr. Manley had already set them in order. Lord Loudwater seemed to
have kept but few letters, and the papers consisted chiefly of receipted
and unreceipted bills.
When he found that Mr. Flexen had come to confer with the lawyer, Mr.
Manley assumed an air of extraordinary discretion and softly withdrew.
"I want to know--it is most important--whether there was any
entanglement between Lord Loudwater and a woman," said Mr. Flexen.
"I should think it very unlikely," said Mr. Carrington without
hesitation. "At least, I have never heard of anything of the kind,
and so far I have come across no trace of anything of the kind among
Mr. Flexen frowned, considering; then he said: "Do you happen to know
whether he employed any one besides your firm to do legal work for him?"
"As to that I can't say. But I should not think it likely. It was always
a business to get him to attend to anything that wanted doing, and he
always made a fuss about it. I can't see him employing another firm too.
But he may have done. The only thing is that I ought to have found either
their bills or the receipts for them among those papers--except that my
late client does not appear to have taken the trouble to keep many
"The thing is that I've learnt that Lord Loudwater had a furious quarrel
with some unknown woman between eleven and a quarter-past on the night of
his death, and I want to find her. You can see how important it is. It
may be that she stabbed him, or it may be that she provided him with the
motive to commit suicide--not that that seems likely. But you can't tell:
she might have been able to threaten him with some exposure. Those people
without any self-control are always doing the most senseless
things--bigamy, for instance, is often one of their weaknesses."
"Loudwater was certainly without self-control; but I hardly think that he
was the man to commit bigamy," said the lawyer.
"It would very much simplify matters if he had," said Mr. Flexen in
a dissatisfied tone. "I wonder whether Manley would know anything
"He might," said Mr. Carrington.
Mr. Flexen went through the library window to find Mr. Manley strolling
up and down the lawn with every appearance of enjoying his pipe and the
respite from perusing papers.
"Mr. Carrington tells me that you were in Lord Loudwater's confidence,"
said Mr. Flexen.
"Wholly," said Mr. Manley, with more promptness than his actual knowledge
of the facts warranted.
It seemed to him fitting that a secretary of his intelligence and
discretion should have been wholly in the confidence of any nobleman who
employed him. Therefore he himself must have been.
"Then perhaps you can tell me whether he was entangled with a woman,"
said Mr. Flexen.
"Entangled? In what way?" said Mr. Manley in a tone of surprise.
"In the usual way, I suppose. Was he engaged in a love-affair with any
woman, or had he been?"
"He certainly did not tell me anything about it if he was," said Mr.
Manley. "But that is the kind of thing he might very well _not_ confide
to his secretary."
"You don't happen to know if he was making any payments to a woman--an
allowance, for example?" said Mr. Flexen.
Mr. Manley was well on his guard by now. These questions must surely
refer to Helena.
"He never told me anything about it," he said with perfect readiness.
"Not, of course, that I would tell you if he had," he added, in his most
amiable voice. "I've told you that I thought that he made enough trouble
while he was alive. I won't help him to make trouble now that he's dead."
Mr. Flexen thought that the asseveration was unnecessary, since Mr.
Manley had not the knowledge which would make the trouble. He returned to
the lawyer and told him that Mr. Manley had no information to give.
"It seems a very important point in the affair," said the lawyer.
"It is," said Mr. Flexen, frowning. "I wonder if there was an intrigue
with a country girl or woman, some one in the neighbourhood?"
"There might have been. Lord Loudwater rode a great deal. He was
hours in the saddle every day. He had time and opportunity for that
kind of thing."
"On the other hand, there's no need for it to have been any one in the
neighbourhood at all. To say nothing of the train, it's a short enough
motor drive from London; and it was a moonlight night," said Mr. Flexen.
"Then you may be able to find traces of the car. The woman must have left
it somewhere while she had the interview with Lord Loudwater," said Mr.
"I'll try," said Mr. Flexen, not very hopefully, "But there are so few
people about at night nowadays. Five out of the eight gamekeepers are
still abroad. In ordinary times there would have been four at least of
them about the roads and woods. On that night there was only one."
"There's the further difficulty that Lord Loudwater had so few friends.
That will make it harder to find out anything about an affair of this
kind--if he had one," said Mr. Carrington.
"It will, indeed," said Mr. Flexen, and paused, frowning. Then he
added gravely: "I'm sure that there was such an affair, and I've got
to find the woman."
Mr. Manley did not lunch with Mr. Flexen and the lawyer. In cultivating
Mr. Flexen he had been forced to see less than usual of Helena, and,
interesting a companion as Mr. Flexen was, Mr. Manley very much preferred
her society. He found her less nervous than she had been the day before,
but she still wore a sufficiently anxious air, and was still restless.
She seemed more pleased to see him than usual, and the warmth of her
welcome gave him a sudden sense that she was even fonder of him than he
had thought, or hoped. It stirred him to an admirable response.
At lunch she questioned him with uncommon particularity about the
proceedings of Mr. Flexen, the discoveries he had made, the lines on
which he was making his investigation. Her interest seemed natural
enough, and he told her all that he knew, which was little. She seemed
much disappointed by his lack of information. He was careful not to tell
her that Mr. Flexen had inquired of him whether he knew of any
entanglement between Lord Loudwater and a woman. Thanks to his
imagination he was a young man of uncommon discretion, and it was plain
that she was suffering anxiety enough.
At the end of her fruitless questioning she sighed and said: "Of course,
the whole affair is of no great interest to you really."
"It isn't of very great interest to me," said Mr. Manley. "You see, the
victim of the crime, if it was a crime, was such an uninteresting
creature. Nature, as I've told you before, intended him for a bull,
changed her mind when it was too late to make a satisfactory alteration,
and botched it. You must admit that the bull man is a very dull kind of
creature, unless he can make things lively for you by prodding you with
his horns. When he is dead, he is certainly done with."
"I wish he was done with," she said, with a sigh.
"Well, as far as you are concerned, he is done with, surely," he said, in
"Of course, of course," she said quickly. "But still, he seems likely to
give a great deal of trouble to somebody; and if there is a trial, how am
I to know that my name won't be brought up?"
"I don't think there's a chance of it," he said. "How should it be
"One never knows," she said, with a note of nervous dread in her voice.
"Well, as far as I'm concerned, he'll get no help in making a posthumous
nuisance of himself from me; and I'm inclined to think that, as things
are going, he'll need my help to do that," he said in a tone of quiet
"A posthumous nuisance--you do have phrases! And how you do dislike
him!" she said.
"The moderately civilized man, with a gentle disposition like mine,
always does hate the bull man. Also, he despises him," said Mr.
She was silent a while, thinking; then she said: "What did you mean by
saying: 'If it was a crime.' What else could it have been?"
"A suicide. The evidence was that the wound might have been
self-inflicted," said Mr. Manley.
"Absurd! Lord Loudwater was the last man in the world to commit suicide!"
"That's purely a matter of individual opinion. I am of the opinion that a
man of his uncontrollable temper was quite likely to commit suicide," he
said firmly. "As for its being absurd, if there is any attempt to prove
any one guilty of murdering him on purely circumstantial evidence, that
person won't find anything absurd in the theory at all. In fact, he'll
work it for all it's worth. I think myself that, with Dr. Thornhill's
evidence in mind, the police, or the Public Prosecutor, or the Treasury,
or whoever it is that decides those things, will never attempt in this
case to bring any one to trial for the murder on merely circumstantial
"Do you think not?" she said in a tone of relief.
"I'm sure of it," said Mr. Manley. "But why do we waste our time talking
about the tiresome fellow when there are things a thousand times more
interesting to talk about? Your eyes, now--"
Mr. Flexen instructed Inspector Perkins and his men to make inquiries
about the rides of Lord Loudwater and to try to learn whether any one had
seen a strange car, or, indeed, a car of any kind, in the neighbourhood
of the Castle about eleven o'clock on the night of the murder. Also, he
could see his way to using the newspaper men to help him to discover
whether there had been any entanglement known to the club gossips or the
people of the neighbourhood between Lord Loudwater and a lady in London.
It was not unlikely that he had talked of it to some one, for if they
quarrelled so furiously he must need sympathy; and if he had not talked,
the lady probably had, though it might very well be that she was not in
the circle in which the Loudwaters moved in London. He had some doubt,
however, that she was a London woman at all. She had shown too intimate a
knowledge of Lord Loudwater's habits at Loudwater and of the Castle
itself, for it was clear from William Roper's story that she had gone
straight to the library window and through it, in the evident expectation
of finding Lord Loudwater asleep as usual in his smoking-room. It was
this doubt which prevented him from appealing to Scotland Yard for help
in clearing up this particular point. He wished to make sure first that
the woman did not belong to the neighbourhood. On the other hand, she
might always be some one who had been a guest at the Castle.
He was about to go in search of Lady Loudwater to question her about
their friends and acquaintances who might have this knowledge of the
Castle and the habits of her husband, when the sleuth from the _Wire_ and
the sleuth from the _Planet_ arrived together, in all amity and the same
vexation at being prevented by this errand from spending the afternoon at
the same bridge table. The sleuth of the _Wire_ was a very solemn-looking
young man, with a round, simple face. The sleuth of the _Planet_ was a
tall, dark man, with an impatient and slightly worried air, who looked
uncommonly like an irritable actor-manager.
Both of them greeted Mr. Flexen with affectionate warmth, and Douglas,
the tall sleuth of the _Planet_, at once deplored, with considerable
bitterness, the fact that he had been robbed of his afternoon's bridge.
Gregg, the sleuth of the _Wire_, preserved a gently-blinking,
Mr. Flexen at once sent for whisky, soda and cigars, and over them took
his two friends into his confidence. He told them that it was very
doubtful whether it was a case of murder or suicide; that the jury's
verdict was not in accordance with the directions of the Coroner, but
just a piece of natural, pig-headed stupidity. This produced another
bitter outcry from Douglas about the loss of his afternoon. Mr. Flexen
did not soothe him at all by pointing out that he was in a beautiful
country on a beautiful day. Then he told them about the coming of the
mysterious woman and her violent quarrel with the Lord Loudwater just
about the probable time of his death. Douglas at once lost his irritated
air and displayed a lively interest in the matter; Gregg listened and
blinked. Mr. Flexen told them also of Hutchings, his threats, and his
visit to the Castle. That was as far as his confidences went. But they
were enough. He had given them the very things they wanted, and they both
assured him that they would at once inform him of any discoveries they
might make themselves. They left him feeling sure that he might safely
leave the servants and the villagers to them and the policemen. If any
one in the neighbourhood knew anything about the mysterious woman, they
would probably ferret it out. What was far more important was that
tomorrow's _Wire_ and _Planet_ would contain such an advertisement of her
that any one in London or the country who knew of her relations with the
dead man would learn at once the value of that knowledge.
When they had gone he sent for Mrs. Carruthers, and learned, to his
annoyance, that none of the upper servants except Elizabeth Twitcher had
been in service at the Castle for more than four months. She could only
say that during the six weeks that she had been housekeeper there had
been very few visitors; and they had been merely callers, except when
Colonel Grey had been coming to the Castle and there had been small
tennis parties. She had heard nothing from the servants about his
lordship's being on particularly friendly terms with any lady in the
neighbourhood. Hutchings would be the most likely person to know a thing
like that. He had been in service at the Castle all his life. Of course,
her ladyship, too, she might know.
Mr. Flexen made up his mind to seek out Hutchings at once and question
him on the matter; but Mrs. Carruthers had only just left him when he saw
Olivia come into the rose-garden with Colonel Grey. He watched them idly
and perceived that, for the time being at any rate, Olivia had lost her
strained and anxious air. She was plainly enough absorbed, wholly
absorbed, in Grey. She had eyes only for him, and Mr. Flexen suspected
that her ears were at the moment deaf to everything but the sound of his
voice. They did look a well-matched pair.
It occurred to him that he might as well again question Olivia about her
husband's possible intrigue with another woman and be done with it. There
could be no harm in Colonel Grey's hearing the questions. As for
interrupting their pleasant converse, he thought that they would soon
recover from the interruption. Accordingly he went out to the
Absorbed in one another, they did not see him till he was right on them,
and then he saw a curious happening. At the sight of him a sudden,
simultaneous apprehension filled both their faces, and they drew closer
together. But he had an odd fancy that they did not draw together for
mutual protection, but mutually to protect. Then, almost on the instant,
they were gazing at him with politely inquiring eyes, Lady Loudwater
smiling. He felt that they were intensely on their guard. It was
He changed his mind about questioning Lady Loudwater in the presence of
Grey, and asked if she could spare him a minute or two to answer a few
"Oh, yes. I'm sure Colonel Grey will excuse me," she said readily.
"But why shouldn't you question Lady Loudwater before me?" said Colonel
Grey coolly; but he slapped his thigh nervously with the pair of gloves
he was carrying. "It's always as well for a woman to have a man at hand
in an awkward affair like this, which may lead to a good deal of
unpleasantness if anything goes wrong. I'm a friend of Lady Loudwater,
and I don't suppose you fear that anything you discuss before me will go
any further, Mr. Flexen."
He was cool enough, but Mr. Flexen did not miss the note of anxiety in
"I don't mind at all if Lady Loudwater would like it," he said readily.
"But it's rather a delicate matter."
"Oh, I should like Colonel Grey to hear everything," said Olivia quickly.
"It's about the matter of an entanglement between Lord Loudwater and some
lady. Are you quite sure there was nothing of the kind before his
marriage, if not after it?" said Mr. Flexen.
"I don't know for certain," said Olivia readily. "But two or three times
Lord Loudwater did talk about other women in a boasting sort of way.
Only it was when he was trying to annoy me; so I didn't pay much
attention to it."
"And you never tried to find out whether it was the truth or not?" said
"No, never. You see, I didn't particularly care," said Olivia, with
unexpected frankness. "If I'd cared, I expect it would have been very
"And did Lord Loudwater never mention the name of any lady when he was
boasting?" said Mr. Flexen.
"No. Never. It was just general boasting. And he certainly gave me to
understand that it was two or three, not one," said Olivia.
"Have you any suspicion that he had any particular lady in mind--any of
your common friends, for example--some one who has stayed at the Castle?"
said Mr. Flexen.
"None at all. I haven't the slightest idea who it could have been. It
must have been some one I don't know, or I should have been nearly sure
to notice something," said Olivia.
"Can you tell me any one who might know?"
Olivia shook her head, and said: "No. I don't know any friend of my
husband well enough to say. He never told me who his chief friends were.
It never occurred to me that he had an intimate friend. I always thought
he hadn't, in fact."
"I tell you what: you might inquire of Outhwaite, you know the man I
mean, the man who used always to be getting fined for furious driving. He
was a friend of Loudwater, the only friend I ever heard him mention,
indeed. If he ever confided in any one, that would be the most likely
man," said Colonel Grey.
"Thank you. That's an idea. I'll certainly try him," said Mr. Flexen, and
he turned as if to go.
But Olivia stopped him, saying: "Do you think, then, that a woman did it,
"Well, there is a certain amount of evidence which lends some colour to
that theory, but I don't want any one to know that," said Mr. Flexen.
And then he could have sworn that he heard Olivia breathe a faint sigh
But Colonel Grey broke in in a tone of some acerbity and more anxiety:
"It's nonsense to talk of any one having done it in face of the
medical evidence--any one, that is, but Loudwater himself. He
"You think him a likely man to have committed suicide, do you?" said
"Yes. A man of his utterly uncontrollable temper is the very man to
commit suicide," said Colonel Grey firmly.
"It is, of course, always possible that he committed suicide," said Mr.
Flexen in a non-committal tone.
"It's most probable," said Colonel Grey curtly.
"What do you think, Lady Loudwater?" said Flexen.
"Why, I haven't thought much about it. I always--I--but now I do think
about it, I--I--think it's not unlikely," said Olivia, in a tone of no
great conviction. "And he was so frightfully upset, too, that night--not
that he had any reason to be; but he was."
"Ah, well; my duty is to investigate the matter till there isn't a shadow
of doubt left," said Mr. Flexen in a pleasant voice. "I daresay that I
shall get to the bottom of it."
With that he left them and went back into the Castle.
At the sight of his back Olivia breathed so deep a sigh of relief that
Grey winced at it.
"If only it could be proved that Egbert did commit suicide!" she said
"I don't see any chance of it," said Colonel Grey gloomily. Then he
added in a tone of but faint hope: "Unless he wrote to one of his friends
that he intended to commit suicide."
Olivia shook her head and said: "Egbert wouldn't do that. He hated
"Besides, if he had, we should have heard of it by now," said Grey.
"The friend might be away," said Olivia. "I know that Mr. Outhwaite was
"That's hoping too much," said Grey.
They strolled on in silence, his eyes on her thoughtful face, which under
Mr. Flexen's questioning had again grown anxious. Then he said: "This sun
is awfully hot. Let's stroll through the wood to the pavilion. It will be
"Very well," said Olivia, smiling at him.
Mr. Flexen went back to his room, rang for Holloway, and bade him find
Mr. Manley, if he were in, and ask him to come to him. Holloway went, and
presently returned to say that Mr. Manley had gone out to lunch, but left
word that he would be back to dinner.
Mr. Flexen, therefore, gave his mind to the consideration of his talk
with Colonel Grey and Olivia, and the longer he considered it, the more
their attitude intrigued and puzzled him. They certainly knew something
about the murder, something of the first importance. What could it be?
Again he asked himself could either, or both of them, have actually had
a hand in it? It seemed improbable; but he was used to the improbable
happening. He could not believe that either of them would have dreamt of
committing murder to gain a personal end--to save themselves, for
example, from the injuries with which Lord Loudwater had threatened them.
But would they commit murder to save some one else, one to save the
other, for example, from such an injury? Murder was, indeed, a violent
measure; but Mr. Flexen was inclined to think that either of them might
take it. Mr. Manley's confident declaration that they were both creatures
of strong emotions had impressed him. He felt that Colonel Grey, under
the impulse to save Lady Loudwater, would stick at very little; and he
was used to violence and to hold human life cheap. On the other hand,
Lady Loudwater would go a long way--a very long way--if any one she loved
were threatened. The fact that she had good Italian blood in her veins
was very present in his mind.
Again, it would be a matter of sudden impulse, not of grave deliberation.
The irritating sound of Lord Loudwater's snores and the sight of the
gleaming knife-blade on the library table coming together after their
painful and moving discussion of their dangers might awake the impulse to
be rid of him, at any cost, in full strength. He was not disposed to
underrate the suggestion of that naked knife-blade on them when they
were strung to such a height of emotion. Again, he asked himself, had
either of them murdered Lord Loudwater to save the other?
At any rate, they knew who had committed the murder. Of that he was sure.
Could they be shielding a third person? If so, who was that third person?
Mr. Flexen sat pondering this question of a third person for a good
It could not be Hutchings. There would be no reason to shield Hutchings
unless they had instigated or employed him to commit the murder, and that
was out of the question. He was not sure, indeed, that Hutchings was not
the murderer; the snores and the knife were as likely to have excited the
murderous impulse in him as in them. He was quite sure that if Dr.
Thornhill had been able to swear that the wound was not self-inflicted,
he could have secured the conviction of Hutchings. But it was incredible
that Lady Loudwater or Colonel Grey had employed him to commit the
murder. No; if they were shielding a third person, it must be the
mysterious, unknown woman who had come with such swift secrecy and so
It grew clearer and clearer that there most probably lay that solution
of the problem. If that woman herself had not murdered Lord Loudwater,
as seemed most likely, she might very well give him the clue for which
he was groping. He must find her, and, of course, sooner or later he
would find her. But the sooner he found her, the sooner would the
problem be solved and his work done. Till he found her he would not find
It still seemed to him probable that somewhere among Lord Loudwater's
papers there was information which would lead to her discovery, and he
went into the library to confer again with Mr. Carrington on the matter.
He found him discussing the arrangements for tomorrow's funeral with Mrs.
Carruthers and Wilkins.
When they had gone he said: "Did you come across any information about
that mysterious woman in the rest of the papers?"
"Not a word," said Mr. Carrington.
"I've been thinking that you might come across traces of her in his
pass-books--payments or an allowance."
"I thought of that. But there's only one passbook, the one in use. Lord
Loudwater doesn't seem to have kept them after they were filled. And
Manley knows all about this one; he wrote out every cheque in it for
Loudwater, and he is quite sure that there were no cheques of any size
for a woman among them."
"That's disappointing," said Mr. Flexen. "What about the cheques to
'Self'? Are there any large ones among them?"
"No. They're all on the small side--distinctly on the small
side--cheques for ten pounds--and very few of them."
"It is queer that it should be so difficult to find any information
about a woman who played such an important part in his life," said Mr.
"It's not so very uncommon," said the lawyer.
"Well, let's hope that the advertisement she'll get from my newspaper
friends will bring her to light," said Mr. Flexen.
"It would be a pleasant surprise to me to find them serving some useful
purpose," said Mr. Carrington grimly.
Mr. Flexen laughed and said: "You're prejudiced. It's about time to dress
Mr. Carrington rose with alacrity and said anxiously, "I hope to goodness
Loudwater didn't quarrel with his chef!"
"I've no reason to think so. The food's excellent," said Mr. Flexen.
Mr. Manley joined them at dinner, wearing his best air of a discreet and
indulgent man of the world, and confident of making himself valued. He
was in very good spirits, for he had persuaded Helena to marry him that
day month, and was rejoicing in his success. He did not tell Mr. Flexen,
or Mr. Carrington, of his good fortune. He felt that it would hardly
interest them, since neither of them knew Helena or was intimate with
himself. But, inspired by this success, he took the lead in the
conversation, and showed himself inclined to be somewhat patronizing to
two men outside the sphere of imaginative literature.
It was Mr. Flexen who broached the subject of the murder.
After they had talked of the usual topics for a while, he said: "By the
way, Manley, did you hear Lord Loudwater snore after Hutchings went into
the library, or before?"
"So you know that I saw Hutchings in the hall that night?" said Mr.
Manley. "It's wonderful how you find things out. I didn't tell you, and I
should have thought that I was the only person awake in the front part of
the Castle. I suppose that some one saw him getting his cigarettes from
the butler's pantry."
"So that was the reason he gave you for being in the Castle," said Mr.
Flexen. "Well, was it after or before you spoke to him that you heard
Lord Loudwater snore?"
Mr. Manley hesitated, thinking; then he said: "I can't remember at the
moment. You see, I was downstairs some little time. I found an evening
paper in the dining-room and looked through it there. I might have heard
him from there."
"You can't remember?" said Mr. Flexen in a tone of disappointment.
"Not at the moment," said Mr. Manley. "Is it important?"
"Yes; very important. It would probably help me to fix the time of Lord
"I see. A lot may turn on that," said Mr. Manley thoughtfully.
"Yes. You can see how immensely it helps to have a fact like that fixed,"
said Mr. Flexen.
"Yes: of course," said Mr. Manley. "Well, I must try to remember. I
daresay I shall, if I keep the fact in my mind gently, and do not try to
wrench the recollection out of it. You know how hard it is to remember a
thing, if it hasn't caught your attention fairly when it happened."
"Yes," said Mr. Flexen. "But I hope to goodness you'll remember it
quickly. It may be of the greatest use to me."
"Ah, yes; I must," said Mr. Manley, giving him a queer look.
"I was forgetting," said Mr. Flexen, understanding the thought behind the
queer look. "You'd hardly believe it, Mr. Carrington, but Mr. Manley told
me at the very beginning of this business that he was not going to help
in any way to discover the murderer of Lord Loudwater, because he
considered that murderer a benefactor of society."
"But I never heard of such a thing!" cried the lawyer in a tone of
astonished disapproval. "Such a course might be possible in the case of
some minor crime, or in a person intimately connected with the criminal
in the case of a major crime. But for an outsider to pursue such a
course in the case of a murder is unheard of--absolutely unheard of."
"I daresay it isn't common," said Mr. Manley in a tone of modest
satisfaction. "But I am modern; I claim the right of private judgment in
all matters of morality."
"Oh, that won't do--that won't do at all!" cried the shocked lawyer.
"There would be hopeless confusion--in fact, if everybody did that, the
law might easily become a dead letter--absolutely a dead letter."
"But there's no fear of everybody doing anything of the kind. The ruck
of men have no private judgment to claim the right of. They take
whatever's given them in the way of morals by their pastors and masters.
Only exceptional people have ideas of their own to carry out; and there
are not enough exceptional people to make much difference," said Mr.
"But, all the same, such principles are subversive of society--absolutely
subversive of society," said Mr. Carrington warmly, and his square,
massive face was growing redder.
"I daresay," said Mr. Manley amiably. "But if any one chooses to have
them, and act on them, what are you going to do about it? For example, if
I happened to know who had murdered Lord Loudwater and did not choose to
tell, how could you make me?"
"If there were many people with such principles about, society would
soon find out a way of protecting itself," said the lawyer, in the
accents of one whose tenderest sensibilities are being outraged.
"It would have to have recourse to torture then," said Mr. Manley
"But let me remind you that it is a crime to be an accessory before, or
after, the fact to murder," said the lawyer in a tone of some triumph.
"Oh, I'm not going as far as that," said Mr. Manley. "A man might very
well approve of a murder without being willing to further it."
Mr. Flexen laughed and said: "I understand Mr. Manley's point
of view. Sometimes I have felt inclined to be judge as well as
investigator--especially in the East."
"And you followed your inclination," said Mr. Manley with amiable
"Perhaps--perhaps not," said Mr. Flexen, smiling at him.
"The war has upset everything. I never heard such ideas before the war,"
grumbled the lawyer.
There was a silence as Holloway brought in the coffee and cigars.
When he had gone, Mr. Flexen said in an almost fretful tone: "It's an
extraordinary thing that Lord Loudwater kept so few papers."
"I don't know," said Mr. Manley carelessly. "During the six months I've
been here we were never stuck for want of a paper. He seemed to me to
have kept all that were necessary."
"It's the destroying of his pass-books that seems so odd to me," said
the lawyer. "A man must often want to know how he spent his money in a
"I'm sure I never want to," said Mr. Manley. "And certainly pass-books
are unattractive-looking objects to have about."
"All the same, they might have proved very useful in this case," said Mr.
Flexen. "Of course, they wouldn't tell us anything we shall not find out
eventually. But they might have saved us a lot of time and trouble. They
might put us on to the track of another firm of lawyers who did certain
business for Lord Loudwater."
"Well, no one but Mr. Carrington's firm did any business for him during
the last six months," said Mr. Manley, rising. "I feel inclined to take
advantage of the moonlight and go for a stroll. So I will leave you to go
on working on the murder. Good-bye for the present."
He sauntered out of the room, and when the door closed behind him, the
lawyer said earnestly: "I do hate a crank."
The words came from his heart.
"Oh, I don't think he's a crank," said Mr. Flexen in an indulgent tone.
"He's too intelligent; that's all."
"There's nothing so dangerous as too much intelligence. It's always a
nuisance to other people," said the lawyer. "Do you think he really knows
"He knows something--nothing of real importance, I think," said Mr.
Flexen. "But, as I expect you've noticed, he likes to feel himself of
importance. And whatever knowledge he has helps him to feel important.
It's a harmless hobby. By the way, is there anything in the way of
insanity in Lady Loudwater's family?"
"No, I never heard of any, and I should have been almost certain to hear
if there were any," said the lawyer in some surprise.
"That's all right," said Mr. Flexen.
"By the way, how did you get on with the newspaper men?" said the lawyer.
"I put them in the way of making themselves very useful to me, and, at
the same time, I gave them exactly the kind of thing they wanted. I
think, too, that when they've run the story I gave them for all it's
worth, they'll very likely drop the case--unless, that is, we've really
got it cleared up. I was careful to point out to them that the verdict of
the coroner's jury was a piece of pig-headed idiocy, and they'll see the
unlikelihood of securing a conviction for murder with the medical
evidence as it is, unless we have an absolutely clear case."
"But, all the same, there's going to be a tremendous fuss in the papers,"
said Mr. Carrington, in the tone of dissatisfaction of the lawyer who is
always doing his best to keep tremendous fusses out of the papers.
"Oh, yes. That was necessary. It's out of that fuss that I hope to get
the evidence which will settle once and for all, in my mind at any rate,
the question whether Lord Loudwater was murdered or not."
"But surely you haven't any doubt about that?" said the lawyer sharply.
"Just a trifle, and I may as well get rid of it," said Mr. Flexen.
Mr. Manley took his hat and stick and went leisurely out of the front
door of the Castle. He paused on the steps for half a minute to admire
the moonlit night and murmur a few lines from Keats. Then he strolled
down the drive whistling the tune of an American coon song. But presently
the whistle died on his lips as he considered Mr. Flexen's keen desire to
discover the other firm of lawyers who had done business for Lord
Loudwater. He could not but think, when he put this keenness of Mr.
Flexen beside Helena's strange anxiety, that she had done something of
which she had not told him, something that might have drawn suspicion on
her. He did not see what she could have done; but there it was. He had a
feeling, an intuition that it was she whom Mr. Flexen was seeking, and he
prided himself on his intuition. Well, the longer they were finding
Shepherd, the lawyer who had handled the business of her allowance, the
better he would be pleased. He had certainly done his best to block their
way. At the same time, they might at any moment learn who he was. It was
fortunate, therefore, that Shepherd had a job in Mesopotamia, and that
his business was closed down for the present. If they did learn who he
was, they would still be a long while before they obtained any
information about Helena from him. Mr. Manley's keen desire was that the
first excitement about the murder should have died down before they did
get it. He was a firm believer in the soothing effect of time. The
discovery of Helena's allowance, if it were made now, might cause her
considerable annoyance, if not actual trouble. Coming in six weeks' time,
or even a month's time, it would be far less likely to make that trouble.
He wondered what it could be that she had done to bring herself under
suspicion. Remembering what she had said of her determination to discuss
the halving of her allowance with the dead man, and her remark that she
had such a knowledge of his habits that she could make sure of having an
interview with him to discuss it, it seemed not unlikely that she had
gone to see him on the very night of his murder, and that some one had
seen her. If it were so, he hoped that she would tell him, so that they
might together devise some way of preventing harm coming from the
accident that the interview had occurred at such an unfortunate hour. He
felt sure that he would be able to devise such a way. He never blinked
the fact of his extreme ingenuity.
He found her strolling in her garden with the anxious frown which had
awakened his uneasiness, still on her brow. Her face grew brighter at the
sight of him, and presently he had smoothed the frown quite away. Again
he realized that the murder of Lord Loudwater had had a softening effect
on her. Before it they had been much more on equality; now she rather
clung to him. He found it pleasing, much more the natural attitude of a
woman towards a man of his imagination and knowledge of life. He was
properly gracious and protective with her.
The next morning the _Daily Wire_ opened his eyes and confirmed his
apprehensions. The murder of a nobleman is an uncommon occurrence, and
the editor of that paper showed every intention of making the most of it.
The visit of the unknown woman to Lord Loudwater and their quarrel,
treated with the nervous picturesqueness of which Mr. Gregg was so famous
a master, formed the main and interesting part of the article. When he
came to the end of it, Mr. Manley whistled ruefully. He had no difficulty
whatever in picturing to himself the indignant and violent wrath of
Helena, and he could not conceive for a moment that Lord Loudwater had
been able to withstand it. Of course, he would be violent, too, but with
a much less impressive violence.
Lord Loudwater had been lavish in the matter of newspapers; he was a rich
man, and they had been his only reading. Mr. Manley read the report of
the inquest in all the chief London dailies, and found in the _Daily
Planet_ another nervously picturesque article on the visit of the
mysterious woman from the nervously picturesque pen of Mr. Douglas.
Here was certainly a pretty kettle of fish. He could not doubt that the
woman was Helena. It explained Flexen's questioning him whether he had
any knowledge of an entanglement between Lord Loudwater and a woman, and
Flexen's keen desire to find some other firm of lawyers who might have
been called in to deal with such an entanglement. But he could not for a
moment bring himself to believe that there could have ever been any need
for Helena to have recourse to the knife. He could not see Lord
Loudwater resisting her when she became really angry; he must have given
way. None the less, he did not underestimate the awkwardness, the danger
even, of her having paid that visit and had that quarrel at such an
He had matter enough for earnest thought during the funeral. It was a
large funeral, though there were not many funeral guests. Five ladies, an
aunt and four cousins, of Lord Loudwater's own generation, came down from
London. The younger generation was either on its way back from the war,
or too busy with its work to find the time to attend the funeral of a
distant relation, whom, if they had chanced to meet him, they neither
liked nor respected. But there was a show of carriages from all the big
houses within a radius of nine miles, which more than made up for the
fewness of the guests. Also, there was a crowd of middle- and lower-class
spectators who considered the funeral of a murdered nobleman a spectacle
indeed worth attending. It was composed of women, children, old men, and
a few wounded private soldiers.
Olivia attended the funeral, wearing a composed but rather pathetic air,
owing to the fact that her brow was most of the time knitted in a
pondering, troubled frown. Lady Croxley, Lord Loudwater's aged aunt, rode
with her in the first coach. She was a loquacious soul, and whiled away
the journey to and from the church, which is over a mile from the Castle,
with a panegyric on her dead nephew, and an astonished dissertation on
the strange fact that Olivia had not had a woman with her during this sad
time. She ascribed her abstinence from this stimulant to her desire to be
alone with her grief. Olivia encouraged her harmless babble by a vague
murmur at the right points, and continued to look pathetic. It was all
her aunt by marriage needed, and it left Olivia free to think her own
thoughts. She gave but few of them to her dead husband; the living
claimed her attention.
Mr. Manley wore an air of gloom far deeper than his sense of the fitness
of things would in the ordinary course of events have demanded. It was
the result of the nervously picturesque English which had flowed with
such ease from the forceful pens of Mr. Douglas and Mr. Gregg. Mr.
Carrington, who rode with him, and from attending the funerals of many
clients had acquired as good a funeral air as any man in his profession,
found his gloom exaggerated. He was all the more scandalized, therefore,
when, as they were nearing the Castle, Mr. Manley suddenly cried, "By
Jove!" and rubbed his hands together with a face uncommonly radiant.
He had had the cheering thought that he had the Loudwater case, if ever
it should come to a trial, wholly in his hands. He had but to remember
having heard Lord Loudwater snore at, say, a few minutes to twelve, to
break it down. He did not conceive that he would encounter any difficulty
in remembering that if it should be necessary.
The solemnity of the funeral and Mr. Carrington's conversation in the
coach--he had talked about the weather--had not weakened his resolve
that, if he could help it, no one should swing for the murder.
This realization of his position of vantage made him eager to go to
Helena to set her mind at rest, should she, as he thought most likely,
be greatly troubled by the fact that her untimely visit to the murdered
man was known. But he had to lunch at the Castle with the funeral guests.
They were interested beyond measure in the murder and full of questions.
He talked to them with a darkly mysterious air, and made a deep
impression of discreet sagacity on their simple minds. He observed that
Olivia appeared to have been afflicted more deeply by the funeral than he
had expected. She looked harassed and seemed to find the lunch rather a
strain. He observed also that she did not, as did her guests, who were so
slightly acquainted with him, pay any tribute to the character of her
Mr. Flexen was not lunching with them. He had spent an expectant morning
waiting for the local effects of the story in the _Wire_ and _Planet_,
and in having that story spread far and wide by Inspector Perkins and his
two men among the villagers, who only saw a paper in the public-houses of
the neighbourhood on a Sunday. He hoped, if it had been a local affair,
to have information about it in the course of the day. Up to lunchtime
the newspaper advertisement of the mysterious woman had proved as
fruitless as the earlier private inquiries. But he remained hopeful.
It was past three before Mr. Manley escaped from the funeral guests and
betook himself at a brisk pace to Helena's house. As he went he made up
his mind that the quality most fitting the occasion was discretion. He
had better not let it appear that he was sure that she was the mysterious
woman of the _Daily Wire._ He must make his announcement that, in the
event of any one being brought to trial for the murder of Lord Loudwater,
his evidence could break down any case for the prosecution, and that he
would see that it did break it down, appear as casual as possible. But,
at the same time, he must make it quite clear to her that he could secure
her safety. He felt that though she might think his firm resolve that no
one should swing for the murder quixotic, she would perceive that it was
only in keeping with his generous nature.
He had expected to find her much more disturbed by the nervously
picturesque articles of Mr. Gregg and Mr. Douglas than she appeared.
Indeed, she seemed to him much less under a strain, much less nervous
than she had been the night before. None the less, he was careful to
reassure her wholly by the announcement of his discovery of the important
nature of the evidence he could give, before he said anything about those
articles. When he did tell her that he could break down any case for the
prosecution, she did not at once confess that she was the woman of whose
visit to Lord Loudwater those stories told; they did not even discuss the
question, which had seemed so important to the _Daily Wire_, who that
woman was. They contented themselves with discussing the question who
could have seen her. He admired her spirit in not telling him, her
readiness to forgo his comfort and support before the absolute need for
them was upon her. Her force of character was what he most admired in
her, and this was a striking example of it. His own character, he knew,
was rather subtile and delicate than strong. He was more than ever alive
to the advantage of having her to lean upon in the difficult career that
lay before him.
Mr. Flexen was disappointed that the advertisement of the mysterious
woman in the _Wire_ and the _Planet_ brought no information about her
during the morning. After lunch Mr. Carrington returned to London. At
half-past three Mr. Flexen telegraphed to Scotland Yard to ask if any one
had given them information about the woman he was seeking. No one had.
Then he realized that he was unreasonably impatient. Whoever had the
information would probably think the matter over, and perhaps confer with
friends before coming forward. In the meantime, he would make inquiries
of James Hutchings.
He drove to the gamekeeper's cottage to find James Hutchings sitting on a
chair outside it and reading the _Planet_. He perceived that he looked
puzzled. Also, he perceived that he still wore a strained, hunted air,
more strained and hunted by far than at their last talk.
He walked briskly up to him and said: "Good afternoon. I see that you're
reading the story of Lord Loudwater's murder in the _Planet_. It occurred
to me that you might very likely be able to tell me who the lady who
visited Lord Loudwater on the night of his murder was. At any rate, you
can probably make a guess at who she was."
Hutchings shook his head and said gloomily: "No, sir, I can't. I
don't know who it was and I can't guess. I wish I could. I'd tell you
like a shot."
"That's odd," said Mr. Flexen, again disappointed. "I should have thought
it impossible for your master to have been on intimate terms with a lady
without your coming to hear of it. You've always been his butler."
"Yes, sir. But this is the kind of thing as a valet gets to know about
more than a butler--letters left about, or in pockets, you know, sir. But
his lordship never could keep a valet long enough for him to learn
anything. He was worse with valets than with any one."
"I see," said Mr. Flexen in a vexed tone. "But still, I should have
thought you'd have heard something from some one, even if the matter had
not come under your own eyes. Gossip moves pretty widely about the
"Oh, this didn't happen in the country, sir--not in this part of the
country, anyhow. It must have been a London woman," said Hutchings with
conviction. "If she'd lived about here, I must have heard about it."
"It was a lady, you must know. The papers do not bring that fact out. My
informant is quite sure that it was a lady," said Mr. Flexen.
"That's no 'elp, sir," said Hutchings despondently. "She must have come
down by train and gone away by train."
"She would have probably been noticed at the station. But she wasn't.
Besides, she could not have walked back to the station in time to catch
the last train. I'm sure of it."
"Then she must have come in a car, sir."
"That is always possible," said Mr. Flexen.
There was a pause.
Then Hutchings burst out: "You may depend on it that she did it, sir.
There isn't a shadow of a doubt. You get her and you'll get the
He spoke with the feverish, unbalanced vehemence of a man whose nerves
are on edge.
"You think so, do you?" said Mr. Flexen.
"I'm sure of it--dead certain," cried Hutchings.
"It's a long way from visiting a gentleman late at night and quarrelling
with him to murdering him," said Mr. Flexen.
"And she went it. You mark my words, sir. She went it. I don't say that
she came to do it. But she saw that knife lying handy on the library
table and she did it," said Hutchings with the same vehemence.
"Any one who passed through the library would see that knife," said Mr.
Flexen carelessly, but his eyes were very keen on Hutchings' face.
Hutchings was pale, and he went paler. He tried to stammer something, but
his voice died in his throat.
"Well, I'm sorry you can't give me any information about this lady.
Good afternoon," said Mr. Flexen, and he turned on his heel and went
back to the car.
He was impressed by Hutchings' air and manner. Of course, believing
himself to be suspected, the man was under a strain. But would the strain
on him be so heavy as it plainly was, if he knew himself to be innocent?
And then his eagerness to fasten the crime on the mysterious woman. It
had been astonishingly intense, almost hysterical.
When he reached the Castle he found Inspector Perkins awaiting him with a
small package which had come by special messenger from Scotland Yard. It
contained enlarged photographs of the fingerprints on the handle of the
knife. They were all curiously blurred.
_The murderer had worn a glove._
Mr. Flexen studied the photographs and the report which stated this fact
with a lively interest and a growing sense of its great importance. For
one thing, it settled the question of suicide for good and all. Lord
Loudwater had worn no glove.
Also, it strengthened the case against the mysterious woman. She had
come, apparently, from a distance, and probably in a motor-car. If she
had driven herself down, she would be wearing gloves. Also, only a woman
would be likely to be wearing gloves on a warm summer night. Indeed,
coming from a distance by train, or car, she would certainly wear gloves.
She would not dream of coming to an interview, with a man with whom she
had been intimate and whom she wished to bend to her will, with hands
dirtied by a journey.
If that gloved hand had not been the hand of the mysterious woman, then
the murder had been premeditated, and the murderer or murderess had put
on gloves with the deliberate purpose of leaving no finger-prints.
It _was_ the woman. In all probability it was the woman.
Then Mr. Flexen's sub-conscious mind began to jog his intellect.
Somewhere in his memory there was a fact he had noted about gloves, and
that fact was now important in its bearing on the case. He set about
trying to recall it to his mind. He was not long about it. Of a sudden he
remembered that he had been a trifle surprised to perceive that Colonel
Grey had been carrying gloves when he had found him in the rose-garden
with Lady Loudwater.
His surprise had passed quickly enough. He had decided that the life in
the trenches had not weakened Colonel Grey's habit, as a fastidious man
about town, of taking care of his hands. He remembered, too, that at his
first interview with him he had observed that his hands were uncommonly
well shaped and well kept.
He did not suppose that Colonel Grey had come to the Castle on the
night of the murder wearing gloves with the deliberate intention of
killing Lord Loudwater without leaving finger-prints. But suppose that,
as he came away from a distressing interview with Lady Loudwater, the
knife on the library table had caught his eye and his gloves had been
in his pocket?
Mr. Flexen took out his pipe, lit it, and moved to an easy-chair to let
his brain work more easily. He tabulated his facts.
Colonel Grey had gone through the library window at about twenty
minutes past ten.
Hutchings had gone through the library window at half-past ten.
The mysterious woman had gone through the library window at about ten
minutes to eleven.
She came out of the library window at about a quarter-past eleven after a
violent quarrel with Lord Loudwater.
Colonel Grey came out of the library window at about twenty-five minutes
past eleven, after a distressing interview with Lady Loudwater,
apparently in a very bad temper.
James Hutchings had come out of the library window at about half-past
eleven, also, if William Roper might be believed, furious.
Lady Loudwater had come through the library window at a quarter to
twelve, and gone back through it at five minutes to twelve.
Each of the last three had passed within fifteen feet of Lord Loudwater,
dead or alive, both on entering and on coming out of the Castle. The
mysterious woman had actually been in the smoking-room with him.
If Lady Loudwater's statement that she heard her husband snoring at five
minutes to twelve were to be accepted, neither Colonel Grey, Hutchings,
nor the mysterious woman could have committed the murder--unless always
one of them had returned later and committed it. That possibility must
be borne in mind.
But Mr. Flexen did not accept her statement. If he were to accept it, she
herself at once became the most likely person to have committed the
crime. It was always possible that she had. She certainly had the best
reasons of any one, as far as he knew, for committing it.
The evidence of Mr. Manley about the time at which he heard Lord
Loudwater snore was of the first importance. But how to get it out of
him? Mr. Flexen had a strong feeling that not only would Mr. Manley
afford no help to bring the murderer of Lord Loudwater to justice, but,
that owing to the vein of Quixotry in his nature, he was capable of
helping the murderer to escape. That he could do. He had only to declare
that he heard Lord Loudwater snore at twelve o'clock to break down the
case against any one of the four persons between whom the crime obviously
lay. Mr. Flexen had a shrewd suspicion that Mr. Manley would fail to
remember at what time he had last heard Lord Loudwater's snores till the
police had set about securing the conviction of one of the possible
murderers. Then, when the case of the police against the murderer was
revealed, he would come forward and break it down. He had decided that
Mr. Manley was a sentimentalist, and he knew well the difficulty of
dealing with sentimentalists. Moreover, Mr. Manley was animated by a
grudge against the murdered man. Mr. Flexen could quite conceive that he
might presently be regarding perjury as a duty; he had had experience of
the queer way in which the mind of the sentimentalist works.
It appeared to him that everything depended on his finding the
That afternoon Elizabeth Twitcher determined to go to see James
Hutchings. She had not seen him since their interview on the night of the
murder. In the ordinary course she would not have dreamt of going to him
after that interview, for it had left them on such a footing that further
advances, repentant advances, must come from him. But there were pressing
reasons why she should not wait for him to make the advances which he
would in ordinary circumstances have made after his sulkiness had abated.
All her fellow-servants and all the villagers, who were not members of
the Hutchings family, were assured that he had murdered Lord Loudwater.
Three of the maids, who were jealous of her greater prettiness, had with
ill-dissembled spitefulness congratulated her on having dismissed him
before the murder; her mother had also congratulated her on that fact.
Elizabeth Twitcher was the last girl in the world to desert a man in
misfortune, and, considering James Hutchings' temper, she could only
consider the murder a misfortune. Besides, she had been very fond of him;
she was very fond of him still, and the fact that he was in great
trouble was making him dearer to her.
Moreover, every one who spoke to her about him told her that he was
looking miserable beyond words. Her heart went out to him.
None the less, she did not go to see him without a struggle. She felt
that he ought to come to her. However, her pride had been beaten in that
struggle by her fondness and her pity--even more by her pity.
When she knocked at the door of his father's cottage James Hutchings
himself opened it, and his harassed, hang-dog air settled in her mind for
good and all the question of his guilt. She was not daunted; indeed, a
sudden anger against Lord Loudwater for having brought about his own
murder flamed up in her. Like every one else who had known him, she could
feel no pity for him.
James Hutchings showed no pleasure whatever at the sight of her. Indeed,
he scowled at her.
"Come to gloat over me, have you?" he growled bitterly.
"Don't be silly!" she said sharply. "What should I want to do a thing
like that for? Is your father in?"
"No; he isn't," said James Hutchings sulkily, but his eyes gazed at
He showed no intention of inviting her to enter. Therefore she pushed
past him, walked across the kitchen, sat down in the window-seat, and
He shut the door, turned, and gazed at her, scowling uncertainly.
Then she said gently: "You're looking very poorly, Jim."
"I didn't think you'd be the one to tell of my being in the Castle that
night!" he cried bitterly.
"It wasn't me," she said quietly. "It was that little beast, Jane
Pittaway. She heard us talking in the drawing-room."
"Oh, that was it, was it?" he said more gently. Then, scowling again, he
"I'll wring her neck!"
"That's enough of that!" she said sharply. "You've talked a lot too much
about wringing people's necks. And a lot of good it's done you."
"Oh, I know you believe I did it, just like everybody else. But I tell
you I didn't. I swear I didn't!" he cried loudly, with a vehemence which
did not convince her.
"Of course you didn't," she said in a soothing voice. "But what are you
going to do if they try to make out that you did? What are you going to
He gazed at her with miserable eyes and said in a miserable voice: "God
knows what I'm to tell them. It isn't a matter of telling them. It's how
to make 'em believe it. These people never believe anything; the police
She gazed at him thoughtfully, with eyes compassionate and full of
tenderness. They were a balm to his unhappy spirit.
The hardness slowly vanished from his face. It became merely troubled. He
walked quickly across the room, dropped into the seat beside her and put
an arm round her.
"You're a damned sight too good for me, Lizzie," he said in a gentler
voice than she had ever heard him use before, and he kissed her.
"Poor Jim!" she said. And again: "Poor Jim!"
He trembled, breathing quickly, and held her tight.
After a while he regained control of himself, and sat upright. But he
still held her tightly to him with his right arm.
They began to discuss his plight and how he might best defend himself.
She was fully as fearful as he. But she did not show it. She must cheer
him up, and she kept insisting that the police could not fix the murder
on him, that they had nothing to go upon. If they had, they would have
already arrested him. Certainly they knew what the servants and the
village people were saying. But that was just talk. There wasn't any
evidence; there couldn't be any evidence.
Her support and encouragement put a new spirit into him. He had been so
alone against the world. His own family, though they had loudly and
fiercely protested his innocence to their friends and enemies in the
village, had not expressed this faith in him to him.
Indeed, his father had expressed their real belief, when he said to him
gloomily: "I always told you that damned temper of yours would get you
into trouble, Jim."
Then Elizabeth gave him his tea. After it they talked calmly with an
actual approach to cheerfulness till it was time for her to return to the
Castle to dress Olivia's hair for dinner. Then she would have it that he
should escort her back to the Castle. She declared, truly enough, that he
was doing himself no good by moping at the cottage, that people would say
that he dare not show himself. He _must_ hold his head up.
She insisted also that they should take the long way round, through the
village; that people should see them together. She insisted that he
should look cheerful, and talk to her all the length of the village
street. The looking cheerful helped to lighten his spirit yet more. As
they went through the village she kept looking up at him in an
affectionate fashion and smiling.
The village was, indeed, taken aback. It had made up its mind that James
Hutchings was a pariah to be shunned. It was not only taken aback, it was
annoyed. It had no wish that its belief that James Hutchings had
murdered Lord Loudwater should be in any way unsettled.
Mrs. Roper, the mother of William Roper and a lifelong enemy of the
Hutchings family, summed up the feeling of her neighbours about the
behaviour of James Hutchings and Elizabeth.
"Brazen, I call it," she said bitterly.
Before they reached the Castle, Elizabeth had come to feel that during
the last three days James Hutchings had changed greatly, and for the
better. She had an odd fancy that murdering his master had improved his
character; the fear of the police had softened him. Not once did he try
to domineer over her. That domineering had been the source of their not
infrequent quarrels, for she was not at all of a temper to endure it.
Olivia and Grey had again spent their afternoon in the pavilion in the
East wood. Their bearing at times had been oddly like that of Elizabeth
and James Hutchings. Now and again they had lapsed from their absorption
in one another into a like fearfulness. But, unlike Elizabeth and James
Hutchings, neither of them said a word about the murder of Lord
Loudwater. But both of them seemed a little less under a strain than they
had been. This new factor of a quarrel with an unknown woman seemed to
open a loophole. Olivia's colouring had lost some of its warmth; the
contours of her face were less rounded. Grey had manifestly taken a step
backwards in his convalescence; his face was thinner, even a little
haggard; there was a somewhat strained watchfulness in his eyes.
They could not tear themselves away from the pavilion till the last
moment, and he walked back with her as far as the shrubbery on the edge
of the East lawn, and there they parted after she had promised to meet
him there that evening at nine.
As Olivia came into her sitting-room Elizabeth and James Hatchings came
to the back door of the Castle. She did not say good-bye at once; of set
purpose, she lingered talking to him that the other servants might
understand clearly that her attitude to him was definitely fixed.
But at last she held out her hand and said: "I must be getting along to
her ladyship, or she'll be waiting for me."
James Hutchings looked round, considered the coast sufficiently clear,
caught her to him, kissed her, and said huskily: "You're just a
ministering angel, Lizzie, and there's more sense in your little finger
than in all my fat head. I'm feeling a different man, and I'll baulk
"Of course you will, Jim," said Elizabeth, and she opened the door.
"Lord, how I wish I was coming in with you--back in my old place! I
should be seeing you most of the time," he said wistfully.
Elizabeth stopped short, flushing, and looked at him with suddenly
At his words a great thought had come into her mind.
"Wait a minute, Jim. Wait till I come back," she said somewhat
breathlessly, and, leaving the door open, she hurried down the passage.
She hurried up to her room, took off her hat, and hurried to Olivia. She
found her in her sitting-room looking through an evening paper to learn
if any new fact about the murder had come to light.
"If you please, your ladyship, James Hutchings has come to ask if your
ladyship would like him to come back for the time being till you've got
suited with another butler," said Elizabeth in a rather breathless voice.
Olivia looked at Elizabeth's flushed, excited and hopeful face,
"Why, have you and James made it up, Elizabeth?" she said.
"Yes, m'lady," said Elizabeth, and the flush deepened in her cheeks.
"Then go and tell him to come back, by all means," said Olivia.
"Thank you, m'lady," said Elizabeth, in accents of profound gratitude,
and she ran out of the room.
Olivia smiled and then she sighed. It was pleasant to have given
Elizabeth such obviously keen pleasure. She never dreamed that Elizabeth
and James Hutchings were under the same strain of fear and anxiety as
she herself, and that she had given them great help in their trouble, for
Elizabeth saw that the return of James Hutchings to his situation would
give the wagging tongues full pause.
James Hutchings was dumbfounded on receiving the message. He stared at
Elizabeth with his mouth open.
"Be quick, Jim. Get your clothes and be back in time to wait on her
ladyship at dinner," said Elizabeth.
James Hutchings came out of his stupor.
"Why, L-L-Lizzie, you must let me p-p-put up our b-b-banns tomorrow," he
"Be off!" said Elizabeth, stamping her foot. "We can talk about
When she came from her bath Olivia sent Elizabeth to tell Holloway that
she would dine with Mr. Flexen and Mr. Manley that evening. She had a
sudden desire to see more of Mr. Flexen, to weigh him as an antagonist.
Mr. Flexen was somewhat surprised to receive the information; then,
considering the terms on which Olivia had been with her husband, he found
her action natural enough. After all, she was not a woman of the middle
class, bound to make a pretence of grieving for a wholly unamiable bully.
Also, he was pleased: to dine with so charming a creature as Olivia would
be pleasant and stimulating. In the course of the evening his wits might
rise to the solution of his problem. Moreover, it would be odd if he did
not gain a further, valuable insight into her character.
He was yet more surprised to find James Hutchings, still rather pale and
haggard, but quite cool and master of himself, superintending the
waiting of Wilkins and Holloway at dinner. Also, he liked the way in
which he spoke to Olivia and looked at her. To Mr. Flexen, James
Hutchings had the air of the authentic faithful dog. He was inclined to
a better opinion of him.
Plainly, too, Olivia had learned that tongues were wagging against him,
and had taken this way of checking them. It was a generous act. At the
same time, he could very well believe that Olivia might, unconsciously of
course, be on the side of the murderer of such a husband.
Thanks to Mr. Manley's invaluable sense of what was fitting, there was no
constraint about the dinner. He had decided that they were three people
of the world dining together, and the fact that there had been a murder
in the house three days before and a funeral in the morning should not be
allowed to impair their proper nonchalance. At the same time, decorum
must be preserved; there must be no laughter.
Accordingly he took the conversation in hand, and kept it in hand. Mr.
Flexen was somewhat astonished at the ability with which he did it; now
and again he felt as if, personally, he were performing feats on the
loose wire, but that, thanks to Mr. Manley, he was not going to fall off.
They talked of the usual subjects on which people who have not a large
circle of common acquaintances fall back. They all three abused the
politicians with perfect sympathy; they abused the British drama with
perfect sympathy; with no less perfect sympathy they abused the Cubists
and the Vorticists and the New Poets. Mr. Flexen had an odd feeling that
they were behaving with entire naturalness and propriety; that their real
interest was in the politicians, the British drama, the Cubists, the
Vorticists and the New Poets, and not at all in the fate of the murderer
of the late Lord Loudwater. After a while he found himself vying
earnestly with Mr. Manley in an effort to display himself as a man of at
least equal insight and intelligence.
Olivia did not talk much herself. She never did. But she displayed a
quickness of understanding and soundness of judgment which stimulated
them. All the while she was watching and weighing Mr. Flexen. He never
once perceived it. Plainly enough, the talk did her good. She had come
to dinner looking, Mr. Flexen thought, rather under the water. Before
long she was looking, as she had resolved to look, her usual self. When,
at a few minutes to nine, she left them, she was looking the most
charming and sympathetic creature in the world, and, what was more, a
creature without a care.
When the door closed behind her, she seemed to have taken with her a good
deal of the brightness of the room. Mr. Flexen dropped back into his
chair and frowned. In the silence which fell he wondered. Plainly she was
free enough from care now.
"But when the feast is finished and the lamps expire--"
Then Mr. Manley said, in a tone almost insolent: "If you think she
murdered that red-eyed bull in a china shop, you're wrong. She didn't."
Mr. Flexen did not resent his tone. Indeed, before he could speak, it
flashed on him that if she had done so, and Justice was depending on him
himself to bring her to it, it was depending on a somewhat frail reed. He
liked Mr. Manley for his readiness to fight for her cause.
He laughed gently and said: "I wasn't thinking so. I was only wondering."
Then his eyes on Mr. Manley's face turned very keen, and he said: "I
believe you know a good deal more about the affair than I do, if you
liked to speak."
It seemed to him that for a moment Mr. Manley's desire to make himself
valued struggled with his desire to be accurate.
Then the young man shook his head and said in a tone of surprise: "But
what nonsense! You know so much more about it than I do. Why, you must
have all the threads in your hands by now. I never even dreamt of the
_Daily Wire's_ mysterious woman."
"Not quite all--yet. But they're coming all right," said Mr. Flexen, with
a confidence he was far from feeling.
James Hutchings, coming into the room to fetch cigarettes for Olivia,
"I'm glad to see you back again, Hutchings," said Mr. Manley in a tone of
hearty congratulation. "Your going away for a trifle after all the years
you've been here was a silly business."
"Thank you, sir," said Hutchings gratefully.
When Hutchings had gone, Mr. Flexen said: "It's all very well your
talking, but it was you who suggested that Lady Loudwater was a woman of
strong primitive emotions with a strain of Italian blood in her."
"I never suggested for a moment that she was a woman of _primitive_
emotions," Mr. Manley protested with some vehemence.
"But the emotions of all women are primitive," said Mr. Flexen.
"Not the emotion excited in them by beauty," said Mr. Manley with
chivalrous warmth. "And, hang it all! Does she look like a woman to
"Not on her own account, certainly," said Mr. Flexen.
"And on whose account should she commit murder?" cried Mr. Manley.
Mr. Flexen shrugged his shoulders.
"I said you knew ten times as much about the business as I do," said Mr.
Manley in a tone of triumph.
Mr. Flexen awoke next morning hopeful of news of the mysterious woman.
But the letters addressed to him at the Castle and those brought over
from the office of the Chief Constable at Low Wycombe brought none. After
breakfast, still hopeful, he telephoned to Scotland Yard. No information
had reached it.
He perceived clearly that the case was at a deadlock till he had that
information. He was sure that it would come sooner or later, possibly
from the neighbourhood, more probably from London. It was always possible
that Mr. Carrington might discover that some other lawyer had handled an
entanglement for Lord Loudwater. In the meantime, his work at the Castle
was done. He had exhausted its possibilities. There was no reason why he
should not return to his rooms at Low Wycombe. After having conferred
with Inspector Perkins, he decided to leave one of the two detectives to
continue making inquiries in the neighbourhood. He told James Hutchings
that he would like his clothes packed, and went to the rose-garden to
taken his leave of Olivia and thank her for her hospitality.
He found her looking very charming in a light summer frock of white lace
with a few black bows set about it, and he thought that she seemed less
under a strain than she had seemed the day before. He told her that he
was returning to Low Wycombe; she expressed regret at his going, and
thanked him for his efforts to clear up the matter of Lord Loudwater's
death. They parted on the friendliest terms.
As he came away, Mr. Flexen thought it significant that, though she had
thanked him for his efforts, she had made no inquiry about the result of
them. It might be that she dreaded to hear that they were on the way to
He observed that James Hutchings, who watched over his actual
departure, seemed less pale and haggard than he had been the night
before. He could well believe that he was glad to see him going without
having had him arrested.
As he drove through the park he told himself that Lady Loudwater and Mr.
Manley between them would probably break down any case the police might
bring against any one but the mysterious woman, and they might break down
that. For his part, he was not going to give much time or attention to it
till the mysterious woman had been discovered, and he did not think that
he would be urged by Headquarters to do so after he had sent in his
report, for, mindful of what he had told them of the unsatisfactory
nature of Dr. Thornhill's evidence, Mr. Gregg in the _Daily Wire_ and
Mr. Douglas on the _Daily Planet_ were dealing with the case in a
half-hearted manner, though they were still clamouring with some vivacity
for the mysterious woman.
As Mr. Flexen came out of the park gates he met William Roper on the edge
of the West wood, stopped the car, and walked a few yards down the road
to talk to him out of hearing of the chauffeur.
"I gather that you haven't told any one of what you saw on the night of
Lord Loudwater's death; or I should have heard of it," he said.
"Not a word, I haven't," said William Roper.
"That's good," said Mr. Flexen in a tone of warm approval. "It might
spoil everything to put people on their guard."
He was more strongly than ever resolved to prevent, if he could, the
gamekeeper from setting afoot a scandal about Lady Loudwater which could
be of no service to the police or any one else.
"Everybody says as James Hutchings did it, sir," said William Roper.
"H'm! And what do they say about the mysterious lady the papers are
talking about--the lady you saw?"
"Oh, they don't pay no 'eed to 'er--not about 'ere, sir. They know Jim
Hutchings," said William Roper contemptuously.
"I see," said Mr. Flexen.
"'Er ladyship and Colonel Grey, they still spends a lot of their time in
the East wood pavilion. But now 'er ladyship's a widder, it's nobody's
business but their own, I reckon," said William Roper.
"Of course not, of course not," said Mr. Flexen quickly, pleased to find
that the ferret-faced gamekeeper attached so little importance to it. "I
suppose people about here see that."
"They don't know about it. Nobody knows about it but me, and I don't tell
everything I sees unless there's something to be got by it. A still
tongue makes a wise 'ead, I say," said William Roper, with a somewhat
"Quite right--quite right," said Mr. Flexen heartily. "Many a man's
tongue has lost him a good job."
"You're right there, sir. But not me it won't," said William Roper
"I can see that. You've too much sense. Well, I shall keep in touch with
you, and when the time comes you'll be called on. Drink my health. Good
day," said Mr. Flexen, giving him half-a-crown.
He walked back to the car, pleased to have done Olivia the service of
closing William Roper's mouth, at any rate for a time. He would talk, of
course, sooner or later, probably sooner. But he might have closed his
mouth for a fortnight.
William Roper walked on to the village and went into the "Bull and Gate."
The village was simmering in a very lively fashion. The return of James
Hutchings to his situation at the Castle was a fact with which it could
not grapple easily. It was bewildered and annoyed.
William Roper had not, as he had assured Mr. Flexen, told what he had
seen on the night of the murder of Lord Loudwater, but he had been
dropping hints. He dropped more. He was a supporter of the theory that
James Hutchings was the murderer because he desired to oust the father of
James Hutchings from his post as head-gamekeeper. That was the reason
also of his belief in James Hutchings' guilt. He was beginning to enjoy
the interest he awakened as the storehouse of undivulged knowledge. When
Mr. Flexen had supposed that he would remain silent for a fortnight, he
had overestimated both his modesty and his reticence.
Later in the day the village was further upset by the behaviour of James
Hutchings himself. He came into the "Bull and Gate" with an easy air,
showed himself but little more civil than usual, and told the landlord
that he had just arranged that the parson should publish the banns of his
marriage with Elizabeth Twitcher on the following Sunday. The village was
staggered. This was not the way in which it expected a man who would
presently be tried and hanged for murder to behave.
In all fairness to James Hutchings, it must be said that he would not
have acted with this decision of his own accord. Elizabeth had bidden him
to it, urging that a bold front was half the battle. However grave her
own doubts of his innocence might be, she was resolved that such doubts
should, if possible, be banished from the minds of other people. Under
her influence he was already becoming his old self as far as looks went.
A shade of his usual ruddiness had come back; he was losing his
With the going of Mr. Flexen there came a lull. His departure was a
relief to Olivia, to Colonel Grey, and to James Hutchings. Doubtless he
was still working on the case; but, working at a distance, he seemed less
of a menace. All three of them seemed less under a strain. Olivia and
Grey spent their hours together in a less feverish eagerness to make the
most of them.
Even Helena Truslove, when Mr. Manley told her that Mr. Flexen had left
the Castle, said that she was very pleased to hear it. She looked very
pleased. Mr. Manley's sense of what was fitting restrained him from
asking her the reason of this pleasure. He had, indeed, no great desire
to hear the reason of it from her own lips. It was enough for him to
guess that she was the mysterious woman. He felt no need of her full
The Castle seemed to be settling down to its old round, the quieter for
the loss of Lord Loudwater. His heir in Mesopotamia had been informed of
his death by cable. But no cable in reply had come from him. Mr. Manley
remained at the Castle as secretary to Olivia, who was making
preparations leisurely to leave it and settle down in a flat in London.
Colonel Grey was recovering from his wound with a passable quickness.
James Hutchings had come to look very much his old self. Thanks to the
shock he had had and thanks to Elizabeth, he wore a more subdued air, and
was much more amiable with his fellow-servants.
The _Daily Wire_, the _Daily Planet_, and the rest of the newspapers had
let the Loudwater mystery slip quietly out of their columns. Mr. Flexen
was waiting with quiet expectation for information about the unknown
woman. Since the advertisement the papers had given her had failed to
produce that information he had a London detective working on the life in
London, before his marriage, of the murdered man. Mr. Carrington had
found nothing among Lord Loudwater's papers in the office of his firm to
throw any light on the matter.
The chief actors in the affair regarded the quiet turn it had taken with
a timorous satisfaction. Not so William Roper; William Roper was
thoroughly dissatisfied. He had been willing enough to hold his tongue,
because by so doing his unexpected and damning appearance at the trial
would be the more dramatic and impressive. But he was impatient to make
that appearance, and chafed at the delay. Also, his prestige was waning.
The village was losing interest in the mystery, and it no longer looked
to him to drop hints as the holder of the secret. That did not prevent
him from dropping them. He would bring up the subject of the murder in
order to drop them. His acquaintances who wished now to talk about other
things found this practice tiresome. They did not hide this feeling.
Matters came to a climax one evening in the bar of the "Bull and Gate."
William Roper dragged the subject of the murder into a conversation on
the high price of groceries, and then, as usual, hinted at the things he
could say and he would.
John Pittaway, who had been leading the conversation about the high price
of groceries, turned on him and said with asperity: "I don't believe as
there's anything you can tell us as we don't know, or you'd 'ave told it
afore this fast enough, William Roper."
"That's what I've been thinking this long time," said old Bob Carter, who
had for over forty years made a point of agreeing with the most
disagreeable person at the moment in the bar of the "Bull and Gate."
"Isn't there? You wait an' see. You wait till the trial," said
"Trial? There won't be no trial. 'Oo's a goin' to be tried? They ain't
agoin' to try Jim 'Utchings. It's plain that 'er ladyship 'as set 'er
face against that. And, wot's more, they can't 'ave much to try 'im on,
or they'd 'ave to do it, in spite o' wot she said," said John Pittaway in
yet more disagreeable accents.
William Roper was very angry. This was not to be borne. Indeed, if John
Pittaway were right, and there was to be no trial, where was his
dramatic and impressive appearance at it? He had better be dramatic and
"Who said as they were goin' to try Jim 'Utchings? I never did," he
growled. "There was other people went to the Castle that night besides
Jim 'Utchings, and that mysterierse woman the papers talked about."
"An' 'ow do you know?" said John Pittaway in a tone of most disagreeable
"I know because I seed 'em," said William Roper.
"Saw 'oo?" said John Pittaway.
Then the whole story he had told Mr. Flexen burst forth from William
Roper's overcharged bosom, the story with the embellishments natural to
the lapse of time since its first telling. No less naturally in the
course of the discussion which followed, he told also the story of the
luckless kiss in the East wood, and the landlord pounced on that as the
cause of the quarrel between Lord Loudwater and Colonel Grey at
Bellingham. William Roper supported his contention with an embellished
account of the interview with Lord Loudwater in which he had informed him
of that kiss.
It was, indeed, his great hour, not as great as the hour he had promised
himself at the trial, not so public, but a great hour.
He left the "Bull and Gate" at closing time that night a man, in the
estimation of all there, whose evidence could hang four of his
fellow-creatures, the great man of the village.
Next morning the village was indeed simmering, and the scandal rose and
spread from it like a stench. That very afternoon Mr. Manley heard it
from Helena Truslove, and the next morning Mr. Flexen received two
anonymous letters conveying the information to him, and suggesting that
Colonel Grey and the Lady Loudwater had between them made away with her
husband. It is hard to say whether Mr. Manley or Mr. Flexen was more
annoyed by William Roper's blabbing.
But there was nothing to be done. The scandal must run its course. Mr.
Flexen did not think that it would find its way into the papers, local or
London. None the less, he was alive to the danger that a sudden heavy
pressure might be put on the police, and he might be forced to take
ill-advised action, start a prosecution which would do Lady Loudwater
infinite harm, and yet end in a fiasco which would leave the mystery just
where it was. The one bright spot in the affair was that Lord Loudwater
appeared to have left no friends behind him who would make it their
business to see that he was avenged. As long as that avenging was
everybody's business it was nobody's business.
Elizabeth Twitcher was no less disturbed than Mr. Flexen. She felt that
Olivia ought to be informed of what was being said that she might be able
to take steps to meet the danger. She took counsel with James Hutchings,
who could not help feeling relieved by this diversion of suspicion, and
he agreed with her that Olivia should be informed of the scandal at once.
But it was an uncommonly unpleasant task, and she shrank from it.
Then a happy thought came to James Hutchings, and he said: "Look here:
let Mr. Manley do it. He's her ladyship's secretary, and it's the kind of
thing he'll do very well. He's a tactful young fellow."
"It would be a blessing if he did," said Elizabeth with a sigh.
She paused and added: "You do speak differently about him to what
you used to."
"Yes. I made a mistake about him like as I did about some other people,"
said James Hutchings, with a rather shame-faced air. "He behaved very
well about seeing me here the night the master was murdered and saying
nothing to the police about it. An' then he congratulated me very
handsomelike on coming back as butler before Mr. Flexen."
"He would do it better than I should," said Elizabeth.
"Then I'll speak to him about it," said James Hutchings.
He paused a while to kiss Elizabeth, then went in search of Mr. Manley.
He learned from Holloway that he had come in about twenty minutes earlier
and was in his sitting-room. He went to him and found him looking through
the MS. of the play he was writing, with an unlighted pipe in his mouth.
"If you please, sir, I thought I'd better come and tell you that they're
saying in the village that Colonel Grey kissed her ladyship in the East
wood on the afternoon of his lordship's death, and his lordship was