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The Loudwater Mystery by Edgar Jepson

Part 4 out of 4

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informed of it and quarrelled with Colonel Grey and then her ladyship,
and she and Colonel Grey made away with his lordship," said James

"I've heard something about it," said Mr. Manley, frowning, and he struck
a match. "Who set this absurd story going?"

"William Roper, one of the under-gamekeepers, sir."

"William Roper? Ah, I know--a ferret-faced young fellow."

"Yes, sir. And we was thinking that her ladyship ought to know about it
so as she can put a stop to it at once, and you were the proper person to
tell her, sir," said James Hutchings.

On the instant Mr. Manley saw himself discharging this unpleasant but
important duty with intelligence and tact, and he said readily: "I was
thinking of doing so, and now that I know the lying rascal's name I can
do it at once. The sooner this kind of thing is stopped the better."

"Thank you, sir," said Hutchings, and with a sigh of relief he
left the room.

He had reached the top of the stairs when the door of Mr. Manley's room
opened; he appeared on the threshold and said: "Will you send some one to
tell William Roper to be here at nine o'clock tonight? And it wouldn't be
a bad idea to drop a hint to any one you send that William Roper has got
himself into serious trouble."

Mr. Manley thought quickly.

"Very good, sir," said James Hutchings, and he hurried down the stairs.

Mr. Manley did not see Olivia at once, for she was still in the pavilion
in the East wood. But as soon as she returned, he sent a message by
Holloway to her, that he wished to see her on important business.
Holloway brought word that she would see him at once.

He found her in her sitting-room, gazing out of the window, and she
turned quickly at his entrance with inquiring eyes.

"It's a rather unpleasant business, and the sooner it's dealt with the
better," said Mr. Manley in a brisk, businesslike voice. "One of the
under-gamekeepers has been spreading a scandalous and lying story about
you and Colonel Grey, something about his kissing you in the East wood on
the afternoon of Lord Loudwater's death, and he has gone on to suggest,
or assert--I don't know which--that you and Colonel Grey had a hand in
Lord Loudwater's death."

The blow she had been expecting had fallen, and Olivia paled and her
mouth went dry.

"Which of the under-gamekeepers is it?" she said calmly but with
difficulty, for her tongue kept sticking to the roof of her mouth.

"A ferret-faced, rascally-looking fellow, called William Roper," said Mr.
Manley with some heat. Then, to save her the effort of speaking, he went
on: "Of course you'd like him discharged at once. The sooner these people
understand that their excitement about Lord Loudwater's death is not
going to be held an excuse for telling lying stories the better. You will
not be troubled by any more of them."

Olivia looked at him with steady eyes. She had recovered herself and was
thinking hard. Mr. Manley's certainty about the right method of dealing
with the matter was catching. It was better to show a bold front and at
once. There was no time to consult Antony Grey.

"Yes. You're quite right, Mr. Manley. Gentle measures are of no use with
this kind of scandal-monger. William Roper must be discharged at once,"
she said quietly.

"Perhaps you would like me to deal with him? It's rather a business for a
man," Mr. Manley suggested.

"Yes, if you would," she said in a grateful tone.

"I will, as soon as I can get hold of him," said Mr. Manley
cheerfully. "He'll make no more mischief about here," He went out of
the room briskly.

His confidence was heartening. When the door closed behind him Olivia
sobbed twice in the reaction from the shock of his announcement. Then
she recovered herself and went quietly to her bath. She observed
Elizabeth's sympathetic manner as she dressed her hair. Evidently all
the servants as well as the villagers were talking about her. But for
its possible, dangerous consequences, she was indifferent to their talk.
She was now wholly absorbed in Grey; he was the only thing of any
importance in her life.

Mr. Manley ate his dinner with an excellent appetite. He was pleased with
the brisk, almost brusque, manner in which he had dealt with the matter
of William Roper, in his interview with Olivia. If he had shilly-shallied
and hummed and hawed about the scandal, it would have been so much more
unpleasant for her. He thought, too, that his practical, common-sense
attitude to the business would probably help her to take it more easily,
and he was sure that he had advised the best measure to be taken with
William Roper.

He was smoking a cigar in a great content, when at nine o'clock Holloway
brought him word that William Roper had come. Mr. Manley bade him bring
him to him at a quarter-past. He felt that suspense would make William
Roper malleable, and he intended to hammer him. At thirteen minutes past
nine he composed his face into a dour truculence, an expression to which
the heavy conformation of the lower part lent itself admirably.

William Roper, looking uncommonly ill at ease, was ushered in by James
Hutchings himself, and the butler had improved the thirteen shining
minutes he had had with him by increasing to a considerable degree his
uneasiness and anxiety.

Mr. Manley did not greet William Roper. He stood on the hearth-rug and
glowered at him with heavy truculence. William Roper shuffled his feet
and fumbled with his cap.

Then Mr. Manley said: "Her ladyship has been informed that you have been
spreading scandalous reports in the village, and she has instructed me to
discharge you at once." He walked across to the table, took the sheet of
notepaper on which he had written the amount due to William Roper, dipped
a pen in the ink, and added: "Here are your wages up to date, and a
week's wages in lieu of notice. Sign this receipt."

He dipped a pen in the ink and held it out to William Roper with very
much the air of Lady Macbeth presenting her husband with the dagger.

William Roper was stupefied. Mr. Manley, truculent and dramatic,
cowed him.

"I never done nothing, sir," he said feebly.

"Sign--at once!" said Mr. Manley, gazing at him with the glare of
the basilisk.

"I ain't agoing to sign. I ain't done nothing to be discharged. I ain't
said nothing but what I seed with my own eyes," William Roper protested.

"Sign!" said Mr. Manley, tapping the receipt like an official in a spy
play. "Sign!"

He was too much for William Roper. The conflict, such as it was, of wills
ceased abruptly. William Roper signed.

Mr. Manley pushed the money towards him as towards a loathed pariah.
William Roper counted it, and put it in his pocket. He walked towards the
door with an air of stupefied dejection.

"Also, you are to be off the estate by twelve o'clock tomorrow. Loudwater
is not the place for ungrateful and slanderous rogues," said Mr. Manley.

William Roper stopped and turned; his face was working malignantly.

"We'll see what Mr. Flexen's got to say about this," he snarled, went
through the door, and slammed it behind him.


Olivia came that night to her tryst with Grey in a great dejection. She
perceived clearly enough that the instant discharge of William Roper
would not stop the scandal, and she was desperately afraid of the results
of it. The hope which had sprung up in her mind on reading in the _Daily
Wire_ the story of her husband's quarrel with an unknown woman died down.
This was a far more important matter, and she could not see how the
police could fail to act on William Roper's story.

She found Grey waiting for her with his wonted impatience, and presently
told him about William Roper.

"This is the very thing I've been fearing," he said with a sudden

"It will certainly force Mr. Flexen's hand," she said.

"I don't know--I don't know," he said more hopefully. "Flexen struck me
as being the kind of man to act just when it suited him, and I expect
that he had known all along anything William Roper had to tell."

"Yes, he did. Twitcher told me that Roper had an interview with him on
the afternoon after Egbert's death," she said, catching a little of his

"Well, if he hasn't done anything about it so far, there's no reason why
he should act immediately the story becomes common property," he said in
a tone of relief.

"No--no," she said slowly. Then she sobbed once and cried: "But, oh, this
waiting's so dreadful! Never knowing what's going to happen and
when--feeling that he's lying in wait all the time."

"It is pretty awful," he said, drawing her more closely to him and
kissing her.

She clung tightly to him, quivering.

"The only thing to do is to stick it out, and when the time comes--if
it comes--put up a good fight. I think we shall," he said in a
cheering tone.

"Of course we will," she said firmly, gave herself a little shake, and
relaxed her grip a little.

He kissed her again, and they were silent a while, both of them
thinking hard.

Then he said: "Look here: let's get married."

"Get married?" she said.

"Yes. The more we belong to one another the better we shall feel."

"But--but won't there be rather an outcry at our marrying so
soon?" she said.

"Oh, if people knew of it, yes. But I don't propose that they should.
We'll get married quite quietly. I'll get a special licence. The padre
of my regiment is in Town, and he'll marry us. I can find a couple of
witnesses who'll hold their tongues. We can get married in twenty-four
hours. Will you?"

"Yes," she said firmly.

His surprise at her ready assent was drowned in the joy it gave him.

The next morning at half-past nine Mr. Manley rang up Mr. Flexen at his
office at Low Wycombe.

When he heard his voice he said: "Good morning, Flexen. A young fellow of
the name of William Roper will be calling on you this morning. I expect
you know all he has to say already. But do you see anything to be gained
by his making a pestiferous, scandal-mongering nuisance of himself?"

"I do not. I will say a few kind words to him," said Mr. Flexen grimly.

Mr. Manley thanked him and rang off. Then he sent Hutchings down to the
village to let it be known that any one who let William Roper lodge in
his or her cottage would at once receive notice to quit it. He thought it
improbable, in view of the general unpleasantness of William Roper, that
he would be called on to carry out the threat.

William Roper had already started to pay his visit to Mr. Flexen. Mr.
Flexen kept him dangling his heels in his office for three-quarters of an
hour before he saw him. This cold welcome allowed much of William
Roper's sense of his great importance in the district to ooze out of him.

Mr. Flexen emptied him of the rest of it. He greeted him curtly, heard
his story with a deepening frown, and abused him at some length for a
babbling idiot, and sent him about his business. William Roper returned
to his mother's cottage to find that her only object in life was to get
him out of her cottage then and there. She had conceived the idea that
the whole affair was a plot to have a good excuse for giving her notice
to leave that cottage. She knew well that it was the opinion of all its
other inhabitants that the village would be much better without her and
that there were very good grounds for it.

William Roper perceived with uncommon clearness the truth of Mr. Flexen's
assertion that he was a babbling idiot. His dream of outing William
Hutchings from the post of head-gamekeeper and filling it himself was for
ever shattered, and he had been the great man of the village for little
more than fourteen hours, ten of which he had spent in sleep. He cursed
the hour in which he had espied that luckless kiss, and too late
perceived the folly of a humble gamekeeper's meddling with the affairs of
those who own the game he keeps.

The next morning Elizabeth observed that her mistress was another
creature, almost her old self indeed. The air of strain and oppression
had, for the time being at any rate, gone from her face. She moved with
her old alertness. She even smiled at Elizabeth's strictures on the
treacherous William Roper.

After breakfast she bade Elizabeth pack a trunk for her, since she was
going to London that afternoon and would spend the night, perhaps two or
three days, there. Also, she chose, with frowning thoughtfulness and no
little changing of mind, the frocks she would take with her, and
discussed carefully with Elizabeth the changes necessary to give them a
sufficiently mourning character.

Elizabeth was indeed pleased with the change in her mistress. She
ascribed it to the influence of Colonel Grey.

In the afternoon Olivia went to London and drove from Paddington to
Grey's flat. She found him awaiting her with the most eager expectation.
He had bought the special licence; the chaplain of his regiment and a
wounded friend were coming at seven o'clock. After they were married,
they would all four dine together, and, later, he and she would return
to his flat.

They had tea, and then he showed her some of the beautiful things, for
the most part ivory and jade, which were his most loved possessions. She
admitted frankly that she had to learn to appreciate and admire them as
they deserved. But she was sure that she would learn to do so.

She found the flat of a somewhat spartan simplicity after Loudwater
Castle, Quainton Hall, and the houses to which she was used. But she also
found that it had been furnished with a keen regard for comfort. In
particular, she observed that the easy chairs, which were the chief
furniture of the sitting-room, were the most comfortable she had ever
taken her ease in.

At seven o'clock the padre and Sir Charles Ross, Grey's wounded friend,
arrived. After they had talked for a few minutes, making Olivia's
acquaintance, the padre married them. Henderson, Grey's valet, a tall,
spare Scot with rugged features who in the course of his seven years'
service had acquired, in his manner and way of speaking, a curious and
striking likeness to his master, was the second witness.

It was wholly characteristic of Olivia that she felt no slightest need of
the supporting presence of a woman. Yet, for all the unfamiliar
simplicity of the scene, the ceremony did not lack dignity, or
impressiveness. At the end of it Olivia felt herself very much more the
wife of Antony Grey than she had ever felt herself the wife of Lord

They dined in a private dining-room at the "Ritz," and Olivia found the
dinner delightful. The three men, after some desultory talk about common
friends and the ordinary London subjects, fell to talking about their
work and their fighting in France. She was most pleased by the evident
respect and admiration with which the other two regarded her husband. It
was a new experience for her to be married to a man for whom any one
showed respect.

At a few minutes past ten she and Grey went home to his flat. They
preferred to walk.

Olivia did not return to Loudwater for three days. Grey did not return
till the day after that. Then they again spent much of their time in the
pavilion in the East wood, and since Olivia was careful not to replace
William Roper, no one knew of their meetings. Every week they went to
London for two days. They lived in an absorption in one another which
left them little time to be troubled by fears of the danger which hung
over them. The scandal about them ran the usual nine days' course. Then,
since no new development of the Loudwater case arose to give it a fresh,
active life, it died down.

About a fortnight after their marriage Mr. Manley retired from his post
of secretary and went to London. A few days later he married Helena
Truslove at the office of a registrar, and they established themselves in
a furnished flat at Clarence Gate, while they furnished a flat of their
own. Mr. Manley found himself, under the influence of domesticity, the
stimulation of life in London, and the society of the intelligent,
writing his new play with all the ease and vigour he had expected.

Mr. Flexen was beginning, somewhat gloomily, to think it probable that
the problem of the death of Lord Loudwater would have to be set among
the unsolved problems which have at different times baffled the police.
Then, before he had quite lost hope, there came a letter from Mr.
Carrington. It ran:

"Dear Mr. Flexen,

"I received this morning a letter from Mrs. Marshall, of 3, Laburnum
Terrace, Low Wycombe, asking me, as the agent of the present Lord
Loudwater, to have some repairs made to the house in which she is his
lordship's tenant. We have never handled this property; we did not
even know that it belonged to the late Lord Loudwater. If you can find
the man who managed it for him, he may be able to give you the
information you want.

"Yours faithfully,


In ten minutes Mr. Flexen was at 3, Laburnum Terrace; in a quarter of an
hour he had learned that Mrs. Marshall had paid her rent to Mr. Shepherd,
of 9, Bolton Street, Low Wycombe; in twenty minutes he had learned from
Mrs. Shepherd that her husband was in Mesopotamia, and that she had not
heard from him for two months. In half an hour from the time he read Mr.
Carrington's letter he was in the train on his way to London. To get in
touch with Captain Shepherd in that distant and backward land was a
matter for Scotland Yard. No acting Chief Constable would do so without
considerable delay.

He drafted the telegram in consultation with one of the commissioners,
who himself set about the business of getting it through to Captain
Shepherd and receiving his answer to it. Then he returned to Low
Wycombe. Three days later came a letter from Scotland Yard to inform
him that Captain Shepherd was in an out-of-the-way district in the
north of Mesopotamia, and that there must be a delay of days before he
received the telegram and sent his answer to it. Mr. Flexen possessed
his soul in the patience of a man who was sure that he was going to get
what he wanted.

A few days later, on a Saturday, his work took him to Loudwater, and he
called on Olivia. He found her a different creature. She had lost her air
of being under a strain, and save that her eyes were at first anxious,
she showed herself wholly at her ease with him. He came away assuring
himself that she was one of the most charming women he had ever met. He
took it that she still met Colonel Grey in the pavilion in the East wood,
and that after a decorous lapse of time they would marry. He thought
Colonel Grey uncommonly fortunate.

Then he again wondered what had so perturbed them when he had been at
the Castle inquiring into the death of Lord Loudwater. What did they know
of the mystery? What part had they played in it?

Soon after he had left her Olivia went to London to spend the week-end
with her husband. But she did not go in her wonted joyful mood. She tried
to thrust it out of her mind; but Mr. Flexen's visit had brought back her
old fear. Grey at once perceived that she was not in good spirits, and he
was a little alarmed. He had firmly kept his thought from the danger
which still hung over them. Now he caught from her something of her
uneasiness. But he would not yield to it, and by the end of dinner he
had, for the while at any rate, banished it from both their minds.

Then when he awoke that night, quietly, at the turning hour, he heard
Olivia crying very softly.

He put his arm round her and said seriously "What is it, darling? What's
the matter?"

"Oh, why ever did you kill him?" she wailed. "He--he wasn't worth it. And
I'd have come to you without. And we might have been so happy!"

Grey, with a start, sat bolt upright, and in a tone of the last
astonishment stammered: "K-K-Kill him? Me? B-B-But I thought you
k-k-killed him!"

He had never been so taken aback in his life.

Olivia sat bolt upright in her turn.

"Me?" she said in an astonishment fully as great as his. "No, I didn't."

Then with one accord they clung to one another and laughed tremulously in
an immeasurable relief.

Then Olivia said: "And you didn't mind? You married me when you actually
thought I'd murdered Egbert?"

"Oh, Egbert!" said Grey in a tone of contempt which placed the late Lord
Loudwater definitely as a person the murder of whom was neither here nor
there. Then he added: "But, hang it all! You married me when you actually
thought I'd murdered him."

"I thought you did it for my sake," said Olivia.

"I thought you did it for mine--to get me out of a mess. Though I'll be
shot if I believe I should have cared if you'd done it entirely on your
own account. Not that you could."

"Oh, Antony, how very fond of one another we must be!" said Olivia in a
hushed voice.

It was after breakfast next morning that Olivia, who stood before the
window, smoking a cigarette and watching the passers-by, turned and said:
"But if neither you nor I murdered Egbert, who did?"

"The mysterious woman, I suppose," said Grey, with very little show of
interest in the matter.

"But I never believed that there was any mysterious woman, I thought the
papers invented her," said Olivia.

"So did I," said Grey. "But it's beginning to look to me as if there
might have been one."

"I wonder who she can be?" said Olivia.

"A barmaid, I should think," said Grey, in a tone which placed definitely
the late Lord Loudwater as a lover.

"You certainly do dislike Egbert," said Olivia, in a dispassionate tone
of one stating a natural fact of little importance.

"I do," said Grey.

"It's odd how little I remember him," said Olivia thoughtfully. "But then
I was always trying to forget him unless he was actually in the room with
me. And then I was always trying not to see him."

"I remember the way he treated you," said Grey sternly.

Olivia smiled at him.

"I hope to goodness the police never do find that wretched woman!" he

Olivia frowned thoughtfully. Then she smiled again.

"I don't think it would be much use if they did," she said. "I told Mr.
Flexen that I heard Egbert snoring about twelve o'clock. I didn't; but I
thought that as you went away about half-past eleven, it would make it
safer for you. I could always stick to it, if we thought it right."

"And I told Flexen that I didn't hear him snoring at about half-past
eleven, and I did. I thought it would make it safer for you."

"Well, we are--" said Olivia, and she laughed.

Then of a sudden her eyes sparkled and she cried: "But if you heard him
snore at half-past eleven that lets the mysterious woman out. She went
away at a quarter-past."

"By Jove! so it does," said Grey.

Three days later, driving back in the evening from Rickmansworth to Low
Wycombe, Mr. Flexen passed Grey on his way home from an afternoon's
fishing. He stopped the car, and as Grey came up to it he perceived that
he was looking uncommonly well, though his limp appeared to be as bad as
ever. He was not only looking well, he was also looking happy, wholly
free from care.

They greeted one another and Mr. Flexen said: "By Jove! you are
looking fit!"

"Yes, I'm all right again," said Grey. Then he frowned and added: "But
the nuisance of it is that I shall always have this confounded limp."

"You get off more lightly than a good many men I know," said
Flexen sadly.

"Yes. I'm not grousing much," said Grey.

There came a pause, and then Grey said: "I've been rather hoping to come
across you. When you questioned me about my doings on the night of
Loudwater's death, you asked me whether I heard him snore as I went
through the library, going in and out of the Castle, and for reasons
which seemed quite good to me at the time I told you I didn't. As a
matter of fact, he was snoring like a pig when I came out."

Mr. Flexen looked at him hard, thinking quickly. Then he said softly: "My
goodness! That would be half-past eleven!"

"Close on it," said Grey.

"Well as a matter of fact, I didn't believe you," said Mr. Flexen
frankly. "In my business, you know, one acquires a very good ear for
the truth."

Grey laughed cheerfully and said: "I expect you do."

"All the same, I'm glad to have it for certain," said Mr. Flexen, smiling
at him. "Well, I must be getting on; let me give you a lift as far as

Grey thanked him and stepped into the car.

When he had set him down, Mr. Flexen drove on in frowning thought.
Colonel Grey was speaking the truth, and in that case neither James
Hutchings nor the mysterious woman had committed the murder, unless they
had deliberately returned for the purpose. He did not believe that James
Hutchings had returned; he thought it improbable that the mysterious
woman had returned.

Even more important was the fact that this admission of Colonel Grey
assured him that neither he nor Lady Loudwater had committed the murder.
Grey had evidently lied to shield her. He had no less evidently learned
that she did not need shielding. That admission had not at all simplified
the problem.

The next morning Scotland Yard telegraphed to him the reply to its cable
to Captain Shepherd. It ran:

_Loudwater allowed Mrs. Helena Truslove Crest Loudwater six hundred a
year and gave her Crest_.

He had the mysterious woman at last!

He drove over to the Crest at once and learned from the caretaker that
Mrs. Truslove was now living in London in a flat at Clarence Gate. He
could not get away from his work till the afternoon, and it was past
half-past four when he knocked at the door of her flat.

The maid led him down the passage, opened the door on the right, and
announced him.

Helena was sitting beside a table on which afternoon tea for two was set.
She looked surprised to hear his name.

"Mrs. Truslove?" he said.

"I was Mrs. Truslove," she said, rising and holding out her hand. "But
now I am Mrs. Manley. You know my husband. He will be so pleased to see
you again. I'm expecting him every minute."

Mr. Flexen was for a moment conscious of a slight sensation of vertigo.
The mysterious woman was the wife of Herbert Manley!

He could not at once see the bearings of this fact, but ideas, fancies
and suspicions raced one another through his head.

He checked them and said in a somewhat toneless voice: "I shall be
delighted to see him again. Have you been married long?"

"Rather more than a fortnight." said Helena. "But do sit down. My husband
will be so pleased to see you again. He has a great admiration for you."

Mr. Flexen sat down and unconsciously stared hard at her. Ideas were
jostling one another in his head.

"We won't wait for him. I'll have the tea made at once," she said,
bending forward to press the bell-button.

"One moment, please," he said in his crispest, most official voice. "I've
come to see you on a very important matter."

"Oh?" she said quickly, frowning. Then she looked at him with
steady eyes.

"Yes. You know that I am investigating the Loudwater case, and I have
received information that you are the mysterious lady who visited Lord
Loudwater on the night of his death and had a violent quarrel with him."

"We began by quarrelling," she said quietly.

"_Began_ by quarrelling?" said Mr. Flexen.

"Yes. I'd better tell you the whole story, and you'll understand," she
said in a matter-of-fact voice. "Rather more than two years ago I was
engaged to be married to Lord Loudwater. He broke off our engagement and
married Miss Quainton. I was not going to stand that, and I was going to
bring a breach of promise action against him. He didn't want that, of
course. It would most likely have stopped his marrying Miss Quainton. So
he agreed to make over the Crest, my house just beyond Loudwater, to me,
and pay me an allowance of six hundred a year."

"This was two years ago?" said Mr. Flexen.

"Yes," said Helena. "But stupidly, though I had the house properly made
over to me, I didn't have a deed about the allowance. And a few days
before he committed suicide--"

"Committed suicide?" Mr. Flexen interrupted.

"Of course he committed suicide. Didn't Dr. Thornhill say that the wound
might have been self-inflicted? Besides, poor Egbert had a most
frightful temper."

"But why should he commit suicide?" said Mr. Flexen.

"He may have been upset about Lady Loudwater and Colonel Grey. Why, I'm
quite sure that it would drive him mad--absolutely mad for the time
being. I know him well enough to be sure of that."

"Yes--yes," said Mr. Flexen slowly. "It's a tenable theory, doubtless.
But about your quarrel with him."

"A few days before he died he talked about halving my allowance. And, of
course, I was frightfully annoyed about it. I wanted to have it out with
him--I meant to--but I knew that he'd never let me get near him, if he
could help it. But I knew, too, that he sat in the smoking-room every
evening after dinner, and generally went to sleep. You know everything
about every one in the country, you know. And I determined to take him by
surprise, and I did. We did have a row, for I was frightfully angry. It
seemed so mean. But he stopped it by telling me that he had instructed
his bankers--we have the same bankers--to pay twelve thousand pounds into
my account instead of allowing me six hundred a year."

There was just the faintest change in her voice as she spoke the last
sentence, and it did not escape Mr. Flexen's sensitive ear. He thought
that the whole story had been rehearsed; it sounded so. But she spoke the
last sentence just a little more quickly. The rest of the story rang
true, or, at any rate, truer.

"Twelve thousand pounds," he said slowly. "And did Lord Loudwater tell
you when he instructed his bankers?"

"No. But it must have been that very day. The letter must have been in
the post, in fact, for two mornings later I received a letter from the
bank telling me that they had credited me with that amount--the morning
after the inquest, I think it was."

"I see," said Mr. Flexen, and he paused, considering the story. Then he
said: "And were you surprised at all at his doing this?"

"Yes, I was," she said frankly. "It didn't seem like him. But since I've
wondered whether he had made up his mind to commit suicide and wished to
leave things quite straight."

It was a plausible theory, but Mr. Flexen did not believe that Lord
Loudwater had committed suicide.

"I suppose that your husband knows all about it?" he said at random.

"He may, and he may not. He hasn't said anything to me about it," she

"Then we may take it that he did not write the letter of instruction to
the bankers," said Mr. Flexen.

Oh, he might have done and still have said nothing about it. He has a
very sensitive delicacy and might have thought it my business and not
his. I haven't told him about the twelve thousand pounds yet. I don't
bother him about business matters. In fact, I'm going to manage his
business as well as my own."

"And he didn't know about the allowance?" said Mr. Flexen.

"Oh, yes, he did. I told him all about that," said Helena quickly.

Mr. Flexen paused, considering. He seemed to have learnt from her all she
had to tell.

There came the sound of the opening of the door of the flat and of steps
in the hall. Then the door of the room opened, and Mr. Manley came in.
Mr. Flexen's eyes swept over him. He was looking cheerful, prosperous,
and rather sleek. His air had grown even more important and assured.

He greeted Mr. Flexen warmly and beamed on him. Then he demanded tea. But
Mr. Flexen rose, declared that he must be going, and in spite of Mr.
Manley's protests went. It had flashed on him that he might just catch
Mr. Carrington at his office.


Mr. Flexen did find Mr. Carrington at his office, and Mr. Carrington's
first words were:

"Well, have you found the mysterious woman?"

"I've found the mysterious woman, and she's now Mrs. Herbert Manley,"
said Mr. Flexen.

Mr. Carrington stared at him, then he said softly: "Well, I'm damned!"

"It does explain several things," said Mr. Flexen dryly. "We know now why
she was so hard to find--why there was no trace of her relations with
Lord Loudwater, no trace of Shepherd's managing the Low Wycombe property
among his papers, why there were no pass-books."

Mr. Carrington flushed and said: "The young scoundrel had us on toast all
the while."

"Toast is the word," said Mr. Flexen.

"I never did like the beggar. I couldn't stand his infernal manner. But
it never occurred to me that he was a bad hat. I merely thought him a
pretentious young ass who didn't know his place," said Mr. Carrington.

"I'm not so sure about the ass," said Mr. Flexen.

"No--perhaps not. He certainly brought it off for a time, and shielded
her as long as it lasted," said Mr. Carrington slowly.

"She didn't need any shielding," said Mr. Flexen.

"Do you mean to tell me that she didn't murder Loudwater?"

"She did not. You don't murder a man who has just given you twelve
thousand pounds," said Mr. Flexen.

"Twelve thousand pounds?" said Mr. Carrington slowly. Then he started
from his chair and almost howled: "Are you telling me that Lord Loudwater
gave this woman twelve thousand pounds! He never gave any one twelve
thousand pounds! He never gave any one a thousand pounds! He never gave
any one fifty pounds! He couldn't have done it! Never in his life!"

His voice rose in a fine crescendo.

"Well, perhaps it was hardly a gift," said Mr. Flexen, and he told him
Helena's story.

At the end of it Mr. Carrington said with dogged, sullen conviction: "I
don't care, I don't believe it. Lord Loudwater couldn't have done it."

"But there's the letter from her bankers," said Mr. Flexen. "And I
suppose you can trace the twelve thousand pounds."

Mr. Carrington started and said sharply: "Why, that must be where the
rubber shares went to."

"What rubber shares?" said Mr. Flexen.

"We can't lay our hands on a block of rubber shares Lord Loudwater owned.
The certificate isn't among his scrip--he kept all his scrip at the
Castle--he wouldn't keep it at his bank. Those rubber shares were worth
just about twelve thousand pounds."

"Well, there you are," said Mr. Flexen.

"No, I'm not, I tell you I don't believe in that gift--not even in the
circumstances. Lord Loudwater would a thousand times rather have gone on
paying the allowance--as little of it as he could. There's something
fishy--very fishy--about it, I tell you," said Mr. Carrington vehemently.

"And where did the fishiness come in?" said Mr. Flexen.

Mr. Carrington was silent, frowning. Then he said: "I'll--I'll be hanged
if I can see."

Mr. Flexen rose sharply and said: "There's only one point in the affair
where it could have come in as far as I can see. I should like to examine
Lord Loudwater's letter of instruction to his bankers."

"By George! You've got it," said Mr. Carrington.

"Well, can we get a look at it?" said Mr. Flexen.

"We can. Harrison, the manager, will stretch a point for me. He knows
that I'm quite safe. Come along," said Mr. Carrington.

"At this hour? The bank's been closed this two hours," said Flexen.

"He'll be there. It's years since he got away before seven," said Mr.
Carrington confidently.

He told a clerk to telephone to the bank that he was coming. They found a
taxicab quickly, drove to the bank, entered it by the side door, and were
taken straight to Mr. Harrison.

He made no bones about showing them Lord Loudwater's letter of
instructions with regard to the twelve thousand pounds. Mr. Carrington
and Mr. Flexen read it together. It was quite short, and ran:


"I shall be much obliged by your paying the enclosed cheque from Messrs.
Hanbury and Johnson for 12,046 into the account of Mrs. Helena Truslove.

"Yours faithfully,


"Rather a curt way of disposing of such a large sum," said Mr. Flexen,
taking the letter and going to the window.

"It was the way Lord Loudwater did things," said Mr. Harrison.

"Yes, yes; I know," said Mr. Carrington. "Some things."

They both looked at Mr. Flexen, who was examining the letter through a
magnifying glass.

He studied it for a good two minutes, turned to them with a quiet smile
of triumph on his face and said: "I've never seen Lord Loudwater's
signature. But this is a forgery."

"A forgery?" said the manager sharply, stepping quickly towards Mr.
Flexen with outstretched hand.

"I'm not surprised to hear it," said Mr. Carrington.

"Well, the signature is not written with the natural ease with which a
man signs his name," said Mr. Flexen, giving the letter to Mr. Harrison.

Mr. Harrison studied it carefully. Then he pressed a button on his desk
and bade the clerk who came bring all the letters they had received
from Lord Loudwater during the last three months of his life and bring
them quickly.

Then he turned to Mr. Flexen and said stiffly: "I'm bound to say that the
signature looks perfectly right to me."

"I've no doubt that it's a good forgery. It was done by a very clever
man," said Mr. Flexen.

"A first-class young scoundrel," Mr. Carrington amended.

"We shall soon see," said Mr. Harrison, politely incredulous.

The clerk came with the letters. There were eight of them, all written
by Mr. Manley and signed by Lord Loudwater.

The manager compared the signatures of every one of them with the
signature in question, using a magnifying glass which lay on his desk.

Then, triumphant in his turn, he said curtly: "It's no forgery."

"Allow me," said Mr. Flexen, and in his turn he compared the signatures,
again every one of them.

Then he said: "As I said, it's an uncommonly good forgery. You see that
the bodies of the letters are all written with the same pen, a
gold-nibbed fountain-pen; the signatures are written with a steel nib. It
cuts deeper into the paper, and the ink doesn't flow off it so evenly.
The forged signature is written with the same kind of nib as the genuine
ones. Also, the bodies of the letters are written in a fountain-pen
ink--the 'Swan,' I think. The signatures are written in Stephens'
blue-black ink. The forged signature is also written in Stephens'
blue-black ink. No error there, you see."

"You seem to know a good deal about these things," said Mr. Harrison,
rather tartly.

"Yes. I've been a partner in Punchard's Agency--you know it; we've done
some work for you--for the last two years. I didn't need this kind of
knowledge for my work in India. I only made a special study of forgery
after joining the agency. A private inquiry agency gets such a lot of
it," said Mr. Flexen.

"Well, and if there's an error in these details, where is it? It's not in
the signature itself," said Mr. Harrison.

"Indeed, it is," said Mr. Flexen. "It's an uncommonly good signature too.
The 'Loud' is perfect. But the 'water' gives it away. The forger had
evidently practised it a lot. In fact, he wrote the 'Loud' straight off.
But the 'water' has no less than five distinct pauses in it--under the
microscope, of course--where he paused to think, or perhaps to look at a
genuine signature, the endorsement on the cheque very likely."

Mr. Harrison sniffed ever so faintly, and said: "Of course, I've had
experience of handwriting experts--not very much, thank goodness!--and
you differ among yourselves so. It's any odds that another expert will
find those pauses in quite different places from you, or even no
pauses at all."

Mr. Flexen laughed gently and said: "Perhaps. But he ought not to."

"There you are. And when it comes to a jury," said Mr. Harrison, and he
threw out his hands. "Besides, if you got your experts to agree, you'd
have to show a very strong motive."

"Oh, we've got that--we've got that," said Mr. Carrington with

"Well, of course that will make it easier for you to get the jury to
believe your handwriting experts rather than those of the other side,"
said Mr. Harrison, without any enthusiasm. Then he added, with rather
more cheerfulness: "But you never can tell with a jury."

"No; that's true," said Mr. Flexen quickly. "I'm sure we're very much
obliged to you for showing us the letter."

There was nothing more to be done at the bank, and having again thanked
Mr. Harrison, they took their leave of him. He showed no great cordiality
in his leave-taking, he was looking at the matter from the point of view
of the bank. The bank preferred to detect forgeries itself--in time.

As they came into the street, Mr. Carrington rubbed his hands together
and said in a tone of deep satisfaction: "And now for the warrant."

"Warrant for whom?" said Mr. Flexen in a tone of polite inquiry.

"Manley. The sooner that young scoundrel is in gaol the better I shall
feel," said Mr. Carrington.

"So should I," said Mr. Flexen. "But I'm very much afraid that for Mr.
Manley it's a far cry to Holloway. We have no case against him
whatever--not a scrap of a case that I can see."

"Hang it all! It's as plain as a pikestaff! He's engaged to this
woman--this Mrs. Truslove--who has a nice little income. He hears that
her income is to be halved; and we know that if an allowance begins by
being halved, as likely as not it will be stopped altogether before long.
He saw that clearly enough. Then in the very nick of time this cheque
comes along. He sends it to the bank with this letter of instructions,
and murders Lord Loudwater so that he cannot disavow them. What more of a
case do you want?"

"I don't want a better case. I only want some evidence. It's true enough
that Mrs. Manley told me that she told Manley that Lord Loudwater
proposed to halve her allowance. But where's the evidence that she talked
to him about it? She'd deny it if you put her into the witness-box, and
you can't put her into the witness-box."

"Husband and wife, by Jove! Oh, the clever young scoundrel!" cried Mr.

"And that halving of the allowance is the beginning of the whole
business. Manley had made up his mind to marry a lady with a fixed
income--indeed, they were probably already engaged. Loudwater upsets the
arrangement. Manley restores the _status quo_ by means of this cheque and
the murder of Loudwater. Of course, he hated Loudwater--he admitted as
much to me--more than once. But if Loudwater had played fair about that
allowance, he'd be alive now. Having established the _status quo,_ Manley
promptly marries the lady, and closes the mouth of the only person who
can bear witness that the allowance was in danger and he had any motive
for murdering Loudwater."

Mr. Carrington ground his teeth and murmured: "The infernal young
scoundrel!" Then he broke out violently: "But we're not beaten yet. Now
that we know for a fact that he murdered Loudwater and why, there must be
some way of getting at him."

"I very much doubt it," said Flexen sadly. "He's an uncommonly able
fellow. I don't believe that he's taken a chance. He wears a glove and
leaves the knife in the wound, so that there are no bloodstains. And
consider the cheque. The bank wouldn't have honoured Loudwater's own
cheque, the cheque of a dead man, but the stock-broker's cheque goes
through as a matter of course."

"Of course," said Mr. Carrington.

"And he has kept the business so entirely in his own hands. If we had run
in any one else, he'd have come forward and sworn that he heard Loudwater
snore after Roper had seen that person leave the Castle. I'm beginning to
think that he's one of the most able murderers I ever heard of. I
certainly never came across one in my own experience who was a patch on
him," said Mr. Flexen.

"Don't be in such a hurry to lose hope. There must be some way of getting
at him--there must be," said Mr. Carrington obstinately.

"I'm glad to hear it," said Mr. Flexen in a tone of utter scepticism.

They walked on, Mr. Flexen reflecting on Mr. Manley's ability, Mr.
Carrington cudgelling his brains for a method of bringing his crime home
to him. At the door of his office Mr. Flexen held out his hand.

"Come along in. I've got an idea," said Mr. Carrington.


Mr. Flexen shrugged his shoulders with a sceptical air. He had not formed
a high opinion of Mr. Carrington's intelligence. However, he followed him
into his office and sat down, ready to give him his best attention.

Mr. Carrington wore a really hopeful expression, and he said: "My idea is
that we should get at Manley through Mrs. Manley."

"I'm not at all keen on getting at a man through his wife," said Mr.
Flexen rather dolefully. "But in this case it's manifestly our duty to
leave nothing untried. Murder for money is murder for money."

"I should think it _was_ our duty!" cried Mr. Carrington with emphasis.

"And there are three innocent people under suspicion of having committed
the murder. Fire away. How is it to be done?" said Mr. Flexen.

"The new Lord Loudwater must bring an action against Mrs. Manley for the
return of that twelve thousand pounds on the ground that it was obtained
from the late Lord Loudwater by fraud--as it certainly was," said Mr.
Carrington, leaning forward with shining eyes and speaking very

"I see," said Mr. Flexen. But his expression was not hopeful.

"Once we get her in the witness-box we establish the fact that Lord
Loudwater had made up his mind to halve her allowance, for she'll have to
give the reason for her visiting him so late that night; and so we get
Manley's motive for committing the murder also established."

"I see. But will you be able to use her evidence in the first trial at
the second?" said Mr. Flexen doubtfully.

"That's the idea," said Mr. Carrington triumphantly.

"You think it can be worked?"

"We can have a jolly good try at it," said Mr. Carrington, rubbing his
hands together, and his square, massive face was rather malignant in
its triumph.

Mr. Flexen did not look triumphant, or even hopeful.

"But will you get the new Lord Loudwater to bring this action?" he said.

"Why, of course. There's the money for one thing, and when he sees how
important it is from the point of view of getting at Manley, he can't
refuse," said Mr. Carrington confidently.

"There isn't the money--not necessarily. He might get back the twelve
thousand pounds and have to pay Mrs. Manley six hundred a year for forty
or fifty years. She's a healthy-looking woman," said Mr. Flexen. "I take
it that the late Lord Loudwater had property of his own against which she
could claim."

"Oh, of course, she could do that," said Mr. Carrington, and there was
some diminution of the triumphant expression.

"She would," said Mr. Flexen. "Then you'll have to get over his objection
to incurring a considerable amount of odium. It will look bad for a man
of his wealth to try to recover from a lady a sum of money to which every
one will consider her entitled."

"Oh, but it was obtained by fraud," said Mr. Carrington.

"If you were sure of proving that, it would make a difference in the way
people would regard it. But you're not sure of proving it--not by a long
chalk. And you can't assure your client that you are. There'll be a lot
of conflicting evidence about that signature, as Harrison pretty clearly
showed. If you don't prove it, your client will be landed with the costs
of the case and incur still greater odium."

"Ah, but he is bound to take the risk to bring his cousin's murderer to
justice," said Mr. Carrington.

"Is he?" said Flexen dryly. "What kind of terms was he on with his
murdered cousin?"

"Well, I must say I didn't expect you to ask that question," said Mr.
Carrington pettishly. "What kind of terms was the late Lord Loudwater
likely to be on with his heir? They hated one another like poison."

"I thought as much," said Mr. Flexen. "And what kind of a man is the new
man--anything like his dead cousin?"

"Oh, well, all the Loudwaters are pretty much of a muchness. But the
present man is a better man all round--better manners and better
brains," said Mr. Carrington.

"Better brains, and you think he'll be willing to celebrate his
succession to the peerage by a first-class scandal of this kind, a
scandal which may bring him this money, but which will certainly bring
odium on him?" said Mr. Flexen.

"When it's a case of bringing a murderer to justice," said Mr. Carrington

"The murderer of a man he hated like poison? I should think that he'd
want to see his way pretty clear. And it isn't clear--not by any means.
For there's precious little chance of Mrs. Manley's giving Lord
Loudwater's threat to halve her allowance as the reason of her visit to
him that night. In fact, there's no chance at all. Manley will see to
that. Once attack the genuineness of that signature, and you open his
eyes to his danger. She'll come into the witness-box with quite another
reason for that visit, and a good reason too. Manley will find it for
her," said Mr. Flexen with conviction. "But there's the quarrel. She
can't get over that quarrel," said Mr. Carrington stubbornly.

"She'll deny the quarrel. It's only Mrs. Carruthers' word against hers.
Besides, Mrs. Carruthers heard what she did hear through a closed door.
It will be so easy to make out that she made a mistake."

"You seem to take it for granted that Mrs. Manley will commit perjury at
that young scoundrel's bidding," snapped Mr. Carrington.

"I take it for granted that she'll be a woman fighting to save her
husband. And I'm also sure that there'll be precious few mistakes in
tactics made in the fight. I think that all you'll get out of the trial
will be a strong presumption that Lord Loudwater committed suicide. I'd
bet that that is the line Manley will take. And she'll make a thundering
good witness for him. She's a good-looking woman, with plenty of

Mr. Carrington gazed at him with unhappy eyes. His square, massive face
had lost utterly its expression of triumph.

"But hang it all!" he cried. "What are we going to do? Knowing what we
know, we can't sit still and do nothing."

"I can't see _anything_ we can do," said Mr. Flexen frankly, and he rose.
"You have demonstrated that Manley's position is impregnable."

He took his leave of the dejected lawyer.

Outside Mr. Carrington's office he stood still, hesitating. He could have
caught a train back to Low Wycombe, but he could not bring himself to
take it. He could not at once tear himself away from London and Mr.
Manley. He must sleep on the new facts in the Loudwater case. He went to
his club, engaged a bedroom, and dined there.

Mr. and Mrs. Manley dined at their flat. Mr. Manley talked during dinner
with elegance and vivacity. The maid brought in the coffee and went back
to the kitchen.

As he lighted his wife's cigarette, Mr. Manley said in a careless tone:
"What did Flexen want to see you about?"

Helena gave him a full account of her interview with Mr. Flexen, his
questions and her answers.

"I guessed that you were the _Daily Wire's_ mysterious woman," he said.
"I saw how frightened you were when it came out. But, of course, as you
didn't say anything about it, I didn't."

"That is so like you," she murmured.

"One human being should never intrude on another," said Mr. Manley with a
noble air.

"It might be your motto," she said, looking at him with admiring eyes.
She paused; then she added: "And I was frightened--horribly frightened. I
couldn't sleep. I was going to tell you about it, but I didn't like to.
You gave me no opening. Then the letter came from my bankers--about the
twelve thousand pounds--and it made it all right. It made it clear that I
had no reason to murder Loudwater."

"Of course," said Mr. Manley. "But in the event of any new
developments, I should not admit that Lord Loudwater talked of halving
your allowance, or that you quarrelled with him. In fact, I shouldn't
let Flexen interview you again at all. In an affair of this kind you
can't be ton careful."

"I won't let him interview me again," said Helena with decision.

Mr. Flexen did not try to interview her again. But at eleven the next
morning he called on Mr. Manley. He had very little hope of effecting
anything by the call, though he meant to try. But he had the keenest
desire to scrutinize him again and carefully in the light of the new
facts he had discovered.

Mr. Manley kept him waiting awhile in the drawing-room; then the maid
ushered him into Mr. Manley's study. Mr. Manley was sitting at a
table, at work on his play. He greeted Mr. Flexen with a rather
absent-minded air.

Mr. Flexen surveyed him with very intent, measuring eyes. At once he
perceived that he had rather missed Mr. Manley's jaw in giving attention
to his admirable forehead. It was, indeed, the jaw of a brute. He could
see him drive the knife into Lord Loudwater, and walk out of the
smoking-room with an ugly, contented smile on his face.

He had little hopes of bringing off anything in the nature of a bluff;
but he said, in a rasping tone: "We've discovered that the signature of
Lord Loudwater's letter of instructions to his bankers to pay that cheque
for twelve thousand pounds into your wife's account was forged."

Mr. Manley looked at him blankly for a moment. There was no expression at
all on his face. Then it filled slowly with an expression of surprise.

"Rehearsed, by Jove!" murmured Mr. Flexen under his breath, and he could
not help admiring the skilful management of that expression of surprise.
It was so unhasty and natural.

"My dear fellow, what on earth are you driving at? I saw him write it
myself," said Mr. Manley in an indulgent tone.

"You forged it," snapped Mr. Flexen.

Mr. Manley looked at him with a new surprise which changed slowly to
pity. Then he said in such a tone as one might use to an unreasonable
child: "My good chap, what on earth should I forge it _for?_"

"You knew that he was going to halve Mrs. Truslove's allowance. You were
bent on marrying a woman with money. You took this way of ensuring that
she had money, forged the letter, and murdered Lord Loudwater," said Mr.
Flexen on a rising inflexion.

"By Jove! I see what you're after. It shows how infernally silly a
schoolboy joke can be! Lord Loudwater never talked of halving my wife's
allowance. That was an invention of mine. I told her that he was doing so
just to tease her," said Mr. Manley firmly, with a note of contrition in
his voice.

Mr. Flexen opened his mouth a little way. It was a superb invention. It
left Mrs. Manley free to go into the witness-box to tell the story she
had told him. It knocked the bottom clean out of Carrington's case.

"What really happened was that Lord Loudwater was grousing about the
allowance--at being reminded every six months that he had behaved like a
cad. I suggested that he should pay her a lump sum and be done with the
business. He jumped at the idea. The cheque had come from his
stockbrokers that morning; he directed me to write that letter of
instructions to his bankers; I wrote it, and he signed it. There you have
the whole business."

"I don't believe a word of it!" cried Mr. Flexen.

Mr. Manley rose with an air of great dignity and said: "My good chap, I
can excuse your temper. It was an ingenious theory, and it must be very
annoying to have it upset. But I'm fed up with this Loudwater business.
I've got here"--he tapped the manuscript on the table--"a drama worth
fifty of it. Out of working hours I don't mind talking that affair over
with you; in them I won't."

Mr. Flexen rose and said: "You're undoubtedly the most accomplished
scoundrel I've ever come across."

"If you will have it so," said Mr. Manley patiently. Then he smiled and
added: "Praise from an expert--"

They turned to see Mrs. Manley standing in the doorway, her lips parted,
her eyes dilated in a growing consternation.

She stepped forward. Mr. Flexen slipped round her and fairly fled.

She looked at Mr. Manley with horror-stricken eyes and said: "What--what
did he mean, Herbert?"

"He meant what he said. But what it really means is that I won't let him
hang that wretched James Hutchings," said Mr. Manley with a noble air.

* * * * *

Three months later, on the first night of Mr. Manley's play, Colonel
Grey came upon Mr. Flexen in the lounge of the Haymarket, between the
second and third acts. Both of them praised the play warmly, and there
came a pause.

Then Colonel Grey said: "I suppose you've given up all hope of solving
the problem of Loudwater's death."

"Oh, I solved it three months ago. It was Manley," said Mr. Flexen.

"By Jove!" said Colonel Grey softly.

"Not a doubt of it. I'll tell you all about it one of these days,"
said Mr. Flexen, for the bell rang to warn them that the third act was
about to begin.

In the corridor Colonel Grey said: "Queer that he should have dropped
down dead in the street a week before this success."

"Well, he was discharged from the Army for having a bad heart. But it is
a bit queer," said Mr. Flexen.

"The mills of God," said Colonel Grey.

"Looks like it," said Mr. Flexen.

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