Part 2 out of 6
gave forth a subdued light. Mrs. Pendleton turned up the wick and sank
into a chair, covering her face with her hands.
It was the room where only that afternoon Robert Turold had unfolded the
history of his life's quest: a large gloomy room with heavy old furniture,
faded prints of the Cornish coast, and a whitefaced clock on the
mantel-piece with a loud clucking tick. Dr. Ravenshaw knew the room well,
but Robert Turold's sister had seen it for the first time that day, and
the recollection of what had taken place there was so fresh in her memory
that it brought a flood of tears.
"Poor Bob!" she sobbed. "He denied himself all his life for the sake of
the title, and what's the good of it all--now?"
That was the only light in which she was able to see the tragedy in the
first moment of the shock. Other thoughts and revelations about her
brother's strange death were to come later, when her mind recovered its
bearings. For the moment she was incapable of thinking coherently. She was
conscious only of the fact that her brother had been cut off in the very
moment of success--before it, indeed; ere he had actually tasted the
sweets of the ambition he had given all his years to gain.
Silence fell between them, broken only by the clucking of the whitefaced
clock and the dreary sound of the wind outside, crying round the old house
like a frightened woman in the dark. Nearly an hour passed before they
heard the sound of a guarded knock at the front door. Dr. Ravenshaw went
and opened it. Austin Turold was standing on the threshold.
"This is bad news, doctor," he said, stepping quickly inside. "I came
ahead of the others--walked over. Thalassa is waiting at the churchtown
for the sergeant, who is away on some official business, but expected back
shortly. They may be here at any minute."
He spoke a little breathlessly, as though with running, and seemed anxious
to talk. He went on--.
"How did it happen? Tell me everything. I could get nothing out of
Thalassa. He was detained at the police station for a considerable time,
waiting for Pengowan, before he came to me with the news. He gave a great
knock at the door of my lodgings like the thunder of doom, and when I got
downstairs he blurted out that my brother was killed--shot--but not
another word of explanation could I get out of him. What does it all
"I cannot say. Your sister and I reached the house just as Thalassa was
about to leave it to seek my assistance. Your sister is in the
Austin Turold brushed past the doctor and opened the door of the lighted
room. At his entrance Mrs. Pendleton sprang from her seat to greet him.
Grief and horror were in her look, but surprise contended with other
emotions in Austin's face. She kissed him with clinging hands on his
"Oh, Austin," she cried, "Robert is dead--killed!"
"The news has shocked me to the last degree," responded her brother. "What
has happened? Did somebody send for you? Is that what brought you here?"
Mrs. Pendleton shook her head, embarrassed in her grief. She remembered
that she wished to keep the object of her visit secret from her younger
brother, and she could not very well disclose the truth then.
"Not exactly," she replied, a trifle incoherently. "I wanted to see Robert
again before I returned to London in the morning. So we motored over after
dinner, and found him--dead." Fresh tears broke from her.
Austin Turold wandered around the room quickly and nervously, then drew
Dr. Ravenshaw to the door with a glance. "I should like to go upstairs
before the police come," he whispered.
Dr. Ravenshaw nodded, and they went upstairs together. The shattered door
creaked open to their touch, revealing the lighted interior and the dead
man prone on the floor. Austin approached his brother's corpse, eyed it
shudderingly, and turned away. Then he stooped to look at the small
revolver lying alongside, but did not touch it. Again he bent over the
corpse, this time with more composure in his glance.
The object on which the outstretched arms rested was an old Dutch hood
clock, which had fallen or been dragged from a niche in the wall, and lay
face uppermost, the glass case open and smashed, the hands: stopped at the
hour of half-past nine. It was a clock of the seventeenth century, of a
design still to be found occasionally in old English houses. A landscape
scene was painted in the arch above the dial, showing the moon above a
wood, in a sky crowded with stars. The moon was depicted as a human face,
with eyes which moved in response to the swing of the pendulum. But the
pendulum was motionless, and the goggle eyes of the mechanism stared up
almost reproachfully, as though calling upon the two men to rescue it from
such an undignified position. At the bottom of the dial appeared the name
of Jan Fromantel, the famous Dutch clockmaker, and underneath was an
inscription in German lettering--
"Every tick that I do give
Cuts short the time you have to live.
Praise thy Maker, mend thy ways,
Till Death, the thief, shall steal thy days."
"Look at the blood!" said Austin Turold, pointing to a streak of blood on
the large white dial. "How did it happen?"
"I know very little more than yourself. Your sister called at my house
about an hour ago and asked me to accompany her here. She wished to see
your brother on some private business, and she was very anxious that I
should accompany her. Thalassa let us in, and said he was afraid that
there was something wrong with his master. We came upstairs immediately,
burst in the door, and found--this."
"Did Thalassa hear the shot?"
"He says not, only the crash."
"That would be the clock, of course. Was my brother quite dead when you
"Just dead. The body was quite warm."
"The door was locked from inside, I think you said."
"We found it locked."
"Then it must have been locked from inside," returned the other, who
appeared to be pursuing some hidden train of thought. "But where's the
key? I do not see it in the door. Oh, here it is!" He stooped swiftly and
picked up a key from the floor. "Robert must have taken it out after
locking the door."
"Perhaps it fell out when we were breaking in the door," observed the
"Of course. I forgot that. I notice that the clock is stopped at half-past
nine." He bent down to examine it. "My brother kept private papers in the
clock-case," he added. "Yes--it is as I thought. Here are some private
documents, including his will. I had better take charge of them."
"Yes; I should if I were you," counselled his companion.
Austin rose to his feet and placed the papers in his pocket.
"It is plain to me--now--how it happened," he said. "Poor Robert must have
shot himself, then tried to get his will from the clock-case when he fell,
bringing down the clock with him."
"Is that what you think?" said Dr. Ravenshaw.
"I see no other way of looking at it," returned Austin rapidly. "The door
was locked on the inside, and the room couldn't be reached from the
window. This house stands almost on the edge of the cliff, which is nearly
two hundred feet high. My feeling is that after my poor brother shot
himself he remembered in his dying moments that his will was hidden in the
clock-case and might not be found. He made a desperate effort to reach it
and dragged it down as he fell."
The doctor listened attentively to this imaginary picture of Robert
Turold's last moments.
"But why should he destroy himself?" he queried.
"Grief and remorse. Do you remember the disclosure he made to us this
afternoon? It is a matter which might well have preyed upon his mind."
"I see," said the other thoughtfully. "Yes, perhaps you may be right."
Their conversation was interrupted by the sound of a loud knocking
"That must be the police," observed Dr. Ravenshaw. "Let us go down."
"Why should Robert commit suicide?"
That was the burden of Mrs. Pendleton's cry, then and afterwards. There
was an angry scene in the old cliff house between brother and sister
before the events of that night were concluded. She utterly refused to
accept Austin's theory that their brother, with his own hand, had
discharged the revolver bullet which had put an end to his life and
ambitions. Sitting bolt upright in indignant amazement, she rejected the
idea in the sharpest scorn. It was nothing to her that the police sergeant
from the churchtown shared her brother's view, and that Dr. Ravenshaw was
passively acquiescent. She brushed aside the plausible web of
circumstances with the impatient hand of an angry woman. They might talk
till Doomsday, but they wouldn't convince her that Robert, of all men, had
done anything so disgraceful as take his own life. Arguments and events,
the locked door and the inaccessible windows--pathetically masculine
insistence on mere details--were wasted on her. The marshalled array of
facts made not the slightest impression on her firm belief that Robert had
not shot himself.
Shaking a large finger of angry import at Austin, and addressing herself
to him alone, she had said--
"Robert has been murdered, Austin, I feel sure. I don't care what you say,
but if there's law in England I'll have his murderer discovered."
And with that conclusion she had indignantly left the house with her
husband, leaving her brother to walk back to his lodgings at the
churchtown in moody solitude across the rainy darkness of the moors.
For herself, she returned to her hotel to pass a sleepless night, tossing
by the side of her placidly unconscious husband as she passed the tragic
events of the night in review and vainly sought for some clue to the
mystery. The dreadful logic of the circumstances which pointed to suicide,
hammered at her consciousness with deadening persistence, but she
resolutely refused to give it entry. Why should Robert commit suicide? Why
indeed? It was the question which had sprung to her lips when she first
heard Austin's belief, and it was to that she now clung in the midst of
her agonizing doubts, as though the mere wordless insistence in her mind
made it an argument of negation which gathered force and cogency by
But in the mass of teeming thoughts which crowded her brain in the silence
of the small hours, she long and vainly sought for any other theory which
would account for her brother's death. If he had been murdered, as in the
first flush of her indignation she had declared, who had killed him? Who
had gone to the lonely old house in the darkness of the night, and struck
It was not until the first faint glimmering of dawn was pushing its grey
way through the closed shutters that there came to her the recollection of
an incident of the previous day which had left a deep mark upon her mind
at the time, but had since been covered over by the throng of later
tremendous events. It was the memory of that momentary glance of a pair of
eyes through the slit of the door while her brother was telling of his
daughter's illegitimacy and her mother's shame. In the light of Robert's
subsequent death that incident appeared in a new sinister shape as a clue
to the commission of the deed itself. With the recollection of that glance
there sprang almost simultaneously before her mental vision the grim and
forbidding features of her brother's servant, Thalassa.
If she had been asked, Mrs. Pendleton could not have given a satisfactory
reason for linking Thalassa with the incident of the eyes, but she was a
woman, and not concerned about reasons. The two impressions had scurried
swiftfooted, into her mind together, and there they remained. She was now
convinced that she had all along believed it was Thalassa she had seen
watching through the door, watching and listening for some fell purpose of
his own. She knew nothing about Thalassa, but she had taken an instant
dislike to him when she first saw him. That vague dislike now assumed the
form of active suspicion against him. She determined, with the
impulsiveness which was part of her temperament, to bring her suspicion
before the police at the earliest possible moment.
She was essentially a woman of action, and in spite of her sleepless night
she was up and dressed before her husband was awake. He came down to
breakfast to find his wife had already finished hers, and was dressed
ready to go out.
"Where is Sisily?" he asked, with, a glance at the girl's vacant place.
"I've ordered her breakfast to be taken to her room, and sent word to her
to rest in bed until I go to her," his wife replied. "I have a painful
ordeal before me in breaking the news of Robert's death to her. It's all
over the hotel already, unfortunately. Sisily is out of the way of gossip
in her room. After I've seen her I shall leave her in your charge, Joseph.
I shall have plenty on my hands to-day."
Mr. Pendleton received this mandate with a blank face, and momentarily
regretted that the arrangements for their departure by the morning's train
had been cancelled. Then his better nature asserted itself, and he meekly
replied that he would do what he could. "What do you suggest?" he asked.
"Take her for a walk," responded his wife. "Try and keep her interested
and her mind occupied."
With these words she left the breakfast table and proceeded upstairs to
Sisily's room before going out. On the way there she again regretted
having undertaken the responsibility of her niece's future. She had not
disturbed Sisily on the previous night. She had tried her door on her way
to her own room, but it was locked, so she had let the girl sleep on, and
deferred breaking the tragic news until the morning.
She now paused outside the door reluctantly. But she was not the woman to
shrink from a duty because it was unpleasant, and womanly sympathy for her
unhappy niece banished her diffidence. She knocked lightly and entered.
Sisily was seated by the window reading. A breakfast tray, still
untouched, stood on a small table beside her. She put down her book as her
aunt entered, and rose to greet her.
Mrs. Pendleton bent over the girl and kissed her, and took her hand. As
she did so she observed that Sisily looked worn and fatigued, with black
rings under her eyes, as though she, too, had passed a sleepless night.
But she was wonderfully pretty, the elder woman thought, and nothing could
rob her of the fresh charm of youth and beauty.
"Sit down, Sisily," she said, leading her back to her chair, and taking
another one beside her. "I have sad news for you, dear, and you must be a
brave girl. Something has happened to your father."
"What has happened?" asked Sisily quickly. Then, as if taking in the
import of her aunt's tone, rather than her words, she added: "Do you mean
that he is ... dead?"
Mrs. Pendleton inclined her head with tears in her eyes. "It is worse even
than that," she went on, her voice drooping to a whisper. "He ... he has
been killed. We found him last night. Listen, dear, I will tell you all."
She gave the cold fingers a comforting pressure as she spoke, but the hand
was immediately withdrawn, and Sisily sprang away from her, then turned
and regarded her with blazing eyes and a white face.
"Tell me about it!" she said.
Mrs. Pendleton imparted as much of the facts as she felt called upon to
relate. There was something about the girl's reception of the news which
puzzled her, and her own look fell before the sombre intensity of her
gaze. Sisily heard the story in silence, and when it was finished, merely
"I think I would like to be left alone for a little while, if you don't
"Oh, you mustn't sit here moping, my dear," said Mrs. Pendleton, with an
attempt at cheerfulness which she felt to be clumsy and ill-timed, but
Sisily's manner had momentarily disconcerted her. "You had better put on
your hat and coat and go out with your uncle. He is waiting downstairs for
you. It is very sad, very terrible, but you must let us help you bear it.
You must not stay here alone."
"You are very kind"--the girl's lips quivered slightly, though her face
remained calm--"but I would rather not go out. I should prefer to be left
There was in her expression a despairing yet calm detachment and resolve
which forced Mrs. Pendleton in spite of herself to yield to her wish with
a meekness which was almost timidity.
"Very well, dear," she said. "If you feel like a walk later on, you will
find your uncle downstairs."
As she left the room she heard the door shut behind her.
But Mrs. Pendleton had other things to think about that morning than the
strangeness of her niece's disposition and the manner in which she had
received the news of her father's death. The horror of that event filled
her own thoughts to the exclusion of everything else, and she was
determined to remain in Cornwall until the mystery was explained.
She glanced at her watch as she reached the bottom of the stairs. She had
breakfasted early, and it still wanted a few minutes to ten o'clock. The
lobby of the hotel was deserted, and through the glass doors leading to
the breakfast-room she could see a few guests still at their morning meal.
A porter was sweeping the front entrance, and of him she enquired the way
to the police station, and set out for it.
'It was chill and grey after the storm, with a sky obscured by scudding
clouds, but a gleam of truant sunshine was sporting wantonly on the hoary
castled summit of St. Michael's Mount, and promised to visit the town
later on. Mrs. Pendleton walked briskly, and soon arrived at the police
A young constable in the office came forward as she entered and enquired
her business. She disclosed her name, and her relationship with the inmate
of Flint House, deeming that would be sufficient to gain her an interview
with somebody in authority. In that expectation she was not disappointed.
The constable favoured her with a good hard stare, went into another room,
and reappeared to say that Inspector Dawfield would see her at once.
She followed him into the inner room, where a slight man of middle age was
seated at a leather-covered table opening his morning correspondence. He
looked up and bowed as he saw his visitor, but waited until the constable
had retired before he spoke.
"Good morning," he said. "What can I do for you?"
His eye regarded her with a thoughtful glance. His professional interest
had been aroused by the strange death of the occupant of Flint House,
whose object in visiting Cornwall had been common gossip in the district
for some time past.
"It is about my brother's death that I wished to see you." Mrs. Pendleton
spoke earnestly, drawing her chair closer with the feeling that the man
before her had sufficient intelligence to give her a sympathetic hearing.
"So I gathered from your card. It seems a very sad case. Sergeant
Pengowan's report has just reached me. Anything I can do for you--"
Inspector Dawfield pretended to occupy himself in cutting open an official
envelope with scrupulous care.
"Sergeant Pengowan regards it as a case of suicide, does he not?" asked
Mrs. Pendleton rigidly.
"Well, yes, I believe he does," replied Inspector Dawfield. "There is no
doubt on that point, is there? Your brother's revolver was lying near him,
and the door was locked on the inside."
"There is the greatest doubt in my mind," returned Mrs. Pendleton
vehemently. "I do not--I cannot believe that my brother has taken his own
life. In fact, I am sure he did not."
On hearing these words Inspector Dawfield looked at his visitor again,
with something more than surprise in his eyes, then he pulled a document
from a pigeonhole and hastily scanned it.
"Pengowan's report states quite definitely that it is suicide," he said as
he replaced it. "In the face of that, do you think--"
"I think my brother has been murdered," she said in a decided voice.
"This is a very grave statement to make, Mrs. Pendleton. Have you anything
to support it? Anything which has not been brought to light, I mean?"
Mrs. Pendleton proceeded to give her reasons. She had thought over what
she was going to say as she came along, and she spoke with growing
conviction, intensified by the sight of the earnest attentive face before
her. The incident of the person she had detected looking through the door
took on a new significance as she related it. By her constant association
of the eyes with the disliked face of her brother's servant, she had
unconsciously reached the conclusion that she had all along recognized the
eavesdropper as Thalassa.
"You say your brother was talking about some family matters at the time?"
asked Inspector Dawfield, as she related that part of her story.
"Yes," responded Mrs. Pendleton. She had repressed all mention of her
brother's announcement of his daughter's illegitimacy, but afterwards she
tried to persuade herself that it slipped her memory at the time.
"It's common enough for servants to listen at doors," remarked Inspector
Dawfield. "In this case it may seem to have a sinister interpretation
because of what happened afterwards. How long has this man been in your
"A number of years, I believe," replied Mrs. Pendleton. "But he has a
wicked face," she added hastily, as though that fact cancelled a record of
lengthy service. "I took a dislike to him as soon as I saw him."
Inspector Dawfield veiled a slight smile with a sheet of foolscap. "Have
you any other reason for suspecting him?"
"Oh, I wouldn't like to say that I suspect Thalassa, or anybody else."
Mrs. Pendleton was prompt with this assurance. "But there are certain
things which seem to me to need further investigation. There's the
question of the door being locked on the inside. It seems to me that the
door might have been locked on the outside, and the key dropped in there
afterwards. The door had to be smashed before we could get in, and the key
wasn't in the door then, you know."
Dawfield nodded thoughtfully. "Who has charge of the keys in your
brother's house? This servant with the strange name--Thalassa, is it?"
"Yes, and he was upstairs in my brother's room last night, after we came
down. And when we got there he was ready to go out, with his hat and coat
on. It all seems very strange."
Again the courteous inspector hid a slight smile. His lady visitor might
disclaim suspecting anybody, but her inferences carried her to the same
"What do you wish me to do?" he asked.
"I feel there should be further inquiries. Sergeant Pengowan does not
strike me as the kind of man capable of bringing to light any mystery
which may be hidden behind my brother's supposed suicide. He does not look
at all intelligent. I thought of sending a telegram to Scotland Yard, but
I decided to see you first."
The hint was not lost on Inspector Dawfield, but it was unnecessary. It
was his duty to look into her complaint and make further inquiries into
"Your statement shall certainly be investigated," he said emphatically. "I
am rather short of men just now, but I'll see if I can get Bodmin to send
over a man. I will inquire immediately, if you will excuse me."
He retired into a curtained recess in a corner of the room, where Mrs.
Pendleton could see him holding a colloquy over the telephone. After
rather a lengthy conversation he returned to announce that a detective was
coming over by the next train to investigate the case.
"The Bodmin office is sending over Detective Barrant, of Scotland Yard,"
he explained. "He happens to be in Cornwall on another case, and was just
on the point of returning to London. I was able to speak to him personally
and relate the facts of your brother's death. He decided to telephone to
Scotland Yard, and come over here at once. He will arrive soon after
lunch. I will take him to Flint House myself. He may wish to see you later
on. Will you be at your hotel?"
"If not, I will leave word where I can be found," replied Mrs. Pendleton,
rising as she spoke. "Good morning, and thank you."
She left the police station feeling that she had accomplished an excellent
morning's work, and hurried back to the hotel with visions of letters to
be written and telegrams to be sent before lunch. But she was destined to
do neither. As she entered the lounge, her eye fell upon its solitary
occupant, a male figure in a grey lounge suit sitting in her favourite
corner by the window. It was her brother Austin.
He rose from his seat as he saw her, but waited for her to approach. Her
eyes, dwelling on his face, noted that it was not so angry as she had last
seen it, but smoothed into the semblance of sorrow and regret, with,
however, something of the characteristic glance of irony which habitually
distinguished him, though that may have been partly due to the pince-nez
which glittered over his keen eyes. There was something of an art in
Austin Turold's manner of wearing glasses; they tilted, superiorly, at the
world in general at an acute angle on the high bridge of a supercilious
nose, the eyes glancing through them downwards, as though from a great
height, at a remote procession of humanity crawling far beneath.
At that moment, however, there was nothing superior in his bearing. It was
so unwontedly subdued, so insistently meek, that it was to be understood
that his mission was both conciliatory and propitiatory. That, at least,
was the impression Mrs. Pendleton gathered as her brother informed her
that he had been waiting nearly an hour to see her.
She reflected that he must have arrived shortly after she left the hotel
to go to the police station, and she wondered what had induced her brother
to rise at an hour so uncommonly early for him, in order to pay her a
"I was up betimes," said Austin, as though reading her thought. "Sleep, of
course, was impossible. Poor Robert!"
Mrs. Pendleton waited impatiently for him to disclose the real reason of
an appearance which had more behind it, she felt sure, than to express
condolences about their common bereavement. Of Robert she had always stood
a little in awe, but she understood her younger brother better. As a boy
she had seen through him and his pretensions, and he did not seem to her
much changed since those days.
"I have been upset by our difference last night, Constance," he pursued.
"It seems deplorable for us to have quarrelled--yes, actually
quarrelled--over our poor brother's death."
His sister's face hardened instantly. "That wasn't my fault," she said
"You'll excuse me for saying that I think it was. You took an altogether
wrong view of his--his death; a view which I hope you've seen fit to
change after a night's reflection."
"You mean about Robert committing suicide?"
Austin inclined his head.
"I haven't changed my opinion in the slightest degree," she retorted. "I
am still quite convinced that Robert did not commit suicide."
Austin darted an angry glance at her, but controlled himself with a
visible effort. "Have you reflected what that implies?" he asked in a low
"What does it imply?"
"Murder." He breathed the word with a hurried glance around him, as though
apprehensive of being overheard, but the lounge was empty, and they were
"I am aware of that."
"Then is it still your intention to go to the police with this terrible
suspicion?" he asked, in a voice that trembled with agitation.
It was on the tip of Mrs. Pendleton's tongue to reply that she had already
been to the police, but she decided to withhold that piece of information
until she had heard all that her brother had to say.
"Certainly," she replied.
"Then you must be mad," was his indignant rejoinder. "Have you considered
the scandal this will entail upon us all?"
"Not half such a scandal as that Robert should be murdered and his family
permit the crime to go unpunished."
"I do not think that you have given this matter sufficient consideration.
It is for that reason I have come to see you this morning--before you take
action which you may have reason to regret later on. I want you to think
it over carefully, apart from a mere feminine prejudice against the
possibility of a member of the family destroying himself. If you will
listen to me I think that I shall be able to convince you that Robert,
deplorable though it may seem, did actually commit suicide."
"What's the use of going through all this again?" said Mrs. Pendleton
wearily. "Robert would not commit suicide."
"Suicide is always difficult to explain. Nobody can say what impels a man
"Robert had no reason to put an end to his life. He had everything to live
for--everything in front of him."
"You cannot say that a man bordering on sixty has everything in front of
him. I know it's considered middle-aged in this misguided country, where
people will never face the facts of life, but in simple truth Robert had
finished with life to all intents and purposes."
"You won't say that when you come to sixty yourself, Austin. Robert was a
great strong man, with years of activity before him. Besides, people don't
kill themselves because they are growing old."
"I never suggested it. I was merely pointing out that Robert hadn't
everything in front of him, to use your own phrase."
"In any case he would not have killed himself," replied Mrs. Pendleton
sharply. "Such a disgrace! He was the proudest of men, he would never have
"You always hark back to that." There was faint irritation in Austin's
"I really cannot get away from it, Austin. Can you conceive of any
"There was a reason in Robert's case. I did not mention it to you last
night in the presence of the police sergeant, but I told Dr. Ravenshaw,
and he is inclined to agree with me. Since then I have thought it over
carefully, and I am convinced that I am right."
"What is the reason?"
"You recall the disclosure Robert made to us yesterday afternoon?"
"About his marriage and Sisily?"
"Yes. It must have been very painful to Robert, more painful than we
imagine. It would come home to him later with stunning force--all that it
implied, I mean. At the time Robert did not foresee all the consequences
likely to ensue from it. It was likely to affect his claim for the title,
because he was bound to make it known. When he came to think it over he
must have realized that it would greatly prejudice his claim. A body like
the House of Lords would do their utmost to avoid bestowing an ancient
name on a man, who, by his own showing, lived with a married woman for
twenty-five years, and had an illegitimate daughter by her. These are
painful things to speak of, but they were bound to come out. My own
feeling is that Robert had a bitter awakening to these facts when it was
too late--when he had made the disclosure. And he may have felt remorse--"
"Remorse for what?"
"Remorse for giving the secret away and branding his daughter as
illegitimate on the day that her mother was buried. It has an ugly look,
Constance, there's no getting away from that."
He lapsed into silence, and awaited the effect of his words. Mrs.
Pendleton pondered over them for some moments in manifest perturbation.
There was sufficient resemblance between Austin's conclusions and the
thoughts which had impelled her nocturnal visit to Flint House, to sway
her mind like a pendulum towards Austin's view. But that only lasted for a
moment. Then she thrust the thought desperately from her.
"No, no; I cannot--I will not believe it!" she cried in an agitated voice.
"All this must have been in Robert's mind beforehand. His letters to me
about Sisily indicated that there were reasons why he wished me to take
charge of her. Robert had weighed the consequences of this disclosure,
Austin--I feel sure of that. He was a man who knew his own mind. How
carefully he outlined his plans to us yesterday! He was to appear before
the Investigations Committee next week to give evidence in support of his
claim to the title. And he told me that he was purchasing a portion of the
family estate at Great Missenden, and intended to live there. Is it
logical to suppose that he would terminate all these plans and ambitions
by destroying himself? I, for one, will never believe it. I have my own
thoughts and suspicions--"
He turned a sudden searching glance on her. "Suspicions of whom?"
"I took a dislike to that terrible man-servant of Robert's from the moment
I saw him," said Mrs. Pendleton, setting her chin firmly.
This feminine flight was too swift for Austin Turold to follow.
"What has that to do with what we are talking about?" he demanded.
"When we reached the door last night it was Thalassa who let us in, with
his hat and coat on, ready to go out. There was something strange and
furtive about his manner, too, for I never took my eyes off him, and I'm
sure he had something on his mind. I'm quite convinced it was he who was
listening at the door yesterday afternoon. And he's got a wicked and
"Good God!" ejaculated Austin Turold, as the full force of his sister's
impressions reached his mind. "Do you mean to say that because you took a
dislike to this unfortunate man's face, you think he has murdered Robert?
And yet there are some feminists who want to draw our judges from your
sex! My dear Constance, you cannot make haphazard accusations of murder in
this reckless fashion."
"I am not accusing Thalassa of murder," said Mrs. Pendleton, with a fine
air of generosity. "And there's more than my dislike of his face in it,
too. He was looking through the door in the afternoon--"
"You only think that," interrupted her brother.
"I feel sure it was he. It was also strange to see him with his hat and
coat on when he answered our knock. He told Dr. Ravenshaw that he was
going to the churchtown for him."
"That reminds me that I haven't yet heard what took you up to Flint House
last night, Constance," said her brother, looking at her fixedly. "What
were you doing there at that late hour, and why was Ravenshaw with you?"
Mrs. Pendleton told him, and he listened coldly. "I think you might have
consulted me first before Dr. Ravenshaw," he observed.
"I didn't because I thought you would have put obstacles in my way," she
replied with frankness.
"I most certainly should. Of course the whole position may be altered now,
with Robert's death. Have you told Sisily?"
"Yes. She took it almost passively. She is the strangest girl, but after
last night I look upon her as a sacred charge--Robert's last wish."
"It will be best for you to take charge of her, I think," said Austin
absently. "I expect she is provided for in Robert's will. I found that in
the old clock case last night, and I've handed it to the local lawyer who
drew it up. But this is beside the point, Constance. I have come over here
this morning to beg of you to let this terrible business rest where it is.
There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that our unhappy brother has
ended his own life--all the facts point to it only too clearly--and I
particularly desire, for all our sakes, that you do nothing to put your
ill-informed suspicions into action. Let the thing drop."
"It is too late," said Mrs. Pendleton decidedly. "I have already been to
the police. There is a detective from Scotland Yard on his way over from
"You might have told me this before and saved my time," said Austin,
rising with cold anger. "In my opinion you have acted most ill-advisedly.
However, it's too late to talk of that. No, there is no need to rise. I
can find my way out."
Austin Turold left the hotel, and made his way up the crooked street to
the centre of the town. His way lay towards Market Jew Street, where he
intended to hire one of the waiting cabs to drive him back to St. Fair. As
he neared the top of the street which led to the square, his eye was
caught by the flutter of a woman's dress in one of the narrow old passages
which spindled crookedly off it. The wearer of the dress was his niece
Sisily. She was walking swiftly. A turn of the passage took her in the
direction of the Morrab Gardens, and he saw her no more.
Her appearance in that secluded spot was unexpected, but at the moment
Austin Turold did not give it more than a passing thought. He hurried
across Market Jew Street and engaged a cabman to drive him home.
The ancient vehicle jolted over the moor road in crawling ascent, and in
due time reached the spot where the straggling churchtown squatted among
boulders in the desolation of the moors, wanting but cave men to start up
from behind the great stones to complete the likeness to a village of the
stone age. The cab drifted along between the granite houses of a wide
street, like a ship which had lost its bearings, but cast anchor before
one where a few stunted garden growths bloomed in an ineffectual effort to
lessen the general aspect of appalling stoniness. Austin Turold paid the
cabman and walked into this house. He opened the door with his latchkey,
and ascended rapidly to the first floor.
Lunch was set for two in the room which he entered, and Charles Turold was
seated at the table, turning over the pages of a book. He glanced up
expectantly, and his lips formed one word--
"It is not well," was the testy response. "My charming sister has called
in the assistance of Scotland Yard. You'll have to stay. We've got to face
this thing out."
His son received this piece of news with a pale face. "You should have
foreseen this last night," he said.
"I saw Sisily in Penzance--near the gardens."
"Where was she going?" asked Charles, flushing slightly.
"I really cannot say. You should be better acquainted with her movements
than I," was the ironical response. "You do not suppose I have been
altogether blind to your infatuation, do you? If you choose to go walking
and flirting with a girl on Cornish moors you must expect to be observed.
As a matter of fact I thought it rather a good move on your part, until I
learnt the secret of Sisily's birth."
"I tell you I won't stand this," exclaimed Charles, springing up from the
"Won't?" said his father. "You carry things with a high hand--Jonathan."
His look dwelt coldly on his son. "Do not be a fool. Sit down and let us
have lunch, and we'll discuss afterwards what's best to be done."
With a slightly incredulous air Inspector Dawfield placed his London
colleague in possession of his own knowledge of the facts of the case,
based on the statements made to him by Mrs. Pendleton that morning and the
facts as set forth in Sergeant Pengowan's report.
Detective Barrant listened attentively, with the air of a man smiling to
himself. He was not actually doing so, but that was the impression
conveyed by his keen bright eyes. He was a Londoner, with an assured
manner, and the conviction that his intelligence was equal to any call
which might be made upon it. By temperament he was restless, but his work
had given him a philosophical outlook which in some measure counterpoised
that defect by causing him to realize that life was a tricky and deceptive
business in which intelligence counted for more than action in the long
run. He had a wider outlook and more shrewdness than the average
detective, and he already felt a keen interest in the case he had been
called in to investigate.
When the inspector had finished his story he picked up the blue foolscap
on which was inscribed the sprawling report of the churchtown sergeant.
With a severe effort he mastered the matter contained under the flowing
curves and flourishes.
"The local man seems certain that it is suicide," he said, "but the
sister's statement certainly calls for further investigation. How far away
is this place?"
"Flint House? About five miles across the moors. I've hired a motor-car to
drive you up. Nothing has been disturbed so far. As soon as I learnt you
were coming I telephoned to Pengowan to leave things as they were until
Barrant nodded approval. "Let us go," he said.
The car was waiting outside. The way lay through the town and then across
the moors in undulating ascent until at the highest point a rough track
crossed the road at a spot where four parishes met. On one side of these
cross-roads was a Druidical stone circle, and on the other was a wayside
cross to the memory of an Irish female saint who had crossed to Cornwall
as a missionary in the tenth century, after first recording a holy vow
that she would not change her shift until she had redeemed the whole of
the Cornish natives from idolatry.
From the cross-roads the way again inclined downward to the sea in
increasing savageness of desolation. Stones littered the purple surface of
the moors, or rose in insecure heaps on the steep slopes, as though piled
there by the hands of the giants supposed to have once roved these gloomy
wilds. Solitude held sway, but there was more than solitude in that lonely
aspect: something prehistoric and unknown, unearthly, incomprehensible.
Cairn Brea and the Hill of Fires brooded in the distance; the remains of a
Druid's altar showed darkly on the summit of a nearer hill. No sound broke
the stillness except the faint and distant sobbing of the sea.
St. Fair lay almost hidden in a bend or fold of the moors about a mile
before them, and beyond it Dawfield pointed out to his companion Flint
House, standing in gaunt outline on a tongue of coast thrust defiantly
into the restless waters of the Atlantic.
"A lonely weird place," said Barrant, eyeing his surroundings attentively.
"An ideal setting for a mysterious crime."
They drove on in silence until they reached the churchtown. Inspector
Dawfield steered the car to the modest dwelling of Sergeant Pengowan, whom
they found at his gate awaiting their arrival--a shaggy figure of a rural
policeman of the Cornish Celtic variety, with no trace of Spanish or
Italian ancestry in his florid face, inquisitively Irish blue-grey eyes,
reddish whiskers, and burly frame.
Inspector Dawfield bade him good-day, and added the information that his
companion was Detective Barrant, of Scotland Yard. Pengowan greeted
Barrant with the respect due to the name of Scotland Yard, and took a
humble seat at the back of the car.
They went on again, and in a few minutes the car stopped at the end of the
rough moor track, close to where the black cliffs dropped to the grey sea.
Flint House rose solitary before them, perched with an air of bravado upon
the granite ledge, as though defying the west wind which blustered around
it. The unfastened gate which led to the little path banged noisily in the
breeze, but the house seemed steeped in desolation. A face peeped
furtively at them from a front window as they approached. They heard a
shuffling footstep and the drawing of a bolt, and the door was opened by a
withered little woman who looked at them with silent inquiry.
"Where's your husband?" asked Sergeant Pengowan.
She glanced timidly up the stairs behind her, and they saw Thalassa
descending as though in answer to the question. He scanned the police
officers with a cautious eye. Barrant returned the look with a keen
observation which took in the externals of the man who was the object of
Mrs. Pendleton's suspicions.
"You are the late Mr. Turold's servant?" he said.
"Put it that way if you like," was the response. "Who might you be?"
Barrant did not deign to reply to this inquiry. "Take us upstairs," he
"Pengowan wants us to look at the outside first," said Dawfield, but
Barrant was already mounting the stairs.
"You do so," he called back, over his shoulder. "I'll go up."
At the top of the staircase he waited until Thalassa reached him. "Where
are Mr. Turold's rooms?" he asked.
Thalassa pointed with a long arm into the dim vagueness of the passage.
"Down there," he said, "at the end. The study on the right, the bedroom
"Very well. You need not come any further."
The old man's eyes travelled slowly upward to' the detective's face, but
he kept his ground.
"Did you hear me?" Barrant asked sharply. "You can go downstairs again."
Again the other's eyes sought his face with a brooding contemplative look.
Then he turned sullenly away with moving lips, as though muttering
inarticulate words, leaving Barrant standing on the landing, watching his
When he was quite sure that he was gone, Barrant turned down the
passage-way. He had his reasons for wishing to be alone. The value of a
vivid first impression, the effect of concentration necessary to reproduce
the scene to the eyes of imagination, the mental arrangement of the facts
in their proper order and conformity--these were things which were liable
to be broken into by the disturbing presence of others, by the vexatious
interruption of loudly proffered explanations.
He knew all the facts that Inspector Dawfield and Sergeant Pengowan could
impart. He knew of Robert Turold's long quest for the lost title, the
object of his visit to Cornwall, his near attainment to success, his
summons to his family to receive the news. In short, he was aware of the
whole sequence of events preceding Robert Turold's violent and mysterious
death, with the exception of the revelation of his life's secret, which
Mrs. Pendleton had withheld from Inspector Dawfield. Barrant had heard all
he wanted to know at second hand at that stage of his investigations, and
he now preferred to be guided by his own impressions and observations.
His professional interest in the case had been greatly quickened by his
first sight of Flint House. Never had he seen anything so weird and wild.
The isolation of the place, perched insecurely on the edge of the rude
cliffs, among the desolation of the rocks and moors, breathed of mystery
and hinted at hidden things. But who would find the way to such a lonely
spot to commit murder, if murder had been committed?
Reaching the end of the long passage, he first turned towards the study on
the right. The smashed door swung creakingly back to his push, revealing
the interior of the room where Robert Turold had met his death. Barrant
entered, and closed the broken door behind him. It was here, if anywhere,
that he might chance to find some clue which would throw light on the
The profusion of papers which met his eye, piled on the table and filling
the presses and shelves which lined the musty room, seemed, at the outset,
to give ground for the hope that such an expectation might be realized.
But they merely formed, in their mass, a revelation of Robert Turold's
industry in gathering material for his claim. There were genealogical
tables without number, a philology of the two names Turold and Turrald,
extracts of parish registers and corporation records, copies from
inscriptions from tombstones and mural monuments, copied pedigrees from
the British Museum and the great English collections, a host of old deeds
and wills, and other mildewed records of perished hands. But they all
seemed to have some bearing on the quest to which Robert Turold had
sacrificed the years of his manhood.
He had died as he lived, engrossed in the labour of his life. A copy of
Burke's "Vicissitudes of Families" was lying open on the table, and beside
it were two sheets of foolscap, covered with notes in thin irregular
handwriting. The first of these depicted the arms of the Turrald family,
as originally selected at the first institution of heraldry, and the
quarterings of the heiresses who had married into the family at a later
The second sheet was headed "Devonian and Cornwall branch of the Turolds,"
and contained notes of Robert Turold's ancestral discoveries in that spot.
The notes were not finished, but ended abruptly in the middle of a
sentence: "It is necessary to make it clea--"
Those were the last words the dead man had written. He had dropped the
pen, which lay beside the paper, without finishing the word "clear."
The sight of this unfinished sheet kindled Barrant's imagination, and he
stood thoughtful, considering the meaning of it. Was it the attitude of a
man who had committed suicide? Was it conceivable that Robert Turold would
break off in the middle of a sentence, in the middle of a word, and shoot
himself? It seemed a strange thing to do, but Barrant's experience told
him that there were no safe deductions where suicides were concerned. They
acted with the utmost precipitation or the utmost deliberation. Some wound
up their worldly affairs with businesslike precision before embarking on
their timeless voyage, others jumped into the black gulf without,
apparently, any premeditated intention, as if at the beckoning summons of
some grisly invisible hand which they dared not disobey. Barrant recalled
the strange case of a wealthy merchant who had cut his throat on a Bank
holiday and confessed before death that he had felt the same impulse on
that day for years past. He had whispered that the day marked to him such
a pause in life's dull round that it seemed to him a pity to start again.
He had resisted the impulse for years, but it had waxed stronger with each
recurring anniversary, and had overcome him at last.
Every suicide was a law unto himself. Barrant willingly conceded that, but
he could not so easily concede that a man like Robert Turold would put an
end to his life just when he was about to attain the summit of that life's
ambition. It was a Schopenhauerian doctrine that all men had suicidal
tendencies in them, in the sense that every man wished at times for the
cessation of the purposeless energy called life, and it was only the
violence of the actual act which prevented its more frequent commission.
But Barrant reflected that in his experience suicides were generally
people who had been broken by life or were bored with it. Men of action or
intellect rarely committed suicide, not because they valued life highly,
but because they had so much to do in their brief span that they hadn't
time to think about putting an end to it. Death usually overtook them in
the midst of their schemes.
Robert Turold was not a man of intellect or action, but he belonged to a
type which, as a rule, cling to life: the type from which zealots and
bigots spring--men with a single idea. Such men shrink from the idea of
destroying the vital engine by which their idea is driven forward. Their
ego is too pronounced for that.
It was true that Robert Turold believed he had realized the aim for which
he had lived, and therefore, in a sense, had nothing more to live for. But
that point of view was too coldly logical for human nature. Its
presumption was only applicable to a higher order of beings. No man had
ever committed suicide upon achieving the summit of an ambition. There
were always fresh vistas opening before the human mind.
Barrant left the study for the opposite room where the body of Robert
Turold had been taken. It was his bedroom, and he had been laid upon the
Death had not come to him easily. His harsh features were set in a stern
upward frown, and the lower lip was slightly caught between the teeth, as
though bitten in the final rending of the spirit. But Barrant had seen too
much of violent death to be repelled by any death mask, however repellent.
He eyed the corpse closely, and then proceeded to examine the death wound.
In doing so he had to move the body, and a portion of the sleeve fell
back, exposing the left arm to the elbow. Barrant was about to replace it
when his eye lighted upon a livid mark on the arm. He rolled back the
garment until the arm lay bare to the shoulder. The disclosure revealed
four faint livid marks running parallel across the arm, just above the
The arms had been straightened to the body to the elbows, and then crossed
decorously on the breast. Barrant walked round to the other side of the
bed, knelt down by the edge of it, and examined the underneath part of the
arm. A single livid mark was imprinted upon it.
The inference was unmistakable. The four upper marks were fingerprints,
and the lower one a thumb mark. Somebody had caught the dead man's arm in
such a strenuous grip that the livid impression had remained after death.
The discovery was significant enough, but Barrant was not at that moment
prepared to say how much it portended. It seemed certain that the marks
had not been made by Robert Turold himself. Their position suggested a
left-hand clutch, though only a finger-print expert could definitely
determine that point. Even if they were not, it was too far-fetched a
supposition to imagine a man gripping his own arm hard enough to bruise
The relative weight of this discovery was, in Barrant's mind, weakened by
the fact that the marks might have been caused by the persons who had
carried the body from the next room. Nevertheless, the marks must be
regarded as infirmative testimony, however slight, of the fallibility of
the circumstantial deductions which had been made from the discovery of
the body in a locked room, with windows which could not be reached from
The presumption of suicide rested on the theory that the circumstances
excluded any other hypothesis. But Barrant reflected that he did not know
enough about the case to accept that assumption as warranted by the facts.
The one certainty was that the study could not have been reached from the
outside. Barrant had noted the back windows before entering the house; his
subsequent interior examination had strengthened his conviction that they
were inaccessible. Underneath the study windows there was only the
narrowest ledge of rock between that side of the house and the edge of the
cliffs. A descent from the windows with a rope was hazardously possible,
but ascent and entrance by that means was out of the question.
On the other hand, the theory of interior inaccessibility had a flaw in
it, due to the presence of five different people in the room before the
police arrived. Their actions and motives would have to be most carefully
weighed and sifted before the implication of the discovery of the
finger-marks could be determined.
The rather breathless entrance of Inspector Dawfield put an end to
Barrant's reflections. He explained that Sergeant Pengowan, in his anxiety
to maintain the correctness of his official report, had taken him to
various breakneck positions at the back of the house and along the cliffs
in order to demonstrate the impossibility of anybody entering Robert
Turold's rooms from outside. The sergeant was at that moment engaged in a
room downstairs drawing up his reasons for that belief. "A kind of
confirmatory report," Dawfield explained. "He fears that his reputation is
"He can save himself the trouble," said Barrant. "The solution of Robert
Turold's death lies in these two rooms, if anywhere."
Something in his companion's tone caused Inspector Dawfield to direct an
interrogative glance at him. "Have you discovered something?" he asked.
"Finger-marks on the left arm, a left-hand impression, I should say."
He drew back the loose sleeve of the dead man, and Dawfield examined the
marks attentively. "This is strange," he said. "It looks suspicious."
"Strange enough, and certainly suspicious. The point is, is it suspicious
enough to upset the theory of suicide? The marks are too faint to enable
us to determine whether they are of recent origin. But I think that we
must assume that they are. It has occurred to me that they may have been
caused when the body was picked up from the floor of the other room and
carried in here."
"In that case the marks would have been underneath the arm. In lifting a
heavy weight like a corpse it would be natural to place the hands under
the shoulders, for greater lifting power."
"There's something in that, but it's by no means certain. It would depend
on the position of the body. According to Pengowan's report, Robert Turold
was found lying face downward. The body would have to be turned over
before it was lifted, and the grip might have been made in pulling it
over. We must find that out."
"It's a point which can be settled at once by questioning Thalassa. He
helped Pengowan carry the body into this room."
"That is the very thing I do not wish to do," rejoined Barrant quickly.
"We have to remember that Thalassa is, for the time being, suspect. Mrs.
Pendleton's suspicions of him may be based on the slightest foundation,
but we are bound to keep them in mind."
"Do you not intend to question him at all?"
"Not at present. His attitude when he brought me upstairs was that of a
man on his guard, expecting to be questioned. I saw that at once, and
decided to say nothing to him. I will take him by surprise later on, when
he is off his guard, and if he is keeping anything back I may be able to
get it out of him. But we must not be too quick in drawing the conclusion
that those marks were made by him."
"What makes you say so?" asked Inspector Dawfield.
"Thalassa has a long bony hand, with fingers thickened by rough work. I
noticed it when he was pointing to these rooms from the passage. This grip
looks as if it might have been made by a smaller hand, with slim fingers.
Look how close together the marks are! Unfortunately, that's about all
we're likely to deduce from them, and I doubt if a finger-print expert
will be able to help us. Observe, there are no finger-prints--merely faint
marks of the middle of the fingers, and a kind of blur for the thumb. But
the thing is suspicious, undoubtedly suspicious."
"Still, the door was locked from inside," said Dawfield. "We mustn't lose
sight of that fact."
"And the key was found in the room. We must also remember that there were
several people in the room after the door was burst open, including the
dead man's brother. It seems that it was he who first propounded the
suicide theory to Dr. Ravenshaw, and subsequently to Pengowan. Do you know
anything about the brother?"
"I know nothing personally. Pengowan tells me that Robert Turold secured
lodgings for his brother and his son in an artist's house at the
churchtown about six weeks ago. They arrived next day, and are still
there. I understand that the brothers have been in pretty close intimacy,
meeting each other practically every day, either at the churchtown or in
"Do you know what took place at the family gathering which was held in
this house yesterday afternoon, after the funeral?"
"All I know is that Robert Turold informed his family that he was likely
to succeed in his claim for the title. Mrs. Pendleton was rather vague
about the details, but she did say that her brother had placed his
daughter in her charge, and had made a long statement to them about his
"She did not indicate what those plans were?"
"Only in the vaguest way. I remember her saying that her brother was a
wealthy man: the one wealthy member of the family, was the way she put it.
Her principal preoccupation was her suspicion of the man-servant, based on
seeing him listening at the door. She was very voluble and excited--so
much so that I did not attach much importance to what she said, and did
not ask her many questions."
"It is of the utmost importance that we should find out all we can about
this family council yesterday. It is possible that it may throw some light
on Robert Turold's death. I am not prepared at present to say whether it
is suicide or not, but apart from any suspicious circumstances, I feel
that there is some justification for Mrs. Pendleton's belief that a
wealthy and successful man like her brother was not likely to take his own
life, unless there was some hidden reason for him to do so. If we knew
more of what happened downstairs yesterday we might be in a better
position to judge of that. The case strikes me as a very peculiar
one--indeed, it has some remarkable features. My first task will be to
interview all the persons who were present at yesterday's gathering. Can
you tell me if the brothers were on good terms?"
"I believe so."
"Is Austin Turold a poor man?"
"I know nothing about him. But what has that got to do with it?"
"It may have much to do with it. He may have stood to inherit a fortune
"You surely do not suspect the brother?"
"I suspect no one, at present," returned Barrant. "I am merely glancing at
the scanty facts within our knowledge and seeing what can be gathered from
them. Robert Turold is found dead in his study, with his hands on an old
clock, where he kept important papers, including his will. We are indebted
to Austin Turold for that knowledge. But how did Austin Turold come to
know that his brother kept his will in the clock-case? Did Robert tell
him, or did he find it out? Was Austin aware of the contents of the will?
Why did Robert go to the clock? Was his idea to destroy the will? And was
that after or before he was shot, or shot himself?
"These are questions we cannot answer without further knowledge, but they
seem to point to the existence of some family secret of which we know
nothing. We must find out what it is. I shall first interview Austin
Turold, and then call on Dr. Ravenshaw, if time permits. You'd better drop
me at the churchtown on your way back to Penzance. There's really nothing
to detain you any longer."
They returned to the churchtown in the motor-car, and Pengowan from the
back seat directed the way to Austin Turold's lodgings.
"Oh yes, I'm modern enough," said Austin Turold, balancing his cigarette
in his white fingers, and glancing at Barrant with a reflective air--"that
is to say, I believe in America and the League of Nations, but not in God.
It's not the fashion to believe in God or have a conscience nowadays. They
both went out with the war. After all, what's a conscience to a liver? But
here I am, chattering on to distract my sad thoughts, although I can see
in your eye that you have it in you to ask me some questions. Well, go
ahead and ask them, and I will answer them--if I can."
"I do wish to ask you some questions," said Barrant--"questions connected
with your brother's death."
"I know very little about it. It was a most terrible shock to me, I assure
you, and is likely to detain me in this barbarous place longer than I
intended--greatly against my will."
"I understand you came to Cornwall at your brother's request?"
"Yes. My brother sent for me and my son more than a month ago, so we came
at once. I'll forestall the further inquiry I see on your lips, and tell
you why I came so promptly. My brother Robert was the wealthy member of
the family, and I was the poor one--a poor devil of an Anglo-Indian with
nothing on this side of the grave but a niggardly Civil Service pension!
"When we arrived I found that Robert had already taken these lodgings for
us, which was as near as he could get accommodation to his own house. I
did not object to that arrangement, because I do not like hotels
nowadays--not since the newly-rich started to patronize them. So here I've
been rusticating ever since, conferring daily with my poor brother, and
eating the four meals a day which are provided with the lodgings by the
estimable people of this house. My landlord is an artist. That is to say,
he's forever daubing pictures which nobody buys. I've come to the
conclusion that most people dislike Cornwall because of the number of bad
pictures which are painted here. You see some samples of my host's brush
on these walls. They are actually too bad to be admitted to the Academy.
My poor host and hostess, being unable to make ends meet, were obliged to
take in lodgers. The fact, however, is not unduly obtruded. We discuss Art
at night, and not the scandalously high price of food. I get on very well,
but then I can adapt myself to any society. I pride myself on being a
philosopher. But my son is not so facile. My worthy entertainers regard
him as a Philistine, and bestow very little of their attention upon him.
He spends his time in taking long walks through the wilds. He is out
walking at present. I am sorry he is not here."
The conversation was suspended by the entrance of an elderly maid servant
with a long and melancholy white face, thickly braided hair, strongly
marked black eyebrows, wearing a black dress with white apron, and a white
bow in her hair, who came to ask if Mr. Turold required any more tea. On
learning that he did not she withdrew as noiselessly as she had entered.
"I see you are looking at our parlour-maid," said Austin Turold, following
the direction of his visitor's glance.
"She's a strange sort of parlour-maid," admitted the detective. "She
reminds me of--of--"
"A study in black and white," suggested his host. "Her face is her
fortune. She's sitting to Brierly--that's my host--for his latest effort.
He's painting her as the Madonna or Britannia--I really forget which. A
new type, you know. The servants in this house are engaged for their
faces. They had a villainous scoundrel of a man-servant--a returned
soldier--engaged as Judas Iscariot, who bolted last week with the silver
spoons. But all this is beside the point, Mr. Barrant, and I must not
waste your time. You have come here for a specific purpose--to turn me
inside out. What can I tell you?"
"I want to know all that you can tell me about your brother's death," said
the other, with emphasis.
"But what can I tell you that you do not already know?" exclaimed Austin,
raising his eyebrows with a helpless look. "Ask me what questions you
like, and I'll endeavour to answer them. When the famous Detective
Barrant--for I understand from the newspapers that you are famous--takes
an interview in hand I expect him to handle the situation in a masterly
fashion, as befits his reputation. So ask your questions, my dear fellow,
and I'll do my utmost to respond." Austin Turold took off his glasses, and
posed himself in an attitude of expectation, with his eyes fixed upon the
Barrant eyed the elder man with a puzzled curiosity which was tolerably
masked by official impassivity. Barrant had his own methods of
investigation and inquiry. He brought an alert intelligence, a seeing eye,
and a false geniality to bear in his work. Unversed in elaborate
deduction, he flattered himself that he knew enough about human nature to
strike the balance of probabilities in almost any case. His cardinal
article of faith was that there was nothing like getting on good terms
with those he was interviewing in order to find out things. Most people
were on their guard against detectives, who too often took advantage of
their position to assume offensive airs of intimidation, whereas the great
thing was to disarm suspicion by a friendly manner. Barrant had cultivated
pleasantness with considerable success. Some who were not good judges of
physiognomy were apt to overlook the watchful eyes in his smiling affable
presence, and talk freely--sometimes too freely, as they later on
discovered to their cost. A chance word, a significant phrase, was
sufficient to set him burrowing underground with the activity of a mole,
to burst into the open later on with all his clues complete, to the
confusion of the trusting person with an unguarded tongue.
He had put these tactics into execution with Austin Turold. Austin, taking
tea when he called, in a bright blue room hung with pictures, had received
his visitor with a charming cordiality, insisted on his taking tea with
him, and then let loose a flood of small-talk, as though he were delighted
with his visitor. His welcome was so perfect, his manners so gracefully
unforced, that Barrant had an uneasy suspicion that he was being beaten at
his own game, and was slightly out of countenance in consequence. Up to
that moment he could not, for the life of him, decide whether Austin
Turold's polished self-assurance was a mask or not. It seemed too natural
to be assumed.
"Your own opinion is that your brother committed suicide?" he asked again.
"No other conclusion is possible, in my mind."
"But did he have any reason, that you know of, to commit suicide?"
Austin shrugged his shoulders. "Suicide is not usually associated with
reason," he observed. "But in Robert's case there is a reason, or so it
seems to me. I have not seen him for many years, but during my recent
close association with him I was struck by two things: the solitary
aloofness of his mind, and his overwhelming pride--pride in the family
name. These two traits in his character coloured all his actions. In the
first place, he disliked opening his mind to anybody, but the stronger
influence, his family pride, overcame his habitual secretiveness when he
thought it necessary and desirable to do so in furtherance of his darling
ambition--the restoration of this title. Men who lead a solitary,
self-contained life, like my brother, become introspective and
ultra-sensitive, and face any intimate personal revelation with the utmost
reluctance. They will nerve themselves to it when the occasion absolutely
requires, but the after effects--the mental self-probings, the agonized
self torture that a self-conscious proud man can inflict on himself when
he comes to analyze the effects of his disclosure on other minds, are
Austin put forward this analysis of his brother's state of mind with a
gravity which was in complete contrast with the light airiness of his
tea-table gossip, and Barrant felt that he was speaking with sincerity.
"Yes, I can understand that," he said with a thoughtful nod.
"I think that is what happened in my brother's case, when he felt called
upon to reveal, as he did yesterday, a shameful family secret which hurt
him in his strongest point--his family pride."
"Stop a minute," interrupted Barrant, in a surprised voice. "I really do
not follow you here. What is this shameful secret to which you refer?"
Austin Turold looked surprised in his turn. "It had to do with his
marriage and his daughter's legitimacy," he slowly replied. "Surely my
sister imparted this to the Penzance police inspector, when she besought
"I know nothing about it," replied Barrant quickly and emphatically. "I
shall be glad if you will tell me."
Austin Turold related the story of his brother's disclosure closure. Again
he spoke in careful grave words, and with a manner completely divested of
any trace of his habitual flippancy.
"It appears to me that this revelation must have had a very painful effect
on Robert's mind," he added. "You must remember that he was an abnormal
type. An ordinary man would not have made such a disclosure on the day of
the funeral of the woman who was supposed to be his wife. But all Robert's
acts hinged on his one great obsession. He allowed nothing to come between
him and his one ambition--not even his wife (let us call her so) and
child. But it would come home to him afterwards--I mean the normal point
of view--the way the world would regard such a disclosure--and I have no
doubt that his belated mental anguish and morbid thoughts impelled him to
take his life. Understand me, Mr. Barrant, I do not mean that he did this
through remorse, but through the blow to his pride. He couldn't face the
racket--the gossip, the notoriety and all the rest of it."
"But according to your story, your brother had nothing to blame himself
for," said Barrant. "You say that he was ignorant of this earlier marriage
"Public sentiment will not look at it that way. People will say he
sacrificed a dead woman and his daughter to his own selfish ends--threw
them over when he had attained his ambition. That's what came home to him,
in my opinion."
"I see." Barrant was silent for a while, turning this over in all its
bearings. "Yes. There may be something in that point of view. But did not
your brother confide this story to you before yesterday?"
"When we were alone together during the last few days he frequently seemed
on the point of telling me something. I could see that by his manner. But
he never got beyond a certain portentousness, as it were. It's my belief
now that he wanted to tell me, but couldn't quite bring himself to it. I
am very sorry that he didn't."
"Do you know how long your brother has been aware of this earlier
"Quite recently, I believe. He gave us to understand yesterday that it was
a death-bed confession."
"Are there any proofs of the earlier marriage?"
"I am afraid I cannot enlighten you on that point either."
"This is very strange," said Barrant. "The proofs are very important. This
disclosure vitally affected your brother's ambitions, and was therefore
likely to influence his views regarding the disposition of his property."
He shot a keen glance at his companion. Austin laid aside his glasses and
bent earnestly across the table.
"I will be frank with you," he said, "quite frank. My brother told me a
little more than a week ago that he had made a new will, and that I was
"Where is this will?"
"I found it in the clock-case at Flint House last night, and I have since
handed it to the lawyer who drafted it."
"Your brother gave you no indication of this before?"
"No. He told me when I came that he had summoned me to Cornwall because of
the great change in the family fortunes. As I was his only brother he
desired my presence in the investigation of the final proofs and the
preparation of his claim for the House of Lords. Nothing was said about
the succession then. Robert was very excited, and talked only of his own
future. I feel sure that he was not then thinking of who was to succeed to
the title after his death. He looked forward to enjoying it himself. I
certainly did not give it a thought, either. Who could have foreseen this
"Do you know anything about this peerage?"
"Not till latterly. I never took it seriously, like Robert. I looked upon
it as a family fiction. I understand that the Turrald barony was a barony
by writ--whatever that may be. The point is that if my brother had lived
to restore it, the title, on his death, would have descended to his only
daughter, if she had been born in wedlock. As she is illegitimate, the
title would have descended to me, and after me to my son."
"You were here last night when they brought you the news of your brother's
death, I understand?" remarked Barrant, in a casual sort of way.
"Yes; I did not go out again after I returned from the funeral."
"Was your son home with you?"
"Most of the time. He came in later than I, and then went out for a walk
when the storm cleared away. I did not see him again until this morning.
Thalassa came for me with the news of my brother's death, and I did not
get back from Flint House until very late."
"I suppose you are aware your sister does not share your view that your
brother committed suicide?"
"I understand she has some absurd suspicion about Thalassa, my brother's
"Why do you call her suspicion absurd?" asked Barrant cautiously.
"It is more than absurd," replied Austin warmly. "I am ashamed to think
that my sister should have given utterance to such a dreadful thought
against a faithful old servant who has been with Robert for half a
lifetime, and was devoted to him."
"Mrs. Pendleton saw him looking through the door."
"She only thought so. She went to the door immediately to find out who it
was, but there was nobody there."
"Do you think she imagined it?"
"No; I think somebody was there, but it is by no means certain that it was
Thalassa. It might have been Thalassa's wife. It might even have been
"Was not Miss Turold present at the family gathering?"
"No; my brother naturally did not wish her to be present, and she went
upstairs. She went out while we were in the room. The door was slightly
open, and she may have glanced in as she passed."
"But this person was listening."
Austin Turold shrugged his shoulders.
"Was your brother talking about his marriage at the time?"
"Could Miss Turold have heard what he was saying?"
"Anybody could. The door was partly open."
"There is some mystery here."
Barrant spoke with the thoughtful air of one viewing a new vista opening
in the distance. These surmises about the listener at the door, by their
manifest though perhaps unintended implication, pointed to a deeper and
more terrible mystery than he had imagined.
Austin Turold did not speak. Darkness had long since fallen, and a lamp,
which had been brought in by the maid who was also the model, stood on the
table between the two men, and threw its shaded beams on their faces. A
clock on the mantel-piece chimed eight, and aroused Barrant to the flight
"I must get back," he said. "I intended to see Dr. Ravenshaw, but I shall
leave that until later. Can I get a conveyance back to Penzance?"
"There is a public wagonette. I am not sure when, it goes, but it starts
from 'The Three Jolly Wreckers' at the other end of the churchtown."
"'The Three Jolly Wreckers!' That's rather a cynical name for a Cornish
inn, isn't it?"
"Oh, the Cornish people are not ashamed of the old wrecking days, I assure
He accompanied Barrant to the door with the lamp, which he held above his
head to light him down the garden path. Barrant, glancing back, saw him
looking after him, his face outlined in the darkness by the yellow rays of
Barrant found the inn at the dark end of a stone alley, with the sound of
tipsy singing and shuffling feet coming through the half-open door. He
made his way up three granite steps into a side-entrance, catching a
glimpse through a glass partition of shaggy red faces and pint pots
floating in a fog of tobacco smoke. A stout landlord leaned behind the bar
watching his customers with the tolerant smile of a man who was making a
living out of their merriment. He straightened himself as he caught sight
of Barrant, and opened the sliding window. The detective inquired about
the wagonette, and learnt that it had not yet arrived.
"The roouds is rough, and old Garge Crows takes his time," said the
landlord, eyeing Barrant with a heavy stare. "'Tain't as thow 'e had a
passel of passergers to be teeren rownd after."
"Can you give me some supper while I'm waiting?"
"Sooper?" The innkeeper scratched his chin doubtfully. "'Tis late in the
ebenin' to be getting sooper. There's nawthing greut in the howse. You
could 'ave some tay--p'raps an egg."
"That will do."
The innkeeper roared forth a summons, which was answered by a rugged
Cornish lass from the kitchen. She cast a doubtful glance on the young man
when she learnt what was required, and took him into a small sitting-room,
where she left him to gaze at his leisure upon a framed portrait of Cecil
Rhodes, a stuffed gannet in a large glass case, and a stuffed badger in a
companion case on the other side of the wall. In about twenty minutes she
returned with a tray, and placed before the detective a couple of eggs,
some bread and butter, saffron cake, and a pot of tea. The eggs were of
peculiar mottled exterior, and when tasted had such a strong fish-like
flavour as to suggest that they might have been laid by the gannet in its
lifetime, and stowed away by a careful Cornish housewife until some
stranger chanced to visit that remote spot. Barrant was hungry enough to
gulp them down, though with a wry face. He had just finished a second cup
of very strong tea when he heard the clatter of a vehicle outside, and the
girl thrust a tousled dark head through the door to announce the arrival
of Mr. Crows and his wagonette.
Barrant paid for his food and went out. An ancient hooded vehicle filled
the narrow way, drawn by a large shaggy horse which turned a gleaming eye
on the detective as he emerged, and snorted loudly, as though resenting
the prospect of having to drag his additional weight back to the town. The
driver sat motionless on the box, watching the caperings of the tipsy
tin-miners through the half-open door: a melancholy death'shead of a man,
with a preternaturally long white face, and a figure shrouded in a dark
cloak, looking as though he might be Death itself, waiting for the
carousers to drop dead of apoplexy before carrying them off in his
funereal equipage. In reply to Barrant's question he informed him that the
vehicle was destined for Penzance, and immediately the detective entered
the dark interior he drove off with disconcerting suddenness, as though he
had been waiting for him only, and was determined to make sure of him
before he had time to escape.
The shaggy horse lumbered forward at an unwilling trot, like an animal
disillusioned with life. Soon they cleared the churchtown and entered the
darkness of the moors. A long and tiring day disposed Barrant to slumber.
He had begun to nod sleepily when the wagonette stopped with a jerk which
shook him into wakefulness. He was able to make out that they had reached
the highest elevation of the moors--the cross-roads from where Inspector
Dawfield had shown him Flint House in the distance that afternoon. He
could just discern the outlines of the wayside cross and the old Druidical
monolith, both pointing to the silent heavens in unwonted religious amity.
"Good ebenen', Garge." A lusty voice hailed out of the darkness, and then
Barrant was aware of somebody entering the wagonette, a large male body
which plumped heavily on his knees as it started again.
"Bed pardin, I'm sure. Aw dedn't knaw Crows had another passenger
to-night." A husky voice spoke unseen. "'Taint often it 'appens." There
was the splutter of a match, and as it flared up Barrant saw a pair of
twinkling grey eyes regarding him from a brown and rugged face. "Old Garge
never reckons on haavin' passengers back by th' laast wagonette, so 'e
never lights up inside. I'll make a light now, then we'll be more
comfortable." He struck another match and lit the candle in the wagonette
lamp, and was revealed to Barrant's eyes as a stout and pleasant-faced man
of fifty or so, with something seamanlike, or at least boatmanlike, in his
appearance. He gave the detective a smile and a nod, and added, "Old Crows
is fullish mean about candles."
"It's a wonder he drives the wagonette at all, if there is no demand for
it," remarked Barrant.
"Aw, there's a'plenty demand for it--always lots of passergers except by
this one," rejoined the man in the blue suit. "You'd be surprised how
people gets about in these paarts." He was studying the detective's face
with interest. "You be a Londoner," he said quickly. "What braught you
"How do you know that I'm a Londoner?" said Barrant, parrying the latter
part of the question.
"I can tell a Londoner at once," returned the other.
"'Twould be straange if I couldn't. I'm Peter Portgartha. P'raps you
haven't heard of me, but I'm well known hereabouts, and if you want to see
any of the sights, you'd best coome to me, and I'll show you round."
"A guide, eh?"
"There be guides and guides. I'll say nathin' about th' others, but
there's nobody knaws this part of Cornwall like me. I was born and bred
and knaw every inch of it. Before the waar I've had London ladies say to
me: ''Ave you ever seen the Bay of Naples, or the Canaries? Oh, you should
see them, Mr. Portgartha, they're ever so much more grand than Cornwall.'
Well, while the war was on I did see the Canaries and Bay of Naples at
Government's expense on a minesweeper, and they're not a patch on the
Cornwall coast. There's nathin' to beat it in the world."
"It's good, is it?" said Barrant, with his accustomed affability to
strangers. "If I want to see any of it I'll get you to show me round."
"Just came along to th' Mousehole and ask for Peter Portgartha. There's a
great cave at the Mouse's Hole--that's what we call it hereabouts, that
ain't to be beaten in the whole world. If your good lady's here, bring her
with you to see it. There ain't nobody else can show it to her like I can.
The London ladies don't like goin' down the Mousehole cave as a rule,
because it's a stiffish bit of a climb, and in the holiday season there's
always a lot of raffish young fellows hangin' round to see the ladies go
down--to see what they can see, you knaw. But I never 'ave no accidents
like that. No bold-eyed young chap ever saw the leg of any lady in my
charge--not so much as the top of a boot, because I knaw how to taake them
down. I'm well known to some of the 'ighest ladies in the land because I
'ev been aable to take care of their legs when they were goin' down. I've
had letters from them thaankin' me. You've no idea how grateful they be."
This startling instance of the stern morality of aristocratic womanhood
was unfortunately wasted on Barrant, whose thoughts had reverted to the
principal preoccupation of his mind. Mr. Portgartha rambled on.
"Aw, but it's strange to be meetin' you like this, in old Garge's
wagonette. For twelve months I've been goin' acrass the moors to see a
sister of mine, who's lonely, poor saul, havin' lost her man in the
war--drawned in a drifter 'e was--and catchin' this wagonette back every
night, with never a saul to speak to, until last night. Last night there
was a passerger, and to-night there's you. Tes strange, come to think of
it." He looked hard at Barrant as if for some confirmatory expression of
surprise at this remarkable accession to the wagonette's fares. He waited
so long that Barrant felt called upon to say something.
"Who was your fellow passenger last night?"
"Now you're asking me a question which takes a bit of answerin'," replied
Mr. Portgartha. "'Twas like this. I was waitin' at the crass-roads for old
Garge to come along, when a young womon came up out of th' darkness and
stood not far from me--just by the ol' crass. I tried to maake out who she
was, but it was too daark. So I just says to her, 'Good ebenin', miss, are
you waitin' for the wagonette too?' She never answered a word, and before
I could think of anything else to say old Garge came along, and we both
got in She sat in a corner, silent as a ghooste. Well, then, I went to
light th' lamp, same as I have to-night, but as luck would 'ave it, I
hadn't a match. I knaw it was no use askin' old Garge, 'cos he'd pretend
not to hear, so I turned to the young womon sittin' opposite, and asked
her if she had a match in her pocket. And do you knaw, I declare to
gudeness she never said nawthen, not so much as a word!"
"Perhaps she was dumb?" Barrant suggested.
"Aw, iss, doomb enough then," retorted Mr. Portgartha. "I tried her two or
three times more, but couldn't get a word out of her. Well, at last I
began to get narvous, thinkin' she might be a sperit. So I leant across to
her an' says, 'Caan't you say a word, miss? It's only Peter Portgartha
speaking, he's well known for his respect for your sect. No young womon
need be frightened of speakin' to Peter Portgartha.' And with that she
spaaks at last, with a quick little gasp like a sob--I'm thinking I can
hear it at this minute--'Aw,' she says, 'why caan't you leave me alone?'
'Never be afraaid,' I says, for I have my pride like other folk, 'I'll say
no more. Peter Portgartha has no need to foorce his conversation where it
"A strange girl!" said Barrant, beginning to feel an interest in the
story. "Have you no idea who she was?"
"Wait a bit," continued Mr. Portgartha, evidently objecting to any
intrusion on his right, as narrator, to a delayed climax. "Well, there we
sat, like two ghoostes, till we got to Penzance, but all the time I was
thinkin' to mysel' that I'd find out who she was. I sed to myself I'd ride
on to the station, instid of gettin' out a piece this side of it so as to
make a short cut across to the Mouse's Hole, as I usually do. But that
stupid old fule Garge pulled up as usual and bawls through the window,
'Are you going to keep me here all night, Peter?' Before I could say a
word the young womon says: 'I'll get out here.' With that she puts the
fare into his hand through the open window, and slips out afore I knew
what she was going to do. If it hadn't been for my rhoomatics, which I got
in the war, I'd 'a followed her. As it was, I couldn't."
"So you didn't see her face, after all?" asked Barrant quickly.
"I didn't, in a manner of speakin'. But I did get a glimpse of her as she
passed near the lamp-post--just a half-sight of two big dark eyes in a
white face as she went past. I wouldn't 'a thought no more of it," added
Mr. Portgartha, laying an impressive hand on his companion's knee, "but
for what happened at Flint House last night."
"What's that got to do with it?" In his quickened interest Barrant vainly
strove to make his voice appear calm.
"Because the young womon must have coome from Flint House."
Barrant scrutinized his companion sharply in the dim light. "Why do you
think so?" he asked.
"For'n thing, the wayside crass where she picked up the wagonette is not
far from Flint House by acrass the moors--closer'n goin' from the house on
the cliffs t' the churchtown, which is a good slant to the north of it.
From Flint House to the crass-roads it's straight as a dart, if you know
yer way, with only one house twixt it till you come arver to it--old
Farmer Bardsley, who ain't got no wemmenfolk, so it's sartin she didn't
come from theer. She wasn't a maa'iden from any of the farms of the moors,
for I know them all. But it weren't till this marning that I got a kind of
notion who she was. I dropped into the _Tolpen Arms_ to have a drop
of something for a cawld I've got, and some of the fishermen were talkin'
about th' old gentleman of Flint House blowing his head off last night
with a gun. It made me feel queery-like when I heerd aboot it. 'Why,' I
says, 'that'll be about the time I saw the strange young womon in ol'
Crows' wagonette. She must 'ave come from Flint House, now I coome to
think of it.' 'What young woman was that?' asked 'Enery Waitts. So I told
them what had happened to me, just like I've told it to you. Mrs. Keegan,
the land-lady, who was list'ning, says, 'I shouldn't be surprised if it
was Mr. Turold's daughter that you saw. I heard yesterday that his sister
was staying at Penzance, so p'raps she was going to her, after it
happened. So if it was her it's not surprisin' she didn't want to speak to
you in her grief.'"
"Did you ever see Miss Turold?"
"I've never see any one of the Flint House folk, though I've heerd of
them, often enough."
"Did you notice in which direction this girl went?"
"No. She passed the lamp-post as if she were maakin' up Market Jew Street,
but I suppose she ced 'ave turned off anywhere to the right or left."
"What time was it when the wagonette reached the cross-roads on the moor,
where she got in?"
"About the same time as to-night, getting on for ten, mebbe."
"She was quite alone?"
"As lonely as any she ghooste, standin' theer by the old crass. 'Twaas
because I thought she'd feel feersome that I spoke to her."
Barrant relapsed into a thoughtful silence which lasted until the
wagonette pulled up and his fellow-traveller prepared to alight. Then he
turned to him and said--
"Good-night. I may see you again."
He fumbled at the interior window as he spoke, opened it, and touched the
driver on the shoulder. "Drive me to the Central Hotel," he said. "Go as
fast as you can, and I'll give you ten shillings!"
Mr. Crows nodded a cold acquiescence, and they rattled off down the silent
street, leaving on Barrant's mind a receding impression of a startled red
face staring after them from the footpath. The wagonette jolted round a
corner, and ten minutes later stopped at the entrance of the hotel where
Mrs. Pendleton was staying.
When Barrant learnt from the trembling lips of Mrs. Pendleton that she had
not seen her niece since that morning, his first step was to get Sisily's
full description, and call up Dawfield on the hotel telephone with
instructions to have all the railway stations between Penzance and London
warned to look out for her. That was a necessary precaution, but it did
not need Dawfield's hesitating information about time tables to convince
him that it was almost futile. The later of the two trains by which Sisily
might have fled from Cornwall had reached London and discharged its
passengers somewhere about the time that Mr. Peter Portgartha, in the
depth of the rumbling wagonette, was paying his tribute to shrinking
female modesty as exhibited on Mousehole rocks.
After doing this Barrant returned to the empty lounge, where Mrs.
Pendleton sat in partial darkness with tearful face. All the other guests
had retired, and a lurking porter yawned longingly in the passage, waiting
for an opportunity to put out the last of the lights and get to bed.
In the first shock of Barrant's violent apparition and angry questions,
Mrs. Pendleton had tried, in a bewildered way, to insist that her niece
had not left her room on the previous night. But now, in her troubled
consideration of the new strange turn of events surrounding her brother's
death, she saw that she might have been deceived on this point. Barrant,
for his part, had not the slightest doubt of it when he heard that her
belief rested on no stronger foundation than Sisily's early withdrawal
from the dining-room on the plea of fatigue, and the fact that her bedroom
door was locked when Mrs. Pendleton returned from her own visit to Flint
House. Sisily's subsequent flight eliminated any uncertainty about that,
and established beyond reasonable doubt her identity with the silent girl
who had entered the returning wagonette at the cross-roads. The
coincidence of those two facts had a terrible significance. Barrant had no
doubt that Sisily had gone to her own room early in order to find an
opportunity to pay a secret visit to her home, for a purpose which now
seemed to stand sinisterly revealed by her disappearance. He also thought
he saw the motive--that vital factor in murder--looming behind her
nocturnal expedition. But that was a question he was not inclined to
analyze too closely at that moment. He wanted to know how she had been
able to disappear that day without the knowledge of her aunt.
Mrs. Pendleton had a ready explanation of that. She said that after
returning from her visit to the police station that morning she had been
engaged with her brother Austin until nearly lunch-time, and when she went
up to Sisily's room she found it empty. She concluded that her niece had
gone out somewhere to be alone with her grief--she was the type of girl
that liked to be alone. After lunch Mrs. Pendleton had letters to write,
and then she had gone to her bedroom and fallen sound asleep till
dinner-time, worn out by the shock of her brother's death, and the
sleepless night which had followed it. When Sisily did not appear at
dinner she began to grow uneasy, but sought to convince herself that
Sisily might have gone on a _char-a-banc_ trip to Falmouth which had
been advertised for that day. The incongruity of a sad solitary girl like
Sisily nursing her grief in a public vehicle packed with curious
chattering trippers did not seem to have occurred to her. But as time
passed she grew seriously alarmed, and sent her husband out to make
She had sat in the lounge listening with strained ears for the girl's
footsteps until Barrant arrived.
"Has your niece any friends in Cornwall or London, or anywhere, for that
matter, who would receive her?" Barrant abruptly demanded.
"I really do not know," said Mrs. Pendleton.
She wiped the tears from her eyes with a large white handkerchief. She was
overwhelmed by the shock of her niece's disappearance, and the terrible
interpretation Barrant evidently placed upon it. But Barrant was in no
mood to allow for her confused state of mind.
"You had better try and remember," he said irritably. "It seems to me that
I've been kept in the dark. You went to the police to demand an
investigation into your brother's death, but you did not say anything of
the disclosure he made to you yesterday of his daughter's illegitimacy.
Instead of doing so, you only directed suspicion to his man-servant.
Meanwhile your niece, who was placed in your care, disappears to heaven
knows where, and you took no steps to inform the police. You have acted
very indiscreetly, Mrs. Pendleton, to say the least."
"I did not know--I did not think," gasped Mrs. Pendleton. She endeavoured
to commence a flurried explanation of the mixed motives and impulses which
had swayed her since her brother's death, but Barrant cut it short with an
impatient wave of the hand.
"Never mind that now," he said. "I have lost too much time already. Have
you no idea where your niece is likely to have sought refuge?"
Mrs. Pendleton shook her head. "Robert had no friends," she said, "and
Sisily led a very lonely life. Robert told me that yesterday. That was the
reason he wanted me to take charge of her--so as to give her the
opportunity of making some girl friends of her own age."
She paused, embarrassed by the recollection that her brother's real
intention in placing Sisily in her charge was altogether different.
Barrant noted her hesitation, and interpreted it aright.
"No," he said. "The real reason of your brother parting with his daughter
provides the motive for her return to his house last night. What happened
between them is a matter for conjecture, at present. Apparently she was
the last person who saw him alive before he was shot, and now she is not
to be found."
There was something so portentously solemn in his manner of speaking these
last words that his listener quaked in terror, and gazed at him with
widened eyes. Barrant turned abruptly to another phase.
"Are you quite sure that it was the man-servant you saw looking through
the door yesterday afternoon?"
It was proof of the fallibility of human testimony that Mrs. Pendleton had
sincerely convinced herself that she was quite sure. "Yes," she said.
Barrant looked doubtful. By reason of his calling he was well aware of the
human tendency to unintentional mistake in identity. With women
especially, the jump from an impression to a conclusion was sometimes as
rapid as the thought itself.
"Did you see his face?" he asked.
"Only the eyes. But I am sure that they were Thalassa's eyes."
Barrant did not press the point. He did not doubt the honesty of her
belief, but the words in which it was conveyed suggested hasty impression
rather than conviction. Such proofs! of identity were not to be relied
"Had your brother's servant any reason, so far as you know, to be
listening at the door?" he asked.
"All servants are curious," murmured Mrs. Pendleton. She shook her head
wisely, as one intimating a wide knowledge of their class.
"All curious servants are not murderers," returned Barrant. "This man has
been in your brother's service for a long time, has he not?"
"For a great number of years. Almost ever since Robert returned to
England, I think."
"So Mr. Austin Turold informed me. Had he any grudge against his master?"
"Thalassa? I really couldn't tell you, because I do not know. But he has a
most truculent and overbearing manner--not at all the kind of manner you
expect in a servant, and he seemed to do just what he liked. I disliked
him as soon as I saw him. I'm sure he looks more like some dreadful old
sea pirate than a gentleman's servant. I would not have him in my
household." Mrs. Pendleton set her lips firmly. "No, not for a single
moment. But I suppose poor Robert was attached to him from long
Barrant nodded in an understanding way. "Then this man Thalassa must have
known your niece from childhood," he said in a casual tone. "Was he
attached to her, do you think?"
"I know nothing of that."
"That's rather a pity," he said with a gentle shake of the head. He looked
at her knowingly.
"I do not understand you," she faltered.
"You had grounds for your suspicions of Thalassa--reasonable grounds. He
must have admitted your niece into the house last night, you know. I must
get it out of him."
She gave a start, for she saw now where his drift of questions was taking
them. With a sickening sense of horror she realized that her slight
suspicions were being used by him to help fashion a case against her own
flesh and blood.
"What are you suggesting?" she breathed, with a nervous look.
"Nothing at present," he said, with a quick realization of the fact that
he was in danger of talking too much. "Can you tell me if your niece is
provided with money?"
"My brother gave her twenty-five pounds in bank notes yesterday--he told