Part 3 out of 6
"That is enough to keep her for some weeks. You are quite sure you cannot
form any idea where she has gone?"
"No," said Mrs. Pendleton coldly, with a belated inward resolve not to be
so ready in volunteering information to the police in future.
"I should like to see the room your niece occupied last night," he said.
That was a search which brought nothing to lights Barrant left the hotel
just as little Mr. Pendleton returned to it with an alarmed face and a
feeling of personal guilt at his failure to find Sisily.
Barrant passed him with a side glance, his mind full of the problem of the
girl's disappearance. He left the hotel in a state of thoughtfulness,
fully realizing the difficulties of the task which lay before him in
tracing Sisily's movements on the previous night, and discovering where
she had flown. The deeper questions of motive and the inconsequence of
some of her actions he preferred to leave till later. Action, and not
mental analysis, was the need of the moment. Barrant prided himself on
being a man of action, and he was also a detective. The thrill of pursuit
stirred in his blood.
His later activities that night and the following day brought to light
many things, but not all that he wanted to know. He convinced himself, in
the first place, that it was possible for the girl to have left her room
and! returned to it on the night of her father's death without any of the
inmates of the hotel being aware of her absence. That lessened the
complexity of the case by absolving Mrs. Pendleton from the suspicion of
pretended ignorance. Barrant was also convinced the aunt believed her
niece to be in bed and asleep during the time of her own visit to her
brother's house. Sisily had to pass the office of the hotel in going out
and returning, but she could easily have done so unobserved. There were
few guests at that season of the year, and the proprietor's daughter, who
looked after the office, was in the dining-room having her dinner at
half-past seven. She went to bed shortly after ten, leaving the front
entrance in charge of the porter, who had duties to perform in various
parts of the house. And it was possible to descend the stairs and leave
the hotel without being seen from the lounge or smoking-room.
There was a wagonette to St. Fair from the railway station at
half-past-seven. The hotel dinner was at a quarter to seven for the
convenience of some permanent guests, and Sisily, who left the table
before the meal was concluded--about a quarter-past seven, according to
Mrs. Pendleton--had time to catch the wagonette. On the assumption that
even a Cornish wagonette would cover the journey of five miles across the
moors in less than an hour, Sisily had probably reached her father's house
at half-past eight or a little earlier. The stopped clock in the study
indicated that he met his death at half-past nine. If so, Sisily must have
left Flint House shortly before her aunt's arrival to catch the returning
wagonette at the cross-roads where the young woman was seen waiting by
But that plausibly conceived itinerary of events needed the support of
proof, and there Barrant found himself in difficulty.
The morning's enquiries made it manifest that Sisily had left Penzance by
the mid-day train on the previous day. After leaving Mrs. Pendleton,
Barrant had gone to the station. The sour and elderly ticket-clerk on duty
could give him no information, but let it be understood that there was
another clerk selling tickets for the mid-day train, which was unusually
crowded by farmers going to Redruth. The other clerk, seen in the morning,
had no difficulty in recalling the young lady of Barrant's description.
She was pretty and slight and dark, with a pale clear complexion, and she
carried a small handbag. She asked for a ticket to London. The clerk
understood her to ask for a return ticket, but as she picked it up with
the change for the five pound note with which she paid for it, she said
that she thought she had asked for a single ticket. He assured her that
she had not, but offered to change it. At that moment the departure of the
train was signalled, and she ran through the barrier without waiting to
change the ticket. The incident caused him to observe her, and his
description tallied so completely with Mrs. Pendleton's description that
Barrant had not the least doubt that it was Sisily.
On the strength of this information Barrant applied to a local magistrate
for a warrant for the girl's arrest. He was well aware that he had not yet
gathered sufficient evidence to satisfy the law that she had murdered her
father, but his action was justified by her flight and the presumption of
her secret visit to her father's house when she was supposed to be in bed
and asleep at the hotel.
These things fulfilled, Barrant then applied his mind to the question of
Thalassa's complicity. If Sisily's actions on the night of her father's
death, and her subsequent flight, simplified matters to the extent of
deepening the assumption of murder into a practical certainty, they added
to the complexity of the case by giving it the appearance of a carefully
planned crime in which Thalassa seemed to be deeply involved.
The insistent necessity of motive which should explain the events of that
night with apt presumptions, threw Barrant back on the suggestion, made by
Austin Turold, that it was really Sisily whom Mrs. Pendleton had detected
looking through the door of the downstairs room when the other members of
the family were assembled within listening to Robert Turold. Barrant told
himself that Mrs. Pendleton's suspicion of Thalassa rested on nothing more
substantial than feminine prejudice, an unreasoning impulse of dislike
which would leave few men alive if it always carried capital punishment in
The substitution of Sisily for Thalassa provided a convincing motive for
murder. The overheard revelation of her mother's shame and her own
precarious condition in the world when she might reasonably have been
counting on becoming an heiress of note, were sufficient to account for
the nocturnal return and an effort to entreat justice or compel
silence--the alternatives depended on the type of girl. From what Mrs.
Pendleton had told him of Sisily and her love for her mother--poor Mrs.
Pendleton had insisted, all unwittingly, very strongly on that--Barrant
had pictured her as a brooding yet passionate type of girl who might have
committed the murder in a sudden frenzy of determination to prevent her
father making public the unhappy secret of her mother's life. That was an
act by no means inconsistent with the temperament of a strongwilled and
lonely girl, whose stormy passions had been wrought to the breaking-point
by disclosures made on the very day that her loved mother had been buried
in a nameless grave. There was, additionally, the motive of self-interest,
awakened to the lamentable fact that she had no claim on her father beyond
what generosity might dictate. In short, Barrant believed the motive for
the murder to be a mixed one, as human motives generally are. At that
stage of his reasoning he did not ask himself whether worldly greed was
likely to enter into the composition of a girl like Sisily.
This reconstruction of the crime pointed to an accomplice, and that
accomplice must have been the man-servant. Nobody but Thalassa could have
let the girl into the house; and he could have dropped the key in the room
after the door was broken open. That theory not only presupposed strong
devotion on Thalassa's part for a girl he had known from childhood, which
was a theory reasonable of belief, but it also suggested that he bore a
deep grudge against his master on his own account, sufficient to cause him
to refrain from doing anything to prevent the accomplishment of the
murder, and to risk his own skin afterwards to shield the girl from the
consequences. This aspect of the case struck Barrant as very strange and
deep, because it failed to account for Sisily's subsequent flight. If
Thalassa had jeopardized himself by keeping silence about her visit, and
had returned the key to her father's room in order to create the idea of
suicide, why had she dispelled the illusion by running away, bringing both
her accomplice and herself into danger? Had she been, seized with terror,
perhaps due to Mrs. Pendleton's insistence on her belief of murder, or had
Thalassa conveyed some warning to her that inquiries were likely to be put
These were questions to which Barrant felt he could find no answer until
he had seen Thalassa and attempted to wrest the truth from him.
He postponed his visit to Hint House until the evening. He wanted to make
the journey as Sisily had made it on the previous night, in order to find
out, as nearly as possible, the exact moment she had arrived at her
father's house. He was not even in a position to prove that she had gone
by the wagonette until he had questioned the driver.
He took his way to the station that evening with the feeling that it would
be difficult to get anything out of Thalassa, whatever the reasons for his
silence. He instinctively recognized that the authority of the law, which
strikes such terror into craven hearts, would not help him with this old
man whose glance had the lawless fearlessness of an eagle. But he had
confidence in his ability to extract the truth, and Thalassa, moreover,
was at the disadvantage of having something to hide. It would be strange
if he did not succeed in getting the facts out of him.
The St. Fair wagonette was pulled up outside the station. Mr. Crows,
master of his destiny and time-tables, reclined in front, regarding with a
glazed eye his drooping horse. Inside, some stout women with bundles
waited patiently until it suited the autocrat on the box seat to start on
his homeward way. Mr. Crows showed no indication of being in a hurry. His
head nodded drowsily, and a little saliva trickled down his nether lip. He
straightened himself with a sudden jerk as Barrant climbed up beside him.
"What be yewer doin' yare?" he demanded.
"I'm going to St. Fair," said Barrant.
"I doan't allow no passergers to sit alongside o' me."
"You'll have to put up with it for once," returned Barrant curtly, in no
way softened by the odour of Mr. Crows' breath.
As this was a reply which no resident of St. Fair would have dared to
make, Mr. Crows bent a muddled glance on his fare, and by a concentrated
effort recalled the face of the man who had given him ten shillings on the
previous night. He decided to pocket the present indignity in the hope of
"Aw right," he said, with unwonted amiability, "yewer can stay where yew
He applied himself to driving the wagonette. Sobriety was not an essential
of the feat. The horse knew the way, drew clear of the town without
accident, and jogged into the long winding road which stretched across the
moors. The shadows deepened into night, and Mr. Crows lighted a solitary
lamp in the front of his vehicle.
"Aren't you going to light up inside?" asked Barrant, when the lamp was
"No," replied Mr. Crows shortly. "It don't pay. Let 'em set in the dark."
"Not enough passengers, eh?"
"Moren enough fat old wommen on the out journey," declared Mr. Crows
passionately. "That's because it's all up-hill. But they walk in downhill
to save a shellen. _I_ know them." He brooded darkly. "It's all part
of the plan," he went on. Then, as though feeling that this latter
statement, in itself, erred on the side of vagueness, he added--"to worrit
"How many passengers did you have on your last journey in, last night?"
"Two on 'em." Mr. Crows, with forefinger and thumb, snuffed his nose as he
had previously snuffed the candle in the lamp. "There was Peter Portgartha
and a young woman. I happen to know it was a young 'un because she went
away at such a rate when she got out. When wommen begins to get up in
years they go in the legs, same as harses."
"Would you know her again if you saw her?" asked Barrant eagerly.
"Not if you was to sware me on the Howly Trinity."
"Did this young woman travel up with you by this wagonette last night?"
Mr. Crows couldn't say for that. There were six insides, that was all
_he_ knew. He disremembered anything about them.
"Surely you notice the passengers you carry?"
Mr. Crows, with the air of one propounding an insoluble riddle, asked his
fare why should he take notice of his passengers? He weren't paid for
that--no, not he. What's more, the night was a dark one. He knew there was
six insides because six fares was put through the winder, but whether they
was put through by men or ma'adens or widder wommen was moren he cud say.
He again called on the Trinity to attest his ignorance.
"Their shellens is nuthin' to me"--the reference was to the passengers.
"They wouldn't pay for the harse's feed. I work for the Duchy, I do, which
is almost the same as being in Guvverment, ain't it? I remember yew,
thow--because yew gave me ten shellens for driving yew to the Central
hotel last night." Mr. Crows cast a quick glance at his fare to see how he
took this artful reminder of his munificence. "But as for their bobs--" He
spat into the night in order to express his contempt for the
insignificance of such small sums.
There was a tap at the window behind him. He unfastened the pane, and a
spectral hand came through with a coin. Mr. Crows took it, the hand
disappeared, to be replaced by another, more dirty than spectral, with a
coin in the outstretched palm, like its predecessor.
"You see," said Mr. Crows, when he had collected six shillings in this
manner. "What's the need for to look at them? I've learnt them to hand in
their fares this way. Saves time and talk for nothing. Why should I look
at a lot of fat old wommen? I ain't paid for that. It's quite enough to
let them set in my cab, wearing out my cushions with their great fat
bodies, without looking at them." He eyed Barrant with some sternness.
"But this was not a fat old woman," said Barrant. "She was a pretty young
"Ma'ad or widder, it's all the same to me," returned the misogynist. "Some
holds with the sex and finds them soothing, but I was never took up with
them myself. I prefers beer. Every man to his taste."
"Did any of the passengers alight at the crossroads?"
They were nearing the cross-roads as he spoke, and the rude outline of the
wayside cross loomed out of the shadows directly ahead.
"I couldn't tell you that, neither. I always stop at the cross-roads, in
and out. It's one of my regular stopping-places. Come to think of it,
though, somebody did get out at the cross-roads last night."
"A man or woman?" asked Barrant with eagerness.
"A woman. She went off acrass the moors that way." Mr. Crows pointed an
indifferent whip into the blackness which rested like a pall between the
white road and the distant roaring sea. "She was a wunner to go, too--out
of sight in a moment, she was."
"Thank you. I'll get down here, too."
As the wagonette stopped at the cross-roads Barrant jumped down from his
seat and disappeared in the indicated direction before Mr. Crows could
summon his slow wits to determine the value of the coin which the
detective had pressed into his passively expectant palm.
The twilight had deepened into darkness when Barrant reached Flint House.
A faint ray of light flickered from the kitchen window on the giant
cliffs, like a taper from a doll's house. He approached the window by a
line of rocks which guarded it like sentinels, and looked in.
Within, Mrs. Thalassa sat alone by the table in a drooping attitude of
dejection or stupor. Her head was bent over her crossed hands, which
rested on the table, and her grey hair, escaping from the back comb which
fastened it, fell on both sides of her face. An oil lamp smoked on the
table beside her, sending forth a cloud of black vapour like an unbottled
genie, but she did not heed it. There was something uncanny in her
complete detachment from the restless activity of life. The dead man lying
upstairs was not more still.
Had Barrant known her better he would have had matter for surprise and
conjecture in the fact that her patience cards stood untouched in their
shabby leather case, but knowing nothing of that he fell to wondering what
her husband had seen in such a queer little creature to marry her. The
consideration of that question led him to the conclusion that perhaps
Thalassa had been impelled to his choice by the realization that she was
as good-looking a wife as he could afford. Barrant reflected that women
resembled horses in value. The mettlesome showy ones were bred to display
their paces for rich men only. Serviceable hacks, warranted to work a
lifetime, could not be expected to be ornamental as well as useful. So
long as they pulled their burdens without jibbing overmuch, one had to be
He began to wonder where Thalassa was, and moved closer to the shadow of
one of the rocks in case he happened to be prowling around the house. In
the silence of the night he listened for the sound of footsteps on the
rocks, but could hear nothing except the moan of the sea and the whimper
of a rising wind. His eye, glancing upwards, fell upon a chink of
shuttered light in the back of the house which looked down on the sea. The
light came from the dead man's study, and had not been there a few moments
Barrant walked to the kitchen door and tapped lightly. There was no
answer, but somewhere within the house a dog howled dismally. The door
handle yielded to his touch when he tried it, and he walked in.
The little old woman at the table made a sudden movement at his
appearance, but he gave her a reassuring smile and nod. She sat quite
still, with a look of fear in her eyes. Above his head he heard someone
moving in the study.
"Your husband is upstairs?" he asked in a voice which was little more than
a whisper. "I want to see him--I am going up to him."
He did not wait for her to reply, and she watched him out of the room with
staring eyes. Stealthily he directed his steps to the staircase, and with
infinite precautions for silence commenced to ascend. But midway he
stumbled in the dark, and the stair creaked loudly. Above his head a door
opened sharply, and when he reached the landing he saw the figure of
Thalassa framed in the lighted doorway at the far end of the long passage,
"Who's there?" he cried; then his eye fell on Barrant, advancing swiftly
from the darkness towards the light. "What do you want?" he said. "How did
you get in?"
Barrant looked past him into the room. There was a litter of papers on the
table and shelves, as he had last seen it, but it did not seem to him that
anything had been disturbed. The door of the death chamber opposite was
"What are you doing up here?" he said sternly.
Thalassa did not deign to parley. "What do you want?" he repeated, looking
steadily at the detective.
"Did you hear what I said to you?" angrily demanded Barrant. "Were you not
told not to interfere with these rooms in any way? You have no right up
"More right than you have to come into a house like a thief," retorted
Thalassa coldly. "I have my work to do. The place must be looked after,
whether I'm spied on or not."
"I advise you not to take that tone with me," replied the detective. "As
you are here, you had better come into this room again, and shut the door
behind you. I have some questions I want to put to you."
Thalassa followed Barrant into the room and stood by the table, the rays
of the swinging-lamp throwing his brown face into sharp outline. "What do
you want to know?" he asked.
"I want you to tell me everything that happened in this house on the night
your master was found dead."
"There's not much to tell," began Thalassa slowly. "When it happened I was
down in the cellar, breaking some coal. I heered my wife call out to me
from the kitchen. I went up from the cellar, and she was standing at the
kitchen door, shaking like a leaf with fright. She said there'd been a
terrible crash right over her head in Mr. Turold's study. I took a lamp
and went upstairs, and knocked at the door, but I got no reply. I knocked
three times as loud as I could, but there wasn't a sound. At that I gets
afeered myself, so I put on my hat and coat to go across to the churchtown
to fetch Dr. Ravenshaw. Then a knock come to the front door, and when I
opened the door there was the doctor and Mr. and Mrs. Pendleton."
"How long was that after the crash upstairs?"
"No longer than it took me to go upstairs, knock at the door, and getting
no answer, go downstairs to put on my coat and hat. I was just winding a
comforter round my throat when I heered the knock."
"It did not occur to you to break in the door of your master's room when
you got no answer and found it locked?"
"No it never, and you wouldn't have done it in my place."
"You heard no sound of a shot?"
"Not down in the cellar. I fancy I heered the sound of the clock falling.
It came to me all muffled like, though it frightened her rarely." He
pointed downward to the kitchen. "And it frightened the dog, too, started
"Is that the dog I heard whining downstairs?"
"Maybe it is. I've got it shut up in the cellar."
"Whose dog is it?"
"His." Thalassa's eyes travelled towards Robert Turold's bedroom.
"Is it howling through grief?"
"More like from fright. Dogs are like people, frightened of their own
shadows, sometimes. I shut it up because it kept trying to get upstairs to
his room. It's a queer surly sort of brute, but fond enough of him. He
used to take it out for long walks.'?
"What kind of dog is it?"
"So that's all that happened that night, is it?" said Barrant, in a
meditative voice. "You have told me all?"
Thalassa nodded. His brown face remained expressionless, but his little
dark eyes glittered warily, like a snake's.
"Think again, Thalassa," urged Barrant, in a voice of the softest
insistence. "It may be that you have forgotten something--overlooked an
incident which may be important."
"I've overlooked nothing," was the sullen response.
"There's just an odd chance that you have," said Barrant, searching the
other's face from raised contemplative eyebrows. "The best of memories
plays tricks at times. It's always better not to be too sure. Think again,
Thalassa, if you haven't something more to tell me."
"I've told you everything," Thalassa commenced, then straightened his long
bony frame in a sudden access of anger, and brought his hand sharply down
on the table. "What are you trying to badger me for, like this? You'll get
nothing more out of me if you question me till Doomsday."
"But why should you keep anything back?" asked Barrant softly.
Thalassa looked at him with a startled air, then recovered himself
quickly. "I'm not keeping anything back," he said. "Why should you say
"I did not say it. You said I'd get no more out of you."
"Because there is nothing more to be got. Is that plain enough?"
"Quite. Well then, let us go over the events of this night once more.
Perhaps that will help you to recall something which you have forgotten."
"That's not likely."
"Nevertheless, we will try. You were busy in the coal cellar at the time,
I think you said?"
"At what time?" said Thalassa with a quick glance.
"At the time the crash happened upstairs."
"What time was that?"
"How should I know? Do you suppose there's a clock in the coal cellar? It
must have been about half-past nine."
"According to the clock upstairs. Did you think I had overlooked that?
Then you heard your wife call, and went to the kitchen. Next, you went
upstairs, tried your master's door, found it locked, and decided to go for
assistance. But before you could do so Mr. and Mrs. Pendleton and Dr.
Ravenshaw arrived. Have I got it right?"
"That be right."
"All except one thing, Thalassa."
Thalassa met Barrant's look steadily, with no sense of guilt in his face.
"Well?" he said.
"I see that you do not intend to be frank. Let me help your memory a
little. Did you have no other visitors--before Mr. and Mrs. Pendleton and
Dr. Ravenshaw arrived?"
"Visitors?" There was scorn now in his straight glance, but nothing more.
"Is this a place where there's likely to be visitors?"
"Not in the ordinary course of events"--Barrant was still smilingly
affable--"but the night your master met his death was not an ordinary
night. Somebody may have come to the house."
He paused, again searching for some sign of guilty consciousness in the
face revealed in such clear outline near him, but saw none. Again,
Thalassa met him with answering look, but remained mute.
"Thalassa"--Barrant's voice remained persuasive, but to an ear attuned to
shades, there was a note of menace underlying its softness--"you know
there was somebody else here that night."
"Your master's daughter--Miss Sisily Turold." Barrant brought it out
sharply and angrily.
Thalassa turned a cold glance on him. "If you know that why do you ask
me?" he said.
"Because you let her in!"
Thalassa surveyed him with the shadow of a smile on his motionless face.
"Do you take me for a fool?" he said. "I let nobody in."
"Thalassa," said the detective earnestly, "let me advise you, for your own
sake, to tell the truth now. You may be keeping silence through some
mistaken idea of loyalty to your master's daughter, but that will do her
no good, nor you either. I know more than you think. If you persist in
keeping silent you will put yourself in an awkward position, and it may be
the worse for you. You were seen listening at the door of the room
downstairs on the day of your master's death."
"So that's it, is it? You think you'll fit a rope round my neck? I'm to
say what you want to save it? To hell with you and your policeman's
tricks! I don't care that for them." He snapped his long brown fingers in
"You've a bold tongue, you scoundrel," said Barrant, flushing angrily.
"Take care where it leads you. Once more, will you tell me the truth?"
"I've told you all I know."
"Do you mean to tell me that you did not see your master's daughter, or
let her into the house?"
"I did not."
"Could anybody have got into the house without your knowledge?"
"Did you hear anybody?"
"How could I hear anybody when I was down in the coal cellar?"
The open sneer on Thalassa's face suggested that he was not to be caught
by verbal traps. Barrant perceived, with a smouldering anger, that the man
was too clever to be tricked, and too stout of heart to be frightened. By
accident or design he had a ready story which was difficult to demolish
without further knowledge of the events of that night. Barrant decided
that it would be useless, at that moment, to apply himself to the effort
of worming anything out of Thalassa. He had shown his own hand too freely,
and placed him on his guard. There was also the bare possibility that he
had told the truth, so far as he knew it. One last shot he essayed.
"You are acting very foolishly, but I shall not arrest you--yet," he said
impressively. "I shall tell the local police to keep an eye on you."
"Is it the Cornish savage from the churchtown--him with the straw helmit?"
said Thalassa, with a harsh laugh.
The last shot had missed fire badly. The lawless spirit of the man was not
to be intimidated by a threat of arrest--a threat which the detective had
reason for not putting into effect just then. Barrant moved towards the
door with the best dignity he could command.
"Light me downstairs to the kitchen," he said. "I want to see your wife."
Thalassa seemed about to say something at that, then thought the better of
it, and walked out of the room. Outside in the passage he picked up a
small lamp glimmering in a niche of the wall, and led the way downstairs.
They reached the kitchen in silence, and went in.
The little grey woman at the table was seated in the same posture as
Barrant had last seen her, her hands crossed in front of her, her head
bent. She glanced up listlessly as they entered. Barrant crossed the room,
and touched her arm. She shook in a pitiful little flurry of fear, then
became motionless again.
"Mrs. Thalassa, I want to speak to you," said Barrant, raising his voice,
as though to a deaf person. "Is this where you were sitting the night
before last, when you heard the crash in your master's room upstairs?"
"Put the knave on the rubbish heap," she muttered without looking up.
"Listen to me, Mrs. Thalassa"--he spoke still louder. "Did you hear the
shot before the crash?"
The loud tone seemed to reach the remote consciousness of her being, and
she started up in another flurry. ... "Coming, coming, sir. Jasper,
where's the tray?..." she stood thus for a moment, then dropped back into
her chair, her eyes fixed on the opposite wall.
"What's the matter with her?" said Barrant, turning to her husband.
"She's been like it ever since it happened," said Thalassa, in a low tone.
"That's how I found her when I came from the cellar."
"Did she hear the shot--or see anything?"
"That's more than I can tell you. When I came from the cellar she seemed
mazed with fright, and kept pointing to the ceiling. All I could make out
from her was that there'd been a great crash upstairs. When I came down
again after trying the door she was lying on the floor in a faint, and I
carried her in to her bed. It's floored her wits."
"She's had a very bad shock," said Barrant gravely. He regarded her
attentively, her vacant eyes, mouthing lips, trembling hands, her uncanny
fixed glance which seemed to behold something unseen. Strange suspicions
flowed through his brain as he watched her. What terrible experience had
befallen her? What did she know of the mysterious events that had happened
in that silent house? He endeavoured to follow the direction of her gaze,
but it seemed to be fixed on the row of bells behind the kitchen door.
Then, like a half-awakened sleeper released from the horror of a
nightmare, she sank back in her previous listless attitude, and fell to
As Barrant watched her, Thalassa watched them both with an anxiety which
would have aroused Barrant's suspicions if he had seen it. But Thalassa's
face was again closely guarded when he did look up.
"You'll get neither rhyme nor reason out of her," said Thalassa, as their
"I'll try once more," murmured Barrant, almost to himself. He turned to
her again, but this time he did not lay his hand on her arm. "Mrs.
Thalassa"--he spoke more gently--"will you try and understand me?"
"Red on black ... black on red." Her hands moved restlessly.
In a sudden recognition of the futility of trying to gather anything from
that clouded brain, Barrant turned abruptly away without another word. And
the black gaze of Thalassa followed him through the door and out into the
darkness of the night.
The bell in the darkened chambers rang with the insistent clamour of
mechanism responding with blind obedience to a human hand, but Mr. Anthony
Brimsdown suffered it to pass unnoticed. As an elderly bachelor, living
alone, he was sufficiently master of his own affairs to disregard the
arrival of the last post, leaving the letters as they were tumbled through
the slit in the door downstairs until he felt inclined to go and get them.
He was standing in the centre of the room examining an unusual trinket--a
gold hoop like a bracelet, with numbers and the zodiac signs engraved on
the inner surface. Mr. Brimsdown had discovered it in a Kingsway curiosity
shop a week before. It was a portable sun-dial of the sixteenth century. A
slide, pushed back a certain distance in accordance with the zodiac signs,
permitted the sun to fall through a slit on the figures of the hours
within--a dainty timekeeper for mediaeval lovers. Mr. Brimsdown was no
gallant, nor had he sufficient imagination to prompt him to wonder what
dead girl's dainty fingers had once held up the bright fragile circle to
the sun to see if Love's tryst was to be kept. His joy in the sun-dial was
the pride of the collector in the possession of a rare thing.
But that night it failed to interest him. He put it down with a sigh, and
resumed his restless pacing of the room.
It was his office, but he preferred it to his chambers at the end of the
passage. He said the air was better, but it is doubtful whether that was
the reason. Perhaps Mr. Brimsdown felt less lonely among his legal
documents, meditating over battles he had won for dead legatees. As a
solicitor he was "strong on the Chancery side" and had gained some famous
judgments for notorious litigants--men who had loved the law so well that
their souls might well have been found--knowing no higher heaven--in the
office where the records of their forgotten lawsuits were buried. And in
death, as in life, they would have been glad to confide their affairs to
the man whose lot it had been to add "Deceased" to so many of the names on
the black steel deed-boxes which lined the shelves.
Mr. Brimsdown lived for the law. As a family lawyer he was the soul of
discretion, an excellent fighter, wary and reticent, deep as the grave,
but far safer. The grave sometimes opens and divulges a ghastly secret
from its narrow depths. There was no chance of getting anything out of Mr.
Brimsdown, dead or alive. He had no wife to extract bedroom confidences
from him, no relations to visit in expansive moments, he trusted nothing
to paper or diary, and he did not play golf. He was a solitary man, of an
habitual secretiveness deepened by years of living alone.
His lips moved now, and he spoke aloud. His voice sounded sharply in the
"A calamity--nothing less. How did it happen? Was it grief for his wife?"
His face showed unusual agitation--distress even. It was well his clients
could not see him at that moment. To them he was a remote enigmatic figure
of conveyances and legal deeds; one deeply versed in human follies and
foibles, but impervious to human feeling, independent of human
companionship. The reserved glance of his cold grey eye betokened that he
guarded his own secrets as closely as he guarded the secrets entrusted to
him professionally. But there was human nature in him--deep down. It was
not much--a lock of hair in a sealed packet in his pocket-book. The giver
was dead and gone to dust, sleeping in an old churchyard near the Strand,
forgotten by all who had ever known her--except one. Sometimes in the
twilight a tall figure would stand musing beside that forgotten grave for
awhile, then turn away and walk swiftly up the narrow river street, across
the Strand, and through the archway to Grey's Inn.
"Thirty years!" he murmured. Then his mind seemed to hark back to his
previous thought, after the fashion of a man who thinks aloud--"No, no;
not his wife. He did not care enough for her for that. Thirty
years--wasted. My heart bleeds when I think of it. Ought I to go down? Did
he wish for me? I wonder--"
His distress as he paced the room was more apparent than ever. Again, his
clients would have been astonished if they had witnessed it. In their
opinion he was hard as nails and a stranger to the softer feelings of the
heart. They would as soon thought of attributing sentiment to one of the
japanned deed-boxes. But they would have accepted the surprising
revelation with well-bred English tolerance for eccentricity, not allowing
it to affect their judgment that Mr. Brimsdown was one of the soundest and
safest lawyers in England.
His agitation arose from the death of Robert Turold--his client. He had
gathered that piece of news from an evening newspaper in the restaurant
where he had dined. Mr. Brimsdown had reached an age when the most
poignant events of human life seem little more than trifles. It was in the
nature of things for men to die. As a lawyer he had prepared many last
wills and testaments--had helped men into their graves, as it
were--unmoved. But that unexpected announcement of Robert Turold's death
had come to him as an over-whelming shock. He had left his meal
unfinished, and returned to his chambers to seek consolation, not in
prayer, but in his collection of old clocks and watches. In the dusk he
had set out his greatest treasures--the gold sun-dial, a lamp clock, an
early French watch in blue enamel, and a bed repeating clock in a velvet
case. But the solace had failed him for once. Even the magic name of Dan
Quare on the jewelled face of the repeater failed to stir his collector's
His regard for Robert Turold was deep and sincere. His dead client had
been his ideal of a strong man. Strong and unyielding--like a rock. That
was the impression Robert Turold had conveyed at their first interview
many years before, and his patience and tenacity in pursuit of his purpose
had deepened the feeling since. The object of his search had the lawyer's
sympathy. Mr. Brimsdown had a reverence for titles--inherited titles, not
mere knighthoods, or Orders of the British Empire. For those he felt
nothing but contempt. He drew the sharpest distinction between, such
titled vulgarians and those who were born into the world with the blood
running blue in their veins. He regarded Robert Turold as belonging to
this latter class. It was nothing to him that he was a commoner in the
eyes of the world, with no more claim to distinction than a golf-playing
city merchant. He had believed in his story from the first, and had helped
him in that belief. Turrald of Missenden! It was a great old name. Mr.
Brimsdown rolled it round his tongue as though it were a vintage
port--pronounced it lingeringly, rolling the "rr's" sonorously, and
hissing the "ss's" with a caressing sibilant sound.
Turrald of Missenden! Robert Turold was the lineal descendant of the name,
and worthy of the title. Mr. Brimsdown had always felt that, from the very
first. There was something noble and dominating in his presence. Blood
told; there could be no doubt of that.
What stronger proof of it could be found than the dogged strength with
which the dead man had persisted for thirty years in his effort to claim
as his rightful due a baronial title which had been in abeyance for four
And he would have succeeded--was on the verge of success--but for this
unlucky stroke of Death's.
With a sigh for the frailty of human hopes, Mr. Brimsdown put an end to
his reflections and went downstairs for the post.
By the dim light of the lowered hall gas he saw an envelope lying on the
floor--a thick grey envelope addressed to himself in a thin irregular
hand. The sight of that superscription startled him like a glimpse of the
unseen. For it was the handwriting of the subject of his thoughts--Robert
With the stiff movement of an ageing man he picked up the letter and went
upstairs again. In some subtle way the room seemed changed. He had a
sudden inexplicable sensation of nervousness and depression. Shaking it
off with an effort, he opened the envelope in his hand with an odd
reluctance--the feeling that he was prying into something which was no
concern of his. He drew out the single grey sheet and unfolded it. The
letter was dated from Flint House on the previous day. There was but a few
lines, but the lawyer was pulled up at the beginning by the unusual
familiarity of the address. "My dear Brimsdown" was unusual in one so
formal as Robert Turold. But the handwriting was his--undoubtedly. Mr.
Brimsdown had seen it too often to be mistaken. With the growing idea that
the whole thing was confounding to sober sense and reason, he read on--
"Can you postpone all your other engagements and come to
Cornwall on receipt of this? If you will telegraph the train you
travel by I will have a conveyance to meet you at Penzance and
bring you to Flint House. This is a matter of importance."
A postscript followed in the strangest contrast to the formal note--a
postscript hasty and blotted, which had evidently been added in extreme
agitation of mind--
"For God's sake lose no time. Come at once."
The tremulous urgent words stared out from the surface of the grey paper
in all the piteous futility of an appeal made too late. Glancing up, Mr.
Brimsdown's eye rested on the shelf where the deed box of Robert Turold
reposed, and he mechanically reflected that it would be necessary to have
the word "Deceased" added to the white-lettered inscription on the black
surface. Mr. Brimsdown sighed. Then, shaking off the quiescence of mind
which his brooding had engendered, he applied his faculties to the
consideration of a situation which at first sight seemed fantastic as a
The letter was not more remarkable than its despatch after the writer's
death, but the summons to Cornwall was not in itself surprising. He
recalled a similar visit to Norfolk some years before, and the recent
correspondence between them made it clear that the claim had reached a
stage which required careful legal handling. Robert Turold had forwarded
copies of the final proofs of the family descent discovered in Cornwall,
and Mr. Brimsdown had prepared the claim for the termination of abeyance
which was to be heard by the House of Lords. Mr. Brimsdown was also aware
of the summoning of the other members of the family to Cornwall to impart
the news to them. A very natural and proper proceeding on Robert Turold's
part, he had deemed it.
He believed he knew every intimate detail of the ambition on which Robert
Turold had immutably set his heart. Had they not been discussed between
them, again and again, in that room--his bitterness that he had no son,
his fear that the regained title might be extinguished again in female
descent, his grievance that the succession could not be altered. It was
his dream to found a new line of Turralds, and be remembered as the head
of it. "If you could only get the descent taken outside the limits of the
original creation, Brimsdown--" The harsh voice, uttering these words,
seemed to reach Mr. Brimsdown in the muffled silence at that moment. He
had told him, again and again, that the thing was impossible. If the
Turrald barony was called out of abeyance it was an act of Royal grace and
favour. They had no rights--he insisted on that--and any attempt to
influence the Crown about the line of succession might endanger the claim.
And now Robert Turold was dead in the midst of his plans--dead when he had
almost gained the peak of his dreams.
It seemed incredible, almost impossible. Death at such a moment assumed an
unexpected reality as an actual and tangible mocker of human ambitions.
And this letter with its postscript--what was the meaning of it? The
lawyer knew nothing of Robert Turold's announcement to his family on the
previous day. If he had, it would have intensified his feeling that the
letter hinted at some terrible secret hidden behind the thick curtain of
his client's strange and sudden death. The hasty postscript suggested a
quickened sense of a growing danger which Robert Turold had seen too late
What danger? Mr. Brimsdown could form no idea. He reflected that he really
knew very little of Robert Turold's private life in spite of the long
association between them. He must have had other interests at one time or
other beside the eternal question of the title. Mr. Brimsdown had vaguely
understood that the money he had invested for Robert Turold had been
gained abroad--in the wilds of the earth--in his client's early life, but
his client had never confided to him the manner of the gathering. That was
a page in the dead man's life of which his trusted legal adviser knew
nothing whatever. It was unsafe to assume that the page, if revealed,
would throw any light on his tragic death, but there was a possibility
that it might.
The evening newspaper he had brought home lay on the carpet at his feet
exposing the headline--"A Cornish Mystery"--which had caught his eye at
the restaurant. Mr. Brimsdown picked up the sheet and read the report
again. There was nothing in it to help him. It was only a brief
notification of the facts--of a death which, in the words of the
newspaper's local correspondent, "pointed to suicide."
Suicide! The letter on which the ink was still bluish and fresh, seemed to
convey Robert Turold's denial of the suggestion that he had taken his
life. It was the cry of a man who had looked into the dark place of fear
and seen Death lurking within. Only mortal terror could have called forth
that passionate frantic appeal. And that appeal accomplished its purpose,
although it came too late. Robert Turold was dead, but the call for
elucidation rang loudly from his coffin. The dead man's hand beckoned him,
and he dared not disobey. He determined to go to Cornwall.
Outside in the darkness a clock chimed, and one of his own treasures
repeated the hour with a soft mellifluous note. Eleven! He had an idea
that there was--or used to be--a midnight train to Cornwall. He crossed to
his bureau and consulted a time-table. Yes--to Penzance from Paddington.
He decided to catch it.
His preparations for departure were quickly made. The writing of a note to
his clerk and the packing of a bag were matters soon accomplished. In a
quarter of an hour he had picked up a taxicab at the Holborn stand near
his chambers and was on his way to the station.
There was plenty of light and stir at Paddington, which appeared like a
great and glowing cavern in the cold darkness of the night. There were
engines shunting, cabs arriving, porters and passengers rushing about with
luggage, throngs of people. It happened that the midnight train from
Cornwall was overdue, and fluttered women waiting for friends were
importuning bored officials about the delay. Sleepy children stared with
wondering eyes at pictorial efforts to beguile the tedium of waiting for
trains. There were geographical posters comparing Cornwall favourably to
Italy; posters of girls in bathing costume beckoning to "the Cornish
Riviera;" posters of frolicsome puppies in baskets ticketed "Lucky Dogs,
They're Off to Penzance."
The passengers waiting for the midnight train to that resort did not do
equal justice to this flattering assumption of its delights. They seemed,
on the whole, rather to regard themselves as unlucky dogs (if the term
could be applied to parties of women), and were huddled together on the
station seats in attitudes suggestive of despair. Men flirting with
barmaids in the bars may have considered themselves lucky dogs, but whisky
played an important part in their exhilaration.
The belated train came rushing in with an effusion of steam, like a late
arrival puffing out apologies, bringing a large number of passengers back
to London from Penzance. They scrambled on to the platform with the
dishevelled appearance of people who had been cooped up for hours.
First-class passengers eased their pent-up energy by shouting for luggage
porters and bundling their women into taxicabs. The third-class
passengers, whose minor importance in the scheme of things did not warrant
such displays of self-importance, made meekly and wearily for the exits.
They were dammed back at the barriers by two ticket collectors, whose
adroit manipulation of the gates prevented more than one person trickling
through at a time, and turned the choked stream of humanity within into a
whirlpool of floating faces and struggling forms. As Mr. Brimsdown stood
regarding this distracting spectacle from the outside, he saw one of the
ticket collectors grasp the arm of a girl who was just emerging, at the
same time shutting the gate on a stout woman following, thus effectually
blocking the egress of those behind.
The girl turned quickly at the touch of the detaining hand, and there was
fear in her face.
"What do you want?" she said, framing the words with an obvious effort.
The ticket collector was a man whose natural choleric temperament was
accentuated by the harassing nature of his employment. He tore in two
portions the ticket which the girl had just given him, and thrust half
into her hand.
"Here's your return half. Why don't you look what yer doin' when givin' up
yer ticket? You women are the limit. Now, mother, for God's sake don't be
all night getting through that there barrier. There's others want to get
'ome, if you don't."
Having by this adroit remonstrance spiked the wrath, as it were, of the
stout and angry woman he had jammed in the gate, he permitted the
resumption of the trickle of impatient passengers.
Mr. Brimsdown followed with his eye the pretty girl who had been forgetful
enough to give up a return ticket instead of a half one. She had stopped
outside the barrier, gazing round with a troubled face at the immensity of
the station and the throngs of hurrying people.
The lawyer looked at her hard, from a little distance. "Where have I seen
that face before?" he murmured to himself.
Her beauty was of a sufficiently rare type to attract attention anywhere,
except, perhaps, at a London railway station at midnight. She was unused
to her surroundings and she was not a city product. So much was obvious,
though her clear pale face and slim young figure did not suggest
rusticity. Her dark eyes glanced quickly and nervously around her, and
then she started to walk slowly towards one of the main entrances.
A luggage porter hurried towards her, intent on tips. The broad back of a
policeman was outlined in the entrance. The girl looked wistfully from the
policeman to the porter, then appeared to make up her mind. She extracted
a silver coin from her purse, and proffered it timidly to the porter. The
porter showed no timidity in accepting it.
"Luggage, miss, in the van?" he asked. "Just you wait 'ere."
"I have no luggage," Mr. Brimsdown heard her say. Her eyes wandered
downward to the little handbag she carried. "I wanted to ask you--I am a
stranger to London. Can you tell me a place where I could stay; for the
night--somewhere quiet and respectable?"
Mr. Brimsdown found himself listening anxiously for the porter's reply. By
all the laws of Romance he should have had an old mother in a clean and
humble home who would have been delighted to give the girl shelter for the
sight of her pretty face. But pretty girls are plentiful in London, and
kind-hearted old women are rare. The porter seemed surprised at the
inquiry. He pushed his blue cap back from a shock of red hair, and
pondered the question deeply. Then he made a valiant feint of earning his
shilling by throwing out suggestions of temperance hotels in Russell
Square and the Euston Road. He warmed to the subject and depicted the
attractions of these places. Quiet and cheap, and nothing respectabler in
the 'ole city of London. They was open at all hours. His own sister stayed
in one when she come to town.
"Would you give me the address?" the girl wistfully asked.
The porter shook his head cautiously. He had evidently no intention of
pawning his sister's reputation for a shilling given him by a strange girl
who might have designs on the spoons of temperance hotels.
"How do I get to Euston Road?" asked the girl with a quick realization of
the fact that she had obtained London value for her shilling.
"By the Metropolitan." He pointed to a blazing subterranean archway which
at that late hour was still vomiting forth a mass of people. "Book at the
Mr. Brimsdown watched the girl until she disappeared out of sight down the
steps. He then turned away to seek his own train, the insistent feeling
still haunting him that he had seen her pretty wistful face before. He
taxed his memory to recall where, but memory made no response. It seemed a
long time ago--like a glimpse from the face of the dead. Mr. Brimsdown
strove to put the idea from him as a trick of the imagination.
He beckoned to a porter, who took his bag to a first-class carriage in the
Penzance train. Mr. Brimsdown settled himself comfortably in a corner
seat. A few minutes later the train moved out on the long night journey to
The clock in Dr. Ravenshaw's study ticked loudly in the perfect stillness
and then struck ten with a note of metallic derision as though rejoicing
in the theft of an hour from a man who prided himself on knowing the value
of time. Startled to find that it was so late, Barrant sprang to his feet
and rang the bell. A sleepy Cornish maid appeared in answer, and Barrant
informed her that he could not wait any longer.
"The doctor may be in at any time now, sir," the girl eagerly assured him,
as though she were in league with the clock to steal more of his time.
"I will call again," said Barrant curtly.
"Any message, sir? Oh, here's the doctor now. A gentleman to see you,
Dr. Ravenshaw advanced into the room. He looked tired and weary, as if he
had spent a long vigil by a patient. He dismissed the girl with a nod, and
turned inquiringly to his visitor.
"I am Detective Barrant, doctor; I have waited to see you on my way back
from Flint House. I am investigating the case."
"Yes?" said the doctor inquiringly. "Please be seated."
"It is a strange case, you know," began the detective. "And one of the
strange things about it is that the dead man's relatives differ whether it
is murder or suicide. That's what brings me to you. You are a medical man,
and you knew Robert Turold intimately. Would you consider him a man of
"Many men have tendencies towards suicide at odd moments," replied the
doctor, "particularly men of Robert Turold's temperament."
"Was there anything in Robert Turold's demeanour which suggested to you
recently that he valued his life lightly, or was likely to take it?"
"I would rather not give a definite opinion on that point. I have to give
evidence at the inquest, you know."
Barrant nodded. He realized the force of the doctor's objection to the
expression of a view which might be proved erroneous later. So he turned
to another phase of the case.
"You saw Robert Turold's body soon after you arrived at Flint House?"
"Within a few minutes."
"How long had he been dead?"
"About ten minutes, I should say."
"What was the cause of death?"
"He was shot through the main blood vessel of the left lung. It was
possible to arrive at that conclusion from the very severe haemorrhage.
The blood was still flowing freely when we broke into the room. That would
cause death from heart failure, following the haemorrhage, within two or
three minutes, in all probability."
"He was quite dead when you entered the study?"
"How long after was the body carried into the bedroom?"
"An hour or more. It was some time before Pengowan arrived, and Thalassa
and he removed the body a little later."
Barrant looked disappointed at his reply. "Would it be possible to make
marks on a corpse after that length of time?" he asked.
"What sort of marks?" asked the doctor.
"There was a mark of five fingers on the left arm, made by a left hand."
"Then you have finger-prints to help you?"
"Unfortunately no. It's a grip--a clutch--which, will not reveal print
marks in the impressions. I thought they might have been caused during the
removal of the body."
"It is not possible to make such marks on a corpse. Reaction sets in at
the moment of death. Sometimes blue spots appear on a dead body, and such
appearances have been occasionally mistaken for bruises."
"Did you observe any marks when you examined the body?" asked Barrant as
he rose to his feet.
"No, but my examination was confined to ascertaining if life was extinct."
Barrant thanked him and said good night. The doctor rose also, and
escorted him to the door.
Outside, a wild west wind sprang at him. Barrant pulled his hat over his
eyes and hurried away.
The following morning he sought out Inspector Dawfield at his office in
Penzance and disclosed to him his conclusions about the case.
"I intend to go to London by this morning's train, Dawfield," he
announced. "We must find Robert Turold's daughter."
"You think she has gone to London?"
"I feel sure of it, and I do not think it will be difficult to trace her.
I shall try first at Paddington. I will get the warrant for her arrest
backed at Bow Street, and put a couple of good men on the search before
returning here. You had better have the inquest adjourned until I come
back. This is no suicide, Dawfield, but a deep and skilfully planned
"I should think the flight of the girl makes that pretty clear," said
Dawfield, as he made a note on his office pad.
Barrant shook his head. "It's too strange a case for us to have any
feeling of certainty about it yet," he said. "There is some very deep
mystery behind the facts. Every step of my investigation convinces me of
that. The disappearance of Miss Turold does not explain everything."
"She was up at Flint House on that night, and now she is not to be found.
Surely that is enough?"
"This is not a straightforward case. It's going to prove a very
complicated one. But I have come to the conclusion that the quickest way
to get at the truth is to find Sisily Turold. Her flight suggests that she
is implicated in the crime in some way, and it may even mean that she is
"Do not the circumstances point to her guilt?"
"Circumstances can lie with the facility of humanity, at times. Moreover,
we do not know all the circumstances yet. But let us examine the facts we
have discovered. We believe that the girl visited her father's house on
the night of his death, and has since disappeared. We must assume that it
was she who was seen listening at the door during the afternoon by Mrs.
Pendleton, because that assumption provides strong motive for the murder
by giving the key of interpretation to Miss Turold's subsequent actions.
We must picture the effect of that overheard conversation on the girl's
mind. She had been kept in ignorance about the secret of her birth, and
she suddenly discovers that instead of being a prospective peeress and
heiress, she is only an illegitimate daughter, a nameless thing, a
reproach in a world governed by moral conventions. Her prospects, her
future, and her life are shattered by her father's act. The effect might
well be overwhelming. She broods over the wrong done to her, and decides
to go to Flint House that night and see her father, though not, I think,
with the premeditated idea of murder. Her idea was to plead and
remonstrate with him."
"Why do you think that?" asked Dawfield.
"She could not have foreseen that her absence from the hotel would pass
unnoticed. That was pure luck, due to Mrs. Pendleton's chance visit to
Flint House. It was just chance that the girl did not encounter her aunt
there. She must have got away from Flint House shortly before Mrs.
Pendleton arrived. But the strongest proof that there was no premeditation
is to be found in the fact that Miss Turold made the journey openly, in a
"And returned the same way," put in Dawfield.
"I confess that her action in taking that risk after the murder strikes me
as remarkable," observed Barrant thoughtfully. "But she would be anxious
to return as speedily as possible, and perhaps she was aware that the last
wagonette from St. Fair to Penzance is generally empty. But we can only
speculate about that. She must have reached Flint House not later than
half-past eight or perhaps a few minutes earlier, if she walked quickly
across the moors. I ascertained that by taking the same wagonette last
night, and walking across the moors from the cross-roads, as she did. The
murder was not committed until half-past nine, according to the stopped
clock, which is another point suggesting lack of premeditation. Let us
assume that up to the time she arrived at Flint House she had no intention
of murdering her father. She knocked, and was perhaps admitted by
Thalassa, and went up to her father's room. What happened during that
interview? We do not know, but we are told that Robert Turold was a man of
harsh, unyielding disposition, the slave of his single idea, which was the
acquisition of a lost title. Such a man was not likely to be moved by
pleading or threats. We must imagine a long and angry scene, culminating
in the daughter snatching up her father's revolver and shooting him."
"Thalassa told Pengowan that Robert Turold kept the revolver in the drawer
of his writing table," Dawfield remarked.
"I have read Pengowan's report," returned Barrant impatiently, "and I am
assuming that Robert Turold's daughter knew where it was kept. This is a
purely constructive theory of her guilt, and we have to assume many
things. We must further assume that when she left the room she locked the
door behind her and brought away the key in order to suggest suicide. When
she got downstairs she told Thalassa the truth, and begged him to shield
her. He promised to do so, and when the door of the study was broken open
he took an opportunity to drop the key on the floor, in order to suggest
the idea that Robert Turold had locked himself in his room before shooting
himself, and that the key was jolted out of the lock when the door was
burst in. It was an infernally clever thing to do. That's the case against
the girl, Dawfield. What do you think of it?"
"It sounds convincing enough."
"It would sound more convincing to me if it was entirely consistent with
the other facts of the case. Have you those sheets of unfinished writing
which were found in Robert Turold's study?"
Dawfield produced two sheets of foolscap from his desk. Barrant laid them
on the table, and examined them with a magnifying glass.
"It is certain that Robert Turold did not put down his pen voluntarily,"
he said. "He stopped involuntarily, in the midst of a word. That suggests
great surprise or sudden shock. The letter 'e' in the word 'clear'
terminates in a sprawling dash and a jab from the nib which has almost
pierced the paper. Could the unexpected appearance of his daughter have
startled him in that fashion? It rather suggests that somebody sprang on
him unawares, surprising him so much that he almost stuck the pen through
"Might not that have been his daughter?"
"Women scratch like cats when they use violence, but they do not spring
like tigers. I have been examining those marks on Robert Turold's arm
again, and I have come to the conclusion that they were made by somebody
in a violent passion."
"I have the photographs here," said Dawfield, rummaging in a drawer. "They
do not help us at all. There are no finger-prints--nothing but blurs."
Barrant glanced at the photographs and pushed them aside.
"I have been thinking a lot about those marks," he said. "They strike me
as a very important clue. I have been examining them very closely, and
discovered the faint impression of finger-nails in the marks left by the
first and second fingers. That suggests that the owner of the hand was in
a state of ferocity and tightened nerves."
"I do not see that."
"Allow me to experiment on your arm. When I grip you firmly, as I do now,
you can feel my fingers pressing their whole length on your flesh, can you
"I can indeed," said Dawfield, wincing. "You've a pretty powerful grip. I
shall be black and blue."
"The grip on Robert Turold's arm is quite a different thing," pursued
Barrant earnestly. "Do not be afraid, I am not going to demonstrate again.
It was more in the nature of a pounce--a sort of tiger-spring hold, made
by somebody in a state of great mental excitement, with tightened muscles
which caused a tense clutch with the finger-tips, the nails digging into
the skin, the fingers bent and wide apart. My opinion is that it is a
"That I cannot say. He's a cunning and wary devil, and I could get nothing
Out of him last night. He says he was in the coal cellar when his master
met his death. That's where he showed his cleverness in protecting himself
as well as shielding the girl, because if he was actually down in the coal
cellar she might have gained entrance to the house and left it again
without Thalassa knowing anything about it. He says that he admitted
nobody, and heard nobody."
"Perhaps he helped in the murder, and sprang on his master."
"That is possible. But why should Thalassa spring on his master in
maniacal excitement? To secure the revolver to shoot him? I can see no
other reason. What happened afterwards? Robert Turold wasn't shot
immediately. Some seconds, perhaps minutes, elapsed. What took place in
that brief yet vital space of time? Did Thalassa hold his master in a grim
clutch while the girl took the revolver out of the drawer and shot him?
What took Robert Turold to the clock in his dying moments? These are
questions we cannot answer at present. But it is certain that whoever
committed the murder left the room immediately after firing the shot, and
the door was locked on the outside and the key removed. If the daughter
committed the murder it was probably Thalassa who replaced the key in the
"Have you any doubt on that point?"
"The probabilities point to Thalassa, but it was Austin Turold who
actually picked up the key. It is as well not to lose sight of that fact."
Inspector Dawfield looked up quickly, but his colleague's face revealed
nothing of his thoughts.
"Hadn't you some idea that the marks on the arm might have been caused by
the removal of the body into the next room?" he hazarded.
"Not now," Barrant replied. "That theory was only tenable on the
supposition that life was not completely extinct when the body was
removed. But I interviewed Dr. Ravenshaw on that point last night, and
what he told me disposes of that theory."
"I heard something from one of my men this morning which may have some
bearing on the case," remarked Dawfield. "There has been a lot of local
gossip about it. Robert Turold was generally regarded as very eccentric.
When he crossed the moors from the churchtown to Flint House it was his
custom to go almost at a run, glancing over his shoulder as he went, as if
"I have heard nothing of this," commented Barrant. "Is the story to be
believed, do you think?"
"A fisherman of the churchtown told my man in a graphic sort of way. He
says that Robert Turold had a dog which he used to take with him on these
walks, and he says that the master used to cover the ground with such
great strides that the dog had to run after him panting, with lolling
"That sounds stretched," said Barrant. "Most fishermen exaggerate.
However, I'll look up this man when I return, and question him. It never
does to throw away a chance." He glanced at his watch and rose to his
feet. "I'll be off now to catch the train. If anything important occurs
during my absence you'd better send me a wire to Scotland Yard."
It was from Mrs. Pendleton that Mr. Brimsdown gained his first real
knowledge of the drama of strange events surrounding Robert Turold's
death. In response to his call at the hotel she came down from her room
fingering his card nervously, her eyes reddened with weeping, and an air
of tremulous bewilderment about her which sat ill on her massive
The lawyer greeted her with formal courtesy. He was newly shaved and
bathed, his linen was spotless, and his elderly grey eyes looked out with
alert watchfulness on a world of trickery.
"As your late brother's legal adviser for many years, I felt it incumbent
upon me to come down," he said, fixing a grave glance on the distracted
lady before him. "It seemed to me that I might be of some use, perhaps,
assistance. That is the object of my call."
The fact that she had not seen Mr. Brimsdown before did not lessen the
hysterical gratitude with which Mrs. Pendleton received this piece of
information. The events of the last forty-eight hours had shaken her
badly. Her brother's tragic death, and the terrible suspicion which
enveloped Sisily, had stripped her of her strength, and left her with a
feminine longing to cast her burden on a man's shoulders. She had
discovered to her dismay that a husband who has been snubbed and kept
under for twenty years is apt to prove a thing of straw when a woman likes
to feel that the male sex was devised by Providence to take the wheel from
female hands if the barque of life drifts on the breakers. But Mr.
Pendleton had revealed no latent capacity to play the part of the strong
man at the helm in the crisis. He had shown himself a craven and kept out
of the way, leaving his wife to her own resources. The appearance of Mr.
Brimsdown was as timely to her as the arrival of a heaven-sent pilot in a
"Thank you," she murmured incoherently. "Such a dreadful end. Poor dear
Robert." She sobbed into her handkerchief.
"A deplorable loss to his family--and England," assented the lawyer. "I am
glad to see you. They ascertained your address for me at the hotel where I
am staying. I have been resting after travelling all night, and I shall go
and see the police in the morning. So far I have only read the reports in
the London evening papers, and there may be intimate particulars which
were not disclosed to the press. If such exist, perhaps you will impart
them to me. You need not hesitate to disclose to me all you know. Your
late brother honoured me with his confidence for nearly thirty years." Mr.
Brimsdown coughed discreetly.
His tone invited confidences which Mrs. Pendleton, in her perplexity of
spirit, was only too anxious to impart to a sympathetic ear. Mr.
Brimsdown, sitting stiffly upright, his eyes fixed on a portrait of
Royalty glimmering inanely down at them through a dirty glass frame on the
opposite wall, listened with unmoved front. Yet the story had its
surprises, even for him. Not the least of them was the fact that Mrs.
Pendleton's description of her niece tallied with the appearance of the
girl whose identity he had tried to recall at Paddington. He was chagrined
to think he had failed to recognize his late client's daughter, but he
recalled that it was ten years since he had seen Sisily, who was then a
dark-eyed little girl. At Norfolk. Oh, yes! he remembered her readily
enough now, playing innocently about some forgotten tombstones in a
deserted graveyard on a wild grey coast, while her father wrested savagely
with the dead for his heritage. Strange that he should have met her again
at the moment of her flight, when he was setting out for Cornwall in
response to her dead father's letter! Life had such ironical mischances.
He said nothing of this chance encounter, or of Robert Turold's letter, to
the dead man's sister who was now pouring out her fears and suspicions to
him. He was a receptacle into which confidences might be emptied, but he
gave nothing in return. Mrs. Pendleton did not need that. Her state of
mind compelled her to speak, and her impulsiveness hurried her along on
the high tide of a flood of words. The story she had to tell oppressed her
listener with the sense of some great unknown horror. It was like trying
to see a dark place by lightning. The flashes of her revelations revealed
a distorted surface, but not the hidden depths. Mrs. Pendleton's agitated
mind, doubling in and out a maze of conjectures like a distracted hare,
turned again and again to the question of Sisily's complicity in her
"I can hardly believe it even now," she said with a shudder. "Such a sweet
pretty girl! And yet--there was something strange in her manner. I
remarked it to Joseph--my husband--before this happened." She pressed her
handkerchief to her eyes.
The lawyer, with a sideways glance at the Royal portrait opposite, which
seemed in the act of smiling blandly at his companion's grief, reflected,
soberly enough, that sweet and pretty girls were as human as the rest of
creation, if it came to that.
"Charlie Turold--my nephew, you know--will have it that she is innocent."
"In spite of her disappearance?"
"Yes. He came this morning, before I was up, to see if I knew where Sisily
had gone. After tea he came again in a terrible state, raving against the
detective for taking out a warrant for her arrest. He said it was madness
on his part to imagine that a girl like Sisily would kill her father. I
told him that as Sisily had disappeared he could hardly blame the police
for looking for her. He turned on me when I said that, and used such
violent language that I was quite frightened of him. But I make
allowances, of course."
"Why?" the lawyer asked, looking at her.
"I think Charlie is very fond of Sisily," murmured Mrs. Pendleton with
"Do you mean that they love each other?" said the lawyer, regarding her
"I cannot say about Sisily. And I never guessed it of Charlie until this
morning. I'm sure poor Robert had no idea of it. He would never have
agreed--after what he told us on the day of the funeral, I mean."
Mr. Brimsdown gave a tacit unspoken assent to that. Some men might have
welcomed such a solution of an ugly family scandal, but not Robert Turold,
with his fierce pride for the honour of the title which he had sought to
"Is your nephew's belief in Miss Turold's innocence based on anything
stronger than assertion? Does he suspect any one else?"
"He did not say so. He was very excited, and talked on and on, without
listening to me in the least. He seems very impulsive and headstrong. I
noticed that on the day of the funeral. When Robert told us about his
marriage, Charles said to him that his first duty was to his daughter.
Robert looked so angry."
"I can well believe it," murmured the lawyer. "The young man must have
"Oh yes, he served with distinction in the war," Mrs. Pendleton innocently
rejoined. "In temperament he takes after me, I think, more than after his
father. Austin and I never did think alike. We even disagreed over poor
Robert's terrible death. Austin thought he had ... destroyed himself." Her
voice dropped to a shocked whisper.
"On what grounds did he base that belief?" Mr. Brimsdown cautiously asked.
"He thought the circumstances pointed to it," she rejoined. "But I knew
better--I knew Robert would never do anything so dreadful. Besides, had I
not seen that horrible old man-servant glaring through the door? That is
why I went to the police."
As Mrs. Pendleton showed a tendency to repeat herself, Mr. Brimsdown rose
to terminate the interview. Mrs. Pendleton rose, too, but she had not yet
reached the end of her surprises for him.
"And then there's Robert's will--so strange! Really--"
"The will! What will?" interrupted the lawyer testily. "Did your brother
make his will down here?"
"Yes. A will drawn up by a local lawyer--a man with the extraordinary name
of Bunkom--a most terrible little creature. Bunkom, indeed!" continued
Mrs. Pendleton, shaking her head with a feeble assumption of
sprightliness. "Everything is left to my brother Austin. I do not mind in
the least about myself. After all, Robert and I met almost as strangers
after many years, and I want nothing from him. But his treatment of this
unfortunate girl, his daughter, is really too dreadful. I do not wish to
speak ill of the dead, but I must say that much, whether Sisily had
anything to do with Robert's death or not, for, of course, Robert couldn't
have known about that at the time--when he made his will, I mean,"
concluded Mrs. Pendleton, in some confusion of mind.
"It is strange that your brother did not consult me before drawing up this
will," said Mr. Brimsdown.
"Perhaps he imagined you might persuade him against it," sighed Mrs.
Pendleton. "It is all very strange. I do not understand it a bit."
Mr. Brimsdown thought it strange, then and afterwards. Next day, after
going to the police station and handing Robert Turold's letter to
Inspector Dawfield, he sought out the Penzance lawyer who had drawn up the
will. Mr. Bunkom was a spidery little man who spun his legal webs in a
small dark office at the top of Market Jew Street, a solicitor with a
servile manner but an eye like a fox, which dwelt on his eminent confrere
from London, as he perused the will, with an expression which it was just
as well that Mr. Brimsdown didn't see, so sly and savage was it. The
Penzance spider knew his business. The will was watertight and properly
attested. The bulk of the property was bequeathed to Austin Turold
unconditionally. There were only two other bequests. Robert Turold had
placed Thalassa and Sisily ("my illegitimate daughter") on an equality by
bequeathing to them annuities of L50 a year each. Austin Turold and Mr.
Brimsdown were named as joint executors, and that was all.
Mr. Brimsdown would not have occupied such a distinguished place in the
legal profession if he had not been a firm believer in the sacred English
tradition that a man has the right to dispose of his own property as he
thinks fit. Moreover, his legal mind realized the folly of speculating
over the reasons which had prompted this hurried will when the man who had
made it was beyond the reach of argument, reproof, or cross-examination.
But the lack of all mention of the title was a different matter, calling
for investigation. It was remarkable that a man like Robert Turold should
have gone to the grave without binding his heir to prosecute the claim for
the Turrald title. To that end Robert Turold had devoted his life, and to
the upkeep of the title he had proposed to devote his fortune. The absence
of this precaution puzzled Mr. Brimsdown considerably at first, but as he
pondered over the matter he began to see the reason. Robert Turold was so
close to the summit of his ambition that he had not thought it necessary
to take precautions. He was a strong man, and strong men rarely think of
death. Once the title was his, it descended as a matter of course to his
brother, and then to his brother's son--provided, of course, that the
proofs of his daughter's illegitimacy were in existence.
That conclusion carried another in its wake. If Robert Turold had not
safeguarded his dearest ambition because he hoped to carry it out himself,
it followed as a matter of course that he did not take his own life. Mr.
Brimsdown had never accepted that theory, but it was strange to have it so
conclusively proved, as it were, by the inference of an omission. That
brought the lawyer back to the position that some foreboding or warning of
his murder had caused Robert Turold to summon him to Cornwall by letter.
The next step of his investigations led Mr. Brimsdown to the dead man's
study, where that frantic appeal had been penned.
He engaged a vehicle at the hotel and drove over to Flint House in the
afternoon. The impression of that visit remained. Flint House, rising from
the basalt summit of the headland like a granite vault, its windows coldly
glistening down on the frothy green gloom of the Atlantic far beneath, the
country trap and lean black horse at the flapping gate, the undertaker's
man (dissolute parasite of austere Death) slinking out of the house, and
Thalassa waiting at the open door for him to approach--all these things
were engraved on Mr. Brimsdown's mind, never to be forgotten. Who was it
that had staged such a crime in such a proscenium, in that vast
amphitheatre of black rocks which stretched dizzily down beneath those
Then came other impressions: the dead man upstairs, the disordered dusty
study, the stopped clock, the litter of papers. It was in the room where
Robert Turold had been murdered that Mr. Brimsdown questioned Thalassa
about the letter, and heard with a feeling of dismay his declaration that
he had not posted it. Where was the nearest pillar box? Nearly a mile
away, at the cross-roads. Could his late master have gone there to post it
that night? If he had, Thalassa hadn't heard him go out. Could anybody
else have posted it? No; there was nobody else to post it.
It was like questioning a head on an old Roman coin, so expressionless was
Thalassa's face as he delivered himself of these replies. But the lawyer
had the feeling that Thalassa was deriving a certain grim satisfaction
from his questioner's perplexity, and he dismissed him somewhat angrily.
Then, when he had gone, he turned to an examination of some of the papers
and documents which littered the room, but that was a search which told
When the shades of evening warned him to relinquish that task, he told
himself that he really ought to go and see Austin Turold before returning
to Penzance. But he shrank, with unaccountable reluctance, from the
performance of that obvious duty. He felt very old and tired, and his
temples were throbbing with a bad nervous headache. He therefore decided
to postpone his visit to Austin Turold until later.
When the interview with Austin Turold did take place, Mr. Brimsdown learnt
with a feeling which was little less than astonishment that Robert Turold
had died without confiding to his brother the proofs, on which so much
depended, of the statement he had made on the day of his death.
"I cannot understand it," he murmured, putting down his tea-cup as he
Austin had received him in the blue sitting-room, hung with the specimens
of Mr. Brierly's ineffectual art, and had given him tea, as he had given
Barrant tea some days before. But there was a subtle difference in the
manner of Mr. Brimsdown's reception; the tone was pitched higher, with
fine shades and inflections attuned for a more gentlemanly ear.
"It disposes of the suicide theory finally and utterly," added the lawyer
"The suicide theory disappeared with Robert's daughter," said Austin,
glancing at his son, who had taken no part in the conversation.
"You think her disappearance suggests guilt?" asked Mr. Brimsdown.
"It hardly suggests innocence, does it?"
"I would not like to hazard an opinion," responded Mr. Brimsdown, with a
thoughtful shake of the head. "My experience of women is that they are
capable of the strangest acts without weighing the consequences."
"That was before the war, when women were delightfully irrational
creatures, but now they're no longer so. They've become practical and
coarse, like men. They smoke, drink, and tell improper stories with demure
expression and heads a little on one side like overwise sparrows."
"Was Robert Turold's daughter a girl of this sort?" asked the lawyer in
"She was not."
It was Charles Turold who made answer, with an angry glance at his father.
Austin, looking at him, gave an almost imperceptible shake of the head.
Slight as the warning was, it was intercepted by Mr. Brimsdown's watchful
eye, and he wondered what it meant.
"I do not think any useful purpose can be gained by discussing my
brother's death," Austin interposed, turning to him. "It is a very painful
subject, and does no good. The police are endeavouring to unravel the
mystery--let us leave it to them."
"I was merely going to say that your brother would have given you the
proofs of this statement about his marriage if he had meditated
self-destruction," Mr. Brimsdown observed. "The proofs must be in
existence, of course, but I do not think that they are at Flint House. Did
your brother confide the information to you beforehand--before his public
announcement, I mean?"
"Shortly before his death he hinted to me of some very important
disclosure which he intended to make at the proper time--some family
matter--but he did not say what it was, nor did I ask him."
His son looked at him quickly, and the lawyer doubtfully, as he made this
statement, but his own glance sustained both looks serenely and equably.
"My brother did inform me, a week ago, that I would succeed to his
fortune," he added.
"That proves that your brother was aware of the illegality of his marriage
at that time," said Mr. Brimsdown, with an air of conviction.
"Because you could not succeed to the Turrald title if your brother's
daughter was legitimate."
"That would not prevent my brother disposing of his property as he thought
fit," remarked Austin coldly.
"I am aware of that," replied Mr. Brimsdown guardedly. He refrained from
stating what was obvious to him, that Robert Turold had intended his
fortune for the upkeep of the title when gained, and for no other purpose.
"After all, it does not matter very much how long your brother was aware
of the fact. The great point is--where are the proofs? I cannot understand
why your brother did not send them on to me. I intend to make another and
longer search among his papers at Flint House. They must be found. The
House of Lords will require the most convincing proof on this head before
terminating the abeyance in your favour."
"If I proceed with the claim, you mean," said Austin.
The lawyer turned on him a startled glance which had something of
consternation in it. His own interest in the title, was, by force of long
association with Robert Turold, so deep and intimate that it had never
occurred to him to suppose that the younger brother might not share in the
obsession of the elder.
"Titles are at a discount nowadays--like virtuous women," proceeded
Austin. "The most extraordinary people have them. Are you aware that there
were nearly four thousand names in the last Royal bestowal of Orders of
the British Empire? There's kingly munificence for you! It's the same with
the Masonic order. The gentleman you address as 'Right Worshipful Sir'
overnight delivers poultry and rabbits at your back door next morning.
Democracy has come into its own, Brimsdown. Sooner or later we shall have
a king wearing a cloth cap."
"Your remarks do not apply to the old nobility," returned Mr. Brimsdown
austerely. "They will never become common. It would be a pity not to
prosecute your brother's claim to the Turrald title. He gave thirty years
of his life to establishing the line of descent."
"My brother had the temperament of a visionary," replied Austin. "I am
more practical. But I shall respect his wishes, if possible, though from
what you say it would seem to be quite useless to go on with the claim if
the missing proofs about his wife's previous marriage are not recovered."
"That is quite true," Mr. Brimsdown admitted. "But I feel sure that they
are in existence, somewhere. Your brother Robert was not the man to make a
statement of that kind without the proofs. He knew the value of
documentary evidence too well for that."
"But so far the proof of his daughter's illegitimacy rests on his
unsupported statement, which would be quite valueless in a court of law?"
"That is so."
"If these proofs are found, do you think that my chance of regaining the
title is as good as Robert's?" Austin asked. "Are the circumstances of his
death likely to tell against my succeeding? I ask you because I know
nothing about peerage law."
"The House of Lords has inherent rights of its own in regard to the
granting of any claim," replied the lawyer carefully, "rights as the
guardian of its own privileges. I do not think, however, that your claim
would be rejected. The line of descent is clear, if the proofs of your
brother's statement are found. The Turrald barony is a parliamentary
peerage which descends to a sole daughter. You can only succeed your
brother in the line of descent if she is illegitimate."
"In any case the present claim could not be gone on with, could it?"
"No. That must be withdrawn. I will write to the Home Secretary
acquainting him with your brother's death. Later on, if we find the
proofs, another claim can be prepared on your behalf."
"If I decide to go on with it."
"I trust that you will," said the lawyer. "It was your brother's dream to
restore the title with a male line of descent."
"His dream will be fruitless so far as I am concerned," said Charles
Turold, who had been listening intently to this conversation. "I shall
have nothing to do with this title." He got up, and strode abruptly from
the room without another word.
Mr. Brimsdown was a little surprised at the lack of manners evinced by
this precipitate departure, but arose without speaking to take his own
leave. Austin did not offer to escort him downstairs. He rang the bell,
which was answered by the gaunt maid who had been engaged to sit as
Britannia or the Madonna, and to her he consigned his departing visitor
after a soft pressure of his white hand.
The maid preceded the lawyer down the staircase with a martial step which
outstripped his, and waited at the foot for him to complete the descent.
As Mr. Brimsdown reached the last stair, a door immediately opposite
opened, and a lady came out. Mr. Brimsdown glanced at her casually in
passing, and encountered her glance in return. In that brief look he
observed the dawn of swift surprise in her eyes. Her careworn face
flushed, and she made an eager step forward, as though about to speak.
Somewhat surprised at this action on her part, Mr. Brimsdown hesitated,
then, reflecting that he had probably misinterpreted a chance movement on
the part of a perfect stranger, went towards the door, which the maid was
holding open for him. As he passed through he glanced back, and to his
astonishment saw the woman in the passage still standing in the same spot,
staring fixedly after him, apparently in a state of consternation or
amazement, he could not say which.
He went out of the door with a vision of her questioning gaze following
him as far as she could see him. He did not think any more of it just
then. A lowering sky suggested rain, and he set off at a round pace for
the inn where he had left the vehicle which had brought him to the
But quickly as he walked, a footstep behind him was quicker still, and he
turned involuntarily to see who was following. Another surprise was in
store for him. The tall figure hurrying after him, with the evident
intention of overtaking him, was Charles Turold. The lawyer stood still
and waited for him.
"I have come after you to tell you something," Charles said abruptly,
"something that you ought to know. You were questioning my father about
the facts of this case--about my uncle's death. You did not learn anything
from him, but I can tell you my cousin Sisily is innocent."
He brought out these words with a breathlessness which may have been the
result of his haste. The calmness of the lawyer's reply was in marked
"Is this merely an assertion, Mr. Turold?"
"It is more than an assertion. I can prove it to you."
Mr. Brimsdown was startled. "What do you mean by that?" he asked.
"If you will come to Flint House I will show you."
Mr. Brimsdown stroked the cautious chin of an old man plunged into a
situation which he could not fathom. "Would it not be better to consult
the police first?" he temporized.
"The police are now searching the country for Sisily, and there is no time
to be lost."
There was something so profoundly unhappy in his appearance that pity
stirred in the lawyer's heart. "Very well," he said, with another look at
the lowering sky, "let us go."
That afternoon remained with the lawyer as another unforgettable memory.
It was all of a piece, sombre, yet of a sharp-edged vividness: the
desolation of the moors, the sting of the rain, the clamour of the sea,
the seabirds soaring slowly with harsh cries. Then they stood, the pair of
them, in Robert Turold's bedroom, looking down on the dead man, swathed in
his graveclothes, with a wreath of flowers from Mrs. Pendleton on his
breast. Removing this symbol of human pretense against the reality of
things, Charles Turold bared the arm of the corpse, and pointing to it
"Could those marks have been made by Sisily?"
In his examination of the marks thus revealed to him, Mr. Brimsdown had
the strange feeling that their existence was, in some way, the
justification of the dead man's summons to him.
"Do you know how these marks were made?" he said, turning to Charles.
"I do not. But I do know that they prove that Sisily is innocent."
Charles Turold spoke defiantly, but there was a slight note of
interrogation in his voice which the lawyer chose to ignore.
"They were made by a man's hand," the young man persisted, looking
earnestly at him.
"Do the police know of them?"
"That I cannot tell you."
Another question was in Mr. Brimsdown's mind, but the young man's haggard
face, the mingled misery and expectation of his glance, checked the
utterance of it. He had the idea that Charles's manner suggested something
more--some revelation yet to come. But the young man did not speak.
"Is this all you wanted to show me?" Mr. Brimsdown hinted.
"Is it not enough?"
"I do not see that it throws any light on Miss Turold's disappearance. Can
you explain that?"
"How can I explain what I do not know?" Charles was silent for a moment,
then added bitterly. "It may be because of her father's inhuman conduct."
"Robert Turold is dead--do not use that tone in speaking of him," the
Charles turned on him a peculiar look. "Do you think the world is the
loser by his death?" he said.
Mr. Brimsdown was moved out of himself to declare that the death of Robert
Turold was a distinct loss to the world. "He was a wonderful man--a
notable personality," he said emphatically.
Charles gave him a moody glance, and there fell upon them a silence so
complete that the dead man in the bed seemed to share in it. The lawyer
had an acute perception of the fact that he had handled the situation
badly. He intuitively realized that he had put himself into the opposite
camp to Charles's sympathies by the uncompromising partisanship of his
last remarks. He was convinced that until that moment, Charles had been
meditating the question of some further disclosure. Mr. Brimsdown
regretted afterwards that he made no effort to gain his confidence. He
felt that if he had done so events might have taken a different course.
But it is difficult to bring youth and age together. Youth sometimes
yields to impulse, but not age. The lurking devil of self-consciousness
whispers caution as the safer quality. Mr. Brimsdown hearkened to the
whisper, and stood there in silence, while the minutes slipped by which
might have bridged the gap.
There was a quick step in the passage outside, and the door opened to
admit Detective Barrant. He looked inquiringly from one to the other, and
addressed himself to the lawyer.
"Are you Mr. Brimsdown?" he asked.
"That is my name," the lawyer replied.
"I am Detective Barrant of Scotland Yard. I wish to speak to you
His emphasis on the last word was not lost on Charles Turold. With a
slight indifferent nod to Mr. Brimsdown he went out of the room, closing
the door quietly behind him.
"I have come to see you about this letter which you left with Inspector
Dawfield." Barrant produced the letter and took the single sheet from the
"That is the reason of my presence in Cornwall," said Mr. Brimsdown.
"So I imagined. What can you tell me about it?"
"Very little, except that I received it by the last post at my chambers in
Lincoln's Inn Fields the night after Robert Turold's death."
"But why did he send for you?"
"That I cannot even guess."
"You surely must have some idea."
"If I had I should be only too happy to assist the course of justice by
imparting it to you."
There was a dryness in the tone of this reply which warned Barrant that he
had made a blunder in allowing his irritation to get the better of him.
But his private opinion was that the letter was the outcome of some secret
of the dead man's which he had imparted to his lawyer. He changed his mood
with supple swiftness, in order to extract the information.
"This letter suggests certain things," he said, "some secret, perhaps, in
Robert Turold's life, of which you may have some inkling. If you will give
me some hint as to what it was, it might be very helpful."
"Unfortunately, I am as much in the dark as yourself," returned Mr.
Brimsdown, rubbing his brow thoughtfully. "I cannot make the faintest guess
at the reason which called forth this letter. I know next to nothing of my
late client's private life. He was a man of the utmost reticence in
personal matters. My relations with him were not of that nature."
This reply was delivered with a sincerity which it was impossible to
doubt. In palpable disappointment Barrant turned to a renewed scrutiny of
the letter, which he held open in his hand.
"It is very strange," he muttered.
"Not the least strange part of it is that I cannot ascertain who posted
it," said Mr. Brimsdown, glancing earnestly at the letter. "I asked
Thalassa, but he says he knows nothing about it."
"Thalassa is probably lying to you as he has lied to me. One lie more or
less would not weigh on his conscience."
"Why should he tell a lie over such a small thing as the posting of a
Barrant did not reply. He was apparently absorbed in examining the
postmarks on the envelope. "Indistinguishable, of course," he muttered,
returning the letter to the envelope. "Had Robert Turold any enemies?" he
"I never heard him speak of any."
"How did he come by his money?" asked Barrant, struck by a sudden thought.
"His sister tells me that he made his money abroad."
"That I cannot tell you."
"But you invested his fortune for him, did you not?"
"I did," the lawyer agreed.
"In what circumstances?"
"It is rather a strange story," replied Mr. Brimsdown slowly.
"I should like to hear it then. It may throw some light on this letter."
"Let us go into the other room."
Mr. Brimsdown made this suggestion with a quick glance at his departed
client on the bed, as though he feared some sardonic reproof from those
grey immobile lips.
Barrant had returned with a feeling of irritation against the mischances
of events which had brought an important piece of evidence to light after
his departure for London. He had chosen to commence inquiries into
Sisily's disappearance as soon as he had reached London instead of going
to Scotland Yard, where a guarded telegram from Inspector Dawfield awaited
him, and although he had hastened to obey the summons back to Cornwall as
soon as he received it, two valuable days had been lost. It was true that
in that time he had found traces of the girl which he believed would lead
to her early arrest, but the letter, with its implication that the dead
man was aware of his impending doom, was a highly significant clue, and
strengthened Barrant's original belief that the real mystery of Robert
Turold's death lay much deeper than the plausible surface of events
He sat now, with a kind of sombre thoughtfulness, listening to Mr.
Brimsdown's account of his first meeting with his dead client. That story
carried with it a suggestion of adventure and mystery, but it was
difficult to say whether those elements had anything to do with Robert
Turold's death, thirty years later. It brought up the image of a man,
rugged and dominant even in youth, winning his way into the heart of a
middle-aged lawyer by the story of his determination to possess an old
English title. Most men have the spirit of Romance hidden in them
somewhere, and chance or good luck had sent Robert Turold, on his return
to England, to the one solicitor in London to whom his story was likely to
make the strongest kind of appeal. The spirit of Romance in Mr.