Part 4 out of 6
Brimsdown's bosom was no shimmering thing of thistledown and fancy, but
took the concrete shape of the peerage law of England, out of which he had
fashioned an image of worship to the old nobility and the days of
Barrant gathered so much from the lawyer's description of that first
meeting. And if Robert Turold had found in the solicitor the man he most
needed in his search for the missing title, it was equally clear that his
own great quality of rugged strength had exercised the most extraordinary
sway on the lawyer--a species of personal magnetism which had never lost
its original effect. It was not until the second or third meeting--Mr.
Brimsdown was not quite sure which--that the question of money was
introduced. The lawyer had pointed out to his client that the search for
the title was likely to be prolonged and expensive, and Robert Turold had
indifferently assured him that he had money at his command for that
purpose lying on deposit at a London bank. The amount, when he did mention
it, was much greater than Mr. Brimsdown imagined--nearly L50,000 in fact.
It was at Robert Turold's suggestion that Mr. Brimsdown undertook to
invest the sum at better rates of interest, and thus, before a year had
passed, the whole of Robert Turold's business affairs were in the hands of
On one point Mr. Brimsdown was clear. He had never heard from Robert
Turold how he first came into possession of this large sum of money, and
his client had never encouraged inquiry on the subject. Mr. Brimsdown had
once ventured to ask him how he had made his fortune, and Robert Turold,
with a freezing look, had replied that he had made it abroad. Mr.
Brimsdown had never again referred to the subject, deeming it no business
Barrant, listening to this with the air of a man who was not to be
deceived, could not see that the narration threw any illumination on the
letter or the other circumstances of Robert Turold's death. It seemed too
far-fetched to suppose there was any connection between the fortune which
Robert Turold had brought from abroad thirty years before and the letter
he had sent to his solicitor on the night of his death. The idea did
indeed cross his mind that some iniquity in that money-getting may have
been responsible for a belated revenge, but he dismissed that thought as
too wide for the scope of his inquiry. Abroad! That was a vague word, and
thirty years was a long while back.
As he contemplated the manifold perplexities of the case, Barrant tried to
shut out the more sinister inference of the letter by asking himself, if
after all, the postscript was not capable of some entirely innocent
interpretation. But his conscientious mind refused to permit him to evade
responsibility in that way. The letter could not be dismissed with a wave
of one's wishing wand. It remained stubbornly in Barrant's perspective, an
unexplained factor which could be neither overlooked nor ignored.
These thoughts ran through his mind as Mr. Brimsdown talked of his dead
client. At the same time, the detective's attitude towards the lawyer
underwent a considerable change. His professional caution, amounting
almost to suspicion, became modified by the more perceptive point of view
that as the dead man had turned to Mr. Brimsdown for assistance, it would
be better for him to trust the lawyer also--to look upon him as an ally,
and make common cause with him in the search for Robert Turold's murderer.
This changed attitude, carrying with it a seeming friendliness, the
establishment, as it were, of an understanding between them, was not lost
upon Mr. Brimsdown. But it had its awkward side for him, by giving added
weight to the responsibility of deciding whether he should reveal or
withhold his chance encounter with Sisily at Paddington. Till then, Mr.
Brimsdown had been unable to make up his mind about that. There were some
nice points involved in the decision. In an effort to reach a solution he
broached the subject.
"Is it still your opinion that Miss Turold is guilty--after this letter?"
"Her disappearance lays upon her the obligation of explaining her secret
visit to her father on the night of the murder," was the guarded reply.
"Then you intend to arrest her?"
"Do you know where she is?"
A quick consideration of this question led Barrant to the conclusion that
it would do no harm to let the lawyer know the scanty truth.
"She is in London. I have traced her to Paddington."
Mr. Brimsdown decided that, as the detective knew that much, it absolved
him from any obligation to betray the daughter of his dead client. His
feeling of relief unsealed his lips, and led him into an indiscretion.
"It seems incredible that she can be guilty." As he spoke the memory of
Sisily's tender and wistful face, as he had seen it that night, came back
"She had some justification, you know, if she was listening at the door
that afternoon," replied Barrant thoughtfully.
"It is hardly possible that she could have inflicted those marks on the
arm," Mr. Brimsdown said.
"How did you learn of them?" asked the detective quickly, in a changed
Too late Mr. Brimsdown realized that in contrast to his silence with
Charles Turold, he had now gone to the other extreme and said too much. He
hesitated, but his hesitation was useless before the swiftness of
"Was Charles Turold showing you the marks when I found you in the other
room?" he asked with a keen glance.
Mr. Brimsdown's admission of that fact was coupled with an assurance that
the young man had shown him the marks because he was convinced of Sisily's
Barrant dismissed young Turold's opinions about the case with an impatient
shake of the head. "Who told him about the marks?" he said.
It was the thought which had occurred to Mr. Brimsdown at the time, but he
did not say so then. "How did you discover them?" he asked.
"When I was examining the body. But Charles Turold had no reason to
examine the body. Perhaps Dr. Ravenshaw told him. I must ask him."
"It is a terrible and ghastly crime," said Mr. Brimsdown, in an effort to
turn the mind of his companion in another direction. "There is something
about it that I do not understand--some deep mystery which has not yet
been fathomed. Was it really his daughter? If so, how did she escape from
the room and leave the door locked inside? Escape from these windows is
He crossed to the window, and stood for a moment looking down at a grey
sea tossing in futile restlessness. After an interval he said--
"Do you suspect Thalassa as well?"
The detective looked at him with a cautious air: "Why do you ask that?" he
said, with some restraint in his tone.
"It might account ... for certain things."
Barrant shook his head in a way which was more noncommittal than negative.
He wanted to ascertain what the lawyer thought, but he was not prepared to
reveal all his own thoughts in return.
"Do you think that Robert Turold invented this story about his marriage?"
he asked suddenly.
"For what purpose?"
"He did not want his daughter to succeed him in the title. His
announcement about the previous marriage strikes me as just a little too
opportune. Where are the proofs?"
"You would not talk like that if you had known Robert Turold," said the
lawyer, turning away from the window. "He was too anxious to gain the
title to jeopardize the succession by concocting a story of a false
marriage. He had proofs--I have not the slightest doubt of that. I believe
he had them in the house when he made his statement to the family."
"Then where are they now?"
"They may have been stolen."
"For what reason?"
"By some one interested."
"The person most interested is Robert Turold's daughter," said Barrant
thoughtfully. "That supposition fits in with the theory of her guilt.
Robert Turold is supposed to have kept valuable papers in that old clock
on the wall, which was found on the floor that night. Apparently he
staggered to it during his dying moments and pulled it down on top of him.
For what purpose? His daughter may have guessed that the proofs of her
illegitimacy were kept there, and tried to get them. Her father sought to
stop her, and she shot him."
"That theory does not account for the marks on the arm," said the lawyer.
"It does, because it is based on the belief that there was somebody else
in the room at the time, or immediately afterwards."
"Yes--Thalassa. He knows more about the events of this night than he will
admit, but I shall have him yet."
"But the theory does not explain the letter," persisted the lawyer with an
earnest look. "Robert Turold could not possibly have had any premonition
that his daughter intended to murder him, and even if he had, it would not
have led him to write that letter with its strange postscript, which
suggests that he had a sudden realization of some deep and terrible danger
in the very act of writing it. And if Thalassa was implicated, was he
likely to go to such trouble to establish a theory of suicide, and then
post a letter to me which destroyed that theory?"
"We do not know that Thalassa posted the letter--it may have been Robert
Turold himself. As for premonitions--" Barrant checked himself as if
struck by a sudden thought, stood up, and walked across the room to where
the broken hood clock had been replaced on its bracket. He stood there
regarding it, and the round eyes in the moon's face seemed to return his
glance with a heavy stare.
"If that fat face in the clock could only speak as well as goggle its
eyes!" he said, with a mirthless smile. "We should learn something then.
What's the idea of it all--the rolling eyes, the moon, the stars, and a
verse as lugubrious as a Presbyterian sermon on infant damnation. The
whole thing is uncanny."
"It's a common enough device in old clocks," said the lawyer, joining him.
"It is commoner, however, in long-cased clocks--the so-called grandfather
clock. I have seen all sorts of moving figures and mechanisms in
long-cased clocks in old English country houses. A heaving ship was a very
familiar device, the movement being caused, as in this clock, by a wire
from the pendulum. I have never seen a specimen with the rotating
moon-dial before, though they were common enough in some parts of England
at one time. This is a Dutch clock, and the earlier Dutch makers were
always fond of representing their moons as human faces. It was made by a
great master of his craft, as famous in his native land as old Dan Quare
is in England, and its mechanism has outlived its creator by more than
three hundred years."
"Would it be an accurate timekeeper, do you think?" asked Barrant, looking
mistrustfully at the motionless face of the moon, as though he suspected
it of covertly sneering at him.
"I should think so. These old clockmakers made their clocks to keep
perfect time, and outlast Time himself! And this clock is a perfect
specimen of the hood clock, which marked a period in clock-making between
the old weight clocks and the long cases. Hood clocks were popular in
their day in Holland, but they have always been rare in this country. It
would be interesting to trace how this one came into this house. No doubt
it was taken from a wreck, like so much of the furniture in old Cornish
"You seem to know a lot about old clocks."
Mr. Brimsdown, astride his favourite hobby, rode it irresistibly. He
discoursed of clocks and their makers, and Barrant listened in silence.
The subject was not without its fascination for him, because it suggested
a strange train of thought about the hood clock which was the text, as it
were, of the lawyer's discourse. He looked up. Mr. Brimsdown, in front of
the clock, was discoursing about dials and pendulums. Barrant broke in
abruptly with the question on his mind--
"Can you, with your knowledge of old clocks, suggest any reason which
would cause Robert Turold to go to it? Are the works intricate? Would such
a clock require much adjustment?"
"Robert Turold was not likely to think of adjusting a clock in his dying
moments," returned Mr. Brimsdown, with a glance which betokened that he
perfectly understood his companion had some other reason for his question.
"There's a smear of blood on the dial," said Barrant, staring at it.
"Was that made by the right or left hand?"
"The right hand was resting on the clock-face. Why do you ask?"
Mr. Brimsdown hesitated, then said: "The thought has occurred to me that
Robert Turold may have gone to the clock for a different purpose--not for
papers. Perhaps his last thought was to indicate the name of the murderer
on the white face of the clock."
"In his blood? Rather a melodramatic idea, that! He had writing materials
before him if he wanted to do that, if he thought of it. He was shot down
in the act of writing, remember."
A silence fell between them on this declaration--a silence terminated by
Barrant remarking that it was really late, and he must be getting back to
Penzance. Mr. Brimsdown made no suggestion to accompany him. Instead he
rustled papers in Robert Turold's cabinet as though to convey the
impression that the sorting and searching of them would take him some
time. Barrant, from whose eyes speculation and suspicion looked out from a
depth, like the remote glance of a spider which had scurried to a hole,
gave a slight sign of farewell, and wheeled out of the apartment without
Downstairs he went, plunged in the deepest thought. Looking downward, he
saw Thalassa escorting Dr. Ravenshaw to the front door. The doctor's voice
"... She must not be left alone on any account--understand that. You ought
to get somebody to look after her."
"I can't afford nobody," Thalassa made reply.
Dr. Ravenshaw was about to say something more, but the figure of the
descending detective caught his eye. Barrant made a detaining gesture, and
the doctor waited in the passage for him. Barrant, with a slight glance at
the motionless figure of Thalassa, led the way into the front room. He
closed the door before he spoke.
"Doctor," he said, "have you told anybody about those marks on Robert
"I have not," said the doctor promptly, looking up. "Why do you ask?"
His glance carried conviction, and interrogation also. But it was
Barrant's province to ask questions, not to answer them. He ignored Dr.
"There's another matter, doctor," he continued. "One of the coast
fishermen has a story that when Robert Turold was out on the moors he used
to hasten home with great strides, like a man who feared pursuit. Did you
ever observe this peculiarity in him?"
"I have observed that he used to walk at a quick pace."
"This was more than a quick pace--it was almost a run, according to the
fisherman--looking backward over his shoulder as he went."
"I did not notice that, but I should not be surprised if it were true,
with a man of Robert Turold's temperament."
"He feared pursuit--some unknown danger, then?"
"I cannot say. He may have suffered from agoraphobia."
"What is that?" asked Barrant.
"The dread of open spaces."
"I have heard of claustrophobia--the dread of closed spaces--but not of
"It is common enough--an absurd but insurmountable aversion to open
spaces. The victims are oppressed by a terrible anxiety when crossing a
field. I have known a man who would be terrified at the idea of crossing
"What is the cause of agoraphobia?" asked Barrant.
"It is a nervous disorder--one of the symptoms of advanced neurasthenia."
"Did Robert Turold suffer from neurasthenia?"
"His nervous system was in a state of irritable weakness through the
monomania of a fixed idea," was the reply--"too much seclusion and
concentration on one object, to the exclusion of all other human
"How's your patient?" said Barrant, giving the conversation an abrupt
"What patient do you mean--Mrs. Thalassa?" asked Dr. Ravenshaw in some
"Yes. I gathered from what I overheard you say to Thalassa that you have
been attending her."
"I have been attending her since Mr. Turold's death."
"She is in a strange condition," observed Barrant reflectively. "I was
questioning her the other night, but I could get nothing out of her. She
seems almost imbecile."
"She is not a woman of strong mind, and she is now suffering from a severe
shock. She should be looked after or taken away from here altogether, but
her husband seems quite indifferent."
"Do you think she will recover?"
"It is impossible to say."
"How do you think the shock was caused?"
"I should not like to hazard an opinion on that point, either," replied
Dr. Ravenshaw gravely. He glanced at his watch as he spoke. "I must be
going," he said.
They left the house together, but branched off at the gate--Dr. Ravenshaw
to visit a fisherman's dying wife, and Barrant to seek the _Three Jolly
Wreckers_ for supper before returning to Penzance.
From the kitchen window Thalassa watched them go: the doctor walking
across the cliffs with resolute stride, the detective making for the path
over the moors with bent head and slower step, as though his feet were
clogged by the weight of his thoughts. Thalassa watched their dwindling
forms until they disappeared, and then stood still, in a listening
attitude. The sound of the lawyer stirring in the study overhead seemed to
rouse him from his immobility. He closed the door, and stood looking up
the staircase with the shadow of indecision on his face.
Upstairs Mr. Brimsdown made unavailing search among Robert Turold's papers
for proofs of his statement about his marriage. The lawyer believed that
they existed, and his failure to find them brought with it a belated
realization of the fact that he, too, had been cherishing hopes of
Sisily's innocence. It was the memory of her face which had inspired that
secret hope. That was not sentiment (so Mr. Brimsdown thought), but the
worldly wisdom of a man whose profession had trained him to read the human
face. Sisily's face, as he recalled it now, had looked sad and a little
fearful that night at Paddington, but there was nothing furtive or tainted
in her clear glance. He felt that a judge would look with marked attention
at such a face in the dock. Judges, like lawyers, and all whose business
it is to trip their kind into the gins of the law, scan faces as closely
as evidence in the effort to read the stories written there.
But the disappearance of certain papers which had probably been abstracted
from that room weighed more in the scale of suspicion against Sisily than
her look of innocence. She stood to gain most by the suppression or
destruction of the proofs of her mother's earlier marriage. But Mr.
Brimsdown could not see that this rather negative inference against the
girl brought the actual solution of the mystery any nearer. It did nothing
to explain, for instance, the marks on the dead man's arm and his
posthumous letter. The letter! What was the explanation of the letter? Was
it not an argument of equal weight for Sisily's innocence, suggesting the
existence of some hidden avenging figure glimpsed by Robert Turold in time
to give him warning of his death, but not in time to enable him to avert
There were other things too. What was the meaning of that sly and stealthy
shake of the head which Austin Turold had given his son that afternoon. A
warning obviously--but a warning for what purpose? Mr. Brimsdown could not
guess, but his contemplation of the incident brought before him the image
of the restless and unhappy young man, as he stood by the bedside in the
next room, pointing to the marks on the dead man's arm. Even in his
vehement assertions of Sisily's innocence Mr. Brimsdown had conceived the
impression that he was keeping something back. What did Charles Turold
know? Did his father share his secret knowledge? Mr. Brimsdown could not
answer these questions, and he was greatly perturbed at the way in which
they brought a host of other thoughts and doubts in their train. He
reflected that the Turolds, father and son, were after all the greatest
gainers by their relative's death. The father came into immediate
possession of a large and unexpected fortune which he would bequeath to
his son. And Austin Turold was not anxious apparently to proceed with his
brother's claim for the title.
These were facts which could not be gainsaid, but where did they lead? The
trouble was that no conceivable theory covered the facts of the case, so
far as they were known. So far as they were known! That was the
difficulty. Any line of thought stopped short of the real solution,
because the facts themselves were inconclusive. There was much that was
still concealed--Mr. Brimsdown felt sure of that.
As he applied his mind to the problem, the definite impression came back
to him, and this time with renewed force, that the mystery surrounding
Robert Turold's death was something which might not bear the light of day.
He set his lips firmly as he considered that possibility. If that proved
to be the case it would be his duty to cover it up again. He was an adept
at such work, as many of his clients, alive and dead, could have
approvingly testified. He had spent much time in safeguarding family
secrets. Several old families had found him their rock of refuge in
distress. If he had been a man of the people, baby lips might have been
taught to call down Heaven's blessings on his discreet efforts. Those
members of the secluded domain of high respectability for whom he strived
showed their gratitude in a less emotional but more substantial
way--generally in the mellow atmosphere of after-dinner conferences ...
"You had better see my man, Brimsdown. I'll give you a note to him. He'll
square this business for you. Safe? None safer."
Mr. Brimsdown did not accept the axiom of a great English jurist that
every man is justified in evading the law if he can, because it is the
duty of lawmakers not to leave any loophole for evasion. That point of
view of justice as a battle of wits, with victory to the sharpest, was a
little too cynical for his acceptance. But he believed it to be his duty
to safeguard the interests of his client. Robert Turold was dead, and no
longer able to protect his own name. It might be that the facts of his
death involved some scandalous secret of the dead man's which was better
undivulged, and if so it would remain undivulged, could Mr. Brimsdown
contrive it. For the time being he would pursue his investigations and
keep his own counsel.
The sound of an opening door and a shadow athwart the threshold disturbed
his meditations. He looked up, and was confronted by the spectacle of
Thalassa advancing into the room with his eyes fixed upon him.
"Well, Thalassa," he said, "what do you want?"
"To ask you something," was the response. "It's this. It's every man for
himself--now that he's gone."
He jerked his thumb in the direction of the next room. "He took this house
for twelve months, and so it'll have to be paid for. Can I stop here for a
bit? I suppose it's in your hands to say yes or no."
His face was hard and expressionless as ever, but there was a new note in
his voice which struck the lawyer's keen ear--an accent of supplication.
He looked at Thalassa thoughtfully.
"You wish to stay on here until you have made other arrangements for your
future--is that so?" he asked.
"That's it," was the brief reply.
Mr. Brimsdown felt there was more than that--some deeper, secret reason.
Before granting the request it occurred to him to try and get what he
could in exchange. Self-interest is the strongest of human motives, and
men wanting favours are in a mood to yield something in return.
"Well, Thalassa," he said, amiably enough, but watching him with the eye
of a hawk, "I do not think your request is altogether unreasonable--in the
circumstances. I dare say it could be arranged. I'll try to do so, but I
should like you to answer me one or two questions first."
"What do you want to know?"
"Was your master's daughter here--in the house, I mean--on the night of
Thalassa's face hardened. "You, too?" he said simply. "I say again, as I
said before, that she was not."
"You said so," rejoined Mr. Brimsdown softly. "The question is--are you
telling the truth? If you know anything of the events of that night you
may be injuring Miss Turold by your silence."
For a moment Mr. Brimsdown thought his appeal was going to succeed. He
could have sworn that a flicker of hesitation--of irresolution--crossed
the old man's stern countenance. But the mood passed immediately, and it
was in an indifferent voice that Thalassa, turning to go, replied--
"If that's what you're reckoning on, I'd better go and pack my traps."
"Oh, I don't make that a condition," replied the lawyer, acknowledging his
defeat in a sporting spirit. "You can remain here and look after the house
until you decide what to do. As Robert Turold's old servant you are
entitled to consideration. I will help you afterwards, if you will let me
know your plans. I am sure that would have been your late master's wish."
"I want nothing from _him_," Thalassa rejoined, "a damned black
Mr. Brimsdown was shocked at this savage outburst, but there was something
so implacable in the old man's air that the rebuke he wished to utter died
unspoken. Thalassa regarded him for a moment in silence, and then went
"Thank'ee for letting me stop on here a bit. Now I'll tell you
something--about him." Again his thumb indicated the next room. "It was
the night after."
"Do you mean the night after he met his death?"
"Yes. Some one was upstairs in his room--in this room."
Mr. Brimsdown gave a startled glance around him, as though seeking a
lurking form in the shadows. "Here?" he breathed.
"Here, sure enough. I woke up in my bed downstairs, staring wide awake, as
though somebody had touched me on the shoulder. I was just turning over to
go to sleep again, when I heered a noise up here."
"What sort of a noise?"
"Like the rustling of paper. I listened for a bit, then it stopped. I
heard a board creak in the next room, where we'd carried him. Then the
rustling started in the other room again, right over my head. The dog
downstairs started to bark. I got up, and went upstairs as quickly as I
could, but there was nobody--except _him_. The dog frightened whoever
it was, I suppose. Next morning I found the front room window wide open."
"Were there any footprints outside the window?"
"A man doesn't leave footprints on rocks."
"What time was it?"
"It would be about midnight, I reckon."
"Did your wife hear the noise?"
"No. She was in bed and asleep."
"Are you sure you didn't dream this?" Mr. Brimsdown asked, with a shrewd
"The open window wasn't a dream," was the dogged reply.
"You might have left it open yourself."
"No, I didn't. I close the windows every night before dark."
"And lock them?"
The incident did not sound convincing to Mr. Brimsdown, but his face did
not reveal his scepticism as he thanked Thalassa for the information.
Thalassa lingered, as if he had something still on his mind. He brought it
"Has anything been seen of Miss Sisily?"
"Nothing whatever, Thalassa."
On that he turned away, and went out of the room, leaving the lawyer
pondering over his story of a midnight intruder. Mr. Brimsdown came to the
conclusion that it was probably imagination, and so dismissed it from his
He resumed his work of working over the papers, but after a few minutes
discontinued his search, and walked restlessly about the room. The air
seemed to have the taint of death in it, and he crossed over to one of the
windows and flung it up.
The window looked out on the sea, though far above it, but the slope of
the house embraced in the view a portion of the cliffs at the side. As Mr.
Brimsdown stood so, breathing the sea air and looking around him, he
espied a woman, closely veiled, walking rapidly across the cliffs in the
direction of the house.
She vanished from the range of his vision almost immediately, but a few
minutes later he heard footsteps and an opening door. He was again
confronted by the presence of Thalassa on the threshold. But this time
Thalassa did not linger. "Somebody to see you," he announced with gruff
brevity, and turned away.
The open door now revealed the figure of the woman he had seen outside.
She advanced into the room.
"Mr. Brimsdown?" she said.
"That is my name," said the lawyer, eyeing her in some surprise. He
recognized her as the woman who had stared after him when he left Austin
Turold's lodgings, but he could not conjecture the object of her visit.
"I see you do not remember me," she sadly remarked.
"You are Mrs. Brierly, I think."
"Yes. But I was Mary Pleasington before I was married. I remember you very
well, but I suppose that I have changed."
Mr. Brimsdown recalled the name with a start of surprise. He found it
difficult to recognize, in the faded woman before him, the pretty daughter
of his old client, Sir Roger Pleasington, whose debts and lawsuits had
been compounded by death ten years before. He remembered his daughter as a
budding beauty, with the airs and graces of a pretty girl who imagines her
existence to be of some importance in the world. He recollected that her
marriage to an impecunious young artist had caused some sensation in
Society at the time. Marriage had dealt hardly with her, and no trace of
her beauty or vivacity remained.
"You are the late Mr. Turold's legal adviser?" she continued, after a
Mr. Brimsdown, always chary of unnecessary words, replied with a slight
"I suppose you have come to Cornwall to investigate the cause of his
Mr. Brimsdown remained silent, waiting to hear more.
"I--I wish to speak to you about that." Her lips quivered with some inward
"Will you not be seated?" he said, placing a chair for her.
"Will you regard what I have to say to you in strict confidence?" she
queried, sinking her voice to a whisper.
"Is it about Mr. Turold's murder?"
"It--it may be."
With the recollection of previous eavesdropping in that house, the lawyer
rose and closed the door. "I cannot make a promise of that kind," he said
firmly, as he returned to his seat.
"No, no--of course not," she hurriedly acquiesced. "I was wrong to ask it.
I have come here to tell you. When I saw you this afternoon I realized
that Providence had answered my prayers, and sent somebody in whom I could
safely confide. I will tell you everything. I have come here for that
She seemed to have a difficulty in commencing. Her pale grey eyes wandered
irresolutely from his, and then returned. It was with a perceptible effort
that she spoke at last.
"What I am about to tell you I have known for some days, but I could not
bring myself to the extreme step of going to the police. Sometimes I am
inclined to think that it may be only a trifling thing, easily explained,
and of no importance. But sometimes--at night--it assumes a terrible
significance. I need counsel--wise counsel--about it."
She paused and looked at him wistfully. As though interpreting his nod as
encouragement, she went on--.
"Mr. Austin Turold and his son have been inmates of my household for the
last six weeks. Mr. Robert Turold arranged it with me beforehand. I had
never done anything of the kind before, but our means--my husband's and
mine--are insufficient for the stress of these times. After all, people
Mr. Brimsdown's slight shake of the head seemed to imply that this last
statement was by no means an incontrovertible proposition, but Mrs.
Brierly was not looking at him.
"Therefore, to oblige Mr. Turold we decided to afford hospitality to his
brother and son. The terms were favourable, and they were gentlefolk.
These things counted, and the money helped. But if I had only known--if I
could have foreseen ..."
"Mr. Turold's death?" said Mr. Brimsdown, filling in the pause.
"I mean--everything," she retorted a little wildly. "My name is well
known. I was in Society once. There is my husband's reputation as an
artist to be considered. I would not be talked about for worlds. I acted
against my husband's advice in this matter--in taking Mr. Turold and his
son. My husband said it was a degradation to take in lodgers. I pointed
out that they were gentlefolk. There is a difference. I wish now that I
had listened to my husband's advice."
Mr. Brimsdown listened with patient immobility. His long experience of
female witnesses withheld him from any effort to hasten the flow of his
"They were very nice and quiet--particularly Mr. Austin Turold," she went
on. "The son was more silent and reserved, but we saw very little of
him--he was out so much. But Mr. Turold did my husband good--his breeding
and conversation were just what he needed to lift him out of himself. A
man goes to seed in the country, Mr. Brimsdown, no matter how intellectual
he may be. Nature is delightful, but a man needs to be near Piccadilly to
keep smart. Cornwall is so very far away--so remote--and Cornish rocks are
dreadfully severe on good clothes. I am not complaining, you understand.
We had to come to Cornwall. It was inevitable--for us. No English artist
is considered anything until he has painted a picture of the Land's End or
Newquay. The Channel Islands--or Devon--is not quite the same thing. Not
such a distinctive hallmark. So we came to Cornwall, and my husband went
to seed. That was why I welcomed Mr. Turold's conversation for him. It did
him good. My husband said so himself. He derived inspiration--artistic
inspiration--from Mr. Turold's talk. He conceived a picture--'Land of Hope
and Glory' it was to be called--of a massive figure of Britannia, standing
on Land's End, defying the twin demons of Bolshevism and Labour Unrest
with a trident. He was working at it with extraordinary rapidity--when
"On the day of his brother's death we did not see much of Mr. Austin
Turold. There was Mrs. Turold's funeral in the afternoon, and when he came
home I thought he would prefer to be left to himself.
"He went to his sitting-room, and stayed there. My husband and I retired
early that night, but later we were awakened by a very loud knock at the
front door. We heard Mr. Austin Turold, who was still up, go down and open
it. Then we heard a very loud voice, outside--Mr. Robert Turold's
man-servant, it appears. We heard him tell Mr. Austin that his brother had
been found shot. Mr. Turold returned upstairs, and some time afterwards we
heard him go down again and out.
"I was so upset that I arose and dressed myself to await Mr. Turold's
return. I thought he might like a cup of coffee when he returned, so I
decided to go downstairs myself and prepare it. As I passed the passage
which led to Mr. Charles Turold's room, I noticed a light underneath his
door. I rather wondered, as he was still up, why he had not gone with his
father, but I was passing on without thinking any more about it when I
happened to notice that the light beneath the door was fluctuating in the
strangest way. First it was very bright, then it became quite dim, but the
next moment it would be bright again.
"That alarmed me so much that I walked along the passage to see what it
meant. I thought perhaps the young man had fallen asleep with the window
open and left the gas flaring in the wind. I stood for a moment outside
the door wondering what I ought to do. Then I heard a crackling sound, and
smelt something burning. That alarmed me still more, because I knew no
fire had been lit in the room that day. I wondered if the bedroom was on
fire, and I knelt down and tried to see through the keyhole.
"At first I could see nothing except a bright light and the shadow of a
form on the wall. Then I made out the form of Charles Turold, standing in
his dressing-gown in front of the fireplace, in which a fire of kindling
wood was leaping and blazing. I could not make out at first what he was
doing. He seemed to be stooping over the fire, moving something about.
Then I saw. He was drying his clothes--the suit he had worn that day. They
must have been very wet, for the steam was rising from them.
"I must have made a noise which startled him, for I saw him turn quickly
and stare at the closed door, then walk towards it. I went away as quickly
and noiselessly as I could, and as I turned the corner of the passage, out
of sight, his door opened, and then closed again. He had looked out and,
seeing nobody, gone back into his room.
"I went downstairs to make the coffee and wait for Mr. Turold. I had to
wait some time. When I did hear the sound of his key in the door, I went
up the hall with a cup of coffee in my hand. Mr. Turold seemed surprised
to see me. He looked at me in a questioning sort of way as he took the
coffee, and stood there sipping it. As he handed me back the cup he told
me in a low voice that his brother was dead. I said that was why I had
waited up--because I had heard the knock and the dreadful news. Mr.
Turold, in the same low voice, then said he was very much afraid his
brother had taken his own life.
"He then went upstairs. I again retired shortly afterwards, but I could
not sleep. I was too upset--too nervous. I could not get Mr. Robert
Turold's suicide out of my head. It seemed such a dreadful thing for a
wealthy man to do--so common and vulgar! Suicide sticks to a family so--it
is never really forgotten. It is much easier to live down an embezzlement
or misappropriation of trust funds. The thought of it put the other
thing--the fire and young Mr. Turold and his wet clothes--out of my head
completely, for the time.
"As I was lying there tossing and thinking I heard a light footstep pass
my door. I slipped out of bed, and opening the door a little, looked out.
I saw Mr. Turold, fully dressed, a light in his hand, turning down the
passage which led to his son's room. Then I heard the sound of a creaking
door, the murmur of a low conversation, cut short by the shutting of the
door. I stood there for a few minutes, and then went back to my bed and
"The next day it all came back to me. I had gone into Charles Turold's
room for some reason when he was out, and there, on the hearth, I could
see the remains of the fire he had lit overnight to dry his clothes. He
had made some clumsy man-like attempt to clean up the grate, but he left
some ends of the charred kindling wood lying about."
This final revelation brought a silence between Mrs. Brierly and the
lawyer; a silence broken only by the distant deep call of the sea beneath
the open window. The silence lengthened into minutes before Mr. Brimsdown
found his voice.
"You have said nothing to anybody else about this?" He spoke almost
abstractedly, but she chose to regard this question in the light of a
reproach. She hurriedly rejoined--
"I did not see the necessity--then. If young Mr. Turold got caught in the
storm, and chose to dry his clothes in his room, instead of putting them
out for the maid, why should I tell anybody? I did not connect it with his
uncle's death. I was under the impression that Mr. Robert Turold had taken
his own life. It was not until the detective called to see Mr. Austin
Turold that I learnt there was a suspicion of--murder. My maid overheard
the detective say something while she was in and out of the room serving
tea, and she told me what she had heard. I saw things in a new light then,
and I was terribly upset. But I could not see my way clear until you came
to the house to-day. Then I decided to tell you."
"Can you tell me what time Charles Turold came in that night?"
"I have no idea. He and his father have separate keys of the front door."
It was evident that she had told all she knew. She rose to her feet in
"I must go. My husband will be wondering where I am. But tell me, Mr.
Brimsdown, do you imagine ... Is it possible ..." Her voice dropped to the
ghost of a frightened whisper.
He evaded this issue with legal caution.
"You have done quite right in coming to me," he replied, as he opened the
door for her departure. He held out his hand.
She touched it with trembling fingers, and went away.
Mr. Brimsdown closed the door behind her, and wearily sat down. He had
been prepared to do much to shield the name of Turold, but he had not
bargained for this. He did not doubt the truth of the story he had just
heard, and it gave him a feeling of nausea. What a revelation of the
infamy of human nature! The stupendous depth of such villainy overwhelmed
him with dismay. The extent of the criminal understanding between father
and son he did not attempt to fathom. His mind was filled with the
monstrous audacity by which Charles Turold, apparently at the dictate of
remorse, had sought to convince him of Sisily's innocence by directing
attention to the marks on the dead man's arm which he had probably made
himself. Could human cynicism go farther than that? A great wave of pity
swept over the lawyer as he thought of the unhappy Sisily, and all that
she had been compelled to endure. But why had she fled?
Long he sat there without stirring, until the shadows deepened and the
grey surface of the sea dissolved in blackness.
"The police must be told of this," he said at last, in an almost voiceless
"And suppose the police call during your absence?" said Austin Turold,
glancing sharply at his son.
"Then you had better tell the truth. I am tired of it all."
"I might ask, with Pilate, What is truth?--in your case."
"You know it already, father, whether you believe me or not."
Austin Turold looked strangely at him--a look in which anger was mingled
with something deeper and more searching, as though he sought to reach
some secret in the depth of his soul. Impatiently he crossed the room to
the fireplace, and stood with his back to the fire, facing his son.
"I do not see that there's any more risk than there was before," said
"I say there is," returned his father sharply. "What! Do you suppose you
can go off to London like this, leaving me here alone, at such a moment?
Do you not see that your unexplained absence, in itself, is likely to
bring suspicion upon you, indeed, upon both of us?"
"I cannot help that," returned the young man desperately. "I must go and
"You are not likely to find her. You do not even know that she has gone to
"Yes. I have found out that much. She took a ticket by the midday train on
the day after--it happened."
"And why do you wish to find her?"
"Because she is deeply wronged--she is innocent."
"You should be able to speak with authority on that point," said Austin,
with a cold glance, which the other did not meet. "You are acting very
foolishly, rushing off to London on this quixotic mission. You won't find
her. Besides, no woman is worth what you are risking in this wild-goose
chase. You are jeopardizing your future by an act of the maddest folly."
"There is nothing in life for me but the shadow of things--now," returned
the young man in low tones. "I want nothing except to find Sisily and
prove her innocence. I'm going to look for her, whatever you say."
Austin Turold made an impatient gesture.
"Very well," he said. "If Providence has made you a fool you must fulfil
Providence's decree. Only, I warn you, I think you are going the right way
to bring trouble on yourself. That lawyer who was here to-day--what's his
name, Brimstone, Brimsdown?--has his suspicions, unless I'm very much
Charles turned pale. "What makes you think that?" he asked.
"By the way he watched both of us."
"That accounts for his attitude when I saw him afterwards," said Charles
in a startled voice.
"I went after him to tell him that Sisily was innocent."
"And what else did you tell him?"
"Nothing but that--nothing that counted, at least."
"Really, Charles, your lack of intelligence is a distinct reflection on me
as a parent. Fancy a son of mine trying to make a lawyer's bowels yearn
with compassion! I'm positively ashamed of you. Why are you so elementary?
The situation must have contained some elements of humour, though. I
should like to have witnessed it. Did you call down Heaven's vengeance on
the murderer in approved fashion? How did the man of parchments take it?"
"You have no heart," said his son, flushing darkly under this sarcasm. He
walked towards the door as he spoke. "I am going," he said. "There is an
excursion train through to Paddington to-night, and I shall catch it."
"You are determined on it, then?"
"I should be in an unendurable position if I didn't," replied the young
man, and without another word he left the room.
Austin looked after him a little wistfully, as though remembering that the
other was, after all, his son. He remained motionless for a moment, then
crossed over to the window and looked out. As he stood so his eye was
caught by two figures beneath. One was his son, walking down the garden
path. The other was Mrs. Brierly, returning to the house. She walked past
Charles with downcast eyes, but Austin from the window saw her turn and
cast a frightened fluttering glance at the young man's retreating figure.
She had seen him, then, but did not want to recognize him. As she hurried
up the garden path Austin caught a glimpse of her face, and observed that
it was white and drawn.
"What's the matter with my estimable landlady?" he murmured as he withdrew
from the window.
His quick intelligence, playing round this incident and seeking to pierce
its meaning, grew alarmed. There seemed to be a menace in it. Did she know
or guess something of the hidden events of that night, or had she played
the spy since? He turned pale as he considered these possibilities. Women
had an unerring instinct for a secret once their curiosity was aroused.
But he had been careful, very careful. What did she suspect?
He thought over this problem until night fell, and retired to bed with it
But the solution flashed into his mind at breakfast next morning,
suddenly, like light in a dark place. He was amazed that he had not seen
it before. "If it is that ..." he whispered. But he knew it was that; knew
also, that it meant the worst. He got up from the table, then forced
himself to sit down again and eat. An untouched breakfast tray might
quicken the suspicions in the mind of that most treacherous woman
downstairs, might hasten her hand. But why had she delayed so long?
He passed the morning between his chair and the window, watching, and
listening for footsteps. He saw Mrs. Brierly leave the house early, and
wondered if she would return with the police. Another reflection came to
his mind. Charles had some inkling, and had fled in time. Perhaps that was
just as well, if he got out of England. For himself there was no such
retreat, nor did he wish it. He would have to face things out, if they had
to be faced, and he did not yet despair of saving the situation, so far as
it affected himself. What did that diabolical female know, really? He had
a momentary vision of her stealing about the house, prying, watching,
listening. He sank into a motionless brooding reverie.
The day passed its meridian, but he still sat there in solitude with his
anxious thoughts. As the afternoon declined his hopes rose. Could it be
that he was mistaken, that his fears were imaginary? Perhaps, after all--
At that sharp ring of the doorbell downstairs he walked noiselessly to the
window, and shrank back with the startled look of a man who has had his
first glimpse of the bared teeth of the law. He stood still, listening
intently. He heard the door opened, a sharp question, then the sound of
ascending footsteps. When the knock came at his own door he was in
complete command of himself as he went to open it. He was well aware of
the ordeal before him, but he did not show it. There was nothing but
ironical self-possession in the glance which took in the figures of
Detective Barrant and Inspector Dawfield, revealed on the threshold of the
Barrant lost no time in coming to the point. "I want to see your son," he
said, entering and glancing quickly round the apartment.
"I am afraid that is impossible."
"He is not here."
"Where is he?"
"I think he has gone to London."
Barrant was plainly taken aback at this unexpected piece of news. "When
did he go?" he demanded.
Barrant cast a look at Dawfield, which said plainly: "He's had word of
this and bolted." His glance returned to Austin. "Can you tell me where he
is staying in London?"
"I have not the least idea," returned Austin negligently.
"Does he not live with you?"
"As a rule--yes."
"What is your London address?"
Austin took a card from his case and laid it on the table. Barrant picked
it up, glanced at it, and said: "Is your son likely to be there?"
"He may be, but he said nothing to me about going there. He has his own
liberty of action, like every other young man of his age. May I ask the
reason of these questions, Detective Barrant?"
Barrant did not choose to reply. He drew Inspector Dawfield to the doorway
and conferred with him in an undertone. Austin saw Barrant slip the card
into his colleague's hand, and Dawfield then hastened away. The inference
was plain. Dawfield had been sent off to intercept the flight or start the
pursuit. Austin found himself profoundly hoping that his son was by that
time out of England.
He had not much leisure to think of that, for Barrant turned towards him
again with an annoyance that he did not attempt to dissemble. "Why has
your son gone to London--perhaps you can tell me that much?" he exclaimed.
"I gathered from him that it is his intention to look for his cousin
"For what purpose?"
"Because he strongly believes in her innocence."
"It is strange that he should have rushed off like this."
"Without waiting for your visit, do you mean? Really, Detective Barrant,
may I constrain you to give me some explanation of all this? I want to
help you all I can, but your actions savour too much of a peremptory
jack-in-the-box, even in these bureaucratic days. What is the object of
this visit? Why did you want to see my son?"
"I wished to interview him."
"About what, may I ask?"
Barrant did not immediately reply, but Austin, scanning him furtively,
sought to reach his thoughts by the varying shades of expression on his
face. It was the state of mind of a man who was at once chagrined, amazed,
suspicious, and wondering. The older man could picture Barrant thinking to
himself: "This man before me--how far is he involved in this?" And,
watching him mutely, Austin steeled himself for a sudden outburst: "You
picked up the key. You declared it was suicide. What does that mean--now?"
But he under-estimated Barrant's intelligence. Barrant had no intention of
doing anything so crude. The situation was sufficiently awkward as it
stood without putting the father on his guard. Austin might guess that he
was under suspicion as well as his son, but that did not matter so much.
Barrant instinctively realized that flight was impossible for Austin
Turold, though he might seek to warn his son not to go near their London
home because the police were after him. But that was a warning which would
be useless, for the police were ahead of him there. Barrant reflected that
he gained nothing by not divulging the object of his visit when the
inference of it was so transparently palpable. The disclosure might even
serve a useful purpose by lessening Austin's apprehensions in his own
case. With this consideration in view he brought it out frankly--
"I wished to question your son about his movements on the night of the
"Is my son suspected--now?"
Barrant winced under the delicate inflection of irony which conveyed in
that brief reply the inference of another blunder in his own changing
suspicions. That sneer roused the official in him, and it was in a curt
tone of command that he said--
"What time did your son get home on the day of the murder?"
"I am unable to say."
"He did not return with you after the funeral?"
"No, he did not."
"Where did he go?"
"These are strange questions, Detective Barrant. I really cannot tell you
that either, because I do not know."
He put up his glasses to look at Barrant with an assumption of resentment,
but the detective's return glance was hard and searching. "Was your son in
to dinner that night?" he asked.
"We have midday dinner, in this house."
"Well, supper. Was he in to supper?"
Austin reflected rapidly. He dared not refuse to answer the question, and
any attempt to mislead the questioner would only make things worse when
the two women in the house knew the truth.
"Yes. He was in to supper."
"And went out afterwards?"
This was put more as a simple statement of fact than a question. Again,
Austin's subtle intelligence could see no better course than truth.
"He did. My son frequently goes out walking of an evening after supper."
"What time did he return--on this evening?"
"I do not know."
"Do you mean that?" Barrant's tone was incredulous.
"I do." The impulse which had dictated his previous answer sprang from the
thought that the foolish females downstairs could not contradict it, and
he adhered calmly to the course now he was committed to it.
"What time did Thalassa come for you from Flint House with the news that
your brother was dead?"
"I do not know the exact time. He called at the police station first."
"Had not your son returned by then?"
"I am unable to inform you. He frequently goes straight to his room when
he returns from an evening walk."
"Then you do not know whether he was in or out when you left the house?"
"I assumed he was in, as it was after his usual time for returning."
"You did not go to his room, to see?"
"No. I did not wish to disturb him."
Barrant looked as though there was only one possible construction to be
placed on these replies, but he still did not utter the question which
Austin feared and dreaded most. In a harsh peremptory voice he said--"Show
me your son's room."
In those words he stood revealed as one with all the resources of the law
at his back, able to issue commands which other people must obey. The
rights of liberty and freedom were in his hands. It needed not that to
show Austin Turold how near he stood to the edge of the precipice. The
strain of the interview had told on him. This was the first actual buffet
of the beast's paw. He led the way to his son's room and watched Barrant
go through his intimate belongings with the feeling that intelligence was
a flimsy shield against the brutal force of authority. The law in search
of prey cared nothing for such civilized refinements as intellect or
self-respect. As well try to stop a tiger with a sonnet.
The search revealed nothing, and Barrant went away without another word. A
moment later Austin heard him questioning the frightened women on the
floor beneath. Listening intently, he made out a fragment of the
conversation, sufficient to remove all doubts of the origin of the
detective's present visit. Austin's mind flew to the episode he had seen
from his window on the previous afternoon. Why in the name of heaven had
this Brierly woman been such a fool? Why had she not come to him with her
story, and asked for money to shut her mouth? Why was she sobbing and
snivelling downstairs now, when it was too late?
Austin Turold was wrong in supposing that his son had left Cornwall to fly
from England. Charles had stated his intention truly enough when he said
he was going to London to look for Sisily, but he did not disclose to his
father the real reason that led him there.
His visit to London was the pursuit of a definite plan. He was animated by
the hope that he knew where Sisily was likely to have sought shelter. Ever
since her disappearance this idea had lurked in his imagination and
occupied his secret thoughts.
It was the fruit of one of their last talks together--a memory they shared
in common. How well he remembered the occasion! They had been on the
cliffs looking down at the Gurnard's Head wallowing like a monster with a
broken back in the foam of a raging sea. It was the day after the death of
Sisily's mother, and Sisily had clung to him as if he were the only friend
she had in the world. She had spoken to him from the depth of an
overburdened soul impelled to confide in another, telling him of her
mother's sad life, unintentionally revealing something of the unhappiness
of her own. And she told him a strange thing about her mother's last
On her death-bed the unhappy woman must have had her fears concerning the
future of her daughter--belated uneasy premonitions arising after her
dying confession to the man supposed to be her husband, perhaps causing
her to doubt the wisdom of that revelation. That seemed plain enough to
Charles afterwards, though not apparent at the time Sisily had confided in
him, for she had died without giving the girl the slightest indication of
her life's secret, as if in some inscrutable hope that the tangle might be
What she did do was to make a feeble effort to save her daughter from the
consequences of her own unhappy act, or at least to help her if those
results arose. She had whispered a name, the name of an old friend of her
girlhood who would befriend her child if ever she needed help. At her
urgent request Sisily had propped her up in bed while she wrote down the
address. Having performed this feat with infinite labour, she dropped back
on her pillow, clinging fast to the hand of the child she loved and whose
future she had blasted at the command of conscience.
Charles recalled how Sisily had taken that pathetic little scrap of paper
from her blouse, kissed it with quivering lips, and handed it to him in
silence. He had deciphered the pencilled scrawl with difficulty. The name
was Catherine Pursill, Charleswood, Surrey. It remained in his mind for a
special reason. Sisily was afraid she might lose the paper (perhaps, like
her mother, she had some prescience of the future) and he had endeavoured
to divert her thoughts by making "memory pictures" of the name and address
after the method of a thought reader. He had told her to picture a cat
sitting on a window ledge, and that would fix the name in her mind.
"Purr"--"Sill"--there it was! As for the place, it was only necessary to
imagine him wandering in a wood (he slyly suggested it)--Charleswood, and
there they were again!
Sisily had smiled wanly at these "memory pictures" and said she would
always be able to remember the address of her mother's old friend by their
They were effectual enough in his own case. The grotesque association of
ideas brought the address to his mind when he first thought of seeking
Sisily in London. He decided to go to Charleswood as soon as he reached
there. The dying woman seemed quite certain her old friend was still in
Charleswood, although it was twenty years since she had heard from her.
She had told Sisily that Mrs. Pursill's house was her own, and it had
belonged to her parents before her. She had assumed that she was not
likely to move. The possibility that Death might have moved her without
consulting her convenience did not seem to have occurred to her.
It did to Charles Turold though, on his journey up from Cornwall. But he
thrust the chilling thought resolutely from him, clinging to his slight
clue because he had nothing else to sustain him, building such hopes upon
it that by the time he reached London scarcely a doubt remained. He spent
the last hour of his journey picturing his meeting with the runaway girl,
holding her, kissing her, sheltering her in his arms from the world. And
afterwards? He refused to contemplate what was to happen afterwards, and
how he was to shield her from the unsentimental clutch of the law which
was also seeking her. He declined also to allow his thoughts to dwell upon
his own position, which was invidious and threatening enough in all
conscience for a man setting out to be the buckler and shield of a girl in
Sisily's plight. He put these obtrusive contingencies out of his mind.
Time enough for those bitter reflections afterwards. The great thing was
to find Sisily first, before shaping further action. So he reasoned, with
the single purpose of a man mastered by love, and the desperate instinct
of a reckless temperament which gambled with life, never looking beyond
the next throw.
He retained sufficient caution to refrain from going to his father's house
in Richmond when he reached London. His father's parting words lingered
unpleasantly in his mind to serve as a warning against the folly of that
course. The same unusual prudence compelled him to leap out of a taxi-cab
as soon as he had leapt into it. For himself he did not care, but he had
to be careful for Sisily's sake. So he clambered on top of a 'bus with his
suit case. The same sobering feeling of responsibility directed his choice
of an hotel when he descended from the vehicle into the seething streets.
He chose a quiet small place off Charing Cross, and booked a room. After a
bath and some lunch he went out to a neighbouring bookstall and bought a
railway time-table. The next train to Charleswood left Charing Cross in
less than half an hour. He walked across to the station, purchased a
ticket, and took his seat. In a few minutes the train started.
Now that he was actually on the way of putting his idea to the test his
former doubts assailed him again with renewed force, but he refused to
listen to them. He told himself that a dying woman's idea was not likely
to be wrong, and that he would find Sisily at Charleswood. She was sure to
be there, because she had nowhere else to go. So he reasoned, or sought to
reason, until the train slowed down at the station which held the solution
of his hopes and fears.
It was a small wayside station at which he alighted--a mere hamlet set in
the slumberous calm of English rural scenery, passed by express trains
with a roar of derision by day and contemptuously winking tail-lights at
night. On the dark green background of the distant heights an eruption of
new red bungalows threatened to spread and destroy the beauty of
Charleswood at no remote date. But at present the sylvan charm of the spot
was unspoiled. Its meadows and fields seemed to lie happily unconscious of
the contagion flaming on the billowy hills.
The porter who emerged from a kind of wooden kennel and clattered up to
Charles to collect his ticket, stared hard when the young man asked if
Mrs. Pursill lived at Charleswood. He appeared to give the matter deep
thought before nodding affirmatively, and accompanied him to the station
entrance to point out an old house lying behind a strip of white fence and
a clump of dark-green trees half-way up a distant hill (not where the
bungalows were cropping up, but in the opposite direction), with the
intimation that it was the residence of the lady he was looking for. He
then watched Charles down the rambling village street until he was out of
It was a long walk--more than a mile--before Charles reached the white
fence and the group of trees which shielded the house behind dark-green
foliage. He caught a glimpse of partly shuttered windows peeping through
this leafy screen, but it was not until he had passed through the trees
that he had a clear view of the house.
The place was dreary and dilapidated, with a partly shuttered front. The
green-stained walls and a mask of ivy gave the place a resemblance to a
large ivy-grown tomb. Charles's spirits were depressed as he looked at it.
There was something so wan and melancholy in its appearance that his high
anticipations rapidly faded. In the face of that reality he could no
longer picture a silver-haired gracious old lady welcoming Sisily with
tears in her eyes for the sake of her dead mother. The human qualities of
warmth and tenderness did not accord with that chilling neglected
He approached the door, his sensations painful enough in the mingled
tumult of suspense, hope, and fear. There was no bell, only an
old-fashioned brass knocker, which, with a kind of surly stiffness,
resisted his attempt to use it. He managed to wrench one knock out of it,
and left it suspended in the air.
There was a considerable pause before the knock was answered. Then the
door was opened by a pretty slim servant girl. There was nothing funereal
in her appearance except her black dress, and that was set off by a
coquettish white apron. She looked at the young man with questioning
bright eyes, as though surprised at his appearance there.
"Does Mrs. Pursill live here?" he asked.
"Yes, sir," she replied with a trace of hesitation.
The barometer of hope went up several degrees in Charles's breast. "Could
I see her?" he eagerly said.
"I'll ask, sir. What name, please?"
"No name. Mrs. Pursill would not know it. But my business is very
The maid looked at him doubtfully, and left him standing there while she
disappeared within. From the depth of the house an agitated feminine
murmur reached him through the half-open door. "What's he like, Ruby?"
"Quite the gentleman, miss--young and very good-looking." A pause, and the
first voice rejoined: "Show him into the drawing-room, and ask him to sit
The maid came back with this message, and took Charles into a large sombre
room. She gave him a fluttered glance of coquetry as she offered him a
chair, as though she would have liked to linger with such an unusual
visitor, then went out softly, closing the door behind her.
The room into which he had been ushered was furnished after some faded
standard of departed elegance with tapestried chairs, and couches, painted
screens, landscapes worked in black lutestring on white silk, and
collections of stuffed humming-birds which gazed wanly at the intruder
from glassy eyes. A massive dead Christ in Gobelin tapestry covered the
whole side of one wall, and from the opposite one the threaded features of
Joseph and his brethren stared gloomily down. These subjects accorded ill
with several pieces of marble statuary scattered about the room--a reeling
Bacchus, a nude Psyche, and an unchaste presentment of Leda drooping her
head over an amorous swan. A broken statue of a pastoral shepherd had been
laid on a table in the corner and partly covered with a cloth, where it
looked very much like a corpse awaiting its turn in a dissecting-room.
Charles had a dreary wait in these surroundings. At first he sat still,
but as the time passed he endeavoured to distract his anxious thoughts by
walking round the room looking at the extraordinary collections of objects
it contained. He was earnestly scrutinizing a lutestring picture depicting
"The Origin of the Dimple"--a cupid poking his forefinger into the double
chin of a fat languishing female--when the door opened and a woman
She was tall and thin, and had reached that period of life when it costs a
woman an effort to look in a mirror because of the menace of approaching
age which stares back from the depth of frightened eyes. Her dress,
however, suggested that she could not bring herself to believe she was yet
out of the hunt, but was still trying to follow it breathlessly on the
back of that broken-kneed and sorry steed, late middle-age. There was
something ridiculous in the girlish attire intended to convince her fellow
creatures that her day was not over; something terrible in the low blouse,
short skirt, silk stockings, gauze, lace and fluttering ribbons with which
she sought to delude the sneering figure of waiting Time.
Charles's first startled thought was that he had unwittingly entered one
of those neglected shuttered houses of romance, where an eccentric female
recluse sits with a waiting wedding breakfast in readiness for a
bridegroom who has disappeared thirty years before. But the face of the
woman advancing towards him suggested that she was not particular about
the identity of the form emerging from the mists of time to rescue her
from virginity. She looked as if she would have gladly surrendered that
jewel to any freebooter in return for a passage in the ship of matrimony,
and gone off flying the proud signal, "All's well."
She approached with a smile, and heaven knows what agitation in her breast
at the sight of a handsome well-dressed young man in her lonely nest. "You
wished to see me?" she asked.
"Mrs. Pursill?" he said interrogatively.
She made a negative sign. "I am Miss Pursill. My mother is an invalid."
"I am most anxious to see her."
"My mother keeps to her bedroom."
"I have come down from London purposely to see her," he said anxiously.
"My business is very important."
"Could you not tell me?" she murmured.
"I am afraid not."
She fidgeted and came a little closer, as though she liked the nearness of
his handsome presence.
"Very well, you shall see her, but you won't be able to talk to her. Come
They went from the room and upstairs. Miss Pursill opened a door on the
first floor and beckoned Charles to enter. It was a bedroom, furnished on
the same scale of antique magnificence as the drawing-room downstairs. In
a deep armchair in front of a fire sat an old woman, tucked up in an
eiderdown of blue and white satin. She did not look round as they entered,
but remained quite still--an immobile figure with a nodding head.
"That is Mrs. Pursill," said her daughter.
Charles glanced at the old woman in the chair and turned away. She was
past anything except waiting for death, and it was impossible to speak to
her or question her. She was in the last stage of senile decay. He masked
his disappointment with an effort, conscious that the eyes of the younger
woman were fixed on his face.
"If there is anything I can tell you--" she simpered, as she met his
His face betrayed his anxiety.
"I had some reason to think that a young lady of my acquaintance, the
daughter of an old friend of your mother's, might be staying with her."
"There is no young lady here," said Miss Pursill with a hard look. "I know
nothing about it. What is her name?"
"I have made a mistake, I am afraid." Charles was instantly on his guard.
"I am really very sorry--"
She was not altogether proof against the winning smile with which he
tendered an apology, but she looked at him strangely as she accompanied
him downstairs to the front door.
Charles went back to London with a dark and angry face. His anger was
directed against Fate, which had arranged such a fantastic anticlimax for
his cherished hopes. The blow was almost too much for him. He had deceived
himself into thinking that he would find Sisily at Charleswood, and he
felt that he had really lost her. He was now reduced to searching for her
in the great wilderness of London, which seemed a hopeless task.
By the time the train reached Charing Cross he rallied from his fit of
despondency. He refused to despair. Sisily was somewhere in London, at
that moment walking alone among its countless hordes, perhaps thinking of
him. He would find her--he must! Where to commence? She had reached
Paddington only a few nights ago, so that was obviously the logical
starting-point of any inquiries. To Paddington he went, this time in a
He had an extraordinary initial piece of luck. Fortune, either regretting
her previous treatment or tantalizing him in feminine fashion with the
expectation of greater favours to come, threw him at the very outset of
his inquiries against the red-headed luggage porter who had spoken with
Sisily on her arrival from Penzance. The porter, leaning against the white
enamelled walls of a Tube passage, pictured the scene with much loquacity,
and a faithful recollection of his own share in the interview. Charles
anxiously asked him if the young lady he had encountered was very
pretty--pale and dark. The porter, with a judicial air, responded that
looks in women was, after all, a matter of taste--what was one man's meat
was another man's poison, as you might say--but this young lady had dark
hair and eyes, and her face hadn't too much colour in it, so far as he
remembered. He apologized for this vagueness of description on the plea
that one girl was very like another to a man who saw them in droves every
day, as he did. But one or two minute particulars of her dress which he
was able to supply convinced Charles that he had seen Sisily. The man
added that as far as he knew the young lady went on to Euston Square,
though he couldn't say he'd actually seen her catch the train for there.
It was not until he had pocketed the half-crown Charles gave him that he
added a piece of information of some importance.
"You're not the first who's been inquiring about this particular young
lady," he said. "There was somebody before you--let me see--Thursday it
was. He came strolling along, affable as you please, and seemed to know
all about it before he started. 'That young lady who arrived by the
Cornwall train on Tuesday night, porter, and asked you the way to Euston
Square--what was she like?' That took me back a bit, but I told him, just
as I've told you. He asked me another question or two, and then went into
the station-master's office."
"What was he like?"
"Not much older than yourself, in a brown suit, tall and thin, with
sharpish features and quick smiling eyes."
Barrant! Charles recognized the description with a sinking heart. He
turned away with a sickening sense of the impotence of his own efforts.
Scotland Yard was searching for Sisily, and no doubt had warned all the
London police to look out for her. She might be arrested any minute.
Outside the station he bought an evening paper from a yelling newsboy, and
hastily scanned the headlines under the flare of a street lamp. There was
nothing about the Cornwall murder. So far they were safe. His own
departure from Cornwall had apparently caused no suspicion, and Sisily was
still free--somewhere in London.
Where? To find her--that was his task. He rallied sharply from his
despondency. He would pit himself against the police. A desperate man,
guided by love, could do much--might even outwit the tremendous forces of
Scotland Yard. He would not be worthy of Sisily if he lost heart because
the odds were against him. Fortune's wheel might have a lucky turn in
store for him.
He beckoned a passing taxi-cab. "Euston Square," he said as he entered.
That was obviously the next point of his search.
But Fortune vouchsafed him no more favours that day. His dive into the
crowded depths of Euston Square brought forth no result--no clue which
would help in his search. He interviewed many keepers of the "temperance
hotels" and boarding-houses which abounded in that quarter, all sorts of
women, but all alike in their quick suspicious resentment of his guarded
inquiries and in their pretended ignorance of past visitors to their dingy
portals. He had little experience of the embittered sordid outlook of a
class which earned its own bread by supplying indifferent food and shelter
to London's floating population, but after his fiftieth repulse he had no
difficulty in reaching the conclusion that the police were again ahead of
him with their inquiries.
Nevertheless he persevered fruitlessly until a late hour before returning
to his hotel to pass a sleepless night in a fever of baffled excitement.
Not till then did he realize how much he had been upheld by the hope of
finding Sisily at Charleswood. He was lost in a maze of conjectures,
fears, and impossible plans, though his intelligence told him that no plan
of search he could form was likely to be of the slightest use. Only luck
could help him there, and it was part of the hopelessness of the situation
that he dared not invoke the aid of any of those agencies or organizations
which make it their business to find persons who have disappeared in
London. His search must be a solitary one.
The morning saw him enter upon it with a feverish energy borrowed from the
future and the desperate optimism of a temperament willing to gamble with
Fortune against such incalculable odds. At first he attempted to divine
the motives likely to actuate a girl ignorant of London in seeking a
hiding-place there, and shaped his search accordingly; but he gave that up
after a while, and decided to search the streets of the inner suburbs, in
the hope of encountering her sooner or later. His method was to purchase a
map of each district, and explore it thoroughly from one end to the other.
He got his meals anywhere, and slept in the nearest hotel where he
happened to find himself late at night. But his meals were often missed
and his broken sleep haunted with nightmare visions of the pitfalls and
snares spread for inexperienced girls in London.
So Charles passed nearly a week of interminable tramping of London
streets, scanning the endless medley of faces in the hope of a chance
glimpse of Sisily's wistful eyes and pale features. But it is one thing to
gamble with Fortune, and another to win from her. Sometimes she flattered
Charles with a chance resemblance which sent him flying across the traffic
at the risk of his life, and once he sprang off a 'bus after a girl he saw
vanishing into an Underground lift, but it was not Sisily. The end of the
week saw him returning from uncharted areas of outer London to the more
familiar thoroughfares of the city's life, for in that time his dauntless
spirit had realized the colossal folly of any attempt to search London by
system. He had no intention of abandoning his quest, but he now felt that
it did not matter where his footsteps led him, because it was only by a
piece of wonderful luck that he could ever hope to meet Sisily. He did not
even know if she was in London. But he believed she was, and some
indomitable inward whisper kept assuring him that he would find her sooner
or later. So he kept on--and on, seeking the vision of his desires with
the insatiable eagerness of a man pursuing the unreachable horizon of a
It was towards the end of this time that it occurred to Charles to wonder
if Sisily had made her way to Charleswood since his first visit there. He
was resting in a Lambeth public-house after an exhausting day's wanderings
over South London when this thought came to him. He sat up, slapping his
thigh with excitement, asking himself why he had not thought of that
before. It was a chance--certainly a chance. He decided to run down to
Charleswood again on the following afternoon.
He did, and found himself disappointed once more. The elegant Miss Pursill
had gone to Brighton for change of air, but the pretty maid, who had been
left behind to look after the house and the decayed old lady, assured him
that there had been nobody to see Mrs. Pursill since his last visit. Miss
Pursill went away the very next day after he was down, and there had been
no callers or visitors.
She imparted this information at first with a sparkle of coquetry in her
eye, then with a glance of compassion as she noticed how much the debonair
visitor had changed for the worse since she saw him last. She looked at
him solicitously, as though she would have liked to remove with womanly
hands the marks of neglect from his apparel. From the door she watched him
making his way back to the station. She stood there in the shade of the
evening, following him with her eyes until the bend of the road hid him
The train was moving out after the briefest stop at a place so
unimportant, and he swung himself into one of the carriages gliding past
him. At first he thought the compartment was empty, but as the train
emerged from a tunnel immediately beyond the station gates he observed a
man with glasses reading a newspaper in the opposite corner seat. That
reminded him to buy an evening paper at the next stopping place, a town of
some importance, where a number of intending passengers were waiting on
the platform. Several pushed past him into the compartment. He did not
heed them. He sat in a deep reverie, his paper unfolded in his hand, past
scenes flowing through his brain as the train sped on towards London. The
carriage and its occupants receded from his vision, and he was back again
on the Cornwall cliffs with Sisily. Her face appeared before his eyes just
as he had seen it in their last parting.
He came back with an effort to the world of events, and unfolded his
newspaper. That was a daily ordeal from which he shrank, yet dared not
evade. During the past week he had faced it in all sorts of places: street
corners, public squares, obscure restaurants, the burrowed windings of
Underground stations, and once in the dark interior of a cinema where he
had followed a girl with a vague resemblance to Sisily. As the days went
on and he read nothing to alarm him, his tension grew less. It really
looked as if Scotland Yard and the newspapers had forgotten all about the
Cornwall murder, or had relegated it to the list of undiscoverable
He now glanced at the headlines listlessly enough. The editor could offer
nothing better on his front page that night than Ireland and the
industrial situation. Charles opened the sheet and looked inside. His
listlessness vanished as his eye fell upon his own name. In the guise of
fat black capitals it headed a half-column article about his uncle's
death. Charles read it through, slowly and deliberately, to the end. He
learnt that there had been what the writer called fresh developments in
the case. The police were now looking for another suspect--himself. The
detective engaged upon the case had suspicions of the murdered man's
nephew for some time past, but had his reasons for reticence--reasons
which had now so completely disappeared that Scotland Yard had made public
a full description of the young man and the additional information that he
was supposed to be in London. Charles found himself reading the
description of himself with the detached, slightly wondering air with
which a man might be supposed to read his own death notice. He weighed the
personal details quite critically. Young and tall. Yes. Good-looking. Was
he? Dark blue eyes. Were they? He had never thought about them. Of
gentlemanly appearance. That read like the advertisement of a Cheapside
tailor--what was a gentlemanly appearance, if he had it? He had always
associated it with a cheap lounge suit and a bowler hat. Very well
dressed--then followed the description of his clothes. But he couldn't be
well dressed and of gentlemanly appearance at the same time!
These preoccupations floated lightly, almost playfully, on the surface of
his mind, but the great fact had sunk to the depths like lead. His
father's fears had been right, and his departure from Cornwall had drawn
attention to his actions on that night. He was--what was the
phrase?--wanted by the police. So was Sisily. He was searching for Sisily,
and the police were searching for both of them.
What had the police discovered about him? His lips framed the reply.
Everything. That was to say, all there was to find out. Obviously they had
discovered his visit to Flint House on that night, or at least, that he
was out in the storm during the time the murder was committed. His
commonsense told him the reason for Barrant's reticence. He had kept quiet
in the hope that he would go to his father's house at Richmond, which no
doubt had been closely watched. Now that Barrant had come to the
conclusion that the man he was after was too clever to walk into that
trap, he had confided his suspicions to the newspapers in order to guard
all avenues of escape by putting the public on the watch for him.
A feeling of helplessness crept over Charles as he contemplated the
incredible ingenuity of the mesh of events in which he and Sisily were
entangled. Any moment might terminate his liberty and see him placed under
lock and key. Would it help Sisily if he gave himself up and told all he
knew? That was a question he had asked himself before, and dismissed it
because he realized that his own story might involve her more deeply
still. And the loss of time since then, coupled with his own
disappearance, intensified the risk which such a course would entail.
There was no hope for her in that direction. Where, then, were they to
look for hope?
He was recalled to his surroundings by a hand laid on his arm. He started
and looked round. The man next to him, with a glance at the paper in his
hand, asked him if he could tell him the winner of the second race at
Lingfield. "It ought to be in the stop-press," he murmured. Charles turned
the sheet to the indicated column, and the inquirer glanced at it with a
satisfied smile, and the remark that it was only what he had expected, in
spite of the weight. "A good horse," he remarked approvingly. "But perhaps
you don't go in for racing yourself?"
Charles resisted an insane impulse to shout with laughter. Didn't go in
for racing! He was going in for racing with a vengeance--a race against
time and the police. What was he to do now?
He glanced round him restlessly. The swaying noisy train and the
compartment packed with stolid faces jarred on his overburdened nerves.
Why were those women in the next compartment laughing like hyenas? What
was there in life to laugh over at any time? It was a thing to impose
silence on all by its desolation, its unescapable doom. His eye was caught
by an advertisement above the rack opposite him--an advertisement which
depicted a smiling grotesque face, and advised him to buy the comic
journal it represented in order to dissipate melancholy and gloom.
While he was thus looking around him his eyes encountered a curious glance
from the man in the opposite corner seat, who had been in the compartment
when he entered the train at Charleswood. The man dropped his gaze at
once, but there was something in the quality of the look which put Charles
on his guard. Charles did not turn his head again, but, leaning back in
his seat, kept the other under view from seemingly closed eyes. He was
soon convinced that the man in the corner seat was watching him--shooting
furtive glances across the carriage from behind the screen of his
Was he a detective? Not if Barrant was a usual representative of the
tribe. Yet there was something infernally quizzical in the scrutiny which
reached him through those gold-rimmed glasses. Stay, though! Did
detectives wear glasses? Wasn't there an eyesight test or something like
that for officers of the law? He had never seen a policeman wearing
glasses. If he was not a detective, why was he watching him? There was no
reward offered for his arrest. Perhaps he belonged to the wretched type of
beings who pride themselves on their public spirit--men who wrote letters
to the newspapers and interfered in other people's business. The beast
might have guessed his identity and wanted to show his public spirit by
handing him over to the police. The newspaper in his hand! Of course. He
had read his description there, and identified him.
Charles found himself conjecturing how the man would set about carrying
out his task of public watchdog, if that was in his mind. He pictured the
possibility of him appealing to the others in the compartment. He might
get up and say: "There is a murderer in this compartment. I recognize him
from the description in this paper, and I call upon you all as
public-spirited citizens to see that he does not escape justice." The
torpid passengers would start up, staring and looking foolish after the
fashion of English people when asked to do something unusual. Would they
help? There was a stout man opposite with the symptoms of a public spirit
lurking in the creases of his fat self-satisfied face. Charles promised
himself that he would give them a fight for it. He counted his chances. He
was aware from his previous journey to Charleswood that the train he was
in now ran through to Charing Cross without another stop. Perhaps the man
in the corner seat would wait until they arrived there, and then give him
in charge. That was a disconcerting possibility, but he could see no way
of guarding against it unless he chose to drop from the train, now
travelling at nearly forty miles an hour, taking the risk of being maimed
or killed. He considered the advisability of that. It was a chance he
might have taken casually enough on his own account, but he had also to
think of Sisily. She would be quite friendless if he were killed. Besides,
there was also the chance that he might be mistaken in interpreting the
man's intentions by his own fears. At all events he seemed to have no
thought of springing up and denouncing him. Charles decided to wait and
trust to luck to escape in the crowd at Charing Cross if the man made any
In ten minutes the train was running into Charing Cross station at slowing
speed. Charles's mouth closed tightly, and his face flushed.
The man in the corner seat flattened his newspaper into a pocket, opened
the carriage door, and sprang out on to the platform. Charles followed him
quickly, and stood still watching him make his way towards the barrier. He
saw him press through, give up his ticket, and disappear without so much
as a backward glance.
There was something so ridiculous in this anticlimax to his poignant fears
that the young man was for the moment actually exasperated. But his face
and linen were wet with perspiration. Then a great feeling of relief swept
over him like a cooling wave. He followed in the wake of the other
passengers and emerged from the station into the street.
It was early enough for the shops to be still open, but the streets were
thronged with pleasure-seekers going to restaurants and places of
amusement. As he stood there a painted girl touched him on the arm with an
enticing smile for such wares as she had to sell, and her solicitation
awakened him sharply to the folly of standing in the lighted Strand at
that hour in full view of every passing policeman. He walked slowly away,
debating where to turn his steps. An outfitter's shop displaying overcoats
gave him a bright idea. He walked inside and selected a long dark coat
which reached to his heels, putting it on over the light and fashionable
coat he was wearing. The shopman seemed surprised at his choice, but made
no comment as he took his money and handed him his change. Charles caught
a glimpse of himself as he went out, and was satisfied with his changed
appearance. In that shapeless garment he was no longer likely to catch the
eye of any unduly curious observer as a "well-dressed" man.
He now walked swiftly. Turning out of Chandos Street from the Strand, he
avoided the brightly lit proximity of Leicester Square, and plunged into
the crooked dark streets on the other side of Charing Cross Road. He
reached New Oxford Street, crossed it, and continued along obscure
streets, his head bent forward, in the unconscious habit of a man thinking
deeply as he went.
In the first feeling of dismay at the discovery that the police were
looking for him he had been overwhelmed by a sense of catastrophe. With
the passing of that phase he was able to consider the situation with a
cooler brain, and it now seemed to him that his position was not so
precarious as he deemed it in the light of that shock. He knew London, and
might be able to evade arrest indefinitely if he took precautions and
avoided risks. But Sisily was in different case. He recalled her telling
him that she had only been in London once, as a child with her father. Her
inexperience of London was her greatest danger, because it was likely to
attract attention. The only one to whom she could look for help was
His determination to find her was doggedly renewed as he thought of that.
He accepted the lengthened odds against him with the desperate dark
courage of a spirit which had always regarded life as a gamble against
unseen forces holding marked cards. The police were searching for him?
Very well. He would pit his wits against theirs, and continue his own
search for Sisily with a caution he had hitherto disdained to use.
Courage and caution! Those were the two qualities he must use in adroit
combination. The plight of both Sisily and himself was desperate enough
now without giving the enemy a chance by recklessness. He was like a man
rowing a small boat in the immensity of a dark sea which threatened every
moment to engulf him. Sisily was somewhere in that darkness, and she must
be rescued. If his own cockleshell went down there could be no succour for
her. That was a thought to make him keep afloat--to keep on rowing.
And suppose that he did find her, as he believed he would, sooner or
later--given time. What was to happen then?
That thought pursued him in his walk that night, and was his constant
companion in the lonely days and nights of his wanderings which followed.
He had banished it before, but that course was no longer possible. The
impalpable yet terribly real menace of authority overshadowing them both
now made it imperative that all the facts should be faced. All the
facts--but what were they? It was the question he asked himself again and
again as he strove to twist out of the black fantasy of that horrible
night some tangible shred of truth which might help them both. His own
incredible share in it was forever being re-enacted in his mind, and
haunted his dreams. In the night, at early dawn, at odd moments of his
eternal quest, the curtain of his mind would rise on that unforgettable
scene--the cliffs, the rocks, the darkling outline of Flint House, with a
feeble beam of light slanting down from the upstairs window at the back
which looked out on the sea. Then the gush of light from the open door,
and her shape stealing forth into the darkness, followed by
another--Thalassa's. And then, the final phase--the desolate house, the
wind rushing noisily along dark passages, the dead form of Robert Turold
in the room upstairs. What did these things mean, and what was to be the
His hope was that Sisily could reveal something which would furnish the
key to the enigma of that night's events. From her lips he might learn
enough to guide him to the hidden truth, and save them both. Sustained by
the feeling that she existed somewhere near him, he continued his search
day after day until in the abstracted intensity of his fancy London
assumed the appearance of a wilderness of unending streets filled with
pallid faces which flitted past his vision like ghosts. But the face he
was seeking was never among them.
He searched with the wariness of one whose own liberty depended upon his
watchfulness. A second glance, an indignant look, a turn of the head, a
policeman's casual eye--any of these things would place him immediately on
his guard and turn his footsteps in a different direction. He chose his
sleeping places with care at the last minute, and left them at early
morning when only a yawning night porter or a sleepy maid servant was
astir. He never returned to the same place, nor did he go to the same
restaurant twice. Most carefully did he read the newspapers, but nothing
appeared in their columns to alarm him; merely an occasional perfunctory
paragraph about the Cornwall murder. The favourite adjective in the
journalistic etymological garden was culled for the heading, and it was
described as an amazing case. Charles felt that the definition was correct
enough. Early developments were faithfully promised--by the newspaper.
Charles understood very well what was meant by that. It was hoped he would
provide the development by falling into the hands of the police. He smiled
a little at that, but the unintended warning increased his vigilance.
On the whole he felt tolerably safe in the crowded London streets. It was
not as though there was any real hue and cry after him. The lonely
Cornwall tragedy had not come into sufficient public notice for that, and
now it seemed almost forgotten.
He had his hazards and chances, though in a different way. One was an
encounter with a young man of good family whose acquaintance, commenced in
France during the war, had continued in London afterwards. The two young
men had seen a great deal of each other--dining and going to music-halls
together. It was in Leicester Square that Charles saw him getting out of a
taxi-cab to enter a hall where a professional billiard match was in
progress. He paused midway at the sight of Charles, exclaiming: "Why,
Tur--" The second syllable of the name was nipped off in mid-air, and the
outstretched arm was dropped, as the patron of billiards took in the cut
of his former friend's coat. He gazed at the ill-fitting garment with a
kind of astonished animosity, and then his puzzled look shot upwards to
the face surmounting it, no doubt with the feeling that he may have been
deceived by a chance resemblance. Charles went past him without a sign of
recognition, but he felt that the other was still staring after him.
Another day a street musician regarded him curiously from behind a barrel
organ which he was turning with the lifeless celerity of one without
interest in the sounds created by the process. His card of appeal--"Wanted
in 1914; not wanted now"--helped Charles to recall him as a soldier of his
old regiment. They exchanged glances across the card. The man gave no sign
that he knew his former officer, but Charles had no doubt that he did. He
placed a coin on top of the organ and went swiftly on.
A week of increasing strain slipped by, and another commenced. Then
Fortune, with a contemptuous good-humoured spin of her wheel, did for
Charles Turold what he could hardly have hoped to achieve in a year's
effort without her aid.
It was late at night, and he was in a despondent mood after one of his
recurring disappointments--this time a graceful slender shape which he had
earlier in the evening pursued in a flock of home-going shop-girls until
she turned and revealed a pert Cockney face which bore no resemblance to
Sisily's. Several hours later he paid another of his visits to Euston
Square, which he believed to be the starting-point of Sisily's own
wanderings. He felt closer to her in that locality because of that. From
Euston Square he walked on aimlessly, engrossed in impossible plans for
finding Sisily by hook or crook, until the illuminated dial of a street
clock, pointing to half-past ten, reminded him of the passage of time.
He paused and looked round. He was in an area of darkened suburban streets
converging on a distant broader avenue, where occasional taxi-cabs slid
past into the blackness of the night with the heartless velocity of years
disappearing into the gulf of Time.
He turned his steps in the direction of this thoroughfare in order to find
out the locality, but stopped half-way at the sight of a coffee-stall on
the opposite side of the street. He was hungry and thirsty, and he had
learnt to like the safety of these places in his wanderings. The food
might be coarse, but there were no lengthy waits between courses; no
curious glances from the other patrons. A couple of half-drunken young men
were feeding at this stall, and a girl of the streets was standing near
them. In the light of a swinging lamp the scene shone clearly in the
surrounding darkness--the brass urn, the thick crockery, the head of the
stall-keeper bent intently over a newspaper, the munching jaws of the
customers, the girl in the background with splashes of crimson paint like
blood on her white drawn face.
Charles was about to cross the street, but at that moment a policeman's
helmet emerged slowly from the surrounding darkness as if irresistibly
attracted by the concentric glow of the light. At the sight of him Charles
shrank back into the friendly shadow of his own side of the road. The
policeman emerged into the fulness of the light, serene in his official
immobility. His slow yet seeing vision dwelt on the painted girl with a
gaze as penetrating as that of Omnipotence in its profound knowledge of
evil. He strolled towards her with a kind of indifferent benignity with
which Providence has also been credited. He raised a hand, omnipotent with
the authority of the law. "Better get away from here," Charles heard him
warn her, and she disappeared from view in obedience to this command.
So did Charles, but in quite another direction. There was something about
these chance manifestations of authority, so lightly exercised, so
unhesitatingly obeyed, which never failed to thrill and impress him, as
they would have thrilled and impressed any other man in his present
position. They seemed to intensify the hopelessness of his own situation.
He had a slight feeling of creepiness about the spine as he thought of the
narrowness of that escape--though, of course, the policeman might not have
identified him. But some day or other it was bound to come--that
accidental confrontation which might mean his arrest.
He walked swiftly until he reached the avenue. It was a part of London
that he did not know, and appeared quite deserted. He wondered which way
he should turn to get back to that area of London where he usually sought
As he stood there glancing about him irresolutely, his eye caught a
glimpse of somebody walking swiftly along--a slight girlish figure dimly
visible in the dark vista of the empty street. There was something
familiar in the girl's outline--something which caused his heart to give a
great maddening jump. As he looked she turned into one of the converging