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The Postmaster's Daughter by Louis Tracy

Part 3 out of 5

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Shall pull them down each one.

"Yes," said Grant.

"Love isn't mentioned. The fair Doris will be true. You're in luck, my
boy. But somebody is out for your blood, and here is clear warning. Gee
whizz! If I remain in Steynholme a week I shall become an occultist. What
is a lyme-hound?"

"'Lyme,' or 'leam,' is the old-time word for 'leash.'"

"Good!" said Hart. "That will appeal to Furneaux. Have him in to dinner
every day, Jack. He's a tonic!"

Furneaux, for some reason known only to himself, did not accompany Doris
to the post office. Once they were across the bridge, and the broad
village street, more green than roadway, was seen to be empty, he tapped
her on the shoulder and said pleasantly:

"Run away home now, little girl. Sleep well, and don't worry. The tangle
will right itself in time."

"Poor Mr. Grant is suffering," she ventured to murmur.

"And a good thing, too. It will steady him. Hurry, please. I'll wait here
till you are behind a locked door."

"No one in Steynholme will hurt me," she said.

"You never can tell. I'm not taking any chances to-night, however."

So Doris sped swiftly up the hill. Arrived at her house, she waved a hand
to the detective, who flourished his straw hat in response. A fine June
night in England is never really dark, so the two could not only see each
other but, when Doris disappeared, Furneaux, turning sharply on his heel,
was able to make out the sudden straightening of a pucker in the blind of
a ground-floor room in P.C. Robinson's abode.

The detective walked straight there, and tapped lightly on the window.
Robinson, after an affected delay, came to the door.

"Who's there?" he demanded.

"As if you didn't know," laughed Furneaux.

Robinson turned a key, and looked out.

"Oh, it's you, sir?" he cried.

"You'll get tired of saying that before I quit Steynholme," said the
detective. "May I come in? No, don't show a light here. Let's chat in the
back kitchen."

"I was just going to have a bite of supper, sir," began Robinson
apologetically. "It's laid in the kitchen. On'y bread and cheese an' a
glass of beer. Will you join me?"

"With pleasure, if I hadn't stuffed myself at Grant's place. Nice fellow,
Grant. Pity you and he don't seem to get on together. Of course, we
policemen cannot allow friendship to interfere with duty, but, between
you and me, Robinson--strictly in confidence--Grant had no more to do
with the actual murder of Miss Melhuish than either of us two."

Robinson had turned up a lamp, and hospitably installed Furneaux in his
own easy-chair.

"The 'actual murder,' you said, sir?" he repeated.

"Yes. It was his presence at The Hollies which brought an infatuated
woman there, and thus directly led to her death. That is all. Grant is
telling the truth. I assure you, Robinson, I never allow myself to break
bread with a man whom I may have to convict. So, I'll change my mind, and
take a snack of your bread and cheese."

The village constable, by no means a fool, grinned at the implied
tribute. What he did not appreciate so readily was the fact that his
somewhat massive form was being twiddled round the detective's
little finger.

"Right you are, sir," he cried cheerily. "But, if Mr. Grant didn't kill
Miss Melhuish, who did!"

"In all probability, the man who wore that hat," chirped Furneaux, taking
a nondescript bundle from a coat pocket, and throwing it on the table.

Robinson started. This June night was full of weird surprises. He
set down a jug of beer with a bang--his intent being to fill two
glasses already in position, from which circumstance even the least
observant visitor might deduce a Mrs. Robinson, _en neglige_,
hastily flown upstairs.

He examined the hat as though it were a new form of bomb.

"By gum!" he muttered. "Are these bullet-holes?"

"They are."

"An' is this what someone fired at?"


"But how in thunder--"

He checked himself in time. He did not want to admit that he had been
watching the only recognized road to Grant's house all the evening.

"Quite so!" chortled Furneaux, with admirable misunderstanding. "You're
quick on the trigger, Robinson--almost as quick as that friend of Grant's
who arrived by the 5.30 from London. You perceive at once that no
ordinary head could have worn that hat without having its hair combed by
the same bullet. It was stuck on to a thick wig. Now, tell me the man, or
woman, in Steynholme, who wears a wig and a hat like that, and you and I
will guess who killed Miss Melhuish."

Robinson suspected that, as he himself would have put it, his leg was
being pulled rather violently. Furneaux read his face like a printed
page. Chewing, much against his will, a mouthful of bread and cheese, he
mumbled in solemn, broken tones:

"Think--Robinson. Don't--answer--offhand. Has--anybody--ever worn--such
things--in a play?"

Then the policeman was convinced, galvanized by memory, as it were.

"By gum!" he cried again. "Fred Elkin--in a charity performance
last winter."

Furneaux choked with excitement.

"A horsey-looking chap, on to-day's jury," he gurgled.

"That's him!"

"The scoundrel!"

"No wonder he looked ill."

"No wonder, indeed. How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds makes ill
deeds done!"

"But, sir--"

Robinson was flabbergasted. He could only murmur "Fred Elkin!" in a
dazed way.

"Have a drink," said Furneaux sympathetically. "I'll wet my whistle,
too. Only half a glass, please. Now, we mustn't jump to conclusions.
This Elkin looks a villain, but may not be one. That is to say, his
villainy may be confined to dealings in nags. But you see, Robinson,
what a queer turn this affair is taking. We must get rid of preconceived
notions. Superintendent Fowler and you and I will go into this matter
thoroughly to-morrow. Meanwhile, breathe not a syllable to a living
soul. If I were you, I'd let Mr. Grant understand that we regard him as
rather outside the scope of our inquiry. This beer is very good for a
country village. You know a good thing when you see it, I expect. Pity I
don't smoke, or I'd join you in a pipe. I must get a move on, now, or
that fat landlord will be locking me out. Good night! Yes. I'll take
the hat. _Good_ night!"

While walking up the hill Furneaux fanned himself with the straw hat.

"One small bit of my brain is evidently a hereditary bequest from a
good-natured ass!" he communed. "Here am I, Furneaux, plagued beyond
endurance by a first-class murder case, and I must go and busy myself
with the love affair of a postmaster's daughter and a feather-headed

When Tomlin admitted him to the Hare and Hounds, he buttonholed the
landlord, who, at that hour, was usually somewhat obfuscated.

"Sir," said the detective gravely, "I am told that you Steynholme folk
indulge occasionally in such frivolities as amateur theatricals?"

"Once in a way, sir. Once in a way. Afore I lock up the bar, will you--"

"Not to-night. I've mixed port and beer already, and I'm only a little
fellow. Now you, Mr. Tomlin, can mix anything, I fancy?"

"I've tried a few combinations in me time, sir."

"But, about these theatrical performances--is there any scenery,
costumes, 'props' as actors call them?"

"Yes, sir. They're stored in the loft over the club-room--the room where
the inquest wur held."

"What, _here_?"

Furneaux's shrill cry scared Mr. Tomlin.

"Y-yes, sir," he stuttered.

"Is that my candle?" said the detective tragically. "I'm tired, dead
beat. To-night, Mr. Tomlin, you are privileged to see the temporary wreck
of a noble mind. God wot, 'tis a harrowing spectacle."

Furneaux skipped nimbly upstairs. Tomlin proceeded to lock up.

"It's good for trade," he mumbled, "but I'll be glad when these 'ere
Lunnon gents clears out. They worry me, they do. Fair gemme a turn, 'e
did. A tec', indeed! He's nothin' but a play-hactor hisself!"



Next morning, after a long conference with Superintendent Fowler, from
which, to his great chagrin, P. C. Robinson was excluded, Furneaux went
to the post office, dispatched an apparently meaningless telegram to a
code address, and exchanged a few orthodox remarks with Doris and her
father about the continued fine weather. While he was yet at the counter,
Ingerman crossed the road and entered the chemist's shop.

"Let me see," said the detective musingly, "by committing a slight
trespass on your left-hand neighbor's garden, can I reach the yard
of the inn?"

"What the eye doesn't see the heart doesn't grieve over," smiled Doris.
"Mrs. Jefferson went to Knoleworth early to-day, and took her maid. By
shopping at the stores there, they save their fares, and have a day out
each week."

"May I go that way, then?" he said. "Suppose you send that goggle-eyed
skivvy of yours on an errand."

This was done, and Furneaux made the desired transit.

Now, Tomlin, to whom the comings and goings of all and sundry formed the
staple of the day's gossip, had seen the detective go out, but could
"take his sollum davy" that the queer little man had not returned. He,
too, had watched Ingerman going to Siddle's. Ten minutes later Elkin came
down the hill, and headed for the same rendezvous. Five minutes more, and
Hobbs, the butcher, joined the others. Tomlin was seething with
curiosity, but there were some casual customers in the "snug," so he
could not abandon his post.

Soon, however, Ingerman led Elkin and Hobbs to the inn. Evidently, the
"financier" had been making some small purchases. He was in high spirits.
Ordering appetizers before the mid-day meal, he announced that he was
returning to London that afternoon, but would be in Steynholme again for
the adjourned inquest.

"No matter how my business suffers, I mean to see this affair through,"
he vowed. "You gentlemen can pretty well guess my private convictions.
You were good enough to give me your friendship, so I spoke as openly
as one dares when no charge has actually been laid against any
particular person."

"Ay," said Elkin, with whom sunshine seemed to disagree, because he
looked miserably ill. "We know what you mean, Mr. Ingerman. If the police
were half sharp they'd have nabbed their man before this ... Did you put
any water in this gin, Tomlin?"

"Water?" wheezed Tomlin indignantly. _"Water?"_

"Well, no offense. I can't taste anything. I believe I could swallow dope
and not feel it on my tongue."

"You do look bad, an' no mistake, Fred," agreed Hobbs. "Are you vettin'
yerself? Don't. Every man to his trade, sez I. Give Dr. Foxton a call."

"I'm taking his medicine regular. Perhaps I need a change."

"'Ave a week-end in Lunnon," said Hobbs, with a broad wink.

"Change of medicine, I mean. I'm not leaving Steynholme till things make
a move. My next trip to London will be my honeymoon."

"You look like a honeymooner, I don't think," guffawed Hobbs.

"You wouldn't laugh if I told _you_ what you really look like," cried
Elkin angrily. "Bet you a level fiver I'm married this year. Now, put up
or shut up!"

Furneaux peeped in, through a door, always open, which led to the stairs.

"Can I have my account, Mr. Tomlin?" he said. "I'm going to town by the
next train."

"You don't mean to say, Mr. Furneaux, that you are abandoning the case so
soon?" broke in Ingerman.

"Did I say that?" inquired the detective meekly.

"No. One can't help drawing inferences occasionally."

"Great mistake. Look at our worthy landlord. He's been drawing inferences
as well as corks, and he's beat to the world."

Tomlin was, indeed, gazing at his smaller guest open-mouthed.

"S'elp me!" he gurgled. "I could ha' sworn--"

"Bad habit," and Furneaux crooked a waggish forefinger at him. "Even the
wisest among us may err. Last night, for instance, I blundered. I really
fancied I had a clew to the Steynholme murderer. And where do you think
it ended? In the loft of your club-room, Mr. Tomlin. In a box of old
clothes at that. Silly, isn't it?"

"Wot! Them amatoor play-hactin' things?"


Elkin grunted, though intending to laugh.

"Not so sharp for a London 'tec, I must say," he cried. "Why, those props
have been there since before Christmas."

"Yes. I know now," was the downcast reply. "Twelve hours ago I thought
differently. Didn't I, Mr. Tomlin?"

Tomlin tried hard to look knowing.

"Oh, is that wot you wur drivin' at?" he said. "Dang me, mister, I could
soon ha' put you right 'ad you tole me."

"Well, well. Can't be helped. I may do better in London. What do _you_
say, Mr. Ingerman? The City is the real mint of money and crime. Who
knows but that a stroll through Cornhill may have some bearing on the
Steynholme mystery?"

"May be you'd get a bit nearer if you took a stroll along the Knoleworth
Road, and not so very far, either," guffawed Elkin.

"Who knows?" repeated Furneaux sadly. "Good-day, gentlemen. Some of this
merry party will meet again, of course, if not here, at the Assizes.
Don't forget my bill. Mr. Tomlin. By the way, one egg at breakfast had
seen vicissitudes. It shouldn't be rated too highly."

"I'm traveling by your train," cried Ingerman.

"So I understood," said Furneaux over his shoulder.

There was silence for a moment after he had gone. Ingerman looked
thoughtful, even puzzled. He was casting back in his mind to discover
just how and when the detective "understood" that his departure was
imminent, since he himself had only arrived at a decision after leaving
the chemist's.

"That chap is no good," announced Elkin. "I'll back old Robinson against
him any day."

"Sh-s-sh! He may 'ear you," muttered the landlord.

"Don't care if he does. Cornhill! What the blazes has Cornhill to do
with the murder at The Hollies?"

Ingerman appreciated the value of that concluding phrase. Elkin had used
it once before in Siddle's shop, and was quietly reproved by the chemist
for his outspokenness.

Ingerman, however, did not inform the company that his office lay in an
alley off Cornhill. He elected to rub in Elkin's words.

"Mr. Siddle seemed to object to The Hollies being mentioned as the scene
of the crime," he said. "I wonder why?"

"Because he's an old molly-coddle," snapped the horse-dealer. "Thinks
everyone is like himself, a regular slow-coach."

Tomlin closed the door into the passage, closed it for the first time in
living memory, whereat Furneaux, on the landing above, grinned
sardonically, and ran downstairs.

"Wot's this about them amatoor clo'es?" he inquired portentously. "Oo 'as
the key of that box?"

"_I_ have," said Elkin. "I locked it after the last performance, and,
unless you've been up to any monkey tricks, Tomlin, the duds are
there yet."

"You're bitin' me 'ead off all the mornin', Fred," protested the
aggrieved landlord. "Fust, the gin was wrong, an' now I'm supposed to
'ave rummidged yur box. Wot for?"

Furneaux popped in.

"My bill ready?" he squeaked.

"No, sir. The train--"

"Leaves at two, but I'm driving to Knoleworth with Superintendent

The door closed behind him. Tomlin shook his head.

"Box! Jack-in-the-box, I reckon," he said darkly, turning to a
dog-eared ledger.

Neither at Knoleworth nor Victoria did Ingerman catch sight of the
detective, though he was anxious either to make the journey in the
company of the representative of Scotland Yard or arrange an early
appointment with him. True, he was not inclined to place the
strange-mannered little man on the same high plane as that suggested by
certain London journalists to whom he had spoken. But he wanted to win
the confidence of "the Yard" in connection with this case, and the belief
that he was being avoided was nettling. He found consolation, of a sort,
in the illustrated papers. One especially contained two pages of local
pictures. "Mr. Grant addressing the crowd," with full text, was very
effective, while there were admirable studies of The Hollies and the
"scene of the tragedy." His own portrait was not flattering. The sun had
etched his Mephistophelian features rather sharply, whereas Grant looked
a very fine fellow.

Ingerman would have been more than surprised were he privileged to
overhear a conversation which began and ended before he reached his flat
in North Kensington.

Furneaux, who had jumped into the fore part of the train at Knoleworth,
and was out in a jiffy at Victoria, handed his bag to a station
detective, and turned into Vauxhall Bridge Road, one of the quietest of
London's main thoroughfares. There he met a big man, dressed in tweeds,
whose manifest concern at the moment seemed to center in a rather bad
wrapping of a very good cigar.

"Ah! How goes it, Charles?" cried the big man heartily, affecting to be
aware of Furneaux's presence when the latter had walked nearly a hundred
yards down a comparatively deserted street.

"What's wrong with the toofa?" inquired Furneaux testily.

"My own carelessness. Stupid things, bands on cigars.... Well, what's
the rush?"

"There's a train to Steynholme at five o'clock. I want you to take hold.
I must have help. Like your cigar, this case has come unstuck."

Mr. James Leander Winter, Chief Inspector under the Criminal
Investigation Department, whistled softly.

"Tut, tut!" he said. "One can never trust the newspapers. Reading this
morning's particulars, it looked dead easy."

"Tell me how it struck you. Sometimes the uninformed brain is vouchsafed
a gleam of unconscious genius."

Winter appeared to be devoting his mind to circumventing the vagaries of
a fragile tobacco-leaf. He was a man of powerful build, over forty, heavy
but active, deep-chested, round-headed, with bulging blue eyes which
radiated kindliness and strength of character. The press photographer
described him accurately to Grant. The average Londoner would have taken
him for a county gentleman on a visit to the Agricultural Show at
Islington, with a morning at Tattersall's as a variant. Yet, Sam Weller's
extensive and peculiar knowledge of London compared with his as a
freshman's with a don's of a university. It would be hard to assess, in
coin of the realm, the value of the political and social secrets stowed
away in that big head.

"First, I must put a question or two," he said, smiling at a baby which
cooed at him from the shaded depths of a passing perambulator. "Is there
another woman?"

"Yes, the postmaster's daughter, Doris Martin."

"Shy, pretty little bird, of course?"

"Everything that is good and beautiful."

"Is Grant a Lothario?"

"Excellent chap. Quarter of an hour before the murder he was giving Doris
a lesson in astronomy in the garden of The Hollies."

"Never heard it called _that_ before."

"This time the statement happens to be strictly accurate."

"Honest Injun?"

"I'm sure of it. If anything, the death of Adelaide Melhuish cleared the
scales off their eyes. Those two have never kissed or squeezed--yet.
They'll be starting quite soon now."

"How old is Doris?"


"But a really good-looking girl of nineteen must have had admirers before
Grant went to the village."

"She had, and has. Having educated herself out of the rut, however, she
left many runners at the post. One is persistent--a youngish horse-coper
named Elkin. Adelaide Melhuish probably saw her with Grant. Neither Doris
nor Grant knew that Adelaide Melhuish, as such, was in Steynholme. That
is to say, the girl had seen Miss Melhuish in the post office, and
recognized her as a famous actress, but that is all. And now I shan't
tell you any more, or you'll know all that I know, which is too much."

The cigar was behaving itself at last, having burnt down to the fracture,
so Winter's thoughts could be given exclusively to the less important
matter of the Steynholme affair.

"To begin with," he said instantly. "Ingerman can establish a
cast-iron alibi."

"So I imagined. But he's a bad lot. I throw in that item gratuitously."

The oddly-assorted pair walked in silence until Vauxhall Bridge was in
sight. Winter pulled out a watch.

"What time did you say my train left Victoria?" he inquired.

"Plenty of time yet to make your guess and listen to further details,"
scoffed Furneaux.

"Frankly, I give it up. But, if I must share in the hunt, I tell you now
that, metaphorically speaking, I shall cling to the postmaster's daughter
till torn away by sheer force of evidence."

Furneaux dug his colleague in the ribs.

"That's the effect of constant association with me, James," he cackled
gleefully. "Ten years ago you would have pounced on Elkin. You've hit it!
I'm a prood mon the day. The pupil is equaling the master."

"You little rat, I had hanged my first murderer before you knew the
meaning of _habeas corpus_! Let's turn now, and get to business."

Few Treasury barristers, leading for the Crown, could have marshaled the
facts with such lucidity and fairness as Furneaux during that saunter to
Victoria Station.

"Nothing extenuate, nor set down aught in malice," said Othello to
Lodovico, and these Scotland Yard men, charged with so great a
responsibility, never forgot the great-hearted Moor's advice.

When Winter took his seat in the train at five o'clock he could have
drawn a plan of Steynholme, which he had never seen, and marked thereon
the exact position of each house mentioned in this record. Moreover, he
was acquainted with the chief characters by sight, as it were. And,
finally, he and Furneaux had arranged a plan of campaign.

Furneaux refreshed a jaded intellect by an evening at the opera. Next
morning, at eleven o'clock, he was inquiring for Mr. Ingerman at an
office in a certain alley off Cornhill.

A smart youth interposed a printed formula between the visitor and a door
marked "Private." Furneaux wrote his name, and put "Steynholme" in the
space reserved for "business." He was admitted at once. Mr. Ingerman,
apparently, was immersed in a pile of letters, but he swept them all
aside, and greeted the caller affably.

"Glad to see you, Mr. Furneaux," he said. "I missed you on the train
yesterday. Did you--"

"Nice quiet place you've got here, Mr. Ingerman," interrupted the

"Yes. But, as I was about to--"

"Artistically furnished, too," went on Furneaux dreamily. "Oak,
self-toned carpets and rugs, restful decorations. Those etchings, also,
show taste in the selection. 'The Embankment--by Night.' Fitting sequel
to 'The City--by Day.' I'm a child in such matters, but, 'pon my honor,
if tempted to pour out my hard-earned savings into the lap of a City
magnate, I would disgorge here more readily than in some saloon-bar of
finance, where the new mahogany glistens, and the typewriters click like

Ingerman was nettled. He glanced at his correspondence.

"You have a somewhat far-fetched notion of my position," he said, with a
staccato quality in his velvet voice. "I am not a magnate, and I toil
here to make, not to lose, money for my clients."

"A noble ideal. Forgive me if my rhapsody took the wrong line."

"And I'm sure you will forgive me if I now put the question which leads
to the probable cause of your visit. Did you travel by the two o'clock
train yesterday?"

"Yes. I avoided you purposely."

"May I ask, why?"

"My mind was weary. I wanted my wits about me when I tackled you."

Ingerman smiled, and leaned back, resting both elbows on the arms of the
chair, and bringing the tips of his fingers together.

"Proceed," he said.

"You prefer that I should drag out a statement piecemeal rather than
receive it _en bloc_?"

"Put it that way, if you like."

"I shall even enjoy it. To clear the ground, are you the Isidor G.
Ingerman who exploited the A1 Mine in Abyssinia?"

Ingerman's finger-tips whitened under a sudden pressure, but his voice
remained calm.

"An unfortunate episode," he said.

"And the Aegean Transport Company, Limited?"

"Into which I was inveigled by Greeks. But why this history of ruined

"It's a sort of schooling. I have noticed that the smartest counsel
invariably begin with a few fireworks in order to induce the proper frame
of mind in a witness."

"Does that mean that you want me to blurt out bitter and prejudiced
accusations against Mr. Grant?"

"I want to hear what you have to say about the death of your wife. You
forced the cross-examining role on me. I'm doing my best."

Ingerman kept silent during many seconds. When he spoke, his cultured
voice was suave as ever.

"Perhaps it was my fault, Mr. Furneaux," he said. "You gave me a strong
hint. I should have taken it, and we might have started an interesting
chat on pleasanter lines. So, with apologies for my insistence about the
train, I make a fresh start. I believe firmly that Grant was directly
concerned in the murder. And I shall justify my belief. Within the past
fortnight a _rapprochement_ between my wife and myself became possible.
It was spoken of, even reduced to the written word. I have her letters.
Mine should be found among her belongings. May I take it that they _have_
been found?"

"Yes," said Furneaux.

"Ah. So far, so good. My poor wife reached the parting of the ways. She
saw that her life was becoming an empty husk. I think the theater was
palling on her. But I see now that she still cherished the dream of
winning the man she loved--not me, her husband, but that handsome
dilettante, Grant. I take it, therefore, that she went to Steynholme to
determine whether or not the glamour of the past was really dead.
Unfortunately, she witnessed certain idyllic passages between her
one-time lover and a charming village girl. Imagine the effect of this
discovery on one of the artistic temperament. 'Hell hath no fury like a
woman scorned,' and my unhappy wife would lash herself into an emotional
frenzy. She would tear a passion to rags. Her very training on the stage
would come to her aid in scathing words--perhaps threats. If Grant
remained cold to her appeal the village beauty should be made to suffer.
Then _he_ would flame into storm. And so the upas-tree of tragedy spread
its poisonous shade until reason fled, and some demon whispered, 'Kill!'
I find no flaw in my theory. It explains the inexplicable. Now, how does
it strike you, Mr. Furneaux?"

"As piffle."

"Is that so? I have the advantage, of course, in knowing my wife's
peculiarities. And I have made some study of Grant. He admits already
that he is under suspicion. Why, if he is innocent? Mind you, I pay
little heed to the crude disposal of the body. Horace, I think, has a
truism that art lies in concealing art. My wife's presence in Steynholme
was no secret. She would have been missed from the inn. Search would be
made. The murder must be revealed sooner or later, and the murderer
himself was aware that by no twisting or turning could his name escape
association with that of his victim. Why not face the music at once? he
would argue. The very simplicity of the means adopted to fasten a kind of
responsibility on him might prove his best safeguard. Even now I doubt
whether any jury will find him guilty on the evidence as it stands, but
my duty to my unhappy wife demands that I shall strengthen the arm of
justice by every legitimate means in my power."

"Is that your case, Mr. Ingerman?"

"At present, yes."

"It assumes that the police adopt your view."

"Not necessarily. The police must do their work without fear or favor.
But Grant can be committed for trial on a coroner's warrant."

"Grant is certainly in an awkward place."

"Only a little while ago you dismissed my theory of the crime as airy

"That was before you quoted Horace. I have a great respect for Horace.
His ode to the New Year is a gem."

"Would you care to see my wife's recent letters?"

"If you please."

"They are at my flat, I'll send you copies. The originals are always at
your disposal for comparison, of course. Now may I, without offense, ask
a question?"


"Is it wise that the emissary of Scotland Yard should leave Steynholme?"

"But didn't I tell you that I might obtain light in the neighborhood of

"True. I could have given you the facts in Steynholme."

"I'm a greater believer in what the theater people call 'atmosphere.'
Some of your facts, Mr. Ingerman, remind me of an expert's report in a
mining prospectus. When tested by cyanide of potassium the gold in the
ore often changes into iron pyrites. But don't hug the delusion that I
shall neglect Steynholme. The murderer is there, not in London, and,
unless my intellect is failing, he will be tried for his life at the next
Lewes Assizes. Meanwhile, may I give you a bit of advice?"

"By all means."

"Employ a sound lawyer, one who will avoid needless mud-slinging. Good
day! Send those letters to the Yard by to-night's post if practicable."

"It shall be done."

When the door closed on Furneaux, Ingerman smiled.

"I've given that little Frenchman furiously to think," he murmured.

But the "little Frenchman" was smiling, too. He had elaborated the scheme
already discussed with Winter. It was much to his liking, though
unorthodox, rather crack-brained, more than risky, and altogether opposed
to the instructions of the Police Manual. Each of these drawbacks was a
commendation to Furneaux. In fact, the Steynholme mystery had taken quite
a favorable turn during that talk with Ingerman.



About the time Furneaux was whisked past The Hollies in Superintendent
Fowler's dogcart, Grant and Hart were finishing luncheon, and planning a
long walk to the sea. Grant would dearly have liked to secure Doris's
company, but good taste forbade that he should even invite her to share
the ramble. Thus, the death of a woman with whom he had not exchanged a
word during three years had already set up a barrier between Doris and
himself. Though impalpable, it was effective. It could neither be climbed
nor avoided. Quiet little Steynholme had suddenly become a rigid censor
of morals and etiquette. Until this evil thing was annihilated by slow
process of law, Doris and he might meet only by chance and never remain
long together.

When the two were ready to start, Hart elected to dispense with his South
American sombrero.

"I am sensitive to ridicule," he professed. "The village urchins will
christen me 'Owd Ben,' and the old gentleman's character was such that I
would feel hurt. So, for to-day, I'll join the no hat brigade."

"I wonder if we'll meet Furneaux," said Grant, selecting a
walking-stick. "It's odd that we should have seen nothing of him
this morning."

"It would be still more odd if we had, remembering the precautions he
took not to be observed coming here last night."

"Well, that's so. I forgot to ask the reason. There was one, I suppose."

"Of the best. That little man is a live wire of intelligence. He's wasted
on Scotland Yard. He ought to be a dramatist or an ambassador."

"Quaint alternatives, those."

"Not at all. Each profession demands brains, and is at its best in
coining cute phrases. I've met scores of both tribes, and they're like as
peas in a pod."

A bell rang.

"That's the front door," said Grant. "It's Furneaux himself, I hope."

But the visitor was P.C. Robinson, who actually smiled and saluted.

"Glad I've caught you before you went out, sir," he said. "Mr. Furneaux
asked me to tell you he had to hurry back to London. I was also to
mention that he had got the whiskers."

"What whiskers? Whose whiskers?"

"That's all he said, sir--he'd got the whiskers."

"Why, Owd Ben's whiskers, of course. How dense you are, Jack!" put in

Now, this was the first Robinson had heard of whiskers in connection
with the crime. He remembered Elkin's make-up as Svengali, of course, and
could have kicked himself for not associating earlier a set of sable
whiskers with the black wig and the bullet-torn hat.

But, Owd Ben! What figure did that redoubtable ghost cut in the mystery?

"There are certain _lacunae_ in your otherwise vigorous and thrilling
story, constable," went on Hart.

"Very likely, sir," agreed Robinson, much to the surprise of his
hearers. He had not the slightest notion what a _lacuna_, or its
plural, signified. He was only adopting Furneaux's advice, and trying
to be civil.

"Ah, you see that, do you?" said Hart. "Well, fill 'em in. When, where,
and how did the midget sleuth obtain the specter's hairy adornments?"

The policeman, whose wits were thoroughly on the alert, realized that he
had scored a point, though he knew not how.

"He did not tell me, sir," he answered. "It's a rum business, that's what
it is, no matter what way you look at it."

Grant, agreeably aware of the village constable's change of front,
accepted the olive branch readily.

"We're just going for a walk," he said. "If you have ten minutes to
spare, Mrs. Bates will find you some luncheon, I have no doubt."

"Well, sir, meals are a trifle irregular during a busy time like this,"
admitted Robinson, feeling that his luck was in, because tongues would
surely be loosened in the kitchen to an official guest introduced by the
master of the establishment. He was right. No member of the Bates family
dreamed of reticence, now that the household was restored to favor with
"the force." Before Robinson departed, he was full of information and
good food.

What more natural, then, an hour later, than that he should contrive to
meet Elkin as the horse-dealer was taking home a lively two-year-old pony
he had been "lungeing" on a strip of common opposite his house?

Each was eager to question the other, but Elkin opened fire.

"Anything fresh?" he cried. "You have a fair course now, Robinson. That
little London 'tec has bunked home."

"Has he?" In the language of the ring, Robinson thought fit to spar for
an opening.

"Oh, none of your kiddin'," said Elkin, stroking the nervous colt's neck.
"You know he has. You don't miss much that's going on. Bet you half a
thick 'un you'd have put someone in clink before this if the murder at
The Hollies had been left in your hands."

"That's as may be, Mr. Elkin. But this affair seems to have gripped you
for fair. You look thoroughly run down. Sleepin' badly?"

"Rotten! Hardly got a wink last night."

"You shouldn't be out so late. Why, on'y a week ago you were in bed
regular at 10.15."

"That inquest broke up the day yesterday, so I was delayed at

"What time did you reach home?"

"Dashed if I know. After twelve before I was in bed. By the way, what's
this about things missing from a box owned by the Amateur Dramatic
Society? That silly josser of a detective--What's his name?"

"Furneaux," said Robinson, who was clever enough not to appear too
secretive, and was thanking his stars that Elkin had introduced the very
topic he wanted to discuss.

"Ay, Furneaux. I remember now. He worried old Tomlin last night about
that box, which is kept in the loft over the club-room. So Tomlin and I,
and Hobbs, just to satisfy ourselves, went up there as soon as Furneaux
left to-day. And, what do you think? The box was unlocked, though I
locked it myself, and have the key; and a hat and wig and whiskers I
wore when we played a skit on 'Trilby' were missing. If that isn't a
clew, what is?"

"A clew!" repeated the bewildered Robinson.

"Yes. I'm telling you, though I kept dark before the other fellows.
Didn't you say Grant's cheek was bleeding on Tuesday morning?"

"I did."

"Well, the whiskers were held on by wires that slip over the ears. One
wire was sharp as a needle. I know, because it stuck into a finger more
than once. Why shouldn't it scratch a man's cheek, and the cut open again
next morning?"

"By jing, you've got your knife into Mr. Grant, an' no mistake,"
commented Robinson.

"You yourself gave him a nasty jab at the inquest," sneered Elkin.

"I was just tellin' the facts."

"So am I. I think you ought to know about that hat and the other things.
I would recognize them anywhere. Furneaux had something up his sleeve,
too, or he wouldn't have pumped Tomlin... Woa, boy! So long, Robinson! I
must put this youngster into his stall."

"I'll wait, Mr. Elkin," said Robinson solemnly. "I want to have a word
with you."

The policeman was glad of the respite. He needed time to collect his
thoughts. The story of the dinner-party and its excitement disposed
completely of Elkin's malicious theory with regard to Grant, but, since
the horse-dealer was minded to be communicative, it would be well to
encourage him.

"Come in, and have a drink," said Elkin, when the colt had been stabled.

"No, thanks--not when I'm on duty."

Elkin raised his eyebrows sarcastically. He could not possibly guess that
Robinson was adopting Furneaux's pose of never accepting hospitality
from a man whom he might have to arrest.

"Well, blaze away. I'm ready."

The younger man leaned against a gate. He looked ill and physically worn.

"Your business has kept you out late of a night recently, you say, Mr.
Elkin," began the other, speaking as casually as he could contrive. "Now,
it might help a lot if you can call to mind anyone you met on the roads
at ten or eleven o'clock. For instance, last night--"

Elkin laughed in a queer, croaking way.

"Last night my mare brought me home. I was decidedly sprung, Robinson.
Glad you didn't spot me, or there might have been trouble. What between
the inquest, an' no food, an' more than a few drinks at Knoleworth, I'd
have passed Owd Ben himself without seeing him, though I believe I did
squint in at The Hollies as I went by."

"What time would that be?"

"Oh, soon after eleven."


"I can't be certain to ten minutes or so. The pubs hadn't closed when I
left Knoleworth. What the devil does it matter, anyhow?"

It mattered a great deal. Robinson could testify that Elkin did not cross
Steynholme bridge "soon after eleven."

"Nothing much," was the answer. "You see, I'm anxious to find out who
might be stirring at that hour, an' you know everybody for miles around.
I'd like to fix your journey by the clock, if I could."

"Dash it all, man, I was full to the eyes. There! You have it straight."

"Were you out on Monday night?"

"The night of the murder?"


"I left the Hare and Hounds at ten, and came straight home."

"Who was there with you?"

"The usual crowd--Hobbs, and Siddle, and Bob Smith, and a commercial
traveler. Siddle went at half past nine, but he generally does."

"You met no one on the road?"


The monosyllable seemed to lack Elkin's usual confidence. It sounded
as if he had been making up his mind what to say, yet faltered at the
last moment.

Robinson ruminated darkly. As a matter of fact, long after eleven o'clock
on that fateful night, he himself had seen Elkin walking homeward. He was
well aware that the licensing hours were not strictly observed by the
Hare and Hounds when "commercial gentlemen" were in residence. Closing
time was ten o'clock, but the "commercials," being cheery souls, became
nominal hosts on such occasions, and their guests were in no hurry to
depart. Robinson saw that he had probably jumped to a conclusion, an
acrobatic feat of reasoning which Furneaux had specifically warned him
against. At any rate, he resolved now to leave well enough alone.

"Well, we don't seem to get any forrarder," he said. "You ought to take
more care of your health, Mr. Elkin. You're a changed man these days."

"I'll be all right when this murder is off our chests, Robinson. You
won't have a tiddley? Right-o! So long!"

Robinson walked slowly toward Steynholme. At a turn in the road he halted
near the footpath which led down the wooded cliff and across the river to
Bush Walk. He surveyed the locality with a reflective frown. Then, there
being no one about, he made some notes of the chat with Elkin. The man's
candor and his misstatements were equally puzzling. None knew better than
the policeman that the vital discrepancy of fully an hour and a half on
the Monday night would be difficult to clear up. Tomlin, of course, would
have no recollection of events after ten o'clock, but the commercial
traveler, who could be traced, might be induced to tell the truth if
assured that the police needed the information solely for purposes in
connection with their inquiry into the murder. That man must be found.
His testimony should have an immense significance.

That evening, shortly before seven o'clock, a stalwart,
prosperous-looking gentleman in tweeds "descended" from the London
express at Knoleworth. The local train for Steynholme stood in a bay on
the opposite platform, and this passenger in particular was making for it
when he nearly collided with another man, younger, thinner, bespectacled,
who hailed him with delight.

"You, too? Good egg!" was the cry.

The gentleman thus addressed did not seem to relish this geniality.

"Where the deuce are you off to?" he demanded.

"To Steynholme--same as you, of course."

"Look here, Peters, a word in your ear. If you know me during the next
few days, you'll never know me again. I suppose you'll be staying at the
local inn--there's only one of any repute in the place?"

"That's so. I've got you. May I take it that you will reciprocate when
the time comes?"

"Have I ever failed you?"

"No. We meet as strangers."

Peters bustled off. He had the reputation of being the smartest "writer
up" in London of mystery cases. The Steynholme affair had interested both
him and a shrewd news-editor.

The pair arrived at the Hare and Hounds within a few minutes of each
other. The big man registered as "Mr. W. Franklin, Argentina." Peters
ordered a chop, and went off at once to interview the local policeman.
Mr. Franklin took more pains over the prospective meal.

"Have you a nice chicken?" he inquired.

Yes, Mr. Tomlin had a veritable spring chicken in the larder at
that moment.

"And do you think your cook could provide a _tourne-dos_?"

"A what-a, sir?" wheezed Tomlin.

The visitor explained. He liked variety, he said. Half the chicken might
be deviled for breakfast. The two dishes, with plain boiled potatoes and
French beans, would suit him admirably. He was sorry he dared not try
Tomlin's excellent claret, but a dominating doctor had put him on the
water-cart. In effect, Mr. Franklin impressed the landlord as a man of
taste and ample means.

Peters had gobbled his chop before Franklin entered the dining-room, but
they met later in the snug, where Elkin was being chaffed by Hobbs anent
his carryin's on in Knoleworth the previous night.

Siddle came in, but the chatter was not so free as when the habitues had
the place to themselves.

Now, Peters had marked the gathering as one that suited his purpose
exactly, so he gave the conversation the right twist.

"I suppose you local gentlemen have been greatly disturbed by this
sensational murder?" he said.

Hobbs took refuge in a glass of beer. Siddle gazed contemplatively at
his neat boots. Tomlin meant to say something; Elkin, eying the stranger,
and summing him up as a detective, answered brusquely:

"The murder is bad enough, but the fat-headed police are worse. Three
days gone, and nothing done!"

"What murder are you discussing, may I ask?" put in Franklin.

Peters turned on him with astonishment in every line of a peculiarly
mobile face.

"Do you mean to say, sir, that you haven't heard of the Steynholme
murder?" he gasped.

"I seldom, if ever, read such things in the newspapers, and, as I landed
in England only a week ago from France, my ignorance, though abyssmal, is
pardonable. Moreover, I can say truly that I am far more interested in
pedigree horses than in vulgar criminals."

Peters explained fluently. This was no ordinary crime. A beautiful and
popular actress had been done to death in a brutal way, and the country
was already deeply stirred by the story.

Elkin waited impatiently till the journalist drew breath. Then he broke

"Pedigree horses you mentioned, sir," he said, his rancor against Grant
being momentarily conquered by the pertinent allusion to his own
business. "What sort? Racing, coaching, roadsters, or hacks?"

"All sorts. The Argentine, where I have connections, offers an ever-open
door to good horseflesh."

"Are you having a look round?"

"Yes. There are several decent studs within driving distance of
Steynholme. Isn't that so, landlord?"

"Lots, sir," said Tomlin. "An' the very man you're talkin' to has some
stuff not to be sneezed at."

"Is that so?" Mr. Franklin gazed at Elkin in a very friendly manner. "May
I ask your name, sir?"

Elkin produced a card. Every hoof in his stables appreciated in
value forthwith, but he was far too knowing that he should appear to
rush matters.

"Call any day you like, sir," he said. "Glad to see you. But give me
notice. I generally have an appetizer here of a morning about eleven."

"An' you want it, too, Fred," said Hobbs. "Dash me, you're as thin as a
herrin'. Stop whiskey an' drink beer, like me."

"And you might also follow that gentleman's example," interposed Siddle
quietly, nodding towards Mr. Franklin.

"What's that?" snapped Elkin.

"Don't worry about murders."

"That's a nice thing to say. Why should _I_ worry about the d---d

The chemist made no reply, but Hobbs stepped into the breach valiantly.

"Keep yer 'air on, Fred," he vociferated. "Siddle means no 'arm. But wot
else are yer a-doing of, mornin', noon, an' night?"

Elkin laughed, with his queer croak.

"If you stay here a day or two, you'll soon get to know what they're
driving at, sir," he said to Franklin. "The fact is that this chap,
Grant, who found the body, and in whose garden the murder was committed,
has been making eyes at the girl I'm as good as engaged to. That would
make anybody wild--now, wouldn't it?"

"Possibly," smiled Franklin. "Of course there is always the lady's point
of view. The sex is proverbially fickle, you know. 'Woman, thy vows are
traced in sand,' Lord Byron has it."

"Ay, an' some men's, too," guffawed Hobbs. "Wot about Peggy Smith, Fred?"

Elkin blew a mouthful of cigarette smoke at the butcher.

"What about that tough old bull you bought at Knoleworth on Monday?"
he retorted.

Hobbs's face grew purple. Mr. Franklin beckoned to Tomlin.

"Ask these gentlemen what they'll have," he said gently. The landlord
made a clatter of glasses, and the threatened storm passed.

"You've aroused my curiosity," remarked Franklin to Peters, but taking
the company at large into the conversation. "This does certainly strike
one as a remarkable case. Is there no suspicion yet as to the actual

"None whatever," said Peters.

"That's what you may call the police opinion," broke in Elkin. "We
Steynholme folk have a pretty clear notion, I can assure you."

"The matter is still _sub judice_, and may remain so a long time," said
Siddle. "It is simply stupid to attach a kind of responsibility to the
man who happens to occupy the house associated with the crime. I have no
patience with that sort of reasoning."

Hobbs, who did not want to quarrel with Elkin, suddenly championed him.

"That's all very well," he rumbled. "But the hevidence you an' me 'eard,
Siddle, an' the hevidence we know we're goin' to 'ear, is a lot stronger
than that."

"I'm sure you'll pardon me, friends," said Siddle, rising with an
apologetic smile, "but I happen to be foreman of the coroner's jury, and
I feel that this matter is not for me, at any rate, to discuss publicly."

Out he went, not even heeding Tomlin's appeal to drink the ginger-ale he
had just ordered.

"Just like 'im," sighed Hobbs. "Good-'earted fellow! Would find hexcuses
for a black rat."

Elkin talked more freely now that the chemist's disapproving eye was off
him. Ultimately, Mr. Franklin elected to smoke a cigar in the open air,
and strolled forth. He sauntered down the hill, stood on the bridge, and
admired the soft blue tones of the landscape in the half light of a
summer evening. Shortly before closing time, Robinson appeared, it being
part of his routine duty to see that no noisy revelers disturbed the
peace of the village. He noticed the stranger at once, and elected to
walk past him.

Thus, he received yet another shock when Mr. Franklin addressed
him by name.

"Good evening, Robinson," said the pleasant, clear-toned voice. "I've
been expecting you to turn up. Kindly go back home, and leave the door
open. I want to slip in quietly. I am Chief Inspector Winter, of
Scotland Yard."

"You don't say so, sir!" stammered Robinson.

"But I do say it, and will prove it to you, of course. I'll be with you
in a minute or two. There's someone coming. You and I must not be seen

Robinson made off, and Winter lounged along the Knoleworth road. He met
Bates, going to the post with letters.

Naturally, Bates looked him over. Returning from the post office, he kept
a sharp eye for the unknown loiterer, but saw him not. He even walked
quickly to the bend of the road, but the other man had vanished.

Grant and Hart were talking of anything but the murder when Bates thrust
his head in. He was grasping his goatee beard, sure sign of some weight
on his mind.

"Beg pardon," he said, "but I thought you'd like to know. The place is
just swarmin' with 'em."

"Bees?" inquired Hart.

Bates stared fixedly at the speaker for a second or two.

"No, sir, 'tecs," he said. "There's a big 'un now--just the opposite to
the little 'un, Hawkshaw. I 'ope I 'aven't to tackle this customer,
though. He'd gimme a doin', by the looks of 'im."

Bates had disappeared before Grant remembered that the press photographer
had mentioned the Big 'Un and the Little 'Un of the Yard.

"Now, I wonder," he said.

His wonder could hardly have equaled Winter's had he heard the gardener's
words. The guess was a distinct score for blunt Sussex, though it was
founded solely on the assumption that all comers now, unless Bates was
personally acquainted with them, were limbs of the law.



Winter had identified Bates at the first glance. The letters in the man's
hand, too, showed his errand, so, while the gardener was climbing the
hill, the detective slipped into Robinson's cottage.

He found the policeman awaiting him in the dark, because a voice said:

"Beg pardon, sir, but the other gentleman from the 'Yard' asked me to
take him into the kitchen. A light in the front room might attract
attention, he thought."

"Just what Mr. Furneaux would suggest, and I agree with him," said
Winter, quite alive to the canny discretion behind those words, "the
other gentleman."

Robinson led the way. Supper was laid on the table. Poor Mrs. Robinson
had again beaten a hasty retreat.

"Now, Robinson," said the Chief Inspector affably, "before we come to
business I'll prove my bona fides. Here is my official card, and I'll run
quickly through events until 1.30 p.m. to-day. I met Mr. Furneaux at
Victoria, and he posted me fully up to that hour."

So the policeman listened to a clear summary of the Steynholme case as
it was known to the authorities.

"I did not warn either Mr. Fowler or you of my visit because a telegram
could hardly be explicit enough," concluded Winter. "At the inn I am Mr.
Franklin, an Argentine importer of blood stock in the horse line. At
this moment the only other man beside yourself in Steynholme who is
aware of my official position is Mr. Peters, and he is pledged to
secrecy. To-morrow or any other day until further notice, you and I meet
as strangers in public. By the way, Mr. Furneaux asked me to tell you
that he found the wig and the false beard in the river early this
morning. The wearer had apparently flung them off while crossing the
foot-bridge leading from Bush Walk, having forgotten that they would not
sink readily. Perhaps he didn't care. At any rate, Mr. Hart's bullet
seems to have laid Owd Ben's ghost. Now, what of this fellow, Elkin? He
worries me."

"Can I offer you a glass of beer, sir?"

"With pleasure. May I smoke while you eat? You see, I differ from Mr.
Furneaux in both size and habits."

Robinson poured out the beer. He was preternaturally grave. The somewhat
incriminating statements he had wormed out of the horse-dealer that
afternoon lay heavy upon him. But he told his story succinctly enough.
Winter nodded to emphasize each point, and congratulated him at the end.

"You arranged that very well," he said. "I gather, though, that Elkin
spoke rather openly."

"Just as I've put it, sir. He tripped a bit over the time on Monday
night. But it's only fair to say that he might have had Tomlin's
license in mind."

"That issue will be settled to-morrow. I'll find out the commercial
traveler's name, and send a telegram from Knoleworth before noon.... Who
is Peggy Smith?"

Robinson set down an empty glass with a stare of surprise.

"Bob Smith's daughter, sir," he answered.

"No doubt. But, proceed."

"Well, sir, she's just a village girl. Her father is a blacksmith. His
forge is along to the right, not far. She'll be twenty, or thereabouts."


"Not more than the rest of 'em, sir."

"Have you seen her flirting with Elkin?"

Robinson took thought.

"Now that I come to think of it, she might be given a bit that way. Her
father shoes Elkin's nags, so there's a lot of comin' an' goin' between
the two places. But folks would always look on it as natural enough. Yes,
I've seen 'em together more than once."

"In that case, he can hardly grumble if the postmaster's daughter has an
eye for another young man."

"Miss Martin!" snorted Robinson. "She wouldn't look the side of the road
he was on. Fred Elkin isn't her sort."

"But he said to-night in the Hare and Hounds that he and Miss Martin were
practically engaged."

"Stuff an' nonsense! Sorry, sir, but I admire Doris Martin. I like to see
a girl like her liftin' herself out of the common gang. She's the
smartest young lady in the village, an' not an atom of a snob. No, no.
She isn't for Fred Elkin. Before this murder cropped up everybody would
have it that Mr. Grant would marry her."

"How does the murder intervene?"

Robinson shifted uneasily in his chair. He knew only too well that he
himself had driven a wedge between the two.

"Steynholme's a funny spot, sir," he contrived to explain. "Since it came
out that Doris an' Mr. Grant were in the garden at The Hollies at half
past ten on Monday night, without Mr. Martin knowin' where his daughter
was, there's been talk. Both the postmaster an' the girl herself are up
to it. You can see it in their faces. They don't like it, an' who can
blame 'em!"

"Who, indeed? But this Elkin--surely he had some ground for a definite
boast, made openly, among people acquainted with all the parties?"

"There's more than Elkin would marry Doris if she lifted a finger, sir."

"Can you name them?"

"Well, Tomlin wants a wife."

Winter laughed joyously.

"Next?" he cried.

"They say that Mr. Siddle is a widower."

"The chemist? Foreman of the jury?"

"Yes, sir."

"From appearances, he is a likelier candidate than either Elkin or
Tomlin. Anybody else?"

"I shouldn't be far wrong if I gave you the name of most among the young
unmarried men in the parish."

"Dear me! I must have a peep at this charmer. But I want those names,

Winter produced a note-book, so he was evidently taking the matter
seriously. The policeman, however, was flustered. His thoughts ran on
Elkin, whereas this masterful person from London insisted on discussing
Doris Martin.

"My difficulty is, sir, that she has never kep' company with any of
'em," he said.

"Never mind. Give me the name of every man who, no matter what his
position or prospects, might be irritated, if no more, if he knew that
Miss Martin and Mr. Grant were presumably spooning in a garden at a
rather late hour."

It was a totally new line of inquiry for Robinson, but he bent his wits
to it, and evolved a list which, if published, would certainly be
regarded with incredulous envy by every other girl in the village than
the postmaster's daughter; as for Doris herself, she would be mightily
surprised when she saw it, but whether annoyed or secretly gratified none
but a pretty girl of nineteen can tell.

Winter departed soon afterwards. Before going to the inn he had a look at
the forge. A young woman, standing at the open door of the adjoining
cottage, favored him with a frank stare. There was no light in the
dwelling. When he returned, after walking a little way down the road, the
door was closed.

Next morning, Bates heard of Peters as the detective and of Mr. Franklin
as a "millionaire" from South America. Moreover, he scrutinized both in
the flesh, and saw Robinson salute Peters but pass the financial
potentate with indifference.

Alas, that a reputation, once built, should be destroyed!

"I was mistook, sir," he reported to Grant later. "There's another 'tec
about, but 'e ain't the chap I met last night. They say this other bloke
is rollin' in money, an' buyin' hosses right an' left."

"Then he'll soon be rolling in the mud, and have no money," put in Hart.

"Who is he?" inquired Grant carelessly.

"A Mr. Franklin, from South America, sir."

Grant and Hart exchanged glances. Curiously enough, Hart remained silent
till Bates had gone.

"I must look this joker up, Jack," he said then. "To me the mere mention
of South America is like Mother Gary's chickens to a sailor, a harbinger
of storm."

But Hart consumed Tomlin's best brew to no purpose--in so far as seeing
Mr. Franklin was concerned, since the latter was in Knoleworth, buying a
famous racing stud. Being in the village, however, this fisher in
troubled waters was not inclined to return without a bag of some sort.

He walked straight into the post office. Doris and her father were there,
the telegraphist being out.

"Good day, everybody," he cried cheerfully. "Grant wants to know, Mr.
Martin, if you and Miss Doris will come and dine with him, us, this
evening at 7.30?"

The postmaster gazed helplessly at this free-and-easy stranger. Doris
laughed, and blushed a little.

"This is Mr. Hart, a friend of Mr. Grant's, dad," she explained. "I'm
afraid we cannot accept the invitation. We are so busy."

"The worst of excuses," said Hart.

"But there is a London correspondent here who hands in a long telegram
at that hour."

"What's his name?"

"Mr. Peters."

"Great Scott! Jimmie Peters here? I'll soon put a stopper on him. He'll
come, too--jumping. See if he doesn't. Is it a bargain? Short telegram
at six. Dinner for five at 7.30. Come, now, Mr. Martin. It's up to you. I
can see 'Yes' in Doris's eye. Over the port--most delectable, I assure
you--I'll give full details of the peculiar case of a man in
Worcestershire whose crop of gooseberries increased fourfold after
starting an apiary. And what does it matter if you do lose a queen or two
in June? The drones will attend to that trifle.... It's a fixture, eh?
Where's Peters? In the Pull and Push? I'll rout him out."

The whirlwind subsided, but quickly materialized again.

"Peters nearly fell on his knees and wept with joy," announced Hart. "He
believes he was given a bull steak for luncheon. He pledges himself to
have only five hundred words on the wire at five o'clock."

Meanwhile, father and daughter had decided that there was no valid reason
why they should not dine with Mr. Grant. Martin already regretted his
aloofness on the day of the inquest, though, truth to tell, Hart's expert
knowledge of bee-culture was the determining factor. On her part, Doris
was delighted. Her world had gone awry that week, and this small
festivity might right it.

Not one word of the improvised dinner-party did Hart confide to Grant. He
informed the only indispensable person, Mrs. Bates, and left it at that.
Grant, a restless being these days, took him for another long walk. It
chanced that their road home led down the high-street. The hour was a
quarter past seven, and Peters hailed them.

Hart introduced the journalist, saying casually:

"Jimmie is coming to dinner, Jack."

"Delighted," said Grant, of course.

Peters looked slightly surprised, but passed no comment. Then Doris and
her father appeared. They joined the others, shook hands, and, to Grant's
secret perplexity, the whole party moved off down the hill in company.
When the Martins turned with the rest to cross the bridge, Grant began to
suspect his friend.

"Wally," he managed to whisper, "what game have you been playing?"

"Aren't you satisfied?" murmured Hart. "Sdeath, as they used to say in
the Surrey Theater, you're as bad as Furshaw!"

There were others far more perturbed by that odd conjunction of diners
than the puzzled host, who merely expected Mrs. Bates to belabor him with
a rolling pin. Mr. Siddle, for instance, had just closed his shop when
the five met. That is to say, the dark blue blind was drawn, but the
door was ajar. He came to the threshold, and watched the party until the
bridge was neared, when one of them, looking back, might have seen him,
so he stepped discreetly inside. Being a non-interfering, self-contained
man, he seemed to be rather irresolute. But that condition passed
quickly. Leaning over the counter, he secured a hat and a pair of
field-glasses, and went out. He, too, knew of Mrs. Jefferson's weakness
for shopping in Knoleworth, and that good lady had gone there again. Her
train was due in ten minutes. A wicket gate led to a narrow passage
communicating with the back door of her residence. He entered boldly,
reached the garden, and hurried to the angle on the edge of the cliff
next to the Martins' strip of ground.

Yes, a spacious dinner-table was laid at The Hollies. Doris, Mr. Martin,
and Peters soon strolled out on to the lawn. The pedestrians had
obviously gone upstairs to wash after their tramp.

Mr. Siddle rather forgot himself. He stared so long and earnestly through
the field-glasses that he ran full tilt into Mrs. Jefferson and maid
before regaining the high-street. But the chemist was a ready man. He
lifted his hat with an inquiring smile.

"Didn't you say you wanted some anti-arthritic salts early in the
week?" he asked.

"Yes," said Mrs. Jefferson, "but I got some to-day in Knoleworth,
thank you."

"Well, I was just making up an indent, and might as well include your
specific if you really needed it."

Which was kind and thoughtful of Mr. Siddle, but not quite true, though
it fully explained his presence at Mrs. Jefferson's gate.

Mr. Franklin, escorting a fragrant Havana up the hill (he had traveled by
the same train) saw the meeting, and, being aware of Mrs. Jefferson's
frugal habits, since Furneaux had omitted no item of his movements in
Steynholme, remembered it later during the nightly gathering in the inn.

Elkin greeted Mr. Franklin respectfully when the great man joined
the circle.

"Did you see anything worth while at Knoleworth, sir?" he said.

"No. I was unlucky. All the principals were at a race meeting."

"By gum! That's right. It's Gatwick today. Dash! I might have saved you
a journey."

"Oh, it doesn't matter. In my business there is no call for hurry."

Elkin looked around.

"Where's our friend, the 'tec?" he said.

"I think you're wrong about 'im, meanin' Mr. Peters," said Tomlin. "'E's
'ere for a noospaper, not for the Yard."

"That's his blarney," smirked Elkin. "A detective doesn't go about
telling everybody what he is."

"Whatever his profession may be," put in Siddle's quiet voice, "I happen
to know that he is dining with Mr. Grant. So are Mr. Martin and Doris. By
mere chance I called at Mrs. Jefferson's. I went to the back door, and,
finding it closed, looked into the garden. From there I couldn't help
seeing the assembly on the lawn of The Hollies."

"Dining at Grant's?" shouted Elkin in a fury. "Well, I'm--"

"'Ush, Fred!" expostulated Tomlin with a shocked glance at Mr. Franklin.
"Wot's wrong wi' a bit of grub, ony ways? A very nice-spoken young gent
kem 'ere twiced, an' axed for Mr. Peters the second time. He's a friend
o' Mr. Grant's, I reckon."

"What's wrong?" stormed the horse-dealer. "Why, everything's wrong! The
bounder ought to be in jail instead of giving dinner-parties. Imagine
Doris eating in that house!"

"Ay! Sweetbreads an' saddle o' lamb," interjected Hobbs with the air of
one imparting a secret.

Elkin was pallid with wrath. He glared at Hobbs.

"What I had in my mind was the impudence of the blighter," he said
shrilly. "That poor woman's body leaves here to-morrow for some cemetery
in London, and Grant invites folk to a small dinner to-night!"

A sort of awe fell on the company. None of the others had as yet put the
two events in juxtaposition, and they had an ugly sound. Even Mr. Siddle
stifled a protest. Elkin had scored a hit, a palpable hit, and no one
could gainsay him. He felt that, for once, the general opinion was with
him, and drove the point home.

"Hobson--the local joiner and undertaker"--he explained for Mr.
Franklin's benefit--"came this morning to borrow a couple of horses for
the job. It's to be done in style--'no expense spared' was Mr. Ingerman's
order--and the poor thing is in her coffin now while Grant--"

He stopped. Mr. Siddle coughed.

"You've said enough, Elkin," murmured the chemist. "This excitement is
harmful. You really ought to be in bed for the next forty-eight hours,
dieting yourself carefully, and taking Dr. Foxton's mixture regularly. He
has changed it, I noticed."

"Bed! Me! Not likely. I'm going to kick up a row. What are the police
doing? A set of blooming old women, that's what they are. But I'll stir
'em up, if I have to write to the Home Secretary."

"Gentlemen," said Mr. Franklin, smiling genially, "I cannot help taking a
certain interest in this affair. May I, then, as a complete stranger to
all concerned, tell you how this minor episode strikes me. Mr. Grant, I
understand, denies having seen or spoken to Miss Melhuish during the past
three years. None of the others now in his house had met her at all.
Really, if a man may not give a dinnerparty in these conditions,
dining-out would become a lost art."

Elkin was obviously seeking for some retort which, though forcible, would
not offend a possible patron. But Siddle answered far more deftly than
might be looked for from the horse-dealer.

"Your contention, sir, is just what the man of the world would hold," he
said, "but, in this village, where we live on neighborly terms, such an
incident would be impossible in almost any other house than The Hollies."

Mr. Franklin nodded. He was convinced. Tomlin, Hobbs, and a local draper
bore out the chemist's reasonable theory. Next morning Steynholme was
again united in condemning Grant, while the postmaster and his daughter
were not wholly exempted from criticism.

The dinner itself was an altogether harmless and cheery meal. By common
consent not one word was said about the murder. Hart was amusing on the
question of bees--almost flippant, Mr. Martin deemed him. Peters had a
wide store of strange experiences to draw on, while Grant, if rather
silent in deference to two such brilliant talkers, found much
satisfaction in regarding Doris as a hostess.

The next day being Saturday, or market day, the village was busy. At
eleven o'clock there was a somewhat unnecessary display of nodding
plumes and long-tailed black horses at the removal of the coffin to the
railway station. For some reason, the funeral arrangements had not been
bruited about until Elkin made that envenomed attack on Grant in the Hare
and Hounds the previous night. Ingerman had sent a gorgeous wreath, the
only one forthcoming locally. This fact, of course, invited comment,
though no whisperer in the crowd troubled to add that the interment was
only announced in that day's newspapers.

Peters, meeting Mr. Franklin on the stairs of the inn, put a note into
his hand. It read:

"Why don't you have a chat with Grant? The public mind is being inflamed
against him. It's hardly fair."

Mr. Franklin, meeting Peters in the passage, winked at him, and the
journalist tortured his brains to turn out some readable stuff which
should grip the million on Sunday yet not to be damaging to the man whose
hospitality he enjoyed over night.

In a word, the passing of Adelaide Melhuish was exploited thoroughly as
an indictment of her one-time lover, and the only two in Steynholme not
aware of the fact were Grant, himself, and Wally Hart.

By a singular coincidence, not ridiculously beyond the ken of a verger,
when Doris went to church on Sunday morning, she found herself beside
Mr. Franklin.

At the close of the service the same big man whom she had noticed as a
neighbor in the pew overtook her at the post office door. He lifted his
hat. A passer-by heard him say distinctly:

"Pardon me for troubling you, but can you tell me at what time the mail
closes for London?"

"At four-thirty," said Doris.

No other person overheard Mr. Franklin's next words:

"I am now going to drop a letter in the box. It's for you. Get it at
once. It is of the utmost importance."

Doris was startled, as well she might be. But--she went straight for the
letter. It was marked: "Private and Urgent," and ran:

DEAR MISS MARTIN. I am here _vice_ Mr. Furneaux, who is engaged on other
phases of the same inquiry. My business is absolutely unknown. I figure
at the inn as "Mr. W. Franklin, Argentina." Indeed, Mr. Furneaux left the
village because he realized the difficulties facing him in that respect.
Now, I trust you, and I hope you will justify my faith. You know
Superintendent Fowler. I want you to meet me and him this afternoon at
two o'clock at the crossroads beyond the mill. A closed car will be in
waiting, and we can have half an hour's talk without anyone in Steynholme
being the wiser. Remember that this village, like the night, has a
thousand eyes. Naturally, I would not trouble you in this way if the
cause was not vital to the ends of justice. Whether or not you decide to
keep this appointment, I have every confidence that you will respect my
wish that _no one_, other than yourself, shall be informed of my
identity. But I believe you will be wise, and come.

I am,

Yours faithfully,


Chief Inspector, C.I.D., Scotland Yard, S.W.

A card was inclosed, as a sort of credential. But, somehow, it was not
needed. Doris had seen "Mr. Franklin" more than once, and she had heard
him singing the hymns in church. He looked worthy of credence. His
written words had the same honest ring. She resolved to go.

Her father, sad to relate, had found three dead queens in the hives. He
was busy, but spared a moment to tell her that Mr. Siddle was coming to
tea at four o'clock. Doris was rather in a whirl, and seemed to be
unnecessarily astonished.

"Mr. Siddle! Why?" she gasped.

"Why not!" said her father. "It's not the first time. You can entertain
him. I'll look after the letters."

"I must get some cakes. We have none."

"Well, that's simple. I wonder if that fellow Hart really understands
apiaculture? You might invite him, too."

With that letter in her pocket Doris had suddenly grown wary. Hart and
Siddle would not mix, and her woman's intuition warned her that Siddle
had chosen the tea-hour purposely in order to have an uninterrupted
conversation with her. She disliked Mr. Siddle, in a negative way, but
the very nearness of the detective was stimulating. Let Mr. Siddle come,
then, and come alone!

"No, dad," she laughed. "Mr. Hart's knowledge will be available
to-morrow. In his presence, poor Mr. Siddle would be dumb."



Winter, being a cheerful cynic, had not erred when he appealed to that
love of mystery which, especially if it is spiced with a hint of harmless
intrigue, is innate in every feminine heart. Indeed, he was so assured of
the success of his somewhat dramatic move that as he walked to a
rendezvous arranged with Superintendent Fowler on the Knoleworth road he
reviewed carefully certain arguments meant to secure Doris's assistance.

Passing The Hollies, he smiled at the notion that Furneaux would
undoubtedly have brought Grant to the conclave. It was just the sort of
difficult situation in which his colleague would have reveled. But the
Chief Inspector was more solid, more circumspect, even, singularly
enough, more sensitive to the probable comments of a crusty judge if
counsel for the defense contrived to elicit the facts.

"Anything fresh?" inquired the superintendent, when a smart car drew up,
and Winter entered.

Mr. Fowler was in plain clothes, and the blinds were half drawn. No one
could possibly recognize either of the occupants unless the car was
halted, and the inquisitor literally thrust his head inside. The motor
was a private one, borrowed for the occasion.

"Yes, a little," said Winter, as the chauffeur put the engine in gear.
"Your man, Robinson, has been drawing Elkin, or Elkin drew him--I am not
quite sure which, but think it matterless either way."

He sketched Robinson's activities briefly, but in sufficient outline.

"A new figure has come on the screen--Siddle, the chemist," he added

"Siddle!" Mr. Fowler was surprised. "Why, he is supposed to be a model of
the law-abiding citizen."

"I don't say he has lost his character in that respect," said Winter.
"Still, he puzzles me. Elkin is a loud-mouthed fool. The verbal bricks he
hurls at Grant are generally half baked, and crumble into dust. Hitherto,
Siddle has tried to repress him, with a transparent honesty that rather
worried me. On Friday night, however, Siddle attacked Grant with poisoned
arrows. He did more damage in two minutes than Elkin could achieve in as
many months."


"He showed very clearly that Grant was guilty of gross bad taste in
inviting Mr. Martin and his daughter to dinner that evening. I'm inclined
to agree with him, if the story has been told fairly. But that is beside
the main issue. Siddle aroused the sleeping dogs of the village, and the
pack is in full cry again. Grant seems to have been popular here; he had
almost recovered from the blow of Miss Melhuish's death by the
straightforward speech he made before the inquest. But Siddle threw him
back into the mud by a few skillful words. What is Siddle's record? Is he
a local man?"

"I think not. Robinson can tell us."

"Robinson says he 'believes' Siddle is a widower. That doesn't argue long
and close knowledge."

"We must look into it. Robinson has been stationed here four years.
Siddle is not old, but he has been in business in Steynholme more years
than that. But--you'll pardon me, I'm sure, Mr. Winter--may I take it
that you are really interested in the chemist's history?"

The superintendent was perplexed, or he would not have adopted his
professional method of semi-apologetic questions with a man from
the C.I.D.

"I hardly know what I'm interested in," laughed Winter. "Grant didn't
kill the lady. I shall be slow to credit Elkin with being the scoundrel
he looks. Siddle, and Tomlin, if you please, are regarded as starters in
the Doris Martin Matrimonial Stakes, and I don't think Tomlin could ever
murder anything but the King's English. It is Siddle's _volte face_ that
bothers me."

"Um!" murmured Mr. Fowler. He was not an uneducated man, but _volte
face_, correctly pronounced, was unfamiliar in his ears.

"The change was so marked," went on the detective. "I gather that Siddle
is a stickler for charity and fair dealing. He didn't abandon the role,
of course. It was the sheer ingenuity of his method that caught my
attention. So I simply catalogue him for research."

"Has Miss Martin promised to meet us?" inquired the other, feeling that
he was on the track of _volte face_.

"No. But there she is!" cried Winter. "She has just heard the car.
Tell your chauffeur to slow up. The road is empty otherwise. By the
way, you help her in. She might be a bit shy of me, and I don't want a
second's delay."

Winter's judgment was not at fault. Doris _was_ feeling a trifle
uncertain, seeing that she was about to encounter a complete stranger.
Moreover, she had come a good half mile from the shop whence the cakes
for tea were to be procured at the back door, and as a favor. Her eyes
were fixed on the slowing car with a timid anxiety that betrayed no
small degree of doubt as to the outcome of this Sunday afternoon
escapade. She was pale and nervous. At that moment Doris wished herself
safe at home again.

"One word," broke in the superintendent hurriedly. "Why are you so sure
that Grant is innocent, Mr. Winter?"

"I'm sure of nothing with regard to this case. But I have great faith in
Furneaux's flair for the true scent. It has never failed yet."

Mr. Fowler wished his companion would not use such uncommon words.
However, he got out, and took off his hat with a courteous sweep. Doris
had to look twice at him. Hitherto, she had always seen him in uniform.
Winter smiled at the unmistakable expression of relief in her face. She
was almost self-possessed as she took the seat by his side.

"Good day, Mr. Winter," she said.

"Mr. Franklin, please. Better become used to my pseudonym.... Plenty of
room for your feet, Mr. Fowler? That's it. Now we're comfy. The chauffeur
will bring us back here in half an hour, Miss Martin. Will that suit your

"Oh, yes. I am free till nearly four o'clock. We have a guest to
tea then."

"I have a well-developed bump of curiosity these days. Who is it,
may I ask?"

"Mr. Siddle, the local chemist."

"Indeed. An old friend, I suppose?"

"We have known him seven years, ever since he came to Steynholme."

"Ah. He is not a native of the place?"

"No. He bought Mr. Benson's business. He's a Londoner, I believe."

"Is there--a Mrs. Siddle?"

"No. I--er--that is to say, gossip has it that he was married, but his
wife died."

"He doesn't speak of her? Is that it? One would have thought that in a
house where he is well known--"

"We don't really know him well. No one does, I think."

"You've invited him to tea, at any rate," laughed Winter.

"No," said Doris. "He invited himself. At least, so I gathered from dad."

"Ah, well. He feels lonely, no doubt, and wishes to chat about recent
strange events in Steynholme. And that brings me to the reason why I
sought this chat under such peculiar conditions. You realize my handicap,
Miss Martin? If I were seen talking to you, or even entering your house
as apart from the post office, people would begin to wonder. You follow
that, don't you?"

Yes, Doris did follow it. What she did not follow was the veiled
admiration in Superintendent Fowler's glance at the detective. Those few
inconsequential questions had shed a flood of light on Siddle's past and
present, yet the informant was blissfully unaware of their real purport.
And the way was opened so deftly. The purchase of a chemist's business
would almost certainly be negotiated through a local lawyer. Let him be
found, and Siddle's pre-Steynholme days could be "looked into," as the
police phrase has it. The superintendent had the rare merit of being
candid with himself. He had no previous experience of Scotland Yard men
or methods, and was inclined to be skeptical about Furneaux. But Winter's
prompt use of a chance opening, and the restraint which cut off the
investigation before the girl could suspect any ulterior motive,
displayed a technique which the Sussex Constabulary had few opportunities
of acquiring.

"Now, Miss Martin," began Winter, "if ever you have the misfortune to
fall ill--touch wood, please--and call in a doctor, you'll tell him the
facts, eh?"

"Why consult him at all, if I don't?" she smiled.

"Exactly. To-day I'm somewhat in the position of a Harley-street
specialist, summoned to assist an eminent local practitioner in Dr.
Fowler. That's a sort of gentle preliminary, leading up to the
disagreeable duty of putting some questions of a personal nature. What
you may answer will not go beyond ourselves. I promise you that. You will
not be quoted, or requested to prove your statements. Such a thing would
be absurd. If I were really a doctor, and you needed my advice, you might
easily describe your symptoms all wrong. It would be my business to
listen, and deduce the truth, and I would never dream of rating you for
having misled me. You see my point?"

"Yes, but Mr. Win--Mr. Franklin, I know nothing whatever about
the murder."

"I'm sure you don't. It was a wicked trick of Fate that took you to Mr.
Grant's garden last Monday night."

"It was really an astronomical almanac," retorted Doris, who now felt a
growing confidence in this nice-spoken official. "Sirius is a star
remarkable for its beautiful changing lights, and on Monday evening was
at its best. I think I ought to explain," and she blushed delightfully,
"that the village gossip about Mr. Grant and me is entirely mistaken. We
are not--well, I had better use plain English--we are not lovers. My
father and I are just on close, friendly terms with Mr. Grant. I--my
position hardly warrants even that relationship with an author of some
distinction. But please set aside any notion of us as likely to become
engaged. For one thing, it is preposterous. For another, I shall not
leave my father."

Poor Doris! She little guessed how accurately this skilled student of
human nature read the hidden thought behind that vehement protest. Even
the note of vague rebellion against social disabilities was pathetic yet
illuminating. Of course, he took her quite seriously.

"Let us keep to the hard road of fact," he said. "What you really mean is
that Mr. Grant has never made love to you. But I must be candid, young
lady. There is no earthly reason why he shouldn't, though I could name
offhand half a dozen why he should.... Well, well, I must not pay
compliments. My friend, Mr. Furneaux, can manage that with much greater
facility, being half a Frenchman. And now I'm going to say an unpleasant
thing. I ask your forgiveness in advance. Both Mr. Furneaux and I agree
in the opinion that your imaginary love affair is indissolubly bound up
with the mystery of Miss Melhuish's death. In a word, I have brought you
here today to discuss your prospective marriage, and nothing else. That
astonishes you, eh? Well, it's the truth, as I shall proceed to make
clear. There's a Mr. Fred Elkin, for instance--"

Doris uttered a little laugh of dismay. Winter's emphatic words had
astounded her, but the horse-dealer's name acted as comic relief.

"I can't bear the man," she protested.

"I have no doubt. But you ought to know that he is loudly proclaiming his
determination to marry you before the year is out."

The girl's face reddened again, and her eyes sparkled.

"I wouldn't marry him if he were a peer of the realm," she said

"Quite so. But he is an avowed suitor. Now don't be vexed. Has he never
declared his intentions to _you_?"

"He would never dare. I sing and act a little, at village concerts and
dramatic performances, and he has annoyed me at times by an officious
pretense that he was deputed by my father to see me home. I came here
quite a little girl, so people learnt to use my Christian name. I don't
object to it at all. But I simply hate hearing it on Mr. Elkin's lips."

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