Part 1 out of 5
JOHN VINE MILNE
MY DEAR FATHER,
Like all really nice people, you have a weakness for detective
stories, and feel that there are not enough of them. So, after
all that you have done for me, the least that I can do for you
is to write you one. Here it is: with more gratitude and
affection than I can well put down here.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. MRS. STEVENS IS FRIGHTENED
II. MR. GILLINGHAM GETS OUT AT THE WRONG STATION
III. TWO MEN AND A BODY
IV. THE BROTHER FROM AUSTRALIA
V. MR. GILLINGHAM CHOOSES A NEW PROFESSION
VI. OUTSIDE OR INSIDE?
VII. PORTRAIT OF A GENTLEMAN
VIII. "DO YOU FOLLOW ME, WATSON?"
IX. POSSIBILITIES OF A CROQUET SET
X. MR. GILLINGHAM TALKS NONSENSE
XI. THE REVEREND THEODORE USSHER
XII. A SHADOW ON THE WALL
XIII. THE OPEN WINDOW
XIV. MR. BEVERLEY QUALIFIES FOR THE STAGE
XV. MRS. NORBURY CONFIDES IN DEAR MR. GILLINGHAM
XVI. GETTING READY FOR THE NIGHT
XVII. MR. BEVERLEY TAKES THE WATER
XIX. THE INQUEST
XX. MR. BEVERLEY IS TACTFUL
XXI. CAYLEY'S APOLOGY
XXII. MR. BEVERLEY MOVES ON
Mrs. Stevens is Frightened
In the drowsy heat of the summer afternoon the Red House was
taking its siesta. There was a lazy murmur of bees in the
flower-borders, a gentle cooing of pigeons in the tops of the
elms. From distant lawns came the whir of a mowing-machine, that
most restful of all country sounds; making ease the sweeter in
that it is taken while others are working.
It was the hour when even those whose business it is to attend to
the wants of others have a moment or two for themselves. In the
housekeeper's room Audrey Stevens, the pretty parlour-maid,
re-trimmed her best hat, and talked idly to her aunt, the
cook-housekeeper of Mr. Mark Ablett's bachelor home.
"For Joe?" said Mrs. Stevens placidly, her eye on the hat.
Audrey nodded. She took a pin from her mouth, found a place in
the hat for it, and said, "He likes a bit of pink."
"I don't say I mind a bit of pink myself," said her aunt. "Joe
Turner isn't the only one."
"It isn't everybody's colour," said Audrey, holding the hat out
at arm's length, and regarding it thoughtfully. "Stylish, isn't
"Oh, it'll suit you all right, and it would have suited me at
your age. A bit too dressy for me now, though wearing better
than some other people, I daresay. I was never the one to
pretend to be what I wasn't. If I'm fifty-five, I'm fifty-five
--that's what I say."
"Fifty-eight, isn't it, auntie?"
"I was just giving that as an example," said Mrs. Stevens with
Audrey threaded a needle, held her hand out and looked at her
nails critically for a moment, and then began to sew.
"Funny thing that about Mr. Mark's brother. Fancy not seeing
your brother for fifteen years." She gave a self-conscious laugh
and went on, "Wonder what I should do if I didn't see Joe for
"As I told you all this morning," said her aunt, "I've been here
five years, and never heard of a brother. I could say that
before everybody if I was going to die to-morrow. There's been
no brother here while I've been here."
"You could have knocked me down with a feather when he spoke
about him at breakfast this morning. I didn't hear what went
before, naturally, but they was all talking about the brother
when I went in--now what was it I went in for--hot milk, was it,
or toast?--well, they was all talking, and Mr. Mark turns to me,
and says--you know his way--'Stevens,' he says, 'my brother is
coming to see me this afternoon; I'm expecting him about three,'
he says. 'Show him into the office,' he says, just like that.
'Yes, sir,' I says quite quietly, but I was never so surprised in
my life, not knowing he had a brother. 'My brother from
Australia,' he says--there, I'd forgotten that. From Australia."
"Well, he may have been in Australia," said Mrs. Stevens,
judicially; "I can't say for that, not knowing the country; but
what I do say is he's never been here. Not while I've been here,
and that's five years."
"Well, but, auntie, he hasn't been here for fifteen years. I
heard Mr. Mark telling Mr. Cayley. 'Fifteen years,' he says.
Mr. Cayley having arst him when his brother was last in England.
Mr. Cayley knew of him, I heard him telling Mr. Beverley, but
didn't know when he was last in England--see? So that's why he
arst Mr. Mark."
"I'm not saying anything about fifteen years, Audrey. I can only
speak for what I know, and that's five years Whitsuntide. I can
take my oath he's not set foot in the house since five years
Whitsuntide. And if he's been in Australia, as you say, well, I
daresay he's had his reasons."
"What reasons?" said Audrey lightly.
"Never mind what reasons. Being in the place of a mother to you,
since your poor mother died, I say this, Audrey--when a gentleman
goes to Australia, he has his reasons. And when he stays in
Australia fifteen years, as Mr. Mark says, and as I know for
myself for five years, he has his reasons. And a respectably
brought-up girl doesn't ask what reasons."
"Got into trouble, I suppose," said Audrey carelessly. "They
were saying at breakfast he'd been a wild one. Debts. I'm glad
Joe isn't like that. He's got fifteen pounds in the post-office
savings' bank. Did I tell you?"
But there was not to be any more talk of Joe Turner that
afternoon. The ringing of a bell brought Audrey to her feet--no
longer Audrey, but now Stevens. She arranged her cap in front of
"There, that's the front door," she said. "That's him. 'Show
him into the office,' said Mr. Mark. I suppose he doesn't want
the other ladies and gentlemen to see him. Well, they're all out
at their golf, anyhow--Wonder if he's going to stay--P'raps he's
brought back a lot of gold from Australia--I might hear something
about Australia, because if anybody can get gold there, then I
don't say but what Joe and I--"
"Now, now, get on, Audrey."
"Just going, darling." She went out.
To anyone who had just walked down the drive in the August sun,
the open door of the Red House revealed a delightfully inviting
hall, of which even the mere sight was cooling. It was a big
low-roofed, oak-beamed place, with cream-washed walls and
diamond-paned windows, blue-curtained. On the right and left
were doors leading into other living-rooms, but on the side which
faced you as you came in were windows again, looking on to a
small grass court, and from open windows to open windows such air
as there was played gently. The staircase went up in broad, low
steps along the right-hand wall, and, turning to the left, led
you along a gallery, which ran across the width of the hail, to
your bedroom. That is, if you were going to stay the night. Mr.
Robert Ablett's intentions in this matter were as yet unknown.
As Audrey came across the hall she gave a little start as she saw
Mr. Cayley suddenly, sitting unobtrusively in a seat beneath one
of the front windows, reading. No reason why he shouldn't be
there; certainly a much cooler place than the golf-links on such
a day; but somehow there was a deserted air about the house that
afternoon, as if all the guests were outside, or--perhaps the
wisest place of all--up in their bedrooms, sleeping. Mr. Cayley,
the master's cousin, was a surprise; and, having given a little
exclamation as she came suddenly upon him, she blushed, and said,
"Oh, I beg your pardon, sir, I didn't see you at first," and he
looked up from his book and smiled at her. An attractive smile
it was on that big ugly face. "Such a gentleman, Mr. Cayley,"
she thought to herself as she went on, and wondered what the
master would do without him. If this brother, for instance, had
to be bundled back to Australia, it was Mr. Cayley who would do
most of the bundling.
"So this is Mr. Robert," said Audrey to herself, as she came in
sight of the visitor.
She told her aunt afterwards that she would have known him
anywhere for Mr. Mark's brother, but she would have said that in
any event. Actually she was surprised. Dapper little Mark, with
his neat pointed beard and his carefully curled moustache; with
his quick-darting eyes, always moving from one to the other of
any company he was in, to register one more smile to his credit
when he had said a good thing, one more expectant look when he
was only waiting his turn to say it; he was a very different man
from this rough-looking, ill-dressed colonial, staring at her so
"I want to see Mr. Mark Ablett," he growled. It sounded almost
like a threat.
Audrey recovered herself and smiled reassuringly at him. She had
a smile for everybody.
"Yes, sir. He is expecting you, if you will come this way."
"Oh! So you know who I am, eh?"
"Mr. Robert Ablett?"
"Ay, that's right. So he's expecting me, eh? He'll be glad to
see me, eh?"
"If you will come this way, sir," said Audrey primly.
She went to the second door on the left, and opened it.
"Mr. Robert Ab--she began, and then broke off. The room was
empty. She turned to the man behind her. "If you will sit down,
sir, I will find the master. I know he's in, because he told me
that you were coming this afternoon."
"Oh!" He looked round the room. "What d'you call this place,
"The office, sir."
"The room where the master works, sir."
"Works, eh? That's new. Didn't know he'd ever done a stroke of
work in his life."
"Where he writes, sir," said Audrey, with dignity. The fact that
Mr. Mark "wrote," though nobody knew what, was a matter of pride
in the housekeeper's room.
"Not well-dressed enough for the drawing-room, eh?"
"I will tell the master you are here, sir," said Audrey
She closed the door and left him there.
Well! Here was something to tell auntie! Her mind was busy at
once, going over all the things which he had said to her and she
had said to him--quiet-like. "Directly I saw him I said to
myself--" Why, you could have knocked her over with a feather.
Feathers, indeed, were a perpetual menace to Audrey.
However, the immediate business was to find the master. She
walked across the hall to the library, glanced in, came back a
little uncertainly, and stood in front of Cayley.
"If you please, sir," she said in a low, respectful voice, "can
you tell me where the master is? It's Mr. Robert called."
"What?" said Cayley, looking up from his book. "Who?"
Audrey repeated her question.
"I don't know. Isn't he in the office? He went up to the Temple
after lunch. I don't think I've seen him since."
"Thank you, sir. I will go up to the Temple."
Cayley returned to his book.
The "Temple" was a brick summer-house, in the gardens at the back
of the house, about three hundred yards away. Here Mark
meditated sometimes before retiring to the "office" to put his
thoughts upon paper. The thoughts were not of any great value;
moreover, they were given off at the dinner-table more often than
they got on to paper, and got on to paper more often than they
got into print. But that did not prevent the master of The Red
House from being a little pained when a visitor treated the
Temple carelessly, as if it had been erected for the ordinary
purposes of flirtation and cigarette-smoking. There had been an
occasion when two of his guests had been found playing fives in
it. Mark had said nothing at the time, save to ask with a little
less than his usual point--whether they couldn't find anywhere
else for their game, but the offenders were never asked to The
Red House again.
Audrey walked slowly up to the Temple, looked in and walked
slowly back. All that walk for nothing. Perhaps the master was
upstairs in his room. "Not well-dressed enough for the
drawing-room." Well, now, Auntie, would you like anyone in your
drawing-room with a red handkerchief round his neck and great big
dusty boots, and--listen! One of the men shooting rabbits.
Auntie was partial to a nice rabbit, and onion sauce. How hot it
was; she wouldn't say no to a cup of tea. Well, one thing, Mr.
Robert wasn't staying the night; he hadn't any luggage. Of
course Mr. Mark could lend him things; he had clothes enough for
six. She would have known him anywhere for Mr. Mark's brother.
She came into the house. As she passed the housekeeper's room on
her way to the hall, the door opened suddenly, and a rather
frightened face looked out.
"Hallo, Aud," said Elsie. "It's Audrey," she said, turning into
"Come in, Audrey," called Mrs. Stevens.
"What's up?" said Audrey, looking in at the door.
"Oh, my dear, you gave me such a turn. Where have you been?"
"Up to the Temple."
"Did you hear anything?"
"Bangs and explosions and terrible things."
"Oh!" said Audrey, rather relieved. "One of the men shooting
rabbits. Why, I said to myself as I came along, 'Auntie's
partial to a nice rabbit,' I said, and I shouldn't be surprised
"Rabbits!" said her aunt scornfully. "It was inside the house,
"Straight it was," said Elsie. She was one of the housemaids.
"I said to Mrs. Stevens--didn't I, Mrs. Stevens?--'That was in
the house,' I said."
Audrey looked at her aunt and then at Elsie.
"Do you think he had a revolver with him?" she said in a hushed
"Who?" said Elsie excitedly.
"That brother of his. From Australia. I said as soon as I set
eyes on him, 'You're a bad lot, my man!' That's what I said,
Elsie. Even before he spoke to me. Rude!" She turned to her
aunt. "Well, I give you my word."
"If you remember, Audrey, I always said there was no saying with
anyone from Australia." Mrs. Stevens lay back in her chair,
breathing rather rapidly. "I wouldn't go out of this room now,
not if you paid me a hundred thousand pounds."
"Oh, Mrs. Stevens!" said Elsie, who badly wanted five shillings
for a new pair of shoes, "I wouldn't go as far as that, not
"There!" cried Mrs. Stevens, sitting up with a start. They
listened anxiously, the two girls instinctively coming closer to
the older woman's chair.
A door was being shaken, kicked, rattled.
Audrey and Elsie looked at each other with frightened eyes.
They heard a man's voice, loud, angry.
"Open the door!" it was shouting. "Open the door! I say, open
"Don't open the door!" cried Mrs. Stevens in a panic, as if it
was her door which was threatened. "Audrey! Elsie! Don't let
"Damn it, open the door!" came the voice again.
"We're all going to be murdered in our beds," she quavered.
Terrified, the two girls huddled closer, and with an arm round
each, Mrs. Stevens sat there, waiting.
Mr. Gillingham Gets Out at the Wrong Station
Whether Mark Ablett was a bore or not depended on the point of
view, but it may be said at once that he never bored his company
on the subject of his early life. However, stories get about.
There is always somebody who knows. It was understood--and this,
anyhow, on Mark's own authority--that his father had been a
country clergyman. It was said that, as a boy, Mark had
attracted the notice, and patronage, of some rich old spinster of
the neighbourhood, who had paid for his education, both at school
and university. At about the time when he was coming down from
Cambridge, his father had died; leaving behind him a few debts,
as a warning to his family, and a reputation for short sermons,
as an example to his successor. Neither warning nor example
seems to have been effective. Mark went to London, with an
allowance from his patron, and (it is generally agreed) made
acquaintance with the money-lenders. He was supposed, by his
patron and any others who inquired, to be "writing"; but what he
wrote, other than letters asking for more time to pay, has never
been discovered. However, he attended the theatres and music
halls very regularly--no doubt with a view to some serious
articles in the "Spectator" on the decadence of the English
Fortunately (from Mark's point of view) his patron died during
his third year in London, and left him all the money he wanted.
From that moment his life loses its legendary character, and
becomes more a matter of history. He settled accounts with the
money-lenders, abandoned his crop of wild oats to the harvesting
of others, and became in his turn a patron. He patronized the
Arts. It was not only usurers who discovered that Mark Ablett no
longer wrote for money; editors were now offered free
contributions as well as free lunches; publishers were given
agreements for an occasional slender volume, in which the author
paid all expenses and waived all royalties; promising young
painters and poets dined with him; and he even took a theatrical
company on tour, playing host and "lead" with equal lavishness.
He was not what most people call a snob. A snob has been defined
carelessly as a man who loves a lord; and, more carefully, as a
mean lover of mean things--which would be a little unkind to the
peerage if the first definition were true. Mark had his vanities
undoubtedly, but he would sooner have met an actor-manager than
an earl; he would have spoken of his friendship with Dante--had
that been possible--more glibly than of his friendship with the
Duke. Call him a snob if you like, but not the worst kind of
snob; a hanger-on, but to the skirts of Art, not Society; a
climber, but in the neighbourhood of Parnassus, not Hay Hill.
His patronage did not stop at the Arts. It also included Matthew
Cayley, a small cousin of thirteen, whose circumstances were as
limited as had been Mark's own before his patron had rescued him.
He sent the Cayley cousin to school and Cambridge. His motives,
no doubt, were unworldly enough at first; a mere repaying to his
account in the Recording Angel's book of the generosity which had
been lavished on himself; a laying-up of treasure in heaven. But
it is probable that, as the boy grew up, Mark's designs for his
future were based on his own interests as much as those of his
cousin, and that a suitably educated Matthew Cayley of
twenty-three was felt by him to be a useful property for a man in
his position; a man, that is to say, whose vanities left him so
little time for his affairs.
Cayley, then, at twenty-three, looked after his cousin's affairs.
By this time Mark had bought The Red House and the considerable
amount of land which went with it. Cayley superintended the
necessary staff. His duties, indeed, were many. He was not
quite secretary, not quite land-agent, not quite
business-adviser, not quite companion, but something of all four.
Mark leant upon him and called him "Cay," objecting quite rightly
in the circumstances to the name of Matthew. Cay, he felt was,
above all, dependable; a big, heavy-jawed, solid fellow, who
didn't bother you with unnecessary talk--a boon to a man who
liked to do most of the talking himself.
Cayley was now twenty-eight, but had all the appearance of forty,
which was his patron's age. Spasmodically they entertained a
good deal at The Red House, and Mark's preference--call it
kindliness or vanity, as you please--was for guests who were not
in a position to repay his hospitality. Let us have a look at
them as they came down to that breakfast, of which Stevens, the
parlour-maid, has already given us a glimpse.
The first to appear was Major Rumbold, a tall, grey-haired,
grey-moustached, silent man, wearing a Norfolk coat and grey
flannel trousers, who lived on his retired pay and wrote natural
history articles for the papers. He inspected the dishes on the
side-table, decided carefully on kedgeree, and got to work on it.
He had passed on to a sausage by the time of the next arrival.
This was Bill Beverly, a cheerful young man in white flannel
trousers and a blazer.
"Hallo, Major," he said as he came in, "how's the gout?"
"It isn't gout," said the Major gruffly.
"Well, whatever it is."
The Major grunted.
"I make a point of being polite at breakfast," said Bill, helping
himself largely to porridge. "Most people are so rude. That's
why I asked you. But don't tell me if it's a secret. Coffee?"
he added, as he poured himself out a cup.
"No, thanks. I never drink till I've finished eating."
"Quite right, Major; it's only manners." He sat down opposite to
the other. "Well, we've got a good day for our game. It's going
to be dashed hot, but that's where Betty and I score. On the
fifth green, your old wound, the one you got in that frontier
skirmish in '43, will begin to trouble you; on the eighth, your
liver, undermined by years of curry, will drop to pieces; on the
"Oh, shut up, you ass!"
"Well, I'm only warning you. Hallo; good morning, Miss Norris.
I was just telling the Major what was going to happen to you and
him this morning. Do you want any assistance, or do you prefer
choosing your own breakfast?"
"Please don't get up," said Miss Norris. "I'll help myself.
Good morning, Major." She smiled pleasantly at him. The Major
"Good morning. Going to be hot."
"As I was telling him," began Bill, "that's where--Hallo, here's
Betty. Morning, Cayley."
Betty Calladine and Cayley had come in together. Betty was the
eighteen-year-old daughter of Mrs. John Calladine, widow of the
painter, who was acting hostess on this occasion for Mark. Ruth
Norris took herself seriously as an actress and, on her holidays,
seriously as a golfer. She was quite competent as either.
Neither the Stage Society nor Sandwich had any terrors for her.
"By the way, the car will be round at 10.30," said Cayley,
looking up from his letters. "You're lunching there, and driving
back directly afterwards. Isn't that right?"
"I don't see why we shouldn't have--two rounds," said Bill
"Much too hot in the afternoon," said the Major. "Get back
comfortably for tea."
Mark came in. He was generally the last. He greeted them and
sat down to toast and tea. Breakfast was not his meal. The
others chattered gently while he read his letters.
"Good God!" said Mark suddenly.
There was an instinctive turning of heads towards him. "I beg
your pardon, Miss Norris. Sorry, Betty."
Miss Norris smiled her forgiveness. She often wanted to say it
herself, particularly at rehearsals.
"I say, Cay!" He was frowning to himself--annoyed, puzzled. He
held up a letter and shook it. "Who do you think this is from?"
Cayley, at the other end of the table, shrugged his shoulders.
How could he possibly guess?
"Robert," said Mark.
"Robert?" It was difficult to surprise Cayley. "Well?"
"It's all very well to say 'well?' like that," said Mark
peevishly. "He's coming here this afternoon."
"I thought he was in Australia, or somewhere."
"Of course. So did I." He looked across at Rumbold. "Got any
"Well, take my advice, and don't have any."
"Not likely to now," said the Major.
Bill laughed. Miss Norris said politely: "But you haven't any
brothers, Mr. Ablett?"
"One," said Mark grimly. "If you're back in time you'll see him
this afternoon. He'll probably ask you to lend him five pounds.
Everybody felt a little uncomfortable.
"I've got a brother," said Bill helpfully, "but I always borrow
"Like Robert," said Mark.
"When was he in England last?" asked Cayley.
"About fifteen years ago, wasn't it? You'd have been a boy, of
"Yes, I remember seeing him once about then, but I didn't know if
he had been back since."
"No. Not to my knowledge." Mark, still obviously upset,
returned to his letter.
"Personally," said Bill, "I think relations are a great mistake."
"All the same," said Betty a little daringly, "it must be rather
fun having a skeleton in the cupboard."
Mark looked up, frowning.
"If you think it's fun, I'll hand him over to you, Betty. If
he's anything like he used to be, and like his few letters have
been--well, Cay knows."
"All I knew was that one didn't ask questions about him."
It may have been meant as a hint to any too curious guest not to
ask more questions, or a reminder to his host not to talk too
freely in front of strangers, although he gave it the sound of a
mere statement of fact. But the subject dropped, to be succeeded
by the more fascinating one of the coming foursome. Mrs.
Calladine was driving over with the players in order to lunch
with an old friend who lived near the links, and Mark and Cayley
were remaining at home--on affairs. Apparently "affairs" were
now to include a prodigal brother. But that need not make the
foursome less enjoyable.
At about the time when the Major (for whatever reasons) was
fluffing his tee-shot at the sixteenth, and Mark and his cousin
were at their business at The Red House, an attractive gentleman
of the name of Antony Gillingham was handing up his ticket at
Woodham station and asking the way to the village. Having
received directions, he left his bag with the station-master and
walked off leisurely. He is an important person to this story,
so that it is as well we should know something about him before
letting him loose in it. Let us stop him at the top of the hill
on some excuse, and have a good look at him.
The first thing we realize is that he is doing more of the
looking than we are. Above a clean-cut, clean-shaven face, of
the type usually associated with the Navy, he carries a pair of
grey eyes which seem to be absorbing every detail of our person.
To strangers this look is almost alarming at first, until they
discover that his mind is very often elsewhere; that he has, so
to speak, left his eyes on guard, while he himself follows a
train of thought in another direction. Many people do this, of
course; when, for instance, they are talking to one person and
trying to listen to another; but their eyes betray them.
Antony's never did.
He had seen a good deal of the world with those eyes, though
never as a sailor. When at the age of twenty-one he came into
his mother's money, 400 pounds a year, old Gillingham looked up
from the "Stockbreeders' Gazette" to ask what he was going to do.
"See the world," said Antony.
"Well, send me a line from America, or wherever you get to."
"Right," said Antony.
Old Gillingham returned to his paper. Antony was a younger son,
and, on the whole, not so interesting to his father as the cadets
of certain other families; Champion Birket's, for instance. But,
then, Champion Birket was the best Hereford bull he had ever
Antony, however, had no intention of going further away than
London. His idea of seeing the world was to see, not countries,
but people; and to see them from as many angles as possible.
There are all sorts in London if you know how to look at them.
So Antony looked at them--from various strange corners; from the
view-point of the valet, the newspaper-reporter, the waiter, the
shop-assistant. With the independence of 400 pounds a year
behind him, he enjoyed it immensely. He never stayed long in one
job, and generally closed his connection with it by telling his
employer (contrary to all etiquette as understood between master
and servant) exactly what he thought of him. He had no
difficulty in finding a new profession. Instead of experience and
testimonials he offered his personality and a sporting bet. He
would take no wages the first month, and--if he satisfied his
employer--double wages the second. He always got his double
He was now thirty. He had come to Waldheim for a holiday,
because he liked the look of the station. His ticket entitled
him to travel further, but he had always intended to please
himself in the matter. Waldheim attracted him, and he had a
suit-case in the carriage with him and money in his pocket. Why
not get out?
The landlady of "The George" was only too glad to put him up, and
promised that her husband would drive over that afternoon for his
"And you would like some lunch, I expect, sir."
"Yes, but don't give yourself any trouble about it. Cold
"What about beef, sir?" she asked, as if she had a hundred
varieties of meat to select from, and was offering him her best.
"That will do splendidly. And a pint of beer."
While he was finishing his lunch, the landlord came in to ask
about the luggage. Antony ordered another pint, and soon had him
"It must be rather fun to keep a country inn," he said, thinking
that it was about time he started another profession.
"I don't know about fun, sir. It gives us a living, and a bit
"You ought to take a holiday," said Antony, looking at him
"Funny thing your saying that," said the landlord, with a smile.
"Another gentleman, over from The Red House, was saying that only
yesterday. Offered to take my place 'n all." He laughed
"The Red House? Not the Red House, Stanton?"
"That's right, sir. Stanton's the next station to Waldheim. The
Red House is about a mile from here--Mr. Ablett's."
Antony took a letter from his pocket. It was addressed from "The
Red House, Stanton," and signed "Bill."
"Good old Bill," he murmured to himself. "He's getting on."
Antony had met Bill Beverley two years before in a tobacconist's
shop. Gillingham was on one side of the counter and Mr. Beverley
on the other. Something about Bill, his youth and freshness,
perhaps, attracted Antony; and when cigarettes had been ordered,
and an address given to which they were to be sent, he remembered
that he had come across an aunt of Beverley's once at a
country-house. Beverley and he met again a little later at a
restaurant. Both of them were in evening-dress, but they did
different things with their napkins, and Antony was the more
polite of the two. However, he still liked Bill. So on one of
his holidays, when he was unemployed, he arranged an introduction
through a mutual friend. Beverley was a little inclined to be
shocked when he was reminded of their previous meetings, but his
uncomfortable feeling soon wore off, and he and Antony quickly
became intimate. But Bill generally addressed him as "Dear
Madman" when he happened to write.
Antony decided to stroll over to The Red House after lunch and
call upon his friend. Having inspected his bedroom which was not
quite the lavender-smelling country-inn bedroom of fiction, but
sufficiently clean and comfortable, he set out over the fields.
As he came down the drive and approached the old red-brick front
of the house, there was a lazy murmur of bees in the
flower-borders, a gentle cooing of pigeons in the tops of the
elms, and from distant lawns the whir of a mowing-machine, that
most restful of all country sounds ....
And in the hall a man was banging at a locked door, and shouting,
"Open the door, I say; open the door!"
"Hallo!" said Antony in amazement.
Two Men and a Body
Cayley looked round suddenly at the voice.
"Can I help?" said Antony politely.
"Something's happened," said Cayley. He was breathing quickly.
"I heard a shot--it sounded like a shot--I was in the library. A
loud bang--I didn't know what it was. And the door's locked."
He rattled the handle again, and shook it. "Open the door!" he
cried. "I say, Mark, what is it? Open the door!"
"But he must have locked the door on purpose," said Antony. "So
why should he open it just because you ask him to?"
Cayley looked at him in a bewildered way. Then he turned to the
door again. "We must break it in," he said, putting his shoulder
to it. "Help me."
"Isn't there a window?"
Cayley turned to him stupidly.
"So much easier to break in a window," said Antony with a smile.
He looked very cool and collected, as he stood just inside the
hall, leaning on his stick, and thinking, no doubt, that a great
deal of fuss was being made about nothing. But then, he had not
heard the shot.
"Window--of course! What an idiot I am."
He pushed past Antony, and began running out into the drive.
Antony followed him. They ran along the front of the house, down
a path to the left, and then to the left again over the grass,
Cayley in front, the other close behind him. Suddenly Cayley
looked over his shoulder and pulled up short.
"Here," he said.
They had come to the windows of the locked room, French windows
which opened on to the lawns at the back of the house. But now
they were closed. Antony couldn't help feeling a thrill of
excitement as he followed Cayley's example, and put his face
close up to the glass. For the first time he wondered if there
really had been a revolver shot in this mysterious room. It had
all seemed so absurd and melodramatic from the other side of the
door. But if there had been one shot, why should there not be
two more?--at the careless fools who were pressing their noses
against the panes, and asking for it.
"My God, can you see it?" said Cayley in a shaking voice. "Down
The next moment Antony saw it. A man was lying on the floor at
the far end of the room, his back towards them. A man? Or the
body of a man?
"Who is it?" said Antony.
"I don't know," the other whispered.
"Well, we'd better go and see." He considered the windows for a
moment. "I should think, if you put your weight into it, just
where they join, they'll give all right. Otherwise, we can kick
the glass in."
Without saying anything, Cayley put his weight into it. The
window gave, and they went into the room. Cayley walked quickly
to the body, and dropped on his knees by it. For the moment he
seemed to hesitate; then with an effort he put a hand on to its
shoulder and pulled it over.
"Thank God!" he murmured, and let the body go again.
"Who is it?" said Antony.
"Oh!" said Antony. "I thought his name was Mark," he added, more
to himself than to the other.
"Yes, Mark Ablett lives here. Robert is his brother." He
shuddered, and said, "I was afraid it was Mark."
"Was Mark in the room too?"
"Yes," said Cayley absently. Then, as if resenting suddenly
these questions from a stranger, "Who are you?"
But Antony had gone to the locked door, and was turning the
handle. "I suppose he put the key in his pocket," he said, as he
came back to the body again.
Antony shrugged his shoulders.
"Whoever did this," he said, pointing to the man on the floor.
"Is he dead?"
"Help me," said Cayley simply.
They turned the body on to its back, nerving themselves to look
at it. Robert Ablett had been shot between the eyes. It was not
a pleasant sight, and with his horror Antony felt a sudden pity
for the man beside him, and a sudden remorse for the careless,
easy way in which he had treated the affair. But then one always
went about imagining that these things didn't happen--except to
other people. It was difficult to believe in them just at first,
when they happened to yourself.
"Did you know him well?" said Antony quietly. He meant, "Were
you fond of him?"
"Hardly at all. Mark is my cousin. I mean, Mark is the brother
I know best."
"Yes." He hesitated, and then said, "Is he dead? I suppose he
is. Will you--do you know anything about--about that sort of
thing? Perhaps I'd better get some water."
There was another door opposite to the locked one, which led, as
Antony was to discover for himself directly, into a passage from
which opened two more rooms. Cayley stepped into the passage,
and opened the door on the right. The door from the office,
through which he had gone, remained open. The door, at the end
of the short passage was shut. Antony, kneeling by the body,
followed Cayley with his eyes, and, after he had disappeared,
kept his eyes on the blank wall of the passage, but he was not
conscious of that at which he was looking, for his mind was with
the other man, sympathizing with him.
"Not that water is any use to a dead body," he said to himself,
"but the feeling that you're doing something, when there's
obviously nothing to be done, is a great comfort."
Cayley came into the room again. He had a sponge in one hand, a
handkerchief in the other. He looked at Antony. Antony nodded.
Cayley murmured something, and knelt down to bathe the dead man's
face. Then he placed the handkerchief over it. A little sigh
escaped Antony, a sigh of relief.
They stood up and looked at each other.
"If I can be of any help to you," said Antony, "please let me."
"That's very kind of you. There will be things to do. Police,
doctors--I don't know. But you mustn't let me trespass on your
kindness. Indeed, I should apologise for having trespassed so
"I came to see Beverley. He is an old friend of mine."
"He's out playing golf. He will be back directly." Then, as if
he had only just realized it, "They will all be back directly."
"I will stay if I can be of any help."
"Please do. You see, there are women. It will be rather
painful. If you would--" He hesitated, and gave Antony a timid
little smile, pathetic in so big and self-reliant a man. "Just
your moral support, you know. It would be something."
"Of course." Antony smiled back at him, and said cheerfully,
"Well, then, I'll begin by suggesting that you should ring up the
"The police? Y-yes." He looked doubtfully at the other. "I
Antony spoke frankly.
"Now, look here, Mr--er--"
"Cayley. I'm Mark Ablett's cousin. I live with him."
"My name's Gillingham. I'm sorry, I ought to have told you
before. Well now, Mr. Cayley, we shan't do any good by
pretending. Here's a man been shot--well, somebody shot him."
"He might have shot himself," mumbled Cayley.
"Yes, he might have, but he didn't. Or if he did, somebody was
in the room at the time, and that somebody isn't here now. And
that somebody took a revolver away with him. Well, the police
will want to say a word about that, won't they?"
Cayley was silent, looking on the ground.
"Oh, I know what you're thinking, and believe me I do sympathize
with you, but we can't be children about it. If your cousin Mark
Ablett was in the room with this"--he indicated the body--"this
"Who said he was?" said Cayley, jerking his head up suddenly at
"I was in the library. Mark went in--he may have come out again
--I know nothing. Somebody else may have gone in--"
"Yes, yes," said Antony patiently, as if to a little child. "You
know your cousin; I don't. Let's agree that he had nothing to do
with it. But somebody was in the room when this man was shot,
and--well, the police will have to know. Don't you think--" He
looked at the telephone. "Or would you rather I did it?"
Cayley shrugged his shoulders and went to the telephone.
"May I--er--look round a bit?" Antony nodded towards the open
"Oh, do. Yes." He sat down and drew the telephone towards him.
"You must make allowances for me, Mr. Gillingham. You see, I've
known Mark for a very long time. But, of course, you're quite
right, and I'm merely being stupid." He took off the receiver.
Let us suppose that, for the purpose of making a first
acquaintance with this "office," we are coming into it from the
hall, through the door which is now locked, but which, for our
special convenience, has been magically unlocked for us. As we
stand just inside the door, the length of the room runs right and
left; or, more accurately, to the right only, for the left-hand
wall is almost within our reach. Immediately opposite to us,
across the breadth of the room (some fifteen feet), is that other
door, by which Cayley went out and returned a few minutes ago.
In the right-hand wall, thirty feet away from us, are the French
windows. Crossing the room and going out by the opposite door,
we come into a passage, from which two rooms lead. The one on
the right, into which Cayley went, is less than half the length
of the office, a small, square room, which has evidently been
used some time or other as a bedroom. The bed is no longer
there, but there is a basin, with hot and cold taps, in a corner;
chairs; a cupboard or two, and a chest of drawers. The window
faces the same way as the French windows in the next room; but
anybody looking out of the bedroom window has his view on the
immediate right shut off by the outer wall of the office, which
projects, by reason of its greater length, fifteen feet further
into the lawn.
The room on the other side of the bedroom is a bathroom. The
three rooms together, in fact, form a sort of private suite;
used, perhaps, during the occupation of the previous owner, by
some invalid, who could not manage the stairs, but allowed by
Mark to fall into disuse, save for the living-room. At any rate,
he never slept downstairs.
Antony glanced at the bathroom, and then wandered into the
bedroom, the room into which Cayley had been. The window was
open, and he looked out at the well-kept grass beneath him, and
the peaceful stretch of park beyond; and he felt very sorry for
the owner of it all, who was now mixed up in so grim a business.
"Cayley thinks he did it," said Antony to himself. "That's
obvious. It explains why he wasted so much time banging on the
door. Why should he try to break a lock when it's so much easier
to break a window? Of course he might just have lost his head;
on the other hand, he might--well, he might have wanted to give
his cousin a chance of getting away. The same about the police,
and--oh, lots of things. Why, for instance, did we run all the
way round the house in order to get to the windows? Surely
there's a back way out through the hall. I must have a look
Antony, it will be observed, had by no means lost his head.
There was a step in the passage outside, and he turned round, to
see Cayley in the doorway. He remained looking at him for a
moment, asking himself a question. It was rather a curious
question. He was asking himself why the door was open.
Well, not exactly why the door was open; that could be explained
easily enough. But why had he expected the door to be shut? He
did not remember shutting it, but somehow he was surprised to see
it open now, to see Cayley through the doorway, just coming into
the room. Something working sub-consciously in his brain had
told him that it was surprising. Why?
He tucked the matter away in a corner of his mind for the moment;
the answer would come to him later on. He had a wonderfully
retentive mind. Everything which he saw or heard seemed to make
its corresponding impression somewhere in his brain; often
without his being conscious of it; and these photographic
impressions were always there ready for him when he wished to
Cayley joined him at the window.
"I've telephoned," he said. "They're sending an inspector or
some one from Middleston, and the local police and doctor from
Stanton." He shrugged his shoulders. "We're in for it now."
"How far away is Middleston?" It was the town for which Antony
had taken a ticket that morning--only six hours ago. How absurd
"About twenty miles. These people will be coming back soon.
"Beverley, and the others?"
"Yes. I expect they'll want to go away at once."
"Much better that they should."
"Yes." Cayley was silent for a little. Then he said, "You're
staying near here?"
"I'm at 'The George,' at Waldheim."
"If you're by yourself, I wish you'd put up here. You see," he
went on awkwardly, "you'll have to be here--for the--the inquest
and--and so on. If I may offer you my cousin's hospitality in
his--I mean if he doesn't--if he really has--"
Antony broke in hastily with his thanks and acceptance.
"That's good. Perhaps Beverley will stay on, if he's a friend of
yours. He's a good fellow."
Antony felt quite sure, from what Cayley had said and had
hesitated to say, that Mark had been the last to see his brother
alive. It didn't follow that Mark Ablett was a murderer.
Revolvers go off accidentally; and when they have gone off,
people lose their heads and run away, fearing that their story
will not be believed. Nevertheless, when people run away,
whether innocently or guiltily, one can't help wondering which
way they went.
"I suppose this way," said Antony aloud, looking out of the
"Who?" said Cayley stubbornly.
"Well, whoever it was," said Antony, smiling to himself. "The
murderer. Or, let us say, the man who locked the door after
Robert Ablett was killed."
"Well, how else could he have got away? He didn't go by the
windows in the next room, because they were shut."
"Isn't that rather odd?"
"Well, I thought so at first, but--" He pointed to the wall
jutting out on the right. "You see, you're protected from the
rest of the house if you get out here, and you're quite close to
the shrubbery. If you go out at the French windows, I imagine
you're much more visible. All that part of the house--" he waved
his right hand--"the west, well, north-west almost, where the
kitchen parts are--you see, you're hidden from them here. Oh,
yes! he knew the house, whoever it was, and he was quite right
to come out of this window. He'd be into the shrubbery at once."
Cayley looked at him thoughtfully.
"It seems to me, Mr. Gillingham, that you know the house pretty
well, considering that this is the first time you've been to it."
"Oh, well, I notice things, you know. I was born noticing. But
I'm right, aren't I, about why he went out this way?"
"Yes, I think you are." Cayley looked away--towards the
shrubbery. "Do you want to go noticing in there now?" He nodded
"I think we might leave that to the police," said Antony gently.
"It's--well, there's no hurry."
Cayley gave a little sigh, as if he had been holding his breath
for the answer, and could now breathe again.
"Thank you, Mr. Gillingham," he said.
The Brother from Australia
Guests at the Red House were allowed to do what they liked within
reason--the reasonableness or otherwise of it being decided by
Mark. But when once they (or Mark) had made up their minds as to
what they wanted to do, the plan had to be kept. Mrs. Calladine,
who knew this little weakness of their host's, resisted,
therefore, the suggestion of Bill that they should have a second
round in the afternoon, and drive home comfortably after tea.
The other golfers were willing enough, but Mrs. Calladine,
without actually saying that Mr. Ablett wouldn't like it, was
firm on the point that, having arranged to be back by four, they
should be back by four.
"I really don't think Mark wants us, you know," said the Major.
Having played badly in the morning, he wanted to prove to himself
in the afternoon that he was really better than that. "With this
brother of his coming, he'll be only too glad to have us out of
"Of course he will, Major." This from Bill. "You'd like to
play, wouldn't you, Miss Norris?"
Miss Norris looked doubtfully at the hostess.
"Of course, if you want to get back, dear, we mustn't keep you
here. Besides, it's so dull for you, not playing."
"Just nine holes, mother," pleaded Betty.
"The car could take you back, and you could tell them that we
were having another round, and then it could come back for us,"
said Bill brilliantly.
"It's certainly much cooler here than I expected," put in the
Mrs. Calladine fell. It was very pleasantly cool outside the
golf-house, and of course Mark would be rather glad to have them
out of the way. So she consented to nine holes; and the match
having ended all-square, and everybody having played much better
than in the morning, they drove back to The Red House, very well
pleased with themselves.
"Halo," said Bill to himself, as they approached the house,
"isn't that old Tony?"
Antony was standing in front of the house, waiting for them.
Bill waved, and he waved back. Then as the car drew up, Bill,
who was in front with the chauffeur, jumped down and greeted him
"Hallo, you madman, have you come to stay, or what?" He had a
sudden idea. "Don't say you're Mark Ablett's long-lost brother
from Australia, though I could quite believe it of you." He
"Hallo, Bill," said Antony quietly. "Will you introduce me? I'm
afraid I've got some bad news."
Bill, rather sobered by this, introduced him. The Major and Mrs.
Calladine were on the near side of the car, and Antony spoke to
them in a low voice.
"I'm afraid I'm going to give you rather a shock," he said.
"Robert Ablett, Mr. Mark Ablett's brother, has been killed." He
jerked a thumb over his shoulder, "In the house."
"Good God!" said the Major.
"Do you mean that he has killed himself?" asked Mrs. Calladine.
"It was about two hours ago. I happened to come here,"--he
half-turned to Beverley and explained--"I was coming to see you,
Bill, and I arrived just after the--the death. Mr. Cayley and I
found the body. Mr. Cayley being busy just now--there are police
and doctors and so on in the house--he asked me to tell you. He
says that no doubt you would prefer, the house-party having been
broken up in this tragic way, to leave as soon as possible." He
gave a pleasant apologetic little smile and went on, "I am
putting it badly, but what he means, of course, is that you must
consult your own feelings in the matter entirely, and please make
your own arrangements about ordering the car for whatever train
you wish to catch. There is one this evening, I understand,
which you could go by if you wished it."
Bill gazed with open mouth at Antony. He had no words in his
vocabulary to express what he wanted to say, other than those the
Major had already used. Betty was leaning across to Miss Norris
and saying, "Who's killed?" in an awe-struck voice, and Miss
Norris, who was instinctively looking as tragic as she looked on
the stage when a messenger announced the death of one of the
cast, stopped for a moment in order to explain. Mrs. Calladine
was quietly mistress of herself.
"We shall be in the way, yes, I quite understand," she said; "but
we can't just shake the dust of the place off our shoes because
something terrible has happened there. I must see Mark, and we
can arrange later what to do. He must know how very deeply we
feel for him. Perhaps we--" she hesitated.
"The Major and I might be useful anyway," said Bill. "Isn't that
what you mean, Mrs. Calladine?"
"Where is Mark?" said the Major suddenly, looking hard at Antony.
Antony looked back unwaveringly--and said nothing.
"I think," said the Major gently, leaning over to Mrs. Calladine,
"that it would be better if you took Betty back to London
"Very well," she agreed quietly. "You will come with us, Ruth?"
"I'll see you safely there," said Bill in a meek voice. He
didn't quite know what was happening, and, having expected to
stay at the Red House for another week, he had nowhere to go to
in London, but London seemed to be the place that everyone was
going to, and when he could get Tony alone for a moment, Tony no
doubt would explain.
"Cayley wants you to stay, Bill. You have to go anyhow,
to-morrow, Major Rumbold?"
"Yes. I'll come with you, Mrs. Calladine."
"Mr. Cayley would wish me to say again that you will please not
hesitate to give your own orders, both as regard the car and as
regard any telephoning or telegraphing that you want done." He
smiled again and added, "Please forgive me if I seem to have
taken a good deal upon myself, but I just happened to be handy as
a mouthpiece for Cayley." He bowed to them and went into the
"Well!" said Miss Norris dramatically.
As Antony re-entered the hall, the Inspector from Middleston was
just crossing into the library with Cayley. The latter stopped
and nodded to Antony.
"Wait a moment, Inspector. Here's Mr. Gillingham. He'd better
come with us." And then to Antony, "This is Inspector Birch."
Birch looked inquiringly from one to the other.
"Mr. Gillingham and I found the body together," explained Cayley.
"Oh! Well, come along, and let's get the facts sorted out a bit.
I like to know where I am, Mr. Gillingham."
"We all do."
"Oh!" He looked at Antony with interest. "D'you know where you
are in this case?"
"I know where I'm going to be."
"Put through it by Inspector Birch," said Antony with a smile.
The inspector laughed genially.
"Well, I'll spare you as much as I can. Come along."
They went into the library. The inspector seated himself at a
writing-table, and Cayley sat in a chair by the side of it.
Antony made himself comfortable in an armchair and prepared to be
"We'll start with the dead man," said the inspector. "Robert
Ablett, didn't you say?" He took out his notebook.
"Yes. Brother of Mark Ablett, who lives here."
"Ah!" He began to sharpen a pencil. "Staying in the house?"
Antony listened attentively while Cayley explained all that he
knew about Robert. This was news to him. "I see. Sent out of
the country in disgrace. What had he done?"
"I hardly know. I was only about twelve at the time. The sort
of age when you're told not to ask questions."
"So you don't really know whether he had been merely wild or--or
"No. Old Mr. Ablett was a clergyman," added Cayley. "Perhaps
what might seem wicked to a clergyman might seem only wild to a
man of the world."
"I daresay, Mr. Cayley," smiled the inspector. "Anyhow, it was
more convenient to have him in Australia?"
"Mark Ablett never talked about him?"
"Hardly ever. He was very much ashamed of him, and--well, very
glad he was in Australia."
"Did he write Mark sometimes?"
"Occasionally. Perhaps three or four times in the last five
"Asking for money?"
"Something of the sort. I don't think Mark always answered them.
As far as I know, he never sent any money."
"Now your own private opinion, Mr. Cayley. Do you think that
Mark was unfair to his brother? Unduly hard on him?"
"They'd never liked each other as boys. There was never any
affection between them. I don't know whose fault it was in the
first place--if anybody's."
"Still, Mark might have given him a hand?"
"I understand," said Cayley, "that Robert spent his whole life
asking for hands."
The inspector nodded.
"I know that sort. Well, now, we'll go on to this morning. This
letter that Mark got--did you see it?"
"Not at the time. He showed it to me afterwards."
"No. A half-sheet of rather dirty paper."
"Where is it now?"
"I don't know. In Mark's pocket, I expect."
"Ah!" He pulled at his beard. "Well, we'll come to that. Can
you remember what it said?"
"As far as I remember, something like this: 'Mark, your loving
brother is coming to see you to-morrow, all the way from
Australia. I give you warning so that you will be able to conceal
your surprise, but not I hope, your pleasure. Expect him at
three, or thereabouts.'"
"Ah!" The inspector copied it down carefully. "Did you notice
"And what was Mark's attitude?"
"Annoyance, disgust--" Cayley hesitated.
"N-no, not exactly. Or, rather, apprehension of an unpleasant
interview, not of any unpleasant outcome for himself."
"You mean that he wasn't afraid of violence, or blackmail, or
anything of that sort?"
"He didn't appear to be."
"Right . . . . Now then, he arrived, you say, about three
"Yes, about that."
"Who was in the house then?"
"Mark and myself, and some of the servants. I don't know which.
Of course, you will ask them directly, no doubt."
"With your permission. No guests?"
"They were out all day playing golf," explained Cayley. "Oh, by
the way," he put in, "if I may interrupt a moment, will you want
to see them at all? It isn't very pleasant for them now,
naturally, and I suggested--" he turned to Antony, who nodded
back to him. "I understand that they want to go back to London
this evening. There's no objection to that, I suppose?"
"You will let me have their names and addresses in case I want to
communicate with them?"
"Of course. One of them is staying on, if you would like to see
him later, but they only came back from their golf as we crossed
"That's all right, Mr. Cayley. Well, now then, let's go back to
three o'clock. Where were you when Robert arrived?"
Cayley explained how he had been sitting in the hall, how Audrey
had asked him where the master was, and how he had said that he
had last seen him going up to the Temple.
"She went away, and I went on with my book. There was a step on
the stairs, and I looked up to see Mark coming down. He went
into the office, and I went on with my book again. I went into
the library for a moment, to refer to another book, and when I
was in there I heard a shot. At least, it was a loud bang, I
wasn't sure if it was a shot. I stood and listened. Then I came
slowly to the door and looked out. Then I went back again,
hesitated a bit, you know, and finally decided to go across to
the office, and make sure that it was all right. I turned the
handle of the door and found it was locked. Then I got
frightened, and I banged at the door, and shouted, and--well,
that was when Mr. Gillingham arrived." He went on to explain how
they had found the body.
The inspector looked at him with a smile.
"Yes, well, we shall have to go over some of that again, Mr.
Cayley. Mr. Mark, now. You thought he was in the Temple. Could
he have come in, and gone up to his room, without your seeing
"There are back stairs. He wouldn't have used them in the
ordinary way, of course. But I wasn't in the hall all the
afternoon. He might easily have gone upstairs without my knowing
anything about it."
"So that you weren't surprised when you saw him coming down?"
"Oh, not a bit."
"Well, did he say anything?"
"He said, 'Robert's here?' or something of the sort. I suppose
he'd heard the bell, or the voices in the hall."
"Which way does his bedroom face? Could he have seen him coming
down the drive?"
"He might have, yes."
"Well, then, I said 'Yes,' and he gave a sort of shrug, and said,
'Don't go too far away, I might want you'; and then went in."
"What did you think he meant by that?"
"Well, he consults me a good deal, you know. I'm his sort of
unofficial solicitor in a kind of way."
"This was a business meeting rather than a brotherly one?"
"Oh, yes. That's how he regarded it, I'm sure."
"Yes. How long was it before you heard the shot?"
"Very soon. Two minutes, perhaps."
The inspector finished his writing, and then regarded Cayley
thoughtfully. Suddenly he said:
"What is your theory of Robert's death?"
Cayley shrugged his shoulders.
"You've probably seen more than I've seen," he answered. "It's
your job. I can only speak as a layman--and Mark's friend."
"Then I should say that Robert came here meaning trouble, and
bringing a revolver with him. He produced it almost at once,
Mark tried to get it from him, there was a little struggle
perhaps, and it went off. Mark lost his head, finding himself
there with a revolver in his hand and a dead man at his feet.
His one idea was to escape. He locked the door almost
instinctively, and then, when he heard me hammering at it, went
out of the window."
"Y-yes. Well, that sounds reasonable enough. What do you say,
"I should hardly call it 'reasonable' to lose your head," said
Antony, getting up from his chair and coming towards them.
"Well, you know what I mean. It explains things."
"Oh, yes. Any other explanation would make them much more
"Have you any other explanation?"
"Are there any points on which you would like to correct Mr.
Cayley?--anything that he left out after you arrived here?"
"No, thanks. He described it all very accurately."
"Ah! Well now, about yourself. You're not staying in the house,
Antony explained his previous movements.
"Yes. Did you hear the shot?"
Antony put his head on one side, as if listening. "Yes. Just as
I came in sight of the house. It didn't make any impression at
the time, but I remember it now."
"Where were you then?"
"Coming up the drive. I was just in sight of the house."
"Nobody left the house by the front door after the shot?"
Antony closed his eyes and considered.
"Nobody," he said. "No."
"You're certain of that?"
"Absolutely," said Antony, as though rather surprised that he
could be suspected of a mistake.
"Thank you. You're at 'The George,' if I want you?"
"Mr. Gillingham is staying here until after the inquest,"
"Good. Well now, about these servants?"
Mr. Gillingham Chooses a New Profession
As Cayley went over to the bell, Antony got up and moved to the
"Well, you won't want me, I suppose, inspector," he said.
"No, thank you, Mr. Gillingham. You'll be about, of course?"
The inspector hesitated.
"I think, Mr. Cayley, it would be better if I saw the servants
alone. You know what they are; the more people about, the more
they get alarmed. I expect I can get at the truth better by
"Oh, quite so. In fact, I was going to ask you to excuse me. I
feel rather responsible towards these guests of ours. Although
Mr. Gillingham very kindly--" He smiled at Antony, who was
waiting at the door, and left his sentence unfinished.
"Ah, that reminds me," said the inspector. "Didn't you say that
one of your guests--Mr. Beverley was it?--a friend of Mr.
Gillingham's, was staying on?"
"Yes; would you like to see him?"
"Afterwards, if I may."
"I'll warn him. I shall be up in my room, if you want me. I
have a room upstairs where I work--any of the servants will show
you. Ah, Stevens, Inspector Birch would like to ask you a few
"Yes, sir," said Audrey primly, but inwardly fluttering. The
housekeeper's room had heard something of the news by this time,
and Audrey had had a busy time explaining to other members of the
staff exactly what he had said, and what she had said. The
details were not quite established yet, but this much at least
was certain: that Mr. Mark's brother had shot himself and
spirited Mr. Mark away, and that Audrey had seen at once that he
was that sort of man when she opened the door to him. She had
passed the remark to Mrs. Stevens. And Mrs. Stevens--if you
remember, Audrey--had always said that people didn't go away to
Australia except for very good reasons. Elsie agreed with both
of them, but she had a contribution of her own to make. She had
actually heard Mr. Mark in the office, threatening his brother.
"You mean Mr. Robert," said the second parlour-maid. She had
been having a little nap in her room, but she had heard the bang.
In fact, it had woken her up--just like something going off, it
"It was Mr. Mark's voice," said Elsie firmly.
"Pleading for mercy," said an eager-eyed kitchen-maid hopefully
from the door, and was hurried out again by the others, wishing
that she had not given her presence away. But it was hard to
listen in silence when she knew so well from her novelettes just
what happened on these occasions.
"I shall have to give that girl a piece of my mind," said Mrs.
Stevens. "Well, Elsie?"
"He said, I heard him say it with my own ears, 'It's my turn
now,' he said, triumphant-like."
"Well, if you think that's a threat, dear, you're very
particular, I must say."
But Audrey remembered Elsie's words when she was in front of
Inspector Birch. She gave her own evidence with the readiness of
one who had already repeated it several times, and was examined
and cross-examined by the inspector with considerable skill. The
temptation to say, "Never mind about what you said to him," was
strong, but he resisted it, knowing that in this way he would
discover best what he said to her. By this time both his words
and the looks he gave her were getting their full value from
Audrey, but the general meaning of them seemed to be
"Then you didn't see Mr. Mark at all"
"No, sir; he must have come in before and gone up to his room.
Or come in by the front door, likely enough, while I was going
out by the back."
"Yes. Well, I think that's all that I want to know, thank you
very much. Now what about the other servants?"
"Elsie heard the master and Mr. Robert talking together," said
Audrey eagerly. "He was saying--Mr. Mark, I mean--"
"Ah! Well, I think Elsie had better tell me that herself. Who
is Elsie, by the way?"
"One of the housemaids. Shall I send her to you, sir?"
Elsie was not sorry to get the message. It interrupted a few
remarks from Mrs. Stevens about Elsie's conduct that afternoon
which were (Elsie thought) much better interrupted. In Mrs.
Stevens' opinion any crime committed that afternoon in the office
was as nothing to the double crime committed by the unhappy
For Elsie realized too late that she would have done better to
have said nothing about her presence in the hall that afternoon.
She was bad at concealing the truth and Mrs. Stevens was good at
discovering it. Elsie knew perfectly well that she had no
business to come down the front stairs, and it was no excuse to
say that she happened to come out of Miss Norris' room just at
the head of the stairs, and didn't think it would matter, as
there was nobody in the hall, and what was she doing anyhow in
Miss Norris' room at that time? Returning a magazine? Lent by
Miss Norris, might she ask? Well, not exactly lent. Really,
Elsie!--and this in a respectable house! In vain for poor Elsie
to plead that a story by her favourite author was advertised on
the cover, with a picture of the villain falling over the cliff.
"That's where you'll go to, my girl, if you aren't careful," said
Mrs. Stevens firmly.
But, of course, there was no need to confess all these crimes to
Inspector Birch. All that interested him was that she was
passing through the hall, and heard voices in the office.
"And stopped to listen?"
"Certainly not," said Elsie with dignity, feeling that nobody
really understood her. "I was just passing through the hall,
just as you might have been yourself, and not supposing they was
talking secrets, didn't think to stop my ears, as no doubt I
ought to have done." And she sniffed slightly.
"Come, come," said the inspector soothingly, "I didn't mean to
"Everyone is very unkind to me," said Elsie between sniffs, "and
there's that poor man lying dead there, and sorry they'd have
been, if it had been me, to have spoken to me as they have done
"Nonsense, we're going to be very proud of you. I shouldn't be
surprised if your evidence were of very great importance. Now
then, what was it you heard? Try to remember the exact words."
Something about working in a passage, thought Elsie.
"Yes, but who said it?"
"How do you know it was Mr. Robert? Had you heard his voice
"I don't take it upon myself to say that I had had any
acquaintance with Mr. Robert, but seeing that it wasn't Mr. Mark,
nor yet Mr. Cayley, nor any other of the gentlemen, and Miss
Stevens had shown Mr. Robert into the office not five minutes
"Quite so," said the inspector hurriedly. "Mr. Robert,
undoubtedly. Working in a passage?"
"That was what it sounded like, sir."
"H'm. Working a passage over--could that have been it?"
"That's right, sir," said Elsie eagerly. "He'd worked his
"And then Mr. Mark said loudly--sort of triumphant-like--'It's my
turn now. You wait.'"
"As much as to say his chance had come."
"And that's all you heard?"
"That's all, sir--not standing there listening, but just passing
through the hall, as it might be any time."
"Yes. Well, that's really very important, Elsie. Thank you."
Elsie gave him a smile, and returned eagerly to the kitchen. She
was ready for Mrs. Stevens or anybody now.
Meanwhile Antony had been exploring a little on his own. There
was a point which was puzzling him. He went through the hall to
the front of the house and stood at the open door, looking out on
to the drive. He and Cayley had run round the house to the left.
Surely it would have been quicker to have run round to the right?
The front door was not in the middle of the house, it was to the
end. Undoubtedly they went the longest way round. But perhaps
there was something in the way, if one went to the right--a wall,
say. He strolled off in that direction, followed a path round
the house and came in sight of the office windows. Quite simple,
and about half the distance of the other way. He went on a
little farther, and came to a door, just beyond the broken-in
windows. It opened easily, and he found himself in a passage.
At the end of the passage was another door. He opened it and
found himself in the hall again.
"And, of course, that's the quickest way of the three," he said
to himself. "Through the hall, and out at the back; turn to the
left and there you are. Instead of which, we ran the longest way
round the house. Why? Was it to give Mark more time in which to
escape? Only, in that case--why run? Also, how did Cayley know
then that it was Mark who was trying to escape? If he had
guessed--well, not guessed, but been afraid--that one had shot
the other, it was much more likely that Robert had shot Mark.
Indeed, he had admitted that this was what he thought. The first
thing he had said when he turned the body over was, 'Thank God!
I was afraid it was Mark.' But why should he want to give Robert
time in which to get away? And again--why run, if he did want to
give him time?"
Antony went out of the house again to the lawns at the back, and
sat down on a bench in view of the office windows.
"Now then," he said, "let's go through Cayley's mind carefully,
and see what we get."
Cayley had been in the hall when Robert was shown into the
office. The servant goes off to look for Mark, and Cayley goes
on with his book. Mark comes down the stairs, warns Cayley to
stand by in case he is wanted, and goes to meet his brother.
What does Cayley expect? Possibly that he won't be wanted at
all; possibly that his advice may be wanted in the matter, say,
of paying Robert's debts, or getting him a passage back to
Australia; possibly that his physical assistance may be wanted to
get an obstreperous Robert out of the house. Well, he sits there
for a moment, and then goes into the library. Why not? He is
still within reach, if wanted. Suddenly he hears a pistol-shot.
A pistol-shot is the last noise you expect to hear in a
country-house; very natural, then, that for the moment he would
hardly realize what it was. He listens--and hears nothing more.
Perhaps it wasn't a pistol-shot after all. After a moment or two
he goes to the library door again. The profound silence makes
him uneasy now. Was it a pistol-shot? Absurd! Still--no harm
in going into the office on some excuse, just to reassure
himself. So he tries the door--and finds it locked!
What are his emotions now? Alarm, uncertainty. Something is
happening. Incredible though it seems, it must have been a
pistol-shot. He is banging at the door and calling out to Mark,
and there is no answer. Alarm--yes. But alarm for whose safety?
Mark's, obviously. Robert is a stranger; Mark is an intimate
friend. Robert has written a letter that morning, the letter of
a man in a dangerous temper. Robert is the tough customer; Mark
the highly civilized gentleman. If there has been a quarrel, it
is Robert who has shot Mark. He bangs at the door again.
Of course, to Antony, coming suddenly upon this scene, Cayley's
conduct had seemed rather absurd, but then, just for the moment,
Cayley had lost his head. Anybody else might have done the same.
But, as soon as Antony suggested trying the windows, Cayley saw
that that was the obvious thing to do. So he leads the way to
the windows--the longest way.
Why? To give the murderer time to escape? If he had thought
then that Mark was the murderer, perhaps, yes. But he thinks
that Robert is the murderer. If he is not hiding anything, he
must think so. Indeed he says so, when he sees the body; "I was
afraid it was Mark," he says, when he finds that it is Robert who
is killed. No reason, then, for wishing to gain time. On the
contrary, every instinct would urge him to get into the room as
quickly as possible, and seize the wicked Robert. Yet he goes
the longest way round. Why? And then, why run?
"That's the question," said Antony to himself, as he filled his
pipe, "and bless me if I know the answer. It may be, of course,
that Cayley is just a coward. He was in no hurry to get close to
Robert's revolver, and yet wanted me to think that he was
bursting with eagerness. That would explain it, but then that
makes Cayley out a coward. Is he? At any rate he pushed his
face up against the window bravely enough. No, I want a better
answer than that."
He sat there with his unlit pipe in his hand, thinking. There
were one or two other things in the back of his brain, waiting to
be taken out and looked at. For the moment he left them
undisturbed. They would come back to him later when he wanted
He laughed suddenly, and lit his pipe.
"I was wanting a new profession," he thought, "and now I've found
it. Antony Gillingham, our own private sleuthhound. I shall
Whatever Antony Gillingham's other qualifications for his new
profession, he had at any rate a brain which worked clearly and
quickly. And this clear brain of his had already told him that
he was the only person in the house at that moment who was
unhandicapped in the search for truth. The inspector had arrived
in it to find a man dead and a man missing. It was extremely
probable, no doubt, that the missing man had shot the dead man.
But it was more than extremely probable, it was almost certain
that the inspector would start with the idea that this extremely
probable solution was the one true solution, and that, in
consequence, he would be less disposed to consider without
prejudice any other solution. As regards all the rest of them
--Cayley, the guests, the servants--they also were prejudiced; in
favour of Mark (or possibly, for all he knew, against Mark); in
favour of, or against, each other; they had formed some previous
opinion, from what had been said that morning, of the sort of man
Robert was. No one of them could consider the matter with an
But Antony could. He knew nothing about Mark; he knew nothing
about Robert. He had seen the dead man before he was told who
the dead man was. He knew that a tragedy had happened before he
knew that anybody was missing. Those first impressions, which
are so vitally important, had been received solely on the merits
of the case; they were founded on the evidence of his senses, not
on the evidence of his emotions or of other people's senses. He
was in a much better position for getting at the truth than was
It is possible that, in thinking this, Antony was doing Inspector
Birch a slight injustice. Birch was certainly prepared to
believe that Mark had shot his brother. Robert had been shown
into the office (witness Audrey); Mark had gone in to Robert
(witness Cayley); Mark and Robert had been heard talking (witness
Elsie); there was a shot (witness everybody); the room had been
entered and Robert's body had been found (witness Cayley and
Gillingham). And Mark was missing. Obviously, then, Mark had
killed his brother: accidentally, as Cayley believed, or
deliberately, as Elsie's evidence seemed to suggest. There was
no point in looking for a difficult solution to a problem, when
the easy solution had no flaw in it. But at the same time Birch
would have preferred the difficult solution, simply because there
was more credit attached to it. A "sensational" arrest of
somebody in the house would have given him more pleasure than a
commonplace pursuit of Mark Ablett across country. Mark must be
found, guilty or not guilty. But there were other possibilities.
It would have interested Antony to know that, just at the time
when he was feeling rather superior to the prejudiced inspector,
the inspector himself was letting his mind dwell lovingly upon
the possibilities in connection with Mr. Gillingham. Was it only
a coincidence that Mr. Gillingham had turned up just when he did?
And Mr. Beverley's curious answers when asked for some account of
his friend. An assistant in a tobacconist's, a waiter! An odd
man, Mr. Gillingham, evidently. It might be as well to keep an
eye on him.
Outside Or Inside?
The guests had said good-bye to Cayley, according to their
different manner. The Major, gruff and simple: "If you want me,
command me. Anything I can do--Good-bye"; Betty, silently
sympathetic, with everything in her large eyes which she was too
much overawed to tell; Mrs. Calladine, protesting that she did
not know what to say, but apparently finding plenty; and Miss
Norris, crowding so much into one despairing gesture that
Cayley's unvarying "Thank you very much" might have been taken
this time as gratitude for an artistic entertainment.
Bill had seen them into the car, had taken his own farewells
(with a special squeeze of the hand for Betty), and had wandered