Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

The Yellow Streak by Williams, Valentine

Part 1 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Dave Morgan and the PG Online
Distributed Proofreading Team.



































Of all the luxuries of which Hartley Parrish's sudden rise to wealth
gave him possession, Bude, his butler, was the acquisition in which he
took the greatest delight and pride. Bude was a large and comfortable-
looking person, triple-chinned like an archdeacon, bald-headed except for
a respectable and saving edging of dark down, clean-shaven, benign of
countenance, with a bold nose which to the psychologist bespoke both
ambition and inborn cleverness. He had a thin, tight mouth which in
itself alone was a symbol of discreet reticence, the hall-mark of the
trusted family retainer.

Bude had spent his life in the service of the English aristocracy. The
Earl of Tipperary, Major-General Lord Bannister, the Dowager Marchioness
of Wiltshire, and Sir Herbert Marcobrunner, Bart., had in turn watched
his gradual progress from pantry-boy to butler. Bude was a man whose
maxim had been the French saying, "_Je prends mon bien o je le

In his thirty years' service he had always sought to discover and draw
from those sources of knowledge which were at his disposal. From
MacTavish, who had supervised Lord Tipperary's world-famous gardens, he
had learnt a great deal about flowers, so that the arrangement of the
floral decorations was always one of the features at Hartley Parrish's
_soign_ dinner-parties. From Brun, the unsurpassed _chef_, whom Lord
Bannister had picked up when serving with the Guards in Egypt, he had
gathered sufficient knowledge of the higher branches of the cuisine to
enable Hartley Parrish to leave the arrangement of the menu in his
butler's hands.

Bude would have been the first to admit that, socially speaking, his
present situation was not the equal of the positions he had held. There
was none of the staid dignity about his present employer which was
inborn in men like Lord Tipperary or Lord Bannister, and which Sir
Herbert Marcobrunner, with the easy assimilative faculty of his race,
had very successfully acquired. Below middle height, thick-set and
powerfully built, with a big head, narrow eyes, and a massive chin,
Hartley Parrish, in his absorbed concentration on his business, had no
time for the acquisition or practice of the Eton manner.

It was characteristic of Parrish that, seeing Bude at a dinner-party at
Marcobruaner's, he should have engaged him on the spot. It took Bude a
week to get over his shock at the manner in which the offer was made.
Parrish had approached him as he was supervising the departure of the
guests. Waving aside the footman who offered to help him into his
overcoat, Parrish had asked Bude point-blank what wages he was getting.
Bude mentioned the generous remuneration he was receiving from Sir
Herbert Marcobrunner, whereupon Parrish had remarked:

"Come to me and I'll double it. I'll give you a week to think it over.
Let my secretary know!"

After a few discreet enquiries, Bude, faithful to his maxim, had
accepted Parrish's offer. Marcobrunner was furiously angry, but, being
anxious to interest Parrish in a deal, sagely kept his feelings to
himself. And Bude had never regretted the change. He found Parrish an
exacting, but withal a just and a generous master, and he was not long
in realizing that, as long as he kept Harkings, Parrish's country place
where he spent the greater part of his time, running smoothly according
to Parrish's schedule, he could count on a life situation.

The polish of manner, the sober dignity of dress, acquired from years of
acute observation in the service of the nobility, were to be seen as, at
the hour of five, in the twilight of this bleak autumn afternoon, Bude
moved majestically into the lounge-hall of Harkings and leisurely
pounded the gong for tea.

The muffled notes of the gong swelled out brazenly through the silent
house. They echoed down the softly carpeted corridors to the library
where the master of the house sat at his desk. For days he had been
immersed in the figures of the new issue which Hornaway's, the vast
engineering business of his creation, was about to put on the market.
They reverberated up the fine old oak staircase to the luxurious Louis
XV bedroom, where Lady Margaret Trevert lay on her bed idly smiling
through an amusing novel. They crashed through the thickly padded baize
doors leading to the servants' hall, where, at sixpence a hundred,
Parrish's man, Jay, was partnering Lady Margaret's maid against Mrs.
Heever, the housekeeper, and Robert, the chauffeur, at a friendly game
of bridge. And they even boomed distantly into the far-away
billiard-room and broke into the talk which Robin Greve was having with
Mary Trevert.

"Damn!" exclaimed Greve savagely, as the distant gonging came to his

"It's the gong for tea," said Mary demurely.

She was sitting on one of the big leather sofas lining the long room.
Robin, as he gazed down at her from where he stood with his back against
the edge of the billiard-table, thought what an attractive picture she
made in the half-light.

The lamps over the table were lit, but the rest of the room was almost
dark. In that lighting the thickly waving dark hair brought out the fine
whiteness of the girl's skin. There was love, and a great desire for
love, in her large dark eyes, but the clear-cut features, the
well-shaped chin, and the firm mouth, the lips a little full, spoke of
ambition and the love of power.

"I've been here three whole days," said Robin, "and I've not had two
words with you alone, Mary. And hardly have I got you to myself for a
quiet game of pills when that rotten gong goes ..."

"I'm sorry you're disappointed at missing your game," the girl replied
mischievously, "but I expect you will be able to get a game with Horace
or one of the others after tea ..."

Robin kicked the carpet savagely.

"You know perfectly well I don't want to play billiards ..."

He looked up and caught the girl's eye. For a fraction of a second he
saw in it the expression which every man at least once in his life looks
to see in the eyes of one particular woman. In the girl's dark-blue eyes
fringed with long black lashes he saw the dumb appeal, the mute
surrender, which, as surely as the white flag on the battlements in war,
is the signal of capitulation in woman.

But the expression was gone on the instant. It passed so swiftly that,
for a second, Robin, seeing the gently mocking glance that succeeded it,
wondered whether he had been mistaken.

But he was a man of action--a glance at his long, well-moulded head, his
quick, wide-open eye, and his square jaw would have told you that--and
he spoke.

"It's no use beating about the bush," he said. "Mary, I've got so fond
of you that I'm just miserable when you're away from me ..."

"Oh, Robin, please ..."

Mary Trevert stood up and remained standing, her head turned a little
away from him, a charming silhouette in her heather-blue shooting-suit.

The young man took her listless hand.

"My dear," he said, "you and I have been pals all our lives. It was
only at the front that I began to realize just how much you meant to me.
And now I know I can't do without you. I've never met any one who has
been to me just what you are. And, Mary, I must have you as my wife ..."

The girl remained motionless. She kept her face averted. The room seemed
very still.

"Oh, Robin, please ..." she murmured again.

Resolutely the young man put an arm about her and drew her to him.
Slowly, reluctantly, she let him have his way. But she would not look at

"Oh, my dear," he whispered, kissing her hair, "don't you care a

She remained silent.

"Won't you look at me, Mary?"

There was a hint of huskiness in his voice. He raised her face to his.

"I saw in your eyes just now that you cared for me," he whispered; "oh,
my Mary, say that you do!"

Then he bent down and kissed her. For a brief instant their lips met and
he felt the caress of the girl's arm about his neck.

"Oh, Robin!" she said.

That was all.

But then she drew away.

Reluctantly the man let her go. The colour had faded from his cheeks
when she looked at him again as he stood facing her in the twilight of
the billiard-room.

"Robin, dear," she said, "I'm going to hurt you."

The young man seemed to have had a premonition of what was coming, for
he betrayed no sign of surprise, but remained motionless, very erect,
very pale.

"Dear," said the girl with a little despairing shrug, "it's hopeless! We
can't afford to marry!"

"Not yet, I know," said Robin, "but I'm getting on well, Mary, and in
another year or two ..."

The girl looked down at the point of her little brogue shoe.

"I don't know what you will think of me," she said, "but I can't
accept ... I can't face ... I ..."

"You can't face the idea of being the wife of a man who has his way to
make. Is that it?"

The voice was rather stern.

The girl looked up impulsively.

"I can't, Robin. I should never make you happy. Mother and I are as poor
as church-mice. All the money in the family goes to keep Horace in the
Army and pay for my clothes."

She looked disdainfully at her pretty suit.

"All this," she went on with a little hopeless gesture indicating her
tailor-made, "is Mother's investment. No, no, it's true ... I can tell
you as a friend, Robin, dear, we are living on our capital until I have
caught a rich husband ..."

"Oh, my dear," said Robin softly, "don't say things like that ..."

The girl laughed a little defiantly.

"But it's true," she answered. "The war has halved Mother's income and
there's nothing between us and bankruptcy but a year or so ... unless I
get married!"

Her voice trembled a little and she turned away.

"Mary," said the young man hoarsely, "for God's sake, don't do that!"

He moved a step towards her, but she drew back.

"It's all right," she said with the tears glistening wet on her face,
and dabbed at her eyes with her tiny handkerchief, "but, oh, Robin boy,
why couldn't you have held your tongue?"

"I suppose I had no right to speak ..." the young man began.

The girl sighed.

"I oughtn't to say it ... now," she said slowly, and looked across at
Robin with shining eyes, "but, Robin dear, I'm ... I'm glad you did!"

She paused a moment as though turning something over in her mind.

"I've ... I've got something to tell you, Robin," she began. "No, stay
where you are! We must be sensible now."

She paused and looked at him.

"Robin," she said slowly, "I've promised to marry somebody else ..."

There was a moment's silence.

"Who is it?" Robin asked in a hard voice.

The girl made no answer.

"Who is it? Do I know him?"

Still the girl was silent, but she gave a hardly perceptible nod.

"Not ...? No, no, Mary, it isn't true? It can't be true?"

The girl nodded, her eyes to the ground.

"It's a secret still," she said. "No one knows but Mother. Hartley
doesn't want it announced yet!"

The sound of the Christian name suddenly seemed to infuriate Greve.

"By God!" he cried, "it shan't be! You must be mad, Mary, to think of
marrying a man like Hartley Parrish. A fellow who's years older than
you, who thinks of nothing but money, who stood out of the war and made
a fortune while men of his own age were doing the fighting for him! It's
unthinkable ... it's ... it's damnable to think of a gross, ill-bred
creature like Parrish ..."

"Robin!" the girl cried, "you seem to forget that we're staying in his
house. In spite of all you say he seems to be good enough for you to
come and stay with ..."

"I only came because you were to be here. You know that perfectly well.
I admit one oughtn't to blackguard one's host, but, Mary, you must see
that this marriage is absolutely out of the question!"

The girl began to bridle up,

"Why?" she asked loftily.

"Because ... because Parrish is not the sort of man who will make you
happy ..."

"And why not, may I ask? He's very kind and very generous, and I believe
he likes me ..."

Robin Greve made a gesture of despair.

"My dear girl," he said, trying to control himself to speak quietly,
"what do you know about this man? Nothing. But there are beastly stories
circulating about his life ..."

Mary Trevert laughed cynically.

"My dear old Robin," she said, "they tell stories about every bachelor.
And I hardly think you are an unbiassed judge ..."

Robin Greve was pacing up and down the floor.

"You're crazy, Mary," he said, stopping in front of her, "to dream you
can ever be happy with a man like Hartley Parrish. The man's a ruthless
egoist. He thinks of nothing but money and he's out to buy you just
exactly as you ..."

"As I am ready to sell myself!" the girl echoed. "And I _am_ ready,
Robin. It's all very well for you to stand there and preach ideals at
me, but I'm sick and disgusted at the life we've been leading for the
past three years, hovering on the verge of ruin all the time, dunned by
tradesmen and having to borrow even from servants ... yes, from old
servants of the family ... to pay Mother's bridge debts. Mother's a good
sort. Father spent all her money for her and she was brought up in
exactly the same helpless way as she brought up me. I can do absolutely
nothing except the sort of elementary nursing which we all learnt in the
war, and if I don't marry well Mother will have to keep a boarding-house
or do something ghastly like that. I'm not going to pretend that I'm
thinking only of her, because I'm not. I can't face a long engagement
with no prospects except castles in Spain. I don't mean to be callous,
Robin, but I expect I am naturally hard. Hartley Parrish is a good sort.
He's very fond of me, and he will see that Mother lives comfortably for
the rest of her life. I've promised to marry him because I like him and
he's a suitable match. And I don't see by what right you try and run him
down to me behind his back! If it's jealousy, then it shows a very petty

Robin Greve stepped close up to Mary Trevert. His eyes were very angry
and his jaw was set very square.

"If you are determined to sell yourself to the highest bidder," he said,
"I suppose there's no stopping you. But you're making a mistake. If
Parrish were all you claim for him, you might not repent of his marriage
so long as you did not care for somebody else. But I know you love me,
and it breaks my heart to see you blundering into everlasting
unhappiness ..."

"At least Hartley will be able to keep me," the girl flashed out.
Directly she had spoken she regretted her words.

A red flush spread slowly over Robin Greve's face.

Then he laughed drily.

"You won't be the first woman he's kept!" be retorted, and stamped out
of the billiard-room.

The girl gave a little gasp. Then she reddened with anger.

"How dare he?" she cried, stamping her foot; "how dare he?"

She sank on the lounge and, burying her face in her hands, burst into

"Oh, Robin, Robin, dear!" she sobbed--incomprehensibly, for she was a



There is a delicious snugness, a charming lack of formality, about the
ceremony of afternoon tea in an English country-house--it is much too
indefinite a rite to dignify it by the name of meal--which makes it the
most pleasant reunion of the day. For English country-house parties
consist, for the most part, of a succession of meals to which the guests
flock the more congenially as, in the interval, they have contrived to
avoid one another's companionship.

And so, scarcely had the last reverberation of Bude's measured gonging
died away than the French window leading from the lounge-hall on to the
terrace was pushed open and two of Hartley Parrish's guests emerged from
the falling darkness without into the pleasant comfort of the firelit

They were an oddly matched pair. The one was a tubby little man with
short bristly grey hair and a short bristly grey moustache to match. His
stumpy legs looked ridiculous in his baggy golf knickers of rough tweed,
which he wore with gaiters extending half-way up his short, stout
calves. As he came in, he slung off the heavy tweed shooting-cloak he
had been wearing and placed it with his Homburg hat on a chair.

This was Dr. Romain, whose name thus written seems indecently naked
without the string of complementary initials indicative of the honours
and degrees which years of bacteriological research had heaped upon him.
His companion was a tall, slim, fair-haired young man, about as good a
specimen of the young Englishman turned out by the English public school
as one could find. He was extremely good-looking with a proud eye and
finely chiselled features, but the suggestion of youth in his face and
figure was countered by a certain poise, a kind of latent seriousness
which contrasted strangely with the general cheery _insouciance_ of his

A soldier would have spotted the symptoms at once, "Five years of war!"
would have been his verdict--that long and strange entry into life of so
many thousands of England's manhood which impressed the stamp of
premature seriousness on all those who came through. And Captain Sir
Horace Trevert, Bart., D.S.O., had gone from his famous school straight
into a famous regiment, had won his decoration before he was twenty-one,
and been twice wounded into the bargain.

"Where's everybody?" queried the doctor, rubbing his hands at the
blazing log-fire.

"Robin and Mary went off to play billiards," said the young man, "and I
left old Parrish after lunch settling down for an afternoon's work in
the library ..."

He crossed the room to the fire and stood with his back to the flame.

"What a worker that man is!" ejaculated the doctor. "He had one of his
secretaries down this morning with a car full of portfolios,
blue-prints, specifications, and God knows what else. Parrish polished
the whole lot off and packed the fellow back to London before mid-day.
Some of Hornaway's people who were waiting went in next, and he was
through with them by lunch-time!"

Trevert wagged his head in admiration.

"And he told me he wanted to have a quiet week-end!" he said. "That's
why he has no secretary living in the house."

"A quiet week-end!" repeated Romain drily. "Ye gods!"

"He's a marvel for work," said the young man.

"He certainly is," replied the doctor. "He's done wonders with
Hornaway's. When he took the place over at the beginning of the war,
they were telling me, it was a little potty concern making toy air guns
or lead soldiers or something of the sort. And they never stop coining
money now, it seems. Parrish must be worth millions ..."

"Lucky devil!" said Trevert genially.

"Ah!" observed the doctor sententiously, "but he's had to work for it,
mark you! He's had the most extraordinary life, they tell me. He was at
one period of his career a bartender on the Rand, a man was saying at
the club the other day. But most of his life he's lived in Canada, I
gather. He was telling us the other evening, before you and Mary came
down, that he was once a brakeman on the Canadian Pacific Railway. He
said he invested all his savings in books on engineering and read them
in his brakeman's van on his trips across the Dominion. Ah! he's a fine

He lowered his voice discreetly.

"And a devilish good match, eh, Horace?"

The young man flushed slightly.

"Yes," he said unwillingly.

"A dam' good match for somebody," urged the doctor with a malicious
twinkle in his eye.

"Here, Doc," said Horace, suddenly turning on him, "you stick to your
bugs and germs. What do you know about matchmaking, anyway?"

Dr. Romain chuckled.

"We bacteriologists are trained observers. One learns a lot watching the
life and habits of the bacillus, Horace, my boy. And between ourselves,
Parrish would be a lucky fellow if ..."

Trevert turned to him. His face was quite serious, and there was a
little touch of hauteur in his voice. He was the 17th Baronet.

"My dear Doc," he said, "aren't you going a bit fast? Parrish is a very
good chap, but one knows nothing about him ..."

Sagely the doctor nodded his grizzled head.

"That's true," he agreed. "He appears to have no relatives and nobody
over here seems to have heard of him before the war. A man was saying at
the Athenaeum the other day ..."

Trevert touched his elbow. Bude had appeared, portly, imperturbable,
bearing a silver tray set out with the appliances for tea.

"Bude," cried Trevert, "don't tell me there are no tea-cakes again!"

"On the contrairey, sir," answered the butler in the richly sonorous
voice pitched a little below the normal register which he employed
abovestairs, "the cook has had her attention drawn to it. There are
tea-cakes, sir!"

With a certain dramatic effect--for Bude was a trifle theatrical in
everything he did--he whipped the cover off a dish and displayed a
smoking pile of deliciously browned scones.

"Bude," said Trevert, "when I'm a Field Marshal, I'll see you get the
O.B.E. for this!"

The butler smiled a nicely regulated three-by-one smile, a little
deprecatory as was his wont. Then, like a tank taking a corner, he
wheeled majestically and turned to cross the lounge. To reach the green
baize door leading to the servants' quarters he had to cross the outer
hall from which led corridors on the right and left. That on the right
led to the billiard-room; that on the left to the big drawing-room with
the library beyond.

As Bude reached the great screen of tooled Spanish leather which
separated a corner of the lounge from the outer hall, Robin Greve came
hastily through the glass door of the corridor leading from the
billiard-room. The butler with a pleasant smile drew back a little to
allow the young man to pass, thinking he was going into the lounge for

"Tea is ..." he began, but abruptly ended the sentence on catching sight
of the young man's face. For Robin, habitually so self-possessed, looked
positively haggard. His face was set and there was a weary look in his
eyes. The young man appeared so utterly different from his wonted self
that Bude fairly stared at him.

But Robin, without paying the least attention either to the butler or to
the sound of voices in the lounge, strode across the outer hall and
disappeared through the glass door of the corridor leading to the great
drawing-room and the library.

Bude stood an instant gazing after him in perplexity, then moved across
the hall to the servants' quarters.

In the meantime in the lounge the little doctor snapped the case of his
watch and opined that he wanted his tea.

"Where on earth has everybody got to? What's become of Lady Margaret? I
haven't seen her since lunch...."

That lady answered his question by appearing in person.

Lady Margaret was tall and hard and glittering. Like so many
Englishwomen of good family, she was so saturated with the traditions of
her class that her manner was almost indistinguishable from that of a
man. Well-mannered, broadminded, wholly cynical, and absolutely
fearless, she went through life exactly as though she were following a
path carefully taped out for her by a suitably instructed Providence.
Somewhere beneath the mask of smiling indifference she presented so
bravely to a difficult world, she had a heart, but so carefully did she
hide it that Horace had only discovered it on a certain grey November
morning when he had started out for the first time on active service.
For ever afterwards a certain weighing-machine at Waterloo Station, by
which he had had a startling vision of his mother standing with heaving
bosom and tear-stained face, possessed in his mind the attributes of
some secret and sacred shrine.

But now she was cool and well-gowned and self-contained as ever.

"What a perfectly dreadful day!" she exclaimed in her pleasant,
well-bred voice. "Horace, you must positively go and see Henry
What's-his-name in the Foreign Office and get me a passport for Cannes.
The weather in England in the winter is incredibly exaggerated!"

"At least," said the doctor, rubbing his back as he warmed himself at
the fire, "we have fuel in England. Give me England, climate and all,
but don't take away my fire. The sun doesn't shine on the Riviera at
night, you know!"

Lady Margaret busied herself at the tea-table with its fine Queen Anne
silver and dainty yellow cups. It was the custom at Harkings to serve
tea in the winter without other illumination than the light of the
great log-fire that spat and leaped in the open hearth. Beyond the
semi-circle of ruddy light the great lounge was all in darkness, and
beyond that again was the absolute stillness of the English country on a
winter's evening.

And so with a gentle clatter of teacups and the accompaniment of
pleasantly modulated voices they sat and chatted--Lady Margaret, who was
always surprising in what she said, the doctor who was incredibly
opinionated, and young Trevert, who like all of the younger generation
was daringly flippant. He was airing his views on what he called "Boche
music" when he broke off and cried:

"Hullo, here's Mary! Mary, you owe me half a crown. Bude has come up to
scratch and there are tea-cakes after ... but, I say, what on earth's
the matter?"

The girl had come into the room and was standing in the centre of the
lounge in the ruddy glow of the fire. Her face was deathly pale and she
was shuddering violently. She held her little cambric handkerchief
crushed up into a ball to her lips. Her eyes were fixed, almost glazed,
like one who walks in a trance.

She stood like that for an instant surveying the group--Lady Margaret, a
silver tea-pot in one hand, looking at her with uplifted brows. Horace,
who in his amazement had taken a step forward, and the doctor at his
side scrutinizing her beneath his shaggy eyebrows.

"My dear Mary "--it was Lady Margaret's smooth and pleasant voice which
broke the silence--"whatever is the matter? Have you seen a ghost!"

The girl swayed a little and opened her lips as if to speak. A log,
crashing from the fire into the grate, fell upon the silence of the
darkening room. It seemed to break the spell.


The name came hoarsely from the girl. Everybody, except Lady Margaret,
sprang to his feet It was the doctor who spoke first.

"Miss Mary," he said, "you seem frightened, what ..."

His voice was very soothing.

Mary Trevert made a vague gesture towards the shadows about the

"There ... in the library ... he's got the door locked ... there was a
shot ..."

Then she suddenly screamed aloud.

In a stride both the doctor and her brother were by her side. But she
motioned them away.

"I'm frightened about Hartley," she said in a low voice, "please go at
once and see what ... that shot ... and he doesn't answer!"

"Come on, Doctor!"

Horace Trevert was halfway to the big screen separating the lounge from
the outer hall. As he passed the bell, he pressed it.

"Send Bude to us, Mother, when he comes, please!" he called as he and
the doctor hurried away.

Lady Margaret had risen and stood, one arm about her daughter, on the
Persian rug spread out before the cheerful fire. So the women stood in
the firelight in Hartley Parrish's house, surrounded by all the
treasures which his wealth had bought, and listened to the footsteps
clattering away through the silence.



Harkings was not a large house. Some three hundred years ago it had been
a farm, but in the intervening years successive owners had so altered it
by pulling down and building on, that, when it passed into the
possession of Hartley Parrish, little else than the open fireplace in
the lounge remained to tell of the original farm. It was a queer,
rambling house of only two stories whose elongated shape was accentuated
by the additional wing which Hartley Parrish had built on.

For the decoration of his country-house, Parrish had placed himself
unreservedly in the hands of the firm entrusted with the work. Their
architect was given _carte blanche_ to produce a house of character out
of the rather dingy, out-of-date country villa which Harkings was when
Hartley Parrish, attracted by the view from the gardens, first
discovered it.

The architect had gone to his work with a zest. He had ripped up walls
and ceilings and torn down irrational matchwood partitions, discovering
some fine old oak wainscot and the blackened roof-beams of the original
farmstead. In the upshot he transformed Harkings into a very fair
semblance of a late Jacobean house, fitted with every modern convenience
and extremely comfortable. Furnished throughout with genuine "period"
furniture, with fine dark oak panelling and parquet floors, it was
altogether picturesque. Neither within nor without, it is true, would a
connoisseur have been able to give it a date.

But that did not worry Hartley Parrish. He loved a bargain and he had
bought the house cheap. It was situated in beautiful country and was
within easy reach by car of his town-house in St. James's Square where
he lived for the greater part of the week. Last but not least Harkings
was the casket enshrining a treasure, the realization of a lifelong
wish. This was the library, Parrish's own room, designed by himself and
furnished to his own individual taste.

It stood apart from the rest of the house at the end of the wing which
Parrish had constructed. The wing consisted of a single ground floor and
contained the drawing-room--which was scarcely ever used, as both
Parrish and his guests preferred the more congenial surroundings of the
lounge--and the library. A long corridor panelled in oak led off the
hall to the new wing. On to this corridor both the drawing-room and the
library gave. Halfway down the corridor a small passage ran off. It
separated the drawing-room from the library and ended in a door leading
into the gardens at the back of the house.

It was to the new wing that Horace Trevert and Dr. Komain now hastened.
They hurried across the hall, where the big lamp of dulled glass threw a
soft yellow light, and entered the corridor through the heavy oak door
which shut it off from the hall. The corridor was wrapt in silence.
Halfway down, where the small passage ran to the garden door, the
electric light was burning.

Horace Trevert ran down the corridor ahead of the doctor and was the
first to reach the library door. He knocked sharply, then turned the
handle. The door was locked.

"Hartley!" he cried and rapped again. "Ha-a-artley! Open the door! It's
me, Horace!"

Again he knocked and rattled the handle. Not a sound came from the
locked room. There was an instant's silence. Horace and the doctor
exchanged an interrogatory look.

From behind the closed door came the steady ticking of a clock. The
silence was so absolute that both men heard it.

Then the door at the end of the corridor was flung open and Bude
appeared. He was running at a quick ambling trot, his heavy tread
shaking the passage,

"Oh? sir," he cried, "whatever is it? What has happened?"

Horace spoke quickly, incisively.

"Something's happened to Mr. Parrish, Bude," he said. "The door's locked
and he doesn't answer. We'll have to break the door down."

Bude shook his head.

"It's solid oak, sir," he began.

Then he raised his hand.

"Pardon me, gentlemen," he said, as though an idea had struck him. "If
we were to go out by the garden door here, we might get in through the
window. We could break the glass if needs be!"

"That's it!" exclaimed Horace. "Come on, Doctor!"

He dashed down the corridor towards the little passage. The doctor laid
a hand on Bude's arm.

"One of us had better stay here," he said with a meaning glance at the
closed door.

The butler raised an affrighted face to his.

"Go with Sir Horace, Bude," said the doctor. "I'll stay!"

Outside in the gardens of Harkings it was a raw, damp evening,
pitch-black now, with little gusts of wind which shook the naked bushes
of the rosery. The garden door led by a couple of shallow steps on to a
gravel path which ran all along the back of the house. The path extended
right up to the wall of the house. On the other side it flanked the

The glass door was banging to and fro in the night wind as Bude, his
coat-collar turned up, hurried out into the darkness. The library, which
formed the corner of the new wing, had two windows, the one immediately
above the gravel path looking out over the rosery, the other round the
corner of the house giving on the same path, beyond which ran a high
hedge of clipped box surrounding the so-called Pleasure Ground, a plot
of smooth grass with a sundial in the centre.

A glow of light came from the library window, and in its radiance Bude
saw silhouetted the tall, well-knit figure of young Trevert. As the
butler came up, the boy raised something in his hand and there was a
crash of broken glass.

The curtains were drawn, but with the breaking of the window they began
to flap about. With the iron grating he had picked up from the drain
below the window young Trevert smashed the rest of the glass away, then
thrust an arm through the empty window-frame, fumbling for the

"The catch is not fastened," he whispered, and with a resolute thrust he
pushed the window up. The curtains leapt up wildly, revealing a glimpse
of the pleasant, book-lined room. Both men from the darkness without saw
Parrish's desk littered with his papers and his habitual chair beyond
it, pushed back empty.

Trevert turned an instant, a hand on the window-sill.

"Bude," he said, "there's no one there!"

"Best look and see, sir," replied the butler, his coat-tails flapping in
the wind.

Trevert hoisted himself easily on to the window-sill, knelt there for an
instant, then thrust his legs over the sill and dropped into the room.
As he did so he stumbled, cried aloud.

Then the heavy grey curtains were flung back and the butler saw the
boy's face, rather white, at the open window.

"My God," he said slowly, "he's dead!"

A moment later Dr. Romain, waiting in the corridor, heard the key turn
in the lock of the library door. The door was flung open. Horace Trevert
stood there, silhouetted in a dull glow of light from the room. He was
pointing to the open window, beneath which Hartley Parrish lay on his
back motionless.



Hartley Parrish's library was a splendid room, square in shape, lofty
and well proportioned. It was lined with books arranged in shelves of
dark brown oak running round the four walls, but sunk level with them
and reaching up to a broad band of perfectly plain white plasterwork.

It was a cheerful, comfortable, eminently modern room, half library,
half office. The oak was solid, but uncompromisingly new. The great
leather armchairs were designed on modern lines--for comfort rather
than for appearance. There were no pictures; but vases of chrysanthemums
stood here and there about the room. A dictaphone in a case was in a
corner, but beside it was a little table on which were set out some rare
bits of old Chelsea. There was also a gramophone, but it was enclosed in
a superb case of genuine old black-and-gold lacquer. The very books in
their shelves carried on this contrast of business with recreation. For
while one set of shelves contained row upon row of technical works,
company reports, and all manner of business reference books bound in
leather, on another were to be found the vellum-bound volumes of the
Kelmscott Press.

A sober note of grey or mole colour was the colour scheme of the room.
The heavy pile carpet which stretched right up to the walls was of this
quiet neutral shade: so were the easy-chairs, and the colour of the
heavy curtains, which hung in front of the two high windows, was in
harmony with the restful decorative scheme of the room.

The massive oaken door stood opposite the window overlooking the
rosery--the window through which Horace Trevert had entered. Parrish's
desk was in front of this window, between it and the door in
consequence. By the other window, which, as has been stated, looked out
on the clipped hedge surrounding the Pleasure Ground, was the little
table with the Chelsea china, the dictaphone, and one of the
easy-chairs. The centre of the room was clear so that nothing lay
between the door and the carved mahogany chair at the desk. Here, as
they all knew, Parrish was accustomed to sit when working, his back to
the door, his face to the window overlooking the rosery.

The desk stood about ten feet from the window. On it was a large brass
lamp which cast a brilliant circle of light upon the broad flat top of
the desk with its orderly array of letter-trays, its handsome
silver-edged blotter and silver and tortoise-shell writing
appurtenances. By the light of this lamp Dr. Romain, looking from the
doorway, saw that Hartley Parrish's chair was vacant, pushed back a
little way from the desk. The rest of the room was wrapt in unrevealing

"He's there by the window!"

Horace was whispering to the doctor. Romain strode over to the desk and
picked up the lamp. As he did so, his eyes fell upon the pale face of
Hartley Parrish. He lay on his back in the space between the desk and
the window. His head was flung back, his eyes, bluish-grey,--the narrow,
rather expressionless eyes of the successful business man,--were wide
open and fixed in a sightless stare, his rather full mouth, with its
clean-shaven lips, was rigid and stern. With the broad forehead, the
prominent brows, the bold, aggressive nose, and the square bony jaw, it
was a fighter's face, a fine face save for the evil promise of that
sensuous mouth. So thought the doctor with the swift psychological
process of his trade.

From the face his gaze travelled to the body. And then Romain could not
repress an involuntary start, albeit he saw what he had half expected to
see. The fleshy right hand of Hartley Parrish grasped convulsively an
automatic pistol. His clutching index finger was crooked about the
trigger and the barrel was pressed into the yielding pile of the carpet.
His other hand with clawing fingers was flung out away from the body on
the other side. One leg was stretched out to its fullest extent and the
foot just touched the hem of the grey window curtains. The other leg was
slightly drawn up.

The doctor raised the lamp from the desk and, dropping on one knee,
placed it on the ground beside the body. With gentle fingers he
manipulated the eyes, opened the blue serge coat and waistcoat which
Parrish was wearing. As he unbuttoned the waistcoat, he laid bare a dark
red stain on the breast of the fine silk shirt. He opened shirt and
under-vest, bent an ear to the still form, and then, with a little
helpless gesture, rose to his feet.

"Dead?" queried Trevert.

Romain nodded shortly.

"Shot through the heart!" he said.

"He looked so ... so limp," the boy said, shrinking back a little, "I
thought he was dead. But I never thought old Hartley would have done a
thing like that ..."

The doctor pursed up his lips as if to speak. But he remained silent for
a moment. Then he said:

"Horace, the police must be informed. We can do that on the telephone.
This room must be left just as it is until they come. I can do nothing
more for poor Hartley. And we shall have to tell the others. I'd better
do that myself. I wonder where Greve is? I haven't seen him all the
afternoon. As a barrister he should be able to advise us about--er, the
technicalities: the police and all that ..."

Rapid footsteps reverberated down the corridor. Robin Greve appeared at
the door. The fat and frightened face of Bude appeared over his

"Good God, Doctor!" he cried, "what's this Bude tells me?"

The doctor cleared his throat.

"Our poor friend is dead, Greve," he said.

"But how? How?"

Greve stood opposite the doctor in the centre of the library. He had
switched on the light at the door as he had come in, and the room was
flooded with soft light thrown by concealed lamps set around the cornice
of the ceiling.

"Look!" responded the doctor by way of answer and stepped aside to let
the young man come up to the desk. "He has a pistol in his hand!"

Robin Greve took a step forward and stopped dead. He gazed for an
instant without speaking on the dead face of his host and rival.


It was an affirmation rather than a question, and the little doctor took
it up. He was not a young man and the shock and the excitement were
beginning to tell on his nerves.

"I am not a police surgeon," he said with some asperity; "in fact, I may
say I have not seen a dead body since my hospital days. I ... I ... know
nothing about these things. This is a matter for the police. They must
be summoned at once. Where's Bude?"

Robin Greve turned quickly.

"Get on to the police station at Stevenish at once, Bude," he ordered.
"Do you know the Inspector?"

"Yessir," the butler answered in a hollow voice. His hands were
trembling violently, and he seemed to control himself with difficulty.
"Mr. Humphries, sir!"

"Well, ring him up and tell him that Mr. Parrish ... Hullo, what do all
these people want?"

There was a commotion at the door. Frightened faces were framed in the
doorway. Outside there was the sound of a woman whimpering. A tall, dark
young man in a tail coat came in quickly. He stopped short when he saw
the solemn faces of the group at the desk. It was Parrish's man, Jay.
He stepped forward to the desk and in a frightened sort of way peered at
the body as it lay on the floor.

"Oh, sir," he said breathlessly, addressing Greve, "what ever has
happened to Mr. Parrish? It can't be true ..."

Greve put his hand on the young man's shoulder.

"I'm sorry to say it is true, Jay," he answered.

"He was very good to us all," the valet replied in a broken voice. He
remained by the desk staring at the body in a dazed fashion.

"Who is that crying outside?" Greve demanded. "This is no place for
women ..."

"It's Mrs. Heever, the housekeeper," Bude answered.

"Well, she must go back to her room. Send all those servants away. Jay,
will you see to it? And take care that Lady Margaret and Miss Trevert
don't come in here, either."

"Sir Horace is with them, sir, in the lounge," said Jay and went out.

"I'll go to them. I think I'd better," exclaimed the doctor. "I shall be
in the lounge when they want me. A dreadful affair! Dreadful!"

The little doctor bustled out, leaving Greve and the butler alone in the
room with the mortal remains of Hartley Parrish lying where he had
fallen on the soft grey carpet.

"Now, Bude," said Greve incisively, "get on to the police at once. You'd
better telephone from the servant's hall. I'll have a look round here in
the meantime!"

Bude stood for an instant irresolute. He glanced shrewdly at the young

"Go on," said Robin quickly; "what are you waiting for, man? There's no
time to lose."

Slowly the butler turned and tiptoed away, his ungainly body swaying
about as he stole across the heavy pile carpet. He went out of the room,
closing the door softly behind him. He left Greve sunk in a reverie at
the desk, gazing with unseeing eyes upon the dead face of the master of

That sprawling corpse, the startled realization of death stamped for
ever in the wide, staring eyes, was indeed a subject for meditation.
There, in the midst of all the evidences of Hartley Parrish's meteoric
rise to affluence and power, Greve pondered for an instant on the
strange pranks which Fate plays us poor mortals.

Parrish had risen, as Greve and all the world knew, from the bottom rung
of the ladder. He had had a bitter fight for existence, had made his
money, as Greve had heard, with a blind and ruthless determination
which spoke of the stern struggle of other days. And Robin, who, too,
had had his own way to make in the world, knew how the memory of earlier
struggles went to sweeten the flavour of ultimate success.

Yet here was Hartley Parrish, with his vast financial undertakings, his
soaring political ambitions, his social aims which, Robin realized
bitterly, had more than a little to do with his project for marrying
Mary Trevert, stricken down suddenly, without warning, in the very
heyday of success.

"Why should he have done it?" he whispered to himself, "why, my God,

But the mask-like face at his feet, as he bent to scan it once more,
gave no answer to the riddle. Determination, ambition, was portrayed on
the keen, eager face even in death.

With a little hopeless gesture the young barrister glanced round the
room. His eye fell upon the desk. He saw a neat array of letter-trays,
costly silver and tortoise-shell writing appointments, a couple of heavy
gold fountain pens, and an orderly collection of pencils. Lying flat on
the great silver-edged blotter was a long brown envelope which had been
opened. Propped up against the large crystal ink-well was a letter
addressed simply "Miss Mary Trevert" in Hartley Parrish's big,
vigorous, and sprawling handwriting.

The letter to Mary Trevert, Robin did not touch. But he picked up the
long brown envelope. On the back it bore a printed seal. The envelope
contained a document and a letter. At the sight of it the young man
started. It was Hartley Parrish's will. The letter was merely a covering
note from Mr. Bardy, of the firm of Jerringham, Bardy and Company, a
well-known firm of solicitors, dated the previous evening. Robin
replaced letter and document in their envelope without reading them.

"So that's it!" he murmured to himself. "Suicide? But why?"

All the letter-trays save one were empty. In this was a little heap of
papers and letters. Robin glanced through them. There were two or three
prospectuses, a notice of a golf match, a couple of notes from West End
tradesmen enclosing receipts and an acknowledgement from the bank. There
was only one personal letter--a business communication from a Rotterdam
firm. Robin glanced at the letter. It was typewritten on paper of a dark
slatey-blue shade. It was headed, "ELIAS VAN DER SPYCK & Co., GENERAL
IMPORTERS, ROTTERDAM," and dealt with steel shipments.

Robin dropped the letter back into the tray and turned to survey the
room. It was in perfect order. Except for the still form lying on the
floor and the broken pane of glass in the window, there was nothing to
tell of the tragedy which had been enacted there that afternoon. There
were no papers to hint at a crisis save the prosaic-looking envelope
containing the will, and Parrish's note for Mary. The waste-paper
basket, a large and business-like affair in white wicker, had been

Robin walked across to the fireplace. The flames leapt eagerly about a
great oak log which hissed fitfully on top of the glowing coals
contained in the big iron fire-basket. The grate was bare and tidy. As
the young man looked at the fire, a little whirl of blue smoke whisked
out of the wide fireplace and eddied into the room. Robin sniffed. The
room smelt smoky. Now he remembered he had noticed it as he came in.

He stood an instant gazing thoughtfully at the blazing and leaping fire.
He threw a quick glance at the window where the curtains tossed fitfully
in the breeze coming through the broken pane. Suddenly he stepped
quickly across the room and, lifting the reading-lamp from the table,
bore it over to the window which he scrutinized narrowly by its light.
Then he dropped on one knee beside the dead body, placing the lamp on
the floor beside him.

He lifted the dead man's left hand and narrowly examined the nails.
Without touching the right hand which clasped the revolver, he studied
its nails too. He rose and took the gold-mounted reading-glass from the
desk and scrutinized the nails of both hands through the glass.

Then he rose to his feet again and, having replaced lamp and
reading-glass on the desk, stood there thoughtfully, his brown hands
clasped before him. His eyes wandered from the desk to the window and
from the window to the corpse. Then he noticed on the carpet between the
dead body and the desk a little ball of slatey-blue paper. He bent down
and picked it up. He had begun to unroll it when the library door was
flung open. Robin thrust the scrap of paper in his pocket and turned to
face the door.



The library door opened. A large, square-built, florid man in the
braided uniform of a police inspector stood on the threshold of the
room. Beside him was Bude who, with an air of dignity and respectful
mourning suitably blended, waved him into the room.

"The--ahem!--body is in here, Mr. Humphries, sir!"

Inspector Humphries stepped quickly into the room. A little countryfied
in appearance and accent, he had the careful politeness, the measured
restraint, and the shrewd eye of the typical police officer. In thirty
years' service he had risen from village constable to be Inspector of
county police. Slow to anger, rather stolid, and with an excellent
heart, he had a vein of shrewd common sense not uncommonly found in that
fast disappearing species, the English peasant.

He nodded shortly to Greve, and with a tread that shook the room strode
across to where Hartley Parrish was lying dead. In the meantime a
harassed-looking man with a short grey beard, wearing a shabby frock
coat, had slipped into the room behind the Inspector. He approached

"Dr. Romain?" he queried, peering through his gold spectacles, "the
butler said ..."

"No, my name is Greve," answered Robin. "I am staying in the house. This
is Dr. Romain."

He motioned to the door. Dr. Romain came bustling into the room.

"Glad to see you here so promptly, Inspector," he said. "A shocking
business, very. Is this the doctor? I am Dr. Romain ..."

Dr. Redstone bowed with alacrity.

"A great privilege, sir," he said staidly. "I have followed your work...."

But the other did not let him finish.

"Shot through the heart ... instantaneous death ... severe haemorrhage ...
the pistol is there ... in his hand. A man with everything he wanted
in the world ... I can't understand it. 'Pon my soul, I can't!"

The Inspector, who had been kneeling by the corpse, motioned with his
head to the village doctor. Dr. Redstone went to him and began a cursory
examination of the body. The Inspector rose.

"I understand from the butler, gentlemen," he said, "that it was Miss
Trevert, a lady staying in the house, who heard the shot fired. I should
like to see her, please. And you, sir, are you a relation of ..."

Greve, thus addressed, hastily replied.

"Only a friend, Inspector. I am staying in the house. I am a barrister.
Perhaps I may be able to assist you ..."

Humphries shot a slow, shrewd glance at him from beneath his shaggy
blond eyebrows.

"Thank you, sir, much obliged, I'm sure. Now"--he thrust a hand into his
tunic and produced a large leather-bound notebook--"do you know anything
as would throw a light on this business?"

Greve shook his head.

"He seemed perfectly cheerful at lunch. He left the dining-room directly
after he had taken his coffee."

"Where did he go?"

"He came here to work. He told us at lunch that he was going to shut
himself up in the library for the whole afternoon as he had a lot of
work to get through."

The Inspector made a note or two in his book. Then he paused
thoughtfully tapping the end of his pencil against his teeth.

"It was Miss Trevert, you say, who found the body?"

"No," Greve replied. "Her brother, Sir Horace Trevert. It was Miss
Trevert who heard the shot fired."

"The door was locked, I think?"

"On the inside. But here is Sir Horace Trevert. He will tell you how he
got through the window and discovered the body."

Horace Trevert gave a brief account of his entry into the library. Again
the Inspector scribbled in his notebook.

"One or two more questions, gentlemen, please," he said, "and then I
should wish to see Miss Trevert. Firstly, who saw Mr. Hartley Parrish
last: and at what time?"

Horace Trevert looked at Greve.

"It would be when he left us after lunch, wouldn't it?" he said.

"Certainly, certainly," Dr. Romain broke in. "He left us all together in
the dining-room, you, Horace and Robin and Lady Margaret and Mary ...
Miss Trevert and her mother, you know," he added by way of explanation
to the Inspector.

"And he went straight to the library?"

"Straight away, Mr. Humphries, sir," broke in Bude. "Mr. Parrish crossed
me in the hall and gave me particular instructions that he was not to be

"That was at what time?"

"About two-thirty, sir."

"Then you were the last person to see him before ..."

"Why, no ... that is, unless ..."

The butler hesitated, casting a quick glance round his audience.

"What do you mean?" rapped out the Inspector, looking up from his
notebook. "Did anybody else see Mr. Parrish in spite of his orders?"

Bude was silent. He was looking at Greve.

"Come on," said Humphries sternly. "You heard my question? What makes
you think anybody else had access to Mr. Parrish before the shot was

Bude made a little resigned gesture of the hands.

"Well, sir, I thought ... I made sure that Mr. Greve ..."

There was a moment's tense silence.

"Well?" snapped Humphries.

"I was going to say I made certain that Mr. Greve was going to Mr.
Parrish in the library to tell him tea was ready. Mr. Greve passed me in
the hall and went down the library corridor just after I had served the

All eyes turned to Robin.

"It's perfectly true," he said. "I went out into the gardens for a
mouthful of fresh air just before tea. I left the house by the side door
off the corridor here. I didn't go to the library, though. It is an
understood thing in this house that no one ever disturbs Mr. Parrish
when he ..."

He broke off sharply.

"My God, Mary," he cried, "you mustn't come in here!"

All turned round at his loud exclamation. Mary Trevert stood in the
doorway. Dr. Romain darted forward.

"My dear," he said soothingly, "you mustn't be here ..."

Passively she let him lead her into the corridor. The Inspector
continued his examination.

"At what time did you come along this corridor, sir?" he asked Robin.

"It was not long after the tea gong went," answered Robin, "about ten
minutes past five, I should say ..."

"And you heard nothing?"

Robin shook his head.

"Absolutely nothing," he replied. "The corridor was perfectly quiet. I
stepped out into the grounds, went for a turn round the house, but it
was raining, so I came in almost at once."

"At what time was that?"

"When I came in ... oh, about two or three minutes later, say about a
quarter past five."

Humphries turned to Horace Trevert.

"What time was it when Miss Trevert heard the shot?"

Horace puckered up his brow.

"Well," he said, "I don't quite know. We were having tea. It wasn't much
after five--I should say about a quarter past."

"Then the shot that Miss Trevert heard would have been fired just about
the time that you, sir," he turned to Robin, "were coming in from your

"Somewhere about that time, I should say!" Robin answered rather

"Did you hear it?" queried the Inspector.

"No," said Robin.

"But surely you must have been at or near the side door at the time as
you were coming in ..."

"I came in by the front door," said Robin, "on the other side of the
house ..."

Very carefully the Inspector closed his notebook, thrust the pencil back
in its place along the back, fastened the elastic about the book, and
turned to Horace Trevert.

"And now, sir, if I might speak to Miss Trevert alone for a minute ..."

"I say, though," expostulated Horace, "my sister's awfully upset, you
know. Is it absolutely necessary?"

"Aye, sir, it is!" said the Inspector. "But there's no need for me to
see her in here. Perhaps in some other room ..."

"The drawing-room is next to this," the butler put in; "they'd be nice
and quiet in there, Sir Horace."

The Inspector acquiesced. Dr. Redstone drew him aside for a whispered

The Inspector came back to Robin and Horace.

"The doctor would like to have the body taken upstairs to Mr. Parrish's
room," he said. "He wishes to make a more detailed examination if Dr.
Romain would help him. If one of you gentlemen could give orders about
this ... I have two officers outside who would lend a hand. And this
room must then be shut and locked. Sergeant Harris!" he called.


A stout sergeant appeared at the library door.

"As soon as the body has been removed, you will lock the room and bring
the key to me. And you will return here and see that no one attempts to
get into the room. Understand?"



Robin Greve called Inspector Humphries as the latter was preparing to
follow Bude to the drawing-room.

"Mr. Parrish seems to have written a note for Miss Trevert," he said,
pointing at the desk. "And in that envelope you will find Mr. Parrish's
will. I discovered it there on the desk just before you arrived!"

Again the Inspector shot one of his swift glances at the young man. He
went over to the desk, shook the document and letter from their
envelope, glanced at them, and replaced them.

"I don't rightly know that this concerns me, gentlemen," he said slowly.
"I think I'll just take charge of it. And I'll give Miss Trevert her

Taking the two envelopes, he tramped heavily out of the room.

Then in a little while Bude and Jay and two bucolic-looking policemen
came to the library to move the body of the master of Harkings. Robin
stood by and watched the little procession pass slowly with silent feet
across the soft pile carpet and out into the corridor. But his thoughts
were not with Parrish. He was haunted by the look which Mary Trevert had
given him as she had stood for an instant at the library door, a look of
fear, of suspicion. And it made his heart ache.



The great drawing-room of Harkings was ablaze with light. The cluster of
lights in the heavy crystal chandelier and the green-shaded electric
lamps in their gilt sconces on the plain white-panelled walls coldly lit
up the formal, little-used room with its gilt furniture, painted piano,
and huge marble fireplace.

This glittering Louis Seize environment seemed altogether too much for
the homely Inspector. Whilst waiting for Mary Trevert to come to him, he
tried several attitudes in turn. The empty hearth frightened him away
from the mantelpiece, the fragile appearance of a gilt settee decided
him against risking his sixteen stone weight on its silken cushions, and
the vastness of the room overawed him when he took up his position in
the centre of the Aubusson carpet. Finally he selected an ornate chair,
rather more solid-looking than the rest, which he drew up to a small
table on the far side of the room. There he sat down, his large red
hands spread out upon his knees in an attitude of singular

But Mary Trevert set him quickly at his ease when presently she came to
him. She was pale, but quite self-possessed. Indeed, the effort she had
made to regain her self-control was so marked that it would have
scarcely escaped the attention of the Inspector, even if he had not had
a brief vision of her as she had stood for that instant at the library
door, pale, distraught, and trembling. He was astonished to find her
cool, collected, almost business-like in the way she sat down, motioned
him to his seat, and expressed her readiness to tell him all she knew.

The phrases he had been laboriously preparing--"This has been a bad
shock for you, ma'am"; "You will forgive me, I'm sure, ma'am, for
calling upon you at a moment such as this"--died away on his lips as
Mary Trevert said:

"Ask me any questions you wish, Inspector. I will tell you everything I

"That's very good of you, ma'am, I'm sure," answered the Inspector,
unstrapping his notebook, "and I'll try and not detain you long. Now,
then, tell me what you know of this sad affair ..."

Mary Trevert plucked an instant nervously at her little cambric
handerchief in her lap. Then she said:

"I went to the library from the billiard-room ..."

"A moment," interposed the Inspector. "What time was that?"

"A little after five. The tea gong had gone some time. I was going to
the library to tell Mr. Parrish that tea was ready ..."

Mr. Humphries made a note. He nodded to show he was listening.

"I crossed the hall and went down the library corridor. I knocked on the
library door. There was no reply. Then I heard a shot and a sort of

Despite her effort to remain calm, the girl's voice shook a little. She
made a little helpless gesture of her hands. A diamond ring she was
wearing on her finger caught the light and blazed for an instant.

"Then I got frightened. I ran back along the corridor to the lounge
where the others were and told them."

"When you knocked at the door, you say there was no reply. I suppose,
now, you tried the handle first."

"Oh, yes ..."

"Then Mr. Parrish would have heard the two sounds? The turning of the
handle and then the knocking on the door? That's so, isn't it?"

"Yes, I suppose so ..."

"Yet you say there was no reply?"

"No. None at all."

The Inspector jotted a word or two in his notebook as it lay open flat
upon the table.

"The shot, then, was fired immediately after you had knocked? Not while
you were knocking?"

"No. I knocked and waited, expecting Mr. Parrish to answer. Instead of
him answering, there came this shot ..."

"I see. And after the shot was fired there was a crash?"

"A sort of thud--like something heavy falling down."

"And you heard no groan or cry?"

The girl knit her brows for a moment.

"I ... I ... was frightened by the shot. I ... I ... don't seem able to
remember what happened afterwards. Let me think ... let me think ..."

"There, there," said the Inspector paternally, "don't upset yourself
like this. Just try and think what happened after you heard the shot
fired ..."

Mary Trevert shuddered, one slim white hand pressed against her cheek.

"I do remember now," she said, "there _was_ a cry. It was more like a
sharp exclamation ..."

"And then you heard this crash?"

"Yes ..."

The girl had somewhat regained her self-possession. She dabbed her eyes
with her handkerchief quickly as though ashamed of her weakness.

"Now," said Humphries, clearing his throat, as though to indicate that
the conversation had changed, "you and Lady Margaret Trevert knew Mr.
Parrish pretty well, I believe, Miss Trevert. Have you any idea why he
should have done this thing?"

Mary Trevert shook her dark head rather wearily.

"It is inconceivable to me ... to all of us," she answered.

"Do you happen to know whether Mr. Parrish had any business worries?"

"He always had a great deal of business on hand and he has had a great
deal to do lately over some big deal."

"What was it, do you know?"

"He was raising fresh capital for Hornaway's--that is the big
engineering firm he controls ..."

"Do you know if he was pleased with the way things were shaping?"

"Oh, yes. He told me last night that everything would be finished this
week. He seemed quite satisfied."

The Inspector paused to make a note.

Then he thrust a hand into the side-pocket of his tunic and produced
Hartley Parrish's letter.

"This," he said, eyeing the girl as he handed her the letter, "may throw
some light on the affair!"

Open-eyed, a little surprised, she took the plain white envelope from
his hand and gazed an instant without speaking, on the bold sprawling

_"Miss Mary Trevert."_

"Open it, please," said the Inspector gently.

The girl tore open the envelope. Humphries saw her eyes fill, watched
the emotion grip her and shake her in her self-control so that she could
not speak when, her reading done, she gave him back the letter.

Without asking her permission, he took the sheet of fine, expensive
paper with its neat engraved heading and postal directions, and read
Hartley Parrish's last message.

My dear [it ran], I signed my will at Bardy's office
yesterday, and he sent it back to me to-day. Just
this line to let you know you are properly provided
for should anything happen to me. I wanted to fix
things so that you and Lady Margaret would not
have to worry any more. I just had to _write_.
I guess you understand why.


There was a long and impressive silence while the Inspector
deliberately read the note. Then he looked interrogatively at the girl.

"We were engaged, Inspector," she said. "We were to have been married
very soon."

A deep flush crept slowly over Mr. Humphries's florid face and spread
into the roots of his tawny fair hair.

"But what does he mean by 'having to write'?" he asked.

The girl replied hastily, her eyes on the ground.

"Mr. Parrish was under the impression that ... that ... without his
money I should not have cared for him. That is what he means ..."

"You knew he had provided for you in his will?"

"He told me several times that he intended to leave me everything. You
see, he has no relatives!"

"I see!" said the Inspector in a reflective voice.

"Had he any enemies, do you know? Anybody who would drive him to a thing
like this?"

The girl shook her head vehemently.


The monosyllable came out emphatically. Again the Inspector darted one
of his quick, shrewd glances at the girl. She met his scrutiny with her
habitual serene and candid gaze. The Inspector dropped his eyes and
scribbled in his book.

"Was his health good?"

"He smoked far too much," the girl said, "and it made him rather nervy.
But otherwise he never had a day's illness in his life."

Humphries ran his eye over the notes he had made.

"There is just one more question I should like to ask you, Miss
Trevert," he said, "rather a personal question."

Mary Trevert's hands twisted the cambric handkerchief into a little ball
and slowly unwound it again. But her face remained quite calm.

"About your engagement to Mr. Parrish ... when did it take place?"

"Some days ago. It has not yet been announced."

The Inspector coughed.

"I was only wondering whether, perhaps, Mr. Parrish was not quite ...
whether he was, maybe, a little disturbed in his mind about the
engagement ..."

The girl hesitated. Then she said firmly:

"Mr. Parrish was perfectly happy about it. He was looking forward to our
being married in the spring."

Mr. Humphries shut his notebook with a snap and rose to his feet.

"Thank you very much, ma'am," he said with a little formal bow. "If you
will excuse me now. I have the doctor to see again and there's the
Coroner to be warned ..."

He bowed again and tramped towards the door with a tread that made the
chandelier tinkle melodiously.

The door closed behind him and his heavy footsteps died away along the
corridor. Mary Trevert had risen to her feet calm and impassive. But
when he had gone, her bosom began to heave and a spasm of pain shot
across her face. Again the tears welled up in her eyes, brimmed over and
stole down her cheeks.

"If I only _knew!_" she sobbed, "if I only _knew!_"



The swift tragedy of the winter afternoon had convulsed the
well-organized repose of Hartley Parrish's household. Nowhere had his
master grasp of detail been seen to better advantage than in the
management of his country home. Overwhelmed with work though he
constantly was, accustomed to carry his business and often part of his
business staff to Harkings with him for the week-ends, there was never
the least confusion about the house. The methodical calm of Harkings was
that of a convent.

Hartley Parrish was wont to say that he paid his butler and housekeeper
well to save himself from worry. It was rather to ensure his orders
being punctiliously and promptly carried out. His was the mind behind
the method which ensured that meals were punctually served and trains at
Stevenish Station never missed.

But it was into a house in turmoil that Mary Trevert stepped when she
left the drawing-room and passed along the corridor to go to her room.
Doors slammed and there was the heavy thud of footsteps on the floor
above. The glass door leading into the gardens was open, as Mary passed
it, swinging in the gusts of cold rain. In the gardens without there was
a confused murmur of voices and the flash of lanterns.

In the hall a knot of servants were gossiping in frightened whispers
with a couple of large, rather bovine country constables who,
bareheaded, without their helmets, which they held under their arms,
looked curiously undressed.

The whispers died away as Mary crossed the hall. All eyes followed her
with interest as she went. It was as though an echo of her talk with the
Inspector had by some occult means already spread through the little
household. Through the half-open green baize door leading to the
servants' quarters some unseen person was bawling down the telephone in
a heated controversy with the exchange about a long-distance call to
London. And but an hour since, the girl reflected sadly, as she mounted
the oaken staircase, the house had been wrapt in its wonted evening
silence in response to that firm and dominating personality who had
passed out in the gloom of the winter twilight.

When, about six months before, Mary and her mother had begun to be
regular visitors at Harkings, Hartley Parrish had insisted on giving
Mary a boudoir to herself. This, in response to a chance remark of
Mary's in admiration of a Chinese room she had seen at a friend's house,
Parrish had had decorated in the Chinese style with black walls and
black-and-gold lacquer furniture. The room had been transformed from a
rather prosaic morning-room with old oak and chintz in the space of
three days as a surprise for Mary. She remembered now how Parrish had
left her to make the discovery of the change for herself. She loved
colour and line, and the contrast between this quaint and delightful
room with her rather shabby bedroom in her mother's small house in
Brompton had made this surprise one of the most delightful she had ever

She rang the bell and sat down listlessly in a charmingly lacquered
Louis Seize armchair in front of the log-fire blazing brightly in the
fireplace. She was conscious that a great disaster had overtaken her,
but only dimly conscious. For more poignantly than this dull sense of
tragedy she was aware of a great aching at her heart, and her thoughts,
after hovering over the events of the afternoon, settled down upon her
talk that afternoon ... already how far off it seemed ... with Robin
Greve in the library,

Robin had always been her hero. She could see him now in the glow of the
fire as he had been when in the holidays he had come and snatched her
away from a home already drab and difficult for a matine and an orgy of
cream cakes at Gunter's afterwards. He was then a long, slim, handsome
boy of irrepressible spirits and impulsive generosity which usually left
him, after the first few days of his holidays, in a state of lamentable
impecuniosity. All their lives, it seemed to her, they had been friends,
but with no stronger feeling between them until Robin, having joined the
Army on the outbreak of war, had come to say good-bye on being ordered
to France.

But by that time money troubles at home with which, as it seemed to her,
she had been surrounded all her life, had grown so pressing that, apart
from Lady Margaret's reiterated counsels, she herself had come to
recognize that a suitable marriage was the only way out of their
ever-increasing embarrassment.

She and Robin, she recalled with a feeling of relief, had never
discussed the matter. He, too, had understood and had sailed for France
without seeking to take advantage of the circumstance.

Outside in the black night a car throbbed. Footsteps crunched the gravel
beneath her window. The sounds brought her back to the present with a
sudden pang. She began to think of Hartley Parrish. All her life she
had been so very poor that, until she had met this big, vigorous,
intensely vital man, she had never known what a lavish command of money
meant. Hartley Parrish did things in a big way. If he wanted a thing he
bought it, as he had bought Bude, as he had bought a car he had seen
standing outside a Pall Mall club and admired. He had rooted the owner
out, bade him name his price, and had paid it, there and then, by
cheque, and driven Mary off to a lawn tennis tournament at Queen's,
hugely delighted by her bewilderment.

She did not love him. She could never have learnt to love him. There was
a gleeful zest in his enjoyment of his money, an ostentatious parade of
his riches which repelled her. And there was a look in his face, those
narrow eyes, that hard mouth, which revealed to her womanly intuition a
ruthlessness which she guessed he kept for his business. But she liked
him, especially his reverent and chivalrous devotion to her, and the
thought that his dominating and vital personality was extinguished for
ever made her conscious of a great void in her life.

And now she was rich. Hartley Parrish's idea of "proper provision" for
her, she knew, meant wealth for her beyond anything she had ever
dreamed. The perpetual debasing struggle with poverty which she and her
mother had carried on for years was a thing of the past. Money meant
freedom, freedom to live ... and to love.

She stretched her hands out to the blaze. Was she free to love? What had
driven Hartley Parrish to suicide? Or who? She went over in her mind her
interview with Robin Greve in the billiard-room. He had spoken of other
women in connection with Hartley Parrish. Had he used that knowledge to
threaten his rival? What had Robin done after he had left her that
afternoon with his final taunt?

She felt the blood rise to her cheeks as she thought of it. Mary Trevert
had all the pride of her ancient race. The recollection of that taunt
galled her. Her loyalty to the man from whom she had received nothing
but chivalry, whose fortune was to banish a hideous nightmare from her
life, rose up in arms. What had Robin done? She must know the truth ...

A tap came at the door. Bude appeared.

"I think you rang, Miss," he said in his quiet, deep voice. "I was with
the Inspector, Miss, and I couldn't come before. Was there anything?..."

The girl turned in her chair.

"Come in and shut the door, Bude," she said. "I want to speak to you."

The butler obeyed and came over to where she sat. He seemed ill at ease
and rather apprehensive.

"Bude," said the girl, "I want you to tell me why you were certain that
Mr. Greve was going to Mr. Parrish in the library when he passed you in
the hall this afternoon!"

The butler smoothed his hands down his trousers in embarrassment.

"I thought he ... Mr. Greve ... would be sure to be going to fetch Mr.
Parrish in to tea, Miss ..." he replied, eyeing the girl anxiously.

Mary Trevert continued gazing into the fire.

"You know it is a rule in this house, Bude," she said, "that Mr. Parrish
is never disturbed in the library ..."

The butler changed his position uneasily.

"Yes, Miss, but I thought ..."

Slowly Mary Trevert turned and looked at the man.

"Bude,"--her voice was very calm,--"I want you to tell me the truth. You
know that Mr. Greve went in to Mr. Parrish ..."

Bude looked uneasily about him.

"Oh, Miss," he answered, almost in a whisper, "whatever are you saying?"

"I want your answer, Bude," the girl said coldly.

Bude did not speak. He rubbed his hands up and down his trousers in

"I wish to know why Mr. Parrish did this thing, Bude. I mean to know.
And I think you are keeping something back!"

The challenge resounded clearly, firmly.

"Miss Trevert, ma'am," the butler said in a low voice, "I wouldn't take
it upon me to say anything as would get anybody in this house into

"You saw Mr. Greve go into Mr. Parrish?"

The butler raised his hands in a quick gesture of denial.

"God forbid, Miss!" he ejaculated in horror.

"What, then, do you know that is likely to get anybody here into

The butler hesitated an instant. Then he spoke.

"That Inspector Humphries has been asking me questions, Miss, in a
nasty, suspicious sort o' way. I told him, what I told him already, that
just after I'd done serving the tea Mr. Greve crossed the hall and went
down the library corridor...."

"You didn't tell him everything, Bude?"

The butler took a step nearer.

"Oh, Miss," he said, lowering his voice, "if you'll pardon my frankness,
but I know as how you and Mr. Greve are old friends, and I wouldn't
take it upon me to tell the police anything as might ..."

Mary Trevert stood up and faced the man.

"Bude," said she, "Mr. Parrish was your master, a kind and generous
master as he was kind and generous to every one in this house. We must
clear up the mystery of his ... of his death. Neither you nor I nor Mr.
Greve nor anybody must stand in the way. Now, tell me the truth!"

She dropped back into her chair. She gave the order imperiously like the
mistress of the house. The butler, trained through life to receive
orders, surrendered.

"There's nothing much to tell, Miss. When Mr. Humphries asked me if I
were the last person to see Mr. Parrish alive, I made sure that Mr.
Greve would say he had been in to tell him tea was ready. But Mr. Greve,
who heard the Inspector's question and my answer, said nothing. So I
thought, maybe, he had his reasons and I did not feel exactly as how it
was my place ..."

Mary Trevert tapped with her foot impatiently.

"But what grounds have you for saying that Mr. Greve went in to Mr.
Parrish? Mr. Greve declared quite positively that he went out by the
side door and did not go into the library at all."

"But, Miss, I heard him speaking to Mr. Parrish ..."

The girl turned round and the man saw fear in her wide-open eyes.

The butler put his hand on the back of her chair and leaned forward.

"Better leave things where they are, Miss," he said in a low voice. "Mr.
Parrish, I dare say, had his reasons. He's gone to his last account now.
What does it matter why he done it ..."

The man was agitated, and in his emotion his carefully studied English
was forsaking him.

But the girl broke in incisively.

"Please explain what you mean!" she commanded.

"Why, Miss," replied the butler, "we know that Mr. Greve had no call to
like Mr. Parrish seeing how things were between you and the master ..."

"You mean the servants know that Mr. Parrish and I were engaged ..."

Bude made a deprecatory gesture.

"Know, Miss? I wouldn't go so far as to say 'know.' But there has been
some talk in the servants' 'all, Miss. You know what young female
servants are, Miss ..."

"And you think that Mr. Greve went to Mr. Parrish to talk about ... me?"

Mary Trevert's voice faltered a little. She looked eagerly at the
other's fat, smooth face.

"I presoomed as much, Miss, I must confess!"

"But what did you hear Mr. Greve say?"

"I heard nothing, Miss, except just only the sound of voices. After Mr.
Greve had crossed me in the hall, I took the salver I was carrying into
the butler's pantry. I stayed there a minute or two, and then I
remembered I had not collected the letters from the box in the hall for
the chauffeur to take to the post, the same as he does every evening. I
went back to the hall, and just as I opened the green baize door I heard
voices from the library ..."

"Was it Mr. Greve's voice?"

"I cannot say, Miss. It was just the sound of voices, rather loud-like.
I caught the sound because the door leading from the hall to the library
corridor was ajar. Mr. Greve must have forgotten to shut it."

"What did you do?"

"Well, Miss, I closed the corridor door ..."

"Why did you do that?"

Book of the day: