Part 5 out of 5
"This is Detective-Inspector Manderton, of Scotland Yard, sir," said
The big man beamed a smile of friendly recognition.
"Mr. Manderton and I are old friends," he said. "How are you,
Manderton? I didn't expect you to recognize me in these duds ..."
"I'd know you anywhere, sir," said the detective with unwonted
"Have you got your warrant, Manderton?" asked Herr Schulz.
"Aye, I have, sir," replied the detective. "And I've a colleague from
the Dutch police who's going along with me to effect the arrest ..."
"That's the party, sir, charged with wilful murder.... This is
Commissary Boomjes, of the Rotterdam Criminal Investigation Department!"
A tall man with a short black beard had approached the car. It was
decided that the whole party should proceed to the Villa Bergendal
immediately. Manderton sat next to Robin and the Dutch police officer
perched himself on the footboard.
"And where did you pick _him_ up, I'd like to know?" whispered Manderton
in Robin's ear with a backward jerk of the head, as they glided through
the brightly lit streets.
"D'you mean the doctor?" asked Robin.
"No, your other friend!"
"Miss Trevert had a letter to him. Something in the Secret Service,
Mr. Manderton snorted.
"'Something in the Secret Service,'" he repeated disdainfully. "Well, I
should say he was. If you want to know, Mr. Greve, he's the head!"
THE FIGURE IN THE DOORWAY
The rain was coming down in torrents and the night was black as pitch
when, leaving the lights of Rotterdam behind, the car swung out on to
the main road leading to the Villa Bergendal. Thanks to a powerful
headlight, Robin was able to get a good turn of speed out of her as soon
as they were clear of the city. As they slowed down at the gate in the
side road Herr Schulz tapped him on the shoulder.
"Better leave the car here and put the lights out," he counselled. "And
Miss Trevert should stay if the doctor here would remain to look after
"You think there'll be a scrap?" whispered the doctor.
"With a man like Marbran," returned the Chief, "you never know what may
"Zere will be no faight," commented the Dutch police officer in
lugubrious accents, "my vriends, ve are too laite ..."
But the Chief insisted that Mary should stay behind and the doctor
agreed to act as her escort. Then in single file the party proceeded up
the drive, Robin in front, then the Dutchman, after him the Chief, and
Mr. Manderton in the rear.
They walked on the grass edging the avenue. On the wet turf their feet
made no sound. When they came in view of the house, they saw it was in
darkness. No light shone in any window, and the only sound to be heard
was the melancholy patter of the rain drops on the laurel bushes. When
they saw the porch looking black before them, they left the grass and
stepped gently across the drive, the gravel crunching softly beneath
their feet. Robin led the way boldly under the porch and laid a hand on
the doorknob. The door opened easily and the next moment the four men
were in the hall.
As Robin moved to the wall to find the electric light switch, a torch
was silently thrust into his hand.
"Better have this, sir," whispered Manderton. "I have my finger on the
switch now, but we'd best wait to put the light up until we know where
they are. Where do we go first?"
"Into the sitting-room," Robin returned.
Switching the torch on and off only as he required it, he crept silently
over the heavy carpet to the door of the room in which that morning he
had come upon Mary. Manderton remained at the switch in the hall whilst
the other two men followed Robin through the door.
The room was in darkness. It struck chill; for the fire had gone out.
The beam of the torch flitting from wall to wall showed the room to be
"I don't believe there's a soul in the house," whispered the Chief to
"Ve are too laite; I have said it!" muttered the Dutchman.
"There is another room leading out of this," replied Robin, turning the
torch on to the blue curtain covering the door leading into the office.
"We'll have a look in there and then try upstairs. Manderton will give
us warning if anybody comes down ..."
So saying he drew the curtain aside and pushed open the door. Instantly
a gush of cold air blew the curtain back in his face. Before he could
disentangle himself the door slammed to with a crash that shook the
"That's done it!" muttered the Chief.
The three men stood and listened. They heard the dripping of the rain,
the soughing of the wind, but no sound of human kind came to their ears.
"The place is empty," whispered the Chief. "They've cleared ..."
"It is too laite; I have said it." The Dutchman spoke in a hoarse bass.
"We'll go in here, anyway," answered Robin, lifting up the curtain
again. "They may have heard us and be hiding ..."
He opened the door, steadying it with his foot. The curtain flapped
wildly round them as they crossed the threshold. The broad white beam of
the electric torch swung from window to desk, from desk to safe.
"The door over there is open," exclaimed the Chief; "that's the way
Suddenly he clutched Robin's arm.
"Steady," he whispered, "look there ... in the doorway ... there's
somebody moving ... quick, the torch!"
The light flashed across the room, blazed for an instant on a
window-pane, then picked out a man's form swaying in the doorway. He had
his back to the room and was rocking gently to and fro with the wind
which they felt cold on their faces.
"It's only a coat and trousers hanging in the door ..." began Robin.
Then, with a suddenness which pained the eyes, the room was flooded with
light. The Dutch detective stepped from the electric light switch and
moved to the open door.
"Too laite!" he cried, shaking his head; "have I not tell you?"
Suspended by a strip of coloured stuff, the body of Mr. Jeekes dangled
from the cross-beam of the door. The corpse oscillated in the breeze,
silhouetted against an oblong of black sky, turning this way and that,
loose, unnatural, horrible, and, as the body, twisting gently, faced the
room, it gave a glimpse of startling eyes, swollen, empurpled features,
Without the least trace of emotion the black-bearded detective picked up
a rush-bottom chair and gathering up the corpse by its collar hoisted it
up without an effort so that the feet rested on the chair. Then,
producing a clasp-knife, he mounted the chair and, with a vigorous
slash, cut the coloured strip which had been fastened to a staple
projecting from the brickwork above the door on the outside of the
He caught the body in his arms and laid it face upwards on the matting
which covered the floor. He busied himself for an instant at the neck,
then rose with a twisted strip of coloured material in his hand.
"His braces," he remarked, "very common. The stool what he has stood
upon and knocked avay, she lies outsaide! My vriends, ve are too laite!"
The doctor, fetched in haste by Manderton, examined the body. The man
had been dead, he said, for several hours. Mary remained in the hall
with Manderton while Robin and the Dutch detective went over the house.
There was no trace either of Marbran or of the chauffeur. In the two
bedrooms which showed signs of occupation the beds had been made up, but
the ward-robes were empty.
"Marbran's made a bolt for it," said Robin, coming into the office where
he had left the Chief, "and taken everything with him ..."
"I gathered as much," answered that astute gentleman, pointing at the
fireplace. A pile of charred paper filled the grate. "There's nothing
here, and I think we can wipe Mr. Victor Marbran off the slate. I doubt
if we shall see him again. At any rate we can leave him to the tender
mercies of our black-bearded friend here. As for us, I don't really see
that there is anything more to detain us here ..."
"But," remarked Robin, looking at the still figure on the floor, the
face now mercifully covered by the doctor's white handkerchief, "surely
this is a confession of guilt. Has he left nothing behind in writing? No
account of the crime?"
"Not a thing," responded the Chief, "and I've been through every
drawer. Even the safe is open ... and empty!"
"But how does it happen then," asked Robin, "that Marbran has legged it
while Jeekes here ..."
"Marbran left him in the lurch," the Chief broke in decisively. "I think
that's clear. While you were upstairs with our Dutch friend, I went
through the dead man's pockets. He had no money, Greve, except a few
coppers and a little Dutch change. He had not even got a return ticket
to London. Which makes me think that Master Jeekes had left old England
"Another thing that puzzles me," remarked Robin, "is how Jeekes knew
that Miss Trevert had a letter to you, sir? Or, for a matter of that,
how he knew that she had gone to Rotterdam at all?"
"That's not hard to answer," said Mr. Manderton, who had just entered
the room. "On Sunday night Jeekes rang up Harkings from his club and
asked to speak to Miss Trevert. Bude told him she had gone away. Jeekes
then asked to speak to Sir Horace Trevert, who told him that his sister
had gone to Rotterdam. Jeekes takes the first available train in the
morning, recognizes Miss Trevert on the way across, and tags her to her
hotel in Rotterdam. The next morning he follows her again, shadows her
to Sir ... to this gentleman's rooms, and there, as we know, contrived
by a trick to see to whom she had a letter."
"But why did he not attempt to get the letter away from her as soon as
she arrived? Miss Trevert never suspected Jeekes. She might have shown
him the letter if he'd asked her for it ..."
The detective shook his head sagely.
"Jeekes was pretty 'cute," he said. "Before letting the girl know he was
in Rotterdam, he wanted to find out what she wanted here and whom she
knew. Remember, he had no means of knowing if the girl suspected him or
"So he devised this trick of impersonating Mr. Schulz on the telephone,
"Bah!" broke in the Chief; "I bet that was Marbran's idea. Look at
Jeekes's face and tell me if you see in it any feature indicating the
bold, ingenious will to try a bluff like that. I never knew this fellow
here. But I know Marbran, a resolute, undaunted type. You can take it
from me, Marbran directed--Jeekes merely carried out instructions. What
do you say, Manderton?"
But the detective had retired into his shell again.
"If you will come to Harkings with me the day after to-morrow, sir, I
shall hope to show you exactly how Mr. Parrish met his death ..."
"No, no, Manderton," responded the Chief; "I can't leave here for a bit.
There are bigger murderers than Jeekes at liberty in Holland to-day ..."
The detective slapped his thigh.
"I'd have laid a shade of odds," he cried merrily, "that you were
watching the gentleman at Amerongen, sir ..."
"Tut, tut, Manderton," said the Chief, raising his hand to silence the
other; "you run on too fast, my friend! I wish," he went on, changing
the subject, "I could be with you at Harkings to-morrow to witness your
reconstruction of the crime, Manderton. You'll go, I suppose, Greve?"
"I certainly shall," answered the barrister, "I have had some experience
of criminals, but I must say I never saw one less endowed with criminal
characteristics than little Jeekes. A strange character!..."
The Chief laughed sardonically.
"Anyway," he remarked, "he had a damn good notion of the end that
befitted him ..."
* * * * *
It was a still, starry night. The Flushing boat stood out of harbour on
a calm sea. The high arc lamps threw a blue gleam over the deserted
moles and glinted in the oily swell lapping the quays. From the
fast-receding quayside the rasping of a winch echoed noisily across the
silent water. On the upper deck of the mail-boat Robin Greve and Mary
Trevert stood side by side at the rail. They had the deck to themselves.
Above their heads on the bridge the captain stood immobile, a square
black figure, the helmsman at his elbow. Otherwise, between the stars
and the sea, the man and the girl were alone.
Thus they had stood ever since the mail-boat had cast off from the quay.
Robin had made some banal attempt at conversation, urging (but without
much sincerity) that, after her experiences of the day, the girl should
go to her cabin and rest. But Mary Trevert had merely shaken her head
impatiently, without speaking.
Presently he put his arm through hers. He felt against his wrist the
warm softness of her travelling-coat, and it seemed to him that, though
the girl made no sign, some slight answering pressure met his touch. So
they leaned upon the rail for a space watching the water fall hissing
from the vessel's side as the steamer, jarring and quivering, met the
long steady roll from the open sea.
Then Mary Trevert spoke.
"Robin," she said gently, "I owe you an apology ..."
Robin Greve looked at her quickly. But Mary had her eyes fixed seaward
in contemplation of a distant light that flared and died with persistent
"My dear," he answered, "I've only myself to blame. When you told me you
were going to marry Hartley Parrish, I should have known that you had
your reasons and that those reasons were good. I should have held my
This time the girl stole a glance at him. But now he was gazing away to
the horizon where the light came and went.
"All this misunderstanding between us," he went on, "came about because
of what I said in the billiard-room that afternoon ..."
The girl shook her head resolutely.
"No," she answered, "it was my fault. I'm a proud devil, Robin, and what
you said about Hartley and ... and ... other women, Robin, hurt and ...
and made me angry. No, no, don't apologize again. You and I are old
enough friends, my dear, to tell one another the truth. You made me
angry because what you said was true. I _was_ selling myself, selling
myself with my eyes open, too, and you've got a perfect right never to
speak to me again ..."
She did not finish the sentence but broke off. Her voice died away
quaveringly. Robin took her hand in his.
"Dear," he said, "don't cry! It's over and done with now ..."
Mary shook herself with an angry gesture.
"What's the good of telling me not to cry?" she protested tearfully;
"I've disgraced myself in my own eyes as well as in yours. If you can't
forget what I was ready to do, I never shall ..."
Very gently the young man turned the girl towards him.
"I'm not such a prig as all that," he said. "We all make mistakes. You
know I understand the position you were in. Parrish is dead. I shall
forget the rest ..."
Slowly the girl withdrew her hands from his grasp.
"Yes," she said wearily, "you will find it easy to forget!"
She drew her fur closer about her neck and turned her back on the sea.
"I must go down," she said. And waited for the man to stand aside. He
did not move and their eyes met. Suddenly, like a child, she buried her
face in her arm flung out across his chest. She began to sob bitterly.
"That afternoon ... in the billiard-room ..." she sobbed, "you will
forget ... that ... too ... I suppose ..."
Robin took her face in his hands, a hot, tear-stained face, and detached
it from the sheltering arm.
"My dear," he said, "I shall have to try to forget it. But I know I
shan't succeed. To the end of my life I shall remember the kiss you gave
me. But we are farther apart than ever now!"
There was a great sadness in his voice. It arrested the girl's attention
as he dropped his hands and turned back to the rail.
"Why?" she said in a low voice, without looking up.
"Because," replied the young man steadily, "you're rich now, Mary ..."
The girl looked up quickly.
"Will men ever understand women?" she cried, a new note in her voice.
She stepped forward and, putting her two hands on the young man's
shoulders, swung him round to face her.
"I'm as poor as ever I was," she said, "for Hartley Parrish's money is
not for me ..."
"Mary!" exclaimed the young man joyfully.
"Robin Greve," cried the girl, "do you mean to tell me you'd stand there
thinking I'd accept money made like that ..."
But now she was in his arms. With a little fluttering sigh she yielded
to his kiss.
"Oh, the man on the bridge!..." she murmured with her woman's instinct
for the conventions.
"Come behind the boat, then!" commanded Robin.
And in the shadow of a weather-stained davit he kissed her again.
"So you'll wait for me, after all, Mary?"
"No," retorted the girl firmly. "We'll read the Riot Act to Mother and
you must marry me at once!"
The wind blew cold from the North Sea. It rattled in the rigging,
flapped the ensign standing out stiffly at the stern, and whirled the
black smoke from the steamer's funnels out into a dark aerial wake as
far as the eye could reach. With a gentle rhythmic motion the vessel
rose and fell, while the stars began to pale and faint grey shadows
appeared in the eastern sky. Still the man and the girl stood by the
swaying lifeboat and talked the things that lovers say. Step by step
they went over their thoughts for one another in each successive phase
of the dark tragedy through which they had passed.
"And that van der Spyck letter," asked Robin; "how did you get hold of
it? I've been wanting to ask you that ever since this afternoon ..."
"I found it in the library," replied the girl, "on the desk. It had got
tucked away between two letter-trays--one fits into the other, you
"I wondered how Jeekes had come to miss it," said Robin. "But when was
this?" he added.
"On Sunday afternoon."
"But what were you doing in the library?"
The girl became a little embarrassed.
"I knew Mr. Manderton was suspicious of you. I heard him telephoning
instructions to London to have you watched. So I thought I'd go to the
library to see if I could find anything which would show what they had
against you exactly. And I found this letter. Then I noticed some one
hiding behind the curtains, and, as I had the letter in my hand, I hid
it in my dress. When I discovered that Bruce Wright was after it too, I
pretended I had found nothing ..."
"But, darling, why?"
"I wanted to make sure for myself why you had sent Bruce Wright, for I
guessed he had come from you, to look for this letter. So I thought I'd
go to Rotterdam to investigate ..."
Robin laughed affectionately.
"Surely it would have been simpler to have given the letter to the
Mary gave him a look of indignant surprise.
"But it might have incriminated you!" she exclaimed.
At that Robin kissed her again.
"Will men _ever_ understand women?" he asked, looking into her tranquil
AN INTERRUPTION FROM BEYOND
Sudden frost had laid an icy finger on the gardens of Harkings. The
smooth green lawns were all dappled with white and wore a pinched and
chilly look save under the big and solemn firs where the ground, warmed
by its canopy of branches and coverlet of cones, had thawed in dark
patches. The gravel walks were firm and dry; and in the rosery the bare
skeleton of the pergolas stood out in clear-cut silhouette against a
white and woolly sky.
Overnight the frost had come. It had taken even the birds by surprise.
They hopped forlornly about the paths as though wondering where they
would get their breakfast. Robin Greve, idly watching them from the
library window, found himself contrasting the cheerful winter landscape
with the depressing conditions of the previous day. In wind and rain the
master of Harkings had been laid to rest in the quiet little churchyard
of Stevenish. The ceremony had been arranged in haste, as soon as the
coroner's jury had viewed the body. Robin Greve, that morning arrived
from Rotterdam, Bude, and Mr. Bardy the solicitor, had been the only
mourners. As Robin looked out upon the wintry scene, his mind reverted
to the hurried funeral with its depressing accompaniment of gleaming
umbrellas, mud from the freshly turned clay, and dripping trees.
Beneath the window of the library, its shattered pane now replaced, a
cluster of starlings whistled gaily, darting bright-eyed glances, full
of anticipation, at the closed window.
"_He_ used to give them crumbs every morning after breakfast," said
Mary. "See, Robin, how they are looking up! It seems a shame to
As though relieved to be quit of his dark thoughts, Robin, with a glad
smile, turned to the girl. Dipping his hand into his pocket, he produced
a hunk of bread and put it in her hand.
"You think of everything!" she said, smiling back at him prettily.
He pushed up the window and she crumbled the bread for the birds. He
rested one hand on her shoulder.
"He thought of everything, too," was his comment, "even down to the
birds. It's extraordinary! No detail was too small for him!..."
"He _was_ remarkable, Robin," answered the girl soberly; "there was
something magnetic about his personality that made people like him.
Even now that he is dead, even in spite of what we know, I can feel his
attraction still. And the whole house is impregnated with his
personality. Particularly this room. Don't you feel it? I don't mind
being here with you, Robin, but I shouldn't like to be here alone. I was
dreadfully frightened on Sunday evening when I came here. And when I saw
the curtains move ... oh! I thought my heart would stop beating! Dear,
I'm glad we are giving this place up. I don't feel that I could ever be
happy here ... even with you!"
"Poor devil!" said Robin. And then again he said: "Poor devil!"
"It was terrible ... to die like that!" replied Mary.
"It was terrible for him to lose _you_!" answered the young man.
She gave his hand a little, tender squeeze, but relinquished it quickly
as the door opened.
Mr. Manderton was there, broad-shouldered and burly. Behind came Dr.
Romain with a purple nose and eyes watering with the cold, Horace
Trevert in plain clothes, Mr. Bardy, the solicitor, plump, middle-aged,
and prim, with a broad, smooth-shaven face and an eyeglass on a black
silk riband. In the background loomed the large form of Inspector
Humphries, ruddy of cheek as of hair. Lady Margaret did not appear.
Mr. Manderton slapped his bowler hat briskly on a side table and with a
little bow to Mary walked to the desk.
"Now," said Mr. Manderton with a long, shrewd look that comprehended the
company, individually and collectively, and the entire room, "if
Inspector Humphries will kindly close the door, we will reconstruct the
crime in the light of the evidence we have collected."
He turned round to the desk and pulled back the chair ... Hartley
Parrish's empty chair.
"It is just on five o'clock on Saturday evening, November 27," he began,
"and growing dark outside. Mr. Parrish is sitting here"--he tapped the
chair--"with all the lights in the room turned off except this one on
Here he put a large hand on the reading-lamp.
"The assumption that Mr. Parrish spent the afternoon, as he had spent
the morning, over papers in connection with the business of Hornaway's
in which he was interested is not correct. Mr. Archer, one of Mr.
Parrish's secretaries who brought down a number of papers and letters
for Mr. Parrish to sign in the morning, states that as far as Hornaway's
or any other office business was concerned, Mr. Parrish was through with
it by lunch. This is corroborated by the fact that no business papers of
this description, with the exception of one, which I am coming to
directly, were found on the desk here after Mr. Parrish's death. Nor
were there any traces of burnt paper in or about the fire. These two
facts were established by my colleague, Inspector Humphries."
At this everybody turned and looked at the Inspector, who blushed until
the tint of his hair positively paled by comparison with that of his
"What Mr. Archer _did_ leave with Mr. Parrish, however," Mr. Manderton
resumed, looking round the group and emphasising the "did," "was his
will and this letter ..."--he held up a typewritten sheet of slatey-blue
paper--"which, a straightforward business communication in appearance,
was in reality a threat against his life. It was with these two
documents that Mr. Parrish spent the last few hours before he was found
dead in this room. A few odd papers found lying on the desk have nothing
to do with the case and may therefore be dismissed."
Mr. Manderton paused and then, with the deliberation which distinguished
his every movement, walked round the desk to the window.
"The fire in this room," he said, turning and facing his audience, "was
smoking. The butler will testify to this and state that Mr. Parrish
complained about it to him with the result that the sweep was ordered
for Monday morning. Owing to the smoke in the room Mr. Parrish opened
the window. His finger-prints were on the inside of the window-frame and
a small fragment of white paint was still adhering to one of his
"The window, then, was open as it is now. Mr. Parrish sat at his desk,
read through his will, and wrote a letter to Miss Trevert informing her
that, under the will, she was left sole legatee. This letter, with the
will, was found on the desk after Mr. Parrish's death. Presumably in
view of the threat against his life contained in this letter,"--the
detective held up the slatey-blue paper,--"Mr. Parrish had either in his
pocket or, as I am more inclined to think, lying on the desk in front of
him, his Browning automatic pistol. This pistol was fitted with a Maxim
silencer, an invention for suppressing the report of a firearm, which
was sent to Mr. Parrish by a friend in America some years ago and which
he kept permanently attached to the weapon."
Mr. Manderton came to an impressive full stop and glanced round his
circle of listeners. He gave his explanations easily and fluently, but
in a plain, matter-of-fact tone such as a police constable employs in
the witness-box. He had marshalled his facts well, and his measured
advance towards his _dénouement_ was not without its effect on his
audience. Dr. Romain, nursing his knee on a leather settee, Horace
Trevert, a tall slim figure eagerly watching the detective from his
perch on the arm of the Chesterfield, and Robin and Mary, standing, very
close together, behind the empty chair at the desk--each and every one
was listening with rapt attention. Inspector Humphries, propping his big
bulk uneasily against the wall near the door, was the only one who
appeared to be oblivious of the strain.
The detective walked round the desk and seated himself in the chair.
"Mr. Parrish is seated at the desk here," he resumed, "when his
attention is directed to the window."
And here Mr. Manderton raised his head and looked out towards the
"Maybe he hears a step, more probably he sees a face staring at him out
of the dark. Very much to his surprise he recognizes Jeekes, his
principal private secretary--I say to his surprise because he must have
believed Jeekes, who had the week-end free, to be in London. And at
that, perhaps because he thinks he has made a mistake--in any case to
make sure--he gets up...."
The detective suited the action to the word. He pushed back the chair
and rose to his feet. They saw he held a large automatic pistol in his
"He has had this threatening letter, remember, so he takes his pistol
with him. And he reaches the window ..."
The detective was at the window now, his back to the room.
"He speaks to Jeekes, angrily, maybe--the butler heard the sound of loud
voices--they have words. And then ..."
There came a knock at the library door. It was not a loud knock. It was
in reality scarcely more than a gentle tap. But it fell upon a silence
of Manderton's own creating, a rapt silence following a pause which
preceded the climax of his narrative. So the discreet knocking resounded
loud and clear through the library.
"Who is that? What is it?" rapped out Dr. Bomain irritably.
"Don't let any one disturb us, Inspector!" called out Horace Trevert to
Inspector Humphries, who had opened the door.
Bude's face appeared in the doorway. He had a short altercation with the
Inspector, who resolutely interposed his massive form between the butler
and the room.
"What is it, Bude?" asked Robin, going to the door.
"It's a letter for Miss Trevert, sir!" said Bude.
"Well, leave it in the hall. Miss Trevert can't be disturbed at
"But ... but, sir," the butler protested. Then Robin noticed that he was
trembling with excitement and that his features were all distraught.
"What's the matter with you, Bude?" Robin demanded.
Humphries had stood on one side and Robin now faced the butler.
"It's a letter from ... that Jeekes!" faltered Bude, holding out a
salver. "I know his writing, sir!"
"For Miss Trevert?"
Robin gathered up the plain white envelope. It bore a Dutch stamp. The
postmark was Rotterdam. He gave the letter to Mary. It was bulky and
"For you," he said, and stood beside her while she broke the seal. By
this they had all gathered round her.
The envelope fluttered to the floor. Mary was unfolding a wad of sheets
of writing-paper folded once across. She glanced at the topmost sheet,
then handed the bundle to Robin.
"It's a confession!" she said.
From beyond the grave the little secretary had spoken and spoiled Mr.
THE DEATH OF HARTLEY PARRISH
"For Miss Trevert."
Thus, in Jeekes's round and flowing commercial hand, the document began:
Last Statement of Albert Edward Jeekes, made at
Rotterdam, this twenty-first Day of January, in the
Year of Our Lord One Thousand Nine Hundred
Mr. Bardy, the solicitor, to whom, by common consent, the reading of the
confession had been entrusted, raised his eyebrows, thereby letting his
eyeglass fall, and looked round at the company.
"Pon my soul," he remarked, "for a man about to take his own life, our
friend seems to have been the coolest customer imaginable. Look at it!
Written in a firm hand and almost without an erasure. Very remarkable!
Very remarkable, indeed!..."
"Hm!" grunted Mr. Manderton, "not so uncommon as you suppose, Mr. Bardy,
sir. Hendriks, the Palmers Green poisoner, typed out his confession on
cream inlaid paper before dosing himself. But let's hear what the
gentleman has to tell us...."
This was the last digression. Thenceforth Mr. Bardy read out the
confession to the end without interruption.
_For Miss Trevert_:
I slew, but I am not a murderer: I Killed, but
Victor Marbran has gone and left me to meet a
shameful death. But I cannot face the scaffold. As
men go, I do not believe I am a coward and I am not
afraid to die. But the inexorable deliberation of
justice appals me. When I have written what I have
to write, I shall be hangman to myself. My pistol
they have taken away.
Victor Marbran has abandoned me. He had prepared
everything for his flight. Even if the law can
indict him as the virtual murderer of Hartley Parrish,
the law will never lay hands on him. Victor Marbran
neglects no detail. He will never be caught. But from
the Great Unknown for which I shall presently set
out, I shall stretch forth my hand and see that, here
or there, he does not escape the punishment he merits
for bringing down shame and disgrace upon me.
Just now he bade me stay in the office and finish
burning the papers in his desk. He promised he would
take me with him to a secure hiding-place which he
had made ready for some such emergency as this. I believed
him and, unsuspecting, stayed. And now he
has slipped away. He is gone and the house is empty.
I cannot follow him even did I know where he has
gone. I have only a very little money left and I am
tired. Very tired. I feel I cannot support the hue-and-cry
they will raise. Everything is still about me.
The quiet of the country is very soothing. To die like
this, with darkness falling and no sound but the
rustling rain, is the better way ...
Hartley Parrish was the man behind the great
syndicate which systematically ran the British blockade
of Germany in the war. He financed Marbran and
the international riff-raff of profiteers with whom Marbran
worked. Parrish supplied the funds, often the
goods as well,--at any rate, until they tightened up
the blockade,--while Marbran and the rest of the
bunch in neutral countries did the trading with the
Parrish was a deep one. I say nothing against him.
He was a kind employer to me and I played him false,
for which I have been bitterly punished. To have
swindled Victor Marbran--I count it as nothing
against him, for that heartless, cruel man is deserving
of no pity ...
Parrish was the heart and soul, brains and muscle
of the syndicate. He lurked far in the background.
Any and every trail which might possibly lead back
to him was carefully effaced. He was secure as long
as Marbran and one or two other big men in the business
kept faith with him. Now and then, when the
British Intelligence were too hot on the trail, Parrish
and Marbran would give away one of the small fry
belonging to the organization and thus stave off suspicion.
They could do this in complete safety, for so
perfect was their organization that the small fry only
knew the small fry in the shallows and never the big
fish in the deep ...
But Hartley Parrish was in Marbran's hands. They
stood or fell together. Parrish knew this. But he was
a born gambler and insanely self-confident. He took a
chance with Marbran. It cost him his life.
All payments were made to Parrish. He was treasurer
and banker of the syndicate. Money came in by
all sorts of devious routes, sometimes from as far
afield as South or Central America. Parrish distributed
the profits. Everything was in his hands.
By the time the armistice came, the game had got
too hot. All the big fish except Marbran had cleared
out with their pile. But Marbran, like Parrish, was
a gambler. He stuck it out and stayed on.
Parrish played fair until the war was over. The
armistice, of course, put an end to the business. But
some months after the armistice a sum of £150,000
was paid to Parrish through a Spanish bank in settlement,
Marbran told me, for petrol indirectly delivered
to the German Admiralty. Parrish pouched the
lot. Not a penny did Marbran get.
Parrish and Marbran were old friends. They were
young men together on the Rand gold-fields in the
early days. In fact, I believe they went out to South
Africa together as penniless London lads. But Marbran
hated Parrish, though Parrish had, I believe,
been his benefactor in many ways. Marbran was
fiercely envious of the other because he realized that,
starting with an equal chance, Parrish had left him
far behind. Everything that Parrish touched prospered,
while Marbran was in perpetual financial
straits. He was Parrish's equal in courage, but not in
Parrish calculated that Marbran would not dare to
denounce him. He had always taken the lead in their
schemes and he affected to disregard Marbran altogether.
So he left the latter's letters unanswered and
laughed at his threats. He was quite sure that Marbran
would never risk losing his pile by giving Parrish
away, for they were, of course, both British subjects
and both in it together ...
Marbran always distrusted Parrish, and long before
the breach came, he picked on me to act the spy on my
employer. I, too, was born a gambler, but, like Marbran,
I lacked the lucky touch which made Parrish a
millionaire. Speculation proved my ruin. I have often
thanked my God on my bended knees--as I shall do
again to-night before I pass over--that my insane
folly has ruined no one but myself ...
Already, when Hartley Parrish engaged me, I was
up to the neck in speculation. Up to that time, however,
I had managed to keep my head above water,
but the large salary on which Parrish started me
dazzled me. I tried a flutter in oil on a much larger
scale than anything I had hitherto attempted, with the
result that one day I found myself with a debt of
nine hundred pounds to meet and no assets to meet
it with. And I was two hundred pounds in debt to
Hartley Parrish's petty cash account, which I kept.
It was Victor Marbran who came to my rescue.
Parrish had sent me over to Rotterdam to fetch some
papers from Marbran. At this time I knew nothing of
Parrish's blockade-running business. Parrish never
took me into his confidence about it and the whole of
the correspondence went direct to him through a number
of secret channels with which I only gradually
became acquainted behind his back.
I had met Marbran several times in London and
also at Rotterdam. It had struck me that he had
formed a liking for me. On this particular visit to
Rotterdam Marbran took me out to dinner and encouraged
me to speak about myself. He was very
sympathetic, and this, coupled with the wine I had
taken, led me to open my heart to him. Without giving
myself away, I let him understand that I was in
considerable financial difficulties, which I set down to
the high cost of living as the result of the war.
Without a word of warning Marbran pulled out
"How much do you want," he asked, "to put you
Nine hundred pounds, I told him.
He wrote the cheque at once there at the table. He
would advance me the money, he said, and put me
down for shares in a business in which he was interested.
It was a safe thing and profits were very high.
I could repay him at my leisure.
In this way I became a shareholder in Parrish's
blockade-running syndicate. The return I was to
make was to spy on my employer and to report to
Marbran the letters which Parrish received and the
names of the people whom he interviewed.
Of course, Marbran did not propose this plan at
once. When I took leave of him that night, I remember,
I all but broke down at the thought of his
unsolicited generosity. I have had a hard life, Miss
Trevert, and his seeming kindness broke me all up.
But I might have known.
I cashed Marbran's cheque and put back the two
hundred pounds I had taken from the petty cash account.
But I went on speculating. You see, I did
not believe Marbran's story about the shares he said
he would put me down for. I thought it was a charitable
tale to spare my feelings. So I plunged once
more in the confident hope of recovering enough to
repay my debt to Marbran.
A month later Marbran sent me a cheque for one
hundred pounds. He said it was the balance of fifteen
hundred pounds due to me as profits on my shares
less the nine hundred pounds I owed him and five
hundred pounds for my shares. But my speculations
had by this time gone wrong again, and I was heartily
glad presently to receive a further cheque for two
hundred pounds from Marbran. From that time on I
got from Marbran sums varying between one hundred
and fifty pounds and five hundred pounds a month.
When Marbran made me his shameful offer, I rejected
it with indignation. But I was fast in the trap.
Marbran explained to me in great detail and with the
utmost candour the working of the Parrish syndicate.
He let me know very plainly that I was as deeply
implicated as Parrish and he. I was a shareholder;
I had received and was receiving my share of the
profits. In my distress and shame I threatened to
expose the pair of them. Had I known the source of
his money, I told him, I should never have accepted it.
At that Marbran laughed contemptuously.
"You tell that yarn to the police," he sneered,
"and hear what they say!"
And then I realized that I was in the net.
I make no excuses for myself. I shall make none
to the Great Judge before whom in a little while I
shall appear. I had not the moral force to resist Marbran.
I did his bidding: I continued to take his
money and I held my peace.
And then came the breach between Parrish and
Marbran. I was the cause of it. But for me, his
trusty spy, Marbran would have known nothing of
this payment of £150,000 which Parrish received
from Spain, and this tragedy would not have happened.
God forgive me ...
Marbran appealed to Parrish in vain. What he
wrote I never knew, for, shortly after, Parrish quietly
and without any explanation took the confidential
work out of my hands. I believe he suspected then
who Marbran's spy was. But he said nothing to me
of his suspicions at that time ...
Finally, Marbran came to London. It was on Tuesday
of last week. I had been up in Sheffield on business,
and on my return I found Marbran waiting for
me at my rooms.
He was like a man possessed. Never before have I
witnessed such an outburst of ungovernable rage. Parrish,
it appears, had declined to see him. He swore
that Parrish should not get the better of him if he had
to kill him first. I can see Marbran now as he sat on
my bed, his livid face distorted with fury.
"I'll give him a last chance," he cried, "and then,
by God, let our smart Alec look out!"
This sort of talk frightened me. I knew Marbran
meant mischief. He was a bad man to cross. I was desperately
afraid he would waylay Parrish and bring
down disaster on the three of us. I did my utmost to
put the idea of violence out of his mind. I begged
him to content himself with trying to frighten Parrish
into paying up before trying other means.
My suggestion seemed to awaken some old memory
in Marbran's mind.
"By Gad, Jeekes," he said, after a moment's
thought, "you've given me an idea. Parrish has a
yellow streak. He's scared of a gun. I saw it once,
years ago, in a roughhouse we got into at Krugersdorp
on the Rand. Damn it, I know how to bring the yellow
dog to heel, and I'll tell you how we'll do it ..."
He then unfolded his plan. He would send Parrish
a last demand for a settlement, threatening him with
death if he did not pay up. The warning would reach
Parrish on the following Saturday. Marbran would
contrive that he should receive it by the first post.
As soon as possible thereafter I was to go to Parrish
boldly and demand his answer.
"And you'll take a gun," Marbran said, peering
at me with his cunning little eyes, "and you'll show it.
And if at the sight of it you don't get the brass, then
I don't know my old pal, Mister Hartley Parrish,
The proposal appalled me. I knew nothing of
Hartley Parrish's "yellow streak." I knew him only
as a hard and resolute man, swift in decision and ruthless
in action. Whatever happened, I argued, Parrish
would discharge me and there was every prospect of
his handing me over to the police as well.
Marbran was deaf to my reasoning. I had nothing
to fear, he protested. Parrish would collapse at the
first sign of force. And as for my losing my job, Marbran
would find me another and a better one in his
office at Rotterdam.
Still I held out. The chance of losing my position,
even of being sent to gaol, daunted me less, I think,
than the admission to Parrish of the blackly ungrateful
role I had played towards him. In the end I told
Marbran to do his dirty work himself.
But I spoke without conviction. I realized that Marbran
held me in a cleft stick and that he realized it,
too. He wasted no further time in argument. I knew
what I had to do, he said, and I would do it. Otherwise ...
He left me in an agony of mental stress. At that
time, I swear to Heaven, Miss Trevert, I was determined
to let Marbran do his worst rather than lend
myself to this odious blackmailing trick, my own
suggestion, as I bitterly remembered. But for the rest
of the week his parting threat rang in my ears. Unless
he heard by the following Sunday that I had
confronted Parrish and called his bluff, as he put it,
the British police should have word, not only of Parrish's
activities in trading with the enemy, but of
mine as well.
It was no idle threat. Parrish and Marbran had
put men away before. I could give you the names ...
It is quite dark now. It must be an hour since
Greve took you away. Soon he will be back with the
police to arrest me and I must have finished by then,
finished with the story, finished with life ...
Last week I worked at Parrish's city office. I told
you how he kept me off his confidential work. On
Saturday morning I went round to the house in St.
James's Square to see whether Marbran had really
sent his warning. Archer, my colleague, who was acting
as confidential secretary in my stead, was there.
Parrish was at Harkings, he told me. Archer was
going down by car that morning with his mail. It
included two "blue letters" which Archer would, according
to orders, hand to Parrish unopened.
These "blue letters," as we secretaries used to call
them, written on a striking bluish paper, were the
means by which all communications passed between
Parrish and Marbran on the syndicate's business.
They were drafted in conventional code and came to
Parrish from all parts of Europe and in all kinds of
ways. No one saw them except himself. By his strict
injunctions, they were to be opened only by himself
When Archer told me that two "blue letters" had
come, I knew that Marbran had kept his word. Though
my mind was not made up, instinct told me I was
going to play my part ...
I could not face the shame of exposure. I was
brought up in a decent English home. To stand in
the dock charged with prolonging the sufferings of
our soldiers and sailors in order to make money was
a prospect I could not even contemplate.
I thought it all out that Saturday morning as I
stood at the dressing-table in my bedroom by the open
drawer in which my automatic pistol lay. It was one
given me by Parrish some years before at a time
when he thought we might be going on a trip to
I slipped the pistol into my pocket. I felt like a man
in a dream. I believe I went down to Harkings by
train, but I have no clear recollection of the journey.
I seemed to come to my senses only when I found
myself standing on the high bank of the rosery at
Harkings, looking down upon the library window.
Outside in the gardens it was nearly dark, but from
the window fell a stream of subdued light. The curtains
had not been drawn and the window was open
at the bottom. Parrish sat at the desk. Only the desk-lamp
was lit, so that his face was in shadow, but
his two hands, stretched out on the blotter in front
of him, lay in a pool of light, and I caught the gleam
of his gold signet ring.
He was not writing or working. He seemed to be
thinking. I watched him in a fascinated sort of way.
I had never seen him sit thus idly at his desk before ...
My brain worked quite lucidly now. As I looked
at him, I suddenly realised that I had a golden opportunity
for speaking to him unobserved. The gardens
were absolutely deserted: the library wing was very
still. If he were a man to be frightened into submission,
my sudden appearance, following upon the receipt
of the threatening letter, would be likely to help
in achieving this result.
I walked softly down the steps to the window. I
stood close up to the sill.
"Mr. Parrish," I said, "Victor Marbran has sent
me for his answer."
In a flash he was on his feet.
"Who's there?" he cried out in alarm.
His voice shook, and I could see his hand tremble
in the lamplight as he clutched at the desk. Then I
knew that he was badly frightened, and the discovery
gave me courage.
"Are you going to settle with Marbran or are you
not?" I said.
At that he peered forward. All of a sudden his
"What in hell does this mean, Jeekes?"
His voice quavered no longer. It was hard and
But I had burnt my boats behind me now.
"It means," I answered boldly, "that you've got
to pay up. And you've got to pay up now!"
In a couple of quick strides he was round the desk
and coming at me as I stood with my chest pressing
against the window-sill. His hands were thrust in his
jacket pockets. His face was red with anger.
"You dawggorn dirty little rathole spy,"--he spat
the words at me in a low, threatening voice,--"I
guessed that lowdown skunk Marbran had been getting
at some of my people!"
His voice rose in a sudden gust of passion.
"You rotten little worm! You'd try and bounce
me, would you? You've come to the wrong shop for
that, Mr. Spying Jeekes ..."
His manner was incredibly insulting. So was the
utter contempt with which he looked at me. This
man, who had trembled with fear at the unknown, recovered
his self-control on finding that the menace
came from the menial, the hireling, he despised. I felt
the blood rush in a hot flood to my head. I lost all
self-control. I screamed aloud at him.
"There's no bounce about it this time! If you
don't pay up, you know what to expect!"
I had been holding my pistol out of his sight below
the window-ledge, but on this I swung it up and
levelled it at him.
He sprang back a pace, the colour fading on the
instant from his face, his mouth twisted awry in a
horrid paroxysm of fear. Even in that subdued light
I could see that his cheeks were as white as paper.
But then in a flash his right hand went up. I saw
the pistol he held, but before I could make a movement
there was a loud, raucous hiss of air and a
bullet whistled past my ear into the darkness of the
gardens. How he missed me at that range I don't
know, but, seeing me standing there, he came at me
again with the pistol in his hand ...
And then you, Miss Trevert, cried out, "Hartley,"
and rattled the handle of the door. Your cry merged
in a deafening report. Parrish, who was quite close
to me, and advancing, stopped short with a little
startled exclamation, his eyes reproachful, full of
surprise. He stood there and swayed, looking at me
all the time, then crashed backwards on the floor. And
I found myself staring at the smoking pistol in my
It was your scream that brought me to my senses.
My mind cleared instantly. I knew I must act quickly.
The house would be alarmed directly, and before that
happened, I must be clear of the grounds. Yet I
knew that before I went I must do something to make
myself safe ...
I stood at the window staring down at the dead
man. His eyes were terrible. Like a suicide he looked,
I thought. And then it flashed across my mind that
only one shot had been heard and that our pistols
were identical and fired the same ammunition. The
silencer! The silencer could save me. With that
removed, the suicide theory might pass muster: at any
rate, it would delay other investigations and give me
a start ...
In a matter of a second or two I believe I thought
of everything. I did not overlook the danger of leaving
finger-prints or foot-marks about. I had not
taken off my gloves, and my boots were perfectly dry.
In climbing into the room I was most careful to see
that I did not mark the window-sill or scratch the
I stood beside the body and I caught the dead man's
hand. It was fat and soft and still warm. The touch
of it made me reel with horror. I turned my face
away from his so as not to see his eyes again....
I got the silencer. Parrish had shown it to me and I
knew how to detach it....
I went back through the window as carefully as I
had come in. And I pushed the window down. Parrish
would have done that, I thought, if he had meant
to commit suicide. And then my nerve went. The window
frightened me. The blank glass with the silent
room beyond;--it reminded me of Parrish's sightless
gaze. I turned and ran....
I did not mean to kill. As there is a God in ...
On that unfinished sentence the confession
* * * * *
Mr. Bardy put the bundle of manuscript down on the desk and, dropping
his eyeglass from his eye, caught it deftly and began to polish it
vigorously with his pocket handkerchief. As no one spoke, he said:
"That's all. It ends there!"
He looked round the circle of earnest faces. Then Horace Trevert
crossed to the desk.
"Robin," he said, and held out his hand, "I want to apologize. I ...
we ... behaved very badly ..."
Robin grasped the boy's hand.
"Not a word about that, Horace, old boy," he said. "Besides, Mary is
putting all that right, you know!"
"She told me," replied Horace; "and, Robin, I'm tremendously glad!"
Robin turned to find Mr. Manderton, large and impressive, at his elbow.
"Might I have a word with you?"
Robin followed the detective across the room to the window.
Mr. Manderton seemed a trifle embarrassed.
"Er--- Mr. Greve," he said, clearing his throat rather nervously, "I
should like to--er,--offer you my congratulations on the remarkably
accurate view you took of this case. I should have been able to prove to
you, I believe, but for this curious interruption, that your view and
mine practically coincided. It has been a pleasure to work with you,
He cast a hasty glance over his shoulder at the other occupants of the
room, who were gathered round the desk.
"I'm not a society man, Mr. Greve," he added, "and I have a lot of work
on my hands regarding the case. So I think I'll run off now ..."
He broke off, gave Robin a large hand, and, looking neither to right nor
to left, made a hurried exit from the room, taking Inspector Humphries
"Now that we are just among ourselves"--the solicitor was speaking--"I
think I may seize the opportunity of saying a word about Mr. Parrish's
will. Miss Trevert, as you know, is made principal legatee, but I
understand from her that she does not propose to accept the inheritance.
I will not comment on this decision of hers, which does her moral sense,
at any rate, infinite credit, but I should observe that Mr. Parrish has
left directions for the payment of an allowance--I may say, a most
handsome allowance--to Lady Margaret Trevert during her ladyship's
lifetime. This is a provision over which Miss Trevert's decision, of
course, can have no influence. I would only remark that, according to
Mr. Parrish's instructions, this allowance will be paid from the
dividends on a percentage of his holdings in Hornaway's under the new
scheme. I have not yet had an opportunity of looking further into Mr.
Parrish's affairs in the light of the information which Mr. Greve
obtained in Rotterdam, but I have reason to believe that he kept his
interest in Hornaway's and his--ahem!--other activities entirely
separate. If this can be definitely established to my own satisfaction
and to yours, my dear Miss Trevert, I see no reason why you should not
modify your decision at least in respect of Mr. Parrish's interest in
Mary Trevert looked at Robin and then at the solicitor.
"No!" she said; "not a penny as far as I am concerned. With Mother the
case is different. I told her last night of my decision in the matter.
She disapproves of it. That is why she is not here to-day. But my mind
is made up."
Mr. Bardy adjusted his eyeglass in his eye and gazed at the girl. His
face wore an expression of pain mingled with compassion.
"I will see Lady Margaret after lunch," he said rather stiffly.
Then the door opened and Bude appeared.
"Luncheon is served, Miss!"
He stood there, a portly, dignified figure in sober black, solemn of
visage, sonorous of voice, a living example of the triumph of
established tradition over the most savage buffetings of Fate. His
enunciation was, if anything, more mellow, his demeanour more pontifical
than of yore.
Bude was once more in the service of a County Family.