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Trent's Last Case The Woman in Black by E.C. (Edmund Clerihew) Bentley

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'Ca, c'est un comble!' observed Trent. 'You are a nice young woman for a small
tea-party, I don't think. A star upon your birthday burned, whose fierce,
serene, red, pulseless planet never yearned in heaven, Celestine.
Mademoiselle, I am busy. Bon jour. You certainly are a beauty!'

Celestine took this as a scarcely expected compliment. The surprise restored
her balance. With a sudden flash of her eyes and teeth at Trent over her
shoulder, the lady's maid opened the door and swiftly disappeared.

Trent, left alone in the little bedroom, relieved his mind with two forcible
descriptive terms in Celestine's language, and turned to his problem. He took
the pair of shoes which he had already examined, and placed them on one of the
two chairs in the room, then seated himself on the other opposite to this.
With his hands in his pockets he sat with eyes fixed upon those two dumb
witnesses. Now and then he whistled, almost inaudibly, a few bars. It was very
still in the room. A subdued twittering came from the trees through the open
window. From time to time a breeze rustled in the leaves of the thick creeper
about the sill. But the man in the room, his face grown hard and sombre now
with his thoughts, never moved.

So he sat for the space of half an hour. Then he rose quickly to his feet. He
replaced the shoes on their shelf with care, and stepped out upon the landing.

Two bedroom doors faced him on the other side of the passage. He opened that
which was immediately opposite, and entered a bedroom by no means austerely
tidy. Some sticks and fishing-rods stood confusedly in one corner, a pile of
books in another. The housemaid's hand had failed to give a look of order to
the jumble of heterogeneous objects left on the dressing-table and on the
mantelshelf--pipes, penknives, pencils, keys, golf-balls, old letters,
photographs, small boxes, tins, and bottles. Two fine etchings and some water-
colour sketches hung on the walls; leaning against the end of the wardrobe,
unhung, were a few framed engravings. A row of shoes and boots was ranged
beneath the window. Trent crossed the room and studied them intently; then he
measured some of them with his tape, whistling very softly. This done, he sat
on the side of the bed, and his eyes roamed gloomily about the room.

The photographs on the mantelshelf attracted him presently. He rose and
examined one representing Marlowe and Manderson on horseback. Two others were
views of famous peaks in the Alps. There was a faded print of three
youths--one of them unmistakably his acquaintance of the haggard blue
eyes--clothed in tatterdemalion soldier's gear of the sixteenth century.
Another was a portrait of a majestic old lady, slightly resembling Marlowe.
Trent, mechanically taking a cigarette from an open box on the mantel-shelf,
lit it and stared at the photographs. Next he turned his attention to a flat
leathern case that lay by the cigarette-box.

It opened easily. A small and light revolver, of beautiful workmanship, was
disclosed, with a score or so of loose cartridges. On the stock were engraved
the initials 'J. M.'

A step was heard on the stairs, and as Trent opened the breech and peered into
the barrel of the weapon, Inspector Murch appeared at the open door of the
room. 'I was wondering--' he began; then stopped as he saw what the other was
about. His intelligent eyes opened slightly. 'Whose is the revolver, Mr
Trent?' he asked in a conversational tone.

'Evidently it belongs to the occupant of the room, Mr Marlowe,' replied Trent
with similar lightness, pointing to the initials. 'I found this lying about on
the mantelpiece. It seems a handy little pistol to me, and it has been very
carefully cleaned, I should say, since the last time it was used. But I know
little about firearms.'

'Well, I know a good deal,' rejoined the inspector quietly, taking the
revolver from Trent's outstretched hand. 'It's a bit of a speciality with me,
is firearms, as I think you know, Mr Trent. But it don't require an expert to
tell one thing.' He replaced the revolver in its case on the mantel-shelf,
took out one of the cartridges, and laid it on the spacious palm of one hand;
then, taking a small object from his waistcoat pocket, he laid it beside the
cartridge. It was a little leaden bullet, slightly battered about the nose,
and having upon it some bright new scratches.

'Is that the one?' Trent murmured as he bent over the inspector's hand.

'That's him,' replied Mr Murch. 'Lodged in the bone at the back of the skull.
Dr Stock got it out within the last hour, and handed it to the local officer,
who has just sent it on to me. These bright scratches you see were made by the
doctor's instruments. These other marks were made by the rifling of the barrel
a barrel like this one.' He tapped the revolver. 'Same make, same calibre.
There is no other that marks the bullet just like this.'

With the pistol in its case between them, Trent and the inspector looked into
each other's eyes for some moments. Trent was the first to speak. 'This
mystery is all wrong,' he observed. 'It is insanity. The symptoms of mania are
very marked. Let us see how we stand. We were not in any doubt, I believe,
about Manderson having dispatched Marlowe in the car to Southampton, or about
Marlowe having gone, returning late last night, many hours after the murder
was committed.'

'There is no doubt whatever about all that,' said Mr Murch, with a slight
emphasis on the verb.

'And now,' pursued Trent, 'we are invited by this polished and insinuating
firearm to believe the following line of propositions: that Marlowe never went
to Southampton; that he returned to the house in the night; that he somehow,
without waking Mrs Manderson or anybody else, got Manderson to get up, dress
himself, and go out into the grounds; that he then and there shot the said
Manderson with his incriminating pistol; that he carefully cleaned the said
pistol, returned to the house and, again without disturbing any one, replaced
it in its case in a favourable position to be found by the officers of the
law; that he then withdrew and spent the rest of the day in hiding--with a
large motor car; and that he turned up, feigning ignorance of the whole
affair, at-- what time was it?'

'A little after 9 p.m.' The inspector still stared moodily at Trent. 'As you
say, Mr Trent, that is the first theory suggested by this find, and it seems
wild enough--at least it would do if it didn't fall to pieces at the very
start. When the murder was done Marlowe must have been fifty to a hundred
miles away. He did go to Southampton.'

'How do you know?'

'I questioned him last night, and took down his story. He arrived in
Southampton about 6.30 on the Monday morning.'

'Come off' exclaimed Trent bitterly. 'What do I care about his story? What do
you care about his story? I want to know how you know he went to Southampton.'

Mr Murch chuckled. 'I thought I should take a rise out of you, Mr Trent,' he
said. 'Well, there's no harm in telling you. After I arrived yesterday
evening, as soon as I had got the outlines of the story from Mrs Manderson and
the servants, the first thing I did was to go to the telegraph office and wire
to our people in Southampton. Manderson had told his wife when he went to bed
that he had changed his mind, and sent Marlowe to Southampton to get some
important information from some one who was crossing by the next day's boat.
It seemed right enough, but, you see, Marlowe was the only one of the
household who wasn't under my hand, so to speak. He didn't return in the car
until later in the evening; so before thinking the matter out any further, I
wired to Southampton making certain enquiries. Early this morning I got this
reply.' He handed a series of telegraph slips to Trent, who read:


'Simple and satisfactory,' observed Mr Murch as Trent, after twice reading the
message, returned it to him. 'His own story corroborated in every particular.
He told me he hung about the dock for half an hour or so on the chance of
Harris turning up late, then strolled back, lunched, and decided to return at
once. He sent a wire to Manderson--"Harris not turned up missed boat returning
Marlowe," which was duly delivered here in the afternoon, and placed among the
dead man's letters. He motored back at a good rate, and arrived dog-tired.
When he heard of Manderson's death from Martin, he nearly fainted. What with
that and the being without sleep for so long, he was rather a wreck when I
came to interview him last night; but he was perfectly coherent.'

Trent picked up the revolver and twirled the cylinder idly for a few moments.
'It was unlucky for Manderson that Marlowe left his pistol and cartridges
about so carelessly,' he remarked at length, as he put it back in the case.
'It was throwing temptation in somebody's way, don't you think?'

Mr Murch shook his head. 'There isn't really much to lay hold of about the
revolver, when you come to think. That particular make of revolver is common
enough in England. It was introduced from the States. Half the people who buy
a revolver today for self-defence or mischief provide themselves with that
make, of that calibre. It is very reliable, and easily carried in the
hip-pocket. There must be thousands of them in the possession of crooks and
honest men. For instance,' continued the inspector with an air of unconcern,
'Manderson himself had one, the double of this. I found it in one of the top
drawers of the desk downstairs, and it's in my overcoat pocket now.'

'Aha! so you were going to keep that little detail to yourself.'

'I was,' said the inspector; 'but as you've found one revolver, you may as
well know about the other. As I say, neither of them may do us any good. The
people in the house--'

Both men started, and the inspector checked his speech abruptly, as the half-
closed door of the bedroom was slowly pushed open, and a man stood in the
doorway. His eyes turned from the pistol in its open case to the faces of
Trent and the inspector. They, who had not heard a sound to herald this
entrance, simultaneously looked at his long, narrow feet. He wore rubber-soled
tennis shoes.

'You must be Mr Bunner,' said Trent.

CHAPTER VI: Mr Bunner on the Case

'Calvin C. Bunner, at your service,' amended the newcomer, with a touch of
punctilio, as he removed an unlighted cigar from his mouth. He was used to
finding Englishmen slow and ceremonious with strangers, and Trent's quick
remark plainly disconcerted him a little. 'You are Mr Trent, I expect,' he
went on. 'Mrs Manderson was telling me a while ago. Captain, good-morning.' Mr
Murch acknowledged the outlandish greeting with a nod. 'I was coming up to my
room, and I heard a strange voice in here, so I thought I would take a look
in.' Mr Bunner laughed easily. 'You thought I might have been eavesdropping,
perhaps,' he said. 'No, sir; I heard a word or two about a pistol--this one, I
guess--and that's all.'

Mr Bunner was a thin, rather short young man with a shaven, pale, bony, almost
girlish face, and large, dark, intelligent eyes. His waving dark hair was
parted in the middle. His lips, usually occupied with a cigar, in its absence
were always half open with a curious expression as of permanent eagerness. By
smoking or chewing a cigar this expression was banished, and Mr Bunner then
looked the consummately cool and sagacious Yankee that he was.

Born in Connecticut, he had gone into a broker's office on leaving college,
and had attracted the notice of Manderson, whose business with his firm he had
often handled. The Colossus had watched him for some time, and at length
offered him the post of private secretary. Mr Bunner was a pattern business
man, trustworthy, long-headed, methodical, and accurate. Manderson could have
found many men with those virtues; but he engaged Mr Bunner because he was
also swift and secret, and had besides a singular natural instinct in regard
to the movements of the stock market.

Trent and the American measured one another coolly with their eyes. Both
appeared satisfied with what they saw. 'I was having it explained to me,' said
Trent pleasantly, 'that my discovery of a pistol that might have shot
Manderson does not amount to very much. I am told it is a favourite weapon
among your people, and has become quite popular over here.'

Mr Bunner stretched out a bony hand and took the pistol from its case. 'Yes,
sir,' he said, handling it with an air of familiarity; 'the captain is right.
This is what we call out home a Little Arthur, and I dare say there are
duplicates of it in a hundred thousand hip-pockets this minute. I consider it
too light in the hand myself,' Mr Bunner went on, mechanically feeling under
the tail of his jacket, and producing an ugly looking weapon. 'Feel of that,
now, Mr Trent--it's loaded, by the way. Now this Little Arthur--Marlowe bought
it just before we came over this year to please the old man. Manderson said it
was ridiculous for a man to be without a pistol in the twentieth century. So
he went out and bought what they offered him, I guess--never consulted me. Not
but what it's a good gun,' Mr Bunner conceded, squinting along the sights.
'Marlowe was poor with it at first, but I've coached him some in the last
month or so, and he's practised until he is pretty good. But he never could
get the habit of carrying it around. Why, it's as natural to me as wearing my
pants. I have carried one for some years now, because there was always likely
to be somebody laying for Manderson. And now,' Mr Bunner concluded sadly,
'they got him when I wasn't around. Well, gentlemen, you must excuse me. I am
going into Bishopsbridge. There is a lot to do these days, and I have to send
off a bunch of cables big enough to choke a cow.'

'I must be off too,' said Trent. 'I have an appointment at the "Three Tuns"

Let me give you a lift in the automobile,' said Mr Bunner cordially. 'I go
right by that joint. Say, cap., are you coming my way too? No? Then come
along, Mr Trent, and help me get out the car. The chauffeur is out of action,
and we have to do 'most everything ourselves except clean the dirt off her.'

Still tirelessly talking in his measured drawl, Mr Bunner led Trent downstairs
and through the house to the garage at the back. It stood at a little distance
from the house, and made a cool retreat from the blaze of the midday sun.

Mr Bunner seemed to be in no hurry to get out the car. He offered Trent a
cigar, which was accepted, and for the first time lit his own. Then he seated
himself on the footboard of the car, his thin hands clasped between his knees,
and looked keenly at the other.

'See here, Mr Trent,' he said, after a few moments. 'There are some things I
can tell you that may be useful to you. I know your record. You are a smart
man, and I like dealing with smart men. I don't know if I have that detective
sized up right, but he strikes me as a mutt. I would answer any questions he
had the gumption to ask me--I have done so, in fact--but I don't feel
encouraged to give him any notions of mine without his asking. See?'

Trent nodded. 'That is a feeling many people have in the presence of our
police,' he said. 'It's the official manner, I suppose. But let me tell you,
Murch is anything but what you think. He is one of the shrewdest officers in
Europe. He is not very quick with his mind, but he is very sure. And his
experience is immense. My forte is imagination, but I assure you in police
work experience outweighs it by a great deal.'

'Outweigh nothing!' replied Mr Bunner crisply. 'This is no ordinary case, Mr
Trent. I will tell you one reason why. I believe the old man knew there was
something coming to him. Another thing: I believe it was something he thought
he couldn't dodge.'

Trent pulled a crate opposite to Mr Bunner's place on the footboard and seated
himself. 'This sounds like business,' he said. 'Tell me your ideas.'

'I say what I do because of the change in the old man's manner this last few
weeks. I dare say you have heard, Mr Trent, that he was a man who always kept
himself well in hand. That was so. I have always considered him the coolest
and hardest head in business. That man's calm was just deadly--I never saw
anything to beat it. And I knew Manderson as nobody else did. I was with him
in the work he really lived for. I guess I knew him a heap better than his
wife did, poor woman. I knew him better than Marlowe could--he never saw
Manderson in his office when there was a big thing on. I knew him better than
any of his friends.'

'Had he any friends?' interjected Trent.

Mr Bunner glanced at him sharply. 'Somebody has been putting you next, I see
that,' he remarked. 'No: properly speaking, I should say not. He had many
acquaintances among the big men, people he saw, most every day; they would
even go yachting or hunting together. But I don't believe there ever was a man
that Manderson opened a corner of his heart to. But what I was going to say
was this. Some months ago the old man began to get like I never knew him
before--gloomy and sullen, just as if he was everlastingly brooding over
something bad, something that he couldn't fix. This went on without any break;
it was the same down town as it was up home, he acted just as if there was
something lying heavy on his mind. But it wasn't until a few weeks back that
his self-restraint began to go; and let me tell you this, Mr Trent'--the
American laid his bony claw on the other's knee--'I'm the only man that knows
it. With every one else he would be just morose and dull; but when he was
alone with me in his office, or anywhere where we would be working together,
if the least little thing went wrong, by George! he would fly off the handle
to beat the Dutch. In this library here I have seen him open a letter with
something that didn't just suit him in it, and he would rip around and carry
on like an Indian, saying he wished he had the man that wrote it here, he
wouldn't do a thing to him, and so on, till it was just pitiful. I never saw
such a change. And here's another thing. For a week before he died Manderson
neglected his work, for the first time in my experience. He wouldn't answer a
letter or a cable, though things looked like going all to pieces over there. I
supposed that this anxiety of his, whatever it was, had got on to his nerves
till they were worn out. Once I advised him to see a doctor, and he told me to
go to hell. But nobody saw this side of him but me. If he was having one of
these rages in the library here, for example, and Mrs Manderson would come
into the room, he would be all calm and cold again in an instant.'

'And you put this down to some secret anxiety, a fear that somebody had
designs on his life?' asked Trent.

The American nodded.

'I suppose,' Trent resumed, 'you had considered the idea of there being
something wrong with his mind--a break-down from overstrain, say. That is the
first thought that your account suggests to me. Besides, it is what is always
happening to your big business men in America, isn't it? That is the
impression one gets from the newspapers.'

'Don't let them slip you any of that bunk,' said Mr Bunner earnestly. 'It's
only the ones who have got rich too quick, and can't make good, who go crazy.
Think of all our really big men--the men anywhere near Manderson's size: did
you ever hear of any one of them losing his senses? They don't do it--believe
me. I know they say every man has his loco point,' Mr Bunner added
reflectively, 'but that doesn't mean genuine, sure-enough craziness; it just
means some personal eccentricity in a man...like hating cats...or my own
weakness of not being able to touch any kind of fish-food.'

'Well, what was Manderson's?'

'He was full of them--the old man. There was his objection to all the
unnecessary fuss and luxury that wealthy people don't kick at much, as a
general rule. He didn't have any use for expensive trifles and ornaments. He
wouldn't have anybody do little things for him; he hated to have servants tag
around after him unless he wanted them. And although Manderson was as careful
about his clothes as any man I ever knew, and his shoes--well, sir, the amount
of money he spent on shoes was sinful--in spite of that, I tell you, he never
had a valet. He never liked to have anybody touch him. All his life nobody
ever shaved him.'

'I've heard something of that,' Trent remarked. 'Why was it, do you think?'

'Well,' Mr Bunner answered slowly, 'it was the Manderson habit of mind, I
guess; a sort of temper of general suspicion and jealousy.

They say his father and grandfather were just the same ....Like a dog with a
bone, you know, acting as if all the rest of creation was laying for a chance
to steal it. He didn't really think the barber would start in to saw his head
off; he just felt there was a possibility that he might, and he was taking no
risks. Then again in business he was always convinced that somebody else was
after his bone--which was true enough a good deal of the time; but not all the
time. The consequence of that was that the old man was the most cautious and
secret worker in the world of finance; and that had a lot to do with his
success, too .... But that doesn't amount to being a lunatic, Mr Trent; not by
a long way. You ask me if Manderson was losing his mind before he died. I say
I believe he was just worn out with worrying over something, and was losing
his nerve.'

Trent smoked thoughtfully. He wondered how much Mr Bunner knew of the domestic
difficulty in his chief's household, and decided to put out a feeler. 'I
understood that he had trouble with his wife.'

'Sure,' replied Mr Bunner. 'But do you suppose a thing like that was going to
upset Sig Manderson that way? No, sir! He was a sight too big a man to be all
broken up by any worry of that kind.'

Trent looked half-incredulously into the eyes of the young man. But behind all
their shrewdness and intensity he saw a massive innocence. Mr Bunner really
believed a serious breach between husband and wife to be a minor source of
trouble for a big man.

'What was the trouble between them, anyhow?' Trent enquired.

'You can search me,' Mr Bunner replied briefly. He puffed at his cigar.
'Marlowe and I have often talked about it, and we could never make out a
solution. I had a notion at first,' said Mr Bunner in a lower voice, leaning
forward, 'that the old man was disappointed and vexed because he had expected
a child; but Marlowe told me that the disappointment on that score was the
other way around, likely as not. His idea was all right, I guess; he gathered
it from something said by Mrs Manderson's French maid.'

Trent looked up at him quickly. 'Celestine!' he said; and his thought was, 'So
that was what she was getting at!'

Mr Bunner misunderstood his glance. 'Don't you think I'm giving a man away, Mr
Trent,' he said. 'Marlowe isn't that kind. Celestine just took a fancy to him
because he talks French like a native, and she would always be holding him up
for a gossip. French servants are quite unlike English that way. And servant
or no servant,' added Mr Bunner with emphasis, 'I don't see how a woman could
mention such a subject to a man. But the French beat me.' He shook his head

'But to come back to what you were telling me just now,' Trent said. 'You
believe that Manderson was going in terror of his life for some time. Who
should threaten it? I am quite in the dark.'

'Terror--I don't know,' replied Mr Bunner meditatively. 'Anxiety, if you like.
Or suspense--that's rather my idea of it. The old man was hard to terrify,
anyway; and more than that, he wasn't taking any precautions--he was actually
avoiding them. It looked more like he was asking for a quick finish--supposing
there's any truth in my idea. Why, he would sit in that library window,
nights, looking out into the dark, with his white shirt just a target for
anybody's gun. As for who should threaten his life well, sir,' said Mr Bunner
with a faint smile, 'it's certain you have not lived in the States. To take
the Pennsylvania coal hold-up alone, there were thirty thousand men, with
women and children to keep, who would have jumped at the chance of drilling a
hole through the man who fixed it so that they must starve or give in to his
terms. Thirty thousand of the toughest aliens in the country, Mr Trent.
There's a type of desperado you find in that kind of push who has been known
to lay for a man for years, and kill him when he had forgotten what he did.
They have been known to dynamite a man in Idaho who had done them dirt in New
Jersey ten years before. Do you suppose the Atlantic is going to stop them?...
It takes some sand, I tell you, to be a big business man in our country. No,
sir: the old man knew--had always known--that there was a whole crowd of
dangerous men scattered up and down the States who had it in for him. My
belief is that he had somehow got to know that some of them were definitely
after him at last. What licks me altogether is why he should have just laid
himself open to them the way he did--why he never tried to dodge, but walked
right down into the garden yesterday morning to be shot at.'

Mr Bunner ceased to speak, and for a little while both men sat with wrinkled
brows, faint blue vapours rising from their cigars. Then Trent rose. 'Your
theory is quite fresh to me,' he said. 'It's perfectly rational, and it's only
a question of whether it fits all the facts, I mustn't give away what I'm
doing for my newspaper, Mr Bunner, but I will say this: I have already
satisfied myself that this was a premeditated crime, and an extraordinarily
cunning one at that. I'm deeply obliged to you. We must talk it over again.'
He looked at his watch. 'I have been expected for some time by my friend.
Shall we make a move?'

'Two o'clock,' said Mr Bunner, consulting his own, as he got up from the foot-
board. 'Ten a.m. in little old New York. You don't know Wall Street, Mr Trent.
Let's you and I hope we never see anything nearer hell than what's loose in
the Street this minute.'

CHAPTER VII: The Lady in Black

The sea broke raging upon the foot of the cliff under a good breeze; the sun
flooded the land with life from a dappled blue sky. In this perfection of
English weather Trent, who had slept ill, went down before eight o'clock to a
pool among the rocks, the direction of which had been given him, and dived
deep into clear water. Between vast grey boulders he swam out to the tossing
open, forced himself some little way against a coast-wise current, and then
returned to his refuge battered and refreshed. Ten minutes later he was
scaling the cliff again, and his mind, cleared for the moment of a heavy
disgust for the affair he had in hand, was turning over his plans for the

It was the day of the inquest, the day after his arrival in the place. He had
carried matters not much further after parting with the American on the road
to Bishopsbridge. In the afternoon he had walked from the inn into the town,
accompanied by Mr Cupples, and had there made certain purchases at a chemist's
shop, conferred privately for some time with a photographer, sent off a reply-
paid telegram, and made an enquiry at the telephone exchange. He had said but
little about the case to Mr Cupples, who seemed incurious on his side, and
nothing at all about the results of his investigation or the steps he was
about to take. After their return from Bishopsbridge, Trent had written a long
dispatch for the Record and sent it to be telegraphed by the proud hands of
the paper's local representative. He had afterwards dined with Mr Cupples, and
had spent the rest of the evening in meditative solitude on the veranda.

This morning as he scaled the cliff he told himself that he had never taken up
a case he liked so little, or which absorbed him so much. The more he
contemplated it in the golden sunshine of this new day, the more evil and the
more challenging it appeared. All that he suspected and all that he almost
knew had occupied his questing brain for hours to the exclusion of sleep; and
in this glorious light and air, though washed in body and spirit by the fierce
purity of the sea, he only saw the more clearly the darkness of the guilt in
which he believed, and was more bitterly repelled by the motive at which he
guessed. But now at least his zeal was awake again, and the sense of the hunt
quickened. He would neither slacken nor spare; here need be no compunction. In
the course of the day, he hoped, his net would be complete. He had work to do
in the morning; and with very vivid expectancy, though not much serious hope,
he awaited the answer to the telegram which he had shot into the sky, as it
were, the day before.

The path back to the hotel wound for some way along the top of the cliff, and
on nearing a spot he had marked from the sea level, where the face had fallen
away long ago, he approached the edge and looked down, hoping to follow with
his eyes the most delicately beautiful of all the movements of water--the wash
of a light sea over broken rock. But no rock was there. A few feet below him a
broad ledge stood out, a rough platform as large as a great room, thickly
grown with wiry grass and walled in steeply on three sides. There, close to
the verge where the cliff at last dropped sheer, a woman was sitting, her arms
about her drawn-up knees, her eyes fixed on the trailing smoke of a distant
liner, her face full of some dream.

This woman seemed to Trent, whose training had taught him to live in his eyes,
to make the most beautiful picture he had ever seen. Her face of southern
pallor, touched by the kiss of the wind with colour on the cheek, presented to
him a profile of delicate regularity in which there was nothing hard;
nevertheless the black brows bending down toward the point where they almost
met gave her in repose a look of something like severity, strangely redeemed
by the open curves of the mouth. Trent said to himself that the absurdity or
otherwise of a lover writing sonnets to his mistress's eyebrow depended after
all on the quality of the eyebrow. Her nose was of the straight and fine sort,
exquisitely escaping the perdition of too much length, which makes a
conscientious mind ashamed that it cannot help, on occasion, admiring the
tip-tilted. Her hat lay pinned to the grass beside her, and the lively breeze
played with her thick dark hair, blowing backward the two broad bandeaux that
should have covered much of her forehead, and agitating a hundred tiny curls
from the mass gathered at her nape. Everything about this lady was black, from
her shoes of suede to the hat that she had discarded; lustreless black covered
her to her bare throat. All she wore was fine and well put on. Dreamy and
delicate of spirit as her looks declared her, it was very plain that she was
long-practised as only a woman grown can be in dressing well, the oldest of
the arts, and had her touch of primal joy in the excellence of the body that
was so admirably curved now in the attitude of embraced knees. With the
suggestion of French taste in her clothes, she made a very modern figure
seated there, until one looked at her face and saw the glow and triumph of all
vigorous beings that ever faced sun and wind and sea together in the prime of
the year. One saw, too, a womanhood so unmixed and vigorous, so unconsciously
sure of itself, as scarcely to be English, still less American.

Trent, who had halted only for a moment in the surprise of seeing the woman in
black, had passed by on the cliff above her, perceiving and feeling as he went
the things set down. At all times his keen vision and active brain took in and
tasted details with an easy swiftness that was marvellous to men of slower
chemistry; the need to stare, he held, was evidence of blindness. Now the
feeling of beauty was awakened and exultant, and doubled the power of his
sense. In these instants a picture was printed on his memory that would never
pass away.

As he went by unheard on the turf the woman, still alone with her thoughts,
suddenly moved. She unclasped her long hands from about her knees, stretched
her limbs and body with feline grace, then slowly raised her head and extended
her arms with open, curving fingers, as if to gather to her all the glory and
overwhelming sanity of the morning. This was a gesture not to be mistaken: it
was a gesture of freedom, the movement of a soul's resolution to be, to
possess, to go forward, perhaps to enjoy.

So he saw her for an instant as he passed, and he did not turn. He knew
suddenly who the woman must be, and it was as if a curtain of gloom were drawn
between him and the splendour of the day.

During breakfast at the hotel Mr Cupples found Trent little inclined to talk.
He excused himself on the plea of a restless night. Mr Cupples, on the other
hand, was in a state of bird-like alertness. The prospect of the inquest
seemed to enliven him. He entertained Trent with a disquisition upon the
history of that most ancient and once busy tribunal, the coroner's court, and
remarked upon the enviable freedom of its procedure from the shackles of rule
and precedent. From this he passed to the case that was to come before it that

'Young Bunner mentioned to me last night,' he said, 'when I went up there
after dinner, the hypothesis which he puts forward in regard to the crime. A
very remarkable young man, Trent. His meaning is occasionally obscure, but in
my opinion he is gifted with a clearheaded knowledge of the world quite
unusual in one of his apparent age. Indeed, his promotion by Manderson to the
position of his principal lieutenant speaks for itself. He seems to have
assumed with perfect confidence the control at this end of the wire, as he
expresses it, of the complicated business situation caused by the death of his
principal, and he has advised very wisely as to the steps I should take on
Mabel's behalf, and the best course for her to pursue until effect has been
given to the provisions of the will. I was accordingly less disposed than I
might otherwise have been to regard his suggestion of an industrial vendetta
as far-fetched. When I questioned him he was able to describe a number of
cases in which attacks of one sort or another--too often successful--had been
made upon the lives of persons who had incurred the hostility of powerful
labour organizations. This is a terrible time in which we live, my dear boy.
There is none recorded in history, I think, in which the disproportion between
the material and the moral constituents of society has been so great or so
menacing to the permanence of the fabric. But nowhere, in my judgement, is the
prospect so dark as it is in the United States.'

'I thought,' said Trent listlessly, 'that Puritanism was about as strong there
as the money-getting craze.'

'Your remark,' answered Mr Cupples, with as near an approach to humour as was
possible to him, 'is not in the nature of a testimonial to what you call
Puritanism--a convenient rather than an accurate term; for I need not remind
you that it was invented to describe an Anglican party which aimed at the
purging of the services and ritual of their Church from certain elements
repugnant to them. The sense of your observation, however, is none the less
sound, and its truth is extremely well illustrated by the case of Manderson
himself, who had, I believe, the virtues of purity, abstinence, and
self-restraint in their strongest form. No, Trent, there are other and more
worthy things among the moral constituents of which I spoke; and in our finite
nature, the more we preoccupy ourselves with the bewildering complexity of
external apparatus which science places in our hands, the less vigour have we
left for the development of the holier purposes of humanity within us.
Agricultural machinery has abolished the festival of the Harvest Home.
Mechanical travel has abolished the inn, or all that was best in it. I need
not multiply instances. The view I am expressing to you,' pursued Mr Cupples,
placidly buttering a piece of toast, 'is regarded as fundamentally erroneous
by many of those who think generally as I do about the deeper concerns of
life, but I am nevertheless firmly persuaded of its truth.'

'It needs epigrammatic expression,' said Trent, rising from the table. 'If
only it could be crystallized into some handy formula, like "No Popery", or
"Tax the Foreigner", you would find multitudes to go to the stake for it. But
you were planning to go to White Gables before the inquest, I think. You ought
to be off if you are to get back to the court in time. I have something to
attend to there myself, so we might walk up together. I will just go and get
my camera.'

'By all means,' Mr Cupples answered; and they set off at once in the ever-
growing warmth of the morning. The roof of White Gables, a surly patch of dull
red against the dark trees, seemed to harmonize with Trent's mood; he felt
heavy, sinister, and troubled. If a blow must fall that might strike down that
creature radiant of beauty and life whom he had seen that morning, he did not
wish it to come from his hand. An exaggerated chivalry had lived in Trent
since the first teachings of his mother; but at this moment the horror of
bruising anything so lovely was almost as much the artist's revulsion as the
gentleman's. On the other hand, was the hunt to end in nothing? The quality of
the affair was such that the thought of forbearance was an agony. There never
was such a case; and he alone, he was confident, held the truth of it under
his hand. At least, he determined, that day should show whether what he
believed was a delusion. He would trample his compunction underfoot until he
was quite sure that there was any call for it. That same morning he would

As they entered at the gate of the drive they saw Marlowe and the American
standing in talk before the front door. In the shadow of the porch was the
lady in black.

She saw them, and came gravely forward over the lawn, moving as Trent had
known that she would move, erect and balanced, stepping lightly. When she
welcomed him on Mr Cupples's presentation her eyes of golden-flecked brown
observed him kindly. In her pale composure, worn as the mask of distress,
there was no trace of the emotion that had seemed a halo about her head on the
ledge of the cliff. She spoke the appropriate commonplace in a low and even
voice. After a few words to Mr Cupples she turned her eyes on Trent again.

'I hope you will succeed,' she said earnestly. 'Do you think you will

He made his mind up as the words left her lips. He said, 'I believe I shall do
so, Mrs Manderson. When I have the case sufficiently complete I shall ask you
to let me see you and tell you about it. It may be necessary to consult you
before the facts are published.'

She looked puzzled, and distress showed for an instant in her eyes. 'If it is
necessary, of course you shall do so,' she said.

On the brink of his next speech Trent hesitated. He remembered that the lady
had not wished to repeat to him the story already given to the inspector--or
to be questioned at all. He was not unconscious that he desired to hear her
voice and watch her face a little longer, if it might be; but the matter he
had to mention really troubled his mind, it was a queer thing that fitted
nowhere into the pattern within whose corners he had by this time brought the
other queer things in the case. It was very possible that she could explain it
away in a breath; it was unlikely that any one else could. He summoned his

'You have been so kind,' he said, 'in allowing me access to the house and
every opportunity of studying the case, that I am going to ask leave to put a
question or two to yourself--nothing that you would rather not answer, I
think. May I?'

She glanced at him wearily. 'It would be stupid of me to refuse, Ask your
questions, Mr Trent.' 'It's only this,' said Trent hurriedly. 'We know that
your husband lately drew an unusually large sum of ready money from his London
bankers, and was keeping it here. It is here now, in fact. Have you any idea
why he should have done that?'

She opened her eyes in astonishment. 'I cannot imagine,' she said. 'I did not
know he had done so. I am very much surprised to hear it.'

'Why is it surprising?'

'I thought my husband had very little money in the house. On Sunday night,
just before he went out in the motor, he came into the drawing-room where I
was sitting. He seemed to be irritated about something, and asked me at once
if I had any notes or gold I could let him have until next day. I was
surprised at that, because he was never without money; he made it a rule to
carry a hundred pounds or so about him always in a note-case. I unlocked my
escritoire, and gave him all I had by me. It was nearly thirty pounds.'

'And he did not tell you why he wanted it?'

'No. He put it in his pocket, and then said that Mr Marlowe had persuaded him
to go for a run in the motor by moonlight, and he thought it might help him to
sleep. He had been sleeping badly, as perhaps you know. Then he went off with
Mr Marlowe. I thought it odd he should need money on Sunday night, but I soon
forgot about it. I never remembered it again until now.'

'It was curious, certainly,' said Trent, staring into the distance. Mr Cupples
began to speak to his niece of the arrangements for the inquest, and Trent
moved away to where Marlowe was pacing slowly upon the lawn. The young man
seemed relieved to talk about the coming business of the day. Though he still
seemed tired out and nervous, he showed himself not without a quiet humour in
describing the pomposities of the local police and the portentous airs of Dr
Stock. Trent turned the conversation gradually toward the problem of the
crime, and all Marlowe's gravity returned.

'Bunner has told me what he thinks,' he said when Trent referred to the
American's theory. 'I don't find myself convinced by it, because it doesn't
really explain some of the oddest facts. But I have lived long enough in the
United States to know that such a stroke of revenge, done in a secret,
melodramatic way, is not an unlikely thing. It is quite a characteristic
feature of certain sections of the labour movement there. Americans have a
taste and a talent for that sort of business. Do you know Huckleberry Finn?'

'Do I know my own name?' exclaimed Trent.

'Well, I think the most American thing in that great American epic is Tom
Sawyer's elaboration of an extremely difficult and romantic scheme, taking
days to carry out, for securing the escape of the nigger Jim, which could have
been managed quite easily in twenty minutes. You know how fond they are of
lodges and brotherhoods. Every college club has its secret signs and
handgrips. You've heard of the Know-Nothing movement in politics, I dare say,
and the Ku Klux Klan. Then look at Brigham Young's penny-dreadful tyranny in
Utah, with real blood. The founders of the Mormon State were of the purest
Yankee stock in America; and you know what they did. It's all part of the same
mental tendency. Americans make fun of it among themselves. For my part, I
take it very seriously.'

'It can have a very hideous side to it, certainly,' said Trent, 'when you get
it in connection with crime--or with vice--or even mere luxury. But I have a
sort of sneaking respect for the determination to make life interesting and
lively in spite of civilization. To return to the matter in hand, however; has
it struck you as a possibility that Manderson's mind was affected to some
extent by this menace that Bunner believes in? For instance, it was rather an
extraordinary thing to send you posting off like that in the middle of the

'About ten o'clock, to be exact,' replied Marlowe. 'Though, mind you, if he'd
actually roused me out of my bed at midnight I shouldn't have been very much
surprised. It all chimes in with what we've just been saying. Manderson had a
strong streak of the national taste for dramatic proceedings. He was rather
fond of his well-earned reputation for unexpected strokes and for going for
his object with ruthless directness through every opposing consideration. He
had decided suddenly that he wanted to have word from this man Harris--'

'Who is Harris?' interjected Trent.

'Nobody knows. Even Bunner never heard of him, and can't imagine what the
business in hand was. All I know is that when I went up to London last week to
attend to various things I booked a deck-cabin, at Manderson's request, for a
Mr George Harris on the boat that sailed on Monday. It seems that Manderson
suddenly found he wanted news from Harris which presumably was of a character
too secret for the telegraph; and there was no train that served; so I was
sent off as you know.'

Trent looked round to make sure that they were not overheard, then faced the
other gravely, 'There is one thing I may tell you,' he said quietly, 'that I
don't think you know. Martin the butler caught a few words at the end of your
conversation with Manderson in the orchard before you started with him in the
car, He heard him say, "If Harris is there, every moment is of importance."
Now, Mr Marlowe, you know my business here. I am sent to make enquiries, and
you mustn't take offence. I want to ask you if, in the face of that sentence,
you will repeat that you know nothing of what the business was.'

Marlowe shook his head. 'I know nothing, indeed. I'm not easily offended, and
your question is quite fair. What passed during that conversation I have
already told the detective. Manderson plainly said to me that he could not
tell me what it was all about. He simply wanted me to find Harris, tell him
that he desired to know how matters stood, and bring back a letter or message
from him. Harris, I was further told, might not turn up. If he did, "every
moment was of importance". And now you know as much as I do.'

'That talk took place before he told his wife that you were taking him for a
moonlight run. Why did he conceal your errand in that way, I wonder.'

The young man made a gesture of helplessness. 'Why? I can guess no better than

'Why,' muttered Trent as if to himself, gazing on the ground, 'did he conceal
it--from Mrs Manderson?' He looked up at Marlowe.

'And from Martin,' the other amended coolly. 'He was told the same thing.'

With a sudden movement of his head Trent seemed to dismiss the subject. He
drew from his breast-pocket a letter-case, and thence extracted two small
leaves of clean, fresh paper.

'Just look at these two slips, Mr Marlowe,' he said. 'Did you ever see them
before? Have you any idea where they come from?' he added as Marlowe-took one
in each hand and examined them curiously.

'They seem to have been cut with a knife or scissors from a small diary for
this year from the October pages,' Marlowe observed, looking them over on both
sides. 'I see no writing of any kind on them. Nobody here has any such diary
so far as I know. What about them?'

'There may be nothing in it,' Trent said dubiously. 'Any one in the house, of
course, might have such a diary without your having seen it. But I didn't much
expect you would be able to identify the leaves--in fact, I should have been
surprised if you had.'

He stopped speaking as Mrs Manderson came towards them. 'My uncle thinks we
should be going now,' she said.

'I think I will walk on with Mr Bunner,' Mr Cupples said as he joined them.
'There are certain business matters that must be disposed of as soon as
possible. Will you come on with these two gentlemen, Mabel? We will wait for
you before we reach the place.'

Trent turned to her. 'Mrs Manderson will excuse me, I hope,' he said. 'I
really came up this morning in order to look about me here for some
indications I thought I might possibly find. I had not thought of attending
the--the court just yet.'

She looked at him with eyes of perfect candour. 'Of course, Mr Trent. Please
do exactly as you wish. We are all relying upon you. If you will wait a few
moments, Mr Marlowe, I shall be ready.'

She entered the house. Her uncle and the American had already strolled towards
the gate.

Trent looked into the eyes of his companion. 'That is a wonderful woman,' he
said in a lowered voice.

'You say so without knowing her,' replied Marlowe in a similar tone. 'She is
more than that.'

Trent said nothing to this. He stared out over the fields towards the sea. In
the silence a noise of hobnailed haste rose on the still air. A little
distance down the road a boy appeared trotting towards them from the direction
of the hotel. In his hand was the orange envelope, unmistakable afar off, of a
telegram. Trent watched him with an indifferent eye as he met and passed the
two others. Then he turned to Marlowe. 'A propos of nothing in particular,' he
said, 'were you at Oxford?'

'Yes,' said the young man. 'Why do you ask?'

'I just wondered if I was right in my guess. It's one of the things you can
very often tell about a man, isn't it?'

'I suppose so,' Marlowe said. 'Well, each of us is marked in one way or
another, perhaps. I should have said you were an artist, if I hadn't known

'Why? Does my hair want cutting?'

'Oh, no! It's only that you look at things and people as I've seen artists do,
with an eye that moves steadily from detail to detail--rather looking them
over than looking at them.'

The boy came up panting. 'Telegram for you, sir,' he said to Trent. 'Just
come, sir.'

Trent tore open the envelope with an apology, and his eyes lighted up so
visibly as he read the slip that Marlowe's tired face softened in a smile.

'It must be good news,' he murmured half to himself.

Trent turned on him a glance in which nothing could be read. 'Not exactly
news,' he said. 'It only tells me that another little guess of mine was a good


The coroner, who fully realized that for that one day of his life as a
provincial solicitor he was living in the gaze of the world, had resolved to
be worthy of the fleeting eminence. He was a large man of jovial temper, with
a strong interest in the dramatic aspects of his work, and the news of
Manderson's mysterious death within his jurisdiction had made him the happiest
coroner in England. A respectable capacity for marshalling facts was fortified
in him by a copiousness of impressive language that made juries as clay in his
hands, and sometimes disguised a doubtful interpretation of the rules of

The court was held in a long, unfurnished room lately built on to the hotel,
and intended to serve as a ballroom or concert-hall. A regiment of reporters
was entrenched in the front seats, and those who were to be called on to give
evidence occupied chairs to one side of the table behind which the coroner
sat, while the jury, in double row, with plastered hair and a spurious ease of
manner, flanked him on the other side. An undistinguished public filled the
rest of the space, and listened, in an awed silence, to the opening
solemnities. The newspaper men, well used to these, muttered among themselves.
Those of them who knew Trent by sight assured the rest that he was not in the

The identity of the dead man was proved by his wife, the first witness called,
from whom the coroner, after some enquiry into the health and circumstances of
the deceased, proceeded to draw an account of the last occasion on which she
had seen her husband alive. Mrs Manderson was taken through her evidence by
the coroner with the sympathy which every man felt for that dark figure of
grief. She lifted her thick veil before beginning to speak, and the extreme
paleness and unbroken composure of the lady produced a singular impression.
This was not an impression of hardness. Interesting femininity was the first
thing to be felt in her presence. She was not even enigmatic. It was only
clear that the force of a powerful character was at work to master the
emotions of her situation. Once or twice as she spoke she touched her eyes
with her handkerchief, but her voice was low and clear to the end.

Her husband, she said, had come up to his bedroom about his usual hour for
retiring on Sunday night. His room was really a dressing-room attached to her
own bedroom, communicating with it by a door which was usually kept open
during the night. Both dressing-room and bedroom were entered by other doors
giving on the passage. Her husband had always had a preference for the
greatest simplicity in his bedroom arrangements, and liked to sleep in a small
room. She had not been awake when he came up, but had been half-aroused, as
usually happened, when the light was switched on in her husband's room. She
had spoken to him. She had no clear recollection of what she had said, as she
had been very drowsy at the time; but she had remembered that he had been out
for a moonlight run in the car, and she believed she had asked whether he had
had a good run, and what time it was. She had asked what the time was because
she felt as if she had only been a very short time asleep, and she had
expected her husband to be out very late. In answer to her question he had
told her it was half-past eleven, and had gone on to say that he had changed
his mind about going for a run.

'Did he say why?' the coroner asked.

'Yes,' replied the lady, 'he did explain why. I remember very well what he
said, because--' she stopped with a little appearance of confusion.

'Because--' the coroner insisted gently.

'Because my husband was not as a rule communicative about his business
affairs,' answered the witness, raising her chin with a faint touch of
defiance. 'He did not--did not think they would interest me, and as a rule
referred to them as little as possible. That was why I was rather surprised
when he told me that he had sent Mr Marlowe to Southampton to bring back some
important information from a man who was leaving for Paris by the next day's
boat. He said that Mr Marlowe could do it quite easily if he had no accident.
He said that he had started in the car, and then walked back home a mile or
so, and felt all the better for it.'

'Did he say any more?'

'Nothing, as well as I remember,' the witness said. 'I was very sleepy, and I
dropped off again in a few moments. I just remember my husband turning his
light out, and that is all. I never saw him again alive.'

'And you heard nothing in the night?'

'No: I never woke until my maid brought my tea in the morning at seven
o'clock. She closed the door leading to my husband's room, as she always did,
and I supposed him to be still there. He always needed a great deal of sleep.
He sometimes slept until quite late in the morning. I had breakfast in my
sitting- room. It was about ten when I heard that my husband's body had been
found.' The witness dropped her head and silently waited for her dismissal.

But it was not to be yet.

'Mrs Manderson.' The coroner's voice was sympathetic, but it had a hint of
firmness in it now. 'The question I am going to put to you must, in these sad
circumstances, be a painful one; but it is my duty to ask it. Is it the fact
that your relations with your late husband had not been, for some time past,
relations of mutual affection and confidence? Is it the fact that there was an
estrangement between you?'

The lady drew herself up again and faced her questioner, the colour rising in
her cheeks. 'If that question is necessary,' she said with cold distinctness,
'I will answer it so that there shall be no misunderstanding. During the last
few months of my husband's life his attitude towards me had given me great
anxiety and sorrow. He had changed towards me; he had become very reserved,
and seemed mistrustful. I saw much less of him than before; he seemed to
prefer to be alone. I can give no explanation at all of the change. I tried to
work against it; I did all I could with justice to my own dignity, as I
thought. Something was between us, I did not know what, and he never told me.
My own obstinate pride prevented me from asking what it was in so many words;
I only made a point of being to him exactly as I had always been, so far as he
would allow me. I suppose I shall never know now what it was.' The witness,
whose voice had trembled in spite of her self-control over the last few
sentences, drew down her veil when she had said this, and stood erect and

One of the jury asked a question, not without obvious hesitation. 'Then was
there never anything of the nature of what they call Words between you and
your husband, ma'am?'

'Never.' The word was colourlessly spoken; but every one felt that a crass
misunderstanding of the possibilities of conduct in the case of a person like
Mrs Manderson had been visited with some severity.

Did she know, the coroner asked, of any other matter which might have been
preying upon her husband's mind recently?

Mrs Manderson knew of none whatever. The coroner intimated that her ordeal was
at an end, and the veiled lady made her way to the door. The general
attention, which followed her for a few moments, was now eagerly directed upon
Martin, whom the coroner had proceeded to call.

It was at this moment that Trent appeared at the doorway and edged his way
into the great room. But he did not look at Martin. He was observing the well-
balanced figure that came quickly toward him along an opening path in the
crowd, and his eye was gloomy. He started, as he stood aside from the door
with a slight bow, to hear Mrs Manderson address him by name in a low voice.
He followed her a pace or two into the hall.

'I wanted to ask you,' she said in a voice now weak and oddly broken, 'if you
would give me your arm a part of the way to the house. I could not see my
uncle near the door, and I suddenly felt rather faint .... I shall be better
in the air .... No, no; I cannot stay here--please, Mr Trent!' she said, as he
began to make an obvious suggestion. 'I must go to the house.' Her hand
tightened momentarily on his arm as if, for all her weakness, she could drag
him from the place; then again she leaned heavily upon it, and with that
support, and with bent head, she walked slowly from the hotel and along the
oak-shaded path toward White Gables.

Trent went in silence, his thoughts whirling, dancing insanely to a chorus of
'Fool! fool!' All that he alone knew, all that he guessed and suspected of
this affair, rushed through his brain in a rout; but the touch of her unnerved
hand upon his arm never for an instant left his consciousness, filling him
with an exaltation that enraged and bewildered him. He was still cursing
himself furiously behind the mask of conventional solicitude that he turned to
the lady when he had attended her to the house and seen her sink upon a couch
in the morning-room. Raising her veil, she thanked him gravely and frankly,
with a look of sincere gratitude in her eyes. She was much better now, she
said, and a cup of tea would work a miracle upon her. She hoped she had not
taken him away from anything important. She was ashamed of herself; she
thought she could go through with it, but she had not expected those last
questions. 'I am glad you did not hear me,' she said when he explained. 'But
of course you will read it all in the reports. It shook me so to have to speak
of that,' she added simply; 'and to keep from making an exhibition of myself
took it out of me. And all those staring men by the door! Thank you again for
helping me when I asked you .... I thought I might,' she ended queerly, with a
little tired smile; and Trent took himself away, his hand still quivering from
the cool touch of her fingers.

The testimony of the servants and of the finder of the body brought nothing
new to the reporters' net. That of the police was as colourless and cryptic as
is usual at the inquest stage of affairs of the kind. Greatly to the
satisfaction of Mr Bunner, his evidence afforded the sensation of the day, and
threw far into the background the interesting revelation of domestic
difficulty made by the dead man's wife. He told the court in substance what he
had already told Trent. The flying pencils did not miss a word of the young
American's story, and it appeared with scarcely the omission of a sentence in
every journal of importance in Great Britain and the United States.

Public opinion next day took no note of the faint suggestion of the
possibility of suicide which the coroner, in his final address to the jury,
had thought it right to make in connection with the lady's evidence. The
weight of evidence, as the official had indeed pointed out, was against such a
theory. He had referred with emphasis to the fact that no weapon had been
found near the body.

'This question, of course, is all-important, gentlemen,' he had said to the
jury. 'It is, in fact, the main issue before you. You have seen the body for
yourselves. You have just heard the medical evidence; but I think it would be
well for me to read you my notes of it in so far as they bear on this point,
in order to refresh your memories. Dr Stock told you--I am going to omit all
technical medical language and repeat to you merely the plain English of his
testimony--that in his opinion death had taken place six or eight hours
previous to the finding of the body. He said that the cause of death was a
bullet wound, the bullet having entered the left eye, which was destroyed, and
made its way to the base of the brain, which was quite shattered. The external
appearance of the wound, he said, did not support the hypothesis of its being
self-inflicted, inasmuch as there were no signs of the firearm having been
pressed against the eye, or even put very close to it; at the same time it was
not physically impossible that the weapon should have been discharged by the
deceased with his own hand, at some small distance from the eye. Dr Stock also
told us that it was impossible to say with certainty, from the state of the
body, whether any struggle had taken place at the time of death; that when
seen by him, at which time he understood that it had not been moved since it
was found, the body was lying in a collapsed position such as might very well
result from the shot alone; but that the scratches and bruises upon the wrists
and the lower part of the arms had been very recently inflicted, and were, in
his opinion, marks of violence.

'In connection with this same point, the remarkable evidence given by Mr
Bunner cannot be regarded, I think, as without significance. It may have come
as a surprise to some of you to hear that risks of the character described by
this witness are, in his own country, commonly run by persons in the position
of the deceased. On the other hand, it may have been within the knowledge of
some of you that in the industrial world of America the discontent of labour
often proceeds to lengths of which we in England happily know nothing. I have
interrogated the witness somewhat fully upon this. At the same time,
gentlemen, I am by no means suggesting that Mr Bunner's personal conjecture as
to the cause of death can fitly be adopted by you. That is emphatically not
the case. What his evidence does is to raise two questions for your
consideration. First, can it be said that the deceased was to any extent in
the position of a threatened man--of a man more exposed to the danger of
murderous attack than an ordinary person? Second, does the recent alteration
in his demeanour, as described by this witness, justify the belief that his
last days were overshadowed by a great anxiety? These points may legitimately
be considered by you in arriving at a conclusion upon the rest of the

Thereupon the coroner, having indicated thus clearly his opinion that Mr
Bunner had hit the right nail on the head, desired the jury to consider their


'Come in!' called Trent.

Mr Cupples entered his sitting-room at the hotel. It was the early evening of
the day on which the coroner's jury, without leaving the box, had pronounced
the expected denunciation of a person or persons unknown. Trent, with a hasty
glance upward, continued his intent study of what lay in a photographic dish
of enamelled metal, which he moved slowly about in the light of the window. He
looked very pale, and his movements were nervous.

'Sit on the sofa,' he advised. 'The chairs are a job lot bought at the sale
after the suppression of the Holy Inquisition in Spain. This is a pretty good
negative,' he went on, holding it up to the light with his head at the angle
of discriminating judgement. 'Washed enough now, I think. Let us leave it to
dry, and get rid of all this mess.'

Mr Cupples, as the other busily cleared the table of a confusion of basins,
dishes, racks, boxes, and bottles, picked up first one and then another of the
objects and studied them with innocent curiosity.

'That is called hypo-eliminator,' said Trent, as Mr Cupples uncorked and smelt
at one of the bottles. 'Very useful when you're in a hurry with a negative. I
shouldn't drink it, though, all the same. It eliminates sodium hypophosphite,
but I shouldn't wonder if it would eliminate human beings too.' He found a
place for the last of the litter on the crowded mantel-shelf, and came to sit
before Mr Cupples on the table. 'The great thing about a hotel sitting-room is
that its beauty does not distract the mind from work. It is no place for the
mayfly pleasures of a mind at ease. Have you ever been in this room before,
Cupples? I have, hundreds of times. It has pursued me all over England for
years. I should feel lost without it if, in some fantastic, far-off hotel,
they were to give me some other sitting-room. Look at this table-cover; there
is the ink I spilt on it when I had this room in Halifax. I burnt that hole in
the carpet when I had it in Ipswich. But I see they have mended the glass over
the picture of "Silent Sympathy", which I threw a boot at in Banbury. I do all
my best work here. This afternoon, for instance, since the inquest, I have
finished several excellent negatives. There is a very good dark room

'The inquest--that reminds me,' said Mr Cupples, who knew that this sort of
talk in Trent meant the excitement of action, and was wondering what he could
be about. 'I came in to thank you, my dear fellow, for looking after Mabel
this morning. I had no idea she was going to feel ill after leaving the box;
she seemed quite unmoved, and, really, she is a woman of such extraordinary
self- command, I thought I could leave her to her own devices and hear out the
evidence, which I thought it important I should do. It was a very fortunate
thing she found a friend to assist her, and she is most grateful. She is quite
herself again now.'

Trent, with his hands in his pockets and a slight frown on his brow, made no
reply to this. 'I tell you what,' he said after a short pause, 'I was just
getting to the really interesting part of the job when you came in. Come;
would you like to see a little bit of high-class police work? It's the very
same kind of work that old Murch ought to be doing at this moment. Perhaps he
is; but I hope to glory he isn't.' He sprang off the table and disappeared
into his bedroom. Presently he came out with a large drawing-board on which a
number of heterogeneous objects was ranged.

'First I must introduce you to these little things,' he said, setting them out
on the table. 'Here is a big ivory paper-knife; here are two leaves cut out of
a diary--my own diary; here is a bottle containing dentifrice; here is a
little case of polished walnut. Some of these things have to be put back where
they belong in somebody's bedroom at White Gables before night. That's the
sort of man I am--nothing stops me. I borrowed them this very morning when
every one was down at the inquest, and I dare say some people would think it
rather an odd proceeding if they knew. Now there remains one object on the
board. Can you tell me, without touching it, what it is?'

'Certainly I can,' said Mr Cupples, peering at it with great interest. 'It is
an ordinary glass bowl. It looks like a finger-bowl. I see nothing odd about
it,' he added after some moments of close scrutiny.

'I can't see much myself,' replied Trent, 'and that is exactly where the fun
comes in. Now take this little fat bottle, Cupples, and pull out the cork. Do
you recognize that powder inside it? You have swallowed pounds of it in your
time, I expect. They give it to babies. Grey powder is its ordinary name--
mercury and chalk. It is great stuff. Now, while I hold the basin sideways
over this sheet of paper, I want you to pour a little powder out of the bottle
over this part of the bowl--just here .... Perfect! Sir Edward Henry himself
could not have handled the powder better. You have done this before, Cupples,
I can see. You are an old hand.'

'I really am not,' said Mr Cupples seriously, as Trent returned the fallen
powder to the bottle. 'I assure you it is all a complete mystery to me. What
did I do then?'

'I brush the powdered part of the bowl lightly with this camel-hair brush. Now
look at it again. You saw nothing odd about it before. Do you see anything

Mr Cupples peered again. 'How curious!' he said. 'Yes, there are two large
grey finger-marks on the bowl. They were not there before.'

'I am Hawkshaw the detective,' observed Trent. 'Would it interest you to hear
a short lecture on the subject of glass finger-bowls? When you take one up
with your hand you leave traces upon it, usually practically invisible, which
may remain for days or months. You leave the marks of your fingers. The human
hand, even when quite clean, is never quite dry, and sometimes--in moments of
great anxiety, for instance, Cupples--it is very moist. It leaves a mark on
any cold smooth surface it may touch. That bowl was moved by somebody with a
rather moist hand quite lately.' He sprinkled the powder again. 'Here on the
other side, you see, is the thumb-mark very good impressions all of them.' He
spoke without raising his voice, but Mr Cupples could perceive that he was
ablaze with excitement as he stared at the faint grey marks. 'This one should
be the index finger. I need not tell a man of your knowledge of the world that
the pattern of it is a single-spiral whorl, with deltas symmetrically
disposed. This, the print of the second finger, is a simple loop, with a
staple core and fifteen counts. I know there are fifteen, because I have just
the same two prints on this negative, which I have examined in detail.
Look!'--he held one of the negatives up to the light of the declining sun and
demonstrated with a pencil point. 'You can see they're the same. You see the
bifurcation of that ridge. There it is in the other. You see that little scar
near the centre. There it is in the other. There are a score of
ridge-characteristics on which an expert would swear in the witness-box that
the marks on that bowl and the marks I have photographed on this negative were
made by the same hand.'

'And where did you photograph them? What does it all mean?' asked Mr Cupples,

'I found them on the inside of the left-hand leaf of the front window in Mrs
Manderson's bedroom. As I could not bring the window with me, I photographed
them, sticking a bit of black paper on the other side of the glass for the
purpose. The bowl comes from Manderson's room. It is the bowl in which his
false teeth were placed at night. I could bring that away, so I did.'

'But those cannot be Mabel's finger-marks.'

'I should think not!' said Trent with decision. 'They are twice the size of
any print Mrs Manderson could make.'

'Then they must be her husband's.'

'Perhaps they are. Now shall we see if we can match them once more? I believe
we can.' Whistling faintly, and very white in the face, Trent opened another
small squat bottle containing a dense black powder. 'Lamp-black,' he
explained. 'Hold a bit of paper in your hand for a second or two, and this
little chap will show you the pattern of your fingers.' He carefully took up
with a pair of tweezers one of the leaves cut from his diary, and held it out
for the other to examine. No marks appeared on the leaf. He tilted some of the
powder out upon one surface of the paper, then, turning it over, upon the
other; then shook the leaf gently to rid it of the loose powder. He held it
out to Mr Cupples in silence. On one side of the paper appeared unmistakably,
clearly printed in black, the same two finger-prints that he had already seen
on the bowl and on the photographic plate. He took up the bowl and compared
them. Trent turned the paper over, and on the other side was a bold black
replica of the thumb-mark that was printed in grey on the glass in his hand.

'Same man, you see,' Trent said with a short laugh. 'I felt that it must be
so, and now I know.' He walked to the window and looked out. 'Now I know,' he
repeated in a low voice, as if to himself. His tone was bitter. Mr Cupples,
understanding nothing, stared at his motionless back for a few moments.

'I am still completely in the dark,' he ventured presently. 'I have often
heard of this fingerprint business, and wondered how the police went to work
about it. It is of extraordinary interest to me, but upon my life I cannot see
how in this case Manderson's fingerprints are going--'

'I am very sorry, Cupples,' Trent broke in upon his meditative speech with a
swift return to the table. 'When I began this investigation I meant to take
you with me every step of the way. You mustn't think I have any doubts about
your discretion if I say now that I must hold my tongue about the whole thing,
at least for a time. I will tell you this: I have come upon a fact that looks
too much like having very painful consequences if it is discovered by any one
else.' He looked at the other with a hard and darkened face, and struck the
table with his hand. 'It is terrible for me here and now. Up to this moment I
was hoping against hope that I was wrong about the fact. I may still be wrong
in the surmise that I base upon that fact. There is only one way of finding
out that is open to me, and I must nerve myself to take it.' He smiled
suddenly at Mr Cupples's face of consternation. 'All right--I'm not going to
be tragic any more, and I'll tell you all about it when I can. Look here, I'm
not half through my game with the powder-bottles yet.'

He drew one of the defamed chairs to the table and sat down to test the broad
ivory blade of the paper knife. Mr Cupples, swallowing his amazement, bent
forward in an attitude of deep interest and handed Trent the bottle of lamp-

CHAPTER X: The Wife of Dives

Mrs Manderson stood at the window of her sitting-room at White Gables gazing
out upon a wavering landscape of fine rain and mist. The weather had broken as
it seldom does in that part in June. White wreathings drifted up the fields
from the sullen sea; the sky was an unbroken grey deadness shedding pin-point
moisture that was now and then blown against the panes with a crepitation of
despair. The lady looked out on the dim and chilling prospect with a woeful
face. It was a bad day for a woman bereaved, alone, and without a purpose in

There was a knock, and she called 'Come in,' drawing herself up with an
unconscious gesture that always came when she realized that the weariness of
the world had been gaining upon her spirit. Mr Trent had called, the maid
said; he apologized for coming at such an early hour, but hoped that Mrs
Manderson would see him on a matter of urgent importance. Mrs Manderson would
see Mr Trent. She walked to a mirror, looked into the olive face she saw
reflected there, shook her head at herself with the flicker of a grimace, and
turned to the door as Trent was shown in.

His appearance, she noted, was changed. He had the jaded look of the
sleepless, and a new and reserved expression, in which her quick sensibilities
felt something not propitious, took the place of his half smile of fixed

'May I come to the point at once?' he said, when she had given him her hand.
'There is a train I ought to catch at Bishopsbridge at twelve o'clock, but I
cannot go until I have settled this thing, which concerns you only, Mrs
Manderson. I have been working half the night and thinking the rest; and I
know now what I ought to do.'

'You look wretchedly tired,' she said kindly. 'Won't you sit down? This is a
very restful chair. Of course it is about this terrible business and your work
as correspondent. Please ask me anything you think I can properly tell you, Mr
Trent. I know that you won't make it worse for me than you can help in doing
your duty here. If you say you must see me about something, I know it must be
because, as you say, you ought to do it.'

'Mrs Manderson,' said Trent, slowly measuring his words, 'I won't make it
worse for you than I can help. But I am bound to make it bad for you--only
between ourselves, I hope. As to whether you can properly tell me what I shall
ask you, you will decide that; but I tell you this on my word of honour: I
shall ask you only as much as will decide me whether to publish or to withhold
certain grave things that I have found out about your husband's death, things
not suspected by any one else, nor, I think, likely to be so. What I have
discovered--what I believe that I have practically proved--will be a great
shock to you in any case. But it may be worse for you than that; and if you
give me reason to think it would be so, then I shall suppress this
manuscript,' he laid a long envelope on the small table beside him, 'and
nothing of what it has to tell shall ever be printed. It consists, I may tell
you, of a short private note to my editor, followed by a long dispatch for
publication in the Record. Now you may refuse to say anything to me. If you do
refuse, my duty to my employers, as I see it, is to take this up to London
with me today and leave it with my editor to be dealt with at his discretion.
My view is, you understand, that I am not entitled to suppress it on the
strength of a mere possibility that presents itself to my imagination. But if
I gather from you--and I can gather it from no other person- -that there is
substance in that imaginary possibility I speak of, then I have only one thing
to do as a gentleman and as one who'--he hesitated for a phrase-- 'wishes you
well. I shall not publish that dispatch of mine. In some directions I decline
to assist the police. Have you followed me so far?' he asked with a touch of
anxiety in his careful coldness; for her face, but for its pallor, gave no
sign as she regarded him, her hands clasped before her, and her shoulders
drawn back in a pose of rigid calm. She looked precisely as she had looked at
the inquest.

'I understand quite well,' said Mrs Manderson in a low voice. She drew a deep
breath, and went on: 'I don't know what dreadful thing you have found out, or
what the possibility that has occurred to you can be, but it was good, it was
honourable of you to come to me about it. Now will you please tell me?'

'I cannot do that,' Trent replied. 'The secret is my newspaper's if it is not
yours. If I find it is yours, you shall have my manuscript to read and
destroy. Believe me,' he broke out with something of his old warmth, 'I detest
such mystery-making from the bottom of my soul; but it is not I who have made
this mystery. This is the most painful hour of my life, and you make it worse
by not treating me like a hound. The first thing I ask you to tell me,' he
reverted with an effort to his colourless tone, 'is this: is it true, as you
stated at the inquest, that you had no idea at all of the reason why your late
husband had changed his attitude toward you, and become mistrustful and
reserved, during the last few months of his life?'

Mrs Manderson's dark brows lifted and her eyes flamed; she quickly rose from
her chair. Trent got up at the same moment, and took his envelope from the
table; his manner said that he perceived the interview to be at an end. But
she held up a hand, and there was colour in her cheeks and quick breathing in
her voice as she said: 'Do you know what you ask, Mr Trent? You ask me if I
perjured myself.'

'I do,' he answered unmoved; and he added after a pause, 'you knew already
that I had not come here to preserve the polite fictions, Mrs Manderson. The
theory that no reputable person, being on oath, could withhold a part of the
truth under any circumstances is a polite fiction.' He still stood as awaiting
dismissal, but she was silent. She walked to the window, and he stood
miserably watching the slight movement of her shoulders until it subsided.
Then with face averted, looking out on the dismal weather, she spoke at last

'Mr Trent,' she said, 'you inspire confidence in people, and I feel that
things which I don't want known or talked about are safe with you. And I know
you must have a very serious reason for doing what you are doing, though I
don't know what it is. I suppose it would be assisting justice in some way if
I told you the truth about what you asked just now. To understand that truth
you ought to know about what went before--I mean about my marriage. After all,
a good many people could tell you as well as I can that it was not... a very
successful union. I was only twenty. I admired his force and courage and
certainty; he was the only strong man I had ever known. But it did not take me
long to find out that he cared for his business more than for me, and I think
I found out even sooner that I had been deceiving myself and blinding myself,
promising myself impossible things and wilfully misunderstanding my own
feelings, because I was dazzled by the idea of having more money to spend than
an English girl ever dreams of. I have been despising myself for that for five
years. My husband's feeling for me... well, I cannot speak of that ... what I
want to say is that along with it there had always been a belief of his that I
was the sort of woman to take a great place in society, and that I should
throw myself into it with enjoyment, and become a sort of personage and do him
great credit--that was his idea; and the idea remained with him after other
delusions had gone. I was a part of his ambition. That was his really bitter
disappointment, that I failed him as a social success. I think he was too
shrewd not to have known in his heart that such a man as he was, twenty years
older than I, with great business responsibilities that filled every hour of
his life, and caring for nothing else--he must have felt that there was a risk
of great unhappiness in marrying the sort of girl I was, brought up to music
and books and unpractical ideas, always enjoying myself in my own way. But he
had really reckoned on me as a wife who would do the honours of his position
in the world; and I found I couldn't.'

Mrs Manderson had talked herself into a more emotional mood than she had yet
shown to Trent. Her words flowed freely, and her voice had begun to ring and
give play to a natural expressiveness that must hitherto have been dulled, he
thought, by the shock and self-restraint of the past few days. Now she turned
swiftly from the window and faced him as she went on, her beautiful face
flushed and animated, her eyes gleaming, her hands moving in slight emphatic
gestures, as she surrendered herself to the impulse of giving speech to things
long pent up.

'The people,' she said. 'Oh, those people! Can you imagine what it must be for
any one who has lived in a world where there was always creative work in the
background, work with some dignity about it, men and women with professions or
arts to follow, with ideals and things to believe in and quarrel about, some
of them wealthy, some of them quite poor; can you think what it means to step
out of that into another world where you have to be very rich, shamefully
rich, to exist at all--where money is the only thing that counts and the first
thing in everybody's thoughts--where the men who make the millions are so
jaded by the work, that sport is the only thing they can occupy themselves
with when they have any leisure, and the men who don't have to work are even
duller than the men who do, and vicious as well; and the women live for
display and silly amusements and silly immoralities; do you know how awful
that life is? Of course I know there are clever people, and people of taste in
that set, but they're swamped and spoiled, and it's the same thing in the end;
empty, empty! Oh! I suppose I'm exaggerating, and I did make friends and have
some happy times; but that's how I feel after it all. The seasons in New York
and London--how I hated them! And our house-parties and cruises in the yacht
and the rest--the same people, the same emptiness.

'And you see, don't you, that my husband couldn't have an idea of all this.
His life was never empty. He did not live it in society, and when he was in
society he had always his business plans and difficulties to occupy his mind.
He hadn't a suspicion of what I felt, and I never let him know; I couldn't, it
wouldn't have been fair. I felt I must do something to justify myself as his
wife, sharing his position and fortune; and the only thing I could do was to
try, and try, to live up to his idea about my social qualities... I did try. I
acted my best. And it became harder year by year... I never was what they call
a popular hostess, how could I be? I was a failure; but I went on trying... I
used to steal holidays now and then. I used to feel as if I was not doing my
part of a bargain--it sounds horrid to put it like that, I know, but it was
so--when I took one of my old school-friends, who couldn't afford to travel,
away to Italy for a month or two, and we went about cheaply all by ourselves,
and were quite happy; or when I went and made a long stay in London with some
quiet people who had known me all my life, and we all lived just as in the old
days, when we had to think twice about seats at the theatre, and told each
other about cheap dressmakers. Those and a few other expeditions of the same
sort were my best times after I was married, and they helped me to go through
with it the rest of the time. But I felt my husband would have hated to know
how much I enjoyed every hour of those returns to the old life.

'And in the end, in spite of everything I could do, he came to know .... He
could see through anything, I think, once his attention was turned to it. He
had always been able to see that I was not fulfilling his idea of me as a
figure in the social world, and I suppose he thought it was my misfortune
rather than my fault. But the moment he began to see, in spite of my
pretending, that I wasn't playing my part with any spirit, he knew the whole
story; he divined how I loathed and was weary of the luxury and the brilliancy
and the masses of money just because of the people who lived among them--who
were made so by them, I suppose .... It happened last year. I don't know just
how or when. It may have been suggested to him by some woman--for they all
understood, of course. He said nothing to me, and I think he tried not to
change in his manner to me at first; but such things hurt--and it was working
in both of us. I knew that he knew. After a time we were just being polite and
considerate to each other. Before he found me out we had been on a footing
of--how can I express it to you?--of intelligent companionship, I might say.
We talked without restraint of many things of the kind we could agree or
disagree about without its going very deep... if you understand. And then that
came to an end. I felt that the only possible basis of our living in each
other's company was going under my feet. And at last it was gone.

'It had been like that,' she ended simply, 'for months before he died.' She
sank into the corner of a sofa by the window, as though relaxing her body
after an effort. For a few moments both were silent. Trent was hastily sorting
out a tangle of impressions. He was amazed at the frankness of Mrs Manderson's
story. He was amazed at the vigorous expressiveness in her telling of it. In
this vivid being, carried away by an impulse to speak, talking with her whole
personality, he had seen the real woman in a temper of activity, as he had
already seen the real woman by chance in a temper of reverie and unguarded
emotion. In both she was very unlike the pale, self-disciplined creature of
majesty that she had been to the world. With that amazement of his went
something like terror of her dark beauty, which excitement kindled into an
appearance scarcely mortal in his eyes. Incongruously there rushed into his
mind, occupied as it was with the affair of the moment, a little knot of
ideas... she was unique not because of her beauty but because of its being
united with intensity of nature; in England all the very beautiful women were
placid, all the fiery women seemed to have burnt up the best of their beauty;
that was why no beautiful woman had ever cast this sort of spell on him
before; when it was a question of wit in women he had preferred the brighter
flame to the duller, without much regarding the lamp. 'All this is very
disputable,' said his reason; and instinct answered, 'Yes, except that I am
under a spell'; and a deeper instinct cried out, 'Away with it!' He forced his
mind back to her story, and found growing swiftly in him an irrepressible
conviction. It was all very fine; but it would not do.

'I feel as if I had led you into saying more than you meant to say, or than I
wanted to learn,' he said slowly. 'But there is one brutal question which is
the whole point of my enquiry.' He braced his frame like one preparing for a
plunge into cold waters. 'Mrs Manderson, will you assure me that your
husband's change toward you had nothing to do with John Marlowe?'

And what he had dreaded came. 'Oh!' she cried with a sound of anguish, her
face thrown up and open hands stretched out as if for pity; and then the hands
covered the burning face, and she flung herself aside among the cushions at
her elbow, so that he saw nothing but her heavy crown of black hair, and her
body moving with sobs that stabbed his heart, and a foot turned inward
gracelessly in an abandonment of misery. Like a tall tower suddenly breaking
apart she had fallen in ruins, helplessly weeping.

Trent stood up, his face white and calm. With a senseless particularity he
placed his envelope exactly in the centre of the little polished table. He
walked to the door, closed it noiselessly as he went out, and in a few minutes
was tramping through the rain out of sight of White Gables, going nowhere,
seeing nothing, his soul shaken in the fierce effort to kill and trample the
raving impulse that had seized him in the presence of her shame, that
clamoured to him to drag himself before her feet, to pray for pardon, to pour
out words-- he knew not what words, but he knew that they had been straining
at his lips--to wreck his self-respect for ever, and hopelessly defeat even
the crazy purpose that had almost possessed him, by drowning her wretchedness
in disgust, by babbling with the tongue of infatuation to a woman with a
husband not yet buried, to a woman who loved another man.

Such was the magic of her tears, quickening in a moment the thing which, as
his heart had known, he must not let come to life. For Philip Trent was a
young man, younger in nature even than his years, and a way of life that kept
his edge keen and his spirit volcanic had prepared him very ill for the
meeting that comes once in the early manhood of most of us, usually--as in his
case, he told himself harshly--to no purpose but the testing of virtue and the
power of the will.

CHAPTER XI: Hitherto Unpublished

My Dear Molloy:---This is in case I don't find you at your office. I have
found out who killed Manderson, as this dispatch will show. This was my
problem; yours is to decide what use to make of it. It definitely charges an
unsuspected person with having a hand in the crime, and practically accuses
him of being the murderer, so I don't suppose you will publish it before his
arrest, and I believe it is illegal to do so afterwards until he has been
tried and found guilty. You may decide to publish it then; and you may find it
possible to make some use or other before then of the facts I have given. That
is your affair. Meanwhile, will you communicate with Scotland Yard, and let
them see what I have written? I have done with the Manderson mystery, and I
wish to God I had never touched it. Here follows my dispatch.--P.T.

Marlstone, June 16th. I begin this, my third and probably my final dispatch to
the Record upon the Manderson murder, with conflicting feelings. I have a
strong sense of relief, because in my two previous dispatches I was obliged,
in the interests of justice, to withhold facts ascertained by me which would,
if published then, have put a certain person upon his guard and possibly have
led to his escape; for he is a man of no common boldness and resource. These
facts I shall now set forth. But I have, I confess, no liking for the story of
treachery and perverted cleverness which I have to tell. It leaves an evil
taste in the mouth, a savour of something revolting in the deeper puzzle of
motive underlying thc puzzle of the crime itself, which I believe I have

It will be remembered that in my first dispatch I described the situation as I
found it on reaching this place early on Tuesday morning. I told how the body
was found, and in what state; dwelt upon the complete mystery surrounding the
crime, and mentioned one or two local theories about it; gave some account of
the dead man's domestic surroundings; and furnished a somewhat detailed
description of his movements on the evening before his death. I gave, too, a
little fact which may or may not have seemed irrelevant: that a quantity of
whisky much larger than Manderson habitually drank at night had disappeared
from his private decanter since the last time he was seen alive. On the
following day, the day of the inquest, I wired little more than an abstract of
the proceedings in the coroner's court, of which a verbatim report was made at
my request by other representatives of the Record. That day is not yet over as
I write these lines; and I have now completed an investigation which has led
me directly to the man who must be called upon to clear himself of the guilt
of the death of Manderson.

Apart from the central mystery of Manderson's having arisen long before his
usual hour to go out and meet his death, there were two minor points of oddity
about this affair which, I suppose, must have occurred to thousands of those
who have read the accounts in the newspapers: points apparent from the very
beginning. The first of these was that, whereas the body was found at a spot
not thirty yards from the house, all the people of the house declared that
they had heard no cry or other noise in the night. Manderson had not been
gagged; the marks on his wrists pointed to a struggle with his assailant; and
there had been at least one pistol-shot. (I say at least one, because it is
the fact that in murders with firearms, especially if there has been a
struggle, the criminal commonly misses his victim at least once.) This odd
fact seemed all the more odd to me when I learned that Martin the butler was a
bad sleeper, very keen of hearing, and that his bedroom, with the window open,
faced almost directly toward the shed by which the body was found.

The second odd little fact that was apparent from the outset was Manderson's
leaving his dental plate by the bedside. It appeared that he had risen and
dressed himself fully, down to his necktie and watch and chain, and had gone
out of doors without remembering to put in this plate, which he had carried in
his mouth every day for years, and which contained all the visible teeth of
the upper jaw. It had evidently not been a case of frantic hurry; and even if
it had been, he would have been more likely to forget almost anything than
this denture. Any one who wears such a removable plate will agree that the
putting it in on rising is a matter of second nature. Speaking as well as
eating, to say nothing of appearances, depend upon it.

Neither of these queer details, however, seemed to lead to anything at the
moment. They only awakened in me a suspicion of something lurking in the
shadows, something that lent more mystery to the already mysterious question
how and why and through whom Manderson met his end.

With this much of preamble I come at once to the discovery which, in the first
few hours of my investigation, set me upon the path which so much ingenuity
had been directed to concealing.

I have already described Manderson's bedroom, the rigorous simplicity of its
furnishing, contrasted so strangely with the multitude of clothes and shoes,
and the manner of its communication with Mrs Manderson's room. On the upper of
the two long shelves on which the shoes were ranged I found, where I had been
told I should find them, the pair of patent leather shoes which Manderson had
worn on the evening before his death. I had glanced over the row, not with any
idea of their giving me a clue, but merely because it happens that I am a
judge of shoes, and all these shoes were of the very best workmanship. But my
attention was at once caught by a little peculiarity in this particular pair.
They were the lightest kind of lace-up dress shoes, very thin in the sole,
without toe- caps, and beautifully made, like all the rest. These shoes were
old and well worn; but being carefully polished, and fitted, as all the shoes
were, upon their trees, they looked neat enough. What caught my eye was a
slight splitting of the leather in that part of the upper known as the vamp--a
splitting at the point where the two laced parts of the shoe rise from the
upper. It is at this point that the strain comes when a tight shoe of this
sort is forced upon the foot, and it is usually guarded with a strong
stitching across the bottom of the opening. In both the shoes I was examining
this stitching had parted, and the leather below had given way. The splitting
was a tiny affair in each case, not an eighth of an inch long, and the torn
edges having come together again on the removal of the strain, there was
nothing that a person who was not something of a connoisseur of shoe-leather
would have noticed. Even less noticeable, and indeed not to be seen at all
unless one were looking for it, was a slight straining of the stitches uniting
the upper to the sole. At the toe and on the outer side of each shoe this
stitching had been dragged until it was visible on a close inspection of the

These indications, of course, could mean only one thing--the shoes had been
worn by some one for whom they were too small.

Now it was clear at a glance that Manderson was always thoroughly well shod,
and careful, perhaps a little vain, of his small and narrow feet. Not one of
the other shoes in the collection, as I soon ascertained, bore similar marks;
they had not belonged to a man who squeezed himself into tight shoe-leather.
Some one who was not Manderson had worn these shoes, and worn them recently;
the edges of the tears were quite fresh.

The possibility of some one having worn them since Manderson's death was not
worth considering; the body had only been found about twenty-six hours when I
was examining the shoes; besides, why should any one wear them? The
possibility of some one having borrowed Manderson's shoes and spoiled them for
him while he was alive seemed about as negligible. With others to choose from
he would not have worn these. Besides, the only men in the place were the
butler and the two secretaries. But I do not say that I gave those
possibilities even as much consideration as they deserved, for my thoughts
were running away with me, and I have always found it good policy, in cases of
this sort, to let them have their heads. Ever since I had got out of the train
at Marlstone early that morning I had been steeped in details of the Manderson
affair; the thing had not once been out of my head. Suddenly the moment had
come when the daemon wakes and begins to range.

Let me put it less fancifully. After all, it is a detail of psychology
familiar enough to all whose business or inclination brings them in contact
with difficult affairs of any kind. Swiftly and spontaneously, when chance or
effort puts one in possession of the key-fact in any system of baffling
circumstances, one's ideas seem to rush to group themselves anew in relation
to that fact, so that they are suddenly rearranged almost before one has
consciously grasped the significance of the key-fact itself. In the present
instance, my brain had scarcely formulated within itself the thought,
'Somebody who was not Manderson has been wearing these shoes,' when there flew
into my mind a flock of ideas, all of the same character and all bearing upon
this new notion. It was unheard- of for Manderson to drink much whisky at
night. It was very unlike him to be untidily dressed, as the body was when
found--the cuffs dragged up inside the sleeves, the shoes unevenly laced; very
unlike him not to wash when he rose, and to put on last night's evening shirt
and collar and underclothing; very unlike him to have his watch in the
waistcoat pocket that was not lined with leather for its reception. (In my
first dispatch I mentioned all these points, but neither I nor any one else
saw anything significant in them when examining the body.) It was very
strange, in the existing domestic situation, that Manderson should be
communicative to his wife about his doings, especially at the time of his
going to bed, when he seldom spoke to her at all. It was extraordinary that
Manderson should leave his bedroom without his false teeth.

All these thoughts, as I say, came flocking into my mind together, drawn from
various parts of my memory of the morning's enquiries and observations. They
had all presented themselves, in far less time than it takes to read them as
set down here, as I was turning over the shoes, confirming my own certainty on
the main point. And yet when I confronted the definite idea that had sprung up
suddenly and unsupported before me--'It was not Manderson who was in the house
that night'--it seemed a stark absurdity at the first formulating. It was
certainly Manderson who had dined at the house and gone out with Marlowe in
the car. People had seen him at close quarters. But was it he who returned at
ten? That question too seemed absurd enough. But I could not set it aside. It
seemed to me as if a faint light was beginning to creep over the whole expanse
of my mind, as it does over land at dawn, and that presently the sun would be
rising. I set myself to think over, one by one, the points that had just
occurred to me, so as to make out, if possible, why any man masquerading as
Manderson should have done these things that Manderson would not have done.

I had not to cast about very long for the motive a man might have in forcing
his feet into Manderson's narrow shoes. The examination of footmarks is very
well understood by the police. But not only was the man concerned to leave no
footmarks of his own: he was concerned to leave Manderson's, if any; his whole
plan, if my guess was right, must have been directed to producing the belief
that Manderson was in the place that night. Moreover, his plan did not turn
upon leaving footmarks. He meant to leave the shoes themselves, and he did so.
The maidservant had found them outside the bedroom door, as Manderson always
left his shoes, and had polished them, replacing them on the shoe-shelves
later in the morning, after the body had been found.

When I came to consider in this new light the leaving of the false teeth, an
explanation of what had seemed the maddest part of the affair broke upon me at
once. A dental plate is not inseparable from its owner. If my guess was right,
the unknown had brought the denture to the house with him, and left it in the
bedroom, with the same object as he had in leaving the shoes: to make it
impossible that any one should doubt that Manderson had been in the house and
had gone to bed there. This, of course, led me to the inference that Manderson
was dead before the false Manderson came to the house, and other things
confirmed this.

For instance, the clothing, to which I now turned in my review of the
position. If my guess was right, the unknown in Manderson's shoes had
certainly had possession of Manderson's trousers, waistcoat, and shooting
jacket. They were there before my eyes in the bedroom; and Martin had seen the
jacket--which nobody could have mistaken--upon the man who sat at the
telephone in the library. It was now quite plain (if my guess was right) that
this unmistakable garment was a cardinal feature of the unknown's plan. He
knew that Martin would take him for Manderson at the first glance.

And there my thinking was interrupted by the realization of a thing that had
escaped me before. So strong had been the influence of the unquestioned
assumption that it was Manderson who was present that night, that neither I
nor, as far as I know, any one else had noted the point. Martin had not seen
the man's face, nor had Mrs Manderson.

Mrs Manderson (judging by her evidence at the inquest, of which, as I have
said, I had a full report made by the Record stenographers in court) had not
seen the man at all. She hardly could have done, as I shall show presently.
She had merely spoken with him as she lay half asleep, resuming a conversation
which she had had with her living husband about an hour before. Martin, I
perceived, could only have seen the man's back, as he sat crouching over the
telephone; no doubt a characteristic pose was imitated there. And the man had
worn his hat, Manderson's broad-brimmed hat! There is too much character in
the back of a head and neck. The unknown, in fact, supposing him to have been
of about Manderson's build, had had no need for any disguise, apart from the
jacket and the hat and his powers of mimicry.

I paused there to contemplate the coolness and ingenuity of the man. The
thing, I now began to see, was so safe and easy, provided that his mimicry was
good enough, and that his nerve held. Those two points assured, only some
wholly unlikely accident could unmask him.

To come back to my puzzling out of the matter as I sat in the dead man's
bedroom with the tell-tale shoes before me. The reason for the entrance by the
window instead of by the front door will already have occurred to any one
reading this. Entering by the door, the man would almost certainly have been
heard by the sharp-eared Martin in his pantry just across the hall; he might
have met him face to face.

Then there was the problem of the whisky. I had not attached much importance
to it; whisky will sometimes vanish in very queer ways in a household of eight
or nine persons; but it had seemed strange that it should go in that way on
that evening. Martin had been plainly quite dumbfounded by the fact. It seemed
to me now that many a man--fresh, as this man in all likelihood was, from a
bloody business, from the unclothing of a corpse, and with a desperate part
still to play--would turn to that decanter as to a friend. No doubt he had a
drink before sending for Martin; after making that trick with ease and
success, he probably drank more.

But he had known when to stop. The worst part of the enterprise was before
him: the business--clearly of such vital importance to him, for whatever
reason--of shutting himself in Manderson's room and preparing a body of
convincing evidence of its having been occupied by Manderson; and this with
the risk--very slight, as no doubt he understood, but how unnerving!--of the
woman on the other side of the half-open door awaking and somehow discovering
him. True, if he kept out of her limited field of vision from the bed, she
could only see him by getting up and going to the door. I found that to a
person lying in her bed, which stood with its head to the wall a little beyond
the door, nothing was visible through the doorway but one of the cupboards by
Manderson's bed-head. Moreover, since this man knew the ways of the household,
he would think it most likely that Mrs Manderson was asleep. Another point
with him, I guessed, might have been the estrangement between the husband and
wife, which they had tried to cloak by keeping up, among other things, their
usual practice of sleeping in connected rooms, but which was well known to all
who had anything to do with them. He would hope from this that if Mrs
Manderson heard him, she would take no notice of the supposed presence of her

So, pursuing my hypothesis, I followed the unknown up to the bedroom, and saw
him setting about his work. And it was with a catch in my own breath that I
thought of the hideous shock with which he must have heard the sound of all
others he was dreading most: the drowsy voice from the adjoining room.

What Mrs Manderson actually said, she was unable to recollect at the inquest.
She thinks she asked her supposed husband whether he had had a good run in the
car. And now what does the unknown do? Here, I think, we come to a supremely
significant point. Not only does he--standing rigid there, as I picture him,
before the dressing-table, listening to the sound of his own leaping
heart--not only does he answer the lady in the voice of Manderson; he
volunteers an explanatory statement. He tells her that he has, on a sudden
inspiration, sent Marlowe in the car to Southampton; that he has sent him to
bring back some important information from a man leaving for Paris by the
steamboat that morning. Why these details from a man who had long been
uncommunicative to his wife, and that upon a point scarcely likely to interest
her? Why these details about Marlowe?

Having taken my story so far, I now put forward the following definite
propositions: that between a time somewhere about ten, when the car started,
and a time somewhere about eleven, Manderson was shot--probably at a
considerable distance from the house, as no shot was heard; that the body was
brought back, left by the shed, and stripped of its outer clothing; that at
some time round about eleven o'clock a man who was not Manderson, wearing
Manderson's shoes, hat, and jacket, entered the library by the garden window;
that he had with him Manderson's black trousers, waistcoat, and motor-coat,
the denture taken from Manderson's mouth, and the weapon with which he had
been murdered; that he concealed these, rang the bell for the butler, and sat
down at the telephone with his hat on and his back to the door; that he was
occupied with the telephone all the time Martin was in the room; that on going
up to the bedroom floor he quietly entered Marlowe's room and placed the
revolver with which the crime had been committed--Marlowe's revolver--in the
case on the mantelpiece from which it had been taken; and that he then went to
Manderson's room, placed Manderson's shoes outside the door, threw Manderson's
garments on a chair, placed the denture in the bowl by the bedside, and
selected a suit of clothes, a pair of shoes, and a tie from those in the

Here I will pause in my statement of this man's proceedings to go into a
question for which the way is now sufficiently prepared:

Who was the false Manderson?

Reviewing what was known to me, or might almost with certainty be surmised,
about that person, I set down the following five conclusions:

(1.) He had been in close relations with the dead man. In his acting before
Martin and his speaking to Mrs Manderson he had made no mistake.

(2.) He was of a build not unlike Manderson's, especially as to height and
breadth of shoulder, which mainly determine the character of the back of a
seated figure when the head is concealed and the body loosely clothed. But his
feet were larger, though not greatly larger, than Manderson's.

(3.) He had considerable aptitude for mimicry and acting--probably some
experience too.

(4.) He had a minute acquaintance with the ways of the Manderson household.

(5.) He was under a vital necessity of creating the belief that Manderson was
alive and in that house until some time after midnight on the Sunday night.

So much I took as either certain or next door to it. It was as far as I could
see. And it was far enough.

I proceed to give, in an order corresponding with the numbered paragraphs
above, such relevant facts as I was able to obtain about Mr John Marlowe, from
himself and other sources:

(1.) He had been Mr Manderson's private secretary, upon a footing of great
intimacy, for nearly four years.

(2.) The two men were nearly of the same height, about five feet eleven
inches; both were powerfully built and heavy in the shoulder. Marlowe, who was
the younger by some twenty years, was rather slighter about the body, though
Manderson was a man in good physical condition. Marlowe's shoes (of which I
examined several pairs) were roughly about one shoemaker's size longer and
broader than Manderson's.

(3.) In the afternoon of the first day of my investigation, after arriving at
the results already detailed, I sent a telegram to a personal friend, a Fellow
of a college at Oxford, whom I knew to be interested in theatrical matters, in
these terms:


My friend replied in the following telegram, which reached me next morning
(the morning of the inquest):


I had been led to send the telegram which brought this very helpful answer by
seeing on the mantel-shelf in Marlowe's bedroom a photograph of himself and
two others in the costume of Falstaff's three followers, with an inscription
from The Merry Wives, and by noting that it bore the imprint of an Oxford firm
of photographers.

(4.) During his connection with Manderson, Marlowe had lived as one of the
family. No other person, apart from the servants, had his opportunities for
knowing the domestic life of the Mandersons in detail.

(5.) I ascertained beyond doubt that Marlowe arrived at a hotel in Southampton
on the Monday morning at 6.30, and there proceeded to carry out the commission
which, according to his story, and according to the statement made to Mrs
Manderson in the bedroom by the false Manderson, had been entrusted to him by
his employer. He had then returned in the car to Marlstone, where he had shown
great amazement and horror at the news of the murder.

These, I say, are the relevant facts about Marlowe. We must now examine fact
number 5 (as set out above) in connection with conclusion number 5 about the
false Manderson.

I would first draw attention to one important fact. The only person who
professed to have heard Manderson mention Southampton at all before he started
in the car was Marlowe. His story--confirmed to some extent by what the butler
overheard--was that the journey was all arranged in a private talk before they
set out, and he could not say, when I put the question to him, why Manderson
should have concealed his intentions by giving out that he was going with
Marlowe for a moonlight drive. This point, however, attracted no attention.
Marlowe had an absolutely air-tight alibi in his presence at Southampton by
6.30; nobody thought of him in connection with a murder which must have been
committed after 12.30--the hour at which Martin the butler had gone to bed.
But it was the Manderson who came back from the drive who went out of his way
to mention Southampton openly to two persons. He even went so far as to ring
up a hotel at Southampton and ask questions which bore out Marlowe's story of
his errand. This was the call he was busy with when Martin was in the library.

Now let us consider the alibi. If Manderson was in the house that night, and
if he did not leave it until some time after 12.30, Marlowe could not by any
possibility have had a direct hand in the murder. It is a question of the
distance between Marlstone and Southampton. If he had left Marlstone in the
car at the hour when he is supposed to have done so--between 10 and
10.30--with a message from Manderson, the run would be quite an easy one to do
in the time. But it would be physically impossible for the car--a 15 h.p.
four-cylinder Northumberland, an average medium-power car--to get to
Southampton by half-past six unless it left Marlstone by midnight at latest.
Motorists who will examine the road-map and make the calculations required, as
I did in Manderson's library that day, will agree that on the facts as they
appeared there was absolutely no case against Marlowe.

But even if they were not as they appeared; if Manderson was dead by eleven
o'clock, and if at about that time Marlowe impersonated him at White Gables;
if Marlowe retired to Manderson's bedroom--how can all this be reconciled with
his appearance next morning at Southampton? He had to get out of the house,
unseen and unheard, and away in the car by midnight. And Martin, the
sharp-eared Martin, was sitting up until 12.30 in his pantry, with the door
open, listening for the telephone bell. Practically he was standing sentry
over the foot of the staircase, the only staircase leading down from the
bedroom floor.

With this difficulty we arrive at the last and crucial phase of my
investigation. Having the foregoing points clearly in mind, I spent the rest
of the day before the inquest in talking to various persons and in going over
my story, testing it link by link. I could only find the one weakness which
seemed to be involved in Martin's sitting up until 12.30; and since his having
been instructed to do so was certainly a part of the plan, meant to clinch the
alibi for Marlowe, I knew there must be an explanation somewhere. If I could
not find that explanation, my theory was valueless. I must be able to show
that at the time Martin went up to bed the man who had shut himself in
Manderson's bedroom might have been many miles away on the road to

I had, however, a pretty good idea already--as perhaps the reader of these
lines has by this time, if I have made myself clear--of how the escape of the
false Manderson before midnight had been contrived. But I did not want what I
was now about to do to be known. If I had chanced to be discovered at work,
there would have been no concealing the direction of my suspicions. I resolved
not to test them on this point until the next day, during the opening
proceedings at the inquest. This was to be held, I knew, at the hotel, and I
reckoned upon having White Gables to myself so far as the principal inmates
were concerned.

So in fact it happened. By the time the proceedings at the hotel had begun I
was hard at work at White Gables. I had a camera with me. I made search, on
principles well known to and commonly practised by the police, and often
enough by myself, for certain indications. Without describing my search, I may
say at once that I found and was able to photograph two fresh fingerprints,
very large and distinct, on the polished front of the right-hand top drawer of
the chest of drawers in Manderson's bedroom; five more (among a number of
smaller and less recent impressions made by other hands) on the glasses of the
French window in Mrs Manderson's room, a window which always stood open at
night with a curtain before it; and three more upon the glass bowl in which
Manderson's dental plate had been found lying.

I took the bowl with me from White Gables. I took also a few articles which I
selected from Marlowe's bedroom, as bearing the most distinct of the
innumerable fingerprints which are always to be found upon toilet articles in
daily use. I already had in my possession, made upon leaves cut from my pocket
diary, some excellent fingerprints of Marlowe's which he had made in my
presence without knowing it. I had shown him the leaves, asking if he
recognized them; and the few seconds during which he had held them in his
fingers had sufficed to leave impressions which I was afterwards able to bring

By six o'clock in the evening, two hours after the jury had brought in their
verdict against a person or persons unknown, I had completed my work, and was
in a position to state that two of the five large prints made on the window-
glasses, and the three on the bowl, were made by the left hand of Marlowe;
that the remaining three on the window and the two on the drawer were made by
his right hand.

By eight o'clock I had made at the establishment of Mr H. T. Copper,
photographer, of Bishopsbridge, and with his assistance, a dozen enlarged
prints of the finger-marks of Marlowe, clearly showing the identity of those
which he unknowingly made in my presence and those left upon articles in his
bedroom, with those found by me as I have described, and thus establishing the
facts that Marlowe was recently in Manderson's bedroom, where he had in the
ordinary way no business, and in Mrs Manderson's room, where he had still
less. I hope it may be possible to reproduce these prints for publication with
this dispatch.

At nine o'clock I was back in my room at the hotel and sitting down to begin
this manuscript. I had my story complete. I bring it to a close by advancing
these further propositions: that on the night of the murder the impersonator
of Manderson, being in Manderson's bedroom, told Mrs Manderson, as he had
already told Martin, that Marlowe was at that moment on his way to
Southampton; that having made his dispositions in the room, he switched off
the light, and lay in the bed in his clothes; that he waited until he was
assured that Mrs Manderson was asleep; that he then arose and stealthily
crossed Mrs Manderson's bedroom in his stocking feet, having under his arm the
bundle of clothing and shoes for the body; that he stepped behind the curtain,
pushing the doors of the window a little further open with his hands, strode
over the iron railing of the balcony, and let himself down until only a drop
of a few feet separated him from the soft turf of the lawn.

All this might very well have been accomplished within half an hour of his
entering Manderson's bedroom, which, according to Martin, he did at about
half- past eleven.

What followed your readers and the authorities may conjecture for themselves.
The corpse was found next morning clothed--rather untidily. Marlowe in the car
appeared at Southampton by half-past six.

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