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  • 1922
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out to join Antony on his garden seat.

“Well, this is a rum show,” said Bill as he sat down.

“Very rum, William.”

“And you actually walked right into it?”

“Right into it,” said Antony.

“Then you’re the man I want. There are all sorts of rumours and mysteries about, and that inspector fellow simply wouldn’t keep to the point when I wanted to ask him about the murder, or whatever it is, but kept asking me questions about where I’d met you first, and all sorts of dull things like that. Now, what really happened?”

Antony told him as concisely as he could all that he had already told the inspector, Bill interrupting him here and there with appropriate “Good Lords” and whistles.

“I say, it’s a bit of a business, isn’t it? Where do I come in, exactly?”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, everybody else is bundled off except me, and I get put through it by that inspector as if I knew all about it–what’s the idea?”

Antony smiled at him.

“Well, there’s nothing to worry about, you know. Naturally Birch wanted to see one of you so as to know what you’d all been doing all day. And Cayley was nice enough to think that you’d be company for me, as I knew you already. And well, that’s all.”

“You’re staying here, in the house?” said Bill eagerly. “Good man. That’s splendid.”

“It reconciles you to the departure of some of the others?”

Bill blushed.

“Oh, well, I shall see her again next week, anyway,” he murmured.

“I congratulate you. I liked her looks. And that grey dress. A nice comfortable sort of woman.”

“You fool, that’s her mother.”

“Oh, I beg your pardon. But anyhow, Bill, I want you more than she does just now. So try and put up with me.”

“I say, do you really?” said Bill, rather flattered. He had a great admiration for Antony, and was very proud to be liked by him.

“Yes. You see, things are going to happen here soon.”

“Inquests and that sort of thing?”

“Well, perhaps something before that. Hallo, here comes Cayley.”

Cayley was walking across the lawn towards them, a big, heavy-shouldered man, with one of those strong, clean-shaven, ugly faces which can never quite be called plain. “Bad luck on ‘Cayley,” said Bill. “I say, ought I to tell him how sorry I am and all that sort of thing? It seems so dashed inadequate.”

“I shouldn’t bother,” said Antony.

Cayley nodded as he came to them, and stood there for a moment.

“We can make room for you,” said Bill, getting up.

“Oh, don’t bother, thanks. I just came to say,” he went on to Antony, “that naturally they’ve rather lost their heads in the kitchen, and dinner won’t be till half-past eight. Do just as you like about dressing, of course. And what about your luggage?”

“I thought Bill and I would walk over to the inn directly, and see about it.”

“The car can go and fetch it as soon as it comes back from the station.”

“It’s very good of you, but I shall have to go over myself, anyhow, to pack up and pay my bill. Besides, it’s a good evening for a walk. If you wouldn’t mind it, Bill?”

“I should love it.”

“Well, then, if you leave the bag there, I’ll send the car round for it later.”

“Thanks very much.”

Having said what he wanted to say, Cayley remained there a little awkwardly, as if not sure whether to go or to stay. Antony wondered whether he wanted to talk about the afternoon’s happenings, or whether it was the one subject he wished to avoid. To break the silence he asked carelessly if the inspector had gone.

Cayley nodded. Then he said abruptly, “He’s getting a warrant for Mark’s arrest.”

Bill made a suitably sympathetic noise, and Antony said with a shrug of the shoulders, “Well, he was bound to do that, wasn’t he? It doesn’t follow that–well, it doesn’t mean anything. They naturally want to get hold of your cousin, innocent or guilty.”

“Which do you think he is, Mr. Gillingham?” said Cayley, looking at him steadily.

“Mark? It’s absurd,” said Bill impetuously.

“Bill’s loyal, you see, Mr. Cayley.”

“And you owe no loyalty to anyone concerned?”

“Exactly. So perhaps I might be too frank.”

Bill had dropped down on the grass, and Cayley took his place on the seat, and sat there heavily, his elbows on his knees, his chin on his hands, gazing at the ground.

“I want you to be quite frank,” he said at last. “Naturally I am prejudiced where Mark is concerned. So I want to know how my suggestion strikes you who have no prejudices either way.”

“Your suggestion?”

“My theory that, if Mark killed his brother, it was purely accidental as I told the inspector.”

Bill looked up with interest.

“You mean that Robert did the hold-up business,” he said, “and there was a bit of a struggle, and the revolver went off, and then Mark lost his head and bolted? That sort of idea?”

“Exactly.”

“Well, that seems all right.” He turned to Antony. “There’s nothing wrong with that, is there? It’s the most natural explanation to anyone who knows Mark.”

Antony pulled at his pipe.

“I suppose it is,” he said slowly. “But there’s one thing that worries me rather.”

“What’s that?” Bill and Cayley asked the question simultaneously.

“The key.”

“The key?” said Bill.

Cayley lifted his head and looked at Antony. “What about the key?” he asked.

“Well, there may be nothing in it; I just wondered. Suppose Robert was killed as you say, and suppose Mark lost his head and thought of nothing but getting away before anyone could see him. Well, very likely he’d lock the door and put the key in his pocket. He’d do it without thinking, just to gain a moment’s time.”

“Yes, that’s what I suggest.”

“It seems sound enough,” said Bill. “Sort of thing you’d do without thinking. Besides, if you are going to run away, it gives you more of a chance.”

“Yes, that’s all right if the key is there. But suppose it isn’t there?”

The suggestion, made as if it were already an established fact, startled them both. They looked at him wonderingly.

“What do you mean?” said Cayley.

“Well, it’s just a question of where people happen to keep their keys. You go up to your bedroom, and perhaps you like to lock your door in case anybody comes wandering in when you’ve only got one sock and a pair of braces on. Well, that’s natural enough. And if you look round the bedrooms of almost any house, you’ll find the keys all ready, so that you can lock yourself in at a moment’s notice. But downstairs people don’t lock themselves in. It’s really never done at all. Bill, for instance, has never locked himself into the dining-room in order to be alone with the sherry. On the other hand, all women, and particularly servants, have a horror of burglars. And if a burglar gets in by the window, they like to limit his activities to that particular room. So they keep the, keys on the outside of the doors, and lock the doors when they go to bed.” He knocked the ashes out of his pipe, and added, “At least, my mother always used to.”

“You mean,” said Bill excitedly, “that the key was on the outside of the door when Mark went into the room?”

“Well, I was just wondering.”

“Have you noticed the other rooms the billiard-room, and library, and so on?” said Cayley.

“I’ve only just thought about it while I’ve been sitting out here. You live here haven’t you ever noticed them?”

Cayley sat considering, with his head on one side.

“It seems rather absurd, you know, but I can’t say that I have.” He turned to Bill. “Have you?”

“Good Lord, no. I should never worry about a thing like that.”

“I’m sure you wouldn’t,” laughed Antony. “Well, we can have a look when we go in. If the other keys are outside, then this one was probably outside too, and in that case well, it makes it more interesting.”

Cayley said nothing. Bill chewed a piece of grass, and then said, “Does it make much difference?”

“It makes it more hard to understand what happened in there. Take your accidental theory and see where you get to. No instinctive turning of the key now, is there? He’s got to open the door to get it, and opening the door means showing his head to anybody in the hall–his cousin, for instance, whom he left there two minutes ago. Is a man in Mark’s state of mind, frightened to death lest he should be found with the body, going to do anything so foolhardy as that?”

“He needn’t have been afraid of me,” said Cayley.

“Then why didn’t he call for you? He knew you were about. You could have advised him; Heaven knows he wanted advice. But the whole theory of Mark’s escape is that he was afraid of you and of everybody else, and that he had no other idea but to get out of the room himself, and prevent you or the servants from coming into it. If the key had been on the inside, he would probably have locked the door. If it were on the outside, he almost certainly wouldn’t.”

“Yes, I expect you’re right,” said Bill thoughtfully. “Unless he took the key in with him, and locked the door at once.”

“Exactly. But in that case you have to build up a new theory entirely.”

“You mean that it makes it seem more deliberate?”

“Yes; that, certainly. But it also seems to make Mark out an absolute idiot. Just suppose for a moment that, for urgent reasons which neither of you know anything about, he had wished to get rid of his brother. Would he have done it like that? Just killed him and then run away? Why, that’s practically suicide–suicide whilst of unsound mind. No. If you really wanted to remove an undesirable brother, you would do it a little bit more cleverly than that. You’d begin by treating him as a friend, so as to avoid suspicion, and when you did kill him at last, you would try to make it look like an accident, or suicide, or the work of some other man. Wouldn’t you?”

“You mean you’d give yourself a bit of a run for your money?”

“Yes, that’s what I mean. if you were going to do it deliberately, that is to say and lock yourself in before you began.”

Cayley had been silent, apparently thinking over this new idea. With his eyes still on the ground, he said now: “I hold to my opinion that it was purely accidental, and that Mark lost his head and ran away.”

“But what about the key?” asked Bill.

“We don’t know yet that the keys were outside. I don’t at all agree with Mr. Gillingham that the keys of the down-stairs rooms are always outside the doors. Sometimes they are, no doubt; but I think we shall probably find that these are inside.”

“Oh, well, of course, if they are inside, then your original theory is probably the correct one. Having often seen them outside, I just wondered that’s all. You asked me to be quite frank, you know, and tell you what I thought. But no doubt you’re right, and we shall find them inside, as you say.

“Even if the key was outside,” went on Cayley stubbornly, “I still think it might have been accidental. He might have taken it in with him, knowing that the interview would be an unpleasant one, and not wishing to be interrupted.”

“But he had just told you to stand by in case he wanted you; so why should he lock you out? Besides, I should think that if a man were going to have an unpleasant interview with a threatening relation, the last thing he would do would be to barricade himself in with him. He would want to open all the doors and say, ‘Get out of it'”

Cayley was silent, but his mouth looked obstinate. Antony gave a little apologetic laugh and stood up.

“Well, come on, Bill,” he said; “we ought to be stepping.” He held out a hand and pulled his friend up. Then, turning to Cayley, he went on, “You must forgive me if I have let my thoughts run on rather. Of course, I was considering the matter purely as an outsider; just as a problem, I mean, which didn’t concern the happiness of any of my friends.”

“That’s all right, Mr. Gillingham,” said Cayley, standing up too. “It is for you to make allowances for me. I’m sure you will. You say that you’re going up to the inn now about your bag?”

“Yes.” He looked up at the sun and then round the parkland stretching about the house. “Let me see; it’s over in that direction, isn’t it?” He pointed southwards. “Can we get to the village that way, or must we go by the road?”

“I’ll show you, my boy,” said Bill.

“Bill will show you. The park reaches almost as far as the village. Then I’ll send the car round in about half an hour.”

“Thanks very much.”

Cayley nodded and turned to go into the house. Antony took hold of Bill’s arm and walked off with him in the opposite direction.

CHAPTER VII. PORTRAIT OF A GENTLEMAN

They walked in silence for a little, until they had left the house and gardens well behind them. In front of them and to the right the park dipped and then rose slowly, shutting out the rest of the world. A thick belt of trees on the left divided them from the main road.

“Ever been here before?” said Antony suddenly.

“Oh, rather. Dozens of times.”

“I meant just here where we are now. Or do you stay indoors and play billiards all the time?”

“Oh lord, no!”

“Well, tennis and things. So many people with beautiful parks never by any chance use them, and all the poor devils passing by on the dusty road think how lucky the owners are to have them, and imagine them doing all sorts of jolly things inside.” He pointed to the right. “Ever been over there?”

Bill laughed, as if a little ashamed.

“Well, not very much. I’ve often been along here, of course, because it’s the short way to the village.”

“Yes …. All right; now tell me something about Mark.”

“What sort of things?”

“Well, never mind about his being your host, or about your being a perfect gentleman, or anything like that. Cut out the Manners for Men, and tell me what you think of Mark, and how you like staying with him, and how many rows your little house-party has had this week, and how you get on with Cayley, and all the rest of it.”

Bill looked at him eagerly.

“I say, are you being the complete detective?”

“Well, I wanted a new profession,” smiled the other.

“What fun! I mean,” he corrected himself apologetically, “one oughtn’t to say that, when there’s a man dead in the house, and one’s host–” He broke off a little uncertainly, and then rounded off his period by saying again, “By Jove, what a rum show it is. Good Lord!”

“Well?” said Antony. “Carry on, Mark”

“What do I think of him?”

“Yes.”

Bill was silent, wondering how to put into words thoughts which had never formed themselves very definitely in his own mind. What did he think of Mark? Seeing his hesitation, Antony said:

“I ought to have warned you that nothing that you say will be taken down by the reporters, so you needn’t bother about a split infinitive or two. Talk about anything you like, how you like. Well, I’ll give you a start. Which do you enjoy more a week-end here or at the Barrington’s, say?”

“Well; of course, that would depend–“

“Take it that she was there in both cases.”

“Ass,” said Bill, putting an elbow into Antony’s ribs. “It’s a little difficult to say,” he went on. “Of course they do you awfully well here.”

“Yes.”

“I don’t think I know any house where things are so comfortable. One’s room–the food–drinks–cigars–the way everything’s arranged: All that sort of thing. They look after you awfully well.”

“Yes?”

“Yes.” He repeated it slowly to himself, as if it had given him a new idea: “They look after you awfully well. Well, that’s just what it is about Mark. That’s one of his little ways. Weaknesses. Looking after you.”

“Arranging things for you?”

“Yes. Of course, it’s a delightful house, and there’s plenty to do, and opportunities for every game or sport that’s ever been invented, and, as I say, one gets awfully well done; but with it all, Tony, there’s a faint sort of feeling that well, that one is on parade, as it were. You’ve got to do as you’re told.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, Mark fancies himself rather at arranging things. He arranges things, and it’s understood that the guests fall in with the arrangement. For instance, Betty–Miss Calladine–and I were going to play a single just before tea, the other day. Tennis. She’s frightfully hot stuff at tennis, and backed herself to take me on level. I’m rather erratic, you know. Mark saw us going out with our rackets and asked us what we were going to do. Well, he’d got up a little tournament for us after tea–handicaps all arranged by him, and everything ruled out neatly in red and black ink–prizes and all–quite decent ones, you know. He’d had the lawn specially cut and marked for it. Well, of course Betty and I wouldn’t have spoilt the court, and we’d have been quite ready to play again after tea–I had to give her half-fifteen according to his handicap–but somehow–” Bill stopped and shrugged his shoulders.

“It didn’t quite fit in?”

“No. It spoilt the effect of his tournament. Took the edge off it just a little, I suppose he felt. So we didn’t play.” He laughed, and added, “It would have been as much as our place was worth to have played.”

“Do you mean you wouldn’t have been asked here again?”

“Probably. Well, I don’t know. Not for some time, anyway.”

“Really, Bill?”

“Oh, rather! He’s a devil for taking offence. That Miss Norris, did you see her? she’s done for herself. I don’t mind betting what you like that she never comes here again.”

“Why?”

Bill laughed to himself.

“We were all in it, really–at least, Betty and I were. There’s supposed to be a ghost attached to the house. Lady Anne Patten. Ever heard of her?”

“Never.”

“Mark told us about her at dinner one night. He rather liked the idea of there being a ghost in his house, you know; except that he doesn’t believe in ghosts. I think he wanted all of us to believe in her, and yet he was annoyed with Betty and Mrs. Calladine for believing in ghosts at all. Rum chap. Well, anyhow, Miss Norris–she’s an actress, some actress too–dressed up as the ghost and played the fool a bit. And poor Mark was frightened out of his life. Just for a moment, you know.”

“What about the others?”

“Well, Betty and I knew; in fact, I’d told her–Miss Norris I mean–not to be a silly ass. Knowing Mark. Mrs. Calladine wasn’t there–Betty wouldn’t let her be. As for the Major, I don’t believe anything would frighten him.”

“Where did the ghost appear?”

“Down by the bowling-green. That’s supposed to be its haunt, you know. We were all down there in the moonlight, pretending to wait for it. Do you know the bowling-green?”

“No.”

“I’ll show it to you after dinner.”

“I wish you would …. Was Mark very angry afterwards?”

“Oh, Lord, yes. Sulked for a whole day. Well, he’s just like that.”

“Was he angry with all of you?”

“Oh, yes sulky, you know.”

“This morning?”

“Oh, no. He got over it he generally does. He’s just like a child. That’s really it, Tony; he’s like a child in some ways. As a matter of fact, he was unusually bucked with himself this morning. And yesterday.”

“Yesterday?”

“Rather. We all said we’d never seen him in such form.”

“Is he generally in form?”

“He’s quite good company, you know, if you take him the right way. He’s rather vain and childish well, like I’ve been telling you and self-important; but quite amusing in his way, and–” Bill broke off suddenly. “I say, you know, it really is the limit, talking about your host like this.”

“Don’t think of him as your host. Think of him as a suspected murderer with a warrant out against him.”

“Oh! but that’s all rot, you know.”

“It’s the fact, Bill.”

“Yes, but I mean, he didn’t do it. He wouldn’t murder anybody. It’s a funny thing to say, but well, he’s not big enough for it. He’s got his faults, like all of us, but they aren’t on that scale.”

“One can kill anybody in a childish fit of temper.”

Bill grunted assent, but without prejudice to Mark. “All the same,” he said, “I can’t believe it. That he would do it deliberately, I mean.”

“Suppose it was an accident, as Cayley says, would he lose his head and run away?”

Bill considered for a moment.

“Yes, I really think he might, you know. He nearly ran away when he saw the ghost. Of course, that’s different, rather.”

“Oh, I don’t know. In each case it’s a question of obeying your instinct instead of your reason.”

They had left the open land and were following a path through the bordering trees. Two abreast was uncomfortable, so Antony dropped behind, and further conversation was postponed until they were outside the boundary fence and in the high road. The road sloped gently down to the village of Waldheim a few red-roofed cottages, and the grey tower of a church showing above the green.

“Well, now,” said Antony, as they stepped out more quickly, “what about Cayley?”

“How do you mean, what about him?”

“I want to see him. I can see Mark perfectly, thanks to you, Bill. You were wonderful. Now let’s have Cayley’s character. Cayley from within.”

Bill laughed in pleased embarrassment, and protested that he was not a blooming novelist.

“Besides,” he added, “Mark’s easy. Cayley’s one of these heavy, quiet people, who might be thinking about anything. Mark gives himself away …. Ugly, black-jawed devil, isn’t he?”

“Some women like that type of ugliness.”

“Yes, that’s true. Between ourselves, I think there’s one here who does. Rather a pretty girl at Jallands” he waved his left hand “down that way.”

“What’s Jallands?”

“Well, I suppose it used to be a farm, belonging to a bloke called Jalland, but now it’s a country cottage belonging to a widow called Norbury. Mark and Cayley used to go there a good deal together. Miss Norbury–the girl–has been here once or twice for tennis; seemed to prefer Cayley to the rest of us. But of course he hadn’t much time for that sort of thing.”

“What sort of thing?”

“Walking about with a pretty girl and asking her if she’s been to any theatres lately. He nearly always had something to do.”

“Mark kept him busy?”

“Yes. Mark never seemed quite happy unless he had Cayley doing something for him. He was quite lost and helpless without him. And, funnily enough, Cayley seemed lost without Mark.”

“He was fond of him?”

“Yes, I should say so. In a protective kind of way. He’d sized Mark up, of course his vanity, his self-importance, his amateurishness and all the rest of it but he liked looking after him. And he knew how to manage him.”

“Yes …. What sort of terms was he on with the guests–you and Miss Norris and all of them?”

“Just polite and rather silent, you know. Keeping himself to himself. We didn’t see so very much of him, except at meals. We were here to enjoy ourselves, and well, he wasn’t.”

“He wasn’t there when the ghost walked?”

“No. I heard Mark calling for him when he went back to the house. I expect Cayley stroked down his feathers a bit, and told him that girls will be girls ….–Hallo, here we are.”

They went into the inn, and while Bill made himself pleasant to the landlady, Antony went upstairs to his room. It appeared that he had not very much packing to do, after all. He returned his brushes to his bag, glanced sound to see that nothing else had been taken out, and went down again to settle his bill. He had decided to keep on his room for a few days; partly to save the landlord and his wife the disappointment of losing a guest so suddenly, partly in case he found it undesirable later on to remain at The Red House. For he was taking himself seriously as a detective; indeed, he took himself seriously (while getting all the fun out of it which was possible) at every new profession he adopted; and he felt that there might come a time after the inquest, say when he could not decently remain at The Red House as a guest, a friend of Bill’s, enjoying the hospitality of Mark or Cayley, whichever was to be regarded as his host, without forfeiting his independent attitude towards the events of that afternoon. At present he was staying in the house merely as a necessary witness, and, since he was there, Cayley could not object to him using his eyes; but if, after the inquest, it appeared that there was still work for a pair of independent and very keen eyes to do, then he must investigate, either with his host’s approval or from beneath the roof of some other host; the landlord of “The George,” for instance, who had no feelings in the matter.

For of one thing Antony was certain. Cayley knew more than he professed to know. That is to say, he knew more than he wanted other people to know he knew. Antony was one of the “other people”; if, therefore, he was for trying to find out what it was that Cayley knew, he could hardly expect Cayley’s approval of his labours. It would be “The George,” then, for Antony after the inquest.

What was the truth? Not necessarily discreditable to Cayley, even though he were hiding something. All that could be said against him at the moment was that he had gone the longest way round to get into the locked office and that this did not fit in with what he had told the inspector. But it did fit in with the theory that he had been an accessory after the event, and that he wanted (while appearing to be in a hurry) to give his cousin as much time as possible in which to escape. That might not be the true solution, but it was at least a workable one. The theory which he had suggested to the inspector was not.

However, there would be a day or two before the inquest, in which Antony could consider all these matters from within The Red House. The car was at the door. He got in with Bill, the landlord put his bag on the front seat next to the chauffeur, and they drove back.

CHAPTER VIII. “DO YOU FOLLOW ME, WATSON?”

Anthony’s bedroom looked over the park at the back of the house. The blinds were not yet drawn while he was changing his clothes for dinner, and at various stages of undress he would pause and gaze out of the window, sometimes smiling to himself, sometimes frowning, as he turned over in his mind all the strange things that he had seen that day. He was sitting on his bed, in shirt and trousers, absently smoothing down his thick black hair with his brushes, when Bill shouted an “Hallo!” through the door, and came in.

“I say, buck up, old boy, I’m hungry,” he said.

Antony stopped smoothing himself and looked up at him thoughtfully.

“Where’s Mark?” he said.

“Mark? You mean Cayley.”

Antony corrected himself with a little laugh. “Yes, I mean Cayley. Is he down? I say, I shan’t be a moment, Bill.” He got up from the bed and went on briskly with his dressing. “Oh, by the way,” said Bill, taking his place on the bed, “your idea about the keys is a wash-out.”

“Why, how do you mean?”

“I went down just now and had a look at them. We were asses not to have thought of it when we came in. The library key is outside, but all the others are inside.”

“Yes, I know.”

“You devil, I suppose you did think of it, then?”

“I did, Bill,” said Antony apologetically.

“Bother! I hoped you’d forgotten. Well, that knocks your theory on the head, doesn’t it?”

“I never had a theory. I only said that if they were outside, it would probably mean that the office key was outside, and that in that case Cayley’s theory was knocked on the head.”

“Well, now, it isn’t, and we don’t know anything. Some were outside and some inside, and there you are. It makes it much less exciting. When you were talking about it on the lawn, I really got quite keen on the idea of the key being outside and Mark taking it in with him.”

“It’s going to be exciting enough,” said Antony mildly, as he transferred his pipe and tobacco into the pocket of his black coat. “Well, let’s come down; I’m ready now.”

Cayley was waiting for them in the hall. He made some polite inquiry as to the guest’s comfort, and the three of them fell into a casual conversation about houses in general and The Red House in particular.

“You were quite right about the keys,” said Bill, during a pause. He was less able than the other two, perhaps because he was younger than they, to keep away from the subject which was uppermost in the minds of them all.

“Keys?” said Cayley blankly.

“We were wondering whether they were outside or inside.”

“Oh! oh, yes!” He looked slowly round the hall, at the different doors, and then smiled in a friendly way at Antony. “We both seem to have been right, Mr. Gillingham. So we don’t get much farther.”

“No.” He gave a shrug. “I just wondered, you know. I thought it was worth mentioning.”

“Oh, quite. Not that you would have convinced me, you know. Just as Elsie’s evidence doesn’t convince me.”

“Elsie?” said Bill excitedly. Antony looked inquiringly at him, wondering who Elsie was.

“One of the housemaids,” explained Cayley. “You didn’t hear what she told the inspector? Of course, as I told Birch, girls of that class make things up, but he seemed to think she was genuine.”

“What was it?” said Bill.

Cayley told them of what Elsie had heard through the office door that afternoon.

“You were in the library then, of course,” said Antony, rather to himself than to the other. “She might have gone through the hall without your hearing.”

“Oh, I’ve no doubt she was there, and heard voices. Perhaps heard those very words. But–” He broke off, and then added impatiently, “It was accidental. I know it was accidental. What’s the good of talking as if Mark was a murderer?” Dinner was announced at that moment, and as they went in, he added, “What’s the good of talking about it at all, if it comes to that?”

“What, indeed?” said Antony, and to Bill’s great disappointment they talked of books and politics during the meal.

Cayley made an excuse for leaving them as soon as their cigars were alight. He had business to attend to, as was natural. Bill would look after his friend. Bill was only too willing. He offered to beat Antony at billiards, to play him at piquet, to show him the garden by moonlight, or indeed to do anything else with him that he required.

“Thank the Lord you’re here,” he said piously. “I couldn’t have stood it alone.”

“Let’s go outside,” suggested Antony. “It’s quite warm. Somewhere where we can sit down, right away from the house. I want to talk to you.”

“Good man. What about the bowling-green?”

“Oh, you were going to show me that, anyhow, weren’t you? Is it somewhere where we can talk without being overheard?”

“Rather. The ideal place. You’ll see.”

They came out of the front door and followed the drive to the left. Coming from Waldheim, Antony had approached the house that afternoon from the other side. The way they were going now would take them out at the opposite end of the park, on the high road to Stanton, a country town some three miles away. They passed by a gate and a gardener’s lodge, which marked the limit of what auctioneers like to call “the ornamental grounds of the estate,” and then the open park was before them.

“Sure we haven’t missed it?” said Antony. The park lay quietly in the moonlight on either side of the drive, wearing a little way ahead of them a deceptive air of smoothness which retreated always as they advanced.

“Rum, isn’t it?” said Bill. “An absurd place for a bowling green, but I suppose it was always here.”

“Yes, but always where? It’s short enough for golf, perhaps, but–Hallo!”

They had come to the place. The road bent round to the right, but they kept straight on over a broad grass path for twenty yards, and there in front of them was the green. A dry ditch, ten feet wide and six feet deep, surrounded it, except in the one place where the path went forward. Two or three grass steps led down to the green, on which there was a long wooden beach for the benefit of spectators.

“Yes, it hides itself very nicely,” said Antony. “Where do you keep the bowls?”

“In a sort of summer house place. Round here.”

They walked along the edge of the green until they came to it a low wooden bunk which had been built into one wall of the ditch.

“H’m. Jolly view.”

Bill laughed.

“Nobody sits there. It’s just for keeping things out of the rain.”

They finished their circuit of the green “Just in case anybody’s in the ditch,” said Antony and then sat down on the bench.

“Now then,” said Bill, “We are alone. Fire ahead.”

Antony smoked thoughtfully for a little. Then he took his pipe out of his mouth and turned to his friend.

“Are you prepared to be the complete Watson?” he asked.

“Watson?”

“Do-you-follow-me-Watson; that one. Are you prepared to have quite obvious things explained to you, to ask futile questions, to give me chances of scoring off you, to make brilliant discoveries of your own two or three days after I have made them myself all that kind of thing? Because it all helps.”

“My dear Tony,” said Bill delightedly, “need you ask?” Antony said nothing, and Bill went on happily to himself, “I perceive from the strawberry-mark on your shirt-front that you had strawberries for dessert. Holmes, you astonish me. Tut, tut, you know my methods. Where is the tobacco? The tobacco is in the Persian slipper. Can I leave my practice for a week? I can.”

Antony smiled and went on smoking. After waiting hopefully for a minute or two, Bill said in a firm voice:

“Well then, Holmes, I feel bound to ask you if you have deduced anything. Also whom do you suspect?”

Antony began to talk.

“Do you remember,” he said, “one of Holmes’s little scores over Watson about the number of steps up to the Baker Street lodging? Poor old Watson had been up and down them a thousand times, but he had never thought of counting them, whereas Holmes had counted them as a matter of course, and knew that there were seventeen. And that was supposed to be the difference between observation and non-observation. Watson was crushed again, and Holmes appeared to him more amazing than ever. Now, it always seemed to me that in that matter Holmes was the ass, and Watson the sensible person. What on earth is the point of keeping in your head an unnecessary fact like that? If you really want to know at any time the number of steps to your lodging, you can ring up your landlady and ask her. I’ve been up and down the steps of the club a thousand times, but if you asked me to tell you at this moment how many steps there are I couldn’t do it. Could you?”

“I certainly couldn’t,” said Bill.

“But if you really wanted to know,” said Antony casually, with a sudden change of voice, “I could find out for you without even bothering to ring up the hall-porter.”

Bill was puzzled as to why they were talking about the club steps, but he felt it his duty to say that he did want to know how many they were.

“Right,” said Antony. “I’ll find out.”

He closed his eyes.

“I’m walking up St James’ Street,” he said slowly. “Now I’ve come to the club and I’m going past the smoking-room –windows-one-two three four. Now I’m at the steps. I turn in and begin going up them. One-two-three-four-five-six, then a broad step; six-seven-eight-nine, another broad step; nine-ten-eleven. Eleven I’m inside. Good morning, Rogers. Fine day again.” With a little start he opened his eyes and came back again to his present surroundings. He turned to Bill with a smile. “Eleven,” he said. “Count them the next time you’re there. Eleven and now I hope I shall forget it again.”

Bill was distinctly interested.

“That’s rather hot,” he said. “Expound.”

“Well, I can’t explain it, whether it’s something in the actual eye, or something in the brain, or what, but I have got rather an uncanny habit of recording things unconsciously. You know that game where you look at a tray full of small objects for three minutes, and then turn away and try to make a list of them. It means a devil of a lot of concentration for the ordinary person, if he wants to get his list complete, but in some odd way I manage to do it without concentration at all. I mean that my eyes seem to do it without the brain consciously taking any part. I could look at the tray, for instance, and talk to you about golf at the same time, and still get my list right.”

“I should think that’s rather a useful gift for an amateur detective. You ought to have gone into the profession before.”

“Well, it is rather useful. It’s rather surprising, you know, to a stranger. Let’s surprise Cayley with it, shall we?”

“How?”

“Well, let’s ask him–” Antony stopped and looked at Bill comically, “let’s ask him what he’s going to do with the key of the office.”

For a moment Bill did not understand.

“Key of the office?” he said vaguely. “You don’t mean–Tony! What do you mean? Good God! do you mean that Cayley– But what about Mark?”

“I don’t know where Mark is–that’s another thing I want to know –but I’m quite certain that he hasn’t got the key of the office with him. Because Cayley’s got it.”

“Are you sure?”

“Quite.”

Bill looked at him wonderingly.

“I say,” he said, almost pleadingly, “don’t tell me that you can see into people’s pockets and all that sort of thing as well.”

Antony laughed and denied it cheerfully.

“Then how do you know?”

“You’re the perfect Watson, Bill. You take to it quite naturally. Properly speaking, I oughtn’t to explain till the last chapter, but I always think that that’s so unfair. So here goes. Of course, I don’t really know that he’s got it, but I do know that he had it. I know that when I came on him this afternoon, he had just locked the door and put the key in his pocket.”

“You mean you saw him at the time, but that you’ve only just remembered it–reconstructed it in the way you were explaining just now?”

“No. I didn’t see him. But I did see something. I saw the key of the billiard-room.”

“Where?

“Outside the billiard-room door.”

“Outside? But it was inside when we looked just now.”

“Exactly.”

“Who put it there?”

“Obviously Cayley.”

“But–“

“Let’s go back to this afternoon. I don’t remember noticing the billiard-room key at the time; I must have done so without knowing. Probably when I saw Cayley banging at the door I may have wondered subconsciously whether the key of the room next to it would fit. Something like that, I daresay. Well, when I was sitting out by myself on that seat just before you came along, I went over the whole scene in my mind, and I suddenly saw the billiard-room key there outside. And I began to wonder if the office-key had been outside too. When Cayley came up, I told you my idea and you were both interested. But Cayley was just a shade too interested. I daresay you didn’t notice it, but he was.

“By Jove!”

“Well, of course that proved nothing; and the key business didn’t really prove anything, because whatever side of the door the other keys were, Mark might have locked his own private room from the inside sometimes. But I piled it on, and pretended that it was enormously important, and quite altered the case altogether, and having got Cayley thoroughly anxious about it, I told him that we should be well out of the way for the next hour or so, and that he would be alone in the house to do what he liked about it. And, as I expected, he couldn’t resist it. He altered the keys and gave himself away entirely.”

“But the library key was still outside. Why didn’t he alter that?”

“Because he’s a clever devil. For one thing, the inspector had been in the library, and might possibly have noticed it already. And for another–” Antony hesitated.

“What?” said Bill, after waiting for him to go on.

“It’s only guesswork. But I fancy that Cayley was thoroughly upset about the key business. He suddenly realized that he had been careless, and he hadn’t got time to think it all over. So he didn’t want to commit himself definitely to the statement that the key was either outside or inside. He wanted to leave it vague. It was safest that way.”

“I see,” said Bill slowly.

But his mind was elsewhere. He was wondering suddenly about Cayley. Cayley was just an ordinary man–like himself. Bill had had little jokes with him sometimes; not that Cayley was much of a hand at joking. Bill had helped him to sausages, played tennis with him, borrowed his tobacco, lent him a putter …. and here was Antony saying that he was what? Well, not an ordinary man, anyway. A man with a secret. Perhaps a murderer. No, not a murderer; not Cayley. That was rot, anyway. Why, they had played tennis together.

“Now then, Watson,” said Antony suddenly. “It’s time you said something.”

“I say, Tony, do you really mean it?”

“Mean what?”

“About Cayley.”

“I mean what I said, Bill. No more.

“Well, what does it amount to?”

“Simply that Robert Ablett died in the office this afternoon, and that Cayley knows exactly how he died. That’s all. It doesn’t follow that Cayley killed him.”

“No. No, of course it doesn’t.” Bill gave a sigh of relief. “He’s just shielding Mark, what?”

“I wonder.”

“Well, isn’t that the simplest explanation?”

“It’s the simplest if you’re a friend of Cayley and want to let him down lightly. But then I’m not, you see.

“Why isn’t it simple, anyhow?”

“Well, let’s have the explanation then, and I’ll undertake to give you a simpler one afterwards. Go on. Only remember the key is on the outside of the door to start with.”

“Yes; well, I don’t mind that. Mark goes in to see his brother, and they quarrel and all the rest of it, just as Cayley was saying. Cayley hears the shot, and in order to give Mark time to get away, locks the door, puts the key in his pocket and pretends that Mark has locked the door, and that he can’t get in. How’s that?”

“Hopeless, Watson, hopeless.”

“Why?”

“How does Cayley know that it is Mark who has shot Robert, and not the other way round?”

“Oh!” said Bill, rather upset. “Yes.” He thought for a moment, “All right. Say that Cayley has gone into the room first, and seen Robert on the ground.”

“Well?”

“Well, there you are.”

“And what does he say to Mark? That it’s a fine afternoon; and could he lend him a pocket-handkerchief? Or does he ask him what’s happened?”

“Well, of course, I suppose he asks what happened,” said Bill reluctantly.

“And what does Mark say?”

“Explains that the revolver went off accidentally during a struggle.”

“Whereupon Cayley shields him by doing what, Bill? Encouraging him to do the damn silliest thing that any man could possibly do confess his guilt by running away!”

“No, that’s rather hopeless, isn’t it?” Bill thought again. “Well,” he said reluctantly, “suppose Mark confessed that he’d murdered his brother?”

“That’s better, Bill. Don’t be afraid of getting away from the accident idea. Well then, your new theory is this. Mark confesses to Cayley that he shot Robert on purpose, and Cayley decides, even at the risk of committing perjury, and getting into trouble himself, to help Mark to escape. Is that right?”

Bill nodded.

“Well then, I want to ask you two questions. First, is it possible, as I said before dinner, that any man would commit such an idiotic murder–a murder that puts the rope so very tightly round his neck? Secondly, if Cayley is prepared to perjure himself for Mark (as he has to, anyway, now), wouldn’t it be simpler for him to say that he was in the office all the time, and that Robert’s death was accidental?”

Bill considered this carefully, and then nodded slowly again.

“Yes, my simple explanation is a wash-out,” he said. “Now let’s have yours.”

Antony did not answer him. He had begun to think about something quite different.

CHAPTER IX. POSSIBILITIES OF A CROQUET SET

“What’s the matter?” said Bill sharply.

Antony looked round at him with raised eyebrows.

“You’ve thought of something suddenly,” said Bill. “What is it?”

Antony laughed.

“My dear Watson,” he said, “you aren’t supposed to be as clever as this.”

“Oh, you can’t take me in!”

“No …. Well, I was wondering about this ghost of yours, Bill. It seems to me–“

“Oh, that!” Bill was profoundly disappointed. “What on earth has the ghost got to do with it?”

“I don’t know,” said Antony apologetically. “I don’t know what anything has got to do with it. I was just wondering. You shouldn’t have brought me here if you hadn’t wanted me to think about the ghost. This is where she appeared, isn’t it?”

“Yes.” Bill was distinctly short about it.

“How?”

“What?”

“I said, ‘How?'”

“How? How do ghosts appear? I don’t know. They just appear.”

“Over four or five hundred yards of open park?”

“Well, but she had to appear here, because this is where the original one–Lady Anne, you know–was supposed to walk.”

“Oh, never mind Lady Anne! A real ghost can do anything. But how did Miss Norris appear suddenly over five hundred yards of bare park?”

Bill looked at Antony with open mouth.

“I–I don’t know,” he stammered. “We never thought of that.”

“You would have seen her long before, wouldn’t you, if she had come the way we came?”

“Of course we should.”

“And that would have spoilt it rather. You would have had time to recognize her walk.”

Bill was interested now.

“That’s rather funny, you know, Tony. We none of us thought of that.”

“You’re sure she didn’t come across the park when none of you were looking?”

“Quite. Because, you see, Betty and I were expecting her, and we kept looking round in case we saw her, so that we should all be playing with our backs to her.”

“You and Miss Calladine were playing together?”

“I say, however do you know that?”

“Brilliant deductive reasoning. Well, then you suddenly saw her?”

“Yes, she walked across that side of the lawn.” He indicated the opposite side, nearer to the house.

“She couldn’t have been hiding in the ditch? Do you call it the moat, by the way?”

“Mark does. We don’t among ourselves. No, she couldn’t. Betty and I were here before the others, and walked round a bit. We should have seen her.”

“Then she must have been hiding in the shed. Or do you call it the summer-house?”

“We had to go there for the bowls, of course. She couldn’t have been there.”

“Oh!”

“It’s dashed funny,” said Bill, after an interval for thought. “But it doesn’t matter, does it? It has nothing to do with Robert.”

“Hasn’t it?”

“I say, has it?” said Bill, getting excited again.

“I don’t know. We don’t know what has, or what hasn’t. But it has got something to do with Miss Norris. And Miss Norris–” He broke off suddenly.

“What about her?”

“Well, you’re all in it in a kind of way. And if something unaccountable happens to one of you a day or two before something unaccountable happens to the whole house, one is well, interested.” It was a good enough reason, but it wasn’t the reason he had been on the point of giving.

“I see. Well?”

Antony knocked out his pipe and got up slowly.

“Well then, let’s find the way from the house by which Miss Norris came.”

Bill jumped up eagerly.

“By Jove! Do you mean there’s a secret passage?”

“A secluded passage, anyway. There must be.”

“I say, what fun! I love secret passages. Good Lord, and this afternoon I was playing golf just like an ordinary merchant! What a life! Secret passages!”

They made their way down into the ditch. If an opening was to be found which led to the house, it would probably be on the house side of the green, and on the outside of the ditch. The most obvious place at which to begin the search was the shed where the bowls were kept. It was a tidy place as anything in Mark’s establishment would be. There were two boxes of croquet things, one of them with the lid open, as if the balls and mallets and, hoops (neatly enough put away, though) had been recently used; a box of bowls, a small lawn-mower, a roller and so forth. A seat ran along the back of it, whereon the bowls-players could sit when it rained.

Antony tapped the wall at the back.

“This is where the passage ought to begin. It doesn’t sound very hollow, does it?”

“It needn’t begin here at all, need it?” said Bill, walking round with bent head, and tapping the other walls. He was just too tall to stand upright in the shed.

“There’s only one reason why it should, and that is that it would save us the trouble of looking anywhere else for it. Surely Mark didn’t let you play croquet on his bowling-green?” He pointed to the croquet things.

“He didn’t encourage it at one time, but this year he got rather keen about it. There’s really nowhere else to play. Personally I hate the game. He wasn’t very keen on bowls, you know, but he liked calling it the bowling-green, and surprising his visitors with it.”

Antony laughed.

“I love you on Mark,” he said. “You’re priceless.”

He began to feel in his pockets for his pipe and tobacco, and then suddenly stopped and stiffened to attention. For a moment he stood listening, with his head on one side, holding up a finger to bid Bill listen too.

“What is it?” whispered Bill.

Antony waved him to silence, and remained listening. Very quietly he went down on his knees, and listened again. Then he put his ear to the floor. He got up and dusted himself quickly, walked across to Bill and whispered in his ear:

“Footsteps. Somebody coming. When I begin to talk, back me up.”

Bill nodded. Antony gave him an encouraging pat on the back, and stepped firmly across to the box of bowls, whistling loudly to himself. He took the bowls out, dropped one with a loud bang on the floor, said, “Oh, Lord!” and went on:

“I say, Bill, I don’t think I want to play bowls, after all.”

“Well, why did you say you did?” grumbled Bill.

Antony flashed a smile of appreciation at him.

“Well, I wanted to when I said I did, and now I don’t want to.”

“Then what do you want to do?”

“Talk.”

“Oh, right-o!” said Bill eagerly.

“There’s a seat on the lawn I saw it. Let’s bring these things along in case we want to play, after all.”

“Right-o!” said Bill again. He felt safe with that, not wishing to commit himself until he knew what he was wanted to say.

As they went across the lawn, Antony dropped the bowls and took out his pipe.

“Got a match?” he said loudly.

As he bent his head over the match, he whispered, “There’ll be somebody listening to us. You take the Cayley view,” and then went on in his ordinary voice, “I don’t think much of your matches, Bill,” and struck another. They walked over to the seat and sat down.

“What a heavenly night!” said Antony.

“Ripping.”

“I wonder where that poor devil Mark is now.”

“It’s a rum business.”

“You agree with Cayley that it was an accident?”

“Yes. You see, I know Mark.”

“H’m.” Antony produced a pencil and a piece of paper and began to write on his knee, but while he wrote, he talked. He said that he thought Mark had shot his brother in a fit of anger, and that Cayley knew, or anyhow guessed, this and had tried to give his cousin a chance of getting away.

“Mind you, I think he’s right. I think it’s what any of us would do. I shan’t give it away, of course, but somehow there are one or two little things which make me think that Mark really did shoot his brother I mean other than accidentally.”

“Murdered him?”

“Well, manslaughtered him, anyway. I may be wrong. Anyway, it’s not my business.”

“But why do you think so? Because of the keys?”

“Oh, the keys are a wash-out. Still, it was a brilliant idea of mine, Wasn’t it? And it would have been rather a score for me if they had all been outside.”

He had finished his writing, and now passed the paper over to Bill. In the clear moonlight the carefully printed letters could easily be read:

“GO ON TALKING AS IF I WERE HERE. AFTER A MINUTE OR TWO, TURN ROUND AS IF I WERE SITTING ON THE GRASS BEHIND YOU, BUT GO ON TALKING.”

“I know you don’t agree with me,” Antony went on as Bill read, “but you’ll see that I’m right.”

Bill looked up and nodded eagerly. He had forgotten golf and Betty and all the other things which had made up his world lately. This was the real thing. This was life. “Well,” he began deliberately, “the whole point is that I know Mark. Now, Mark–“

But Antony was off the seat and letting himself gently down into the ditch. His intention was to crawl round it until the shed came in sight. The footsteps which he had heard seemed to be underneath the shed; probably there was a trap-door of some kind in the floor. Whoever it was would have heard their voices, and would probably think it worth while to listen to what they were saying. He might do this merely by opening the door a little without showing himself, in which case Antony would have found the entrance to the passage without any trouble to himself. But when Bill turned his head and talked over the back of the seat, it was probable that the listener would find it necessary to put his head outside in order to hear, and then Antony would be able to discover who it was. Moreover, if he should venture out of his hiding-place altogether and peep at them over the top of the bank, the fact that Bill was talking over the back of the seat would mislead the watcher into thinking that Antony was still there, sitting on the grass, no doubt, behind the seat, swinging his legs over the side of the ditch.

He walked quickly but very silently along the half-length of the bowling-green to the first corner, passed cautiously round, and then went even more carefully along the width of it to the second corner. He could hear Bill hard at it, arguing from his knowledge of Mark’s character that this, that and the other must have happened, and he smiled appreciatively to himself. Bill was a great conspirator worth a hundred Watsons. As he approached the second corner he slowed down, and did the last few yards on hands and knees. Then, lying at full length, inch by inch his head went round the corner.

The shed was two or three yards to his left, on the opposite side of the ditch. From where he lay he could see almost entirely inside it. Everything seemed to be as they left it. The bowls-box, the lawn-mower, the roller, the open croquet-box, the–

“By Jove!” said Antony to himself, “that’s neat.”

The lid of the other croquet-box was open, too. Bill was turning round now; his voice became more difficult to hear. “You see what I mean,” he was saying. “If Cayley–“

And out of the second croquet-box came Cayley’s black head.

Antony wanted to shout his applause. It was neat, devilish neat. For a moment he gazed, fascinated, at that wonderful new kind of croquet-ball which had appeared so dramatically out of the box, and then reluctantly wriggled himself back. There was nothing to be gained by staying there, and a good deal to be lost, for Bill showed signs of running down. As quickly as he could Antony hurried round the ditch and took up his place at the back of the seat. Then he stood up with a yawn, stretched himself and said carelessly, “Well, don’t worry yourself about it, Bill, old man. I daresay you’re right. You know Mark, and I don’t; and that’s the difference. Shall we have a game or shall we go to bed?”

Bill looked at him for inspiration, and, receiving it, said, “Oh, just let’s have one game, shall we?”

“Right you are,” said Antony.

But Bill was much too excited to take the game which followed very seriously. Antony, on the other hand, seemed to be thinking of nothing but bowls. He played with great deliberation for ten minutes, and then announced that he was going to bed. Bill looked at him anxiously.

“It’s all right,” laughed Antony. “You can talk if you want to. Just let’s put ’em away first, though.”

They made their way down to the shed, and while Bill was putting the bowls away, Antony tried the lid of the closed croquet-box. As he expected, it was locked.

“Now then,” said Bill, as they were walking back to the house again, “I’m simply bursting to know. Who was it?”

“Cayley.”

“Good Lord! Where?”

“Inside one of the croquet-boxes.”

“Don’t be an ass.”

“It’s quite true, Bill.” He told the other what he had seen.

“But aren’t we going to have a look at it?” asked Bill, in great disappointment. “I’m longing to explore. Aren’t you?”

“To-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow. We shall see Cayley coming along this way directly. Besides, I want to get in from the other end, if I can. I doubt very much if we can do it this end without giving ourselves away. Look, there’s Cayley.”

They could see him coming along the drive towards them. When they were a little closer, they waved to him and he waved back.

“I wondered where you were, he said, as he got up to them. “I rather thought you might be along this way. What about bed?”

“Bed it is,” said Antony.

“We’ve been playing bowls,” added Bill, “and talking, and–and playing bowls. Ripping night, isn’t it?”

But he left the rest of the conversation, as they wandered back to the house, to Antony. He wanted to think. There seemed to be no doubt now that Cayley was a villain. Bill had never been familiar with a villain before. It didn’t seem quite fair of Cayley, somehow; he was taking rather a mean advantage of his friends. Lot of funny people there were in the world funny people with secrets. Look at Tony, that first time he had met him in a tobacconist’s shop. Anybody would have thought he was a tobacconist’s assistant. And Cayley. Anybody would have thought that Cayley was an ordinary decent sort of person. And Mark. Dash it! one could never be sure of anybody. Now, Robert was different. Everybody had always said that Robert was a shady fellow.

But what on earth had Miss Norris got to do with it? What had Miss Norris got to do with it? This was a question which Antony had already asked himself that afternoon, and it seemed to him now that he had found the answer. As he lay in bed that night he reassembled his ideas, and looked at them in the new light which the events of the evening threw upon the dark corners in his brain.

Of course it was natural that Cayley should want to get rid of his guests as soon as the tragedy was discovered. He would want this for their own sake as well as for his. But he had been a little too quick about suggesting it, and about seeing the suggestion carried out. They had been bustled off as soon as they could be packed. The suggestion that they were in his hands, to go or stay as he wished, could have been left safely to them. As it was, they had been given no alternative, and Miss Norris, who had proposed to catch an after-dinner train at the junction, in the obvious hope that she might have in this way a dramatic cross-examination at the hands of some keen-eyed detective, was encouraged tactfully, but quite firmly, to travel by the earlier train with the others. Antony had felt that Cayley, in the tragedy which had suddenly befallen the house, ought to have been equally indifferent to her presence or absence. But he was not; and Antony assumed from this that Cayley was very much alive to the necessity for her absence.

Why?

Well, that question was not to be answered off-hand. But the fact that it was so had made Antony interested in her; and it was for this reason that he had followed up so alertly Bill’s casual mention of her in connection with the dressing-up business. He felt that he wanted to know a little more about Miss Norris and the part she had played in The Red House circle. By sheer luck, as it seemed to him, he had stumbled on the answer to his question.

Miss Norris was hurried away because she knew about the secret passage.

The passage, then, had something to do with the mystery of Robert’s death. Miss Norris had used it in order to bring off her dramatic appearance as the ghost. Possibly she had discovered it for herself; possibly Mark had revealed it to her secretly one day, never guessing that she would make so unkind a use of it later on; possibly Cayley, having been let into the joke of the dressing-up, had shown her how she could make her appearance on the bowling-green even more mysterious and supernatural. One way or another, she knew about the secret passage. So she must be hurried away.

Why? Because if she stayed and talked, she might make some innocent mention of it. And Cayley did not want any mention of it.

Why, again? Obviously because the passage, or even the mere knowledge of its existence, might provide a clue.

“I wonder if Mark’s hiding there,” thought Antony; and he went to sleep.

CHAPTER X. MR. GILLINGHAM TALKS NONSENSE

Antony came down in a very good humour to breakfast next morning, and found that his host was before him. Cayley looked up from his letters and nodded.

“Any word of Mr. Ablett–of Mark?” said Antony, as he poured out his coffee.

“No. The inspector wants to drag the lake this afternoon.

“Oh! Is there a lake?”

There was just the flicker of a smile on Cayley’s face, but it disappeared as quickly as it came.

“Well, it’s really a pond,” he said, “but it was called ‘the lake.'”

“By Mark,” thought Antony. Aloud he said, “What do they expect to find?”

“They think that Mark–” He broke off and shrugged his shoulders.

“May have drowned himself, knowing that he couldn’t get away? And knowing that he had compromised himself by trying to get away at all?”

“Yes; I suppose so,” said Cayley slowly.

“I should have thought he would have given himself more of a run for his money. After all, he had a revolver. If he was determined not to be taken alive, he could always have prevented that. Couldn’t he have caught a train to London before the police knew anything about it?”

“He might just have managed it. There was a train. They would have noticed him at Waldheim, of course, but he might have managed it at Stanton. He’s not so well-known there, naturally. The inspector has been inquiring. Nobody seems to have seen him.”

“There are sure to be people who will say they did, later on. There was never a missing man yet but a dozen people come forward who swear to have seen him at a dozen different places at the same time.”

Cayley smiled.

“Yes. That’s true. Anyhow, he wants to drag the pond first.” He added dryly, “From what I’ve read of detective stories, inspectors always do want to drag the pond first.”

“Is it deep?”

“Quite deep enough,” said Cayley as he got up. On his way to the door he stopped, and looked at Antony. “I’m so sorry that we’re keeping you here like this, but it will only be until to-morrow. The inquest is to-morrow afternoon. Do amuse yourself how you like till then. Beverley will look after you.”

“Thanks very much. I shall really be quite all right.”

Antony went on with his breakfast. Perhaps it was true that inspectors liked dragging ponds, but the question was, Did Cayleys like having them dragged? Was Cayley anxious about it, or quite indifferent? He certainly did not seem to be anxious, but he could hide his feelings very easily beneath that heavy, solid face, and it was not often that the real Cayley peeped out. Just a little too eager once or twice, perhaps, but there was nothing to be learnt from it this morning. Perhaps he knew that the pond had no secrets to give up. After all, inspectors were always dragging ponds.

Bill came in noisily.

Bill’s face was an open book. Excitement was written all over it.

“Well,” he said eagerly, as he sat down to the business of the meal, “what are we going to do this morning?”

“Not talk so loudly, for one thing,” said Antony. Bill looked about him apprehensively. Was Cayley under the table, for example? After last night one never knew.

“Is er–” He raised his eyebrows.

“No. But one doesn’t want to shout. One should modulate the voice, my dear William, while breathing gently from the hips. Thus one avoids those chest-notes which have betrayed many a secret. In other words, pass the toast.”

“You seem bright this morning.”

“I am. Very bright. Cayley noticed it. Cayley said, ‘Were it not that I have other business, I would come gathering nuts and may with thee. Fain would I gyrate round the mulberry-bush and hop upon the little hills. But the waters of Jordan encompass me and Inspector Birch tarries outside with his shrimping-net. My friend William Beverley will attend thee anon. Farewell, a long farewell to all–thy grape-nuts.’ He then left up-centre. Enter W. Beverley, R.”

“Are you often like this at breakfast?”

“Almost invariably. Said he with his mouth full. ‘Exit W. Beverley, L.”

“It’s a touch of the sun, I suppose,” said Bill, shaking his head sadly.

“It’s the sun and the moon and the stars, all acting together on an empty stomach. Do you know anything about the stars, Mr. Beverley? Do you know anything about Orion’s Belt, for instance? And why isn’t there a star called Beverley’s Belt? Or a novel? Said he masticating. Re-enter W. Beverley through trap-door.”

“Talking about trap-doors–“

“Don’t,” said Antony, getting up. “Some talk of Alexander and some of Hercules, but nobody talks about–what’s the Latin for trap-door?–Mensa a table; you might get it from that. Well, Mr. Beverley,”–and he slapped him heartily on the back as he went past him–“I shall see you later. Cayley says that you will amuse me, but so far you have not made me laugh once. You must try and be more amusing when you have finished your breakfast. But don’t hurry. Let the upper mandibles have time to do the work.” With those words Mr. Gillingham then left the spacious apartment.

Bill continued his breakfast with a slightly bewildered air. He did not know that Cayley was smoking a cigarette outside the windows behind him; not listening, perhaps; possibly not even overhearing; but within sight of Antony, who was not going to take any risks. So he went on with his breakfast, reflecting that Antony was a rum fellow, and wondering if he had dreamed only of the amazing things which had happened the day before.

Antony went up to his bedroom to fetch his pipe. It was occupied by a housemaid, and he made a polite apology for disturbing her. Then be remembered.

“Is it Elsie?” he asked, giving her a friendly smile.

“Yes, sir,” she said, shy but proud. She had no doubts as to why it was that she had achieved such notoriety.

“It was you who heard Mr. Mark yesterday, wasn’t it? I hope the inspector was nice to you?”

“Yes, thank you, sir.”

“‘It’s my turn now. You wait,'” murmured Antony to himself.

“Yes, sir. Nasty-like. Meaning to say his chance had come.”

“I wonder.”

“Well, that’s what I heard, sir. Truly.”

Antony looked at her thoughtfully and nodded.

“Yes. I wonder. I wonder why.”

“Why what, sir?”

“Oh, lots of things, Elsie …. It was quite an accident your being outside just then?”

Elsie blushed. She had not forgotten what Mrs. Stevens had said about it.

“Quite, sir. In the general way I use the other stairs.”

“Of course.”

He had found his pipe and was about to go downstairs again when she stopped him.

“I beg your pardon, sir, but will there be an inquest?”

“Oh, yes. To-morrow, I think.”

“Shall I have to give my evidence, sir?”

“Of course. There’s nothing to be frightened of.”

“I did hear it, sir. Truly.”

“Why, of course you did. Who says you didn’t?”

“Some of the others, sir, Mrs. Stevens and all.”

“Oh, that’s just because they’re jealous,” said Antony with a smile.

He was glad to have spoken to her, because he had recognized at once the immense importance of her evidence. To the inspector no doubt it had seemed only of importance in that it had shown Mark to have adopted something of a threatening attitude towards his brother. To Antony it had much more significance. It was the only trustworthy evidence that Mark had been in the office at all that afternoon.

For who saw Mark go into the office? Only Cayley. And if Cayley had been hiding the truth about the keys, why should he not be hiding the truth about Mark’s entry into the office? Obviously all Cayley’s evidence went for nothing. Some of it no doubt was true; but he was giving it, both truth and falsehood, with a purpose. What the purpose was Antony did not know as yet; to shield Mark, to shield himself, even to betray Mark it might be any of these. But since his evidence was given for his own ends, it was impossible that it could be treated as the evidence of an impartial and trustworthy onlooker. Such, for instance, as Elsie appeared to be.

Elsie’s evidence, however, seemed to settle the point. Mark had gone into the office to see his brother; Elsie had heard them both talking; and then Antony and Cayley had found the body of Robert …. and the inspector was going to drag the pond.

But certainly Elsie’s evidence did not prove anything more than the mere presence of Mark in the room. “It’s my turn now; you wait.” That was not an immediate threat;–it was a threat for the future. If Mark had shot his brother immediately afterwards it must have been an accident, the result of a struggle, say, provoked by that “nasty-like” tone of voice. Nobody would say “You wait” to a man who was just going to be shot. “You wait” meant “You wait, and see what’s going to happen to you later on.” The owner of The Red House had had enough of his brother’s sponging, his brother’s blackmail; now it was Mark’s turn to get a bit of his own back. Let Robert just wait a bit, and he would see. The conversation which Elsie had overheard might have meant something like this. It couldn’t have meant murder. Anyway not murder of Robert by Mark.

“It’s a funny business,” thought Antony. “The one obvious solution is so easy and yet so wrong. And I’ve got a hundred things in my head, and I can’t fit them together. And this afternoon will make a hundred and one. I mustn’t forget this afternoon.”

He found Bill in the hall and proposed a stroll. Bill was only too ready. “Where do you want to go?” he asked.

“I don’t mind much. Show me the park.”

“Righto.”

They walked out together.

“Watson, old man,” said Antony, as soon as they were away from the house, “you really mustn’t talk so loudly indoors. There was a gentleman outside, just behind you, all the time.”

“Oh, I say,” said Bill, going pink. “I’m awfully sorry. So that’s why you were talking such rot.”

“Partly, yes. And partly because I do feel rather bright this morning. We’re going to have a busy day.”

“Are we really? What are we going to do?”

“They’re going to drag the pond–beg its pardon, the lake. Where is the lake?”

“We’re on the way to it now, if you’d like to see it.”

“We may as well look at it. Do you haunt the lake much in the ordinary way?”

“Oh, no, rather not. There’s nothing to do there.”

“You can’t bathe?”

“Well, I shouldn’t care to. Too dirty.”

“I see …. This is the way we came yesterday, isn’t it? The way to the village?”

“Yes. We go off a bit to the right directly. What are they dragging it for?”

“Mark.”

“Oh, rot,” said Bill uneasily. He was silent for a little, and then, forgetting his uncomfortable thoughts in his sudden remembrance of the exciting times they were having, said eagerly, “I say, when are we going to look for that passage?”

“We can’t do very much while Cayley’s in the house.”

“What about this afternoon when they’re dragging the pond? He’s sure to be there.”

Antony shook his head.

“There’s something I must do this afternoon,” he said. “Of course we might have time for both.”

“Has Cayley got to be out of the house for the other thing too?”

“Well, I think he ought to be.”

“I say, is it anything rather exciting?”

“I don’t know. It might be rather interesting. I daresay I could do it at some other time, but I rather fancy it at three o’clock, somehow. I’ve been specially keeping it back for then.”

“I say, what fun! You do want me, don’t you?”

“Of course I do. Only, Bill don’t talk about things inside the house, unless I begin. There’s a good Watson.”

“I won’t. I swear I won’t.”

They had come to the pond–Mark’s lake–and they walked silently round it. When they had made the circle, Antony sat down on the grass, and relit his pipe. Bill followed his example.

“Well, Mark isn’t there,” said Antony.

“No,” said Bill. “At least, I don’t quite see why you know he isn’t.”

“It isn’t ‘knowing,’ it’s ‘guessing,'” said Antony rapidly. “It’s much easier to shoot yourself than to drown yourself, and if Mark had wanted to shoot himself in the water, with some idea of not letting the body be found, he’d have put big stones in his pockets, and the only big stones are near the water’s edge, and they would have left marks, and they haven’t, and therefore he didn’t, and oh, bother the pond; that can wait till this afternoon. Bill, where does the secret passage begin?”

“Well, that’s what we’ve got to find out, isn’t it?”

“Yes. You see, my idea is this.”

He explained his reasons for thinking that the secret of the passage was concerned in some way with the secret of Robert’s death, and went on:

“My theory is that Mark discovered the passage about a year ago the time when he began to get keen on croquet. The passage came out into the floor of the shed, and probably it was Cayley’s idea to put a croquet-box over the trap-door, so as to hide it more completely. You know, when once you’ve discovered a secret yourself, it always seems as if it must be so obvious to everybody else. I can imagine that Mark loved having this little secret all to himself and to Cayley, of course, but Cayley wouldn’t count and they must have had great fun fixing it up, and making it more difficult for other people to find out. Well then, when Miss Norris was going to dress-up, Cayley gave it away. Probably he told her that she could never get down to the bowling-green without being discovered, and then perhaps showed that he knew there was one way in which she could do it, and she wormed the secret out of him somehow.”

“But this was two or three days before Robert turned up.”

“Exactly. I am not suggesting that there was anything sinister about the passage in the first place. It was just a little private bit of romance and adventure for Mark, three days ago. He didn’t even know that Robert was coming. But somehow the passage has been used since, in connection with Robert. Perhaps Mark escaped that way; perhaps he’s hiding there now. And if so,