This page contains affiliate links. As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases.
Writer:
Language:
Forms:
Published:
  • 1922
Collection:
Buy it on Amazon Listen via Audible FREE Audible 30 days

then the only person who could give him away was Miss Norris. And she of course would only do it innocently not knowing that the passage had anything to do with it.”

“So it was safer to have her out of the way?”

“Yes.”

“But, look here, Tony, why do you want to bother about this end of it? We can always get in at the bowling-green end.”

“I know, but if we do that we shall have to do it openly. It will mean breaking open the box, and letting Cayley know that we’ve done it. You see, Bill, if we don’t find anything out for ourselves in the next day or two, we’ve got to tell the police what we have found out, and then they can explore the passage for themselves. But I don’t want to do that yet.”

“Rather not.

“So we’ve got to carry on secretly for a bit. It’s the only way.” He smiled and added, “And it’s much more fun.”

“Rather!” Bill chuckled to himself.

“Very well. Where does the secret passage begin?”

CHAPTER XI. THE REVEREND THEODORE USSHER

“There’s one thing, which we have got to realize at once,” said Antony, “and that is that if we don’t find it easily, we shan’t find it at all.”

“You mean that we shan’t have time?”

“Neither time nor opportunity. Which is rather a consoling thought to a lazy person like me.”

“But it makes it much harder, if we can’t really look properly.”

“Harder to find, yes, but so much easier to look. For instance, the passage might begin in Cayley’s bedroom. Well, now we know that it doesn’t.”

“We don’t know anything of the sort,” protested Bill.

“We–know for the purposes of our search. Obviously we can’t go tailing into Cayley’s bedroom and tapping his wardrobes; and obviously, therefore, if we are going to look for it at all, we must assume that it doesn’t begin there.”

“Oh, I see.” Bill chewed a piece of grass thoughtfully. “Anyhow, it wouldn’t begin on an upstairs floor, would it?”

“Probably not. Well, we’re getting on.”

“You can wash out the kitchen and all that part of the house,” said Bill, after more thought. “We can’t go there.”

“Right. And the cellars, if there are any.”

“Well, that doesn’t leave us much.”

“No. Of course it’s only a hundred-to-one chance that we find it, but what we want to consider is which is the most likely place of the few places in which we can look safely.”

“All it amounts to,” said Bill, “is the living-rooms downstairs dining-room, library, hall, billiard-room and the office rooms.”

“Yes, that’s all.”

“Well, the office is the most likely, isn’t it?”

“Yes. Except for one thing.”

“What’s that?”

“Well, it’s on the wrong side of the house. One would expect the passage to start from the nearest place to which it is going. Why make it longer by going under the house first?”

“Yes, that’s true. Well, then, you think the dining-room or the library?”

“Yes. And the library for choice. I mean for our choice. There are always servants going into dining-rooms. We shouldn’t have much of a chance of exploring properly in there. Besides, there’s another thing to remember. Mark has kept this a secret for a year. Could he have kept it a secret in the dining-room? Could Miss Norris have got into the dining-room and used the secret door just after dinner without being seen? It would have been much too risky.”

Bill got up eagerly.

“Come along,” he said, “let’s try the library. If Cayley comes in, we can always pretend we’re choosing a book.”

Antony got up slowly, took his arm and walked back to the house with him.

The library was worth going into, passages or no passages. Antony could never resist another person’s bookshelves. As soon as he went into the room, he found himself wandering round it to see what books the owner read, or (more likely) did not read, but kept for the air which they lent to the house. Mark had prided himself on his library. It was a mixed collection of books. Books which he had inherited both from his father and from his patron; books which he had bought because he was interested in them or, if not in them, in the authors to whom he wished to lend his patronage; books which he had ordered in beautifully bound editions, partly because they looked well on his shelves, lending a noble colour to his rooms, partly because no man of culture should ever be without them; old editions, new editions, expensive books, cheap books a library in which everybody, whatever his taste, could be sure of finding something to suit him.

“And which is your particular fancy, Bill?” said Antony, looking from one shelf to another. “Or are you always playing billiards?”

“I have a look at ‘Badminton’ sometimes,” said Bill.

“It’s over in that corner there.” He waved a hand.

“Over here?” said Antony, going to it.

“Yes.” He corrected himself suddenly.–“Oh, no, it’s not. It’s over there on the right now. Mark had a grand re-arrangement of his library about a year ago. It took him more than a week, he told us. He’s got such a frightful lot, hasn’t he?”

“Now that’s very interesting,” said Antony, and he sat down and filled his pipe again.

There was indeed a “frightful lot” of books. The four walls of the library were plastered with them from floor to ceiling, save only where the door and the two windows insisted on living their own life, even though an illiterate one. To Bill it seemed the most hopeless room of any in which to look for a secret opening.

“We shall have to take every blessed book down,” he said, “before we can be certain that we haven’t missed it.”

“Anyway,” said Antony, “if we take them down one at a time, nobody can suspect us of sinister designs. After all, what does one go into a library for, except to take books down?”

“But there’s such a frightful lot.”

Antony’s pipe was now going satisfactorily, and he got up and walked leisurely to the end of the wall opposite the door.

“Well, let’s have a look,” he said, “and see if they are so very frightful. Hallo, here’s your ‘Badminton.’ You often read that, you say?”

“If I read anything.”

“Yes.” He looked down and up the shelf. “Sport and Travel chiefly. I like books of travel, don’t you?”

“They’re pretty dull as a rule.”

“Well, anyhow, some people like them very much,” said Antony, reproachfully. He moved on to the next row of shelves. “The Drama. The Restoration dramatists. You can have most of them. Still, as you well remark, many people seem to love them. Shaw, Wilde, Robertson–I like reading plays, Bill. There are not many people who do, but those who do are usually very keen. Let us pass on.”

“I say, we haven’t too much time,” said Bill restlessly.

“We haven’t. That’s why we aren’t wasting any. Poetry. Who reads poetry nowadays? Bill, when did you last read ‘Paradise Lost’?”

“Never.”

“I thought not. And when did Miss Calladine last read ‘The Excursion’ aloud to you?”

“As a matter of fact, Betty Miss Calladine happens to be jolly keen on what’s the beggar’s name?”

“Never mind his name. You have said quite enough. We pass on.”

He moved on to the next shelf.

“Biography. Oh, lots of it. I love biographies. Are you a member of the Johnson Club? I bet Mark is. ‘Memories of Many Courts’ I’m sure Mrs. Calladine reads that. Anyway, biographies are just as interesting as most novels, so why linger? We pass on.” He went to the next shelf, and then gave a sudden whistle. “Hallo, hallo!”

“What’s the matter?” said Bill rather peevishly.

“Stand back there. Keep the crowd back, Bill. We are getting amongst it. Sermons, as I live. Sermons. Was Mark’s father a clergyman, or does Mark take to them naturally?”

“His father was a parson, I believe. Oh, yes, I know he was.”

“Ah, then these are Father’s books. ‘Half-Hours with the Infinite’ I must order that from the library when I get back. ‘The Lost Sheep,’ ‘Jones on the Trinity,’ ‘The Epistles of St. Paul Explained.’ Oh, Bill, we’re amongst it. ‘The Narrow Way, being Sermons by the Rev. Theodore Ussher’ hal-LO!”

“What is the matter?”

“William, I am inspired. Stand by.” He took down the Reverend Theodore Ussher’s classic work, looked at it with a happy smile for a moment, and then gave it to Bill.

“Here, hold Ussher for a bit.”

Bill took the book obediently.

“No, give it me back. Just go out into the hall, and see if you can hear Cayley anywhere. Say ‘Hallo’ loudly, if you do.”

Bill went out quickly, listened, and came back.

“It’s all right.”

“Good.” He took the book out of its shelf again. “Now then, you can hold Ussher. Hold him in the left hand so. With the right or dexter hand, grasp this shelf firmly so. Now, when I say ‘Pull,’ pull gradually. Got that?”

Bill nodded, his face alight with excitement.

“Good.” Antony put his hand into the space left by the stout Ussher, and fingered the hack of the shelf. “Pull,” he said.

Bill pulled.

“Now just go on pulling like that. I shall get it directly. Not hard, you know, but just keeping up the strain.”

His fingers went at it again busily.

And then suddenly the whole row of shelves, from top to bottom, swung gently open towards them.

“Good Lord!” said Bill, letting go of the shelf in his amazement.

Antony pushed the shelves back, extracted Ussher from Bill’s fingers, replaced him, and then, taking Bill by the arm, led him to the sofa and deposited him in it. Standing in front of him, he bowed gravely.

“Child’s play, Watson,” he said; “child’s play.”

“How on earth–“

Antony laughed happily and sat down on the sofa beside him.

“You don’t really want it explained,” he said, smacking him on the knee; “you’re just being Watsonish. It’s very nice of you, of course, and I appreciate it.”

“No, but really, Tony.”

“Oh, my dear Bill!” He smoked silently for a little, and then went on, “It’s what I was saying just now a secret is a secret until you have discovered it, and as soon as you have discovered it, you wonder why everybody else isn’t discovering it, and how it could ever have been a secret at all. This passage has been here for years, with an opening at one end into the library, and at the other end into the shed. Then Mark discovered it, and immediately he felt that everybody else must discover it. So he made the shed end more difficult by putting the croquet-box there, and this end more difficult by–” he stopped and looked at the other “by what, Bill?”

But Bill was being Watsonish.

“What?”

“Obviously by re-arranging his books. He happened to take out ‘The Life of Nelson’ or ‘Three Men in a Boat,’ or whatever it was, and by the merest chance discovered the secret. Naturally he felt that everybody else would be taking down ‘The Life of Nelson’ or ‘Three Men in a Boat.’ Naturally he felt that the secret would be safer if nobody ever interfered with that shelf at all. When you said that the books had been re-arranged a year ago just about the time the croquet-box came into existence; of course, I guessed why. So I looked about for the dullest books I could find, the books nobody ever read. Obviously the collection of sermon-books of a mid-Victorian clergyman was the shelf we wanted.”

“Yes, I see. But why were you so certain of the particular place?”

“Well, he had to mark the particular place by some book. I thought that the joke of putting ‘The Narrow Way’ just over the entrance to the passage might appeal to him. Apparently it did.”

Bill nodded to himself thoughtfully several times. “Yes, that’s very neat,” he said. “You’re a clever devil, Tony.”

Tony laughed.

“You encourage me to think so, which is bad for me, but very delightful.”

“Well, come on, then,” said Bill, and he got up, and held out a hand.

“Come on where?”

“To explore the passage, of course.”

Antony shook his head.

“Why ever not?”

“Well, what do you expect to find there?”

“I don’t know. But you seemed to think that we might find something that would help.”

“Suppose we find Mark?” said Antony quietly.

“I say, do you really think he’s there?”

“Suppose he is?”

“Well, then, there we are.”

Antony walked over to the fireplace, knocked out the ashes of his pipe, and turned back to Bill. He looked at him gravely without speaking.

“What are you going to say to him?” he said at last.

“How do you mean?”

“Are you going to arrest him, or help him to escape?”

“I–I–well, of course, I–” began Bill, stammering, and then ended lamely, “Well, I don’t know.”

“Exactly. We’ve got to make up our minds, haven’t we?”

Bill didn’t answer. Very much disturbed in his mind, he walked restlessly about the room, frowning to himself, stopping now and then at the newly discovered door and looking at it as if he were trying to learn what lay behind it. Which side was he on, if it came to choosing sides Mark’s or the Law’s?

“You know, you can’t just say, ‘Oh er hallo!’ to him,” said Antony, breaking rather appropriately into his thoughts.

Bill looked up at him with a start.

“Nor,” went on Antony, “can you say, ‘This is my friend Mr. Gillingham, who is staying with you. We were just going to have a game of bowls.'”

“Yes, it’s dashed difficult. I don’t know what to say. I’ve been rather forgetting about Mark.” He wandered over to the window and looked out on to the lawns. There was a gardener clipping the grass edges. No reason why the lawn should be untidy just because the master of the house had disappeared. It was going to be a hot day again. Dash it, of course he had forgotten Mark. How could he think of him as an escaped murderer, a fugitive from justice, when everything was going on just as it did yesterday, and the sun was shining just as it did when they all drove off to their golf, only twenty-four hours ago? How could he help feeling that this was not real tragedy, but merely a jolly kind of detective game that he and Antony were playing?

He turned back to his friend.

“All the same,” he said, “you wanted to find the passage, and now you’ve found it. Aren’t you going into it at all?”

Antony took his arm.

“Let’s go outside again,” he said. “We can’t go into it now, anyhow. It’s too risky, with Cayley about. Bill, I feel like you–just a little bit frightened. But what I’m frightened of I don’t quite know. Anyway, you want to go on with it, don’t you?”

“Yes,” said Bill firmly. “We must.”

“Then we’ll explore the passage this afternoon, if we get the chance. And if we don’t get the chance, then we’ll try it to-night.”

They walked across the hall and out into the sunlight again.

“Do you really think we might find Mark hiding there?” asked Bill.

“It’s possible,” said Antony. “Either Mark or–” He pulled himself up quickly. “No,” he murmured to himself, “I won’t let myself think that not yet, anyway. It’s too horrible.”

CHAPTER XII. A SHADOW ON THE WALL

In the twenty hours or so at his disposal Inspector Birch had been busy. He had telegraphed to London a complete description of Mark in the brown flannel suit which he had last been seen wearing; he had made inquiries at Stanton as to whether anybody answering to this description had been seen leaving by the 4.20; and though the evidence which had been volunteered to him had been inconclusive, it made it possible that Mark had indeed caught that train, and had arrived in London before the police at the other end had been ready to receive him. But the fact that it was market-day at Stanton, and that the little town would be more full than usual of visitors, made it less likely that either the departure of Mark by the 4.20, or the arrival of Robert by the 2.10 earlier in the afternoon, would have been particularly noticed. As Antony had said to Cayley, there would always be somebody ready to hand the police a circumstantial story of the movements of any man in whom the police were interested.

That Robert had come by the 2.10 seemed fairly certain. To find out more about him in time for the inquest would be difficult. All that was known about him in the village where he and Mark had lived as boys bore out the evidence of Cayley. He was an unsatisfactory son, and he had been hurried off to Australia; nor had he been seen since in the village. Whether there were any more substantial grounds of quarrel between the two brothers than that the younger one was at home and well-to-do, while the elder was poor and an exile, was not known, nor, as far as the inspector could see, was it likely to be known until Mark was captured.

The discovery of Mark was all that mattered immediately. Dragging the pond might not help towards this, but it would certainly give the impression in court to-morrow that Inspector Birch was handling the case with zeal. And if only the revolver with which the deed was done was brought to the surface, his trouble would be well repaid. “Inspector Birch produces the weapon” would make an excellent headline in the local paper.

He was feeling well-satisfied with himself, therefore, as he walked to the pond, where his men were waiting for him, and quite in the mood for a little pleasant talk with Mr. Gillingham and his friend, Mr. Beverley. He gave them a cheerful “Good afternoon,” and added with a smile, “Coming to help us?”

“You don’t really want us,” said Antony, smiling back at him.

“You can come if you like.”

Antony gave a little shudder.

“You can tell me afterwards what you find,” he said. “By the way,” he added, “I hope the landlord at the ‘George’ gave me a good character?”

The Inspector looked at him quickly.

“Now how on earth do you know anything about that?”

Antony bowed to him gravely.

“Because I guessed that you were a very efficient member of the Force.”

The inspector laughed.

“Well, you came out all right, Mr. Gillingham. You got a clean bill. But I had to make certain about you.

“Of course you did. Well, I wish you luck. But I don’t think you’ll find much at the pond. It’s rather out of the way, isn’t it, for anybody running away?”

“That’s just what I told Mr. Cayley, when he called my attention to the pond. However, we shan’t do any harm by looking. It’s the unexpected that’s the most likely in this sort of case.”

“You’re quite right, Inspector. Well, we mustn’t keep you. Good afternoon,” and Antony smiled pleasantly at him.

“Good afternoon, sir.”

“Good afternoon,” said Bill.

Antony stood looking after the Inspector as he strode off, silent for so long that Bill shook him by the arm at last, and asked him rather crossly what was the matter.

Antony shook his head slowly from side to side.

“I don’t know; really I don’t know. It’s too devilish what I keep thinking. He can’t be as cold-blooded as that.”

“Who?”

Without answering, Antony led the way back to the garden-seat on which they had been sitting. He sat there with his head in his hands.

“Oh, I hope they find something,” he murmured. “Oh, I hope they do.”

“In the pond?”

“Yes.”

“But what?”

“Anything, Bill; anything.”

Bill was annoyed. “I say, Tony, this won’t do. You really mustn’t be so damn mysterious. What’s happened to you suddenly?”

Antony looked up at him in surprise.

“Didn’t you hear what he said?”

“What, particularly?”

“That it was Cayley’s idea to drag the pond.”

“Oh! Oh, I say!” Bill was rather excited again. “You mean that he’s hidden something there? Some false clue which he wants the police to find?”

“I hope so,” said Antony earnestly, “but I’m afraid–” He stopped short.

“Afraid of what?”

“Afraid that he hasn’t hidden anything there. Afraid that–“

“Well?”

“What’s the safest place in which to hide anything very important?”

“Somewhere where nobody will look.”

“There’s a better place than that.”

“What?”

“Somewhere where everybody has already looked.”

“By Jove! You mean that as soon as the pond has been dragged, Cayley will hide something there?”

“Yes, I’m afraid so.”

“But why afraid?”

“Because I think that it must be something very important, something which couldn’t easily be hidden anywhere else.”

“What?” asked Bill eagerly.

Antony shook his head.

“No, I’m not going to talk about it yet. We can wait and see what the inspector finds. He may find something–I don’t know what–something that Cayley has put there for him to find. But if he doesn’t, then it will be because Cayley is going to hide something there to-night.”

“What?” asked Bill again.

“You will see what, Bill,” said Antony; “because we shall be there.”

“Are we going to watch, him?”

“Yes, if the inspector finds nothing.”

“That’s good,” said Bill.

If it were a question of Cayley or the Law, he was quite decided as to which side he was taking. Previous to the tragedy of yesterday he had got on well enough with both of the cousins, without being in the least intimate with either. Indeed, of the two he preferred, perhaps, the silent, solid Cayley to the more volatile Mark. Cayley’s qualities, as they appeared to Bill, may have been chiefly negative; but even if this merit lay in the fact that he never exposed whatever weaknesses he may have had, this is an excellent quality in a fellow-guest (or, if you like, fellow-host) in a house where one is continually visiting. Mark’s weaknesses, on the other hand, were very plain to the eye, and Bill had seen a good deal of them.

Yet, though he had hesitated to define his position that morning in regard to Mark, he did not hesitate to place himself on the side of the Law against Cayley. Mark, after all, had done him no harm, but Cayley had committed an unforgivable offence. Cayley had listened secretly to a private conversation between himself and Tony. Let Cayley hang, if the Law demanded it.

Antony looked at his watch and stood up.

“Come along,” he said. “It’s time for that job I spoke about.”

“The passage?” said Bill eagerly.

“No; the thing which I said that I had to do this afternoon.”

“Oh, of course. What is it?”

Without saying anything, Antony led the way indoors to the office.

It was three o’clock, and at three o’clock yesterday Antony and Cayley had found the body. At a few minutes after three, he had been looking out of the window of the adjoining room, and had been surprised suddenly to find the door open and Cayley behind him. He had vaguely wondered at the time why he had expected the door to be shut, but he had had no time then to worry the thing out, and he had promised himself to look into it at his leisure afterwards. Possibly it meant nothing; possibly, if it meant anything, he could have found out its meaning by a visit to the office that morning. But he had felt that he would be more likely to recapture the impressions of yesterday if he chose as far as possible the same conditions for his experiment. So he had decided that three o’clock that afternoon should find him once more in the office.

As he went into the room, followed by Bill, he felt it almost as a shock that there was now no body of Robert lying there between the two doors. But there was a dark stain which showed where the dead man’s head had been, and Antony knelt down over it, as he had knelt twenty-four hours before.

“I want to go through it again,” he said. “You must be Cayley. Cayley said he would get some water. I remember thinking that water wasn’t much good to a dead man, and that probably he was only too glad to do anything rather than nothing. He came back with a wet sponge and a handkerchief. I suppose he got the handkerchief from the chest of drawers. Wait a bit.”

He got up and went into the adjoining room; looked round it, pulled open a drawer or two, and, after shutting all the doors, came back to the office.

“The sponge is there, and there are handkerchiefs in the top right-hand drawer. Now then, Bill, just pretend you’re Cayley. You’ve just said something about water, and you get up.”

Feeling that it was all a little uncanny, Bill, who had been kneeling beside his friend, got up and walked out. Antony, as he had done on the previous day, looked up after him as he went. Bill turned into the room on the right, opened the drawer and got the handkerchief, damped the sponge and came back.

“Well?” he said wonderingly.

Antony shook his head.

“It’s all different,” he said. “For one thing, you made a devil of a noise and Cayley didn’t.”

“Perhaps you weren’t listening when Cayley went in?”

“I wasn’t. But I should have heard him if I could have heard him, and I should have remembered afterwards.”

“Perhaps Cayley shut the door after him.”

“Wait!”

He pressed his hand over his eyes and thought. It wasn’t anything which he had heard, but something which he had seen. He tried desperately hard to see it again …. He saw Cayley getting up, opening the door from the office, leaving it open and walking into the passage, turning to the door on the right, opening it, going in, and then– What did his eyes see after that? If they would only tell him again!

Suddenly he jumped up, his face alight. “Bill, I’ve got it!” he cried.

“What?”

“The shadow on the wall! I was looking at the shadow on the wall. Oh, ass, and ten times ass!”

Bill looked uncomprehendingly at him. Antony took his arm and pointed to the wall of the passage.

“Look at the sunlight on it,” he said. “That’s because you’ve left the door of that room open. The sun comes straight in through the windows. Now, I’m going to shut the door. Look! D’you see how the shadow moves across? That’s what I saw the shadow moving across as the door shut behind him. Bill, go in and shut the door behind you quite naturally. Quick!”

Bill went out and Antony knelt, watching eagerly.

“I thought so!” he cried. “I knew it couldn’t have been that.”

“What happened?” said Bill, coming back.

“Just what you would expect. The sunlight came, and the shadow moved back again all in one movement.”

“And what happened yesterday?”

“The sunlight stayed there; and then the shadow came very slowly back, and there was no noise of the door being shut.”

Bill looked at him with startled eyes.

“By Jove! You mean that Cayley closed the door afterwards as an afterthought and very quietly, so that you couldn’t hear?”

Antony nodded.

“Yes. That explains why I was surprised afterwards when I went into the room to find the door open behind me. You know how those doors with springs on them close?”

“The sort which old gentlemen have to keep out draughts?”

“Yes. Just at first they hardly move at all, and then very, very slowly they swing to well, that was the way the shadow moved, and subconsciously I must have associated it with the movement of that sort of door. By Jove!” He got up, and dusted his knees. “Now, Bill, just to make sure, go in and close the door like that. As an afterthought, you know; and very quietly, so that I don’t hear the click of it.”

Bill did as he was told, and then put his head out eagerly to hear what had happened.

“That was it,” said Antony, with absolute conviction. “That was just what I saw yesterday.” He came out of the office, and joined Bill in the little room.

“And now,” he said, “let’s try and find out what it was that Mr. Cayley was doing in here, and why he had to be so very careful that his friend Mr. Gillingham didn’t overhear him.”

CHAPTER XIII. THE OPEN WINDOW

Anthony’s first thought was that Cayley had hidden something; something, perhaps, which he had found by the body, and but that was absurd. In the time at his disposal, he could have done no more than put it away in a drawer, where it would be much more open to discovery by Antony than if he had kept it in his pocket. In any case he would have removed it by this time, and hidden it in some more secret place. Besides, why in this case bother about shutting the door?

Bill pulled open a drawer in the chest, and looked inside.

“Is it any good going through these, do you think?” he asked.

Antony looked over his shoulder.

“Why did he keep clothes here at all?” he asked. “Did he ever change down here?”

“My dear Tony, he had more clothes than anybody in the world. He just kept them here in case they might be useful, I expect. When you and I go from London to the country we carry our clothes about with us. Mark never did. In his flat in London he had everything all over again which he has here. It was a hobby with him, collecting clothes. If he’d had half a dozen houses, they would all have been full of a complete gentleman’s town and country outfit.”

“I see.”

“Of course, it might be useful sometimes, when he was busy in the next room, not to have to go upstairs for a handkerchief or a more comfortable coat.”

“I see. Yes.” He was walking round the room as he answered, and he lifted the top of the linen basket which stood near the wash basin and glanced in. “He seems to have come in here for a collar lately.”

Bill peered in. There was one collar at the bottom of the basket.

“Yes. I daresay he would,” he agreed. “If he suddenly found that the one he was wearing was uncomfortable or a little bit dirty, or something. He was very finicking.”

Antony leant over and picked it out.

“It must have been uncomfortable this time,” he said, after examining it carefully. “It couldn’t very well be cleaner.” He dropped it back again. “Anyway, he did come in here sometimes?”

“Oh, yes, rather.”

“Yes, but what did Cayley come in for so secretly?”

“What did he want to shut the door for?” said Bill. “That’s what I don’t understand. You couldn’t have seen him, anyhow.”

“No. So it follows that I might have heard him. He was going to do something which he didn’t want me to hear.”

“By Jove, that’s it!” said Bill eagerly.

“Yes; but what?”

Bill frowned hopefully to himself, but no inspiration came.

“Well, let’s have some air, anyway,” he said at last, exhausted by the effort, and he went to the window, opened it, and looked out. Then, struck by an idea, he turned back to Antony and said, “Do you think I had better go up to the pond to make sure that they’re still at it? Because–“

He broke off suddenly at the sight of Antony’s face.

“Oh, idiot, idiot!” Antony cried. “Oh, most super-excellent of Watsons! Oh, you lamb, you blessing! Oh, Gillingham, you incomparable ass!”

“What on earth–“

“The window, the window!” cried Antony, pointing to it.

Bill turned back to the window, expecting it to say something. As it said nothing, he looked at Antony again.

“He was opening the window!” cried Antony.

“Who?”

“Cayley, of course.” Very gravely and slowly he expounded. “He came in here in order to open the window. He shut the door so that I shouldn’t hear him open the window. He opened the window. I came in here and found the window open. I said, ‘This window is open. My amazing powers of analysis tell me that the murderer must have escaped by this window.’ ‘Oh,’ said Cayley, raising his eyebrows. ‘Well,’ said he, ‘I suppose you must be right.’ Said I proudly, ‘I am. For the window is open,’ I said. Oh, you incomparable ass!”

He understood now. It explained so much that had been puzzling him.

He tried to put himself in Cayley’s place–Cayley, when Antony had first discovered him, hammering at the door and crying, “Let me in!” Whatever had happened inside the office, whoever had killed Robert, Cayley knew all about it, and knew that Mark was not inside, and had not escaped by the window. But it was necessary to Cayley’s plans–to Mark’s plans if they were acting in concert–that he should be thought so to have escaped. At some time, then, while he was hammering (the key in his pocket) at the locked door, he must suddenly have remembered with what a shock! that a mistake had been made. A window had not been left open!

Probably it would just have been a horrible doubt at first. Was the office window open? Surely it was open! Was it? …. Would he have time now to unlock the door, slip in, open the French windows and slip out again? No. At any moment the servants might come. It was too risky. Fatal, if he were discovered. But servants were stupid. He could get the windows safely open while they were crowding round the body. They wouldn’t notice. He could do it somehow.

And then Antony’s sudden appearance! Here was a complication. And Antony suggesting that they should try the window! Why, the window was just what he wanted to avoid. No wonder he had seemed dazed at first.

Ah, and here at last was the explanation why they had gone the longest way round and yet run. It was Cayley’s only chance of getting a start on Antony, of getting to the windows first, of working them open somehow before Antony caught him up. Even if that were impossible, he must get there first, just to make sure. Perhaps they were open. He must get away from Antony and see. And if they were shut, hopelessly shut, then he must have a moment to himself, a moment in which to think of some other plan, and avoid the ruin which seemed so suddenly to be threatening.

So he had run. But Antony had kept up with him. They had broken in the window together, and gone into the office. But Cayley was not done yet. There was the dressing-room window! But quietly, quietly. Antony mustn’t hear.

And Antony didn’t hear. Indeed, he had played up to Cayley splendidly. Not only had he called attention to the open window, but he had carefully explained to Cayley why Mark had chosen this particular window in preference to the office window. And Cayley had agreed that probably that was the reason. How he must have chuckled to himself! But he was still a little afraid. Afraid that Antony would examine the shrubbery. Why? Obviously because there was no trace of anyone having broken through the shrubbery. No doubt Cayley had provided the necessary traces since, and had helped the inspector to find them. Had he even gone as far as footmarks in Mark’s shoes? But the ground was very hard. Perhaps footmarks were not necessary. Antony smiled as he thought of the big Cayley trying to squeeze into the dapper little Mark’s shoes. Cayley must have been glad that footmarks were not necessary.

No, the open window was enough; the open window and a broken twig or two. But quietly, quietly. Antony mustn’t hear. And Antony had not heard …. But he had seen a shadow on the wall.

They were outside on the lawn again now, Bill and Antony, and Bill was listening open-mouthed to his friend’s theory of yesterday’s happenings. It fitted in, it explained things, but it did not get them any further. It only gave them another mystery to solve.

“What’s that?” said Antony.

“Mark. Where’s Mark? If he never went into the office at all, then where is he now?”

“I don’t say that he never went into the office. In fact, he must have gone. Elsie heard him.” He stopped and repeated slowly, “She heard him, at least she says she did. But if he was there, he came out again by the door.”

“Well, but where does that lead you?”

“Where it led Mark. The passage.”

“Do you mean that he’s been hiding there all the time?” Antony was silent until Bill had repeated his question, and then with an effort he came out of his thoughts and answered him.

“I don’t know. But look here. Here is a possible explanation. I don’t know if it is the right one I don’t know, Bill; I’m rather frightened. Frightened of what may have happened, of what may be going to happen. However, here is an explanation. See if you can find any fault with it.”

With his legs stretched out and his hands deep in his pockets, he lay back on the garden-seat, looking up to the blue summer sky above him, and just as if he saw up there the events of yesterday being enacted over again, he described them slowly to Bill as they happened.

“We’ll begin at the moment when Mark shoots Robert. Call it an accident; probably it was. Mark would say it was, anyhow. He is in a panic, naturally. But he doesn’t lock the door and run away. For one thing, the key is on the outside of the door; for another, he is not, quite such a fool as that. But he is in a horrible position. He is known to be on bad terms with his brother; he has just uttered some foolish threat to him, which may possibly have been overheard. What is he to do? He does the natural thing, the thing which Mark would always do in such circumstances. He consults Cayley, the invaluable, inevitable Cayley.

“Cayley is just outside, Cayley must have heard the shot, Cayley will tell him what to do. He opens the door just as Cayley is coming to see what is the matter. He explains rapidly. ‘What’s to be done, Cay? what’s to be done? It was an accident. I swear it was an accident. He threatened me. He would have shot me if I hadn’t. Think of something, quick!’

“Cayley has thought of something. ‘Leave it to me,’ he says. ‘You clear out altogether. I shot him, if you like. I’ll do all the explaining. Get away. Hide. Nobody saw you go in. Into the passage, quick. I’ll come to you there as soon as I can.’

“Good Cayley. Faithful Cayley! Mark’s courage comes back. Cayley will explain all right. Cayley will tell the servants that it was an accident. He will ring up the police. Nobody will suspect Cayley–Cayley has no quarrel with Robert. And then Cayley will come into the passage and tell him that it is all right, and Mark will go out by the other end, and saunter slowly back to the house. He will be told the news by one of the servants. Robert accidentally shot? Good Heavens!

“So, greatly reassured, Mark goes into the library. And Cayley goes to the door of the office …. and locks it. And then he bangs on the door and shouts, ‘Let me in!'”

Antony was silent. Bill looked at him and shook his head.

“Yes, Tony, but that doesn’t make sense. What’s the point of Cayley behaving like that?”

Antony shrugged his shoulders without answering.

“And what has happened to Mark since?”

Antony shrugged his shoulders again.

“Well, the sooner we go into that passage, the better,” said Bill.

“You’re ready to go?”

“Quite,” said Bill, surprised.

“You’re quite ready for what we may find?”

“You’re being dashed mysterious, old boy.”

“I know I am.” He gave a little laugh, and went on, “Perhaps I’m being an ass, just a melodramatic ass. Well, I hope I am.” He looked at his watch.

“It’s safe, is it? They’re still busy at the pond?”

“We’d better make certain. Could you be a sleuthhound, Bill–one of those that travel on their stomachs very noiselessly? I mean, could you get near enough to the pond to make sure that Cayley is still there, without letting him see you?”

“Rather!” He got up eagerly. “You wait.”

Antony’s head shot up suddenly. “Why, that was what Mark said,” he cried.

“Mark?”

“Yes. What Elsie heard him say.”

“Oh, that.”

“Yes I suppose she couldn’t have made a mistake, Bill? She did hear him?”

“She couldn’t have mistaken his voice, if that’s what you mean.

“Oh?”

“Mark had an extraordinary characteristic voice.”

“Oh!”

“Rather high-pitched, you know, and well, one can’t explain, but–“

“Yes?”

“Well, rather like this, you know, or even more so if anything.” He rattled these words off in Mark’s rather monotonous, high-pitched voice, and then laughed, and added in his natural voice, “I say, that was really rather good.”

Antony nodded quickly. “That was like it?” he said.

“Exactly.”

“Yes.” He got up and squeezed Bill’s arm. “Well just go and see about Cayley, and then we’ll get moving. I shall be in the library.”

“Right.”

Bill nodded and walked off in the direction of the pond. This was glorious fun; this was life. The immediate programme could hardly be bettered. First of all he was going to stalk Cayley. There was a little copse above the level of the pond, and about a hundred yards away from it. He would come into this from the back, creep cautiously through it, taking care that no twigs cracked, and then, drawing himself on his stomach to the edge, peer down upon the scene below him. People were always doing that sort of thing in books, and he had been filled with a hopeless envy of them; well, now he was actually going to do it himself. What fun!

And then, when he had got back unobserved to the house and reported to Antony, they were going to explore the secret passage! Again, what fun! Unfortunately there seemed to be no chance of buried treasure, but there might be buried clues. Even if you found nothing, you couldn’t get away from the fact that a secret passage was a secret passage, and anything might happen in it. But even that wasn’t the end of this exciting day. They were going to watch the pond that night; they were going to watch Cayley under the moonlight, watch him as he threw into the silence of the pond what? The revolver? Well, anyhow, they were going to watch him. What fun!

To Antony, who was older and who realized into what deep waters they were getting, it did not seem fun. But it was amazingly interesting. He saw so much, and yet somehow it was all out of focus. It was like looking at an opal, and discovering with every movement of it some new colour, some new gleam of light reflected, and yet never really seeing the opal as a whole. He was too near it, or too far away; he strained his eyes and he relaxed his eyes; it was no good. His brain could not get hold of it.

But there were moments when he almost had it …. and then turned away from it. He had seen more of life than Bill, but he had never seen murder before, and this which was in his mind now, and to which he was afraid to listen, was not just the hot-blooded killing which any man may come to if he lose control. It was something much more horrible. Too horrible to be true. Then let him look again for the truth. He looked again but it was all out of focus.

“I will not look again,” he said aloud, as he began to walk towards the house. “Not yet, anyway.” He would go on collecting facts and impressions. Perhaps the one fact would come along, by itself which would make everything clear.

CHAPTER XIV. MR. BEVERLEY QUALIFIES FOR THE STAGE

Bill had come back, and had reported, rather breathless, that Cayley was still at the pond.

“But I don’t think they’re getting up much except mud,” he said. “I ran most of the way back so as to give us as much time as possible.”

Antony nodded.

“Well, come along, then,” he said. “The sooner, the quicker.”

They stood in front of the row of sermons. Antony took down the Reverend Theodore Ussher’s famous volume, and felt for the spring. Bill pulled. The shelves swung open towards them.

“By Jove!” said Bill, “it is a narrow way.”

There was an opening about a yard square in front of them, which had something the look of a brick fireplace, a fireplace raised about two feet from the ground. But, save for one row of bricks in front, the floor of it was emptiness. Antony took a torch from his pocket and flashed it down into the blackness.

“Look,” he whispered to the eager Bill. “The steps begin down there. Six feet down.”

He flashed his torch up again. There was a handhold of iron, a sort of large iron staple, in the bricks in front of them.

“You swing off from there,” said Bill. “At least, I suppose you do. I wonder how Ruth Norris liked doing it.”

“Cayley helped her, I should think …. It’s funny.”

“Shall I go first?” asked Bill, obviously longing to do so. Antony shook his head with a smile.

“I think I will, if you don’t mind very much, Bill. Just in case.

“In case of what?”

“Well in case.”

Bill, had to be content with that, but he was too much excited to wonder what Antony meant.

“Righto,” he said. “Go on.”

“Well, we’ll just make sure we can get back again, first. It really wouldn’t be fair on the Inspector if we got stuck down here for the rest of our lives. He’s got enough to do trying to find Mark, but if he has to find you and me as well–“

“We can always get out at the other end.”

“Well, we’re not certain yet. I think I’d better just go down and back. I promise faithfully not to explore.”

“Right you are.”

Antony sat down on the ledge of bricks, swung his feet over, and sat there for a moment, his legs dangling. He flashed his torch into the darkness again, so as to make sure where the steps began; then returned it to his pocket, seized the staple in front of him and swung himself down. His feet touched the steps beneath him, and he let go.

“Is it all right?” said Bill anxiously.

“All right. I’ll just go down to the bottom of the steps and back. Stay there.”

The light shone down by his feet. His head began to disappear. For a little while Bill, craning down the opening, could still see faint splashes of light, and could hear slow uncertain footsteps; for a little longer he could fancy that he saw and heard them; then he was alone ….

Well, not quite alone. There was a sudden voice in the hall outside.

“Good Lord!” said Bill, turning round with a start, “Cayley!”

If he was not so quick in thought as Antony, he was quick enough in action. Thought was not demanded now. To close the secret door safely but noiselessly, to make sure that the books were in the right places, to move away to another row of shelves so as to be discovered deep in “Badminton” or “Baedeker” or whomever the kind gods should send to his aid the difficulty was not to decide what to do, but to do all this in five seconds rather than in six.

“Ah, there you are,” said Cayley from the doorway.

“Hallo!” said Bill, in surprise, looking up from the fourth volume of “The Life and Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. “Have they finished?”

“Finished what?”

“The pond,” said Bill, wondering why he was reading Coleridge on such a fine afternoon. Desperately he tried to think of a good reason …. verifying a quotation–an argument with Antony–that would do. But what quotation?

“Oh, no. They’re still at it. Where’s Gillingham?”

‘The Ancient Mariner’–water, water, everywhere–or was that something else? And where was Gillingham? Water, water everywhere . . .

“Tony? Oh, he’s about somewhere. We’re just going down to the village. They aren’t finding anything at the pond, are they?”

“No. But they like doing it. Something off their minds when they can say they’ve done it.”

Bill, deep in his book, looked up and said “Yes,” and went back to it again. He was just getting to the place.

“What’s the book?” said Cayley, coming up to him. Out of the corner of his eye he glanced at the shelf of sermons as he came. Bill saw that glance and wondered. Was there anything there to give away the secret?

“I was just looking up a quotation,” he drawled. “Tony and I had a bet about it. You know that thing about–er water, water everywhere, and–er–not a drop to drink.” (But what on earth, he wondered to himself, were they betting about?)

“‘Nor any drop to drink,’ to be accurate.”

Bill looked at him in surprise. Then a happy smile came on his face.

“Quite sure?” he said.

“Of course.”

“Then you’ve saved me a lot of trouble. That’s, what the bet was about.” He closed the book with a slam, put it back in its shelf, and began to feel for his pipe and tobacco. “I was a fool to bet with Tony,” he added. “He always knows that sort of thing.”

So far, so good. But here was Cayley still in the library, and there was Antony, all unsuspecting, in the passage. When Antony came back he would not be surprised to find the door closed, because the whole object of his going had been to see if he could open it easily from the inside. At any moment, then, the bookshelf might swing back and show Antony’s head in the gap. A nice surprise for Cayley!

“Come with us?” he said casually, as he struck a match. He pulled vigorously at the flame as he waited for the answer, hoping to hide his anxiety, for if Cayley assented, he was done.

“I’ve got to go into Stanton.”

Bill blew out a great cloud of smoke with an expiration which covered also a heartfelt sigh of relief.

“Oh, a pity. You’re driving, I suppose?”

“Yes. The car will be here directly. There’s a letter I must write first.” He sat down at a writing table, and took out a sheet of notepaper.

He was facing the secret door; if it opened he would see it. At any moment now it might open.

Bill dropped into a chair and thought. Antony must be warned. Obviously. But how? How did one signal to anybody? By code. Morse code. Did Antony know it? Did Bill know it himself, if it came to that? He had picked up a bit in the Army not enough to send a message, of course. But a message was impossible, anyhow; Cayley would hear him tapping it out. It wouldn’t do to send more than a single letter. What letters did he know? And what letter would convey anything to Antony? …. He pulled at his pipe, his eyes wandering from Cayley at his desk to the Reverend Theodore Ussher in his shelf. What letter?

C for Cayley. Would Antony understand? Probably not, but it was just worth trying. What was C? Long, short, long, short. Umpty-iddy-umpty-iddy. Was that right? C yes, that was C. He was sure of that. C. Umpty-iddy-umpty-iddy.

Hands in pockets, he got up and wandered across the room, humming vaguely to himself, the picture of a man waiting for another man (as it might be his friend Gillingham) to come in and take him away for a walk or something. He wandered across to the books at the back of Cayley, and began to tap absent-mindedly on the shelves, as he looked at the titles. Umpty-iddy-umpty-iddy. Not that it was much like that at first; he couldn’t get the rhythm of it …. Umpt-y-iddy-umpt-y-iddy. That was better. He was back at Samuel Taylor Coleridge now. Antony would begin to hear him soon. Umpt-y-iddy-umpt-y-iddy; just the aimless tapping of a man who is wondering what book he will take out with him to read on the lawn. Would Antony hear? One always heard the man in the next flat knocking out his pipe. Would Antony understand? Umpt-y-iddy-umpt-y-iddy. C. for Cayley, Antony. Cayley’s here. For God’s sake, wait.

“Good Lord! Sermons!” said Bill, with a loud laugh. (Umpt-y-iddy-umpt-y-iddy) “Ever read ’em, Cayley?”

“What?” Cayley looked up suddenly. Bill’s back moved slowly along, his fingers beating a tattoo on the shelves as he walked.

“Er no,” said Cayley, with a little laugh. An awkward, uncomfortable little laugh, it seemed to Bill.

“Nor do I.” He was past the sermons now past the secret door but still tapping in the same aimless way.

“Oh, for God’s sake sit down,” burst out Cayley. “Or go outside if you want to walk about.”

Bill turned round in astonishment.

“Hallo, what’s the matter?”

Cayley was slightly ashamed of his outburst.

“Sorry, Bill,” he apologized. “My nerves are on edge. Your constant tapping and fidgeting about–“

“Tapping?” said Bill with an air of complete surprise.

“Tapping on the shelves, and humming. Sorry. It got on my nerves.”

“My dear old chap, I’m awfully sorry. I’ll go out in the hall.”

“It’s all right,” said Cayley, and went on with his letter. Bill sat down in his chair again. Had Antony understood? Well, anyhow, there was nothing to do now but wait for Cayley to go. “And if you ask me,” said Bill to himself, much pleased, “I ought to be on the stage. That’s where I ought to be. The complete actor.”

A minute, two minutes, three minutes …. five minutes. It was safe now. Antony had guessed.

“Is the car there?” asked Cayley, as he sealed up his letter.

Bill strolled into the hall, called back “Yes,” and went out to talk to the chauffeur. Cayley joined him, and they stood there for a moment.

“Hallo,” said a pleasant voice behind them. They turned round and saw Antony.

“Sorry to keep you waiting, Bill.”

With a tremendous effort Bill restrained his feelings, and said casually enough that it was all right.

“Well, I must be off,” said Cayley. “You’re going down to the village?”

“That’s the idea.”

“I wonder if you’d take this letter to Jallands for me?”

“Of course.”

“Thanks very much. Well, I shall see you later.”

He nodded and got into the car.

As soon as they were alone Bill turned eagerly to his friend.

“Well?” he said excitedly.

“Come into the library.”

They went in, and Tony sank down into a chair.

“You must give me a moment,” he panted. “I’ve been running.”

“Running?”

“Well, of course. How do you think I got back here?”

“You don’t mean you went out at the other end?”

Antony nodded.

“I say, did you hear me tapping?”

“I did, indeed. Bill, you’re a genius.”

Bill blushed.

I knew you’d understand,” he said. “You guessed that I meant Cayley?”

“I did. It was the least I could do after you had been so brilliant. You must have had rather an exciting time.”

“Exciting? Good lord, I should think it was.”

“Tell me about it.”

As modestly as possible, Mr. Beverley explained his qualifications for a life on the stage.

“Good man,” said Antony at the end of it. “You are the most perfect Watson that ever lived. Bill, my lad,” he went on dramatically, rising and taking Bill’s hand in both of his, “There is nothing that you and I could not accomplish together, if we gave our minds to it.”

“Silly old ass.”

“That’s what you always say when I’m being serious. Well, anyway, thanks awfully. You really saved us this time.”

“Were you coming back?”

“Yes. At least I think I was. I was just wondering when I heard you tapping. The fact of the door being shut was rather surprising. Of course the whole idea was to see if it could be opened easily from the other side, but I felt somehow that you wouldn’t shut it until the last possible moment–until you saw me coming back. Well, then I heard the taps, and I knew it must mean something, so I sat tight. Then when C began to come along I said, ‘Cayley, b’Jove’–bright, aren’t I?–and I simply hared to the other end of the passage for all I was worth. And hared back again. Because I thought you might be getting rather involved in explanations–about where I was, and so on.”

“You didn’t see Mark, then?”

“No. Nor his– No, I didn’t see anything.”

“Nor what?”

Antony was silent for a moment.

“I didn’t see anything, Bill. Or rather, I did see something; I saw a door in the wall, a cupboard. And it’s locked. So if there’s anything we want to find, that’s where it is.”

“Could Mark be hiding there?”

“I called through the keyhole in a whisper ‘Mark, are you there?’ he would have thought it was Cayley. There was no answer.

“Well, let’s go down and try again. We might be able to get the door open.”

Antony shook his head.

“Aren’t I going at all?” said Bill in great disappointment.

When Antony spoke, it was to ask another question:

“Can Cayley drive a car?”

“Yes, of course. Why?”

“Then he might easily drop the chauffeur at his lodge and go off to Stanton, or wherever he wanted to, on his own?”

“I suppose so if he wanted to.”

“Yes.” Antony got up. “Well, look here, as we said we were going into the village, and as we promised to leave that letter, I almost think we’d better do it.”

“Oh! …. Oh, very well.”

“Jallands. What were you telling me about that? Oh, yes; the Widow Norbury.”

“That’s right. Cayley used to be rather keen on the daughter. The letter’s for her.”

“Yes; well, let’s take it. Just to be on the safe side.”

“Am I going to be done out of that secret passage altogether?” asked Bill fretfully.

“There’s nothing to see, really, I promise you.”

“You’re very mysterious. What’s upset you? You did see something down there, I’m certain of it.”

“I did and I’ve told you about it.”

“No, you haven’t. You only told me about the door in the wall.”

“That’s it, Bill. And it’s locked. And I’m frightened of what’s behind it.”

“But then we shall never know what’s there if we aren’t going to look.”

“We shall know to-night,” said Antony, taking Bill’s arm and leading him to the hall, “when we watch our dear friend Cayley dropping it into the pond.”

CHAPTER XV. MRS. NORBURY CONFIDES IN DEAR MR. GILLINGHAM

They left the road, and took the path across the fields which sloped gently downwards towards Jallands. Antony was silent, and since it is difficult to keep up a conversation with a silent man for any length of time, Bill had dropped into silence too. Or rather, he hummed to himself, hit at thistles in the grass with his stick and made uncomfortable noises with his pipe. But he noticed that his companion kept looking back over his shoulder, almost as if he wanted to remember for a future occasion the way by which they were coming. Yet there was no difficulty about it, for they remained all the time in view of the road, and the belt of trees above the long park wall which bordered its further side stood out clearly against the sky.

Antony, who had just looked round again, turned back with a smile.

“What’s the joke?” said Bill, glad of the more social atmosphere.

“Cayley. Didn’t you see?”

“See what?”

“The car. Going past on the road there:”

“So that’s what you were looking for. You’ve got jolly good eyes, my boy, if you recognize the car at this distance after only seeing it twice.

“Well, I have got jolly good eyes.

“I thought he was going to Stanton.”

“He hoped you’d think so obviously.”

“Then where is he going?”

“The library, probably. To consult our friend Ussher. After making quite sure that his friends Beverley and Gillingham really were going to Jallands, as they said.”

Bill stopped suddenly in the middle of the path.

“I say, do you think so?”

Antony shrugged his shoulders.

“I shouldn’t be surprised. We must be devilishly inconvenient for him, hanging about the house. Any moment he can get, when we’re definitely somewhere else, must be very useful to him.”

“Useful for what?”

“Well, useful for his nerves, if for nothing else. We know he’s mixed up in this business; we know he’s hiding a secret or two. Even if he doesn’t suspect that we’re on his tracks, he must feel that at any moment we might stumble on something.”

Bill gave a grunt of assent, and they went slowly on again.

“What about to-night?” he said, after a lengthy blow at his pipe.

“Try a piece of grass,” said Antony, offering it to him. Bill pushed it through the mouthpiece, blew again, said, “That’s better,” and returned the pipe to his pocket.

“How are we going to get out without Cayley knowing?”

“Well, that wants thinking over. It’s going to be difficult. I wish we were sleeping at the inn …. Is this Miss Norbury, by any chance?”

Bill looked up quickly. They were close to Jallands now, an old thatched farmhouse which, after centuries of sleep, had woken up to a new world, and had forthwith sprouted wings; wings, however, of so discreet a growth that they had not brought with them any obvious change of character, and Jallands even with a bathroom was still Jallands. To the outward view, at any rate. Inside, it was more clearly Mrs. Norbury’s.

“Yes Angela Norbury,” murmured Bill. “Not bad-looking, is she?”

The girl who stood by the little white gate of Jallands was something more than “not bad-looking,” but in this matter Bill was keeping his superlatives for another. In Bill’s eyes she must be judged, and condemned, by all that distinguished her from Betty Calladine. To Antony, unhampered by these standards of comparison, she seemed, quite simply, beautiful.

“Cayley asked us to bring a letter along,” explained Bill, when the necessary handshakings and introductions were over. “Here you are.”

“You will tell him, won’t you, how dreadfully sorry I am about what has happened? It seems so hopeless to say anything; so hopeless even to believe it. If it is true what we’ve heard.”

Bill repeated the outline of events of yesterday.

“Yes …. And Mr. Ablett hasn’t been found yet?” She shook her head in distress. “It still seems to have happened to somebody else; somebody we didn’t know at all.” Then, with a sudden grave smile which included both of them, “But you must come and have some tea.”

“It’s awfully decent of you,” said Bill awkwardly, “but we–er–“

“You will, won’t you?” she said to Antony.

“Thank you very much.”

Mrs. Norbury was delighted to see them, as she always was to see any man in her house who came up to the necessary standard of eligibility. When her life-work was completed, and summed up in those beautiful words: “A marriage has been arranged, and will shortly take place, between Angela, daughter of the late John Norbury ….” then she would utter a grateful Nunc dimittis and depart in peace to a better world, if Heaven insisted, but preferably to her new son-in-law’s more dignified establishment. For there was no doubt that eligibility meant not only eligibility as a husband.

But it was not as “eligibles” that the visitors from the Red House were received with such eagerness to-day, and even if her special smile for “possibles” was there, it was instinctive rather than reasoned. All that she wanted at this moment was news–news of Mark. For she was bringing it off at last; and, if the engagement columns of the “Morning Post” were preceded, as in the case of its obituary columns, by a premonitory bulletin, the announcement of yesterday would have cried triumphantly to the world, or to such part of the world as mattered: “A marriage has very nearly been arranged (by Mrs. Norbury), and will certainly take place, between Angela, only daughter of the late John Norbury, and–Mark Ablett of the Red House.” And, coming across it on his way to the sporting page, Bill would have been surprised. For he had thought that, if anybody, it was Cayley.

To the girl it was neither. She was often amused by her mother’s ways; sometimes ashamed of them; sometimes distressed by them. The Mark Ablett affair had seemed to her particularly distressing, for Mark was so obviously in league with her mother against her. Other suitors, upon whom her mother had smiled, had been embarrassed by that championship; Mark appeared to depend on it as much as on his own attractions; great though he thought these to be. They went a-wooing together. It was a pleasure to turn to Cayley, that hopeless ineligible.

But alas! Cayley had misunderstood her. She could not imagine Cayley in love until she saw it, and tried, too late, to stop it. That was four days ago. She had not seen him since, and now here was this letter. She dreaded opening it. It was a relief to feel that at least she had an excuse for not doing so while her guests were in the house.

Mrs. Norbury recognized at once that Antony was likely to be the more sympathetic listener; and when tea was over, and Bill and Angela had been dispatched to the garden with the promptness and efficiency of the expert, dear Mr. Gillingham found himself on the sofa beside her, listening to many things which were of even greater interest to him than she could possibly have hoped.

“It is terrible, terrible,” she said. “And to suggest that dear Mr. Ablett–“

Antony made suitable noises.

“You’ve seen Mr. Ablett for yourself. A kinder, more warmhearted man–“

Antony explained that he had not seen Mr. Ablett.

“Of course, yes, I was forgetting. But, believe me, Mr. Gillingham, you can trust a woman’s intuition in these matters.”

Antony said that he was sure of this.

“Think of my feelings as a mother.”

Antony was thinking of Miss Norbury’s feelings as a daughter, and wondering if she guessed that her affairs were now being discussed with a stranger. Yet what could he do? What, indeed, did he want to do except listen, in the hope of learning? Mark engaged, or about to be engaged! Had that any bearing on the events of yesterday? What, for instance, would Mrs. Norbury have thought of brother Robert, that family skeleton? Was this another reason for wanting brother Robert out of the way?

“I never liked him, never!”

“Never liked?” said Antony, bewildered.

“That cousin of his Mr. Cayley.”

“Oh!”

“I ask you, Mr. Gillingham, am I the sort of woman to trust my little girl to a man who would go about shooting his only brother?”

“I’m sure you wouldn’t, Mrs. Norbury.”

“If there has been any shooting done, it has been done by somebody else.”

Antony looked at her inquiringly.

“I never liked him,” said Mrs. Norbury firmly. “Never.” However, thought Antony to himself, that didn’t quite prove that Cayley was a murderer.

“How did Miss Norbury get on with him?” he asked cautiously.

“There was nothing in that at all,” said Miss Norbury’s mother emphatically. “Nothing. I would say so to anybody.”

“Oh, I beg your pardon. I never meant–“

“Nothing. I can say that for dear Angela with perfect confidence. Whether he made advances–” She broke off with a shrug of her plump shoulders.

Antony waited eagerly.

“Naturally they met. Possibly he might have–I don’t know. But my duty as a mother was clear, Mr. Gillingham.”

Mr. Gillingham made an encouraging noise.

“I told him quite frankly that–how shall I put it?–that he was trespassing. Tactfully, of course. But frankly.”

“You mean,” said Antony, trying to speak calmly, “that you told him that–er–Mr. Ablett and your daughter–?”

Mrs. Norbury nodded several times.

“Exactly, Mr. Gillingham. I had my duty as a mother.”

“I am sure, Mrs. Norbury, that nothing would keep you from doing your duty. But it must have been disagreeable. Particularly if you weren’t quite sure–“

“He was attracted, Mr. Gillingham. Obviously attracted.”

“Who would not be?” said Antony, with a charming smile. “It must have been something of a shock to him to–“

“It was just that which made me so glad that I had spoken. I saw at once that I had not spoken a moment too soon.”

“There must have been a certain awkwardness about the next meeting,” suggested Antony.

“Naturally, he has not been here since. No doubt they would have been bound to meet up at the Red House sooner or later.”

“Oh,–this was only quite lately?”

“Last week, Mr. Gillingham. I spoke just in time.

“Ah!” said Antony, under his breath. He had been waiting for it.

He would have liked now to have gone away, so that he might have thought over the new situation by himself; or, perhaps preferably, to have changed partners for a little while with Bill. Miss Norbury would hardly be ready to confide in a stranger with the readiness of a mother, but he might have learnt something by listening to her. For which of them had she the greater feeling, Cayley or Mark? Was she really prepared to marry Mark? Did she love him or the other–or neither? Mrs. Norbury was only a trustworthy witness in regard to her own actions and thoughts; he had learnt all that was necessary of those, and only the daughter now had anything left to tell him. But Mrs. Norbury was still talking.

“Girls are so foolish, Mr. Gillingham,” she was saying. “It is fortunate that they have mothers to guide them. It was so obvious to me from the beginning that dear Mr. Ablett was just the husband for my little girl. You never knew him?”

Antony said again that he had not seen Mr. Ablett.

“Such a gentleman. So nice-looking, in his artistic way. A regular Velasquez–I should say Van Dyck. Angela would have it that she could never marry a man with a beard. As if that mattered, when–” She broke off, and Antony finished her sentence for her.

“The Red House is certainly charming,” he said.

“Charming. Quite charming. And it is not as if Mr. Ablett’s appearance were in any way undistinguished. Quite the contrary. I’m sure you agree with me?”

Antony said that he had never had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Ablett.

“Yes. And quite the centre of the literary and artistic world. So desirable in every way.”

She gave a deep sigh, and communed with herself for a little. Antony was, about to snatch the opportunity of leaving, when Mrs. Norbury began again.

“And then there’s this scapegrace brother of his. He was perfectly frank with me, Mr. Gillingham. He would be. He told me of this brother, and I told him that I was quite certain it would make no difference to my daughter’s feelings for him …. After all, the brother was in Australia.”

“When was this? Yesterday?” Antony felt that, if Mark had only mentioned it after his brother’s announcement of a personal call at the Red House, this perfect frankness had a good deal of wisdom behind it.

“It couldn’t have been yesterday, Mr. Gillingham. Yesterday–” she shuddered, and shook her head.

“I thought perhaps he had been down here in the morning.”

“Oh, no! There is such a thing, Mr. Gillingham, as being too devoted a lover. Not in the morning, no. We both agreed that dear Angela– Oh, no. No; the day before yesterday, when he happened to drop in about tea-time.”

It occurred to Antony that Mrs. Norbury had come a long way from her opening statement that Mark and Miss Norbury were practically engaged. She was now admitting that dear Angela was not to be rushed, that dear Angela had, indeed, no heart for the match at all.

“The day before yesterday. As it happened, dear Angela was out. Not that it mattered. He was driving to Middleston. He hardly had time for a cup of tea, so that even if she had been in–“

Antony nodded absently. This was something new. Why did Mark go to Middleston the day before yesterday? But, after all, why shouldn’t he? A hundred reasons unconnected with the death of Robert might have taken him there.

He got up to go. He wanted to be alone–alone, at least, with Bill. Mrs. Norbury had given him many things to think over, but the great outstanding fact which had emerged was this: that Cayley had reason to hate Mark,–Mrs. Norbury had given him that reason. To hate? Well, to be jealous, anyhow. But that was enough.

“You see,” he said to Bill, as they walked back, “we know that Cayley is perjuring himself and risking himself over this business, and that must be for one of two reasons. Either to save Mark or to endanger him. That is to say, he is either whole-heartedly for him or whole-heartedly against him. Well, now we know that he is against him, definitely against him.”

“But, I say, you know,” protested Bill, “one doesn’t necessarily try to ruin one’s rival in love.”

“Doesn’t one?” said Antony, turning to him with a smile.

Bill blushed.

“Well, of course, one never knows, but I mean–“

“You mightn’t try to ruin him, Bill, but you wouldn’t perjure yourself in order to get him out of a trouble of his own making.”

“Lord! no.”

“So that of the two alternatives the other is the more likely.”

They had come to the gate into the last field which divided them from the road, and having gone through it, they turned round and leant against it, resting for a moment, and looking down at the house which they had left.

“Jolly little place, isn’t it?” said Bill.

“Very. But rather mysterious.”

“In what way?”

“Well, where’s the front door?”

“The front door? Why, you’ve just come out of it.”

“But isn’t there a drive, or a road or anything?”

Bill laughed.

“No; that’s the beauty of it to some people. And that’s why it’s so cheap, and why the Norburys can afford it, I expect. They’re not too well off.”

“But what about luggage and tradesmen and that kind of thing?”

“Oh, there’s a cart-track, but motor-cars can’t come any nearer than the road” he turned round and pointed “up there. So the week-end millionaire people don’t take it. At least, they’d have to build a road and a garage and all the rest of it, if they did.”

“I see,” said Antony carelessly, and they turned round and continued their walk up to the road. But later on he remembered this casual conversation at the gate, and saw the importance of it.

CHAPTER XVI. GETTING READY FOR THE NIGHT

What was it which Cayley was going to hide in that pond that night? Antony thought that he knew now. It was Mark’s body.

From the beginning he had seen this answer coming and had drawn back from it. For, if Mark had been killed, it seemed such a cold-blooded killing. Was Cayley equal to it? Bill would have said “No,” but that was because he had had breakfast with Cayley, and lunch with him, and dinner with him; had ragged him and played games with him. Bill would have said “No,” because Bill wouldn’t have killed anybody in cold blood himself, and because he took it for granted that other people behaved pretty much as he did. But Antony had no such illusions. Murders were done; murder had actually been done here, for there was Robert’s dead body. Why not another murder?

Had Mark been in the office at all that afternoon? The only evidence (other than Cayley’s, which obviously did not count) was Elsie’s. Elsie was quite certain that she had heard his voice. But then Bill had said that it was a very characteristic voice –an easy voice, therefore, to imitate. If Bill could imitate it so successfully, why not Cayley?

But perhaps it had not been such a cold-blooded killing, after all. Suppose Cayley had had a quarrel with his cousin that afternoon over the girl whom they were both wooing. Suppose Cayley had killed Mark, either purposely, in sudden passion, or accidentally, meaning only to knock him down. Suppose that this had happened in the passage, say about two o’clock, either because Cayley had deliberately led him there, or because Mark had casually suggested a visit to it. (One could imagine Mark continually gloating over that secret passage.) Suppose Cayley there, with the body at his feet, feeling already the rope round his neck; his mind darting this way and that in frantic search for a way of escape; and suppose that suddenly and irrelevantly he remembers that Robert is coming to the house at three o’clock that afternoon–automatically he looks at his watch–in half an hour’s time …. In half an hour’s time. He must think of something quickly, quickly. Shall he bury the body in the passage and let it be thought that Mark ran away, frightened at