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Bat Wing by Sax Rohmer

Part 5 out of 6

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As he spoke, Colin Camber opened a drawer in his desk and took out a
heavy revolver of the American Army Service pattern.

"I should like to examine it, if you please."

Camber passed it to the Inspector, and the latter, having satisfied
himself that none of the chambers were loaded, peered down the barrel,
and smelled at the weapon suspiciously.

"If it has been recently used it has been well cleaned," he said, and
placed it on a cabinet beside him. "Anything else?"


"No sporting rifles?"

"None. I never shoot."

"Oh, I see."

The door opened and Mrs. Camber came in. She was very simply dressed,
and looked even more child-like than she had seemed before. I think Ah
Tsong had warned her of the nature of the ordeal which she was to
expect, but her wide-eyed timidity was nevertheless pathetic to

She glanced at me with a ghost of a smile, and:

"Ysola," said Colin Camber, inclining his head toward me in a grave
gesture of courtesy, "Mr. Knox has generously forgiven me a breach of
good manners for which I shall never forgive myself. I beg you to thank
him, as I have done."

"It is so good of you," she said, sweetly, and held out her hand. "But
I knew you would understand that it was just a great mistake."

"Mr. Paul Harley," Camber continued, "my wife welcomes you; and this,
Ysola, is Inspector Aylesbury, who desires a few moments' conversation
upon a rather painful matter."

"I have heard, I have heard," she whispered. "Ah Tsong has told me."

The pupils of her eyes dilated, as she fixed an appealing glance upon
the Inspector.

In justice to the latter he was palpably abashed by the delicate beauty
of the girl who stood before him, by her naivete, and by that
childishness of appearance and manner which must have awakened the
latent chivalry in almost any man's heart.

"I am sorry to have to trouble you with this disagreeable business,
Mrs. Camber," he began; "but I believe you were awakened last night by
the sound of a shot."

"Yes," she replied, watching him intently, "that is so."

"May I ask at what time this was heard?"

"Ah Tsong told me it was after twelve o'clock."

"Was the sound a loud one?"

"Yes. It must have been to have awakened me."

"I see. Did you think it was in the house?"

"Oh, no."

"In the garden?"

"I really could not say, but I think that it was farther away than

"And what did you do?"

"I rang the bell for Ah Tsong."

"Did he come immediately?"

"Almost immediately."

"He was dressed, then?"

"No, I don't think he was. He had quickly put on an overcoat. He
usually answers at once, when I ring for him, you see."

"I see. What did you do then?"

"Well, I was frightened, you understand, and I told him to find out if
all was well with my husband. He came back and told me that Colin was
writing. But the sound had alarmed me very much."

"Oh, and now perhaps _you_ will tell me, Mrs. Camber, when and where
your husband first met Colonel Menendez?"

Every vestige of colour fled from the girl's face.

"So far as I know--they never met," she replied, haltingly.

"Could you swear to that?"


I think that hitherto she had not fully realized the nature of the
situation; but now something in the Inspector's voice, or perhaps in
our glances, told her the truth. She moved to where Colin Camber was
sitting, looking down at him questioningly, pitifully. He put his arm
about her and drew her close.

Inspector Aylesbury cleared his throat and returned his note-book to
his pocket.

"I am going to take a look around the garden," he announced.

My respect for him increased slightly, and Harley and I followed him
out of the study. A police sergeant was sitting in the hall, and Ah
Tsong was standing just outside the door.

"Show me the way to the garden," directed the Inspector.

Ah Tsong stared stupidly, whereupon Paul Harley addressed him in his
native language, rapidly and in a low voice, in order, as I divined,
that the Inspector should not hear him.

"I feel dreadfully guilty, Knox," he confessed, in a murmured aside.
"For any Englishman, fictitious characters excepted, to possess a
knowledge of Chinese is almost indecent."

Presently, then, I found myself once more in that unkempt garden of
which I retained such unpleasant memories.

Inspector Aylesbury stared all about and up at the back of the house,
humming to himself and generally behaving as though he were alone.
Before the little summer study he stood still, and:

"Oh, I see," he muttered.

What he had seen was painfully evident. The right-hand window, beneath
which there was a permanent wooden seat, commanded an unobstructed view
of the Tudor garden in the grounds of Cray's Folly. Clearly I could
detect the speck of high-light upon the top of the sun-dial.

The Inspector stepped into the hut. It contained a bookshelf upon which
a number of books remained, a table and a chair, with some few other
dilapidated appointments. I glanced at Harley and saw that he was
staring as if hypnotized at the prospect in the valley below. I
observed a constable on duty at the top of the steps which led down
into the Tudor garden, but I could see nothing to account for Harley's
fixed regard, until:

"Pardon me one moment, Inspector," he muttered, brusquely.

Brushing past the indignant Aylesbury, who was examining the contents
of the shelves in the hut, he knelt upon the wooden seat and stared
intently through the open window.

"One-two-three-four-five-six-_seven_," he chanted. "Good! That will
settle it."

"Oh, I see," said Inspector Aylesbury, standing strictly upright, his
prominent eyes turned in the direction of the kneeling Harley. "One,
two, three, four, and so on will settle it, eh? If you don't mind me
saying so, it was settled already."

"Yes?" replied Harley, standing up, and I saw that his eyes were very
bright and that his face was slightly flushed. "You think the case is
so simple as that?"

"Simple?" exclaimed the Inspector. "It's the most cunning thing that
was ever planned, but I flatter myself that I have a good straight eye
which can see a fairly long way."

"Excellent," murmured Harley. "I congratulate you. Myopia is so common
in the present generation. You have decided, of course, that the murder
was committed by Ah Tsong?"

Inspector Aylesbury's eyes seemed to protrude extraordinarily.

"Ah Tsong!" he exclaimed. "Ah Tsong!"

"Surely it is palpable," continued Harley, "that of the three people
residing in the Guest House, Ah Tsong is the only one who could
possibly have done the deed."

"Who could possibly--who could possibly----" stuttered the Inspector,
then paused because of sheer lack of words.

"Review the evidence," continued Harley, coolly. "Mrs. Camber was
awakened by the sound of a shot. She immediately rang for Ah Tsong.
There was a short interval before Ah Tsong appeared--and when he did
appear he was wearing an overcoat. Note this point, Inspector: wearing
an overcoat. He descended to the study and found Mr. Camber writing.
Now, Ah Tsong sleeps in a room adjoining the kitchen on the ground
floor. We passed his quarters on our way to the garden a moment ago. Of
course, you had noted this? Mr. Camber is therefore eliminated from our
list of suspects."

The Inspector was growing very red, but ere he had time to speak Harley

"The first of these three persons to have heard a shot fired at the end
of the garden would have been Ah Tsong, and not Mrs. Camber, whose room
is upstairs and in the front of the house. If it had been fired by Mr.
Camber from the spot upon which we now stand, he would still have been
in the garden at the moment when Mrs. Camber was ringing the bell for
Ah Tsong. Mr. Camber must therefore have returned from the end of the
garden to the study, and have passed Ah Tsong's room--unheard by the
occupant--between the time that the bell rang and the time that Ah
Tsong went upstairs. This I submit to be impossible. There is an
alternative: it is that he slipped in whilst Ah Tsong, standing on the
landing above, was receiving his mistress's orders. I submit that the
alternative is also impossible. We thus eliminate Mr. Camber from the
case, as I have already mentioned."

"Eliminate--eliminate!" cried the Inspector, beginning to recover power
of speech. "Do you think you can fuddle me with a mass of words, Mr.
Harley? Allow me to point out to you, sir, that you are in no way
officially associated with this matter."

"You have already drawn my attention to the fact, Inspector, but it can
do no harm to jog my memory."

Harley spoke entirely without bitterness, and I, who knew his every
mood, realized that he was thoroughly enjoying himself. Therefore I
knew that at last he had found a clue.

"I may add, Inspector," said he, "that upon further reflection I have
also eliminated Ah Tsong from the case. I forgot to mention that he
lacks the first and second fingers of his right hand; and I have yet to
meet the marksman who can shoot a man squarely between the eyes, by
moonlight, at a hundred yards, employing his third finger as trigger-
finger. There are other points, but these will be sufficient to show
you that this case is more complicated than you had assumed it to be."

Inspector Aylesbury did not deign to reply, or could not trust himself
to do so. He turned and made his way back to the house.



We reëntered the study to find Mrs. Camber sitting in a chair very
close to her husband. Inspector Aylesbury stood in the open doorway for
a moment, and then, stepping back into the hall:

"Sergeant Butler," he said, addressing the man who waited there.

"Yes, sir."

"Go out to the gate and get Edson to relieve you. I shall want you to
go back to headquarters in a few minutes."

"Very good, sir."

I scented what was coming, and as Inspector Aylesbury reentered the

"I should like to make a statement," announced Paul Harley, quietly.

The Inspector frowned, and lowering his chin, regarded him with little

"I have not invited any statement from you, Mr. Harley," said he.

"Quite," returned Harley. "I am volunteering it. It is this: I gather
that you are about to take an important step officially. Having in view
certain steps which I, also, am about to take, I would ask you to defer
action, purely in your own interests, for at least twenty-four hours."

"I hear you." said the Inspector, sarcastically.

"Very well, Inspector. You have come newly into this case, and I assure
you that its apparent simplicity is illusive. As new facts come into
your possession you will realize that what I say is perfectly true, and
if you act now you will be acting hastily. All that I have learned I am
prepared to place at your disposal. But I predict that the interference
of Scotland Yard will be necessary before this enquiry is concluded.
Therefore I suggest, since you have rejected my cooperation, that you
obtain that of Detective Inspector Wessex, of the Criminal
Investigation Department. In short, this is no one-man job. You will do
yourself harm by jumping to conclusions, and cause unnecessary trouble
to perfectly innocent people."

"Is your statement concluded?" asked the Inspector.

"For the moment I have nothing to add."

"Oh, I see. Very good. Then we can now get to business. Always with
your permission, Mr. Harley."

He took his stand before the fireplace, very erect, and invested with
his most official manner. Mrs. Camber watched him in a way that was
pathetic. Camber seemed to be quite composed, although his face was
unusually pale.

"Now, Mr. Camber," said the Inspector, "I find your answers to the
questions which I have put to you very unsatisfactory."

"I am sorry," said Colin Camber, quietly.

"One moment, Inspector," interrupted Paul Harley, "you have not warned
Mr. Camber."

Thereupon the long-repressed wrath of Inspector Aylesbury burst forth.

"Then I will warn _you_, sir!" he shouted. "One more word and you
leave this house."

"Yet I am going to venture on one more word," continued Harley,
unperturbed. He turned to Colin Camber. "I happen to be a member of the
Bar, Mr. Camber," he said, "although I rarely accept a brief. Have I
your authority to act for you?"

"I am grateful, Mr. Harley, and I leave this unpleasant affair in your
hands with every confidence."

Camber stood up, bowing formally.

The expression upon the inflamed face of Inspector Aylesbury was really
indescribable, and recognizing his mental limitations, I was almost
tempted to feel sorry for him. However, he did not lack self-
confidence, and:

"I suppose you have scored, Mr. Harley," he said, a certain hoarseness
perceptible in his voice, "but I know my duty and I am not afraid to
perform it. Now, Mr. Camber, did you, or did you not, at about twelve
o'clock last night----"

"Warn the accused," murmured Harley.

Inspector Aylesbury uttered a choking sound, but:

"I have to warn you," he said, "that your answers may be used as
evidence. I will repeat: Did you, or did you not, at about twelve
o'clock last night, shoot, with intent to murder, Colonel Juan

Ysola Camber leapt up, clutching at her husband's arm as if to hold him

"I did not," he replied, quietly. "Nevertheless," continued the
Inspector, looking aggressively at Paul Harley whilst he spoke, "I am
going to detain you pending further enquiries."

Colin Camber inclined his head.

"Very well," he said; "you only do your duty."

The little fingers clutching his sleeve slowly relaxed, and Mrs.
Camber, uttering a long sigh, sank in a swoon at his feet.

"Ysola! Ysola!" he muttered. Stooping he raised the child-like figure.
"If you will kindly open the door, Mr. Knox," he said, "I will carry my
wife to her room."

I sprang to the door and held it widely open.

Colin Camber, deadly pale, but holding his head very erect, walked in
the direction of the hallway with his pathetic burden. Mis-reading the
purpose written upon the stern white face, Inspector Aylesbury stepped

"Let someone else attend to Mrs. Camber," he cried, sharply. "I wish
you to remain here."

His detaining hand was already upon Camber's shoulder when Harley's arm
shot out like a barrier across the Inspector's chest, and Colin Camber
proceeded on his way. Momentarily, he glanced aside, and I saw that his
eyes were unnaturally bright.

"Thank you, Mr. Harley," he said, and carried his wife from the room.

Harley dropped his arm, and crossing, stood staring out of the window.
Inspector Aylesbury ran heavily to the door.

"Sergeant!" he called, "Sergeant! keep that man in sight. He must
return here immediately."

I heard the sound of heavy footsteps following Camber's up the stairs,
then Inspector Aylesbury turned, a bulky figure in the open doorway,

"Now, Mr. Harley," said he, entering and reclosing the door, "you are a
barrister, I understand. Very well, then, I suppose you are aware that
you have resisted and obstructed an officer of the law in the execution
of his duty."

Paul Harley spun round upon his heel.

"Is that a charge," he inquired, "or merely a warning?"

The two glared at one another for a moment, then:

"From now onward," continued the Inspector, "I am going to have no more
trouble with you, Mr. Harley. In the first place, I'll have you looked
up in the Law List; in the second place, I shall ask you to stick to
your proper duties, and leave me to look after mine."

"I have endeavoured from the outset," replied Harley, his good humour
quite restored, "to assist you in every way in my power. You have
declined all my offers, and finally, upon the most flimsy evidence, you
have detained a perfectly innocent man."

"Oh, I see. A perfectly innocent man, eh?"

"Perfectly innocent, Inspector. There are so many points that you have
overlooked. For instance, do you seriously suppose that Mr. Camber had
been waiting up here night after night on the off-chance that Colonel
Menendez would appear in the grounds of Cray's Folly?"

"No, I don't. I have got that worked out."

"Indeed? You interest me."

"Mr. Camber has an accomplice at Cray's Folly."

"What?" exclaimed Harley, and into his keen grey eyes crept a look of
real interest.

"He has an accomplice," repeated the Inspector. "A certain witness was
strangely reluctant to mention Mr. Camber's name. It was only after
very keen examination that I got it at last. Now, Colonel Menendez had
not retired last night, neither had a certain other party. That other
party, sir, knows why Colonel Menendez was wandering about the garden
at midnight."

At first, I think, this astonishing innuendo did not fully penetrate to
my mind, but when it did so, it seemed to galvanize me. Springing up
from the chair in which I had been seated:

"You preposterous fool!" I exclaimed, hotly.

It was the last straw. Inspector Aylesbury strode to the door and
throwing it open once more, turned to me:

"Be good enough to leave the house, Mr. Knox," he said. "I am about to
have it officially searched, and I will have no strangers present."

I think I could have strangled him with pleasure, but even in my rage I
was not foolhardy enough to lay myself open to that of which the
Inspector was quite capable at this moment.

Without another word I walked out of the study, took my hat and stick,
and opening the front door, quitted the Guest House, from which I had
thus a second time been dismissed ignominiously.

Appreciation of this fact, which came to me as I stepped into the
porch, awakened my sense of humour--a gift truly divine which has
saved many a man from desperation or worse. I felt like a schoolboy who
had been turned out of a class-room, and I was glad that I could laugh
at myself.

A constable was standing in the porch, and he looked at me
suspiciously. No doubt he perceived something very sardonic in my

I walked out of the gate, before which a car was standing, and as I
paused to light a cigarette I heard the door of the Guest House open
and close. I glanced back, and there was Paul Harley coming to join me.

"Now, Knox," he said, briskly, "we have got our hands full."

"My dear Harley, I am both angry and bewildered. Too angry and too
bewildered to think clearly." "I can quite understand it. I should
become homicidal if I were forced to submit for long to the company of
Inspector Aylesbury. Of course, I had anticipated the arrest of Colin
Camber, and I fear there is worse to come."

"What do you mean, Harley?"

"I mean that failing the apprehension of the real murderer, I cannot
see, at the moment, upon what the case for the defence is to rest."

"But surely you demonstrated out there in the garden that he could not
possibly have fired the shot?"

"Words, Knox, words. I could pick a dozen loopholes in my own argument.
I had only hoped to defer the inevitable. I tell you, there is worse to
come. Two things we must do at once."

"What are they?"

"We must persuade the man on duty to allow us to examine the Tudor
garden, and we must see the Chief Constable, whoever he may be, and
prevail upon him to requisition the assistance of Scotland Yard. With
Wessex in charge of the case I might have a chance. Whilst this
disastrous man Aylesbury holds the keys there is none."

"You heard what he said about Miss Beverley?"

We were now walking rapidly along the high road, and Harley nodded.

"I did," he said. "I had expected it. He was inspired with this
brilliant idea last night, and his ideas are too few to be lightly
scrapped. If the Chief Constable is anything like the Inspector, what
we are going to do heaven only knows."

"I take it, Harley, that you are convinced of Colin Camber's

Harley did not answer for a moment, whereupon I glanced at him
anxiously, then:

"Colin Camber," he replied, "is of so peculiar a type that I could not
presume to say of what he is capable or is not capable. The most
significant point in his favour is this: He is a man of unusual
intellect. The planning of this cunning crime to such a man would have
been child's play--child's play, Knox. But is it possible to believe
that his genius would have failed him upon the most essential detail of
all, namely, an alibi?"

"It is not."

"Of course it is not. Which, continuing to regard Camber as an
assassin, reduces us to the theory that the crime was committed in a
moment of passion. This I maintain to be also impossible. It was no
deed of impulse."

"I agree with you."

"Now, I believe that the enquiry is going to turn upon a very delicate
point. If I am wrong in this, then perhaps I am wrong in my whole
conception of the case. But have you considered the mass of evidence
against Colin Camber?"

"I have, Harley," I replied, sadly, "I have."

"Think of all that we know, and which the Inspector does not know.
Every single datum points in the same direction. No prosecution could
ask for a more perfect case. Upon this fact I pin my hopes. Where an
Aylesbury rushes in I fear to tread. The analogy with an angel was
accidental, Knox!" he added, smilingly. "In other words, it is all too
obvious. Yet I have failed once, Knox, failed disastrously, and it may
be that in my anxiety to justify myself I am seeking for subtlety where
no subtlety exists."



There were strangers about Cray's Folly and a sort of furtive activity,
horribly suggestive. We had not pursued the circular route by the high
road which would have brought us to the lodge, but had turned aside
where the swing-gate opened upon a footpath into the meadows. It was
the path which I had pursued upon the day of my visit to the Lavender
Arms. A second private gate here gave access to the grounds at a point
directly opposite the lake; and as we crossed the valley, making for
the terraced lawns, I saw unfamiliar figures upon the veranda, and knew
that the cumbersome processes of the law were already in motion.

I was longing to speak to Val Beverley and to learn what had taken
place during her interview with Inspector Aylesbury, but Harley led the
way toward the tower wing, and by a tortuous path through the
rhododendrons we finally came out on the northeast front and in sight
of the Tudor garden.

Harley crossed to the entrance, and was about to descend the steps,
when the constable on duty there held out his arm.

"Excuse me, sir," he said, "but I have orders to admit no one to this
part of the garden."

"Oh," said Harley, pulling up short, "but I am acting in this case. My
name is Paul Harley."

"Sorry, sir," replied the constable, "but you will have to see
Inspector Aylesbury."

My friend uttered an impatient exclamation, but, turning aside:

"Very well, constable," he muttered; "I suppose I must submit. Our
friend, Aylesbury," he added to me, as we walked away, "would appear to
be a martinet as well as a walrus. At every step, Knox, he proves
himself a tragic nuisance. This means waste of priceless time."

"What had you hoped to do, Harley?"

"Prove my theory," he returned; "but since every moment is precious, I
must move in another direction."

He hurried on through the opening in the box hedge and into the
courtyard. Manoel had just opened the doors to a sepulchral-looking
person who proved to be the coroner's officer, and:

"Manoel!" cried Harley, "tell Carter to bring a car round at once."

"Yes, sir."

"I haven't time to fetch my own," he explained.

"Where are you off to?"

"I am off to see the Chief Constable, Knox. Aylesbury must be
superseded at whatever cost. If the Chief Constable fails I shall not
hesitate to go higher. I will get along to the garage. I don't expect
to be more than an hour. Meanwhile, do your best to act as a buffer
between Aylesbury and the women. You understand me?"

"Quite," I returned, shortly. "But the task may prove no light one,

"It won't," he assured me, smiling grimly, "How you must regret, Knox,
that we didn't go fishing!"

With that he was off, eager-eyed and alert, the mood of dreamy
abstraction dropped like a cloak discarded. He fully realized, as I
did, that his unique reputation was at stake. I wondered, as I had
wondered at the Guest House, whether, in undertaking to clear Colin
Camber, he had acted upon sheer conviction, or, embittered by the death
of his client, had taken a gambler's chance. It was unlike him to do
so. But now beyond reach of that charm of manner which Colin Camber
possessed, and discounting the pathetic sweetness of his girl-wife, I
realized how black was the evidence against him.

Occupied with these, and even more troubled thoughts, I was making my
way toward the library, undetermined how to act, when I saw Val
Beverley coming along the corridor which communicated with Madame de
Stämer's room.

I read a welcome in her eyes which made my heart beat the faster.

"Oh, Mr. Knox," she cried, "I am so glad you have returned. Tell me all
that has happened, for I feel in some way that I am responsible for

I nodded gravely.

"You know, then, where Inspector Aylesbury went when he left here,
after his interview with you?"

She looked at me pathetically.

"He went to the Guest House, of course."

"Yes," I said; "he was close behind us."

"And"--she hesitated--"Mr. Camber?"

"He has been detained."

"Oh!" she moaned. "I could hate myself! Yet what could I say, what
could I do?"

"Just tell me all about it," I urged. "What were the Inspector's

"Well," explained the girl, "he had evidently learned from someone,
presumably one of the servants, that there was enmity between Mr.
Camber and Colonel Menendez. He asked me if I knew of this, and of
course I had to admit that I did. But when I told him that I had no
idea of its cause, he did not seem to believe me."

"No," I murmured. "Any evidence which fails to dove-tail with his
preconceived theories he puts down as a lie."

"He seemed to have made up his mind for some reason," she continued,
"that I was intimately acquainted with Mr. Camber. Whereas, of course,
I have never spoken to him in my life, although whenever he has passed
me in the road he has always saluted me with quite delightful courtesy.
Oh, Mr. Knox, it is horrible to think of this great misfortune coming
to those poor people." She looked at me pleadingly. "How did his wife
take it?"

"Poor little girl," I replied, "it was an awful blow."

"I feel that I want to set out this very minute," declared Val
Beverley, "and go to her, and try to comfort her. Because I feel in my
very soul that her husband is innocent. She is such a sweet little
thing. I have wanted to speak to her since the very first time I ever
saw her, but on the rare occasions when we have met in the village she
has hurried past as though she were afraid of me. Mr. Harley surely
knows that her husband is not guilty?"

"I think he does," I replied, "but he may have great difficulty in
proving it. And what else did Inspector Aylesbury wish to know?"

"How can I tell you?" she said in a low voice; and biting her lip
agitatedly she turned her head aside.

"Perhaps I can guess."

"Can you?" she asked, looking at me quickly. "Well, then, he seemed to
attach a ridiculous importance to the fact that I had not retired last
night at the time of the tragedy."

"I know," said I, grimly. "Another preconceived idea of his."

"I told him the truth of the matter, which is surely quite simple, and
at first I was unable to understand the nature of his suspicions. Then,
after a time, his questions enlightened me. He finally suggested, quite
openly, that I had not come down from my room to the corridor in which
Madame de Stämer was lying, but had actually been there at the time!"

"In the corridor outside her room?"

"Yes. He seemed to think that I had just come in from the door near the
end of the east wing and beside the tower, which opens into the

"That you had just come in?" I exclaimed. "He thinks, then, that you
had been out in the grounds?"

Val Beverley's face had been very pale, but now she flushed
indignantly, and glanced away from me as she replied:

"He dared to suggest that I had been to keep an assignation."

"The fool!" I cried. "The ignorant, impudent fool!"

"Oh," she declared, "I felt quite ill with indignation. I am afraid I
may regard Inspector Aylesbury as an enemy from now onward, for when I
had recovered from the shock I told him very plainly what I thought
about his intellect, or lack of it."

"I am glad you did," I said, warmly. "Before Inspector Aylesbury is
through with this business I fancy he will know more about his
limitations than he knows at present. The fact of the matter is that he
is badly out of his depth, but is not man enough to acknowledge the
fact even to himself."

She smiled at me pathetically.

"Whatever should I have done if I had been alone?" she said.

I was tempted to direct the conversation into a purely personal
channel, but common sense prevailed, and:

"Is Madame de Stämer awake?" I asked.

"Yes." The girl nodded. "Dr. Rolleston is with her now."

"And does she know?"

"Yes. She sent for me directly she awoke, and asked me."

"And you told her?"

"How could I do otherwise? She was quite composed, wonderfully
composed; and the way she heard the news was simply heroic. But here is
Dr. Rolleston, coming now."

I glanced along the corridor, and there was the physician approaching

"Good morning, Mr. Knox," he said.

"Good morning, doctor. I hear that your patient is much improved?"

"Wonderfully so," he answered. "She has enough courage for ten men. She
wishes to see you, Mr. Knox, and to hear your account of the tragedy."

"Do you think it would be wise?"

"I think it would be best."

"Do you hold any hope of her permanently recovering the use of her

Dr. Rolleston shook his head doubtfully.

"It may have only been temporary," he replied. "These obscure nervous
affections are very fickle. It is unsafe to make predictions. But
mentally, at least, she is quite restored from the effects of last
night's shock. You need apprehend no hysteria or anything of that
nature, Mr. Knox."

"Oh, I see," exclaimed a loud voice behind us.

We all three turned, and there was Inspector Aylesbury crossing the
hall in our direction.

"Good morning, Dr. Rolleston," he said, deliberately ignoring my
presence. "I hear that your patient is quite well again this morning?"

"She is much improved," returned the physician, dryly.

"Then I can get her testimony, which is most important to my case?"

"She is somewhat better. If she cares to see you I do not forbid the

"Oh, that's good of you, doctor." He bowed to Miss Beverley. "Perhaps,
Miss, you would ask Madame de Stämer to see me for a few minutes."

Val Beverley looked at me appealingly then shrugged her shoulders,
turned aside, and walked in the direction of Madame de Stämer's door.

"Well," said Dr. Rolleston, in his brisk way, shaking me by the hand,
"I must be getting along. Good morning, Mr. Knox. Good morning,
Inspector Aylesbury."

He walked rapidly out to his waiting car. The presence of Inspector
Aylesbury exercised upon Dr. Rolleston a similar effect to that which a
red rag has upon a bull. As he took his departure, the Inspector drew
out his pocket-book, and, humming gently to himself, began to consult
certain entries therein, with a portentous air of reflection which
would have been funny if it had not been so irritating.

Thus we stood when Val Beverley returned, and:

"Madame de Stämer will see you, Inspector Aylesbury," she said, "but
wishes Mr. Knox to be present at the interview."

"Oh," said the Inspector, lowering his chin, "I see. Oh, very well."



Madame de Stämer's apartment was a large and elegant one. From the
window-drapings, which were of some light, figured satiny material, to
the bed-cover, the lampshades and the carpet, it was French. Faintly
perfumed, and decorated with many bowls of roses, it reflected, in its
ornaments, its pictures, its slender-legged furniture, the personality
of the occupant. In a large, high bed, reclining amidst a number of
silken pillows, lay Madame de Stämer. The theme of the room was violet
and silver, and to this everything conformed. The toilet service was of
dull silver and violet enamel. The mirrors and some of the pictures had
dull silver frames, There was nothing tawdry or glittering. The bed
itself, which I thought resembled a bed of state, was of the same dull
silver, with a coverlet of delicate violet I hue. But Madame's
décolleté robe was trimmed with white fur, so that her hair, dressed
high upon her head, seemed to be of silver, too.

Reclining there upon her pillows, she looked like some grande dame of
that France which was swept away by the Revolution. Immediately above
the dressing-table I observed a large portrait of Colonel Menendez
dressed as I had imagined he should be dressed when I had first set
eyes on him, in tropical riding kit, and holding a broad-brimmed hat in
his hand. A strikingly handsome, like the Velasquez in the library.

At the face of Madame de Stämer I looked long and searchingly. She had
not neglected the art of the toilette. Blinds tempered the sunlight
which flooded her room; but that, failing the service of rouge, Madame
had been pale this morning, I perceived immediately. In some subtle way
the night had changed her. Something was gone out of her face, and
something come into it. I thought, and lived to remember the thought,
that it was thus Marie Antoinette might have looked when they told her
how the drums had rolled in the Place de la Revolution on that morning
of the twenty-first of January.

"Oh, M. Knox," she said, sadly, "you are there, I see. Come and sit
here beside me, my friend. Val, dear, remain. Is this Inspector
Aylesbury who wishes to speak to me?"

The Inspector, who had entered with all the confidence in the world,
seemed to lose some of it in the presence of this grand lady, who was
so little impressed by the dignity of his office.

She waved one slender hand in the direction of a violet brocaded chair.

"Sit down, Monsieur l'inspecteur," she commanded, for it was rather a
command than an invitation.

Inspector Aylesbury cleared his throat and sat down.

"Ah, M. Knox!" exclaimed Madame, turning to me with one of her rapid
movements, "is your friend afraid to face me, then? Does he think that
he has failed? Does he think that I condemn him?"

"He knows that he has failed, Madame de Stämer," I replied, "but his
absence is due to the fact that at this hour he is hot upon the trail
of the assassin."

"What!" she exclaimed, "what!"--and bending forward touched my arm.
"Tell me again! Tell me again!"

"He is following a clue, Madame de Stämer, which he hopes will lead to
the truth."

"Ah! if I could believe it would lead to the truth," she said. "If I
dared to believe this."

"Why should it not?"

She shook her head, smiling with such a resigned sadness that I averted
my gaze and glanced across at Val Beverley who was seated on the
opposite side of the bed.

"If you knew--if you knew."

I looked again into the tragic face, and realized that this was an
older woman than the brilliant hostess I had known. She sighed,
shrugged, and:

"Tell me, M. Knox," she continued, "it was swift and merciful, eh?"

"Instantaneous," I replied, in a low voice.

"A good shot?" she asked, strangely.

"A wonderful shot," I answered, thinking that she imposed unnecessary
torture upon herself.

"They say he must be taken away, M. Knox, but I reply: not until I have
seen him."

"Madame," began Val Beverley, gently.

"Ah, my dear!" Madame de Stämer, without looking at the speaker,
extended one hand in her direction, the fingers characteristically
curled. "You do not know me. Perhaps it is a good job. You are a man,
Mr. Knox, and men, especially men who write, know more of women than
they know of themselves, is it not so? You will understand that I must
see him again?"

"Madame de Stämer," I said, "your courage is almost terrible."

She shrugged her shoulders.

"I am not proud to be brave, my friend. The animals are brave, but many
cowards are proud. Listen again. He suffered no pain, you think?"

"None, Madame de Stämer."

"So Dr. Rolleston assures me. He died in his sleep? You do not think he
was awake, eh?"

"Most certainly he was not awake."

"It is the best way to die," she said, simply. "Yet he, who was brave
and had faced death many times, would have counted it"----she snapped
her white fingers, glancing across the room to where Inspector
Aylesbury, very subdued, sat upon the brocaded chair twirling his cap
between his hands. "And now, Inspector Aylesbury," she asked, "what is
it you wish me to tell you?"

"Well, Madame," began the Inspector, and stood up, evidently in an
endeavour to recover his dignity, but:

"Sit down, Mr. Inspector! I beg of you be seated," cried Madame. "I
will not be questioned by one who stands. And if you were to walk about
I should shriek."

He resumed his seat, clearing his throat nervously.

"Very well, Madame," he continued, "I have come to you particularly for
information respecting a certain Mr. Camber."

"Oh, yes," said Madame.

Her vibrant voice was very low.

"You know him, no doubt?"

"I have never met him."

"What?" exclaimed the Inspector.

Madame shrugged and glanced at me eloquently.

"Well," he continued, "this gets more and more funny. I am told by
Pedro, the butler, that Colonel Menendez looked upon Mr. Camber as an
enemy, and Miss Beverley, here, admitted that it was true. Yet although
he was an enemy, nobody ever seems to have spoken to him, and he swears
that he had never spoken to Colonel Menendez."

"Yes?" said Madame, listlessly, "is that so?"

"It is so, Madame, and now you tell me that you have never met him."

"I did tell you so, yes."

"His wife, then?"

"I never met his wife," said Madame, rapidly.

"But it is a fact that Colonel Menendez regarded him as an enemy?"

"It is a fact-yes."

"Ah, now we are coming to it. What was the cause of this?"

"I cannot tell you."

"Do you mean that you don't know?"

"I mean that I cannot tell you."

"Oh," said the Inspector, blankly, "I see. That's not helping me very
much, is it?"

"No, it is no help," said Madame, twirling a ring upon her finger.

The Inspector cleared his throat again, then:

"There had been other attempts, I believe, at assassination?" he asked.

Madame nodded.


"Did you witness any of these?"

"None of them."

"But you know that they took place?"

"Juan--Colonel Menendez--had told me so."

"And he suspected that there was someone lurking about this house?"


"Also, someone broke in?"

"There were doors unfastened, and a great disturbance, so I suppose
someone must have done so."

I wondered if he would refer to the bat wing nailed to the door, but he
had evidently decided that this clue was without importance, nor did he
once refer to the aspect of the case which concerned Voodoo. He
possessed a sort of mulish obstinacy, and was evidently determined to
use no scrap of information which he had obtained from Paul Harley.

"Now, Madame," said he, "you heard the shot fired last night?"

"I did."

"It woke you up?"

"I was already awake."

"Oh, I see: you were awake?"

"I was awake."

"Where did you think the sound came from?"

"From back yonder, beyond the east wing."

"Beyond the east wing?" muttered Inspector Aylesbury. "Now, let me
see." He turned ponderously in his chair, gazing out of the windows.
"We look out on the south here? You say the sound of the shot came from
the east?"

"So it seemed to me."

"Oh." This piece of information seemed badly to puzzle him. "And what

"I was so startled that I ran to the door before I remembered that I
could not walk."

She glanced aside at me with a tired smile, and laid her hand upon my
arm in an oddly caressing way, as if to say, "He is so stupid; I should
not have expressed myself in that way."

Truly enough the Inspector misunderstood, for:

"I don't follow what you mean, Madame," he declared. "You say you
forgot that you could not walk?"

"No, no, I expressed myself wrongly," Madame replied in a weary voice.
"The fright, the terror, gave me strength to stagger to the door, and
there I fell and swooned."

"Oh, I see. You speak of fright and terror. Were these caused by the
sound of the shot?"

"For some reason my cousin believed himself to be in peril," explained
Madame. "He went in dread of assassination, you understand? Very well,
he caused me to feel this dread, also. When I heard the shot, something
told me, something told me that--"she paused, and suddenly placing her
hands before her face, added in a whisper--"that it had come."

Val Beverley was watching Madame de Stämer anxiously, and the fact that
she was unfit to undergo further examination was so obvious that any
other than an Inspector Aylesbury would have withdrawn. The, latter,
however, seemed now to be glued to his chair, and:

"Oh, I see," he said; "and now there's another point: Have you any idea
what took Colonel Menendez out into the grounds last night?"

Madame de Stämer lowered her hands and gazed across at the speaker.

"What is that, Monsieur l'inspecteur?"

"Well, you don't think he might have gone out to talk to someone?"

"To someone? To what one?" demanded Madame, scornfully.

"Well, it isn't natural for a man to go walking about the garden at
midnight, when he's unwell, is it? Not alone. But if there was a lady
in the case he might go."

"A lady?" said Madame, softly. "Yes--continue."

"Well," resumed the Inspector, deceived by the soft voice, "the young
lady sitting beside you was still wearing her evening dress when I
arrived here last night. I found that out, although she didn't give me
a chance to see her."

His words had an effect more dramatic than he could have foreseen.

Madame de Stämer threw her arm around Val Beverley, and hugged her so
closely to her side that the girl's curly brown head was pressed
against Madame's shoulder. Thus holding her, she sat rigidly upright,
her strange, still eyes glaring across the room at Inspector Aylesbury.
Her whole pose was instinct with challenge, with defiance, and in that
moment I identified the illusive memory which the eyes of Madame so
often had conjured up in my mind.

Once, years before, I had seen a wounded tigress standing over her
cubs, a beautiful, fearless creature, blazing defiance with dying eyes
upon those who had destroyed her, the mother-instinct supreme to the
last; for as she fell to rise no more she had thrown her paw around the
cowering cubs. It was not in shape, nor in colour, but in expression
and in their stillness, that the eyes of Madame de Stämer resembled the
eyes of the tigress.

"Oh, Madame, Madame," moaned the girl, "how dare he!"

"Ah!" Madame de Stämer raised her head yet higher, a royal gesture,
that unmoving stare set upon the face of the discomfited Inspector
Aylesbury. "Leave my apartment." Her left hand shot out dramatically in
the direction of the door, but even yet the fingers remained curled.
"Stupid, gross fool!"

Inspector Aylesbury stood up, his face very flushed.

"I am only doing my duty, Madame," he said.

"Go, go!" commanded Madame, "I insist that you go!"

Convulsively she held Val Beverley to her side, and although I could
not see the girl's face, I knew that she was weeping.

Those implacable flaming eyes followed with their stare the figure of
the Inspector right to the doorway, for he essayed no further speech,
but retired.

I, also, rose, and:

"Madame de Stämer," I said, speaking, I fear, very unnaturally, "I love
your spirit."

She threw back her head, smiling up at me. I shall never forget that
look, nor shall I attempt to portray all which it conveyed--for I know
I should fail.

"My friend!" she said, and extended her hand to be kissed.



Inspector Aylesbury had disappeared when I came out of the hall, but
Pedro was standing there to remind me of the fact that I had not
breakfasted. I realized that despite all tragic happenings, I was
ravenously hungry, and accordingly I agreed to his proposal that I
should take breakfast on the south veranda, as on the previous morning.

To the south veranda accordingly I made my way, rather despising myself
because I was capable of hunger at such a time and amidst such horrors.
The daily papers were on my table, for Carter drove into Market Hilton
every morning to meet the London train which brought them down; but I
did not open any of them.

Pedro waited upon me in person. I could see that the man was
pathetically anxious to talk. Accordingly, when he presently brought me
a fresh supply of hot rolls:

"This has been a dreadful blow to you, Pedro?" I said.

"Dreadful, sir," he returned; "fearful. I lose a splendid master, I
lose my place, and I am far, far from home."

"You are from Cuba?"

"Yes, yes. I was with Señor the Colonel Don Juan in Cuba."

"And do you know anything of the previous attempts which had been made
upon his life, Pedro?"

"Nothing, sir. Nothing at all."

"But the bat wing, Pedro?"

He looked at me in a startled way.

"Yes, sir," he replied. "I found it pinned to the door here."

"And what did you think it meant?"

"I thought it was a joke, sir--not a nice joke--by someone who knew

"You know the meaning of Bat Wing, then?"

"It is Obeah. I have never seen it before, but I have heard of it."

"And what did you think?" said I, proceeding with my breakfast.

"I thought it was meant to frighten."

"But who did you think had done it?"

"I had heard Señor Don Juan say that Mr. Camber hated him, so I thought
perhaps he had sent someone to do it."

"But why should Mr. Camber have hated the Colonel?"

"I cannot say, sir. I wish I could tell."

"Was your master popular in the West Indies?" I asked.

"Well, sir--" Pedro hesitated--"perhaps not so well liked."

"No," I said. "I had gathered as much."

The man withdrew, and I continued my solitary meal, listening to the
song of the skylarks, and thinking how complex was human existence,
compared with any other form of life beneath the sun.

How to employ my time until Harley should return I knew not. Common
delicacy dictated an avoidance of Val Beverley until she should have
recovered from the effect of Inspector Aylesbury's gross insinuations,
and I was curiously disinclined to become involved in the gloomy
formalities which ensue upon a crime of violence. Nevertheless, I felt
compelled to remain within call, realizing that there might be
unpleasant duties which Pedro could not perform, and which must
therefore devolve upon Val Beverley.

I lighted my pipe and walked out on to the sloping lawn. A gardener was
at work with a big syringe, destroying a patch of weeds which had
appeared in one corner of the velvet turf. He looked up in a sort of
startled way as I passed, bidding me good morning, and then resuming
his task. I thought that this man's activities were symbolic of the way
of the world, in whose eternal progression one poor human life counts
as nothing.

Presently I came in sight of that door which opened into the
rhododendron shrubbery, the door by which Colonel Menendez had come out
to meet his death. His bedroom was directly above, and as I picked my
way through the closely growing bushes, which at an earlier time I had
thought to be impassable, I paused in the very shadow of the tower and
glanced back and upward. I could see the windows of the little smoke-
room in which we had held our last interview with Menendez; and I
thought of the shadow which Harley had seen upon the blind. I was
unable to disguise from myself the fact that when Inspector Aylesbury
should learn of this occurrence, as presently he must do, it would give
new vigour to his ridiculous and unpleasant suspicions.

I passed on, and considering the matter impartially, found myself faced
by the questions--Whose was the shadow which Harley had seen upon the
blind? And with what purpose did Colonel Menendez leave the house at

Somnambulism might solve the second riddle, but to the first I could
find no answer acceptable to my reason. And now, pursuing my aimless
way, I presently came in sight of a gable of the Guest House. I could
obtain a glimpse of the hut which had once been Colin Camber's
workroom. The window, through which Paul Harley had stared so intently,
possessed sliding panes. These were closed, and a ray of sunlight,
striking upon the glass, produced, because of an over-leaning branch
which crossed the top of the window, an effect like that of a giant eye
glittering evilly through the trees. I could see a constable moving
about in the garden. Ever and anon the sun shone upon the buttons of
his tunic.

By such steps my thoughts led me on to the pathetic figure of Ysola
Camber. Save for the faithful Ah Tsong she was alone in that house to
which tragedy had come unbidden, unforeseen. I doubted if she had a
woman friend in all the countryside. Doubtless, I reflected, the old
housekeeper, to whom she had referred, would return as speedily as
possible, but pending the arrival of someone to whom she could confide
all her sorrows, I found it almost impossible to contemplate the
loneliness of the tragic little figure.

Such was my mental state, and my thoughts were all of compassion, when
suddenly, like a lurid light, an inspiration came to me.

I had passed out from the shadow of the tower and was walking in the
direction of the sentinel yews when this idea, dreadfully complete,
leapt to my mind. I pulled up short, as though hindered by a palpable
barrier. Vague musings, evanescent theories, vanished like smoke, and a
ghastly, consistent theory of the crime unrolled itself before me, with
all the cold logic of truth.

"My God!" I groaned aloud, "I see it all. I see it all."



The afternoon was well advanced before Paul Harley returned.

So deep was my conviction that I had hit upon the truth, and so well
did my theory stand every test which I could apply to it, that I felt
disinclined for conversation with any one concerned in the tragedy
until I should have submitted the matter to the keen analysis of
Harley. Upon the sorrow of Madame de Stämer I naturally did not
intrude, nor did I seek to learn if she had carried out her project of
looking upon the dead man.

About mid-day the body was removed, after which an oppressive and
awesome stillness seemed to descend upon Cray's Folly.

Inspector Aylesbury had not returned from his investigations at the
Guest House, and learning that Miss Beverley was remaining with Madame
de Stämer, I declined to face the ordeal of a solitary luncheon in the
dining room, and merely ate a few sandwiches, walking over to the
Lavender Arms for a glass of Mrs. Wootton's excellent ale.

Here I found the bar-parlour full of local customers, and although a
heated discussion was in progress as I opened the door, silence fell
upon my appearance. Mrs. Wootton greeted me sadly.

"Ah, sir," she said, as she placed a mug before me; "of course you've

"I have, madam," I replied, perceiving that she did not know me to be a
guest at Cray's Folly.

"Well, well!" She shook her head. "It had to come, with all these
foreign folk about."

She retired to some sanctum at the rear of the bar, and I drank my beer
amid one of those silences which sometimes descend upon such a
gathering when a stranger appears in its midst. Not until I moved to
depart was this silence broken, then:

"Ah, well," said an old fellow, evidently a farm-hand, "we know now why
he was priming of hisself with the drink, we do."

"Aye!" came a growling chorus.

I came out of the Lavender Arms full of a knowledge that so far as Mid-
Hatton was concerned, Colin Camber was already found guilty.

I had hoped to see something of Val Beverley on my return, but she
remained closeted with Madame de Stämer, and I was left in loneliness
to pursue my own reflections, and to perfect that theory which had
presented itself to my mind.

In Harley's absence I had taken it upon myself to give an order to
Pedro to the effect that no reporters were to be admitted; and in this
I had done well. So quickly does evil news fly that, between mid-day
and the hour of Harley's return, no fewer than five reporters, I
believe, presented themselves at Cray's Folly. Some of the more
persistent continued to haunt the neighbourhood, and I had withdrawn to
the deserted library, in order to avoid observation, when I heard a car
draw up in the courtyard, and a moment later heard Harley asking for

I hurried out to meet him, and as I appeared at the door of the

"Hullo, Knox," he called, running up the steps. "Any developments?"

"No actual development?" I replied, "except that several members of the
Press have been here."

"You told them nothing?" he asked, eagerly.

"No; they were not admitted."

"Good, good," he muttered.

"I had expected you long before this, Harley."

"Naturally," he said, with a sort of irritation. "I have been all the
way to Whitehall and back."

"To Whitehall! What, you have been to London?"

"I had half anticipated it, Knox. The Chief Constable, although quite a
decent fellow, is a stickler for routine. On the strength of those
facts which I thought fit to place before him he could see no reason
for superseding Aylesbury. Accordingly, without further waste of time,
I headed straight for Whitehall. You may remember a somewhat elaborate
report which I completed upon the eve of our departure from Chancery

I nodded.

"A very thankless job for the Home Office, Knox. But I received my
reward to-day. Inspector Wessex has been placed in charge of the case
and I hope he will be down here within the hour. Pending his arrival I
am tied hand and foot."

We had walked into the library, and, stopping, suddenly, Harley stared
me very hard in the face.

"You are bottling something up, Knox," he declared. "Out with it. Has
Aylesbury distinguished himself again?"

"No," I replied; "on the contrary. He interviewed Madame de Stämer, and
came out with a flea in his ear."

"Good," said Harley, smiling. "A clever woman, and a woman of spirit,

"You are right," I replied, "and you are also right in supposing that I
have a communication to make to you."

"Ah, I thought so. What is it?"

"It is a theory, Harley, which appears to me to covet the facts of the

"Indeed?" said he, continuing to stare at me. "And what inspired it?"

"I was staring up at the window of the smoke-room to-day, and I
remembered the shadow which you had seen upon the blind."

"Yes?" he cried, eagerly; "and does your theory explain that, too?"

"It does, Harley."

"Then I am all anxiety to hear it."

"Very well, then, I will endeavour to be brief. Do you recollect Miss
Beverley's story of the unfamiliar footsteps which passed her door on
several occasions?"


"You recollect that you, yourself, heard someone crossing the hall, and
that both of us heard a door close?"

"We did."

"And finally you saw the shadow of a woman upon the blind of the
Colonel's private study. Very well. Excluding the preposterous theory
of Inspector Aylesbury, there is no woman in Cray's Folly whose
footsteps could possibly have been heard in that corridor, and whose
shadow could possibly have been seen upon the blind of Colonel
Menendez's room."

"I agree," said Harley, quietly. "I have definitely eliminated all the
servants from the case. Therefore, proceed, Knox, I am all attention."

"I will do so. There is a door on the south side of the house, close to
the tower and opening into the rhododendron shrubbery. This was the
door used by Colonel Menendez in his somnambulistic rambles, according
to his own account. Now, assuming his statement to have been untrue in
one particular, that is, assuming he was not walking in his sleep, but
was fully awake--"

"Eh?" exclaimed Harley, his expression undergoing a subtle change. "Do
you think his statement was untrue?"

"According to my theory, Harley, his statement was untrue, in this
particular, at least. But to proceed: Might he not have employed this
door to admit a nocturnal visitor?"

"It is feasible," muttered Harley, watching me closely.

"For the Colonel to descend to this side door when the household was
sleeping," I continued, "and to admit a woman secretly to Cray's Folly,
would have been a simple matter. Indeed, on the occasions of these
visits he might even have unbolted the door himself after Pedro had
bolted it, in order to enable her to enter without his descending for
the purpose of admitting her."

"By heavens! Knox," said Harley, "I believe you have it!"

His eyes were gleaming excitedly, and I proceeded:

"Hence the footsteps which passed Miss Beverley's door, hence the
shadow which you saw upon the blind; and the sounds which you detected
in the hall were caused, of course, by this woman retiring. It was the
door leading into the shrubbery which we heard being closed!"

"Continue," said Harley; "although I can plainly see to what this is

"You can see, Harley?" I cried; "of course you can see! The enmity
between Camber and Menendez is understandable at last."

"You mean that Menendez was Mrs. Camber's lover?"

"Don't you agree with me?"

"It is feasible, Knox, dreadfully feasible. But go on."

"My theory also explains Colin Camber's lapse from sobriety. It is
legitimate to suppose that his wife, who was a Cuban, had been intimate
with Menendez before her meeting with Camber. Perhaps she had broken
the tie at the time of her marriage, but this is mere supposition.
Then, her old lover, his infatuation by no means abated, leases the
property adjoining that of his successful rival."

"Knox!" exclaimed Paul Harley, "this is brilliant. I am all impatience
for the _dénouement_."

"It is coming," I said, triumphantly. "Relations are reëstablished,
clandestinely. Colin Camber learns of these. A passionate quarrel
ensues, resulting in a long drinking bout designed to drown his
sorrows. His love for his wife is so great that he has forgiven her
this infidelity. Accordingly, she has promised to see her lover no
more. Hers was the figure which you saw outlined upon the blind on the
night before the tragedy, Harley! The gestures, which you described as
those of despair, furnish evidence to confirm my theory. It was a final

"Hm," muttered Harley. "It would be taking big chances, because we have
to suppose, Knox, that these visits to Cray's Folly were made whilst
her husband was at work in the study. If he had suddenly decided to
turn in, all would have been discovered."

"True," I agreed, "but is it impossible?"

"No, not a bit. Women are dreadful gamblers. But continue, Knox."

"Very well. Colonel Menendez has refused to accept his dismissal, and
Mrs. Camber had been compelled to promise, without necessarily
intending to carry out the promise, that she would see him again on the
following night. She failed to come; whereupon he, growing impatient,
walked out into the grounds of Cray's Folly to look for her. She may
even have intended to come and have been intercepted by her husband.
But in any event, the latter, seeing the man who had wronged him,
standing out there in the moonlight, found temptation to be too strong.
On the whole, I favour the idea that he had intercepted his wife, and
snatching up a rifle, had actually gone out into the garden with the
intention of shooting Menendez."

"I see," murmured Harley in a low voice. "This hypothesis, Knox, does
not embrace the Bat Wing episodes."

"If Menendez has lied upon one point," I returned, "it is permissible
to suppose that his entire story was merely a tissue of falsehood."

"I see. But why did he bring me to Cray's Folly?"

"Don't you understand, Harley?" I cried, excitedly. "He really feared
for his life, since he knew that Camber had discovered the intrigue."

Paul Harley heaved a long sigh.

"I must congratulate you, Knox," he said, gravely, "upon a really
splendid contribution to my case. In several particulars I find myself
nearer to the truth. But the definite establishment or shattering of
your theory rests upon one thing."

"What's that?" I asked. "You are surely not thinking of the bat wing
nailed upon the door?"

"Not at all," he replied. "I am thinking of the seventh yew tree from
the northeast corner of the Tudor garden."



What reply I should have offered to this astonishing remark I cannot
say, but at that moment the library door burst open unceremoniously,
and outlined against the warmly illuminated hall, where sunlight poured
down through the dome, I beheld the figure of Inspector Aylesbury.

"Ah!" he cried, loudly, "so you have come back, Mr. Harley? I thought
you had thrown up the case."

"Did you?" said Harley, smilingly. "No, I am still persevering in my
ineffectual way."

"Oh, I see. And have you quite convinced yourself that Colin Camber is

"In one or two particulars my evidence remains incomplete."

"Oh, in one or two particulars, eh? But generally speaking you don't
doubt his innocence?"

"I don't doubt it for a moment."

Harley's words surprised me. I recognized, of course, that he might
merely be bluffing the Inspector, but it was totally alien to his
character to score a rhetorical success at the expense of what he knew
to be the truth; and so sure was I of the accuracy of my deductions
that I no longer doubted Colin Camber to be the guilty man.

"At any rate," continued the Inspector, "he is in detention, and likely
to remain there. If you are going to defend him at the Assizes, I don't
envy you your job, Mr. Harley."

He was blatantly triumphant, so that the fact was evident enough that
he had obtained some further piece of evidence which he regarded as

"I have detained the man Ah Tsong as well," he went on. "He was an
accomplice of your innocent friend, Mr. Harley."

"Was he really?" murmured Harley.

"Finally," continued the Inspector, "I have only to satisfy myself
regarding the person who lured Colonel Menendez out into the grounds
last night, to have my case complete."

I turned aside, unable to trust myself, but Harley remarked quite

"Your industry is admirable, Inspector Aylesbury, but I seem to
perceive that you have made a very important discovery of some kind."

"Ah, you have got wind of it, have you?"

"I have no information on the point," replied Harley, "but your manner
urges me to suggest that perhaps success has crowned your efforts?"

"It has," replied the Inspector. "I am a man that doesn't do things by
halves. I didn't content myself with just staring out of the window of
that little hut in the grounds of the Guest House, like you did, Mr.
Harley, and saying 'twice one are two'--I looked at every book on the
shelves, and at every page of those books."

"You must have materially added to your information?"

"Ah, very likely, but my enquiries didn't stop there. I had the floor

"The floor of the hut?"

"The floor of the hut, sir. The planks were quite loose. I had
satisfied myself that it was a likely hiding place."

"What did you find there, a dead rat?"

Inspector Aylesbury turned, and:

"Sergeant Butler," he called.

The sergeant came forward from the hall, carrying a cricket bag. This
Inspector Aylesbury took from him, placing it upon the floor of the
library at his feet.

"New, sir," said he, "I borrowed this bag in which to bring the
evidence away--the hanging evidence which I discovered beneath the
floor of the hut."

I had turned again, when the man had referred to his discovery; and
now, glancing at Harley, I saw that his face had grown suddenly very

"Show me your evidence, Inspector?" he asked, shortly.

"There can be no objection," returned the Inspector.

Opening the bag, he took out a rifle!

Paul Harley's hands were thrust in his coat pockets, By the movement of
the cloth I could see that he had clenched his fists. Here was
confirmation of my theory!

"A Service rifle," said the Inspector, triumphantly, holding up the
weapon. "A Lee-Enfield charger-loader. It contains four cartridges,
three undischarged, and one discharged. He had not even troubled to
eject it."

The Inspector dropped the weapon into the bag with a dramatic movement.

"Fancy theories about bat wings and Voodoos," he said, scornfully, "may
satisfy you, Mr. Harley, but I think this rifle will prove more
satisfactory to the Coroner."

He picked up the bag and walked out of the library.

Harley stood posed in a curiously rigid way, looking after him. Even
when the door had closed he did not change his position at once. Then,
turning slowly, he walked to an armchair and sat down.

"Harley," I said, hesitatingly, "has this discovery surprised you?"

"Surprised me?" he returned in a low voice. "It has appalled me."

"Then, although you seemed to regard my theory as sound," I continued
rather resentfully, "all the time you continued to believe Colin Camber
to be innocent?"

"I believe so still"


"I thought we had determined, Knox," he said, wearily, "that a man of
Camber's genius, having decided upon murder, must have arranged for an
unassailable alibi. Very well. Are we now to leap to the other end of
the scale, and to credit him with such utter stupidity as to place
hanging evidence where it could not fail to be discovered by the most
idiotic policeman? Preserve your balance, Knox. Theories are wild
horses. They run away with us. I know that of old, for which very
reason I always avoid speculation until I have a solid foundation of
fact upon which to erect it."

"But, my dear fellow," I cried, "was Camber to foresee that the floor
of the hut would be taken up?"

Harley sighed, and leaned back in his chair.

"Do you recollect your first meeting with this man, Knox?"


"What occurred?"

"He was slightly drunk."

"Yes, but what was the nature of his conversation?"

"He suggested that I had recognized his resemblance to Edgar Allan

"Quite. What had led him to make this suggestion?'

"The manner in which I had looked at him, I suppose."

"Exactly. Although not quite sober, from a mere glance he was able to
detect what you were thinking. Do you wish me to believe, Knox, that
this same man had not foreseen what the police would think when Colonel
Menendez was found shot within a hundred yards of the garden of the
Guest House?"

I was somewhat taken aback, for Barley's argument was strictly logical,

"It is certainly very puzzling," I admitted.

"Puzzling!" he exclaimed; "it is maddening. This case is like a Syrian
village-mound. Stratum lies under stratum, and in each we meet with
evidence of more refined activity than in the last. It seems we have
yet to go deeper."

He took out his pipe and began to fill it.

"Tell me about the interview with Madame de Stämer," he directed.

I took a seat facing him, and he did not once interrupt me throughout
my account of Inspector Aylesbury's examination of Madame.

"Good," he commented, when I had told how the Inspector was dismissed.
"But at least, Knox, he has a working theory, to which he sticks like
an express to the main line, whereas I find myself constantly called
upon to readjust my perspective. Directly I can enjoy freedom of
movement, however, I shall know whether my hypothesis is a house of
cards or a serviceable structure."

"Your hypothesis?" I said. "Then you really have a theory which is
entirely different from mine?"

"Not entirely different, Knox, merely not so comprehensive. I have
contented myself thus far with a negative theory, if I may so express

"Negative theory?"

"Exactly. We are dealing, my dear fellow, with a case of bewildering
intricacies. For the moment I have focussed upon one feature only."

"What is that?"

"Upon proving that Colin Camber did not do the murder."

"Did _not_ do it?"

"Precisely, Knox. Respecting the person or persons who did do it, I had
preserved a moderately open mind, up to the moment that Inspector
Aylesbury entered the library with the Lee-Enfield."

"And then?" I said, eagerly.

"Then," he replied, "I began to think hard. However, since I practise
what I preach, or endeavour to do so, I must not permit myself to
speculate upon this aspect of the matter until I have tested my theory
of Camber's innocence."

"In other words," I said, bitterly, "although you encouraged me to
unfold my ideas regarding Mrs. Camber, you were merely laughing at me
all the time!"

"My dear Knox!" exclaimed Harley, jumping up impulsively, "please don't
be unjust. Is it like me? On the contrary, Knox"--he looked me squarely
in the eyes--"you have given me a platform on which already I have
begun to erect one corner of a theory of the crime. Without new facts I
can go no further. But this much at least you have done."

"Thanks, Harley," I murmured, and indeed I was gratified; "but where do
your other corners rest?"

"They rest," he said, slowly, "they rest, respectively, upon a bat
wing, a yew tree, and a Lee-Enfield charger-loader."



Detective-Inspector Wessex arrived at about five o'clock; a quiet,
resourceful man, highly competent, and having the appearance of an ex-
soldier. His respect for the attainments of Paul Harley alone marked
him a student of character. I knew Wessex well, and was delighted when
Pedro showed him into the library.

"Thank God you are here, Wessex," said Harley, when we had exchanged
greetings. "At last I can move. Have you seen the local officer in

"No," replied the Inspector, "but I gather that I have been
requisitioned over his head."

"You have," said Harley, grimly, "and over the head of the Chief
Constable, too. But I suppose it is unfair to condemn a man for the
shortcoming with which nature endowed him, therefore we must endeavour
to let Inspector Aylesbury down as lightly as possible. I have an idea
that I heard him return a while ago."

He walked out into the hall to make enquiries, and a few moments later
I heard Inspector Aylesbury's voice.

"Ah, there you are, Inspector Aylesbury," said Harley, cheerily. "Will
you please step into the library for a moment?"

The Inspector entered, frowning heavily, followed by my friend.

"There is no earthly reason why we should get at loggerheads over this
business," Harley continued; "but the fact of the matter is, Inspector
Aylesbury, that there are depths in this case to which neither you nor
I have yet succeeded in penetrating. You have a reputation to consider,
and so have I. Therefore I am sure you will welcome the cooperation of
Detective-Inspector Wessex of Scotland Yard, as I do."

"What's this, what's this?" said Aylesbury. "I have made no application
to London."

"Nevertheless, Inspector, it is quite in order," declared Wessex. "I
have my instructions here, and I have reported to Market Hilton
already. You see, the man you have detained is an American citizen."

"What of that?"

"Well, he seems to have communicated with his Embassy." Wessex glanced
significantly at Paul Harley. "And the Embassy communicated with the
Home Office. You mustn't regard my arrival as any reflection on your
ability, Inspector Aylesbury. I am sure we can work together quite

"Oh," muttered the other, in evident bewilderment, "I see. Well, if
that's the way of it, I suppose we must make the best of things."

"Good," cried Wessex, heartily. "Now perhaps you would like to state
your case against the detained man?"

"A sound idea, Wessex," said Paul Harley. "But perhaps, Inspector
Aylesbury, before you begin, you would be good enough to speak to the
constable on duty at the entrance to the Tudor garden. I am anxious to
take another look at the spot where the body was found."

Inspector Aylesbury took out his handkerchief and blew his nose loudly,
continuing throughout the operation to glare at Paul Harley, and

"You are wasting your time, Mr. Harley," he declared, "as Detective-
Inspector Wessex will be the first to admit when I have given him the
facts of my case. Nevertheless, if you want to examine the garden, do
so by all means."

He turned without another word and stamped out of the library across
the hall and into the courtyard.

"I will join you again in a few minutes, Wessex," said Paul Harley,

"Very good, Mr. Harley," Wessex answered. "I know you wouldn't have had
me down if the case had been as simple as he seems to think it is."

I joined Harley, and we walked together up the gravelled path, meeting
Inspector Aylesbury and the constable returning.

"Go ahead, Mr. Harley!" cried the Inspector. "If you can find any
stronger evidence than the rifle, I shall be glad to take a look at

Harley nodded good-humouredly, and together we descended the steps to
the sunken garden. I was intensely curious respecting the investigation
which Harley had been so anxious to make here, for I recognized that it
was associated with something which he had seen from the window of
Camber's hut.

He walked along the moss-grown path to the sun-dial, and stood for a
moment looking down at the spot where Menendez had lain. Then he stared
up the hill toward the Guest House; and finally, directing his
attention to the yews which lined the sloping bank:

"One, two, three, four," he counted, checking them with his fingers--
"five, six, seven."

He mounted the bank and began to examine the trunk of one of the trees,
whilst I watched him in growing astonishment.

Presently he turned and looked down at me.

"Not a trace, Knox," he murmured; "not a trace. Let us try again."

He moved along to the yew adjoining that which he had already
inspected, but presently shook his head and passed to the next. Then:

"Ah!" he cried. "Come here, Knox!"

I joined him where he was kneeling, staring at what I took to be a
large nail, or bolt, protruding from the bark of the tree.

"You see!" he exclaimed, "you see!"

I stooped, in order to examine the thing more closely, and as I did so,
I realized what it was. It was the bullet which had killed Colonel

Harley stood upright, his face slightly flushed and his eyes very

"We shall not attempt to remove it, Knox," he said. "The depth of
penetration may have a tale to tell. The wood of the yew tree is one of
the toughest British varieties."

"But, Harley," I said, blankly, as we descended to the path, "this is
merely another point for the prosecution of Camber. Unless"--I turned
to him in sudden excitement, "the bullet was of different--"

"No, no," he murmured, "nothing so easy as that, Knox. The bullet was
fired from a Lee-Enfield beyond doubt,"

I stared at him uncomprehendingly.

"Then I am utterly out of my depth, Harley. It, appears to me that the
case against Camber is finally and fatally complete. Only the motive
remains to be discovered, and I flatter myself that I have already
detected this."

"I am certainly inclined to think," admitted Harley, "that there is a
good deal in your theory."

"Then, Harley," I said in bewilderment, "you do believe that Camber
committed the murder?"

"On the contrary," he replied, "I am certain that he did not."

I stood quite still.

"You are certain?" I began.

"I told you that the test of my theory, Knox, was to be looked for in
the seventh yew from the northeast corner of the Tudor garden, did I

"You did. And it is there. A bullet fired from a Lee-Enfield rifle;
beyond any possible shadow of doubt the bullet which killed Colonel

"Beyond any possible shadow of doubt, as you say, Knox, the bullet
which killed Colonel Menendez."

"Therefore Camber is guilty?"

"On the contrary, therefore Camber is innocent!"


"You are persistently overlooking one little point, Knox," said Harley,
mounting the steps on to the gravel path. "I spoke of the seventh yew
tree from the northeast corner of the garden."


"Well, my dear fellow, surely you observed that the bullet was embedded

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