The Postmaster's Daughter
Part 5 out of 5
present only one, the Treasury man, uttered a few bald words. Belcher and
Norris did not even announce the names of their clients. Norris noticed
that Belcher surveyed Ingerman with a grim smile, but thought nothing of
it until he received a check later in the week. Then he made some
inquiries, and smiled himself.
The foreman of the jury looked a trifle pinched, though his cheeks bore
two spots of hectic color. Mr. Franklin, drawn to the court by curiosity,
happened to glance at him once, and found him gazing at Furneaux in a
peculiarly thoughtful manner.
Elkin, thriving on a diet of tea and eggs, was also interested in the
representative of Scotland Yard. He seemed to ignore Grant entirely.
Doris Martin was not in court. Superintendent Fowler had called about
half, past nine to tell her she would not be asked to attend that day.
Near Mr. Franklin sat a few village notabilities, who, since they had not
the remotest connection with anyone concerned in the tragedy, have been
left hitherto in their Olympian solitude. He listened to their comments.
"As usual, the police are utterly at sea," said one.
"Yes, 'following up important clews,' the newspapers say," scoffed
"It's a disgraceful thing if a crime like this goes undetected and
"Which is the Scotland Yard man!"
"The small chap, in the blue suit."
"What? _That_ little rat!"
"Oh, he's sharp. I met a man in the train and he told me--"
Mr. Franklin grinned amiably; Hobbs, the butcher, intercepting his eye,
grinned back. It is not difficult to imagine what portion of the
foregoing small talk reached Furneaux subsequently.
Oddly enough, both detectives had missed a brief but illuminating
incident which took place in the Hare and Hounds the previous night,
while Winter was finishing a cigar with Peters, and Furneaux was
bludgeoning Ingerinan into compliance with his wishes.
Elkin's remarkable improvement in health was commented on by Hobbs, and
Siddle took the credit.
"That last mixture has proved beneficial, then?" he said, eying the
"Top-hole," smirked Elkin. "But it's only fair to say that I've chucked
"Did you finish the bottle?"
"Mine, of course."
"Don't take any more. It was decidedly strong. I'll send a boy early
to-morrow morning with a first-rate tonic, and you might give him any old
medicine bottles you possess. I'm running short."
Elkin hesitated a second or two.
"I'll tell my housekeeper to look 'em up," he said. After the inquest he
communicated this episode to Furneaux as a great joke.
"Queer, isn't it?" he guffawed. "A couple of dozen bottles went back, as
I'm always getting stuff for the gees, but those two weren't among 'em.
You took care of that, eh? When will you have the analysis?"
"It'll be fully a week yet," said the detective. "Government offices are
not run like express trains, and this is a free job, you know. But, be
advised by me. Stick to plain food, and throw physic to the dogs."
Another singular fact, unobserved by the public at large, was that a
policeman, either Robinson or a stranger, patrolled the high-street all
day and all night, while no one outside official circles was aware that
other members of the force watched The Hollies, or were secreted among
the trees on the cliffside, from dusk to dawn.
Next morning, however, there was real cause for talk. Siddle's shop was
closed. Over the letter-box, neatly printed, was gummed a notice:
"Called away on business. Will open for one hour after arrival of 7 p. m.
train. T. S."
Everyone who passed stopped to read. Even Mr. Franklin joined Furneaux
and Peters in a stroll across the road to have a look.
"I want you a minute," said the big man suddenly to Furneaux. There was
that in his tone which forbade questioning, so Peters sheered off, well
content with the share permitted him in the inquiry thus far.
"That fellow, Hart, is no fool," went on Winter rapidly. "He said last
night 'How does one get evidence?' It was not easy to answer. Siddle has
gone to his mother's funeral. What do you think!"
"You'd turn me into a housebreaker, would you?" whined Furneaux bitterly.
"I must do the job, of course, just because I'm a little one. Well, well!
After a long and honorable career I have to become a sneak thief. It may
cost me my pension."
"There's no real difficulty. An orchard--"
"Bet you a new hat I went over the ground before you did."
"Get over it quickly now, and get something out of it, and I'll _give_
you a new hat. Got any tools?"
"I fetched 'em from town Tuesday morning," chortled Furneaux. "So now
who's the brainy one?"
He skipped into the hotel, while Winter went to the station to make sure
of Siddle's departure and destination. Yes, the chemist had taken a
return ticket to Epsom, where a strip of dank meadow-land on the road to
Esher marks the last resting-place of many of London's epileptics. On
returning to the high-street, Winter lighted a cigar, a somewhat common
occurrence in his everyday life, where-upon Furneaux walked swiftly up
the hill. A farmer, living near the center of the village, owned a rather
showy cob. Winter found the man, and persuaded him to trot the animal to
and fro in front of the hotel. There was a good deal of noise and
hoof-clattering, and people came to their doors to see what was going on.
Obviously, if they were watching the antics of a skittish two-year-old in
the high-street, their eyes were blind to proceedings in the back
premises. Even the postmaster and his daughter were interested onlookers,
and a policeman, who might have put a summary end to the display,
vanished as though by magic.
Luckily, Winter was a good judge of a horse. When the cob was stabled,
and the farmer came to the inn to have a drink, he was forced to admit a
tendency to cow hocks, which, it would seem, is held a fatal blemish in
Meanwhile, Furneaux had dodged into a lane and thence to a bridle-path
which emerged near Bob Smith's forge. When he had traversed, roughly
speaking, one-half of a rectangle in which the Hare and Hounds occupied
the center of one of the longer sides, he climbed a gate and followed a
hedge. Though not losing a second, he took every precaution to remain
unseen, and, to the best of his belief, gained an inclosed yard at the
back of Siddle's premises without having attracted attention. He slipped
the catch of a kitchen window only to discover that the sash was
fastened by screws also. The lock of the kitchen door yielded to
persuasion, but there were bolts above and below. A wire screen in a
larder window was impregnable. Short of cutting out a pane of glass, he
could not effect an entry on the ground floor.
Nimble as a squirrel, and risking everything, he climbed to the roof of
an outhouse, and tried a bedroom window. Here he succeeded. When the
catch was forced, there were no further obstacles. In he went, pausing
only to look around and see if any curious or alarmed eye was watching
him. He wondered why every back yard on that side of the high-street was
empty, not even a maid-servant or woman washing clothes being in sight,
but understood and grinned when the commotion Winter was creating came in
view from a front room.
Then he undertook a methodical search, working with a rapid yet
painstaking thoroughness which missed nothing. From a wardrobe he
selected an overcoat and pair of trousers which reeked with turpentine.
They were old and soiled garments, very different from the well-cut black
coat and waistcoat, with striped cloth trousers, worn daily by the
chemist. He drew a blank in the remainder of the upstairs rooms, which
included a sitting-room, though he devoted fully quarter of an hour to
reading the titles of Siddle's books.
A safe in the little dispensing closet at the back of the shop promised
sheer defiance until Furneaux saw a bunch of keys resting beside a
methylated spirit lamp.
"'Twas ever thus!" he cackled, lighting the lamp. "Heaven help us poor
detectives if it wasn't!"
In a word, since murder will out, Siddle had forgotten his keys!
Probably, he had gone to the safe for money, and, while writing the
notice as to his absence, had laid down the keys and omitted to pick
them up again.
Furneaux disregarded ledgers and account books. He examined a bank
pass-book and a check-book. In a drawer which contained these and a
quantity of gold he found a small, leather-bound book with a lock, which
no key on the bunch was tiny enough to fit. A bit of twisted wire soon
overcame this difficulty, and Furneaux began to read.
There were quaint diagrams, and surveyor's sketches, both in plan and
section, with curious notes, and occasional records of what appeared to
be passages from letters or conversations. The detective read, and
read, referring back and forth, absorbed in his task, no doubt, but
At last, he stuffed the book into a pocket, completed his scrutiny of the
safe, examined the bottles on the shelf labeled "poisons," and took a
sample of the colorless contents of one bottle marked "C10H14N2."
Then he went to the kitchen, replaced all catches and the lock of the
door, and let himself out by the way he had come.
Winter saw him from afar, and hastened upstairs to the private
sitting-room. Furneaux appeared there soon.
"Well?" said the Chief Inspector eagerly.
"Got him, I think," said Furneaux.
Not much might be gathered from that monosyllabic question and its
answer, but its significance in Siddle's ears, could he have heard, would
have been that of the passing bell tolling for the dead.
THE TRUTH AT LAST
Not often did Furneaux qualify an opinion by that dubious phrase, "I
think," which, in its colloquial sense, implies that the thought contains
a reservation as to possible error.
Winter looked anxious. Both he and his colleague knew well when to drop
the good-natured banter they delighted in. They were face to face now
with issues of life and death, dark and sinister conditions which had
already destroyed one life, threatened another, and might envisage
further horrors. Small wonder, then, if the Chief Inspector's usually
cheerful face was clouded, or that his hopes should be somewhat dashed
when Furneaux seemed to lack the abounding confidence which was his most
"You've got something, I see," he said, trying to speak encouragingly,
and glancing at the bundle of clothing which Furneaux had wrapped in a
newspaper before dropping from the bedroom window of Siddle's house.
"Yes, a lot. What to make of it is the puzzle. We either go ahead on the
flimsiest of evidence or I carry out another housebreaking job this
afternoon and restore things in status quo. First, the bundle--an old
covert-coating overcoat and a pair of frayed trousers which probably
draped Owd Ben's ghost. They've been soaked in turpentine, which, chemist
or no chemist, is still the best agent for removing stains. We'll put 'em
under the glass after we've examined the book. Siddle keeps a sort of
diary, a series of jumbled memoranda. If we can extract nutriment out of
that we may have something tangible to go upon. Let's begin at the end."
Opening the leather-bound note-book, Furneaux stood with his back to the
window. Winter, owing to his superior height, could look over the lesser
man's shoulder. Many an occult document affecting the famous crimes and
social or dynastic intrigues of the previous decade had these two
examined in that way, the main advantage of scrutiny in common being that
they could compare readings or suggested readings without loss of time,
and with the original manuscript before both pairs of eyes.
In the first instance, there were no dates--only scraps of sentences, or
comments. The concluding entry in the book was:
"A tactical error? Perhaps. Immovable."
Then, taking the order backward:
"Scout the very notion of such an infamy. You and every scandal-monger in
S. may do your worst."
"Free to confess that events have opened my eyes to the truth, so, not
for the first time, out of evil comes good."
"Visit for such a purpose a piece of unheard-of impudence."
These were all on one page.
"Quite clearly a _precis_ of Grant's remarks when Siddle called on
Monday," said Winter.
At any other time, Furneaux would have waxed sarcastic. Now he
"Stops in a queer way," he muttered. "Not a word about the inquest or the
The preceding page held even more disjointed entries, which,
nevertheless, provided a fair synopsis of Doris's spirited words on the
"Malice and ignorance."
"Patient because of years."
"Loyal comrade. Shall remain."
"No difference in friendship."
"E. hopeless. Contempt."
On the next page:
"Isidor G. Ingerman. Useful. Inquire."
"E.'s boasts? Nonsensical, surely!"
"Why has D. gone?"
Both men paused at that line.
"Detective?" suggested Winter.
"That's how I take it," agreed Furneaux.
Then came a sign: "+10%."
"Elkin's mixture was not 'as before.' It was fortified," grinned
Furneaux. "That's the exact increase of nicotine. By the way, I have
a sample. We can take care of him on that charge, without a shadow
Winter blew softly on the back of his friend's head.
"You're thorough, Charles, thorough!" he murmured. "It's a treat to work
with you when you get really busy."
Furneaux ran his thumb across the end of several leaves.
"I can tell you now," he said, "that there's nothing of real value in the
earlier notes. So far as I can judge, they refer either to a sort of
settlement with his wife or chance phrases used by Doris Martin which
might imply that she was heart whole and fancy free. There's not a bally
word dealing with the murder, or that can be twisted into the vaguest
allusion to it. But here's a plan and section which have a sort of
significance. I've seen the place, so recognized it, or thought I did. We
must check it, of course. Here you are! You know the footbridge across
the river from Bush Walk?"
"The eastern end is supported on a hollow pier of masonry, in which one
might tog up unseen. These drawings would be useful as an _Aide
Memoire_ on a dark night. A false step, with the river in flood, might
"What's that on the opposite page?"
"I give it up--at present."
This somewhat rare display of modesty on Furneaux's part was readily
understandable. A series of straight lines and angles conveyed very
little hint of their purport; but Winter smiled behind his friend's back.
"I've been prowling about this wretched inn longer than you," he said.
"Look outside, to the left."
"Don't need to, now," cackled Furneaux. "It's the profile of a wall,
gate, and outhouse along which one could reach the window of the
club-room. Would you mind stopping grinning like a Cheshire cat?"
"Yes. This one: 'S.M.? 1820.' That beats you, eh?"
"Doris Martin, as usual, supplies the answer. An old volume of the
_Sussex Miscellany_, probably that for 1820, contains the full story of
Owd Ben. I might have mentioned it to you, but focussed on current
events. Siddle has it among his books, which, by the way, are made up
largely of scientific and popular criminal records."
"Is that the lot?"
"I'm afraid so. Have a look."
"Just a minute. I want to think."
Winter turned and gazed through the open window. Seldom had a more
gracious June decked England with garlands. The hour was then high noon,
and a pastoral landscape was drowned in sunshine. The Chief Inspector cut
the end off a cigar dreamily but with care.
"Broadmoor--perhaps," he muttered. "But we can't hang him yet, Charles. A
couple of knots and a theory won't do for the Assizes. We haven't a
solitary witness. Hardly a night but he goes home at 9.30. If only he had
killed Grant! But--Adelaide Melhuish!"
In sheer despair he struck a match.
"Well, let's overhaul these duds," said Furneaux savagely. "I'll chance
the dinner hour for the return visit. Steynholme folk eat at half past
twelve to the tick, and you can hardly get up another horse show."
There was a knock at the door.
"Let me in, quick!" came Peters's voice, and the handle was tried
"Go away! I'm busy!" cried Winter.
"This is urgent, devilish urgent," said Peters.
Furneaux snatched up the note-book, and Winter tore off his coat,
throwing it over the package which reposed in an armchair. Then the Chief
Inspector unlocked the door, blocking the way aggressively.
"Now, I must say--" he began.
But Peters clutched his shoulder with a nervous hand.
"Siddle has just hurried up the street and entered his shop," he hissed.
The journalist had not only kept his eyes open, but excelled in the art
of putting two and two together, an arithmetical calculation which, as
applied to the affairs of life, is not so readily arrived at as many
"Buncoed! He's missed his keys!" shrilled Furneaux.
"Confound the man! He might at least have attended his mother's funeral!"
stormed Winter, retrieving his coat.
Thus it happened that Furneaux was the first down the stairs, though the
three emerged from the door of the inn on each other's heels. A stout
man, in all likelihood a farmer with horses for sale, was mounting the
two steps which led to the entrance. His head was down, and his weight
forward, so he successfully resisted Furneaux's impact, but Peters and
Winter were irresistible, and he tumbled over with a muffled yell.
At that instant Siddle quitted his shop, and headed straight for the post
office. In his right hand he carried an automatic pistol. The street was
wide. Furneaux, absolutely fearless in the performance of his duty, ran
in a curve so as to bar the chemist's path, and it was then that Siddle
saw him. The man's face was terrible to behold. His eyes were rolling,
his teeth gnashing; he had bitten his tongue and cheeks, and his
stertorous breathing ejected from his mouth foam tinged with blood.
"Ha!" he screamed in a falsetto of fury, "not yet, little man, not yet!"
With that he raised the pistol, and fired point-blank at the detective.
Furneaux ducked, and seized a small stone, being otherwise quite unarmed.
He threw it with unerring aim, and, as was determined subsequently,
struck the hand holding the weapon. Possibly, almost by a miracle, the
blow caused a faulty pressure, because the action jammed, though the
pistol itself was most accurate and deadly in its properties.
By this time Winter, sweeping Peters aside, was within ten feet of the
maniac, who turned and ran into the shop. The door, a solid one, fitted
with a spring lock, slammed in the Chief Inspector's face, and resisted a
mighty effort to burst it open. A few yards away stood an empty,
two-wheeled cart, uptilted, and Winter demanded the help of a few men who
had gathered on seeing or hearing the hubbub.
"I call on you in the King's name!" he shouted. "We must force that door!
Then stand clear, all of you!"
He raced to the cart, and, when his object was perceived, willing hands
assisted in converting the heavy vehicle into a battering-ram. The
gradient of the hill favored the attack, which was made at an acute
angle, and the first assault smashed the lock. There were a couple of
seconds' delay while the cart was backed out, and the detectives rushed
in, Furneaux leading, because Winter gave his great physical strength to
the shafts. But the Chief Inspector grabbed his tiny friend by the
collar as the latter darted around the counter and into the dispensary
in the rear.
"Two of us can't go abreast, and you'll only get hurt," he said, speaking
with a calmness that was majestic in the circumstances.
"The nicotine is gone!" yelped Furneaux; both saw that the safe
Behind the dispensary was a small passage, whence the stairs mounted, and
a door led to the kitchen. That door was closed now, though it was open
when Furneaux ransacked the house. Therefore, they made that way at once.
No ordinary lock could resist Winter's shoulder, and he soon mastered
this barrier. But the kitchen was empty--the outer door locked but
unbolted. Since it is practically impossible for the strongest man to
pull a door open, the two made for the window, and tore at screws and
catch with eager fingers. Furneaux, light and nimble-footed, scrambled
through first, so it was he who found Siddle lying in the orchard beyond
the wall of the yard. The unhappy wretch had swallowed nearly the whole
remaining contents of the bottle of nicotine, or enough to poison a score
of robust men. He presented a lamentable and distressing spectacle. Some
of the more venturesome passers-by, who had crowded after the detectives
and Peters, could not bear to look on, and slunk away in horror.
Furneaux soon brought an emetic, which failed to act. Siddle breathed his
last while the glass was at his lips.
In that moment of crisis only three men did not lose their heads. Winter
cleared away the gapers, while Furneaux remained with the body. P.C.
Robinson came up the hill at a run, and was sent for a stretcher,
bringing from Hobbs's shop the very one on which the ill-fated Adelaide
Melhuish was carried from the river bank.
But where was Peters? In the post office, writing the first of a series
of thrilling dispatches to a London evening newspaper. What journalist
ever had a more sensational murder-case to supply "copy"? And when was
"special correspondent" ever better primed for the task? He wrote on, and
on, till the telegraphist cried halt. Then he hied him to London by
train, and began the more ambitious "story" for next morning. What he did
not know he guessed correctly. A fagged but triumphant man was Jimmie
Peters when he "blew in" to the Savage Club at 1 A.M. to seek sustenance
and a whiskey and soda before going home.
Furneaux was white and shaken when Winter escorted the stretcher-bearers
to the orchard.
"Poor devil!" he said, as the men lifted the body. "Foredoomed from
birth! We can eradicate these diseases from cattle. Why not from men!"
The villagers could not understand him. Already, in some mysterious way,
the word had gone around that Siddle had murdered the actress, and taken
his own life to avoid arrest, after shooting at the detective who was hot
on his trail.
Not until Peters's articles came back to Steynholme did the public at
large realize that the chemist undoubtedly meant to kill Doris Martin. He
was going straight to the post office when the way was barred by
Furneaux. The bullet which missed the latter actually pierced the zinc
plate of the letter-box, and scored a furrow, inches long, in an oak
counter which it struck laterally.
The village did not recover its poise for hours. Grant and Hart, to whom
Bates brought the news about one o'clock, rose from an untasted luncheon
and hurried to the high-street. Knots of people stared at Grant, some
sheepishly, others with frank relief, because all who knew him liked him.
One man, a retired ironmonger and an impulsive fellow, came forward and
wrung his hand heartily. A few prominent residents followed suit. Grant
was greatly embarrassed, but managed to endure these awkward if
well-meant congratulations. There could be no mistaking their intent. He
had been tried for murder at the bar of public opinion, and was now
Even Fred Elkin, ignorant as yet of his own peril, yielded to the
influences of the moment and bustled through the crowd.
"Mr. Grant," he cried outspokenly, "I ask your pardon. I seem to have
made a d--d fool of myself!"
"Easier done than said," chimed in Hart. "But, among all this
bell-ringing, can anyone tell what has actually happened? Where's
"In the post office."
The two went in, and found the journalist scribbling against time. Hart
coolly grabbed a few slips of manuscript, and commenced reading. Grant
looked about for Doris. She was not visible, but Mr. Martin, pallid and
nervous, nodded toward the sitting-room. The younger man, taking the
gesture as a tacit invitation, entered the room.
Doris was sitting there, crying bitterly. Poor girl! She had seen that
portion of the drama which was enacted in the street, and the shock of it
was still poignant. She looked up and met her lover's eyes. Neither
uttered a word, but Grant did a very wise thing. He caught her by the
shoulders, raised her to her feet, and, after kissing her squarely on the
lips, gave her a comforting hug.
"It will be all right now, Doris," he whispered tenderly. "Such
thunderstorms clear the air."
An eminent novelist might have found many more ornate ways of avowing
his sentiments, but never a more satisfactory one. At any rate, it
served, so what more need be said?
Certain rills of evidence accumulated into a fair-sized stream before
night fell. P.C. Robinson, for instance, scored a point by ascertaining
that Peggy Smith had seen Furneaux dropping from the bedroom window of
the chemist's shop. She was some hundreds of yards away, and could not be
positive that some man, perhaps a glazier, had not been there
legitimately effecting repairs. Still, when she met Siddle hurrying from
the station, she told him of the incident.
"He never even thanked me," she said, "but broke into a run. The look in
his eyes was awful."
The girl had, in fact, confirmed his worst fears, and her neighborly
solicitude had merely hastened the end.
Again, the railway officials showed that Siddle had returned from
Victoria instead of taking train to the asylum. Furneaux had guessed
aright. The discovery that his keys had been left behind drove the man
into a panic of fright.
It took nearly three weeks before the unhappy business was finally
disposed of. A Treasury solicitor was given the chance of his career by
the medico-legal disquisition which cleared up an extraordinary record.
The annals of the disease which predisposed Theodore Siddle to crime
went back many years. He was a fairly wealthy man by inheritance, and
adopted the profession of chemistry as a hobby. One fact stood out
boldly. He was aware of his hereditary taint, and had settled down in
Steynholme believing that a quiet life, free from care or the
distractions of a town, would enable him to overcome it. Probably, the
lawyer held, the man owned two distinct individualities, and the baser
instincts gradually overpowered the humane ones.
Of course, the whole history of those trying days had to come out in open
court, and the postmaster's daughter was given a descriptive and
pictorial boom which many an actress envied. Peters was restored to grace
when he showed plainly that his articles had kept the fickle barometer of
public opinion at "set fair," in so far as Grant and Doris were
"But," as Hart drawled during a dinner of reconciliation, "you needn't
have been so infernally personal about my hat."
Grant and Doris were married before the year was out. Mr. Martin retired
on a pension, and the young couple decided that they could never
dissociate The Hollies from the tragic memories bound up with its
ghost-window and lawn. So the place was sold, and Steynholme knows "the
postmaster's daughter" no more. Winter and Furneaux week-ended with them
recently at a pretty little nook in Dorset. Hart, just home from the
Balkans, traveled from town with the detectives, and Doris, a radiant
young matron, was as flippant as the best of them.
One evening, when the men were sitting late in the smoking-room, the talk
turned on the now half-forgotten drama in which the hapless Adelaide
Melhuish played her last role.
"I met Peters in the Savage Club the other night," said Hart, filling the
negro-head pipe with care while he talked, "and he was chortling about
his 'psychological study,' as he called it, of that unfortunate chemist.
He still clings to the theory that your wife was the intended victim,
Grant. Do you agree with him?"
"Rubbish!" cried Furneaux, before his host could answer. "At best, Peters
is only a clever ass. Siddle never had the remotest notion of killing
Miss Doris Martin, as Mrs. Grant was then. We shall never know for
certain just what happened, but there are elements in the affair which
give ground for reasonable guesswork. The first thing that impressed
Winter and me--at least, I suppose I really evolved the idea, though my
bulky friend elaborated it" (whereat Winter smiled forgivingly, and
beheaded a fresh Havana) "was the complete noiselessness of the crime.
Here we had Mr. Grant startled by the face at the window, and actually
searching outside the house for the ghostly visitant, while Miss Doris
was gazing at The Hollies from the other side of the river, and not a
sound was heard, though it was a summer's night, without a breath of
wind, and at an hour when the splash of a fish leaping in the stream
would have created a commotion. Now, Miss Melhuish was an active and
well-built young woman, an actress, too, and therefore likely to meet an
emergency without instant collapse. Yet she allows herself to be struck
dead or insensible without cry or struggle! How do you account for it?"
"Go on, Charles; don't be theatrical," jeered Winter. "You've got the
story pat. Even that simile of the jumping fish is mine."
"True," agreed Furneaux. "I only brought it in as a sop. But, to
continue, as the tub-thumper says. Isn't it permissible to assume that
Siddle accompanied the lady, either by prior arrangement or by contriving
a meeting which looked like mere chance? We know that she went to his
shop. We know, too, that he was clever and unscrupulous, and any allusion
to Grant would stir his wits to the uttermost. He would see instantly how
interested Miss Melhuish was in the owner of The Hollies, while she, a
smart Londoner, would recognize in Siddle an informant worth all the rest
of the babblers in Steynholme. At any rate, no matter how the thing was
brought about, it is self-evident that Siddle brought his intended victim
into the grounds, and told her of the small uncovered window through
which she could peer at Grant after Miss Doris had gone. He showed her
which path to use, and undoubtedly waited for her, and stayed her flight
when Grant rose from his chair. She was close to him, and wholly
unafraid, finding in him an ally. They were purposely hidden, in the
gloom of dense foliage, and remained there until Grant had closed the
window again. Then, and not till then, did the murderer strike, probably
stifling her with his free hand. He had the implement in his pocket. The
rope was secreted among the bushes. He could carry through the whole
wretched crime in little more than a minute. And his psychology went far
deeper than Peters gave him credit for. He had weighed up the situation
to a nicety. No matter who found the body, Mr. Grant was saddled with a
responsibility which might well prove disastrous, and was almost sure to
affect his relations with the Martin household. For instance, nothing
short of a miracle could have stopped Robinson from arresting him on a
charge of murder."
"You, then, are a miracle?" put in Hart, pointing the pipe at the
"To the person of ordinary intelligence--yes."
"After that," said Winter, "there is nothing more to be said. Let's see
who secures the pocket marvel as a partner at auction."
* * * * *
As a fitting end to the strange story of wayward love and maniacal frenzy
which found an unusual habitat in a secluded hamlet like Steynholme, a
small vignette of its normal life may be etched in. The trope is germane
to the scene.
On a wet afternoon in October Hobbs and Elkin had adjourned to the Hare
and Hounds. Tomlin was reading a newspaper spread on the bar counter. He
was alone. The day was Friday, and the last "commercial" of the week had
departed by the mid-day train.
"Wot's yer tonic?" demanded the butcher.
"A glass of beer," threw Elkin over his shoulder. He had walked to the
window, and was gazing moodily at the sign of the "plumber and decorator"
who had taken Siddle's shop. The village could not really support an
out-and-out chemist, so a local grocer had elected to stock patent
medicines as a side line.
Tomlin made play with a beer-pump.
"Where's yer own?" inquired Hobbs hospitably.
Elkin came and drank. After an interlude, Tomlin ran a finger down a
column of the newspaper.
"By the way, Fred, didn't you tell me about that funny little chap,
Furno, the 'tec, buyin' some pictures of yours?" he said.
"I did. Had him there, anyhow," chuckled Elkin.
"How much did you stick 'im for?"
"They can't ha' bin this lot, then, though I've a notion it wur the same
name, 'Aylesbury Steeplechase.'"
"What are you talking about?"
Tomlin turned the paper, and Elkin read:
At their monthly art sale on Wednesday Messrs. Brown, Jenkins and Brown
disposed of an almost unique set of colored prints, by F. Smyth, dated
1841. The series of six represented various phases of the long defunct
Aylesbury Steeplechase, "The Start," "The Brook," "The In-and-Out," and
so on to "The Finish." It is understood that this notable series,
produced during the best period of the art, and at the very zenith of
Smyth's fame, were acquired recently by a Sussex amateur at a low price.
Bidding began at fifty guineas, and rose quickly to one hundred and
twenty, at which figure Messrs. Carnioli and Bruschi became the owners.
Elkin read the paragraph twice, until the words burnt into his brain.
"No," he said thickly. "They're not mine. No such luck!"
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