The Room With the Iron Shutters...
A thrilling mystery serial of murder and its detection
DR. EUSTACE HAILEY offered Inspector Verrey a cigar.
“Let’s have the story first,” he said. “The accounts I’ve read in the newspapers have only bewildered me.”
He leaned back in his chair as he spoke and closed his eyes. His large kindly face became completely expressionless.
The detective watched him for a moment with a satisfaction which
betrayed itself contentedly in a hastily repressed smile.
“It’s a queer story,” he stated in crisp tones, “one of the queerest in my experience. Yesterday morning, about ten o’clock, Lord Gerald Glen’s butler was summoned to his master’s study. When he reached the door of the room he heard a faint voice, which he recognized as his master’s, ordering him to close the shutters. They’re iron shutters, on the outside of the windows. While he was obeying this order he saw Lord Gerald sitting at his desk with his head in his hands, and formed the opinion that he was in distress of some sort.
“He knocked on the door, but got no answer. Then he rang up the local doctor, Dr. Walter Pendrith, and asked him to come to the house. The doctor tried the door and then opened one of the shutters. They saw Lord Gerald lying on his back on the floor near the
window. They broke a pane of glass and entered the room. He was dead. There was a sheet of notepaper on the desk on which he had written the words ‘I have been murdered.’ He had, in fact, been stabbed through the heart.”
Dr. Hailey opened his eyes in time to see Inspector Verrey cutting his cigar.
“Well,” he asked, “what then?”
“I mean, what did you find when you searched the neighborhood of the house?”
“We found nothing. The ground is damp enough, but there are no footprints anywhere. Not a single footprint. Not a sign. It’s the same thing in the room. There’s not so much as a scratch on the furniture to suggest that any struggle took place. And yet, as you know, Lord Gerald Glen was a big powerful man.”
Dr. Hailey leaned forward in his chair; the vacant expression had passed from his face.
“Has a post-mortem examination been made?” he asked.
“Yes. This morning.”
“The wound really involved the heart?”
“Oh, yes. There’s a hole in the wall of the heart—in the right ventricle, I think Dr.
Pendrith said, if that is the proper term.”
“That is the proper term.”
Dr. Hailey came to his desk and sat down.
He picked up a pencil and drew a rough sketch on the pad in front of him.
“It must be five years since I stayed at Shawdon Hall,” he said, showing his sketch to Verrey, “but I think that represents the study, eh?”
“It does, but there’s another window on the left-hand side of the fireplace.”
The detective marked the sketch to show this window, and then pushed the pad back to his companion.
“Are all the three windows provided with iron shutters?”
“All of them.”
“And all had been closed?”
The doctor bent his big, shaggy head over his sketch.
“The chimney is one of the big, old-fashioned type, isn’t it?” he asked.
“Yes. It’s enormous. But it was thoroughly explored within an hour of the murder. The murderer can’t have been hidden there.”
Dr. Hailey leaned back.
“When the shutters were closed Lord Gerald was alive,” he said slowly. “When they were opened he was dead, stabbed through the heart, and the door of the room had been locked during the whole of the intervening period. Is that a fair statement of the case?”
“Absolutely fair. It’s the plain truth.”
“What about the windows? Were they bolted?” “They were all bolted on the inside. So far as I can see, none of the bolts have been tampered with. The only explanation I can think of is that the murderer hid himself in the room before the door was locked and escaped after it was opened, and I confess that that explanation gives me no satisfaction at all.” Inspector Verrey’s handsome young face betrayed his bewilderment. “Naturally,” he added, “the possibility occurred to me that the story might have been concocted by the butler. But there’s the doctor’s confirmation of it. And even if we doubt the doctor, a third witness is available. Lord Gerald’s niece, Miss Bridget Glen, happened to come back from her morning ride just as Dr. Pendrith opened the shutter. She saw her uncle lying on the floor. As you know, she’s studying medicine. She was the first person to enter the study and declares that she thinks she felt a flicker of pulse. Dr. Pendrith performed artificial respiration, and the patient seems to have breathed once in a spasmodic sort of way, but when the doctor listened to the heart it had stopped. It was while he was listening that he noticed blood on the dead man’s waistcoat. He laid the chest bare and there was the wound, a tiny slit that looks as if it had been made with the small blade of a penknife.”
F\R. HAILEY removed his sketch from the writingpad and placed it in one of the drawers of his desk, affording the detective, as he did so, a glimpse of the perfect order which existed among his papers. He unscrewed the cap of his fountain pen.
“If I’m going to help you at all in the case,” he stated, “I must get these medical details absolutely clear in my mind right away. Y ou say you’re sure that Miss Bridget Glen was the first of the three to reach her uncle?”
“How far has she advanced, do you happen to know, in her medical studies?”
“She has two years to go, I believe, before she qualifies.
“Oh, so her clinical work is still to come.”
The doctor made a short note.
“You see,” he explained, “in matters of pulse-taking experience counts for more than anything else. It’s an art which can’t be picked up quickly. I don’t suppose Bridget Glen has felt a dozen pulses as yet in her life. Moreover she must have been greatly excited and distressed. That makes it exceedingly difficult to accept her statement about the flicker she thinks she felt.”
“Yes, I see that.”
“Did Dr. Pendrith take the pulse before he began his artificial respiration?”
“I can’t say. I didn’t ask him that question.”
“At any rate he didn’t tell you he had taken it, as he probably would have done if he had. The odds are that
when he heard the girl say she felt a beat he got to work instantly on the artificial respiration. I think that in the same circumstances I would have done the same thing myself. But you see how important the omission is. If the pulse was in fact flickering when the room was entered, then the murder had been committed within a minute or two of the time of entry, whereas if it was not flickering some considerable time may have elapsed between the murder and the entry.”
The detective nodded. His cigar was burning badly and he relit it.
“I’m afraid,” he said, “we can never reach certainty on that point now, unless the fact that the murdered man gasped after artificial respiration had been given is a proof that his heart was still beating.”
“It isn’t a proof. A dead man can be made to gasp by the same means.”
“Then I was wrong in thinking that the murder could be timed exactly.”
Verrey’s tone proclaimed his disappointment. Clearly he had based a hope, however slender, on this supposed clue. Now all hope seemed to desert him. He watched his companion’s deliberate, busy pen with clouded eyes.
“Was there much bleeding?” the doctor asked.
“Very little. Extraordinarily little, considering that the knife had been withdrawn from the wound.”
“Why do you say that?”
Dr. Hailey looked up sharply from his writing.
"I ... I thought all wounds bled a good deal."
“Not fatal heart-wounds, my dear fellow. When the heart stops, bleeding stops. That’s another reason, and a strong one, for doubting Miss Glen’s testimony. If she had really felt a flicker of pulse there would have been evidence of that flicker at the site of the wound. Even an injured heart can sometimes pump a considerable quantity of blood through a very small wound in a short space of time.”
The doctor made a further note and then re-read carefully what he had .written.
“It seems to me,” he said, “that we must conclude that death occurred almost instantaneously. That means that the wound waB inflicted at or very near the spot where the body was lying. Since the murderer managed to escape, we must allow him at least a couple of minutes before the shutter was opened, though, of course, he may have had a good half hour at his disposal.”
Verrey inclined his head rather dubiously.
“You’re saying, aren’t you,” he suggested, “that a powerful man, who clearly expected every moment to be attacked, was approached from behind, while standing in the middle of the big room, the parquet floor of which is uncarpeted except for a few rugs?”
"I suppose so.”
“And that he was struck down by a stab delivered from behind, but directed against the front of his chest.”
Dr. Hailey contracted his brow. “The mere fact that no signs of a struggle have been found does not preclude the possibility,” he said, ‘that a struggle may nevertheless have taken place/’
INSPECTOR VERREY1 was a tall, fair young man who was rapidly acquiring a reputation at Scotland Yard for intelligence and ability. Without being in any sense of the word an iconoclast, he had changed somewhat the approved methods of work so far as his personal enquiries were concerned. It was his aim to proceed from the man to the crime rather than from the crime to the man.
This aim had brought him, in the present instance, to 22B Harley Street, for Dr. Eustace Hailey was an old friend of Lord Gerald Glen, and therefore a source of information. The fact that Dr. Hailey was also a distinguished specialist in diseases of the mind and an amateur in the study of crime added potential value to his testimony. Verrey believed in team work and recognized, more clearly than most of his colleagues, that without exact science the work of elucidating an obscure crime is fatally handicapped. When men share a common point of view and in addition hold one another in respect, co-operation between them is doubly effective.
“Since the murder, at the moment, seems to be wholly incomprehensible,” Verrey said, “I’m giving my whole attention, in the first instance, to the murdered man.So far, I possess only the knowledge about him which is shared by the whole country—that he’s a popular Sussex squire and a well-known rider to hounds, and that he’s the chairman of the Board of Governors of Henry’s Hospital here in London. The portrait is admittedly a very attractive one, but it doesn’t need much knowledge of the world to see that it’s alB© a very incomplete one. You, Dr. Hailey, knew the real Gerald Glen.”
Verrey paused. His eager face was thrust a little forward. His lips were parted expectantly. Dr. Hailey looked at him for a moment in silence.
“When I’m told that I know a man,” he said at last, “it always makes me feel doubtful on the point. I confess that that applies with special force to the case of Jerry Glen. His own cousin, the late John Standish, told me once that I would never be able to make up my mind about him. I can hear poor Standish now, spluttering out his clipped words: “ ’Pend on it, Hailey, Jerry Glen’s a sphinx. Fox-huntin’ squire one day, bug-huntin’ doctor next. And full of upliftin’ thoughts as a chapel preacher. Meet him today, you say to yourself: ‘Good old Jerry, he does love that hospital of his.’ Tomorrow: ‘Selfish prig, only thinkin’ of his own reputation.’ Day after tomorrow: ‘Fella’ rides straight anyhow. Can’t be such a dud after all.’ Admittedly Standish was a better judge of horses and dogs and women than of men; but I've often felt, all the same, that he knew his cousin better than most other people knew him. Standish, though, could never be actively charitable to a teetotaller.”
Dr. Hailey screwed his eyeglass into his eye. The effect was to increase his gravity without, at the same time, diminishing his benevolence.
“Teetotalism,” he resumed, “was Jerry Glen’s mania. I have never known any man in my life who was so rabid on the subject. He was chairman of endless societies for the total prohibition of the sale of alcohol, and he regarded a taste for liquor of any sort as a sign of incipient epilepsy. I fancy he and I might have seen more of one another if I hadn’t proved so unresponsive to the lectures on the subject he always addressed to me when we met. He liked to call himself a scientific abstainer, and he was devastatingly well-informed about the toxic influence of alcohol. But no doubt you’re aware of all that.”
“Yes and no. I hadn’t realized that the thing had been carried to such extremes.”
The doctor rose and stood in his favorite attitude with his back leaning against the big mantelshelf.
“Extreme views are usually symptoms of reaction,” he said. “If a man is a rabid teetotaller it is frequently because he is dimly aware of a craving for spirituous liquors. And in fact Jerry Glen’s father, the old Marquis of Uckfield, died in his second or third attack of delirium tremens, and his youngest brother was rapidly becoming a chronic drunkard when the war broke out. He was killed in 1914. Standish always swore that, in his teens, Jerry was a heavy drinker himself. I may be quite wrong, but I can’t help thinking that it was his fear of transmitting the taint of alcoholism to a new generation which prevented him from marrying. If so, he deserves credit, for he was as absurdly good-looking in his twenties and thirties as he was rich. Queerly enough, I never heard his name coupled with that of any woman.”
“The only women who seem to have come to Shawdon Hall were the girl friends of his niece.”
“Quite so. And yet he was no woman hater. On the contrary, before the war he was reputed a ladies’ man.” Dr. Hailey contracted his brow. “I feel quite sure that his interest in medicine was another aspect of his reaction against the family curse. He wanted to know all about alcohol both as a personal and a social evil. From things I’ve heard him say I should imagine that his enthusiasm for town planning schemes and garden cities and playing-fields had its deep origin in his belief that they are so many antidotes to the drink evil of slum life. The new sunlight treatment fascinated him, and he couldn’t rest, as you know, till Henry’s Hospital had the biggest and best-equipped radiological department in London—or, for that matter, in the world. A few years ago he toured Europe and America to study the subject; his knowledge about it was quite remarkable.”
HTHE detective, who had thrown his cigar into the fender, took his pipe from his pocket and asked leave to smoke it. He began to fill it in the nervous, jerky way which characterized him.
“An hour ago,” he said, “I was puzzled how to connect the life in Sussex with the life in London. You’ve given me the clue I was seeking.”
He lit his pipe, quickly and not very effectively. Dr. Hailey allowed his eyeglass to drop and resumed his seat.
“It doesn’t profit, though,” he said, “to work a clue of that kind too hard. Jerry Glen, whatever the motives may have been which brought him into touch with medical work in the first instance, became interested in that work for its own sake. His mind was cast in the scientific mold and he grasped easily the nature of the doctor’s task. That’s why they admired him so sincerely at Henry’s. He seemed to anticipate their wants. The last time I heard of him he was making plans to buy a big quantity of radium for the treatment of cancer and I’ve no doubt that, if he had lived a few months longer, Henry’s would have led the way there as triumphantly as it has done with artificial sunlight. ‘My doctors suggest new weapons against disease,’ he used to say. T forge them.’ It was perfectly true. From that point of view alone his death is a tragedy.”
“And a mystery.”
The doctor nodded.
“A very great mystery. Jerry Glen had no enemies.” Verrey blew a long, coiling wisp of smoke from his lips. “Is it possible that, in spite of all his efforts and precautions, the family curse may have found him out?”
“I don’t think so. To fall a victim to alcohol one must first of all taste it. I cannot conceive of any circumstances in which he would have allowed himself to do that.”
“So that here also we come to a deadlock. The murder, in impossible circumstances, of a man nobody is likely to have wished to murder.”
“It seems so.” The doctor considered a moment. “There’s his money, of course It is just conceivable that his banker may be able to throw some light on the mystery.”
The detective shook his head.
“I doubt it. He’s left everything to his nephew and niece, Patrick and Bridget Glen. They looked on him as their father.”
“What, nothing to Henry’s Hospital?”
“Nothing. The will was opened and read this morning.
I read it myself.”
Dr. Hailey resumed his eyeglass.
“Patrick and Bridget are the children of the brother I told you about, who was becoming a drunkard before the war,” he said.
T'NR. HAILEY drove down to Shawdon Hall the next morning. He had slept over the problem which Inspector Verrey had presented to him, but had obtained no help from this usually efficacious method of clearing the brain. No amount of subconscious mental activity was
likely in the broad and glowing daylight, as he told himself now, to explain how a murder had been committed in a hermetically sealed room which had not, for a moment, been left unguarded.
As his big sedan swept softly through the southern suburbs he began to face the problem once more; it soon reduced him to helpless bewilderment. Nobody had been found in the study; nobody had left the study. Yet somebody had stabbed Jerry Glen through the heart a few minutes before the room was forced. He repeated these bald statements over and over again as if he hoped to find a clue in the words themselves. Then suddenly, as the car swung right-handed into the Brighton by-pass, he raised himself in his seat. This could not be a case of murder; it must be a case of suicide.
But where, in that event, was the weapon with which the dead man had been stabbed? A gleam of satisfaction came into his eyes as he reflected that it is easier to dispose of a knife than a man. Jerry might have flung the knife away from him when he plucked it from the wound. He would have just enough strength left perhaps to accomplish that before he fell.
The radiance of the countryside, growing green in the last clement days of a gentle March, seemed to sanction this commonplace solution. The doctor assured himself that it is nearly always the obvious and simple which is true, scarcely ever the complex and obscure. He began to wonder what had caused the dead man to wish to end a life so full of activity and usefulness. Was it possible that, after all, a woman had so far prevailed as to tempt this stern scientist to break his vow of celibacy? If so, then, in the inevitable reaction, the old fear of handing on the curse had probably asserted itself with overwhelming force. Unwilling to explain why he could not marry, unable to keep his promise to marry, he had doubtless resolved his difficulty in the only way which satisfied his sense of honor.
As he approached his destination Dr. Hailey recalled vividly his last visit to Shawdon Hall. Jerry Glen had asked him to come down for the week-end because he was thinking of establishing a department for the treatment of mental diseases at Henry’s Hospital, and wanted to consult him about it. He had been surprised, he remembered, at the care with which the plans had been made, and at the scope of his host’s knowledge of the subject. Henry’s would never find another chairman whose grasp of every branch of the science of medicine was so complete. Fragments of the dead man’s conversation recurred to his mind: “I have begun to wonder if our conceptions of disease are not already obsolete. My secret faith is that diseases act by sensitizing the nervous system so that the ordinary stimuli of life affect us more powerfully. In that sense alcohol is a disease . . . Have you ever observed how a man under the influence of alcohol resents a strong light—like a child developing measles?”
The years which had passed since these words were spoken had certainly not tended to refute them. With a quickening sense of surprise Dr. Hailey thought of the work proceeding at Henry’s and other hospitals on the relationship .between degrees of nervous and physical reactions. A man with irritated nerves, it had been shown, was fatally handicapped, since his senses exaggerated all the stimuli which reached them. He was doomed to live in a world in which every sound was transmuted to a thunderclap and in which every ray of light exercised blinding effect. Jerry Glen, as he knew, had inspired and encouraged these studies, which had their origin in his personal researches on the effects of alcohol.
He leaned back on the deep cushions and closed his eyes. This story was the story of all human achievement. Men were driven to seek out Nature’s laws by the living fears which troubled their spirits or menaced their happiness. Discovery had often its roots in despair. He tried to visualize the features of his dead friend as they had looked during that last talk, and found the effort a painful one. In spite of his genial smile, Jerry Glen was a sad man, and his face had borne witness very often to his sadness.
CHAWDON HALL glowed very red in the sunlight as ^ the car approached it. It was a rambling house, a mixture of several architectural styles so cunningly contrived that the effect was harmony, a sense of satisfaction which lingered. He marked the rich color of the old brick, and the contrast which it afforded with the early green of the lawns; then his gaze travelled to the surroundings of the house, the upward sweep of the weald behind it and the leafless coverts which stretched away to left and right. Shawdon was pleasant as much in its setting as in itself.
Inspector Verrey was awaiting him on the doorstep; he conducted him at once to the study and shut the door.
“Unfortunately,” he confessed,
“there’s nothing to report. The mystery seems to get deeper the more I try to probe it.”
Dr. Hailey glanced round the room. Nothing appeared to have been changed since his last visit.
His observant eyes recognized several furnishings which had attracted his interest on that occasion.
“Is this how you found things, or has the place been put in order?”
“This is exactly how we found the room.”
The detective indicated the spot where the body had lain.
“I’ve had the walls examined this morning,” he added. “You can dismiss from your mind all ideas about secret chambers and passages.
There are none. Nor is it possible for anyone to enter or leave by the chimney. Big as it is, it is not, as I have satisfied myself, big enough for that.”
Dr. Hailey, who had been examining the carpet, raised his head.
“You’re saying that nobody can have committed this murder.”
“It almost amounts to that.”
“Possibly nobody did. It’s not nearly so easy to distinguish between murder and suicide as most people seem to think.”
“My dear doctor, have you forgotten the knife?”
“I mean to look for it in every corner of the room.”
Verrey shook his head.
“I’ve already looked for it. It’s not here.”
“It must be here.”
“Exactly. And it isn’t.”
The two men glanced at each other; a sense of uneasiness troubled them at the same instant. Who was this slayer who murdered through locked doors and shuttered windows?
“There must be something quite simple that I’ve overlooked,” the detective said nervously. “I’ve been trying to think of it.”
“Let us try to find it.”
Dr. Hailey began to move about the room as he spoke. He was not quite easy in his manner, but he made up for this by the thoroughness with which he worked. Every book on the shelves was taken out and examined by him; every receptacle was searched; every drawer was opened. He climbed on chairs to reach the tops of cupboards; he looked behind pictures; he explored the cushions of chairs. But he found no weapon of any sort.
“Well?” Verrey asked.
“It isn’t here. But that doesn’t prove that it wasn’t here at the moment when the room was entered. Someone may have thought it expedient to remove it.”
The detective shook his head.
“I had the same idea,” he stated, “but there’s nothing in it. Not one of the three people who entered the room saw any sign of a knife. Not one of them went farther away from the body than the desk here until the local police arrived. Moreover, and this seems to be conclusive, there is no blood anywhere. A knife that had just been plunged in a human heart would be covered with blood. Wherever it was thrown it would leave stains. You will agree that Lord Gerald could not have cleaned the knife with which he had stabbed himself.”
Dr. Hailey inclined his head.
“If there are no bloodstains,” he said, “it was certainly not a case of suicide.” He sat down and took a silver snuffbox from his pocket. He took snuff in the manner of a French marquis of the late eighteenth century. “All that remains to us, then, is the conclusion that the murderer left the study by the door at the moment when the butler was conducting Dr. Pendrith from his car to the shuttered window, and that he contrived to re-lock the door by turning the end of the key. What about the key? Does it show any marks of having been turned in that way?”
“It does not.” Verrey walked to the door and pulled the key out of the lock. He handed it to his companion. “You can see for yourself,” he stated, “that it hasn’t been touched. Keys can only be turned in the way you suggest by grasping them with pliers of some sort, and these always leave marks.”
Dr. Hailey focussed his eyeglass on the key for a moment and then restored it to the detective.
“No, it hasn’t been touched.”
“As a matter of fact,” Verrey said, “the door was not left unguarded even after the butler went away. Just as the butler was opening the front door Mr. Patrick Glen came into the hall. He remained in the hall until the body was found, because he saw the doctor’s car at the door and wanted to know the occasion of its coming. He had been out, and had re-entered the house through the back door.”
'T'HE doctor closed his snuffbox with a snap. He looked up sharply.
“How long had Pat Glen been out?” he asked.
“For some time, I think.”
“So that he was unaware that his uncle was locked in here?”
“Yes. He knew nothing about it. Buckle tried to find him before he sent for Dr. Pendrith, but failed. As I told you, Miss Bridget Glen was also out.”
“So nobody left the room by the door?” Dr. Hailey rose and began pacing the floor.
“Nobody. That’s certain.”
“Are you quite satisfied that the door was locked on the inside?”
“Absolutely certain. Patrick Glen tried the handle when he heard the window break. His sister Bridget unlocked the door herself.”
“But, my dear sir, there must be an error somewhere. Somebody must be lying.”
The detective shook his head helplessly.
“Undoubtedly there’s an explanation,” he said in the tones of a man who pays lip service to his reason.
“Do you mean to say you believe all that they’ve told you? Why, man, if they’re not lying this is a miracle as well as a murder.”
“I did not form the idea that they were lying.”
The doctor walked to the door and inspected the lock. Then he examined each of the windows in turn. He came back from this investigation with troubled eyes.
“I make nothing of it,” he confessed. “These fastenings have not been touched.” He took the notes he had made on the previous day from his pocket and consulted them. “One feels that in a case of this sort one must
cling fast to such reality as exists. It’s certain at any rate that poor Jerry feared an attack. He would never otherwise have had his iron shutters closed, for those window fastenings are exceptionally strong. It may well be that he expected to be shot at. The only other certainty is that the fatal blow was well aimed. Since but a small quantity of blood was shed, the heart must have stopped within a few seconds of being pierced. This is solid ground.”
There was a knock at the door. Verrey opened it and returned with a telegram. He tore it open, read it, and handed it to the doctor.
“Dr. Pendrith sent the contents of the stomach to be analyzed,” he stated, “on the chance that poison might have been employed to prepare the way for the attack. As you see, the contents are normal.”
Dr. Hailey returned the telegram. “A further proof,” he remarked, “of the sureness of the murderer’s aim.”
T\R. HAILEY’S temper was ordinarily urbane, but there was something about this mystery which ruffled it. Like Verrey he felt that he was overlooking some detail which eluded by its obviousness but which, could he only see it, would instantly resolve his difficulty. When the message which Lord Gerald Glen had left behind him was submitted to him, he made a strong effort to bring his faculties of observation and criticism to a focus.
The message straggled across a sheet of notepaper and bore unmistakable evidence of the severe stress under which it had been written. Every letter was malformed and every line shook. Moreover, the last words were unspaced and almost illegible. He examined them for some time by the aid of his eyeglass, and then turned to his companion:
“What is your reading?” he asked.
“ T have been murdered.’ ”
“I don’t think that is correct. It seems to me that the true reading is: T have been murder by.’ The word ‘been’ lacks its ‘n’. And those two letters after ‘murder’ are almost certainly ‘by’ and not ‘ed.’ This curious mark at the end is, I think, the first letter of a name. It might be a ‘P’ or a ‘B’ or even a ‘W’.”
The doctor handed the sheet of paper back to his companion as he spoke. Verrey scrutinized it with minute care.
“I agree with you,” he said at last.
“It’s obvious that the writer was on the point of collapse. What little strength he possessed was spent before he had completed the word ‘been.’ After that, he made a despairing attempt to finish his message anyhow and failed. He could not write the name, without which the message must be valueless. He could not even write the initial letter of the name. Look how this feeble line rises and then falls away to its exiguous ending. These small blots suggest that the pen dropped from his hand. And yet he had strength enough to rise from his chair and walk halfway to the window. That fact suggests that it was his mind, rather than his body, which was becoming paralyzed. Deadly fear would produce just such an effect.”
The doctor’s voice was low, but it thrilled.
“It may be,” he added, “that it was while he was writing this message, perhaps while he was completing the word ‘been,’ that poor Jerry became aware of the presence of his murderer. The shock would take a moment to produce its full influence on his mind, and during that moment he would go on writing.”
Verrey did not offer any comment. The theory seemed reasonable enough, but since it left unexplained how the murderer had made his way into the study it possessed at best only an academic interest. He replaced the sheet of paper in his pocket-book, and asked the doctor if he would like to inspect the outside of the room.
“Not yet. There are one or two points that I wish to clear up before I do that. Assume for a moment that the final letter of the message is a ‘P’, who are the people who have been associated with the dead man, whose names begin with ‘P’?”
“I suppose Patrick Glen and Dr. Pendrith.”
“And those whose names begin with ‘B’?”
“The butler Buckle and Miss Bridget Glen.”
“And with ‘W’?”
“I don’t know. I believe the owner of the neighboring estate is a Colonel Whinstone!”
“There may be ‘P’s’ and ‘B’s’and‘W’s’ among the servants and the estate hands,” he remarked. “I think we must make a complete list.”
He replaced his book in his pocket and walked to the spot where the murdered man’s body had been found.
“The murderer stood here,” he declared, “at the moment when the butler was bringing the doctor to that window. A step would carry him to the door.”
He illustrated his statement and bent to examine the lock. The eagerness which for a moment had gleamed in his eyes was extinguished. He turned the key and then abandoned his experiment.
“The lock is much stiffer than I expected.”
“It is so stiff that I doubt if it could be turned from the other side even with pliers.” •
'“PHEY drove to the mortuary in Lewes where the body of the murdered man was lying. Dr. Hailey examined the wound in the chest wall with great care,
and then made a prolonged inspection of the heart.
“The knife used must have been extremely small;” he remarked, “certainly no bigger than the smaller blade of a penknife. I have never seen so tiny a weapon used for such a purpose.”
“And yet there’s no doubt that a knife was used. We’ve had the usual suggestions about snakes and poisoned arrows.” Verrey smiled as he spoke, but his tones were mirthless. His earnest expression betrayed the strain which the mystery was imposing on him. Until now he had enjoyed a reputation as an unusually quick worker.
“Undoubtedly a knife was used; only a knife could make such a wound.”
The doctor called attention to the sharply cut edges of the wound, and to the absence of any sign of tearing or bruising.
“The knife had a sharp point,” he declared. “That’s certain. Its blade was not, I think, more than a couple of inches long. It was certainly not more than an eighth of an inch broad. The wound in the wall of the ventricle is a mere puncture. Don’t forget that several layers of cloth had to be cut through before the skin was reached, a coat, a waistcoat, a shirt and a vest. Have these been examined, by the way?”
“Yes. All are punctured just as the skin and heart are punctured.”
Verrey called the mortuary keeper and asked him to bring the dead man’s clothes. He submitted the garments one by one to his companion. Lord Gerald had been dressed in a double-breasted lounge suit of navy-blue color. The knife had passed through the jacket, just below the top button on the left side. It had left a clean cut in the cloth, the edges of which were slightly stained by blood. The edges of the cut in the waistcoat were more deeply stained. There were large stains both on the shirt and vest. Dr. Hailey focussed his eyeglass on each of these stains in turn. While he was examining the waistcoat an exclamation of surprise broke from his lips.
“Look here, Verrey.”
He laid the waistcoat on the table and handed his eyeglass to his friend. He pointed to a place on the cloth close to the cut.
“What is that?”
The detective brought the glass to a focus.
“I think so.”
“There’s no doubt about it. I can see the severed edges of the thread. Besides, there’s blood on the cloth.”
Dr. Hailey picked up the jacket and re-examined it. He used his eyeglass when he did not find what he was seeking. He continued to search the left breast of the jacket for several minutes.
“Look at this,” he asked his companion, “and see if you can find a second cut to correspond with the second one on the waistcoat.”
Verrey went over the garment carefully. “Yes,” he exclaimed after a moment, “here you are.”
He pointed to a spot just above the pocket, where there was a tiny cut in the cloth.
“But, my dear fellow, that doesn’t correspond to the cut in the waistcoat. Do you mind putting on the jacket and waistcoat for a moment?”
The doctor’s voice was full of eagerness, and he could scarcely wait until Verrey had carried out his wishes. He took a slender gold pencil from his pocket and passed it through the large holes in the jacket and waistcoat, allowing it to remain in position.
“You see,” he said, “these two correspond absolutely. They were made by the same weapon at the same moment, and were stained with blood when the weapon was withdrawn. All that is plain sailing. But now look at this little cut which you have just discovered in the jacket. It’s perfectly definite; the cloth has been severed. But there’s no sign of a cut on the waistcoat underneath. There are signs, however, of bloodstains in the edges of the cloth. Now come to the second cut in the waistcoat which I discovered. Again its reality is not in dispute. There it is for anybody to see. But there’s no cut in the jacket to correspond with it.”
The doctor put match-sticks in the smaller cuts as he spoke. One of them protruded from the jacket just above the handkerchief pocket on the left side. The other protruded from the waistcoat less than an inch away from the place where the gold pen was situated, namely, a short distance below the opening of the upper left pocket.
“Now suppose we bring our two secondary cuts together. Do you mind bending forward a bit?”
The detective did as he was required. The effect was to cause the two matchsticks to approach one another. By stooping till his body was nearly at right angles to his legs he brought the sticks together. He stood erect again and faced his companion.
“So there was a struggle,” he said in awe-struck tones.
“How do you mean?”
“He was defending himself when the second blow was struck.”
“Aren’t you forgetting the bloodstains on these smaller cuts?”
Verrey’s face became blank.
“Good heavens,” he exclaimed, “he must have been dead when the second cuts were made.”
“Exactly; since the first wound, which provided the blood for these small cuts, was instantly fatal.” Dr. Hailey considered a moment. “When he received the fatal wound, Jerry must have pitched forward. That would alter the relationship between his jacket and waistcoat. Probably he pitched forward on to the knife which had just killed him.”
The detective nodded.
“That must be the explanation.”
“The murderer, if this is the correct reading, was standing beside his victim. I confess that I find it very difficult to believe that, in these circumstances, Jerry offered no resistance. But for the message he has left behind him I should conclude that the blow had been entirely unexpected. I suppose there’s no doubt that the message is genuine.”
“Lord Gerald’s bankers have pronounced it to be genuine. They would pay money on the handwriting.”
Dr. Hailey drew a deep breath.
“We can only conclude then that he faced his assailant in limp terror. That he did not so much as lift a finger to save himself. . . . that knowing his danger he allowed himself to be slaughtered like a sheep. Can you conceive of any circumstances in which one of the bravest of men would act in that way? Who can it be who, in addition to possessing the power of entering and leaving closed rooms without disturbing bolt or bar, can induce such a paralysis of fear in a heart courageous above the ordinary? There’s our problem, my dear sir.”
Verrey glanced at his watch.
“I must return to London immediately,” he said, “to report to my chief about the evidence we have available for the inquest tomorrow. Would it be asking too much to beg you to carry on here till I come back? I know that you’ve sometimes been ready to help your friend Inspector Biles when he was in difficulties. It was he who urged me to come to you.” The doctor inclined his great head.
“I should like to carry on,” he said simply.
TAR. HAILEY possessed two gifts which are essential in every scientific enquiry. He was a competent and critical
observer. On the other hand, his active imagination made constant use of the material at his disposal to build up explanations. The interaction of his critical and imaginative faculties was the secret of the success he had so often enjoyed in the detection of crime.
As he drove from the mortuary in Lewes to Dr. Pendrith’s house in Shawdon village, he occupied himself in trying to piece together some of the fragments of information at his disposal. He made the starting-point of his effort the fact that the dead man had apparently offered no resistance, for this fact seemed to afford a clue to the circumstances in which the murder was committed. What was it which had prevented Jerry Glen from defending himself? He had not been poisoned; he was capable of walking. Why had he not even called for help? Not a sound, so far as the evidence went, had issued from the room during the period when the murder was being committed. Why, again, had Jerry not escaped from the study at the moment when his butler was engaged in closing the shutters? The butler had obtained a good view of the interior of the room from two different angles and had seen nothing to alarm him. Was the murderer nevertheless hidden in the study at the moment when the shutters were being closed? Dr. Hailey found that idea peculiarly horrifying. He grew sick as the possibility occurred to him that his old friend had been compelled, by a dominant will, to order the circumstances of his own death. Yet this hideous idea, as he was compelled to allow, offered some sort of explanation of the observed facts of the case. It explained the directions of the butler, the locking of the door, the failure of the victim to escape from the room; above all, the dreadful, unnatural silence. And it was not consistent with the dead man’s last message. That message expressed, it might be, a final flicker of resistance to the murderer’s will. He found it some satisfaction to reflect that his theory furnished no explanation of the manner in which the murderer had quitted the study and assured himself that any theory which left that mystery unresolved could not even approximate to the truth.
Dr. Pendrith’s house was hidden behind one of those high brick walls which Englishmen alone have known how to make beautiful. A Virginia creeper, stippled already with pale-green buds, strayed over the wall and greeted the visitor in the gate. Lichens and mosses, russet as yet from the winter frosts, made faint but comfortable contrasts with the ripe Elizabethan brick. The house itself was not less beautiful than its rampart. It seemed, at a first glance, absurdly big for a doctor’s uses, but more careful scrutiny showed that its powers to impress resided in its proportions rather than in its size. Because a mind, perfectly at home in this genial countryside, had designed it, it gathered to itself a spaciousness which belonged in truth to its surroundings, to its gardens and lawns, to its boundary wall, even to the great trees full of rooks cawing about their nests, which clustered round the angular steeple of the parish church behind it. Dr. Hailey stood for a moment at the gate to enjoy the spectacle. He had known Pendrith for some years as a well-to-do practitioner, but he had not realized that the doctor possessed so exquisite a home. The room into which a respectful manservant showed him, gave him a fresh surprise. It seemed to be full of the subdued yet clear light which wide expanses of lawn diffuse. The vivid green of tulip leaves, on a bed darkened by recent rain, caught his eye, and then his attention was held by the decorations of the room itself, a scheme in which old gold was the dominant note. Pendrith had by no means forsaken conventional ideas, but he had made use of them in such a way as to afford them a new and lively expression. A smile appeared on the doctor’s lips. The room was strangely like the man. Pendrith was
no innovator, but he knew how to translate academic conceptions into popular language. When he entered the room this reading of his character received immediately a fresh confirmation. The earnest expression on his fine face revealed a state of mind which would undoubtedly have been that of Lord Gerald himself, had he occupied Dr. Pendrith’s position. The man was genuinely distressed, but he had his feelings well under control as befitted a doctor and a gentleman. He grasped Dr. Hailey’s hand eagerly and shook it in a firm grip.
“I’m so glad you’ve come, my dear Hailey,” he exclaimed. “Inspector Verrey told me he was going to call you in, and I don’t need to say that the news was a big relief to me.”
Pendrith broke off as if the thread of his discourse had snapped. He begged his visitor to be seated and offered him cigars and then cigarettes. He was a short man of very lively movement, with hair that in his youth had been reddish-gold in color. His hair had grown scanty and faded, but his features retained undiminished a boyish charm of expression that is seldom observed in men of forty. Their mobility was not the least of his attractions. He lit a cigarette and then seated himself opposite to Dr. Hailey.
“I don’t want to waste your time,” he exclaimed, “by telling you what you know already. Verrey has given you the facts?”
“Yes. I’ve come merely for confirmation.”
Dr. Hailey put his hand in his pocket as if to take out his notebook but appeared to change his mind. “How exactly was Lord Gerald lying,” he asked, “when you first saw him?”
“On his side.”
“Was his face turned toward the window?”
“No, away from the window.”
“Would you say that he had pitched forward into that position on being stabbed?”
Pendrith looked doubtful.
“I don’t quite understand.”
“I mean, did you get the impression that the body had been moved?”
“Oh, no. I don’t think it had been moved.”
Dr. Hailey paused for a moment to give his next question emphasis.
“Verrey told me,” he said, “that Miss Bridget Glen felt her uncle’s pulse and thought she detected a flicker.”
“Yes. She’s a medical student, you know.”
“Did you feel the pulse?”
“No, I didn’t. At that moment we had no idea that Lord Gerald had been stabbed. I took her word for it, and began artificial respiration at once. I kept it up for fully a quarter of an hour. He gasped once, and I thought he was going to recover, but when I listened to his heart I could hear nothing. It was when I listened to his heart that I noticed the blood.”
“You realized then, of course, that he must have been dead from the first?”
Dr. Pendrith hesitated. “I can’t truthfully say that I realized it then,” he declared. “After all, I could not be sure that the wound involved the heart. It was only when I performed the postmortem that I recognized that I had been dealing from the beginning with a dead man.”
Dr. Hailey nodded. The precision of this answer was entirely in keeping with Pendrith’s character, and there is always something pleasing in having one’s expectations confirmed. He opened his snuff-box and took a pinch.
“Now tell me,” he said, “about the state of the room. Was there any sign of a struggle?”
“None. The room was in perfect order.”
“You’re quite sure about that?”
“Quite sure. The room was rather dark when we entered it at first, but I had the shutters of all the windows opened at once. It’s a bright room, especially when the sun is shining, and the sun was shining at the time.”
“And yet Jerry Glen was a big powerful fellow.”
“Who knew, apparently, that he was going to be murdered.”
“I cannot understand it.”
Dr. Pendrith did not reply. His face had become grave.
“Perhaps the most mysterious thing of all is the order to the butler to close the shutters. They’re iron shutters, I grant, but who was likely to attack the house in broad daylight?”
“I agree with you.”
“Besides, a normal man in fear of his life would not have shut himself up in a room. He would have summoned help. Shawdon Hall is on the telephone, and is full, in any case, of servants.”
“And yet the fact is that Jerry did know that he was going to be murdered, and did turn his study into a fortress.” Dr. Pendrith nodded, in his quick, impulsive way.
“Yes. No doubt is possible about that,” he said.
“One more question, my dear Pendrith, and I’ll go. Why did you send the contents of the stomach to be analyzed after you had definitely ascertained the cause of death?”
“Because I could not understand why Lord Gerald had offered no resistance, and it occurred to me that he might have been drugged as a preliminary measure.” “I see. The analyst’s report was negative.”
“It would not, however, cover the possibility that a hypodermic injection had been given?”
“No. I thought of that. I made a very careful examination of the skin of the arms, indeed of the skin of the whole body. I couldn’t find any sign anywhere of a needle puncture. If a hypodermic injection had been given there would have been some sign, because Lord Gerald was certainly not under the influence of any drug at breakfast time. His nephew and niece and the servants are positive on that point.”
Dr. Hailey rose. He glanced again at the delectable windows, and observed a gleam of enthusiasm in his companion’s eyes as he did so.
“I envy you that garden, my dear fellow. Those bulbs!”
“Ah, one has many disappointments, you know, especially at this time of year, when the sun returns to a world that hasn’t escaped from night frosts.”
They came to the door of the room. Dr. Hailey drew back a step.
“I don’t want to ask unprofessional questions,” he said, “but I should like to know if poor Jerry was in any trouble.” He faced his companion as he spoke and fancied that he saw a look of uneasiness in his eyes. Dr. Pendrith contracted his brow.
“I don’t think,” he stated, “that such trouble as may have existed can have had any bearing on his death.”
“That is rather a dangerous assumption in the circumstances, don’t you think?” “Perhaps. I can only express my opinion.”
AS HE drove back to Shawdon Hall, -L*Dr. Hailey speculated on the value of the secret which his colleague had refused to divulge. Pendrith had strict ideas about medical etiquette, but it was not likely that he would have withheld any ordinary information at such a moment. It followed that he was in possession of some intimate matter which had been disclosed to him in the course of his practice. The dead man had not lost his money; he was not married; so far as was known he had been in good health. It seemed a reasonable guess, in these circumstances, that his trouble was related in some way to the family curse, a subject on which the family doctor would necessarily be reticent. He kept this idea in mind when he met Bridget Glen on his return to the house.
She was a tall girl with a singularly good-humored expression, which more than made up for her lack of prettiness and accorded excellently with her healthy skin and frank, widely-set eyes. She greeted Dr. Hailey with a deference which was wholly a tribute to his position in the profession she aspired to enter.
“Well?” she asked, in anxious tones. He shook his head.
“I’m sorry to say there’s no progress to report.”
She led him to the study and closed the door. She stood at the door, gazing at him with horrified eyes.
“I’m getting frightened,” she confessed. “Slowly but surely I’m getting more and more frightened.”
He waited for her to be seated and then sat down himself at the dead man’s desk.
“We must go on sifting the evidence,” he declared. “There’s no other way. I’ve just seen Pendrith. I want you, if you will, to supplement what he has been good enough to tell me.”
“Very well.” Bridget drew a sharp breath; she caught her underlip between her teeth as if some painful memory had rushed to her mind.
“You reached your uncle first, I believe?”
“Yes. I broke the window, you see.” “Did you have a clear view of him before you broke the window?”
“Oh, yes; the sun was shining into the room. He was lying on the floor, with his face turned away from the window. I felt somehow that he was dead. Buckle, our butler, told me the door was locked on the inside.”
“Now, tell me, when you felt his pulse what impression did you get?”
“That he was still alive. I really did think that I caught a flicker of a beat.” “But you were excited at the time?” “Yes, I suppose so.”
“And you have not yet begun your hospital work?”
“You won’t think me rude, Miss Glen, if I say that a good deal of experience is necessary if one is to be sure about a feeble pulse? It’s so easy to mistake the throbbing in one’s own fingers for a flickering beat, and you had just returned from vigorous exercise.”
“I know. I quite admit all that.” Bridget Glen shook her head as she spoke. The action displayed the gleam of gold in her brown hair.
“In fact, as you now know, your uncle had been stabbed through the heart.” “Yes.”
“Will you please describe what happened after you felt the beat?”
“I told Dr. Pendrith I thought I could feel a beat. He moved my uncle on to his back and began to do artificial respiration. He kept that up for a good while and then my uncle seemed to gasp ...”
“Allow me to interrupt you. Can you give me any idea of what that gasping sound was like?”
Bridget Glen raised her eyes.
“It was just a gasp. A deep, rather loud breath.”
“Dr. Pendrith was moving the chest with his artificial respiration at the time?” “Yes, he was.”
“One can make any dead body gasp in that fashion by that means,” Dr. Hailey said.
“What happened after that?”
“Dr. Pendrith listened to the heart. When he was doing that he felt the blood on my uncle’s clothes. I was watching his face and I saw his expression change. He exposed the chest and I saw that there was blood on the shirt and vest.”
“Did you see the wound?”
“Oh, yes. It was small, just under the
left breast. No blood was flowing from it.” “You realized then that your uncle had been dead when you found him?” Again Bridget raised her eyes.
“I’m afraid I was too much upset to think about anything. I remember hearing Dr. Pendrith say that he feared my uncle was dead. It seemed so impossible that anyone should wish to kill Uncle Jerry.”
The doctor inclined his head.
“I agree with you.”
The girl stood looking out through the broken window. Her lips were quivering.
“Unhappily, there are the facts. I cannot doubt that your uncle was murdered.”
The girl sighed deeply, but her natural courage reasserted itself.
“It’s the horrible mystery which is so unnerving,” she said. “Nobody can possibly have entered the room, so far as I can see, and yet somebody did enter the room, and leave it again, too.”
“I can’t believe that Uncle Jerry allowed himself to be killed without fighting for his life. And he knew he was going to be murdered.”
Her tones were challenging, but not more so than her eyes.
“Uncle Jerry was as brave as a lion.” “I know. That is the darkest mystery of all.” Dr. Hailey considered a moment. “Did you get the impression that your uncle was in his usual health when he came down to breakfast?” he asked.
“Oh, yes. He was wonderfully well, full of plans, too, about the hospital. He said he was going to London in the afternoon, and that within a week or two we should hear really great news. I asked him to tell me what the news was, but he said: ‘Ah, that’s a tremendous secret, my dear Biddy.’ He seemed to be awfully pleased. I’m sure the secret was connected with Henry’s Hospital, because he behaved in the same way at the time when he was getting the sunlight lamps installed.”
“Still, you don’t absolutely know that it was about the hospital?”
“No. Not absolutely. It was something he was very excited about.”
“Did he eat a good breakfast?”
“Yes. Porridge, bacon and eggs; two or three slices of toast.”
“Then he went into his study?”
“I think so. I went out riding immediately after breakfast and at that time he was still sitting at the table reading the Times. He usually took the Times with him into the study, but he left it behind him on the day of his death. Buckle told me that he hadn’t been in the study five minutes before he called him to close the shutters.”
“The study door was locked?”
The doctor began to polish his eyeglass, which hung on a narrow cord from his neck, between his finger and thumb.
“What about his letters?” he asked. “Did he get any that morning?”
\ “Only a circular, I think, about an appeal for radium which St. Thomas’ Hospital is making.” Bridget indicated a paper on the desk. “That’s it there.”
Dr. Hailey glanced at the typewritten sheet.
“He brought it in here himself, eh?” “I suppose so.”
“But left the Times behind?”
“Who was in this room last—I mean before your uncle entered it?”
“The housemaid, Mabel. Inspector Verrey went into all that. Mabel noticed nothing amiss when she tidied theToom.” “I understand that it was you who unlocked the door after your uncle’s death?”
“And that you found your brother, Patrick, standing behind it?”
The doctor watched the girl closely as he spoke. He saw her wince.
“Pat wasn’t standing behind the door,” she said in quick, low tones. “He was waiting in the hall. He had just come in v and didn’t know what was happening.” I “I see.”
Dr. Hailey placed his eyeglass in his ^ eye and faced the girl.
“Tell me,” he asked in very quiet tones: f
“Was there any trouble between your s uncle and your brother, Patrick?” 1
The color faded from Bridget’s cheeks, t
BRIDGET recovered herself with a c strong effort, but she remained exI ceedingly pale. She plucked nervously at c the open collar of her Norfolk jacket. £
“Why do you ask me that?” she dec manded in a ’mice which had lost all its f courage. 1
Dr. Hailey leaned toward her, trying to c reassure her. ^
“For two reasons. In the first place Dr. £ Pendrith more or less admitted that your t uncle had some trouble on his mind at the c time of his death. Secondly, in describing I just now the scene at breakfast on the day t of the murder, you omitted all reference to s your brother, who must have been present at the meal. You were careful to t say that your uncle addressed his remarks j to you, and you actually repeated one r
of these remarks word for word. I ex]
pected, in the circumstances, to hear what £ your brother thought or what he said or ^ what was said to him.”
“Nothing was said to him.”
“Quite so. But why?”
“Why should anything be said to him?” v The girl frowned as she spoke. Her eyes c had grown hostile and her expression had c lost its candor. Dr. Hailey allowed his \ eyeglass to drop and sat back in his chair, j His large face became impassive. c
“I knew your uncle,” he stated, “and had some opportunity of observing the s enthusiastic bent of his mind. He was a man whose nature took fire in the presence \ of generous ideas. If, as you suggest, he was planning some new benefit for his i hospital, his inclination would be to address himself to everybody at his table—unless some strong reason existed why he should not do so.” I
“Isn’t that being rather too—what \ shall I say—psychological?”
“I don’t think so. We all act according p to our natures. You won’t dispute that I have given a fair description of your I uncle’s nature?” 1
“Your uncle did not address your c brother during the meal?”
“Not specially. They said ‘Good morning.’ ” s
Silence fell in the room, a quick, unpleasant silence. The doctor realized that he would obtain no information which it lay in the power of this girl to withhold. She was on the defensive, but there was something formidable in her attitude which warned him to take care. He began to understand that it was not merely her uncle’s enthusiasm for hospital work which had impelled her to take up a career of her own. Behind a singularly frank and disarming manner resided a determined and courageous spirit. The curse of the Glens, as he reminded himself, was ’ capable of assuming other forms than alcoholism.
“There is no need, of course,” he said,
“to answer any of my questions. The last thing I wish to do is to cause you embarrassment at this moment.”
Bridget did not reply for a few seconds. In that time her brow cleared and her face resumed its expression of composure. “You’re not exactly causing me embarrassment, Dr. Hailey,” she said. “But you’re trespassing—I hope you’ll forgive me for using that word—on ground over which I have no rights. I can’t discuss the subject with you. I can’t even tell you why discussion of it is impossible. What disturbs me is that you may draw the wrong conclusion from my reticence.” She rose as she spoke. He fancied that he detected a look of fear in her eyes. She in held out her hand. s
“If I can help you or the police in any
way,” she said, "I’ll be only too pleased. Do believe that.”
WHEN she left him he remained for some time studying the notes he had taken. He made some further notes and then replaced the book in his pocket. He walked to the door of the room and turned the key in the lock several times. The stiffness of the lock was beyond question. He re-examined the end of the key with the help of his eyeglass, but could detect not the slightest sign that an attempt had been made to turn it from the outside of the room. If the door had, in fact, been locked by the dead man, then it had assuredly remained locked. He sat down in one of the big leather armchairs with which the room was furnished, and addressed himself to the possibility that the door had not been locked. The evidence on this point had been furnished by Buckle, the butler. He rang the bell, and told the footman who answered it to summon Buckle.
The man entered the room so noiselessly that he was unaware of his presence until he stood beside him. Buckle was by no means the typical servant of aristocracy. He was not very tall and he was remarkably lean and agile-looking. Reticence was stamped on his face.
“Sit down, Buckle.”
Dr. Hailey observed the manner in which the man obeyed his order. It was confident without so much as a suggestion of familiarity. The butler evidently knew his place, but his knowledge was too precise, too complete, to have been acquired by other means than careful study.
“Have you been long in his lordship’s service?”
“Since the war, sir. During the war I was Mr. Patrick Glen’s batman.”
“I see. So it was Mr. Patrick Glen who introduced you to Lord Gerald?”
“Had you been in similar posts before?” “No, sir.” A faint smile appeared on Buckle’s thin face. “Before the war, sir, I was at school.”
“Ah, quite so. One forgets that time passes.”
The doctor leaned back in his chair. His first impression of Buckle had not heen favorable, but he liked the simple way in which the man answered his questions. He reminded himself that the butler had served Jerry Glen for years.
“His lordship rang for you, I understand,” he said, “on the morning on which he was killed?”
“He was in this room, then?”
“Yes, sir, the indicator showed that.” “The indicator?”
“Attached to the bell.”
“Ah, yes. Did you come at once?” “Yes, sir. His lordship liked to be served promptly.”
“I knocked at the door. His lordship called: ‘Don’t come in. Go and close the shutters of the windows of this room.’ His voice was very low and feeble.”
“You didn’t try to enter the room?”
“I had turned the handle of the door. The door was locked.”
“You’re sure of that?”
“Quite sure, sir.”
“How long did it take you to close the shutters?”
“Three or four minutes.”
“Did you see your master while you were closing them?”
“Yes, sir. The sun was shining into the room. He was sitting where you are sitting now. His head was bent over the desk. It seemed to be hidden in his arms.” “You didn’t see his face, then?”
“And he didn’t raise his head?”
“Then you went back to the door?” “Oh, no, sir. I went back to my work in the pantry. I didn’t return to the study till his lordship rang for me again.” Dr. Hailey started.
“What, he rang for you a second time? You didn’t tell Inspector Verrey that?” Buckle flushed slightly.
“I did tell him, sir; but perhaps he didn’t understand me.”
“I knocked again, but this time I didn’t get any answer. After I had knocked three times I tried the door. It was locked. I called to his lordship and then ...” Dr. Hailey held up his hand.
“Just a moment please. I want to fix the times clearly in my mind. You say it took you about three or four minutes to close the shutters?”
“Yes, sir, about that, allowing a minute for each of the three shutters and a minute for coming and going.”
“How long do you suppose you were at work in your pantry before the second ring came?”
“Ten minutes at least. I cleaned a tray and a teapot in the time.”
“So that it is possible that this door was unlocked during a quarter of an hour or more—from the time Lord Gerald came in here until you answered his second summons?”
“I suppose it was.”
“The murder could easily have been committed in that time, eh?”
“And the murderer could have made his escape?”
“Yes, perhaps he could.”
Dr. Hailey bent forward over the desk: “Of course you see the flaw in that supposition?”
“No, sir, I don’t.”
“Who locked the door on the inside after the murderer went away?”
Buckle drew a sharp breath.
“I don’t know, sir.”
“I mean, since you found the door locked on the inside, it must have been locked either by Lord Gerald or by Lord Gerald’s murderer. If Lord Gerald’s murderer locked it, then he didn’t escape that way. And dead men don’t lock doors.”
“You are quite sure that the door was locked?”
“Absolutely sure. I tried it again and again.”
“You telephoned for Dr. Pendrith?” “Yes, sir, when I could get no answer from his lordship. I thought it must be a case of illness, remembering how I had seen his lordship from the window.” “Did you open the shutters?”
“Why not? You could have seen how his lordship really was had you done that, surely?”
“His lordship’s orders were to close them, sir.”
The butler spoke in the final tones of a man who has learned how to obey.
“How soon did Dr. Pendrith come?” “In about half-an-hour, sir. He was out when I telephoned, but they sent a message to him.”
T'XID you try the door again while you were waiting for him?”
“No, sir. But I knocked again.”
“You remained behind the door?”
“No, sir. When I could get no answer I went to look for Mr. Patrick. I couldn’t find him.”
“You knew he had gone out?”
“I thought he had. I tried to find him after his lordship told me to close the shutters, but I couldn’t.”
“So there was nobody behind the door at that time?”
“Where was Mr. Patrick?”
“Out walking, sir.”
“He told you that?”
“Did anybody see him out walking?” “I don’t know, sir. I haven’t heard.” “He might not have been out walking?” “He wasn’t in the house.”
“You mean that he wasn’t in any of the rooms in which you looked for him?” Buckle raised his head sharply.
“Certainly, he wasn’t.”
The doctor made a long note and then turned again to resume his examination. He perceived that the servant’s calm expression had disappeared and that a troubled look had taken its place. He pressed the advantage.
“When Miss Glen broke that window,” he asked, pointing to the shattered pane, “you were standing beside her?”
“You climbed in here after her?”
“After Dr. Pendrith, sir.”
“Was the door locked then?”
“I don’t know, sir. I didn’t try it.” “Who tried it?”
“Nobody, until we were sure that his lordship was dead. Then Miss Bridget opened it.”
Dr. Hailey fixed his eyes on the servant’s face.
“Please think very carefully before you answer my next question,” he warned, “because it’s the most important question I shall ask you. Did you hear or see Miss Glen unlock the door before she opened it?”
“I was bending over his lordship's body at the time.”
“Still you might easily have heard the lock. Listen !”
The doctor rose and crossed the room to the door. He turned the key in the door. “It grates, you observe?”
“Not very loudly.”
“Loud enough for you to hear it. You are twice as far away from the door now as you were at the moment when Miss Glen opened it.”
“But I’m listening just now. I wasn’t listening then.”
“That’s a point, of course.” Dr. Hailey returned to his seat at the desk. “The truth is that you don’t know absolutely whether or not Miss Glen unlocked the door. So far as your personal observation goes she may or may not have unlocked it.”
Buckle inclined his head. The troubled look on his face had intensified.
“She told me that she unlocked it,” he said.
“She told me the same thing. I am not disputing her word. Don’t think that. I am merely saying that her word is uncorroborated. Both Dr. Pendrith and yourself were too fully occupied to notice what was happening.”
The servant did not attempt to answer this statement of the case. He moved uneasily in his chair, like a man who expects trouble, but is unaware from what quarter it may come to him. Dr. Hailey remained leaning foreward on the desk.
“Mr. Patrick Glen was behind the door when his sister opened it?” he asked. “Yes, sir.”
“Have you any idea how long he had been there?”
“I have no idea, sir.”
“You hadn’t seen him since breakfast? Am I right?”
“So that he must have come in immediately after you took the doctor round to that window?”
“He must, yes.”
“Did any of the other servants see him come in?”
“I don’t know, sir. They were all supposed to be at work elsewhere at the time.”
“But they knew you were looking for him?”
“Some of them knew.”
“Did they know why?”
“No, sir. I told nobody why I was looking for Mr. Patrick.”
Buckle glanced anxiously at the door, but Dr. Hailey did not relax his attitude.
“Clear your mind now of these ideas,” he ordered, “and go back to the day before the murder. His lordship, I understand, spent that day here, at home?”
"Did he seem to be in his usual health
“No, sir, he seemed very much upset.” “Please tell me exactly what happened?”
“Nothing happened.” The butler sighed deeply. “It was just his manner. He was depressed like, and his temper was uneven.”
“You mean that he lost his temper?” “Yes, sir. At luncheon, sir, I made the mistake of spilling a few drops of the lemonade I was serving, and he spoke sharp to me, a thing he had never done before in public.”
“Who was present at luncheon?”
“Only Miss Bridget and Mr. Patrick.” “How did he treat them?”
“I thought he was rather cold to Mr. Patrick.”
“Does that mean that he didn’t speak to Mr. Patrick?”
“Yes, sir. He didn’t speak to Mr. Patrick at all.”
Dr.’ Hailey made another note.
“Did you wait at dinner?”
“It was the same at dinner, sir. His lordship seemed different from his usual self. He never spoke to Mr. Patrick at all.”
“He usually talked a good deal at meals, didn’t he?”
“Oh, yes, sir. To everybody.”
"T\R. HAILEY spent what remained of the daylight walking in the grounds of Shawdon Hall. He had sent his driver to the village to engage a room for him at the local inn because he did not wish to meet Patrick Glen until Verrey had returned from London. It was a warm, rather parched afternoon with the bite of a ground frost underfoot, one of those March days when summer seems to be at hand until winter mists spring up to dispel the illusion. He climbed a small hill which overlooked the valley of the river Ouse, and stood watching the clouds sailing over the South Downs. Then he turned to look at the house he had just quitted. Its red walls conveyed an impression of stability even at this distance. How well it harmonized with the landscape and how completely its surroundings belonged to it. The thought struck him that he was looking at his dead friend’s character expressed in bricks and mortar. Shawdon Hall resembled the man who had owned it in many different ways, but in nothing more than its modest self-assurance. It was exactly what it pretended to be, a substantial country house well-made and well-found, and infinitely far removed from the possibility of being dispossessed of its exclusive rights to its surroundings. And yet the curse of the Glens had entered, in some mysterious way, into the comfortable fabric. For all its air of dignity, Shawdon looked forlorn in the mellowing light.
The doctor watched the rays of the setting sun strike the facade of the house and turn its windows to vivid flame. He was about to resume his walk to the village when he observed a short distance away a man and girl engaged in what seemed to be a lively dispute. The man was standing in front of the girl, evidently barring her way; she appeared to be trying to escape from him.
The couple were too far off to permit of his hearing anything, but he could see them plainly. The man was young. He was dressed in a shooting suit, the good tailoring of which was evident, and he carried himself with the air of a person who is accustomed to having his own way. The girl, who wore tweeds of the most sombre color and cut, possessed good looks much above the ordinary. She seemed to be very much distressed. Suddenly the man put out his arms and clasped her. He kissed her with a violence of passion which was unmistakable. Then his grasp relaxed; she broke away from him and began to run. He overtook her and embraced her again.
Dr. Hailey’s first impulse had been to go to the rescue, but he changed his mind. He could not doubt that it was a lovers’ quarrel he was witnessing, for the girl uttered no cry and did not appear to be afraid. He put his eyeglass in his eye in a kind of embarrassment. As he did so a piercing scream reached his ears.