The Silver Scale
Again the Hidden Death strikes; and again grim mystery enshrouds the horror-haunted halls of Duchlan
The Story: At the castle of Major Hamish Gregor, a dour old Scotsman known also as Duchlan, his elderly sister, Miss Mary Gregor, is found murdered in her room. Her door and window are locked on the inside, and no weapon is in the room though obviously she was killed by a heavy one. The only clue to this apparently impossible crime is a herring scale found in the wound. The castle stands on the bank of a loch in which fishermen catch herring.
Dr. Hailey, assisted by Dr. McDonald and Procurator Fiscal McLeod, try in vain to solve the mystery. Inspector Dundas arrives to investigate and presently is found dead, having been murdered in much the same manner as Mary Gregor. Again a herring scale is the only clue.
Duchlan’s son Eoghan is married to an Irish girl named Oonagh who, during her husband’s absence with his regiment, resides in the castle. It is learned that she had quarrelled bitterly with the murdered woman because the latter wished to control the training of her young son. Dr. Hailey prevents her from committing suicide and her attempt seems to indicate her guilt, but she insists that she knows nothing of the murder of her aunt.
The finger of suspicion next points to Eoghan. He arrived at the castle secretly by motor boat the night of the crime, after having lost a fortune at cards that day; a fortune that would be replaced by his aunt’s death because he was her heir.
A third person is also suspected when it is learned that Dr. McDonald loves Oonagh and had met her clandestinely, and that the murdered woman learned of such meetings. The doctor possesses a boat in which he and Oonagh frequently went rowing.
After sifting all the evidence Barley becomes convinced that Eoghan could not have been the killer; that either Oonagh or Dr. McDonald is guilty.
DUCHLAN had aged in these last days; he walked feebly, finding his steps. But his features retained their habitual expression. He came to Dr. Hailey, who rose at his approach.
“I have been looking for you,” he stated in breathless tones, “because Inspector Barley tells me that he has received a confession from my son.”
His head shook as he spoke. He kept his eyes fixed on the doctor, ignoring his daughter-in-law utterly.
“Your son made a confession,” Dr. Hailey said.
“It’s nonsense. Eoghan never killed his aunt.”
The old man’s voice rose in a shrill crescendo. Fear and anger were mingled in his expression.
“I can prove his innocence,” he cried. “Do you hear, I can prove it.”
He continued to avoid directing even a glance at Oonagh. But that abstention did not lessen the menace with which his words evidently threatened her. Dr. Hailey readjusted his eyeglass.
"I don’t think,” he said, “that Inspector Barley is the least likely to treat your son’s confession seriously.”
“Eh? What do you say?”
The doctor repeated his statement. He was surprised to observe that it failed to reassure the anxious father.
“Don’t talk nonsense,” Duchlan cried. “If a man confesses to murder, a man in my son’s responsible position at that, his confession is bound to be taken seriously.” “Why?”
“Why? Because the presumption must be that he has spoken advisedly.” The old man’s eyes flashed. “The truth is that he is shielding others whose guilt can be proved and who are wholly unworthy of the sacrifice he is making
on their behalf.” He turned his back on Oonagh. “I should like to talk to you alone.”
Dr. Hailey shook his head.
‘‘Much better talk here openly. Your daughter-in-law, unless I am wrong, has just been telling me all that you propose to tell me.”
“About your discovery of Dr. McDonald’s footprints on the earth under your sister’s bedroom window.”
Duchlan started. But he kept his back resolutely turned on Oonagh.
“I did find his footmarks, the one smooth, the other studded with nails. Nobody could misinterpret that sign. So you see the fellow jumped from my poor sister’s window after he had committed his horrible crime. It was I, myself, who covered the footmarks lest my daughter-in-law’s association with the murder should be discovered.” He drew a deep breath, nodding his head all the while. “What a mistake I made! What a mistake I made! But she is the mother of my grandson who will be Duchlan one day. Can you blame an old man because he has tried to deliver his son and his son’s son from ineffaceable shame and dishonor? But God is just; murder will out. This Quixotic chivalry of my son has, perforce, unsealed my resolve to keep silence. Am I to stand by and see an innocent man, my son, led out to death while I possess knowledge that will save him? Those who have shed the blood of the innocent must bear the punishment of that dreadful crime.” His voice shook. A faint tinge of color had mounted to his cheeks. But that common hue of living men brought with it no suggestion of human kindness. A cold unmerciful gleam filled the black eyes. Dr. Hailey stepped back that he might see Oonagh. She remained seated; her fingers continued to pluck at the thyme. “Is your belief that Dr. McDonald murdered your sister?” he asked in calm tones, “founded exclusively on your discovery of these footprints?”
“It is not, indeed.”
Duchlan sneered. He raised his hand and seemed to clutch at the air in front of him.
“Is it possible that my daughter-in-law’s candor has not extended to her relations with McDonald?”
“On the contrary, sir.”
“Why ask then if the footprints are the only evidence of guilt?”
“You have assumed that the relations between your daughter-in-law and Dr. McDonald are improper relations.” The old man started.
‘T have drawn the conclusion which the evidence of my senses compels me to draw.”
“What, because a mother whose child is showing alarming symptoms sends for the doctor—”
“No. Emphatically no. Because a wife who has flouted her husband’s nearest relatives is found to be meeting a man, clandestinely, after the fall of darkness.”
"You had already, before such meetings took place, made accusations which must have driven any woman to secrecy.”
“We had our reasons, believe me.”
Dr. Hailey’s voice had grown as hard as Duchlan’s. He allowed his eyeglass to fall and faced the old man.
“The doctor was summoned on the most frivolous pretexts. My dear sister was not permitted to be present during these visits—”
“I see. On that evidence you were ready to believe that your son’s wife was untrue to him?”
“Both Mary and I were jealous of Eoghan’s honor.” “Because Miss Gregor was excluded from the consultations with Dr.
McDonald, she, and you too, became suspicious that these consultations were not, in fact, what they appeared to be?”
“McDonald was sent
for on every conceivable occasion—”
“By a mother whose child was taking convulsions.”
Dr. Hailey spoke these last words slowly and with emphasis.
When no reply was forthcoming, he asked;
“Is it not obvious that both you and your sister were inclined to suspicion in the case of your daughter-in-law?”
“I don’t understand
“I mean that in her case you were ready to suspect, perhaps even determined to suspect.”
“On your own showing, you found the natural anxiety of a young mother a cause of •uneasiness.”
“My dear sir, when your daughter-in-law kept sending for the doctor, both you and Miss Gregor accused her of unworthy motives.”
The old man frowned but this time offered no comment. The doctor proceeded :
“I assume, therefore, that this wholly commonplace behavior was distorted in your eyes by some earlier experience. Once bitten, twice shy.”
The words were spoken in a low tone, but their effect could not have been greater had they been shouted. Duchlan swayed on his feet.
"No, no,” he ejaculated hoarsely.
“Some earlier experience in which a young wife—” There was no reply. The muscles of the old man’s face were unloosed. His jaw fell. After a moment he moved away a few paces and leaned against a tree.
“You are speaking about the death of my wife?” he gasped.
“She—” A fit of coughing shook Duchlan’s body. He turned and grasped one of the branches of the tree against which he was leaning. Dr. Hailey came to his side.
“I am aware of the circumstances of your wife’s death,” he said. “And of the events which preceded it, the wounding of your sister—”
“Mary was guiltless.”
“No doubt. But her accusations—”
Duchlan made a peremptory gesture.
"Her accusations were just,” he declared in tones that vibrated with pain.
“At least you chose so to regard them. It comes to the same thing. What is certain is that Miss Gregor employed against your wife the methods she employed recently against your daughter-in-law, namely a perpetual and persistent interference, a merciless criticism and a diligent misrepresentation. These methods expressed, I believe, her jealous hatred of a rival whose presence in the castle threatened her position. She drove your wife to violence; you, doubtless, completed the work of destruction by exhibiting the callous spirit which made it possible for you the other day to suggest suicide to your daughter-in-law.” Dr. Hailey’s voice thrilled with an anger which was not cooled by the spectacle of the old man’s distress.
Dr. Hailey returned alone to the castle. He found Barley awaiting him.
“My case is complete,” the detective assured him. “I’ve
found the axe with which the murder of Miss Gregor was committed.”
He led the way to his bedroom and produced a small axe from a drawer of the dressing table. He handed it to his companion.
“Observe, my dear Hailey,” he pointed out, “that there are herring scales on the handle. The axe is nominally used to chop wood, but the cook admits that she employed it the other day to break up a big bone for the stockpot. She had been cleaning some herring just before she did this.”
Dr. Hailey sat down and took snuff.
“Don’t forget,” he said, “that there were herring scales on Dundas’s head.”
“Quite. I feel sure that that blow was struck with a lead sinker. I’ve seen Dr. McDonald’s boat. It’s plentifully covered with scales. He’s a keen deep-sea fisherman and often uses herring for bait.”
Barley hooked his thumbs into the armholes of his waistcoat and spread out his fingers.
“I confess,” he declared, “that I have great sympathy, the greatest possible sympathy, with Mrs. Eoghan. Poor woman, her life has been made unbearable by her aunt, who deserved perhaps no better fate than that which has overtaken her. At the same time, let us not deceive ourselves. Murder is murder. Deliberation of a most calculating kind is revealed by the use of that axe, which had to be fetched from below stairs and by the fact that a rope was kept in readiness to enable the murderer to escape. Once he had bolted the windows of Miss Gregor’s bedroom on the morning after her death, McDonald must have felt that he was secure against detection.”
Dr. Hailey described his talk with Oonagh and his meeting with Duchlan and, as usual, received a careful and courteous hearing from the unimpressionable inspector.
“More collateral proofs, in my humble judgment,” Barley exclaimed. “Duchlan’s discovery of the footprints seems to me of crucial import. What a feeble defense to say
that a doctor left his patient’s house by the window rather than face a poor, distracted old
“McDonald, remember, didn’t cover up his tracks. He left these footprints to tell their tale—surely an act of gross carelessness in a murderer.”
Barley shrugged his shoulders and then spread out his hands.
“Yes, a point. I admit it. But how small after all ! I apologize in advance for using a bad argument, an argument which, generally speaking, I deprecate. But if McDonald didn’t commit this murder, who did? Again surely we are entitled to ask cui bono? McDonald undoubtedly. He had access, he alone, to the murdered persons. He was able to escape, he alone, from the rooms where the murders were committed. He has left traces, unmistakable, damning, of his escape. I confess that, so far as I am concerned, not a shadow of doubt about his guilt exists.”
He broke off and remained for a few minutes in silent contemplation of the carpet.
“An hour ago,” he said, “I applied for warrants for the arrest of Dr. McDonald and Mrs. Eoghan Gregor. It is my purpose to effect these arrests, at the latest, tomorrow morning.”
“Your case will necessarily be founded,” Dr. Hailey said, “on the assumption that McDonald and Mrs. Eoghan were lovers?”
“Have you any real evidence to support that charge?” “Circumstantial evidence. Besides, if Mrs. Eoghan’s motives in meeting McDonald were strictly correct, the effect of the meetings remains. Both man and woman knew that Miss Gregor would report to her nephew; both had a clear idea what the effect of that report would be. The motive for murder remains therefore and is, I submit, by no means invalidated by assuming that these meetings were absolutely en règle.”
“Innocence does not kill.”
Barley frowned. He began to comb his mustache with unusual vigor.
“That’s a debating point,” he declared in brisk tones, “and I must ask to be excused the task of debating it.” He rose and took the axe which the doctor had placed on a table beside him. He laid it back in its drawer. Dr. Hailey left him and went to his own bedroom. He lay down on the bed and was soon asleep. When he woke, the night was marching across the sky. He watched the changing colors of the clouds, wondering vaguely what time it was; then his critical faculty asserted itself. The fault in Barley’s theory, as he now recognized, was its disregard of the character of Miss Gregor. That woman had been ready to sow hate and suspicion between husband and wife, but the idea that she was concerned to effect a public breach of their marriage was certainly mistaken. Such women look on divorce with lively horror and will exert their whole strength to preserve their kin from the disgrace attending it. McDonald must have known this, and known consequently that he had nothing to fear. Why, then, commit murder?
HE HAD discovered no answer to this question when he heard light footsteps approaching his door. A moment later Oonagh burst into the room.
"Eoghan’s gone off in the motor boat,” she cried.
Her face was quick with foreboding. Her eyes beseeched help. She grasped the rail of the bed and stood, trying to recover her breath.
“I feel terribly anxious about him.”
Dr. Hailey jumped up.
“When did he go?”
“I suppose about half an hour ago. Nobody seems to have seen him. I went to his room to talk to him. He wasn’t there. I searched the house. Then I noticed that the boat had disappeared. The wind is offshore. I imagine he let her drift from her moorings so as not to excite attention.” She gazed at the doctor as she spoke, but his face remained expressionless.
“Where can we get a motor boat?”
She put her hand on his arm.
“Do you think that—that he’s in danger?”
She mastered herself. They went downstairs.
“I haven’t told Duchlan,” she said.
“Much better not.”
They left the house and hurried toward the village. Once they stopped to listen; the night held only murmurings of winds. Oonagh did not speak, but the glimpses which the moon gave him of her face showed how acutely she was suffering. McDonald had not lied when he said that the woman loved her husband.
The boat-hirer had ended his day’s work and did not seem eager to resume it. He stood in the doorway of his cottage, from which the smell of frying herrings emerged, and expounded the many weaknesses of his motor boat and the unwisdom of sailing in her in the dark. His round, red face grew melancholy as he emphasized this danger.
“I’m ready to run any risk, Mr. McDougall,” Oonagh
“But surely Mr. Eoghan can be in no danger. He’s a good sailor, whatever.”
The tones were challenging. She shook her head.
“His engine must have broken down. We couldn’t hear it; on a quiet night like this you should hear it five miles
“The weather is very settled. He will not come to no harm before the morning.”
“I can’t wait till the morning. Not another hour. Sandy Logan has a motor boat, hasn’t he?”
“Aye, he has.”
, The Highlander spoke stiffly. He was not concerned to enter into rivalry with anyone. Let them go where they would. He took a step back, preparatory apparently to shutting the door, when the beat of a motor engine came faintly but distinctly to their ears. Mr. McDougall strained forward to listen.
“Yon’s Mr. Eoghan’s boat,” he declared with assurance. She’s coming into the harbor.”
He waved his hand in a gesture that absolved him from any further responsibility.
“How can you be sure?” Dr. Hailey asked.
“By the sound, sir. There’s no two engine makes the same sound. That one of Mr. Eoghan’s is the newest and best between Rothesay and Inverary.”
The beating of the engine grew louder, more insistent.
“I think it is Eoghan’s boat,” Oonagh said. She pointed seaward. “I can see it.”
They left the cottage and walked to the shore. The motor boat was coming in fast and seemed to be making for the jetty under Dr. McDonald’s house. Dr. Hailey touched his companion’s arm:
“You realize where he’s going?”
“Oh, yes.” She turned to him in distress. “I feel that something terrible is going to happen.”
He considered a moment.
“I think that you must leave this business to me,” he said at last. “If we remain together, the chances are that we’ll fail.”
“Oh, I can’t go back to Duchlan.”
“Not for your husband’s sake?”
She did not reply. They could see the motor boat clearly now in the wake of the moon. Eoghan was standing up in the stern. She grasped his arm.
“Very well.” She moved away a few paces and then came back. “Promise that you’ll keep him from doing anything—terrible. ’ ’
She disappeared among the shadows. He waited until the motor boat had been brought to the jetty and then walked in the direction of Dr. McDonald’s house. He reached the gate in time to see Eoghan ascending the steep footpath to the door. He followed, going slowly and with great caution. When he reached the top of the path he crouched down. Eoghan had been admitted to the house and was standing in the study, the windows of which were wide open. His face was very pale; even from a distance it was obvious that he was laboring under great excitement. • McDonald entered the room. The men did not shake hands. Dr. Hailey moved into the deep shadows which lay beyond the beam of light cast by the windows. He approached the house and crouched again. He heard Eoghan’s clear, well-bred voice say:
“The position is this. I’ve done my best to persuade them that I’m the man they’re looking for. I’ve failed. Barley has made up his mind that you and Oonagh killed my aunt between you and that you killed Dundas.” He paused for an instant and then added: “Don’t misunderstand me when I say that I think he’s got a strong case.”
“Against me, perhaps; not against your wife.”
“My dear sir, his case fails unless he can associate my wife with you. He believes,” Eoghan’s voice hardened in spite of himself, “that you and my wife were in love with each other. My aunt thought so, too; she wrote me to that effect. My father is convinced of it. So, also, I think, is Christina.”
He paused. Dr. Hailey heard McDonald move across the room. Then he heard the doctor ask:
“No, I’m not convinced.”
Dr. Hailey stood erect; he took a step near to the beam of light and then retired to a point from which he could see the two men. Eoghan’s expression was less friendly than he had expected.
“I don’t want to sail under false colors,” he told Dr. McDonald. “No man can be grateful to another for bringing suspicion on his wife. What I mean is that, although the case, as others see it, is damning enough, I don’t choose to be damned by it. But if I believe Oonagh against the weight of evidence, I’m not fool enough to suppose that the weight of evidence is thereby lightened. Barley has asked for warrants to arrest you and her. He means to execute them tomorrow.”
His features were grim. He stood facing McDonald with clenched fists and tense muscles so that, for a moment, Dr. Hailey thought he was about to attack him.
“Your wife is innocent, Gregor,” McDonald cried. “I swear it.”
“I’m afraid, my dear fellow, that that isn’t likely to help much. Whatever you or I may swear, Oonagh will be tried with you for murder. The odds, frankly, are enormous that you’ll be convicted, both of you. Barley, I understand, has discovered footprints under my aunt’s window. His case is that nobody but you can have committed this murder and, ’pon my word, I can’t see any other solution myself.” His voice challenged. He had come to make demands, the righteousness of which shone in his eyes. Dr. McDonald seemed to shrink from him.
“What do you want me to do?” he asked in the tone of a man who speaks under strong compulsion. Eoghan frowned. A moment later, however, his face cleared.
“I’m afraid,” he said, “that I want you to die.”
DR. HAILEY strained forward to catch McDonald’s reply. He saw the doctor square his shoulders.
“The position is, that if you and I are out of the way they’ll drop the case against Oonagh. You can’t try a dead man and no man is guilty till he’s been convicted. Lacking a conviction against you, they could scarcely hope to succeed against her.”
“Yes.” He threw back his head in a gesture of defiance. “Why do you say,” he demanded, “ ‘if you and I are out of the way?’ What difference can it make whether you are out of the way or not?”
“I’ve accused myself, remember.”
“Since they don’t believe you, that counts for nothing.” Eoghan shrugged his shoulders.
“Possibly not. Still, my death will give substance to my confession. In face of it, and with your death added, Oonagh should be safe.”
He took his cigarette case from his pocket and opened it. He began to tap a cigarette on the side of the case.
“I’ve got the motor boat in the harbor,” he added. “I propose that we go sailing.”
He put the cigarette in his mouth and lit it. His coolness
was admirable, but there was a quiet strength in McDonald’s face that was not less striking. Dr. Hailey felt regret that Barley was not with him to see how the man he called murderer behaved in face of death.
He left his place at the window and hurried down the path to the road. The motor boat was lying at the jetty. He reached it and stepped aboard. The bow was decked to make a fo’castle. He opened the door of this and entered, closing the door behind him, except for a small aperture. He struck a match. The fo’castle contained only a few coils of rope and a canvas bucket. It was unlikely that the two men would have occasion to enter it.
They came after the lapse of a few minutes. Dr. Hailey noticed that neither spoke a word as they cast off, and the noise of the engine soon made it difficult to hear any speech. The little craft was lively and rushed out of the harbor in a few minutes. Through the small opening in the door, he could see the lights of Ardmore receding behind the tops of the pine trees on Garvel Point. What was Eoghan Gregor’s game? Every now and then he caught a glimpse of the young man’s face. The moonlight had blanched it, but it had lost nothing of its resolution. McDonald’s expression was far less determined and he looked up, sometimes, at the sky in a way that was rather pitiful. After the lapse of about half an hour Eoghan stoppied the engine. The rush of water on the boat’s sides and the gurgle under her stem mingled pleasantly. Little by little the wide, lively silence swallowed them up.
“We must leave them guessing,” Eoghan said. “This isn’t necessarily suicide or murder; it may be just an accident. Loch Fyne is so deep out here that it holds its secrets for ever.”
“Are you a swimmer?”
The question came sharply, like an order to fire.
“I can swim but I tire very easily.”
“So do I.”
The moonbeams were reflected on a long, dull barrel. Dr. Hailey saw Eoghan raise a shotgun of the heavy type used for duck, to his shoulder.
“I’m going to blow the bottom out of her,” he said, and then pronounced the word “Ready?”
“There’s just one thing. Gregor. I’d like you to know that, though your wife has never cared for anybody but you, I cared for her.” His voice broke, but a moment later he added: “She never knew, of course.”
“Thanks, old man . . . Ready ...”
Dr. Hailey flung open the door of the fo’castle.
“Put that gun down, Gregor,” he ordered in stem tones.
EOGHAN obeyed him so far as to lay the shotgun across his knees.
“What the devil are you doing in my boat?” he demanded. Dr. Hailey did not answer. He left the fo’castle and came aft where the two men were seated.
“This is madness,” he declared. “Nothing has been proved.” He addressed himself to Eoghan. “Oonagh guessed your plan. She accompanied me to Ardmore. She’s waiting now for news of you.”
“Barley has a warrant for her arrest.” The young man’s voice was cold and hard.
“What does that matter? A warrant is not a verdict.” “I believe they’ll get their verdict.”
Dr. Hailey’s voice rang out with an assurance which surprised himself and astonished his companions.
“What!” Eoghan exclaimed. “In face of those footprints on the flowerbed?”
“Which your father covered up the next morning.” “Well?”
“A murderer asking for punishment.”
“It’s easy to make a slip.”
“Would you have made that particular kind of slip yourself?”
Eoghan considered a moment.
“That, in McDonald’s case, means certainly not.”
“Because he has a wooden leg. People with artificial limbs are more aware of their footsteps than ordinary people and they seldom jump.”
Eoghan did not answer. He bent suddenly and laid his gun on the bottom of the boat. His hands reached out to the starting-handle on the engine.
“Wait a minute,” McDonald exclaimed. He turned to Dr. Hailey:
“My reason for coming here,” he said, “was that Barley’s case seemed to me so well buttressed by circumstantial evidence that a conviction was certain. So far as I can see, you are in no position to disprove that evidence. If we go ashore with you, therefore, Mrs. Gregor and I will be arrested tomorrow, taken to Edinburgh, convicted and hanged. I prefer to drown.”
He spoke with deliberation, solemnly, as a man speaks who has paid a price for his words.
“You say that, knowing that you are innocent?” Dr. Hailey asked.
“What does that signify?”
Continued on page 35
Continued from page 22
The Highlander moved his wooden leg to a more comfortable position.
“In actual practice innocence that cannot be substantiated,” he declared, “is no better than guilt. I don’t deceive myself. In Barley’s place I should think and act as he has done. After all, what alternative has he got? He can prove that Gregor here didn’t commit these murders; he can prove that Mrs. Gregor and I were friends; that we had reason to fear Miss Gregor; that we had access to her bedroom. If I didn’t know that I hadn’t killed the poor lady, I swear I would be convinced that I must have killed
Dr. Hailey shook his head.
“Did you fear Miss Gregor?” he asked.
“Then why do you say ‘we had reason to fear Miss Gregor?’ ”
“I meant that’s what the jury will think.”
“You know as well as I know that there was never, at any time, any question of divorce. That can be proved.”
“By reference to Captain Gregor here and to his father.” Dr. Hailey turned to Eoghan:
“Did you threaten your wife with a divorce?” he asked.
“Of course not.”
“Did your aunt suggest that grounds for divorce existed?”
“Never. My aunt held divorce in the utmost horror.”
“So that this idea of divorce can be shown to have originated in Barley’s mind. His whole case is founded on it. No jury is going to believe that these murders were committed by a doctor who had nothing to gain by committing them and nothing to lose if they were not committed. Again, why kill Miss Gregor since Duchlan lived, since Mrs. Gregor’s husband lived?”
Dr. Hailey found his eyeglass and put it in his eye. “That’s the weak spot in Barley’s case. Miss Gregor was no more dangerous to you, McDonald, than her brother, and both she and her brother were less dangerous than her nephew who had already been informed about what was happening. Far from being a murder with a strong motive, this was a wholly senseless murder if its object was to prevent a divorce. I feel sure these arguments will make a strong appeal to any jury.”
Eoghan nodded; he started the engine.
“There’s no doubt you’re right,” he declared. “We’ve got a fighting chance.”
The boat began to move. He pulled the tiller over and set her course for Duchlan. The lights in the castle winked at them. Nearer, to the left, they saw the flares of a herring-boat which had secured a catch and was calling the buyers. Red and green lights announced the approach of the steamers of these merchants, which everywhere follow the fishing fleet. Oonagh was standing on the jetty awaiting them. She bent and caught the gunwale, holding it till Dr. Hailey and Dr. McDonald had stepped ashore. Then she jumped into the boat. They saw her throw her arms round her husband’s neck.
“I think I had better see Barley,” McDonald said in hurried tones.
They found the detective in the smokingroom with Duchlan who seemed to-be on good terms with him. Dr. Hailey waited till Eoghan and Oonagh came to the room and then expounded his objections to Barley’s theory.
“It boils down to this,” he declared. “McDonald knew that Miss Gregor had written to her nephew. The mischief was done. Murder in the circumstances was senseless.”
Barley had accorded his habitual courtesy to the criticism. He bowed his head in silent acknowledgment of its weight. Then with a gesture he swept it aside.
"This gathering, as you know,” he stated, “is not of my summoning. If what I say makes painful hearing, you cannot charge
that to my account. My case does not, as you appear to think, rest primarily on motive; it rests on ascertained facts and on observations, each of which has been carefully checked.”
He rose and stood in front of the fireplace.
“There are three separate methods of approach to this case,” he declared. “The first of these is the method of observation. It can be shown that Dr. McDonald jumped on to the flowerbed under Miss Gregor’s window. Again, marks which suggest the use of a rope can be shown on the iron spike above that window. You can suggest that Dr. McDonald left the house by the window of the study, which is situated under that of Miss Gregor’s room. That suggestion does not explain the marks on the spike, whereas my suggestion that these marks were made by a rope used as a means of descent from Miss Gregor’s window, explains both marks and footprints. Any actuary will tell you that the odds in favor of my theory are, consequently, very long. But that is not all.”
He leaned forward. The habitual good humor of his expression had faded. He looked, Dr. Hailey thought, like an actor who has suddenly thrown off his mask.
“The method of deduction must also be used. Miss Gregor’s death followed immediately a violent quarrel between her and Mrs. Eoghan Gregor, which quarrel was about secret meetings with Dr. McDonald. Miss Gregor had written to her nephew about his wife’s behavior. Had she written about these secret meetings?”
The question was addressed to Eoghan. He flushed as he answered it in the negative.
“You see. The worst, or at any rate what looked like the worst, had not been told. Again, the murder took place before Captain Eoghan Gregor reached home.”
“How do you know that?” Dr. Hailey asked.
“I know that Captain Eoghan Gregor went to his aunt’s room as soon as he landed. He was not admitted. The proof that he was not admitted is that the door was locked on the inside. The carpenter’s testimony on that point is clear and final.”
“So that the murder occurred within a few hours of the discovery and reproof of a young wife and a few minutes before the return of her husband. Who can say what secret Miss Gregor will carry with her to her grave?”
He gazed at Eoghan as he spoke. The young man’s face had grown grave, but he continued to hold his wife’s hand. He drew her closer to him. McDonald bent and moved his wooden leg.
“The third method is that of elimination, admittedly the least satisfactory of the three. If Dr. McDonald did not commit this murder, who did? Not Captain Eoghan Gregor. Not Duchlan. Not Angus—”
Dr. Hailey interrupted. ‘‘On what grounds do you exclude Angus?”
“If, as Mrs. Gregor has told me, she and Dr. McDonald, while they were in this room, heard the windows of Miss Gregor’s room being shut, then they must immediately afterward have seen the murderer drop to the ground. Look for yourself. These windows were open then as they’re open now; you can see the whole extent of the flowerbed. Do you suppose that if they had seen Angus drop from Miss Gregor’s room they would not have reported the fact?”
“You’re assuming that the murderer must have left the room by way of the window?”
“We know that he cannot have left by the door.” He waved his hand. “You can’t have it both ways. In my humble judgment, if Dr. McDonald and Mrs. Gregor are speaking the truth they must have seen the murderer making his ' escape. That, it appears to me, was a consideration overlooked by them when framing their story. Their story fails therefore on two separate counts: It doesn’t explain the marks on the spike and it ignores completely the descent
of the murderer from the window he had just closed. I reject their story and in rejecting it, exclude Angus from the case. Somebody closed the windows; somebody descended from them. There is only one person who can have accomplished these acts. As it happens, he is also the only person who can possibly have killed Inspector Dundas, seeing that there is ample evidence that nobody entered or descended from Dundas’s window.”
Barley's voice had fallen to a low pitch. When he ceased to speak, a chill fell on the
“Had Dundas not been murdered,” he added, “the case against Dr. McDonald would have been overwhelmingly strong. As things are, it is irresistible.”
They heard a car approaching the house. A policeman in uniform entered.
“Inspector Barley?” he asked.
“I’m Sergeant Jackson, sir, and these are the warrants for the arrest of Mrs. Gregor and Dr. McDonald.
“May I go upstairs to the nursery for a minute?” she asked Barley in tones which revealed an excellent courage.
She hurried out of the room. Barley followed her. He walked to McDonald and handed him a large sheet of blue paper.
“It is my painful duty,” he said in hurried, formal tones, “to arrest you on the charge of having wilfully murdered Miss Mary Gregor and Inspector Dundas. I warn you that anything which you say from now onward will be used in evidence against you.”
He turned away and immediately left the room again. They heard him go out to the front door and speak to someone in the waiting car, the engine of which had been kept running. Was he about to arrest Oonagh? Eoghan jumped up and would have opened the door, had not Dr. Hailey reached it before him.
“For your wife’s sake, Gregor.”
“I wish to go to my wife.”
“Don’t put a further strain on her courage at this moment.”
The young man stretched out his hands like a blind man, groping.
“You don’t understand.”
The glare was still in his eyes. Dr. Hailey stood his ground, urging in conciliatory tones that Oonagh should be left free to stay away or return as she chose.
“My dear doctor, she asked me to follow her. Our child’s upstairs, remember.”
He opened the door as he spoke. He was
about to leave the room when a young woman in a police uniform appeared in the doorway. She was gasping and her cheeks were bloodless.
“Oh, quick,” she cried. “Inspector Barley has been murdered.”
She caught at the jamb of the door and leaned against it. Dr. Hailey supported her.
“Where is he?”
“Outside, on the grass.”
Her voice failed. He brought her to a chair beside Duchlan. McDonald had already left the room with Eoghan. He followed them and found them bending over Barley, who lay stretched out on the bank above the burn. The headlights of the car shone on the man’s face. It was streaked with blood, though the blood flowed no longer. McDonald knelt and put his ear to the chest.
“I can hear nothing. There’s no pulse.”
Dr. Hailey lit his electric lamp and turned the beam on to the detective’s head. An exclamation broke from his lips. Barley had been killed as Dundas had been killed.
“He’s dead, McDonald.”
“Since you were with us in the study his death disproves his theory.”
The wardress who had called them, joined them. She had recovered enough to give an account of what she had seen.
“I accompanied Sergeant Jackson from Campbelltown,” she explained, “because of the female prisoner. Sergeant Jackson told me to stay in the saloon till I was wanted. He left the engine running and the sidelights on. After a few minutes he came back and told me Inspector Barley had ordered him to watch the female prisoner who had gone upstairs to say good-by to her child. After the sergeant went away, Inspector Barley came out. I knew him because I had seen a photograph of him in that queer coat. He walked along here and stood looking up at the house. I thought he was going to try to open that window—” She pointed to the French window of the writing room— “because he seemed to put his hands on it. Just as he did that he cried out and turned round. I saw his face in the moonlight. Then he seemed to stumble. He sank down. I turned up the headlights on the dar as soon as I could find the switch, but by that time the man that stabbed him had escaped.”
“Why do you say ‘the man that stabbed him?’ ” Dr. Hailey demanded in hoarse
“Because I saw the gleam of a knife just before he fell.”
To be Continued