The Silver Scale
In which a laird tells a remarkable story and a nameless terror rides the waters outside Duchlan castle
The Story: At the castle of Major /famish (,regor, 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 jregor. Again a herring scale is the only clue
Duchlan s son Eoghan is married to an lush 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 haring lost a fortune at cards that day; a fortune that would be replaced by his aunt’s death because he was her heir.
Inspector Harley, replacing Dundas, questions Eoghan and the latter confesses that he murdered Miss Gregor. Harley refuses to btlieve his story, however, and reasons that Eoghan told it in order to protect his wife, whom Harley considers guilty.
A third person is also suspected when it is learned that Dr. McDonald Utres Oonagh and had met her clandestinely, and that the murdered woman learned of such meetings.
Eoghan proposes to Dr. McDonald that they go to sea in (lu latter’s boat and sink it. so that when both art drowned the
case will be hushed up. The doctor agrees, but the plan h frustrated when Dr. Hailey, who has stowed himself away in the boat, appears.
Inspector Harley is found murdered.
DR. HAlLEY turned to Eoghan. "Might I ask you to send Sergeant Jackson here? he asked. "I fancy he's standing guard over your
The young man walked away to the house. The doctor put his hand on McDonald’s arm.
"What is it?"
“Who knows?" The words were spoken in tones that carried a burden of fear.
“Dundas was killed in exactly the same way."
The wardress asked if she might return to the car. Dr. Hailey accompanied her. giving her his arm.
"You saw nothing beyond the flash of the knife?" he
“Hut it was dark, was it not? Sidelights are feeble."
She agreed. “Still, I saw Inspector Harley clearly enough. I’m sure I should have seen anybody else "
“If there was a knife, there must have been a man to use
it Did you hear anything?”
“The engine was running, sir.”
They reached the car. The doctor switched off the headlights, leaving the sidelights burning. McDonald’s figure stood out clearly enough and even Barley’s body was visible.
“You see,” the girl remarked, “it isn’t so dark—”
"There are heavy shadows close to the window.”
“Yes. I thought the man had come out through the window.”
He walked back to McDonald and then examined the French window. It was open.
“He must have come this way?”
McDonald did not reply. They saw Sergeant Jackson approaching. Dr. Hailey went to meet him and told him what had happened. He illuminated Barley’s face that the policeman might see the nature of the injury.
“Dr. McDonald,” he stated, “was with me in the smoking room. I take it you can answer for Mrs. Gregor. This is exactly the same type of blow as that which killed Inspector Dundas.” An exclamation broke from his lips. “Look. The herring scale.” He bent down and pointed to a shining scale which adhered to the scalp over the seat of injury.
"You know, of course, that herring scales were found on Miss Gregor’s and Inspector Dundas's bodies?”
“These three people have died by the same hand, sergeant.”
The policeman glanced ab'-it him uneasily.
“I went upstairs with Mrs. Gregor as directed by Inspector Barley,” he stated in the manner of the police court. “She entered the nursery and I heard her and the nurse crying. Not wishing to intrude further than was necessary on their trouble, I came downstairs to the first landing.
Nobody passed me on the stairs going up or going
“Where was Angus the
“The old man that opened the door?”
“I think he was in the hall. Leastways he was there when I went upstairs.”
They returned to the house and went to the little writing room.
“It’s possible that the murderer was waiting here,” Dr. Hailey said. “If that is so, he must have escaped back into the house. We know exactly where everybody in the house was at the moment of the inspector’s death, with the single exception of the piper.”
"No, I confess I.feel no confidence in that theory.”
He passed his hand across his brow. “Let me see; the front door was open and the wardress was in the car.
She must have had a good view of the hall all the time. Ask her to come here, will you.”
CERGEANT JACKSON ^ went away. The doctor walked back into the hall where McDonald was awaiting him. A moment later the wardress entered the house. He asked her if she had seen anybody in the hall at the time of the murder.
“Only the butler.”
“You saw the butler?”
“Yes, sir. He was standing where you are standing now. When I saw Inspector Barley fall I called to him. but he didn’t hear me. As you know, I ran into the heuse.”
“Where was the butler then?”
She pointed to the foot of the stairs. “He was standing over there. I didn’t notice much.”
“You are quite sure,” the doctor asked in a deliberate tone, “that you saw him standing here a moment after Inspector Barley fell?”
“Quite sure. And a moment before he fell, too.”
“What I am really asking you is whether or not it is possible that the butler could have reached the French window from the inside of the house and got back to the hall again in the few minutes during which you were watching Inspector Barley.”
The girl shook her head.
“It doesn’t take long to go from here to that writing
“I’m sure he couldn’t have gone anywhere in the time.” Dr. Hailey turned to McDonald.
“Where is Gregor?”
“He’s gone upstairs to his wife.”
“He went upstairs a few minutes ago. Angus is with him.” They entered the study with Sergeant Jackson. The doctor closed the door.
“I fancy,” he said, “that we can exclude Angus. It is incredible that he had any part either in the murder of Miss Gregor or in that of Inspector Dundas. This third murder is more mysterious, if that is possible, than its predecessors. I confess that I haven’t the slightest idea how it was committed.”
He gave the policeman a careful and detailed account of Barley’s work, adding:
“His own death, as you see, disproves his case. But it leaves us under the necessity of explaining how this murderer entered and left a locked room, how he entered and left a room the door and windows of which were under constant observation; finally, how he killed in the open, in the presence of a witness, without betraying himself further than by a gleam of his weapon. We must explain, too, why that weapon, on each occasion, carried herring scales into the wounds inflicted by it."
Sergeant Jackson had nothing to say except that he must report immediately to headquarters so that another detective officer might be sent. When he had gone Dr. Hailey helped himself liberally to snuff, an indulgence which appeared greatly to soothe him.
“Three murders,” he said at last, “and not a shred of evidence, not a breath of suspicion against anybody. This case must be unique in the history of crime.”
‘‘I’ve experienced nothing like it. Think of it. That girl actually saw the weapon that killed Barley; you reached Dundas within thirty seconds of his death ; Miss Gregor was shut off 'from the world by locks and bolts !” His eyes narrowed. "Barley was reasoning soundly enough when he said that you ought to have seen Miss Gregor's murderer drop from the window, eh?”
“Yes. But we didn’t see
Dr. Hailey shook his head. “The wardress ought to have seen Barley’s murderer. And she didn’t,” he said. “You ought to have seen Dunda s’s murderer. You didn’t.” He glanced about him. “This assassin kills but remains invisible.”
The room was silent, and the whole house seemed to have become partner in its silence. Dr. McDonald, who was standing at the fireplace with his elbow on the mantelpiece, looked uneasy.
“Things which happen in houses frighten me more than things which happen in the open,” he said. “I can say honestly that I wasn’t afraid in the motor
"You’re afraid now?”
The Highlander turned sharply to the window and then faced his companion
“Yes.” He smiled as he spoke.
Dr. Hailey nodded. “So
■p)R. HAILEY had reached the age when a man knows, and is inwardly convinced of his knowledge, that life is short. That is a time when imagination loses something of its power. The rigor of his apprehensiveness in face of these murders consequently surprised him. He was punished, it seemed, for his discounting of Highland superstition. He took more snuff and rallied his thoughts.”
“I abandon the search for the method of these crimes." he told his companion. “And I shall not concern myself any more with their occasions. There
is left only the strictly human business of motive. After all, it takes two to make a murder.”
McDonald nodded. “One can perhaps understand the murder of Miss Gregor,” he said. “But the murderer can scarcely have had any personal feeling against Dundas and Barley.
“No. Especially as Dundas had failed to discover anything. and Barley had built up a strong case against innocent people. But it seems to me quite useless to trouble about that aspect of the case. I mean to concentrate on Miss Gregor. 1 believe I know enough now about her character to warrant certain broad conclusions.” He leaned forward in his chair. “Don’t forget for a single instant that Miss Gregor narrowly escaped being murdered long ago. The healed wound on her chest was inflicted by Duchlan’s wife. Here is a woman who knew how to drive her sister-in-law to madness, death, without losing her brother’s regard. Duchlan isn’t a fool. We may very well ask by what alchemy of persuasion he was held during all these years.”
McDonald agreed fervently. “As I told you,” he said, "my own impression of Miss Gregor was one of inhuman perseverance. She had a way of restating the most cruel slanders in the kindest terms, assuring you that she had forgiven faults which existed only in her own invention and pleading with you to be equally generous. When she spoke about Mrs. Eoghan in that way I wanted to tear her to pieces. She knew, she understood, and she persisted.” Eoghan entered the room. His face expressed profound relief, but he looked nevertheless very grave.
“Has the policeman gone?” he asked Dr. Hailey.
“Yes; he said that he must report at once.”
“I’ve been with Oonagh in the nursery. What courage that girl has shown!” Suddenly he held out his hand to Dr. Hailey. “I want to thank you for what you did tonight in the boat.”
He sat down and covered his face with his hands. He exclaimed :
“Shall we ever come to the end of this horror? It’s worse than death.” He raised his head. “I’m a coward, I know, but I’ve never been so frightened before. I was frightened to come downstairs just nqw. I swear I looked for a murder at every step.”
He pronounced the word murder like a personal name, a manner which neither of his companions found odd.
“That’s exactly how I feel,” McDonald confessed. He stretched out his arm in a vague, uncomfortable gesture. “Murder is here.”
Dr. Hailey put his eyeglass in his eye.
"We had better stop this kind of thing,” he declared firmly, “and get to work, to business. If murder is here, let us try to find and end it.” He turned to Eoghan. “I want you to tell me,” he asked in an earnest tone, “exactly what your feelings were toward your aunt.”
His voice recalled the young man sharply.
"She brought me up.”
“That isn't what I want information about. What did you feel toward her?”
The question wrought a silence which became uncomfortable.
"One hates to speak about such things,” Eoghan said "I beg that you will speak.”
“I suppose I didn’t feel as grateful as I ought to have felt.”
“You disliked her?”
“In a way; yes.”
Eoghan shook his head. “I don’t know. She was very, very kind to me.
“Did you quarrel with her?"
"Yes. 1 did. Very often."
"About your mother?”
The young man started. “Yes.”
“Although you had never known your mother?”
"I don't remember anything about my mother.
"So that what upset you was the picture of your mother which your aunt gave you?”
Eoghan started again. "I supixise it was.'
"Children are always conventional. Other boys had mothers whom they liked; you naturally wished to believe that your mother had been as good and lovable as theirs, ii seems that such an idea was not welcome in this house.
I )r. I lailey's earnestness w as such as to disarm resentment. “A child." he added, "usually goes straight to the heart of things. 1 take it you told your aunt that she hated vour mother?”
“She denied that?”
"Did you ask your father alxiut your mother"
"NoI was afraid of my father." Eoghan took out his pipe and tried to fill it ' As a matter of fact. 1 was a solitary virt of kid. I was happiest when they left me to mvself in the nursery I uv-d to pretend tliat my mother came and played with me there, and that we were both frightened of Aunt Mary and father. I don't know where 1 got the idea, but 1 always thought of my mother and myself as the Babes in the Wood."
“Your aunt was the oppressor?"
He nodded. "My head was full of fairy tales. My mother was Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks and Cinderella in
"And your aunt the wolf and the bear and the ugly sister?”
“Perhaps, yes. It was vague, you know."
“Your mother was Irish?”
Dr. Hailey allowed his eyeglass to drop.
“Do you possess a picture of your mother?” he asked. “Only a small photograph." He flushed as he said this. The doctor held out his hand. "May I look at it?"
There was a moment of silence. Eoghan had stiffened in his chair, resentful apparently of the fact that it should have been guessed that he carried his mother’s photograph about with him. But his resentment was soon lost in confusion. He took a small leather case from his pocket and handed it to the doctor.
“My mother gave the photograph to Christina,” he said in hurried tones which revealed how deep was his hurt that his only relic of his mother had come to him thus, at second-hand.
There were two photographs in the case. One faded, inscribed to "my dear Christina.” the other new. of Oonagh. Oonagh bore a likeness to Eoghan’s mother that was unmistakable. Dr. Hailey handed the case back without comment.
“You're a poor man?” he asked gently.
“Was that why you left your wife and child here in this house?”
The question seemed to cause the young man acute distress.
"I don't think that was the only reason," he said in hesitating tones.
“May I ask your other reason?”
“I didn’t realize that Oonagh would be so unhappy here.
I felt that I would like her to be here, where I had lived so long."
“I see.” Dr. Hailey nodded several times. “Just as you would have liked your mother to be here?”
"Perhaps that is part of the reason, although I didn’t think of it at the time. I wanted Hamish to have Christina as his nurse, and I knew she would never consent to leave my aunt even if my aunt consented to part with her. ’ “Were you gambling to make money?”
The question came abruptly, but it produced very little reaction.
“To have enough to set up a home of your own?”
“So you realized that your wife’s position was hopeless in this house?”
“Your aunt knew that you meant to have a home of your own?” •
"She may have known.”
"What do you mean by that?"
“I had told her that I thought a married woman ought to have her own home." Eoghan hesitated again. “I suppose I knew that she was opposed to the idea because I didn't develop it.”
"You were afraid of her?"
“I think everybody was a little afraid of her. My aunt had a way of making people who disagreed with her feel guilty. I can't tell you how she did it. but 1 often noticed the effect. I think her secret lay in her absolute conviction that whatever she thought or felt must be right. She was a deeply religious woman in rather a su|>erstitious way. Perhaps it's necessary’ to be a Highlander to understand exactly what that means."
The doctor nodded again. "Without being a Highlander, he said. "I had guessed that.”
EOGHAN drove McDonald home. When they left the house Dr. I lailey went out to the place where Barley had been killed The fear which had oppressed him indixirs lost its power as soon as he crossed the threshold. He stood listening to the voices of night viftly moving winds, the gurgle of the burn and. louder than these, the fall of waves on the shingle He walked to the spot where Barley had fallen. His lamp revealed nothing. The tide was ebbing but remained high, vi that the mouth of the bum resembled a tiny harbor He descended the steep slo|>e to the water's edge, and stood there for a few minutes. Then he climbed the bank again It was obvious that, at the moment of his death. Barley had been concerned about the murder of Dundas whose bedroom was immediately alxive the spot where he had been standing The doctor wondered what doubt or question had sent the pixir man on this fatal errand If Barley really believed tliat McDonald had killed Dundas, why should he trouble about the ground under Dundas's window ?
He returned to the house and went uiistairs to his bedrixim The more he thought about it. the stranger this last art of Barley seemed The only possible explanation seemed to be that the detective had begun to doubt his theory that McDonald liad killed Dundas, but if so. why liad he
arrested McDonald? Barley was an honest man. and as such would certainly have delayed making an arrest so long as any substantial doubt remained in his mind. But he was a practical man who would not have gone out of his way except for a reason. It seemed certain, therefore, that a reason why he should examine the ground under Dundas’s window must have occurred to his mind, or been forced upon his mind, after he had effected the arrest of McDonald. The doctor frowned. How could any such reason have arisen at the time? He mastered his fears and walked along the corridor to Dundas’s bedroom.
Bariev's body lay on the bed. under a sheet He removed this and searched the dead man’s pockets. He found nothing except a diary' in which notes of the progress of the case had been made from time to time. The last ol these notes consisted of a summing up of the evidence against McDonald and Mrs. Gregor. He replaced the book and went downstairs. Eoghan had just returned and was in the smoke room pouring out a whisky and soda. The young man looked relieved when he saw the doctor.
"I heard you coming downstairs," he exclaimed in a tone which betrayed the anxiety which that sound had occasioned him. He added : "When I was outside I felt all right. This house seems to have become different."
He offered Dr. Hailey a drink and poured it out.
“People can say what they like about whisky,” he declared, “but there are times when it’s the most sobering drink in the world."
He lit his pipe and carried his glass to an armchair. He sat down and put the glass on the floor beside him. The doctor told him about his difficulty in accounting for Barley’s last excursion.
"Can you think of any reason,” he asked, "why he should suddenly have developed a fresh interest in Dundas's murder?”
“You saw him arrest McDonald. Did it strike you that he had any doubts about the justice of what he was doing?” "What, after the lecture he had given us? 'Pon my soul, doctor, he made out a strong case, a terrible case.”
"Exactly. And then apparently hurried off to test its merits. It seems absurd on the face of it.”
“Possibly he had some other reason for going—”
“Yes, but what other reason? Barley was a man who knew how to economize his efforts. I feel absolutely certain tliat it was no trivial cause that sent him along that steep bank at that moment.”
Eoghan shook his head. Among so many mysteries, this one, he seemed to think, was too small to deserve notice.
“I’m sorry for Barley,” he declared, "but the big fact about his death, so far as I’m concerned, is its effect on Oonagh. When I heard that last summing up I thought—" His voice broke; he gulped the remains of his whisky. “They’d have been convicted,” he concluded in hurried
Dr. Hailey started slightly. He leaned forward.
“So, the reason which sent Barley to Dundas’s window was an essentia! element in their salvation?”
"As it happened, yes."
“My dear sir, it did happen. How can we say that in this case, cause and effect are unrelated?”
Eoghan frowned. "You don’t suggest, do you," he asked, “that McDonald or Oonagh supplied a reason for Barley’s going to that place?”
"Of course not. But somebody else who was interested in them may have supplied that reason.”
"Who? Duchlan was here, so was I.”
"The murderer perhaps.”
"Angus was in the hall when BarleyJeft this room.” Eoghan drew a sharp breath.
"What! My dear doctor, if I may say so. that's the most absurd suggestion I've ever heard in my life. If you knew Angus you would realize just how absurd it is."
"If Angus murdered Barley, he murdered Dundas and my aunt also. Can you imagine him dropping from my aunt's window or Dundas's window? How did he get into my aunt's bedrixim? How rlid he get into Dundas s bedrixim? How did he kill Barley, seeing that he remained in the hall?"
The questions came sharply like the rattle of machine-gun fire. Dr. Hailey shook his head.
“No. I can imagine none of these things." he confessed. "But in a case like this, one is driven to ask every possible and im|xissible question." He pressed his hand to his brow. “Surely no theory ran he dismissed as ridiculous in respect of a series of events each of which is itself ridiculous to the point of utter impossibility.” He helped himself toa pinch of snuff? "And so I return to Angus. He is the only perixjn who can have spoken to Barley after Barley Jeft this rrxim He is consequently the only person who can liave supplied a motive for that sudden, and in the circumstances. amazing, visit to the bank under Dundas s window
Dr Hailey broke off. Footsteps were approaching the
Continued on pate 28
Continued from page 22
'“THERE was a knock at the door. Eoghan jumped up and opened it. Dr. Hailey saw Angus standing with a lighted candle in his hand which shook so that the flame danced. The man's face had a sickly green complexion. Behind him, half hidden among shadows, were two women in hats and
“You’ll forgive us, sir,” Angus said in a shaky voice, “but we cannot sleep in this house.”
He came a little way into the room as he spoke and the women also advanced. The women’s faces were tear-stained and one of them, the younger, was whimpering.
"Because, sir, we cannot.”
“That’s no reason, Angus.”
The old man glanced behind him suddenly as if he expected to be stabbed in the back. His mouth opened.
“It’s down in the bum, sir,” he ejaculated
Fear gave the old man courage of a sort. He faced his master.
"I heard it myself, sir, splashing in the bum this night before Mr. Barley was killed,” he declared. “Mary, she heard it, too. And she heard it when Mr. Dundas was killed—”
"It is not rubbish, sir. Tonight, after Mr. Barley was killed, Mary saw it swimming away from the mouth of the burn to the loch. She called Flora and Flora saw it, too. A black head it had, like the head of a seal, and it was swimming slowly “What is he talking about, Mary?”
“It’s the truth sir, he’s been telling you,” the elder of the two girls declared. “I saw it with my own eyes, swimming out of the burn’s mouth, and I heard the splashing it made when it came up out of the water and went back to it. I called to Flora, ‘Look, look,’ and she jumped out of her bed and came to the window, and there it was swimming away.”
“What was?” Eoghan cried irritably. “The thing that is covered with fish’s
"Good gracious, girl, are you crazy?”
“I saw it, sir, and Flora saw it. It was black like a seal till it came to the place where the moon was shining on the water, and then we saw the scales on its head shining like the body of a fish.” Her voice fell. "You know, sir, that there was fish’s scales—”
She broke off, overwhelmed by fresh fears. Eoghan turned to her sister.
“Well?” he asked.
“Yes, it’s true, sir. I sawit as Angus and Mary have told you. Its head was shining like the body of a fish.”
"Are you trying to tell me that a fish climbed up to my aunt’s bedroom?" Eoghan exclaimed in mocking tones.
"Oh, no, sir.”
"That’s what you’re saying.”
"Oh. no, sir."
"Wluit are you saying, then?”
The girl gathered her courage. "The Evil One,” she declared in shaking tones, “can take any form he wishes.”
"Oh, so it was the IX-vil you saw?”
There was no answer. The young man glanced at Angus.
"What do you mean by saying that you can’t stay in this house?" lie demanded
“There is something wrong with this house, sir."
Fear and whisky had combined to excite the old Highlander. He rose to his feet; his eyes, lately so dim, began to flash.
"God is my w itness, lie cried in solemn tones. “It was into that very water tliat \our mother threw herself." He stopixd, suddenly afraid.
Dr. Hailey saw the blood rush into Eoghan’s cheeks and then ebb out of them again as suddenly.
"Angus, what are you saying?" Eoghan demanded.
There was no answer. Both the women drew back.
“What are you saying, Angus?"
Eoghan's pale face expressed a degree of emotional tension which brought Dr. Hailey to his side.
“I shouldn’t trouble -”
The young man interrupted with a quick, peremptory gesture. He took a step toward his father’s servant:
“You said my mother threw herself into the bum?” he cried. "Is that true?”
ANGUS had recovered from the first shock of his boldness; he was still in close enough touch with the emotions which had driven him to the room and enough under the influence of the w'hisky he had drunk to be unwilling to recede.
“It’s the truth. Mister Eoghan, ’ he declared. He thrust out his hands. “It was these hands which helped to carry her back to this house.”
"You are saying that my mother drowned herself?”
The piper bowed his head.
“Yes, Mister Eoghan.”
A queer, wild light shone in the young man’s eyes. But his features remained stiffened in immobility.
"And now you think that this—this thing which splashes and kills is come to avenge
Angus’s excitement was abating. He stood gazing at his master with sorrowful eyes, already remorseful because of the pain he had inflicted. Eoghan turned to the doctor.
“Do you know anything of this?” he “Yes.”
“You, too. Everybody except me." He addressed the servants. “Go where you like,” he cried. "I’ve no wish to keep you here in this house.” He waved his hand, dismissing them. “Why should you suffer in this house for other men’s crimes?”
He sank into a chair. Dr. Hailey approached him.
"May I take them into another room and ask them some questions?”
“No. Ask your questions here. Let me, as well as everybody else, be informed this
Eoghan’s tones rang out full of bittemess and derision. He gripped the arms of his chair with fingers, the joints of which blanched. His lips moved up and down on his strong teeth. Dr. Hailey signed to the servants to sit down and sat down himself. He turned to the girl, Mary.
“You say you heard a splash on the night when Inspector Dundas was murdered?” he
“Yes, sir. But I didn’t think at the time what it might be. There were fishing smacks lying off the burn that night, sir."
The doctor nixlded. “1 know. And your brother was on one of these smacks?”
“Your brother came here to report what he had seen that night. He didn’t mention hearing any splash.”
"No, sir. Please sir, it wasn't till tonight that I thought anything about the splash." "Where were you when you heard it?”
“I was going to lied, the same as I was when I heard the first splash tonight. Flora
Dr. Hailey leaned forward eagerly. "You heard two splashes tonight?" he asked.
“Did you hear anything between the
"Did you see anything?”
“It was Dien you called your sister?” “Yes, sir. 'What is it?' she said to me.
'1 don't know what it is, Flora, I said, 'but it's what I heard splashing in the water, and may lie it's what 1 heard splashing when Mr Dundas was murdered.’ While I was speaking we heard voices below the window
and somebody said ‘He’s dead,’ and Flora caught hold of my arm and began to cry. We went down to the kitchen, and there was Angus sitting in a chair as white as death. I told him what he had heard and he said, ‘Mr. Barley’s been murdered, too. I heard the splashes when I was standing in the hall !’ ”
The girl shook her head when she finished speaking, and then again glanced behind her. She added: "Angus was crying and saying
"Never mind that." Dr. Hailey's voice was stern. "How long did you watch the thing you saw swimming?”
“Until we heard the voices.”
“So you didn’t see where it went to?” “No, sir, we did not.”
The doctor turned to Angus. “You were standing in the hall when you heard the first splash?” he asked in sharp tones.
“Yes, sir. I was waiting in case Duchlan might require me.”
"Where was Inspector Barley at that moment?”
“lie had just gone out of the house. He was standing at the front door, near to the motor car.”
“Do you think he heard it, too?”
“Yes, sir, I think he did, because he walked toward the burn."
"You saw that?”
“Did you hear anything after that, before you heard the second splash?”
Angus's face stiffened with new fear. He bent forward in his chair.
“I heard a sound, sir,” he whispered, “that I knew was the death-rattle."
'“THE sweat gleamed on the old man’s brow. He wiped it away with his hand. Eoghan rose and gave him more whisky.
"You were standing near the door of the small writing room, were you not?” Dr. Hailey asked him.
"Yes, I was.”
“And the window of the writing room was open?”
“Yes, it was open.”
“So that you were bound to hear everything that passed between Inspector Barley and his murderer?”
“I did not hear anything except the sound I have told you about.”
"What you call the death-rattle?”
"It was that, sir. I have heard it before.” “The second splash followed?”
“Yes, sir. And when I heard it I knew that—”
"I don’t want to hear what you knew, only what you heard and did. What did
"A young woman who was dressed like a policeman came running into the house.”
"I know that. Please answer my question: What did you do yourself?”
The pijier shook his head “I went back into the kitchen."
“Because you felt afraid?”
"Because I knew that the day Again the doctor interrupted sharply. I le rose and announced that he had no more questions to ask. He glanced at his watch.
"You had better go back to the kitchen. You can keep two or three candles burning till dawn." he said.
He waited until they had gone, then he turned to Eoghan.
“At least we know now why Barley went to the place where he was killed," he said in eager tones. "The next step, clearly is to discover the truth alxiut this swimmer.”
“I suppose so.”
The young man rose and walked to the fireplace He stood leaning with one elbow on the mantelpiece, a dejected figure.
“I understand your questions a lx nit ni» childhood now," he said in low tones. “I understand everything now. ’
"Your father was very much under your aunt’s influence.” Dr Hailey said in the accents of a man who feels it incumbent on him to he special pleader.
“From what I could gather, it was such another case as that of your wife and McDonald. The atmosphere of this place broke down your mother’s nervous strength.”
“You mean it broke her heart.” The words came with extraordinary vehemence.
“No, 1 don't mean that. I feel sure that your father loved your mother in his own, strange way. But he was held in a kind of bondage by your aunt. He could not prevent himself from seeing and feeling what his sister willed that he should see and feel.”
Eoghan started and took a step toward his companion. His face had flushed suddenly.
"Dundas told me,” he exclained, “that my aunt had a healed wound on her chest. A wound that must have been inflicted long ago by someone—” His voice broke. He covered his face with his hands. But a moment later he recovered his self-control. "You know that it was my mother who. inflicted that wound?” he asked in level
Dr. Hailey drew his hand across his brow. "My dear fellow,” he said gently, "your mother was no longer in her right mind.” “They had driven her mad !”
"Perhaps not intentionally.”
He clutched at his brow with both hands. “Horrible, horrible,” he cried. “And to think that I w'as taught to call my aunt ‘mother’—that I called her ’mother.’ ”
A strong tremor passed over his body. "That was why my father thought that Oonagh had killed her,” he added. “Because Oonagh is like my mother."
Suddenly a cry broke from his lips. He seized Dr. Hailey's arm.
"Did he, did my father make the same suggestion to Oonagh as he made to my mother, that she should drown herself?"
"He believed her to be guilty, remember.” “Oh, I might have guessed it.”
"My dear fellow, as you know, the evidence was very strong.”
The rebuke was spoken gently but exerted its effect. Eoghan’s eyes fell. He shook his
“Angus was right,” he said. "There’s something wrong with this house.”
A MOMENT later both men started and -xY remained tense, listening. Shuffling feet were approaching the open window of the rxm. Dr. Hailey walked to the window and reached it just as a tall figure in a black dressing gown emerged from the darkness.
It was Duchlan.
"Is Eoghan with you?” the old man asked.
"I desire to speak to him. I’ll come round by the writing room.”
He gathered his gown about him and disappeared. Then they heard him crossing the hall. As he stcxxl in the dixirway the color of his dressing gown made painful jontrast with the faded whiteness of his cheeks. I lis features were haggard and his long eyelids had fallen over his eyes, as if he might no longer face a world that had overthrown him. I lis son rose at his coming. "Sit down. Eoghan.”
The withered hand made a gesture tliat was a plea rather than a command. Duchlan sat down himself and leaned his head on the back of the chair, exposing his stringy, /ulturelike throat.
"Sleep has gone from me,” he said. "Tonight I cannot rest.”
The slight affectation of his tone and language did not hide his agitation. Dr. Hailey glanced at Eoghan and saw tliat the son shared fully the distress of the father.
"You have no idea, I suppose,” Duchlan asked the doctor, "how this man Barley met his death?”
"These murders are inexplicable, is it
”We have not yet discovered the explanation of them."
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Continued from page 28
The long eyeiids closed. “You will not discover any explanation. And if you go on seeking, sorrow will be added to sorrow.”
Duchlan’s fingers began to beat on the arms of his chair. The muscles round his mouth were twitching.
“God is just,” he declared in tones of awe. He turned to his son. “I feel that my end is approaching. Before it comes there is something that I must tell you."
He raised himself in his chair as he spoke. Eoghan recoiled.
“I know it already,” he said.
“Why and how my mother met her
Silence filled the room. The song of the bum, a deep crooning like a mother’s song to her babe, came up to them.
“Your mother,” Duchlan said at last, “died of diphtheria."
“You know, sir, that my mother drowned herself in the burn.”
The old man did not flinch. “That is the other part of the truth."
"What do you mean?”
“There was an epidemic of diphtheria during which many children died, Christina’s son among them. Your mother insisted on helping with the nursing and contracted the disease herself. As you know, diphtheria sometimes attacks the brain . ” Duchlan sighed deeply. “What followed, therefore, was due to the promptings of a disordered
He paused. His breathing had become labored. Eoghan remained in a posture of tense expectancy.
“But that is not all. Far be it from me at such an hour as this to hide from you any longer the burden of guilt which lies upon my heart. If it was disease which finally wrought your mother’s death, there were other causes, operating through weeks and months of sorrow which led up to that tragedy. I am here to confess that my own weakness was the chief of these causes.”
“Please don’t go on, father.”
Duchlan raised his hand.
“I beg of you to hear me.” He tugged at the neck of his gown, opening it wider. "From my childhood I suffered a weakness of character which I found it impossible to overcome. I was timid when I would have been brave, fearful when resolution was required of me. It was my calamity that
the qualities I lacked were possessed in fullest measure by my sister, your Aunt Mary. In consequence, she acquired from the beginning a dominion over me which I was unable to resist. She is dead. That dominion lives so that now I feel powerless to conduct my life without her. Your mother possessed an excellent strength of mind, but her strength was inferior to that of my sister. Our marriage consequently was doomed.”
He paused. His fingers continued their ceaseless drumming.
“When she was eighteen, your aunt became engaged to be married to an English man, and I felt myself suddenly and terribl alone. I went to stay with an old friend in Dublin and there I met your mother. Immediately, I fell under her influence. We were married a few months later. When we returned from our honeymoon your aunt’s engagement had been broken off. She begged that she might be allowed to remain here for a few months until she was able to find a home elsewhere. I will not hide from you that, when I yielded to that request,
I knew that I was making a sacrifice of your mother.”
T-JE SIGHED again. "And so it soon 1 L proved. My sister had broken off her engagement, as she confessed to me. because she could neither endure to leave this place nor to enter another family. Naturally, your mother resented her intrusion on our married life and wished to be quit of her. A duel began between them, of which I was the helpless and unwilling spectator. Both appealed to me daily. Soon, very soon, the strongest character asserted itself.
“Your mother had a quick temper but with it a fatal generosity. Mary possessed neither the one nor the other. I used to marvel at the way in which she achieved her ends. She was as sleepless as a spider and as calculating. Everywhere webs, webs, webs, until her victims were bound with gossamer that was stronger than steel. Violence could gain nothing against that subtlety.”
He leaned forward. His voice grew louder.
“For I was violent, too; it is the way of the weak. I loved your mother and sometimes I dared to rebel. Sometimes I stormed and raged against the tyranny which threatened us. It was like the rage of a young child against the nurse who takes away its
playthings. At that time you were born.”
Duchlan's eyes closed again. He remained silent for a few minutes, motionless, like a figure carved out of old ivory. Then his fingers began to drum once more on the carved wood.
"Your birth,” he continued, "made everything much worse because you are the heir. Your mother felt that you belonged to her; your aunt that you belonged to the Gregors. Your aunt was determined to take you away from your mother, and in addition she wanted you because she had no child of her own. Thus all the furies which dwell in the hearts of women were unleashed." He made a despairing gesture. "The tide of hatred flowed and submerge! me. 1 felt that my marriage was drifting to utter catastrophe and yet 1 possessed no power to save it. Your mother grew to hate and then to despise me. Her natural goodness was turned to a scorn that stung without stimulating. One day she threatened to leave me unless ! ordered your aunt out of my house. Her anger and bitterness were terrible and for the moment they prevailed. I told my sister that a new arrangement was imperatively necessary. She took to her bed and became ill, so that the doctor had to be summoned He told me that she was very ill and that if I persisted in my plan to make her leave her home, he would not be responsible lor the consequences. By that time your mother's anger had cooled and her generosity had asserted itself. Your aunt stayed; our marriage was wrecked."
He held up his hand, forbidding interruption.
“At the moment when my wife’s body was carried into this room a chill of death struck my heart. I had heard the splash of her fall into the water. They laid her body on that couch.” He pointed to the piece of furniture and continued to keep his finger stretched toward it. “There were little pools of water on the floor and they grew bigger and became joined to each other. Water was running in thin streams from her hair and from her elbows because they had crossed her arms on her breast. Angus and the men who had helped him to carry her up from the burn went away and left me here, alone with her.
“But I felt nothing; nothing but curiosity to watch the little streams and pools of water. I counted them; there were eleven streams and seven pools. Eleven and seven.
Then I thought about the last moments we had spent together, the night before after the wounding of your aunt, and I repeated aloud what I had said to her: ’You have killed my sister, you have ruined my life and my son’s life. There is only one thing left for you to do. It will be high tide at—’ Well, she had done it. But it seemed unreal and far away, like something one has read about long ago and forgotten and remembered again. So I called to her to open her eyes ” •
His head shook, nodding assent perhaps to some remote voice of his spirit.
“I thought: Is she dead? And I kept repeating that word, ’dead,’ over and over again so as to recall the meaning of it. But it had no meaning. Then it occurred to me suddenly that all the difficulties and troubles of my fife were ended. If Mary got well— and the doctor expected her to get well because the knife had missed her heart— we should have the house to ourselves again, as in the old days. It was with her eyes that I was looking at my wife’s dead face." He plucked again at the neck of his gown. “Now I have no eyes but hers for you, for this house, for our family. When I thought that Oonagh was a partner in Mary’s death I spoke the same words to her as I had spoken to your mother: ‘You have killed my sister. It will be high tide—’ ” "Stop, father!” Eoghan had jumped to his feet. He stood with quivering features and clenched fists.
The old man bowed his head. “I ask your forgiveness."
“Why should you tell me this?”
Dr. Hailey saw a shudder pass over Duchlan’s body. The old man faced his son.
“To give you back to your mother," he said simply. "That is all that is left to me now; to give you back to your mother.” Duchlan rose as he spoke. Again he pointed to the couch.
"I killed your mother. I would have killed your wife. What are these other crimes compared to my crime?”
He walked to the couch and stood gazing down at it as if he saw his wife once more as he had seen her with the water dripping from her hair and her elbows. But his face expressed nothing. He had spoken truth when he said that the chill of death was entered into his spirit. Eoghan followed him with horrified eyes until he left the room.
To be Concluded