The Silver Scale
Logic triumphs over superstition and a grim mystery is brought to a startling conclusion
DR. HAILEY put his hand on Eoghan’s shoulder. “Have pity,” he said gently.
The young man spoke the word mechanically as if its meaning had escaped him. He continued to gaze at the door through which his father had just passed.
“For a mind in torment.”
Eoghan turned suddenly and faced the doctor.
“You call that a mind in torment?” he asked bitterly. He strode to the fireplace and stood looking down into the empty grate.
Dr. Hailey followed him.
“Men whose faces have been dreadfully disfigured,” he said, “are condemned to hide them behind a mask. It is the same when the disfigurement is spiritual.”
“What do you mean?”
“When your father yielded his will to your aunt, he condemned himself to a punishment that is exacted in shame and despair. The only refuge of the weak is another’s strength. To escape from the hell of his own thoughts and feelings it was
necessary that he should adopt completely and blindly those of your aunt. Moral cowardice has used that mask from the beginning. But the face behind the mask still lives.”
“Your mother found something to love in that weakness, remember. She allowed your aunt to stay here. She was even ready, perhaps, to endure the bitterness of that arrangement when illness deprived her momentarily of her reason. I feel sure she would have wished that you should be not less generous and forgiving. Your father is stricken because you had nothing to say to him. As you heard, he looks on these murders as supernatural occurrences, the expression
of Heaven’s anger against himself. The man is utterly forsaken.” Dr. Hailey spoke in very gentle tones which were free of any suggestion of reproof. He added:
“At least he didn’t spare himself.”
Eoghan stood erect.
“Thank you,” he said. “I’ll go to him.”
He strode out of the room. When he had gone. Dr. Hailey sat down and helped himself to snuff. He remained for some minutes with his eyes closed and then rose to his feet. He left the room and ascended the stairs, going as quietly as possible. When he reached the first landing he stood listening. The house was silent. He began the second ascent, pausing every few steps. As he neared the top of the stairs he crouched down suddenly. A faint sound of voices had reached his ears.
He waited for a few minutes and then completed his ascent. He could hear the voices distinctly now. They came from the nursery and he recognized Oonagh’s clear, wellbred accents. He hesitated for a moment and then decided to continue the enterprise which had brought him upstairs. He crossed the narrow landing and put his hand on the door of the pantry, from the window of which he and Barley had examined the spike in the wall above Miss Gregor's bedroom. He turned the handle and opened the door. At the same moment the nursery door was thrown open by Oonagh. She uttered a little cry of dismay and drew back a step. Then she recognized him.
“Dr. Hailey! I—I thought it was—”
She broke off and came toward him. He saw that she looked pale and strained, but there was a new light of happiness in her eyes.
“Hamish has been rather restless,” she said. “Christina and I have been trying to get him to sleep.”
SHE led him into the nursery as she spoke. In spite of the heat of the weather, there was a peep of fire burning in the grate and on this a kettle simmered. The room possessed an air of repose which affected him the more graciously in that it contrasted in so sharp a manner with the unease of the room he had just quitted. He walked to the cot and
stood for a moment looking down at the sleeping child. Its small face had that flowerlike quality which is childhood’s exclusive possession; its features expressed an exquisite gentleness. Christina joined him at the cot. She pointed to a number of small red spots on the child’s brow.
“I think he’s had a little touch of the nettlerash.” she said in her soft accents.
“Yes; that’s the real origin of his trouble.”
Oonagh was standing at the fire.
“You can’t think,” she exclaimed, “what a relief to me your view of this case has been. That was the one bright spot in all our troubles.”
She crossed the room as she spoke.
“Is there any light on the death of that poor man?” “None.” Dr. Hailey polished his eyeglass between his finger and thumb. “Were you here when his death occurred?” he asked in earnest tones.
“The window was open?”
She started and then nodded assent.
“Did you hear anything?”
There was a moment of silence.
“It’s strange but I thought I heard a splash— two splashes.” She spoke with hesitation as if the sounds had troubled her.
“Did you look out of the window?”
Again he saw her start.
“Yes, I did, after I heard the second splash.”
A note of fear crept into her voice. “The moon was shining on the water where the bum flows into the loch. I saw a black thing, like a seal’s head, swimming down the bum, but when the moon struck it it flashed and glimmered.”
“Like a fish’s body?”
“Exactly like that.”
The doctor put his eyeglass into his eye.
“Other people saw the same object,” he stated in deliberate tones. “And put their own interpretations on it. What did you think it was?”
“I couldn’t think what it was.”
Dr. Hailey turned to the nurse.
“Did you see it?”
“No, sir, I was getting the baby’s milk at the time, but Mrs. Gregor told me about it.”
“Has anything of the sort ever been seen here before?”
“Not that I’ve ever heard, sir.”
The eyeglass fell.
“One of the maids says that she heard a splash on the night when Inspector Dundas was killed.
Did you hear anything that night?”
“The windows were open that night also?”
Christina assented. “I’ve kept them open;” she said, “ever since this spell of heat began.”
Dr. Hailey walked to the window and stood looking out. The moon had travelled far since the time of Barley’s death, but its light still fell on the water in intermittent gleams as clouds, newly come from the west, moved across its face.
“One ought to hear a splash from any of these windows,” he commented in tones which seemed to carry a rebuke. He turned back to face the occupants of the room. “The weather seems to be breaking. I thought this heat could not last much longer.”
Again he surveyed the water. His face was troubled as if some important decision was toward in his mind. It seemed that he was in doubt how to explain himself because he frowned several times. At last he left the window and returned to Oonagh.
“That splash may be more important than you suppose,” he said in guarded tones. “I feel that we ought to know everything about it that can possibly be known.”
He paused. The girl’s clear eyes looked into his. She shook her head.
“I felt dreadfully afraid,” she confessed, “when I heard the splashes. It was a strange, eerie sound at that hour of the night. But perhaps my nerves were overwrought because of what was happening.” She made a little gesture of apology for herself, adding: “When one knows there is a policeman waiting at the foot of the stairs.”
“The other people who heard the splashes were terrified so that they wanted to leave the’ house.”
She shook her head again.
“I think I would have felt the same wish myself in other circumstances.” He saw her glance at the cot as she spoke. Her eyes filled with tears and she turned away.
VOU can help me,” he told her gently, “by listening again during the next few minutes. I’m going downstairs to carry out an experiment, the results of which may or may not clear up this horrible business.”
He paused and considered for a few moments. "The points I wish to determine,” he resumed, “are these: Can you hear doors and windows being opened? Can you hear every splash at the mouth of the burn? Are small objects on the surface of the water clearly visible from these windows? I won’t explain myself further because I want your judgment to be unbiased, but I will tell you that I mean to go out of the house by the French windows in the little writing room. I shall cough rather loudly just before I come out of the room, and I wish specially that you will listen for this cough. A splash will follow, perhaps several splashes.” He watched Oonagh closely as he outlined this programme. She showed no sign of any deeper interest in it than the facts warranted.
“There is one other point. I want these observations made in this room. Can I therefore ask you to remain in this room until I come back?”
He had emphasized the words “in this room” each time
that he spoke them. He saw a look of surprise in her face, but she offered no comment.
“I shall not leave this room,” she said, “until you come back. Do you wish me to stand here or beside the window?” “Here at first. If you hear a splash, go to the window at once and watch the mouth of the bum.”
He walked to the door, treading softly so as not to disturb the child. At the door he turned again.
“Remember,” he said in a loud whisper. “You will hear a cough just before I come out of the French window. I will leave this door ajar. So you may hear the cough either through the door, that is, through the inside of the house, or through the window, that is, from the outside. Try to discriminate between these two ways.”
He descended the stairs to the ground floor. The only illumination of the hall came from the study which remained empty. He listened and heard voices in the gun room behind the writing room. He knocked on the door of this room and was invited by Duchlan’s shrill voice to enter.
Duchlan, still in his dressing gown, was seated in an armchair, the only chair in the room. His son stood beside him and the old man had his hand on Eoghan’s arm. There was a look of such happiness on Duchlan’s face as caused the doctor to regret that he had intruded. But the old man showed no resentment at his coming.
“Forgive me,” Dr. Hailey said, “but at last there is a gleam of light. I am anxious to act quickly in case it should be extinguished and I need help.”
Both men stiffened to hear him. He saw anxiety in both their faces.
“A gleam of light,” Duchlan repeated in the tones of a prisoner who has abandoned hope and now hears that hope remains.
“That, or an illusion perhaps. I won’t raise false hopes by entering into any details, and besides time is short.” He glanced at the window as he spoke. The deep, transparent blue of the night sky was unchanged in color, but the outlines of the clouds had become sharper. He turned to Eoghan. “Will you come with me?” “Of course.”
“What about me?” Duchlan asked.
“We will report to you at the earliest moment.” They left the old man with his happiness and crossed the hall to the study. Dr. Hailey shut the door.
“I am about to keep an appointment,” he stated. “May I ask that, if you agree to accompany me, you will obey implicitly any directions I may give you and not ask any questions?” “With whom is the appointment?”
The doctor hesitated. Then a slight frowm gathered on his brow.
“With murder,” he declared in laconic tones.
T WANT you to obtain a reel of black cotton
and some pins.” Dr. Hailey spoke sharply. “You must find them downstairs, possibly in the servants’ quarters. On no account are you to set foot on the stairs.”
Eoghan did not try to hide his surprise, but his army training instantly discounted it.
He left the room. The doctor followed him and went to the little apartment opening off the hall, where hats and coats were hung. He took his own hat from its peg and carried it into the study. He glanced out anxiously at the night and then looked at his watch. The outlines of the trees below the window were dimly visible. After about five minutes Eoghan returned with the thread and pins. He handed them to his companion without comment.
“Wait here,” Dr. Hailey told him. He left the room, closing the door gently behind him. When he returned he was wearing an overcoat and carried a second overcoat.
“Put this on, please,” he ordered Eoghan, “and turn up the collar, then follow me.”
He extinguished the lamp and climbed out of the window on to the bed of earth on which McDonald’s footprint had been discovered. He glanced up as he did so at the window of Miss Gregor’s room, shut now and lighted by the moon. The gravel crunched under his feet, and he stood still in sudden hesitation. When Eoghan joined him he urged that the utmost care was necessary to avoid noise.
“The slightest sound may betray us. Ears are strained at this moment to catch the slightest sound.”
They crossed the gravel path, passing the front door. When they reached the grass bank the doctor told his companion to lie down and remain without moving. He threw himself on the grass as he spoke and crept forward toward the window of the writing room. Eoghan lost
sight of him among the shadows and then fancied that he could see him again near the window, but a moment later he gave up this idea. The air was still heavy with heat and felt oppressive and damp. He thought it was true that the darkest hour came before the dawn, perhaps the eeriest hour also, since the clear lines of night are blurred by mists and shadows. What had happened to the doctor and what was he doing?
A cough, short and dry, came from the darkness. Then Dr. Hailey’s voice rang out in accents that vibrated with fear and dismay.
“Don’t come out !”
There was a gleam as of steel, and Eoghan thought he heard a thudding sound. Then something heavy came galloping down the bank toward the place where he lay. He wiped his brow with his hand as it passed. There was a splash in the water below. He turned and looked down at the water.
A black object like a seal was swimming quickly out to sea. He felt sure that it was a seal.
The moonlight touched it. It gleamed.
Eoghan wiped his brow again. He could hear his heart thumping against his ribs.
A groan, low and piteous, came to him from the direction of the French windows. He heard his name pronounced in feeble tones.
EOGHAN rose and ran to the window. As he approached it he saw the large form of Dr. Hailey bending over someone who lay on the ground on the spot where Inspector Barley had fallen. The doctor lit an electric lamp and illuminated the face of the man. A cry broke from Eoghan’s lips. It was his father.
The old man spoke his name again. He threw himself on his knees beside him.
“Here I am, father—Eoghan.”
The long, withered eyelids opened wide. A smile of wonderful contentment appeared on the thin lips.
“Give me your hand.”
Eoghan took his father’s hands in his own. He bent and kissed the old man on the brow.
“I’m killed, boy.” A fresh groan broke from Duchlan’s lips and his features became convulsed.
But the spasm of pain passed. “He struck me on the head—as he struck the policeman.” He broke off, gasping for breath.
Dr. Hailey bent forward.
“Please don t try to talk, sir. It’s only wasting your strength.”
Duchlan shook his head. His grip of his son’s hands tightened.
“It was my fault,” he whispered, “from the beginning. But you’ve forgiven me. Tell me again, Eoghan boy, that you’ve forgiven me.”
He smiled again. His face, Dr. Hailey thought, looked younger. But suddenly they saw the light in his eyes grow dim. A cold rigidity spread over his features, fixing them in an expressionless stare. He moved convulsively like a man who tries to break strong bonds; he managed to raise himself on his elbow.
“This must be death—”
Suddenly his voice rang out clear and full of passion.
He pronounced the name “Kathleen.” A moment later he was limp in Eoghan’s arms.
Dr. Hailey opened the dressing gown and put his ear to the chest.
“What happened, doctor? What is this frightful thing?” Eoghan’s voice was hoarse with emotion.
“Your father came out through the window. I wasn’t able to warn him in time. He came on in spite of my shout.”
The young man’s breath had become labored. He bent his head.
“It passed close to me going down to the bum. If I hadn’t promised you to obey orders I could have prevented it. I saw it swimming away.” His voice faded in horror.
“We must carry him into the house,” the doctor said. “Unhappily, there’s something that remains to be done. You must prepare your courage.”
“What do you mean?”
As he spoke Dr. Hailey passed his hands under the old man’s body, and after a moment of hesitation Eoghan followed his example. They lifted the body and began to walk slowly toward the French window.
“We had better take him to the study.”
They moved very slowly in the darkness and several minutes elapsed before they found the couch. As they laid Duchlan on the bed on which his wife had been laid, a sob broke from Eoghan’s lips. Dr. Hailey struck a match to light the lamp. He saw the young man kneeling beside the couch, with his arms outstretched over his father’s body.
The sound of a thud, dull, sickening, came to them through the open door. Eoghan jumped to his feet.
“What was that?”
He strode out into the hall and stood listening. Dr. Hailey joined him. The sound of heavy breathing came to them through the open window of the writing room. The doctor lit his torch. Suddenly a shrill cry rang out. It was followed by a splash. Eoghan gripped his companion’s arm so that the beam of the torch was turned on to his face. His face was bloodless and his brow shone with sweat.
“There it is again.”
They rushed to the French window. The first breathing of dawn showed them the mouth of the bum, black as old pewter. The surface of the water was troubled though no wind blew.
They ran down the bank to the water’s edge. The troubling had ceased and the surface of the little estuary lay, mirrorlike, under the lightening sky. Dr. Hailey plunged into the water, which reached above his waist, and then bent down. Eoghan saw a white object, which he recognized suddenly as a human face, emerge from the water.
A N HOUR later Dr. McDonald came limping into the study where Oonagh, Eoghan and Dr. Hailey awaited him. He sat down and arranged his wooden leg.
“Well?” Dr. Hailey asked.
“I agree with you. Duchlan was murdered exactly as Dundas and Barley were murdered. Christina died from drowning, but her arm had been broken. There are herring scales on Duchlan’s wound and on one of Christina’s hands.” The doctor’s face expressed a lively horror. He added: “And still we remain without an explanation.”
“I don’t think so. I know the explanation.” Dr. Hailey put his eyeglass in his eye as he spoke. He turned to Eoghan : “The first gleam of light,” he said, “came when your father told me that during the epidemic of diphtheria here your mother nursed Christina’s son through his last illness and so gave her life for the boy. I know the Highland character. Gratitude is one of its strongest elements.”
He rose and stood in front of the fire.
“Christina from that hour, I feel sure, gave you all the
mother love which had belonged to her son and, in addition, all the kindness which your mother’s sacrifice had awakened in her warm heart.”
“She did,” Eoghan exclaimed. “She was my real mother.” There were tears in his eyes. He brushed them hastily aside.
“For which reason, her feelings toward your aunt cannot have been other than bitterly hostile. In fact, she admitted to me that they were hostile. She knew to what distresses your aunt had subjected your father’s bride; she knew that your mother’s happiness had been ruined by a process of exhaustion against which no happiness could be proof; and she knew that, in a sense at any rate, Miss Gregor was directly responsible for your mother’s death.” The doctor leaned forward. “But she was a Highland woman, a member of this household, in whose faithful eyes duty to your father, her master and chief, overshadowed every other duty. Since your aunt was Duchlan’s sister, she must continue to serve her.
“That attitude endured right through your childhood till your marriage. Christina’s behavior toward your aunt was respectful and solicitous until the illness of your little son began. But Hamish’s illness effected a great change—”
The doctor broke off. He readjusted his eyeglass.
“That illness was undoubtedly most alarming both to nurse and mother. To a superstitious mind—and Christina shared the mental outlook of her race—fits, even the mildest and least serious fits, always seem to partake of the supernatural. It is for that reason that epileptic children are called ‘fey’ in so many country villages all the world over. Christina undoubtedly felt that some evil influence was at work. She did not need to look far in order to discover it. Your aunt was already behaving toward your wife as she had behaved toward your mother. The tragedy of your father’s marriage was being reenacted before the eyes of the woman who loved you as only a mother can love. To the strong emotions of motherhood was added, therefore, that fear which haunts superstitious minds and, sooner or later, compels them to action. Your aunt, in Christina’s eyes, was become the deadly enemy of the Duchlan family in that she was secretly, by evil influences, destroying the health of its youngest heir, possibly even threatening his life. Thus, the reason which had existed for serving your aunt faithfully was changed into a reason for opposing her by every means. Motherhood and loyalty to this family were joined against the enemy of both.”
Dr. Hailey allowed his eyeglass to drop. It touched one of the buttons of his waistcoat and the sound struck sharply on the silence which filled the room.
“Christina told me,” Oonagh said, “that she was sure some evil influence was at work against Hamish’s health. She said the child would not recover until that influence was destroyed.”
“She repeated it again and again.”
Dr. Hailey readjusted his eyeglass.
“Bearing this in mind, let us come to the night of Miss Gregor’s death. That event had been preceded by two important happenings, namely your flight from this house, Mrs. Gregor, and the discovery of your meetings with Dr. McDonald on the shore. In the first instance, Christina was sent as an ambassador to bring you home, and from what you, McDonald, told me I conclude that, though Christina exonerated her young mistress from all blame, she was less ready to pardon you. You told me that she quoted the words : ‘Whom God hath joined together . . . ’ ”
“She did, yes, as she was leaving the house.”
“Note how jealous she was of the Duchlan honor. That jealousy was certainly reawakened when she learned about the meetings on the shore. Hers was not a mind, I think, able to understand the need of asking advice in a difficulty. Her own feelings compelled her so powerfully that she could not imagine the state of mind in which such compulsion is absent.” He turned to Eoghan. “Consequently she foresaw the immediate disruption of your marriage if news of what was afoot reached you. Here again the danger was your aunt.”
Oonagh had flushed hotly. She put her hand on her husband’s hand.
“Christina told me,” she stated, “that she was very much afraid of Eoghan’s return, because his aunt was going to poison his mind.”
“Did she urge you to see as little as possible of Dr. McDonald?”
“Yes. I told her Eoghan was incapable of misunderstanding.”
“Which she did not believe?”
“Which she did not believe.”
DR. HAILEY nodded.
“Very well, now we come down to the night of the murder. The important fact to grasp is that, on that night, you, Mrs. Gregor, had gone early to bed after a severe quarrel with your aunt. But you were roused because Hamish was ill again. You put on a blue dressing gown to
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go to the nursery. Incidentally you received a letter from your husband in which he told you of his financial loss and begged you to keep on good terms with Miss Gregor. This letter was the cause of your going downstairs, while Dr. McDonald was busy with Hamish, to report to Miss Gregor on the boy’s condition. Christina was coming out of Miss Gregor’s bedroom, candle in hand. As soon as she saw you, your aunt showed the liveliest terror and drove you from the room, locking the door behind you.”
He glanced at Oonagh for confirmation. She nodded.
“Why should Miss Gregor have reacted in that extraordinary way? I believe the answer is that, standing in the dim candlelight, in your blue gown, you looked exactly like Eoghan’s mother. So, years before, Eoghan’s mother had come into that room, knife in hand and with the light of a,feverish insanity in her eyes.”
Dr. Hailey’s voice fell to a whisper.
“That insanity, the result of a fatal attack of diphtheria, had but momentarily deprived its victim of her self-control. Miss Gregor was stabbed over the heart and severely wounded. The memory of that hour remained, quick and terrible in her spirit. Panic seized her. In her panic she locked herself in, closing the windows as well as the door.” He turned to McDonald. “You heard the windows being shut?”
“She was, therefore, shut up in her bedroom. There is no question that the door was locked. Now consider the case of Inspector Dundas. That poor man made one important discovery, namely that you, Captain Gregor, had just suffered a heavy loss at cards and must, if possible, obtain money from your aunt. I take it that you told your wife that Dundas had learned of this necessity?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Where did you tell her?”
Eoghan looked surprised. He frowned and then his brow cleared.
"I remember. I told her one night while we were sitting in the nursery.”
“Was Christina present in the room?” “Yes, she was. I remember it all quite distinctly now. Christina said she didn’t trust Dundas who, she was sure, would give us great trouble. She had suffered crossexamination at his hands, and in addition he had dared to order her about like a servant.”
“I see. Dundas threatened your safety. There could be no greater crime in Christina’s eyes. Barley’s case resembled that of Dundas except that the threat in this instance was to your wife.” Dr. Hailey turned to Oonagh. “Was Christina in the nursery when you heard the splashes and saw the black, shining object swimming down the bum?”
"No, she wasn’t. She’d gone into the pantry.”
“Was she in the nursery when Dundas was killed? You were there then, if you remember, awaiting my coming to see Hamish.”
Oonagh started; fear dawned in her eyes. “She was going back and forward to the pantry that night too,” she said.
rT'HE eyeglass fell. Dr. Hailey sat down and took out his snuff box.
“In each of these wounds, as you know, one or more herring scales have been found. Throughout this investigation, therefore, efforts have been made to find a weapon likely to bear such scales. They have been unsuccessful. No weapon was found in Miss Gregor’s room; none in Dundas’s room; none near Barley’s body, though the wardress in the car says she saw the gleam of steel.” He addressed Eoghan. “You say you saw the gleam of steel when your father was struck down?”
“I’m certain I saw it.”
“Yet there was no weapon in that case
The young man shook his head.
“Your aunt’s wound was of a terribly severe nature, but it was not mortal. In these circumstances one would have expected very severe bleeding. In fact, there was very little bleeding. Only two explanations are possible. Either she died of shock the moment she was wounded or the weapon remained impacted in the wound. She did not die the moment she was wounded because there was a trail of blood from the window to the bed. Nobody escaped from her room. That is certain, not only because your wife and McDonald were in the room below when the windows were shut and had a clear view of the only place to which an escaping murderer could descend, but also because the windows were bolted on the inside. We arrive at the apparently absurd conclusion that the weapon which killed your aunt vanished as soon as that lady’s heart had stopped beating, that is to say, as soon as her blood had ceased to flow.”
He took a pinch of snuff.
“In each case the weapon vanished after the blow had been struck. Come back to the murder of the lady. You, Mrs. Gregor, were the last person who saw her alive. She was then stricken with panic. I imagine that her first impulse was to return to bed and hide there. But soon the open windows attracted her notice. What if an attack was made from that direction? Panic does not reason; it acts. She jumped up and shut one of the windows. She was about to shut the other when she heard, far away, the sound of Captain Gregor’s motor boat. That sound, with its promise of safety and triumph, reassured her. She leaned out of the window the better to hear it. As she leaned there was a crash above her and she was wounded. She staggered back, shocked and panic-stricken. One arm was helpless, but she managed to close and bolt the window with the other. She staggered across to her bed and sank down. Her heart stopped.”
The doctor leaned forward.
“You all know how much importance Barley attached to that spike in the wall above Miss Gregor’s window. He observed, from the pantry on the top floor, that the rust on the spike had been rubbed away at one place, and concluded that a rope had been used. There is another explanation. The weapon which struck Miss Gregor as she leaned out of the window may have struck the spike in the course of its descent. And that, in fact, is what happened.”
He rose and resumed his place in front of the fire.
“When Miss Gregor leaned out of her window, Christina, in the pantry above, saw her. The sound of the motor boat reached Christina’s ears also. That faithful, superstitious woman heard in the sound the doom of all those she loved, of you, Captain Gregor, of you, Mrs. Gregor, of your child. Of Duchlan himself. In a few minutes Miss Gregor’s evil influence would be exerted to blast your marriage as it had been exerted to blast your father’s marriage, as it was being exerted to destroy your son’s health.”
Dr. Hailey paused and then added in quiet tones.
“At the moment when she heard the sound of the motor boat Christina was engaged in chipping ice from a large block to refill the ice bag on Hamish’s brow.”
THE silence in the room was broken by the first clear notes of a blackbird. A moment later the chorus of the birds, that immemorial song of the dawn, broke on their ears. A look of great gentleness appeared on Dr. Hailey’s face.
“Christina in that moment,” he said, "heard the call of her gods to action. She seized the block of ice and dropped it out of the window. It struck the spike and was shattered into several jagged daggers. One of these struck Miss Gregor and was wedged
firmly into the wound it had inflicted. In this hot weather it soon melted. She was dead before that occurred.
“The effect on Christina was exactly what might have been foreseen. Those who feel themselves called by Heaven to take action against the powers of evil, and who are greatly successful, develop immediately a spiritual pride that is nearly if not quite insanity. Christina constituted herself the protector of the Gregor family. When she heard that Dundas suspected you, Captain Gregor, she marked him down for destruction. The room above his, as you know, is empty. All she had to do was to wait there till he leaned out of his window and he did that no doubt at very frequent intervals on account of the heat. She knew that McDonald and I were coming upstairs; she heard Dundas wish us good night. He appeared below her. The block of ice was not shattered in this instance, for there is no spike above Dundas’s room. It rolled down the bank and went splashing into the bum. The current carried it out into the loch. The procedure was the same in Barley’s case except that a bait was necessary to induce him to walk under the window. It was supplied by the dropping of a preliminary block of ice. The resulting thud and splash, heard at the moment when he was about to arrest you, Mrs. Gregor, naturally excited his liveliest interest.”
He stopped and bowed his head.
“I planned tonight,” he said in tones of deep regret, “to excite Christina’s fears and
direct her hostility against myself. That was the object of my visit to the nursery and of the directions I gave. I succeeded too well. I had arranged my hat in such a way that, when I pulled on a thread, it would swing out from the French window. If Christina was guilty I felt sure she would strike again. Then, as I coughed to give the signal, Duchlan appeared. As you know, I shouted; but it was too late.”
He drew a long deep breath.
“The knowledge that she had killed her master, was sentence of death to the woman at the window,” he added. “Her fall did not kill her; as soon as she knew herself to be alive she rushed headlong down the bank to the water.”
The chorus of the birds filled all the spaces of morning. McDonald rose stiffly, dragging his leg.
“I believe,” he said, “that the ice comes from the Ardmore fishmonger. There are herring scales on every square inch of his walls and floors.”
Now that “The Silver Scale" is ended and you can say either, “Well, what did I tell you!” or “What do you know about that!" we advise you to take it easy until you receive your October 1st issue of MacLean's, in which will appear the first chapter of “There’s No Such Word,” a new novel by none other than Roland Pertwee. Here is a story which makes you catch your breath and giggle at the same time. So we want you to feel fit before you start it.—The Editor.