FICTION

BLIND GUESS

VALENTINE WILLIAMS December 15 1932
FICTION

BLIND GUESS

VALENTINE WILLIAMS December 15 1932

BLIND GUESS

VALENTINE WILLIAMS

YOUNG TIMMIE HERRON, I decided, was asking for a thick ear. Ever since Sara Carshill’s arrival that afternoon he had scarcely had a word for any of us, least of all for Antonia, his wife. He was whispering to Sara now and making her giggle, as she sat crouched on a low stool before the flaming hearth, her tawny head against his knee.

Timmie would explain that Sara was his guest, that it was his duty to make her feel at home at Herron Place. But that was no excuse for the way he was cutting up, as I could see Antonia was also thinking. Perched on the arm of Jack’s chair, she affected to be smiling over an argument that was in full cry between Virginia and Isobel Sprote, on the one hand, and Mark Bendall and the three Air Force youngsters, brother officers of Timmie—I knew them only as Bill, Kenneth and Geoffrey—on the other. But I was aware that Antonia was watching her husband and Sara through her long lashes. Her proud and lovely face gave me no clue, but I had known her fiery temper since her childhood, and I asked myself how much of this sort of thing she was willing to put up with. There was Roger

Carshill. too, sodden hulk though he was, I wondered what he thought of his wife’s carryings on.

Around eleven o’clock, after the Christmas tree in the Long Gallery and some osculatorv rough and tumble under the mistletoe, we had trooped off to Jack’s study to drink punch. We put out the lights and piled in 'round the elm logs blazing in the huge Tudor fireplace of old rosy brick. It was young Isobel Sprote who started Jack off on the legend of Tiffany’s Walk.

Tiffany’s Walk is the distinctive feature of Herron Place. It is a covered arcade, dating back to the late seventeenth century, which, in the shape of an E with the central bar missing, makes three sides of a parallelogram at the back of the house, to which it is joined through two small lobbies situated in the north and south wings respectively. With its low, deep-eaved roof carried on massive crossbeams, it affords adequate protection against almost all varieties of English weather, notwithstanding the fact that it is open, through a succession of wide bays, to the air. Within, it is lined with majolica tiles representing, with pleasing naiveté, birds and beasts, fishes and flowers, and floored with old red brick.

“I bet you’ve got a ghost in this topping old house of yours, haven’t you,

Major Jack?” Isobel piped up. “Major Jack” was what they all called him.

“Indeed we have,” Jack retorted with proprietorial pride. "And, what’s more, it’s a lady and supposed to be a relative of mine.”

There was an immediate clamor of “Tell us about her!” Antonia said lackadaisically: “Oh, Jack, you’re not going to make us listen to that old story again?”

“Shut up, Antonia,” Virginia cried indignantly. “Just because you live here . . . Go on, Major Jack,” she encouraged our host. “Make our flesh creep.”

“You all know Tiffany’s Walk,” Jack began. “It’s called after Theophania Herron, an ancestress of mine; Tiffany is an old diminutive of Theophania. She was bom in the reign of Charles the Second as an only child, and the legend runs that from birth her face was covered with fine, silky hair, like a spaniel’s ...”

An eruption of “Ughs” and little feminine squeaks ran round the circle.

"So that she never appeared in public,” Jack’s quiet voice overtoned the hubbub, “without a thick black veil. When her parents died and she became mistress of this house and estate, she grew more and more sensitive of her horrible disfigurement. To avoid the necessity of showing herself in public, she got a Bologna architect named Bonaventura to build her this arcade. Here it was her habit to promenade the greater part of the day. Then the catastrophe happened. A new steward was engaged; a handsome, strapping fellow, with an eye to the main chance. At any rate, he made up to Aunt Tiffany—”

“Aha!” Knowingly. This from Geoffrey, who had his arm about Virginia.

■yOU CAN imagine,” Jack pursued, “the tumult in that maiden breast. She had reconciled herself to the prospect of lifelong spinsterhood, believing that, even with the Herron Place rent roll, no one would want to marry a dogfaced lady of uncertain age. And here was the dashing steward, kissing her hands and bringing her posies and pestering her to lift her veil and let him see her face, vowing that his love was proof against anything. Well, she let him have his way at last. But when he looked upon that terrible face, his heart failed him and he fled away and was never heard of again.”

“And what happened to poor Tiffany?” Sara Carshill enquired in her caressing voice.

"She became more of a recluse than ever, spending the whole of the day and often half the night in the arcade, the scene of her broken romance. One morning, when the servants went to look for her, they found her, in the long black cloak and veil she always wore, hanging from a beam ...”

"O-ooh !” A shudder rippled through the audience. “And ever since that day”—our host’s voice was deliberately dramatic now—“they say that poor Tiffany walks the arcade by night, sighing and wailing and wringing her hands. And if she encounters any human in her path, she parts her veil and reveals her face and, so the story goes, the sight is so bloodcurdling that any one who looks upon it drops dead on the sjx)t.”

“Have you ever seen her . . . ?” Isobel broke off, her cheeks aflame, “Oh, I’m sorry. Major Jack ...”

He laughed good-humoredly. “My dear child, I’m spookproof. No ghost is going to waste her time on me, especially when her trick is mainly visual. But all my family firmly believe in Aunt Tiffany. My great-aunt Ada had a grisly tale about a Swiss valet, whom my great-grandfather brought back with him from the grand tour, being found dead early one morning in Tiffany’s Walk with his features convulsed with horror.”

“B-rr,” ejaculated Roger Carshill. suddenly waking up— he had drunk a lot of champagne at dinner, “you give a feller the creeps, major.”

"Pretty grim,” said Kenneth.

“What a rag if one met her!” murmured Isobel ecstatically.

“Good for you, Isobel,” Bill cried joyously. “You and

I’ll go out some night with a dog biscuit and see what happens.” He snapped his fingers and began to prance about, yelling, “Here. Tiff! Tiff, Tiff, Tiff! Good dog! Come and kiss the steward!” They all started ragging, and the party broke up in a turmoil.

It was Jack’s habit to stroll for a while in Tiffany’s Walk before turning in. That night I accompanied him.

“Tell me about this Mrs. Carshill that Timmie’s so stuck on,” he said suddenly.

As a novelist who has his office under his hat and can drift about the world at will, I had known Sara Carshill for several years. She was the Honorable Mrs. Banksley when I first ran into her at Biarritz. Then Banksley let her divorce him as the easiest method of getting on with his polo undisturbed, and soon after I encountered her at the Villa Igeia at Palermo with a somewhat moth-eaten Italian duke in tow. Carshill was new to me. All I knew about him was that he had some hazy connection with the turf and a virtually unassuageable thirst.

I gave Jack these facts baldly. “She’s an attractive baggage, a man-eater. She’ll grab Timmie if she gets half a chance.”

Jack grunted. “Running her rather hard, isn’t he? I mean, there’s an inflection in his voice when he speaks to her ... Or am I wrong?”

"I wish you were, for Antonia’s sake. She hasn’t said anything yet. But she was watching them tonight. If I know anything about it, she’s blowing up for one grand old row.”

My host sighed. “Poor Antonia ! They’re tremendously fond of one another really. After all. they’ve only been

married two years. But they’re going through a difficult period—separate rooms, and so forth. I wish she’d have a baby, Ned. This old place is something to hang on to in these changing times. Timmie will have it after me and his son after him, if only the young ruffian and Antonia would buck up and do their duty by the family ...” He broke off. “You know, I can’t help feeling that I’ve met Mrs. Carshill before. And that she recognizes me.”

“My dear old boy,” I protested, “I don’t see how you can possibly tell that ...”

“That crooning voice of hers, her laugh, is it? Anyhow, there’s something about her personality that’s familiar. I can’t explain what I mean exactly, but blind people are receptive toward such influences ...”

V\ THEN Jack Herron, after twenty-two years of soldier*V ing, walked into a German machine-gun barrage on the St. Quentin Canal, he retired to the ancestral seat in Wiltshire and, with characteristic pluck, proceeded to make the best of a desperately bad job. For a man of forty to lose his sight is bad enough; in the case of a fellow like Jack— well off, handsome, a keen soldier and good all round sportsman—it might well have proved a tragedy.

But Jack would not have it so. I had not seen him since the Hindenburg Line, for I was out of England when my young friend Antonia married Jack’s nephew, until I came across him at a regimental dinner in London. His eyes were not disfigured, and he camouflaged his disability and bore himself with so much confidence that, but for a certain halting deliberation in his movements, you would scarcely have guessed that he was stone blind. He was not in the least sensitive about his affliction. On the contrary, he was eager to talk about the new existence he had built for himself.

“No dog and string for me, Ned,” he laughed. “I may still be a bit at sea in town, but come down to Herron Place and I’ll show you some gadgets that’ll knock you cold.”

It did my heart good to behold old Jack strolling up through the gardens to welcome me as though he had never lost his sight. Of course, he had lived at Herron Place all his life and knew every stick and stone on the property; and fourteen years of darkness had quickened his remaining senses. But, apart from this, he was out to help himself. The whole estate was a mass of “gadgets,” as he called them, to help him find his way around without mishap, from life lines in the gardens and a row of posts, kept freshly creosoted, to wam his sense of smell that he was approaching the lake, to bosses on drawers and cupboards in his apartments to enable him to locate his things.

He would not let his old batman. Sims, now installed as butler-valet, do a hand’s turn for him beyond his ordinary duties. He gloried in his independence, shaving himself, even tying his own tie. He had learned to read Braille and use a typewriter. He fished. He spoke of taking up shooting again, assisted by Sims and a range-finding system of his own invention. He was even trying to devise a safe means of driving his car.

His only crotchet was a dislike of strange presences about him. Visitors to the house had to be brought to him immediately so that he might thereafter identify them by their voice or footstep—he was extraordinarily sharp about this. Walking with liim in tli« arcada tha aftai;;oon I arrived, I

drew his attention to the fact that a row of bricks in the flooring were loose—they had clanked under our feet as we strolled along.

Jack chuckled.

“Just another gadget, old son. I often sit out in Tiffany’s Walk, and I like to know who’s approaching. I’ve come to be pretty good at spotting j^eople by their tread, and those loose bricks help me—my detector, I call ’em. You've no idea of the variations in sound. I don’t make many mistakes ...”

Although maids waited on guests in the bedrooms, no servant, with the exception of Sims, ever appeared on the ground floor at Herron Place after seven a.m. Jack's rooms were on this level, looking out upon Tiffany’s Walk and communicating with it by a side door leading into the south wing lobby. Under the above arrangement, he could wander about the ground floor and out into the arcade as he liked without fear of encountering an unfamiliar presence in the shape of a new maid.

rT'HE back part of Herron Place was the oldest. The south wing, Tudor, incorporated the original dwelling house with a turret in rear, built under Elizabeth; and this turret had later been pierced, as to its lower part, to give access to Tiffany’s Walk. The bachelors of the party were in this wing, sharing a bathroom; myself in the upper room of the turret. Mark Bendall next door. Bill and Geoffrey doubling up across the way, and Kenneth at the end of the passage. A corkscrew stair descended from our corridor to the little lobby in the base of the turret leading into the arcade. Off this lobby was a minute bedroom to which

Timmie had moved, after surrendering his own, next to Antonia’s in the north wing, to Virginia and Isobel so that they could share Antonia’s bathroom. Timmie now used Jack’s across the lobby. In the north wing also, at the head of a small flight communicating with the north entrance to Tiffany’s Walk, the Carshills were lodged in sejxirate rooms with a bath between. \ ! "'S

Christmas was two days gone, and I was sitting up late over a set of proofs which I had overlooked until a frantic wire from my publisher at dinnertime reminded me of my neglect. It was two o’clock in the morning. The rowdy gang in the Long Gallery had long since broken up and :he house was plunged in silence. The night was so mild that I sat, wrapped in my old camel’s-hair dressing gown, at the open window. When I raised my eyes I could see Tiffany’s Walk spread out in a dark rectangle below.

I was absorbed in my task when my ear caught a faint sound outside. I glanced out. The night was moonless, but the tiled walls of the gallery reflected the faint light in the sky. Under its broad roof the arcade ran its length in obscurity and emptiness. Jack’s excellent ghost story seeped into my mind and. although I am completely incredulous about the supernatural, I remained gazing out, thinking about poor Miss Tiffany and her unhappy fate. And so it hapjxmed that my glance was directed at the farther end of the arcade, where it was joined to the north wing, when I saw a flutter of white and heard a muffled scream.

There was nothing spectral about the sound. It was a girl, Antonia, or one of the Sprotes. I concluded, who had cried out in terror. In two seconds I was down the winding stair. Cutting across the garden to save time, I dashed into the north wing lobby.

Light fell dimly from the corridor above and I recognized Isobel. Her teeth were chattering with fear.

*“Ned,” she panted, “I’ve seen her—Tiffany’s ghost. Oh. gosh. I’ve had such a fright!” She clutched me. Her hands were cold.

“My dear Isobel.” I soothed her, “what on earth are you talking about? You’ve been walking in your sleep.” Then I perceived that she was in her nightdress. I may be oldfashioned, but really, what girls consider clothing nowadays!

I slipped my dressing gown about her shoulders; at least my pyjamas were not diaphanous.

"Virginia was cold and went to sleep in my kimono,” she explained, still trembling, “and 1 didn’t want to wake her up. Bill bet me I wouldn’t go into Tiffany’s Walk at night.

I was to leave my hanky there as a proof ...” She broke off. her eyes round with terror. “Ned. you’ve got to believe me! I saw her, as plainly as I see you."

“Saw whom?”

"Poor Tiffany.”

“Oh, rot. Isobel. You’ve been dreaming.”

“I haven’t. I tell you. Just as I came out of the lobby I saw her all in black, just as Jack described. She was walking away from me when she suddenly stopped. I thought she was going to turn and show me that terrible face and—and I screamed. Then you came . . . . ”

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There was a step on the stairs. Antonia, her flaxen hair flowing down her shoulders, looking as slim and ghostly as a young birch in her white kimono, stood behind us.

“Ned,” she vociferated, “what on earth are you doing here? And Isobel?”

‘Tsobel’s been having nightmares,” I explained. “She thinks she’s seen the ghost—”

“But I did, Antonia, I did,” the girl broke in. “I saw her with my own eyes, all in black, walking down the arcade ...” At that moment 1 heard a door close softly in the corridor above, and I recollected that the Carshills were sleeping in that wing. I wondered whether Antonia had heard it, too. I looked at her, but her expression was unrevealing.

“Never mind about that now, Isobel. but come to bed.” she said gently and put her arm about the girl. “Sorry you were disturbed, Ned.”

Bewildered and rather chilly, I returned to my chamber. As I crossed the lobby something was glittering on the flags. It was a bronze hairpin. I realized that it lay outside Timmie’s door.

COMING from breakfast next morning. I bumped into Sara in the hall. As the Americans say, she looked like a million dollars. Her complexion, like her sports suit, was obviously from Paris. From the button of her dinky little beret to the soles of her natty snakeskin brogues, she was a finished work of art. She was going to play eighteen holes before lunch with Timmie, she informed me, as tlfough I, in common with everybody else in the house, didn’t know that this was the daily routine.

“Yours, I think, Sara?” said I. and handed her a bronze hairpin.

“Thanks, Ned.” Unsuspectingly her deft fingers tucked it in her clustering Titian hair. She was a fascinating hussy, and I sighed to myself as I thought of Antonia. Sara had reached the stage in a woman’s life at which she has nothing to learn from men and a great deal to teach—a formidable rival for any young wife. She was probably in the late thirties, I figured, but she still possessed the art of grading down her apparent age to suit her company. In that houseful of young people she was as young

as any and all the boys fairly swarmed about ; her. But clearly she had marked down Timmie as her unlawful prey. I remembered that one day he would inherit Herron Place and all Jack’s money. Knowing Sara, my heart misgave me.

A car honked and Timmie called from the drive. Sara ran out to him. I turned to find myself gazing into Roger Carshill’s yellowish eyes. I recalled the fuddled and rather quarrelsome state in which I had left him on the previous evening. He cast a rancid look after the departing car.

“What’s this I hear about you and the Sprote kid seeing ghosts last night?” he rumbled.

I laughed. “Isobel obviously ate something that disagreed with her and walked in her sleep ...”

“A woman in black, eh?” he grunted. His lizard eyes rested unpleasantly on my face. I walked away.

Going up to dress that evening, I found that Isobel had not returned my dressing gown. So I went across to the north wing, where in the corridor I met Antonia, who fetched it. Then, “Come into my room for a minute,” she begged. “I want to talk to you.”

“Ned,” she said abruptly but very earnestly, "I’m going to lose Timmie and I don’t know what to do about it. No, you don’t have to sympathize with me. Timmie and I haven’t teen hitting it off, but I love him and he loves me. Only he’s weak and easily led. That Carshill woman means to steal him and the terrible thing is that I can’t see how I’m to prevent it.”

I murmured something about temporary infatuations.

“Oh, Ned,” she burst out impatiently. “I’m not a fool. Timmie’s room is just off the arcade. Don’t you realize it was she who was in Tiffany’s Walk last night? Of course, she scuttled back to her room through the other lobby and the front of the house. I heard her door shut as I was talking to you.”

I thought of that bronze hairpin but said nothing.

“The only reason she didn’t go to Timmie last night was because Isobel scared her off,” Antonia went on tensely. “I can see her game. She means to compromise Timmie so that Roger will have to divorce her and she can many' Timmie. Did you know that that husband of hers made a disgusting Continued from page 45

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scene with Timmie about her after you left us last night?" The young face flamed suddenly. “But she’s not going to get away with it. if I have to kill her first !” Her voice was harsh with passion. “I have a pistol and I shan’t be afraid to use it.”

A pallid woman in shiny black looked in at the door. It w-as Sara’s French maid. She had a small jar in her hand.

“I bring madame back the cream she lend madame," she said impassively.

“All right. Jeannette, stick it down anywhere,” Antonia told her.

"That woman heard you,” I said reprovingly when the maid had gone. “How can you say such crazy things?”

Antonia’s shrug was stubborn.

“Why not talk to Timmie?” I suggested. “Do you think I have no pride?”

“Jack, then?”

Her expression softened.

“Poor darling, he has his own cross to bear.” She gave me her hand. “Thanks, Ned. I wanted to tell some one. But I must work this out for myself.”

After dinner that evening, I had a word with Jack. I told him everything I knew, excepting only Antonia’s foolish threat which I did not take seriously.

Jack was very calm about it.

“Thanks for letting me know, Ned,” he said. “But leave this to me, do you mind? I’ll handle it myself.”

He must have spoken to Timmie. The next afternoon he sent for me. I found him with a rug over his knees in his accustomed scat at the south end of the arcade.

“The young fool wants Antonia to divorce him so that he can marry Mrs. Carshill,” he grumbled.

“He ought to be horsewhipped,” I declared. “What does Antonia say?”

“I haven’t spoken to her. But Timmie has. He says she refuses. And she’s right.” "Look here. Jack, do you want me to have a word with Sara?”

He shook his head. “No. I’m the one to do that. But it’ll be in my own time.”

In the Long Gallery, that evening after dinner, I noticed that Jack made Sara sit beside him and they had a long chat.

TT WAS NOT pry business to interfere between husband and wife. But 1 resolved to be on the watch, and if I caught Sara again at her nocturnal prowlings, to tackle her and read the Riot Act. The night after Isobel’s adventure there was much whispering and giggling in Tiffany’s Walk, and I gathered that the gang was out ghost hunting. But Tiffany did not walk that night, if only for the reason that I detected Sara’s mellow laugh among the muffled noises echoing along the arcade.

Two nights went by without any spectral manifestation. Sitting up was no hardship for me. I usually write at night anyway. On the third night the household had retired a good two hours and it was getting on for three, when, casting one of my periodic glances toward the north wing whence I knew the “ghost” must emerge, I descried a figure standing motionless at the entrance to the lobby.

In a flash I was on my feet and down the stairs. The figure had not budged. Preferring to challenge her under cover of the house where we should not be overlooked, I made across the garden, keeping well in the shadow of the house. The night was dark as only a midwinter night in the country can be, with a touch of frost in the air. As I neared the far end of the gallery a shadow seemed to detach itself from the gloom of the lobby and went flitting past the first bay of the arcade. I realized then that I had missed her. If I wished to confront her I should have to head her off.

I pointed half right and darted swiftly over the flower beds, following with my eye that dark form slipping from bay to bay. Then, looking toward the turret entrance whence I had emerged, I was brought up short, my blood freezing in my veins.

What happened thereafter was the affair of split seconds. From where I was halted, panting. I had a clear view of the turret entrance. A shape lurked there, a shrouded, amorphous shadow. As I gazed it moved forward, its «hands, clasped beneath its robes, rising and falling in a gesture of tragic despair.

At that instant I heard a clanking sound in the arcade and knew that Sara had passed over Jack’s “detector”—that row of loose bricks. They lay a little more than halfway along the walk, nearer the south than the north end, and I realized that as soon as the second figure I had seen had turned the comer of the gallery, she would meet it face to face. Scarcely had the thought come to me than I heard a dreadful, blood-curdling shriek. Its echo was swallowed up in the ear-splitting crash of a shot.

I was aware of an orange flash that had split the darkness, of a stealthy footfall within the arcade. But I paid no heed to these. I sprang forward, vaulted the nearest bay into the gallery and recoiled in horror.

A dark mass lay on the ground. It was fiara. A dark kimono covered up her black nightgown and she wore black slippers. It did not take me a moment to discover that she was past help—the doctor told us afterward that she was struck through the heart and killed instantaneously.

A LIGHT footstep, and Antonia in her white robe gazed down on me where I knelt.

“Ned.” she gasped, “what is it? There was a shot ...” Then she saw what lay beside me. She had an electric torch in her hand and she flashed the beam on the dead woman.

“She’s dead.” I said.

“Dead?” Her eyes wide with fear. “Oh, Ned!”

“What did you do with that gun, Antonia?”

She stared at me in tearful dismay.

“Ned, you don’t think ...” She seized my arm and shook it. “Ned, I never even saw her go out. I left my door ajar, meaning to follow her if I heard her leave her room. But I fell asleep. It was the shot that wakened me. Ned, you’ve got to believe that ...”

Two pyjamaed figures broke from the south wing. Timmie and Sims. Timmie raised a haggard face to me from beside Sara’s dead body.

“Who killed her?” he demanded with a sob in his voice.

I took him aside.

“She’s dead, Timmie. and we can’t do anything about it. We shall have to send for the police and they’ll ask questions. You’ve got to pull yourself together and stand by Antonia.”

“Antonia?”-—blankly.

“Don’t you realize that she’ll be the first the police will suspect?”

“Good lord !” His glance sought his wife, but she had disappeared.

“Find her,” I told him curtly. “And don’t leave her. And listen—let me have that gun of hers ...”

“Ned,” he cried, horror-stricken, “you’re not suggesting—”

“Never mind what I’m suggesting. Get that gun away from her and bring it to me.”

He went off. Jack was at my elbow, telling Sims to ring up the county police.

“Just a minute, Jack,” I interposed, but he shook me off.

“I heard what you said to Timmie,” he remarked gruffly. “Nevertheless, the police

must be notified. Is Roger Carshill anywhere about?”

“He went to bed tight as usual,” I rejoined. “I was just about to wake him. But he’ll keep. Jack, I’ve got to talk to you before the police arrive.”

He let me take him a little way along the arcade and tell him what I had seen.

“So you were out prowling, too, were you?” he remarked, mildly curious. “Policemen are material beings. Ned. I shouldn’t start telling them ghost stories if I were you.”

I glanced at him sharply, but his sightless orbs robbed his face of all expression.

“But. old man.” I cried, “you don’t understand. It's Antonia I'm thinking of. She threatened to shoot Sara Carshill, and. what’s more, Sara’s French maid heard her.”

He frowned. “I didn’t know this. Even so—” He broke off. “Go and wake Carshill now and bring him to me. I must wait here for the doctor.”

“Is there nothing we can do to shield Antonia?” I persisted.

“We shall clear Antonia, never fear,” he said.

He spoke with so much assurance that I gazed at him, a dread suspicion clutching at my heart. His apartments were but a step from the arcade; he might w-ell have conceived a plan of dressing up to frighten Sara out of her little dodge to confront Roger and Antonia with the accomplished fact. Had Jack fired the shot? Impossible. Howcould he, a blind man, have recognized her, seen to aim? Even w-hen I remembered his detector and his boast that he could identify any footsteps once heard, I could not believe that old Jack could have murdered a w-oman in cold blood. But a small voice w-hispered that a man w-ho has stepped out of the sunlight into everlasting darkness may w-ell have his moral values confused, and I was afraid.

{'’ANE glance at Superintendent .Smith 0f tf,e Medford police and I decided that Jack’s advice was good. Therefore I told this heavy, plethoric person that, writing late, I was disturbed by a noise in Tiffany’s Walk and. going down to investigate, w-as accidentally an eyewitness of the fatality. With regard to the direction from which the shot came, I was unable, in all honesty, to help him: but I apprehended from the drift of his questions that the bullet had struck Sara from behind, passing through the lung and lodging in the heart. The suggestion was that she had been shot down from a distance of about twenty-five yards by some one who entered the arcade behind her. This cleared Jack; but it made things look blacker than ever for Antonia.

It was the evidence of Roger Carshill and Jeannette between them that first turned line superintendent’s mind toward Antonia. Carshill had seemed dazed when I awoke him w-ith the news of the shooting, and had remained in the same confused state when confronted with his wife’s dead body. But the arrival of the police roused him from his stupor and in hysterical tones he blurted out. in my presence, the w-hole story of his wife’s love affair with Timmie. Of the two, he appeared to be more incensed against Sara, calling her by a biblical epithet and declaring that for months she had been looking for the chance to be rid of him.

Colonel Masser, the chief constable, arrived toward dawn. He was personally acquainted with Jack as a prominent resident of the county. When Carshill's statements w-ere communicated to him. he at once sent for Antonia. The examination

took place in the Long Gallery. She threwme a pathetic, hunted glance as she passed me at the door. Boor child. I pitied her from my heart. The next I heard they were searching her room—for the gun. of course

and then Jeannette was fetched.

Soon after, Timmie, white to the lips, came out. Jeannette had told her story. The gun that had killed Sara had not been found -and Antonia’s pistol was unaccountably missing. It was a small one which Timmie had given her when they were motoring in France. Antonia w-as quite frank about it. Timmie said. She had come across it in a drawer a few days before and might have left it out; at any rate, it had disappeared. Bracketed with Jeannette’s account of the threat she had overheard, this sounded like the flimsiest lie.

I was brought in and asked to corroborate the maid’s story. The first person I saw was Jack seated at the table with Colonel Masser and the superintendent. Antonia, pale but composed, faced them in a chair, and Carshill, who kept mopping his face with his handkerchief, lounged on a settle. Jeannette, with lips tightly compressed and red eyes, was standing.

It was no good lying about it. I made light of Antonia’s remark, saying it was merely an outburst of childish temper. But I saw by the expression on Masser’s hard face that his mind was made up. After questioning me closely for particulars of Antonia’s appearance after I had reached Sara’s dead body, he turned to Jack.

“I’m sorry, major,” he said, “but I shall have to ask Mrs. Herron to accompany us back to Medford.”

Timmie bounded forward.

“You’re not going to arrest her, surely?” he faltered.

“She will be detained on suspicion pending enquiries,” was the dry rejoinder as the chief constable stood up.

Jack’s arm w-ent out groping and detained him.

“One moment, colonel. There’s yet another eyewitness to be examined.”

"Oh, and who might that lie?” Masser demanded.

“Myself.”

The chief constable cleared his throat and cocked an eye at the superintendent.

“An eyewitness, major?" he said in a puzzled tone.

“If you’ll defer action with regard to Mrs. Herron for a very few minutes," Jack offered delicately, “and will come down with me to the arcade, I'll show you what 1 mean.” He rose to his feet. “Ned, arc you there? Give me your arm. And Carshill. I heard your voice just now. Be a good fellow and lead me on the either side. All these strange people confuse me. Are you there, Antonia? You come, too.”

We entered Tiffany’s Walk from the north wing, and traversed its whole length as far as the bench in front of the south lobby which was our host’s favored retreat. Guided by Carshill and me. Jack sat down.

“Last night,” he said, "as often happens,

I could not sleep. So I came out here and sat down on this bench which, as everybody in the house knows, is my particular pitch. In this way, I happened to lx* here in the arcade when Mrs. Carshill w-as shot.”

T IIEARD Masser catch his breath sharply.

“Of course. I’m not an eyewitness in the accepted sense,” Jack proceeded, “but when a fellow can’t see, his ears must serve him for eyes. And now for a little experiment to explain my meaning. Let anybody w-ho is staying in the house go to the far end of the arcade and approach me and I'll guarantee to tell you, by the footstep, who it is.”

With a supercilious smile, the superintendent consulted the chief constable’s face. But it was evident that Masser was impressed. Silently he signed to Carshill. But the latter shook his head sullenly. With an enquiring glance at Masser, Antonia proposed herself. But the chief constable’s head-shake negatived the suggestion and he signed to me.

Continued on page 52

Continu ed from page 49

1 began to see old Jack’s game. He had dressed up to frighten Sara, and as he advanced along the gallery had heard the footstep of her murderer approaching from the other end and recognized it. But who could it be? Timmie? As the result of some bitter and dramatic lovers’ quarrel? I noticed that he had not volunteered to take part in the experiment.

Taut with suspense, I threaded the garden to the north wing and w'ent in under the arcade. I walked briskly along it, striking with my heels, and when I reached Jack’s detector you may be sure I made it ring.

“It’s Ned,” Jack cried when I was but a few yards from him.

But apparently Masser was not entirely satisfied. I saw him draw Carshill out of earshot and argue with him strenuously,. with the result that, though obviously unwilling, the latter slouched off across the garden toward the other end of the covered wav.

“Once more, major, if you please,” the chief constable commanded curtly.

Carshill’s footsteps approached. My eye sought out Jack. He was leaning forward in his chair, his head canted forward and sideways, listening intently. Tense and erect, Antonia stood beside him, her hand resting protectively on his.

The sloppy footfalls came nearer. Clank clank, w'ent the detector. Jack’s face was stony. But as Carshill rounded the angle of the gallery and halted sheepishly within a few paces of our little group, the man on the bench shot out an accusing finger and cried harshly, “Carshill!” Then, moving his head from side to side, he said querulously, “Colonel, where are you?”

“Beside you, major,” said Masser.

"Take him,” Jack rasped. “He’s your man !”

There wras an angry growl from Carshill. i He recoiled a pace, casting suspicious glances j about him.

"What’s this nonsense?” he snarled. “The : fellow’s off his chump.”

“Last night as I sat here,” Jack declaimed I in a sw’ift, triumphant voice, “I heard some one coming along the arcade. I knew it was a woman, by the lightness of her tread, and that she was hurrying. Standing up and going forward. I discovered from her footJ step that it was Sara Carshill. I suppose my unexpected appearance scared her, for i she screamed. At the same instant my ear picked up another tread, heavier and j stealthy, approaching along the gallery. As it drew nearer, I identified it as her husj band’s. Then I heard the shot ...”

“It’s a lie,” roared Carshill. “I was asleep when it happened. Ask him.” He pointed j at me.

“If you’ll search his room, colonel,” Jack ¡went on evenly, “I’ve no doubt you’ll find ! the gun— the one he took from Mrs. Herron’s ! dressing table ...” He broke off and called out in alarm: “What’s happening? Antonia, w’here are you?”

A savage scuffle had broken out between ; Carshill and Timmie. While Jack was ¡speaking, Carshill had suddenly sprung j backward, brandishing a pistol. Without ! hesitation Timmie leaped at his throat, bearing him to the ground. With a crash that awoke a thousand echoes under the vaulted roof, the pistol went off. But the j superintendent had hurled his 200 pounds ! into the mêlée, and Carshill, sullen and ! enraged but unhurt, was overpowered.

Superintendent Smith held out his hand I to Colonel Masser. The pistol looked verysmall in that immense palm.

“Here you are, colonel. With two cartridges missing from the magazine.”

“Why, it’s my pistol ! ” Antonia shrilled.

“And the gun that killed Mrs. Carshill.” Jack put in.

“The bullet will settle that question,” the ¡chief constable observed.

Carshill. slumped in a chair, was babbling out a lachrymose confession. Jeannette had told him of Antonia’s threat; he had seen the gun in Antonia’s room and abstracted it as a measure of precaution. He hadn’t meant to kill his wife. He was drunk; he had only fired to frighten her. Twice before, she had left him for other mén. But he was younger then, not old and broke, as he was now. He blubbered in resonant self-pity.

They took him away on the first stage of his progress toward the five years penal servitude he got at the assizes on the manslaughter charge.

r"PHE house party broke up incontinently.

Jack was in Medford with the police all day. But that evening we dined alone together before the fire in his study.

“Jack,” said I, raising my glass, “I look toward you. You’re a marvel.”

He laughed. “That rat,” he pronounced deliberately, “always gave me a bad feel.” “There’s one thing I don’t understand,” I put in. “You told the police you identified Carshill by his footstep when he followed Sara into the arcade. But when he shot at her he couldn’t have been within twenty yards of your detector, as you call it. How did you spot him, then?”

Jack chuckled. “Pure bluff, old boy.” “Bluff? Then that experiment in the gallery—”

“Fake. Not with you. I’d know your elephantine tramp anywhere, and you sounded those bricks like a good ’un. But with Carshill. You see, he’d always steered clear of me and I wouldn’t have known his footstep from the Queen of Rumania’s—” “Then how did you work it?”

“Antonia. She Morsed his name on the back of my hand. Yours, too, only with you it wasn’t necessary. Antonia and I have been practising for ages. It saves all kinds of explanations in public. I got the idea from Edison and his wife. Though Edison was deaf—”

“That’s all right for the experiment. But how did you know it was Carshill who followed Sara into the gallery?”

“I didn’t. It was a blind guess.” He chortled. “You see, Sara and I were old acquaintances, though her name was Stella Young when I knew her in Egypt. She never dreamed that I. blind as I am, could possibly have known her again. But I’m pretty sure she recognized me. The way she kept her boy away from me proves that—”

“Then you’d met Carshill before, too?” “Rather. The pair of them were playing the badger game -blackmail, you know—in Cairo, ’way back in T5. The Provost Marshal ran them out. and I was the A.P.M. that put them on their ship at Port Said ...” He raised his head sharply. “Who’s that outside in the arcade?”

I stepped to the window.

“Two young idiots making a fresh start.” I said.

As I turned back to the table I saw. hanging behind the door, a black domino, relic of some old masquerade, and with it. a black silk handkerchief large enough to serve at a pinch as ä veil. I glanced accusingly at Jack; but he had settled himself back in his chair, his clear-cut face illuminated by the look of inward peace that comes to a man whose day’s work is done.

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