Fiction

STUFFED SHIRT

To Lucy and John, her husband was just a until the day came when three shots rang out over the tropic lake

ROBERT STANDISH September 15 1952
Fiction

STUFFED SHIRT

To Lucy and John, her husband was just a until the day came when three shots rang out over the tropic lake

ROBERT STANDISH September 15 1952

STUFFED SHIRT

Fiction

To Lucy and John, her husband was just a until the day came when three shots rang out over the tropic lake

ROBERT STANDISH

IT IS THE small crises and irritations of life which so often prove insurmountable, perhaps because they do not offer a worth-while challenge. It was so in the case of Wilfred Hopking. He had accepted as probable, if not certain. that Lucy, his wife, was being unfaithful to him. He forgave her for her flagrant neglect of their home and want of consideration for his comfort and sincerely tried to forgive her for her ignorance, her ungrammatical speech and generally uncouth outlook on life, for he had the justice to realize that these shortcomings were a part of her and that he must be prepared to pay the price for not having seen these things before it was too late. Wilfred Hopking had swallowed his camels, but he was straining at a gnat: he did not believe he could endure coming home many more times to rind Lucy sprawled in a long chair under a reading lamp, which revealed her blond hair growing mousey at the roots, holding a trashy novel in one hand, while the other was kept poised over an open box of chocolate creams.

Hopking was the Government Botanist of the State o: Zimbatan. the last remaining independent sultanate in the Malay Archipeiago. A year previously he had been on leave in Australia for his health. After four solitary years, mostly spent in the jungle, his critical faculties had not been functioning too well at the time he met Lucy Brandon, the vivacious war widow who had been staying at the same mountain hotel. Wilfred was thirty-eight years of age. while Lucy admitted to twenty-nine.

At the time this story opens Wilfred, after ten days in the

jungle, had just boarded his launch to come down river to the little coastal settlement of Sulu, the capital of the state and the only place he called home. It occurred to him, and not for the first time, that instead of being the joyous thing it should have been, he dreaded his home-coming. A letter in the breast pocket of his khaki shirt nagged at his consciousness. During the last ten days he had read it many times, feeling somewhat ashamed of himself at so doing, for the letter was anonymous and it concerned Lucy. It had been posted in Australia and was signed "Well Wisher.” The writer, whose motive was obscure, asked Wilfred whether he knew that Walter Brandon, who. according to Lucy, had been dead some rive years, was still alive.

If this were true—and Wilfred was inclined to believe so— it represented the one patch of blue sky on an otherwise grev horizon. But. even if true, how could it be proved? Lucy had been born in London. Where she had married Brandon had never seemed imponant until now. nor had Wilfred ever questioned her about the date and circumstances of his death. Now. if the anonymous letter were to be believed, he obviously could not look to Lucy to protride information which would prove their marriage to be bigamous.

Wilfred arrived at Sulu a few minutes before the cunain of tropical darkness fell. Leaving Chang, the Chinese crew of one. to benh the launch he hurried in the direction of his home, anxious to see in daylight how some rare orchids had fared during his absence. Darkness had fallen when he left

the garden in the direction of his

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Stuffed Shirt

CONTINUED FROM PAGE 12

bungalow and it was by accident, not design, that he found himself behind a clump of hibiscus just below the lighted veranda at the moment when Lucy's laughter and that of a man broke the evening silence.

“I can’t think." said the man, “what made you marrv a stuffed shirt like Wilfred.”

Wilfred Hopking's vocabulary had not progressed with the times. He was vaguely aware that the express’on “stuffed shirt” was an Americanism, probably introduced into Australia during the war. but he had never heard it before, which did not stop him from conjuring up an unflattering picture of himself as seen through other eyes. He became very angry-, so instead of going inte the house, he walked a few hundred yards to the Sulu Club, for he wanted to think. The man's voice had been that of John Hudson, his own assistant, which seemed to aggravate Lucy's disloyalty.

While sipping a couple of drinks in a quiet comer of the Club. Wilfred Hopking decided that his forbearance was at an end.

JOHN HUDSON had gone when Wilfred returned to his bungalow. Lucy, wearing a frowsynegligee, was lying on her favorite long chair. On the table beside her was whisky and soda water. Hopking professed not to see the two soiled glasses and the stub of a cigar in the ash tray. On his entry, without even looking up from her novel. Lucy gave him a cool "Hello, you're back.”

A slovenly Chinese servant, who took his cue from his mistress, served Wilfred with some canned meat and canned vegetables. Having lived on canned food in the jungle he added this to the list of grievances against his wife. As soon as he had finished eating he broached the subject uppermost in his

“If you can spare me a few minutes from your book, my dear.” he said mildly, “I would like to talk to you.” "Well,” she said, looking up. "what

"It must be as plain to you as it is to me. Lucy,” he began, “that our marriage is not a success. The reasons do not matter: only the fact is important. Trying to apportion the blame will achiey-e nothing so let us regard our failure as a joint one and leave it

"What sort of a life do you think it is for me?" she railed immediately "What woman could find anything to do in this lousy dump?"

"Several women whom we both knotv manage to lead useful and happy lives here, my dear, but that is no help to us and I merely mention it in passing. The important thing is, what are we going to do about it?"

"You tell me." said Lucy, her eyes hard with suspicion.

"I think you would be happier elsewhere. my dear." said Wilfred softly.

"Perhaps you'll tell me yvhat I'm going to live on elsewhere?”

"I have, of course, thought of that,” said Wilfred. "I am not. as you know, a rich man. My salaryis not large. Happily, however, my tastes are simple. I am prepared to allow you half my official salary-. With that you should be able to live modestly wherever you choose . .

"And what about the five thousand pounds in War Loan that you have hidden away at the bank'0 Who gets

‘Lou have, I see, been prying into

my private papers during my absence," said Wilfred coldly. He was now angry and it made things easier. “The pinching and scraping I did to accumulate that sum was done years before I ever met you. Lucy, and you will have no part of it.”

“Then, if that’s how you feel,” said Lucy jauntily, “I'll stay here until you think different. Give me the five thousand and half your pay and I'll be off on the next boat.”

“Remember this conversation. Lucy,” said Wilfred, "and remember, too, that I made you a generous offer. I will give you forty-eight hours to think things over. The next offer will be less generous.”

SEVERAL weeks passed during yvhich Lucy and Wilfred barely spoke to each other. At the office, however. Wilfred subtly made John Hudson aware of his suspicions, relying upon him to discuss the matter with Lucy. Meanwhile, he was planning his next trip into the jungle. On this trip he announced his intention of taking John Hudson with him.

The effect of this announcement on Lucy was startling. In the past she had scornfully refused to accompany Wilfred on his trips into the interior, but now she reversed her attitude. "I'll come if there's room for me,” she said.

"We ll make room for you. my dear." said Wilfred pleasantly. “I’m sure it will be better for you than lying on the veranda all day earing chocolates. You'll have to watch your weight. Lucy, because you haven’t the bone structure to carry flesh.”

'Md sooner have a bit of flesh than be a bag of skin and bones like you." retorted Lucy, stung by the remark.

Physically. Wilfred was not imposing. He was a wisp of a man. with bottle shoulders and a head disproportionately large. Hudson, by comparison. yvas huge. He was a beefyyoung man, full-blooded and healthy. The jungle had not yet taken toll of him—but it would.

The trio set out at dawn in the government launch. Chang, who yvas Wilfred’s loyal servant, doubled as cook and mechanic. Towed astern was a dinghy and outboard motor. For the first fifty miles along the coast the weather was gay and sparkling. The way then led into the broad estuarv of a river and a dense belt of mangrove swamps, where the mud churned up by the propeller smelled vilely. The tyvo men were used to the smell, but at the evening meal Lucy announced herself unable to eat anything. “Think hoyv good that will be for your figure." said Wilfred mockingly.

Lucy's full-bloodedness attracted swarms of mosquitoes that night. She appeared in the morning with swollen eyes and her lower lip looking as though she had been in a fight. "If I were you. my dear,” said Wilfred, ‘T would spend some of the daylight hours mending the mosquito net.”

From the beginning the trip was not pleasant. All three yvere too conscious of the yveight of unspoken thoughts, while Hudson and Lucy were uncomfortably ayvare of a certain mockery in Wilfred's manner. It was hard to pin doyy-n. but undeniably there. Lucy was frightened. She voiced her fears to Hudson. "He's hatching something. John. I know it. I'm scared

You're imagining things, Lucy, said Hudson. "I can handle the little man and six like him. Don't worry-.

Hudson's beef and brawn alongside Wilfred's insignificance and seeming frailty yvere reassuring, but Lucy remained uneasy. Even if Wilfred lacked brute force, he had a good brain. Far

Continued on page 30

from being sensitive, Lucy liad, furthermore. detected the subtle hardening in his attitude toward her.

The heat made things worse. The river was growing narrower and the dense vegetation on either bank seemed to press inward until at times it was hard to breathe.

“You are probably claustrophobic, my dear.’’ said Wilfred in answer to Lucy’s complaints.

“There you go with your long Latin names again!" snapped Lucy. “Why don’t you talk the King’s English sometimes?”

“I wonder.” said Wilfred with t >mile, “whether you would understand me if I did.”

"There’s a dirty crack.’ guffawed Hudson tactlessly. "By God. Lucy, you asked for that one.”

A little while ago. Lucy realized. Wilfred would not have so humiliated her. She took refuge in a sulky silence, concentrating on the repairs to the mosquito ret. The shadows were lengthening and she dreaded the winged horrors the night would bring.

At nightfall they reached a point where the river was no longer navigable. It had opened out into a lake about a mile in diameter. The launch was anchored almost in the centre of the lake, where there was a cool breeze and relatively few insects. The lakeshore was mostly flat, but the sun set behind a high cliff which rose about two hundred feel sheer from the water.

Du -ing most of the evening Wilfred Hupking sai in the bows of the launch alone, listening on a portable radio to a symphony concert broadcast in London and relayed by an Australian station. Lucy and Hudson, neither of whom liked classical music, sat in the stem well chatting uneasily.

4T DAWN Wilfred and Hudson set fl out in the dinghy. Lucy wanted to go with them, but there was no room. Most of the space was occupied by specimen cases. At the last moment Wilfred took down a rifle from its rack on the cabin wall and pushed off. The look he gave his wife in those last seconds haunted her for the rest of the day. She stood on the deck until the dinghy rounded a bend and disap¡x-ared up a tributarystream. The last ■ hing she saw was Hudson's red-andblack check shirt in the stem of the dinghy. She had made the shirt with her own hands as a gift in one of her rare bursts of energy.

At around four o’clock in the afternoon Lucy, who was dozing on deck under i canvas canopy, heard the sound of a rifle shot. Chang heard it. too. A little later there came another shot, this time from the top of the cliff about &;i\ hundred yards distant, where two figures were silhouetted against the western sky. Fetching the glasses f-'t;m the cabin Lucy had n; difficulty in identifying the two figures as those of her husband and -John Hudson. In the stillness of the afternoon she heard Wilfred’s high-pitched voice raised in anger. Hudson was now poised at the top of the cliff, while Wilfred, rifle at the ready, was walking slowly towards him. When he was about eighty yards distant. Wilfred raised the rifle to his shoulder and fired. John Hudson's body seemed to sway and then it pitched backwards and fell with a splash into the lake. For two minutes afterwards Lucy could see it bobbing in the current, easily visible because of the red and black shirt. She screamed to Chang to start the engines and go to his rescue. Chang, his face a mask of indifference, shook his head.

An hour later the phut-phut of the outboard motor became audible as the dinghy swung out of a tributary stream into the lake. Wilfred was at the helm.

but there was not a sign of Hudson.

“I’ve brought back a nice tender young sucking pig for dinner,” Wilfred announced casually. “With some sage and onion stuffing it will make a pleasant change.”

“You murdering swine,” screamed Lucy. “I seen you do it. He was the only man I ever loved and if it’s the last thing I ever do I'll see you hung for it.”

“Hanged, my dear, please,” said Wilfred in gentle reproof. "The grammar of our judges is impeccable and they always say ‘hanged.’ ”

Lucy gave herself over to the luxury of hysterics, while Wilfred, apparently quite unperturbed, gave Chang instructions for the cooking of the sucking pig and settled down to enjoy some broadcast music.

rWAS nearly nine o’clock before Chang announced that dinner was ready. Lucy chose that moment to emerge from the sleeping cabin. She and Wilfred sat down in silence to their

The sucking pig was tender and delicious. Each ate two helpings. “I must say, my dear,” observed Wilfred, pushing his plate away from him, “that for a woman who has just seen the only man she ever loved murdered by a jealous husband you have a remarkab y good appetite. I do hope that, from wherever he may be now, Hudson didn’t see you take that second helping of sucking pig. He wouldn’t be flattered, poor chap.”

“Why did you kill him, Wilfred?” asked Lucy, blushing.

“I don’t admit that I did kill him, my dear. But if I had killed him my reason would have been that he was your lover. As good a reason as any, eh? Crime passionnel is what the newspapers call it, I think.”

‘There you go, spouting Latin again,” said Lucy, sidetracked by her irritation.

“It isn’t Latin, my dear. It’s French for what jealous husbands sometimes do to their wives and vice versa. French juries, you know, are notoriously lenient in such cases.”

“Who says that John was my lover?” “I do, my dear.”

“Well, what if he was? I’ll gamble you can’t prove it.”

“If, as you tell me, my dear, Hudson is dead, surely it’s hardly worth while proving. After all, de mortuis and so forth, you know .”

“There you go, more Latin!”

“Ah, well, Lucy, if I’m going to be hanged you won’t be troubled any more by my deplorable habit of using Latin. That last was Latin, by the way, my dear. You’re developing quite a gift for languages.”

Lucy gave it up. Her husband’s tongue had never before had the power to hurt her, but what she did not realize was that until now he had never

Lucy wept tears of relief when, six days later, the launch was moored alongside the pier a few hundred yards from their bungalow. By this time her nerves were raw from Wilfred’s constant needling and her hatred for him knew no bounds.

Pausing at the bungalow only long enough to bath and change, Wilfred Hopking made his way toward the club. To Chang, whom he met on the way, he said: “Men will soon come to ask you questions. Tell them the truth. That is my order. The truth and only the truth.”

AT THE CLUB Wilfred joined a L mild poker game. He was a popular man among men, who appreciated his dry wit more than it was

Continued on page 33

appreciated at home. They knew that he had made an unfortunate marriage sind were sorry for him.

No sooner had the game started than Masterson, the Superintendent of Police, was called away. He returned a few minutes later, looking grave. “Sorry to interrupt the game, you fellows,” he said, “but I must talk to Hopking privately.”

Out on the club veranda Masterson said: “What’s this tale your wife has brought back, old man?”

“What tale?”

“That you have murdered Hudson. You haven’t, have you?”

“No, I haven’t.”

“Well, where is Hudson if he didn’t come back with you?”

“I don’t know, Masterson. We had a bit of a disagreement. Nothing much, you understand—and then he cleared off. I hung around for him for three days and then, as food was running out, returned without him. He’ll turn up one of these days by canoe.”

“You seem to be taking it all very lightly, Hopking,” said the policeman, “but you may as well know that your wife has lodged a formal charge of murder against you. She states that she saw you shoot him.”

“Lucy’s tongue runs away with her at times, Masterson. If I were you I wouldn’t pay any attention to her.” “But Chang corroborates her in every detail, my dear chap. Unless you produce Hudson you must see that I have no choice in the matter but to arrest you and charge you formally with his murder.”

“I’ve told you once, Masterson, and now I repeat it: I d'dn’t shoot Hudson. Furthermore, I’ve nothing more to say in the matter. The whole thing is absurd.”

And from this attitude nothing would shake Wilfred Hopking.

THE JURISDICTION of Zimbatan was by way of being a hybrid Its foundation was the ancient local law onto which, centuries previously. Islamic law had been grafted. Then, in the middle of the nineteenth century, with the influx of Europeans and Chinese, the old law had proved inadequate in the face of changed conditions. The present Sultan’s grandfather had asked Great Britain to lend him judicial officers to recodify and administer local law. Much of the law and most of the legal procedure were extremely close to the British system. The Chief Justice, Mr. Fotheringham, was, however, not in any sense a British representative. He was employed by and responsible to the Sultan, who was in himself the last court of appeal in the land, although he had only on two

occasions reversed court decisions.

After a brief preliminary hearing Wilfred Hopking was committed for trial before Mr. Justice Fotheringham.

Lucy Hopking, meanwhile, was in a fever of impatience for the trial. She was by way of being a famous person. Two newspapermen had flown from Singapore to interview her and she had received a cabled offer from a London Sunday newspaper for her story. She had by now so dramatized her sordid liaison with Hudson that it was beginning to rank in her eyes as i heroic love story.

On a morning a few days before the date set for the trial Lucy was feeling a little neglected when she saw with pleasure Mr. Hutchinson, the Public Prosecutor, alight from his car outside the bungalow. He was a man with oldfashioned courtly manners and his deference to her during their necessary interviews had pleased her.

“The news I have for you is not good, Mrs. Hopking,” he began without preamble. “Unless further evidence appears it may be necessary to withdraw the charges against your hus-

“You mean he isn’t going to be hung?” Lucy asked in dismay.

“Your husband has invoked an ancient law of the state, Mrs. Hopking, which forbids a wife to testify against her husband. We have been hoping for further evidence in the form of the corpus delicti.”

“The uhat.'”

“That is, the—er—body of Mr. Hudson. With the body, plus a bullet which could be proved to have been fired from your husband’s rifle, and of course the evidence of Chang, we could have secured a conviction without your evidence, but now

“Poor John!" said Lucy sadly "He was everything to me. Mr. Hutchinson 1 loved him . . . and now Wilfred the brute, is going to get away with it

“1 fear so, Mrs. Hopking." said Hutchinson, who liked Hopking and privately deplored the wife’s vindictiveness, "but the law is the law Unless Mr. Hudson's body is found, which I must warn you is highly improbable. the charges will be withdrawn. There is no hope of obtaining a conviction upon the uncorroborated testimony of Chinese ser\ant." He rose to leave.

"Don't go just yet, Mr Hutchinson." Lucy implored. “I’ll tell the bov to bring us coffee . a drink. Let me think for a moment, but don't go.”

Hutchinson looked at her wonderingly. for her face had become a mask of hatred. All the simpering affectations were gone and the real naked Lucy Hopking stood revealed there. She

seemed almost c.'uoih:, with malice.

"Supposing. Mr. Hutchinson, just supposing.” she said after a silence of several minutes, "that I wasn't his wife after ail. Supposing that when I married him I had a husband alive. What then. Mr. Hutchinson'?'

"If that were so—and you could prove it—there would be no bar to your giving evidence against vour —against Mr. Hopking. In that event, even in the absence of the corpas delicti—the— “r—body. I think we should secure a conviction."

"And he'd be hung?”

"That would be for the judge to decide. Mrs. Hopking. But am I to infer that the hypothetical case you have just put to me is in fact the

"Say that again. Mr. Hutchinson.’'

"Am I to understand that when you went through a form of marriage with Wilfred Hopking a previous husband was alive?"

Lucy could not keep the coyness out of her nod of assent.

In a few moments Hutchinson had made a note of all the essential information. including the present address of

Waiter Brandon. He sighed as he did so. for he liked Wilfred Hopking. After warning Lucy that she hereself faced a charge of bigamy, he left.

"I'll go to prison if I must." said Lucy, tossing her blonded curls defiantly. "It'll be worth it to see that dirty so-and-so hung." The unprintable epithet she used shocked Hutchinson profoundly.

AFTER THAT the law had to take L its course. There was a brief postponement of the trial to allow time for evidence to arrive by air mail to the

that W alter Brandon, the lawful husband of Lucy was still alive. Lucy was permitted to testify against Wilfred Hopking.

“Well, well! Who would have thought it of Lucy?" observed Wilfred cheerfully when informed by Masterson of this development. It was Masterson who. as a friend, urged Wilfred to have his defense undertaken by a lawyer. "It’s very kind of you. Masterson.” he said, "but I don't like lawyers. I never have. They have a deplorable habit of complicating perfectly simple issues. I am an innocent man who has an unbounded faith in the triumph of truth and justice."

The first witness called at the trial was Masterson. who produced to the court the marriage certificate of Walter and Lucy Brandon, together with the sworn statements of each that the marriage had not been annulled, or ended by divorce. Wilfred Hopking wagged his finger roguishly as Lucv came forward to testify.

Advised by Hutchinson to conceal her malice Lucy told her story simplv and convincingly. She swore to having heard several shots and to having seen Wilfred Hopking fire one shot at Hudson, whose body had thereupon toppled over the cliff edge and. caught by the swirling current, disappeared downstream. Wilfred Hopking waived his right to cross-examine.

Chang corroborated the story indetail, looking across at his master appealingly, as though for forgiveness. "Tell the truth," said Hopking.

"When I require your assistance in conducting the prosecution.” observed Hutchinson coldly. "I will let you

"In your own interests. Mr. Hopking " interposed the judge. “I consider that you should be legally represented. You are on trial for your life. I am prepared to adjourn court to give you time to instruct counsel.”

"Thank you. Your Honor.” came the smiling reply, “but I prefer to conduct my own defense.’

There was further evidence from the servants at the Hopking bungalow, the purpose of which was to establish the motive of jealousy. When this had been heard the court was adjourned for

During the recess Chang was permitted to visit Hopking in his cell. He was shamefaced and hunched with grief. "That it should have been I who helped to swear away the life of a good master." he said bitterly. "If the master will only permit me I «rill go back to that room and I will swear that the woman gave me money to speak

"Listen to me. Chang.’ said Hopking in Malay, their only common language. "Listen and obey. Then all will be well and we shall make many more voyages together."

When he left the cell Chang's weather-beaten face was wrinkled in a broad smile, and as he left the precincts he was heard to laugh.

The afternoon session of the court was occupied chiefly by a half-hearted speech from Hutchinson, which lost force by the absence of any rebuttal.

"Do you wish to speak in your o«n defense. Mr. Hopking?"’ asked the judge.

"V es. sir. I do."

"Then, if you require more than an hour to address the court, tomorrow being a holiday, we will adjourn until Monday at 10 a.m."

"Ii the court pleases." replied Hopking. "I shall require more than an hour. In the circumstances I would prefer to begin it after the adjourn-

"1 hen. so be it. Court is adjourno, until Monday at 10 a.m.”

Il IC Y WAS suffering under a sense à of anticlimax and grievance. Her little hour of glory was gone. The triumph of her appearance in court, so wonderful in anticipation, had fallen flat, for it is of the essence of triumph that it be enjoyed with an audience. The white community, shocked by her malice, ignored her existence All the sympathy was for Hopking, to whose cell there went a constant stream of visitors over the week end.

On the Monday morning, when Lucy entered the court. Hopking was already speaking. “I will not state that Mrs Brandon is a liar.” he was saying. ”1 prefer to be more charitable and say that she is mistaken. Humnuum est crrnrr That, my dear,” he said to the furiously blushing Lucy, "is a free translation of the Latin tag which says that we see what we want to see ” "You will kindly address yourself to the court and not to individuals,” snapped Fotheringham. “Furthermore, your vague, unsworn statement that you did not kill John Hudson is worth precisely nothing against the sworn testimony of two witnesses who state that they saw you do so.”

"Your Honor.” said Hopking amusedly, “it is notoriously difficult to prove a negative. If I had witnesses 1 would bring them. But witnesses to what? There are millions of people who did not see me kill John Hudson, but Your Honor would not listen to them if they came here to say so.”

While Hopking was being rebuked judicially for this facetiousness the door of the court opened. Chang's head and shoulders appeared briefly before he withdrew

‘I beg the court’s pardon.’ said Hopking, "hut I wished to illustrate the difficulty of establishing a negative assertion ’’

"The court is well aware of that, Mr Hopking. You may proceed."

"Although on the first day of the trial I waived mv right to call witnesses,” said Hopking. “I now throw mvself on the indulgence of the court and ask permission to call one witness.” "I trust, Mr. Hopking." said the Judge, ‘‘that this is not one of the millions of people who failed to see you shoot Mr. Hudson.”

"No. Your Honor. Nevertheless. I am hound to state that his evidence will be of a negative character, hut I assure the court that he will establish my innocence and demolish this tmm|>ed-up charge.”

"The name of your witness.’ He shall be summoned at once.”

"Mv witness. Your Honor, is John Hudson,” said Hopking. "He will assure the court that I did not kill

The harder the judge beat the disk with his gavel, the louder Lucy screamed. Pandemonium reigned until she had been carried outside by two policemen. John Hudson stood aside in the doorway to allow her to pass.

Judge Fotheringham allowed himself a little judicial indignation, promising an investigation of what he termed "this disgraceful abuse of the processes of law.” He then formally acquitted Wilfred Hopking. who. amid the congratulations of his friends, was taken to the Sulu ('lub

IL’CY, recovered from her hysterics.

i was busy packing lier belongings when Wilfred returned to the bungalow . A ship was due to leave in the morning for Singapore and Lucy was determined to sail with it. On Hopking's heels there arrived a Malay policeman, carrying a wet sack and a note from Masterson. Water trickled from the sack and ran in rivulets across tinfloor of the living room.

“Can’t you wait until I’m gone to

bring your filthy specimens into the bungalow?” snapped Lucy, still truculent in defeat.

“There are no specimens in the sack, my dear," replied Hopking mildly. "That, in case you are interested, contains the corpus delicti ”

“The what?”

“The - er—body, 1 should have said, my dear, knowing your dislike of Latin. One of the river police found it this morning on a mudbank.’

“The body1 What body?” said Lucy aghast.

“To be strictly accurate, my dear, it

isn’t a body so don’t be alarmed. It is. if I may coin a phrase, a stuffed shirt."

Wilfred Hopking upturned the sack, shaking out onto the floor a red-andblack check shirt stuffed with straw, on the front of which, clearly visible, were three bullet holes.

“Try to forgive the little deception, my dear.” continued Hopking. "I am a poor man. I could not afford to employ detectives to scour the world to prove Walter Brandon was still alive. My only alternative, therefore, was to contrive a situation which would persuade you to prove it for me. My loss.”

he added gallantly, "is Walter Brandon’s gain

As Lucy left the bungalow Wilfred was singing happily in his bath *

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