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THE CLEVEDON CASE 


WHAT THIS STORY IS ABOUT 


The well-known authority on criminology, 
Dennis Holt, inherited a house in a remote 
village, the sort of place in which, to quote 
himself, “ nothing ever happens.” One night 
at fifty-three minutes past eleven (he was 
always meticulously accurate about time), his 
attention was attracted by a peremptory 
tapping on the window pane. A moment 
later, the lower sash was slowly pushed up 
and a young girl appeared. 

“ Let me in ! ” she whispered. “ Please—I 
have hurt myself.” 

That was the beginning of a bewildering 
series of happenings in the life of Dennis 
Holt. Suddenly he found himself pre¬ 
cipitated into the midst of a bewildering 
mystery, which at one time seemed to 
threaten even his own liberty. 

Patiently piecing together the ascertained 
facts. Holt eventually presented a remarkable 
reconstruction of what had taken place on that 
dramatic night. 




THE 

CLEVEDON 
:: CASE :: 

NANCY, &" JOttN 
OAKLEY 


PHILADELPHIA 

J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY 







TZ3 

SQwi 


5iro(o^r 



Printed in Great Britain by Wyman ^ Sons Ltd., London, Reading, and Fahenham. 


CONTENTS 




CHAPTKR 

I. A MIDNIGHT VISITOR 

- 

- 

- 

PASE 

9 

II. 

THE TRAGEDY AT WHITE TOWERS 

- 

- 

- 

23 

III. 

A MEETING IN THE DARK - 


- 

- 

34 

IV. 

THE SILVER-HEADED HATPIN 

- 

- 

- 

45 

V. 

KITTY CLEVEDON AND RONALD 

THOYNE 

- 

59 

VI. 

A NEW SENSATION 

- 

- 

- 

70 

VII. 

EVIDENCE AT THE INQUEST - 

- 

- 

- 

80 

VIII. 

THE STORY OF A QUARREL - 

- 

- 

- 

94 

IX. 

WHAT KITTY CLEVEDON SAID 

- 

- 

- 

105 

X. 

AN INVITATION FROM LADY CLEVEDON 

- 

- 

117 

XI. 

A VISIT FROM RONALD THOYNE 

- 

- 

- 

129 

XII. 

RONALD THOYNE DISAPPEARS 

- 

- 

- 

145 

XIII. 

THE vicar’s STORY 

- 

- 

- 

154 

XIV. 

KITTY SENDS A TELEGRAM - 

- 

- 

- 

163 

XV. 

ON RONALD THOYNE’s YACHT 

- 


- 

172 

XVI. 

THE MYSTERY OP BILLY CLEVEDON 

- 

- 

185 

XVII. 

MORE ABOUT BILLY CLEVEDON 

- 

- 

- 

193 


5 


6 


THE CLEVEDON CASE 


CHAPTER 

XVIII. THE ANONYMOUS LETTERS - 

XIX. THE HAIRPIN CLUE - - - • 

XX. STILL MORE ABOUT BILLY CLEVEDON ■ 

XXI. WHY TULMIN BLACKMAILED CLEVEDON 

XXII. MORE ANONYMOUS LETTERS 
XXIII. TULMTN’S QUEER STORY 
XXTV. THE WRATH OP RONALD THOYNE 
XXV. THE STORY OF MARY GRAINGER - 
XXVI. NORA LEPLEY’s EXPLANATION 
XXVII. WHO KILLED PHILIP CLEVEDON 


PAGE 

- 205 

- 217 

- 227 

- 239 

- 251 

- 263 
275 
286 

- 297 

- 306 


THE CLEVEDON CASE 





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I V, 



THE CLEVEDON 
CASE 


CHAPTER I 

A MIDNIGHT VISITOR 

I BECAME mixed up with the Clevedon 
case—the Cartordale Mystery, as it has 
been called —in curious fashion. True, 
it was to some extent in my line of business, 
though I do not actually earn my living by 
straightening out tangles. With me it is all a 
matter of ‘‘ copy.” 

You may or may not have read my various 
books—there are eight of them now—on 
criminology. Their preparation has led me 
into all sorts of queer by-ways and has given me 
a curiously clear and analytical insight into 
the mind of the criminal. I have solved many 
mysteries—you will forgive the apparent boast¬ 
fulness, but I have no useful Watson to detail 
my exploits—but I stop there, with solving 

9 


10 THE OLEVEDON CASE 

them, I mean. When I know the answer, I 
hand the whole matter over to the police. 
“ There is your man (or woman)—take him,” 
I say. And sometimes they do take him—and 
hang him. But occasionally they reply, “ But 
we can’t take him—we couldn’t prove it against 
him.” That, however, is no business of mine. 
I am a scientist, not a police official, and have 
nothing to do with the foolery of their law 
courts or the flummery of what they call their 
rules of evidence. 

I have supplied the answer to the conundrum 
and that suffices me. The mystery and its 
solution go into my notebooks, to be used 
eventually for my own purpose, it may be to 
illustrate a theory, or perhaps to demonstrate 
a scientific fact. I have no desire to pose and 
no intention of posing as a worker of miracles. 

There is nothing marvellous about my methods 
nor wonderful in the results. I do but proceed 
from fact to fact, as you will see in this narra¬ 
tive, wherein I have set forth exactly what 
happened, however foolish it may make me 
look. The reader will accompany me step 
by step in my investigation of the Clevedon 
mystery and will learn precisely how the solu¬ 
tion, which so bewildered and astonished the 
little group in Cartordale, came to me. You 


A MIDNIGHT VISITOR 11 

will see me groping in the dark, then you will 
discover, as I did, a pin-point of light which 
grows wider and wider until the whole story 
stands revealed. And if you guess the solution 
before I did, that will show that you are a 
cleverer detective than I am, which may very 
easily be. 

I did not, by the way, go to Cartordale for 
the purpose of investigating this particular 
mystery. I became involved in it almost in¬ 
voluntarily. It was a queerly tangled skein 
enough, and that of itself would have been 
sufficient fascination to drag me into it, though 
I was deep in it long before any intention or 
even desire to solve the puzzle manifested itself. 
As a rule I carefully select my cases. Some 
appeal to me, others do not. But in this instan-ce 
I was not entirely a free agent. I was in it 
before I quite knew where I was going. That 
being so, it may be interesting to explain how 
I came to be at Cartordale at all. 

My Aunt Emily, to put it briefly, left me the 
house and the money that took me into the 
wilds of Peakshire. I had never met her in 
the flesh, and she, as far as I know, had never 
set eyes on me. In point of fact, she never 
forgave my father for taking to himself a second 
wife after my mother died. But that is family 


12 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

history and dry stuff. Aunt Emily made 
amends for past neglect by her will. She left 
me about eight hundred a year from invest¬ 
ments, and the house at Cartordale, both very 
useful, though I was not exactly a poor man. 
My books have provided me with a fairly steady 
income for some years. 

Stone Hollow, the house I had inherited, was 
a square, rather gloomy-looking building—out¬ 
wardly sombre, at all events—situated at the 
head of Cartordale, a wild and romantic valley 
in the heart of Peakshire, some sixteen miles 
from the large industrial city of Midlington. 
The name. Stone Hollow, had a comparatively 
recent derivation, arising from the fact that the 
house was built on the site of, and largely on 
the profits from, a now disused stone quarry. 

The house itself stood on a sort of broad shelf, 
and behind it a tall hill sprang almost perpen¬ 
dicularly upwards, still showing on its face the 
marks and scars of former quarrying operations, 
though Nature was already busy trying to hide 
the evidences of man’s vandalism behind a cover 
of green and brown. Before the house, the ground 
sloped gently downwards towards the Dale, while 
to the left was a stretch of heatherclad moorland 
lying between Stone Hollow and White Towers, 
the residence of Sir Philip Clevedon. 


A MIDNIGHT VISITOR 13 

It sounds rather well in description, but I 
will frankly confess that after a very few days 
at Cartordale I was bored. Though I had 
travelled widely, I had never actually lived out 
of London and was always very quickly eager 
to be back there. At first, I had done my best 
to persuade myself that a country life was really 
the ideal and that it would provide me with 
quiet and isolation that would be useful for 
literary work. But I soon arrived at the limit 
of my resources in self-deception. Which brings 
me to the night of February 23rd. 

I was lolling on the couch in the room I 
had made my study, pretending to work and 
succeeding very badly. 

“ Nothing ever happens in a place like this,” 
I said aloud, with a yawn. “ I should become 
a hopeless vegetable if I lived here. I couldn’t 
even write another book. There isn’t a chapter 
in the whole blessed place. Neither robbery nor 
murder ever happens. The folk wouldn’t know 
the meaning of the words without looking them 
up in a dictionary. Honesty is the badge of all 
their tribe, and honesty, if commendable, is dull.” 

I took up a batch of manuscript from the desk 
at my elbow and began to read in rather 
desultory fashion, making a correction here 
and there with a pencil. 


14 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

“ Another delusion shattered,” I murmured. 
‘‘ They say one can write so much better in the 
quiet of the country than amid the bustle and 
distractions of town. That is bunkum. This 
one can’t, anyway. I thought I would have 
made a good start with this book, but I have 
done next to nothing, and what there is of it 
is rotten. I could do more work in a week in 
London than I shall do in three months of this. 
I think I’ll be getting back next week.” 

But I was wrong in saying that nothing ever 
happened in Cartordale. Adventure was even 
at that moment coming towards me with very 
hurried footsteps. 

The time—it is essential always to be precise 
in details—was fifty-three minutes past eleven, 
and the date February 23rd. 

It came, the beginning of the story, with 
a quick, almost peremptory tapping on the 
window-pane and then the bottom sash was 
slowly pushed up. I turned to the desk and 
took a revolver from one of the small drawers, 
then strode across the room and raised the 
blind with a quick rattle, half expecting that 
my visitor would reveal himself in the shape 
of a burglar. What I saw brought even me to 
a standstill, little susceptible as I am to surprises 
of any sort. 


A MIDNIGHT VISITOR 15 

My visitor was not a burglar — at least, 
not a male of that species—but a girl, who 
looked young enough to be in her teens, though 
she may have been a year or two outside them, 
and a great deal too pretty to be wandering 
about alone at that time of night. She was wear¬ 
ing a long, sleeveless cloak and a grey, woollen 
cap, from beneath which part of her hair had 
escaped and was blowing about her face in 
little wisps of bronze-gold cloud. 

‘‘ Let me in,” she whispered. ‘‘ Please—I 
have hurt myself and I am afraid to go on.” 

I stretched out my hands and, placing them 
beneath her arms, lifted her over the low window¬ 
sill and into the room. 

‘‘ How strong you are,” she murmured. 

But even as she said that, the something 
that had kept her up gave way and she lay a 
limp, dead weight in my clasp. I carried her 
to the couch, but as I placed her down and 
began to unfasten the long, grey cloak, I noticed 
that the sleeve of her white blouse was stained 
with blood. That was evidently the hurt to 
which she had referred; and I began to 
wonder whether I had not better summon my 
housekeeper. It looked essentially a case for 
feminine aid. The girl, however, was already 
recovering. 


16 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

“No, come here,” she said, as I began to 
move towards the door. 

I returned to her side and gently lifted her 
arm. 

“ Yes, you have hurt yourself,” I remarked. 
“ See—your arm, isn’t it ?—there is blood——” 
“ Yes, it’s my arm,” she replied, lifting her 
cloak and showing a ragged tear in the blouse 
on the under-side of the sleeve. “ It’s not 
very bad—I think—but it seems to be bleeding 
a good deal, and I—I am afraid of blood.” 

“ May I look at it ? ” I asked. “ I could 

perhaps bandage it, and-” 

“ Are you a doctor—how nice ! ” she cried. 

“ No,” I replied with a smile, “ I am not a 
doctor. But I am a first-aid expert, enough of 
one, anyway, to say whether or not a doctor is 
necessary. Yes, I have treated much bigger 
injuries than this. It is only a scratch, I fancy, 
and the blood looks more than it really is. A 
very little blood makes a mess of things. Lie 
still a minute. I have everything here within 
reach and we’ll soon put you right.” 

I brought a pair of scissors and cut away the 
sleeve, finding the arm beneath it—the left arm, 
by the way—rather badly gashed. 

“ To-morrow you must show that to a 
doctor,” I said, when I had washed and bandaged 


A MIDNIGHT VISITOR 17 

it. “Now I will give you a glass of wine 
and-” 

“ Is there anyone but you in the house ? ” 
the girl asked abruptly, as if some thought 
had suddenly occurred to her. 

“ There is my housekeeper,” I said, “ and a 
maid. Shall I rouse them and-? ” 

“ Mercy, no ! ” she exclaimed. “ Whatever 
would they say if they found me liere—at this 
time of night-? ” 

I nodded, quite comprehending the hint so 
conveyed. 

“ I have been visiting a friend,” she went on, 
observing me keenly through her drooping 
eyelashes, perhaps to see how I took the story, 
“ and I—I lost my way.” 

“ Your friends should not have allowed you 
to attempt to find it by yourself,” I returned. 

“ My friends are not plural,” she retorted 
with a little trill of laughter. “ They—or 
rather she—she is a maiden lady—and I am 
not in the least bit nervous. I am a country 
girl by birth and upbringing, and the darkness 
means nothing to me. It is the fog that worries 
me. I stayed later than I should have done, 
and in my hurry to get back I lost my way. 
Then I saw the light in your window and I came, 
meaning to ask where I was. I had to climb 

B 


18 THE OLEVEDON CASE 

over a wall, and in doing that I cut my arm on 
some glass. I think it is very stupid to put 
glass on walls-” 

“ It shall be knocked off to-morrow,” I 
interrupted. 

“ Oh, it doesn’t matter,” the girl said 
demurely. “ I am not likely to come this way 
—again. But do you know Cartordale ? ” 

“ Well, know is hardly the word. I am afraid 
I don’t very well. I have only been here a short 
time,” I answered. “ I know very few people. 
I have never seen you before, for example.” 

That was a leading question very thinly dis¬ 
guised, but she did not rise to it. 

“I am afraid,” I went on, “ it would be but 
another instance of the blind leading the blind 
if I attempted to guide you about the Dale. 
I will do my best if you will tell me where you 
live, unless, indeed, you would prefer to stay 
here until morning. The place is at your 
service and I could very easily waken the-” 

But my visitor’s negative gesture was very 
decided. 

“ What house is this ? ” she demanded. 

“ It is called Stone Hollow,” I told her. 

“ Oh, I know Stone Hollow,” she cried. “ It 
was Mrs.—Mrs.—a lady with a curious name, 
but I have forgotten it,” 



A MIDNIGHT VISITOR 19 

“ Mrs. Mackaluce,” I volunteered. “ She was 
my aunt.” 

“Yes, that was the name, I remember now. 

I have been here before, but never by the—the 
back window. If you can put me on the road¬ 
way outside Stone Hollow I shall know where 
I am.” 

“ I can take you home, at all events, if you 
can show me the way,” I said. 

The girl looked at me for a moment or two 
doubtfully as if that were not quite what she 
had intended. 

“It is not right that you should be out alone 
at this time of the night,” I added. 

“ Oh, right and wrong are merely terms,” 
she replied, rising to her feet. “ There is no law 
against being out at night. It isn’t forbidden 
in the Defence of the Realm Act, is it ? If I 
like to be out at night it is right I should be.” 

“ I was thinking of the danger, not of the 
law,” I responded dryly. 

“ Why, whatever danger can there be ? ” 
the girl cried, opening wide her pretty eyes. 
“ There are no highway robbers in Cartordale, 
nor any Germans.” 

But I did not argue with her. I simply handed 
her the woollen cap which had fallen off when 
she fainted, then helped her to fasten the cloak 


10 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

around her, and finally led her into the hall, 
picking up my own hat and coat as I went. I 
was fully determined on seeing her to her own 
home, wherever that might be and whatever 
her objections. I opened the door noiselessly 
and closed it again with the merest click of the 
lock. 

“ It is very dark,” I muttered, being a man 
of the town and used to gas-lamps. 

Yes, it often is at midnight,” the girl replied 
demurely, but with a little catch in her voice as 
if she were choking back a laugh. But I can 
see very well. Those who are country-born 
have eyes in their feet, you know, and never 
miss the path. Why, there are men of the 
Dale, and women too, for that matter, who 
will walk across the moors at dark and never 
miss the path for all it is no more than three 
feet wide.” 

“ But you have lost your way once already 
to-night,” I murmured. 

“ That doesn’t affect the question,” she 
retorted scornfully. “ It was only because I 
was trying a short cut. I left the path of my 
own accord. If I had kept to the road I should 
have been home by now. The longest way round 
is the quickest way home. Is that a proverb ? 
It sounds like one. If it isn’t it should be. 


A MIDNIGHT VISITOR 21 

It is true, anyway. Besides, it is foggy. That 
makes a difference. Give me your hand.” 

Apparently she did see better than I, for the 
next minute I felt the grip of her slender fingers 
as she seized mine and began to pull me forward. 
We went swiftly and in silence, still hand in 
hand, for some minutes, then her clasp loosened. 

For a moment or two the shadow of her 
lingered beside me, then suddenly disappeared 
into the fog. We had reached a part of the 
Dale that was flanked on one side by a wall 
of rock which deepened even the blackness of 
the night and made the darkness, to me, at all 
events, absolutely impenetrable. There was no 
sign of light or house, nor indeed of any building, 
and when I groped my way to the side of the 
road, I stumbled, first into a ditch and then 
against a low rubble wall, beyond which was 
only fog much thicker now than it had been 
earlier in the evening. 

And it was there I lost her. How she went, 
or in which direction, I had no idea. But I had 
no doubt that she had evaded me of design— 
and that her home was nowhere thereabout. 
That she knew the Dale intimately was evident. 
She had deliberately led me to its darkest spot 
simply that she might there lose me. I smiled 
grimly as I realised that. She had fooled me 


22 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

with incomparable skill and wit. I paid a frank 
mental tribute to her cleverness. A young lady 
of brains, this, and one whose acquaintance was 
well worth cultivating. 

I stood waiting for some little time—possibly 
ten minutes or a quarter of an hour—then ht a 
cigarette and walked slowly back to Stone 
Hollow, pondering over the queer little adven¬ 
ture, wondering who the girl was and whether— 
or rather when—I should see her again. She 
was evidently an inhabitant of the Dale—her 
familiarity with it at all events suggested that 
—in which case she could hardly expect to 
evade me permanently. I must sooner or later 
meet and recognise her. At any rate it was a 
piquant little mystery, and I must confess that 
somehow Cartordale no longer seemed quite so 
dull as it had been. 

I had little idea then as to what the mystery, 
in which I had thus become involved, really 
was or how quickly it would develop on tragic 
and very unexpected lines. 

I reached Stone Hollow again at 2.7 a.m. 
The whole episode, from the knock on the 
window to my return home had occupied two 
hours fourteen minutes. 


CHAPTER II 

THE TRAGEDY AT WHITE TOWERS 


W HEN I came down to Stone Hollow to 
take over my new inheritance, I 
found the house completely furnished 
on extremely comfortable if rather old-fashioned 
lines; and Martha Helter in possession. She 
had been my aunt’s housekeeper for over 
twenty years and had evidently every intention 
of being mine also. I was quite agreeable, 
since it saved me a lot of trouble, nor have 
I so far seen any reason to regret that 
decision. 

Mrs. Helter—the title had apparently been 
accorded her by courtesy, since she was still a 
spinster and everybody but myself used it; 
but I began with Martha, her Christian name, 
and Martha it is to this day—is a most capable 
manager and runs my household with a precision 
that reminds one of well-oiled wheels, and a 
careful economy that has its recommendation 
in these days of ridiculous prices. She seemed 
to know and to be known by almost everybody 


24 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

in the Dale, and was an all but exhaustless 

fountain of anecdote and news. 

I say “ all but ’’ because she could not give 
me immediately the information I sought regard¬ 
ing my pretty midnight visitor. Not that I 
attached very much actual importance to that 
queer incident. It had amused me, and perhaps, 
though I would not confess it even to myself, 

I was just a little piqued at being so cleverly 
outwitted by a mere girl. I had cause during 
the day to revise my estimate of the interest I 
was to take in my uninvited guest. But my 
first thought was to identify her. 

“ Martha,” I said to my housekeeper, “ did 
you ever meet hereabouts a young lady wearing 
a grey woollen cap and a long cloak without 
sleeves, a sort of cape reaching to her boots ? ” 

Martha Helter pondered the question for a 
minute or two, but shook her head. 

“ I don’t think I have ever seen a cloak like 
that in Cartordale,” she replied. 

“ I saw one yesterday,” I said, “ and I 
wondered who the wearer was. Never mind, 
perhaps I shall see her — I mean it — again. It was 
the pattern of the cloak that took my fancy.” 

I am not quite sure why I added that last 
phrase, though if Martha noticed anything she 
kept a perfectly straight face. 


THE TRAGEDY AT WHITE TOWERS 25 
“ A grey woollen cap and a long cloak with¬ 
out sleeves ? ” said the little maid who entered 
the room at that moment and to whom the 
housekeeper propounded the question. “ Why, 
yes’m, that’s Miss Kitty Clevedon—lives with 
her ladyship, you know. There are tv'o gentle¬ 
men to see the master,” she added. 

“ Bring them in,” I said. “ Who are they ? 
Do you know them ? ” 

“ One of them is Sergeant Gamley, of the 
County Police,” Susan replied, “ but the other 
is a stranger and did not give his name.” 

“ Bring them in,” I repeated. 

Sergeant Gamley was in uniform, a tall, thin 
man with a long hatchet face and an air of 
important solemnity which he never shed. 
His companion was rather more rotund in 
build, with puffy red cheeks above which peered 
small, keen eyes that did not seem to linger 
long on anything, but which for all that missed 
nothing. Abraham Pepster was chief of the 
detective force at Peakborough, the county 
town, and one may judge to some extent his 
prevailing characteristic by the fact that his 
nickname among disrespectful subordinates was 
“ Gimlet-eyes.” It was, however. Sergeant 
Gamley who opened the conversation on this 
particular occasion. 


26 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

We have called, Mr. Holt,” he said, “ with 
regard to the tragedy at White Towers. Sir 
Philip Clevedon-” 

“ A tragedy—of what nature ? ” I interrupted. 
“ I have heard nothing of it. There is nothing 
in the papers about it, is there ? Or have I 
missed it ? ” 

I interposed just then because I wanted to 
slow down the story a little. The girl who had 
visited me last night was named Clevedon— 
Susan had just told me so—and now there was 
a Sir Philip Clevedon and a tragedy. I could 
not help wondering, of course, what connection 
there could be between the two, but I was 
determined to feel my way cautiously, resolved 
not to be hustled or bounced into saying more 
than I wanted to say. The story, whatever it 
was, should come from them without any help 
from me. 

“No, Mr. Holt, I dare say you haven’t heard 
anything yet—^not many have,” Sergeant Gamley 
went on. “ As you say, it isn’t in the papers. 
You are a stranger among us—yes, yes. For 
the moment I had forgotten that. I knew your 
late respected aunt very well indeed, Mr. Holt. 
There was a little matter of a burglary in this 
very house some four years ago. Mr. Holt ”— 
be turned to his companion—“ has been living 


THE TEAGEDY AT WHITE TOWERS 27 
here only a very short time. He succeeded the 
late Mrs. Mackaluce, whose nephew he was.” 

“ Hadn’t you better tell Mr. Holt what has 
happened at White Towers ? ” the other man 
suddenly interrupted, speaking in a small, soft 
voice that was rather curiously in contrast 
with his bulk, and without any trace of im¬ 
patience. He had perhaps been as willing as 
myself that the conversation should not be 
hurried. 

“You can see White Towers from the upper 
windows of your own house, Mr. Holt,” 
Sergeant Gamley continued. “ It lies between 
you and the village, a large house with an 
outstanding turret and two smaller towers.” 

“ I have seen it,” I said, “ but my house¬ 
keeper said it was White Abbey, if that is the 
place you mean.” 

“ The good lady is a little mixed,” was 
Gamley’s reply. 

He was proud of his local antiquarian know¬ 
ledge and delighted to parade it, being, indeed, 
a frequent contributor to the local papers and 
regarded as an authority on county history in 
general and Cartordale in particular. 

“ White Towers,” he went on, “ stands on the 
site of the old White Abbey. The older name 
survives, but the present house, of which 


28 THE OLEVEDON CASE 

Sir Philip Clevedon is the owner—was the 

ow’ner——” 

If there is such a thing as an inward smile 
I indulged in one then. The method was so 
obvious and I had so often used it mjself. 
Pepster was allowing the other man to go 
maundering on while he himself kept me under 
careful observation. I do not, however, allow 
my thoughts to be written on my face, and I 
merely listened impassively. Pepster seemed at 
last to recognise that he was not likely to get 
much help as things were going, for he brushed 
Gamley aside and took up the story himself. 

“ The fact is, Mr. Holt,” he said bluntly, 
“ Sir Philip Clevedon was found dead this 
morning—stabbed- 

He paused there and I waited, making no sign. 

“ With a lady’s hatpin,” he added, “ a big, 
three-cornered affair with a silver knob.” 

I had a swift vision of a white, frightened 
face beneath a woollen cap, but I could not 
quite connect the girl of the previous night’s 
visit with any thought of crime. She did not 
fit into a picture of that sort. Yet I knew as 
certainly as if she had told me that she was in 
some way mixed up with it all. And why had 
they come to me ? Did they know of that mid¬ 
night visit ? I was determined that they should 


THE TRAGEDY AT WHITE TOWERS 29 
tell me. I would give ttieija no lead. They 
must do all the talking. Pepster, after a rather 
lengthy pause, seemed to realise the position. 

“ Perhaps you wonder why we come to you,” 
he said in his small, soft voice. “ It was merely 
on the chance that in your late stroll last 
night-” 

So they did know I had been out. Had they 
also seen my companion ? 

“-Sergeant Gamley — you stood to light 

a cigarette — and the match lit up your 
face.” 

Pepster paused there again with an obvious 
appearance of waiting. Following the normal 
course, the person addressed should now break 
into more or less voluble explanations of the 
why and wherefore of this midnight stroll, 
explanations which the detective could weigh 
as they came forth and so form some estimate 
of their value or otherwise to the quest on 
which he was engaged. There might be nothing 
in it. Pepster knew full well that he would 
interview and interrogate scores of persons 
during the next few days and would have to sift 
a prodigious amount of chaff on the off chance 
of an occasional grain of wheat. In any case 
he had to go on sifting. That was his job. 

“ Seeing your name was mentioned in the 



30 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

way it was,” Pepster went on, “I thought you 

might like to explain-” 

“ Yes ? ” I said inquiringly, “ explain ? ” 

Your name was mentioned, you know,” 
Pepster murmured. 

“ So you have told me. But what is it you 
wish me to explain ? ” 

“You were out very late last night,” Pepster 
remarked. 

“ Let us be a trifle more explicit,” I said. 
“ It comes to this—if you suspect me of having 
any hand in killing Sir Philip Clevedon with a 
tliree-cornered hatpin, you have no right to 
question me. It is against your rules, isn’t it, 
for you to trip me up and entrap me ? If I am 
not under suspicion I do not quite see whither 
your questions lead. You may produce the 
handcuffs or take me into your confidence. 
But in any case,” I added with a quick smile, 
“ I reserve my defence.” 

“ You are a bit off the rails, Mr. Holt,” 
Pepster returned with unabated calm. “ I 
know of nothing which should connect you 
with the murder, nothing at all. But your name 
was mentioned, and it is my duty to question 
everybody who may be in the remotest degree 
linked up with the affair in case by any chance 
they may afford me information. Do you 


THE TRAGEDY AT WHITE TOWERS 31 
mind telling me why you were out so late last 
night ? ” 

“ I was taking a stroll.” 

“ It was a very foggy, unpleasant night.” 

“ It was extremely so.” 

“ And consequently very dark.” 

“ That coincides with my own recollection.” 

“ A stroll in a thick fog! ” 

“ My dear sir, you ask me a question. I 
answer it in good faith, and you disbelieve me.” 

“ No, no, not at all,” Pepster said blandly. 
“ I accept your word implicitly. It was not 
the object and inspiration of the—er—the stroll 
that interested me.” 

“ No ? You were not wondering whether I 
was coming from or going to White Towers ? 
I am glad of that,” I returned with apparently 
great satisfaction. “ In point of fact the stroll 
was a mere whim on my part, induced mainly, 
I may say, by the hope that it would assist me 
to a night’s sound sleep. I had been writing. 
One reason why I maintain my cabbage-like 
existence in a God-forgotten corner of the 
country like this is that I may write a book. But 
writing renders the brain a little over-active 
and-” 

I broke ofi there and waited for the other to 
continue. 


32 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

“ What I really wanted to know,” Pepster 
went on, “ was whether yon saw or met any¬ 
body during your stroll.” 

“ I saw nobody and met nobody,” I responded 
equably. 

“ Somebody passed a few minutes previously,” 
Pepster continued. “ Gamley here heard them 
talking, a man and a woman. But he could 
not distinguish them. He thought no more of it 
at the time, of course. Nothing was known of 
the murder then. He recognised you only 
because you struck a match to light your 
cigarette. But you were alone.” 

He nodded to Sergeant Gamley and picked 
up his hat. 

“ Would it be impertinent,” I asked, ‘‘ to 
inquire whether you have any clue, any idea, 
any theory- 

“ Oh, I never theorise,” Pepster replied with 
bland serenity. “It is only story-book detec¬ 
tives who theorise. Theories are too much of a 
luxury for professionals. Facts are my stock- 
in-trade. I do not travel outside those.” 

“ You have the hatpin,” I suggested. 

“ Yes,” he replied vaguely, “ we have the 
hatpin.” 

But he had evidently no intention of talking 
about that. 


THE TRAGEDY AT WHITE TOWERS 33 

When they had gone I set myself down to 
concentrate my thoughts—on the girl’s woollen 
cap. I have so trained my faculty of observa¬ 
tion—just as a conjurer trains his fingers or a 
dancer her feet—that I see everything even to 
the smallest detail, though often without making 
any conscious record of it at the time. When 
the girl fainted in my arms her woollen cap had 
fallen ofi. Consequently there had been no 
hatpin, though, as I visualised it, I remembered 
that on the rim of grey cloth which bound the 
knitted shape, there were marks showing that 
a hatpin had been in use. Was it with her hat¬ 
pin that Sir Philip Clevedon had been done to 
death ? 

There you—this to the reader—have the 
case set forth, and you are in exactly the same 
position that I was myself—a stranger to the 
place and the people, knowing practically no¬ 
body and with every item of information yet to 
seek. But we both of us have one small advan¬ 
tage-over the police. The latter, as far as I 
could make out, knew nothing of Miss Kitty 
Clevedon’s midnight adventure. 


C 


CHAPTER III 


A MEETING IN THE DARK 

I HAD not long to wait before making 
further acquaintance with my pretty mid¬ 
night visitor. Our second meeting took 
place within a few hours of the police call and 
on the same day. I had been out for a long 
walk across the hills and was tramping steadily 
along the high road towards Stone Hollow, 
when I saw, gleaming through the darkness— 
it was already dark though only late afternoon 
—at probably the loneliest and most desolate 
spot in the Dale, the headlights of a motor-car 
evidently at a standstill. 

“ It’s a weird place for a halt and worse if 
it’s a breakdown,” I murmured, and involuntarily 
quickened my steps. 

But as I approached the car I saw a moving 
light and then the shadow of a woman walking 
towards me, carrying, apparently, a small 
electric torch. Evidently she had heard my 
approach and had set out to meet me. As she 
stepped momentarily into the light of the car 
94 


A MEETING IN THE DARK 35 
I recognised her. It was the girl of the mid¬ 
night visit. 

“ Who is it, Kitty ? ” demanded a quick, 
imperious voice somewhere in the darkness. 
“ Tell him to come here. Do you know 
him ? ” 

“ Lady Clevedon is in the car,” the girl said 
a little hurriedly. “Will you come and speak 
to her ? ” 

“ Is it a breakdown ? ” I queried. 

“ No,” the girl responded, “ it is Hartrey. 
We have lost him.” 

But I had no immediate opportunity qf 
questioning her as to the missing Hartrey, or 
the manner of his going, for “ Kitty,” as the old 
lady had addressed her, had run to the door of 
the car and pulled it open, to reveal old Lady 
Clevedon, white of hair, very erect of figure, 
rather stern of face and with keen, searching 
eyes that just now were full of wrath. 

“ Is there anything I can do-? ” I began. 

“You can find Hartrey,” her ladyship re¬ 
sponded, not exactly snappily, but quite un- 
gently ; she was evidently used to giving orders, 
and it never occurred to her, apparently, that I 
would do any other than obey. 

“ Who is Hartrey ? ” I demanded. 

“ He is the chauffeur,” the girl explained. 


36 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

** We sent him with a message to Lepley’s farm 

—it is over there.” 

She pointed vaguely into the darkness, and 
I followed her gesture with my eyes. But I 
could see no sign of house or light or living 
creature—only the darkness and, in the fore¬ 
ground, the blurred outlines of masses of rock. 

“ It should not have taken him ten minutes,” 
the girl went on, but he has been gone for 
more than half an hour.” 

“ How far is the farm-house ? ” I asked. “ It 
is rather queer we cannot see any lights.” 

“ Oh, I think there are some barns or some¬ 
thing of the sort between the road and the 
house,” Miss Kitty Clevedon told me. “ And, 
besides, it lies in a hollow and the rocks may 
hide it. I have seen the place before, but only 
in daylight, and I forget just how it stands.” 

‘‘ If you will allow me I will go as far as the 
house and inquire,” I said, producing my own 
electric lamp. “ Possibly your man has tripped 
over a stone-” 

Tripped over a stone ! ” her ladyship cried 
scornfully. “ He’s more likely philandering with 
the Lepley girl. Do you know her ? ” 

I replied in the negative, adding that, indeed 
I had never heard of her. 

“ Well, you’re the only man in the Dale that 


A MEETING IN THE DARK 37 
doesn’t know her,” the old lady retorted. ** Oh, 
no, there’s nothing wrong with the girl, but the 
men are crazy over her, and Hartrey with the 
rest, I suppose.” 

I could not help being a little entertained 
by the idea that I might be a competitor with 
the chauffeur for the favours of the fair Lepley. 
But I did not put the thought into words. I 
hadn’t an opportunity, indeed, for the old lady 
threw off her rugs and made evident preparations 
to alight. 

“If you would wait here, I could go alone,” 
I ventured, thinking the search would be 
hampered rather than helped by the old lady’s 
presence. But she did not even answer me. 
She stepped from the car with an agility which 
showed that her body was still younger than 
her years, and herself led the way towards a 
gap in the tumble-down, rubble wall where 
once apparently had been a gate. The car, I 
noticed, was standing well aside on the rough 
turf that flanked the roadway, and, in any case, 
there was little enough traffic in those parts 
at that time of the year. We might leave it 
there in safety. And accordingly the three of us 
made our way along the very rough and uneven 
road that led to Lepley’s farm. 

“ No,” said the farmer’s wife, who answered 


38 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

my rap at the door, ‘‘ Mr. Hartrey has not been 

here to-night.” 

She called to somebody who was evidently in 
a kitchen at the rear of the house. 

“ Perhaps he tripped ovver a stoan and hurt 
hisself,” the farmer’s wife went on, ‘‘ though if 
it’s that it seems queer you saw nowt of him as 
you came along. Besides, I don’t know what 
he would be doing tripping ovver a boulder, 
anyway. I reckon he knows the road blind¬ 
folded, and there are no boulders to hurt if 
you keep to the path.” 

I could have argued that point with her, for 
I had nearly twisted my ankle on one group 
of boulders and had badly barked my shins on 
another. But it was hardly worth while debat¬ 
ing it, since apparently Hartrey had not tripped 
over a boulder or we should have tripped over 
him. At this moment, too, a girl emerged from 
the kitchen, carrying a lamp held high so that 
she might see who the visitors were. Her 
sharper eyes discovered the two ladies, and she 
made a step towards them. 

“ Her ladyship ! ” she cried, “ and Miss Kitty ! 
Come right in. What is the trouble ? ” 

That was my first introduction to Nora 
Lepley, a young woman of whom I was to know 
a good deal more before I finished with her. 


A MEETING IN THE DARK 39 
She was tall and finely built, with plentiful hair 
so dark as to be almost black, and eyes that in 
some lights seemed to be of a rich purple and in 
others of a sombre, rather heavy blue. They 
were wonderful eyes and one had no need to 
wonder that the men of the Dale should be, to 
use Lady Clevedon’s words, ‘‘ crazy over her.” 
She had then more admirers than she could 
count on the fingers of both her slim, capabk 
hands, and is still unmarried. I think I know 
why, though I have hardly any right to say so. 
She spoke with an educated intonation, in 
curious contrast with her mother, who used the 
ordinary dialect of the Dale. Beautiful, clever, 
educated, entirely self-possessed, she was cer¬ 
tainly something of a novelty to discover in a 
Cartordale farm-house. 

“ I thought you were at White Towers with 
your aunt,” Lady Clevedon said. 

“ I have just run home to get some clothes,” 
the girl replied. “ I am going back to-night 
to stay with Aunty. She is terribly upset. 
But what is the trouble here ? ” 

‘‘ The trouble is,” Lady Clevedon retorted 
grimly, “ that I have a fool for a chauffeur. 
I sent him here with a message, but he hasn’t 
been nor did he come back to us. He went off 
into the darkness and apparently stopped there, 


40 THE CLEVEDON OASE 

leaving me and the car on the roadway for 

anybody to run into.” 

'‘Well, he hasn’t been here,” the girl said, 
with a decision that was evidently characteristic 
of her. “ Wait until I get a lantern and we’ll 
look for him.” 

Lady Clevedon followed Mrs. Lepley and her 
daughter into the house, and for a minute or 
two Miss Kitty Clevedon and I were left together 
in the porch. She could have followed the 
others into the house, but for some reason 
preferred to wait outside. Possibly she wanted 
to see what I would do. She did not look at 
me—I noticed that—but stood near the door, 
not quite with her back to me, but so that if 
it had been light I could not have seen her face. 
She did not speak to me, but I had of course no 
intention that she should get off as easily as 
that. 

“ I hope your arm is better,” I said, speaking 
softly, so that no sound of my voice might 
reach those inside. 

“ I beg your pardon,” the girl returned 
icily. 

“ I was expressing the hope that your arm 
was better,” I explained. 

“ But there is nothing the matter with my 
arm—thank you.” 


A MEETING IN THE DARK 41 
The girl’s voice was perfectly cool and with¬ 
out the slightest sign of flurry or perturbation, 
“ I may congratulate you on a wonderfully 
quick recovery, then,” I responded. 

“I do not understand you—what was sup¬ 
posed to be the matter with my arm ? ” 

“ I was told—it was rumoured—-that you had 
cut it—climbing a wall—a wall with glass on top.” 
‘‘ I do not climb walls.” 

“ I don’t suppose you make a hobby of it, 
but every one does queer things now and again.” 

“ Such as addressing impertinent observations 
to a lady one meets for the first time,” she 
rapped out. 

There was a rather lengthy pause, and then 
I made one more attempt to break down her 
defences. 

“ I was very sorry to hear of the—^the tragedy 
at White Towers,” I said softly. “ It was a 

queer coincidence-” 

But if I thought to disconcert her by that 
remark I had miscalculated. She made no 
reply, but simply walked a few steps away and 
left me standing. Her acting was perfect. 

I could not forbear a smile, though at the 
same time I admired both her courage and her 
cleverness. Anyone less alert would have ad¬ 
mitted our meeting and tried in some way to 


42 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

secure my silence. She did nothing of the sort, 
but ignored the whole matter, putting up a big 
bluff in the assurance that since there had 
been no witnesses to the little midnight incident 
I should hesitate to tell the story lest I should 
not be believed. Of course I knew very well 
that if I had really been guilty of the imperti¬ 
nence of which she had accused me she would 
not have received it quite in that way. How¬ 
ever, I had no opportunity for further efforts 
because just at that moment the Lepley girl 
reappeared with a shawl over her head and a 
big lantern in her hand, her mother and Lady 
Clevedon following her. 

We went slowly along in a sort of zigzag, 
going for six or eight yards to the left of the 
roadway and then recrossing it and covering a 
similar space on the opposite side. It was a 
lengthy process and it was wasted time, because, 
as we neared the car, we saw Hartrey standing 
by it, looking from left to right into the darkness, 
evidently with rather dismal forebodings. 

“ He’s there ! ” Miss Kitty Clevedon cried 
in accents of relief, but the tone in which her 
ladyship echoed the phrase was quite other¬ 
wise. The latter approached the car and de¬ 
manded to know what Hartrey meant by leaving 
her alone there on the high road and why 


A MEETING IN THE DARK 43 
he had not gone to the farm to deliver her 
message. 

“ I lost my way, my lady, in the darkness,” 
the man replied. “ I found myself at the bend 
of the road higher up--” 

“ Now, Hartrey,” her ladyship said severely, 
“ when I engaged you I gave you extra wages 
on condition that you should be teetotal.” 

“ My lady, I have not touched anything of 
the sort for nearly seven years.” 

And you—what is your name ? ” the old 
lady demanded, turning suddenly on me. 

“ My name is Dennis Holt and I live at Stone 
Hollow,” I replied, amused and not at all 
offended at the old lady’s brusqueness. 

“ Oh, yes, I know, nephew to Mrs. Mackaluce. 
I remember hearing about you from Dr. Craw¬ 
ford. Well, thanks for your help. Now, Kitty, 
come along. Good bye, Mr. Holt.” 

Can you find your way back all right ? ” 
I said, turning to Nora Lepley, who had stood 
silent during the conversation and whom the 
old lady had not thanked. 

“ But I live here,” she replied, with a quick 
laugh, “ and I don’t always come home by 
daylight. Good night, Mr. Holt.” 

Old Lady Clevedon had amused me hugely. 
She was evidently what the country people 


44 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

would call '‘a character” whose acquaintance 
might be worth cultivating. But it was the 
pretty niece who attracted all my attention, and 
I made up my mind that I must become interested 
in the tragedy at White Towers. There might 
be no connection between that and Miss Kitty 
Clevedon’s midnight wanderings. The latter 
might be susceptible of the most innocent 
explanation. But it was in that case a queer 
coincidence, and though I am far from denying 
that coincidences play a large and weighty part 
in human affairs, I instinctively distrust them. 
This might be one, but until I could prove the 
affirmative I preferred to admit a possible 
negative, or at all events to keep an open mind. 


CHAPTER IV 

THE SILVER-HEADED HATPIN 


T he Midlington evening papers reached 
Cartordale about seven o’clock. To 
accomplish that they had to be printed 
somewhere about 3.30 p.m., and accordingly 
were rather early editions. Nevertheless, the 
one I saw contained a very good account of the 
Clevedon tragedy, though, as I could well see, 
reading between the lines, one which the police 
had carefully supervised. The press and the 
police work in very much closer accord than 
most people realise. They help one another, 
and the wise newspaper man never gives 
away anything the police desire to keep 
secret. In return for that the press receives 
all sorts of information otherwise inaccessible 
to it. I have many thousands of newspaper 
cuttings, all carefully indexed, of which I 
make good use in the compilation of my 
books. Newspapers give the facts that are 
known with creditable accuracy, though really 
what remains unknown is frequently the more 


40 


46 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

important. The whole story is not always 
told. 

And the press may and often does materially 
assist the police. If the latter wish to publish 
some item broadcast, the description of some 
individual, particulars of a missing weapon, 
details that may bring further items and possibly 
produce an unsuspected clue, they go to the 
press, which very quickly and efficiently gives 
them all the publicity they want. They do not 
deliberately keep things from the press. Any 
such attempt defeats its own end. It is the 
reporter’s job to get news and he is an expert 
at it. 

But if you tell the press all you know with a 
reservation as to what may not be published, 
the secret is safe enough. In a very long and 
varied experience I never knew a newspaper 
man to break a promise or violate a confidence. 
Some journals, of course, make a speciality of 
crime investigation on their own account, and 
clever enough they are at it. But even they 
will suppress an item of news if the police ask 
it, and frequently when they discover some 
fact unknown to the police will inquire before 
publishing whether it is desirable or safe. The 
ordinary man’s idea that the press thinks first 
and only of its news column is a delusion. Very 


THE SILVER-HEADED HATPIN 47 
often a newspaper knows a lot more than 
it says. 

From the account in the Midlington evening 
paper I learnt that Sir Philip Clevedon had 
dined alone soon after seven o’clock. At the 
conclusion of dinner he retired to his study 
according to his usual custom. At a quarter 
past eight he received a visit from Miss Kitty 
Clevedon, who had motored over from Hap- 
forth House, the residence of Lady Clevedon, 
with a message to Mrs. Halfleet, the house¬ 
keeper. Miss Clevedon left before nine o’clock, 
and at 11.30 Sir Philip rang for his man 
Tulmin and ordered a whisky-and-soda, giving 
also some instructions regarding a contemplated 
journey to London on the morrow. Tulmin 
went off to bed, and thereafter was a long blank 
from 11.30 or so until between six and seven 
o’clock in the morning, when Miss Nora Lepley 
found Sir Philip lying dead on the couch in 
his study with the hatpin driven through his 
heart. Those were the facts out of which the 
reporter had made several columns. But the 
summary is sufficient for my purpose. 

There was, of course, a description of the 
hatpin, which was eight inches long, with a flat, 
circular head of silver about the size of a shilling 
and a three-sided or three-cornered blade of 


48 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

steel that tapered off to a very fine point—an 
unusual hatpin that more resembled a silver¬ 
headed skewer or stiletto. It had been driven 
into the body so that the head was close up 
to the white shirt-front—as far as it would go, 
in fact — but any bleeding had apparently 
been internal, since there was none discernible 
either on the exterior of the body or on the 
clothing. 

I made a careful note of the times. Tiilmin 
had last seen his master alive at about 11.30. 
It was 11.53 when the girl tapped at my window. 

When I had read the newspaper story I sent 
for Martha Helter, my housekeeper. 

“ Who is Lady Clevedon ? ” I asked her, “ and 
what relation is Miss Kitty Clevedon to Sir 
Philip ? ” 

“It is a little bit complicated, you see,” she 
said, seating herself on the extreme edge of a 
big arm-chair. “ Lady Clevedon is the widow 
of the late baronet who died some years ago— 
before the war, anyway. She was Miss Ursula 
Hapforth before her marriage, and when her 
husband died she went back to Hapforth House, 
which had been left her by her father, whose 
only child she was. The Hapforths are older 
than the Clevedons in these parts.” 

“ But perhaps not so wealthy ? ” 


THE SILVER-HEADED HATPIN 49 

“ Oh, I don’t know for that. They have 
plenty of money.” 

“ And this Sir Philip—was he her son ? ” 

But I recollected that her attitude had been 
anything but that of a bereaved mother when 
I saw her a short time before. 

“ No, she never had any children,” Martha 
told me. 

“ Oh, then—but go on, Martha.’’ 

I had been about to remark that Miss Kitty 
was not, therefore, Lady Clevedon’s daughter, 
but had thought better of it. I should get more 
out of Martha, I reflected, by allowing her to 
tell her story in her own way. 

“ This Sir Philip was a cousin of the other 
baronet,” my housekeeper went on, “ and next 
to him comes Mr. Billy Clevedon, who is Miss 
Kitty’s brother. He is in the army. They 
say that he and Sir Philip quarrelled, and there 
are all sorts of rumours about. Miss Kitty 
lives with Lady Clevedon. I believe she has 
some money of her own, though I don’t know 
how much. Her father was a rector down in 
Cornwall, but he’s been dead a long time 
now.” 

“ And this Sir Philip—where did he come 
from ? ” 

“ From somewhere abroad, I think. He was 

D 


60 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

not very young, perhaps forty-five, and he 
wasn’t married. We didn’t see a lot of him in 
Cartordale—he lived mostly in London. He 
was not friends, they say, with Lady Clevedon, 
though I should not think they had really 
quarrelled. He was a stiff, solemn sort of man, 
and not very popular.” 

In point of fact the Clevedon title was one of 
tlie oldest surviving baronetcies, though there 
had been Clevedons in the Dale long before 
James I invented baronets as a new means of 
raising revenue. The Clevedons had all been 
politicians of varying degrees of importance, 
frequently unimportant. A minor Minister or 
two, a Colonial governor or so, a small Embassy, 
all urbane, honest, honourable, but occasionally 
unintelligent personages, belonging to what one 
might describe as the great Official class, which 
has ruled England since the days of the Tudors, 
doing most things badly but generally with 
clean hands. 

But the late Sir Philip Clevedon was some¬ 
thing of a mystery. No one had heard of him 
until the death of his cousin had given him the 
title. He had never been in Cartordale before 
that, and was entirely unknown even to his 
relatives. They had no idea even where he 
lived. Rumour was almost equally divided 


THE SILVER-HEADED HATPIN 51 
between America and Australia, but without 
any real foundation, since he himself vouch¬ 
safed no informaton on the point. Among the 
people of the Dale, as Martha indeed had told 
me, he had not been popular. He was too 
chilly and unemotional in his manner and, 
being frequently absent for lengthy periods, 
took no real part in the life of the Dale and, 
apparently, little interest in its concerns,. To 
many of the inhabitants he was not even known 
by sight. 

All this is a summary not only of what 
Martha told me, but of what I subsequently 
gathered. 

When I had finished with Martha I went out 
and met Detective Pepster strolling in casual 
fashion through the village. I should have 
missed him in the darkness but that we stepped 
at the same time into the light cast across the 
roadway by the “ Waggon and Horses,” Tim 
Dallott’s roadside inn, famed far and wide 
among visitors to the Dale. 

“ You haven’t been to arrest me-^yet,” I said, 
as Pepster returned my salute. 

“No,” he replied, with a placid grin, “ we 
are giving you a little more rope.” 

“You have taken a load off my mind,” I 
returned cheerfully. “ But are you quite sure ? 


52 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

Sudden temptation, you know, and — and 
so on.” 

“ Ah, you are pulling my leg, Mr. Holt,” 
Pepster replied affably. 

“ But you did suspect me,” I urged, wondering 
how far the detective might be amenable to 
pumping. 

Some of them are, but not those who know 
their job. 

“ Well, suspect—that’s rather a big word,” 
Pepster said thoughtfully. You see, the law 
says a man is innocent until he is proved guilty, 
but a detective who knows his business proceeds 
the other way about. Everybody is guilty in 
his eyes until the facts prove their innocence. 
There is only one man I am absolutely sure 
did not commit this murder, and that is myself, 
but nobody save me has any call to be sure 
even of that. Now you, for example—could 
you prove an alibi for that night if I took it 
into my head to charge you ? ” 

''We will suppose I could not—for the sake 
of argument.” 

‘‘ Just so, but then, you see, something else 
is required. Society is based on a notion that 
ordinary, normal men act in an ordinary, normal 
manner and don’t go about murdering each 
other for the mere fun of the thing. It is like 


THE SILVER-HEADED HATPIN 53 
people walking along a city pavement while 
motor-cars are dashing to and fro in the road¬ 
way. The three or four inches by which the 
pavement is raised are no protection at all 
should a motor-car take a sudden swerve, but 
pedestrians go ambling quietly on in the know¬ 
ledge that the normal thing is for motor-cars 
to keep their own place, and that when they 
go wrong it is because something has happened. 
Yes, Society is based on the prevalence of the 
normal. When you hear, for instance, that 
one man has killed another, you take it for 
granted there was a reason—what we call a 
motive. And the motive is vital. Sometimes 
the why of a murder reveals the who, and some¬ 
times the who explains the why. But the two 
must go together.” 

“ Your philosophy is both interesting and 
accurate,” I said. “ And what of the hat¬ 
pin ? ” 

“Ah, the hatpin,” Pepster replied thought¬ 
fully. “ But that may have been an accident 
and not the woman in the case.” 

“ The woman ? ” I said inquiringly, my 
thought going instantly to my midnight visitor. 
“ Yes, of course, a hatpin does suggest a woman, 
doesn’t it ? ” 

“ There may be a woman in it,” Pepster went 


64 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

on, gently garrulous, but I don’t know that 
the hatpin brings her in. Some woman owns 
the hatpin, no doubt, but that isn’t to say 
that she used it. Though it does help things 
wonderfully to get a woman into a case, even 
though it may complicate it. No doubt there 
would be a man in it too. There generally is. 
Women seldom play a lone hand. But they 
have always been a fruitful source of crime in 
men ever since Adam had to declare that the 
woman tempted him and he did eat. I have 
always thought ill of Adam for that—for telling, 
I mean. It’s not the sort of thing a real man 
would have blurted out. But for all that it was 
true—it was true then and it has been true ever 
since. Women-” 

“ And as you say,” I interrupted gently, “ it 
would be a woman’s hatpin.” 

“Oh, yes, it would be a woman’s hatpin. 
Sir Philip Clevedon didn’t wear them—not that 
I ever heard. And we have identified it, you 
know. It belongs to Lady Clevedon and, as 
far as I can make out. Miss Kitty Clevedon 
borrowed it when she went to see the house¬ 
keeper earlier that evening. It will be in 
all the papers to-morrow. There seem<»d no 
particular reason to keep it secret.” 

“ According to the newspapers, Miss Oievedon 


THE SILVER-HEADED HATPIN 55 
went to see the housekeeper, Mrs. Halfleet,” 
I observed. Did she take her hat off ? Where 
did she leave the pin ? ” 

‘‘Those questions have been asked and 
answered,’* Pepster replied. “ She was caught 
in a shower of rain on her way to White Towers 
and took off her hat to dry it. She does not 
recollect where she laid the pin down, but it 
must have been somewhere in the housekeeper’s 
room. She did not see Sir Philip Clevedon and 
did not enter the study where later the body 
was found.” 

“ The housekeeper—•— ? ” 

“ Knows nothing of the hatpin—does not 
remember Miss Clevedon laying it down, and in 
fact never saw it until she was brought to her 
dead master. It was Lady Clevedon herself who 
identified the hatpin and told me all about it.” 

So that instead of one woman you have 
three,” I murmured. 

“ Yes, three women but not the woman. 
Hullo ! there’s Dr. Crawford, and I want to 
speak to him.” 

He nodded a quick farewell and went off with 
long strides after the doctor. Considering his 
bulk and his apparently leisurely methods of 
thought and speech, Pepster was curiously 
quick and active in his movements, 


66 THE OLEVEDON CASE 

“ Do you know Mrs. Halfleet ? ” I asked 
my own housekeeper when I again reached 
home. 

“ Oh, yes, quite well,” she replied. “ I have 
known her for years. A little stand-offish 
in her manner, but quite pleasant face to 
face.” 

“ About how old would she be ? ” I queried. 

“ Oh, well, let me see. I am—yes, she 
must be quite sixty, perhaps a year or two 
older.” 

“Not a young woman, anyway.” 

“ Oh, dear no, not a young woman. She 
is the widow of a minister, a Methodist, I think, 
who was at a church in Midlington when he 
died. That must be a good sixteen years ago. 
Lady Clevedon, who was living at White Towers 
then, her husband being alive, brought her in 
as housekeeper, and the present—I mean the 
late—Sir Philip kept her on. She is sister to 
Mrs. Lepley, but far more of a lady-” 

I switched the conversation on to other lines, 
leaving Mrs. Halfleet for later investigation. 

The case, you will note, has advanced another 
stage. The weapon has been identified. The 
queer hatpin, with the three-cornered blade 
and the silver knob, was the property of Lady 
Clevedon, who lived at Hapforth House. Miss 


THE SILVER-HEADED HATPIN 57 
Kittj Clevedon borrowed it and so conveyed it 
to White Towers where, apparently, she left 
it. That was all very interesting and quite 
simple, but probably irrelevant. The question 
was not who had owned the hatpin or who 
had worn it, but who had used it. 

The question of time becomes interesting 
here. Tulmin, the valet, had seen his master 
alive at 11.30, and the girl had visited me at 
11.53. She certainly had committed no murder 
at White Towers in that interval. It was a 
physical impossibility. I had carefully assured 
myself regarding that. It would have required 
at the very minimum another fifteen or twenty 
minutes. But I had lost her in the darkness 
somewhere before 2 a.m. As I have already 
said, it was seven minutes past two when I 
reached Stone Hollow again on that night (or 
rather early morning), and allowing for the time 
I stood after she had evaded me, and for the 
walk homewards, I judged that it would be 
about 1.15 when she disappeared into the dark¬ 
ness. What had her movements been after 
that ? 

It must not be supposed that I suspected the 
girl of having had any hand in the tragedy, 
though I by no means ruled her out. Her 
beauty and youth did not weigh with me at all. 


58 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

I had found both in even greater measure in 
proven criminals. Besides which, a murder is 
not invariably a crime. 

But I had two ascertained facts—that Kitty 
Clevedon had worn the hatpin to White Towers, 
and that she had been abroad in the Dale during 
the early hours of that tragic morning. 


CHAPTEE V 

KITTY CLEVEDON AND RONALD THOYNE 


I MET Sergeant Gamley, the officei who had 
called on me in company with Detective 
Pepster, and I asked him whether the 
public would be admitted freely to the inquest. 

Well,” he said slowly, “ I suppose they have 
the right, but the accommodation is very 
limited, very. When the witnesses and the 
lawyers and the family and the police and the 
reporters and people who must be there are 
squeezed in there’ll not be a lot of room for 
outsiders. Did you want—ah, now, I am 
looking for another juryman. Stokkins has 

fallen ill. How would you like-? ” 

“ Excellent! ” I interrupted. “ As long as 
you don’t make me foreman it will suit mo very 
well. I should like to hear the story in full— 
being a neighbour, you know.” 

I did not add that it would also afford me 
an opportunity of seeing the body without 
making any obvious attempt in that connection. 
It was an ordinary country jury, consisting 
§9 


60 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

mostly of farmers, with a small shopkeeper or 
two, and Tim Dallott, landlord of the “ Waggon 
and Horses,” as foreman. We visited the 
chamber where the body lay, but it did not add 
anything to my knowledge except that I was 
able to form some idea what the man had looked 
hke in life, which did at least add to the interest 
of the mystery. 

An inquest is a singularly useless form of 
inquiry at its best. It is doubly and trebly so 
when the police use it, as frequently they do, 
for purposes of their own, to conceal the truth 
rather than reveal it. The real duty of the 
jury is to determine the cause of death, for, 
though it may declare that So-and-so was a 
murderer, the actual demands of the law are 
satisfied if the jury simply decides that a murder 
has been committed. A coroner who knows 
his business does not travel far outside the 
brief allotted him by the police, and generally 
manages—though not invariably—to keep his 
jury within the limits assigned himself. 

I have had a long and very varied experience 
of inquests and was not, therefore, surprised 
that the inquiry regarding Sir Philip Clevedon’s 
death should be merely formally opened and 
then immediately adjourned, for the purpose, 
it was stated, of a post-mortem examination. 


KITTY AND RONALD THOYNE 61 
I regarded that as a mere subterfuge—in which, 
as it happened, I was wrong—and easily realised 
that the police did not want as yet to tell all 
they knew, which in its turn suggested that 
they had some sort of a line on the murderer 
and did not desire to give him (or her) any 
information. 

Meanwhile I busied myself making some 
very careful inquiries regarding Miss Kitty 
Clevedon. Through her midnight visit to me, 
I was in possession of some information so far 
not within the knowledge of the police,, unless, 
indeed, she had herself told them, which I 
doubted ; and I intended, for a bit at all events, 
to keep it to myself. Exactly what connection 
she had with the tragedy I could not say, but 
I meant that she should tell me—in which 
determination I reckoned without Kitty Cleve¬ 
don. I met her as she was walking from 
Cartordale to Hapforth House. She was warmly 
clad in furs and, a little flushed by the wind 
that was blowing smartly across the moors, 
was looking very pretty and attractive. She 
saw me approaching her and, curiously enough, 
made no attempt to avoid me. In point of fact, 
I expected a direct “ cut,” but she stopped as 
I drew near and even held out her hand. 

“ Fancy meeting you, Mr. Holt! ” she cried. 


62 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

“ I have just been to Hapforth House,” I 
replied, wondering what might be the explana¬ 
tion of her unexpected cordiality, though I 
fancy that what she really had in mind was to 
show that at least she did not fear me. ‘‘I— 
well, in fact,” I went on, “ I wanted a word or 
two with you.” 

‘‘ With me ! ” 

“ May I turn and walk back part of the way 
with you ? ” I asked. 

“ Why, of course,” she replied. “ I always 
prsfer company if I can get it, and it’s none too 
plentiful here. I am used to lonely walks, 
though one can have too many of them. A 
woman likes to talk, you know, but one cannot 
converse with stone walls.” 

She rattled on, rather intent apparently on 
doing most of the talking, as if she did not wish 
to give me an opportunity. But I merely bided 
my time, knowing the chance would come ; and 
presently she seemed to realise that, because 
she interrupted her flow of chatter and turned 
as if waiting for me to speak. 

“You wanted—was it about something 
particular ? ” she asked. 

The words were all right, but the mock¬ 
ing smile in her eyes, and the set of her 
pretty lips, rather belied them. She was 


KITTY AND RONALD THOYNE 63 
preparing to meet her adversary with a woman’s 
weapons. 

“ It is about the night of the—of the murder,” 
I began slowly. 

“ Yes ? ” she said. 

“ And of your visit to my house.” 

She put up her hand and with a pretty gesture 
pushed back an unruly curl, meeting my gaze 
firmly and frankly and without any sign of 
disquiet. 

“ But—my visit to your house, Mr. Holt. 
I do not quite understand. Am I supposed to 
have visited your house on the night of the ?” 

“ You intend to deny it ? ” I asked. “ Well, 
if you consider that worth while I suppose I 
could not prove it. After all, it would be 
merely my word against yours. But isn’t such 
a subterfuge between us two just a little—shall 
I say—grotesque ? ” 

Suppose you tell me all about it,” she said 
quite tranquilly. “ Perhaps I have lost my 
memory. Such things do happen, don’t they ? 
But then there is generally a railway accident, 
isn’t there, or a motor smash. And I haven’t 
even knocked my head. Do tell me all about 
it, Mr. Holt.” 

I could not help admiring the skill with which 
she kept me at arm’s-length. It was grotesque, 


64 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

of course, as I had said, but it was wonderfully 
clever. Whatever her object, she certainly 
lacked none of the gifts and qualities of an 
accomplished actress. 

“ Doesn’t your attitude suggest,” I said, 
“ that you have — er — something to con¬ 
ceal ? ” 

“Does it?” she asked, opening her eyes 
wide. “ I wonder what it can be ? Oh, yes, the 
night of the—the tragedy. Are you suggesting 
by any chance that I murdered Sir Philip—is 
that what you mean, Mr. Holt ? Speak out if it 
is—please do not hesitate.” 

“ I did not say that.” 

“ But then what have I to do with it all ? ” 
she demanded, stamping her foot as if she were 
really angry. “ You must tell me what you 
mean, Mr. Holt. You have said too much not 
to say more. What is it you suspect ? You 
hint at this and hint at that, but say nothing 
straight out. It is a cowardly way to attack a 
woman.” 

Her voice broke artistically, and she seemed 
to be on the verge of tears. It was all very 
cleverly done, and I confess I admired her, 
though that did not turn me from my purpose. 
I have had to deal with women in all sorts of 
moods and every possible disguise, though 


KITTY AND RONALD THOYNE 65 
Kitty Clevedon at that moment was less a 
woman than a clue in skirts and furs. 

“ The matter is quite simple,” I said, 
deliberately brutal, in the hope of startling her 
out of her calm. “ I was only wondering what 
view the police, for example, would take of 
your midnight adventure.” 

“You had better go and tell them,” she 
flamed out. “ They might believe you, you 
know.” 

“You were in my house on that night,” I 
said, and waited to see if she would deny the 
visit even to me. 

“ So you said before,” she retorted. 

“ Do you, then, wish to deny that you were 
in my house on that night ? ” 

“ Would you believe me if I did deny it ? ” 

“ Of course not—how could I ? ” 

“ Then why should I trouble to deny it ? 
You ask me a question and answer it for me, 
and tell me you will not believe me unless I 
adopt your answer. That is a convenient method 
of cross-examining—put the question and invent 
the answer.” 

“ And yet you will not deny it—why not 
deny it and have done with it ? ” 

“ Mr. Holt,” she said slowly, “ I do not know 
what you mean.” 

E 


66 THE OLEVEDON CASE 

That was definite enough, and we walked 
along for some minutes in silence, the while I 
considered whether I should press her further 
just then or carry my inquiries in another 
direction. I was, however, relieved of the 
responsibility of immediate decision, for at that 
moment a man turned the bend of the road and, 
seeing us there, came towards us and greeted 
Kitty with the familiarity of an old acquaintance. 
She on her part welcomed him joyfully, though 
whether that was from pleasure at seeing him 
or because he provided a way of escape from 
further questioning, I did not attempt to 
decide. 

The new-comer was tall and rather heavily 
built and gave an impression of immense physical 
strength. His manner was bluff and frank and 
his eyes kindly and intelligent, but the lines of 
his mouth were hard, as of a man who had 
had to fight his way and would be little likely 
to give quarter to an opponent. He looked 
like one who wanted much anything he did 
want, and would leave nothing undone that 
might secure it. “ Honest in a way, but a tough 
customer,” was my own private summary, and 
I wondered who the man was. 

“I was just going to Hapforth House,” he 
said, smiling, as he addressed Kitty Olevedon, 


KITTY AND RONALD THOYNE 67 
though the stare he bestowed on me was none 
too friendly. 

I noticed that Kitty made no move to intro¬ 
duce us. 

“ Oh, yes, Auntie told me she was expecting 
you—some business matter, isn’t it ? ” she said. 
“ I warn you there may be a warm half-hour 
before you. Good-bye, Mr. Holt. It was very 
kind of you to come this far with me. Mr. 
Thoyne is going my way.” 

I accepted my dismissal smilingly and made 
a careful note in my mind of the man’s name. 
Anyone with whom Miss Kitty Clevedon was 
acquainted became a person of interest worth 
knowing. On my way to Stone Hollow I met 
Dr. Crawford, a Scot, rough of tongue and 
occasionally almost brutal in manner; but he 
was implicitly trusted by the Dale folk, who 
regarded suavity and gentleness with suspicion, 
and politeness as a form of hypocrisy. He had 
come to them from a country even wilder and 
sterner than their own, and was thus able to 
fit in with their moods and to understand their 
temperament, which, to strangers, seemed to 
be compounded of a mixture of sullenness and 
stupidity. He was one of the very few people 
in the Dale with whom I had struck up any sort 
of intimacy, possibly because he had been my 


68 THE CLEVBDON CASE 

late aunt’s medical attendant and a witness to 

tlie will that had given me Stone Hollow. 

“Do you happen to know a man named 
Thoyne ? ” I asked after a few preliminary 
remarks. 

“ Yes ; don’t you know him ? ” 

“ Am I supposed to ? Is he one of those 
persons whom not to know is proof of one’s 
own insignificance ? ” 

“ Oh, I would not say that, though it is a 
little curious that you should have been some 
weeks in Cartordale without hearing about 
Ronald Thoyne.” 

“ Well, apparently I have heard about him,” 
I replied, “ or I shouldn’t be asking you questions 
regarding him.” 

“I am not exactly one of his intimates,” 
Dr. Crawford said. “He is an American who 
fought in the war with the French Army before 
the Yanks came in. He was wounded or gassed, 
or possibly it was shell-shock. At all events 
he came to England and was for some time in 
hospital, but he seems perfectly fit again now. 
He settled here at Lennsdale, which stands 
away up there on the hill-side. You can just 
see the house through that opening. He is 
certainly wealthy and gives generously, which 
is perhaps one reason why he is popular round 


KITTY AND EONALD THOYNE 69 
here. He is bluff and hearty, but rather too 
ready with his fists to fit our modern notions 
of law and order. A good man to avoid a 
quarrel with, I should imagine. He is very 
strong on the war and indignant with his own 
country for holding off as long as she did. That 
is about as near a character-sketch as I can 
give you.” 

“ Good. I must make his acquaintance. Is 
he very friendly with Miss Kitty Clevedon ? ” 

“ Well, there have been rumours—matrimonial 
—but nothing definite. If they are formally 
engaged I haven’t heard of it.” 

The doctor turned into a small cottage standing 
by the roadway, and I walked on alone to Stone 
Hollow. 


CHAPTER VI 

A NEW SENSATION 


I T was in Dr. Crawford’s surgery the day 
before the resumed inquest that I met 
Lady Clevedon again. A little to my 
surprise she recognised me, though, as far as I 
knew, she had only seen me in the dark, and 
greeted me by name. 

“ I wanted to know you, Mr. Holt,” the old 
lady said. “ You were a popular theme of 
conversation when your aunt’s will became 
known, and everybody wondered what this 
London nephew might be like.” 

“ May I suppose that he, even though 
distantly, approaches expectation ? ” I said. 

“ Oh, I don’t know that we really harboured 
expectations,” Lady Clevedon retorted bluntly. 
“ I had seen your photograph, so that your 
features do not come upon me with any over¬ 
whelming sense of novelty. Mrs. Mackaluce 
showed me the portrait.” 

“Yes, I know she had one,” I said. “I found it 
in the house. But I don’t know how she got it.” 
70 


A NEW SENSATION 71 

“ I think she said her lawyer procured it for 
her. ‘ I quarrelled with his father and mother,’ 
she told me, ‘ and I’m not going to make it up 
with him. But he is the only relative I have 
in the world, and he has only me, and I shall 
make him my heir.’ Are you really as lonely 
as all that, Mr. Holt ? ” 

“ Lonely ? ” I echoed, perhaps a little vaguely, 
‘‘ Oh, you mean the only relative—no, it's not 
quite so blank as that. True, my relatives do 
not worry me much, but there are some about 
somewhere.” 

Are you going to settle in Cartordale ? ” 
she demanded. It’s slow enough as a rule, 
though there is excitement just now, more 
than enough. Sir Philip Clevedon stabbed and 
with my hatpin—it was my hatpin, you 
know-” 

She closed her lips together with what was 
almost a snap, as if she feared to say too much. 
But she was not constructed for long silences. 

“ That man Peppermint, Peppercorn-” 

“ Pepster,” Dr. Crawford murmured. 

“ Ah, yes, Pepster—thinks I did the murder. 
Where did I last see my hatpin ? Did I leave 
it at White Towers ? ‘ My good man,’ I said, 
‘ I haven’t been in White Towers for three 
years.’ Wasn’t I friendly with Sir Philip ? 


72 THE OLEVEDON CASE 

Had I quarrelled with him ? When did I last 

see him ? Of course I had quarrelled with 

him. Philip Clevedon was always quarrelling 

with somebody. He was—but there, he’s dead 

now.” 

She paused again and began to draw on her 
glove. 

“The late baronet wasn’t exactly popular-?” 

I began. 

“ Popular ! ” the old lady cried explosively. 
“ Popular! ” 

She left it there and, indeed, she had no need 
to go into further detail. Her inflection on the 
word was sufficient. 

“ But, anyway, I didn’t kill him,” she went 
on. “ There is a lot of difference between a 
desire to box a man’s ears and stabbing him 
with a hatpin. If I stabbed everybody I 
quarrelled with I should have some busy 
days.” 

“It was your hatpin,” I murmured, possibly 
in the hope that I might irritate her into talking, 
a plan which, if indeed I had really formed it, 
Dr. Crawford frustrated. 

“ Well, anyway, you did not kill Sir Philip 
Clevedon,” he said roughly. 

“ You are a true friend,” the old lady cried, 
with grim and satirical humour. “ Thank God ! 


A NEW SENSATION 73 

somebody believes me innocent. If 1 come to 
the gallows-” 

“ I know you did not kill him,” the doctor 
repeated half sullenly, but with so much emphasis 
that I couldnothelp wondering what was behind it. 

‘‘ How can you know ? ” Lady Glevedon cried. 
“ Perhaps I did. I have felt like it many a time, 
anyway. And it was my hatpin—as Mr. Holt 
reminded me. Pepperpot suspects me at all 
events. But here oomes Kitty.” 

The old lady drew Dr. Crawford aside and 
began to discuss with him some matters con¬ 
nected, I fancy, with village doings. Kitty 
Clevedon and I were left by ourselves in the 
huge bay window that looked out over the 
rough, uncultivated garden. The girl made no 
effort to avoid my company but greeted me with 
a cool tranquillity that was, however, of that 
careful variety which suggested some anxiety to 
show that she was not afraid of me. For my 
part I merely returned a conventional reply and 
stood looking out into the garden, leaving it to 
her to open a conversation or not just as she 
thought proper. I took it that, being a woman, 
she would, and I was not far out. 

“ Your gaze on that garden seems very 
intent, Mr. Holt,” she said, with a bewildering 
smile. “ Are you looking for something ? ” 


74 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

“ Well, perhaps,’' I responded, with a smile. 
“ You see, I am always on the look-out—^for 
your double.” 

My double! Have I a double ? How 
delightful! ” she cried. 

"Yes,” I said gravely, turning once more to 
the garden; “a double—someone so exactly 
like you that it is very difficult to distinguish 
you. I should like to find her—that other one. 
But I have had no luck, none at all.” 

“ Are you so very anxious to find her ? ” 
Kitty asked, bringing that smile once more to 
bear as she saw that my eyes were turned again 
in her direction. 

“ At this moment, none at all,” I responded 
lightly. “ I find my present company fully 
adequate.” 

“Is it that I make an efficient substitute ? 
How very sweet of you to say so,” Kitty mur¬ 
mured, with a quick glance downward as if at 
the slender toe of an exceptionally pretty 
shoe. 

“ No, I do not remember saying that,” I 
replied. “You see, you are you and she is 
she-” 

“ ‘ And never the twain shall meet ’—isn’t that 
Kipling ? ” Kitty demanded. 

“ I think it may be quite safely asserted,” I 


A NEW SENSATION 75 

said, with grim meaning, “ that you will never 
meet your double.’* 

She flushed a little at the thrust but main¬ 
tained otherwise her smiling calm. 

“ But when did you meet her, Mr. Holt—did 
you ever tell me ? ” she asked, with a delightful 
assumption of candour and innocence. 

There was never a cleverer actress on or off 
the stage than Kitty Clevedon. 

“ Oh, she flitted into my life through my study 
window—and then flitted out again—into the 
the darkness-” 

“ Leaving you desolate—how very unkind of 
her! ” 

She broke off with a quick trill of pretty 
laughter that was not at all affected and in which 
I joined her. 

“ It sounded a trifle sentimental, didn’t it ? ” 
I said, and then added with tranquil insolence, 
looking her this time full in the face, “ but isn’t 
there a proverb about better to have seen and 

lost than never to have-oh, and that reminds 

me. I asked Dr. Crawford where I should find 
another young lady like Miss Clevedon and he 
replied, ‘ Impossible—there isn’t one. God broke 
the mould when He made her.’ But there is 
another one, I know, because I have seen her, 
and--” 



76 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

“ I should want a very solemn affidavit indeed 
to make me believe that Dr. Crawford ever said 
anything so pretty as that,” she interrupted. 

I had expected to make her angry but she 
seemed only amused. 

“ Oh, you don’t know the doctor,” I said airily. 
“ He is capable of much. But he was wrong in 
this case—^the double exists.” 

‘‘ I shall ask him if he said it.” 

‘‘ I wouldn’t.” 

“ Why ? ” 

‘‘ Oh, well, you know, he might ask some 
awkward questions in his turn. You see, I have 
never told anyone yet about your—double. I 
don’t think I should care to entrust him with 
the secret.” 

“ But why let it trouble you, Mr. Holt—why 
not forget it—and her ? ” 

“ Oh, I am not allowing it to trouble me.” 

''You seem to be always talking about it.” 

" I have never mentioned it to a soul except 
yourself.” 

"I should think-” Kitty began, then 

turned away to meet Lady Clevedon, whose 
conference with Dr. Crawford had just 
terminated. 

The old lady stood glaring at me for a moment 
or two. 


A NEW SENSATION 77 

" I dare say you think that we—Kitty and I— 
take this—this tragedy very calmly, Mr. Holt,” 
she said. 

‘‘ I don’t know that I thought about it at all,” 
I responded. 

“ Women sometimes wear a mask, Mr. Holt.” 

‘‘ Yes ? ” 

“ It may be for a purpose or it may be by 
habit.” 

“ Yes.” 

I glanced quickly at Kitty and found her 
surveying the old lady with sombre eyes from 
which all the laughter had fled. She at all 
events had been wearing a mask. 

When the two ladies had gone Dr. Crawford 
and I sat down to a whisky and soda apiece and 
a cigar. He seemed ill at ease, restless and 
rather unhappy until I casually reintroduced 
the subject of the Clevedon mystery, then he 
seemed in some curious way to brighten up. 

“ Aye, murder cases,” he said reflectively. ** A 
murder case can be very interesting, you know 
—^morbid but fascinating.” 

I agreed without at all grasping his meaning. 

“You are a student of criminology and you 
have written books on the subject,” Crawford 
went on. “ Did you ever run up against a case 
of poisoning with prussic acid ? ” 


78 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

“ Several times,” I replied. “ It is a frequent 
and formidable poison because it is so swift and 
unerring in its effect. The victim is dead before 
help can possibly reach him.” 

“ That is true,” Crawford agreed. “ Death 
may be a matter of seconds, of minutes at most. 
But, now, tell me, have you met cases in which 
a man, having taken a dose of prussic acid, lies 
calmly down and is found as tranquil and orderly 
in posture as if he had died in his sleep ? ” 

“ Oh, yes,” I said. “ Indeed, I should say the 
majority of cases were like that. Prussic acid 
is said to produce convulsion, frothing at the 
mouth, and so forth. Those do take place, and 
may in every instance, though there are cases in 
which no evidence of them remains.” 

“ Just so,” Crawford agreed, nodding his head. 
“ But, now suppose it were a case of suicide by 
prussic acid, would you expect to find the bottle 
near at hand ? ” 

“ In nine cases out of ten—yes,” I responded. 
“ And in the tenth ? ” he asked eagerly. 

“ There might have been some other way of 
administering the poison—wasn’t there a case of 

prussic acid in chocolates-? ” 

“ Would it be possible for a man who had 
taken prussic acid to conceal the bottle ? ” 

“ Possible, yes, but-” 


A NEW SENSATION 79 

“ And if no bottle were found you would 
regard it as a case of murder ? ’’ 

“ If the murderer had any sense he would 
leave the bottle near at hand to give the 
appearance of suicide.” 

“But murderers — sometimes forget — these 
little-” 

“ They do, fortunately for the law. Nine 
murderers out of ten are hanged by their own 
mistakes. But what is your sudden interest in 

poison cases ? Have you one in-? ” 

“ I have—Sir Philip Clevedon-” 

“ Sir Philip Clevedon ! ” I echoed, for once 
surprised into showing my astonishment. 

“Aye,” Dr. Crawford said slowly. “He died 
from prussic acid poisoning and the hatpin was 
thrust through his heart—after he was dead.” 


CHAPTER VII 

EVIDENCE AT THE INQUEST 

I TOOK my place at the jury table for the 
resumed inquest with considerably quick¬ 
ened anticipations. Dr. Crawford’s story 
had introduced new factors into the case which 
promised added interest and a still more involved 
mystery, though with a possibility of suicide 
and, it might be, a vivid and fascinating life 
story. Not that I indulged in any speculations. 
I wanted only facts and those I expected the 
inquest to afford. I was not disappointed. Of 
course, the doctor’s evidence startled everybody. 

“ And what was the cause of death ? ” the 
coroner asked, when Dr. Crawford had con¬ 
cluded his preliminary evidence. 

“ The deceased died from poisoning by hydro¬ 
cyanic acid,” was the reply. 

This was news to most of those present, includ¬ 
ing the reporters, who began to write feverishly, 
those representing the evening papers, anyway. 
Here was a new fact, one even they, so far, had 
not been allowed to know. 


80 


EVIDENCE AT THE INQUEST $1 
That is what is known as prussic acid, isn’t 
it?” 

‘‘ Yes.” 

“ The hatpin you have already described to us 
was not the cause of death ? ” 

“ The deceased was dead when it was inserted.” 

“ Would it have caused death had there been 
no poison ? ” 

“ Possibly, but not certainly. Death at all 
events would hardly have been so rapid. With 
that wound the deceased might have lingered for 
some time, for days even.” 

“ He might eventually have recovered ? ” 

“ Yes.” 

The coroner paused for a moment or two, then 
glanced at Pepster, who shook his head slightly. 
For some reason or other the police were not 
eager to pursue that particular line of question¬ 
ing. 

Dr. Crawford’s further evidence and that of 
the police surgeon from Peakborough, who 
followed him, was largely devoted to what one 
might describe as the technique of prussic acid 
poisoning, unnecessary to detail here. There 
was, however, one little fragment of evidence 
worth repeating. 

“ On a small table by the side of the couch on 
which the deceased was lying was a bottle half 

F 


82 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

full of whisky, a siphon of soda-water and a glass. 
I took charge of them and later Dr. Crimley and 
myself analysed the contents.” 

“ With what results ? ” 

“ None.” 

“ You found no trace of prussic acid ? ” 

“ None.” 

“ Was there any liquid in the glass ? ” 

“Yes, about half an inch.” 

“ What was it ? ” 

“ Water.” 

“ No whisky ? ” 

“ No.” 

“ And no prussic acid ? ” 

“ Not a trace.” 

I glanced at the reporters again and saw that 
they were writing their hardest. The trained 
newspaper man is never at fault when it comes 
to selecting evidence. He seems to know by 
instinct what is crucial. The longest report of 
any case does not represent more than a 
twentieth part of the evidence actually given, 
but the points are all there always. And the 
reporters knew quite well that the absence of 
poison from the bottle and siphon might make 
all the difference between suicide and murder. 
Had the whisky been poisoned Sir Philip Cleve- 
don might have put it there himself. There 


EVIDENCE AT THE INQUEST 83 
was, of course, the fact that the apparent absence 
of any medium through which the poison could 
have been administered added to the puzzle, 
and the press dearly loves a mystery—at 
least its readers do, and newspapers that live 
by their readers wisely enough live for them 
also. 

The next witness was John Tulmin, a little, 
thin man, not more than about five feet three 
in height and correspondingly meagre in build, 
who had been the late baronet’s personal servant, 
possessed, apparently, of sufficient education 
occasionally to do secretarial work for him. At 
all events he opened Sir Philip’s letters and 
typed the replies dictated by his employer. But 
he also acted as valet and was apparently as 
clever with clothes brush and razor as he was 
with the typewriter. He gave his evidence 
clearly and without hesitation, and seemed quite 
unaware of any reason why he should be an 
object of considerable interest to Police, Press 
and Public. 

‘‘ At what time did you last see Sir Philip 
Clevedon alive ? ” the coroner asked him. 

“ At thirty-three minutes past eleven.” 

‘‘ You are very precise.” 

“ I am precise because I am stating the fact.” 

“ What enables you to fix the time ? ” 


84 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

“ As I was leaving the room Sir Philip asked 
me for the time and set his watch.” 

‘‘Was that usual with him ? ” 

“ Oh, no, but he had complained during 
the day that his watch seemed to be los¬ 
ing.” 

“ Good! He asked you the time and you 

told him-” ? 

“ Eleven thirty-three.” 

“Was that from your own watch ? ” 

“ Yes.” 

“ And your watch was right ? ” 

“ Yes.” 

“You are quite sure of that ? ” 

“ Absolutely.” 

“ And what happened then ? ” 

“ He said, ‘ That will be all, Tulmin, good 
night.’ I replied, ‘ Good night. Sir Philip,’ and 
had reached the door when he called me back. 
‘ And, by the way, Tulmin,’ he said, ‘ waken me 
at eight o’clock. I want to catch the 10.15 to 
London. Order me the car at 9.30 will you.’ I 
said, ‘Very good. Sir Philip,* and then I left the 
room, closing the door behind me.” 

“ He told you to call him at eight o’clock ? ” 

“ Yes.” 

“ And to have the car round at 9.30 ? ” 

“ Yes.” 


EVIDENCE AT THE INQUEST 85 
‘‘ Because he was catching the 10.15 to 
London ? ” 

“ Yes.” 

“ That is a very important matter, gentlemen,” 
the coroner said, turning to the jury. “ It has 
some bearing on the possibility of suicide.” 

I glanced at Pepster, whose face was wrinkled 
in a quiet grin. Keally, such orders had no 
bearing at all on the question of suicide—they 
were just such as a man might give who had 
determined to take his own life but desired to 
conceal the truth. A person bent on suicide— 
though “ temporary insanity ” is usually the 
verdict of kindly juries—can manifest very 
considerable skill, and frequently does, in cover¬ 
ing up the real mode of his exit from this life. 
Scores of cases of ‘‘ accident ”—according to 
the verdict—in my experience have been suicide 
disguised. Men and women who have been 
killed on the railway, or run over by motor-cars, 
or drowned while bathing, or shot while cleaning 
a gun, or swallowed poison from bottles labelled 
something else, have carefully arranged those 
happenings, chiefly for the benefit of insurance 
companies. Suicide is much more frequent than 
is generally supposed, and it is far more often 
the result of careful calculation and arrangement 
than of insanity, temporary or otherwise. 


86 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

‘‘ Did Sir Philip give you any order when he 
rang for you ? ” the coroner went on, continuing 
his examination of Tulmin. 

“Yes, he told me to bring him a whisky and 
soda.” 

“ You did that ? ” 

“ I brought him a bottle of whisky, a siphon 
of soda-water and a glass, and I placed 
them on a small table which I drew up to 
the side of the couch on which Sir Philip 
was reclining.” 

“ How much whisky was there in the bottle ? ” 

“ It was about half full.” 

“ Where was this bottle kept ? ” 

“ It was on the sideboard in the dining-room. 
Sir Philip always had whisky and soda for 
dinner.” 

“ Was the bottle you took him at night the 
same bottle out of which Sir Philip had had 
whisky at dinner ? ” 

“ Yes.” 

“You are sure of that ? ” 

“ Yes—quite. I poured it out myself at 
dinner.” 

“You see the point of my question ? ” 

“ I am not sure-” 

“ No ; but we will return to that later. As 
far as you know, the bottle you took Sir Philip 


EVIDENCE AT THE INQUEST 87 
was the one from which you had given him 
whisky at dinner ? ” 

“ I am quite sure it was the same.” 

I confess I did not quite see the bearing of 
that question, but I gathered from Pepster’s 
attitude that he, at all events, attached 
some importance to it, and I was content to 
wait. 

Did Sir Philip drink only one brand of 
whisky ? ” 

“ Yes, sir, always the same ; Lambert’s Blue 
Label.” 

“ How many bottles have you of that ? ” 

“ I am not quite certain, but about eight 
dozen, I think.” 

‘‘ Now let us come to the following morning. 
How did you hear of the—the tragedy ? ” 

“ Miss Lepley awakened mo, and I went 
straight to the study.” 

‘‘You saw the small table by the side of the 
couch ? ” 

“ Yes.” 

“ Was the whisky bottle there ? ” 

“ Yes.” 

“ And the siphon and the glass ? ” 

“ Yes.” 

“ Just as you had put them the night before ? ” 
“ Yes,” 


88 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

‘‘Now here is the bottle of whisky that was 
found on the table by Sir Philip’s side 
Pepster produced it from a bag he had been 
hitherto carefully guarding—“ is that the bottle 
from which you gave your employer a drink 
at dinner and which you left with him at 
night ? ” 

“ Yes, sir.” 

“ How do you identify it ? ” 

“ It’s Lambert’s Blue Label, sir.” 

“ But that is a popular brand, isn’t it ? ” 

“ Oh, yes, I believe it is, sir.” 

“ You could buy a bottle in Midlington, for 
example ? ” 

“ Yes, sir, at several places.” 

“ Are there any special marks on this 
particular bottle ? ” 

“ No, sir, I don’t think so.” 

“ Then how do you identify it ? ” 

“ It is Lambert’s Blue Label, and-” 

“ Just so, and we may leave it there. As far 
as you know, that bottle is the one from which 
you gave Sir Philip his drink at dinner, and 
which you took him at night, but there are no 
marks on it which enable you to identify it 
positively.” 

“ Well, of course, one bottle of Lambert’s 
Blue Label is very like another.” 


EVIDENCE AT THE INQUEST 89 
Precisely. Did you notice the glass ? ” 

“ Not particularly.” 

“ Could you say whether it was the glass you 
took Sir Philip ? ” 

“ It was the same sort of glass.” 

‘‘ Quite an ordinary glass ? ” 

“ Oh, yes.” 

“ There are many glasses of that type in the 
house ? ” 

‘‘ Yes, sir, several dozen, I should think. 
The housekeeper or the butler would 
know.” 

‘‘ Just so. There was nothing special 
about the glass, any more than about the 
bottle ? ” 

Nothing, sir.” 

That was the end of this very curious cross- 
examination, the exact bearing of which did 
not occur to me immediately. 

The next witness was Miss Nora Lepley, 
niece to Mrs. Halfleet, the housekeeper. The 
name seemed familiar to me, and for a moment 
or two I puzzled over it. But when I saw the 
girl, I remembered. Indeed, she was not of 
the type that is easily forgotten. It was the 
girl of the farm-house at which we had called in 
search of Lady Clevedon’s missing chauffeur. 
It seemed that she was staying with her aunt, 


90 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

Mrs. Halfleet, for a few days, and she it was that 

made the first discovery of the tragedy. 

“ It was you who found Sir Philip’s—er— 
who first saw-? ” 

“ Yes, sir, I found Sir Philip lying dead on his 
couch in the study.” 

“ At what time would that be ? ” 

“ About seven o’clock.” 

“ And how came you to be the first to enter 
the study ? ” 

“ Nobody was allowed to tidy Sir Philip’s 
study except my aunt, and she had to be there 
when the maids were cleaning. But when I 
was staying with her at White Towers, I some¬ 
times looked after it for her. Sir Philip knew, 
and didn’t object.” 

“Were you friendly with Sir Philip ? ” 

“ Oh, no, not particularly. I seldom saw 
him, and when I did he generally didn’t speak 
to me. He wasn’t very—very ” 

“ Is genial the word ? ” 

“ Yes, that would fit.” 

The girl smiled, but quickly composed her 
features again. 

“ Now let us come to this particular morning. 
Tell me exactly what happened.” 

“ My aunt wakened me and said would I 
straighten Sir Philip’s study for her, as he would 


EVIDENCE AT THE INQUEST 91 
be down early. I think she said he was going 
to London.” 

“ What time would it be when she wakened 
you ? ” 

** I should think about a quarter to seven. 
I can’t say to the minute, because I did not 
look at my watch.” 

“ And what happened then ? ” 

“ I dressed, and went downstairs to the 
study. As I opened the door I saw that the 
light was still burning, and that Sir Philip was 
lying on the couch. I thought he had fallen 
asleep there overnight. I went to him and put 
my hand on his shoulder, intending to waken 

him, and then I saw-” 

She paused there, and her face whitened a 
little at the recollection. 

You saw that he was dead ? ” 

“ Yes.” 

Had you tried to awaken him ? ” 

“ Yes, I had shaken his arm.” 

‘‘ And then ? ” 

“ I ran out of the room and fetched my aunt 

who sent me for Mr. Chinley-” 

“ That is the butler ? ” 

“ Yes, and then I went for Mr. Tulmin.” 

“ Was he awake ? ” 

“ Ohj yes. Indeed, he wq.s half dressed/* 


92 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

“ Did he open the door directly you 
knocked ? ’’ 

“ Yes, I—I think so.” 

“ But you would not be sure of that ? ” 
“No, I may have knocked twice.” 

“ Did Tulmin go with you immediately to 
the study ? ” 

“ Yes, and then he ran off for the doctor.” 

“ And what did you do ? ” 

“ I remained with my aunt and Mr. Chinley 
in the study until the doctor came.” 

“ And now I want you to consider very 
carefully this next question; when you saw 
that Sir Philip was dead, did you examine him 
at all ? ” 

“No, I did not wait for that. I ran straight 
out to bring help.” 

“ Did you notice the hatpin ? ” 

“No, I saw nothing of it.” 

“ Does that mean that it wasn’t there, or that 
you did not notice it ? ” 

“ It may have been there. Indeed, I sup¬ 
pose it must have been, but I did not see 
it.” 

“ You formed no idea as to how he had died ? ” 
“ I formed no ideas of any sort. I think I 
was too frightened and upset.” 

“ Thank you, Miss Lepley,” the coroner 


EVIDENCE AT THE INQUEST 93 
said. “ You have given your evidence very 
clearly.” 

“ I am sorry I could not remember about the 
hatpin,” she replied. 

“ Oh, well, I have no doubt we shall trace it 
in time. And now we will have Mrs. Halfleet, 
the housekeeper.” 


CHAPTER VIII 

THE STORY OF A QUARREL 

T he inquest, as far as it had gone, 
afforded no leading at all. We had 
not even learned how the poison had 
been administered, for though there had been 
some suggestion of possible juggling with the 
whisky bottle and glass, there had been nothing 
definite. But it was the hatpin that puzzled 
me most. One might regard it as certain, at 
all events, that Sir Philip Clevedon, even if 
he had voluntarily taken the poison, had not 
thereafter stabbed himself. One could only 
suppose that it was the murderer’s effort to 
make absolutely sure that his work was com¬ 
plete. Without the hatpin it might have been 
odds in favour of suicide. 

Mrs. Halfleet, the housekeeper, was a tall 
woman, something past middle-age, with black 
hair lightly streaked with grey, and dark eyes 
of a peculiarly penetrating quality. I wondered 
for a moment if or where I had seen her before, 
and then I realised that it was her likeness to 


94 


THE STORY OF A QUARREL 95 
her niece that had impressed me. She was 
very alert, both mentally and physically, 
answered the questions in full and without 
hesitation, and yet with a curious air of detach¬ 
ment as if, after all, it were no particular business 
of hers. She described events already dealt 
with here, and generally corroborated the 
evidence that had gone before. 

“ I want to ask you now about this hatpin,” 
the coroner said, picking up the pretty but 
sinister little weapon. “ You were the first to 
discover the—the use to which it had been 
put.” 

Yes, I saw it and called Mr. Chinley’s atten¬ 
tion to it.” 

“ Had you seen it before ? ” 

‘‘ Not that I can recollect.” 

“You had a visitor during the evening ? ” 

“ Yes, Miss Glevedon.” 

“ Did she remove her hat ? ” 

“ Yes, she had been caught in the rain, and her 
hat was very wet. I advised her to take it off 
and dry it before my fire.” 

“ Did she do that ? ” 

“ Yes.” 

“ When Miss Glevedon took off her hat, did 
you see her remove the pin ? ” 

“ I cannot remember.” 


96 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

“ Did you see where she put it down ? ” 

No.” 

You did not see her put it on the table, 
for instance, or the mantelpiece ? ” 

‘‘ No.” 

“ You did not notice it lying about after she 
had gone ? ” 

‘‘ No.” 

“ Did Miss Clevedon see Sir Philip ? ” 

“ She went to his study.” 

“ Do you know whether she saw him ? ” 

“ No, she went straight out after that, and 
did not return to my room.” 

Did Miss Clevedon resume her hat before 
she went to the study ? ” 

“ No, she was carrying it in her hand.” 
“You are sure of that ? ” 

“ Yes, I remember her remarking that it 
was still damp, and that she would put it on when 
she got outside.” 

“You do not recollect whether she had the 
hatpin in her hand ? ” 

“ No, I do not remember that.” 

“ Did Sir Philip Clevedon have any other 
visitors ? ” 

“ One, earlier in the evening.” 

“ Before or after dinner ? ” 

“ Before dinner—about six o’clock.” 


THE STORY OF A QUARREL 97 
'‘Were you present at their interview ? ” 
“No, I was in the little room that leads ojS 
the study.” 

“ What is that room used for ? ” 

“ Only to store books. It is completely 
lined with shelves that are full of books. I was 
engaged dusting them.” 

“You heard someone enter the study ? ” 

“ Yes.” 

“ Could you overhear the conversation ? ” 
“Not while they spoke in ordinary tones; 
only when they raised their voices.” 

“ Did you recognise the visitor ? ” 

“ Yes, it was Mr. Thoyne.” 

I glanced at Thoyne, who had started from his 
seat as if with intention to intervene, then resumed 
it again as one who had thought better of it. 

“ Were they—was it a friendly interview ? ” 

“ Well—they disagreed-” 

“ I protest, Mr. Coroner,” Thoyne cried 
explosively, rising to his feet. 

“ If you desire to give evidence later-” 

the coroner began suavely. 

“ I have no desire to give evidence—I have 
none to give,” Thoyne cried. “ This interview 
which was purely private, took place hours 
before the—the tragedy, and had nothing to 
do with it.” 

G 


98 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

“ Please be silent, Mr. Thoyne,” the coroner 
said a little sharply, ‘‘ and allow me to conduct 
the inquiry in my own way. You shall, if you 
desire, have an opportunity later.” 

He turned again to Mrs. Halfleet. 

“ You said that Sir Philip and Mr. Thoyne 
disagreed—did you learn the cause of the-? ” 

This brought Thoyne once again to his feet 
and I did not wonder at it. The coroner had 
evidently his own particular method of conduct¬ 
ing an inquiry. 

“ Once again I protest, Mr. Coroner,” he said, 
his face flushed darkly with anger. This was 
a purely private conversation and had nothing 
to do with-” 

The coroner took absolutely no notice of him 
this time but simply repeated his question to 
Mrs. Halfleet though in a slightly different form. 

“ Did you gather over what it was that Mr. 
Thoyne and Sir Philip Clevedon—quarrelled ? ” 

“ There was no quarrel,” Thoyne interjected. 

‘‘ It was over—a lady,” Mrs. Halfleet re¬ 
sponded slowly. 

I began now to see something of the drift of 
this apparently irregular questioning. There 
was more behind it all than appeared to the 
casual observer. I glanced almost furtively 
at Miss Kitty Clevedon but found her perfectly 



THE STORY OF A QUARREL 99 
calm and tranquil though her face was dead 
white. 

“Was the lady’s name mentioned ? ” 

“ No.” 

Curiously enough, the coroner did not appear 
to be disappointed by that reply and it also 
had the effect of quietening Ronald Thoyne. 
His lips moved in a quick smile and he settled 
himself back in his chair with an air of obvious 
satisfaction. What they might say about him¬ 
self apparently did not worry him. 

“ Could you hear what they said when they 
raised their voices ? ” 

“ I heard Sir Philip say, ‘ You are talking 
nonsense. I cannot compel her to marry me 
against her will. The decision rests with her.’ 
He was not exactly shouting but was speaking 
a little more loudly than usual. Mr. Thoyne 
seemed angry. ‘ You must release her from 
her promise,’ he said. His voice was hoarse 
and he struck the table with his stick as he 
spoke. I think Sir Philip stood up from his 
seat then. I did not see him, of course, but I 
seemed to hear him walking up and down. 
And he spoke sharply, almost angrily. The 
words appeared to come with a sort of snap. ‘ I 
have nothing to say in this matter,’ Sir Philip 
declared. ‘ I neither hold her to her promise 


100 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
nor release her from it. The decision rests 
solely with her. If she notifies me that she 
cannot marry me I have no power to compel 
her. But I am not prepared to take your word 
for it. The decision must come from herself.’ 
Mr. Thoyne said ‘ That is your last word, is it ? ’ 
to which Sir Philip replied, ‘ My first word and 
my last. As far as I am concerned I am engaged 
and remain engaged until the young lady her¬ 
self notifies me that the engagement is at an 
end.’ Then Mr. Thoyne said, ‘ If you don’t 
release her I shall find a way of making you—I 
shall find a way.’ ” 

“ Upon which,” Thoyne rapped out sarcastic¬ 
ally, “ I poisoned him with prussic acid. It 
certainly was an effective form of compulsion.” 

“ Silence ! ” cried a police officer. 

“ Silence ! ” Thoyne echoed irascibly. “ It is 
a time for silence, isn’t it, when I am virtually 
accused of murdering Sir Philip Clevedon ? 
This lady has a marvellous memory, hasn’t 
she ? ” 

“You will have an opportunity of giving 
evidence and of denying-” the coroner began. 

“ I am denying nothing,” Thoyne interrupted 
half sullenly. “ The story is all right as far as 
it goes. Sir Philip Clevedon probably stood 
nearer a thrashing than ever in his life before. 


THE STORY OF A QUARREL 101 
But I didn’t poison him nor did I stab him with 
a hatpin.” 

I happened just then to glance casually at 
Pepster, who was seated a little behind the 
coroner and who was watching Thoyne with a 
keen, intent gaze as if anxious not to miss the 
smallest trifle of word or gesture. I began to 
read some method into this curiously un¬ 
conventional inquest episode. 

“ And what happened then ? ” the coroner 
asked, turning to Mrs. Halfleet. 

“ Mr. Thoyne went out of the room banging 
the door behind him.” 

Quite true, Mr. Coroner,” Thoyne cried. 
‘‘ I went home—to get the prussic acid. I had 
forgotten to take it with me.” 

The coroner took no notice but turned to 
Mrs. Halfleet. 

“ Had you heard anything previously of Sir 
Philip’s engagement ? ” 

“ No.” 

“ Had not heard his name coupled with that 
of any lady ? ” 

“ Never a whisper.” 

Mrs. Halfleet was asked a number of further 
questions, chiefly regarding household arrange¬ 
ments and with special regard to glasses and 
bottles. But she added nothing to the 


102 THE OLEVEDON CASE 
information already set forth. And it all appeared 
very tame after the Thoyne sensation. As she 
left the witness’s chair, Konald Thoyne sprang 
to his feet. 

“ Do you intend to call me, Mr. Coroner ? ” 
he demanded. 

“No, replied the coroner, “ I have nothing 
to ask you. Do you desire to tender any 
evidence ? ” 

“ No, I know nothing about it.” 

“ Then,” said the coroner suavely, “ we’ll 
have Lady Clevedon.” 

The old lady took her seat in the chair and 
sat bending a little forward, her hands on her 
knees. 

“ Is this your hatpin. Lady Clevedon ? ” 

“ Yes.” 

“ Do you identify it as your property ? ” 

“ I have already told you it is mine.” "" 

“ Do you know how it got to White Towers ? ” 

“ If you mean did I go and stab-? ” 

“ I did not mean that. Lady Clevedon. I 
asked you a very simple question. Do you 
know how that hatpin got to White Towers ? ” 
“ I do not.” 

“ Did you lend it to anyone ? ” 

“ No.” 

“ But you are sure it is your property ? ” 


THE STORY OP A QUARREL 103 

“ For the third time—yes.” 

“ Is there any special mark on it ? ” 

“ I do not know of any.” 

“ There might be other pins like it ? ” 

“ There isn’t another like it in the world.” 

“ You knew the late Sir Philip Clevedon 
well ? ” 

“ Oh, yes.” 

“ And you were good friends with him ? ” 

“ Nobody was good friends for long with 

Philip Clevedon. He was-” 

She pulled herself up, pursing her lips. 

“You were going to say ? ” 

“ Something one ought not to say of a man 
who is dead.” 

“ Had he any enemies ? ” 

“ Plenty, but not of the murdering sort.” 

“ Had you heard of his engagement ? ” 

^ “ He did not confide in me ? ” 

“ You had not heard of it ? ” 

“ I had not.” 

Again I happened to glance at Pepster and 
saw him gazing as intently at Lady Clevedon 
as he had done at Thoyne. For the most part 
he had sat listening to the evidence with partly 
closed eyes, as if it were very little concern of 
his. Only with Ronald Thoyne and now with 
Lady Clevedon had he seemed at all keenly 


104 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
interested. Evidently there was more in Sir 
Philip’s mysterious engagement—known appar¬ 
ently to Thoyne, but not to Sir Philip’s own 
relatives—than had appeared. The coroner 
glanced sideways at Pepster, who nodded his 
head slightly as if answering an unspoken 
question in the affirmative, upon which the 
coroner thanked Lady Clevedon for her evidence 
and dismissed her. 


CHAPTEE IX 

WHAT KITTY CLEVEDON SAID 


HE next witness was Miss Kitty Clevedon 



herself and I confess I awaited her 


coming with more than ordinary 


interest. Of one thing I was certain, that she 
would say exactly what she wanted to say and 
not a word more, and that no intrusive scruples 
would confine her too urgently to the truth, 
unless, indeed, the fact that she was on oath 
might have any influence with her, which I 
doubted. I have always found that a woman’s 
conscience is in that respect far more elastic 
than a man’s. She took her seat in the witness’s 
chair and glanced round her with thoughtful 
calm, nor was her tranquillity in the least abated 
when she saw me watching her. There was 
certainly not the faintest suggestion in her 
manner that my presence disturbed her in the 
slightest, or, indeed that she had ever so much 
as seen me before. The coroner took up the 
hatpin. 

“ Have you ever seen this before ? 


105 


106 THE OLEVEDON CASE 

Many times. It belongs to Lady Olevedon.” 

“ Have you ever borrowed it ? 

“ Often.” 

‘‘Did you wear it when you visited Mrs. 
Halfleet on the day—er—the day of Sir Philip 
Clevedon’s—er—decease ? 

“ Yes.” 

“ Will you kindly detail the circumstances of 
your visit to White Towers ? ” 

“ Lady Olevedon asked ihe to convey a 
message to Mrs. Halfleet regarding some parish 
business, the clothing club at the church of 
which Lady Olevedon is president and Mrs. 
Halfleet is secretary. On my way I was caught 
in the rain and my hat was soaked through. 
Mrs. Halfleet advised me to dry it at the fire 
in her room and I did so.” 

“ You say you were caught in the rain—did 
you walk to White Towers ? ” 

“ No, I went in my own motor, a little two- 
seater which I drive myself.” 

“ There was no one with you in the car ? ” 

“ No one.” 

“You used this hatpin to secure your hat ? ” 

“ Yes.” 

“ And of course took it out when you re¬ 
moved-? ” 

“ Of course.” 


WHAT KITTY OLEVEDON SAID 107 
What happened to the hatpin when you 
resumed your hat ? ” 

“ I do not recollect.” 

Could you wear that hat without a pin ? ” 

“ Oh, yes, I frequently did. Sometimes I 
use a hatpin and sometimes not. That particular 
hat fits very close and I pull it well down.” 

“Now I want you to be very careful in 
answering the next few questions as they 
are exceptionally important. You are sure 
you had the hatpin when you visited Mrs. 
Halfleet ? 

“ No, I am not sure.” 

“ You said-” 

“ Yes, but that was because I don’t see how 
else it could get here. The use of a hatpin is 
more or less mechanical, you know, and some¬ 
times I wear one and sometimes I don’t. I 
think I brought it here but I cannot remember 
either putting it in my hat or taking it out.” 

“ You would not swear then that you had 
it?” 

“ No, nor that I hadn’t. I cannot remember.” 

“ It is hopeless, then, to ask you where you 
laid it down ? ” 

“ Quite, I am afraid. If I had it with me I 
should take it out without thinking and lay it 
down anywhere.” 


108 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
“ Where were you standing when you took 
your hat off ? ” 

“ Before the fire.” 

“ You might possibly lay the hatpin on the 
mantelpiece ? ” 

“ I should think that a very likely place.” 

“ But you cannot recollect ? ” 

“No, I cannot remember anything about it,” 
“ How long did you remain with Mrs. Hal- 
fieet ? ” 

“ Oh, about half an hour, I should say.” 

“ Where was the cap during that time ? ” 

“ It was in the fender drying.” 

“ Was it dry when you took it up ? ” 

“ Drier than it was, but still damp.” 

“ When you put it on again, can you remember 
whether you used the hatpin ? ” 

“ No, I cannot remember for certain, but 
apparently I did not.” 

“ Can you suggest any reason why you should 
want a hatpin when you left Hapforth House, 
but did without one when you were going from 
White Towers ? ” 

“ No, I cannot explain it.” 

“ When did you again remove the hat ? ” 

“ When I reached home.” 

“ Didn’t the absence of the hatpin strike you 
then ? ” 


WHAT KITTY CLEVEDON SAID 109 
“ No, I didn’t think of it. I could not even 
say for certain that it was absent.” 

The coroner sat for a moment or two draw¬ 
ing figures on his blotting-paper, then turned 
suddenly towards her. 

“ Did you go out again that night ? ” 

As Miss Kitty Clevedon looked casually round, 
our glances met and for a brief second her eyes 
held mine, hardly in questioning, certainly not 
in fear, but with some subtle suggestion I could 
not then interpret. 

“ No,” she said with inimitable composure, 
“ I did not go out again.” 

That might have been perfectly true since it 
was at least possible that she had not gone 
straight from White Towers to Hapforth House. 
Though it was hardly possible she could have 
been absent all the evening without some 
remark. If, on the other hand, she was lying, 
and I had good reason for knowing that she 
possessed all the qualities essential to success in 
that very difficult art, then her midnight expe¬ 
dition had been secret. It was a tangle that would 
have to be straightened out later, and so far, I 
hadn’t either end of the string in my fingers. 

“ Did you see Sir Philip Clevedon ? ” 

‘‘No, I went to his study, but he was not 
there and I did not wait.” 


110 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

That is all the evidence it is necessary for 
me to detail here, nor need I reproduce the 
address of the coroner, who carefully examined 
in his summing-up the possibilities of suicide, 
and rather discounted them. 

The jury retired into the study—the room in 
which Sir Philip’s dead body had been found— 
to consider their verdict. It was not quite such 
a simple matter as one might suppose. My 
fellow jurymen were deeply impressed with the 
heavy responsibility thrust upon them, quite 
unnecessarily so, since a coroner’s verdict does 
not matter a snap of the finger one way or the 
other. 

“ Now, gents all,” said Tim Dallott, our 
foreman, “ the question is—suicide or murder ? 
Why should he want to commit suicide ? And 
if he did, where did he hide the bottle ? You, 
Mester Hapton ”—this to a big, heavy man 
with a vast head, a considerable farmer in the 
Dale—“ what do you say ? ” 

“ Well,” said Mr. Hapton slowly, “ there’s 
no knowing.” 

“ But you’ve got to know one way or the 
other,” Tim Dallott cried. “ You’ll have an 
opinion.” 

“ No, I don’t know as I have,” was the 
deliberate reply. 


WHAT KITTY OLEVEDON SAID 111 
Then we’ll say murder, eh ? ” 

“No, I’m not so sure——” 

“ Well, suicide ? ” 

“ Ah, but then, you see-” 

“ Well, if it wasn’t suicide, it was murder, 

and if it wasn’t murder it was suicide-” 

“ Aye, that’s right,” Mr. Hapton cried, 
brightening up a little. 

Fortunately, I was the next to be interrogated, 
and I snapped out my answer even before our 
foreman had completed his question. “ Murder, 
undoubtedly,” I said, not because I had really 
any such certainty, or had made up my mind 
on the matter, but in order to get the thing 
settled. My very unrural promptitude gave 
the cue to the rest, and “ murder ” went round 
with affecting unanimity. 

“ Now, Mester Hapton,” Tim Dallott added, 
“everybody but you’s said murder—^you’ll not 
stand out.” 

“ I’m not one to be contrary-like,” Mr. Hapton 
said. “ But murder—^it’s an ugly business, that.” 

“ Well, it doesn’t matter very much,” I 
interposed. “ We’re not going to hang anybody 
this afternoon.” 

“ Nor not to mention no names,” our foreman 
put in. “ Persons or person unknown—that’s 
what it is.” 


112 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

“ Ah, well,” Mr. Hapton said, with a gloomy 
shake of the head, “ if you’re all set on murder, 
murder let it be, but it’s an ugly word.” 

And that was our verdict—“ Murder by some 
person or persons unknown.” But, for my 
part, like Mr. Hapton, I wasn’t at all sure. 
And, curiously enough, the hatpin was not so 
much as mentioned. 

It was the day following the inquest that I 
met Detective Pepster in the village. 

“ Ah, good morning, Mr. Holt,” Pepster 
cried, as I joined him. “ How is Cartordale 
using you these times ? Have you settled 
down amongst us ? ” 

“ More or less,” I replied. “ This place 
rather improves on acquaintance. I think I 
would like to see a summer here.” 

“ Yes, it’s all right in the summer, if the 
summer is all right,” Pepster rejoined dryly. 
“ But our summer isn’t much to rave over. 
It doesn’t last long enough.” 

“ No, that’s true. And how is the mystery 
getting on ? ” 

“ The mystery ? ” Pepster echoed. “ Oh, you 
mean the murder. It isn’t getting on. I was 
just coming along to see you.” 

“To see me ! ” I cried. 

“ Oh, I’m not going to arrest you,” he 


WHAT KITTY CLEVEDON SAID 113 
returned, with a soft chuckle. “ No, not at all. 
But do you know Kelham, of Scotland Yard ? 
I had a letter from him to-day. ‘ Dennis Holt 
is living in your neighbourhood,’ he said. ^ Ask 
him who murdered Clevedon.’ Now, what does 
he mean by that ? ” 

“ Kelham—yes, I know Kelham very well,” 
I replied. “ He is a humorist.” 

“ Well, I wish he’d let me in on the joke, 
anyway,” Pepster said discontentedly. “ Do 
you know who murdered Sir Philip Clevedon ? ” 
“No,” I said, “ not yet. For that matter, 
I don’t even know that he was murdered. But 
I shall find out, and then I’ll let you know.” 

“ Do you belong to the Force ? ” 

“ Not at all.” 

“ Then are you-? ” 

“ Sherlock Holmes disguised,” I said with a 
laugh. “ Why not ? Anyway, Kelham is no 
fool. Why not take his advice and let me come 
in ? Not that you can keep me out, but it’s 
easier. I am not a detective, not at all, but 
merely a writer of books. Still, I have dis¬ 
covered a few little things that have been 
useful to the police and especially to Kelham.” 

“ Are you quite sure you will know who-? ” 

“ Oh, yes,” I replied. “ I am quite sure I 
shall know—eventually. But whether the 

H 



114 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
knowledge will be of any use to you is another 
matter. I only solve the mystery, but you 
have to prove the case.” 

“ Yes,” Pepster said thoughtfully, and that 
is a different thing, isn’t it ? I may have a 
good idea who did it, but where is my proof ? 
But as to letting you in, it seems I can’t help 
myself. I showed Kelham’s letter to the Chief 
Constable this morning. ‘ Dennis Holt ? ’ he 
said. ‘ Is he at Cartordale ? Did he come 
down especially for this ? ’ I told him, no, 
that you’d been living here and that you’d been 
on the jury. ‘ Go and see him,’ he said. ‘ Talk 
it over with him. Tell him everything.’ And 
there you are.” 

“ Just so,” I replied. “ And I’ll make the 
same bargain with you I did with Kelham 
and his crowd. What I discover I will pass 
on, but I don’t appear in it publicly. Do we 
work together ? ” 

“ Why, yes, certainly,” Pepster said. 
“ Since both Kelham and the Chief insist on it 
I should be a fool to stand out.” 

We strode along in silence for a few minutes. 

Of course,” Pepster remarked, “ there are 
a few matters that haven’t—come out.” 

“ There always are,” I replied, thinking of 
Kitty Clevedon’s midnight visit regarding 


WHAT KITTY CLEVEDON SAID 115 
which, at present, at all events, I intended to 
say nothing. 

'‘For example, that valet, John Tulmin,” 
Pepster went on. “ Why should Sir Philip 
Clevedon have given him a cheque for £500 
the day before he was-before he died ? ” 

“ That certainly hasn’t come out. Did he ? 
And did Tulmin cash it ? ” 

“ Oh, yes, there was no particular secret about 
it. The counterfoil of the cheque-book seemed 
quite plain, ‘ John Tulmin, £500,’ and the 
money was paid out to Tulmin by the bank 
in Midlington at 11.30 on the morning of the 

day Sir Philip was-died. The bank knew 

Tulmin well. He had often transacted business 
for Sir Philip. Now, suppose that cheque 
was a forgery, or suppose it had been made 
out for £5 and Tulmin altered it to £500, or 
suppose the money was really for household 
expenses, and Tulmin stuck to it and Clevedon 
discovered it or Tulmin feared discovery, and 
so-” 

“ There would be your motive, certainly,” 
I agreed. “ Has Tulmin explained the 
cheque ? ” 

‘‘ Well, not in detail.” 

‘‘ Has he been asked ? ” 

‘‘ Yes.” 



116 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

“ What did he say ? ” 

“ That it was money owing him. ‘ What 
about this cheque ? ’ I asked him. ‘ Oh, the 
governor owed me that,’ he said. But when I 
wanted something a bit more definite be dried 
up.” 

“ Any other cheques of that sort ? ” 

No, I don’t know. I might inquire.” 

‘‘ Perhaps it was salary.” 

“No, Tulmin’s salary was paid monthly— 
£20 a month. This is an extra.” 

“ And he declares it is money owing ? ” 

“ Yes.” 

“ Well, perhaps it was,” I said, as we drew 
up outside the little post office where I had to 
make a call. “ Anyway, I don’t think I would 
arrest Tulmin just yet. Tell the Chief you 
have that from me.” 

But what I wanted to know more than any¬ 
thing just then was why John Tulmin was 
blackmailing Sir Philip Clevedon. 


CHAPTER X 

AN INVITATION FROM LADY CLEVEDON 

“ Holt,” cried the young lady 

I f behind the counter of the little general 
shop that was also the village post 
office. “ I have just taken a telegram for 
you. You can have it now if you like. It’s 
against the regulations, but that doesn’t 
matter.” 

I took the yellow slip and perused the message 
which was from a publishing firm with whom 
I was negotiating, offering me a price for a 
manuscript I had submitted to them. 

“It is a lot of money,” the girl said, with a 
touch of envy. “ It would take me years and 
years to earn that at this job.” 

“ You’ll not be here years and years,” I 
replied smilingly. “ Some lucky man wiU snap 
you up long before that.” 

“ Well, there’s no queue so far,” the girl 
returned dryly. 

“ Perhaps when Mr. Holt has quite finished, 
other customers may have a turn,” said a mocking 
/ 117 


118 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
voice at my elbow, and wheeling round with a 
quick movement that dislodged a pile of picture 
post cards and albums and brought them clatter¬ 
ing to the floor, I saw Kitty Glevedon’s face 
flushed with pretty colour. 

“ I beg your pardon,” I said. “ I was just 
reading a telegram.” 

“ I have been down to Stone Hollow,” Kitty 
Clevedon went on. “ In fact, I have been 
looking for you. I have a message for you 
from Lady Clevedon. She would like you to 
come and see her.” 

“Yes? When?” 

“ Well, could you come now ? I have my 
car here.” 

I nodded assent, and followed her out of the 
shop to the smart little two-seater, which she 
managed with a skill that betokened plentiful 
practice. As we drove off I saw Pepster walking 
slowly through the village. 

“ I don’t know that man,” Kitty said, as 
Pepster saluted, “ but I have seen him about 
quite a lot lately. And he was at the—the 
inquest. I suppose he belongs to the police.” 

“ Yes, a detective. He is very interested 
in me.” 

“I dare say you are a very interesting person,” 
Kitty rejoined equably. 


LADY CLEVEDOFS INVITATION 119 

“ You see,” I went on, “ I am under sus¬ 
picion.” 

She turned to have another look at Pepater, 
and the car swerved suddenly to the left. 

“Steady on!” I cried. “You’ll have us 
into the wall.” 

“ But—I do not understand. Why should 
they-? ” 

“ Oh, the story is very simple. The police 
knew I was out late on that particular night. 
Sergeant Gamley saw me. They questioned 
me, of course, and after all, it was a trifle^—er— 
suspicious-looking, wasn’t it ? Here was I, a 
new-comer and a stranger, wandering about 
the Dale at midnight-” 

I paused and glanced at her to note the effect 
of my words; and was interested to see that 
she had grown perceptibly paler. 

“ But they—surely they didn’t suspect you ? ” 
she said, in tones that were very little above a 
whisper. 

“ Oh, I don’t know,” I returned cheerfully, 
“ why shouldn’t they suspect me ? They know 
nothing about me, and certainly nothing that 
would count particularly in my favour. At 
all events, they questioned me. Had I seen 
anyone that night ? And I lied to them. 
I had seen nobody at all. There are occasions, 


120 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
you know, when mendacity may be con¬ 
doned.” 

Kitty gazed at me with wide-open eyes for 
fully a minute, then pulled herself together 
with an effort and laughed with a quite passable 
imitation of merriment. 

“ And had you seen anyone ? ” she asked. 

“ Yes,” I replied, smiling into her face. “ I 
had seen a very beautiful and clever woman and 
and an extremely capable actress whose ideas 
regarding truth are apparently nearly as flexible 
as my own.” 

She flushed a little, but remained apparently 
undisturbed by either the compliment or the 
sarcasm. 

“ And which had committed the crime ? ” 
she asked. ‘‘Was it the beautiful and clever 
woman—you said beautiful and clever, didn’t 
you ?—or the capable actress ? But still, I 
don’t understand. I thought you were a great 
detective—a sort of Sherlock Holmes in real 
life.” 

I threw myself back on the cushioned seat 
with a quick laugh. 

“ Where did you get that fairy story from ? ” 
I demanded. 

“ But—it’s true, isn’t it ? ” 

“ No/’ I said, “ I am not a detective, certainly 


LADY CLEVEDON’S INVITATION 121 
not. And I am not a great anything, unless 
it be a great liar. I have had a little practice 
at that just lately.” 

“ But that is why auntie has sent for you,” 
she added, with a puzzled frown. 

“ Because I am a gi-eat liar ? ” I asked. 

“ No,” she replied, quite seriously. “ Because 
you—because she thinks that you—somebody 
told her you were a great detective.” 

“ Oh, yes, and why does she need the services 
of a—er—a detective ? ” I demanded. 

“ She wants you to find out who murdered 
Sir Philip Clevedon.” 

“ I see. And do you want me to discover 
that ? ” 

“ Of course, but I don’t think you can.” 

“ If you thought I could, you wouldn’t want 
me to try—^is that it ? ” 

“ No—oh, I don’t know what you mean.” 

She gave all her attention to the car after 
that, while I, having nothing particular to say, 
lapsed into silence. 

We found Lady Clevedon seated in the small 
parlour, a square, cheerful room, furnished 
evidently for comfort with couches and big 
arm-chairs. The old lady bade me sit down 
and then plunged with characteristic abruptness 
into the subject of the interview. 


122 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

“ What is your fee ? ” she demanded. 

“ My fee ? ” I echoed. ‘‘ But I have no fee. 
I am neither a doctor nor a solicitor.” 

‘‘Nor a parson—you may as well complete 
the usual trio,” the old lady said dryly. “ But 
you are a policeman.” 

The word was so unexpected that I could not 
forbear a soft laugh in which, after a momentary 
hesitation, Miss Kitty Clevedon joined me. I 
expected her to label me detective; that she 
should call me policeman had all the elements 
of novelty that go to make up unconscious 
humour. 

“ But policemen are not allowed to take fees,” 
I replied. “ They have their salaries—or is it 
wages ? ” 

“ Do you get a salary ? ” Lady Clevedon 
demanded. 

“ No, but then you see I am not a policeman ; 
I am merely a writer of books.” 

“ But the Chief Constable of Peakborough— 
he is a cousin of mine, distant, but still a cousin, 
and a fool at that, or he would have found out 
before this who killed Sir Philip—told me you 
were a celebrated detective and that if I could 
get your help—now, who did murder Sir Philip 
Clevedon ? ” 

“ Did you ? ” I asked, rudely enough I admit 


LADY CLEVEDON’S INVITATION 123 
though the question was well in accord with her 
own conversational style. Nor did she take it 
amiss. 

‘‘ I ? No,” she said. Why should I murder 
him ? ” 

“ Then if you are quite sure of that,” I 
returned, “ you have all the world to go at. I 
may have done it, or Miss Clevedon may have 
done it, or Tulmin may-” 

“ May, may, may—you tire me to death with 
your may's. I don’t want to know who may 
have done it, but who did. I suppose it is a 
case of the needle in the haystack.” 

“ Even the needle in the haystack could be 
found, given the necessary time and labour,” I 
observed. 

“ I wish you would talk sense,” the old lady 
rejoined tartly. ‘‘ I have had that fat man— 
Peppermint, Peppercorn-” 

“ Pepster,” I suggested. 

“ Yes—I have had him here and pumped him 
hard. But he knows nothing, merely talks in a 
squeaky voice and gets nowhere. Now, how 
would you start discovering who-? ” 

I found the old lady interesting and decided 
to humour her, not because I intended to be of 
any use to her, but because it was just possible 
she might be useful to me, 


124 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

“ Well,” I replied slowly, “ there are several 
starting points. For example, who benefits 
most by his death ? ” 

“ Eh ! ” 

I happened to glance just then at Miss Kitty 
Clevedon and noticed that her face had gone an 
almost chalky whiteness that extended even to 
her lips and that she was gripping the arm of 
her chair with a strong, nervous tension. 

“ For instance,” I went on slowly, keeping 
my voice low and tranquil as if it were really a 
matter of small importance, who is Sir Philip’s 
heir ? ” 

But I still kept my eyes on Kitty Clevedon 
and noted that her grip on the chair tightened. 

‘‘ Well, he didn’t do it, anyway,” Lady 
Clevedon retorted. 

“ No, I don’t suppose he did,” I returned, 
carefully refraining from raising my voice. “ I 
merely said that he would be my starting point. 
Then, doubtless, he would prove an alibi and I 
should eliminate him.” 

‘‘ Billy might have hit him over the head with 
a stick,” Lady Clevedon went on, “ but he 
wouldn’t poison a man nor would he dig a hat¬ 
pin into him.” 

“ Oh, you never know,” I replied cheerfully. 
“ Who is Billy ? ” 


LADY CLEVEDON’S INVITATION 126 

“ Sir William Clevedon—the new baronet— 
Kitty’s brother,” the old lady explained. ‘‘ But 
he never poisoned Philip. They weren’t friends, 
certainly, but then, Philip had no friends. And 
they had quarrelled; though for that matter 
Philip had quarrelled with Ronald Thoyne, as 
you heard at the inquest. Philip was that way. 
He qrfarrelled with most people. But Billy 
didn’t do it. He is with his regiment in Ireland, 
trying to keep the Sinn Feiners quiet.” 

“ Then there is his alibi—which rules him 
out,” I said. 

But I made up my mind to learn more regard¬ 
ing Billy Clevedon. His sister’s agitation had 
been too pronounced to be disregarded; and 
it was the more impressive in that I knew her 
for a very clever actress with a singular capacity 
for holding her own and keeping a straight face. 

What was it, I wondered, that had so com¬ 
pletely upset her and smashed down all her 
defences. It did not take me long to decide 
that. She had been told that I was “ a great 
detective ” who would infallibly discover the 
murderer and practically my first observation 
had been a direct hint that her brother might be 
the man. A suggestion so libellous should have 
caused her to flame out in resentment and denial 
instead of which she had had to exert all her 


126 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
strength and will-power to keep herself from 
fainting. There was more in all this than one 
could sum up in a moment or two and I made 
up my mind then and there that Billy would 
become an object of great interest to me. 

It was not difficult to learn all I wanted. 
The fact that most people referred to him as 
Billy Clevedon and that no one called him Sir 
William may indicate something of his general 
personality, though that would be to do him 
some injustice since the diminutive was partly 
born of affection and was partly a survival from 
bygone years. There were those who declared 
that his sister had been mainly responsible for 
the reputation Billy had enjoyed for juvenile 
mischief. I could well believe that, knowing 
her in maturer years. She would lead him on 
and he, being a little gentleman, would bear 
the blame. 

But that after all is only the female way. 
Man was intended by Nature to carry every 
burden save one and that the heaviest of the lot. 
From my housekeeper to whom I first applied 
I learnt little. She had heard stories but had 
never known Billy Clevedon personally. I 
applied to both Dr. Crawford and the Vicar, 
but with hardly more success. They, too, had 
the usual legends off by heart, but Billy had 


LADY CLEVEDOFS INVITATION 127 
never been ill and bad no reputation for piety 
and seemed to have kept out of the way of both 
doctor and parson. Tim Dallott could ^ell me 
a little more but it consisted chiefly of 
reminiscences of Sunday rat-hunts and fishing. 

Among them all, however,! built up a picture of 
a freckled, yellow-haired lad, full of high spirits 
and mischief, but honest and never afraid to 
face punishment for what he had done. And 
somewhere, not far away, hovered incessantly 
the figure of his sister, as irrepressible as himself 
but far more adroit. 

But all that was years ago when they came 
as orphans to live at White Towers, when Lady 
Clevedon’s husband was alive and before the 
late Sir Philip had succeeded to the title. In 
due time they both went away to school and 
Cart or dale knew them only in the holidays. 
They were but shadows of their former selves as 
far as their general activities went, or possibly 
were more careful and clever at evading the 
results. 

Eventually Billy Clevedon went into the 
army, but as a career, not merely as a war 
measure, and won some distinctions in France. 
But he justified his old-time reputation in that 
he remained apparently a somewhat incalculable 
quantity always doing the unexpected. His 


128 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
sister, having finished her education with more 
or less credit, accompanied her aunt to Hapforth 
House and settled there, though during the war 
she engaged in various occupations and learnt 
to drive a motor, milk cows, and use a type¬ 
writer. 


CHAPTER XI 


A VISIT FROM RONALD THOYNE 

HE ‘‘ Waggon and Horses ” in Cartordale 
was one of the best known inns in the 



district, with a history behind it that 
went far beyond the printed word into the mists 
and myths of legend and tradition. I believe, 
in fact, that it possessed its own duly authen¬ 
ticated ghost, that of a sailor on tramp towards 
the coast, who had been murdered for his gold 
by a rascally landlord and his wife. This was 
well over two centuries ago and it was a long 
time now since the sailor’s restless spirit had 
been seen. But the records of its appearances 
were definite and were at all events implicitly 
believed in by the Dale folk. 

The inn was a favourite visiting place of 
holiday-makers from Midlington and on a fine 
Saturday afternoon or Sunday in the summer 
one might see sixty or seventy vehicles lined up 
in the wide open space before the entrance, while 
their passengers refreshed themselves within. 

Tim Dallott, the landlord, was well known 

I 1*29 


130 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
throughout the Dale and was highly esteemed. 
The new-fangled notion that an innkeeper is a 
sort of semi-criminal had no countenance in 
Cartordale, where they liked their ale and took 
it strong—as strong, that is, as a grandmotherly 
Control Board would allow them to have it. 
And, whatever else Tim Dallott was, he was a 
judge of ale and would have only the best. 
Being an observer of my fellow-man, I had 
early made Tim’s acquaintance and had spent 
more than one interesting hour with him and 
his customers. 

Tim, himself, was a masterful man, rather 
given to laying down the law, though with an 
occasional touch of humour that leavened his 
bluntness; and he had a curious habit of 
screwing the forefinger of his right hand into 
the open palm of his left when he was saying 
anything particularly emphatic. His build was 
inclined to stoutness and he was very bald for 
all he was still some years off sixty. His wife 
had died just before the war and he had neither 
son nor daughter. It was he, the reader will 
recollect, who had been foreman of the jury at 
the Clevedon inquest. 

Well,” he said, as I entered the ‘ snug,’ “ and 
what do you think of it all ? I haven’t seen 
you since the inquest, Mr. Holt.” 


A VISIT FROM RONALD THOYNE 131 

“ Give me a glass of beer,” I replied. It 
puzzles me.” 

“ What I*d like to know,” chimed in old 
Tompkinson, who was verger at the parish church 
and gardener at the vicarage, ‘‘ is why old 
Orimin ”—have I explained that Crimin was the 
coroner ?—“ worried about that whisky bottle.” 

‘‘ Aye, you may say that,” Tim agreed, 
nodding his head with an air of vague mystery. 

“ It seemed main foolish to me,” Tompkinson 
went on, “ and I couldn’t get a grip of it nohow. 
Nobbut Crimin is a good crowner, I’m saying 
nowt agin him, an’ I dessay he’d summat oop 
his sleeve an’ all, but I’m fair bothered as to 
what it could be.” 

“ It’s bothering better men than you, Joe 
Tompkinson,” Tim Dallott said dryly. 

“ But ain’t you got no idea, Mr. Dallott ? *’ 
Joe asked. 

“ Perhaps I have and perhaps I haven’t,” was 
the cautious reply. “ Now what would you say 
about it, Mr. Holt ? ” 

A little, shrivelled old man, who had been 
seated in a corner by the fire, sipping occasionally 
at a glass of hot rum, interposed suddenly. 

“ Who was the gal they quarrelled over ? ” he 
demanded in a shrill, piping treble. “ I know 
who it was.” 


132 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

“ Then if I were you I’d keep it to myself, 
Jonathan Crossty,” Tim said. “ No names— 
think what you like but don’t say it out loud— 
that’s safest.” 

Jonathan nodded as if in agreement and 
returned once more to his hot rum. 

“ Now, that whisky bottle,” Joe Tompkinson 
resumed, “ how could any man tell it was the 
same. ’Taint in sense, is it ? Then why 
worry ? ” 

A youth came briskly in and asked for a glass 
of stout. He caught Joe’s last remark. 

“ Aye,” he said, “ but there’s more than one 
theory will fit that.” 

“You newspaper gentlemen are wonderful 
fond of theories,” Tim Dallott responded. 

Your papers would be none the worse if you 
were a bit fonder of facts,” 

The youth laughed good-humouredly and took 
a long drink at his stout. 

“ Well,” he said, as he set his glass down 
again, “ suppose that X—we’ll not mention 
names, the libel laws being what they are— 
wanted to poison Z. ‘ Bring me a whisky and 
soda,’ says Z. And X, as he brings the bottle, 
drops a dose of prussic acid in it. Good ! ” 

“ I see nowt good in that,” Joe Tompkinson 
interrupted. 


A VISIT FROM RONALD THOYNE 133 
“You should skin your eyes, then,” Tim 
Dallott retorted brusquely. 

“ Well, it’s good enough, anyway,” the press¬ 
man went on. “ So Z drinks his whisky and 
falls down dead. Then X creeps in, takes away 
the doped bottle, and smashes it, and puts 
another of the same brand in its place. Could 
anyone tell that the bottle had been changed ? ” 
“ Meaning by Z, Sir Philip Clevedon,” Joe 

interposed, “ and by X-” 

“ Didn’t I tell you to mention no names,” 
Tim interrupted angrily. “ If you’re intent on 
dragging folk in by name go and do it outside 
and not in this snug.” 

“ No offence meant,” Joe replied meekly. 

“ Well—no names, and stick to that,” Tim 
retorted. 

“ But there’s another way,” the pressman 
went on oracularly, obviously in love with the 
sound of his own voice and delighted with the 
impression he was making. “ Let’s suppose 
that X gives Z a drink of whisky at dinner and 
then puts the bottle on the sideboard. Presently 
Y creeps in and drops the dope into the whisky 
and then, when Z has pegged out, comes back 
and changes the bottles—how about that ? Y 
would be somebody who had a grudge against Z 
—perhaps he had had a quarrel with him. But 


134 THE OLEVBDON CASE 

the point is here—nobody can swear it was the 

same bottle, that stands to reason.” 

‘‘ You’ll not print either of these theories in 
your paper, I’ll bet a dollar,” Tim Dallott said. 

“ Perhaps, and perhaps not,” the youth 
returned vaguely. “ That’s the editor’s job, 
not mine.” 

‘‘ I know the gal they quarrelled over,” 
Jonathan Crossty chimed in suddenly. 

“ Who quarrelled over ? ” demanded the youth, 
wheeling round. Oh, you mean-” 

"" I mean I won’t have any names in this 
snug,” Tim interrupted angrily. “ Don’t I 
keep saying it ? What a lot of cross-grained, 
gossiping old hags it is. X’s and Z’s are all 
right, but not names.” 

“ But that came out in evidence—that they’d 
quarrelled,” the reporter said. 

'' The girl’s name didn’t, and it might be 
anybody.” 

'' But I know who it is,” Jonathan persisted. 

I finished my drink and nodding a good night 
all round took myself off, but not very far 
because I waited in the shadows until old 
Jonathan Crossty came hobbling out. I met 
him in the doorway. 

“ Hallo! ” I cried. “ Not home yet, Mr. 
Crossty ? ” 


A VISIT FROM RONALD THOYNE 135 

I swung round and we went down the road 
together. He lived in a little cottage nearly 
opposite Stone Hollow, and it was thus quite 
natural that we should be going the same way. 

“ And so you know the lady they quarrelled 
over,” I remarked, after a few preliminary 
observations. 

“ Yes,” he replied, “ but I’m not telling. My 
grand-darter’s ’tween maid at Hapforth and she 
knows all about it. They quarrelled over her 
right enough.” 

“ Over your grand-daughter ? ” I queried. 

“ Over Lucy ! ” he said scornfully. “ Don’t 
be a big fule, mister. Why should they quarrel 
over Lucy ? She’s a good girl and she’s only 
sixteen. Don’t you go for to mix her up in 
this business.” 

‘‘ No,” I said, I’m sorry. Lucy, who’s as 
good as she’s pretty and-” 

“ Nay, she’s nowt to look at,” the old man 
said, with a chuckle. 

“ And so Lucy told you that both Sir Philip 
and Mr. Thoyne were in love with Miss 
Kitty-” 

“ She never said nowt o’ th’ sooart,” the old 
man retorted. “ It’s none of her business, 
is it ? ” 

“ Not at all,” I agreed. 


136 THE CLEVEDON OASE 

I changed the subject after that and we 
discoursed on various matters of no great 
interest to either of us until we parted at the 
gate of Stone Hollow. 

Later, when I had dined comfortably and 
well, and was seated in my study smoking a 
cigar, Mrs. Helter, my housekeeper entered with 
the information that Mr. Thoyne had called 
and wished to see me. 

“ He says he will, not keep you long,” Mrs. 
Helter explained, and his business is not 
immediately pressing if you are otherwise en¬ 
gaged. But, if not, he says it would be con¬ 
venient if you could see him now.” 

‘‘ Mr. Thoyne,” I echoed. “ H’m, that’s 
rather funny. But show him in, anyway.” 

Ronald Thoyne entered the room a moment 
or two later, a large, rather lumbering figure in 
appearance but moving with a curiously alert 
lightness. His bulk signified strength, not fat. 
I rose and greeted him, then returned to my 
own chair. 

“ You will wonder why I have come,” Thoyne 
began, as he took the seat indicated and selected 
a cigarette from the box I offered him. 
Apparently, he wanted to maintain at least an 
appearance of friendship. ‘‘ No, thanks, I’ll 
have nothing to drink,” he added, as I motioned 


A VISIT FROM RONALD THOYNE 137 
towards the whisky on the table. But, now, 
as to the reason for coming, well, in the first 
place, I have wanted to make your acquaintance. 
The fact that you are a near neighbour renders 
you—shall I say ?—an object of interest. No, 
do not smile. If that had been all I should 
have waited. There is something else, but we 
shall come to that presently.” 

I nodded, but offered no comment on these 
obviously preliminary observations. I was quite 
well aware that this was no mere friendly call— 
that Thoyne had some very definite purpose in 
his mind—and I was quite content to wait until 
it should suit him to disclose it. Thoyne, 
probably, had expected some sort of a reply, 
something that would, so to speak, open a 
conversation and for a moment or two he 
paused. But he did not allow my calculated 
silence to disconcert him. 

“ I dare say,” Thoyne began again, ‘‘ that my 
manner may seem a little abrupt to you, Mr. 
Holt, but I always go straight to the point. 
Perhaps it would have been more tactful if I’d 
talked a bit first—yes. I have noticed that 
the people of these old countries like to go 
round and round the mulberry bush before they 
come to the point, but that is not our way—no, 
sir. I had a lesson on that from old Silas 


138 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
Pegler when I was a very young man. He was 
president of the Trans-Central and scores of 
other big things and he pulled all sorts of wires. 
I had to see him once about a deal and I began : 

‘ Good morning, Mr. Pegler, a fine morning, isn’t 
it ? ’ But he only wrinkled his ugly old face 
and glared at me. ‘ Young man,’ he said, ‘ I 
am here to talk dollars, not weather.’ And 
since then I have cultivated the habit of 
straight talk. It pays in New York but not so 
well in this country. A lot of people write me 
down as bad form and a man over here who is 
once labelled bad form had far better be dead 
and buried.” 

I lay back in my chair and regarded my 
visitor smilingly. Certainly for a person who 
cultivated a habit of straight talk, he was 
singularly discursive. 

“ Are you intending to remain in Cartor- 
dale ? ” Thoyne asked, seeing that I remained 
silent. 

“ I shall be here for a little while yet, though 
I cannot say that I have made any definite 
plans,” I replied. 

“ But I mean as a permanent resident. You 
see, somebody, I think it was Dr. Crawford told 

me—hinted that you-. Now, if you wanted 

to sell this house, I’d like to buy it.” 


A VISIT FEOM RONALD THOYNE 139 

The suggestion was so surprising that for a 
moment I had nothing to say, but I recovered 
quickly, knowing that if there was an explana¬ 
tion it would appear in due course. 

“ What are you prepared to offer for it ? ” I 
demanded cautiously. “ Since, apparently, you 
want the house, you should be prepared to bid 
high for it. That makes a difference, doesn’t 
it ? The seller who wants to sell would take 
less than-” 

‘‘Well, it’s like this,” Thoyne said per¬ 
suasively. “ I shouldn’t have thought of it 
but for Dr. Crawford. He gave me the idea. 

‘ I wish he were staying amongst us,’ he said, 

‘ but I’m afraid, he’ll not be here long ! A very 
charming young— ’ yes, those were his words.” 

“ Almost photographic in their accuracy,” I 
said dryly. 

“ ‘ But he wants a customer for his house— 
hankers after the flesh-pots of London,’ said 
the doctor. And I thought that perhaps-” 

“ I believe I did make some such remark— 
casually,” I said. “ But Dr. Crawford took it 
too seriously. This place improves on acquaint¬ 
ance. No, on the whole, I don’t think I want 
to seU.” 

“ But-” 

“ Oh, let us forget Dr. Crawford. I do not 


140 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

want to sell, therefore I must be tempted. It 

is your turn now—to tempt me.” 

I would give you—^four thousand pounds.” 

‘‘ The place isn’t worth that.” 

“ No, but I’m willing to give it.” 

“ Very good—it is yours. There is a charming 
little cottage just by the church that I could 
get for six hundred. It would suit me exactly.” 

Thoyne frowned heavily and spoke as if 
choosing his words with some care. 

“ I should attach to my offer a condition— 
that you leave Cartordale—and do not return. 
For that I would make it five thousand.” 

Ah, now we really are getting to the straight 
talk,” I said smilingly. “Suppose we make it 
absolutely straight. You want to get me out 
of Cartordale—why ? ” 

Thoyne sat silent for the space of fully two 
minutes. 

“ Straight talk doesn’t seem so easy as you 
thought—is that it ? ” I asked. “ But you owe 
me some explanation surely.” 

“ The talk is straight enough,” Thoyne 
responded half sullenly. “ I want to get you 
out of Cartordale—yes, that is true, and I have 
told you so frankly enough. What do my 
reasons matter ? I am willing to pay.” 

“ Yes, it’s plain enough,” I returned. “ I 


A VISIT FROM RONALD THOYNE 141 
will be equally straight. I decline to go. Did 
Miss Kitty Clevedon send you here ? ” 

“ What has she to do with it—or you with 
her ? ” he demanded angrily. 

But I saw easily enough that my chance shot 
had hit the mark. And I sat eyeing him 
thoughtfully for a moment or two wondering 
how far it would be safe to go. 

“ I suppose,” I said, speaking calmly, even 
casually, as if it were a matter of no great 
moment, “ it was over Miss Kitty Clevedon that 
you quarrelled with the late baronet.” 

“You have no right-” he began explosively 

but I pulled him up. 

“ Oh, yes I have,” I replied, “ you see I am 
retained, in a semi-professional capacity-” 

“ Yes, I know,” he cried. “ That damned old 
fool-” 

“ Meaning whom ? ” I interrupted. 

“ Oh, I beg her pardon,” he said. “ Yes, 
I meant Lady Clevedon. Why did she want 
to drag you into it ? You have a reputa¬ 
tion, haven’t you, for solving such puzzles 
as-” 

“ Some little,” I agreed. “ I shall solve this.” 

“ Yes,” he said, “ and I don’t want it solved. 
At least, I want to see it buried and forgotten. 
The thing’s a damned nightmare. There, now 


142 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

it’s out. We want you to drop the case—to go 

away and leave it alone.” 

«« We ? ” I echoed. “ Does Miss Clevedon 
know of this visit ? ” 

“ No, but she knows I am to try and persuade 
you to drop the case. She asked me-” 

‘‘It is for her sake you want me to leave it 
alone,” I commented. “ It is not for yours.” 

“ Mine—no—^it doesn’t concern me,” he 
replied, “ except as everything that interests 
her, concerns me.” 

“ But—doesn’t concern you ? ” I asked. 
“ Yet you were the last person known to have 
quarrelled with-” 

“ If you mean to accuse me of the mur¬ 
der- 

“ I don’t,” I interrupted promptly, “ but 
look at the sequence. You quarrel with Sir 
Philip Clevedon and a few hours later he is 
dead. Then a celebrated detective—that I am 
neither a detective nor celebrated is only a 
detail—^is put on the case and you try to buy 
him off, to bribe him in fact.” 

“It is a complete case,” he admitted, with a 
quick grin. 

“ Yes, I agreed, “ the sort of completeness 
that is too good to be true.” 

“ Not at all,” he added, as the grin widened. 


A VISIT FROM RONALD THOYNE 143 
“ I can already feel the rope round my 
neck.” 

He ran his finger along the inside of his 
collar with a very expressive gesture. 

‘‘ On the other hand,” I went on, still speaking 
with off-hand tranquillity, “though you did not 
murder Sir Philip Clevedon you think you know 
who did.” 

He drew himself slowly up from the chair 
and stood over me with a face that had gone 
curiously grey. 

“ I have in point of fact already begun my 
inquiries,” I went on, rising in my turn and 
looking him straight in the eyes. “ Why hasn’t 
Sir William Clevedon come to Cartordale to 
take up his title and estate ? He left his 
quarters in Ireland on the 19th, three or four 
days before Sir Philip Clevedon died. He is 
still absent from duty. You can learn a 
lot by well-placed telegrams in a very short 
time. Where is he now ? Where was he on 
February 23rd ? ” 

I knew now what Thoyne and Kitty Clevedon 
feared. He stood glaring at me for a moment 
or two, then buttoned his coat with fingers that 
trembled. 

“ I’ll go now,” he said. “ I don’t know that 
I have done anybody much good by coming 


144 THE OLEVEDON CASE 

here but it seemed the quickest and straightest 

way.” 

He did not offer his hand nor did he say 
another word, but opened the door himself 
without waiting for my help and disappeared. 


CHAPTER XII 


RONALD THOYNE DISAPPEARS 
HE next move in this very curious game 



was made by Pepster who called on me 


a few days after my interview with 


Ronald Thoyne. 

‘‘ I have a warrant for Tulmin’s arrest,” he 
announced. 

“ Yes,” I said, “ I am not surprised. I could 
see you were edging that way.” 

“ It’s the right way. Tulmin has dis¬ 
appeared.” 

“ Has he ? That is interesting at least.” 

“ Yes, he went from White Towers to Lenns- 
dale—that is Mr. Thoyne’s house, you know. 
Thoyne engaged him the day after the inquest 
and he went at once. And now he has gone 
altogether.” 

“ Engaged him as what ? ” 

“ Same as Clevedon—valet, and so on.” 

“ How do you know ? ” 

“ I put someone on to watch him of course. 
I wasn’t going to let him slip away. But he 

K 145 


146 THE OLEVEDON CASE 
has managed it, at least so my man reports and 
he must be a damned fool, as I told him. He 
hasn’t been seen for two days.” 

Your man hasn’t ? ” 

“ No, I mean Tulmin.” 

“ Thoyne should know where he is.” 

He says he doesn’t but I haven’t seen him 
myself I am going up to Lennsdale now to 
question him. Would you care to come ? ” 

At first I thought not, and then I altered my 
mind. After all, Thoyne really was right in 
the thick of it. 

When we reached Thoyne’s house Pepster 
took the lead and rang lustily at the bell, which 
was one of the old-fashioned type with a long, 
hanging handle of cast-iron. He had to ring 
three times before he obtained any response and 
then the door was slowly opened to disclose a 
very old, white-headed man standing blinking 
at us with watery eyes. To Popster’s question 
as to whether Mr. Thoyne was at home he only 
shook his head, but whether in negative reply 
or merely in stupidity we could not quite make 
out. The old man’s face at all events was 
devoid of expression. 

“ Do you mean he is not at home ? ” I 
demanded sharply. 

“ We will see for ourselves,” Pepster said, 


RONALD THOYNE DISAPPEARS 147 
pushing past the old man into the hall. “Now, 
then, who else is in the house, and be careful 
what you say or we may be taking you with us.” 

Pepster was very angry that Tulmin had 
slipped through his fingers and apparently 
regarded the old man as an ally of the enemy. 

“ Taking me with you! ” the old fellow cried, 
in the quavering accents of age. “ Taking me 
where ? ” 

“ To prison, old chap,” Pepster replied cheer¬ 
fully. “ People who won’t answer questions 
often find themselves in gaol.” 

It was pure bluff and Popster’s superiors 
would probably have had something rather 
drastic to say had they overheard it. But the 
detective knew pretty well how far to go, and 
with whom it was safe to go even that distance. 

“ But, dear sir, I have done nothing wrong,” 
the old man said, manifesting a sudden fluency 
which caused Pepster to turn on him with a 
sharp glance. “ I am a very old man, gentle¬ 
men, seventy-seven, and I have never been in 
any trouble of that sort, never, gentlemen.” 

“You are making for it now,” Pepster 
rejoined dryly. 

“ But, gentlemen, I-” 

“ Look here,” Pepster said, “ we asked you a 
question—where’s Thoyne? If you mean to 


148 THE CLEVEDON OASE 
answer that, get going, and quick. If you don’t 
mean to answer it, don’t talk at all.” 

But, sir, I-” 

‘‘ Where’s Mr. Thoyne ? ” 

“ But, gentlemen, if you would-” 

“ Where’s Mr. Thoyne ? ” 

‘‘ He-^I don’t know.” 

‘‘Is he in the house ? ” 

“ I don’t know.” 

“ What do you mean, you don’t know ? ” 

“ I don’t know who Mr. Thoyne is, I—I never 
heard of him.” 

“ You are in his house.” 

'' Yes.” 

Where are the other people—the servants— 
the housekeeper-? ” 

There is nobody here but me, gentlemen, 
truly there is nobody here. I am alone in the 

house, me, Silas Ballaker, seventy-seven-” 

“ How long have you been in this house ? ” 

“Not long—I came to-day-” 

“ Came to-day—what do you mean, you 
came to-day ? ” 

“ Sir, I am Silas Ballaker and-” 

“ Yes, you said that before, and you are 
seventy-seven years of age. Neither statement 
interests us. We want Mr. Thoyne.” 

“ Hallo ! hallo ! ” cried suddenly a new voice. 


RONALD THOYNE DISAPPEARS 149 
“ Silas, who are these gentlemen ? Ha ! Mr. 
Pepster, I did not recognise you. Have you 
come to take my house ? ” 

“No, Mr. Bannister,” Pepster replied slowly. 
“ I haven’t come to take any house.” 

He paused, a little irresolute, knowing that 
Mr. Bannister was a different proposition from 
old Silas Ballaker and that he would have to be 
a little more careful. 

“ May I ask what you are doing here ? ” 
Pepster went on. 

“Now is that a kindly personal inquiry from 
a friend or is it asked in an ofl&cial capacity ? ” 

Mr. Bannister was a little fat man, with two 
small, keen eyes peering out of a sallow, bearded 
face. 

“ Oh, purely personal,” Pepster replied, a 
little impatiently. “We came to see Mr. 
Thoyne. I was merely surprised to see you 
where we expected—someone else.” 

“ Oh, Thoyne, yes, he was my tenant. But 
he has gone. Gave me notice some days ago, 
paid me up and cleared out. A good tenant, 
very good. I was sorry to lose him—yes. He 
said he was going back to America and he left 
this morning. I sent old Silas here as care¬ 
taker. Good old chap, Silas, but-” 

He tapped his head significantly with the 


150 THE OLEVEDON CASE 
forefinger of his right hand. The old man did 
not see the movement but he caught the words. 

“ They have come to take me to prison,’’ he 
said mournfully. 

‘‘ To prison ! ” cried Mr. Bannister. “ Non¬ 
sense ! What for ? What have you been doing, 
old Silas ? ” 

“ I haven’t been doing nothing,” Silas 
quavered. ‘‘ But this stout gentleman seemed 
mortally offended and-” 

“ Oh, we’ll see, we’ll see,” Mr. Bannister said. 
“ Now, Mr. Pepster, what does all this mean ? ” 

“ We want to see Mr. Thoyne and-” 

“ He isn’t here.” 

‘‘ Well, we should like to look through the 
house-” 

“ Yes, yes, and no doubt you have a search 
warrant ? ” 

“ I have no search warrant,” Pepster said 
patiently. “ I am asking your permission.” 

“ No, no, let’s do everything in order. No 
warrant, no search. An Englishman’s house, 
et cetera, you know. Can’t be done, Mr. Pepster, 
can’t be done. Think what would happen if 
the papers got hold of it. High-handed action 
by a Peakborough detective-eh ? ” 

‘‘ The papers will not get hold of it if you 
don’t tell them,” Pepster said quietly. 



RONALD THOYNE DISAPPEARS 161 
“ Oh, one never knows. How do these fellows 
get hold of things ? It’s wonderful, but, you 
know, it’s their job. And your Chief is just a 
bit nervous, isn’t he ? ” 

“ I could get a warrant in an hour,” Pepster 
said. 

“ Well, why not ? The house won’t dis¬ 
appear in an hour. It will still be here and so 
will old Silas. But if it’s Thoyne you want, a 
warrant’ll not help you. He isn’t here.” 

His furniture is,” I interposed. 

“No,” Mr. Bannister replied, with an oily 
smile, “ you are wrong there also. The 
furniture’s mine. I let it furnished.” 

Did you see Mr. Thoyne go ? ” I asked. 

“ Yes, I was here. He handed me the key.” 
“ Had he a man named Tulmin with him ? ” 

“ He had a servant, a little man, but I don’t 
know what his name was.” 

" They have gone away together,” Pepster 
said, turning to me. “ Come along, there’s 
nothing more to do here ! ” 

“ If you want to go through the house-” 

Mr. Bannister began. 

“ We don’t,” Pepster rejoined promptly. 
“ We’ll take your refusal and if anything occurs 
we’ll call you as a witness.” 

“ But-” 


152 THE CLEVEDON OASE 

“ Is Thoyne in the house ? ” 

“ He isn’t.” 

“ Then good day to you.” 

We turned away and though Mr. Bannister 
did not quite seem to like it, he made no effort 
to detain us. 

“ Yes, they’ve gone away together,” Pepster 
repeated, as we strolled towards Stone Hollow. 

Why has Thoyne taken Tulmin out of the 
way ? ” 

“ It may be only a coincidence,” I observed. 

‘‘ It would be a curious coincidence,” Pepster 
remarked. “Not that I rule coincidences out 
myself. They happen. I have run up against 
some very queer instances in my time. I once 
had a case in which a man prepared a dose of 
poison for another man. The latter died of 
poison and the other gave himself up to justice. 
A clear case—but when the post-mortem took 
place it was found that the victim had died of 
quite another sort of poison altogether. He had, 
in fact, committed suicide and had never taken 
the dose prepared for him by the would-be 
murderer I ” 

“ But if this isn’t a coincidence, then there 
must be an explanation,” I said. “ How would 
this do ? Konald Thoyne quarrels with Sir 
Philip Olevedon over Miss—over a woman. 


RONALD THOYNE DISAPPEARS 153 
Then Thoyne pays Tulmin to assassinate Sir 
Philip. That is why Thoyne took the man into 
his service so promptly. But they find the 
chase getting too hot for them and so they 
clear out. What ? ” 

“ Is that the story ? ” Pepster demanded, 
evidently impressed. 

“No,” I replied, “ I am quite sure it isn’t. 
But it would fit the facts up to date, wouldn’t 
it ? ” 

“ I shall go after Tulmin, anyway,” Pepster 
rejoined. 

I nodded smilingly, but did not further discuss 
the matter though I divined Thoyne’s move. 
He had taken Tulmin away in order to divert 
suspicion from young Clevedon. How far 
Thoyne had taken Tulmin into his confidence I 
did not know. Perhaps he had bluffed him as 
he had tried to bluff me. And at all events he 
would have paid him well. Whatever faults 
Thoyne may have possessed any form of parsi¬ 
mony was certainly not one of them. 


CHAPTER XIII 

THE vicar’s story 


I T was by means of the Vicar that tbe story 
was carried a stage further. I had 
made the old man’s acquaintance soon 
after I first came to Cartordale and had con¬ 
ceived a great liking for the gentle, kindly old 
parson and his bustling, energetic, rather auto¬ 
cratic wife. 

The Rev. Herbert Wickstead was an elderly 
man, with a thin, colourless face, short-sighted 
eyes and a scholarly stoop. As a preacher, he 
was not very much, for, though he did some 
hard thinking and was now and again original, 
he possessed very little gift for literary expression 
and none at all for oratory. Nor was he very 
much more successful in parochial work, though 
that did not greatly matter since his wife— 
Mrs. Vicar, as she was generally labelled— 
possessor of the quickest of tongues and the 
kindest of hearts, took the heaviest part of that 
burden upon her own shoulders. 

I met him by the vicarage on the afternoon 

154 


THE VICAR’S STORY 165 

of the day following our visit to Thoyne’s house 
and when he asked me to go in and have some 
tea I accepted chiefly because I thought he, or 
at any rate Mrs. Vicar, might be able to tell me 
some of the things I wanted to know. You see, 
I was still very much of a stranger in Cartordale 
with only a vague and shadowy knowledge of 
its people. In some ways that may have been 
a gain though, generally speaking, it was a 
handicap. He began on one of the subjects 
uppermost in my mind almost as soon as we 
were seated at the table. 

“ I was very sorry to learn to-day that we 
are losing Mr. Thoyne,” the Vicar said, in his 
halting drawl. 

He took off his spectacles and polished them 
with the corner of his handkerchief, peering 
mildly at the rest of us the while, though his 
remark had evidently been addressed to his 
wife. 

“ He very seldom came to church,” Mrs. 
Vicar snapped. 

“ No, not frequently,” the Vicar admitted, 
“not so frequently as I could have wished. 
But he was very generous—very. Any story of 
distress or need was very sure of a sympathetic 
hearing. I have dipped rather deeply into his 
purse more than once.” 


156 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

“Who told you he was leaving?” his wife 
asked. 

The Vicar selected a slice of bread-and- 
butter with great deliberation from the plate 
before him. 

“ I was sorry I had no opportunity of bidding 
him good-bye,” he went on, apparently ignoring 
his wife’s question though most likely he had 
not heard it. “ True I saw him yesterday but 
I had no chance then. I was returning from a 
visit to Sarah Blooms—poor woman-” 

“ She died this morning,” his wife chimed in, 
a little snappily I thought, though that may 
have been because I was not quite used to her 
conversational style. 

“ Ah, yes—dear me ! dear me ! ” 

The Vicar relapsed into silence. 

“ You were telling us, sir-? ” I ventured, 

after a pause. 

“ Yes, yes, of course, I was returning from 
my visit to Sarah Blooms and was passing the 
end of Pallitt’s Lane when Mr. Thoyne passed 
me in his motor-car. There was a lady with 
him. Miss Clevedon, I think, though I could not 
be very sure of that.” 

“ Were they alone in the car ? ” I asked. 

“ Oh, yes, as far as I could see, quite alone.” 

“ With Mr. Thoyne driving, perhaps ? ” 


THE VICAR’S STORY 157 

Oh, no, they were in the body of the car. 
There was the chauffeur and another man on 
the front, a servant, I think.” 

“ You did not recognise the second man ? ” 

“Well, no, to tell you the truth I did not 
take particular notice of him.” 

It was at least level betting that the second 
man was Tulmin. But what interested me most 
was the fact of Kitty Clevedon’s presence in 
the car. It seemed to suggest that whatever 
was going on, she had a hand in it. 

“ I have heard their names coupled more than 
once—Mr. Thoyne and Miss Clevedon,” Mrs. 
Vicar declared. 

“ Is that so ? ” the Vicar queried. “ I had 
not heard it. But it would be a very suitable 
match too. He has money and physical 
strength and she has youth and beauty. That 
should make an ideal combination. They 
seemed very happy and comfortable—I noticed 
that. As they passed me he was talking to 
her, but they both saw me. Thoyne nodded to 
me as they went past.” 

“ And how do you know he’s gone for good ? ” 
Mrs. Vicar demanded. 

“ Oh, yes, it was Miss Kitty who told me 
that. I met her again an hour or two later and 
[ asked her if she thought Mr. Thoyne would 


168 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
take the chair next Wednesday. She said he 
couldn’t because he had left Cartordale and had 
given up his house. She said, I think, that he 
was going abroad-” 

“On his yacht, I expect,” Mrs. Vicar chimed in. 

“ Lucky man! ” I interjected. “So he 
possesses a yacht, does he ? ” 

“ A lovely vessel,” Mrs. Vicar replied, with 
enthusiasm. “ I haven’t seen it, but he gave us 
a lecture with limelight views, ‘ Hound the 
World by Steam ’ he called it, and he showed us 
a lot of pictures of his yacht. The Sunrise its 
name is, and he says he gave it that name 
because he uses it to go where the sun is—one 
of the privileges of wealth, Mr. Holt,” she 
added, with a sigh. 

“ Had Mr. Thoyne been long in Cartordale ? ” 
I asked. 

“ Oh, well, it would be about two years, or, 
let me see, perhaps a little longer,” Mrs. Vicar 
replied. “ He fought in the war, you know, 
and was wounded. He stayed as a lodger for 
some months at Lepley’s Farm and then took 
Lennsdale which belongs to Mr. Bannister of 
Peakborough, an auctioner and agent and all 
sorts of things generally, who lets it furnished—” 

“Lepley,” I murmured, “that name seems 
familiar-” 


THE VICAR’S STORY 159 

“ Yes,” Mrs. Vicar went on, right in her 
element now, “ you will be thinking of the girl 
who gave evidence at the inquest, Nora Lepley, 
tall, good-looking, with dark eyes. She lives 
at the farm though she sometimes stays at 
White Towers with her aunt, the housekeeper 
there. I remember there was some talk about 
Ronald Thoyne and Nora Lepley, but there was 
nothing in it, or, anyway nothing came of it. 
Talk’s easy in a place like this, you know—^there 
is nothing else to do. And there’s always been 

plenty of talk round Nora Lepley-” 

“ A good girl, my dear, a good girl,” the Vicar 
mildly interposed. 

“ Oh, yes, quite,” Mrs. Vicar admitted. 

“ Exceptionally well able to take care of her¬ 
self I should imagine,” was my own comment, 
whereat Mrs. Vicar nodded emphatically. 

It was two days after that conversation that I 
met Detective Pepster in the village. 

‘‘Ah, Mr. Holt,” he said, “I was coming to see 
you. I have found out where Mr. Thoyne is.” 

“ Why,” I returned, “ there was no particular 
mystery about that, was there ? He’d made 
none so far as I know. What is the point ? ” 

“ Well—he disappeared.” 

“ Disappeared ? Do you call it that ? He 
left the furnished house he’d been occupying and 


160 THE OLEVEDON CASE 

went ofE to his yacht, the Sunrise, but that isn’t 

disappearing.” 

‘‘ No—well, perhaps in a way it isn’t. But 
I’m going to interview Mr. Ronald Thoyne for 
all that and with a warrant in my pocket-” 

“ It hardly seems likely that Thoyne-” 

I don’t put my money on what is likely,” 
Pepster interrupted. “ I’ve been had that 
way. I once had a case of the theft of a diamond 
ring. There were only three men possible—a 
bookmaker who’d once been in prison for horse¬ 
doping, a defaulting bankrupt and a clergyman. 
I arrested the horse-doper and kept an eye on 
the bankrupt, but it was the parson who had 
the ring.” 

“You ought to write your reminiscences,” I 
remarked dryly. 

“ I am looking forward to doing so when my 
pension falls due,” Pepster returned, entirely 
unabashed. “ But, now, let’s talk business. 
The warrant isn’t for Thoyne himself, but for 
Tulmin. Thoyne will come into it later— 
accessory after or before the fact, you know. 
Tulmin will do to be going on with.” 

“You think Thoyne has taken Tulmin on 
board the yacht with him ? ” 

“ I don’t know—perhaps—perhaps not. But 
Thoyne has spirited Tulmin away somehow. 


THE VICAR’S STORY 161 

somewhere. Isn’t that clear ? And why has he 
done it ? ” 

“Yes, I know, you explained before that 
Thoyne had paid Tulmin to murder Sir 
Philip-” 

“ No, Mr. Holt, that was your theory,” 
Pepster explained patiently. “ And you said 
you didn’t believe it. No, Thoyne may have 
done the murder himself, or he may not, and 
Tulmin may have spotted him at it. But, to 
tell the truth, I’m not worrying about that just 
now. It is Tulmin I want. There’s enough 
against him to be going on with, anyway, and 
I mean to get him and to learn why Thoyne 
carried him off. Will you come down to Ilbay 
with me ? ” 

“ Ilbay ? ” 

“ Yes, the yacht’s there.” 

“ When do you go ? ” 

“ To-morrow.” 

“No,” I said slowly, “ I can’t go to-morrow. 
I could go the next day, but not to-morrow.” 

“ Well, that’ll do,” he replied. “ There’s a 
breakdown in the machinery and he can’t shift 
for at least four days. I’ve got that much 
anyhow. The day after to-morrow, then. I’ll 
Bend you a list of the trains.” 

An hour or so later I called at Hapforth 

L 


162 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

House and was shown into the presence of Lady 

Clevedon and Miss Kitty. 

“ Well/* said the old lady, a little tartly, “ have 
you made any discoveries ? ” 

Yes,” I returned equably, ‘‘ several. But I 
have run up against a brick wall and I’ve come 
to you to pull it down for me. I can’t get over 
it or under it or round it.” 

‘‘ I don’t know what you are talking about! ” 
the old lady cried irascibly. “ The question is 
—do you know who killed Philip Clevedon ? ” 

“ Well,” I said, “ it depends. Perhaps I do, 
and possibly I am wrong.” 

I glanced casually at Miss Kitty Clevedon, 
over whose pretty face some inward emotion 
had drawn a greyish pallor that extended even 
to her lips. It was quite certain that the last 
thing she wanted to hear was the name of the 
person who had killed Sir Philip Clevedon. But 
she was seated a little behind the old lady who 
noticed nothing. 


CHAPTER XIV 


A' 


KITTY SENDS A TELEGRAM 

ND when will you arrest him ? ” Lady 
Clevedon demanded. 

“ Ah, yes,’’ I returned slowly, 
“ that is just it. You see, the difference between 
knowing and proving is several thousand miles 

and this brick wall-” 

“ Oh, you and your brick walls ! ” the old 
lady cried, waving her hands with an impatient 
and fretful gesture. “ I want to see the 
murderer hanged and the whole thing cleared 
away and forgotten. He was stabbed with my 

hatpin and there are people silly enough to-” 

“ But, Auntie, Mr. Holt must be able to frove 
his case before he can arrest—anyone,” Miss 
Kitty Clevedon chimed in. 

She spoke naturally and the colour had 
returned to her cheeks. My graphic description 
of the difference between knowledge and proof 
had apparently brought its consolation. 

The old lady snorted disagreeably but seemed 
to have no convincing retort ready. 

163 



164 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

“ And what is the brick wall you chatter so 
much about ? she demanded. 

" I want to know,” I said slowly, examining 
the back of my left hand with apparent solicitude, 
“ what hold the late Sir Philip Clevedon had over 
Miss Clevedon that she broke off her engagement 
with Mr. Ronald Thoyne and consented to marry 
the late baronet ? ” 

There was for a moment or two a dead silence 
in the room, a silence that could be felt and 
almost touched. It was the old lady who 
finally exploded in a manifestation of wrath. 

“ My niece was never engaged to Ronald 
Thoyne,” she cried. “ You are impertinent.” 

“ Never ? ” I queried, ignoring her concluding 
sentence. 

“ And she never promised to marry Sir Philip 
Clevedon.” 

“ No ? ” 

She turned suddenly on the girl who, as I have 
said, was seated a little behind her. 

“Was that what they meant at the inquest ? ” 
she demanded. “ They said—that housekeeper, 
wasn’t it ?—that Philip Clevedon and Ronald 
Thoyne quarrelled over—over a—a woman. 
Was that it ? Tell me the truth.” 

“ I don’t know what Mr. Holt is talking 
about,” the girl replied carelessly. 


KITTY SENDS A TELEGRAM lea 
She had entirely recovered her equanimity and 
was completely mistress of herself again. 

“You were not engaged to Mr. Thoyne ? ” I 
asked. 

“ I was not.” 

“ And Sir Philip did not want to marry you ? ” 
“Yes, he did,” Lady Clevedon interposed. 
“ He proposed to you a year ago and you refused 
him. Was it over you they quarrelled, Kitty ? ” 
“ I don’t know an 3 ^hing about it,” Miss 
Clevedon returned a little wearily. “ I don’t 
know why they should.” 

The old lady rose from her seat and strode 
towards a little bureau in one corner of the room 
from which she took a bundle of newspaper 
cuttings. 

“ Yes, here is the report,” she said, and she 
began to read an extract from Mrs. Halfleet’s 
evidence in a loud, rather strident voice. 

“ I heard Sir Philip say, ‘ You are talking 
nonsense. I cannot compel her to marry me 
against her will. The decision rests with her.* 
He was not exactly shouting hut was sneaking a 
little more loudly than usual. Mr. Thoyne 
seemed angry. ‘ You must release her from 
her promise* he said. His voice was hoarse 
and he struck the table with his stick as he spoke. 


166 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
I tliinh Sir Phili'p stood uf from his seat then, 
I did not see him, of course, hut I seemed to hear 
him walking ujp and down. And he sfoke 
sharply, almost angrily. The words appeared 
to come out with a sort of snap. ‘ I have nothing 
to say in this matter,'' Sir Philip declared. ‘ I 
neither hold her to her promise nor release her 
from it. The decision rests solely with her. If 
she notifies me that she cannot ynarry me, I have 
no power to compel her. But I am not prepared 
to take your word for it. The decision must come 
from herself.'' Mr. Thoyne said, ‘ That is your 
last word, is it ? ’ to which Sir Philip replied, 
‘ My first word and my last. As far as I am 
coyicerned I am engaged and remain engaged 
until the young lady herself notifies me that the 
engagement is at an end.'' Then Mr. Thoyne 
said, ‘ If you don^t release her I shall find a way 
of making you—I shall fiiid a way.^ ” 

The old lady ceased reading and glanced at 
Kitty over the top of her spectacles. 

“ What is behind it ? ” she cried. “ Tell me, 
what is behind it all ? ” 

“ I don’t know,” Kitty said. “ How should 
I know ? ” 

“ But—was it—who was it ? ” 

It may have been—Nora Lepley.” 


KITTY SENDS A TELEGEAM 167 

I think she uttered the name quite on the spur 
of the moment and with no previous intention 
of taking that way out. At all events, for a 
moment or two the suggestion seemed rather to 
impress the old lady, then she shook her head. 

‘‘ I don’t say that Nora Lepley—Philip 
Clevedon was like all other men, I dare say, no 
better and no worse. But he wouldn’t want to 
mmrij her. They might fight over Nora Lepley, 
yes, but it wouldn’t be because either of them 
wanted to marry her.” 

“ Why shouldn’t they want to marry Nora — 
she is very nice ? ” Kitty said. 

“ Don’t talk nonsense, child,” the old lady 
cried. 

“ These are democratic days-” I was 

beginning, but the old lady turned on me almost 
ferociously. 

“ I wasn’t asking you for your views,” she 
said. “ And we’ll leave it at that. These two 
men quarrelled over Nora Lepley, or Jane Smith, 
or Martha Tompkins, and so-” 

I rose from my seat and stood regarding them 
with a smile. 

“ And so my question goes unanswered,” I 
murmured, “ and my brick wall remains.” 

The old lady looked from me to Miss Kitty 
Clevedon and then back again. 



168 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

“ Yes,” she said, “ and that ends the case. 
You must drop it—do you hear ?—drop it. I 
am getting in deeper than I thought.” 

I laughed quietly and then went towards the 
door. 

“ I am seeing Mr. Thoyne at Ilbay to-morrow,” 
I said, pausing there to make quite sure Kitty 
heard me, “ and I will ask him.” 

I left them, probably wondering what might 
be the precise meaning of that last promise— 
or was it a threat ? — and finding my way out 
strolled slowly down to the big gates. 

Once in the public road, however, I indulged 
in a course of action that might possibly have 
seemed a little strange to an uninitiated spectator. 
First of all I stood glancing here and there around 
me as if looking for someone or something. Then 
I made my way to the side of the road and 
clambered to the top of a small pile of boulders 
on the summit of which I found a seat on a flat 
stone, so placed that I was invisible to anyone 
coming from Hapforth House or proceeding in 
either direction along the road. Having made 
myself as comfortable as the circumstances per¬ 
mitted, I took out my watch. “ Now for the 
test,” I murmured. “ Unlesi^ I am out in all 
my deductions Kitty Glevedon will emerge from 
Hapforth House in something lijke half an hour.” 


KITTY SENDS A TELEGRAM 169 
In point of fact it was precisely twenty-three 
minutes, and curiously enough she did exactly as 
I had done—stood outside the big gates and 
loojced carefully about her in all directions. But 
there the resemblance ended. She did not, like 
me, climb any of the neighbouring rocks, but set 
off at a smart pace in the direction of Cartordale 
village, whither also in a very few minutes I 
followed her. “ Mistake number one, young 
lady,” I murmured. “You should have taken 
your car into Midlington. You wouldn’t have 
lost much time and you would have made it safe. 
Now, then, for the post office.” 

I was right again. It was into the little 
village post office that Kitty Clevedon turned. 
I did not follow her, but instead stepped into the 
garden that ran alongside the house and sat 
myself down on a rustic seat that stood just 
below a small window, and was hidden from the 
roadway by a huge, black, soft-water butt. It 
had been a discovery of my own, made quite 
casually a few days previously, and merely noted 
as I noted everything. From that seat it was 
possible to hear quite plainly the tapping of the 
telegraph instrument within. Ah, there it was 
now, tap-tap-tap-tap, H, TAP-tap-TAP, K, TAP- 

tap, N-oh, yes, of course “ H. knows-” 

Poor Kitty ! She did not dream that the man 



170 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
she dreaded was seated under that little window 
reading her message as easily as if she had shown 
him the form on which she had written it. “ H. 
knows your address and is coming to-morrow to 
see you.” I sped out of the garden and through 
the village, and taking a short cut met Kitty on 
her way back to Hapforth House. I was 
strolling along dragging my stick behind me, and 
I stopped as I reached her. 

“ Have you sent your telegram to Mr. 
Thoyne ? ” I asked. 

She was trying to bluff me and I did not mean 
to spare her. Why should I ? It was she who 
had declared war. 

“ My—my—I do not understand you, Mr. 
Holt,” she stammered, for once taken off her 
guard. 

“ Quite a random shot of mine,” I replied 
smilingly. “ I inadvertently let out that I was 
going to Ilbay to see Mr. Thoyne, and it was 
natural you should want to warn him.” 

“ But what have I to do with—with Mr. 
Thoyne, and why should I want to warn him ? 
Why shouldn’t you visit him if you wish ? ” 

“ But you did send him a wire, didn’t you ? ” 
I persisted. 

“ You are impertinent, Mr. Holt! ” she cried. 

“ Yes, I fear I am,” I agreed. “ One often 


KITTY SENDS A TELEGRAM 171 
has to be in such jobs as this. And it is your 
own fault, you know.” 

“ My fault! ” 

“ Yes, you challenge me by your whole 
attitude. Your visit that night-” 

“ I have already denied any visit.” 

“ You adhere to that—good. But, don’t you 
see that that is the challenge ? And now we 
have this quarrel between Thoyne and Sir Philip 
Clevedon-” 

She turned on me swiftly with flaming cheeks 
and eyes that sparkled angrily, but I interrupted 
the coming outburst. 

“ I am sorry I have offended you,” I said, 

but I am afraid that was inevitable. You 
would have done better to trust me. Anyway, 
I am in this case and I intend to solve the 
problem it presents. If it is to be war between 
us-” 

“ I do not understand you, Mr. Holt.” 

“ Let it be war, then, and weTl fight it out.” 

And I continued on my way, still dragging my 
stick behind me. 


CHAPTER XV 

ON RONALD THOYNE’s YACHT 


I LBAY we discovered to be a very tiny 
village, hardly more than a cluster of 
cottages, a small inn and a church. 
There was a jetty, built of stone in a rough-and- 
tumble fashion that clearly betokened amateur 
workmanship, and flanked on either side by a 
semicircular sweep of sandy beach that ended 
in a jumble of rocks lying at the bases of tall 
cliffs. The road came over the hills after 
threading its way through vast moorlands and 
dipped steeply down to the village and the 
sea. 

“ The yacht is still here,” Pepster announced, 
on his return from what he described as “an 
early morning prowl round.” 

“ Can we get a boat ? ” I asked. 

“ I have already annexed one,” Pepster 
replied. “We mustn’t waste time in this case. 
The yacht may up-anchor and steam off at any 
minute. The boat is ready and the men are 
waiting.” 


172 


ON RONALD THOYNE’S YACHT 173 
The sooner the better/’ I agreed. It is 
understood that you do all the talking ? ” 

'‘It shouldn’t need much talking,but anyway 
I’ll start it.” 

‘‘ Then the sooner the better,” I repeated. 

Let us be off.*' 

Ronald Thoyne met us on the deck of the 
yacht and stood with his hands clasped loosely 
behind him, surveying us with a queer, twisted 
smile on his face. He waited for us to speak 
and evidently had no intention of helping us 
out. If he wondered how we had caught his 
trail he said nothing. 

‘‘ We have come,” Pepster began, “ for a word 
or two with Tulmin.” 

“ Tulmin ! ” Thoyne exclaimed. “ What a 
disappointment when I thought it was a friendly 
call on myself. Though I can’t say you look very 
friendly or I might invite you to stay to lunch. 
I have quite a good cook, a negro, certainly, but 
in his way a genius. Now if-” 

“ I suppose,” Pepster said with a smile, ‘‘ you 
are talking to gain time.” 

“ No, not at all,” Thoyne replied calmly. 
“ Whv should I ? Let us come down to bedrock 
facts. Tulmin isn’t here.” 

“We traced him here,” Pepster interposed in his 
small, squeaky voice. “He was here, you know.” 


174 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

“ Was he ? ” 

“ You see,” Pepster went on, “ I have a 
warrant for his arrest, and if you continue to 
conceal him you are interfering with the law, 
always a rather dangerous proceeding.” 

“ Your little lecture is interesting,” Thoyne 
replied carelessly, “ but doesn’t apply. You see, 
I am an American citizen and your law doesn’t 
interest me. This ship sails under the Stars and 
Stripes, you know, and you daren’t forcibly 
seize anyone from under that flag. No, don’t 
get angry—it won’t pay you. I have a dozen 
men on board who will obey my lifted finger. 
If I told them to pitch you into the water, into 
the water you would go.” 

He turned his back on us and leaning his 
elbows on the brightly polished rail, gazed down 
into the cool, green depths of the water that was 
lap-lapping idly against the sides of the vessel. 

“ But I am not angry,” Pepster explained, 
“ only interested. Is that your case—that 
Tulmin is aboard the vessel, but that I dare not 
take him off an American ship ? If that is 
so-” 

“ Don’t be a damned fool! ” Thoyne retorted 
roughly, facing us again. 

‘‘ I won’t—more than I can help,” Pepster 
responded mildly. 


ON RONALD THOYNE’S YACHT 175 

“ Well, anyway, you can search the yacht,” 
Thoyne went on. “ Tulmin isn’t here—I know 
nothing of him.” 

He took a whistle from his pocket and blew a 
shrill note which was answered almost simul¬ 
taneously by a sprightly youth, who must have 
been waiting near at hand, so rapid was his 
appearance. 

“ Bender, take this gentleman over the yacht 
and show him everything—everything, damn 
you ! ” 

“ Yes, sir.” 

Pepster glanced at me but I shook my head. 
I intended to have a few words with Thoyne on 
my own account. 

“ I’m no good at a search,” I said. “ That is 
police work. I’ll leave it to you.” 

It was the first time I had spoken since we 
had boarded the yacht. 

“ And now,” Thoyne said, facing me with 
glaring eyes, “ perhaps youTl tell me what 
the hell sort of game you think you are play- 
ing. 

I regarded him smilingly for a moment or 
two. 

“ Did you get Miss Clevedon’s telegram ? ” I 
asked. 

“ Why,” he said quickly, “ did she tell—oh, 


176 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
I don’t know what you are talking about. And 
I don’t understand why you want to butt 
in on this. What business of yours is it, any¬ 
way ? ” 

‘‘ Well, I thought perhaps it was the telegram 
that caused you to send Tulmin away so hurriedly 
yesterday,” I remarked. 

He stood glaring at me for a moment or two, 
then turned away with a quick laugh. 

“ Why should I let you go now you are here ? ” 
he said. “ Tell me that. You are in my power 
and I could carry you and that fat fool who 
came with you to the ends of the earth. What 
could you say ? ” 

“ I am sure it would be an enjoyable trip,” I 
replied. 

“ Oh, it would be all right. I would see to 
that. I shouldn’t ill-use you—only keep you 
locked up until we were well away.” 

“ Yes,” I remarked, “ it sounds all right. 
“ But in the first place, you can’t move until 
your missing machinery comes to hand and-” 

“ What the devil do you know about my 
missing machinery ? ” he roared. ‘‘ But, of 
course, I was only talking off the top,” he went 
on. “I am doing nothing desperate. But, 
now, man to man, what is the game ? Put your 
cards on the table, face up.” 


ON RONALD THOYNE’S YACHT 177 
“ And yours ? ” 

“ ITl see.” 

‘'You mean you’re not playing your own 
hand. Well, it’s a one-sided bargain, but I’m 
willing. Listen carefully and then do just as 
you like, with this certainty in your mind that 
what you try to hide I shall nevertheless dis¬ 
cover. I need only remind you of what I have 
already told you—Miss Clevedon’s wire and 
Tulmin’s hurried departure, not to mention the 
missing machinery. You may deny as much as 
you like but you know full well it is all true. 
Now, then, for the story. Pepster wants Tulmin 
in order that he may arrest him for the murder 
of Sir Philip Clevedon. Not that he believes 
Tulmin to be the principal or is quite sure that 
he actually did the killing. But—why are you 
keeping Tulmin out of the way ? ” 

“ Perhaps I was the-” 

“ Perhaps you were,” I agreed equably. 
Thoyne glared at me speechlessly for a moment 
or two, then threw back his head with a great, 
bellowing roar of laughter. 

“ And is that your theory ? ” he demanded, 
when he had regained breath. 

“No,” I replied, still speaking with careful 
deliberation. “ I am not very keenly interested 
in Tulmin nor in yourself, except just in passing. 

M 


178 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
It is someone—quite—different. Who stands to 
gain most from Sir Philip Clevedon’s death ? 
Tell me that.” 

His face went as white as Kitty Clevedon’s 
had done when I made a similar suggestion in 
her presence at Hapforth House. 

“ But I am not clear on details,” I went on, 
“ and what I want to know—the real reason, 
indeed, for my being here—is why Miss Kitty 
Clevedon promised to marry Sir Philip, though 
it is quite obvious that her affections are—other¬ 
wise bestowed. Now let us take the course of 
events. You quarrelled with Sir Philip Clevedon 
over a woman—and that woman was Miss Kitty 
Clevedon.” 

“ It is a lie—a damned lie ! ” he said thickly, 
clenching his great fists. 

‘‘ It was stated by Mrs. Halfleet at the 
inquest-” 

“ Kitty’s name—Miss Clevedon’s name was 
never—Mrs. Halfleet mentioned no name.” 

“ Miss Clevedon promised to marry Sir Philip 
and you quarrelled with him in consequence. 
Why did she promise ? ” 

“ It’s a lie—she never did.” 

“ Then perhaps you will tell me the name of 
the woman over whom you quarrelled.” 

“ It was nobody you know.” 


ON RONALD THOYNE’S YACHT 179 

“ I have been told—it was suggested—that it 
was Nora Lepley.” 

“ Nora Lepley ! What the devil has she to do 
with it ? ” 

“ Oh, I don’t know. It is not my suggestion 
because, you see, I know who the lady was. 
The one missing link in my chain of evidence is 
not the lady’s identity but her reason for throw¬ 
ing you over and saying ‘ Yes ’ to Sir Philip.” 

“ Why do you want to know ? What has it 
to do with the—the murder ? ” 

“ I cannot tell you until I have all the 
facts.” 

“ You will not get the lady’s name out of me.” 
“ But I don’t want her name,” I retorted 
tranquilly, “ I know that already.” 

“ It was not Miss Clevedon.” 

“ No ? ” 

“ Nor Nora Lepley.” 

“No, I am sure of that. But the name 
doesn’t matter. Will you tell me why Miss 
Clevedon agreed to marry Sir Philip ? ” 

“ I will tell you nothing—nothing at all. 
You are a damned Paul Pry. What business is 
it of yours ? ” 

“ Very well, then I—but here comes Mr. 
Pepster, unsuccessful as I see and as I knew he 
would be. I will not worry you any more just 


180 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

now, Mr. Thoyne, but I will let you know how I 

go on.” 

I nodded cheerfully and made my way to the 
side where our boat was moored, and, indeed, 
I think that if I had not moved out of his way 
just then he would have hit me. 

In tackling a case of this sort, any case, 
indeed, I like to build up as I go along and leave 
no blank spaces. Very often I have spent much 
time over some detail that had eluded me, and 
occasionally I have found that time wasted. 
But far more frequently it has happened that 
the fitting in of one missing piece has straightened 
out much that followed. And I like to observe 
my chronology. 

This question of Kitty Clevedon and her 
engagement to the baronet may seem trifling and 
I had no certainty myself of its relative import¬ 
ance, but I was quite assured in my own mind 
that I could make very little of what followed 
until I had straightened that. There was no 
reasonable doubt that Kitty Clevedon was the 
mysterious lady of the quarrel—she fitted so 
completely into the picture. That both these 
men wanted her was common gossip in the Dale 
and it seemed equally evident that her preference 
was for Konald Thoyne. Yet, apparently, she 
had promised herself to the baronet. Why ? 


ON EONALD THOYNE’S YACHT 181 
And why should Thoyne quarrel with him over 
it ? It was her right to choose. The only 
possible explanation was that the promise had 
been extracted from her by some means that 
had not left her a free agent. And there was 
my missing piece. Why had Kitty Clevedon 
promised to marry Sir Philip ? 

I received my first glimmer of light from 
Pepster, though it was quite unconscious on his 
part. 

The inn at Ilbay was a delightful old place, 
full of odd, mysterious corners, quaint un¬ 
expected doorways and queerly shaped rooms 
that were always a step or two below or a step 
or two above the passage that led to them and 
thus constituted traps for the unwary visitor. 

Pepster and I had a small parlour to ourselves, 
a queer room with five walls and a couple of huge 
beams crossed on the ceiling. It had a wide, 
open fire-place but no grate, the pile of blazing 
logs resting on the hearth, while the flames 
roared and spluttered into the darkness of a 
capacious chimney. The room had only one 
small window that looked out over the jetty 
and the bay, and was shrouded at night by warm 
crimson curtains; and one had to climb three 
steps in order to reach the door which opened 
into the bar. 


182 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

Chief among the furniture was a black oak 
dresser with an inscription on the panel, reading, 
“John and Annie Tumm, 1671,” but all the 
rest was new and neither good nor artistic. 
The “ pictures ” consisted of the faded photo¬ 
graphs of a past generation, framed funeral 
cards and a Sunday School certificate awarded 
to Elizabeth Tumm, 1874. The black oak 
dresser and that document bridged 200 years of 
Tumms. 

“Comfortable quarters,” Mr. Pepster remarked, 
as he sat in a big wicker chair toasting his toes 
at the fire and sipping at a glass of hot whisky. 

“ Very,” I agreed, being similarly situated and 
occupied at the other side of the hearthrug. 

There was another long silence between us, 
which again Pepster broke. 

“Do you know,” he said, “ I am a little 
worried—no, that is hardly the word—a little 
interested in Sir William Clevedon.” 

“ Yes ? ” 

I did not add that Sir William Clevedon was 
just then the centre of all my own inquiries, but 
I was curious to hear what he had to say about it. 

“ You see,” Pepster went on, “ he has never 
been tc *iake up his title or the money. The 
title I could understand. There are too many 
of them about in these days to make any of 


ON RONALD THOYNE’S YACHT 183 
them really worth while. But he stands in also 
for the cash—there was no will and Billy Cleve- 
don takes the lot. Where is he ? ** 

“ Do you mean that he has disappeared ? 

“ Well, that’s rather a long word. But 
nobody seems to know where he is.” 

“ You have made inquiries ? ” 

“ Oh, yes. He started a long leave on 
February 20th—his battalion is in Ireland, you 
know—and is straightway lost. But as to 

where he is-” 

“ His sister will know.’* 

“ She says she doesn’t.” 

“ Did Miss Clevedon tell you that herself ? ” 

“ Well, no, not directly. It was old Parfitter, 
the family lawyer, who dropped a hint, so to 
speak. ‘ Sir William Clevedon ought to be 
home looking after this business and helping to 
clear up the mess,’ I said to him. The old chap 
wagged his head mysteriously. ‘ Aye,’ he 
replied, ‘ he’ll be Sir William now, of course- 
yes.’ I hazarded the opinion that his long- 
delayed appearance was breeding rumours. 
‘ For his own sake he should come,’ I said. The 
old fossil took the alarm at once. ‘ Rumours ? * 
he asked sharply. ‘ What rumours ? ’ He 
glared at me as if I were in some way responsible. 
‘ Oh, nothing definite,’ I said, ‘ just rumours, 


184 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
mere talk.’ And then he opened out and let go, 
said he would like to ask my advice and so on. 
In short, they didn’t know where Billy Clevedon 
was, none of them knew, not even his sister. 
And there it is. He will turn up in good time— 
if he hasn’t some reason for stopping away. 
The question is, haa he ? ” 

Has he what ? ” I demanded. 

A good reason for stopping away.” 

That was precisely the point at which I had 
arrived myself. 


CHAPTER XVI 

THE MYSTERY OP BILLY CLEVEDON 

“ r I AELL me,” I went on, “ all you 
I know about young Clevedon. His 
continued absence is certainly in- 

teresting.” 

“ I am not sure that I know very much about 
him,” Pepster said. You see, he never came 
under my survey professionally, though accord¬ 
ing to accounts that was rather by way of good 
luck than actual desert. When they were 
children, brother and sister were inseparable 
and were always up to mischief of some sort. 
Their parents died when they were babies and 
they went to live at White Towers with old 
Lady Clevedon. When she went back to Hap- 
forth House on the death of her husband, they 
went with her and in due time were packed off 
to school-” 

Yes, all that is common knowledge,” 1 
interrupted. “ But what about Ireland ? ” 
“He is a captain in the 2nd Peakshires and 
they are stationed in Ireland.” 

185 


186 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

“ But apparently he isn’t in Ireland now.’* 

“ I don’t know that he isn’t. He went off 
on leave which began on February 20th and 
started for Dublin. But whether he ever 
reached that city or what he did next nobody 
knows.” 

“ They were very fond of each other, these 
two, I suppose. 

“ Meaning the brother and sister ? ” 

“ Yes.” 

“ They were inseparable until their school-days 
came.” 

I lay back in my basket chair and sent a long 
wraith of blue smoke curling and winding 
towards the ceiling. 

“ There may be nothing in it,” I murmured, 
“ and yet why does he remain away? Suppose 
Thoyne and Clevedon quarrelled over Kitty and 
young Billy interfered-” 

“ I won’t say it is impossible,” Pepster 
interposed, “ and if it had been a bullet or a 
blow from a fist or a stick I might have looked at it 
seriously, but poison is not Billy Clevedon’s line.” 

“ One never knows—there are no such things 
as impossibilities. There is a story behind all 
this.” 

Pepster sat for some minutes gazing medi¬ 
tatively into the fire. 


THE MYSTERY OF BILLY CLEVEDON 187 

“ There is a story behind it—yes/’ he said. 
“ Do you really think young Clevedon—? 

I smiled at that and shook my head. 

“ So far/’ I said, “ we have brought him to 
Dublin and that is a long way from Cartordale.” 

“ Yes, you’re right,” Pepster agreed. “ Wq 
must bring him a bit nearer home. I wonder 
where Tulmin is.” 

“You trot of! to Dublin and look up young 
Billy,” I replied. “ I will hang about here for 
a day or two and see what I can pick up.” 

Ilbay, as I think I have already said, consists 
only of a score or so of tiny cottages clustered 
together at the foot of a tall clif! to the left of 
the jetty, while to the right a rough road goes 
upwards through what seems to be a narrow 
valley running inland. I determined upon a 
walk, not that I expected to discover anything 
thereabout, since the presence of the Sunrise at 
Ilbay appeared to be due more to accident 
than design. When I had been walking about 
half an hour I met an old white-headed man, 
who had apparently emerged from a jumble of 
hillocks and rocks by the roadside where perhaps 
he had been resting. He stood leaning heavily 
on his stick and surveying me with bleared, 
age-dimmed eyes which, however, showed no 
surprise nor any other interpretable sentiment. 


188 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

“ Where does this road go ? ” I asked. 

‘‘ The road—where does it go ?” he repeated, 
mumbling his words from a mouth that was 
evidently all but toothless, “ wey, it goes over 
yonder ”—and he pointed vaguely into the grey 
distance. 

“ How far is it to the next village ? ” 

“ Oh aye, that’ll be Little Upton, a matter of 
seven mile maybe and maybe twelve.” 

He turned abruptly away and continued his 
walk towards the coast. 

The road ran desolate and unfrequented, with 
open moorland on either side, as grim and 
forbidding as open moorland can be in early 
spring before winter has taken its final departure. 
The little fishing hamlet lay behind me 
hidden by the rising ground, while before 
and around me were only illimitable open 
spaces within an unbroken pall of grey sky 
overhead—no sign of human habitation any¬ 
where visible. I decided that Ilbay was the 
more attractiv>e and that I had nothing to gain 
by going on. 

And it was just here at the loneliest and 
dreariest turn of the road that I met Ronald 
Thoyne again coming towards me with long, 
swinging strides. He stopped and faced me 
with a rather twisted grin. 


THE MYSTERY OF BILLY CLEVEDON 189 
“ Still on the trail, Mr. Holt ? ” he said, with 
half a sneer : “ Any discoveries ? ” 

“ Several,” I returned cheerfully. “ I am, in 
short, getting on.” 

“You must possess a really attractive collec¬ 
tion of mare’s-nests,” he retorted. 

“ A few—yes. But this isn’t one. Not but 
what there are still puzzles in it. I can well 
understand that when Miss Kitty Clevedon told 
her brother that she had been compelled to 
promise to marry Sir Philip, he should offer to 

set her free by threatening to mur-no, keep 

your hands off me, Thoyne. But what I 
haven’t yet settled is why she promised to 
marry Sir Philip or what hold he had over her. 
There is a story behind it that would solve the 
puzzle, but I haven’t got it yet. I shall get it 

though, and if it involves young Clevedon-” 

I broke off there with a short laugh, stepping 
back just in time to avoid the quick, nervous 
blow Thoyne aimed at me with his stick. He 
recovered himself on the instant and grinned a 
little ruefully. 

“ If you think Billy Clevedon murdered 
Sir Philip,” he said, “ you are hopelessly 
out of your reckoning. A bullet or a blow, 
perhaps, but not poison. That isn’t Billy’s 
way.” 


190 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

Pepster, I remembered, had said the same 
thing and I merely duplicated my reply. 

“ Oh, as for that,” I said, “ one never knows. 
Where is he, anyway ? ” 

“ You don’t know ? ” 

“ No,” I responded. “ I never pretend a 
knowledge I do not possess. I don’t know where 
he is—do you ? ” 

“No,” he replied slowly, “ I don’t. I would 
give £5,000 at this moment if I did.’' 

“If he is innocent,” I said, “he is a fool for 
stopping away, and no less, perhaps, if he is 
guilty because, at least, his guilt has to be proved. 
If you are hiding him you are doing him no 
service. I am not looking for him but the 
police are.” 

“ The police ! ” 

“ Could you expect otherwise ? Here you 
have a title and a fortune and the owner refuses 
to come and take them. Why ? ” 

“ I wish,” he said a little wistfully, “ that you 
and I were on the same side of the wall.” 

“ Meaning by that-” 

“ That you were with us instead of against us.” 

I paused long and my reply to that was very 
carefully considered. 

“ Mr. Thoyne,” I said, “ I am not on any 
side—I am not for or against anyone. I deal 


THE MYSTERY OF BILLY CLEVEDON 191 
only in facts. If I comanced myself that young 
Clevedon murdered Sir Philip, I should say so. 
I have no reason for thinking that he did and 
certainly no desire to drag him into it. I am 
not fighting you nor anybody. You do not 
think young Clevedon murdered Sir Philip, or 
you try not to think so, but at the back of your 
mind is the fear that he did. You are therefore 
prejudiced but not, as you may think, in his 
favour. Your very horror of the possibility 
persuades you to treat it almost as a probability. 
But I, on the other hand, consider only evidence. 
I have no personal views in favour and certainly 
no prejudices against.” 

“ And what evidence have you ? ” he de¬ 
manded. 

“ None,” I replied, “ except what you and 
Miss Clevedon have provided and what his 
absence emphasises. If you and she had kept 
out of it and he had been at Cartordale, as he 
should have been, no suspicion ever would have 
attached to him. At this moment the only 
evidence against him is the belief you and Miss 
Clevedon harbour, that he-” 

He paced from one side of the road to the 
other and then back again. 

‘‘ I wish I dared tell you the whole story,” he 
said. “ I believe you could help us.” 


192 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

Without another word he resumed his walk 
and plodded steadily on without so much as a 
backward glance. 

But I knew now that my surmis-es were 
accurate—that Sir William Clevedon’s continued 
and unexplained absence was breeding deadly 
and sinister fears in the bosoms of his friends, of 
his sister especially. That she was at the 
bottom of Thoyne’s mysterious activities seemed 
clear enough. It was for her sake, probably at 
her instigation, that he had tried so hard to 
envelop me in fog. And it seemed evident that 
she was in possession of knowledge which, so far, 
neither Pepster nor myself had penetrated. It 
would be my business to discover what that 
was. I had not, however, very long to wait. 


CHAPTER XVII 

MOKE ABOUT BILLY CLEVEDON 


T HOYNE must have started off immedi¬ 
ately for Cartordale because it was no 
later than the next morning, while I 
was seriously considering whether I should 
return home or follow Pepster to Dublin that I 
received a wire from Thoyne reading: “ Can 
you see K.C. and self at C. to-morrow ? ” K.C. 
was Kitty and C. was Cartordale and I was not 
long in making up my mind. I wired off a 
prompt reply suggesting Stone Hollow as the 
place of meeting. They were awaiting me when 
I arrived and they had evidently agreed that 
Thoyne should start the talking. 

“ We want to know,” he began slowly, “ which 

side you would take if-” 

He stopped there, perhaps expecting me to 
help him out. But I remained stubbornly 
silent. 

“ Suppose,” he went on, taking a sudden 
plunge, “you proved that — that Clevedon 
did—was involved in—in the death of Sir 
N 


193 


194 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
Philip—would you take your proof to the 
police ? ” 

“ I will make no promises either way/’ I 
replied. “You sent for me and I am here. 
Why did you invite me to come and what have I 
to do with it, anyway ? You need say nothing 
unless you wish. And in any case, I am not a 
detective but a writer of books-” 

“ Then why need you tell the police ? ” Kitty 
interposed softly. 

“ Tell them what ? ” I demanded, turning 
suddenly upon her. 

She paled a little and shrank back. 

“ I did not say I should tell the police,” I 
went on. “ Indeed, I decline to discuss the 
point. I retain absolute freedom and if you 
prefer to say good-bye, well, the decision rests 
with you.” 

“ The fact is,” Thoyne blurted out, “ the 
thing is so much a nightmare to us, that we must 
settle it one way or the other. It would be 
better almost to know the worst than to rest 
in continual doubt.” 

“ But why come to me ? ” 

“ Because we think you can help us.” 

“ I am not a detective : I take no fees : I go 
my own way : I make no promises.” 

“We accept your conditions,” Thoyne said, 


MORE ABOUT BILLY CLEVEDON 195 
with a glance at Kitty who nodded an affir¬ 
mative. 

The story they told me was certainly interest¬ 
ing and what they omitted at the first 
telling, I managed to elicit by subsequent 
questioning. 

Sir Philip Clevedon, it seemed, had given 
Kitty to understand that her brother was in 
some danger, though he had been judiciously 
vague, depending more upon hints, suggestions 
and innuendo than on definite statements. He 
was easily able to startle an impressionable girl 
where a man or an older woman might have been 
able to extract the truth from him by a process 
of cross-examination. 

Only one thing stood out clear, that Billy 
was in some kind of a mess from which it would , 
cost far more money than she possessed to 
extricate him, and that Sir Philip would find 
the cash if she consented to marry him, which 
she did. Sir Philip’s action could only be 
justified by the old adage that “ All’s fair in 
love and war.” Undoubtedly he was very much 
in love with her which may be urged as his 
justification. “ I have wealth and a title and I 
am not an old man,” he said to her, “ and you 
have youth and beauty; it is not an unequal 
bargain.” That was true enough. Marriages 


196 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
far less appropriate occur every day. But 
nothing would have induced Miss Kitty Glevedon 
to consent except the thought that by her 
sacrifice she was saving her brother from some 
disaster, the details of which she did not under¬ 
stand. 

Then came a very difiicult task, to tell Konald 
Thoyne that their little romance was ended and 
that she was going to marry Sir Philip Glevedon. 
Thoyne seems to have written straight off to 
Billy Glevedon, in which he was wise, and then 
went and had a row with Sir Philip, which was 
foolish. 

Billy Glevedon as soon as he received Thoyne’s 
letter seems to have rushed off to Midlington 
where he summoned both Thoyne and Kitty to 
meet him. There under pressure from him, not 
unassisted perhaps by Thoyne, she told the 
story of her interview with Sir Philip. 

“ The swine! ” Billy cried. “ The un¬ 
buttered swine ! I’ll wring his filthy neck for 
him. You’ll not marry him, Kitty, I’ll do for 
him first.” 

He was very angry and swore mightily, but 
they paid little heed to his wrath. It was 
characteristic of him to be a trifle over-emphatic 
in his expressions. 

“ I asked him to lend me some money, it is 


MOEE ABOUT BILLY CLEVEDON 197 
true,’’ he said, “ but it wasn’t as much as he told 
you and it didn’t matter in that way. I was in 
a hole but that was nothing new and there was 
no disgrace attached to it. But I’ll settle it— 
you leave to me. Kiss Eonny Thoyne and 
make it up with him.” 

Billy took two or three turns up and down 
the room, spitting out the words as he went. 

“ It’s blackmail,” he continued. “ But of 
course it’s nonsense. He can’t make her if— 
does she want to marry him ? ” 

“ She does not,” Thoyne told him promptly. 

‘‘ No, I should think not. He’s twice her age 
and more. But I see his game—he must be an 
infernal cad. I didn’t suspect that of him. He 
is cold and selfish but I did not think he was 
that sort of reptile. I knew nothing of this, 
Thoyne—you believe that, don’t you. I am 
a mixture like most men but I am not that 
sort.” 

He resumed his restless pacing to and fro. 

“ I had no idea of it, none at all,” he repeated. 

He did not tell them what the trouble was nor 
why he had wanted the money. 

“I would have lent-” Thoyne was 

beginning, but Billy airily dismissed the sug¬ 
gestion. 

“ I’m all right for a bit and I’ll make the 


198 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
blasted baronet shell out somehow,” he said. 
“ Don’t you worry. But I’m busy now—an 
engagement I must meet. I’ll see you later on. 
Meanwhile you cut clear of the swine.” 

“ Aren’t you coming to Cartordale ? ” Kitty 
asked him. 

“ Presently,” he told them, “ but not to-night. 
Thoyne, you take her home.” 

Thoyne did and left her at Hapforth House 
early in the evening. 

The next day—the fatal 23rd—passed with¬ 
out any word from Billy. We know what 
happened on that day—Thoyne’s quarrel with 
the baronet and Kitty’s visit to White Towers 
in the evening. But the latter did not return 
directly to Hapforth House. She ran her little 
two-seater into Midlington only some twelve 
miles distant and called at the hotel at which 
she had met her brother on the previous day. 
But he was not there. He had paid his bill, 
packed his bag and departed. 

She returned to Cartordale but her car broke 
down on the way and she pushed it to the side 
of the road and tried a short cut to Hapforth 
House, missing her way in the fog and landing in 
my study. The next day came the tragic story 
of Sir Philip’s death and though both she and 
Thoyne affected to believe that Billy could have 


MORE ABOUT BILLY CLEVEDON 199 
Lad nothing to do with it, they were nevertheless 
terribly anxious and alarmed, the more as the 
days went on and nothing was heard of or from 

him. 

“ And now let me reduce it to definite dates,” 
I said, “You will check me if I am wrong. 
You left your brother at the * King’s Head’ in 
Midlington on the afternoon of February 22nd. 
He left the hotel on the morning of February 
23rd. Sir Philip Clevedon died on the night of 
the 23rd.” 

They nodded a joint affirmative. 

“ In other words, and to put it in its most 
brutal form, he left Midlington and came 
secretly to Cartordale, having first obtained 
some poison, secured an entrance to White 
Towers, poisoned Sir Philip’s whisky, dis¬ 
appeared-” 

“ But I don’t believe-” Kitty began. 

“ No,” I said, “ of course you don’t, but 
that summary of possibilities represents your 
fears.” 

“ Why doesn’t he show up ? ” Thoyne inter¬ 
posed. 

“ Yes,” I agreed, “ that is precisely the 
question we have to answer. Could he have 
got into White Towers without being seen ? 
You and he lived there as children and I have 


200 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
been told that you were veritable little imps of 
mischief. All sorts of things would be possible 
in connection with a big and ancient mansion 
like White Towers.” 

Kitty looked woefully distressed and turned 
with white-faced, pathetic pleading to Thoyne. 

“ I should tell everything, Kitty, dear,” he 
said. 

“ There is a secret way into White Towers 
which we discovered years ago,” she replied. 
“We agreed to keep it to ourselves and I have 
never told anyone. I don’t think anyone knows 
of it except my brother and myself.” 

I regarded her thoughtfully for a moment or 
two. 

“ Well, now,” I said, “ you know of that 
secret way—could you have entered White 
Towers and placed the poison in that bottle 
without being seen ? ” 

“ Surely, you don’t think I-” 

“ Could you ? ” 

“ Yes, but-” 

“ Well, now, look,” I said, importing a sudden 
harshness into my tones, “ you hated the 
thought of marrjdng Sir Philip and his death 
would mean your release, besides which it would 
mean wealth to your brother and a happy issue 
from his financial-” 


MORE ABOUT BILLY CLEVEDON 201 

“ But the suggestion is infamous, intoler¬ 
able ^ Thoyne cried. 

“Don’t be a fool,” I advised him. “I am 
not accusing Miss Clevedon ; I am summarising 
the case against her brother. The first essential 
is to establish a motive and there you have one 
twice over—Sir Philip’s death would release his 
sister from a hateful marriage and it would—he 
would succeed to the dead man’s title and money. 
I am being purposely brutal because I want to 
put it at its worst. He comes to Midlington, a 
few miles from Cartordale on the day before the 
tragedy, he leaves Midlington for some unknown 
destination, which may, however, have been 
Cartordale, a few hours before the murder, he 
knows a secret way into White Towers, and he 
has a dual motive for assassinating Sir Philip. 
You have summed all this up in your own minds, 
haven’t you ? It has been a dark shadow in 
your thoughts ever since that tragic day. Isn’t 
that so ? ” 

There was a long silence. 

“ Yes,” Thoyne said at length, “ you are 
perfectly right. You have described exactly 
what, as I said before, has been a ceaseless 
nightmare to us. And you have omitted the 
main difficulty. Why doesn’t he come to 
Cartordale ? ” 


202 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

“ But, now,” I went on, “ let us take the 
other side. There is no evidence of any sort 
that Clevedon ever had any prussic acid in his 
possession. Or is there ? ” 

“ We know of none,” Thoyne assented 
eagerly. 

“ And you ? ” I asked, turning to Kitty. 

“No,” she said, shaking her head, “ I never 
heard of any.” 

“ And then there is the possibility that 
when he left Midlington he never came to 
Cartordale at all. That is where our inves¬ 
tigation begins. Where did he go when he 
left Midlington ? Let us return to your inter¬ 
view in the ‘ King’s Head.' At what time did it 
take place ? ” 

“ In the afternoon,” Thoyne responded. “ It 
would be three o’clock when we left the ‘ King’s 
Head.' ” 

“ And did he give you no indication of the 
nature of his engagement ? ” 

“ Nothing at all.” 

“ Did he say when he was coming to Cartor¬ 
dale ? ” 

“ No, I don’t think he mentioned it—at all 
events, nothing definite.” 

“ Well, now, let me put it like this. Suppose 
that after the meeting at Midlington there had 


MOEE ABOUT BILLY CLEVEDON 203 
been no tragedy, would your brother’s prolonged 
absence have worried you ? ” 

“ Oh, no,” Kitty replied. One never knew 
what Billy was going to do and frequently he 
wasn’t sure himself. He w^ uld just do it.” 

“ Did you know,” I asked, “ that your 
brother wa* going on a long leave. It is rather 
a wonder that Thoyne’s letter ever reached him, 
but evidently it did. The fact that he had 
obtained leave before the receipt of that letter 
suggests some contemplated purpose — the 
visit to Midlington was only a break in the 
journey.” 

“Yes,” Thoyne said, “ we have thought all 
that out. But why hasn’t he come back when 
—it is unbelievable that he should have seen 
nothing—no account of the—-—” 

“ Unlikely, but not impossible,” I observed. 
“ He may have met with an accident, for 
example.” 

“ We should have heard of it,” Thoyne said, 
shaking his head. 

“ Well, anyway,” I returned, as cheerfully as I 
could, “ suppose we accord him the right every 
Briton has under the law, of being regarded as 
innocent until he is proved guilty. Is he, by 
the way, interested, do you know, in any— 


204 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
“ In about a hundred, I should think,’’ 
Thoyne returned. 

“Yes, I dare say he would be. At his age 
one is. But I mean any special lady ? ” 

But they could give me no help in that. 


CHAPTER XVIII 

THE ANONYMOUS LETTERS 


T he first thing I had to settle was as 
regards the entrance to White Towers 
of which Kitty Clevedon had spoken. 
We had to pick up Billy Clevedon’s tracks after 
he left Midlington, and if he really had gone to 
White Towers, it would probably be by that 
route. At all events there was absolutely no 
evidence that he had been seen at any of the 
usual entrances. Kitty agreed to guide us, and 
told us to meet her the following morning at 
the main gates to White Towers; and she 
advised us also to put on some old clothes as we 
should have to creep part of the way on hands 
and knees. 

We were prompt to time and Kitty took us 
through the park to some very rough ground 
at the rear of the house, though not far away 
from it, and there she showed us a narrow cleft 
in a mass of rock and told us that was the 
entrance. It was partly choked by a jumble of 
fallen boulders overgrown with the rough 

205 


206 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
vegetation of the moor, probably rank enough 
at some periods of the year, but lying now for 
the most part dry and dead. I looked for any 
sign of recent entrance, especially for footmarks ; 
but the ground was too hard and revealed 
nothing, though the rubbish at the entrance 
seemed to have some appearance of being 
trampled. I took out my dash lamp and 
pushed my way into the opening, followed by 
the others, though it was a very tight fit for 
Thoyne. 

A wall of rock confronted us at about four 
feet, but Kitty bade us turn to the left and 
there I saw an opening low down which seemed 
to lead to a passage that descended somewhere 
into a mass of pitch darkness. We had to get 
on hands and knees and crawl along so for quite 
a long distance through a low, narrow tunnel 
that appeared to be for the most part natural, 
though here and there, it had evidently been 
widened at least, if not entirely pierced by 
human agency. 

Presently, after going steadily downwards for 
many yards, it went forward on the level, and 
was there a little higher and wider; but at no 
point did it enable us to stand erect. It was a 
case of creeping all the way. I understood now 
why Kitty had advised the oldest possible 


THE ANONYMOUS LETTEKS 207 
clothing. It meant ruin to the knees of one’s 
trousers. And then the tunnel ended abruptly 
against a wall of solid rock ; but Kitty cried 
out that there was an iron ring close to my 
right hand, and that I must take hold of it and 
pull hard. 

I obeyed ; there was a grinding and groaning 
as of rusty machinery and then the rock in front 
swung back and we found ourselves in an open 
chamber with walls and floor of natural rock, 
but a roof of worked stone formed of square 
flags, all save one supported by pillars of rusty 
iron. There were nine stone flags, each six feet 
by four, and eight pillars, and the dimensioos 
of the cellar or cave were thus eighteen feet by 
twelve. The height would probably be about 
eight feet. We could at least stand upright. I 
took my flash lamp and carefully examined 
every corner, not, as it turned out, quite un- 
remuneratively. I dropped my hat and then 
stooped to pick it up again—and with it some¬ 
thing I had noticed lying there. 

My find was a hairpin still fresh and bright 
and with no sign of rust about it. 

If Kitty Clevedon had passed that way I 
should have supposed that she had dropped it. 
Ladies shed things of that sort as they go. But 
she had assured us that she had not been near 


208 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
the spot; in which case a knowledge of the 
existence of the passage, supposed to be con¬ 
fined to Kitty and her brother, was shared by 
someone else, and that a woman. 

“ Which is the way out ? ” I asked, saying 
nothing of the hairpin which, at a favourable 
opportunity, I thrust into my waistcoat pocket. 

Kitty pointed to the one unsupported flag¬ 
stone and told us that it worked on a swivel and 
could be pushed up if one could reach it, where¬ 
upon Thoyne swarmed up the nearest pillar and 
tried to move the stone but failed, though 
whether because the axle was rusty or because 
there was some fastening on the other side we 
could not say. Thoyne selected another pillar 
and once more gave the stone a push, but with 
no more success than before. From his position, 
clinging monkey-like to the pillar, he could 
exert very little leverage. He slid down again 
and suggested that I should mount his shoulders 
so as to be right under the stone, a manoeuvre 
which was promptly attempted with satisfactory 
results. 

The stone moved, though slowly and stub¬ 
bornly and with much creaking and, swinging 
myself up through the opening thus disclosed, I 
found myself in a cellar full of a miscellaneous 
collection of rubbish, baskets, boxes, barrels, 


THE ANONYMOUS LETTERS 209 
cLairs, broken furniture of all sorts, books and 
papers and so on. I fixed the stone in position, 
because left to itself it would simply have swung 
back again into its place, and then I passed 
down to the others a short ladder which I found 
lying against one of the walls of the cellar. 
When the others had joined me, Kitty explained 
that we were under the older portion of White 
Towers, the East Wing, which was partly in 
ruins and uninhabited. 

I was easily able to explain the tunnel-—I had 
seen something of the sort in other old houses. 
It was simply a way of escape for those inside 
if enemies became too pressing. Peakshire had 
played a strenuous part in the Civil War, most 
of the big men being on the side of the King ; 
and White Towers, the older part of which 
dated back beyond Elizabeth, had probably 
been a Royalist stronghold and meeting place. 
If enemies, in the shape of Cromwell’s men, came 
along, the Cavaliers would only have to creep 
through the tunnel in order to escape the 
Roundheads. Or it may have been constructed 
in even earlier days for the benefit of Roman 
Catholic refugees. 

That, however, was mere speculation, though 
not without interest. For many years evidently 
it had been unused and forgotten until it was 
o 


210 THE OLEVEDON CASE 
redisoovered by the two children who had kept 
it a delightful secret to themselves and had, no 
doubt,, brought it into many exciting games. 
The question for us, however, was—had Clevedon 
used it recently, and if so, for what purpose ? 
It was certainly interesting and possibly sig¬ 
nificant that somebody evidently had been that 
way not so very long before. But Clevedon at 
all events did not use hairpins. 

“ There seems to be no evidence that your 
brother ever came this way,” I said, as we stood 
looking round us. “ True, the vegetation at 
the entrance to that passage bore some appear¬ 
ance of having been trampled down, though 
that may have been the weather or-” 

“ I did that,” Thoyne broke in quickly. 
“ Kitty told me about this before I saw you 
and I went to look for myself.” 

I glanced at him casually. It was quite 
likely he spoke the truth. 

‘‘ Did you get as far as this ? ” I asked. 

“ Oh, no, I didn’t get beyond the entrance.” 

‘‘ And you think you trampled that brush¬ 
wood ? ” 

“ I—it is possible I may have done.” 

“You did not notice its condition before—? ” 

“No, I didn’t, I wasn’t looking for that. I 
see you still distrust me,” he added quickly. 


THE ANONYMOUS LETTERS 211 
“ but I am perfectly honest about iL I am 
sorry I came.” 

“ Oh, it doesn’t matter,” I returned care¬ 
lessly. “ If you hadn’t been there, the signs 
might have proved that Clevedon hadn’t either, 
whereas now it is an open question. But the 
fact that somebody may have been there is of 
minor importance unless there is accompanying 
evidence that the somebody was Clevedon him¬ 
self. Of course, there is the fact that he alone 
knew of the entrance—he and one other. I 
suppose you haven’t been here lately ? ” 

I turned suddenly on Kitty Clevedon and 
rapped out the question with the abruptness of 
a pistol shot. She started a little, then shook 
her head. 

“ Not since I was a child,” she replied. 

“ Can we get out of this without returning by 
that passage ? ” I asked. 

“ Yes, through that door is a flight of stone 
steps leading to what used to be the kitchen of 
the old White Abbey.” 

“ We’ll go that way,” I decided. 

When I had parted from my two companions, 
with a promise to see them again later in the 
day, or, possibly on the following morning, I 
went into the post office and from my waistcoat 
pocket produced a hairpin. 


212 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

“ Have you any of that sort in stock ? ” I 
asked, then, noting her look of surprise, I added, 
‘‘ I hope you won’t give me away if I tell you 
that I use them to clean my pipe. They are the 
best things I know for that.” 

“ Well, I didn’t suppose you wanted them 
for your hair,” she said pertly. “Yes, we have 
plenty of that sort in stock. Indeed, I don’t 
think we have any others.” 

“ Then I suppose every lady in the Dale uses 
them,” I remarked jestingly. 

“ Most of them,” she agreed. “ I do—see, 
here is one ”—and she extracted a specimen 
from her own abundant head-covering. “ A 
few may get some others when they go into 
Midlington, but most come here for them. 
Lady Clevedon had three boxes only a week 
ago. 

“ Lady Clevedon,” I echoed, “ then they must 
be an aristocratic brand. Does her ladyship do 
her own shopping ? ” 

“ Oh, they are good enough. No, Lady 
Clevedon didn’t come for them—Miss Kitty 
fetched them. She said they were for Lady 
Clevedon, but she took some for herself too, so 
I suppose she wears them.” 

Evidently the hairpin was not going to be of 
much use to me, at all events as a means of 


THE ANONYMOUS LETTERS 213 
identification. There would be too many of 
them about the Dale for that. 

When I reached Stone Hollow again I found 
Detective Pepster awaiting me, looking, for him, 
a little disconsolate. 

“ Well,” was my greeting, ‘‘ how has Fate 
treated you ? ” 

“No luck, none at all,” Pepster said gloomily. 
“ 1 am just back from Dublin with no news. 
Clevedon went to Dublin on February 20th, but 
there all tra.ce of him ended. I could learn 
nothing.” 

“ I have been more fortunate than you,” I re¬ 
turned smilingly. “I can carry him a bit farther 
than that. He was in Midlington on February 
22nd and left there on the morning of the 23rd.” 

“ Do you know that ? ” 

“ Yes, for certain.” 

“ Did he go to Cartordale—to White Towers ? ” 

“ I can’t say for that.” 

“ And where is he now ? ” 

“ Nobody knows.” 

“ And his sister-? ” 

“Is as ignorant as you or I.” 

“ She is bluffing ? ” 

“ No.” 

“ She really doesn’t know where he is ? ” 

“ She really doesn’t,” 


214 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

“ But—anyway we must find him.” 

“ I am busy at it now.” 

“ Any traces ? ” 

“ None.” 

“ It is a weird development. Did he do it ? 

Is he keeping out of the way because-? ” 

“It is impossible to say. We know that became 
to Midlington, but that he came to Cartordale or 

ever had any prussic acid in his possession-” 

“Yes, you’re right. We must bring him a 
little nearer than Midlington. But if he didn’t 
do it, or, for the matter of that, if he did, he is a 
fool for keeping out of the way.” 

Which at least was a self-evident proposition. 

“ And now that we have disposed of Billy 
Clevedon for the time being,” Pepster went on, 
“ tell me what you think of this.” 

With great deliberation he took a letter-case 
from his pocket and from it extracted a sheet of 
paper which he handed over to me. It was 
lined paper, torn evidently from a notebook, 
and on it was printed in capitals: 

YOU AKE ON THE WRONG 
TRAIL ALTOGETHER. IF 
YOU WANT TO KNOW WHO 
KILLED CLEVEDON KEEP 
YOUR EYE ON THOYNE. 


THE ANONYMOUS LETTERS 215 

“That is No. 1/’ Pepster said. Here is 
No. 2.” 

He handed me a second document, but this 
time it was a plain white paper on which the ink 
had run rather badly, though the letters were 
quite legible. It was, too, much shorter, simply 
reading: 

THOYNE MURDERED CLEVEDON. 

“ Anonymous letters by some crank, who 
thinks he has made a discovery,” I remarked. 

“ Yes,” Pepster agreed, “ but here is No. 3.” 

The third communication was written in red 
ink on a buff-coloured slip of paper, such as 
Government offices use, and read : 

YOU ARE MISSING YOUR 
LIFE’S CHANCE. ARREST 
THOYNE AND I WILL PRO¬ 
DUCE THE EVIDENCE. 

TRUST ME. 

“ Were they addressed to you personally ? ” 

“ Yes, and to my private address.” 

“ Apparently somebody who knows you.” 

‘ Looks like it.” 

“ Come by post ? ” 


THE OLEVEDON CASE 


216 

“ Yes.” 

“ Postmark ? ” 

“ Two Cartordale, the third Midlington. Now, 
is the writer merely a crank, or has he something 
up his sleeve ? ” 

“ If you do nothing he’ll probably write again 
and may be more explicit.” 

“ Well, of course, Thoyne is very deep in this 
thing, but there is nothing definite connecting 
him with the murder—is there ? ” 

But I merely shook my head vaguely at that. 
In this curious case one never knew what a day 
might bring forth. The changes and develop¬ 
ments were as rapid as a cinema show. 


CHAPTER XIX 

THE HAIRPIN CLUE 


I N point of fact the first real clue I secured 
in this case consisted of that hairpin I 
found on the floor of the lower cellar, 
though its bearing on the mystery was not at 
first apparent. But it introduced me to a new 
set of circumstances and took me a step or two 
on the road I wished to travel. Until then I 
had been wandering round and round in a circle. 
My first thought was that the hairpin belonged 
to Kitty Clevedon and that she had deliberately 
deceived me when she declared that she had not 
visited the cellar prior to conducting Thoyne 
and myself thither. My suspicion was that she 
had been there and that she had found and 
removed some traces of her brother—that she 
was, in fact, still playing a game of bluff, though 
I did not believe that this time Thoyne was in 
it. She was hoodwinking him as well as myself. 

I set a watch on the cellar beneath the ruined 
wing, making myself a hiding-place by clearing 
out some of the furniture in one corner and 

mi 


218 THE OLEVEDON CASE 
restacking it so as to leave a narrow passage in 
which I could conceal myself if I wished. A.nd 
I set little traps of a very simple description, but 
sufficient to show me on my next visit that 
somebody had been there in my absence and had 
penetrated to the lower chamber by way of the 
swinging flag-stone; but I was more than 
astonished when during one of my periods, 
behind my little rampart, I discovered that the 
visitor was not Kitty Clevedon at all, but—Nora 
Lepley. 

In all my imaginings my thoughts had never 
once turned to her. She came in without falter¬ 
ing or hesitation, as one who knew her way 
intimately, and swung open the trap-door, which 
she propped up by means of a board. Then, 
taking the short ladder which I have already 
mentioned, and which I knew by means of my 
little arrangements had been used during my 
absence, she let it down, and by it descended to 
the lower cellar. 

As soon as her head had disappeared I crept 
to the opening on hands and knees and saw her 
lift out a rough block of stone which concealed 
a small opening not unlike a natural cupboard. 
Then she took a small flash-lamp from the 
pocket of her big apron and sent a beam of light 
into the hollow place, but situated as I was I 


THE HAIRPIN CLUE 219 

could not see whether she put anything in or 
took something out. For a minute or two she 
stood pondering almost as if she were trying to 
make up her mind on some doubtful point, then 
with a quick sigh she replaced the lamp in her 
pocket and restored the stone. 

I flitted back swiftly and noiselessly to my 
own corner whence I watched her return from 
the lower depths, close down the stone and lay 
the ladder along the wall, all with sedate, un¬ 
hurried movements, as one who had no reason 
to fear interruption. When she was quite 
safely away, and I followed her to make sure, I 
went in my turn into the lower cellar to investi¬ 
gate that little cupboard. It was evidently her 
own private safe, containing all sorts of odd¬ 
ments a young girl might hide away when 
she found too many prying eyes at home—a 
bundle of letters, an envelope containing £20 in 
Treasury notes, some oddments of jewellery and 
so on. 

But what most attracted my attention, 
because they were in such curious contrast with 
the rest of the collection, were a drinking-glass 
and a small phial wrapped in white paper. I 
picked the latter up and noticed a number of 
figures lightly pencilled on the wrapper arranged 
in double column thus : 


220 THE CLEVEDON CASE 


9.37 

3.17 

11.21 

4.28 

12.18 

5.19 

1.34 

6.37 


What they could mean I could not imagine, 
nor did I worry very long about them. I 
removed the wrapper, to find inside a small 
phial labelled “ Pemberton’s Drops,” which were 
described as “ a safe remedy for headache, sleep¬ 
lessness, and all nerve troubles.” The dose was 
forty drops to be taken in water or other liquid. 
I turned the bottle over and saw a circular, red 
label, not much larger than a sixpence, on which 
was printed in small, white letters ‘‘ Grainger, 
Midlington ”—obviously the chemist from whom 
Nora Lepley had purchased her sleeping drug. 
I could well understand that she did not want 
her .friends to know that she took an hypnotic 
composition of this character. 

Almost without knowing what I was doing I 
removed the cork, and then with a sudden jerk 
realised what it was I had stumbled upon. I 
smelt the unmistakable odour of bitter almonds. 
Whatever the phial had contained when 
Grainger of Midlington sold it to Nora Lepley, it 
was nearly full now of a strong solution of 
hydrocyanic acid. I took up the glass, but it 


THE HAIRPIN GLUE 221 

was perfectly dry and odourless, despite wkich 
I had no doubt that it had been the vehicle by 
which Sir Philip Clevedon had taken the poison. 

The real art and science of the detective lies 
in building up one fact upon another until the 
edifice begins to assume intelligible shape. I am 
far from saying that a Sherlock Holmes is im¬ 
possible. On the contrary, I have met people 
possessed as he was of a sense of intuition almost 
as keen and certain as seeing and hearing in 
ordinary men. But they are few. The average 
detective, though he may indulge in theories, 
depends really on facts and is wise not to wander 
very far from them. And he will find, if he is 
sufiiciently practised and astute, that facts breed 
facts, and that a clue, even if it does not lead to 
the required solution, does often produce other 
clues that continue the chain unbroken. A 
“ clue ” that leads nowhere never was anything 
but a false clue from the beginning. And a 
detective is largely dependent upon what 
ordinary folk describe as luck or chance. His 
skill consists in making use of chance and in 
missing nothing that luck brings him. 

The police have, in addition to the natural 
astuteness of individuals, the assistance of a 
singularly complete and effective organisation 
that enables them to push their inquiries far 


222 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
and wide and, when they have settled on their 
man, to weave round him a net from which 
escape is all but impossible. By telegraph and 
telephone, the police of the whole country can 
be put on the alert, descriptions can be circulated 
in a few minutes, information conveyed and 
facts gathered until the story is complete. The 
English police work under some difficulty since 
the methods of questioning and even bullying 
that are legal in France and are frequently 
permitted in America are rigidly forbidden here. 
English law really does try to live up to the 
theory that a man is innocent until he is proved 
guilty and that he must not be trapped into any 
unwary admission. I do not mean to say that 
the English police invariably abide by the strict 
letter of the law or always observe it in spirit. 
There are occasions when it is worth while to 
take risks. But, generally speaking, the law as 
it is and as it is administered aids the criminal 
and hampers the police, despite which, however, 
the latter are wonderfully successful. 

Still, I can hear someone saying, many crimes 
go unpunished, many criminals remain undis¬ 
covered. True, but one has to remember that 
many criminals are known against whom there 
is no clear proof. The conviction of a wrong¬ 
doer is a matter of evidence not of belief. I am 


THE HAIRPIN OLUB 223 

acquainted with two persons, one a man very 
well known in business circles, the other a lady of 
great charm and important position, who, I am 
quite sure, are murderers. The police are 
equally aware of the fact. But so skilfully have 
the criminals covered every trace that anything 
like proof would be wholly impossible. 

And, again, it must not be forgotten that the 
criminal may be a person of first-class education, 
alert mentally, intrepid, with money, position 
and infiuence to aid him, and that he not only 
prepared the ground before the crime without 
hindrance or suspicion but was able to use his 
skill and resource in confusing the pursuit after 
it. A burglar, jewel thief, or the like, may be 
a person of the Bill Sikes variety, but he is quite 
as likely to be a University man with a profession 
and income and a wide circle of friends. 

When brains are pitted against brains it is a 
straight fight and the best brains win quite 
irrespective of right or morality. The pursuit’s 
most valuable and useful asset lies in the fact 
that most criminals sooner or later make mis¬ 
takes, and crime as a rule leaves no margin for 
error. The alert detective misses nothing of 
that sort and loses no opportunity his opponent 
may concede to him. But when all is said, 
facts remain the detective’s chief stock-in-trade, 


224 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
and it is the connected chain of established facts 
that eventually leads him to the solution required 
and the person wanted. 

So far, for example, in this Clevedon case I 
had been groping in the dark, hanging grimly 
on to the few facts I had ; and my blunderings 
and stumblings had led me to that little phial 
of poison in Nora Lepley’s secret hiding-place. 
I could not see yet the full bearing of that 
discovery, but it was a new fact which I had 
reached simply by following my nose. 

Of course, I made a special journey into 
Midlington to look up Grainger, the chemist, 
who, I learnt, had been in business in the city 
about thirty-five years, was widely known, and 
very highly respected. I made a small purchase, 
and noticed that there were several bottles of 
Pemberton’s Drops in the large glass case that 
was full of various proprietary medicines. 

“ Is that stuff any use for sleeplessness ? ” 
I asked, pointing to one of the bottles. 

“ I don’t know,” he replied. “ It seems 
fairly popular but I have never tried it.” 

“Is it dangerous to take ? ” 

“ I shouldn’t think so,” he replied, “ though 
personally I should say that all hjrpnotic drugs 
are better left alone. The preparation is a 
secret. I do notice that people who take them 


THE HAIRPIN CLUE 225 

come back for them, which seems to suggest 
that they are effective.” 

I went straight to Peakborough and inter¬ 
viewed Mr. Pepster. 

“ I’ve something I want you to do,” I said 
to him. 

‘‘ Good ! Is it important ? ” 

“ I think so. I fancy things are beginning 
to move.” 

“ I’m glad to hear it,” he retorted grimly. 
“ As for me, I’m absolutely fed up. The case 
is getting on my nerves. But what is it ? ” 

“ I want to know all there is to be known 
about Nora Lepley.” 

“ Yes ? ” 

“ And about Grainger, a Midlington chemist.” 

“ But what connection is there-? ” 

“ I don’t know yet. I want to know. 
Probably there is none. But I have traced 
prussic acid to Nora Lepley-” 

“ Gad ! ” 

“ And in a bottle that came from Grainger’s 
shop.” 

“ Good Lord ! ” 

“Yes, it’s a queex development, isn’t it ? ” 

“ But-” 

“ I know absolutely nothing more than I 
have told you.” 
p 


226 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
Pepster nodded thoughtfully, then touched a 
bell. 

‘‘ \Vhat is the next train for Midlington ? ” 
he asked of the police clerk who answered his 
summons. 


CHAPTER XX 

STILL MORE ABOUT BILLY CLEVEDON 


A nd now I come to a very pretty and 
pleasant little adventure whicli has its 
own place in the sequence of events. 
Only part of it came under my own immediate 
observation; the rest I had to piece together 
by adroit questioning and the aid of a little 
imagination. 

It began with Kitty Clevedon, who, as she 
was crossing the park that partly surrounds 
Hapforth House, was a little startled to see 
an aeroplane coming rapidly to earth. It 
alighted only about sixty yards away, and a 
young man jumped out and came towards her. 

“ Hallo! Kitty Clevedon, by all that’s 
lucky ! ” he cried. “ I thought it was, which 
was why I gave the order to come down.” 

“ Jimmy ! but you are a stranger,” Kitty 
returned smilingly, as they shook hands. “ Are 
you still in the Air Service ? I thought you 
had been de-” 

“ Oh, yes, this is my own. I do it for fun 
227 


228 THE OLEVEDON OASE 

now. Care to step aboard the old bus and see 

what it is like ? ” 

He helped her in and then gave some signal 
she did not comprehend, and up they went. 

“ What are you doing ? ” Kitty demanded. 
“ You have no right to take-” 

“ None at all,” he admitted cheerfully. “ But 
it would be a dull world if we only did what v e 
have a right to do, wouldn’t it ? ” 

“ You must let me get out, Jimmy,” she 
said, stamping her foot. 

“ I’m not stopping you,” he retorted, with a 
laugh, “ but it’s a longish step down to Mother 
Earth—about 600 feet, I should judge. Would 
you like to have a look out ? You are not 
frightened, are you ? Have you ever been up 
before ? ” 

“ Yes, twice,” she replied. ‘‘ No, I’m not 
frightened—of the aeroplane.” 

“ Well, you’re not frightened of me, anyway,” 
he said. “ I’m fierce, but not frightful.” 

He pulled back a leathern flap, disclosing 
an opening, through which he thrust his head. 

‘‘ You ought to go in for flying, Kitty,” he 
went on. “ It’s the real sport—there’s nothing 
like it. Motoring is tame—and I tell you what, 
I’ve a good mind to carry you off to see old 
Billy and butt in on his honeymoon.” 


MORE ABOUT BILLY CLEVEDON 229 
“ Billy ! ” she cried, turning on him suddenly. 
“ Do you mean my brother ? ” 

“ Here, steady on ! ” he said. ‘‘ You’ll have 
the old bus over if you jolt us like that.” 

You must put me down at once,” she went 
on. “ I must see Mr. Holt and Mr. Thoyne. 
Do you hear ? At once.” 

Jimmy Trevor saw that she was serious, and 
immediately gave the order to descend. 

“ I’m awfully sorry, Kitty,” he said. ‘‘ I 
was only—it was only a bit of a joke. I would 

like to apologise, if you-” 

“ Don’t be an idiot,” Kitty replied sharply. 
“ Only be quick, and don’t talk until we are 
out.” 

‘‘ But you will forgive-” 

‘‘ Oh, yes, yes ; and now donH talk. Let me 
think.” 

They made a safe landing, and Jimmy helped 
Kitty to alight. 

“ Now tell me,” she demanded, turning on him 
suddenly, ‘‘ do you know where my brother is ? ” 
‘‘ Why, yes,” he replied, evidently a little 
mystified at her manner. 

“ And—and did you say—honeymoon ? Is 
he—married ? ” 

“ Good Lord ! didn’t you know ? ” he shouted. 
‘‘ Have I put my beastly number nine foot 


230 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
into it again ? He didn’t tell me it was a secret. 
I was his best man, you know, and saw them off to 
Jersey for their honeymoon. But he said noth- 
ing about keeping it secret. Didn’t you know ?” 

“ Will you come with me to see Mr. Holt ? ” 
Kitty asked. 

“ I will go anywhere you say, anywhere at 
once,” Jimmy replied. 

Kitty started off immediately in the direction 
of the village, Jimmy Trevor keeping pace 
with long strides, muttering apologies to her and 
imprecations on himself at intervals. As they 
passed through the big gates into the main 
road they met Thoyne, who glanced at her 
companion a little questioningly. Jimmy 
Trevor was a very personable youth, and jealousy 
is easily aroused. 

“ Oh, Ronald, this is Mr. Trevor,” Kitty said. 
“ He—he knows where—where Billy is.” 

“ The devil he does ! ” Thoyne cried. And 
where is he ? ” 

“ He is ”—she began to laugh a little hysteric¬ 
ally, then pulled herself up—“ on his—his 
honeymoon.” 

“ His honeymoon ! ” 

Thoyne stood stock still in the middle of the 
road and gazed, first at Kitty and then at 
Jimmy Trevor, who grinned appreciatively. 


MORE ABOUT BILLY CLEVEDON 231 

‘‘ It seems to be news,” the latter said dryly. 
“ Didn’t you know ? Am I making the first 
announcement ? I seem to have created a 
sensation by posing as an amateur Morning 
Post. Why shouldn’t Billy get married if he 
wants ? And she was a deuce of a nice girl, 
too ! ” 

But—the murder-! ” Thoyne stam¬ 

mered. 

“ Murder ? What murder ? We are talking 
about a marriage, not a murder.” 

“ The murder of Sir Philip Clevedon,” Thoyne 
replied rather angrily. “ You must have heard 
of it.” 

“Not a word,” Jimmy responded. “ I’ve 
been abroad, and only returned to England 
two days ago. Sir Philip Clevedon—why, that’s 
—then Billy is Sir William and doesn’t know it.” 

“ We must tell Mr. Holt,” Kitty broke in, 
and Thoyne nodded his agreement. 

And thus it was that they came to me with 
their story. I listened to them in silence and 
then put a few questions. 

“ Had Clevedon arranged that you should be 
his best man ? ” I asked Trevor. 

“ Not at all,” he said, “ nothing of the sort. 
I met him quite by accident on Midlington 
station^ and- 


232 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
“ What date was that ? ” 

“ It was February 23rd.’' 

“ Are you sure of that ? ” 

“ Yes, it was February 23rd right enough, be¬ 
cause that was the day I had to be in London. It 
had been fixed up with the lawyer chaps, Finns 
and Tregarty, who did all my uncle’s business. 
I went down from Blankester by a train that 
stops five minutes at Midlington—beastly hole 
it is, too ! Looking out, I saw Billy on the 
platform. We were at school together, you 
know, and then in France—good pals. He 
pulled me out of a damned mess once—a good 
story that, which I’ll tell you some day. He’s one 
of the very best, is Billy. I shouted out to him, 
‘ Billy, Billy,’ and he came up. ‘ Good egg, 
Jimmy,’ he said, ‘ I was getting a bit fed up 
with my own company.’ There was a vacant 
corner seat, and he took it and we travelled to 
London together.” 

“ What time would that be ? ” I interrupted. 
“Let’s see; it was the 11.23 at Midlington, 
and 4.7 in London. We put up at the Terminus 
Hotel, both of us, had dinner there, and went 
to see Jimson*s Joy Ride at the Lyric. Then 
we trotted round to one or two places we know 
of and got back to the Terminus at 1 a.m., and 
so to bed, as What’s-his-name would say.” 


MORE ABOUT BILLY CLEVEDON 233 

‘‘ If we could make absolutely sure of the 
date-I began. 

“ The date is right enough,” Jimmy Trevor 
replied. ‘‘ You don’t come into a little wad 
of fifteen thousand pounds every day, and that 
date is in red letters in my almanac. But ask 
the lawyers—they’ll have it down—or try the 
Terminus Hotel. Our names will be in the 
register.” 

“ Well,” I returned, “ you went to see 
Jimsons Joy RidOy then to bed. Next 
morning-? ” 

“ ‘ I’ve got to go to Jersey ! ’ Billy said to 
me, ‘ to get married. The young lady is there, 
waiting for me—suppose you come with me 
and be best man.’ I had four weeks or so 
empty and plenty of money, so I said ‘ Right 
ho ! ’ The lawyers had come down with some 
coin and didn’t want me for a bit until they’d 
straightened things some more. And then Billy 
got a telegram, ‘ Lost my luggage ; bring some 
clothes—Elsie.’ So of! he went to a large shop 
and interviewed the manageress. " I want some 
clothes for a young lady,’ he said, ‘ all sorts of 
clothes; nightdresses, stockings, whatever 
young ladies usually wear; plenty of them, 
and some frocks—and you see that young lady 
over there with the red hair ? ’ The manageress 


234 THE OLEVEDON CASE 
cast her optics round. ‘ Yes, I see her,’ she 
said, ‘ but you’d better not let her hear you 
describe her hair as red.’ Old Billy was a bit 
put out. ‘ Sorry,’ he said, ‘ but she is about 
the build. What’ll fit her will fit the other.’ 
It was all easily arranged—anything is easy to 
arrange, you know, when you have the money 
to pay for it, and Billy seemed to have plenty. 
He came out of the shop carrying a brand new 
suit-case containing about eighty pounds’ worth 
of female garments. When he told me about 
it I said he was a silly Juggins; that what the 
telegram had meant was that he was to go to 
her flat and tell her maid to pack another box; 
which is what she told him when we got to 
Jersey. ‘ We’ll do both,’ Billy said, and we 
went to the flat and got another lot of feminine 
mysteries. So we got to Jersey, and I saw him 
tied up and then went on to St. Malo. That’s 
how I never heard anything of Sir Philip 
Clevedon, and I bet Billy’s heard nothing, 
either.” 

“ And who is the—the girl ? ” Kitty de¬ 
manded, quite naturally a little angry when 
she recollected the suspense and misery she 
had endured through her brother’s unexplained 
absence. 

“ She’s Elsie MacFarren,” Jimmy replied. 


MORE ABOUT BILLY CLEVEDON 235 

I knew her quite well. Miss Elsie MacFarren 
was a youthful American actress who had come 
across with a boisterous Yankee comedy, en¬ 
titled Chick Tottle^s Turnout. The play itself 
had been a failure, but Elsie had been a success, 
and had remained here to earn one of the big 
salaries the British theatre-loving public wil¬ 
lingly pays to those who take its fancy. She 
was not only pretty, but clever ; and invitations 
to return to America—invitations heavily larded 
with dollars—were cabled to her at short 
intervals. But she stayed here proof against all 
temptations. 

“ And now,” I added briskly, the next 
thing is to wire Sir William Clevedon to return 
immediately. He must come back. His 
presence here will dispel a lot of suspicion, and 
the story of his romance will counteract some 
ugly rumours. We will meet them in London.” 

W'hen I told Pepster the story I thought he 
would never stop laughing. 

This case,” he said, “ is the absolute limit.” 

‘‘ You’ll come with us to London ? ” 

“ I wouldn’t miss it for a fortune.” 

We duly met the honeymoon couple at 
Paddington. 

“ Where the hell have you been ? ” Thoyne 
demanded harshly. 


236 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

“ Where ? ” Billy echoed. On my honey¬ 
moon. There is Mrs. Billy Clevedon, and-” 

“No,” I interrupted suavely; “Lady 
Clevedon.” 

He swung round facing me. 

“ Who the hell are you, and what the devil 
do you mean by that ? ” he asked. 

“ Sir Philip Clevedon is dead,” I replied 
quietly. 

He stood glaring at me for a moment or two, 
as if he thought I was mad, then, reading 
confirmation in the faces around him, he turned 
to his wife. 

“ Do you hear that, Elsie ? ” he shouted. 
“ Sir Philip is dead, and I am Sir William, and 
you are My Lady, and, yes, by gad ! I’ve got 
pots of money. By Jove! yes. Poor old 
Philip—he was a bit of a—but there, he’s dead. 
What a life it is I ” 

“ The fact is,” I went on, cutting short his 
excitement, “ that Sir Philip Clevedon was 
murdered, and ”—I paused a moment or two 
so that I might get the full efiect—“ there is a 
warrant out for your arrest.” 

“ Murdered ! ” he echoed. “ Arrest! ” 

“ Well,” Pepster interrupted slowly. “ I 
wouldn’t say arrest. The police are interested— 
you see, your absence seemed to require- 


MORE ABOUT BILLY CLEVEDON 237 
“ And where the devil do you come into the 
picture ? ” the new Sir William demanded. 

“ I—oh, I am the police,” Pepster retorted. 

“ But, surely,” Kitty said haltingly, “ Mr. 
Trevor has proved—Billy was in London on the 

night of the 23rd—an alibi-” 

“ There can be no alibi in a poison case,” I 
returned gravely. “ The crime is committed, 
not when the victim dies but when the poison 
is placed—wherever it is placed. For example, 
if I were to put prussic acid now in some whisky 
which you were to drink next Sunday, I might 
go off to Paris, or be on the high seas far off 
enough, anyway, when you drink the whisky, 

but I should still be guilty of-” 

“ Is that the story ? ” Billy broke in. “ Did 
I put prussic acid in Philip’s whisky ? Come, 
we’ll get back to Cartordale. I am Sir William 
and White Towers belongs to me. I’m going to 
take possession. And if anyone thinks I killed 
Sir Philip, well, let them prove it and be damned 
to them.” 

He broke off with an angry laugh and stood 
facing us. His lovely little bride thrust her 
hand through his arm. 

Yes,” she said, in that musical voice of hers 
that had charmed huge crowds on two continents, 
“ let them prove it and—be damned to them ! ” 


238 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

But her laugh was one of real amusement. 
Lady Clevedon was looking forward to enjoying 
life and had no objection to a sensation or two. 
Possibly she had found the honeymoon just a 
trifle slow. Anyway, she made a charming 
picture of loyalty and confidence as she stood 
arm-in-arm with her husband facing those who 
were practically accusing him of murder. 


CHAPTER XXI 

WHY TULMIN BLACKMAILED CLEVEDON 


S IR WILLIAM and Lady Clevedon settled 
down in Cartordale and very quickly 
made themselves popular with their 
neighbours. Billy himself was of a buoyant 
and friendly disposition, and even if he had been 
far less genial, Lady Clevedon would have pulled 
him through. I never met a sunnier person 
than she was, and if she had designedly set out 
to dissipate any possible suspicion that may 
have gathered round her husband, she could not 
have gone a better way about it. 

But if she had any such intent she did not 
show it. They both acted as if they took it 
calmly for granted that any idea of Billy’s 
participation in the tragedy was futile nonsense. 
Nor did they hesitate to discuss it, and apparently 
accepted my interposition as a matter of course. 
No doubt Thoyne and Kitty had explained to 
them my part in the story. As they became 
more and more immersed in their plans for re¬ 
furnishing White Towers and in various social 

239 


240 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
activities, the mystery dropped more and more 
into the background. That was all the better 
for me. The necessity of consulting other folk 
and especially of explaining, or of concealing, 
because it more frequently amounts to that, is 
always something of a nuisance when one is 
engaged in delicate investigations. 

But I had a little passage with Lady Clevedon 
the elder that was not entirely without enter¬ 
tainment. I was passing the big gates of Hap- 
forth House just as she emerged. I fancy she 
had seen me from the windows of the lodge and 
had come out with the intention of intercepting 
me. She stood with both hands on her stick 
surveying me with a dry smile. 

“ So, Mr. Detective, you haven’t yet dis¬ 
covered who killed Philip Clevedon,” she 
said. 

I don’t know that I haven’t,” I returned. 
“ But knowledge isn’t proof and there are libel 
laws to be watched.” 

“ That is an easy way of getting out of it,” 
she cried mockingly. “ A detective ought-” 

“ But I am not a detective,” I interrupted. 

“ No, you are not, that’s true enough,” she 
agreed grimly, as she turned abruptly and began 
walking towards Hapforth House. 

When I reached Stone Hollow again, I found 


TULMIN BLACKMAILED CLEVEDON 241 
waiting for me a little wizened man with in¬ 
determinate features and a general air of 
dilapidation, though his eyes under shaggy grey 
brows were bright and piercing. 

“ Hullo, Stillman ! ” I cried, “ you at last, is 
it ? I have been expecting you for some time, 
but I suppose it wasn’t an easy job. Have you 
got it ? ” 

Stillman sat for a few minutes gazing into 
the fire. I knew his habit well and did 
not attempt to hurry him. He was a very 
methodical person, with a way of arranging his 
thoughts and choosing his words that was some¬ 
times a little irritating to those wanting to hear 
what he had to say. I, knowing him well, 
merely waited until he was ready. 

“You told me to find out-” he began and 

then paused, glancing at me as if in inquiry. 

“ Why Tulmin was blackmailing Sir Philip 
Clevedon,” I replied promptly. “Tulmin had 
some hold over Clevedon—what was it ? ” 

“ Precisely.” 

I had “ discovered ” Stillman some years 
before, and had made much use of him. What 
his past was I did not know, though I suspected 
that it would not bear a too detailed investiga¬ 
tion. He was certainly an expert burglar, as I 
had more than once put to the test; he could 
9 


242 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
copy a signature with the fidelity of the camera ; 
he could empty a man’s pocket with the dex¬ 
terity of a professional; he knew every possible 
trick with the cards ; he seemed, in short, to be 
an expert in every form of roguery, and yet, as 
far as I knew, he had never engaged the attention 
of the police. If he had been a rogue, he had 
covered his tracks with singular skill. 

But he may only have been, like myself, a 
student of roguery. I was an expert pickpocket, 
an accomplished burglar, could open a safe by 
listening, and would guarantee to copy any 
man’s signature so as to deceive even himself; 
and more than once during my investigations I 
had found my accomplishments extremely use¬ 
ful. I should have made a very dangerous 
criminal, but I kept within the law, and I was 
willing to give Stillman also the full benefit of 
the doubt. As a sleuth, I never met his equal; 
in the patient, persistent, unwearying, remorse¬ 
less pursuit of an individual, in turning a person, 
man or woman, inside out, in penetrating the 
most sullen reserve and uncovering the secrets 
of the past he was unapproachable. 

I had the first taste of his quality in the 
Strongeley case. He brought me some in¬ 
formation and I happened to remark that 
I must have Robert Strongeley shadowed. 


TULMIN BLACKMAILED CLEVEDON 243 
“ Try me,” lie said, and as I was just then 
too busily occupied to do it myself, and had 
nobody else whom I could put on, I agreed. 
He followed Strongeley half round the world, 
and wormed out secrets that even Strongeley 
himself had forgotten. 

Since then I had many times employed him, 
and he always promptly answered my call, 
possibly because I paid well, but even more, I 
think, because my cases were nearly always 
interesting. How he lived or what he did in 
the unemployed intervals I cannot say and 
never inquired. A lack of curiosity is often a 
form of wisdom. 

I had placed Tulmin in his hands. ‘‘ This 
man,” I said, “ has been blackmailing the late 
Sir Philip Clevedon and I want to know why." 
And there I left it. Stillman, I knew, would 
sooner or later bring me the information I 
required. 

I went down to Ilbay,” Stillman said, “ but 
I could not get on board the yacht. But 
chance helped me there. Mr. Thoyne came off 
the ship bringing Tulmin with him. The latter 
went to London and so did 1. Whether Thoyne 
had given Tulmin an address, or whether Tulmin 
went there on his own, I didn't know, but I 
followed him and obtained a room in the same 


244 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
house. Later I learnt that the house was one 
in which Tulmin had lodged when he first came 
over from America and before he went to 
Oartordale.” 

“ America ? ” I interposed. ‘‘ Did Thoyne 
know him in America ? ” 

“ That is the story,” Stillman replied, with a 
quiet grin. “ Thoyne—Clevedon—Tulmin—all 
from America. Tulmin had some money of his 
own, but Thoyne was making him a fairly 
generous allowance, is still, for that matter. But 
to begin at the beginning. When Sir Philip 
Clevedon—er—died, Mr. Thoyne offered Tulmin 
a job as steward on his yacht.” 

“ Did Tulmin say why the offer was made ? ” 
No—no special reason, anyway. He was 
out of a job and Thoyne wanted a steward. 
But it is a little curious that Mr. Thoyne offered 
him about twice the usual pay if he would go 
then and there at once.” 

I smiled appreciatively. It was, indeed, a 
little curious, 

“ Though, if he hadn’t done that,” Stillman 
went on, ‘‘ Tulmin probably wouldn’t have 
gone, because he wasn’t short of money. At all 
events he went. But hardly had he got to know 
his way about the yacht when a telegram came. 
‘ I want you to go to London and wait for me 


TULMIN BLACKMAILED OLEVEDON 246 
there,’ Mr. Thoyne said to him. And that 
seems to be the whole story.” 

“ Did Tulmin see the telegram ? ” 

“ No, Mr. Thoyne burnt that when he had 
read it.” 

That, of course, was Kitty Clevedon’s tele¬ 
gram warning Thoyne of my threatened visit. 

“ It was lucky Tulmin went to London—what 
should you have done if he hadn’t ? ” I asked, 
with some little curiosity. 

“ Oh, I should have found a way,” Stillman 
replied. “ Perhaps an opportunity of boarding 
the yacht would have presented itself, or I might 
have learnt its destination and met it there. I 
should have found Tulmin some way. But that 
telegram eased matters considerably. I am 
much obliged to whoever sent it.” 

In all his confidences Thoyne had never told 
me why he took Tulmin away, nor had he given 
me any indication that he knew where he was. 

‘‘ As to Tulmin,” Stillman went on, “ I had 
rather a lot of trouble with him. He wasn’t 
exactly an easy subject. But I got there in 
time. He is too fond of his whisky to keep 
many secrets. And I have spent a lot of money 
in whisky. At to-day’s prices, you know, 
whisky does cost money. But I had to drag it 
out of him almost a word at a time and piece it 


246 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
together as best I could. But I think I have 
it straight now.” 

The story was very simple. As Stillman had 
said, the three men had all hailed from America 
where Clevedon, known then as Calcott had 
been an object of much attention from the 
police. Tulmin himself was a “ crook,” though 
of rather smaller dimensions than the other, and 
they had occasionally worked together. Then 
Calcott disappeared and it was given out that 
he was dead. 

It was some time after Calcott’s ending that 
Tulmin, finding the police in America in¬ 
conveniently eager to make his acquaintance, 
crossed over to England, which offered at once a 
refuge and a fresh field for his operations. It 
was in London that he met Sir Philip Clevedon 
as the latter was going from a taxi towards the 
dignified entrance to his club. They faced each 
other at the foot of the stone steps. 

“Calcott!” Tulmin cried, with a welcoming 
grin. 

“ I beg your pardon,” Sir Philip replied, with 
the icy composure that characterised him. 

“ I said ‘ Calcott,’ ” Tulmin retorted, in no 
way perturbed. 

“ Yes, I heard you, but I don’t know what it 
means,” Sir Philip made answer. 


TULMIN BLAOKMAILED OLEVEDON 24-3 
“ It’s a clever bluff,” Tulmin responded. “ And 
I’ve heard of doubles, of course. But do you 
know that Felter is in London ”—Felter was 
head of the Chicago detective bureau, and a man 
whom the late Calcott had good reason to fear— 
“ on some stunt or other and looking as foxy as 
ever ? It gave me a turn of the shivers when I 
ran up against him suddenly in Oxford Street. 
I wonder if you could persuade him to believe 
in doubles or whether he might not want to see 
that scar on your left knee. He put it there, 
you know, didn’t he, and could identify it. 
Anyway, I am looking for a job as confidential 
man—valet, secretary—something soft and clean 
and well-paid. I am tired of being a ‘crook.’ ” 
What Tulmin actually would have done, or 
even could have done had Clevedon bluffed it 
out, I don’t know. But apparently the latter 
funked the risk and the end of it was that 
Tulmin was installed at White Towers as Sir 
Philip Clevedon’s confidential valet. That, in 
brief, was the story Stillman told me, nor was it 
difficult to supply the missing lines. Clevedon 
had never expected to succeed to the title since 
there were several lives in front of him, but they 
disappeared one by one, and accordingly he 
shed his Calcott existence like a discarded hat. 
He was accepted on this side without question or 


248 THE OLEVEDON CASE 
demur, and indeed, there seems to have been no 
doubt regarding his identity. The whole story 
was extremely interesting, but I did not see that 
so far it helped much in the solution of my own 
particular mystery. I was a good deal more 
concerned with Thoyne’s part in the play. 

“ The hold Tulmin had over Clevedon seems 
clear enough,” I observed reflectively. “ But I 
don’t quite see how he managed to hook Thoyne 

on unless Thoyne was also-” 

“No, there is nothing against Mr. Thoyne,” 
Stillman responded promptly and decisively. 
“ He is paying Tulmin to keep out of the way, 
but I think that is simply so that there may be 
no scandal^no public identification of Clevedon 
with Calcott.” 

“ Then he knew that Clevedon was Calcott ? ” 
“ Yes, Tulmin says so.” 

“ I wonder how he knew.” 

“ I am not sure about that, but Tulmin was 
positive that he did know, and that he was 
keeping Tulmin out of the way so as to keep 
the name of Clevedon out of the mess. Isn’t 
Thoyne marrying into the Clevedon family ? 
Anyway,” Stillman added, with a queer chuckle, 
“ Tulmin doesn’t expect him to go on paying 
for ever. ‘ As long as it lasts,’ in his own 
phrase. The hold isn’t a very strong one ; and 


TULMIN BLACKMAILED CLEVEDON 249 
I don’t think myself Tulmin will turn nasty 
when the money stops. His own record isn’t so 
clean that he need court publicity.” 

“ I am not quite clear about it yet,” I re¬ 
marked. “You said there was no special 
reason assigned for Thoyne’s action in making 
Tulmin his steward at double pay, but now-” 

“ Oh, yes, I was not quite clear. Mr. Thoyne 
did not give Tulmin any reason when he offered 
him the job. It was afterwards that he ex¬ 
plained what he had in mind—to make sure 
that nothing got out regarding Calcott. Indeed, 
I am not quite sure that he actually explained in 
so many words. But he knew about Calcott— 
Tulmin is sure of that—and perhaps Tulmin 
jumped to the conclusion that that was his 
motive.” 

“ Yes, I dare say it would puzzle Tulmin to 
know why Thoyne should appear so friendly.” 

I made up my mind at all events that I would 
interview Tulmin myself. Not that I had any 
specific aim in view. But it would at least be 
useful to learn all I could regarding Clevedon’s 
past. Stillman’s story had opened new possi¬ 
bilities. If Tulmin could recognise Clevedon as 
Calcott, others might have done so. It might 
easily be that one would have to go back into 
those dead years to solve the mystery of the 


250 THE OLEVEDON OA8B 
Clevedon tragedy. And among those possi¬ 
bilities was Thoyne. He may have known 
Clevedon in America and have had good reason, 
quite apart from their rivalry for Kitty Cleve- 
don’s affections, to desire his death. 

At all events I determined that I would have 
an interview with Ronald Thoyne before many 
hours were out. I felt that I had a legitimate 
grievance against him. He had known more 
about Tulmin and Clevedon than he had ever 
told me and though he had invited me to investi¬ 
gate the mystery, he had given me only a half- 
confidence. I could at least teach him a lesson 
on that, I thought rather grimly, besides which, 
somewhere at the back of my mind was a queer 
suspicion that Thoyne had deliberately thrown 
me off the scent, telling me, with every appear¬ 
ance of frankness, much that did not matter, 
but remaining stubbornly reticent on several 
things that did. 


CHAPTER XXII 

MORE ANONYMOUS LETTERS 

I SENT Stillman back to keep an eye on 
Tulmin until I could myself interview 
him and then set myself to arrange a 
meeting with Thoyne. He was staying at 
White Towers and I had no difficulty in finding 
him. 

“ Hallo ! ” he cried. “You look very serious, 
Holt. What is the matter ? Have you made 
a fresh discovery ? ” 

“ Yes,” I said, “ I have.” 

“ Well, cheer up. I can’t say you look 
pleased about it.” 

“ Thoyne,” I responded, looking him straight 
in the face. “ Did you ever hear the name of 
Calcott ? ” 

He sent me a quick glance that was partly, I 
think, surprise but was not entirely devoid of 
wrath. The name had evidently no very 
pleasant sound in his ears. 

“ You see,” I went on, interpreting his half- 
instinctive movement in my own way, “ you 


252 THE OLEVEDON CASE 

have given me a lot of quite unnecessary trouble. 

Had you been frank with me-” 

“ I was frank on everything that mattered,” 
he said sullenly. 

“You thought the fact that Clevedon had 
been an American crook known as Calcott 
whom you had met in Chicago-” 

“ That’s a lie, anyway.” 

“You needn’t get excited about it,” I re¬ 
joined equably. 

“ Excited, the devil! ” he cried. “ I am not 
excited. I’m as calm as you are.” 

“ Then perhaps you would like to tell me the 
whole story.” 

“ What story ? ” 

“ The story of Calcott, the crook, and what 
you knew about him in Chicago.” 

“ I did not know him in Chicago.” 

He sat himself down and ran his fingers two 
or three times through his thick hair. 

“ You are rather a marvel,” he said, with a 
smile that was just a little rueful. “ How you 
get these things sorted out amazes me. First 
one and then another, you get them all 
straightened and leave no loose ends. No, I 
never knew Calcott, though I’d heard of him. 
But I had known Tulmin in Chicago. I caught 
him looting my baggage—it was in the car 


MOEE ANONYMOUS LETTEES 253 
outside my house and he was just moving off with 
a bag. I caught him and thrashed him and let 
him go. I recognised him when I met him here, 
and he knew me also. I didn’t interfere. He 
seemed to be living an honest life as far as I 
could gather and I didn’t want to rob the poor 
devil of his chance. It was he who told me about 
Calcott. You see, after they quarrelled-” 

“ Quarrelled ! ” I repeated. “ Did—but I 
must have the whole story now. There is more in 
this than I thought. If there was a quarrel-” 

“ Yes, what of it ? ” 

Thoyne spoke a little impatiently as if he 
were tired of the whole subject and merely 
wanted to bury it. 

“ Well, a quarrel—is sometimes a motive for 
murder-” 

“ I always thought Tulmin did it,” he 
responded quietly. “ But I’ll tell you all I know 
and then perhaps you can leave me alone. 
Damn Clevedon and damn Tulmin. Why should 
I be worried about their affairs in this fashion ? 
I didn’t ask to be mixed up in it, did I ? Of 
course, I did it to help Kitty, and would do it 
all again, and more for her. And all through 
the infernal foolery of this secret marriage. 
Why couldn’t Clevedon tell his sister he was 
going to be married ? The whole thing’s been 


254 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
a nightmare to me and I’m dead sick of it. I 
didn’t murder Clevedon and I don’t know who 
did, unless it was Tulmin. If you would find 
the assassin and tie him up I might get some 
peace.” 

“ But it was you who took Tulmin away and 
hid him,” I replied. 

“ Yes, I know it was—what of it ? ” 

“But if you thought he was the mur¬ 
derer-- ? ” 

“ Of course I thought he was the murderer. 
You don’t think I should have involved an 
innocent man, do you ? Yes, I persuaded 
Tulmin to go away in order to keep suspicion 
ofE Billy Clevedon. Kitty was terrified and I 
was a bit anxious myself.” 

“ And as to this quarrel ? ” I interposed. 

“ I don’t know the rights of that, except that 
Tulmin had wanted more money than Clevedon 
was willing to pay. Kitty had told me, you 
know, that Clevedon had wanted her to marry 
him and that she intended to consent. We 
were not formally engaged then, though it was 
all but fixed up between us. But the word lay 
with her, of course, and I was trying to be as 
philosophical as I could over my dismissal when 
one night Tulmin came to me with a queer, 
mixed yarn, of which at first I could make 


MORE ANONYMOUS LETTERS 255 
nothing. ‘ What have you come to me for ? ’ 
I said. ^ I’ve come to sell you a secret,’ he 
replied. My first idea was to give the swine a 
good sound kicking and pack him ofi. ‘ I could 
tell you something about Sir Philip that’ll make 
Miss Kitty impossible,’ he added, and at that I 
waited. 

“I dare say you’ll blame me, but I don’t pretend 
to be any better than anybody else, and besides, 
he’d stolen her from me. So I listened. He 
told me he knew something against Clevedon, 
who had been paying him to keep silence. Now 
he wanted to go back to America — Tulmin did, 
I mean—and had asked Clevedon for a lump 
sum, and Clevedon had threatened to shoot him. 
That is the best thing I ever heard about Cleve¬ 
don. Tulmin is a little rat, for whom shooting 
is a lot too good. But Clevedon had stolen my 
woman and I didn’t mean to lose any chance 
that came. I said he could have the money if 
I found the secret worth it. He wanted it in 
advance, but I told him he’d have it my way or 
no way. And then he told me what Clevedon 
had been across the water. 

'‘At first I took him to mean that Clevedon 
was an impostor and had no right to the title 
and estates, but it seems I was wrong there. I 
went off to Clevedon next day and we had a 


256 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
right royal rumpus about it—that was the 
interview described at the inquest. I didn’t 
mention Tulmin’s name—the little rat had 
made that a condition. ‘ You can’t deny it,’ 
I said to Clevedon. ‘ I come from Chicago, you 
know. I recognised you months ago.’ He 
seemed impressed and it was rather a good lie. 

‘ But I didn’t interfere,’ I went on, ‘ until you 
tried to steal my woman, and we Americans are 
always ready to fight for our women.’ That 
housekeeper woman didn’t hear all that, 
apparently. Then Clevedon denied the whole 
story and we began to get angry.” 

“ I see,” I interposed, and when you said 
you’d find a way of making him give Miss 
Clevedon up, you meant-” 

“ I meant I would get the Chicago police on 
his trail.” 

‘‘ Did you know that Clevedon gave Tulmin 
a cheque for £500 the day before the murder ? ” 
No, did he ? Well, evidently Tulmin didn’t 
think it enough.” 

“ What day was it Tulmin came to see you ? ” 

“ It was that same morning, February 23rd.” 

“ Clevedon gave Tulmin £500, which was less 
than Tulmin wanted, so Tulmin double-crossed 
Clevedon and came to you.” 

That seems like it.” 


MORE ANONYMOUS LETTERS 257 

“ It opens all sorts of fresh avenues,” I 
remarked. 

“ Don’t say that,” Thoyne murmured, with a 
groan. “ I was hoping it would end the case. 
I never want to be mixed up in another murder 
mystery. It is the very deuce.” 

“ Suppose Clevedon, having quarrelled with 
Tulmin, and knowing you also had penetrated 
his secret-” 

“ Do you mean it was suicide ? ” Thoyne 
cried, his whole face lighting up. “ If you 
could prove that I would—I would give you 
a cheque for ten thousand pounds. It would 
settle such a lot, wouldn’t it ? Suicide, yes, I 
think after all it must be suicide.” 

He gazed eagerly at my unresponsive face, 
then shrugged his shoulders a little angrily. 

“ Yes,” I replied slowly, “ but then, what of 
the hatpin ? ” 

His face fell at that. 

“ Clevedon certainly didn’t stab himself with 
a hatpin,” I added. “ But you may as well 
finish the story,” I went on, “ and tell me why 
you spirited Tulmin away.” 

“ Oh, that’s quite simple,” he replied. ‘‘ Kitty 
was worried about her brother, whose absence 
puzzled her, as it did the rest of us. So I offered 
Tulmin a job, and he jumped at it.” 

R 



258 THE OLEVEDON CASE 

“ Did you tell him-” 

“ Of course not, I’m not a fool.” 

“ And was that why you offered to buy my 
house ? ” 

He laughed at the recollection of that particu¬ 
lar interview. 

dare say you thought me an awful idiot,”he 

said. 

“ And now you’ve told me everything.” 

“ Yes,” he responded, “ everything.” 

The truth or otherwise of which will appear in 
due course. 

On my way out old Lady Clevedon met me, 
grimmer and more caustic than ever. 

‘‘ Any discoveries, Mr. Detective ? ” she cried, 
“ But I suppose I need not ask. Have you seen 
the Midlingtoyi Courier to-day ? It has an 
interesting article on the Clevedon Case—I 
forget how many weeks gone and nothing done. 
It wants to know if the police-” 

‘‘ But I have nothing to do with the police,” 
I interrupted smilingly. 

Pepster, whom I found awaiting me at Stone 
Hollow, began on the newspaper article as soon 
as we met. 

“ What do you think of that ? ” he cried, 
waving the cutting as if it had been a flag. 
“ Have you read it ? ‘ Unfortunately, we cannot 


MORE ANONYMOUS LETTERS 269 
congratulate the police, who seem to have been 
waiting, like the famous Micawber, for something 
to turn up.’ What do you think of it ? ” 

“ Oh, newspaper writers are very fond of 
dragging Mr. Micawber in,” I replied. “ He is 
overworked.” 

Damn Micawber ! ” 

“ Yes,” I rejoined, with a quiet laugh. “ I 
should feel like that if I belonged to the police.” 

“ Well, you’re in the case, anyway,” Pepster 
said tartly. “ And that reminds me. I have 
some news for you. At least, I think I have. 
But with you one never knows. Quite likely 
you have it all entered up already. Did you 
ever hear of Mary Grainger ? ” 

“ No, who is she ? ” 

‘‘ Thank God, I’ve got a novelty at last. She’s 
daughter to Grainger, the Midlington chemist. 
Did you know he had a daughter ? ” 

“No, does she live at home ? ” 

“ She doesn’t live anywhere, she’s dead.” 

“ Yes ? ” 

“ Did you know that ? ” 

I shook my head to express a negative. 

“ Then it really is one to me,” he said, with 
an air of great satisfaction. 

“ Yes,” I agreed, “ it is one to you if it means 
anything. I take it there is more behind. The 


260 THE GLEVEDON CASE 
decease of a young lady I never met is hardly a 
matter for excitement in itself.” 

Yes, there is more behind,” he said slowly, 
nodding his head. “ There is, for instance, Nora 
Lepley behind. She and Mary Grainger both 
attended the High School in Midlington and 
have been for years inseparable friends. Nora 
frequently spent weeks at a time with the 
Graingers at Midlington and apparently had 
the run of the shop. She goes frequently 
to see the old man even now. She was there 
one day last week. Now suppose—well, Nora 
Lepley could have got the prussic acid that 
way.” 

‘‘ It is certainly one to you,” I agreed, slowly 
and thoughtfully. 

“ I have something else,” Pepster went on, 
taking out his wallet. 

“ More anonymous letters ? ” I queried. 

“ Yes, two.” 

He handed them across to me. One was a 
fragment of blue paper, on which was printed 
in red ink: 

THOYNE IS STILL AT 
LIBERTY. WHY ? 


The other was a picture postcard—a view of 


MOEE ANONYMOUS LETTEES 261 
the Midlington Parish Church—and the message, 
in pencil, ran: 

WHY AEE YOU PEOTECTING 
THOYNE. HAS HE PAID YOU ? 

“ It wasn’t sent open like that,” Pepster 
explained. “ It came in an envelope. It’s a 
popular card, printed by the hundred and sold 
by every stationer in Midhngton. Somebody 
seems to have a rare grudge against Thoyne.” 

“ Does he know anything of these ? ” 

I haven’t told him.” 

“ Nor of the others ? ” 

No.” 

“ It might be a good idea—just to see how he 
took it.” 

“ If there was anything in them it might put 
him on his guard.” 

I did not press the matter further just then, 
though I could not help wondering what story 
there was behind this queer series. 

“ Put a personal in the Courier/^ I suggested, 
“ inviting the writer of communications to the 
Peakborough police to send his address con¬ 
fidentially.” 

“ I did.” 

“ No result ? ” 


262 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

‘‘ A personal in reply which ran, ‘ Take him 
first and then I will.’ You know he said in one 
of the other letters that if we would arrest 
Thoyne he would supply the evidence.” 

No, you can’t do that,” I agreed. “ And 
now,” I added, “ if you’U sit still and not inter¬ 
rupt ril tell you a long story.” 

And I proceeded to recount the past history 
of Sir Phihp Clevedon and Tulmin, and Thoyne’s 
connection with it. Pepster heard me to the 
end in silence. 

“ This case,” he said, when I had finished, “ is 
the very devil. I’m half inclined to think 
Tulmin did it after all. At any rate there are 
three of them in it—Tulmin, Thoyne and Nora 
Lepley, but which is which—or are they all 
three in it ? ” 

It was a possibility that had occurred to me 
more than once. 


CHAPTEE XXIII 
tulmin’s queee story 

D UEING my journey to London I devoted 
careful and prolonged thought to the 
difficult problem of Mr. Eonald Thoyne, 
whose exact place in the story I had by no means 
satisfactorily determined. He had played a 
very curious game all through, and though there 
was an explanation in his anxiety to help Kitty 
Clevedon and relieve her anxiety regarding her 
brother, the facts as I knew them would equally 
have fitted a desire to throw pursuers off his own 
scent. 

I did not attach undue importance to the 
series of anonymous letters received by Pepster, 
and yet, in the light of Thoyne’s queer and 
frequently mysterious actions, I did not feel 
inclined entirely to ignore them. I was fully 
aware that so far I had not found the key to the 
mystery. Did Thoyne hold that or was it Nora 
Lepley ? Thoyne was an American and, as far 
as I had been able to gather, came of a wealthy 
9 «nd highly respectable family in Chicago. There 
263 


264 THE OLEVEDON CASE 
was absolutely nothing of any sort against him 
and yet it seemed queer that he had settled down 
in England and had apparently no intention of 
returning to America. Even Kitty Clevedon 
was not sufficient to account for that. She 
would certainly have gone with him had he 
asked her. Even if he had not actually encom¬ 
passed Clevedon’s death, was he privy to it ? 

Then I remembered suddenly—the first time 
it had occurred to me—what the Vicar’s wife 
had told me. Thoyne, when he first went to 
Cartordale, had lodged at Lepley’s farm and 
gossip had coupled his name with Nora’s. 
What was there in that ? Little, probably; 
perhaps nothing. 

And so I maundered on, my thought flitting 
from one thing to another and back again, but 
with no tangible or coherent result. I could not 
fit Thoyne into the picture anyhow. If he had 
set out to fool me he had succeeded, for all I had 
tripped him up so many times. That again was 
curious. Practically everything he had told me 
had been dragged out of him. Very little had 
come from him voluntarily. He became con¬ 
fidential enough when he knew that I knew, but 
he offered nothing. 

I walked to the address in Bloomsbury Still¬ 
man bad given me, He met me on tfie doorstep. 


TULMIN’S QUEEE STORY 265 
and taking me into his room made a few minor 
alterations in my appearance, not sufficient to 
merit the word disguise, but enough to prevent 
Tulmin from recognising me. 1 had never 
spoken to him, but I had been on the jury when 
he was a witness and he might know me again. 

And then I gave Stillman another mission— 
Grainger, Mary Grainger, Nora Lepley. 

Anything particular ? ” Stillman asked. 

“ No,” I said. “ Everything. I don’t know 
what it will lead to. It is absolutely new 
ground.” 

I told him all I knew and left him to it. 

When Tulmin came in Stillman introduced 
me as a friend of his named Spencer and for a 
time we talked on all sorts of topics until Stillman 
mentioned quite casually that Tulmin had come 
from Cartordale. 

“ Did you know Sir Philip Clevedon ? ” I 
asked, ‘‘ the man who was poisoned ? A cousin 
of mine was housekeeper there, name of 
Halfleet.” 

“ Mrs. Halfleet, yes, she is the housekeeper,” 
Tulmin said. 

“ She thinks he committed suicide,” I ob^ 
served. 

“ Nay, she’s wrong there,” Tulmin replied. 
“ Jle wasn’t the suicide sort.” 


266 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

“ Tulmin,” I said suddenly, “ why, I remembei 
that name. You were his secretary, weren’t 
you, or something of the sort.” 

“ Yes, that’s right, something of the sort,” 
Tulmin responded, with a grin. 

I was a little taken aback at his almost good- 
humoured frankness. His was certainly not the 
attitude of a man who stood in fear of pursuit. 

“ But surely,” I said, it’s you the police are 
looking for.” 

“ Me ? What should they want with me ? ” 
he growled, sitting suddenly upright. 

“ I don’t know,” I replied. “ I’m not very 
well up in the case. It was my cousin that told 
me. ‘ I believe, myself, it was suicide,’ she said, 

‘ but the police think differently, and they’re 
looking for Tulmin, who ran away.’ ” 

He rose from his seat and thumped the table 
angrily, though his face grew a little white. 
Stillman, who had been watching him carefully, 
poured out a glass of whisky and handed it to 
him. Tulmin gulped it down at a draught and 
seemed to recover his nerve. 

“ But didn’t you run away ? ” I asked. 

No, I didn’t, damn you ! Who said I ran 
away ? ” 

“ But you disappeared.” 

“ Mr. Thoyne knew where I was,” 


TULMIN’S QUEER STORY 267 

“Who is Mr. Thoyne ? ” I asked. “My 
cousin said nothing about him. Is he suspected 
also ? ” 

“ Why,” he responded, with a queer laugh, 
“ you might guess again and get farther off.” 

“ Do you mean he did it ? ” I asked. 

“ I don’t mean anything,” he replied 
cautiously, and then he added, “ It was Mr. 
Thoyne who sent me here.” 

“ But why did he do that ? ” I demanded. 
“ So that the police would—think things ? ” 

“ If you didn’t do it you were a fool to quit,” 
Stillman said. 

“ Yes, I was a fool, that’s plain enough,” 
Tulmin muttered, with an unpleasant sort of 
laugh. “ Thoyne’s had me for a fool.” 

He reached out his hand for some more whisky, 
which Stillman supplied. 

“ I see now,” Tulmin went on, almost as if 
talking to himself, “ that was why Thoyne 
offered me a job and was so anxious to get me 
away. Yes, and then he almost pushed me 
off that blasted yacht of his, and told me to 
come to London and wait for him. I see his 
game. He wanted me out of the way, so they’d 
think—but I didn’t do it, though I know who 
did.” 

I did not allow so much as an ej^elid to quiver, 


268 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
If Tulmin stopped talking now I might never 
get him again. 

It was Thoyne himself—the swine,” he 
went on. “I saw him give Clevedon the dope 
that killed him—in a white packet. ‘ You’ll 
sleep all right after that,’ he said, and laughed. 
He wasn’t far out. He put Clevedon to sleep 
sound enough.” 

“ Did you tell Thoyne what you saw ? ” I 
asked. “ When did he give it to him ? ” 

“ Why, Clevedon called on him that night. 
They’d quarrelled over a girl, and Clevedon 
went to—I don’t know what he went for.” 

“ Went where ? ” 

‘‘ To see Thoyne—at Thoyne’s house. I 
followed him. I couldn’t hear all they said, 
but I could see everything.” 

And you didn’t tell Thoyne what you saw ? ” 

“ No, I didn’t.” 

‘‘ But, why-? ” 

“ Oh, well, I was keeping that,” he said, 
with a maudlin grin. I thought it might 
come in useful—later on. But Thoyne did it 
right enough.” 

“ Do you know what was in the packet ? ” 

‘‘ No.” 

“ Then you can’t possibly say-” 

“ They both wanted the same girl—I know 


TULMIN’S QUEER STORY 269 
that—and Thoyne took his chance. He came 
to the door with Clevedon. I was hid in the 
bushes. ‘ Take a dose of that stuff, and it’ll 
put you to sleep,’ Thoyne said. And, by God, 
it did ! Suicide, no. He didn’t commit suicide. 
Thoyne killed him.” 

And then he flung his arms over the table 
and fell into a stupid, drunken sleep. 

I glanced at Stillman, who shook his head. 

“ No jury would take his evidence,” he 
remarked. 

I wondered for a moment or two if Tulmin 
had written the anonymous letters. But then 
I remembered that they had borne the Midlington 
postmark. 

“ Has he been away from London at all ? ” 
I asked. 

“ No.” 

“ Not even for a day ? ” 

“ No.” 

Of course, he might have got somebody in 
Midlington to post them for him, but I doubted 
it. I did not think he had written them. His 
accusation merely came in queer corroboration 
of their statements. But anonymous letters 
and a drunken gutter-thief from Chicago. I 
should have to get a better case against Thoyne 
than that! 


270 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

I stayed three or four days in London, having 
a good deal of business with publishers to 
transact, and for that period I left Cartordale 
and its concerns entirely alone. It was a visit 
from Stillman that plunged me once again into 
the thick of the mystery. 

‘‘ It’s only a preliminary report,” he said, 
“ but as far as it goes it is simple enough. 
Miss Grainger died at Long Burminster, a small 
village in the Midlands, about sixty miles from 
London. That was some months ago, and she 
left behind her a little baby girl, who has been 
adopted by the people—themselves childless— 
with whom Miss Grainger herself had been 
lodging. She wrote to her father, it seems, 
but he refused to visit her or to have anything 
to do with her child—said they could send it 
to the workhouse, which, however, they refused 
to do.” 

I remarked that this seemed a very good 
and generous action on their part, to which 
Stillman replied with his characteristic, un¬ 
believing grin, that they were being well paid 
for it.” 

“ By whom—Grainger ? ” I asked. 

“ No,” Stillman replied. “ Not by Grainger, 
but by Mr. Ronald Thoyne.” 

‘‘ Thoyne ! ” I exclaimed. ‘‘ Thoyne again ! 


TULMIN’S QUEEE STOEY 271 
It seems to be always Thoyne. But what had 
he to do with Mary Grainger ? ” 

Stillman went on with his story. He re¬ 
minded me, in the first place, that Mary Grainger 
and Nora Lepley had been close friends, and that 
Thoyne had lodged at Lepley’s farm when he 
first went to Cartordale. He might have met 
her there; though he believed—he had not yet 
actually verified this—that Thoyne had been 
a patient in the hospital at Bristol where Mary 
Grainger and Nora Lepley had both served, 
the former as nurse, the latter as V.A.D. 

“ And is the suggestion, then, that Thoyne 
is the father of this baby ? ” I demanded. 

But Stillman knew nothing as to that; it 
might be so, or it might not, but it was quite 
certain that Thoyne was paying for the child 
now. And there was another interesting point 
he had forgotten to mention. When Mary 
Grainger went to Long Burminster she called 
herself Mrs. Blewshaw, and wore a wedding 
ring, which, in fact, was buried with her. 

It was when she was ill and knew she could 
not recover, that Mary had written to her 
father, who had replied with a violent refusal 
either to see her or to forgive her. Happily, 
Mary herself had never seen that letter. She 
died peacefully and painlessly before it came. 


272 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
Mrs. Greentree had shown it to Ronald Thoyne, 
who bade her sit down and write a letter from 
his dictation, in which she informed the Midling- 
ton chemist that his daughter was dead, and 
asked what wishes he had to express regarding 
the child. The old man replied in person, 
but had proved a rather grim, forbidding and 
unpleasant visitor. He had refused to attend 
the funeral, or to pay for it, and would not even 
see the little girl; whereupon Thoyne had come 
to the rescue, settling all the bills, and arranging 
that Mrs. Greentree should take charge of the 
child for the ridiculously generous payment of 
two pounds a week. 

I whistled when I heard that, and Stillman 
nodded his head. 

‘‘ It seems a lot, doesn’t it ? ” he murmured. 
‘‘ If she wasn’t his daughter, I mean.” 

The first lesson I learnt when I began my 
studies in crime and criminology—because crime 
is not merely the commission of an unlawful 
deed, but is of itself a complicated psychological 
problem—was to distrust the obvious. Crime 
itself is sub-normal, super-normal, extra-normal, 
anything but normal; and the obvious is always 
likely to be untrue because there are always 
people interested in arranging it. 

For my part, I never believe what I see or 


TULMIN’S QUEER STORY 273 
hear until I have also proved it; and, accordingly, 
though it would seem to one’s ordinary in¬ 
telligence a certainty that Ronald Thoyne was 
the father of Mary Grainger’s baby—possibly 
Mary Grainger’s husband, possibly not; but 
certainly in some intimate relationship with the 
dead girl and the living child—I did not take 
anything for granted. I had yet to learn the 
other side of the story. Not that I had any 
reason to suppose that Thoyne was better than 
his fellows, or that such an entanglement Was 
impossible to him. He certainly had never 
occurred to me as a saint. 

The story seemed fairly clear, though, of 
course, I lacked many details. Thoyne had met 
Mary Grainger either at the hospital in Bristol, 
or while he was lodging at Lepley’s farm, and 
then, after an interval regarding which we had 
no information, the girl was found to be living 
at his expense, and when she died he paid for 
the maintenance of her child. Added to all 
this was the other ascertained fact that Nora 
Lepley, in whose possession I had discovered 
the phial of prussic acid, was Mary Grainger’s 
dearest and most intimate friend. 

But, then, what had all that to do with the 
death of Sir Philip Clevedon ? Was there any 
connection at all between the two stories ? 
s 


274 THE OLEVEDON CASE 
Certainly I could discern none of even the most 
shadowy character, and yet I somehow felt that 
Thoyne was the pivot on which the whole business 
swung, though so far the key which would open 
the door of the mystery remained out of reach. 
It was interesting, too, to recollect that Thoyne’s 
serious courtship of Kitty Clevedon had not 
begun until Mary Grainger was safely out of 
the way—interesting, but whether or not it 
had any significance, I could not say. 

I told Stillman to continue his inquiries, 
and myself returned to Cartordale, 


CHAPTER XXIV 

THE WRATH OF RONALD THOYNE 


“ IT WANT you to come with me to Mid- 

1 lington,” I said to Pepster, whom I 
met soon after I reached home. “ I am 
going to try a long shot, and I would like you 
to be there.” 

“ A long shot at what he demanded. 

“ Well,” I replied, “ I don’t quite know. I 
can’t quite reckon it up yet, but it seems worth 
trying, anyway.” 

Pepster nodded, and waited for me to 
continue. 

“ Those anonymous letters,” I went on. 
“ We are going to see their writer.” 

“ Oh. And who may he be ? ” 

“ Grainger, the chemist.” 

“ But that’s—well, anyway, I’m ready. 
Shall we go now ? ” 

We found Mr. Grainger behind the counter 
of his shop, but I was just in time to see 
a sldrt flashing through the door that opened 
into the little room behind. That it was 

275 


276 THE GLEVEDON CASE 

Nora Lepley I felt sure, though I did not see 

the face. 

“ Mr. Grainger,” I began, ‘‘ we have come 
to see you about those letters you wrote to the 
police.” 

He shrank back against the shelves behind 
him, and his face went suddenly grey. He 
pulled himself together immediately. 

“ I know nothing of any letters,” he said, 
moistening his lips. “ I don’t understand.” 

“ Oh, yes,” I responded cheerfully, “ you 
promised to provide the evidence if-” 

“ Has Eonald Thoyne been arrested ? ” he 
broke in, with hardly concealed eagerness. 

“ Eonald Thoyne ? ” I echoed. “ Did I men¬ 
tion Thoyne ? ” 

“ No, no,” he said, “ you were referring to 
the—to Sir Philip Clevedon—yes.” 

“ I don’t think I even mentioned Clevedon,” 
I replied. 

Grainger passed his hand wearily across his 
forehead, then faced me once more. 

No,” he said, almost as if he had made up 
his mind on a point on which he had been in 
some doubt. “ I know nothing of any letters.” 

“ And you are not ready with the evidence 
you promised-? ” 

“ I don’t understand,” he returned. 


the WKATH of EONALD THOYNE 277 

“ Of course, I know you promised that if 
Thoyne were arrested you would provide— 
but then, in point of fact, there is nothing 
against Thoyne, and we must have the evidence 
in advance. If you know anything it is your 
duty to help us, surely. You say you have 
evidence against Thoyne-” 

“ I have not said so.” 

“ Oh, yes, you said so in that letter you wrote 
to the police at Peakborough.” 

“ I wrote no letter.” 

“You see, if we did arrest Thoyne, as you 
suggested, and then your evidence failed, we 
might be in a very awkward position. Now, 

if you could give us some idea of its-” 

I know nothing of it.” 

The door from the little room behind the 
shop slowly opened, and Nora Lepley came 
out. 

“ What is it you want ? ” she demanded. 
“ Why are you badgering the—Mr. Grainger 
in this fashion ? ” 

I turned smilingly towards her. 

“ Not at all,” I responded equably. “ Mr. 
Grainger wrote to the police and told them that 
if they would arrest Mr. Thoyne, he would 
produce evidence that he—Mr. Thoyne, I 
mean—murdered Sir Philip Clevedon.” 


278 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

She blazed up in very queer fashion, and 
wheeled suddenly upon the old man. 

“ Did you say that ? ” she demanded. 

“ I wrote no letters,” he responded half 
sullenly. “ I don’t know what they are talking 
about. It isn’t true.” 

He had gone very white, and his hands were 
trembling violently. 

‘‘ I think you’d better go,” Nora said quietly. 
“ He will be ill if you worry him any more. 
I will talk to him, and let you—and see you 
again. But you’d better go now.” 

I nodded to Pepster, who followed me out 
of the shop. 

“ He wrote those letters,” Pepster said, as we 
walked along. 

Yes, that seems fairly evident.” 

‘‘ But what does it all amount to ? ” 

“ I don’t know.” 

“ Why should he accuse Thoyne ? ” 

“ I don’t know.” 

“ Did Thoyne murder Olevedon ? ” 

“ I don’t know.” 

“ But there must be some reason for those 
letters.” 

“ Oh, yes, the reason is plain enough—he 
had a bitter grudge against Thoyne. His 
daughter seems to have come a cropper, and he 


THE WRATH OF RONALD THOYNE 279 
suspected Thoyne—yes, that is why he wrote 
the letters.” 

I told him in a few words what Stillman had 
discovered regarding Thoyne and Mary Grainger. 

“ It’s a rum story,” Pepster said thoughtfully. 
“ Of course the child is Thoyne’s, and that would 
account for the grudge, as you say. But it 
doesn’t explain why he should accuse Thoyne 
of murder. He must have had something at 
the back of his mind. It can’t be wholly an 
invention.” 

“ I saw Tulmin a day or two back.” 

“ Gad ! and where is he ? ” 

“ In London. I asked him who murdered 
Philip Clevedon, and he replied that Thoyne 
did it.” 

“ He replied—what! ” 

“ That Thoyne did it.” 

I recounted as much as I thought proper of 
my interview with Tulmin. But Pepster shook 
his head. 

‘‘ The thing’s beyond me,” he said. “ It 
wants a lot of sorting out. But Tulmin’s 
evidence would go for nothing, and Grainger, 
if he knows anything, won’t speak. We must 
wait a bit yet.” 

On my way up to Cartordale from the station 
I overtook Thoyne going in the same direction. 


280 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

I am bound for White Towers,” he said. 
“ I am staying there with Sir Billy and his wife.” 

“ Do you happen to know,” I said, when our 
preliminary conversation languished a little, 
“ of anyone who has a grudge against you ? ” 

Thoyne regarded me frowningly for a moment 
or two. 

‘‘ No,” he said, shaking his head, “ there is 
nobody. I can say that. Holt, freely enough. 
Clevedon—but he is dead, anyway, and there’s 
no one else.” 

“ Did you ever hear,” I asked, “of a girl 
named Grainger ? ” 

He gave me a quick glance sideways. 

“ Yes,” he said. “ I knew Miss Grainger 
very well.” 

We relapsed into silence which lasted for 
several minutes. 

“ Shall I tell you the story ? ” I asked softly, 
“ or will you tell me ? ” 

“ What story ? ” he demanded roughly. 

“ The story of Mary Grainger,” I returned. 

“ There is no story,” he said. “ The poor 
girl is dead. Let her rest.” 

“ Yes, but-” 

“ I tell you I won’t talk about it—about her. 
She is dead, and death ends all stories. Leave 
it there.” 


THE WRATH OF RONALD THOYNE 281 

“ But if I have a story-” 

“ I don’t want to hear it.” 

“ The Clevedons might be interested.” 

“It is no business of theirs.” 

“ They might not agree with that.” 

“ I tell you it has nothing to do with them. 
The girl’s dead.” 

“ But there is more in it than that—her 
father isn’t dead.” 

“ Well, what of her father ? ” 

“ He says you murdered Philip Clevedon.” 

He stood speechless for a moment or two, 
then turned away with a short laugh. 

“ What the devil do you mean ? ” he shouted. 
“ What blasted foolery have you in mind now ? 
You are a damned fool, the damndest of damned 
fools. I have never seen Miss Grainger’s 
father, and he has never seen me. I am getting 
sick of the very sight of you about. You 
persistently follow me up as if you thought that 
I killed Clevedon. Well, if you do think so, 
why not arrest me and have done with it. I 
would sooner face a jury and take my trial than 
put up with this perpetual persecution.” 

“ It is your own fault,” I returned equably. 
“You will tell me nothing, and your whole 
attitude is a challenge. You kept secret your 
knowledge of Clevedon’s past, but I found 


282 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
that out. You did not tell me where Tulmin 
was, but I tracked him down. You have said 
nothing about Mary Grainger. Then there 
was Clevedon’s visit to you on the night of 
his death, and the medicine you handed him 
which-” 

‘‘ I never have committed murder,” he cried, 
turning on me with a savage intensity which 
betokened the inward strain, but I am nearer 
to it at this moment than I ever thought I 
should be. If I stay here I shan’t be able to 
trust myself. I-” 

He left me abruptly, and vaulting a low 
rubble wall, made off at a quick pace across some 
fields which gave him a short cut to White 
Towers. 

But in something under two hours he had 
joined me at Stone Hollow. 

“ I apologise,” he said, as he strode into my 
study. “ I apologise for everything I said. 
You were right, and I was a fool. You told me 
that Grainger had accused me of murdering 
Clevedon. Well, now he has written to 
Billy-” 

“ About the murder ? ” I asked. 

“ No, damn the murder—something a lot worse 
than that,” he responded. “ He accuses me of 
bigamy—says I have a wife living. It’s got to 


THE WRATH OF RONALD THOYNE 283 
be sorted out now—because of Kitty—and I’ve 
come to you.” 

He took a fragment of paper from bis pocket. 
“ There’s a copy of the infernal thing,” he 
said. “ Read it.” 

The letter was terse, and to the point. 

“ Sir, 

“ Mr. Ronald Thoyne, who, I understand, is 
engaged to marry Miss Kitty Clevedon, has 
been guilty of bigamy. He may have a wife 
now living, but I cannot say that for certain. 
All I hnow is that he married my daughter 
under false pretences, and then, when he had 
tired of her, told her he had a wife living in 
America. He is hee'ping her child—his child. 
I advise you to institute careful inquiries into 
these statements, which you will find can easily 
be substantiated. The child is being cared for 
by some 'people named Greentree, who live 
at Long Burminster, and Mr. Thoyne is 
contributing two pounds a week for her main¬ 
tenance. 

“ Yours truly, 

“ Robert Grainger. 

“ Well,” Thoyne demanded, “and what do 
you think of it ? ” 


284 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

‘‘ It is true about the child and the two pounds 
a week ? ” 

‘‘ Yes.” 

“ And the other ? ” 

“ No.” 

‘‘ Does anyone know the real story ? ” 

“Yes, Nora Lepley knows all about it. She 
is at White Towers now. I want you to come 
back with me and straighten it out. Then we 
will see Grainger together. It has got to be 
cleared up now.” 

“ Yes,” I replied. “ I’ll come. And, Thoyne, 
did you ever suffer from sleeplessness ? ” 

“ What the devil has that to do-? ” 

“ Perhaps nothing, but did you ? ” 

“ Yes—at intervals. It is a legacy from the 
war, a result of being gassed. Perhaps for a 
fortnight I may not be able to sleep, and then 
it passes, and I am all right for months.” 

“ Do you take anything ? ” 

“ Not if I can manage without. I have a 
horror of drugs. But occasionally a dose of 

Pemberton’s Drops-” 

“ Have you any by you now ? ” 

“ No, I gave the last bottle to Clevedon. He 
looked rotten, and, I think, felt worse even 
than he looked. I hated the fellow, but I 
couldn’t help pitying him.” 



THE WRATH OF RONALD THOYNE 285 
“ He called on you earlier on the night of 

the-” 

“ Yes, he did.” 

“ And that was when you gave him the bottle 
of Pemberton’s Drops ? ” 

“ Yes, what of it ? ” 

“ Nothing. Let us get on to White Towers, 
and have a word with Nora Lepley.” 

But on our way I called at the post office and 
had a long conversation on the telephone with 
Detective Pepster. 


CHAPTER XXV 

THE STORY OP MARY GRAINGER 


T White Towers we found the family 



party assembled, apparently awaiting 


our coming, though old Lady Clevedon, 
grim, forbidding and unbelieving, flung up her 
hands as I approached. 

“ And what may you be doing here, Mr. 
Detective ? ” she said. ‘‘ This is a family 
council, and strangers—besides, what have 
you to do with this ? It is the other 
mystery you are engaged on, and you might 
as well not have been, for all the good it has 
done.” 

“ It is all right,” Billy Clevedon interposed, 
a little brusquely. “ Holt is here at my 
suggestion.” 

“ If we might all sit down-” I began. 

“Do you know who killed Sir Philip Cleve¬ 
don ? ” the old lady demanded. 

“ Yes,” I said, “ I do know who killed Sir 
Philip Clevedon, and before this evening is out 
I shall probably tell you.” 


THE STORY OF MARY GRAINGER 287 

“ Has this—this other business anything to 
do with it ? ” the old lady asked. 

“ Everything to do with it,” I replied. But, 
now, let us straighten this out first. I will 
tell you what I know as fact, and Thoyne can 
supply any embroidery that may be necessary. 
In the first place. Miss Grainger — that is 
Robert Grainger’s daughter—and Thoyne were 
in the hospital at Bristol at the same time. They 
left within a few days of each other, Thoyne 
first and the girl a day or two later. That is 
fact. Then comes a long interval. When next 
Mary Grainger is seen she is living in Long 
Burminster with her baby girl. Whether 
Thoyne was actually keeping her then, I don’t 
know, but after her death he paid her debt to 
her landlady and all the funeral expenses, and 
since then he has paid two pounds a week for 
the child.” 

“ Not much if she is his daughter,” the old 
lady interposed bitingly. 

“ But a good deal if she isn’t,” I retorted. 

‘‘ You mean you think she is.” 

“ I don’t mean anything except what I have 
told you. I deal only in facts.” 

“ But why should he keep a baby girl if she 
isn’t his daughter ? ” 

“ If that is a conundrum-” 


288 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

“ It isn’t.” 

“ Then if it is a suspicion-” 

“ It isn’t—it is merely a question.” 

“ Good! Then Thoyne himself will, sooner 
or later, supply the answer. But I have not 
finished my record yet. Just before she died, 
Mary Grainger wrote to her father, telling him 
she had secretly married an American soldier, 
who was in hospital in Bristol, only to find later 
that he had already a wife-” 

“ Eonald Thoyne is an American,” old Lady 
Clevedon muttered. 

“ I have heard so,” I rejoined. “ But that 
is the story. Those are the ascertained facts. 
It is Thoyne’s turn now.” 

“ But before he says anything,” Kitty Cleve¬ 
don interposed suddenly, “ I want to tell you 
all that I don’t believe a word of it.” 

“ The detective man said they were facts,^^ the 
old lady remarked dryly. 

“ Perhaps,” Kitty retorted, flushing hotly. 

“ I don’t remember that there was any perhaps 
about it,” old Lady Clevedon replied. 

“ The story, as far as Holt has told it, is per¬ 
fectly true,” Thoyne said slowly. “ But now 
there is one other person who knows the whole 
truth, and I want you to ask her.” 

“ Her ! Who ? ” Lady Clevedon demanded. 


THE STORY OP MARY GRAINGER 289 

“ Nora Lepley.” 

“ Nora—Lepley, but-” 

“ She was a V.A.D. in the hospital where 
Miss Grainger was a nurse,” I interposed. 
“ Yes, she may know—if we could send for 
her-” 

“ She is in the house now,” the younger Lady 
Clevedon chimed in, speaking for the first time. 

I will ring for her.” 

Nora came, and I handed her a chair. For 
a moment she hesitated, then sat down with a 
glance round the semicircle of perhaps not very 
friendly faces. I sat back watching the girl 
closely. 

‘‘ Now then, Mr. Detective, ask her what 
you want to know,” old Lady Clevedon rasped. 
“ Oh, yes, it’s your job. You’ve got to fill in 
your interval, you know.” 

I glanced at Thoyne, who nodded affirmatively, 
and then I turned to Nora Lepley. 

‘‘ You served as a V.A.D. in a hospital in 
Bristol,” I said. “ Mary Grainger was there 
as a nurse. Then Mr. Thoyne came in as a 
patient. You remember all that ? ” 

'' Yes—what of it ? ” 

‘‘ You were there when Mary left, and-” 

“ No, I wasn’t. I had come home. I turned 
up ill and they sent me home.” 

T 


290 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

“ Then you were not at Bristol when Miss 
Grainger ran away with Mr. Thoyne and-” 

“ Kan away! ” she cried. “ With Mr. 
Thoyne! ” 

She sat straight up in her chair and laughed 
in my face. 

“ Mary didn’t run away,” she went on. 
“ She was married. I was there as her brides¬ 
maid. I met them in London specially for it, 
and Mr. Thoyne was there, too, as best man. 
She married an American named Blewshaw. He 
was a patient in the hospital, like Mr. Thoyne. 
The marriage had to be kept secret because Mr. 
Blewshaw’s father would object. I didn’t like 
it, neither did Mr. Thoyne. He told me so. 
But it was Mary’s business, not ours, and she 
had agreed. They took a flat in London—oh, 
I know what you mean. When she died, Mr. 
Thoyne was paying for her, and he has kept 
her baby since. But that was because he had 
introduced Blewshaw to her, and Blewshaw 
had let her down. He thought he was in some 
sort of way responsible. I didn’t see it myself 
but he did. Blewshaw went ofl to America, 
and she followed him, only to find that he 
had a wife there already. When she dis¬ 
covered that she came back to England—she 
wouldn’t touch the money Blewshaw offered 


THE STORY OF MARY GRAINGER 291 
her—and tried to earn her living. But she 
didn’t tell anyone, not me, not her father. Mr. 
Thoyne found her just as she was almost at 
her last gasp, and he looked after her. Her 
father would have nothing to do with her nor 
with her baby. Mr. Thoyne found her quite 
accidentally, and he told me about her. I 
went down to Long Burminster to see her. 
That is the whole story.” 

‘‘ Thoyne comes well out of it, anyway,” I 
said cheerfully. 

Kitty went to him and kissed him, and I 
think with very little provocation would have 
kissed me too. She had loyally asserted her 
belief in him, and possibly had actually per¬ 
suaded herself that it was genuine. But it was 
easy to see that she was enormously relieved 
when she heard Nora Lepley’s corroboration. 
After all, Mary Grainger had been a very 
pretty girl, and Thoyne was only a man. 

When Nora had gone, Thoyne told us Mary 
Grainger’s story in more detail, though I can 
summarise it here in a few lines. It was just 
as she had recounted it to him, with annotations 
where necessary, from Mr. and Mrs. Job Green- 
tree. Mary found work at first in Liverpool, 
where she landed on her return to England, and 
then, when that failed her, she left her baby 


292 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
with the people with whom she had been lodging, 
and set out to walk to London, a mad project, 
as it seemed, though she did better than one 
might expect. 

Many helped her on the way, and eventually 
she reached a little Midlands village, still over 
sixty miles from her destination. It had grown 
dark, and was raining heavily; and as she 
stood in the shadow, gazing rather longingly 
at a warmly lighted inn, the door of which stood 
invitingly open, revealing an interior that seemed 
to be all bright reds and warm browns, and 
which, at all events, promised shelter, a heavy 
motor-van, on the sides and back of which 
was painted, in big, white letters, “Job Green- 
tree, Carrier,” drew up, and from it descended 
a big man muffled in enormous coats, and 
sporting a huge beard. He lifted three or four 
parcels from the interior of the van, and strode 
into the inn, leaving the door of the vehicle a 
few inches open. 

Mary crept forward. Here, at all events, 
was shelter and a means of covering a few more 
miles. That it might be going in an opposite 
direction did not occur to her. She clambered 
easily into the car, and, creeping into the shadows 
at the far end, lay down on something soft, 
warm, and comfortable, though whether sacks 


THE STOEY OF MARY GRAINGER 29S 
or rugs, she did not know. What happened 
thereafter was a total blank to her. She lapsed 
straightway into a stupor that was more un¬ 
consciousness than sleep, and lay thus, oblivious 
to everything. 

When she came to herself she was seated, 
swathed in blankets, before a wood fire that 
roared and crackled half-way up the chimney 
of an old-fashioned grate, while, bending over 
her, with a mug of steaming brandy in one hand 
and a spoon in the other, was the motherly, 
anxious face of a woman. 

The carrier—he combined the office with 
those of village wheelwright, blacksmith and 
undertaker, and was known far and wide as 
Job—had drawn up with a rattle at the door 
of the cottage that stood alongside the smithy, 
had dismounted and lumbered round to the 
back of his van. 

“ By gum! ” he said slowly. “ That’s a 
rum un—it is an’ all.” 

The door of the cottage was open, sending a 
shaft of warm light across the roadway. 

“Hallo! hallo! Mother, come here and 
look at this,” the big man shouted. 

The woman standing in the porch caught a 
wrap from one of the hooks behind the door 
and flung it over her head, then wesnt to the 


m THE CLEVEDON CASE 
car, where her husband stood with the light of 
his electric lantern blazing upon Mary, who 
lay wet through and motionless from utter 
weariness and exhaustion. 

“ A girl! Who is she. Job ? ” the woman 
asked. 

I don’t know,” the bearded man replied. 
“ I never saw her before. I wonder where she 
got in.” 

“ Well, pick her up and bring her through,” 
the woman said. ‘‘ She can’t lie there—she’s 
terrible wet, poor dear ! ” 

The bearded man stooped down, and, lifting 
Mary as if she had been a doll, strode with her 
into the house and placed her in an easy chair 
before a roaring fire in the warm, well-lighted 
kitchen, and there she lay, with the water 
dripping from her skirts and forming tiny rills 
on the hitherto spotless floor. 

“ Poor dear, she’s worn out! ” the woman 
said. “Now you go and look after your van, 
and I’ll see to her. It’s bed she wants, and 
something hot to drink. You keep out of the 
way for a bit, and I’ll get those clothes off her 
and some warm blankets round her.” 

She ran bustling upstairs, returning in a 
minute or two with an armful of blankets and 
some big towels*. In three or four minutes she 


THE STORY OF MARY GRAINGER 295 
had Mary stripped and then, after a vigorous 
rubbing, wrapped her in half a dozen blankets, 
until there was nothing visible save a small, 
white face peering out from what looked like a 
bale of woollen goods in a furniture store 

But the exposure and suffering had had their 
effect, and Mary fell into an illness from which 
she emerged—it was a surprise to those who 
nursed and tended her that she came out at 
all—but a wreck of her former self, with her 
mind a confused tangle, and her memory gone. 
Physically, she made a little, very slow progress, 
but mentally, she seemed to be at a standstill. 
And thus it was that Ronald Thoyne found her. 

She was seated on the long, wooden bench 
that flanked the porch of the cottage, when a 
motor-car drew up suddenly, and Thoyne, 
leaping therefrom, came towards her with long 
strides. 

“ Mary ! ” he cried. “Is it really yourself, 
Mary ? ” 

For a moment or two the girl’s brows were 
knit in a puzzled frown, and then she shook her 
head. A woman came running from the cottage 
and laid a hand on his arm. 

“ Do you know her ? ” she asked. 

In a few, rather incoherent sentences, she 
bold him the story of Mary’s arrival and of her 


296 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
subsequent illness. But she bad hardly finished 
her story—had not, in fact, completed it—when 
Mary almost sprang at her, shaking her roughly 
by the arm. 

“ My baby ! ” she cried. “ Where is my 
baby ? ” 

They soothed her gradually and when they 
had heard her story Thoyne took her to Liverpool 
himself, where they found the child safe and well 
cared for, a matter on which those responsible 
had good cause to congratulate themselves when 
they received Thoyne’s very handsome present. 
Thoyne took Mary back to the home of the 
carrier and his wife and there the girl remained 
until she died. 

“ And that,” Thoyne concluded, “ is the 
whole story, which I never intended to tell, 
never should have told, but for the suspicions 
that seem to have arisen out of it.” 

“You were a fool,” Lady Clevedon the elder 
said tartly. “You had better have told me or 
Kitty all about it and left it to us. We would 
have looked after the baby.” 


CHAPTER XXVI 

NORA LEPLEY’s EXPLANATION 


“ A ND now,” Lady Clevedon said, “ who 
was it killed Sir Philip ? You promised 
to tell us, you know.” 

“ I will,” I responded, “ but I am not yet 
quite ready.” 

No, but dinner is,” the younger Lady 
Clevedon interrupted. “ Suppose we have that 
first.” 

“ And after that,” I added, “ I should like to 
see Nora Lepley again, but alone this time.” 

“ That is easily arranged,” was the reply. 

She is staying in the house to-night. But 
dinner first. Are you really going, though, to 
tell us^-? ” 

“ I have every hope of it,” I responded and 
there I left it, though during dinner I was sub¬ 
jected to a sort of oblique catechism, chiefly by 
the two ladies, which I parried as best I could. 
Not that they addressed many questions directly 
to me but their conversation, ostensibly between 
themselves, really amounted to that, 
n 207 



298 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
My interview with Nora Lepley took place in 
the study, the room wherein Sir Philip Clevedon 
had been found dead, though I don’t think Lady 
Billy had any particular thought in mind when 
she sent us there ; it merely happened to be 
convenient. I was not sorry the room had been 
chosen, though it had not occurred to me to 
suggest it. 

“ Now sit down, Miss Lepley,” I said, and 
let us talk. But first of all I want you to under¬ 
stand that I mean you no harm if you are frank 
with me.” 

“ I don’t know what you mean,” she re¬ 
sponded a little sullenly, giving me a flashing 
glance from her black eyes that was at least 
three parts anger. “ What harm could you do 
me ? I am not afraid of you. This is the 
second time you have wanted me. Didn’t you 
believe me ? Is it about Mary again ? ” 

‘‘ No,” I replied, it is about yourself this 
time. Did you know that some time ago the 
police took out a warrant for your arrest ? ” 

“ Arrest! ”—she sat back in her chair and 
regarded me smilingly—Why should they want 
to ar/est me ? ” 

If Nora Lepley was in any way afraid of me 
or even unusually disturbed she did not show 
it. Her dark eyes, full of slumbrous fires and 


NOEA LEPLEY’S EXPLANATION 299 
undefined passions, regarded me frankly, and a 
queer, rather mocking smile hovered about her 
finely modelled lips. She was beautiful in an 
unexpected, unusual fashion, but her loveliness 
lacked softness and charm, at least that was my 
reading of it. She might fascinate or infatuate 
many men but few of them would love her. 
There was not the faintest sign or touch of 
weakness about her and one could hardly 
imagine her reduced to tears. Whatever the 
trouble she was facing, she would fight to the 
end. One could only try to entrap her with 
the odds rather in favour of failure unless one 
were very well equipped indeed. I had to try 
it anyway. 

“ They want to arrest you,” I said, speak¬ 
ing carelessly, though I was watching her 
closely, “ for the murder of Sir Philip 
Clevedon.” 

“ Sir Philip Glevedon ! Murder ! ” she cried. 
“ Oh, but I had nothing to do with that.” 

‘‘ You stabbed him with a hatpin.” 

“ But he was dead before—I mean—I don’t 
know anything about it—I don’t know what 
you mean.” 

“ How did you know he was dead when you 
stabbed him ? ” I asked. 

“ I—but I didn’t stab him—I know nothing 


300 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

about it—I never saw the hatpin—I never had 

one like it.” 

Sometimes,” I went on remorselessly, the 
police do not tell all they know. Sir Philip 
Clevedon was murdered with a hatpin—just so. 
But we mustn’t say that. Let us suppose he 
died of poison and that will throw the real 
murderer off her guard. Or suppose he had 
taken poison and was still living when you 
stabbed him. If a doctor had been promptly 
brought he might have been saved. Or he may 
have been dying and you merely finished him. 
How you would stand then, legally, I mean, I 
am not quite sure. An interesting query would 
arise over which the lawyers would waste many 
words. Did he die from poison or from the 
hatpin ? Either would have been sufficient, but 
which was first—hatpin or poison ? You see. 
Miss Lepley, the case is not simple. If the 
police arrest you it may not be easy for you to 
wriggle out.” 

“ But I tell you I know nothing of it! ” she 
cried, her voice rising a little. 

“ Well,” I went on, “ let me tell you one or 
two things I have learned, one or two facts, 
just to refresh your memory. In France, you 
know, the reconstruction of a crime is part of 
their criminal procedure. It is not often 


NOEA LEPLEY’S EXPLANATION 301 
adopted in this country—no, sit down, please— 
but it may be useful now. I think you must 
hear me out—for your own sake and your 
parents’——” 

“ Leave my parents out of it,” she cried, her 
face reddening violently. 

“ Unfortunately, we can’t do that,” I re¬ 
joined equably. What affects you touches 
them, also. You cannot separate yourself 
from them. But we won’t quarrel over 
that. Let us go back to the morning of 
February 24th, when you discovered Sir Philip’s 
body-” 

“ He was dead when I saw him,” she said, 
“ and I know nothing of-” 

“You went through your aunt’s sitting- 
room,” I continued, as if I had not heard her, 
“ and you noticed the hatpin which Miss Cleve- 
don had left there the previous night. You 
recognised it and picked it up.” 

“ I don’t know what you are talking about,” 
she muttered sullenly. 

“ It was in your hand when you entered the 
study and saw Sir Philip asleep on the-” 

“ He was dead, I tell you—dead ! ” she cried 
shrilly. 

“ Well, perhaps—you say so, anyway. You 
went up to the couch and plunged the hatpin 


302 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

into liis body in such a way that had he been 

asleep, it would have killed him.” 

“ He was dead,” she repeated. 

“ Before you stabbed him with the hatpin ? ” 
I inquired softly. 

“ I didn’t—I know nothing of the hatpin—I 
don’t know what you mean.” 

The words came out a little incoherently. 
Even her finely balanced nerves were becoming 
a little jangled. For the moment I thought she 
was on the verge of collapse. But she pulled 
herself together again, and sat facing me rigidly 
alert. 

“ Then you looked round you. On a little 
table by Sir Philip’s side was a small bottle. 
Your first thought was that Sir Philip had 
poisoned himself-” 

“ I knew he had,” she interrupted. 

“You mean it was suicide?” 

“ Of course it was suicide.” 

“ Then why did you stab him ? ” 

“ I did not.” 

“And more important still ”—I slowed down 
very perceptibly here—“ why did you carry 
away the bottle and hide it in a small opening 
in the rock wall of the passage beneath the 
ruined wing ? ” 

Her face whitened a little, but she did not 


NORA LEPLEY’S EXPLANATION 303 
lose her self-control, and sat resolutely facing 
me. 

“You wanted the world to believe that Sir 
Philip Clevedon had been stabbed to death. 
Why ? ” 

She faced me unflinchingly determined, 
as I could see, not to utter a word. 

“ Why did you want the world to believe 
that Sir Philip Clevedon had been stabbed to 
death ? ” 

She did not move so much as an eyelid. 

“Was it in order that suspicion might be 
cast on Miss Kitty, who had been wearing that 
hatpin ? ” 

She rose from her seat and passed her left 
hand with a gesture of utter weariness across 
her forehead. 

“ Send for your policeman,” she said, “ and 
let me be arrested. You have no right to 
torture me. I would sooner go to prison. 
I would rather be hanged than listen to you 
any longer.” 

I stood up, too, and going towards her, laid 
a hand on her arm. 

“ I have not willingly tortured you,” I said 
gently, “ but I had to learn the truth.” 

“ I have denied everything,” she replied. 
“ I admit nothing.” 


304 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

“You have denied everything—and admitted 
everything,” I said. 

“ What do you mean by that ? ” she 
demanded. 

“ Tell me,” I said softly, “what made you 
think that Ronald Thoyne had killed Clevedon ? 
You were quite wrong, you know.” 

“ Wrong ? ” 

“ Yes, he had nothing to do with it.” 

“ Nothing ? ” 

“ Nothing at all—in the way you mean.” 

“ But-” 

“ I know what I am saying—nothing at all.” 

“ Is that-? ” 

“ It is the absolute truth.” 

There came an interruption in the form of a 
low knocking at the door, followed by the entry 
of Detective Pepster. 

“ Well ? ” I asked. 

“ Yes,” he said grimly, “ both well and bad. 
I was too late.” 

He handed me a document he had been 
carrying in his hand. 

“ Grainger’s confession,” he said. 

“ Grainger ! ” Nora Lepley cried, springing 
forward as if with intent to seize the paper. 
“ What do you mean by that ? And where 
is Mr. Grainger ? ” 


NORA LEPLEY’S EXPLANATION 305 

“ Dead,” Pepster returned laconically. “ A 
dose of the medicine he gave Clevedon. Dead 
in his own office, and with this paper left on 
the table.” 

“ Sit down,” I said, turning to Nora Lepley, 
“ and listen. This will interest you.” 

I read aloud what Grainger had written, and 
after that we had no difficulty in persuading 
the girl to talk. 


CHAPTER XXVII 

WHO KILLED PHILIP CLEVEDON 

I T has fallen to my lot to outline the 
solution of a good many mysteries, but 
never did I have a more appreciative 
or attentive or admiring audience than on this 
particular occasion. To them I was a wonder¬ 
worker, who had straightened out what looked 
like a hopeless tangle. I made no attempt to 
undeceive them. It wasn’t worth while, and 
it would have taken too long. But the reader 
who has followed my detailed recital will know 
how I really blundered through, how often I 
pursued false clues, the many side-issues that 
misled me, and the patient, methodical and, 
on the whole, not very exciting linking together 
of ascertained facts, which eventually conducted 
me to the goal I sought. That is how all de¬ 
tective work that is worth anything is done. 
The result may seen brilliant taken by itself, 
but in detail it is a curious mixture of luck and 
chance, with some amount of common sense, and 
a little of what is generally labelled intuition. 

306 


WHO KILLED PHILIP CLEVEDON 307 

“ And have you really discovered who killed 
Clevedon ? ” Thoyne asked. 

“Yes,” I returned equably, “ you did.” 

“I expected that,” Thoyne rejoined, with a 
wry smile. “ I think you have suspected me 
all along. I seem to have been the villain of 
the piece all through.” 

“ No,” I replied, “ you do me an injustice. 
You were only one among half a dozen. Let me 
tell you the story. It is very simple, and a few 
words will encompass it. Grainger hated you 
because of his daughter, and when you ordered 
that sleeping mixture from him he filled the 
phial with prussic acid. His intention was to 
kill you. That Clevedon was his victim was 
only an accident. Clevedon called on you 
earlier on the night on which he died, didn’t 
he?” 

“Yes, but I don’t know how you discovered 
it. I let Clevedon in myself, and not a soul 
saw us.” 

“ But it is a fact.” 

“ Oh yes, quite. He came to see me to tell 
me he had resigned any pretensions to marry ”— 
he paused and glanced a little waveringly at 
Kitty Clevedon—“ to the young lady we 
both wanted. We were friendly enough in a 
way.” 


308 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

“You did not disclose this visit at the 
inquest ? ” 

“ No, the question was never asked, and I 
kept quiet, for fear I might say too much. 
I don’t regret it,” he added fiercely. 

“ It has worked out all right,” I replied, 
“ though it gave me a lot of extra trouble and 
delayed my solution. However, you conducted 
your visitor to the door and stood for a few 
minutes in the porch, chatting to him. You 
were to be relatives by marriage, and had no 
particular desire to quarrel. You were willing 
to forget that he had been Calcott-” 

“ Calcott! ” cried old Lady Clevedon, “ who’s 
he?” 

“ A long story,” I returned smilingly. 
“ Thoyne will tell you all about it some day. 
It has no bearing on this case. But in the course 
of conversation ”—I had turned to Thoyne 
again—“ he told you that he suffered from 
sleeplessness, to which you replied that you 
had occasionally done so since you had been 
wounded and shell-shocked in the war, but that 
you had found a very useful medicine, which 
you advised him to try. You had got a new 
bottle untouched, and you offered to make 
him a present of it.” 

“ Quite right.” 


WHO KILLED PHILIP CLEVEDON 309 

‘‘ Then there you have the story—that is how 
Sir Philip Clevedon died. He took the poison 
Grainger had intended for you.” 

“ What an escape! ” Thoyne muttered, a 
little hoarsely. 

“ And the hatpin ? ” old Lady Clevedon 
queried sharply. “ Was that an accident, 
also ? ” 

‘‘ Hardly,” I replied, but that is another 
story, and a very curious one, too.” 

I had reached the most difficult part of 
my explanation. I had to render it in¬ 
telligible, without betraying Nora Lepley’s 
secret, which I had surprised. To put it as 
briefly as possible, she had thrust the hatpin 
through the heart of the dead man in the hope 
of diverting suspicion from Konald Thoyne, 
whom she believed to be responsible for Sir 
Philip Clevedon’s death. 

“ As I had passed through my aunt’s sitting- 
room,” she had told me, “ I saw the hatpin 
lying there on the mantelpiece, and I picked 
it up, intending to return it to Miss Kitty. It 
was in my hand when I entered Sir Philip’s 
study and found him dead. I knew he had 
been poisoned, because there was prussic acid 
in the bottle on the table.” 

She explained to me when I questioned her 


310 THE CLEVEDON CASE 
that she had spent much time with her friend, 
Mary Grainger, in the shop, and was familiar 
with all sorts of drugs. 

“ On the floor,” she went on, “ was a white 
paper, and when I picked it up I found on it 
some pencil marks I had made myself. I had 
been into Midlington and had called on Mr. 
Grainger, who asked me if I would deliver 
a packet at Mr. Thoyne’s house, as he had no 
other means of sending it. Of course, I said I 
would. At the station I looked up some trains 
on the time-table, and having no other paper 
with me, I noted them in pencil on the back of 
the little packet Mr. Grainger had given me.” 

So was explained the mysterious figures on 
the paper I had found in Nora Lepley’s curious 
hiding-place. I regarded her thoughtfully for 
a moment or two. 

“You had delivered that packet at Mr. 
Thoyne’s house ? ” 

“ Oh, yes.” 

“You thought Mr. Thoyne had passed it on 
to Sir Philip.” 

“ That’s what I thought—yes.” 

“ That he had procured some prussic acid 
from Mr. Grainger, so that he might murder 
Sir Philip ? ” 

“ Yes—and then it occurred to me—that if 


WHO KILLED PHILIP GLEVEDON311 
Sir Philip—that perhaps they might think he 
had been stabbed if—if the hatpin was found.” 

“You did it to protect Thoyne ? ” 

That she had been in love with Thoyne seemed 
evident; that she would never confess as much 
was equally obvious ; and I had no desire to 
force her confidence. The fact was sufficient 
for me; the motive I was content to leave in 
doubt, or at least, unexpressed. That was 
the difficulty I had in telling my story to my 
little audience. I was determined they should 
not draw the inference I had found inevitable. 

“ The story of the hatpin,” I said, “ is very 
curious, but quite simple. Nora Lepley, when 
she found Sir Philip dead, recognised the bottle 
as one she had found in Grainger’s shop. She 
had known Mr. Grainger for many years, and 
had been his daughter’s bosom friend. She 
jumped to the conclusion that Grainger had 
poisoned Sir Philip, and it was in the hope of 
diverting suspicion from him that she took 
away and hid the bottle and—er—used the hat¬ 
pin. There is the whole story.” 

“ But suppose somebody had been involved 
—Kitty, for example, or Ronald—would she 
have spoken ? ” the younger Lady Clevedon 
demanded. 

“ Undoubtedly,” I replied. 


312 THE CLEVEDON CASE 

But I spoke without knowledge, because that 
was a question I had carefully refrained from 
putting to Nora herself. My own impression 
was that she would cheerfully have seen the 
whole Clevedon family hanging in company if 
that would have secured Ronald Thoyne’s 
immunity. But I did not tell them that. 


THE END