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The Sittaford Mystery Agatha Christie A seance in a snowbound Dartmoor house predicts a grisly murder…In a remote house in the middle of Dartmoor, six shadowy figures huddle around a small table for a seance. Tension rises as the spirits spell out a chilling message: ‘Captain Trevelyan… dead… murder.’Is this black magic or simply a macabre joke? The only way to be certain is to locate Captain Trevelyan. Unfortunately, his home is six miles away and, with snow drifts blocking the roads, someone will have to make the journey on foot… Agatha Christie The Sittaford Mystery Copyright (#ulink_f29f7f7d-03c2-52c3-98ad-ff60a945da1d) Published by HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd. 1 London Bridge Street London SE1 9GF www.harpercollins.co.uk (http://www.harpercollins.co.uk) First published in Great Britain by Collins 1931 Copyright © 1931 Agatha Christie Ltd. All rights reserved. www.agathachristie.com (http://www.agathachristie.com) The moral right of the author is asserted A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library All rights reserved. This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins ebooks HarperCollinsPublishers has made every reasonable effort to ensure that any picture content and written content in this ebook has been included or removed in accordance with the contractual and technogolical constraints in operation at the time of publication Source ISBN: 9780007136841 Ebook Edition © 2010 ISBN: 9780007422807 Version: 2018-09-05 Contents Cover (#u6a34e2fa-b552-5c10-bb16-17b8c0aea8ad) Title Page (#u6956861f-82a8-5324-9a74-05362e813d48) Copyright 1. Sittaford House 2. The Message 3. Five and Twenty Past Five 4. Inspector Narracott 5. Evans 6. At the Three Crowns 7. The Will 8. Mr Charles Enderby 9. The Laurels 10. The Pearson Family 11. Emily Sets to Work 12. The Arrest 13. Sittaford 14. The Willetts 15. Visit to Major Burnaby 16. Mr Rycroft 17. Miss Percehouse 18. Emily Visits Sittaford House 19. Theories 20. Visit to Aunt Jennifer 21. Conversations 22. Nocturnal Adventures of Charles 23. At Hazelmoor 24. Inspector Narracott Discusses the Case 25. At Deller’s Café 26. Robert Gardner 27. Narracott Acts 28. Boots 29. The Second Séance 30. Emily Explains 31. The Lucky Man Keep Reading (#litres_trial_promo) About Agatha Christie The Agatha Christie Collection Essay by Charles Osborne (#litres_trial_promo) www.agathachristie.com About the Publisher Chapter 1 (#ulink_14cef5b3-aaf0-55d8-8f72-933588dc237a) Sittaford House (#ulink_14cef5b3-aaf0-55d8-8f72-933588dc237a) Major Burnaby drew on his gum boots, buttoned his overcoat collar round his neck, took from a shelf near the door a hurricane lantern, and cautiously opened the front door of his little bungalow and peered out. The scene that met his eyes was typical of the English countryside as depicted on Xmas cards and in old-fashioned melodramas. Everywhere was snow, deep drifts of it—no mere powdering an inch or two thick. Snow had fallen all over England for the last four days, and up here on the fringe of Dartmoor it had attained a depth of several feet. All over England householders were groaning over burst pipes, and to have a plumber friend (or even a plumber’s mate) was the most coveted of all distinctions. Up here, in the tiny village of Sittaford, at all times remote from the world, and now almost completely cut off, the rigours of winter were a very real problem. Major Burnaby, however, was a hardy soul. He snorted twice, grunted once, and marched resolutely out into the snow. His destination was not far away. A few paces along a winding lane, then in at a gate, and so up a drive partially swept clear of snow to a house of some considerable size built of granite. The door was opened by a neatly clad parlourmaid. The Major was divested of his British Warm, his gum boots and his aged scarf. A door was flung open and he passed through it into a room which conveyed all the illusion of a transformation scene. Although it was only half past three the curtains had been drawn, the electric lights were on and a huge fire blazed cheerfully on the hearth. Two women in afternoon frocks rose to greet the staunch old warrior. ‘Splendid of you to turn out, Major Burnaby,’ said the elder of the two. ‘Not at all, Mrs Willett, not at all. Very good of you to ask me.’ He shook hands with them both. ‘Mr Garfield is coming,’ went on Mrs Willett, ‘and Mr Duke, and Mr Rycroft said he would come—but one can hardly expect him at his age in such weather. Really, it is too dreadful. One feels one must do something to keep oneself cheerful. Violet, put another log on the fire.’ The Major rose gallantly to perform this task. ‘Allow me, Miss Violet.’ He put the log expertly in the right place and returned once more to the armchair his hostess had indicated. Trying not to appear as though he were doing so, he cast surreptitious glances round the room. Amazing how a couple of women could alter the whole character of a room—and without doing anything very outstanding that you could put your finger on. Sittaford House had been built ten years ago by Captain Joseph Trevelyan, R.N., on the occasion of his retirement from the Navy. He was a man of substance, and he had always had a great hankering to live on Dartmoor. He had placed his choice on the tiny hamlet of Sittaford. It was not in a valley like most of the villages and farms, but perched right on the shoulder of the moor under the shadow of Sittaford Beacon. He had purchased a large tract of ground, had built a comfortable house with its own electric light plant and an electric pump to save labour in pumping water. Then, as a speculation, he had built six small bungalows, each in its quarter acre of ground, along the lane. The first of these, the one at his very gates, had been allotted to his old friend and crony, John Burnaby—the others had by degrees been sold, there being still a few people who from choice or necessity like to live right out of the world. The village itself consisted of three picturesque but dilapidated cottages, a forge and a combined post office and sweet shop. The nearest town was Exhampton, six miles away, a steady descent which necessitated the sign, ‘Motorists engage your lowest gear’, so familiar on the Dartmoor roads. Captain Trevelyan, as has been said, was a man of substance. In spite of this—or perhaps because of it—he was a man who was inordinately fond of money. At the end of October a house agent in Exhampton wrote to him asking if he would consider letting Sittaford House. A tenant had made inquiries concerning it, wishing to rent it for the winter. Captain Trevelyan’s first impulse was to refuse, his second to demand further information. The tenant in question proved to be a Mrs Willett, a widow with one daughter. She had recently arrived from South Africa and wanted a house on Dartmoor for the winter. ‘Damn it all, the woman must be mad,’ said Captain Trevelyan. ‘Eh, Burnaby, don’t you think so?’ Burnaby did think so, and said so as forcibly as his friend had done. ‘Anyway, you don’t want to let,’ he said. ‘Let the fool woman go somewhere else if she wants to freeze. Coming from South Africa too!’ But at this point Captain Trevelyan’s money complex asserted itself. Not once in a hundred times would you get a chance of letting your house in mid-winter. He demanded what rent the tenant was willing to pay. An offer of twelve guineas a week clinched matters. Captain Trevelyan went into Exhampton, rented a small house on the outskirts at two guineas a week, and handed over Sittaford House to Mrs Willett, half the rent to be paid in advance. ‘A fool and her money are soon parted,’ he growled. But Burnaby was thinking this afternoon as he scanned Mrs Willett covertly, that she did not look a fool. She was a tall woman with a rather silly manner—but her physiognomy was shrewd rather than foolish. She was inclined to overdress, had a distinct Colonial accent, and seemed perfectly content with the transaction. She was clearly very well off and that—as Burnaby had reflected more than once—really made the whole affair more odd. She was not the kind of woman one would credit with a passion for solitude. As a neighbour she had proved almost embarrassingly friendly. Invitations to Sittaford House were rained on everybody. Captain Trevelyan was constantly urged to ‘Treat the house as though we hadn’t rented it.’ Trevelyan, however, was not fond of women. Report went that he had been jilted in his youth. He persistently refused all invitations. Two months had passed since the installation of the Willetts and the first wonder at their arrival had passed away. Burnaby, naturally a silent man, continued to study his hostess, oblivious to any need for small talk. Liked to make herself out a fool, but wasn’t really. So he summed up the situation. His glance shifted to Violet Willett. Pretty girl—scraggy, of course—they all were nowadays. What was the good of a woman if she didn’t look like a woman? Papers said curves were coming back. About time too. He roused himself to the necessity of conversation. ‘We were afraid at first that you wouldn’t be able to come,’ said Mrs Willett. ‘You said so, you remember. We were so pleased when you said that after all you would.’ ‘Friday,’ said Major Burnaby, with an air of being explicit. Mrs Willett looked puzzled. ‘Friday?’ ‘Every Friday go to Trevelyan’s. Tuesday he comes to me. Both of us done it for years.’ ‘Oh! I see. Of course, living so near—’ ‘Kind of habit.’ ‘But do you still keep it up? I mean now that he is living in Exhampton—’ ‘Pity to break a habit,’ said Major Burnaby. ‘We’d both of us miss those evenings.’ ‘You go in for competitions, don’t you?’ asked Violet. ‘Acrostics and crosswords and all those things.’ Burnaby nodded. ‘I do crosswords. Trevelyan does acrostics. We each stick to our own line of country. I won three books last month in a crossword competition,’ he volunteered. ‘Oh! really. How nice. Were they interesting books?’ ‘Don’t know. Haven’t read them. Looked pretty hopeless.’ ‘It’s the winning them that matters, isn’t it?’ said Mrs Willett vaguely. ‘How do you get to Exhampton?’ asked Violet. ‘You haven’t got a car.’ ‘Walk.’ ‘What? Not really? Six miles.’ ‘Good exercise. What’s twelve miles? Keeps a man fit. Great thing to be fit.’ ‘Fancy! Twelve miles. But both you and Captain Trevelyan were great athletes, weren’t you?’ ‘Used to go to Switzerland together. Winter sports in winter, climbing in summer. Wonderful man on ice, Trevelyan. Both too old for that sort of thing nowadays.’ ‘You won the Army Racquets Championship, too, didn’t you?’ asked Violet. The Major blushed like a girl. ‘Who told you that?’ he mumbled. ‘Captain Trevelyan.’ ‘Joe should hold his tongue,’ said Burnaby. ‘He talks too much. What’s the weather like now?’ Respecting his embarrassment, Violet followed him to the window. They drew the curtain aside and looked out over the desolate scene. ‘More snow coming,’ said Burnaby. ‘A pretty heavy fall too, I should say.’ ‘Oh! how thrilling,’ said Violet. ‘I do think snow is so romantic. I’ve never seen it before.’ ‘It isn’t romantic when the pipes freeze, you foolish child,’ said her mother. ‘Have you lived all your life in South Africa, Miss Willett?’ asked Major Burnaby. Some of the girl’s animation dropped away from her. She seemed almost constrained in her manner as she answered. ‘Yes—this is the first time I’ve ever been away. It’s all most frightfully thrilling.’ Thrilling to be shut away like this in a remote moorland village? Funny ideas. He couldn’t get the hang of these people. The door opened and the parlourmaid announced: ‘Mr Rycroft and Mr Garfield.’ There entered a little elderly, dried-up man and a fresh-coloured, boyish young man. The latter spoke first. ‘I brought him along, Mrs Willett. Said I wouldn’t let him be buried in a snowdrift. Ha, ha. I say, this all looks simply marvellous. Yule logs burning.’ ‘As he says, my young friend very kindly piloted me here,’ said Mr Rycroft as he shook hands somewhat ceremoniously. ‘How do you do, Miss Violet? Very seasonable weather—rather too seasonable, I fear.’ He moved to the fire talking to Mrs Willett. Ronald Garfield buttonholed Violet. ‘I say, can’t we get up any skating anywhere? Aren’t there some ponds about?’ ‘I think path digging will be your only sport.’ ‘I’ve been at it all the morning.’ ‘Oh! you he-man.’ ‘Don’t laugh at me. I’ve got blisters all over my hands.’ ‘How’s your aunt?’ ‘Oh! she’s always the same—sometimes she says she’s better and sometimes she says she’s worse, but I think it’s all the same really. It’s a ghastly life, you know. Each year, I wonder how I can stick it—but there it is—if one doesn’t rally round the old bird for Xmas—why, she’s quite capable of leaving her money to a Cat’s Home. She’s got five of them, you know. I’m always stroking the brutes and pretending I dote upon them.’ ‘I like dogs much better than cats.’ ‘So do I. Any day. What I mean is a dog is—well, a dog’s a dog, you know.’ ‘Has your aunt always been fond of cats?’ ‘I think it’s just a kind of thing old maids grow into. Ugh! I hate the brutes.’ ‘Your aunt’s very nice, but rather frightening.’ ‘I should think she was frightening. Snaps my head off sometimes. Thinks I’ve got no brains, you know.’ ‘Not really?’ ‘Oh! look here, don’t say it like that. Lots of fellows look like fools and are laughing underneath.’ ‘Mr Duke,’ announced the parlourmaid. Mr Duke was a recent arrival. He had bought the last of the six bungalows in September. He was a big man, very quiet and devoted to gardening. Mr Rycroft who was an enthusiast on birds and who lived next door to him had taken him up, overruling the section of thought which voiced the opinion that of course Mr Duke was a very nice man, quite unassuming, but was he, after all, quite—well, quite? Mightn’t he, just possibly, be a retired tradesman? But nobody liked to ask him—and indeed it was thought better not to know. Because if one did know, it might be awkward, and really in such a small community it was best to know everybody. ‘Not walking to Exhampton in this weather?’ he asked of Major Burnaby. ‘No, I fancy Trevelyan will hardly expect me tonight.’ ‘It’s awful, isn’t it?’ said Mrs Willett with a shudder. ‘To be buried up here, year after year—it must be ghastly.’ Mr Duke gave her a quick glance. Major Burnaby too stared at her curiously. But at that moment tea was brought in. Chapter 2 (#ulink_cd2ddac7-9141-52f9-b272-935b2b565ce7) The Message (#ulink_cd2ddac7-9141-52f9-b272-935b2b565ce7) After tea, Mrs Willett suggested bridge. ‘There are six of us. Two can cut in.’ Ronnie’s eyes brightened. ‘You four start,’ he suggested. ‘Miss Willett and I will cut in.’ But Mr Duke said that he did not play bridge. Ronnie’s face fell. ‘We might play a round game,’ said Mrs Willett. ‘Or table-turning,’ suggested Ronnie. ‘It’s a spooky evening. We spoke about it the other day, you remember. Mr Rycroft and I were talking about it this evening as we came along here.’ ‘I am a member of the Psychical Research Society,’ explained Mr Rycroft in his precise way. ‘I was able to put my young friend right on one or two points.’ ‘Tommy rot,’ said Major Burnaby very distinctly. ‘Oh! but it’s great fun, don’t you think?’ said Violet Willett. ‘I mean, one doesn’t believe in it or anything. It’s just an amusement. What do you say, Mr Duke?’ ‘Anything you like, Miss Willett.’ ‘We must turn the lights out, and we must find a suitable table. No—not that one, Mother. I’m sure it’s much too heavy.’ Things were settled at last to everyone’s satisfaction. A small round table with a polished top was brought from an adjoining room. It was set in front of the fire and everyone took his place round it with the lights switched off. Major Burnaby was between his hostess and Violet. On the other side of the girl was Ronnie Garfield. A cynical smile creased the Major’s lips. He thought to himself: ‘In my young days it was Up Jenkins.’ And he tried to recall the name of a girl with fluffy hair whose hand he had held beneath the table at considerable length. A long time ago that was. But Up Jenkins had been a good game. There were all the usual laughs, whispers, stereotyped remarks. ‘The spirits are a long time.’ ‘Got a long way to come.’ ‘Hush—nothing will happen unless we are serious.’ ‘Oh! do be quiet—everyone.’ ‘Nothing’s happening.’ ‘Of course not—it never does at first.’ ‘If only you’d all be quiet.’ At last, after some time, the murmur of talk died away. A silence. ‘This table’s dead as mutton,’ murmured Ronnie Garfield disgustedly. ‘Hush.’ A tremor ran through the polished surface. The table began to rock. ‘Ask it questions. Who shall ask? You, Ronnie.’ ‘Oh—er—I say—what do I ask it?’ ‘Is a spirit present?’ prompted Violet. ‘Oh! Hullo—is a spirit present?’ A sharp rock. ‘That means yes,’ said Violet. ‘Oh! er—who are you?’ No response. ‘Ask it to spell its name.’ The table started rocking violently. ‘A B C D E F G H I—I say, was that I or J?’ ‘Ask it. Was that I?’ One rock. ‘Yes. Next letter, please.’ The spirit’s name was Ida. ‘Have you a message for anyone here?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Who is it for? Miss Willett?’ ‘No.’ ‘Mrs Willett?’ ‘No.’ ‘Mr Rycroft?’ ‘No.’ ‘Me?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘It’s for you, Ronnie. Go on. Make it spell it out.’ The table spelt ‘Diana’. ‘Who’s Diana? Do you know anyone called Diana?’ ‘No, I don’t. At least—’ ‘There you are. He does.’ ‘Ask her if she’s a widow?’ The fun went on. Mr Rycroft smiled indulgently. Young people must have their jokes. He caught one glance of his hostess’s face in a sudden flicker of the firelight. It looked worried and abstracted. Her thoughts were somewhere far away. Major Burnaby was thinking of the snow. It was going to snow again this evening. Hardest winter he ever remembered. Mr Duke was playing very seriously. The spirits, alas, paid very little attention to him. All the messages seemed to be for Violet and Ronnie. Violet was told she was going to Italy. Someone was going with her. Not a woman. A man. His name was Leonard. More laughter. The table spelt the name of the town. A Russian jumble of letters—not in the least Italian. The usual accusations were levelled. ‘Look here, Violet,’ (‘Miss Willett’ had been dropped) ‘you are shoving.’ ‘I’m not. Look, I take my hands right off the table and it rocks just the same.’ ‘I like raps. I’m going to ask it to rap. Loud ones.’ ‘There should be raps.’ Ronnie turned to Mr Rycroft. ‘There ought to be raps, oughtn’t there, sir?’ ‘Under the circumstances, I should hardly think it likely,’ said Mr Rycroft drily. There was a pause. The table was inert. It returned no answer to questions. ‘Has Ida gone away?’ One languid rock. ‘Will another spirit come, please?’ Nothing. Suddenly the table began to quiver and rock violently. ‘Hurrah. Are you a new spirit?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Have you a message for someone?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘For me?’ ‘No.’ ‘For Violet?’ ‘No.’ ‘For Major Burnaby?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘It’s for you, Major Burnaby. Will you spell it out, please?’ The table started rocking slowly. ‘T R E V—are you sure it’s V? It can’t be. T R E V—it doesn’t make sense.’ ‘Trevelyan, of course,’ said Mrs Willett. ‘Captain Trevelyan.’ ‘Do you mean Captain Trevelyan?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘You’ve got a message for Captain Trevelyan?’ ‘No.’ ‘Well, what is it then?’ The table began to rock—slowly, rhythmically. So slowly that it was easy to count the letters. ‘D—’ a pause. ‘E—AD.’ ‘Dead.’ ‘Somebody is dead?’ Instead of Yes or No, the table began to rock again till it reached the letter T. ‘T—do you mean Trevelyan?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘You don’t mean Trevelyan is dead?’ ‘Yes.’ A very sharp rock. ‘Yes.’ Somebody gasped. There was a faint stir all round the table. Ronnie’s voice as he resumed his questions held a different note—an awed uneasy note. ‘You mean—that Captain Trevelyan is dead?’ ‘Yes.’ There was a pause. It was as though no one knew what to ask next, or how to take this unexpected development. And in the pause, the table started rocking again. Rhythmically and slowly, Ronnie spelled out the letters aloud… M-U-R-D-E-R… Mrs Willett gave a cry and took her hands off the table. ‘I won’t go on with this. It’s horrible. I don’t like it.’ Mr Duke’s voice rang out, resonant and clear. He was questioning the table. ‘Do you mean—that Captain Trevelyan has been murdered?’ The last word had hardly left his lips when the answer came. The table rocked so violently and assertively that it nearly fell over. One rock only. ‘Yes…’ ‘Look here,’ said Ronnie. He took his hands from the table. ‘I call this a rotten joke.’ His voice trembled. ‘Turn up the lights,’ said Mr Rycroft. Major Burnaby rose and did so. The sudden glare revealed a company of pale uneasy faces. Everyone looked at each other. Somehow—nobody quite knew what to say. ‘All rot, of course,’ said Ronnie with an uneasy laugh. ‘Silly nonsense,’ said Mrs Willett. ‘Nobody ought to—to make jokes like that.’ ‘Not about people dying,’ said Violet. ‘It’s—oh! I don’t like it.’ ‘I wasn’t shoving,’ said Ronnie, feeling unspoken criticism levelled at him. ‘I swear I wasn’t.’ ‘I can say the same,’ said Mr Duke. ‘And you, Mr Rycroft?’ ‘Certainly not,’ said Mr Rycroft warmly. ‘You don’t think I’d make a joke of that kind, do you?’ growled Major Burnaby. ‘Rotten bad taste.’ ‘Violet dear—’ ‘I didn’t, Mother. Indeed, I didn’t. I wouldn’t do such a thing.’ The girl was almost tearful. Everyone was embarrassed. A sudden blight had come over the cheerful party. Major Burnaby pushed back his chair, went to the window and pulled aside the curtain. He stood there looking out with his back to the room. ‘Twenty-five minutes past five,’ said Mr Rycroft glancing up at the clock. He compared it with his own watch and somehow everyone felt the action was significant in some way. ‘Let me see,’ said Mrs Willett with forced cheerfulness. ‘I think we’d better have cocktails. Will you ring the bell, Mr Garfield?’ Ronnie obeyed. Ingredients for cocktails were brought and Ronnie was appointed mixer. The situation grew a little easier. ‘Well,’ said Ronnie, raising his glass. ‘Here’s how.’ The others responded—all but the silent figure by the window. ‘Major Burnaby. Here’s your cocktail.’ The Major roused himself with a start. He turned slowly. ‘Thank you, Mrs Willett. Not for me.’ He looked once more out into the night, then came slowly back to the group by the fire. ‘Many thanks for a very pleasant time. Good night.’ ‘You’re not going?’ ‘Afraid I must.’ ‘Not so soon. And on a night like this.’ ‘Sorry, Mrs Willett—but it’s got to be done. If there were only a telephone.’ ‘A telephone?’ ‘Yes—to tell you the truth—I’m—well. I’d like to be sure that Joe Trevelyan’s all right. Silly superstition and all that—but there it is. Naturally, I don’t believe in this tommy rot—but—’ ‘But you can’t telephone from anywhere. There’s not such a thing in Sittaford.’ ‘That’s just it. As I can’t telephone, I’ll have to go.’ ‘Go—but you couldn’t get a car down that road! Elmer wouldn’t take his car out on such a night.’ Elmer was the proprietor of the sole car in the place, an aged Ford, hired at a handsome price by those who wished to go into Exhampton. ‘No, no—car’s out of the question. My two legs will take me there, Mrs Willett.’ There was a chorus of protest. ‘Oh! Major Burnaby—it’s impossible. You said yourself it was going to snow.’ ‘Not for an hour—perhaps longer. I’ll get there, never fear.’ ‘Oh! you can’t. We can’t allow it.’ She was seriously disturbed and upset. But argument and entreaty had no more effect on Major Burnaby than if he were a rock. He was an obstinate man. Once his mind was made up on any point, no power on earth could move him. He had determined to walk to Exhampton and see for himself that all was well with his old friend, and he repeated that simple statement half a dozen times. In the end they were brought to realize that he meant it. He wrapped himself up in his overcoat, lighted the hurricane lantern, and stepped out into the night. ‘I’ll just drop in to my place for a flask,’ he said cheerily, ‘and then push straight on. Trevelyan will put me up for the night when I get there. Ridiculous fuss, I know. Everything sure to be all right. Don’t worry, Mrs Willett. Snow or no snow—I’ll get there in a couple of hours. Good night.’ He strode away. The others returned to the fire. Rycroft had looked up at the sky. ‘It is going to snow,’ he murmured to Mr Duke. ‘And it will begin long before he gets to Exhampton. I—I hope he gets there all right.’ Duke frowned. ‘I know. I feel I ought to have gone with him. One of us ought to have done so.’ ‘Most distressing,’ Mrs Willett was saying, ‘most distressing. Violet, I will not have that silly game ever played again. Poor Major Burnaby will probably plunge into a snowdrift—or if he doesn’t he’ll die of the cold and exposure. At his age, too. Very foolish of him to go off like that. Of course, Captain Trevelyan is perfectly all right.’ Everyone echoed: ‘Of course.’ But even now they did not feel really too comfortable. Supposing something had happened to Captain Trevelyan… Supposing… Chapter 3 (#ulink_a13e6346-b3a3-579e-abba-47623834289f) Five and Twenty Past Five (#ulink_a13e6346-b3a3-579e-abba-47623834289f) Two and a half hours later, just before eight o’clock, Major Burnaby, hurricane lantern in hand, his head dropped forward so as not to meet the blinding drive of snow, stumbled up the path to the door of ‘Hazelmoor’, the small house tenanted by Captain Trevelyan. The snow had begun to fall about an hour ago—great blinding flakes of it. Major Burnaby was gasping, emitting the loud sighing gasps of an utterly exhausted man. He was numbed with cold. He stamped his feet, blew, puffed, snorted and applied a numbed finger to the bell push. The bell trilled shrilly. Burnaby waited. After a pause of a few minutes, as nothing happened, he pushed the bell again. Once more there was no stir of life. Burnaby rang a third time. This time he kept his finger on the bell. It trilled on and on—but there was still no sign of life in the house. There was a knocker on the door. Major Burnaby seized it and worked it vigorously, producing a noise like thunder. And still the little house remained silent as the dead. The Major desisted. He stood for a moment as though perplexed—then he slowly went down the path and out at the gate, continuing on the road he had come towards Exhampton. A hundred yards brought him to the small police station. He hesitated again, then finally made up his mind and entered. Constable Graves, who knew the Major well, rose in astonishment. ‘Well, I never, sir, fancy you being out on a night like this.’ ‘Look here,’ said Burnaby curtly. ‘I’ve been ringing and knocking at the Captain’s house and I can’t get any answer.’ ‘Why, of course, it’s Friday,’ said Graves who knew the habits of the two pretty well. ‘But you don’t mean to say you’ve actually come down from Sittaford on a night like this? Surely the Captain would never expect you.’ ‘Whether he’s expected me or not, I’ve come,’ said Burnaby testily. ‘And as I’m telling you, I can’t get in. I’ve rung and knocked and nobody answers.’ Some of his uneasiness seemed to communicate itself to the policeman. ‘That’s odd,’ he said, frowning. ‘Of course, it’s odd,’ said Burnaby. ‘It’s not as though he’s likely to be out—on a night like this.’ ‘Of course he’s not likely to be out.’ ‘It is odd,’ said Graves again. Burnaby displayed impatience at the man’s slowness. ‘Aren’t you going to do something?’ he snapped. ‘Do something?’ ‘Yes, do something.’ The policeman ruminated. ‘Think he might have been taken bad?’ His face brightened. ‘I’ll try the telephone.’ It stood at his elbow. He took it up and gave the number. But to the telephone, as to the front door bell, Captain Trevelyan gave no reply. ‘Looks as though he has been taken bad,’ said Graves as he replaced the receiver. ‘And all alone in the house, too. We’d best got hold of Dr Warren and take him along with us.’ Dr Warren’s house was almost next door to the police station. The doctor was just sitting down to dinner with his wife and was not best pleased at the summons. However, he grudgingly agreed to accompany them, drawing on an aged British Warm and a pair of rubber boots and muffling his neck with a knitted scarf. The snow was still falling. ‘Damnable night,’ murmured the doctor. ‘Hope you haven’t brought me out on a wild goose chase. Trevelyan’s as strong as a horse. Never has anything the matter with him.’ Burnaby did not reply. Arriving at Hazelmoor once more, they rang again and knocked, but elicited no response. The doctor then suggested going round the house to one of the back windows. ‘Easier to force than the door.’ Graves agreeing, they went round the back. There was a side door which they tried on the way, but it too was locked, and presently they emerged on the snow-covered lawn that led up to the back windows. Suddenly, Warren uttered an exclamation. ‘The window of the study—it’s open.’ True enough, the window, a French one, was standing ajar. They quickened their steps. On a night like this, no one in his senses would open a window. There was a light in the room that streamed out in a thin yellow band. The three men arrived simultaneously at the window—Burnaby was the first man to enter, the constable hard on his heels. They both stopped dead inside and something like a muffled cry came from the ex-soldier. In another moment Warren was beside them, and saw what they had seen. Captain Trevelyan lay on the floor, face downwards. His arms sprawled widely. The room was in confusion—drawers of the bureau pulled out, papers lying about the floor. The window beside them was splintered where it had been forced near the lock. Beside Captain Trevelyan was a dark green baize tube about two inches in diameter. Warren sprang forward. He knelt down by the prostrate figure. One minute sufficed. He rose to his feet, his face pale. ‘He’s dead?’ asked Burnaby. The doctor nodded. Then he turned to Graves. ‘It’s for you to say what’s to be done. I can do nothing except examine the body and perhaps you’d rather I didn’t do that until the Inspector comes. I can tell you the cause of death now. Fracture of the base of the skull. And I think I can make a guess at the weapon.’ He indicated the green baize tube. ‘Trevelyan always had them along the bottom of the door—to keep the draught out,’ said Burnaby. His voice was hoarse. ‘Yes—a very efficient form of sandbag.’ ‘My God!’ ‘But this here—’ the constable broke in, his wits arriving at the point slowly. ‘You mean—this here is murder.’ The policeman stepped to the table on which stood a telephone. Major Burnaby approached the doctor. ‘Have you any idea,’ he said, breathing hard, ‘how long he’s been dead?’ ‘About two hours, I should say, or possibly three. That’s a rough estimate.’ Burnaby passed his tongue over dry lips. ‘Would you say,’ he asked, ‘that he might have been killed at five twenty-five?’ The doctor looked at him curiously. ‘If I had to give a time definitely, that’s just about the time I would suggest.’ ‘Oh my God,’ said Burnaby. Warren stared at him. The Major felt his way blindly to a chair, collapsed on to it and muttered to himself whilst a kind of staring terror overspread his face. ‘Five and twenty past five—Oh my God, then it was true after all.’ Chapter 4 (#ulink_301a86a3-5022-51e9-a451-e12c14d32360) Inspector Narracott (#ulink_301a86a3-5022-51e9-a451-e12c14d32360) It was the morning after the tragedy, and two men were standing in the little study of Hazelmoor. Inspector Narracott looked round him. A little frown appeared upon his forehead. ‘Ye-es,’ he said thoughtfully. ‘Ye-es.’ Inspector Narracott was a very efficient officer. He had a quiet persistence, a logical mind and a keen attention to detail which brought him success where many another man might have failed. He was a tall man with a quiet manner, rather far-away grey eyes, and a slow soft Devonshire voice. Summoned from Exeter to take charge of the case, he had arrived on the first train that morning. The roads had been impassable for cars, even with chains, otherwise he would have arrived the night before. He was standing now in Captain Trevelyan’s study having just completed his examination of the room. With him was Sergeant Pollock of the Exhampton police. ‘Ye-es,’ said Inspector Narracott. A ray of pale wintry sunshine came in through the window. Outside was the snowy landscape. There was a fence about a hundred yards from the window and beyond it the steep ascending slope of the snow-covered hillside. Inspector Narracott bent once more over the body which had been left for his inspection. An athletic man himself, he recognized the athlete’s type, the broad shoulders, narrow flanks, and the good muscular development. The head was small and well set on the shoulders, and the pointed naval beard was carefully trimmed. Captain Trevelyan’s age, he had ascertained, was sixty, but he looked not much more than fifty-one or two. ‘Ah!’ said Sergeant Pollock. The other turned on him. ‘What is your view of it?’ ‘Well—’ Sergeant Pollock scratched his head. He was a cautious man, unwilling to advance further than necessary. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘as I see it, sir, I should say that the man came to the window, forced the lock, and started rifling the room. Captain Trevelyan, I suppose, must have been upstairs. Doubtless the burglar thought the house was empty—’ ‘Where is Captain Trevelyan’s bedroom situated?’ ‘Upstairs, sir. Over this room.’ ‘At the present time of year it is dark at four o’clock. If Captain Trevelyan was up in his bedroom the electric light would have been on, the burglar would have seen it as he approached this window.’ ‘You mean he’d have waited.’ ‘No man in his senses would break into a house with a light in it. If anyone forced this window—he did it because he thought the house was empty.’ Sergeant Pollock scratched his head. ‘Seems a bit odd, I admit. But there it is.’ ‘We’ll let it pass for the moment. Go on.’ ‘Well, suppose the Captain hears a noise downstairs. He comes down to investigate. The burglar hears him coming. He snatches up that bolster arrangement, gets behind the door, and as the Captain enters the room strikes him down from behind.’ Inspector Narracott nodded. ‘Yes, that’s true enough. He was struck down when he was facing the window. But all the same, Pollock, I don’t like it.’ ‘No, sir?’ ‘No, as I say, I don’t believe in houses that are broken into at five o’clock in the afternoon.’ ‘We-ell, he may have thought it a good opportunity—’ ‘It is not a question of opportunity—slipping in because he found a window unlatched. It was deliberate house-breaking—look at the confusion everywhere—what would a burglar go for first? The pantry where the silver is kept.’ ‘That’s true enough,’ admitted the Sergeant. ‘And this confusion—this chaos,’ continued Narracott, ‘these drawers pulled out and their contents scattered. Pah! It’s bunkum.’ ‘Bunkum?’ ‘Look at the window, Sergeant. That window was not locked and forced open! It was merely shut and then splintered from the outside to give the appearance of forcing.’ Pollock examined the latch of the window closely, uttering an ejaculation to himself as he did so. ‘You are right, sir,’ he said with respect in his voice. ‘Who’d have thought of that now!’ ‘Someone who wishes to throw dust in our eyes—and hasn’t succeeded.’ Sergeant Pollock was grateful for the ‘our’. In such small ways did Inspector Narracott endear himself to his subordinates. ‘Then it wasn’t burglary. You mean, sir, it was an inside job.’ Inspector Narracott nodded. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘The only curious thing is, though, that I think the murderer did actually enter by the window. As you and Graves reported, and as I can still see for myself, there are damp patches still visible where the snow melted and was trodden in by the murderer’s boots. These damp patches are only in this room. Constable Graves was quite positive that there was nothing of the kind in the hall when he and Dr Warren passed through it. In this room he noticed them immediately. In that case it seems clear that the murderer was admitted by Captain Trevelyan through the window. Therefore it must have been someone whom Captain Trevelyan knew. You are a local man, Sergeant, can you tell me if Captain Trevelyan was a man who made enemies easily?’ ‘No, sir, I should say he hadn’t an enemy in the world. A bit keen on money, and a bit of a martinet—wouldn’t stand for any slackness or incivility—but bless my soul, he was respected for that.’ ‘No enemies,’ said Narracott thoughtfully. ‘Not here, that is.’ ‘Very true—we don’t know what enemies he may have made during his naval career. It’s my experience, Sergeant, that a man who makes enemies in one place will make them in another, but I agree that we can’t put that possibility entirely aside. We come logically now to the next motive—the most common motive for every crime—gain. Captain Trevelyan was, I understand, a rich man?’ ‘Very warm indeed by all accounts. But close. Not an easy man to touch for a subscription.’ ‘Ah!’ said Narracott thoughtfully. ‘Pity it snowed as it did,’ said the Sergeant. ‘But for that we’d have had his footprints as something to go on.’ ‘There was no one else in the house?’ asked the Inspector. ‘No. For the last five years Captain Trevelyan has only had one servant—retired naval chap. Up at Sittaford House a woman came in daily, but this chap, Evans, cooked and looked after his master. About a month ago he got married—much to the Captain’s annoyance. I believe that’s one of the reasons he let Sittaford House to this South African lady. He wouldn’t have any woman living in the house. Evans lives just round the corner here in Fore Street with his wife, and comes in daily to do for his master. I’ve got him here now for you to see. His statement is that he left here at half past two yesterday afternoon, the Captain having no further need for him.’ ‘Yes, I shall want to see him. He may be able to tell us something—useful.’ Sergeant Pollock looked at his superior officer curiously. There was something so odd about his tone. ‘You think—’ he began. ‘I think,’ said Inspector Narracott deliberately, ‘that there’s a lot more in this case than meets the eye.’ ‘In what way, sir?’ But the Inspector refused to be drawn. ‘You say this man, Evans, is here now?’ ‘He’s waiting in the dining-room.’ ‘Good. I’ll see him straight away. What sort of a fellow is he?’ Sergeant Pollock was better at reporting facts than at descriptive accuracy. ‘He’s a retired naval chap. Ugly customer in a scrap, I should say.’ ‘Does he drink?’ ‘Never been the worse for it that I know of.’ ‘What about this wife of his? Not a fancy of the Captain’s or anything of that sort?’ ‘Oh! no, sir, nothing of that kind about Captain Trevelyan. He wasn’t that kind at all. He was known as a woman hater, if anything.’ ‘And Evans was supposed to be devoted to his master?’ ‘That’s the general idea, sir, and I think it would be known if he wasn’t. Exhampton’s a small place.’ Inspector Narracott nodded. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘there’s nothing more to be seen here. I’ll interview Evans and I’ll take a look at the rest of the house and after that we will go over to the Three Crowns and see this Major Burnaby. That remark of his about the time was curious. Twenty-five past five, eh? He must know something he hasn’t told, or why should he suggest the time of the crime so accurately?’ The two men moved towards the door. ‘It’s a rum business,’ said Sergeant Pollock, his eye wandering to the littered floor. ‘All this burglary fake!’ ‘It’s not that that strikes me as odd,’ said Narracott, ‘under the circumstances it was probably the natural thing to do. No—what strikes me as odd is the window.’ ‘The window, sir?’ ‘Yes. Why should the murderer go to the window? Assuming it was someone Trevelyan knew and admitted without question, why not go to the front door? To get round to this window from the road on a night like last night would have been a difficult and unpleasant proceeding with the snow lying as thick as it does. Yet there must have been some reason.’ ‘Perhaps,’ suggested Pollock, ‘the man didn’t want to be seen turning in to the house from the road.’ ‘There wouldn’t be many people about yesterday afternoon to see him. Nobody who could help it was out of doors. No—there’s some other reason. Well, perhaps it will come to light in due course.’ Chapter 5 (#ulink_6e2dc68d-a02c-5284-a357-a3cbdf828e48) Evans (#ulink_6e2dc68d-a02c-5284-a357-a3cbdf828e48) They found Evans waiting in the dining-room. He rose respectfully on their entrance. He was a short thick-set man. He had very long arms and a habit of standing with his hands half clenched. He was clean shaven with small, rather piglike eyes, yet he had a look of cheerfulness and efficiency that redeemed his bulldog appearance. Inspector Narracott mentally tabulated his impressions. ‘Intelligent. Shrewd and practical. Looks rattled.’ Then he spoke: ‘You’re Evans, eh?’ ‘Yes, sir.’ ‘Christian names?’ ‘Robert Henry.’ ‘Ah! Now what do you know about this business?’ ‘Not a thing, sir. It’s fair knocked me over. To think of the Capting being done in!’ ‘When did you last see your master?’ ‘Two o’clock I should say it was, sir. I cleared away the lunch things and laid the table here as you see for supper. The Capting, he told me as I needn’t come back.’ ‘What do you usually do?’ ‘As a general rule, I come back about seven for a couple of hours. Not always—sometimes the Capting would say as I needn’t.’ ‘Then you weren’t surprised when he told you that yesterday you wouldn’t be wanted again?’ ‘No, sir. I didn’t come back the evening before either—on account of the weather. Very considerate gentleman, the Capting was, as long as you didn’t try to shirk things. I knew him and his ways pretty well.’ ‘What exactly did he say?’ ‘Well, he looked out of the window and he says, “Not a hope of Burnaby today”. “Shouldn’t wonder,” he says, “if Sittaford isn’t cut off altogether. Don’t remember such a winter since I was a boy.” That was his friend Major Burnaby over to Sittaford that he was referring to. Always comes on a Friday, he does, he and the Capting play chess and do acrostics. And on Tuesdays the Capting would go to Major Burnaby’s. Very regular in his habits was the Capting. Then he said to me: “You can go now, Evans, and you needn’t come till tomorrow morning.” ’ ‘Apart from his reference to Major Burnaby, he didn’t speak of expecting anyone that afternoon?’ ‘No, sir, not a word.’ ‘There was nothing unusual or different in any way in his manner?’ ‘No, sir, not that I could see.’ ‘Ah! Now I understand, Evans, that you have lately got married.’ ‘Yes, sir. Mrs Belling’s daughter at the Three Crowns. Matter of two months ago, sir.’ ‘And Captain Trevelyan was not overpleased about it.’ A very faint grin appeared for a moment on Evans’s face. ‘Cut up rough about it, he did, the Capting. My Rebecca is a fine girl, sir, and a very good cook. And I hoped we might have been able to do for the Capting together, but he—he wouldn’t hear of it. Said he wouldn’t have women servants about his house. In fact, sir, things were rather at a deadlock when this South African lady came along and wanted to take Sittaford House for the winter. The Capting he rented this place, I came in to do for him every day, and I don’t mind telling you, sir, that I had been hoping that by the end of the winter the Capting would have come round to the idea; and that me and Rebecca would go back to Sittaford with him. Why, he would never even know she was in the house. She would keep to the kitchen, and she would manage so that he would never meet her on the stairs.’ ‘Have you any idea what lay behind Captain Trevelyan’s dislike of women?’ ‘Nothing to it, sir. Just an ’abit, sir, that’s all. I have seen many a gentleman like it before. If you ask me, it’s nothing more or less than shyness. Some young lady or other gives them a snub when they are young—and they gets the ’abit.’ ‘Captain Trevelyan was not married?’ ‘No, indeed, sir.’ ‘What relations had he? Do you know?’ ‘I believe he had a sister living at Exeter, sir, and I think I have heard him mention a nephew or nephews.’ ‘None of them ever came to see him?’ ‘No, sir. I think he quarrelled with his sister at Exeter.’ ‘Do you know her name?’ ‘Gardner, I think, sir, but I wouldn’t be sure.’ ‘You don’t know her address?’ ‘I’m afraid I don’t, sir.’ ‘Well, doubtless we shall come across that in looking through Captain Trevelyan’s papers. Now, Evans, what were you yourself doing from four o’clock onwards yesterday afternoon?’ ‘I was at home, sir.’ ‘Where’s home?’ ‘Just round the corner, sir, 85 Fore Street.’ ‘You didn’t go out at all?’ ‘Not likely, sir. Why, the snow was coming down a fair treat.’ ‘Yes, yes. Is there anyone who can support your statement?’ ‘Beg pardon, sir.’ ‘Is there anyone who knows that you were at home during that time?’ ‘My wife, sir.’ ‘She and you were alone in the house?’ ‘Yes, sir.’ ‘Well, well, I have no doubt that’s all right. That will be all for the present, Evans.’ The ex-sailor hesitated. He shifted from one foot to the other. ‘Anything I can do here, sir—in the way of tidying up?’ ‘No—the whole place is to be left exactly as it is for the present.’ ‘I see.’ ‘You had better wait, though, until I have had a look round,’ said Narracott, ‘in case there might be any question I want to ask you.’ ‘Very good, sir.’ Inspector Narracott transferred his gaze from Evans to the room. The interview had taken place in the dining-room. On the table an evening meal was set out. A cold tongue, pickles, a Stilton cheese and biscuits, and on a gas ring by the fire a saucepan containing soup. On the sideboard was a tantalus, a soda water siphon, and two bottles of beer. There was also an immense array of silver cups and with them—a rather incongruous item—three very new-looking novels. Inspector Narracott examined one or two of the cups and read the inscriptions on them. ‘Bit of a sportsman, Captain Trevelyan,’ he observed. ‘Yes, indeed, sir,’ said Evans. ‘Been an athlete all his life, he had.’ Inspector Narracott read the titles of the novels. ‘Love Turns the Key’, ‘The Merry Men of Lincoln’, ‘Love’s Prisoner’. ‘H’m,’ he remarked. ‘The Captain’s taste in literature seems somewhat incongruous.’ ‘Oh! that, sir.’ Evans laughed. ‘That’s not for reading, sir. That’s the prizes he won in these Railway Pictures Names Competitions. Ten solutions the Capting sent in under different names, including mine, because he said 85 Fore Street was a likely address to give a prize to! The commoner your name and address the more likely you were to get a prize in the Capting’s opinion. And sure enough a prize I got—but not the £2,000, only three new novels—and the kind of novels, in my opinion, that no one would ever pay money for in a shop.’ Narracott smiled, then again mentioning that Evans was to wait, he proceeded on his tour of inspection. There was a large kind of cupboard in one corner of the room. It was almost a small room in itself. Here, packed in unceremoniously, were two pairs of skis, a pair of sculls mounted, ten or twelve hippopotamus tusks, rods and lines and various fishing tackle including a book of flies, a bag of golf clubs, a tennis racket, an elephant’s foot stuffed and mounted and a tiger skin. It was clear that, when Captain Trevelyan had let Sittaford House furnished, he had removed his most precious possessions, distrustful of female influence. ‘Funny idea—to bring all this with him,’ said the Inspector. ‘The house was only let for a few months, wasn’t it?’ ‘That’s right, sir.’ ‘Surely these things could have been locked up at Sittaford House?’ For the second time in the course of the interview, Evans grinned. ‘That would have been much the easiest way of doing it,’ he agreed. ‘Not that there are many cupboards at Sittaford House. The architect and the Capting planned it together, and it takes a female to understand the value of cupboard room. Still, as you say, sir, that would have been the commonsense thing to do. Carting them down here was a job—I should say it was a job! But there, the Capting couldn’t bear the idea of anyone messing around with his things. And lock things up as you will, he says, a woman will always find a way of getting in. It’s curiosity, he says. Better not lock them up at all if you don’t want her to handle them, he says. But best of all, take them along, and then you’re sure to be on the safe side. So take ’em along we did, and as I say, it was a job, and came expensive too. But there, those things of the Capting’s was like his children.’ Evans paused, out of breath. Inspector Narracott nodded thoughtfully. There was another point on which he wanted information, and it seemed to him that this was a good moment when the subject had arisen naturally. ‘This Mrs Willett,’ he said casually. ‘Was she an old friend or acquaintance of the Captain’s?’ ‘Oh no, sir, she was quite a stranger to him.’ ‘You are sure of that?’ said the Inspector, sharply. ‘Well—’ the sharpness took the old sailor aback. ‘The Capting never actually said so—but—Oh yes, I’m sure of it.’ ‘I ask,’ explained the Inspector, ‘because it is a very curious time of year for a let. On the other hand, if this Mrs Willett was acquainted with Captain Trevelyan and knew the house, she might have written to him and suggested taking it.’ Evans shook his head. ‘ ’Twas the agents—Williamsons—that wrote, said they had an offer from a lady.’ Inspector Narracott frowned. He found this business of letting Sittaford House distinctly odd. ‘Captain Trevelyan and Mrs Willett met, I suppose?’ he asked. ‘Oh! yes. She came to see the house and he took her over it.’ ‘And you’re positive they hadn’t met before?’ ‘Oh! quite, sir.’ ‘Did they—er—’ the Inspector paused, as he tried to frame the question naturally. ‘Did they get on well together? Were they friendly?’ ‘The lady was.’ A faint smile crossed Evans’s lips. ‘All over him, as you might say. Admiring the house, and asking him if he’d planned the building of it. Altogether laying it on thick, as you might say.’ ‘And the Captain?’ The smile broadened. ‘That sort of gushing lady wasn’t likely to cut any ice with him. Polite he was, but nothing more. And declined her invitations.’ ‘Invitations?’ ‘Yes, to consider the house as his own any time, and drop in, that’s how she put it—drop in. You don’t drop in to a place when you’re living six miles away.’ ‘She seemed anxious to—well—to see something of the Captain?’ Narracott was wondering. Was that the reason for the taking of the house? Was it only a prelude to the making of Captain Trevelyan’s acquaintance? Was that the real game? It would probably not have occurred to her that the Captain would have gone as far as Exhampton to live. She might have calculated on his moving into one of the small bungalows, perhaps sharing Major Burnaby’s. Evans’s answer was not very helpful. ‘She’s a very hospitable lady, by all accounts. Someone in to lunch or dinner every day.’ Narracott nodded. He could learn no more here. But he determined to seek an interview with this Mrs Willett at an early date. Her abrupt arrival needed looking into. ‘Come on, Pollock, we’ll go upstairs now,’ he said. They left Evans in the dining-room and proceeded to the upper story. ‘All right, do you think?’ asked the Sergeant in a low voice, jerking his head over his shoulder in the direction of the closed dining-room door. ‘He seems so,’ said the Inspector. ‘But one never knows. He’s no fool, that fellow, whatever else he is.’ ‘No, he’s an intelligent sort of chap.’ ‘His story seems straightforward enough,’ went on the Inspector. ‘Perfectly clear and above board. Still, as I say, one never knows.’ And with this pronouncement, very typical of his careful and suspicious mind, the Inspector proceeded to search the rooms on the first floor. There were three bedrooms and a bathroom. Two of the bedrooms were empty and had clearly not been entered for some weeks. The third, Captain Trevelyan’s own room, was in exquisite and apple-pie order. Inspector Narracott moved about in it, opening drawers and cupboards. Everything was in its right place. It was the room of a man almost fanatically tidy and neat in his habits. Narracott finished his inspection and glanced into the adjoining bathroom. Here, too, everything was in order. He gave a last glance at the bed, neatly turned down, with folded pyjamas laid ready. Then he shook his head. ‘Nothing here,’ he said. ‘No, everything seems in perfect order.’ ‘There are the papers in the desk in the study. You had better go through those, Pollock. I’ll tell Evans that he can go. I may call round and see him at his own place later.’ ‘Very good, sir.’ ‘The body can be removed. I shall want to see Warren, by the way. He lives near here, doesn’t he?’ ‘Yes, sir.’ ‘This side of the Three Crowns or the other?’ ‘The other, sir.’ ‘Then I’ll take the Three Crowns first. Carry on, Sergeant.’ Pollock went to the dining-room to dismiss Evans. The Inspector passed out of the front door and walked rapidly in the direction of the Three Crowns. Chapter 6 (#ulink_f755a297-b93b-5460-897e-85d551a09b19) At the Three Crowns (#ulink_f755a297-b93b-5460-897e-85d551a09b19) Inspector Narracott was not destined to see Major Burnaby until he had had a protracted interview with Mrs Belling—licensed proprietor of the Three Crowns. Mrs Belling was fat and excitable, and so voluble that there was nothing to be done but to listen patiently until such time as the stream of conversation should dry up. ‘And such a night as never was,’ she ended up. ‘And little did any of us think what was happening to the poor dear gentleman. Those nasty tramps—if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a dozen times, I can’t abear those nasty tramps. Do anybody in they would. The Captain had not so much as a dog to protect him. Can’t abear a dog, tramps can’t. Ah, well, you never know what is happening within a stone’s throw. ‘Yes, Mr Narracott,’ she proceeded in answer to his question, ‘the Major is having his breakfast now. You will find him in the coffee-room. And what kind of a night he has passed with no pyjamas or anything, and me a widow woman with nothing to lend him, I can’t say, I am sure. Said it made no matter he did—all upset and queer he was—and no wonder with his best friend murdered. Very nice gentlemen the two of them, though the Captain had the reputation of being close with his money. Ah, well, well, I have always thought it dangerous to live up to Sittaford, miles away from anywhere, and here’s the Captain struck down in Exhampton itself. It’s always what you don’t expect in this life that happens, isn’t it, Mr Narracott?’ The Inspector said that undoubtedly it was. Then he added: ‘Who did you have staying here yesterday, Mrs Belling? Any strangers?’ ‘Now let me see. There was Mr Moresby and Mr Jones—commercial gentlemen they are, and there was a young gentleman from London. Nobody else. It stands to reason there wouldn’t be this time of year. Very quiet here in the winter. Oh, and there was another young gentleman—arrived by the last train. Nosey young fellow I call him. He isn’t up yet.’ ‘The last train?’ said the Inspector. ‘That gets in at ten o’clock, eh? I don’t think we need trouble ourselves about him. What about the other—the one from London? Did you know him?’ ‘Never seen him before in my life. Not a commercial gentleman, oh, no—a cut above that. I can’t remember his name for the moment—but you’ll find it in the register. Left on the first train to Exeter this morning, he did. Six ten. Rather curious. What did he want down here anyway, that’s what I’d like to know.’ ‘He didn’t mention his business?’ ‘Not a word.’ ‘Did he go out at all?’ ‘Arrived at lunch time, went out about half past four and came in about twenty past six.’ ‘Where did he go when he went out?’ ‘I haven’t the remotest idea, sir. May have been just for a stroll like. That was before the snow came, but it wasn’t what you might call a pleasant day for walking.’ ‘Went out at half past four and returned about twenty past six,’ said the Inspector thoughtfully. ‘That’s rather odd. He didn’t mention Captain Trevelyan?’ Mrs Belling shook her head decisively. ‘No, Mr Narracott, he didn’t mention anybody at all. Kept himself to himself he did. A nice looking young fellow—but worried, I should say.’ The Inspector nodded and stepped across to inspect the register. ‘James Pearson, London,’ said the Inspector. ‘Well—that doesn’t tell us much. We’ll have to make a few inquiries about Mr James Pearson.’ Then he strode off to the coffee-room in search of Major Burnaby. The Major was the only occupant of the room. He was drinking some rather muddy-looking coffee and The Times was propped up in front of him. ‘Major Burnaby?’ ‘That’s my name.’ ‘I am Inspector Narracott from Exeter.’ ‘Good morning, Inspector. Any forrarder?’ ‘Yes, sir. I think we are a little forrarder. I think I can safely say that.’ ‘Glad to hear it,’ said the Major drily. His attitude was one of resigned disbelief. ‘Now there are just one or two points I would like some information on, Major Burnaby,’ said the Inspector, ‘and I think you can probably tell me what I want to know.’ ‘Do what I can,’ said Burnaby. ‘Had Captain Trevelyan any enemies to your knowledge?’ ‘Not an enemy in the world.’ Burnaby was decisive. ‘This man, Evans—do you yourself consider him trustworthy?’ ‘Should think so. Trevelyan trusted him, I know.’ ‘There was no ill feeling about this marriage of his?’ ‘Not ill feeling, no. Trevelyan was annoyed—didn’t like his habits upset. Old bachelor, you know.’ ‘Talking of bachelors, that’s another point. Captain Trevelyan was unmarried—do you know if he made a will? And in the event of there being no will, have you any idea who would inherit his estate?’ ‘Trevelyan made a will,’ said Burnaby promptly. ‘Ah—you know that.’ ‘Yes. Made me executor. Told me so.’ ‘Do you know how he left his money?’ ‘That I can’t say.’ ‘I understand he was very comfortably off?’ ‘Trevelyan was a rich man,’ replied Burnaby. ‘I should say he was much better off than anyone around here suspected.’ ‘What relations had he—do you know?’ ‘He’d a sister and some nephews and nieces, I believe. Never saw much of any of them, but there was no quarrel.’ ‘About this will, do you know where he kept it?’ ‘It’s at Walters & Kirkwood—the solicitors here in Exhampton. They drew it up for him.’ ‘Then perhaps, Major Burnaby, as you are executor, I wonder if you would come round to Walters & Kirkwood with me now. I should like to have an idea of the contents of that will as soon as possible.’ Burnaby looked up alertly. ‘What’s in the wind?’ he said. ‘What’s the will got to do with it?’ Inspector Narracott was not disposed to show his hand too soon. ‘The case isn’t such plain sailing as we thought,’ he said. ‘By the way, there’s another question I want to ask you. I understand, Major Burnaby, that you asked Dr Warren whether death had occurred at five and twenty minutes past five?’ ‘Well,’ said the Major gruffly. ‘What made you select that exact time, Major?’ ‘Why shouldn’t I?’ said Burnaby. ‘Well—something must have put it into your head.’ There was quite a pause before Major Burnaby replied. Inspector Narracott’s interest was aroused. The Major had something he quite patently wished to conceal. To watch him doing so was almost ludicrous. ‘Why shouldn’t I say twenty-five past five?’ he demanded truculently, ‘or twenty-five to six—or twenty past four, for that matter?’ ‘Quite so, sir,’ said Inspector Narracott soothingly. He did not wish to antagonize the Major just at this moment. He promised himself that he would get to the bottom of the matter before the day was out. ‘There’s one thing that strikes me as curious, sir,’ he went on. ‘Yes?’ ‘This business of the letting of Sittaford House. I don’t know what you think about it, but it seems to me a curious thing to have happened.’ ‘If you ask me,’ said Burnaby, ‘it’s damned odd.’ ‘That’s your opinion?’ ‘It’s everyone’s opinion.’ ‘In Sittaford?’ ‘In Sittaford and Exhampton too. The woman must be mad.’ ‘Well, I suppose there’s no accounting for tastes,’ said the Inspector. ‘Damned odd taste for a woman of that kind.’ ‘You know the lady?’ ‘I know her. Why, I was at her house when—’ ‘When what?’ asked Narracott as the Major came to an abrupt halt. ‘Nothing,’ said Burnaby. Inspector Narracott looked at him keenly. There was something here he would have liked to get at. The Major’s obvious confusion and embarrassment did not escape him. He had been on the point of saying—what? ‘All in good time,’ said Narracott to himself. ‘Now isn’t the moment to rub him up the wrong way.’ Aloud he said innocently: ‘You were at Sittaford House, you say, sir. The lady has been there now—about how long?’ ‘A couple of months.’ The Major was eager to escape the result of his imprudent words. It made him more loquacious than usual. ‘A widow lady with her daughter?’ ‘That’s it.’ ‘Does she give any reason for her choice of residence?’ ‘Well—’ the Major rubbed his nose dubiously. ‘She talks a lot, she’s that kind of woman—beauties of nature—out of the world—that sort of thing. But—’ He paused rather helplessly. Inspector Narracott came to his rescue. ‘It didn’t strike you as natural on her part?’ ‘Well, it’s like this. She’s a fashionable sort of woman. Dressed up to the nines—daughter’s a smart, pretty girl. Natural thing would be for them to be staying at the Ritz or Claridge’s, or some other big hotel somewhere. You know the sort.’ Narracott nodded. ‘They don’t keep themselves to themselves, do they?’ he asked. ‘You don’t think they are—well—hiding?’ Major Burnaby shook his head positively. ‘Oh! no, nothing of that kind. They’re very sociable—a bit too sociable. I mean, in a little place like Sittaford, you can’t have previous engagements, and when invitations are showered on you it’s a bit awkward. They’re exceedingly kind, hospitable people, but a bit too hospitable for English ideas.’ ‘The Colonial touch,’ said the Inspector. ‘Yes, I suppose so.’ ‘You’ve no reason to think they were previously acquainted with Captain Trevelyan?’ ‘Sure they weren’t.’ ‘You seem very positive?’ ‘Joe would have told me.’ ‘And you don’t think their motive could have been—well—to scrape acquaintance with the Captain?’ This was clearly a new idea to the Major. He pondered over it for some minutes. ‘Well, I never thought of that. They were very gushing to him, certainly. Not that they got any change out of Joe. But no, I think it was just their usual manner. Over friendly, you know, like Colonials are,’ added the super-insular soldier. ‘I see. Now, as to the house itself. Captain Trevelyan built that, I understand?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘And nobody else has ever lived in it? I mean, it’s not been let before?’ ‘Never.’ ‘Then it doesn’t seem as though it could be anything in the house itself that was the attraction. It’s a puzzle. Ten to one it’s got nothing to do with the case, but it just struck me as an odd coincidence. This house that Captain Trevelyan took, Hazelmoor, whose property was that?’ ‘Miss Larpent’s. Middle-aged woman, she’s gone to a boarding house at Cheltenham for the winter. Does every year. Usually shuts the house up, but lets it if she can, which isn’t often.’ There seemed nothing promising there. The Inspector shook his head in a discouraged fashion. ‘Williamsons were the agents, I understand?’ he said. ‘Yes.’ ‘Their office is in Exhampton?’ ‘Next door to Walters & Kirkwood.’ ‘Ah! then, perhaps, if you don’t mind, Major, we might just drop in on our way.’ ‘Not at all. You won’t find Kirkwood at his office before ten anyway. You know what lawyers are.’ ‘Then, shall we go?’ The Major, who had finished his breakfast some time ago, nodded assent and rose. Chapter 7 (#ulink_1b2bdc87-a07e-5ef0-8af2-30cfe0a9a611) The Will (#ulink_1b2bdc87-a07e-5ef0-8af2-30cfe0a9a611) An alert-looking young man rose to receive them in the office of Messrs Williamson. ‘Good morning, Major Burnaby.’ ‘Morning.’ ‘Terrible business, this,’ said the young man chattily. ‘Not been such a thing in Exhampton for years.’ He spoke with gusto and the Major winced. ‘This is Inspector Narracott,’ he said. ‘Oh! yes,’ said the young man pleasurably excited. ‘I want some information that I think you can give me,’ said the Inspector. ‘I understand that you put through this let of Sittaford House.’ ‘To Mrs Willett? Yes, we did.’ ‘Can you give me full details, please, of how that came about. Did the lady apply personally, or by letter?’ ‘By letter. She wrote, let me see—’ He opened a drawer and turned up a file. ‘Yes, from the Carlton Hotel, London.’ ‘Did she mention Sittaford House by name?’ ‘No, she merely said she wanted to rent a house for the winter, it must be right on Dartmoor and have at least eight bedrooms. Being near a railway station or town was of no consequence.’ ‘Was Sittaford House on your books?’ ‘No, it was not. But as a matter of fact it was the only house in the neighbourhood that at all fulfilled the requirements. The lady mentioned in her letter that she would be willing to go to twelve guineas, and in these circumstances I thought it worth while writing to Captain Trevelyan and asking whether he would consider letting. He replied in the affirmative, and we fixed the thing up.’ ‘Without Mrs Willett seeing the house?’ ‘She agreed to take it without seeing it, and signed the agreement. Then she came down here one day, drove up to Sittaford, saw Captain Trevelyan, arranged with him about plate and linen, etc., and saw over the house.’ ‘She was quite satisfied?’ ‘She came in and said she was delighted with it.’ ‘And what did you think?’ asked Inspector Narracott, eyeing him keenly. The young man shrugged his shoulders. ‘You learn never to be surprised at anything in the house business,’ he said. On this note of philosophy they left, the Inspector thanking the young man for his help. ‘Not at all, a pleasure, I’m sure.’ He accompanied them politely to the door. The offices of Messrs Walters and Kirkwood were, as Major Burnaby had said, next door to the estate agents. On reaching there, they were told that Mr Kirkwood had just arrived and they were shown into his room. Mr Kirkwood was an elderly man with a benign expression. He was a native of Exhampton and had succeeded his father and grandfather in the firm. He rose, put on his mourning face, and shook hands with the Major. ‘Good morning, Major Burnaby,’ he said. ‘This is a very shocking affair. Very shocking indeed. Poor Trevelyan.’ He looked inquiringly at Narracott and Major Burnaby explained his presence in a few succinct words. ‘You are in charge of the case, Inspector Narracott?’ ‘Yes, Mr Kirkwood. In pursuance of my investigations, I have come to ask you for certain information.’ ‘I shall be happy to give you any information if it is proper for me to do so,’ said the lawyer. ‘It concerns the late Captain Trevelyan’s will,’ said Narracott. ‘I understand the will is here in your office.’ ‘That is so.’ ‘It was made some time ago?’ ‘Five or six years ago. I cannot be sure of the exact date at the moment.’ ‘Ah! I am anxious, Mr Kirkwood, to know the contents of that will as soon as possible. It may have an important bearing on the case.’ ‘Indeed?’ said the lawyer. ‘Indeed! I should not have thought that, but naturally you know your own business best, Inspector. Well—’ he glanced across at the other man. ‘Major Burnaby and myself are joint executors of the will. If he has no objection—’ ‘None.’ ‘Then I see no reason why I should not accede to your request, Inspector.’ Taking a telephone that stood on his desk he spoke a few words down it. In two or three minutes a clerk entered the room and laid a sealed envelope in front of the lawyer. The clerk left the room, Mr Kirkwood picked up the envelope, slit it open with a paper knife and drew out a large and important-looking document, cleared his throat and began to read— ‘I, Joseph Arthur Trevelyan, of Sittaford House, Sittaford, in the County of Devon, declare this to be my last will and testament which I make this thirteenth day of August nineteen hundred and twenty-six. ‘(1) I appoint John Edward Burnaby of 1 The Cottages, Sittaford, and Frederick Kirkwood of Exhampton, to be the executors and trustees of this, my will. ‘(2) I give to Robert Henry Evans, who has served me long and faithfully, the sum of £100 (one hundred pounds) free of legacy duty for his own benefit absolutely, provided that he is in my service at the time of my death and not under notice to leave whether given or received. ‘(3) I give the said John Edward Burnaby, as a token of our friendship and of my affection and regard for him, all my trophies of sport, including my collection of heads and pelts of big game as well as any challenge cups and prizes awarded to me in any department of sport and any spoils of the chase in my possession. ‘(4) I give all my real and personal property, not otherwise disposed of by this, my will, or any codicil hereto, to my Trustees upon Trust that my Trustees shall sell, call in and convert the same into money. ‘(5) My Trustees shall out of the moneys to arise out of such sale, calling in and conversion pay any funeral and testamentary expenses and debts, and the legacies given by this, my will, or any codicil hereto and all death duties and other moneys. ‘(6) My Trustees shall hold the residue of such moneys or the investments for the time being, representing the same upon Trust to divide the same into four equal parts or shares. ‘(7) Upon such division as aforesaid my Trustees shall hold one such equal fourth part or share upon Trust to pay the same to my sister Jennifer Gardner for her own use and enjoyment absolutely. ‘And my Trustees shall hold the remaining three such equal fourth parts or shares upon Trust to pay one such equal fourth part or share to each of the three children of my deceased sister, Mary Pearson, for the benefit of each such child absolutely. ‘In Witness whereof I, the said Joseph Arthur Trevelyan, have hereunto set my hand the day and year first above written. ‘Signed by the above names Testator as his last will in the presence of us both present at the same time, who in his presence and at his request and in the presence of each other have hereunto subscribed our names as witness.’ Mr Kirkwood handed the document to the Inspector. ‘Witnessed by two of my clerks in this office.’ The Inspector ran his eye over the will thoughtfully. ‘My deceased sister, Mary Pearson,’ he said. ‘Can you tell me anything about Mrs Pearson, Mr Kirkwood?’ ‘Very little. She died about ten years ago, I believe. Her husband, a stockbroker, had predeceased her. As far as I know, she never visited Captain Trevelyan here.’ ‘Pearson,’ said the Inspector again. Then he added: ‘One thing more. The amount of Captain Trevelyan’s estate is not mentioned. To what sum do you think it will amount?’ ‘That is difficult to say exactly,’ said Mr Kirkwood, enjoying, like all lawyers, making the reply to a simple question difficult. ‘It is a question of real or personal estate. Besides Sittaford House, Captain Trevelyan owns some property in the neighbourhood of Plymouth, and various investments he made from time to time have fluctuated in value.’ ‘I just want an approximate idea,’ said Inspector Narracott. ‘I should not like to commit myself—’ ‘Just the roughest estimate as a guide. For instance would twenty thousand pounds be out of the way?’ ‘Twenty thousand pounds. My dear sir! Captain Trevelyan’s estate will be worth at least four times as much as that. Eighty or even ninety thousand pounds will be much nearer the mark.’ ‘I told you Trevelyan was a rich man,’ said Burnaby. Inspector Narracott rose. ‘Thank you very much, Mr Kirkwood,’ he said, ‘for the information you have given me.’ ‘You think you will find it helpful, eh?’ The lawyer very clearly was agog with curiosity, but Inspector Narracott was in no mood to satisfy it at present. ‘In a case like this we have to take everything into account,’ he said, noncommittally. ‘By the way, have you the names and addresses of this Jennifer Gardner and of the Pearson family?’ ‘I know nothing of the Pearson family. Mrs Gardner’s address is The Laurels, Waldon Road, Exeter.’ The Inspector noted it down in his book. ‘That will do to get on with,’ he said. ‘You don’t know how many children the late Mrs Pearson left?’ ‘Three, I fancy. Two girls and a boy—or possibly two boys and a girl—I cannot remember which.’ The Inspector nodded and put away his notebook and thanked the lawyer once more and took his departure. When they had reached the street, he turned suddenly and faced his companion. ‘And now, sir,’ he said, ‘we’ll have the truth about the twenty-five past five business.’ Major Burnaby’s face reddened with annoyance. ‘I have told you already—’ ‘That won’t go down with me. Withholding information, that is what you are doing, Major Burnaby. You must have had some idea in mentioning that specific time to Dr Warren—and I think I have a very good idea of what that something is.’ ‘Well, if you know about it, why ask me?’ growled the Major. ‘I take it that you were aware that a certain person had an appointment with Captain Trevelyan somewhere about that time. Now, isn’t that so?’ Major Burnaby stared at him in surprise. ‘Nothing of the kind,’ he snarled, ‘nothing of the kind.’ ‘Be careful, Major Burnaby. What about Mr James Pearson?’ ‘James Pearson? James Pearson, who’s he? Do you mean one of Trevelyan’s nephews?’ ‘I presume it would be a nephew. He had one called James, hadn’t he?’ ‘Not the least idea. Trevelyan had nephews—I know that. But what their names were, I haven’t the vaguest idea.’ ‘The young man in question was at the Three Crowns last night. You probably recognized him there.’ ‘I didn’t recognize anybody,’ growled the Major. ‘Shouldn’t anyway—never saw any of Trevelyan’s nephews in my life.’ ‘But you knew that Captain Trevelyan was expecting a nephew to call upon him yesterday afternoon?’ ‘I did not,’ roared the Major. Several people in the street turned round to stare at him. ‘Damn it, won’t you take plain truth! I knew nothing about any appointment. Trevelyan’s nephews may have been in Timbuctoo for all I knew about them.’ Inspector Narracott was a little taken aback. The Major’s vehement denial bore the mark of truth too plainly for him to be deceived. ‘Then why this twenty-five past five business?’ ‘Oh! well—I suppose I had better tell you,’ the Major coughed in an embarrassed fashion. ‘But mind you—the whole thing is damned foolishness! Tommy rot, sir. How any thinking man can believe such nonsense!’ Inspector Narracott looked more and more surprised. Major Burnaby was looking more uncomfortable and ashamed of himself every minute. ‘You know what it is, Inspector. You have to join in these things to please a lady. Of course, I never thought there was anything in it.’ ‘In what, Major Burnaby?’ ‘Table-turning.’ ‘Table-turning?’ Whatever Narracott had expected he had not expected this. The Major proceeded to explain himself. Haltingly, and with many disclaimers of his own belief in the thing, he described the events of the previous afternoon and the message that had purported to come through for himself. ‘You mean, Major Burnaby, that the table spelt out the name of Trevelyan and informed you that he was dead—murdered?’ Major Burnaby wiped his forehead. ‘Yes, that’s what happened. I didn’t believe in it—naturally, I didn’t believe in it.’ He looked ashamed. ‘Well—it was Friday and I thought after all I would make sure and go along and see if everything was all right.’ The Inspector reflected on the difficulties of that six mile walk, with the piled-up snowdrifts and the prospect of a heavy snowfall, and he realized that deny it as he would Major Burnaby must have been deeply impressed by the spirit message. Narracott turned it over in his mind. A queer thing to happen—a very queer thing to happen. The sort of thing you couldn’t explain satisfactorily. There might be something in this spirit business after all. It was the first well-authenticated case he had come across. A very queer business altogether but, as far as he could see, though it explained Major Burnaby’s attitude, it had no practical bearing on the case as far as he himself was concerned. He had to deal with the physical world and not the psychic. It was his job to track down the murderer. And to do that he required no guidance from the spirit world. Chapter 8 (#ulink_cc194d76-48b2-540c-993f-e2be6c090ed2) Mr Charles Enderby (#ulink_cc194d76-48b2-540c-993f-e2be6c090ed2) Glancing at his watch, the Inspector realized he could just catch the train for Exeter if he hurried off. He was anxious to interview the late Captain Trevelyan’s sister as soon as possible and obtain from her the addresses of the other members of the family. So, with a hurried word of farewell to Major Burnaby, he raced off to the station. The Major retraced his steps to the Three Crowns. He had hardly put a foot across the doorstep when he was accosted by a bright young man with a very shiny head and a round, boyish face. ‘Major Burnaby?’ said the young man. ‘Yes.’ ‘Of No. I Sittaford Cottages?’ ‘Yes,’ said Major Burnaby. ‘I represent the Daily Wire,’ said the young man, ‘and I—’ He got no further. In true military fashion of the old school, the Major exploded. ‘Not another word,’ he roared. ‘I know you and your kind. No decency. No reticence. Clustering round a murder like vultures round a carcass, but I can tell you, young man, you will get no information from me. Not a word. No story for your damned paper. If you want to know anything, go and ask the police, and have the decency to leave the friends of the dead man alone.’ The young man seemed not a whit taken aback. He smiled more encouragingly than ever. ‘I say, sir, you know you have got hold of the wrong end of the stick. I know nothing about this murder business.’ This was not, strictly speaking, the truth. No one in Exhampton could pretend ignorance of the event that had shaken the quiet moorland town to its core. ‘I am empowered on behalf of the Daily Wire,’ went on the young man, ‘to hand you this cheque for £5,000 and congratulate you on sending in the only correct solution of our football competition.’ Major Burnaby was completely taken aback. ‘I have no doubt,’ continued the young man, ‘that you have already received our letter yesterday morning informing you of the good news.’ ‘Letter?’ said Major Burnaby. ‘Do you realize, young man, that Sittaford is about ten feet deep in snow? What chance do you think we have had in the last few days of a regular delivery of letters?’ ‘But doubtless you saw your name announced as winner in the Daily Wire, this morning?’ ‘No,’ said Major Burnaby. ‘I haven’t glanced at the paper this morning.’ ‘Ah! of course not,’ said the young man. ‘This sad business. The murdered man was a friend of yours, I understand.’ ‘My best friend,’ said the Major. ‘Hard lines,’ said the young man tactfully averting his eyes. Then he drew from his pocket a small folded piece of mauve paper and handed it to Major Burnaby with a bow. ‘With the compliments of the Daily Wire,’ he said. Major Burnaby took it and said the only thing possible under the circumstances. ‘Have a drink, Mr—er—?’ ‘Enderby, Charles Enderby my name is. I got here last night,’ he explained. ‘Made inquiries about getting to Sittaford. We make it a point to hand cheques to winners personally. Always publish a little interview. Interests our readers. Well, everyone told me it was out of the question—the snow was falling and it simply couldn’t be done, and then with the greatest good luck I find you are actually here, staying at the Three Crowns.’ He smiled. ‘No difficulty about identification. Everybody seems to know everybody else in this part of the world.’ ‘What will you have?’ said the Major. ‘Beer for me,’ said Enderby. The Major ordered two beers. ‘The whole place seems off its head with this murder,’ remarked Enderby. ‘Rather a mysterious business by all accounts.’ The Major grunted. He was in something of a quandary. His sentiments towards journalists remained unchanged, but a man who has just handed you a cheque for £5,000 is in a privileged position. You cannot very well tell him to go to the devil. ‘No enemies, had he?’ asked the young man. ‘No,’ said the Major. ‘But I hear the police don’t think it is robbery,’ went on Enderby. ‘How do you know that?’ asked the Major. Mr Enderby, however, did not reveal the source of his information. ‘I hear it was you who actually discovered the body, sir,’ said the young man. ‘Yes.’ ‘It must have been an awful shock.’ The conversation proceeded. Major Burnaby was still determined to give no information, but he was no match for the adroitness of Mr Enderby. The latter made statements with which the Major was forced to agree or disagree, thereby providing the information the young man wanted. So pleasant was his manner, however, that the process was really not painful at all and the Major found himself taking quite a liking to the ingenuous young man. Presently, Mr Enderby rose and observed that he must go along to the post office. ‘If you will just give me a receipt for that cheque, sir.’ The Major went across to the writing table, wrote a receipt and handed it to him. ‘Splendid,’ said the young man and slipped it into his pocket. ‘I suppose,’ said Major Burnaby, ‘that you are off back to London today?’ ‘Oh! no,’ said the young man. ‘I want to take a few photographs, you know, of your cottage at Sittaford, and of you feeding the pigs, or hoeing up the dandelions, or doing anything characteristic that you fancy. You have no idea how our readers appreciate that sort of thing. Then I would like to have a few words from you on “What I intend to do with the £5,000”. Something snappy. You have no idea how disappointed our readers would be if they didn’t get that sort of thing.’ ‘Yes, but look here—it’s impossible to get to Sittaford in this weather. The fall of snow was exceptionally heavy. No vehicle has been able to take the road for three days anyway, and it may be another three before the thaw sets in properly.’ ‘I know,’ said the young man, ‘it is awkward. Well, well, one will just have to resign oneself to kicking up one’s heels in Exhampton. They do you pretty well at the Three Crowns. So long, sir, see you later.’ He emerged into the main street of Exhampton and made his way to the post office and wired his paper that by the greatest of good luck he would be able to supply them with tasty and exclusive information on the Exhampton Murder Case. He reflected on his next course of action and decided on interviewing the late Captain Trevelyan’s servant, Evans, whose name Major Burnaby had incautiously let slip during their conversation. A few inquiries brought him to 85 Fore Street. The servant of the murdered man was a person of importance today. Everyone was willing and anxious to point out where he lived. Enderby beat a smart rat-tat on the door. It was opened by a man so typically an ex-sailor that Enderby had no doubt of his identity. ‘Evans, isn’t it?’ said Enderby cheerfully. ‘I have just come along from Major Burnaby.’ ‘Oh—’ Evans hesitated a moment. ‘Will you come in, sir.’ Enderby accepted the invitation. A buxom young woman with dark hair and red cheeks hovered in the background. Enderby judged her as the newly-wed Mrs Evans. ‘Bad thing about your late master,’ said Enderby. ‘It’s shocking, sir, that’s what it is.’ ‘Who do you think did it?’ demanded Enderby with an ingenuous air of seeking information. ‘One of those low-down tramps, I suppose,’ said Evans. ‘Oh! no, my dearman. That theory is quite exploded.’ ‘Eh?’ ‘That’s all a put-up job. The police saw through that at once.’ ‘Who told you that, sir?’ Enderby’s real informant had been the housemaid at the Three Crowns whose sister was the legal spouse of Constable Graves, but he replied: ‘Had a tip from headquarters. Yes, the burglary idea was all a put-up job.’ ‘Who do they think did it then?’ demanded Mrs Evans, coming forward. Her eyes looked frightened and eager. ‘Now, Rebecca, don’t you take on so,’ said her husband. ‘Cruel stupid the police are,’ said Mrs Evans. ‘Don’t mind who they take up as long as they get hold of someone.’ She cast a quick glance at Enderby. ‘Are you connected with the police, sir?’ ‘Me? Oh! no. I am from a newspaper, the Daily Wire. I came down to see Major Burnaby. He has just won our Free Football Competition for £5,000.’ ‘What?’ cried Evans. ‘Damn it all, then those things are square after all.’ ‘Didn’t you think they were?’ asked Enderby. ‘Well, it’s a wicked world, sir.’ Evans was a little confused, feeling that his exclamation had been wanting in tact. ‘I have heard there’s a lot of trickery concerned. The late Capting used to say that a prize never went to a good address. That’s why he used mine time and again.’ With a certain naïveté he described the Captain’s winning of three new novels. Enderby encouraged him to talk. He saw a very good story being made out of Evans. The faithful servant—old sea dog touch. He wondered just a little why Mrs Evans seemed so nervous, he put it down to the suspicious ignorance of her class. ‘You find the skunk that done it,’ said Evans. ‘Newspapers can do a lot, they say, in hunting down criminals.’ ‘It was a burglar,’ said Mrs Evans. ‘That’s what it was.’ ‘Of course, it was a burglar,’ said Evans. ‘Why, there’s no one in Exhampton would want to harm the Capting.’ Enderby rose. ‘Well,’ he said. ‘I must be going. I will run in now and then and have a little chat if I may. If the Captain won three new novels in a Daily Wire Competition, the Daily Wire ought to make it a personal matter to hunt down his murderer.’ ‘You can’t say fairer than that, sir. No, you can’t say fairer than that.’ Конец ознакомительного фрагмента. Текст предоставлен ООО «ЛитРес». Прочитайте эту книгу целиком, купив полную легальную версию (https://www.litres.ru/agata-kristi/the-sittaford-mystery/?lfrom=334617187) на ЛитРес. 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