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The Complete Quin and Satterthwaite

The Complete Quin and Satterthwaite
The Complete Quin and Satterthwaite Agatha Christie A brand new ebook omnibus featuring Agatha Christie’s favourite characters: Messrs Quin and Satterthwaite.Harley Quin is an enigma. He appears and disappears unexpectedly – and usually by strange tricks of the light caused by stained-glass windows or flickering firelight. His background, family and friends are all a mystery – his almost supernatural powers of detection are, however, very real.Mr Satterthwaite is altogether more normal – fundamentally a snob, he lives the carefree lifestyle of a bachelor whilst indulging his hobbies. Yet, beneath this facade is a deep vein of loneliness that compels him to observe everyone and everything.Together they are an unstoppable, crime-fighting tour de force – Sattherthwaite’s skills of observation are honed by Quin’s subtle questioning, bringing to light the most pertinent clues in any crime. With each acting as a catalyst for the other, the criminal fraternity had best beware…This volume brings all the Quin and Satterthwaite novels and short stories together for the first time, and showcases the pair’s talents in a way that clearly explains why Agatha Christie herself was so fond of her creations: ‘The Love Detectives’.Contains:The Mysterious Mr QuinThree-Act TragedyDead Man’s MirrorThe Love DetectivesThe Harlequin Tea Set AGATHA CHRISTIE The Complete Quin and Satterthwaite Copyright (#ulink_3c3bf8b5-8e7d-5ff4-bc58-8b1cb869d198) Published by HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 1 London Bridge Street London SE1 9GF www.harpercollins.co.uk (http://www.harpercollins.co.uk) This collection © Agatha Christie Limited 2004 www.agathachristie.com (http://www.agathachristie.com) The Mysterious Mr. Quin © Agatha Christie Limited 1930 Three Act Tragedy © Agatha Christie Limited 1934 Dead Man’s Mirror © Agatha Christie Limited 1937 The Love Detectives © Agatha Christie Limited 1926,1950 The Harlequin Tea Set © Agatha Christie Limited 1971 Cover photograph © Johner/Photonica Agatha Christie asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work. A catalogue copy of this book is available from the British Library. This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the nonexclusive, nontransferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, 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 e-books. 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 technological constraints in operation at the time of publication. Source ISBN: 9780007171156 Ebook Edition © 2011 ISBN: 9780007562657 Version: 2017-04-13 Contents Cover (#ud8fa935b-fe4a-5aef-bcb9-51870cc74e4d) Title Page (#u97b746a5-3c7d-5897-818e-4a0f72d70ee5) Copyright (#uef469298-b21f-5e27-b890-2edfc7b29233) The Mysterious Mr. Quin (#u61449e6b-7198-592a-88d0-d29296afd461) Three Act Tragedy (#litres_trial_promo) Dead Man’s Mirror (#litres_trial_promo) The Love Detectives (#litres_trial_promo) The Harlequin Tea Set (#litres_trial_promo) Keep Reading … (#litres_trial_promo) About the Author (#litres_trial_promo) Also by the Author (#litres_trial_promo) About the Publisher (#litres_trial_promo) The Mysterious Mr. Quin (#ulink_4ba7acef-d17e-5dfb-8792-3967f53662ad) Contents Title Page (#u61449e6b-7198-592a-88d0-d29296afd461) Author’s Foreword (#ulink_d444d505-de7a-58b0-9d47-8794dc9dddbe) 1. The Coming of Mr Quin (#ulink_8ede36b4-4354-59af-914e-5681c887eba3) 2. The Shadow on the Glass (#ulink_2d9e0c2d-1848-5c64-b765-ce8d8da9f01d) 3. At the ‘Bells and Motley’ (#ulink_85c6d896-0278-5495-9404-3dfebf924650) 4. The Sign in the Sky (#ulink_14e898e3-16ed-5389-96c5-aaa77e5c7bb1) 5. The Soul of the Croupier (#ulink_8d5f2f3b-cc1e-5516-9441-a28b363f5544) 6. The Man from the Sea (#ulink_51bd7c0e-a801-56bd-a345-879b2b078003) 7. The Voice in the Dark (#ulink_49d329d4-cc6d-5f89-9a84-defef5cf78ac) 8. The Face of Helen (#litres_trial_promo) 9. The Dead Harlequin (#litres_trial_promo) 10. The Bird with the Broken Wing (#litres_trial_promo) 11. The World’s End (#litres_trial_promo) 12. Harlequin’s Lane (#litres_trial_promo) Author’s Foreword (#ulink_06376024-81dc-5bdf-9fe8-60b0c87b9a23) The Mr Quin stories were not written as a series. They were written one at a time at rare intervals. Mr Quin, I consider, is an epicure’s taste. A set of Dresden figures on my mother’s mantelpiece fascinated me as a child and afterwards. They represented the Italian commedia dell’arte: Harlequin, Columbine, Pierrot, Pierette, Punchinello, and Punchinella. As a girl I wrote a series of poems about them, and I rather think that one of the poems, Harlequin’s Song, was my first appearance in print. It was in the Poetry Review, and I got a guinea for it! After I turned from poetry and ghost stories to crime, Harlequin finally reappeared; a figure invisible except when he chose, not quite human, yet concerned with the affairs of human beings and particularly of lovers. He is also the advocate for the dead. Though each story about him is quite separate, yet the collection, written over a considerable period of years, outlines in the end the story of Harlequin himself. With Mr Quin there has been created little Mr Satterthwaite, Mr Quin’s friend in this mortal world: Mr Satterthwaite, the gossip, the looker-on at life, the little man who without ever touching the depths of joy and sorrow himself, recognizes drama when he sees it, and is conscious that he has a part to play. Of the Mr Quin stories, my favourites are: World’s End, The Man from the Sea, and Harlequin’s Lane. AGATHA CHRISTIE 1953 1 The Coming of Mr Quin (#ulink_37f777de-e41f-57c4-826e-9aba1f2cc87c) ‘The Coming of Mr Quin’ was first published as ‘The Passing of Mr Quinn’ in Grand Magazine, March 1923. It was New Year’s Eve. The elder members of the house party at Royston were assembled in the big hall. Mr Satterthwaite was glad that the young people had gone to bed. He was not fond of young people in herds. He thought them uninteresting and crude. They lacked subtlety and as life went on he had become increasingly fond of subtleties. Mr Satterthwaite was sixty-two – a little bent, dried-up man with a peering face oddly elflike, and an intense and inordinate interest in other people’s lives. All his life, so to speak, he had sat in the front row of the stalls watching various dramas of human nature unfold before him. His role had always been that of the onlooker. Only now, with old age holding him in its clutch, he found himself increasingly critical of the drama submitted to him. He demanded now something a little out of the common. There was no doubt that he had a flair for these things. He knew instinctively when the elements of drama were at hand. Like a war horse, he sniffed the scent. Since his arrival at Royston this afternoon, that strange inner sense of his had stirred and bid him be ready. Something interesting was happening or going to happen. The house party was not a large one. There was Tom Evesham, their genial good-humoured host, and his serious political wife who had been before her marriage Lady Laura Keene. There was Sir Richard Conway, soldier, traveller and sportsman, there were six or seven young people whose names Mr Satterthwaite had not grasped and there were the Portals. It was the Portals who interested Mr Satterthwaite. He had never met Alex Portal before, but he knew all about him. Had known his father and his grandfather. Alex Portal ran pretty true to type. He was a man of close on forty, fair-haired, and blue-eyed like all the Portals, fond of sport, good at games, devoid of imagination. Nothing unusual about Alex Portal. The usual good sound English stock. But his wife was different. She was, Mr Satterthwaite knew, an Australian. Portal had been out in Australia two years ago, had met her out there and had married her and brought her home. She had never been to England previous to her marriage. All the same, she wasn’t at all like any other Australian woman Mr Satterthwaite had met. He observed her now, covertly. Interesting woman – very. So still, and yet so – alive. Alive! That was just it! Not exactly beautiful – no, you wouldn’t call her beautiful, but there was a kind of calamitous magic about her that you couldn’t miss – that no man could miss. The masculine side of Mr Satterthwaite spoke there, but the feminine side (for Mr Satterthwaite had a large share of femininity) was equally interested in another question. Why did Mrs Portal dye her hair? No other man would probably have known that she dyed her hair, but Mr Satterthwaite knew. He knew all those things. And it puzzled him. Many dark women dye their hair blonde; he had never before come across a fair woman who dyed her hair black. Everything about her intrigued him. In a queer intuitive way, he felt certain that she was either very happy or very unhappy – but he didn’t know which, and it annoyed him not to know. Furthermore there was the curious effect she had upon her husband. ‘He adores her,’ said Mr Satterthwaite to himself, ‘but sometimes he’s – yes, afraid of her! That’s very interesting. That’s uncommonly interesting.’ Portal drank too much. That was certain. And he had a curious way of watching his wife when she wasn’t looking. ‘Nerves,’ said Mr Satterthwaite. ‘The fellow’s all nerves. She knows it too, but she won’t do anything about it.’ He felt very curious about the pair of them. Something was going on that he couldn’t fathom. He was roused from his meditations on the subject by the solemn chiming of the big clock in the corner. ‘Twelve o’clock,’ said Evesham. ‘New Year’s Day. Happy New Year – everybody. As a matter of fact that clock’s five minutes fast … I don’t know why the children wouldn’t wait up and see the New Year in?’ ‘I don’t suppose for a minute they’ve really gone to bed,’ said his wife placidly. ‘They’re probably putting hairbrushes or something in our beds. That sort of thing does so amuse them. I can’t think why. We should never have been allowed to do such a thing in my young days.’ ‘Autre temps, autres moeurs,’ said Conway, smiling. He was a tall soldierly-looking man. Both he and Evesham were much of the same type – honest upright kindly men with no great pretensions to brains. ‘In my young days we all joined hands in a circle and sang “Auld Lang Syne”,’ continued Lady Laura. ‘“Should auld acquaintance be forgot” – so touching, I always think the words are.’ Evesham moved uneasily. ‘Oh! drop it, Laura,’ he muttered. ‘Not here.’ He strode across the wide hall where they were sitting, and switched on an extra light. ‘Very stupid of me,’ said Lady Laura, sotto voce. ‘Reminds him of poor Mr Capel, of course. My dear, is the fire too hot for you?’ Eleanor Portal made a brusque movement. ‘Thank you. I’ll move my chair back a little.’ What a lovely voice she had – one of those low murmuring echoing voices that stay in your memory, thought Mr Satterthwaite. Her face was in shadow now. What a pity. From her place in the shadow she spoke again. ‘Mr – Capel?’ ‘Yes. The man who originally owned this house. He shot himself you know – oh! very well, Tom dear, I won’t speak of it unless you like. It was a great shock for Tom, of course, because he was here when it happened. So were you, weren’t you, Sir Richard?’ ‘Yes, Lady Laura.’ An old grandfather clock in the corner groaned, wheezed, snorted asthmatically, and then struck twelve. ‘Happy New Year, Tom,’ grunted Evesham perfunctorily. Lady Laura wound up her knitting with some deliberation. ‘Well, we’ve seen the New Year in,’ she observed, and added, looking towards Mrs Portal, ‘What do you think, my dear?’ Eleanor Portal rose quickly to her feet. ‘Bed, by all means,’ she said lightly. ‘She’s very pale,’ thought Mr Satterthwaite, as he too rose, and began busying himself with candlesticks. ‘She’s not usually as pale as that.’ He lighted her candle and handed it to her with a funny little old-fashioned bow. She took it from him with a word of acknowledgment and went slowly up the stairs. Suddenly a very odd impulse swept over Mr Satterthwaite. He wanted to go after her – to reassure her – he had the strangest feeling that she was in danger of some kind. The impulse died down, and he felt ashamed. He was getting nervy too. She hadn’t looked at her husband as she went up the stairs, but now she turned her head over her shoulder and gave him a long searching glance which had a queer intensity in it. It affected Mr Satterthwaite very oddly. He found himself saying goodnight to his hostess in quite a flustered manner. ‘I’m sure I hope it will be a happy New Year,’ Lady Laura was saying. ‘But the political situation seems to me to be fraught with grave uncertainty.’ ‘I’m sure it is,’ said Mr Satterthwaite earnestly. ‘I’m sure it is.’ ‘I only hope,’ continued Lady Laura, without the least change of manner, ‘that it will be a dark man who first crosses the threshold. You know that superstition, I suppose, Mr Satterthwaite? No? You surprise me. To bring luck to the house it must be a dark man who first steps over the door step on New Year’s Day. Dear me, I hope I shan’t find anything very unpleasant in my bed. I never trust the children. They have such very high spirits.’ Shaking her head in sad foreboding, Lady Laura moved majestically up the staircase. With the departure of the women, chairs were pulled in closer round the blazing logs on the big open hearth. ‘Say when,’ said Evesham, hospitably, as he held up the whisky decanter. When everybody had said when, the talk reverted to the subject which had been tabooed before. ‘You knew Derek Capel, didn’t you, Satterthwaite?’ asked Conway. ‘Slightly – yes.’ ‘And you, Portal?’ ‘No, I never met him.’ So fiercely and defensively did he say it, that Mr Satterthwaite looked up in surprise. ‘I always hate it when Laura brings up the subject,’ said Evesham slowly. ‘After the tragedy, you know, this place was sold to a big manufacturer fellow. He cleared out after a year – didn’t suit him or something. A lot of tommy rot was talked about the place being haunted of course, and it gave the house a bad name. Then, when Laura got me to stand for West Kidleby, of course it meant living up in these parts, and it wasn’t so easy to find a suitable house. Royston was going cheap, and – well, in the end I bought it. Ghosts are all tommy rot, but all the same one doesn’t exactly care to be reminded that you’re living in a house where one of your own friends shot himself. Poor old Derek – we shall never know why he did it.’ ‘He won’t be the first or the last fellow who’s shot himself without being able to give a reason,’ said Alex Portal heavily. He rose and poured himself out another drink, splashing the whisky in with a liberal hand. ‘There’s something very wrong with him,’ said Mr Satterthwaite, to himself. ‘Very wrong indeed. I wish I knew what it was all about.’ ‘Gad!’ said Conway. ‘Listen to the wind. It’s a wild night.’ ‘A good night for ghosts to walk,’ said Portal with a reckless laugh. ‘All the devils in Hell are abroad tonight.’ ‘According to Lady Laura, even the blackest of them would bring us luck,’ observed Conway, with a laugh. ‘Hark to that!’ The wind rose in another terrific wail, and as it died away there came three loud knocks on the big nailed doorway. Everyone started. ‘Who on earth can that be at this time of night?’ cried Evesham. They stared at each other. ‘I will open it,’ said Evesham. ‘The servants have gone to bed.’ He strode across to the door, fumbled a little over the heavy bars, and finally flung it open. An icy blast of wind came sweeping into the hall. Framed in the doorway stood a man’s figure, tall and slender. To Mr Satterthwaite, watching, he appeared by some curious effect of the stained glass above the door, to be dressed in every colour of the rainbow. Then, as he stepped forward, he showed himself to be a thin dark man dressed in motoring clothes. ‘I must really apologize for this intrusion,’ said the stranger, in a pleasant level voice. ‘But my car broke down. Nothing much, my chauffeur is putting it to rights, but it will take half an hour or so, and it is so confoundedly cold outside –’ He broke off, and Evesham took up the thread quickly. ‘I should think it was. Come in and have a drink. We can’t give you any assistance about the car, can we?’ ‘No, thanks. My man knows what to do. By the way, my name is Quin – Harley Quin.’ ‘Sit down, Mr Quin,’ said Evesham. ‘Sir Richard Conway, Mr Satterthwaite. My name is Evesham.’ Mr Quin acknowledged the introductions, and dropped into the chair that Evesham had hospitably pulled forward. As he sat, some effect of the firelight threw a bar of shadow across his face which gave almost the impression of a mask. Evesham threw a couple more logs on the fire. ‘A drink?’ ‘Thanks.’ Evesham brought it to him and asked as he did so: ‘So you know this part of the world well, Mr Quin?’ ‘I passed through it some years ago.’ ‘Really?’ ‘Yes. This house belonged then to a man called Capel.’ ‘Ah! yes,’ said Evesham. ‘Poor Derek Capel. You knew him?’ ‘Yes, I knew him.’ Evesham’s manner underwent a faint change, almost imperceptible to one who had not studied the English character. Before, it had contained a subtle reserve, now this was laid aside. Mr Quin had known Derek Capel. He was the friend of a friend, and, as such, was vouched for and fully accredited. ‘Astounding affair, that,’ he said confidentially. ‘We were just talking about it. I can tell you, it went against the grain, buying this place. If there had been anything else suitable, but there wasn’t you see. I was in the house the night he shot himself – so was Conway, and upon my word, I’ve always expected his ghost to walk.’ ‘A very inexplicable business,’ said Mr Quin, slowly and deliberately, and he paused with the air of an actor who has just spoken an important cue. ‘You may well say inexplicable,’ burst in Conway. ‘The thing’s a black mystery – always will be.’ ‘I wonder,’ said Mr Quin, non-committally. ‘Yes, Sir Richard, you were saying?’ ‘Astounding – that’s what it was. Here’s a man in the prime of life, gay, light-hearted, without a care in the world. Five or six old pals staying with him. Top of his spirits at dinner, full of plans for the future. And from the dinner table he goes straight upstairs to his room, takes a revolver from a drawer and shoots himself. Why? Nobody ever knew. Nobody ever will know.’ ‘Isn’t that rather a sweeping statement, Sir Richard?’ asked Mr Quin, smiling. Conway stared at him. ‘What d’you mean? I don’t understand.’ ‘A problem is not necessarily unsolvable because it has remained unsolved.’ ‘Oh! Come, man, if nothing came out at the time, it’s not likely to come out now – ten years afterwards?’ Mr Quin shook his head gently. ‘I disagree with you. The evidence of history is against you. The contemporary historian never writes such a true history as the historian of a later generation. It is a question of getting the true perspective, of seeing things in proportion. If you like to call it so, it is, like everything else, a question of relativity.’ Alex Portal leant forward, his face twitching painfully. ‘You are right, Mr Quin,’ he cried, ‘you are right. Time does not dispose of a question – it only presents it anew in a different guise.’ Evesham was smiling tolerantly. ‘Then you mean to say, Mr Quin, that if we were to hold, let us say, a Court of Inquiry tonight, into the circumstances of Derek Capel’s death, we are as likely to arrive at the truth as we should have been at the time?’ ‘More likely, Mr Evesham. The personal equation has largely dropped out, and you will remember facts as facts without seeking to put your own interpretation upon them.’ Evesham frowned doubtfully. ‘One must have a starting point, of course,’ said Mr Quin in his quiet level voice. ‘A starting point is usually a theory. One of you must have a theory, I am sure. How about you, Sir Richard?’ Conway frowned thoughtfully. ‘Well, of course,’ he said apologetically, ‘we thought – naturally we all thought – that there must be a woman in it somewhere. It’s usually either that or money, isn’t it? And it certainly wasn’t money. No trouble of that description. So – what else could it have been?’ Mr Satterthwaite started. He had leant forward to contribute a small remark of his own and in the act of doing so, he had caught sight of a woman’s figure crouched against the balustrade of the gallery above. She was huddled down against it, invisible from everywhere but where he himself sat, and she was evidently listening with strained attention to what was going on below. So immovable was she that he hardly believed the evidence of his own eyes. But he recognized the pattern of the dress easily enough – an old-world brocade. It was Eleanor Portal. And suddenly all the events of the night seemed to fall into pattern – Mr Quin’s arrival, no fortuitous chance, but the appearance of an actor when his cue was given. There was a drama being played in the big hall at Royston tonight – a drama none the less real in that one of the actors was dead. Oh! yes, Derek Capel had a part in the play. Mr Satterthwaite was sure of that. And, again suddenly, a new illumination came to him. This was Mr Quin’s doing. It was he who was staging the play – was giving the actors their cues. He was at the heart of the mystery pulling the strings, making the puppets work. He knew everything, even to the presence of the woman crouched against the woodwork upstairs. Yes, he knew. Sitting well back in his chair, secure in his role of audience, Mr Satterthwaite watched the drama unfold before his eyes. Quietly and naturally, Mr Quin was pulling the strings, setting his puppets in motion. ‘A woman – yes,’ he murmured thoughtfully. ‘There was no mention of any woman at dinner?’ ‘Why, of course,’ cried Evesham. ‘He announced his engagement. That’s just what made it seem so absolutely mad. Very bucked about it he was. Said it wasn’t to be announced just yet – but gave us the hint that he was in the running for the Benedick stakes.’ ‘Of course we all guessed who the lady was,’ said Conway. ‘Marjorie Dilke. Nice girl.’ It seemed to be Mr Quin’s turn to speak, but he did not do so, and something about his silence seemed oddly provocative. It was as though he challenged the last statement. It had the effect of putting Conway in a defensive position. ‘Who else could it have been? Eh, Evesham?’ ‘I don’t know,’ said Tom Evesham slowly. ‘What did he say exactly now? Something about being in the running for the Benedick stakes – that he couldn’t tell us the lady’s name till he had her permission – it wasn’t to be announced yet. He said, I remember, that he was a damned lucky fellow. That he wanted his two old friends to know that by that time next year he’d be a happy married man. Of course, we assumed it was Marjorie. They were great friends and he’d been about with her a lot.’ ‘The only thing –’ began Conway and stopped. ‘What were you going to say, Dick?’ ‘Well, I mean, it was odd in a way, if it were Marjorie, that the engagement shouldn’t be announced at once. I mean, why the secrecy? Sounds more as though it were a married woman – you know, someone whose husband had just died, or who was divorcing him.’ ‘That’s true,’ said Evesham. ‘If that were the case, of course, the engagement couldn’t be announced at once. And you know, thinking back about it, I don’t believe he had been seeing much of Marjorie. All that was the year before. I remember thinking things seemed to have cooled off between them.’ ‘Curious,’ said Mr Quin. ‘Yes – looked almost as though someone had come between them.’ ‘Another woman,’ said Conway thoughtfully. ‘By jove,’ said Evesham. ‘You know, there was something almost indecently hilarious about old Derek that night. He looked almost drunk with happiness. And yet – I can’t quite explain what I mean – but he looked oddly defiant too.’ ‘Like a man defying Fate,’ said Alex Portal heavily. Was it of Derek Capel he was speaking – or was it of himself? Mr Satterthwaite, looking at him, inclined to the latter view. Yes, that was what Alex Portal represented – a man defying Fate. His imagination, muddled by drink, responded suddenly to that note in the story which recalled his own secret preoccupation. Mr Satterthwaite looked up. She was still there. Watching, listening – still motionless, frozen – like a dead woman. ‘Perfectly true,’ said Conway. ‘Capel was excited – curiously so. I’d describe him as a man who had staked heavily and won against well nigh overwhelming odds.’ ‘Getting up courage, perhaps, for what he’s made up his mind to do?’ suggested Portal. And as though moved by an association of ideas, he got up and helped himself to another drink. ‘Not a bit of it,’ said Evesham sharply. ‘I’d almost swear nothing of that kind was in his mind. Conway’s right. A successful gambler who has brought off a long shot and can hardly believe in his own good fortune. That was the attitude.’ Conway gave a gesture of discouragement. ‘And yet,’ he said. ‘Ten minutes later –’ They sat in silence. Evesham brought his hand down with a bang on the table. ‘Something must have happened in that ten minutes,’ he cried. ‘It must! But what? Let’s go over it carefully. We were all talking. In the middle of it Capel got up suddenly and left the room –’ ‘Why?’ said Mr Quin. The interruption seemed to disconcert Evesham. ‘I beg your pardon?’ ‘I only said: Why?’ said Mr Quin. Evesham frowned in an effort of memory. ‘It didn’t seem vital – at the time – Oh! of course – the Post. Don’t you remember that jangling bell, and how excited we were. We’d been snowed up for three days, remember. Biggest snowstorm for years and years. All the roads were impassable. No newspapers, no letters. Capel went out to see if something had come through at last, and got a great pile of things. Newspapers and letters. He opened the paper to see if there was any news, and then went upstairs with his letters. Three minutes afterwards, we heard a shot … Inexplicable – absolutely inexplicable.’ ‘That’s not inexplicable,’ said Portal. ‘Of course the fellow got some unexpected news in a letter. Obvious, I should have said.’ ‘Oh! Don’t think we missed anything so obvious as that. It was one of the Coroner’s first questions. But Capel never opened one of his letters. The whole pile lay unopened on his dressing-table.’ Portal looked crestfallen. ‘You’re sure he didn’t open just one of them? He might have destroyed it after reading it?’ ‘No, I’m quite positive. Of course, that would have been the natural solution. No, every one of the letters was unopened. Nothing burnt – nothing torn up – There was no fire in the room.’ Portal shook his head. ‘Extraordinary.’ ‘It was a ghastly business altogether,’ said Evesham in a low voice. ‘Conway and I went up when we heard the shot, and found him – It gave me a shock, I can tell you.’ ‘Nothing to be done but telephone for the police, I suppose?’ said Mr Quin. ‘Royston wasn’t on the telephone then. I had it put in when I bought the place. No, luckily enough, the local constable happened to be in the kitchen at the time. One of the dogs – you remember poor old Rover, Conway? – had strayed the day before. A passing carter had found it half buried in a snowdrift and had taken it to the police station. They recognized it as Capel’s, and a dog he was particularly fond of, and the constable came up with it. He’d just arrived a minute before the shot was fired. It saved us some trouble.’ ‘Gad, that was a snowstorm,’ said Conway reminiscently. ‘About this time of year, wasn’t it? Early January.’ ‘February, I think. Let me see, we went abroad soon afterwards.’ ‘I’m pretty sure it was January. My hunter Ned – you remember Ned? – lamed himself the end of January. That was just after this business.’ ‘It must have been quite the end of January then. Funny how difficult it is to recall dates after a lapse of years.’ ‘One of the most difficult things in the world,’ said Mr Quin, conversationally. ‘Unless you can find a landmark in some big public event – an assassination of a crowned head, or a big murder trial.’ ‘Why, of course,’ cried Conway, ‘it was just before the Appleton case.’ ‘Just after, wasn’t it?’ ‘No, no, don’t you remember – Capel knew the Appletons – he’d stayed with the old man the previous Spring – just a week before he died. He was talking of him one night – what an old curmudgeon he was, and how awful it must have been for a young and beautiful woman like Mrs Appleton to be tied to him. There was no suspicion then that she had done away with him.’ ‘By jove, you’re right. I remember reading the paragraph in the paper saying an exhumation order had been granted. It would have been that same day – I remember only seeing it with half my mind, you know, the other half wondering about poor old Derek lying dead upstairs.’ ‘A common, but very curious phenomenon, that,’ observed Mr Quin. ‘In moments of great stress, the mind focuses itself upon some quite unimportant matter which is remembered long afterwards with the utmost fidelity, driven in, as it were, by the mental stress of the moment. It may be some quite irrelevant detail, like the pattern of a wallpaper, but it will never be forgotten.’ ‘Rather extraordinary, your saying that, Mr Quin,’ said Conway. ‘Just as you were speaking, I suddenly felt myself back in Derek Capel’s room – with Derek lying dead on the floor – I saw as plainly as possible the big tree outside the window, and the shadow it threw upon the snow outside. Yes, the moonlight, the snow, and the shadow of the tree – I can see them again this minute. By Gad, I believe I could draw them, and yet I never realized I was looking at them at the time.’ ‘His room was the big one over the porch, was it not?’ asked Mr Quin. ‘Yes, and the tree was the big beech, just at the angle of the drive.’ Mr Quin nodded, as though satisfied. Mr Satterthwaite was curiously thrilled. He was convinced that every word, every inflection of Mr Quin’s voice, was pregnant with purpose. He was driving at something – exactly what Mr Satterthwaite did not know, but he was quite convinced as to whose was the master hand. There was a momentary pause, and then Evesham reverted to the preceding topic. ‘That Appleton case, I remember it very well now. What a sensation it made. She got off, didn’t she? Pretty woman, very fair – remarkably fair.’ Almost against his will, Mr Satterthwaite’s eyes sought the kneeling figure up above. Was it his fancy, or did he see it shrink a little as though at a blow. Did he see a hand slide upwards to the table cloth – and then pause. There was a crash of falling glass. Alex Portal, helping himself to whisky, had let the decanter slip. ‘I say – sir, damn’ sorry. Can’t think what came over me.’ Evesham cut short his apologies. ‘Quite all right. Quite all right, my dear fellow. Curious – That smash reminded me. That’s what she did, didn’t she? Mrs Appleton? Smashed the port decanter?’ ‘Yes. Old Appleton had his glass of port – only one – each night. The day after his death, one of the servants saw her take the decanter out and smash it deliberately. That set them talking, of course. They all knew she had been perfectly wretched with him. Rumour grew and grew, and in the end, months later, some of his relatives applied for an exhumation order. And sure enough, the old fellow had been poisoned. Arsenic, wasn’t it?’ ‘No – strychnine, I think. It doesn’t much matter. Well, of course, there it was. Only one person was likely to have done it. Mrs Appleton stood her trial. She was acquitted more through lack of evidence against her than from any overwhelming proof of innocence. In other words, she was lucky. Yes, I don’t suppose there’s much doubt she did it right enough. What happened to her afterwards?’ ‘Went out to Canada, I believe. Or was it Australia? She had an uncle or something of the sort out there who offered her a home. Best thing she could do under the circumstances.’ Mr Satterthwaite was fascinated by Alex Portal’s right hand as it clasped his glass. How tightly he was gripping it. ‘You’ll smash that in a minute or two, if you’re not careful,’ thought Mr Satterthwaite. ‘Dear me, how interesting all this is.’ Evesham rose and helped himself to a drink. ‘Well, we’re not much nearer to knowing why poor Derek Capel shot himself,’ he remarked. ‘The Court of Inquiry hasn’t been a great success, has it, Mr Quin?’ Mr Quin laughed … It was a strange laugh, mocking – yet sad. It made everyone jump. ‘I beg your pardon,’ he said. ‘You are still living in the past, Mr Evesham. You are still hampered by your preconceived notion. But I – the man from outside, the stranger passing by, see only – facts!’ ‘Facts?’ ‘Yes – facts.’ ‘What do you mean?’ said Evesham. ‘I see a clear sequence of facts, outlined by yourselves but of which you have not seen the significance. Let us go back ten years and look at what we see – untrammelled by ideas or sentiment.’ Mr Quin had risen. He looked very tall. The fire leaped fitfully behind him. He spoke in a low compelling voice. ‘You are at dinner. Derek Capel announces his engagement. You think then it was to Marjorie Dilke. You are not so sure now. He has the restlessly excited manner of a man who has successfully defied Fate – who, in your own words, has pulled off a big coup against overwhelming odds. Then comes the clanging of the bell. He goes out to get the long overdue mail. He doesn’t open his letters, but you mention yourselves that he opened the paper to glance at the news. It is ten years ago – so we cannot know what the news was that day – a far-off earthquake, a near at hand political crisis? The only thing we do know about the contents of that paper is that it contained one small paragraph – a paragraph stating that the Home Office had given permission to exhume the body of Mr Appleton three days ago.’ ‘What?’ Mr Quin went on. ‘Derek Capel goes up to his room, and there he sees something out of the window. Sir Richard Conway has told us that the curtain was not drawn across it and further that it gave on to the drive. What did he see? What could he have seen that forced him to take his life?’ ‘What do you mean? What did he see?’ ‘I think,’ said Mr Quin, ‘that he saw a policeman. A policeman who had come about a dog – But Derek Capel didn’t know that – he just saw – a policeman.’ There was a long silence – as though it took some time to drive the inference home. ‘My God!’ whispered Evesham at last. ‘You can’t mean that? Appleton? But he wasn’t there at the time Appleton died. The old man was alone with his wife –’ ‘But he may have been there a week earlier. Strychnine is not very soluble unless it is in the form of hydrochloride. The greater part of it, put into the port, would be taken in the last glass, perhaps a week after he left.’ Portal sprung forward. His voice was hoarse, his eyes bloodshot. ‘Why did she break the decanter?’ he cried. ‘Why did she break the decanter? Tell me that!’ For the first time that evening, Mr Quin addressed himself to Mr Satterthwaite. ‘You have a wide experience of life, Mr Satterthwaite. Perhaps you can tell us that.’ Mr Satterthwaite’s voice trembled a little. His cue had come at last. He was to speak some of the most important lines in the play. He was an actor now – not a looker-on. ‘As I see it,’ he murmured modestly, ‘she – cared for Derek Capel. She was, I think, a good woman – and she had sent him away. When her husband – died, she suspected the truth. And so, to save the man she loved, she tried to destroy the evidence against him. Later, I think, he persuaded her that her suspicions were unfounded, and she consented to marry him. But even then, she hung back – women, I fancy, have a lot of instinct.’ Mr Sattherthwaite had spoken his part. Suddenly a long trembling sigh filled the air. ‘My God!’ cried Evesham, starting, ‘what was that?’ Mr Satterthwaite could have told him that it was Eleanor Portal in the gallery above, but he was too artistic to spoil a good effect. Mr Quin was smiling. ‘My car will be ready by now. Thank you for your hospitality, Mr Evesham. I have, I hope, done something for my friend.’ They stared at him in blank amazement. ‘That aspect of the matter has not struck you? He loved this woman, you know. Loved her enough to commit murder for her sake. When retribution overtook him, as he mistakenly thought, he took his own life. But unwittingly, he left her to face the music.’ ‘She was acquitted,’ muttered Evesham. ‘Because the case against her could not be proved. I fancy – it may be only a fancy – that she is still – facing the music.’ Portal had sunk into a chair, his face buried in his hands. Quin turned to Satterthwaite. ‘Goodbye, Mr Satterthwaite. You are interested in the drama, are you not?’ Mr Satterthwaite nodded – surprised. ‘I must recommend the Harlequinade to your attention. It is dying out nowadays – but it repays attention, I assure you. Its symbolism is a little difficult to follow – but the immortals are always immortal, you know. I wish you all goodnight.’ They saw him stride out into the dark. As before, the coloured glass gave the effect of motley … Mr Satterthwaite went upstairs. He went to draw down his window, for the air was cold. The figure of Mr Quin moved down the drive, and from a side door came a woman’s figure, running. For a moment they spoke together, then she retraced her steps to the house. She passed just below the window, and Mr Satterthwaite was struck anew by the vitality of her face. She moved now like a woman in a happy dream. ‘Eleanor!’ Alex Portal had joined her. ‘Eleanor, forgive me – forgive me – You told me the truth, but God forgive me – I did not quite believe …’ Mr Satterthwaite was intensely interested in other people’s affairs, but he was also a gentleman. It was borne in upon him that he must shut the window. He did so. But he shut it very slowly. He heard her voice, exquisite and indescribable. ‘I know – I know. You have been in hell. So was I once. Loving – yet alternately believing and suspecting – thrusting aside one’s doubts and having them spring up again with leering faces … I know, Alex, I know … But there is a worse hell than that, the hell I have lived in with you. I have seen your doubt – your fear of me … poisoning all our love. That man – that chance passer by, saved me. I could bear it no longer, you understand. Tonight – tonight I was going to kill myself … Alex … Alex …’ 2 The Shadow on the Glass (#ulink_2930325e-e1cf-518c-8716-f379c345c022) ‘The Shadow on the Glass’ was first published in Grand Magazine, October 1923. ‘Listen to this,’ said Lady Cynthia Drage. She read aloud from the journal she held in her hand. ‘Mr and Mrs Unkerton are entertaining a party at Greenways House this week. Amongst the guests are Lady Cynthia Drage, Mr and Mrs Richard Scott, Major Porter, D.S.O., Mrs Staverton, Captain Allenson and Mr Satterthwaite.’ ‘It’s as well,’ remarked Lady Cynthia, casting away the paper, ‘to know what we’re in for. But they have made a mess of things!’ Her companion, that same Mr Satterthwaite whose name figured at the end of the list of guests, looked at her interrogatively. It had been said that if Mr Satterthwaite were found at the houses of those rich who had newly arrived, it was a sign either that the cooking was unusually good, or that a drama of human life was to be enacted there. Mr Satterthwaite was abnormally interested in the comedies and tragedies of his fellow men. Lady Cynthia, who was a middle-aged woman, with a hard face and a liberal allowance of make-up, tapped him smartly with the newest thing in parasols which lay rakishly across her knee. ‘Don’t pretend you don’t understand me. You do perfectly. What’s more I believe you’re here on purpose to see the fur fly!’ Mr Satterthwaite protested vigorously. He didn’t know what she was talking about. ‘I’m talking about Richard Scott. Do you pretend you’ve never heard of him?’ ‘No, of course not. He’s the Big Game man, isn’t he?’ ‘That’s it – “Great big bears and tigers, etc.” as the song says. Of course, he’s a great lion himself just now – the Unkertons would naturally be mad to get hold of him – and the bride! A charming child – oh! quite a charming child – but so naïve, only twenty, you know, and he must be at least forty-five.’ ‘Mrs Scott seems to be very charming,’ said Mr Satterthwaite sedately. ‘Yes, poor child.’ ‘Why poor child?’ Lady Cynthia cast him a look of reproach, and went on approaching the point at issue in her own manner. ‘Porter’s all right – a dull dog, though – another of these African hunters, all sunburnt and silent. Second fiddle to Richard Scott and always has been – life-long friends and all that sort of thing. When I come to think of it, I believe they were together on that trip –’ ‘Which trip?’ ‘The trip. The Mrs Staverton trip. You’ll be saying next you’ve never heard of Mrs Staverton.’ ‘I have heard of Mrs Staverton,’ said Mr Satterthwaite, almost with unwillingness. And he and Lady Cynthia exchanged glances. ‘It’s so exactly like the Unkertons,’ wailed the latter, ‘they are absolutely hopeless – socially, I mean. The idea of asking those two together! Of course they’d heard that Mrs Staverton was a sportswoman and a traveller and all that, and about her book. People like the Unkertons don’t even begin to realize what pitfalls there are! I’ve been running them, myself, for the last year, and what I’ve gone through nobody knows. One has to be constantly at their elbow. “Don’t do that! You can’t do this!” Thank goodness, I’m through with it now. Not that we’ve quarrelled – oh! no, I never quarrel, but somebody else can take on the job. As I’ve always said, I can put up with vulgarity, but I can’t stand meanness!’ After this somewhat cryptic utterance, Lady Cynthia was silent for a moment, ruminating on the Unkertons’ meanness as displayed to herself. ‘If I’d still been running the show for them,’ she went on presently, ‘I should have said quite firmly and plainly: “You can’t ask Mrs Staverton with the Richard Scotts. She and he were once –”’ She stopped eloquently. ‘But were they once?’ asked Mr Satterthwaite. ‘My dear man! It’s well known. That trip into the Interior! I’m surprised the woman had the face to accept the invitation.’ ‘Perhaps she didn’t know the others were coming?’ suggested Mr Satterthwaite. ‘Perhaps she did. That’s far more likely.’ ‘You think –?’ ‘She’s what I call a dangerous woman – the sort of woman who’d stick at nothing. I wouldn’t be in Richard Scott’s shoes this week-end.’ ‘And his wife knows nothing, you think?’ ‘I’m certain of it. But I suppose some kind friend will enlighten her sooner or later. Here’s Jimmy Allenson. Such a nice boy. He saved my life in Egypt last winter – I was so bored, you know. Hullo, Jimmy, come here at once.’ Captain Allenson obeyed, dropping down on the turf beside her. He was a handsome young fellow of thirty, with white teeth and an infectious smile. ‘I’m glad somebody wants me,’ he observed. ‘The Scotts are doing the turtle dove stunt, two required, not three, Porter’s devouring the Field, and I’ve been in mortal danger of being entertained by my hostess.’ He laughed. Lady Cynthia laughed with him. Mr Satterthwaite, who was in some ways a little old-fashioned, so much so that he seldom made fun of his host and hostess until after he had left their house, remained grave. ‘Poor Jimmy,’ said Lady Cynthia. ‘Mine not to reason why, mine but to swiftly fly. I had a narrow escape of being told the family ghost story.’ ‘An Unkerton ghost,’ said Lady Cynthia. ‘How screaming.’ ‘Not an Unkerton ghost,’ said Mr Satterthwaite. ‘A Greenways ghost. They bought it with the house.’ ‘Of course,’ said Lady Cynthia. ‘I remember now. But it doesn’t clank chains, does it? It’s only something to do with a window.’ Jimmy Allenson looked up quickly. ‘A window?’ But for the moment Mr Satterthwaite did not answer. He was looking over Jimmy’s head at three figures approaching from the direction of the house – a slim girl between two men. There was a superficial resemblance between the men, both were tall and dark with bronzed faces and quick eyes, but looked at more closely the resemblance vanished. Richard Scott, hunter and explorer, was a man of extraordinarily vivid personality. He had a manner that radiated magnetism. John Porter, his friend and fellow hunter, was a man of squarer build with an impassive, rather wooden face, and very thoughtful grey eyes. He was a quiet man, content always to play second fiddle to his friend. And between these two walked Moira Scott who, until three months ago, had been Moira O’Connell. A slender figure, big wistful brown eyes, and golden red hair that stood out round her small face like a saint’s halo. ‘That child mustn’t be hurt,’ said Mr Satterthwaite to himself. ‘It would be abominable that a child like that should be hurt.’ Lady Cynthia greeted the newcomers with a wave of the latest thing in parasols. ‘Sit down, and don’t interrupt,’ she said. ‘Mr Satterthwaite is telling us a ghost story.’ ‘I love ghost stories,’ said Moira Scott. She dropped down on the grass. ‘The ghost of Greenways House?’ asked Richard Scott. ‘Yes. You know about it?’ Scott nodded. ‘I used to stay here in the old days,’ he explained. ‘Before the Elliots had to sell up. The Watching Cavalier, that’s it, isn’t it?’ ‘The Watching Cavalier,’ said his wife softly. ‘I like that. It sounds interesting. Please go on.’ But Mr Satterthwaite seemed somewhat loath to do so. He assured her that it was not really interesting at all. ‘Now you’ve done it, Satterthwaite,’ said Richard Scott sardonically. ‘That hint of reluctance clinches it.’ In response to popular clamour, Mr Satterthwaite was forced to speak. ‘It’s really very uninteresting,’ he said apologetically. ‘I believe the original story centres round a Cavalier ancestor of the Elliot family. His wife had a Roundhead lover. The husband was killed by the lover in an upstairs room, and the guilty pair fled, but as they fled, they looked back at the house, and saw the face of the dead husband at the window, watching them. That is the legend, but the ghost story is only concerned with a pane of glass in the window of that particular room on which is an irregular stain, almost imperceptible from near at hand, but which from far away certainly gives the effect of a man’s face looking out.’ ‘Which window is it?’ asked Mrs Scott, looking up at the house. ‘You can’t see it from here,’ said Mr Satterthwaite. ‘It is round the other side but was boarded up from the inside some years ago – forty years ago, I think, to be accurate.’ ‘What did they do that for? I thought you said the ghost didn’t walk.’ ‘It doesn’t,’ Mr Satterthwaite assured her. ‘I suppose – well, I suppose there grew to be a superstitious feeling about it, that’s all.’ Then, deftly enough, he succeeded in turning the conversation. Jimmy Allenson was perfectly ready to hold forth upon Egyptian sand diviners. ‘Frauds, most of them. Ready enough to tell you vague things about the past, but won’t commit themselves as to the future.’ ‘I should have thought it was usually the other way about,’ remarked John Porter. ‘It’s illegal to tell the future in this country, isn’t it?’ said Richard Scott. ‘Moira persuaded a gypsy into telling her fortune, but the woman gave her her shilling back, and said there was nothing doing, or words to that effect.’ ‘Perhaps she saw something so frightful that she didn’t like to tell it me,’ said Moira. ‘Don’t pile on the agony, Mrs Scott,’ said Allenson lightly. ‘I, for one, refuse to believe that an unlucky fate is hanging over you.’ ‘I wonder,’ thought Mr Satterthwaite to himself. ‘I wonder …’ Then he looked up sharply. Two women were coming from the house, a short stout woman with black hair, inappropriately dressed in jade green, and a tall slim figure in creamy white. The first woman was his hostess, Mrs Unkerton, the second was a woman he had often heard of, but never met. ‘Here’s Mrs Staverton,’ announced Mrs Unkerton, in a tone of great satisfaction. ‘All friends here, I think.’ ‘These people have an uncanny gift for saying just the most awful things they can,’ murmured Lady Cynthia, but Mr Satterthwaite was not listening. He was watching Mrs Staverton. Very easy – very natural. Her careless ‘Hullo! Richard, ages since we met. Sorry I couldn’t come to the wedding. Is this your wife? You must be tired of meeting all your husband’s weather-beaten old friends.’ Moira’s response – suitable, rather shy. The elder woman’s swift appraising glance that went on lightly to another old friend. ‘Hullo, John!’ The same easy tone, but with a subtle difference in it – a warming quality that had been absent before. And then that sudden smile. It transformed her. Lady Cynthia had been quite right. A dangerous woman! Very fair – deep blue eyes – not the traditional colouring of the siren – a face almost haggard in repose. A woman with a slow dragging voice and a sudden dazzling smile. Iris Staverton sat down. She became naturally and inevitably the centre of the group. So you felt it would always be. Mr Satterthwaite was recalled from his thoughts by Major Porter’s suggesting a stroll. Mr Satterthwaite, who was not as a general rule much given to strolling, acquiesced. The two men sauntered off together across the lawn. ‘Very interesting story of yours just now,’ said the Major. ‘I will show you the window,’ said Mr Satterthwaite. He led the way round to the west side of the house. Here there was a small formal garden – the Privy Garden, it was always called, and there was some point in the name, for it was surrounded by high holly hedges, and even the entrance to it ran zigzag between the same high prickly hedges. Once inside, it was very charming with an old-world charm of formal flower beds, flagged paths and a low stone seat, exquisitely carved. When they had reached the centre of the garden, Mr Satterthwaite turned and pointed up at the house. The length of Greenways House ran north and south. In this narrow west wall there was only one window, a window on the first floor, almost overgrown by ivy, with grimy panes, and which you could just see was boarded up on the inside. ‘There you are,’ said Mr Satterthwaite. Craning his neck a little, Porter looked up. ‘H’m I can see a kind of discolouration on one of the panes, nothing more.’ ‘We’re too near,’ said Mr Satterthwaite. ‘There’s a clearing higher up in the woods where you get a really good view.’ He led the way out of the Privy Garden, and turning sharply to the left, struck into the woods. A certain enthusiasm of showmanship possessed him, and he hardly noticed that the man at his side was absent and inattentive. ‘They had, of course, to make another window, when they boarded up this one,’ he explained. ‘The new one faces south overlooking the lawn where we were sitting just now. I rather fancy the Scotts have the room in question. That is why I didn’t want to pursue the subject. Mrs Scott might have felt nervous if she had realized that she was sleeping in what might be called the haunted room.’ ‘Yes. I see,’ said Porter. Mr Satterthwaite looked at him sharply, and realized that the other had not heard a word of what he was saying. ‘Very interesting,’ said Porter. He slashed with his stick at some tall foxgloves, and, frowning, he said: ‘She ought not to have come. She ought never to have come.’ People often spoke after this fashion to Mr Satterthwaite. He seemed to matter so little, to have so negative a personality. He was merely a glorified listener. ‘No,’ said Porter, ‘she ought never to have come.’ Mr Satterthwaite knew instinctively that it was not of Mrs Scott he spoke. ‘You think not?’ he asked. Porter shook his head as though in foreboding. ‘I was on that trip,’ he said abruptly. ‘The three of us went. Scott and I and Iris. She’s a wonderful woman – and a damned fine shot.’ He paused. ‘What made them ask her?’ he finished abruptly. Mr Satterthwaite shrugged his shoulders. ‘Ignorance,’ he said. ‘There’s going to be trouble,’ said the other. ‘We must stand by – and do what we can.’ ‘But surely Mrs Staverton –?’ ‘I’m talking of Scott.’ He paused. ‘You see – there’s Mrs Scott to consider.’ Mr Satterthwaite had been considering her all along, but he did not think it necessary to say so, since the other man had so clearly forgotten her until this minute. ‘How did Scott meet his wife?’ he asked. ‘Last winter, in Cairo. A quick business. They were engaged in three weeks, and married in six.’ ‘She seems to me very charming.’ ‘She is, no doubt about it. And he adores her – but that will make no difference.’ And again Major Porter repeated to himself, using the pronoun that meant to him one person only: ‘Hang it all, she shouldn’t have come …’ Just then they stepped out upon a high grassy knoll at some little distance from the house. With again something of the pride of the showman, Mr Satterthwaite stretched out his arm. ‘Look,’ he said. It was fast growing dusk. The window could still be plainly descried, and apparently pressed against one of the panes was a man’s face surmounted by a plumed Cavalier’s hat. ‘Very curious,’ said Porter. ‘Really very curious. What will happen when that pane of glass gets smashed some day?’ Mr Satterthwaite smiled. ‘That is one of the most interesting parts of the story. That pane of glass has been replaced to my certain knowledge at least eleven times, perhaps oftener. The last time was twelve years ago when the then owner of the house determined to destroy the myth. But it’s always the same. The stain reappears – not all at once, the discolouration spreads gradually. It takes a month or two as a rule.’ For the first time, Porter showed signs of real interest. He gave a sudden quick shiver. ‘Damned odd, these things. No accounting for them. What’s the real reason of having the room boarded up inside?’ ‘Well, an idea got about that the room was – unlucky. The Eveshams were in it just before the divorce. Then Stanley and his wife were staying here, and had that room when he ran off with his chorus girl.’ Porter raised his eyebrows. ‘I see. Danger, not to life, but to morals.’ ‘And now,’ thought Mr Satterthwaite to himself, ‘the Scotts have it … I wonder …’ They retraced their steps in silence to the house. Walking almost noiselessly on the soft turf, each absorbed in his own thoughts, they became unwittingly eavesdroppers. They were rounding the corner of the holly hedge when they heard Iris Staverton’s voice raised fierce and clear from the depths of the Privy Garden. ‘You shall be sorry – sorry – for this!’ Scott’s voice answered low and uncertain, so that the words could not be distinguished, and then the woman’s voice rose again, speaking words that they were to remember later. ‘Jealousy – it drives one to the Devil – it is the Devil! It can drive one to black murder. Be careful, Richard, for God’s sake, be careful!’ And then on that she had come out of the Privy Garden ahead of them, and on round the corner of the house without seeing them, walking swiftly, almost running, like a woman hag-ridden and pursued. Mr Satterthwaite thought again of Lady Cynthia’s words. A dangerous woman. For the first time, he had a premonition of tragedy, coming swift and inexorable, not to be gainsaid. Yet that evening he felt ashamed of his fears. Everything seemed normal and pleasant. Mrs Staverton, with her easy insouciance, showed no sign of strain. Moira Scott was her charming, unaffected self. The two women appeared to be getting on very well. Richard Scott himself seemed to be in boisterous spirits. The most worried looking person was stout Mrs Unkerton. She confided at length in Mr Satterthwaite. ‘Think it silly or not, as you like, there’s something giving me the creeps. And I’ll tell you frankly, I’ve sent for the glazier unbeknown to Ned.’ ‘The glazier?’ ‘To put a new pane of glass in that window. It’s all very well. Ned’s proud of it – says it gives the house a tone. I don’t like it. I tell you flat. We’ll have a nice plain modern pane of glass, with no nasty stories attached to it.’ ‘You forget,’ said Mr Satterthwaite, ‘or perhaps you don’t know. The stain comes back.’ ‘That’s as it may be,’ said Mrs Unkerton. ‘All I can say is if it does, it’s against nature!’ Mr Satterthwaite raised his eyebrows, but did not reply. ‘And what if it does?’ pursued Mrs Unkerton defiantly. ‘We’re not so bankrupt, Ned and I, that we can’t afford a new pane of glass every month – or every week if need be for the matter of that.’ Mr Satterthwaite did not meet the challenge. He had seen too many things crumple and fall before the power of money to believe that even a Cavalier ghost could put up a successful fight. Nevertheless, he was interested by Mrs Unkerton’s manifest uneasiness. Even she was not exempt from the tension in the atmosphere – only she attributed it to an attenuated ghost story, not to the clash of personalities amongst her guests. Mr Sattherwaite was fated to hear yet another scrap of conversation which threw light upon the situation. He was going up the wide staircase to bed, John Porter and Mrs Staverton were sitting together in an alcove of the big hall. She was speaking with a faint irritation in her golden voice. ‘I hadn’t the least idea the Scotts were going to be here. I daresay, if I had known, I shouldn’t have come, but I can assure you, my dear John, that now I am here, I’m not going to run away –’ Mr Satterthwaite passed on up the staircase out of earshot. He thought to himself: ‘I wonder now – How much of that is true? Did she know? I wonder – what’s going to come of it?’ He shook his head. In the clear light of the morning he felt that he had perhaps been a little melodramatic in his imaginings of the evening before. A moment of strain – yes, certainly – inevitable under the circumstances – but nothing more. People adjusted themselves. His fancy that some great catastrophe was pending was nerves – pure nerves – or possibly liver. Yes, that was it, liver. He was due at Carlsbad in another fortnight. On his own account he proposed a little stroll that evening just as it was growing dusk. He suggested to Major Porter that they should go up to the clearing and see if Mrs Unkerton had been as good as her word, and had a new pane of glass put in. To himself, he said: ‘Exercise, that’s what I need. Exercise.’ The two men walked slowly through the woods. Porter, as usual, was taciturn. ‘I can’t help feeling,’ said Mr Satterthwaite loquaciously, ‘that we were a little foolish in our imaginings yesterday. Expecting – er – trouble, you know. After all, people have to behave themselves – swallow their feelings and that sort of thing.’ ‘Perhaps,’ said Porter. After a minute or two he added: ‘Civilized people.’ ‘You mean –?’ ‘People who’ve lived outside civilization a good deal sometimes go back. Revert. Whatever you call it.’ They emerged on to the grassy knoll. Mr Satterthwaite was breathing rather fast. He never enjoyed going up hill. He looked towards the window. The face was still there, more life-like than ever. ‘Our hostess has repented, I see.’ Porter threw it only a cursory glance. ‘Unkerton cut up rough, I expect,’ he said indifferently. ‘He’s the sort of man who is willing to be proud of another family’s ghost, and who isn’t going to run the risk of having it driven away when he’s paid spot cash for it.’ He was silent a minute or two, staring, not at the house, but at the thick undergrowth by which they were surrounded. ‘Has it ever struck you,’ he said, ‘that civilization’s damned dangerous?’ ‘Dangerous?’ Such a revolutionary remark shocked Mr Satterthwaite to the core. ‘Yes. There are no safety valves, you see.’ He turned abruptly, and they descended the path by which they had come. ‘I really am quite at a loss to understand you,’ said Mr Satterthwaite, pattering along with nimble steps to keep up with the other’s strides. ‘Reasonable people –’ Porter laughed. A short disconcerting laugh. Then he looked at the correct little gentleman by his side. ‘You think it’s all bunkum on my part, Mr Satterthwaite? But there are people, you know, who can tell you when a storm’s coming. They feel it beforehand in the air. And other people can foretell trouble. There’s trouble coming now, Mr Satterthwaite, big trouble. It may come any minute. It may –’ He stopped dead, clutching Mr Satterthwaite’s arm. And in that tense minute of silence it came – the sound of two shots and following them a cry – a cry in a woman’s voice. ‘My god!’ cried Porter, ‘it’s come.’ He raced down the path, Mr Satterthwaite panting behind him. In a minute they came out on to the lawn, close by the hedge of the Privy Garden. At the same time, Richard Scott and Mr Unkerton came round the opposite corner of the house. They halted, facing each other, to left and right of the entrance to the Privy Garden. ‘It – it came from in there,’ said Unkerton, pointing with a flabby hand. ‘We must see,’ said Porter. He led the way into the enclosure. As he rounded the last bend of the holly hedge, he stopped dead. Mr Satterthwaite peered over his shoulder. A loud cry burst from Richard Scott. There were three people in the Privy Garden. Two of them lay on the grass near the stone seat, a man and a woman. The third was Mrs Staverton. She was standing quite close to them by the holly hedge, gazing with horror-stricken eyes, and holding something in her right hand. ‘Iris,’ cried Porter. ‘Iris. For God’s sake! What’s that you’ve got in your hand?’ She looked down at it then – with a kind of wonder, an unbelievable indifference. ‘It’s a pistol,’ she said wonderingly. And then – after what seemed an interminable time, but was in reality only a few seconds, ‘I – picked it up.’ Mr Satterthwaite had gone forward to where Unkerton and Scott were kneeling on the turf. ‘A doctor,’ the latter was murmuring. ‘We must have a doctor.’ But it was too late for any doctor. Jimmy Allenson who had complained that the sand diviners hedged about the future, and Moira Scott to whom the gypsy had returned a shilling, lay there in the last great stillness. It was Richard Scott who completed a brief examination. The iron nerve of the man showed in this crisis. After the first cry of agony, he was himself again. He laid his wife gently down again. ‘Shot from behind,’ he said briefly. ‘The bullet has passed right through her.’ Then he handled Jimmy Allenson. The wound here was in the breast and the bullet was lodged in the body. John Porter came towards them. ‘Nothing should be touched,’ he said sternly. ‘The police must see it all exactly as it is now.’ ‘The police,’ said Richard Scott. His eyes lit up with a sudden flame as he looked at the woman standing by the holly hedge. He made a step in that direction, but at the same time John Porter also moved, so as to bar his way. For a moment it seemed as though there was a duel of eyes between the two friends. Porter very quietly shook his head. ‘No, Richard,’ he said. ‘It looks like it – but you’re wrong.’ Richard Scott spoke with difficulty, moistening his dry lips. ‘Then why – has she got that in her hand?’ And again Iris Staverton said in the same lifeless tone: ‘I – picked it up.’ ‘The police,’ said Unkerton rising. ‘We must send for the police – at once. You will telephone perhaps, Scott? Someone should stay here – yes, I am sure someone should stay here.’ In his quiet gentlemanly manner, Mr Satterthwaite offered to do so. His host accepted the offer with manifest relief. ‘The ladies,’ he explained. ‘I must break the news to the ladies, Lady Cynthia and my dear wife.’ Mr Satterthwaite stayed in the Privy Garden looking down on the body of that which had once been Moira Scott. ‘Poor child,’ he said to himself. ‘Poor child …’ He quoted to himself the tag about the evil men do living after them. For was not Richard Scott in a way responsible for his innocent wife’s death? They would hang Iris Staverton, he supposed, not that he liked to think of it, but was not it at least a part of the blame he laid at the man’s door? The evil that men do – And the girl, the innocent girl, had paid. He looked down at her with a very deep pity. Her small face, so white and wistful, a half smile on the lips still. The ruffled golden hair, the delicate ear. There was a spot of blood on the lobe of it. With an inner feeling of being something of a detective, Mr Satterthwaite deduced an ear-ring, torn away in her fall. He craned his neck forward. Yes, he was right, there was a small pearl drop hanging from the other ear. Poor child, poor child. ‘And now, sir,’ said Inspector Winkfield. They were in the library. The Inspector, a shrewd-looking forceful man of forty odd, was concluding his investigations. He had questioned most of the guests, and had by now pretty well made up his mind on the case. He was listening to what Major Porter and Mr Satterthwaite had to say. Mr Unkerton sat heavily in a chair, staring with protruding eyes at the opposite wall. ‘As I understand it, gentlemen,’ said the Inspector, ‘you’d been for a walk. You were returning to the house by a path that winds round the left side of what they call the Privy Garden. Is that correct?’ ‘Quite correct, Inspector.’ ‘You heard two shots, and a woman’s scream?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘You then ran as fast as you could, emerged from the woods and made your way to the entrance of the Privy Garden. If anybody had left that garden, they could only do so by one entrance. The holly bushes are impassable. If anyone had run out of the garden and turned to the right, he would have been met by Mr Unkerton and Mr Scott. If he had turned to the left, he could not have done so without being seen by you. Is that right?’ ‘That is so,’ said Major Porter. His face was very white. ‘That seems to settle it,’ said the Inspector. ‘Mr and Mrs Unkerton and Lady Cynthia Drage were sitting on the lawn, Mr Scott was in the Billiard Room which opens on to that lawn. At ten minutes past six, Mrs Staverton came out of the house, spoke a word or two to those sitting there, and went round the corner of the house towards the Privy Garden. Two minutes later the shots were heard. Mr Scott rushed out of the house and together with Mr Unkerton ran to the Privy Garden. At the same time you and Mr – er – Satterthwaite arrived from the opposite direction. Mrs Staverton was in the Privy Garden with a pistol in her hand from which two shots had been fired. As I see it, she shot the lady first from behind as she was sitting on the bench. Then Captain Allenson sprang up and went for her, and she shot him in the chest as he came towards her. I understand that there had been a – er – previous attachment between her and Mr Richard Scott –’ ‘That’s a damned lie,’ said Porter. His voice rang out hoarse and defiant. The Inspector said nothing, merely shook his head. ‘What is her own story?’ asked Mr Satterthwaite. ‘She says that she went into the Privy Garden to be quiet for a little. Just before she rounded the last hedge, she heard the shots. She came round the corner, saw the pistol lying at her feet, and picked it up. No one passed her, and she saw no one in the garden but the two victims.’ The Inspector gave an eloquent pause. ‘That’s what she says – and although I cautioned her, she insisted on making a statement.’ ‘If she said that,’ said Major Porter, and his face was still deadly white, ‘she was speaking the truth. I know Iris Staverton.’ ‘Well, sir,’ said the Inspector, ‘there’ll be plenty of time to go into all that later. In the meantime, I’ve got my duty to do.’ With an abrupt movement, Porter turned to Mr Satterthwaite. ‘You! Can’t you help? Can’t you do something?’ Mr Satterthwaite could not help feeling immensely flattered. He had been appealed to, he, most insignificant of men, and by a man like John Porter. He was just about to flutter out a regretful reply, when the butler, Thompson, entered, with a card upon a salver which he took to his master with an apologetic cough. Mr Unkerton was still sitting huddled up in a chair, taking no part in the proceedings. ‘I told the gentleman you would probably not be able to see him, sir,’ said Thompson. ‘But he insisted that he had an appointment and that it was most urgent.’ Unkerton took the card. ‘Mr Harley Quin,’ he read. ‘I remember, he was to see me about a picture. I did make an appointment, but as things are –’ But Mr Satterthwaite had started forward. ‘Mr Harley Quin, did you say?’ he cried. ‘How extraordinary, how very extraordinary. Major Porter, you asked me if I could help you. I think I can. This Mr Quin is a friend – or I should say, an acquaintance of mine. He is a most remarkable man.’ ‘One of these amateur solvers of crime, I suppose,’ remarked the Inspector disparagingly. ‘No,’ said Mr Satterthwaite. ‘He is not that kind of man at all. But he has a power – an almost uncanny power – of showing you what you have seen with your own eyes, of making clear to you what you have heard with your own ears. Let us, at any rate, give him an outline of the case, and hear what he has to say.’ Mr Unkerton glanced at the Inspector, who merely snorted and looked at the ceiling. Then the former gave a short nod to Thompson, who left the room and returned ushering in a tall, slim stranger. ‘Mr Unkerton?’ The stranger shook him by the hand. ‘I am sorry to intrude upon you at such a time. We must leave our little picture chat until another time. Ah! my friend, Mr Satterthwaite. Still as fond of the drama as ever?’ A faint smile played for a minute round the stranger’s lips as he said these last words. ‘Mr Quin,’ said Mr Satterthwaite impressively, ‘we have a drama here, we are in the midst of one, I should like, and my friend, Major Porter, would like, to have your opinion of it.’ Mr Quin sat down. The red-shaded lamp threw a broad band of coloured light over the checked pattern of his overcoat, and left his face in shadow almost as though he wore a mask. Succinctly, Mr Satterthwaite recited the main points of the tragedy. Then he paused, breathlessly awaiting the words of the oracle. But Mr Quin merely shook his head. ‘A sad story,’ he said. ‘A very sad and shocking tragedy. The lack of motive makes it very intriguing.’ Unkerton stared at him. ‘You don’t understand,’ he said. ‘Mrs Staverton was heard to threaten Richard Scott. She was bitterly jealous of his wife. Jealousy –’ ‘I agree,’ said Mr Quin. ‘Jealousy or Demoniac Possession. It’s all the same. But you misunderstand me. I was not referring to the murder of Mrs Scott, but to that of Captain Allenson.’ ‘You’re right,’ cried Porter, springing forward. ‘There’s a flaw there. If Iris had ever contemplated shooting Mrs Scott, she’d have got her alone somewhere. No, we’re on the wrong tack. And I think I see another solution. Only those three people went into the Privy Garden. That is indisputable and I don’t intend to dispute it. But I reconstruct the tragedy differently. Supposing Jimmy Allenson shoots first Mrs Scott and then himself. That’s possible, isn’t it? He flings the pistol from him as he falls – Mrs Staverton finds it lying on the ground and picks it up just as she said. How’s that?’ The Inspector shook his head. ‘Won’t wash, Major Porter. If Captain Allenson had fired that shot close to his body, the cloth would have been singed.’ ‘He might have held the pistol at arm’s length.’ ‘Why should he? No sense in it. Besides, there’s no motive.’ ‘Might have gone off his head suddenly,’ muttered Porter, but without any great conviction. He fell to silence again, suddenly rousing himself to say defiantly: ‘Well, Mr Quin?’ The latter shook his head. ‘I’m not a magician. I’m not even a criminologist. But I will tell you one thing – I believe in the value of impressions. In any time of crisis, there is always one moment that stands out from all the others, one picture that remains when all else has faded. Mr Satterthwaite is, I think, likely to have been the most unprejudiced observer of those present. Will you cast your mind back, Mr Satterthwaite, and tell us the moment that made the strongest impression on you? Was it when you heard the shots? Was it when you first saw the dead bodies? Was it when you first observed the pistol in Mrs Staverton’s hand? Clear your mind of any preconceived standard of values, and tell us.’ Mr Satterthwaite fixed his eyes on Mr Quin’s face, rather as a schoolboy might repeat a lesson of which he was not sure. ‘No,’ he said slowly. ‘It was not any of those. The moment that I shall always remember was when I stood alone by the bodies – afterwards – looking down on Mrs Scott. She was lying on her side. Her hair was ruffled. There was a spot of blood on her little ear.’ And instantly, as he said it, he felt that he had said a terrific, a significant thing. ‘Blood on her ear? Yes, I remember,’ said Unkerton slowly. ‘Her ear-ring must have been torn out when she fell,’ explained Mr Satterthwaite. But it sounded a little improbable as he said it. ‘She was lying on her left side,’ said Porter. ‘I suppose it was that ear?’ ‘No,’ said Mr Satterthwaite quickly. ‘It was her right ear.’ The Inspector coughed. ‘I found this in the grass,’ he vouchsafed. He held up a loop of gold wire. ‘But my God, man,’ cried Porter. ‘The thing can’t have been wrenched to pieces by a mere fall. It’s more as though it had been shot away by a bullet.’ ‘So it was,’ cried Mr Satterthwaite. ‘It was a bullet. It must have been.’ ‘There were only two shots,’ said the Inspector. ‘A shot can’t have grazed her ear and shot her in the back as well. And if one shot carried away the ear-ring, and the second shot killed her, it can’t have killed Captain Allenson as well – not unless he was standing close in front of her – very close – facing her as it might be. Oh! no, not even then, unless, that is –’ ‘Unless she was in his arms, you were going to say,’ said Mr Quin, with a queer little smile. ‘Well, why not?’ Everyone stared at each other. The idea was so vitally strange to them – Allenson and Mrs Scott – Mr Unkerton voiced the same feeling. ‘But they hardly knew each other,’ he said. ‘I don’t know,’ said Mr Satterthwaite thoughtfully. ‘They might have known each other better than we thought. Lady Cynthia said he saved her from being bored in Egypt last winter, and you’ – he turned to Porter – ‘you told me that Richard Scott met his wife in Cairo last winter. They might have known each other very well indeed out there …’ ‘They didn’t seem to be together much,’ said Unkerton. ‘No – they rather avoided each other. It was almost unnatural, now I come to think of it –’ They all looked at Mr Quin, as if a little startled at the conclusions at which they had arrived so unexpectedly. Mr Quin rose to his feet. ‘You see,’ he said, ‘what Mr Satterthwaite’s impression has done for us.’ He turned to Unkerton. ‘It is your turn now.’ ‘Eh? I don’t understand you.’ ‘You were very thoughtful when I came into this room. I should like to know exactly what thought it was that obsessed you. Never mind if it has nothing to do with the tragedy. Never mind if it seems to you – superstitious –’ Mr Unkerton started, ever so slightly. ‘Tell us.’ ‘I don’t mind telling you,’ said Unkerton. ‘Though it’s nothing to do with the business, and you’ll probably laugh at me into the bargain. I was wishing that my Missus had left well alone and not replaced that pane of glass in the haunted window. I feel as though doing that has maybe brought a curse upon us.’ He was unable to understand why the two men opposite him stared so. ‘But she hasn’t replaced it yet,’ said Mr Satterthwaite at last. ‘Yes, she has. Man came first thing this morning.’ ‘My God!’ said Porter, ‘I begin to understand. That room, it’s panelled, I supposed, not papered?’ ‘Yes, but what does that –?’ But Porter had swung out of the room. The others followed him. He went straight upstairs to the Scotts’ bedroom. It was a charming room, panelled in cream with two windows facing south. Porter felt with his hands along the panels on the western wall. ‘There’s a spring somewhere – must be. Ah!’ There was a click, and a section of the panelling rolled back. It disclosed the grimy panes of the haunted window. One pane of glass was clean and new. Porter stooped quickly and picked up something. He held it out on the palm of his hand. It was a fragment of ostrich feather. Then he looked at Mr Quin. Mr Quin nodded. He went across to the hat cupboard in the bedroom. There were several hats in it – the dead woman’s hats. He took out one with a large brim and curling feathers – an elaborate Ascot hat. Mr Quin began speaking in a gentle, reflective voice. ‘Let us suppose,’ said Mr Quin, ‘a man who is by nature intensely jealous. A man who has stayed here in bygone years and knows the secret of the spring in the panelling. To amuse himself he opens it one day, and looks out over the Privy Garden. There, secure as they think from being overlooked, he sees his wife and another man. There can be no possible doubt in his mind as to the relations between them. He is mad with rage. What shall he do? An idea comes to him. He goes to the cupboard and puts on the hat with the brim and feathers. It is growing dusk, and he remembers the story of the stain on the glass. Anyone looking up at the window will see as they think the Watching Cavalier. Thus secure he watches them, and at the moment they are clasped in each other’s arms, he shoots. He is a good shot – a wonderful shot. As they fall, he fires once more – that shot carries away the ear-ring. He flings the pistol out of the window into the Privy Garden, rushes downstairs and out through the billiard room.’ Porter took a step towards him. ‘But he let her be accused!’ he cried. ‘He stood by and let her be accused. Why? Why?’ ‘I think I know why,’ said Mr Quin. ‘I should guess – it’s only guesswork on my part, mind – that Richard Scott was once madly in love with Iris Staverton – so madly that even meeting her years afterwards stirred up the embers of jealousy again. I should say that Iris Staverton once fancied that she might love him, that she went on a hunting trip with him and another – and that she came back in love with the better man.’ ‘The better man,’ muttered Porter, dazed. ‘You mean –?’ ‘Yes,’ said Mr Quin, with a faint smile. ‘I mean you.’ He paused a minute, and then said: ‘If I were you – I should go to her now.’ ‘I will,’ said Porter. He turned and left the room. 3 At the ‘Bells and Motley’ (#ulink_f49eaf53-4215-56c5-8109-7ab5e21aa878) ‘At the “Bells and Motley”’ was first published as ‘A Man of Magic’ in Grand Magazine, November 1925. Mr Satterthwaite was annoyed. Altogether it had been an unfortunate day. They had started late, there had been two punctures already, finally they had taken the wrong turning and lost themselves amidst the wilds of Salisbury Plain. Now it was close on eight o’clock, they were still a matter of forty miles from Marswick Manor whither they were bound, and a third puncture had supervened to render matters still more trying. Mr Satterthwaite, looking like some small bird whose plumage had been ruffled, walked up and down in front of the village garage whilst his chauffeur conversed in hoarse undertones with the local expert. ‘Half an hour at least,’ said that worthy pronouncing judgment. ‘And lucky at that,’ supplemented Masters, the chauffeur. ‘More like three quarters if you ask me.’ ‘What is this – place, anyway?’ demanded Mr Satterthwaite fretfully. Being a little gentleman considerate of the feelings of others, he substituted the word ‘place’ for ‘God-forsaken hole’ which had first risen to his lips. ‘Kirtlington Mallet.’ Mr Satterthwaite was not much wiser, and yet a faint familiarity seemed to linger round the name. He looked round him disparagingly. Kirtlington Mallet seemed to consist of one straggling street, the garage and the post office on one side of it balanced by three indeterminate shops on the other side. Farther down the road, however, Mr Satterthwaite perceived something that creaked and swung in the wind, and his spirits rose ever so slightly. ‘There’s an Inn here, I see,’ he remarked. ‘“Bells and Motley”,’ said the garage man. ‘That’s it – yonder.’ ‘If I might make a suggestion, sir,’ said Masters, ‘why not try it? They would be able to give you some sort of a meal, no doubt – not, of course, what you are accustomed to.’ He paused apologetically, for Mr Satterthwaite was accustomed to the best cooking of continental chefs, and had in his own service a cordon bleu to whom he paid a fabulous salary. ‘We shan’t be able to take the road again for another three quarters of an hour, sir. I’m sure of that. And it’s already past eight o’clock. You could ring up Sir George Foster, sir, from the Inn, and acquaint him with the cause of our delay.’ ‘You seem to think you can arrange everything, Masters,’ said Mr Satterthwaite snappily. Masters, who did think so, maintained a respectful silence. Mr Satterthwaite, in spite of his earnest wish to discountenance any suggestion that might possibly be made to him – he was in that mood – nevertheless looked down the road towards the creaking Inn sign with faint inward approval. He was a man of birdlike appetite, an epicure, but even such men can be hungry. ‘The “Bells and Motley”,’ he said thoughtfully. ‘That’s an odd name for an Inn. I don’t know that I ever heard it before.’ ‘There’s odd folks come to it by all account,’ said the local man. He was bending over the wheel, and his voice came muffled and indistinct. ‘Odd folks?’ queried Mr Satterthwaite. ‘Now what do you mean by that?’ The other hardly seemed to know what he meant. ‘Folks that come and go. That kind,’ he said vaguely. Mr Satterthwaite reflected that people who come to an Inn are almost of necessity those who ‘come and go’. The definition seemed to him to lack precision. But nevertheless his curiosity was stimulated. Somehow or other he had got to put in three quarters of an hour. The ‘Bells and Motley’ would be as good as anywhere else. With his usual small mincing steps he walked away down the road. From afar there came a rumble of thunder. The mechanic looked up and spoke to Masters. ‘There’s a storm coming over. Thought I could feel it in the air.’ ‘Crikey,’ said Masters. ‘And forty miles to go.’ ‘Ah!’ said the other. ‘There’s no need to be hurrying over this job. You’ll not be wanting to take the road till the storm’s passed over. That little boss of yours doesn’t look as though he’d relish being out in thunder and lightning.’ ‘Hope they’ll do him well at that place,’ muttered the chauffeur. ‘I’ll be pushing along there for a bite myself presently.’ ‘Billy Jones is all right,’ said the garage man. ‘Keeps a good table.’ Mr William Jones, a big burly man of fifty and landlord of the ‘Bells and Motley’, was at this minute beaming ingratiatingly down on little Mr Satterthwaite. ‘Can do you a nice steak, sir – and fried potatoes, and as good a cheese as any gentleman could wish for. This way, sir, in the coffee-room. We’re not very full at present, the last of the fishing gentlemen just gone. A little later we’ll be full again for the hunting. Only one gentleman here at present, name of Quin –’ Mr Satterthwaite stopped dead. ‘Quin?’ he said excitedly. ‘Did you say Quin?’ ‘That’s the name, sir. Friend of yours perhaps?’ ‘Yes, indeed. Oh! yes, most certainly.’ Twittering with excitement, Mr Satterthwaite hardly realized that the world might contain more than one man of that name. He had no doubts at all. In an odd way, the information fitted in with what the man at the garage had said. ‘Folks that come and go …’ a very apt description of Mr Quin. And the name of the Inn, too, seemed a peculiarly fitting and appropriate one. ‘Dear me, dear me,’ said Mr Satterthwaite. ‘What a very odd thing. That we should meet like this! Mr Harley Quin, is it not?’ ‘That’s right, sir. This is the coffee-room, sir. Ah! here is the gentleman.’ Tall, dark, smiling, the familiar figure of Mr Quin rose from the table at which he was sitting, and the well-remembered voice spoke. ‘Ah! Mr Satterthwaite, we meet again. An unexpected meeting!’ Mr Satterthwaite was shaking him warmly by the hand. ‘Delighted. Delighted, I’m sure. A lucky breakdown for me. My car, you know. And you are staying here? For long?’ ‘One night only.’ ‘Then I am indeed fortunate.’ Mr Satterthwaite sat down opposite his friend with a little sigh of satisfaction, and regarded the dark, smiling face opposite him with a pleasurable expectancy. The other man shook his head gently. ‘I assure you,’ he said, ‘that I have not a bowl of goldfish or a rabbit to produce from my sleeve.’ ‘Too bad,’ cried Mr Satterthwaite, a little taken aback. ‘Yes, I must confess – I do rather adopt that attitude towards you. A man of magic. Ha, ha. That is how I regard you. A man of magic.’ ‘And yet,’ said Mr Quin, ‘it is you who do the conjuring tricks, not I.’ ‘Ah!’ said Mr Satterthwaite eagerly. ‘But I cannot do them without you. I lack – shall we say – inspiration?’ Mr Quin smilingly shook his head. ‘That is too big a word. I speak the cue, that is all.’ The landlord came in at that minute with bread and a slab of yellow butter. As he set the things on the table there was a vivid flash of lightning, and a clap of thunder almost overhead. ‘A wild night, gentlemen.’ ‘On such a night –’ began Mr Satterthwaite, and stopped. ‘Funny now,’ said the landlord, unconscious of the question, ‘if those weren’t just the words I was going to use myself. It was just such a night as this when Captain Harwell brought his bride home, the very day before he disappeared for ever.’ ‘Ah!’ cried Mr Satterthwaite suddenly. ‘Of course!’ He had got the clue. He knew now why the name Kirtlington Mallet was familiar. Three months before he had read every detail of the astonishing disappearance of Captain Richard Harwell. Like other newspaper readers all over Great Britain he had puzzled over the details of the disappearance, and, also like every other Briton, had evolved his own theories. ‘Of course,’ he repeated. ‘It was at Kirtlington Mallet it happened.’ ‘It was at this house he stayed for the hunting last winter,’ said the landlord. ‘Oh! I knew him well. A main handsome young gentleman and not one that you’d think had a care on his mind. He was done away with – that’s my belief. Many’s the time I’ve seen them come riding home together – he and Miss Le Couteau, and all the village saying there’d be a match come of it – and sure enough, so it did. A very beautiful young lady, and well thought of, for all she was a Canadian and a stranger. Ah! there’s some dark mystery there. We’ll never know the rights of it. It broke her heart, it did, sure enough. You’ve heard as she’s sold the place up and gone abroad, couldn’t bear to go on here with everyone staring and pointing after her – through no fault of her own, poor young dear! A black mystery, that’s what it is.’ He shook his head, then suddenly recollecting his duties, hurried from the room. ‘A black mystery,’ said Mr Quin softly. His voice was provocative in Mr Satterthwaite’s ears. ‘Are you pretending that we can solve the mystery where Scotland Yard failed?’ he asked sharply. The other made a characteristic gesture. ‘Why not? Time has passed. Three months. That makes a difference.’ ‘That is a curious idea of yours,’ said Mr Satterthwaite slowly. ‘That one sees things better afterwards than at the time.’ ‘The longer the time that has elapsed, the more things fall into proportion. One sees them in their true relationship to one another.’ There was a silence which lasted for some minutes. ‘I am not sure,’ said Mr Satterthwaite, in a hesitating voice, ‘that I remember the facts clearly by now.’ ‘I think you do,’ said Mr Quin quietly. It was all the encouragement Mr Satterthwaite needed. His general role in life was that of listener and looker-on. Only in the company of Mr Quin was the position reversed. There Mr Quin was the appreciative listener, and Mr Satterthwaite took the centre of the stage. ‘It was just over a year ago,’ he said, ‘that Ashley Grange passed into the possession of Miss Eleanor Le Couteau. It is a beautiful old house, but it had been neglected and allowed to remain empty for many years. It could not have found a better chatelaine. Miss Le Couteau was a French Canadian, her forebears were émigrés from the French Revolution, and had handed down to her a collection of almost priceless French relics and antiques. She was a buyer and a collector also, with a very fine and discriminating taste. So much so, that when she decided to sell Ashley Grange and everything it contained after the tragedy, Mr Cyrus G. Bradburn, the American millionaire, made no bones about paying the fancy price of sixty thousand pounds for the Grange as it stood.’ Mr Satterthwaite paused. ‘I mention these things,’ he said apologetically, ‘not because they are relevant to the story – strictly speaking, they are not – but to convey an atmosphere, the atmosphere of young Mrs Harwell.’ Mr Quin nodded. ‘Atmosphere is always valuable,’ he said gravely. ‘So we get a picture of this girl,’ continued the other. ‘Just twenty-three, dark, beautiful, accomplished, nothing crude and unfinished about her. And rich – we must not forget that. She was an orphan. A Mrs St Clair, a lady of unimpeachable breeding and social standing, lived with her as duenna. But Eleanor Le Couteau had complete control of her own fortune. And fortune-hunters are never hard to seek. At least a dozen impecunious young men were to be found dangling round her on all occasions, in the hunting field, in the ballroom, wherever she went. Young Lord Leccan, the most eligible parti in the country, is reported to have asked her to marry him, but she remained heart free. That is, until the coming of Captain Richard Harwell. ‘Captain Harwell had put up at the local Inn for the hunting. He was a dashing rider to hounds. A handsome, laughing daredevil of a fellow. You remember the old saying, Mr Quin? “Happy the wooing that’s not long doing.” The adage was carried out at least in part. At the end of two months, Richard Harwell and Eleanor Le Couteau were engaged. ‘The marriage followed three months afterwards. The happy pair went abroad for a two weeks’ honeymoon, and then returned to take up their residence at Ashley Grange. The landlord has just told us that it was on a night of storm such as this that they returned to their home. An omen, I wonder? Who can tell? Be that as it may, the following morning very early – about half-past seven, Captain Harwell was seen walking in the garden by one of the gardeners, John Mathias. He was bareheaded, and was whistling. We have a picture there, a picture of light-heartedness, of careless happiness. And yet from that minute, as far as we know, no one ever set eyes on Captain Richard Harwell again.’ Mr Satterthwaite paused, pleasantly conscious of a dramatic moment. The admiring glance of Mr Quin gave him the tribute he needed, and he went on. ‘The disappearance was remarkable – unaccountable. It was not till the following day that the distracted wife called in the police. As you know, they have not succeeded in solving the mystery.’ ‘There have, I suppose, been theories?’ asked Mr Quin. ‘Oh! theories, I grant you. Theory No. 1, that Captain Harwell had been murdered, done away with. But if so, where was the body? It could hardly have been spirited away. And besides, what motive was there? As far as was known, Captain Harwell had not an enemy in the world.’ He paused abruptly, as though uncertain. Mr Quin leaned forward. ‘You are thinking,’ he said softly, ‘of young Stephen Grant.’ ‘I am,’ admitted Mr Satterthwaite. ‘Stephen Grant, if I remember rightly, had been in charge of Captain Harwell’s horses, and had been discharged by his master for some trifling offence. On the morning after the home-coming, very early, Stephen Grant was seen in the vicinity of Ashley Grange, and could give no good account of his presence there. He was detained by the police as being concerned in the disappearance of Captain Harwell, but nothing could be proved against him, and he was eventually discharged. It is true that he might be supposed to bear a grudge against Captain Harwell for his summary dismissal, but the motive was undeniably of the flimsiest. I suppose the police felt they must do something. You see, as I said just now, Captain Harwell had not an enemy in the world.’ ‘As far as was known,’ said Mr Quin reflectively. Mr Satterthwaite nodded appreciatively. ‘We are coming to that. What, after all, was known of Captain Harwell? When the police came to look into his antecedents they were confronted with a singular paucity of material. Who was Richard Harwell? Where did he come from? He had appeared, literally out of the blue as it seemed. He was a magnificent rider, and apparently well off. Nobody in Kirtlington Mallet had bothered to inquire further. Miss Le Couteau had had no parents or guardians to make inquiries into the prospects and standing of her fiancé. She was her own mistress. The police theory at this point was clear enough. A rich girl and an impudent impostor. The old story! ‘But it was not quite that. True, Miss Le Couteau had no parents or guardians, but she had an excellent firm of solicitors in London who acted for her. Their evidence made the mystery deeper. Eleanor Le Couteau had wished to settle a sum outright upon her prospective husband, but he had refused. He himself was well off, he declared. It was proved conclusively that Harwell never had a penny of his wife’s money. Her fortune was absolutely intact. ‘He was, therefore, no common swindler, but was his object a refinement of the art? Did he propose blackmail at some future date if Eleanor Harwell should wish to marry some other man? I will admit that something of that kind seemed to me the most likely solution. It had always seemed so to me – until tonight.’ Mr Quin leaned forward, prompting him. ‘Tonight?’ ‘Tonight. I am not satisfied with that. How did he manage to disappear so suddenly and completely – at that hour in the morning, with every labourer bestirring himself and tramping to work? Bareheaded, too.’ ‘There is no doubt about the latter point – since the gardener saw him?’ ‘Yes – the gardener – John Mathias. Was there anything there, I wonder?’ ‘The police would not overlook him,’ said Mr Quin. ‘They questioned him closely. He never wavered in his statement. His wife bore him out. He left his cottage at seven to attend to the greenhouses, he returned at twenty minutes to eight. The servants in the house heard the front door slam at about a quarter after seven. That fixes the time when Captain Harwell left the house. Ah! yes, I know what you are thinking.’ ‘Do you, I wonder?’ said Mr Quin. ‘I fancy so. Time enough for Mathias to have made away with his master. But why, man, why? And if so, where did he hide the body?’ The landlord came in bearing a tray. ‘Sorry to have kept you so long, gentlemen.’ He set upon the table a mammoth steak and beside it a dish filled to overflowing with crisp brown potatoes. The odour from the dishes was pleasant to Mr Satterthwaite’s nostrils. He felt gracious. ‘This looks excellent,’ he said. ‘Most excellent. We have been discussing the disappearance of Captain Harwell. What became of the gardener, Mathias?’ ‘Took a place in Essex, I believe. Didn’t care to stay hereabouts. There were some as looked askance at him, you understand. Not that I ever believe he had anything to do with it.’ Mr Satterthwaite helped himself to steak. Mr Quin followed suit. The landlord seemed disposed to linger and chat. Mr Satterthwaite had no objection, on the contrary. ‘This Mathias now,’ he said. ‘What kind of a man was he?’ ‘Middle-aged chap, must have been a powerful fellow once but bent and crippled with rheumatism. He had that mortal bad, was laid up many a time with it, unable to do any work. For my part, I think it was sheer kindness on Miss Eleanor’s part to keep him on. He’d outgrown his usefulness as a gardener, though his wife managed to make herself useful up at the house. Been a cook she had, and always willing to lend a hand.’ ‘What sort of a woman was she?’ asked Mr Satterthwaite, quickly. The landlord’s answer disappointed him. ‘A plain body. Middle-aged, and dour like in manner. Deaf, too. Not that I ever knew much of them. They’d only been here a month, you understand, when the thing happened. They say he’d been a rare good gardener in his time, though. Wonderful testimonials Miss Eleanor had with him.’ ‘Was she interested in gardening?’ asked Mr Quin, softly. ‘No, sir, I couldn’t say that she was, not like some of the ladies round here who pay good money to gardeners and spend the whole of their time grubbing about on their knees as well. Foolishness I call it. You see, Miss Le Couteau wasn’t here very much except in the winter for hunting. The rest of the time she was up in London and away in those foreign seaside places where they say the French ladies don’t so much as put a toe into the water for fear of spoiling their costumes, or so I’ve heard.’ Mr Satterthwaite smiled. ‘There was no – er – woman of any kind mixed up with Captain Harwell?’ he asked. Though his first theory was disposed of, he nevertheless clung to his idea. Mr William Jones shook his head. ‘Nothing of that sort. Never a whisper of it. No, it’s a dark mystery, that’s what it is.’ ‘And your theory? What do you yourself think?’ persisted Mr Satterthwaite. ‘What do I think?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Don’t know what to think. It’s my belief as how he was done in, but who by I can’t say. I’ll fetch you gentlemen the cheese.’ He stumped from the room bearing empty dishes. The storm, which had been quietening down, suddenly broke out with redoubled vigour. A flash of forked lightning and a great clap of thunder close upon each other made little Mr Satterthwaite jump, and before the last echoes of the thunder had died away, a girl came into the room carrying the advertised cheese. She was tall and dark, and handsome in a sullen fashion of her own. Her likeness to the landlord of the ‘Bells and Motley’ was apparent enough to proclaim her his daughter. ‘Good evening, Mary,’ said Mr Quin. ‘A stormy night.’ She nodded. ‘I hate these stormy nights,’ she muttered. ‘You are afraid of thunder, perhaps?’ said Mr Satterthwaite kindly. ‘Afraid of thunder? Not me! There’s little that I’m afraid of. No, but the storm sets them off. Talking, talking, the same thing over and over again, like a lot of parrots. Father begins it. “It reminds me, this does, of the night poor Captain Harwell …” And so on, and so on.’ She turned on Mr Quin. ‘You’ve heard how he goes on. What’s the sense of it? Can’t anyone let past things be?’ ‘A thing is only past when it is done with,’ said Mr Quin. ‘Isn’t this done with? Suppose he wanted to disappear? These fine gentlemen do sometimes.’ ‘You think he disappeared of his own free will?’ ‘Why not? It would make better sense than to suppose a kind-hearted creature like Stephen Grant murdered him. What should he murder him for, I should like to know? Stephen had had a drop too much one day and spoke to him saucy like, and got the sack for it. But what of it? He got another place just as good. Is that a reason to murder a man in cold blood?’ ‘But surely,’ said Mr Satterthwaite, ‘the police were quite satisfied of his innocence?’ ‘The police! What do the police matter? When Stephen comes into the bar of an evening, every man looks at him queer like. They don’t really believe he murdered Harwell, but they’re not sure, and so they look at him sideways and edge away. Nice life for a man, to see people shrink away from you, as though you were something different from the rest of folks. Why won’t Father hear of our getting married, Stephen and I? “You can take your pigs to a better market, my girl. I’ve nothing against Stephen, but – well, we don’t know, do we?”’ She stopped, her breast heaving with the violence of her resentment. ‘It’s cruel, cruel, that’s what it is,’ she burst out. ‘Stephen, that wouldn’t hurt a fly! And all through life there’ll be people who’ll think he did. It’s turning him queer and bitter like. I don’t wonder, I’m sure. And the more he’s like that, the more people think there must have been something in it.’ Again she stopped. Her eyes were fixed on Mr Quin’s face, as though something in it was drawing this outburst from her. ‘Can nothing be done?’ said Mr Satterthwaite. He was genuinely distressed. The thing was, he saw, inevitable. The very vagueness and unsatisfactoriness of the evidence against Stephen Grant made it the more difficult for him to disprove the accusation. The girl whirled round on him. ‘Nothing but the truth can help him,’ she cried. ‘If Captain Harwell were to be found, if he was to come back. If the true rights of it were only known –’ She broke off with something very like a sob, and hurried quickly from the room. ‘A fine-looking girl,’ said Mr Satterthwaite. ‘A sad case altogether. I wish – I very much wish that something could be done about it.’ His kind heart was troubled. ‘We are doing what we can,’ said Mr Quin. ‘There is still nearly half an hour before your car can be ready.’ Mr Satterthwaite stared at him. ‘You think we can come at the truth just by – talking it over like this?’ ‘You have seen much of life,’ said Mr Quin gravely. ‘More than most people.’ ‘Life has passed me by,’ said Mr Satterthwaite bitterly. ‘But in so doing has sharpened your vision. Where others are blind you can see.’ ‘It is true,’ said Mr Satterthwaite. ‘I am a great observer.’ He plumed himself complacently. The moment of bitterness was passed. ‘I look at it like this,’ he said after a minute or two. ‘To get at the cause for a thing, we must study the effect.’ ‘Very good,’ said Mr Quin approvingly. ‘The effect in this case is that Miss Le Couteau – Mrs Harwell, I mean, is a wife and yet not a wife. She is not free – she cannot marry again. And look at it as we will, we see Richard Harwell as a sinister figure, a man from nowhere with a mysterious past.’ ‘I agree,’ said Mr Quin. ‘You see what all are bound to see, what cannot be missed, Captain Harwell in the limelight, a suspicious figure.’ Mr Satterthwaite looked at him doubtfully. The words seemed somehow to suggest a faintly different picture to his mind. ‘We have studied the effect,’ he said. ‘Or call it the result. We can now pass –’ Mr Quin interrupted him. ‘You have not touched on the result on the strictly material side.’ ‘You are right,’ said Mr Satterthwaite, after a moment or two for consideration. ‘One should do the thing thoroughly. Let us say then that the result of the tragedy is that Mrs Harwell is a wife and not a wife, unable to marry again, that Mr Cyrus Bradburn has been able to buy Ashley Grange and its contents for – sixty thousand pounds, was it? – and that somebody in Essex has been able to secure John Mathias as a gardener! For all that we do not suspect “somebody in Essex” or Mr Cyrus Bradburn of having engineered the disappearance of Captain Harwell.’ ‘You are sarcastic,’ said Mr Quin. Mr Satterthwaite looked sharply at him. ‘But surely you agree –?’ ‘Oh! I agree,’ said Mr Quin. ‘The idea is absurd. What next?’ ‘Let us imagine ourselves back on the fatal day. The disappearance has taken place, let us say, this very morning.’ ‘No, no,’ said Mr Quin, smiling. ‘Since, in our imagination, at least, we have power over time, let us turn it the other way. Let us say the disappearance of Captain Harwell took place a hundred years ago. That we, in the year two thousand twenty-five are looking back.’ ‘You are a strange man,’ said Mr Satterthwaite slowly. ‘You believe in the past, not the present. Why?’ ‘You used, not long ago, the word atmosphere. There is no atmosphere in the present.’ ‘That is true, perhaps,’ said Mr Satterthwaite thoughtfully. ‘Yes, it is true. The present is apt to be – parochial.’ ‘A good word,’ said Mr Quin. Mr Satterthwaite gave a funny little bow. ‘You are too kind,’ he said. ‘Let us take – not this present year, that would be too difficult, but say – last year,’ continued the other. ‘Sum it up for me, you who have the gift of the neat phrase.’ Mr Satterthwaite thought for a minute. He was jealous of his reputation. ‘A hundred years ago we have the age of powder and patches,’ he said. ‘Shall we say that 1924 was the age of Crossword Puzzles and Cat Burglars?’ ‘Very good,’ approved Mr Quin. ‘You mean that nationally, not internationally, I presume?’ ‘As to Crossword Puzzles, I must confess that I do not know,’ said Mr Satterthwaite. ‘But the Cat Burglar had a great innings on the Continent. You remember that series of famous thefts from French chateaux? It is surmised that one man alone could not have done it. The most miraculous feats were performed to gain admission. There was a theory that a troupe of acrobats were concerned – the Clondinis. I once saw their performance – truly masterly. A mother, son and daughter. They vanished from the stage in a rather mysterious fashion. But we are wandering from our subject.’ ‘Not very far,’ said Mr Quin. ‘Only across the Channel.’ ‘Where the French ladies will not wet their toes, according to our worthy host,’ said Mr Satterthwaite, laughing. There was a pause. It seemed somehow significant. ‘Why did he disappear?’ cried Mr Satterthwaite. ‘Why? Why? It is incredible, a kind of conjuring trick.’ ‘Yes,’ said Mr Quin. ‘A conjuring trick. That describes it exactly. Atmosphere again, you see. And wherein does the essence of a conjuring trick lie?’ ‘The quickness of the hand deceives the eye,’ quoted Mr Satterthwaite glibly. ‘That is everything, is it not? To deceive the eye? Sometimes by the quickness of the hand, sometimes – by other means. There are many devices, the pistol shot, the waving of a red handkerchief, something that seems important, but in reality is not. The eye is diverted from the real business, it is caught by the spectacular action that means nothing – nothing at all.’ Mr Satterthwaite leant forward, his eyes shining. ‘There is something in that. It is an idea.’ He went on softly. ‘The pistol shot. What was the pistol shot in the conjuring trick we were discussing? What is the spectacular moment that holds the imagination?’ He drew in his breath sharply. ‘The disappearance,’ breathed Mr Satterthwaite. ‘Take that away, and it leaves nothing.’ ‘Nothing? Suppose things took the same course without that dramatic gesture?’ ‘You mean – supposing Miss Le Couteau were still to sell Ashley Grange and leave – for no reason?’ ‘Well.’ ‘Well, why not? It would have aroused talk, I suppose, there would have been a lot of interest displayed in the value of the contents in – Ah! wait!’ He was silent a minute, then burst out. ‘You are right, there is too much limelight, the limelight on Captain Harwell. And because of that, she has been in shadow. Miss Le Couteau! Everyone asking. “Who was Captain Harwell? Where did he come from?” But because she is the injured party, no one makes inquiries about her. Was she really a French Canadian? Were those wonderful heirlooms really handed down to her? You were right when you said just now that we had not wandered far from our subject – only across the Channel. Those so-called heirlooms were stolen from the French chãteaux, most of them valuable objects d’art, and in consequence difficult to dispose of. She buys the house – for a mere song, probably. Settles down there and pays a good sum to an irreproachable English woman to chaperone her. Then he comes. The plot is laid beforehand. The marriage, the disappearance and the nine days’ wonder! What more natural than that a broken-hearted woman should want to sell everything that reminds her of her past happiness. The American is a connoisseur, the things are genuine and beautiful, some of them beyond price. He makes an offer, she accepts it. She leaves the neighbourhood, a sad and tragic figure. The great coup has come off. The eye of the public has been deceived by the quickness of the hand and the spectacular nature of the trick.’ Mr Satterthwaite paused, flushed with triumph. ‘But for you, I should never have seen it,’ he said with sudden humility. ‘You have a most curious effect upon me. One says things so often without even seeing what they really mean. You have the knack of showing one. But it is still not quite clear to me. It must have been most difficult for Harwell to disappear as he did. After all, the police all over England were looking for him.’ ‘It would have been simplest to remain hidden at the Grange,’ mused Mr Satterthwaite. ‘If it could be managed.’ ‘He was, I think, very near the Grange,’ said Mr Quin. His look of significance was not lost on Mr Satterthwaite. ‘Mathias’ cottage?’ he exclaimed. ‘But the police must have searched it?’ ‘Repeatedly, I should imagine,’ said Mr Quin. ‘Mathias,’ said Mr Satterthwaite, frowning. ‘And Mrs Mathias,’ said Mr Quin. Mr Satterthwaite stared hard at him. ‘If that gang was really the Clondinis,’ he said dreamily, ‘there were three of them in it. The two young ones were Harwell and Eleanor Le Couteau. The mother now, was she Mrs Mathias? But in that case …’ ‘Mathias suffered from rheumatism, did he not?’ said Mr Quin innocently. ‘Oh!’ cried Mr Satterthwaite. ‘I have it. But could it be done? I believe it could. Listen. Mathias was there a month. During that time, Harwell and Eleanor were away for a fortnight on a honeymoon. For the fortnight before the wedding, they were supposedly in town. A clever man could have doubled the parts of Harwell and Mathias. When Harwell was at Kirtlington Mallet, Mathias was conveniently laid up with rheumatism, with Mrs Mathias to sustain the fiction. Her part was very necessary. Without her, someone might have suspected the truth. As you say, Harwell was hidden in Mathias’ cottage. He was Mathias. When at last the plans matured, and Ashley Grange was sold, he and his wife gave out they were taking a place in Essex. Exit John Mathias and his wife – for ever.’ There was a knock at the coffee-room door, and Masters entered. ‘The car is at the door, sir,’ he said. Mr Satterthwaite rose. So did Mr Quin, who went across to the window, pulling the curtains. A beam of moonlight streamed into the room. ‘The storm is over,’ he said. Mr Satterthwaite was pulling on his gloves. ‘The Commissioner is dining with me next week,’ he said importantly. ‘I shall put my theory – ah! – before him.’ ‘It will be easily proved or disproved,’ said Mr Quin. ‘A comparison of the objects at Ashley Grange with a list supplied by the French police –!’ ‘Just so,’ said Mr Satterthwaite. ‘Rather hard luck on Mr Bradburn, but – well –’ ‘He can, I believe, stand the loss,’ said Mr Quin. Mr Satterthwaite held out his hand. ‘Goodbye,’ he said. ‘I cannot tell you how much I have appreciated this unexpected meeting. You are leaving here tomorrow, I think you said?’ ‘Possibly tonight. My business here is done … I come and go, you know.’ Mr Satterthwaite remembered hearing those same words earlier in the evening. Rather curious. He went out to the car and the waiting Masters. From the open door into the bar the landlord’s voice floated out, rich and complacent. ‘A dark mystery,’ he was saying. ‘A dark mystery, that’s what it is.’ But he did not use the word ‘dark’. The word he used suggested quite a different colour. Mr William Jones was a man of discrimination who suited his adjectives to his company. The company in the bar liked their adjectives full flavoured. Mr Satterthwaite reclined luxuriously in the comfortable limousine. His breast was swelled with triumph. He saw the girl Mary come out on the steps and stand under the creaking Inn sign. ‘She little knows,’ said Mr Satterthwaite to himself. ‘She little knows what I am going to do!’ The sign of the ‘Bells and Motley’ swayed gently in the wind. 4 The Sign in the Sky (#ulink_6a702b80-12e8-50f6-a98a-9db95e725fd4) ‘The Sign in the Sky’ was first published in the USA in The Police Magazine, June 1925, and then as ‘A Sign in the Sky’ in Grand Magazine, July 1925. The Judge was finishing his charge to the jury. ‘Now, gentlemen, I have almost finished what I want to say to you. There is evidence for you to consider as to whether this case is plainly made out against this man so that you may say he is guilty of the murder of Vivien Barnaby. You have had the evidence of the servants as to the time the shot was fired. They have one and all agreed upon it. You have had the evidence of the letter written to the defendant by Vivien Barnaby on the morning of that same day, Friday, September 13th – a letter which the defence has not attempted to deny. You have had evidence that the prisoner first denied having been at Deering Hill, and later, after evidence had been given by the police, admitted he had. You will draw your own conclusions from that denial. This is not a case of direct evidence. You will have to come to your own conclusions on the subject of motive – of means, of opportunity. The contention of the defence is that some person unknown entered the music room after the defendant had left it, and shot Vivien Barnaby with the gun which, by strange forgetfulness, the defendant had left behind him. You have heard the defendant’s story of the reason it took him half an hour to get home. If you disbelieve the defendant’s story and are satisfied, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the defendant did, upon Friday, September 13th, discharge his gun at close quarters to Vivien Barnaby’s head with intent to kill her, then, gentlemen, your verdict must be Guilty. If, on the other hand, you have any reasonable doubt, it is your duty to acquit the prisoner. I will now ask you to retire to your room and consider and let me know when you have arrived at a conclusion.’ The jury were absent a little under half an hour. They returned the verdict that to everyone had seemed a foregone conclusion, the verdict of ‘Guilty’. Mr Satterthwaite left the court after hearing the verdict, with a thoughtful frown on his face. A mere murder trial as such did not attract him. He was of too fastidious a temperament to find interest in the sordid details of the average crime. But the Wylde case had been different. Young Martin Wylde was what is termed a gentleman – and the victim, Sir George Barnaby’s young wife, had been personally known to the elderly gentleman. He was thinking of all this as he walked up Holborn, and then plunged into a tangle of mean streets leading in the direction of Soho. In one of these streets there was a small restaurant, known only to the few, of whom Mr Satterthwaite was one. It was not cheap – it was, on the contrary, exceedingly expensive, since it catered exclusively for the palate of the jaded gourmet. It was quiet – no strains of jazz were allowed to disturb the hushed atmosphere – it was rather dark, waiters appeared soft-footed out of the twilight, bearing silver dishes with the air of participating in some holy rite. The name of the restaurant was Arlecchino. Still thoughtful, Mr Satterthwaite turned into the Arlecchino and made for his favourite table in a recess in the far corner. Owing to the twilight before mentioned, it was not until he was quite close to it that he saw it was already occupied by a tall dark man who sat with his face in shadow, and with a play of colour from a stained window turning his sober garb into a kind of riotous motley. Mr Satterthwaite would have turned back, but just at that moment the stranger moved slightly and the other recognized him. ‘God bless my soul,’ said Mr Satterthwaite, who was given to old-fashioned expressions. ‘Why, it’s Mr Quin!’ Three times before he had met Mr Quin, and each time the meeting had resulted in something a little out of the ordinary. A strange person, this Mr Quin, with a knack of showing you the things you had known all along in a totally different light. At once Mr Satterthwaite felt excited – pleasurably excited. His role was that of the looker-on, and he knew it, but sometimes when in the company of Mr Quin he had the illusion of being an actor – and the principal actor at that. ‘This is very pleasant,’ he said, beaming all over his dried-up little face. ‘Very pleasant indeed. You’ve no objection to my joining you, I hope?’ ‘I shall be delighted,’ said Mr Quin. ‘As you see, I have not yet begun my meal.’ A deferential head waiter hovered up out of the shadows. Mr Satterthwaite, as befitted a man with a seasoned palate, gave his whole mind to the task of selection. In a few minutes, the head waiter, a slight smile of approbation on his lips, retired, and a young satellite began his ministrations. Mr Satterthwaite turned to Mr Quin. ‘I have just come from the Old Bailey,’ he began. ‘A sad business, I thought.’ ‘He was found guilty?’ said Mr Quin. ‘Yes, the jury were out only half an hour.’ Mr Quin bowed his head. ‘An inevitable result – on the evidence,’ he said. ‘And yet,’ began Mr Satterthwaite – and stopped. Mr Quin finished the sentence for him. ‘And yet your sympathies were with the accused? Is that what you were going to say?’ ‘I suppose it was. Martin Wylde is a nice-looking young fellow – one can hardly believe it of him. All the same, there have been a good many nice-looking young fellows lately who have turned out to be murderers of a particularly cold-blooded and repellent type.’ ‘Too many,’ said Mr Quin quietly. ‘I beg your pardon?’ said Mr Satterthwaite, slightly startled. ‘Too many for Martin Wylde. There has been a tendency from the beginning to regard this as just one more of a series of the same type of crime – a man seeking to free himself from one woman in order to marry another.’ ‘Well,’ said Mr Satterthwasite doubtfully. ‘On the evidence –’ ‘Ah!’ said Mr Quin quickly. ‘I am afraid I have not followed all the evidence.’ Mr Satterthwaite’s self-confidence came back to him with a rush. He felt a sudden sense of power. He was tempted to be consciously dramatic. ‘Let me try and show it to you. I have met the Bamabys, you understand. I know the peculiar circumstances. With me, you will come behind the scenes – you will see the thing from inside.’ Mr Quin leant forward with his quick encouraging smile. ‘If anyone can show me that, it will be Mr Satterthwaite,’ he murmured. Mr Satterthwaite gripped the table with both hands. He was uplifted, carried out of himself. For the moment, he was an artist pure and simple – an artist whose medium was words. Swiftly, with a dozen broad strokes, he etched in the picture of life at Deering Hill. Sir George Barnaby, elderly, obese, purse-proud. A man perpetually fussing over the little things of life. A man who wound up his clocks every Friday afternoon, and who paid his own house-keeping books every Tuesday morning, and who always saw to the locking of his own front door every night. A careful man. And from Sir George he went on to Lady Barnaby. Here his touch was gentler, but none the less sure. He had seen her but once, but his impression of her was definite and lasting. A vivid defiant creature – pitifully young. A trapped child, that was how he described her. ‘She hated him, you understand? She had married him before she knew what she was doing. And now –’ She was desperate – that was how he put it. Turning this way and that. She had no money of her own, she was entirely dependent on this elderly husband. But all the same she was a creature at bay – still unsure of her own powers, with a beauty that was as yet more promise than actuality. And she was greedy. Mr Satterthwaite affirmed that definitely. Side by side with defiance there ran a greedy streak – a clasping and a clutching at life. ‘I never met Martin Wylde,’ continued Mr Satterthwaite. ‘But I heard of him. He lived less than a mile away. Farming, that was his line. And she took an interest in farming – or pretended to. If you ask me, it was pretending. I think that she saw in him her only way of escape – and she grabbed at him, greedily, like a child might have done. Well, there could only be one end to that. We know what that end was, because the letters were read out in court. He kept her letters – she didn’t keep his, but from the text of hers one can see that he was cooling off. He admits as much. There was the other girl. She also lived in the village of Deering Vale. Her father was the doctor there. You saw her in court, perhaps? No, I remember, you were not there, you said. I shall have to describe her to you. A fair girl – very fair. Gentle. Perhaps – yes, perhaps a tiny bit stupid. But very restful, you know. And loyal. Above all, loyal.’ He looked at Mr Quin for encouragement, and Mr Quin gave it him by a slow appreciative smile. Mr Satterthwaite went on. ‘You heard that last letter read – you must have seen it, in the papers, I mean. The one written on the morning of Friday, September 13th. It was full of desperate reproaches and vague threats, and it ended by begging Martin Wylde to come to Deering Hill that same evening at six o’clock. “I will leave the side door open for you, so that no one need know you have been here. I shall be in the music room.” It was sent by hand.’ Mr Satterthwaite paused for a minute or two. ‘When he was first arrested, you remember, Martin Wylde denied that he had been to the house at all that evening. His statement was that he had taken his gun and gone out shooting in the woods. But when the police brought forward their evidence, that statement broke down. They had found his finger-prints, you remember, both on the wood of the side door and on one of the two cocktail glasses on the table in the music room. He admitted then that he had come to see Lady Barnaby, that they had had a stormy interview, but that it had ended in his having managed to soothe her down. He swore that he left his gun outside leaning against the wall near the door, and that he left Lady Barnaby alive and well, the time being then a minute or two after a quarter past six. He went straight home, he says. But evidence was called to show that he did not reach his farm until a quarter to seven, and as I have just mentioned, it is barely a mile away. It would not take half an hour to get there. He forgot all about his gun, he declares. Not a very likely statement – and yet –’ ‘And yet?’ queried Mr Quin. ‘Well,’ said Mr Satterthwaite slowly, ‘it’s a possible one, isn’t it? Counsel ridiculed the supposition, of course, but I think he was wrong. You see, I’ve known a good many young men, and these emotional scenes upset them very much – especially the dark, nervous type like Martin Wylde. Women now, can go through a scene like that and feel positively better for it afterwards, with all their wits about them. It acts like a safety valve for them, steadies their nerves down and all that. But I can see Martin Wylde going away with his head in a whirl, sick and miserable, and without a thought of the gun he had left leaning up against the wall.’ He was silent for some minutes before he went on. ‘Not that it matters. For the next part is only too clear, unfortunately. It was exactly twenty minutes past six when the shot was heard. All the servants heard it, the cook, the kitchen-maid, the butler, the housemaid and Lady Barnaby’s own maid. They came rushing to the music room. She was lying huddled over the arm of her chair. The gun had been discharged close to the back of her head, so that the shot hadn’t a chance to scatter. At least two of them penetrated the brain.’ He paused again and Mr Quin asked casually: ‘The servants gave evidence, I suppose?’ Mr Satterthwaite nodded. ‘Yes. The butler got there a second or two before the others, but their evidence was practically a repetition of each other’s.’ ‘So they all gave evidence,’ said Mr Quin musingly. ‘There were no exceptions?’ ‘Now I remember it,’ said Mr Satterthwaite, ‘the housemaid was only called at the inquest. She’s gone to Canada since, I believe.’ ‘I see,’ said Mr Quin. There was a silence, and somehow the air of the little restaurant seemed to be charged with an uneasy feeling. Mr Satterthwaite felt suddenly as though he were on the defensive. ‘Why shouldn’t she?’ he said abruptly. ‘Why should she?’ said Mr Quin with a very slight shrug of the shoulders. Somehow, the question annoyed Mr Satterthwaite. He wanted to shy away from it – to get back on familiar ground. ‘There couldn’t be much doubt who fired the shot. As a matter of fact the servants seemed to have lost their heads a bit. There was no one in the house to take charge. It was some minutes before anyone thought of ringing up the police, and when they did so they found that the telephone was out of order.’ ‘Oh!’ said Mr Quin. ‘The telephone was out of order.’ ‘It was,’ said Mr Satterthwaite – and was struck suddenly by the feeling that he had said something tremendously important. ‘It might, of course, have been done on purpose,’ he said slowly. ‘But there seems no point in that. Death was practically instantaneous.’ Mr Quin said nothing, and Mr Satterthwaite felt that his explanation was unsatisfactory. ‘There was absolutely no one to suspect but young Wylde,’ he went on. ‘By his own account, even, he was only out of the house three minutes before the shot was fired. And who else could have fired it? Sir George was at a bridge party a few houses away. He left there at half-past six and was met just outside the gate by a servant bringing him the news. The last rubber finished at half-past six exactly – no doubt about that. Then there was Sir George’s secretary, Henry Thompson. He was in London that day, and actually at a business meeting at the moment the shot was fired. Finally, there is Sylvia Dale, who after all, had a perfectly good motive, impossible as it seems that she should have had anything to do with such a crime. She was at the station of Deering Vale seeing a friend off by the 6.28 train. That lets her out. Then the servants. What earthly motive could any one of them have? Besides they all arrived on the spot practically simultaneously. No, it must have been Martin Wylde.’ But he said it in a dissatisfied kind of voice. They went on with their lunch. Mr Quin was not in a talkative mood, and Mr Satterthwaite had said all he had to say. But the silence was not a barren one. It was filled with the growing dissatisfaction of Mr Satterthwaite, heightened and fostered in some strange way by the mere acquiescence of the other man. Mr Satterthwaite suddenly put down his knife and fork with a clatter. ‘Supposing that that young man is really innocent,’ he said. ‘He’s going to be hanged.’ He looked very startled and upset about it. And still Mr Quin said nothing. ‘It’s not as though –’ began Mr Satterthwaite, and stopped. ‘Why shouldn’t the woman go to Canada?’ he ended inconsequently. Mr Quin shook his head. ‘I don’t even know what part of Canada she went to,’ continued Mr Satterthwaite peevishly. ‘Could you find out?’ suggested the other. ‘I suppose I could. The butler, now. He’d know. Or possibly Thompson, the secretary.’ He paused again. When he resumed speech, his voice sounded almost pleading. ‘It’s not as though it were anything to do with me?’ ‘That a young man is going to be hanged in a little over three weeks?’ ‘Well, yes – if you put it that way, I suppose. Yes, I see what you mean. Life and death. And that poor girl, too. It’s not that I’m hard-headed – but, after all – what good will it do? Isn’t the whole thing rather fantastic? Even if I found out where the woman’s gone in Canada – why, it would probably mean that I should have to go out there myself.’ Mr Satterthwaite looked seriously upset. ‘And I was thinking of going to the Riviera next week,’ he said pathetically. And his glance towards Mr Quin said as plainly as it could be said, ‘Do let me off, won’t you?’ ‘You have never been to Canada?’ ‘Never.’ ‘A very interesting country.’ Mr Satterthwaite looked at him undecidedly. ‘You think I ought to go?’ Mr Quin leaned back in his chair and lighted a cigarette. Between puffs of smoke, he spoke deliberately. ‘You are, I believe, a rich man, Mr Satterthwaite. Not a millionaire, but a man able to indulge a hobby without counting the expense. You have looked on at the dramas of other people. Have you never contemplated stepping in and playing a part? Have you never seen yourself for a minute as the arbiter of other people’s destinies – standing in the centre of the stage with life and death in your hands?’ Mr Satterthwaite leant forward. The old eagerness surged over him. ‘You mean – if I go on this wild-goose chase to Canada –?’ Mr Quin smiled. ‘Oh! it was your suggestion, going to Canada, not mine,’ he said lightly. ‘You can’t put me off like that,’ said Mr Satterthwaite earnestly. ‘Whenever I have come across you –’ He stopped. ‘Well?’ ‘There is something about you I do not understand. Perhaps I never shall. The last time I met you –’ ‘On Midsummer’s Eve.’ Mr Satterthwaite was startled, as though the words held a clue that he did not quite understand. ‘Was it Midsummer’s Eve?’ he asked confusedly. ‘Yes. But let us not dwell on that. It is unimportant, is it not?’ ‘Since you say so,’ said Mr Satterthwaite courteously. He felt that elusive clue slipping through his fingers. ‘When I come back from Canada’ – he paused a little awkwardly – ‘I – I – should much like to see you again.’ ‘I am afraid I have no fixed address for the moment,’ said Mr Quin regretfully. ‘But I often come to this place. If you also frequent it, we shall no doubt meet before very long.’ They parted pleasantly. Mr Satterthwaite was very excited. He hurried round to Cook’s and inquired about boat sailings. Then he rang up Deering Hill. The voice of a butler, suave and deferential, answered him. ‘My name is Satterthwaite. I am speaking for a – er – firm of solicitors. I wished to make a few inquiries about a young woman who was recently housemaid in your establishment.’ ‘Would that be Louisa, sir? Louisa Bullard?’ ‘That is the name,’ said Mr Satterthwaite, very pleased to be told it. ‘I regret she is not in this country, sir. She went to Canada six months ago.’ ‘Can you give me her present address?’ The butler was afraid he couldn’t. It was a place in the mountains she had gone to – a Scotch name – ah! Banff, that was it. Some of the other young women in the house had been expecting to hear from her, but she had never written or given them any address. Mr Satterthwaite thanked him and rang off. He was still undaunted, The adventurous spirit was strong in his breast. He would go to Banff. If this Louisa Bullard was there, he would track her down somehow or other. To his own surprise, he enjoyed the trip greatly. It was many years since he had taken a long sea voyage. The Riviera, Le Touquet and Deauville, and Scotland had been his usual round. The feeling that he was setting off on an impossible mission added a secret zest to his journey. What an utter fool these fellow travellers of his would think him did they but know the object of his quest! But then – they were not acquainted with Mr Quin. In Banff he found his objective easily attained. Louisa Bullard was employed in the large Hotel there. Twelve hours after his arrival he was standing face to face with her. She was a woman of about thirty-five, anaemic looking, but with a strong frame. She had pale brown hair inclined to curl, and a pair of honest brown eyes. She was, he thought, slightly stupid, but very trustworthy. She accepted quite readily his statement that he had been asked to collect a few further facts from her about the tragedy at Deering Hill. ‘I saw in the paper that Mr Martin Wylde had been convicted, sir. Very sad, it is, too.’ She seemed, however, to have no doubt as to his guilt. ‘A nice young gentleman gone wrong. But though I wouldn’t speak ill of the dead, it was her ladyship what led him on. Wouldn’t leave him alone, she wouldn’t. Well, they’ve both got their punishment. There’s a text used to hang on my wall when I was a child, “God is not mocked,” and it’s very true. I knew something was going to happen that very evening – and sure enough it did.’ ‘How was that?’ said Mr Satterthwaite. ‘I was in my room, sir, changing my dress, and I happened to glance out of the window. There was a train going along, and the white smoke of it rose up in the air, and if you’ll believe me it formed itself into the sign of a gigantic hand. A great white hand against the crimson of the sky. The fingers were crooked like, as though they were reaching out for something. It fair gave me a turn. “Did you ever now?” I said to myself. “That’s a sign of something coming” – and sure enough at that very minute I heard the shot. “It’s come,” I said to myself, and I rushed downstairs and joined Carrie and the others who were in the hall, and we went into the music room and there she was, shot through the head – and the blood and everything. Horrible! I spoke up, I did, and told Sir George how I’d seen the sign beforehand, but he didn’t seem to think much of it. An unlucky day, that was, I’d felt it in my bones from early in the morning. Friday, and the 13th – what could you expect?’ She rambled on. Mr Satterthwaite was patient. Again and again he took her back to the crime, questioning her closely. In the end he was forced to confess defeat. Louisa Bullard had told all she knew, and her story was perfectly simple and straightforward. Yet he did discover one fact of importance. The post in question had been suggested to her by Mr Thompson, Sir George’s secretary. The wages attached were so large that she was tempted, and accepted the job, although it involved her leaving England very hurriedly. A Mr Denman had made all the arrangements this end and had also warned her not to write to her fellow-servants in England, as this might ‘get her into trouble with the immigration authorities’, which statement she had accepted in blind faith. The amount of wages, casually mentioned by her, was indeed so large that Mr Satterthwaite was startled. After some hesitation he made up his mind to approach this Mr Denman. He found very little difficulty in inducing Mr Denman to tell all he knew. The latter had come across Thompson in London and Thompson had done him a good turn. The secretary had written to him in September saying that for personal reasons Sir George was anxious to get this girl out of England. Could he find her a job? A sum of money had been sent to raise the wages to a high figure. ‘Usual trouble, I guess,’ said Mr Denman, leaning back nonchalantly in his chair. ‘Seems a nice quiet girl, too.’ Mr Satterthwaite did not agree that this was the usual trouble. Louisa Bullard, he was sure, was not a cast-off fancy of Sir George Barnaby’s. For some reason it had been vital to get her out of England. But why? And who was at the bottom of it? Sir George himself, working through Thompson? Or the latter working on his own initiative, and dragging in his employer’s name? Still pondering over these questions, Mr Satterthwaite made the return journey. He was cast down and despondent. His journey had done no good. Smarting under a sense of failure, he made his way to the Arlecchino the day after his return. He hardly expected to be successful the first time, but to his satisfaction the familiar figure was sitting at the table in the recess, and the dark face of Mr Harley Quin smiled a welcome. ‘Well,’ said Mr Satterthwaite as he helped himself to a pat of butter, ‘you sent me on a nice wild-goose chase.’ Mr Quin raised his eyebrows. ‘I sent you?’ he objected. ‘It was your own idea entirely.’ ‘Whosever idea it was, it’s not succeeded. Louisa Bullard has nothing to tell.’ Thereupon Mr Satterthwaite related the details of his conversation with the housemaid and then went on to his interview with Mr Denman. Mr Quin listened in silence. ‘In one sense, I was justified,’ continued Mr Satterthwaite. ‘She was deliberately got out of the way. But why? I can’t see it.’ ‘No?’ said Mr Quin, and his voice was, as ever, provocative. Mr Satterthwaite flushed. ‘I daresay you think I might have questioned her more adroitly. I can assure you that I took her over the story again and again. It was not my fault that I did not get what we want.’ ‘Are you sure,’ said Mr Quin, ‘that you did not get what you want?’ Mr Satterthwaite looked up at him in astonishment, and met that sad, mocking gaze he knew so well. The little man shook his head, slightly bewildered. There was a silence, and then Mr Quin said, with a total change of manner: ‘You gave me a wonderful picture the other day of the people in this business. In a few words you made them stand out as clearly as though they were etched. I wish you would do something of that kind for the place – you left that in shadow.’ Mr Satterthwaite was flattered. ‘The place? Deering Hill? Well, it’s a very ordinary sort of house nowadays. Red brick, you know, and bay windows. Quite hideous outside, but very comfortable inside. Not a very large house. About two acres of ground. They’re all much the same, those houses round the links. Built for rich men to live in. The inside of the house is reminiscent of a hotel – the bedrooms are like hotel suites. Baths and hot and cold basins in all the bedrooms and a good many gilded electric-light fittings. All wonderfully comfortable, but not very country-like. You can tell that Deering Vale is only nineteen miles from London.’ Mr Quin listened attentively. ‘The train service is bad, I have heard,’ he remarked. ‘Oh! I don’t know about that,’ said Mr Satterthwaite, warming to his subject. ‘I was down there for a bit last summer. I found it quite convenient for town. Of course the trains only go every hour. Forty-eight minutes past the hour from Waterloo – up to 10.48.’ ‘And how long does it take to Deering Vale?’ ‘Just about three-quarters of an hour. Twenty-eight minutes past the hour at Deering Vale.’ ‘Of course,’ said Mr Quin with a gesture of vexation. ‘I should have remembered. Miss Dale saw someone off by the 6.28 that evening, didn’t she?’ Mr Satterthwaite did not reply for a minute or two. His mind had gone back with a rush to his unsolved problem. Presently he said: ‘I wish you would tell me what you meant just now when you asked me if I was sure I had not got what I wanted?’ It sounded rather complicated, put that way, but Mr Quin made no pretence of not understanding. ‘I just wondered if you weren’t being a little too exacting. After all, you found out that Louisa Bullard was deliberately got out of the country. That being so, there must be a reason. And the reason must lie in what she said to you.’ ‘Well,’ said Mr Satterthwaite argumentatively. ‘What did she say? If she’d given evidence at the trial, what could she have said?’ ‘She might have told what she saw,’ said Mr Quin. ‘What did she see?’ ‘A sign in the sky.’ Mr Satterthwaite stared at him. ‘Are you thinking of that nonsense? That superstitious notion of its being the hand of God?’ ‘Perhaps,’ said Mr Quin, ‘for all you and I know it may have been the hand of God, you know.’ The other was clearly puzzled at the gravity of his manner. ‘Nonsense,’ he said. ‘She said herself it was the smoke of the train.’ ‘An up train or a down train, I wonder?’ murmured Mr Quin. ‘Hardly an up train. They go at ten minutes to the hour. It must have been a down train – the 6.28 – no, that won’t do. She said the shot came immediately afterwards, and we know the shot was fired at twenty minutes past six. The train couldn’t have been ten minutes early.’ ‘Hardly, on that line,’ agreed Mr Quin. Mr Satterthwaite was staring ahead of him. ‘Perhaps a goods train,’ he murmured. ‘But surely, if so –’ ‘There would have been no need to get her out of England. I agree,’ said Mr Quin. Mr Satterthwaite gazed at him, fascinated. ‘The 6.28,’ he said slowly. ‘But if so, if the shot was fired then, why did everyone say it was earlier?’ ‘Obvious,’ said Mr Quin. ‘The clocks must have been wrong.’ ‘All of them?’ said Mr Satterthwaite doubtfully. ‘That’s a pretty tall coincidence, you know.’ ‘I wasn’t thinking of it as a coincidence,’ said the other. ‘I was thinking it was Friday.’ ‘Friday?’ said Mr Satterthwaite. ‘You did tell me, you know, that Sir George always wound the clocks on a Friday afternoon,’ said Mr Quin apologetically. ‘He put them back ten minutes,’ said Mr Satterthwaite, almost in a whisper, so awed was he by the discoveries he was making. ‘Then he went out to bridge. I think he must have opened the note from his wife to Martin Wylde that morning – yes, decidedly he opened it. He left his bridge party at 6.30, found Martin’s gun standing by the side door, and went in and shot her from behind. Then he went out again, threw the gun into the bushes where it was found later, and was apparently just coming out of the neighbour’s gate when someone came running to fetch him. But the telephone – what about the telephone? Ah! yes, I see. He disconnected it so that a summons could not be sent to the police that way – they might have noted the time it was received. And Wylde’s story works out now. The real time he left was five and twenty minutes past six. Walking slowly, he would reach home about a quarter to seven. Yes, I see it all. Louisa was the only danger with her endless talk about her superstitious fancies. Someone might realize the significance of the train and then – goodbye to that excellent alibi.’ ‘Wonderful,’ commented Mr Quin. Mr Satterthwaite turned to him, flushed with success. ‘The only thing is – how to proceed now?’ ‘I should suggest Sylvia Dale,’ said Mr Quin. Mr Satterthwaite looked doubtful. ‘I mentioned to you,’ he said, ‘she seemed to me a little – er – stupid.’ ‘She has a father and brothers who will take the necessary steps.’ ‘That is true,’ said Mr Satterthwaite, relieved. A very short time afterwards he was sitting with the girl telling her the story. She listened attentively. She put no questions to him but when he had done she rose. ‘I must have a taxi – at once.’ ‘My dear child, what are you going to do?’ ‘I am going to Sir George Barnaby.’ ‘Impossible. Absolutely the wrong procedure. Allow me to –’ He twittered on by her side. But he produced no impression. Sylvia Dale was intent on her own plans. She allowed him to go with her in the taxi, but to all his remonstrances she addressed a deaf ear. She left him in the taxi while she went into Sir George’s city office. It was half an hour later when she came out. She looked exhausted, her fair beauty drooping like a waterless flower. Mr Satterthwaite received her with concern. ‘I’ve won,’ she murmured, as she leant back with half-closed eyes. ‘What?’ He was startled. ‘What did you do? What did you say?’ She sat up a little. ‘I told him that Louisa Bullard had been to the police with her story. I told him that the police had made inquiries and that he had been seen going into his own grounds and out again a few minutes after half-past six. I told him that the game was up. He – he went to pieces. I told him that there was still time for him to get away, that the police weren’t coming for another hour to arrest him. I told him that if he’d sign a confession that he’d killed Vivien I’d do nothing, but that if he didn’t I’d scream and tell the whole building the truth. He was so panicky that he didn’t know what he was doing. He signed the paper without realizing what he was doing.’ She thrust it into his hands. ‘Take it – take it. You know what to do with it so that they’ll set Martin free.’ ‘He actually signed it,’ cried Mr Satterthwaite, amazed. ‘He is a little stupid, you know,’ said Sylvia Dale. ‘So am I,’ she added as an afterthought. ‘That’s why I know how stupid people behave. We get rattled, you know, and then we do the wrong thing and are sorry afterwards.’ She shivered and Mr Satterthwaite patted her hand. ‘You need something to pull you together,’ he said. ‘Come, we are close to a very favourite resort of mine – the Arlecchino. Have you ever been there?’ She shook her head. Mr Satterthwaite stopped the taxi and took the girl into the little restaurant. He made his way to the table in the recess, his heart beating hopefully. But the table was empty. Sylvia Dale saw the disappointment in his face. ‘What is it?’ she asked. ‘Nothing,’ said Mr Satterthwaite. ‘That is, I half expected to see a friend of mine here. It doesn’t matter. Some day, I expect, I shall see him again …’ 5 The Soul of the Croupier (#ulink_67e1cbbc-313c-5d76-a691-0a63b3ce503b) ‘The Soul of the Croupier’ was first published in the USA in Flynn’s Weekly, 13 November 1926, and then as ‘The Magic of Mr Quin No. 2: The Soul of the Croupier’ in Storyteller magazine, January 1927. Mr Satterthwaite was enjoying the sunshine on the terrace at Monte Carlo. Every year regularly on the second Sunday in January, Mr Satterthwaite left England for the Riviera. He was far more punctual than any swallow. In the month of April he returned to England, May and June he spent in London, and had never been known to miss Ascot. He left town after the Eton and Harrow match, paying a few country house visits before repairing to Deauville or Le Touquet. Shooting parties occupied most of September and October, and he usually spent a couple of months in town to wind up the year. He knew everybody and it may safely be said that everybody knew him. This morning he was frowning. The blue of the sea was admirable, the gardens were, as always, a delight, but the people disappointed him – he thought them an ill-dressed, shoddy crowd. Some, of course, were gamblers, doomed souls who could not keep away. Those Mr Satterthwaite tolerated. They were a necessary background. But he missed the usual leaven of the élite – his own people. ‘It’s the exchange,’ said Mr Satterthwaite gloomily. ‘All sorts of people come here now who could never have afforded it before. And then, of course, I’m getting old … All the young people – the people coming on – they go to these Swiss places.’ But there were others that he missed, the well-dressed Barons and Counts of foreign diplomacy, the Grand Dukes and the Royal Princes. The only Royal Prince he had seen so far was working a lift in one of the less well-known hotels. He missed, too, the beautiful and expensive ladies. There was still a few of them, but not nearly as many as there used to be. Mr Satterthwaite was an earnest student of the drama called Life, but he liked his material to be highly coloured. He felt discouragement sweep over him. Values were changing – and he – was too old to change. It was at that moment that he observed the Countess Czarnova coming towards him. Mr Satterthwaite had seen the Countess at Monte Carlo for many seasons now. The first time he had seen her she had been in the company of a Grand Duke. On the next occasion she was with an Austrian Baron. In successive years her friends had been of Hebraic extraction, sallow men with hooked noses, wearing rather flamboyant jewellery. For the last year or two she was much seen with very young men, almost boys. She was walking with a very young man now. Mr Satterthwaite happened to know him, and he was sorry. Franklin Rudge was a young American, a typical product of one of the Middle West States, eager to register impression, crude, but loveable, a curious mixture of native shrewdness and idealism. He was in Monte Carlo with a party of other young Americans of both sexes, all much of the same type. It was their first glimpse of the Old World and they were outspoken in criticism and in appreciation. On the whole they disliked the English people in the hotel, and the English people disliked them. Mr Satterthwaite, who prided himself on being a cosmopolitan, rather liked them. Their directness and vigour appealed to him, though their occasional solecisms made him shudder. It occurred to him that the Countess Czarnova was a most unsuitable friend for young Franklin Rudge. He took off his hat politely as they came abreast of him, and the Countess gave him a charming bow and smile. She was a very tall woman, superbly made. Her hair was black, so were her eyes, and her eyelashes and eyebrows were more superbly black than any Nature had ever fashioned. Mr Satterthwaite, who knew far more of feminine secrets than it is good for any man to know, rendered immediate homage to the art with which she was made up. Her complexion appeared to be flawless, of a uniform creamy white. The very faint bistre shadows under her eyes were most effective. Her mouth was neither crimson nor scarlet, but a subdued wine colour. She was dressed in a very daring creation of black and white and carried a parasol of the shade of pinky red which is most helpful to the complexion. Franklin Rudge was looking happy and important. ‘There goes a young fool,’ said Mr Satterthwaite to himself. ‘But I suppose it’s no business of mine and anyway he wouldn’t listen to me. Well, well, I’ve bought experience myself in my time.’ But he still felt rather worried, because there was a very attractive little American girl in the party, and he was sure that she would not like Franklin Rudge’s friendship with the Countess at all. He was just about to retrace his steps in the opposite direction when he caught sight of the girl in question coming up one of the paths towards him. She wore a well-cut tailor-made ‘suit’ with a white muslin shirt waist, she had on good, sensible walking shoes, and carried a guide-book. There are some Americans who pass through Paris and emerge clothed as the Queen of Sheba, but Elizabeth Martin was not one of them. She was ‘doing Europe’ in a stern, conscientious spirit. She had high ideas of culture and art and she was anxious to get as much as possible for her limited store of money. It is doubtful if Mr Satterthwaite thought of her as either cultured or artistic. To him she merely appeared very young. ‘Good morning, Mr Satterthwaite,’ said Elizabeth. ‘Have you seen Franklin – Mr Rudge – anywhere about?’ ‘I saw him just a few minutes ago.’ ‘With his friend the Countess, I suppose,’ said the girl sharply. ‘Er – with the Countess, yes,’ admitted Mr Satterthwaite. ‘That Countess of his doesn’t cut any ice with me,’ said the girl in a rather high, shrill voice. ‘Franklin’s just crazy about her. Why I can’t think.’ ‘She’s got a very charming manner, I believe,’ said Mr Satterthwaite cautiously. ‘Do you know her?’ ‘Slightly.’ ‘I’m right down worried about Franklin,’ said Miss Martin. ‘That boy’s got a lot of sense as a rule. You’d never think he’d fall for this sort of siren stuff. And he won’t hear a thing, he gets madder than a hornet if anyone tries to say a word to him. Tell me, anyway – is she a real Countess?’ ‘I shouldn’t like to say,’ said Mr Satterthwaite. ‘She may be.’ ‘That’s the real Ha Ha English manner,’ said Elizabeth with signs of displeasure. ‘All I can say is that in Sargon Springs – that’s our home town, Mr Satterthwaite – that Countess would look a mighty queer bird.’ Mr Satterthwaite thought it possible. He forebore to point out that they were not in Sargon Springs but in the principality of Monaco, where the Countess happened to synchronize with her environment a great deal better than Miss Martin did. He made no answer and Elizabeth went on towards the Casino. Mr Satterthwaite sat on a seat in the sun, and was presently joined by Franklin Rudge. Rudge was full of enthusiasm. ‘I’m enjoying myself,’ he announced with naïve enthusiasm. ‘Yes, sir! This is what I call seeing life – rather a different kind of life from what we have in the States.’ The elder man turned a thoughtful face to him. ‘Life is lived very much the same everywhere,’ he said rather wearily. ‘It wears different clothes – that’s all.’ Franklin Rudge stared. ‘I don’t get you.’ ‘No,’ said Mr Satterthwaite. ‘That’s because you’ve got a long way to travel yet. But I apologize. No elderly man should permit himself to get into the habit of preaching.’ ‘Oh! that’s all right.’ Rudge laughed, displaying the beautiful teeth of all his countrymen. ‘I don’t say, mind you, that I’m not disappointed in the Casino. I thought the gambling would be different – something much more feverish. It seems just rather dull and sordid to me.’ ‘Gambling is life and death to the gambler, but it has no great spectacular value,’ said Mr Satterthwaite. ‘It is more exciting to read about than to see.’ The young man nodded his agreement. ‘You’re by way of being rather a big bug socially, aren’t you?’ he asked with a diffident candour that made it impossible to take offence. ‘I mean, you know all the Duchesses and Earls and Countesses and things.’ ‘A good many of them,’ said Mr Satterthwaite. ‘And also the Jews and the Portuguese and the Greeks and the Argentines.’ ‘Eh?’ said Mr Rudge. ‘I was just explaining,’ said Mr Satterthwaite, ‘that I move in English society.’ Franklin Rudge meditated for a moment or two. ‘You know the Countess Czarnova, don’t you?’ he said at length. ‘Slightly,’ said Mr Satterthwaite, making the same answer he had made to Elizabeth. ‘Now there’s a woman whom it’s been very interesting to meet. One’s inclined to think that the aristocracy of Europe is played out and effete. That may be true of the men, but the women are different. Isn’t it a pleasure to meet an exquisite creature like the Countess? Witty, charming, intelligent, generations of civilization behind her, an aristocrat to her finger-tips!’ ‘Is she?’ asked Mr Satterthwaite. ‘Well, isn’t she? You know what her family are?’ ‘No,’ said Mr Satterthwaite. ‘I’m afraid I know very little about her.’ ‘She was a Radzynski,’ explained Franklin Rudge. ‘One of the oldest families in Hungary. She’s had the most extraordinary life. You know that great rope of pearls she wears?’ Mr Satterthwaite nodded. ‘That was given her by the King of Bosnia. She smuggled some secret papers out of the kingdom for him.’ ‘I heard,’ said Mr Satterthwaite, ‘that the pearls had been given her by the King of Bosnia.’ The fact was indeed a matter of common gossip, it being reported that the lady had been a chère amie of His Majesty’s in days gone by. ‘Now I’ll tell you something more.’ Mr Satterthwaite listened, and the more he listened the more he admired the fertile imagination of the Countess Czarnova. No vulgar ‘siren stuff’ (as Elizabeth Martin had put it) for her. The young man was shrewd enough in that way, clean living and idealistic. No, the Countess moved austerely through a labyrinth of diplomatic intrigues. She had enemies, detractors – naturally! It was a glimpse, so the young American was made to feel, into the life of the old regime with the Countess as the central figure, aloof, aristocratic, the friend of counsellors and princes, a figure to inspire romantic devotion. ‘And she’s had any amount to contend against,’ ended the young man warmly. ‘It’s an extraordinary thing but she’s never found a woman who would be a real friend to her. Women have been against her all her life.’ ‘Probably,’ said Mr Satterthwaite. ‘Don’t you call it a scandalous thing?’ demanded Rudge hotly. ‘N – no,’ said Mr Satterthwaite thoughtfully. ‘I don’t know that I do. Women have got their own standards, you know. It’s no good our mixing ourselves up in their affairs. They must run their own show.’ ‘I don’t agree with you,’ said Rudge earnestly. ‘It’s one of the worst things in the world today, the unkindness of woman to woman. You know Elizabeth Martin? Now she agrees with me in theory absolutely. We’ve often discussed it together. She’s only a kid, but her ideas are all right. But the moment it comes to a practical test – why, she’s as bad as any of them. Got a real down on the Countess without knowing a darned thing about her, and won’t listen when I try to tell her things. It’s all wrong, Mr Satterthwaite. I believe in democracy – and – what’s that but brotherhood between men and sisterhood between women?’ He paused earnestly. Mr Satterthwaite tried to think of any circumstances in which a sisterly feeling might arise between the Countess and Elizabeth Martin and failed. ‘Now the Countess, on the other hand,’ went on Rudge, ‘admires Elizabeth immensely, and thinks her charming in every way. Now what does that show?’ ‘It shows,’ said Mr Satterthwaite dryly, ‘that the Countess has lived a considerable time longer than Miss Martin has.’ Franklin Rudge went off unexpectedly at a tangent. ‘Do you know how old she is? She told me. Rather sporting of her. I should have guessed her to be twenty-nine, but she told me of her own accord that she was thirty-five. She doesn’t look it, does she?’ Mr Satterthwaite, whose private estimate of the lady’s age was between forty-five and forty-nine, merely raised his eyebrows. ‘I should caution you against believing all you are told at Monte Carlo,’ he murmured. He had enough experience to know the futility of arguing with the lad. Franklin Rudge was at a pitch of white hot chivalry when he would have disbelieved any statement that was not backed with authoritative proof. ‘Here is the Countess,’ said the boy, rising. She came up to them with the languid grace that so became her. Presently they all three sat down together. She was very charming to Mr Satterthwaite, but in rather an aloof manner. She deferred to him prettily, asking his opinion, and treating him as an authority on the Riviera. The whole thing was cleverly managed. Very few minutes had elapsed before Franklin Rudge found himself gracefully but unmistakably dismissed, and the Countess and Mr Satterthwaite were left tête-à-tête. She put down her parasol and began drawing patterns with it in the dust. ‘You are interested in the nice American boy, Mr Satterthwaite, are you not?’ Her voice was low with a caressing note in it. ‘He’s a nice young fellow,’ said Mr Satterthwaite, noncommittally. ‘I find him sympathetic, yes,’ said the Countess reflectively. ‘I have told him much of my life.’ ‘Indeed,’ said Mr Satterthwaite. ‘Details such as I have told to few others,’ she continued dreamily. ‘I have had an extraordinary life, Mr Satterthwaite. Few would credit the amazing things that have happened to me.’ Mr Satterthwaite was shrewd enough to penetrate her meaning. After all, the stories that she had told to Franklin Rudge might be the truth. It was extremely unlikely, and in the last degree improbable, but it was possible … No one could definitely say: ‘That is not so –’ He did not reply, and the Countess continued to look out dreamily across the bay. And suddenly Mr Satterthwaite had a strange and new impression of her. He saw her no longer as a harpy, but as a desperate creature at bay, fighting tooth and nail. He stole a sideways glance at her. The parasol was down, he could see the little haggard lines at the corners of her eyes. In one temple a pulse was beating. It flowed through him again and again – that increasing certitude. She was a creature desperate and driven. She would be merciless to him or to anyone who stood between her and Franklin Rudge. But he still felt he hadn’t got the hang of the situation. Clearly she had plenty of money. She was always beautifully dressed, and her jewels were marvellous. There could be no real urgency of that kind. Was it love? Women of her age did, he well knew, fall in love with boys. It might be that. There was, he felt sure, something out of the common about the situation. Her tête-à-tête with him was, he recognized, a throwing down of the gauntlet. She had singled him out as her chief enemy. He felt sure that she hoped to goad him into speaking slightingly of her to Franklin Rudge. Mr Satterthwaite smiled to himself. He was too old a bird for that. He knew when it was wise to hold one’s tongue. He watched her that night in the Cercle Privé, as she tried her fortunes at roulette. Again and again she staked, only to see her stake swept away. She bore her losses well, with the stoical sang froid of the old habitué. She staked en plein once or twice, put the maximum on red, won a little on the middle dozen and then lost it again, finally she backed manque six times and lost every time. Then with a little graceful shrug of the shoulders she turned away. She was looking unusually striking in a dress of gold tissue with an underlying note of green. The famous Bosnian pearls were looped round her neck and long pearl ear-rings hung from her ears. Mr Satterthwaite heard two men near him appraise her. ‘The Czarnova,’ said one, ‘she wears well, does she not? The Crown jewels of Bosnia look fine on her.’ The other, a small Jewish-looking man, stared curiously after her. ‘So those are the pearls of Bosnia, are they?’ he asked. ‘En vérité. That is odd.’ He chuckled softly to himself. Mr Satterthwaite missed hearing more, for at the moment he turned his head and was overjoyed to recognize an old friend. ‘My dear Mr Quin.’ He shook him warmly by the hand. ‘The last place I should ever have dreamed of seeing you.’ Mr Quin smiled, his dark attractive face lighting up. ‘It should not surprise you,’ he said. ‘It is Carnival time. I am often here in Carnival time.’ ‘Really? Well, this is a great pleasure. Are you anxious to remain in the rooms? I find them rather warm.’ ‘It will be pleasanter outside,’ agreed the other. ‘We will walk in the gardens.’ The air outside was sharp, but not chill. Both men drew deep breaths. ‘That is better,’ said Mr Satterthwaite. ‘Much better,’ agreed Mr Quin. ‘And we can talk freely. I am sure that there is much that you want to tell me.’ ‘There is indeed.’ Speaking eagerly, Mr Satterthwaite unfolded his perplexities. As usual he took pride in his power of conveying atmosphere. The Countess, young Franklin, uncompromising Elizabeth – he sketched them all in with a deft touch. ‘You have changed since I first knew you,’ said Mr Quin, smiling, when the recital was over. ‘In what way?’ ‘You were content then to look on at the drama that life offered. Now – you want to take part – to act.’ ‘It is true,’ confessed Mr Satterthwaite. ‘But in this case I do not know what to do. It is all very perplexing. Perhaps –’ He hesitated. ‘Perhaps you will help me?’ ‘With pleasure,’ said Mr Quin. ‘We will see what we can do.’ Mr Satterthwaite had an odd sense of comfort and reliance. The following day he introduced Franklin Rudge and Elizabeth Martin to his friend Mr Harley Quin. He was pleased to see that they got on together. The Countess was not mentioned, but at lunch time he heard news that aroused his attention. ‘Mirabelle is arriving in Monte this evening,’ he confided excitedly to Mr Quin. ‘The Parisian stage favourite?’ ‘Yes. I daresay you know – it’s common property – she is the King of Bosnia’s latest craze. He has showered jewels on her, I believe. They say she is the most exacting and extravagant woman in Paris.’ ‘It should be interesting to see her and the Countess Czarnova meet tonight.’ ‘Exactly what I thought.’ Mirabelle was a tall, thin creature with a wonderful head of dyed fair hair. Her complexion was a pale mauve with orange lips. She was amazingly chic. She was dressed in something that looked like a glorified bird of paradise, and she wore chains of jewels hanging down her bare back. A heavy bracelet set with immense diamonds clasped her left ankle. She created a sensation when she appeared in the Casino. ‘Your friend the Countess will have a difficulty in outdoing this,’ murmured Mr Quin in Mr Satterthwaite’s ear. The latter nodded. He was curious to see how the Countess comported herself. She came late, and a low murmur ran round as she walked unconcernedly to one of the centre roulette tables. She was dressed in white – a mere straight slip of marocain such as a débutante might have worn and her gleaming white neck and arms were unadorned. She wore not a single jewel. ‘It is clever, that,’ said Mr Satterthwaite with instant approval. ‘She disdains rivalry and turns the tables on her adversary.’ He himself walked over and stood by the table. From time to time he amused himself by placing a stake. Sometimes he won, more often he lost. There was a terrific run on the last dozen. The numbers 31 and 34 turned up again and again. Stakes flocked to the bottom of the cloth. With a smile Mr Satterthwaite made his last stake for the evening, and placed the maximum on Number 5. The Countess in her turn leant forward and placed the maximum on Number 6. ‘Faites vos jeux,’ called the croupier hoarsely. ‘Rien ne va plus. Plus rien.’ The ball span, humming merrily. Mr Satterthwaite thought to himself: ‘This means something different to each of us. Agonies of hope and despair, boredom, idle amusement, life and death.’ Click! The croupier bent forward to see. ‘Numéro cinque, rouge, impair et manque.’ Mr Satterthwaite had won! The croupier, having raked in the other stakes, pushed forward Mr Satterthwaite’s winnings. He put out his hand to take them. The Countess did the same. The croupier looked from one to the other of them. ‘A madame,’ he said brusquely. The Countess picked up the money. Mr Satterthwaite drew back. He remained a gentleman. The Countess looked him full in the face and he returned her glance. One or two of the people round pointed out to the croupier that he had made a mistake, but the man shook his head impatiently. He had decided. That was the end. He raised his raucous cry: ‘Faites vos jeux, Messieurs et Mesdames.’ Mr Satterthwaite rejoined Mr Quin. Beneath his impeccable demeanour, he was feeling extremely indignant. Mr Quin listened sympathetically. ‘Too bad,’ he said, ‘but these things happen.’ ‘We are to meet your friend Franklin Rudge later. I am giving a little supper party.’ The three met at midnight, and Mr Quin explained his plan. ‘It is what is called a “Hedges and Highways” party,’ he explained. ‘We choose our meeting place, then each one goes out and is bound in honour to invite the first person he meets.’ Franklin Rudge was amused by the idea. ‘Say, what happens if they won’t accept?’ ‘You must use your utmost powers of persuasion.’ ‘Good. And where’s the meeting place?’ ‘A somewhat Bohemian café – where one can take strange guests. It is called Le Caveau.’ He explained its whereabouts, and the three parted. Mr Satterthwaite was so fortunate as to run straight into Elizabeth Martin and he claimed her joyfully. They reached Le Caveau and descended into a kind of cellar where they found a table spread for supper and lit by old-fashioned candles in candlesticks. ‘We are the first,’ said Mr Satterthwaite. ‘Ah! here comes Franklin –’ He stopped abruptly. With Franklin was the Countess. It was an awkward moment. Elizabeth displayed less graciousness than she might have done. The Countess, as a woman of the world, retained the honours. Last of all came Mr Quin. With him was a small, dark man, neatly dressed, whose face seemed familiar to Mr Satterthwaite. A moment later he recognized him. It was the croupier who earlier in the evening had made such a lamentable mistake. ‘Let me introduce you to the company, M. Pierre Vaucher,’ said Mr Quin. The little man seemed confused. Mr Quin performed the necessary introductions easily and lightly. Supper was brought – an excellent supper. Wine came – very excellent wine. Some of the frigidity went out of the atmosphere. The Countess was very silent, so was Elizabeth. Franklin Rudge became talkative. He told various stories – not humorous stories, but serious ones. And quietly and assiduously Mr Quin passed round the wine. ‘I’ll tell you – and this is a true story – about a man who made good,’ said Franklin Rudge impressively. For one coming from a Prohibition country he had shown no lack of appreciation of champagne. He told his story – perhaps at somewhat unnecessary length. It was, like many true stories, greatly inferior to fiction. As he uttered the last word, Pierre Vaucher, opposite him, seemed to wake up. He also had done justice to the champagne. He leaned forward across the table. ‘I, too, will tell you a story,’ he said thickly. ‘But mine is the story of a man who did not make good. It is the story of a man who went, not up, but down the hill. And, like yours, it is a true story.’ ‘Pray tell it to us, monsieur,’ said Mr Satterthwaite courteously. Pierre Vaucher leant back in his chair and looked at the ceiling. ‘It is in Paris that the story begins. There was a man there, a working jeweller. He was young and light-hearted and industrious in his profession. They said there was a future before him. A good marriage was already arranged for him, the bride not too bad-looking, the dowry most satisfactory. And then, what do you think? One morning he sees a girl. Such a miserable little wisp of a girl, messieurs. Beautiful? Yes, perhaps, if she were not half starved. But anyway, for this young man, she has a magic that he cannot resist. She has been struggling to find work, she is virtuous – or at least that is what she tells him. I do not know if it is true.’ The Countess’s voice came suddenly out of the semi-darkness. ‘Why should it not be true? There are many like that.’ ‘Well, as I say, the young man believed her. And he married her – an act of folly! His family would have no more to say to him. He had outraged their feelings. He married – I will call her Jeanne – it was a good action. He told her so. He felt that she should be very grateful to him. He had sacrificed much for her sake.’ ‘A charming beginning for the poor girl,’ observed the Countess sarcastically. ‘He loved her, yes, but from the beginning she maddened him. She had moods – tantrums – she would be cold to him one day, passionate the next. At last he saw the truth. She had never loved him. She had married him so as to keep body and soul together. That truth hurt him, it hurt him horribly, but he tried his utmost to let nothing appear on the surface. And he still felt he deserved gratitude and obedience to his wishes. They quarrelled. She reproached him – Mon Dieu, what did she not reproach him with? ‘You can see the next step, can you not? The thing that was bound to come. She left him. For two years he was alone, working in his little shop with no news of her. He had one friend – absinthe. The business did not prosper so well. ‘And then one day he came into the shop to find her sitting there. She was beautifully dressed. She had rings on her hands. He stood considering her. His heart was beating – but beating! He was at a loss what to do. He would have liked to have beaten her, to have clasped her in his arms, to have thrown her down on the floor and trampled on her, to have thrown himself at her feet. He did none of those things. He took up his pincers and went on with his work. “Madame desires?” he asked formally. ‘That upset her. She did not look for that, see you. “Pierre,” she said, “I have come back.” He laid aside his pincers and looked at her. “You wish to be forgiven?” he said. “You want me to take you back? You are sincerely repentant?” “Do you want me back?” she murmured. Oh! very softly she said it. ‘He knew she was laying a trap for him. He longed to seize her in his arms, but he was too clever for that. He pretended indifference. ‘“I am a Christian man,” he said. “I try to do what the Church directs.” “Ah!” he thought, “I will humble her, humble her to her knees.” ‘But Jeanne, that is what I will call her, flung back her head and laughed. Evil laughter it was. “I mock myself at you, little Pierre,” she said. “Look at these rich clothes, these rings and bracelets. I came to show myself to you. I thought I would make you take me in your arms and when you did so, then – then I would spit in your face and tell you how I hated you!” ‘And on that she went out of the shop. Can you believe, messieurs, that a woman could be as evil as all that – to come back only to torment me?’ ‘No,’ said the Countess. ‘I would not believe it, and any man who was not a fool would not believe it either. But all men are blind fools.’ Pierre Vaucher took no notice of her. He went on. ‘And so that young man of whom I tell you sank lower and lower. He drank more absinthe. The little shop was sold over his head. He became of the dregs, of the gutter. Then came the war. Ah! it was good, the war. It took that man out of the gutter and taught him to be a brute beast no longer. It drilled him – and sobered him. He endured cold and pain and the fear of death – but he did not die and when the war ended, he was a man again. ‘It was then, messieurs, that he came South. His lungs had been affected by the gas, they said he must find work in the South. I will not weary you with all the things he did. Suffice it to say that he ended up as a croupier, and there – there in the Casino one evening, he saw her again – the woman who had ruined his life. She did not recognize him, but he recognized her. She appeared to be rich and to lack for nothing – but messieurs, the eyes of a croupier are sharp. There came an evening when she placed her last stake in the world on the table. Ask me not how I know – I do know – one feels these things. Others might not believe. She still had rich clothes – why not pawn them, one would say? But to do that – pah! your credit is gone at once. Her jewels? Ah no! Was I not a jeweller in my time? Long ago the real jewels have gone. The pearls of a King are sold one by one, are replaced with false. And meantime one must eat and pay one’s hotel bill. Yes, and the rich men – well, they have seen one about for many years. Bah! they say – she is over fifty. A younger chicken for my money.’ A long shuddering sigh came out of the windows where the Countess leant back. ‘Yes. It was a great moment, that. Two nights I have watched her. Lose, lose, and lose again. And now the end. She put all on one number. Beside her, an English milord stakes the maximum also – on the next number. The ball rolls … The moment has come, she has lost … ‘Her eyes meet mine. What do I do? I jeopardize my place in the Casino. I rob the English milord. “A Madame” I say, and pay over the money.’ ‘Ah!’ There was a crash, as the Countess sprang to her feet and leant across the table, sweeping her glass on to the floor. ‘Why?’ she cried. ‘That’s what I want to know, why did you do it?’ There was a long pause, a pause that seemed interminable, and still those two facing each other across the table looked and looked … It was like a duel. A mean little smile crept across Pierre Vaucher’s face. He raised his hands. ‘Madame,’ he said, ‘there is such a thing as pity …’ ‘Ah!’ She sank down again. ‘I see.’ She was calm, smiling, herself again. ‘An interesting story, M. Vaucher, is it not? Permit me to give you a light for your cigarette.’ She deftly rolled up a spill, and lighted it at the candle and held it towards him. He leaned forward till the flame caught the tip of the ciga r ette he held between his lips. Then she rose unexpectedly to her feet. ‘And now I must leave you all. Please – I need no one to escort me.’ Before one could realize it she was gone. Mr Satterthwaite would have hurried out after her, but he was arrested by a startled oath from the Frenchman. ‘A thousand thunders!’ He was staring at the half-burned spill which the Countess had dropped on the table. He unrolled it. ‘Mon Dieu!’ he muttered. ‘A fifty thousand franc bank note. You understand? Her winnings tonight. All that she had in the world. And she lighted my cigarette with it! Because she was too proud to accept – pity. Ah! proud, she was always proud as the Devil. She is unique – wonderful.’ He sprang up from his seat and darted out. Mr Satterthwaite and Mr Quin had also risen. The waiter approached Franklin Rudge. ‘La note, monsieur,’ he observed unemotionally. Mr Quin rescued it from him quickly. ‘I feel kind of lonesome, Elizabeth,’ remarked Franklin Rudge. ‘These foreigners – they beat the band! I don’t understand them. What’s it all mean, anyhow?’ He looked across at her. ‘Gee, it’s good to look at anything so hundred per cent American as you.’ His voice took on the plaintive note of a small child. ‘These foreigners are so odd.’ They thanked Mr Quin and went out into the night together. Mr Quin picked up his change and smiled across at Mr Satterthwaite, who was preening himself like a contented bird. ‘Well,’ said the latter. ‘That’s all gone off splendidly. Our pair of love birds will be all right now.’ ‘Which ones?’ asked Mr Quin. ‘Oh!’ said Mr Satterthwaite, taken aback. ‘Oh! yes, well, I suppose you are right, allowing for the Latin point of view and all that –’ He looked dubious. Mr Quin smiled, and a stained glass panel behind him invested him for just a moment in a motley garment of coloured light. 6 The Man from the Sea (#ulink_dddb3e44-fb9b-53cf-94c6-6c051f38bacc) ‘The Man from the Sea’ was first published in Britannia & Eve, October 1929. Mr Satterthwaite was feeling old. That might not have been surprising since in the estimation of many people he was old. Careless youths said to their partners: ‘Old Satterthwaite? Oh! he must be a hundred – or at any rate about eighty.’ And even the kindest of girls said indulgently, ‘Oh! Satterthwaite. Yes, he’s quite old. He must be sixty.’ Which was almost worse, since he was sixty-nine. In his own view, however, he was not old. Sixty-nine was an interesting age – an age of infinite possibilities – an age when at last the experience of a lifetime was beginning to tell. But to feel old – that was different, a tired discouraged state of mind when one was inclined to ask oneself depressing questions. What was he after all? A little dried-up elderly man, with neither chick nor child, with no human belongings, only a valuable Art collection which seemed at the moment strangely unsatisfying. No one to care whether he lived or died … At this point in his meditations Mr Satterthwaite pulled himself up short. What he was thinking was morbid and unprofitable. He knew well enough, who better, that the chances were that a wife would have hated him or alternatively that he would have hated her, that children would have been a constant source of worry and anxiety, and that demands upon his time and affection would have worried him considerably. ‘To be safe and comfortable,’ said Mr Satterthwaite firmly – that was the thing. The last thought reminded him of a letter he had received that morning. He drew it from his pocket and re-read it, savouring its contents pleasurably. To begin with, it was from a Duchess, and Mr Satterthwaite liked hearing from Duchesses. It is true that the letter began by demanding a large subscription for charity and but for that would probably never have been written, but the terms in which it was couched were so agreeable that Mr Satterthwaite was able to gloss over the first fact. So you’ve deserted the Riviera, wrote the Duchess. What is this island of yours like? Cheap? Cannotti put up his prices shamefully this year, and I shan’t go to the Riviera again. I might try your island next year if you report favourably, though I should hate five days on a boat. Still anywhere you recommend is sure to be pretty comfortable – too much so. You’ll get to be one of those people who do nothing but coddle themselves and think of their comfort. There’s only one thing that will save you, Satterthwaite, and that is your inordinate interest in other people’s affairs … As Mr Satterthwaite folded the letter, a vision came up vividly before him of the Duchess. Her meanness, her unexpected and alarming kindness, her caustic tongue, her indomitable spirit. Spirit! Everyone needed spirit. He drew out another letter with a German stamp upon it – written by a young singer in whom he had interested himself. It was a grateful affectionate letter. ‘How can I thank you, dear Mr Satterthwaite? It seems too wonderful to think that in a few days I shall be singing Isolde …’ A pity that she had to make her début as Isolde. A charming, hardworking child, Olga, with a beautiful voice but no temperament. He hummed to himself. ‘Nay order him! Pray understand it! I command it. I, Isolde.’ No, the child hadn’t got it in her – the spirit – the indomitable will – all expressed in that final ‘Ich Isoldé!’ Well, at any rate he had done something for somebody. This island depressed him – why, oh! why had he deserted the Riviera which he knew so well and where he was so well known? Nobody here took any interest in him. Nobody seemed to realize that here was the Mr Satterthwaite – the friend of Duchesses and Countesses and singers and writers. No one in the island was of any social importance or of any artistic importance either. Most people had been there seven, fourteen, or twenty-one years running and valued themselves and were valued accordingly. With a deep sigh Mr Satterthwaite proceeded down from the Hotel to the small straggling harbour below. His way lay between an avenue of bougainvillaea – a vivid mass of flaunting scarlet, that made him feel older and greyer than ever. ‘I’m getting old,’ he murmured. ‘I’m getting old and tired.’ He was glad when he had passed the bougainvillaea and was walking down the white street with the blue sea at the end of it. A disreputable dog was standing in the middle of the road, yawning and stretching himself in the sun. Having prolonged his stretch to the utmost limits of ecstasy, he sat down and treated himself to a really good scratch. He then rose, shook himself, and looked round for any other good things that life might have to offer. There was a dump of rubbish by the side of the road and to this he went sniffing in pleasurable anticipation. True enough, his nose had not deceived him! A smell of such rich putrescence that surpassed even his anticipations! He sniffed with growing appreciation, then suddenly abandoning himself, he lay on his back and rolled frenziedly on the delicious dump. Clearly the world this morning was a dog paradise! Tiring at last, he regained his feet and strolled out once more into the middle of the road. And then, without the least warning, a ramshackle car careered wildly round the corner, caught him full square and passed on unheeding. The dog rose to his feet, stood a minute regarding Mr Satterthwaite, a vague dumb reproach in his eyes, then fell over. Mr Satterthwaite went up to him and bent down. The dog was dead. He went on his way, wondering at the sadness and cruelty of life. What a queer dumb look of reproach had been in the dog’s eyes. ‘Oh! World,’ they seemed to say. ‘Oh! Wonderful World in which I have trusted. Why have you done this to me?’ Mr Satterthwaite went on, past the palm trees and the straggling white houses, past the black lava beach where the surf thundered and where once, long ago, a well-known English swimmer had been carried out to sea and drowned, past the rock pools were children and elderly ladies bobbed up and down and called it bathing, along the steep road that winds upwards to the top of the cliff. For there on the edge of the cliff was a house, appropriately named La Paz. A white house with faded green shutters tightly closed, a tangled beautiful garden, and a walk between cypress trees that led to a plateau on the edge of the cliff where you looked down – down – down – to the deep blue sea below. It was to this spot that Mr Satterthwaite was bound. He had developed a great love for the garden of La Paz. He had never entered the villa. It seemed always to be empty. Manuel, the Spanish gardener, wished one good-morning with a flourish and gallantly presented ladies with a bouquet and gentlemen with a single flower as a buttonhole, his dark face wreathed in smiles. Sometimes Mr Satterthwaite made up stories in his own mind about the owner of the villa. His favourite was a Spanish dancer, once world-famed for her beauty, who hid herself here so that the world should never know that she was no longer beautiful. He pictured her coming out of the house at dusk and walking through the garden. Sometimes he was tempted to ask Manuel for the truth, but he resisted the temptation. He preferred his fancies. After exchanging a few words with Manuel and graciously accepting an orange rosebud, Mr Satterthwaite passed on down the cypress walk to the sea. It was rather wonderful sitting there – on the edge of nothing – with that sheer drop below one. It made him think of Tristan and Isolde, of the beginning of the third act with Tristan and Kurwenal – that lonely waiting and of Isolde rushing up from the sea and Tristan dying in her arms. (No, little Olga would never make an Isolde. Isolde of Cornwall, that Royal hater and Royal lover …) He shivered. He felt old, chilly, alone … What had he had out of life? Nothing – nothing. Not as much as that dog in the street … It was an unexpected sound that roused him from his reverie. Footsteps coming along the cypress walk were inaudible, the first he knew of somebody’s presence was the English monosyllable ‘Damn.’ He looked round to find a young man staring at him in obvious surprise and disappointment. Mr Satterthwaite recognized him at once as an arrival of the day before who had more or less intrigued him. Mr Satterthwaite called him a young man – because in comparison to most of the diehards in the Hotel he was a young man, but he would certainly never see forty again and was probably drawing appreciably near to his half century. Yet in spite of that, the term young man fitted him – Mr Satterthwaite was usually right about such things – there was an impression of immaturity about him. As there is a touch of puppyhood about many a full grown dog so it was with the stranger. Mr Satterthwaite thought: ‘This chap has really never grown up – not properly, that is.’ And yet there was nothing Peter Pannish about him. He was sleek – almost plump, he had the air of one who has always done himself exceedingly well in the material sense and denied himself no pleasure or satisfaction. He had brown eyes – rather round – fair hair turning grey – a little moustache and rather florid face. The thing that puzzled Mr Satterthwaite was what had brought him to the island. He could imagine him shooting things, hunting things, playing polo or golf or tennis, making love to pretty women. But in the Island there was nothing to hunt or shoot, no games except Golf-Croquet, and the nearest approach to a pretty woman was represented by elderly Miss Baba Kindersley. There were, of course, artists, to whom the beauty of the scenery made appeal, but Mr Satterthwaite was quite certain that the young man was not an artist. He was clearly marked with the stamp of the Philistine. While he was resolving these things in his mind, the other spoke, realizing somewhat belatedly that his single ejaculation so far might be open to criticism. ‘I beg your pardon,’ he said with some embarrassment. ‘As a matter of fact, I was – well, startled. I didn’t expect anyone to be here.’ He smiled disarmingly. He had a charming smile – friendly – appealing. ‘It is rather a lonely spot,’ agreed Mr Satterthwaite, as he moved politely a little further up the bench. The other accepted the mute invitation and sat down. ‘I don’t know about lonely,’ he said. ‘There always seems to be someone here.’ There was a tinge of latent resentment in his voice. Mr Satterthwaite wondered why. He read the other as a friendly soul. Why this insistence on solitude? A rendezvous, perhaps? No – not that. He looked again with carefully veiled scrutiny at his companion. Where had he seen that particular expression before quite lately? That look of dumb bewildered resentment. ‘You’ve been up here before then?’ said Mr Satterthwaite, more for the sake of saying something than for anything else. ‘I was up here last night – after dinner.’ ‘Really? I thought the gates were always locked.’ There was a moment’s pause and then, almost sullenly, the young man said: ‘I climbed over the wall.’ Mr Satterthwaite looked at him with real attention now. He had a sleuthlike habit of mind and he was aware that his companion had only arrived on the preceding afternoon. He had had little time to discover the beauty of the villa by daylight and he had so far spoken to nobody. Yet after dark he had made straight for La Paz. Why? Almost involuntarily Mr Satterthwaite turned his head to look at the green-shuttered villa, but it was as ever serenely lifeless, close shuttered. No, the solution of the mystery was not there. ‘And you actually found someone here then?’ The other nodded. ‘Yes. Must have been from the other Hotel. He had on fancy dress.’ ‘Fancy dress?’ ‘Yes. A kind of Harlequin rig.’ ‘What?’ The query fairly burst from Mr Satterthwaite’s lips. His companion turned to stare at him in surprise. ‘They often do have fancy dress shows at the Hotels, I suppose?’ ‘Oh! quite,’ said Mr Satterthwaite. ‘Quite, quite, quite.’ He paused breathlessly, then added: ‘You must excuse my excitement. Do you happen to know anything about catalysis?’ The young man stared at him. ‘Never heard of it. What is it?’ Mr Satterthwaite quoted gravely: ‘A chemical reaction depending for its success on the presence of a certain substance which itself remains unchanged.’ ‘Oh,’ said the young man uncertainly. ‘I have a certain friend – his name is Mr Quin, and he can best be described in the terms of catalysis. His presence is a sign that things are going to happen, because when he is there strange revelations come to light, discoveries are made. And yet – he himself takes no part in the proceedings. I have a feeling that it was my friend you met here last night.’ ‘He’s a very sudden sort of chap then. He gave me quite a shock. One minute he wasn’t there and the next minute he was! Almost as though he came up out of the sea.’ Mr Satterthwaite looked along the little plateau and down the sheer drop below. ‘That’s nonsense, of course,’ said the other. ‘But it’s the feeling he gave me. Of course, really, there isn’t the foothold for a fly.’ He looked over the edge. ‘A straight clear drop. If you went over – well, that would be the end right enough.’ ‘An ideal spot for a murder, in fact,’ said Mr Satterthwaite pleasantly. The other stared at him, almost as though for the moment he did not follow. Then he said vaguely: ‘Oh! yes – of course …’ He sat there, making little dabs at the ground with his stick and frowning. Suddenly Mr Satterthwaite got the resemblance he had been seeking. That dumb bewildered questioning. So had the dog looked who was run over. His eyes and this young man’s eyes asked the same pathetic question with the same reproach. ‘Oh! world that I have trusted – what have you done to me?’ He saw other points of resemblance between the two, the same pleasure-loving easy-going existence, the same joyous abandon to the delights of life, the same absence of intellectual questioning. Enough for both to live in the moment – the world was a good place, a place of carnal delights – sun, sea, sky – a discreet garbage heap. And then – what? A car had hit the dog. What had hit the man? The subject of these cogitations broke in at this point, speaking, however, more to himself than to Mr Satterthwaite. ‘One wonders,’ he said, ‘what it’s All For?’ Familiar words – words that usually brought a smile to Mr Satterthwaite’s lips, with their unconscious betrayal of the innate egoism of humanity which insists on regarding every manifestation of life as directly designed for its delight or its torment. He did not answer and presently the stranger said with a slight, rather apologetic laugh: ‘I’ve heard it said that every man should build a house, plant a tree and have a son.’ He paused and then added: ‘I believe I planted an acorn once …’ Mr Satterthwaite stirred slightly. His curiosity was aroused – that ever-present interest in the affairs of other people of which the Duchess had accused him was roused. It was not difficult. Mr Satterthwaite had a very feminine side to his nature, he was as good a listener as any woman, and he knew the right moment to put in a prompting word. Presently he was hearing the whole story. Anthony Cosden, that was the stranger’s name, and his life had been much as Mr Satterthwaite had imagined it. He was a bad hand at telling a story but his listener supplied the gaps easily enough. A very ordinary life – an average income, a little soldiering, a good deal of sport whenever sport offered, plenty of friends, plenty of pleasant things to do, a sufficiency of women. The kind of life that practically inhibits thought of any description and substitutes sensation. To speak frankly, an animal’s life. ‘But there are worse things than that,’ thought Mr Satterthwaite from the depths of his experience. ‘Oh! many worse things than that …’ This world had seemed a very good place to Anthony Cosden. He had grumbled because everyone always grumbled but it had never been a serious grumble. And then – this. He came to it at last – rather vaguely and incoherently. Hadn’t felt quite the thing – nothing much. Saw his doctor, and the doctor had persuaded him to go to a Harley Street man. And then – the incredible truth. They’d tried to hedge about it – spoke of great care – a quiet life, but they hadn’t been able to disguise that that was all eyewash – letting him down lightly. It boiled down to this – six months. That’s what they gave him. Six months. He turned those bewildered brown eyes on Mr Satterthwaite. It was, of course, rather a shock to a fellow. One didn’t – one didn’t somehow, know what do do. Mr Satterthwaite nodded gravely and understandingly. It was a bit difficult to take in all at once, Anthony Cosden went on. How to put in the time. Rather a rotten business waiting about to get pipped. He didn’t feel really ill – not yet. Though that might come later, so the specialist had said – in fact, it was bound to. It seemed such nonsense to be going to die when one didn’t in the least want to. The best thing, he had thought, would be to carry on as usual. But somehow that hadn’t worked. Here Mr Satterthwaite interrupted him. Wasn’t there, he hinted delicately, any woman? But apparently there wasn’t. There were women, of course, but not that kind. His crowd was a very cheery crowd. They didn’t, so he implied, like corpses. He didn’t wish to make a kind of walking funeral of himself. It would have been embarrassing for everybody. So he had come abroad. ‘You came to see these islands? But why?’ Mr Satterthwaite was hunting for something, something intangible but delicate that eluded him and yet which he was sure was there. ‘You’ve been here before, perhaps?’ ‘Yes.’ He admitted it almost unwillingly. ‘Years ago when I was a youngster.’ And suddenly, almost unconsciously so it seemed, he shot a quick glance backward over his shoulder in the direction of the villa. ‘I remembered this place,’ he said, nodding at the sea. ‘One step to eternity!’ ‘And that is why you came up here last night,’ finished Mr Satterthwaite calmly. Anthony Cosden shot him a dismayed glance. ‘Oh! I say – really –’ he protested. ‘Last night you found someone here. This afternoon you have found me. Your life has been saved – twice.’ ‘You may put it that way if you like – but damn it all, it’s my life. I’ve a right to do what I like with it.’ ‘That is a cliché,’ said Mr Satterthwaite wearily. ‘Of course I see your point, said Anthony Cosden generously. ‘Naturally you’ve got to say what you can. I’d try to dissuade a fellow myself, even though I knew deep down that he was right. And you know that I’m right. A clean quick end is better than a lingering one – causing trouble and expense and bother to all. In any case it’s not as though I had anyone in the world belonging to me …’ ‘If you had –?’ said Mr Satterthwaite sharply. Cosden drew a deep breath. ‘I don’t know. Even then, I think, this way would be best. But anyway – I haven’t …’ He stopped abruptly. Mr Satterthwaite eyed him curiously. Incurably romantic, he suggested again that there was, somewhere, some woman. But Cosden negatived it. He oughtn’t, he said, to complain. He had had, on the whole, a very good life. It was a pity it was going to be over so soon, that was all. But at any rate he had had, he supposed, everything worth having. Except a son. He would have liked a son. He would like to know now that he had a son living after him. Still, he reiterated the fact, he had had a very good life – It was at this point that Mr Satterthwaite lost patience. Nobody, he pointed out, who was still in the larval stage, could claim to know anything of life at all. Since the words larval stage clearly meant nothing at all to Cosden, he proceeded to make his meaning clearer. ‘You have not begun to live yet. You are still at the beginning of life.’ Cosden laughed. ‘Why, my hair’s grey. I’m forty –’ Mr Satterthwaite interrupted him. ‘That has nothing to do with it. Life is a compound of physical and mental experiences. I, for instance, am sixty-nine, and I am really sixty-nine. I have known, either at first or second hand, nearly all the experiences life has to offer. You are like a man who talks of a full year and has seen nothing but snow and ice! The flowers of Spring, the languorous days of Summer, the falling leaves of Autumn – he knows nothing of them – not even that there are such things. And you are going to turn your back on even this opportunity of knowing them.’ ‘You seem to forget,’ said Anthony Cosden dryly, ‘that, in any case, I have only six months.’ ‘Time, like everything else, is relative,’ said Mr Satterthwaite. ‘That six months might be the longest and most varied experience of your whole life.’ Cosden looked unconvinced. ‘In my place,’ he said, ‘you would do the same.’ Mr Satterthwaite shook his head. ‘No,’ he said simply. ‘In the first place, I doubt if I should have the courage. It needs courage and I am not at all a brave individual. And in the second place –’ ‘Well?’ ‘I always want to know what is going to happen tomorrow.’ Cosden rose suddenly with a laugh. ‘Well, sir, you’ve been very good in letting me talk to you. I hardly know why – anyway, there it is. I’ve said a lot too much. Forget it.’ ‘And tomorrow, when an accident is reported, I am to leave it at that? To make no suggestion of suicide?’ ‘That’s as you like. I’m glad you realize one thing – that you can’t prevent me.’ ‘My dear young man,’ said Mr Satterthwaite placidly, ‘I can hardly attach myself to you like the proverbial limpet. Sooner or later you would give me the slip and accomplish your purpose. But you are frustrated at any rate for this afternoon. You would hardly like to go to your death leaving me under the possible imputation of having pushed you over.’ ‘That is true,’ said Cosden. ‘If you insist on remaining here –’ ‘I do,’ said Mr Satterthwaite firmly. Cosden laughed good-humouredly. ‘Then the plan must be deferred for the moment. In which case I will go back to the hotel. See you later perhaps.’ Mr Satterthwaite was left looking at the sea. ‘And now,’ he said to himself softly, ‘what next? There must be a next. I wonder …’ He got up. For a while he stood at the edge of the plateau looking down on the dancing water beneath. But he found no inspiration there, and turning slowly he walked back along the path between the cypresses and into the quiet garden. He looked at the shuttered, peaceful house and he wondered, as he had often wondered before, who had lived there and what had taken place within those placid walls. On a sudden impulse he walked up some crumbling stone steps and laid a hand on one of the faded green shutters. To his surprise it swung back at his touch. He hesitated a moment, then pushed it boldly open. The next minute he stepped back with a little exclamation of dismay. A woman stood in the window facing him. She wore black and had a black lace mantilla draped over her head. Mr Satterthwaite floundered wildly in Italian interspersed with German – the nearest he could get in the hurry of the moment to Spanish. He was desolated and ashamed, he explained haltingly. The Signora must forgive. He thereupon retreated hastily, the woman not having spoken one word. He was halfway across the courtyard when she spoke – two sharp words like a pistol crack. ‘Come back!’ It was a barked-out command such as might have been addressed to a dog, yet so absolute was the authority it conveyed, that Mr Satterthwaite had swung round hurriedly and trotted back to the window almost automatically before it occurred to him to feel any resentment. He obeyed like a dog. The woman was still standing motionless at the window. She looked him up and down appraising him with perfect calmness. ‘You are English,’ she said. ‘I thought so.’ Mr Satterthwaite started off on a second apology. ‘If I had known you were English,’ he said, ‘I could have expressed myself better just now. I offer my most sincere apologies for my rudeness in trying the shutter. I am afraid I can plead no excuse save curiosity. I had a great wish to see what the inside of this charming house was like.’ She laughed suddenly, a deep, rich laugh. ‘If you really want to see it,’ she said, ‘you had better come in.’ She stood aside, and Mr Satterthwaite, feeling pleasurably excited, stepped into the room. It was dark, since the shutters of the other windows were closed, but he could see that it was scantily and rather shabbily furnished and that the dust lay thick everywhere. ‘Not here,’ she said. ‘I do not use this room.’ She led the way and he followed her, out of the room across a passage and into a room the other side. Here the windows gave on the sea and the sun streamed in. The furniture, like that of the other room, was poor in quality, but there were some worn rugs that had been good in their time, a large screen of Spanish leather and bowls of fresh flowers. ‘You will have tea with me,’ said Mr Satterthwaite’s hostess. She added reassuringly: ‘It is perfectly good tea and will be made with boiling water.’ She went out of the door and called out something in Spanish, then she returned and sat down on a sofa opposite her guest. For the first time, Mr Satterthwaite was able to study her appearance. The first effect she had upon him was to make him feel even more grey and shrivelled and elderly than usual by contrast with her own forceful personality. She was a tall woman, very sunburnt, dark and handsome though no longer young. When she was in the room the sun seemed to be shining twice as brightly as when she was out of it, and presently a curious feeling of warmth and aliveness began to steal over Mr Satterthwaite. It was as though he stretched out thin, shrivelled hands to a reassuring flame. He thought, ‘She’s so much vitality herself that she’s got a lot left over for other people.’ He recalled the command in her voice when she had stopped him, and wished that his protégée, Olga, could be imbued with a little of that force. He thought: ‘What an Isolde she’d make! And yet she probably hasn’t got the ghost of a singing voice. Life is badly arranged.’ He was, all the same, a little afraid of her. He did not like domineering women. She had clearly been considering him as she sat with her chin in her hands, making no pretence about it. At last she nodded as though she had made up her mind. ‘I am glad you came,’ she said at last. ‘I needed someone very badly to talk to this afternoon. And you are used to that, aren’t you?’ ‘I don’t quite understand.’ ‘I meant people tell you things. You knew what I meant! Why pretend?’ ‘Well – perhaps –’ She swept on, regardless of anything he had been going to say. ‘One could say anything to you. That is because you are half a woman. You know what we feel – what we think – the queer, queer things we do.’ Her voice died away. Tea was brought by a large, smiling Spanish girl. It was good tea – China – Mr Satterthwaite sipped it appreciatively. ‘You live here?’ he inquired conversationally. ‘Yes.’ ‘But not altogether. The house is usually shut up, is it not? At least so I have been told.’ ‘I am here a good deal, more than anyone knows. I only use these rooms.’ ‘You have had the house long?’ ‘It has belonged to me for twenty-two years – and I lived here for a year before that.’ Mr Satterthwaite said rather inanely (or so he felt): ‘That is a very long time.’ ‘The year? Or the twenty-two years?’ His interest stirred, Mr Satterthwaite said gravely: ‘That depends.’ She nodded. ‘Yes, it depends. They are two separate periods. They have nothing to do with each other. Which is long? Which is short? Even now I cannot say.’ She was silent for a minute, brooding. Then she said with a little smile: ‘It is such a long time since I have talked with anyone – such a long time! I do not apologize. You came to my shutter. You wished to look through my window. And that is what you are always doing, is it not? Pushing aside the shutter and looking through the window into the truth of people’s lives. If they will let you. And often if they will not let you! It would be difficult to hide anything from you. You would guess – and guess right.’ Mr Satterthwaite had an odd impulse to be perfectly sincere. ‘I am sixty-nine,’ he said. ‘Everything I know of life I know at second hand. Sometimes that is very bitter to me. And yet, because of it, I know a good deal.’ She nodded thoughtfully. ‘I know. Life is very strange. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be that – always a looker-on.’ Her tone was wondering. Mr Satterthwaite smiled. ‘No, you would not know. Your place is in the centre of the stage. You will always be the Prima Donna.’ ‘What a curious thing to say.’ ‘But I am right. Things have happened to you – will always happen to you. Sometimes, I think, there have been tragic things. Is that so?’ Her eyes narrowed. She looked across at him. ‘If you are here long, somebody will tell you of the English swimmer who was drowned at the foot of this cliff. They will tell you how young and strong he was, how handsome, and they will tell you that his young wife looked down from the top of the cliff and saw him drowning.’ ‘Yes, I have already heard that story.’ ‘That man was my husband. This was his villa. He brought me out here with him when I was eighteen, and a year later he died – driven by the surf on the black rocks, cut and bruised and mutilated, battered to death.’ Mr Satterthwaite gave a shocked exclamation. She leant forward, her burning eyes focused on his face. ‘You spoke of tragedy. Can you imagine a greater tragedy than that? For a young wife, only a year married, to stand helpless while the man she loved fought for his life – and lost it – horribly.’ ‘Terrible,’ said Mr Satterthwaite. He spoke with real emotion. ‘Terrible. I agree with you. Nothing in life could be so dreadful.’ Suddenly she laughed. Her head went back. ‘You are wrong,’ she said. ‘There is something more terrible. And that is for a young wife to stand there and hope and long for her husband to drown …’ ‘But good God,’ cried Mr Satterthwaite, ‘you don’t mean –?’ ‘Yes, I do. That’s what it was really. I knelt there – knelt down on the cliff and prayed. The Spanish servants thought I was praying for his life to be saved. I wasn’t. I was praying that I might wish him to be spared. I was saying one thing over and over again, “God, help me not to wish him dead. God, help me not to wish him dead.” But it wasn’t any good. All the time I hoped – hoped – and my hope came true.’ She was silent for a minute or two and then she said very gently in quite a different voice: ‘That is a terrible thing, isn’t it? It’s the sort of thing one can’t forget. I was terribly happy when I knew he was really dead and couldn’t come back to torture me any more.’ ‘My child,’ said Mr Satterthwaite, shocked. ‘I know. I was too young to have that happen to me. Those things should happen to one when one is older – when one is more prepared for – for beastliness. Nobody knew, you know, what he was really like. I thought he was wonderful when I first met him and was so happy and proud when he asked me to marry him. But things went wrong almost at once. He was angry with me – nothing I could do pleased him – and yet I tried so hard. And then he began to like hurting me. And above all to terrify me. That’s what he enjoyed most. He thought out all sorts of things … dreadful things. I won’t tell you. I suppose, really, he must have been a little mad. I was alone here, in his power, and cruelty began to be his hobby.’ Her eyes widened and darkened. ‘The worst was my baby. I was going to have a baby. Because of some of the things he did to me – it was born dead. My little baby. I nearly died, too – but I didn’t. I wish I had.’ Mr Satterthwaite made an inarticulate sound. ‘And then I was delivered – in the way I’ve told you. Some girls who were staying at the hotel dared him. That’s how it happened. All the Spaniards told him it was madness to risk the sea just there. But he was very vain – he wanted to show off. And I – I saw him drown – and was glad. God oughtn’t to let such things happen.’ Mr Satterthwaite stretched out his little dry hand and took hers. She squeezed it hard as a child might have done. The maturity had fallen away from her face. He saw her without difficulty as she had been at nineteen. ‘At first it seemed too good to be true. The house was mine and I could live in it. And no one could hurt me any more! I was an orphan, you know, I had no near relations, no one to care what became of me. That simplified things. I lived on here – in this villa – and it seemed like Heaven. Yes, like Heaven. I’ve never been so happy since, and never shall again. Just to wake up and know that everything was all right – no pain, no terror, no wondering what he was going to do to me next. Yes, it was Heaven.’ She paused a long time, and Mr Satterthwaite said at last: ‘And then?’ ‘I suppose human beings aren’t ever satisfied. At first, just being free was enough. But after a while I began to get – well, lonely, I suppose. I began to think about my baby that died. If only I had had my baby! I wanted it as a baby, and also as a plaything. I wanted dreadfully something or someone to play with. It sounds silly and childish, but there it was.’ ‘I understand,’ said Mr Satterthwaite gravely. ‘It’s difficult to explain the next bit. It just – well, happened, you see. There was a young Englishman staying at the hotel. He strayed in the garden by mistake. I was wearing Spanish dress and he took me for a Spanish girl. I thought it would be rather fun to pretend I was one, so I played up. His Spanish was very bad but he could just manage a little. I told him the villa belonged to an English lady who was away. I said she had taught me a little English and I pretended to speak broken English. It was such fun – such fun – even now I can remember what fun it was. He began to make love to me. We agreed to pretend that the villa was our home, that we were just married and coming to live there. I suggested that we should try one of the shutters – the one you tried this evening. It was open and inside the room was dusty and uncared for. We crept in. It was exciting and wonderful. We pretended it was our own house.’ She broke off suddenly, looked appealingly at Mr Satterthwaite. ‘It all seemed lovely – like a fairy tale. And the lovely thing about it, to me, was that it wasn’t true. It wasn’t real.’ Mr Satterthwaite nodded. He saw her, perhaps more clearly than she saw herself – that frightened, lonely child entranced with her make believe that was so safe because it wasn’t real. ‘He was, I suppose, a very ordinary young man. Out for adventure, but quite sweet about it. We went on pretending.’ She stopped, looked at Mr Satterthwaite and said again: ‘You understand? We went on pretending …’ She went on again in a minute. ‘He came up again the next morning to the villa. I saw him from my bedroom through the shutter. Of course he didn’t dream I was inside. He still thought I was a little Spanish peasant girl. He stood there looking about him. He’d asked me to meet him. I’d said I would but I never meant to. ‘He just stood there looking worried. I think he was worried about me. It was nice of him to be worried about me. He was nice …’ She paused again. ‘The next day he left. I’ve never seen him again. ‘My baby was born nine months later. I was wonderfully happy all the time. To be able to have a baby so peacefully, with no one to hurt you or make you miserable. I wished I’d remembered to ask my English boy his Christian name. I would have called the baby after him. It seemed unkind not to. It seemed rather unfair. He’d given me the thing I wanted most in the world, and he would never even know about it! But of course I told myself that he wouldn’t look at it that way – that to know would probably only worry and annoy him. I had been just a passing amusement for him, that was all.’ ‘And the baby?’ asked Mr Satterthwaite. ‘He was splendid. I called him John. Splendid. I wish you could see him now. He’s twenty. He’s going to be a mining engineer. He’s been the best and dearest son in the world to me. I told him his father had died before he was born.’ Mr Satterthwaite stared at her. A curious story. And somehow, a story that was not completely told. There was, he felt sure, something else. ‘Twenty years is a long time,’ he said thoughtfully. ‘You’ve never contemplated marrying again?’ She shook her head. A slow, burning blush spread over her tanned cheeks. ‘The child was enough for you – always?’ She looked at him. Her eyes were softer than he had yet seen them. ‘Such queer things happen!’ she murmured. ‘Such queer things … You wouldn’t believe them – no, I’m wrong, you might, perhaps. I didn’t love John’s father, not at the time. I don’t think I even knew what love was. I assumed, as a matter of course, that the child would be like me. But he wasn’t. He mightn’t have been my child at all. He was like his father – he was like no one but his father. I learnt to know that man – through his child. Through the child, I learnt to love him. I love him now. I always shall love him. You may say that it’s imagination, that I’ve built up an ideal, but it isn’t so. I love the man, the real, human man. I’d know him if I saw him tomorrow – even though it’s over twenty years since we met. Loving him has made me into a woman. I love him as a woman loves a man. For twenty years I’ve lived loving him. I shall die loving him.’ She stopped abruptly – then challenged her listener. ‘Do you think I’m mad – to say these strange things?’ ‘Oh! my dear,’ said Mr Satterthwaite. He took her hand again. ‘You do understand?’ ‘I think I do. But there’s something more, isn’t there? Something that you haven’t yet told me?’ Her brow clouded over. ‘Yes, there’s something. It was clever of you to guess. I knew at once you weren’t the sort one can hide things from. But I don’t want to tell you – and the reason I don’t want to tell you is because it’s best for you not to know.’ He looked at her. Her eyes met his bravely and defiantly. He said to himself: ‘This is the test. All the clues are in my hand. I ought to be able to know. If I reason rightly I shall know.’ There was a pause, then he said slowly: ‘Something’s gone wrong.’ He saw her eyelids give the faintest quiver and knew himself to be on the right track. ‘Something’s gone wrong – suddenly – after all these years.’ He felt himself groping – groping – in the dark recesses of her mind where she was trying to hide her secret from him. ‘The boy – it’s got to do with him. You wouldn’t mind about anything else.’ He heard the very faint gasp she gave and knew he had probed correctly. A cruel business but necessary. It was her will against his. She had got a dominant, ruthless will, but he too had a will hidden beneath his meek manners. And he had behind him the Heaven-sent assurance of a man who is doing his proper job. He felt a passing contemptuous pity for men whose business it was to track down such crudities as crime. This detective business of the mind, this assembling of clues, this delving for the truth, this wild joy as one drew nearer to the goal … Her very passion to keep the truth from him helped her. He felt her stiffen defiantly as he drew nearer and nearer. ‘It is better for me not to know, you say. Better for me? But you are not a very considerate woman. You would not shrink from putting a stranger to a little temporary inconvenience. It is more than that, then? If you tell me you make me an accomplice before the fact. That sounds like crime. Fantastic! I could not associate crime with you. Or only one sort of crime. A crime against yourself.’ Her lids drooped in spite of herself, veiled her eyes. He leaned forward and caught her wrist. ‘It is that, then! You are thinking of taking your life.’ She gave a low cry. ‘How did you know? How did you know?’ ‘But why? You are not tired of life. I never saw a woman less tired of it – more radiantly alive.’ She got up, went to the window, pushing back a strand of her dark hair as she did so. ‘Since you have guessed so much I might as well tell you the truth. I should not have let you in this evening. I might have known that you would see too much. You are that kind of man. You were right about the cause. It’s the boy. He knows nothing. But last time he was home, he spoke tragically of a friend of his, and I discovered something. If he finds out that he is illegitimate it will break his heart. He is proud – horribly proud! There is a girl. Oh! I won’t go into details. But he is coming very soon – and he wants to know all about his father – he wants details. The girl’s parents, naturally, want to know. When he discovers the truth, he will break with her, exile himself, ruin his life. Oh! I know the things you would say. He is young, foolish, wrong-headed to take it like that! All true, perhaps. But does it matter what people ought to be? They are what they are. It will break his heart … But if, before he comes, there has been an accident, everything will be swallowed up in grief for me. He will look through my papers, find nothing, and be annoyed that I told him so little. But he will not suspect the truth. It is the best way. One must pay for happiness, and I have had so much – oh! so much happiness. And in reality the price will be easy, too. A little courage – to take the leap – perhaps a moment or so of anguish.’ ‘But, my dear child –’ ‘Don’t argue with me.’ She flared round on him. ‘I won’t listen to conventional arguments. My life is my own. Up to now, it has been needed – for John. But he needs it no longer. He wants a mate – a companion – he will turn to her all the more willingly because I am no longer there. My life is useless, but my death will be of use. And I have the right to do what I like with my own life.’ ‘Are you sure?’ The sternness of his tone surprised her. She stammered slightly. ‘If it is no good to anyone – and I am the best judge of that –’ He interrupted her again. ‘Not necessarily.’ ‘What do you mean?’ ‘Listen. I will put a case to you. A man comes to a certain place – to commit suicide, shall we say? But by chance he finds another man there, so he fails in his purpose and goes away – to live. The second man has saved the first man’s life, not by being necessary to him or prominent in his life, but just by the mere physical fact of having been in a certain place at a certain moment. You take your life today and perhaps, some five, six, seven years hence, someone will go to death or disaster simply for lack of your presence in a given spot or place. It may be a runaway horse coming down a street that swerved aside at sight of you and so fails to trample a child that is playing in the gutter. That child may live to grow up and be a great musician, or discover a cure for cancer. Or it may be less melodramatic than that. He may just grow up to ordinary everyday happiness …’ She stared at him. ‘You are a strange man. These things you say – I have never thought of them …’ ‘You say your life is your own,’ went on Mr Satterthwaite. ‘But can you dare to ignore the chance that you are taking part in a gigantic drama under the orders of a divine Producer? Your cue may not come till the end of the play – it may be totally unimportant, a mere walking-on part, but upon it may hang the issues of the play if you do not give the cue to another player. The whole edifice may crumple. You as you, may not matter to anyone in the world, but you as a person in a particular place may matter unimaginably.’ She sat down, still staring. ‘What do you want me to do?’ she said simply. It was Mr Satterthwaite’s moment of triumph. He issued orders. ‘I want you at least to promise me one thing – to do nothing rash for twenty-four hours.’ She was silent for a moment or two and then she said: ‘I promise.’ ‘There is one other thing – a favour.’ ‘Yes?’ ‘Leave the shutter of the room I came in by unfastened, and keep vigil there tonight.’ She looked at him curiously, but nodded assent. ‘And now,’ said Mr Satterthwaite, slightly conscious of anticlimax, ‘I really must be going. God bless you, my dear.’ He made a rather embarrassed exit. The stalwart Spanish girl met him in the passage and opened a side door for him, staring curiously at him the while. It was just growing dark as he reached the hotel. There was a solitary figure sitting on the terrace. Mr Satterthwaite made straight for it. He was excited and his heart was beating quite fast. He felt that tremendous issues lay in his hands. One false move – But he tried to conceal his agitation and to speak naturally and casually to Anthony Cosden. ‘A warm evening,’ he observed. ‘I quite lost count of time sitting up there on the cliff.’ ‘Have you been up there all this time?’ Mr Satterthwaite nodded. The swing door into the hotel opened to let someone through, and a beam of light fell suddenly on the other’s face, illuminating its look of dull suffering, of uncomprehending dumb endurance. Mr Satterthwaite thought to himself: ‘It’s worse for him than it would be for me. Imagination, conjecture, speculation – they can do a lot for you. You can, as it were, ring the changes upon pain. The uncomprehending blind suffering of an animal – that’s terrible …’ Cosden spoke suddenly in a harsh voice. ‘I’m going for a stroll after dinner. You – you understand? The third time’s lucky. For God’s sake don’t interfere. I know your interference will be well-meaning and all that – but take it from me, it’s useless.’ Mr Satterthwaite drew himself up. ‘I never interfere,’ he said, thereby giving the lie to the whole purpose and object of his existence. ‘I know what you think –’ went on Cosden, but he was interrupted. ‘You must excuse me, but there I beg to differ from you,’ said Mr Satterthwaite. ‘Nobody knows what another person is thinking. They may imagine they do, but they are nearly always wrong.’ ‘Well, perhaps that’s so.’ Cosden was doubtful, slightly taken aback. ‘Thought is yours only,’ said his companion. ‘Nobody can alter or influence the use you mean to make of it. Let us talk of a less painful subject. That old villa, for instance. It has a curious charm, withdrawn, sheltered from the world, shielding heaven knows what mystery. It tempted me to do a doubtful action. I tried one of the shutters.’ ‘You did?’ Cosden turned his head sharply. ‘But it was fastened, of course?’ ‘No,’ said Mr Satterthwaite. ‘It was open.’ He added gently: ‘The third shutter from the end.’ ‘Why,’ Cosden burst out, ‘that was the one –’ He broke off suddenly, but Mr Satterthwaite had seen the light that had sprung up in his eyes. He rose – satisfied. Some slight tinge of anxiety still remained with him. Using his favourite metaphor of a drama, he hoped that he had spoken his few lines correctly. For they were very important lines. But thinking it over, his artistic judgment was satisfied. On his way up to the cliff, Cosden would try that shutter. It was not in human nature to resist. A memory of twenty odd years ago had brought him to this spot, the same memory would take him to the shutter. And afterwards? ‘I shall know in the morning,’ said Mr Satterthwaite, and proceeded to change methodically for his evening meal. It was somewhere round ten o’clock that Mr Satterthwaite set foot once more in the garden of La Paz. Manuel bade him a smiling ‘Good morning,’ and handed him a single rosebud which Mr Satterthwaite put carefully into his buttonhole. Then he went on to the house. He stood there for some minutes looking up at the peaceful white walls, the trailing orange creeper, and the faded green shutters. So silent, so peaceful. Had the whole thing been a dream? But at that moment one of the windows opened and the lady who occupied Mr Satterthwaite’s thoughts came out. She came straight to him with a buoyant swaying walk, like someone carried on a great wave of exultation. Her eyes were shining, her colour high. She looked like a figure of joy on a frieze. There was no hesitation about her, no doubts or tremors. Straight to Mr Satterthwaite she came, put her hands on his shoulders and kissed him – not once but many times. Large, dark, red roses, very velvety – that is how he thought of it afterwards. Sunshine, summer, birds singing – that was the atmosphere into which he felt himself caught up. Warmth, joy and tremendous vigour. ‘I’m so happy,’ she said. ‘You darling! How did you know? How could you know? You’re like the good magician in the fairy tales.’ She paused, a sort of breathlessness of happiness upon her. ‘We’re going over today – to the Consul – to get married. When John comes, his father will be there. We’ll tell him there was some misunderstanding in the past. Oh! he won’t ask questions. Oh! I’m so happy – so happy – so happy.’ Happiness did indeed surge from her like a tide. It lapped round Mr Satterthwaite in a warm exhilarating flood. ‘It’s so wonderful to Anthony to find he has a son. I never dreamt he’d mind or care.’ She looked confidently into Mr Satterthwaite’s eyes. ‘Isn’t it strange how things come right and end all beautifully?’ He had his clearest vision of her yet. A child – still a child – with her love of make believe – her fairy tales that ended beautifully with two people ‘living happily ever afterwards’. He said gently: ‘If you bring this man of yours happiness in these last months, you will indeed have done a very beautiful thing.’ Her eyes opened wide – surprised. ‘Oh!’ she said. ‘You don’t think I’d let him die, do you? After all these years – when he’s come to me. I’ve known lots of people whom doctors have given up and who are alive today. Die? Of course he’s not going to die!’ He looked at her – her strength, her beauty, her vitality – her indomitable courage and will. He, too, had known doctors to be mistaken … The personal factor – you never knew how much and how little it counted. She said again, with scorn and amusement in her voice: ‘You don’t think I’d let him die, do you?’ ‘No,’ said Mr Satterthwaite at last very gently. ‘Somehow, my dear, I don’t think you will …’ Then at last he walked down the cypress path to the bench overlooking the sea and found there the person he was expecting to see. Mr Quin rose and greeted him – the same as ever, dark, saturnine, smiling and sad. ‘You expected me?’ he asked. And Mr Satterthwaite answered: ‘Yes, I expected you.’ They sat together on the bench. ‘I have an idea that you have been playing Providence once more, to judge by your expression,’ said Mr Quin presently. Mr Satterthwaite looked at him reproachfully. ‘As if you didn’t know all about it.’ ‘You always accuse me of omniscience,’ said Mr Quin, smiling. ‘If you know nothing, why were you here the night before last – waiting?’ countered Mr Satterthwaite. ‘Oh, that –?’ ‘Yes, that.’ ‘I had a – commission to perform.’ ‘For whom?’ ‘You have sometimes fancifully named me an advocate for the dead.’ ‘The dead?’ said Mr Satterthwaite, a little puzzled. ‘I don’t understand.’ Mr Quin pointed a long, lean finger down at the blue depths below. ‘A man was drowned down there twenty-two years ago.’ ‘I know – but I don’t see –’ ‘Supposing that, after all, that man loved his young wife. Love can make devils of men as well as angels. She had a girlish adoration for him, but he could never touch the womanhood in her – and that drove him mad. He tortured her because he loved her. Such things happen. You know that as well as I do.’ ‘Yes,’ admitted Mr Satterthwaite, ‘I have seen such things – but rarely – very rarely …’ ‘And you have also seen, more commonly, that there is such a thing as remorse – the desire to make amends – at all costs to make amends.’ ‘Yes, but death came too soon …’ ‘Death!’ There was contempt in Mr Quin’s voice. ‘You believe in a life after death, do you not? And who are you to say that the same wishes, the same desires, may not operate in that other life? If the desire is strong enough – a messenger may be found.’ His voice tailed away. Mr Satterthwaite got up, trembling a little. ‘I must get back to the hotel,’ he said. ‘If you are going that way.’ But Mr Quin shook his head. ‘No,’ he said. ‘I shall go back the way I came.’ When Mr Satterthwaite looked back over his shoulder, he saw his friend walking towards the edge of the cliff. 7 The Voice in the Dark (#ulink_afe1266d-27dc-52ed-b36d-b074e2676ede) ‘The Voice in the Dark’ was first published in the USA in Flynn’s Weekly, 4 December 1926, and then as ‘The Magic of Mr Quin No. 4’ in Storyteller magazine, March 1927. ‘I am a little worried about Margery,’ said Lady Stranleigh. ‘My girl, you know,’ she added. She sighed pensively. ‘It makes one feel terribly old to have a grown-up daughter.’ Mr Satterthwaite, who was the recipient of these confidences, rose to the occasion gallantly. ‘No one could believe it possible,’ he declared with a little bow. ‘Flatterer,’ said Lady Stranleigh, but she said it vaguely and it was clear that her mind was elsewhere. Mr Satterthwaite looked at the slender white-clad figure in some admiration. The Cannes sunshine was searching, but Lady Stranleigh came through the test very well. At a distance the youthful effect was really extraordinary. One almost wondered if she were grown-up or not. Mr Satterthwaite, who knew everything, knew that it was perfectly possible for Lady Stranleigh to have grown-up grandchildren. She represented the extreme triumph of art over nature. Her figure was marvellous, her complexion was marvellous. She had enriched many beauty parlours and certainly the results were astounding. Lady Stranleigh lit a cigarette, crossed her beautiful legs encased in the finest of nude silk stockings and murmured: ‘Yes, I really am rather worried about Margery.’ ‘Dear me,’ said Mr Satterthwaite, ‘what is the trouble?’ Lady Stranleigh turned her beautiful blue eyes upon him ‘You have never met her, have you? She is Charles’ daughter,’ she added helpfully. If entries in ‘Who’s Who’ were strictly truthful, the entries concerning Lady Stranleigh might have ended as follows: hobbies: getting married. She had floated through life shedding husbands as she went. She had lost three by divorce and one by death. ‘If she had been Rudolph’s child I could have understood it,’ mused Lady Stranleigh. ‘You remember Rudolf? He was always temperamental. Six months after we married I had to apply for those queer things – what do they call them? Conjugal what nots, you know what I mean. Thank goodness it is all much simpler nowadays. I remember I had to write him the silliest kind of letter – my lawyer practically dictated it to me. Asking him to come back, you know, and that I would do all I could, etc., etc., but you never could count on Rudolf, he was so temperamental. He came rushing home at once, which was quite the wrong thing to do, and not at all what the lawyers meant.’ She sighed. ‘About Margery?’ suggested Mr Satterthwaite, tactfully leading her back to the subject under discussion. ‘Of course. I was just going to tell you, wasn’t I? Margery has been seeing things, or hearing them. Ghosts, you know, and all that. I should never have thought that Margery could be so imaginative. She is a dear good girl, always has been, but just a shade – dull.’ ‘Impossible,’ murmured Mr Satterthwaite with a confused idea of being complimentary. ‘In fact, very dull,’ said Lady Stranleigh. ‘Doesn’t care for dancing, or cocktails or any of the things a young girl ought to care about. She much prefers staying at home to hunt instead of coming out here with me.’ ‘Dear, dear,’ said Mr Satterthwaite, ‘she wouldn’t come out with you, you say?’ ‘Well, I didn’t exactly press her. Daughters have a depressing effect upon one, I find.’ Mr Satterthwaite tried to think of Lady Stranleigh accompanied by a serious-minded daughter and failed. ‘I can’t help wondering if Margery is going off her head,’ continued Margery’s mother in a cheerful voice. ‘Hearing voices is a very bad sign, so they tell me. It is not as though Abbot’s Mede were haunted. The old building was burnt to the ground in 1836, and they put up a kind of early Victorian château which simply cannot be haunted. It is much too ugly and common-place.’ Mr Satterthwaite coughed. He was wondering why he was being told all this. ‘I thought perhaps,’ said Lady Stranleigh, smiling brilliantly upon him, ‘that you might be able to help me.’ ‘I?’ ‘Yes. You are going back to England tomorrow, aren’t you?’ ‘I am. Yes, that is so,’ admitted Mr Satterthwaite cautiously. ‘And you know all these psychical research people. Of course you do, you know everybody.’ Mr Satterthwaite smiled a little. It was one of his weaknesses to know everybody. ‘So what can be simpler?’ continued Lady Stranleigh. ‘I never get on with that sort of person. You know – earnest men with beards and usually spectacles. They bore me terribly and I am quite at my worst with them.’ Mr Satterthwaite was rather taken aback. Lady Stranleigh continued to smile at him brilliantly. ‘So that is all settled, isn’t it?’ she said brightly. ‘You will go down to Abbot’s Mede and see Margery, and make all the arrangements. I shall be terribly grateful to you. Of course if Margery is really going off her head, I will come home. Ah! here is Bimbo.’ Her smile from being brilliant became dazzling. A young man in white tennis flannels was approaching them. He was about twenty-five years of age and extremely good-looking. The young man said simply: ‘I have been looking for you everywhere, Babs.’ ‘What has the tennis been like?’ ‘Septic.’ Lady Stranleigh rose. She turned her head over her shoulder and murmured in dulcet tones to Mr Satterthwaite: ‘It is simply marvellous of you to help me. I shall never forget it.’ Mr Satterthwaite looked after the retreating couple. ‘I wonder,’ he mused to himself, ‘If Bimbo is going to be No. 5.’ The conductor of the Train de Luxe was pointing out to Mr Satterthwaite where an accident on the line had occurred a few years previously. As he finished his spirited narrative, the other looked up and saw a well-known face smiling at him over the conductor’s shoulder. ‘My dear Mr Quin,’ said Mr Satterthwaite. His little withered face broke into smiles. ‘What a coincidence! That we should both be returning to England on the same train. You are going there, I suppose.’ ‘Yes,’ said Mr Quin. ‘I have business there of rather an important nature. Are you taking the first service of dinner?’ ‘I always do so. Of course, it is an absurd time – half-past six, but one runs less risk with the cooking.’ Mr Quin nodded comprehendingly. ‘I also,’ he said. ‘We might perhaps arrange to sit together.’ Half-past six found Mr Quin and Mr Satterthwaite established opposite each other at a small table in the dining-car. Mr Satterthwaite gave due attention to the wine list and then turned to his companion. ‘I have not seen you since – ah, yes not since Corsica. You left very suddenly that day.’ Mr Quin shrugged his shoulders. ‘Not more so than usual. I come and go, you know. I come and go.’ The words seemed to awake some echo of remembrance in Mr Satterthwaite’s mind. A little shiver passed down his spine – not a disagreeable sensation, quite the contrary. He was conscious of a pleasurable sense of anticipation. Mr Quin was holding up a bottle of red wine, examining the label on it. The bottle was between him and the light but for a minute or two a red glow enveloped his person. Mr Satterthwaite felt again that sudden stir of excitement. ‘I too have a kind of mission in England,’ he remarked, smiling broadly at the remembrance. ‘You know Lady Stranleigh perhaps?’ Mr Quin shook his head. ‘It is an old title,’ said Mr Satterthwaite, ‘a very old title. One of the few that can descend in the female line. She is a Baroness in her own right. Rather a romantic history really.’ Mr Quin settled himself more comfortably in his chair. A waiter, flying down the swinging car, deposited cups of soup before them as if by a miracle. Mr Quin sipped it cautiously. ‘You are about to give me one of those wonderful descriptive portraits of yours,’ he murmured, ‘that is so, is it not?’ Mr Satterthwaite beamed on him. ‘She is really a marvellous woman,’ he said. ‘Sixty, you know – yes, I should say at least sixty. I knew them as girls, she and her sister. Beatrice, that was the name of the elder one. Beatrice and Barbara. I remember them as the Barron girls. Both good-looking and in those days very hard up. But that was a great many years ago – why, dear me, I was a young man myself then.’ Mr Satterthwaite sighed. ‘There were several lives then between them and the title. Old Lord Stranleigh was a first cousin once removed, I think. Lady Stranleigh’s life has been quite a romantic affair. Three unexpected deaths – two of the old man’s brothers and a nephew. Then there was the “Uralia”. You remember the wreck of the “Uralia”? She went down off the coast of New Zealand. The Barron girls were on board. Beatrice was drowned. This one, Barbara, was amongst the few survivors. Six months later, old Stranleigh died and she succeeded to the title and came into a considerable fortune. Since then she has lived for one thing only – herself! She has always been the same, beautiful, unscrupulous, completely callous, interested solely in herself. She has had four husbands, and I have no doubt could get a fifth in a minute.’ Конец ознакомительного фрагмента. Текст предоставлен ООО «ЛитРес». Прочитайте эту книгу целиком, купив полную легальную версию (https://www.litres.ru/agata-kristi/the-complete-quin-and-satterthwaite/?lfrom=334617187) на ЛитРес. Безопасно оплатить книгу можно банковской картой Visa, MasterCard, Maestro, со счета мобильного телефона, с платежного терминала, в салоне МТС или Связной, через PayPal, WebMoney, Яндекс.Деньги, QIWI Кошелек, бонусными картами или другим удобным Вам способом.
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