Liberty, August 11, 1928
JOHN followed Pat into the punt, oppressed once more by a feeling that something had gone wrong with what should have been the most wonderful night of his life. Girls are creatures of moods, and Pat seemed now to have fallen into one of odd aloofness. She said nothing as he pushed the boat out, and remained silent as it slid through the water of the moat with a little tinkling ripple, bearing them into a world of stars and coolness, where everything was still and the trees stood out against the sky as if carved out of cardboard.
“Are you all right?” said John, at last.
“Splendid, thanks.” Pat’s mood seemed to have undergone another swift change. Her voice was friendly again. She nestled into the cushions. “This is luxury. Do you remember the old days when there was nothing but the weedboat?”
“They were pretty good days,” said John wistfully.
“They were, rather,” said Pat.
The spell of the summer night held them silent again. No sound broke the stillness but the slap of tiny waves and the rhythmic dip and splash of the paddle. Then, with a dry flittering, a bat wheeled overhead, and out somewhere by the little island where the birds nested something leaped noisily in the water.
Pat raised her head.
“Must have been.”
Pat sat up and leaned forward.
“That would have excited father,” she said. “I know he’s dying to get out here and have another go at the pike. Johnny, I do wish somebody could do something to stop this absurd feud between him and Mr. Carmody. It’s too silly. I know father would be all over Mr. Carmody if only he would make some sort of advance. After all, he did behave very badly. He might at least apologize.”
JOHN did not reply for a moment. He was thinking that whoever tried to make his uncle apologize for anything had a whole-time job on his hands. Obstinate was a mild word for the squire of Rudge. Pigs bowed as he passed, and mules could have taken his correspondence course.
“Uncle Lester’s a peculiar man,” he said.
“But he might listen to you.”
“He might,” said John doubtfully.
“Well, will you try? Will you go to him and say that all father wants is for him to admit he was in the wrong? Good heavens! It isn’t asking much of a man to admit that, when he’s nearly murdered somebody.”
“Hugo says Mr. Carmody has gone off his head; but he can’t have gone far enough off not to be able to see that father has a perfect right to be offended at being grabbed round the waist and used as a dugout against dynamite explosions.”
“I think Hugo’s off his head,” said John. “He was running round the garden last night, dashing himself against trees. He said he was chasing a burglar.”
Pat was not to be diverted into a discussion of Hugo’s mental deficiencies.
“Well, will you do your best, Johnny? Don’t just let things slide as if they didn’t matter. I tell you, it’s rotten for me. Father found me talking to Hugo the other day, and behaved like something out of a superfilm. He seemed sorry there wasn’t any snow, so that he could drive his erring daughter out into it.
“If he knew I was up here tonight, he would foam with fury. He says I mustn’t speak to you or Hugo or Mr. Carmody or Emily—not that I want to speak to Emily, the little blighter—nor your ox nor your ass nor anything that is within your gates. He’s put a curse on the Hall. It’s one of those comprehensive curses, taking in everything from the family to the mice in the kitchen, and I tell you I’m jolly well fed up. This place has always been just like a home to me, and you—”
John paused in the act of dipping his paddle into the water.
“—and you have always been just like a brother—”
John dug the paddle down with a vicious jerk.
“—and if father thinks it doesn’t affect me to be told I mustn’t come here and see you, he’s wrong. I suppose most girls nowadays would just laugh at him; but I can’t. It isn’t his being angry I’d mind. It would hurt his feelings so frightfully if I let him down and went fraternizing with the enemy. So I have to come here on the sly. And if there’s one thing in the world I hate, it’s doing things on the sly. So do reason with that old pig of an uncle of yours, Johnny. Talk to him like a mother.”
“Pat,” said John fervently, “I don’t know how it’s going to be done; but if it can be done, I’ll do it.”
“That’s the stuff! You’re a funny old thing, Johnny. In some ways you’re so slow; but I believe, when you really start out to do anything, you generally put it through.”
“Slow?” said John, stung. “How do you mean, slow?”
“Well, don’t you think you’re slow?”
“In what way?”
“Oh, just slow.”
In spite of the fact that the stars were shining bravely, the night was very dark—much too dark for John to be able to see Pat’s face. He got the impression that, could he have seen it, he would have discovered that she was smiling that old mocking smile of hers. And somehow, though in the past he had often wilted meekly and apologetically beneath this smile, it filled him now with a surge of fury. He plied the paddle wrathfully, and the boat shot forward.
“Don’t go so fast,” said Pat.
“I thought I was slow,” retorted John, sinking back through the years to the repartee of school days.
Pat gurgled in the darkness.
“Did I wound you, Johnny? I’m sorry! You aren’t slow. It’s just prudence, I expect.”
Prudence! John ceased to paddle. He was tingling all over, and there had come upon him a strange breathlessness.
“How do you mean, prudence?”
“Oh, just prudence. I can’t explain.”
PRUDENCE! John sat and stared through the darkness in a futile effort to see her face. A water rat swam past, cleaving a fan shaped trail. The stars winked down at him. In the little island a bird moved among the reeds. Prudence! Was she referring— Had she meant— Did she allude—
He came to life, and dug the paddle into the water. Of course she wasn’t. Of course she hadn’t. Of course she didn’t. In that little episode on the path he had behaved exactly as he should have behaved.
If he had behaved as he should not have behaved, if he had behaved as that old flint-ax and bearskin John of the Stone Age would have had him behave, he would have behaved unpardonably.
The swift intake of the breath and the “Oh, why must you spoil everything like this?”—that was what would have been the result of listening to the advice of a bounder of an ancestor who might have been a social success in his day but naturally didn’t understand the niceties of modern civilization.
Nevertheless, he worked with unnecessary vigor at the paddle, calling down another rebuke from his passenger.
“Don’t race along like that. Are you trying to hint that you want to get this over as quickly as you can and send me home to bed?”
“No,” was all John could find to say.
“Well, I suppose I ought to be thinking of bed. I’ll tell you what. We’ll do the thing in style: The Return by Water. You can take me out into the Skirme and down as far as the bridge and drop me there. Or is that too big a program? You’re probably tired.”
John had motored 200 miles that day, but he had never felt less tired. His view was that he wished they could row on forever.
“All right,” he said.
“Push on, then,” said Pat. “Only do go slowly. I want to enjoy this. I don’t want to whizz by all the old landmarks. How far to Ghost Corner?”
“It’s just ahead.”
“Well, take it easy.”
The moat proper was a narrow strip of water which encircled the Hall, and had been placed there by the first Carmody in the days when householders believed in making things difficult for their visitors. With the gradual spread of peace throughout the land, its original purposes had been forgotten, and later members of the family had broadened it and added to it and tinkered with it and sprinkled it with little islands, with a view to converting it into something resembling as nearly as possible an ornamental lake.
Apparently it came to an end at the spot where a mass of yew trees stood forbiddingly in a gloomy row, that haunted spot which Pat as a child had named Ghost Corner. But if you approached this corner intrepidly you found there a narrow channel. Which navigated, you came into a winding stream that led past meadows and under bridges to the upper reaches of the Skirme.
“How old were you, Johnny, when you were first brave enough to come past Ghost Corner at night all by yourself?” asked Pat.
“I bet you were much more than that.”
“I did it on my sixteenth birthday.”
Pat stretched out a hand, and the branches brushed her fingers.
“I wouldn’t do it, even now,” she said. “I know perfectly well a skinny arm covered with black hair would come out of the yews and grab at me. There’s something that looks like a skinny arm hovering at the back of your neck now, Johnny. What made you such a hero that particular day?”
“You had bet me I wouldn’t, if you remember.”
“I don’t remember. Did I?”
“Well, you egged me on with taunts.”
“And you went and did it? What a good influence I’ve been in your life, haven’t I? Oh, dear! It’s funny to think of you and me as kids on this very bit of water—and here we are again now, old and worn and quite different people, and the water’s just the same as ever.”
“I’m not different.”
“Yes, you are.”
“What makes you say I’m different?”
“Oh, I don’t know.”
John stopped paddling. He wanted to get to the bottom of this.
“WHY do you say I’m different?”
“Those white things through the trees there must be geese.”
John was not interested in geese.
“I’m not different at all,” he said, “I—”
He broke off. He had been on the verge of saying that he had loved her then and that he loved her still—which, he perceived, would have spoiled everything.
“I’m just the same,” he concluded lamely.
“Then why don’t you sport with me on the green as you did when you were a growing lad? Here you have been back for days, and tonight is the first glimpse I get of you. And, even so, I had to walk a mile and fling gravel at your window. In the old days you used to live on my doorstep. Do you think I’ve enjoyed being left all alone all this time?”
John was appalled. Put this way, the facts did seem to point to a callous negligence on his part. And all the while he had been supposing his conduct due to delicacy and a sense of what was fitting and would be appreciated.
In John’s code, it was the duty of a man who has told a girl he loved her, and been informed that she does not love him, to efface himself, to crawl into the background, to pass out of her life till the memory of his crude audacity shall have been blotted out by time. Why, half the big game shot in Africa owed their untimely end, he understood, to this tradition.
“I didn’t know—”
“I didn’t know you wanted to see me.”
“Of course I wanted to see you. Look here, Johnny. I’ll tell you what. Are you doing anything tomorrow?”
“Then get out that old rattletrap of yours, and gather me up at my place, and we’ll go off and have a regular picnic, like we used to do in the old days. Father is lunching out. You could come at about one o’clock. We could get out to Wenlock Edge in an hour. It would be lovely there, if this weather holds up. What do you say?”
John did not immediately say anything. His feelings were too deep for words. He urged the boat forward, and the Skirme received it with that slow, grave, sleepy courtesy which made it for right thinking people the best of all rivers.
“Pat!” said John at length, devoutly.
“All right. That’s splendid. I’ll expect you at one.”
THE Skirme rippled about the boat, chuckling to itself. It was a kindly, thoughtful river, given to chuckling to itself, like an old gentleman who likes to see young people happy.
“We used to have some topping picnics in the old days,” said Pat dreamily.
“We did,” said John.
“Though why on earth you ever wanted to be with a beastly, bossy, consequential, fractious kid like me, goodness knows.”
“You were fine,” said John.
The Old Bridge loomed up through the shadows. John had steered the boat shoreward, and it brushed against the reeds with a sound like the blowing of fairy bugles.
Pat scrambled out, and bent down to where he sat, holding to the bank.
“I’m not nearly so beastly now, Johnny,” she said in a whisper. “You’ll find that out some day, perhaps, if you’re very patient. Good night, Johnny dear. Don’t forget tomorrow.”
She flitted away into the darkness; and John, releasing his hold on the bank and starting up as if he had had an electric shock, was carried out into midstream.
He was tingling from head to foot. It could not have happened, of course—but for a moment he had suddenly received the extraordinary impression that Pat had kissed him.
“Pat!” he called, choking.
There came no answer out of the night—only the sleepy chuckling of the Skirme as it pottered on to tell its old friend the Severn about it.
John drove the paddle forcefully into the water; and the Skirme, ceasing to chuckle, uttered two loud gurgles of protest, as if resenting treatment so violent. The nose of the boat bumped against the bank, and he sprang ashore. He stood there, listening. But there was nothing to hear. Silence had fallen on an empty world.
A little sound came to him in the darkness. The Skirme was chuckling again.
JOHN woke late next day, and in the moment between sleeping and waking was dimly conscious of a feeling of extraordinary happiness. For some reason which he could not immediately analyze, the world seemed suddenly to have become the best of all possible worlds. Then he remembered, and sprang out of bed with a shout.
Emily, lying curled up in her basket, her whole appearance that of a dog who has come home with the milk, raised a drowsy head. Usually it was her custom to bustle about and lend a hand while John bathed and dressed; but this morning she did not feel equal to it. Deciding that it was too much trouble even to tell him about the man she had seen in the grounds last night, she breathed heavily twice and returned to her slumbers.
Having dressed and come out into the open, John found that he had missed some hours of what appeared to be the most perfect morning in the world’s history. The stable yard was a well of sunshine; light breezes whispered in the branches of the cedars; fleecy clouds swam in a sea of blue; and from the direction of the home farm came the soothing crooning of fowls.
His happiness swelled into a feeling of universal benevolence toward all created things. He looked upon the birds and found them all that birds should be; the insects which hummed in the sunshine were, he perceived, a quite superior brand of insect; he even felt fraternal toward a wasp which came flying about his face. And when the Dex-Mayo rolled across the bridge of the moat, and Bolt, applying the brakes, drew up at his side, he thought he had never seen a nicer looking chauffeur.
“Good morning, Bolt,” said John effusively.
“Good morning, sir.”
“Where have you been off to so early?”
“Mr. Carmody sent me to Worcester, sir, to leave a bag for him at Shrub Hill station. If you’re going into the house, Mr. John, perhaps you wouldn’t mind giving him the ticket?”
John was delighted. It was a small kindness that the chauffeur was asking, and he wished it had been in his power to do something for him on a bigger scale. However, the chance of doing even small kindnesses was something to be grateful for on a morning like this. He took the ticket and put it in his pocket.
“How are you, Bolt?”
“All right, thank you, sir.”
“How’s Mrs. Bolt?”
“She’s all right, Mr. John.”
“How’s the baby?”
“The baby’s all right.”
“And the dog?”
“The dog’s all right, sir.”
“That’s splendid,” said John. “That’s great. That’s fine. That’s capital. I’m delighted!”
He smiled a radiant smile of cheeriness and good will, and turned toward the house. However much the heart may be uplifted, the animal in a man insists on demanding breakfast; and though John was virtually pure spirit this morning, he was not blind to the fact that a couple of eggs and a cup of coffee would be no bad thing.
AS he reached the door, he remembered that Mrs. Bolt had a canary and that he had not inquired after that—but decided that the moment had gone by. Later on, perhaps.
He opened the back door and made his way to the morning room, where eggs abounded and coffee could be had for the asking. Pausing only to tickle a passing cat under the ear and make chirruping noises to it, he went in.
The morning room was empty, and there were signs that the rest of the party had already breakfasted. John was glad of it. Genially disposed though he felt toward his species today, he relished the prospect of solitude. A man who is about to picnic on Wenlock Edge in perfect weather with the only girl in the world, wants to meditate, not to make conversation.
So thoroughly had his predecessors breakfasted that he found, on inspecting the coffeepot, that it was empty. He rang the bell.
“Good morning, Sturgis,” he said affably, as the butler appeared. “You might give me some more coffee, will you?”
The butler of Rudge Hall was a little man with snowy hair who had been placidly withering in Mr. Carmody’s service for the last twenty years. John had known him ever since he could remember, and he had always been just the same—frail and venerable and kindly and dried up. He looked exactly like the Good Old Man in a touring melodrama company.
“Why, Mr. John! I thought you were in London.”
“I got back late last night. And very glad,” said John heartily, “to be back. How’s the rheumatism, Sturgis?”
“Rather troublesome, Mr. John.”
JOHN was horrified. Could these things be on such a day as this?
“You don’t say so?”
“Yes, Mr. John. I was awake the greater portion of the night.”
“You must rub yourself with something, and then go and lie down and have a good rest. Where do you feel it mostly?”
“In the limbs, Mr. John. It comes on in sharp twinges.”
“That’s bad. By Jove, yes, that’s bad! Perhaps this fine weather will make it better.”
“I hope so, Mr. John.”
“So do I, so do I,” said John earnestly. “Tell me, where is everybody?”
“Mr. Hugo and the young gentleman went up to London.”
“Of course, yes; I was forgetting.”
“Mr. Molloy and Miss Molloy finished their breakfast some little time ago, and are now out in the garden.”
“Ah, yes. And my uncle?”
“He is up in the picture gallery with the policeman, Mr. John.”
“With the what?”
“With the policeman, Mr. John, who’s come about the burglary.”
“Didn’t you hear, Mr. John, we had a burglary last night?”
The world being constituted as it is, with Fate waiting round almost every corner with its sandbag, it is not often that we are permitted to remain for long undisturbed in our moods of exaltation. John came down to earth swiftly.
“Yes, Mr. John. And if you could spare the time—”
Remorse gripped John. He felt like a sentinel who, falling asleep at his post, has allowed the enemy to creep past him in the night.
“I must go up and see about this.”
“Very good, Mr. John. But if I might have a word—”
“Some other time, Sturgis.”
He ran up the stairs to the picture gallery. Mr. Carmody and Rudge’s one policeman were examining something by the window; and John, in the brief interval which elapsed before they became aware of his presence, was enabled to see the evidences of the disaster. Several picture frames, robbed of their contents, gaped at him like blank windows. A glass case containing miniatures had been broken and rifled. The Elizabethan saltcellar presented to Amyas Carmody by the Virgin Queen herself was no longer in its place.
“Gosh!” said John.
Mr. Carmody and his companion turned.
“John! I thought you were in London.”
“I came back last night.”
“Did you see or observe or hear anything of this business?” asked the policeman.
Constable Mould was one of the slowest witted men in Rudge, and he had eyes like two brown puddles filmed over with scum; but he was doing his best to look at John keenly.
“I wasn’t here.”
“You said you were, sir,” Constable Mould pointed out cleverly.
“I mean I wasn’t anywhere near the house,” replied John impatiently. “Immediately I arrived, I went out for a row on the moat.”
“Then you did not see or observe anything?”
Constable Mould, who had been licking the tip of his pencil and holding a notebook in readiness, subsided disappointedly.
“When did this happen?” asked John.
“It is impossible to say,” replied Mr. Carmody. “By a most unfortunate combination of circumstances, the house was virtually empty from almost directly after dinner. Hugo and his friend, as you know, left for London yesterday morning. Mr. Molloy and his daughter took the car to Birmingham to see a play. And I myself retired to bed early with a headache. The man could have effected an entrance without being observed almost any time after eight o’clock. No doubt he actually did break in shortly before midnight.”
“How did he get in?”
“Undoubtedly through this window by means of a ladder.”
John perceived that the glass of the window had been cut out.
“ANOTHER most unfortunate thing,” proceeded Mr. Carmody, “is that the objects stolen, though so extremely valuable, are small in actual size. The man could have carried them off without any inconvenience. No doubt they are miles away by this time, possibly even in London.”
“Was this here stuff insured?” asked Constable Mould.
“Yes. Curiously enough, the reason my nephew, here, went to London yesterday was to increase the insurance. You saw to that matter, John?”
John spoke absently. Like everybody else who has ever found himself on the scene of a recently committed burglary, he was looking about for clews. “Hullo!”
“What is the matter?”
“Did you see this?”
“Certainly I saw it,” said Mr. Carmody.
“I saw it first,” said Constable Mould.
“The man must have cut his finger getting in.”
“That’s what I thought,” said Constable Mould.
The combined Mould-Carmody-John discovery was a bloodstained fingerprint on the woodwork of the window sill; and, like so many things in the world, it had at first sight the air of being much more important than it really was.
John said he considered it valuable evidence, and felt damped when Mr. Carmody pointed out that it was not easy to search through the whole of England for a man with a cut finger.
“I see,” said John.
Constable Mould said he had seen it right away.
“THE only thing to be done, I suppose,” said Mr. Carmody resignedly, “is to telephone to the police in Worcester. Not that they will be likely to effect anything, but it is as well to observe the formalities. Come downstairs with me, Mould.”
They left the room, the constable, it seemed to John, taking none too kindly to the idea that there were higher powers in the world of detection than himself. His uncle, he considered, had shown a good deal of dignity in his acceptance of the disaster. Many men would have fussed and lost their heads, but Lester Carmody remained calm. John thought it showed a good spirit.
He wandered about the room, hoping for more and better clews. But the difficulty confronting the novice on these occasions is that it is so hard to tell what is a clew and what is not.
Probably, if he only knew, there were clews lying about all over the place, shouting to him to pick them up. But how to recognize them?
Sherlock Holmes can extract a clew from a wisp of straw or a flake of cigar ash. Doctor Watson has to have it taken out for him and dusted and exhibited clearly with a label attached. John was forced reluctantly to the conclusion that he was essentially a Doctor Watson. He did not rise even to the modest level of a Scotland Yard bungler.
He awoke from a reverie to find Sturgis at his side.
“Ah, Sturgis,” said John absently.
He was not particularly pleased to see the butler. The man looked as if he were about to dodder; and in moments of intense thought one does not wish to have doddering butlers around one.
“Might I have a word, Mr. John?”
John supposed he might, though he was not frightfully keen about it. He respected Sturgis’ white hairs, but the poor old ruin had horned in at an unfortunate moment.
“My rheumatism was very bad last night, Mr. John.”
John recognized the blunder he had made in being so sympathetic just now. At that time—feeling, as he had done, that all mankind were his little brothers—to inquire after and display a keen interest in Sturgis’ rheumatism had been a natural and, one might say, unavoidable act. But now he regretted it.
A little coldly he asked Sturgis if he had ever tried Christian Science.
“It kept me awake a very long time, Mr. John.”
“I read in a paper the other day that bee stings sometimes have a good effect.”
“Bee stings, sir?”
“So they say. You get yourself stung by bees, and the acid or whatever it is in the sting draws out the acid or whatever it is in you.”
STURGIS was silent for a while, and John supposed he was about to ask if he could direct him to a good bee. Such, however, was not the butler’s intention. It was Sturgis the old retainer with the welfare of Rudge Hall nearest his heart, not Sturgis the sufferer from twinges in the limbs, who was present now in the picture gallery.
“It is very kind of you, Mr. John,” he said, “to interest yourself; but what I wished to have a word with you about was this burglary of ours last night.”
This was more the stuff. John became heartier.
“A most mysterious affair, Sturgis. The man apparently climbed in through this window, and no doubt escaped the same way.”
“No, Mr. John. That’s what I wish to have a word with you about. He went away down the front stairs.”
“What! How do you know?”
“I saw him, Mr. John.”
“You saw him?”
“Yes, Mr. John—owing to being kept awake by my rheumatism.”
The remorse that had come upon John at the moment when he had first heard the news of the burglary was as nothing to the remorse that racked him now. Just because this fine old man had one of those mild, goofy faces and bleated like a sheep when he talked, he had dismissed him without further thought as a dodderer.
And all the time the splendid old fellow—who could not help his face and was surely not to be blamed if age had affected his vocal cords—had been the god from the machine sent from heaven to assist him in getting to the bottom of this outrage. There is no known case on record of a man patting a butler on the head, but John at this moment came very near to providing one.
“You saw him?”
“Yes, Mr. John.”
“What did he look like?”
“I couldn’t say, Mr. John—not really definite.”
“Why couldn’t you?”
“Because I did not really see him.”
“But you said you did.”
“Yes, Mr. John; but only in a manner of speaking.”
JOHN’S newborn cordiality waned a little. His first estimate, he felt, had been right. This was doddering, pure and simple.
“How do you mean, only in a manner of speaking?”
“Well, it was like this, Mr. John.”
“Look here,” said John. “Tell me the whole thing right from the start.”
Sturgis glanced cautiously at the door. When he spoke, it was in a lowered voice, which gave his delivery the effect of a sheep bleating with cotton wool in its mouth.
“I was awake with my rheumatism last night, Mr. John, and at last it come on so bad I felt I really couldn’t hardly bear it no longer. I lay in bed, thinking, and after I had thought for quite some time, Mr. John, it suddenly crossed my mind that Mr. Hugo had once remarked, while kindly interesting himself in my little trouble, that a glassful of whisky, drunk without water, frequently alleviated the pain.”
John nodded. So far, the story bore the stamp of truth. A glassful of neat whisky was just what Hugo would have recommended for any complaint, from rheumatism to a broken heart.
“So I thought, in the circumstances, that Mr. Carmody would not object if I tried a little. So I got out of bed and put on my overcoat, and I had just reached the head of the stairs—it being my intention to go to the cellaret in the dining room—when what should I hear but a noise.”
“What sort of noise?”
“A sort of sneezing noise, Mr. John. As it might be somebody sneezing.”
“I was stottled.”
“Stottled? Oh, yes, I see. Well?”
“I remained at the head of the stairs. For quite a while I remained at the head of the stairs. Then I crope—”
“I crope to the door of the picture gallery.”
“Oh, I see. Yes?”
“Because the sneezing seemed to have come from there. And then I heard another sneeze. Two or three sneezes, Mr. John. As if whoever was in there had got a nasty cold in the head. And then I heard footsteps coming toward the door.”
“What did you do?”
“I went back to the head of the stairs again, sir. If anybody had told me half an hour before that I could have moved so quick, I wouldn’t have believed him. And then out of the door come a man carrying a bag. He had one of those electric torches. He went down the stairs, but it was only when he was at the bottom that I caught even a glimpse of his face.”
“But you did then?”
“Yes, Mr. John, for just a moment. And I was stottled.”
“Why? You mean he was somebody you knew?”
The butler lowered his voice again.
“I could have sworn, Mr. John, it was that Dr. Twist who came over here the other day from Healthward Ho.”
“Yes, Mr. John. I didn’t tell the policeman just now, and I wouldn’t tell anybody but you; because, after all, it was only a glimpse, as you might say, and I couldn’t swear to it, and there’s defamation of character to be considered.
“So I didn’t mention it to Mr. Mould when he was inquiring of me. I said I’d heard nothing, being in my bed at the time. Because, apart from defamation of character and me not being prepared to swear on oath, I wasn’t sure how Mr. Carmody would like the idea of my going to the dining room cellaret, even though in agonies of pain. So I’d be much obliged if you would not mention it to him, Mr. John.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“You’d better leave me to think this over, Sturgis.”
“Very good, Mr. John.”
It might have been better for John if he had not tried to get to the bottom of the mystery. His attempt at a solution led him into strange dangers. Follow him in next week’s Liberty.