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Bat Wing

19.
A Spanish Cigarette
Sleep was not for me, despite Harley's injunction, and although I was early afoot,
the big house was already astir with significant movements which set the
imagination on fire, to conjure up again the moonlight scene in the garden,
making mock of the song of the birds and of the glory of the morning.
Manoel replied to my ring, and prepared my bath, but it was easy to see that he
had not slept.
No sound came from Harley's room, therefore I did not disturb him, but
proceeded downstairs in the hope of finding Miss Beverley about. Pedro was in
the hall, talking to Mrs. Fisher, and:
"Is Inspector Aylesbury here?" I asked.
"No, sir, but he will be returning at about half-past eight, so he said."
"How is Madame de Staemer, Mrs. Fisher?" I enquired.
"Oh, poor, poor Madame," said the old lady, "she is asleep, thank God. But I am
dreading her awakening."
"The blow is a dreadful one," I admitted; "and Miss Beverley?"
"She didn't go to her room until after four o'clock, sir, but Nita tells me that she
will be down any moment now."
"Ah," said I, and lighting a cigarette, I walked out of the open doors into the
courtyard.
I dreaded all the ghastly official formalities which the day would bring, since I
realized that the brunt of the trouble must fall upon the shoulders of Miss
Beverley in the absence of Madame de Staemer.
I wandered about restlessly, awaiting the girl's appearance. A little two seater
was drawn up in the courtyard, but I had not paid much attention to it, until,
wandering through the opening in the box hedge and on along the gravel path, I
saw unfamiliar figures moving in the billiard room, and turned, hastily retracing
my steps. Officialdom was at work already, and I knew that there would be no
rest for any of us from that hour onward.
As I reentered the hall I saw Val Beverley coming down the staircase. She looked
pale, but seemed to be in better spirits than I could have hoped for, although
there were dark shadows under her eyes.
"Good morning, Miss Beverley," I said.
"Good morning, Mr. Knox. It was good of you to come down so early."
"I had hoped for a chat with you before Inspector Aylesbury returned," I
explained.
She looked at me pathetically.
"I suppose he will want me to give evidence?"
"He will. We had great difficulty in persuading him not to demand your presence
last night."
"It was impossible," she protested. "It would have been cruel to make me leave
Madame in the circumstances."
 
 
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