33. Paul Harley's Experiment
Up to the very moment that Paul Harley, who had withdrawn, rejoined us in the
garden, Inspector Aylesbury had not grasped the significance of that candle
burning upon the yew tree. He continued to stare at it as if hypnotized, and when
my friend re-appeared, carrying a long ash staff and a sheet of cardboard, I could
have laughed to witness the expression upon the Inspector's face, had I not been
too deeply impressed with that which underlay this strange business.
Wessex, on the other hand, was watching my friend eagerly, as an earnest
student in the class-room might watch a demonstration by some celebrated
"You will notice," said Paul Harley, "that I have had a number of boards laid down
upon the ground yonder, near the sun-dial. They cover a spot where the turf has
worn very thin. Now, this garden, because of its sunken position, is naturally
damp. Perhaps, Wessex, you would take up these planks for me."
Inspector Wessex obeyed, and Harley, laying the ash stick and cardboard upon
the ground, directed the ray of an electric torch upon the spot uncovered.
"The footprints of Colonel Menendez!" he explained. "Here he turned from the
tiled path. He advanced three paces in the direction of the sun-dial, you observe,
then stood still, facing we may suppose, since this is the indication of the prints,
in a southerly direction."
"Straight toward the Guest House," muttered Inspector Aylesbury.
"Roughly," corrected Harley. "He was fronting in that direction, certainly, but his
head may have been turned either to the right or to the left. You observe from the
great depth of the toe-marks that on this spot he actually fell. Then, here"--he
moved the light--"is the impression of his knee, and here again--"
He shone the white ray upon a discoloured patch of grass, and then returned the
lamp to his pocket.
"I am going to make a hole in the turf," he continued, "directly between these two
footprints, which seem to indicate that the Colonel was standing in the military
position of attention at the moment that he met his death."
With the end of the ash stick, which was pointed, he proceeded to do this.
"Colonel Menendez," he went on, "stood rather over six feet in his shoes. The
stick which now stands upright in the turf measures six feet, from the chalk mark
up to which I have buried it to the slot which I have cut in the top. Into this slot I
now wedge my sheet of cardboard."
As he placed the sheet of cardboard in the slot which he had indicated, I saw that
a round hole was cut in it some six inches in diameter. We watched these
proceedings in silence, then:
"If you will allow me to adjust the candle, gentlemen," said Harley, "which has
burned a little too low for my purpose, I shall proceed to the second part of this