At The Guest House
I presented myself at the Guest House at half-past eleven. My mental state was
troubled and indescribably complex. Perhaps my own uneasy, thoughts were
responsible for the idea, but it seemed to me that the atmosphere of Cray's Folly
had changed yet again. Never before had I experienced a sense of foreboding
like that which had possessed me throughout the hours of this bright summer's
Colonel Menendez had appeared about nine o'clock. He exhibiting no traces of
illness that were perceptible to me. But this subtle change which I had detected,
or thought I had detected, was more marked in Madame Staemer than in any
one. In her strange, still eyes I had read what I can only describe as a stricken
look. It had none of the heroic resignation and acceptance of the inevitable which
had so startled me in the face of the Colonel on the previous day. There was a
bitterness in it, as of one who has made a great but unwilling sacrifice, and again
I had found myself questing that faint but fugitive memory, conjured up by the
eyes of Madame de Staemer.
Never had the shadow lain so darkly upon the house as it lay this morning with
the sun blazing gladly out of a serene sky. The birds, the flowers, and Mother
Earth herself bespoke the joy of summer. But beneath the roof of Cray's Folly
dwelt a spirit of unrest, of apprehension. I thought of that queer lull which comes
before a tropical storm, and I thought I read a knowledge of pending evil even in
the glances of the servants.
I had spoken to Harley of this fear. He had smiled and nodded grimly, saying:
"Evidently, Knox, you have forgotten that to-night is the night of the full moon."
It was in no easy state of mind, then, that I opened the gate and walked up to the
porch of the Guest House. That the solution of the grand mystery of Cray's Folly
would automatically resolve these lesser mysteries I felt assured, and I was
supported by the idea that a clue might lie here.
The house, which from the roadway had an air of neglect, proved on close
inspection to be well tended, but of an unprosperous aspect. The brass knocker,
door knob, and letter box were brilliantly polished, whilst the windows and the
window curtains were spotlessly clean. But the place cried aloud for the service
of the decorator, and it did not need the deductive powers of a Paul Harley to
determine that Mr. Colin Camber was in straitened circumstances.
In response to my ringing the door was presently opened by Ah Tsong. His
yellow face exhibited no trace of emotion whatever. He merely opened the door
and stood there looking at me.
"Is Mr. Camber at home?" I enquired.
"Master no got," crooned Ah Tsong.
He proceeded quietly to close the door again.
"One moment," I said, "one moment. I wish, at any rate, to leave my card."
Ah Tsong allowed the door to remain open, but:
"No usee palaber so fashion," he said. "No feller comee here. Sabby?"