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8. Kerry Consults The Oracle
The clock of Brixton Town Hall was striking the hour of 1 a.m. as Chief Inspector
Kerry inserted his key in the lock of the door of his house in Spenser Road.
A light was burning in the hallway, and from the little dining-room on the left the
reflection of a cheerful fire danced upon the white paint of the half-open door. Kerry
deposited his hat, cane, and overall upon the rack, and moving very quietly
entered the room and turned on the light. A modestly furnished and scrupulously
neat apartment was revealed. On the sheepskin rug before the fire a Manx cat was
dozing beside a pair of carpet slippers. On the table some kind of cold repast was
laid, the viands concealed under china covers. At a large bottle of Guiness's Extra
Stout Kerry looked with particular appreciation.
He heaved a long sigh of contentment, and opened the bottle of stout. Having
poured out a glass of the black and foaming liquid and satisfied an evidently urgent
thirst, he explored beneath the covers, and presently was seated before a spread
of ham and tongue, tomatoes, and bread and butter.
A door opened somewhere upstairs, and:
"Is that yoursel', Dan?" inquired a deep but musical female voice.
"Sure it is," replied Kerry; and no one who had heard the high official tones of the
imperious Chief Inspector would have supposed that they could be so softened
and modulated. "You should have been asleep hours ago, Mary."
"Have ye to go out again?"
"I have, bad luck; but don't trouble to come down. I've all I want and more."
"If 'tis a new case I'll come down."
"It's the devil's own case; but you'll get your death of cold."
Sounds of movement in the room above followed, and presently footsteps on the
stairs. Mrs. Kerry, enveloped in a woollen dressing-gown, which obviously
belonged to the Inspector, came into the room. Upon her Kerry directed a look
from which all fierceness had been effaced, and which expressed only an undying
admiration. And, indeed, Mary Kerry was in many respects a remarkable character.
Half an inch taller than Kerry, she fully merited the compliment designed by that
trite apothegm, "a fine woman." Large-boned but shapely, as she came in with her
long dark hair neatly plaited, it seemed to her husband--who had regained her
lover--that he saw before him the rosy-cheeked lass whom ten years before he had
met and claimed on the chilly shores of Loch Broom. By all her neighbors Mrs.
Kerry was looked upon as a proud, reserved person, who had held herself much
aloof since her husband had become Chief Inspector; and the reputation enjoyed
by Red Kerry was that of an aggressive and uncompanionable man. Now here was
a lover's meeting, not lacking the shy, downward glance of dark eyes as steel- blue
eyes flashed frank admiration.
Kerry, who quarrelled with everybody except the Assistant Commissioner, had only
found one cause of quarrel with Mary. He was a devout Roman Catholic, and for
five years he had clung with the bull-dog tenacity which was his to the belief that
he could convert his wife to the faith of Rome. She remained true to the Scottish