"Had you reason to suspect any cardiac trouble, Doctor McMurdoch?" asked
Doctor McMurdoch, a local practitioner who had been a friend of Sir Charles
Abingdon, shook his head slowly. He was a tall, preternaturally thin Scotsman,
clean-shaven, with shaggy dark brows and a most gloomy expression in his
deep-set eyes. While the presence of his sepulchral figure seemed appropriate
enough in that stricken house, Harley could not help thinking that it must have
been far from reassuring in a sick room.
"I had never actually detected anything of the kind," replied the physician, and his
deep voice was gloomily in keeping with his personality. "I had observed a
certain breathlessness at times, however. No doubt it is one of those cases of on
suspected endocarditis. Acute. I take it," raising his shaggy brows interrogatively,
"that nothing had occurred to excite Sir Charles?"
"On the contrary," replied Harley, "he was highly distressed about some family
trouble, the nature of which he was about to confide to me when this sudden
illness seized him."
He stared hard at Doctor McMurdoch, wondering how much he might hope to
learn from him respecting the affairs of Sir Charles. It seemed almost impertinent
at that hour to seek to pry into the dead man's private life.
To the quiet, book-lined apartment stole now and again little significant sounds
which told of the tragedy in the household. Sometimes when a distant door was
opened, it would be the sobs of a weeping woman, for the poor old housekeeper
had been quite prostrated by the blow. Or ghostly movements would become
audible from the room immediately over the library--the room to which the dead
man had been carried; muffled footsteps, vague stirrings of furniture; each sound
laden with its own peculiar portent, awakening the imagination which all too
readily filled in the details of the scene above. Then, to spur Harley to action,
came the thought that Sir Charles Abingdon had appealed to him for aid. Did his
need terminate with his unexpected death or would the shadow under which he