The Milkman Sets Out on his Travels
I sat down in an armchair and felt very sick. That lasted for maybe five minutes, and was
succeeded by a fit of the horrors. The poor staring white face on the floor was more than I
could bear, and I managed to get a table-cloth and cover it. Then I staggered to a
cupboard, found the brandy and swallowed several mouthfuls. I had seen men die
violently before; indeed I had killed a few myself in the Matabele War; but this cold-
blooded indoor business was different. Still I managed to pull myself together. I looked at
my watch, and saw that it was half-past ten.
An idea seized me, and I went over the flat with a small-tooth comb. There was nobody
there, nor any trace of anybody, but I shuttered and bolted all the windows and put the
chain on the door. By this time my wits were coming back to me, and I could think again.
It took me about an hour to figure the thing out, and I did not hurry, for, unless the
murderer came back, I had till about six o'clock in the morning for my cogitations.
I was in the soup--that was pretty clear. Any shadow of a doubt I might have had about
the truth of Scudder's tale was now gone. The proof of it was lying under the table-cloth.
The men who knew that he knew what he knew had found him, and had taken the best
way to make certain of his silence. Yes; but he had been in my rooms four days, and his
enemies must have reckoned that he had confided in me. So I would be the next to go. It
might be that very night, or next day, or the day after, but my number was up all right.
Then suddenly I thought of another probability. Supposing I went out now and called in
the police, or went to bed and let Paddock find the body and call them in the morning.
What kind of a story was I to tell about Scudder? I had lied to Paddock about him, and
the whole thing looked desperately fishy. If I made a clean breast of it and told the police
everything he had told me, they would simply laugh at me. The odds were a thousand to
one that I would be charged with the murder, and the circumstantial evidence was strong
enough to hang me. Few people knew me in England; I had no real pal who could come
forward and swear to my character. Perhaps that was what those secret enemies were
playing for. They were clever enough for anything, and an English prison was as good a
way of getting rid of me till after June 15th as a knife in my chest.
Besides, if I told the whole story, and by any miracle was believed, I would be playing
their game. Karolides would stay at home, which was what they wanted. Somehow or
other the sight of Scudder's dead face had made me a passionate believer in his scheme.
He was gone, but he had taken me into his confidence, and I was pretty well bound to
carry on his work.
You may think this ridiculous for a man in danger of his life, but that was the way I
looked at it. I am an ordinary sort of fellow, not braver than other people, but I hate to see
a good man downed, and that long knife would not be the end of Scudder if I could play
the game in his place.