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25. Aylesbury's Theory
There were strangers about Cray's Folly and a sort of furtive activity, horribly
suggestive. We had not pursued the circular route by the high road which would
have brought us to the lodge, but had turned aside where the swing-gate opened
upon a footpath into the meadows. It was the path which I had pursued upon the
day of my visit to the Lavender Arms. A second private gate here gave access to
the grounds at a point directly opposite the lake; and as we crossed the valley,
making for the terraced lawns, I saw unfamiliar figures upon the veranda, and
knew that the cumbersome processes of the law were already in motion.
I was longing to speak to Val Beverley and to learn what had taken place during
her interview with Inspector Aylesbury, but Harley led the way toward the tower
wing, and by a tortuous path through the rhododendrons we finally came out on
the northeast front and in sight of the Tudor garden.
Harley crossed to the entrance, and was about to descend the steps, when the
constable on duty there held out his arm.
"Excuse me, sir," he said, "but I have orders to admit no one to this part of the
"Oh," said Harley, pulling up short, "but I am acting in this case. My name is Paul
"Sorry, sir," replied the constable, "but you will have to see Inspector Aylesbury."
My friend uttered an impatient exclamation, but, turning aside:
"Very well, constable," he muttered; "I suppose I must submit. Our friend,
Aylesbury," he added to me, as we walked away, "would appear to be a martinet
as well as a walrus. At every step, Knox, he proves himself a tragic nuisance.
This means waste of priceless time."
"What had you hoped to do, Harley?"
"Prove my theory," he returned; "but since every moment is precious, I must
move in another direction."
He hurried on through the opening in the box hedge and into the courtyard.
Manoel had just opened the doors to a sepulchral-looking person who proved to
be the coroner's officer, and:
"Manoel!" cried Harley, "tell Carter to bring a car round at once."
"Yes, sir."
"I haven't time to fetch my own," he explained.
"Where are you off to?"
"I am off to see the Chief Constable, Knox. Aylesbury must be superseded at
whatever cost. If the Chief Constable fails I shall not hesitate to go higher. I will
get along to the garage. I don't expect to be more than an hour. Meanwhile, do
your best to act as a buffer between Aylesbury and the women. You understand
"Quite," I returned, shortly. "But the task may prove no light one, Harley."
"It won't," he assured me, smiling grimly, "How you must regret, Knox, that we
didn't go fishing!"