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28. My Theory Of The Crime
The afternoon was well advanced before Paul Harley returned.
So deep was my conviction that I had hit upon the truth, and so well did my
theory stand every test which I could apply to it, that I felt disinclined for
conversation with any one concerned in the tragedy until I should have submitted
the matter to the keen analysis of Harley. Upon the sorrow of Madame de
Staemer I naturally did not intrude, nor did I seek to learn if she had carried out
her project of looking upon the dead man.
About mid-day the body was removed, after which an oppressive and awesome
stillness seemed to descend upon Cray's Folly.
Inspector Aylesbury had not returned from his investigations at the Guest House,
and learning that Miss Beverley was remaining with Madame de Staemer, I
declined to face the ordeal of a solitary luncheon in the dining room, and merely
ate a few sandwiches, walking over to the Lavender Arms for a glass of Mrs.
Wootton's excellent ale.
Here I found the bar-parlour full of local customers, and although a heated
discussion was in progress as I opened the door, silence fell upon my
appearance. Mrs. Wootton greeted me sadly.
"Ah, sir," she said, as she placed a mug before me; "of course you've heard?"
"I have, madam," I replied, perceiving that she did not know me to be a guest at
Cray's Folly.
"Well, well!" She shook her head. "It had to come, with all these foreign folk
She retired to some sanctum at the rear of the bar, and I drank my beer amid one
of those silences which sometimes descend upon such a gathering when a
stranger appears in its midst. Not until I moved to depart was this silence broken,
"Ah, well," said an old fellow, evidently a farm-hand, "we know now why he was
priming of hisself with the drink, we do."
"Aye!" came a growling chorus.
I came out of the Lavender Arms full of a knowledge that so far as Mid- Hatton
was concerned, Colin Camber was already found guilty.
I had hoped to see something of Val Beverley on my return, but she remained
closeted with Madame de Staemer, and I was left in loneliness to pursue my own
reflections, and to perfect that theory which had presented itself to my mind.
In Harley's absence I had taken it upon myself to give an order to Pedro to the
effect that no reporters were to be admitted; and in this I had done well. So
quickly does evil news fly that, between mid-day and the hour of Harley's return,
no fewer than five reporters, I believe, presented themselves at Cray's Folly.
Some of the more persistent continued to haunt the neighbourhood, and I had
withdrawn to the deserted library, in order to avoid observation, when I heard a
car draw up in the courtyard, and a moment later heard Harley asking for me.
I hurried out to meet him, and as I appeared at the door of the library: