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Chapter 7
The extraordinary thing about the Arthur Wells story was not his killing. For killing
it was. It was the way it was solved.
Here was a young woman, Miss Jeremy, who had not known young Wells, had
not known his wife, had, until that first meeting at Mrs. Dane's, never met any
member of the Neighborhood Club. Yet, but for her, Arthur Wells would have
gone to his grave bearing the stigma of moral cowardice, of suicide.
The solution, when it came, was amazing, but remarkably simple. Like most
mysteries. I have in my own house, for instance, an example of a great mystery,
founded on mere absentmindedness.
This is what my wife terms the mystery of the fire-tongs.
I had left the Wells house as soon as I had made the discovery in the night
nursery. I carried the candle and the fire-tongs downstairs. I was, apparently,
calm but watchful. I would have said that I had never been more calm in my life. I
knew quite well that I had the fire-tongs in my hand. Just when I ceased to be
cognizant of them was probably when, on entering the library, I found that my
overcoat had disappeared, and that my stiff hat, badly broken, lay on the floor.
However, as I say, I was still extraordinarily composed. I picked up my hat, and
moving to the rear door, went out and closed it. When I reached the street,
however, I had only gone a few yards when I discovered that I was still carrying
the lighted candle, and that a man, passing by, had stopped and was staring
after me.
My composure is shown by the fact that I dropped the candle down the next
sewer opening, but the fact remains that I carried the fire-tongs home. I do not
recall doing so. In fact, I knew nothing of the matter until morning. On the way to
my house I was elaborating a story to the effect that my overcoat had been