Mr. beverley is tactful
The inquest had been held at the "Lamb" at Stanton; at Stanton Robert Ablett was to be buried next day. Bill waited about outside for his friend, wondering where he had gone. Then, realizing that Cayley would be coming out to his car directly, and that a farewell talk with Cayley would be a little embarrassing, he wandered round to the yard at the back of the inn, lit a cigarette, and stood surveying a torn and weather-beaten poster on the stable wall. "GRAND THEATRICAL ENTER" it announced, to take place on "Wednesday, Decem." Bill smiled to himself as he looked at it, for the part of Joe, a loquacious postman, had been played by "William B. Beverl," as the remnants of the poster still maintained, and he had been much less loquacious than the author had intended, having forgotten his words completely, but it had all been great fun. And then he stopped smiling, for there would be no more fun now at the Red House.
"Sorry to keep you waiting," said the voice of Antony behind him. "My old friends Amos and Parsons insisted on giving me a drink."
He slipped his hand into the crook of Bill's arm, and smiled happily at him.
"Why were you so keen about them?" asked Bill a little resentfully. "I couldn't think where on earth you had got to."
Antony didn't say anything. He was staring at the poster.
"When did this happen?" he asked.
Antony waved to the poster.
"Oh, that? Last Christmas. It was rather fun."
Antony began to laugh to himself.
"Were you good?"
"Rotten. I don't profess to be an actor."
"Oh, rather. He loves it."
"Rev. Henry Stutters—Mr. Matthew Cay," read Antony.
"Was that our friend Cayley?"
"Well, much better than I expected. He wasn't keen, but Mark made him."
"Miss Norris wasn't playing, I see."
"My dear Tony, she's a professional. Of course she wasn't."
Antony laughed again.
"A great success, was it?"
"I'm a fool, and a damned fool," Antony announced solemnly. "And a damned fool," he said again under his breath, as he led Bill away from the poster, and out of the yard into the road. "And a damned fool. Even now—" He broke off and then asked suddenly, "Did Mark ever have much trouble with his teeth?"
"He went to his dentist a good deal. But what on earth—"
Antony laughed a third time.
"What luck!" he chuckled. "But how do you know?"
"We go to the same man; Mark recommended him to me. Cartwright, in Wimpole Street."
"Cartwright in Wimpole Street," repeated Antony thoughtfully. "Yes, I can remember that. Cartwright in Wimpole Street. Did Cayley go to him too, by any chance?"
"I expect so. Oh, yes, I know he did. But what on earth—"
"What was Mark's general health like? Did he see a doctor much?"
"Hardly at all, I should think. He did a lot of early morning exercises which were supposed to make him bright and cheerful at breakfast. They didn't do that, but they seemed to keep him pretty fit. Tony, I wish you'd—"
Antony held up a hand and hushed him into silence.
"One last question," he said. "Was Mark fond of swimming?"
"No, he hated it. I don't believe he could swim. Tony, are you mad, or am I? Or is this a new game?"
Antony squeezed his arm.
"Dear old Bill," he said. "It's a game. What a game! And the answer is Cartwright in Wimpole Street."
They walked in silence for half a mile or so along the road to Waldheim. Bill tried two or three times to get his friend to talk, but Antony had only grunted in reply. He was just going to make another attempt, when Antony came to a sudden stop and turned to him anxiously.
"I wonder if you'd do something for me," he said, looking at him with some doubt.
"What sort of thing?"
"Well, it's really dashed important. It's just the one thing I want now."
Bill was suddenly enthusiastic again.
"I say, have you really found it all out?"
"At least, I'm very nearly there, Bill. There's just this one thing I want now. It means your going back to Stanton. Well, we haven't come far; it won't take you long. Do you mind?"
"My dear Holmes, I am at your service."
Antony gave him a smile and was silent for a little, thinking.
"Is there another inn at Stanton—fairly close to the station?"
"The 'Plough and Horses'—just at the corner where the road goes up to the station—is that the one you mean?"
"That would be the one. I suppose you could do with a drink, couldn't you?"
"Rather!" said Bill, with a grin.
"Good. Then have one at the 'Plough and Horses.' Have two, if you like, and talk to the landlord, or landlady, or whoever serves you. I want you to find out if anybody stayed there on Monday night."
"Robert?" said Bill eagerly.
"I didn't say Robert," said Antony, smiling. "I just want you to find out if they had a visitor who slept there on Monday night. A stranger. If so, then any particulars you can get of him, without letting the landlord know that you are interested—"
"Leave it to me," broke in Bill. "I know just what you want."
"Don't assume that it was Robert—or anybody else. Let them describe the man to you. Don't influence them unconsciously by suggesting that he was short or tall, or anything of that sort. Just get them talking. If it's the landlord, you'd better stand him a drink or two."
"Right you are," said Bill confidently. "Where do I meet you again?"
"Probably at 'the George.' If you get there before me, you can order dinner for eight o'clock. Anyhow we'll meet at eight, if not before."
"Good." He nodded to Antony and strode off back to Stanton again.
Antony stood watching him with a little smile at his enthusiasm. Then he looked round slowly, as if in search of something. Suddenly he saw what he wanted. Twenty yards farther on a lane wandered off to the left, and there was a gate a little way up on the right-hand side of it. Antony walked to the gate, filling his pipe as he went. Then he lit his pipe, sat on the gate, and took his head in his hands.
"Now then," he said to himself, "let's begin at the beginning."
It was nearly eight o'clock when William Beverley, the famous sleuth-hound, arrived, tired and dusty, at 'the George,' to find Antony, cool and clean, standing bare-headed at the door, waiting for him.
"Is dinner ready?" were Bill's first words.
"Then I'll just have a wash. Lord, I'm tired."
"I never ought to have asked you," said Antony penitently.
"That's all right. I shan't be a moment." Half-way up the stairs he turned round and asked, "Am I in your room?"
"Yes. Do you know the way?"
"Yes. Start carving, will you? And order lots of beer." He disappeared round the top of the staircase. Antony went slowly in.
When the first edge of his appetite had worn off, and he was able to spare a little time between the mouthfuls, Bill gave an account of his adventures. The landlord of the "Plough and Horses" had been sticky, decidedly sticky—Bill had been unable at first to get anything out of him. But Bill had been tactful; lorblessyou, how tactful he had been.
"He kept on about the inquest, and what a queer affair it had been, and so on, and how there'd been an inquest in his wife's family once, which he seemed rather proud about, and I kept saying, 'Pretty busy, I suppose, just now, what?' and then he'd say, 'Middlin',' and go on again about Susan—that was the one that had the inquest—he talked about it as if it were a disease—and then I'd try again, and say, 'Slack times, I expect, just now, eh?' and he'd say 'Middlin' again, and then it was time to offer him another drink, and I didn't seem to be getting much nearer. But I got him at last. I asked him if he knew John Borden—he was the man who said he'd seen Mark at the station. Well, he knew all about Borden, and after he'd told me all about Borden's wife's family, and how one of them had been burnt to death—after you with the beer; thanks—well, then I said carelessly that it must be very hard to remember anybody whom you had just seen once, so as to identify him afterwards, and he agreed that it would be 'middlin' hard,' and then—"
"Give me three guesses," interrupted Antony. "You asked him if he remembered everybody who came to his inn?"
"That's it. Bright, wasn't it?"
"Brilliant. And what was the result?"
"The result was a woman."
"A woman?" said Antony eagerly.
"A woman," said Bill impressively. "Of course I thought it was going to be Robert—so did you, didn't you?—but it wasn't. It was a woman. Came quite late on Monday night in a car—driving herself—went off early next morning."
"Did he describe her?"
"Yes. She was middlin'. Middlin' tall, middlin' age, middlin' colour, and so on. Doesn't help much, does it? But still—a woman. Does that upset your theory?"
Antony shook his head.
"No, Bill, not at all," he said.
"You knew all the time? At least, you guessed?"
"Wait till to-morrow. I'll tell you everything to-morrow."
"To-morrow!" said Bill in great disappointment.
"Well, I'll tell you one thing to-night, if you'll promise not to ask any more questions. But you probably know it already."
"What is it?"
"Only that Mark Ablett did not kill his brother."
"And Cayley did?"
"That's another question, Bill. However, the answer is that Cayley didn't, either."
"Then who on earth—"
"Have some more beer," said Antony with a smile. And Bill had to be content with that.
They were early to bed that evening, for both of them were tired. Bill slept loudly and defiantly, but Antony lay awake, wondering. What was happening at the Red House now? Perhaps he would hear in the morning; perhaps he would get a letter. He went over the whole story again from the beginning—was there any possibility of a mistake? What would the police do? Would they ever find out? Ought he to have told them? Well, let them find out; it was their job. Surely he couldn't have made a mistake this time. No good wondering now; he would know definitely in the morning.
In the morning there was a letter for him.