The Jewel of Seven Stars - Page 13

"That the somebody--or the something--was in the house already," Ianswered, smiling in spite of myself.

"That's just what I think," he said, with a manifest sigh of relief."Very well! Who can be that someone?"

"'Someone, or something,' was what I said," I answered.

"Let us make it 'someone,' Mr. Ross! That cat, though he might havescratched or bit, never pulled the old gentleman out of bed, and triedto get the bangle with the key off his arm. Such things are all verywell in books where your amateur detectives, who know everything beforeit's done, can fit them into theories; but in Scotland Yard, where themen aren't all idiots either, we generally find that when crime isdone, or attempted, it's people, not things, that are at the bottom ofit."

"Then make it 'people' by all means, Sergeant."

"We were speaking of 'someone,' sir."

"Quite right. Someone, be it!"

"Did it ever strike you, sir, that on each of the three separateoccasions where outrage was effected, or attempted, there was oneperson who was the first to be present and to give the alarm?"

"Let me see! Miss Trelawny, I believe, gave the alarm on the firstoccasion. I was present myself, if fast asleep, on the second; and sowas Nurse Kennedy. When I woke there were several people in the room;you were one of them. I understand that on that occasion also MissTrelawny was before you. At the last attempt I was Miss Trelawnyfainted. I carried her out and went back. In returning, I was first;and I think you were close behind me."

Sergeant Daw thought for a moment before replying:

"She was present, or first, in the room on all the occasions; there wasonly damage done in the first and second!"

The inference was one which I, as a lawyer, could not mistake. Ithought the best thing to do was to meet it half-way. I have alwaysfound that the best way to encounter an inference is to cause it to beturned into a statement.

"You mean," I said, "that as on the only occasions when actual harm wasdone, Miss Trelawny's being the first to discover it is a proof thatshe did it; or was in some way connected with the attempt, as well asthe discovery?"

"I didn't venture to put it as clear as that; but that is where thedoubt which I had leads." Sergeant Daw was a man of

courage; heevidently did not shrink from any conclusion of his reasoning on facts.

We were both silent for a while. Fears began crowding in on my ownmind. Not doubts of Miss Trelawny, or of any act of hers; but fearslest such acts should be misunderstood. There was evidently a mysterysomewhere; and if no solution to it could be found, the doubt would becast on someone. In such cases the guesses of the majority are boundto follow the line of least resistance; and if it could be proved thatany personal gain to anyone could follow Mr. Trelawny's death, shouldsuch ensue, it might prove a difficult task for anyone to proveinnocence in the face of suspicious facts. I found myselfinstinctively taking that deferential course which, until the plan ofbattle of the prosecution is unfolded, is so safe an attitude for thedefence. It would never do for me, at this stage, to combat anytheories which a detective might form. I could best help Miss Trelawnyby listening and understanding. When the time should come for thedissipation and obliteration of the theories, I should be quite willingto use all my militant ardour, and all the weapons at my command.

"You will of course do your duty, I know," I said, "and without fear.What course do you intend to take?"

"I don't know as yet, sir. You see, up to now it isn't with me even asuspicion. If any one else told me that that sweet young lady had ahand in such a matter, I would think him a fool; but I am bound tofollow my own conclusions. I know well that just as unlikely personshave been proved guilty, when a whole court--all except the prosecutionwho knew the facts, and the judge who had taught his mind towait--would have sworn to innocence. I wouldn't, for all the world,wrong such a young lady; more especial when she has such a cruel weightto bear. And you will be sure that I won't say a word that'll promptanyone else to make such a charge. That's why I speak to you inconfidence, man to man. You are skilled in proofs; that is yourprofession. Mine only gets so far as suspicions, and what we call ourown proofs--which are nothing but ex parte evidence after all. Youknow Miss Trelawny better than I do; and though I watch round thesick-room, and go where I like about the house and in and out of it, Ihaven't the same opportunities as you have of knowing the lady and whather life is, or her means are; or of anything else which might give mea clue to her actions. If I were to try to find out from her, it wouldat once arouse her suspicions. Then, if she were guilty, allpossibility of ultimate proof would go; for she would easily find a wayto baffle discovery. But if she be innocent, as I hope she is, itwould be doing a cruel wrong to accuse her. I have thought the matterover according to my lights before I spoke to you; and if I have takena liberty, sir, I am truly sorry."

"No liberty in the world, Daw," I said warmly, for the man's courageand honesty and consideration compelled respect. "I am glad you havespoken to me so frankly. We both want to find out the truth; and thereis so much about this case that is strange--so strange as to go beyondall experiences--that to aim at truth is our only chance of makinganything clear in the long-run--no matter what our views are, or whatobject we wish to achieve ultimately!" The Sergeant looked pleased ashe went on:

"I thought, therefore, that if you had it once in your mind thatsomebody else held to such a possibility, you would by degrees getproof; or at any rate such ideas as would convince yourself, either foror against it. Then we would come to some conclusion; or at any ratewe should so exhaust all other possibilities that the most likely onewould remain as the nearest thing to proof, or strong suspicion, thatwe could get. After that we should have to--"

Just at this moment the door opened and Miss Trelawny entered the room.The moment she saw us she drew back quickly, saying:

"Oh, I beg pardon! I did not know you were here, and engaged." By thetime I had stood up, she was about to go back.

"Do come in," I said; "Sergeant Daw and I were only talking mattersover."

Whilst she was hesitating, Mrs. Grant appeared, saying as she enteredthe room: "Doctor Winchester is come, miss, and is asking for you."

I obeyed Miss Trelawny's look; together we left the room.

When the Doctor had made his examination, he told us that there wasseemingly no change. He added that nevertheless he would like to stayin the house that night is he might. Miss Trelawny looked glad, andsent word to Mrs. Grant to get a room ready for him. Later in the day,when he and I happened to be alone together, he said suddenly:

"I have arranged to stay here tonight because I want to have a talkwith you. And as I wish it to be quite private, I thought the leastsuspicious way would be to have a cigar together late in the eveningwhen Miss Trelawny is watching her father." We still kept to ourarrangement that either the sick man's daughter or I should be on watchall night. We were to share the duty at the early hours of themorning. I was anxious about this, for I knew from our conversationthat the Detective would watch in secret himself, and would beparticularly alert about that time.

The day passed uneventfully. Miss Trelawny slept in the afternoon; andafter dinner went to relieve the Nurse. Mrs. Grant remained with her,Sergeant Daw being on duty in the corridor. Doctor Winchester and Itook our coffee in the library. When we had lit our cigars he saidquietly:

"Now that we are alone I want to have a confidential talk. We are'tiled,' of course; for the present at all events?"

"Quite so!" I said, my heart sinking as I thought of my conversationwith Sergeant Daw in the morning, and of the disturbing and harrowingfears which it had left in my mind. He went on:

Tags: Bram Stoker Horror
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