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As published in Maclean's, Toronto, Canada, 1 April 1937

Collected in:
Mr. Treadgold Cuts In, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1937
The Curiosity of Mr. Treadgold, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1937

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Maclean's, 1 April 1937, with "The Strange Disappearance of Miss Marless"

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"Mr. Treadgold Cuts In," Hodder &
Stoughton, London, 1937, with "The Strange Disappearance of Miss Marless"

Tailor-detective Treadgold deciphers the case of the vanishing lady with results as bizarre as the lady herself.

WITH a reflective air, Mr. Treadgold shook the ash from his cigar. "A French metaphysician has laid down," he observed, "that 'probability is not invariably on the side of truth,' and Gaboriau borrowed the same idea when he made his celebrated detective, Lecoq, declare that he mistrusted the probable on principle. Scotland Yard, my dear George, in the nature of things is bound to work on stereotyped lines, but I'm bound to confess that to me their grounds for detaining the woman Harriet Black, while factually strong, are psychologically extremely thin."

Though by trade a tailor—Bowl, Treadgold & Flack, of which he is the head, is one of the oldest firms in the West End of London—Horace Bowl Treadgold on crime is always worth listening to. Practical criminology is H.B.'s hobby and, smoking a cigar with him in his office at the back of the shop after lunch one day in early September, I had purposely brought up the Romford murder, a mystery then much exciting the newspapers, in the hope that out of the wealth of his experience as a successful crime investigator he might propound a plausible solution of a singularly obscure affair.

But I was doomed to disappointment. A tap at the door disclosed Mr. Gallup, the manager, with a card. Mr. Treadgold has no secrets from me, his legal adviser, and he flicked the card across. I read "Sir Hector Foyne, Foyne Hall, near Lowcester, Devon," and in a corner "Travellers Club." Mr. Gallup was saying in his solemn way, "It's not a customer, Mr. Horace. He wishes to consult you privately. He's a friend of the Earl of Hannington."

Mr. Treadgold nodded. "One of our oldest clients! All right, Gallup, when I ring." He took down "Who's Who" from the rack of reference books on top of the desk as the manager withdrew. "Another problem, George," he remarked cheerfully, fluttering the leaves. "Let's just see who the party is. Ah, here we are! Old family—he's the tenth baronet—and a retired diplomat, though not a very prominent one. Born '74—that makes him sixty-two--and twice married; his present wife's Italian, I see. No children; his heir is his cousin, Major Gerald Foyne, Royal Artillery, retired. Well, let's have him in."

THE visitor seemed embarrassed at finding me there, but Mr. Treadgold reassured him. "This is Mr. Duckett, my solicitor," he said. "You can speak freely in front of him."

Somewhat reluctantly the other put down his hat and took the chair I brought forward. He was a distinguished-looking man with aristocratic features and rather an unyielding air. "Mr. Treadgold," he began diffidently, "my old friend, Reggie Hannington, to whom you rendered such signal service in the matter of a certain missing will..." Old H.B. is the most modest of men, but like the rest of us is not averse to a word of praise. His healthy face flushed a brighter pink. "It wasn't so difficult, my dear sir; merely a matter of clear thinking."

"That is precisely what's required in my case," Foyne answered. "Mr. Treadgold, I find myself in a quandary. A tenant of ours, a woman friend of my wife's, has disappeared."

The other fingered his neat grey mustache. "A married lady?" he enquired, not without a certain irony.

"So far as I'm aware, Miss Marless is unmarried," was the rather stiff rejoinder. He cleared his throat. "I should explain that the present Lady Foyne—my first wife died twenty years ago—is my second wife and considerably my junior in age. We have no near neighbors at Foyne and I was therefore rather pleased when, some weeks ago, my wife suggested lending one of the lodges on our place to a woman she had met in the South of France. I suffer from asthma and dislike leaving Devonshire where the air agrees with me, but Lady Foyne, whose lungs are not strong, is in the habit of passing several weeks every winter on the Riviera. At Menton this year she made friends with this Edith Marless who dropped in on her unexpectedly at Foyne Hall one day last month, when I was up in town, and on her explaining that she was looking for a place in which to spend the rest of the summer. Lady Foyne offered her the use of the west lodge, subject to my consent. I raised no objection—as I say, I was very glad for my wife to have the companionship of someone of her own age."

"How old is Lady Foyne?" Mr. Treadgold asked.

"Twenty-seven. Edith Marless might be a few years older." He paused. "We saw her last on Sunday evening when she dined with us and my cousin, Major Gerald Foyne, who's stopping at the Hall—she had then been at the west lodge for about four weeks. She spoke to me of a leak in the roof of the cottage and I promised to drop in and see about having it repaired. I was busy all next day, but on the Tuesday morning, that's to say, yesterday, I walked down to the west lodge. There was no answer to my knock and, thinking she was out, I was going away when I noticed that two days' newspapers were still outside the door. A moment later young Maggs, who delivers milk and who happened to be passing, called out to me that he'd been unable to obtain an answer on the previous day. On that I climbed in through a window, and found the place empty. The bed had not been slept in and all her clothes were still there. But the lady had vanished without trace, and we have neither seen her nor heard from her since. Evidently, since the milkman was unable to get an answer on the Monday morning, she must have gone away some time on the Sunday night, after dining with us at the Hall."

He made a break. "Frankly, I'm not sorry to see the last of her. She's not the type of woman I have much use for—one of these abrupt, rather gawky women, all hands and feet. But I could have put up with that if my wife had derived any benefit from her company. On the contrary, although they were constantly together, this Marless woman seemed to upset her. Normally, my wife has a happy and charming disposition. But since Edith Marless came to the west lodge, she's been brooding and highly nervous. This woman's word seemed to be law with her—there was no arrangement my wife wouldn't upset on her merest whim."

Mr. Treadgold shrugged his shoulders. "Then why worry? I should think you were well rid of her."

The baronet sighed. "This woman's disappearance has had the most inexplicable effect upon my wife. She neither eats nor sleeps, and if I remonstrate with her she flies out at me. She's obviously on the verge of a complete nervous breakdown. Unless we can clear up the mystery of her friend's disappearance, 'pon my soul, I fear for her reason."

"What do you know about the lady?" Mr. Treadgold enquired.

"Very little. I understand Miss Marless has no relatives living, and spends most of her time abroad. I wouldn't describe her as a very cultured person exactly, and she certainly had very little money—most of the clothes she had, Lady Foyne gave her. She kept no servant and did her own housework. She preferred it so, although we would willingly have given her the services of one of our maids."

"Didn't anyone see her leave the village?"

Sir Hector shook his head. "Our place is outside Foyne village and, except for the Hall, which is separated from it by an extremely long avenue, there are no houses within a mile of the west lodge."

"She must have taken the train, left by car, or something?"

"Of course. But the last train leaves Foyne at nine-five on Sunday evenings, at which time she was at dinner with us at the Hall, and I have established that she certainly didn't travel by the first, or any other train, on the Monday morning. And she didn't hire a car in the village." He paused with an embarrassed air. "What I am about to reveal to you now." he went on, "is in the strictest confidence for the simple reason that I don't feel justified in disclosing it to my wife in her present state. On two occasions within the last month a young man was seen entering or leaving the lodge in the middle of the night. Our butler, Penny, saw him the first time. It was at about a quarter to one in the morning—Penny's motor bike had broken down and he was walking home. He was taking the short cut to the Hall by the west lodge and the back avenue, when he saw this fellow slip out of the garden gate and run off down the road. A week or two later, Bent, my gamekeeper, was crossing the park just before dawn when he heard the gate at the west lodge squeak and caught a glimpse of a man standing there. When Bent looked again, the man was gone. By his silhouette he seemed to be young and active, Bent says. You know how reserved our country folk are, and of course these stories came to my ears only after the lady had disappeared. But they suggest to me that she had a lover."

"And that she's eloped with him. Well, what do you want me to do?" Mr. Treadgold broke in briskly.

"Come down to Foyne. Make your own enquiries. Trace the missing woman and her lover or, failing that, gain my wife's confidence and find out what hold this woman had over her. I shall be happy to put you up for as long as you like—Mr. Duckett, too, for that matter."

"You're too kind. But surely this is rather a matter for a firm of private enquiry agents, if not for the police." Our visitor started back. "At all costs, the police must be kept out of this."

Mr. Treadgold frowned olympically. "If you really desire my assistance. Sir Hector." he remarked stiffly, "I'd suggest that you keep nothing back."

Foyne colored, shrugged his shoulders. "All right," he said. "I suspect that this woman has been blackmailing my wife. At any rate, notwithstanding the fact that I allow Lady Foyne a hundred pounds a month pin money, her account at the bank is £387 overdrawn."

"So! Did she tell you this herself?"

"No. I only discovered it yesterday, when I happened to see by accident a letter from her bank manager."

"Have you spoken to her about it?"

"I thought I'd wait until I'd consulted you."

Mr. Treadgold nodded approvingly. "Forgive the question, but have you ever had to complain of your wife's attitude toward other men?"

"Never, notwithstanding our difference in age. My wife's trouble is gambling. After continually paying her gaming debts, last year I put my foot down and refused to allow her to return to the Riviera unless she gave me her word not to play. When she came back from Menton in March she assured me she'd kept her promise."

"Quite. And rather than admit she'd failed you, she's borrowed from this Marless woman to pay her losses."

"Edith Marless never created the impression of being a person of substance."

"She might be a woman money-lender. Or she might have found out where Lady Foyne had raised the wind—by pawning her jewels or something."

"Lady Foyne's jewels are intact."

"By borrowing from a friend, then—maybe a man. Whatever it was, the information seems to have been worth several hundred pounds to your wife." He paused. "Frankly." he went on, "the case is not one which appeals to me. But you're a friend of Lord Hannington, and since you claim my aid you shall have it. When do you return to Foyne Hall?"

"By the ten o'clock from Waterloo in the morning."

"We'll meet you at the booking office at nine-fifty. That's to say, I will," he added, looking at me.

"I never missed the chance of being in on one of your cases yet. H.B.," I told him firmly.

Mr. Treadgold's powers of observation are extraordinarily alert. We had an instance of it next day when, having left the London express at Lowcester, we were driving in Sir Hector's rather old car from the junction to Foyne, a distance of ten miles. Nearing Foyne, at a village called, I think, Underhill, the closed gates of a level crossing halted us. "I suppose that Miss Marless doesn't hail from these parts?" Mr. Treadgold suddenly remarked to our host.

"Not that I ever heard of. Why?"

A shabby garage abutted on the railway. Mr. Treadgold nudged Foyne and pointed to the sign over the door. "J.F. Marless, Auto Repairs, Cars for Hire," we read. "I was just wondering—you know the way local names keep recurring," my friend observed gently.

"Marless isn't a local name," said Sir Hector, "though I admit it's an odd coincidence—it hadn't struck me before. The Marless who keeps that garage hails from the Midlands, I believe."

FOYNE HALL was a delightful old timber-fronted mansion, standing in the centre of an immense park dotted with centurion oaks. A great surprise awaited us—me, at any rate: Lady Foyne, who came out from one of the rooms leading off the hall as we entered the house, proved to be one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen in my life. Her profile was of classic Italian loveliness—it reminded me of the head on one of those old Sicilian coins—her eyes were dark and expressive, and she moved with a simple grace that set off her perfection of line. But it was obvious she was suffering from some great nervous strain: the hand she gave me was cold to the touch. The butler, she told us, would show us our rooms, after which lunch would be waiting for us.

She had plenty of pluck. From a bronzed man in flannels, who took us into the library for a glass of sherry before lunch and who introduced himself as Gerald Foyne—I remembered that he was the baronet's heir and was staying in the house—we discovered that Sir Hector had made no secret of Mr. Treadgold's mission. At lunch we talked of indifferent things, principally about Biarritz and the Basque country from which Major Gerald Foyne had recently returned, but no sooner had the servants left us to our coffee than Lady Foyne opened up.

"My husband told me on the telephone yesterday," she remarked to Mr. Treadgold with the very slight foreign accent which, in my opinion, only added to her charm, "that you have come down here to clear up the mystery of Edith Marless' disappearance. But Sir Hector—from the best of motives, I know—has made a great deal out of a very little. Edith Marless was always an unaccountable person. She has no ties; she's free to go and come as she likes. No doubt she was bored with our quiet life down here and"—she made an expressive gesture of the hands—"she just went away."

"Leaving all her clothes behind her," Mr. Treadgold suggested mildly.

Major Foyne spoke up. "You make it sound as though she bolted in her nightie." he observed. "Actually, the things she left behind were the clothes that Lady Foyne had given her. Isn't that so. Gemma?

"Yes," said Lady Foyne. "After all, she had some things of her own."

"And, in the circumstances, she didn't want to be beholden to you. I must say I think it does her credit," the major put in.

"I wish one of you would tell me just what she looked like," Mr. Treadgold requested.

"She was quite tall," said our host, "almost as tall as Gerald there, and handsome in rather a bold way with strongly marked black eyebrows and good teeth and eyes. She wouldn't have been bad-looking, really, if she'd only carried herself better, but she slouched about with those big feet of hers. And that husky voice! I hate a woman with a husky voice."

"You're giving Mr. Treadgold a very misleading portrait," his wife corrected him. "Actually. Edith wasn't interested in clothes. That's probably because she never had the money to buy any nice ones, I imagine."

"You met her at Menton, I think?" said Mr. Treadgold.

Sir Hector answered for his wife. "They were at the same hotel."

"Which hotel was that?" my friend enquired.

A little color warmed the ivory pallor of Lady Foyne's cheeks. "The Oriental," she replied in a low voice. She paused and went on: "I do hope that you're not going to set them all talking in the village. Mr. Treadgold. After all, Miss Marless is a friend of mine and she's perfectly at liberty to leave us if she wants to." Suddenly she rounded on her husband. "Why did you bring Mr. Treadgold here?" she cried passionately. "Why did you bring him?" The tears gushed from her eyes and, springing from her chair, she ran out of the room.

Our host sighed. "Go after her like a good chap, will you, Gerald?" he said and, as the major hurried out, "There you are!" he went on to us. "Every time there's any question of investigating this business, she has these storms."

AT Mr. Treadgold's request, after lunch Sir Hector took us down to the west lodge. It was a tiny stone cottage set in the middle of a garden front and back, with a front door opening in two halves, and diamond-pane windows. The ground floor consisted of a sitting room with a kitchen and pantry leading off, while a wooden stair mounted from the sitting room to a bedroom with adjoining bathroom on the first floor. Distempered in cream throughout, with its beamed ceilings and furniture of cottage oak, it was an altogether charming and snug little place.

Whatever else had happened to the lady, she had clearly left in a hurry. The bedroom revealed no sign of dressing gown or nightdress, but the tenant had abandoned sundry pots of cosmetics, two or three boxes of powder and a lipstick on the dressing table. She had even left her handbag, a large affair of shiny leather surmounted by her initials, E.M. Save for a handkerchief and a crumpled cigarette, it was empty.

With a brooding air Mr. Treadgold poked about among the objects on the dressing table. "I don't see any hairpins," he commented.

"She had an Eton crop," our host explained.

"And no flowers in any of the rooms."

Sir Hector shrugged his shoulders. "She wasn't that kind of woman."

Two minutes sufficed for my examination of the premises. But Mr. Treadgold took much longer. Sir Hector and I went out among the sweetly fragrant stocks in the front garden. With a glance at his watch our host said: "Bent, the game-keeper, will be at home having his dinner now. I think I'll step over to the other lodge where he lives and fetch him—I daresay Mr. Treadgold would like a word with him about the young man he saw hanging round here the other night. The butler didn't have a proper view of him but Bent did, as it was getting light at the time."

He opened the gate and strode off through the ferns.

LEFT alone, I strolled through the kitchen and out at the back. Here, in the foreground, was a small vegetable garden and, beyond it, clumps of currant, gooseberry and raspberry bushes. A path divided the garden into two, and a high beech hedge separated the whole plot, cottage and land, from the surrounding park.

I sat down on a bench at the door and lit a cigarette. Behind me I heard sundry clanking sounds where Mr. Treadgold was rooting about in the kitchen. Presently, there were voices and, turning round, I saw Sir Hector and a sunburned elderly man in breeches and leggings entering the lodge from the front.

I went into the sitting room. The gamekeeper was saying in his broad Devonshire: "'Twor jest afore daybreak I zee 'un at the gate—a dark young chap, tallish, wi' a sca-arf around 'is neck 'stead of a collar. First off, I thought it was one o' t' village la-ads after Squoire's conies. I turned me 'ead to whistle the dog on to 'im, but w'en I looked again 'e wor gone. I reckon 'e 'eared me swishin' through the ferns an' made hisself scarce."

"It was no one you knew, was it?" Mr. Treadgold asked.

The man shook his head warily. "I reckon it worn't no one from these parts—'e wor dressed like a gen'elman, barrin' 'is sca-arf."

On this Mr. Treadgold let the gamekeeper go and, putting his hand in one of his jacket pockets, remarked slowly to us, "You know, a man has been at the lodge."

"How do you know this?" the baronet demanded.

Mr. Treadgold opened his hand and showed two parts of a pipe broken across the stem. "These were in the refuse bin in the kitchen." he declared and added. "This can scarcely be a pipe discarded by one of the villagers. It's an expensive briar such as they sell in the West End of London for a guinea or twenty- five shillings. And I found these, too."

Open-eyed. Sir Hector stared at the fragments of stained and crumpled paper the other held out. "Shaving papers?" he exclaimed.

Mr. Treadgold nodded. "Used, too." His finger indicated the dark smears where the razor blade had been wiped.

"You mean that this fellow was in the habit of spending the night with her?"

"It looks like it, doesn't it?" He paused. "The first thing we have to do, it seems to me, is to try to find out something about the Marless woman's background. Could I borrow your car for the afternoon?"

"Of course. Do you want me to go with you?"

"I needn't trouble you. We shall be back for dinner, but in the meantime please say nothing up at the house about our discoveries."

WHILE our host departed to give the necessary orders, Mr. Treadgold smoked a meditative pipe in the back garden. From the kitchen threshold I saw his portly figure disappear among the raspberry bushes. He was still there when the luxurious car arrived. Red-faced and perspiring, he joined me at it. "To the village post office," he told the chauffeur.

I imagine that Mr. Treadgold's call to Menton was the first of its kind that the Foyne postmistress had ever been asked to put through. However, with surprising rapidity the communication was established, and through the closed doors of the booth I heard H.B. asking in his careful French for the Hotel Oriental. His face was stern as he left the box.

"Well?" I questioned.

"Wherever Lady Foyne met Miss Marless, it wasn't at the Oriental at Menton—at any rate not under that name. They assure me they've never had a guest called Marless."

We went out to the car again. "I'd like you to drive us to the Marless garage at Underhill," my companion informed the chauffeur.

"What's the idea, H.B.?" I asked him. Mr. Treadgold has a way of twinkling his very blue eyes at you. He twinkled now and said, "Did you ever hear how Dickens chose the names of his characters?"

"He wrote them down from shop fronts, didn't he?"

My friend nodded. "Quite right, George."


"Here's a lady who wants to change her name. Driving from Lowcester Junction to Foyne Hall, her car is stopped at the level crossing just as ours was. Looking about her, she sees a name over a garage..."

"By Jove, H.B., that's ingenious!"

His laugh rang a trifle grim. "It may also be wrong. Perhaps she really has a background in these parts. Let's see what Mr. Marless has to say."

But Mr. Marless, a depressed little man in grimy jeans, could throw no light on the missing woman's identification. He had never even heard of a Miss Marless over at Foyne Hall and, so far as he knew, he had no relatives in the county—he was from Castle Bromwich, Birmingham way, himself. Foyne was a matter of a mile and three quarters from Underhill, he said in answer to Mr. Treadgold, and his was the nearest garage to Foyne, barring Porter's garage at Foyne itself.

Had he recently hired out a car to any lady from Foyne? was my companion's next question. Porter's did all the hiring trade at Foyne, was the garagist's somewhat glum reply. He used to have one customer from over Foyne way, a young chap with a motor bike who wanted a lock-up which Porter's didn't have. "Leastwise, that's what he tells me," Mr. Marless added with a roguish air, "but it's my opinion he wur a married man what didn't want his missus to know what he wuz up to, gallivanting off on 'is motor bike at all hours of the night."

Mr. Treadgold seemed to stiffen. "That must be young Wright," he said, turning to me with an amused air. I had no idea what he meant, but I gave no sign. H.B.'s methods of gleaning information are frequently tortuous.

"That ain't the name," said Mr. Marless promptly. "'Is name's Johnson and I ain't likely to forgit it. seein' as 'e 'opped it with 'is machine last Sunday night owin' me a matter of fifteen shillun."

"Johnson, eh?" Mr. Treadgold remarked casually. "And he lives at Foyne?"

"I didn't say so," was the sharp answer. "I said 'e lived over Foyne way, but I don't know nothin' about 'im, neither where he lives nor yit where he works."

From the ensuing interrogatory, which Mr. Treadgold was careful to make appear as desultory as possible, it emerged that the young man in question had first brought his motorcycle to the garage about two months before. Marless described him as a "spry young spark" with dark hair who "talked like a Londoner." His comings and goings at the garage were veiled in obscurity. The fore-court of the garage, where the lock-ups were situated, was always open and, as Johnson had his key, he had unrestricted access to his machine at all times. Except on the occasion of his first visit, he was never seen in the daytime. At any hour of the night he might be encountered or heard, taking his machine out or bringing it in, but at irregular intervals; sometimes nothing would be seen of him for a week. The garagist had no record of the young man's movements during the week before he went away; all that Mr. Marless could say was that on the Monday morning he had found the key in the door of the lock-up and the motorcycle gone. Johnson had not been seen since.

MR. TREADGOLD was immersed in thought as we drove back to Foyne Hall. He bade the chauffeur drop us at the west lodge, where he dismissed the man. In that remote corner of the park, the silence of the mellow summer evening dropped about us like a curtain as the car glided away. My companion walked through the house to the kitchen, where he stopped and confronted me. "A dark business, George," he muttered, and his face was grave. "Take a look at this."

He drew me over to the sink and pointed downward with his finger at the linoleum below it. I saw some red drops congealed there. "Blood!" he said.

I started. "Good heavens, H.B.!"

"Now this."

He had taken a key from his pocket and, unlocking the drawer in the kitchen table, produced from it a very soiled face towel. The towel was stained with blood. "It was in the refuse bin with the other things," he explained briefly.

I was staggered. Dropping into a chair, I stared blankly at him. "Are you trying to tell me that this poor woman has been murdered?" I gasped.

He took a moment to reply, staring so fixedly past me into the garden all shimmering in the evening light that my blood ran cold. "There's something freshly buried out there," he said at last. Then from a cupboard where wood and coal were stored he brought forth an iron shovel. "That's damp earth on it," he explained.

Stupidly I gazed at the shovel. I was speechless. "Yet I may be wrong," he said. "There are times when I, too, like Monsieur Lecoq whom I quoted to you yesterday, am mistrustful of the probable. A theory is forming in my mind, so fantastic, so incredible, yet supported by such irresistible indices ..." He broke off. "Come! Bring that shovel and let's dig."

He led the way into the back garden. "Don't walk on the path!" he barked, and I perceived that he had stepped among the potatoes and was following the path along. A moment later he stopped and pointed downward. The path was of pounded dirt. A footprint was clearly visible there. "What do you make of that?" he demanded.

"It looks like a tennis shoe!"

"The pattern's characteristic. It's the mark of a rope sole." He glanced at me sharply. "Did you notice the shoes that Major Foyne was wearing at lunch today?"

"I can't say I did."

"They were espadrilles—Basque sandals, with rope soles. Everybody wears them at Biarritz, in the Basque country, where the major's been staying."

I gazed at him in bewilderment. "Sir Hector thinks that this woman was blackmailing his wife. Are you asking me to believe that Lady Foyne and the major killed her together?"

He left my question unanswered. "See, his track leads to the raspberry bushes. Give me that shovel," he said.

Between two rows of raspberry bushes it was evident that the soil had recently been disturbed. In a fascinated silence I watched H.B. make the earth fly, the perspiration pouring down his face, his shirt sticking to his back. Suddenly with a low cry he fell on his knees and began scratching with his hands. A box came to light.

It was an ordinary cardboard shoebox. Kneeling on the ground, my companion whipped the lid off. To my astonishment, the box contained nothing but two bottles filled with a dark liquid that looked like blacking, and two women's brassières, one pink, the other black, both stiffly wired.

I glanced at Mr. Treadgold. His face was radiant.

"Aha," he cried, "I was right to suspend judgment. Probability, after all, isn't always on the side of truth." Leaving the box and its contents where they lay, lie sprang to his feet. "Come on, George, let's go to the house!"

"But, H.B., what does it mean?"

He grinned mischievously. "As it says in 'Tristram Shandy,' 'This rich bale is not to be open'd now.' A fairer hand than mine shall untie the knot!"

Whenever H.B. seeks to be particularly evasive, he quotes from "Tristram Shandy," with which he shows himself so thoroughly familiar that I tell him it must be the only book he ever reads. Catching me by the arm and taking great strides with his long legs, he fairly ran me up to the Hall.

THE sound of a piano greeted us as we entered the house. "Where's Sir Hector?" Mr. Treadgold snapped at the butler who advanced to take our hats.

"He went to the home farm, sir," the man replied. "But her ladyship and the major are in the drawing-room. I just took in tea."

Lady Foyne was at the piano in the large, cool drawing-room. She was playing Reynaldo Hahn's "Si mes vers avaient des ailes" and singing the words softly under her breath. Major Foyne stood with his back to the fire, watching her.

A note jarred as she broke off on our appearance. When she saw the look on Mr. Treadgold's face, she rose abruptly.

He said harshly, "Who was this man masquerading as a woman down at the west lodge, madam?"

She seemed to shiver, but answered boldly enough, "I don't know what you mean."

"You know very well. There was no such person as Edith Marless. Edith Marless was a man."

"You're talking nonsense!"

He laughed grimly. "At any rate, she was a lady who shaved habitually, who smoked a pipe. And why did she have no clothes of her own? Why was she able to leave her wardrobe behind when she fled on Sunday night? Because the only clothes she possessed were men's! And why did she refuse to keep a maid? To guard her secret, of course! Answer me, please. Who was this man?"

Major Gerald Foyne spoke. "You'd best tell him, Gemma!"

But she burst into a storm of tears, dropping back upon the piano seat, her head bowed down upon her white arms.

"Don't get this wrong, Mr. Treadgold," said Major Foyne. "She's always played the game by her husband; she may have been indiscreet, but believe me, it was nothing more. She met this fellow, Ronald Braydon, at Monte in February. He was a professional dancer, a gig. She gave him presents, lent him money—she's not terribly experienced, you know. Last month he turns up here disguised as a woman, tells her he's in trouble and will have to disappear for a bit. It wasn't the first time he'd masqueraded as a girl; at one time he was a female impersonator in a concert troupe. At first Gemma—Lady Foyne—wouldn't hear of it, but he told her it'd be only for a few weeks, and threatened her, if she didn't help him, to go to her husband."

"And how do you come into this?" Mr. Treadgold demanded sternly.

"Gemma and I have always been pals," said the major simply. "I've a tremendous admiration for the way she's played up to old Hector, who's not so easy to live with, let me tell you. Directly I came back from Biarritz last week I saw that something was wrong with her. Braydon kept squeezing her for money—he had a motor bike tucked away somewhere, Gemma told me, and after dark used to go over to a poolroom at Lowcester where they ran a roulette game. On Sunday, after he dined here, things came to a head. He wanted more money, but she was overdrawn at the bank and desperate. After he'd gone I got the truth out of her. Then I went down and had a talk with the young man."

Mr. Treadgold smiled. "I'm afraid you were rather rough with him. There's a certain amount of blood about."

Foyne shrugged his broad shoulders. "I didn't like the way he spoke of Lady Foyne so I dotted him one. I'm afraid i broke his pipe off short in his mouth too."

"And you cleaned up after him, eh?"

"That was next day. That night I left him spitting blood on the floor. I told him, if he weren't out of the place by morning, I'd turn him over to the police and chance his blabbing. He tried to brazen it out, but I guess he thought better of it. At any rate, by morning he was gone. I buried his bottles of hair- dye—he's normally fair, it seems—and his what-d'you- call-'ems; they seemed to me to be the only things that would have given the show away."

He looked at Mr. Treadgold boldly.

"Well, what are you going to do about it?" The woman spoke at last. "I told you it was no good, Gerald. You frightened him off, but he'll communicate with my husband, and if he doesn't, Hector is bound to hear the truth from this gentleman."

"Not from me, Lady Foyne," Mr. Treadgold declared firmly. "As far as I'm concerned, you may tell Sir Hector that a common adventuress who's imposed on your good nature and borrowed money from you only to decamp in the night with her lover, doesn't interest me and that I've withdrawn from the case. As for the young man, if he's in trouble it means probably that Scotland Yard is looking for him, and a word from me in that quarter will protect you from further annoyance." He paused to give her his gentle smile and added, "But in future don't play with fire!"

He turned to me. "Come, George." he said placidly, "if we hurry we may make the evening train for town."


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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