"And now I'll indicate how I brought fact after fact to bombard my theory, and how the theory withstood every assault until I was bound to accept it and act upon it.
"We start with the assumption that Pendean is living and Robert Redmayne dead. We next assume that Pendean, having laid out his wife's uncle at Foggintor, gets into his clothes, puts on a red mustache and a red wig and starts for Berry Head on Redmayne's motor bicycle. The sack supposed to contain the body is found, and that is all. His purpose is to indicate a hiding-place for the corpse and lead search in a certain direction; but he is not going to trust the sea; he is not going to stand the risk of Robert Redmayne's corpse spoiling his game. No, his victim never left Foggintor and probably Michael will presently tell us where to find the body.
"Meanwhile a false atmosphere is created under which he proceeds to his engagement at 'Crow's Nest.' And then what happens? The first clue—the forged letter, purporting to come from Robert Redmayne to his brother. Who sent it? Jenny Pendean on her way through Plymouth to her Uncle Bendigo's home. She and her husband are soon together again—working for the next stroke. As I say, they were a pair who ought to have been on the stage, where they would have made darned sight bigger money than the Redmayne capital all told; but crime was in their blood; they must have met like the blades of a scissors and found themselves heart and soul in agreement. Evil was their good; and no doubt, when they understood each other's lawless point of view, both felt they must join forces. A tolerable bad dame, I'm afraid, Mark; but she knew how to love all right; and nobody doubts that bad women can love as well as good ones—often a great deal better.
"They settle down and the supposed death of Michael Pendean blows over. Jenny plays widow but spends as much time as she wants in her husband's arms all the same; and together they plan to put out poor Ben. He'd never seen Pendean, of course, which made the Doria swindle possible. And a great point—that only Michael himself can clear—is the intended order of his murders. That puzzled me a bit, because before Robert Redmayne appeared at Princetown and the reconciliation between him and his niece and her husband was affected, he must already have got the appointment of motor boatman to Bendigo and known that he was going there presently under a false name and character. I incline to think that he meant to begin with the old sailor and that, when Robert turned up unexpectedly on Dartmoor, he altered his plans. That accident opened the way to his first performance if I'm not wrong; but he'll throw light on that assumption later and show what really did pass through his mind.
"Now we come to the preliminary steps at 'Crow's Nest' which ended in the death of the second brother. What plan was to be taken we cannot be sure, but your second visit to Dartmouth—a surprise visit, remember—quickened it. You offered just the starting point; and before you left on that rough, moonlight night, Pendean had recreated the forgery of Robert Redmayne and appeared before you in that character. And not content with this, he kept the part going for all it was worth. As Robert Redmayne, he broke into Strete Farm and was seen by Mr. Brook, the farmer; while as 'Doria,' next morning, he comes to you at Dartmouth to tell you the murderer of Michael Pendean has reappeared.
"One may easily imagine the joy that he took in this double impersonation and how easy it was, with the help of his wife, to fool you to the top of your bent. He had already derived the exquisite entertainment of seeing you jealous of his attentions to Jenny and suspicious that she was yielding to them; while she—well, it is instructive to consider again her treatment of you. Yes, a very great actress; but whether inspired by love for Pendean, or hate for her unfortunate relatives, or just pure creative joy in her own talent, who shall say? Probably all these emotions played their part.
"Now we get to blindman's-buff with the forgery. Follow each step. Bendigo never sees his supposed brother once; you never see him again. Your united search through the woods is futile; but Jenny and her husband in the motor boat bring news of him. She comes back with tears in her eyes. She has seen Robert Redmayne—the murderer of her husband! She and the motor boatman have spoken to him; they describe his miserable condition and intense desire to see his brother. They paint a wonderful and realistic picture. Robert must see Bendigo all alone—and he must have food and a lamp in his secret hiding-place. He has been in France—that was a sop for you, Mark—but can endure suspense no longer.
"Well, it's fixed up and Ben decides to meet his brother after midnight, alone; but the old sailor's pluck wavers—who shall blame him?—and he arranged in secret with you that you should be hidden in his tower room when Robert Redmayne comes to keep the appointment. He writes a letter to his brother, and Jenny and Doria go to sea again and take it, together with stores and a lamp. While they're away, you get planted in the tower room to watch the coming interview; and when the pair in the motor boat return, Jenny's uncle tells her that you've gone back to Dartmouth and will blow in again next morning. You recollect exactly what followed. Night comes and, at the appointed time, footsteps are heard ascending to the observatory and Bendigo prepares to meet his brother. But no Robert Redmayne appears. It is Giuseppe Doria. He has already had a long talk with his master about Jenny Pendean. He has told the old sailor of his love for Jenny and so forth. You, hidden, heard that yarn, and how Bendigo told him to stow the subject and say no more about it for another six months.
"Now the next thing puzzled me for a moment; but I think I know what happened. Only Pendean's final statement, if he ever makes one, will serve to clear the point; but I can guess that at that first interview with Ben he tumbled to the fact that you were hidden in the tower room. He is a man with a power of observation sharp as a razor, and I'm inclined to bet that before he left Bendigo, after their talk over Jenny, he'd got you—knew you were there.
"That being so, his own plans had to be modified pretty extensively. Whether he meant to finish off Ben that night, you can't be sure; but there is very little doubt of it. Everything was planned. The interview with Robert had been arranged and various people, including yourself, knew about it. His wife was ready down below to help him get the body away, and their plans were, no doubt, mature to the last detail. If, therefore, all had gone right with Pendean, if you had really been away that night, next morning you would probably have been greeted with the information that Bendigo had disappeared. You would possibly have found evidences of a struggle in the tower room and a pint of blood judiciously decorating the floor, but nothing else.
"Only on the assumption that Pendean had found you out can I explain why this didn't start under your nose. I imagine that if he had believed his master alone at one o'clock that night, he would have knocked him on the head and proceeded as I suggest. But he does no such thing. He arrives in great excitement to describe another meeting with Robert and to report that the wanderer has changed his mind and will only see his brother in his own secret hiding-place after dark.
"On hearing this, Bendigo bids you come out of your cupboard, and Doria, so to call him, pretends great indignation and surprise.
"Now we get another lifelike report of runaway Robert; and finally Bendigo consents to visit him in his hiding-place. The lamp is going to burn and show the particular cave on that honeycombed coast where Bendigo's brother is supposed to be concealed. Another night comes and Ben goes to his death. Probably he was murdered instantly on landing and disposed of at sea. Again there is going to be no dead man. Pendean returns to you and his wife at 'Crow's Nest.' He reports that the brothers are conferring and reveals the situation of the hiding-place. He is soon off again and, on his second visit, plays his tiger tricks, runs a bloody trail up the tunnel to the plateau, and sets his trap for the police next morning.
"One needn't go over the futile hunt that followed. Everything worked exactly as Pendean had planned, and you can very easily picture the entertainment furnished for that vampire pair by the course of the subsequent man hunt.
"Two Redmaynes have gone to their account and there remains but one. Meantime the course of true love runs smoothly and Doria marries his wife again. So, at least, they are pleased to declare, for the satisfaction of Albert Redmayne and yourself. Needless to say they went south together as man and wife, reported a ceremony that did not take place, and after a reasonable delay turned their attention to my hapless friend.
"Would you not have thought some ray of human truth might have touched their hearts in the company of that childlike and kindly spirit? Would you not have judged that close acquaintance with one so amiable and large-hearted must have wakened a spark of compassion in their souls? No; they came to kill him and the unsuspecting victim welcomes his murderers with friendship. It is interesting to observe that he prefers Giuseppe to his own niece. He confessed to me that Jenny puzzled him and it seemed strange to Albert that she had forgotten her first husband so easily. His tender sensibilities could not admire such indifference; and no doubt he also remembered that his niece's early record, in marrying Pendean against her family's wishes, too much reminded him of her father's wilful ways and headstrong passions.
"But they come on their dark business and are welcomed; and then—an insensate act of folly! The weak spot in their remorseless plan! Again Doria rouses Robert Redmayne from the grave; again he challenges you! A thousand simple and safe ways had offered to dispose of Albert Redmayne. The region in which he chose to live and his own trusting and ingenuous character had alike made him the easiest possible prey of any human hunter; but Michael's vanity has grown by what it feeds on. He is an artist, and he desires to complete his masterpiece with all due regard to form. It must be fashioned to endure and take its place forever in the highest categories of crime. His pride rebels against the line of least resistance. All shall end on the same large pattern in which it was originally conceived. He courts danger and creates difficulty that his ultimate achievement may be the more august.
"So the forgery is trotted out once more; and it is not enough that Jenny shall report to her uncle the advent of Robert Redmayne beside Como. An independent witness is demanded and Assunta Marzelli sees the big man with the red mustache, red hair and red waistcoat. She also records the tremendous shock to her mistress that resulted from this sudden apparition. Remember that Jenny's husband was still supposed by Albert to be in Turin. Then the old game is played; Doria presently arrives in person; they toy with their subject; they enrich it with details; awaken the alarm of their unhappy victim and send for you, designing to treat you in the same manner as before.
"Nor does Albert's appeal to me hasten their operations. Who is Peter Ganns? A famous American bull. Good! They will have another victim at their chariot wheels. It shall be an international triumph. Albert Redmayne must be murdered before an audience worthy of the occasion. The combined detective forces of the States, of Italy, of England, shall seek Robert Redmayne and succour Albert; but the one shall evade capture, the other perish under their eyes." He turned to Brendon. "And they brought it off—thanks to you, my son."
"And paid for it—thanks to you," answered Mark.
"We are but men, not machines," answered the elder. "Love thrust a finger into your brain and created the inevitable ferment. Of course Pendean was lightning quick to win his account from that. He may have even calculated upon it when he made Jenny beg your aid at the outset. He knew what men thought of her; he had doubtless taken stock of you at Princetown and probably learned that you were unmarried. So, when time has passed and you can look back without a groan, you will take the large view and, seeing yourself from the outside, forgive yourself and confess that your punishment was weightier than your error."
In gathering dusk the train thundered through the valley of the Rhine while, above, the mountain summits melted upon the night. A steward looked into the carriage.
"Dinner is served, gentlemen," he said. "I will, if you please, make your beds while you are absent."
They rose and went together to the saloon carriage.
"I'm dry, son, and I've sure earned a drink," said Peter.
"You've earned a vast deal more than I or any man can ever pay you, Ganns," said Brendon.
"Don't say it, or think it. I've done nothing that you wouldn't have done if you had been free. And always remember this: I shall never blame you, even when I think with dearest affection of my old friend. I shall only blame myself, because the final, fatal mistake was mine—not yours. I was the fool to trust you and had no excuse for doing so. You were not to be trusted for a moment just then, and I ought to have known it. 'Twas our limited capability that made you err, that made me err, that made Michael Pendean err. The best laid plans of mice and men—you know, Mark. The villain mars his villainy; the virtuous smudge their white record; the deep brain suddenly runs dry—all because perfection, in good or evil, is denied to saints and sinners alike."
During the autumn assizes, Michael Pendean was tried at Exeter and condemned to death for the murders of Robert, Bendigo and Albert Redmayne. He offered no defence and he was only impatient to return to his seclusion within the red walls of the county jail, where he occupied the brief balance of his days with just such a statement as Peter Ganns had foretold that he would seek to make.
This extraordinary document was very characteristic of the criminal. It possessed a sort of glamour; but it failed of real distinction and the quality proper to greatness, even as the crimes it recorded and the man responsible for them. Pendean's confession revealed an insensibility, a faulty sense of humour, an affectation and a love for the glittering and the grandiose that robbed it of any supreme claim in the annals or literature of murder. The document ended with an assurance that Michael would never die at the hands of his fellow man. He had repeated this assertion on several occasions and every conceivable precaution was taken to prevent evasion of his sentence—an issue to be recorded in its proper place.
Here is his statement, word for word as he wrote it.
* * * * *
"Hearken, ye judges! There is another madness besides, and it is before the deed. Ah! Ye have not gone deep enough into this soul! Thus speaketh the red judge: 'Why did this criminal commit murder? He meant to rob.' I tell you, however, that his soul hungered for blood, not booty: he thirsted for the happiness of the knife!"
"What is this man? A coil of wild serpents at war against themselves—so they are driven apart to seek their prey in the world."
So wrote one whose art and wisdom are nought to this rabbit-brained generation; but it was given to me to find my meat and drink within his pages and to see my own youthful impressions reflected and crystallized with the brilliance of genius in his stupendous mind.
Remember I, who write, am not thirty years old.
As a young man without experience I sometimes asked myself if some spirit from another order of beings than my own had not been slipped into my human carcase. It seemed to me that none with whom I came in contact was built on, or near, my own pattern, for I had only met one person as yet—my mother—who did not suffer from the malady of a bad conscience. My father and his friends wallowed in this complaint. They declared themselves openly to be miserable sinners and apparently held that the one respectable attitude for humanity at large. "Safety" was the only state to seek; "danger" the only condition to avoid. A very cowardice of curs are the Cornish!
I soon found, however, that history abounded in great figures who had thought and acted otherwise; and presently, in the light thrown from the theatre of the past, I recognized myself for what I was.
In what is comprehended under the general and vague term of "crime," everything depends upon the values of the individual performer; and again and again do we find that a criminal has struck before counting the cost to himself, or considering the unsleeping detectives, hidden in his own faulty heart and brain, who will sooner or later discover and denounce him.
The man of conscience, the man capable of remorse, the man who murders at the prompting of a temper uncontrolled—such will swiftly learn that however well the deed is done, a thousand baffling distractions, bred of their own inherent or acquired weakness, must arise to confound them. Remorse, for example, is always a first step to discovery, if not to confession; and any lesser uneasiness similarly tends to trouble of mind and consequent danger of body. Those who hang, in truth deserve to do so; but they who strike, like myself, for reasons that success cannot shake and from a settled, farsighted resolution beyond the power of any emotion to assail, should be safe enough. We rejoice in the sublime mental gratification that follows success: it is our spiritual support, our sustenance and our reward.
What can offer an experience so tremendous as murder? What has science, philosophy, religion to give us comparable with the mysteries, dangers and triumphs of great crime? All are childish toys compared to it; and since, in any case, the next world will surely stultify our knowledge, confound our accepted truths, and reduce the wisdom of this earth to the prattle of childhood, I turned from physics and from metaphysics to action—and happening to taste blood early, tingled with the joy of it.
At fifteen years of age I killed a man, and found, in a murder undertaken for very definite reasons, a thrill beyond expectation. It was as though I had drunk at a wayside spring and found an elixir. That incident is unknown; the death of my father's foreman, Job Trevose, has not been understood till now. He lived at Paul, a village upon the heights nigh Penzance, and his walk to his work took him by the coast-guard track along lofty cliffs. Among the fish-curing sheds one day, unseen, I chanced to hear Trevose speak of my mother to another man and declare that she did evil and dishonoured my father.
From that moment I doomed Trevose to death and, some weeks later, after many failures to win the right conditions, caught him alone in a sea fog as he returned homeward. There was not a soul on the cliff path but ourselves; and he was a small man, I a strong, big boy. I walked beside him for fifty paces, then fell behind, leaped at his neck and hurled him over the cliff in an instant. One yell he gave and dropped six hundred feet. Then I fled over meadows inland and returned home after dark. Neither I nor anybody else was ever associated with the affair, and the death of Job Trevose has always been ascribed to misadventure—the easier to believe since he was not a temperate man.
From this experience I won, not remorse, but manhood. I rejoiced in what I had done. But I did not tell any living soul and only my wife ever heard the truth. Time passed and I proceeded with my life in normal fashion, learning myself and increasing my understanding of human nature. I was never under any domination of passion, but exercised great restraint and found that only by self-knowledge and self-command comes power. I did not seek forbidden fruit, but did not shun it. My life proceeded orderly; I chose the profession of dentist, as being likely to introduce me to people of a more interesting type than my father's acquaintance; and I kept an open mind for myself, but a shut mind for others.
My chief joy at this season was represented by my occasional visits to Italy with my mother. Already I felt that land to be my home and hated Cornwall and its bleak inhabitants. Then, at the psychological moment, a girl woke instincts until then dormant; I was faced with rarest good fortune and discovered a kindred spirit of the opposite sex. That any woman lived who could see with my eyes, or share my contempt of the trammels set round life, I did not believe until I met with Jenny Redmayne. Women had never interested me, save in the case of my mother, and I had seen none other with her large heart, tolerance, humour and indifference to convention.
Then a chance friend, the brainless Robert Redmayne, brought his niece to spend her school holiday with him and I discovered in the seventeen-year-old schoolgirl a magnificent and pagan simplicity of mind, combined with a Greek loveliness of body that created in me a convulsion. From the day that we met, from the hour that I heard her laugh at her uncle's objection to mixed bathing, I was as one possessed; and my triumphant joy may be judged, though never measured, when I perceived that Jenny recognized in me the complement and precious addition unconsciously sought of her own spirit.
That spirit she had scarcely understood; but now its clean and fierce white light shone in secret for me alone. We loved one another devotedly from the first understanding; and each fresh find in the heart of the other drew us together with increasing worship and passion. We were probably the most exquisite man and woman, the most original, beautiful, fearless and distinguished, that had ever come together in the benighted township of Penzance. People stared at us sometimes as though we were a faun and nymph; but they did not guess that our hearts were formed to match our wondrous bodies. Fire leaped to fire and before the girl finished her education we were dedicated to each other forever.
What she saw in me was my extraordinary masculine beauty, combined with an intellect that set good and evil in their places and soared, by native instinct, above both. What I discovered in her was an attitude of mind so inquiring and so lawless, so utterly devoid of any familiar prejudice or mother-taught opinion, that I felt as the finder of a priceless jewel unstained by earth or heaven. Her intellect was pure and not vitiated by any superstition; she revealed a healthy thirst for experience; she adored me and my attitude to life. We made fascinating voyages of discovery into each others' hearts; we experimented from time to time on ordinary people; and we quickly discovered that we both possessed rare histrionic ability.
Indeed she had already entertained ambitions for the stage; but though her dead father would hardly have stood in her way, these ambitions were not encouraged by the three dolts, her uncles, who now supposed themselves to control her future. A glorious actress is lost to the world in my wife.
She had no secrets from me and I soon learned of her expectations; but it was not the prospect of the Redmayne money that shortened her uncles' lives. Jenny and I were never man-eaters; and, while my youthful experience in murder attracted her and increased her admiration for my qualities, it was not at that time in our minds to anticipate events or quarrel with her relations.
Her grandfather still lived, when first I met her, and the extent or disposition of his wealth seldom entered our calculations. For we were then far too much in love to ponder the value of money, and our temperaments proved so distinguished that no sordid calculation ever wasted a moment of our time.
But a year passed; Jenny was ready to wed me and begin life as my twin star; while I longed for her with a great longing. The situation cleared; her grandfather died; she would presently be the possessor of ample means and I already enjoyed an income from the business of Pendean and Trecarrow.
Then came the war and the sentence of death incidently pronounced by that event upon the brothers Redmayne. Their own folly and lack of vision were alone responsible. The facts are familiar, but not the tremendous and shattering emotions I endured on being branded a coward and traitor to my country by these three patriotic idiots. I did not argue with them; it was enough that Jenny swiftly awakened to even a bitterer hatred and a deeper fury of resentment than myself. They had roused the sleeping tempest and our lightning now became only a question of time.
Was I the man to make carrion of myself in national quarrels! Was I the man to sacrifice my glorious life because besotted and third-rate minds, blinded by their own ignorance and fooled by cleverer statesmen than themselves, had suffered England to drift into war with Germany? Was I a sheep to be slaughtered for a government of Nonconformists? Should I consent to be mangled by the Boches because my fatuous country willed to trust the old gang? No!
I had long understood that war was certain; I had already ascended public platforms with that little company who warned the Empire and were derided for their pains by the ruling bats and moles. But to die for the salvation of this diplomatic trash, to suffer untold torments and ultimate extinction for that myopic crew of hypocrites known as the British government—Never!
I evaded active service with a heart drug, as did some thousands of other intelligent men. I kept a whole skin, stopped at home and received for my share the Order of the British Empire instead of a nameless grave. It was easy enough.
Before Jenny and I were married she knew that my outraged honour had doomed her family to extinction. But they would wait till the war was ended. Germany, indeed, might account for Robert Redmayne; and even the elderly Bendigo, who was appointed to a mine sweeper, might give his life for his country. Meantime we volunteered also and our record of service at Princetown Moss Depot is not to be assailed.
Already my future intention was colouring my life. I grew a beard, wore glasses and pretended delicacy of constitution; for after the war was done I intended murdering three men, and I proposed to do so in such a manner that society would find it impossible to associate me with the crimes. We devoted many hours to the project, for my wife was, of course, at one with me in my determination. She hated her family, as only relations can hate; and she had her own ground of grievance, in that her legacy of twenty thousand pounds was withheld pending the deliberations of Albert Redmayne. The money interested Jenny more than myself; but she pointed out that her grandfather's fortune, representing considerably over a hundred thousand pounds, was left entirely to her uncles and herself, and that as they were all three bachelors, she might reasonably hope to inherit in fulness of time.
To that end we identified ourselves with war work and expected presently to secure the trust and good-will of the brothers before they were banished off the earth. At Princetown we adopted that strenuous, simple-minded attitude to life most calculated to satisfy those among whom our toil now threw us. We pretended an enthusiasm for the work and an affection for Dartmoor which were alike illusory. As an example of our far-reaching methods I may relate how we returned to the wilderness after the war was done and actually began to build a bungalow upon it, which, needless to say, we never had the least intention of occupying. But the seed was sown and we had created in many minds the impression of a devoted and simple pair—conventional, narrow-minded, ingenuous and therefore attractive to the many.
I now come to my confession and must admit at the outset how circumstance served to modify detail and improve the original plan. My own greatness gradually increases to any intelligent, unprejudiced critic when my adaptability is considered, for that play of blind chance, in which ninety and nine men out of a hundred find themselves entangled throughout their lives, was to me an added inspiration and opportunity. I tamed Chance and put a bit in its jaws, a bridle on its fiery neck. Chance immensely altered my original schemes; but it was powerless to modify my genius; it became the Slave of the Ring, to serve an adamant purpose superior to itself.
The war left the three brothers alive; and I had designed first to destroy Bendigo and Albert Redmayne, who had never seen me, and finally deal with my old friend, Robert; but it was he who came at the critical moment as a lamb to the slaughter and so inspired the superb conception now familiar to the civilized world.
The time was ripe to pluck these men who had insulted and outraged me; and when Bendigo Redmayne advertised for a motor boatman, the challenge was accepted. I left my wife and, from Southampton, offered my services as an Italian marine engineer familiar with this country and now seeking occupation in England. The sea was my playground in youth and I understood very perfectly the mechanism to be under my control. That Ben would select me seemed improbable and I regarded this tentative opening as unlikely to introduce me to my first objective. I forged certain foreign letters of commendation and left it at that. He approved, however. He liked Italians, from experience of them aboard ship, and he appreciated my letter and my imaginary war record. It was arranged that I should join him on a day in late June; and I returned to Princetown with the interesting intelligence.
My original plans need not be related; but any reader of imagination will perceive that Bendigo Redmayne must quickly have been in my power to dispose of as I thought best. Then, within a fortnight of the date fixed for my arrival at "Crow's Nest," all was changed by the advent of Robert Redmayne. Strange to say, upon the day previous to his appearance, my wife had nearly prevailed upon me not to keep my engagement with Bendigo. She had learned that Robert was at Paignton and the danger of a meeting between him and me—the possibility that he might visit his brother and recognize me—was too considerable to risk. I had therefore almost abandoned the impersonation of "Giuseppe Doria" when Robert arrived at Princetown and we were reconciled. But then Jenny, to whom all credit belongs at this stage—my devoted, glorious Jenny!—began to see a glimpse of the dazzling opportunity now presented. Every detail was worked out with meticulous precaution; not a hazard was ignored, not a risk unguarded.
With Robert Redmayne free to visit Bendigo at any time, "Doria" would obviously be a danger; for, though a man of little perception—noisy dolt easily enough hoodwinked—there remained strong likelihood that he must recognize me in the Italian "Doria." And the more so that we had now renewed our former friendship. But let Robert Redmayne be reduced to silence, let Robert Redmayne vanish, and I should be safe enough as "Giuseppe Doria" with the old sailor!
From this determination: to obliterate Robert before going to Bendigo, the inevitable means appeared. A week before Robert Redmayne died, every stage of the journey had been planned.
What was the first step? An entreaty from Jenny that I should shave my beard! She begged again and again and appealed to Robert, who supported her. I withstood them until the day of his destruction. Upon that morning I appeared without it and they congratulated me. Other trifling preliminaries there were. On one occasion, when my wife rode down to Plymouth with her uncle on his motor bicycle, she left him to do some shopping and, visiting Burnell's the theatrical costumer, she purchased a red wig for a woman. At home again she transferred it into a red wig for a man. Meantime I had made a pair of large mustaches, helping myself when Mrs. Gerry, our landlady, was out of the way to hair from the brush of one of her stuffed foxes, whose colour exactly resembled the rufous adornments of Robert Redmayne. That was all I wanted. The rest of my disguise would go to the quarry on the person of Robert himself.
But other things went to the quarry also, for I had to look far ahead. When we started on his motor cycle, after tea, to do some work at the bungalow, I took a handbag containing my costume as Giuseppe Doria—a plain, blue serge suit, coat, waistcoat and trousers and yachtsman's cap. I also carried a tool—the little instrument with which I murdered the three Redmaynes. It resembled the head of a butcher's pole-axe, of great weight with the working end sharpened. I made it in a forge at Southampton and it lies to-day under the waters of Como. My bag I had taken on previous occasions to the quarry, with a bottle of whisky and glasses, so Robert thought it not strange that I should do so again.
We started for Foggintor and it was still broad daylight when we got there. I had already studied the quarry and determined on Robert Redmayne's resting-place. You will find him—and the suit of clothes I was wearing that evening—in the moraine, where it opens fanwise from the cliff above and spreads into the bottom beneath. On the right, at its base, water eternally drips from the ledges of the granite and here, two feet beneath the surface, he doubtless still lies. The falling water smooths the slope and the earth descends daily to increase the volume of granite sand and gravel above him. The drip must swiftly have washed away any trace of my handiwork and, even with these directions, it may be hard to find him.
Arrived at the bungalow, Robert's first demand was a bath in the quarry pool. To this I had accustomed him and we stripped and swam for ten minutes. You will perceive the value of this operation. His clothes were ready for me without speck or blemish; and when we returned from the pool into the shelter of the bungalow it was a naked man I smote and dropped with one blow of my formidable weapon. His back was turned and the pole-axe head went through his skull like butter. He was dead before I cut his throat, put on my shoes and hastened, naked, to the moraine with a spade.
I opened the grave under the falling water and dug two feet into the loose stuff, for that was deep enough. Then I carried him and my clothes from the bungalow, interred them, heaped back the soil and left the eternal percolations from above to do the rest. By the following morning it had demanded very keen eyes to discover any disturbance at that spot even had search been instituted at Foggintor. But I did not desire a search and my subsequent measures prevented it. A Ganns might have discovered clues, no doubt; a Brendon was more easily deluded.
I stood now free of the vital object in a murder—the corpse, and it remained for me to create the false appearance of reality with which these operations have always been so successfully enshrouded. I donned Redmayne's clothes. We were men nearly of a size and they fitted closely enough, though too large in detail. I then adjusted my wig and mustaches, drew Robert's cap over my head—it was too large, but that mattered not. I next obtained the sack, touched it in blood and put into it my handbag and a mass of fern and litter to fill it out. Then I fastened it behind the motor bicycle—an unwieldy object designed to create the necessary suspicion.
There was now nothing of either Redmayne or myself left at Foggintor. The gloaming had long thickened to darkness when I went my way and laid the trail through Two Bridges, Postbridge and Ashburton to Brixham. Once only was I bothered—at the gate across the road by Brixham coast-guard station; but I lifted the motor bicycle over it and presently ascended to the cliffs of Berry Head. Fate favoured me in details, for, despite the hour, there were witnesses to every step of the route; I even passed a fisher lad, descending from the lighthouse for a doctor, where no witness might have been hoped for or expected. Thus my course was followed and each stage of the long journey correctly recorded.
On the cliff I emptied my sack, cast its stuffing to the winds, fastened my handbag to the bicycle, thrust the bloodstained sack into a rabbit hole, where it could not fail to be discovered, and then returned to Robert Redmayne's lodging at Paignton. There a telegram had already been sent informing the landlady of his return that night. The place and its details I had gleaned from Redmayne himself; therefore I knew where he kept his machine and, having put it in its shed, entered the house about three o'clock with his latchkey and ate the ample meal left for his consumption. Only a widow and her servant occupied the dwelling and they slept soundly enough.
I did not venture to seek Bob's bedroom, for I knew not where it might lie; but I changed into the serge suit, cap and brown shoes of Doria and packed Redmayne's clothes, tweeds and showy waistcoat, boots and stockings into my handbag with the wig and mustaches and my weapon. Soon after four o'clock I left—a clean-shorn, brown sailorman: "Giuseppe Doria," of immortal memory.
It was now light, but Paignton slumbered and I did not pass a policeman until half a mile from the watering-place. Having admired the dawn over Torquay, I walked to Newton Abbot and reached that town before six o'clock. At the railway station I breakfasted and presently took a train to Dartmouth. Before noon I reached "Crow's Nest" and made acquaintance with Bendigo Redmayne. He was such a man as Jenny had led me to expect and I found it easy enough to win his friendship and esteem.
But he had little leisure for me at this moment, for there had already come news from his niece of the mysterious fatality on Dartmoor.
Needless to say that my thoughts were now entirely devoted to my wife and I longed for her first communication. Our briefest separation caused me pain, for our souls were as one and we had not been parted, save for my visit to Southampton, since our marriage day.
It was her exquisite thought to involve the man from Scotland Yard. Mark Brendon, then known to be taking holiday at Princetown, had been pointed out to her; she appraised him correctly and her woman's intuition told her what verisimilitude would spring from his active cooperation. Secure in her own genius, she therefore complicated the issues by appealing to Brendon and winning his enthusiastic assistance. Much sprang from this, for the poor fellow was soon a willing victim to Jenny; and while he lent a thousand happy touches to subsequent incidents by his inefficiencies and sins of omission, such moderate talent as he possessed was still farther obscured by the emotion of love which sprang up in his heart for my widowed partner. Thus he became exceedingly useful as time passed; yet fortune favours fools and his very stupidity served him well at the end; for when I sought to destroy him on Griante and believed that I had done so, the man displayed an ingenuity for which I did not give him credit and unconsciously laid the foundations of subsequent disaster.
The letter which Bendigo Redmayne received, and supposed had come from his brother at Plymouth, was posted by Jenny on her journey to "Crow's Nest." We had written it together a week earlier and studied her uncle's indifferent penmanship very carefully before doing so. This blind I held valuable, and indeed it proved to be; for it concentrated attention on the port and led to the theory that Robert had escaped to France or Spain.
Thus closed our opening episode. The murder of Michael Pendean became received as a fact capable of everything but proof absolute, while the escape of Robert Redmayne offered an insoluble problem to the authorities. Michael Pendean indeed was dead enough, for it had been a part of my original conception that he should never reappear. Obviously he could not do so; and I, who had already created "Doria," now began to live my new part in life with zest and gusto—a dramatist and actor in one. He did not spring full-fledged from my brain; but like other great impersonators, I gradually enlarged and enriched the character and finally found myself actually living and thinking the new being into which I was translated. Pendean sank to the shadow of a shade.
My past, by an effort of will, was banished from my mind. I invented and presently believed in another past. When my wife returned to my side, I fell in love with her for the second time; and so superbly did I enter into the existence and mental outlook of Giuseppe Doria that I was almost shocked by the familiarity of Jenny when she kissed me and hugged me at the first convenient opportunity after her arrival at "Crow's Nest"!
And her own echoing genius swiftly accepted this magnificent apotheosis of her Cornish husband. I became a new man in her eyes also. With that marvellous power of make-believe, possible only to women of supreme genius, she swiftly conceived of me as something altogether different from Michael Pendean—a creature richer and rarer—and this effort of imagination enabled us both to create that solid appearance of a new and quickening understanding that so amply sufficed to deceive Bendigo Redmayne and delude Brendon.
It is impossible to exaggerate the unique entertainment we derived from this phase of our deception. We proposed to let six months pass before the death of Bendigo Redmayne, and we were already contemplating details and considering how best to bring his brother back upon the stage for the purpose of Ben's destruction, when Mark Brendon blundered in upon us once again. He came very pat with calf love in his eyes; and it seemed that he might well assist us once more and apply his limited attainments to the problem of our sea wolf's approaching exit. Because we knew our Marco well, by this time, and perceived how useful he might be in disseminating that atmosphere of reality so desirable in cases such as these.
We were called upon to act quickly—so quickly that the first steps were taken before the last had been fully planned; but the place, the time of long, dark nights and other circumstances—these all lent value and assistance to the acute operations now undertaken. I swiftly brought Robert Redmayne to life; and though, with more leisure for refinements, I should not have clothed him in his old attire, yet that crude detail possessed a value of its own and certainly served to deceive Brendon, who, before the sudden apparition under that night of storm, did not stop to be logical or weigh probability. In the windy moonlight he saw the red head, huge mustache and brass-buttoned waistcoat of Robert Redmayne, and any question of detail escaped him in the whirl of the larger emotions and suspicions awakened by such an unexpected vision.
Doubtless he was thinking of Jenny and speculating with deep unrest how he might approach that lonely and lovely woman. Nor had he missed my attractions and we may feel sure that jealousy shared his heart with passion. Upon these reflections broke Redmayne, the murderer, and Marco's first thought was doubtless unflattering to the residents of "Crow's Nest." What he designed to do next morning I cannot say, but we determined his actions from the other end. Having first appeared before him by Black Wood and lifted the curtain on the second act of my romantic comedy, I remained there a while, then ascended to Strete Farm and presently, in the small hours, awakened the farmer, showed myself stealing food and so hastily departed.
Thus a few hours later, when Giuseppe goes for the milk, he hears of the robbery, returns to "Crow's Nest" and describes a man that Ben has no difficulty in recognizing as his brother, or Jenny as her uncle. Robert Redmayne is on the war-path once more!
Of subsequent events, most are so familiar that there is no need to retrace them. It is to be noted, however, that Robert does not appear again to anybody but Jenny and Doria. In other words, he does not appear again at all. His disguise is doffed—not to be resumed until many months have passed, when once more he leaps out upon the wild ranges of Griante. No. While alive enough and close enough to impress both Bendigo and Brendon with his presence as described by Jenny and myself, he has in reality vanished to the void. The "forgery" again goes to sleep—as soundly as the real man in Foggintor.
Accident, indeed, modified the original scheme and once more Chance befriended us and enabled us to improve upon the first intention.
My tears fall when I think of my incomparable Jenny and her astounding mastery of minutiae at "Crow's Nest"—her finesse and exquisite touch, her kittenlike delicacy, her catlike swiftness and sureness. The two beings involved were as children in her hands. Oh, precious phoenix of a woman, you and I were of the same spirit, kneaded into our clay! Through your father you won it—and I had it from my mother—the primeval fire that burns through all obstacles to its inveterate purpose!
I say that accident made a radical alteration of design vital, for I had intended, on the night when Robert Redmayne would come and see Bendigo, to murder the old sailor in his tower room and remove him before morning with my wife's assistance. But the victim postponed his own destruction, for upon the night when his death was intended, during my previous conversation with him touching Jenny, I had perceived, by his clumsy glances and evidence of anxiety, that somebody else was in the tower room—unseen.
There was but one hiding-place and but one man likely to occupy it. I did not indicate that I had discovered the secret and it was not the detective who gave himself away; but, once alive to his presence, I swiftly marked a flash of light at one of the little ventilation holes in the cupboard and perceived that our sleuth stood hid within it. My plan of campaign was altered accordingly and to great advantage. Indeed, to have slain Ben in his house, when I should have appeared instead of the brother he expected, had been a maladroit achievement, contrasted with the far more notable feat of the following night.
Having conveyed the old sailor to the cave, where, on my recent run up the coast after dropping Brendon, I had already looked in and lighted the lamp, I landed behind him and, as his foot touched the shore, the pole-axe fell. He was dead in an instant and five minutes later his blood ran upon the sand. Next I dug a grave under the shingle, at a spot destined within half an hour to be covered by the tide. In less than twenty minutes Bendigo Redmayne reposed beneath three feet of sand and stone and I was on my way back again to "Crow's Nest." There I reported to Brendon that the brothers had met and would expect me again anon. I smoked a cigarette or two, descended to our little harbour, removed my spade from the launch to the boathouse, took a sack and so set out again.
By the time that I had reached the cavern the waves already flowed over old sea wolf's resting-place. I landed, half filled my sack with stones and sand, scattered judicious drops of blood and climbed the steps and tunnel, laying the trail that occupied official attention to such poor purpose during the days that followed. Having reached the plateau, I emptied my sack, casting its contents over the cliff; I then left a good impression or two of Robert Redmayne's shoes, which I had, of course, remembered to put on. They would be recollected by Mark Brendon, for impressions had been found and records taken at Foggintor.
I swiftly descended the tunnel again after these operations, returned to my boathouse, stowed my sack, changed my boots and hastened to Brendon with my story. How we proceeded to the cave, our fruitless inquiries and the subsequent failure to find any solution to the disappearance of Bendigo and the reappearance of Robert are all facts within the memory. I need not tell you that tale again; but may declare how specially attractive it was to picture the puzzled police upon the little beach next day, and know that Bendigo Redmayne lay not a yard beneath their feet.
Once more my amazing wife and I parted for a brief period and then I had the joy of introducing her to Italy, where the remainder of our task awaited us. But we resolved that considerable time should pass before proceeding and we did not appear before her remaining uncle for many months. Meantime we revelled in a second honeymoon, reported our marriage to Albert Redmayne and the egregious Marco, to whom, at Jenny's suggestion we conveyed a piece of wedding cake, that he might the better grasp our achievement. We had not finished yet with the pride of New Scotland Yard.
And now for Italy. It is true that in my early manhood I had suffered a sad accident at Naples, the secret of which was known to my mother and myself alone. I therefore entertained some grudge against her country; but the fact at no time lessened my love for the south; and Jenny and I had always determined that when our task was accomplished the balance of our united life should there be spent in dignity and peace.
A LEGACY FOR PETER GANNS
If at any time I entertained one shadow of regret in the execution of those who had traduced me and so earned their destruction, it was after we had dwelt for a season with Albert Redmayne beside Como. The lake itself is so flagrantly sentimental and the environment so serene and suggestive of childlike peace and good-will that I could almost have found it in my heart to lament the innocent book lover's taking off. But Jenny swiftly laughed me out of these emotions.
"Keep your tenderness and sentiment for me," she said. "I will not share them."
We might have killed Albert a thousand times and left no sign—a fact that brings me to that part of my recital I most deplore. But a measure of delay was necessary that we might learn the market value of his books—otherwise Virgilio Poggi would doubtless have robbed us after the old man's death. There was a medieval history of the Borgia family I should myself have greatly treasured under happier circumstances.
Nevertheless, though things difficult and dangerous we had triumphantly achieved, before this task for a child we failed; and the reason for our collapse was not in Jenny but in me. Had I listened to my austere partner I should have waited only until she had searched for and found her uncle's will. This she did; and as the instrument proved entirely satisfactory, my duty was then to proceed about our business and remember that better an egg to-day than a hen to-morrow. Only an artist's fond pride intervened; nothing but my vanity, my consciousness of power to excel, upset the rightful climax. We were, indeed, both artists, but how incomparably the greater she! How severe and direct, how scornful of needless elaboration! She belonged, mind and body, to the finest period of Greek art, and echoed their stern, soulless simplicity and perfection. Had she won her way with me, we should be living now to enjoy the fruits of our accomplishment.
But though she did not win her way, yet, in defeat, her final, glorious deed was to intercept the death intended for me, that I might still live. Loyal to the last, she sacrificed herself, forgetting, in that supreme moment, how life for me without her could possess no shadow of compensation. When Jenny shook off the dust of the world, I was ready and willing to do the same. As for that future life, in which I most potently believe, since she and I have merited a like treatment, we shall share eternity together and so be in heaven, whatever the Great Contriver may desire to the contrary. Yet who shall presume to dogmatize? "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." And what the Almighty Mind may be pleased to think of any human performance is for the present hidden with Him alone. He did not make the tiger to eat grass or the eagle to feed on honey.
My wife's deeper sanity and clearer vision always inclined her to distrust our American acquaintance, Peter Ganns. From the first moment that Jenny's eyes fell upon that fine figure of a man, she judged him to be built on a very different mental pattern from Brendon. He was no New World edition of our poor, tame Marco; and the preliminary fact that he should have anticipated us and arrived beside Como before he was expected to do so, convinced Jenny that he must prove a factor of extreme gravity in all future calculations. I, too, perceived his force of character, and rejoiced to do so, for here appeared an enemy worthy of my invention and resource.
It seemed clear that Pietro was a skeptical person—doubtless made so by his dreadful trade. "Thomas" rather than "Peter" should have been his name. He had a disconcerting habit of taking nothing for granted; and his "third eye" as he called it—an eye of the mind—saw a great many things concealed from ordinary observers. He would have made a classical criminal.
The artist's pride, that had prevented me from acting so that Ganns should have been invited to discover the murderer of Albert rather than set the task of preserving his friend's life—this false, foolish sense of superiority and security wrecked all. Had Albert slept beneath the waters of Como before Ganns arrived, then not the wit of twenty Peters had ever found him; but while no man living could have saved the life of Redmayne, since had I determined to take it, the predestined sequel to his death was confounded by my own error. Once more Ganns struck before I expected him to do so and I was, too late, confronted with the shattering truth. He had in fact found me out. He returned to England, worked like a mole, dug up my history, no doubt, and so came to the logical conclusion that it appeared more reasonable Michael Pendean should murder Robert Redmayne than the opposite. Having reached this conviction, his reconstruction of each event threw added light; but even so it must have been a spark of prodigious inspiration that identified in Doria the vanished Cornishman.
Ganns is a great man on his own plane. But, though he is a greedy creature who digs his grave with his knife and fork, though his habit of drenching himself with powdered tobacco, instead of smoking like a gentleman, is disgusting, yet I have nothing but admiration for him. His little plot—to treat me to a dose of my own physic and present a forgery of "Robert Redmayne" in the evening dusk—was altogether admirable. The thing came in a manner so sudden and unexpected that I failed of a perfect riposte. To confess that I saw the ghost was dangerous; but to pretend afterwards that I had seen nothing was fatal. His own immense cleverness, of course, appeared in assuring me that he saw nothing, thus tempting me to suspect that I had in reality been a victim of my own imagination. From that moment the battle was joined and I stood at grave disadvantage.
How much or how little he had won from my slip I had yet to learn. In any case the time was all too short, for I guessed now that Ganns must at least have associated me with the unknown—he who had worn Redmayne's clothes and had tried to shoot Brendon in his absence. It was Jenny, of course, who had assisted me to dig Marco's grave on Griante and who shared my disappointment when we found that Brendon had escaped my revolver. Even so only the accident of biting his tongue saved him. Had I not seen blood flowing from his lips, I should have fired again.
I was not aware that Peter proposed to arrest me on the night of Albert's death, for upon what ground could he do so? Indeed I judged that after my final operations were completed and Albert destroyed, good Ganns would swiftly prove, to his own satisfaction, that I could not be associated with that crime and so feel his whole theory open to suspicion. Had I known that Peter was at his goal, my first thought might have been to disappear instantly and only appear again under a new impersonation, a year or two later, when the storm was over. In that case I should have indicated how "Giuseppe Doria" had committed suicide and left every tactful and sufficing proof of the fact.
But I never guessed the majestic heights of Peter's genius and, taking the chance of his temporary absence, slew Albert with a simple trick. There was only Mark Brendon to prevent it; and Jenny, having reserved her final and irresistible appeal for some such vital occasion, found no difficulty in absorbing all Marco's limited intelligence, while awakening for him fond hopes and visions of a notable future in her arms. It needs to be pointed out that this worthy person's infatuation served again and again to prosper the situation for us and handicap the efforts of Peter Ganns; but that Ganns should have trusted him upon that all-important night to shepherd Albert from my attention, only shows how Peter never appreciated the limitations of his assistant. Yes, even Peter was human, all too human.
While Jenny related her sufferings and made appeal to her listener's overmastering devotion, I left the house and Brendon saw me go. To get a boat, that I might cross to Bellagio, was the work of ten minutes. I took one without troubling the owner, loaded a dozen heavy stones and soon rowed to Villa Pianezzo and ascended the water steps. A black beard was all the disguise I used, save that I had left my coat in the boat and appeared before Redmayne in shirt sleeves.
With trembling accents I related to Assunta, who of course knew me not, that Poggi was taken fatally ill and might hardly hope to last an hour. It was enough. I returned to the boat and in three minutes Albert joined me and offered me untold gold to row as I had never rowed before. A hundred and fifty yards from shore I directed him to pass into the bow of the boat, explaining that I should so make greater speed. As he passed me, the little pole-axe fell. He suffered nothing and in five minutes more, with heavy stones fastened to feet and arms, he sank beneath Como. The pole-axe followed, its work completed. In more spacious times the weapon would have become an heirloom. All this happened not two hundred yards from Villa Pianezzo under the darkness.
Then I rowed ashore swiftly, returned the boat to the beach unobserved, hid my disguise in my pocket and strolled to a familiar inn. I had occupied but twenty-four minutes from the time of setting out under Brendon's eyes while he sat in the garden. I stopped at this albergo for a considerable period, that a sufficient alibi might be established and the moment of my arrival there prove uncertain, should any future question ever arise concerning it. Then the crash came. I returned home suspecting nothing—to fall like Lucifer, to find all lost, to hold my dead wife in my arms and know that, without her, life was ended for me.
In seemly, splendid fashion she passed and it shall not be recorded that the man this glorious woman loved made an end of his days with less distinction and propriety. To die on the gallows is to do what many others have done; I will condescend to no such ignominy. Ganns understood me well enough for that. Did he not warn the police how I had been a dentist, and advised them to examine my mouth with care? He alone realized something of my genius, but not all. Only our peers can judge us; and such men as I come like lonely comets into the atmosphere of earth and lonely pass away. Our magnitude terrifies—and the herd of men thanks God when we disappear. Indeed I was unusually blessed, for I had a greater than myself for companion on my voyage. Like twin stars we cast a blended light; we shone and vanished together, never to be named apart henceforth.
Let not my legacy to Peter Ganns be forgotten, or that I appoint Mark Brendon executor and residuary legatee. With him I have no quarrel; he did his best to save the situation for us. You ask, "How shall a man condemned to death and watched day and night that he may lay no hand upon himself—how shall this man make his own departure?" Before these words are read throughout the world, you will learn the answer to that question.
I think there is nothing more to say.
"Al finir del gioco, si vede chi ha guadagnato." "At the end of the game we may see the winner." But not always, for sometimes the game is drawn and honours are easy. I have played a drawn game with Peter Ganns and he will not pretend a victory, or withhold the first applause where it belongs. He knows that, even if we were equal, the woman was greater than either of us.
Farewell, GIUSEPPE DORIA.
* * * * *
Ten days after Peter Ganns had read this narrative and its sequel at his snug home outside Boston, there awaited him, upon his breakfast table, a little parcel from England. The packet suggested an addition to Peter's famous collection of snuffboxes. He had left certain commissions behind him in London and doubted not that a new treasure awaited him. But he was disappointed. Something far more amazing than any snuffbox now challenged his astonished eyes. There came a long letter from Mark Brendon also, which repeated information already familiar to Peter through the newspapers; but added other facts for him alone.
NEW SCOTLAND YARD, 20 October 1921.
MY DEAR PETER GANNS: You will have heard of Pendean's confession and message to you; but you may not have read full details as they concern you personally. I inclose his gift; and it is safe to bet that neither you nor any man will henceforth possess anything more remarkable. He made a will in prison and the law decides that I inherit his personal estate; but you will not be surprised to learn that I have handed it over to the police orphanages of my country and yours in equal proportions.
The facts are these. As the day approached for his execution, extraordinary precautions were taken, but Pendean behaved with utmost restraint, gave no trouble and made no threat. Having completed his written statement, he asked to be permitted to copy it on a type-writer, but leave to do so was not granted. He kept the communication on his person and he was promised that no attempt to read it should be made until after his execution. Indeed he received this undertaking before he put pen to paper. He preserved a quiet and orderly manner, ate well, took exercise with his guards and smoked many cigarettes. I may mention that the body of Robert Redmayne was found where he buried it; but the tides have deflected the beach gravels of Bendigo's grave and search there has revealed nothing.
Upon his last night but one, Pendean retired as usual and apparently slept for some hours with the bedclothes up to his face. A warder sat on each side of him and a light was burning. Suddenly he gave a sigh and held out his hand to the man on his right.
"See that goes to Peter Ganns—it is my legacy," he said. "And remember that Mark Brendon is my heir." He then put a small object into the warder's hand. At the same time he apparently suffered a tremendous physical convulsion, uttered one groan and leaped up into a sitting position. From this he fell forward unconscious. One attendant supported him and the other ran for the prison surgeon. But Pendean was already dead—poisoned with cyanide of potassium.
You will remember two facts which might have thrown light upon his secret. The first was his accident in Italy as a youth; the second your constant interest in a peculiar, inhuman quality of his expression which you were never able to understand. Both are now explained. With ordinary eyes the secret would have doubtless been swiftly discovered by us. But in his case, so dark were they, that pupil and iris were almost the same colour and hence our failure to explain the artificial mystery of his glance. He had, of course, a secret receptacle upon his person beyond human knowledge or power of discovery, for he says that only his mother knew of his accident. That accident was the loss of an eye. Behind an eye of glass that took its place had lain concealed, until he required it, the capsule of poison found crushed within his mouth after death.
What the published statement of this knave has done for me you will guess. I am leaving the detective service and have found other occupation. One can only seek to live down my awful experience. Next year my work will bring me to America and, when that happens, I shall be very glad to see you again should you permit me to do so—not that we may speak of the past, with all its futility and bitterness for me, but that we may look forward, and that I may see all is well with you in your days of retirement, honour and ease. Until then I subscribe myself, your admirer and faithful friend,
Peter opened his parcel.
It contained an eye made of glass and very exquisitely fashioned to imitate reality. Its prevailing darkness had prevented the truth from appearing, and yet, perfect though it was in lustre and pigment, the false thing had given to Pendean's expression a quality that never failed to disturb Peter. It was not sinister, yet he remembered no such cast of countenance within his experience.
Mr. Ganns turned over the little object that had so often met his inquiring gaze.
"A rare crook," he said aloud; "but he is right: his wife was greater than either of us. If he'd listened to her and not his own vainglory, both could be alive and flourishing yet."
The dark brown eye seemed to stare up at him with a human twinkle as he brought out his gold snuffbox and took a pinch.