Chapter VI: Suspicions
The first to get full self-command was Miss Trelawny. There was a
haughty dignity in her bearing as she said:
"Very well, Mrs. Grant; let them go! Pay them up to today, and a
month's wages. They have hitherto been very good servants; and the
occasion of their leaving is not an ordinary one. We must not expect
much faithfulness from any one who is beset with fears. Those who
remain are to have in future double wages; and please send these to me
presently when I send word." Mrs. Grant bristled with smothered
indignation; all the housekeeper in her was outraged by such generous
treatment of servants who had combined to give notice:
"They don't deserve it, miss; them to go on so, after the way they have
been treated here. Never in my life have I seen servants so well
treated or anyone so good to them and gracious to them as you have been.
They might be in the household of a King for treatment. And now, just
as there is trouble, to go and act like this. It's abominable, that's
what it is!"
Miss Trelawny was very gentle with her, and smothered her ruffled
dignity; so that presently she went away with, in her manner, a lesser
measure of hostility to the undeserving. In quite a different frame of
mind she returned presently to ask if her mistress would like her to
engage a full staff of other servants, or at any rate try to do so.
"For you know, ma'am," she went on, "when once a scare has been
established in the servants' hall, it's wellnigh impossible to get rid
of it. Servants may come; but they go away just as quick. There's no
holding them. They simply won't stay; or even if they work out their
month's notice, they lead you that life that you wish every hour of the
day that you hadn't kept them. The women are bad enough, the huzzies;
but the men are worse!" There was neither anxiety nor indignation in
Miss Trelawny's voice or manner as she said:
"I think, Mrs. Grant, we had better try to do with those we have.
Whilst my dear Father is ill we shall not be having any company, so that
there will be only three now in the house to attend to. If those
servants who are willing to stay are not enough, I should only get
sufficient to help them to do the work. It will not, I should think, be
difficult to get a few maids; perhaps some that you know already. And
please bear in mind, that those whom you get, and who are suitable and
will stay, are henceforth to have the same wages as those who are
remaining. Of course, Mrs. Grant, you well enough understand that
though I do not group you in any way with the servants, the rule of
double salary applies to you too." As she spoke she extended her long,
fine-shaped hand, which the other took and then, raising it to her lips,
kissed it impressively with the freedom of an elder woman to a younger.
I could not but admire the generosity of her treatment of her servants.
In my mind I endorsed Mrs. Grant's sotto voce remark as she left the
"No wonder the house is like a King's house, when the mistress is a
"A Princess!" That was it. The idea seemed to satisfy my mind, and to
bring back in a wave of light the first moment when she swept across my
vision at the ball in Belgrave Square. A queenly figure! tall and slim,
bending, swaying, undulating as the lily or the lotos. Clad in a
flowing gown of some filmy black material shot with gold. For ornament
in her hair she wore an old Egyptian jewel, a tiny crystal disk, set
between rising plumes carved in lapis lazuli. On her wrist was a broad
bangle or bracelet of antique work, in the shape of a pair of spreading
wings wrought in gold, with the feathers made of coloured gems. For all
her gracious bearing toward me, when our hostess introduced me, I was
then afraid of her. It was only when later, at the picnic on the river,
I had come to realise her sweet and gentle, that my awe changed to
For a while she sat, making some notes or memoranda. Then putting them
away, she sent for the faithful servants. I thought that she had better
have this interview alone, and so left her. When I came back there were
traces of tears in her eyes.
The next phase in which I had a part was even more disturbing, and
infinitely more painful. Late in the afternoon Sergeant Daw came into
the study where I was sitting. After closing the door carefully and
looking all round the room to make certain that we were alone, he came
close to me.
"What is it?" I asked him. "I see you wish to speak to me privately."
"Quite so, sir! May I speak in absolute confidence?"
"Of course you may. In anything that is for the good of Miss Trelawny--
and of course Mr. Trelawny--you may be perfectly frank. I take it that
we both want to serve them to the best of our powers." He hesitated
"Of course you know that I have my duty to do; and I think you know me
well enough to know that I will do it. I am a policeman--a detective;
and it is my duty to find out the facts of any case I am put on, without
fear or favour to anyone. I would rather speak to you alone, in
confidence if I may, without reference to any duty of anyone to anyone,
except mine to Scotland Yard."
"Of course! of course!" I answered mechanically, my heart sinking, I did
not know why. "Be quite frank with me. I assure you of my confidence."
"Thank you, sir. I take it that what I say is not to pass beyond you--
not to anyone. Not to Miss Trelawny herself, or even to Mr. Trelawny
when he becomes well again."
"Certainly, if you make it a condition!" I said a little more stiffly.
The man recognised the change in my voice or manner, and said
"Excuse me, sir, but I am going outside my duty in speaking to you at
all on the subject. I know you, however, of old; and I feel that I can
trust you. Not your word, sir, that is all right; but your discretion!"
I bowed. "Go on!" I said. He began at once:
"I have gone over this case, sir, till my brain begins to reel; but I
can't find any ordinary solution of it. At the time of each attempt no
one has seemingly come into the house; and certainly no one has got out.
What does it strike you is the inference?"
"That the somebody--or the something--was in the house already," I
answered, smiling in spite of myself.
"That's just what I think," he said, with a manifest sigh of relief.
"Very well! Who can be that someone?"
"'Someone, or something,' was what I said," I answered.
"Let us make it 'someone,' Mr. Ross! That cat, though he might have
scratched or bit, never pulled the old gentleman out of bed, and tried
to get the bangle with the key off his arm. Such things are all very
well in books where your amateur detectives, who know everything before
it's done, can fit them into theories; but in Scotland Yard, where the
men aren't all idiots either, we generally find that when crime is done,
or attempted, it's people, not things, that are at the bottom of it."
"Then make it 'people' by all means, Sergeant."
"We were speaking of 'someone,' sir."
"Quite right. Someone, be it!"
"Did it ever strike you, sir, that on each of the three separate
occasions where outrage was effected, or attempted, there was one person
who was the first to be present and to give the alarm?"
"Let me see! Miss Trelawny, I believe, gave the alarm on the first
occasion. I was present myself, if fast asleep, on the second; and so
was Nurse Kennedy. When I woke there were several people in the room;
you were one of them. I understand that on that occasion also Miss
Trelawny was before you. At the last attempt I was. Miss Trelawny
fainted. I carried her out and went back. In returning, I was first;
and I think you were close behind me."
Sergeant Daw thought for a moment before replying:
"She was present, or first, in the room on all the occasions; there was
only damage done in the first and second!"
The inference was one which I, as a lawyer, could not mistake. I
thought the best thing to do was to meet it half-way. I have always
found that the best way to encounter an inference is to cause it to be
turned into a statement.
"You mean," I said, "that as on the only occasions when actual harm was
done, Miss Trelawny's being the first to discover it is a proof that she
did it; or was in some way connected with the attempt, as well as the
"I didn't venture to put it as clear as that; but that is where the
doubt which I had leads." Sergeant Daw was a man of courage; he
evidently did not shrink from any conclusion of his reasoning on facts.
We were both silent for a while. Fears began crowding in on my own
mind. Not doubts of Miss Trelawny, or of any act of hers; but fears
lest such acts should be misunderstood. There was evidently a mystery
somewhere; and if no solution to it could be found, the doubt would be
cast on someone. In such cases the guesses of the majority are bound to
follow the line of least resistance; and if it could be proved that any
personal gain to anyone could follow Mr. Trelawny's death, should such
ensue, it might prove a difficult task for anyone to prove innocence in
the face of suspicious facts. I found myself instinctively taking that
deferential course which, until the plan of battle of the prosecution is
unfolded, is so safe an attitude for the defence. It would never do for
me, at this stage, to combat any theories which a detective might form.
I could best help Miss Trelawny by listening and understanding. When
the time should come for the dissipation and obliteration of the
theories, I should be quite willing to use all my militant ardour, and
all the weapons at my command.
"You will of course do your duty, I know," I said, "and without fear.
What course do you intend to take?"
"I don't know as yet, sir. You see, up to now it isn't with me even a
suspicion. If any one else told me that that sweet young lady had a
hand in such a matter, I would think him a fool; but I am bound to
follow my own conclusions. I know well that just as unlikely persons
have been proved guilty, when a whole court--all except the prosecution
who knew the facts, and the judge who had taught his mind to wait--would
have sworn to innocence. I wouldn't, for all the world, wrong such a
young lady; more especial when she has such a cruel weight to bear. And
you will be sure that I won't say a word that'll prompt anyone else to
make such a charge. That's why I speak to you in confidence, man to
man. You are skilled in proofs; that is your profession. Mine only
gets so far as suspicions, and what we call our own proofs--which are
nothing but ex parte evidence after all. You know Miss Trelawny better
than I do; and though I watch round the sick-room, and go where I like
about the house and in and out of it, I haven't the same opportunities
as you have of knowing the lady and what her life is, or her means are;
or of anything else which might give me a clue to her actions. If I
were to try to find out from her, it would at once arouse her
suspicions. Then, if she were guilty, all possibility of ultimate proof
would go; for she would easily find a way to baffle discovery. But if
she be innocent, as I hope she is, it would be doing a cruel wrong to
accuse her. I have thought the matter over according to my lights
before I spoke to you; and if I have taken a liberty, sir, I am truly
"No liberty in the world, Daw," I said warmly, for the man's courage and
honesty and consideration compelled respect. "I am glad you have spoken
to me so frankly. We both want to find out the truth; and there is so
much about this case that is strange--so strange as to go beyond all
experiences--that to aim at truth is our only chance of making anything
clear in the long-run--no matter what our views are, or what object we
wish to achieve ultimately!" The Sergeant looked pleased as he went on:
"I thought, therefore, that if you had it once in your mind that
somebody else held to such a possibility, you would by degrees get
proof; or at any rate such ideas as would convince yourself, either for
or against it. Then we would come to some conclusion; or at any rate we
should so exhaust all other possibilities that the most likely one would
remain as the nearest thing to proof, or strong suspicion, that we could
get. After that we should have to--"
Just at this moment the door opened and Miss Trelawny entered the room.
The moment she saw us she drew back quickly, saying:
"Oh, I beg pardon! I did not know you were here, and engaged." By the
time I had stood up, she was about to go back.
"Do come in," I said; "Sergeant Daw and I were only talking matters
Whilst she was hesitating, Mrs. Grant appeared, saying as she entered
the room: "Doctor Winchester is come, miss, and is asking for you."
I obeyed Miss Trelawny's look; together we left the room.
When the Doctor had made his examination, he told us that there was
seemingly no change. He added that nevertheless he would like to stay
in the house that night if he might. Miss Trelawny looked glad, and
sent word to Mrs. Grant to get a room ready for him. Later in the day,
when he and I happened to be alone together, he said suddenly:
"I have arranged to stay here tonight because I want to have a talk
with you. And as I wish it to be quite private, I thought the least
suspicious way would be to have a cigar together late in the evening
when Miss Trelawny is watching her father." We still kept to our
arrangement that either the sick man's daughter or I should be on watch
all night. We were to share the duty at the early hours of the morning.
I was anxious about this, for I knew from our conversation that the
Detective would watch in secret himself, and would be particularly alert
about that time.
The day passed uneventfully. Miss Trelawny slept in the afternoon; and
after dinner went to relieve the Nurse. Mrs. Grant remained with her,
Sergeant Daw being on duty in the corridor. Doctor Winchester and I
took our coffee in the library. When we had lit our cigars he said
"Now that we are alone I want to have a confidential talk. We are
'tiled,' of course; for the present at all events?"
"Quite so!" I said, my heart sinking as I thought of my conversation
with Sergeant Daw in the morning, and of the disturbing and harrowing
fears which it had left in my mind. He went on:
"This case is enough to try the sanity of all of us concerned in it.
The more I think of it, the madder I seem to get; and the two lines,
each continually strengthened, seem to pull harder in opposite
"What two lines?" He looked at me keenly for a moment before replying.
Doctor Winchester's look at such moments was apt to be disconcerting.
It would have been so to me had I had a personal part, other than my
interest in Miss Trelawny, in the matter. As it was, however, I stood
it unruffled. I was now an attorney in the case; an amicus curiae in
one sense, in another retained for the defence. The mere thought that
in this clever man's mind were two lines, equally strong and opposite,
was in itself so consoling as to neutralise my anxiety as to a new
attack. As he began to speak, the Doctor's face wore an inscrutable
smile; this, however, gave place to a stern gravity as he proceeded:
"Two lines: Fact and–-Fancy! In the first there is this whole thing;
attacks, attempts at robbery and murder; stupefyings; organised
catalepsy which points to either criminal hypnotism and thought
suggestion, or some simple form of poisoning unclassified yet in our
toxicology. In the other there is some influence at work which is not
classified in any book that I know--outside the pages of romance. I
never felt in my life so strongly the truth of Hamlet's words:
'There are more things in Heaven and earth...
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.'
"Let us take the 'Fact' side first. Here we have a man in his home;
amidst his own household; plenty of servants of different classes in the
house, which forbids the possibility of an organised attempt made from
the servants' hall. He is wealthy, learned, clever. From his
physiognomy there is no doubting that he is a man of iron will and
determined purpose. His daughter--his only child, I take it, a young
girl bright and clever--is sleeping in the very next room to his. There
is seemingly no possible reason for expecting any attack or disturbance
of any kind; and no reasonable opportunity for any outsider to effect
it. And yet we have an attack made; a brutal and remorseless attack,
made in the middle of the night. Discovery is made quickly; made with
that rapidity which in criminal cases generally is found to be not
accidental, but of premeditated intent. The attacker, or attackers, are
manifestly disturbed before the completion of their work, whatever their
ultimate intent may have been. And yet there is no possible sign of
their escape; no clue, no disturbance of anything; no open door or
window; no sound. Nothing whatever to show who had done the deed, or
even that a deed has been done; except the victim, and his surroundings
incidental to the deed!
"The next night a similar attempt is made, though the house is full of
wakeful people; and though there are on watch in the room and around it
a detective officer, a trained nurse, an earnest friend, and the man's
own daughter. The nurse is thrown into a catalepsy, and the watching
friend--though protected by a respirator--into a deep sleep. Even the
detective is so far overcome with some phase of stupor that he fires off
his pistol in the sick-room, and can't even tell what he thought he was
firing at. That respirator of yours is the only thing that seems to
have a bearing on the 'fact' side of the affair. That you did not lose
your head as the others did--the effect in such case being in proportion
to the amount of time each remained in the room--points to the
probability that the stupefying medium was not hypnotic, whatever else
it may have been. But again, there is a fact which is contradictory.
Miss Trelawny, who was in the room more than any of you--for she was in
and out all the time and did her share of permanent watching also--did
not seem to be affected at all. This would show that the influence,
whatever it is, does not affect generally--unless, of course, it was that
she was in some way inured to it. If it should turn out that it be some
strange exhalation from some of those Egyptian curios, that might
account for it; only, we are then face to face with the fact that Mr.
Trelawny, who was most of all in the room--who, in fact, lived more than
half his life in it--was affected worst of all. What kind of influence
could it be which would account for all these different and
contradictory effects? No! the more I think of this form of the
dilemma, the more I am bewildered! Why, even if it were that the
attack, the physical attack, on Mr. Trelawny had been made by some one
residing in the house and not within the sphere of suspicion, the
oddness of the stupefyings would still remain a mystery. It is not easy
to put anyone into a catalepsy. Indeed, so far as is known yet in
science, there is no way to achieve such an object at will. The crux of
the whole matter is Miss Trelawny, who seems to be subject to none of
the influences, or possibly of the variants of the same influence at
work. Through all she goes unscathed, except for that one slight
semi-faint. It is most strange!"
I listened with a sinking heart; for, though his manner was not
illuminative of distrust, his argument was disturbing. Although it was
not so direct as the suspicion of the Detective, it seemed to single out
Miss Trelawny as different from all others concerned; and in a mystery
to be alone is to be suspected, ultimately if not immediately. I
thought it better not to say anything. In such a case silence is indeed
golden; and if I said nothing now I might have less to defend, or
explain, or take back later. I was, therefore, secretly glad that his
form of putting his argument did not require any answer from me--for the
present, at all events. Doctor Winchester did not seem to expect any
answer--a fact which, when I recognised it, gave me pleasure, I hardly
knew why. He paused for a while, sitting with his chin in his hand, his
eyes staring at vacancy, whilst his brows were fixed. His cigar was
held limp between his fingers; he had apparently forgotten it. In an
even voice, as though commencing exactly where he had left off, he
resumed his argument:
"The other horn of the dilemma is a different affair altogether; and if
we once enter on it we must leave everything in the shape of science and
experience behind us. I confess that it has its fascinations for me;
though at every new thought I find myself romancing in a way that makes
me pull up suddenly and look facts resolutely in the face. I sometimes
wonder whether the influence or emanation from the sick-room at times
affects me as it did the others--the Detective, for instance. Of course
it may be that if it is anything chemical, any drug, for example, in
vaporeal form, its effects may be cumulative. But then, what could
there be that could produce such an effect? The room is, I know, full
of mummy smell; and no wonder, with so many relics from the tomb, let
alone the actual mummy of that animal which Silvio attacked. By the
way, I am going to test him tomorrow; I have been on the trace of a
mummy cat, and am to get possession of it in the morning. When I bring
it here we shall find out if it be a fact that racial instinct can
survive a few thousand years in the grave. However, to get back to the
subject in hand. These very mummy smells arise from the presence of
substances, and combinations of substances, which the Egyptian priests,
who were the learned men and scientists of their time, found by the
experience of centuries to be strong enough to arrest the natural forces
of decay. There must be powerful agencies at work to effect such a
purpose; and it is possible that we may have here some rare substance or
combination whose qualities and powers are not understood in this later
and more prosaic age. I wonder if Mr. Trelawny has any knowledge, or
even suspicion, of such a kind? I only know this for certain, that a
worse atmosphere for a sick chamber could not possibly be imagined; and
I admire the courage of Sir James Frere in refusing to have anything to
do with a case under such conditions. These instructions of Mr.
Trelawny to his daughter, and from what you have told me, the care with
which he has protected his wishes through his solicitor, show that he
suspected something, at any rate. Indeed, it would almost seem as if he
expected something to happen... I wonder if it would be possible to
learn anything about that! Surely his papers would show or suggest
something... It is a difficult matter to tackle; but it might have to
be done. His present condition cannot go on for ever; and if anything
should happen there would have to be an inquest. In such case full
examination would have to be made into everything... As it stands,
the police evidence would show a murderous attack more than once
repeated. As no clue is apparent, it would be necessary to seek one in
He was silent. The last words seemed to come in a lower and lower tone
as he went on. It had the effect of hopelessness. It came to me as a
conviction that now was my time to find out if he had any definite
suspicion; and as if in obedience to some command, I asked:
"Do you suspect anyone?" He seemed in a way startled rather than
surprised as he turned his eyes on me:
"Suspect anyone? Any thing, you mean. I certainly suspect that there
is some influence; but at present my suspicion is held within such
limit. Later on, if there be any sufficiently definite conclusion to my
reasoning, or my thinking--for there are not proper data for reasoning--I
may suspect; at present however--"
He stopped suddenly and looked at the door. There was a faint sound as
the handle turned. My own heart seemed to stand still. There was over
me some grim, vague apprehension. The interruption in the morning, when
I was talking with the Detective, came back upon me with a rush.
The door opened, and Miss Trelawny entered the room.
When she saw us, she started back; and a deep flush swept her face. For
a few seconds she paused; at such a time a few succeeding seconds seem
to lengthen in geometrical progression. The strain upon me, and, as I
could easily see, on the Doctor also, relaxed as she spoke:
"Oh, forgive me, I did not know that you were engaged. I was looking
for you, Doctor Winchester, to ask you if I might go to bed tonight
with safety, as you will be here. I feel so tired and worn-out that I
fear I may break down; and tonight I would certainly not be of any
use." Doctor Winchester answered heartily:
"Do! Do go to bed by all means, and get a good night's sleep. God
knows! you want it. I am more than glad you have made the suggestion,
for I feared when I saw you tonight that I might have you on my hands a
She gave a sigh of relief, and the tired look seemed to melt from her
face. Never shall I forget the deep, earnest look in her great,
beautiful black eyes as she said to me:
"You will guard Father tonight, won't you, with Doctor Winchester? I
am so anxious about him that every second brings new fears. But I am
really worn-out; and if I don't get a good sleep, I think I shall go
mad. I will change my room for tonight. I'm afraid that if I stay so
close to Father's room I shall multiply every sound into a new terror.
But, of course, you will have me waked if there be any cause. I shall
be in the bedroom of the little suite next the boudoir off the hall. I
had those rooms when first I came to live with Father, and I had no care
then... It will be easier to rest there; and perhaps for a few hours
I may forget. I shall be all right in the morning. Good-night!"
When I had closed the door behind her and come back to the little table
at which we had been sitting, Doctor Winchester said:
"That poor girl is overwrought to a terrible degree. I am delighted
that she is to get a rest. It will be life to her; and in the morning
she will be all right. Her nervous system is on the verge of a
breakdown. Did you notice how fearfully disturbed she was, and how red
she got when she came in and found us talking? An ordinary thing like
that, in her own house with her own guests, wouldn't under normal
circumstances disturb her!"
I was about to tell him, as an explanation in her defence, how her
entrance was a repetition of her finding the Detective and myself alone
together earlier in the day, when I remembered that that conversation
was so private that even an allusion to it might be awkward in evoking
curiosity. So I remained silent.
We stood up to go to the sick-room; but as we took our way through the
dimly-lighted corridor I could not help thinking, again and again, and
again--ay, and for many a day after--how strange it was that she had
interrupted me on two such occasions when touching on such a theme.
There was certainly some strange web of accidents, in whose meshes we
were all involved.