Eternity Ring | Chapter 14 of 52

Author: Patricia Wentworth | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 1005 Views | Add a Review

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ELEVEN

FRANK ABBOTT CAME in late, the net result of a long afternoon’s work being a number of fingerprints from the interior of the Forester’s House, most of them from the room where the window had been blocked and the settle drawn up to the hearth. The prints were those of two people, a man and a woman—some of them from the passage, but nearly all from the one closed room. Upstairs no prints at all—no sign that anyone had trodden the old dust.

‘It’s clear enough that two people have been meeting in that room. They’ve been coming in the same way we did, and they haven’t bothered about the rest of the house. That’s as plain as a pikestaff. There are no other prints of anyone at all, so it looks as if either there wasn’t any murder, or as if the man did it. I wondered about a jealousy motive—the one-man-two-women triangle. What do you think about that? Suppose Louise Rogers was an old flame of the man’s and butted in on his rendezvous—one of those French words which the Chief dislikes so much—he might do her in to prevent Mary knowing, or Mary do her in out of jealousy. Only if she was there, how did she contrive not to leave any prints? I suppose the answer would be that she was wearing gloves.’

He stood by the fire looking down at Miss Silver on her low chair. They had the morning-room to themselves in the half hour before dinner. She looked up across her knitting.

‘If she was killed in that house, there would surely be stains, or some traces of their having been removed.’

He leaned an elbow on the mantelpiece. ‘I know—I know. But the passage had been swept—there was a birch broom in the kitchen. Smith’s taken it back with him to see if they can get any traces off it. There are no signs of the flags having been washed—Smith is prepared to swear that they haven’t.’

Miss Silver coughed.

‘What about the sacks in front of the hearth in that room?’

‘No sign of a bloodstain.’ He hesitated for a moment. ‘There’s just one thing—it’s probably negligible—’

‘I shall be interested to hear what it is,’ said Miss Silver.

‘You know that passage between the kitchen and the front door—on the right there is the stone wall, and on the left the panelled side of the stair. Well, fairly high up on the panelling there is just one dark stain which might be blood—fairly recent and soaked down into the wood. Smith has taken a scraping, so we shall know more about it by tomorrow, and then we shall have to find out whether the woman’s prints were made by Mary Stokes.’

Miss Silver’s needles clicked rapidly.

‘Did you find any more of her footprints?’

He bent down to put a log on the fire.

‘Oh, yes—there were half a dozen more. She must have run right through the wood just about as hard as she could pelt—there’s no doubt about that. And, you know, it looks to me as if she didn’t bolt like that for fun. A pretty tough young woman who has been making a habit of meeting a man in a place like the Forester’s House doesn’t act like a scared rabbit for nothing. I say she’s been making a habit of meeting someone there, because she left far too many fingerprints for a single visit. They’re all over the place—on the door that was blocking the window, all round the hearth and chimney-piece as if she had been making up the fire, and on both sides of the door. Something unusual must have taken place, or she’d never have bolted like that. And anyhow, where is Louise Rogers?’

Miss Silver coughed.

‘And the missing earring, Frank.’

He bent a look of cold exasperation on her.

‘For the matter of that, they’re both missing,’ he said. ‘And so is she. And it’s a week today since she walked out of Mrs Hopper’s room and never came back.’

Next day being Saturday, Mary Stokes delivered eggs and butter at the three houses whose back gates opened upon the Lane. Since she neither drove a car nor possessed a bicycle she had to make these deliveries on foot, and regular exercise in the open air being one of the things recommended by Dr Wingfield, Mrs Stokes made no bones about keeping her up to it—not that Mary appeared at all disinclined to go. Just how she managed to take so much time over her errands, Mrs Stokes never quite made out, but she was an easy-tempered woman and supposed that it was dull for the girl on the farm, and that she would be talking with the maids and perhaps get invited in for an elevens. Mrs Abbott had those two nice girls under Mrs Mayhew—sisters they were, from the other side of Lenton. And there would be Mrs Caddle at the Grange garage, which you had to pass to get in from the Lane. Not that she’d be Mary’s sort at the best of times, and a very peter-grievous poor thing these days by all accounts, but perhaps a word with Mary would cheer her up—you never could tell. And there was always Mrs Green and her daughter up at the House, doing for Mr Harlow like they did for his uncle. Nice steady women the both of them, but of course too old for Mary—Mrs Green in her sixties, and Lizzie forty odd. She did wish there were more girls of her age for Mary to be friends with, but what with her having such high notions and thinking nobody good enough—well, it wasn’t too easy.

Continuing up the Lane in her mind, Mrs Stokes arrived at Deepside. Mrs Barton, the housekeeper there, was a friend of her own and as nice a woman as ever stepped. Been there thirty years, and nursed the old gentleman to the end. And a blessing for Mr Grant Hathaway to have such a dependable person in the house, with Miss Cicely running home the way she done. And to be hoped it would all come right—young people like that with their life before them. Mrs Barton didn’t speak about it of course, but you could tell how it troubled her. That girl Agnes Croft, the house-parlourmaid, she wasn’t Mary’s sort either. Come to think of it, she wasn’t much anyone’s sort. Good at her work—Mrs Barton hadn’t a word to say about that. One of those moody girls, if you could call her a girl, which she must be up in her thirties, and plain at that. No notion of making anything of herself either. Not that she held with all the stuff girls put on their faces these days, but you got used to it, and there was no getting from it, it did brighten them up. That Agnes now, she’d a good figure and good hair—if you liked it as straight as a horse’s tail. But that sallow skin and those dark eyes, and the way she stared at you—well, Mrs Barton could have her. She would rather a dozen times put up with Mary, airs and tempers and all.

Frank Abbott took an early train from Lenton. ‘Business’ was all he told Monica Abbott. To Miss Silver he was more communicative.

‘I want to know if they’ve routed out anything more about Louise Rogers, and I want to see the Chief. So far I haven’t been able to raise anything this end. If she came to Lenton by train, nobody noticed her there. It’s a busy station, and of course she may have just passed in a crowd, especially if it was getting on towards dusk. But how did she get out to Deeping? It’s all of four miles. Do you suppose for a moment that she walked it in the dark?’

‘She would not do that.’

‘And how would she know the way? No, that’s out. And she certainly didn’t come by bus. Everyone in Deeping has heard Mary’s story by now—they’d be tumbling over one another if any of them had come out from Lenton in the same bus as a mysterious stranger with diamond earrings. No, if she ever came at all she must have come by car. And where is the car? You see, whichever way you look at it, it all goes up in smoke. I’ve got an advertisement in the county paper and the little Lenton rag today. I can’t do anything more down here till I get those results from Smith. It’s practically certain that the woman’s fingerprints are Mary’s, but I want to put it to them at the Yard, “Where do we go from there?” You see, it’s all very awkward. The Yard isn’t concerned with her morals, so how hard am I to press her about this story of hers? There isn’t really a shred of evidence to connect her with Louise Rogers. I’ve been thinking about that a lot, and I’m going to put it up to the Chief. She ran away from that house in a fright, but we don’t know what frightened her. She’s the sort of girl who might enjoy working a chap up until he lost his head—it happens every day. Then she’s frightened and bolts. When she has to explain herself she can’t say what happened, so she pitches a tale. The only solitary link with Louise is that blighted earring, and you know there’s an easy explanation for that. We don’t know where Louise went last Friday. It’s not impossible that Mary may have seen her and remembered the earrings. A lot of people go through Lenton, you know. Mary may have seen her there any time. If the earrings took her fancy, she’d remember them. When she wanted a story in a hurry, and an exciting one, don’t you think it’s the sort of thing she might fish up? Anyhow I’m going to put it up to the Chief and see what he says. What will you do with yourself?’

Miss Silver said primly,

‘I shall walk into the village and call on Miss Grey. There is a book she has promised to lend me.’

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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