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Chapter Thirty-Four

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« on: September 30, 2023, 10:33:16 am »

WHEN SERGEANT Abbott had departed Miss Silver glanced at her watch. A quarter to seven! She was afraid Miss Janice Meade---such a charming girl---must have returned to Prior's End. That poor Miss Madoc could not, of course, be left alone for long. A very sad position for her, poor thing---very sad indeed---but perhaps the clouds would lift.

With these thoughts in her mind she opened the glass door into the garden and looked out. A lovely evening, really very mild, but it would not be so warm later on. As she stood there, the door in the wall was opened and Garth and Janice came through.

Agreeably surprised, Miss Silver went to meet them. She addressed herself to Janice.

"I was afraid that I would miss you. If it is not too late, I should be glad of a few words with you."

Whilst she spoke she was aware that something must have occurred between these two young people. It was plain that they walked on air. Janice came back from a long way off to answer her question. With deepened colour she murmured that she was staying to supper.

"Miss Madoc has an old friend with her. She is staying the night, so I am really not needed. Did you say you wanted to see me?"

"If you can spare the time," said Miss Silver, and carried her off.

When they were in the study and the door was shut, she said, "I am afraid this may not be a very good moment, but there is no time to waste. Will you do your best---your very best, my dear---to recall just what Mr. Harsch said to you on that Tuesday evening. There may be something that we have missed. There may be something which seemed unimportant at the time, but which might appear significant in the light of what has happened since. Just throw your mind back and tell me everything you can remember."

Janice looked at her with startled eyes. It was a long way back from the place where she and Garth had been---all the distance between life and death. She felt a little dazed. Perhaps it was because of this that her answer did not meet the question. She said in a stumbling voice, "I---don't---know. Miss Madoc said---but that wasn't on Tuesday----"

"What was not on Tuesday?"

"Something he said to Miss Madoc---but it was on Monday, after he was so late getting back from Marbury. I don't think I told you."

"What was it, Miss Janice?"

"It sounds silly. I don't know why I thought of it just now. Miss Madoc told me, and she spoke of it again today---she was telling her friend about it. She thought it was a warning. Mr. Harsch came back very late because he had missed the train which connects with the bus, and he had had to walk from the Halt. Miss Madoc said he looked dreadful, and he said he had seen a ghost."

"Dear me!" said Miss Silver mildly. "And what did he mean by that?"

"I don't know. She didn't like to ask him, and he didn't say any more, but she thought he had seen something when he was coming across the fields, and she thought it was a warning."

"And did he say nothing to you?"

Janice shook her head.

"I was working with Mr. Madoc. I didn't really see him till Tuesday evening---not to talk about anything like that."

"But on Tuesday evening, when he was talking to you---did he say nothing then?"

Janice sat up straight.

"I don't know---I didn't think about it . . . Oh----"

"You have remembered something?"

"I don't know. He said---he was talking about coming over here and making a new life when the old one had been destroyed. He said, 'You say such things are dead and buried and the door is shut---you think that it will never open again. And then all at once some day you find it is open and someone standing there like a ghost.' And then he said, 'But we will not talk of things like that---it is not good. You may come to fancy something that is not there, and to see your own thoughts. That is not good.'"

"What do you think he meant by that?"

Janice looked at her.

"I thought something had reminded him of the things he didn't want to remember. I said, 'Don't think about it any more', and he said, 'No---it is not wise---and besides I am not sure.'" She clasped her hands and leaned forward. "Do you think that something happened when he was in Marbury---something that reminded him?"

Miss Silver said, "In Marbury---yes---" She paused and repeated, "In Marbury----" Then, very quickly, "Did he say any more than that?"

"No, he didn't."

"Did he say anything about Marbury---anything at all to you?"

"Not after that. But before---oh, when we were having tea, I think it was---I asked how he had got on, and he said, 'I missed my train, and so I missed my bus.' I said, 'How did you do that?' and he said, 'I could not make up my mind. That is a very bad fault. I thought I would have some tea because I was tired and thirsty, so I went into a bad hotel which is called the Ram, and I am no sooner in than I come out again, and I have forgotten all about my tea and I miss my train.' No, it wasn't when we were having tea---it was later on, after he had put through his telephone call to Sir George. And then he went on to talk about coming away from Germany. He said it was like shutting a door and you thought it would never open again, but you couldn't be sure. He repeated that in rather an odd sort of way---'You can't ever be sure.'"

Miss Silver sat in silence for a moment. Then she said,

"Did he mention seeing anyone he knew in Marbury---anyone at all?"

"He saw Bush---I do know that, though it wasn't Mr. Harsch who told me. It was Mrs. Bush. She said Bush had gone over to see his sister who is married to an ironmonger in Ramford Street. She said he saw Mr. Harsch, so I suppose Mr. Harsch saw him."

"Dear me!" said Miss Silver. "And is the Ram in Ramford Street?"

"Yes, it is---and very nearly opposite the shop. But quite a lot of Bourne people were in Marbury that afternoon. Miss Doncaster went over because someone told her you could get suet there, but she couldn't find any and she came back frightfully cross. And Mr. Everton was over too. As a matter of fact he goes over quite often. They have all the best films, you know, and he is a tremendous fan. But how I know he was there on Monday is that Ida Mottram told me he got a new valve for her wireless."

"Yes, she told me that too. And was Mr. Madoc also in Marbury?"

Janice looked startled. She said, "Oh!" And then, "I don't know where he was."

"You mean that he was not at home?"

Janice went on looking startled.

"No, he wasn't. He went out after lunch on his bicycle, and he didn't come home until well after seven."

"And the distance to Marbury is, I believe, no more than twenty miles by road---he could have been there?"

Janice said, "I suppose he could." And then, "But, Miss Silver, none of these people had anything to do with Mr. Harsch's past. I mean, he wouldn't have called any of them a ghost, would he? He wouldn't have meant any of them when he talked about an opening door."

Miss Silver said soberly, "No, he wouldn't have meant any of them. But I think perhaps the door he spoke of opened in the Ram, and it is possible that one of them was there."

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