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Our Library => Patricia Wentworth - The Watersplash (1954) => Topic started by: Admin on June 18, 2023, 10:32:21 am



Title: Chapter Twenty-Eight
Post by: Admin on June 18, 2023, 10:32:21 am
“I REALLY do not see why I should have to answer any more questions, Inspector Abbott.”

Miss Mildred Blake sat stiffly upright on an old-fashioned chair with a long straight back and a small unyielding seat. She was engaged in darning the right elbow of a very old black cardigan already converted into a kind of patchwork by a series of previous repairs. She held her needle poised as she spoke, and looked at Frank with severity.

Miss Ora was regarding him in quite a different manner. Personable young men were an agreeable change. There had been a time when she had attracted them, and though of course it would have been very inconvenient to have to keep house and look after children, she did sometimes regret that she had never been able to make up her mind between Cyril Jones and George Norton. She had liked Cyril the best, but he had got tired of waiting and married a horrid dark girl who played badminton. She frowned at the recollection, but she smiled upon Frank Abbott.

“It must be very tiresome for you having to go round asking a lot of questions which people don’t want to answer.”

Miss Mildred stabbed her darn with an angry needle.

Really, Ora---I haven’t the slightest objection to answering any necessary question. But since Inspector Bury has already been here twice, once by himself, and once with this other Inspector, I fail to see----”

Frank’s cool gaze rested upon her. Now why all this heat? If she could have run the needle into him, it would have given her a good deal of pleasure. He said,

“I won’t keep you any longer than I can help. There is just a small matter which I hope you may be able to clear up.”

“I have already told you that I know very little about Miss Dean.”

“I realize that. But this has nothing to do with her. Mrs. Ball tells me that you were at a sewing-party in the Vicarage on Friday week.”

“Certainly. I am most regular in my attendance.”

“Mrs. Ball says that the party broke up soon after ten o’clock, but that you had left rather earlier as you wanted to have a word with Mr. Arnold Random, who was in the church playing the organ.”

“Yes. He always practises on Friday evenings.”

“You went over to the church to speak to him. I suppose you took the direct path from the Vicarage?”

“Of course.”

“When you reached the church, was he still playing?”

“No. He was beginning to put the music away.”

“He was alone?”

“Naturally. The organ has been supplied with electricity from the Hall—there is no need for a blower now. It used to be most inconvenient. Fanny Stubbs was the last one we had, and she was most unreliable.”

“I see. Then you are quite sure that Mr. Random was alone in the church?”

She gave him her hard black stare.

“Of course I am sure!”

“How long did you stay, Miss Blake?”

“A few minutes. Mr. Random was putting things away. Then he locked up and we went home.”

“Together?”

“As far as this house---yes.”

“Did you fall in with any of the ladies who were coming away from the work-party?”

“No---it was too early.”

He said, “Past ten o’clock?”

She had a grim smile for that.

“You have never watched a church work-party break up. Mrs. Ball provides tea and cake, and there is a lot of chatter. As far as I am concerned, I pack up my work and go, but she is lucky if she gets rid of most of them by a quarter-past ten, and I have seen Miss Sims come home after the half-hour. The smaller the village, the more there is to say, you know.”

Miss Ora fingered the pink edge of her shawl.

“Very interesting things can happen in a village,” she said. “And you get to know about them, which of course is what makes them so interesting. Now, in a big town you can live next door to someone and never know a thing about them. I remember poor Papa used to say that if you could take the roof off every house in Embank, a lot of people would have to leave the place and change their names. You know, Inspector, even when someone is living in the same house like Clarice Dean you don’t really know what is going on---do you? Why, we didn’t even know she was out of the house the night she was drowned---but girls always do slip out. It wasn’t the first time, I suppose, and of course she didn’t know it was going to be the last.”

“You think she had been slipping out at night?”

Miss Ora’s blue eyes widened.

“Oh, I expect so. She was crazy about Edward Random, you know.”

Miss Mildred said, “Ora----” in a repressive tone. A frown drew her brows together until they made a straight black line above the jutting nose. She looked Frank Abbott in the face and said,

“Since you insist on asking all these questions, you may as well have the truth. What my sister says is true---Miss Dean was making a dead set at Edward Random. I do not pretend to know when the affair began, or how far it had gone, but I believe he was already sick of it, and it would have been better if she had been warned in time. But that sort of girl never is, and they haven’t the sense to see that it really isn’t safe to go on. I have known Edward Random since he was a child. His temper has always been a difficult one, and since his mysterious and unexplained absence, which I suppose you have heard about, he has really been what I can only call morose. In fact the last man to play tricks with. But her pursuit of him was shameless. And now, Inspector Abbott, I must really ask you to go.”

Frank went.

As soon as he had left the house Miss Mildred rang up Mr. Arnold Random. To his rather weary “Hullo?” she responded briskly.

“It is I, Arnold. The Inspector from Scotland Yard has just been here to ask about my coming over to speak to you in the church on Friday week. He wanted to know whether you were alone there. Such an extraordinary idea! I can’t think what can have put it into his head. Of course I told him just what happened---that you had finished playing and were putting away the music---that we talked for a minute or two and then locked up and came away together. You remember the work-party at the Vicarage had not broken up, so we did not see anyone as we came along the street. You are, of course, in a position to confirm all this. Really, police officers are most intrusive, but I suppose they have their duty to do, and of course we all wish the whole matter to be satisfactorily cleared up.”

At the other end of the line Arnold Random stared blankly at the opposite wall and said, “Of course.”