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19: Chemical Analysis

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« on: August 09, 2023, 11:13:31 am »

CAMPION was out when French called, but he was expected at any moment, and French was shown into the consulting-room to wait. It was not the first time he had called on a doctor to suggest that the latter had been professionally remiss, and these interviews had never been happy. Campion, however, seemed a sensible sort of man and he would probably be able to see something besides his own dignity.

The servant’s expectations were justified, and French had not waited more than five minutes when the doctor appeared. He seemed surprised to see French, but greeted him civilly enough.

“I wanted a word with you, sir, but I’m not in a hurry and can wait if the present is not convenient.”

As French had hoped, this mild beginning appeared to impress Campion favourably. He sat down and said that in all business there was no time like the present.

“It’s rather a serious matter,” French went on. “A certain suspicion has been aroused in my mind by the events which I’ve been investigating, and I wanted to consult you about it before proceeding any further. I may say that I have mentioned my idea to no one except Superintendent Sheaf of Farnham, and that only in the strictest confidence. There is no question therefore of any whisper of the thing having got out.”

“That’s a good mysterious beginning,” Campion returned. “What’s it all about?”

“I’ll tell you, sir. It’s about the late Mr. Frazer, of Polperro. Not to beat about the bush, may I ask you, are you, and were you at all times, quite satisfied as to the death of Mr. Frazer?”

Campion stared. “Satisfied?” he repeated. “What do you mean by that? Explain yourself.”

“I mean, doctor, satisfied in your own mind as to the cause of death?”

Campion continued to stare. “Even now, inspector,” he said slowly, “I’m not sure that I’ve entirely grasped your meaning. Are you suggesting that I gave a certificate the correctness of which I doubted?”

“No, sir,” French answered promptly. “I’m not questioning your good faith for a moment. But you know as well as I that many a certificate has been signed in the best of good faith, which owing to later information has proved not entirely correct.”

Campion made a gesture of irritation. “For goodness sake, inspector, get down to it. What are you questioning? Are you suggesting the certificate was wrong?”

“Not necessarily, sir. I’m coming to you, as the doctor in charge of the case, to ask your opinion and advice upon certain suspicious circumstances which have come to my knowledge, but which may not have come to yours.”

Campion looked bewildered as well as exasperated. “As I said, you’re very mysterious. What are these suspicious circumstances you speak of?”

“The first one is---and this is where I want your opinion and advice---the first one is that the death had all the symptoms of arsenical poisoning. Now tell me, doctor, am I right or wrong in that?”

A light seemed to dawn on Campion. “Oh, so that’s it, is it? Poison, no less.” He laughed shortly. “I’m afraid, inspector, you’ve allowed your calling to run away with your imagination.” Then more gravely: “But that’s a very serious suggestion you’re making. I take it you’re not by any chance pulling my leg?”

“I’m afraid the matter is serious, sir,” French said directly. “At all events I should like an answer to my question.”

For the first time Campion seemed impressed. “Well, I take it you wouldn’t say that unless you had something to back it up. It’s a very nasty suggestion.” He paused, then went on: “As to the symptoms, of course they were like those of arsenical poisoning. That is because Frazer had gastro-enteritis. Everyone knows the symptoms are similar. But that’s a very different thing from saying the man was poisoned.”

“Quite so: I appreciate that, doctor. But I should like to ask this, Was there any symptom inconsistent with death from arsenical poisoning?”

Campion sat back in his chair and squared his shoulders. “The man was suffering from gastroenteritis,” he said firmly, “and had been for a considerable time. He died from gastroenteritis, plus old age and a weak heart. There were no symptoms inconsistent with death from arsenical poisoning: there aren’t in that disease. But as I said before, that’s no reason to suspect poisoning. Why”---he warmed to his subject---“the whole idea is ludicrous. Do you mean seriously to tell me that there’s no such disease as gastro-enteritis? That everyone who is supposed to have died from it was poisoned with arsenic? Because that’s really what you’re arguing. Unless”---his manner changed suddenly---“you’ve got some further information up your sleeve. Have you?”

French shrugged. “My other points are really confidential,” he returned. “Just as I came to you about the symptoms and kept this point secret from everyone except the super, so I do not think it fair to discuss with you what may concern other people. But two points you can see for yourself. The first is that Mr. Frazer was wealthy and had to leave his money to someone; the second, that mysterious death has overtaken two of the persons concerned with that illness. Come now, doctor, you can see for yourself that without mentioning names or other facts, of which there are a few, that I am justified in making enquiries. In any case the matter is out of my hands; Superintendent Sheaf has agreed it must be gone into.”

Campion was visibly impressed. “That’s all very disquieting, inspector,” he said anxiously, “very disquieting indeed. If you’re right, it means that I’ve given a false certificate. Not a very pleasant thing to contemplate. But I can’t and don’t believe it. I need scarcely say such an idea never for a moment occurred to me, and looking back now, I can’t see anything about the case in the slightest degree suspicious.” He moved uneasily. “The idea’s damnable. But I don’t believe it; not for a moment. You’re on the wrong track; unless you know a darned sight more than you’ve told me.”

Campion paused, then before French could speak, went on again. “And there’s another thing. Dr. Earle saw Mr. Frazer twice---the last time just two days before he died---and Dr. Earle was satisfied. If he had had the slightest doubt he would have raised the question. He would never have allowed the burial to take place if he had suspected poison. The same applies to the two nurses.” He sat back as if relieved. “No, inspector, I’m afraid this time you’re barking up the wrong tree. Besides, who would do such a thing? No one!”

French gave a crooked smile. “Now you’re going a bit too fast for me,” he declared. “I’ve not gone to the length of considering possible criminals. But I suppose I may take it from your question that poison is not impossible?”

“My God!” Campion cried, twisting about in his chair and striking the table a heavy blow with his fist, “of course it’s not impossible! But there was no evidence and is no evidence that it was anything but gastro-enteritis. I said gastro-enteritis in the certificate and I stick to it. There’s no reason to think anything else!”

“I agree, sir,” French declared smoothly, “that at the time there was nothing in any way suspicious. I suppose every other doctor would have acted exactly as you did. But now things are different. Information has been obtained which was not at your disposal, and this information makes all the difference.”

“But bless my soul, inspector, who could have done such a thing? You speak of legatees. But there were only two, Mrs. Frazer and Mr. Gates, and I know them both. And anything more absurd and iniquitous than attributing murder to either, I never heard!”

“I’m very far from attributing murder to either,” French returned. Suddenly it occurred to him to try a bluff and he leant forward and sank his voice impressively. “What about the nurse?” he asked knowingly.

Campion stared and French continued. “Might not the nurse have slipped a little arsenic into the old man’s medicine?”

“But what for?”

“For a consideration. If, for instance, the nurse proves to have come into money, it might be worth tracing where it came from.”

Campion laughed contemptuously. “What about your superintendent?” he asked with heavy sarcasm. “Have you thought of him? If probability’s not to be considered, Sheaf’s as likely as anyone else.”

“The super has an alibi,” French said smoothly. “But seriously, sir, I want any information I can get. You said you knew Mrs. Frazer and Mr. Gates. Do you mind telling me anything you know about them?”

This proved too wide for the mark. French, as conversationally as he could, narrowed his enquiries down.

Campion could not, or would not, tell him much. According to the doctor, Mrs. Frazer had been a model wife. Admittedly Frazer had been sometimes hard to bear; people with stomach troubles were often depressed and cantankerous. She had been unfailingly good to him, and it would be stupid as well as wicked to suspect her of such a crime.

As to the innocence of Gates, which French next touched on, the doctor was equally emphatic. Gates was well known to the doctor. They had met, Campion told him, on many race-courses. Gates was a bit rough in his manner, but as good-hearted as they were made. Campion did not believe he was hard up, as he could have got all the money he wanted because of his expectations.

In the end French left the Red Cottage convinced that Campion might have made a mistake and that the man knew it.

For some time the case dragged. It was indeed nearly a week before French made his next discovery. During that week he was by no means idle. He worked as hard as he knew how trying to pick up information about the Polperro household, and particularly about Mrs. Frazer and Gates. Gates he saw on two occasions, on each seizing the opportunity to have a long chat. But he could learn nothing in the slightest degree helpful.

His next discovery came from a quite different line of enquiry. He had returned to Town on the Saturday, intending on the Monday to start a more complete investigation into Nurse Nankivel’s life, in the rather desperate hope of coming on something which might give a new lead to his ideas. He began by a call at Bryanston Square.

Lady Hazzard herself saw him. She appeared genuinely interested in the nurse and horrified as to her fate. With some eagerness she asked French whether there was any hope of the murderer being brought to justice.

French did not so far know, but trusted this end would be duly attained. In the meantime had anything of the nurse’s been left behind at Bryanston Square?

Only, Lady Hazzard returned, a letter which had come by that morning’s delivery and which she had been about to send to the nursing-home. French, glancing at the address, “Miss H. Nankivel, C/of Brig.-Gen. Sir Ormsby Hazzard, C.M.G., D.S.O.”, said that he was going to the nursing-home and would take it.

Instead of the home, however, he went into Hyde Park, and sitting down on an empty seat, carefully slit open the envelope.

It contained a bill for three guineas from Messrs. Morgan & Winterton, who described themselves as analytical chemists, and whose address was Room 174, Ocean Buildings, Tabbilet Street, W.C.2. There were no items, the charge being merely, “To a/c rendered.”

Tabbilet Street, French knew, was in the neighbourhood of Covent Garden. In two minutes he was in a taxi on his way thither, and in another fifteen he was knocking at Room 174 in Ocean Buildings. Mr. Winterton was disengaged and saw him at once.

“I called, sir,” French began, “in connection with this account,” and he handed over the contents of the envelope.

“Ah yes,” said Winterton, “we shall be glad to have it settled. But how, inspector, has it become a matter for the Yard?”

“I’m afraid, sir,” French returned with a faint smile, “I’ve not come to settle it. Unhappily I am the bearer of bad news. I have to tell you that this Miss H. Nankivel has been the victim of a serious crime; in fact, I may say at once that she has been murdered.”

“Bless my soul!” Winterton exclaimed. “Did I hear you say murdered?” He was tall and thin and curved his long back forward over the table, blinking at French like a draggled old bird.

“I fear so, sir,” French answered. “I am in charge of the case, and I am anxious to get some information from you as to the transaction for which this debt was incurred.”

“Quite so. Very natural. But dear me, murdered! How very dreadful! Very dreadful indeed!” He cleared his throat pompously. “I shall of course place any information I may have at your disposal.”

Presently he came to the point. He sent for a file, turned up a letter, and handed it to French. “We received that on the 30th of September last, as you will see, together with the enclosure. Better read the letter before I go on.”

French did so. It was written in a feminine hand, which French at once recognised as that of the dead nurse. Above the printed legend, “129B, Bryanston Square, W.1”, was written, “C/of Brig.-Gen. Sir Ormsby Hazzard, C.M.G., D.S.O.” It was dated 29th September and read:

“Messrs. Morgan & Winterton,
Analytical Chemists.
“Dear Sirs,
“I send you herewith a small bottle containing a solution, and should be obliged if you would kindly analyse same and let me have a note of the contents. If you let me have your account, I will send the necessary amount.
“Yours faithfully,
“(Miss) H. Nankivel.”

“Yes?” said French.

“We carried out the analysis as requested,” went on Winterton. “Unfortunately the bottle contained too small a quantity of the solution to enable a really accurate quantitative analysis to be made. Our work, however, was very close to the truth. We then wrote the following report.” He delved in his file and handed across another document. It was a carbon copy of the letter and read:

“3rd October.
“Dear Madam,
“In reply to your communication of 29th ult. we have to inform you that we carried out an analysis of the liquid sent us. We regret that the quantity was too small to enable completely accurate results to be obtained, but the figures given on the attached sheet are approximately correct. Trusting that this will meet your requirements,
“We are, etc.,
“Morgan & Winterton.
“per J. W.”

From another file Mr. Winterton handed over an analysis sheet, which French read with an air of profound wisdom, but of which he could make very little.

“I’m not a chemist, Mr. Winterton,” he explained. “Could you not put this result into ordinary language which I could understand?”

Winterton shrugged. “Well,” he said, “I on my part am not a doctor. However, I shall do my best. The liquid seemed to us to be a medicine for indigestion or stomach ulcer or enteritis; something about the stomach, I don’t know what. But it contained one unusual ingredient: an appreciable quantity of arsenic.”

At this French metaphorically sat up and took notice. “That interests me quite a lot, sir,” he declared. “Now if you would kindly tell me the effect of that addition, I should be even more obliged.”

“A doctor could do better than I,” Winterton returned. “Obviously, however, the effect depends on the amount taken.”

“Suppose for argument’s sake it amounted to one whole ordinary-sized bottle.”

Winterton shrugged. “Even that, I’m afraid, is not sufficient information. As you doubtless know, different people have a different tolerance to drugs. The harm done would depend on the constitution of the recipient.”

French, mentally cursing the limitations of the scientific mind, tried again.

“I understand, sir, that you can only speak very generally. Assuming a purely hypothetical case with a normal tolerance to the drug, could you tell me what might be expected?”

“Hypothetically, I believe I’m safe in saying that the arsenic would certainly disagree very seriously with anyone taking it.”

“Would it poison him?” French asked directly.

“That,” the old man replied, “is an extremely difficult question. One dose, I should say, certainly not. The whole bottleful”---he shrugged impressively---“probably.”

“I see, sir. Then did that end the transaction? You sent the analysis to your client. Was there an answer?”

“That most assuredly did not end the transaction,” Winterton declared, and French saw that a ponderous joke was intended. “The transaction will end when we are paid our fee, which, as you know, has not yet been done. You may say, Why did we not demand prepayment? Because of General Hazzard’s name. We checked up on the address as being really his, and felt quite safe. Now if I may ask, inspector”---the old man became solemn once more---“I should like to know something about our client.”

“Your client was a nurse, Mr. Winterton,” French answered. “Her name was Helen Nankivel, and her murdered body was found buried along the new by-pass road near Guildford.”

The bird-like old man was thrilled. He had read the account of the discovery in the papers, but had never connected the “H. Nankivel” of the analysis with the murdered nurse. “If we had had the slightest idea of her identity,” he declared again and again, “we should instantly have communicated with New Scotland Yard! A really dreadful affair, inspector!”

He would have kept French talking about it for hours, but French had other fish to fry. Accordingly, after thanking the old man, he took his leave.

That he was now on to an important link in his case French had no doubt. Though he didn’t see exactly how it worked in, he believed a little thought would show him the connection. But first to make sure of his facts.

On his way back to the Yard he called on Dr. Randal, the police doctor whom he had already consulted about the case.

“Just one question, doctor, if you don’t mind,” he said, laying the analysis down on the consulting-room desk. “I wish you’d tell me what this is.”

Dr. Randal glanced at the paper. Then he shook his head. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “A medicine made up by an imaginative lunatic, I should think. What about it?”

“Might it be an ordinary medicine with one extra ingredient added?”

“Ah,” said Randal, “now you’re talking. Yes, without the arsenic it would be a quite ordinary medicine.”

“For what complaint, doctor?”

“Internal inflammations, stomach troubles, intestinal troubles: anything of that sort.”


“The very thing. You’ll soon be qualifying if you go on like this, French.”

French grinned. “And what would the effect of the addition be?” he persisted.

Dr. Randal practically repeated what Mr. Winterton had told him. Assuming one bottleful of the medicine had been taken, the arsenic, particularly to anyone with a complaint of gastro-enteritis or anything like it, would be a serious matter. One dose would not do a great deal of harm, but the bottleful, even taken in normal doses at normal intervals, would certainly kill. No, there would be no great change in the symptoms, except that these would become more marked. Yes, if such poison were secretly administered, the doctor attending the case might easily give a certificate without the slightest suspicion that all was not right.

“What about the nurse attending the case? Do you think she ought to have been suspicious?”

“My dear man, how in thunder could I tell? It would depend on how the stuff was administered, I mean in what quantity, also on the patient’s health: matters of which you haven’t seen fit to inform me.”

“It’s because I don’t know myself. But what I want to get at is this: Suppose the patient was getting that medicine regularly without arsenic. Then suppose the arsenic was added. Suppose the patient continued to get it regularly. Should the nurse notice a sudden marked difference in the patient from the time the arsenic was put in?”

Dr. Randal did not answer for a moment. “Yes, I think she should,” he said at last. “It’s not easy to be quite sure, as the effect of drugs of this kind is cumulative. Besides, if the patient had been having the usual ups and downs, she might naturally take this as a ‘down’. On the whole, however, I think she should notice something. That, mind you, is a very different thing to saying that she would have become suspicious of poison.”

This was what French expected to hear. The usual indefinite opinion. The nurse might have noticed something, but then again, she mightn’t. That was the way! There was nothing that he could absolutely bite on to and say, “Here is fact!” He had been hoping that the direct question to Nurse Henderson as to whether she had noticed any sudden change in her late patient’s condition, would have told him whether or not the old man had been poisoned. But apparently he had been hoping too much. All the same, to run down to Bramley would only take three or four hours. It would be worth putting the question.

French rose to take his leave, but the doctor motioned him to sit down again. “I’ve read that manuscript you sent me,” he remarked.

“Oh yes,” French returned. “I intended to ask you about it, but with this other thing it slipped my memory. What did you think of it?”

For a moment the doctor did not answer, then he glanced curiously at his visitor. “It’s a very remarkable piece of work, French,” he declared. “I was much impressed!”

French laughed. “That tells me a lot, doesn’t it? Is there anything in it that would impress me?”

Randal did not laugh. “I think there is,” he said seriously. “I want you to take it away from here with you now, and if you take my advice you’ll get an escort with it to the nearest fire and burn it there.”

French stared. “Bless us all, doctor, but you’re mysterious! What’s wrong with the darned thing?”

“Just this,” Randal said grimly. “Do you know that that manuscript is nothing more nor less than a child’s guide to murder? Real murder, murder that could never be found out? It’s a remarkable piece of work; very original and clever, but very dangerous.”

French whistled. Then he swore. Then he asked for further explanations.

“Well,” Dr. Randal answered, “it’s very simple---to talk about. This Earle has found a way of simplifying the making of cultures---cultures of the bacilli of fatal diseases---so as to bring this within the reach of any intelligent layman. With this book in his hand practically anyone could produce a serum which when injected would cause death; death, that is, through the ordinary medium of disease. How the disease was contracted would no doubt remain a puzzle, but there would be nothing to arouse suspicion.”

“Good Lord, doctor! But how could such a book be published?”

“That’s more than I can tell you. But do you know Earle meant to publish it?”

“Well, there’s not much use in writing a book just for the fun of it.”

“I’m not so sure,” the doctor said slowly. “People do queer things. However, didn’t Earle take precautions it shouldn’t get into anyone else’s hands? I think you mentioned something of that kind?”

French slapped his thigh. “You’ve got it, doctor! I never thought of it! That’s what the safe was for. You know, he had a secret safe hidden behind oak panelling. Regular medieval affair with sliding panel and all the rest of it. As secret as you like. And behind the panel a modern steel safe. That’s it!”

“That’s it, as you so truly say. The man would recognise that he had only to be a bit careless with his keys, and an ordinary safe would become no further protection. The secret panel idea was good, and in my opinion justified.”

Here was the answer to one of those minor problems which had worried French in his conduct of the case. He had been bothered as to whether, owing to the time at which the safe had been put in, Earle’s disappearance had been due to some long-standing secret. Now this was cleared up. The safe had been put in to hold the manuscript, and the manuscript had nothing to do with Earle’s decease. Presumably he had simply taken advantage of the existence of this very secret receptacle---the only really safe place in the house---to hide the proofs of Frazer’s murder.

With an effort French switched his thoughts back to his motive in calling on Dr. Randal. The death of Frazer! His next step was to see that nurse at Bramley. Well, he must get on with it.

He travelled down to Bramley, found Nurse Henderson, and put his question. “Tell me,” he said, “did you notice any more or less sudden change in the old man’s condition? Suppose he had been going on on what I might call a certain level of ill health, did he suddenly drop to a lower level and continue on it? Tell me anything you can about his variations of health.”

The nurse didn’t know that she could do that. As she was sure the inspector knew, invalids were variable in health. They had good days and bad. There was no accounting for these changes.

“You can’t remember the changes in the case of Mr. Frazer?”

She was afraid not. Mr. Frazer had been going on on the level, as the inspector had put it, and he certainly had suddenly changed for the worse. Then he had seemed to go rapidly down the hill, and his death followed quickly.

This was more than French had expected. He thought quickly, then very impressively swore the girl to silence.

“Suppose,” he said, “that Mr. Frazer had been given a course of arsenic, would that account for his varying condition?”

Nurse Henderson was very much excited and upset at the idea. At first she denied the possibility of poison, then gradually came round to the idea and admitted that French’s suggestion might well be the truth.

“Was Mr. Frazer quite clear mentally up to the end?”

“He was as clear as you or I till he got that change for the worse. After that he got duller and finally became unconscious.”

“Clear, that is, until he was given the poison---if my suspicion is correct. Tell me, nurse, who dispensed the medicine?”

“Malcolmson, the chemist in Guildford.”

French decided to return to Farnham via Guildford and call on Malcolmson. He saw Mr. Malcolmson, who produced Campion’s prescription for the medicine. This was in accordance with Morgan & Winterton’s analysis, except that, as might be expected, there was no mention of arsenic. As might be expected also, Mr. Malcolmson was positive that there was no arsenic in the medicine when it left his shop. Both the receipt of the prescription and the despatch of the medicine had been by post. From this it seemed to follow that the arsenic had been put in by some member of the Frazer household.

As he drove in a bus to Farnham, French tried to modify his theory of the case to include all these new facts. Suppose Nurse Nankivel had noticed that Frazer’s condition varied according to whether he did or did not take certain medicine. If she had become suspicious, she might have experimented by giving him the medicine or withholding it. Suppose she had withheld it and had sent the equivalent doses to Morgan & Winterton for analysis. She had received in reply the proof that the medicine did contain arsenic. Very well, what would she do then?

Ah, but wait a moment: that wouldn’t work. The medicine had been sent to Morgan & Winterton on the 29th of September, exactly a week after Frazer had died. Why should it have been sent then? If the nurse had been suspicious it must surely have been during the old man’s lifetime. If she was not suspicious then, why should she have become so after his death? Had this medicine after all any connection with the Frazer case?

Then French saw that it almost certainly had. Morgan & Winterton’s reply was posted on the 3rd of October, which meant that the nurse received it on that day or the next. But the 5th of October, two days later, was the day on which she had received the telephone message to which she had replied, “Well, I’ll arrange it somehow. Twelve-thirty.” That message was obviously from Earle, arranging the Staines trip. It looked uncommonly as if Nurse Nankivel had written to Earle on receipt of the analysis, asking for an appointment.

When French reached the hotel he sat down to try to get the dates straightened out on paper. He was pleased with the result, which he thought promising:

Thursday (22 Sept.):           Frazer dies.
Friday (23 Sept.):           Nurse Nankivel leaves Polperro.
Saturday (24 Sept.):           Nurse goes to Bryanston Square.
Tuesday (27 Sept.):           Frazer’s funeral.
Wednesday (28 Sept.):   Mrs. Carling writes to nurse.
Thursday (29 Sept.):           Nurse receives Mrs. Carling’s letter and sends medicine to analysts.
Friday (30 Sept.):           Winterton receives medicine.
Monday (3 Oct.):           Winterton posts analysis.
Tuesday (4 Oct.):           Nurse receives analysis and presumably writes Earle.
Wednesday (5 Oct.):           Nurse receives Earle’s telephone.
Thursday (6 Oct.):           Nurse and Earle at Staines.
Saturday (8 Oct.):           Nurse receives telegram to go to Hog’s Back on Sunday.
Sunday (9 Oct.):           Nurse goes to Hog’s Back and is murdered.

These dates seemed to French fairly well to clear up what had occurred. His tentative theory now stood as follows:

During Frazer’s illness Nurse Nankivel becomes suspicious that her patient is being poisoned, but cannot prove it. After reaching Bryanston Square her suspicions are somehow increased, and she sends the doubtful medicine to be analysed. The analysis confirms her suspicions and she feels she must share the responsibility. Campion has signed the certificate and she therefore funks going to him; probably also she has found Earle more approachable. She writes to Earle, hinting her news and asking for an interview. Earle, realising that for many reasons the meeting should be kept secret, arranges the Staines affair. At Staines she unburdens her soul and hands over the analysis and possibly other evidence. Earle puts it in his safe. Frazer’s murderer somehow gets to know what is going on and sends the telegram in Earle’s name asking the nurse to go down on Sunday---to her death.

This theory, while a distinct advance, had some pretty wide gaps. What, for instance, had suddenly increased the nurse’s suspicions after reaching Bryanston Square? The dates suggested it was the letter from the gardener’s wife, Mrs. Carling. Could this be?

Then French suddenly saw that it might very well have been the letter. For the moment he had forgotten what that letter contained, but now he remembered. In it Mrs. Carling had described the reading of the will and Mrs. Frazer’s and Gates’ reactions on becoming wealthy. There it was! A motive! The girl had been suspicious that the old man was being poisoned, but she probably couldn’t supply a satisfactory motive. She must have known that old Frazer had money and that his wife would get some of it, but she probably didn’t imagine that such a large sum was involved, nor that Gates also stood to gain.

This of course was a pure guess, but it worked in. French added it to his tentative theory and passed on to that fundamental question: Who had learnt what had been discovered, and that the proofs had been hidden in the secret safe? In other words, Who was the murderer?

French felt that though minor parts of the case might be yielding to his treatment, on the major issues he was as much in the dark as ever. One major fact, however, seemed to stand out clearly from this analysis business, and that was that Frazer really had been poisoned. It would be too great a coincidence to have suspected arsenic, and then to have come across the track of arsenic in the case, unless there was a connection between the two.

Tired but not discouraged, French went out after dinner to try what Farnham could do in the way of amusement. He saw a first-rate film about a trainload of persons who were held up by bandits in the disturbed East, but who after surprising adventures safely reached their journey’s end, and much refreshed in mind, he went up to bed.

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