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Part 20

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« on: December 25, 2022, 08:00:00 am »

For, to speak in a word, envy is naught else but tristitia de bonis alienis, sorrow for other men's good, be it present past, or to come: and gaudium de adversis, and joy at their harms.... 'Tis a common disease, and almost natural to us, as Tacitus holds, to envy another man's prosperity.
   ---Robert Burton

It is said that love and a cough cannot be hid. Nor is it easy to hide two-and-thirty outside ivory chessmen; unless one is so inhuman as to leave them swaddled in their mummy-clothes of wadding and entombed within the six sides of a wooden sarcophagus. What is the use of acquiring one's heart's desire if one cannot handle and gloat over it, show it to one's friends and gather an anthology of envy and admiration? Whatever awkward deductions might be drawn about the giver--and, after all, was that anybody's business?--Harriet knew that she must needs display the gift or burst in solitary ecstasy.

Accordingly, she put a bold face on it, marched her forces openly into the Senior Common Room after Hall, and deployed them upon the table, with the eager assistance of the dons.

'But where are you going to keep them?' asked the Dean, when everybody had sufficiently exclaimed over the fineness of the carving, and had taken her turn at twisting and examining the nests of concentric globes. 'You can't just leave them in the box. Look at those fragile little spears and things and the royal head-dresses. They ought to be put in a glass case.'

'I know,' said Harriet. 'It's just like me to want something completely impracticable. I shall have to wrap them all up again.'

'Only then,' said Miss Chilperic, 'you won't be able to look at them. I know, if they were mine, I shouldn't be able to take my eyes off them for a moment.'

'You can have a glass case if you like,' said Miss Edwards. 'Out of the Science lecture-room.'

'The very thing,' said Miss Lydgate. 'But how about the terms of the bequest? I mean, the glass cases--'

'Oh, blow the bequest,' cried the Dean. 'Surely one can borrow a thing for a week or two. We can lump some of those hideous geological specimens together and have one of the small cases taken up to your room.'

'By all means,' said Miss Edwards, 'I'll see to it.'

'Thank you,' said Harriet; 'that will be lovely.'

'Aren't you simply aching to play with the new toy?' asked Miss Allison. 'Does Lord Peter play chess?'

'I don't know,' said Harriet. 'I'm not much of a player. I just fell in love with the pieces.'

'Well,' said Miss de Vine, kindly, 'let us have a game. They are so beautiful, it would be a pity not to use them.'

'But I expect you could play my head off.'

'Oh, do play with them!' cried Miss Shaw, sentimentally. 'Think how they must be longing for a little life and movement after sitting all that time in a shop window.'

'I will give you a pawn,' suggested Miss de Vine.

Even with this advantage, Harriet suffered three humiliating defeats in quick successon: first, because she was but a poor player; secondly, because she found it difficult to remember which piece was which; thirdly, because the anguish of parting at one fell swoop with a fully-armed warrior, a prancing steed and a complete nest of ivory balls was such that she could scarcely bear to place so much as a pawn in jeopardy. Miss de Vine, viewing with perfect equanimity the disappearance even of a robed counsellor with long moustaches or an elephant carrying a castleful of combatants, soon had Harriet's king penned helplessly among his own defenders. Nor was the game made any easier for the weaker party by being played under the derisive eye of Miss Hillyard, who, pronouncing chess to be the world's most wearisome amusement, yet would not go away and get on with her work, but sat staring at the board as though fascinated and (what was worse) fiddling with the captured pieces and putting Harriet into an agony for fear she would drop one.

Moreover, when the games were finished, and Miss Edwards had announced that a glass case had been dusted and taken up to Harriet's room by a scout, Miss Hillyard insisted on helping to carry the pieces over, grasping for the purpose the white king and queen, whose headgear bore delicate waving ornaments like antennas, extremely liable to damage. Even when the Dean had discovered that the pieces could be more safely transported standing upright in their box, Miss Hillyard attached herself to the party that escorted them across the quad, and was officious in helping to set the glass case in a convenient position opposite the bed, 'so that,' as she observed, 'you can see them if you wake up in the night.'


The following day happened to be the Dean's birthday. Harriet, going shortly after breakfast to purchase a tribute of roses in the Market, and coming out into the High Street with the intention of making an appointment at the hairdresser's, was rewarded by the rather unexpected sight of two male backs, issuing from the Mitre and proceeding, apparently in perfect amity, in an easterly direction. The shorter and slighter of the two she could have singled out from a million backs anywhere; nor was it easy to mistake the towering bulk and breadth of Mr. Reginald Pomfret. Both parties were smoking pipes, and she concluded from this that the object of their excursion could scarcely be swords or pistols on Port Meadow. They were strolling in a leisurely after-breakfast manner, and she took care not to catch them up. She hoped that what Lord Saint-George called the 'famous family charm' was being exerted to good purpose; she was too old to enjoy the sensation of being squabbled over--it made all three of them ridiculous. Ten years ago, she might have felt flattered; but it seemed that the lust to power was a thing one grew out of. What one wanted, she thought, standing amid the stuffy perfumes of the hairdresser's establishment, was peace, and freedom from the pressure of angry and agitated personalities. She booked an appointment for the afternoon and resumed her way. As she passed Queen's, Peter came down the steps alone.

'Hullo!' said he. 'Why the floral emblems?'

Harriet explained.

'Good egg!' said his lordship. 'I like your Dean.' He relieved her of the roses. 'Let me also be there with a gift.

    Make her a goodly chapilet of azur'd Colombine,
    And wreathe about her coronet with sweetest Eglantine,
    With roses damask, white, and red, and fairest flower delice,
    With Cowslips of Jerusalem, and cloves of Paradise.

Though what Cowslips of Jerusalem may be I do not know, and they are probably not in season.'

Harriet turned with him marketwards.

'Your young friend came to see me,' pursued Peter.

'So I observed. Did you "fix a vacant stare and slay him with your noble birth"?'

'And he my own kin in the sixteenth degree on the father's mother's side? No; he's a nice lad, and the way to his heart is through the playing-fields of Eton. He told me all his griefs and I sympathised very kindly, mentioning that there were better ways of killing care than drowning it in a butt of malmsey. But, O God, turn back the universe and give me yesterday! He was beautifully sozzled last night, and had one breakfast before he came out and another with me at the Mitre. I do not envy the heart of youth, but only its head and stomach.'

'Have you heard anything fresh about Arthur Robinson?'

'Only that he married a young woman called Charlotte Ann Clarke, and had by her a daughter, Beatrice Maud. That was easy, because we know where he was living eight years ago, and could consult the local registers. But they're still hunting the registers to find either his death--supposing him to be dead, which is rather less likely than otherwise--or the birth of the second child, which--if it ever occurred--might tell us where he went to after the trouble at York. Unfortunately, Robinsons are as plentiful as blackberries, and Arthur Robinsons not uncommon. And if he really did change his name, there may not be any Robinson entries at all. Another of my searchers has gone to his old lodgings--where, you may remember, he very imprudently married the landlady's daughter; but the Clarkes have moved, and it's going to be a bit of a job finding them. Another line is to inquire among the scholastic agencies and the small and inferior private schools, because it seems probable--You're not attending.'

'Yes, I am,' said Harriet, vaguely. 'He had a wife called Charlotte and you're looking for him in a private school.' A rich, damp fragrance gushed out upon them as they turned into the Market, and she was overcome by a sense of extravagant well-being. 'I love this smell--it's like the cactus-house in the Botanical Gardens.'

Her companion opened his mouth to speak, looked at her, and then, as one that will interfere with fortune, let the name of Robinson die upon his lips.

'Madragorę dederunt odorem.'

'What do you say, Peter?'

'Nothing. The words of Mercury are harsh after the songs of Apollo.' He laid his hand gently upon her arm. 'Let us interview the merchant with the sops-in-wine.'

And when both roses and carnations had been despatched--this time by a messenger--to their destination, it seemed natural, since the Botanical Gardens had been mentioned, to go there. For a garden, as Bacon observes, is the purest of human pleasures and the greatest refreshment to the spirit of man; and even idle and ignorant people who cannot distinguish Leptosiphon hybridus from Kauljussia amelloides and would rather languish away in a wilderness than break their backs with dibbling and weeding may get a good deal of pleasant conversation out of it, especially if they know the old-fashioned names of the commoner sorts of flowers and are both tolerably well acquainted with the minor Elizabethan lyrists.

It was only when they had made the round of the Gardens and were sitting idly on the bank of the river that Peter, wrenching his attention back to the sordid present, remarked suddenly:

'I think I shall have to pay a visit to a friend of yours. Do you know how Jukes came to be caught with the stuff on him?'

'I've no idea.'

'The police got an anonymous letter.'


'Yes. One of them there. By the way, did you ever try and find out what was to have been the last word of that message to you? The one we found in the Science Lecture-Room?'

'No--she couldn't have finished it, anyhow. There wasn't a single vowel left in the box. Not even a B and a dash!'

'That was an oversight. I thought so. Well, Harriet, it's easy to put a name to the person we want, isn't it? But proof's a different matter. We've tied the thing up so tight. That lecture-room episode was meant to be the last of the nocturnal prowls, and it probably will be. And the best bit of evidence will be at the bottom of the river by this time. It's too late to seal the doors and set a watch.'

'On whom?'

'Surely you know by this time? You must know, Harriet, if you're giving your mind to the thing at all. Opportunity, means, motive--doesn't it stand out a mile? For God's sake, put your prejudices aside and think it out. What's happened to you that you can't put two and two together?'

'I don't know.'

'Well,' said he drily, 'if you really don't know, it's not for me to tell you. But if you will turn your attention for one moment to the matter in hand and go through your own dossier of the case carefully--'

'Undeterred by any casual sonnets I may find by the way?'

'Undeterred by any personal consideration whatever,' he burst out, almost angrily. 'No; you're quite right. That was a stupidity. My talent for standing in my own light amounts to genius, doesn't it? But when you have come to a conclusion about all this, will you remember that it was I who asked you to take a dispassionate view and I who told you that of all devils let loose in the world there was no devil like devoted love.... I don't mean passion. Passion's a good, stupid horse that will pull the plough six days a week if you give him the run of his heels on Sundays. But love's a nervous, awkward, overmastering brute; if you can't rein him, it's best to have no truck with him.'

'That sounds very topsy-turvy,' said Harriet, mildly. But his unwonted excitement had already flickered out.

'I'm only walking on my head, after the manner of clowns. If we went along to Shrewsbury now, do you think the Warden would see me?'


Later in the day, Dr. Baring sent for Harriet.

'Lord Peter Wimsey has been to see me,' she said, 'with a rather curious proposition which, after a little consideration, I refused. He told me that he was almost certain in his own mind of the identity of the--the offender, but that he was not in a position at the moment to offer a complete proof. He also said that the person had, he thought, taken the alarm, and would be doubly careful from now on to escape detection. The alarm might, in fact, be sufficient to prevent further outbreaks until the end of the term at any rate; but as soon as our vigilance was relaxed, the trouble would probably break out again in a more violent form. I said that that would be very unsatisfactory, and he agreed. He asked whether he should name the person to me, in order that a careful watch might be kept upon her movements. I said I saw two objections to that: first, that the person might discover that she was being spied upon and merely increase her caution, and secondly, that if he happened to be mistaken as to the offender's identity, the person spied upon would be subjected to the most intolerable suspicions. Supposing, I said, the persecutions merely ceased, and we were left suspecting this person--who might be quite innocent--without proof either way. He replied that those were precisely the objections that had occurred to him. Do you know the name of the person to whom he alludes, Miss Vane?'

'No,' said Harriet, who had been exercising her wits in the interval. 'I am beginning to have an idea; but I can't make it fit. In fact, I simply can't believe it.'

'Very well. Lord Peter then made a very remarkable proposition. He asked whether I would allow him to interrogate this person privately, in the hope of surprising her into some admission. He said that if this bluff, as he called it, came off, the culprit could then make her confession to me and be suffered to depart quietly, or be dealt with medically, as we might decide was advisable. If, however, it did not come off and the person denied everything, we might be placed in a very disagreeable position. I replied that I quite saw that, and could not possibly consent to have such methods used upon anybody in this College. To which he replied that that was exactly what he had expected me to say.

'I then asked him what evidence, if any, he had against this person. He said that all his evidence was circumstantial; that he hoped to have more of it in the course of the next few days, but that in default of a fresh outbreak and the capture of the culprit red-handed, he doubted whether any direct evidence could be produced at this stage. I inquired whether there was any reason why we should not at least wait for the production of the additional evidence.'

Dr. Baring paused and looked keenly at Harriet.

'He replied that there was only one reason, and that was the culprit, instead of becoming more cautious, might throw caution to the winds and proceed to direct violence. "In which case," he said, "we should very likely catch her, but only at the cost of somebody's death or serious injury." I asked what persons were threatened with death or injury. He had said the most probable victims were--yourself, Miss de Vine and another person whom he could not name, but whose existence, he said, he deduced. He also surprised me by saying that an abortive attack had already been made upon you. Is that true?'

'I shouldn't have put it as strongly as that,' said Harriet. She briefly outlined the story of the telephone call. At the name of Miss Hillyard, the Warden looked up:

'Do I understand that you entertain a definite suspicion of Miss Hillyard?'

'If I did,' said Harriet, cautiously. 'I shouldn't be the only person to do so. But I'm bound to say that she doesn't seem to fit in at all with the line of Lord Peter's inquiries, so far as I am acquainted with them.'

'I am glad to hear you say that,' replied Dr. Baring. 'Representations have been made to me which--in default of evidence--I have been very unwilling to listen to.'

So Dr. Baring had kept abreast of the feeling of the S.C.R. Miss Allison and Mrs. Goodwin had probably been talking. Well!

'In the end,' pursued the Warden, 'I informed Lord Peter that I thought it would be better to wait for the further evidence. But that decision must, of course, be subject to the willingness of yourself and Miss de Vine to face the risks involved. The willingness of the unknown third party cannot, naturally, be ascertained.'

'I don't in the least mind what risks I take,' said Harriet. 'But Miss de Vine ought to be warned, I suppose.'

'That is what I said. Lord Peter agreed.'

So, thought Harriet, something has decided him to acquit Miss de Vine. I'm glad. Unless this is a Machiavellian ruse to throw her off her guard.

'Have you said anything to Miss de Vine, Warden?'

'Miss de Vine is in Town, and will not return till to-morrow evening. I propose to speak to her then.'


So there was nothing to do but to wait. And in the meantime, Harriet became aware of a curious change in the atmosphere of the Senior Common Room. It was as though they had lost sight of their mutual distrust and their general apprehensions and had drawn together like spectators at the ring-side to watch another kind of conflict, in which she was one of the principals. The curious tension thus produced was scarcely relieved by the Dean's announcement to a few select spirits that in her opinion, Flaxman's young man had given her the chuck and serve her right; to which Miss Flaxman's tutor sourly replied that she wished people wouldn't have these upheavals in the Summer Term, but that, fortunately, Miss Flaxman didn't take her final Schools till next year. This prompted Harriet to ask Miss Shaw how Miss Newland was getting on. It appeared that Miss Newland was doing well, having completely got over the shock of her immersion in the Cherwell, so that her chances for a First looked pretty good.

'Splendid!' said Harriet. 'I've ear-marked my winnings already. By the way, Miss Hillyard, how is our young friend Cattermole?'

It seemed to her that the room waited breathlessly for the answer. Miss Hillyard replied, rather shortly, that Miss Cattermole seemed to have recovered such form as she had ever possessed, thanks, as she understood from the young woman herself, to Miss Vane's good advice. She added that it was very kind of Harriet, amid her many preoccupations, to interest herself in the History students. Harriet made some vague reply and the room, as it seemed to her, breathed again.

Later in the day, Harriet took an outrigger on the river with the Dean, and, rather to her surprise, observed Miss Cattermole and Mr. Pomfret sharing a punt. She had received a penitent letter from Mr. Pomfret, and waved a cheerful hand as the boats passed, in token of peace restored. If she had known that Mr. Pomfret and Miss Cattermole had found a bond of sympathy in devotion to herself, she might have speculated on what may happen to rejected lovers who confide their troubles to willing ears; but this did not occur to her, because she was wondering what, exactly, had happened that morning at the Mitre; and her thoughts had strayed away into the Botanical Gardens before the Dean pointed out, rather sharply, that she was setting a very irregular and leisurely stroke.


It was Miss Shaw who innocently precipitated a flare-up.

'That's a very handsome scarf,' she said to Miss Hillyard. The dons were assembling, as usual, for Hall, outside the S.C.R.; but the evening was dull and chilly and a thick silk scarf was a grateful addition to evening dress.

'Yes,' said Miss Hillyard. 'Unfortunately it isn't mine. Some careless person left it in the Fellows' Garden last night and I rescued it. I brought it along to be identified--but I'm ready to admit that I can do with it this evening.'

'I don't know whose it can be,' said Miss Lydgate. She fingered it admiringly. 'It looks more like a man's scarf,' she added.

Harriet, who had not been paying much attention, turned round, conscience-stricken.

'Good lord!' she said, 'that's mine. At least, it's Peter's. I couldn't think where I'd left it.'

It was, in fact, the very scarf that had been used for a strangling demonstration on the Friday, and been brought back to Shrewsbury by accident together with the chessmen and the dog-collar. Miss Hillyard turned brick-red and snatched it off as though it were choking her.

'I beg your pardon, Miss Vane,' she said, holding it out.

'It's all right. I don't want it now. But I'm glad to know where it is. I'd have got into trouble if I'd lost it.'

'Will you kindly take your property,' said Miss Hillyard.

Harriet, who was already wearing a scarf of her own, said:

'Thank you. But are you sure you won't--'

'I will not,' said Miss Hillyard, dropping the scarf angrily on the steps.

'Dear me!' said the Dean, picking it up. 'Nobody seems to want this nice scarf. I shall borrow it. I call it a nasty, chilly evening, and I don't know why we can't all go inside.'

She twisted the scarf comfortably round her neck, and the Warden mercifully arriving at that moment, they went in to dinner.


At a quarter to ten, Harriet, after an hour or so spent with Miss Lydgate on her proofs--now actually nearing the stage when they might really be sent to the printer--crossed the Old Quad to Tudor Building. On the steps, just coming out, she met Miss Hillyard.

'Were you looking for me?' asked Harriet, a little aggressively.

'No,' said Miss Hillyard, 'I wasn't. Certainly not.' She spoke hurriedly, and Harriet fancied that there was something in her eyes both furtive and malicious; but the evening was dark for the middle of May, and she could not be sure.

'Oh!' said Harriet. 'I thought you might be.'

'Well, I wasn't,' said Miss Hillyard again. And as Harriet passed her she turned back and said, almost as though the words were forced out of her:

'Going to work--under the inspiration of your beautiful chessmen?'

'More or less,' said Harriet, laughing.

'I hope you will have a pleasant evening,' said Miss Hillyard.

Harriet went on upstairs and opened the door of her room.

The glass case had been shattered, and the floor was strewn with broken glass and with smashed and trampled fragments of red and white ivory.


For about five minutes, Harriet was the prey of that kind of speechless rage which is beyond expression or control. If she had thought of it, she was at that moment in a mood to sympathise with the Poltergeist and all her works. If she could have beaten or strangled anybody, she would have done it and felt the better for it. Happily, after the first devastating fury, she found the relief of bad language. When she found she could keep her voice steady, she locked her bedroom door behind her and went down to the telephone.

Even so, she was at first so incoherent that Peter could hardly understand what she said. When he did understand, he was maddeningly cool about it, merely asking whether she had touched anything or told anybody. When assured that she had not he replied cheerfully that he would be along in a few minutes.

Harriet went out and raged distractedly about the New Quad till she heard him ring--for the gates were now shut--and only a last lingering vestige of self-restraint prevented her from rushing at him and pouring out her indignation in the presence of Padgett. But she waited for him in the middle of the quad.

'Peter--oh, Peter!'

'Well,' said he, 'this is rather encouraging. I was afraid we might have choked off these demonstrations for good and all.'

'But my chessmen! I could kill her for that.'

'My dear, it's sickening that it should be your chessmen. But don't let's lose all sense of proportion. It might have been you.'

'I wish it had been. I could have hit back.'

'Termagant. Let's go and look at the damage.'

'It's horrible, Peter. It's like a massacre. It's--it's rather frightening, somehow--they've been hit so hard.'

When he saw the room, Wimsey looked grave enough.

'Yes,' he said, kneeling amid the wreckage. 'Blind, bestial malignity. Not only broken but ground to powder. There's been a heel at work here, as well as the poker; you can see the marks on the carpet. She hates you, Harriet. I didn't realise that. I thought she was only afraid of you ... Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul?... Look! one poor warrior hiding behind the coal-scuttle--remnant of a mighty army.'

He held up the solitary red pawn, smiling; and then scrambled hurriedly to his feet.

'My dear girl, don't cry about it. What the hell does it matter?'

'I loved them,' said Harriet, 'and you gave them to me.'

He shook his head.

'It's a pity it's that way round. "You gave them to me, and I loved them" is all right, but, "I loved them and you gave them to me" is irreparable. Fifty thousand rocs' eggs won't supply their place. "The virgin's gone and I am gone; she's gone, she's gone and what shall I do?" But you needn't weep over the chest of drawers while I have a shoulder at your disposal, need you?'

'I'm sorry. I'm being a perfect idiot.'

'I told you love was the devil and all. Two-and-thirty chessmen, baked in a pie. "And all the powerful kings and all the beautiful queens of this world were but as a bed of flowers" ...'

'I might have had the decency to take care of them.'

'That's foolish,' said he, with his mouth muffled in her hair. 'Don't talk so soft, or I shall get foolish too. Listen. When did all this happen?'

'Between Hall and a quarter to ten.'

'Was anybody absent from Hall? Because this must have made a bit of a noise. After Hall, there'd be students about, who might hear the glass smash or notice if anybody unusual was wandering about.'

'There might be students here all through Hall--they often have eggs in their rooms. And--good God! there was somebody unusual--She said something about the chessmen, too. And she was queer about them last night.'

'Who was that?'

'Miss Hillyard.'


While Harriet told her story he fidgeted restlessly about the room, avoiding the broken glass and ivory on the floor with the automatic precision of a cat, and stood at length in the window with his back to her. She had drawn the curtains together when she had brought him up, and his gaze at them seemed purely preoccupied.

'Hell!' he said, presently. 'That's a devil of a complication.' He still had the red pawn in his hand, and he now came back, and set it with great precision in the centre of the mantelpiece. 'Yes. Well, I suppose you'll have to find out--'

Somebody knocked at the door, and Harriet went to open it.

'Excuse me, madam, but Padgett sent over to the Senior Common Room to see if Lord Peter Wimsey was there, and seeing he thought you might know--'

'He's here, Annie. It's for you, Peter.'

'Yes?' said Peter, coming to the door.

'If you please, sir, they've rung up from the Mitre to say there's a message come from the Foreign Office and would you kindly ring up at once.'

'What? Oh, lord, that would happen! Very well, thank you, Annie. Oh, one moment. Was it you who saw the--er--the person who was playing tricks in the lecture-room?'

'Yes, sir. Not to know her again, sir.'

'No; but you did see her, and she may not know you couldn't recognise her. I think if I were you I'd be rather careful how you go about the College after dark. I don't want to frighten you, but you see what's happened to Miss Vane's chessmen?'

'Yes, I see, sir. What a pity, isn't it?'

'It would be more than a pity if anything unpleasant happened to you personally. Now, don't get the wind up--but if I were you, I'd take somebody with me when I went out after sunset. And I should give the same advice to the scout who was with you.'

'To Carrie? Very well, I'll tell her.'

'It's only a precaution, you know. Good night, Annie.'

'Good night, sir. Thank you.'

'I shall have to make quite an issue of dog-collars,' said Peter. 'You never know whether to warn people or not. Some of them get hysterics, but she looks fairly level-headed. Look here, my dear, this is all very tiresome. If it's another summons to Rome, I shall have to go. (I should lock that door.) Needs must when duty calls, and all that. If it is Rome, I'll tell Bunter to bring round all the notes I've got at the Mitre and instruct Miss Climpson's sleuths to report direct to you. In any case, I'll ring you up this evening as soon as I know what it's all about. If it isn't Rome, I'll come round again in the morning. And in the meantime, don't let anybody into your room. I think I'd lock it up and sleep elsewhere to-night.'

'I thought you didn't expect any more night disturbances.'

'I don't; but I don't want people walking over that floor.' He stopped on the staircase to examine the sole of his shoes. 'I haven't carried away any bits. Do you think you have?'

Harriet stood first on one leg and then another.

'Not this time. And the first time I didn't walk into the mess at all. I stood in the doorway and swore.'

'Good girl. The paths in the quad are a bit damp, you know, and something might have stuck. As a matter of fact, it's raining a little now. You'll get wet.'

'It doesn't matter. Oh, Peter! I've got that white scarf of yours.'

'Keep it till I come again--which will be to-morrow, with luck, and otherwise, God knows when. Damn it! I knew there was trouble coming.' He stood still under the beech-trees. 'Harriet, don't choose the moment my back's turned to get wiped out or anything--not if you can help it; I mean, you're not very good at looking after valuables.'

'I might have the decency to take care? All right, Peter. I'll do my best this time. Word of honour.'

She gave him her hand and he kissed it. Once again Harriet thought she saw somebody move in the darkness, as on the last occasion they had walked through the shadowy quads. But she dared not delay him and so again said nothing. Padgett let him out through the gate and Harriet, turning away, found herself face to face with Miss Hillyard.

'Miss Vane, I should like to speak to you.'

'Certainly,' said Harriet. 'I should rather like to speak to you.'

Miss Hillyard, without another word, led the way to her own rooms. Harriet followed her up the stairs and into the sitting-room. The tutor's face was very white as she shut the door after them and said, without asking Harriet to sit down:

'Miss Vane. What are the relations between that man and you?'

'What do you mean by that?'

'You know perfectly well what I mean. If nobody else will speak to you about your behaviour, I must. You bring the man here, knowing perfectly well what his reputation is--'

'I know what his reputation as a detective is.'

'I mean his moral reputation. You know as well as I do that he is notorious all over Europe. He keeps women by the score--'

'All at once or in succession?'

'It's no use being impertinent. I suppose that to a person with your past history, that kind of thing is merely amusing. But you must try to conduct yourself with a little more decency. The way you look at him is a disgrace. You pretend to be the merest acquaintance of his and call him by his title in public and his Christian name in private. You take him up to your room at night--'

'Really, Miss Hillyard, I can't allow--'

'I've seen you. Twice. He was there to-night. You let him kiss your hands and make love to you--'

'So that was you, spying about under the beeches.'

'How dare you use such a word?'

'How dare you say such a thing?'

'It's no affair of mine how you behave in Bloomsbury. But if you bring your lovers here--'

'You know very well that he is not my lover. And you know very well why he came to my room to-night.'

'I can guess.'

'And I know very well why you came there.'

'I came there? I don't know what you mean.'

'You do. And you know that he came to see the damage you did in my room.'

'I never went into your room.'

'You didn't go into my room and smash up my chessmen?'

Miss Hillyard's dark eyes flickered.

'Certainly I did not. I told you I hadn't been anywhere near your room to-night.'

'Then,' said Harriet, 'you told a lie.'

She was too angry to be frightened, though it did cross her mind that if the furious white-faced woman attacked her, it might be difficult to summon assistance on this isolated staircase, and she thought of the dog-collar.

'I know it's a lie,' said Harriet, 'because there's a piece of broken ivory on the carpet under your writing-table and another stuck on the heel of your right shoe. I saw it, coming upstairs.'

She was prepared for anything after that, but to her surprise, Miss Hillyard staggered a little, sat down suddenly, and said, 'Oh, My God!'

'If you had nothing to do with smashing those chessmen,' went on Harriet, 'or with the other pranks that have been played in this College, you'd better explain those pieces of ivory.'

(Am I a fool, she thought, showing my hand like this? But, if I didn't, what would become of the evidence?)

Miss Hillyard, in a bewildered way, pulled off her slipper and looked at the sliver of white that clung to the heel, embedded in a little patch of damp gravel.

'Give it to me,' said Harriet, and took slipper and all.

She had expected an outburst of denial, but Miss Hlllyard said, faintly:

'That's evidence ... incontrovertible....'

Harriet thanked Heaven, with grim amusement, for the scholarly habit; at least, one did not have to argue about what was or was not evidence.

'I did go into your room. I went there to say to you what I said just now. But you weren't there. And when I saw the mess on the floor I thought--I was afraid you'd think--'

'I did think.'

'What did he think?'

'Lord Peter? I don't know what he thought. But he'll probably think something now.'

'You've no evidence that I did it,' said Miss Hillyard, with sudden spirit. 'Only that I was in the room. It was done when I got there. I saw it, I went to look at it. You can tell your lover that I saw it and was glad to see it. But he'll tell you that's no proof that I did it.'

'Look here, Miss Hillyard,' said Harriet, divided between anger, suspicion and a dreadful kind of pity, 'you must understand, once and for all, that he is not my lover. Do you really imagine that if he were, we should--' here her sense of the ludicrous overcame her and made it difficult to control her voice--'we should come and misbehave ourselves in the greatest possible discomfort at Shrewsbury? Even if I had no respect for the College--where would be the point of it? With all the world and all the time there is at our disposal, why on earth should we come and play the fool down here? It would be silly. And if you really were down there in the quad just now, you must know that people who are lovers don't treat each other like that. At least,' she added rather unkindly, 'if you knew anything about it at all, you'd know that. We're very old friends, and I owe him a great deal--'

'Don't talk nonsense,' said the tutor roughly. 'You know you're in love with the man.'

'By God!' said Harriet, suddenly enlightened, 'if I'm not, I know who is.'

'You've no right to say that!'

'It's true, all the same,' said Harriet. 'Oh, damn! I suppose it's no good my saying I'm frightfully sorry.' (Dynamite in a powder factory? Yes, indeed, Miss Edwards, you saw it before anybody else. Biologically interesting!) 'This kind of thing is the devil and all.' ('That's the devil of a complication,' Peter had said. He'd seen it, of course. Must have. Too much experience not to. Probably happened scores of times--scores of women--all over Europe. Oh, dear! Oh, dear! And was that a random accusation, or had Miss Hillyard been delving into the past and digging up Viennese singers?)

'For Heaven's sake,' said Miss Hillyard, 'go away!'

'I think I'd better,' said Harriet.

She did not know how to deal with the situation at all. She could no longer feel outraged or angry. She was not alarmed. She was not jealous. She was only sorry, and quite incapable of expressing any sympathy which would not be an insult. She realised that she was still clutching Miss Hillyard's slipper. Had she better give it back? It was evidence--of something. But of what? The whole business of the Poltergeist seemed to have retreated over the horizon, leaving behind it the tormented shell of a woman staring blindly into vacancy under the cruel harshness of the electric light. Harriet picked up the other fragment of ivory from under the writing-table--the little spearhead from a red pawn.

Well, whatever one's personal feelings, evidence was evidence. Peter--she remembered that Peter had said he would ring up from the Mitre. She went downstairs with the slipper in her hand, and in the New Quad ran into Mrs. Padgett, who was just coming to look for her.

The call was switched through to the box in Queen Elizabeth.

'It's not so bad after all,' said Peter's voice, 'It's only the Grand Panjandrum wanting a conference at his private house. Sort of Pleasant Sunday Afternoon in Wild Warwickshire. It may mean London or Rome after that, but we'll hope not. At any rate, it'll do if I'm there by half-past eleven, so I'll pop round and see you about nine.'

'Please do. Something's happened. Not alarming, but upsetting. I can't tell you on the phone.'

He again promised to come, and said good night. Harriet, after locking the slipper and the piece of ivory carefully away, went to the Bursar, and was accommodated with a bed in the Infirmary.
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