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Chapter 16

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« on: April 05, 2023, 12:23:04 pm »

MR. Marble had just finished his preliminary morning’s work when Dr. Atkinson’s rat-tat-tat came at       the door.

‘How is she this morning?’ asked Atkinson as they went up the stairs together.

‘She seemed a little bit down when I was with her last. But I haven’t been up to her for some time,’ said Marble.

They entered the room, where Annie lay in the big gilt bed, with the other gilt furniture blazing about her. She lay there in a natural attitude, and there was a trace of colour in her cheeks. But there was something different, which flashed to Atkinson’s trained eye the moment it rested on her.

She’s dead!’ said Atkinson, moving forward.

Marble was there before him, standing by the bed with his hands clasped in front of him. It is impossible to say whether he was moved or not; all that he was conscious of at the moment was that his heart was thumping and thudding within him the way it always did nowadays when anything unusual happened. It beat and it beat, and his hands shook with the vibrations.

‘Her heart, I suppose,’ said Atkinson, coming to the bedside.

He might have spared Marble the technical details if only Marble had appeared upset. But Marble did not. He was too busy thinking—his mind had started racing away as it always did, to the accompaniment of the thudding of his heart. He was working out all the details of how this change would affect him; what difference it would make to his chances of continuing to avoid detection. All he could do was to stare at the body while his hands shook and his face remained stolid. Clearly his thoughts were far away.

With an effort he recalled himself. Suspicion, suspicion! He must do all he could to avoid suspicion. He looked sidelong at Atkinson, and caught Atkinson looking sidelong at him. He started, and tried to appear concerned.

Now up to that moment Atkinson had not had the least trace of suspicion, but that glance and that start set thoughts flooding into his mind. He bent over the body, and noticed something else, something which roused him to the highest pitch of suspicion.

‘I must make a slight examination,’ he said, ‘could you go downstairs and get me—get me a spoon? A silver spoon.’

Marble went without a word, like an ox to the slaughter. No sooner had he left the room than Atkinson sprang into activity. He tiptoed across to see that Marble was really gone, and then he hurried back. When Marble came back to the room he was scribbling something on a sheet from his pocket-book.

‘I shall want this as well,’ he said. ‘Will you go and give this note to the boy in my car outside, and ask him to go straight home for it?’

Marble took it. The note was an order to the boy to fetch a policeman, but Marble did not know that.

So they hanged William Marble for the murder of his wife. It was a simple case. Everything pointed towards the same end. He would not have a nurse for her, but had insisted on doing everything himself, against the urgent advice of his doctor. Neighbours came flocking in, eager to swear that there had been bad blood between Marble and his wife for a long time, and that they had often heard quarrels and cries. They even found downstairs a number of books on crime, and in one book on medical jurisprudence a page was much thumbed and dirty, through constant study. And for a motive—well, they found in a drawer a letter from a woman that amply proved a motive. It was a letter that Marble knew nothing about, but no one believed him when he said so. In fact, Marble went down through history as an extraordinarily clumsy murderer.

And Winnie inherited twelve hundred a year.


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