- CHAPTER XI. DETAILS.
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DURING the day that followed the discoveries in Mrs. Fry's upper chamber, Mr. Ferrars did a variety of things that surprised the brother of Charles Brierly; yes, and the doctor as well, and he said some things that seemed quite incomprehensible. For the detective was somewhat given to half-uttered soliloquy when he knew himself among "safe" people, and could therefore afford to relax his guard. Likewise he failed to say the things which Brierly, at least, expected, and much desired to hear.
His first movement after the three had breakfasted, was to ask for the keys of the cottage chambers, for they had been handed over to Brierly somewhat ostentatiously in the presence of Mrs. Fry and at the foot of the cottage stairs, by the doctor.
128 THE LAST STROKEonce if a human foot has so much as crossed the threshold."
This was all the explanation he chose to make then or upon his return.
Indeed, when he came back he spent all of the remaining time until high noon, smoking alone upon the doctor's neat lawn and along the shady side of the house, excusing himself and guarding against possible intrusion, by remarking that he felt the need of a little solitary self-communion.
At luncheon the question of the burial was discussed, and afterward Brierly announced his intentions to call upon Miss Grant, if the doctor thought her able to receive him.
"I have told Mrs. Marcy to keep the gossips out," Doctor Barnes said gravely, "she's too sensitive, Miss Grant I mean, to hear unfeeling or curious discussions of the case. But a friend who is in sympathy--that's another thing. She'll be better with such company than alone."
When Brierly had set out, the detective threw away his after-dinner cigar.
"Were you called to see the little lady who was taken ill here yesterday, after the close of the inquest?" he asked carelessly. "I forgot to inquire, in my desire to keep Brierly occupied."
The doctor shook his head. "I fancy she only needed time to recover from the effect of her gruesome position. It was a blunder, putting her in plain sight of that shrouded corpse. Those little blue-eyed women are masses of nerves and fine sensibilities-often. I don't see how it came about."
"If you mean the 'blunder' of putting those ladies where they were, it was I who blundered. I arranged to place them there."
"You!" the doctor's eyes opened wide in astonishment. "Then I retract. It was I who have blundered."
"Um--I am not so sure," Ferrars replied slowly, and then the subject as by mutual consent was ignored between them. Ferrars, who seemed for a time at least to have done his thinking, wrote several letters at the doctor's desk, and then prepared to go out.
"I asked permission to call and inquire after Mrs. Jamieson's health, yesterday," he said to he doctor, "and as she has not required your services she may be able to receive me now."
"There is another Esculapius in Glenville," reminded Doctor Barnes.
"So I have heard; but the lady is a person of good taste. She would have called you if any one." He bowed and went out with a gleam of humour in his eyes.
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"It's sometimes hard to guess what Ferrars means when he speaks with that queer look and tone," mused the doctor. "And who would have thought he would care or think of a formal call like this just now! And yet, that little woman is pretty enough to attract a man, I'm sure; and a detective may be as susceptible, I suppose, as another."
Ferrars waited for a few moments in the reception-room of the Glenville House, and was then conducted to the pretty suite occupied by Mrs. Jamieson. He found her half reclining in a long, low chair, with her friend, Mrs. Arthur, still in attendance. She wore a soft, loose robe of black, with billowy gauze-like ruffles, and floating ribbons of the same sable hue, relieved only by a knot of purple wood violets at her throat. Her face was very pale and her eyes, with their changing lights of greyish green and glinting blue, looking larger and deeper than usual because of the dark shadows beneath them, and the waves of her plentiful fair hair falling low and loose upon her forehead.
She welcomed her visitor with a faint half smile, and thanked him again for his kindness of the previous day. She blamed herself for her want of nerve and courage. She inquired after Miss Grant and expressed her sympathy for the bereaved girl,
131 DETAILSand her desire to see her again, to know her, and serve her if possible; she had shown herself so brave, yet so womanly that day--and then the little lady told of her encounter with Miss Grant in the unfortunate character of messenger or bearer of bad news. She was glad there would be no lack of staunch friends to support the sweet girl in her time of need and trouble, and she finished by sending a pretty message to Hilda, and then without further question or comment concerning the murder or the progress of the case, she let the talk slip into the hands of her friend, and leaned back in her chair like one too weak for further effort, seeing which Ferrars soon withdrew.
"You will not consider this an example of my usual hospitality, I trust," Mrs. Jamieson said, as he bent over her chair to say farewell. "I fear I was not wise in refusing to let them call a physician, but I do dread being in the hands of a doctor. I shall be pleased to hear how this sad case progresses, Mr. Grant, and by the bye, has anything new occurred since the inquest? Any new witnesses or discoveries of any sort?"
But Ferrars shook his head, and murmuring something about time being short, and not taxing her good nature and strength further, he bowed low, and went away.
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"It's very good of her," he mused, as he went, "to take such kindly interest in my supposed relative, Miss Grant. But she certainly showed scant interest in the chief actor in the drama, my friend Brierly."
The candles had just been lighted that evening, and Ferrars was once more waiting at the doctor's desk, while Brierly, pale and heavy-eyed, lounged by the long window near, when Dr. Barnes came in, hat in hand.
"As you felt some interest in Mrs. Jamieson's selection of a physician this morning," the latter said, "I will inform you that I have just been summoned to see that lady, professionally, of course," he added, as if by an afterthought, and smiling slightly.
"Thank you. Mrs. Jamieson has vindicated my belief in her good judgment," replied Ferrars, and then he wheeled about in his chair, and put out a detaining hand.
"Don't think I doubt your reserve, doctor," he went on, "when I ask you to avoid or evade, if needful, any discussion of this affair of ours. That is, avoid giving any information, be it ever so trivial." He shot a quick glance toward Brierly, and met the doctor's eye for one swift, momentary glance.
133 DETAILSroom, and Ferrars smiled, knowing that his friend understood the meaning behind the half jesting words.
A moment later Robert Brierly arose, yawned, and crossed the room to take up his hat.
"This inaction is horrible," he said, drearily. "I must get out. I wish I had walked down with Barnes. Won't you come out with me, Mr. Ferrars?"
The detective dipped his pen in the sand-box, and arose quickly. Then when he had found his hat, and had lowered the light over the writing table, he put a hand upon the other's shoulder.
"I'll go out with you, of course, Brierly," he said, and there was a world of sympathy, as well as complete understanding in his tone. "But first, I want to ask you to show yourself as little as possible upon the streets, for a few days to come at least, and then only in the company of the doctor or myself, and not to go out evenings at all unless similarly attended. It will be irksome, I know, but I believe it important, and I must ask this of you, too, without explanation, for the present at least."
The young man looked at him for a moment, earnestly and in silence.
"Do you ask this for reasons personal to myself, or because it seems to you to be for the interest of the investigation?" he asked slowly.
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Ferrars smiled. "You're as able to take care of yourself as any man I know, Brierly," he said, with frank conviction. "It's for the interest of the case that we--and especially you--keep ourselves as much aloof as possible from questions and curiosity. There is another reason which I cannot give just yet."
"As you will. I have put myself and my brother's vindication in your hands, Mr. Ferrars, and I shall do nothing, be sure, to hinder your progress." As they passed out Brierly paused under the shadow of the porch. "May I ask if you have put the same embargo upon Miss Grant?" he questioned.
"I have, yes. Glenville must know what we wish it to know, and not a syllable more."
"Ah! I like that"
"Because it sounds as if you had really found the end of your thread here."
"Oh, yes. The beginning is here. Not of the case, mind; only of the clues. But heaven only knows where it may lead us before we find the end."
"What matters," said the brother of Charles Brierly, with a heavy sigh, "so long as it brings us to the truth!"
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