“Why, that explains it!” exclaims Crewe, in the voice of a man who had solved a difficulty.
“Explains what?” asked Inspector Chippenfield.
“Explains why her father has taken the risk of coming forward in this case to give evidence for Holymead. Gratitude for what Holymead had done for his girl while he was in prison. My experience of criminals is that they frequently show more real gratitude to those who do them a good turn than people in a respectable walk of life. Besides, you know what a sentimental value people of his class attach to seeing their kin buried decently. If Holymead hadn’t come forward the girl would have been buried as a pauper, in all probability.”
“But I don’t see that old Kemp is taking much risk,” said Inspector Chippenfield. “He is only perjuring himself, and he is too used to that to regard it as a risk.”
“Don’t you think he will be in an awkward position if the jury were to acquit Holymead?” asked Crewe. “One jury has already said that Sir Horace Fewbanks was dead when Birchill broke into the house, and if this jury believes Kemp’s story and says Sir Horace was alive when Holymead left it, don’t you think Kemp will conclude that it will be best for him to disappear? Some one must have killed Sir Horace after Holymead left, and before Birchill arrived.”
“Whew! I never thought of that,” said Rolfe candidly.
“Kemp is a liar from first to last,” said Inspector Chippenfield decisively.
When they reached Riversbrook they entered the carriage drive and traversed the plantation until they stood on the edge of the Italian garden facing the house. The gaunt, irregular mansion stood empty and deserted, for Miss Fewbanks had left the place after her father’s funeral, with the determination not to return to it. The wind whistled drearily through the nooks and crannies of the unfinished brickwork of the upper story, and a faint evening mist rose from the soddened garden and floated in a thin cloud past the library window, as though the ghost of the dead judge were revisiting the house in search of his murderer. The garden had lost its summer beauty and was littered with dead leaves from the trees. The gathering greyness of an autumn twilight added to the dreariness of the scene.
“Kemp didn’t say how far he stood from the house,” said Crewe, “but we’ll assume he stood at the edge of the plantation—about where we are standing now—to begin with. How far are we from that library window, Chippenfield?”
“About fifty yards, I should say,” said the inspector, measuring it with his eye.
“I should say seventy,” said Rolfe.