I must have waited quite a long time, though the golden minutes sped unreckoned, for when my two colleagues arrived they tendered needless apologies.
“And I suppose,” said Thorndyke, “you have been wondering what I wanted you for.”
I had not, as a matter of fact, given the matter a moment’s consideration.
“We are going to call on Mr. Jellicoe,” Thorndyke explained. “There is something behind this affair, and until I have ascertained what it is, the case is not complete from my point of view.”
“Wouldn’t it have done as well to-morrow?” I asked.
“It might; and then it might not. There is an old saying as to catching a weasel asleep. Mr. Jellicoe is a somewhat wide-awake person, and I think it best to introduce him to Inspector Badger at the earliest possible moment.”
“The meeting of a weasel and a badger suggests a sporting interview,” remarked Jervis. “But you don’t expect Jellicoe to give himself away, do you?”
“He can hardly do that, seeing that there is nothing to give away. But I think he may make a statement. There were some exceptional circumstances, I feel sure.”
“How long have you known that the body was in the Museum?” I asked.
“About thirty or forty seconds longer than you have, I should say.”
“Do you mean,” I exclaimed, “that you didn’t know until the negative was developed?”
“My dear fellow,” he replied, “do you suppose that, if I had had certain knowledge where the body was, I should have allowed that noble girl to go on dragging out a lingering agony of suspense that I could have cut short in a moment? Or that I should have made these humbugging pretences of scientific experiments if a more dignified course had been open to me?”
“As to the experiments,” said Jervis, “Norbury could hardly have refused if you had taken him into your confidence.”
“Indeed he could, and probably would. My ‘confidence’ would have involved a charge of murder against a highly respectable gentleman who was well known to him. He would probably have referred me to the police, and then what could I have done? I had plenty of suspicions, but not a single solid fact.”
Our discussion was here interrupted by hurried footsteps on the stairs and a thundering rat-tat on our knocker.
As Jervis opened the door, Inspector Badger burst into the room in a highly excited state.
“What is all this, Doctor Thorndyke?” he asked. “I see you’ve sworn an information against Mr. Jellicoe, and I have a warrant to arrest him; but before anything is done I think it right to tell you that we have more evidence than is generally known pointing to quite a different quarter.”
“Derived from Mr. Jellicoe’s information,” said Thorndyke. “But the fact is that I have just examined and identified the body at the British Museum, where it was deposited by Mr. Jellicoe. I don’t say that he murdered John Bellingham—though that is what the appearances suggest—but I do say that he will have to account for his secret disposal of the body.”