“A lame ending to a masterly exposition,” was Thorndyke’s comment.
“I know,” said Jervis. “But what would you have? There are quite a number of possible solutions, and one of them must be the true one. But how are we to judge which it is? I maintain that until we know something of the parties and the financial and other interests involved we have no data.”
“There,” said Thorndyke, “I disagree with you entirely. I maintain that we have ample data. You say that we have no means of judging which of the various possible solutions is the true one; but I think that if you will read the report carefully and thoughtfully you will find that the facts now known to us point clearly to one explanation, and one only. It may not be the true explanation, and I don’t suppose it is. But we are now dealing with the matter speculatively, academically, and I contend that our data yield a definite conclusion. What do you say, Berkeley?”
“I say that it is time for me to be off; the evening consultations begin at half-past six.”
“Well,” said Thorndyke, “don’t let us keep you from your duties, with poor Barnard currant-picking in the Grecian Isles. But come in and see us again. Drop in when you like, after your work is done. You won’t be in our way even if we are busy, which we very seldom are after eight o’clock.”
I thanked Dr. Thorndyke most heartily for making me free of his chambers in this hospitable fashion and took my leave, setting forth homewards by way of Middle Temple Lane and the Embankment; not a very direct route for Fetter Lane, it must be confessed; but our talk had revived my interest in the Bellingham household and put me in a reflective vein.
From the remarkable conversation that I had overheard it was evident that the plot was thickening. Not that I supposed that these two respectable gentlemen really suspected one another of having made away with the missing man; but still, their unguarded words, spoken in anger, made it clear that each had allowed the thought of sinister possibilities to enter his mind—a dangerous condition that might easily grow into actual suspicion. And then the circumstances really were highly mysterious, as I realised with especial vividness now after listening to my friend’s analysis of the evidence.
From the problem itself my mind travelled, not for the first time during the last few days, to the handsome girl who had seemed in my eyes the high-priestess of this temple of mystery in the quaint little court. What a strange figure she made against this strange background, with her quiet, chilly, self-contained manner, her pale face, so sad and worn, her black, straight brows and solemn grey eyes, so inscrutable, mysterious, Sibylline. A striking, even impressive, personality this, I reflected, with something in it sombre and enigmatic that attracted and yet repelled.
And here I recalled Jervis’s words: “The girl must have been in it if the father was.” It was a dreadful thought, even though only speculatively uttered, and my heart rejected it; rejected it with an indignation that rather surprised me. And this notwithstanding that the sombre black-robed figure that my memory conjured up was one that associated itself appropriately enough with the idea of mystery and tragedy.