“I don’t follow you at that,” I said.
“No?” said he. “Then I’ll make it plainer to you. Do you know that until yon Sir Gilbert Carstairs came here, not so long since, to take up his title and his house and the estate, he’d never set foot in the place, never been near the place, this thirty year? Man! his own father, old Sir Alec, and his own sister, Mrs. Ralston of Craig, had never clapped eyes on him since he went away from Hathercleugh a youngster of one-and-twenty!”
“Do you tell me that, Mr. Crone?” I exclaimed, much surprised at his words. “I didn’t know so much. Where had he been, then?”
“God knows!” said he. “And himself. It was said he was a doctor in London, and in foreign parts. Him and his brother—elder brother, you’re aware, Mr. Michael—they both quarrelled with the old baronet when they were little more than lads, and out they cleared, going their own ways. And news of Michael’s death, and the proofs of it, came home not so long before old Sir Alec died, and as Michael had never married, of course the younger brother succeeded when his father came to his end last winter. And, as I say, who knows anything about his past doings when he was away more than thirty years, nor what company he kept, nor what secrets he has? Do you follow me?”
“Aye, I’m following you, Mr. Crone,” I answered. “It comes to this—you suspect Sir Gilbert?”
“What I say,” he answered, “is this: he may have had something to do with the affair. You cannot tell. But you and me knows he was near the place—coming from its direction—at the time the murder would be in the doing. And—there is nobody knows but you—and me!”
“What are you going to do about it?” I asked.
He had another period of reflection before he replied, and when he spoke it was to the accompaniment of a warning look.
“It’s an ill-advised thing to talk about rich men,” said he. “Yon man not only has money of his own, in what you might call considerable quantity, but his wife he brought with him is a woman of vast wealth, they tell me. It would be no very wise action on your part to set rumours going, Moneylaws, unless you could substantiate them.”
“What about yourself?” I asked. “You know as much as I do.”
“Aye, and there’s one word that sums all up,” said he. “And it’s a short one. Wait! There’ll be more coming out. Keep your counsel a bit. And when the moment comes, and if the moment comes—why, you know there’s me behind you to corroborate. And—that’s all!”
He got up then, with a nod, as if to show that the interview was over, and I was that glad to get away from him that I walked off without another word.
SIGNATURES TO THE WILL