SIR GILBERT CARSTAIRS
It was probably with a notion of justifying my present course of procedure to myself that during that ride I went over the reasons which had kept my tongue quiet up to that time, and now led me to go to Sir Gilbert Carstairs. Why I had not told the police nor Mr. Lindsey of what I had seen, I have already explained—my own natural caution and reserve made me afraid of saying anything that might cast suspicion on an innocent man; and also I wanted to await developments. I was not concerned much with that feature of the matter. But I had undergone some qualms because I had not told Maisie Dunlop, for ever since the time at which she and I had come to a serious and sober understanding, it had been a settled thing between us that we would never have any secrets from each other. Why, then, had I not told her of this? That took a lot of explaining afterwards, when things so turned out that it would have been the best thing ever I did in my life if I only had confided in her; but this explanation was, after all, to my credit—I did not tell Maisie because I knew that, taking all the circumstances into consideration, she would fill herself with doubts and fears for me, and would for ever be living in an atmosphere of dread lest I, like Phillips, should be found with a knife-thrust in me. So much for that—it was in Maisie’s own interest. And why, after keeping silence to everybody, did I decide to break it to Sir Gilbert Carstairs? There, Andrew Dunlop came in—of course, unawares to himself. For in those lecturings that he was so fond of giving us young folk, there was a moral precept of his kept cropping up which he seemed to set great store by—“If you’ve anything against a man, or reason to mistrust him,” he would say, “don’t keep it to yourself, or hint it to other people behind his back, but go straight to him and tell him to his face, and have it out with him.” He was a wise man, Andrew Dunlop, as all his acquaintance knew, and I felt that I could do no better than take a lesson from him in this matter. So I would go straight to Sir Gilbert Carstairs, and tell him what was in my mind—let the consequences be what they might.
It was well after sunset, and the gloaming was over the hills and the river, when I turned into the grounds of Hathercleugh and looked round me at a place which, though I had lived close to it ever since I was born, I had never set foot in before. The house stood on a plateau of ground high above Tweed, with a deep shawl of wood behind it and a fringe of plantations on either side; house and pleasure-grounds were enclosed by a high ivied wall on all sides—you could see little of either until you were within the gates. It looked, in that evening light, a romantic and picturesque old spot and one in which you might well expect to see ghosts, or fairies, or the like. The house itself was something between an eighteenth-century