“It occurs to me that there are one or two very puzzling points about that visit of ours, Melhuish,” he began.
“At least two,” I agreed.
“Which are?” he asked.
“I’d prefer to hear yours first,” I said, having no intention of displaying my own.
He was so eager to exhibit his cleverness that he did not press me for my probably worthless deductions.
“Well, in the first place,” he said, “did it strike you as a curious fact that Miss Banks, and she alone, was apparently disturbed by that dog’s infernal barking?”
“It hadn’t struck me,” I admitted; and just because I had not remarked that anomaly for myself, I was instantly prepared to treat it as unworthy of notice. “I suppose her father and mother and the servants, and so on, heard her let us in,” I said.
Jervaise jeered at that. “Oh! my good man,” he said.
“Well, why not?” I returned peevishly.
“I put it to you,” he said, “whether in those circumstances the family’s refusal to make an appearance admits of any ordinary explanation?”
I could see, now, that it did not; but having committed myself to a point of view, I determined to uphold it. “Why should they come down?” I asked.
“Common curiosity would be a sufficient inducement, I should imagine,” Jervaise replied with a snort of contempt, “to say nothing of a reasonable anxiety to know why any one should call at two o’clock in the morning. It isn’t usual, you know—outside the theatrical world, perhaps.”
I chose to ignore the sneer conveyed by his last sentence.
“They may be very heavy sleepers,” I tried, fully aware of the inanity of my suggestion.
Jervaise laughed unpleasantly, a nasty hoot of derision. “Don’t be a damned fool,” he said. “The human being isn’t born who could sleep through that hullabaloo.”
I relinquished that argument as hopeless, and having no other at the moment, essayed a weak reprisal. “Well, what’s your explanation?” I asked in the tone of one ready to discount any possible explanation he might have to make.
“It’s obvious,” he returned. “There can be only one. They were expecting us.”
“Do you mean that Miss Banks was deliberately lying to us all the time?” I challenged him with some heat.
“Why that?” he asked.
“Well, if she were expecting us...”
“Which she never denied.”
“And had warned all her people...”
“As she had a perfect right to do.”
“It makes her out a liar, in effect,” I protested. “I mean, she implied, if she didn’t actually state, that she knew nothing whatever of your sister’s movements.”
“Which may have been true,” he remarked in the complacent tone of one who waits to formulate an unimpeachable theory.
“Good Lord! How?” I asked.