“Never mind, I’ll have him out soon!” he vowed.
He returned to the station, and was whirled on through the flat, green country to the charming Sussex village of Pevensey, with its ruined old castle and rambling street, and the blue line of the Channel flashing in the distance. His journey did not end here, and he was impatient to continue it. He procured a horse and trap at the Railway Arms, gleaned careful instructions from the landlord, and drove back a few miles along the hedge-lined roads, while the sea faded behind him.
It was eleven o’clock when he reached the retired little hamlet of Dunwold. He put up his vehicle at a quaint old inn, and refreshed himself with a simple lunch. Then he sought the vicarage, hard by the ancient church with its Norman tower, and, on inquiring for Mr. Chalfont, he was shown into a sunny library full of books and Chippendale furniture, with flowers on the deep window-seats and a litter of papers on the carved oak writing-desk.
The vicar entered shortly—an elderly gentleman of benevolent aspect and snowy beard, but sturdy and lithe-limbed for his years, clearly one of those persons who seemed predestined for the placidity of clerical life. After a penetrating glance he greeted his visitor most graciously, and expressed pleasure at seeing him.
“I am sure that you are a stranger to the neighborhood,” he continued. “Our fine old church draws many such hither. If you wish to go over it, I can show you many things of interest—”
“At another time,” Jimmie interrupted, “I should be only too delighted. I regret to say that it is quite a different matter that brings me here—hardly a pleasant one. This will partly explain, Mr. Chalfont.”
He presented the letter Sir Lucius had given him, and when it had been opened and read he poured out the whole story of Diane’s life and end, of the charge against Jack Vernon, and the clew that the murdered woman had revealed to her landlady.
The vicar rose from his chair, showing traces of deep agitation and distress.
“A friend of Sir Lucius Chesney is a friend of mine,” he said, hoarsely. “I shall be glad to help you—to do anything in my power to clear your friend. I believe that he is innocent. Your sad story has awakened old memories, Mr. Drexell. And it is a great shock to me, as you will understand when I tell you all. I seldom read the London papers, and it comes as a blow and a surprise to me that Diane Merode has been murdered.”
“Then you know her by that name?” exclaimed Jimmie. “This is indeed fortunate, Mr. Chalfont. I feared that you would find it difficult to identify the woman—to recall her. And the man whom she proclaimed as her enemy—do you know him?”