The Grey Wig: Stories and Novelettes eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 373 pages of information about The Grey Wig.
guarded by the latch-key lock and the big lock.  On the upper floor are two rooms—­a front room used by deceased for a bedroom, and a back room which he used as a sitting-room.  The back room has been left open, with the key inside, but the window is fastened.  The door of the front room is not only locked but bolted.  We have seen the splintered mortice and the staple of the upper bolt violently forced from the woodwork and resting on the pin.  The windows are bolted, the fasteners being firmly fixed in the catches.  The chimney is too narrow to admit of the passage of even a child.  This room, in fact, is as firmly barred in as if besieged.  It has no communication with any other part of the house.  It is as absolutely self-centred and isolated as if it were a fort in the sea or a log-hut in the forest.  Even if any strange person is in the house, nay, in the very sitting-room of the deceased, he cannot get into the bedroom, for the house is one built for the poor, with no communication between the different rooms, so that separate families, if need be, may inhabit each.  Now, however, let us grant that some person has achieved the miracle of getting into the front room, first floor, 18 feet from the ground.  At half-past six, or thereabouts, he cuts the throat of the sleeping occupant.  How is he then to get out without attracting the attention of the now roused landlady?  But let us concede him that miracle, too.  How is he to go away and yet leave the doors and windows locked and bolted from within?  This is a degree of miracle at which my credulity must draw the line.  No, the room had been closed all night—­there is scarce a trace of fog in it.  No one could get in or out.  Finally, murders do not take place without motive.  Robbery and revenge are the only conceivable motives.  The deceased had not an enemy in the world; his money and valuables were left untouched.  Everything was in order.  There were no signs of a struggle.  The answer, then, to our second inquiry, Was the deceased killed by another person? is, that he was not.

“Gentlemen, I am aware that this sounds impossible and contradictory.  But it is the facts that contradict themselves.  It seems clear that the deceased did not commit suicide.  It seems equally clear that the deceased was not murdered.  There is nothing for it, therefore, gentlemen, but to return a verdict tantamount to an acknowledgment of our incompetence to come to any adequately grounded conviction whatever as to the means or the manner by which the deceased met his death.  It is the most inexplicable mystery in all my experience.” (Sensation.)

The FOREMAN (after a colloquy with Mr. Sandy Sanderson):  We are not agreed, sir.  One of the jurors insists on a verdict of “Death from visitation by the act of God.”

IV

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The Grey Wig: Stories and Novelettes from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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