“The cashbox?” My brain whirled.
“The key was in your father’s pocket. He had fetched the box from his room, it appears, about two hours before, and carried it out to the summer-house. I cannot tell you with what purpose he carried it out there, but it was quite contrary to his routine.”
She poured out a cup of tea, and passed it to me with shaking hands. She pressed me to eat, and all the time she kept talking, sometimes lucidly, sometimes quite incoherently; and I listened in a kind of dream. My father had been well-nigh a stranger to me, and I divined that I should never sorrow for his loss as those sorrow who have genuinely loved. But his death, and the manner of it, shocked me dreadfully, and from the shock my brain kept harking away to Captain Coffin and his pursuer. Could they have reached Minden Cottage? And, if so, had their visit any connection with this crime? Captain Danny had started for Minden Cottage. . . . Had he arrived? And, if so—
I heard Miss Plinlimmon asking: “Would you care to see him—that is, dear, if you feel strong enough? His expression is wonderfully tranquil.”
She led me upstairs and opened the door for me. A sheet covered my father from feet to chin, and above it his head lay back on the pillow, his features, clear-cut and aquiline, keeping that massive repose which, though it might seem to be deeper now in the shade of the darkened room, had always cowed me while he lived. It seemed to me that my father’s death, though I ought to feel it more keenly, made strangely little difference to him.
“You will need sleep,” said Plinny, who had been waiting for me on the landing.
I told her that she might get my bed ready, but I would first take a turn in the garden. I tiptoed downstairs. The floor of the summer-house had been washed. The vane on its conical roof sparkled in the sunlight. I stood before it, attempting to picture the tragedy of which, here in the clear morning, it told nothing to help me. My thoughts were still running on Captain Coffin and the French prisoner. Plinny—for I had questioned her cautiously—plainly knew nothing of any such man. They might, however, have entered by the side-gate. I stepped back under the apple-tree by the flagstaff, measuring with my eye the distance between this side-gate and the summer-house. As I did so, my foot struck against something in the tall grass under the tree, and I stooped and picked it up—a pair of gold-rimmed eyeglasses!
THE BLOODSTAIN ON THE STILE.
My father, in erecting a flagstaff before his summer-house, had chosen to plant it on a granite millstone, or rather, had sunk its base through the stone’s central hole, which Miss Plinlimmon regularly filled with salt to keep the wood from rotting. Upon this mossed and weather-worn bench I sat myself down to examine my find.