“It’s impossible, sir! It’s a sheer precipice for four hundred feet!”
“Nothing of the sort,” was the cool reply. “There are heaps of ledges and little clumps of pines and yews. All that you will have to do is to pull up the rope when I am ready. You can fasten it to a tree when I go down.”
“It’s not worth it, sir,” the man protested anxiously. “No one will ever find the body down there.”
“Send the boy home to stay with his parents to-night,” Tallente continued. “Your wife, I suppose, can be trusted?”
“She is living up at the garage, sir,” Robert answered. “Besides, she is deaf. I’ll tell her that I am sleeping in the house to-night as you are not very well. And forgive me, sir—her ladyship left a message. She hoped you would lunch with her to-morrow.”
Tallente strolled out again in a few minutes, curiously impatient of the restraint of walls, and clambered up the precipitous field at the back of the Manor. Far up the winding road which led back into the world, a motor-car was crawling on its way up over. He watched it through a pair of field glasses. Leaning back in the tonneau with folded arms, as though solemnly digesting a problem, was Inspector Gillian. Tallente closed the glasses with a little snap and smiled.
“The Bucket type,” he murmured to himself, “very much the Bucket type.”
The moon that night seemed to be indulging in strange vagaries, now dimly visible behind a mist of thin grey vapour, now wholly obscured behind jagged masses of black cloud, and occasionally shining brilliantly from a little patch of clear sky. Tallente waited for one of the latter moments before he finally tested the rope which was wound around the strongest of the young pine trees and stepped over the rustic wooden paling at the edge of the lookout He stood there balanced between earth and sky, until Robert, who watched him, shivered. “There is nothing to fear,” his master said coolly. “Remember, I am an old hand at mountain climbing, Robert. All the same, if anything should happen, you’d better say that we fancied we heard a cry from down below and I went to see what it was. You understand?”
Tallente took a step into what seemed to be Eternity. The rope cut into his hands for the first three or four yards, as the red sand crumbled away beneath his feet, and he was obliged to grip for his life. Presently he gained a little ledge, from which a single yew tree was growing, and paused for breath.
“Are you all right, sir?” Robert called out from above.
“Quite,” was the confident answer. “I shall be off again in a minute.”