Tallente pointed to the rope.
“If you would care to search for yourself, Mr. Inspector, we’ll help you down.”
The man shook his head.
“Scarcely a job for a man of my build, sir. I have a professional climber coming to-morrow. I wish you had informed me of your intention to go down to-night.”
“If you had informed me of your intention to remain in the neighborhood, that might have been possible,” was the cool reply. The man took the loose wooden rail from its place and held it under his arm. “Walking off with a portion of my fence, eh?” Tallente asked.
The inspector made no direct reply. He turned his torch on to the broken end.
“A clue?” Tallente asked him lightly. The other turned away. “It is not my place, sir,” he announced, “to share any discovery I might make with a person who has deliberately refused to assist the law.”
“No one has convinced me yet,” Tallente replied, “that Palliser’s disappearance is a matter in which the law need concern itself.” The inspector coughed. “I wish you good night, sir.” He disappeared along the narrow path. They listened to his retreating footsteps. Tallente picked up his end of the rope. “I was right,” he said, as he led the way back to the house. “Quite the Inspector Bucket type.”
At noon the next day, Tallente, nervously as well as physically exhausted with the long climb from the Manor, turned aside from the straight, dusty road and seated himself upon a lichen-covered boulder. He threw his cap on the ground, filled and lighted an old briar pipe, and gazed with a queer mixture of feelings across the moorland to where Woolhanger spread itself, a queer medley of dwelling house and farm buildings, strangely situated at the far end of the table-land he was crossing, where the moor leaned down to a great hollow in the hills. The open stretch of common which lay between him and his destination had none of the charm of the surrounding country. It was like a dark spot set in the midst of the rolling splendours of the moorland proper. There were boulders of rock of unknown age, dark patches of peat land, where even in midsummer the mud oozed up at the lightest footfall, pools and sedgy places, the home and sometimes the breeding place of the melancholy snipe. Of colour there was singularly little. The heather bushes were stunted, their roots blackened as though with fire, and even the yellow of the gorse shone with a dimmer lustre. But in the distance, a flaming carpet of orange and purple stretched almost to the summit of the brown hills of kindlier soil, and farther round, westwards, richly cultivated fields, from which the labourers seemed to hang like insects in the air, rolled away almost to the clouds.