Bellthorp reddened slightly, and turned away as he saw the other smiling, for his relations with Mrs Killer were well known.
‘That hand business is all bosh,’ observed Felix Rolleston, authoritatively; ‘it’s in a play called “The Hidden Hand".’
’Perhaps the person who poisoned Miss Sprotts, got the idea from it?’ suggested Jarper.
‘Pshaw, my dear fellow,’ said Vandeloup, languidly; ’people don’t go to melodrama for ideas. Everyone has got their own version of this story; the best thing to do is to await the result of the inquest.’
‘Is there to be an inquest?’ cried all.
‘So I’ve heard,’ replied the Frenchman, coolly; ’sounds as if there was something wrong, doesn’t it?’
‘It’s a curious poisoning case,’ observed Bellthorp.
‘Ah, but it isn’t proved that there is any poisoning about it,’ said Vandeloup, looking keenly at him; ‘you jump to conclusions.’
‘There is no smoke without fire,’ replied Rolleston, sagely. ’I expect we’ll all be rather astonished when the inquest is held,’ and so the discussion closed.
The inquest was appointed to take place next day, and Calton had been asked by Madame Midas to be present on her behalf. Kilsip, a detective officer, was also present, and, curled up like a cat in the corner, was listening to every word of the evidence.
The first witness called was Madame Midas, who deposed that the deceased, Selina Jane Sprotts, was her servant. She had gone to bed in excellent health, and next morning she had found her dead.
The Coroner asked a few questions relative to the case.
Q. Miss Marchurst awoke you, I believe?
Q. And her room is off yours?
Q. Had she to go through your room to reach her own?
A. She had. There was no other way of getting there.
Q. One of the windows of your room was open?
A. It was—all night.
Miss Kitty Marchurst was then called, and being sworn, gave her story of the hand coming through the window. This caused a great sensation in Court, and Calton looked puzzled, while Kilsip, scenting a mystery, rubbed his lean hands together softly.
Q. You live with Mrs Villiers, I believe, Miss Marchurst?
A. I do.
Q. And you knew the deceased intimately?
A. I had known her all my life.
Q. Had she anyone who would wish to injure her?
A. Not that I knew of. She was a favourite with everyone.
Q. What time did you come home from the ball you were at?
A. About half-past two, I think. I went straight to Mrs Villiers’ room.
Q. With the intention of going through it to reach your own?
Q. You say you fell asleep looking at a portrait. How long did you sleep?
A. I don’t know. I was awakened by a noise at the window, and saw the hand appear.