There were murmurs of sympathy from the four young men, who each in his own fashion appeared to derive consolation from Sir Timothy’s frank and somewhat caustic statement. Francis, who had listened unmoved to this flow of words, glanced towards the door behind which dark figures seemed to be looming.
“That is all you have to say, Sir Timothy?” he asked politely.
“For the present, yes,” was the guarded reply. “I trust that I have succeeded in setting these young gentlemen’s minds at ease.”
“There is one of them,” Francis said gravely, “whose mind not even your soothing words could lighten.”
Shopland had risen unobtrusively to his feet. He laid his hand suddenly on Fairfax’s shoulder and whispered in his ear. Fairfax, after his first start, seemed cool enough. He stretched out his hand towards the glass which as yet he had not touched; covered it with his fingers for a moment and drained its contents. The gently sarcastic smile left Sir Timothy’s lips. His eyebrows met in a quick frown, his eyes glittered.
“What is the meaning of this?” he demanded sharply.
A policeman in plain clothes had advanced from the door. The manager hovered in the background. Shopland saw that all was well.
“It means,” he announced, “that I have just arrested Mr. Robert Fairfax here on a charge of wilful murder. There is a way out through the kitchens, I believe. Take his other arm, Holmes. Now, gentlemen, if you please.”
There were a few bewildered exclamations—then a dramatic hush. Fairfax had fallen forward on his stool. He seemed to have relapsed into a comatose state. Every scrap of colour was drained from his sallow cheeks, his eyes were covered with a film and he was breathing heavily. The detective snatched up the glass from which the young man had been drinking, and smelt it.
“I saw him drop a tablet in just now,” Jimmy faltered. “I thought it was one of the digestion pills he uses sometimes.”
Shopland and the policeman placed their hands underneath the armpits of the unconscious man.
“He’s done, sir,” the former whispered to Francis. “We’ll try and get him to the station if we can.”