“Roger Unthank was a lunatic,” Dominey pronounced deliberately. “His behaviour from the first was the behaviour of a madman.”
“The Eugene Aram type of village schoolmaster gradually drifting into positive insanity,” Mangan acquiesced. “So far, every one is agreed. The mystery began when he came back from his holidays and heard the news.”
“The sequel was perfectly simple,” Dominey observed. “We met at the north end of the Black Wood one evening, and he attacked me like a madman. I suppose I had to some extent the best of it, but when I got back to the Hall my arm was broken, I was covered with blood, and half unconscious. By some cruel stroke of fortune, almost the first person I saw was Lady Dominey. The shock was too much for her—she fainted—and—”
“And has never been quite herself since,” the lawyer concluded. “Most tragic!”
“The cruel part of it was,” Dominey went on, standing before the window, his hands clasped behind his back, “that my wife from that moment developed a homicidal mania against me—I, who had fought in the most absolute self-defence. That was what drove me out of the country, Mangan—not the fear of being arrested for having caused the death of Roger Unthank. I’d have stood my trial for that at any moment. It was the other thing that broke me up.”
“Quite so,” Mangan murmured sympathetically. “As a matter of fact, you were perfectly safe from arrest, as it happened. The body of Roger Unthank has never been found from that day to this.”
“If it had—”
“You must have been charged with either murder or manslaughter.”
Dominey abandoned his post at the window and raised his glass of sherry to his lips. The tragical side of these reminiscences seemed, so far as he was concerned, to have passed.
“I suppose,” he remarked, “it was the disappearance of the body which has given rise to all this talk as to his spirit still inhabiting the Black Wood.”
“Without a doubt,” the lawyer acquiesced. “The place had a bad name already, as you know. As it is, I don’t suppose there’s a villager here would cross the park in that direction after dark.”
Dominey glanced at his watch and led the way from the room.
“After dinner,” he promised, “I’ll tell you a few West African superstitions which will make our local one seem anemic.”
“I certainly offer you my heartiest congratulations upon your cellars, Sir Everard,” his guest said, as he sipped his third glass of port that evening. “This is the finest glass of seventy I’ve drunk for a long time, and this new fellow I’ve sent you down—Parkins—tells me there’s any quantity of it.”
“It has had a pretty long rest,” Dominey observed.
“I was looking through the cellar-book before dinner,” the lawyer went on, “and I see that you still have forty-seven and forty-eight, and a small quantity of two older vintages. Something ought to be done about those.”