He shook his head. “I do not think so, Caroline.”
“Did you kill Roger Unthank?”
A portion of the burning log fell on to the hearth. Then there was silence. They heard the click of the billiard balls in the adjoining room. Dominey leaned forward and with a pair of small tongs replaced the burning wood upon the fire. Suddenly he felt his hands clasped by his companion’s.
“Everard dear,” she said, “I am so sorry. You came to me a little tired to-night, didn’t you? I think that you needed sympathy, and here I am asking you once more that horrible question. Forget it, please. Talk to me like your old dear self. Tell me about Rosamund’s return. Is she really recovered, do you think?”
“I saw her only for a few minutes,” Dominey replied, “but she seemed to me absolutely better. I must say that the weekly reports I have received from the nursing home quite prepared me for a great improvement. She is very frail, and her eyes still have that restless look, but she talks quite coherently.”
“What about that horrible woman?”
“I have pensioned Mrs. Unthank. To my surprise I hear that she is still living in the village.”
“And your ghost?”
“Not a single howl all the time that Rosamund has been away.”
“There is one thing more,” Caroline began hesitatingly.
That one thing lacked forever the clothing of words. There came a curious, almost a dramatic interruption. Through the silence of the hall there pealed the summons of the great bell which hung over the front door. Dominey glanced at the clock in amazement.
“Midnight!” he exclaimed. “Who on earth can be coming here at this time of night!”
Instinctively they both rose to their feet. A manservant had turned the great key, drawn the bolts, and opened the door with difficulty. Little flakes of snow and a gust of icy wind swept into the hall, and following them the figure of a man, white from head to foot, his hair tossed with the wind, almost unrecognisable after his struggle.
“Why, Doctor Harrison!” Dominey cried, taking a quick step forward. “What brings you here at this time of night!”
The doctor leaned upon his stick for a moment. He was out of breath, and the melting snow was pouring from his clothes on to the oak floor. They relieved him of his coat and dragged him towards the fire.
“I must apologise for disturbing you at such an hour,” he said, as he took the tumbler which Dominey pressed into his hand. “I have only just received Lady Dominey’s telegram. I had to see you—at once.”
The doctor, with his usual bluntness, did not hesitate to make it known that this unusual visit was of a private nature. Caroline promptly withdrew, and the two men were left alone in the great hall. The lights in the billiard-room and drawing-room were extinguished. Every one in the house except a few servants had retired.