The person, to everyone’s surprise, who turned up first, was young Preece-Harvard. They found him at tea with Crete, with whom he seemed to get on very well. The surprise was partly on Crete’s side. It was evident she had not realized that Mrs Bradley already knew the boy. She recovered at once, and said quickly:

‘I was very anxious to meet him. We are related, as you know, by marriage.’

Arthur gave his own explanation, which coincided with hers.

‘I had leave,’ he said, smiling at Crete, ‘as Mrs Tidson is my aunt and is going back to Tenerife so soon. I have to be back for chapel, of course. I am disappointed not to see Uncle Edris.’

‘Oh, he will be back before you go,’ said Crete, with a half-glance at Mrs Bradley. ‘He had to visit your Aunt Priscilla in London. I expect him at any moment now.’

But Arthur was obliged to leave without meeting his uncle and heir.

‘It is sad,’ said Crete, accompanying him to the outer door of the hotel. ‘He has missed his train. It is like him. If you met him you would perhaps know him. You must say prayers for me, please, to your saint. You are quite the nicest boy. You must come to Tenerife and stay with me. I shall have a new playfellow for you, and one you will like.’

‘A Spaniard?’ exclaimed Mrs Bradley. Crete smiled and pressed Arthur’s arm into which she had slipped her own.

‘Arthur knows that I jest and make fun for him,’ she said; but when she had waved farewell to the boy and he had gone striding off down the narrow street with his black gown flying and his long grey-flannelled legs making it look even shorter than it was, she turned to Mrs Bradley and said:

‘I think poor Edris is in danger.’

‘I think he is,’ Mrs Bradley agreed. ‘But it’s of no use to ask me to help him out of it. I don’t even know what help he needs.’

‘Nor I. He is with poor Prissie.’

‘Is he? I did not know that. He is very lucky not to be in prison.’

‘He sent me a telegram.’ She produced it. Mrs Bradley took it, seated herself on an oak settle which was against the vestibule wall, and read the telegram.

‘In London join you soon,’ Mr Tidson had written for transmission.

‘He comes this evening, no doubt,’ said Crete.

But at ten o’clock that night there was still no sign of Mr Tidson. Crete, shrugging, gave him up and announced her intention of going to bed. At half-past ten Thomas came into the lounge to tell Mrs Bradley that she was wanted on the telephone. It was Gavin.

‘So you’re still up and about?’ he said.

‘Yes. The vultures gather,’ said Mrs Bradley, cackling mirthlessly into the receiver.

‘Is Tidson there?’



‘I gather that he is.’

‘Crete Tidson isn’t with you, is she?’

‘She is at the hotel, but she has gone to bed.’

‘She has quite recovered, I take it?’

‘It seems so.’

‘Well, look, I’ve got a clue to the murder of that second boy. Can’t tell you over the telephone. When can I meet you to-morrow?’

‘As early as you like.’

‘At half-past ten, then. I’ll come to the smoke-room and wait there until you turn up. I think we’ve got him cold. To-morrow, then. Good-night.’

As it happened, this appointment did not materialize at that place and time. Mrs Bradley woke early on a beautiful morning, rose at six, and by seven was walking between the lime trees towards the west front of the Cathedral.

From the riverside path Saint Catherine’s Hill showed a long slope interrupted only by the dark shadow of the fosse, which made a sudden sharp dip in the smoothly-flowing contours of the turf. The grove of trees on the summit of the hill looked almost black. The greenish willows along the edges of the river, and marking its brooks and carriers, leaned, heavily foliaged, towards the swift, clear water; and the sedges showed the traces of yellowing autumn.

The air was clear and fairly cold, so that Mrs Bradley, walking, not fast, but faster than she had at first intended to do, did not see Mr Tidson until she was coming back towards the city. Feeling considerably warmer by the time she had walked up and over the hill, and had come opposite the wooden bridge, she turned and walked up the path to stand on the bridge and gaze at the water flowing so deeply below her.

It was then that she saw Mr Tidson. He was lying on his back with his head on a rolled-up coat. A cowman stood beside him as though on guard.

‘The young lady tried to save him,’ said the cowman. ‘I come up as soon as I could, but too late to give her any help. Her couldn’t do nothen for the poor old gentleman, her said. Her weren’t too strong a swimmer, and, in the end, her had to letten him go. Hers gone off now to get help. I offered to go, but her wouldn’t have none of that, and seeing how wet she was, I thought maybe the run ud do her good. I’m afeared there’s nothing ee can do, mum. Us pump-’andled him all us knew. He’s gone, I be afraid. Got his legs all tangled in the weeds, I reckon. Wasn’t no help for him at all. The young lady said she got there too late to do him any good.’

Mrs Bradley thought it extremely unlikely that the weeds which she could see in the river were of the kind to twine round Mr Tidson’s legs and drown him, but she did not say so to the cowman. She knelt beside Mr Tidson, gripped his nose with a steel thumb and finger, and pressed her other hand over his mouth.

This unorthodox treatment had on the corpse a most extraordinary effect. Mr Tidson began to writhe and struggle.

‘Ah,’ said Mrs Bradley, in brisk congratulation, ‘that’s much better.’ She helped Mr Tidson to his feet and regarded him thoughtfully. ‘How wet you are! You had better run home and change.’

‘Well!’ said the cowherd admiringly. ‘If ever I see the beat of that there! You’d be a doctor, no doubt, mum?’

‘Yes, of course,’ agreed Mrs Bradley, gazing benignly after the rapidly retreating form of Mr Tidson.

‘And that ud be the new-fangled treatment, no doubt?’

‘Well, the old-fangled treatment, I think,’ said Mrs Bradley. ‘Which way did the young lady take?’

‘Same as the drownded gentleman, mum. That way. I feel as if I’d seed a meracle.’

‘I think perhaps you have,’ said Mrs Bradley. She turned and, picking up her skirts, went hastily after Mr Tidson.

Mr Tidson, on the unimpeachable evidence of Thomas, had not returned to the Domus. Mrs Bradley rang up Gavin and asked him to meet her without delay under Kings Gate.

‘This is where we practise a little mild deception,’ she said. ‘Your part is to back me up by saying little and wearing a look of deep concern.’ She then explained what had happened, and, as she talked, she hurried him along to the Domus.

‘Well, that finishes the naiad, I presume,’ he said, grinning broadly when he had heard all. ‘Mrs Tidson will have to be told. Can I leave you to break the news?’

‘I shall be glad to do so,’ Mrs Bradley replied. ‘We must find out first, though, how much she knows already.’

Crete appeared to know nothing. She took the news very calmly.

‘So the naiad embraces him at last,’ she said, smiling slightly and focusing her large, dark eyes on the window. ‘Ah, well, it could be expected, I suppose.’ She evidently took it for granted that Mr Tidson was dead, although Mrs Bradley had not said as much.

‘Why did he kill those two boys?’ asked Mrs Bradley.

‘It was experimental, like atom bombs,’ said Crete, with a sidelong glance at her and a very slight shrug. ‘He wished to show that it could be done. It is dangerous, that mood. But he proved his point. One needs to take pains, that is all.’

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