‘We shall find it all right, if the municipal authorities have done their job patriotically.’


‘Yes. I suppose the sandal was made of leather? Of course, he’ll be able to explain away the fingerprints, if he made any, but—’

‘Oh!’ said Laura, who was standing beside him.

‘Say on,’ said Gavin. ‘Or shall I say it for you? If there are no prints, that’s what he’ll have to explain, as he says he found the sandal along the river! He wouldn’t have had gloves on then!’

‘He’ll deny that it is the same sandal,’ said Laura, ‘even though the two make a pair.’

‘I know,’ said Gavin grimly. ‘But I’ll break him in halves if he doesn’t come across with what he knows. ‘I’m sick of old Tidson. He cumbers the ground. By the way, I thought we’d better play safe where the Preece-Harvard kid was concerned, so I’ve warned the College authorities.’

‘Good heavens! What did they say?’ enquired Laura. ‘Did they believe you? Didn’t they throw you out?’

‘No. I saw the Second Master. He listened to the whole thing very patiently, quoted Gilbert Chesterton, reminded me of the College rebellion of 1818, and sent me along to Preece-Harvard’s house-master.’

‘What did he quote from Chesterton?’

The Napoleon of Notting Hill. It was after I had told him about the naiad. He said, “Yesterday I thought that something next door to a really entertaining miracle might happen to me before I went to amuse the worms.” And then he went on to tell me that he had been a student of crime for many years, and had once been guest of the Detection Club. I said I liked Roger Sheringham and Nigel Strangeways much the best of all amateur detectives, and that I wished Father Ronald Knox had written more detective stories. I also invited him to visit our Rogues’ Gallery whenever he was in Town. Anyway, they won’t let Preece-Harvard out of their sight, although nothing will be said to him about it, so that’s a job taken out of our hands.’

‘That’s that, but what are we going to do about Connie?’ asked Laura. ‘As I see it, she’s the next problem.’

‘We’ve nothing to charge her with, Laura. We don’t know officially (and we never shall) that she tried her best to make away with Tidson,’ Gavin replied. ‘But now to waylay the little man.’

Mr Tidson laughed at the story of the sandal, and said that he had picked it out of the water and had brought it home to tease his wife and Miss Carmody about the naiad. He was plausible, sceptical, non-committal and, when pressed very hard, challenging.

‘I don’t know why you should think I had anything to do with these murders,’ he protested. ‘What could I gain from them? You cannot show that I ever met the two boys. The whole accusation is ridiculous! It is quite ridiculous, and you know it!’

‘As ridiculous as the naiad, no doubt,’ said Gavin. ‘You come with me, and I will show you where we found the other sandal.’

‘I have no idea why you think the other sandal would interest me in the slightest, my dear Inspector,’ said Mr Tidson, waving his hands. ‘The sandal I placed on the refuse cart made one of a pair, I have no doubt, but of what pair it would not be easy to say.’

‘The gloves make a pair, too,’ said Gavin. ‘I hope to prove that the pair is yours.’

‘Gloves?’ said Mr Tidson. He seemed about to say more, but changed his mind.

‘Well, be seeing you,’ said Gavin, with a cheerfulness he did not feel. ‘Give my regards to the naiad.’

‘One moment, Inspector,’ said Mr Tidson. ‘There is one thing I ought to tell you. I admit that the naiad has been a considerable disappointment to me, so I propose to acquire a wireless set and listen to Cathedral choirs as an alternative.’

‘No more fishing with old boots?’ said Gavin, suspicious of this cheerful attitude.

‘I shall not go fishing any more. I am convinced that I shall never see my naiad. Moreover, I am afraid of Connie Carmody. You know, you should question her closely,’ said Mr Tidson. ‘She did her very best to drown me. She is a very strange girl. I think she is a schizophrenic. She probably killed those poor boys during one of her attacks. Split personality, you know.’

‘You old devil!’ said Gavin suddenly and with loathing. Mr Tidson looked mildly surprised.

‘I am only giving her the benefit of the doubt,’ he said, smiling a little. ‘She may not be a schizophrenic at all. She may be a werwolf or a vampire, for all I know.’

* * *

The municipal authorities found the sandal that Gavin wanted. It took some time, and the winter had begun to creep across the meadows, the willows were naked whips in the sudden gales, and the river leapt white and full between blackened banks before the case against Mr Tidson was resumed.

Mr Tidson had gone into lodgings. He declared that he dared not stay in the house with Connie. Crete, he observed horrified at the prospect of winter in England, had returned to Tenerife.

Gavin arrived at just after three on a grey and muddy afternoon in early October, and found Mr Tidson alone. Mr Tidson welcomed him, invited him in, and told him that the landlady had gone to the cinema for the afternoon, and that he hoped she would bring him home a kipper or a bloater for his tea.

‘You won’t need either,’ said Gavin. ‘You’re coming with me. I’ve a few questions to ask you.’

‘Oh?’ said Mr Tidson. He went over to his wireless set, and, in the middle of twiddling with knobs, he put his plump hand to his mouth and began to cough.

‘Look out, sir!’ said the sergeant. ‘I think he’s swallowing something!’

‘Here, you! Spit it out!’ shouted Gavin. He and the sergeant leapt upon Mr Tidson like a couple of tomcats on a rabbit. Mr Tidson opened his mouth.

‘All gone!’ he said, with a childish little giggle of glee. ‘It was only a cough sweet, Inspector.’

‘Now, look here, Tidson,’ said Gavin. A voice from the wireless receiving set interrupted him. There came the announcement of Choral Evensong. The inspector strode across to it to switch it off.

‘Oh, you can’t be in all that hurry,’ said Mr Tidson. ‘Do leave it on, my dear Inspector! They are going to do Wesley in E.’

‘And now for the truth,’ said Mrs Bradley. Mr Tidson looked at her appraisingly.

‘You wouldn’t believe it,’ he said.

‘We might,’ said Gavin aggressively. Mr Tidson shook his head.

‘Nonsense, my dear Inspector,’ he said. ‘You do not want the truth. You want to find me guilty.’

‘Same thing,’ said Gavin. Mr Tidson smiled. ‘By no means, Inspector,’ he said, ‘as Mrs Bradley realizes, even if you do not.’

‘Go ahead,’ said Gavin. ‘And keep it short.’

‘Well,’ said Mr Tidson, ‘I came here to look for my naiad. There seemed no reason at all why I should not see her. Besides—’ He paused.

‘Perhaps,’ said Mrs Bradley, ‘it falls to me to explain. Correct me, Mr Tidson, if I go wrong.’

‘Ah,’ said Mr Tidson, in great relief. ‘I place myself in your hands with the greatest confidence. At one point I thought you had failed, but I know now that I misjudged you. I should have retained faith, for, without faith, works, as the Scriptures point out, are redundant and dangerous.’

‘What Scripture points out,’ began Gavin, ‘is—’

‘Spare me the Biblical knowledge and the spiritual pride of Scotsmen,’ said Mr Tidson, raising a small, plump hand. ‘Mrs Bradley is about to tell you a bedtime story. Pray silence, Mr Policeman, for the grandmother whom you have been teaching to suck eggs.’

‘Mr Tidson,’ said Mrs Bradley, speaking mildly, although there was an expression on her face and in her birdlike, unmerciful eye which boded Mr Tidson no good, ‘you are waspish. You must forgive him, my dear David,’ she added, turning to Gavin. ‘You see, since he decided to look for his naiad in Winchester, young men of about your age have twice tried to teach him to mind his own business.’

‘You dare!’ shouted Mr Tidson, half rising from his chair. Gavin put out a large hand and pushed him back.

‘Three’s your unlucky number,’ he remarked. ‘Remain sensible, seated and civil, little man, or I might forget myself.’

Parlez doucement, lentement et en francais,’ said Mrs Bradley appreciatively. ‘The first young man pushed him into the river. That must have been along the slightly gloomy railway walk from the

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