branch, you remember, with which he had held her down,’ said Gavin, nodding.

‘That is what we were meant to find. She got nurses to guard her night and day until she felt fully recovered. I agree about that,’ said Mrs Bradley. Laura noted and digested this reply.

‘But why didn’t we see him?’ she asked. ‘We looked, you know, didn’t we, David?’

‘The reeds made sufficient cover for a fisherman, I expect,’ said Gavin. ‘I know they would for me, and it would not have taken him more than a minute to wriggle away from us there.’

‘And did he really kill little Grier because the kid had seen someone push him into the river?’ demanded Laura.

‘It scarcely seems credible, does it?’ said Mrs Bradley. ‘But injured vanity is an imponderable factor, and Mr Tidson’s vanity had been very sadly injured.’

‘Do you think he would ever have harmed Arthur Preece-Harvard?’

‘Well, if he had, I’m afraid he would have been suspect at once, unless he could have made it look as though Connie had done it out of jealousy or revenge.’

‘Well, I wouldn’t put anything past him. One thing puzzles me more than the murders, though, really. Did he truly believe in his nymph?’ demanded Gavin.

‘Yes, I’d like to know that,’ said Laura.

‘Who can say? Your thought on that matter is just as good as mine. Look around you. What do you see?’ said Mrs Bradley.

Laura obeyed the command, but did not answer the question. Instead she said to Gavin:

‘When did you know he had done it?’

‘As soon as I heard about the first panama hat. I did not see how Potter could have invented that hat which he declared he had seen beneath the boy’s body. It is not a usual type of hat in these days, and is, I should say, completely unknown in the district in which Potter lives. I didn’t think there was the slightest reason why he should have mentioned it unless he had actually seen it. And as, therefore, I concluded that that part of his story was true, and as Mr Tidson’s activities on the night in question were somewhat odd, a field of what Mrs Bradley calls speculation was opened.’

‘Wasn’t it the sandal which really dished him, then?’

‘Not in my opinion. The defence, I think you will find, will challenge us to prove that the two sandals make a pair. They are both so very badly worn that I think such proof would be almost out of the question.’

‘Besides,’ said Mrs Bradley, ‘Mr Tidson’s behaviour with the one which he brought to the hotel was not that of a guilty person, and, if he sticks to his story of having found it alongside the river, I doubt whether we can successfully contradict him. Besides, I think you forget—’

‘You don’t think he stands a chance of getting off, do you?’ asked Laura, struck suddenly by this unwelcome thought. Gavin shrugged.

‘Stranger things have happened,’ he replied. ‘It is almost impossible to tell what kind of evidence will convince the general public, and in a case of child murder it will make a difference if there are women on the jury. Well, I must go back now. Some of us work.’ He grinned. Laura nodded, a little coolly, and, looking at Mrs Bradley, said:

‘I suppose Connie’s evidence would dish herself as well as Mr Tidson if she could be got to speak? I mean, she helped to transport the body, didn’t you say?’

‘No, I didn’t say so, and I don’t think she did. I don’t think Biggin was killed on Saint Catherine’s Hill at all. I think the murder took place very close to where he was found. None but a madman would have dreamed of transporting the body that distance and over such difficult ground.’

‘How did Connie get hold of Mr Tidson’s gloves to be able to plant them in that hole on the hill? And the second sandal – where did that come from?’

‘I leave all that to you,’ said Mrs Bradley. ‘I can only say that they appeared in the hole after the police and I had both scrutinized its contents. Does that suggest anything to you?’

‘Only that Connie went to some pains to make certain that the sins of her Uncle Edris should find him out.’

‘True. Go on from there.’

‘I can’t.’

‘You will. But Mr Tidson did not try to murder Crete. He has a perfect alibi, unless Mrs Preece-Harvard is lying.’

‘And is she?’

‘No, I don’t think so, child. The forked stick was Connie again.’

Chapter Twenty-Two

‘I caught my last Trout with a worm, now I will put on a minnow and try a quarter of an hour about yonder trees for another, and so walk towards our lodgings . . . But turn out of the way a little, good Scholar, towards yonder high honeysuckle hedge: there we’ll sit and sing . . .’

IZAAK WALTON (The Compleat Angler)

THE magistrates remanded Mr Tidson.

‘We need further evidence,’ said Gavin. ‘Where in heaven’s name do we get it?’

‘We concentrate upon the peculiar and distinctive features of the case,’ Mrs Bradley replied. ‘Chief among them I rate the obscure movements and extraordinary actions of Connie Carmody. There is also the one inexplicable lapse of Mr Tidson.’

‘Of course,’ said Gavin, pursuing his own thoughts, ‘Tidson has put up a pretty good show. He’s declared that the gloves were planted – a point we can hardly dispute – and he’s underlined the complete absence of motive. Absence of motive, that is—’

‘So far as a jury is concerned. I agree,’ said Mrs Bradley placidly. ‘A jury wouldn’t look at Mr Tidson. Practice makes perfect is such an old-fashioned idea.’

‘It isn’t only the absence of motive,’ said Laura. ‘They’ll see that if the gloves were planted there was no reason why that hat shouldn’t have been planted, too – that is, if they believe Potter. And then there’s another thing—’

‘Oh, let it all come!’ groaned Gavin.

‘Well, don’t you see what Mrs Croc. means by Mr Tidson’s curious lapse? There ought to have been a third victim.’

‘Eh?’ said Gavin, staring.

‘Me,’ said Laura. ‘If we really think he murdered little Grier because the kid saw him take a ducking, I ought to have been murdered weeks ago. I actually tossed him in.’

‘Good Lord, yes, so you did.’

‘Well, why hasn’t he crept up behind me with his half-brick? It was different with the bloke who threw him in first. I don’t suppose their paths have crossed again.’

‘It’s a point,’ said Gavin, rubbing his jaw.

‘How do you suppose that Connie got hold of his gloves, and – we’ll say for the sake of argument – his hat?’ Mrs Bradley enquired.

‘Burgled his bedroom, I imagine.’

‘I don’t think she’d have dared. She was very much afraid of him at that time. She may have wiped out his fingerprints later.’

‘He could have left his hat and gloves in the Cathedral at some time,’ said Laura. ‘But why on earth didn’t he say so?’

‘He will – at the trial – if it ever comes to the point. And the point is it may sound like the truth. We have to

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