The first thing that struck Dr. Jim the next day, was an alteration in
the demeanour of his friend. When Herrick arrived at “The Pines” after
his visit to Corn, the Squire had already retired to bed, and was
asleep, so the servant said. Not wishing to disturb him, Jim had
supper all to himself, and went to his own room after a brisk walk on
the terrace. It struck him as curious that Stephen did not come down
to breakfast the next morning as he was now comparatively well. On
asking for the Squire he was informed that Marsh-Carr had gone out for
a walk. Herrick therefore had another lonely meal, wondering the while
what had taken Stephen out so early. The young man did not return till
late in the afternoon, and then excused himself by stating that he had
been to see Petronella at Beorminster.

“She is still in that dull house,” said Marsh-Carr gloomily, “although
I think she is tired of it and wants to go to her own country. But she
refuses to go all the same.”

“What is her reason?” asked Herrick sharply.

“I can’t get it out of her. She says my mother left a message with

“For you, I suppose? Well why doesn’t she deliver it and get away.”

“The message is for you Herrick.”

Dr. Jim stared. “For me!” he cried. “Why, what possible message can
your poor mother have left for me?”

“I really do not know,” replied Stephen indifferently, “you had better
see Petronella and ask her. She is looking very ill and if she stays
much longer in that damp house she will die.”

“All right,” replied Herrick coolly, “I’ll look her up some time. I
daresay the message is only one asking me to look after you.”

So Dr. Jim said, but in his heart he was wondering if the dead woman
had left behind her any confession of her crime. She might have done
so. Yet if she had poisoned herself to escape the consequences, it
would have been foolish of her to incriminate herself. Herrick
resolved to see Petronella at the first opportunity and learn what it
was that she had to tell him. If there were any really important
message it was strange that the old Italian had not delivered it long
ago. He had seen her frequently and there had been ample opportunity
for her to fulfil her mistress’ dying wish. However Herrick put this
out of his mind for the moment and turned his attention to Stephen.
“You are not looking well Steve,” he said gravely, “your face is
white, you have dark rings round your eyes, and a haggard look as
though you had not slept all night.”

“I am not yet quite myself,” said Marsh-Carr in a far more irritable
tone than Herrick had ever heard him use before.

“I can see that, and being someone else has not improved your temper.
I hope I have not offended you by going to town Steve?”

“Certainly not. How can you think so?”

“Well,” said Dr. Jim looking at him, “it struck me that you have been
trying to avoid me lately. If you are tired of me Steve, you need only
say so, and I’ll pack up and go.”

“No, I’m hanged if you will,” said the Squire vigorously. “I can’t do
without you. I have been worried a trifle and it has told on my
present state of health. I’ll be all right in a day or so.”

“Is there anything I can help you with?”

“No. It is a private matter, and concerns myself only.”

In the face of this intimation Herrick could not press his inquiries
and began to speak on other subjects, Stephen replying more or less
absently. As soon as he could he withdrew to his own room, saying he
wanted to lie down. Herrick did not seek to detain him, but shook his
head. “Something is wrong and he won’t tell me what it is,” he
thought, “I wonder if Santiago has been tampering with him in any way.
Perhaps Bess may know the reason for this change. I’ll see her at

But the extraordinary thing was that he found Bess changed also. He
had left her bright and merry, anxious to probe the secret of Colonel
Carr’s death. He returned to find her nervous, ill at ease, and
disinclined to continue her detective investigations.

“I don’t think we shall arrive at anything,” she said when Herrick
pressed her. “I spoke to Inspector Bridge and he can do nothing. He is
a professional, and if he fails, how can we hope to succeed?”

“Inspector Bridge is a conceited ass,” replied Dr. Jim gravely. “He
knows absolutely nothing. I know more than he does.”

“Did you see the Mexican and Mr. Joyce?” asked Bess.

“I saw them and I spoke to them, and I have found out something which
I need not tell you just now. It would be useless to do so. I must
search out the matter for myself, and when I succeed you shall know.”

Bess sighed. “I do not mind in the least,” she said mournfully. “I
have ceased to take an interest in the matter. If Frisco did not kill
Colonel Carr I do not know who did.”

“Humph! You are changeable, like all women,” said Dr. Jim rather
puzzled by her attitude, yet never guessing its cause. “By the way,
did you find out anything about that pistol?”

“Yes.” Bess thought she might as well tell him, as he would certainly
learn the truth sooner or later from Bridge. “The bullet fits the

“I thought so,” said Jim. “It is the weapon which was used.”

“Yes,” answered Bess; then after a pause. “I made another discovery.”

“Oh, you did? And about what, my dear?”

“The bullet which was used. It is of silver.”

“Of silver? What do you mean? Isn’t it lead?”

Bess laughed rather irritably. “If it was of lead how could it be
silver?” she asked and then went on to tell how the jeweller had
examined the missile. “Isn’t it curious?” she said.

Herrick nodded absently. His eyes were fixed on the ground and he was
trying to think of the reason Mrs. Marsh could have had for using so
expensive a bullet. Certainly the weapon was old-fashioned and she
would have to manufacture the bullets for herself. But why use silver
in preference to lead, or pewter? In an ordinary household the supply
of the last two metals was likely to be more plentiful than the first.
This was a problem, but one of so trifling a nature that Herrick
dismissed it almost immediately. He turned his attention to Bess.

“What have you and Stephen been doing with yourselves?” he asked.

Bess started violently and changed colour at once. “Nothing Jim,” she
said stiffly, “why do you ask?”

“Well, you both look ill. Stephen is avoiding me, and you are as
silent as an owl.”

“Not so stupid I hope,” said Bess with a laugh. At this moment Ida
entered the room, and nothing more was said. But Ida also complained
of Stephen’s health. “I wish you would make him stay in bed Dr. Jim,”
she said, “I am certain that he has got up too soon and is not strong
enough to go about. Look how pale he is, and silent. I can’t get a
word out of him.”

Herrick nodded. “I am not pleased myself Ida. This comes of my running
away to Town. I’ll exert my authority.”

He spoke to Stephen and urged him to lie up for a few days. The young
man obeyed meekly enough, and this very meekness made Herrick uneasy.
He would rather that Stephen had shown fight. But the Squire remained
in bed, took what was given him, and hardly ever opened his mouth. Ida
was in despair; Herrick was puzzled, and the two met to discuss the

“When did he change like this?” asked Dr. Jim.

“I think it was the day after you left,” replied Ida tearfully, “I
went to Beorminster to see Flo, and left him quite bright. When I met
him again, he was dull, and quiet, and white. Yet Bess was with him
while I was away, so he should not have missed me so much.”

“Oh!” said Jim with sudden interest, “so Bess was with him, was she?
H’m! It strikes me that Bess herself is not so bright as she might

“Indeed you are right there,” said Miss Endicotte, “she is sad and
silent just like Stephen. Or else she is so gay that I think she is
too excited. She cries for the least thing, and laughs without any

“Humph! Sounds like hysteria to me. Yet Bess is not given that way.”

“Of course not,” said Ida repelling the suggestion hastily, “she is a
strong, healthy, sensible girl and above such weakness. But as you say
she and Stephen have both changed. I think,” here Ida hesitated and
looked down. It amazed Herrick when she looked up to see that her eyes
were filled with tears. He could not understand it all.

“My dear girl what is the matter?” he exclaimed irritably, “are you
ill also. The devil has broken loose here since my departure.”

“I–I–can’t–help it,” sobbed Ida, “I thought that Bess and Stephen
might–might like one another.”

“Of course they do Ida. Why shouldn’t they?”

“You don’t understand what I mean. I wonder if they were in love with
one another and regret their engagements.”

Herrick burst into such a hearty fit of laughter that she was cheered.
“I never heard such nonsense in my life!” he said. “Where is your
women’s wit Ida? Why, Bess loves me devotedly I am certain. As for
Stephen, he adores the very ground you walk on. No! It’s not that my
dear girl.”

“Then what can it be?” asked Ida drying her tears.

“I shall question Bess until I find out,” said Herrick grimly. “You
have no idea how I can torture people with cross examination.”

True to his idea, Dr. Jim sought out Bess. He came across her in the
Pine wood beside the fairy circle. Her eyes were cast on the ground
and she looked despondent. When she saw Herrick she made as if to go

Dr. Jim felt wounded. “Bess! Don’t you want to see me.”

“Of course I do,” she said brightly, “only, I’m not very well.”

“Neither is Stephen,” said Dr. Jim, and he saw by her start that the
remark made her nervous. “Have you two quarrelled?”

“No! we have not; we are great friends.”

“Are you in love with one another then?”

Bess grew crimson and stamped. “How dare you say such a thing as that
even in jest?” she said. “What would Ida say if she heard it.”

“It was Ida’s own idea,” replied Herrick with a smile, “seeing you two
so glum, she fancied that you regretted your engagements and wanted to
marry one another. Just say if this is the case Bess and Ida and I
will console each other! That would be only fair, you know!”

The first smile that Herrick had seen on her face since his return
dimpled the cheek of Bess. “I never heard such nonsense. I like
Stephen, but you are the man I love. You stupid Jim; you know that!”

“I am not quite sure if I do,” said Jim gravely; “in love there should
be complete confidence.”

“Surely there is, between us,” said Bess nervously.

“You can’t look me in the face and repeat that.”

Bess made the attempt, and failed. “It is nothing!” she said

“There _is_ something however,” said Dr. Jim sternly, “you and Stephen
have some secret between you which is making you both ill. What is

“I can’t tell you Jim.”

“Then there _is_ a secret?”

“I won’t be questioned like this!” cried Bess with angry evasion.

Herrick took her by the arm and forced her to look into his face. “My
dear girl,” he said, “I am to be your husband, and you must obey and
consult me in all things. If you are playing with fire, I must know.
Do you not trust me Bess?”

“Yes. But the secret is not my own.”

“In that case I won’t press you for an explanation,” he said relaxing
his grip, “you are a foolish girl to have any secrets from one who
loves you. But I suppose you have given your word not to tell?”

“Yes. I cannot break my word.”

Herrick nodded. “I do not ask you to. The secret of Stephen shall be
respected. I do not even ask you if it has to do with the murder of
his uncle. There is no need to ask.”

Bess looked at him irresolutely, her face scarlet. Then without a word
she went slowly away. Herrick looked after her and nodded to himself.
“I believe she has found out something about Mrs. Marsh, and has told
Stephen; that would account for their melancholy and for the secret
which she says exists between them. I shall ask Stephen.”

That same afternoon Herrick went back to “The Pines” and into the
bedroom of Marsh-Carr. The young man was lying staring at the ceiling.
He seemed listless and worn-out. When Jim entered he turned his face
towards the wall so as to avoid his friend’s eyes. Herrick pretended
to take no notice although he was cut to the heart by the avoidance of
his gaze. He was very fond of Stephen, and mourned over this thing
which had come between them. However it was necessary to take extreme
measures if the situation was to be improved.

“Steve,” said Herrick formulating a plan, “I can’t eat alone any
longer, you must come down to dinner to-night.”

“I can’t,” said Stephen in a muffled tone, “I am too ill.”

“I know you are. Life and brightness and my society are what you need.
I was wrong to send you to bed. As your doctor I now order you to get

Stephen turned sulky. “I don’t want to.”

“You do not know what is good for you my friend,” said Herrick coolly,
“I shall expect to find you dressed and down to dinner at eight. After
a good meal you will be more like your old self.”

In this way after much coaxing, scolding, ordering and threatening Jim
got the young man to get up and dress. Marsh-Carr did so reluctantly
enough, for he was desperately afraid of betraying the secret he had
told Bess, to the sharp eyes of Herrick. However he was really tired
himself of being alone. This seclusion could not be kept up for ever,
and it was as well to make a beginning and get back into the old
routine. He therefore dressed with some care after a bath, and came
down into the drawing-room looking much better. Herrick was standing
on the hearth-rug, big and masterful. “Here you are at last,” he said,
“just in time for a glass of sherry.”

Stephen protested, but Herrick insisted. “You want something to make
you eat after being in bed all day. This sherry and bitters will do
for a medicine. I want you to eat and drink well to-night Steve. You
must get colour into your cheek and fire into your eye. What will Ida
say if I attend to you so badly?”

Stephen drank the sherry and felt better. Then they went to eat a
capital dinner and Dr. Jim saw that his friend tasted every dish. He
also made him drink champagne, and talked the whole time in a lively
way that was’ infectious. By the time dinner was over Stephen felt
positively happy. Then came cigars, coffee, and cognac, in the

“Now Steve, don’t you feel better?” said Herrick when they were seated
vis-à-vis beside a blazing fire.

“Yes,” replied the Squire and looking round the gorgeously-coloured
room, at the evidence of wealth and luxury spread out on every hand.
“I feel immensely better. I suppose I shall pick up soon.”

“If you follow the advice I shall leave with you, I think you will,”
said Herrick with intention and stared at the fire.

“What do you mean Jim? You don’t intend to–”

“Ah, but I do though Steve. I cannot stay with anyone who does not
trust me wholly. I want to be your friend. Your step-mother asked me
to look after you. I promised to do what I could, but unless you give
me your unreserved confidence, it is useless for me to remain.”

Stephen rose agitated and began to pace the room. “I trust you in
every way Jim; you know I do.”

“I know nothing of the sort Steve. You trust Bess though.”

“Ah! She has told you?” cried Marsh-Carr angrily.

“No! she has told me nothing. But I am not a fool Steve and I have
eyes in my head. I saw that she was as sad as you, and by putting two
and two together I became certain that there was something between you
to make both sad. Bess would not tell me anything, nor did I ask her.
She is a loyal little woman. Still from her manner I guessed there was
a secret. I am certain,” added Herrick looking steadily at his friend,
“that such a secret can only have to do with the death of your uncle.
Now, as I am looking after this case you must tell me what you know.
If you do not, I shall throw up the matter and leave you. I must be
trusted all in all, or not at all, my friend.”

While Herrick was speaking Stephen had sat down. He changed from red
to white from white to red again and his breathing became short and
hard. He saw that Herrick was in earnest, and that he would either
have to tell or lose his friend. In a tumult of anxiety he rose again
and began to pace the room. “You put me to a hard test,” he cried.

“Perhaps I do,” replied Dr. Jim calmly, “but it is to prove your
friendship and your manhood. Tell me the truth.”

“You will despise me if I do,” said Marsh-Carr thoughtlessly and
regretted the words almost as soon as they had left his mouth.

Herrick appeared unmoved although he was inwardly surprised. “I do not
think anything you could say or do would make me despise you,” he said
in his calmest tone. “I know you too well to think you would do
anything dishonourable. Come what is it?”

But Stephen still remained silent, his eyes on the ground, He was
debating whether he would go on or not. Herrick saw his hesitation and
guessed its cause. “You have got over the worst now,” he said
soothingly. “Come along, Steve. Sit down and tell me.”

“No,” replied Stephen hoarsely, “I prefer to stand up.” Then suddenly.
“It was I who fired those three shots into the body of my uncle.”

“Was it?” said Herrick quietly. “And why did you do that.”

“Because I was mad at the time?”

“Had you not better tell me the whole affair? Then I shall be in a
position to judge of your madness.”

Stephen was amazed at the calm way in which his friend took the
intelligence. However he had gone so far that there was nothing left
to do but to confess all as he had confessed to Bess. In a hurried
manner the young man repeated the tale, and informed Herrick how Bess
had found out the truth by means of the revolver. “And now you must
despise me” was his final remark. He sunk into his chair with a groan.

Herrick paused for a moment to think. Then he carefully lighted his
pipe. “I do not despise you by any manner of means,” he said calmly,
“but I must admit that I think you are quixotic.”

The word–to Stephen’s mind was so inapplicable to the situation that
he looked up astonished, scarcely believing his ears. “Quixotic!” he
repeated. “I do not quite see.”

“Well,” said Herrick nodding, “you see Mrs. Marsh is dead, so no harm
can be done to her. It is good of you to screen her memory–”

“Stop! Stop! What do you mean Herrick?” cried the Squire much

“I mean that you have taken this guilt on your head to screen your
step-mother’s memory.”

Stephen paused. Then he looked up resolutely. “Yes,” he said, “I may
tell you, if I tell no one else. It was my mother who fired those
shots. Bess found out about my pistol which my mother used, so I took
the blame on myself.”

“You chivalrous ass!” said Herrick with a growl, “and you’ve been
fretting over this? Why didn’t you save time by telling me before?”

“I thought–I thought–”

“Never mind what you thought. After you came to seek your mother at
the rectory, and did not find her, what did you do?”

Stephen stared. “How do you know that I did not find her there?” he

“I know more than you think. Tell me all that you saw?”

“I saw nothing,” replied Stephen. “Corn said that my mother had gone
to the Carr Arms. I could not find her there. I fancied in one of her
rages, she might have gone up to ‘The Pines.’ I went there but saw
nothing. Then I came back to the Carr Arms and found my mother. She
said I had missed her. I thought she spoke the truth. I never
questioned her even after I heard of Carr’s death. It never entered my
head that she had killed the man.”

“Then how did you guess?”

“It came into my head like a flash when Bess said that my revolver was
empty in three chambers. I was certain that when I put it away the
whole six were loaded. Even as Bess spoke it entered my mind that my
mother must have taken the revolver, and have gone up after she left
the rectory a second time, to threaten the Colonel. She must have
found him dead and then have fired the three shots into his body. Then
she replaced the revolver. I never thought of looking at it. It was
brought here along with some other things and it was only when

“I see,” nodded Dr. Jim, “now look here Steve, had your mother another
pistol–an old-fashioned horse pistol?”

“No, I am sure she had not. At least, I never saw her with one. It was
with such a pistol that Carr was shot. Good heavens Herrick, you do
not mean to say that my mother killed the man.”

“Well; I have heard your account and I have heard the account of Corn.
I do not know how to reconcile the two.”

“Corn–Corn the rector? What has he to do with it?”

“A good deal. So have Joyce and Santiago and others. See here Steve, I
have been searching for evidence in this case for a long time. To
spare you I said nothing, but now that your step-mother has been
brought into the matter it is but right you should know. Sit down. I
will tell you a long and interesting story.”

Rather dazed, Stephen did as he was told. Then Dr. Jim related all
that he had learned, bringing the narrative down to the end of his
interview with the Revd. Pentland Corn. “Now what do you think?” he
asked when the whole story was told.

“I do not know what to think. My mother–I can’t believe that she

“It does seem strange,” said Herrick, “but I tell you what. It is my
opinion that this message Petronella will deliver, will tell the