In the room where Mrs. Marsh had died, and in the same bed, lay the
old Italian woman dying also. She was sitting up, with a red woollen
shawl wrapped round her bony shoulders, and her lean hands told her
rosary. Whatever views Sidney might have instilled into her regarding
life beyond the grave, Petronella still remained within the fold of
Peter. She was muttering prayer after prayer with feverish haste and
the black beads slipped quickly from between her fingers.

The room was dusty, dark and untidy. Near the bed was a bottle of
Chianti and some bread, but the flask was full and the loaf untouched.
Petronella was past earthly food. Herrick saw the mark of death on her
yellow face. She seemed pleased to see him and not at all afraid.
Receiving him with a chuckle, she interpreted the look in his eyes.

“So he has told you, that young Signor,” she said in her own tongue,
“ah! I thought he would. It was time–but too late Signor Dottore–too
late for the prison. I go into Purgatory. Ten pounds for masses
Signor. You will see that they are said. Then I may get into Paradise
to rest. I need rest. All my life I have worked hard. The Good God
will not be hard on poor old Petronella.”

Dr. Jim took a chair by the bedside, and felt her pulse. “You need
nourishing food Petronella,” he said soothingly, “a cup of soup now–”

“Eh! Eh Signor Dottore that ‘will not help me. I am dying. You do not
know. I have never told you. Cancer Signor–a bad cancer. I shall

“I may be able to–”

“No, I do not want that. They would put me in prison. Let me die. The
young Signor said I would die. It is foolish to live. I will go to my
Padrona and explain.”

“Then you did shoot the Colonel, Petronella?”

“Si! Si!” the old woman coughed, “he was a devil-man. He was cruel to
my padrona, to the young Signor. Also he had the evil eye. Hard to
kill. Oh, yes,” she chuckled, “but the silver bullet–ah yes the silver
bullet.” Dr. Jim looked at her in silence. He wondered that he had not
suspected Petronella before. After Bess had told him about the bullet,
he had been certain that the person who had fired the shot, was of a
superstitious nature. Mrs. Marsh being Italian might have thought of
the same thing. But she was educated, and above such folly.
Petronella, a woman of the people with feudal instincts, had clung to
that wild belief of the Middle Ages. She was the one person of Dr.
Jim’s acquaintances, who would have dreamed of such a thing, and her,
he had not suspected.

“Why did you use a silver bullet Petronella?”

“Eh! the man was a diavolo–a witch creature–he had the evil eye. Did
I not meet with an accident after he had over-looked me. It was better
he should die, rather than live to ruin the Signora. A silver bullet.
Only in that way Signor can those aided by the devil perish. I am not
sorry. No. It was a good deed. The young Signor said so.”

“All the same Petronella I must tell you that Frisco is accused of
this murder. He is in prison. It is unfair that he should suffer for
what you have done, so you must make confession.”

“I have done so Signor Dottore. I wrote with my own hand in my own
language, that I Petronella had slain this devil-man with a silver

“Even so,” said Herrick, “but I want to write down your confession
myself. You can sign it and the police officer can witness it. Thus,
will the man who is in prison for your crime be saved.”

“The police,” echoed Petronella, “ah, I knew they would come. But they
will not put me in prison Signor. I die. I die, and that soon. Eh! as
you will. You have been good to me. I will do what you want. Yonder in
the corner Signor–the padrona’s ink and pen–also the paper. Write
down what I say, and I will sign. What does it matter now I die.”

Dr. Jim found the materials and placing them on the little round table
looked at Petronella. She nodded and muttered a prayer, then began to
speak in her usual rapid manner. She spoke in Italian, but Dr. Jim for
the benefit of Bridge translated it into English. Luckily Herrick was
an excellent linguist and found no difficulty in doing this.

“Signor,” began Petronella, “it happened in this way. I was at the
house of that devil-man with the Signora–oh a long time ago. The
padrona went to ask him for money. He refused, the cursed robber,–and
we were so poor–so poor. My signora the last of a great race, poor.
Gran’ Dio. It was evil that she should be poor. But the devil-man
would give not one lira. Ah no! He kept all. I was angered, because of
my padrona. I saw on the table a cup of silver, and that I took.”

“You stole the cup?”

“Why not. My padrona was poor. That devil-man saw me, he struck
me–yes, even me Petronella a free Italian. And he over-looked me with
his evil eye. I shuddered. I knew that I would have an accident. And
the next day I hurt myself. Ah the wicked wretch. I gave back the cup,
as he made me. But when we went down the stairs I took another of
silver. This time he saw me not, and I carried it here under my

“What did Mrs. Marsh say?”

“My padrona was angry. But I did not care. I did not sell the silver
cup as she was angered, but I kept it, yes, for the silver bullet–”

Herrick looked up from his writing. “Had you made up your mind then to
kill Colonel Carr?” he asked.

“No, not then. I should have liked to: because he cast on me the evil
eye. Ah Dio mio I made horns, but it was no use. I had an accident. No
Signor Dottore I did not wish to kill him then–very much. Later on
when the will–the will–”

“Did you know about the will?”

“Si! Si! It was that Frisco told me. I was in the market. He also, and
he had the wine in him. He talked foolishly, and said that his Signor
would make another will leaving all the money to him. I saw that my
poor padrona and the young Signor Stefano would be ruined. I came back
and told the Signora. She was angered. Then she said she would go to
see this devil-man. Signor,” here Petronella clutched Herrick by the
wrist, “I knew that my padrona had a temper. She could rage. I feared
what she might do. I watched—eh! yes, I watched. She was to dine
with the padre at Saxham, and then see the wicked Signor.”

“Did you not know she would see him in the afternoon?”

“No! She said she would go about nine and see him. That after his
dinner he would be in a good temper and might not do this wrong.
Signor, I saw that she took with her a pistol.”

“The revolver of Mr. Marsh?”

“Si! Si! She took it from the case in the room of the young Signor
Stefano. I saw her. I knew that if the devil-man laughed at her she
would kill him. Yes. She would.”

“No, Petronella,” said Dr. Jim soothingly, “she only meant to frighten
him. So she said in the letter you gave me.”

“No Signor,” replied the old woman indignantly, “the daughter of the
Micholotti would not be so weak. She would have killed him.”

“Upon my soul,” muttered Herrick, “I believe she would.”

“I was in great alarm Signor,” went on Petronella. “I thought if she
did so, that she would be put in prison. It was terrible to think so.
I was angered against the devil-man. He had struck me; he had looked
upon me with the evil eye. Now he would tempt my Signora to kill him
and so be put in prison. I saw that all would be lost. Then I said to
myself, to me Petronella, that I would kill him alone.”

The old woman drew herself up in bed, and looked majestic as she
spoke. Herrick was profoundly sorry for her. She had carried her
feudal instinct to excess, and so had jeopardised her life for the
sake of her mistress. He understood well how she had been urged to
this. The blow, the evil eye, the possibility of her young master
being ruined by another will, and above all, the chance that her
Signora might kill the man herself–a fiery faithful creature like
Petronella could not let such things be. As she said, she made up her
mind to kill Carr, before Mrs. Marsh could see him. Where she made the
mistake was, that she thought her mistress would see the man at night.
As a matter of fact she did, but already had seen him in the day.
Perhaps Mrs. Marsh guessed what Petronella might do, and she had told
a falsehood about the time of calling at “The Pines.”

“When the Signora departed,” said Petronella, rocking to and fro, for
she was in pain, “I got my pistol. Si, Signor, it was the pistol of my
husband. He fought for the King when we freed Italy. I too, was in the
war. I shot many–oh many. He showed me; I was not afraid to shoot.”

“This piece of information showed Herrick how it was Carr had been
shot through the heart. Petronella, having been in the Italian war of
liberation, knew how to handle firearms. Probably she was an
excellent markswoman. The shooting of Carr proved her to be so.

“I had bullets,” said Petronella, “but they were of lead. I knew that
the devil man protected by the Wicked One, could not be slain by only
a leaden bullet. I wanted a silver one. Ah Gran’ Dio! there was no
silver in this house. Then I thought of the cup I had taken. I got it
and melted it down over a big fire. I made three bullets in the mould
of my husband. I took his powder flask, but it was empty. The young
Signor Stefano had powder in his room–I stole it. Then I loaded the
pistol and set it aside till the night.”

“Where was Mr. Marsh all this time?” asked Herrick.

“He was in the house in the afternoon, and went to eat with a friend
of his, Signor Barker–”

“The newspaper editor,” said Dr. Jim. He remembered that this was the
man who looked after the Beorminster Chronicle and took an interest in
Stephen’s poetry, “he dined with him?”

“Si Signor, and said he would not be back till late. He was to bring
home the Signora from Saxham. I was all alone and I saw what I could

“And what did you do Petronella?”

“I hid the pistol in my shawl and walked to Saxham. I got there before
eight. I went to the big house, I found it empty. I climbed the stair
where I knew the devil man would be in the tower. He was standing by
his bed dressed to eat. He took up a pistol but let it down when he
saw it was only old Petronella.”

“You mean he still held the pistol?”

“Yes. I waited for a moment as he stared at me, and then shot him. I
aimed for the heart,” said Petronella hugging her knees. “The silver
bullet went through the heart. Oh, my husband showed me how to shoot

“What did you do then?”

“I made sure the devil-man was dead. He fell on his face. Then I went
down the stairs. I saw someone, I did not know who it was. But the
young Signor told me he was there. I ran through the pine wood, and he
followed, I hid behind a tree, and then after a time I got home. No
one knew that I had been out, and when the Signora and the young
Signor Stefano came back I said nothing. The Signora looked white. She
said nothing to me but I knew that she had seen the devil-man. What
did I care. She could not kill him again. That is all Signor.”

“You lost the pistol?”

“I lost my husband’s pistol,” said Petronella precisely, “it dropped
from my pocket when I ran, I did not care. No one would know that it
belonged to me. Then I heard Frisco had gone. I was glad. They would
not think I had killed the devil man.”

“Didn’t Mrs. Marsh suspect?”

“My signora? No. She said nothing. I was certain she had fired the
other three shots for I know my signora. Also I looked at the revolver
in the case when she put it back.”

“If Frisco had been arrested at once would you have spoken out?”

“No. Frisco was a bad man too. I would be glad if they put him in

“Why do you tell now then?”

“The young Signor made me tell. Ah! he is a terrible young Signor. He
makes me afraid. He said I would die, and that I must tell at once or
he would speak to the police. Well I have told and I die. Have you all
down Signor. I will sign. Ah! Dio mio!” she started up in bed, “the

It was indeed Bridge who entered with a red face and astonished eyes.
He was followed by Sidney looking calm, just as though the Inspector
had not been scolding him all the way because he had not told about
Petronella before. But it took someone stronger than Inspector Bridge
to frighten Sidney. For a moment the Inspector stared at the bed, and
at his prisoner as he regarded the old woman. Then he spoke to Dr.

“This is an extraordinary thing sir,” he said slowly.

“Very,” assented Herrick, “I only knew of it myself an hour ago.”

“I thought this young gentleman was telling me a lie.”

“It is the truth,” said Petronella pointing to Herrick, “the Signor
has written all down. Here, see me sign my name, and you can say I
signed it.”

Inspector Bridge wanted to talk, but Dr. Jim made him a sign to be
silent. The old woman was sinking fast and there was no time to be
lost. With great difficulty she signed her name. Herrick and Bridge
appended their signatures, and all was over.

“This will set Frisco free,” said Bridge, “and now I must see about
getting a warrant out for this woman.”

“It is too late,” said Dr. Jim, “she is dying.”

“She won’t die,” said Bridge with a disdainful smile, “all this is
done to cheat the law. I have a policeman downstairs. He shall come up
and watch her, while I go for a warrant of arrest.”

“She will die before sunset,” said Sidney calmly, and went to the old
women. He took her hand. “Good bye Petronella. You will be happy soon.
You know what is to be done.”

“Si Si. I know. I am happy. I will go to my husband,” said Petronella.
Then she looked at Dr. Jim with a worn smile. “I did it for my
signora,” she said, “you can go. You can do me no good now.”

Herrick saw that well enough. However he went to see if he could get a
nurse to heat some soup, and revive the woman. To be sure it was
little use bringing her back to health and strength just to hang her.
But Dr. Jim acted for the best. He went out with Sidney and the
Inspector, leaving two policemen in charge. Bridge had the confession
in his pocket, and intended to go up to town to deliver it into the
hands of the proper authorities. Frisco had to be released seeing that
he was innocent. “And I always thought he was,” said Bridge lying in
the most shameless manner.

Sidney looked after the man with a queer smile when he went away. “He
is only wasting time,” said the boy.

“We may keep the old woman alive till to-morrow,” said Herrick.

Sidney shook his head. “She will die before sunset,” he said.

Out of sheer perversity Dr. Jim wanted to thwart this prophecy. He saw
that bad as Petronella was, she could be kept alive by stimulants, and
this he intended to do, if only to baffle this extraordinary boy. For
once in a way, he wished to prove Sidney in the wrong. The boy perhaps
guessed his intentions, for he smiled again, and then said abruptly,
that he was going back to Saxham.

“Will you tell them what has happened?” asked Herrick.

“No,” replied Sidney, after a pause, “I am not fond of talking. You
can tell them if you like.”

“Very good,” said Dr. Jim coolly, “then you ask Ida, Frank, and Bess
to be at ‘The Pines’ about five o’clock. I shall return by that time
and then everything can be explained. Thank heaven we know the truth
at last. It is about time the matter came to an end. Will you be at
‘The Pines’ also?”

“I am going to have a long sleep,” said Sidney. “I feel very tired.”

He turned away with a nod, and Herrick stared after him. Jim was a
doctor of the most advanced school, he had studied much, he was quick
in seeing things, and on the whole prided himself on his knowledge.
But he could make nothing of Sidney. The boy and his ways were beyond
him altogether. Sidney would have baffled a committee of Doctors.

Herrick searched for a nurse and found one speedily, for he knew where
to go. He brought her back to the house, and set her to heat some
soup. Then he gave various directions, sent out for certain medicine,
and did what he could to revive the strength of the old woman. Bridge
allowed Petronella to have the bedroom to herself, but he kept the two
policemen in the house and got out his warrant. Nothing was known in
the town about the matter, as Bridge wished to wait until all was in
order before telling the public. He foresaw that glory would accrue to
him by the story he intended to tell. He had resolved to give Sidney
and Herrick no more credit than he could help. Dr. Jim guessed as much
when he heard Bridge talking. But he was rather pleased than
otherwise. He did not want this latest freak of the uncanny changeling
to be talked about. Besides, Bridge amused him. He was so very human
in his love of praise.

His philanthropic work being ended, Herrick walked back to Saxham. He
reached ‘The Pines’ some time after five, and already found the
assembled party impatiently expecting his arrival. Sidney, it
appeared, had just said sufficient to pique the curiosity of his
family. He hinted that some untoward event had occurred with which
Herrick was connected, but refused to say what it was. Then he had
retired to bed in full daylight, and announced that he was going to
sleep for twenty-four hours. What was to be done with such a boy.

“He grows more eccentric every day,” sighed Ida.

Stephen laughed, “Oh! his eccentricities are harmless enough. That is
if—” here he caught Herrick’s eye and hesitated. He did not know but
what Sidney might have confessed the crime of which Frisco accused

“Oh! that’s all right,” said Jim cheerily.

“What is?” asked Bess, wondering at the sudden relief expressed on
Stephen’s face. “Jim, you have something to tell us.”

“Yes. Something very important–about the murder.”

“The murder of Carr,” cried Frank astonished. “Oh! I thought that was
done with long ago.”

“On the contrary,” said Dr. Jim, “I have been working at it all these
months trying to learn the truth. Stephen and Bess have been helping

“Well,” said Ida, looking from her lover to the doctor, “I do call it
mean. I should have been told.”

“It would only have worried you, dear,” said the Squire.

“But what is the difficulty?” cried Frank puzzled. “Frisco killed the
Colonel. There was no secret about that.”

“Frisco did not kill Carr,” said Herrick, “the jury were wrong, so
were we all. It was Petronella who shot the man.”

Stephen jumped up, as Bess uttered a cry of amazement. “Petronella,”
he stammered. “Thank God! Sidney did not do it.

“Sidney!” cried Bess and Ida in a breath.

Herrick hurriedly explained. “Frisco accused Sidney because he was in
the house at the time of the murder. That was when you were looking
for him, Bess. Do you remember?”

“I should think so,” she cried. “No wonder I could not find him. But
Petronella. Was the pistol hers and the silver bullet?”

“What are you talking about, Bess dear?”

“Let me explain,” said Dr. Jim, before Bess could answer Ida, “it is a
long story and I think you will find it interesting.” And then Herrick
told the whole complicated case from the time he and Joyce found the
dead body of Colonel Carr in the Tower which now no longer existed. He
was frequently interrupted with exclamations of horror from Ida, and
of rage from Frank. When he ended, the latter jumped up. “If I meet
that little wretch, Joyce, again,” said Frank, “I’ll break every bone
in his body. The idea of trying to mix up Bess in the matter.”

“He has received a worse punishment than a thrashing,” said Stephen,
“I think you can leave him to the punishment of destiny, Frank.”

A babel of voices ensued. Everyone was talking at once, and for fully
an hour they discussed the case in all its bearings.

“I suppose Frisco will be released now,” said Bess triumphantly. “I
knew that he was innocent. I said so all along.”

“All the same he is a bad lot,” remarked Herrick, “the less we have to
do with him the better.”

“I don’t think he’ll come down here again in a hurry,” said Marsh-Carr
thankfully, “and Santiago has sailed for Mexico. Thus we are rid of
the whole gang. Hullo! What’s that?” It was a violent ringing at the
door, and Herrick started to his feet, looking perturbed. “I hope
nothing is wrong now,” he said. “I am getting so nervous with all
this, that I am always expecting the worst of tidings.”

As he spoke, the footman ushered in Inspector Bridge, in a state of
excitement. The man could hardly speak, and was scarlet in the face
with suppressed rage and alarm. “I beg your pardon,” he said to the
company; “but this woman–Petronella—-”

“What is the matter?” asked Dr. Jim.

“She is dead.”

All looked at one another.

“And before sunset,” remarked Herrick, thinking of Sidney. “How did it
happen, Bridge?”

“She had a bottle of chloral under her pillow, and while the nurse’s
back was turned, she drank it. I was called, too late. She is as dead
as a door-nail, and has spoilt a most beautiful case.”

Leaving the others to discuss the matter with Bridge, Herrick hastily
excused himself. He ran across to Biffstead, and up into Sidney’s
bedroom. The boy was sleeping quietly, but Dr. Jim woke him promptly.

“I say,” he cried, shaking the boy’s shoulder, “she is dead.”

“Petronella,” said Sidney drowsily, “I know she is. I said she would
die before sunset.”

“You told her to take that chloral.”

“No,” said Sidney in a sleepy manner, “she wanted to take it before
she confessed, but I stopped her. But she was bound to die; I said she
might get out of the world more easily if she took it. I daresay she
died quietly–in a sleep.”

“You have behaved shamefully,” cried Herrick wrathfully.

“No. She was bound to die in any case. Why should she not die as she
pleased? Go away, Dr. Jim, I want to sleep,” and Sidney closed his

Herrick, in the face of this calmness, was helpless, so he departed.
The boy had baffled him to the very end.