Death on Romney Marsh, Chapter Seventeen

Death on Romney Marsh

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

Mr. Gorringer was, in fact, the first to arrive on the following afternoon.  He stared with mock incredulity at Carolus’s eye from which the bandages had now been removed, then broke into bass laughter.
“Oh, my dear Deene, if I may say so, what a beauty.  I have seldom seen a more variegated black eye.”
“Yes,” said Carolus who was as sensitive as most of us on this subject.
“The delicate coalescence of blue, purple and yellow must be seen to be believed.”
“I’ve seen it,” retorted Carolus shortly.
“I have heard something of how this came to be inflicted.  I am impatient to hear all.”
“You shall,” promised Carolus.
Soon the two C.I.D. men were accommodated, Dennis and Aunt Vicky given seats and Carolus was about to begin when there was a flutter of nurses to herald the arrival of Matron.  A chair was placed for her in the forefront of the visitors and Carolus commenced.
“These events go back to the year 1911 . . .” he said.
“Mr. Deene,” interrupted one of the C.I.D. men with understandable exasperation.  “All we want to know is how you came to be attacked.”
“That is exactly what I am telling you,” said Carolus.  “To the year 1911 in which a daughter was born to the wife of Sir Bamfylde Sivier-Grace at Shirley cross.  He had as we know expected his wife to produce a boy and determined to use the name he had prepared, Robin.  A year later another daughter was born and christened Jenny.  I have heard the liveliest accounts of their girl-hood and young womanhood what they are irrelevant to the present enquiry.
“In the year 1930 a butler named Edwin Mowlett was engaged by Sir Bamfylde.  He was the son of professional domestics and proficient at his job though by nature lazy.  Nine years later, soon after the outbreak of war, the younger daughter, Jenny, invited a young officer she had met in the service for the week-end.  This was a certain Captain Cuchran.
“Cuchran was accepted by Sir Bamfylde and soon his engagement to Jenny was announced.  He had been a bookmaker’s clerk . . .”
“Tout,” interrupted Aunt Vicky.
“One gathers he was a rather slick young man who continued to use his military title after his release from the Army.  But there seems to be no doubt at all, even judging from the accounts of those most critical of him, that he was deeply in love with Jenny and she with him.”
“Pah!” ejaculated Aunt Vicky.
“On V.E. Day Sir Bamfylde’s died.  He left a large sum (by the standards of those years) to Jenny, and after certain requests to the staff the residue of his property to Robin.  My information is that after death duties had been paid Robin inherited rather more than her sister and the state of Shirley Cross which was considered something of a white elephant.  She continued to live in the house with a reduced stuff which included Mowlett, the butler, and a youngish gardener named Withers.
“The Cuchrans meanwhile made no permanent home of their own.  Jenny had applied much of her capital to the setting up of Cuchran as a bookmaker.  But in the year 1948 they found a house to suit them at Charingden near Ashford and were preparing it when Robin fell seriously ill with influenza, probably with complications.  Jenny immediately came here to look after her sister.
“Cuchran now found himself in a precarious position.  If Robin died—and influenza was considered by the layman at that time to be frequently fatal—his wife would inherit, but with a second lot of death duties the estate would be scarcely worth having.  We may imagine that Jenny’s capital had largely evaporated.  He knew her devotion to the family home and guessed that she would want to live there on attenuated capital.  So he considered a bold and lucrative scheme.  And this is where the story which commentated in an attack on me really begins.”
One of the C.I.D. men groaned.
“Cuchran’s scheme was only feasible in the case of Robin’s death but there is not the least reason to suppose that this was hastened or that she was neglected.  On the contrary the sisters were devoted and Jenny did everything she could.
“Cuchran’s scheme was—put simply—to insure his wife’s life for a very large sum then claim it, making one corpse serve for two deaths.”
“Halt!  Halt!” said Mr. Gorringer.  “This is both complicated and, if I catch the gist of it, grotesque.”
“Let him continue,” said Aunt Vicky.  The C.I.D. men said nothing but one yawned.
“Cuchran and Jenny loved one another, but I do not think he found it easy to persuade her.  I imagine that she stipulated that everything should be done for her sister and that only if all efforts failed and Robin died would she countenance Cuchran’s suggestion.
“They were very well placed for the scheme.  They had been seen briefly at Charingden but no one knew them personally yet and they had not moved into the house.  Jenny was a good risk, being strong and healthy, but the very large premium would be understood to cover the possibility of death duties on the estate.
“Robin eventually died, quite naturally of influenza, and her coffin was placed in the family mausoleum.  After the service Jenny, who said quite understandably that she did not want to stay in the house, was driven away by Cuchran.  She had complained to several people of not feeling well at the funeral, which incidentally had been held as soon after death as possible.  The mourners went home, the churchyard was left deserted and was as we know remote from both village and house.  After dark that evening Cuchran and Jenny returned with the key of the mausoleum, opened the coffin and removed the body of Robin.  They closed the coffin again then drove hell for leather to their new home near Ashford where lights were seen in their windows that night.
“It’s dreadful!” said Aunt Vicky.
The C.I.D. men appeared to have woken up.
“I hope you have some evidence for this, Mr. Deene?” one of them said.
“Evidence?  That’s your affair.  You will find all the evidence you want, I’ve no doubt.  I’m merely telling you what happened.  What must have happened.
“Their task that night was a gruesome one.  They had to make it appear that the dead woman had gone to bed and died in her sleep.  As Cuchran meant to be away for two or three days and return to ‘discover’ his wife had died, the local doctor who knew neither of the sisters by sight would find that ‘Mrs. Cuchran’ had died from the disease which had killed Robin, and these symptoms gave no room for doubt or suspicion—they were of influenza.
“Cuchran’s story would be that he had left his wife in her new home and driven up to York for tomorrow’s racing.  Meanwhile he would leave Jenny at some prearranged place and she would disappear while events proceeded at Charingden and Shirley Cross.
“Things went smoothly up to a point.  But the way in which ‘Mrs. Cuchran’ was found dead in the house by her returning husband and the very large sum of insurance which had to be paid caused a post mortem to be ordered.  This revealed nothing but death from natural causes and Robin was buried in the mausoleum in a new coffin set beside the empty one which was supposed to contain her remains.”
“I think it’s a most horrible story,” said Aunt Vicky.  “Don’t you, Matron?”
“I shall reserve my judgement till the conclusion,” Matron stated.
“There were several ways in which they might have been discovered at this point, the most obvious that someone might recognize either the dead woman or the live one.  But the only people who would set eyes on the first would be the doctors and undertakers in the Ashford area and they would naturally accept Cuchran’s identification of his ‘wife’.  As for the live Mrs. Cuchran, you will doubtless hear in due course where she was concealed, but it was certainly some place in which it was virtually impossible that she should be seen or recognized.  How long she remained there, how often Cuchran would go to her we do not know.
“It must have been a curious existence that they kept up for the next ten years.  Cuchran continued his life as a bookmaker and if local rumour is to be trusted surrounded himself with men connected with that calling.”
“Local rumour!” exclaimed Aunt Vicky.  “I’ve told you what kind of people they were, flashy, noisy gangsters . . .”
“Yes, dear.  I have no doubt they were very unpleasant.  All we know is that in 1958 Cuchran suddenly broke off his connection with them, at least outwardly, and arrived at Shirley Cross with a new wife who was, of course, Jenny.”
“Ridiculous!” interrupted Aunt Vicky again.  “The woman was a painted, vulgar creature.”
“She had to be.  It was a kind of disguise.  But even so she could not have returned had it not been for something else that had happened in the spring of that year.  Mowlett and Withers discovered the empty coffin of Robin and from it deduced the truth.”
Carolus turned to the C.I.D. men.
“You want evidence.  Here is your evidence.  You may find it among some parish papers, or if the present vicar was here at the time he may remember how Mowlett and Withers came to their discovery, for they may have used his key.  Or he may have asked that some repair should be done at the mausoleum.
“The two behaved in very different ways.  Withers wanted nothing to do with the affair and agreed to leave at once with a golden handshake.  He may have soothed his conscience with the belief that this was not blackmail.  After all, he had some years of service and some may not have been altogether out of proportion to this.  Mowlett on the other hand had elected to remain at Shirley Cross in comfort, even some luxury.  He no longer felt himself a servant though at times he was prepared, for appearances’ sake, to act like one.”
Mr. Gorringer raised his hand.
“I feel, my dear Deene, that this recital may be over-fatiguing so soon after your dangerous accident.  I suggest that you take a few moments’ rest before proceeding.  Would it not be wise, Matron?”
Matron was unmoved.
“I am not here in my official capacity,” she announced.
“In that case,” proposed Mr. Gorringer, “you may perhaps turn a blind eye if I venture to offer a little refreshment.  It happens that one of my senior pupils has a father whose useful avocation is that of a wine-merchant, and that at Christmas he makes me a present of a number of bottles of Scotch whisky.  One of these, with a sufficient supply of soda water, is under the seat of the contraption which transported me here and I will ask this young man to bring.
“Okay, but don’t call my car a contraption.”
“Wait,” said Matron.  “I have certain small duties which will mean my absence for a time.  On my return there will be no sign of any irregularity.  As for the patient—the merest whiff, please.”
It was ten minutes later when, Matron being back in her place, Carolus resumed.
“It may be guessed,” he said, that Cuchran and his wife, formerly a famous beauty, one of the Two Graces, bitterly regretted their crime and the hole-in-corner life it imposed.  But it might have been worse.  I do not think that Mowlett behaved too outrageously.  He was content to eat and sleep and look at television and did not impose his presence too grossly on them.  By overpaying Mrs. Flipp they obtained service of a kind.
“But there was no escape for them.  Mowlett had taken his own very effective precautions.  He had left his Will with a highly reputable firm of solicitors and with it sealed instructions that if ‘anything should happen’ to him the explanation would be found in Miss Robin’s coffin.  In other words, on his death, the whole thing would come out.  It was therefore to the vital interests of the Cuchrans to keep Mowlett alive.
“So things, as they will, settled down again in this peculiar situation and Shirley Cross got a reputation for being if not a haunted house at least a very strange one.  But we get used to a strange reputation in time.  The locked gates, the discouragement of callers, the lack of movement ceased to surprise the district and the peculiarities of Shirley Cross were taken for granted.
“But once again the situation was disturbed, this time by the sudden death of Mowlett.  Once again the Cuchrans saw ruin and imprisonment ahead of them since nothing could now prevent Mowlett’s message being revealed.”
“How did he die?” asked one of the C.I.D. men.
“I only know that it was very suddenly—Between Mrs. Flipp’s leaving in the afternoon and coming to work next morning.”
“He was murdered,” said Aunt Vicky.
“That is the one thing he wasn’t,” said Carolus with dubious syntax.  “For even if Cuchran had been of a homicidal disposition he was bound, for his own sake and his wife’s to keep Mowlett alive as long as possible.  I think it may conceivably be found that he fell down those dangerous cellar steps, but I have no real reason for suggesting it.  Cuchran was very anxious not to open the cellar and the steps and floor were unnaturally clean.  But he may have died of a heart attack.  The facts will doubtless emerge.
“It must have been a terrible night for the Cuchrans.  If they reported his death the whole truth would come out; if they did not thing you that it must sooner or later be known and they might be accused of murder, apart from everything else.  So they plunged deeper into lies and danger.  They told Mrs. Flipp that Mowlett had gone away and kept the body locked in his room until they could secretly take it down to the mausoleum at night and put it in Robin’s empty coffin.
“That must have taken considerable courage and resolution for a man in his sixties and a woman approaching them.  But they had no remedy.  It was, I suppose you would say, a neat way of disposing of the body, meaning that the empty coffin which had been evidence against them so long would have an occupant.  ‘The grave’s a fine and private place.’ ”
“It’s all so repugnant!” said Aunt Vicky.
“I must say,” Mr. Gorringer boomed, “that the whole story smacks of the ghoulish and the macabre.  If it were not our good Deene who was revealing these things I should say, moreover, that they had an air of the improbable.”
“Ha!” said one of the C.I.D. men.
Carolus continued.
Once again the Cuchran’s might have settled down to a period comparatively free from preoccupation.  Doubtless they would have done so had it not been for my aunt who suspected Cuchran of a double if not a triple murder.  In telling me her story of the past she aroused my curiosity and in my amateurish way I started to investigate.  Cuchran did everything to discourage me, from bribery to threats, finally importing a couple of thugs from his racecourse days.  By now he was in touch with Withers who would also be involved if the truth were known, and after I had discovered Withers and questioned him he ’phoned to Cuchran to send these two to his pub where they would give me, in what I believe is the authentic parlance, a going over.  On that occasion with the assistance of my friend, Dennis Churcher, I was able to defend myself.  But when Cuchran heard, from a source which I do not intend to mention at present, that I knew about Robin’s coffin he took more serious steps and a highly unpleasant type of gangster was bribed to put me out of action while Cuchran and his wife went abroad.  With an assistant this man, whom I saw one night near Shirley Cross, used far more professional methods, as you see, and in the meantime Cuchran and his wife escaped.”
“What will happen to them?” asked Dennis.
“It’s a question for the police.  There is a nice selection of possible charges but some of them may not be easy to prove.  Extradition may not be possible if they are hiding in certain countries, especially since some of the charges are ten years old.  But they may be brought back and tried.”
“Are you then, Deene,” asked Mr. Gorringer indignantly, putting forward the proposition that in all this lurid and rapacious case, this drama of disappearances and body-snatching, there has been no murder ?
“You should be the last person to complain, Headmaster.  You are perpetually expostulating (your own world) with me for finding murder where others see none.  You should be relieved that I find no evidence of murder where shrewd observers like my aunt have had no doubt of it.”
“It is in fact a mere insurance fraud?”
“Initially I suppose you could call it that, of a highly ingenious and ruthless kind.  It has led to a great deal more but nothing of a homicidal nature.”
“There is one thing I would like to know,” asked a C.I.D. man grimly.  “How did you become aware of the nature of Mowlett’s posthumous message?”
“I thought you would ask that,” said Carolus.  “And I do not not at present intend to answer it.  I think I can—as you call it—identify my assailant, or one of them.  But on certain other points I must remain dumb.  I would point out, however, that a private investigator may sometimes use means which the police are prohibited from using.
“And vice versa”, said Dennis Churcher but his remark was received with stony silence.
The C.I.D. man rose.
“Come on,” he said to his companion.  “We’ve got work to do!”
“And how,” agreed Carolus.
It was Matron who spoke the last word.
“All this . . .” she majestically waved aside crimes and policeman, coffins, disappearances and frauds, “must cease.  The patient is flushed and excited.  Sister!  Clear the room, please!”
She removed herself to remote Olympian regions out of the ken of patients and visitors alike.
— THE END

Death on Romney Marsh, Chapter Sixteen

Death on Romney Marsh

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

The immediate preoccupation of Carolus was to get away with this information.  Realizing as he did its full significance, he could scarcely see how he would be allowed to do so.
He pushed the lid of the coffin loosely in its place and once again looked out.  Then he extinguished his torch, went outside and by an effort closed the door after him.  He turned the key then flung it into the darkness.  Whatever awaited him he did not intend to be locked in that mausoleum if he could help it.
It began to rain, not with slowly increasing intensity but suddenly with force intensified by the wind.  He tried to shelter under the narrow portico of the mausoleum but found that it did little to protect him.
He was overwhelmingly convinced that enemies were about him and the rainstorm seemed to make their approach more difficult to detect.  More than ever Carolus was oppressed by this sense of isolation among hostile forces which were closing in on him.  It was not Cuchran’s threats, or the two men at the Blue Boys, or any specific manifestation but an almost psychic belief that he was in danger, perhaps mortal danger.
He could only wait for the return of the MG and in order to do so in as little discomfort as possible he decided to make for the church porch.  He had a good sense of direction and his eyes were once again becoming accustomed to the dark, but there was no paved path and he tripped over mounds and barked his knee on a gravestone before he approached it.  With a sense of relief he groped his way to its shelter.
As he did so he realized his mistake.  Someone was there before him.
Though Carolus could not see or hear in the porch he was certain that he was not alone.  But he had no time to protect himself.  A blow came from the darkness as though there had been an explosion in own head.  He lost consciousness, but from a blank depth he saw—or thought in retrospect that he saw—familiar features distorted over him.
Then he dropped into a void.
There were recurrent moments of returning consciousness during the measureless space of time which followed.  He was on a stone floor once, and once exposed to the stormy rain.  He was being lifted and now there was agonising pain in his limbs and head.  He was in a car in motion.  Then again he was in a void from which he wanted no awakening.  There seemed to be great chasms of time and distance.
Later, blissfully, there was light about him and he was in bed.
Through the mist he knew there was something he must say before he died.  Something he had seen that must be communicated.  It was terribly important.
“Am I going to die?” he asked of no one in a particular.
A calm young feminine voice said—“Of course you’re not.  Lie still and don’t worry.”
It was a nurse, cool, clean, pink, smiling, a lovely sight.
“Hospital?” he asked.
The nurse nodded and said, “Don’t try to move.  You’re in plaster.  But you’ll be all right.”
There were other presences, a man in white, women, and then unconsciousness again.
His next awakening was to full consciousness.  The same nurse was with him and still seem a white angel.
“I’m thirsty,” he said, and suddenly discovered that he was seeing her with only one eye.  He tried to lift his hand to the other but could not.
“Have I lost it?” he asked.
“What?”
“My eye.”
“No.  But wait till you see it.  It’s a shocker.  You haven’t lost anything.”
He tried to grin.
“Sure?” he said.
She grinned, too.
A woman who seemed to him immense was standing over him.  Immense and regal.
“Tell Dr. Mewnes,” she ordered in rich contralto tones.
A cadaverous man appeared who smiled, looking disconcertingly like a skull.
“The police want a statement from you.  Do you feel well enough to give it?”
“No,” said Carolus instantly.
He closed his eye again and wanted to be quit of them all, to lie in peace for a long time.
“They’ve been waiting for twenty-four hours,” said the doctor.
Carolus wanted to laugh.
“They’ll have to wait longer than that.  I want to sleep.”
But—it may have been a day later—he could no longer pretend that he was not able to answer questions.  His mind was clear and though he felt moment pain whenever he moved he was capable of dealing with the police or, almost, anyone else.
Two C.I.D. men were shewn in, smiling professionally.  Carolus took the offensive.
“I’m not ready to make a statement yet,” he said.
One C.I.D. man smiled politely.
“You’re looking all right,” he said.  “Compared with when you were brought in, I should say you were fit.”
“It’s not that.  I want to sort out my ideas.  You shall hear all I know in good time.”
“I’m afraid we can’t leave it like that.  Someone tried to murder you.”
“I don’t think so.  Just to put me out of action for a time.”
“Would you recognize your assailant?”
“No.  But you might find me far more co-operative later.”
“We’ve got our duty to do,” said the C.I.D. man, not, Carolus thought for the first or hundredth time.
“I know you have.  So have I, In a funny way.  Does my aunt know I am here?”
It was clear that the C.I.D. men did not know of his relationship with Miss Morrow.
“I would like her told.  What about Dennis Churcher?”
“He found you, he says.  We have interrogated him once and shall have to do so again.  Don’t you think it would be better for everyone, Mr. Deene, if you would tell us the truth?”
“Not just at present.”
“What were you doing in that church porch?”
“Sheltering from the rain,” said Carolus.  “Now look here, all I ask is time.  I’ve told you I shall let you what I know.  But when I am ready.  You’re wasting your time now.”
“You had a revolver on you.”
“Licensed,” said Carolus.  “Come back tomorrow and we’ll see what we can do.”
He closed his eye again and without any difficulty at all fell asleep.
Later that day he was given what was called light diet and asked one of the nurses whether a young man called Churcher had asked to see him.  The nurse, a superior young lady, said—“There’s something downstairs with his long hair down his back, dressed like the chorus in a pantomime, if you mean that,” she sniffed.
“Could I see him?” asked Carolus politely.
“I shall have to Ask.  I didn’t think you’d be interested, to tell you the truth.”
In the light of day Dennis’s appearance was somewhat bizarre, as Carolus had to admit, for a rose-coloured jacket with gilt facings surmounted a pair of white skin-tight trousers.
“Camp, isn’t it?” he said when he saw Carolus examining his get-up.  “Can’t let the queers have all the fun.  How are you feeling?”
“Shaky.  Tell me about it.”
I drove up on time but there was no sign of you, so I decided to take a look around.  I tramped all over that Churchyard, tripping over graves, unable to see a blind thing.  Then I thought I’d look in the porch.  You were lying inside it and I thought you were dead.  Gosh, they’d given you a going over.”
“Yes.  I do know that.  Any sign of them?”
“No.  They’d probably been gone for some time.  Who were they?
I don’t know.  Professionals, anyway.  Go on.”
“I found there was some life in you.  I didn’t know what to do—leave you there alone while I tried to get help or what.  I decided to ’phone for the police.  I don’t know whether it was the right thing to do.”
“The only thing, I should say.”
“I went to the ’phone box on the cross-roads and was back in a few minutes.  I half-expected you to have been taken away, or petered out altogether, but you hadn’t moved.  I will say the Law were on the spot pretty smartly and they soon got an ambulance.  Then they began on me.  What was I doing there?  How long had I been with you?  The lot.  They thought it was I who’d beaten you up, I think.  I told them more or less the truth.  I had to, really.  I couldn’t just say I’d chanced on you, could I?
“No.  I suppose not.”
“I had to tell them who you were, anyway.  I didn’t say you were related to Miss Morrow.  Didn’t think you want her dragged in.”
“Quite right.  She can know now that I’m more or less all right.  In fact I want to see her.”
“I’ll tell her then.  You know about the Cuchrans, of course?”
“What about them?”
“Done a moonlight.  Gone.  Into thin air.”
“When was this?”
“Apparently while you were being beaten up.  The woman who works there, Mrs. Flipp, turned up as usual in the morning and found the place empty.  Clothes gone.”
“Another disappearance,” said Carolus thoughtfully.  “No wonder the police are impatient.”
“Impatient? They grilled me.  No rough stuff, I must admit, but they kept me there most of the night.”
“There are one or two things I want you to do, Dennis.  I seem to be asking a lot.”
“S’all right.  I’m quite enjoying myself.”
“First see Aunt Vicky.  Tell her there are no more mysteries.  At the cost of a black eye I’ve found out all she wants to know.”
“Check.”
“Then ring up a man named Gaston Mowlett.  The number’s in my pocket-case if you’ll hand it to me.  Ask him to come down here tomorrow at four o’clock.  He probably won’t want to, but ask him anyway.”
“Check.”
“Then, if you feel like a run, go over to Newminster.  You can do it by ’phone but I think you may be amused.”
“I’ll go.”
“First see of my housekeeper, Mrs. Stick.  Tell her I am staying a few days with my aunt.
“It’s been in the local paper.”
“We must just hope she won’t see that.  Then go to the Headmaster’s House of the Queen’s School and ask for Mr. Gorringer.  Tell him enough of the truth to whet his appetite.  If he wants to know any more you can come over tomorrow at four o’clock.”
“Will do,” said Dennis.
He was about to leave when a galleon in full sail bore down on him.
Matron was with them.
“Who,” she asked, “are you?”
“Hullo, Matron,” said Carolus casually.  “My visitor’s just leaving.”
“Your visitor should not have been allowed here at all.”
“He’s done me a power of good.”
“Of that I have the gravest doubts.  I should find such a colour-scheme disturbing, were I a patient.”
“Have you ever been?” Carolus asked, wonderingly, as Dennis slid from the room.
“I have never had a day’s illness in my life,” proclaimed Matron.  “Nor have I ever suffered from an accident.  I don’t allow accidents.”
“Very sensible of you.  Coming to the showdown tomorrow?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“I’m going to run over the points of this mystery to the police.  I wondered if you’d like to come.  Should be quite interesting.  Corpses.  Coffins.  Disappearances.”
I shall decide whether you are in a fit condition to receive anyone, Including the police,” said Matron haughtily.
“That’s the spirit,” said Carolus.  “Keep them in their places, eh?”
“Sister!” called Matron musically but with hauteur.  “I think this patient requires a sedative.  He seems to be in a condition of excitement, if not hysteria.”
“But do come,” said Carolus.  “Four o’clock.”
Matron was already sweeping magnificently from the room.  But at the door she paused and gave Carolus a magnanimous smile.
“I shall consider it,” she said, and sailed out.
“You shouldn’t be cheeky to Matron,” said Sister.
“Cheeky?  I’d as soon be cheeky to a statue of Queen Victoria.  I think she’s magnificent.”
“You should see her if anyone tries anything!” went on Sister admiringly.  “All the doctors are afraid of her.”
“I can quite believe it!”
“She’s the terror.  But she can be ever so kind.”
They were interrupted by Aunt Vicky.
“I met such a strange person in the corridor, dear,” she told Carolus.  “She said something about its not being a visiting hour.  She somewhat resembled the late Queen Mary.  Only larger.”
“Matron!” said Carolus.  “You haven’t been disrespectful to her, have you?”
“Oh not in the least.  I simply told her that I was going to see my nephew.  Quite firmly, of course.  She began saying something about it being for her to say, but I hurried on.  How are you, dear boy?  I hear you were attacked by that man’s hired bullies.”
“Did you?  You shouldn’t believe everything you’re told.”
“He’s fled, of course.  Made a bolt for it with that woman he calls his wife.  But they won’t get far.  Interpol won’t take their eyes off them.  Hanging should never have been abolished.”
Aunt Vicky stayed for about half an hour and promised to return next day.
“Though if you try to make me believe that man isn’t a murderer I shall know you’re not as clever as you’re supposed to be,” she warned.
In the morning Dennis came to report on his visit to Newminster.
“I don’t know how much your housekeeper believed,” he said.
“Very little I should think.  Did she ask any awkward questions?”
“Just what you were doing.  ‘So long as he does it away from home it’s his own affair,’ she said.  ‘It’s when I don’t know who’s coming to the door next that I don’t like it.’  That’s all.  I assured her you’d be home in a day or two.”
“What about the headmaster?”
“He looked at me as though I was something on show in a zoo.  When I told him I was at the University he looked rather scared I thought.  I explained more or less what have been happening over here and he shook his head is a tragic sort of way and said, ‘Ah Deene, Deene.’  I asked him to come over tomorrow but he said the means of transportation were unfortunately lacking, unless perchance I had some accommodation to offer.  I saw where this was leading and said I doubted if he could get in the MG.  ‘In term time decidedly not,’ he said.  ‘It would never do for the headmaster of the Queen’s School, Newminster, to be seen in a vehicle so unsuited to my position.  But during the vacation, who knows?  It is time for the relaxation of some of our sterner contradictions.  The good Deene will tell you that it will not be the first time I have embarked on adventurous projects in order to keep a restraining hand on him.’  What could I do?  I offered to go and fetch him.  ‘That is indeed kind of you,’ he told me.  ‘The car I trust is of the closed variety?’  I said I would keep him out of sight.  So he’s coming.”
“Are you taking him back?” asked Carolus with some amusement.
“I suppose so.  If he can stand it.”
Carolus wondered.

Death on Romney Marsh, Chapter Fifteen

Death on Romney Marsh

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

It was too late, Carolus considered, to visit the Vicar that evening for he might reasonably point out that Carolus could scarcely see the architectural features of the place after nightfall.  So he had to sustain his patience till the following afternoon.
The reputation of the Vicar had reached him.  A Cambridge Rugby Football Blue of immense girth and powerful lungs he was known for his jocular manner and high-powered bonhomie, his brief aggressive sermons, his impatience with the fal-lals of life in whatever form they appeared.  Like so many of his type he had failed to advance his mental age beyond sixteen years, the time at which he had won his school colours and been awarded the nickname of Jumbo.  He was married to a loyal little peahen of a wife who laughed at his jokes and soothed the raw feelings which his boisterousness sometimes left among his parishioners.
She it was who opened the door to Carolus and bade him enter.
“Want to see Jumbo?” she said heartily.  “Of course you may.  He always says, ‘no destitute child ever refused admission’.  Shall I give him a name?”
Carolus, who was wearing spectacles and looking studious for the occasion, said with seeming nervousness, “Please do.  But he won’t know it.  Deene.”
“Really?  They’ll make the old boy jump.  I’ll tell him the Dean wants to see him.”
She left Carolus to study the groups of athletes, surmounted by tasselled caps, on the walls.  She returned laughing heartily.
“I told him,” she said.  “He wants to know if you’ve brought the Chapter with you.  Go right in.”
The Vicar rose from behind his writing-table.
“Hullo, hullo!” he shouted.  “Delighted to see you.  What brings you to this neck of the woods?”
“I’m a schoolmaster,” began Carolus nervously.
“There are worse things to be,” encouraged the Vicar.
“I am also interested in architecture.  In fact I am writing a book on the lesser-known private mausoleums of Great Britain.”
“I say!  That’s a bit ghoulish, isn’t it? ”
“I find it fascinating.”
“Do they call you the Gloomy Deene, by any chance?”
Carolus had to keep firmly in his mind object of his visit.  He longed to dash a little iced water on the Vicar’s ebullience.
“I have come,” continued Carolus primly, “to ask your permission to examine the very interesting specimen in your churchyard.”
“The what?  Oh you mean the Sivier-Grace mausoleum.  But it’s a horror!”
Carolus put his fingertips together.
“One of the more absorbing aspects of my book,” he explained, “Will be its element of the macabre.  Not all mausoleums are admirable architecturally.  I want the collection to be comprehensive.”
“But it’s less than a hundred years old!”
“Antiquity is not the only criterion.  It happens to be a particularly interesting example of what we might call that Betjemanian period.”
“Now you’re beyond me, I’m afraid,” said the Vicar.  “My job’s to read the burial service over them.  After that they’re on their own.”
“Oh quite,” said Carolus understandingly.  “I take it that you won’t object to my examining the example in your churchyard?”
“Not in the least, as long as you don’t ask me to come with you.”
“You have a key?”
“Oh, a key?  You want to go inside the thing?  I really don’t know about that.  It’s a private family mausoleum.  Why don’t you ask Captain Cuchran?”
“To tell you the truth I intended to, rather than trouble you who must be a busy man.”
Mr. Romper glanced at the papers on his table.
“Oh, I don’t know,” he said modestly.  “I was just knocking out the old sermon for tomorrow.  But why didn’t you ask Cuchran?”
“I found it impossible to approach him.”
The Vicar laughed heartily.
“You did, eh?  You’re not the first.  I find it impossible myself to approach him.  Especially when I want a subscription to something.  He’s our local mystery man.  I don’t know what to say about his morgue.  He might cut up rough.”
“I should, of course, make an acknowledgement to you in the preface of my book,” said Carolus.
“Oh, that wouldn’t influence me one way or the other.  I haven’t the slightest interest in anything of that sort.  Means nothing to me.  Far too busy for it.”
“Perhaps you would prefer that I shouldn’t mention it?”
“Oh, you can put it in,” said Mr. Romper.  “J.  Daubeny Romper.  Daubeny without an apostrophe.  M.A. not B.A.  St. Catharine’s College, not St. Catherine’s college.  Cambridge NOT Oxford.  The nickname should be between Daubeny and the surname.  There’s no objection to it going in.  I must tell my wife about it.  She’ll be amused to hear we’re being named in a work on tombs.”
“Mausoleums,” corrected Carolus.  “You’ll let me have the key, then?”
“Old Cuchran will be hopping mad if he hears,” said Mr. Romper gleefully.  “But he never comes to church, so what? ”
“What, indeed?” Carolus couldn’t resist answering.
“The question is, where have I put it?  I’ll ask the wife.”  He went to the door.  “I say, Spud!” he called.
“Oo hoo!” she responded from afar.
“Do you know where the key of the mausoleum is?”
“The what?” she asked from close at hand.
“That huge key.  Of the Sivier-Grace mausoleum.”
“I don’t,” she said materialising.  “Unless it’s in the top drawer of your desk.  Whatever do you want that for?”
“Not me, dear.  Mr. Deene.  He’s an archæologist.”
“Architect if anything,” Carolus explained.
“He wants to take a butcher’s at the morgue.”
“You’ll catch it from Cuchran,” Mrs. Romper warned.
“So what?  He has never put his foot inside the church.”
“I suppose not.  Wait a minute and I’ll see if it’s there.”
It was and Carolus prepared to leave triumphantly.
“Cup of char?” suggested Spud.
Carolus, who felt that during the last weeks he had drunk enough tea in the cause of truth to last him a lifetime, declined.
“When will you return the key?” asked Mr. Romper.
“Tomorrow evening?”
“Fine.  Take care of the thing.  It weighs a ton.”
Out of sight of the vicarage, Carolus pulled the car into the side of the road and examined the object he had just acquired, a mighty carefully wrought key, the key he reflected, not only of the Sivier-Grace family mausoleum but of the whole mystery in which he had become involved.  To gain possession of it had meant an arduous and expensive treasure hunt and he was resolved that nothing should prevent him using it now.
He set about making certain preparations for what he intended to do that evening.  He had brought with him from Newminster a powerful electric torch which would stand or be hung by its handle to light a fair-sized room, and another as spare in case this should fail him.  Then he had a bag of tools sufficient to him a long sentence for ‘carrying house-breaking implements’.  He carried oil for the lock but did not anticipate that he would need it.  Finally he carried a heavy cosh and a revolver.  Altogether he was a fine subject for arrest on suspicion.
The mausoleum, he had noticed on previous occasions, was in full view of the road and he would not approach it till after dark.  He could only guess how much was known of his movements but he knew that, as Cuchran had said, it was in the interest of more than one that he should be out of this affair.  His car had probably been observed in the neighbourhood today but he would have to take the risk of driving it to the church for he could not walk there laden with evidence of his intentions.  Unless . . .  Why not?  He would ask Dennis Churcher to drop him off and pick him up later.  He would not be involving anyone in danger either from the police or the forces against him.
Dennis agreed without a lot of questions which at this time would have been unanswerable, asking only that he should be the first to hear ‘the conclusion of the whole matter’.
The church, midway between Shirley Cross and the village, stood among trees and a rise of ground.  It was rather neglected, for Mr. Romper’s dislike of fal-lals expended to such harmless ornaments as flowers on the altar, church furnishings from Mowbrays or even much work expended on the churchyard.  Services were Spartan and soon over, and there was a smell of damp and the fustiness of long-dead congregations in the building, while ancient gravestones tottered in the churchyard or rotted away unheeded if they were of wood.
The night was moonless, which was good, But windy, which was unfortunate because it might be difficult at any time to hear approaching footsteps.  But at eleven-thirty, late enough to give time to the last home-goer from the pub to be in bed, Carolus set out from the Churchers’ farm having run his own car into an out-house.  He sat beside Dennis in the MG.
On the lonely road to the church they met nothing, but in a side-road was a stationary car with the lights off.
“A couple,” said Dennis drily.
“I expect so.”
But Carolus asked him to stop on the far side of the churchyard as briefly as possible while he got out.
Then he entered the churchyard.  It was impossible to be sure that no one was waiting there for the taller trees swayed and shouted in the wind and there seemed to be movement everywhere.
There was something eerie about a churchyard—no denying it, and the writers of scare fiction of other days, authors of stories which pictured terrified villagers seeing horrors among the tombstones, had an easy task.  Tonight any threat would come from very flesh-and-blood enemies, but the atmosphere, the feeling that he might be under observation, tested his courage.
He found his way to the mausoleum not without difficulty and brought out his key.  Surely if he were to be attacked it would be now, before he had made whatever discovery awaited him.  By an effort of will he stood motionless for a moment, trying to catch any sound above the wind.  He could hear nothing and even though his eyes were growing used to the darkness he could see nothing.  He put the key in the lock and found that to his great relief it turned quite easily.
The door was immense, much heavier than if the mausoleum have been built in mediæval times for Victorian carpenters and builders prided themselves on solid construction.  It took all his strength to pull it open.  It was so thick and ironbound, in fact, that there was no keyhole on the inside.
As well, perhaps.  No danger that threatened him seemed worse then incarceration in this small dark place with its stench of decomposition.  Moreover it would be dangerous to close himself in, perhaps without sufficient air.  A light might be seen by watchers but he would have to chance that.  He could only get to work as quickly as possible.  Nor would he leave the door half-closed to shield the light.  After all there was another key to the mausoleum.  If there were an attempt to close it he could prevent it now, but if it had only a few inches to go someone might approach and slam it before he could prevent it.
The coffins were ranged on one of the two shelves which ran the length of the mausoleum.  The first Sivier-Grace to build this and be buried here had evidently meant to leave space for several generations.  They were labelled with brass plates.  He went to the last but one to rub a plate into legibility and found as he expected that it read ‘Robin Sivier-Grace 1911–1948’.
‘Miss Robin’s coffin’, Mowlett had written in his message.  This was it and Carolus got out his tools and went to work on it by the steady light of his torch.
He worked as fast as he could, but broke off twice to go to the door and stare into the night and listen, but wind and darkness defeated him.  Once he thought he heard the engine of a car on the road by the churchyard, but he saw no lights and continued his work.
“But someone had been before him he believed.  The rusted screws came out too easily to have remained undisturbed since 1948.  He had his own explanation for this but he was certain of nothing—not even that he would find the solution to all his problems, as Mowlett had promised, when he eventually lifted the lid.
At last he did so and picking up his light shone it full into the coffin.
What he saw was a corpse probably placed there some months ago but recognisable as that of Mowlett.

Death on Romney Marsh, Chapter Fourteen

Death on Romney Marsh

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Carolus reached the Merry Widow an hour before his appointment on Friday afternoon.  He hoped to elicit some information from Mrs. Sich or her less communicative partner.  But the café was full of shopping baskets and dogs and women guarding them and having tea in the meantime.  Mrs. Sich moved from one table to another naming her delicacies.
“We’ve got Lancashire Sly cakes,” she said, “and the real Kendal Luncheon cake.  Or would you like some of our North Country Pikelets?  Or the Gosforth Girdies?”
“The less-adventurous southerners replied with, “I’ll just have the tea and pastries, thanks.”  But this did not damp Mrs. Sich’s enthusiasm.
“Do try the Rutlandshire Plum Shuttles,” she pleaded gaily.  “Or Fochabers Gingerbread.”
A very intellectual-looking lady said—“It all sounds rather folksy.  Oh, probably excellent, but I think I’ll just have some bread and butter, thanks.  That’s the kind of Miss I am.”
“Mrs. Sich smiled obligingly and sped on, reaching Carolus breathless but undamped.  He had just seen a card on his table Try Our Whitby Yule Cakes and said hurriedly—“Tea and toast please.”
“Red Whortleberry jelly?” suggested Mrs. Sich rather half-heartedly, to which Carolus smiled and shook his head.
It was half an hour before the rush was over, The last Parkin eaten and Mrs. Sich calm enough to attend to questions.
“I came in a few days ago with a Mr. Aschermole,” he said.
“Oh yes, said Mrs. Sich absently.  Her heart was evidently with her Huish cakes.
“From Neatherd and Ely,” enlarged Carolus.
“Oh yes.  I know.”  Then confidentiality, “We call him the Cream Puff.  Only you mustn’t tell him that.”
“Does he come in often?”
“Oh yes.  Most days, really.”
“Alone?”
“Almost always.  Once or twice has had another gentleman with him.  Captain Somebody.  I don’t remember the name.”
“Please try.”
“Well,” said Mrs. Sich.  “We get asked a lot of questions, but I must say . . .”
“It’s a little joke between us.  I wish you could tell me the name.”
“I’ll ask my partner.  She might know.”
She went to the door of the kitchen.
“Trish,” she said.  “What was the name of that man who used to come in with Mr. Aschermole from Neatherd and Ely’s?  No, I can’t remember either.  There’s a gentleman inquiring.  I shall think of it in a minute.”
To encourage her Carolus bought a dozen Coventry God-cakes to take away.
“It’s on the tip of my tongue,” Mrs. Sich told him promisingly.
“I shall forget my own name next,” she added.
Carolus wondered whether the purchase of a pound of Bosworth Jumbles would assist her.
“It’s just slipped my memory,” she admitted sadly.
“Would it be Cuchran?” suggested Carolus at last.
She nearly upset a bottle of Home-made Cambridge Sauce in her excitement.
“That’s it!” she cried.  “I remember it because it’s so like Cochran which was my husband’s mother’s maiden name.”
“Good.  Thank you,” said Carolus.  “Don’t mention it to Mr. Aschermole went comes in, will you?  That would spoil the joke.”
“Of course I shan’t,” said Mrs. Sich.  “I can keep a secret.”
When Aschermole came in and took a place beside Carolus, Mrs. Sich smiled and nodded as though she were in a secret, then withdrew to produce a plate of cakes smothered with some substance resembling clotted whitewash.”
“Have much trouble with the seal?” asked Carolus.
“It was a difficult operation.  I had to spend several hours on it.”
“What, again?”
Mr. Aschermole blinked.
“I beg your pardon?”
“I asked if you had to open the envelope every time you sell information about its contents.”
“Mr. Aschermole made to rise.
“If you’re going to make insinuations like that I shall refuse to tell you . . .”
“Good.  I’ll hear from Cuchran.  It will save me seventy-five nicker.
Mr. Aschermole settled down again.
“Think you’re clever, don’t you?  I didn’t give you any undertaking that you would be only one.”
“And I’m not.  Who else has shewn this profitable curiosity about the contents of that envelope?”
“No one else.  On my mother’s life no one else.”
“But how am I to know that?”
“I’m telling you, aren’t I?  You can’t treat me like this, you know.  I’m not the only one breaking the law, and don’t you forget it.  You’re just as much to blame as I am, so put that in your pipe and smoke it.”
Carolus had asked for this, and knew it.
“How long ago did Cuchran come to see you?”
“Soon after I joined the firm.  Must be something like ten years ago.”
“He wasn’t interested in Mowlett’s Will?  Only the sealed envelope?”
“That’s right.  But I don’t see why I should tell you all this.”
“I do.  You want your money.  Was that the only time?”
“No.  It wasn’t.  But it was a different proposition when he started coming three months ago.”
“Yes.  He wanted you to sell him the document.”
“We were to destroy it together.”
“Why didn’t you?”
“We couldn’t agree on terms.  Not on anything like that.  That’s a serious matter, destroying a document.”
“What did you ask?”
“Considering the Will, and how anxious he was, and my job, and the possible consequences, I was not going to do it for nothing.”
“I didn’t suppose you were.”
“He came over several times about it.  I shouldn’t be surprised if he comes again.”
“How much do he offer you?”
Mr. Aschermole looked bashful.
“He started with a grand.  Of course I told him that was no good.  I mean, with Mowlett missing and perhaps dead, it wasn’t, was it?  I wasn’t to know.  I told him he’d have to do better than that.  More like five times better.  I’ve got a wife and children to think of.”
“I was wondering when they would come into the picture.”
“You two are having a good old confab!” said Mrs. Sich.  “Don’t you want some more tea?”
“Bring me some more cream cakes,” said Aschermole.  “Anyway,” he went on to Carolus, “I don’t think he had the money.  Or not so that he could get at in cash.  So there it stands.  It’s lucky for you he didn’t, because otherwise you’d never know what was in the envelope, would you?”
“Yes, eventually.  It would come out in your defence.”
Mr. Aschermole seemed to shiver slightly though the room was not cold.
“Don’t start talking like that,” he said.  “There’s no need for you to be so high and mighty—not when you’re breaking the law too.”
“Better shew me the paper.”
“Steady on.  What about the money?”
“I have it here.”
“In ones?”
“In ones.”
“I think you ought to hand it over fast.”
“Shew me the paper,” said Carolus impatiently.  He was feeling nauseated and not only by the cream cakes.
“It’s not a long message.”
“I didn’t think it would be.”
Aschermole produced a sheet of paper from his pocket.
“There it is,” he said.  “I’ve copied it exactly.”
“On one of the office typewriters?” suggested Carolus blandly.
“What do you take me for?  Anyway, that’s word for word what it is.”
Carolus read:  If anything should happen to me the explanation will be found in Miss Robin’s coffin in the vault.  E. Mowlett.
“That’s all?”
“That’s all.  Disappointed are you?”
“Not in the least.  Here’s your money.”
“I can’t count it here,” complained Aschermole.
“Pity.”
“There seems to be some in silver.”
“Yes.  One pound ten.  Thirty pieces of silver,” said Carolus grimly.  “But don’t worry.  As you say, I’m in the conspiracy, too.”
He paid Mrs. Sich and strode out of the Merry Widow café, determined never to return.
“Now he went into action.  He wanted to finish with the case which had brought him into contact with detestable characters and made him behave unscrupulously.  It was growing dark as he pulled up at Number Three, Passover Cottages, Appledore, and the home of Mrs. Flipp.
He saw her long pale face through the foliage of potted geraniums in her front window.  She opened the door and whispered fiercely—“Come in quick, then.  You shouldn’t come here now.  My husband will be in at any minute.  Whatever is it you want to know?  Got no business talking like this.”
But of his two clandestine informers he found the woman less noxious.
“It’s not only what I want to know,” said Carolus, in an unhurried matter.  “It’s more than that.”
“Do be quick then.  If my husband comes in . . .”
“He would want half the proceeds, wouldn’t he?”
“You have to go if you don’t tell me quick.”
“Do you know the large bunch of keys that Cuchran sometimes carries? ”
A look of low cunning came over her face.
“I might.”
“Have you noticed two very large keys among the rest?”
She gave one of her silent nods.
“One of them is the key to the cellar door.  What is the other?  Or don’t you know?”
“I know all right,” said Mrs. Flipp and spread her hand flat on the table to indicate five.
In spite of the urgency of the thing Carolus was amused and put out three fingers of his own hand.
“We can’t wast time,” said Mrs.Flipp.  I told you my husband will be home.  it’s the family vault, up in Shirley Cross churchyard.  Well, more like a mausoleum it is.”
“Do you know where the bunch of keys is kept?”
She reverted to silence, and a nod.
“Could you get that particular one?  The key of the mausoleum.”
“So that’s what you’re after, is it?  I don’t know about that.  What it really comes to is stealing, isn’t it?”
“Borrowing.  For one night.”
“It’s about the same thing, isn’t it?  Besides I don’t know whether I could.  It’s kept locked up, and there’s the other key first.”
“Don’t tell me you don’t know where that is.”
“What I know and what I’m called upon to do are different things.”
Carolus was aware of spasmodic action in the outstretched hand whose fingers were being clenched and unclenched at great speed.
“If Cuchran was ever to find out it would be as much as my life’s worth,” she went on.  “It’s not as though I was just telling you something.  It’s taking it that I don’t like.”
“Perhaps there’s another key of the vault.”
“I shouldn’t think so.  Not another key, They wouldn’t be.  No, it’s sure to be the only one and no one can get at it unless it’s me.”
Carolus ignored the hand.
“Whatever do you want it for?” said Mrs. Flipp.
“To open the vault,” said Carolus.  “Just to have a look.”
“There’s more to it than that.  Or you wouldn’t be so keen on getting that key.”
“Do you think you can bring it home with you tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow?  I don’t know about that.  It isn’t as though it’s left lying about up there.  It took me a year to find out where it’s kept and then there’s the other key to get at it.  No, I don’t hardly think I could manage it by tomorrow.”
“I think you could,” said Carolus, and did some clenching and unclenching on his own account.
“Mrs. Flipp watched spellbound.  She was favourably impressed.”
“I’m not saying I couldn’t try,” she said.  Then asked sharply—“What’s the time?”
“Ten past six,” Carolus told her.
“There.  I told you so.  He’s been waiting for the Green Man to open.  That’s where he’ll be.  Would you believe it?”
“Shall I look in and see him there? ”
“Whatever for?  D’you want everyone in Appledore to know about this?  Mind you, I don’t know if I can manage it, but I’ll see.  It’s not a nice thing to do.”
“No.  I’ll look in tomorrow about this time, then.”
But when Carolus arrived at Passover Cottages on the following day he was received by Mrs. Flipp without jubilation.
“It’s gorn,” she said dramatically.  “And the cellar one too.  He’s taken them off the ring and I don’t know where he’s put them.  It’s very deceitful, Isn’t it?  Hiding them away like that.  It can’t have been so long ago either because I saw it a week or two back.”
“So did I,” said Carolus.
There were sounds from the back room which Carolus knew indicated the arrival of Flipp.  He came in and greeted Carolus politely.
“You were the bloke asking where Withers was.  Did you find him? ”
“Never you mind that,” said Mrs. Flipp.
“Yes, thanks,” said Carolus.  “Now there’s another little bit of information I want.”
“He won’t know.  It’s no good asking him,” said Mrs. Flipp hurriedly.
“What was that?” said her husband ignoring her.
“It’s about the vault.”
“What vault?”
“The family vault in Shirley Cross churchyard.”
“Oh yes,” said Flipp.  “What we call the mausoleum.”
“Oh, do for goodness’ sake stop talking a lot of rubbish,” Mrs. Flipp said.  “Why don’t you go around to he Green Man and let this gentleman be?”
“I like that!” said Flipp.  “Yesterday you was yak,yak,yak because I stopped for a pint on my way home and now why don’t I go round there.  Because I don’t want to go.  Is that good enough?”  He turned to Carolus.  “What did you want to know about the mausoleum?” he asked.
“I want to get into it.”
“What’s to stop you, then?”
“I haven’t got the key.”
“Oh for God’s sake, will you stop it?” cried Mrs. Flipp desperately.
“It’s no good asking her about that.  I know all about the keys.  I worked there, didn’t I?”
“Keys?” said Carolus.
“I’ll murder you for this!” said Mrs. Flipp suppressing tears.
“She would, too,” grinned Flipp.  “I don’t know what’s got in her head about the keys.  Captain Cuchran has one of them.  Up at Shirley Cross.”
“And the other?”
“The Vicar’s got that,” said Flipp.  “The Reverend Mr. Romper.  Has to have one by law.  The family has one and he’s got the other.  Well, it’s only right.  The churchyard’s his, isn’t it?”
There was silence in the room but for a sound like sobbing from Mrs. Flipp.