When Dora returned to the Red House, she made up her mind. Since Allen
refused to tell her his secret, she would discover it herself, and
judge if it were as serious a bar to their marriage as he asserted.
She did not think for a moment that Allen knew who had killed
Edermont, but she could not help concluding that he was aware of
something likely to lead to the identification of the assassin.
Perhaps he knew the story of Edermont’s life, set forth in the
manuscript which had been stolen from the bureau by the murderer. But
whatever knowledge he was possessed of, Dora saw plainly enough that
he was resolved to hold his peace. The truth is, she was afraid to
admit his motive for silence even to herself. She half guessed the
reason of his determination, but she neither spoke nor thought about
There were two ways in which she could go to work; either begin from
the arrival of Lady Burville at Hernwood Hall, and progress onward to
the committal of the crime, or begin from the fact of the murder, and
trace back its motive to Lady Burville. After some consideration, she
decided on the latter of these two courses. But Lady Burville had
departed, and Dora was ignorant of her present address. Even if she
did learn it, there was no excuse whereby she could gain an interview
with the lady. She had no proof that this stranger was implicated in
the crime, and if she were–a fact which Dora fully believed–there
would be little chance of forcing her into confession. This course was
therefore out of the question, but there remained the other. Starting
with the evidence which had gathered round the crime itself, the
theories, the suppositions, the beliefs, Dora thought she might piece
together scattered hints and facts, which might be woven into a rope
strong enough to hang the assassin. But the difficulty, in the absence
of all absolute knowledge, was to discover the criminal.
And there was yet another thing to be remembered. The reward of fifty
thousand pounds had brought into competition hundreds of men, bent
upon gaining the prize. From far and near they came to Canterbury, and
haunted the environs of the Red House. But not one of them entered the
gates, for these were kept locked, and the famous postern through
which the assassin had passed had been bricked up, by Dora’s order.
Every labourer and tramp and shopkeeper in the neighbourhood was
questioned and cross-questioned by these pests, but none gained any
information likely to solve the mystery. No trace could be found of
Edermont’s past life. He had appeared in the place twenty years
before; he had bought the Red House, and a few farms; he had lived in
retirement since that time. Beyond this nothing could be learned, and,
notwithstanding the magnitude of the reward, no one was fortunate
enough to make a step forward. Out of the night the assassin had come,
into the night he had gone; and neither Inspector Jedd nor the many
amateur detectives could trace him to his hiding-place. Hemmed in by
these difficulties on all sides, with no information to go upon, with
obstinate people like Joad, Allen, and Mrs. Tice to deal with, it can
be easily seen how difficult was the problem which Dora wished to
solve. On surveying the situation her heart failed her; she felt
One chance she had of making a beginning, and that was by questioning
Joad as to the motive of the crime. That this motive was to be found
in Edermont’s past life Dora was certain; and as Joad was more likely
than anyone else to know that past, he would be the proper person to
apply to for information. From conversations which she had overheard,
Dora was satisfied that the secret of the horror which had
overshadowed Edermont’s life–which had sent him to church and to the
consolation of the Litany–was known to Joad. And as Joad evinced a
decided admiration for her, she resolved to use such admiration for
the purpose of discovering the truth. When she learned the secret of
Edermont’s past, she would learn the name of the person he dreaded;
that name would identify the assassin, and if she found the assassin
she might be able to learn and do away with the unknown obstacle to
her marriage with Allen. She would gain also the fortune of the dead
man; but that, in Dora’s opinion, was a side issue.
In the meantime, and before she had time to formulate her
plans–which, indeed, were but in their inception–Mrs. Tice came
over, bag and baggage, to play the part of dragon at the Red House.
Dora was glad to welcome her within its walls; not only because she
promised to stand a bulwark of respectability against Joad, but also
because Mrs. Tice might reveal by accident something of Edermont’s
past. The conversation at Canterbury had shown Dora very plainly that
some time or another Mrs. Tice had been acquainted with the recluse;
and that such acquaintance must have been prior to his purchase of the
Red House. At that period had been engendered the terror which had
haunted the poor creature, and Mrs. Tice might have some inkling of
The old housekeeper, however, was not to be cajoled into reminiscences
of the past. She kept a guard over her tongue, and resolutely avoided
all Dora’s hints and significant remarks. It was quite a week before
Dora could induce her to converse on the subject at all, and then she
spoke in an ambiguous fashion. Life at that moment seemed to Dora to
resemble a theatre with the curtain down. If she could induce Mrs.
Tice to raise the curtain, what shadowy drama of the past might not be
performed! Seven days after the arrival of Mrs. Tice she lifted the
curtain a little–a very little–but revealed enough to excite the
liveliest curiosity in the girl.
It was after nine o’clock, and as usual Joad had been turned out to
have his supper, and talk classics with Mr. Pride, the schoolmaster.
The gates were locked, the shutters of the windows were closed, and
Mrs. Tice was seated in Dora’s own sitting-room, with a basket of work
before her. Dora sat by the one window, which had not yet been shut,
and the pale light of the evening floated into the room, to mingle
with the dim radiance of the solitary candle which illuminated the
busy fingers of the housekeeper. Meg Gance was in her kitchen, resting
after the labours of the day, so the two women were quite alone.
Suddenly Dora yawned, and stretched out her hands.
“Heigh-ho!” said she in a wearied tone. “How long is this going on, I
“What are you referring to, Miss Carew?” asked the housekeeper in her
pleasant voice–“to your life here?”
“Yes; to my lonely and miserable life. I feel simply wretched.”
“Do not say that, my dear young lady. You have health, and youth, and
“No doubt,” replied Dora scornfully; “but I have lost the chief of my
“You mean Mr. Allen?” said the old lady in an embarrassed tone.
“Yes, I do, Mrs. Tice. And since he has left me, I do not see why I
should not accept the attentions of Mr. Lambert Joad. The wretched old
man worships the ground I walk on.”
“Of course you are jesting?” said Mrs. Tice, with an uneasy smile;
“but I see that Mr. Joad admires you. More’s the pity.”
“Why ‘more’s the pity’?”
“Well, you see, miss, he will not relish your rebuffing him for his
impertinence; and he is likely to prove a dangerous enemy.”
“Pshaw! He can do me no harm.”
“I am not so sure of that, miss. He knows a good deal about Mr.
Edermont’s past life.”
Dora turned round and looked sharply at the comely, withered face.
“Is there anything in the past life of Mr. Edermont likely to be
harmful to me?”
“Yes,” said Mrs. Tice deliberately, “there is.”
“And do you know what it is?”
“Yes, miss; I know what it is, and so does Mr. Allen. It was a
knowledge of that past which sent him up to London. Since he returned
we have talked over the matter, and we have both concluded that it is
best to hold our tongues. But if Mr. Joad knows the secret, and you
rebuff him, he may not be wise enough to keep silent.”
“I am glad to hear you say so!” cried Dora with animation. “Since I
can learn the secret from no one else, I’ll see if a rebuff cannot
loosen Mr. Joad’s tongue.”
“If you are wise, you will let well alone,” warned Mrs. Tice, feeling
that she had said too much.
Dora crossed the room, and stood with her hands behind her back,
looking indignantly at the old woman.
“Upon my word, it is a shame!” she said in a low voice. “I am
apparently surrounded by pitfalls on all sides, yet no one will tell
me how to avoid them.”
“If you remain quiet, you won’t fall into them,” replied Mrs. Tice
with a nod.
“Quiet!” cried Dora, frowning. “Good heavens! how can I remain quiet
when I see my life falling into ruins? No, no, no!” She stamped her
foot defiantly. “I must act, I must inquire, I must know what all
these mysteries mean!”
“You will never arrive at that knowledge, Miss Carew.”
“I’m not so sure of that, Mrs. Tice. Remember your hint about that
Joad creature. I’ll wring it out of him, if I can’t out of anyone
else. Mrs. Tice”–Dora flung herself on her knees before the
housekeeper–“did you know Mr. Edermont before he came to the Red
“Yes, Miss Carew, I can admit that much: I knew Mr. Edermont.”
“Was that when you were Allen’s nurse?”
“Yes, Miss Carew.”
“In the service of Allen’s parents?”
“I was in the service of Dr. and Mrs. Scott,” replied Mrs. Tice
composedly. “Pray don’t ask me any more questions, Miss Carew, for I
cannot answer them.”
“You will not, you mean,” said Dora, rising. “Never mind, I have found
out something from the little you have told me.”
Mrs. Tice looked up quickly.
“Impossible,” she said anxiously. “I have revealed nothing.”
“Oh, I can put two and two together, Mrs. Tice,” said Dora quietly.
“Allen told me that his parents lived in Christchurch, Hants–that his
father and mother are buried there. Now, if you knew Mr. Edermont
while you were nursing Allen, Mr. Edermont must have lived, or have
been on a visit, at Christchurch. Consequently, if I go down to
Christchurch I shall learn something of Mr. Edermont’s past life.”
Mrs. Tice fell into the skilfully-laid trap.
“You won’t find that the name of Edermont is known in those parts,”
she said, without thinking.
“Precisely,” said Dora coolly. “Edermont is a false name. I have
suspected that for some time. Thank you, Mrs. Tice, for admitting it.
I have learnt so much from you. Mr. Joad will tell me the rest.”
“Mr. Joad may or may not,” said Mrs. Tice doubtfully. “Do not go too
much by what I am saying, Miss Carew. You have a skilful and crafty
person to deal with.”
“Are you talking of yourself?”
“By no means. I am neither skilful nor crafty. I allude to Mr. Joad.”
“You seem to be well acquainted with his character, Mrs. Tice. Did you
know him at Christchurch?”
“No, my dear. I never saw the man until I came here–to this house.
But I have eyes in my head, and I can see that he is singularly
“Perhaps, but harmless.”
Mrs. Tice shook her head with pursed-up lips.
“I disagree with you. The adder is harmless so long as it isn’t
trodden upon. Tread upon Mr. Joad, my dear young lady, and he
To emphasize the last word Mrs. Tice snapped off a piece of thread,
and looked up at Dora with a sharp nod. Evidently Joad had failed to
impress her favourably.
“I have no doubt you are right,” said Dora, after reflection. “He
would be dangerous if he got the chance, but I don’t see where his
opportunity for mischief comes in.”
“Neither do I, Miss Carew; but he’ll watch for one, you mark my
Dora did not reply to this remark, as she was of the same opinion
herself. She was thinking about Carver’s remark touching a past
romance of Edermont’s, and of her own statement to Allen that Mrs.
Tice might have been the woman who had to do with the same. It was now
her desire to find out if there was any grain of truth in her
supposition, but she did not know exactly how to put it to Mrs. Tice.
At last she thought the best method to approach so delicate a subject
was by a side issue.
“Your husband is dead, isn’t he, Mrs. Tice?” she asked with apparent
“Yes, Miss Carew,” replied the housekeeper; “he died more than
twenty-five years ago, and his body is buried in the graveyard of
“Were you much in love with him?”
“We respected and liked one another,” said Mrs. Tice judiciously: “but
we were not madly in love.”
“Were you ever madly in love with anyone, Mrs. Tice?”
“No, my dear young lady,” was the laughing reply, “never! I am not a
Dora thought for a moment.
“Was Mr. Edermont handsome when you knew him first?”
“He was passable, Miss Carew–a little, womanish man. Even in his
youth his hair was white–the effect of nerves, I believe. He was
always nervous, poor soul!”
“He had reason to be, evidently.”
“Yes,” said Mrs. Tice sharply, “good reason. I never liked him, but I
was sorry for him.”
Determined to know the exact truth, Dora put her question plainly:
“Were you in love with him?”
“What!” said Mrs. Tice, laughing, “with that rat of a man? No, my
dear: I had better taste.”
This was conclusive, and Dora was satisfied that, whoever had played
the part of heroine in her guardian’s romance, it was not Mrs. Tice.
The next day Dora altered her demeanour towards Joad. Hitherto she had
been cold and unapproachable; now she sought his society with smiles,
and quite bewildered the poor man with kindness. If Joad, who was
naturally very crafty, had not been in love, he would have mistrusted
this sudden transformation and been on his guard. As it was, in the
then state of his feelings, he ascribed Dora’s changed behaviour to a
desire to be on better terms with one who was bound, owing to the
terms of the will, to come into contact daily with her. In this belief
he reciprocated her advances, and vied with her in amiability.
On her part, Mrs. Tice viewed the comedy with displeasure.
Nevertheless, she made no attempt to interfere. Although she was
unwilling to be an active party in revealing the truth to Dora, yet
she was by no means displeased that the girl should learn it from a
third person. Dora was deeply in love with Allen; and the sooner she
realized that there could be no union between them, the better it
would be. To come to such an understanding, it was necessary that she
should learn the secret. When she was possessed of such knowledge, the
housekeeper was satisfied that, even if Dr. Scott did desire the
match, Dora would refuse her consent thereto. Therefore Mrs. Tice
preferred being spectator to actor. For some days Dora pursued her
amiable tactics, and Joad fell deep and deeper in love. He was well
aware, in his own heart, that this girl, young enough to be his
granddaughter, would never consent to be his wife; but for all that,
he put no restraint upon his feelings. Moreover, he had a weapon in
his hand which he hoped to use with effect. In spite of his belief
that Dora might not accept him voluntarily, he fancied that he could
force her into the match by making use of the weapon aforesaid. But it
was not to be brought into active service save as a last resource.
Meanwhile the comedy of May and December, of Methuselah in Arcady, of
“An Old Man’s Darling,” went gaily on. Joad paid more attention to his
dress, he drank less brandy, and talked more affably. Instead of
burying himself in the library, he was to be found haunting the steps
of Dora. He loved her very shadow, and was never tired of gazing at
her face. She seemed to him to be the most beautiful, the most
wonderful, the most gracious woman in the world; and he gloated over
her charms like an old satyr. Crafty, astute and worldly as he was, he
fell prostrate at her feet, a debased Merlin entangled in the wiles of
an artificial Vivien.
Dora played her part bravely; but at times it was too much for her,
and she would leave the house to scour the country on her bicycle.
Joad was too old and shaky to accompany her, and she was thus relieved
in some measure from his senile adoration. But, however near she
approached to Canterbury, she never entered the town or sought out
“No,” she said to herself, when unusually impelled to make the visit;
“first I shall learn the truth. Once in possession of Allen’s secret,
of the name of Mr. Edermont’s assassin, and I shall know how to act;
till then I shall remain absent.”
But, with all her diplomacy, it was not so easy to gain the confidence
of Joad. The least hint at Mr. Edermont’s past, and he withdrew into
himself. He evaded her most dexterous inquiries; and when she pressed
him hard, assumed the character of a dull, stupid old man who knew
nothing about the matter. Yet he was not unwilling to discuss the
details of the murder and subsequent robbery, although he professed
himself unable to account for either. By acting thus, he ignored the
question of Edermont’s secret enemy.
But one day Dora succeeded in forcing him into plain speaking; but the
revelation made was one she was far from expecting. The beginning of
the whole matter lay in the fact that she discovered Joad in the
library the worse for drink. It was not that he was confused or
maudlin, for the man’s brain and speech were both clear. But he was
filled with Dutch courage, which made him more audacious than usual.
Dora reproved him for his vice.
“You should be ashamed of yourself, drinking so much brandy, Mr.
Joad!” she said severely.
“I have not touched brandy for weeks!” said Joad, lying glibly, after
the fashion of habitual drunkards.
Dora looked at him in contempt, and pointed out a tall mirror, before
which they were both standing. It reflected her own tall, straight
form, and also the figure of the disreputable old sinner.
“Can you see your face and deny it?” she said in a tone of rebuke.
“Your eyes are red, your clothes are awry, your—-”
“Leave me to bear the burden of my own sins,” said Joad sullenly; “if
I take brandy, I don’t ask you to pay for it.”
“But you are a gentleman, a scholar,” persisted Dora, sorry for the
wretched old creature; “you should be above such low vices.”
“We cannot be above the depths to which we have fallen, Miss Carew. My
life has been one long failure, so it is scarcely to be wondered at
that I fly to drink for consolation. Few men have been so hardly
treated as I have been.”
“Yet Mr. Edermont helped you.”
“No doubt,” retorted Joad viciously; “but he would not have stretched
out a finger to save me if I had not forced him to.”
“You forced Mr. Edermont to—-?”
“I forced him to nothing,” interrupted Joad, seeing that he had gone
too far. “It is only my way of speaking. Don’t mind the ramblings of a
foolish old failure.”
Dora looked at him silently. His eyes were filled with tears, and,
ashamed of betraying his emotion, he turned away to busy himself with
dusting a book. In the few words which he had let slip Dora saw that
he had possessed some power over the dead man which had won him house
and home. That power she believed was connected with the lifelong
misery of Edermont, and with the fact of his murder. The idea made her
take an unexpected step. Seizing the astonished Joad by the arm, she
whirled him round, so as to look straight into his eyes.
“Did you kill Mr. Edermont?” she asked abruptly. Joad looked at her in
amazement, and sneered in her face.
“O Lord! Have you got that idea into your head?” said he
contemptuously. “No, Miss Carew, I did not kill Mr. Edermont. One does
not readily kill the goose with the golden eggs. By Julian’s death I
have lost a protector–almost a home. Do you take me for a fool?”
“I take you for a man who knows more than he says,” said Dora tartly.
“Then I am wise. I keep my own counsel until the time comes for me to
“I do not understand you.”
“You will some day,” retorted Joad with a leer, “and that sooner than
you expect. I wonder at your accusing me of this crime,” he continued
in an injured tone. “By your own evidence the murder took place at one
o’clock, and at that time I was talking to Mr. Pride in my cottage. I
wonder at your talking like this, Miss Carew.”
“I beg your pardon, Mr. Joad,” said Dora ceremoniously. “I know that
you proved an alibi. There is one thing about you that I admire,” she
added, after a pause.
Joad’s eyes glittered like stars as he turned an admiring glance in
the direction of the young girl, and bent forward eagerly.
“What is that?” he demanded.
“You do not care for money.”
“No,” said Joad, after a pause; “I do not care particularly for money.
As long as I have a roof, a crust, and my books, I am satisfied. My
wants are simple. But why,” he continued, looking at her in a puzzled
way, “why do you make such a remark?”
“Because you refuse to pocket fifty thousand pounds.”
“You allude to the reward. My dear lady, I cannot gain that.”
“I am not so sure of your inability to do so,” said Dora coolly. “With
your knowledge of Mr. Edermont’s past life, you must know who it was
he feared. If you know the name of that person, you know who killed
him. With that knowledge, why not apply for the fifty thousand
“I am not so omniscient as you think, Miss Carew. But we will suppose,
for the sake of argument, that I have such knowledge: what would it
benefit me to gain this fortune?”
“You could do good with it.”
“Could I gain your love?”
Dora turned away with a flushed face, feeling the delicacy of the
“You must not talk to me like that, Mr. Joad,” she said with great
“Why not? I love you.”
“Then you ought to be ashamed to say so. I am the affianced wife of
“Yes,” said Dora with emphasis, “Dr. Allen Scott.
“Bah! Why should you think of him? Has he stood by you in this
trouble? Not he! He left you to fight the matter out by yourself.
Besides, there are reasons why you should not marry him.”
Dora’s heart beat rapidly. Was she about to learn the truth? Had her
rebuff brought about the desired result, and would this old man reveal
what so long had been hidden? She believed that such was the case, and
could scarcely manage, so intense was her excitement, to ask the
necessary question to lure him on to a full confession. However, by an
effort of will she managed to keep her voice fairly steady.
“Are there any special reasons that you know of?”
“Several!” snarled Joad, rubbing his hands together, with an evil
glitter in his eyes.
“I should be glad to hear them,” she said in the tone of an empress.
“I dare say you would; but I don’t intend to tell you what they are.”
“Why not?” demanded Dora, trying to hide her disappointment at this
“Because I don’t choose to speak until it is my pleasure to do so,”
said Joad insolently. “Oh, I can see what you are up to, Miss Carew.
You are trying to force the truth out of me for purposes of your own.
But you shan’t–shan’t–shan’t!”
The old creature stamped with rage, and his face grew so red in his
excitement that Dora really thought he was about to have a fit. She
looked at him in astonishment, while he strove to control his anger
and assume a dignified demeanour. Such conduct was not to be
tolerated, and Dora walked towards the door of the library.
“I shall return when you know how to conduct yourself,” she said
Before she could open the door the delinquent shuffled after her, in a
state of childish repentance. “Do not go, do not go!” he cried
piteously. “I am very sorry; indeed, I am very sorry.”
“Then why do you talk such nonsense?” said Dora, seeing that she had
gained an advantage. “Do you think I want to know your secrets, you
foolish old man?”
“Yes, yes; I am a foolish old man,” he repeated, catching up her words
eagerly; “but do not be angry with me. I love you. Oh, Dora, dear,
sweet Dora, I love you!” and whining in this fashion the old man fell
on his knees.
“Rise, Mr. Joad! Do not be foolish. Get up at once–I insist!”
“Not until you promise to be my wife. I love you. I am old, but my
heart is young. Listen, listen!” he continued, glancing round. “If you
want money, I can get fifty thousand pounds. I know who killed
Dora tore her dress from his grasp in horror. “You know who killed Mr.
“Yes; I will tell the name; I will gain the fortune; I will give it to
you. Only consent to be my wife.”
“Your wife!” cried Dora, shrinking back with visible repugnance.
“Ah, I know that I am old,” said Joad piteously, “but reflect. There
is much to be gained by you. I cannot live long; you would soon be my
widow. I would leave you all the money; and think how rich you would
“I wouldn’t marry you if you offered me millions!” said Dora with
contempt. “I love one man only, and him only shall I marry.”
Joad rose in a fury. “Don’t tell me his name!” he shrieked; “I
know it. Allen–that miserable wretch! But you shall never marry
“How can you prevent our marriage?”
“By telling the truth–by gaining the fortune!” He stepped forward and
seized her wrist. “I hold the life of your lover in the hollow of my
“What do you mean?” panted Dora. “Explain!”
“You wish to know my secrets. Well, I shall tell you one–one
only–that will make your heart sore and your face white. Who killed
Julian? Who came here in the dead of night and struck his foul blow?
Who but Allen Scott–Allen Scott, the murderer! Curse him!”