By Ronald Knox
ILLUSTRATED BY KENNETH HAUFF
"BUT if Davenant came back on the 4.50, and Brotherhood bad been chucked off the earlier train, how did Davenant lo)ow anything about it?, would hear nothing, till Ile heard that we had foiled a dead body on the linee, and even then weren•t certain till next day whose body it was. Why did Davenant disappear, in that case, and hide in a very uncomfortable passage?"
"1 thought of that. But you forget, Davenant. was Mei coming hack from an interview with Miss Renda11-Smith. He had probably seen her off on the three o'clock, and seen Brotherhood get into it. He comes down to the Hatcheries with the definite idea of remonetrating with Brotherhood; his first act, therefore, is to call at Brotherhood's house, and ask .for hint. lie gathers, in the course of Mrs. BramSIMI'S opening address, that Brotherhood has never turned up at all. Clearly, then. Brotherhood has either committed suicide or (more probably) vanished. In either case he has disappeared, and Davenant is afraid that he himself or
(werse) li Benda11-Smith may be involved in the inquiry. it may be all right, of course, but there is danger. So he hits upon a very ingenious plan -going back to the secret passage in which he played as a child, and overhearinp, as one does overhear in the club, all the local gnssip. Safe from observation, he can form his conclusions and mature his plane. He lies low until the moment at which lie realizes that Miss RendaII-Smith is involved in the inquiry; and then by two incautious actions he gives himself away."
" \Vele I suppose all that's possible. But here's the other snag, which is even Nvio-se: that copy of Momerie's !minorInlay, with the marks at the side which clearly betrayed Brotherhood's ownership, was found at -Natoli Oatvile in the 3.17 from London. Now, how did Brotherhood manage In leave his hook it) the .3.47 if he didn't tread ui it?"
" That's true. But mightn't it be a blind? Remember, we're dealing with au eatraordinarily clever criminal. lie. faked the ticket; he faked the ivatches; be faked the sleeper-coupon: mayn't he have managed to fake Brotherhood's train-literature as well:"
"We're dealing with a clever man, but not with one who's clever enough to come up here by the three o'clock, simultaneously leaving • a book lying about in the 3.47."
" No. that's true; it does seem 'difficult. But there )nusl be some explanation, mustn't there'7' Wait a minute ... I know! When Carmichael got that book front the porter, the porter said he had taken it. off 1/tat train. But a porter, when he. says ' off the 3.47' doesn't necessarily mean 'off the 3.47 on Tuesday'-the day you arc asking about. The 3.47 is to him a single entity which renews itself from day to day. He took that book off the train on Monday, depend upon it. Brotherhood left Momerie in the. train when he came down on the Monday afternoon; consequently, Brotherhood probably never read the cipher that. would have warned him of his danger. It wasn't till Friday that Carmichael made inquiries about the book, and of course by that time the porter wouldn't be able to remember, even if he tried, which Idele it yeas that the book was found."
"There's sense in that. I don't like it, though, l'm hanged if I do."
The hour after breakfast on Sunday was an hour of suspended animation in raston Oatvilc dormy-house. Very few of the members ever went to church, and fewer than ever this week, when Fevcral of them had "kept a roller" (in Oxford parlance) by attending Brotherhood's funeral. On the other band, it was not considered good form -to start on the morning round until the padre had set out for the half-past nine service. Until that moment you smoked, read the Sunday papers. and in general tried to cultivate the air of a man in two minds as to whether he ehould eo to church or no. The weather prospects were anxiously forecast; the political situation was greeted with apoplectic comments from the older members, and the club acrostician went to and frt.) eliciting items of expert knowledge front anybody who was available. The atmosphere was one of Sabbath peace, yet the kind of peace that can only be secured by preparing, for golf. Gordon had dcoided to take a rest from detection. and was intending to go rotmd with Carmichael: Mordaunt Reeves was determined not to touch a club until the Links Maretery should be eolved.
"If it comes to that," said Reeves,
as they went upstairs, " have you considered this side of the question? A book cipher is ordinarily prearranged between the two parties. Now, in this one it is very unlikely that it was prearranged, for the message looks as if it came from an enemy. Therefore the message could only be sent by someone who knew that Brotherhood was reading Momeric's immortality at the moment-knew, in fact, that the book was close to his hand. Wen, how e.ould Davertant know all tlrat? He had not seen Brotherhood, he had not travelled with him-how was he to ;wow tlt; 11 hougl.t.: wyuld tively turn towards that particular book? For Davenant, it', impoesible. What we want to find is somebody who knew that Brotherhood would have access to that particular book at dint particular moment."
" Let's have another look at the book, anyway. Carmichael said that it wa, obviously Brotherhood's ropy, because
of the querie.s and things in the margin. but we haven't even verified that yet." They were met bean almost uncanny repetition of R.eeves's experience
two days before. He had put the paper-hound volume-he was poeitivc that he had put it-in a particular place oil his shelves. It was not there and no amount of search in hie rooms could discover it. In despair they sent for Carmichael, to know if for any reason of his own he had resumed possession of what, after all, was his book. He knew nothing of the disappearance; and was inclined to suspect deliberate theft. " You see," he said, " we never proved that it was 'Davenant who took away that cipher. We suspected him, of course, when we found that he had been hiding in the secret passage: the exchange of photographs can only be put down to him. But it's perfectly possible that the cipher was taken away by somebody who simply walked in at the door-somebody who i still in a position to walk iii at the door and steal ynur hooks, Reeves."
"And that somebody isn't Davi:name Davenant, poor fellow, is under lock and key."
" It's a runt thing about that cipher," said Gordon, "When we've got it it
doesn't seem to help us in the least, but whenever we want to get at it, it always seems that the important document has disappeared."
"It's getting on my nerves," admitted Reeves. "Seems to me I can't leave my room without something queer turning up."
"Look here, Carmichael," said Gordon, "this is where you come in. Get out your stethoscope and go down. on all-fours and find clues for us."
" I am afraid that a person entering a room and taking a book away does not commonly leave acre lunch mask on the surroundings. Let's take a look round by all means-it's Sunday, after all, and the housemaid won't have been dusting. Maids, you will notice, always polish the grates on Sunday but do not duet the rooms; why, I cannot say. Whereabouts did you put the book. Reeves?"
"Ott that shelf there. the top but one." "It was natural for you to put it there, because it's within your reach. But you're tall-I wonder if the other gentleman was shorter? 1 think a chair would he useful here. . . Thank you. Yes, he was a good deal shorter.
He had to stand on tip-Lot to reach the book, and balanced himself, as we all do in such circumstances, by resting the four finger-tips of his left hand on the edge of the shelf beneath. in that way, you see, he could get the forefinger of his right hand on the top of the book. I should say he was a man of about Gordon's height."
'Unmasked!" cried Gordon, recoiling dramatically. "Send for the Black Maria; I'll go quiet."
I. I was about to observe, my dear Gordon, that I attach no suspicion to you, because you have unusually long arms for your height. But this man, on the usual calculations, would be about your height, or a little smaller. Now, I wonder if he poked about in the other shelves at all? Most people, when they arc looking for a book, take out one or two of the other books in mere inadvertent curiosity. Extra ordinary the fascination that books have. I am told that Whitewell, at Oxford, loses twenty pounds' worth of books a year hy theft, as the result of letting people prowl round his shop at their pleasure. All! Reeves, your room is an excellent subject for the detective."
"Why mine, particularly?"
"Because you are a man of such tidy habits."
"Tidy!" proteated Gordon. 'Look at those. letters on the table."
"Pernickety would perhaps have been the just word. You are the sort of man who cannot leave a thing lying on the floor, he must pick it up. Consequently, you are the kind of man who always keeps his books on a dead level: some people do, some don't. Now if this Shakespeare had been protruding like that yesterday, You would have noticed it and pushed it in."
"I suppose I should."
"Your visitor has not the same type of mind. Ile pushed in the two volume:: on each side when he took it out, and then be put it hack without driving it home, so to speak. Now, let's see if
we can find which part he was reading..
Ordinarily, as you doubtless know, if you open a book at random it will open at the page where it was last shut that is, if it has been lucid open some little time.... If that principle applies
here, our unknown friend has been reading Liamiet--"fo be or not to be' comes on this page."
"A rather banal taste," suggested Gordon. "You can't get much out of that."
'' It suggests at least that he was R
seriously-minded person, and not all our fellow-residents are that, By the way, I euppoee there is no chalice that the secret passage is still being used?"
"Hardly. You see, it made me nervous, so I put that settee in front of it."
"One could push that out," suggested Gordon. "But not put it Viack in position again once you were insiie the passage. No, I think it must be a member of the club Gust posaibly a servant) we are looking for, who stands about five foot four and has sombre tastes in literature. Has lie left any other traces? The lire-place is the °oily hope. Ahl 1k ..i.ce.tns to. me to treat you yather familiarly, Reeves-he has borrowed a pipc-cleaner and used it." And Carmichael, stooping, picked one out of the fire-place. "Did you have a fire yesterday?"
"No, life \Vas Lou hurried. But I had one the day before."
"Then your grate was cleaned yesterday, not this morning. This pipecleaner is very dirty, which shows that your visitor .did not, like yourself, wrap up his tobacco in those irritating little circles of paper which destroy all the taste. Gordon, you use tiliem too, don't you? This was a stranger, then, though not necessarily the same who took the book. I think he came here xesierday, not this morning." "Why?"
" Because the first pipe of the day is seldom fool; it has dried in the night. This was thoroughly foul. Of course, if the pC:r50fl Who used this pipe-cleaner was the person who took the book, it's obvious he did not come in with any felonious intentions, or he would hardly have made himself so much at home."
"But that might have been a sudden idea."
" Of course. But I should be careful bow you accuse people of theft merely because their pipes are newlycleaned. Let us just see if he emptied out his pipe first; if it was a plain tobacco, it will have left a dote. . Yes, lucre it is-as I feared, the inevitable Worker's Army Cut; half the club smokes that. No, afraid we can't put the handcuffs on anybody just yet. But, of course, you might find an excuse for going round your friends' rooms and looking for the lost book"
"During evening church," suggested Gordon,--eynically, it is to be feared, for the function did not noticeably attract the club members.
"Well, it all wants thinking out. You and Gordon had better go and play your round, while I sec if I can make< anything of it."