they’ve all got their own bedrooms. After all, none of the bedrooms has been used. All have been marked as being out of bounds. Then – nothing to do with this evening particularly – but why a tutor and a nursery governess for those two little chaps? Sir B. thinks money’s no object, but he said openly to me that education has no object; that Linda Campbell is moronic and that Grimston is a madman and a freak. Then, where does he get off in the little matter of Manoel Lupez? The gallant bull-fighter obviously hates his guts, and Sir B. is manifestly afraid of him. Why have him here, then? Last, and, possibly, quite least (since each may not have known that the other was to be invited), why both Dances in the same house? I know each item separately sounds nothing, and perhaps the whole lot together sound nothing, either, but that’s what’s on my mind. Now tell me it’s all a lot of rot, as well you may, and I’d love to believe you.’
‘I don’t know what to tell you. I can answer the various bits, but that’s not the same as answering the whole lot of bits when they’re put together. Two more rooms being put out of bounds probably means that people don’t want to be bothered with the competition but do want to get together (probably complete with eats and drinks) and be sociable. There are a tutor and a governess because the governess is Sir Bohun’s mistress and he has to give her some sort of standing in the house because of the guests and the servants. Manoel may hate him, but he may feel he has a duty to Manoel. Besides, a bull-fighter has to have rather more self-control than most people, I would say, and therefore is an unlikely person to be a murderer – meaning that I don’t think he’d do Sir Bohun any harm, no matter how much he hates him.’
‘Yes, I see. Sometimes you’re a comfortable person to talk to, Dog.’
‘As for the Dance couple,’ went on Laura, ‘I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. I don’t think each knew the other had been asked here, and, personally, I think they’re both putting a pretty good face on it. But I do agree with you. One or two of these little points – yes. Explanation probable and doubtless correct. But there are too many little points. So where do we go from here?’
‘Personally,’ said Gavin, looking at his watch, ‘I’m going down, with my nine correct answers, to mix myself a drink. How about you?’
‘Something to do first. I must catch you up,’ replied Laura. ‘So far I’ve managed to get four answers, three of which came out of this room. Would you mind if I carried on for a bit?’
‘By no means. Good luck. Don’t forget to listen for the gong.’
They parted (definitely, this time), Gavin to go to the ground floor, Laura to carry out a plan she had formed directly she had heard what he had to say. But first she was determined to inspect the suitcase with which he had been engaged when she had returned to the lumber-room.
She was rewarded. Already handled by Gavin was a wooden box. That he had opened it she felt certain. That he had failed to appreciate its significance she was equally sure. The fact that the lid slid back instead of opening on hinges was the first indication that here was something which gave a clue to the probable contents.
‘ The Musgrave Ritual ,’ muttered Laura, and she quoted, under her breath, ‘a crumpled piece of paper, an old-fashioned brass key, a peg of wood with a ball of string attached to it, and three rusty old discs of metal.’
They were all there. Excitedly, this time, she wrote the tally on her list. Then she went down to the first floor of the house and opened the bottom drawer of the tall-boy. Within was another find. She wrote:
Alice Rucastle’s (or Violet Hunter’s) Hair. The Copper Beeches .
Then, what that timid Macbeth Gavin had not dared to do, his lady was determined to accomplish. Laura had the kind of imagination which had been the terror of her pastors and