THE ADVENTURE OF THE SURPRISING ENDING
Dedicated with respectful gratitude to A.C., who inspired it. by Brian Libby
On a bright, sunny morning in central London—very odd weather that many found disconcerting —the greatest detective in the world sat behind his large desk sipping his customary cup of tisane while perusing the Times.
He closed the paper, thinking that today's lead article offered hope for the future: now that Mr. Chamberlain had become Prime Minister, surely England would at last begin to take a firm line against Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini. It was high time: the clock on the wall said 10:13:27 AM, Friday, May 28, 1937 A.D. (The detective, impatient with slipshod clocks that provide only partial information, had had this one custom made in Zurich.)
The door to the outer office opened as there entered a tall, lean, handsome gentleman of perhaps fifty, attired in a neat grey suit and a regimental tie. This man radiated all that was fine in the British upper-middle class: honesty, plain dealing, bravery, trustworthiness, dependability.
"Cheerio, old bean! I say, what a simply spiffing morning, what?" he called out as he tripped on his own feet and went sprawling on his face. Fortunately the inch-thick pile of the fine mauve carpet prevented any injury.
The great detective contemplated this through his pince-nez and said, "Eh bien, mon pauvre Captain Waterloo, vous êtes bien maladroit comme usuel, n'est-ce pas? Please, arise and adjust your garments. Your cravat she has been much disorganized."
The former officer was spared further contumely by the rapid entry of a lady in early middle age, her dark blonde hair tied in a severe bun, her not unattractive figure mostly concealed by her modest blue dress. She proffered a handful of mail. "The first delivery, Mr. Greycelles," she said. "And there was a very urgent call from Viscount DeLuxe. He seemed to think he could speak to you at once, but I explained that you never accepted calls before 10:18½, after you finished your tisane. I told him you would return his call."
"Quite right, my dear Miss Kumquat," said her employer. "One must have order and method in one's life or it becomes like the existence of the wild beasts of the field. Did his Lordship hint at whatever petit problem troubles him?"
"He said that an explosion has destroyed the entire staff wing of Garrish Manor, his ancestral home, killing six retainers, including Mat Grubb, his Chief Gardener for forty years."
"Ah, these trifles," said Greycelles. "Call his Lordship and ask if his senior under-gardener survived. If, as I suspect, he was not even there—probablement he said he had to make a sudden visit to a sick great-aunt or other superannuated relative—then voilà! Gardeners know all about fertilizer, a prominent component of which, the nitrate of aluminum, is most useful in the making of objets explosif such as the bombs of time. As for motive, the man surely wished to supplant his senior, whose long tenure of office must have annoyed him."
As the efficient secretary hurried to make the call, Captain Waterloo, now seated on a sofa, exclaimed, "By Jove, Greycelles, aren't you jumping to conclusions? I mean…"
The soigné detective raised a plump hand. "Doucement, mon vieux. Énée Greycelles, he leaps not to the conclusions rash. Did I not just read in the Times that a hundred pounds of fertilizer was stolen last week from a warehouse in Little Rotting, a village not far from Garrish Manor? Eh bien, the under-gardener took it for the construction of the bombe gigantesque used in the up-blowing of his so-hated rival the chief gardener. So now we have solved two cases. Remind Miss Kumquat to bill both Viscount DeLuxe and the Little Rotting constabulary. But now let us peruse the mail and discover if any real problems await us, mon ami."
The mail apparently contained only routine items: a bill from the Bulldog Breed Cleaners for £150 (the detective always had a suit cleaned after wearing it once), confirmation that four pallets of the finest tisane were en route from Brussels, advertisements from eight clothing stores and three manufacturers of moustache wax. But upon reaching the last item Greycelles exclaimed, "Tiens! Voyez, Waterloo, a coronet on this so-expensive envelope." Quickly he ran his Damascus-steel letter opener under the edge and withdrew a magnificent sheet of paper. "Mon cher ami, we are bidden to see the Duke of Worcestershire at Daggerthrust House, his summer residence in Kent. His Grace recalls fondly how I found his missing cuff link two years ago and now has another matter about which he wishes to consult us."
"A bit of all right, that," said the captain. "I can run us down in my new Bugatti 57T. I've installed patent feeder gaskets on the supercharger and chromed the reverse valve injectors so the gidgit pump maximizes the superflow. Goes like smoke, old chap."
The detective peered over his pince-nez. "I have no idea what you just said, but from your animation I infer that you can provide adequate transport to St. Anspeth-on-Sea-by-Marsh, the village where Daggerthrust House has its location. Excellent. We leave in three days. I shall have just time enough to groom my moustache."
Before Greycelles and Waterloo left for lunch, Miss Kumquat reported that Viscount DeLuxe's senior sub-gardener had been arrested and had confessed to both the bombing and the theft of the fertilizer. "His Lordship sends his undying thanks for your miraculous insight," she said. "And the Little Rotting police are eternally grateful, especially since they had grown very tired of interrogating every tramp they could find."
"Mais naturellment," replied her chief. "But fail not to send the bills promptly."
"I say! What a pile!" exclaimed Captain Waterloo as his sleek Bugatti passed under the portcullis of Daggerthrust House.
Énée Greycelles had spent most of the trip with his hat pulled over his eyes while he fingered his rosary: at times the car had been moving at fifty miles per hour. Now he relaxed and adjusted his suit. "Enfin, we arrive," he said. "I congratulate you on your good luck, Waterloo, in not killing us both. Oui, this maison magnifique is impressive, n'est-ce pas? She was built in the fifteenth century and often attacked and defended. But inside these ancient walls are found the most modern conveniences, including the central heating of the bedrooms, thank heaven. Even in June one may experience the chills nocturnal."
As liveried lackeys hastened to unload Captain Waterloo's portmanteau and Énée Greycelles's three trunks, the captain asked his friend about the Duke of Worcestershire.
"Marmaduke Phyffe-Drumme is an aristocrat most eminent," replied Greycelles. "His title, of course, derives from the piquant condiment his ancestors concocted and whose secret recipe they sold to Messrs. Lea and Perrins in return for a share of the subsequent enormous profits. The current Duke fought most valiantly in the late war, or rather would have, had he not fallen off the gangway upon his arrival in France and so disrupted his leg that he was invalided from the army and sent home to serve in the garrison of Edinburgh for four years. Even today he walks with the limp. He inherited the title when his father was killed at the Somme. His Grace has experienced other sorrows. His twin brother—his junior by three minutes—died of an attaque cardiaque, and his wife the Duchess also suffered a disappointment."
"What was that?"
"She died. A fall off her horse. The marriage had not been blessed with children."
"Then who is his heir?"
"The Duke had a younger brother, Dudley, who died at Passchendaele. This man's son, Bertie, is the heir. He is, alas, the—how do you say?—the mouton noir of the family, the sheep who is black. Although enrolled at the famous Cambridge, he studies not hard and runs about with flappers and other décadents. The Duke hopes the young man is but knitting his wild oats…"
"Sowing, you mean."
Crustley, the head butler, came out to escort the two men to his Grace, who received them in his study. "Greycelles, so good to see you," he exclaimed, rising and advancing with a noticeable stiffness of his right leg to shake hands.
"Your Grace, may I present mon ami and associate Captain Waterloo."
"Welcome to Daggerthrust House, captain. What was your regiment?"
"The 77th, sir."
"Ah yes, the Sussex, Sherwood, and Shropshire Sharpshooters. Fine outfit. Please, sit down."
The Duke rang a bell. A maid entered with a tray of drinks, curtsied, and withdrew.
The Duke looked gravely at his guests. "Greycelles, I'm up a tree. I hope you can help."
"If your Grace will describe his problem, I am hopeful to help him descend from the arbre."
"My watch has disappeared. Vanished. I removed it before taking a bath two days ago. When I returned to my dressing room the bally thing was gone. Nothing else missing: note-case, pen, monocle, all still on the dresser. But not my watch."
"Had this timepiece any extraordinary value?" asked the detective.
"Well, it is an heirloom. Belonged to my great-grandfather, and always passed to the eldest son. Very nice gold case with the family crest engraved inside. But not very valuable as such, I should think."
"And easily identified," said Greycelles. "Waterloo, tell Miss Kumquat to telephone the pawnshops to assure that it has not been so disposed of. But so conspicuous an object would not be likely to end up there. Your servants, your Grace—could one of them have abstracted it?"
"Never. Only Crustley and the evening maid, Tilly, were in the main house. He is absolutely trustworthy—my batman in the war, you know, a former Lance-Bombardier—while she was listening to the radio in the scullery. Crustley saw her. Anyway, if it were a domestic, surely my money would also have been taken? Damn sight more negotiable than the watch."
"Bien sûr, your Grace. You have reason. May I ask what people of quality were in the house?"
"There were six—still are, in fact. My friend Sir Augustus Wall-Nutt, 7th Baronet Nutt of Nutt House, his wife Lady Honoria, and their daughter Arabella; my nephew Bertie; my secretary Belle Sans-Merci; and an American furniture expert, Clem Visigoth, who represents a firm in New York interested in buying some of my antiques. You'll meet them all at supper."
"Trés bien. I shall submit them all to psychological study."
"But surely you don't suspect any of them of stealing my watch?" asked the Duke, tugging nervously at his moustache.
The great detective shrugged. "The objects physical, they do not vanish into the thin air, your Grace. If the watch is gone, someone took it. If, as you say, the servants could not have done so, it may have been a guest. Do the others know of your loss?"
"Oh yes, I've mentioned it more than once."
"Then I will see you at dinner, your Grace. As that is only a few hours away, I must now start on my toilette so as to be presentable."
Greycelles met briefly with his associate before going down to the Great Hall. "Waterloo, you must ascertain whether there any animals in the house. It is possible that some furry creature, attracted by the gleam of the ducal timepiece, abducted it. Also determine if in this region are many crows or other large birds and if there are windows in the room. We must be certain that a flying beast did not make off with the watch, in the way of la gazza ladra in the Rossini opera of the same name, where a magpie is the real thief of the missing items."
"Rightyoh," replied the captain as he accidentally knocked a shaving cup onto the floor. "I'll stir my stumps and get cracking."
Dinner, with nine covers, was served at 7:00. At the head of the table sat his Grace, his jacket adorned with several decorations from the King that he had earned by being born. On his right was his nephew Bertie, whose youthful good looks were marred by drooping eyelids and puffy cheeks. To his left, Lady Honoria, still lovely, in an attractive emerald gown, with her husband, Sir Augustus, beside her. Their daughter Arabella sat on the opposite end of that side of the great table, beside Bertie—a serious-looking young woman in plain black.
Belle Sans-Merci sat on one end, next to Sir Augustus; her rather low-cut dress and carefully-painted countenance suggested a concern with external appearance greater than that normally associated with a secretary. At the other end of the table was the American antiquities authority, a man scarcely thirty who, bright-eyed and eager, appeared in coat and tie because he possessed no evening dress.
The arrival of Énée Greycelles and Captain Waterloo occasioned some uncertainty among the other guests. The Duke rose and said, "We are pleased to have with us today a man who will need no introduction, for he is illustrious. May I present someone whom I can confidently describe as the world's greatest detective, a master sleuth of such renown that I need hardly say his name…"
As these encomia fell on his feasted ears, Énée Greycelles's lips formed a characteristic little smirk of self-satisfaction below his impeccable moustache. But all at once the Duke's fine words were interrupted as Clem Visigoth, who had been listening with growing excitement, sprang up and exclaimed, "I've heard of you. Gosh all geewhillikers, this is neat! I never thought when I came to England I'd get to meet Sherlock Holmes!"
The glacial silence that fell as the other guests exchanged glances was finally broken by a sigh from Lady Honoria that sounded a bit like "Oh God."
"This is Énée Greycelles," said the Duke firmly. "And his colleague Captain Waterloo."
Mr. Visigoth did a double take, then grinned and said, "Well I'm hornswoggled. That's one on me. Anyone have a towel so's I can wipe the egg off my face? But your name's familiar, captain. Why, I arrived in London at the train station your family's named after."
Only the collective exercise of several stiff upper lips prevented pandemonium after this new gaffe. Waterloo smiled a little painfully and said, "Actually, old bean, it's not the station. Waterloo is a town…"
"In Iowa, sure," said Visigoth. "But I didn't hardly reckon your people would be from the Midwest. Ever been to Cedar Rapids? That's just down the road a piece."
This mystifying question went unanswered when the Duke said, forcefully, "Mr. Greycelles has agreed to help find my missing watch."
"Oh, uncle, is that really necessary?" Bertie Phyffe-Drumme looked languidly up from his contemplation of the tablecloth. "I mean isn't that rather like calling in the Duke of Wellington to put down a small riot?"
"Ah no, monsieur," said the detective. "The crimes so small, they are often most interesting."
"Crime?" Sir Augustus looked and sounded most surprised. "Has there been one? His Grace just misplaced his watch, surely."
The Duke affixed his monocle in his right eye, gazed around the table, and said, "I did not misplace it. As I have said more than once, it vanished whilst I was bathing—and nothing else did, which is damned mysterious."
"Exactement," said Greycelles. "Pourquoi did the note-case remain? And the pen most valuable? No, mes amis, this theft is trés mysterieux. Later this evening I shall wish to speak with each of you. But let us now enjoy this fine repast."
The detective's words put something of a damper on conviviality, implying as they did that all the guests were suspected of theft. Conversation was minimal for several minutes as liveried flunkies brought each course. Then young Arabella Wall-Nutt asked Mr. Visigoth what he thought of Benito Mussolini and Lady Honoria spoke to the Duke in praise of his gardens and asked particularly how he managed to grow such marvelous snapdragons. Sir Augustus asked Greycelles what he thought of the meal. When the detective, who had been sampling each dish with the acumen of a gastronome, replied, "C'est excellent. His Grace must have a mâitre-chef most formidable," the baronet said, "Indeed he does—Anatole. Without peer, that man. And a countryman of yours, I imagine."
"No, Sir Augustus, I am not French."
"Ah, of course. Belgian, correct?"
"Mais non. I am a Luxembourger, from Troisvierges, in the Francophone district of the Grand Duchy—a district of only about a thousand acres, but from there I come."
Captain Waterloo, a hearty trencherman, carried on a desultory conversation with Mlle. Sans-Merci, whom, he noticed, kept trying to attract the eye of Bertie Phyffe-Drumme; but that young man seemed indifferent to her, eating slowly, apparently preoccupied with deep thoughts.
After the ice cream and wafers, Énée Greycelles carefully wiped his mouth, smoothed his moustache, and went to a small drawing room, to which the guests were summoned one by one. Captain Waterloo sat quietly nearby, striving, as he always did, to learn the art of detection from his friend. But the interviews did not seem to him to be very productive. The watch had disappeared between 5:00 and 6:30 PM on May 26. During this time Sir Augustus had been visiting the ducal kitchens and wine cellar with Anatole, his wife had been promenading in the gardens with the head gardener, Mr. Visigoth had been scrutinizing the furniture in the Great Hall with Crustley as his guide, Miss Wall-Nutt had been in the library reading about the Italian conquest of Ethiopia, observed by Bertie and Belle playing badminton on the lawn outside the library windows.
"Tiens!" exclaimed Greycelles when he was done. "These guests all have the alibis, how do you say, dressed in metal."
"Ironclad," suggested Captain Waterloo.
"Oui. Eh bien, and your inspection of the dressing room and the animals domestic?"
"A wash-out, old chap. The windows were open but have screens, so no birds could have gotten in. There are no pets—the Duke is allergic to dander. Of course there is a pack of foxhounds, but their kennel is well away from the house, and fenced. I checked all the drawers and closets."
"Tant pis. Let us inspect further the house. Perhaps something will appear."
But nothing appeared. They met an elderly maid carrying a tray of food down a corridor and a footman polishing tables, but as they neared the library and the sound of the guests inside, Greycelles appeared no closer to a discovery. Then he exclaimed, "Waterloo, are these people playing charades?"
"Sounds it. Great fun don't you think?"
"For you English, perhaps. Charades, like the warm beer and the cricket, are part of your national character. But to a Luxembourger, non. Nous avons une phobie de charades. Please tell his Grace I must retire early and will see him in the morning." He hurried off as fast as he could waddle, leaving his friend to face an evening of The Game.
Breakfast at Daggerthrust House was an informal buffet—one went in at any time from 8 to 10. Énée Greycelles was finishing his oatmeal when Captain Waterloo arrived and sat down to porridge, eggs, sausage, bacon, tomato, toast and marmalade, and a pot of tea.
"Not very peckish, old chap?" asked Waterloo. "Or are you banting—trying to lose a bit?"
"I do not begin the day with a three-course meal," was the reply. "When you finish your dietary orgy, I would like you to observe closely the second-floor corridor. You can do so by sitting in the gun room. Earlier this morning I saw an elderly maid carrying a food tray, just as we both saw last night."
"But I don't understand…"
"Naturally. I followed this maid from a distance. When I turned the corner she had vanished. Poof, she was not there. Where did she go? And why is food being carried to an area where no one lives? Let me know if there is any other unusual traffic in this area. Eat lunch there."
"If you say so, Greycelles. What are your plans?"
"I shall quietly observe the guests and converse with them—a most interesting group. I sense that something strange is going on—possibly several things, all of them unconnected with the missing watch. We shall meet again at luncheon."
Captain Hastings was puzzled, but, that being his usual condition when dealing with his friend, he just finished his meal and betook himself to the gun room, dividing his time between watching the second floor and examining the racks and cases of rifles, shotguns, fowling pieces, rook guns, small mortars, bows, crossbows, halberds, maces, swords, spears, and antique armor that form part of any English gentleman's household goods.
At 2:00 the two friends convened in the detective's bedroom. After lighting one of his tiny Moldavian cigarettes, Greycelles asked Waterloo if he had seen anything.
"Yes, I did. At about noon an elderly woman carried a tray of food past the gun room and around the corner into the next corridor. I strolled there—didn't want to appear to be following, of course—and I couldn't find her. I fancy I heard a sound like the closing of a door, though—perhaps the sliding of a panel."
"Good work, mon ami. Trés bien. We shall investigate this corridor."
"And you, did you discover anything?"
"A most interesting morning. Did you know that Sir Augustus Wall-Nutt's cook is retiring in a month? The baronet is distressed—he likes to keep a fine table. And his wife, the Lady Honoria, is a gardener most passionate, a member of several floral societies and an entrant in many competitions. She especially favors the gueule-de-loup, what you call the snapdragon and we the wolf's throat. Miss Wall-Nutt is an unusual young woman. Far from being fascinated by the dances and the young men and her maquillage, the make-up, she is most seriously concerned with international politics and history. She is especially delighted by the policies of Il Duce, for whom she has the highest regard."
"Is that why she wears black dresses?"
"You laugh, but yes, I think she wears then in emulation of the black shirts. The young Bertie, he on the other hand probably does not know where Italy is, but can tell you the results of all the high-stakes races held in the last four years. I fear he is in financial difficulties most serious."
Greycelles took a sip of water before going on. "This Mlle. Sans-Merci, I believe she is not just the Duke's secretary, if you comprehend. But she may sense the sun is setting and seek a new attachment, with the heir. A most seductive lady."
"And the American?"
"Oh, mon Dieu, I spoke to him for half an hour. It was most difficult to comprehend many of the sounds he makes. I believe my English to be quite good, but what he speaks, is that English? But there is no doubt that he is most knowledgeable about les meubles d'époque—that is, antiques—and extremely desirous of acquiring valuable objects for the firm that employs him. But I have a suspicion I must investigate more thoroughly."
"So what is our next step?" asked Waterloo, rising and knocking over his chair.
"I must speak with Anatole, the chef, and the head gardener, and also lurk in the library. You keep an eye upon M. Bertie and Mlle. Sans-Merci. We will convene after supper."
The guests were on time for the evening meal but the Duke was not. This occasioned some surprise, for his Grace was a most punctual man.
The eight people nibbled dinner rolls and made small talk as they awaited the lord of the manor. Énée Greycelles was unusually animated, saying some words to everyone. He asked Sir Augustus if he was making progress in finding a new chef. "Indeed I am," replied the baronet. "I received encouraging news only today."
"Here in Kent?" asked the detective.
"By phone, of course, from the London agency I employ in the search."
"Oh yes, of course. And my lady Honoria, you enter I think another floral tournament?"
"This summer, monsieur. The great Snapdragon Concourse will be held in late August. I have every hope of triumphing over the Duchess of Cornwall. I have been determined to annihilate that woman for years. The day is soon coming when she will wilt and I will bloom, so to speak. I shall make the name of Wall-Nutt illustrious in the highly-competitive snapdragon field."
"I wish you bonne chance, my lady. And you, Miss Arabella—did you not tell me that you plan a trip to Rome in August?"
"Oh yes, and I so look forward to it, monsieur. My friends at the Italian Embassy say I may even have an audience with Il Duce! I hope I am worthy of meeting him."
"You have many friends among the Italian diplomats, mademoiselle?"
"Well, the assistant military attaché, Tenente di Vascello Julio Vermicelli, is helping me improve my Italian, so I often go there."
"And Mr. Visigoth, your work here goes well?"
"Sure enough. I pretty much finished the furniture and now I'm working on the smaller stuff—the Duke's got some pretty nice knickknacks kicking around the place."
"Such as the quattrocento pen holder in the study and the icon of St. Simeon Stylites in the chapel?"
"Well, I'll be jiggered! You sure know your antiques, Mr. Greycelles. Yeah, those two and the bronze miniature of George and the Dragon in the entryway are the best gewgaws in this whole dump."
"I imagine your firm did careful research on what you might find before sending you all the way from New York?"
"Natch. The Duke sent us Kodaks and descriptions of most of his stuff."
"Ah. You look ravissant çe soir, mademoiselle," he said to the ducal secretary as he lit her cigarette in its long holder. The lady smiled powerfully and replied, "Merci beaucoup, monsieur. One always tries to make a good impression." And her eyes strayed to Bertie Phyffe-Drumme, who, unlike the previous evening, was gazing at her with admiration.
"I am trying to make a good impression too," said the young man with a rueful smile. "Uncle Marmaduke sometimes has a little trouble understanding how expensive it is to live in the outside world when one is an orphan."
Further conversation was curtailed by Crustley opening the door and announcing "His Grace."
In came the Duke of Worcestershire, impeccably attired as usual, his right leg dragging a bit. He walked to the head of the table, took out his watch, consulted it, and said, "Sorry to be a bit after time. I was just tying up something. Please, let us begin."
Of course the reaction from all were exclamations and ejaculations that had the same general meaning: you found it!
Énée Greycelles noted a momentary hesitation before the Duke replied, "Oh, why yes, the watch. You know, I found it in the dresser. Can't think why I didn't remember putting it there.
Sorry about that, Greycelles. You'll still receive a consulting fee for your efforts. Be off in the morning, I imagine?" He fixed his monocle in his left eye and gazed at the detective.
"Bien sûr, your Grace; if there is no more mystery, my presence here is superfluous, to be sure.
But, with permission, I should like tonight to see more of your château magnifique."
Although it seemed that a slightly suspicious look clouded the ducal countenance, his Grace replied, "Of course, of course. Daggerthrust House is well worth seeing. Poke about as you like."
No sooner was supper ended than Greycelles and Waterloo withdrew. "Vite, mon ami, to the gunroom immédiatement," whispered the detective.
"You're really that eager to avoid charades?"
"Tcha! We must investigate the corridor while the others linger over their port, or whatever the English upper classes do after a meal. All my suspicions have been confirmed."
"Suspicions, Greycelles? I didn't know you had any."
"Did you not see? No, of course not. No matter. Ah, we arrive."
The detective began tapping the walls with his gold-handled cane as the two men walked slowly along. Soon came a hollow noise indicating the wall was not solid. "Inspect this area carefully," said Greycelles.
They did so, and Waterloo soon exclaimed, "What ho! A button behind this painting."
He pushed it and watched in amazement as a panel slid back. A moment later the two men stood in a narrow passageway that opened into a large room with doors on either side. The panel slid closed. Greycelles went to one door, the captain to the other, and it was Waterloo who called out, "Good lord! Greycelles, it's the duke. Or another duke."
A man was tied to a chair by ropes around his arms and legs, a gag in his mouth. Greycelles removed the gag. "I trust your Grace is not harmed?" he said.
"Greycelles! Waterloo! Thank heavens! I've been trussed up here for hours. Montague said he'd bring me supper but there's no telling what might actually happen."
"Have no fears, my lord. All will now be well."
"I don't want a scandal, you know. Monty isn't dangerous, really, except a bit when the moon is full. Can we get him back?"
"Certainement, when he arrives with the supper. But what of the aged servant?"
"Old Hepzibah knows about him. Monty surprised me when I visited him, tied me up, and told her I was having a fit. She hardly could be expected to suspect a substitution."
"Trés bien. We will make a resubstitution."
Captain Waterloo had listened to all this with increasing amazement on his honest face. Now he exclaimed, "Are you twins?"
"Yes, mon ami," replied Greycelles. "The person in the dining room is Montague Phyffe-Drumme, the younger twin brother of the Duke. His reported death was a ruse. He has been living in this not-uncomfortable apartment for some time, to avoid the necessity of placing him in a maison de fous, how do you say, a house of the mad. He somehow escaped, first stole the watch that represented to him the right of succession, returned here, and two days later, after tying up his brother, now impersonates him. Is not that so, your Grace?"
"Yes, yes it is. Poor old Mad Monty, as the family called him, was never quite right in the head. I decided to confine him here, in comfort, to avoid the public disgrace of putting a Phyffe-Drumme in the booby hatch after he announced that he was moving to Peru to be with his fellow llamas. His problem is periodic—usually he's nearly normal, then these fits come on him. I tried reasoning with him this time. Told him the greatest detective in the world was here for the watch and that his imposture was certain to be discovered. But he would not listen. I hope he doesn't go doolally tonight."
"We can but hope," replied Greycelles.
"But I say, how did you figure all this out?" asked Waterloo. "It seems like magic."
"Ah, I have as usual amazed you, mon ami?" asked Greycelles. "The bringing of food to this remote part of the manor naturally suggested a concealed apartment, as did the vanishing of the servant and the sound of a sliding door. In the library I read the newspaper account of the decease of Lord Montague and noted that he was interred at a very private funeral in the estate chapel. I concluded he might not have died at all. The appearance of the false duke with the watch clearly showed that something strange was afoot, for how could he have, as he said, just found it in a drawer? Did we not search the room thoroughly? But the decisive point was his wearing of the monocle in his left eye. Surely you noticed that the real Duke affixes it in his right one? Lord Montague remembered to imitate the limp, but not the detail of the monocle. Enfin, we search the corridor and voilà, the mystery she is solved."
"Brilliant," said Waterloo.
"Masterful," said the Duke.
"But of course," said Énée Greycelles with the archness he so often employed with those of slower intelligence—that condescending air of immeasurable intellectual superiority that endeared him to his intimates to such an extent that both Captain Waterloo and Miss Kumquat sometimes had to use all their strength to resist the urge to bludgeon his egg-shaped head with the nearest heavy object.
About an hour later Montague Phyffe-Drumme entered the hidden rooms carrying a bag of sandwiches. Confronted by three men with ropes and maces taken from the gunroom, he said, "Oh, dash it all, I see the jig is up," and submitted without a struggle.
"You know this is for your own good, Monty," said his brother. "I plan to bring in an alienist from Munich to treat you, and there's a chap in Zagreb whom I'm looking at as well. We may yet find a cure."
"Yes, yes, I know. But Marmaduke, I did so want to be Duke of Worcestershire even if it was only for a few hours. After all, I'm only two minutes younger than you. How nice it was down there, with everyone fawning on me and pretending they were interested when I told them all about llamas. They even said they wanted to hear about alpacas, and vicuñas too. And the charades were such fun. They always let me win."
His brother looked at him with a slightly tearful eye. "Have courage, Monty. We may get you back to normal yet. Now you go beddy-bye and have a nice nappy."
"All right, Marmaduke. I'll see you tomorrow. Oh, you had better take this." He smiled wanly as he handed his brother a large gold watch.
"I cannot thank you both enough," said the Duke as the three men walked to the dressing room so his Grace could freshen up after his ordeal. "But I fear, M. Greycelles, that I cannot very well announce your success to my guests. They must not know about Monty."
"Je comprends tout, milord" replied the detective. "The role of Captain Waterloo and myself must remain secret. And since you—that is, your pauvre frère—asked me to leave in the morning, I shall do so."
"I knew I could count on your discretion," said the Duke. "I assure you my remuneration will compensate for your inability to reveal your masterful deductions."
The morning, however, brought travails that neither Greycelles nor Waterloo had expected. At breakfast and in the hour following, each of the guests managed to see the detective and his friend in order to sneer at them. Greycelles's insinuation on the first night that one of them had stolen the watch led to considerable raillery. "Are you sure you searched the dresser?", "You're not going to expect a fee for doing nothing, are you, monsieur?", "Losing your edge a bit, maybe?" and "Rather blotted your copybook, eh, old boy?" were among the shafts aimed at him.
"Parbleu!" he finally exclaimed to Captain Waterloo. "These English snobs, they are insufferable. I lose the edge, eh? I am incompetent?"
"That American chap wasn't any nicer," said the captain. "At least I think that saying you are 'over the hill' and that you 'struck out' are not meant to be compliments."
"Very well, they seek to insult Greycelles, then Greycelles shall show them. Waterloo, ask the entire company to assemble in the library so I can bid them a fond adieu."
They did assemble, with the Duke. When all were seated expectantly, the detective stood and smiled sardonically. "Mesdames et messieurs, I must bid you farewell. But before I depart, I would like to say a few words. Although I was asked only to find the missing watch, I feel my duty to my client requires me to mention a few trivial matters I happened to notice in the course of my investigation."
He paused a moment, then began: "Sir Augustus, I am sorry to tell you that your efforts to hire his Grace's master chef away from him will not be successful. I pointed out to Anatole, after he revealed your secret efforts when I questioned him, that cooking for a great nobleman like the Duke of Worcestershire is far more prestigious than cooking for a mere baronet."
"And Lady Honoria, I fear I must reveal that your luggage contains several packets of snapdragon seeds that you took from the greenhouse and that two seedlings are concealed somewhere in your room. Your attempt to pass off the magnifique Ducal snapdragons as your own is going to fail."
"Miss Arabella, last night I observed you in the library placing in your reticule copies of the military plans for the defense of the county, which the Duke possesses in his capacity of Lord Lieutenant of Kent. No doubt you thought that presenting them to Il Duce when you visit Italy would please both the great dictator and your friends in the chemises noires at the Italian embassy."
"Master Bertie, his Grace may wish you to return the stack of fifty-pound notes you received from your accomplice after she removed them from the petty-cash drawer near the kitchen. The accomplice was of course you, Mademoiselle Sans-Merci, as part of your efforts to win over the ducal heir now that you are tired of his uncle."
"And Monsieur Visigoth, I congratulate the artisans at your firm in New York who provided you with forgeries of the so-precious pen holder, the icon, and the statuette that you have substituted for the real ones. The theft might not have been discovered until years after the originals were sold on the so-lucrative black market of art, n'est-ce pas? But thanks to the observations of Énée Greycelles your efforts are foiled and you are, how do you Yankees say, up a stream without a paddler, hein?"
The various exclamations, objurgations, maledictions, and outraged looks occasioned by the detective's remarks ceased at once when the Duke, who had been turning purple as the catalogue of crime continued, rose to his feet. His monocle popped from his eye. "By Jove!" he trumpeted. "I have been sheltering a whole nest of vipers in my bosom. I never heard of… I am going to fetch my favorite shotgun and a good supply of rock salt, and if any of you wretches are here when I return, I shall give you something you will long remember. Mr. Greycelles, Captain Waterloo, remain here. I want to express my gratitude."
Fortunately for the guests, the Duke's bad leg meant it would be some little time before he could get to the gunroom and back. The six thieves took Lady Macbeth's advice: they stood not upon the order of their going but went at once, leaving behind not only the various purloined items but most of their luggage. Gravel spurted from beneath the tires of Vauxhalls, Bentleys, and Rolls-Royces in the mad dash to get away; soon a cloud of dust hung over the portcullis of Daggerthrust House.
The detective and his friend watched this precipitate exodus with smiling satisfaction. "Bien," said Greycelles. "My copybook she is again clean, I am returned from across the hill."
"Rather!" exclaimed Waterloo. "I say, ripping good show, Greycelles. I had no idea you were so busy watching these people."
"Énée Greycelles, he sees all, mon ami. My close observation of this collection of buffoons easily produced the discoveries I have just related."
The Duke returned some minutes later carrying his trusty 20-gauge. "I suppose they all scarpered?" he asked with a grim smile. "Good for them. What a parcel of rogues. I am very grateful, Greycelles, very grateful indeed. But I must ask, had they not irritated you by their insults, were you planning to tell me of their misdeeds?"
"But of course, your Grace. However I would have done so privately, not in the sensational manner I used, so you could have dealt with them without alarm. Alas, they so enraged me that I could not resist a more public unmasking of their delinquencies."
"Don't blame you a bit," said the Duke. "And I hope this check for £3,000 will compensate for the rudeness you suffered under my roof."
"My chagrin is already vanishing," said the detective, smiling as he stowed the document in his note case.
Crustley entered to inquire if the Duke needed anything. "Return the shotgun and shells to the gun room," said his master. "And, as Miss Sans-Merci is no longer a member of the household, tell my agent in London to find me a new mistress. I mean secretary."
"At once, my lord," said the faithful retainer as he withdrew.
"Would you care to remain for a few days?" asked the Duke. "I should be delighted."
"Merci beaucoup, your Grace. But only this morning I received a call from Miss Kumquat to tell me of some incidents that have puzzled the police. Sir Usorius Greede, the banker, has been found dead in his study with the door locked and the windows bolted, but the authorities think it may not be a suicide because the bullet holes were in his back and the gun was found in his left foot. Miss Vera Richley dropped dead at luncheon and there are some suspicions cast upon her nephew and heir since a servant heard him say nervously, as he passed her a cup, "Dear auntie, would you like some cyanide?" And then there is the matter of the American cotton magnate, Charlie Bollweevil, who came to London to negotiate a business deal and was last seen being escorted into an opium den by a Chinese, a Lascar, an Arab, and Major N.B.G. Pander, a most notorious man. My friend at Scotland Yard, Grand Inquisitor Sapp, as usual desires my assistance to investigate these little problems."
"I see you will be busy," said the Duke. "But please visit Daggerthrust House sometime soon. In a month or so I hope to have a more respectable circle of friends."
In an hour the car was loaded with luggage and a crate of Worcestershire sauce the Duke insisted on giving the detective. As Captain Waterloo started the engine of his sleek Bugatti, the Duke, waving goodbye, turned to Crustley and asked, "Have you seen my gold tie clip? I could have sworn I was wearing it this morning."
"Vite, mon ami," said Greycelles to Waterloo. "Dépêchez-vous, tread upon the accelerator."
The car sped away.