Rebecca Chapter 24

Thank God for Favell’s laugh. Thank God for his pointing finger, his flushed face, his staring bloodshot eyes. Thank God for the way he stood there swaying on his two feet. Because it made Colonel Julyan antagonistic, it put him on our side. I saw the disgust on his face, the quick movement of his lips. Colonel Julyan did not believe him. Colonel Julyan was on our side.

“The man’s drunk,” he said quickly. “He doesn’t know what he’s saying.”

“Drunk, am I?” shouted Favell. “Oh, no, my fine friend. You may be a magistrate and a colonel into the bargain, but it won’t cut any ice with me. I’ve got the law on my side for a change, and I’m going to use it. There are other magistrates in this bloody county besides you. Fellows with brains in their heads, who understand the meaning of justice. Not soldiers who got the sack years ago for incompetence and walk about with a string of putty medals on their chest. Max de Winter murdered Rebecca and I’m going to prove it.”

“Wait a minute, Mr. Favell,” said Colonel Julyan quietly, “you were present at the inquiry this afternoon, weren’t you? I remember you now. I saw you sitting there. If you felt so deeply about the injustice of the verdict why didn’t you say so then, to the jury, to the Coroner himself? Why didn’t you produce that letter in court?”

Favell stared at him, and laughed. “Why?” he said, “because I did not choose to, that’s why. I preferred to come and tackle de Winter personally.”

“That’s why I rang you up,” said Maxim, coming forward from the window; “we’ve already heard Favell’s accusations. I asked him the same question. Why didn’t he tell his suspicions to the Coroner? He said he was not a rich man, and that if I cared to settle two or three thousand on him for life he would never worry me again. Frank was here, and my wife. They both heard him. Ask them.”

“It’s perfectly true, sir,” said Frank. “It’s blackmail, pure and simple.”

“Yes, of course,” said Colonel Julyan, “the trouble is that blackmail is not very pure, nor is it particularly simple. It can make a lot of unpleasantness for a great many people, even if the blackmailer finds himself in jail at the end of it. Sometimes innocent people find themselves in jail as well. We want to avoid that, in this case. I don’t know whether you are sufficiently sober, Favell, to answer my questions, and if you keep off irrelevant personalities we may get through with the business quicker. You have just made a serious accusation against de Winter. Have you any proof to back that accusation?”

“Proof?” said Favell. “What the hell do you want with proof? Aren’t those holes in the boat proof enough?”

“Certainly not,” said Colonel Julyan, “unless you can bring a witness who saw him do it. Where’s your witness?”

“Witness be damned,” said Favell. “Of course de Winter did it. Who else would kill Rebecca?”

“Kerrith has a large population,” said Colonel Julyan. “Why not go from door to door making inquiries? I might have done it myself. You appear to have no more proof against de Winter there than you would have against me.”

“Oh, I see,” said Favell, “you’re going to hold his hand through this. You’re going to back de Winter. You won’t let him down because you’ve dined with him, and he’s dined with you. He’s a big name down here. He’s the owner of Manderley. You poor bloody little snob.”

“Take care, Favell, take care.”

“You think you can get the better of me, don’t you? You think I’ve got no case to bring to a court of law. I’ll get my proof for you all right. I tell you de Winter killed Rebecca because of me. He knew I was her lover; he was jealous, madly jealous. He knew she was waiting for me at the cottage on the beach, and he went down that night and killed her. Then he put her body in the boat and sank her.”

“Quite a clever story, Favell, in its way, but I repeat again you have no proof. Produce your witness who saw it happen and I might begin to take you seriously. I know that cottage on the beach. A sort of picnic place, isn’t it? Mrs. de Winter used to keep the gear there for the boat. It would help your story if you could turn it into a bungalow with fifty replicas alongside of it. There would be a chance then that one of the inhabitants might have seen the whole affair.”

“Hold on,” said Favell slowly, “hold on… There is a chance de Winter might have been seen that night. Quite a good chance too. It’s worth finding out. What would you say if I did produce a witness?”

Colonel Julyan shrugged his shoulders. I saw Frank glance inquiringly at Maxim. Maxim did not say anything. He was watching Favell. I suddenly knew what Favell meant. I knew who he was talking about. And in a flash of fear and horror I knew that he was right. There had been a witness that night. Little sentences came back to me. Words I had not understood, phrases I believed to be the fragments of a poor idiot’s mind. “She’s down there isn’t she? She won’t come back again.” “I didn’t tell no one.” “They’ll find her there, won’t they? The fishes have eaten her, haven’t they?” “She’ll not come back no more.” Ben knew. Ben had seen. Ben, with his queer crazed brain, had been a witness all the time. He had been hiding in the woods that night. He had seen Maxim take the boat from the moorings, and pull back in the dinghy, alone. I knew all the color was draining away from my face. I leaned back against the cushion of the chair.

“There’s a local half-wit who spends his time on the beach,” said Favell. “He was always hanging about, when I used to come down and meet Rebecca. I’ve often seen him. He used to sleep in the woods, or on the beach when the nights were hot. The fellow’s cracked, he would never have come forward on his own. But I could make him talk if he did see anything that night. And there’s a bloody big chance he did.”

“Who is this? What’s he talking about?” said Colonel Julyan.

“He must mean Ben,” said Frank, with another glance at Maxim. “He’s the son of one of our tenants. But the man’s not responsible for what he says or does. He’s been an idiot since birth.”

“What the hell does that matter?” said Favell. “He’s got eyes, hasn’t he? He knows what he sees. He’s only got to answer yes or no. You’re getting windy now, aren’t you? Not so mighty confident?”

“Can we get hold of this fellow and question him?” asked Colonel Julyan.

“Of course,” said Maxim. “Tell Robert to cut down to his mother’s cottage, Frank, and bring him back.”

Frank hesitated. I saw him glance at me out of the tail of his eye.

“Go on, for God’s sake,” said Maxim. “We want to end this thing, don’t we?” Frank went out of the room. I began to feel the old nagging pain beneath my heart.

In a few minutes Frank came back again into the room.

“Robert’s taken my car,” he said. “If Ben is at home he won’t be more than ten minutes.”

“The rain will keep him at home all right,” said Favell; “he’ll be there. And I think you will find I shall be able to make him talk.” He laughed, and looked at Maxim. His face was still very flushed. Excitement had made him sweat; there were beads of perspiration on his forehead. I noticed how his neck bulged over the back of his collar, and how low his ears were set on his head. Those florid good looks would not last him very long. Already he was out of condition, puffy. He helped himself to another cigarette. “You’re like a little trade union here at Manderley, aren’t you?” he said; “no one going to give anyone else away. Even the local magistrate is on the same racket. We must exempt the bride of course. A wife doesn’t give evidence against her husband. Crawley of course has been squared. He knows he would lose his job if he told the truth. And if I guess rightly there’s a spice of malice in his soul towards me too. You didn’t have much success with Rebecca, did you, Crawley? That garden path wasn’t quite long enough, eh? It’s a bit easier this time, isn’t it. The bride will be grateful for your fraternal arm every time she faints. When she hears the judge sentence her husband to death that arm of yours will come in very handy.”

It happened very quickly. Too quick for me to see how Maxim did it. But I saw Favell stagger and fall against the arm of the sofa, and down onto the floor. And Maxim was standing just beside him. I felt rather sick. There was something degrading in the fact that Maxim had hit Favell. I wished I had not known. I wished I had not been there to see. Colonel Julyan did not say anything. He looked very grim. He turned his back on them and came and stood beside me.

“I think you had better go upstairs,” he said quietly.

I shook my head. “No,” I whispered. “No.”

“That fellow is in a state capable of saying anything,” he said. “What you have just seen was not very attractive, was it? Your husband was right of course, but it’s a pity you saw it.”

I did not answer. I was watching Favell who was getting slowly to his feet. He sat down heavily on the sofa and put his handkerchief to his face.

“Get me a drink,” he said, “get me a drink.”

Maxim looked at Frank. Frank went out of the room. None of us spoke. In a moment Frank came back with the whiskey and soda on a tray. He mixed some in a glass and gave it to Favell. Favell drank it greedily, like an animal. There was something sensual and horrible the way he put his mouth to the glass. His lips folded upon the glass in a peculiar way. There was a dark red patch on his jaw where Maxim had hit him. Maxim had turned his back on him again and had returned to the window. I glanced at Colonel Julyan and saw that he was looking at Maxim. His gaze was curious, intent. My heart began beating very quickly. Why did Colonel Julyan look at Maxim in that way?

Did it mean that he was beginning to wonder, to suspect?

Maxim did not see. He was watching the rain. It fell straight and steady as before. The sound filled the room. Favell finished his whiskey and soda and put the glass back on the table beside the sofa. He was breathing heavily. He did not look at any of us. He was staring straight in front of him at the floor.

The telephone began ringing in the little room. It struck a shrill, discordant note. Frank went to answer it.

He came back at once and looked at Colonel Julyan. “It’s your daughter,” he said; “they want to know if they are to keep dinner back.”

Colonel Julyan waved his hand impatiently. “Tell them to start,” he said, “tell them I don’t know when I shall be back.” He glanced at his watch. “Fancy ringing up,” he muttered; “what a moment to choose.”

Frank went back into the little room to give the message. I thought of the daughter at the other end of the telephone. It would be the one who played golf. I could imagine her calling to her sister, “Dad says we’re to start. What on earth can he be doing? The steak will be like leather.” Their little household disorganized because of us. Their evening routine upset. All these foolish inconsequent threads hanging upon one another, because Maxim had killed Rebecca. I looked at Frank. His face was pale and set.

“I heard Robert coming back with the car,” he said to Colonel Julyan. “The window in there looks onto the drive.”

He went out of the library to the hall. Favell had lifted his head when he spoke. Then he got to his feet once more and stood looking towards the door. There was a queer ugly smile on his face.

The door opened, and Frank came in. He turned and spoke to someone in the hall outside.

“All right, Ben,” he said quietly, “Mr. de Winter wants to give you some cigarettes. There’s nothing to be frightened of.”

Ben stepped awkwardly into the room. He had his sou’wester in his hands. He looked odd and naked without his hat. I realized for the first time that his head was shaved all over, and he had no hair. He looked different, dreadful.

The light seemed to daze him. He glanced foolishly round the room, blinking his small eyes. He caught sight of me, and I gave him a weak, rather tremulous smile. I don’t know if he recognized me or not. He just blinked his eyes. Then Favell walked slowly towards him and stood in front of him.

“Hullo,” he said; “how’s life treated you since we last met?”

Ben stared at him. There was no recognition on his face. He did not answer.

“Well?” said Favell, “you know who I am, don’t you?”

Ben went on twisting his sou’wester. “Eh?” he said.

“Have a cigarette,” said Favell, handing him the box. Ben glanced at Maxim and Frank.

“All right,” said Maxim, “take as many as you like.”

Ben took four and stuck two behind each ear. Then he stood twisting his cap again.

“You know who I am don’t you?” repeated Favell.

Still Ben did not answer. Colonel Julyan walked across to him. “You shall go home in a few moments, Ben,” he said. “No one is going to hurt you. We just want you to answer one or two questions. You know Mr. Favell, don’t you?”

This time Ben shook his head. “I never seen ’un,” he said.

“Don’t be a bloody fool,” said Favell roughly; “you know you’ve seen me. You’ve seen me go to the cottage on the beach, Mrs. de Winter’s cottage. You’ve seen me there, haven’t you?”

“No,” said Ben. “I never seen no one.”

“You damned half-witted liar,” said Favell, “are you going to stand there and say you never saw me, last year, walk through those woods with Mrs. de Winter, and go into the cottage? Didn’t we catch you once, peering at us from the window?”

“Eh?” said Ben.

“A convincing witness,” said Colonel Julyan sarcastically.

Favell swung round on him. “It’s a put-up job,” he said. “Someone has got at this idiot and bribed him too. I tell you he’s seen me scores of times. Here. Will this make you remember?” He fumbled in his hip-pocket and brought out a note-case. He flourished a pound note in front of Ben. “Now do you remember me?” he said.

Ben shook his head. “I never seen ’un,” he said, and then he took hold of Frank’s arm. “Has he come here to take me to the asylum?” he said.

“No,” said Frank. “No, of course not, Ben.”

“I don’t want to go to the asylum,” said Ben. “They’m cruel to folk in there. I want to stay home. I done nothing.”

“That’s all right, Ben,” said Colonel Julyan. “No one’s going to put you in the asylum. Are you quite sure you’ve never seen this man before?”

“No,” said Ben. “I’ve never seen ’un.”

“You remember Mrs. de Winter, don’t you?” said Colonel Julyan.

Ben glanced doubtfully towards me.

“No,” said Colonel Julyan gently, “not this lady. The other lady, who used to go to the cottage.”

“Eh?” said Ben.

“You remember the lady who had the boat?”

Ben blinked his eyes. “She’s gone,” he said.

“Yes, we know that,” said Colonel Julyan. “She used to sail the boat, didn’t she? Were you on the beach when she sailed the boat the last time? One evening, over twelve months ago. When she didn’t come back again?”

Ben twisted his sou’wester. He glanced at Frank, and then at Maxim.

“Eh?” he said.

“You were there, weren’t you?” said Favell, leaning forward. “You saw Mrs. de Winter come down to the cottage, and presently you saw Mr. de Winter too. He went into the cottage after her. What happened then? Go on. What happened?”

Ben shrank back against the wall. “I seen nothing,” he said. “I want to stay home. I’m not going to the asylum. I never seen you. Never before. I never seen you and she in the woods.” He began to blubber like a child.

“You crazy little rat,” said Favell slowly, “you bloody crazy little rat.”

Ben was wiping his eyes with the sleeve of his coat.

“Your witness does not seem to have helped you,” said Colonel Julyan. “The performance has been rather a waste of time, hasn’t it? Do you want to ask him anything else?”

“It’s a plot,” shouted Favell. “A plot against me. You’re all in it, every one of you. Someone’s paid this half-wit, I tell you. Paid him to tell his string of dirty lies.”

“I think Ben might be allowed to go home,” said Colonel Julyan.

“All right, Ben,” said Maxim. “Robert shall take you back. And no one will put you in the asylum, don’t be afraid. Tell Robert to find him something in the kitchen,” he added to Frank. “Some cold meat, whatever he fancies.”

“Payment for services rendered, eh?” said Favell. “He’s done a good day’s work for you, Max, hasn’t he?”

Frank took Ben out of the room. Colonel Julyan glanced at Maxim. “The fellow appeared to be scared stiff,” he said; “he was shaking like a leaf. I was watching him. He’s never been ill-treated, has he?”

“No,” said Maxim, “he’s perfectly harmless, and I’ve always let him have the run of the place.”

“He’s been frightened at sometime,” said Colonel Julyan. “He was showing the whites of his eyes, just like a dog does when you’re going to whip him.”

“Well, why didn’t you?” said Favell. “He’d have remembered me all right if you’d whipped him. Oh, no, he’s going to be given a good supper for his work tonight. Ben’s not going to be whipped.”

“He has not helped your case, has he?” said Colonel Julyan quietly; “we’re still where we were. You can’t produce one shred of evidence against de Winter and you know it. The very motive you gave won’t stand the test. In a court of law, Favell, you wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. You say you were Mrs. de Winter’s prospective husband, and that you held clandestine meetings with her in that cottage on the beach. Even the poor idiot we have just had in this room swears he never saw you. You can’t even prove your own story, can you?”

“Can’t I?” said Favell. I saw him smile. He came across to the fireplace and rang the bell.

“What are you doing?” said Colonel Julyan.

“Wait a moment and you’ll see,” said Favell.

I guessed already what was going to happen. Frith answered the bell.

“Ask Mrs. Danvers to come here,” said Favell.

Frith glanced at Maxim. Maxim nodded shortly.

Frith went out of the room. “Isn’t Mrs. Danvers the housekeeper?” said Colonel Julyan.

“She was also Rebecca’s personal friend,” said Favell. “She was with her for years before she married and practically brought her up. You are going to find Danny a very different sort of witness to Ben.”

Frank came back into the room. “Packed Ben off to bed?” said Favell. “Given him his supper and told him he was a good boy? This time it won’t be quite so easy for the trade union.”

“Mrs. Danvers is coming down,” said Colonel Julyan. “Favell seems to think he will get something out of her.”

Frank glanced quickly at Maxim. Colonel Julyan saw the glance. I saw his lips tighten. I did not like it. No, I did not like it. I began biting my nails.

We all waited, watching the door. And Mrs. Danvers came into the room. Perhaps it was because I had generally seen her alone, and beside me she had seemed tall and gaunt, but she looked shrunken now in size, more wizened, and I noticed she had to look up to Favell and to Frank and Maxim. She stood by the door, her hands folded in front of her, looking from one to the other of us.

“Good evening, Mrs. Danvers,” said Colonel Julyan.

“Good evening, sir,” she said.

Her voice was that old, dead, mechanical one I had heard so often.

“First of all, Mrs. Danvers, I want to ask you a question,” said Colonel Julyan, “and the question is this. Were you aware of the relationship between the late Mrs. de Winter and Mr. Favell here?”

“They were first cousins,” said Mrs. Danvers.

“I was not referring to blood-relationship, Mrs. Danvers,” said Colonel Julyan. “I mean something closer than that.”

“I’m afraid I don’t understand, sir,” said Mrs. Danvers.

“Oh, come off it, Danny,” said Favell; “you know damn well what he’s driving at. I’ve told Colonel Julyan already, but he doesn’t seem to believe me. Rebecca and I had lived together off and on for years, hadn’t we? She was in love with me, wasn’t she?”

To my surprise Mrs. Danvers considered him a moment without speaking, and there was something of scorn in the glance she gave him.

“She was not,” she said.

“Listen here, you old fool…” began Favell, but Mrs. Danvers cut him short.

“She was not in love with you, or with Mr. de Winter. She was not in love with anyone. She despised all men. She was above all that.”

Favell flushed angrily. “Listen here. Didn’t she come down the path through the woods to meet me, night after night? Didn’t you wait up for her? Didn’t she spend the weekends with me in London?”

“Well?” said Mrs. Danvers, with sudden passion, “and what if she did? She had a right to amuse herself, hadn’t she? Love-making was a game with her, only a game. She told me so. She did it because it made her laugh. It made her laugh, I tell you. She laughed at you like she did at the rest. I’ve known her come back and sit upstairs in her bed and rock with laughter at the lot of you.”

There was something horrible in the sudden torrent of words, something horrible and unexpected. It revolted me, even though I knew. Maxim had gone very white. Favell stared at her blankly, as though he had not understood. Colonel Julyan tugged at his small mustache. No one said anything for a few minutes. And there was no sound but that inevitable falling rain. Then Mrs. Danvers began to cry. She cried like she had done that morning in the bedroom. I could not look at her. I had to turn away. No one said anything. There were just the two sounds in the room, the falling rain and Mrs. Danvers crying. It made me want to scream. I wanted to run out of the room and scream and scream.

No one moved towards her, to say anything, or to help her. She went on crying. Then at last, it seemed eternity, she began to control herself. Little by little the crying ceased. She stood quite still, her face working, her hands clutching the black stuff of her frock. At last she was silent again. Then Colonel Julyan spoke, quietly, slowly.

“Mrs. Danvers,” he said, “can you think of any reason, however remote, why Mrs. de Winter should have taken her own life?”

Mrs. Danvers swallowed. She went on clutching at her frock. She shook her head. “No,” she said. “No.”

“There, you see?” Favell said swiftly. “It’s impossible. She knows that as well as I do. I’ve told you already.”

“Be quiet, will you?” said Colonel Julyan. “Give Mrs. Danvers time to think. We all of us agree that on the face of it the thing’s absurd, out of the question. I’m not disputing the truth or veracity of that note of yours. It’s plain for us to see. She wrote you that note sometime during those hours she spent in London. There was something she wanted to tell you. It’s just possible that if we knew what that something was we might have the answer to the whole appalling problem. Let Mrs. Danvers read the note. She may be able to throw light on it.” Favell shrugged his shoulders. He felt in his pocket for the note and threw it on the floor at Mrs. Danvers’ feet. She stooped and picked it up. We watched her lips move as she read the words. She read it twice. Then she shook her head. “It’s no use,” she said. “I don’t know what she meant. If there was something important she had to tell Mr. Jack she would have told me first.”

“You never saw her that night?”

“No, I was out. I was spending the afternoon and evening in Kerrith. I shall never forgive myself for that. Never till my dying day.”

“Then you know of nothing on her mind, you can’t suggest a solution, Mrs. Danvers? Those words ‘I have something to tell you’ do not convey anything to you at all?”

“No,” she answered. “No, sir, nothing at all.”

“Does anybody know how she spent that day in London?”

Nobody answered. Maxim shook his head. Favell swore under his breath. “Look here, she left that note at my flat at three in the afternoon,” he said. “The porter saw her. She must have driven down here straight after that, and gone like the wind too.”

“Mrs. de Winter had a hair appointment from twelve until one thirty,” said Mrs. Danvers. “I remember that, because I had to telephone through to London from here earlier in the week and book it for her. I remember doing it. Twelve to one thirty. She always lunched at her club after a hair appointment so that she could leave the pins in her hair. It’s almost certain she lunched there that day.”

“Say it took her half-an-hour to have lunch; what was she doing from two until three? We ought to verify that,” said Colonel Julyan.

“Oh, Christ Jesus, who the hell cares what she was doing?” shouted Favell. “She didn’t kill herself, that’s the only thing that matters, isn’t it?”

“I’ve got her engagement diary locked in my room,” said Mrs. Danvers slowly. “I kept all those things. Mr. de Winter never asked me for them. It’s just possible she may have noted down her appointments for that day. She was methodical in that way. She used to put everything down and then tick the items off with a cross. If you think it would be helpful I’ll go and fetch the diary.”

“Well, de Winter?” said Colonel Julyan, “what do you say? Do you mind us seeing this diary?”

“Of course not,” said Maxim. “Why on earth should I?”

Once again I saw Colonel Julyan give him that swift, curious glance. And this time Frank noticed it. I saw Frank look at Maxim too. And then back again to me. This time it was I who got up and went towards the window. It seemed to me that it was no longer raining quite so hard. The fury was spent. The rain that was falling now had a quieter, softer note. The gray light of evening had come into the sky. The lawns were dark and drenched with the heavy rain, and the trees had a shrouded humped appearance. I could hear the housemaid overhead drawing the curtains for the night, shutting down the windows that had not been closed already. The little routine of the day going on inevitably as it had always done. The curtains drawn, shoes taken down to be cleaned, the towel laid out on the chair in the bathroom, and the water run for my bath. Beds turned down, slippers put beneath a chair. And here were we in the library, none of us speaking, knowing in our hearts that Maxim was standing trial here for his life.

I turned round when I heard the soft closing of the door. It was Mrs. Danvers. She had come back again with the diary in her hand.

“I was right,” she said quietly. “She had marked down the engagements as I said she would. Here they are on the date she died.”

She opened the diary, a small, red leather book. She gave it to Colonel Julyan. Once more he brought his spectacles from his case. There was a long pause while he glanced down the page. It seemed to me then that there was something about that particular moment, while he looked at the page of the diary, and we stood waiting, that frightened me more than anything that had happened that evening.

I dug my nails in my hands. I could not look at Maxim. Surely Colonel Julyan must hear my heart beating and thumping in my breast?

“Ah!” he said. His finger was in the middle of the page. Something is going to happen, I thought, something terrible is going to happen. “Yes,” he said, “yes, here it is. Hair at twelve, as Mrs. Danvers said. And a cross beside it. She kept her appointment, then. Lunch at the club, and a cross beside that. What have we here, though? Baker, two o’clock. Who was Baker?” He looked at Maxim. Maxim shook his head. Then at Mrs. Danvers.

“Baker?” repeated Mrs. Danvers. “She knew no one called Baker. I’ve never heard the name before.”

“Well, here it is,” said Colonel Julyan, handing her the diary. “You can see for yourself, Baker. And she’s put a great cross beside it as though she wanted to break the pencil. She evidently saw this Baker, whoever he may have been.”

Mrs. Danvers was staring at the name written in the diary, and the black cross beside it. “Baker,” she said. “Baker.”

“I believe if we knew who Baker was we’d be getting to the bottom of the whole business,” said Colonel Julyan. “She wasn’t in the hands of moneylenders, was she?”

Mrs. Danvers looked at him with scorn. “Mrs. de Winter?” she said.

“Well, blackmailers perhaps?” said Colonel Julyan, with a glance at Favell.

Mrs. Danvers shook her head. “Baker,” she repeated. “Baker.”

“She had no enemy, no one who had ever threatened her, no one she was afraid of?”

“Mrs. de Winter afraid?” said Mrs. Danvers. “She was afraid of nothing and no one. There was only one thing ever worried her, and that was the idea of getting old, of illness, of dying in her bed. She has said to me a score of times, ‘When I go, Danny, I want to go quickly, like the snuffing out of a candle.’ That used to be the only thing that consoled me, after she died. They say drowning is painless, don’t they?”

She looked searchingly at Colonel Julyan. He did not answer. He hesitated, tugging at his mustache. I saw him throw another glance at Maxim.

“What the hell’s the use of all this?” said Favell, coming forward. “We’re streaking away from the point the whole bloody time. Who cares about this Baker fellow? What’s he got to do with it? It was probably some damn merchant who sold stockings, or face cream. If he had been anyone important Danny here would know him. Rebecca had no secrets from Danny.”

But I was watching Mrs. Danvers. She had the book in her hands and was turning the leaves. Suddenly she gave an exclamation.

“There’s something here,” she said, “right at the back among the telephone numbers. Baker. And there’s a number beside it: 0488. But there is no exchange.”

“Brilliant Danny,” said Favell: “becoming quite a sleuth in your old age, aren’t you? But you’re just twelve months too late. If you’d done this a year ago there might have been some use in it.”

“That’s his number all right,” said Colonel Julyan, “0488, and the name Baker beside it. Why didn’t she put the exchange?”

“Try every exchange in London,” jeered Favell. “It will take you through the night but we don’t mind. Max doesn’t care if his telephone bill is a hundred pounds, do you, Max? You want to play for time, and so should I, if I were in your shoes.”

“There is a mark beside the number but it might mean anything,” said Colonel Julyan; “take a look at it, Mrs. Danvers. Could it possibly be an M?”

Mrs. Danvers took the diary in her hands again. “It might be,” she said doubtfully. “It’s not like her usual M but she may have scribbled it in a hurry. Yes, it might be M.”

“Mayfair 0488,” said Favell; “what a genius, what a brain!”

“Well?” said Maxim, lighting his first cigarette, “something had better be done about it. Frank? Go through and ask the exchange for Mayfair 0488.”

The nagging pain was strong beneath my heart. I stood quite still, my hands by my side. Maxim did not look at me.

“Go on, Frank,” he said. “What are you waiting for?”

Frank went through to the little room beyond. We waited while he called the exchange. In a moment he was back again. “They’re going to ring me,” he said quietly. Colonel Julyan clasped his hands behind his back and began walking up and down the room. No one said anything. After about four minutes the telephone rang shrill and insistent, that irritating, monotonous note of a long-distance call. Frank went through to answer it. “Is that Mayfair 0488?” he said. “Can you tell me if anyone of the name of Baker lives there? Oh, I see. I’m so sorry. Yes, I must have got the wrong number. Thank you very much.”

The little click as he replaced the receiver. Then he came back into the room. “Someone called Lady Eastleigh lives at Mayfair 0488. It’s an address in Grosvenor Street. They’ve never heard of Baker.”

Favell gave a great cackle of laughter. “The butcher, the baker, the candlestick-maker, they all jumped out of a rotten potato,” he said. “Carry on, detective Number One, what’s the next exchange on the list?”

“Try Museum,” said Mrs. Danvers.

Frank glanced at Maxim. “Go ahead,” said Maxim.

The farce was repeated all over again. Colonel Julyan repeated his walk up and down the room. Another five minutes went by, and the telephone rang again. Frank went to answer it. He left the door wide open, I could see him lean down to the table where the telephone stood, and bend to the mouthpiece.

“Hullo? Is that Museum 0488? Can you tell me if anyone of the name of Baker lives there? Oh; who is that speaking? A night porter. Yes. Yes, I understand. Not offices. No, no of course. Can you give me the address? Yes, it’s rather important.” He paused. He called to us over his shoulder. “I think we’ve got him,” he said.

Oh, God, don’t let it be true. Don’t let Baker be found. Please God make Baker be dead. I knew who Baker was. I had known all along. I watched Frank through the door, I watched him lean forward suddenly, reach for a pencil and a piece of paper. “Hullo? Yes, I’m still here. Could you spell it? Thank you. Thank you very much. Good night.” He came back into the room, the piece of paper in his hands. Frank who loved Maxim, who did not know that the piece of paper he held was the one shred of evidence that was worth a damn in the whole nightmare of our evening, and that by producing it he could destroy Maxim as well and truly as though he had a dagger in his hand and stabbed him in the back.

“It was the night porter from an address in Bloomsbury,” he said. “There are no residents there at all. The place is used during the day as a doctor’s consulting rooms. Apparently Baker’s given up practice, and left six months ago. But we can get hold of him all right. The night porter gave me his address. I wrote it down on this piece of paper.”