On the day following the Inquest, the plot thickened. It became really entertaining. One did not know whether to appear the more scandalised or amused. On the one hand there was a certain satisfaction in knowing that the last word was apparently not said in what had seemed to be a perfectly straightforward affair, on the other one's sense of fitness had received a severe blow. In short, the impeccable Cleghorn had been arrested, and was detained on suspicion. I saw him go off in a fly in charge of a couple of policemen, and never did hooked cod-fish on the Dogger Bank look more gogglingly stupefied than he over the amazing behaviour of the bait he had swallowed. Sir Calvin stormed, and blasphemed, and demanded to know if the whole household of Wildshott was in a conspiracy to shame him and tarnish his escutcheon; but his objurgations were received very civilly and sensibly by the detective, who explained that he must act according to his professional conscience, that detention did not necessarily mean conviction, or even indictment, and that where a sifting of the truth from the chaff imposed precautionary measures, he must be free to take them, or abandon his conduct of the case. Whereon the wrathful General simmered down, and contented himself only with requesting sarcastically a few hours' grace to settle his affairs, when it came to be his turn to wear the official bracelets.
And so, for the while, we were without a butler; nor could one, on reviewing the evidence, be altogether surprised, perhaps, over that deprivation. Certainly Cleghorn's account of his own movements could not be considered wholly satisfying or convincing, and he had admitted his lack of any witness to substantiate it. It seemed incredible, with a man of his substance and dignity; but is not the history of crime full of such apparent contradictions? After all, he had had the same provocation as the other man, and had departed, apparently, the same way to answer it; and, as to his moral condition after the event, all testimony went to prove that it was worse than that of the Gascon. Anyhow, this new development, however it was destined to turn out, added fifty per cent, to the excitement of the business. Cleghorn ! It seemed inexpressibly comic.
As day followed day succeeding this terrific event, however progressively other things might be assumed to be moving, no ground was made in the matter of tracing out the dead girl's origin or connexions- and that in spite of the publicity given to the affair. It was very strange, and I was immensely curious to know what could be the reason. Her portrait was published in the Police Gazette, and exhibited outside the various stations, but without result. I saw a copy of it, and did not wonder. It had been reproduced, enlarged, it seemed, from a tiny snapshot group, taken by one of the grooms, in which she had figured quite inconspicuously, and was hke nothing human. I spoke to Ridgway about it, and he said it was the best that could be done, that no other photograph of her could be traced, though all the photographers in London had been applied to, and he owned frankly that there seemed some mystery about the girl. I quite agreed with him, and hinted that it was not the only one that remained to be cleared up. He did not ask me what I meant, but I saw, by his next remark, that he had understood what was in my mind.
'Why don't you persuade him, sir,' he said, 'to throw this business off his chest, and get back to his old interests? He takes it too much to heart'.
It was to Hugo he referred, of course, and I did not pretend to misapprehend him. To tell the truth, I was a little smarting from my friend's treatment of me, and not in the mood to be indulgent of his idiosyncrasies. I might have my suspicions as to his involvement in a discreditable affair, but I had certainly not made him a party to them, or even touched upon the subject of the scandal to him save with the utmost delicacy and consideration. If he had chosen to give me his confidence then and there, I would have honoured it; as it was, since he showed no disposition to keep his promise to me made on the day of the shoot, I considered myself as much at liberty to canvass the subject as any one else who had heard, and formed his own conclusions, from the doctor's evidence. It was true that, to me at least, Hugh was doing his best to give his case away by his behaviour. He seemed to make little attempt to rally from the gloom with which the tragedy had overcast him, but mooned about, silent and aimless, as if for the moment he had lost all interest in life. It was only that morning that, moved by his condition, I had come at last to the resolution to remind him of his promise, and get him to share with me, if he would, the burden that was crushing his soul. His answer showed me at once, however, the vanity of my good intentions. 'Thanks, old fellow,' he had said; 'but a good deal has happened since then, and I've nothing to confide'.
Now, that might be true, in the sense that the danger was past, and I could have forgiven his reticence on the score of the loyalty it might imply to a reputation passed beyond its own defence; but he went on with some offensive remark about his regret in not being able to satisfy my curiosity, and ended with a suggestion which, however well-meaning it might liave been, I considered positively insulting.
' You are wasting yourself here, old boy,' he said. 'I'm not, truth to tell, in the mood for much, and we oughtn't to keep you. I feel that I got you here under false pretences; but I couldn't know what was going to happen, could I? and so I won't apologise. I think, I really think, that, for the sake of all our feelings, it would be better if you terminated your visit. You don't mind my saying so, do you?'
'On the contrary, I mind very much,' I answered. 'Have you forgotten how, at considerable inconvenience to myself, I responded at once to your invitation, and came down at a moment's notice? The reason, as you ought to know, Hugh, was pure regard for yourself and a desire to help, and that desire is not lessened because I find you involved in a much more serious business than I had anticipated'.