'But, if Daniel Groome was wrong, it followed of necessity that Henstridge must be wrong also--as of course he was. He had been simply got at by the detective, and officially bullied and threatened into stating what was wanted of him. As a matter of fact, he had had no idea of what the time was at all, but had taken any suggestion offered him. The fellow is a blackguard and a coward, and would swear any man's hfe away for thirty pieces of silver. I did a little persuasion with him on my own account -again during one of those refreshing drives, Sir Francis-and, taking a leaf out of Ridgway's book, had little difficulty in bringing him to his knees. He was abject when I had finished with him. (Parenthetically, I may suggest here-what I am convinced was the case-that our murdering friend had also " got at " Mr Fyler, but in another sense. He had persuaded, I mean, that astute lawyer into believing that there really was nothing worth considering in that hypothetical figure, which we may name the fourth dimension; and that was why, I take it, the point was not taken up again by Counsel before the magistrates.)
' Very well, now: we have got so far as to convict Sergeant Ridgway of murder, following on a plot to disinherit, with the help of a confederate, the very man whom he schemed to charge with the crime. So we arrive necessarily at the question, who was this Annie Evans, whom he had chosen for his accomplice in the business, and whom he had ended by so foully doing to death? To get at the whole truth of the story, it was essential that the mystery of their connexion should be traced to its source.
'To any one, not possessed of the clues which Fortune had placed in my hands, it must have appeared nothing less than astonishing that, with all the wide publicity given to the case, the victim should have remained virtually unidentified and unclaimed. She was beautiful, she was in domestic service--two facts, one might have thought, favourable to an easy solution of the riddle. Still her origin remained a mystery, and so remains, to all but the few instructed, to this day.
'But that very mystery which, to those wanting the master-key, appeared so insolvable, was to me who possessed the key, illuminating. That the girl was in domestic service at the time of her death was no proof that she had ever been in domestic service before. It would be much more in accord with my conception of the astute and far-seeing detective to suppose that he had anticipated that danger of recognition by assigning to his confederate a part through which it would be impracticable, should difficulties arise, to trace her. She had not been in service before, in fact. The business of the photograph confirmed me in that view. You will remember that travesty of Annie's likeness which appeared, enlarged and reproduced from a snap-shot, in the official prints? It was completely unrecognizable, and was intended by Ridgway to be unrecognizable. He knew that no other recent photograph of her existed at all, and for the very good reason that she had not for some time been in a position to be photographed. You will understand why in a moment. It was of paramount importance to him, both first and last, that his accomplice should be and remain unidentifiable. Essential to that condition were her innocence of former service, the absence of any photographic record, and the employment of a false name.
'It was of no use, consequently, my thinking of running Annie Evans, so called, to earth : I must look for her under another title. How was I to ascertain that title?
' It was here again that chance, or Providence, came-I will not say in a totally unforeseen way, but at least in a most obliging way-to my assistance. It occurred to me that at this stage of the proceedings it would be well for me to pay a visit to my Parisian John Ridgway, and endeavour to extract from him, if he could be persuaded to part with them, the fullest details possible of the story with whose outline he had already acquainted me. Something, it might be much, I felt, had remained untold which, if revealed, would possibly throw such.a light upon the obscure places of my quest as would enable me from that moment to present my case without a flaw. I went--to Paris, Mr Bickerdike; not to London, as you supposed-only to learn from Jean's bosom friend--that Caliste Ribault, of whom I have already spoken--that his loved comrade had departed this life in June of this year. That was a blow, I confess: my hopes seemed baffled, my journey in vain. Yet it was so far from being the case that not the artist's living lips could have more shouted the truth into my soul than did the evidence of his dead hand. I will tell you how:-
'One day, shortly before Jean's death, Caliste informed me, there had come to visit him a stepbrother, an Englishman, of whom he, Caliste, had never before heard nor Jean spoken. This step-brother bore the same Christian and surname as Jean, and he had come accompanied by a girl of such beauty that the dying man could not dismiss the thought of her face from his mind until he had made from memory a coloured drawing of it on the whitewashed wall, writing her name beneath. Now, his step-brother being dead, John Ridgway had come once more to arrange about the funeral and the disposition of the deceased's effects, and, perceiving the face on the wall, had been very angry--so angry, that he had immediately seized a cloth and completely effaced the drawing, so that not a vestige of it remained. Why, you ask? You wih understand later.
'Thus again Fortune seemed to laugh at me; but it was laughter like that of a mother who dangles over the mouth of her child a cherry--to be his in a moment. And sure enough in such a moment Caliste informed me that, though the picture was destroyed, a copy of it remained in the shape of a photograph which he himself had taken of the original. He showed me the photograph; and the face I saw'was the face of Annie Evans, but Ivy Mellor was the name written underneath.