The Crowned Skull, by Fergus Hume

Chapter 11

The Quarryman

It was as Polwin stated. Sir Hannibal Trevick had disappeared.

The detectives travelling by the night train had gone to Miss Quinton’s place to arrest him, and found that he had departed bag and baggage on the previous night. On making inquiries it was learned from the butler that the baronet had intended to go to the Guelph Hotel, thinking that he would be less restrained in his movements there than in his sister-inlaw’s somewhat prim house. But the Guelph Hotel people had seen nothing of Sir Hannibal from the time he had stopped there with his daughter.

An inquiry at Sir Hannibal’s club showed that he had not frequented it of late, and the detectives could think of no place where to look for him.

Later on in the afternoon of the next day they appeared at the Dower House to question Dericka and Miss Quinton. Luckily, Forde had gone to the house and was on the spot to support the two ladies.

The detective who paid the visit was a dark little man, with a lean face and sharp black eyes. He sent in his card, which bore the name Giles Arkle, and Dericka passed it along to Forde with a bewildered expression. She already knew from Forde that her father had disappeared. Polwin’s information, learned from a friendly policeman who had no business to disclose official secrets, was perfectly correct.

‘What does this man want to see me about?’ asked Dericka, puzzled.

‘I can’t say,’ said Forde smoothly, and not guessing for the moment that the visitor was a detective. ‘Would you like me to see him for you, dearest?’

‘It will be best for Dericka to see him herself,’ said Miss Lavinia, who was knitting near the window.

‘Very well,’ replied the girl with a shrug and left the sitting-room to go to the drawing-room, where the man awaited her.

Forde looked uneasily at Miss Quinton, and she became aware of his scrutiny.

‘Well?’ she asked, without raising her eyes.

‘I am wondering if this Arkle is from Scotland Yard.’

‘Probably,’ replied Miss Quinton, unmoved.

‘You do not appear astonished or annoyed.’

‘I am neither one nor the other,’ replied the old lady, quite calmly. ‘If Hannibal will mix himself up with shady people he must take the consequences.’

‘But you don’t think he is guilty, Miss Quinton?’

‘No, I certainly do not. But from the rumours I have heard, and from what you repeated of Miss Warry’s information, I think that Hannibal will have a difficult task to clear himself. He did right to hide.’

‘I don’t agree with you,’ said Forde quickly; ‘that looks as though he was unwilling to face his accusers.’

‘Probably he is,’ said Miss Lavinia picking up a stitch. ‘Hannibal never can face the consequences of his own folly.’

‘I believe that there is a conspiracy against him.’

‘So do I, and it has to do with his doings in Africa.’

‘Miss Quinton, do you know —’

‘Nothing; absolutely nothing. All the same, I have conversed with Mr. Bowring, and from what I read in his face, and the few words he let fall, I suspect that both himself and my brother-inlaw were engaged in dealings which would not bear the light of day.’

‘I think Bowring was too clever a man to give himself away in such a manner,’ said Forde dryly.

Miss Lavinia looked at him with her shrewd old eyes.

‘I can see through a brick wall as well as most people,’ she said quietly, ‘and I don’t say that I know of anything against either my brother-inlaw or this dead man. Nevertheless, I guess that things are somewhat queer with both of them. But, of course, Bowring being dead, Hannibal has to bear the burden of both.’

‘Do you know of anything about the Death’s Head?’

‘Not a thing,’ retorted Miss Lavinia, and would have said more, but that the footman entered at the moment to request that Forde would come into the drawing-room. With a swift glance at Miss Quinton, who continued quietly to knit, Oswald followed the man, and found Dericka pale with anger standing before the dapper little man.

‘This is a detective,’ she said, as soon as Forde closed the door, ‘and he wants to know if my father is hidden here. I have told him that there is no need for my father to hide, but he does not believe me.’

‘I am very sorry, Miss,’ said Arkle apologetically, ‘but business is business, and we want Sir Hannibal.’

‘An innocent man.’

‘Why, yes, Miss. Every man is presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty.’

‘How dare you mention guilt in the same breath with my father?’ flashed out the girl. ‘Oswald, make this man see sense.’

‘My dear Dericka, he is only doing his duty, and we must place no obstacle in the way,’ said Oswald calmly. Then he addressed Arkle directly: ‘Sir Hannibal Trevick is not here, I assure you.’

‘Do you know where he is?’ asked the detective doubtfully.

‘No. If I did I should go to him and advise him to submit to the law. Sir Hannibal is as innocent as you or I, Mr. Arkle, and can easily defend himself against the calumny which pursues him.’

‘Then why did he fly, sir?’

Dericka interposed, still angry. ‘You have no right to assume that he has fled.’

Arkle looked sceptical. ‘Sir Hannibal is not at Miss Quinton’s house in Kensington, nor at his club, nor has he returned to the Guelph Hotel. Since he cannot be found, and there is a serious charge for him to meet, I think, young lady, that I am right in believing he is unwilling to face his accusers.’

‘He is not; you have no right to say that.’

‘He certainly fled from St. Ewalds.’

‘And why: because a set of uneducated quarrymen, without knowing the truth, were prepared to take the law into their own hands. They ought to be punished.’

‘They will be, Miss Trevick. There is every chance that the man called Anak will be arrested. He was the ringleader.’

‘Do you know where Anak is?’ asked Forde quickly.

‘Usually he is at the quarries. He lives with his mother, a reputed witch, amongst the moors. Anak’s true name is Hugh Carney, and he is called Anak from the fact that he is six feet four high. However, I have come here to ask, not to answer, questions. Sir Hannibal —’

‘He is not here,’ said Dericka sharply; ‘do you doubt my word?’

‘My dear girl,’ said Forde in a low voice, as he saw the detective bite his lip with annoyance, ‘this is not the way to speak to a man who is merely doing his duty. We know that your father is not here, so to convince him let us allow Mr. Arkle to search the house.’

‘But the insult, Oswald.’

‘My dear, things have come to a pass where insults do not matter.’

Dericka thought for a moment. Then her common sense came to her aid and she saw that she had been unjust to the quiet little man, who have behaved very well considering how objectionable was his errand.

‘You can search the house, Mr. Arkle,’ she said abruptly.

The detective looked hard at her. ‘I don’t think it will be necessary, Miss Trevick,’ said he politely; ‘I’ll take your word for it. But if Sir Hannibal does communicate with you it will be wise that you should advise him to surrender.’

‘That will be my business,’ said Forde determinedly; ‘I am quite sure that what you say is common sense, Mr. Arkle.’

Arkle bowed and took his hat to go.

Dericka stopped him. ‘One moment, sir,’ she said quickly; ‘how did you know that my father was at Miss Quinton’s in Kensington?’

‘We learned that he had gone there with you from the Guelph Hotel, Miss. Sir Hannibal left his address.’

‘But why did you go to the Guelph Hotel?’

Arkle shrugged his shoulders. ‘The men who came from St. Ewalds, Miss, informed me that Sir Hannibal usually stopped there when in town.’

‘I understand. Well, Mr. Arkle, I can promise you that should my father write to me I shall certainly advise him to give himself up. You can take it from me that he is perfectly innocent. You must look in another direction for the assassin of Mr. Bowring.’

Arkle glanced at the young lady sharply.

‘Perhaps, Miss, you can tell me in which direction to look?’ said he in silky tones.

‘No, I cannot. But my father was at the fete all the time. Perhaps, Mr. Arkle, you will explain on what grounds you arrest him?’

‘Certainly, Miss. I am not exceeding my duty in telling you. Sir Hannibal and Mr. Bowring were not on good terms. At the fete Mr. Bowring told Sir Hannibal that he had made a will leaving the money to him. Sir Hannibal certainly was missing from the fete, and rumour says that he went on a motor-bicycle to heave the mass of granite on to the road. As that failed to kill Mr. Bowring it was then that Sir Hannibal shot him, and afterwards regained this house by means of the motor-bicycle. Mr. Polwin can state that he met Sir Hannibal on his bicycle, and Hugh Carney — that is, Anak — can state that he saw Sir Hannibal in the vicinity of the quarries on the day and about the time the murder took place.’

Arkle ceased, and, looking at Dericka, waited to hear what comment she would make on his very plain statement.

She held her tongue, however, and as Forde also did not seem inclined to speak, the detective withdrew after a keen glance at both of them. When the front door closed, and he was seen walking briskly down the avenue, Dericka turned to her lover.

‘What do you think of all this?’ she asked.

‘I’ll tell you that after I have seen Anak,’ replied Oswald; ‘I am going to drive out to the quarries now.’

‘One moment. Why should papa run away?’

‘I don’t believe that he has. He will turn up here, and then I’ll persuade him to surrender.’

Dericka mused for a few moments, while Forde held the handle of the door preparing to depart.

‘Sophia is a spiteful woman,’ she said abruptly.

‘Are you talking of Miss Warry?’

‘Of course. She is trying to injure papa because — it sounds very ridiculous, of course — but the fact is Sophia wanted papa to marry her. Yes, you may laugh, but it is the truth. And because he would have nothing to do with her she has made up this story of the quarrel in the library to get him into trouble.’

‘There may be truth in the story,’ said Forde meaningly; ‘after all, Dericka, you told me yourself that Bowring hinted your father had threatened him with death.’

Dericka changed colour. ‘Hold your tongue about that, Oswald.’

‘Certainly. But what do you think of the threat?’

Dericka looked contemptuous. ‘It was only a sample of papa’s wild talk when he is angry. I expect Mr. Bowring and papa really did have a quarrel, and both of them said more than they intended to say. It is lucky Sophia did not overhear everything papa said in an unguarded moment and when he was not responsible for his speech.’

‘Do you think she really did miss anything?’ asked Forde doubtfully; ‘she struck me as a woman who would keep a lot back until such time as she could make a dramatic announcement, the same as she did at the inquest, about her prophecy.’

‘Sophia is really deaf,’ replied Miss Trevick thoughtfully, ‘and if papa and his friend were near the window she certainly would not hear much unless her ears were sharp. The screen, behind which she was hidden, is at the other end of the room. No, Oswald, if she could have said anything harmful to papa she would have let it out to you at that conversation.’

‘Yet she left the room before I could question her.’

‘I’ll question her,’ said Dericka decisively. ‘I’ll go this very afternoon and ask her why she is maligning papa.’

‘You say that you know the reason?’

‘Sophia won’t give that reason.’

‘Very good. I’ll leave you to deal with the lady, and I’ll go out to see Mrs. Carney and her gigantic son.’

This being arranged, Forde left the house, and Dericka returned to report progress to Miss Lavinia. The young barrister procured a trap at the ‘King’s Arms’, and after a light luncheon took his way to the quarries, along the very road on which the murder had taken place.

He was anxious to interview Anak and to learn why the man was so persistent in making trouble. Trevick was not a man to have enemies, as he was good-natured and indolent. Yet Anak went out of his way to implicate the baronet in a crime of which he was assuredly innocent; and more, he had led the quarrymen to wreck the Dower House. Such an attack was more likely to occur in Russia than in a quiet Cornish watering-place; yet the assault had been made, and that it had not succeeded was owing to the cleverness of Anne Stretton. And at this point of his meditations Forde remembered that he had also to interview the adventuress, as Dericka contemptuously called her, if only to learn if she could in any way exonerate Sir Hannibal from complicity in the murder.

On this bright afternoon, under a clear blue sky radiant with sunshine, the moors looked wonderfully beautiful. They ascended on one side of the winding road, and fell away on the other towards the steep cliffs, which breasted the placid ocean. The air was crisp and keen, and Forde drew in long breaths as the trap spun along gaily behind the smart little pony.

Passing over the scene of the murder, he looked up to see the mutilation of the bank whence the mass of granite had fallen, and looked also down the slope where the scattered fragments revealed how it had been blasted by dynamite so as not to impede the traffic.

Then round the corner of the next bend he came unexpectedly upon Anak. There was no mistaking the giant, for there could not be another such huge creature in the district.

‘Isn’t that Hugh Carney?’ Forde asked the driver.

‘Yes, sir; Anak, we calls him.’

‘You can stop here,’ and Forde leaped from the trap to walk forward and confront the big man. Anak, who was walking towards the ragged rent in the high bank which led to the quarries, turned his head at the sound of approaching footsteps and waited when he saw Forde make a signal that he should stop. The man, bulky, brawny and animal, towered above the slim barrister, although Forde was not a short man by any means. He had the immovable face of an ox, heavy, bovine, and a trifle sullen. In his clothes, rusty with the grime of the quarries, with a shock of red hair, and a tangled, untrimmed beard of the same, Anak looked like one of those famous giants of Cornish lore whom Jack killed.

‘You are Hugh Carney?’ asked the young man briskly.

‘I am Anak,’ replied the giant, without much civility.

‘So I understand, and I think that the name fits you very well. I am Mr. Forde, and I am acting on behalf of Sir Hannibal Trevick.’

At the sound of the name Anak scowled and clenched his mighty fist in a savage manner.

‘He’d better keep out of my way,’ he growled.

‘Indeed,’ answered Forde lightly; ‘and why?’

‘I’ve got my own reasons.’

‘Perhaps you’ll tell them to me?’

‘Why should I?’ demanded Anak, still growling.

‘My friend, you are in danger of arrest for having led that mob of men to the Dower House. I can help you in this matter if you will help me.’

‘Help you in what?’ grumbled Anak, sulkily.

‘To clear the character of Sir Hannibal.’

‘I’m hanged if I do.’

‘You’ll be imprisoned if you don’t,’ said Forde sharply. ‘Come, now, you must be reasonable. Do you want to be arrested?’

‘I’d like to see the man who would arrest me,’ and Anak swung his arms fiercely.

The barrister looked at the fine animal critically.

‘You have been to school, I should say?’ he remarked, irrelevantly.

‘What if I have?’ growled Anak on the defensive.

‘Simply this. You have had some education, as I notice that you speak better than most of your class round about these parts. You should therefore know that the law is not to be defied by brute strength, which is all the strength you possess, my friend. All your thews can do nothing against a couple of policemen.’

‘I’d take a dozen.’

‘I am quite sure the dozen would be forthcoming,’ said Forde dryly, ‘and in any case you would have to go to gaol. I can save you from this if you answer me a few questions.’

These arguments appeared to have some weight with the big man, and he kicked a stone out of his way as he replied: ‘What do you want me to say — sir?’ He added the term of respect grudgingly.

‘Why did you lead those quarrymen to the Dower House?’

‘Because Sir Hannibal killed Mr. Bowring. He was a good master, was Mr. Bowring, and gave good wages. No wonder we’re angry at him having been done to death.’

‘But not by Sir Hannibal.’

‘Yes he was; I know.’

‘How do you know?’

‘Because I saw Sir Hannibal on the moors near here at the time the rock was heaved over.’

‘Come, now, you’re not going to persuade me that so delicate a man and so old a man as Sir Hannibal Trevick threw down such a mass of granite?’

‘He might have asked one of the quarrymen to help him,’ asserted Anak savagely, ‘and if I find that man I’ll split his skull.’

‘What an amiable individual you are, Mr. Carney,’ bantered Forde, and although the man looked dangerous at a tone which he could not understand he still continued in the same light way. ‘I wonder you didn’t split Sir Hannibal’s skull when you saw him hereabout.’

‘I lost him in the mist,’ said Anak sulkily.

‘There was no mist on the day of the murder.’

‘Oh, yes, there was. Not on the road, perhaps, but higher up on the moors. It came down suddenly, as mists do in these parts, and while I was going home I saw Sir Hannibal quite plainly running up from the place where the murder was done. I followed, as I always hated him, but he got away, and although I followed him right over the hill to the other road I couldn’t catch him. But I heard the noise of his motor-horn,’ ended Anak triumphantly.

This explanation seemed to prove that the baronet really was guilty, and yet Anak’s tale contradicted that of Polwin’s. What if Polwin had been the man seen by that giant? But that was impossible, as Sir Hannibal was tall, and Polwin short. One could never be mistaken for the other. Forde was puzzled, so did not press the question. In place of it he asked another.

‘Why do you hate Sir Hannibal?’ he asked.

Anak reflected for a moment, then strode forward.

‘Come on,’ said he, throwing a gloomy look over his shoulder, ‘I’ll show you the reason.’

Rather perplexed, Forde climbed up the hill with the big quarryman, and after fifteen minutes’ hard work reached a small hut built under the lee of a mighty cromlech. Anak stalked forward and pushed open the door abruptly. ‘Mother!’ he called out harshly.

But no aged woman appeared. The door was filled a moment later by the graceful form of Miss Anne Stretton.

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Last updated Monday, March 17, 2014 at 16:42