Chapter 14

THE nearest way to the garden, on going out of my lady's sitting-room, was by the shrubbery path, which you already know of. For the sake of your better understanding of what is now to come, I may add to this, that the shrubbery path was Mr. Franklin's favourite walk. When he was out in the grounds, and when we failed to find him anywhere else, we generally found him here.

I am afraid I must own that I am rather an obstinate old man. The more firmly Sergeant Cuff kept his thoughts shut up from me, the more firmly I persisted in trying to look in at them. As we turned into the shrubbery path, I attempted to circumvent him in another way.

`As things are now,' I said, `if I was in your place, I should be at my wits' end.'

`If you were in my place,' answered the Sergeant, `you would have formed an opinion--and, as things are now, any doubt you might previously have felt about your own conclusions would be completely set at rest. Never mind for the present what those conclusions are, Mr. Betteredge. I haven't brought you out here to draw me like a badger; I have brought you out here to ask for some information. You might have given it to me, no doubt, in the house, instead of out of it. But doors and listeners have a knack of getting together; and, in my line of life, we cultivate a healthy taste for the open air.'

Who was to circumvent this man? I gave in--and waited as patiently as I could to hear what was coming next.

`We won't enter into your young lady's motives,' the Sergeant went on; `we will only say it's a pity she declines to assist me, because, by so doing, she makes this investigation more difficult than it might otherwise have been. We must now try to solve the mystery of the smear on the door--which, you may take my word for it, means the mystery of the Diamond also--in some other way. I have decided to see the servants, and to search their thoughts and actions, Mr. Betteredge, instead of searching their wardrobes. Before I begin, however, I want to ask you a question or two. You are an observant man--did you notice anything strange in any of the servants (making due allowance, of course, for fright and fluster), after the loss of the Diamond was found out? Any particular quarrel among them? Any one of them not in his or her usual spirits? Unexpectedly out of temper, for instance? or unexpectedly taken ill?'

I had just time to think of Rosanna Spearman's sudden illness at yesterday's dinner--but not time to make any answer--when I saw Sergeant Cuff's eyes suddenly turn aside towards the shrubbery; and I heard him say softly to himself, `Hullo!'

`What's the matter?' I asked.

`A touch of the rheumatics in my back,' said the Sergeant, in a loud voice, as if he wanted some third person to hear us. `We shall have a change in the weather before long.'

A few steps farther brought us to the corner of the house. Turning off sharp to the right, we entered on the terrace, and went down, by the steps in the middle, into the garden below. Sergeant Cuff stopped there, in the open space, where we could see round us on every side.

`About that young person, Rosanna Spearman?' he said. `It isn't very likely, with her personal appearance, that she has got a lover. But, for the girl's own sake, I must ask you at once whether she has provided herself with a sweetheart, poor wretch, like the rest of them?'

What on earth did he mean, under present circumstances, by putting such a question to me as that? I stared at him, instead of answering him.

`I saw Rosanna Spearman hiding in the shrubbery as we went by,' said the Sergeant.

`When you said "Hullo"?'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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