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Chapter 5 - The People of the Drama

"Have you seen all you want of the study?" asked White Mason as we reentered the house.

"For the time," said the inspector, and Holmes nodded.

"Then perhaps you would now like to hear the evidence of some of the people in the house. We could use the dining room, Ames. Please come yourself first and tell us what you know."

The butler's account was a simple and a clear one, and he gave a convincing impression of sincerity. He had been engaged five years before, when Douglas first came to Birlstone. He understood that Mr. Douglas was a rich gentleman who had made his money in America. He had been a kind and considerate employer--not quite what Ames was used to, perhaps; but one can't have everything. He never saw any signs of apprehension in Mr. Douglas: on the contrary, he was the most fearless man he had ever known. He ordered the drawbridge to be pulled up every night because it was the ancient custom of the old house, and he liked to keep the old ways up.

Mr. Douglas seldom went to London or left the village; but on the day before the crime he had been shopping at Tunbridge Wells. He (Ames) had observed some restlessness and excitement on the part of Mr. Douglas that day; for he had seemed impatient and irritable, which was unusual with him. He had not gone to bed that night; but was in the pantry at the back of the house, putting away the silver, when he heard the bell ring violently. He heard no shot; but it was hardly possible he would, as the pantry and kitchens were at the very back of the house and there were several closed doors and a long passage between. The housekeeper had come out of her room, attracted by the violent ringing of the bell. They had gone to the front of the house together.

As they reached the bottom of the stairs he had seen Mrs. Douglas coming down it. No, she was not hurrying; it did not seem to him that she was particularly agitated. Just as she reached the bottom of the stair Mr. Barker had rushed out of the study. He had stopped Mrs. Douglas and begged her to go back.

"For God's sake, go back to your room!" he cried. "Poor Jack is dead! You can do nothing. For God's sake, go back!"

After some persuasion upon the stairs Mrs. Douglas had gone back. She did not scream. She made no outcry whatever. Mrs. Allen, the housekeeper, had taken her upstairs and stayed with her in the bedroom. Ames and Mr. Barker had then returned to the study, where they had found everything exactly as the police had seen it. The candle was not lit at that time; but the lamp was burning. They had looked out of the window; but the night was very dark and nothing could be seen or heard. They had then rushed out into the hall, where Ames had turned the windlass which lowered the drawbridge. Mr. Barker had then hurried off to get the police.

Such, in its essentials, was the evidence of the butler.

The account of Mrs. Allen, the housekeeper, was, so far as it went, a corroboration of that of her fellow servant. The housekeeper's room was rather nearer to the front of the house than the pantry in which Ames had been working. She was preparing to go to bed when the loud ringing of the bell had attracted her attention. She was a little hard of hearing. Perhaps that was why she had not heard the shot; but in any case the study was a long way off. She remembered hearing some sound which she imagined to be the slamming of a door. That was a good deal earlier--half an hour at least before the ringing of the bell. When Mr. Ames ran to the front she went with him. She saw Mr. Barker, very pale and excited, come out of the study. He intercepted Mrs. Douglas, who was coming down the stairs. He entreated her to go back, and she answered him, but what she said could not be heard.

"Take her up! Stay with her!" he had said to Mrs. Allen.

She had therefore taken her to the bedroom, and endeavoured to soothe her. She was greatly excited, trembling all over, but made no other attempt to go downstairs. She just sat in her dressing gown by her bedroom fire, with her head sunk in her hands. Mrs. Allen stayed with her most of the night. As to the other servants, they had all gone to bed, and the alarm did not reach them until just before the police arrived. They slept at the extreme back of the house, and could not possibly have heard anything.

So far the housekeeper could add nothing on cross-examination save lamentations and expressions of amazement.

Cecil Barker succeeded Mrs. Allen as a witness. As to the occurrences of the night before, he had very little to add to what he had already told the police. Personally, he was convinced that the murderer had escaped by the window. The bloodstain was conclusive, in his opinion, on that point. Besides, as the bridge was up, there was no other possible way of escaping. He could not explain what had become of the assassin or why he had not taken his bicycle, if it were indeed his. He could not possibly have been drowned in the moat, which was at no place more than three feet deep.

In his own mind he had a very definite theory about the murder. Douglas was a reticent man, and there were some chapters in his life of which he never spoke. He had emigrated to America when he was a very young man. He had prospered well, and Barker had first met him in California, where they had become partners in a successful mining claim at a place called Benito Canon. They had done very well; but Douglas had suddenly sold out and started for England. He was a widower at that time. Barker had afterwards realized his money and come to live in London. Thus they had renewed their friendship.

Douglas had given him the impression that some danger was hanging over his head, and he had always looked upon his sudden departure from California, and also his renting a house in so quiet a place in England, as being connected with this peril. He imagined that some secret society, some implacable organization, was on Douglas's track, which would never rest until it killed him. Some remarks of his had given him this idea; though he had never told him what the society was, nor how he had come to offend it. He could only suppose that the legend upon the placard had some reference to this secret society.

"How long were you with Douglas in California?" asked Inspector MacDonald.

"Five years altogether."

"He was a bachelor, you say?"

"A widower."

"Have you ever heard where his first wife came from?"

"No, I remember his saying that she was of German extraction, and I have seen her portrait. She was a very beautiful woman. She died of typhoid the year before I met him."

"You don't associate his past with any particular part of America?"

"I have heard him talk of Chicago. He knew that city well and had worked there. I have heard him talk of the coal and iron districts. He had travelled a good deal in his time."

"Was he a politician? Had this secret society to do with politics?"

"No, he cared nothing about politics."

"You have no reason to think it was criminal?"

"On the contrary, I never met a straighter man in my life."

"Was there anything curious about his life in California?"

"He liked best to stay and to work at our claim in the mountains. He would never go where other men were if he could help it. That's why I first thought that someone was after him. Then when he left so suddenly for Europe I made sure that it was so. I believe that he had a warning of some sort. Within a week of his leaving half a dozen men were inquiring for him."

"What sort of men?"

"Well, they were a mighty hard-looking crowd. They came up to the claim and wanted to know where he was. I told them that he was gone to Europe and that I did not know where to find him. They meant him no good--it was easy to see that."

"Were these men Americans--Californians?"

"Well, I don't know about Californians. They were Americans, all right. But they were not miners. I don't know what they were, and was very glad to see their backs."

"That was six years ago?"

"Nearer seven."

"And then you were together five years in California, so that this business dates back not less than eleven years at the least?"

"That is so."

"It must be a very serious feud that would be kept up with such earnestness for as long as that. It would be no light thing that would give rise to it."

"I think it shadowed his whole life. It was never quite out of his mind."

"But if a man had a danger hanging over him, and knew what it was, don't you think he would turn to the police for protection?"

"Maybe it was some danger that he could not be protected against. There's one thing you should know. He always went about armed. His revolver was never out of his pocket. But, by bad luck, he was in his dressing gown and had left it in the bedroom last night. Once the bridge was up, I guess he thought he was safe."

"I should like these dates a little clearer," said MacDonald. "It is quite six years since Douglas left California. You followed him next year, did you not?"

"That is so."

"And he had been married five years. You must have returned about the time of his marriage."

"About a month before. I was his best man."

"Did you know Mrs. Douglas before her marriage?"

"No, I did not. I had been away from England for ten years."

"But you have seen a good deal of her since."

Barker looked sternly at the detective. "I have seen a good deal of HIM since," he answered. "If I have seen her, it is because you cannot visit a man without knowing his wife. If you imagine there is any connection--"

"I imagine nothing, Mr. Barker. I am bound to make every inquiry which can bear upon the case. But I mean no offense."

"Some inquiries are offensive," Barker answered angrily.

"It's only the facts that we want. It is in your interest and everyone's interest that they should be cleared up. Did Mr. Douglas entirely approve your friendship with his wife?"

Barker grew paler, and his great, strong hands were clasped convulsively together. "You have no right to ask such questions!" he cried. "What has this to do with the matter you are investigating?"

"I must repeat the question."

"Well, I refuse to answer."

"You can refuse to answer; but you must be aware that your refusal is in itself an answer, for you would not refuse if you had not something to conceal."

Barker stood for a moment with his face set grimly and his strong black eyebrows drawn low in intense thought. Then he looked up with a smile. "Well, I guess you gentlemen are only doing your clear duty after all, and I have no right to stand in the way of it. I'd only ask you not to worry Mrs. Douglas over this matter; for she has enough upon her just now. I may tell you that poor Douglas had just one fault in the world, and that was his jealousy. He was fond of me--no man could be fonder of a friend. And he was devoted to his wife. He loved me to come here, and was forever sending for me. And yet if his wife and I talked together or there seemed any sympathy between us, a kind of wave of jealousy would pass over him, and he would be off the handle and saying the wildest things in a moment. More than once I've sworn off coming for that reason, and then he would write me such penitent, imploring letters that I just had to. But you can take it from me, gentlemen, if it was my last word, that no man ever had a more loving, faithful wife--and I can say also no friend could be more loyal than I!"

It was spoken with fervour and feeling, and yet Inspector MacDonald could not dismiss the subject.

"You are aware," said he, "that the dead man's wedding ring has been taken from his finger?"

"So it appears," said Barker.

"What do you mean by 'appears'? You know it as a fact."

The man seemed confused and undecided. "When I said 'appears' I meant that it was conceivable that he had himself taken off the ring."

"The mere fact that the ring should be absent, whoever may have removed it, would suggest to anyone's mind, would it not, that the marriage and the tragedy were connected?"

Barker shrugged his broad shoulders. "I can't profess to say what it means," he answered. "But if you mean to hint that it could reflect in any way upon this lady's honour"--his eyes blazed for an instant, and then with an evident effort he got a grip upon his own emotions--"well, you are on the wrong track, that's all."

"I don't know that I've anything else to ask you at present," said MacDonald, coldly.

"There was one small point," remarked Sherlock Holmes. "When you entered the room there was only a candle lighted on the table, was there not?"

"Yes, that was so."

"By its light you saw that some terrible incident had occurred?"

"Exactly."

"You at once rang for help?"

"Yes."

"And it arrived very speedily?"

"Within a minute or so."

"And yet when they arrived they found that the candle was out and that the lamp had been lighted. That seems very remarkable."

Again Barker showed some signs of indecision. "I don't see that it was remarkable, Mr. Holmes," he answered after a pause. "The candle threw a very bad light. My first thought was to get a better one. The lamp was on the table; so I lit it."

"And blew out the candle?"

"Exactly."

Holmes asked no further question, and Barker, with a deliberate look from one to the other of us, which had, as it seemed to me, something of defiance in it, turned and left the room.

Inspector MacDonald had sent up a note to the effect that he would wait upon Mrs. Douglas in her room; but she had replied that she would meet us in the dining room. She entered now, a tall and beautiful woman of thirty, reserved and self-possessed to a remarkable degree, very different from the tragic and distracted figure I had pictured. It is true that her face was pale and drawn, like that of one who has endured a great shock; but her manner was composed, and the finely moulded hand which she rested upon the edge of the table was as steady as my own. Her sad, appealing eyes travelled from one to the other of us with a curiously inquisitive expression. That questioning gaze transformed itself suddenly into abrupt speech.

"Have you found anything out yet?" she asked.

Was it my imagination that there was an undertone of fear rather than of hope in the question?

"We have taken every possible step, Mrs. Douglas," said the inspector. "You may rest assured that nothing will be neglected."

"Spare no money," she said in a dead, even tone. "It is my desire that every possible effort should be made."

"Perhaps you can tell us something which may throw some light upon the matter."

"I fear not; but all I know is at your service."

"We have heard from Mr. Cecil Barker that you did not actually see--that you were never in the room where the tragedy occurred?"

"No, he turned me back upon the stairs. He begged me to return to my room."

"Quite so. You had heard the shot, and you had at once come down."

"I put on my dressing gown and then came down."

"How long was it after hearing the shot that you were stopped on the stair by Mr. Barker?"

"It may have been a couple of minutes. It is so hard to reckon time at such a moment. He implored me not to go on. He assured me that I could do nothing. Then Mrs. Allen, the housekeeper, led me upstairs again. It was all like some dreadful dream."

"Can you give us any idea how long your husband had been downstairs before you heard the shot?"

"No, I cannot say. He went from his dressing room, and I did not hear him go. He did the round of the house every night, for he was nervous of fire. It is the only thing that I have ever known him nervous of."

"That is just the point which I want to come to, Mrs. Douglas. You have known your husband only in England, have you not?"

"Yes, we have been married five years."

"Have you heard him speak of anything which occurred in America and might bring some danger upon him?"

Mrs. Douglas thought earnestly before she answered. "Yes," she said at last, "I have always felt that there was a danger hanging over him. He refused to discuss it with me. It was not from want of confidence in me--there was the most complete love and confidence between us--but it was out of his desire to keep all alarm away from me. He thought I should brood over it if I knew all, and so he was silent."

"How did you know it, then?"

Mrs. Douglas's face lit with a quick smile. "Can a husband ever carry about a secret all his life and a woman who loves him have no suspicion of it? I knew it by his refusal to talk about some episodes in his American life. I knew it by certain precautions he took. I knew it by certain words he let fall. I knew it by the way he looked at unexpected strangers. I was perfectly certain that he had some powerful enemies, that he believed they were on his track, and that he was always on his guard against them. I was so sure of it that for years I have been terrified if ever he came home later than was expected."

"Might I ask," asked Holmes, "what the words were which attracted your attention?"

"The Valley of Fear," the lady answered. "That was an expression he has used when I questioned him. 'I have been in the Valley of Fear. I am not out of it yet.'--'Are we never to get out of the Valley of Fear?' I have asked him when I have seen him more serious than usual. 'Sometimes I think that we never shall,' he has answered."

"Surely you asked him what he meant by the Valley of Fear?"

"I did; but his face would become very grave and he would shake his head. 'It is bad enough that one of us should have been in its shadow,' he said. 'Please God it shall never fall upon you!' It was some real valley in which he had lived and in which something terrible had occurred to him, of that I am certain; but I can tell you no more."

"And he never mentioned any names?"

"Yes, he was delirious with fever once when he had his hunting accident three years ago. Then I remember that there was a name that came continually to his lips. He spoke it with anger and a sort of horror. McGinty was the name--Bodymaster McGinty. I asked him when he recovered who Bodymaster McGinty was, and whose body he was master of. 'Never of mine, thank God!' he answered with a laugh, and that was all I could get from him. But there is a connection between Bodymaster McGinty and the Valley of Fear."

"There is one other point," said Inspector MacDonald. "You met Mr. Douglas in a boarding house in London, did you not, and became engaged to him there? Was there any romance, anything secret or mysterious, about the wedding?"

"There was romance. There is always romance. There was nothing mysterious."

"He had no rival?"

"No, I was quite free."

"You have heard, no doubt, that his wedding ring has been taken. Does that suggest anything to you? Suppose that some enemy of his old life had tracked him down and committed this crime, what possible reason could he have for taking his wedding ring?"

For an instant I could have sworn that the faintest shadow of a smile flickered over the woman's lips.

"I really cannot tell," she answered. "It is certainly a most extraordinary thing."

"Well, we will not detain you any longer, and we are sorry to have put you to this trouble at such a time," said the inspector. "There are some other points, no doubt; but we can refer to you as they arise."

She rose, and I was again conscious of that quick, questioning glance with which she had just surveyed us. "What impression has my evidence made upon you?" The question might as well have been spoken. Then, with a bow, she swept from the room.

"She's a beautiful woman--a very beautiful woman," said MacDonald thoughtfully, after the door had closed behind her. "This man Barker has certainly been down here a good deal. He is a man who might be attractive to a woman. He admits that the dead man was jealous, and maybe he knew best himself what cause he had for jealousy. Then there's that wedding ring. You can't get past that. The man who tears a wedding ring off a dead man's--What do you say to it, Mr. Holmes?"

My friend had sat with his head upon his hands, sunk in the deepest thought. Now he rose and rang the bell. "Ames," he said, when the butler entered, "where is Mr. Cecil Barker now?"

"I'll see, sir."

He came back in a moment to say that Barker was in the garden.

"Can you remember, Ames, what Mr. Barker had on his feet last night when you joined him in the study?"

"Yes, Mr. Holmes. He had a pair of bedroom slippers. I brought him his boots when he went for the police."

"Where are the slippers now?"

"They are still under the chair in the hall."

"Very good, Ames. It is, of course, important for us to know which tracks may be Mr. Barker's and which from outside."

"Yes, sir. I may say that I noticed that the slippers were stained with blood--so indeed were my own."

"That is natural enough, considering the condition of the room. Very good, Ames. We will ring if we want you."

A few minutes later we were in the study. Holmes had brought with him the carpet slippers from the hall. As Ames had observed, the soles of both were dark with blood.

"Strange!" murmured Holmes, as he stood in the light of the window and examined them minutely. "Very strange indeed!"

Stooping with one of his quick feline pounces, he placed the slipper upon the blood mark on the sill. It exactly corresponded. He smiled in silence at his colleagues.

The inspector was transfigured with excitement. His native accent rattled like a stick upon railings.

"Man," he cried, "there's not a doubt of it! Barker has just marked the window himself. It's a good deal broader than any bootmark. I mind that you said it was a splay-foot, and here's the explanation. But what's the game, Mr. Holmes--what's the game?"

"Ay, what's the game?" my friend repeated thoughtfully.

White Mason chuckled and rubbed his fat hands together in his professional satisfaction. "I said it was a snorter!" he cried. "And a real snorter it is!"

五 剧中人 

我们重新回到屋里时,怀特·梅森问道:“你们对书房要检查的地方,都检查完了吗?”

“暂时就算完了,"警官麦克唐纳回答道,福尔摩斯也点了点头。

“那么,现在你们愿意听听庄园里一些人的证词吗?我们就利用这间餐室吧,艾姆斯,请你先来把你所知道的事情告诉我们。”

管家的叙述简单、明了,给人一种诚实可靠的印象。他还是在五年前道格拉斯先生刚到伯尔斯通时受雇的。他知道道格拉斯先生是一个很有钱的绅士,是在美洲致富的。道格拉斯先生是一位和蔼可亲、善于体贴人的主人——或许艾姆斯对这个不完全习惯,不过,一个人不能事事具备。他从来没见过道格拉斯先生有过什么惊恐的迹象 ,相反,道格拉斯先生是他所见过的最大胆的人。道格拉斯先生之所以叫人每晚把吊桥拉起,只是因为这是古老庄园的古老的习俗,道格拉斯先生喜欢把这种古老的习俗保持下去。道格拉斯先生很少到伦敦去,也难得离开村子,不过,在被害的头一天,曾到滕布里奇韦尔斯市去买过东西。那天,艾姆斯发现道格拉斯先生有些坐卧不安,情绪激动,看来他是一反往常,变得性情急躁,容易发火。发案那天晚上,艾姆斯还没有就寝,正在房后面的餐具室里收拾银器,忽然听到铃声大作。他没有听到枪声,因为餐具室和厨房在庄园的最后面,中间还隔着几重关着的门和一条长廊,所以确实很难听到。艾伦太太也因为听到急促的铃声,赶忙跑出来,他们就一起跑到前厅。他们跑到楼下时,艾姆斯看到道格拉斯太太正从楼梯上走下来。不,她走得并不急,艾姆斯觉得,道格拉斯太太并不显得特别惊慌。她一到楼下,巴克先生就从书房里冲了出来,他极力阻拦道格拉斯太太,央求她回到楼上去。

“看在上帝面上,你快回自己房里去吧!"巴克先生喊道,“可怜的杰克已经死了,你也无能为力了。看在上帝面上,快①回去吧!”

巴克先生劝说了一会儿,道格拉斯太太就回到楼上去了。她既没有尖叫,也没有大喊大闹。女管家艾伦太太陪她上了楼,一起留在卧室里。艾姆斯和巴克先生回到书房,他们所看①杰克为约翰的爱称,死者的全名为约翰·道格拉斯。——译者注到的屋内一切情况,完全和警署来人所看到的一样。那时烛光已经熄灭了,可是油灯还点着呢。他们从窗里向外望,但那天晚上非常黑,什么东西也看不见,听不到。后来他们奔到大厅,艾姆斯在这里摇动卷扬机放下吊桥,巴克先生就匆匆地赶到警署去了。

这就是管家艾姆斯的简要证词。

女管家艾伦太太的说法,充其量也不过是进一步证实了与她共事的男管家的证词。女管家的卧室到前厅比到艾姆斯收拾银器的餐具室要近一些,她正准备睡觉,忽听一阵铃声大作。她有点儿耳聋,所以没有听到枪声,不过,无论如何,书房是离得很远的。她记得听到一种声响,她把它当作砰的一下关门声。这还是早得多的事,至少在铃响半小时以前。在艾姆斯跑到前厅时,她是同艾姆斯一起去的。她看到巴克先生从书房出来,脸色苍白,神情激动。巴克先生看到道格拉斯夫人下楼,就截住了她,劝她转回楼上。道格拉斯夫人答了话,但听不见她都说了些什么。

“扶她上去,陪着她,"巴克先生对艾伦太太说道。

所以艾伦太太把道格拉斯夫人扶到卧室,并竭力安慰她。道格拉斯夫人大受惊恐,浑身发抖,但也没有表示要再下楼去。她只是穿着睡衣,双手抱着头,坐在卧室壁炉旁边。艾伦太太几乎整晚都陪着她。至于其他仆人,都已入睡了,不曾受到惊恐,直到警察到来之前,他们才知道出了事。他们都住在庄园最后面的地方,所以多半也听不到什么声音。

至于女管家艾伦太太,她除了悲伤和吃惊以外,在盘问中一点也没有补充出什么新情况。

艾伦太太说完,塞西尔·巴克先生作为目击者,接着讲述了当时的情况。至于那晚发生的事情,除了他已经告诉警察的以外,补充的情况非常少。他个人确信,凶手是从窗户逃走的。他的意见是,窗台上的血迹就是这一论点的确凿证据。此外,因为吊桥已经拉起来,也没有其他方法可以逃走。但他却不能解释刺客的情况是怎样的,假如自行车确实是刺客的,为什么他不骑走呢?刺客不可能淹死在护城河里,因为河水没有超过三英尺深的地方。

巴克先生认为,关于凶手,他有一种非常明确的看法。道格拉斯是一个沉默寡言的人,对他以前的生活,有些部分他从来不曾对人讲过。他还非常年轻时,就从爱尔兰移居到美洲了。他的景况日渐富裕,巴克是在加利福尼亚州和他初次相识,他们便合伙在该州一个叫做贝尼托坎营的地方经营矿业。事业很成功,不料道格拉斯突然把它变卖,动身到英国来了。那时他正在鳏居。巴克随后也把产业变卖了,迁到伦敦来住。于是他们的友谊又重新恢复起来。道格拉斯给他的印象是:总有一种迫在眉睫的危险在威胁着他。道格拉斯突然离开加利福尼亚,在英国这么平静的地方租下房子,巴克先生一直认为都与这种危险有关。巴克先生料想一定有个什么秘密团体,或是说一个决不饶人的组织,一直在追踪道格拉斯,不把他杀死誓不罢休。尽管道格拉斯从来没讲过那是一种什么团体,也没讲过怎样得罪了他们,但道格拉斯的只言片语使巴克产生了上述想法。他仅能推测这张卡片上的字一定和那个秘密团体有些关系。

“你在加利福尼亚和道格拉斯一起住了多长时间?"警官麦克唐纳问道。

“一共五年。”

“你说,他是一个单身汉吗?”

“那时他是个鳏夫。”

“你可曾听说他前妻的来历吗?”

“没有,我只记得他说过她是德国血统,我也看到过她的像片,是一个很美丽的女子。就在我和道格拉斯结识的前一年,她得伤寒病死去了。”

“你知不知道道格拉斯过去和美国的某一地区有密切关系?”

“我听他讲过芝加哥。他对这个城市很热悉,并且在那里作过事。我听他讲过产煤和产铁的一些地区。他生前周游过很多地方。”

“他是政治家吗?这个秘密团体和政治有关系吗?”

“不,他根本不关心政治。”

“你可认为他做过犯罪的事么?”

“恰恰相反,在我一生里,从来没遇到过象他这样正直的人。”

“他在加利福尼亚州时,生活上有什么古怪的地方吗?”

“他最喜欢到山里来,来我们的矿区工作。他总是尽可能不到生人多的地方去。所以我才首先想到有人在追踪他。后来,当他那么突然地离开那里到欧洲去,我愈发相信是这么回事了。我相信他曾经接到某种警告。在他走后的一星期里,曾有五六个人向我打听过他的行踪。”

“是些什么人呢?”

“嗯,是一群看来非常冷酷无情的人。他们来到矿区,打听道格拉斯在什么地方。我告诉他们说,他已经到欧洲去了,我也不知道他住在什么地方。不难看出,他们对他不怀好意。”

“这些人是美国人,也是加利福尼亚人吧?”

“这个,对于加利福尼亚人,我不太了解。但他们确实都是美国人,不过他们不是矿工。我不知道他们是些什么人,只巴不得他们快点走开。”

“那是六年以前的事吧?”

“将近七年了。”

“这么说,你们在加利福尼亚一起住了五年,所以,这桩事不是至少有十一年了么?”

“是这样。”

“其中一定有不共戴天的冤仇,隔了这么长的时间,还不能忘怀。形成冤仇的原因看来决不是小事。”

“我以为这就是道格拉斯一生中的隐患,使他永远难以忘怀。”

“不过,一个人大难临头,而且知道是怎样的危难,你想,他哪有不求警察保护的道理呢?”

“也许这种危险是别人无法保护他的。有一件事你们应当知道。他出门总是带着武器的。他的手枪从来不离开他的衣袋。但是,不幸的是,昨晚他只穿着睡衣,把手枪留在卧室里了。我猜想,他一定以为吊桥一拉起来,他就安全了。”

麦克唐纳说道:“我希望再把年代弄清楚些。道格拉斯离开加利福尼亚州整六年了。你不是在第二年就随之而来了吗?”

“是的。”

“他再婚已经有五年了。你一定是在他结婚前后那年回来的吧。”

“大约在他结婚前一个月。我还是他的男傧相呢。”

“道格拉斯夫人结婚以前,你认识她吗?”

“不,我不认识她。我离开英国已经有十年了。”

“可是从那以后,你常常和她见面吧?”

巴克严肃地望着那个侦探。

“从那时期,我常常和她见面,"巴克回答道,“至于我和她见面,那是因为你不可能去拜访一个朋友,而不认识他的妻子。假使你想象其中有什么牵连……”

“巴克先生,我什么也没有想象。凡是与这案件有关的每一件事,我都有责任查问。不过,我不打算冒犯你。”

“有些责问就是无礼的,"巴克怒气冲冲地答道。

“这只不过是我们需要了解一些事实,弄清这些事实对你和大家都有好处。你和道格拉斯夫人的友情,道格拉斯先生完全赞成吗?”

巴克脸色更加苍白,两只有力的大手痉挛似地紧握在一起。

“你没有权力问这样的问题!"他大声喊道,“这和你所调查的事情有什么关系呢?”

“我一定要提这个问题。”

“那么,我拒绝回答。”

“你可以拒绝回答,不过你要知道,你拒绝回答本身就是回答,因为你如果没有需要隐瞒的事,你就不会拒绝回答了。”

巴克绷着脸站了一会儿,那双浓重的黑眉皱起来,苦思不已。然后他又微笑着抬起头来说道:“嗯,不管怎么说,我想诸位先生们毕竟是在执行公事。我没有权力从中阻梗。我只想请求你们不要让这件事再去烦扰道格拉斯夫人了,因为她现在已经够受的了。我可以告诉你们,可怜的道格拉斯就是有一个缺点,就是他的嫉妒心。他对我非常友爱——没有人对朋友比他对我更友爱了。他对妻子的爱情也非常专一。他愿意叫我到这里来,并且经常派人去找我来。可是如果他的妻子和我一起谈话或是我和他妻子之间好象有些互相同情的时候,他就会大发醋劲,勃然大怒,马上说出最粗野的话来。我曾不止一次为此发誓不再到这里来。可是事后他又给我写信,向我表示忏悔,哀求我,我也只好不计较这些了。不过,先生们,你们可以听我说一句结论性的话,那就是,天下再也没有象道格拉斯夫人这样爱丈夫、忠诚于丈夫的妻子;我还敢说,天下也没有比我更忠诚的朋友了。”

话说得热情洋溢、感情真挚,然而警官麦克唐纳还是没有转移话题,他问道:“你知道死者的结婚戒指被人从手指上取走了吧?”

“看来象是这样,"巴克说道。

“你说'看来象'是什么意思?你知道这是事实啊。”

巴克这时看来有些惊惶不安和犹豫不决。他说道:“我说'看来象',意思是,说不定是他自己把戒指取下来的呢。”

“事实是戒指既然已经不见了,不管是什么人取下的,任何人都会由此想到一个问题:这婚姻和这桩惨案会不会有什么联系呢?”

巴克耸了耸他那宽阔的肩膀。

“我不能硬说它使人想起什么,"巴克答道,“可是如果你暗示:这件事不管是什么理由,可能反映出不利于道格拉斯夫人名誉的问题的话,"一瞬间,他双目燃起了怒火,然后他显然是拚命地克制住了自己的感情,“那么,你们的思路就算是引入歧途了。我要说的话就是这些。”

“我想,现在我没有什么事要问你了,"麦克唐纳冷冷地说道。

“还有一个小问题。"歇洛克·福尔摩斯提问道,“当你走进这间屋子的时候,桌上只是点着一支蜡烛,是吗?”

“对,是这样。”

“你就从烛光中看到了发生的可怕事情吗?”

“不错。”

“你就马上按铃求援了吗?”

“对。”

“他们来得非常快吗?”

“大概在一分钟之内就都来了。”

“可是他们来到的时候,看到蜡烛已经熄灭,油灯已经点上,这似乎有点奇怪吧。”

巴克又现出有些犹豫不决的样子。

“福尔摩斯先生,我看不出这有什么奇怪的,"停了一下,他才答道,“蜡烛光很暗,我首先想到的是让屋子更亮一些。正好这灯就在桌子上,所以我就把灯点上了。”

“你把蜡烛吹灭的吗?”

“是的。”

福尔摩斯没有再提什么问题。巴克不慌不忙地看了我们每个人一眼,转身走出去。我觉得,他的行动似乎反映着对立情绪。

警官麦克唐纳派人给道格拉斯夫人送去一张纸条,大意是说,他将到她卧室去拜访,可是她回答说,她要在餐室中会见我们。她现在走进来了,是个年方三十、身材颀长、容貌秀美的女子,沉默寡言,极为冷静沉着。我本以为她一定悲惨不安、心烦意乱,谁知却完全不是那样。她确实面色苍白而瘦削,正象一个受过极大震惊的人一样,可是她的举止却镇静自若,她那纤秀的手扶在桌上,和我的手一样,一点也没有颤抖。她那一双悲伤、哀怨的眼睛,带着异常探询的眼光扫视了我们大家一眼。她那探询的目光突然转化成出岂不意的话语,问道:“你们可有什么发现么?”

这难道是我的想象么?为什么她发问的时候带着惊恐,而不是希望的口气呢?

“道格拉斯夫人,我们已经采取了一切可能的措施,"麦克唐纳说道,“你尽可放心,我们不会忽略什么的。”

“请不要吝惜金钱,"她毫无表情、心平气和地说道,“我要求你们尽一切力量去查清。”

“或许你能告诉我们有助于查清这件案子的事吧?”

“恐怕说不好,但我所知道的一切,都可以告诉你们。”

“我们听塞西尔·巴克先生说你实际上没有看到,也就是说,你并没有到发生惨案的屋子里面去,对吗?”

“没有去,巴克让我回到楼上去了。他恳求我回到我的卧室去。”

“确实是这样,你听到了枪声,而且马上就下楼了。”

“我穿上睡衣就下楼了。”

“从你听到枪声,到巴克先生在楼下阻拦你,中间隔了多少时候?”

“大约有两分钟吧,在这样的时刻是很难计算时间的。巴克先生恳求我不要前去。他说我是无能为力的。后来,女管家艾伦太太就把我扶回楼上了。这真象是一场可怕的恶梦。”

“你能不能大体上告诉我们,你丈夫下楼多久你就听到了枪声?”

“不,我说不清楚。因为他是从更衣室下楼的,我没有听到他走出去。因为他怕失火,所以每天晚上都要在庄园里绕一圈。我只知道他唯一害怕的东西就是火灾。”

“道格拉斯夫人,这正是我想要谈到的问题。你和你丈夫是在英国才认识的,对不对?”

“对,我们已经结婚五年了。”

“你听到他讲过在美洲发生过什么危及到他的事吗?”

道格拉斯夫人认真地思索了一会儿才答道,“对,我总觉得有一种危险在时刻威胁着他,但他不肯与我商量。这并不是因为他不信任我,顺便说一句,我们夫妻一向无比恩爱,推心置腹,而是因为他不想叫我担惊受怕。他认为如果我知道了一切,就会惊惶不安。所以他就不声不响了。”

“那你是怎么知道的呢?”

道格拉斯夫人脸上掠过一丝笑容,说道:“做丈夫的一生保守着秘密,而热爱着他的女人却一点也觉察不出,这可能吗?我是从许多方面知道的:从他避而不谈他在美洲生活的某些片段;从他采取的某些防范措施;从他偶尔流露出来的某些言语;从他注视某些不速之客的方式。我可以完全肯定,他有一些有势力的仇人,他确知他们正在追踪他,所以他总是在防备着他们。因为我深信这点,所以这几年来,只要他回来得比预料得晚,我就非常惊恐。”

“我可以问一句吗?"福尔摩斯说道,“哪些话引起你注意呢?”

“'恐怖谷',"妇人回答道,“这就是我追问他时,他用的词儿。他说:‘我一直身陷"恐怖谷"中,至今也无从摆脱。''难道我们就永远摆脱不开这"恐怖谷"了吗?'我看到他更失常时曾这样问过他。他回答说,'有时我想,我们永远也摆脱不了啦。'”

“你想必问过他,‘恐怖谷'是什么意思吧?”

“我问过他,可是他一听就脸色阴沉,连连摇头说:‘我们两个人中有一个处于它的魔影笼罩之下,这就够糟糕的了。''但愿上帝保佑,这不会落到你的头上。'这一定是有某一个真正的山谷,他曾在那里住过,而且在那里曾有一些可怕的事情在他身上发生——这一点,我敢肯定——其它我就再没有什么东西可以告诉你们的了。”

“他从没有提过什么人的名字吗?”

“提到过的。三年前,他打猎时出了点意外,在发烧中,曾经说过胡话。我记得他不断说起一个名字,他说的时候,很是愤怒,而且有些恐怖。这人的名字是麦金蒂——身主麦金蒂。后来他病好了,我问他,身主麦金蒂是谁,他主管谁的身体?他哈哈一笑回答说,‘谢天谢地,他可不管我的身体。'我从他那里得到的全部情况也就是这些了。不过,身主麦金蒂和'恐怖谷'之间一定是有关系的。”

“还有一点,"警官麦克唐纳说道,“你是在伦敦一家公寓里和道格拉斯先生相识的,并且在那儿和他订的婚,是吗?关于你们的婚事,有什么恋爱过程,有什么秘密的或是神秘的事吗?”

“恋爱过程是有的,总是要有恋爱过程的。可是没有什么神秘的。”

“他没有情敌吗?”

“没有,那时我根本还没有男朋友。”

“你当然听说过,他的结婚戒指被人拿走了。这件事和你有什么关系吗?假定是他过去生活里的仇人追踪到这里并下了毒手,那么,把他的结婚戒指拿走的原因可能是什么呢?”

一瞬间,我敢说道格拉斯夫人唇边掠过一丝微笑。

“这我实在说不上,"她回答道,“这可实在是一件非常离奇古怪的事。”

“好,我们不再多耽误你了,在这样的时刻来打扰你,我们很是抱歉,"麦克唐纳说道,“当然,还有一些其它问题,以后遇到时,我们再来问你吧。”

她站了起来。我看到,象刚才一样,她又用轻捷而带有疑问的眼光扫视了我们一下:“你们对我的证词有什么看法呢?”这个问题真象是她已说出来一样。然后,她鞠了一躬,裙边轻扫地面,走出了房间。

“她真是一个美丽的女人——一个非常美丽的女人,"在她关上门以后,麦克唐纳沉思地说道,“巴克这个人一定常常到这里来的。他大概是个起受女人青睐的男子。他承认死者是个爱吃醋的人。他可能最清楚道格拉斯的醋意何来。还有结婚戒指的事。你无法放过这些问题。对这个从死者手中夺走结婚戒指的人……福尔摩斯先生,你有什么看法?”

我的朋友坐在那里,两手托着下巴,深深地陷入沉思。这时他站起身来,拉响了传呼铃。

“艾姆斯,"当管家走进来时,福尔摩斯说道,“塞西尔·巴克先生现在在哪儿?”

“我去看看,先生。”

艾姆斯一会儿就回来了,告诉我们巴克先生在花园里。

“艾姆斯,你可记得昨晚你和巴克先生在书房时,他脚上穿的是什么?”

“记得,福尔摩斯先生。他穿的是一双拖鞋。在他要去报警时,我才把长统靴子交给他。”

“现在这双拖鞋在哪里?”

“现在还在大厅的椅子底下。”

“很好,艾姆斯,我们要知道哪些是巴克先生的脚印,哪些是外来的脚印,这当然很重要了。”

“是的,先生。我可以说我注意到了那双拖鞋上已经染有血迹了,连我的鞋子上也是一样。”

“根据当时室内情况来看,那是很自然的。很好,艾姆斯。如果我们要找你,我们会再拉铃的。”

几分钟以后,我们来到书房里。福尔摩斯已经从大厅里拿来那双毡拖鞋。果然象艾姆斯说的那样,两只鞋底上都有黑色的血迹。

“奇怪!"福尔摩斯站在窗前,就着阳光仔细察看,自言自语道,“真是非常奇怪!”

福尔摩斯象猫似地猛跳过去,俯身把一只拖鞋放在窗台的血迹上。完全吻合。他默默地朝着几个同事笑了笑。

麦克唐纳兴奋得失去体统。他用地方口音象棍棒敲在栏杆上一样喋喋不休地讲起来。他大声喊道:“老兄!这是毫无疑义的了!是巴克自己印在窗上的。这比别的靴印要宽得多。我记得你说过是一双八字脚,而答案就在这里。不过,这是玩的什么把戏呢,福尔摩斯先生,这是什么把戏呢?”

“是啊,这是什么把戏呢?"我的朋友沉思地重复着麦克唐纳的话。

怀特·梅森捂着嘴轻声地笑着,又以职业上特有的那种满意的心情搓着他那双肥大的手,满意地大声叫道:“我说过这桩案子了不起。果真一点不假啊。”

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