Murder by an Aristocrat
Murder by an Aristocrat
And as I stood there aghast, entirely unable to credit my own ears, he looked up and said:
"I wish you wouldn't talk so much. You won't let me sleep. Breakfast is at eight. You might go down, now. There's a key to the door. Lock it after you and keep the key to yourself. I don't wish to be - disturbed."
"You can't possibly mean what you've just said!"
"Can't I? It's true."
"It can't be true! You are - it's that opiate Dr. Bouligny gave you. You're talking nonsense. Why, you are in the midst of your family. People who love you. People who -"
"As Hilary loves me?"
Well, it was true that Hilary didn't seem especially fond of my patient. But an ambitious and prosperous young banker, such as one felt Hilary to be, does not shoot a man simply because he has no love for him. Besides, there was Miss Adela Thatcher with her elegant voice and her lavender silks and her well bred face. And there was the air of the house: that indescribable quality of dignity and simplicity and honesty and - I hesitated and finally used Bayard's bitter word - of aristocracy. No, I could not reconcile Bayard's accusation with what I had seen of the Thatchers. I said:
"You don't know what you are saying."
"My dear nurse," said Bayard Thatcher, "I don't care whether you believe me or not. It doesn't matter in the least. Now, do go away and let me sleep."
"Who," I asked, "shot you?"
"I don't intend to tell you," he said, smiling again. "Run along and get your breakfast."
With which he closed his eyes firmly and disregarded a further question or two, and when I emerged from freshening myself up with the aid of the mirror in the bathroom, he was apparently sound asleep. I drew the shades further down to keep the room cool, put a glass of fresh water on the table beside his bed, and tiptoed to the door. I remember the key in the lock caught my eye, and finally, feeling rather silly and ashamed, I locked the door behind me and put the key in my pocket.
I felt sillier when I glanced along that wide, pleasant hall with its windows opening upon a placid summer morning, its worn old rugs, its open doors which gave glimpses of airy bedrooms, fresh and lovely in their delicate chintzes and crisp curtains. Along the wall opposite was a mirror, beautifully polished, and here and there were bookshelves laden with worn books which I learned later were the overflow from the generous library downstairs. No, decidedly it was not the kind of place where the thing Bayard had suggested could possibly occur.
On the landing of the stairs I came upon a housemaid in fresh green chambray and snowy apron. She was on her knees polishing the steps and looked up to say a pleasant good-morning. Apparently she knew of my presence and my mission, for she showed no trace of surprise and told me breakfast would be served in a quarter of an hour. She was a rather plain girl, solid and very neat: exactly the housemaid one would expect Adela Thatcher to select. Her name was Florrie.
After a placid breakfast with Miss Adela and Janice - Adela looking a bit more austere in gold-rimmed eyeglasses and crisp white linen, and Janice unbelievably lovely above the pink roses she brought to the breakfast table - during which the conversation was politely and blandly held to gardens without a word of Bayard or revolvers or wounds or doctors, I returned to my patient's room.
That day, which was Thursday, July seventh, I spent in his room or out on the small balcony. He slept most of the day, and I watched the various comings and goings of the household and thought of his incredible suggestion - statement, in fact - that someone in the family had tried to murder him. I decided against it. It was true that the accident had certain peculiar aspects, but none of them was exactly convincing. It occurred to me, too, that it was a little odd that Hilary had not asked a s