Some Must Watch (British Mystery Classic)
Set in early 20th century England, on the Welsh border, the novel tells the story of a serial killer who murders disabled young women in the community. His next victim apparently is Helen, a mute girl working as a maid for the wealthy, bedridden Mrs. Warren. Mrs. Warren urges her to leave the house, as does Dr. Parry, who knows the reason for Helen's loss of speech and hopes to help her get her voice back.
Ethel Lina White (1876-1944) was a British crime writer, best known for her novel The Wheel Spins, on which the Alfred Hitchcock film, The Lady Vanishes, was based.
Some Must Watch (British Mystery Classic)
CHAPTER II. THE FIRST CRACKS
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The surge of Helen's curiosity was stronger than any other emotion. It compelled her to rush down the drive, in an effort to investigate the mystery. But when she reached the gate she could see only lines of trunks, criss-crossing in confusing perspectives.
Forgetful of her duties, she stood gazing into the gloom of the plantation while a first star trembled through a rent in the tattered clouds.
"It was a man," she thought triumphantly, "so I was right. He was hiding."
She knew that the incident admitted the simple explanation of a young man waiting for his sweetheart. Yet she rejected it, partly because she wanted a thrill, and partly because she did not believe it met the case. In her opinion, a lover would naturally pass the time by pacing his beat, or smoking a cigarette.
But the rigid pose, and the lengthy vigil, while the man stood in mimicry of a tree, suggested a tenacious purpose.
It reminded her of the concentrated patience of a crocodile, lurking in the shadow of a river bank, to pounce on its prey.
"Well, whatever he was doing, I'm glad I didn't pass him," she decided as she turned to go back to the house.
It was a tall grey stone building, of late Victorian architecture, and it looked strangely out of keeping with the savage landscape. Built with a flight of eleven stone steps leading up to the front door, and large windows, protected with green jalousies, it was typical of the residential quarter of a prosperous town. It should have been surrounded by an acre of well-kept garden, and situated in a private road, with lamp-posts and a pillar-box.
For all that, it offered a solidly resistant front to the solitude. Its state of excellent repair was evidence that no money was spared to keep it weather-proof. There was no blistered paint, no defective guttering. The whole was somehow suggestive of a house which, at a pinch, could be rendered secure as an armoured car.
It glowed with electric-light, for Oates' principal duty was to work the generating plant. A single wire overhead was also a comfortable reassurance of its link with civilisation.
Helen no longer felt any wish to linger outside. The evening mists were rising so that the evergreen shrubs, which clumped the lawn, appeared to quiver into life. Viewed through a veil of vapour, they looked black and grim, like mourners assisting at a funeral.
"If I don't hurry, they'll get between me and the house, and head me off," Helen told herself, still playing her favourite game of make-believe. She had some excuse for her childishness, since her sole relaxation had been a tramp through muddy blind lanes, instead of three hours at the Pictures.
She ran eagerly up the steps, and, after a guilty glance at her shoes, put in some vigorous foot-work on the huge iron scraper. Her latch-key was still in the lock, where she had left it, before her swoop down the drive. As she turned it, and heard the spring lock snap behind her, shutting her inside, she was aware of a definite sense of shelter.
The house seemed a solid hive of comfort, honey-combed with golden cells, each glowing with light and warmth. It buzzed with voices, it offered company, and protection.
In spite of her appreciation, the interior of the Summit would have appalled a modern decorator. The lobby was floored with black and ginger tiles, on which lay a black fur rug. Its furniture consisted of a chair with carved arms, a terra cotta drain-pipe, to hold umbrellas, and a small palm on a stand of peacock-blue porcelain.
Pushing open the swing-doors, Helen entered the hall, which was entirely carpeted with peacock-blue pile, and dark with massive mahogany. The strains of wireless struggled through the heavy curtain which muffled the drawing-room door, and the humid air was scented with potted primulas, ble