The Green God
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The Green God
Chapter 2 A CRY IN THE MORNING
I was thoroughly tired out by my long day in the open, and I must have gone to sleep at once. It seemed to me that I was disturbed, during the night, by the sound of voices without my door, and the movements of people in the hallway, but I presume it was merely a dream. Just before daybreak, however, I found myself suffering somewhat from the cold, and got up to close one of the windows, to shut off the draught. I had just turned toward the bed again, when I heard from the room across the hall, the one occupied by Mr. Ashton, a sudden and terrible cry as of someone in mortal agony, followed by the sound of a heavy body falling upon the floor. I also fancied I heard the quick closing of a door or window, but of this I could not be sure. With a foreboding of tragedy heavily upon me, I hastily threw on some clothes and ran into the hall, calling loudly for help. Opposite me was the door of Mr. Ashton's room. I rushed to it, and tried the knob, but found it locked. For some time I vainly attempted to force open the door, meanwhile repeating my cries. Presently Major Temple came running through the hallway, followed by his daughter and several of the servants. Miss Temple had thrown on a long silk Chinese wrapper and even in the dim light of the hall I could not help observing the ghastly pallor of her face.
"What's wrong here?" cried Major Temple, excitedly.
"I do not know, Sir," I replied, gravely enough. "I heard a cry which seemed to come from Mr. Ashton's room, but I find his door locked."
"Break it in," cried Major Temple; "break it in at once." At his words, one of the servants and myself threw our combined weight against the door, and after several attempts, the fastening gave way, and we were precipitated headlong into the room. It was dark, and it seemed to me that the air was heavy and lifeless. We drew back into the hall as one of the servants came running up with a candle, and Major Temple, taking it, advanced into the room, closely followed by myself. At first our eyes did not take in the scene revealed by the flickering candlelight, but in a few moments the gruesome sight before us caused both Major Temple and myself to recoil sharply toward the doorway. Upon the floor lay Robert Ashton in his nightclothes, his head in a pool of blood, his hands outstretched before him, his face ghastly with terror. The Major at once ordered the servants to keep out of the room, then turned to his daughter and in a low voice requested her to retire. She did so at once, in a state of terrible excitement. He then closed the door behind us, and, after lighting the gas, we proceeded to examine the body. Ashton was dead, although death had apparently occurred but a short time before as his body was still warm. In the top of his head was found a deep circular wound, apparently made by some heavy, sharp-pointed instrument, but there were no other marks of violence, no other wounds of any sort upon the body. I examined the wound in the head carefully, but could not imagine any weapon which would have left such a mark. And then the wonder of the situation began to dawn upon me. The room contained, besides the door by which we had entered, three windows, two facing to the south and one to the west. All three were tightly closed and securely fastened with heavy bolts on the inside. There was absolutely no other means of entrance to the room whatever, except the door which we had broken open and a rapid examination of this showed me that it had been bolted upon the inside, and the catch into which the bolt slid upon the door-jamb had been torn from its fastenings by the effort we had used in forcing it open. I turned to Major Temple in amazement, and found that he was engaged in systematically searching Mr. Ashton's gladstone bag, which lay upon a chair near the bed. He examined each article in detail, heedless of th