The Billiard Room Mystery
GROSSET & DUNLAP
PUBLISHERS NEW YORK
BRIAN FLYNN MYSTERIES
THE CASE OF THE BLACK TWENTY-TWO
THE BILLIARD ROOM MYSTERY
FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE UNITED STATES,
Manufactured in the U. S. A.
- I Mr. Bathurst as an Aid to Memory 9
- II In the Billiard Room 21
- III Mr. Bathurst and the Bed-clothes 31
- IV Under the Billiard Room Window 43
- V The Methods of Inspector Baddeley 56
- VI Lieutenant Barker Attempts to Remember 69
- VII Lady Considine Complicates Matters 83
- VIII Mr. Bathurst Has a Memory for Faces 96
- IX Mr. Bathurst Calls Upon the Postmistress 110
- X Walk into My Parlor 124
- XI What Was Found on the “Spider” 138
- XII Major Hornby and the Venetian Dagger 147
- XIII Mr. Bathurst Pots the Red 162
- XIV Mary Consults Mr. Bathurst 176
- XV Mr. Bathurst Takes His Second Look—with Mr. Cunningham’s Assistance 190
- XVI The Inquest 204
- XVII Inspector Baddeley Puts His Cards on the Table 218
- XVIII Mr. Bathurst Partially Emulates His Example 229
- XIX Mr. Bathurst’s Wonderful Sympathy 237
- XX Mary Receives Her Second Proposal 246
- XXI Mr. Bathurst Waves His Hand 255
- XXII Mr. Bathurst Reminiscent 261
MR. BATHURST AS AN AID TO MEMORY
Seeing Bathurst this evening, after a lapse ofeight years, has given me a most insistent inclinationto set down, for the first time, the real facts of thatcause célèbre, that was called by the Press at thetime, the “Billiard Room Mystery.” Consideringthe length of the interval, and regarding the wholeaffair from every possible point of view, it is sufficientlyplain to me that an authentic history of thecase can harm nobody and can prejudice no interests.I therefore succumb to the temptation, serenelyconfident that, no matter what shortcomings theremay be in the telling, the affair itself as a whole, isentitled to rank as one of the most baffling in theannals of criminology.
Inasmuch as I was a member of the audience to-nightat a private theatrical performance and AnthonyBathurst was playing lead for the company(amateur of course) that was entertaining us, I hadno opportunity for conversation with him, but I amcertain that had I had this opportunity, I shouldhave found that his brain had lost none of its cunningand that his uncanny gifts for deduction, inference,and intuition, were unimpaired. These powersallied to a masterly memory for detail and to an unusualathleticism of body, separated him from themajority—wherever he was, he always counted—oneacknowledged instinctively his mental supremacy—hewas a personality always and everywhere.A tall, lithe body with that poised balance of movementthat betrays the able player of all ball games,his clean-cut, clean-shaven face carried a mobile,sensitive mouth and grey eyes. Remarkable eyesthat seemed to apprehend and absorb at a sweepevery detail about you that was worth apprehending.A man’s man, and, at the same time, a ladies’ man.For when he chose, he was hard to resist, I assureyou. Such, eight years ago, was Anthony LotheringtonBathurst, and such had he promised to be fromcomparative immaturity, for he had been with me atUppingham, and afterwards at Oxford.
Which latter fact goes to the prime reason of mybeing at Considine Manor in the last week of Julyof the year of the tragedy.
At Oxford we had both grown very pally withJack Considine, eldest son of Sir Charles Considine,of Considine Manor, Sussex, and although Bathursthad to a certain extent fallen away from the closestrelations of the friendship, Jack and I were bosomcompanions, and it became my custom each year,when the ’Varsity came down, to spend a week atConsidine Manor, and to take part in Sir Charles’Cricket Week. For I was a fairly useful member,and had been on the fringe of the ’Varsity Eleven;indeed many excellent judges were of the opinionthat Prescott, who had been given the last place, wasan inferior man. But of that, more later.
Bathurst never took his ’Varsity cricket seriouslyenough. Had he done so he would probably haveskippered England—he’s the kind that distinguisheswhatever he sets his hand to—but it was cricket thattook me to Considine Manor, and it was cricket thattook both Prescott and Bathurst—but not in thesame direction.
Sir Charles that year was particularly anxious tohave a good team—which got Prescott his invitation.An invitation that he had certainly not lingeredover accepting. For he had met Mary Considineat Twickenham the previous autumn, and hadimproved upon that acquaintanceship at Lords’ inthe first week of July. Mary was the third andyoungest child, Jack coming between her and hersister, Helen, who had married a Captain Arkwright—abig, bluff Dragoon. Now whatever Prescott’sfeelings may have been towards Mary, I had no ideathen, what hers were to him. Decidedly, I have noidea now; I can only surmise. But Mary Considinewith her birth, her breeding and her beauty was apeach of peaches. She had grace, she had charm,and a pair of heavy-lashed, Parma violet eyes thatsent all a man’s good resolutions to the four windsof heaven and to my mind at least, it was somethinglike presumption on Prescott’s part to lift his eyes toher. Still that was only my opinion. As I said,what encouragement he received I have little knowledgeof.
The Cricket Week passed off comparatively uneventfully.The first three one-day games—I forgetwhom against, except one against the “Incogs”—wererelatively unimportant. That is, to SirCharles! His pièce de résistance was always keptfor the Thursday and Friday, the last two days ofthe week. Then came the hardy annual—SirCharles Considine’s Eleven, versus “The UppinghamRovers.” Prior to this last game I had failedlamentably, my bag being 3, 7 and a couple of balloons.Two of the days were wet and real cricketout of the question. Prescott had a lot of luck andgot a couple of centuries and a 70 odd in four times.Which of course gave him a good conceit of himself.
“Bill,” said Mary to me on the Thursday morning,“I do hope you see them all right to-day—GerryPrescott’s getting a bit of ‘roll’ on, charmingman though he be.”
I finished my fourth egg and remarked, “Thanks,Mary—I’ll have a good try, but I don’t seem able todo anything right lately—still my luck must turn beforelong. Thanks again.” She slipped over to thesideboard and helped herself to some Kedgeree—smiled—andthen replied, “I think it will—to-day.”The rest of the crowd then joined us—Jack, GerryPrescott, Helen and Dick Arkwright, Sir Charlesand Lady Considine, three boys from the ’Varsity,Tennant, Daventry and Robertson, and two Servicemen, friends of Arkwright, Major Hornby andLieutenant Barker—the last five all pretty decentcricketers—the rest of the eleven being recruitedfrom the Manor staff.
It was, I remember, a perfectly glorious summermorning. One’s thoughts instinctively flew to thewhirr of the mowing machine and a real plumbwicket. The insects hummed in the sun, and therewas a murmur of bees that gave everybody a feelingthat an English summer morning in Sussex couldgive anything in Creation a start and a beating.
“Toppin’ mornin’—what?” said Prescott.“Feel like gettin’ some more to-day, if we bat.”
“You won’t,” said Dick Arkwright. “You’llfield, and this big brute of a Bill can get rid of someof his disgraceful paunch. He hasn’t had much exerciseall the week. Exceptin’ of course walkin’ backto the pavilion.”
“Feeling funny, aren’t you?” I sallied back.“And as for ‘big brutes’ and ‘paunches,’ neitheryou nor Prescott has a lot to telegraph homeabout.”
Actually I was about a couple of inches taller thaneither of them and decidedly heavier.
“Anybody of the old crowd playing for theRovers, Jack?” queried Helen.
“Don’t know, haven’t seen the team yet.”
Daventry, I think, handed the Sporting Life tothe two girls. They scanned the names.
“Only Toby Purkiss and Vernon Hurst that weknow,” from Mary. “What a pity.”
“I am very keen on winning,” boomed SirCharles. “Very, very keen. We haven’t beatenthe Rovers for more years than I care to—ah—remember.I spoke seriously to Briggs this morningabout it. And I may say, here and now, Tennant—Daventry—Itrust without offence, that I viewedwith some disfavor your late retirement last night.You were very late getting to bed. I am willing toconcede that Auction Bridge has a fascination——”
“That’s all right, Governor,” said Jack.“They’re just infants—stand anything. Thinkwhat a tough bird you were at their age.”
“Perfectly true. I remember the night I——”
“As long as you can remember it, you can’t havebeen so bad, sir,” said Daventry.
Lady Considine smiled.
“Would you like me to stop Auction in the evening,till the week is over, dear?” she said. “Younever seem to win anything.”
“As a matter of fact, Marion—I have been mostunusually successful; and I have no wish to—er—interferewith others’ pleasure.”
“Thanks, Father. For we don’t all play cricket.”
“No, Helen, that’s so.”
“Seems to me, Governor, it takes age and judgmentto play really good Auction.”
“Thank you, Arkwright. You have keen powersof observance.”
The clock chimed ten.
“Gracious,” said Mary, “I promised to help getthe big marquee ready.” She flew off. Very shortlythe breakfast party withdrew entirely, the ladies tothe selection of appropriate raiment, the men whowere playing, to get ready.
I was late getting down to the field and had nosooner arrived than up came Sir Charles.
“Fielding, Bill!” He guessed right. “Knowyou’re pleased!” he grinned.
“Of course—just what I expected! It’ll rain inthe night.”
The first wicket put on a few runs and I was chattingto Robertson and Jack Considine while we werewaiting for the next man.
“Good Lord,” I heard from behind me.
Strolling in, nonchalantly adjusting his left-handglove, was the very last person I expected to seethere—Anthony Bathurst.
“Bless you, Bill,” he smiled. “Seeing you is areward in itself.”
“But I had no idea——”
“What on earth?” queried Jack.
“Tell you later,” grinned Anthony; “Umpire,Middle and leg, if you please.”
He didn’t get a lot. But when we got into lunchhe told us that Hurst had cried off from the game,developed measles or spotted fever or something,and he had been roped in, being handy. He wasstaying near Bramber and going on to Canterburyfor the “Old Stagers.” Angus McKinnel andGerry Crookley were great chums of his, and as theentertainments of Canterbury Week were in theirhands as usual, they had been only too glad for himto help them.
Everybody, of course, was delighted, for ConsidineManor had heard much of Anthony Bathurstfrom both Jack and me.
Sir Charles immediately issued an invitation.
“Stay on, my dear fellow! I shall be charmed,I assure you. Stay till the Bank Holiday—thenmotor over.”
“Thanks, I will. It’s good of you.” Anthonyaccepted the offer.
Thus, it was that the Friday evening saw Anthonystill at Considine Manor, and the stage set for whathappened subsequently. When I reached thedrawing-room that night I had a fit of the blues.The game had ended in a draw and once again, Ihad not reached double figures. Prescott had gotanother 50 odd and, in the opinion of most, hadsaved our side from a beating. Conversation wasdesultory as it had been at dinner.
As usual most of them were listening attentivelyto Anthony Bathurst. He was well launched on atheme that I had heard him discuss many a time beforein his rooms at Oxford. “The Detective inModern Fiction.” It was a favorite topic of hisand like everything that aroused his interest, heknew it thoroughly—backwards, forwards, andinside out.
I caught his words as I entered the room.
“Oh—I admit it quite cheerfully—I look forwardtremendously to a really good thriller. I’mintrigued utterly by a title like ‘The Stain on theLinoleum.’ But, there you are, really good detectivestories are rare.”
“You think so?” interjected Major Hornby,“what about those French Johnnies, Gaboriau andDu Boisgobey?”
“Like the immortal Holmes,” replied Anthony,“I have the greatest contempt for Lecoq. Poe’s‘Dupin’ wasn’t so bad, but the majority——”
“You admire Holmes?”
“Yes, Mr. Arkwright, I do! That is to say—thepre-war Holmes!”
“You don’t admit that his key is always made tofit his lock?”
“Of course,” replied Anthony, “that must beso! But he deduces—he reasons—and thereby constructs.The others, so many of