"You have been to North Hill?"
"Mr. Bassat entertained me to luncheon.
There were eight or ten of us present, I daresay, and each one of us shouting his opinion to the deaf ear of his neighbour.
It was a lengthy meal, and I was glad when we came to the end of it.
However, we were all of one accord that the murderer of your uncle will not remain at liberty for long."
"Does Mr. Bassat suspect anyone?" Mary's tone was guarded, and she kept her eyes on her plate.
The food tasted like sawdust in her mouth.
"Mr. Bassat is ready to suspect himself.
He has questioned every inhabitant within a radius of ten miles, and the number of strange persons who were abroad last night is legion.
It will take a week or more to have the truth from every one of them; but no matter.
Mr. Bassat is not deterred."
"What have they done with — with my aunt?"
"They were taken, both of them, to North Hill this morning and are to be buried there.
All that has been arranged, and you need not concern yourself.
As for the rest — well, we shall see."
"And the pedlar?
They have not let him go?"
"No, he is safe under lock and key, screaming curses to the air.
I do not care for the pedlar. Neither, I think, do you."
Mary laid aside the fork she had lifted to her lips and put down the meat again untasted.
"How do you mean?" she said, on the defensive.
"I repeat, you do not care for the pedlar.
I can well understand it, for a more unpleasant and disagreeable fellow I have never clapped eyes on.
I gather from Richards, groom to Mr. Bassat, that you suspected the pedlar of the murder and said as much to Mr. Bassat himself.
Hence my conclusion that you do not care for him.
It is a pity for all of us that the barred room proves him innocent.
He would have made an excellent scapegoat and saved a deal of trouble."
The vicar continued to make an excellent supper, but Mary was only playing with her food, and when he offered her a second helping she refused.
"What has the pedlar done to incur your displeasure to such an extent?" he enquired, harping upon the subject with persistence.
"He attacked me once."
"I thought as much.
He is true to a particular type.
You resisted him, of course?"
"I believe I hurt him.
He did not touch me again."
"No, I do not suppose he did.
When did this happen?"
"On Christmas Eve."
"After I left you at Five Lanes?"
"I am beginning to understand.
You did not return, then, to the inn that night?
You fell in with the landlord and his friends upon the road?"
"And they took you with them to the shore to add to their sport?"
"Please, Mr. Davey, do not ask me any more.
I would rather not speak of that night, neither here nor in the future, nor ever again.
There are some things that are best buried deep."
"You shall not speak of it, Mary Yellan.
I blame myself for having allowed you to continue your journey alone.