One of the gentlemen suggested that he lived near by — within walking or riding distance, that is to say.
And that is why Mr. Bassat intends to question every inhabitant in the radius of ten miles, as I explained to you at the beginning of supper.
So you see the net will close around the murderer, and if he tarries long he will be caught.
We are all convinced of that.
Have you finished already?
You have eaten very little."
"I am not hungry."
"I am sorry for that.
Hannah will think her cold pie was not appreciated.
Did I tell you I saw an acquaintance of yours today?"
"No, you did not.
I have no friends but yourself."
"Thank you, Mary Yellan.
That is a pretty compliment, and I shall treasure it accordingly.
But you are not being strictly truthful, you know.
You have an acquaintance; you told me so yourself."
"I don't know who you mean, Mr. Davey."
Did not the landlord's brother take you to Launceston fair?"
Mary gripped her hands under the table and dug her nails into her flesh.
"The landlord's brother?" she repeated, playing for time. "I have not seen him since then.
I believed him to be away."
"No, he has been in the district since Christmas.
He told me so himself.
As a matter of fact, it had come to his ears that I had given you shelter, and he came up to me with a message for you.
Tell her how sorry I am.'
That is what he said.
I presume he referred to your aunt."
"Was that all he said?"
"I believe he would have said more, but Mr. Bassat interrupted us."
Mr. Bassat was there when he spoke to you?"
"Why, of course.
There were several of the gentlemen in the room.
It was just before I came away from North Hill this evening, when the discussion was closed for the day."
"Why was Jem Merlyn present at the discussion?"
"He had a right, I suppose, as brother of the deceased.
He did not appear much moved by his loss, but perhaps they did not agree."
"Did — did Mr. Bassat and the gentlemen question him?"
"There was a considerable amount of talk amongst them the whole day.
Young Merlyn appears to possess intelligence.
His answers were most astute.
He must have a far better brain than his brother ever had.
You told me he lived somewhat precariously, I remember.
He stole horses, I believe."
Her fingers traced a pattern on the tablecloth.
"He seems to have done that when there was nothing better to do," said the vicar, "but when a chance came for him to use his intelligence he took it, and small blame to him, I suppose.
No doubt he was well paid."
The gentle voice wore away at her nerves, pinpricking them with every word, and she knew now that he had defeated her, and she could no longer keep up the pretence of indifference.