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Unformatted text preview: come on foot. I stepped into the big square hall and
Parker relieved me of my overcoat. Just then Ackroyd's secretary, a pleasant young fellow by the name
of Raymond, passed through the hall on his way to Ackroyd's study, his hands full of papers.
'Good evening, doctor. Coming to dine? Or is this a professional call?' The last was in allusion to my
black bag which I had laid down on the oak chest.
I explained that I expected a summons to a confinement case at any moment, and so had come out
prepared for an emergency call. Raymond nodded, and went on his way, calling over his shoulder: 'Go
into the drawing-room. You know the way. The ladies will be down in a minute. I must just take these
papers to Mr Ackroyd, and I'll tell him you're here.' On Raymond's appearance Parker had withdrawn,
so I was alone in the hall. I settled my tie, glanced in a large mirror which hung there, and crossed to the
door directly facing me, which was, as I knew, the door of the drawingroom.
I noticed, just as I was turning the handle, a sound from within - the shutting down of a window, I took it
to be. I noticed it, I may say, quite mechanically, without attaching ^y importance to it at the time.
I opened the door and walked in. As I did so I almost collided with Miss Russell who was just coming out. We both apologized.
For the first time I found myself appraising the housekeeper and thinking what a handsome woman she
must once have been - indeed, as far as that goes, still was. Her dark hair was unstreaked with grey, and
when she had a colour, as she had at this minute, the stern quality of her looks was not so apparent.
Quite subconsciously I wondered whether she had been out, for she was breathing hard, as though she
had been running.
'I'm afraid I'm a few minutes early,' I said.
'Oh! I don't think so. It's gone half-past seven, Dr Sheppard.' She paused a minute before saying, 'I didn't know you were expected to dinner tonight. Mr Ackroyd didn't mention it.' I received a vague
impression that my dining there displeased her in some way, but I couldn't imagine why.
'How's the knee?' I inquired.
'Much the same, thank you, doctor. I must be going now.
Mrs Ackroyd will be down in a moment. I - I only came in here to see if the flowers were all right.' She
passed quickly out of the room. I strolled to the window, wondering at her evident desire to justify her
presence in the room. As I did so, I saw what, of course, I might have known all the time had I troubled
to give my mind to it, namely, that the windows were long french ones opening on the terrace. The sound
I had heard, therefore, could not have been that of a window being shut down.
Quite idly, and more to distract my mind from painful thoughts than for any other reason, I amused myself
by trying to guess what could have caused the sound in question.
Coals on the fire? No, that was not the kind of noise at all.
A drawer of a bureau pushed in? No, not that.
Then my eye was caught by what, I believe, is called a silver table, the lid of which lifts, and through the
glass of which you can see t...
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