Unformatted text preview: indowsill.
From there Inspector Raglan took me along the path which leads to the drive. My eye was caught by a
little |§ summer-house, and I searched it thoroughly. I found two things - a scrap of starched cambric and
an empty goose quill. The scrap of cambric immediately suggested to me a maid's apron. When
Inspector Raglan showed me his list of the people in the house, I noticed at once that one of the maids Ursula Bourne, the parlourmaid - had no real alibi.
According to her own story, she was in her bedroom from nine-thirty until ten. But supposing that instead
she was in the summer-house? If so, she must have gone there to meet someone. Now we know from Dr
Sheppard that someone from outside did come to the house that night - the stranger whom he met just by
the gate. At first glance it would seem that our problem was solved, and that the stranger went to the
summer-house to meet Ursula Bourne. It was fairly certain that he did go to the summer-house because
of the goose quill. That suggested at once to my mind a taker of drugs - and one who had acquired the
habit on the other side of the Atlantic where sniffing "snow" is more common than in this country. The
man whom Dr Sheppard met had an American accent, which fitted in with that supposition.
'But I was held up by one point. The times did not fit. Ursula Bourne could certainly not have gone to the
summer-house before nine-thirty, whereas the man must have got there by a few minutes past nine. I
could, of course, assume that he waited there for half an hour. The only alternative supposition was that
there had been two separate meetings in the summer-house that night. Eh bien, as soon as I went into that
alternative I found several significant facts. I discovered that Miss Russell, the housekeeper, had visited
Dr Sheppard that morning, and had displayed a good deal of interest in cures for victims of the drug
habit. Taking that in conjunction with the goose quill, I assumed that the man in question came to Fernly
to meet the housekeeper, and not Ursula Bourne. Who, then, did Ursula Bourne come to the rendezvous
to meet? I was not long in doubt. First I found a ring - a wedding ring - with "From R." and a date inside
it. Then I learnt that Ralph Paton had been seen coming up the path which led to the summer-house at
twenty-five minutes past nine, and I also heard of a certain conversation which had taken place in the
wood near the village that very afternoon - a conversation between Ralph Paton and some unknown girl.
So I had my facts succeeding each other in a neat and orderly manner. A secret marriage, an engagement
announced on the day of the tragedy, the stormy interview in the wood, and the meeting arranged for the
summer-house that night.
'Incidentally this proved to me one thing, that both Ralph Paton and Ursula Bourne (or Paton) had the
strongest motives for wishing Mr Ackroyd out of the way. And it also made one other point
unexpectedly clear. It could not have been Ralph Paton who was with...
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