Unformatted text preview: told you?' 'Our new neighbour.' Caroline visibly wavered for a second or two, much as if a roulette
ball might coyly hover between two numbers.
Then she declined the tempting red herring.
'I told Mr Ackroyd that Ralph was staying at the Three Boars.' 'Caroline,' I said, 'do you never reflect
that you might do a lot of harm with this habit of yours of repeating everything indiscriminately?'
'Nonsense,' said my sister. 'People ought to know things. I consider it my duty to tell them. Mr Ackroyd
was very grateful to me.' 'Well,' I said, for there was clearly more to come.
'I think he went straight off to the Three Boars, but if so he didn't find Ralph there.' 'No?' 'No. Because
as I was coming back through the wood ' 'Coming back through the wood?' I interrupted.
Caroline had the grace to blush.
'It was such a lovely day,' she exclaimed. 'I thought I would make a little round. The woods with their
autumnal tints are so perfect at this time of year.' Caroline does not care a hang for woods at any time of
year. Normally she regards them as places where you get your feet damp, and where all kinds of
unpleasant things may drop on your head. No, it was good sound mongoose instinct which took her to
our local wood. It is the only place adjacent to the village of King's Abbot where you can talk with a
young woman unseen by the whole of the village.
It adjoins the Park of Fernly.
'Well,' I said, 'go on.' 'As I say, I was just coming back through the wood when I heard voices.' Caroline
'Yes?' 'One was Ralph Paton's - I knew it at once. The other was a girl's. Of course I didn't mean to
listen ' 'Of course not,' I interjected, with patent sarcasm which was, however, wasted on Caroline. 'But I simply couldn't help overhearing. The girl said something - I didn't quite catch what it was, and
Ralph answered. He sounded very angry. "My dear girl," he said.
"Don't you realize that it is quite on the cards the old man will cut me off with a shilling? He's been pretty
fed up with me for the last few years. A little more would do it. And we need the dibs, my dear. I shall be
a very rich man when the old fellow pops off. He's mean as they make 'em, but he's rolling in money
really. I don't want him to go altering his will. You leave it to me, and don't worry." Those were his exact
words. I remember them perfectly. Unfortunately, just then I stepped on a dry twig or something, and
they lowered their voices and moved away. I couldn't, of course, go rushing after them, so wasn't able to
see who the girl was.' 'That must have been most vexing,' I said. 'I suppose, though, you hurried on to the
Three Boars, felt faint, and went into the bar for a glass of brandy, and so were able to see if both the
barmaids were on duty?' 'It wasn't a barmaid,' said Caroline unhesitatingly. 'In fact, I'm almost sure that it
was Flora Ackroyd, only ' 'Only it doesn't seem to make sense,' I agreed.
'But if it wasn't Flora, who could it have been?' Rapidly my sister ran over a list of maidens living in the
neighbourhood, with profuse reasons fo...
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