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Unformatted text preview: m must have turned from her utterly
in that moment of revelation.
'Yes,' he went on, in a low, monotonous voice, 'she confessed everything. It seems that there is one
person who has known all along - who has been blackmailing her for huge sums. It was the strain of that
that drove her nearly mad.' 'Who was the man?' Suddenly before my eyes there arose the picture of
Ralph Paton and Mrs Ferrars side by side. Their heads so close together. I felt a momentary throb of
anxiety. Supposing oh! but surely that was impossible. I remembered the frankness of Ralph's greeting
that very afternoon. Absurd!
'She wouldn't tell me his name,' said Ackroyd slowly. 'As a matter of fact, she didn't actually say that it
was a man.
But of course ' 'Of course,' I agreed. 'It must have been a man. And you've no suspicion at all?' For
answer Ackroyd groaned and dropped his head into his hands.
'It can't be,' he said. 'I'm mad even to think of such a thing. No, I won't even admit to you the wild
suspicion that crossed my mind. I'll tell you this much, though. Something she said made me think that the
person in question might be actually among my household - but that can't be so. I must have
misunderstood her.' 'What did you say to her?' I asked.
'What could I say? She saw, of course, the awful shock it had been to me. And then there was the
question, what was my duty in the matter? She had made me, you see, an accessory after the fact. She
saw all that, I think, quicker than I did. I was stunned, you know. She asked me for twenty-four hours made me promise to do nothing till the end of that time. And she steadfastly refused to give me the name of the scoundrel who had been blackmailing her. I suppose she was afraid that I might go straight off and
hammer him, and then the fat would have been in the fire as far as she was concerned. She told me that I
should hear from her before twenty-four hours had passed. My God! I swear to you, Sheppard, that it
never entered my head what she meant to do. Suicide! And I drove her to it.' 'No, no,' I said. 'Don't take
an exaggerated view of things. The responsibility for her death doesn't lie at your door.' 'The question is,
what am I to do now? The poor lady is dead. Why rake up past trouble?' 'I rather agree with you,' I
'But there's another point. How am I to get hold of that scoundrel who drove her to death as surely as if
he'd killed her? He knew of the first crime, and he fastened on to it like some obscene vulture. She's paid
the penalty. Is he to go scot free?' 'I see,' I said slowly. 'You want to hunt him down? It will mean a lot of
publicity, you know.' 'Yes, I've thought of that. I've zigzagged to and fro in my mind.' 'I agree with you
that the villain ought to be punished, but the cost has got to be reckoned.' Ackroyd rose and walked up
and down. Presently he sank into the chair again.
'Look here, Sheppard, suppose we leave it like this. If no word comes from her, we'll let the dead things
lie.' 'What do you mean by word coming from her?' I asked curiously.
'I have the strongest impression that somewhere...
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