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    Chapter 45

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    Chapter 45
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    Pointed Shoes

    A great change had come over Joan Carston in the last few days. She was the first to be sensible of the difference, and had wondered at herself. For now every remnant of the old Joan had been annihilated in the terrific shock of this supreme tragedy. She did not sleep that night, but sat at the window, her hands clasped on the broad sill, her eyes everlastingly turned in the direction of Wold House. If Jim's light would only appear! If she could hear the sound of his voice in those dark and stormy hours of night! Her heart yearned toward him. How happy she had been! She had not realised her blessings.

    Daylight found her pale and hollow-eyed, an ache in her heart, depressed by a sense of utter weariness and despair. With a start she realised that she was leaving Creith that day! She could not go away now; she must wait to be at hand in case Jim wanted her. She did not judge him, for that was beyond human judgment. Nor did she attempt to analyse the condition of mind which drove him to that terrible act. She could only set the facts of the deed badly, with a numb sense of resignation to the inevitable.

    There came a knock at the door. She dragged her weary limbs across the floor to turn the key. It was her maid with the morning coffee.

    "Put it down," she said.

    "You haven't slept in your bed, m'lady!" said the girl, aghast.

    "No, I shall have plenty of time to sleep on the yacht," she said.

    She drank the coffee gratefully and felt refreshed enough to go downstairs into the open. A sky grey with hurrying clouds was above her; the wind was keen and cold; pools of water stood in the little hollows of the drive. The dreary scene was in tune with her heart. Unconsciously she walked down the drive until she came to the lodge gates and stood there, her hands holding the bars, looking through--at nothing.

    Then her eyes turned toward the cottage and she shuddered, and, turning, she walked quickly back the way she had come. She had not gone a few paces when somebody called her, and, looking back, she saw Welling in a dingy yellow ulster and nondescript hat pulled down over his head.

    "You've been up all night too, Captain Welling?" she said. His chin was silvery with bristles, his boots thick with mud, and the hand he raised to lift his hat was inexpressibly grimy.

    "I gather from that, young lady," he said, "that you've not had a great deal of sleep, and I don't blame you. The wind has been most disturbing. Is his Lordship up?"

    "I don't know: I expect so. Father doesn't usually rise till nine, but I think to-day he has made some sort of arrangement with his valet to get up at the unnatural hour of eight." She smiled faintly.

    "You've had your share of trouble in this village, I think," said the detective, walking at her side; but she did not make any rejoinder to that most obvious statement. "Queer case, that--very queer! Have you ever noticed that Morlake wears broad-toed shoes, the American type?"

    "No, I haven't noticed anything about him," she said quickly, lest she should be an unwilling agent to his hurt.

    "Well, he does," said Welling. "He never wears any other kind. I've been searching his house----"

    "He is gone, then? The maid told me last night--he has gone?"

    "Vanished," said Welling. "There is no other word, he has vanished. That is the worst of these clever fellows--when they disappear they do it thoroughly. An ordinary criminal would leave his visiting card on every mile-post."

    He waited, but she did not speak, till:

    "What is the significance of the broad-toed shoes?" she plucked up courage to ask.

    "Well, it was a pointed toe that killed Farringdon."

    At his words she spun round.

    "You mean--you mean--that Jim Morlake did not kill him?" she asked unsteadily. "You mean that, Captain Welling? You are not trying to trap me into saying something about him, are you? You wouldn't do that?"

    "I'm capable of doing even that," confessed Julius with a mournful shake of his head. "There is no depth of depravity to which I wouldn't sink, and that is the truth, Lady Joan. But on this particular occasion I'm being perfectly sincere. The feet under the window are the feet of a man who wears French boots with pointed toes. Also, the gun he used was of much heavier calibre than any Morlake owns. I know the whole Morlake armoury, and I'll swear he never owned the gun that threw those two bullets. Jim Morlake has three: the one he carries and two Service Colts. You seemed pretty sure it was Morlake?" he said, eyeing her intently.

    "Yes, I was," and then, following her impulse: "I saw Mr. Farringdon killed."

    She expected he would be staggered by this revelation, but he only guffawed.

    "I know you did," he said calmly, "you were hiding behind the tree. It was easy to pick up your footmarks. You came back to the house by way of the wall path--I found the heel of one of your shoes there and guessed you were in a hurry. If you'd lost it in daylight you would have picked it up. If you'd lost it by night and had plenty of time on your hands, you'd have looked for it. Anyway, you wouldn't have lost it, if you hadn't been running at such a speed. Do you think Pointed Toes knew you were there?--by the way, you didn't see his face?"

    "How do you know?"

    "Because you weren't sure whether it was Morlake or not; therefore, you couldn't have seen his face. And once more, therefore, he must have been masked. Black?"

    She nodded.

    "From head to foot, eh? In that style which Mr. James Morlake has made popular. I guessed that, too," he said as she nodded. "It may have been a coincidence, of course, but probably wasn't."

    He stopped, and she followed his example. He was looking down at her with his head thrown back, and his eyes seemed to possess an hypnotic power.

    "Now perhaps you can give me a little information that will be really useful," he said. "Who else wears pointed French boots in Creith besides your father?"
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