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The Speckled Band
Act I
The Hall of Stoke Place, Stoke Moran
Two years elapse between Acts I and II

 
 SCENE. —Stoke Place at Stoke Moran. A large, oak-lined, gloomy hall, with everything in disrepair. At the back, centre, is a big double door which leads into the morning-room. To its right, but also facing the audience, is another door which leads to the outside entrance hall. A little down, right, is the door to DR. RYLOTT’S study. Farther down, right, a large opening gives access to the passageway of the bedroom wing. A fifth entrance, up left, leads to the servants’ hall. There is a long table in the middle of the room, with chairs round.

ENID STONOR sits on a couch at one side, her face buried in the cushion, sobbing. RODGERS also discovered, the butler, a broken old man. He looks timidly about him and then approaches ENID.

RODGERS:  Don’t cry, my dear young lady. You’re so good and kind to others that it just goes to my heart to see such trouble to you. Things will all change for the better now.

ENID:  Thank you, Rodgers, you are very kind.

RODGERS:  Life can’t be all trouble, Miss Enid. There must surely be some sunshine somewhere, though I’ve waited a weary time for it.

ENID:  Poor old Rodgers!

RODGERS: Yes, it used to be poor young Rodgers, and now it’s poor old Rodgers; and there’s the story of my life.

(Enter ALI, an Indian servant, from the servants’ hall.)

ALl:  Mrs. Staunton says you are to have beer and sandwiches for the jury, and tiffin for the coroner.

RODGERS: Very good.

ALl:  Go at once.

RODGERS:  You mind your own business. You think you are the master.

ALl:  I carry the housekeeper’s order.

RODGERS:  Well, I’ve got my orders.

ALI:  And I see they are done.

RODGERS:  You’re only the valet, a servant — same as me; as Mrs. Staunton for that matter.

ALl:  Shall I tell master? Shall I say you will not take the order?

RODGERS: There, there, I’ll do it.

(Enter DR. GRIMESBY RYLOTT from his study.)

RYLOTT:  Well, what’s the matter? What are you doing Rodgers?

RODGERS: Nothing, sir, nothing.

ALl:  I tell him to set out tiffin.

RYLOTT:  Go this instant! What do you mean?

(RODGERS exits into servants’ hall.)

Ali, stand at the door and show people in. (To ENID.) Oh! for God’s sake stop your snivelling! Have I not enough to worry me without that? (Shakes her.) Stop it, I say! I’ll have no more. They’ll all be in here in a moment.

ENID: Oh? Don’t be so harsh with me.

RYLOTT: Hark! I think I hear them. (Crossing toward bedroom passage.) What can they be loitering for? They won’t learn much by looking at the body. I suppose that consequential ass of a coroner is giving them a lecture. If Professor Van Donop Doctor WATSON are satisfied, surely that is good enough for him. Ali!

ALl: Yes, Sahib.

RYLOTT: How many witnesses have come?

ALI: Seven, Sahib.

RYLOTT: All in the morning room?

ALl: Yes, Sahib.

RYLOTT: Then put any others in there also.

(ALl salaams.)

Woman will you dry your eyes and try for once to think of other people besides yourself? Learn to stamp down your private emotions. Look at me. I was as fond of your sister Violet as if she had really been my daughter, and yet I face the situation now like a man. Get up and do your duty.

ENID (drying her eyes): What can I do?

RYLOTT (sitting on the settee beside her): There’s a brave girl. I did not mean to be harsh. Thirty years of India sends a man home with a cayenne pepper temper. Did I ever tell you the funny story of the Indian judge and the cabman?

ENID:  Oh, how Can you?

RYLOTT: Well, well, I’ll tell it some other time. Don’t look so shocked. I meant well, I was trying to cheer you up. Now look here, Enid! be a sensible girl and pull yourself together— and I say! be careful what you tell them. We may have had our little disagreements— every family has—but don’t wash our linen in public. It is a time to forgive and forget. I always loved Violet in my heart.

ENID: Oh! if I could only think so!

RYLOTT: Since your mother died you have both been to me as my own daughters; in every way the same; mind you say so. D’you hear?

ENID:  Yes, I hear.

RYLOTT: Don’t forget it. (Rising, turns her face.) Don’t forget it. Curse them! are they never coming, the carrion crows! I’ll see what they are after.

(Exits into bedroom passage.)

(SCOTT WILSON enters at the hall door and is shown byALl into the morning-room. While he is showing him in, DR. WATSON enters, and, seeing ENID with her face in the cushions, he comes across to her.)

WATSON: Let me say how sorry I am, Miss Stonor. (Shakinghands.)

ENID (rises to meet him): I am so glad to see you, Dr. Watson. (Sinks on stool and sobs.) I fear I am a weak, cowardly creature, unfit to meet the shocks of life. It is all like some horrible nightmare.

WATSON: I think you have been splendidly brave. What woman could fail to feel such a shock?

ENID:  Your kindness has been the one gleam of light in these dark days. There is such bad feeling between my stepfather and the country doctor that I am sure he would not have come to us. But I remembered the kind letter you wrote when we came home, and I telegraphed on the chance. I could hardly dare hope that you would come from London so promptly.

WATSON: Why, I knew your mother well in India, and I remember you and your poor sister when you were schoolgirls.  I was only too glad to be of any use—if indeed I was of any use. Where is your stepfather?

ENID: He has gone in to speak with the coroner.

WATSON: I trust that he does not visit you with any of that violence of which I hear so much in the village. Excuse me if I take a liberty; it is only that I am interested. You are very lonely and defenceless.

ENID: Thank you. I am sure you mean well, but indeed I would rather not discuss this matter.

ALl (advancing): This way, sir.

WATSON: In a minute.

ALl: Master’s orders, sir. (Coming down.)

WATSON: In a minute, I say.

ALI: Very sorry, sir. Must go now.

WATSON (pushing him away): Stand back, you rascal. I will go in my own time. Don’t you dare to interfere with me.

(ALl shrugs shoulders and withdraws)

Just one last word. It is a true friend who speaks, and you will not resent it. If you should be in any trouble, if anything should come which made you uneasy — which worried you — 

ENID: What should come? You frighten me.

WATSON: You have no one in this lonely place to whom you can go. If by chance you should want a friend you will turn to me, will you not?

ENID: How good you are! But you mean more than you say. What is it that you fear?

WATSON: It is a gloomy atmosphere for a young girl. Your stepfather is a strange man. You would come to me, would you not?

ENID: I promise you I will. (Rising.)

WATSON: I can do little enough. But I have a singular friend — a man with strange powers and a very masterful personality. We used to live together, and I came to know him well. Holmes is his name—Mr. Sherlock Holmes. It is to him I should turn if things looked black for you. If any man in England could help it is he.

ENID: But I shall need no help. And yet it is good to think that I am not all alone. Hush! they are coming. Don’t delay! Oh! I beg to go.

WATSON: I take your promise with me. (He goes into the morning-room.)

(DR. RYLOTT enters from the bedroom wing, conversing with the CORONER. The JURY, in a confused crowd, come behind. There are a CORONER’S OFFICER and a policeINSPECTOR.)

CORONER: Very proper sentiments, sir; very proper sentiments. I can entirely understand your feelings.

RYLOTT: At my age it is a great thing to have a soothing female influence around one. I shall miss it at every turn. She had the sweet temperament of her dear mother. Enid, my dear, have you been introduced to Mr. Longbrace, the Coroner?

CORONER: How do you do, Miss Stonor? You have my sympathy, I am sure. Well, well, we must get to business. Mr. Brewer, I understand that you have been elected as foreman. Is that so, gentlemen?

ALL: Yes, yes.

CORONER: Then perhaps you would sit here. (Looks at watch.) Dear me! it is later than I thought. Now, Dr. Rylott—(sits at table) —both you and your stepdaughter are witnesses in this inquiry, so your presence here is irregular.

RYLOTT: I thought, sir, that under my own roof—

CORONER: Not at all, sir, not at all. The procedure is entirely unaffected by such a consideration.

RYLOTT: I am quite in your hands.

CORONER: Then you will kindly withdraw.

RYLOTT: Come, ENID.

CORONER: Possibly the young lady would wish to be free, so we Could take her evidence first.

RYLOTT: That would be most considerate. You can understand, sir, that I would wish her spared in this ordeal. I leave you, dear girl. (Aside.) Remember!

(RYLOTT is about to go into his study but is directed by the INSPECTOR into the morning-room.)

CORONER: Put a chair, there, officer.

(OFFICER places chair)

That will do. Now, Miss Stonor! Thank you. The officer will swear you— 

(ENID is sworn by the OFFICER)

OFFICER: —The truth and nothing but the truth. Thank you.

(ENID kisses the Book.)

CORONER: Now, gentlemen, before I take the evidence, I will remind you of the general circumstances connected with the sudden decease of this unhappy young lady. She was Miss Violet Stonor, the elder of the stepdaughters of Dr. Grimesby Rylott, a retired Anglo-Indian doctor, who has lived for several years at this ancient house of Stoke Place, in Stoke Moran. She was born and educated in India, and her health was never robust. There was, however, no actual physical lesion, nor has any been discovered by the doctors. You have seen the room on the ground floor at the end of this passage, and you realize that the young lady was well guarded, having her sister’s bedroom on one side of her and her stepfather’s on the other. We will now take the evidence of the sister of the deceased as to what actually occurred. Miss Stonor, do you identify the body of the deceased as that of your sister, Violet Stonor?

ENID: Yes.

CORONER: Might I ask you to tell us what happened upon the night of April 14? I understand that your sister was in her ordinary health when you said good-night to her?

ENID: Yes, she seemed as usual. She was never strong.

CORONER: Had she some mental trouble?

ENID (hesitating): She was not very happy in her mind.

CORONER: I beg that you will have no reserves. I am sure you appreciate the solemnity of this occasion. Why was your sister unhappy in her mind?

ENID: There were obstacles to her engagement.

CORONER: Yes, yes, I understand that this will be dealt with by another witness. Your sister was unhappy in her mind because she was engaged to be married and there were obstacles. Proceed.

ENID: I was awakened shortly after midnight by a scream. I ran into the passage. As I reached her door I heard a sound like low music, then the key turn in the lock, and she rushed out in her nightdress. Her face was convulsed with terror. She screamed out a few words and fell into my arms, and then slipped down upon the floor. When I tried to raise her I found that she was dead. Then — then I fainted myself, and I knew no more.

CORONER: When you came to yourself—?

ENID: When I came to myself I had been carried by my stepfather and RODGERS, the butler, back to my bed.

CORONER: You mentioned music. What sort of music?

ENID: It was a low, sweet sound.

CORONER: Where did this music come from?

ENID: I could not tell. I may say that once or twice I thought that I heard music at night.

CORONER: You say that your sister screamed out some words. What were the words?

ENID: It was incoherent raving. She was wild with terror.

CORONER: But could you distinguish nothing?

ENID: I heard the word “band”—I also heard the word “speckled.” I cannot say more. I was myself almost as terrified as she.

CORONER: Dear me. Band — speckled — it sounds like delirium. She mentioned no name?

ENID: None.

CORONER: What light was in the passage?

ENID: A lamp against the wall.

CORONER: You could distinctly see your sister?

ENID: Oh, yes.

CORONER: And there was at that time no trace of violence upon her?

ENID: No, no!

CORONER: You are quite clear that she unlocked her door before she appeared?

ENID: Yes, I can swear it.

CORONER: And her window? Did she ever sleep with her window open?

ENID: No, it was always fastened at night.

CORONER: Did you examine it after her death?

ENID: I saw it next morning; it was fastened then.

CORONER: One other point, Miss Stonor. You have no reason to believe that your sister contemplated suicide?

ENID: Certainly not.

CORONER: At the same time when a young lady—admittedly of a nervous, highly-strung disposition — is crossed in her love affairs, such a possibility cannot be excluded. You can throw no light upon such a supposition?

ENID: No.

FOREMAN: Don t you think Mr. Coroner if the young lady had designs upon herself she would have stayed in her room and not rushed out into the passage?

CORONER: Well that is for your consideration and judgement. You have heard this young lady’s evidence. Have any of you any questions to put?

ARMITAGE (rising): Well I’m a plain man, a Methodist and the son of a Methodist —

CORONER: What is your name sir?

ARMITAGE: I’m Mr. Armitage sir. I own the big shop in the village.

CORONER: Well sir?

ARMITAGE: I’m a Methodist and the son of a Methodist —

CORONER: Your religious opinions are not under discussion, Mr. Armitage.

ARMITAGE: But I speaks my mind as man to man I pays my taxes the same as the rest of them.

CORONER: Have you any questions to ask?

ARMITAGE: I would like to ask this young lady whether her stepfather uses her ill for there are some queer stories got about in the village.

CORONER: The question would be out of order. It does not bear upon the death of the deceased.

FOREMAN: Well sir I will put Mr. Armitage’s question in another shape. Can you tell us Miss, whether your stepfather ill used the deceased young lady?

ENID: He—he was not always gentle.

ARMITAGE: Does he lay hands on you?—that’s what I want to know.

CORONER: Really, Mr. Armitage.

ARMITAGE: Excuse me, Mr. Coroner. I’ve lived in this village, boy and man for fifty years and I can look any man in the face.

(ARMITAGE sits.) 

CORONER: You have heard the question, Miss Stonor. I don’t know that we could insist upon your answering it.

ENID: Gentlemen, my stepfather has spent his life in the tropics. It has affected his health. There are times—there are times— when he loses control over his temper. At such times he is liable to be violent. My sister and I thought — hoped — that he was not really responsible for it. He is sorry for it afterwards.

CORONER: Well, Miss Stonor, I am sure I voice the sentiments of the Jury when I express our profound sympathy for the sorrow which has come upon you.

(JURY all murmur, “Certainly,” “Quite so,” etc.)

Call Mr. Scott Wilson. We need not detain you any longer. 

(ENID rises and goes into the morning-room.)

OFFICER (at door): Mr. Scott Wilson.

(Enter SCOTT WILSON—a commonplace young gentleman.)

CORONER: Swear him, officer— 

(SCOTT WILSON mumbles and kisses the Book.)

I understand, Mr. Scott Wilson, that you were engaged to be married to the deceased.

WILSON: Yes, sir.

CORONER: Since how long?

WILSON: Six weeks.

CORONER: Was there any quarrel between you?

WILSON: None.

CORONER: Were you in a position to marry?

WILSON: Yes.

CORONER: Was there any talk of an immediate marriage?

WILSON: Well, sir, we hoped before the summer was over.

CORONER: We hear of obstacles. What were the obstacles?

WILSON: Dr. Rylott. He would not hear of the marriage.

CORONER: Why not?

WILSON: He gave no reason, sir.

CORONER: There was some scandal, was there not?

WILSON: Yes, sir, he assaulted me.

CORONER: What happened?

WILSON: He met me in the village. He was like a raving madman. He struck me several times with his cane, and he set his boar-hound upon me.

CORONER: What did you do?

WILSON: I took refuge in one of the little village shops.

ARMITAGE (jumping up): I beg your pardon, young gentleman, you took refuge in my shop.

WILSON: Yes, sir, I took refuge in Mr. Armitage’s shop.

(ARMITAGE sits.)

CORONER: And a police charge resulted?

WILSON: I withdrew it, sir, out of consideration for my fiancée.

CORONER: But you continued your engagement?

WILSON: I would not be bullied out of that.

CORONER: Quite so. But this opposition, and her fears as to your safety, caused Miss Stonor great anxiety?

WILSON: Yes.

CORONER: Apart from that, you can say nothing which throws any light on this sad event?

WILSON: No. I had not seen her for a week before her death.

CORONER: She never expressed any particular apprehension to you?

WILSON: She was always nervous and unhappy.

CORONER: But nothing definite?

WILSON: No.

CORONER: Any questions, gentlemen. (Pause.) Very good. Call Dr. Watson! You may go.

(SCOTT WILSON goes out through the entrance hall.

OFFICER (at morning-room door): Dr. WATSON!

(Enter DR. WATSON.)

CORONER: You will kindly take the oath. Gentlemen, at the opening of this Court, and before you viewed the body, you had read to you the evidence of Professor Van Donop, the pathologist who is unable to be present to-day. Dr. Watson’s evidence is supplementary to that. You are not in practice, I understand, Dr. Watson?

WATSON: No, sir.

CORONER: A retired Army Surgeon, I understand?

WATSON: Yes.

CORONER: Dear me! you retired young.

WATSON: I was wounded in the Afghan Campaign.

CORONER: I see, I see. You knew Dr. Rylott before this tragedy?

WATSON: No, sir. I knew Mrs. Stonor when she was a widow, and I knew her two daughters. That was in India. I heard of her re-marriage and her death. When I heard that the children, with their stepfather, had come to England, I wrote and reminded them that they had at least one friend.

CORONER: Well, what then?

WATSON: I heard no more until I received a wire from Miss Enid Stonor. I at once came down to Stoke Moran.

CORONER: You were the first medical man to see the body?

WATSON: Dr. Rylott is himself a medical man.

CORONER: Exactly. You were the first independent medical man?

WATSON: Oh, yes, sir.

CORONER: Without going too far into painful details, I take it that you are in agreement with Professor Van Donop’s report and analysis?

WATSON: Yes, sir.

CORONER: You found no physical lesion?

WATSON: No.

CORONER: Nothing to account for death?

WATSON: No.

CORONER: No signs of violence?

WATSON: No.

CORONER: Nor of poison?

WATSON: No.

CORONER: Yet there must be a cause?

WATSON: There are many causes of death which leave no sign.

CORONER: For instance—?

WATSON: Well, for instance, the subtler poisons. There are many poisons for which we have no test.

CORONER: No doubt. But you will remember, Dr. Watson, that this young lady died some five or six hours after her last meal. So far as the evidence goes it was only then that she could have taken Poison, unless she took it of her own free will; in which case we Should have expected to find some paper or bottle in her room. But it would indeed be a strange poison which could strike her down so suddenly many hours after it was taken. You perceive difficulty?

WATSON: Yes sir.

CORONER: You could name no such poison?

WATSON: No.

CORONER: Then what remains?

WATSON: There are other causes. One may die of nervous shock or one may die of a broken heart.

CORONER: Had you any reason to think that the deceased had undergone nervous shock?

WATSON: Only the narrative of her sister.

CORONER: You have formed no conjecture as to the nature of the shock?

WATSON: No sir.

CORONER: You spoke of a broken heart. Have you any reason for using such an expression?

WATSON: Only my general impression that she was not happy.

CORONER: I fear we cannot deal with general impressions.

(Murmurs of acquiescence from the JURY)

You have no definite reason?

WATSON: None that I can put into words.

CORONER: Has any juror any question to ask?

ARMITAGE (rising): I’m a plain downright man and I want to get to the bottom of this thing.

CORONER: We all share your desire Mr. Armitage.

ARMITAGE: Look here Doctor you examined this lady. Did you find any signs of violence?

WATSON: I have already said I did not.

ARMITAGE: I mean bruises, or the like.

WATSON: No sir.

CORONER: Any questions?

ARMITAGE: I would like to ask the Doctor whether he wrote to these young ladies because he had any reason to think they were ill-used.

WATSON: No, sir. I wrote because I knew their mother.

ARMITAGE: What did their mother die of?

WATSON: I have no idea.

CORONER Really Mr. Armitage you go too far!

(ARMITAGE sits.)

Anything else?

FOREMAN: May I ask, Dr. Watson, whether you examined the window of the room to see if any one from outside could have molested the lady?

WATSON: The window was bolted.

FOREMAN: Yes, but had it been bolted all night?

WATSON: Yes, it had.

CORONER: How do you know?

WATSON: By the dust on the window-latch.

CORONER: Dear me, Doctor, you are very observant!

WATSON: I have a friend, sir, who trained me in such matters.

CORONER: Well, your evidence seems final on that point. We are all obliged to you, Dr. Watson, and will detain you no longer.

(Exit DR. WATSON into the morning-room.)

OFFICER (at door): Mr. Rodgers!

(Enter RODGERS.)

CORONER: Swear him! 

(Business of swearing.)

Well, Mr. Rodgers, how long have you been in the service of Dr. Rylott?

RODGERS: For many years, sir.

CORONER: Ever since the family settled here?

RODGERS: Yes, sir. I’m an old man, sir, too old to change. I don’t suppose I’d get another place if I lost this one. He tells me it would be the gutter or the workhouse.

CORONER: Who tells you?

RODGERS: Him, sir — the master. But I am not saying anything against him, sir. No, no, don’t think that — not a word against the master. You won’t misunderstand me?

CORONER: You seem nervous?

RODGERS: Well, I’m an old man, sir, and things like this—

CORONER: Quite so, we can understand. Now, Rodgers, upon the night of April 14, you helped to carry the deceased to her room.

RODGERS: Did I, sir? Who said that?

CORONER: We had it in Miss Stonor’s evidence. Was it not so?

RODGERS: Yes, yes, if Miss Enid said it. What Miss Enid says is true. And what the master says is true. It’s all true.

CORONER: I suppose you came when you heard the scream?

RODGERS: Yes, yes, the scream in the night; I came to it.

CORONER: And what did you see?

RODGERS: I saw—I saw— (Puts his hands up as if about to faint.)

CORONER: Come, come, man, speak out.

RODGERS: I’m—I’m frightened.

CORONER: You have nothing to fear. You are under protection of the law. Who are you afraid of? Your master?

RODGERS (rising): No, no, gentlemen, don’t think that! No, no!

CORONER: Well, then—what did you see?

RODGERS: She was on the ground, sir, and Miss Enid beside her —both in white night clothes. My master was standing near them.

CORONER: Well?

RODGERS: We carried the young lady to her room and laid her on her couch. She never spoke nor moved. I know no more indeed I know no more. 

(Sinking into his chair.)

CORONER: Any questions, gentlemen?

ARMITAGE: You live in the house all the time?

RODGERS: Yes, sir.

ARMITAGE: Does your master ever knock you about?

RODGERS: No, sir, no.

ARMITAGE: Well, Mr. Scott Wilson told us what happened to him, and I know he laid the gardener up for a week and paid ten pound to keep out of court. You know that yourself.

RODGERS: No, no, sir, I know nothing of the kind.

ARMITAGE: Well, every one else in the village knows. What I want to ask is — was he ever violent to these young ladies?

FOREMAN: Yes, that’s it. Was he violent?

RODGERS: No, not to say violent. No, he’s a kind man, the master.

(Pause.)

CORONER: Call Mrs. Staunton, the housekeeper. That will do.

(Exit RODGERS into the servant’s hall.)

(Enter MRS. STAUNTON from the morning-room.)

CORONER: You are housekeeper here? 

MRS. STAUNTON: Yes, sir. (Standing.)

CORONER: How long have you been here?

MRS. STAUNTON: Ever since the family settled here.

CORONER: Can you tell us anything of this matter?

MRS. STAUNTON: I knew nothing of it, sir, till after the poor young lady had been laid upon the bed. After that it was I who took charge of things, for Dr. Rylott was so dreadfully upset that he could do nothing.

CORONER: Oh! he was very upset, was he?

MRS. STAUNTON: I never saw a man in such a state of grief.

CORONER: Living in the house you had numerous opportunities of seeing the relations between Dr. Rylott and his two stepdaughters.

MRS. STAUNTON: Yes, sir.

CORONER: How would you describe them?

MRS. STAUNTON: He was kindness itself to them. No two young ladies could be better treated than they have been.

CORONER: It has been suggested that he was sometimes violent to them.

MRS. STAUNTON: Never, sir. He was like a tender father.

ARMITAGE: How about that riding switch? We’ve heard tales about that.

MRS. STAUNTON: Oh, it’s you, Mr. Armitage? There are good reasons why you should make mischief against the Doctor. He told you what he thought of you and your canting ways.

CORONER: Now, then, I cannot have these recriminations. If I had known, Mr. Armitage, that there was personal feeling between the Doctor and you —

ARMITAGE: Nothing of the sort, sir. I’m doing my public duty.

CORONER: Well, the evidence of the witness seems very clear in combating your assertion of ill-treatment. Any other Juror? Very good, Mrs. Staunton.

(Exit MRS. STAUNTON into the servants’ hall.)

Call Dr. Grimesby RYLOTT.

OFFICER (calls at morning-room door): Dr. Rylott.

(Enter DR. RYLOTT.)

CORONER: Dr. Rylott, do you identify the body of the deceased as that of your stepdaughter, Violet Stonor?

RYLOTT: Yes, sir.

CORONER: Can you say anything which will throw any light upon this unhappy business?

RYLOTT: You may well say unhappy, sir. It has completely unnerved me.

CORONER: No doubt.

RYLOTT: She was the ray of sunshine in the house. She knew my ways. I am lost without her.

CORONER: No doubt. But we must confine ourselves to the facts. Have you any explanation which will cover the facts of your stepdaughter’s death?

RYLOTT: I know just as much of the matter as you do It is a complete and absolute mystery to me.

CORONER: Speaking as a doctor, you had no misgivings as to her health?

RYLOTT: She was never robust, but I had no reason for uneasiness.

CORONER: It has come out in evidence that her happiness had been affected by your interference with her engagement?

RYLOTT (rising): That is entirely a misunderstanding sir. As a matter of fact I interfered in order to protect her from a man I had every reason to believe was a mere fortune hunter. She saw it herself in that light and was relieved to see the last of him.

CORONER: Excuse me sir but this introduces a new element into the case. Then the young lady had separate means?

RYLOTT: An annuity under her mother’s will. (Sits.)

CORONER: And to whom does it now go?

RYLOTT: I believe that I might have a claim upon it but I am waiving it in favour of her sister.

CORONER: Very handsome I am sure.

(Murmurs from the JURY)

ARMITAGE (rising): I expect sir so long as she lives under your roof you have the spending of it.

CORONER: Well, well, we can hardly go into that.

ARMITAGE: Had the young lady her own cheque book?

CORONER: Really Mr. Armitage you get away from the subject.

ARMITAGE: It is the subject.

RYLOTT (rising): I am not here, sir, to submit to impertinence. (Sits. )

CORONER: I must ask you, Mr. Armitage— (Holds up hand.)

(ARMITAGE sits.)

Now, Dr. Rylott, the medical evidence, as you are aware, gives us no cause of death. You can suggest none?

RYLOTT: No, sir.

CORONER: Your stepdaughter has affirmed that her sister unlocked her door before appearing in the passage. Can you confirm this?

RYLOTT: Yes, I heard her unlock the door.

CORONER: You arrived in the passage simultaneously with the lady?

RYLOTT: Yes.

CORONER: You had been aroused by the scream?

RYLOTT: Yes.

CORONER: And naturally you came at once?

RYLOTT: Quite so. I was just in time to see her rush from her room and fall into her sister’s arms. I can only imagine that she had some nightmare or hideous dream which had been too much for her heart. That is my own theory of her death.

CORONER: We have it on record that she said some incoherent words before she died.

RYLOTT: I heard nothing of the sort.

CORONER: She said nothing so far as you know?

RYLOTT: Nothing.

CORONER: Did you hear any music?

RYLOTT: Music, sir? No, I heard none.

CORONER: Well, what happened next?

RYLOTT: I satisfied myself that the poor girl was dead. Rodgers, my butler, had arrived, and together we laid her on her couch. I can really tell you nothing more.

CORONER: You did not at once send for a doctor?

RYLOTT: Well, sir, I was a doctor myself. To satisfy ENID I Consented in the morning to telegraph for Dr. Watson, who had been the girls’ friend in India. I really could do no more.

CORONER: Looking back, you have nothing with which to reproach yourself in your treatment of this lady?

RYLOTT: She was the apple of my eye, I would have given my life for her.

CORONER: Well, gentlemen, any questions?

ARMITAGE: Yes, a good many. (Rising.)

(The other  JURYMEN show some impatience.)

Well, I pay my way, the same as the rest of you, and I claim my rights. Mr. Coroner, I claim my rights.

CORONER: Well, well, Mr. Armitage, be as short as you can (Looks at his watch.) It is nearly two.

ARMITAGE: See here, Dr. Rylott, what about that great hound of yours? What about that whip you carry. What about the tales we hear down in the village of your bully-raggin’ them young ladies?

RYLOTT (rising): Really, Mr. Coroner, I must claim your protection. This fellow’s impertinence is intolerable.

CORONER: You go rather far, Mr. Armitage. You must confine yourself to definite questions upon matters of fact.

(RYLOTT sits.)

ARMITAGE: Well, then, do you sleep with a light in your room?

RYLOTT: No, I do not.

ARMITAGE: How was you dressed in the passage?

RYLOTT: In my dressing-gown.

ARMITAGE: How did you get it?

RYLOTT: I struck a light, of course, and took it from a hook.

ARMITAGE: Well, if you did all that, how did you come into the passage as quick as the young lady who ran out just as she was?

RYLOTT: I can only tell you it was so.

ARMITAGE: Well, I can only tell you I don’t believe it.

CORONER: You must withdraw that, Mr. Armitage.

ARMITAGE: I says what I mean, Mr. Coroner, and I say it again, I don’t believe it. I’ve got common sense if I haven’t got education.

RYLOTT (rising): I can afford to disregard his remarks, Coroner.

CORONER: Anything else, Mr. Armitage?

ARMITAGE: I’ve said my say, and I stick to it.

CORONER: Then that will do, Dr. Rylott.

(Pause. DR. RYLOTT is going up towards the morning door.)

By the way, can your Indian servant help us at all in the matter?

RYLOTT (coming down again): Ali sleeps in a garret and knew nothing till next morning. He is my personal valet.

CORONER: Then we need not call him. Very good, Dr. Rylott. you can remain if you wish. (To JURY.) Well, gentlemen, you have heard the evidence relating to this very painful case. There are several conceivable alternatives. There is death by murder. Of this I need not say there is not a shadow or tittle of evidence. There is death by suicide. Here, again, the presumption is absolutely against it. Then there is death by accident. We have nothing to lead us to believe that there has been an accident. Finally, we come to death by natural causes. It must be admitted that these natural causes are obscure, but the processes of nature are often mysterious, and we cannot claim to have such an exact knowledge of them that we can always define them. You have read the evidence of Professor Van Donop and you have heard that of Dr. Watson. If you are not satisfied it is always within your competence to declare that death arose from unknown causes. It is for you to form your own conclusions.

(The JURY buzz together for a moment. The CORONERlooks at his watch, rises, and goes over to DR. RYLOTT.)

We are later than I intended.

RYLOTT: These absurd interruptions—!

CORONER: Yes, at these country inquests we generally have some queer fellows on the jury.

RYLOTT: Lunch must be ready. Won’t you join us.

CORONER: Well, well, I shall be delighted.

FOREMAN: We are all ready, sir.

(CORONER returns to table.)

CORONER: Well, gentlemen? (Sits.) 

FOREMAN: We are for unknown causes.

CORONER: Quite so. Unanimous?

ARMITAGE: No, sir. I am for further investigation. I don’t say it’s unknown and I won’t say it’s unknown.

CORONER: I entirely agree with the majority finding. Well, gentlemen that will finish our labours. Officer — 

(The OFFICER comes to him. ARMITAGE sits.)

You will all sign the inquisition before you leave this room officer will take your signatures as you pass out

(The JURY rise—sign book as they go out into the entrance hall.)

(Crossing to ARMITAGE)

Mr. Armitage One moment.  Mr. Armitage I am sorry that you are not yet satisfied.

ARMITAGE: No sir I am not.

CORONER: You are a little exacting (Turns away)

RYLOTT (touching ARMITAGE on the shoulder): I have only one thing to say to you sir. Get out of my house. Do you hear?

ARMITAGE: Yes Dr Rylott I hear. And I seem to hear something else. Something crying from the ground, Dr. Rylott, from the ground.

(Exits slowly into the entrance hall)

RYLOTT: Impertinent rascal! (Turns away)

(Enter WATSON, ENID and the other witnesses from the morning room. They all file out towards the entrance hail)

(ENID has come down stage. DR WATSON comes back from door)

WATSON: Good bye Miss Enid (Shakes hands. Then in a lower voice) Don t forget that you have a friend.

(He goes out)

(Business of CORONER and RYLOTT lighting cigarettes— ENID catches RYLOTT’S eye across CORONER and shrinks down onto a chair)

CURTAIN


  
Act
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II


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