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 Mr. Van Burnam and his sons had gone through the formality of a supper and were conversing1 in the haphazard2 way natural to men filled with a subject they dare not discuss, when the door opened and Mr. Gryce came in.
Advancing very calmly, he addressed himself to the father:
"I am sorry," said he, "to be obliged to inform you that this affair is much more serious than we anticipated. This young woman was dead before the shelves laden3 with bric-à-brac fell upon her. It is a case of murder; obviously so, or I should not presume to forestall4 the Coroner's jury in their verdict."
Murder! it is a word to shake the stoutest5 heart!
The older gentleman reeled as he half rose, and Franklin, his son, betrayed in his own way an almost equal amount of emotion. But Howard, shrugging his shoulders as if relieved of an immense weight, looked about with a cheerful air, and briskly cried:
"Then it is not the body of my wife you have there. No one would murder Louise. I shall go away and prove the truth of my words by hunting her up at once."
The detective opened the door, beckoned6 in the doctor, who whispered two or three words into Howard's ear.
They failed to awake the emotion he evidently expected. Howard looked surprised, but answered without any change of voice:
"Yes, Louise had such a scar; and if it is true that this woman is similarly marked, then it is a mere7 coincidence. Nothing will convince me that my wife has been the victim of murder."
"Had you not better take a look at the scar just mentioned?"
"No. I am so sure of what I say that I will not even consider the possibility of my being mistaken. I have examined the clothing on this body you have shown me, and not one article of it came from my wife's wardrobe; nor would my wife go, as you have informed me this woman did, into a dark house at night with any other man than her husband."
"And so you absolutely refuse to acknowledge her."
"Most certainly."
The detective paused, glanced at the troubled faces of the other two gentlemen, faces that had not perceptibly altered during these declarations, and suggestively remarked:
"You have not asked by what means she was killed."
"And I don't care," shouted Howard.
"It was by very peculiar8 means, also new in my experience."
"It does not interest me," the other retorted.
Mr. Gryce turned to his father and brother.
"Does it interest you?" he asked.
The old gentleman, ordinarily so testy9 and so peremptory10, silently nodded his head, while Franklin cried:
"Speak up quick. You detectives hesitate so over the disagreeables. Was she throttled11 or stabbed with a knife?"
"I have said the means were peculiar. She was stabbed, but not—with a knife."
I know Mr. Gryce well enough now to be sure that he did not glance towards Howard while saying this, and yet at the same time that he did not miss the quiver of a muscle on his part or the motion of an eyelash. But Howard's assumed sang froid remained undisturbed and his countenance12 imperturbable13.
"The wound was so small," the detective went on, "that it is a miracle it did not escape notice. It was made by the thrust of some very slender instrument through——"
"The heart?" put in Franklin.
"Of course, of course," assented14 the detective; "what other spot is vulnerable enough to cause death?"
"Is there any reason why we should not go?" demanded Howard, ignoring the extreme interest manifested by the other two, with a determination that showed great doggedness of character.
The detective ignored him.
"A quick stroke, a sure stroke, a fatal stroke. The girl never breathed after."
"But what of those things under which she lay crushed?"
"Ah, in them lies the mystery! Her assailant must have been as subtle as he was sure."
And still Howard showed no interest.
"I wish to telegraph to Haddam," he declared, as no one answered the last remark. Haddam was the place where he and his wife had been spending the summer.
"We have already telegraphed there," observed Mr. Gryce. "Your wife has not yet returned."
"There are other places," defiantly15 insisted the other. "I can find her if you give me the opportunity."
Mr. Gryce bowed.
"I am to give orders, then, for this body to be removed to the Morgue."
It was an unexpected suggestion, and for an instant Howard showed that he had feelings with the best. But he quickly recovered himself, and avoiding the anxious glances of his father and brother, answered with offensive lightness:
"I have nothing to do with that. You must do as you think proper."
And Mr. Gryce felt that he had received a check, and did not know whether to admire the young man for his nerve or to execrate16 him for his brutality17. That the woman whom he had thus carelessly dismissed to the ignominy of the public gaze was his wife, the detective did not doubt.


1 conversing 20d0ea6fb9188abfa59f3db682925246     
v.交谈,谈话( converse的现在分词 )
  • I find that conversing with her is quite difficult. 和她交谈实在很困难。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • They were conversing in the parlor. 他们正在客厅谈话。 来自《现代英汉综合大词典》
2 haphazard n5oyi     
  • The town grew in a haphazard way.这城镇无计划地随意发展。
  • He regrerted his haphazard remarks.他悔不该随口说出那些评论话。
3 laden P2gx5     
  • He is laden with heavy responsibility.他肩负重任。
  • Dragging the fully laden boat across the sand dunes was no mean feat.将满载货物的船拖过沙丘是一件了不起的事。
4 forestall X6Qyv     
  • I left the room to forestall involvements.我抢先离开了这房间以免受牵累。
  • He followed this rule in order to forestall rumors.他遵守这条规矩是为了杜绝流言蜚语。
5 stoutest 7de5881daae96ca3fbaeb2b3db494463     
粗壮的( stout的最高级 ); 结实的; 坚固的; 坚定的
  • The screams of the wounded and dying were something to instil fear into the stoutest heart. 受伤者垂死者的尖叫,令最勇敢的人都胆战心惊。
6 beckoned b70f83e57673dfe30be1c577dd8520bc     
v.(用头或手的动作)示意,召唤( beckon的过去式和过去分词 )
  • He beckoned to the waiter to bring the bill. 他招手示意服务生把账单送过来。
  • The seated figure in the corner beckoned me over. 那个坐在角落里的人向我招手让我过去。 来自《简明英汉词典》
7 mere rC1xE     
  • That is a mere repetition of what you said before.那不过是重复了你以前讲的话。
  • It's a mere waste of time waiting any longer.再等下去纯粹是浪费时间。
8 peculiar cinyo     
  • He walks in a peculiar fashion.他走路的样子很奇特。
  • He looked at me with a very peculiar expression.他用一种很奇怪的表情看着我。
9 testy GIQzC     
  • Ben's getting a little testy in his old age.上了年纪后本变得有点性急了。
  • A doctor was called in to see a rather testy aristocrat.一个性格相当暴躁的贵族召来了一位医生为他检查。
10 peremptory k3uz8     
  • The officer issued peremptory commands.军官发出了不容许辩驳的命令。
  • There was a peremptory note in his voice.他说话的声音里有一种不容置辩的口气。
11 throttled 1be2c244a7b85bf921df7bf52074492b     
v.扼杀( throttle的过去式和过去分词 );勒死;使窒息;压制
  • He throttled the guard with his bare hands. 他徒手掐死了卫兵。
  • The pilot got very low before he throttled back. 飞行员减速之前下降得很低。 来自《简明英汉词典》
12 countenance iztxc     
  • At the sight of this photograph he changed his countenance.他一看见这张照片脸色就变了。
  • I made a fierce countenance as if I would eat him alive.我脸色恶狠狠地,仿佛要把他活生生地吞下去。
13 imperturbable dcQzG     
  • Thomas,of course,was cool and aloof and imperturbable.当然,托马斯沉着、冷漠,不易激动。
  • Edward was a model of good temper and his equanimity imperturbable.爱德华是个典型的好性子,他总是沉着镇定。
14 assented 4cee1313bb256a1f69bcc83867e78727     
同意,赞成( assent的过去式和过去分词 )
  • The judge assented to allow the prisoner to speak. 法官同意允许犯人申辩。
  • "No," assented Tom, "they don't kill the women -- they're too noble. “对,”汤姆表示赞同地说,“他们不杀女人——真伟大!
15 defiantly defiantly     
  • Braving snow and frost, the plum trees blossomed defiantly. 红梅傲雪凌霜开。 来自《现代汉英综合大词典》
  • She tilted her chin at him defiantly. 她向他翘起下巴表示挑衅。 来自《简明英汉词典》
16 execrate Tlqyw     
  • Others execrate it.有些人痛恨它。
  • I execrate people who deceive and tell lies.我憎恶那些欺骗和说谎的人。
17 brutality MSbyb     
  • The brutality of the crime has appalled the public. 罪行之残暴使公众大为震惊。
  • a general who was infamous for his brutality 因残忍而恶名昭彰的将军


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