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Authors: Melville Davisson Post

The Bradmoor Murder

BOOK: The Bradmoor Murder
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The Bradmoor Murder:

Including the Remarkable Deductions of
of Scotland Yard











A Note on the Author

The characters, events and institutions
mentioned in this book are all fictitious


His right hand shall be his enemy. And the son of another shall sit in his seat. I will encourage his right hand to destroy him. And I will bring the unborn through the Gate of Life. And they shall lean upon me. And I will enrich them, and guide their feet and strengthen their hearts. And they shall laugh in his gardens, and sit down in his pleasant palaces


We got some great men from England in the old day. They don't permit us to forget it.… Well, we can counter on them. They got Robert Harmscourt, the present Duke of Bradmoor, from us. And he is to-day beyond question, the ablest man in the British Empire. They can say that this American family is only the English
branch, and cite their court decision giving it the title, should the English line become extinct. But it won't do! The man's an American. And he would have remained an American but for the will of a god. No, the expression is correctly written: not the will of God as we are accustomed to say it—the will of a god! Keep the distinction in mind.

And it wasn't Lady Joan! True, she sent for him at once, after old Bradmoor's death, and assembled at her table the three remarkable men concerned with the mystery. But it wasn't Lady Joan that transformed this American into a peer of England. She'd have gone to America with Harmscourt—she'd already promised.… You can't doubt it. It wasn't Lady Joan:
it was the will of a god

You can read what Harmscourt says about it. It's the very strangest thing that was ever printed.


The very dining room was extraordinary.

The walls were of bare stone, and the floor had originally been the tamped earthen floor
of the cottage. There was a wide, smoked fireplace, and an ancient beamed ceiling.

But the room had been made over by a deft hand.

It was a transformation with a slight expenditure of material; but it was that tremendous transformation which an excellent taste is able to accomplish with even primitive material. The ceiling had been permitted to remain; but the walls had been covered with a blue-gray wash—some dye, I imagine, with a calcimine. An iron grate had been set in the fireplace, and a board floor laid. It was a floor scarcely better than the wood platform of a tent; but one saw little of it, for it was covered with old rugs—ancient, priceless rugs.

There was an immense mahogany table, a long mahogany sideboard against the wall, with silver knobs, their exterior presenting laurel wreaths inclosing a coat-of-arms carved in relief. The chairs were carved rosewood. There was no cloth on this table; but there was a gorgeous piece of brocade laid right across it, in the center of which was an immense bowl filled with roses. The silver, the glass, every article on the table was exquisite. It was the
contrast between these superb furnishings and the crude room that impressed one, as though one should find a jewel mounted in the hull of an acorn.

For a moment the small-talk drifted vaguely by me. I was looking at the empty chair beyond, across the table. It was drawn back, and half-turned away, precisely as the girl had left it when she got up and went out, leaving me to her extraordinary guests, and their strange mission.

is not a word inapplicable to them. I think if one had looked over all England, he could not have selected three men to whom that word would more appropriately apply.

To my right was Henry Marquis, Chief of the Criminal Investigation Department of Scotland Yard. When one says that long, awkward sentence—with “Scotland Yard” at the end of it—one brings up the image of a conventional character in the penny-dreadfuls, or the hatchet-faced detective of Baker Street, with his hypodermic needle; a thin, lemon-colored person, with dreamy eyes, and the like. But—one would not look to see Henry Marquis.

A middle-aged Englishman, with short-cropped gray hair, and the typical figure in the hunting field. There was nothing peculiar about him except his rather long, pale face, and the strong formation of the jaw. One felt that it would be difficult to prevent this man from carrying out any plan upon which he had once determined. But—one would not associate him with mysteries.

If one had been selecting a character to illustrate a personality concerned with mysteries, he would have selected Sir Godfrey Simon, who was sitting farther along to the right of the chair now empty. He was a big, old man. His head was entirely bald; there was not even a faint suggestion of a fringe of hair around the bald head.

The head was immense.

He had a large, crooked nose; shaggy eyebrows; eyes that seemed never open—they were always slits—narrow, like a cat's eyes; and a big, firm-lipped mouth. He looked like a sphinx. He was the greatest alienist in England. He spoke just then:

“The man was under a curse,” he said; “that's what killed him!”

I realized suddenly that the conversation had drifted into the thing that these men had been asked here to explain to me. It had begun, and I had missed a little of it. I moved in the chair, and brought my attention swiftly back from the girl who had gone out.

The third man, seated at my left, had half turned to the fire. He had poured out another glass of whisky. When I try to describe this man, I am always embarrassed. Nature took an unreasonable advantage of him. He was the Thirteenth Earl of Dunn, and he looked like a bookmaker at Ascot, in the paddock with the sporting set.

No clothes could disguise it.

He was in the best evening clothes that one could buy in Bond Street; but he was the bookmaker from Ascot, awkwardly put into them. He was one of the most charming men in England; but there he was, with his coarse shock of hair, his red face, his heavy jaw, his large, harsh voice, and his abrupt, physical vigor. He was a big-game hunter, and one of the most noted explorers in the world.… He used to say: “There's six million square miles of the earth's surface that nobody knows anything
about”—then would come his harsh laugh—“except me.”

He was replying now to the oracular pronouncement of Sir Godfrey Simon.

“A curse, eh! What?” he said. “It was characteristic of you, Simon, to sit perfectly still, like a joss, blink your eyes, and say the man was killed by a curse, when the thing happened. It would have been reasonable if you had meant that the outraged divinity, or hell-factor, or whatever you wish to call it, that old Bradmoor looted, had found a way to turn on him; but that was not what you meant.”

Sir Godfrey
blink his eyes. They batted an instant. He added another sentence:

“I meant, of course, precisely what I said.”

Henry Marquis took the conversation up then. He realized that I did not understand it, that it would have to be presented from the beginning. He touched the polished mahogany table with his fingers, as though they were smoothing out a cloth.

“I think,” he said, “that you will get a more accurate understanding of this thing if we give it to you precisely as it impressed us at the time it happened: the facts, and then what we
thought about them—what we still think about them.… You will probably have to imagine what Sir Godfrey Simon means, if he means anything.”

He laughed, and his firm, capable hand continued to smooth out the invisible cloth on the table. There came a slight, facetious note in his voice.

“I suppose, in fact, it is not essential that an alienist should mean anything. It is the pose that counts in his profession. ‘The man was killed by a curse!' Sir Godfrey does not need to mean anything, provided he goes no farther.… It is a fine, creepy explanation, and it precisely suits the average Briton with the Early Victorian novel in his mind. The lord of the manor was always under a curse, when the beautiful milkmaid got into trouble, in those stories.… Is there a family in England that has not a curse on it?”

The big man by the vacant chair spoke again:

“This family has a curse on it.”

Lord Dunn turned toward me. He made an abrupt gesture, precisely like a bookmaker sweeping aside a betting offer:

“There you have it,” he said. “Set a madman to catch a madman; Simon is in the right profession; old Bradmoor was killed by a curse!”

The massive face did not change, but the mouth opened as though worked by a wire: “He was,” he said.

Henry Marquis made a vague, abrupt gesture:

“Before we go again into our old quarrel,” he said, “our friend here must understand the thing. It is mysterious enough, God knows—the whole awful business—when you understand as much as there is to understand about it.”

He turned toward me.

“This is what we found,” he said. “It was in the afternoon. It had been very dry—that long, unprecedented drought in England. Then there had been rains in the north; the streams had come up. Fishermen were beginning to get out their tackle; the water would be ‘right' that evening. So the thing that old Bradmoor had been concerned with at the moment of his death was precisely what one would have expected. He was a keen sportsman, and next
to Dunn, he was the best all-round explorer in the world.”

The Earl of Dunn made another of his abrupt, bookmaker gestures:

“Bar nobody,” he said, “old Bradmoor was the best explorer in the world, and he was a good man with a rod, none better; but he could not ride a horse. He was a damned poor hunter; he had sense enough to give it up. And he was not a first-class shot. He could handle a heavy gun—a big double express; but he was no good with a magazine rifle.… I don't know what killed him, unless it was that damned Baal from the plateau of the Lybian Desert. It's like Dunsany's story of the Gods of the Mountain—green stone Johnnies who finally came in to avenge their imitators. It might be the explanation here. How do we know? A thing does not cease to exist because some one says it isn't so. Would the Old Bailey cease to exist because a little sneak thief in Margate did not believe in it?”

Henry Marquis came back to his narrative:

“What we found,” he said, “was this: Old Bradmoor was dead. He had been shot through the chest. It was a shot at the heart,
but it had missed it. It was four inches to the right, and a hand's-width high; but the bullet was so big that the man was instantly killed. The bullet had gone through the back of the chair and lodged in the wainscoting. We cut it out, of course; but it was too battered up to say much about the sort of firearm it came out of.

“Old Bradmoor was sitting in the middle of the room.

“He was at least seven feet from the wall in any direction. He was facing a narrow window; in fact, it was a narrow slit cut in the wall. You know the sort of slit they made in the old days for archers. It is perhaps a yard high, and nine inches wide. The stone sloped on either side of the slit on the outside of the wall so that the archers could shoot to the right or left.… You know how they are cut, and how the house stands out into the open sea.”

He made a gesture toward the fireplace—toward the great house across the road to the south.

I nodded. I knew all about the house, and especially that wing of it. The sea had come sheer in against it. It had tunneled in a deep
eddy, against the wall. The dead Duke of Bradmoor had been forced in his time to supplement the foundation by putting in another wall straight down to the rock bed of the shore. That stopped the sea current from chiseling out the foundation; but it bored in here against the wall, on its stone floor. There was a sheer wall of fifty feet from the room with the archer's slit, to the open sea.

BOOK: The Bradmoor Murder
11.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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