"As the safe is a large one, and probably was fairly filled, it is extremely likely," replied the Inspector. Then he went on to state that the fact of the death was discovered the next morning by Mrs. Snow, the vicar's wife, who was paying a visit to Miss Hedge. The police were called in, and everything had been done to discover the whereabouts of the assassin, but in vain. Villagers, labourers, railway officials, chance folk travelling in carts and motor-cars and on bicycles had been questioned, but no suspicious character had been observed. The assassin had stolen in upon the old man out of the night; and when his detestable task had been executed, he had again vanished into the night with his plunder, leaving not a footprint behind by which he could be traced.
"Yet the night was rainy," said the Coroner sapiently.
"And the grassy sward," retorted Jones, "runs right up to the railway carriage wherein the crime was executed. I have inquired at the Trunk Street office, and cannot learn from the confidential clerk there that Mr. Alpenny was threatened in any way, or feared for his life or property. The affair is a mystery."
"And is likely to remain so, with such an ass as you at the head of affairs," murmured the Coroner, as the Inspector, severely official, stepped down to give place to a rosy little man.--"Well, doctor," he asked aloud, "what do you know about this sad business?"
Dr. Herman knew very little, save from a medical standing-point He lived in Hurstable, some miles distant from the scene of the crime, and drove round all the surrounding district to see his patients. A constable stopped him on the day after the crime had been committed, and he had been asked to examine the corpse. . The body was badly nourished, but healthy enough for a man who certainly was over eighty. The blow on the head would not have killed a man with such vitality, old as he was. Death had ensued from the cutting of the throat. "Which was neatly done," said the doctor, with professional approval. "I should think a very sharp instrument was used, and a very dexterous hand had used it. No bungling about that affair," concluded Dr. Herman.
Durban's evidence was to the effect that he had been absent when the crime took place. Mr. Alpenny had sent him to town with a letter, and he had returned the next morning to find the old man dead. Mrs. Snow had first informed him of the fact. He had burst open the door with a beam, as it was locked, and then had discovered that Mr. Alpenny's throat was slit from ear to ear. "And I saw," added the witness quickly, "that the keys of the deceased, including the key of the counting-house, were on the ring which dangled from the key used to open the safe."