The Problem of Thor Bridge

SUDDENLY HE SPRANG FROM HIS CHAIR.

“She hated me, Mr. Holmes. She hated me with all the fervour of her tropical nature. She was a woman who would do nothing by halves, and the measure of her love for her husband was the measure also of her hatred for me. It is probable that she misunderstood our relations. I would not wish to wrong her, but she loved so vividly in a physical sense that she could hardly understand the mental, and even spiritual, tie which held her husband to me, or imagine that it was only my desire to influence his power to good ends which kept me under his roof. I can see now that I was wrong. Nothing could justify me in remaining where I was a cause of unhappiness, and yet it is certain that the unhappiness would have remained even if I had left the house.”

“Now, Miss Dunbar,” said Holmes, “I beg you to tell us exactly what occurred that evening.”

“I can tell you the truth so far as I know it, Mr. Holmes, but I am in a position to prove nothing, and there are points–the most vital points–which I can neither explain nor can I imagine any explanation.”

“If you will find the facts, perhaps others may find the explanation.”

“With regard, then, to my presence at Thor Bridge that night, I received a note from Mrs. Gibson in the morning. It lay on the table of the schoolroom, and it may have been left there by her own hand. It implored me to see her there after dinner, said she had something important to say to me, and asked me to leave an answer on the sundial in the garden, as she desired no one to be in our confidence. I saw no reason for such secrecy, but I did as she asked, accepting the appointment. She asked me to destroy her note and I burned it in the schoolroom grate. She was very much afraid of her husband, who treated her with a harshness for which I frequently reproached him, and I could only imagine that she acted in this way because she did not wish him to know of our interview.”

“Yet she kept your reply very carefully?”

“Yes. I was surprised to hear that she had it in her hand when she died.”

“Well, what happened then?”

“I went down as I had promised. When I reached the bridge she was waiting for me. Never did I realize till that moment how this poor creature hated me. She was like a mad woman–indeed, I think she was a mad woman, subtly mad with the deep power of deception which insane people may have. How else could she have met me with unconcern every day and yet had so raging a hatred of me in her heart? I will not say what she said. She poured her whole wild fury out in burning and horrible words. I did not even answer–I could not. It was dreadful to see her. I put my hands to my ears and rushed away. When I left her she was standing, still shrieking out her curses at me, in the mouth of the bridge.”

“SHE POURED HER WHOLE WILD FURY OUT IN BURNING AND HORRIBLE WORDS.”
“SHE POURED HER WHOLE WILD FURY OUT IN BURNING AND HORRIBLE WORDS.”

“Where she was afterwards found?”

“Within a few yards from the spot.”

“And yet, presuming that she met her death shortly after you left her, you heard no shot?”

“No, I heard nothing. But, indeed, Mr. Holmes, I was so agitated and horrified by this terrible outbreak that I rushed to get back to the peace of my own room, and I was incapable of noticing anything which happened.”

“You say that you returned to your room. Did you leave it again before next morning?”

“Yes, when the alarm came that the poor creature had met her death I ran out with the others.”

“Did you see Mr. Gibson?”

“Yes, he had just returned from the bridge when I saw him. He had sent for the doctor and the police.”

“Did he seem to you much perturbed?”

“Mr. Gibson is a very strong, self-contained man. I do not think that he would ever show his emotions on the surface. But I, who knew him so well, could see that he was deeply concerned.”

“Then we come to the all-important point. This pistol that was found in your room. Had you ever seen it before?”

“Never, I swear it.”

“When was it found?”

“Next morning, when the police made their search.”

“Among your clothes?”

“Yes, on the floor of my wardrobe under my dresses.”

“You could not guess how long it had been there?”

“It had not been there the morning before.”

“How do you know?”

“Because I tidied out the wardrobe.”

“That is final. Then someone came into your room and placed the pistol there in order to inculpate you.”

“It must have been so.”

“And when?”

“It could only have been at meal-time, or else at the hours when I would be in the schoolroom with the children.”

“As you were when you got the note?”

“Yes, from that time onward for the whole morning.”

“Thank you, Miss Dunbar. Is there any other point which could help me in the investigation?”

“I can think of none.”

“There was some sign of violence on the stonework of the bridge–a perfectly fresh chip just opposite the body. Could you suggest any possible explanation of that?”

“Surely it must be a mere coincidence.”

“Curious, Miss Dunbar, very curious. Why should it appear at the very time of the tragedy, and why at the very place?”

“But what could have caused it? Only great violence could have such an effect.”

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