Manual Artists in Crime (The Ngaio Marsh Collection)

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The body, still in its same contracted, headlong posture, looked as though some force had thrown it down with a sudden violence. Dr Curtis said something. His voice sounded small and melancholy in the empty building. They bent down and lifted the body on to the whitish strip of the stretcher.

One of the men pulled a sheet up. Curtis spoke to them. They lifted the stretcher and came slowly down the aisle, black silhouettes now against the lighted chancel. They passed Nigel heavily and went out of the open door.

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The constable stayed in the entrance, so Nigel did not relock the doors. He returned to the chancel. I am about to interview the ladies and gentlemen. I dislike this affair. I dislike it very much. This is a beastly place. Why did you come to it? I was bored and I saw the sign swinging in the rain. I came in search of adventure. Fox, have you made your plan? When we get to M. Fox smiled blandly. He had taken a course of gramophone lessons in French and now followed closely an intermediate course on the radio.

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Bailey, with an air of mulish indifference, disappeared through the altar door. In a moment he came back. Shall we go down into the chairs there? Garnette inclined his head and led the way. He seated himself unhurriedly and hid his hands in his wide sleeves. Fox, all bland detachment, strolled to a nearby pew and seemed to be absorbed in his sketch-plan of the chancel and sanctuary. Nigel, at a glance from Alleyn, joined Inspector Fox and took out his notebook.

A shorthand report of the interviews would do no harm. Father Garnette did not so much as glance at Nigel and Fox. Alleyn pulled forward a large fald-stool and sat on it with his back to the flickering torch. The priest and the policeman regarded each other steadily. His voice was mellifluous and impossibly sorrowful.

I do not understand, as yet, what has happened.

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What unseen power has struck down this dear soul in the very moment of spiritual ecstasah? There will be an inquest, of course. In the meantime there are one or two questions I should like to ask you, Mr Garnette. I need not remind you that you are not obliged to answer them. You knew her personally as well as officially, I expect? Cara Quayne was a very dear friend. Hers was a rare soul, Inspector — ah? Hers was a rare soul, singularly fitted for the tremendous spiritual discoverahs to which it was granted I should point the way. I can well remember the first evening I was aware of her.

I felt the presence of something vital, a kind of intensitah, a — how can I put it?

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We have our own words for expressing these experiences. But I think it will come. Well, ask what you will, Inspector. Cara Quayne was not concerned with earthly love; she was on the threshold of a new spiritual life. Nay, that does not express my meaning.

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The Initiates have attained to the third plane where all human relationships merge in an ecstatic indifference. They cannot hate for there is no hatred. They realize that hatred is maya — illusion. We must have a long talk some day, my dear fellow. His manner suggested that Alleyn as well as Mrs Candour had committed a gross error in taste. In the course of your interviews with Miss Quayne can you remember any incident or remark that would throw any light on this matter?

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I am obliged to ask these questions. Is it supported and kept up by subscription? He would take an unopened bottle of wine from a cupboard in my room, draw the cork and pour the contents into the vessel. He would then make ready the goblet. He looked at once mulish and haughty.

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By the very act of pouring in the wine, this too becomes sacred — sacred by contact with the Cup. Our ceremony of the Cup, though it embraces the virtues of various communions in Christian churches, is actually entirely different in essentials and in intention. Having filled the flagon Mr Wheatley would then put it — where?

As he does this he repeats a little prayer in Norse. Mr Bathgate tells me the flame appeared after you laid your hands over the cup. How is this done? One more question.

Has there, to your knowledge, ever been any form of poison kept on the premises of this building? I greatly appreciate your courtesy in answering so readily. I hope you will not mind very much if I ask you to wait in the — is that a vestry over there? It is! No doubt you will be glad to change into less ceremonial dress. In all humilitah I believe I may help you in your task. And any of the others I send in. Tell them to look for a small piece of crumpled paper or anything that could have held powder.

Bailey went through the little door and reappeared with Claude Wheatley and a general air of having taken an unlucky dip in a bran-tub. Fox returned with another plain-clothes man who went into the vestry.

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Some of the others may need attention. You can refuse to answer if you think it advisable. I may as well know what they are. The whole thing is she loathes Father Garnette taking the slightest notice of anybody else. How she dared! And anyway everybody knows all about it. Everybody knows it was my week to make preparation. What did Mrs Candour suggest?