4tr

4tr

"Why should I?" asked Miss Greeby, rather aggressively.

"Because it is Mr. Silver who has taken the cottage."

Miss Greeby sat up alertly. "Silver. Oh, indeed. Then that explains why he asked me for leave to stay in the country. Said his health required fresh air, and that London got on his nerves. Hum! hum!" Miss Greeby bit the handle of her umbrella. "So he's taken the Abbot's Wood Cottage, has he? I wonder what that's for?"

"I don't know, and I don't care," said Agnes restlessly. "Of course I could have prevented Garvington letting it to him, since he tried to blackmail me, but I thought it was best to see the letter, and to understand his meaning more thoroughly before telling my brother about his impertinence. Noel wanted me to tell, but I decided not to—in the meantime at all events."

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"Silver's meaning is not hard to understand," said Miss Greeby, drily and feeling in her pocket. "He wants to get twenty-five thousand pounds for this." She produced a sheet of paper dramatically. "However, I made the little animal give it to me for nothing. Never mind what arguments I used. I got it out of him, and brought it to show you."

Agnes, paling slightly, took the letter and glanced over it with surprise.

"Well," she said, drawing a long breath, "if I had not been certain that I never wrote such a letter, I should believe that I did. My handwriting has certainly been imitated in a wonderfully accurate way."

"Who imitated it?" asked Miss Greeby, who was watching her eagerly.

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"I can't say. But doesn't Mr. Silver—"

"Oh, he knows nothing, or says that he knows nothing. All he swears to is that Chaldea found the letter in Pine's tent the day after his murder, and before Inspector Darby had time to search. The envelope had been destroyed, so we don't know if the letter was posted or delivered by hand."

"If I had written such a letter to Noel," said Agnes quietly, "it certainly would have been delivered by hand."

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"In which case Pine might have intercepted the messenger," put in Miss Greeby. "It couldn't have been sent by post, or Pine would not have got hold of it, unless he bribed Mrs. Tribb into giving it up."

"Mrs. Tribb is not open to bribery, Clara. And as to the letter, I never wrote it, nor did Noel ever receive it."