We have provided him with all that he can want. To commit a crime would be to show where he was hiding."
"That is true," said Sir Henry. "Well, Barrymore --"
"God bless you, sir, and thank you from my heart! It would have killed my poor wife had he been taken again."
"I guess we are aiding and abetting a felony, Watson? But, after what we have heard I don't feel as if I could give the man up, so there is an end of it. All right, Barrymore, you can go."
With a few broken words of gratitude the man turned, but he hesitated and then came back.
"You've been so kind to us, sir, that I should like to do the best I can for you in return. I know something, Sir Henry, and perhaps I should have said it before, but it was long after the inquest that I found it out. I've never breathed a word about it yet to mortal man. It's about poor Sir Charles's death."
The baronet and I were both upon our feet. "Do you know how he died?"
"No, sir, I don't know that."
"I know why he was at the gate at that hour. It was to meet a woman."
"To meet a woman! He?"
"And the woman's name?"
"I can't give you the name, sir, but I can give you the initials. Her initials were L. L."
"How do you know this, Barrymore?"
"Well, Sir Henry, your uncle had a letter that morning. He had usually a great many letters, for he was a public man and well known for his kind heart, so that everyone who was in trouble was glad to turn to him. But that morning, as it chanced, there was only this one letter, so I took the more notice of it. It was from Coombe Tracey, and it was addressed in a woman's hand."
"Well, sir, I thought no more of the matter, and never would have done had it not been for my wife. Only a few weeks ago she was cleaning out Sir Charles's study--it had never been touched since his death--and she found the ashes of a burned letter in the back of the grate. The greater part of it was charred to pieces, but one little slip, the end of a page, hung together, and the writing could still be read, though it was gray on a black ground. It seemed to us to be a postscript at the end of the letter, and it said: 'Please, please, as you are a gentleman, burn this letter, and be at the gate by ten o clock. Beneath it were signed the initials L. L."
"Have you got that slip?"
"No, sir, it crumbled all to bits after we moved it."
"Had Sir Charles received any other letters in the same writing?"
"Well, sir, I took no particular notice of his letters. I should not have noticed this one, only it happened to come alone."
"And you have no idea who L. L. is?"
"No, sir. No more than you have. But I expect if we could lay our hands upon that lady we should know more about Sir Charles's death."
"I cannot understand, Barrymore, how you came to conceal this important information."
"Well, sir, it was immediately after that our own trouble came to us. And then again, sir, we were both of us very fond of Sir Charles, as we well might be considering all that he has done for us. To rake this up couldn't help our poor master, and it's well to go carefully when there's a lady in the case. Even the best of us ----"
"You thought it might injure his reputation?"
"Well, sir, I thought no good could come of it. But now you have been kind to us, and I feel as if it would be treating you unfairly not to tell you all that I know about the matter."
"Very good, Barrymore; you can go." When the butler had left us Sir Henry turned to me. "Well, Watson, what do you think of this new light?"
"It seems to leave the darkness rather blacker than before."
"So I think. But if we can only trace L. L. it should clear up the whole business. We have gained that much. We know that there is someone who has the facts if we can only find her. What do you think we should do?"
"Let Holmes know all about it at once. It will give him the clue for which he has been seeking. I am much mistaken if it does not bring him down."
I went at once to my room and drew up my report of the morning's conversation for Holmes.