The Bittermeads Mystery

Author: Ernest Robertson Punshon

Chapter XIX. The Visit to Wreste Abbey

It was a little later when Deede Dawson returned to the subject of Wreste Abbey.

"Lord Chobham has a very valuable collection of plate and jewellery and so on, hasn’t he?" he asked.

"Oh, there’s plenty of the stuff there," Dunn answered. "Why?"

"Oh, I was thinking a visit might be made fairly profitable," Deede Dawson said carelessly, for the first time definitely throwing off his mask of law-abiding citizen under which he lived at Bittermeads.

"It would be a risky job," answered Dunn, showing no surprise at the suggestion. "The stuff’s well guarded, and then, that’s not what I’m thinking about - it’s meeting Rupert Dunsmore, man to man, and no one to come between us. If that ever happens - "

Deede Dawson nodded reassuringly.

"That’ll be all right," he said. "So you shall, I promise you that. But we might as well kill two birds with one stone and clear a bit of profit, too. I’ve got to live, like any one else, and I haven’t five thousand a year of my own, so I get my living out of those who have, and I don’t see who has any right to blame me. Mind, if there was any money in chess, I should be a millionaire, but there isn’t, and if a man can make a fortune on the Stock Exchange, which takes no more thought or skill than auction-bridge, why shouldn’t I make a bit when I can? There’s the ’D. D.’ gambit I’ve invented, people will be studying and playing for centuries, but it’ll never bring me a penny for all the brain-work I put into it, and so I’ve got to protect myself, haven’t I?"

"It’s what I do with less talk about it," answered Dunn contemptuously. "Why, I’ve guessed all that from the first when you weren’t so all-fired keen on seeing me in gaol, as most of your honest, hard-working lot, who only do their swindling in business-hours, would have been. And I’ve kept my eyes open, of course. It wasn’t hard to twig you did a bit on the cross yourself. Well, that’s your affair, but one thing I do want to know - how much does Miss Cayley know?"

For all his efforts he could not keep his anxiety entirely out of his voice as he said this, and recognizing that thereby he had perhaps risked rousing some suspicion in the other’s mind, he added:

"And her mother - the young lady and her mother, how much do they know?"

"Oh," answered Deede Dawson, with his false laugh and cold-watchful eyes. "My wife knows nothing at all, but Ella’s the best helper I’ve ever had. She looks so innocent, she can take in any one, and she never gives the show away, she acts all the time. A wonderful girl and useful - you’d hardly believe how useful."

Dunn did not answer. It was only by a supreme effort that he kept his hands from Deede Dawson’s throat. He did not believe a word of what the other said, for he knew well the utter falseness of the man. None the less, the accusation troubled him and chilled him to the heart, as though with the touch of the finger of death.

"You remember that packing-case," Deede Dawson added. "The one you helped me to get away from here the night you came. Well, she knew what was in it, though you would never have thought so, to look at her, would you?"

His cold eyes were very intent and keen as he said this, and Dunn thought to himself that it had been said more to test any possible knowledge or suspicion of his own than for any other reason. With a manner of only slight interest, he answered carelessly:

"Did she? Why? Wasn’t it your stuff? Had it been pinched? But she was safe enough, the police would never stop a smart young lady in a motor-car, except on very strong evidence."

"Perhaps not," agreed Deede Dawson. "That’s one reason why Ella’s so useful. But I’ve been thinking things out, and trying to make them work in together, and I think the first thing to do is for you to drive Allen and Ella over to Wreste Abbey this afternoon, so that they may have a good look around."

"Oh, Miss Cayley and Allen," Dunn muttered.

The new-comer, Allen, had been making himself very much at home at Bittermeads since his arrival, though he had not so far troubled to any great extent either Ella in the house or Dunn outside. His idea of comfort seemed to be to stay in bed very late, and spend his time when he did get up in the breakfast-room in the company of a box of cigars and a bottle of whisky.

The suggestion that he and Ella should pay a visit together to Wreste Abbey was one that greatly surprised Dunn.

"All right," he said. "This afternoon? I’ll get the car ready."

"This is the afternoon the Abbey is thrown open to visitors, isn’t it?" asked Deede Dawson. "Allen and Ella can get in as tourists, and have a good look round, and you can look round outside and get to know the lie of the land. There won’t be long to wait, for Rupert Dunsmore will be back from his little excursion before long, I expect."

He laughed in his mirthless way, and walked off, and Dunn, as he got the car ready, seemed a good deal preoccupied and a little worried.

"How can he know that Rupert Dunsmore is coming back?" he said to himself. "Can he have any way of finding out things I don’t know about? And if he did, how could he know - that? Most likely it’s only a guess to soothe me down, and he doesn’t really know anything at all about it."

After lunch, Allen and Ella appeared together, ready for their expedition. Ella looked her best in a big motoring coat and a close-fitting hat, with a long blue veil. Allen was, for almost the first time since his arrival, shaved, washed and tidy.

He looked indeed as respectable as his sinister and forbidding countenance would permit, and though Deede Dawson had made him as smart as possible, he had permitted him to gratify his own florid taste in adornment, so that his air of prosperity and wealth had the appearance of being that of some recently-enriched vulgarian whose association with a motor-car and a well-dressed girl of Ella’s type was probably due to the fact that he had recently purchased them both out of newly-acquired wealth.

Dunn wore a neat chauffeur’s costume, with which, however, his bearded face did not go too well. He felt indeed that their whole turn-out was far too conspicuous considering the real nature of their errand, and far too likely to attract attention, and he wondered if Deede Dawson’s subtle and calculating mind had not for some private reason desired that to be so.

"He is keeping well in the background himself," Dunn mused. "He may reckon that if things go wrong - in case of any pursuit - it’s a good move perhaps in a way, but he may find an unexpected check to his king opened on him."

The drive was a long one, and Ella noticed that though Dunn consulted his map frequently, he never appeared in any doubt concerning the way.

A little before three they drove into the village that lay round the park gates of Wreste Abbey.

Motors were not allowed in the park, so Dunn put theirs in the garage of the little hotel, that was already almost full, for visiting day at Wreste Abbey generally drew a goodly number of tourists, while Ella and Allen, in odd companionship, walked up to the Abbey by the famous approach through the chestnut avenue.

Allen was quiet and surly, and much on his guard, and very uncomfortable in Ella’s company, and Ella herself, though for different reasons was equally silent.

But the beauty of the walk through the chestnut avenue, and of the vista with the great house at the end, drew from her a quick exclamation of delight.

"How beautiful a place this is," she said aloud. "And how peaceful and how quiet."

"Don’t like these quiet places myself," grumbled Allen. "Don’t like ’em, don’t trust ’em. Give me lots of traffic; when everything’s so awful quiet you’ve only got to kick your foot against a stone or drop a tool, and likely as not you’ll wake the whole blessed place."

"Wake " repeated Ella, noticing the word, and she repeated it with emphasis. "Why do you say ’wake’?"


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Chicago: Ernest Robertson Punshon, "Chapter XIX. The Visit to Wreste Abbey," The Bittermeads Mystery, ed. Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915 and trans. Evans, Sebastian in The Bittermeads Mystery Original Sources, accessed July 12, 2024,

MLA: Punshon, Ernest Robertson. "Chapter XIX. The Visit to Wreste Abbey." The Bittermeads Mystery, edited by Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915, and translated by Evans, Sebastian, in The Bittermeads Mystery, Original Sources. 12 Jul. 2024.

Harvard: Punshon, ER, 'Chapter XIX. The Visit to Wreste Abbey' in The Bittermeads Mystery, ed. and trans. . cited in , The Bittermeads Mystery. Original Sources, retrieved 12 July 2024, from