Hangmans Holiday

Free Hangmans Holiday by Dorothy L. Sayers

Book: Hangmans Holiday by Dorothy L. Sayers Read Free Book Online
Authors: Dorothy L. Sayers
needn’t be afraid. She’s like a child, but she’s getting better every day. Bear up, old man—there’s nothing to shock you about her.”
    Langley moved hesitatingly forward as a muffled female figure was hoisted gently on board.
    “Speak to her,” said Wimsey. “She may or may not recognise you. I can’t say.”
    Langley summoned up his courage. “Good evening, Mrs. Wetherall,” he said, and held out his hand.
    The woman pushed the cloak from her face. Her blue eyes gazed shyly at him in the lamplight—then a smile broke out upon her lips.
    “Why, I know you—of course I know you. You’re Mr. Langley. I’m so glad to see you.”
    She clasped his hand in hers.
    “Well, Langley,” said Lord Peter, as he manipulated the syphon, “a more abominable crime it has never been my fortune to discover. My religious beliefs are a little ill-defined, but I hope something really beastly happens to Wetherall in the next world. Say when!
    “You know, there were one or two very queer points about that story you told me. They gave me a line on the thing from the start.
    “To begin with, there was this extraordinary kind of decay or imbecility settin’ in on a girl in her twenties—so conveniently, too, just after you’d been hangin’ round in the Wetherall home and showin’ perhaps a trifle too much sensibility, don’t you see? And then there was this tale of the conditions clearin’ up regularly once a year or so—not like any ordinary brain-trouble. Looked as if it was being controlled by somebody.
    “Then there was the fact that Mrs. Wetherall had been under her husband’s medical eye from the beginning, with no family or friends who knew anything about her to keep a check on the fellow. Then there was the determined isolation of her in a place where no doctor could see her and where, even if she had a lucid interval, there wasn’t a soul who could understand or be understood by her. Queer, too, that it should be a part of the world where you, with your interests, might reasonably be expected to turn up some day and be treated to a sight of what she had turned into. Then there were Wetherall’s well-known researches, and the fact that he kept in touch with a chemist in London.
    “All that gave me a theory, but I had to test it before I could be sure I was right. Wetherall was going to America, and that gave me a chance; but of course he left strict orders that nobody should get into or out of his house during his absence. I had, somehow, to establish an authority greater than his over old Martha, who is a faithful soul, God bless her! Hence, exit Lord Peter Wimsey and enter the magician. The treatment was tried and proved successful—hence the elopement and the rescue.
    “Well, now, listen—and don’t go off the deep end. It’s all over now. Alice Wetherall is one of those unfortunate people who suffer from congenital thyroid deficiency. You know the thyroid gland in your throat—the one that stokes the engine and keeps the old brain going. In some people the thing doesn’t work properly, and they turn out cretinous imbeciles. Their bodies don’t grow and their minds don’t work. But feed ’em the stuff, and they come absolutely all right—cheery and handsome and intelligent and lively as crickets. Only, don’t you see, you have to keep feeding it to ’em, otherwise they just go back to an imbecile condition.
    “Wetherall found this girl when he was a bright young student just learning about the thyroid. Twenty years ago, very few experiments had been made in this kind of treatment, but he was a bit of a pioneer. He gets hold of the kid, works a miraculous cure, and, bein’ naturally bucked with himself, adopts her, gets her educated, likes the look of her, and finally marries her. You understand, don’t you, that there’s nothing fundamentally unsound about those thyroid deficients. Keep ’em going on the little daily dose, and they’re normal in every way, fit to live an ordinary life

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