The room was a big one and most of the furniture had been cleared out to admit the guests who had come from the ends of the earth to learn the story of the twisted candles, and to test John Lexman's theory by their own.
They sat around chatting cheerfully of men and crimes, of great coups planned and frustrated, of strange deeds committed and undetected. Scraps of their conversation came to Belinda Mary as she stood in the chintz-draped doorway which led from the drawing-room to the room she used as a study.
". . . do you remember, Sir George, the Bolbrook case! I took the man at Odessa . . . ."
". . . the curious thing was that I found no money on the body, only a small gold charm set with a single emerald, so I knew it was the girl with the fur bonnet who had . . ."
". . . Pinot got away after putting three bullets into me, but I dragged myself to the window and shot him dead - it was a real good shot . . . !"
They rose to meet her and T. X. introduced her to the men. It was at that moment that John Lexman was announced.
He looked tired, but returned the Commissioner's greeting with a cheerful mien. He knew all the men present by name, as they knew him. He had a few sheets of notes, which he laid on the little table which had been placed for him, and when the introductions were finished he went to this and with scarcely any preliminary began.