Page:Studies of a Biographer 3.djvu/155

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143
WILLIAM GODWIN'S NOVELS

a secretary. Now Williams is curiosity embodied. He is sharp enough to connect his patron's gloom with the story of the murder, and manages to experiment upon Falkland much as Hamlet experimented upon his uncle. He discovers that Falkland is accustomed to retire in fits of overpowering gloom to a closet, where there is an iron chest, which presumably contains a key to the secret. Falkland presently discovers him in the act of breaking open the chest. The question naturally occurs, what did the chest contain? If Williams had consulted Sherlock Holmes he might, perhaps, have discovered some clue, but to the ordinary mind no connection is conceivable. The chest, however, struck the popular imagination and gave the title to a dramatised version of the novel. Falkland, anyhow, is startled to energetic action. He confesses the murder to Williams, and adds that, though he admits himself to be 'the blackest of villains,' he is determined to leave behind him a spotless name. He loves his reputation more than the whole world and all its inhabitants. He will not silence Williams by killing him, reflecting that he 'may not be so fortunate in his next murder.' He will keep his detector in bondage, and on the least threat of