Infomotions, Inc.The Mystery of the Hasty Arrow / Green, Anna Katharine, 1846-1935



Author: Green, Anna Katharine, 1846-1935
Title: The Mystery of the Hasty Arrow
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): gryce; madame duclos; arrow
Contributor(s): Kimball, Alonzo, 1874-1923 [Illustrator]
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Title: The Mystery of the Hasty Arrow


Author: Anna Katharine Green



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THE MYSTERY OF THE HASTY ARROW

by

ANNA KATHARINE GREEN

Author of "The Chief Legatee," "That Affair Next Door," "A Strange
Disappearance," Etc.

With Frontispiece by H. R. Ballinger







[Illustration: "Do not by any show of curiosity endanger her recovery.
I would not have her body or mind sacrificed on any account."]





A. L. Burt Company
Publishers New York
Published by Arrangement with Dodd, Mead & Company
Copyright, 1917,
By Dodd, Mead and Company, Inc.
Made in U.S.A.





CONTENTS


BOOK I--A PROBLEM OF THE FIRST ORDER

CHAPTER

        I "Let Some One Speak!"

       II In Room B

      III "I Have Something to Show You"

       IV A Strategic Move

        V Three Where Two Should Be

       VI The Man in the Gallery

      VII "You Think that of Me!"


BOOK II--MR. X


     VIII On the Search

       IX While the City Slept

        X "And He Stood Here?"

       XI Footsteps

      XII "Spare Nobody! I Say, Spare Nobody!"

     XIII "Write Me His Name"

      XIV A Loop of Silk

       XV News from France


BOOK III--STORM IN THE MOUNTAINS


      XVI Friends

     XVII The Cuckoo-Clock

    XVIII Mrs. Davis' Strange Lodger

      XIX Mr. Gryce and the Timid Child

       XX Mr. Gryce and the Unwary Woman

      XXI Perplexed

     XXII He Remembers

    XXIII Girls, Girls! Nothing but Girls!

     XXIV Flight

      XXV Terror

     XXVI The Face in the Window


BOOK IV--NEMESIS


    XXVII From Lips Long Silent

   XXVIII "Romantic! Too Romantic!"

     XXIX A Strong Man

      XXX The Creeping Shadow

     XXXI Confronted

    XXXII "Why Is that Here?"

   XXXIII Again the Cuckoo-Clock

    XXXIV The Bud--Then the Deadly Flower




BOOK I

A PROBLEM OF THE FIRST ORDER




I

"LET SOME ONE SPEAK!"


The hour of noon had just struck, and the few visitors still lingering
among the curiosities of the great museum were suddenly startled by the
sight of one of the attendants running down the broad, central staircase,
loudly shouting:

"Close the doors! Let no one out! An accident has occurred, and nobody's
to leave the building."

There was but one person near either of the doors, and as he chanced to
be a man closely connected with the museum,--being, in fact, one of its
most active directors,--he immediately turned about and in obedience to a
gesture made by the attendant, ran up the marble steps, followed by some
dozen others.

At the top they all turned, as by common consent, toward the left-hand
gallery, where in the section marked II, a tableau greeted them which few
of them will ever forget.

I say "tableau" because the few persons concerned in it stood as in a
picture, absolutely motionless and silent as the dead. Sense, if not
feeling, was benumbed in them all, as in another moment it was benumbed
in the breasts of these new arrivals. Tragedy was there in its most
terrible, its most pathetic, aspect. The pathos was given by the
victim,--a young and pretty girl lying face upward on the tessellated
floor with an arrow in her breast and death stamped unmistakably on every
feature,--the terror by the look and attitude of the woman they saw
kneeling over her--a remarkable woman, no longer young, but of a presence
to hold the attention, even if the circumstances had been of a far less
tragic nature. Her hand was on the arrow but she had made no movement to
withdraw it, and her eyes, fixed upon space, showed depths of horror
hardly to be explained even by the suddenness and startling character
of the untoward fatality of which she had just been made the unhappy
witness.

The director, whose name was Roberts, thought as he paused on the edge of
the crowd that he had never seen a countenance upon which woe had stamped
so deep a mark; and greatly moved by it, he was about to seek some
explanation of a scene to which appearances gave so little clue, when the
tall but stooping figure of the Curator entered, and he found himself
relieved from a task whose seriousness he had no difficulty in measuring.

To those who knew William Jewett well, it was evident that he had been
called from some task which still occupied his thoughts and for the
moment somewhat bewildered his understanding. But as he was a
conscientious man and quite capable of taking the lead when once roused
to the exigencies of an occasion, Mr. Roberts felt a certain interest in
watching the slow awakening of this self-absorbed man to the awful
circumstances which in one instant had clouded the museum in an
atmosphere of mysterious horror.

When the full realization came,--which was not till a way had been made
for him to the side of the stricken woman crouching over the dead
child,--the energy which transformed his countenance and gave character
to his usually bent and inconspicuous figure was all if not more than the
anxious director expected.

Finding that his attempts to meet the older woman's eye only prolonged
the suspense, the Curator addressed her quietly, and in sympathetic tones
inquired whose child this was and how so dreadful a thing had happened.

She did not answer. She did not even look his way. With a rapid glance
into the faces about him, ending in one of deep compassion directed
toward herself, he repeated his question.

Still no response--still that heavy silence, that absolute immobility of
face and limb. If her faculty of hearing was dulled, possibly she would
yield to that of touch. Stooping, he laid his hand on her arm.

This roused her. Slowly her eyes lost their fixed stare and took on a
more human light. A shudder shook her frame, and gazing down into the
countenance of the young girl lying at her feet, she broke into moans of
such fathomless despair as wrung the hearts of all about her.

It was a scene to test the nerve of any man. To one of the Curator's
sympathetic temperament it was well-nigh unendurable. Turning to those
nearest, he begged for an explanation of what they saw before them:

"Some one here must be able to tell me. Let that some one speak."

At this the quietest and least conspicuous person present, a young man
heavily spectacled and of student-like appearance, advanced a step and
said:

"I was the first person to come in here after this poor young lady fell.
I was looking at coins just beyond the partition there, when I heard a
gasping cry. I had not heard her fall--I fear I was very much preoccupied
in my search for an especial coin I had been told I should find here--but
I did hear the cry she gave, and startled by the sound, left the section
where I was and entered this one, only to see just what you are seeing
now."

The Curator pointed at the two women.

"This? The one woman kneeling over the other with her hand on the arrow?"

"Yes, sir."

A change took place in the Curator's expression. Involuntarily his eyes
rose to the walls hung closely with Indian relics, among which was a
quiver in which all could see arrows similar to the one now in the breast
of the young girl lying dead before them.

"This woman must be made to speak," he said in answer to the low murmur
which followed this discovery. "If there is a doctor present----"

Waiting, but receiving no response, he withdrew his hand from the woman's
arm and laid it on the arrow.

This roused her completely. Loosing her own grasp upon the shaft, she
cried, with sudden realization of the people pressing about her:

"I could not draw it. That causes death, they say. Wait! she may still be
alive. She may have a word to speak."

She was bending to listen. It was hardly a favorable moment for further
questioning, but the Curator in his anxiety could not refrain from
saying:

"Who is she? What is her name and what is yours?"

"Her name?" repeated the woman, rising to face him again. "How should I
know? I was passing through this gallery and had just stopped to take a
look into the court when this young girl bounded by me from behind and
flinging up her arms, fell with a deep sigh to the floor. I saw an arrow
in her breast, and----"

Emotion choked her, and when some one asked if the girl was a stranger to
her, she simply bowed her head; then, letting her gaze pass from face to
face till it had completed the circle of those about her, she said in her
former mechanical way:

"My name is Ermentrude Taylor. I came to look at the bronzes. I should
like to go now."

But the crowd which had formed about her was too compact to allow her to
pass. Besides, the director, Mr. Roberts, had something to say first.
Working his way forward, he waited till he had attracted her attention
and then remarked in his most considerate manner:

"You will pardon these importunities, Mrs. Taylor. I am a director of
this museum, and if Mr. Jewett will excuse me,"--here he bowed to the
Curator,--"I should like to inquire from what direction the arrow came
which ended this young girl's life?"

For a moment she stood aghast, fixing him with her eye as though to ask
whither this inquiry tended. Then with an air of intention which was not
without some strange element of fear, she allowed her glance to travel
across the court till it rested upon the row of connected arches facing
them from the opposite gallery.

"Ah," said he, putting her look into words, "you think the arrow came
from the other side of the building. Did you see anyone over there,--in
the gallery, I mean,--at or before the instant of this young girl's
fall?"

She shook her head.

"Did any of _you_?" he urged, with his eyes on the crowd. "Some one must
have been looking that way."

But no answer came, and the silence was fast becoming oppressive when
these words, whispered by one woman to another, roused them anew and
sent every glance again to the walls--even hers for whose benefit this
remark had possibly been made:

"But there are no arrows over there. All the arrows are here."

She was right. They were here, quiver after quiver of them; nor were they
all beyond reach. As the woman thus significantly assailed noted this and
saw with what suspicion others noted it also, a decided change took place
in her aspect.

"I should like to sit down," she murmured. Possibly she was afraid she
might fall.

As some one brought a chair, she spoke, but very tremulously, to the
director:

"Are there no arrows in the rooms over there?"

"I am quite sure not."

"And no bows?"

"None."

"If--if anyone had been seen in the gallery----"

"No one was."

"You are sure of that?"

"You heard the question asked. It brought no answer."

"But--but these galleries are visible from below. Some one may have been
looking up from the court and----"

"If there was any such person in the building, he would have been here by
this time. People don't hold back such information."

"Then--then--" she stammered, her eyes taking on a hunted look, "you
conclude--these people conclude _what_?"

"Madam,"--the word came coldly, stinging her into drawing herself to her
full height,--"it is not for me to conclude in a case like this. That is
the business of the police."

At this word, with its suggestion of crime, her air of conscious power
vanished in sudden collapse. Possibly she had seen the significant
gesture with which the Curator pointed out a quiver from which one of the
arrows was missing. That this was so, was shown by her next question:

"But where is the bow? Look about on the floor. You will find none. How
can an arrow be shot without a bow?"

"It cannot be," came from some one at her back. "But it can be driven
home like a dagger if the hand wielding it is sufficiently powerful."

A cry left her lips; she seemed to listen as for some echo; then in a
wild abandonment which ignored person and place she flung herself again
at the dead girl's side, and before the astonished people surrounding her
could intervene, she had caught up the body in her arms, and bending over
it, whispered word after word into the poor child's closed ear.




II

IN ROOM B


Five minutes later the Curator was at the 'phone calling up Police
Headquarters. A death had occurred at the museum. Would they send over
a capable detective?

"What kind of death?" was the harsh reply. "We don't send detectives in
cases of heart-failure or simple accident. Is it an accident?"

"No--no--hardly. It looks more like an insane woman's attack upon a
harmless stranger. It's the oddest sort of an affair, and we feel very
helpless. No common officer will do. We have one of that kind in the
building. What we want is a man of brains; he will need them."

A muffled sound at the other end--then a different voice asking some
half-dozen comprehensive questions--which, having been answered to the
best of the Curator's ability, were followed by the welcome assurance
that a man on whose experience he could rely would be at the museum doors
within five minutes.

With an air of relief Mr. Jewett stepped again into the court, and
repelling with hasty gestures the importunities of the small group of men
and women who had lacked the courage to follow the more adventurous ones
upstairs, crossed to where the door-man stood on guard over the main
entrance.

"Locked?" he asked.

"Yes, sir. Such were the orders. Didn't you give them?"

"No, but I should have done so, had I known. No one's to go out, and no
one's to come in but the detective whom I am expecting any moment."

They had not long to wait. Before their suspense had reached fever-point,
a tap was heard on the great door. It was opened, and a young man stepped
in.

"Coast clear?" he sang out with a humorous twist of his jaw as he noted
the Curator's evident chagrin at his meager and unsatisfactory
appearance. "Oh, I'm not your man," he added as his eye ran over the
whole place with a look which seemed to take in every detail in an
instant. "Mr. Gryce is in the automobile. Wait till I help him up."

He was gone before the Curator could utter a word, only to reappear in a
few minutes with a man in his wake whom the former at first blush thought
to be as much past the age where experience makes for efficiency as the
other seemed to be short of it.

But this impression, if impression it were, was of short duration. No
sooner had this physically weak but extremely wise old man entered upon
the scene than his mental power became evident to every person there.
Timorous hearts regained their composure, and the Curator--who in his ten
years of service had never felt the burden of his position so acutely as
in the last ten minutes--showed his relief by a volubility quite
unnatural to him under ordinary conditions. As he conducted the
detectives across the court, he talked not of the victim, as might
reasonably be expected, but of the woman who had been found leaning over
her with her hand on the arrow.

"We think her some escaped lunatic," he remarked. "Only a demented woman
would act as she does. First she denied all knowledge of the girl. Then
when she was made to see that the arrow sticking in the girl's breast had
been taken from a quiver hanging within arm's reach on the wall and used
as lances are used, she fell a-moaning and crying, and began to whisper
in the poor child's senseless ear."

"A common woman? One of a low-down type?"

"Not at all. A lady, and an impressive one, at that. You seldom see her
equal. That's what has upset us so. The crime and the criminal do not
seem to fit."

The detective blinked. Then suddenly he seemed to grow an inch taller.

"Where is she now?" he asked.

"In Room B, away from the crowd. She is not alone. A young lady detained
with the rest of the people here is keeping her company, to say nothing
of an officer we have put on guard."

"And the victim?"

"Lies where she fell, in Section II on the upper floor. There was no call
to move her. She was dead when we came upon the scene. She does not look
to be more than sixteen years old."

"Let's go up. But wait--can we see that section from here?"

They were standing at the foot of the great staircase connecting the two
floors. Above them, stretching away on either side, ran the two famous,
highly ornamented galleries, with their row of long, low arches
indicating the five compartments into which they were severally divided.
Pointing to the second one on the southern side, the Curator replied:

"That's it--the one where you see the Apache relics hanging high on the
rear wall. We shall have to shift those to some other place just as soon
as we can recover from this horror. I don't want the finest spot in the
whole museum made a Mecca for the morbid and the curious."

The remark fell upon unheeding ears. Detective Gryce was looking, not in
the direction named, but in the one directly opposite to it.

"I see," he quietly observed, "that there is a clear view across. Was
there no one in the right-hand gallery to see what went on in the left?"

"Not that I have heard of. It's the dullest hour of the day, and not only
this gallery but many of the rooms were entirely empty."

"I see. And now, what about the persons who were here? How many of them
have you let go?"

"Not one; the doors have been opened twice only--once to admit the
officer you will find on guard, and the other to let in yourself."

"Good! And how many have you here, all told?"

"I have not had time to count them, but I should say less than thirty.
This includes myself, as well as two attendants."

With a thoughtful air Mr. Gryce turned in the direction of the few
persons he could see huddled together around one of the central statues.

"Where are the others?" he asked.

"Upstairs--in and about the place where the poor child lies."

"They must be got out of there. Sweetwater!"

The young man who had entered with him was at his side in an instant.

"Clear the galleries. Then take down the name and address of every person
in the building."

"Yes, sir."

Before the last word had left his lips, the busy fellow was halfway up
the marble steps. "Lightning," some of his pals called him, perhaps
because he was as noiseless as he was quick. Meanwhile the senior
detective had drawn the Curator to one side.

"We'll take a look at these people as they come down. I have been said to
be able to spot a witness with my eyes shut. Let's see what I can do with
my eyes open."

"Young and old, rich and poor," murmured the Curator as some dozen
persons appeared at the top of the staircase.

"Yes," sighed the detective, noting each one carefully as he or she filed
down, "we sha'n't make much out of this experiment. Not one of them
avoids our looks. Emotion enough, but not of the right sort. Well, we'll
leave them to Sweetwater. Our business is above."

The Curator offered his arm. The old man made a move to take it--then
drew himself up with an air of quiet confidence.

"Many thanks," said he, "but I can go alone. Rheumatism is my trouble,
but these mild days loosen its grip upon my poor old muscles." He did
not say that the prospect of an interesting inquiry had much the same
effect, but the Curator suspected it, possibly because he was feeling
just a little bit spry himself.

Steeled as such experienced officers necessarily are to death in all its
phases, it was with no common emotion that the aged detective entered the
presence of the dead girl and took his first look at this latest victim
of mental or moral aberration. So young! so innocent! so fair! A
schoolgirl, or little more, of a class certainly above the average,
whether judged from the contour of her features or the niceties of her
dress. With no evidences of great wealth about her, there was yet
something in the cut of her garments and the careful attention to each
detail which bespoke not only natural but cultivated taste. On her breast
just above the spot where the cruel dart had entered, a fresh and
blooming nosegay still exhaled its perfume--a tragic detail accentuating
the pathos of a death so sudden that the joy with which she had pinned on
this simple adornment seemed to linger about her yet.

The detective, with no words for this touching spectacle, stretched out
his hand and with a reverent and fatherly touch pressed down the lids
over the unseeing eyes. This office done to the innocent dead, he asked
if anything had been found to establish the young girl's identity.

"Surely," he observed, "she was not without a purse or handbag. All young
ladies carry them."

For answer the officer on guard thrust his hand into one of his capacious
pockets, and drawing out a neat little bag of knitted beads, passed it
over to the detective with the laconic remark:

"Nothing doing."

And so it proved. It held only a pocket handkerchief--embroidered but
without a monogram--and a memorandum-book without an entry.

"A blind alley, if ever there was one," muttered Mr. Gryce; and ordering
the policeman to replace the bag as nearly as possible on the spot from
which it had been taken, he proceeded with the Curator to Room B.

Prepared to encounter a woman of disordered mind, the appearance
presented by Mrs. Taylor at his entrance greatly astonished Mr. Gryce.
There was a calmness in her attitude which one would scarcely expect to
see in a woman whom mania had just driven into crime. Surely lunacy does
not show such self-restraint; nor does lunacy awaken any such feelings of
awe as followed a prolonged scrutiny of her set but determined features.
Only grief of the most intense and sacred character could account for the
aspect she presented, and as the man to whom the tragedies of life were
of daily occurrence took in this mystery with all its incongruities, he
realized, not without a sense of professional pleasure, no doubt, that he
had before him an affair calling for the old-time judgment which, for
forty or more years, had made his record famous in the police annals of
the metropolis.

She was seated with no one near her but a young lady whom sympathetic
interest had drawn to her side. Mr. Roberts stood in one of the windows,
and not far from him a man in the museum uniform.

At the authoritative advance of the old detective, the woman, whose eye
he had caught, attempted to struggle to her feet, but desisted after a
moment of hopeless effort, and sank back in her chair. There was no
pretense in this. Though gifted with a strong frame, emotion had so
weakened her that she was simply unable to stand. Quite convinced of
this, and affected in spite of himself by her look of lofty patience, Mr.
Gryce prefaced his questions with an apology--quite an unusual proceeding
for him.

Whether or no she heard it, he could not tell; but she was quite ready to
answer when he asked her name and then her place of residence--saying in
response to the latter query:

"I live at the Calderon, a family hotel in Sixty-seventh Street.
My name"--here she paused for a second to moisten her lips--"is
Taylor--Ermentrude Taylor.... Nothing else," she speedily added in
a tone which drew every eye her way. Then more evenly: "You will find
the name on the hotel's books."

"Wife or widow?"

"Widow."

What a voice! how it reached every heart, waking strange sympathies
there! As the word fell, not a person in the room but stirred uneasily.
Even she herself started at its sound; and moved, perhaps, by the depth
of silence which followed, she added in suppressed tones:

"A widow within the hour. That's why you see me still in colors, but
crushed as you behold--killed! killed!"

That settled it. There was no mistaking her condition after an expression
of this kind. The Curator and Mr. Gryce exchanged glances, and Mr.
Roberts, stepping from his corner, betrayed the effect which her words
had produced on him, by whispering in the detective's ear:

"What you need is an alienist."

Had she heard? It would seem so from the quick way she roused and
exclaimed with indignant emphasis:

"You do not understand me! I see that I must drink my bitter cup to the
dregs. This is what I mean: My husband was living this morning--living
up to the hour when the clock in this building struck twelve. I knew it
from the joyous hopes with which my breast was filled. But with the
stroke of noon the blow fell. I was bending above the poor child who had
fallen so suddenly at my feet, when the vision came, and I saw him gazing
at me from a distance so remote--across a desert so immeasurable--that
nothing but death could create such a removal or make of him the ghastly
silhouette I saw. He is dead. At that moment I felt his soul pass; and so
I say that I am a widow."

Ravings? No, the calm certainty of her tone, the grief, touching depths
so profound it had no need of words, showed the confidence she felt in
the warning she believed herself to have received. Though probably not
a single person present put any faith in occultism in any of its forms,
there was a general movement of sympathy which led Mr. Gryce to pass the
matter by without any attempt at controversy, and return to the question
in hand. With a decided modification of manner, he therefore asked her to
relate how she came to be kneeling over the injured girl with her hand
upon the arrow.

"Let me have a moment in which to recover myself," she prayed, covering
her eyes with her hand. Then, while all waited, she gave a low cry, "I
suffer; I suffer!" and leaped to her feet, only to sink back again inert
and powerless. But only for an instant: with that one burst of extreme
feeling she recovered her self-control, answering with apparent calmness
the detective's question:

"I was passing through the gallery as any other visitor might, when a
young lady rushed by me--stopped short--threw up her arms and fell
backward to the floor, pierced to the heart by an arrow. In a moment
I was on my knees at her side with hand outstretched to withdraw this
dreadful arrow. But I was afraid--I had heard that this sometimes causes
death, and while I was hesitating, that vision came, engulfing
everything. I could think of nothing else."

She was near collapsing again; but being a woman of great nerve, she
fought her weakness and waited patiently for the next question. It was
different, without doubt, from any she had expected.

"Then you positively deny any active connection with the strange death of
this young girl?"

A pause, as if to take in what he meant. Then slowly, impressively, came
the answer:

"I do."

"Did you see the person who shot the arrow?"

"No."

"From what direction would it have had to come to strike her as it did?"

"From the opposite balcony."

"Did you see anyone there?"

"No."

"But you heard the arrow?"

"Heard?"

"An arrow shot from a bow makes a whizzing sound as it flies. Didn't you
hear that?"

"I don't know." She looked troubled and uncertain. "I don't remember. I
was expecting no such thing--I was not prepared. The sight of an arrow--a
killing arrow--in that innocent breast overcame me with inexpressible
grief and horror. If the vision of my husband had not followed, I might
remember more. As it is, I have told all I can. Won't you excuse me? I
should like to go. I am not fit to remain. I want to return home--to
hear from my husband--to learn by letter or telegram whether he is indeed
dead."

Mr. Gryce had let her finish. An inquiry so unofficial might easily await
the moods of such a witness. Not till the last word had been followed by
what some there afterward called a hungry silence, did he make use of his
prerogative to say:

"I shall be pleased to release you and will do so just as soon as I can.
But I must put one or two more questions. Were you interested in the
Indian relics you had come among? Did you handle any of them in passing?"

"No. I had no interest. I like glass, bronzes, china--I hate weapons. I
shall hate them eternally after this." And she began to shudder.

The detective, with a quick bend of his head, approached her ear with the
whispered remark:

"I am told that when your attention was drawn to these weapons, you fell
on your knees and murmured something into the dead girl's ears. How do
you explain that?"

"I was giving her messages to my husband. I felt--strange as it may seem
to you--that they had fled the earth together--and I wanted him to know
that I would be constant, and other foolish things you will not wish me
to repeat here. Is that all you wish to know?"

Mr. Gryce bowed, and cast a quizzical glance in the direction of the
Curator. Certainly for oddity this case transcended any he had had in
years. With this woman eliminated from the situation, what explanation
was there of the curious death he was there to investigate? As he was
meditating how he could best convey to her the necessity of detaining
her further, he heard a muttered exclamation from the young woman
standing near her, and following the direction of her pointing finger,
saw that the strange silence which had fallen upon the room had a cause.
Mrs. Taylor had fainted away in her chair.




III

"I HAVE SOMETHING TO SHOW YOU"


Mr. Gryce took advantage of the momentary disturbance to slip from the
room. He was followed by the Curator, who seemed more than ever anxious
to talk.

"You see! Mad as a March hare!" was his hurried exclamation as the door
closed behind them. "I declare I do not know which I pity more, her
victim or herself. The one is freed from all her troubles; the other--Do
you think we ought to have a doctor to look after her? Shall I
telephone?"

"Not yet. We have much to learn before taking any decided steps." Then as
he caught the look of amazement with which this unexpected suggestion of
difficulties was met, he paused on his way to the stair-head to ask in a
tentative way peculiarly his own: "Then you still think the girl died
from a thrust given by this woman?"

"Of course. What else is there to think? You saw where the arrow came
from. You saw that the only bow the place contained was hanging high and
unstrung upon the wall, and you are witness to this woman's irresponsible
condition of mind. The sight of those arrows well within her reach
evidently aroused the homicidal mania often latent in one of her highly
emotional nature; and when this fresh young girl came by, the natural
result followed. I only hope I shall not be called upon to face the poor
child's parents. What can I say to them? What can anybody say? Yet I do
not see how we can be held responsible for so unprecedented an attack as
this, do you?"

Mr. Gryce made no answer. He had turned his back toward the stair-head
and was wondering if this easy explanation of a tragedy so peculiar as to
have no prototype in all of the hundreds of cases he had been called upon
to investigate in a long life of detective activity would satisfy all the
other persons then in the building. It was his present business to find
out--to search and probe among the dozen or two people he saw collected
below, for the witness who had seen or had heard some slight thing as yet
unrevealed which would throw a different light upon this matter. For his
mind--or shall we say the almost unerring instinct of this ancient delver
into human hearts?--would not accept without question this theory of
sudden madness in one of Mrs. Taylor's appearance, strange and
inexplicable as her conduct seemed. Though it was quite among the
possibilities that she had struck the fatal blow and in the manner
mentioned, it was equally clear to his mind that she had not done it in
an access of frenzy. He knew a mad eye and he knew a despairing one.
Fantastic as her story certainly was, he found himself more ready to
believe it than to accept any explanation of this crime which ascribed
its peculiar features to the irresponsibilities of lunacy.

However, he kept his impressions to himself and in his anxiety to pursue
his inquiries among the people below, was on the point of descending
thither, when he found his attention arrested, and that of the Curator's
as well, by the sight of a young man hastening toward them through the
northern gallery. (The tragedy, as you will remember, had occurred in the
southern one.) He was dressed in the uniform of the museum, and moved so
quickly and in such an evident flurry of spirits that the detective
instinctively asked:

"Who's that? One of your own men?"

"Yes, that's Correy, our best-informed and most-trusted attendant. Looks
as if he had something to tell us. Well, Correy, what is it?" he queried
as the man emerged upon the landing where they stood. "Anything new? If
there is, speak out plainly. Mr. Gryce is anxious for all the evidence he
can get."

With an ingenuousness rather pleasing than otherwise to the man thus
presented to his notice, the young fellow stopped short and subjected the
famous detective to a keen and close scrutiny before venturing to give
the required information.

Was it because of the importance of what he had to communicate? It would
seem so, from the suppressed excitement of his tone, as after his brief
but exceedingly satisfactory survey, he jerked his finger over his
shoulder in the direction from which he had come, with the short remark:

"I have something to show you."

Something! Mr. Gryce had been asking for this something only a moment
before. We can imagine, then, the celerity with which he followed this
new guide into the one spot of all others which possessed for him the
greatest interest. For if by any chance the arrow which had done such
deadly work had been sped from a bow instead of having been used as a
dart, then it was from this gallery and from no other quarter of the
building that it had been so sped. Any proof of this could have but the
one effect of exonerating from all blame the woman who had so impressed
him. He had traversed the first section and had entered the second, when
the Curator joined him; together they passed into the third.

For those who have not visited this museum, a more detailed description
of these galleries may be welcome. Acting as a means of communication
between the row of front rooms and those at the back, they also serve to
exhibit certain choice articles which call for little space, and are of a
nature more or less ornamental. For this purpose they are each divided
into five sections connected by arches narrower but not less decorative
than those which open in a direct row upon the court. Of these sections
the middle one on either side is much larger than the rest; otherwise
they do not differ.

It was in the midst of this larger section that Correy now stood,
awaiting their approach. There had been show-cases filled with rare
exhibits in the two through which they had just passed, but in this one
there was nothing to be seen but a gorgeous hanging, covering very nearly
the whole wall, flanked at either end by a pedestal upholding a vase of
inestimable value and corresponding ugliness. A highly decorative
arrangement, it is true, but in what lay its interest for the criminal
investigator?

Correy was soon to show them. With a significant gesture toward the
tapestry, he eagerly exclaimed:

"You see that? I've run by it several times since the accident sent me
flying all over the building at everybody's call. But only just now, when
I had a moment to myself, did I remember the door hid behind it. It's a
door we no longer use, and I'd no reason for thinking it had anything to
do with the killing of the young lady in the opposite gallery. But for
all that I felt it would do no harm to give it a look, and running from
the front, where I happened to be, I pulled out the tapestry and saw--but
supposing I wait and let you see for yourselves. That will be better."

Leaving them where they stood face to face with the great hanging, he
made a dive for the pedestal towering aloft at the farther end, and
edging himself in behind it, drew out the tapestry from the wall, calling
on them as he did so to come and look behind it. The Curator did not
hesitate. He was there almost as soon as the young man himself.

But the detective was not so hasty. With a thousand things in mind, he
stopped to peer along the gallery and down into the court before giving
himself away to any prying eye. Satisfied that he might make the desired
move with impunity, Mr. Gryce was about to turn in the desired direction
when, struck by a new fact, he again stopped short.

He had noticed how the heavy tapestry shivered under Correy's clutch. Had
this been observed by anyone besides himself? If by chance some person
wandering about the court had been looking up--but no, the few people
gathered there stood too far forward to see what was going on in this
part of the gallery; and relieved from all further anxiety on this score,
he joined Correy at the pedestal and at a word from him succeeded in
squeezing himself around it into the small space they had left for him
between the pushed-out hanging and the wall. An exclamation from the
Curator, who had only waited for his coming to take his first look, added
zest to his own scrutiny. It would take something more than the sight of
a well-known door to give it such a tone of astonished discovery. What?
Even he, with the accumulated surprises of years to give wings to his
imagination, did not succeed in guessing. But when his eyes, once
accustomed to the semi-darkness of the narrow space which Correy had thus
opened out before him, saw not the door but what lay within its recess,
he acknowledged to himself that he should have guessed--and that a dozen
years before, he certainly would have done so.

It was a _bow_--not like the one hanging high in the Apache exhibit, but
yet a bow strong of make and strung for use.

       *       *       *       *       *

Here was a discovery as important as it was unexpected, eliminating Mrs.
Taylor at once from the case and raising it into a mystery of the first
order. By dint of long custom, Mr. Gryce succeeded in hiding his extreme
satisfaction, but not the perplexity into which he was thrown by this
complete change of base. The Curator appeared to be impressed in much the
same way, and shook his head in a doubtful fashion when Correy asked him
if he recognized the bow as belonging to the museum.

"I should have to see it nearer to answer that question with any sort of
confidence," he demurred. "From such glimpses as I can get of it from
here I should say that it has not been taken from any of our exhibits."

"I am sure it has not," muttered Correy. Then with a side glance at Mr.
Gryce, he added: "Shall I slip in behind and get it?"

The detective, thus appealed to, hesitated a moment; then with an
irrelevance perhaps natural to the occasion, he inquired where this door
so conveniently hidden from the general view led to. It was the Curator
who answered.

"To a twisting, breakneck staircase opening directly into my office. But
this door has not been used in years. See! Here is the key to it on my
own ring. There is no other. I lost the mate to it myself not long after
my installation here."

The detective, working his way back around the pedestal, cast another
glance up and down the gallery and over into the court. Still no spying
eye, save that of the officer opposite.

"We will leave that bow where it is for the present," he decided, "a
secret between us three." And motioning for Correy to let the tapestry
fall, he stood watching it settle into place, till it hung quite straight
again, with its one edge close to the wall and the other sweeping the
floor. Had its weight been great enough to push the bow back again into
its former place close against the door? Yes. No eye, however trained,
would, from any bulge in the heavy tapestry, detect its presence there.
He could leave the spot without fear; their secret would remain theirs
until such time as they chose to disclose it.

As the three walked back the way they had come, the Curator glanced
earnestly at the detective, who seemed to have fallen into a kind of
anxious dream. Would it do to interrupt him with questions? Would he
obtain a straight answer if he did? The old man moved heavily but the now
fully alert Curator could not fail to see that it was with the heaviness
of absorbed thought. Dare he disturb that thought? They had both reached
the broad corridor separating the two galleries at the western end before
he ventured to remark:

"This discovery alters matters, does it not? May I ask what you propose
to do now? Anything in which we can help you?"

[Illustration:
1--Ephraim Short.
2--Mrs. Lynch.
3--Director Roberts.
4--Door-man.
5--Copyist.
6--Mrs. Alice Lee.
7-8--Mr. and Mrs. Draper.
9--Mr. Coit.
10--Mr. Simpson.
11--Prof. Turnbull.
12--Second Door-man.
13--Miss Hunsicker.
14--Attendant.
15--Miss Blake.
16--Officer.]

The detective may have heard him and he may not; at all events he made no
reply though he continued to advance with a mechanical step until he
stood again at the top of the marble steps leading down into the court.
Here some of the uncertainty pervading his mind seemed to leave him,
though he still looked very old and very troubled, or so the Curator
thought, as pausing there, he allowed his glance to wander from the
marble recesses below to the galleries on either side of him, and from
these on to the seemingly empty spaces back of the high, carved railing
guarding the great well. Would a younger man have served them better? It
began to look so; then without warning and in a flash, as it were, the
whole appearance of the octogenarian detective changed, and turning with
a smile to the two men so anxiously watching him, he exclaimed with an
air of quiet triumph:

"I have it. Follow and see how my plan works."

Amazed, for he looked and moved like another man,--a man in whom the
almost extinguished spark of early genius had suddenly flared again into
full blaze,--they hastily joined him in anticipation of they knew not
what. But their enthusiasm received a check when at the moment of descent
Mr. Gryce again turned back with the remark:

"I had forgotten. I have something to do first. If you will kindly see
that the people down there are kept from growing too impatient, I will
soon join you with Mrs. Taylor, who must not be left on this floor after
we have gone below."

And with no further explanation of his purpose, he turned and proceeded
without delay to Room B.




IV

A STRATEGIC MOVE


He found the unhappy woman quite recovered from her fainting spell, but
still greatly depressed and not a little incoherent. He set himself to
work to soothe her, for he had a request to make which called for an
intelligent answer. Relieved from all suspicion of her having been an
active agent in the deplorable deed he was here to investigate, he was
lavish in his promises of speedy release, and seeing how much this
steadied her, he turned to Mr. Roberts, who was still in the room, and
then to the young lady who had been giving her a woman's care, and
signified that their attentions were no longer required and that he would
be glad to have them join the people below.

When the door had closed and Mr. Gryce found himself for the first time
alone with Mrs. Taylor, he drew up a chair to her side and remarked in
his old benevolent way:

"I feel guilty of cruelty, madam, in repeating a question you have
already answered. But the conditions are such that I must, and do it now.
When this young lady fell so unexpectedly at your feet, was your first
look at her or at the opposite gallery?"

For an instant her eyes held his--something which did not often happen to
him.

"At her," she vehemently declared. "I never thought of looking anywhere
else. I saw her at my feet, and fell on my knees at her side. Who
wouldn't have done so! Who would have seen anything but that arrow--_that
arrow_! Oh, it was terrible! Do not make me recall it. I have sorrows
enough----"

"Mrs. Taylor, you have my utmost sympathy. But you must realize how
important it is for me to make sure that you saw nothing in the place
from which that arrow was sent which would help us to locate the author
of this accident. The flitting of an escaping figure up or down the
opposite gallery, even a stir in the great tapestry confronting you from
that far-away wall, might give us a clue."

"I saw nothing," she replied coldly but with extreme firmness, "nothing
but that lifeless child and the picture of desolation which rose in my
own mind. Do not, I pray, make me speak again of that. It would sound
like delirium, and it is my wish to impress you with my sanity, so that
you will allow me to go home."

"You shall go, after the Coroner has had an opportunity to see you. We
expect him any moment. Meanwhile, you will facilitate your release and
greatly help us in what we have to do, if you will carry your fortitude
to the point of showing me in your own person just where you were
standing when this young girl dashed by you to her death."

"Do you mean for me to go back to that--that----"

"Yes, Mrs. Taylor. Surely you can do so if you will. When you have time
to think, you will be as anxious as ourselves to know through whose
carelessness (to call it nothing worse) this child came to her death.
Though it may prove to be quite immaterial whether you stood in one place
or another at that fatal moment, it is a question which will be sure to
come up at the inquest. That you may be able to answer correctly I urge
you to return with me to the exact spot, before your recollection of the
same has had time to fade. After that we will go below and I will see
that you are taken to some quiet place where you can remain undisturbed
till the Coroner comes."

Had she been a weak woman she would have succumbed again at this. But
she was a strong one, and after the first moment of recoil she rose
tremulously to her feet and signified her willingness to follow him to
the scene of death.

"Is--is she there alone?" was her sole question as they crossed the
corridor separating the room they had been in from the galleries.

"No--you will find an officer there. We could not leave the place quite
unguarded."

If she shuddered he did not observe it. Having summoned up all her
forces to meet this ordeal, she followed him without further word, and
re-entering the spot she had so lately left in great agony of mind,
stopped for one look and for one look only at the sweet face of the dead
girl smiling up at her from the cold floor, then she showed Mr. Gryce as
nearly as she could just where she had paused in shock and horror when
the poor child smitten by the fatal arrow fell back almost into her arms.

The detective, with a glance at the opposite gallery, turned and spoke to
the officer who had stepped aside into the neighboring section.

"Take the place just occupied by this lady," he said, "and hold it till
you hear from me again." Then offering his arm to Mrs. Taylor, he led her
out.

"I see that you were approaching the railing overlooking the court when
you were stopped in this fearful manner," he remarked when well down the
gallery toward its lower exit. "What did you have in mind? A nearer
glimpse of the tapestry over there and the two great vases?"

"No, no." She was wrought up by now to a tension almost unendurable. "It
was the court--what I might see in the court. Oh!" she impulsively cried:
"the child! the child! that innocent, beautiful child!" And breaking away
from his arm, she threw herself against the wall in a burst of
uncontrollable weeping.

He allowed her a moment of unrestrained grief, then he took her on his
arm again and led her down into the court where he gave her into the
charge of Correy. He had gone as far as he dared in her present
hysterical condition. Besides, he could no longer defer the great
experiment by means of which he hoped to reach the heart of this mystery.

Taking the slip of paper handed him by Sweetwater, he crossed the court
to where the various visitors, detained, some against their will and some
quite in accordance with it, stood about in groups or sat side by side on
the long benches placed along the front for their comfort. As he
confronted them, his face beamed with that benevolent smile which had
done so much for him in days gone by. Raising his hand he called
attention to himself; then, when he was quite sure of being heard by them
all, he addressed them with a quiet emphasis which could not fail to gain
and hold their attention:

"I am Detective Gryce, sent here from Police Headquarters to look into
this very serious matter. Till the Coroner arrives, I am in authority
here, and being so, will have to ask your indulgence for any discomfort
you may experience in helping me with my investigation. A young girl,
full of life an hour ago, lies dead in the gallery above. We do not know
her name; we do not know who killed her. But there is some one here who
does. The man or woman who, wittingly or unwittingly, launched that fatal
shaft, is present with us in this building. This person has not spoken.
If he will do so now, he will save us and himself, too, no end of
trouble. Let him speak, then. I will give him five minutes in which to
make this acknowledgment. Five minutes! If that man is wise--or can it
be a woman?--he will not keep us waiting."

Silence. Heads moving, eyes peering, excitement visible in every face,
but not a word from anybody. Mr. Gryce turned and pointed up at the
clock. All looked--but still no word from man or woman.

One minute gone!

Two minutes!

Three!

The silence had become portentous. The movement, involuntary and
simultaneous, which had run through the crowd at first had stopped. They
were waiting--each and all--waiting with eyes on the minute-hand creeping
forward over the dial toward which the detective's glance was still
turned.

The fourth minute passed--then the fifth--and no one had spoken.

With a sigh Mr. Gryce wheeled himself back and faced the crowd again.

"You see," he quietly announced, "the case is serious. Twenty-two of you,
and not one to speak the half-dozen words which would release the rest
from their present embarrassing position! What remains for us to do under
circumstances like these? My experience suggests but one course: to
narrow down this inquiry to those--you will not find them many--who from
their nearness to the place of tragedy or from some other cause equally
pertinent may be looked upon as possible witnesses for the Coroner's
jury. That this may be done speedily and surely, I am going to ask you,
every one of you, to retake the exact place in the building which you
were occupying when you heard the first alarm. I will begin with the
Curator himself. Mr. Jewett, will you be so good as to return to the
room, and if possible to the precise spot, you were occupying when you
first learned what had occurred here?"

The Curator, who stood at his elbow, made a quick bow and turned in the
direction of the marble steps, which he hastily remounted. A murmur from
the crowd followed this action and continued till he disappeared in the
recesses of the right-hand gallery. Then, at a gesture from Mr. Gryce, it
suddenly ceased, and with a breathless interest easy to comprehend, they
one and all waited for his next word. It was a simple one.

"We are all obliged to Mr. Jewett for his speedy compliance with so
unusual a request. He has made my task a comparatively easy one."

Then, glancing at the list of names and addresses which had been compiled
for him by Sweetwater, he added:

"I will read off your names as recorded here. If each person, on hearing
his own, will move quickly to his place and remain there till my young
man can make a note of the same, we shall get through this matter in
short order. And let me add"--as he perceived here and there a shoulder
shrugged, or an eye turned askance--"that once the name is called, no
excuse of non-recollection will be accepted. You must know, every one of
you, just where you were standing when the cry of death rang out, and any
attempt to mislead me or others in this matter will only subject the
person making it to a suspicion he must wish to avoid. Remember that
there are enough persons here for no one to be sure that his whereabouts
at so exciting a moment escaped notice. Listen, then, and when your own
name is spoken, step quickly into place, whether that place be on this
floor or in the rooms or galleries above.--Mrs. Alice Lee!"

You can imagine the flurry, the excitement and the blank looks of the
average men and women he addressed. But not one hesitated to obey. Mrs.
Lee was on the farther side of one of the statues before her name had
more than left his lips. Her example set the pace for those who followed.
Like soldiers at roll-call, each one responded to the summons, going now
in one direction and now in another until on reaching the proper spot he
or she stopped.

Only six persons followed the Curator upstairs--an old woman who shook
her head violently as she plodded slowly up the marble steps; Correy; a
man with a packet of books under his arm (the same who had been studying
coins in Section II); a young couple whose movements showed such a marked
reluctance that more than one eye followed them as they went hesitatingly
up, clinging together with interlocking hands and stopping now on one
step and now on another to stare at each other in visible consternation;
and a boy of fourteen who grinned from ear to ear as he bounded gayly
up three steps at a time and took his position on the threshold of one
of the upper doors with all the precision of a soldier called to
sentry-duty--a boy scout if ever there was one.

There were twenty-two names on the list, and with the calling out of the
twenty-second, Mr. Gryce perceived the space before him entirely cleared
of its odd assortment of people. As he turned to take a look at the
result, a gleam of satisfaction crossed his time-worn face. By this
scheme, which he may be pardoned for looking upon as a stroke of genius
worthy of his brilliant prime, he had set back time a full hour,
restoring as by a magician's wand the conditions of that fatal moment of
initial alarm. Surely, with the knowledge of that hidden bow in his mind,
he should be able now to place his hand upon the person who had made use
of it to launch the fatal arrow. No one, however sly of foot and quick of
action, could have gone far from the gallery where that bow lay in the
few minutes which were all that could have elapsed between the shooting
of the arrow and the gasping cry which had brought all within hearing to
the Apache section. The man or woman whom he should find nearest to that
concealed door in the northern gallery would have to give a very good
account of himself. Not even the Curator would escape suspicion under
those circumstances.

However, it is only fair to add that Mr. Gryce had no fear of any such
embarrassing end to his inquisition as that. He had noticed the young
couple who had betrayed their alarm so ingenuously to every eye, and had
already decided within himself that the man was just such a fool as might
in a moment of vacuity pick up a bow and arrow to test his skill at a
given mark. Such things had been and such results had followed. The man
was a gawk and the woman a ninny; a few questions and their guiltiness
would appear--that is, if they should be found near enough the tapestry
to warrant his suspicion. If not--the alternative held an interest all
its own, and sent him in haste toward the stairway.

To reach it Mr. Gryce had to pass several persons standing where fate had
fixed them among the statuary grouped about the court, and had his
attention been less engrossed by what he expected to discover above, he
would have been deeply interested in noting how these persons, or most of
them at least, had so thoroughly accepted the situation that they had
taken the exact position and the exact attitude of the moment preceding
the alarm. Those who were admiring the great torsos or carved chariots of
the ancients, made a show of admiring them still. The man or woman who
had been going in an easterly direction, faced east; and those who had
been on the point of entering certain rooms, stood halting in the
doorways with their backs to the court.

Unfortunately, he did not take note of all this, or give the poor pawns
thus parading for his purpose more than a cursory glance. When he did
think, which was when he was halfway up the staircase, it was to look
back upon a changed scene. For with his going, interest had flagged and
the tableau lost its pointedness. No one had ventured as yet to leave his
place, but all had turned their faces his way, and on many of these faces
could be seen signs of fatigue if not of absolute impatience. He had
ordered them to stand and they had stood, but to be left there while he
went above was certainly trying. The one spot which held the interest was
in the southern gallery. If they could only follow him there----

All this was to be seen in their faces, and possibly the cunning old man
read it there; but if he did, it was to ask himself if their conclusions
were quite correct. The locale of interest had shifted in the last half
hour; and while most of these people believed him to be searching for the
witness who could tell him what had occurred in the death gallery, he
really was hunting for one who could add to his knowledge of what had
happened in the opposite one. And this witness might not be found in the
gallery, or even on the upper floor. It was well among the probabilities
that there might be among the various persons he saw posing in the court
below some who by an upward look might take in a part of if not the whole
broad sweep of that huge square of tapestry upon which his thoughts were
centered. It was for him to make a note of these persons. A diagram of
the court as it looked to him at that moment is shown for your
enlightenment.

[Illustration:
1--Ephraim Short.
2--Mrs. Lynch.
3--Director Roberts.
4--Door-man.
5--Copyist.
6--Mrs. Alice Lee.
7-8--Mr. and Mrs. Draper.
9--Mr. Coit.
10--Mr. Simpson.
11--Prof. Turnbull.
12--Second Door-man.
13--Miss Hunsicker.
14--Attendant.
15--Miss Blake.
16--Officer.]

Sixteen persons! Ten in view from the steps and six not. Of the sixteen,
only the following seemed to afford any excuse for future interrogation:
Numbers Two, Six, Ten, Seven, Eight and Thirteen. Making a mental note of
these, during which operation the poor unfortunates who had just been
considering themselves as quite out of the game revived in a startling
manner under his eye, he proceeded on his way.

As the action has now shifted to the upper floor, a diagram of this
second story is now in order.

As you will see, a straight glimpse is given down either gallery from the
arches opening into the broad corridor into which Mr. Gryce had stepped
on leaving the central staircase. He had therefore only to choose which
of the two would better repay his immediate investigation.

He decided upon the northern one, which you will remember was the one
holding the tapestry; since, to find anybody there, no matter whom, would
certainly settle the identity of the person responsible for that flying
arrow. For, as all conceded, too little time had elapsed between its
delivery and the discovery of the victim for the quickest possible
attempt at escape to have carried the concealer of the bow very far from
the spot where he had thrown it. It was possible--just possible--that he
might have got as far as one of the four large rooms opening into the
corridor stretching across the front, but that he was not in the gallery
itself Mr. Gryce soon convinced himself by a rapid walk through its
entire length.

That he did not follow up this move by an immediate searching of the
rooms I have mentioned was owing to a wish he had to satisfy himself on
another point first.

What was this point?

In passing along the rear on his way to this gallery, he had noticed the
narrow staircase opening not a dozen feet away to his left. This
undoubtedly led down to the side-entrance. If by any chance the user of
the bow had fled to the rear instead of to the front, he would be found
somewhere on this staircase, for he never could have got to the bottom
before the cry of "Close the doors! Let no man out!" rendered this chance
of immediate exit unavailable. So Mr. Gryce retraced his steps, and
barely stopping to note the boy eying him with eager glances from the
doorway of Room A, he approached the iron balustrade guarding the small
staircase, and cautiously looked over.

A man was there! A man going down--no, coming up; and this man, as he
soon saw from his face and uniform, was Correy the attendant.

"So that is where _you_ were," he called down as he beckoned the man up.

"As near as I can remember. I was on my way in search of Mr. Jewett, for
whom I had a message, and had got as far as you saw me, when I heard a
cry of pain from somewhere in the gallery. This naturally quickened my
steps and I was up and on this floor in a jiffy."

"Did you notice, as you stepped from the landing, whether the boy staring
at us from the doorway over there was facing just as we see him now?"

"He was. I remember his attitude perfectly."

"Coming out of the door--not going in?"

"Sure. He was on the run. He had heard the cry too."

"And followed you into the gallery?"

"Preceded me. He was on the scene almost as soon as the man who stepped
in from the adjoining section."

"I see. And this man?"

"Was well within my view from the minute I entered the first arch.
He seemed more bewildered than frightened till he had passed the
communicating arch and nearly stumbled over the body of the girl shot
down almost at his elbow."

"And yourself?"

"I knew by his look that something dreadful had happened, and when I saw
what it was, I didn't think of anything better to do than to order the
doors shut."

"On your own initiative? Where was the Curator?"

"Not far, it seems. But he gets awfully absorbed in whatever he is doing,
and there was no time to lose. Some one had shot that arrow, some one who
might escape."

Mr. Gryce never allowed himself--or very rarely--to look at anyone full
and square in the face; yet he always seemed to form an instant opinion
of whomever he talked with. Perhaps he had already gauged this man and
not unfavorably, for he showed not the slightest distrust as he remarked
quite frankly:

"You must have had some suspicion of foul play even then, to act in so
expeditious a manner."

"I don't know what my suspicions were. I simply followed my first
impulse. I don't think it was a bad one. Do you, sir?"

"Far from it. But enough of that. Do you think"--here he drew Correy into
the gallery out of earshot of the boy, who was watching them with all the
curiosity of his fourteen years--"that this lad could have stolen from
where we are standing now to the door where you first saw him, during the
time you were making your rush up the stairs? Boys of his age are mighty
quick, and----"

"I know it, sir; and I see what you mean. But even if he had been able to
do this,--which I very much doubt,--no boy of his age could have strung
that bow, or had he found it strung, have shot an arrow from it with
force enough to kill. Only a hand accustomed to its use could handle a
bow like that with any success."

"You know the bow, then? Saw it nearer than you said--possibly handled
it?"

"No, sir; but I know its kind and have handled many of them."

"In this building?"

"Yes, sir, and in other museums where I have been. I have arranged and
rearranged Indian exhibits for years."

"Then you think that the bow we saw behind the tapestry is an Indian
one?"

"Without question."

The detective nodded and left him. One word with the boy, and he would
feel free to go elsewhere.

It proved to be an amusing one. The boy, for all his enthusiasm as a
scout, proved to be so hungry that he was actually doleful. More than
that, he had a ticket for that afternoon's ball game in his pocket and
feared that he would not be let out in time to see it. He therefore was
quick with his answers, which certainly were ingenuous enough. He had
been looking at the model of a ship (which could be seen through an open
door), when he heard a woman cry out as if hurt, from somewhere down the
gallery. He was running to see what it meant when a man came along who
seemed in as great a hurry as himself. But he got there first--and so on
and on, corroborating Correy's story in every particular. He was so
honest (Mr. Gryce had been at great pains to trip him up in one of his
statements and had openly failed) and yet so anxious for the detective to
notice the ticket to the ball game which he held in one hand, that the
old man took pity on him and calling an officer, ordered him to let the
boy out--a concession to youth and innocence he was almost ready to
regret when a woman of uncertain years and irate mien attacked him from
the doorway he had just left, with the loud remark:

"If you let him go, you can let me go too. I was in this room at the same
time he was and know no more about what happened over there than the
dead. I have an appointment downtown of great importance. I shall miss it
if you don't let me go at once."

"Is it of greater importance than the right which this dead girl's
friends have to know by whose careless hands the arrow killing her
was shot?" And without waiting for a reply, which was not readily
forthcoming, Mr. Gryce handed her over to Correy with an injunction to
see that she was given a comfortable seat below and proceeded to finish
up this portion of the building by a search through the three great rooms
extending along the rear.

He found them all empty and without clue of any kind, and satisfied that
his real work lay in front, he returned thither with as much expedition
as old age and rheumatism would admit. Why, in doing so, he went for the
third time through the gallery instead of through rooms J, H and I, he
did not stop to inquire, though afterward he asked that question of
himself more than once. Had he taken this latter course, he might not
have missed--

But that will come later. What we have to do now is to accompany him to
the front of the building, where matters of importance undoubtedly await
him. He had noted, in his previous passage to and fro, that the young man
who had been nearest to the tragedy was in his place before the case of
coins in Section I. This time he noted something more. The young man was
in the selfsame spot, but during this brief interval of waiting, the
passion he evidently cherished for numismatics had reasserted itself, and
he now stood with his eyes bent as eagerly upon the display of coins over
which he hung, as if no shaft of death had crossed the space without and
no young body lay in piteous quiet beyond the separating partition.

It was an exhibition of one of the most curious traits of human nature,
and Mr. Gryce would undoubtedly have expended a few cynical thoughts upon
it if, upon entering the broad front corridor which he had hitherto
avoided, he had not run upon Sweetwater pointing in a meaning way toward
two huge cases which, stacked with medieval arms, occupied one of the
corners.

"Odd couple over there," he whispered as the older detective paused to
listen. "Been watching them for the last five minutes. They pretend to be
looking at some old armor, but they are mighty uneasy and keep glancing
up at the window overhead as if they would like to jump out."

Mr. Gryce indulged in one of his characteristic exclamations. This was
the couple whose queer actions he had noticed on the staircase. "I'll
have a talk with them presently. Anyone in the rooms opposite?"

"Yes, the Curator. He's in Room A, where there are a lot of engravings
waiting to be hung. I guess he was pretty well up to his neck in business
when that fellow Correy set up his shout. And have you noticed that he's
a bit deaf, which is the reason, perhaps, why he was not sooner on the
scene?"

"No, I hadn't noticed. Anyone else at this end?"

"Only the young couple I speak of."

Mr. Gryce gave them a second look. They were by many paces farther from
the pedestal from behind which the bow had been flung back of the
tapestry than would quite fit in with the theory he had formed, and by
means of which he hoped to single out the person who had sent the deadly
arrow. But then, under the stress of fear, people can move very swiftly;
and besides, what guarantee did he have that these poor, frightened
creatures had located themselves with all the honesty the occasion
demanded? According to Sweetwater there was nobody sufficiently near to
notice where they had been at the critical instant, or where they were
now. The student's back was toward them, and the Curator quite out of
sight behind a close-shut door.

With this doubt in his mind, Mr. Gryce started to approach the couple. As
he did so, he observed another curious fact concerning them. They were
neither of them in the place natural to people interested in the contents
of the great cases which they had crossed the hall to examine. Instead of
standing where a full view of these cases could be had, they had
withdrawn so far behind them that they presented the appearance of
persons in hiding. Yet as he drew nearer and noted their youth and
countrified appearance, Mr. Gryce was careful to assume his most benign
deportment and so to modulate his voice as to call up the pink into the
young woman's cheek and the deep red into the man's. What Mr. Gryce said
was this: "You are interested I see in this show of old armor? I don't
wonder. It is very curious. Is this your first visit to the museum?"

The man nodded; the woman lowered her head. Both were self-conscious to a
point painful to see.

"It is a pity your first visit should be spoiled by anything so dreadful
as the accidental death of this young girl. It seems to have frightened
you both very much."

"Yes, yes," muttered the man. "We never saw anybody hurt before."

"Did you know the young lady?"

"Oh, no; oh, no!" they both hastened to cry out in a confused jumble,
after which the man added:

"We--we're from up the river. We don't know anybody in this big town."

As he spoke, he began to edge away from the wall, the girl following.

"Wait!" smiled the detective. "You are getting out of place. You were
looking at the armor when you first heard the hubbub over there?"

Both were silent.

"What were you looking at?"

"I was looking at her, and her was looking at me," stammered the man. "We
were--were talking together here--we didn't notice----"

"Just married, eh?"

"Yesterday noon, sir. How--how did you know?"

"I didn't know; I only guessed. And I think I can guess something
else--what your reason was for stealing into this dark corner."

It was the man who now looked down, and the woman who looked up. In a
pinch of this kind, it is the woman who is the more courageous.

"He was a-kissin' of me, sir," she whispered in a frank but shamefaced
way. "There was no harm in that, was there? We're so fond of one another,
and how could we know that anyone was dying so near?"

"No, there was no harm," Mr. Gryce reluctantly admitted. Caught in an
absurdity amusing enough in its way, he would certainly under less
strenuous circumstances have rather enjoyed his own humiliation. But the
occasion was too serious and his part in it too pronounced for him to
take any pleasure in this misadventure. In the prosecution of so daring
a scheme for locating witnesses if not of discovering the actual user of
the bow, it would not do to fail. He _must_ find the man he sought. If
the Curator--but one glance into the room where that gentleman stood amid
a litter of prints satisfied him that Sweetwater was right as to the
impossibility of getting any information from this quarter. Nor could he
hope, remembering what he had himself seen, that he would succeed any
better with the last person now remaining on this floor--the young man
busy with the coins in No. I.

That he was to be so fortunate as to lay an immediate hand on the person
who had shot the fatal arrow was no longer regarded by him as among the
possibilities. Whoever this person was, he had found a way of escape
which rendered him for the time being safe from discovery. But there was
another possible miscalculation which he felt it his duty to recognize
before he proceeded further in his difficult task. The bow found back of
the tapestry had every appearance of being the one used for the delivery
of the arrow. But was it? Might it not, in some strange and unaccountable
way, have been flung there previous to the present event and by some hand
no longer in the building? Such coincidences have been known, and while
as a rule this old and experienced detective put little confidence in
coincidences of any kind, he had but one thought in mind in approaching
this final witness, which was to get from him some acknowledgment of
having seen, on or about the time of the accident, a movement in the
tapestry behind which this bow lay concealed. If once this fact could
be established, there could be no further question as to the direct
connection between the bow there found and the present crime.

But Mr. Gryce might have spared his pains, so far as this young man was
concerned. He had been so engrossed in his search for a particularly rare
coin, that he had had no eyes for anything beyond. Besides, he was
abnormally nearsighted, not being able, even with his glasses, to
distinguish faces at any distance, much less a movement in a piece of
tapestry.

All of this was discouraging, even if anticipated; but there were still
the people below, some one of whom might have seen what this man had not.
He would go down to them now, but by a course which would incidentally
enlighten him in regard to another matter about which he had some doubts.

In his goings to and fro through the hall, he had passed the open door of
Room H and noted how easily a direct flight could be made through it and
Rooms I and J to the small staircase running down at the rear. Whether or
not this explained the absence of anyone on this floor who by the utmost
stretch of imagination could be held responsible for the accident which
had occurred there, he felt it incumbent upon him to see in how short a
time the escape he still believed in could be made through these rooms.

Timing his steps from the pedestal nearest this end, he found that even
at his slow pace it took but three minutes for him to reach the arcade
leading into the court from the foot of the staircase. A man conscious of
wrong and eager to escape would do it in less; and if, as possibly
happened, he had to wait in the doorway of Room J till Correy and the boy
had cleared the way for him by their joint run into the farther gallery,
he would still have time to be well on his way to the lower floor before
the cry went up which shut off all further egress. Relieved, if not
contented with the prospect this gave of a new clue to his problem, he
reentered the court and was preparing to renew his investigations when
the arrival of the Coroner put a temporary end to his efforts as well as
to the impatience of the so-called pawns, who were now allowed, one and
all, to leave their posts.




V

THREE WHERE TWO SHOULD BE


It was a good half-hour before Mr. Gryce again found himself in a
position to pursue the line of investigation thus summarily interrupted.
The condition of Mrs. Taylor, which had not been improved by delay,
demanded attention, and it was with a sense of great relief that Mr.
Gryce finally saw her put into a taxi. Her hurried examination by Coroner
Price had elicited nothing new, and of all who had noticed her distraught
air on leaving the building, there was not one, if we except the
detective, but felt convinced that if she had not been of unsound mind
previous to this accident, she certainly had become so since. He still
held to his theory that her story, fantastic and out of character as it
seemed, was true in all its essentials, and that it was the warning she
believed herself to have received of her husband's death, rather than
what had taken place under her eyes, which had caused her such extreme
suffering and temporarily laid her reason low.

With the full approbation of the Coroner, to whom he had explained his
idea, Mr. Gryce began the sifting process by which he hoped to discover
the one witness he wanted.

To subject to further durance such persons as from their position at the
moment of tragedy could have no information to give bearing in any way
upon their investigation was manifestly unfair. The old woman who had
been found in Room A was of this class, and accordingly was allowed to
go, together with such others as had been within twenty feet or more of
the main entrance. These eliminated (it was curious to see how loath
these few chosen ones were to depart, now that the opportunity was given
them), Mr. Gryce settled down to business by asking Mrs. Lynch to come
forward.

She, as you will see by consulting the chart, answered to the person
marked "2." A little, dried-up, eager woman rose from the bench on which
were collected the few people still remaining, and met his inquiring look
with a nervous smile. She, of all the persons moving about on the main
floor at the moment of alarm, had been in the best position for seeing
the flight of the arrow and the fall of the victim in Section II. Had she
seen them? The continued jigging of the small, wiry curls hanging out
from either side of her old-fashioned bonnet would seem to betray an
inner perturbation indicative of some hitherto suppressed information. At
all events Mr. Gryce allowed himself this hope and was most bland and
encouraging in his manner as he showed her the place which had been
assigned her on the chart drawn up by Sweetwater, and asked if the
position given her was correct.

Perhaps a ready reply was too much to expect--women of her stamp not
knowing, as a rule, very much about charts. But when he saw her hasten
to the very spot assigned her by Sweetwater, he took heart and with a
suggestive glance at the gallery intimated that he would be very glad to
hear what she had seen there. Her surprise was evident, much too evident
for his satisfaction. The little curls jigged about more than ever, and
her cheeks grew quite pink as she answered hastily:

"I didn't see anything. I wasn't looking. Did you think I saw anything?"

"I hoped you had," he smiled. "If your eyes had chanced to be turned
toward that end of the gallery----"

"But I was going the other way. My back was to it, not my face--like
this." And wheeling herself about, she showed him that she had been
walking toward the rear of the building rather than advancing toward the
front.

His disappointment was great; but it would have been greater if he had
not realized that under these conditions she was in the precise position
to meet face to face any person emerging into the court from the foot of
the small staircase. If she could tell him of having seen any such
person, and closely enough to be able to give a description of this
person's appearance, then she might prove to be his prime witness, after
all. But she could not satisfy him on this point. She had been on her way
out, and was too busy searching in her bag for her umbrella check to
notice whether there were people about her or not. She had not found it
when the great shout came.

"And then?"

Oh, then she was so frightened and so shocked that everything swam before
her eyes and she nearly fell! Her heart was not a strong one and
sometimes missed a beat or two, and she thought it must have done so
then, for when her head steadied again, she found herself clinging to the
balustrade of the great staircase.

"Then you have nothing whatever to add to what the others have told?"

Her "no," if a shaky one, was decisive, and seeing no reason for
detaining her further, he gave her permission to depart.

Disturbed in his calculations, but not disheartened, Mr. Gryce next
proceeded to interrogate the door-man at this end of the building. From
his position, facing as he did the approach from the small staircase, he
should be able to say, if the old lady could not, whether anyone had
crossed the open strip of court toward which she had been advancing. But
Mr. Gryce found him no more clear-headed on this point than she. He was
the oldest man connected with the museum, and had been very much shaken
up by what had occurred. Really, he could not say whether anyone had
passed across his line of vision at that time or not. All he could be
sure of was that no attempt had been made by anyone to reach the door
after he had been bidden to close it.

So this clue ended like the rest in no thoroughfare. Would he have any
better luck with the subject of his next inquiry? The young lady
tabulated as No. 13 was where she could have seen the upper edge of the
tapestry shake if she had been looking that way; but she was not. She
also was going from instead of toward the point of interest--in other
words, entering and not leaving the room on whose threshold she stood.

Only two men were left from whom he could hope to obtain the important
testimony he was so anxiously seeking: Nos. 10 and 11. He had turned back
toward the bench where they should be awaiting his attention and was
debating whether he would gain more by attacking them singly or together,
when he suddenly became aware of a fact which drove all these small
considerations out of his mind.

According to every calculation and according to the chart, there should
be only these two men on that bench. But he saw _three_. Who was this
third man, and where had he come from?




VI

THE MAN IN THE GALLERY


Beckoning to Sweetwater, Mr. Gryce pointed out this extra man and asked
him if he recognized him as one of the twenty-two he had tabulated.

The answer was a vigorous no. "It's a new face to me. He must have
dropped from the roof or come up through the flooring. He certainly
wasn't anywhere about when I made out my list. He looks a trifle hipped,
eh?"

"Troubled--decidedly troubled."

"You might go a little further and say done up."

"Good-looking, though. Appears to be of foreign birth."

"English, I should say, and just over."

"English, without a doubt. I'll go speak to him; you wait here, but watch
out for the Coroner, and send him my way as soon as he's at leisure."

Then he reapproached the bench, and observing, with the keenness with
which he observed everything without a direct look, that with each step
he took the stranger's confusion increased, he decided to wait till after
he had finished with the others, before he entered upon an inquiry which
might prove not only lengthy but of the first importance.

He was soon very glad that he had done this. He got nothing from Mr.
Simpson; but the questions put to Mr. Turnbull were more productive.
Almost at the first word, this gentleman acknowledged that he had seen
a movement in the great square of tapestry to which Mr. Gryce drew his
attention. He did not know when, or just where he stood at the time,
but he certainly had noticed it shake.

"Can you describe the movement?" asked the gratified detective.

"It swayed out----"

"As if blown by some wind?"

"No, more as if pushed forward by a steady hand."

"Good! And what then?"

"It settled back almost without a quiver."

"Instantly?"

"No, not instantly. A moment or two passed before it fell back into
place."

"This was before the attendant Correy called out his alarm, of course?"

Yes, of course it was before; but how long before, he couldn't say. A
minute--two minutes--five minutes--how could he tell! He had no watch in
hand.

Mr. Gryce thought possibly he might assist the man's memory on this point
but forbore to do so at the time. It was enough for his present purpose
that the necessary link to the establishment of his theory had been
found. No more doubt now that the bow lying in the niche of the doorway
overhead had been the one made use of in this desperate tragedy; and the
way thus cleared for him, he could confidently proceed in his search for
the man who had flung it there. He believed him to be within his reach at
that very moment, but his countenance gave no index to his thought as
reapproaching the young man now sitting all alone on the bench, he halted
before him and pleasantly inquired:

"Do I see you for the first time? I thought we had listed the name of
every person in the building. How is it that we did not get yours?"

The tide of color which instantly flooded the young man's countenance
astonished Mr. Gryce both by its warmth and fullness. If he were as
thin-skinned as this betokened, one should experience but little
difficulty in reaching the heart of his trouble.

With an air of quiet interest Mr. Gryce sat down by the young man's side.
Would this display of friendliness have the effect of restoring some of
his self-possession and giving him the confidence he evidently lacked?
No, the red fled from his cheek, and a ghastly white took its place; but
he showed no other change.

Meantime the detective studied his countenance. It was a good one, but
just now so distorted by suffering that only such as were familiar with
his every look could read his character from his present expression.
Would a more direct question rouse him? Possibly. At all events, Mr.
Gryce decided to make the experiment.

"Will you give me your name?" he asked, "--your name and residence?"

The man he addressed gave a quick start, pulled himself together and made
an attempt to reply.

"My name is Travis. I am an Englishman just off the steamer from
Southampton. My home is in the county of Hertfordshire. I have no
residence here."

"Your hotel, then?"

Another flush--then quickly: "I have not yet chosen one."

This was too surprising for belief. A stranger in town without rooms or
hotel accommodations, making use of the morning hours to visit a museum!

"You must be very much interested in art!" observed his inquisitor a
little dryly.

Again that flush and again the quick-recurring pallor.

"I--I am interested in all things beautiful," he replied at last in
broken tones.

"I see. May I ask where you were when that arrow flew which killed a
young lady visitor? Not in this part of the court, I take it?"

Mr. Travis gave a quick shudder and that was all. The detective waited,
but no other answer came.

"I am told that as she fell she uttered one cry. Did you hear it, Mr.
Travis?"

"It wasn't a cry," was his quick reply. "It was something quite
different, but dreadful, dreadful!"

Mr. Gryce's manner changed.

"Then you did hear it. You were near enough to distinguish between a
scream and a gasp. Where were you, and why weren't you seen by my man
when he went through the building?"

"I--I was kneeling out of sight--too shocked to move. But I grew tired of
that and wanted to go; but on reaching the court, I found the doors
closed. So I came here."

"Kneeling! Where were you kneeling?"

He made a quick gesture in the direction of the galleries.

The detective frowned, perhaps to hide his secret satisfaction.

"Won't you be a little more definite?" he asked; then as the man
continued to hesitate he added, but as yet without any appreciable loss
of kindliness: "Every other person here has been good enough to show us
the exact place he was occupying at that serious moment. I must ask you
to do the same; it is only just."

Was the look this called up one of fear or of simple repugnance? It might
be either; but the detective was disposed to consider it fear.

"Will you lead the way?" he pursued. "I shall be glad to follow."

A glance of extreme reproach; then these words, uttered with painful
intensity:

"You want me to go back there--where I saw--where I can see again--_I
cannot_. I'm not well. I suffer. You will excuse me. You will allow me to
say what I have to say, _here_."

"I'm sorry, but I cannot do that. The others have gone without question
to their places; why should not you?"

"Because----" The word came brokenly and was followed by silence. Then,
seeing the hopelessness of contending with police authority, he cast
another glance of strong repulsion in the direction of the gallery and
started to his feet. Mr. Gryce did the same, and together they crossed
the court. But they got no further at this time than the foot of the
staircase. Coroner Price, by an extra effort which seemed to be called
for by the circumstances, had succeeded in picking up a jury from the
people collected on the street, and entering at this moment, created a
diversion which effectively postponed the detective's examination of his
new witness.

When the opportunity came for resuming it, so much time had elapsed that
Mr. Gryce looked for some decided change in the manner or bearing of the
man who, unfortunately for his purposes, had thus been given a quiet hour
in which to think. Better, much better, for the cause of justice, if he
could have pushed him to the point at once, harried him, as it were, in
hot blood. Now he might find him more difficult.

But when, in company with the Coroner, who now found himself free to
assist him in his hunt for witnesses, he reapproached the Englishman
sitting as before alone on his bench, it was to find him to all
appearance in the same mind in which he had left him. He wore the same
look and followed with the same reluctance when he was made to understand
that the time had now come for him to show just where he was standing
when that arrow was sped on its death-course. And greatly impressed by
this fact, which in a way contradicted all his expectations, Mr. Gryce
trod slowly after, watching with the keenest interest to see whether, on
reaching the top of the steps, this man upon whose testimony so much
depended would turn toward the southern gallery where the girl had
fallen, or toward the northern one, where Correy had found the bow.

It looked as if he were going to the left, for his head turned that way
as he cleared the final step. But his body soon swayed aside in the other
direction, and by the time the old detective had himself reached the
landing, Travis, closely accompanied by the Coroner, had passed through
the first of the three arches leading to that especial section of the
gallery where the concealing tapestry hung.

"The man is honest," was Mr. Gryce's first thought. "He is going to show
us the bow and confess to what was undoubtedly an accident." But Mr.
Gryce felt more or less ready to modify this impromptu conclusion when,
on passing through the arch himself he came upon the young man still
standing in Section VI, with his eyes on the opposite gallery and his
whole frame trembling with emotion.

"Is she--the young lady who was shot--still lying on those cold stones
alone, forsaken and----"

Mr. Gryce knew misery when he saw it. This man had not overstated the
case when he had said "I suffer." But the cause! To what could this
excess of sensibility be attributed? To remorse or to an exaggerated
personal repulsion? It looked like remorse, but that there might be no
doubt as to this, Mr. Gryce hastened to assure the Englishman that on the
departure of the jury the body had been removed to one of the inner
rooms. The relief which this gave to Mr. Travis was evident. He showed no
further reluctance to proceed and was indeed the first of the three to
enter where the great drapery hung, flanked by the two immense vases.
Would he pause before it or hurry by into the broad corridor in front? If
he hurried by, what would become of their now secretly accepted theory?

But he did not hurry by; that is, he did not pass beyond the upper end,
but stopped when he got there and looked back with an air of extreme
deprecation at the two officials.

"Have we arrived?" asked Mr. Gryce, his suspicions all returning, for the
man had stepped aside from the drapery and was standing in a spot
conspicuously open to view even from the lower court.

The Englishman nodded; whereupon Mr. Gryce, approaching to his side,
exclaimed in evident doubt:

"You were standing _here_? When? Not at the moment the young girl fell,
or you would have been seen by some one, if not by everyone, in the
building. I want you to take the exact place you occupied when you first
learned that something had gone wrong in the opposite gallery."

The stranger's distress grew. With a show of indecision scarcely
calculated to inspire confidence in either of the two men watching him,
he moved now here and now there till he finally came to a standstill
close by the pedestal--so close, indeed, to its inner corner that he was
almost in a line with its rear.

"It was here," he declared with a gulp of real feeling. "I am sure I am
right now. I had just stepped out----"

"From behind the tapestry?"

"No." His blank astonishment at the quickness with which he had been
caught up left him staring for a moment at the speaker, before he
added:

"From behind the pedestal. The--the vase, as you see, is a very curious
one. I wanted to look at it from all sides."

Without a word the Coroner slipped past him and entering the narrow space
behind the pedestal took a look up at the vase from his present cramped
position.

As he did this, two things happened: first Sweetwater, who had stolen
upon the scene, possibly at some intimation from Mr. Gryce, took a step
toward them which brought him in alignment with the Englishman, of whose
height in comparison with his own he seemed to take careful note; and
secondly, the sensitive skin of the foreigner flushed red again as he
noticed the Coroner's sarcastic smile, and heard his dry remark:

"One gets a better view here of the opposite gallery than of the vase
perched so high overhead. Had you wished to look at those ladies, without
being seen by them, you could hardly have found a better loophole than
the one made by the curving in of this great vase toward its base." Then
quickly: "You surely took one look their way; that would be only
natural."

The answer Mr. Travis gave was certainly unexpected.

"It was after I came out that I saw them," he stammered. "There were two
ladies, one tall and one very young and slight. The older lady was
stepping toward the front, the other entering from behind. As I looked,
the younger made a dash and ran by the first lady. Then----"

"Proceed, Mr. Travis. Your emotion is very natural; but it is imperative
that we hear all you have to tell us. She ran by the older lady, and
then?"

Still silence. The Englishman appeared to be looking at Coroner Price,
who in speaking emerged from behind the pedestal; but it is doubtful if
he saw him. A tear was in his eye--a tear!

Seeing it, Mr. Gryce felt a movement of compassion, and thinking to help
him, said kindly enough:

"Was it so very dreadful?"

The answer came with great simplicity:

"Yes. One minute she was all life and gaiety; the next she was lying
outstretched on the hard floor."

"And you?"

Again that look of ingenuous surprise.

"I don't remember about myself," he said. "I was thinking too much about
her. I never saw anyone killed before."

"Killed? Why do you say killed? You say you saw her fall, but how did you
know she was killed?"

"I saw the arrow in her breast. As she fell backward, I saw the arrow."

As he uttered these words, the three men watching him perceived the sweat
start out on his forehead, and his eyes take on a glassy stare. It was as
if he were again in gaze upon that image of youthful loveliness falling
to the ground with the arrow of death in her heart. The effect was
strangely moving. To see this event reflected as it were in horror from
this man's consciousness made it appear more real and much more
impressive than when contemplated directly. Why? Had remorse given it its
poignancy? Had it been his own hand which had directed this arrow from
behind the pedestal? If not, why this ghastly display of an emotion so
far beyond what might be expected from the most sentimental of onlookers?

In an endeavor to clear the situation, the Coroner intervened with the
following question:

"Have you ever seen a shot made by a bow and arrow before, Mr. Travis?
Archery-practice, I mean. Or--well, the shooting of wild animals in
India, Africa or elsewhere?"

"Oh, yes. I come from a country where the bow and arrow are used. But I
never shoot. I can only speak of what I have seen others do."

"That is sufficient. You ought to be able to tell, then, from what
direction this arrow came."

"It--it must have come from this side of the gallery. Not from this
section, as you call it, but from some one of the other open places along
here."

"Why not from this one?"

"Because there was nobody here but me," was the simple and seemingly
ingenuous answer.

It gave them an unexpected surprise. Innocence would speak in this
fashion. But then the bow--the bow which was lying not a dozen feet from
where they stood! Nothing could eliminate that bow.

After a short consultation between themselves, which the Englishman
seemed not to notice, the Coroner addressed him with the soothing remark:

"Mr. Travis, you must not misunderstand me. The accident which has
occurred (we will not yet say crime) is of so serious a nature that it is
imperative for us to get at the exact facts. Only yourself and one other
person whom we know can supply them. I allude to the lady you saw, first
in front of and then behind the girl who was shot. Her story has been
told. Yours will doubtless coincide with it. May I ask you, then, to
satisfy us on a point you were in a better position than herself to take
note of. It is this: When the young girl gave that bound forward of which
you both speak, did she make straight for the railing in front, or did
she approach it in a diagonal direction?"

"I do not know. You distress me very much. I was not thinking of anything
like that. Why should I think of anything so immaterial. She came--I saw
her smiling, beaming with joy, a picture of lovely youth--then her arms
went suddenly up and she fell--backward--the arrow showing in her breast.
If I told the story a hundred times, I could not tell it differently."

"We do not wish you to, Mr. Travis. Only there must be somewhere in your
mind a recollection of the angle which her body presented to the railing
as she came forward."

The unhappy man shook his head, at which token of helplessness Mr. Gryce
beckoned to Sweetwater and whispered a few words in his ear. The man
nodded and withdrew, going the length of the gallery, where he
disappeared among the arches, to reappear shortly after in the gallery
opposite. When he reached Section II, Mr. Gryce again addressed the
witness, who, to his surprise and to that of the Coroner as well, had
become reabsorbed in his own thoughts to the entire disregard of what
this movement might portend. It took a sharp word to rouse him.

"I am going to ask you to watch the young man who has just shown himself
on the other side, and tell us to what extent his movements agree with
those made by the young lady prior to her collapse and fall to the
floor."

For an instant indignation robbed the stranger of all utterance. Then he
burst forth:

"You would make a farce of what is so sad and dreadful, and she scarcely
cold! It is dishonoring to the young lady. I cannot look at that young
man--that hideous young man--and think of her and of how she looked and
walked the instant before her death."

The two officials smiled; they could not help it. Sweetwater was
certainly no beauty, and to associate him in any kind of physical
comparison with the dead girl was certainly incongruous. Yet they both
felt that the point just advanced by them should be settled and settled
now while the requisite remembrance was fresh in the mind of this
invaluable witness. But in order to get at what they wanted, some show
of consideration for his feelings was evidently necessary. Police
persistence often defeats its own ends. If he was to be made to do what
they wished, it would have to be through the persuasion of some one
outside the Force. To whom should they appeal? The question answered
itself. Mr. Roberts was approaching from the front, and to him they
turned. Would he use his influence with this stranger?

"He may listen to you," urged the Coroner in the whispered conference
which now followed, "if you explain to him how much patience you and all
the rest of the people in the building have had to exercise in this
unhappy crisis. He seems a good enough fellow, but not in line with our
ideas."

Mr. Roberts, who saw the man for the first time, surveyed him in
astonishment.

"Where was he standing?" he asked.

"Just where you see him now--or so he says."

"He couldn't have been. Some one would have observed him--the woman who
was in the compartment with the stricken girl, or the man studying coins
in the one next to it."

"So it would seem," admitted the Coroner. "But if he were behind the
pedestal----"

"Behind the pedestal!"

"That's where we think he was. But no matter about that now!--we can
explain that to you later. At present all we want is for you to reassure
him."

Not altogether pleased with his task, but seeing no good reason for
declining it, the affable director approached the Englishman, who,
recognizing one of his own social status, seemed to take heart and turn
a willing ear to Mr. Roberts' persuasions. The result was satisfactory.

When the Coroner again called Mr. Travis' attention to Sweetwater
awaiting orders in the opposite gallery he did not refuse to look, though
his whole manner showed how much he was affected by this forced
acquiescence in their plans.

"You will watch the movements of the young man we have placed over
there," the Coroner had said; "and when he strikes a position
corresponding to that taken by the young lady at the moment she was shot,
lift up your hand, thus. I will not ask you to speak."

"But you forget that there is blood on that floor. That man will step in
it. I cannot lend myself to such sacrilege. It is wrong. Let the lady be
buried first."

The outburst was so natural, the horror so unfeigned, that not only the
men he addressed but all within hearing showed the astonishment it
caused.

"One would think you knew the victim of this random shot!" the Coroner
intimated with a fresh and close scrutiny of this very reluctant witness.
"Did you? Was she a friend of yours?"

"No, no!" came in quick disavowal. "No friend. I have never exchanged a
word with her--never."

"Then we will proceed. One cannot consider sensibilities in a case like
this." And he made a signal to Sweetwater, who turned his body this way
and that.

The distressed Englishman watched these movements with slowly dilating
eyes.

"It's the angle we want--the angle at which she presented her body to the
gallery front," explained the relentless official.

A shudder, then the rigidity of fixed attention, broken in another
moment, however, by an impulsive movement and the unexpected question:

"Is it to find the man who did it that you are enacting this horrible
farce?"

Somewhat startled, the Coroner retorted:

"If you object on that account----"

But Mr. Travis as vehemently exclaimed:

"But I don't! I want the man caught. One should not shoot arrows about in
a place where there are beautiful young women. I want him caught and
punished."

As they were all digesting this unexpected avowal, they saw his hand go
up. The Coroner gave a low whistle, and the detective in obedience to it
stood for one instant stock-still--then bent quickly to the floor.

"What is he doing?" cried Mr. Travis.

"Yes, what is he doing?" echoed Mr. Roberts.

"Running a mark about his shoes to fix their exact location," was the
grim response.




VII

"YOU THINK THAT OF ME!"


"We're certainly up against it this time," were the words with which Dr.
Price led the detective down the gallery. "What sort of an opinion can a
man form of a fellow like that? Is he fool or knave?"

Mr. Gryce showed no great alacrity in answering. When he did speak it was
to say:

"We shall have to go into the matter a little more deeply before we can
trust our judgment as to his complete sincerity. But if you want to know
whether I believe him to have loosed the arrow which killed that innocent
child, I am ready from present appearances to say yes. Who else was there
to do it? He and he only was on the spot. But it was a chance action,
without intention or wish to murder. No man, even if he were a fool,
would choose such a place or such a means for murder."

"That's true; but how does it help to call it accident? Accident calls
for a bow in hand, an arrow within reach, an impulse to try one's skill
at a fancied target. Now the arrow--whatever may be said of the bow--was
not within the reach of anyone standing in this gallery. The arrow came
from the wall at the base of which this young woman died. It had to be
brought from there here. That does not look like accident, but crime."

Yet as the Coroner uttered this acknowledgment, he realized as plainly as
Mr. Gryce how many incongruous elements lay in the way of any such
solution of the mystery. If they accepted the foreigner's account of
himself,--which for some reason neither seemed ready to dispute,--into
what a maze of improbabilities it at once led them! A stranger just
off ship! The victim a mere schoolgirl! The weapon such an unusual one as
to be _outre_ beyond belief. Only a madman--But there! Travis had less
the appearance of a lunatic than Mrs. Taylor. It must have been an
accident as Gryce said; and yet--

If there is much virtue in an _if_, there is certainly a modicum
of the same in a _yet_, and the Coroner, in full recognition of this
stumbling-block, remarked with unusual dryness:

"I agree with you that some half-dozen questions are necessary before we
wade deeper into this quagmire. Where shall we go to have it out?"

"The Curator will allow us to use his office. I will see that Mr. Travis
joins us there."

"See that he comes before he has a chance to fall into one of his
reveries."

But quickly as Mr. Gryce worked, he was not speedy enough to prevent the
result mentioned. The man upon whose testimony so much hinged did not
even lift his eyes when brought again into their presence.

The Coroner, in his determination to be satisfied on this point, made
short work of rousing him from his abstraction. With a few leading
questions he secured his attention and then without preamble or apology
asked him with what purpose he had come to America and why he had been so
anxious to visit the museum that he hastened directly to it from the
steamer without making an effort to locate himself in some hotel.

The ease with which this apparently ingenuous stranger had managed to
meet the opening queries of this rough-and-ready official was suddenly
broken. He stammered and turned red and made so many abortive attempts to
reply that the latter grew impatient and finally remarked:

"If the truth will incriminate you, you are quite justified in holding it
back!"

"Incriminate me!" With the repetition of this alarming word, a change of
the most marked character took place in young Travis' manner. "What does
that mean?" he asked. "I am not sure that I understand your use of that
word _incriminate_."

Dr. Price explained himself, to the seeming horror of the startled
Englishman.

"You think that of me!" he cried, "of me, who----"

But here indignation made him speechless, till some feeling stronger
than the one subduing him to silence forced him again into speech, and
he supplemented in broken tones: "I am only a stranger to you and
consequently am willing to pardon your misconception of my character and
the principles by which I regulate my life. I have a horror of crime and
all violence; besides, the young lady--she awakened my deepest admiration
and reverence. I,"--again he stopped; again he burst forth,--"I would
sooner have died myself than seen such angel graces laid low. Let my
emotion be proof of what I say. It was a man of the hardest heart who
killed her."

"It would seem so."

It was the Coroner who spoke. He was nonplussed; and Mr. Gryce no less
so. Never had either of them been confronted by a blinder or more
bewildering case. An incomprehensible crime and a suspect it was
impossible to associate with a deed of blood! There must be some other
explanation of the mournful circumstance they were considering. There had
been twenty or more people in the building, but--and here was the rub--if
the chart which they had drawn up was correct and the calculations which
they had drawn from it were to be depended upon, this man was the only
person who had been in this gallery when the arrow was shot.

With a side glance at Mr. Gryce, who seemed content to remain silent in
the background, Dr. Price turned again to Mr. Travis.

"Your admiration of the young lady must have been as sudden as it was
strong. Or possibly you had seen her before you hid behind the pedestal.
Had you, Mr. Travis? She was a charming child; perhaps you had been
attracted by her beauty before you even entered the galleries."

Instantly the man was another being.

"You are right," he acquiesced with undue alacrity. "I had seen her
crossing the court. Her beauty was heavenly. I am a gentleman, but I
followed her. When she moved, I moved; and when she went upstairs, I
followed her. But I would not offend. I kept behind,--far behind
her,--and when she entered the gallery on one side, I took pains to enter
it on the other. This is how I came to be looking in her direction when
she was struck down. You see, I speak with candor; I open my whole
heart."

Dr. Price, stroking his long beard, eyed the man with a thoughtful air
which changed to one of renewed inquiry. Instead of being convinced by
this outburst, he was conscious of a new and deepening distrust. The
transition from a low state of feeling to one so feverishly eager had
been too sudden. The avidity with which this man just off ship had made
a grasp at the offered explanation had been too marked; it lacked
sincerity and could impose on no one. Of this he seemed himself aware,
for again the ready flush ran from forehead to neck, and with a
deprecatory glance which included the silent detective he vehemently
exclaimed:

"I am poor at a lie. I see that you will have the whole truth. It was on
her account I crossed the ocean. It was by dogging her innocent steps
that I came to the museum this morning. I am a man of means, and I can do
as I please. When I said that I had never exchanged a word with her, I
spoke the truth. I never have; yet my interest in her was profound. I
have never seen any other girl or woman whom I was anxious to make my
wife. I hoped to meet and woo her in this country. I had no opportunity
for doing so in my own. I did not see her till a night or so before she
sailed, and then it was at the theater, where she sat with some friends
in an adjoining box. She talked, and I heard what she said. She was
leaving England. She was going to America to live; and she mentioned the
steamer on which she expected to sail. It may strike you as impetuous,
unnatural in an Englishman, and all that, but next morning I secured my
passage on that same ship. As I have just said, I am my own master and
can do as I please, and I pleased to do that. But for all the opportunity
which a voyage sometimes gives, I did not succeed in making her
acquaintance on shipboard, much as I desired it. I was ill for the first
three days and timorous the rest. I could only watch her moving about the
decks and wait for the happy moment in which I might be able to do her
some service. But that moment never came, and now it never will come."

The mournfulness with which this was uttered seemed genuine. The Coroner
was silenced by it, and it was left to Mr. Gryce to take up the
conversation. This he did with the same show of respect evinced by Dr.
Price.

"We are obliged to you for your confidence," said he. "Of course you can
tell us this young girl's name."

"Angeline--Angeline Willetts. I saw it in the list of passengers."

"What ship?"

"The _Castania_, from Southampton."

"We are greatly obliged to you for this information. It gives us the
much-wanted clue to her identity. Angeline Willetts! Whom was she with?"

"A Madame Duclos, a French lady. I once spoke to _her_."

"You did? And what did you say?"

"I bade her good morning as we were passing on the main-deck stairs. But
she did not answer, and I was not guilty of the impertinence again."

"I see. Such, then, was the situation up to this morning. But since? How
did it happen that a young girl, six hours after landing in this country,
should come to a place like this without a chaperon?"

"I don't know what brought her here; I can only tell you why I came. When
she left the dock, I was standing near enough to hear the orders Madame
Duclos gave on entering a cab. Naturally, mine were the same. I have been
in New York before, and I knew the hotel. If you will consult the
Universal's register for the day, you will find my name in it under hers.
You will understand why I shrank from confessing to this fact before. I
held her in such honor--I was and am so anxious that no shadow should
fall upon her innocence from my poor story of secret and unrecognized
devotion. She knew nothing of what led me to follow every step she took.
I was a witness of her fate, but that is all the connection between us.
I hope you believe me."

It would be difficult not to, in face of his direct gaze, from which all
faltering had now vanished. Yet the matter not being completely thrashed
out, Mr. Gryce felt himself obliged to say in answer to this last:

"We see no reason to doubt your word or your story, Mr. Travis. All that
you have said is possible. But how about your following the young girl
here? How did that come about?"

"That was occasioned by my anxiety for her--an anxiety which seems to
have been only too well-founded."

"How? What?" Both of the officials showed a greatly increased interest.
"Please explain yourself, Mr. Travis. What reason had you for any such
feeling in regard to a person with whom you had held no conversation?
Anything which you saw or heard at the hotel?"

"Yes. I was sitting in the foyer. I knew that the ladies were in the
house, but I had not seen them. I was anxious to do so (see, I am telling
all) and was watching the door of the lift from behind my journal, when
they both stepped out. Miss Willetts was dressed for the street, but
Madame Duclos was not, which seemed very strange to me. But I felt no
concern till I caught some fragments of what Madame said in passing me.
She spoke in French, a language I understand, and she was exclaiming
over her misfortune at not being allowed to accompany her young charge to
whatever place she was going. It was bad, bad, she cried, and she would
not have a moment's peace till her dear Angeline got back. Anxiety of
this kind was natural in a Frenchwoman not accustomed to see a young lady
enter the streets alone; but the force with which she expressed it
betrayed a real alarm--an alarm which communicated itself to me. Where
could this unprotected girl be going, alone and in a hotel cab?

"I could not imagine, and when I saw Madame stop in the middle of her
talk to buy some fresh flowers and pin them to Miss Willetts' corsage, I
got a queer feeling, and flinging my newspaper aside, I strolled to the
door and so out in time to hear Madame's orders to the chauffeur. The
young lady was to be taken to a museum. To a museum, at this early hour!
and alone, alone! Such a proceeding is not at all in accord with French
ideas, and I feared a plot. Though it was far from being my affair, I
determined to make it so; and as soon as I dared, I followed her just as
I had followed her from the dock. But fruitlessly! Not knowing the
danger, how could I avert it? I was in one gallery, she in the other. It
was my evil fate to see her fall, but by whose hand I am as ignorant as
yourselves. _Now_ I have told it all. Will you let me go?"

"Not yet," interposed the Coroner. "There are one or two questions more
which you will undoubtedly answer with the same frankness. Were you
standing in front of the pedestal or behind it when you saw Miss Willetts
fall?"

"I was standing just where I said, somewhere near it in the open
gallery."

This seemed so open to question that the Coroner paused a moment to
recall the exact situation and see if it were possible for a man as
conspicuous in figure as Mr. Travis to have stood thus in full view of
gallery and court, without attracting the attention of anyone in either
place. He found, after a moment's consideration, that it was possible.
Mr. Gryce, for all his efforts and systematic inquiry into the position
which each person had held at or near this time, had been able to find
but one who chanced to be looking in the direction of this gallery, and
he with a limited view which took in only the upper part of the tapestry.

A probe in a fresh direction might reach a more vulnerable spot.

"But you had been behind the pedestal?" Dr. Price suggested.

"Yes"--the quick flush coming again. "My old timidity led me to conceal
myself where I could watch undetected her bright young figure pass from
arch to arch along the opposite gallery. Not till she had got past my
line of view did I step out, and then--then it was to see what I have
already told you--her rush toward the front--the start she gave--the
fall--that cruel arrow! I own that I shrank back into my narrow
hiding-place when I realized that all was at an end--that she was dead."

"Why? You had been witness to a deed of blood--a deed which must have
recalled to you the anxiety expressed by the woman whom you regarded
as the young girl's guardian; and yet you shrank back--out of sight--away
from those who had the right to make inquiries! How do you explain that,
Mr. Travis?"

"I cannot, except that I was so dazed, so stricken, that I was hardly
conscious of what I did. And, sirs, believe me or not, had it not been
for the refuge afforded by that narrow space behind the pedestal, I think
I should have fallen headlong to the floor. When I came again to myself,
which was after some of the confusion had abated, I had only one thought
in mind: to suppress myself and my story lest some shadow should fall
across her sweet purity. Waiting till the attention of the man you had
placed on guard over her body was attracted another way, I slid out and
hastened to the front, where I managed to find a quiet room in which to
sit down and brood again over my misfortune. Forewarned, as you have
said, and on the spot, with every wish to protect her, I had failed to do
so. I fear it will make me mad some day."

Had it made him insane already? Was his story to be trusted? It was full
of incongruities; were they those of a disordered mind? Such had been the
excuse made for Mrs. Taylor when she had been thought guilty of this
attack; why should it not be applied to this man who certainly had given
evidences of not being of the usual type of young Englishman? With a
sidelong look at Mr. Gryce, which that individual perfectly understood,
Dr. Price thanked Mr. Travis for his candor and asked if he could point
out the room in which he had sat while their young man had gone through
the building checking off the position of everybody in it.

To his surprise, the Englishman answered quite simply, "I will try," and
rose when they rose.

The glances exchanged between the other two men were eloquent. Where was
he about to take them? Sweetwater was no fool; how had this man of
marked appearance and generous proportions managed to elude him?

As has happened before, it proved to be easily explainable when once the
conditions were known. The room to which he led them was that on the
upper story marked H on Chart Two. It was devoted, like one or two others
near it, to a line of famous paintings at once the hope and despair of
young girl copyists. The one most favored for this purpose hung just
behind the door "X," which, half-open as they found it, made with the
easel, the canvas upon it and an apron hanging carelessly over all, an
impromptu screen behind which a man crouched in misery on the copyist's
stool might easily remain unnoticed by anyone passing hurriedly by him.

And thus vanished one hindrance to a full belief in young Travis' story.

But a greater one remained. The bow! the bow found behind the tapestry at
the edge of which he had stood in timorous hiding! In the hope that a
shock might startle him into some admission which would give a different
aspect to the case, they now led him back to this place of first
concealment. He was showing strain by this time, and no delay was made to
press their point. Giving the tapestry a pull, the Coroner bade him tell
what he saw behind it.

The answer came with much emotion.

"The bow! The bow which sped the arrow which killed Miss Willetts. I do
not want to see it. It hurts me--hurts me physically. Let me go, I
entreat."

"Mr. Travis," urged the Coroner as they again emerged upon the open
gallery, "you have said that there was no one with you in the section
where you stood. If that was so, how came this bow to be where you have
just seen it?"

A bewildered look, a slow shake of the head and nothing more.

"Did you know it was there? Did you see it thrown there?"

"No, I saw nothing. I am an honest man. You may believe me."

The Coroner scrutinized him closely but not unkindly.

"We shall know before night who handled that bow, Mr. Travis. It carries
its own clue with it."

A gleam of unmistakable joy lighted up the Englishman's features.

"I am glad," he cried. "I am glad."

Coroner Price was a man of experience. He recognized the ring of truth in
the Englishman's tones, and saying no more, led the way from the gallery.

A few minutes later he was on the lower floor. He had a short
conversation with the two doormen; then he proceeded to the telephone and
called up the Universal.

The result was startling.

Asked if the name of Rupert Henry Travis, Hertfordshire, England, was on
their register, the answer was yes.

"The date of his arrival?"

"Early this morning."

"Any other arrivals to-day from the other side?"

"Yes, a Madame Duclos and a Miss Willetts."

The Coroner's tone altered. So much of the stranger's story was true,
then.

"Will you connect me with Madame Duclos. I have important news to give
her. Some woman had better be with her when she receives it."

"I am sorry, but I cannot do this. Madame Duclos has left."

"Left? Gone out, you mean?"

"No, left the hotel. She's been gone about half an hour. The young lady
who came with her has gone out too, but we expect her back."

"You do. And what took the older woman away? What excuse did she give,
and where has she gone?"

"I cannot tell you where she has gone. She left after receiving a
telephone message from some one in town. Came down to the desk looking
extremely distressed, said that she had had bad news and must go at once.
I made out her bill and, at her request, that of the young lady, whom she
said would be called for by a friend on her return to the hotel. These
bills she paid; after that she left the hotel on foot, carrying her own
bag. The young lady has not returned----"

"Enough. The young lady is dead, killed by chance here at the museum. A
plain-clothes man will be with you shortly from Headquarters. Meanwhile
keep your eyes and ears open. If a message comes for either Madame Duclos
or Miss Willetts, notify me here; and if anyone calls, detain the party
at all hazards. That's all; no time to talk."

And now Gryce entered the room. He was accompanied by an inspector. This
was a welcome addition to their force. Coroner Price greeted him with
cordiality:

"You've come in good time, Inspector. The death of this young girl
struck down by an arrow shot by an unknown hand from the opposite side
of the building bids fair to make a greater call on your resources than
on mine. The woman who appears to have acted as companion to Miss
Willetts has fled the hotel where they both took rooms immediately upon
leaving the steamer. Either she has heard of the accident which has
occurred here--and if so, how?--or she's but carrying out some deep-laid
plan which it is highly important for us to know. It looks now like a
premeditated crime."

"With this Englishman involved?"

"I doubt that; I seriously doubt that--don't you, Gryce? A more subtle
head than his planned this strange crime."

"Yes; there can be little doubt about that. Shall I set the boys to work,
Inspector? This Frenchwoman must be found."

"At once--a general alarm. You can get a description of her from the
clerk at the Universal. She must not be allowed to leave town."

Mr. Gryce sat down before the telephone. Coroner Price proceeded to
acquaint the Inspector with such details of the affair as were now known.
The Curator moved restlessly about. Gloom had settled upon the museum. On
only one face was there a smile to be seen, but that was a heavenly one,
irradiating the countenance of her who had passed from the lesser to the
larger world with the joy of earth still warm in her innocent heart.




BOOK II

MR. X




VIII

ON THE SEARCH


It was late in the afternoon. The Inspector's office had hummed for hours
with messages and reports, and the lull which had finally come seemed
grateful to him. With relaxed brow and a fresh cigar, he sat in quiet
contemplation of the facts brought out by the afternoon's inquiries. He
was on the point of dismissing even these from his mind, when the door
opened and Gryce came in.

Instantly his responsibilities returned upon him in full force. He did
not wait for the expected report, but questioned the detective at once.

"You have been to the hotel," he said, pointing out a chair into which
the old man dropped with a sigh as eloquent of anxiety as of fatigue.
"What more did you learn there?"

"Very little. No message has come; no persons called. For them and for us
these two women, Madame Duclos and Miss Willetts, are still an unknown
quantity. Their baggage, which arrived while I was there, supplied the
only information I was able to obtain."

"Their baggage! But that should tell us everything."

"It may if you think best to go through it. It is not heavy--a trunk for
each, besides the one they brought with them from the steamer. From the
pasters to be seen on them, they have come from the Continental Hotel,
Paris, by way of the Ritz, London. At this latter place their stay was
short. This is proved by the fact that only the steamer-trunk is pasted
with the Ritz label. And this trunk was the one I found in their room at
the Universal. From it Miss Willetts had taken the dress she wore to the
museum. Her other clothes--I mean those she wore on arriving--lay in
disorder on the bed and chairs. I should say that they had been tossed
about by a careless if not hasty hand, while the trunk----"

"Well?"

"Stood open on the floor."

"Stood open?"

"Yes, I went through it, of course."

"And found nothing?"

"Nothing to help us to-day. No letters--no cards. Some clothing--some
little trifles (bought in Paris, by the way) and one little book."

"A name in it?"

"Yes--_Angeline_; and one line of writing from some poem, I judge. I put
it back where I found it. When we know more, it may help us to find her
friends."

"And is that all?"

"Almost, but not quite. The young girl had a bag too. It stood on a
table----"

"Well?"

"Empty. Everything had been tumbled out--turned upside down and the
contents scattered. I looked them carefully over. Nothing, positively
nothing, but what you would be likely to find in any young girl's
traveling-bag. There's but one conclusion to be drawn."

"And what is that?"

"That all these things, such as they were, had been pushed hastily about
after being emptied out on the table. That was not the young girl's
work."

"Madame Duclos'!"

"You've hit it. She was in search of some one thing she wanted, and she
took the quickest way of finding it. And----"

"Yes, Gryce?"

"She was in a desperate hurry, or she wouldn't have left the trunk open
or all those dainty things lying about. Frenchwomen are methodical and
very careful of their belongings. One other thing I noted. There was a
loose nail in the lock of the trunk. Sticking to this nail was a raveling
of brown wool. Here it is, sir. The woman--Madame Duclos--wore a dress of
brown serge. If my calculations are not wrong and we succeed in getting a
glimpse of that dress, we shall find a tear in the skirt--and what is
more, one very near the hem."

"Made to-day?"

"Yes--another token of haste. She probably jerked at the skirt when
she found herself caught. She could not have been herself to have done
this--for which we may be glad."

"You mean that by this thoughtless action she has left a clue in our
hands?"

"That and something more. That tear in her decent skirt will bother her.
She will either make an immediate attempt to mend it, or else do the
other obvious thing--buy a new one. In either case it gives us something
by which to trace her. I have put Sweetwater on that job. He never tires,
never wearies, never lets go. No report in yet from the terminals?"

"Not a word. But she will not get far. Sooner or later we shall find her
if she does not come forward herself after reading the evening papers."

"She will never come forward."

"I am not so sure. Something not a little peculiar happened at the
museum after you left. We had Reynolds up, and he made a most careful
examination of that bow for finger-prints. He did not find any. But
fortune favored us in another way almost as good."

"Now you interest _me_."

"We had brought the bow into the Curator's office, and it lay on the long
table in the middle of the room. I had been looking it over (this was
after Reynolds had gone, of course) and had already noted a certain
defect in it, when on chancing to look up, my eyes fell on a mirror
hanging in a closet the door of which stood wide open. A face was visible
in it--a very white face which altered under my scrutiny into a semblance
more natural. It was that of Correy--you remember Correy, one of the
assistants, and an honest fellow enough, but more troubled at this moment
than I had ever seen him. What could have happened?

"Wheeling quickly about, I caught him just as he started to go. He had
openly declared that he did not know this bow; but it was evident that he
did, and I did not hesitate to say so. Taken unawares, he could not hide
his distress, which he proceeded to explain thus: He did remember the
bow, now that he had the opportunity of seeing it closer. He pointed to
the nick I had myself noticed and said that owing to this defect the bow
had been cast aside, and the last time he had handled it----Here he
caught his breath and stopped. Another memory had evidently returned to
embarrass him."

"Did you succeed in getting him to acknowledge what it was?"

"Yes, after I had worked with him for some time. He didn't want to talk.
In a moment you will see why. Going back to the time he had seen it
before, he said that he had found it in the cellar in an old box, the
contents of which he had been pulling over in a search for something very
different. Amazed to find it there, he had taken it out, examined it
carefully, noted the nick I mentioned and tossed it back again into the
box. This he told, but reluctantly.

"Why reluctantly, I was soon to find out. He was not alone in the cellar.
The shadow of some person at his back had fallen across the lid of the
box as he was closing it. He did not recognize the shadow and had not
given it at the time a second thought, but the remembrance of it came
back vividly when he saw the bow lying before him and realized the part
it had played in the morning's tragedy. Was it because he knew that only
a person actively connected with the museum would have access to that
part of the cellar? I asked. I did not expect an answer, and I did not
get it. We looked at each other for a moment, then I let him go."

A momentary silence, which the Inspector broke by saying:

"Later I called the Curator in, and he also recognized the bow as
belonging to the museum. But he volunteered no explanations and in fact
had little to say on the subject. He was evidently too much startled by
the direct connection which had thus been made between the crime (or
accident, if you will) and the personnel of the museum."

"That was natural. He should be the first to see that the bow which shot
the arrow must of necessity have been brought into the building by some
other door than those at which the doormen stood guard. I had a talk
with those men, and they both declared that no sticks or umbrellas or
anything of that nature ever went by them or would be allowed to go by
them, no matter how concealed or wrapped up. But to revert to the matter
in hand. So Correy made absolutely no attempt to explain how this weapon
had been carried from cellar to gallery without his knowledge?"

"No. He for one will have a sleepless night."

"Not he alone. I must and will see a way through this maze. To-morrow may
bring luck. Ah, I forgot to say that I spent an hour of the three you
allowed me with the captain of the steamer which brought over these two
women. As might be expected, he had no information of any significance to
give me; nor could I obtain much from such members of the crew as I could
get hold of. One steward remembered the Englishman, chiefly because he
never showed himself unless the young lady was on deck. But he never saw
them speak."

"Which bears out Travis' story to the last detail."

"Exactly. I think we can depend upon _him_; otherwise we _should_ be at
sea."

"Yet his story is a very strange one."

"The whole affair is strange--the strangest I ever knew. But that isn't
against it. It's the commonplace case which baffles. We shall get the key
to the whole mystery yet."

"I've no doubt. Is Mr. Travis to be detained?"

"Yes, as witness."

"Does he object?"

"Not at all. Having spoken--told his whole story, as he says--he is
rather glad than otherwise to be relieved from the common curiosity of
strangers. He's a rare bird, Gryce. If he stops to think, he must see
that he stands in a more or less ticklish position. But he does not
betray by look or action any doubt of our entire belief in the truth of
all his statements. His only trouble seems to be that he has lost, by
these inhuman means, the girl upon whom he had set his heart. To-morrow
we will confront him with Mrs. Taylor. She should be able to say whether
he did or did not stand out in the open gallery at the moment Miss
Willetts fell."

But Mr. Gryce had no encouragement to give him on this head.

"Mrs. Taylor is ill--very ill, as I take it. I stopped at her hotel to
inquire. I was anxious about her for more than one reason and the report
I got of her condition was far from favorable. She is suffering cruelly
from shock. How occasioned, whether by the peculiar and startling death
to which she was a witness or by the strangely coincident fancy to which
she herself attributes her deep emotion, will have to be decided by
further developments. Nothing which I was able to learn from doctor or
nurse settled this interesting question. Meanwhile, no one is allowed to
see her--or will be till she is on the direct road to recovery. Let us
hope that this may be soon, or the inquest may be delayed indefinitely."

"I don't know as that is to be deplored. I imagine we shall find enough
to fill in our time.... Any communications made by her before she
collapsed? Did she send out or receive messages of any kind since her
return from the museum?"

"She received none; but it is impossible to say whether or not she sent
any out. There is a letter-chute very near her door. She may have dropped
a letter in that any time before a watch was put upon her. You are
thinking, of course, of the anxiety she expressed about her husband, and
whether she took any measures for ascertaining if her fears for him had
any foundation in fact?"

"I was, yes; but I presume this fancy had passed, or else she is too ill
to remember her own aberrations. Were you able to effect an understanding
with her nurse?"

"Yes; that's fixed. I had a short talk, too, with the proprietor of the
hotel. He thinks very highly of Mrs. Taylor. She has lived in the one
apartment for years, and he cannot say enough of her discreet and uniform
life. Though she made no secret of the fact that she does not live with
her husband, her conduct has always been such as to insure universal
respect. He did not even make mention of eccentricities. If she is crazy,
it is a late development. She seemed to have been all right up to this
morning. Whichever way you turn, you encounter mystery and a closed
door."

"The papers may spring the lock of that door at any moment. Publication
does much in a case of this kind. To-morrow we may be in a much more
favorable position. Meantime, let us recount the facts it is our business
to clear up."

"On what hypothesis?"

"On all hypotheses. We are not sure enough of our premises, as yet, to
confine ourselves to one."

"Very good, these are the ones which seem to me to be of the greatest
importance:

"Whose hand carried the bow from cellar to gallery?

"Was it the same which carried the arrow from one gallery to the other?

"Is it possible for an arrow, shot through the loophole made by the
curving-in of the vase, to reach the mark set for it by Mr. Travis'
testimony?

"Which one of the men or women known to be in the museum when this arrow
was released has enough knowledge of archery to string a bow? A mark can
be reached by chance; but only an accustomed hand can string a bow as
unyielding as this one.

"Who telephoned to Madame Duclos; and of what nature was the message
which sent her from the hotel so precipitately that she not only left the
most important part of her baggage behind but went away without making
adequate provision for the young girl confided to her charge?

"Does this mean that she had been made acquainted with the fate of the
young girl; and if so, by whom?"

"Business enough for us all," was the Inspector's comment as Gryce paused
in this enumeration. "As you put it, I am more and more convinced that
the key you spoke of a short time ago will be found in this missing
woman's tightly shut hand."

"Which brings us round full-circle to our first conclusion: that Miss
Willetts' death is not only a crime, but a premeditated one."

"Carried out, not by the one benefited, but by an agent selected for the
purpose."

"An agent, moreover, who knew the ways and possibilities of the place."

"A logical conclusion; but still too incredible for belief. I find it
hard to trust to appearances in this case."

"And I also. But as we have both said, time may clear away some of its
incongruities. Meanwhile I have an experiment to propose." And leaning
close to the Inspector, notwithstanding the fact that there was nobody
within hearing and he knew it, he whispered a few words in his ear.

The Inspector stared.

"To-night?" he asked.

The detective nodded.




IX

WHILE THE CITY SLEPT


Night--the night of a great city with its myriad of garish lights and its
many curious and incongruous activities.

Who has not felt his imagination stirred by the contrasts thus
offered--contrasts never more apparent than at these hours of supposed
rest? Grim walls, with dimpled children sleeping behind them! Places of
merrymaking athrob with music and dazzling with jets of incandescent
light, with grief in the heart of the dancer and despair making raucous
the enforced laugh!

But nowhere in the great city of which we write on this night of May 23,
1913, was there to be found a scene of greater contradictions than in the
court and galleries of its famous museum.

Lighted as for a reception, the architectural beauties of its Moorish
arcades and carven balustrades flashed in full splendor. Gems of antique
art, casts in which genius had stored its soul and caused to live before
us the story of the ancients, pillars from desert sands, friezes from the
Parthenon and bas-reliefs from Nineveh and Heliopolis, filled every
corner, commanding the eye to satisfy itself in forms of deathless grace
or superhuman power. And no one to heed! Not an eye to note that the
Venus in one corner seemed to smile in the soft light with more than its
accustomed allurement, or that the armor in which kings had fought wore a
menacing sparkle exceeding that of other times and quieter days. Ghosts
of vanished ages might parade at will among the chattels of their time or
drain the iridescent beaker to their unknown gods--no one would have
noticed or turned aside to see. For there was something else within these
walls to-night for the men assembled there to look upon, and a story to
be read which shut the imagination upon the past by amply filling it with
the present.

What is this something? Let us follow the gaze of the half-dozen persons
grouped in front of the tapestry hanging in the northern gallery, and
see.

But first, of whom is this small and mystic group composed? Who are these
men who in the middle of the night, in the security of a completely
shuttered building, busy themselves, not with the inestimable treasures
surrounding them, but with an odd and seemingly mountebank adventure
totally out of keeping with the place and their absorbed demeanor? We
will name them:

Mr. Roberts and a second director seen here for the first time, Inspector
Jackson, Mr. Gryce, two lesser detectives, and a strange young man of
undoubted Indian extraction who kept much in the background and yet stood
always at attention like one awaiting orders.

Are these all? Yes, in the one gallery; but in the other, shadowy figures
are visible among the arches at one end, with whose identity we shall
probably soon be made acquainted.

At what are these various persons, in the one gallery as in the other,
looking so intently that all are turned one way--the way of greatest
interest--the way the fatal arrow had flown some fourteen hours before,
carrying death to the innocent girl smiling upon life in youthful
exuberance? Is it at some image of herself they see restored to hope and
joy? An image is there, but alas! it is but a dummy taken from one of the
exhibits and so set up as to present the same angle to the gallery-front
as her young body had done, according to Mr. Travis' reluctant
declaration.

Why so placed, and why regarded with such concentrated interest by the
men confronting it from the opposite gallery, will become apparent when,
upon the Indian's being summoned from his place of modest retirement, it
can be seen that the bow he carries in one hand is offset by the arrow he
holds in the other. A test is to be made which will settle, or so they
hope, the truth of Mr. Travis' story. If an arrow launched from before
the pedestal or even from behind it through the loophole made by the
curving-in of the vase toward its base can be made to reach its mark in
the breast of this dummy, then they would feel some justification in
doubting his statement that the arrow, whatever the appearances, was not
shot from this gallery. If it could not, belief in his statements would
be confirmed and their minds be cleared of a doubt which must hamper all
their future movements.

The second director, whose name was Clayton, stood at the left of the
Inspector and close against the tapestry. To him that official now turned
with this explanation:

"The bow you see in Mr. La Fleche's hand is similar in length and weight
to the one found lying strung for use in the doorway back of where you
are now standing. The arrow is from the same quiver as the one which
entered Miss Willetts' breast.... Did you speak?"

No, Mr. Clayton had not spoken; yet for some reason a thrill had passed
through the small group surrounding him, which had heightened the
consciousness of them all. Eyes and ears became alert; only the Indian
showed stolidity.

"Mr. La Fleche, you will first stand here," continued the Inspector,
pointing to the spot which Mr. Travis had finally settled upon as the one
where he had been standing at the moment he saw Miss Willetts fall.

The Indian took the place, sighted the figure diagonally opposite and
laid his finger on the string.

"An inch to the left of the bunch of flowers pinned on the dummy's
breast," murmured Mr. Gryce almost in his ear.

It was a breathless moment; even the two detectives showed excitement.

But the Indian failed to shoot. Instead, he looked around at the
Inspector and quietly remarked:

"I will shoot standing, since you so request, but I think you will find
that the arrow which caused death was delivered by a man kneeling."

A flash of the eye between the two detectives, which only one man saw!
All the others were watching the lightning flight of the arrow. It struck
the dummy full and square. Everyone shuddered, even the Inspector; it
brought the real tragedy so vividly to mind.

Meanwhile a movement had taken place in the small group of men watching
from the other side. One of them stepped fully into view and approaching
the figure thus attacked, drew out the arrow and made close examination
of the hole it had made and shook his head. It was Coroner Price.

"Try again, and from behind the pedestal this time," he called out across
the intervening space as he stepped back into his former place of
observation.

The Inspector motioned his wishes to the Indian, who with a subtle twist
of his body slipped behind the pedestal.

"That's better," was the Inspector's quick comment. "Can you handle the
bow easily from where you now stand?"

"There is plenty of room."

"Very well. But wait! Before we proceed further, there is a matter to
which I wish to call the attention of these gentlemen. It must have been
apparent to you all that a person standing where Mr. La Fleche did a
moment ago would be easily visible to anyone looking up from the court or
across from the opposite gallery, or even from the broad corridors at
either end of the building. But would the same hold true if instead of
being in front he had been behind the pedestal, as Mr. La Fleche is now?
Run below, Barney; and, gentlemen, disperse yourselves in different
directions and give me your opinion. Now!" he demanded after a few
minutes' wait, during which there had been a scattering to right and left
along the galleries, "what do you say?"

"If anyone chanced to be looking directly there, yes," was shouted up
from below.

"What do you say, Coroner Price?"

"Ask the man to kneel."

The Inspector gave the word.

"Ah, that's different! The bulge of the vase hides the upper part of his
head, and the pedestal itself the lower. He might shoot from his present
position with impunity."

"Do you all agree?"

"Yes, yes!" came from different parts of the building.

"Then, Mr. La Fleche, here's another arrow from the same quiver. Take
fresh aim and shoot."

Another breathless moment--more breathless than the other; then a second
arrow flew across the court and hung quivering in the breast of the
dummy.

From both ends of the gallery men came running, and leaning eagerly over
the gallery-rail they watched the Coroner as he stepped again into view
to make a second examination.

This time he kept them several minutes in suspense, and when he had drawn
out the arrow, he looked long at the hole it had made. Then, instead of
shouting his decision across the court, he could be seen leaving the
gallery and coming around their way.

What had he to say? As they waited, a clock struck from some neighboring
steeple--three sonorous peals! The two directors glanced at each other.
Doubtless they felt the weirdness of the hour as well as of the occasion.
It was a new experience for these amateurs in police procedure.

Arrived on their side, the Coroner advanced quickly. When close upon the
reassembled group, he remarked quickly but with great decision:

"Mr. Travis seems to have been correct in denying that the arrow flew
either from before or behind this pedestal. The first arrow sent by Mr.
La Fleche entered the dummy almost at a right angle; the last departed
but a little from this same line. But the real wound which I probed and
located to a hair was a decidedly slanting one. It must have been sent
from a place further off."

"From behind the other pedestal!" spoke up Mr. Gryce, all fire and
interest at once. "Either the Englishman deceived us, or each pedestal
had its man."

"We'll see! Another shot, and from behind the further pedestal, Mr. La
Fleche!"

The Indian glided into view and started for the other end of the
tapestry, followed by the Inspector, his detectives and the two
directors. As they passed one by one across the face of the great
hanging, they had the appearance not of living men but of a parade of
specters, so silent their step and so somber their air. The dread of some
development hitherto unacknowledged made their movements slow instead of
hasty. The upper pedestal instead of the lower! Why should this possible
fact make any difference in their feelings. Yet it did--perhaps because
it meant deception on the part of one they had instinctively believed
trustworthy, or--

But why pursue conjecture when actuality only is of moment? Let us
proceed with our relation and await the result.

Arrived at the upper pedestal, Mr. La Fleche took his place, received the
third arrow and presently delivered it. The Coroner, who had already
started for the other side, hastily approached the dummy, made his
examination and threw up his hand with the loud shout:

"The shot was made from there; the matter is settled!"

Question: Had Mr. Travis wilfully misled them, or had the presumption in
his favor been strengthened by this proof that it had been shown possible
for another hand than his to have shot the arrow from this same section
of the gallery, without disturbing his belief that he was the only person
in it at the time?




X

"AND HE STOOD _HERE_?"


The Inspector, finding himself very much disturbed by the doubt just
mentioned, felt inclined to question whether any perceptible advancement
had been made by this freak business of his canny subordinate. He was
hardly ready to say yes, and was not a little surprised when on his way
toward the head of the staircase he heard the exultant voice of Mr. Gryce
whisper in his ear:

"That's all right. We've gained a point. We know now the exact place from
which the arrow was shot."

"But not who shot it."

"No--except that it was not the man Travis."

"How can you be sure of that?"

"For two reasons. This is the first one: If it is difficult to understand
how a man could slip from behind the eastern pedestal and make his way
along the open gallery to Room H, without attracting the attention of the
officer posted opposite, how next to impossible we should find it, if
thirty feet were added to his course--which is the distance between the
two pedestals!"

"What was that fellow doing, that he shouldn't have seen this effort at
escape, whether it involved a short flight or a long one?"

"He says he was not given detective-duty--that he was placed there to
keep watch over the body of the young girl;--that at a certain moment he
imagined himself to hear a stealthy footstep approaching from the farther
end of the gallery, and anxious to spot the man yielding to so doubtful a
curiosity, he approached the arch separating his section from the
adjoining one, and stopping just inside, stood for a moment or so,
listening. As this involved the turning of his back upon the court and
consequently upon the opposite gallery, it gave Travis just the
opportunity he needed for an unobserved escape. But I see you are not
very much impressed by the reason I have advanced for believing his story
and placing him where he says he was placed, behind the eastern pedestal.
You doubtless think that if the officer opposite had stood long enough
with his back to the court, Travis might have taken those extra thirty
steps as easily as the twenty he had confessed to. Listen, then, to my
second reason, or rather, step this way."

Leading his superior toward Room B, the door of which stood wide open, he
paused just outside the threshold to note the effect produced upon the
Inspector by what he saw inside. Evidently it was as marked with surprise
as the detective had calculated upon, for with an air of great
astonishment the Inspector turned upon him with the whispered
exclamation:

"Travis here! where he could listen--see----"

"Yes. Take a good look at him, Inspector. It won't trouble him any. I
doubt if he would notice us if we stepped into the room."

And such was the opinion of the Inspector himself, as he remarked the
extreme excitement under which the Englishman was laboring. Absorbed in
thoughts of his own, he was pacing the room with long strides, turning
mechanically as he met some impediment, but otherwise oblivious to his
surroundings, even to the point of not noting the presence of Sweetwater,
who stood quietly watching him from one of the corners.

This display of feeling was certainly eloquent enough to attract anyone's
attention, but what gave it impressiveness to the official mind was this:
his excitement was that of triumph, not fear, of hope without any trace
of confusion.

"It is not of himself he is thinking," muttered Gryce.

"And he stood _here_?"

"No--we left him free to move about at will, and his will carried him
into full view of the whole performance."

"And Sweetwater?"

"Was near enough to note his every move, but of course kept himself well
out of sight."

Then as they both stepped back from the doorway: "Mr. Travis didn't know
he was being watched. He thought himself alone; and having an expressive
countenance,--very expressive for an Englishman,--it was easy enough for
Sweetwater to read his thoughts."

"And those thoughts?"

"Relief to find an explanation of the phenomenon he had doubtless been
puzzling over for hours. The moments he had spent in hiding behind one
pedestal had evidently failed to suggest that another man might have been
in hiding behind the other."

"I am not surprised. Coincidences of this astonishing kind are not often
met with even by us," was the Inspector's dry retort.

During the interchange of these hurried sentences, they had withdrawn
still farther out of sight and hearing of the man discussed. But at this
point Inspector Jackson reapproached the doorway, and entering in a
manner to intercept Mr. Travis in his nervous goings to and fro, remarked
in an off-hand way:

"I see that you have met with a surprise, Mr. Travis. Like ourselves, you
gave little thought to what that upper pedestal might conceal."

"You are right. I never even glanced that way. But if I had, I should
have seen nothing. He was well hid, exceedingly well hid, whoever he was.
But he cannot escape now; you'll get him, won't you, Inspector? He could
not have left the building--all say that this was impossible. He was one,
then, of the people I saw moving about when I went down into the court.
Find him! Find this murderer of innocence! of the sweetest, purest
child----"

He turned away; grief was taking the place of indignation and revenge.
At this sight the two men left him. The Inspector was at last convinced,
both of the man's probity and of one stern, disconcerting fact: that the
real culprit--the man whose guilty fingers had launched the fatal
arrow--had been, as Travis said, one of the twenty-two persons who had
been moving about for hours not only under his eyes but under those of
the famous detective posted there.




XI

FOOTSTEPS


  WANTED--A WOMAN CALLING HERSELF ANTOINETTE Duclos, just arrived from
  Europe on the steamer _Castania_, who after taking rooms at the
  Universal for herself and her steamer companion, Angeline Willetts,
  left the hotel in great haste late in the afternoon of May twenty-third
  and has not been heard of since.

  In person she is of medium height, but stocky for a Frenchwoman. Dark
  hair, black eyes, with an affection of the lid which causes the left
  one to droop. Her dress consisted of skirt and jacket of a soft shade
  of brown. Hat indistinguishable. She carried, on leaving the hotel, a
  dark brown leather bag of medium size, long and narrow in shape. Her
  only peculiarity, saving the one drooping eyelid, is a hesitating walk.
  This is particularly obvious when she attempts to hasten.

  It is to be hoped that this person on hearing of Miss Willetts' death,
  will communicate at once with the clerk of the hotel.

  If in two days this does not occur, a reward of five hundred dollars
  will be given to the man or woman who can give definite news of this
  Frenchwoman's whereabouts.

  Police Headquarters, Mulberry St.

This notice, appended to such particulars of the tragedy as appeared in
all the morning papers, roused the city--I may even say the country--to
even greater wonder and excitement than had followed the first details
given in the journals of the evening before.

Would anything come of it?

Morning passed; no news of Antoinette Duclos.

Afternoon: messages of all kinds leading to much work, but bringing no
result.

Five o'clock: a missive from the directors of the museum to the effect
that under the peculiar circumstances and the seeming absence of any
friends of the deceased, they would be glad to furnish the means
necessary to the proper care and burial of the young woman killed in such
an unhappy manner within their walls.

A half-hour later, Gryce, for whose appearance the Inspector had been
anxiously waiting, came in with his report. A chair was pushed up for
him, for he was an old man and had had a sleepless night, as we know,
besides two days of continued work. But he did not drop into it, as the
Inspector expected, or give any other signs of exceptional fatigue; yet
when he had seated himself and they were left alone, he did not hasten to
speak, though he evidently had much to say, but remained quiet, holding
counsel, as it were, in his old way, with some small object he had picked
up from the desk before him.

At last the Inspector spoke:

"You have been on the hunt; what did you find?"

"Not much, Inspector--and yet enough to disturb me in a way I was not
looking for. Of course, in studying the situation carefully, you have
asked yourself how the man who shot the arrow from behind the upper
pedestal got away. He did not wait as Travis did till the first
excitement had abated and the way was, in a manner, cleared for an escape
into the court. For X, as we will call him, was certainly among those I
saw lined up before me at the moment I bade them one and all to return
and stand until released, in the exact spot occupied by them when the
first alarm rang out. After the surprise Travis gave us we had the
building searched from roof to cellar. Not another soul was found in it
whose name was not registered on the chart. As I have already said, the
guilty one had managed to escape immediately upon the flight of the
arrow, though how, even then, he could have got below in the time he did
is a mystery which trips me up every time I think of it. But letting that
go for the present, he did get there and get there unnoticed. How? Now,
there are three ways of escape from behind either of those pedestals. The
way Travis took, that is, toward the front, and round through the suite
of rooms headed by the one marked H, to the rear staircase; the more
direct one of an immediate exit from the gallery through Sections VI and
VII to this same staircase; and (the only one worth considering) a
straight plunge for the door behind the tapestry and so down by the
winding staircase beyond, into the Curator's office. The unknown never
went Travis' way, and he couldn't have gone the other without running
into the arms of Correy; so he must have made use of the hidden door. So
convinced was I of this, after last night's discovery eliminated Travis
as a suspect, that I made it my first duty this morning to examine this
door and the mysterious little passageway back of it. When first notified
of this door, we had been assured that it had not been opened in years,
that the only key remaining to it was the one the Curator showed us
hanging from the ring he drew from his own pocket; and acting upon these
statements, which I would not allow myself to doubt for a moment, we
decided to open the door in our own way, which we immediately did. The
result was the instant discovery that some one had passed through this
door and down these stairs very much later than years ago. We could see,
without taking a step beyond the doorway, traces of a well-shod foot in
the dust lying thickly on every tread. These traces were so many and so
confused that I left them for Stevens' experienced eye and deft
manipulation to separate and make plain to us. He is making an
examination of them now, and will be able to report to you before night."

The Inspector was a man of little pretense. He felt startled and showed
it.

"But this is a serious matter, Gryce."

"Very serious."

"No mere visitor to the museum would have presumed upon this venture."

"No."

"Which means----"

"That some one actively connected with it had a guilty hand in this
deplorable affair."

"I am afraid so."

"Some one well acquainted with the existence of this door and who had
means of opening it. The question is--who?"

In saying this, Mr. Gryce studiously avoided the Inspector's eye; while
the Inspector in his turn looked up, then down--anywhere but in the
detective's direction. It was a moment of mutual embarrassment, broken,
when it was broken, by a remark which manifestly avoided the issue.

"Possibly those traces you speak of were not made at the time you
specify. They may have been made since, or they may have been made
before. Perhaps the Curator was curious and tried his hand at a little
detective work on his own account."

"He hadn't the chance. Every portion of the building has been very
thoroughly guarded since first we entered it. He may have gone up prior
to the shooting. That is open to dispute; but if he had done so, why did
he not inform us of the fact when he showed us the key? The Curator is
the soul of honor. He would hardly deceive us in so important a matter."

The quick glance which this elicited from the Inspector awoke no
corresponding flash in the eye of the imperturbable detective. He
continued to shake his head over the small object he was twirling
thoughtfully about between his thumb and finger, and only from his
general seriousness could the Inspector gather that his mind was no more
at rest than his fingers. Was this why his remark took the form of a
question?

"Where was the Curator when you forced open that door behind the
tapestry? Was he anywhere in the building?"

"No, sir; he has not been there to-day. He was ill last night, and he is
ill to-day. He sent us his excuses. If he had been in the building, I
doubt whether I would have given the order to burst open the door. I
would simply have requested him to use his key. And he would have done so
and kept his own counsel. I do not know as I can say as much for any of
his subordinates. Happily, no spying eye was about at that time; and
Stevens will be sure to see that he is not watched at his work if he
has to lock the door upon the whole bunch of directors."

"This is to be a secret investigation, then?"

"I would so advise."

"With every reporter headed off, and anyone likely to report to a
reporter headed off also?"

"Do not _you_ advise this?"

"I do. Anything more?"

"Not till we hear from Stevens."

They had not long to wait. Sooner than they expected the expert mentioned
came in. He held a batch of papers in his hand, which at a gesture from
the Inspector he spread out before them. Then he spoke:

"One man and one man only has passed down those stairs. But that man has
passed down them twice--once with rubbers on and once without. There are
signs equally plain of his having gone up them, but only once, and at the
time he wore the rubbers. I took every pains possible to preserve and
photograph the prints, but as you see, great confusion was caused by the
second line of steps falling half on and half off the other. All I dare
read there is this: A quick run up and a quick run down by a man in
rubbers, and then a second run down by the same man in shoes. That's the
whole story. These other scraps of paper," he went on as he saw the
Inspector's eye travel to some small bits lying on the side, "are what I
have to show as the result of my search on and about the western pedestal
for finger-prints. A gloved hand drew that bow. See here: this is an
impression I obtained from the inner edge of the pedestal in question."

He pulled forward a small square of paper; the sewing of a kid glove was
plainly indicated there.

When Stevens had gone, the Inspector exclaimed meaningly:

"Gryce! Name your man; we shall get on faster."

The aged detective rose.

"I dare not," he said. "Give me one--two days. I must have time to
think--to collect my evidence. A name once mentioned leaves an echo. When
my echo rings, it must carry no false sound. Remember, I did not sleep
last night. When I present this case to you as I see it, I must be at my
best. I am not at my best to-day."

This was doubtless true, but the Inspector had not discovered it.




XII

"SPARE NOBODY! I SAY, SPARE NOBODY!"


On his way home Mr. Gryce stopped at the Calderon to inquire how Mrs.
Taylor was doing, and what his prospects were for a limited interview
with her.

He was told that no such interview could be considered for days--that she
still lay in a stupor, with brief flashes of acute consciousness, during
which she would scream "No! no!"--that brain fever was feared and that
increased excitement might be fatal.

Another bar to progress! He had hoped to help her memory into supplying
him with a fact which would greatly simplify a task whose anomalies
secretly alarmed him. She had been in a fair state of mind before her
nerve was attacked by the event which robbed the little Angeline of life
and herself of reason, and if carefully approached, might possibly recall
some of the impressions made upon her previous to that moment. If, for
instance, she could describe even in a general way the appearance of any
person she may have seen advancing in the direction of the northern
gallery at the moment she herself turned to enter the southern one, what
a stability it would give to his theory, and what certainty to his future
procedure!

But he must wait for this, as he must wait for Angeline's story from
Madame Duclos. Meantime, a word with Sweetwater--after which, rest.

It was Mr. Gryce's custom, especially when engaged upon a case of marked
importance, to receive this, his recognized factotum, in his own home. No
prying ears, no watchful eyes, were to be feared there. He was the
absolute master of everything, even of Sweetwater, he sometimes thought.
For this young fellow loved him--had reason to; and when Sweetwater
played the violin, as he sometimes did after one of their long talks, the
aged detective came as near happiness as he ever did, now that his little
grandchild was married and had gone with her husband to the other side of
the world.

To-night he was not anticipating any such relaxation as this, yet to
Sweetwater, arriving later than he wished, he had never looked more in
need of it, as, sitting in his old and somewhat dingy library, he mused
over some little object he held in his half-closed palm, with an intent,
care-worn gaze which it distressed his young subordinate to see.
Uncertainty incites the young and fires them to action; but it wearies
the old and saps what little strength they have; and Sweetwater detected
uncertainty in his patron's troubled brow and prolonged stare at the
insignificant article absorbing his attention.

However, Gryce roused quickly at the young detective's cheery greeting,
and looking up with an answering welcome, plunged at once into business.

"So you have seen Turnbull! What did the man say?"

"That it was the left-hand upper corner of the tapestry he saw shaking,
and not the right-hand one as we had blindly supposed."

"Good! Then we can take it for granted that our new theory is well
founded. Certain things have come to light in your absence. That tapestry
was pulled aside not merely for the purpose of flinging in the bow, but
to let the flinger pass through the door at its back down to the
Curator's office and so out into the court."

"Whew! And who...."

"If this fact had been made known to me sooner, you would have had a
different day's work; not getting it until late this afternoon, we have
perhaps wasted some valuable hours. But we won't fret about that. Mrs.
Taylor being no better, we are likely to have all the time we want for
substantiating my idea. It cannot take long if we succeed either in
tracing the Duclos woman or in drawing the net I am quietly
manufacturing, so closely about--well, I've decided to call him X--that
it will hold against all opposition. I have hopes of finding the woman,
but great doubts as to the efficacy of the net I have mentioned; it will
have to be so wide and deep, and so absolutely without a single weak
strand."

Sweetwater sat astonished, and what was more, silent--he who had a word
for everything. Accustomed as he was to the varying moods of his
remarkable friend, he had never before been met with a reticence so
absolute. It made him think; but for once in his life did not make him
loquacious.

Mr. Gryce seemed to be gratified by this, though he made no remark to
that effect and continued to preserve his abstracted look and quiet
demeanor. So Sweetwater waited, and while waiting managed to steal a
glimpse at the small object to which his professional friend still paid
his undivided attention.

It looked like a narrow bit of dingy black cloth--just that and nothing
more--a thing as trivial as the band which clips a closed umbrella. Was
it such a band, and would he presently be asked to find the umbrella from
which it had fallen or been twisted away? No. Umbrellas are not carried
about museum buildings. Besides, this strip of cloth had no ring on the
end of it. Consequently it could not have served the purpose he had just
ascribed to it. It must have had some other use.

But when, after an impatient flinging aside of this nondescript article,
Mr. Gryce spoke, it was to say:

"I had a long talk with Correy to-day. It seems that he goes through both
galleries every morning before the museum opens. Though he will not swear
to it, he is of the opinion that the quiver holding the Apache arrows had
its full complement when he passed it that morning. He has a way of
running things over with his eye which has never yet failed to draw his
attention to anything defective or in the least out of order."

"I see, sir," acquiesced Sweetwater in an odd tone, Mr. Gryce's attitude
showing that he awaited some expression of interest on his part.

The elder detective either did not notice the curious note in the younger
one's voice, or noticing it, chose to ignore it, for with no change of
manner he proceeded to say:

"I wish you would exercise your wits, Sweetwater, on the following
troublesome question: if the arrow which slew this young girl was in one
gallery at ten o'clock, how did it get into the other at twelve? The
bow"--here he purposely hesitated--"might have been brought up the iron
staircase. But the arrow----"

His eyes were on Sweetwater (a direct glance was a rare thing with Mr.
Gryce), and he waited--waited patiently for the word which did not come;
then he remarked dryly:

"We are both dull; you are tired with your day's work and I with mine:
we will let difficult questions rest until our brains are clearer.
But"--here he reached for the strip of dingy cloth he had cast aside, and
tossing it over to Sweetwater, added with some suggestion of humor,--"if
you want a subject to dream upon to-night, there it is. If you have no
desire to dream, and want work for to-morrow, make an effort to discover
from whose clothing that fell and what was its use. It was picked up in
Room B on the second floor, the one where Mrs. Taylor was detained before
going downstairs."

"Ah, something tangible at last!"

"I don't know about that; I honestly don't know. But we cannot afford to
let anything go by us. Little things like that have not infrequently
opened up a fresh trail which otherwise might have been missed."

Sweetwater nodded, and laying the little strip along his palm, examined
it closely. It was made of silk, doubled, and stitched together except at
the ends. These were loose, but rough with bits of severed thread, as if
the thing had been hastily cut from some article of clothing to which it
had been attached by some half-dozen very clumsy stitches.

"I think I understand you, Mr. Gryce," observed Sweetwater, rising slowly
to his feet. "But a dream may help me out; we will see."

"I shall not leave here till ten to-morrow morning."

"Very good, sir. If you don't mind, I'll take this with me."

"Take it, by all means."

As Sweetwater turned to go, he was induced by the silence of his patron
to cast a backward glance. Mr. Gryce had risen to his feet and was
leaning toward him with an evident desire to speak.

"My boy," said he, "if your dreams lead you to undertake the search I
have mentioned, spare nobody; I say, spare _nobody_."

Then he sat down; and the memory which Sweetwater carried away with him
of the old detective at the moment he uttered this final injunction was
far from being a cheerful one.




XIII

"WRITE ME HIS NAME"


Refreshed by a good night's rest and quite ready to take up his task
again, Mr. Gryce sat at the same table in the early morning, awaiting the
expected message from Sweetwater. Meanwhile he studied, with a fuller
attention than he had been able to give it the evening before, the
memorandum which this young fellow had handed him of his day's work. A
portion of this may be interesting to the reader. Against the list of
people registered on his chart as present in the museum at the moment of
tragedy, he had inscribed such details concerning them as he could gather
in the short time allotted him.

       *       *       *       *       *

I--Ephraim Short. A sturdy New Englander visiting New York for the first
time. Has a big story to take back. Don't care much for broken marbles
and pictures so dingy you cannot tell what you are looking at; but the
sight of a lot of folks standing up like scarecrows in a field, here and
there all over a great building, because something had happened to
somebody, will make a story the children will listen to for years.

Address taken, and account of himself verified by telegraph.

II--Mrs. Lynch. Widow, with a small house in Jersey and money to support
it. No children. Interested in church work. Honest and of reliable
character. Only fault a physical one--extreme nervousness.

III--Mr. Carleton Roberts, director; active in his work, member of the
Union League and an aspirant for the high office of U. S. Senator. Lives
in bachelor apartment, 67 W. ---- Street. A universally respected man of
unquestioned integrity and decided importance. Close friend of Curator
Jewett.

IV--Eben Clarke, door-man. Been long in the employ of museum. Considered
entirely trustworthy. Home in decent quarter of West 80th Street. Wife
and nine children, mostly grown. Never been abroad. Has no foreign
correspondence.

V--Emma Sutton, an art enthusiast, gaining her living by copying old
masters. Is at museum six days in the week. It was behind her easel
Travis found a hiding-place in Room H.

VI--Mrs. Alice Lee, widowed sister of Edward Cronk Tailor, ---- Sixth
Ave. Lives with brother. Kindly in disposition, much liked and truthful
to a fault. No acquaintance abroad.

VII-VIII--John and Mary Draper, husband and wife, living in East Orange,
N. J. Decent, respectable folk with no foreign connections.

IX--Hetty Armstrong, young girl, none too bright but honest to the core.
Impossible to connect her with this affair.

X--Charles Simpson, resident of Minneapolis. In town on business, stopping
at Hotel St. Denis. Eager to return home, but willing to remain if
requested to do so. Hates foreigners; thinks the United States the
greatest country on earth.

XI--John Turnbull, college professor; one of the new type, alert,
observant and extremely precise. Not apt to make a misstatement.

XII--James Hunter, door-man, a little old for his work, but straight as
a string and methodical to a fault. No wife, no child. Bank account more
than sufficient for his small wants.

XIII--Miss Charlotte Hunsicker, one of last season's debutantes. Given to
tennis and all outdoor sports generally. Offhand but stanch. It was she
who gave a woman's care to Mrs. Taylor when the latter fainted in Room B.

XIV--Museum attendant coming up from basement.

XV--Eliza Blake a school-teacher, convalescing after a long illness.

XVI--Officer Rudd.

XVII--Tommy Evans, boy scout. Did not lose his game. Went to the field
after lunching on pie at a bakery.

XVIII--Mrs. Nathaniel Lord, wealthy widow, living at the St. Regis.

XIX--Mrs. Ermentrude Taylor. (Nothing to add to what is already known.)

XX--Henry Abbott, Columbia student, good-hearted and reliable, but living
in a world of his own to such an extent as to make him the butt of his
fellow students.

XXI-XXII--Young couple from Haverstraw. Just married. He a drug-clerk,
she a farmer's daughter. Both regarded in their home town as harmless.

XXIII--James Correy, attendant. Bachelor, living with widowed mother.
Fair record on the whole. Reprimanded once, not for negligence, but for
some foolish act unbecoming his position. Thorough acquaintance with the
museum and its exhibits. A valuable man, well liked, notwithstanding the
one lapse alluded to. At home and among his friends regarded as the best
fellow going. A little free, perhaps, when unduly excited, but not given
to drink and very fond of games. A member once of a club devoted to
contests with foils and target-shooting. Always champion. Visits a
certain young lady three times a week.

XXIV--Curator Jewett. A widower with two grandchildren--a daughter
married to an Englishman and living in Ringold, Hants, and a son, owner
of a large ranch in California. Lives, when in city, at Hotel Gorham.
Known too well for any description of himself or character to be
necessary here. If he has a fault, or rather a weakness, it is his
extreme pride in the museum and his own conduct of its many affairs.

As on the evening before, Mr. Gryce lingered longest over one name. He
was still brooding anxiously over it when the telephone rang at his
elbow and he was called up from Headquarters. Cablegrams had been
received from London and Paris in acknowledgment of those sent, and in
both these cablegrams promises were made of a full examination into the
antecedents of Madame Duclos and her companion, Miss Willetts.

That was all. No further news regarding them from any quarter. Mr. Gryce
hung up the receiver with a sigh.

"It is likely to be a long road full of unexpected turns and perilously
near the precipice's edge," he muttered in weary comment to himself.
"Nothing to start from but----"

Here Sweetwater walked in.

Mr. Gryce showed surprise. He had not expected to see the young man
himself. Perhaps he was not quite ready to, for he seemed to shrink, for
one brief instant, as from an unwelcome presence.

But the cheer which always entered with Sweetwater was contagious,
and the old detective smiled as the newcomer approached, saying
significantly:

"I had those dreams you spoke of last night, Mr. Gryce, and found them
too weighty for the telephone."

"I see, I see! Sit down, Sweetwater, and tell me how they ran. I haven't
as much confidence in my own dreams as I hope to have in yours. Speak
up! Mention names, if you want to. No echo follows confidences uttered in
this room."

"I know that; but for the present perhaps it will be best for me to
follow your lead, and when I have to speak of a certain person, say X as
you do. X, Mr. Gryce, is the man who for reasons we do not yet understand
brought up the discarded bow from the cellar and stored it somewhere
within reach on the floor above. X is also the man who for the same
unknown reason robbed the quiver hanging in the southern gallery of one
of its arrows and kept the same on hand or in hiding, till he could mate
it with the bow. My dreams showed me this picture:

"A man with a predominating interest in sport, but otherwise active in
business, correct in his dealings and respectable in private life, sees
and frequently handles weapons of ancient and modern make which rouse his
interest and awaken the longing, common to such men, to test his skill in
their use. Sometimes it is a sword, which he twirls vigorously in sly
corners. Again, it is a bow calling for a yeoman's strength to pull. He
is a man of sense and for a long time goes no further than the play I
have just indicated. Perhaps he has no temptation to go further until one
unfortunate day he comes upon an idle bow, rotting away in the cellar."

Here Mr. Gryce looked sharply up--a proof of awakened interest which
Sweetwater did not heed. Possibly he was not expected to. At all events
he continued rapidly:

"It was a fine, strong bow, a typical one from the plains. He took it
up--examined it closely--noted a slight defect in it somewhere--and put
it back. But he did not forget it. Before many days had passed, he goes
down cellar again and brings it up and stands it on end in--where do you
think, sir?--in the closet of the Curator's office!"

"How did you learn that?"

"From the woman who comes every day to wipe up the floors. I happened to
think she might have something worth while to tell us, so I hunted her
up----"

"Go on, boy. Another long mark in your favor."

"Thank you, sir. I'm relating a dream, you know. He stands it on end then
in this closet into which nobody is supposed to go but the Curator _and_
the scrubwoman, and there he leaves it, possibly as yet with no definite
intention. How long it stood there I cannot say. It was well hidden, it
seems, by something or other hanging over it. Nor am I altogether sure
that it might not be standing there yet if the impulse swaying X had not
been strengthened by seeing daily over his head a quiver full of arrows
admirably fitted for this bow. Time has no place in dreams, or I might be
able to state the day and the hour when he stood looking at the ring of
keys lying on the Curator's desk, and struck with what it might do for
him, singled out one of the keys which he placed in the keyhole of a door
opening upon a certain little iron staircase. He was alone, but he
stopped to listen before turning that key. I can see him, can't you? His
air is a guilty one; but it is the guilt of folly, not of premeditated
crime. He wants a try at that bow and recognizes his weakness and laughs.

"But his longing holds, and running up the little staircase to a second
door, he unlocks this also and after another moment of hesitation pulls
it open. He has brought the bow with him, but he does not take it past
the drapery hanging straight down before his eyes. He simply drops it in
the doorway and leaves it there within easy reach from the gallery if
ever his impulse should be strong enough to lead him to make an attempt
at striking a feather from the Indian headdress on the other side of the
court. You think him mad. So do I, but dreams are filled with that kind
of madness; and when I see him shut the door upon this bow, and steal
back without relocking it or the one below, I have no other excuse than
this to give in answer to your criticisms."

"I do not criticise; I listen, Sweetwater."

"You will criticise now. As Bunyan says in his 'Pilgrim's Progress': 'I
dreamed again!' This time I saw the museum proper. It was filled with
visitors. The morning of May twenty-second was a busy one, I am told, and
a whole lot of people, singly and in groups, were continually passing up
and down the marble steps and along the two galleries. Partaking of the
feelings of the one whose odd impulses I am endeavoring to describe, I
was very uneasy and very restless until these crowds had thinned and most
of the guests vanished from the building. The hands of the clock were
stealing toward twelve--the hour of greatest quiet and fewest visitors.
As it reached the quarter mark, I saw what I was looking for, the man X
reaching for one of those arrows hanging in the southern gallery, and
slipping it inside his coat.--Did you speak, sir?"

No, Mr. Gryce had not spoken; and Sweetwater, after an interval of
uncertainty, went quietly on:

"As I saw both of his hands quite free the next minute, I judge that
something had been attached to the lining of that coat to hold the arrow
by its feathered head. But this is a deduction rather than a fact."

He stopped abruptly. An exclamation--one of Mr. Gryce's very own--had
left that gentleman's lips, and Sweetwater felt that he must pause if
only for an instant, to enjoy his small triumph. But the delay was short.

"Go on," said Mr. Gryce; and Sweetwater obeyed, but in lowered tones as
though the vision he was describing was actually before his eyes.

"Next, I see a sweep of tapestry, and an eager, peering figure passing
slowly across it. It is that of the love-lorn Travis watching his
inamorata tripping up the marble staircase and turning at its top in the
direction of the opposite gallery. His is a timid soul, and anxious as he
is to watch her, he is not at all anxious to be detected in the act of
doing so. So he slips behind the huge pedestal towering near him, thus
causing the whole gallery to appear empty to the eyes of X, now entering
it at the other end. This latter has come there with but one idea in his
head--to shoot an arrow across the court at the mark I have mentioned. It
may have been on a dare--sometimes I think it was; but shoot it he means
to, before a fresh crowd collects.

"He already has, as you will remember, the arrow hidden somewhere about
his person, and it is only a few steps to the edge of the tapestry behind
which he has secreted the bow. If he takes a look opposite, it is at the
moment when both Mrs. Taylor and Miss Willetts are screened from his view
by one of the partitions separating the various sections. For unless he
felt the way to be free for his arrow, he would never have proceeded to
slip behind his chosen pedestal, secure the bow, pause to string it, then
crouch for his aim in such apparent confidence. For after he has left the
open gallery and limited his outlook to what is visible beyond the
loophole through which he intends to shoot, he can see--as we know from
Mr. La Fleche--little more than the spot where the cap hangs and the one
narrow line between. Unhappily, it was across this line the young girl
leaped just as the arrow left the bow. Don't you see it, sir? I do; and I
see what follows, too."

"The escape of X?"

"Yes. Inadvertently, as you see, he has committed a horrible crime; he
can never recall it. Whatever his remorse or shame, nothing will ever
restore the victim of his folly to life, while he himself has many days
before him--days which would be ruined if his part in this tragedy were
known. Shall he confess to it, then, or shall he fly (the way is so
easy), and leave it to fate to play his game--fate, whose well-known
kindness to fools would surely favor him? It does not take long for such
thoughts to pass through a man's head, and before the dying cry of his
innocent victim had ceased to echo through those galleries, he is behind
the tapestry and on his way toward the court. Beyond that, my dream does
not go. How about yours, sir?"

"My dream was of a crime, not of an accident. No man could be such a fool
as you have made out this X of yours to be. Only an extraordinary purpose
or some imperious necessity could drive a man to shoot an arrow across an
open court where people were passing hither and yon, even if he didn't
see anyone in the gallery."

"By which you mean----"

"That he had already marked the approach of his victim and was ready with
his weapon."

"You are undoubtedly right, and I only wish to say this: that the purpose
in my relation was merely to show the method and manner of this shooting,
leaving _you_ to put on the emphasis of crime if you saw fit."

The gravity with which Mr. Gryce received this suggestion had the effect
of slightly embarrassing Sweetwater. Yet he presently ventured to add
after a moment of respectful waiting:

"Did you know that after I woke from my dream I had a moment's doubt as
to its accuracy on one point? The bow was undoubtedly flung behind the
curtain, but the man----"

He paused abruptly. A morsel of clean white paper had just been pushed
across the table under his eyes, and a peremptory voice was saying:

"Write me his name. I will do the same for you."




XIV

A LOOP OF SILK


Sweetwater hesitated.

"I am very fond of the one of your own choosing," he smiled, "but if you
insist----"

Mr. Gryce was already writing.

In another moment the two slips were passed in exchange across the table.

Instantly, a simultaneous exclamation left the lips of both.

Each read a name he was in no wise prepared to see. They had been
following diverging lines instead of parallel ones; and it took some few
minutes for them to adjust themselves to this new condition.

Then Mr. Gryce spoke:

"What led you into loading up Correy with an act which to accept as true
would oblige us to deny every premise we have been at such pains to
establish?"

"Because--and I hope you will pardon me, Mr. Gryce, since our conclusions
are so different--I found it easier to attribute this deed of folly--or
crime, if we can prove it such--to a man young in years than to one old
enough to know better."

"Very good; that is undoubtedly an excellent reason."

As this was said with an accent we will for want of a better word call
_dry_, Sweetwater, hardy as he was, flushed to his ears. But then any
prick from Mr. Gryce went very deep with him.

"Perhaps," he ventured, "you will give even less indulgence to what I
have to add in way of further excuse."

"I shall have to hear it first."

"Correy is a sport, an incorrigible one; it is his only weakness. He
bets like an Englishman--not for the money, for the sums he risks are
small, but for the love of it--the fun--the transient excitement It
might be"--here Sweetwater's words came slowly and with shamefaced
pauses--"that the shooting of that arrow--I believe I said something like
this before--was the result of a dare."

A halt took place in the quick tattoo which Mr. Gryce's fingers were
drumming out on the table-top. It was infinitesimal in length, but it
gave Sweetwater courage to add:

"Then, I hear that he wishes to marry a rich girl and shrinks from
proposing to her on account of his small salary."

"What has that got to do with it?"

"Nothing so far as I can see. I am only elaborating the meager report
lying there under your hand. But I recognize my folly. You ordered me
to dream, and I did so. Cannot we forget my unworthy vaporings and enter
upon the consideration of what may prove more profitable?"

Here he glanced down at the slip of paper he himself held--the slip which
Mr. Gryce had handed him with a single word written on it, and that word
a name.

"In a moment," was Mr. Gryce's answer. "First explain to me how, with the
facts all in mind, and your chart before your eyes, you reconciled
Correy's position on the side staircase two minutes after the shooting
with your theory of a quick escape to the court by means of the door back
of the tapestry? Haven't you hurried matters to get him so far in such a
short space of time?"

"Mr. Gryce, I have heard you say yourself that this question of time has
been, from the first, our greatest difficulty. Even with these three
means of escape in our minds, it is difficult to see how it was possible
for anyone to get from the gallery to the court in the minute or so
elapsing between the cry of the dying girl and the appearance at her side
of the man studying coins in the adjoining section."

"You are right. There was a delay somewhere, as we shall find later on.
But granting this delay, a man would have to move fast to go the full
length of the court from the Curator's room even in the time which this
small delay might afford him. But perhaps you cut this inextricable knot
by locating Correy somewhere else than where he placed himself at the
making of the chart."

"No, I cut it in another way. You remember my starting to tell you just
now how, in my dissatisfaction with a certain portion of my dream, I
refused to believe in the escape of my Mr. X by the way of the Curator's
office. The tapestry was lifted, the bow flung behind, but the man
stepped back instead of forward. An open flight along the gallery
commended itself more to him than the doubtful one previously arranged
for. If you will accept that for fact, which of course you will not, it
is easy to see how Correy might have been somewhere on that staircase
when the inspiration came to turn the appearance of flight into a show
of his own innocence, by a quick rush back into the further gallery
and a consequent loud-mouthed alarm. But I see that I am but getting
deeper and deeper in the quagmire of a bad theory badly stated. I am
forgetting----"

"Many things, Sweetwater. I will only mention a very simple one. The
man who shot the arrow wore gloves. You wouldn't attribute any such
extraordinary precaution as that to a fellow shooting an arrow across
the court on a dare?"

"You wouldn't expect it, sir. But in going about the museum that
afternoon, I came upon Correy's coat hanging on its peg. In one of its
pockets was a pair of kid gloves."

"You say the fellow is courting a rich girl," suggested Mr. Gryce. "Under
those circumstances some show of vanity is excusable. Certainly he would
not carry his folly so far as to put on gloves for the shooting match
with which you credit him, unless there was criminal intent back of his
folly--which, of course, would be as hard for you as for me to believe."

Sweetwater winced, but noting the kindly twinkle with which Mr. Gryce
softened the bitterness of this lesson, he brightened again and listened
with becoming patience as the old man went on to say:

"To discuss probabilities in connection with this other name seems futile
this morning. The ease with which one can twist the appearances of things
to fit a preconceived theory as exemplified by the effort you have just
made warns us to be chary of pushing one's idea too far without the
firmest of bases to support it. If you find a man's coat showing
somewhere on its lining evidences that there had once been sewed to it a
loop of the exact dimensions of the one I passed over to you last night,
I should consider it a much more telling clue to the personality of X
than a pair of gloves in the pocket of a man who in all probability
intends to finish up the day with a call on the girl he admires."

"I understand." Sweetwater was quite himself again. "But do you know that
this is no easy task you are giving me, Mr. Gryce. Where a man has but
two coats, or three at best, it might not be so hard, perhaps, to get at
them. But some men have a dozen, and if I don't mistake----"

"Sweetwater, I meant to give you a task of no little difficulty. It will
keep you out of mischief."




XV

NEWS FROM FRANCE


For the next three days the impatience of the public met with nothing
but disappointment. The police were reticent,--more reticent far than
usual,--and the papers, powerless to add to the facts already published,
had little but conjectures to offer.

The hunt for Madame Duclos continued, joined in now by the general
public. But for all the efforts made, aided by a careful search through
her entire baggage, there was as little known concerning her as on the
morning of her disappearance.

Nor did any better success follow the exhibition at the morgue of the
poor little victim's innocent body. The mystery covering the whole affair
seemed to be impenetrable, and the rush made on the museum upon its first
reopening to the public was such as to lead to its being closed again
till some limit could be put upon the attendance.

And thus matters stood when one morning the country was startled, and
the keenest interest again aroused in this remarkable case, by an
announcement received from France to the effect that the young lady so
unfortunately killed in one of the public buildings in New York City was,
from the description sent, not the ward of the woman Antoinette Duclos,
but her own child, Angeline Duclos. That the two were well known in St.
Pierre sur Loire, where they had lived for many years in the relationship
mentioned. At the convent where she was educated, she had been registered
under the name of Duclos--also at the hotel where she and her mother had
spent a few days before leaving for England. Though of pure French
descent, the father being a Breton, they could not furnish her
birth-certificate, as she had not been born in France. According to the
records to be seen at the convent, the father, Achille Duclos, was a
professor of languages, whom her mother had met in England and married in
France before going to the States. So far as known, their story was a
simple one, affording no reason, so far as could be learned, for any
change of name on the part of the young woman, in her visit to America.

This was supplemented by a word from Scotland Yard, England, received a
few hours after the other, to the effect that Madame Duclos and Miss
Willetts arrived at the Ritz from Dover, on the morning of May 16th, and
left the next morning for Southampton. They spent the evening at the
theater with friends who called for them in a public automobile. These
people had not been found, but they had been advertised for and might yet
show up. Nothing more could be learned of either of them.

Now here was an astonishing discovery! That two women known and
recognized as mother and daughter in France should pass for unrelated
companions on leaving that country to enter ours. What were we Americans
to think of this, especially in the light of the tragic event which so
soon terminated this companionship.

That the French records, imperfect as they were, were to be relied upon
as stating the truth as to the exact nature of the connection between
these two, there could be no doubt. But granting this, what fresh
complexities were thus brought into an affair already teeming with
incongruities--nay, absolute contradictions.

Madame Duclos' conduct, as shown toward her young charge, had seemed
sufficiently strange and inconsistent when looked upon as that of
governess or guardian. But for a mother, and a French mother at that, to
allow a young and inexperienced girl to go alone to a strange museum on
the very day of their arrival, and then, with or without knowledge of
what had happened to her there, to efface herself by flight without
promise of return, was inconceivable to anyone acquainted with the most
ordinary of French conventions.

Some sinister secret, despite the seeming harmlessness of their lives,
must hide behind such unnatural conduct! Was it one connected with or
entirely dissociated from the tragedy which had terminated the poor
child's existence? This was the great question. This was what gave new
zest to the search for the dark-skinned Frenchwoman, with her drooping
eyelid and hesitating walk, and led Sweetwater to whisper into Gryce's
ear, as they stepped out that same day from Headquarters:

"No more nonsense now. We must find that woman or her dead body before
the next twenty-four hours have elapsed. With our fingers on that end of
the string----"

"We will get hold of some family secret, but not of the immediate one
which especially concerns us. Madame Duclos sent her daughter unattended
to the museum, but she did not direct the shaft which killed her. That
was the work of our friend X. Let us then make sure that we fit the right
man to this algebraic symbol, and trust to her testimony to convict him."

By this time they had reached the taxi which was to convey Mr. Gryce
home. But though Sweetwater lent his arm to help the old man in, he did
it with such an air of hesitation that it caused the other to remark:

"You have not ended your argument. There is something more you want to
say. What is it? Speak up."

"No, no. I am quite satisfied, so far as the Duclos matter is concerned.
It is only--would you mind stepping aside for a moment till I tell you a
bit of gossip which has just come to my ears? Thank you, sir. Forbes is
all right" (Forbes was the chauffeur), "but confidences are sacred and
this thing was told me in confidence."

The humorous twist of his features as he said this quite transformed his
very plain countenance. Mr. Gryce, noting it, began to stare at the first
isolated object handy, which in this case happened to be the crooked end
of his umbrella--a sign, to those who knew him well, of awakened
interest.

"Well? Let's hear," he said.

"It doesn't sound like much; but it will probably be news to you, as it
certainly was to me. It's this, Mr. Gryce: A certain gentleman we know
has been contemplating matrimony; but since this accident happened at the
museum,--that is, within the last two days,--the engagement has been
broken off."

"So! But I thought he had not got so far as an engagement. You mean young
Correy----"

"No, Mr. Gryce, I do not. I mean--_the other_."

"The other! Well, that's worth listening to. Engaged, eh, and now all of
a sudden free again? At whose instance, Sweetwater, his or hers? Did you
hear?"

"Not exactly, but--it's quite a story, sir. I had it from his chauffeur
and will tell it to you later if you are in a hurry to go home."

"Home! Come back with me into Headquarters. I've got to sleep to-night."

Sweetwater laughed, and together they retraced their steps.

"You see, sir," the young detective began as they drew their chairs
together in an unoccupied corner, "you gave me a task the other day which
called for the help of a friend--one at court, I mean, a fellow who not
only knows the gentleman but has access to his person _and_ his wardrobe.
X does not keep a man-servant--men of his intellectual type seldom
do--but does own a limousine and consequently employs a chauffeur. To
meet and make this chauffeur mine took me just two days. I don't know how
I did it. I never know how I do it," he added with a sheepish smile as
Mr. Gryce gave utterance to his old-fashioned "Umph!" "I don't flatter
and I don't bring out my pocketbook or offer drinks or even cigars, but
I get 'em, as you know, and get 'em strong, perhaps because I don't make
any great effort.

"After an evening spent in the garage with this man, he was ready to
talk, and this is what slipped out, among a lot of nonsensical gossip.
Mr. X, the real Mr. X this time, has, besides his apartment in New
York, a place on Long Island. The latter has been recently bought and,
though fine enough, is being added to and refitted as no man at his age
would take the trouble of doing, if he hadn't a woman in mind. The
chauffeur--Holmes is his name--is no fool, and has seen for some time
that Mr. X, for all his goings to and fro and the many calls he is in the
habit of making on a certain young lady, did not expect him--that is,
Holmes--to notice anything beyond the limits of his work, or to recognize
in any way his employer's secret intentions. But fortunately for us, this
man Holmes is just one of those singularly meddlesome people whose
curiosity grows with every attempt at repression; and when, coincident
with that disastrous happening at the museum, all these loverlike
attentions ceased and no calls were made and no presents sent, and gloom
instead of cheer marked his employer's manner, he made up his mind to
sacrifice a portion of his dignity rather than endure the fret of a
mystery he did not understand. This meant not only keeping his eyes
open,--this he had always done,--but his ears as well.

"The young lady, whose name he never mentioned, lives not in the city but
in that same Long Island village where Mr. X's country-house is in the
process of renovation. If he, Holmes, should ever be so fortunate as to
be ordered to drive there again, he knew of a gravel walk running under
the balcony where the two often sat. He would make the acquaintance of
that gravel walk instead of sitting out the hour somewhere in the rear,
as he had hitherto been accustomed to do. What's the use of having ears
if you don't use them? Nobody would be any the worse, and his mind would
be at rest.

"And do you know, sir, that he did actually carry this cowardly
resolution through. There came a night--I think it was Tuesday--when the
order came, and they took the road to Belport. Not a word did his
employer utter the whole way. Solemn and still he sat, and when they
arrived he descended without a word, rang the bell and entered the house.
It was very warm, that night, Holmes said, and before long he heard the
glass doors open onto the balcony, and knew that his wished-for chance
had come. Leaving the limousine, he crept around to secure a place among
the bushes, and what he heard while there seemed to compensate him for
what he called his loss of dignity. The young girl was crying, and the
man was talking to her kindly enough but in a way to end whatever hopes
she may have had.

"Holmes heard him say: 'It cannot be, now. Circumstances have changed for
me lately, and much as I regret it I must ask you to be so good as to
forgive me for giving up our plans.' Then he offered her money,--an
annuity, I believe they call it,--but she cried out at that, saying it
was love she wanted, to be petted and cared for--money she could do
without. When he showed himself again in front, he was stiffer and more
solemn than ever, and said 'Home,' in a dreary way which made the
chauffeur feel decidedly uncomfortable.

"Of course Holmes is quite blind to what this all means, but you may
possibly see some connection between this sudden act of sacrifice on X's
part and the work of the arrow. At all events, I thought you ought to
know that Mr. X's closet holds a skeleton which he will doubtless take
every pains to keep securely locked from general view. Holmes says that
his last word to the disappointed girl was in the way of warning. No
mention of this break in their plans was to be made without his
sanction."

"Good work, Sweetwater! You have strengthened my hands wonderfully. Does
this fellow Holmes know you for a police-detective?"

"Indeed not, sir. That would be fatal to our friendship, I am sure. I
haven't even let him discover that what he was burning to tell had any
especial interest for me. I let him ramble on with just a word here and
there to show I wasn't bored. He hasn't an idea----"

"Very good. Now, what do you propose to do next?"

"To take up my residence in Belport."

"Why Belport?"

"Because X proposes to move there, bag and baggage, this very week."

"Before his house is done?"

"Yes. He hates the city. Wants to have an eye to the changes being made.
Perhaps he thinks a little work of this kind may distract him."

"And you?"

"Was a master carpenter once, you know."

"I see."

"And have a friend on the spot who promises to recommend me."

"Are workmen wanted there?"

"A good one, very much."

"I'm sure you'll fill the bill."

"I shall try to, sir."

"But for the risk you run of being recognized, I should bet on you,
Sweetwater."

"I know; people will not forget the unfortunate shape of my nose."

"You were up and down the museum for hours. He must know your face like a
book."

"It can't be helped, I shall keep out of sight as much as possible
whenever he is around. I am an expert workman in the line wanted. I
understand my trade, and he will see that I do and doubt his eyes rather
than stretch probabilities to the point of connecting me with the Force.
Besides, I get quite another expression when my hands get in touch with
the wood; and I can look a man in the eye, if I have to, without a quiver
of self-consciousness. His will drop before mine will."

"Your name as carpenter?"

"Jacob Shott. It's the name by which Holmes already knows me."

"Well, well, the game may be worth the candle. You can soon tell. I will
keep you posted."

The rest was business with which we need not concern ourselves.




BOOK III

STORM IN THE MOUNTAINS




XVI

FRIENDS


A shaded walk, with a glimpse of sea beyond, embowering trees, a stretch
of lawn on one side, and on the other the dormer windows of a fine old
house half hidden by scaffolding, from which there came now and then the
quick strokes of a workman's hammer.

It was half-past four, if the sharp little note of a cuckoo-clock,
snapping out one, told the time correctly.

Two men are pacing this leafy retreat, both of whom we have seen before,
but under circumstances so distracting that we took little note of their
appearance, fine as it undoubtedly was in either case. However, we are
more at leisure now, and will pause for an instant to give you some idea
of these two prominent men, with one of whom our story will henceforth
have very much to do.

One of them--the Curator of our famous museum--lacks comeliness of
figure, though at moments he can be very impressive. We can therefore
recognize him at a distance by means of a certain ungainliness of
stride sometimes seen in a man wholly given over to intellectual
pursuits. But when he turns and you get a glimpse of his face, you
experience at once the scope of mind and charm of spirit which make his
countenance a marked one in the metropolis. A little gray about the
temples, a tendency--growing upon him, alas!--to raise his hand to his
ear when called upon to listen, show that he has already passed the
meridian of life; but in his quick glance, and clear and rapid speech,
youth still lingers, making of him a companion delightful to many and
admirable to all.

The other--Carleton Roberts, his bosom friend, and the museum's chief
director--is of a different type, but no less striking to the eye. For
him, personality has done much toward raising him to his present status
among the leading men of New York. While not tall, he is tall enough
never to look short, owing to the trim elegance of his figure and the
quiet dignity of his carriage. He does not need to turn his face to
impress you with the idea that he is handsome; but when he does so, you
find that your expectations are more than met by the reality. For though
he may not have the strictly regular features we naturally associate with
one of his poise and matchless outline, there is enough of that quality,
and more than enough of that additional elusive something which is an
attraction in itself, to make for handsomeness in a marked degree. He,
like his friend, has passed his fortieth year, but nowhere save in his
abundant locks can one see any sign of approaching age. They are quite
white--cut close, but quite white, so white they attracted the notice of
his companion, who stole more than one look at them as he chatted on in
what had become almost a monologue, so little did Roberts join in the
conversation.

Finally the Curator paused, and stealing another look at that white head,
remarked anxiously:

"Have you not grown gray very suddenly? I don't remember your being
whiter than myself the day I dined with you just preceding the horrible
occurrence at the museum."

"I have been growing gray for a year," rejoined the other. "My father was
white at forty; I am just forty-three."

"It becomes you, and yet--Roberts, you have taken this matter too much
to heart. We were not to blame in any way, unless it was in having such
deadly weapons within reach. How could one suppose----"

"Yes, how could one suppose!" echoed the director. "And the mystery of
it! The police seem no nearer solving the problem now than on the night
they practised archery in the galleries. It does wear on me, possibly
because I live so much alone. I see----"

Here he stopped abruptly. They had been strolling in the direction of the
house, and at this moment were not many paces from it.

"See what?" urged the Curator with an accent one might almost call
tender--would have been called tender, if used in addressing a woman.

"See _her_, that dead girl!--constantly--at night when my eyes are
shut--in the daytime while I go about my affairs, here, there and
everywhere. The young, young face! so white, so still, so strangely and
so unaccountably familiar! Do you feel the same? Did she remind you of
anyone we know? I grow old trying to place her. I can say this to you;
but not to another soul could I speak of what has become to me a sort of
blind obsession. She was a stranger. I know of no Madame Duclos and am
sure that I never saw her young daughter before; and yet I have started
up in my bed more than once during these past few nights, confident that
in another moment memory would supply the clue which will rid my mind of
the eternal question as to where I have seen a face like hers before? But
memory fails to answer; and the struggle, momentarily interrupted, begins
again, to the destruction of my peace and comfort."

"Odd! but you must rid yourself of what unnerves you so completely. It
does no good and only adds to regrets which are poignant enough in
themselves."

"That is true; but--stop a minute. I see it now--her face, I mean. It
comes between me and the house there. Even your presence does not dispel
it. It is--no, it's gone again. Let us go back once more and take another
look at the sea. It is the one thing which draws me away from this
pursuing vision."

They resumed their stroll, this time away from the house and toward the
oval cut in the trees for a straight view out to the sea. Across this
oval a ship was now sailing which attracted the eyes of both; not till it
had passed, did the Curator say:

"You live too lonely a life. You should seek change--recreation--possibly
something more absorbing than either."

"You mean marriage?"

"Yes, Roberts, I do. Pardon me; I want to see your eye beam again with
contentment. The loss of your late companion has left you desolate, more
desolate than you have been willing to acknowledge. You cannot replace
her----"

"I am wedded to politics."

"An untrustworthy jade. When did politics ever make a man happy?"

"Happy!" They were turned toward the house again. When near, Roberts
capped his exclamation with the remark:

"You ask a great deal for me, more than you ask for yourself. You have
not married again."

"But my mistress is not a jade. I find joy in my work. I have not had
time to woo a woman as she should be wooed if she's to be a happy second
wife. I should have so much to explain to her. When I get looking over
prints, the dinner-bell might ring a dozen times without my hearing it. A
letter from an agent telling of some wonderful find in Mesopotamia would
make me forget whether my wife's hair were brown or black. I don't need
diversion, Roberts."

"Yet you enjoy a couple of hours in the country, a whiff of fresh
air----"

"And a chat with a friend. Yes, I do; but if the museum were open----"

Mr. Roberts smiled.

"I see that you are incorrigible." Then, with a gesture toward the house:
"Come and see my new veranda. Its outlook will surprise you."

As you have already surmised, he was the owner of this place; and the man
for whose better understanding Sweetwater had again taken up the plane
and the hammer.




XVII

THE CUCKOO-CLOCK


As they made their way through scattered timber and the litter of fresh
carpentry-work, the man who was busy there and who certainly had
outstayed his time took up his kit and disappeared around the corner of
the house. Neither noted him. The cuckoo-clock was chirping out its five
small notes from the cheerful interior, and the Curator was remarking
upon it.

"That's a merry sound both sweet and stimulating; and what is still
better, I can hear it without effort. I believe I should like to have
a clock of that kind."

"It goes where I go," muttered its strange owner with what seemed an
involuntary emphasis. Then as the Curator turned upon him in some
surprise, he added with studied indifference: "I brought it from
Switzerland when I was younger than I am now--a silly memento, but
I fancy it."

A commonplace explanation surely; why, then, did that same workman, who
had stopped short after rounding the corner to pick up something which he
as quickly threw down, turn a quick head and listen eagerly for what
might be said next. Nothing came of it, for the veranda door was near and
the two gentlemen had stepped in; but to one who knew Sweetwater, the
smile with which he resumed his work had an element in it which, if seen,
would have darkened still further the gloom in the troubled eye of the
speaker.

Switzerland! He had said Switzerland.

It was not long after this that the Curator and his host left for New
York.

The house was not quite ready for occupancy, but was in the process of
being made so by the woman who had done duty as housekeeper for Mr.
Roberts both before his marriage and since his wife's death. During the
fifteen years which had intervened, she had been simply the cook.

This woman, Huldah Weston by name, did not accompany them. She was in
Belport to stay, and as it behooves us to remain there for a while longer
ourselves, we will join her in the quiet rest she is taking on the
kitchen steps before shutting up the house for the night.

She is not alone. A young man is with her--one to whom she is giving
temporary board and lodging in exchange for the protection of his
presence and such slight help as he can afford her in the heavy task
of distributing and arranging the furniture.

We know this man. It is the one we have just seen halting at the corner
of the house, on quitting his work on the new veranda--Sweetwater.

He is a genial soul; she, though very old for the responsibilities she
still insists upon carrying, enjoys a good laugh. Nor is she averse to
the numberless little kindly attentions with which he shows his respect
for her age if not a personal liking for herself. In short, they are
almost friends, and she trusts him as she has never trusted any young man
yet, save the boy she lost when she was still a comely widow.

Perhaps this is why, on this night when we find the two together, he
ventures to turn the talk upon the man she had so devotedly served during
the better part of her life.

He began with the cuckoo-clock. Where did it come from? How long had they
had it? What a jolly little customer the wee bird was, darting out and
darting in with his hurry-call to anyone who would listen! It made a
fellow feel ashamed to dawdle at his work. It wouldn't do to let any mere
bird get ahead of him--a wooden bird at that!

He got her talking. She had known Mr. Roberts' mother, and she had been
in the house (a young girl then) when he went away to Europe. He had not
wanted to go. He was in love, or thought he was, with a woman older than
himself. But the mother did not approve of the match, though the lady had
a mint of money and everything in her favor but those seven years. She
afterward became his wife and for all his mother's fears they lived
together very happily. Since her death which occurred about a year ago
he's been a different man; very sad and much given to sitting alone.
Anyone can see the effect it has had upon him if they look at him
closely.

"She was a good woman, then?"

"Very good."

"Well, life must be lonesome for a widower, especially if he has no
children. But perhaps he has some married or at school?"

"No, he has no children, and no relations, to speak of."

"And he brought that clock from Switzerland? Did he ever say from what
part of Switzerland?"

"If he did, I don't remember; I've no memory for foreign names."

This sent Sweetwater off on another tack. He knew such a good story,
which, having told, he seemed to have forgotten all about the clock, for
he said nothing more about it, and not much more about Mr. Roberts.

But when, a little later, he followed her into that gentleman's room for
the purpose of unlocking a trunk which had been delivered that day, he
took advantage of her momentary absence in search of the key to pull out
that cuckoo-clock from the wall where it hung and read the small slip of
paper pasted across its back. As he hoped, it gave both the name and
address of the merchant from whom it had been bought. But that was not
all. Running in diagonal lines across this label, he saw some faded
lines in fine handwriting, which proved to be a couplet signed with
five initials. The latter were not quite legible, but the couplet he
could read without the least difficulty. It was highly sentimental, and
might mean much and might mean nothing. If the handwriting should prove
to be Mr. Roberts', the probabilities were in favor of the former
supposition--or so he said to himself, as he swung the clock back into
place.

When Mrs. Weston returned, he was standing as patiently as possible in
the middle of the room, saying over and over to himself to insure
remembrance till he could jot the lines down in his notebook: _Bossberg,
Lucerne.... I love but thee--and thee will I love to eternity._

His interest in this slight and doubtful clue, however, sank into
insignificance when, having unlocked and unstrapped the trunk which Mrs.
Weston pointed out, he saw to his infinite satisfaction that it held Mr.
Roberts' clothing--the one thing in the world toward which at this exact
moment his curiosity mainly pointed. If only he might help her handle the
heavy coats which lay so temptingly on top! Should he propose to do so?
Looking at her firm chin and steady eye, he felt that he did not dare. To
rouse the faintest suspicion in this woman's intelligent mind would be
fatal to all further procedure, and so he stood indifferent, while she
lifted garment after garment and laid them carefully on the bed. He
counted five coats and as many vests--and was racking his brains for some
plausible excuse for a nearer inspection, when she stopped in the midst
of her work, with the cheery remark:

"That will do for to-night. To-morrow I will look them all over for moths
before hanging them away in the closet."

And he had to go, leaving them lying there within reach of his hand, when
one glance at the lining of a certain coat which had especially attracted
his eye might have given him the one clue he most needed.

The room which had been allotted to him in this house was in the rear and
at the top of a steep flight of stairs. As he sought it that night, he
cast a quick glance through the narrow passageway opening just beyond his
own door. Would it be possible for him to thread those devious ways and
reach Mr. Roberts' room without rousing Mrs. Weston, who in spite of her
years had the alertness of a watchdog with eye and ear ever open? To be
found strolling through quarters where he had no business would be worse
than being suspected of taking a personal interest in the owner's
garments. He was of an adventurous turn, and ever ready to risk something
on the turn of a die, but not too much. A false move might hazard all;
besides, he remembered the airing these clothes were to get and the
nearness of the clothes-yard to the pump he so frequently patronized,
and all the chances which this gave for an inspection which would carry
little danger to one of his ready wit.

So he gave up the midnight search he might have attempted under other
circumstances, and shut his room from the moon and his eyes to sleep, and
dreamed. Was it of the great museum, with its hidden mystery enshrouding
its many wonders of high art, or of a far-off time and a far-off scene,
where in the stress of some great emotion the trembling hand of Carleton
Roberts had written on the back of this foolish clock for which he still
retained so great a fancy the couplet which he himself had so faithfully
memorized:

          I love but thee,
  And thee will I love to eternity.

At eight o'clock on the following morning the quick strokes of the
workman's hammer reawakened the echoes at the end of the building where
the big enclosed veranda was going up.

As the clock struck nine Mrs. Weston could be seen hanging up her
master's coats and trousers on a long line stretched across the
clothes-yard. They remained there two hours, viewed from afar by
Sweetwater, but not approached till he saw the old woman disappear
from one of the gates with a basket on her arm. Then he developed thirst
and went rearward to the pump. While there, he took a look at the sea.
A brisk wind was springing up. It gave him an idea.

Making sure that his fellow workmen were all busy, he loosened one end of
the line holding the fluttering garments and then went back to his work.
As the wind increased, the strain on the line became too great, and soon
he had the satisfaction of seeing the whole thing fall in one wild flap
to the ground. With an exclamation calculated to draw the attention of
the men about him to what had happened, he rushed to the rescue, lifted
the line and rearranged the clothes. Then refastening--this time
securely--the end of the line which had slipped loose, he returned to his
post, with just one quick and disappointed look thrown back at the now
safe if wildly fluttering garments.

He had improved his opportunity to examine the inside of every coat and
had found nothing to reward his scrutiny. But it was not this which had
given him his chief annoyance. It was the fact that the one coat from
which he had expected the anticipated clue--the coat which Mr. Roberts
had certainly worn on that tragic day at the museum--was not there. A
summer overcoat had filled out the number, and his investigation was
incomplete.

Why was that one coat lacking? He was sure he had seen it the night
before lying on the bed with the others. Was it still there, or had it
been stowed away in drawer or closet, irrespective of its danger from
moths, for a reason he would give his eyeteeth to know but dared not
inquire into till he had clinched his friendship with this old woman so
thoroughly that he could ask her anything--which certainly was not the
case as yet.

The absence of the one coat he wanted most to see afflicted him sorely.
He told Mrs. Weston, on her return, how the line had fallen and how he
had replaced it, but for all his wits, he could not get any further. With
the close of the day's work and the reappearance of Mr. Roberts, he
slipped away to the village, to avoid an encounter of the results of
which he felt very doubtful. His dinner would not be ready till after Mr.
Roberts had been served, and the three hours which must necessarily
elapse before that happy moment looked very long and very unproductive to
him, especially as he had found no answer as yet to the question which so
grievously perplexed him.

He had paced the main street twice and had turned into a narrow lane
ending in the smallest of gardens and the most infinitesimal of houses,
when the door of this same house opened and a man came out whose
appearance held him speechless for a moment--then sent him forward with
a quickly beating heart. It was not the man himself that produced this
somewhat startling effect; it was his clothes. So far as his hat and
nether garments went, they were, if not tattered, not very far from it;
but the coat he wore was not only trim but made of the finest cloth and
without the smallest sign of wear. It was so conspicuously fine, and
looked so grotesquely out of place on the man wearing it, that he could
pass no one without rousing curiosity, and he probably had all he wanted
to do for the next few days in explaining how a fine gentleman's coat had
fallen to his lot.

But to Sweetwater its interest lay in something more important than the
amusing incongruity it offered to the eye. It looked exactly like the one
belonging to Mr. Roberts which had escaped his scrutiny in so remarkable
a way. Should it prove to be that same, how fortunate he was to have it
brought thus easily within his reach and under circumstances so natural
it was not necessary for him to think twice how best to take advantage of
them.

Father Dobbins--for that is the name by which this old codger was
known to the boys--was, as might be expected, very proud of his new
acquisition and quite blind to the contrast it offered to his fringed-out
trouser-legs. He had a smile on his face which broadened as he caught
Sweetwater's sympathetic glance.

"Fine day," he mumbled. "Are ye wantin' somethin' of me that ye're comin'
this way?"

"Perhaps and perhaps," answered Sweetwater, "--if that fine coat I see
you wearing is the one given you by Mrs. Weston up the road."

"'Deed, sir, and what's amiss? She gave it to me, yes. Came all the way
into the village to find me and give it to me. Too small for her master,
she said; and would I take it to oblige him. Does she want it back?"

"Oh, no--not she. She's not that kind. It's only that she has since
remembered that one of the pockets has a hole in it--an inside one, I
believe. She's afraid it might lose you a dime some day. Will you let me
see if she is right? If so, I was to take you to the tailor's and have it
fixed immediately. I am to pay for it."

The old man stared in slow comprehension; then with the deliberation
which evidently marked all his movements, he slowly put down his basket.

"I warrant ye it's all right," he said. "But look, an ye will. I don't
want to lose no dimes."

Sweetwater threw back one side of the coat, then the other, felt in the
pockets and smiled. But Gryce, and not ignorant Father Dobbins, should
have seen that smile. There was comedy in it, and there was the deepest
tragedy also; for the marks of stitches forcibly cut were to be seen
under one of the pockets--stitches which must have held something as
narrow as an umbrella-band and no longer than the little strip at which
Mr. Gryce had been looking one night in a melancholy little short of
prophetic.




XVIII

MRS. DAVIS' STRANGE LODGER


"If you will look carefully at this chart, and note where the various
persons then in the museum were standing at the moment Correy shouted his
alarm, you will see that of all upon whom suspicion can with any
probability be attached there is but one who could have fulfilled the
conditions of escape as just explained to you."

Stretching forth an impressive finger, Mr. Gryce pointed to a certain
number on the chart outspread between him and the Chief Inspector.

He looked--saw the number "3" and glanced anxiously down at the name it
prefigured.

"Roberts--the director! Impossible! Not to be considered for a moment.
I'm afraid you're getting old, Gryce." And he looked about to be sure
that the door was quite shut.

Mr. Gryce smiled, a little drearily perhaps, as he acknowledged this
self-evident fact.

"You are right, Chief: I am getting old--but not so old as to venture
upon so shocking an insinuation against a man of Mr. Roberts' repute and
seeming honor, if I had not some very substantial proofs to offer in its
support."

"No doubt, no doubt; but it won't do. I tell you, Gryce, it won't do.
There cannot be any such far-fetched and ridiculous explanation to the
crime you talk about. Why, he's next to being the Republican nominee for
Senator. An attack upon him, especially of this monstrous character,
would be looked upon as a clear case of political persecution. And such
it would be, and nothing less; and it would be all to no purpose, I am
sure. I hope you are alone in these conclusions--that you have not seen
fit to share your ideas on this subject with any of the boys?"

"Only with Sweetwater, who did some of the work for me."

"And Joyce? How about him?"

"He had the same opportunities as myself, but we have not reached the
point of mentioning names. I thought it best to consult with you first."

"Good! Then we'll drop it."

It was decisively said, but Gryce gave no signs of yielding.

"I'm afraid that's impossible," said he. Then with the dignity of long
experience, he added with quiet impressiveness:

"I have, as you know, faced crime these many years in all its aspects.
I have tracked the ignorant, almost imbecile, murderer of the slums, and
laid my hand in arrest on the shoulder of so-called gentlemen hiding
their criminal instincts under a show of culture and sometimes of wide
education. Human nature is not so very different in high and low; and
what may lead an irresponsible dago into unsheathing his knife against
his fellow may work a like effect upon his high-bred brother if
circumstances lend their aid to make discovery appear impossible.

"Mr. Roberts is the friend of many a good man who would swear to his
integrity with a clear conscience. I would have sworn to it myself, a
month ago, had I heard it questioned in the slightest manner; and I may
live to swear to it again, notwithstanding the doubts which have been
raised in my mind by certain strange discoveries which link him to this
unhappy affair by what we are pleased to call circumstantial evidence.
For, as I am obliged to acknowledge, the one great thing we rely upon, in
accusations of this kind, is so far lacking in his case: I mean, the
motive.

"I know of none--can, in fact, conceive of none--which would cause a
gentleman of even life and ambitious projects to turn a deadly weapon
upon an innocent child with whom he is not, so far as we can discover,
even acquainted. Dementia only can account for such a freak, and to
dementia we must ascribe this crime, if it is necessary for us to find
cause before proceeding to lay our evidence before the District Attorney.
All I propose to do at present is to show you my reasons for thinking
that the arrow which slew Angeline Willetts--or, as we have been assured
by unimpeachable authority, Angeline Duclos masquerading under the name
of Angeline Willetts--was set to bow and loosed across the court by the
gentleman we have just mentioned."

Here Mr. Gryce stopped for a look of encouragement from the severely
silent man he was endeavoring to impress. But he did not get it. With
a full sense of his years weighing upon him as never before, he sighed,
but continued with little change of tone:

"In the first day or two of keen surprise following an event of so many
complicated mysteries, I drew up in my own mind a list of questions which
I felt should be properly answered before I would consider it my duty to
submit to you a report to the disadvantage of any one suspect. This was
Question One:

"'Whose was the hand to bring up into the museum gallery the bow
recognized by Correy as the one which had been lying by for an indefinite
length of time in the cellar?'

"Not till yesterday did I get any really definite answer to this. Correy
would not talk; nor would the Curator; and I dared not press either of
them beyond a certain point, for equally with yourself, I felt it most
undesirable to allow anyone to suspect the nature of my theory or whom it
especially involved.

"The Curator had nothing to hide on this or any other point connected
with the tragedy. But it was different with Correy. He had some very
strong ideas about that visit to the cellar--only he would not
acknowledge them. So yesterday, after the satisfactory settlement of
another puzzling question, I made up my mind to trap him--which I did
after this manner. He has, as most men have, in fact, a great love for
the Curator. In discussing with him the mysterious fetching up of the bow
and its subsequent concealment in the Curator's office, I remarked, with
a smile I did not mean to have him take as real, that only the Curator
himself would do such a thing and then forget it; that it must have been
his shadow he saw; and I begged him, in a way half jocose, half earnest,
to say so and have done with it.

"It worked, sir. He flushed like a man who had been struck; then he grew
white with indignation and blurted forth that it was no more his shadow
than it was Mr. Roberts'--that indeed it was much more like Mr. Roberts'
than the Curator's. At which I simply remarked: 'You think so, Correy?'
To which he replied: 'I do not think anything. But I know that Curator
Jewett never brought up that bow from the cellar, or he would have said
so the minute he saw it. There's no better man in the world than he.'
'Nor than Mr. Roberts either,' I put in, and left him comforted if not
quite reassured.

"So much for Question One--

"Number Two is of a similar nature. 'Was the transference of the arrow
from one gallery to the other due to the same person who brought up the
bow?' Now, in answer to that, I have a curious thing to show you." And
lifting into view a bundle of goodly size, wrapped in heavy brown paper,
he opened it up and disclosed a gentleman's coat. Spreading this out
between them lining side out, and pointing out two marks an inch or so
apart showing the remains of stitches for which there seemed to have been
no practical use, he took from his own vest-pocket what looked like a bit
of narrow black tape. This he laid down on the upturned lining in the
space bounded by the two lines of marks I have mentioned, and drawing the
Chief's attention to it, observed in quiet explanation:

"The one fits the other--stitch for stitch. Look closely at them both, I
beg, and tell me if in your judgment it is not evident that this strap or
loop, or whatever we may call it, has been cut away from this coat to
which it had been previously sewed--and by no woman either."

Anyone could see that this had been so. There could be but one reply:

"This coat I bought from an old man to whom it had been given by Mr.
Roberts' housekeeper on their arrival at his new home on Long Island. The
strip was picked up at the museum in the room where Mrs. Taylor spent an
hour or so immediately upon leaving the scene of crime. With her at the
time was the young lady who had kindly offered to look after her and two
or three men directly associated with the museum, of whom Mr. Roberts was
one. These and these only. Now, this strap or let us say loop, since we
are beginning to see for what purpose it was used, was not on the floor
previous to the entrance of these few persons into this room--or, indeed,
for some little time afterward. Otherwise this young lady, who was the
one to open my eyes to this clue, surely would have seen it in the
half-hour she stood at Mrs. Taylor's side with no one to talk to and
quite free to look about her. But it _was_ there after that lady had
revived from her fainting-fit--dropped, as you see--cut from its owner's
coat and dropped! Chief, let me ask why this should have been done in a
time of such suspense if it had had nothing to do with the crime then
occupying everybody's attention--a good coat too, almost new, as you will
observe?"

The Chief, possibly with a shade less of irony in his manner, answered
this direct question with one equally direct:

"And what connection have you succeeded in establishing between this
abominable crime and the coat with or without a loop worn by the museum's
leading director? One as straight and indisputable, no doubt, as that you
have just attempted to make between this same gentleman and the museum
bow," he added with biting incredulity.

"Yes," returned the other in calm disregard of the sarcasm, "straighter
and more indisputable, if anything. We are asking, as you will remember,
how an arrow could have been carried from the southern to the northern
gallery without attracting anyone's attention. I will show you how."

With a rap on the table which brought Sweetwater into the room, he
proceeded to pin again into its old place on the lining of Mr. Roberts'
coat the so-called tag. Then, taking the arrow which Sweetwater proceeded
to hand him, he slipped it into the loop thus made and showed how
securely it could be held there by its feather end.

"A man of Mr. Roberts' upright carriage might, with his coat well
buttoned up, walk the length of Broadway without disclosing the presence
of this stick," remarked Mr. Gryce as, at his look, Sweetwater doffed his
own coat and put on the one thus discreetly weighted.

The Chief stared, paling slightly as he noted the result. Mr. Gryce,
who never overemphasised his effects, motioned Sweetwater to leave and
proceeded to the next question.

"Number Three," he now observed, "should have come first, as it has
already been answered. It asks if it is possible to hit the mark in
Section II of the museum's gallery, from behind the pedestal in Section
VIII. From the pedestal nearest the front, _no_; but from the one further
back--upon which, by the way, Stevens found the print of a gloved
finger--_yes_.

"Who wore gloves that day--kid gloves, mind you, for the mark of the
stitching is exact, as you can see in this print of the same made by
Stevens? All the ladies, except a young copyist who was leaving in a
hurry and had not stopped to put hers on. But of the men, only one--Mr.
Roberts, the careful dresser, who was never known to enter the street
without this last touch to his toilet. How do I know this? Look at the
chart, Chief--this one which shows the court and the persons in it at the
precise minute of first alarm. You see how near the exit Mr. Roberts was,
and who was closest to him. I had a little talk--the most guarded one
imaginable--with this lady, who was the very one of whom I have just said
that she had omitted to put on her gloves; and she gave me the fact I
have just passed on to you. She noted Mr. Roberts' hands, because they
shamed hers, and she was just stopping to pull her gloves from her
coat-pocket when Correy's voice rang out and everything else was
forgotten.

"Corroborative, only corroborative, sir? I am quite aware of that. But
what I have now to add may give it weight. The stringing of a bow is no
easy task for an amateur; nor is the discharge of an arrow, under such
dangerous circumstances as marked the delivery of the one we are
discussing, one which would be lightly attempted by a person altogether
ignorant of archery. However strong the evidence might be against a man
who was not an utter fool, I would never have presumed to lay it out
before you if I had not verified the fact that the director, whatever his
life now, was once greatly addicted to sports, and thoroughly acquainted
with the management of a bow and arrow. It has taken time. Many
cablegrams were necessary, but I have at last received this copy of a
report made sixteen years ago by a club in Lucerne, Switzerland, in
which mention is made of a prize given to one Carleton Roberts, an
American, for twelve piercings of the bull's-eye in as many shots, in
an archery-contest which included all nationalities.

"Nor is that all. In a study of himself,--his home, his life, his secret
interests,--we come upon things which call for closer inspection. For
instance, not a day has passed since that poor child has been in the
morgue that he has not been one on the line to see her. He dreams of her,
he says; he cannot get her face out of his mind--you notice that he has
been growing gray.

"But I will stop here. I do not wonder that you look upon all this as the
ravings of a man on the verge of senility. If I were in your place, I
should undoubtedly do the same. But ungracious as the task has proved, I
owed it to myself to rid my mind of its secret burden. It is for you to
say whether, all things considered, I am to drop the matter here or
proceed blindly in search of the motive lying back of every premeditated
crime. I can imagine none in this case, as I have frankly stated, save
the very weak and improbable one already advanced by young Sweetwater in
connection with another party upon whom he had fixed his eye--that of the
irresistible desire of an expert to test his skill with a bow which comes
unexpectedly into his hands."

"That wouldn't apply to Roberts--not in the least," affirmed the Chief
with the emphasis of strong conviction. "Even if we should allow
ourselves to regard these stray bits of circumstantial evidence as in any
way conclusive of the extraordinary theory you have advanced, he's much
too able and cautious a man to yield to any such fool temptation as that.
But to let that matter pass for the present: why have you paid such close
attention to one end of your string, and quite ignored the other? Madame
Duclos' hasty flight and continued absence, in face of circumstances
which would lead a natural mother to break through every obstacle put
in the way of her return, offers a field of inquiry more promising, it
appears to me, than the one upon which you have expended your best
energies. You say nothing of her."

"I have nothing to say. I am glad to leave that particular line of
investigation to you, and more than glad if it has proved or is likely to
prove fruitful. Have you heard----"

"Read that."

He tossed a letter within the detective's grasp and leaned back while
Gryce laboriously perused it.

It was illy written, but well worth the pains he gave to it--as witness:

  _To the Chief of Police:_

  Dear Sir:--I am told that there is a reward out for a certain woman by
  the name of Duclos. I do not know any such person, but there is a woman
  who has been lodging in my house for the last two weeks who has acted
  so strangely at odd times that I have become very suspicious of her,
  and think it right for you to know what she did here one night.

  It's about a fortnight since she came to my house in search of
  lodgings. Had she been young, I would not have opened my doors to her,
  decent as she was in her dress and ways; for she was a foreign woman
  and I don't like foreigners. But being middle-aged and ready with her
  money in advance, I not only allowed her to come in but gave her my
  very best room. This is not saying much, because the elevated road runs
  by my door, darkening my whole front, besides making an awful clatter.
  But she did not seem to mind this, and I took little notice of her,
  till one of the other lodgers--a woman with a busy tongue--began to ask
  why this strange woman, who was so very dark and plain, went out only
  at night? Did she sew or write for a living? If not, what did she do
  with herself all day?

  As the last was a question I could easily answer, I said that she spent
  most of her time in reading the newspapers; and this was true, because
  she always came in with her arms full of them. But there I stopped, as
  I never discuss my lodgers. Yet I must acknowledge that my curiosity
  had been roused by all this talk, and I began to watch the woman, who I
  soon saw was in what I would call a flustered state of mind, and as
  unhappy as anyone could be who hadn't suffered some great bereavement.
  But still I wasn't really alarmed, being misled by the name she gave,
  which was Clery.

  Night before last I went to bed early. I am a heavy sleeper, as I need
  to be with those cars pounding by the house every few minutes. But
  there are certain noises which wake me, and I found myself all of a
  sudden sitting up in bed and listening with all my ears. Everything
  was quiet, even on the elevated road; but when the next train came
  thundering along, I heard, piercing shrilly through the rumble and
  roar, that same sharp _ping_ which had wakened me. What was it? It
  seemed to come from somewhere in the house. But how could that be! I
  was startled enough, however, to get up and slip on some of my clothes
  and stand with ears astretch for the next train.

  It came and passed, and right in the middle of the noise it made I
  heard again that quick, sharp sound. This time I was sure it came from
  somewhere near, and opening my door, I slid out into the hall. All
  my lodgers were in but one, a young gentleman who has a night-key. And
  most of the rooms were dark, as I can very well tell from the fact that
  none of the doors fit as they ought to and there is sure to be a streak
  of light showing somewhere about them if the gas is burning inside.
  Everything looked so natural, and the house was so still, that I was
  going back again when another train swept by and that sound was
  repeated. This time I was sure it came from somewhere on the lower
  floor, and mindful of Mrs. Clery's queer ways, I stole downstairs to
  her door. She was up--that was plainly enough to be seen. But what was
  she doing? I was just a little frightened, or I would have knocked on
  the door and asked.

  As I was waiting for the passing by of the next train, my last lodger
  came in and caught me standing there before Mrs. Clery's door. I know
  him pretty well; so I put my finger to my lips and then beckoned him to
  join me. As the train approached, I seized him by the arm and pointed
  toward Mrs. Clery's door. He didn't know what I meant, of course, but
  he looked and listened, and when the train had gone by, I drew him down
  the hall and said, "You heard it!" and then asked him what it was. He
  answered that it was a pistol-shot, and he wanted to go back to see if
  any dreadful thing had happened. But I shook my head and told him it
  was one of five, each one taking place when the roar of the trains
  going by was at the loudest. Then he said that this woman was
  practising at a mark, and bade me look out or we should have a house
  full of anarchists. At that, I loudly declared she should go the first
  thing in the morning and so got rid of him. But I did not keep my word,
  and for this reason: When I went to do her room-work as I always do
  immediately after breakfast, I was all smiles and full of talk till I
  had taken a good look at the walls for the bullet-holes I expected to
  see there. But I didn't find any, and was puzzled enough you may be
  sure, for those bullets must have gone somewhere and I was quite
  certain that they had not been fired out of the window. I hardly
  dared to look at the ceiling, for she was watching me and kept me
  chatting and wondering till all of a sudden I noticed that one of the
  sofa-pillows was missing from its place. This set me thinking, and I
  was about to ask her what she had done with it when my attention was
  drawn away by seeing among the scraps in the wastebasket I had lifted
  to carry out the end and corner of what looked like a partly destroyed
  photograph.

  This was something too strange not to rouse any woman's curiosity, but
  I was careful not to give it another glance till I was well out of the
  room. Then, as you may believe, I drew it quickly out, to find that all
  the middle part was gone--shot to pieces by those tearing bullets. Not
  a particle of the face was to be seen, and only enough of the neck and
  shoulders to show that it had been the portrait of a man. I enclose it
  for you to see; and if you want to talk to the woman, she is still
  here, though I only keep her in the hope of her being that Madame
  Duclos for whom money is offered. I will tell you why I think this: Not
  because of a torn skirt,--you see I have been looking over the
  advertisement printed in the papers,--but because she is foreign and
  dark and has a decidedly drooping eyelid. Then too, she halts a little
  on one foot, as I noticed when I called her hurriedly to the window to
  see something. If you want to have a look at her, come after five and
  before seven; we are both in then.

  Yours respectfully,

  Caroline Davis.

"No doubt that's the woman," commented Gryce. "We are fortunate in
hitting her trail at this critical moment."

He had already glanced at the mutilated photograph lying before him, but
now he took it up.

"Very little here," he remarked as he examined first the face of it and
then the back. "But if you will let me take it, I may find that its place
is in our incompleted chain."

"Take it, and if you would like to have a talk with the woman
herself----"

"Yes, Chief; I would like that above all things."

"Very good. I'm expecting her here any minute, but--Well, what now?
What's up?"

An officer had entered hurriedly after one quick knock.

"Mrs. Davis' lodger is gone," said he. "Left without a word to anybody.
When they went to her room they found it empty, with a five-dollar bill
pinned to the riddled cushion. As nobody saw her go, we are as much at
sea as ever."

A smile, both curious and fine, crossed Mr. Gryce's lips as he listened
to this, and turning earnestly to the Chief, he begged for the job of
looking her up.

"I think with the little start we now have that I can find her," said he.
"At all events, I should like to try."

"And let the other matter rest quiescent meanwhile?"

"If it will."

"What do you mean by that?"

"I hardly know myself, Chief. All is hazy yet, but skies clear, and so do
most of our problems. If the two ends of my string should chance to come
together----"

But here a look from his Chief stopped him.

"Let us pray that they won't. But if they do, we shall not shirk our
duty, Gryce."




XIX

MR. GRYCE AND THE TIMID CHILD


"Assurance does it, sir--a great deal of assurance. Not that I have
much----"

Here Mr. Gryce laughed, with the result that Sweetwater laughed also. A
moment of fun was a welcome relief, and they both made the most of it.

"Not that I lack it entirely," Sweetwater hastened to say. Then they
laughed again--after which their talk proceeded on serious lines.

"Sweetwater, what is that you once told me about a family named Duclos?"

"Why, this, sir: There is one such family in town, as Peters discovered
in looking up the name in the directory a day or two after Madame's
disappearance. But there's nothing to be learned from them. Mr. and Mrs.
Edward Duclos are a most respectable couple and have but one answer to
every question. They know no one of their name outside their own family.
Though the man of the house is Breton born, he has lived many years in
this country, and in all that time has never met another Duclos."

"And Peters let it go at that?"

"Had to. What else could he do? However, he did make this admission--that
there was a child in the room who betrayed a nervousness under his
questions which was not observable in her elders, a girl of twelve or so
who put her hands behind her when she found she could not control their
twitching. And I've an idea that if he could have got this child by
herself, he might have heard something quite different from the plain
denial he got from the mother. I've always thought so; but I've had too
many other things to do to make an effort in this direction.

"Now, if you approve, I'll see what I can do with this girl, for it
stands to reason there must be some place in town where this woman, just
off ship, found an immediate refuge and a change of clothing and effects.
Nor should I be much surprised if we should discover that she is an
inmate of this very house. What do you think, Mr. Gryce? Is it worth
looking into?"

"It is worth my looking into. I have other work for you. Where does this
Duclos family live?"

Sweetwater told him. It was in one of the Eighties, not a quarter of a
mile from the Hotel Universal.

This settled, Mr. Gryce took from his pocket the mutilated photograph
which had served as a target to the woman in Fifty-third Street.

"You see this," said he. "The face is all gone; only a sweep of the hair
on one side, and a bit of collar and the tip of a shoulder on the other,
remain to act as a clue. Yet I expect you to find the negative from which
this photograph was printed. It should not be so difficult,--that is, if
in the course of time it has not been destroyed,--for look here." And
turning over what remained of the mutilated photograph he displayed the
following:

  Cor. 9th Street
  w York)

"New York! The portrait was made here and--at Fredericks'. His studio was
on the corner of Ninth Street up to a few years ago. It's a trail after
my own mind. If that negative is in existence, I'll find it, if I have to
ransack half the photograph-studios in town. About how old do you think
this picture is?"

"Old enough to give you trouble. But that you're used to. What we want to
know--what we must know--is this: The name of the man who has incurred
Madame's enmity to such a degree that she spends the small hours of the
night in knocking out his features from a fifteen-year-old photograph. If
it should prove to be that of a public man, rich or otherwise, we might
consistently lay it to social hatred; but if, on the contrary, it turns
out to be that of a private individual--well, in that case, I shall have
a task for you which may call for a little of that assurance of which we
have just acknowledged you possess a limited share."

That evening, just at dusk, a taxicab which had been wandering up and
down a well-kept block in Eighty-seventh Street stopped suddenly in front
of a certain drug-store to let an old man out. He seemed very feeble and
leaned heavily on his cane while crossing the sidewalk toward the store.
But his face was kindly, and his whole aspect that of one who takes the
ills of life without bitterness or complaint. When halfway to his
goal,--for twenty steps are a journey to one who has to balance himself
carefully with every one,--he slipped or stumbled, and his cane flew out
of his hand. Happily--because he seemed unable to reach it himself--a
young girl just emerging from the drug-store saw his plight and stooping
for the stick, handed it to him. He received it with a smile, and while
it was yet in both of their hands, said in the most matter-of-fact way in
the world:

"Thank you, little Miss Duclos." Then suddenly: "Where's your aunt?"

She did not stop to think. She did not stop to ask herself what this
question meant or whether this old gentleman who seemed to know so much
about her and the family's secrets had a right to ask it, but blurted out
in nervous haste as if she knew of nothing else to do, "She's gone," and
then started to run away.

"Come back, little one." His tone was very imperative, but for all that
of a nature to win upon a frightened child. "I know she's gone," he added
soothingly as she looked back, hesitating. "And I'm sorry, for I have
something for her. I recognized you the moment you stepped out of the
store; but I see that you don't remember me. But why should you? Little
girls don't remember old men."

Again that benevolent smile as he poked about in one of his pockets and
finally drew out a little parcel which he held out toward her.

"This belongs to your aunt. See, it has her name on it, Madame Antoinette
Duclos. It came to the lodging-house in Fifty-third Street just after she
left, and I was asked to bring it to her. I was going to your house as
soon as I had done my little errand at this store, but now that I have
met you, I will ask you to see that she gets it."

The girl looked down at the parcel, then up at him, and reaching out her
hand, took it.

His old heart, which had almost stopped, beat again naturally and with
renewed strength. He was on the correct trail. When Mrs. Duclos and the
rest of them had said that they knew of no one of their name in this
country but themselves, it was because the Madame of the Hotel Universal
was of their family--the widow of their brother, as this child's
acknowledgment showed.

He was turning back to his taxi when the child, still trembling very
much, took a step toward him and said:

"I don't know where to find my aunt. She didn't tell us where she was
going; and--and I had rather not take this parcel back with me. Mother
don't like us to speak of Aunt Nettie; and--and I don't believe Aunt
Nettie would care to have this now. Won't--won't you forget about it,
sir, if I promise to tell her some day that it was brought back and I
wouldn't take it?"

Mr. Gryce felt a qualm of conscience. The child really was too simple to
be made game of. Besides, he felt sure that she had spoken the truth, so
far as she herself was concerned. She didn't know where her erratic aunt
had gone; and any further questioning would only frighten her without
winning him the knowledge he sought. He therefore took the parcel back,
said some soothing words and made his way across the walk to his taxi.
But the number he gave the chauffeur was that of the house where this
little girl lived.

He arrived there first. To him, waiting in the parlor and very near the
window, her shrinking little figure looked pathetic enough, as glancing
in at the taxi, and finding it empty, she realized who might be awaiting
her under her mother's eye. He remembered his grandchild, and made up his
mind, as she slid nervously in, that no matter what happened he would
keep this innocent child out of trouble.

The lady who presently came in to receive him was one who called him
instinctively to his feet in respect and admiration. She was an American
and of the best type, a woman who, if she told a lie, would not tell it
for her own comfort or gain, but to help some one else to whom she owed
fealty or love. But would she lie for anyone? As he studied her longer,
taking in, in his own way, the candid expression of her eye and the sweet
but firm set of her lips, he began to think she would not, and the
interest with which he proceeded to address her was as much due to
herself as to the knowledge he hoped to gain from her.

"Mrs. Duclos?" he asked.

"Yes, sir. And you?"

"I am a member of the New York police. My errand is one which you can
probably guess. You have a sister-in-law, the widow of your husband's
brother. As her testimony is of the utmost importance in the inquiry
which is to be made into the cause and manner of her daughter's death, I
should be very glad to have a few minutes' talk with her if, as we have
every reason to believe, she is in this house at the present moment."

Mrs. Edward Duclos was a strong and upright woman, but this direct
address, this open attack, was too much for her. However, before
replying, she had a question of her own to put, and she proceeded to ask
it firmly, quietly and apparently with every expectation of its being
answered:

"How did you learn that Mr. Duclos had a brother and that this brother
had left a widow?"

"Not from you, madam," he smiled. "Nor from your husband. I very much
wish we had. We have been waiting for some such word ever since our
advertisement appeared. It has not come."

She gave him a quick interrogating glance, folded her hands and answered
without further hesitation:

"We had our reasons for silence, reasons which we thought quite
justifiable. But they don't hold good if we are to be brought into
conflict with the police. Mr. Duclos told me this morning that if we were
driven to speak we must do so with complete honesty and without quibble.
What do you want to know?"

"Everything. First, your sister-in-law's story, then her reasons for
sending her child alone to the museum, as well as the cause of her flight
before she could have heard of that poor child's fate. More hangs upon an
understanding of these facts than I am at liberty to tell you. She
herself would agree with me in this if I could have a few minutes'
conversation with her."

"She is not in the house. She left us late last night without giving us
the least hint as to where she was going. She is, as you can very well
see, as little anxious to talk of her great trouble as you are to have
her, and recognizing that attempts were being made to find her and make
her speak, she fled before it was too late. I am sorry she did so, sorry
for her and sorry for ourselves. We do not approve her course, whatever
reasons she may have for it. At the same time, I feel bound to assure
you that to her they are all-sufficient. She is a conscientious woman,
with many fine qualities, and when she says as she did to us, 'It is my
duty to flee,' and again as she bade us a final adieu, 'I will die rather
than speak a word of what is on my mind,' I know that it is no small
matter which sends her wandering about like this."

"I should think not. A mother to leave her daughter to be exposed at the
morgue, and never intervene to protect her from this ignominy or to see
that she has proper burial after that dread display is over!"

"I know--it was dreadful--and we! Do you not think we felt the horror of
this also?"

"Your own flesh and blood--that is, your husband's. I wonder you could
stand it."

"We had promised. She made us promise the first day she came that we
would keep still and make no move, whatever happened."

"It was here she came then, directly from the hotel?"

"I am obliged to admit it."

"With her torn dress and her little bag?"

"Yes."

"And you procured her different clothes and the suit-case in which she
now lugs about her effects?"

"You seem to know it all."

"Mrs. Duclos, I hope you will answer my next question as honestly as you
have the previous ones. Had Madame Duclos heard of her daughter's death
when she first presented herself to you?"

"Since you ask me this, I must answer. She was in great distress, but did
not tell me why, till I asked her where Angeline was. Then she broke down
utterly and flinging herself face down on the sofa, sobbed and wailed and
finally confided to us that a terrible accident had happened to the child
and that she was lying dead in one of the city's great museums."

"Did she say what accident?"

"No; she was almost delirious with grief, and we couldn't question her.
After the papers came and we had read the dreadful news, we tried to get
from her some explanation of what it all meant, but now she wouldn't
answer; before, she couldn't."

"Did you ask her how she came to know that Angeline was dead, before the
news was circulated outside the museum?"

"Yes; but she did not answer, only looked at us. It was the most
despairing look I ever saw in my life. It made it easier for us to
promise her all she wanted, though we regretted having done this when
we came to think the matter over."

"So you positively do not know any more than this of what she has so
religiously held secret?"

"No; and I have got to the point where I do not wish to."

"Did you know she was coming to this country?"

"Yes--but not her reasons for doing so. She has been a little mysterious
of late."

"Did she say she was going to bring her daughter with her?"

"Yes, she mentioned Angeline. Also the name of the ship on which they
expected to sail."

"Was this letter mailed from Paris or London?"

"It came from Paris."

"Did you understand that she was leaving France for good?"

"I got that idea, certainly."

"But not her reasons for it?"

"No. The letter was very short and not very explicit. I really have given
you all the information I have on this subject."

"Mrs. Duclos, it is my duty to inform you that your sister-in-law had a
deep and intense hatred for a man to us at present unknown. Can you name
him? Is there anything in her early history or in what you know of her
later life, here and abroad, to enlighten you as to his identity?"

With a steady look and a slow shake of her head, Mrs. Duclos denied any
such knowledge, even showing a marked surprise at what was evidently a
new development to her.

"Antoinette has had little to do with the men since our brother's death,"
she said. "I can hardly conceive of her being greatly interested either
in favor of or against any of the opposite sex."

"Yet she is--even to the point of wishing him dead."

Mrs. Duclos rose quickly to her feet, but instantly sat again.

"How do you know?" she asked.

Should he tell her? At first he thought not; then he reconsidered his
decision and spoke out plainly.

"Madam," said he, "some day you will hear what I had rather you heard now
and from me. Madame Duclos left the lodging-house where she was so safe
because she was detected, or was suspicious of having been detected,
shooting the face from a photograph she had set up before her as a target
in the small hours of the night."

"Impossible!" The woman thus exclaiming was quite sincere. "I cannot
imagine Antoinette doing that."

"Yet she did. We have the remains of the photograph."

"And who was the man?"

"When we know that, we shall know all, or be in the way of knowing all."

"You alarm me!" She certainly looked alarmed.

"Why, madam? Do you not think it better for the truth to be known in such
a case?"

"You forget what I told you. Antoinette will not survive the betrayal of
her secret. She said she would not, and she is a woman who weighs her
words. There is a firm edge to her resolves. It has always worked for
good till now. I cannot bear to think of its working in any way for
evil."

"Has she socialistic ideas? Can her hatred be for some of our plutocrats
or supposed oppressors of the people?"

"Oh, no; she is of aristocratic descent and proud of her order. The
Duclos are bourgeois, but Antoinette is a De Montfort."

Mr. Gryce suppressed all token of his instinctive amazement. This fine
American woman was not without a sense of reflected glory given by this
fact. Her sister-in-law was a De Montfort! Expressing his thanks for her
candor, he rose to depart.

"For all that," said he, "she may be at heart a _revolutionnaire_." Then,
as he noticed the negation in her look, he added softly: "The least clue
as to her present refuge would make me greatly your debtor."

"I cannot give it; I do not know it."

And somehow he believed her as absolutely as even she could desire. If he
should yet be fortunate enough to find this elusive Madame, it would have
to be through some other agency than these relatives of hers by marriage.

As he passed out, he heard a frightened gasp from somewhere back in the
hall. Turning, he asked in the most natural manner whether there were
children in the house.

Mrs. Duclos answered with some dignity that she had three daughters.

"You are fortunate, madame," he remarked with his old-fashioned bow. "I
live alone. My last grandchild left me a year ago for a man many years
my junior."

This brought the little one into his view. She was smiling, and he went
away in a state of relief marred by but one regret:

He was as ignorant as ever where to look for the mother of Angeline.




XX

MR. GRYCE AND THE UNWARY WOMAN


Nevertheless Mr. Gryce was proud of the gain he had made in his talk with
Mrs. Duclos, and he smiled as he thought of his next interview with
Sweetwater. Assurance will often accomplish much, it is true, but it
sometimes needs age to make it effective. He could not imagine either
Mrs. Duclos or her daughter yielding to the blandishments of one even as
gifted in this special direction as Sweetwater. Authority was needed as
well--the authority of long experience and an ineradicable sympathy with
human nature.

Thus he gratified himself with a few complacent thoughts. But when he
stopped to think what a great haystack New York was, and how elusive was
the needle which had escaped them now these three times, his spirits sank
a trifle, and by the time he had ridden a half-block on his way back to
Headquarters, he was at that low ebb of disheartenment from which only
some happy inspiration can effectually lift one. He was glad to be able
to report that he had learned a few important facts in regard to Madame
Duclos, but he equally hated to admit that for all his haste in following
up the clue given him, he knew as little as ever of her present
whereabouts; and hated even worse to have to give the cue which would
lead to a surveillance, however secret, over a house which held a child
of so sensitive and tremulous a nature as that of the little friend who
had picked up his stick in front of the drug-store.

He was recalling to mind the pathetic spectacle presented by her agitated
little figure, when his eyes chanced to fall upon a small shop he was
then passing. It was devoted to ladies' furnishings, and as he took in
the contents of the window and such articles as could be seen on the
shelves beyond, a happy thought came to him.

Madame Duclos had left her hotel in a hurry, carrying but few of her
belongings with her. A lady of cultivated taste, she must have missed
many articles necessary to her comfort; and having money would naturally
buy them. Prevented by her fears from going downtown, or even from going
anywhere in the daytime, what was left for her to do but to patronize
some such small shop as this. Its nearness to her late refuge, as well as
its neat and attractive appearance, made this seem all the more likely.
A question or two would suffice to settle his mind on this point and
perhaps lead to results which might prove invaluable in his present
emergency.

Signaling to the chauffeur to stop, he got out in front of this little
shop, toward which he immediately proceeded, with an uncertainty of step
not altogether assumed. He did have some rheumatic twinges that day.

Entering, Mr. Gryce first cast a comprehensive glance at the shelves and
counters, to make sure that he would find here the line of dress-goods in
which he had decided to invest; then, approaching the middle-aged woman
who seemed to be in charge, he engaged her in a tedious display of the
goods, which led on to talk and finally to a casual remark from him,
quite in keeping with the anxiety he had been careful to show.

"I am buying this for a woman to whom you have probably sold many odd
little things within the past few days. Perhaps you knew her taste, and
can help me choose what will please her. She lives down the street and
buys always in the evening--a dark, genteel appearing Frenchwoman, with
a strange way of looking down even when other people would be likely to
look up. Do you remember her?"

Yes, she remembered her and recognized her perfectly from this
description. He saw this at once, but he kept right on talking as he
handled first one piece of goods and then another, seeming to hesitate
between the gray and the brown.

"She went out of town yesterday, and wanted this material sent after
her. Do you think you could do that for me, or shall I have to see to
expressing it myself? I'll do it if I must--only I've forgotten her exact
address." This he muttered self-reproachfully, "I've a shocking bad
memory, and it's growing worse every day. You don't happen to know where
she's gone to, do you?"

The innocence of this appeal from one of his years and benevolent aspect
did not appear to raise the woman's suspicion; yet she limited her reply
to this short statement:

"I'll send the goods, if you will make your choice." And it was not till
long after that he learned that Madame Duclos, being very anxious for her
mail and such newspapers as she wanted, had made arrangements with this
woman to forward them.

Disappointed, but still hoping for some acknowledgment that would give
him what he wanted, he continued to putter with the goods, when she broke
in with harsh decision:

"I think she would prefer the gray."

"Oh, do you?" said he, with just a hint of disapproval at the suggestion.
"I like brown best, myself; but let it be the gray. Ten yards," he
ordered. "She was particular to say that she wanted ten yards, and
that I was to be sure and purchase the dress at the shop adjoining the
drug-store. You see I have obeyed her," he added with a touch of senility
in his quiet chuckle which threw the busy woman off her guard.

"I fear," said she, "that the dress I sold her before will not prove very
becoming. But gray is always good. That's why I advised it."

"I see, I see," chattered away the old man, not without some slight
compunction. "But in my opinion she's too dark for such somber dresses.
I've told her so a score of times." Then as he watched the woman before
him rolling up the goods he proceeded to ask with fussy importunity what
she thought the express charges were likely to be, for he wanted to pay
the whole bill and be done with it.

She was caught--caught fairly this time, though I doubt if she ever knew
it.

"We don't often send up the river," said she. "But I should say that for
a package of this size and weight the charges would be about forty cents.
But that you can leave her to pay. She will be quite willing to do so, I
am sure."

"Of course, of course--I didn't think of that. She'll pay for it, of
course she'll pay for it." And he continued to fuss and chat, with that
curious mixture of native shrewdness and senile interest in little things
which he thought most likely to impress the woman attending him, and trap
her into giving him the complete address.

But she was too wary, or too much preoccupied with her own affairs, to
let the cat any farther out of the bag, and he had to be content with her
promise, that the package should be given to the expressman as early as
possible the next morning.

The feebleness he showed while leaving the shop was in marked contrast,
however, to the vigor with which he took down the telephone-receiver in
the booth of the neighboring drug-store. But she was not there to see;
nor anyone else who had the least interest in his movements. He could,
therefore, give all the emphasis he desired to the demand he made upon
Headquarters for a close watch to be set on the adjoining dry-goods shop,
for the purpose of intercepting and obtaining the address of a certain
package, on the point of being expressed from there to some place up the
river.

Then he went home; for by now he was fully as tired as his years
demanded.




XXI

PERPLEXED


"Elvira Brown."

"Elvira Brown? That the name on the package?"

"Yes."

"And the address?"

The name of a small town in the Catskills was given him.

"Thank you. Very good work." And Mr. Gryce hung up the receiver. Then he
stood thinking.

"Elvira Brown! A very fair alias--that is, the _Brown_ end. But what am I
to think of _Elvira_? And what am I to think of the _Brown_, now that I
remember that the woman who has chosen to hide her identity under another
name is a Frenchwoman. Something queer! Let me see if I can call up the
station-master at the place she's gone."

A long-distance connection proving practicable, he found himself after a
little while in communication with the man he wanted.

"I'm Gryce, of the New York police. A woman in whom we're greatly
interested has just entered your town under the name of Elvira Brown."

_"Elvira Brown!"_

Mr. Gryce was startled at the tone in which this was repeated, even
making due allowance for the medium through which it came.

"Yes. What's there strange about that?"

"Only this: That's the name of a woman who has lived in these mountains
for forty years, and who died here three days ago. To-day we're going
to bury her."

This _was_ a blow to the detective's expectations. What awful mistake had
he made? Or had it been made by the man detailed to steal the name from
the package--or by the woman in the shop, or by all these combined? He
could not stop to ask; but he caught at the first loose end which
presented itself.

"Well, it isn't she we're after, that's certain. The one we want is
middle-aged, and plain in looks and dress. If she came into your town, it
was yesterday or possibly the night before. You wouldn't be apt to notice
her, unless your attention was caught by her lameness. Do you remember
any such person?"

"No, and I don't think anyone like that passed through my station. We're
off the main road, and our travelers are few. I would have noticed the
arrival of a woman like that."

Mr. Gryce, with an exclamation of chagrin, hung up the receiver. He felt
completely balked.

But old as he was, he still had some of the tenacity of youth. He was not
willing to accept defeat without one more effort. Going downtown as
usual, he wandered again into the little dry-goods shop to see if the
package had been sent.

Yes, it had gone, but the expressman had had some trouble with a drunken
man who actually took the package out of his hands and didn't give it
back without a squabble. Strange how men can drink till they can't see,
and so early in the morning, at that!

Mr. Gryce's vigorous hunch dismissed summarily this expression of opinion
as altogether feminine. But he had something to say about the package
itself, which kept the good woman waiting, though a customer or two
demanded her attention.

"You'll think me a fussy old man," said he, "but I've worried about that
package all night. She needs a new dress so much, and I'm afraid you
didn't have the right address. I remember it now--it was--was----"

"Barford on the Hudson," she finished promptly. Evidently she begrudged
the time she was wasting on his imbecilities.

"That's it; that's it. 'Way up in the Catskills, isn't it?"

"I don't know. Those people are waiting, sir. I shall really----"

"One moment! I want to buy something more for her. But I'll send it
myself this time; I won't bother you again. Another dress, something
bright and prettier than anything she has. She'll forgive me. She'll be
glad to have it."

"I don't know, sir." The woman was really very much embarrassed. She was
honest to the core, and though she enjoyed seeing her goods disappear
from the shelves, it wasn't in her heart to take advantage of a man so
old as this. "I'm afraid she wouldn't be pleased. You see, it isn't a
fortnight since she bought and made up the one I sold her first, and she
thought that a great extravagance. Now with the gray----"

"Are you speaking of the blue one?"

"No, it wasn't blue."

"What color was it? Haven't you a bit left to show me? I should know
better what to do, then."

She pointed to a bolt of striped wool--a little gaudy for a woman whose
taste they had both been speaking of as inclined to the plain and somber.

"That? But that's bright enough. I've never seen her in that."

"She didn't like it. But something made her take it. She wore it when she
came in last."

"She did! Then I'm satisfied. Thankee all the same. Just give me a pair
of gloves for her, and I'll be getting on."

She picked out a pair for him, and he trotted away, mumbling cheerily to
himself as he passed between the counters. But once in his taxi again,
he concentrated all his thought on that bolt of striped dress-goods. The
colors were crimson and black, with a dot here and there of some lighter
shade! He took pains to fix it in his mind, for this was undoubtedly the
dress she fled in--an important clue to him, if this hunt should resolve
itself into a chase with doubling and redoubling of the escaping quarry.

He spent the next two hours in acquainting himself with the location and
some of the conditions of the town he now meant to visit. Though he could
not understand Madame Duclos' reason for taking the name of a woman so
well known as this Elvira Brown, there was something in this circumstance
and the fact that the person so styled had been at that moment at the
point of death, which called, as he felt, for personal investigation. He
hardly felt fit for any such purely speculative expedition as this;
especially as he must do without the companionship, to say nothing of the
assistance, of Sweetwater, whom he hardly felt justified in withdrawing
from the task he had given him. So he picked out a fellow named Perry;
and together they took the West Shore into Greene County, where they
stopped at a station from which a branch road ran to the small town
whither the package addressed to Elvira Brown had preceded them.

Accidents frequently determine our course, as well as turn us from the
one we had mapped out for ourselves. By accident I mean, in this case, an
actual one which had occurred on the branch road I have mentioned, by
which the trains were held up and further progress in that direction made
impossible. When this came to the knowledge of Mr. Gryce, he found it
necessary to choose between trusting himself to an automobile for the
rest of the journey, or of remaining all night in the town where the
train had stopped. A glance at the hills towering up between him and his
goal decided him to wait for the running of the trains next day; and
after an inquiry or two, he left the station on foot for the hotel to
which he had been recommended.

A philosopher, in many regards, Mr. Gryce quieted himself, under the
irritation of this annoyance, with the thought that in this world we do
not always know just what is best for us; and that the few hours of rest
thus forced upon him by the seemingly unfortunate break in his plans
might prove in the end to be the best thing that could happen to him. He
accordingly took a good room, enjoyed a good dinner and then sat down in
the lobby to have an equally good smoke. He chose a chair which gave him
a prospect of the river, and for a long time, while vaguely listening to
the talk about him, he feasted his eyes on the view and allowed some of
its calm to enter his perturbed spirit. But gradually, as he looked and
smoked, he found his attention caught, first by what a man was saying in
his rear, and secondly by something he saw intervening between himself
and the flow of shining river which had hitherto filled his eye.

The sentence which had roused him was one quite foreign to his thoughts
and seemingly of little importance to him or to anyone about. It was in
connection with a factory on the other side of the river, which was
running overtime, and had not help enough to fill its orders.

"It's women we want," he heard shouted out. "Young women, middle-aged
women, any sort of women who are anxious for steady work and good wages."

The emphasis with which this announcement was made perhaps gave it point;
at all events this one brief sentence sank into Mr. Gryce's ear just as
he began to notice a woman who sat with her back to him on the hotel
piazza.

He was not thinking of Madame Duclos at that moment; nor was there the
least thing about this woman to recall his secret quarry to mind. Yet
once his eyes had fallen on her, they remained there for several minutes.

Why?

Perhaps because she sat so unnaturally still. In all the time he stared
at her simple bonnet and decently clothed shoulders, the silhouette she
made against the silver band of the river did not change by an iota. He
had been agaze upon the landscape too, but he was sure that he had not
sat as still as this, and when, after an interval during which he had
turned to see what kind of man it was who had spoken so vigorously, he
wheeled back into place and glanced out again through his window, she was
there yet, hat, shoulders and all, immovable as an image and almost as
rigid.

Well, and what of it? There was surely nothing very remarkable in so
commonplace a fact; yet during the ensuing half-hour, during which he
gave, or tried to give, the greater part of his attention to the
political talk which followed the statements he had heard made in regard
to the needs of a certain factory, his eye would turn riverward from time
to time and always with a view to see if this woman had moved. And not
once did he detect the least change in her attitude.

"She will sit there all night," he muttered to himself; and after a while
his curiosity mounted to such a pitch that he got up and went out on the
piazza for one of his short strolls.




XXII

HE REMEMBERS


Just an ordinary woman, lost in a dream of some kind while awaiting her
departure on an out-going train!--or such was Detective Gryce's
conclusion as he hobbled slowly past her.

Why should he give her a moment's thought? Yet he did. He noticed her
dress and the way she held her hands, and the fact, not suspected before,
that she was not looking out at the landscape outspread before her eyes,
but down into her lap at her own hands clasped together in an unnaturally
tight grip. Then he straightway forgot her in the thought of that other
woman whose track he was following with such poor promise of success.
Madame Duclos' image was in his mind as plainly as if she sat before him
in place of this chance passenger. He knew the sort of hat she would wear
(or thought he did). He also knew the color of her dress. Had he not been
shown the piece of goods from which it had been taken? And had he not
understood her choice, bizarre as it was, and for this very reason, that
it was bizarre? Being a woman of subtle mind, she would reason that
since the police were seeking one of plain exterior and simple dress, a
gaudy frock would throw them off their guard and insure her immunity from
any close inspection. Therefore this striped material rather than the
plain black she so much preferred. Then her eyes! She would try to hide
the defect which particularized them, by the use of glasses or, at least,
by a very heavy veil. While her walk--well! she might successfully
conceal her halting step if she were not hurried. But he promised himself
that he would be very careful to see that any woman rousing his suspicion
should be given some reason for hurrying.

While thus musing, he had reached the farther end of the piazza. In
wheeling about to come back, the woman whose profile he now faced
attracted his eye again, in spite of himself, and he gave her another
idle thought. How absorbing was the subject upon which she was brooding,
and how deeply it affected her!

It struck him as he quietly repassed her that he had never seen a sadder
face. Then that impression passed from his mind, for he saw Perry coming
toward him with a pencil and telegram-blank in hand. He had decided to
let Sweetwater know where he could be reached that night, and Perry had
come for the message.

It must have been fully two hours later that Mr. Gryce, sitting down in
his former chair, looked up and found his view unobstructed to the river.
The woman had gone.

Just for the sake of saying something to Perry, who had drawn up beside
him, he remarked upon the fact, adding in explanation of his interest in
so small a matter:

"It's the thoughts and feelings of people which take hold of my curiosity
now. Human nature is a big book, a great book. I have only begun to
thumb it, and I'm an old man. Some people betray their emotions in one
way, some in another. Some are loudest when most troubled, and some are
so quiet one would think them dead. The woman I was watching there was
one of the quiet ones; her trouble was deep; that was apparent from her
outline--an outline which never varied."

"Yes, she's a queer duck. I saw her: I even did an errand for her--that
was before you sat down here."

"You did an errand for her?"

"Yes; she wanted a newspaper. Of course I was glad to get it for her, as
she said she was lame."

"Lame?"

"Yes; I suppose she spoke the truth. I didn't think of her being in any
special trouble, but I did think her an odd one. She seemed to be wearing
two dresses."

Mr. Gryce started and turned sharply toward him.

"What's that you say? What do you mean by that?"

"Why, this: when she stopped to get her money out of some hidden pocket,
she pulled up the skirt of her dress, and I saw another one under it.
Perhaps she thought that was the easiest way of carrying it. I noticed
that her suit-case was a small one."

"Describe that under-frock to me." Mr. Gryce's air and tone were
unaccountably earnest. "What was its color?"

"Why, reddish, I think. No, it had stripes in it and something like
spots. Do you suppose it was her petticoat?"

Mr. Gryce brought his hand down on his lame knee and did not seem to feel
it. "Find out where she's gone!" he cried. "No, I will do it myself."
And before the other could recover from his astonishment, he had started
for the piazza where he had just seen the proprietor of the hotel take
his seat.

"This comes from an old man's folly in thinking he could manage an affair
of this kind without help," he mumbled to himself as he went stumping
along. "Had I told Perry whom we were after and how he was to recognize
her, I should have spent my time talking with this woman instead of
staring at her. Two dresses! with the bright one under! Well, she's even
more subtle than I thought."

And by this time, having reached the man he sought, he put his question:

"Can you tell me anything about the woman who was sitting here? Who she
is and where she has gone?"

"The woman who was sitting here? Why, I should say she was a factory hand
and has gone to her work on the other side of the river."

"Her name? Do you know her name? I'm a detective from New York--one of
the regular police force. I'm in search of a woman not unlike the one
I saw here, though not, I am bound to state, a factory worker except on
compulsion."

"You are! A police detective, eh, and at your age! It must be a healthy
employment. But about this woman! I'm sorry, but I can't tell you
anything except that she came on the same train you did and wanted a boat
right away to take her across the river. You see, we've no ferry here,
and I told her so, and the only way she could get across was to wait for
Phil Jenkins, who was going over at five. She said she would wait, and
sat down here, refusing dinner, or even to enter the house. Perhaps she
wasn't hungry, and perhaps she didn't wish to register, eh?"

"Had her speech an accent? Did you take her for a foreign woman?"

"Yes, I did and I didn't. She spoke very well. She's not young, you
know?"

"I'm not looking for a young woman."

"Well, she's gone and you can't reach her to-night. There they are now,
see! about a quarter of the way across. That small boat just slipping
across the wake of the big one."

Mr. Gryce looked and saw that she was in the way of escape for to-night.

"When can I get over?" he asked.

"Not till Phil crosses again to-morrow noon."

"Meanwhile, she may go anywhere. I shall certainly lose her."

"Hardly. She's bound for the factory; you can just see the roof of
it above the trees a little to the right. She asked me all sorts of
questions about the work over there, and whether there were decent places
to live in within walking distance of the factory."

"Then she isn't lame? My woman is a trifle lame."

"So may this woman be, for all I know. I didn't see her on her feet, but
she carried no crutch--only a bag and an umbrella."

"A brown bag, neat like herself in appearance?"

"No. It was light in color and old. She herself was neat enough."

Mr. Gryce's brows came together. He was in a quandary. He felt convinced,
with a positiveness which surprised him, that in watching the withdrawal
of this small boat farther and farther toward the opposite shore, he was
watching the escape of Antoinette Duclos from his immediate interference.

Yet, circumstantial as were the proofs which had led him to this
conclusion, he felt that he would gladly welcome some further
corroboration of those proofs before risking the time and opportunity he
might lose in following the person of two skirts to her destination on
the other side of the Hudson. There were more reasons than one why he
could not afford to lose one unnecessary minute. An extra twinge or two
of rheumatism warned him that he was approaching the point of
disablement.

Moreover, of Mr. Gryce's secret fears there was one which loomed larger
than the others and held an impulsive, unconsidered movement in check.
He must have proof of her identity--which nevertheless he did not
question--before hazarding himself and the success of his undertaking
by a delay of so many additional hours. But what proof could he hope
to obtain under the circumstances in which he found himself placed?
Any appeal to Mrs. Edouard Duclos, by telephone or telegram, would
certainly fail of its purpose. Even if the neat black dress in which her
sister-in-law now traveled was one from her own wardrobe, he would find
it impossible to establish the fact in time to make his own decision. The
child--yes, he might worm that fact out of the child if he were where he
could reach her; but he was miles away; and besides, something within him
revolted from involving this child further in schemes honest enough from
his standpoint, but certainly not helpful to her. No, he would have to
trust his intuition, or--

He had thrown himself into a chair at the side of his host, but he rose
quickly as his musings reached this point. The proof he had been looking
for was his. In recalling the child to mind there had flashed upon his
inner vision an instantaneous picture of her appearance as she stooped to
pick up his stick in front of the drug-store. He saw again the bending
figure, the flushed cheeks and the flaxen locks surmounted by a little
hat. Ah! it was that little hat! The impression it had made upon him was
greater than he thought. He found that he remembered not only its
ribbons, but the bunches of curiously tinted flowers hanging down in
front. And these bunches, or some precisely like them, had been the
sole trimming of the hat he had been contemplating so long from the other
side of the window. The woman was Madame Duclos. These flowers had been
taken from the child's hat and pinned upon the aunt's; and it was their
familiar look which had given him, without any recognition of the reason,
his surety as to the latter's identity.

Calmed immensely by this assurance, he turned back to have another word
with the proprietor, now busily engaged with his newspaper.

"Will you be obliging enough to see that I'm given an opportunity for a
few words with this Phil Jenkins on his return?" he asked. "And if you
will be so good, respect my confidence till I am sure I have made no
mistake in thinking what I have of his passenger."

The proprietor nodded, and Mr. Gryce settled himself again inside to
watch for the rowboat's return.

What he learned that night from this man Jenkins calmed him still
further. The woman had acknowledged, on leaving him, that she was going
to seek work at the factory. "A little old for the job," the man
volunteered, "but spry. How she did clamber up that bank!"

It was enough; Mr. Gryce was satisfied, and engaged a seat in his small
boat for the following day.




XXIII

GIRLS, GIRLS! NOTHING BUT GIRLS!


The superintendent was puzzled and showed it. He listened to Mr. Gryce
with a shrug, saying that so many women had been taken on that day, that
he really couldn't remember whether any one of them answered to the given
description.

"There's the time-keeper's book. Look it over. All the names are there,"
he said.

Mr. Gryce did as he advised, but of course without finding there the name
of Antoinette Duclos or of anyone else of whom he had ever heard.

The next thing was for him to go through the factory itself and see if he
could pick her out from those already at work. This he was greatly averse
to doing; it would be too long and painful an effort for him, and he
could not trust Perry with any such piece of nice discrimination. How he
missed Sweetwater! How tempted he was to send for him! It was finally
decided that when the hour came for the departure of the whole dayshift,
he should take his stand where he could mark each employee as she
filed out.

A sorry attempt followed by as sorry a failure! He did not see one among
them who was over twenty-five years of age. But this did not mean the
end of all hope. There was the nightshift. Might she not be put on that?
A different man had charge at night. He would wait for this man's
appearance, present his cause to him and see what could be done.

Not much, he found, when the night superintendent finally entered the
office and he had the chance of introducing himself. Newer to authority
than the superintendent of the dayshift, he was also of a more active
temperament and much more self-assertive. He was not impressed by the
detective's years or even by his errand. It was a busy night, a very busy
night--new hands in every department. To take him through the building at
present was quite out of the question. Perhaps later it might be done;
but not now, not now.

With that the night superintendent bustled out. This was not very
encouraging, but Mr. Gryce did not despair. He had seen with what ease he
could look from the broad, rear window near which he stood, into the
rooms where rows upon rows of girls were already at work. Only a narrow
court divided him from these girls, and as the three stories of which the
factory was composed were all brilliantly lighted, he should have little
difficulty in picking out from among them the middle-aged woman who held
in her closed and mysterious hand the key to that formidable affair
threatening the honor of one of New York's most prominent men.

Before doing this, Mr. Gryce stopped to locate himself and recall if
possible the entire plan of the building. He was in what was called the
outer office. The inner one, used only by the president of the concern,
opened on his left. There was no one in the latter room at present, the
president seldom showing up at night. Another door led to the platform
outside, and a third one, located in the middle of the right-hand
partition, to a large vestibule or locker-room belonging exclusively to
the girls, which in its turn communicated with the work-rooms of the
factory running in unbroken continuity around a narrow central court.

He had been through this locker-room in the late afternoon. It was here
he had stood to watch the girls file out at the close of their day's
work. The exit for all employees was in one of the corners and out of
this Antoinette Duclos would have to pass when it came her turn to leave
the building--that is, if she were really in it, as he had every
reason to believe.

However, certainty on this point would relieve him from much of his
present impatience, and with this end in view he prepared to enter the
room again in the hope of spying among the various hats with which the
walls were hung the one with whose shape and trimming he was so well
acquainted.

But promising as this attempt looked, it was destined to immediate
failure. The room was not empty. He could hear girls whispering not a
dozen steps away, and anxious as he always was not to attract any
unnecessary attention to himself, he turned his back upon this door and
returned to the window from the broad view of which he anticipated so
much.

A brilliant scene awaited him. This building, built originally for other
purposes, had been hastily reconstructed for its present use in a manner
possibly open to criticism but which certainly gave those who worked in
it an abundance of light and air. The narrow columns supporting its three
stories were so inconspicuous at night when a blaze of electricity
dominated the whole, that it presented the appearance of being made
entirely of windows. One break and one only he observed in the double row
of lights encircling the courtyard. This was in a spot diagonally
opposite, where a space of several feet showed a dimness he failed to
understand. But as no workers appeared to be there, he passed the matter
over as one of no importance.

The task before him looked hopeless. In the first place there were the
three floors, with no faces visible above the first one. Then of the long
rectangle stretching out before him he could see but two sides, which
fact was further complicated by there being as many of the workers' faces
turned toward the outside of the building as toward the court. Yet having
determined upon his course, he was bound to see it through.

His position near the corner of the huge rectangle precluded his seeing
anyone working at his own end. He was obliged to pass them over. But of
those opposite, especially those directly so, he could take easy count.
They were all girls of fifteen or so, and could be passed over also
without more than a cursory glance. Further on he saw a row of older
women, and student as he was of human nature, there were faces among them
at which he was tempted to look twice, though once answered his purpose.
There was no Madame there.

Continuing his examination, he next encountered the space so
unaccountably darkened, and having skipped this, came upon a stretch of
benches displaying great activity. Only old hands seemed to be at work in
this section. Their method and despatch showed a training which made it
useless to look among them for one who had probably never worked before
amid the hum of machinery.

In the corner beyond he saw nobody, but when he came to look along the
end connecting the opposite rooms with those on his side, a different
scene awaited him. There every bench seemed occupied both back and front,
and mostly by newcomers, as was apparent from the anxious way the
superintendent moved about among them, explaining the work and directing
them with a zeal which not only attested his interest in the task but
showed how completely he had forgotten the man he had left behind him in
his office. Well, well, such is the way of the world! The old man saw
that he would have to depend upon himself, and realizing this, bent all
his energies to his present far-off inspection of these women, hoping
against hope that he would be able at least to tell the young from the
old.

Yes, he could do that, but the older women seemed to be in the majority;
and this perplexed him. It was all too distant for him to see clearly,
but he took heart of grace as he observed how the faces and figures he
was studying so closely were resolving themselves into mere silhouettes
under his gaze. For as I have already said, he had a quick eye for
outline, and felt sure that he could sufficiently recall that of the
woman whose head and shoulders had been so long under his eye that day,
to recognize it even among fifty others. But not one of them--not one of
them all--had the precise narrowness and rigidity of Madame Duclos'; and
after many painful minutes of renewed effort followed by renewed
disappointment he moved back from the window and sat down. There was one
thing you could always count on in Mr. Gryce, and that was his patience.

But it was a patience not without its breaks. Once he rose to look out
front to make sure he had not miscalculated the distance of this factory
from the river. Then after another period of waiting, he got thinking how
much he might discover if he could get one glimpse into that far corner
contiguous to that end of the rectangle where he had seen so many raw
workers receiving the assistance of the night superintendent. There was a
way of doing this of which he had not thought before. He had but to step
outside, walk the length of the platform where the loading of shipments
was going on, and look in at one of the great windows at the further end.
But when he came to make the attempt, he found himself plunged into such
a turmoil and the way so blocked by the loading of boxes and the backing
up and driving off of horses that he retreated precipitately. Rather than
encounter all this, he would await events from the inside. So he took his
old seat again and for another half-hour listened to the thump of
machinery and the squeak of a rusty elevator-brake which almost robbed
him of thought. He was even inclined to doze, when he suddenly became
aware of some change either in himself or in what lay about him.

Had the machinery stopped? No, it was not that.

The place seemed darker, yet it was still very light.

With a restless move, he rose heavily and peered again into the court.
Immediately it was evident what had occurred. The whole string of lights
in the third story had been shut off, and now those of the middle story
were following suit. Only the ground floor remained active with all its
lights at the maximum, and every belt moving.

At this unexpected narrowing down of his field of operations he felt
greatly relieved. He had dreaded those long walks through innumerable
rooms. He could manage circling the building once, but three times would
have been too much. In a mood of increased contentment, he started to
return to his seat, but found himself stayed by something he saw in what
had been but a dimly lighted space when he looked there last. It was now
as bright as the rest and showed him the figure of the superintendent
stooping over a woman, explaining to her some intricate manipulation of
the work in hand which was evidently quite new to her. He could see him
very plainly, but her figure was more or less hidden. Not for long
though. The superintendent passed on and she came into full view. It was
Antoinette Duclos. He was confident of this even before he noted her
dress. When his eyes fell on that, he was sure; there was no mistaking
the stripes and the dots. Antoinette Duclos! and she was where he could
reach her in five minutes--in fact as soon as the superintendent
returned. As he stood and watched her working quite assiduously but in
something like isolation, he felt as though ten years had slipped from
his age, and trifled with his pleasure as the rest of us do when we
behold a despaired-of goal loom suddenly in sight. Was she the woman he
had pictured in his mind's eye? Hardly. Yet there was an admirable
directness in her movements. From the way she went about things, he could
plainly see that she would master her duties in no time if Fate did not
interpose to prevent. It certainly was hard to interrupt her in her work
just when she was on the way to safety and competence. But there could be
no question of his duty, or of the claims of Mr. Roberts to whatever help
might accrue from an understanding of the relation of this woman to
events threatening his reputation with such utter destruction. Her story
might free him from all suspicion or it might actually determine his
guilt. Therefore her story must be had, and at once--if possible, this
very night.

But he must wait--wait for the coming of the superintendent. He felt safe
to do this. Meanwhile he was determined not to let this woman out of his
sight; so, drawing up a chair, he settled down within view of her active
figure, from which all rigidity had vanished in the interest she was
rapidly developing in her work. If he could have seen her countenance
more clearly, he would have been glad. There seemed to be a veil between
him and it, a hazy indistinctness which he found it difficult to
understand; but remembering that he was looking through two windows and
on a long diagonal, he accepted this slight drawback with equanimity and
was about to indulge in the comfort of a cigar when he saw the scene he
still held in view change, and change vividly, to the excitation of a
fresh interest and a still more careful watch.

A girl had approached Madame Duclos from some place quite out of sight,
and in passing her by, had slipped a note into her hand. The Frenchwoman
had taken it, but in a way indicating shock. The ease which had given
suppleness to her form and surety to all her movements was gone in an
instant, and from the furtive way in which she sought to read the
communication thus handed her Mr. Gryce saw that his own powers would
soon be taxed to keep him even with a situation changing thus from moment
to moment under his eye.

What did that note contain, and who could have taken advantage of the
arrival of some late-comer to slip it into her hand? Mr. Gryce found this
a very formidable question, and watched with ever-increasing anxiety to
see what effect these unknown words would have upon their recipient when
her opportunity came for reading them.

A startling one--of that he was presently a witness; for no sooner had
she taken in their import than she cast a hurried look about her and left
her place without fuss or flurry, but with an air of quiet determination
which Mr. Gryce felt confident covered a resolution which nothing could
balk.

She had not only left her bench but seemingly was in the act of leaving
the building. This, of course, it was for him to prevent, and he rose to
do so. It might be interesting to wait and watch her hurrying figure
threading its way to the locker-room through the double row of girls on
the opposite side of the court; but there were reasons why he wished to
reach that last mentioned room before she did; reasons which seemed good
enough to send him there without any further delay. If he could but
discover her hat among the many he had seen hanging on pegs in one of the
corners, how easy it would be for him to hold her back till he could make
her listen to the few words which must be said before he could allow her
to leave the building.

Quick of eye, if not of step, he had run in review the varying headgear
depending from those isolated pegs, before he had half-circled the
lockers. But hers he did not see. Could she have been given a locker on
this her first night? He did not think so; and approaching closer, he
looked again. The hat was there, but lying on the floor. Somebody had
knocked it down; perhaps the late-comer who had given her the letter.

Greatly gratified by the advantage he now indisputably held over her, he
picked up the hat and approached the door through which she must in
another minute emerge.

She did not come.

He waited and waited, and still she did not come. At last, driven by
impatience, he ventured to open the door he had previously hesitated to
touch and took a quick look in. Girls, girls! nothing but girls! No
Madame Duclos anywhere.

Something must have happened to interrupt her escape. Either she had been
caught in the attempt by the superintendent or by some one else of equal
authority. This, if bad for her, was also bad for him, as a quiet hold-up
in the manner he had planned was certainly better than the public one
which must now follow.

Sorry for her and sorry for himself, Mr. Gryce returned to the office
just as the superintendent entered from the opposite door. He thought the
latter looked a little queer, and in an instant he learned why.

"Was the woman you wanted a staid, elderly person, apparently a
foreigner?"

"Yes--of French birth, I am told."

"Well, I guess you were all right in distrusting her. She's gone--took a
notion that night work didn't agree with her and left without so much as
a 'By your leave!' She must have smelt you out in some uncanny way. Too
bad! She bade fair to be just the woman we wanted for a very nice part of
the work."

"Do you mean she's really out of the building--that you didn't stop
her----"

"I didn't know what she was up to, till she was gone. I----"

"But how did she get out? She didn't go by the employees' door for I
stood there on the watch. I had seen her receive a note----"

"A note? How? Who gave it to her?"

"Some girl."

"And you saw this? How could you? Been through the work-rooms?"

"No. I saw her from this window, as I was looking diagonally across the
court. She was in one of the opposite rooms over there----"

The superintendent broke into a hearty laugh.

"Fooled!" he cried. "You police detectives are a smart crowd, but our old
factory with its string of useless windows has led you astray for once.
You weren't looking into any one of the rooms over there. You were
looking at a reflection in that useless old window behind which the
elevator runs. That happens when the elevator running on that side is
down. I've seen it often and laughed in my sleeve at the chance it gives
me to observe on the sly how things are going on at certain benches. Many
a girl has got her discharge--But no matter about that. Come here.

"The room you think you see over there--you will notice that nobody is at
work in it now--is on this side of the building, and the woman you have
in chase escaped by the south delivery-door. We are loading cars to-night
from this side of the building, and she took a flying advantage of it.
Men give way to a woman. Though there's an order against any such use of
that door, you can't get one of them to hold onto a woman when she once
gets it into her head to skip the premises. But she can't have gone far.
This is a place of few houses and no big buildings besides the factory.
If you take pains to head her off at the station, you'll be safe for
to-night, and in the morning you can easily find her. Now I must go; but
first, what was her offense? Theft, eh?"

"No. This woman whom we have let slip through our fingers is Madame
Duclos, the mother of the girl shot in a New York museum. There is a big
reward out for her recovery and detention, and----"

The superintendent stood aghast.

"Why didn't you say so? Why didn't you say so at once? I'd have had the
whole troop file out before you. I'd have had----"

The detective caught at his hat.

"I wasn't aware that I had reached an age when I couldn't tell the
difference between a reflection and a reality," he growled, and hurried
out.

The town was a small one; and Perry would see that she didn't escape from
the station. Besides, she had fled without her hat. Surely, with all this
in his favor, he would soon be able to lay his hand upon her, if not
to-night, certainly before another day was at an end.




XXIV

FLIGHT


In leaving the building Mr. Gryce almost ran into the arms of Perry. In
his anxiety to be within call, the young detective had seated himself on
the steps outside and now stood ready for any emergency.

Mr. Gryce's spirits rose as he saw him there. The great door leading to
the elevator opened not twenty feet to the left of him. Perhaps Perry had
seen the woman and could tell which way she ran. Questions followed,
rapid and to the purpose. Perry had seen a woman flash by. But she seemed
to be in company with a man. He had not been able to see either clearly.

"Which way were they heading?" asked Mr. Gryce.

Perry told him.

It would look as though they were making for the station. Alarmed at the
idea, Mr. Gryce stepped down into the road and endeavored to pierce the
darkness in that direction. All he could see were the station lights.
Everything else was in shadow. The night hung over all, and had it not
been for the grinding of machinery in their rear, the silence would have
been just as marked.

"Perry, is the way rough between here and the station--I mean, rough for
me?"

"Not very, if you keep in the road."

"Run ahead, then, and learn how soon the next train is due--any train,
going north or going south--I don't care which. If it is soon, look
for a middle-aged woman in a striped dress, and if you can't prevent
her getting on, without a fracas, follow her yourself and never quit
her--telegraphing me at the first opportunity. Run."

Perry gave a leap and was soon swallowed up in the darkness which was
intense as soon as he had passed beyond the glare from the factory. Mr.
Gryce followed after, moving as quickly as he dared. It was not far to
the station platform, but in his anxiety it seemed a mile; nor did he
breathe with ease till he saw a flying shadow come between him and the
station lights and knew that Perry had reached the platform.

It was just at the hour when the fewest trains pass, and Mr. Gryce was
himself across the tracks and on the platform before a far-off whistle
warned him that one was approaching. Looking hastily around, he saw Perry
hurrying up behind him.

"No one," said he. "No such person around."

They waited. The train came in, stopped, took on two unimportant
passengers and rushed away north.

"I'm afraid I shall have to ask you to stay here, Perry. It would be so
easy for her to board one of these night trains and buy a ticket from the
conductor."

But as he spoke he paused, and gripping Perry's arm, turned his ear to
listen.

"A boat," said he. "A small boat leaving shore."

It was so. They could hear the dip of the oars distinctly in the quiet
which had followed the departure of the train. No other sound but that
was in the air, and it struck cold upon one old heart.

"It is she! I'm sure of it," muttered Gryce.

"The man across the river has warned her--sent a boat for her, perhaps.
Run down to the point and see if there is anyone there who saw her go."

Perry slid into the night, and Mr. Gryce stood listening. The quiet dip
of the oars was growing fainter every instant. The boat was rapidly
withdrawing, carrying with it all hope of securing off-hand this
desirable witness.

To be sure, there was nothing very serious in this. He had only to
telephone across the river to have the woman detained till he could reach
her himself in the early morning. Yet he felt unaccountably disturbed and
anxious. For all his many experiences and a record which should have made
him immune from the ordinary disappointments of life, he had never, or so
it seemed to him, felt more thoroughly depressed or weary of the work
which had given him occupation for more years than he liked to number,
than in the few minutes of solitary waiting, with his face toward the
river and the sense of some impending doom settling slowly over his aged
heart.

But he was still too much the successful detective to allow his
disheartenment to be seen by his admiring subordinate. As the latter
approached, the old man's countenance brightened, and nothing could
have been more deceptive than the calmness he displayed when the fellow
reported that he had just been talking to a man who had recognized the
boat and the oarsman. It was the same boat and the same oarsman that had
brought them over earlier in the day. He had made an extra trip at this
most unusual hour, for the express purpose of taking this woman back.

"I suppose there is no possibility of your drumming up anyone to row us
over in time to catch them?"

"None in the least. I have inquired."

"Then follow me into the station. I have a few messages to send."

Among these messages was a peremptory one to Sweetwater.

Morning! and an early crossing to the other side. Here a surprise awaited
them. They found, on inquiry, that the man responsible for Madame's
flitting was not, as they had supposed, the hotel proprietor, but Phil
himself, the good-natured, easily-imposed-upon ferryman, on whose
sympathies she had worked during their first short passage from one shore
to the other. Perhaps a little money had helped to deepen this
impression; one never knows.

But this was not all. The woman was gone. She had fled the town on foot
before they were able to locate Phil, who had not made shore at his usual
place but at some point up the river about which they knew nothing. When
he finally showed up, it was almost daybreak.

"Where is he now?"

"At home, or ought to be."

"Show me the house."

In ten minutes the two were face to face.

The result was not altogether satisfactory to the detective. Though he
used all his skill in his manipulation of this kind-hearted ferryman, he
got very little from him but the plain fact that the woman insisted upon
taking to the road when she heard that the train-service had stopped;
that he could not persuade her to wait till daylight or to listen for a
moment to what he had to say of the danger and terrors awaiting her in
the darkness, and the awful loneliness of the hills. She didn't fear
nature even at its worst, and she knew these hills better than many who
had lived among them for years. She was bound to go, and she went.

This was six hours ago. Asked to explain the interest he had shown in
her, it soon became evident that he was in complete ignorance of her
identity. He had simply, on their first trip over, seen that she was
middle-aged, suffering and much too good and kind to be followed up by
enemies and wicked police officials. True, he had rowed them over in her
pursuit in the early part of the day, but that was because he had not
known their business. When on returning he had learned it, he made up
his mind to help her out with a warning even if it kept him up all night.
He had not expected to bring her back with him, but she had insisted upon
his doing so, saying that she had friends in the mountains who would look
after her. He saw that she was dreadfully in earnest, for she had not
stopped to get her hat and would not have had so much as an extra stitch
with her if she had not taken the precaution to hide a bag of things
somewhere in the bushes near the factory, in anticipation of some such
emergency. And he couldn't resist her. She made him think of a sister of
his who had had a dreadful time of it in the world and was now well out
of it, thank God!

When the ferryman heard that a reward of hundreds of dollars was waiting
for the man who succeeded in bringing her before the police officials in
New York, he betrayed some chagrin, but even this did not last. He was
soon declaring with heartfelt earnestness that he didn't care anything
about that. It was peace of mind he wanted, and not money.

When Mr. Gryce left him, it was with an even slower step than usual.
Peace of mind! How about his own peace of mind? Was he trailing this
poor unfortunate from pillar to post, for the reward it would bring him?
No. With his advancing years money had lost much of its attraction. Nor,
if he knew himself, was he particularly affected by the glory which
attends success. Duty, and duty only, drove him on--to elucidate his
problem and merit the confidence put in him by his superiors. If
suffering followed, that was not his fault; his business was to go ahead.

It was in this frame of mind that he prepared himself for the automobile
trip he saw before him.

There was no question in Mr. Gryce's mind now, as to this woman's
destination or whither he should be obliged to go in order to find her.
As he now saw into her mind, she had left New York with the intention of
hiding herself in the remote village to which she had ordered her mail
sent under the name of Elvira Brown, whom she evidently knew; but
hearing, either on the car or in the hotel, where she was detained, the
plea which was being made for workers in the factory on the east side of
the river, she had modified her plans to the extent already known, only
to return to her original intention as soon as the attempt to provide for
herself in this independent way had proved a failure.

He would proceed then in her wake, conscious of the fresh disappointment
which awaited her in the loss, through Miss Brown's sudden death, of the
asylum she counted upon. Could he have gone on foot like herself, he
might have been tempted to do so, for a trail is best followed slowly and
with ear and eye very close to the ground. But as this was beyond his
strength, he must wait till an automobile could be procured, and possibly
till Sweetwater should arrive--for Perry was no man for this job. There
were no automobiles in this small town, and it might be necessary to send
up or down the river some distance before one could be found capable of
carrying them over the precipitous road they would be obliged to take in
order to avoid the washout which had driven them to this extremity.

But all would come right in time; and with Sweetwater at his elbow, the
journey would be made and the woman caught, soon enough for him no doubt,
hard as he felt it to wait. Why so hard, he might have found it difficult
to say, since hitherto he had found it easy enough when the goal seemed
sure and it was only with time he had to reckon!




XXV

TERROR


A woman fleeing from publicity as one flies from death--a refined woman,
too, whose life had hitherto been passed in the open!

When Antoinette Duclos, after a night and morning of unprecedented
fatigue and extraordinary fears, with little to upbear her in the way of
food, stepped from the train which brought a few local passengers into
the quiet village of Rexam, she hardly would have been recognized by her
best friend, such marks may a few hours leave upon one battling with
untoward Fate in one supreme effort.

She seemed to realize this, for meeting more than one eye fixed
inquiringly upon her she drew down the veil wound about a sort of cap she
wore till it concealed not only her features but her throat which a
restless pulse had tightened almost to the exclusion of her breath. Ready
to drop, she yet made use of the little energy left her, to approach with
faltering steps a lumbering old vehicle waiting in the dust and smoke for
such passengers as might wish to be taken up Long Hill.

There was no driver in sight, but she did not hesitate to take her seat
inside. There was extra business at the station, for this was the first
train to come in for two days; and if anyone noticed her in the shadowy
recesses of the cumbrous old coach, nobody approached her; nor was she in
any way disturbed. When the driver did show himself, she was almost
asleep, but she woke up quickly enough when his good-natured face peered
in at her and she heard him ask where she wanted to go and whether she
had any baggage.

"I want to go up Long Hill and be set down at the first cross-road," she
said. "My baggage is here." And she pointed to the space at her feet.
But that space was empty; she had no baggage. She had dropped both bag
and umbrella at the side of the road after one of her long climbs under a
fitful moon and had not so much as thought of them since.

Now she remembered and flushed as she met the eyes of the man looking in
at her with his hand on his whiskers, smoothing them thoughtfully down
but saying nothing, though his countenance and expression showed him to
be one of the loquacious sort. If any smiles remained to her from the old
days, now was the time for one; but before she could twist her dry lips
into any such attempt, he had uttered a cheerful "All right" and turned
away to clamber up into his seat.

The relief was great, and she settled back, rejoicing in the fact that
they would soon be moving and that she was likely to be the sole
passenger. But she soon came to rue this fact, for the driver wanted to
talk and even made many abortive attempts that way. But she could not
fall in with his mood, and seeing this, he soon withheld all remarks
and bent his full energies to the task of urging his horses up the
interminable incline.

Houses, at which she scarcely looked, disappeared gradually from view,
and groups of spreading trees and patches of upland took their places,
deepening into the forest as they advanced. When halfway up, the farther
mountains, which had hitherto been hidden by nearer hills, burst into
view. Behind them the sun was setting, and the scene was glorious. If
she saw it at all, she gave no sign of pleasure or even of admiration.
Her head, which she had held straight up for the first quarter of a mile,
sank lower and lower as they clambered on; yet she gave no signs of
drowsiness--only of a mortal weariness which seemed to attack the very
springs of life. The pomp and pageantry of the heavens, burning with
all the pigments of the rainbow, failed to appeal to a soul shut within
dungeon bars. Rocks and mighty gorges darkling to the eye and stirring to
the imagination held no story for her; she looked neither to the right
nor to the left while the beauty lasted, much less when the last gleam
had faded from the mountain tops and a troop of leaden clouds, coming up
from the east, added their shadows to those of premature night.

The driver, who had been eying these clouds for some little time, felt
that he ought to speak if she did not. Pulling up his horses as though to
give them a breathing spell, he remarked over his shoulder with a strain
of anxiety in his voice:

"I hope your friends live near the top of the hill, missus. A storm is
coming up, and it's getting very dark. Will you have to walk far?"

"No, no," she assured him with a quick glance up and around her. "A
little way, a very little way!" Then she became quiet and absorbed again.

"I've got to go on," he broke in again as the top of the hill came in
sight. "I've a passenger for the eight-fifty train waiting for me more
than a mile along the road. I shall have to leave you after I set you
down."

"That's right; I expect that. I can take care of myself--don't worry. Not
but what you're very kind," she added after a moment, in her cultured
voice, with just enough trace of accent to make it linger sweetly in the
ear.

"Then here we are," he called back a moment later, jerking his horses to
a standstill and jumping down into the road. "Goin' east or goin' west?"
he asked as he took another glance at her frail and poorly protected
figure.

"This way," she answered, pointing east.

He stopped and stared at her.

"Nobody lives that way," he said, "--that is, nobody near enough for you
to reach shelter before the storm bursts."

"You are mistaken," she said, cringing involuntarily as the first big
clap of thunder rolled in endless echoes among the mountains. And turning
about, she started hurriedly into the shadows of the narrow cross-road.

He gave one glance back at his horses, the twitching of whose ears showed
nervousness, uttered some familiar word and launched out after the woman.
"Pardon me, missus," he cried, "but is it Miss Brown's you mean?"

The widow stopped, glanced back at him over her shoulder, made a quick,
protesting gesture and dashed on.

With a shake of his head and a muttered, "Well, women do beat the devil!"
he retraced his steps; and she proceeded on alone.

As the last sound of his horses' hoof-beats died out on the road, a
second clap of thunder seemed to bring heaven and earth together. She
scarcely looked up. She was approaching a little weather-beaten house
nestled among trees on the edge of a deep gorge. As her eyes fell on it,
her footsteps quickened, and lifting a hasty hand, she pulled off her
veil. A change quite indescribable, but real for all that, had taken
place in her worn and waxen features. Not joy, but a soft expectancy
relieved them from their extreme tension. If a friend awaited her, that
friend would have no difficulty in recognizing her now. But alas!

A few steps more, and she stood before the door. It had a desolate look;
the whole house had a desolate look, possibly because every shade was
drawn. But she did not notice this; she was too sure of her welcome.
Raising her hand to the knocker, she gave two sharp raps. Then she
waited. No answer from within--no sound of hurrying steps--only another
rumble in the sky and a quick rustling of the trees on either side of her
as if the wind which made the horizon black had sent an _avant-courieur_
over the hilltops.

"Elvira is out--gone to some church meeting or social gathering down in
the village. She will be back. But I won't wait. I will try and get in in
the old way. The storm may delay her indefinitely."

Leaving the door, which was raised only two steps above the road, she
walked to the corner of the house and stooping down, felt behind a
projecting stone for what she had certainly expected to find there--a key
to the front door.

But her hand came away empty.

Surprised, for this was not her first visit to this house (she had once
spent weeks there and knew the habits of its mistress well), she felt
again in the place where the key should be, and where she had so often
found it when her friend was out. But all to no avail. It was not there,
and presently she was in the road again staring at the closed-up front.

As she did so, these words left her lips:

"And she knew I might come at any minute!"

Tottering from fatigue, she caught at the trunk of a great tree which
held roof and wall in its embrace.

Why did it quiver? Why did the ground beneath her feet seem to rock and
all nature darken as with the falling of a pall. The storm was upon her.
It had rolled up with incredible swiftness and was about to break over
her head. With a shock she realized her position. No shelter, and the
storm of the season upon her! What should she do? There was no way of
getting into the house at the rear, for the bushes were too thick. She
must accept her fate, be drenched to the skin, perhaps smitten by the
next thunderbolt. But Antoinette Duclos was no coward, so far as physical
ills were concerned. She drew herself up straight against the trunk of
the tree, thinking that this, bad as it was, was better than shelter with
the enemy at the door. She would be calm, and she was fast growing so
when she suddenly became aware of a man standing very near and hunting
her out through the dusk.

She never knew why the scream which rose in her throat did not pass her
lips. Her terror was unspeakable, for she had heard no advance; indeed,
there was too much noise about her for that. But it was the silent terror
of despair, for she thought it was the man from whom she had made this
great effort at escape. But he soon proved to her he was not. It was just
the driver of the stagecoach, returned to see what had become of her. He
had feared to find her stricken down in the road, and when he saw her
clinging alone and in a maddened way to this tree, he made no bones of
speaking to her with all necessary plainness.

"I asked you if it was Missus Brown you had come to see," he called to
her through the din. "And you wouldn't answer."

"Why should I?" she shouted back. "Why do you speak like that? Has
anything happened to her?"

"Don't you know?"

"No, no--she was well when I heard from her last, and expecting me, or so
she wrote. Is she--she--"

"Dead, missus. We buried her last Tuesday. I'm sorry, but--"

Why finish? She was lying out before him, straight and stark in the road.
A bolt of lightning which at that moment tore its way through the heavens
brought into startling view her face, white with distraction, framed in a
mass of iron-gray locks released by her fall.

"Good heaven!" burst from the lips of the frightened man as he stooped to
lift her. "What am I going to do now?"

The thunder answered him, or rather it robbed him for the moment of all
thought. Peal after peal rattled over the neighboring peaks, rocking the
air on the uplands and filling his soul with dismay. But when quiet had
come again, hope returned with it. She was not only standing upright but
was crying in his ear:

"Can I get into the house? If I could stay there to-night, I could go
back to-morrow."

"I'll see that you get in, if I have to break in a window," he answered.
"But you're sure that you will not be afraid to stay out this terrible
storm in a house with no neighbors within half a mile?"

"I know the house. I have been here before, and if Elvira Brown could
face the storms of forty years from her solitary home, I can surely face
a single one, without losing my courage."

He said no more, but approaching the house, began to test such windows as
he could reach. He finally broke in a pane and released the latch; after
that, entrance was easy.

Yet after he had opened the way for her and she had stepped into the dim
interior, he felt loth to leave her. Duty called him away. The passenger
awaiting him up the road was a man he could not afford to disappoint; yet
he stood there longer than the occasion warranted, with the knob of the
door in hand, watching her struggle with the lamp, which she at last
succeeded in lighting. As the walls of the hall and her anxiously bending
figure burst into view, he uttered a quick "Good-by!"

She turned, smiled and tried to thank him, but the words failed to leave
her lips. A nearer and fiercer bolt had shot to earth at that instant,
striking a tree so near that the noise of its fall mingled with the crash
of the heavens. When it had ceased, he had gone. He could not face the
look with which she met this new catastrophe.

That look never again left her. When she saw herself in a glass, as she
presently did, on entering one of the rooms lamp in hand, she was
startled and muttered:

"My own mother would pass me by if she saw me now. I could go anywhere I
wished without fear or dread. Why did I leave New York?" And setting the
lamp down, she covered her face and wept.

The storm abated; a few minutes of fiercely pouring rain, and all was
over. She was left in ghastly quiet--a quiet which was almost worse than
the turmoil which had preceded it--to face her memories and accustom
herself to the thought that the solitary woman with whose life everything
she looked upon was so intimately connected was gone, never to pass
through these doors again or touch with deft and careful fingers the
infinite number of little belongings with which the house was filled.

For as yet nothing had been changed, nothing had been moved. How fitting
this was, Antoinette knew better than anybody else, perhaps, for she was
the only person whom Elvira Brown had ever allowed to spend any length of
time with her, and she could remember--alas! how vividly, in spite of the
one great fear forever gnawing at her heart--that an article, no matter
how small, when once given place in this house, held that place always
till broken or in some other way robbed of its usefulness. She looked at
her friend's pet chair standing just in the one spot where she had seen
it eight years before, and her heart swelled, and a tear rose in her eye.
But there was not time for another. A sense of the straits in which she
found herself placed by the death of this dependable friend returned upon
her in full force; the past retired into its old place, and the present,
with its maddening problems, seized upon her nerve and quelled her once
indomitable spirit.

The fate which had pursued her ever since she had left her happy home
in France had not spared her at this crisis. The storm, of so little
consequence to her, had roused the driver's sympathy. This had not only
fixed her image in his mind but given away her destination. All hope of
hiding herself among the mountains was therefore gone. She would have to
move on; but where? If she were but able to leave now, she might before
morning find some covert from which help might be given her for further
escape. But the condition of the roads, as well as her own weakness,
forbade that. She needed food: she needed sleep. Of food she would find
plenty, she was sure; but sleep! How could she sleep, with the promise
of the morrow before her? Yet she must; everything depended upon her
strength. How could she win that rest which alone would secure it.

Pausing in the midst of the hall whither her restless thought had driven
her, she stared in a fruitless inquiry at the wall confronting her. Her
mind, like her feet, was at a standstill. She could neither think nor
act. In fact, she was at the point of a nervous collapse, when slowly
from out the void there rose to her view and pierced its way into her
mind the outline of the door upon which she had been steadily looking but
without seeing it till now. Why did she start as it thus took on shape
before her? There was nothing strange or mysterious about it. It led
nowhere; it hid nothing, unless it was the yard upon which it directly
opened.

But that yard! She remembered it well. It was unlike any other she had
ever seen in this country or her own. It was small and semicircular; it
was shut in by a high board fence except at the extreme end, where it was
met by a swinging bridge topping a forty-foot chasm. That bridge led
through a sparsely wooded forest to a road running in a quite different
direction from the one by which the house was approached. As she strove
to recall her memories of it, she became more and more assured that her
one and only opportunity for a successful flight lay that way. Moved to
joy at the thought, she bowed her head for one wild moment in heartfelt
thankfulness and then quickly drew the bolts of the door which offered
her this happy deliverance.

She did not mean to seek escape to-night, but an irresistible impulse,
which quite robbed her of her judgment, drove her to take a look into the
yard and make sure for herself that the bridge was still there and
everything as she had last seen it.

But when with the help of the wind she pulled open the heavy door and
stood, throbbing under the force of the gale, on the shallow step
outside, she found herself confronted by a darkness so hollow and so
absolute that she felt as though she had stumbled into a pit. But instead
of retreating, if only to procure a lantern, she took the one step down
to the narrow walk which led through grass and flowers to the edge of the
plateau from which the bridge extended. Would she be satisfied now? No,
she must see the bridge, or if she could not see it, must feel it with
her foot or touch it with her hand. Once sure of its presence there, she
would return, take off her clothing and seek refreshment.

But how was she to find her way in such absolute darkness? Alone with the
dying tempest, now moaning in fitful gusts, now shrieking a last protest
in her ear, she stood peering helplessly before her. Already her arms had
gone out like those of a blind person loosed upon an unknown road. She
was conscious of a great fear. All the solitude of her position had
rushed upon her. She felt herself lost, forsaken; yet she had no idea of
turning back. If she could but find some support--something upon which
to lay her fingers. She thought of the fence, and her courage revived. If
she could but reach and follow that!

There were obstacles in her way. She was sure of this, for she remembered
some of them, and Elvira no more changed her garden than her house. But
with care she succeeded in getting around these, and soon she knew by the
lessened force of the wind that she was near, if not directly under, the
high fence upon which she depended for guidance. A few bushes--another
unexpected obstacle, followed by a bad stumble--separated her from the
contact for which she had reached; then by a final effort her fingers
found the boards and she went eagerly on, dragging herself through the
wet without knowing it, and only stopping with a sense of shock, when her
hand, sliding from the boards, fell groping about in midair with nothing
to grasp at. She had come to the end of the fence and was within a foot
of the bridge--if the bridge was still there.

But her fears on this score were few, and she felt about with hand and
foot till the former struck the rail at her side, and the latter the
narrow planking spanning the gorge.

She hesitated now. Who would not? But the impulse which had led her thus
far continued to urge her on. She stepped upon the bridge and proceeded
to cross it, clinging to the rail with a feverish clutch, and feeling
every board with her foot before venturing to trust her full weight upon
it. She found them seemingly firm, and when about halfway across she
stopped to listen for the roar of the mountain stream which she knew to
be rushing over its rocky bed some forty awesome feet below her.

She heard it, but the swish of the trees lining the gorge was in her
straining ears and half drowned its sullen sound. With feelings
impossible to describe, she tossed up her arms to the skies, where a
single brilliant star was looking through the mass of quickly flying,
quickly disintegrating clouds. Then she sought again the safety of the
guiding rail, and clinging desperately to it, took one more step and
stopped with a smothered shriek. The rail had snapped under her hand and
had gone tumbling down into the abyss. She heard it as it struck, or
thought she did, and for a moment stood breathless and fearing to move,
the world and all it held vanishing in semi-unconsciousness from heart
and mind. What was she but a trembling atom floating in an unknown void
on the fathomless sea of eternity! Then, as her mind steadied, she began
to feel once more the boards under her feet, and to hear the smiting
together of the great limbs wrestling in the depths of the forest. She
even caught such a homely sound as the violent slamming of the door she
had left unlatched behind her; and summoning up all her courage, which
was not small when she was released from her first surprise, she stepped
firmly backward till she felt the rail strong again under her clutch.
Then she turned resolutely and retraced her steps along the bridge and so
across the plateau to the house whose light had acted as a beacon to her
whenever the door blew wide enough to let the one inner beam be seen.

When she was inside again, she lingered for a long time in the darkening
hall, her slight form and whitened head leaning against the wall in a
desolation such as few hearts know. Then something within the woman
flared up in a rekindled flame, and she passed quickly into the room
where she had left her lamp burning; and blowing it out, she threw
herself down on a couch and tried to sleep.

An hour later the moon shone in upon her pale features and wild, staring
eyes upturned to meet it. Then it vanished, and she and the whole house
were given up again to darkness.

She had forgotten to eat, though the cupboards, in this well-stored
house, were quite full.




XXVI

THE FACE IN THE WINDOW


"Is this the place?"

"According to our instructions, yes. The first house after the first
turn to the right. We took the first turn, and this is the first house.
Romantic situation, eh? But a bit lonesome for a city chap? Shall I help
you down?"

While talking, Sweetwater, who was already in the road, held up his elbow
to Mr. Gryce, who slowly descended. It was early morning, and the glory
of sunshine was everywhere misleading the eye from the ravages of the
night before; yet neither of these two men wore an air in keeping with
the freshness of renewed life and the joyous aspect of exultant nature.
There seemed to be an oppression upon them both--a hesitation not common
to either, and to all appearance without cause.

To end what he probably considered a weakness, Sweetwater approached
the door staring somewhat blankly from the flat front of the primitive
old house whose privacy they were about to invade, and rapped on its
weather-beaten panels, first gently and then with quick insistence.

There was no response from within; no sound of movement; no token that he
had been so much as heard. Sweetwater turned and consulted his companion
before making another attempt.

"It's early. Perhaps she's not up yet," rejoined the old detective as he
painfully advanced. The storm of the preceding night had got into his
bones.

"I don't know. There's something uncanny about this silence. She ought to
be here; but I'm afraid she isn't." Sweetwater rapped again, this time
with decided vehemence.

Suddenly in one of the uncurtained windows a face appeared. They saw it,
and both drew a deep breath. The eyes were looking their way, but they
were like ghost's eyes. Without sight or speculation in them, they simply
looked; then the face slowly withdrew, growing ghastlier every minute,
and the window stared on, but the woman was gone. Yet the door did not
open.

"I hate to use force," objected Sweetwater.

Before answering, Mr. Gryce stepped to one side and cast a glance around
the corner of the house in the direction of the gorge opening in the
rear.

"There is something like a yard at the back," he announced, "but the
fence which shut it in is so high and so protected by means of prickly
underbrush that you would have difficulty in climbing it."

"Just so at this end," called out Sweetwater after a short run to the
left. "If we get in at all," he remarked on coming back, "it will have to
be by the window you see there with one pane knocked out."

"I don't like that; I don't like any of it. But we can't stay out here
any longer. The looks of the woman herself forbid it. We sha'n't forget
that hollow stare."

"They said the woman who lived here was dead."

"Yes. It's a bad business, Sweetwater. Rap once more, and then if she
doesn't come, throw up the window and climb in."

Sweetwater did as he was bid, and meeting with no more response than
before, thrust his hand through the hole made by the broken pane; and
finding the window had been left unlocked, he pushed it up and entered.
In another moment he appeared at the front door, where Mr. Gryce joined
him, and together they took their first look at the small but
surprisingly well-furnished interior.

The hall in which they stood was without staircase and had many of the
appointments of a room. Doors opened here and there along its length, and
in the rear they saw a closed one evidently leading into the yard. There
was no one within sight. One would have said that with the death and
carrying out of the owner of this little dwelling, all life had departed
from it. Yet these two men knew that life was there; and raising his
voice, Mr. Gryce called out in the least alarming way possible:

"Madame Duclos!" following this utterance of her name with an apology for
the intrusion and a prayer for one minute's interview.

Silence was his answer--no stir anywhere.

Apprehensive of they knew not what, the two detectives started
simultaneously, one for the door on their right, the other for that on
the left. When they met again in the ill-lighted hall, Mr. Gryce was
shaking his head, but Sweetwater had lifted a beckoning finger.
Unconsciously moderating his step, Mr. Gryce followed him through one
room to the door of another which he saw standing partly open.

Through the crack thus made between the hinges, they could get a very
fair glimpse of what was going on inside. They saw a bed, and a woman
kneeling beside this bed, her eyes upraised in prayer. The look which had
awed them at the window was gone, and in its place was one so high and so
full of religious faith that for an instant they were conscious of the
reversal of all their ideas.

But only for an instant; for while they waited, hesitating to break in
upon her evidently sincere devotions, she started to her feet and with a
half-insane look about her, disappeared from their view in the direction
of the hall.

Sweetwater was after her in a twinkling; but by the time he and Mr.
Gryce, each going his separate way, had themselves reached the hall, it
was to see the end door--the one giving upon the plateau--closing behind
her.

"Madame!" called out Sweetwater, bounding briskly in her wake.

Mr. Gryce said nothing but approached with hastening steps the door which
Sweetwater had left open behind him, and took a quick survey of the
fenced-in plateau, the bridge and the towering trees beyond, toward which
she seemed to be making.

"She cannot escape," was his ready conclusion; and he shouted to
Sweetwater to go easy.

Sweetwater, who was in the act of setting foot upon the bridge down which
she was running, slacked up at this command and presently stopped, for
she had stopped herself and was looking back from a spot about halfway
across, with the air of one willing, at last, to hear what they had to
say.

"Who are you?" she cried. "And what do you want of me?"

"Are you not Madame Duclos?"

"Yes, I am Antoinette Duclos."

"Then you must know why you are wanted by the police authorities of New
York. Your daughter--"

Her hand went up.

"I've nothing to say--nothing. Will you take that for your answer and let
me go?"

"Alas, madam, we cannot!" spoke up Mr. Gryce in his calm, benevolent way.
"Miss Duclos' death was of a nature demanding an inquest. Your testimony,
hard as it may be for you to give it, is necessary for a righteous
verdict. That is all we want--"

"It is too much!" she cried. And with a quick glance upward she took
another step or two along the bridge till she had reached the broken
rail; and before Sweetwater in his dismay could more than give a
horrified bound in her direction, she had made the fatal leap and was
gone from their sight into the gorge below.




BOOK IV

NEMESIS




XXVII

FROM LIPS LONG SILENT


"This finishes my usefulness as a detective. I have had my fill of
horrors; all, in fact, that my old age can stand."

Thus, Mr. Gryce, as hours afterward he and Sweetwater turned their faces
back toward New York.

"I appreciate your feelings," responded the latter, who had been
strangely silent all day, speaking only when directly addressed. "I can
assure you that in my way I'm as much cut up as you are. I wish now that
I had made an attempt from the rear to head off this distracted woman,
even if I had been obliged to scratch my hands to pieces tearing a board
from the fence."

"It would have done no good. She was determined to die rather than give
up her secret. I remember the look with which her sister-in-law warned
me that she would never survive a capture. But I thought that mere
exaggeration."

Then after a moment of conscious silence on the part of both, the weary
old man added with bitter emphasis, "Her testimony might--I do not say
would--have cleared away our suspicions of Director Roberts."

Sweetwater, who was acting as chauffeur, slowed down his machine till it
came to a standstill at the side of the road. Then wheeling quietly about
till he faced his surprised companion, he remarked very gravely:

"Mr. Gryce, I hadn't the heart to tell you this before, but the time
has come for you to know that Mr. Roberts' cause is not so favorably
affected, as you seem to think, by this suicidal death of one who without
doubt would have proved to be a leading witness against him. I am sure
you will agree with me in this when I inform you that in pursuing the
task you set me, I came upon _this_."

Thrusting his hand into his pocket, he pulled out a large envelope from
which he proceeded to draw forth first the tattered square of what had
once been a cabinet portrait, and then a freshly printed proof of the
same. Holding them both up, he waited for the word that was sure to
follow.

It came with all the emphasis he expected.

"Roberts! Director Roberts!"

"The same, sir"; and the eyes of the two detectives met in what was
certainly one of the most solemn moments of their lives.

They had paused for this short conference at a point where the road
running for a few yards on a level gave them a view of slope on slope of
varying verdure, with glimpses of the Hudson between. Glancing up, with a
gesture of manifest shrinking from the portrait which Sweetwater still
held, Mr. Gryce allowed his glance to run over the wonderful landscape
laid out to his view, and said with breaks and halts bespeaking his deep
emotion:

"If my death here and now, following fast upon that of this unhappy
Frenchwoman, would avail to wipe out the evidence I have so laboriously
collected against this man, I should welcome it with gratitude. I shrink
from ending my career with the shattering of so fine an image, in the
public eye. What lies back of this crime--what past memories or present
miseries have led to an act which would be called dastardly in the most
uninstructed and basest of our sex, I lack the imagination to conceive.
Would to God I had never tried to find out! But no man standing where
Roberts does to-day among the leaders of a great party can fall into such
a pit of shame without weakening the faith of the young and making a
travesty of virtue and honor."

"Yet, if he is guilty----"

"It is our business to pursue him to the end. Only, I like the man,
Sweetwater. I had a long talk with him yesterday on indifferent matters
and I came away liking him."

This was certainly something Sweetwater had not expected to hear, and
it threw him again into silence as he started up the machine and they
pursued their course home.

Hard as the day had been for Mr. Gryce, its trials were not yet over. He
had left it to Sweetwater to report the case to the New York authorities
and had gone home to rest from the shock of the occurrence and to prepare
for that interview with the Chief Inspector which he was satisfied would
now lead to an even more exacting one with the District Attorney.

He was met by a messenger from downtown who handed him a letter. He
opened it abstractedly and read the following:

"Mrs. Taylor is talking."

He had forgotten Mrs. Taylor. To have her thus brought forcibly back to
mind was a shock heightened, rather than diminished, by a perusal of the
few connected words which the careful nurse had transcribed as falling
from her delirious patient's lips.

They were these:

        I love but thee,
  And thee will I love to eternity.

The exact lines, no more, no less, which Sweetwater had found written on
the back of the Swiss clock cherished by Mr. Roberts.




XXVIII

"ROMANTIC! TOO ROMANTIC!"


Next morning Mr. Gryce left his home an hour earlier than usual. He
wished to have a talk with Mrs. Taylor's nurse before encountering the
Inspector.

It was an inconvenient time for a nurse to leave the sick-bed; but the
matter being so important, she was prevailed upon to give him a few
moments, in the little reception room where he had seated himself. The
result was meagre--that is, from her standpoint. All she had to add to
what she had written him the day before was the fact that the two lines
of verse quoted in the note she had sent him were Mrs. Taylor's first
coherent utterance, and that they had been spoken not only once but many
times, in every kind of tone, and with ever-varying emphasis. That and a
dreamy request for "The papers! the papers!" which had followed some
action of her own this very morning comprised all she had to give in
fulfillment of the promise she had made him at the beginning of this
illness.

Mr. Gryce believed her and rose reluctantly to his feet.

"Then she is still very ill?"

"Very ill, but mending daily; or so the doctor says."

"If she talks again, as she is liable to do at any moment, do not check
her, but remember every word. The importance of this I cannot impress
upon you too fully. But do not by any show of curiosity endanger her
recovery. She seems to be one of the very best sort; I would not have her
body or mind sacrificed on any account."

"You may trust me, sir."

He nodded, giving her his hand.

But as he was turning away, he looked back with the quiet remark: "I
should like to ask a final question. You have been in constant attendance
on this lady for some time and must have seen many of her friends, as
well as taken charge of her mail and of any messages which may have been
left for her. Has there been anything in this experience to settle the
doubt as to whether her talk of a vision in which she saw her absent
husband stricken simultaneously with the poor child lying at that very
moment dead at her feet simply delirium or a striking instance of
telepathy recording an accomplished fact? In other words, do you believe
her husband to be living or not living at the present time?"

"That is a subject upon which I have not been able to form any opinion.
I have heard nothing, seen nothing to influence my mind either way. Some
other people have asked me this same question. If her mail contains any
news, it is still in the hands of the proprietor of the hotel. He has
refrained from sending it up. She has lived here, as you know, for a long
while."

"Has she no relative to share your watch or take such things in charge?"

"I have seen none. Friends she has in plenty, but no one who claims
relationship with her, or who raises the least objection to anything I
do."

He seemed about to ask another question, but refrained and allowed her to
depart after some final injunction as to what she should do in case of
certain emergencies. Then he had a talk with the proprietor, which added
little or nothing to his present knowledge; and these duties off his
mind, he went downtown.

As he expected, he found the Chief Inspector awaiting him. The death of
Madame Duclos had added still another serious complication to the many
with which this difficult affair was already encumbered, and he was
anxious to talk over the matter with one who had been on the spot and
upon whose impressions he consequently could rely.

But when he heard all that Mr. Gryce had to say on the subject, he grew
as serious as the detective himself could wish, even going so far as to
propose an immediate ride over to the District Attorney's office.

Fortunately, they found that gentleman in and ready to listen, though
it was evident he expected little from the conference. But his temper
changed as Mr. Gryce opened up his theory and began to substantiate it
with facts. The looks which he exchanged with the Chief Inspector grew
more and more earnest and inquiring, and when Mr. Gryce reached that
portion of his report which connected Mr. Roberts so indisputably with
the arrow, he called in his assistant and together they listened to what
Mr. Gryce had further to say.

With this addition to his audience, the old man's manner changed and
became a trifle more formal. He related the fact, not generally known, of
Mr. Roberts' engagement to a young girl residing on Long Island, and how
this was broken off immediately after the occurrence at the museum,
seemingly from no other reason than the unhappy condition of mind in
which he found himself, a condition added to if not explained by the
pertinacity with which he had haunted the morgue and dwelt upon the image
of the young girl who had perished under no random shot.

Here the old man paused, shrinking as much from what he had yet to say as
they from the hearing of it. It was not till the Chief Inspector had made
him an encouraging gesture that he found the requisite courage to
proceed. He did so, in these words:

"I know that the evidence I have thus far advanced is of a purely
circumstantial nature, capable, perhaps, of a more or less satisfactory
explanation. But what I have to add cannot be so easily disposed of.
Connections have developed between persons we thought strangers which
have opened up a field of inquiry which brings the doubts and surmises
of an old detective within the scope of this office. I do not know what
to make of them; perhaps their full meaning can only be found out here.
Of this only I am assured. The gentleman whom it seems presumptuous on my
part to connect even in a casual way with crime has not gained but lost
by what I have to tell of Madame Duclos' suicidal death. To those who see
no association between the two, it looks like the opening of a new lead,
but when I tell you that they knew each other, or at all events that she
knew him and in the way of actual hatred, it looks more like a deepening
of the old one. See here, gentlemen."

Opening a package he had hitherto held in hand, he showed them
Fredericks' fifteen-year-old photograph of Mr. Roberts, together with its
mutilated counterpart, and explained how the latter came to be in its
present mutilated condition.

"But this is not all," he continued, as the remarks incident upon this
proof of deadly hatred on the part of the mother of the victim for the
man whom circumstances seemed to point out as her slayer subsided under
the pressure of their interest in what he had further to impart. "As you
will see after a moment's consideration, this token of animosity does not
explain Madame Duclos' flight, and certainly not her death, which, as the
unhappy witness of it, I am ready to declare was not the death of one
driven to extremity from personal fear, but by some exalted feeling which
we have yet to understand. All that I now wish to point out in its
connection is the proof offered by this shattered photograph, that Mr.
Roberts was in some manner and from some cause a party to this crime from
which a superficial observation would completely dissociate him.

"Where is the connecting link? How can we hope to establish it? That is
what it has now become my unfortunate duty to make plain to you. Carleton
Roberts drawing a bow to shoot an innocent schoolgirl is incredible. In
spite of all I have said and shown you, I do not believe him guilty of so
inhuman an act. He drew the bow, he shot the arrow, but----Here allow me
to pause a moment to present another aspect of the case as surprising as
any you have yet heard. You are aware--we all are aware--that the inquest
we await has been held back for the purpose of giving Mrs. Taylor an
opportunity to recover from the illness into which she has been thrown by
what she saw and suffered that day. Gentlemen, this Mrs. Taylor whom we
all--I will not even exclude myself from this category--regarded not only
as a casual visitor to the museum, but a stranger to all concerned, is,
on the contrary, as I think you will soon see, more closely allied to the
seemingly dispassionate director than even Madame Duclos. The shock which
laid her low was not that usually ascribed to her, or even the one she so
fantastically offered to our acceptance; but the recognition of Carleton
Roberts as the author of this tragedy,--Carleton Roberts whom she not
only knew well but had loved in days gone by, as sincerely as he had
loved her. This I now propose to prove to you by what I cannot but regard
as incontestable evidence."

Taking from a small portfolio which he carried another photograph,
unmounted this time and evidently the work of an amateur, he laid it out
before them. The silence with which his last statement had been received,
the kind of silence which covers emotions too deep for audible
expression, remained unbroken save for an involuntary murmur or so, as
the District Attorney and his assistant bent over this crude presentation
of something--they hardly knew what--which this old but long trusted
detective was offering them in substantiation of the well-nigh
unbelievable statement he had just made.

[Illustration]

"This, gentlemen," he went on, as he pointed to the following, "is the
copy of a label pasted on the back of a certain Swiss clock to be seen at
this very moment on the wall of Mr. Roberts' own bedroom in his home in
Belport, Long Island. He prizes this clock. He has been heard to say that
it goes where he goes and stays where he stays, and as it is far from a
valuable one either from intrinsic worth or from any accuracy it displays
in keeping time, the reason for this partiality must lie in old
associations and the memories they invoke. A love token. Can you not see
that it is such from the couplet scrawled across it? If not, just take a
look at the initials appended to that couplet. May I ask you to read
them?"

The District Attorney stooped, adjusted his glasses and slowly read out:

"C. C. R."

"Carleton Clifton Roberts," explained Mr. Gryce. Then slowly, "The other
two if you will be so good."

"E. T."

"Ermentrude Taylor," declared the inexorable voice. "And written by
herself. Here is her signature which I have obtained; and here is his.
Compare them at your leisure with their initials inscribed according to
the date there, sixteen years or more ago. Now where were these two--this
man and this woman--at the time just designated? Alone, or together? Let
us see if we can find out," pursued the detective with a quiet ignoring
of the effect he had produced, which revealed him as the master of a
situation probably as difficult and disconcerting as the three officials
hanging in manifest anxiety upon his words had ever been called upon to
face. "Mr. Roberts was in Switzerland, as his housekeeper will be obliged
to admit on oath, she being an honest woman and a domestic in his
mother's house at the time. And Ermentrude Taylor! I have a witness to
prove where she was also! A witness I should be glad to have you
interrogate. Here is her name and address." And he slipped a small scrap
of paper into the District Attorney's hand. "What she will say is this,
for I think I have very thoroughly sounded her: First, that she is Mrs.
Taylor's most intimate friend. This is conceded by all who know her.
Secondly, that while her intimacy does not extend back to their girlhood
days--Mrs. Taylor being an Englishwoman by birth and remarkably reticent
as to her former life and experiences--she has one story to tell of that
time which answers the question I have given you. She got it from Mrs.
Taylor herself, and in this manner. They were engaged in talking one day
about our Western mountains and the grandeur of scenery generally, when
Mrs. Taylor let fall some remark about the Alps, which led this friend of
hers to ask if she had ever seen them. Mrs. Taylor answered in the
affirmative, but with such embarrassment and abrupt change of subject
that it was plainly apparent she had no wish to discuss it. Indeed, her
abruptness was so marked and her show of trouble so great, she was
herself disturbed by what might very easily give offense, and being of a
kindly, even loving disposition, took occasion when next they met to
explain that it was as a girl she had visited Switzerland, and that her
experiences there had been so unfortunate that any allusion which
recalled those days distressed her. This is all that ever passed between
these two on this subject, but is it not enough when we read this
couplet, and mark the combined initials, and recognize them as those of
Carleton Roberts and Ermentrude Taylor? But lest you should doubt even
this evidence of an old-time friendship so intimate that it has almost
the look of a betrothal, I must add one more item of corroborative fact
which came to me as late as last night. In a moment of partial
consciousness, while the nurse hung over her bed, Mrs. Taylor spoke her
first coherent sentence since she fell into a state demanding medical
assistance. And what was that sentence? A repetition of this couplet,
gentlemen, spoken not once but over and over again, till even the nurse
grew tired of listening to it.

        'I love but thee,
  And thee will I love to eternity.'"

As the last word fell from Mr. Gryce's lips, the District Attorney
muttered a quick exclamation, and sat down heavily in his chair.

"No coincidence that," he cried, with forced vivacity. "The couplet is
too little known."

"Exactly," came from Mr. Gryce in dry confirmation. "Mrs. Taylor, as well
as her friends can judge, is a woman of thirty-five or thirty-eight. If
she went to Switzerland as a girl, this would make her visit coincident,
so far as we can calculate from our present knowledge, with that of
Carleton Roberts. For the surer advancement of our argument, let us say
that it was. What follows? Let the inscription of this label speak for
us. They met; they loved--as was natural when we remember the youth and
good looks of both, and--_they parted_. This we must concede, or how
could the experience have been one she could not recall without a
heart-break. They parted, and he returned home, to marry within the year,
while she--I do not think she married--though I have no doubt she looks
upon herself as a wife and forever bound to the man who deserted her.
Women of her kind think in this way of such matters, and act upon them
too as is shown by the fact that, on following him here, she passed
herself off as a woman separated from her husband. Changing the Miss
before her name to Mrs., she lived under this assumption for twelve years
at her present hotel. In all that time, so far as I can learn, she has
never been visited by anyone of an appearance answering to that of her
former lover; nor have I any reason to think she ever intruded herself on
him, or made herself in any way obnoxious. He was married and settled,
and contrary to the usual course of men who step with one stride into
affluence, was living a life of usefulness which was rapidly making
him a marked man in public esteem. Perhaps she had no right to meddle
with what no longer concerned her. At all events, there is no evidence
of her having done so in all these fourteen years. Even after Mrs.
Roberts' death, all went on as usual; _but_--" Here Mr. Gryce became
emphatic--"when he turned his attention to a second marriage and that
with a very young girl--(I can name her to you, gentlemen, if you wish)
her patient soul may have been roused; she may have troubled him with
importunities; may have threatened him with a scandal which would have
interfered greatly with his political hopes if it had not ended them at
once. I can conceive such an end to her long patience, can't you,
gentlemen? And what is more, if this were so, and the gentleman found the
situation intolerable, it might account for the flight of that arrow as
nothing else ever will."

Both men had started to their feet.

"How! It was not _she_----"

"It was not she who was struck, _but it was she who was aimed at_. The
young girl merely got in the way. But before I enlarge upon this point,"
he continued in lower tones as the two officials slowly reseated
themselves, "allow me to admit that any proof of correspondence between
these old-time lovers would have added much to my present argument. But
while I have no doubt that such an interchange of letters took place, and
that in all probability some one or more of them still exist, Mrs.
Taylor's illness and Mr. Roberts' high position prevent any
substantiation of the same on our part. I must therefore ask you to
assume that it was in obedience to some definite agreement between them
that she came to the museum on that fatal morning and made her appearance
in that especial section of the gallery marked II. If this strikes you as
inconceivable and too presumptuous for belief, you must at least concede
that we have ample proof of his entire readiness for her coming. The bow
brought up so many days before from the cellar was within reach; the
arrow under his coat; and his place of concealment so chosen as to make
his escape feasible the moment that arrow flew from the bow. Had she
entered that section alone--had the arrow found lodgment in her breast
instead of in that of another--nay, I will go even further and say that
had no cry followed his act, an expectation he had every right to count
upon from the lightning-like character of the attack,--he would have
reached the Curator's office and been out of the building before quick
discovery of the deed made his completion of this attempt impossible."

"But the girl did cry out," remarked the Assistant District Attorney.
"How do you account for that, since, as you say, it was not natural for
one pierced to the heart without warning?"

"Ah, you see the big mistake we made,--Correy and all the rest of us. Had
Miss Willetts, or I should say, Mademoiselle Duclos, been the one to let
out that dolorous cry, the man just behind the partition would have been
there almost in time to see her fall. Correy, who started up the stairs
at the first sound, would have been at the gallery entrance before the
man of the arrow could have dropped the hanging over his retreating
figure. But it was not from her lips, poor girl, that this gasping shriek
went up, but from those of the woman who saw the deed and knew from whom
the arrow came and for whom it was meant. How do I know this? Because of
the time which elapsed, the few precious minutes which allowed Mr.
Roberts to get as far away as the court. For she did not voice her agony
immediately. Even she, with her own unwounded heart keeping up its
functions, stood benumbed before this horror. Not till the full meaning
of it all had penetrated her reluctant brain did she move or cry out. How
long this interval was; whether three minutes were consumed by it, or
five, we have no means of telling. She, in her despair, would take no
note of time, nor would Mr. Travis, reeling in the opposite gallery under
the shock of seeing all that he loved taken from him in one awful
minute."

Here the detective turned with great earnestness toward the two
officials.

"This question of time has been, as I have repeatedly said, the greatest
stumbling-block we have encountered in our consideration of this crime.
How could the assassin, by any means possible, have got so far away from
the pedestal, in the infinitesimal lapse of time between the cry that was
heard and the quick alarm which followed. Now we know. Have you anything
to say against this conclusion? Any other explanation to give which will
account for every fact as this does?"

His answer came in a dubious gesture from the District Attorney and a
half-hearted "No" from his Assistant. They were both either too awed by
the circumstance or too fearful of mistake, to accept without a struggle
an accusation of this grave and momentous character against one of Mr.
Roberts' stamp and consequence.

This was no more than Mr. Gryce had expected, and while he realized that
his reputation as a detective of extraordinary insight in cases of an
unusually baffling nature trembled in the balance, he experienced a
sudden distaste of his work which almost drove him into renouncing the
whole affair. But the habits of a lifetime are not parted with so
easily; and when the Chief Inspector observed--evidently with the idea of
goading him on--"This seems to be mainly a matter of conjecture, Gryce,"
his old self reasserted itself, and he answered boldly:

"I acknowledge that; but conjecture is what in nine cases out of ten
smoothes out many of our difficulties. I have here a short statement made
by myself, after the most careful inquiries, of all that Mrs. Taylor and
the untrapped director did and said in the few difficult moments when
they met face to face over the body of his unfortunate victim. I will ask
you to listen to a portion of it.

"'She had not moved. After her one cry of horror which had brought a rush
of witnesses upon the scene, she remained fixed on her knees in the
absorbed introspection common to those brought suddenly face to face with
a life and death crisis. He, finding that his own safety demanded action
suitable to his position as a director, had entered with the crowd and
now stood in her presence, in face of his own diabolical work, in an
attitude of cold courage such as certain strong natures are able to
assume under the pressure of great emergencies.

"'So long as she was deaf to all appeal to rouse and explain the
situation, he stood back, watchful and silent; but when she finally
roused and showed a disposition to speak, his desperation drove him
into questioning her in order to see how much she understood of an attack
which had killed a harmless stranger and let herself go free.

"'He asked her first if she could tell them from which direction came the
arrow which ended this young girl's life.

"'She made no reply in words; but glanced significantly at the opposite
gallery.

"'This called from him the direct inquiry, "Did you see anyone over there
at the moment this young girl fell?"

"'She shook her head. Afterward she explained the denial by saying that
she had been looking down into the court.

"'But he did not cease his inquiries. Turning to the people crowding
about him, he put the like question to them; but receiving no answer, a
silence followed, during which a woman suggested in tones loud enough for
all to hear, that there were no arrows on the other side of the court,
but that the gallery where they stood was full of them.

"'This seemed to alarm Mrs. Taylor. Turning to the director, she asked
whether he was sure that the opposite gallery held no arrows and no bows;
and when he replied that nothing of the kind was to be found along its
entire length, she proceeded to inquire whether any such deed could be
committed in a place so open to view, without attracting the observation
of some one wandering in court or gallery.

"'This, undoubtedly, to ascertain the full extent of his danger, before
bestowing a thought upon herself. But at his answer, given with the cold
precision of a thoroughly selfish man, that if anyone in the whole
building had seen so much as a movement in a spot so under suspicion,
that person would have been heard from by this time, she faltered and was
heard to ask what he had in mind and why the people about her looked at
her so. He did not respond directly, but made some remark about the
police, which increased her alarm to the point of an attempted
justification. She said that it was true about the arrows, as anyone
could see by looking up at the walls. But where was the bow? No one could
shoot an arrow without a bow, and when some one shouted that if an arrow
was used as a dagger, one wouldn't need a bow, a sort of frenzy seized
her and she acted quite insane, falling at the young girl's side and
whispering sentence after sentence in her ear.

"'What more was needed to stamp her as a mad woman in the eyes of the
ordinary observer? Nothing. But to you and me, with the cue just given,
it has another look. She had just seen the man whom she had herself
spared from an accusation which would have been his ruin accept in the
coldest fashion an explanation which left her own innocence in doubt.
What wonder she succumbed to temporary aberration! As will be remembered,
she soon became comparatively calm again, and so remained until in an
interview I had with her a half hour or so later I urged her, possibly
with too much insistence, for some explanation of the extreme agitation
she had shown at the time, when she broke forth with the remarkable
statement that it was not the child, but her husband, she was mourning,
stricken to death, as she would have us believe, simultaneously with the
young and innocent victim then lying dead at her feet.

"'Of course, such a coincidence was much too startling not to be regarded
by us all as the ravings of delirium; nor has anything occurred since in
the way of communication from, or in regard to the absent one, to show
that this so-called warning of death has been followed up by fact. But,
if you test her action by the theory I have just advanced, viz., that the
man she called husband was at that moment in the room with us and that
these words were a plea to him--the last appeal of a broken-hearted woman
for the support she felt to be her due--how the atmosphere of unreason
and mystery clears itself. His suggestion that what was needed there was
an alienist, and the pitiful efforts she made to exonerate herself
without implicating him in the murderous event, fall naturally into
place, as the action of a guilty man and the self-denying conduct of a
devoted woman.'"

"Romantic! too romantic!" objected the District Attorney. "I should think
we were listening to one of Dumas' tales."

"Dumas got his greatest effects from life, or so I have been told,"
remarked the Chief Inspector.

Mr. Gryce sat silent.

Suddenly, the District Attorney observed with the slightest tinge of
irony edging his tone:

"I presume you would find a like explanation for the messages she
professed to be sending to her husband, when engaged in babbling fool
words into the dead girl's ear."

"Certainly. He was there, mark you! He stood where he could both see and
hear her. All she said and all she did was by way of appeal to him for
some token of regret, some sign that he appreciated her reticence; and
when she found that it was bringing her nothing, she fainted away."

"Ingenious, very ingenious, Gryce. Had you failed to give us proofs
connecting this idol of the Republican party with the actual shooting,
it would have been simply ingenious and a quite useless expenditure
of talent. But we have these proofs, and while they are mainly
circumstantial, they undoubtedly call upon us for some recognition, and
so we will hear you out whatever action we may take afterward."

"But first I should like to ask Mr. Gryce one question," interposed his
assistant. Then addressing the detective: "Two mysteries are involved in
this matter. You have given us a clever explanation of one of them, but
how about the other? Will you, before going further, tell us what
connection you find between the theory just advanced and the flight and
ultimate suicide of Madame Duclos under circumstances which point to a
desire to suppress evidence even at the cost of her life? It was not
from consideration for Mr. Roberts, whom you have shown she hated. What
was it then? Have you an equally ingenious explanation for that too?"

"I have an explanation, but I cannot say that it is altogether
satisfactory. She died but yesterday, and my opportunities have been
small for any work since. What I have learned was from her sister-in-law,
whom I saw this morning. Realizing that she will be obliged to give full
testimony at the inevitable inquest, she is at last ready to acknowledge
that she has been aware for a long time of a secret in Madame's life.
That while she knew nothing of its nature, she had always thought that it
was in some manner connected with her prolonged residence abroad. Whether
it would also explain the meaning of her return at this time and the
seemingly inexplicable change made in her daughter's name while _en
route_, must be left to our judgment. Madame had told her nothing. She
had simply made use of their home, coming and going, not once, but twice,
without giving them the least excuse for her inexplicable conduct. A
hundred questions could not elicit more. But to one who like myself has
had the opportunity of observing this wretched woman at the moment of her
supreme distress an insight is given into her character, which suggests
the only plausible explanation of her action. Her sacrifice was one of
devotion! She perished in an exaltation of feeling. Love drove her to
this desperate act. Not the love of woman for a man, but the love which
women of her profound nature sometimes feel for one of their own sex.
Mrs. Taylor was her friend--wait, I hope to prove it--and to save her
from experiencing the extreme misery of seeing the man who was the joy
as well as bane of her life suffer from the consequences of his own
misdeeds, Antoinette Duclos felt willing to die and did. You smile,
gentlemen. You think the old man is approaching senility. Perhaps I am,
but if the contention is raised that no connection has been shown to
exist between Mrs. Taylor and this foreign Madame, save such as was made
by the death of Madame's child, I must retort by asking who warned Madame
Duclos of the fatal occurrence at the museum in time for her to flee
before even our telephone messages reached her hotel? Gentlemen, there is
but one person who could have done this--our chief witness, Ermentrude
Taylor. She alone had not only the incentive, but the necessary
opportunity. Coroner Price as well as myself made a great mistake when we
allowed Mrs. Taylor to go home alone that day."

"Very likely." This from the Chief Inspector. "But if the information I
have received on this point is correct, she seemed at that time to be so
entirely dissociated with a deed whose origin had just been located in
the opposite gallery, that you have no real cause to blame yourselves in
this regard."

"True; our minds were diverted. But you are waiting for me to explain
what I mean by opportunity. Since my attention has been drawn to Mrs.
Taylor again, I have been making inquiries. The chauffeur who drove her
to her hotel has been found, and he admits that she stopped once on her
way home, to buy some coffee. He watched her as she went into the store
and he watched her as she came out; and he smelled the coffee. Happily,
the interest he took in her as a sick woman intrusted to his care was
strong enough for him to remember the store. It was one with two
entrances, front and back; and next door to it there is a public building
with a long row of telephone booths on the ground floor. If I read the
incident aright, she bought her coffee, ordered it ground, slipped out at
the rear door and into the adjoining building, where, unnoticed and
unheard, she called up the Universal and got into communication with
Madame Duclos. When she returned it was by the same route. She did not
forget her coffee nor give way under the great strain to which she had
subjected herself till she reached her own apartment."

"Clever."

"And true, gentlemen; I will stake my reputation on it, unable as I am to
explain every circumstance, and close up every gap. Have you any further
questions to ask or shall I leave you to your deliberations?"




XXIX

A STRONG MAN


An hour later when the Chief Inspector rose to depart, it was with the
understanding that until their way cleared and their duty in this matter
had become inevitable, no word of this business should reach the press,
or even pass beyond the three officials interested.

Strange to say, they were able to keep this compact, and days elapsed
without any public recognition of the new factor which had entered into
the consideration of this complicated crime.

Then a hint of what was seething in the official mind was allowed to
carry its own shock to the person most interested. Mr. Roberts was
summoned to an interview with Coroner Price. No reason was given for this
act, but the time was set with an exactness which gave importance to a
request which they all felt the director would not venture to disregard.

Nor did he. He came at the time appointed, and Coroner Price in welcoming
him with becoming deference could not but notice the great change which
had taken place in him since that night they stood together in the museum
and saw the Indian make the trial with bow and arrow which located the
point of delivery as that of the upper pedestal. In just what this change
lay, the Coroner hardly knew, unless it was in the increased grayness of
his hair. Mr. Roberts' face, handsome as it was, was not an expressive
one. Slight emotions made no impression there; nor did he to-day present
anything but a calm and dignified appearance. Yet he was changed; and
anyone who had not seen him since that night must certainly observe it.

The Coroner, who was also a man of a somewhat stolid cut, proffered him a
seat and at once opened fire.

"You will pardon me any inconvenience I may have put you to, Mr. Roberts,
when I tell you that Coroner D---- of Greene County, is anxious to have a
few words with you. He would have visited you at your home; but I induced
him to see you here."

"Coroner D---- of Greene County!" Mr. Roberts was entirely surprised.
"And what business can he have with me?"

"It is in regard to the suicide of Madame Antoinette Duclos, committed,
as you know, a week since in the Catskills."

"Ah! an extraordinarily sad affair, and of considerable moment I should
judge, from its seeming connection with the one previously occurring at
our museum. The girls' mother, was she not? Grief evidently unseated her
brain. But--" here he changed his position quietly but with evident
effort:--"in what manner am I supposed to be in a position to help the
Coroner in his inquiry into this case? I was a witness, together with
many others, of what happened after the accident which took place at the
museum; but I know nothing of Madame Duclos or of her self-inflicted
death, beyond what has appeared in the papers."

"The papers! An uncertain guide, Mr. Roberts. You may not believe it,"
Coroner Price remarked with a strange sort of smile, "but there are
secrets known to this office, as well as to Police Headquarters, which
never get into the most enterprising journals."

Was this meant to startle the director, and did it succeed in doing so?

It may have startled him, but if so, he made no betrayal of the fact. His
manner continued to be perfectly natural and his voice under full control
as he replied that it would be strange if in a case like this they should
give out all the extraneous facts and possible clues which might be
gathered in by their detectives.

This was carrying the offense into the enemy's camp with a vengeance. But
the Coroner was saved replying by Mr. Roberts remarking:

"But this is not an answer to my question. Why should the Coroner of
Greene County want to see _me_?"

Coroner Price proffered him a cigar, during the lighting of which the
former remarked:

"It's certainly very odd. You say that you didn't know Madame Duclos."

"No; how should I? She was a foreigner, was she not?"

"Yes; a Frenchwoman, both by birth and marriage. Her husband, a professor
of languages, was located some sixteen years ago, in New Orleans."

"I never knew him. Indeed, I find it hard to understand why I should be
expected to show any interest in him or his wife."

"Well, I will tell you. You may not have known the Madame; but it is very
certain that she knew you."

"She?" This certainly unexpected blow seemed to make some impression.
"Will you give me your reasons for such an assertion? Was the name
Duclos a false one? Was her name like that of her daughter, Willetts? If
so, allow me to assure you that I never heard of a Willetts any more than
I have of a Duclos. That a woman of whatever name and nationality should
desert her child fills me with horror. I cannot speak of her, dead though
she be, with any equanimity. A mother and act as she did! She herself was
to blame, and only she for what happened to that beautiful girl--so
young--so sweet--so innocent. I have a weakness for youth. To me a girl
of that type is sacred. Had I been blessed with such a child----But
there, I am straying again from our point. What makes you say Madame
Duclos knew me?"

Before replying, the Coroner rose, and taking a small package from
his desk, opened it, and laid out before the astonished eyes of Mr.
Roberts the freshly printed photograph of himself with which we are
so well acquainted, and then the half-demolished one which for all its
imperfections showed that it had been originally struck off from the same
negative.

"Do you recognize this portrait of yourself as one taken by Fredericks
some dozen years ago?"

"Certainly. But this other? This end and corner of what must have been my
picture too, where was _it_ found?"

"Ah, that is what I have called you here to learn. This remnant of what
you have just admitted to have been your photograph also was found in the
very condition in which you see it now, in the wastebasket of the room
where Madame Duclos lodged previous to her flight to the Catskills."

"This! with the face----"

"Just that! With the face riddled out of it by bullets! She shot six into
it at intervals; waiting for the passing of an elevated train by her
windows, in the hope that the bigger noise would drown the lesser."

"It is nothing," was Mr. Roberts' indignant comment, as he brushed the
picture aside. "That was never my picture, or she wanted a target for her
skill and didn't care what she took. That is all I have to say to you or
to the Coroner of Greene County, on a matter in which I have no concern.
I am sorry to disappoint both of you, but it is so."

He rose, and the Coroner did not seek to detain him. He merely observed,
as the director turned to go:

"Have you heard the latest news about Mrs. Taylor?"

"No."

"She is improving rapidly. Soon she will be able to appear before the
jury already chosen to inquire into the cause and manner of Miss
Willetts' death."

"A fine woman!" came in a burst from the director's lips as he faced
about for a good-bye nod. "I don't know when I have seen one I admired
more."

And Coroner Price had nothing to say, he was stupefied.

But it was not so with Mr. Gryce, who entered immediately upon Mr.
Roberts' departure.

"Not a jarring note," he remarked. Evidently he had heard the whole
conversation. "I never for a moment imagined that he knew Madame Duclos.
Any knowledge we gain of her will have to come from Mrs. Taylor."

"He's a strong man. We shall find it difficult to hold our own against
him if we are brought to an actual struggle."

"Why did he run the forefinger of his right hand so continuously into his
right-hand vest pocket?" was Mr. Gryce's sole comment.

By which it looks as if he had seen as well as heard.

"I didn't notice it. Is the District Attorney prepared to make the next
move? Mine has failed."

"Not yet. The game is too hazardous. We should only make ourselves
ridiculous in the eyes of the whole world if we should fail in an attack
upon a man of such national importance. After the two inquests and a
letter I hope to receive from Switzerland, we may be in a position to
launch our first bomb. I don't anticipate the act with any pleasure;
the explosion will be something frightful."

"If half you think is true, the unexpected confronting of him with Mrs.
Taylor should produce some result. That's what I reckon on now, if the
business falls first to me."

"I reckon on nothing. Chance is going to take this thing out of our
hands."

"Chance! I don't understand you."

"I don't understand myself; but this is a case which will never come into
court."

"I differ with you. I almost saw confession in his face when he turned
upon me at last with that extravagant expression of admiration for the
woman you say he meant to kill."

"Why did his finger go so continuously to his vest pocket? When you
answer that, I will give a name to what I just called _chance_."




XXX

THE CREEPING SHADOW


Mrs. Taylor suffered a relapse, and the inquest which had been held back
in anticipation of her recovery was again delayed. This led to a like
postponement of an inquiry into the death of Madame Duclos; and a
consequent let-up in public interest which thus found itself, for the
nonce, deprived of further food on which to batten.

Meanwhile, Mr. Gryce was not idle. Anxious to determine just how and
where Madame Duclos' story fitted into the deeper and broader one of the
museum crime, he made use of his fast waning strength to probe its
mysteries and master such of its details as bore upon the serious
investigation to which he was so unhappily committed. When he had done
this,--when he had penetrated, as it were, into the very heart of the
matter to the elimination of all doubt and the full establishment of his
own theory, it was felt that the time had come for some sort of positive
action on the part of those interested in the cause of justice.

This they decided should take the form of a personal interview between
certain officials and Mr. Roberts himself. A lesser man would have been
asked to meet the District Attorney in his office; but in a case of such
moment where the honor of one so prominent in many ways was involved it
was thought best for them to visit him in his own home. To do this
without exciting his apprehension while still making sure of his presence
required some management. Various plans were discussed with the result
that a political exigency was brought into play. The District Attorney
asked Mr. Roberts for an interview for the purpose of introducing to him
a man whose influence could not fail to play an important part in his
future candidacy.

He did not name this man; but we will name him. It was the Chief
Inspector.

The appointment was made and the day set. It was the following Monday. On
Tuesday, Coroner Price was to open his inquest.

Did Carleton Roberts see any connection between these two events?

Who can tell? The secrets of such a brain are not to be read lightly. If
we possessed Sweetwater's interest, and were to follow in secret fashion
every action of the director on the evening preceding this date, what
conclusion should we draw in this regard? How would we characterize his
anticipations, or measure in our own mind the possibilities of the
future as felt by him?

He was very quiet. He ate his meal with seeming appetite. Then he took a
look over his whole house. From the carefulness with which he noted
everything, the changes which he had caused to be made in it were not
without their interest for him. Not a young man's interest, but yet an
interest as critical and acute as though he had expected it to be shared
by one whose comfort he sought and in whose happiness he would fain take
part.

This, to Sweetwater, had he our vision, would have been incomprehensible
from any point of view; especially, had he seen what followed when the
owner of all this luxury returned to his library.

There was a picture there; a small framed photograph which occupied the
post of honor on his desk.

It showed a young and pretty face, untouched, as yet, by the cares or
troubles of this world. He spent a minute or so in looking at it; then he
slowly lifted it, and taking the picture from the frame, gave it another
look, during which a smile almost derisive gathered slowly on his lips.
Before this smile had altogether vanished, he had torn the picture in two
and thrown the fragments into the fire he had kindled early in the
evening with his own hands.

If he stopped to watch these fragments burn, it was from abstraction
rather than from interest; for his step grew lighter as he left the
fireplace. Whatever this young girl's face had meant to him in days
gone by was now as completely dissipated as the little puff of smoke
which had marked the end of her picture.

If he read the papers afterward it was mechanically. Night, and the one
great planet sinking in the West, appeared to appeal to him much more
strongly than his books or the more than usually stirring news of the
day.

He must have stood an hour in his unlighted window, gazing out at the
tumbling waves lapping the shore.

But of his thoughts, God wot, he gave no sign.

Later, he slept.

Slept! with his hand under his pillow! Slept, though there were others in
the house awake!--or why this creeping shadow of a man outlined upon the
wall wherever the moon shone in, and disappearing from sight whenever the
way led through darkness.

It came from above; no noise accompanied it. Where the great window
opened upon the sea, lighting up the main staircase, it halted,--halted
for several minutes; then passed stealthily down, a shadowy silhouette,
descending now quickly, now slowly, as tread after tread is left behind
and the great hall is reached.

Here there is no darkness. Open doors admit the light from many windows.
A semi-obscurity is all, and through this the figure passes, but
hesitatingly still, and with pause after pause, till a certain door
is reached--a closed door--the only door which is closed in this part
of the house.

Here it stands--stands with profile to the panels, one ear against the
wood. One minute--two minutes--five minutes pass. Then a hand goes out
and touches the knob. It yields; yields without a sound--and a small gap
is seen between the door and its casing. This gap grows. Still no sound
to disturb the tragic silence. Stop! What was that? A moan? Yes, from
within. Another? Yes. Then all is quiet again. The dream has passed.
Sleep has resumed its sway. The gap can safely be made wider. This is
done, and the figure halting without, passes in.




XXXI

CONFRONTED


Late in the afternoon of the following day, the expected car entered Mr.
Roberts' spacious grounds. It contained, besides the chauffeur, just
two persons, the District Attorney and the Chief Inspector. But it was
followed by another in which could be seen Mr. Gryce and a stenographer
from the District Attorney's office.

The house was finished by this time, and to one approaching through the
driveway presented a very attractive appearance. As the last turn was
made, the sea burst upon the view--a somewhat tumultuous sea, for the
wind was keen that day and whipped the waves into foam and froth from the
horizon to the immediate shore-line. To add to the scene, a low black
cloud with coppery edges hovered at the meeting of sea and sky, between
which and themselves one taut sail could be seen trailing its boom in the
water.

To one of them--to Mr. Gryce, in fact, upon whose age Fancy had begun to
work, this battling craft presented an ominous appearance. It was doomed.
The gale was too much for it. Did he see in this obvious fact a prophecy
of what lay before the man upon whose privacy they were on the point of
intruding?

The house was so arranged that to reach the main entrance it was
necessary to pass a certain window. As they did so, the figure of Mr.
Roberts could be seen in the room beyond moving about in an interested
survey of its new furnishings and present comfortable arrangement. To
these men bent on an errand as far as possible removed from interests of
this kind, this evidence of Mr. Roberts' pleasure in the promise of
future domesticity gave a painful shock, and raised in the minds of more
than one of them a doubt--perhaps the first in days--whether a man so
heavily weighted with a burden of unacknowledged guilt could show this
pleasurable absorption in his new surroundings.

However, when they came to see him nearer, and marked the stiffening of
his body and the slight toss-up of his head, as he noted the number and
the exact character of his guests, their spirits fell again, for he was
certainly a broken man, however much he might seek to disguise it. Yet
there was something in this extraordinary man's personality--a force or
a charm wholly dissociated it may be from worth or the sterling qualities
which insure respect--which appealed to them in spite of their new-found
prejudice, and prevented any dallying with his suspense or the use of any
of the common methods usually employed in an encounter of this kind.

The Chief Inspector to whom the first say had been given faced the
director squarely, as he saw how the hand which had just welcomed the
District Attorney fell at his approach.

"You are surprised, Mr. Roberts, and rightly, to see me here not only in
connection with the Prosecuting Attorney of the City of New York, but
with a member of my own force. This, you will say, is no political
delegation such as you have been led to expect. Nor is it, Mr. Roberts.
But let us hope you will pardon this subterfuge when you learn that it
was resorted to for the sole purpose of sparing you all unnecessary
unpleasantness in an interview which can no longer be avoided or
delayed."

"Let us sit."

It was his only answer.

When they had all complied, the District Attorney took the lead by
saying:

"I am disposed to omit all preliminaries, Mr. Roberts. We have but one
object in this visit and that is to clear up to your satisfaction, as
well as to our own, certain difficulties of an unexpected nature which
have met us in our investigation into the crime in which you, as a
director of the museum in which it occurred, and ourselves as protectors
of the public peace, are all vitally concerned."

"Granted," came in the most courteous manner from their involuntary
host. "Yet I fail to understand why so many are needed for a purpose
so laudable."

"Perhaps this will no longer surprise you, if you will allow me to draw
your attention to this chart," was the answer made to this by the
District Attorney.

Here he took from a portfolio which he carried a square of paper which he
proceeded to lay out on a table standing conveniently near.

Mr. Roberts threw a glance at it and straightened again.

"Explain yourself," said he. "I am quite at your service."

The District Attorney made, perhaps, one of the greatest efforts of his
life.

"I see that you recognize this chart, Mr. Roberts. You know when it was
made and why. But what you may not know is this: that in serving its
original purpose, it has proved to be our guide in another of equal, if
not greater, importance. For instance, it shows us quite plainly who of
all the persons present at the time of first alarm were near enough to
the Curator's office to be in the line of escape from the particularly
secluded spot from which the arrow was delivered. Of these persons, only
one fulfills all other necessary conditions with an exactness which
excuses any special interest we may feel in him. It is he who is
tabulated here as number 3."

It was said. Mr. Roberts was well acquainted with his own number. He did
not have to follow with his eye the point of the District Attorney's
finger to know upon whose name it had settled; and for a moment,
surprise, shock,--the greatest which can befall a man,--struggled with
countless other emotions in his usually impassive countenance. Then he
regained his poise, and with a curiously sarcastic smile such as his lips
had seldom shown, he coldly asked:

"And by what stretch of probability do you pick me out for this attack?
There were other men and women in this court, some very near me if I
remember rightly. In what are their characters superior, or their claims
to respect greater, that you should thus single me out as the fool or
knave who could not only commit so wild and despicable an act, but go so
far in folly--let alone knavery--as to conceal it afterward?"

"No evidence has been found against the others you have named which could
in any way connect them with this folly--or shall we say knavery, since
you yourself have made use of the word. But hard as it is for me to say
this, in a presence so highly esteemed, this is not true of you, Mr.
Roberts, however high are our hopes that you will have such explanations
ready as will relieve our minds from further doubts, and send us home
rejoicing. Shall I be frank in stating the precise reasons which seem
to justify our present presumption?"

The director bowed, the same curious smile giving an unnatural expression
to his mouth.

"Let me begin then," the other continued, "by reading to you a list of
questions made out at Headquarters, as a test by which suspicion might be
conscientiously held or summarily dismissed. They are few in number," he
added, as he unfolded a slip of paper taken from his vest pocket. "But
they are very vital, Mr. Roberts. Here is the first:

"'Whose hand carried the bow from cellar to gallery?'"

The director remained silent; but the oppression of that silence was
difficult for them all to endure.

"This the second:

"'Was it the same that carried the arrow from one gallery to another?'"

Still no word; but Mr. Gryce, who was watching Mr. Roberts' every move
without apparently looking up from the knob of his own cane, turned
resolutely aside; the strain was too great. How long could such
superhuman composure endure? And which word of all that were to come
would break it?

Meanwhile, the District Attorney was reading the third question.

"'Is it possible for an arrow, shot through the loophole made by the
curving in of the vase, to reach the mark set for it by Mr. Travis'
testimony?'

"That question was answered when Mr. La Fleche made his experiments from
behind the two pedestals. It could not have been done from the one behind
which Mr. Travis crouched, but was entirely possible from the rear of the
other."

With a wave of his hand, Mr. Roberts dismissed this, and the District
Attorney proceeded.

"'Which of the men and women known to be in the museum when this arrow
was delivered has enough knowledge of archery to string a bow? A mark can
be reached by chance, but only an accustomed hand can string a bow as
unyielding as this one.'

"I will pause there, Mr. Roberts. You may judge by our presence here to
whose hand and to whose skill we have felt forced to ascribe this wanton
shooting of a young and lovely girl. We wish to be undeceived, and stand
ready to listen to anything you may have to say in contradiction of these
conclusions. That is, if you wish to speak. You know that you will be
well within your rights to remain silent. Likewise that if you decide to
speak, it will be our painful duty to make record of your words for any
use our duty may hereafter suggest."

"I will speak." The words came with difficulty,--but they came. "Ask what
you will. Satisfy my curiosity, as well as your own."

"First then, the bow. It was brought up from the cellar a fortnight or
more before it was used, and placed on end in the Curator's office, where
it was seen more than once by the woman who wipes up the floors. The
person who did this cast a shadow on the cellar wall,--that shadow was
seen. Need I say more? A man's shadow is himself--sometimes."

"I brought up the bow; but I do not see how that implicates me in the
use which was afterward made of it. My reasons for bringing it up were
innocent enough----"

He stopped--not even knowing that he stopped. His eyes had been drawn to
a small article which the District Attorney had dropped from his hand
onto the table. It looked like an end of black tape; but whether it was
this or something quite different, it held the gaze of the man who was
speaking, so completely that he forgot to go on.

The hush which followed paled the cheeks of more than one man there.
To release the tension, the District Attorney resumed his argument,
observing quietly, and as if no interruption had occurred:

"As to the arrow and its means of secret transfer from one side of the
building to the other in the face of a large crowd, let me direct your
attention to this little strip of folded silk. You have seen it before.
Surely, I am quite justified in asking whether indeed you have not
handled it both before and after the lamentable occurrence we are
discussing?"

"I see it for the first time," came from lips so stiff that the words
were with difficulty articulated. "What is its purpose?" he asked after
a short pause.

"I hardly think it necessary to tell you," came in chilling response from
the now thoroughly disenchanted official. "It looks like a loop, and
notwithstanding your assertion that you see it now for the first time,
we have ample evidence that it was once attached to the coat you wore on
that fatal day and later carefully severed from it and dropped on the
museum floor."

The District Attorney waited, they all waited with eyes on the subject of
this attack, for some token of shame or indignation at this scarcely
veiled insinuation. But beyond a certain stillness of expression, still
further masking a countenance naturally cold and irresponsive, no hint
was given that any effect had been produced upon him by these words.
The coal before it falls apart into ash holds itself intact though its
heart of flame has departed; so he--or such was Mr. Gryce's thought as he
waited for the District Attorney's next move.

It was of a sort which recalls that soul-harrowing legend of the man hung
up in an iron cage above a yawning precipice, from under whose madly
shifting feet one plank after another is withdrawn from the cage's
bottom, till no spot is left for him to stand on; and he falls.

"I hear that you are an expert with the bow and arrow, Mr. Roberts, or
rather were at an earlier stage of your career. You have even taken a
prize for the same from an Alpine Club."

Ah! that told. It was such an unexpected blow; and it showed so much
knowledge. But the man who thus beheld his own youth brought up in
accusation against him quickly recovered; and with an entire change of
demeanor, faced them all and spoke up at last quickly and defiantly:

"Gentlemen, I have shown patience up till now, because I saw that you had
something on your minds which it might be better for you and possibly for
me to be rid of. This affair of Miss Willett's death is, as all must
acknowledge, baffling enough to strain even to the point of folly any
effort made to explain it. I had sympathy with your difficulties, and
have still enough of that sympathy left, not to express too much
indignation at what you are pleased to call your suspicions. I will
merely halt for the moment your attempts in my direction, by asking,
what have you or anybody else ever seen in me to think I would practise
my old-time skill on a young and beautiful stranger enjoying herself in
a place so dear to my heart as the museum of which I have been a director
now these many years? Am I a madman, or a destroyer of youth? I love the
young. This inhuman death of one so fair and innocent has whitened my
locks and seared my very heart-strings. I shall never get over it; and
whatever evidence you may have or think you have, of my having handled
bow and arrow in that museum gallery, it must fall before the fact of my
natural incapability to do the thing with which you have charged me. No
act possible to man is more in contradiction to my instincts, than the
wanton or even casual killing of a young girl."

"I believe you."

It was the Inspector who spoke, and the emphasis which he gave to his
words lifted the director's head again into its old self-reliant poise.
But the silence which followed was so weighted with possibilities of
something yet to be said by this portentous holder of secrets, that it
caused the nobly lifted head slowly to droop again and the lips which had
opened impulsively to close.

Were the words coming--the words which might at a stroke pull down the
whole fabric of his life, past, present and to come?

In his excited state of mind he seemed already to hear them. Doom was
in their sound, and the world, once so bright, was growing dark about
him--dark!

Yet how could these men know? And if they did why did they not speak? And
they did not; they did not. There was silence in the air, not words; and
life for him was taking on once more its ancient colors, when sharp and
merry through the heavy quiet there rang out the five clear calls of a
cuckoo clock from some near-by room. One, two, three, four, five! Jolly
reminder of old days! But to the men who listened, the voice of doom
spoke in its gladsome peal, whether the ears which caught it were those
of accuser or accused. Old days were not the days to be rejoiced in at
a moment so perilous to the one and so painful to the others.

With the cessation of the last shrill cry, the Inspector repeated the
phrase:

"I believe you, Mr. Roberts. But how about the woman who was troubling
you with demands you had no wish to grant? Miss Willetts, as you choose
to call her, though you must know that her name is Duclos, was not the
only person in the line of the arrow shot on that day from one gallery to
the other. Perhaps this weapon of destruction was meant for one it failed
to reach. Perhaps--but I have gone far enough. I should not have gone so
far if it had not been my wish to avoid any misunderstanding with one of
such undoubted claims to consideration as yourself. If you have
explanations to offer--if you can in any way relieve our minds from the
responsibilities which are weighing upon us, pray believe in our honest
desire to have you do so. There may be something back of appearances
which has escaped our penetration; but it will have to be something
startlingly clear, for we know facts in your life which are not open to
the world at large, I may even say to your most intimate friends."

"As, for instance?"

"That Mrs. Taylor is no stranger to you, even if Mademoiselle Duclos
was. We have evidence you will find it hard to dispute that you knew
and--liked each other, fifteen years or so ago."

"Evidence?"

"Incontrovertible, Mr. Roberts."

"Attested to by her? I do not believe it. I never shall believe it, and
I deny the charge. The ravings of a sick woman,--if it is such you have
listened to----"

"I advise you to stop there, Mr. Roberts," interjected the District
Attorney. "Mrs. Taylor has said nothing. Neither has Madame Duclos. What
the former may say under oath I do not know. We shall both have an
opportunity to hear to-morrow, when Coroner Price opens his inquest. She
is in sufficiently good health now, I believe, to give her testimony.
Pray, say nothing." Mr. Roberts had started to his feet. "Do nothing. You
will be one of the witnesses called----"

There he stopped, meeting with steady gaze the wild eyes of the man who
was staring at him, staring at them all in an effort to hold them back,
while his finger crept stealthily and ever more stealthily toward his
right-hand vest-pocket.

"You would dare," he shouted, then suddenly dropped his hand and broke
into a low, inarticulate murmur, harrowing and dreadful to hear. To some
it sounded like a presage to absolute confession, but presently this
murmur took on a distinctness, and they heard him say:

"I should be glad to have five minutes' talk with Mrs. Taylor before that
time. In your presence, gentlemen, or in anybody's presence, I do not
care whose."

Did he know--had he felt whose step was in the hall, whose form was at
the door? If he did, then the agitation which in another moment shook his
self-possession into ashes was that of hope realized, not of fear
surprised. Ermentrude Taylor entered the room and at the sight of her he
rose and his arms went out; then he sank back weak and stricken into his
chair, gazing as if he could never have his fill at her noble countenance
luminous with a boundless pity if not with the tenderness of an
unforgotten love.

When she was near enough to speak without effort and had thanked the
gentlemen who had made way for her with every evidence of respect, she
addressed him in quite a natural tone but with strange depths of feeling
in her voice:

"What is it you want to say to me? As I stood at the door, I heard you
tell these gentlemen that you would like to have a few minutes' talk with
me. I was glad to hear that; and I am ready to listen to--_anything_."

The pause she made before uttering the last word caused it to ring with
double force when it fell. All heads drooped at the sound and the lines
came out on Mr. Gryce's face till he looked his eighty-five years and
more. But what Carleton Roberts had to say at this critical moment of his
double life was not at all what they expected to hear.

Rising, for her eyes seemed to draw him to his feet, he cried in the
indescribable tone of suppressed feeling:

"Shadows are falling upon me. My interview with these gentlemen may end
in a way I cannot now foresee. In my uncertainty as to how and when we
may meet again, I should like to make you such amends as opportunity
allows me. Ermentrude, will you marry me--now--to-night, before leaving
this house?"

A low cry escaped her. She was no more prepared for this astounding offer
than were these others. "Carleton!" came in a groan from her lips.
"Carleton! Carleton!" the word rising in intensity as thought followed
thought and her spirits ran the full gamut of what this proposal on his
part meant in past, present and future. Then she fell silent and they saw
the great soul of the woman illumine a countenance always noble, with the
light of a purpose altogether lofty. When she spoke it was to say:

"I recognize your kindness and the impulse which led to this offer. But
I do not wish to add so much as a feather's weight to your difficulties.
Let matters remain as they are till after----"

He took a quick step toward her.

"Not if my heart is full of regret?" he cried. "Not if I recognize in
you now the one influence left in this world which can help me bear the
burden of my own past and the threatening collapse of my whole future?"

"No," she replied, with an access of emotion of so elevated a type it
added to rather than detracted from her dignity. "It is too much or it is
not enough."

His head drooped and he fell back, throwing a glance to right and left
at the two officials who had drawn up on either side of him. It was an
expressive glance; it was as if he said, "You see! she knows as well as
you for whom the arrow was intended--yet she is kind."

But in an instant later he was before her again, with an aspect so
changed that they all marveled.

"I had hoped," he began, then stopped. Passion had supplanted duty in his
disturbed mind; a passion so great it swept everything before it and he
stood bare to the soul before the woman he had wronged and under the eyes
of these men who knew it. "Life is over for us two," said he, "whether
your presence here is a trap in which I have been caught and from which
it is hopeless for me to extricate myself; or whether it is by chance or
an act of Providence that we should meet again with eager ears listening
and eager eyes watching for such tokens of guilt as will make their own
course clear, true it is that they have got what they sought; and
whatever the result, nothing of real comfort or honor is left for either
you or me. Our lives have gone down in shipwreck; but before we yield
utterly to our fate, will you not grant me my prayer if I precede it by
an appeal for forgiveness not only for old wrongs but for my latest and
gravest one? Ermentrude, I entreat."

Ah, then, they were witness to the fascination of the man, hidden
heretofore, but now visible even to the schooled spectators of this
tragedy of human souls. The tone permeated with pathos and charm, the
look, the attitude from which all formality had fled and only the natural
grace remained, all were of the sort which sways without virtue and
rouses in both weak and strong an answering chord of sympathy.

The woman in whom it probably awakened a thousand memories trembled under
it. She drew back, but her whole countenance had softened, revealing
whatever of native charm she also possessed. Would she heed his prayer?
If she did not, they could well be silent. If she did----

But the woman gave no sign of yielding.

"Cease, Carleton," came in stern reply--stern for all the approach to
concession in her manner. "If your life and my life are both over, let us
talk of other things than marriage. When one faces death, whether of body
or spirit, one clings to higher hopes than those of earth or its
remaining interests. If my forgiveness will help you to this end, you
have it. I have had but one aim in life since we parted, and that was to
see your higher self triumph over the material one. If that hour has come
or is coming, my life needs no other consolation. In having that, I
possess all."

The man who listened--the men who listened--stood for a moment in awe of
the nobility with which she thus expressed herself. Then the only person
present whom she seemed to see burst forth with a low cry, saying:

"You shall not be disappointed. I----"

But there she hushed him. "No," said she. And he seemed to understand and
was silent.

What did this mean?

The District Attorney betrayed his doubt; the Chief his, each in a
characteristic way. The former frowned, the latter tapped his breast
absently with his forefinger while looking askance at Mr. Gryce, who in
his turn took up some little object from the desk beside which he was
standing and to it confided whatever surprise he felt at this proof of
some uncommunicated secret shared by these two, of which he had not yet
become possessed. Then he again looked up and the glances of the three
men met. Should they attempt to sound this new mystery of mutual
understanding to which as yet they had received no clue? No, the inquest
would do that. Neither this man nor this woman could stand a close
examination. He would weaken from despair, she from the candor of her
soul. They would wait. But ah, the tragedy of it! Even these men hardened
by years of contact with every species of human suffering and crime were
openly moved. If they needed an excuse, surely they could find it in the
superior abilities and attainment of the man upon whom justice was about
to wreak its vengeance. And yet, what more despicable crime had they ever
encountered in the long line of their duty. The youth and innocence of
the real victim and the worth of the intended one only added to its
wickedness and shame. It was this thought which again steeled their
hearts.

Meantime the two upon whom they now redirected their attention had
attempted no further speech and made no further move. She had said No
to something he was willing to concede, and he had accepted that no as
final. Had this brought him any relief? Possibly. And she? Had it had
a like effect on her? Hardly. Though her aspect was one of calm
resignation, her physical powers were perceptibly failing. This in
itself was alarming, and determined them not to subject her any longer
to an interview which might rob her of all strength for the morrow.
Accordingly, the District Attorney, addressing Mr. Roberts, suggestively
remarked:

"Mrs. Taylor is showing fatigue. Would it not be better for you to say at
once while she is yet in a condition to remain with us, whether you
prefer to make a public statement of your case or leave it to unfold
itself in the ordinary manner through the two impending inquests and the
busy pen of the reporter?"

"First, am I under arrest? Am I to leave this house----?"

"Not to-night. An officer will remain here with you. To-morrow--after the
inquest, perhaps."

"I will make a statement. I will make it now. I wish to be left in peace
to-night, to think and to regret." Then turning to her, "Ermentrude, a
woman who has served me and my family for twenty-five years is at this
very moment in the rear of the house. Go to her and let her care for you.
I have business here,--business of which I am sure you approve."

"Yes, Carleton. And remember that I shall be put upon my oath to-morrow.
The questions I am asked I must answer--and truthfully," she added,
with a look as full of anguish as inquiry.

"I shall be truthful myself," he assured her, and again their eyes met.

After a while she gave a stumble backward, which Mr. Gryce perceiving,
held out his arm and assisted her from the room.

But once in the hall he felt the clinch of her fingers digging into his
arm.

"Is there no hope?" she whispered. "Must I live----"

"Yes," he interrupted kindly, but with the authority given him by his
relations to this case. "You have won his heart at last, and he speaks
truly when he says that to you and to you alone can he look for comfort,
wherever the action of the law may leave him."

She shivered; then glowed again with renewed fire.

"Thank you," she said; and they passed on.




XXXII

"WHY IS THAT HERE?"


They waited while he wrote. A sinister calm quite unlike that which the
victim of his ambition had shown under the stress of equal suffering if
not equal guilt had subdued his expression to one of unmoved gloom, never
to be broken again.

As word after word flowed from the point of his pen upon the paper spread
out before him, the two officials sitting aside in the shadow watched for
the flicker of an eyelash, or a trembling of the fingers so busy over
their task. But no such sign of weakening did they see. Once only did he
pause to look away--was it into the past or into futurity?--with a
steady, self-forgetful gaze which seemed to make a man of him again. Then
he went on with his task with the grimness of one who takes his last step
into ignominy.

We will follow his words as he writes, leaving them for the others to
read on their completion.

  "I, Carleton Roberts, in face of an inquiry which is about to be held
  on the death of her who called herself Angeline Willetts, but whose
  real name is as I have since been told Angeline Duclos, wish to make
  this statement in connection with the same.

  "It was at my hand she died. I strung the bow and let fly the arrow
  which killed this unfortunate child. Not with the intention of finding
  my mark in her innocent bosom. She simply got in the way of the woman
  for whom it was intended--if I really was governed by intent, of which
  I here declare before God I am by no means sure.

  "The child was a stranger to me, but the woman in whose stead she
  inadvertently perished I had known long and well. My wrongs to her had
  been great, but she had kept silence during my whole married life and
  in my blind confidence in the exemption this seemed to afford me, I put
  no curb upon my ambition which had already carried me far beyond my
  deserts. Those who read these lines may know how majestic were my
  hopes, how imminent the honor, to attain which I have employed my best
  energies for years. Life was bright, the future dazzling. Though I had
  neither wife nor child, the promise of activity on the lines which
  appeal to every man of political instinct gave me all I seemed to need
  in the way of compensation. I was happy, arrogantly so, perhaps, when
  without warning the woman I had not seen in years, who,--if I thought
  of her at all, I honestly believed to be dead--wrote me a letter
  recalling her claims and proposing a speedy interview, with a view to
  their immediate settlement. Though couched in courteous terms, the
  whole letter was instinct with a confidence which staggered me. She
  meant to reenter my life, and if I knew her, openly. Nothing short of
  bearing my name and being introduced to the world as my wife would
  satisfy her; and this not only threatened a scandal destructive of my
  hopes, but involved the breaking of a fresh matrimonial engagement into
  which I had lately entered with more ardor I fear than judgment. What
  was I to do? Let her have her way--this woman I had not seen in fifteen
  years,--who if at the age of twenty had seemed to my enthusiastic youth
  little short of a poet's dream, must be far short of any such
  perfection now? I rebelled at the very thought. Yet to deny her meant
  the possible facing of consequences such as the strongest may well
  shrink from. And the time for choice was short. She had limited her
  patience to a fortnight, and one day of that fortnight had already
  passed.

  "I have in my arrogant manhood sometimes credited myself with the
  possession of a mind of more or less superiority; but I have never
  deceived myself as to the meretricious quality of the goodness with
  which many have thoughtlessly endowed me. I have always known it was
  not even up to that of men whose standards fall far short of the
  highest integrity. But never, till that hour came, had I realized
  to what depths of evil my nature could sink under a disappointment
  threatening the fulfillment of my ambitious projects. Had there been
  any prospect of escape from the impending scandal by means usually
  employed by men in my position, I might have given my thoughts less
  rein and been saved at least from crime. But these were not available
  in my case. She was not a woman who could be bought. She was not even
  one I could cajole. Death only would rid me of her; kindly death which
  does not come at call. This is as far as my thoughts went at first. I
  was a gentleman and had some of a gentleman's feelings. But when my
  sleep began to be disturbed by dreams, and this was very soon, I could
  not hide from myself toward what fatal goal my thoughts were tending.
  To be freed from her! To be freed from her! dinned itself in my ears,
  sleeping or waking, at home or abroad. But I saw no plain road to this
  freedom, for our paths never crossed and my honor as well as safety
  demanded that the coveted result should be without any possible danger
  to myself. Cold, heartless villain! you say. Well, so I was; no colder
  nor more heartless villain lives to-day than I was between the
  inception of my purpose and its diabolical fulfillment in the manner
  publicly known.

  "So true is this that, as time went on, my ideas cleared and the plan
  for which I was seeking unfolded itself before me from the day I came
  upon a discarded bow lying open to view in the museum cellar. The
  dreams of which I have spoken had prepared me for this sudden
  knowledge. The woman who blocked my way and against whom I meditated
  this crime was connected in my mind with Alpine scenery and Alpine
  events. It was at Lucerne I had first met her, young and fresh, but
  giving no promise of the woman she has since become; and in the visions
  which came and went before my eyes, it was not herself I saw so much as
  the surroundings of those days, and the feats of prowess by which I had
  hoped to win her approbation. Among these was the shooting at a small
  target with a bow and arrow. I became very proficient in this line. I
  shot as by instinct. I could never tell whether I really took aim or
  not, but the arrow infallibly hit the mark. In my dreams I always saw
  it flying, and when this bow came to hand a thought of what the two
  might accomplish came with it. Yet even then I had no real idea of
  putting into practice this fancy of a distempered brain. I brought the
  bow up from the cellar and hid it unstrung in the Curator's closet,
  more from idle impulse I fondly thought, than from any definite
  purpose. Another day I saw the Curator's keys lying on his desk and
  took them to open a passage to the upper floor. But for all that, I
  felt sure that I would never use the bow even after I had thrust it
  near to hand behind the tapestry masking the secret entrance to this
  passage. One dreams of such things but they do not perpetrate them. I
  might approach the deed, I might even make every preparation for its
  accomplishment, but that did not mean that the day would ever come
  when I should actually loose an arrow from this bow against a human
  breast. More than once I laughed at the mere idea.

  "But the devil knew me better than I knew myself. Impelled by these
  same instincts, I answered the letter sent me with the assurance that I
  would surely see her, but I did not name any day, intuitively knowing
  that what I dreamed of doing but certainly should not do required a
  certain set of circumstances not easily to be met with. Instead, I bade
  her show herself in the second section of the southern gallery, every
  Tuesday and Friday at the exact hour of noon. If at the moment the two
  hands of the clock came together, she saw me on the lower step of the
  main staircase, she was to know that I was free to talk and would soon
  join her. If she did not see me there, she was to return home and come
  another day. She answered that she would come but once, and set the
  day. This was startling to my pride, but in a way it brought me a sense
  of relief. To wait till all was propitious might mean continual delays.
  The very fact of my uncertainty as to whether or not I should have the
  courage of my wishes at the critical moment made an indefinite
  prolongation of my present condition undesirable. Better one straight
  risk and be done with it.

  "I was to wait two weeks. Why she exacted so long and seemingly
  unnecessary a delay, I do not know. Before I saw her, I thought it was
  from a sheer desire to make me suffer; now I know it was not for that.
  However, it did make me suffer, from the alternate weakening and
  strengthening of my resolve. When the day came, the most trivial of
  circumstances would have deterred me from what still had the nature of
  a dream to me. Unhappily, everything worked for its fulfillment. There
  had never been fewer persons in the building at the noon hour; nor had
  there been a time during the past two weeks when the Curator was more
  completely occupied in a spot quite remote from his office. As I tried
  the door leading up the little winding staircase to the one back of the
  tapestry where the bow lay, and found it, just as I had left it,
  unlocked, I had a sense for the first time that the courage concerning
  which I had had so many doubts would hold. At that moment I was a
  murderer in heart and purpose, whatever I was after or have been since.
  As I recognized this fact, I felt my face go pale and my limbs shake
  from sheer horror of myself. But this weakness was short-lived and I
  felt my blood flowing evenly again when having slipped into my place
  behind the upper pedestal I peered through my peep-hole in a search for
  her figure in the spot where I had bidden her await me.

  "She was not there, but then it was not quite twelve, though the noon
  hour was so near she must be somewhere in the gallery and liable at any
  minute to cross my line of vision.

  "It was fifteen years, as I have already said, since I had seen her;
  and I had no other picture of her in my mind than the appearance she
  had made as a girl, coarsened by time and disappointment. Why I should
  have looked for just this sort of change in her, God knows, but I did
  expect it and probably would not have recognized her if I had passed
  her in the court. But I was not worrying about any mistake I might make
  of this kind. All I seemed to fear was that at the critical moment some
  one would pass between us on my side of the gallery. I never thought of
  anyone passing in front of her.

  "I had picked out Section II as the place where she was to show
  herself, because it was in a direct line with the course an arrow would
  take from a sight behind the vase. I had bade her to look for me in the
  court, and that would bring her forward to the balustrade in front. A
  knot of scarlet ribbon at her breast was to distinguish her. But the
  spot I had thus chosen for her, and the spot I had chosen for myself
  had this disadvantage; that while I could see straight to my mark from
  the peep-hole I have mentioned, I could see nothing to right or left of
  that one line of vision. Why I did not realize the hazard involved in
  this fact I do not know. Enough that my whole thought was centered on
  the lookout I was keeping and it was with a shock of surprise I
  suddenly saw the whole scene blotted from my view by the passing by of
  some one on my own side of the gallery. This must have been the
  Englishman who found his vantage-point from behind the other pedestal.
  He went by quickly, and as the opening cleared once more, I beheld the
  woman for whom I was waiting appear in the spot selected. For an
  instant I was dazzled. I had not expected to see so noble a figure; and
  in that instant a cloud came before my eyes, my resolution failed,--I
  was almost saved--she was almost saved--when instinct got the better of
  my judgment, and the arrow flew just as that young creature bounded
  forward in her delight at seeing her steamer admirer watching her from
  my side of the court.

  "The shock of thus beholding a perfect stranger fall under my hand
  benumbed me, but only for an instant. In the two weeks of intolerable
  waiting through which I had just passed, I had so forcibly impressed
  upon my consciousness the exact course I was to pursue from the instant
  the arrow left the bow that I went about the same automatically.
  Pulling out the edge of the tapestry, I slipped behind it, dropping my
  bow in the doorway left open for my passage. This caused me no thought
  and awakened no fears. But what took all the nerve I possessed, and
  gave me in one awful moment a foretaste of the terror and despair
  awaiting me in days to come, was the opening of the second door--the
  one leading into the Curator's office.

  "What might I not be forced to encounter when the knob to this was
  turned! Some strolling guest--Correy the attendant--or even the guard
  who was never where he was needed and always where he was not! For
  anyone to be there of sufficient intelligence to note my face and the
  place from which I came meant the end of all things to me. It was not
  necessary for this imaginary person to be in the room. To be within
  sight of it was enough. But this fear--this horror of impending
  retribution--did not make me hesitate or delay my advance a single
  instant. Everything depended upon my being one of the crowd when the
  first alarm was raised. So with the daring of one who in escaping a
  present danger hurls himself knowingly into another equally perilous,
  I pushed open the door and entered the office.

  "It was empty! Fortune had favored me thus far. Nor was there anyone in
  the court beyond, near enough or interested enough to note my presence
  or observe any effort I might make at immediate departure. With the
  hope riding high within my breast that I should yet reach the street
  before my crime was discovered, I made for the nearest exit. But I was
  not destined to reach it. When I was only some half a dozen paces from
  the great door, Correy's cry rang loudly through the building, with the
  result that all egress was shut off, and I was left, with no other aid
  than my own assurance, to face my hideous deed with all its appalling
  consequences.

  "How it served me, you have seen. Steeled by a sense of my own danger,
  I was able to confront the woman whom I had so deeply wronged,--whom
  I had even endeavored to kill,--and ply her with those questions upon
  whose answers depended not only my honor, but my very life.

  "My cold-blooded absorption in my own security, and her almost
  superhuman devotedness, must have given the Powers cognizant of mortal
  lives a new lesson in human nature. Never has a greater contrast been
  shown between self-seeking man and self-forgetful woman. But deeply as
  I was impressed by the steadfastness and magnanimity of her spirit, nay
  by the woman herself, I have been less oppressed by the great debt I
  owed her than by the thought, growing more intolerable every day, that
  in my frenzied struggle against fate I had cut short the existence of a
  young and lovely girl whose right to live was beyond all comparison
  superior to my own.

  "But now, as the shadows fall thickly about me and the last page of my
  dishonorable existence awaits to be turned, my mortal wound is this:
  that I must leave to loneliness and unspeakable grief the great-souled
  woman who has seen into the heart of my crime and yet has forgiven me.
  All else of anguish or dread is swallowed up in this one over-mastering
  sorrow. To her my heart's thanks are here given; to her my last word is
  due. May she find in it all that her soul calls for in this hour of
  supreme disaster: repentance equal to my sin, and a recognition of her
  worth, which, late as it is for her comfort, may lead to her acceptance
  of the consolation yet to be meted out to her from eternal sources."

That was all. The pen dropped from his hand and he sat inert, almost
pulseless, in the desolation of a despair known only to those who, at a
blow, have sunk from the height of public applause into the depths of
irretrievable ignominy.

The District Attorney, who was a man of more feeling than was usually
supposed, contemplated him in compassionate silence for a moment, then
gently--very gently for him--leaned forward and drew from under the
unresisting hands the scattered sheets which lay in disorder before him,
and passed them on to his stenographer.

"Read," said he; but immediately changed his mind and took them back. "I
will read them myself. Mr. Roberts, I must ask you to listen. It is right
for you to know exactly what you have written before you affix your
signature to it."

Mr. Roberts bowed mechanically, but he looked very weary.

The District Attorney began to read. It is a matter of doubt whether Mr.
Roberts so much as heard him. Yet the reading went on, and when the last
word was reached, the District Attorney, after a pause during which his
eye had consulted that of the Chief Inspector, remarked in a kindly tone
and yet with an emphasis impossible to disregard:

"I see that you have made no mention of Madame Duclos in this relation of
the cause and manner of her young daughter's death. Is it possible that
you are ignorant of the part she played in your affairs or the reasons
she had for the suicide with which she terminated her life?"

"I know nothing of the woman but that she was the mother of the girl
who----" he hesitated, then added with a gesture of despair, "fell under
my hand."

The District Attorney said nothing in reply, he simply waited. But no
denial or further admission came.

"She was a friend of Mrs. Taylor," suggested the Chief Inspector as the
silence grew somewhat oppressive. "An old friend; a friend of her early
days; do you not remember?"

"I do not."

His tormentors went no further. Why harass him for an item of knowledge
which the morrow would certainly bring to light. Instead, they hurried
through the remaining formalities, adding to the reading already made a
capitulation of such answers as he had given to their questions, and
witnessing, while he signed both papers.

This done, he was left for a moment in peace, while the two officials
drew aside into the embrasure of the window for a momentary conference.

He seemed to notice the hush, for he roused from the torpor into which
he was again about to sink, and glanced cautiously about him. The
stenographer was busy with his papers, and the other two stood with their
backs to him. If help was to come it must come now. This he realized,
with a sudden graying of his face which took from it the last vestige
of that youthfulness which had been its distinguishing feature; and the
finger which had fumbled from time to time in his vest-pocket stole
thither once more, bringing forth a little vial which in another moment
he raised to his lips.

Was there no one to see? No one to stop him?

No, the stenographer was closing up his bag; and the two officials deep
in conversation. He could drain the last drop unseen.

But the sound of the little vial crashing upon the hearthstone whither he
had flung it broke the quiet and startled the District Attorney forward
in a doubt bordering upon terror.

"What is that?" he asked, pointing to the fragments that had just missed
the ash heap.

"It contained oblivion," was the answer given him in steady tones. "Do
you wonder that I sought it? Nothing can save me. I have two minutes
before me. I would dedicate them to _her_."

His head fell forward on his hands. The clock on the mantel struck. Could
it be that when the second hand had circled its small disc twice--

This was the thought of the District Attorney, but not of the Chief
Inspector. He had advanced to the desk where Mr. Roberts was still
sitting, and remarked with a gravity exceeding any he had hitherto shown:

"Mr. Roberts, I have a great disappointment for you. This little vial
of yours which held poison yesterday contained nothing but a few drops
of harmless liquid to-day. The change was made in the night, by one
suspicious of your intention. You will have to face the full consequences
of your crime."

Carleton Roberts' arms collapsed and his face fell forward upon them, and
they heard a groan. Then in the short silence which followed, another and
a very different sound broke upon their ears. Seven clear calls from the
cuckoo-clock rang out from the room beyond, followed by a woman's
smothered cry.

It was the one ironic touch the situation had lacked. It pierced the
heart of Carleton Roberts and started him in anguish to his feet.

"O God!" he cried, "that I should have let that thing of evil shriek
out the wicked hours from day to day, only to torment her now with old
remembrances! Why did I not crush it to atoms long ago? Why did I leave
it hanging on my wall----"

With a dash he was in the hall. In another instant he was at the door of
his bedroom, followed by the two officials crowding closely up behind
him.

Would they find her there? Yes; where else should she be, she whom this
call from the past might almost draw from the grave! She was there, but
not in the spot where they had expected to see her, nor in that state of
collapse of which her former weakness had given promise. Apart from Mr.
Gryce, with her form drawn up to its full height she stood, with her
finger pointing not at the cuckoo-clock as would seem most natural, but
at a small newspaper print of the dead girl's face pinned up on another
wall.

"Why is that here?" she cried in a passionate inquiry which ignored every
other presence than that of him who must heed and answer her. "Carleton,
Carleton, why have you pinned that young girl's face up opposite your bed
where you can see it on waking, where it can look at you and you at
it--Or----" here checked by a sudden thought she broke off, and her tone
changed to one of doubt, "perhaps you did not put it there yourself?
Perhaps its presence on your wall is a trick of the police to startle you
into betrayal. Was it? Was it?"

"No, Ermentrude." The words came slowly but firmly. "I put it there
myself. I thought it would haunt me less than if left to my imagination."

Then in a low tone which perhaps reached no other ears than hers:

"I do not know what it does to me; or what I see in it. Something besides
youth and beauty. Something----"

"Hush!" She had him by the arm. "Forget it; these men are listening----"

But with a convulsive movement, he broke from her hold, and in so doing
his eyes fell on a mirror confronting him from the opposite side of the
room. Two faces were visible in it, his own and that of his young victim
pictured in the print hanging on the wall behind him. They seemed alive.
Both of them seemed alive, and as he saw them thus in conjunction, the
sweet, pure countenance of the child he had instinctively mourned,
peering at him over his guilty shoulder--the sweat started on his
forehead and he uttered a great cry. Then he stood still, swaying from
side to side, the eyes starting from his head in a horror transcending
all that had gone before.

"Take him away!" she cried. "Out of the room! Let him remain anywhere but
here. I pray you; I entreat."

But he was not to be moved.

"Ermentrude," he whispered; "they say her name was Duclos. She gave her
name as Willetts. What _was_ her name? You know the truth and can tell
me."




XXXIII

AGAIN THE CUCKOO-CLOCK


Then to the wonder and admiration of all, this extraordinary woman showed
her full strength and the inexhaustible power she possessed over her own
emotions. With a smile piteous in its triumph over a suffering the depths
of which they were just beginning to sound, she held his gaze in hers and
quietly said:

"You have driven me to the wall, Carleton. If I answer, nothing remains
to us of hope or honor; nothing upon which to stay our souls but a
consciousness of truth. Shall we let all go and meet our fate as people
should who stand on a desolate shore and see the whole world roll away
from before them?"

_"What was her name?"_

At his look, at this repetition of his question, she straightened up, and
addressed herself to Mr. Gryce.

"You were astonished and regarded me curiously when at the sound of that
foolish little clock I entered this room. That little clock means
everything to me, gentlemen." Here she surveyed them one after the other
with her proud and candid eye. "It is the one witness I have--is it not,
Carleton?" she asked, turning quickly upon him. "You have not failed me
in this?"

He shook his head.

"A witness to what I am still ready to ignore, if such is your will,
Carleton."

Terror! terror far beyond anything they had seen in him yet, paled his
cheek and made his face almost unrecognizable; but he could still speak,
and in the murmur he let fall she heard no word of protest.

"May I ask one of you to take down that clock?"

In a few minutes it lay on the table to which she had pointed. Mr. Gryce
who had at that moment in his pocket a copy of the inscription pasted on
its back, expected her to turn it over and show them the token of Mr.
Roberts' and her united initials.

But it was not this she had in mind. Though she took up the clock, she
did not turn it round, only looked at it steadily, her trembling lips and
a tear--the first they had seen--testifying to the rush of old memories
which this simple little object brought back to her long suffering heart.
Then she laid it down again and seemed to hesitate.

"I want to get at the works inside," she appealed to them with a helpless
accent. "Can you tear off the back? That would be the quickest way. But
no, I know a quicker," and lifting the clock again she turned it upside
down and shook it.

They heard--what did they hear? No one could say, but when she again
reversed it, there fell out upon the table and rolled to the floor a
small gold circlet. Lifting it, Mr. Gryce held it out to her. Taking it,
she carried it over to the District Attorney and placed it in his hand.

"Read the inscription inside."

He did so, and looking quickly up, said:

"This is a wedding ring! Yours! You believe yourself to have been married
to him."

"I _was_ married to him in Switzerland. The marriage was legal; he knows
it, he acknowledges it, or why should he keep this ring. I have endured
seeing him put another woman in my place. I have kept silence for years;
but when he asks the right name of the child shot down in the museum, and
asks it in a way which compels answer, then I must make known my rightful
claims. For that child was not only mine, but _his_; born after he left
me, and reared without his knowledge, first in this country and then in
France."

And breaking down now utterly, she fell on her knees sobbing out her soul
at the feet of him from whose honor she had torn the last poor, pitiful
shred.

As for him, he said nothing; even his lips refused the smallest cry. Only
his hand which had hung at his side went to his heart; and thus he stood
swaying--swaying, till he finally fell forward into the arms she suddenly
threw out to receive him.

"Carleton! Carleton!" she wailed, searching for consciousness in his fast
glazing eye. "It was to show you your child that I made the appointment
at the museum. Not for myself. Oh, not for myself, but for your sake,
that you might have----"

Useless; all useless.

He was dead.

       *       *       *       *       *

Would she have had it otherwise? Would any of them? When they were quite
sure of the fact, she placed the ring in his still warm hand; then she
solemnly put it on her finger, and turning, faced them all.

"Do not blame me too much for this final blow I gave him. He had already
seen the truth in that mirror over there. His face--look at it and then
at this picture of her taken after death, and see the resemblance! It is
showing plainer every minute. It was the something which had worried and
eluded him. Nothing could have kept back the truth from him after that
one glimpse he caught of himself and her in the mirror. I loved him. Mine
is the grief; you will let me stay here with him to-night. To-morrow I
will answer all questions."




XXXIV

THE BUD--THEN THE DEADLY FLOWER


You who have read thus far will care little for the legalities which
followed the events just related, but you may wish to know to a fuller
extent some of the facts in Ermentrude Taylor's life which led to this
tragic end of all her hopes.

Her story is twofold, the portion connecting her with Carleton Roberts
being entirely dissociated from that which made her the debtor of
Antoinette Duclos. Let me tell the latter first, as it preceded the
other, and tell it in episodes.

       *       *       *       *       *

Two girls stood at one end of a long walk of immemorial yews. At
the other could be seen the advancing figure of a man, young, alert,
English-clad but unmistakably foreign. They were school girls and bosom
friends; he their instructor in French; the walk one attached to a
well-known seminary. When they had entered this walk, it had been empty.
Now it held for one of them--and possibly for the other, too--a world of
joy and promise;--the world of seventeen. Innocent and unthinking,
neither of them had known her own heart, much less that of her fellow.
But when in face of that approach, eye met eye with an askance look of
eager question, revelation came, crimsoning the cheeks of both, and
marking an epoch in either life.

Noble of heart and tender each toward the other, they were yet human. Arm
fell from arm, and with an equally spontaneous movement, they turned to
search each the other's countenance, not for betrayal,--for that had
already been made--but for those physical charms or marks of mental
superiority which might attract the eye or win the heart of a man of the
ideality of this one.

Alas! these gifts, for gifts they are, were much too unequally
distributed between these two to render the balance at all even.

Ermentrude was handsome; Antoinette was not.

Ermentrude had besides, what even without beauty would have made her
conspicuous to the eye, the figure of a goddess and the air of a queen.
But Antoinette was small and had to feel secure and in a happy mood to
show the excellence of her mind and the airy quality of her wit.

Then, Ermentrude had money and could dress, while Antoinette, who was
dependent upon an English uncle for everything she possessed, wore
clothes so plain that but for their exquisite neatness, one would never
dream that she came from French ancestry, and that ancestry noble.

Yes, she had that advantage; rank was hers, but not the graces which
should accompany it. More than that, she had nothing with which to
support it. Better be of the yeoman class like Ermentrude, and smile like
a duchess granting favors. Or so she thought, poor girl, as her meek
regard passed from the friend whose attractions she had thus acknowledged
to the man whose approbation would make a goddess of her too.

He was coming--not with his usual indifferent swing, but eagerly,
joyously, as though this moment meant something to him too. She knew it
did. Small memories rushing upon her, made no doubt of that. But why?
Because of Ermentrude or because of herself? Alas! she could recall
nothing which would answer that. They were much together; he had scarcely
ever seen them separate. It might be either----Hardly alive from
suspense, she watched him coming--coming. In a moment he would be upon
them. On which would his eyes linger?

That would tell the tale.

In an anguish of ungovernable shyness, she slipped behind the ample
figure of her friend till only her fluttering skirt betrayed her
presence. Perhaps she was saved something by this move; perhaps not.
She did not see the beam of joy sparkling in his eye as he greeted
Ermentrude; but she could not but mark the heaviness of his step as he
passed them by and wandered away into the shadows.

And that she understood. Ermentrude had not smiled upon him. To him, the
moment had brought pain.

It was enough. Now she knew.

But why had not Ermentrude smiled?

       *       *       *       *       *

A dormitory lighted only by the moon! Two beds close together; in one a
form of noble proportions, and in the other the meagre figure of a girl
almost buried from sight among pillows and huddled-up blankets. Both are
quiet save for an occasional shudder which shakes the bed of the latter.
Ermentrude lies like the dead, though the moonlight falls full upon her
face blanching it to the aspect of marble. Even her lashes rest moveless
on her cheek.

But she is not sleeping; she is listening--listening to the sobs, almost
inaudible, which now and then escape from the beloved one at her side. As
they grow fainter and fainter and gradually die away altogether till
stillness reigns through the whole dormitory, she rouses and bending
forward on her elbow, looks long and lovingly at the wet brow of her
sleeping mate. She then sinks back again into rigidity, with a low moan,
ending in the whispered words:

"He does not love,--not yet. A slight thing will turn him. Did I not see
him glance back twice, and both times at her? The look with which she
greeted him was so wonderful."

       *       *       *       *       *

A village street in Britanny; a parish church in the distance; two women
bidding each other farewell amid a group of wedding-guests, gay as the
heavens are blue.

"_Au revoir!_" was the whisper breathed by the bride into the ear of
the other. "_Au revoir_, my Ermentrude. May you have a happy year in
Switzerland!"

"_Au revoir_! little Madame. _You_ will be happy I know in those United
States to which you are going."

And the tears stood in the eyes of both.

"You will write?"

"I will write."

But the bride did not seem quite satisfied. Glancing about and finding
her young husband busy with his adieux, she drew her friend apart and
softly murmured:

"There is something I must say,--something I must know, before the sea
divides us. You remember the day we all left school and you went home
and I came to Britanny? Ermentrude, Achille tells me that on that day he
sought the whole house over for you till he came upon you in one of the
classrooms; and that you whom I had sometimes seen so sad were very gay
and told him between laughing and crying that you were bidding a solemn
farewell to all the nooks and corners of the old seminary, because your
fiance awaited you at home, and there would be no coming back."

"I meant my music."

"He did not know that, Ermentrude," and here she laid her hands upon the
other's shoulders, drawing back as she did so to look earnestly up into
her face. "Was that done for me?"

They were too near for anything but the truth to pass from eye to eye.
Ermentrude tried to laugh and utter a quick _No, no!_ but the little
bride was not deceived. Again upon her face there appeared that wonderful
look of hers, which made her face for the moment verily beautiful, and
unclasping her hands, she threw them about the other's neck, whispering
in awed tones:

"Yet you loved him! loved him too!"

Then after a moment of silence dear to both their hearts, she drew back
to give her friend one other look, and quietly said:

"His heart is mine now, Ermentrude, wholly and truly mine. And so you
would have it be, I am sure. Life looks fair to me and very sweet; but
however fair, however sweet, that life is yours if ever you want it and
when you want it. The time may come--one never knows--when I can pay you
back this debt. Till then, let there be perfect trust and perfect love
between us. Give me your hand upon it--not just your lips--for I speak as
men speak when they mean to keep their word."

Their eyes met, their hands clasped; then the bridegroom drew away his
bride, and Ermentrude turned with bowed head and glistening eyes, to
enter upon the new life awaiting her in ways she had yet to tread.

       *       *       *       *       *

The second series of episodes opens with the meeting of a man and woman
on a rustic bridge spanning a Swiss chasm. They are strangers to each
other, yet both instinctively pause and a flush of intuitive feeling dyes
the cheek of each.

The eternal, ever-recurring miracle has happened. He sees Woman for the
first time, though he had thought himself in love before and had wandered
thus far in an effort to forget. So, likewise, with her. She had had her
fancies, or rather her one fancy; but when in strolling along this road
ahead of her party she saw rising between her and the glorious landscape
which had hitherto filled her eye the fine masculine head and perfect
figure of Carleton Roberts, this fancy floated from her mind like the
veriest thistledown, leaving it free to expand in fuller hopes and deeper
joys than visit many women even when they think they love.

Alas! why in that instant of mutual revelation had not the further grace
been given them of quick catastrophe shutting the door upon a future of
which neither could then dream or sense the coming doom.

It was not to be.

He passed, she passed, and for the time the look they gave each other was
all; but the world had been glorified for them both--and Destiny waited.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Good looks? Yes; but nothing else; very ordinary connections, very. A
little money, true. Her uncle, whom by the way I judge you have not seen,
will leave her a few thousands; but meanwhile he is a fixture--will not
leave her or let her leave him, which is a misfortune since in a social
way he is simply impossible. No sort of match for you, Roberts. Cut and
run while there is time; that's my advice to you, given in the most
friendly spirit."

"Thank you. As I have but just met Miss Taylor, don't you think such
advice is a little premature?"

"No, I don't. She is a woman who must be loved or left; that's all.
You've heard me."

Did Carleton Roberts heed these words? No. What man in the thrall of his
first romance ever did.

"You love me, Ermentrude?"

"I love you, Carleton."

"For a day, for a month or for a year?" he smiled.

"Forever," she answered.

"That's a long time," he murmured, with his eyes on a little clock
hanging in the shop window before which they had stopped in one of their
infrequent walks together. "A long time! That foolish little clock will
beat out the hours of its short life and go the way of all things, before
we shall hardly have entered upon the soul's 'forever.'"

"That clock will last our lifetime, Carleton. Afterward, love will not be
counted by hours."

As she said this she turned her face his way and he saw it in its full
flower with the light of heaven upon it. In later years he may have
forgotten the emotions of that moment, but they were the purest, the
freest from earthly stain that he was ever destined to know.

"I will love you _forever_," he whispered. "That little clock shall be my
witness." And he drew her into the shop.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Cuckoo!"

Ermentrude glanced up; the clock hung on her wall.

"Oh," she murmured, "each hour it will speak to me of him and his words,"
then softly, like one adream in Paradise:

        "I love but thee,
   And thee will I love to eternity."

Such was the event to her. What was it to him? Let us see:

A hotel room--a view of Pilatus, but with its top lost in enveloping
clouds.

Seated before it with pen in hand above a sheet of paper, Carleton
Roberts eyes these clouds but does not see them; he is hunting in his
brain for words and they do not come. Why? His mother's name is on the
page and he has only to write that she has been quite correct in her
judgment as to the unfitness of the marriage he had had in mind:--that
youth should mate with youth and that if she could see the glorious young
girl whose acquaintance he had made here, she would be satisfied with
his new choice which promised him the fullest happiness. Why then a sheet
yet blank and a hesitating hand, when all it had to do was to write?

Who can tell? Man knows little of himself or of the conflicting passions
which sway him this way or that, even when to the outward eye, and
possibly to the inner one as well, action looks easy.

Did he feel, without its reaching the point of knowledge, that this
mother of keenest expectation and highest hope would not be satisfied
with what this charming but undeveloped girl of middle class parentage
would bring him? Or was there, deep down in his own undeveloped nature, a
secret nerve alive to ambitions yet unnamed, to hopes not yet formulated,
which warned him to think well before he spoke the irrevocable word
linking a chain which, though twined with roses, was nevertheless a chain
which nothing on earth should have power to break.

He never sounded his soul for an answer to this question; but when he
rose, the paper was still blank. The letter had not been written.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I do not like secrecy."

"Only for a little while, Ermentrude. My mother is difficult. I would
prepare her."

"And Uncle!"

"What of Uncle?"

"He made me take an oath to-day."

"An oath?"

"That I would not leave him while he lived."

"And you could do that?"

"I could do nothing else. He's a sick man, Carleton. The doctors shake
their heads when they leave him. He will not live a year."

"A year? But that's an eternity! Can you wait, can I wait a year?"

"He loves me and I owe everything to him. Next week we go to Nice. These
are days of parting for you and me, Carleton."

Parting! What word more cruel. She saw that it shook him, and held her
breath for his promise that she should not be long alone. But it did not
come. He was taking time to think. She hardly understood his doing this.
Surely, his mother must be very difficult and he a most considerate son.
She knew he loved her; perhaps never with a more controlling passion than
at this moment of palpitating silence.

As she smiled, he caught her to his breast.

"We have yet a week," he cried, and left her hurriedly, precipitately.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was their last ride and they had gone far--too far, Ermentrude
thought, for a day so chilly and a sky so threatening. They had entered
gorges; they had skirted mountain streams, had passed a village, left a
ruined tower behind, and were still facing eastward, as if Lucerne had no
further claims upon them and the world was all their own.

As the snows of the higher peaks burst upon their view, she made an
attempt to stop this seeming flight.

"My uncle," she said. "He will be counting the hours. Let us go back."

Then Carleton Roberts spoke.

"Another mile," he whispered, not because he feared being overheard by
their driver, but because Love's note is instinctively low. "You are
cold; we shall find there a fire, and dinner--and--Listen, Ermentrude,--a
minister ready to unite us. We are going back, man and wife."

"Carleton!"

"Yes, dear, it is quite understood. Letters are urging my return to New
York. Your uncle is holding you here. I cannot face an uncertain
separation. I must feel that you are mine beyond all peradventure--must
be able to think of you as my wife, and that will hold us both and make
it proper for you to come to me if I cannot come to you, the moment
you are free to go where you will."

"But why this long ride, this far-away spot? Why couldn't a minister be
found in Lucerne? Is our marriage to be as secret as our engagement?
Is that what you wish, Carleton?"

"Yes, dear; for a little while, just for a little while, till I have seen
my mother, and rid our way of every obstacle to complete happiness. It
will be better. When one has promised to love _forever_, what are a few
weeks or months. Make me happy, dear. You have it in your power to do so.
Happy! When once I can whisper 'wife,' the world will not hold a happier
man than I."

Did she yield because of her own great longing? No, it was by that phrase
he caught her: _The world will not hold a happier man than I_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mountains! Icy peaks, with sides heavy with snow! And so near! Almost
they seemed to meet across the narrow valley. She gave them one quick
glance, then her eyes and her heart became absorbed in what she could see
of this Alpine village, holding up its head in the eternal snows like an
edelweiss on the edge of a glacier.

It was to be the scene of her one great act in life; the spot she was
entering as a maiden and would leave as a wife. What other spot would
ever be so interesting! To note its every detail of house and church
would not take long--it was such a little village, and the streets were
so few; and the people--why she could count them.

Afterward, she found that the exact number and the difference in color of
the short line of timbered houses stretching between them and the church
were imprinted on her brain; but she did not know it at the time for her
attention was mainly fixed upon the people when once she had seen them,
for there was a strangeness in their looks and actions she did not
understand, all the more that it seemed to have nothing to do either with
Carleton or herself.

It was not fear they showed, not exactly, though consternation was not
lacking in their aspect, so strangely similar in all, whether they were
men or women, or whether they stood in groups in the street or came out
singly on the doorstep to glance about and listen, though there seemed to
be nothing to listen to, for the air was preternaturally still.

"Carleton, Carleton," she asked as he came to lift her to the ground,
"see those people how oddly they act. The whole town is in the street.
What is the matter?"

"Nothing, except that if we do not hasten we shall have to return
unmarried. The minister is waiting for us."

"What, in the church?"

"Yes, dear. We are a little late."

She took his arm, and though they were a fine couple and the event was
almost an unprecedented one in that remote village, only a few followed
them; the rest hung round their homes or gazed with indecision at the
mountains or up and down along the empty roads.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Wilt thou have this woman...."

The ceremony had proceeded thus far and all seemed well, when with a rush
and a cry a dozen people burst into the building.

"The snows are moving!" rang up the aisles in accents of mad terror.
"Save yourselves!"

Then came the silence of emptiness. Every soul had left the church save
the three before the pulpit.

An avalanche! and the ceremony was as yet incomplete! Ermentrude never
forgot Carleton Roberts' look. Doubtless he never forgot hers. Meanwhile
the minister spoke.

"There is a chance for escape. Take it; the good God will pardon you."

But the bridegroom stood firm and the bride shook her head.

"Not till the words are said which make us man and wife," declared
Carleton Roberts. "Unless"--and here his perfect courtesy manifested
itself even in this crisis of life and death--"you feel it your duty to
carry what assistance you can to the saving of your frightened flock."

"God must save my flock," said the minister with a solemn glance upward.
"I am where my duty places me." And calmly as though the pews were
filled with guests and joy attended the ceremony instead of apprehended
doom, he proceeded with the rite.

"Wilt thou have this man...."

The glad "I will" leaped bravely from Ermentrude's lips; but it was lost
in loud calls and shrieks from without, mingled with that sound--terrible
to all who hear--impossible to describe--of the might of the hills made
audible in this down-rushing mass, now halting, now gathering fresh
momentum, but coming--always coming, till its voice, but now a threat,
swells into thunder in which all human cries are lost, and only from the
movement of the minister's lips can this couple see that the words which
make them one are being spoken.

Then comes the benediction, and with the falling of those holy hands, a
headlong rush into the open air--a vision of flying forms here, there,
and everywhere--men staggering under foolish burdens--women on their
knees with arms lifted to heaven or flung around their babes--hope lost
under the bowing mountain; and in the midst of it all, plain to the view
of all, the stranger's horse and carriage which, standing there, stamped
with undying honor these terrified villagers, who had seen and not
touched them though Death had them by the hair.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Quick! quick! You mother there with the child, get in, get in; there is
room here for one more."

But another got the place. The driver, reeling as he ran, sprang for the
empty seat and hung there between the wheels as the horses plunged and
tore away to safety just as the great mass with its weight of gathered
boulders and uprooted forests crashed in final doom upon that devoted
village, burying it from sight as though it had never been.

To safety? Yes, for two of them; the other, struck by a flying stone,
fell in the road and was covered in a trice. So close were they to
destruction's edge at this moment of headlong flight.

       *       *       *       *       *

Not till the painted towers encircling Lucerne had come again into sight
did the newly wedded pair find words or make the least attempt to speak.
Then Carleton kissed his bride and for a moment love was triumphant. Was
it triumphant enough to lead him to acknowledge their marriage? She
looked anxiously in his face to see and finally she asked:

"How much of this are we to tell, Carleton?"

"All about the catastrophe; but nothing more," he answered.

And while her heart retained its homage, the light in her eyes was
veiled.

Married but not acknowledged! Would it not have been better if the
avalanche had overwhelmed them? She almost thought so, till bending, he
murmured in her ear:

"I shall follow you soon. Did you think I could go on living without
you?"

       *       *       *       *       *

"Why so thoughtful, Ermentrude? You are not quite yourself to-day?"

"Uncle is very ill. The doctors say that he may not live a month."

"And does that grieve you?"

A yes was on her lips, but she did not utter it. Instead, she drew a
little ribbon from her breast, on which hung a plain gold ring, and
gazing earnestly at this token she remarked very quietly:

"Carleton, have you ever thought that but for this ring no proof remains
in all this world of our ever having been married?"

"But our hearts know it. Is that not enough?" he asked.

"For to-day, yes. But when uncle goes...."

His kisses finished the sentence for her, and love resumed its sway; but
when alone and wakeful on her pillow, she recalled his look, the sting of
her first doubt darted through her uneasy heart, and feeling eagerly
after the ring she tore it from its ribbon and put it on her finger.

"It is my right," she whispered. "Henceforth I shall wear it. He loves me
too well to quarrel with my decision. Now am I really his wife."

       *       *       *       *       *

Did she see a change in him? Did he come less frequently? Did he stay
less long? Was there uneasiness in his eye--coolness--languor? No, no.
It was her exacting heart which thus interpreted his look--which counted
the days--forgot his many engagements--saw impatience in the quickness
with which he corrected her faults in manner or language instead of the
old indulgence which met each error with a smile. Love cannot always keep
at fever-heat. He, the cynosure of the whole foreign element, had the
world at his feet here as in Lucerne. It needed no jealous eye to see
this; while she--well, she had her attractions too, as had been often
proved, and with God's help she would yet be a fit mate for him. What she
now lacked, she would acquire. She would watch these fine ladies who
blushed with pleasure at his approach, and when her time of mourning was
over she would astonish him with her graces and her appearance. For she
knew how to dress, yes, with the best of them, and hold her head and walk
like the queen she would feel herself to be when once she bore his name.
Patience then, till she had stored her mind and learned the ways he was
accustomed to in others. She had money enough now that her uncle was
dead, and she could do things....

Yes, but something had gone out of her face, and the ring hung loose on
her finger.

       *       *       *       *       *

And he? Had her fears read him aright? Had he grown indifferent or was
he simply perplexed? Let us watch him as he paces his hotel room one
glorious afternoon, now stopping to re-read a letter he held in his hand,
and now to gaze out with unseeing eyes to where the blue of the sea melts
into the blue of the sky on the far horizon.

Love had been sweet; but man has other passions, and he is in the grip of
the one mightiest in men of his stamp--the all-engrossing, all-demanding
one of personal ambition.

Without solicitation, without expectation even, a hand had been held out
to him whose least grasp meant success in the one field most to his
mind,--a political career under auspices which had never been known to
fail. But there were conditions attached--conditions which a year before
would have filled him with joy, but which now stood like a barrier
between him and his goal, unless.... But he was not yet ready to disavow
his wife, trample upon her heart, nay on his own as well;--that is,
without a struggle.

For the third time he read the letter which you will see was from his
mother.

  My Son:--I have an apology to make and a bit of news to give you. When
  I urged you to give up Lucie and to seek distraction abroad, I felt
  that I was doing justice to your immaturity and saving you from ties
  which might very easily jeopardize your future happiness.

  But I have lately changed my mind. In seeing more of her I have not
  only learned her worth but the advantage such a woman would be to one
  of your tastes and promise. And she loves you more devotedly, perhaps,
  than you have loved her. How do I know this? Let me tell you of an
  interview I had with a certain relative of hers last night. I allude to
  her brother, and for a recognized boss buried out of sight in politics,
  he has more heart in his breast than I have ever given him credit for.
  Not having children of his own, he has centered his affections on this
  choice little sister of his, and finding her far from happy, came to
  see me yesterday evening with this proposition: If I would consent to
  your union with Lucie, and withdraw my opposition to your immediate
  marriage, he would take your future in charge and put you in the way of
  political advancement only to be limited, as he says, by your talents,
  which he is good enough to rate very high.

  After this, how can I do otherwise than bid you follow your impulses
  and marry Lucie in spite of the disparity of years to which I have
  hitherto taken exception. Were she as poor as she is accounted rich,
  I should say the same, now that I have sounded the depths of her lovely
  disposition and the rare culture of a mind which those seven years have
  enriched beyond what is usual even in women of intellect. Her money
  does not influence me in her favor, nor does it weigh with me in my
  present opinion of her complete fitness for the position you are so
  eager to give her. That this will make you happy I know. Let it hasten
  your return which cannot be too speedy.

This was the bombshell which had disturbed Carleton Roberts' complacency,
bared his own soul to his horrified view, and revealed to him the
weakness of his moral nature which he had hitherto considered strong. For
his first impulse was one of recoil, not only from the secret marriage
which shut him off from these new hopes, but from his youthful bride as
well. He found himself weary of his flowery bonds and eager for a man's
life in his native city. Oh, why had he urged this immature girl to take
the ride which had led him into slavery to one who could not advance him
in life, however queen-like she moved and talked and smiled upon the
world from the heights of her physical perfections. It was brain that was
needed--an understanding like Lucie's, tempered, like hers, by years, not
months, of culture and refined association.

It was at this point he paused in his restless walk and looked for
inspiration to the far-off waters of the bluest of all seas.

Suddenly he resumed his walk; then quickly stopping again sat down at his
desk and with an air of desperate haste began a letter to his mother with
the announcement:

  It is too late. Unfortunately for your scheme, I am already....

He never got any further. A fresh impulse drove him into the street. He
could not thus summarily settle his future fate. It meant too much to
him. He must take time to think. His heart clamors loudly for its rights;
he is only twenty-six--and in a rush of feeling which should have been
his salvation, he turned toward that nest among the flowers where help
was to be had if help was to come at all in this crisis of conflicting
passions.

       *       *       *       *       *

The hour was noon, one which he had never chosen before for a visit to
Ermentrude. Would he find her in? Would she be in spirits to meet him?
Would she look beautiful--worthy of his name, worthy of the greatest
sacrifice a man can make for a woman? He half hoped that she would;
that he would find his chains riveted and secure beyond the power of any
force to break.

As his musings faltered, he turned the knob of the little side door and
went in. As he did so a shower of rose-leaves fell upon him from the
vines enveloping the balcony.

He shuddered slightly and passed down the hall. Everything was very
still.

She was asleep. Lying on a couch in utter weariness or pain, she had
drifted off into the land of dreams, and he felt that he had a moment of
respite. He could look and weigh the question: Love or a quick success? A
weakling's paradise or the goal of the strong man?

Meanwhile, she was not as beautiful as he thought. But she was more
touching--less robust, less bounteous of aspect, more child-like, more
appealing,--a woman who, if he were no more of a man than he appeared to
be in this hurly-burly of pleasure and fashion, might in time do him
credit and hold him back from follies.

But he was not just the man these casual friends and admirers considered
him. There was much more to him than that. He knew this better than Lucie
did or her powerful brother, or even his adoring mother. Great
opportunities awaited him and a large space in the affairs of men if not
of nations. Such confidence did he feel in himself at this fevered moment
that he never doubted that eventually he would gain all this, even with
the handicap of a good-looking but unsophisticated wife.

But not quickly;... step by step perhaps ... and he was longing to take
it all at a bound.

Poor girl! and she lay there under his eyes all unmindful of his conflict
or of the fact that her fate as well as his was trembling in the balance;
unmindful, though her dreams were far from joyous--or why the tear
welling from between her lashes as he gazed.

She was alone in the house; he knew it by the complete silence. He could
look and look and study her every feature, without fear of interruption;
wait for her waking and be ready to meet her first glance of tender
astonishment which might restore him to his better self.

Drawing up a chair, he sat down; then started upright again with dilating
eyes and a strange shadow on his brow. One of her arms lay uppermost
and on the hand--almost as fine as Lucie's, but not quite,--he saw the
ring--his ring, and it hung loosely. The poor child was growing thin,
very thin. "If she were to hold her hand downward," he muttered to
himself, "I believe that ring would fall off." Did some stray glimpse of
his own features, wearing a look never seen on them before, confront him
from some near-by mirror that he started so guiltily as this heart murmur
rose to his lips? Or was it at a thought, hideous but tempting, which
held him, gained upon him and soon absolutely possessed him, till his own
hand went out stealthily and with hesitations toward those helpless
fingers of hers, now approaching, now withdrawing, and now approaching
them again but not touching them, great as his impulse was to do so,
for fear she should wake, while yet the devil gripped his arm and lit up
baleful fires in his eyes.

He had remembered those words of hers: "Have you ever thought that with
the exception of this ring no proof exists in all the world of our ever
having been married?" Remember them? He had not remembered them; he had
heard them, sounding and resounding in his ears till the whole room
seemed to palpitate with them. Then the devil made his final move.
Ermentrude shuddered, and her position changing, the hand which had
been uppermost fell down at her side and the ring slipped--left her
finger--paused on the edge of the couch--then came to rest in his palm
held out to receive it.

He had not drawn it from her hand. Fate had restored it. As he forced
himself to look at it lying in his grasp, a faintness as of death seized
and held him for a moment; then this passed and he slowly rose and step
by step with sidelong looks and hair starting upright on his forehead,
like one who has walked in blood and sees the trail of guilt following
him along the floor, he left her side--he left the room--he left the
house--and the rose-leaves fell about him once more, maddening him with
their color, maddening him with the memories inseparable from their
sweetness--a sweetness which spoke of her, of love, and the attachment
of a true heart destined to grieve for a little while at least, for he
was never going back, never, never.

There was no eye to see, and no tongue to tell him that the seed,
destined to flower into awful crime some dozen or more years later, put
forth its first bud at this fatal hour.

       *       *       *       *       *

He wrote her a letter. He had the grace to do that. Addressing her simply
as Ermentrude, he told her that he had been called home to enter upon the
serious business of life. That he was not likely to come back, and as she
was not really his wife, however pleasing the fiction had been in which
they had both indulged, it seemed to him wiser to end their happy romance
thus suddenly and while much of its glamour remained, than to linger on
and see it decay day by day before their eyes till nothing but bitterness
remained. He loved her and felt the wrench more than she did, but duty
and his obligations as a man, etc., etc., till it ended in his signature
limited to initials like his love.

Despicable! the work of a man without conscience or heart! Yes, and he
knew it, and for weeks his sleep was broken by visions and his waking
hours rendered dreadful by fears. How had she taken this cool assumption
that the ceremony performed in the path of the snow was voided by lack of
proof? To whom had she ascribed the loss of her ring, and what must she
think of him? He had left Nice almost immediately, but wherever he went,
in whatever hotel he stayed, or through whatever street he passed, he was
always expecting to see her figure rise up before him in the majesty of
innocence and outraged love.

Thus several weeks passed, and seeing nothing of her, hearing nothing
from her, a different apprehension darkened his days and despoiled him of
rest at night. Grief if not shame had killed her; and the weight of her
fancied doom lay heavy on his heart. At last he could bear it no longer,
and stealing back to Nice he entered it one dark night and prepared to
learn for himself what he feared to trust to the discretion of another.
Alone, with hidden face and heavily throbbing heart, he trod the familiar
ways and encircled the familiar walls. Had she been there----

But the windows were blank and the place desolate, and he fled the spot
and the town, with his questions unasked and his fears unallayed. In two
days he had sailed for home. With the ocean between them he might forget;
and in time he did. As week followed week, and the silence he had half
trusted, half feared, remained unbroken, his equanimity gradually
returned, and he prepared to face the prospect of his new marriage much
as a man who watches for a dreaded door to open moves with restored
confidence about his affairs, when at last convinced that the door is
padlocked and the key lost.

One precaution and one only he was wise enough to take. He told his story
to Lucie's brother, and left it to him to say whether or not he should
marry his sister. And the answer was yes; that if trouble came he would
see him through it. A marriage which could not be proved was no marriage,
and as for anything else, Lucie's happiness must not be sacrificed to a
boy's peccadillos. What were a few wild oats sown by a man of his
promise?

And was this the end? Did Ermentrude accept her doom without a struggle?

Let us see.

       *       *       *       *       *

One afternoon in June, there entered the parlor of the old-fashioned
mansion of the Roberts family a lady who had asked to see Mrs. Roberts on
business of an important nature. Though plainly clad, her appearance
possessed an elegance which insured respect; but when alone and seated in
the darkest corner of the great drawing room she put up a trembling hand
to thrust back her veil, the countenance thus revealed betrayed an
emotion hardly in keeping with the quiet bearing with which she had
advanced under the servant's eye.

His home! and these the surroundings amid which he had grown to manhood!
Why should the sight of all this rouse emotions she believed eliminated
by a treachery most cruel in face of promises most sacred? Why, as she
looked about, and noted object after object which must have been there
previous to his birth, did she see him as a child and boy and not as the
man who had first won and then deserted her? She would not have had it so
at this hour when strength was needed rather than tenderness. But she
could not help her nature, or still the wild surging of her rebellious
heart, as his portrait seen upon the wall challenged her constancy and
whispered of the hour when his "forever" echoed her "forever" and the
compact for eternity was sealed.

He had broken this compact--broken it soon--broken it before the
honeymoon had passed. But she! Was she to show no firmer spirit whose
love was of the soul and took no note of time? She was his wife, and
acknowledged or unacknowledged, must yet prove to be his blessing though
he--he----

But this would not do. The interview before her called for calmness. She
would not add to the turbulence of her spirits by another glance at what
brought back too much of the past to fortify her for the impending
struggle. She had to do credit to his choice, to impress a difficult
woman with her dignity as a wife. She must not shake nor weep.

Yet when she heard a step at the door, instinct told her to pull down her
veil till the first greetings were over--a precaution for which she was
deeply grateful when in another moment a young woman entered instead of
her husband's mother for whom she had asked and whom she naturally
expected to see.

In the humiliation of the moment, her disappointment took words and she
muttered within herself:

"A companion or possibly a relative. I am to be put off with kindly
excuses; begged to state my errand--rehearse my claims and my hopes to
some gentle go-between! I have not strength for that. I must see the
mother--the mother. God give me wisdom and keep me calm--calm."

Meanwhile the young woman she had instinctively called gentle advanced
into the center of the room. Mechanically, Ermentrude rose to meet her,
and thus stepped into a better light. Tragedy came with her. This it was
impossible not to see--not to feel. But the warning which her aspect gave
passed as she spoke and said in tones a little tremulous, perhaps, but
with an air of perfect courtesy:

"I had hoped to see Mrs. Roberts herself."

The smile with which this was greeted, the flush of pride and the joy of
possession which lit the other's pleasing features as she replied, "I am
Mrs. Roberts," should have carried the truth to Ermentrude.

But they did not. She looked surprised--baffled, and after the briefest
hesitation, observed:

"I am a stranger in this city and have doubtless made some mistake. The
Mrs. Roberts I have called to see--and I was told she lived here--is the
mother of a gentleman of the name of----"

She could not speak it.

But the other could.

"Carleton?" she asked; and at Ermentrude's agitated nod, added with
friendly interest: "This is her home; but she has left it for a while to
us. I am Mr. Carleton Roberts' wife."

       *       *       *       *       *

There are blows which prostrate; there are others which sear but leave
the body intact--feet still supporting it--eyes still gazing ahead
unmoved--lips moving with mechanical exactness and sometimes still
retaining their smile. Only the soul which gave life to all of this is
dead. The image is there but the spirit is gone; and if sufficiently
preoccupied, the one who struck the blow sees no change. So was it with
Ermentrude and Lucie.

"We are looking for mother to return next week," added the latter as
Ermentrude stood stark and silent before her. "Would you like to leave a
message for her?"

At these words uttered with the sweetness of a rich and sympathetic
nature, the soul returned to Ermentrude's body. With a long and earnest
look which took in the full measure of the other's personality, radiant
with happiness and the consciousness of an assured wifedom, she answered
softly:

"No, I will leave no message," and turned as if to go.

"Nor any name?" queried Lucie, eying with admiration the noble lines of
a figure with whose perfect proportions her own could never hope to
compete.

"Nor any name," came back in indescribable accents from the doorway.

Lucie paused, and gazing in vague trouble after her rapidly disappearing
visitor, murmured to herself, "Who is she?"

But the one who could have answered her was gone.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Carleton, you seldom see such a woman. Younger than I, she had the poise
of a woman of thirty. Who could she have been?"

"Describe her."

"I wish I could; I hardly saw her face; it was her figure, her voice, her
way of moving and holding herself. I felt as small and quiet as a little
mouse beside her. Only I was happy and she was not. That much I feel now
that I recall her look in leaving."

"Was she American or--or foreign?" he asked, hiding his trouble, for a
great fear had seized him.

"She had an English accent which added very much to her charm."

"Forget her." For a moment his accent was almost fierce, then he laughed
the matter off, assuring this bride of a month that she made him cross
with her self-depreciation, that there was no one of finer mien and
manner than herself, the chosen of his heart upon whom he always looked
with pride. Which subtle tribute to what was her greatest charm
accomplished its end; she did forget the stranger.

But he did not; he knew what was before him and prepared himself for the
inevitable meeting which would be followed by--what?

Not by what he had every right to expect and evidently did. Ermentrude
had learned all she would both of this marriage and of the woman who had
supplanted her, and had made her resolve. This he saw as they came
together in the isolation of a quiet corner of the Park, and so was not
greatly surprised, though a little moved, as after the first few words,
and with an earnest look, she said:

"I am your wife, I, Ermentrude Roberts, married to you in the sight of
God and man. I cannot prove it, but as you once said, our hearts know it
and will continue to know it as long as either of us lives. But I am not
going to obtrude my claims upon you, Carleton, or stand like a specter in
your path. Had this woman you have deceived been weak or foolish or
unloving, or indeed anything but what she is, I might have held to my
rights and insisted upon a recognition which would have profited you in
the end. But I cannot shame that woman--I can neither shame her nor bring
her to grief. You have broken one heart, but you shall be saved the
remorse of breaking two. I had rather suffer myself. I am alone in the
world. I have means. I can ultimately be useful and face good men and
women without fear. Why then should I drag down to the dust one as
innocent as myself, or take from you what may make you the man I once
thought you and hope to see you again. But that I may have strength for
this and for all the sacrifices it involves, you must declare here, now,
in this open park where we stand, with no one within sight much less
within hearing, that I am your wife."

"You are my wife."

"It is enough. Now I can say what otherwise could never have left my
lips. I love you, Carleton, love you to eternity as I promised; but I
shall never seek you again, and you can go on your way unperturbed. I
have consolations here," laying her hand on her breast. "It will no
longer be my portion to watch your face for signs of a failing regard.
What I have is mine, and that is the undying memory of two months of
perfect happiness."

She would have said more, but she saw that he had been greatly shaken.
She feared the renewal of a flame not yet altogether extinct in a heart
which once beat for her alone, and so contenting herself with a low
farewell, she was turning swiftly away, when one last thought made her
pause and say:

"I cannot return you your ring. It is lost. I was careless with it and it
fell unnoticed from my hand. But to-night I will send you back the little
clock which unites our initials. Destroy it if you will, but if some
sentiment bids you keep it, let it be this one and no other: 'I recall
Ermentrude only that I may be faithful to Lucie.'"

With a low cry his head fell upon his breast in extreme self-abasement,
then he slowly lifted his eyes and seeing in her face a full knowledge of
his sin, murmured in overwhelming shame and contrition:

"You know me for the wretch I am. I have the ring; it fell from your hand
into mine one day while you lay asleep. I do not ask for forgiveness,
but this I promise you, Ermentrude:--if the little clock comes back, I
will make a place in it for this ring, and neither clock nor ring shall
leave me again while I live."

Instinctively her hands went out to him, then they fell back on her
breast.

"God will hold you to that promise," she said; and melted away from his
sight in the mist which had been gradually enveloping them without being
seen by either.

Thus the struggle ended for him, which for her had simply begun.

Not till she found herself in the South with her girl friend, Antoinette
Duclos, did she discover that the closest bond which can unite man and
woman held her in spite of her late compact with Carleton Roberts. Should
she reassert her rights and demand that the father should recognize his
child? Her generous heart said No. The old arguments held good. She
appealed to Antoinette for advice.

The result we know. When Antoinette's own child died at birth, she took
Ermentrude's to her heart and brought it up as her own. There was little
difficulty in this, as the Professor had already yielded to a Southern
fever and lay at rest in a New Orleans cemetery.

And this brings us to another episode.

       *       *       *       *       *

The widow in fact and the widow in heart stood face to face above a
sleeping infant. They were both dressed for traveling and so was the
babe. The dismantled rooms showed why. Young still, for the years of
either's romance had been few, each face, as the other contemplated it,
told the story of sorrow which Time, for all its kindliness, would
never efface. But the charm of either remained--perceptible at this hour
as perhaps it would never be again to the same extent. Antoinette basked
in the light of Ermentrude's beauty ennobled by renunciation, and
Ermentrude in that wonderful look in her friend's plain face which came
at great crises and made her for the moment the equal of the best.

They had said little; and they said little now, as is the way of the
strong amongst us when an act is to be performed which wrings the heart
but satisfies the conscience.

The child was legitimate. It must not grow up under a shadow. To insure
its welfare and raise no doubt in its own mind as it grew in knowledge
and feeling, the two women must separate. No paltering with this duty,
and no delay. A month of baby cries and baby touches might weaken the
real mother. It should be now. It should be to-day.

But first, a final word--a parting question. It was uttered by
Ermentrude.

"You will go back to France?"

"Yes. I can easily live there. And you, Ermentrude?"

"To New York. I shall never go far from him. But he and I will never
meet. My world will not be his world. I shall make my own place."

"As Ermentrude Taylor?"

"As Mrs. Ermentrude Taylor. I am a wife. I shall never forget that fact."

"And the child? Will you never come to see it?"

Ermentrude's head fell and she stood a long time without answering. Then
with a steady look she calmly said:

"I can think of but one contingency which might shake my resolution
to leave her yours without the least interruption from me. If
_he_--Antoinette, if he were left alone and childless, I might see
my duty differently from now. You must be prepared for that."

"Ermentrude, when you send me this little shoe--See, I will leave one on
and give you the other, I shall know that you are coming, or that you
want the child. My life is yours as I once promised, and do you think I
would hold back the child?"

And again their hands met as once before, in that strong clasp, which
means:

"Trust me to the death and beyond it."

       *       *       *       *       *

With Antoinette it was to the death, as we have seen. Warned by
Ermentrude of the appalling results of their plan to bring father and
child together, and entreated to fly lest her story should imperil
the secret upon the preservation of which his very life now hung, she
answered to the call as she had promised, and thus acquitted her debt
though she failed to save him.

Of her previous act in disfiguring his photograph in her temporary
lodging-place, we shall never know the full story. The picture had been
hers for years, given her by Ermentrude on their parting, so that the
child should not be without some semblance of her father even if she
should not know him as such, and it was to secure this clue to their now
doubly dangerous secret that Madame Duclos ransacked her baggage previous
to her flight from the New York hotel. But whether its destruction in the
peculiar manner we know was the result of simple precaution, or of a
feeling of antagonism so strong against this destroyer of her beloved's
peace, that it had to be expended in some way before she felt strong
enough for that supreme sacrifice in his favor toward which events seemed
hurrying her, may be known in _Eternity_ but will never be told in
_Time_.

       *       *       *       *       *

And Ermentrude? What of her? Alone, robbed of husband and child and
friend--where shall we look for her in this world of extreme tribulation?
Search the hospitals of France where they press closest to the trenches.
There will you find the woman who losing all has found much. Blessing
and blest! the angel of the battlefield whom the bullets spare since her
work on earth is not yet accomplished!



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