Infomotions, Inc.The Gold Bag / Wells, Carolyn, 1862-1942



Author: Wells, Carolyn, 1862-1942
Title: The Gold Bag
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): miss lloyd; lloyd; crawford; parmalee; florence lloyd; florence; philip crawford; gregory hall; west sedgwick; sedgwick; burroughs; coroner; gregory; bag; miss lloyd's; fleming stone; hall; joseph crawford; philip; porter; louis; miss; joseph; lemuel port
Contributor(s): Widger, David, 1932- [Editor]
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Title:  The Gold Bag

Author:  Carolyn Wells

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This Etext prepared by an anonymous Project Gutenberg volunteer.





THE GOLD BAG

by CAROLYN WELLS




CONTENTS



CHAPTER


I.      THE CRIME IN WEST SEDGWICK

II.     THE CRAWFORD HOUSE

III.    THE CORONER'S JURY

IV.     THE INQUEST

V.      FLORENCE LLOYD

VI.     THE GOLD BAG

VII.    YELLOW ROSES

VIII.   FURTHER INQUIRY

IX.     THE TWELFTH ROSE

X.      THE WILL

XI.     LOUIS'S STORY

XII.    LOUIS'S CONFESSION

XIII.   MISS LLOYD'S CONFIDENCE

XIV.    MR. PORTER'S VIEWS.

XV.     THE PHOTOGRAPH EXPLAINED

XVI.    A CALL ON MRS. PURVIS

XVII.   THE OWNER OF THE GOLD BAG

XVIII.  IN MR. GOODRICH'S OFFICE

XIX.    THE MIDNIGHT TRAIN

XX.     FLEMING STONE

XXI.    THE DISCLOSURE





THE GOLD BAG



I

THE CRIME IN WEST SEDGWICK


Though a young detective, I am not entirely an inexperienced one,
and I have several fairly successful investigations to my credit
on the records of the Central Office.

The Chief said to me one day: "Burroughs, if there's a mystery to
be unravelled; I'd rather put it in your hands than to trust it
to any other man on the force.

"Because," he went on, "you go about it scientifically, and you
never jump at conclusions, or accept them, until they're
indubitably warranted."

I declared myself duly grateful for the Chief's kind words, but I
was secretly a bit chagrined.  A detective's ambition is to be,
considered capable of jumping at conclusions, only the
conclusions must always prove to be correct ones.

But though I am an earnest and painstaking worker, though my
habits are methodical and systematic, and though I am
indefatigably patient and persevering, I can never make those
brilliant deductions from seemingly unimportant clues that
Fleming Stone can.  He holds that it is nothing but observation
and logical inference, but to me it is little short of
clairvoyance.

The smallest detail in the way of evidence immediately connotes
in his mind some important fact that is indisputable, but which
would never have occurred to me.  I suppose this is largely a
natural bent of his brain, for I have not yet been able to
achieve it, either by study or experience.

Of course I can deduce some facts, and my colleagues often say I
am rather clever at it, but they don't know Fleming Stone as well
as I do, and don't realize that by comparison with his talent
mine is insignificant.

And so, it is both by way of entertainment, and in hope of
learning from him, that I am with him whenever possible, and
often ask him to "deduce" for me, even at risk of boring him, as,
unless he is in the right mood, my requests sometimes do.

I met him accidentally one morning when we both chanced to go
into a basement of the Metropolis Hotel in New York to have our
shoes shined.

It was about half-past nine, and as I like to get to my office by
ten o'clock, I looked forward to a pleasant half-hour's chat with
him.  While waiting our turn to get a chair, we stood talking,
and, seeing a pair of shoes standing on a table, evidently there
to be cleaned, I said banteringly:

"Now, I suppose, Stone, from looking at those shoes, you can
deduce all there is to know about the owner of them."

I remember that Sherlock Holmes wrote once, "From a drop of
water, a logician could infer the possibility of an Atlantic or a
Niagara without having seen or heard of one or the other," but
when I heard Fleming Stone's reply to my half-laughing challenge,
I felt that he had outdone the mythical logician.  With a mild
twinkle in his eye, but with a perfectly grave face, he said
slowly

"Those shoes belong to a young man, five feet eight inches high.
He does not live in New York, but is here to visit his
sweetheart.  She lives in Brooklyn, is five feet nine inches
tall, and is deaf in her left ear.  They went to the theatre last
night, and neither was in evening dress."

"Oh, pshaw!" said I, "as you are acquainted with this man, and
know how he spent last evening, your relation of the story
doesn't interest me."

"I don't know him," Stone returned; "I've no idea what his name
is, I've never seen him, and except what I can read from these
shoes I know nothing about him."

I stared at him incredulously, as I always did when confronted by
his astonishing "deductions," and simply said

"Tell this little Missourian all about it."

"It did sound well, reeled off like that, didn't it?" he
observed, chuckling more at my air of eager curiosity than at his
own achievement.  "But it's absurdly easy, after all.  He is a
young man because his shoes are in the very latest, extreme, not
exclusive style.  He is five feet eight, because the size of his
foot goes with that height of man, which, by the way, is the
height of nine out of ten men, any way.  He doesn't live in New
York or he wouldn't be stopping at a hotel.  Besides, he would be
down-town at this hour, attending to business."

"Unless he has freak business hours, as you and I do," I put in.

"Yes, that might be.  But I still hold that he doesn't live in
New York, or he couldn't be staying at this Broadway hotel
overnight, and sending his shoes down to be shined at half-past
nine in the morning.  His sweetheart is five feet nine, for that
is the height of a tall girl.  I know she is tall, for she wears
a long skirt.  Short girls wear short skirts, which make them
look shorter still, and tall girls wear very long skirts, which
make them look taller."

"Why do they do that?" I inquired, greatly interested.

"I don't know.  You'll have to ask that of some one wiser than I.
But I know it's a fact.  A girl wouldn't be considered really
tall if less than five feet nine.  So I know that's her height.
She is his sweetheart, for no man would go from New York to
Brooklyn and bring a lady over here to the theatre, and then take
her home, and return to New York in the early hours of the
morning, if he were not in love with her.  I know she lives in
Brooklyn, for the paper says there was a heavy shower there last
night, while I know no rain fell in New York.  I know that they
were out in that rain, for her long skirt became muddy, and in
turn muddied the whole upper of his left shoe.  The fact that
only the left shoe is so soiled proves that he walked only at her
right side, showing that she must be deaf in her left ear, or he
would have walked part of the time on that side.  I know that
they went to the theatre in New York, because he is still
sleeping at this hour, and has sent his boots down to be cleaned,
instead of coming down with them on his feet to be shined here.
If he had been merely calling on the girl in Brooklyn, he would
have been home early, for they do not sit up late in that
borough.  I know they went to the theatre, instead of to the
opera or a ball, for they did not go in a cab, otherwise her
skirt would not have become muddied.  This, too, shows that she
wore a cloth skirt, and as his shoes are not patent leathers, it
is clear that neither was in evening dress."

I didn't try to get a verification of Fleming Stone's assertions;
I didn't want any.  Scores of times I had known him to make
similar deductions and in cases where we afterward learned the
facts, he was invariably correct.  So, though we didn't follow up
this matter, I was sure he was right, and, even if he hadn't
been, it would not have weighed heavily against his large
proportion of proved successes.

We separated then, as we took chairs at some distance from each
other, and, with a sigh of regret that I could never hope to go
far along the line in which Stone showed such proficiency, I
began to read my morning paper.

Fleming Stone left the place before I did, nodding a good-by as
he passed me, and a moment after, my own foot-gear being in
proper condition, I, too, went out, and went straight to my
office.

As I walked the short distance, my mind dwelt on Stone's
quick-witted work.  Again I wished that I possessed the kind of
intelligence that makes that sort of thing so easy.  Although
unusual, it is, after all, a trait of many minds, though often,
perhaps, unrecognized and undeveloped by its owner.  I dare say
it lies dormant in men who have never had occasion to realize its
value.  Indeed, it is of no continuous value to anyone but a
detective, and nine detectives out of ten do not possess it.

So I walked along, envying my friend Stone his gift, and reached
my office just at ten o'clock as was my almost invariable habit.

"Hurry up, Mr. Burroughs!" cried my office-boy, as I opened the
door.  "You're wanted on the telephone."

Though a respectful and well-mannered boy, some excitement had
made him a trifle unceremonious, and I looked at him curiously as
I took up the receiver.

But with the first words I heard, the office-boy was forgotten,
and my own nerves received a shock as I listened to the message.
It was from the Detective Bureau with which I was connected, and
the superintendent himself was directing me to go at once to West
Sedgwick, where a terrible crime had just been discovered.

"Killed!" I exclaimed; "Joseph Crawford?"

"Yes; murdered in his home in West Sedgwick.  The coroner
telephoned to send a detective at once and we want you to go."

"Of course I'll go.  Do you know any more details?"

"No; only that he was shot during the night and the body found
this morning.  Mr. Crawford was a big man, you know.  Go right
off, Mr. Burroughs; we want you to lose no time."

Yes; I knew Joseph Crawford by name, though not personally, and I
knew he was a big man in the business world, and his sudden death
would mean excitement in Wall Street matters.  Of his home, or
home-life, I knew nothing.

"I'll go right off," I assured the Chief, and turned away from
the telephone to find Donovan, the office-boy, already looking up
trains in a timetable.

"Good boy, Don," said I approvingly; "what's the next train to
West Sedgwick, and how long does it take to get there?"

"You kin s'lect the ten-twenty, Mr. Burruz, if you whirl over in
a taxi an' shoot the tunnel," said Donovan, who was rather a
graphic conversationalist.  "That'll spill you out at West
Sedgwick 'bout quarter of 'leven.  Was he moidered, Mr. Burruz?"

"So they tell me, Don.  His death will mean something in
financial circles."

"Yessir.  He was a big plute.  Here's your time-table, Mr.
Burruz.  When'll you be back?"

"Don't know, Don.  You look after things."

"Sure! everything'll be took care of.  Lemme know your orders
when you have 'em."

By means of the taxi Don had called and the tunnel route as he
had suggested, I caught the train, satisfied that I had obeyed
the Chief's orders to lose no time.

Lose no time indeed!  I was more anxious than any one else could
possibly be to reach the scene of the crime before significant
clues were obliterated or destroyed by bungling investigators.  I
had had experience with the police of suburban towns, and I well
knew their two principal types.  Either they were of a pompous,
dignified demeanor, which covered a bewildered ignorance, or else
they were overzealous and worked with a misdirected energy that
made serious trouble for an intelligent detective.  Of course, of
the two kinds I preferred the former, but the danger was that I
should encounter both.

On my way I diverted my mind, and so partly forgot my impatience,
by endeavoring to "deduce" the station or occupation of my fellow
passengers.

Opposite me in the tunnel train sat a mild-faced gentleman, and
from the general, appearance of his head and hat I concluded he
was a clergyman.  I studied him unostentatiously and tried to
find some indication of the denomination he might belong to, or
the character of his congregation, but as I watched, I saw him
draw a sporting paper from his pocket, and turning his hand, a
hitherto unseen diamond flashed brilliantly from his little
finger.  I hastily, revised my judgment, and turning slightly
observed the man who sat next me.  Determined to draw only
logical inferences, I scrutinized his coat, that garment being
usually highly suggestive to our best regulated detectives.  I
noticed that while the left sleeve was unworn and in good
condition, the right sleeve was frayed at the inside edge, and
excessively smooth and shiny on the inner forearm.  Also the top
button of the coat was very much worn, and the next one slightly.

"A-ha!" said I to myself, "I've nailed you, my friend.  You're a
desk-clerk, and you write all day long, standing at a desk.  The
worn top button rubs against your desk as you stand, which it
would not do were you seated."

With a pardonable curiosity to learn if I were right, I opened
conversation with the young man.  He was not unwilling to
respond, and after a few questions I learned, to my chagrin, that
he was a photographer.  Alas for my deductions!  But surely,
Fleming Stone himself would not have guessed a photographer from
a worn and shiny coat-sleeve.  At the risk of being rudely
personal, I made some reference to fashions in coats.  The young
man smiled and remarked incidentally, that owing to certain
circumstances he was at the moment wearing his brother's coat.

"And is your brother a desk clerk?" inquired I almost
involuntarily:

He gave me a surprised glance, but answered courteously enough,
"Yes;" and the conversation flagged.

Exultantly I thought that my deduction, though rather an obvious
one, was right; but after another furtive glance at the young
man, I realized that Stone would have known he was wearing
another's coat, for it was the most glaring misfit in every way.

Once more I tried, and directed my attention to a middle-aged,
angular-looking woman, whose strong, sharp-featured face
betokened a prim spinster, probably at the head of a girls'
school, or engaged in some clerical work.  However, as I passed
her on my way to leave the train I noticed a wedding-ring on her
hand, and heard her say to her companion, "No; I think a woman's
sphere is in her own kitchen and nursery.  How could I think
otherwise, with my six children to bring up?"  After these
lamentable failures, I determined not to trust much to deduction
in the case I was about to investigate, but to learn actual facts
from actual evidence.

I reached West Sedgwick, as Donovan had said, at quarter before
eleven.  Though I had never been there before, the place looked
quite as I had imagined it.  The railway station was one of those
modern attractive structures of rough gray stone, with
picturesque projecting roof and broad, clean platforms.  A flight
of stone steps led down to the roadway, and the landscape in
every direction showed the well-kept roads, the well-grown trees
and the carefully-tended estates of a town of suburban homes.
The citizens were doubtless mainly men whose business was in New
York, but who preferred not to live there.

The superintendent must have apprised the coroner by telephone of
my immediate arrival, for a village cart from the Crawford
establishment was awaiting me, and a smart groom approached and
asked if I were Mr. Herbert Burroughs.

A little disappointed at having no more desirable companion on my
way to the house, I climbed up beside the driver, and the groom
solemnly took his place behind.  Not curiosity, but a justifiable
desire to learn the main facts of the case as soon as possible,
led me to question the man beside me.

I glanced at him first and saw only the usual blank countenance
of the well-trained coachman.

His face was intelligent, and his eyes alert, but his impassive
expression showed his habit of controlling any indication of
interest in people or things.

I felt there would be difficulty in ingratiating myself at all,
but I felt sure that subterfuge would not help me, so I spoke
directly.

"You are the coachman of the late Mr. Crawford?"

"Yes, sir."

I hadn't really expected more than this in words, but his tone
was so decidedly uninviting of further conversation that I almost
concluded to say nothing more.  But the drive promised to be a
fairly long one, so I made another effort.

"As the detective on this case, I wish to hear the story of it as
soon as I can.  Perhaps you can give me a brief outline of what
happened."

It was perhaps my straightforward manner, and my quite apparent
assumption of his intelligence, that made the man relax a little
and reply in a more conversational tone.

"We're forbidden to chatter, sir," he said, "but, bein' as you're
the detective, I s'pose there's no harm.  But it's little we
know, after all.  The master was well and sound last evenin', and
this mornin' he was found dead in his own office-chair."

"You mean a private office in his home?"

"Yes, sir.  Mr. Crawford went to his office in New York 'most
every day, but days when he didn't go, and evenin's and Sundays,
he was much in his office at home, sir."

"Who discovered the tragedy?"

"I don't rightly know, sir, if it was Louis, his valet, or
Lambert, the butler, but it was one or t'other, sir."

"Or both together?" I suggested.

"Yes, sir; or both together."

"Is any one suspected of the crime?"

The man hesitated a moment, and looked as if uncertain what to
reply, then, as he set his jaw squarely, he said:

"Not as I knows on, sir."

"Tell me something of the town," I observed next, feeling that it
was better to ask no more vital questions of a servant.

We were driving along streets of great beauty.  Large and
handsome dwellings, each set in the midst of extensive and
finely-kept grounds, met the view on either aide.  Elaborate
entrances opened the way to wide sweeps of driveway circling
green velvety lawns adorned with occasional shrubs or
flower-beds.  The avenues were wide, and bordered with trees
carefully set out and properly trimmed.  The streets were in fine
condition, and everything betokened a community, not only
wealthy, but intelligent and public-spirited.  Surely West
Sedgwick was a delightful location for the homes of wealthy New
York business men.

"Well, sir," said the coachman, with unconcealed pride, "Mr.
Crawford was the head of everything in the place.  His is the
handsomest house and the grandest grounds.  Everybody respected
him and looked up to him.  He hadn't an enemy in the world."

This was an opening for further conjecture as to the murderer,
and I said: "But the man who killed him must have been his
enemy."

"Yes, sir; but I mean no enemy that anybody knew of.  It must
have been some burglar or intruder."

Though I wanted to learn such facts as the coachman might know,
his opinions did not interest me, and I again turned my attention
to the beautiful residences we were passing.

"That place over there," the man went on, pointing with his whip,
"is Mr. Philip Crawford's house--the brother of my master, sir.
Them red towers, sticking up through the trees, is the house of
Mr. Lemuel Porter, a great friend of both the Crawford brothers.
Next, on the left, is the home of Horace Hamilton, the great
electrician.  Oh, Sedgwick is full of well-known men, sir, but
Joseph Crawford was king of this town.  Nobody'll deny that."

I knew of Mr. Crawford's high standing in the city, and now,
learning of his local preeminence, I began to think I was about
to engage in what would probably be a very important case.




II

THE CRAWFORD HOUSE


"Here we are, sir," said the driver, as we turned in at a fine
stone gateway.  "This is the Joseph Crawford place."

He spoke with a sort of reverent pride, and I afterward learned
that his devotion to his late master was truly exceptional.

This probably prejudiced him in favor of the Crawford place and
all its appurtenances, for, to me, the estate was not so
magnificent as some of the others we had passed.  And yet, though
not so large, I soon realized that every detail of art or
architecture was perfect in its way, and that it was really a gem
of a country home to which I had been brought.

We drove along a curving road to the house, passing well-arranged
flower beds, and many valuable trees and shrubs.  Reaching the
porte cochere the driver stopped, and the groom sprang down to
hand me out.

As might be expected, many people were about.  Men stood talking
in groups on the veranda, while messengers were seen hastily
coming or going through the open front doors.

A waiting servant in the hall at once ushered me into a large
room.

The effect of the interior of the house impressed me pleasantly.
As I passed through the wide hall and into the drawing-room, I
was conscious of an atmosphere of wealth tempered by good taste
and judgment.

The drawing-room was elaborate, though not ostentatious, and
seemed well adapted as a social setting for Joseph Crawford and
his family.  It should have been inhabited by men and women in
gala dress and with smiling society manners.

It was therefore a jarring note when I perceived its only
occupant to be a commonplace looking man, in an ill-cut and
ill-fitting business suit.  He came forward to greet me, and his
manner was a trifle pompous as he announced, "My name is Monroe,
and I am the coroner.  You, I think, are Mr. Burroughs, from New
York."

It was probably not intentional, and may have been my
imagination, but his tone seemed to me amusingly patronizing.

"Yes, I am Mr. Burroughs," I said, and I looked at Mr. Monroe
with what I hoped was an expression that would assure him that
our stations were at least equal.

I fear I impressed him but slightly, for he went on to tell me
that he knew of my reputation as a clever detective, and had
especially desired my attendance on this case.  This sentiment
was well enough, but he still kept up his air and tone of
patronage, which however amused more than irritated me.

I knew the man by hearsay, though we had never met before; and I
knew that he was of a nature to be pleased with his own
prominence as coroner, especially in the case of so important a
man as Joseph Crawford.

So I made allowance for this harmless conceit on his part, and
was even willing to cater to it a little by way of pleasing him.
He seemed to me a man, honest, but slow of thought; rather
practical and serious, and though overvaluing his own importance,
yet not opinionated or stubborn.

"Mr. Burroughs," he said, "I'm very glad you could get here so
promptly; for the case seems to me a mysterious one, and the
value of immediate investigation cannot be overestimated."

"I quite agree with you," I returned.  "And now will you tell me
the principal facts, as you know them, or will you depute some
one else to do so?"

"I am even now getting a jury together," he said, "and so you
will be able to hear all that the witnesses may say in their
presence.  In the meantime, if you wish to visit the scene of the
crime, Mr. Parmalee will take you there."

At the sound of his name, Mr. Parmalee stepped forward and was
introduced to me.  He proved to be a local detective, a young man
who always attended Coroner Monroe on occasions like the present;
but who, owing to the rarity of such occasions in West Sedgwick,
had had little experience in criminal investigation.

He was a young man of the type often seen among Americans.  He
was very fair, with a pink complexion, thin, yellow hair and weak
eyes.  His manner was nervously alert, and though he often began
to speak with an air of positiveness, he frequently seemed to
weaken, and wound up his sentences in a floundering uncertainty.

He seemed to be in no way jealous of my presence there, and
indeed spoke to me with an air of comradeship.

Doubtless I was unreasonable, but I secretly resented this.
However I did not show my resentment and endeavored to treat Mr.
Parmalee as a friend and co-worker.

The coroner had left us together, and we stood in the
drawing-room, talking, or rather he talked and I listened.  Upon
acquaintance he seemed to grow more attractive.  He was impulsive
and jumped at conclusions, but he seemed to have ideas, though
they were rarely definitely expressed.

He told me as much as he knew of the details of the affair and
proposed that we go directly to the scene of the crime.

As this was what I was impatient to do, I consented.

"You see, it's this way," he said, in a confidential whisper, as
we traversed the long hall: "there is no doubt in any one's mind
as to who committed the murder, but no name has been mentioned
yet, and nobody wants to be the first to say that name.  It'll
come out at the inquest, of course, and then--"

"But," I interrupted, "if the identity of the murderer is so
certain, why did they send for me in such haste?"

"Oh, that was the coroner's doing.  He's a bit inclined to the
spectacular, is Monroe, and he wants to make the whole affair as
important as possible."

"But surely, Mr. Parmalee, if you are certain of the criminal it
is very absurd for me to take up the case at all."

"Oh, well, Mr. Burroughs, as I say, no name has been spoken yet.
And, too, a big case like this ought to have a city detective on
it.  Even if you only corroborate what we all feel sure of, it
will prove to the public mind that it must be so."

"Tell me then, who is your suspect?"

"Oh, no, since you are here you had better investigate with an
unprejudiced mind.  Though you cannot help arriving at the
inevitable conclusion."

We had now reached a closed door, and, at Mr. Parmalee's tap,
were admitted by the inspector who was in charge of the room.

It was a beautiful apartment, far too rich and elaborate to be
designated by the name of "office," as it was called by every one
who spoke of it; though of course it was Mr. Crawford's office,
as was shown by the immense table-desk of dark mahogany, and all
the other paraphernalia of a banker's work-room, from ticker to
typewriter.

But the decorations of walls and ceilings, the stained glass of
the windows, the pictures, rugs, and vases, all betokened
luxurious tastes that are rarely indulged in office furnishings.
The room was flooded with sunlight.  Long French windows gave
access to a side veranda, which in turn led down to a beautiful
terrace and formal garden.  But all these things were seen only
in a hurried glance, and then my eyes fell on the tragic figure
in the desk chair.

The body had not been moved, and would not be until after the
jury had seen it, and though a ghastly sight, because of a
bullet-hole in the left temple, otherwise it looked much as Mr.
Crawford must have looked in life.

A handsome man, of large physique and strong, stern face, he must
have been surprised, and killed instantly; for surely, given the
chance, he would have lacked neither courage nor strength to
grapple with an assailant.

I felt a deep impulse of sympathy for that splendid specimen of
humanity, taken unawares, without having been given a moment in
which to fight for his life, and yet presumably seeing his
murderer, as he seemed to have been shot directly from the front.

As I looked at that noble face, serene and dignified in its death
pallor, I felt glad that my profession was such as might lead to
the avenging of such a detestable crime.

And suddenly I had a revulsion of feeling against such petty
methods as deductions from trifling clues.

Moreover I remembered my totally mistaken deductions of that very
morning.  Let other detectives learn the truth by such claptrap
means if they choose.  This case was too large and too serious to
be allowed to depend on surmises so liable to be mistaken.  No, I
would search for real evidence, human testimony, reliable
witnesses, and so thorough, systematic, and persevering should my
search be, that I would finally meet with success.

"Here's the clue," said Parmelee's voice, as he grasped my arm
and turned me in another direction.

He pointed to a glittering article on the large desk.

It was a woman's purse, or bag, of the sort known as "gold-mesh."
Perhaps six inches square, it bulged as if overcrowded with some
feminine paraphernalia.

"It's Miss Lloyd's," went on Parmalee.  "She lives here, you know
--Mr. Crawford's niece.  She's lived here for years and years."

"And you suspect her?" I said, horrified.

"Well, you see, she's engaged to Gregory Hall he's Mr. Crawford's
secretary--and Mr. Crawford didn't approve of the match; and so--"

He shrugged his shoulders in a careless fashion, as if for a
woman to shoot her uncle were an everyday affair.

But I was shocked and incredulous, and said so.

"Where is Miss Lloyd?" I asked.  "Does she claim ownership of
this gold bag?"

"No; of course not," returned Parmalee.  "She's no fool, Florence
Lloyd isn't!  She's locked in her room and won't come out.  Been
there all the morning.  Her maid says this isn't Miss Lloyd's
bag, but of course she'd say that."

"Well, that question ought to be easily settled.  What's in the
bag?"

"Look for yourself.  Monroe and I ran through the stuff, but
there's nothing to say for sure whose bag it is."

I opened the pretty bauble, and let the contents fall out on the
desk.

A crumpled handkerchief, a pair of white kid gloves, a little
trinket known as a "vanity case," containing a tiny mirror and a
tinier powder puff; a couple of small hair-pins, a newspaper
clipping, and a few silver coins were all that rewarded my
trouble.

Nothing definite, indeed, and yet I knew if Fleming Stone could
look at the little heap of feminine belongings, he would at once
tell the fair owner's age, height, and weight, if not her name
and address.

I had only recently assured myself that such deductions were of
little or no use, and yet, I could not help minutely examining
the pretty trifles lying on the desk.  I scrutinized the
handkerchief for a monogram or an initial, but it had none.  It
was dainty, plain and fine, of sheer linen, with a narrow hem.
To me it indicated an owner of a refined, feminine type, and
absolutely nothing more.  I couldn't help thinking that even
Fleming Stone could not infer any personal characteristics of the
lady from that blank square of linen.

The vanity case I knew to be a fad of fashionable women, and had
that been monogrammed, it might have proved a clue.  But, though
pretty, it was evidently not of any great value, and was merely
such a trifle as the average woman would carry about.

And yet I felt exasperated that with so many articles to study, I
could learn nothing of the individual to whom they belonged.  The
gloves were hopeless.  Of a good quality and a medium size, they
seemed to tell me nothing.  They were but slightly soiled, and
apparently might have been worn once or twice.  They had never
been cleaned, as the inside showed no scrawled hieroglyphics.
But all of these conclusions pointed nowhere save to the average
well-groomed American woman.

The hair-pins and the silver money were equally bare of
suggestion, but I hopefully picked up the bit of newspaper.

"Surely this newspaper clipping must throw some light," I mused,
but it proved to be only the address of a dyeing and cleaning
establishment in New York City.

"This is being taken care of?" I said, and the burly inspector,
who up to now had not spoken, said:

"Yes, sir!  Nobody touches a thing in this: room while I'm here.
You, sir, are of course an exception, but no one else is allowed
to meddle with anything."

This reminded me that as the detective in charge of this case, it
was my privilege--indeed, my duty--to examine the papers and
personal effects that were all about, in an effort to gather
clues for future use.

I was ignorant of many important details, and turned to Parmelee
for information.

That young man however, though voluble, was, inclined to talk on
only one subject, the suspected criminal, Miss Florence Lloyd.

"You see, it must be her bag.  Because who else could have left
it here?  Mrs. Pierce, the only other lady in the house, doesn't
carry a youngish bag like that.  She'd have a black leather bag,
more likely, or a -- or a --"

"Well, it really doesn't matter what kind of a bag Mrs. Pierce
would carry," said I, a little impatiently; "the thing is to
prove whether this is Miss Lloyd's bag or not.  And as it is
certainly not a matter of conjecture, but a matter of fact, I
think we may leave it for the present, and turn our attention to
other matters."

I could see that Parmalee was disappointed that I had made no
startling deductions from my study of the bag and its contents,
and, partly owing to my own chagrin at this state of affairs, I
pretended to consider the bag of little consequence, and turned
hopefully to an investigation of the room.

The right-hand upper drawer of the double-pedestalled desk was
open.  Seemingly, Mr. Crawford had been engaged with its contents
during the latter moments of his life.

At a glance, I saw the drawer contained exceedingly valuable and
important papers.

With an air of authority, intentionally exaggerated for the
purpose of impressing Parmalee, I closed the drawer, and locked
it with the key already in the keyhole.

This key was one of several on a key-ring, and, taking it from
its place, I dropped the whole bunch in my pocket.  This action
at once put me in my rightful place.  The two men watching me
unconsciously assumed a more deferential air, and, though they
said nothing, I could see that their respect for my authority had
increased.

Strangely enough, after this episode, a new confidence in my own
powers took possession of me, and, shaking off the apathy that
had come over me at sight of that dread figure in the chair, I
set methodically to work to examine the room.

Of course I noted the position of the furniture, the state of the
window-fastenings, and such things in a few moments.  The many
filing cabinets and indexed boxes, I glanced at, and locked those
that had keys or fastenings.

The inspector sat with folded hands watching me with interest but
saying nothing.  Parmalee, on the other hand, kept up a running
conversation, sometimes remarking lightly on my actions, and
again returning to the subject of Miss Lloyd.

"I can see," he said, "that you naturally dislike to suspect a
woman, and a young woman too.  But you don't know Miss Lloyd.
She is haughty and wilful.  And as I told you, nobody has
mentioned her yet in this connection.  But I am speaking to you
alone, and I have no reason to mince matters.  And you know
Florence Lloyd is not of the Crawford stock.  The Crawfords are a
fine old family, and not one of them could be capable of crime.
But Miss Lloyd is on the other side of the house, a niece of Mrs.
Crawford; and I've heard that the Lloyd stock is not all that
could be desired.  There is a great deal in heredity, and she may
not be responsible . . ." 

I paid little attention to Parmalee's talk, which was thrown at
me in jerky, desultory sentences, and interested me not at all.
I went on with my work of investigation, and though I did not get
down on my knees and examine every square inch of the carpet with
a lens, yet I thoroughly examined all of the contents of the
room.  I regret to say, however, that I found nothing that seemed
to be a clue to the murderer.

Stepping out on the veranda, I looked for footprints.  The "light
snow" usually so helpful to a detective had not fallen, as it was
April, and rather warm for the season.  But I found many heel
marks, apparently of men's boots; yet they were not necessarily
of very recent date, and I don't think much of foot-print clues,
anyhow.

Then I examined the carpet, or, rather, the several rugs which
ornamented the beautiful polished floor.

I found nothing but two petals of a pale yellow rose.  They were
crumpled, but not dry or withered, and could not have been long
detached from the blossom on which they grew.

Parmalee chanced to have his back toward me as I spied them, and
I picked them up and put them away in my pocket-book without his
knowledge.  If the stolid inspector saw me, he made no sign.
Indeed, I think he would have said nothing if I had carried off
the big desk itself.  I looked round the room for a bouquet or
vase of flowers from which the petals might have fallen, but none
was there.

This far I had progressed when I heard steps in the hall, and a
moment later the coroner ushered the six gentlemen of his jury
into the room.




III

THE CORONER'S JURY


It was just as the men came in at the door, that I chanced to
notice a newspaper that lay on a small table.  I picked it up
with an apparent air of carelessness, and, watching my chance,
unobserved by Parmalee, I put the paper away in a drawer, which I
locked.

The six men, whom Coroner Monroe named over to me, by way of a
brief introduction, stepped silently as they filed past the body
of their late friend and neighbor.

For the jurymen had been gathered hastily from among the citizens
of West Sedgwick who chanced to be passing; and as it was after
eleven o'clock, they were, for the most part, men of leisure, and
occupants of the handsome homes in the vicinity.

Probably none of them had ever before been called to act on a
coroner's jury, and all seemed impressed with the awfulness of
the crime, as well as imbued with a personal sense of sorrow.

Two of the jurors had been mentioned to me by name, by the
coachman who brought me from the station.  Horace Hamilton and
Lemuel Porter were near-by neighbors of the murdered man, and; I
judged from their remarks, were rather better acquainted with him
than were the others.

Mr. Hamilton was of the short, stout, bald-headed type, sometimes
called aldermanic.  It was plainly to be seen that his was a
jocund nature, and the awe which he felt in this dreadful
presence of death, though clearly shown on his rubicund face, was
evidently a rare emotion with him.  He glanced round the room as
if expecting to see everything there materially changed, and
though he looked toward the figure of Mr. Crawford now and then,
it was with difficulty, and he averted his eyes as quickly as
possible.  He was distinctly nervous, and though he listened to
the remarks of Coroner Monroe and the other jurors, he seemed
impatient to get away.

Mr. Porter, in appearance, was almost the exact reverse of Mr.
Hamilton.  He was a middle-aged man with the iron gray hair and
piercing dark eyes that go to make up what is perhaps the
handsomest type of Americans.  He was a tall man, strong, lean
and sinewy, with a bearing of dignity and decision.  Both these
men were well-dressed to the point of affluence, and, as near
neighbor and intimate friends of the dead man, they seemed to
prefer to stand together and a little apart from the rest.

Three more of the jurors seemed to me not especially noticeable
in any way.  They looked as one would expect property owners in
West Sedgwick to look.  They listened attentively to what Mr.
Monroe said, asked few or no questions, and seemed appalled at
the unusual task they had before them.

Only one juror impressed me unpleasantly.  That was Mr. Orville,
a youngish man, who seemed rather elated at the position in which
he found himself.  He fingered nearly everything on the desk; he
peered carefully into the face of the victim of the crime, and he
somewhat ostentatiously made notes in a small Russia leather
memorandum book.

He spoke often to the coroner, saying things which seemed to me
impertinent, such as, "Have you noticed the blotter, Mr. Coroner?
Very often, you know, much may be learned from the blotter on a
man's desk."

As the large blotter in question was by no means fresh, indeed
was thickly covered with ink impressions, and as there was
nothing to indicate that Mr. Crawford had been engaged in writing
immediately before his death, Mr. Orville's suggestion was
somewhat irrelevant.  And, too, the jurors were not detectives
seeking clues, but were now merely learning the known facts.

However, Mr. Orville fussed around, even looking into the
wastebasket, and turning up a corner of a large rug as if
ferreting for evidence.

The others exhibited no such minute curiosity, and, after a few
moments, they followed the coroner out of the room.

Then the doctor and his assistants came to take the body away,
and I went in search of Coroner Monroe, eager for further
information concerning the case, of which I really, as yet, knew
but little.

Parmalee went with me and we found Mr. Monroe in the library,
quite ready to talk with us.

"Mr. Orville seems to possess the detective instinct himself,"
observed Mr. Parmalee, with what seemed like a note of jealousy
in his tone.

"The true detective mind," returned Mr. Monroe, with his slow
pomposity, "is not dependent on instinct or intuition."

"Oh, I think it is largely dependent on that," I said, "or where
does it differ from the ordinary inquiring mind?"

"I'm sure you will agree with me, Mr. Burroughs," the coroner
went on, almost as if I had not spoken, "that it depends upon a
nicely adjusted mentality that is quick to see the cause back of
an effect."

To me this seemed a fair definition of intuition, but there was
something in the unctuous roll of Mr. Monroe's words that made me
positive he was quoting his somewhat erudite speech, and had not
himself a perfectly clear comprehension of its meaning.

"It's guessing," declared Parmalee, "that's all it is, guessing.
If you guess right, you're a famous detective; if you guess
wrong, you're a dub.  That's all there is about it."

"No, no, Mr. Parmalee,"--and Mr. Monroe slowly shook his finger
at the rash youth--"what you call guessing is really divination.
Yes, my dear sir, it is actual divination."

"To my mind," I put in, "detective divination is merely minute
observation.  But why do we quibble over words and definitions
when there is much work to be done?  When is the formal inquest
to be held, Mr. Monroe?"

"This afternoon at two o'clock," he replied.

"Then I'll go away now," I said, "for I must find an abiding
place for myself in West Sedgwick.  There is an inn, I suppose."

"They'll probably ask you to stay here," observed Coroner Monroe,
"but I advise you not to do so.  I think you'll be freer and less
hampered in your work if you go to the inn."

"I quite agree with you," I replied.  "But I see little chance of
being invited to stay here.  Where is the family?  Who are in
it?"

"Not many.  There is Miss Florence Lloyd, a niece of Mr.
Crawford.  That is, she is the niece of his wife.  Mrs. Crawford
has been dead many years, and Miss Lloyd has kept house for her
uncle all that time.  Then there is Mrs. Pierce, an elderly lady
and a distant relative of Mr. Crawford's.  That is all, except
the secretary, Gregory Hall, who lives here much of the time.
That is, he has a room here, but often he is in New York or
elsewhere on Mr. Crawford's business."

"Mr. Crawford had an office both here and in New York?" I asked.

"Yes; and of late years he has stayed at home as much as
possible.  He went to New York only about three or four days in
the week, and conducted his business from here the rest of the
time.  Young Hall is a clever fellow, and has been Mr. Crawford's
righthand man for years."

"Where is he now?"

"We think he's in New York, but haven't yet been able to locate
him at Mr. Crawford's office there, or at his club.  He is
engaged to Miss Lloyd, though I understand that the engagement is
contrary to Mr. Crawford's wishes."

"And where is Miss Lloyd,--and Mrs. Pierce?"

"They are both in their rooms.  Mrs. Pierce is prostrated at the
tragedy, and Miss Lloyd simply refuses to make her appearance."

"But she'll have to attend the inquest?"

"Oh, yes, of course.  She'll be with us then.  I think I won't
say anything about her to you, as I'd rather you'd see her first
with entirely unprejudiced eyes."

"So you, too, think Miss Lloyd is implicated?"

"I don't think anything about it, Mr. Burroughs.  As coroner it
is not my place to think along such lines."

"Well, everybody else thinks so," broke in Parmalee.  "And why?
Because there's no one else for suspicion to light on.  No one
else who by any possibility could have done the deed."

"Oh, come now, Mr. Parmalee," said I, "there must be others.
They may not yet have come to our notice, but surely you must
admit an intruder could have come into the room by way of those
long, open windows."

"These speculations are useless, gentlemen," said Mr. Monroe,
with his usual air of settling the matter.  "Cease then, I beg,
or at least postpone them.  If you are walking down the avenue,
Mr. Parmalee, perhaps you'll be good enough to conduct Mr.
Burroughs to the Sedgwick Arms, where he doubtless can find
comfortable accommodations."

I thanked Mr. Monroe for the suggestion, but said,
straightforwardly enough, that I was not yet quite ready to leave
the Crawford house, but that I would not detain Mr. Parmalee, for
I could myself find my way to the inn, having noticed it on my
drive from the train.

So Parmalee went away, and I was about to return to Mr.
Crawford's office where I hoped to pursue a little uninterrupted
investigation.

But Mr. Monroe detained me a moment, to present me to a tall,
fine-looking man who had just come in.

He proved to be Philip Crawford, a brother of Joseph, and I at
once observed a strong resemblance between their two faces.

"I am glad to meet you, Mr. Burroughs," he said.  "Mr. Monroe
tells me you are a clever and experienced detective, and I trust
you can help us to avenge this dastardly crime.  I am busy with
some important matters just now, but later I shall be glad to
confer with you, and be of any help I can in your investigation."

I looked at Mr. Philip Crawford curiously.  Of course I didn't
expect him to give way to emotional grief, but it jarred on me to
hear him refer to his brother's tragic death in such cold tones,
and with such a businesslike demeanor.

However, I realized I did not know the man at all, and this
attitude might be due to his effort in concealing his real
feelings.

He looked very like his brother Joseph, and I gathered from the
appearance of both men, and the manner of Philip, that the
Crawford nature was one of repression and self-control.
Moreover, I knew nothing of the sentiments of the two brothers,
and it might easily be that they were not entirely in sympathy.

I thanked him for his offer of help, and then as he volunteered
no further observations, I excused myself and proceeded alone to
the library.

As I entered the great room and closed the door behind me, I was
again impressed by the beauty and luxury of the appointments.
Surely Joseph Crawford must have been a man of fine calibre and
refined tastes to enjoy working in such an atmosphere.  But I had
only two short hours before the inquest, and I had many things to
do, so for the moment I set myself assiduously to work examining
the room again.  As in my first examination, I did no microscopic
scrutinizing; but I looked over the papers on and in the desk, I
noted conditions in the desk of Mr. Hall, the secretary, and I
paid special attention to the position of the furniture and
windows, my thoughts all directed to an intruder from outside on
Mr. Crawford's midnight solitude.

I stepped through the long French window on to the veranda, and
after a thorough examination of the veranda, I went on down the
steps to the gravel walk.  Against a small rosebush, just off the
walk, I saw a small slip of pink paper.  I picked it up, hardly
daring to hope it might be a clue, and I saw it was a trolley
transfer, whose punched holes indicated that it had been issued
the evening before.  It might or might not be important as
evidence, but I put it carefully away in my note-book for later
consideration.

Returning to the library I took the newspaper which I had earlier
discovered from the drawer where I had hidden it, and after one
more swift but careful glance round the room, I went away,
confident that I had not done my work carelessly.

I left the Crawford house and walked along the beautiful avenue
to the somewhat pretentious inn bearing the name of Sedgwick
Arms.

Here, as I had been led to believe, I found pleasant, even
luxurious accommodations.  The landlord of the inn was smiling
and pleasant, although landlord seems an old-fashioned term to
apply to the very modern and up-to-date man who received me.

His name was Carstairs, and he had the genial, perceptive manner
of a man about town.

"Dastardly shame!" he exclaimed, after he had assured himself of
my identity.  "Joseph Crawford was one of our best citizens, one
of our finest men.  He hadn't an enemy in the world, my dear Mr.
Burroughs--not an enemy! generous, kindly nature, affable and
friendly with all."

"But I understand he frowned on his ward's love affair, Mr.
Carstairs."

"Yes; yes, indeed.  And who wouldn't?  Young Hall is no fit mate
for Florence Lloyd.  He's a fortune-hunter.  I know the man, and
his only ambition is the aggrandizement of his own precious
self."

"Then you don't consider Miss Lloyd concerned in this crime?"

"Concerned in crime?  Florence Lloyd! why, man, you must be
crazy!  The idea is unthinkable!"

I was sorry I had spoken, but I remembered too late that the
suspicions which pointed toward Miss Lloyd were probably known
only to those who had been in the Crawford house that morning.
As for the townspeople in general, though they knew of the
tragedy, they knew very little of its details.

I hastened to assure Mr. Carstairs that I had never seen Miss
Lloyd, that I had formed no opinions whatever, and that I was
merely repeating what were probably vague and erroneous
suspicions of mistakenly-minded people.

At last, behind my locked door, I took from my pocket the
newspaper I had brought from Mr. Crawford's office.

It seemed to me important, from the fact that it was an extra,
published late the night before.

An Atlantic liner had met with a serious accident, and an extra
had been hastily put forth by one of the most enterprising of our
evening papers.  I, myself, had bought one of these extras, about
midnight; and the finding of a copy in the office of the murdered
man might prove a clue to the criminal.

I then examined carefully the transfer slip I had picked up on
the Crawford lawn.  It had been issued after nine o'clock the
evening before.  This seemed to me to prove that the holder of
that transfer must have been on the Crawford property and near
the library veranda late last night, and it seemed to me that
this was plain common-sense reasoning, and not mere intuition or
divination.  The transfer might have a simple and innocent
explanation, but until I could learn of that, I should hold it
carefully as a possible clue.




IV

THE INQUEST


Shortly before two o'clock I was back at the Crawford house and
found the large library, where the inquest was to be held,
already well filled with people.  I took an inconspicuous seat,
and turned my attention first to the group that comprised,
without a doubt, the members of Mr. Crawford's household.

Miss Lloyd--for I knew at a glance the black-robed young woman
must be she--was of a striking personality.  Tall, large,
handsome, she could have posed as a model for Judith, Zenobia, or
any of the great and powerful feminine characters in history.  I
was impressed not so much by her beauty as by her effect of power
and ability.  I had absolutely no reason, save Parmalee's
babblings, to suspect this woman of crime, but I could not rid
myself of a conviction that she had every appearance of being
capable of it.

Yet her face was full of contradictions.  The dark eyes were
haughty, even imperious; but the red, curved mouth had a tender
expression, and the chin, though firm and decided-looking, yet
gave an impression of gentleness.

On the whole, she fascinated me by the very mystery of her charm,
and I found my eyes involuntarily returning again and again to
that beautiful face.

She was dressed in a black, trailing gown of material which I
think is called China crepe.  It fell around her in soft waving
folds and lay in little billows on the floor.  Her dark hair was
dressed high on her head, and seemed to form a sort of crown
which well suited her regal type.  She held her head high, and
the uplift of her chin seemed to be a natural characteristic.

Good birth and breeding spoke in every phase of her personality,
and in her every movement and gesture.  I remembered Parmalee's
hint of unworthy ancestors, and cast it aside as impossible of
belief.  She spoke seldom, but occasionally turned to the lady at
her side with a few murmured words that were indubitably those of
comfort or encouragement.

Her companion, a gray-haired, elderly lady, was, of course, Mrs.
Pierce.  She was trembling with the excitement of the occasion,
and seemed to depend on Florence Lloyd's strong personality and
affectionate sympathy to keep her from utter collapse.

Mrs. Pierce was of the old school of gentlewomen.  Her quiet,
black gown with its crepe trimmings, gave, even to my masculine
eye an effect of correct and fashionable, yet quiet and
unostentatious mourning garb.

She had what seemed to me a puzzling face.  It did not suggest
strength of character, for the soft old cheeks and quivering lips
indicated no strong self-control, and yet from her sharp, dark
eyes she now and again darted glances that were unmistakably
those of a keen and positive personality.

I concluded that hers was a strong nature, but shaken to its
foundation by the present tragedy.  There was, without doubt, a
great affection existing between her and Miss Lloyd, and yet I
felt that they were not in each other's complete confidence.

Though, for that matter, I felt intuitively that few people
possessed the complete confidence of Florence Lloyd.  Surely she
was a wonderful creature, and as I again allowed myself to gaze
on her beautiful face I was equally convinced of the possibility
of her committing a crime and the improbability of her doing so.

Near these two sat a young man who, I was told, was Gregory Hall,
the secretary.  He had been reached by telephone, and had come
out from New York, arriving shortly after I had left the Crawford
house.

Mr. Hall was what may be termed the average type of young
American citizens.  He was fairly good-looking, fairly
well-groomed, and so far as I could judge from his demeanor,
fairly well-bred.  His dark hair was commonplace, and parted on
the side, while his small, carefully arranged mustache was
commonplace also.  He looked exactly what he was, the trusted
secretary of a financial magnate, and he seemed to me a man whose
dress, manner, and speech would always be made appropriate to the
occasion or situation.  In fact, so thoroughly did he exhibit
just such a demeanor as suited a confidential secretary at the
inquest of his murdered employer, that I involuntarily thought
what a fine undertaker he would have made.  For, in my
experience, no class of men so perfectly adapt themselves to
varying atmospheres as undertakers.

Philip Crawford and his son, an athletic looking young chap, were
also in this group.  Young Crawford inherited to a degree the
fine appearance of his father and uncle, and bade fair to become
the same kind of a first-class American citizen as they.

Behind these people, the ones most nearly interested in the
procedure, were gathered the several servants of the house.

Lambert, the butler, was first interviewed.

The man was a somewhat pompous, middle-aged Englishman, and
though of stolid appearance, his face showed what might perhaps
be described as an intelligent stupidity.

After a few formal questions as to his position in the household,
the coroner asked him to tell his own story of the early morning.

In a more clear and concise way than I should have thought the
man capable of, he detailed his discovery of his master's body.

"I came down-stairs at seven this morning," he said, "as I always
do.  I opened the house, I saw the cook a few moments about
matters pertaining to breakfast, and I attended to my usual
duties.  At about half-past seven I went to Mr. Crawford's
office, to set it in order for the day, and as I opened the door
I saw him sitting in his chair.  At first I thought he'd dropped
asleep there, and been there all night, then in a moment I saw
what had happened."

"Well, what did you do next?" asked the coroner, as the man
paused.

"I went in search of Louis, Mr. Crawford's valet.  He was just
coming down the stairs.  He looked surprised, for he said Mr.
Crawford was not in his room, and his bed hadn't been slept in."

"Did he seem alarmed?"

"No, sir.  Not knowing what I knew, he didn't seemed alarmed.
But he seemed agitated, for of course it was most unusual not
finding Mr. Crawford in his own room."

"How did Louis show his agitation?" broke in Mr. Orville.

"Well, sir, perhaps he wasn't to say agitated,--he looked more
blank, yes, as you might say, blank."

"Was he trembling?" persisted Mr. Orville, "was he pale?" and the
coroner frowned slightly at this juror's repeated
inquisitiveness.

"Louis is always pale," returned the butler, seeming to make an
effort to speak the exact truth.

"Then of course you couldn't judge of his knowledge of the
matter," Mr. Orville said, with an air of one saying something of
importance.

"He had no knowledge of the matter, if you mean Mr. Crawford's
death," said Lambert, looking disturbed and a little bewildered.

"Tell your own story, Lambert," said Coroner Monroe, rather
crisply.  "We'll hear what Louis has to say later."

"Well, sir, then I took Louis to the office, and we both saw the
--the accident, and we wondered what to do.  I was for
telephoning right off to Doctor Fairchild, but Louis said first
we'd better tell Miss Florence about it."

"And did you?"

"We went out in the hall, and just then Elsa, Miss Lloyd's maid,
was on the stairs.  So we told her, and told her to tell Miss
Lloyd, and ask her for orders.  Well, her orders was for us to
call up Doctor Fairchild, and so we did.  He came as soon as he
could, and he's been in charge ever since, sir."

"A straightforward story, clearly told," observed the coroner,
and then he called upon Louis, the valet.  This witness, a young
Frenchman, was far more nervous and excited than the
calm-mannered butler, but the gist of his story corroborated
Lambert's.

Asked if he was not called upon to attend his master at bedtime,
he replied

"Non, M'sieu; when Monsieur Crawford sat late in his library, or
his office, he dismiss me and say I may go to bed, or whatever I
like.  Almost alway he tell me that."

"And he told you this last night?"

"But yes.  When I lay out his clothes for dinner, he then tell me
so."

Although the man seemed sure enough of his statements he was
evidently troubled in his mind.  It might have been merely that
his French nature was more excitable than the stolid indifference
of the English butler.  But at the same time I couldn't help
feeling that the man had not told all he knew.  This was merely
surmise on my part, and I could not persuade myself that there
was enough ground for it to call it even an intuition.  So I
concluded it best to ask no questions of the valet at present,
but to look into his case later.

Parmalee, however, seemed to have concluded differently.  He
looked at Louis with an intent gaze as he said, "Had your master
said or done anything recently to make you think he was
despondent or troubled in any way?"

"No, sir," said the man; but the answer was not spontaneous, and
Louis's eyes rolled around with an expression of fear.  I was
watching him closely myself, and I could not help seeing that
against his will his glance sought always Florence Lloyd, and
though he quickly averted it, he was unable to refrain from
furtive, fleeting looks in her direction.

"Do you know anything more of this matter than you have told us?"
inquired the coroner of the witness.

"No, sir," replied Louis, and this time he spoke as with more
certainty.  "After Lambert and I came out of Mr. Crawford's
office, we did just exactly as Lambert has tell you."

"That's all, Louis . . . .  But, Lambert, one other matter.  Tell
us all you know of Mr. Joseph Crawford's movements last evening."

"He was at dinner, as usual, sir," said the butler, in his
monotonous drawl.  "There were no guests, only the family.  After
dinner Mr. Crawford went out for a time.  He returned about nine
o'clock.  I saw him come in, with his own key, and I saw him go
to his office.  Soon after Mr. Porter called."

"Mr. Lemuel Porter?" asked the coroner.

"Yes, sir," said the butler; and Mr. Porter, who was one of the
jurors, gravely nodded his head in acquiescence.

"He stayed until about ten, I should say," went on the butler,
and again Mr. Porter gave an affirmative nod.  "I let him out
myself," went on Lambert, "and soon after that I went to the
library to see if Mr. Crawford had any orders for me.  He told me
of some household matters he wished me to attend to to-day, and
then he said he would sit up for some time longer, and I might go
to bed if I liked.  A very kind and considerate man, sir, was Mr.
Crawford."

"And did you then go to bed?"

"Yes, sir.  I locked up all the house, except the office.  Mr.
Crawford always locks those windows himself, when he sits up
late.  The ladies had already gone to their rooms; Mr. Hall was
away for the night, so I closed up the front of the house, and
went to bed.  That's all I know about the matter, sir--until I
came down-stairs this morning."

"You heard no sound in the night--no revolver shot?"

"No, sir.  But my room is on the third floor, and at the other
end of the house, sir.  I couldn't hear a shot fired in the
office, I'm sure, sir."

"And you found no weapon of any sort in the office this morning?"

"No, sir; Louis and I both looked for that, but there was none in
the room.  Of that I'm sure, sir."

"That will do, Lambert."

"Yes, sir; thank you, sir."

"One moment," said I, wishing to know the exact condition of the
house at midnight.  "You say, Lambert, you closed up the front of
the house.  Does that mean there was a back door open?"

"It means I locked the front door, sir, and put the chain on.
The library door opening on to the veranda I did not lock, for,
as I said, Mr. Crawford always locks that and the windows in
there when he is there late.  The back door I left on the night
latch, as Louis was spending the evening out."

"Oh, Louis was spending the evening out, was he?" exclaimed Mr.
Orville.  "I think that should be looked into, Mr. Coroner.
Louis said nothing of this in his testimony."

Coroner Monroe turned again to Louis and asked him where he was
the evening before.

The man was now decidedly agitated, but by an effort he
controlled himself and answered steadily enough:

"I have tell you that Mr. Crawford say I may go wherever I like.
And so, last evening I spend with a young lady."

"At what time did you go out?"

"At half after the eight, sir."

"And what time did you return?"

"I return about eleven."

"And did you then see a light in Mr. Crawford's office?"

Louis hesitated a moment.  It could easily be seen that he was
pausing only to enable himself to speak naturally and clearly,
but it was only after one of those darting glances at Miss Lloyd
that he replied:

"I could not see Mr. Crawford's office, because I go around the
other side of the house.  I make my entree by the back door; I go
straight to my room, and I know nothing of my master until I go
to his room this morning and find him not there."

"Then you didn't go to his room last night on your return?"

"As I pass his door, I see it open, and his light low, so I know
he is still below stair."

"And you did not pass by the library on your way round the
house?"

Louis's face turned a shade whiter than usual, but he said
distinctly, though in a low voice, "No, sir."

An involuntary gasp as of amazement was heard, and though I
looked quickly at Miss Lloyd, it was not she who had made the
sound.  It was one of the maidservants, a pretty German girl, who
sat behind Miss Lloyd.  No one else seemed to notice it, and I
realized it was not surprising that the strain of the occasion
should thus disturb the girl.

"You heard Louis come in, Lambert?" asked Mr. Monroe, who was
conducting the whole inquiry in a conversational way, rather than
as a formal inquest.

"Yes, sir; he came in about eleven, and went directly to his
room."

The butler stood with folded hands, a sad expression in his eyes,
but with an air of importance that seemed to be inseparable from
him, in any circumstances.

Doctor Fairchild was called as the next witness.

He testified that he had been summoned that morning at about
quarter before eight o'clock.  He had gone immediately to Mr.
Crawford's house, was admitted by the butler, and taken at once
to the office.  He found Mr. Crawford dead in his chair, shot
through the left temple with a thirty-two calibre revolver.

"Excuse me," said Mr. Lemuel Porter, who, with the other jurors,
was listening attentively to all the testimony.  "If the weapon
was not found, how do you know its calibre?"

"I extracted the bullet from the wound," returned Doctor
Fairchild, "and those who know have pronounced it to be a ball
fired from a small pistol of thirty-two calibre."

"But if Mr. Crawford had committed suicide, the pistol would have
been there," said Mr. Porter; who seemed to be a more acute
thinker than the other jurymen.

"Exactly," agreed the coroner.  "That's why we must conclude that
Mr. Crawford did not take his own life."

"Nor would he have done so," declared Doctor Fairchild.  "I have
known the deceased for many years.  He had no reason for wishing
to end his life, and, I am sure, no inclination to do so.  He was
shot by an alien hand, and the deed was probably committed at or
near midnight."

"Thus we assume," the coroner went on, as the doctor finished his
simple statement and resumed his seat, "that Mr. Crawford
remained in his office, occupied with his business matters,
until midnight or later, when some person or persons came into
his room, murdered him, and went away again, without making
sufficient noise or disturbance to arouse the sleeping
household."

"Perhaps Mr. Crawford himself had fallen asleep in his chair,"
suggested one of the jurors,--the Mr. Orville, who was
continually taking notes in his little book.

"It is possible," said the doctor, as the remark was practically
addressed to him, "but not probable.  The attitude in which the
body was found indicates that the victim was awake, and in full
possession of his faculties.  Apparently he made no resistance of
any sort."

"Which seems to show," said the coroner, "that his assailant was
not a burglar or tramp, for in that case he would surely have
risen and tried to put him out.  The fact that Mr. Crawford was
evidently shot by a person standing in front of him, seems to
imply that that person's attitude was friendly, and that the
victim had no suspicion of the danger that threatened him."

This was clear and logical reasoning, and I looked at the coroner
in admiration, until I suddenly remembered Parmalee's hateful
suspicion and wondered if Coroner Monroe was preparing for an
attack upon Miss Lloyd.

Gregory Hall was summoned next.

He was self-possessed and even cool in his demeanor.  There was a
frank manner about him that pleased me, but there was also a
something which repelled me.

I couldn't quite explain it to myself, but while he had an air of
extreme straightforwardness, there was also an indefinable effect
of reserve.  I couldn't help feeling that if this man had
anything to conceal, he would be quite capable of doing so under
a mask of great outspokenness.

But, as it turned out, he had nothing either to conceal or
reveal, for he had been away from West Sedgwick since six o'clock
the night before, and knew nothing of the tragedy until he heard
of it by telephone at Mr. Crawford's New York office that morning
about half-past ten.  This made him of no importance as a
witness, but Mr. Monroe asked him a few questions.

"You left here last evening, you say?"

"On the six o'clock train to New York, yes."

"For what purpose?"

"On business for Mr. Crawford."

"Did that business occupy you last evening?"

Mr. Hall looked surprised at this question, but answered quietly

"No; I was to attend to the business to-day.  But I often go to
New York for several days at a time."

"And where were you last evening?" pursued the coroner.

This time Mr. Hall looked more surprised still, and said

"As it has no bearing on the matter in hand, I prefer not to
answer that rather personal question."

Mr. Monroe looked surprised in his turn, and said: "I think I
must insist upon an answer, Mr. Hall, for it is quite necessary
that we learn the whereabouts of every member of this household
last evening."

"I cannot agree with you, sir," said Gregory Hall, coolly; "my
engagements for last evening were entirely personal matters, in
no way connected with Mr. Crawford's business.  As I was not in
West Sedgwick at the time my late employer met his death, I
cannot see that my private affairs need be called into question."

"Quite so, quite so," put in Mr. Orville; but Lemuel Porter
interrupted him.

"Not at all so.  I agree with Mr. Monroe, that Mr. Hall should
frankly tell us where he spent last evening."

"And I refuse to do so," said Mr. Hall, speaking not angrily, but
with great decision.

"Your refusal may tend to direct suspicion toward yourself, Mr.
Hall," said the coroner.

Gregory Hall smiled slightly.  "As I was out of town, your
suggestion sounds a little absurd.  However, I take that risk,
and absolutely refuse to answer any questions save those which
relate to the matter in hand."

Coroner Monroe looked rather helplessly at his jurors, but as
none of them said anything further, he turned again to Gregory
Hall.

"The telephone message you received this morning, then, was the
first knowledge you had of Mr. Crawford's death?"

"It was."

"And you came out here at once?"

"Yes; on the first train I could catch."

"I am sorry you resent personal questions, Mr. Hall, for I must
ask you some.  Are you engaged to Mr. Crawford's niece, Miss
Lloyd?"

"I am."

This answer was given in a low, quiet tone, apparently without
emotion of any kind, but Miss Lloyd showed, a different attitude.
At the words of Gregory Hall, she blushed, dropped her eyes,
fingered her handkerchief nervously, and evinced just such
embarrassment as might be expected from any young woman, in the
event of a public mention of her betrothal.  And yet I had not
looked for such an exhibition from Florence Lloyd.  Her very
evident strength of character would seem to preclude the actions
of an inexperienced debutante.

"Did Mr. Crawford approve of your engagement to his niece?"
pursued Mr. Monroe.

"With all due respect, Mr. Coroner," said Gregory Hall, in his
subdued but firm way, "I cannot think these questions are
relevant or pertinent.  Unless you can assure me that they are, I
prefer not to reply."

"They are both relevant and pertinent to the matter in hand, Mr.
Hall; but I am now of the opinion that they would better be asked
of another witness.  You are excused.  I now call Miss Florence
Lloyd."




V

FLORENCE LLOYD


A stir was perceptible all through the room as Miss Lloyd
acknowledged by a bow of her beautiful head the summons of the
coroner.

The jurors looked at her with evident sympathy and admiration,
and I remembered that as they were fellow-townsmen and neighbors
they probably knew the young woman well, and she was doubtless a
friend of their own daughters.

It seemed as if such social acquaintance must prejudice them in
her favor, and perhaps render them incapable of unbiased
judgment, should her evidence be incriminating.  But in my secret
heart, I confess, I felt glad of this.  I was glad of anything
that would keep even a shadow of suspicion away from this girl to
whose fascinating charm I had already fallen a victim.

Nor was I the only one in the room who dreaded the mere thought
of Miss Lloyd's connection with this horrible matter.

Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Porter were, I could see, greatly concerned
lest some mistaken suspicion should indicate any doubt of the
girl.  I could see by their kindly glances that she was a
favorite, and was absolutely free from suspicion in their minds.

Mr. Orville had not quite the same attitude.  Though he looked at
Miss Lloyd admiringly, I felt sure he was alertly ready to pounce
upon anything that might seem to connect her with a guilty
knowledge of this crime.

Gregory Hall's attitude was inexplicable, and I concluded I had
yet much to learn about that young man.  He looked at Miss Lloyd
critically, and though his glance could not be called quite
unsympathetic, yet it showed no definite sympathy.  He seemed to
be coldly weighing her in his own mental balance, and he seemed
to await whatever she might be about to say with the impartial
air of a disinterested judge.  Though a stranger myself, my heart
ached for the young woman who was placed so suddenly in such a
painful position, but Gregory Hall apparently lacked any personal
interest in the case.

I felt sure this was not true, that he was not really so
unconcerned as he appeared; but I could not guess why he chose to
assume an impassive mask.

Miss Lloyd had not risen as it was not required of her, and she
sat expectant, but with no sign of nervousness.  Mrs. Pierce, her
companion, was simply quivering with agitation.  Now and again
she would touch Miss Lloyd's shoulder or hand, or whisper a word
of encouragement, or perhaps wring her own hands in futile
despair.

Of course these demonstrations were of little avail, nor did it
seem as if Florence Lloyd needed assistance or support.

She gave the impression not only of general capability in
managing her own affairs, but of a special strength in an
emergency.

And an emergency it was; for though the two before-mentioned
jurors, who had been intimate friends of her uncle, were
doubtless in sympathy with Miss Lloyd, and though the coroner was
kindly disposed toward her, yet the other jurors took little
pains to conceal their suspicious attitude, and as for Mr.
Parmalee, he was fairly eager with anticipation of the
revelations about to come.

"Your name?" said the corner briefly, as if conquering his own
sympathy by an unnecessarily formal tone.

"Florence Lloyd," was the answer.

"Your position in this house?"

"I am the niece of Mrs. Joseph Crawford, who died many years ago.
Since her death I have lived with Mr. Crawford, occupying in
every respect the position of his daughter, though not legally
adopted as such."

"Mr. Crawford was always kind to you?"

"More than kind.  He was generous and indulgent, and, though not
of an affectionate nature, he was always courteous and gentle."

"Will you tell us of the last time you saw him alive?"

Miss Lloyd hesitated.  She showed no embarrassment, no
trepidation; she merely seemed to be thinking.

Her gaze slowly wandered over the faces of the servants, Mrs.
Pierce, Mr. Philip Crawford, the jurors, and, lastly, dwelt for a
moment on the now anxious, worried countenance of Gregory Hall.

Then she said slowly, but in an even, unemotional voice: "It was
last night at dinner.  After dinner was over, my uncle went out,
and before he returned I had gone to my room."

"Was there anything unusual about his appearance or demeanor at
dinner-time?"

"No; I noticed nothing of the sort."

"Was he troubled or annoyed about any matter, that you know of?"

"He was annoyed about one matter that has been annoying him for
some time: that is, my engagement to Mr. Hall."

Apparently this was the answer the coroner had expected, for he
nodded his head in a satisfied way.

The jurors, too, exchanged intelligent glances, and I realized
that the acquaintances of the Crawfords were well informed as to
Miss Lloyd's romance.

"He did not approve of that engagement?" went on the coroner,
though he seemed to be stating a fact, rather than asking a
question.

"He did not," returned Miss Lloyd, and her color rose as she
observed the intense interest manifest among her hearers.

"And the subject was discussed at the dinner table?"

"It was."

"What was the tenor of the conversation?"

"To the effect that I must break the engagement."

"Which you refused to do?"

"I did."

Her cheeks were scarlet now, but a determined note had crept into
her voice, and she looked at her betrothed husband with an air of
affectionate pride that, it seemed to me, ought to lift any man
into the seventh heaven.  But I noted Mr. Hall's expression with
surprise.  Instead of gazing adoringly at this girl who was thus
publicly proving her devotion to him, he sat with eyes cast down,
and frowning--positively frowning--while his fingers played
nervously with his watch-chain.

Surely this case required my closest attention, for I place far
more confidence in deductions from facial expression and tones of
the voice, than from the discovery of small, inanimate objects.

And if I chose to deduce from facial expressions I had ample
scope in the countenances of these two people.

I was particularly anxious not to jump at an unwarrantable
conclusion, but the conviction was forced upon me then and there
that these two people knew more about the crime than they
expected to tell.  I certainly did not suspect either of them to
be touched with guilt, but I was equally sure that they were not
ingenuous in their testimony.

While I knew that they were engaged, having heard it from both of
them, I could not think that the course of their love affair was
running smoothly.  I found myself drifting into idle speculation
as to whether this engagement was more desired by one than the
other, and if so, by which.

But though I could not quite understand these two, it gave me no
trouble to know which I admired more.  At the moment, Miss Lloyd
seemed to me to represent all that was beautiful, noble and
charming in womanhood, while Gregory Hall gave me the impression
of a man crafty, selfish and undependable.  However, I fully
realized that I was theorizing without sufficient data, and
determinedly I brought my attention back to the coroner's
catalogue of questions.

"Who else heard this conversation, besides yourself, Miss Lloyd?"

"Mrs. Pierce was at the table with us, and the butler was in the
room much of the time."

The purport of the coroner's question was obvious.  Plainly he
meant that she might as well tell the truth in the matter, as her
testimony could easily be overthrown or corroborated.

Miss Lloyd deliberately looked at the two persons mentioned.
Mrs. Pierce was trembling as with nervous apprehension, but she
looked steadily at Miss Lloyd, with eyes full of loyalty and
devotion.

And yet Mrs. Pierce was a bit mysterious also.  If I could read
her face aright, it bore the expression of one who would stand by
her friend whatever might come.  If she herself had had doubts of
Florence Lloyd's integrity, but was determined to suppress them
and swear to a belief in her, she would look just as she did now.

On the other hand the butler, Lambert, who stood with folded
arms, gazed straight ahead with an inscrutable countenance, but
his set lips and square jaw betokened decision.

As I read it, Miss Lloyd knew, as she looked, that should she
tell an untruth about that talk at the dinner-table, Mrs. Pierce
would repeat and corroborate her story; but Lambert would refute
her, and would state veraciously what his master had said.
Clearly, it was useless to attempt a false report, and, with a
little sigh, Miss Lloyd seemed to resign herself to her fate, and
calmly awaited the coroner's further questions.

But though still calm, she had lost her poise to some degree.
The lack of responsive glances from Gregory Hall's eyes seemed to
perplex her.  The eager interest of the six jurymen made her
restless and embarrassed.  The coroner's abrupt questions
frightened her, and I feared her self-enforced calm must sooner
or later give way.

And now I noticed that Louis, the valet, was again darting those
uncontrollable glances toward her.  And as the agitated Frenchman
endeavored to control his own countenance, I chanced to observe
that the pretty-faced maid I had noticed before, was staring
fixedly at Louis.  Surely there were wheels within wheels, and
the complications of this matter were not to be solved by the
simple questions of the coroner.  But of course this preliminary
examination was necessary, and it was from this that I must learn
the main story, and endeavor to find out the secrets afterward.

"What was your uncle's response when you refused to break your
engagement to Mr. Hall?" was the next inquiry.

Again Miss Lloyd was silent for a moment, while she directed her
gaze successively at several individuals.  This time she favored
Mr. Randolph, who was Mr. Crawford's lawyer, and Philip Crawford,
the dead man's brother.  After looking in turn at these two, and
glancing for a moment at Philip Crawford's son, who sat by his
side, she said, in a lower voice than she had before used

"He said he would change his will, and leave none of his fortune
to me."

"His will, then, has been made in your favor?"

"Yes; he has always told me I was to be sole heiress to his
estate, except for some comparatively small bequests."

"Did he ever threaten this proceeding before?"

"He had hinted it, but not so definitely."

"Did Mr. Hall know of Mr. Crawford's objection to his suit?"

"He did."

"Did he know of your uncle's hints of disinheritance?"

"He did."

"What was his attitude in the matter?"

Florence Lloyd looked proudly at her lover.

"The same as mine," she said.  "We both regretted my uncle's
protest, but we had no intention of letting it stand in the way
of our happiness."

Still Gregory Hall did not look at his fiancee.  He sat
motionless, preoccupied, and seemingly lost in deep thought,
oblivious to all that was going on.

Whether his absence from Sedgwick at the time of the murder made
him feel that he was in no way implicated, and so the inquiry
held no interest for him; or whether he was looking ahead and
wondering whither these vital questions were leading Florence
Lloyd, I had no means of knowing.  Certainly, he was a man of
most impassive demeanor and marvellous self-control.

"Then, in effect, you defied your uncle?"

"In effect, I suppose I did; but not in so many words.  I always
tried to urge him to see the matter in a different light."

"What was his objection to Mr. Hall as your husband?"

"Must I answer that?"

"Yes; I think so; as I must have a clear understanding of the
whole affair."

"Well, then, he told me that he had no objection to Mr. Hall,
personally.  But he wished me to make what he called a more
brilliant alliance.  He wanted me to marry a man of greater
wealth and social position."

The scorn in Miss Lloyd's voice for her uncle's ambitions was so
unmistakable that it made her whole answer seem a compliment to
Mr. Hall, rather than the reverse.  It implied that the sterling
worth of the young secretary was far more to be desired than the
riches and rank advocated by her uncle.  This time Gregory Hall
looked at the speaker with a faint smile, that showed
appreciation, if not adoration.

But I did not gather from his attitude that he did not adore his
beautiful bride-to-be; I only concluded that he was not one to
show his feelings in public.

However, I couldn't help feeling that I had learned which of the
two was more anxious for the engagement to continue.

"In what way was your uncle more definite in his threat last
night, than he had been heretofore?" the coroner continued.

Miss Lloyd gave a little gasp, as if the question she had been
dreading had come at last.  She looked at the inexorable face of
the butler, she looked at Mr. Randolph, and then flashed a half-
timid glance at Hall, as she answered

"He said that unless I promised to give up Mr. Hall, he would go
last night to Mr. Randolph's and have a new will drawn up."

"Did he do so?" exclaimed Gregory Hall, an expression almost of
fear appearing on his commonplace face.

Miss Lloyd looked at him, and seemed startled.  Apparently his
sudden question had surprised her.

Mr. Monroe paid no attention to Mr. Hall's remark, but said to
Miss Lloyd, "He had made such threats before, had he not?"

"Yes, but not with the same determination.  He told me in so many
words, I must choose between Mr. Hall or the inheritance of his
fortune."

"And your answer to this?"

"I made no direct answer.  I had told him many times that I had
no intention of breaking my engagement, whatever course he might
choose to pursue."

Mr. Orville was clearly delighted with the turn things were
taking.  He already scented a sensation, and he scribbled
industriously in his rapidly filling note-book.

This habit of his disgusted me, for surely the jurors on this
preliminary inquest could come to their conclusions without a
detailed account of all these conversations.

I also resented the looks of admiration which Mr. Orville cast at
the beautiful girl.  It seemed to me that with the exception of
Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Porter, who were family friends, the jurors
should have maintained a formal and impersonal attitude.

Mr. Hamilton spoke directly to Miss Lloyd on the subject.

"I am greatly surprised," he said, "that Mr. Crawford should take
such a stand.  He has often spoken to me of you as his heiress,
and to my knowledge, your engagement to Mr. Hall is not of
immediately recent date."

"No," said Miss Lloyd, "but it is only recently that my uncle
expressed his disapprobation so strongly; and last night at
dinner was the first time he positively stated his intention in
regard to his will."

At this Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Porter conversed together in
indignant whispers, and it was quite evident that they did not
approve of Mr. Crawford's treatment of his niece.

Mr. Philip Crawford looked astounded, and also dismayed, which
surprised me, as I had understood that had it not been for Miss
Lloyd, he himself would have been his brother's heir.

Mr. Randolph showed only a lawyer-like, noncommittal expression,
and Gregory Hall, too, looked absolutely impassive.

The coroner grew more alert, as if he had discovered something of
definite import, and asked eagerly,

"Did he do so?  Did he go to his lawyer's and make another will?"

Miss Lloyd's cold calm had returned, and seemed to rebuke the
coroner's excited interest.

"I do not know," she replied.  "He went out after dinner, as I
have told you, but I retired to my bedroom before he came home."

"And you did not come down-stairs again last night?"

"I did not."

The words were spoken in a clear, even tone; but something made
me doubt their truth.  It was not the voice or inflection; there
was no hesitation or stammer, but a sudden and momentary droop of
Miss Lloyd's eyelids seemed to me to give the lie to her words.

I wondered if Gregory Hall had the same thought, for he slowly
raised his own eyes and looked at her steadily for the first time
since her testimony began.

She did not look at him.  Instead, she was staring at the butler.
Either she had reason to fear his knowledge, or I was fanciful.
With an endeavor to shake off these shadows of suspicion, I
chanced to look at Parmalee.  To my disgust, he was quite
evidently gloating over the disclosures being made by the
witness.  I felt my anger rise, and I determined then and there
that if suspicion of guilt or complicity should by any chance
unjustly light on that brave and lovely girl, I would make the
effort of my life to clear her from it.

"You did not come down again," the coroner went on pointedly, "to
ask your uncle if he had changed his will?"

"No, I did not," she replied, with such a ring of truth in her
scornful voice, that my confidence returned, and I truly believed
her.

"Then you were not in your uncle's office last evening at all?"

"I was not."

"Nor through the day?"

She reflected a moment.  "No, nor through the day.  It chanced I
had no occasion to go in there yesterday at all."

At these assertions of Miss Lloyd's, the Frenchman, Louis, looked
greatly disturbed.  He tried very hard to conceal his agitation,
but it was not at all difficult to read on his face an endeavor
to look undisturbed at what he heard.

I hadn't a doubt, myself, that the man either knew something that
would incriminate Miss Lloyd, or that they two had a mutual
knowledge of some fact as yet concealed.

I was surprised that no one else seemed to notice this, but the
attention of every one in the room was concentrated on the
coroner and the witness, and so Louis's behavior passed
unnoticed.

At this juncture, Mr. Lemuel Porter spoke with some dignity.

"It would seem," he said, "that this concludes Miss Lloyd's
evidence in the matter.  She has carried the narrative up to the
point where Mr. Joseph Crawford went out of his house after
dinner.  As she herself retired to her room before his return,
and did not again leave her room until this morning, she can have
nothing further to tell us bearing on the tragedy.  And as it is
doubtless a most painful experience for her, I trust, Mr.
Coroner, that you will excuse her from further questioning."

"But wait a minute," Parmalee began, when Mr Hamilton interrupted
him--"Mr. Porter is quite right," he said; "there is no reason
why Miss Lloyd should be further troubled in this matter.  I feel
free to advise her dismissal from the witness stand, because of
my acquaintance and friendship with this household.  Our coroner
and most of our jurors are strangers to Miss Lloyd, and perhaps
cannot appreciate as I do the terrible strain this experience
means to her."

"You're right Hamilton," said Mr. Philip Crawford; "I was remiss
not to think of it myself.  Mr. Monroe, this is not a formal
inquest, and in the interest of kindness and humanity, I ask you
to excuse Miss Lloyd from further questioning for the present."

I was surprised at the requests of these elderly gentlemen, for
though it seemed to me that Miss Lloyd's testimony was complete,
yet it also seemed as if Gregory Hall were the one to show
anxiety that she be spared further annoyance.

However, Florence Lloyd spoke for herself.

"I am quite willing to answer any further questions," she said;
"I have answered all you have asked, and I have told you frankly
the truth.  Though it is far from pleasant to have my individual
affairs thus brought to notice, I am quite ready to do anything
to forward the cause of justice or to aid in any way the
discovery of my uncle's murderer."

"Thank you," said Mr. Monroe; "I quite appreciate the extreme
unpleasantness of your position.  But, Miss Lloyd, there are a
few more questions I must ask you.  Pardon me if I repeat myself,
but I ask you once more if you did not come down to your uncle's
office last evening after he had returned from his call on Mr.
Randolph."

As I watched Florence Lloyd I saw that her eyes did not turn
toward the coroner, or toward her fiance, or toward the jury, but
she looked straight at Louis, the valet, as she replied in clear
tones

"I did not."




VI

THE GOLD BAG


"Is this yours?" asked Mr. Monroe, suddenly whisking into sight
the gold-mesh bag.

Probably his intent had been to startle her, and thus catch her
off her guard.  If so, he succeeded, for the girl was certainly
startled, if only at the suddenness of the query.

"N-no," she stammered; "it's--it's not mine."

"Are you sure?" the coroner went on, a little more gently,
doubtless moved by her agitation.

"I'm--I'm quite sure.  Where did you find it?"

"What size gloves do you wear, Miss Lloyd?"

"Number six." She said this mechanically, as if thinking of
something else, and her face was white.

"These are number six," said the coroner, as he took a pair of
gloves from the bag.  "Think again, Miss Lloyd.  Do you not own a
gold-chain bag, such as this?"

"I have one something like that--or, rather, I did have one."

"Ah!  And what did you do with it?"

"I gave it to my maid, Elsa, some days ago."

"Why did you do that?"

"Because I was tired of it, and as it was a trifle worn, I had
ceased to care to carry it."

"Is it not a somewhat expensive trinket to turn over to your
maid?"

"No; they are not real gold.  At least, I mean mine was not.  It
was gilt over silver, and cost only about twelve or fourteen
dollars when new."

"What did you usually carry in it?"

"What every woman carries in such a bag.  Handkerchief, some
small change, perhaps a vanity-box, gloves, tickets--whatever
would be needed on an afternoon's calling or shopping tour."

"Miss Lloyd, you have enumerated almost exactly the articles in
this bag."

"Then that is a coincidence, for it is not my bag."

The girl was entirely self-possessed again, and even a little
aggressive.

I admit that I did not believe her statements.  Of course I could
not be sure she was telling untruths, but her sudden
embarrassment at the first sight of the bag, and the way in which
she regained her self-possession, made me doubt her clear
conscience in the matter.

Parmalee, who had come over and sat beside me, whispered:
"Striking coincidence, isn't it?"

Although his sarcasm voiced my own thoughts, yet it irritated me
horribly to hear him say it.

"But ninety-nine women out of a hundred would experience the same
coincidence," I returned.

"But the other ninety-eight weren't in the house last night, and
she was."

At this moment Mrs. Pierce, whom I had suspected of feeling far
deeper interest than she had so far shown, volunteered a remark.

"Of course that isn't Florence's bag," she said; "if Florence had
gone to her uncle's office last evening, she would have been
wearing her dinner gown, and certainly would not carry a street
bag."

"Is this a street bag?" inquired Mr. Monroe, looking with a
masculine helplessness at the gilt bauble.

"Of course it is," said Mrs. Pierce, who now that she had found
her voice, seemed anxious to talk.  "Nobody ever carries a bag
like that in the house,--in the evening."

"But," began Parmalee, "such a thing might have occurred, if Miss
Lloyd had had occasion to go to her uncle's office with, we will
say, papers or notes."

Personally I thought this an absurd suggestion, but Mr. Monroe
seemed to take it seriously.

"That might be," he said, and I could see that momentarily the
suspicions against Florence Lloyd were growing in force and were
taking definite shape.

As I noted the expressions, on the various faces, I observed that
only Mr. Philip Crawford and the jurors Hamilton and Porter
seemed entirely in sympathy with the girl.  The coroner,
Parmalee, and even the lawyer, Randolph, seemed to be willing,
almost eager for her to incriminate herself.

Gregory Hall, who should have been the most sympathetic of all,
seemed the most coldly indifferent, and as for Mrs. Pierce, her
actions were so erratic and uncertain, no one could tell what she
thought.

"You are quite positive it is not your bag?" repeated the coroner
once more.

"I'm positive it is not mine," returned Miss Lloyd, without undue
emphasis, but with an air of dismissing the subject.

"Is your maid present?" asked the coroner.  "Let her be
summoned."

Elsa came forward, the pretty, timid young girl, of German
effects, whom I had already noticed.

"Have you ever seen this bag before?" asked the coroner, holding
it up before her.

"Yes, sir."

"When?"

"This morning, sir.  Lambert showed it to me, sir.  He said he
found it in Mr. Crawford's office."

The girl was very pale, and trembled pitiably.  She seemed afraid
of the coroner, of Lambert, of Miss Lloyd, and of the jury.  It
might have been merely the unreasonable fear of an ignorant mind,
but it had the appearance of some more definite apprehension.

Especially did she seem afraid of the man, Louis.  Though perhaps
the distressed glances she cast at him were not so much those of
fear as of anxiety.

The coroner spoke kindly to her, and really seemed to take more
notice of her embarrassment, and make more effort to put her at
her ease than he had done with Miss Lloyd.

"Is it Miss Lloyd's bag?"

"I don't think so, sir."

"Don't you know?  As her personal maid, you must be acquainted
with her belongings."

"Yes, sir.  No, it isn't hers, sir."

But as this statement was made after a swift but noticeable
glance of inquiry at her mistress, a slight distrust of Elsa
formed in my own mind, and probably in the minds of others.

"She has one like this, has she not?"

"She--she did have, sir; but she--she gave it to me."

"Yes?  Then go and get it and let us see it."

"I haven't it now, sir.  I--I gave it away."

"Oh, you gave it away!  To whom?  Can you get it back?"

"No, sir; I gave it to my cousin, who sailed for Germany last
week."

Miss Lloyd looked up in surprise, and that look of surprise told
against her.  I could see Parmalee's eyes gleam as he concluded
in his own mind that the bag story was all false, was made up
between mistress and maid, and that the part about the departing
cousin was an artistic touch added by Elsa.

The coroner, too, seemed inclined to disbelieve the present
witness, and he sat thoughtfully snapping the catch of the bag.

He turned again to Miss Lloyd.  "Having given away your own bag,"
he said suavely, "you have perhaps provided yourself with
another, have you not?"

"Why, no, I haven't," said Florence Lloyd.  "I have been
intending to do so, and shall get one shortly, but I haven't yet
selected it."

"And in the meantime you have been getting along without any?"

"A gold-mesh bag is not an indispensable article; I have several
bags of other styles, and I'm in no especial haste to purchase a
new one."

Miss Lloyd's manner had taken on several degrees of hauteur, and
her voice was incisive in its tone.  Clearly she resented this
discussion of her personal belongings, and as she entirely
repudiated the ownership of the bag in the coroner's possession,
she was annoyed at his questions.

Mr. Monroe looked at her steadily.

"If this is not your bag, Miss Lloyd," he said, with some
asperity, "how did it get on Mr. Crawford's desk late last night?
The butler has assured me it was not there when he looked in at a
little after ten o'clock.  Yet this morning it lay there, in
plain sight on the desk.  Whose bag is it?"

"I have not the slightest idea," said Miss Lloyd firmly; "but, I
repeat, it is not mine."

"Easy enough to see the trend of Monroe's questions," said
Parmalee in my ear.  "If he can prove this bag to be Miss
Lloyd's, it shows that she was in the office after ten o'clock
last night, and this she has denied."

"Don't you believe her?" said I.

"Indeed I don't.  Of course she was there, and of course it's her
bag.  She put that pretty maid of hers up to deny it, but any one
could see the maid was lying, also."

"Oh, come now, Parmalee, that's too bad!  You've no right to say
such things!"

"Oh, pshaw! you think the same yourself, only you think it isn't
chivalrous to put it into words."

Of course what annoyed me in Parmalee's speech was its inherent
truth.  I didn't believe Florence Lloyd.  Much as I wanted to, I
couldn't; for the appearance, manner and words of both women were
not such as to inspire belief in their hearers.

If she and Elsa were in collusion to deny her ownership of the
bag, it would be hard to prove the contrary, for the men-servants
could not be supposed to know, and I had no doubt Mrs. Pierce
would testify as Miss Lloyd did on any matter.

I was sorry not to put more confidence in the truth of the
testimony I was hearing, but I am, perhaps, sceptical by nature.
And, too, if Florence Lloyd were in any way implicated in the
death of her uncle, I felt pretty sure she would not hesitate at
untruth.

Her marvellous magnetism attracted me strongly, but it did not
blind me to the strength of her nature.  While I could not, as
yet, believe her in any way implicated in the death of her uncle,
I was fully convinced she knew more concerning it than she had
told and I knew, unless forced to, she would not tell what she
desired to keep secret.

My sympathy, of course, was with her, but my duty was plain.  As
a detective, I must investigate fairly, or give up the case.

At this juncture, I knew the point at issue was the presence of
Miss Lloyd in the office last night, and the two yellow rose
petals I had picked up on the floor might prove a clue.

At any rate it was my duty to investigate the point, so taking a
card from my pocket I wrote upon it: "Find out if Miss Lloyd wore
any flowers last evening, and what kind."

I passed this over to Mr. Monroe, and rather enjoyed seeing his
mystification as he read it.

To my surprise he did not question Florence Lloyd immediately,
but turned again to the maid.

"At what time did your mistress go to her room last evening?"

"At about ten o'clock, sir.  I was waiting there for her, and so
I am sure."

"Did she at once retire?"

"No, sir.  She changed her evening gown for a teagown, and then
said she would sit up for an hour or so and write letters, and I
needn't wait."

"You left her then?"

"Yes, sir."

"Did Miss Lloyd wear any flowers at dinner last evening?"

"No, sir.  There were no guests--only the family."

"Ah, quite so.  But did she, by chance, pin on any flowers after
she went to her room?"

"Why,  yes, sir; she did.  A box of roses had come for her by a
messenger, and when she found them in her room, she pinned one on
the lace of her teagown."

"Yes?  And what time did the flowers arrive?"

"While Miss Lloyd was at dinner, sir.  I took them from the box
and put them in water, sir."

"And what sort of flowers were they?"

"Yellow roses, sir."

"That will do, Elsa.  You are excused."

The girl looked bewildered, and a little embarrassed as she
returned to her place among the other servants, and Miss Lloyd
looked a little bewildered also.

But then, for that matter, no body understood the reason for the
questions about the flowers, and though most of the jury merely
looked preternaturally wise on the subject, Mr. Orville scribbled
it all down in his little book.  I was now glad to see the man
keep up his indefatigable note-taking.  If the reporters or
stenographers missed any points, I could surely get them from
him.

But from the industry with which he wrote, I began to think he
must be composing an elaborate thesis on yellow roses and their
habits.

Mr. Porter, looking greatly puzzled, observed to the coroner, "I
have listened to your inquiries with interest; and I would like
to know what, if any, special importance is attached to this
subject of yellow roses."

"I'm not able to tell you," replied Mr. Monroe.  "I asked these
questions at the instigation of another, who doubtless has some
good reason for them, which he will explain in due time."

Mr. Porter seemed satisfied with this, and I nodded my head at
the coroner, as if bidding him to proceed.

But if I had been surprised before at the all but spoken
intelligence which passed between the two servants, Elsa and
Louis, I was more amazed now.  They shot rapid glances at each
other, which were evidently full of meaning to themselves.  Elsa
was deathly white, her lips trembled, and she looked at the
Frenchman as if in terror of her life.  But though he glanced at
her meaningly, now and then, Louis's anxiety seemed to me to be
more for Florence Lloyd than for her maid.

But now the coroner was talking very gravely to Miss Lloyd.

"Do you corroborate," he was saying, "the statements of your maid
about the flowers that were sent you last evening?"

"I do," she replied.

"From whom did they come?"

"From Mr. Hall."

"Mr. Hall," said, the coroner, turning toward the young man, "how
could you send flowers to Miss Lloyd last evening if you were in
New York City?"

"Easily," was the cool reply.  "I left Sedgwick on the six
o'clock train.  On my way to the station I stopped at a florist's
and ordered some roses sent to Miss Lloyd.  If they did not
arrive until she was at dinner, they were not sent immediately,
as the florist promised."

"When did you receive them, Miss Lloyd?"

"They were in my room when I event up there at about ten o'clock
last evening," she replied, and her face showed her wonderment at
these explicit questions.

The coroner's face showed almost as much wonderment, and I said:
"Perhaps, Mr. Monroe, I may ask a few questions right here."

"Certainly," he replied.

And thus it was, for the first time in my life, I directly
addressed Florence Lloyd.

"When you went up to your room at ten o'clock, the flowers were
there?" I asked, and I felt a most uncomfortable pounding at my
heart because of the trap I was deliberately laying for her.  But
it had to be done, and even as I spoke, I experienced a glad
realization, that if she were innocent, my questions could do her
no harm.

"Yes," she repeated, and for the first time favored me with a
look of interest.  I doubt if she knew my name or scarcely knew
why I was there.

"And you pinned one on your gown?"

"I tucked it in among the laces at my throat, yes."

"Miss Lloyd, do you still persist in saying you did not go
down-stairs again, to your uncle's office?"

"I did not," she repeated, but she turned white, and her voice
was scarce more than a whisper.

"Then," said I, "how did two petals of a yellow rose happen to
be on the floor in the office this morning?"




VII

YELLOW ROSES


If any one expected to see Miss Lloyd faint or collapse at this
crisis he must have been disappointed, and as I had confidently
expected such a scene, I was completely surprised at her quick
recovery of self-possession.

For an instant she had seemed stunned by my question, and her
eyes had wandered vaguely round the room, as if in a vain search
for help.

Her glance returned to me, and in that instant I gave her an
answering look, which, quite involuntarily on my part, meant a
grave and serious offer of my best and bravest efforts in her
behalf.  Disingenuous she might be, untruthful she might be, yes,
even a criminal she might be, but in any case I was her sworn
ally forever.  Not that I meant to defeat the ends of justice,
but I was ready to fight for her or with her, until justice
should defeat us.  Of course she didn't know all this, though I
couldn't help hoping she read a little of it as my eyes looked
into hers.  If so, she recognized it only by a swift withdrawal
of her own glance.  Again she looked round at her various
friends.

Then her eyes rested on Gregory Hall, and, though he gave her no
responsive glance, for some reason her poise returned like a
flash.  It was as if she had been invigorated by a cold douche.

Determination fairly shone in her dark eyes, and her mouth showed
a more decided line than I had yet seen in its red curves, as
with a cold, almost hard voice she replied

"I have no idea.  We have many flowers in the house, always."

"But I have learned from the servants that there were no other
yellow roses in the house yesterday."

Miss Lloyd was not hesitant now.  She replied quickly, and it was
with an almost eager haste that she said

"Then I can only imagine that my uncle had some lady visitor in
his office late last evening."

The girl's mood had changed utterly; her tone was almost
flippant, and more than one of the jurors looked at her in
wonderment.

Mr. Porter, especially, cast an her a glance of fatherly
solicitude, and I was sure that he felt, as I did, that the
strain was becoming too much for her.

"I don't think you quite mean that, Florence," he said; "you and
I knew your uncle too well to say such things."

But the girl made no reply, and her beautiful mouth took on a
hard line.

"It is not an impossible conjecture," said Philip Crawford
thoughtfully.  "If the bag does not belong to Florence, what more
probable than that it was left by its feminine owner?  The same
lady might have worn or carried yellow roses."

Perhaps it was because of my own desire to help her that these
other men had joined their efforts to mine to ease the way as
much as possible.

The coroner looked a little uncomfortable, for he began to note
the tide of sympathy turning toward the troubled girl.

"Yellow roses do not necessarily imply a lady visitor," he said,
rather more kindly.  "A man in evening dress might have worn
one."

To his evident surprise, as well as to my own, this remark,
intended to be soothing, had quite the opposite effect.

"That is not at all probable," said Miss Lloyd quite angrily.
"Mr. Porter was in the office last evening; if he was wearing a
yellow rose at the time, let him say so."

"I was not," said Mr. Porter quietly, but looking amazed at the
sudden outburst of the girl.

"Of course you weren't!" Miss Lloyd went on, still in the same
excited way.  "Men don't wear roses nowadays, except perhaps at a
ball; and, anyway, the gold bag surely implies that a woman was
there!"

"It seems to," said Mr. Monroe; and then, unable longer to keep
up her brave resistance, Florence Lloyd fainted.

Mrs. Pierce wrung her hands and moaned in a helpless fashion.
Elsa started forward to attend her young mistress, but it was the
two neighbors who were jurors, Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Porter, who
carried the unconscious girl from the room.

Gregory Hall looked concerned, but made no movement to aid, and I
marvelled afresh at such strange actions in a man betrothed to a
particularly beautiful woman.

Several women in the audience hurried from the room, and in a few
moments the two jurors returned.

"Miss Lloyd will soon be all right, I think," said Mr. Porter to
the coroner.  "My wife is with her, and one or two other ladies.
I think we may proceed with our work here."

There was something about Mr. Lemuel Porter that made men accept
his dictum, and without further remark Mr. Monroe called the next
witness, Mr. Roswell Randolph, and a tall man, with an
intellectual face, came forward.

While the coroner was putting the formal and preliminary
questions to Mr. Randolph, Parmalee quietly drew my attention to
a whispered conversation going on between Elsa and Louis.

If this girl had fainted instead of Miss Lloyd, I should not have
been surprised for she seemed on the very verge of nervous
collapse.  She seemed, too, to be accusing the man of something,
which he vigorously denied.  The girl interested me far more than
the Frenchman.  Though of the simple, rosy-cheeked type of
German, she had an air of canniness and subtlety that was at
variance with her naive effect.  I soon concluded she was far
more clever than most people thought, and Parmalee's whispered
words showed that he thought so too.

"Something doing in the case of Dutch Elsa, eh?" he said; "she
and Johnny Frenchy have cooked up something between them."

"Nothing of any importance, I fancy," I returned, for Miss
Lloyd's swoon seemed to me a surrender, and I had little hope now
of any other direction in which to look.

But I resumed my attention to the coroner's inquiries of Mr.
Randolph.

In answer to a few formal questions, he stated that he had been
Mr. Crawford's legal adviser for many years, and had entire
charge of all such matters as required legal attention.

"Did you draw up the late Mr. Crawford's will?" asked the
coroner.

"Yes; after the death of his wife--about twelve years ago."

"And what were the terms of that will?"

"Except for some minor bequests, the bulk of his fortune was
bequeathed to Miss Florence Lloyd."

"Have you changed that will in any way, or drawn a later one?"

"No."

It was by the merest chance that I was looking at Gregory Hall,
as the lawyer gave this answer.

It required no fine perception to understand the look of relief
and delight that fairly flooded his countenance.  To be sure, it
was quickly suppressed, and his former mask of indifference and
preoccupation assumed, but I knew as well as if he had put it
into words, that he had trembled lest Miss Lloyd had been
disinherited before her uncle had met his death in the night.

This gave me many new thoughts, but before I could formulate
them, I heard the coroner going an with his questions.

"Did Mr. Crawford visit you last evening?"

"Yes; he was at my house for perhaps half an hour or more between
eight and nine o'clock."

"Did he refer to the subject of changing his will?"

"He did.  That was his errand.  He distinctly stated his
intention of making a new will, and asked me to come to his
office this morning and draw up the instrument."

"But as that cannot now be done, the will in favor of Miss Lloyd
still stands?"

"It does," said Mr. Randolph, "and I am glad of it.  Miss Lloyd
has been brought up to look upon this inheritance as her own, and
while I would have used no undue emphasis, I should have tried to
dissuade Mr. Crawford from changing his will."

"But before we consider the fortune or the will, we must proceed
with our task of bringing to light the murderer, and avenging Mr.
Crawford's death."

"I trust you will do so, Mr. Coroner, and that speedily.  But I
may say, if allowable, that you are on the wrong track when you
allow your suspicions to tend towards Florence Lloyd."

"As your opinion, Mr. Randolph, of course that sentiment has some
weight, but as a man of law, yourself, you must know that such an
opinion must be proved before it can be really conclusive."

"Yes, of course," said Mr. Randolph, with a deep sigh.  "But let
me beg of you to look further in search of other indications
before you press too hard upon Miss Lloyd with the seeming clues
you now have."

I liked Mr. Randolph very much.  Indeed it seemed to me that the
men of West Sedgwick were of a fine class as to both intellect
and judgment, and though Coroner Monroe was not a brilliant man,
I began to realize that he had some sterling qualities and was
distinctly just and fair in his decisions.

As for Gregory Hall, he seemed like a man free from a great
anxiety.  Though still calm and reserved in appearance, he was
less nervous, and quietly awaited further developments.  His
attitude was not hard to understand.  Mr. Crawford had objected
to his secretary's engagement to his niece, and now Mr.
Crawford's objections could no longer matter.  Again, it was not
surprising that Mr. Hall should be glad to learn that his fiancee
was the heiress she had supposed herself to he.  Even though he
were marrying the girl simply for love of her, a large fortune in
addition was by no means to be despised.  At any rate, I
concluded that Gregory Hall thought so.

As often happened, Parmalee read my thoughts.  "A
fortune-hunter," he murmured, with a meaning glance at Hall.

I remembered that Mr. Carstairs, at the inn had said the same
thing, and I thoroughly believed it myself.

"Has he any means of his own?"

"No," said Parmalee, "except his salary, which was a good one
from Mr. Crawford, but of course he's lost that now."

"I don't feel drawn toward him.  I suppose one would call him a
gentleman and yet he isn't manly."

"He's a cad," declared Parmalee; "any fortune hunter is a cad,
and I despise him."

Although I tried to hold my mind impartially open regarding Mr.
Hall, I was conscious of an inclination to despise him myself.
But I was also honest enough to realize that my principal reason
for despising him was because he had won the hand of Florence
Lloyd.

I heard Coroner Monroe draw a long sigh.

Clearly, the man was becoming more and more apprehensive, and
really dreaded to go on with the proceedings, because he was
fearful of what might be disclosed thereby.

The gold bag still lay on the table before him; the yellow rose
petals were not yet satisfactorily accounted for; Miss Lloyd's
agitation and sudden loss of consciousness, though not surprising
in the circumstances, were a point in her disfavor.  And now the
revelation that Mr. Crawford was actually on the point of
disinheriting his niece made it impossible to ignore the obvious
connection between that fact and the event of the night.

But no one had put the thought into words, and none seemed
inclined to.

Mechanically, Mr. Monroe called the next witness on his list, and
Mrs. Pierce answered.

For some reason she chose to stand during her interview, and as
she rose, I realized that she was a prim little personage, but of
such a decided nature that she might have been stigmatized by the
term stubborn.  I had seen such women before; of a certain soft,
outward effect, apparently pliable and amenable, but in reality,
deep, shrewd and clever.

And yet she was not strong, for the situation in which she found
herself made her trembling and unstrung.

When asked by the coroner to tell her own story of the events of
the evening before, she begged that he would question her
instead.

Desirous of making it as easy for her as possible, Mr. Monroe
acceded to her wishes, and put his questions in a kindly and
conversational tone.

"You were at dinner last night, with Miss Lloyd and Mr. Crawford?"

"Yes," was the almost inaudible reply, and Mrs. Pierce seemed
about to break down at the sad recollection.

"You heard the argument between Mr. Crawford and his niece at the
dinner table?"

"Yes."

"This resulted in high words on both sides?"

"Well, I don't know exactly what you mean by high words.  Mr.
Crawford rarely lost his temper and Florence never."

"What then did Mr. Crawford say in regard to disinheriting Miss
Lloyd?"

"Mr. Crawford said clearly, but without recourse to what may be
called high words, that unless Florence would consent to break
her engagement he would cut her off with a shilling."

"Did he use that expression?"

"He did at first, when he was speaking more lightly; then when
Florence refused to do as he wished he said he would go that very
evening to Mr. Randolph's and have a new will made which should
disinherit Florence, except for a small annuity."

"And what did Miss Lloyd reply to this threat?" asked the
coroner.

"She said," replied Mrs. Pierce, in her plaintive tones, "that
her uncle might do as he chose about that; but she would never
give up Mr. Hall."

At this moment Gregory Hall looked more manly than I had yet seen
him.

Though he modestly dropped his eyes at this tacit tribute to his
worthiness, yet he squared his shoulders, and showed a
justifiable pride in the love thus evinced for him.

"Was the subject discussed further?" pursued the coroner.

"No; nothing more was said about it after that."

"Will the making of a new will by Mr. Crawfard affect yourself in
any way, Mrs. Pierce?"

"No," she replied, "Mr. Crawford left me a small bequest in his
earlier will and I had reason to think he would do the same in a
later will, even though he changed his intentions regarding
Florence."

"Miss Lloyd thoroughly believed that he intended to carry out his
threat last evening?"

"She didn't say so to me, but Mr. Crawford spoke so decidedly on
the matter, that I think both she and I believed he was really
going to carry out his threat at last."

"When Mr. Crawford left the house, did you and Miss Lloyd know
where he was going?"

"We knew no more than he had said at the table.  He said nothing
when he went away."

"How did you and Miss Lloyd spend the remainder of the evening?"

"It was but a short evening.  We sat in the music-room for a
time, but at about ten o'clock we both went up to our rooms."

"Had Mr. Crawford returned then?"

"Yes, he came in perhaps an hour earlier.  We heard him come in
at the front door, and go at once to his office."

"You did not see him, or speak to him?"

"We did not.  He had a caller during the evening.  It was Mr.
Porter, I have since learned."

"Did Miss Lloyd express no interest as to whether he had changed
his will or not?"

"Miss Lloyd didn't mention the will, or her engagement, to me at
all.  We talked entirely of other matters."

"Was Miss Lloyd in her usual mood or spirits?"

"She seemed a little quiet, but not at all what you might call
worried."

"Was not this strange when she was fully expecting to be deprived
of her entire fortune?"

"It was not strange for Miss Lloyd.  She rarely talks of her own
affairs.  We spent an evening similar in all respects to our
usual evening when we do not have guests."

"And you both went upstairs at ten.  Was that unusually early for
you?"

"Well, unless we have guests, we often go at ten or half-past
ten."

"And did you see Miss Lloyd again that night?"

"Yes; about half an hour later, I went to her room for a book I
wanted."

"Miss Lloyd had not retired?"

"No; she asked me to sit down for awhile and chat."

"Did you do so?"

"Only for a few moments.  I was interested in the book I had come
for, and I wanted to take it away to my own room to read."

"And Miss Lloyd, then, did not seem dispirited or in any way in
an unusual mood?"

"Not that I noticed.  I wasn't quizzing her or looking into her
eyes to see what her thoughts were, for it didn't occur to me to
do so.  I knew her uncle had dealt her a severe blow, but as she
didn't open the subject, of course I couldn't discuss it with
her.  But I did think perhaps she wanted to be by herself to
consider the matter, and that was one reason why I didn't stay
and chat as she had asked me to."

"Perhaps she really wanted to discuss the matter with you."

"Perhaps she did; but in that case she should have said so.
Florence knows well enough that I am always ready to discuss or
sympathize with her in any matter, but I never obtrude my
opinions.  So as she said nothing to lead me to think she wanted
to talk to me especially, I said good-night to her."




VIII

FURTHER INQUIRY


"Did you happen to notice, Mrs. Pierce, whether Miss Lloyd was
wearing a yellow rose when you saw her in her room?"

Mrs. Pierce hesitated.  She looked decidedly embarrassed, and
seemed disinclined to answer.  But she might have known that to
hesitate and show embarrassment was almost equivalent to an
affirmative answer to the coroner's question.  At last she
replied

"I don't know; I didn't notice."

This might have been a true statement, but I think no one in the
room believed it.  The coroner tried again.

"Try to think, Mrs. Pierce.  It is important that we should know
if Miss Lloyd was wearing a yellow rose."

"Yes," flared out Mrs. Pierce angrily, "so that you can prove she
went down to her uncle's office later and dropped a piece of her
rose there!  But I tell you I don't remember whether she was
wearing a rose or not, and it wouldn't matter if she had on forty
roses!  If Florence Lloyd says she didn't go down-stairs, she
didn't."

"I think we all believe in Miss Lloyd's veracity," said Mr.
Monroe, "but it is necessary to discover where those rose petals
in the library came from.  You saw the flowers in her room, Mrs.
Pierce?"

"Yes, I believe I did.  But I paid no attention to them, as
Florence nearly always has flowers in her room."

"Would you have heard Miss Lloyd if she had gone down-stairs
after you left her?"

"I don't know," said Mrs. Pierce, doubtfully.

"Is your room next to hers?"

"No, not next."

"Is it on the same corridor?"

"No."

"Around a corner?"

"Yes."

"And at some distance?"

"Yes."  Mrs. Pierce's answers became more hesitating as she saw
the drift of Mr. Monroe's questions.  Clearly, she was trying to
shield Florence, if necessary, at the expense of actual
truthfulness.

"Then," went on Mr. Monroe, inexorably, "I understand you to say
that you think you would have heard Miss Lloyd, had she gone
down-stairs, although your room is at a distance and around a
corner and the hall and stairs are thickly carpeted.  Unless you
were listening especially, Mrs. Pierce, I think you would
scarcely have heard her descend."

"Well, as she didn't go down, of course I didn't hear her,"
snapped Mrs. Pierce, with the feminine way of settling an
argument by an unprovable statement.

Mr. Monroe began on another tack.

"When you went to Miss Lloyd's room," he said, "was the maid,
Elsa, there?"

"Miss Lloyd had just dismissed her for the night."

"What was Miss Lloyd doing when you went to her room?"

"She was looking over some gowns that she proposed sending to the
cleaner's."

The coroner fairly jumped.  He remembered the newspaper clipping
of a cleaner's advertisement, which was even now in the gold bag
before him.  Though all the jurors had seen it, it had not been
referred to in the presence of the women.

Recovering himself at once, he said quietly "Was not that rather
work for Miss Lloyd's maid?"

"Oh, Elsa would pack and send them, of course," said Mrs. Pierce
carelessly.  "Miss Lloyd was merely deciding which ones needed
cleaning."

"Do you know where they were to be sent?"

Mrs. Pierce looked a little surprised at this question.

"Miss Lloyd always sends her things to Carter & Brown's," she
said.

Now, Carter & Brown was the firm name on the advertisement, and
it was evident at once that the coroner considered this a
damaging admission.

He sat looking greatly troubled, but before he spoke again, Mr.
Parmalee made an observation that decidedly raised that young man
in my estimation.

"Well," he said, "that's pretty good proof that the gold bag
doesn't belong to Miss Lloyd."

"How so?" asked the coroner, who had thought quite the contrary.

"Why, if Miss Lloyd always sends her goods to be cleaned to
Carter & Brown, why would she need to cut their address from a
newspaper and save it?"

At first I thought the young man's deduction distinctly clever,
but on second thought I wasn't so sure.  Miss Lloyd might have
wanted that address for a dozen good reasons.  To my mind, it
proved neither her ownership of the gold bag, nor the contrary.

In fact, I thought the most important indication that the bag
might be hers lay in the story Elsa told about the cousin who
sailed to Germany.  Somehow that sounded untrue to me, but I was
more than willing to believe it if I could.

I longed for Fleming Stone, who, I felt sure, could learn from
the bag and its contents the whole truth about the crime and the
criminal.

But I had been called to take charge of the case, and my pride
forbade me to call on any one for help.

I had scorned deductions from inanimate objects, but I resolved
to study that bag again, and study it more minutely.  Perhaps
there were some threads or shreds caught in its meshes that might
point to its owner.  I remembered a detective story I read once,
in which the whole discovery of the criminal depended on
identifying a few dark blue woollen threads which were found in a
small pool of candle grease on a veranda roof.  As it turned out,
they were from the trouser knee of a man who had knelt there to
open a window.  The patent absurdity of leaving threads from
one's trouser knee, amused me very much, but the accommodating
criminals in fiction almost always leave threads or shreds behind
them.  And surely a gold-mesh bag, with its thousands of links
would be a fine trap to catch some threads of evidence, however
minute they might be.

Furthermore I decided to probe further into that yellow rose
business.  I was not at all sure that those petals I found on the
floor had anything to do with Miss Lloyd's roses, but it must be
a question possible of settlement, if I went about it in the
right way.  At any rate, though I had definite work ahead of me,
my duty just now was to listen to the forthcoming evidence,
though I could not help thinking I could have put questions more
to the point than Mr. Monroe did.

Of course the coroner's inquest was not formally conducted as a
trial by jury would be, and so any one spoke, if he chose, and
the coroner seemed really glad when suggestions were offered him.

At this point Philip Crawford rose.

"It is impossible," he said, "not to see whither these questions
are tending.  But you are on the wrong tack, Mr. Coroner.  No
matter how evidence may seem to point toward Florence Lloyd's
association with this crime, it is only seeming.  That gold bag
might have been hers and it might not.  But if she says it isn't,
why, then it isn't! Notwithstanding the state of affairs between
my brother and his niece, there is not the shadow of a
possibility that the young woman is implicated in the slightest
degree, and the sooner you leave her name out of consideration,
and turn your search into other channels, the sooner you will
find the real criminal."

It was not so much the words of Philip Crawford, as the sincere
way in which they were spoken, that impressed me.  Surely he was
right; surely this beautiful girl was neither principal nor
accessory in the awful crime which, by a strange coincidence,
gave to her her fortune and her lover.

"Mr. Crawford's right," said Lemuel Porter.  "If this jury allows
itself to be misled by a gold purse and two petals of a yellow
rose, we are unworthy to sit on this case.  Why, Mr. Coroner, the
long French windows in the office were open, or, at least,
unfastened all through the night.  We have that from the butler's
testimony.  He didn't lock them last night; they were found
unlocked this morning.  Therefore, I hold that an intruder,
either man or woman, may have come in during the night,
accomplished the fatal deed, and departed without any one being
the wiser.  That this intruder was a woman, is evidenced by the
bag she left behind her.  For, as Mr. Crawford has said, if Miss
Lloyd denies the ownership of that bag, it is not hers."

After all, these declarations were proof, of a sort.  If Mr.
Porter and Mr. Philip Crawford, who had known Florence Lloyd for
years, spoke thus positively of her innocence, it could not be
doubted.

And then the voice of Parmalee again sounded in my ears.

"Of course Mr. Porter and Mr. Crawford would stand up for Miss
Lloyd; it would be strange if they didn't.  And of course, Mrs.
Pierce will do all she can to divert suspicion.  But the
evidences are against her."

"They only seem to be," I corrected.  "Until we prove the gold
bag and the yellow rose to be hers; there is no evidence against
her at all."

"She also had motive and opportunity.  Those two points are of
quite as much importance as evidence."

"She had motive and opportunity," I agreed, "but they were not
exclusive.  As Mr. Porter pointed out, the open windows gave
opportunity that was world wide; and as to motive, how are we to
know who had or who hadn't it."

"You're right, I suppose.  Perhaps I am too positive of Miss
Lloyd's implication in the matter, but I'm quite willing to be
convinced to the contrary."

The remarks of Mr. Parmalee were of course not audible to any one
save myself.  But the speeches which had been made by Mr.
Crawford and Mr. Porter, and which, strange to say, amounted to
an arraignment and a vindication almost in the same breath, had a
decided effect upon the assembly.

Mrs. Pierce began to weep silently.  Gregory Hall looked
startled, as if the mere idea of Miss Lloyd's implication was a
new thought to him.  Lawyer Randolph looked considerably
disturbed, and I at once suspected that his legal mind would not
allow him to place too much dependence on the statements of the
girl's sympathetic friends.

Mr. Hamilton, another of the jurors whom I liked, seemed to be
thoughtfully weighing the evidence.  He was not so well
acquainted with Miss Lloyd as the two men who had just spoken in
her behalf, and he made a remark somewhat diffidently.

"I agree," he said, "with the sentiments just expressed; but I
also think that we should endeavor to find some further clues or
evidence.  Had Mr. Crawford any enemies who would come at night
to kill him?  Or are there any valuables missing?  Could robbery
have been the motive?"

"It does not seem so," replied the coroner.  "Nothing is known to
be missing.  Mr. Crawford's watch and pocket money were not
disturbed."

"The absence of the weapon is a strange factor in the case," put
in Mr. Orville, apparently desirous of having his voice heard as
well as those of the other jurors.

"Yes," agreed Mr. Monroe; "and yet it is not strange that the
criminal carried away with him what might have been a proof of
his identity."

"Does Miss Lloyd own a pistol?" blurted out Mr. Parmalee.

Gregory Hall gave him an indignant look, but Coroner Monroe
seemed rather glad to have the question raised--probably so that
it could be settle at once in the negative.

And it was.

"No," replied Mrs. Pierce, when the query was put to her.  "Both
Florence and I are desperately afraid of firearms.  We wouldn't
dream of owning a pistol--either of us."

Of course, this was significant, but in no way decisive.
Granting that Miss Lloyd could have been the criminal, it would
have been possible for her secretly to procure a revolver, and
secretly to dispose of it afterward.  Then, too, a small revolver
had been used.  To be sure, this did not necessarily imply that a
woman had used it, but, taken in connection with the bag and the
rose petals, it gave food for thought.

But the coroner seemed to think Mrs. Pierce's assertions greatly
in Miss Lloyd's favor, and, being at the end of his list of
witnesses, he inquired if any one else in the room knew of
anything that could throw light on the matter.

No one responded to this invitation, and the coroner then
directed the jury to retire to find a verdict.  The six men
passed into another room, and I think no one who awaited their
return apprehended any other result than the somewhat
unsatisfactory one of "person or persons unknown."

And this was what the foreman announced when the jury returned
after their short collocation.

Then, as a jury, they were dismissed, but from that moment the
mystery of Joseph Crawford's death became the absorbing thought
of all West Sedgwick.

"The murderer of my brother shall be found and brought to
justice!" declared Philip Crawford, and all present seemed to
echo his vow.

Then and there, Mr. Crawford retained Lawyer Randolph to help him
in running down the villain, and, turning to me, asked to engage
my services also.

To this, I readily agreed, for I greatly desired to go on with
the matter, and cared little whether I worked for an individual
or for the State.

Of course Mr. Crawford's determination to find the murderer
proved anew his conviction that Florence Lloyd was above all
suspicion, but in the face of certain details of the evidence so
far, I could not feel so absolutely certain of this.

However, it was my business to follow up every clue, or apparent
clue, and every bit of evidence, and this I made up my mind to
do, regardless of consequences.

I confess it was difficult for me to feel regardless of
consequences, for I had a haunting fear that the future was going
to look dark for Florence Lloyd.  And if it should be proved that
she was in any way responsible for or accessory to this crime, I
knew I should wish I had had nothing to do with discovering that
fact.  But back of this was an undefined but insistent conviction
that the girl was innocent, and that I could prove it.  This may
have been an inordinate faith in my own powers, or it may have
been a hope born of my admiration for the young woman herself.
For there is no doubt, that for the first time in my life I was
taking a serious interest in a woman's personality.  Heretofore I
had been a general admirer of womankind, and I had naturally
treated them all with chivalry and respect.  But now I had met
one whom I desired to treat in a far tenderer way, and to my
chagrin I realized that I had no right to entertain such thoughts
toward a girl already betrothed.

So I concluded to try my best to leave Florence Lloyd's
personality out of the question, to leave my feelings toward her
out of the question, and to devote my energies to real work on
the case and prove by intelligent effort that I could learn facts
from evidence without resorting to the microscopic methods of
Fleming Stone.  I purposely ignored the fact that I would have
been only too glad to use these methods had I the power to do so!




IX

THE TWELFTH ROSE


For the next day or two the Crawford house presented the
appearance usual in any home during the days immediately
preceding a funeral.

By tacit consent, all reference to the violence of Mr. Crawford's
death was avoided, and a rigorous formality was the keynote of
all the ceremonies.  The servants were garbed in correct
mourning, the ladies of the house refused to see anybody, and all
personal callers were met by Philip Crawford or his wife, while
business acquaintances were received by Gregory Hall.

As private secretary, of course Mr. Hall was in full charge of
Mr. Crawford's papers and personal effects.  But, in addition to
this, as the prospective husband of the heiress, he was
practically the head of the house.

He showed no elation or ostentation at this state of affairs, but
carried himself with an air of quiet dignity, tinged with a
suggestion of sadness, which, if merely conventional, seemed none
the less sincere.

I soon learned that the whole social atmosphere of West Sedgwick
was one of extreme formality, and everything was done in
accordance with the most approved conventions.  Therefore, I
found I could get no chance for a personal conversation with Miss
Lloyd until after the funeral.

I had, however, more or less talk with Gregory Hall, and as I
became acquainted with him, I liked him less.

He was of a cold and calculating disposition, and when we were
alone, he did not hesitate to gloat openly over his bright
prospects.

"Terrible thing, to be put out of existence like that," he said,
as we sat in Mr. Crawford's office, looking over some papers;
"but it solved a big problem for Florence and me.  However, we'll
be married as soon as we decently can, and then we'll go abroad,
and forget the tragic part of it all."

"I suppose you haven't a glimmer of a suspicion as to who did
it," I ventured.

"No, I haven't.  Not the faintest notion.  But I wish you could
find out.  Of course, nobody holds up that bag business as
against Florence, but--it's uncomfortable all the same.  I wish
I'd been here that night.  I'm 'most sure I'd have heard a shot,
or something."

"Where were you?" I said, in a careless tone.

Hall drew himself up stiffly.  "Excuse me," he said.  "I declined
to answer that question before.  Since I was not in West
Sedgwick, it can matter to no one where I was."

"Oh, that's all right," I returned affably, for I had no desire
to get his ill will.  "But of course we detectives have to ask
questions.  By the way, where did you buy Miss Lloyd's yellow
roses?"

"See here," said Gregory Hall, with a petulant expression, "I
don't want to be questioned.  I'm not on the witness-stand, and,
as I've told you, I'm uncomfortable already about these so-called
`clues' that seem to implicate Miss Lloyd.  So, if you please,
I'll say nothing."

"All right," I responded, "just as you like."

I went away from the house, thinking how foolish people could be.
I could easily discover where he bought the roses, as there were
only three florists' shops in West Sedgwick and I resolved to go
at once to hunt up the florist who sold them.

Assuming he would naturally go to the shop nearest the railroad
station, and which was also on the way from the Crawford house, I
went there first, and found my assumption correct.

The florist was more than willing to talk on the subject.

"Yes, sir," he said; "I sold those roses to Mr. Hall--sold 'em
to him myself.  He wanted something extra nice, and I had just a
dozen of those big yellow beauties.  No, I don't raise my own
flowers.  I get 'em from the city.  And so I had just that dozen,
and I sent 'em right up.  Well, there was some delay, for two of
my boys were out to supper, and I waited for one to get back."

"And you had no other roses just like these in stock?"

"No, sir.  Hadn't had for a week or more.  Haven't any now.  May
not get any more at all.  They're a scarce sort, at best, and
specially so this year."

"And you sent Miss Lloyd the whole dozen?"

"Yes, sir; twelve.  I like to put in an extra one or two when I
can, but that time I couldn't.  There wasn't another rose like
them short of New York City."

I thanked the florist, and, guessing that he was not above it, I
gave him a more material token of my gratitude for his
information, and then walked slowly back to my room at the inn.

Since there were no other roses of that sort in West Sedgwick
that evening, it seemed to me as if Florence Lloyd must have gone
down to her uncle's office after having pinned the blossom on her
bodice.  The only other possibility was that some intruder had
entered by way of the French window wearing or carrying a similar
flower, and that this intruder had come from New York, or at
least from some place other than West Sedgwick.  It was too
absurd.  Murderers don't go about decked with flowers, and yet at
midnight a man in evening dress was not impossible, and evening
dress might easily imply a boutonniere.

Well, this well-dressed man I had conjured up in my mind must
have come from out of town, or else whence the flower, after all?

And then I bethought myself of that late newspaper.  An extra,
printed probably as late as eleven o'clock at night, must have
been brought out to West Sedgwick by a traveller on some late
train.  Why not Gregory Hall, himself?  I let my imagination run
riot for a minute.  Mr. Hall refused to say where he was on the
night of the murder.  Why not assume that he had come out from
New York, in evening dress, at or about midnight?  This would
account for the newspaper and the yellow rose petals, for, if he
bought a boutonniere in the city, how probable he would select
the same flower he had just sent his fiancee.

I rather fancied the idea of Gregory Hall as the criminal.  He
had the same motive as Miss Lloyd.  He knew of her uncle's
objection to their union, and his threat of disinheritance.  How
easy for him to come out late from New York, on a night when he
was not expected, and remove forever the obstacle to his future
happiness!

I drew myself up with a start.  This was not detective work.
This was mere idle speculation.  I must shake it off, and set
about collecting some real evidence.

But the thought still clung to me; mere speculation it might be,
but it was founded on the same facts that already threw suspicion
on Florence Lloyd.  With the exception of the gold bag--and that
she disclaimed--such evidence as I knew of pointed toward Mr.
Hall as well as toward Miss Lloyd.

However at present I was on the trail of those roses, and I
determined to follow that trail to a definite end.  I went back
to the Crawford house and as I did not like to ask for Miss
Lloyd, I asked for Mrs. Pierce.

She came down to the drawing room, and greeted me rather more
cordially than I had dared to hope.  I had a feeling that both
ladies resented my presence there, for so many women have a
prejudice against detectives.

But though nervous and agitated, Mrs. Pierce spoke to me kindly.

"Did you want to see me for anything in particular, Mr.
Burroughs?" she asked.

"Yes, I do, Mrs. Pierce," I replied; "I may as well tell you
frankly that I want to find out all I can about those yellow
roses."

"Oh, those roses!  Shall I never hear the last of them?  I assure
you, Mr. Burroughs, they're of no importance whatever."

"That is not for you to decide," I said quietly, and I began to
see that perhaps a dictatorial attitude might be the best way to
manage this lady.  "Are the rest of those flowers still in Miss
Lloyd's room?  If so I wish to see them."

"I don't know whether they are or not; but I will find out, and
if so I'll bring them down."

"No," I said, "I will go with you to see them."

"But Florence may be in her room."

"So much the better.  She can tell me anything I wish to know."

"Oh, please don't interview her!  I'm sure she wouldn't want to
talk with you."

"Very well, then ask her to vacate the room, and I will go there
with you now."

Mrs. Pierce went away, and I began to wonder if I had gone too
far or had overstepped my authority.  But it was surely my duty
to learn all I could about Florence Lloyd, and what so promising
of suggestions as her own room?

Mrs. Pierce returned in a few moments, and affably enough she
asked me to accompany her to Miss Lloyd's room.

I did so, and after entering devoted my whole attention to the
bunch of yellow roses, which in a glass vase stood on the window
seat.  Although somewhat wilted, they were still beautiful, and
without the slightest doubt were the kind of rose from which the
two tell-tale petals had fallen.

Acting upon a sudden thought, I counted them.  There were nine,
each one seemingly with its full complement of petals, though of
this I could not be perfectly certain.

"Now, Mrs.--Pierce," I said, turning to her with an air of
authority which was becoming difficult to maintain, "where are
the roses which Miss Lloyd admits having pinned to her gown?"

"Mercy! I don't know," exclaimed Mrs. Pierce, looking bewildered.
"I suppose she threw them away."

"I suppose she did," I returned; "would she not be likely to
throw them in the waste basket?"

"She might," returned Mrs. Pierce, turning toward an ornate
affair of wicker-work and pink ribbons.

Sure enough, in the basket, among a few scraps of paper, were two
exceedingly withered yellow roses.  I picked them out and
examined them, but in their present state it was impossible to
tell whether they had lost any petals or not, so I threw them
back in the basket.

Mrs. Pierce seemed to care nothing for evidence or deduction in
the matter, but began to lament the carelessness of the
chambermaid who had not emptied the waste basket the day before.

But I secretly blessed the delinquent servant, and began
pondering on this new development of the rose question.  The nine
roses in the vase and the two in the basket made but eleven, and
the florist had told me that he had sent a dozen.  Where was the
twelfth?

The thought occurred to me that Miss Lloyd might have put away
one as a sentimental souvenir, but to my mind she did not seem
the kind of a girl to do that.  I knew my reasoning was absurd,
for what man can predicate what a woman will do? but at the same
time I could not seem to imagine the statuesque, imperial Miss
Lloyd tenderly preserving a rose that her lover had given her.

But might not Gregory Hall have taken one of the dozen for
himself before sending the rest?  This was merely surmise, but it
was a possibility, and at any rate the twelfth rose was not in
Miss Lloyd's room.

Therefore the twelfth rose was a factor to be reckoned with, a
bit of evidence to be found; and I determined to find it.

I asked Mrs. Pierce to arrange for me an interview with Miss
Lloyd, but the elder lady seemed doubtful.

"I'm quite sure she won't see you," she said, "for she has
declared she will see no one until after the funeral.  But if you
want me to ask her anything for you, I will do so."

"Very well," I said, surprised at her willingness; "please ask
Miss Lloyd if she knows what became of the twelfth yellow rose;
and beg her to appreciate the fact that it is a vital point in
the case."

Mrs. Pierce agreed to do this, and as I went down the stairs she
promised to join me in the library a few moments later.

She kept her promise, and I waited eagerly her report.

"Miss Lloyd bids me tell you," she said, "that she knows nothing
of what you call the twelfth rose.  She did not count the roses,
she merely took two of them to pin on her dress, and when she
retired, she carelessly threw those two in the waste basket.  She
thinks it probable there were only eleven in the box when it
arrived.  But at any rate she knows nothing more of the matter."

I thanked Mrs. Pierce for her courtesy and patience, and feeling
that I now had a real problem to consider, I started back to the
inn.

It could not be that this rose matter was of no importance.  For
the florist had assured me he had sold exactly twelve flowers to
Mr. Gregory Hall, and of these, I could account for only eleven.
The twelfth rose must have been separated from the others, either
by Mr. Hall, at the time of purchase, or by some one else later.
If the petals found on the floor fell from that twelfth rose, and
if Florence Lloyd spoke the truth when she declared she knew
nothing of it, then she was free from suspicion in that
direction.

But until I could make some further effort to find out about the
missing rose I concluded to say nothing of it to anybody.  I was
not bound to tell Parmalee any points I might discover, for
though colleagues, we were working independently of each other.

But as I was anxious to gather any side lights possible, I
determined to go for a short conference with the district
attorney, in whose hands the case had been put after the
coroner's inquest.

He was a man named Goodrich, a quiet mannered, untalkative
person, and as might be expected he had made little or no
progress as yet.

He said nothing could be done until after the funeral and the
reading of the will, which ceremonies would occur the next
afternoon.

I talked but little to Mr. Goodrich, yet I soon discovered that
he strongly suspected Miss Lloyd of the crime, either as
principal or accessory.

"But I can't believe it," I objected.  "A girl, delicately
brought up, in refined and luxurious surroundings, does not
deliberately commit an atrocious crime."

"A woman thwarted in her love affair will do almost anything,"
declared Mr. Goodrich.  "I have had more experience than you, my
boy, and I advise you not to bank too much on the refined and
luxurious surroundings.  Sometimes such things foster crime
instead of preventing it.  But the truth will come out, and soon,
I think.  The evidence that seems to point to Miss Lloyd can be
easily proved or disproved, once we get at the work in earnest.
That coroner's jury was made up of men who were friends and
neighbors of Mr. Crawford.  They were so prejudiced by sympathy
for Miss Lloyd, and indignation at the unknown criminal, that
they couldn't give unbiased judgment.  But we will yet see
justice done.  If Miss Lloyd is innocent, we can prove it.  But
remember the provocation she was under.  Remember the opportunity
she had, to visit her uncle alone in his office, after every one
else in the house was asleep.  Remember that she had a motive--a
strong motive--and no one else had."

"Except Mr. Gregory Hall," I said meaningly.

"Yes; I grant he had the same motive.  But he is known to have
left town at six that evening, and did not return until nearly
noon the next day.  That lets him out."

"Yes, unless he came back at midnight, and then went back to the
city again."

"Nonsense!" said Mr. Goodrich.  "That's fanciful.  Why, the
latest train--the theatre train, as we call it--gets in at one
o'clock, and it's always full of our society people returning
from gayeties in New York.  He would have been seen had he come
on that train, and there is no later one."

I didn't stay to discuss the matter further.  Indeed, Mr.
Goodrich had made me feel that my theories were fanciful.

But whatever my theories might be there were still facts to be
investigated.

Remembering my determination to examine that gold bag more
thoroughly I asked Mr. Goodrich to let me see it, for of course,
as district attorney, it was now in his possession.

He gave it to me with an approving nod.  "That's the way to
work," he said.  "That bag is your evidence.  Now from that, you
detectives must go ahead and learn the truth."

"Whose bag is it?" I said, with the intention of drawing him out.

"It's Miss Lloyd's bag," he said gravely.  "Any woman in the
world would deny its ownership, in the existing circumstances,
and I am not surprised that she did so.  Nor do I blame her for
doing so.  Self preservation is a mighty strong impulse in the
human heart, and we've all got a right to obey it."

As I took the gold bag from his hand, I didn't in the least
believe that Florence Lloyd was the owner of it, and I resolved
anew to prove this to the satisfaction of everybody concerned.

Mr. Goodrich turned away and busied himself about other matters,
and I devoted myself to deep study.

The contents of the bag proved as blank and unsuggestive as ever.
The most exhaustive examination of its chain, its clasp and its
thousands of links gave me not the tiniest thread or shred of any
sort.

But as I poked and pried around in its lining I found a card,
which had slipped between the main lining and an inside pocket.

I drew it out as carefully as I could, and it proved to be a
small plain visiting card bearing the engraved name, "Mrs.
Egerton Purvis."

I sat staring at it, and then furtively glanced at Mr. Goodrich.
He was not observing me, and I instinctively felt that I did not
wish him to know of the card until I myself had given the matter
further thought.

I returned the card to its hiding place and returned the bag to
Mr. Goodrich, after which I went away.

I had not copied the name, for it was indelibly photographed upon
my brain.  As I walked along the street I tried to construct the
personality of Mrs. Egerton Purvis from her card.  But I was able
to make no rational deductions, except that the name sounded
aristocratic, and was quite in keeping with the general effect of
the bag and its contents.

To be sure I might have deduced that she was a lady of average
height and size, because she wore a number six glove; that she
was careful of her personal appearance, because she possessed a
vanity case; that she was of tidy habits, because she evidently
expected to send her gowns to be cleaned.  But all these things
seemed to me puerile and even ridiculous, as such characteristics
would apply to thousands of woman all over the country.

Instead of this, I went straight to the telegraph office and
wired to headquarters in a cipher code.  I instructed them to
learn the identity and whereabouts of Mrs. Egerton Purvis, and
advise me as soon as possible.

Then I returned to the Sedgwick Arms, feeling decidedly well
satisfied with my morning's work, and content to wait until after
Mr. Crawford's funeral to do any further real work in the matter.




X

THE WILL


I went to the Crawford house on the day of the funeral; but as I
reached there somewhat earlier than the hour appointed, I went
into the office with the idea of looking about for further clues.

In the office I found Gregory Hall; looking decidedly disturbed.

"I can't find Mr. Crawford's will," he said, as he successively
looked through one drawer after another.

"What!" I responded.  "Hasn't that been located already?"

"No; it's this way: I didn't see it here in this office, or in
the New York office, so I assumed Mr. Randolph had it in his
possession.  But it seems he thought it was here, all the time.
Only this morning we discovered our mutual error, and Mr.
Randolph concluded it must be in Mr. Crawford's safety deposit
box at the bank in New York.  So Mr. Philip Crawford hurried
through his administration papers--he is to be executor of the
estate--and went in to get it from the bank.  But he has just
returned with the word that it wasn't there.  So we've no idea
where it is."

"Oh, well," said I, "since he hadn't yet made the new will he had
in mind, everything belongs to Miss Lloyd."

"That's just the point," said Hall, his face taking on a
despairing look.  "If we don't find that will, she gets nothing!"

"How's that?" I said.

"Why, she's really not related to the Crawfords.  She's a niece
of Joseph Crawford's wife.  So in the absence of a will his
property will all go to his brother Philip, who is his legal
heir."

"Oho!" I exclaimed.  "This is a new development.  But the will
will turn up."

"Oh, yes, I'm sure of it," returned Hall, but his anxious face
showed anything but confidence in his own words.

"But," I went on, "didn't Philip Crawford object to his brother's
giving all his fortune to Miss Lloyd?"

"It didn't matter if he did.  Nobody could move Joseph Crawford's
determination.  And I fancy Philip didn't make any great
disturbance about it.  Of course, Mr. Joseph had a right to do as
he chose with his own, and the will gave Philip a nice little
sum, any way.  Not much, compared to the whole fortune, but,
still, a generous bequest."

"What does Mr. Randolph say?"

"He's completely baffled.  He doesn't know what to think."

"Can it have been stolen?"

"Why, no; who would steal it?  I only fear he may have destroyed
it because he expected to make a different one.  In that case,
Florence is penniless, save for such bounty as Philip Crawford
chooses to bestow on her."

I didn't like the tone in which Hall said this.  It was
distinctly aggrieved, and gave the impression that Florence
Lloyd, penniless, was of far less importance than Miss Lloyd, the
heiress of her uncle's millions.

"But he would doubtless provide properly for her," I said.

"Oh, yes, properly.  But she would find herself in a very
different position, dependent on his generosity, from what she
would be as sole heir to her uncle's fortune."

I looked steadily at the man.  Although not well acquainted with
him, I couldn't resist giving expression to my thought.

"But since you are to marry her," I said, "she need not long be
dependent upon her uncle's charity."

"Philip Crawford isn't really her uncle, and no one can say what
he will do in the matter."

Gregory Hall was evidently greatly disturbed at the new situation
brought about by the disappearance of Mr. Crawford's will.  But
apparently the main reason for his disturbance was the impending
poverty of his fiancee.  There was no doubt that Mr. Carstairs
and others who had called this man a fortune-hunter had judged
him rightly.

However, without further words on the subject, I waited while
Hall locked the door of the office, and then we went together to
the great drawing-room, where the funeral services were about to
take place.

I purposely selected a position from which I could see the faces
of the group of people most nearly connected with the dead man.
I had a strange feeling, as I looked at them, that one of them
might be the instrument of the crime which had brought about this
funeral occasion.

During the services I looked closely and in turn at each face,
but beyond the natural emotions of grief which might be expected,
I could read nothing more.

The brother, Philip Crawford, the near neighbors, Mr. Porter and
Mr. Hamilton, the lawyer, Mr. Randolph, all sat looking grave and
solemn as they heard the last words spoken above their dead
friend.  The ladies of the household, quietly controlling their
emotions, sat near me, and next to Florence Lloyd Gregory Hall
had seated himself.

All of these people I watched closely, half hoping that some
inadvertent sign might tell me of someone's knowledge of the
secret.  But when the clergyman referred to the retribution that
would sooner or later overtake the criminal.  I could see an
expression of fear or apprehension on no face save that of
Florence Lloyd.  She turned even whiter than before, her pale
lips compressed in a straight line, and her small black gloved
hand softly crept into that of Gregory Hall.  The movement was
not generally noticeable, but it seemed to me pathetic above all
things.  Whatever her position in the matter, she was surely
appealing to him for help and protection.

Without directly repulsing her, Hall was far from responsive.  He
allowed her hand to rest in his own but gave her no answering
pressure, and looked distinctly relieved when, after a moment,
she withdrew it.

I saw that Parmalee also had observed this, and I could see that
to him it was an indication of the girl's perturbed spirit.  To
me it seemed that it might equally well mean many other things.
For instance it might mean her apprehension for Gregory Hall,
who, I couldn't help thinking was far more likely to be a
wrongdoer than the girl herself.

With a little sigh I gave up trying to glean much information
from the present opportunity, and contented myself with the
melancholy pleasure it gave me simply to look at the sad sweet
face of the girl who was already enshrined in my heart.

After the solemn and rather elaborate obsequies were over, a
little assembly gathered in the library to hear the reading of
the will.

As, until then, no one had known of the disappearance of the
will, except the lawyer and the secretary, it came as a
thunderbolt.

"I have no explanation to offer," said Mr. Randolph, looking
greatly concerned, but free of all personal responsibility.  "Mr.
Crawford always kept the will in his own possession.  When he
came to see me, the last evening he was alive, in regard to
making a new will, he did not bring the old one with him.  We
arranged to meet in his office the next morning to draw up the
new instrument, when he doubtless expected to destroy the old
one.

"He may have destroyed it on his return home that evening.  I do
not know.  But so far it has not been found among his papers in
either of his offices or in the bank.  Of course it may appear,
as the search, though thorough, has not yet been exhaustive.  We
will, therefore, hold the matter in abeyance a few days, hoping
to find the missing document."

His hearers were variously affected by this news.  Florence Lloyd
was simply dazed.  She could not seem to grasp a situation which
so suddenly changed her prospects.  For she well knew that in the
event of no will being found, Joseph Crawford's brother would be
his rightful heir, and she would be legally entitled to nothing
at all.

Philip Crawford sat with an utterly expressionless face.  Quite
able to control his emotion, if he felt any, he made no sign that
he welcomed this possibility of a great fortune unexpectedly
coming to him.

Lemuel Porter, who, with his wife, had remained because of their
close friendship with the family, spoke out rather abruptly

"Find it!  Of course it must be found!  It's absurd to think the
man destroyed one will before the other was drawn."

"I agree with you," said Philip Crawford.

"Joseph was very methodical in his habits, and, besides, I doubt
if he would really have changed his will.  I think he merely
threatened it, to see if Florence persisted in keeping her
engagement."

This was a generous speech on the part of Philip Crawford.  To be
sure, generosity of speech couldn't affect the disposal of the
estate.  If no will were found, it must by law go to the brother,
but none the less the hearty, whole-souled way in which he spoke
of Miss Lloyd was greatly to his credit as a man.

"I think so, too," agreed Mr. Porter.  "As you know, I called on
Mr. Joseph Crawford during the--the last evening of his life."

The speaker paused, and indeed it must have been a sad
remembrance that pictured itself to his mind.

"Did he then refer to the matter of the will?" asked Mr.
Randolph, in gentle tones.

"He did.  Little was said on the subject, but he told me that
unless Florence consented to his wishes in the matter of her
engagement to Mr. Hall, he would make a new will, leaving her
only a small bequest."

"In what manner did you respond, Mr. Porter?"

"I didn't presume to advise him definitely, but I urged him not
to be too hard on the girl, and, at any rate, not to make a new
will until he had thought it over more deliberately."

"What did he then say?"

"Nothing of any definite import.  He began talking of other
matters, and the will was not again referred to.  But I can't
help thinking he had not destroyed it."

At this, Miss Lloyd seemed about to speak, but, glancing at
Gregory Hall, she gave a little sigh, and remained silent.

"You know of nothing that can throw any light on the matter of
the will, Mr. Hall?" asked Mr. Randolph.

"No, sir.  Of course this whole situation is very embarrassing
for me.  I can only say that I have known for a long time the
terms of Mr. Crawford's existing will; I have known of his
threats of changing it; I have known of his attitude toward my
engagement to his niece.  But I never spoke to him on any of
these subjects, nor he to me, though several times I have thought
he was on the point of doing so.  I have had access to most of
his private papers, but of two or three small boxes he always
retained the keys.  I had no curiosity concerning the contents of
these boxes, but I naturally assumed his will was in one of them.
I have, however, opened these boxes since Mr. Crawford's death,
in company with Mr. Randolph, and we found no will.  Nor could we
discover any in the New York office or in the bank.  That is all
I know of the matter."

Gregory Hall's demeanor was dignified and calm, his voice even
and, indeed, cold.  He was like a bystander, with no vital
interest in the subject he talked about.

Knowing, as I did, that his interest was vital, I came to the
conclusion that he was a man of unusual self-control, and an
ability to mask his real feelings completely.  Feeling that
nothing more could be learned at present, I left the group in the
library discussing the loss of the will, and went down to the
district attorney's office.

He was, of course, surprised at my news, and agreed with me that
it gave us new fields for conjecture.

"Now, we see," he said eagerly, "that the motive for the murder
was the theft of the will."

"Not necessarily," I replied.  "Mr. Crawford may have destroyed
the will before he met his death."

"But that would leave no motive.  No, the will supplies the
motive.  Now, you see, this frees Miss Lloyd from suspicion.  She
would have no reason to kill her uncle and then destroy or
suppress a will in her own favor."

"That reasoning also frees Mr. Hall from suspicion," said I,
reverting to my former theories.

"Yes, it does.  We must look for the one who has benefited by the
removal of the will.  That, of course, would be the brother, Mr.
Philip Crawford."

I looked at the attorney a moment, and then burst into laughter.

"My dear Mr. Goodrich," I said, "don't be absurd!  A man would
hardly shoot his own brother, but aside from that, why should
Philip Crawford kill Joseph just at the moment he is about to
make a new will in Philip's favor?  Either the destruction of the
old will or the drawing of the new would result in Philip's
falling heir to the fortune.  So he would hardly precipitate
matters by a criminal act.  And, too, if he had been keen about
the money, he could have urged his brother to disinherit Florence
Lloyd, and Joseph would have willingly done so.  He was on the
very point of doing so, any way."

"That's true," said Mr. Goodrich, looking chagrined but
unconvinced.  "However, it frees Miss Lloyd from all doubts, by
removing her motive.  As you say, she wouldn't suppress a will in
her favor, and thereby turn the fortune over to Philip.  And, as
you also said, this lets Gregory Hall out, too, though I never
suspected him for a moment.  But, of course, his interests and
Miss Lloyd's are identical."

"Wait a moment," I said, for new thoughts were rapidly following
one another through my brain.  "Not so fast, Mr. District
Attorney.  The disappearance of the will does not remove motive
from the possibility of Miss Lloyd's complicity in this crime--
or Mr. Hall's either."

"How so?"

"Because, if Florence Lloyd thought her uncle was in possession
of that will, her motive was identically the same as if he had
possessed it.  Now, she certainly thought he had it, for her
surprise at the news of its loss was as unfeigned as my own.  And
of course Hall thought the will was among Mr. Crawford's effects,
for he has been searching constantly since the question was
raised."

"But I thought that yesterday you were so sure of Miss Lloyd's
innocence," objected Mr. Goodrich.

"I was," I said slowly, "and I think I am still.  But in the
light of absolute evidence I am only declaring that the
non-appearance of that will in no way interferes with the motive
Miss Lloyd must have had if she is in any way guilty.  She knew,
or thought she knew, that the will was there, in her favor.  She
knew her uncle intended to revoke it and make another in her
disfavor.  I do not accuse her--I'm not sure I suspect her--I
only say she had motive and opportunity."

As I walked away from Mr. Goodrich's office, those words rang in
my mind, motive and opportunity.  Truly they applied to Mr. Hall
as well as to Miss Lloyd, although of course it would mean Hall's
coming out from the city and returning during the night.  And
though this might have been a difficult thing to do secretly, it
was by no means impossible.  He might not have come all the way
to West Sedgwick Station, but might have dropped off the train
earlier and taken the trolley.  The trolley! that thought
reminded me of the transfer I had picked up on the grass plot
near the office veranda.  Was it possible that slip of paper was
a clue, and pointing toward Hall?

Without definite hope of seeing Gregory Hall, but hopeful of
learning something about him, I strolled back to the Crawford
house.  I went directly to the office, and by good luck found
Gregory Hall there alone.  He was still searching among the
papers of Mr. Crawford's desk.

"Ah, Mr. Burroughs," he said, as I entered, "I'm glad to see you.
If detectives detect, you have a fine chance here to do a bit of
good work.  I wouldn't mind offering you an honorarium myself, if
you could unearth the will that has so mysteriously disappeared."

Hall's whole manner had changed.  He had laid aside entirely the
grave demeanor which he had shown at the funeral, and was again
the alert business man.  He was more than this.  He was eager,--
offensively so,--in his search for the will.  It needed no
detective instinct to see that the fortune of Joseph Crawford and
its bestowment were matters of vital interest to him.

But though his personal feelings on the subject might be
distasteful to me, it was certainly part of my duty to aid in the
search, and so with him I looked through the various drawers and
filing cabinets.  The papers representing or connected with the
financial interests of the late millionaire were neatly filed and
labelled; but in some parts of the desk we found the hodge-podge
of personal odds and ends which accumulates with nearly
everybody.

Hall seemed little interested in those, but to my mind they
showed a possibility of casting some light on Mr. Crawford's
personal affairs.

But among old letters, photographs, programs, newspaper
clippings, and such things, there was nothing that seemed of the
slightest interest, until at last I chanced upon a photograph
that arrested my attention.

"Do you know who this is?" I inquired.

"No," returned Hall, with a careless glance at it; "a friend of
Mr. Crawford's, I suppose."

"More than a friend, I should judge," and I turned the back of
the picture toward him.  Across it was written, "with loving
Christmas greetings, from M.S.P."; and it was dated as recently
as the Christmas previous.

"Well," said Hall, "Mr. Crawford may have had a lady friend who
cared enough about him to send an affectionate greeting, but I
never heard of her before, and I doubt if she is in any way
responsible for the disappearance of this will."

He went on searching through the desks, giving no serious heed to
the photograph.  But to me it seemed important.  I alone knew of
the visiting card in the gold bag.  I alone knew that that bag
belonged to a lady named Purvis.  And here was a photograph
initialed by a lady whose surname began with P, and who was
unmistakably on affectionate terms with Mr. Crawford.  To my mind
the links began to form a chain; the lady who had sent her
photograph at Christmas, and who had left her gold bag in Mr.
Crawford's office the night he was killed, surely was a lady to
be questioned.

But I had not yet had a reply to my telegram to headquarters, so
I said nothing to Hall on this subject, and putting the
photograph in my pocket continued to assist him to look for the
will, but without success.  However, the discovery of the
photograph had in a measure diverted my suspicions from Gregory
Hall; and though I endeavored to draw him into general
conversation, I did not ask him any definite questions about
himself.

But the more I talked with him, the more I disliked him: He not
only showed a mercenary, fortune-hunting spirit, but he showed
himself in many ways devoid of the finer feelings and chivalrous
nature that ought to belong to the man about to marry such a
perfect flower of womanhood as Florence Lloyd.




XI

LOUIS'S STORY


After spending an evening in thinking over the situation and
piecing together my clues, I decided that the next thing to be
done was to trace up that transfer.  If I could fasten that upon
Gregory Hall, it would indeed be a starting point to work from.
Although this seemed to eliminate Mrs. Purvis, who had already
become a living entity in my mind, I still had haunting
suspicions of Hall; and then, too, there was a possibility of
collusion between these two.  It might be fanciful, but if Hall
and the Purvis woman were both implicated, Hall was quite enough
a clever villain to treat the photograph lightly as he had done.

And so the next morning, I started for the office of the trolley
car company.

I learned without difficulty that the transfer I had found, must
have been given to some passenger the night of Mr. Crawford's
death, but was not used.  It had been issued after nine o'clock
in the evening, somewhere on the line between New York and West
Sedgwick.  It was a transfer which entitled a passenger on that
line to a trip on the branch line running through West Sedgwick,
and the fact that it had not been used, implied either a
negligent conductor or a decision on the part of the passenger
not to take his intended ride.

All this was plausible, though a far from definite indication
that Hall might have come out from New York by trolley, or part
way by trolley, and though accepting a transfer on the West
Sedgwick branch, had concluded not to use it.  But the whole
theory pointed equally as well to Mrs. Purvis, or indeed to the
unknown intruder insisted upon by so many.  I endeavored to learn
something from certain conductors who brought their cars into
West Sedgwick late at night, but it seemed they carried a great
many passengers and of course could not identify a transfer, of
which scores of duplicates had been issued.

Without much hope I interviewed the conductors of the West
Sedgwick Branch Line.  Though I could learn nothing definite, I
fell into conversation with one of them, a young Irishman, who
was interested because of my connection with the mystery.

"No, sir," he said, "I can't tell you anythin' about a stray
transfer.  But one thing I can tell you.  That 'ere murder was
committed of a Toosday night, wasn't it?"

"Yes," I returned.

"Well, that 'ere parlyvoo vally of Mr. Crawford's, he's rid, on
my car 'most every Toosday night fer weeks and weeks.  It's his
night off.  And last Toosday night he didn't ride with me.  Now I
don't know's that means anything, but agin it might."

It didn't seem to me that it meant much, for certainly Louis was
not under the slightest suspicion.  And yet as I came to think
about it, if that had been Louis's transfer and if he had dropped
it near the office veranda, he had lied when he said that he went
round the other side of the house to reach the back entrance.

It was all very vague, but it narrowed itself down to the point
that if that were Louis's transfer it could be proved; and if not
it must be investigated further.  For a trolley transfer, issued
at a definite hour, and dropped just outside the scene of the
crime was certainly a clue of importance.

I proceeded to the Crawford house, and though I intended to have
a talk with Louis later, I asked first for Miss Lloyd.  Surely,
if I were to carry on my investigation of the case, in her
interests, I must have a talk with her.  I had not intruded
before, but now that the funeral was over, the real work of
tracking the criminal must be commenced, and as one of the
principal characters in the sad drama, Miss Lloyd must play her
part.

Until I found myself in her presence I had not actually realized
how much I wanted this interview.

I was sure that what she said, her manner and her facial
expression, must either blot out or strengthen whatever shreds of
suspicion I held against her.

"Miss Lloyd," I began, "I am, as you know, a detective; and I am
here in Sedgwick for the purpose of discovering the cowardly
assassin of your uncle.  I assume that you wish to aid me in any
way you can.  Am I right in this?"

Instead of the unhesitating affirmative I had expected, the girl
spoke irresolutely.  "Yes," she said, "but I fear I cannot help
you, as I know nothing about it."

The fact that this reply did not sound to me as a rebuff, for
which it was doubtless intended, I can only account for by my
growing appreciation of her wonderful beauty.

Instead of funereal black, Miss Lloyd was clad all in white, and
her simple wool gown gave her a statuesque appearance; which,
however, was contradicted by the pathetic weariness in her face
and the sad droop of her lovely mouth.  Her helplessness appealed
to me, and, though she assumed an air of composure, I well knew
it was only assumed, and that with some difficulty.

Resolving to make it as easy as possible for her, I did not ask
her to repeat the main facts, which I already knew.

"Then, Miss Lloyd," I said, in response to her disclaimer, "if
you cannot help me, perhaps I can help you.  I have reason to
think that possibly Louis, your late uncle's valet, did not tell
the truth in his testimony at the coroner's inquest.  I have
reason to think that instead of going around the house to the
back entrance as he described, he went around the other side,
thus passing your uncle's office."

To my surprise this information affected Miss Lloyd much more
seriously than I supposed it would.

"What?" she said, and her voice was a frightened whisper.  "What
time did he come home?"

"I don't know," I replied; "but you surely don't suspect Louis of
anything wrong.  I was merely hoping, that if he did pass the
office he might have looked in, and so could tell us of your
uncle's well-being at that time."

"At what time?"

"At whatever time he returned home.  Presumably rather late.  But
since you are interested in the matter, will you not call Louis
and let us question him together?"

The girl fairly shuddered at this suggestion.  She hesitated, and
for a moment was unable to speak.  Of course this behavior on her
part filled my soul with awful apprehension.  Could it be
possible that she and Louis were in collusion, and that she
dreaded the Frenchman's disclosures?  I remembered the strange
looks he had cast at her while being questioned by the coroner.
I remembered his vehement denial of having passed the office that
evening,--too vehement, it now seemed to me.  However, if I were
to learn anything damaging to Florence Lloyd's integrity, I would
rather learn it now, in her presence, than elsewhere.  So I again
asked her to send for the valet.

With a despairing look, as of one forced to meet an impending
fate, she rose, crossed the room and rang a bell.  Then she
returned to her seat and said quietly, "You may ask the man such
questions as you wish, Mr. Burroughs, but I beg you will not
include me in the conversation."

"Not unless it should be necessary," I replied coldly, for I did
not at all like her making this stipulation.  To me it savored of
a sort of cowardice, or at least a presumption on my own
chivalry.

When the man appeared, I saw at a glance he was quite as much
agitated as Miss Lloyd.  There was no longer a possibility of a
doubt that these two knew something, had some secret in common,
which bore directly on the case, and which must be exposed.  A
sudden hope flashed into my mind that it might be only some
trifling secret, which seemed of importance to them, but which
was merely a side issue of the great question.

I considered myself justified in taking advantage of the man's
perturbation, and without preliminary speech I drew the transfer
from my pocket and fairly flashed it in his face.

"Louis," I said sternly, "you dropped this transfer when you came
home the night of Mr. Crawford's death."

The suddenness of my remark had the effect I desired, and fairly
frightened the truth out of the man.

"Y-yes, sir," he stammered, and then with a frightened glance at
Miss Lloyd, he stood nervously interlacing his fingers.

I glanced at Miss Lloyd myself, but she had regained entire
self-possession, and sat looking straight before her with an air
that seemed to say, "Go on, I'm prepared for the worst."

As I paused myself to contemplate the attitudes of the two, I
lost my ground of vantage, for when I again spoke to the man, he
too was more composed and ready to reply with caution.  Doubtless
he was influenced by Miss Lloyd's demeanor, for he imitatively
assumed a receptive air.

"Where did you get the transfer?" I went on.

"On the trolley, sir; the main line."

"To be used on the Branch Line through West Sedgwick?"

"Yes, sir."

"Why did you not use it?"

"As I tell you, sir, and as I tell monsieur, the coroner, I have
spend that evening with a young lady.  We went for a trolley
ride, and as we returned I take a transfer for myself, but not
for her, as she live near where we alight."

"Oh, you left the main line and took the young lady home,
intending then yourself to come by trolley through West
Sedgwick?"

"Yes, sir; it was just that way."

At this point Louis seemed to forget his embarrassment, his gaze
strayed away, and a happy expression came into his eyes.  I felt
sure I was reading his volatile French nature aright, when I
assumed his mind had turned back to the pleasant evening he had
spent with his young lady acquaintance.  Somehow this went far to
convince me of the fellow's innocence for it was quite evident
the murder and its mystery were not uppermost in his thoughts at
that moment.  But my next question brought him beck to
realization of the present situation.

"And why didn't you use your transfer?"

"Only that the night, he was so pleasant, I desired to walk."

"And so you walked through the village, holding, perhaps, the
transfer in your hand?"

"I think, yes; but I do not remember the transfer in my hand,
though he may have been there."

And now the man's unquiet had returned.  His lips twitched and
his dark eyes rolled about, as he endeavored in vain to look
anywhere but at Miss Lloyd.  She, too, was controlling herself by
a visible effort.

Anxious to bring the matter to a crisis, I said at once, and
directly:

"And then you entered the gates of this place, you walked to the
house, you walked around the house to the back by way of the path
which leads around by the library veranda, and you accidentally
dropped your transfer near the veranda step."

I spoke quietly enough, but Louis immediately burst into voluble
denial.

"No, no!" he exclaimed; "I do not go round by the office, I go
the other side of the house.  I have tell you so many times."

"But I myself picked up your transfer near the office veranda."

"Then he blow there.  The wind blow that night, oh, something
fearful!  He blow the paper around the house, I think."

"I don't think so," I retorted; "I think you went around the
house that way, I think you paused at the office window--"

Just here I made a dramatic pause myself, hoping thus to appeal
to the emotional nature of my victim.  And I succeeded.  Louis
almost shrieked as he pressed his hands against his eyes, and
cried out: "No! no!  I tell you I did not go round that way!  I
go round the other way, and the wind--the wind, he blow my
transfer all about!"

I tried a more quiet manner, I tried persuasive arguments, I
finally resorted to severity and even threats, but no admission
could I get from Louis, except that he had not gone round the
house by way of the office.  I was positive the man was lying,
and I was equally positive that Miss Lloyd knew he was lying, and
that she knew why, but the matter seemed to me at a deadlock.  I
could have questioned her, but I preferred to do that when Louis
was not present.  If she must suffer ignominy it need not be
before a servant.  So I dismissed Louis, perhaps rather curtly,
and turning to Miss Lloyd, I asked her if she believed his
assertion that he did not pass by the office that night.

"I don't know what I believe," she answered, wearily drawing her
hand across her brow.  "And I can't see that it matters anyway.
Supposing he did go by the office, you certainly don't suspect
him of my uncle's murder, do you?"

"It is my duty, Miss Lloyd," I said gently, for the girl was
pitiably nervous, "to get the testimony of any one who was in or
near the office that night.  But of course testimony is useless
unless it is true."

I looked her straight in the eyes as I said this, for I was
thoroughly convinced that her own testimony at the inquest had
not been entirely true.

I think she understood my glance, for she arose at once, and said
with extreme dignity: "I cannot see any necessity for prolonging
this interview, Mr. Burroughs.  It is of course your work to
discover the truth or falsity of Louis's story, but I cannot see
that it in any way implicates or even interests me."

The girl was superb.  Her beauty was enhanced by the sudden
spirit she showed, and her flashing dark eyes suggested a baited
animal at bay.  Apparently she had reached the limit of her
endurance, and was unwilling to be questioned further or drawn
into further admissions.  And yet, some inexplicable idea came to
me that she was angry, not with me, but with the tangle in which
I had remorselessly enmeshed her.  Of a high order of
intelligence, she knew perfectly well that I was conscious of the
fact that there was a secret of some sort between her and the
valet.  Her haughty disdain, I felt sure, was to convey the
impression that though there might be a secret between them, it
was no collusion or working together, and that though her
understanding with the man was mysterious, it was in no way
beneath her dignity.  Her imperious air as she quietly left the
room thrilled me anew, and I began to think that a woman who
could assume the haughty demeanor of an empress might have
chosen, as empresses had done before her, to commit crime.

However, she went away, and the dark and stately library seemed
to have lost its only spot of light and charm.  I sat for a few
minutes pondering over it all, when I saw passing through the
hall, the maid, Elsa.  It suddenly occurred to me, that having
failed with the mistress of the house, I might succeed better
with her maid, so I called the girl in.

She came willingly enough, and though she seemed timid, she was
not embarrassed or afraid.

"I'm in authority here," I said, "and I'm going to ask you some
questions, which you must answer truthfully."

"Yes, sir," she said, without any show of interest.

"Have you been with Miss Lloyd long?"

"Yes, sir; about four years, sir."

"Is she a kind mistress?"

"Indeed she is, sir.  She is the loveliest lady I ever worked
for.  I'd do anything for Miss Lloyd, that I would."

"Well, perhaps you can best serve her by telling all you know
about the events of Tuesday night."

"But I don't know anything, sir," and Elsa's eyes opened wide in
absolutely unfeigned wonderment.

"Nothing about the actual murder; no, of course not.  But I just
want you to tell me a few things about some minor matters.  Did
you take the yellow flowers from the box that was sent to Miss
Lloyd?"

"Yes, sir; I always untie her parcels.  And as she was at dinner,
I arranged the flowers in a vase of water."

"How many flowers were there?"

For some reason this simple query disturbed the girl greatly.
She flushed scarlet, and then she turned pale.  She twisted the
corner of her apron in her nervous fingers, and then said, only
half audibly, "I don't know, sir."

"Oh, yes, you do, Elsa," I said in kindly tones, being anxious
not to frighten her; "tell me how many there were.  Were there
not a dozen?"

"I don't know, sir; truly I don't.  I didn't count them at all."

It was impossible to disbelieve her; she was plainly telling the
truth.  And, too, why should she count the roses?  The natural
thing would be not to count them, but merely to put them in the
vase as she had said.  And yet, there was something about those
flowers that Elsa knew and wouldn't tell.  Could it be that I was
on the track of that missing twelfth rose?  I knew, though
perhaps Elsa did not, how many roses the florist had sent in that
box.  And unless Gregory Hall had abstracted one at the time of
his purchase, the twelfth rose had been taken by some one else
after the flowers reached the Crawford House.  Could it have been
Elsa, and was her perturbation only because of a guilty
conscience over a petty theft of a flower?  But I realized I must
question her adroitly if I would find out these things.

"Is Miss Lloyd fond of flowers?" I asked, casually.

"Oh, yes, sir, she always has some by her."

"And do you love flowers too, Elsa?"

"Yes, sir."  But the quietly spoken answer, accompanied by a
natural and straightforward look promised little for my new
theory.

"Does Miss Lloyd sometimes give you some of her flowers?"

"Oh, yes, sir, quite often."

"That is, if she's there when they arrive.  But if she isn't
there, and you open the box yourself, she wouldn't mind if you
took one or two blossoms, would she?"

"Oh, no, sir, she wouldn't mind.  Miss Lloyd's awful kind about
such things.  But I wouldn't often do it, sir."

"No; of course not.  But you did happen to take one of those
yellow roses, didn't you, though?"

I breathlessly awaited the answer, but to my surprise, instead of
embarrassment the girl's eyes flashed with anger, though she
answered quietly enough, "Well, yes, I did, sir."

Ah, at last I was on the trail of that twelfth rose!  But from
the frank way in which the girl admitted having taken the flower,
I greatly feared that the trail would lead to a commonplace
ending.

"What did you do with it?" I said quietly, endeavoring to make
the question sound of little importance.

"I don't want to tell you;" and the pout on her scarlet lips
seemed more like that of a wilful child than of one guarding a
guilty secret.

"Oh, yes, tell me, Elsa;" and I even descended to a coaxing tone,
to win the girl's confidence.

"Well, I gave it to that Louis."

"To Louis? and why do you call him that Louis?"

"Oh, because.  I gave him the flower to wear because I thought he
was going to take me out that evening.  He had promised he would,
at least he had sort of promised, and then,--and then--"

"And then he took another young lady," I finished for her in
tones of such sympathy and indignation that she seemed to think
she had found a friend.

"Yes," she said, "he went and took another girl riding on the
trolley, after he had said he would take me."

"Elsa," I said suddenly, and I fear she thought I had lost
interest in her broken heart, "did Louis wear that rose you gave
him that night?"

"Yes, the horrid man!  I saw it in his coat when he went away."

"And did he wear it home again?"

"How should I know?" Elsa tossed her head with what was meant to
be a haughty air, but which was belied by the blush that mantled
her cheek at her own prevarication.

"But you do know," I insisted, gently; "did he wear it when he
came home?"

"Yes, he did."

"How do you know?"

"Because I looked in his room the next day, and I saw it there
all withered.  He had thrown it on the floor!"

The tragedy in Elsa's eyes at this awful relation of the cruelty
of the sterner sex called for a spoken sympathy, and I said at
once, and heartily: "That was horrid of him!  If I were you I'd
never give him another flower."

In accordance with the natural impulses of her sex, Elsa seemed
pleased at my disapproval of Louis's behavior, but she by no
means looked as if she would never again bestow her favor upon
him.  She smiled and tossed her head, and seemed willing enough
for further conversation, but for the moment I felt that I had
enough food for thought.  So I dismissed Elsa, having first
admonished her not to repeat our conversation to any one.  In
order to make sure that I should be obeyed in this matter, I
threatened her with some unknown terrors which the law would
bring upon her if she disobeyed me.  When I felt sure she was
thoroughly frightened into secrecy concerning our interview, I
sent her away and began to cogitate on what she had told me.

If Louis came to the house late that night, as by his own
admission he did; if he went around the house on the side of the
office, as the straying transfer seemed to me to prove; and if,
at the time, he was wearing in his coat a yellow rose with petals
similar to those found on the office floor the next morning, was
not one justified in looking more deeply into the record of Louis
the valet?




XII

LOUIS'S CONFESSION


Elsa had been gone but a few moments when Florence Lloyd returned
to the library.  I arose to greet her and marvelled at the change
which had come over her.  Surely here was a girl of a thousand
moods.  She had left me with an effect of hauteur and disdain;
she returned, gentle and charming, almost humble.  I could not
understand it, and remained standing after she had seated
herself, awaiting developments.

"Sit down, Mr. Burroughs," she said, and her low, sweet voice
seemed full of cordial invitation.  "I'm afraid I was rude to
you, when I went away just now; and I want to say that if I can
tell you anything you wish to know, I should be glad to do so."

I drew up a chair and seated myself near her.  My heart was
pounding with excitement at this new phase of the girl's nature.
For an instant it seemed as if she must have a personal kindly
feeling toward me, and then my reason returned, and with a
suddenly falling heart and slowing pulses, I realized that I was
a fool, and that after thinking over the disclosures Louis had
made, Miss Lloyd had shrewdly concluded it was to her best
advantage to curry favor with the detective.  This knowledge came
to me instinctively, and so I distrusted her gentle voice and
winning smile, and hardening my heart against her, I resolved to
turn this new mood of hers to my own advantage, and learn what I
could while she was willing to converse:

"I'm glad of this opportunity, Miss Lloyd," I said, "for there
are some phases of this affair that I want to discuss with you
alone.  Let us talk the matter over quietly.  It is as well that
you should know that there are some doubts felt as to the entire
truth of the story you told at the inquest.  I do not say this to
frighten you," I added, as the poor girl clasped her hands and
gave me a look of dumb alarm; "but, since it is so, I want to do
all I can to set the matter right.  Do you remember exactly all
that took place, to your knowledge, on the night of your uncle's
death?"

"Yes," she replied, looking more frightened still.  It was
evident that she knew more than she had yet revealed, but I
almost forgot my inquiry, so absorbed was I in watching her
lovely face.  It was even more exquisite in its terrified pallor
than when the fleeting pink showed in her cheeks.

"Then," I said, "let us go over it.  You heard your uncle go out
at about eight o'clock and return about nine?"

"Yes, I heard the front door open and close both times."

"You and Mrs. Pierce being in the music-room, of course.  Then,
later, you heard a visitor enter, and again you heard him leave?"

"Yes--Mr. Porter."

"Did you know it was Mr. Porter, at the time he was here?"

"No; I think not.  I didn't think at all who it might be.  Uncle
Joseph often had men to call in the evening."

"About what time did Mr. Porter leave?"

"A few minutes before ten.  I heard Lambert say, `Good-night,
sir,' as he closed the door after him."

"And soon after, you and Mrs. Pierce went upstairs?"

"Yes; only a few minutes after."

"And, later, Mrs. Pierce came to your room?"

"Yes; about half-past ten, I should say; she came to get a book.
She didn't stay two minutes."

"And after that, you went down-stairs again to speak to your
uncle?"  For the merest instant Miss Lloyd's eyes closed and she
swayed as if about to faint, but she regained her composure at
once, and answered with some asperity

"I did not.  I have told you that I did not leave my room again
that night."

Her dark eyes blazed, her cheeks flushed, and though her full
lower lip quivered it was with anger now, not fear.

As I watched her, I wondered how I could have thought her more
beautiful when pale.  Surely with this glowing color she was at
her glorious best.

"Then when did you drop the two rose petals there?"  I went on,
calmly enough, though my own heart was beating fast.

"I did not drop them.  They were left there by some intruder."

"But, Miss Lloyd," and I observed her closely, "the petals were
from a rose such as those Mr. Hall sent you that evening.  The
florist assures me there were no more such blossoms in West
Sedgwick at that time.  The fallen petals, then, were from one of
your own roses, or--"

"Or?" asked Miss Lloyd, her hands pressed against the laces at
her throbbing bosom.  "Or?"

"Or," I went on, "from a rose worn by some one who had come out
from New York on a late train."

For the moment I chose to ignore Louis's rose for I wanted to
learn anything Miss Lloyd could tell me.  And, too, the yellow
petals might have fallen from a flower in Hall's coat after all.
I thought it possible by suggesting this idea, to surprise from
her some hint as to whether she had any suspicion of him.

She gave a gasp, and, leaning back in her chair, she closed her
eyes, as if spent with a useless struggle.

"Wait a moment," she said, putting out her hand with an imploring
gesture.  "Wait a moment.  Let me think.  I will tell you all,
but--wait--"

With her eyes still closed, she lay back against the satin chair
cushion, and I gazed at her, fascinated.

I knew it!  Then and there the knowledge came to me!  Not her
guilt, not her innocence.  The crime seemed far away then, but I
knew like a flash not only that I loved this girl, this Florence
Lloyd, but that I should never love any one else.  It mattered
not that she was betrothed to another man; the love that had
suddenly sprung to life in my heart was such pure devotion that
it asked no return.  Guilty or innocent, I loved her.  Guilty or
innocent, I would clear her; and if the desire of her heart were
toward another, she should ever know or suspect my adoration for
her.

I gazed at her lovely face, knowing that when her eyes opened I
must discreetly turn my glance aside, but blessing every instant
of opportunity thus given me.

Her countenance, though troubled and drawn with anxiety, was so
pure and sweet that I felt sure of her innocence.  But it should
be my work to prove that to the world.

Suddenly her eyes flashed open; again her mood had changed.

"Mr. Burroughs," she said, and there was almost a challenge in
her tone, "why do you ask me these things?  You are a detective,
you are here to find out for yourself, not to ask others to find
out.  I am innocent of my uncle's death, of course, but when you
cast suspicion on the man to whom I am betrothed, you cannot
expect me to help you confirm that suspicion.  You have made me
think by your remark about a man on a late train that you refer
to Mr. Hall.  Do you?"

This was a change of base, indeed.  I was being questioned
instead of doing the catechising myself.  Very well; if it were
my lady's will to challenge me, I would meet her on her own
ground.

"You took the hint very quickly," I said.  "Had you thought of
such a possibility before?"

"No, nor do I now.  I will not."  Again she was the offended
queen.  "But since you have breathed the suggestion, you may not
count on any help from me."

"Could you have helped me otherwise?" I said, detaining her as
she swept by.

To this she made no answer, but again her face wore a troubled
expression, and as she went slowly from the room, she left me
with a strong conviction that she knew far more about Gregory
Hall's connection with the matter than she had told me.

I sat alone for a few moments wondering what I had better do
next.

I had about decided to go in search of Parmalee, and talk things
over with him, but I thought it would be better to see Louis
first, and settle up the matter of his rose more definitely.
Accordingly I rang the bell, and when the parlor maid answered
it, I asked her to send both Louis and Elsa to me in the library.

I could see at once that these two were not friendly toward each
other, and I hoped this fact would aid me in learning the truth
from them.

"Now, Louis," I began, "you may as well tell me the truth about
your home coming last Tuesday night.  In the first place, you
must admit that you were wearing in your coat one of the yellow
roses which had been sent to Miss Lloyd."

"No, no, indeed!" declared Louis, giving Elsa a threatening
glance, as if forbidding her to contradict him.

"Nonsense, man," I said; "don't stand there and tell useless
lies.  It will not help you.  The best thing you can do for
yourself and for all concerned is to tell the truth.  And,
moreover, if you don't tell it to me now, you will have to tell
it to Mr. Goodrich, later.  Elsa gave you a yellow rose and you
wore it away that evening when you went to see your young lady.
Now what became of that rose?"

"I--I lost it, sir."

"No, you didn't lose it.  You wore it home again, and when you
retired, you threw it on the floor, in your own room."

"No, sir.  You make mistake.  I look for him next day in my room,
but cannot find him."

I almost laughed at the man's ingenuousness.  He contradicted his
own story so unconsciously, that I began to think he was more of
a simpleton than a villain.

"Of course you couldn't find it," I informed him, "for it was
taken from your room next day; and of course you didn't look for
it until after you had heard yellow roses discussed at the
inquest."

Louis's easily read face proved my statement correct, but he
glowered at Elsa, as he said: "Who take him away?  who take my
rose from my room."

"But you denied having a rose, Louis.  Now you're asking who took
it away.  Once again, let me advise you to tell the truth.
You're not at all successful in telling falsehoods.  Now answer
me this: When you came home Tuesday night, did you or did you not
walk around the house past the office window?"

"No, sir.  I walked around the other side.  I--"

"Stop, Louis!  You're not telling the truth.  You did walk around
by the office, and you dropped your transfer there.  It never
blew all around the house, as you have said it did."

A look of dogged obstinacy came into the man's eyes, but he did
not look at me.  He shifted his gaze uneasily, as he repeated
almost in a singsong way, "go round the other side of the
house."

It was a sort of deadlock.  Without a witness to the fact, I
could not prove that he had gone by the office windows, though I
was sure he had.

But help came from an unexpected quarter.

Elsa had been very quiet during the foregoing conversation, but
now she spoke up suddenly, and said: "He did go round by the
office, Mr. Burroughs, and I saw him."

I half expected to see Louis turn on the girl in a rage, but the
effect of her speech on him was quite the reverse.  He almost
collapsed; he trembled and turned white, and though he tried to
speak, he made no sound.  Surely this man was too cowardly for a
criminal; but I must learn the secret of his knowledge.

"Tell me about it, Elsa," I said, quietly.

"I was looking out at my window, sir, at the back of the house;
and I saw Louis come around the house, and he came around by the
office side."

"You're positive of this, Elsa?  you would swear to it?
Remember, you are making an important assertion."

"I am telling the truth, sir.  I saw him plainly as he came
around and entered at the back door."

"You hear, Louis?" I said sternly.  "I believe Elsa's statement
rather than yours, for she tells a straight story, while you are
rattled and agitated, and have all the appearance of concealing
something."

Louis looked helpless.  He didn't dare deny Elsa's story, but he
would not confirm it.  At last he said, with a glance of hatred
at the girl, "Elsa, she tell that story to make the trouble for
me."

There was something in this.  Elsa, I knew, was jealous, and her
pride had been hurt because Louis had taken the rose she gave
him, and then had gone to call on another girl.  But I had no
reason to doubt Elsa's statement, and I had every reason to doubt
Louis's.  I tried to imagine what Louis's experience had really
been, and it suddenly occurred to me, that though innocent
himself of real wrong, he had seen something in the office, or
through the office windows that he wished to keep secret.  I did
not for a moment believe that the man had killed his master, so I
concluded he was endeavoring to shield someone else.

"Louis," I said, suddenly, "I'll tell you what you did.  You went
around by the office, you saw a light there late at night, and
you naturally looked in.  You saw Mr. Crawford there, and he was
perhaps already killed.  You stepped inside and discovered this,
and then you came away, and said nothing about it, lest you
yourself be suspected of the crime.  Incidentally you dropped two
petals from the rose Elsa had given you."

Louis's answer to this accusation was a perfect storm of denials,
expressed in voluble French and broken English, but all to the
effect that it was not true, and that if he had seen his master
dead, he would have raised an alarm.

I saw that I had not yet struck the right idea, so I tried again.
"Then, Louis, you must have passed the office before Mr. Crawford
was killed, which is really more probable.  Then as you passed
the window, you saw something or someone in the office, and
you're not willing to tell about it.  Is this it?"

This again brought forth only incoherent denial, and I could see
that the man was becoming so rattled, it was difficult for him to
speak clearly, had he desired to do so.

"Elsa," I said, suddenly, "you took that rose from Louis's room.
What did you do with it?"

"I kept,--I mean, I don't know what I did with it," stammered
the girl, blushing rosy red, and looking shyly at Louis.

I felt sorry to disclose the poor girl's little romance, for it
was easy enough to see that she was in love with the fickle
Frenchman, who evidently did not reciprocate her interest.  He
looked at her disdainfully, and she presented a pathetic picture
of embarrassment.

But the situation was too serious for me to consider Elsa's
sentiments, and I said, rather sternly: "You do know where it is.
You preserved that rose as a souvenir.  Go at once and fetch it."

It was a chance shot, for I was not at all certain that she had
kept the withered flower, but dominated by my superior will she
went away at once.  She returned in a moment with the flower.

Although withered, it was still in fairly good condition; quite
enough so for me to see at a glance that no petals had been
detached from it.  The green calyx leaves clung around the bud in
such a manner as to prove positively that the unfolding flower
had lost no petal.  This settled the twelfth rose.  Wherever
those tell-tale petals had come from, they were not from Louis's
rose.  I gave the flower back to Elsa, and I said, "take your
flower, my girl, and go away now.  I don't want to question you
any more for the present."

A little bewildered at her sudden dismissal, Elsa went away, and
I turned my attention to the Frenchman.

"Louis," I began, "this must be settled here and now between us.
Either you must tell me what I want to know, or you must be taken
before the district attorney, and be made to tell him.  I have
proved to my own satisfaction that the rose petals in the office
were not from the flower you wore.  Therefore I conclude that you
did not go into the office that night, but as you passed the
window you did see someone in there with Mr. Crawford.  The hour
was later than Mr. Porter's visit, for he had already gone home,
and Lambert had locked the front door and gone to bed.  You came
in later, and what you saw, or whom you saw through the office
window so surprised you, or interested you, that you paused to
look in, and there you dropped your transfer."

Though Louis didn't speak, I could see at once that I was on the
right track at last.  The man was shielding somebody.  He was
unwilling to tell what he had seen, lest it inculpate someone.
Could it be Gregory Hall?  If Hall had come out on a late train,
and Louis had seen him there, he might, perhaps under Hall's
coercion, be keeping the fact secret.  Again, if a strange woman
with the gold bag had been in the office, that also would have
attracted Louis's attention.  Again, and here my heart almost
stopped beating, could he have seen Florence Lloyd in there?  But
a second thought put me at ease again.  Surely to have seen
Florence in there would have been so usual and natural a sight
that it could not have caused him anxiety.  And yet, again, for
him to have seen Florence in her uncle's office, would have
proved to him that the story she told at the inquest was false.
I must get out of him the knowledge he possessed, if I had to
resort to a sort of third degree.  But I might manage it by
adroit questioning.

"I quite understand, Louis, that you are shielding some person.
But let me tell you that it is useless.  It is much wiser for you
to tell me all you know, and then I can go to work intelligently
to find the man who murdered Mr. Crawford.  You want me to find
him, do you not?"

Louis seemed to have found his voice again.  "Yes, sir, of course
he must be found.  Of course I want him found,--the miscreant,
the villain! but, Mr. Burroughs, sir, what I have see in the
office makes nothing to your search.  I simply see Mr. Crawford
alive and well.  And I pass by.  That fool girl Elsa, she tell
you that I pass by, so I may say so.  But I see nothing in the
office to alarm me, and if I drop my transfer there, it is but
because I think of him as no consequence, and I let him go."

"Louis," and I looked him straight in the eye, "all that sounds
straightforward and true.  But, if you saw nothing in the office
to surprise or alarm you, why did you at first deny having passed
by the office at all?"

The man had no answer for this.  He was not ingenious in
inventing falsehood, and he stood looking helpless and
despairing.  I perceived I should have to go on with my
questioning.

"Was it a man or a woman you saw in there with Mr. Crawford?"

"I see nobody, sir, nobody but my master."

That wouldn't do, then.  As long as I asked him direct questions
he could answer falsely.  I must trip him up in some roundabout
way.

"Yes," I said pleasantly, "I understand that.  And what was Mr.
Crawford doing?"

"He sat at his desk;" and Louis spoke slowly, and picked his
words with care.

"Was he writing?"

"No; that is, yes, sir, he was writing."

I now knew he was not writing, for the truth had slipped out
before the man could frame up his lie.  I believed I was going to
learn something at last, if I could make the man tell.  Surely
the testimony of one who saw Joseph Crawford late that night was
of value, and though that testimony was difficult to obtain, it
was well worth the effort.

"And was Mr. Hall at his desk also?"

Louis stared at me.  "Mr. Hall, he was in New York that night."
This was said so simply and unpremeditatedly, that I was
absolutely certain it was not Hall whom Louis had seen there.

"Oh, yes, of course, so he was," I said lightly; "and Mr.
Crawford was writing, was he?"

"Yes, sir," spoken with the dogged scowl which I was beginning to
learn always accompanied Louis's untruthful statements.

And now I decided to put my worst fear to the test and have it
over with.  It must be done, and I felt sure I could do it, but
oh, how I dreaded it!

"Did Mr. Crawford look up or see you?"

"No, sir."

"And didn't Miss Florence see you, either?"

"No, sir."

It was out.  The mere fact that Louis answered that question so
calmly and unconsciously proved he was telling the truth.  But
what a truth! for it told me at the same time that Florence Lloyd
was in the office with her uncle, that Louis had seen her, but
that she had not seen him.  I had learned the truth from my
reading of the man's expression and demeanor, and though it made
my heart sink, I didn't for a moment doubt that it was the truth.

Of course Louis realized the next instant what he had done, and
again he began his stammering denials.  "Of course, Miss Lloyd do
not see me for she is not there.  How can she see me, then?  I
tell you my master was alone!"

Had I been the least uncertain, this would have convinced me that
I was right.  For Louis's voice rose almost to a shriek, so angry
was he with himself for having made the slip.

"Give it up, Louis," I said; "you have let out the truth, now be
quiet.  You couldn't help it, man, you were bound to trip
yourself up sooner or later.  You put up a good fight for Miss
Florence, and now that I understand why you told your falsehoods,
I can't help admiring your chivalry.  You saw Miss Lloyd there
that evening, you heard her next day at the inquest deny having
been in the office in the evening.  So, in a way, it was very
commendable on your part to avoid contradicting her testimonies,
with your own.  But you are not clever enough, Louis, to carry
out that deceit to the end.  And now that you have admitted that
you saw Miss Lloyd there, you can best help her cause, and best
help me to help her cause, by telling me all about it.  For rest
assured, Louis, that I am quite as anxious to prove Miss Lloyd's
innocence as you can possibly be, and the only way to accomplish
that end, is to learn as much of the truth as I possibly can.
Now, tell me what she was doing."

"Only talking to her uncle, sir."  Louis had the air of a
defeated man.  He had tried to shield Miss Lloyd's name and had
failed.  Now he spoke sullenly, and as if his whole cause were
lost.

"And Mr. Crawford was talking to her?"

"Yes, sir."

"He was not writing, then?"

"No, sir."

"Did they seem to be having an amicable conversation?"

Louis hesitated, and his hesitation was sufficient answer.

"Never mind," I said, "you need not tell me more.  In fact, I
would prefer to get the rest of the story from Miss Lloyd,
herself."

Louis looked startled.  "Don't tell Miss Lloyd I told you this,"
he begged; "I have try very hard not to tell you."

"I know you tried hard, Louis, not to tell me, and it was not
your fault that I wrung the truth from you.  I will not tell Miss
Lloyd that you told me, unless it should become necessary, and I
do not think it will.  Go away now, Louis, and do not discuss
this matter with anybody at all.  And, also, do not think for a
moment that you have been disloyal in telling me that you saw
Miss Lloyd.  As I say, you couldn't help it.  I should simply
have kept at you until I made you tell, so you need not blame
yourself in the matter at all."

Louis went away, and though I could see that he believed what I
said, he had a dejected air, and I couldn't help feeling sorry
for the man who had so inadvertently given me the knowledge that
must be used against the beautiful girl who had herself given
untrue testimony.




XIII

MISS LLOYD'S CONFIDENCE


After Louis left me, I felt as if a dead weight had fallen on my
heart.  Florence Lloyd had gone down to her uncle's office late
that night, and yet at the inquest she had testified that she had
not done so.  And even to me, when talking quietly and alone, she
had repeated her false assertion.  This much I knew, but why she
had done if, I did not know.  Not until I was forced to do so,
would I believe that even her falsehood in the matter meant that
she herself was guilty.  There must be some other reason for her
mendacity.

Well, I would find out this reason, and if it were not a
creditable one to her, I would still endeavor to do all I could
for her.  I longed to see her, and try if perhaps kind and gentle
urging might not elicit the truth.  But she had left me with such
an air of haughty disdain, I hesitated to send for her again just
now.  And as it was nearly dinner time, I resolved to go back to
my hotel.

On the way, I came to the conclusion that it would do no harm to
have a talk with Parmalee.

I had not much confidence in his detective ability, but he knew
the people better than I did, and might be able to give me
information of some sort.

After I reached the Sedgwick Arms I telephoned Parmalee to come
over and dine with me, and he readily consented.

During dinner I told him all that I had learned from Elsa and
Louis.  Of course I had no right to keep this knowledge to
myself, and, too, I wanted Parmalee's opinion on the situation as
it stood at present.

"It doesn't really surprise me," he said, "for I thought all
along, Miss Lloyd was not telling the truth.  I'm not yet ready
to say that I think she killed her uncle, although I must say it
seems extremely probable.  But if she didn't commit the deed, she
knows perfectly well who did."

"Meaning Hall?"

"No, I don't mean Hall.  In fact I don't mean any one in
particular.  I think Miss Lloyd was the instigator of the crime,
and practically carried out its commission, but she may have had
an assisting agent for the actual deed."

"Oh, how you talk!  It quite gives me the shivers even to think
of a beautiful young woman being capable of such thoughts or
deeds."

"But, you see, Burroughs, that's because you are prejudiced in
favor of Miss Lloyd.  Women are capable of crime as well as men,
and sometimes they're even more clever in the perpetration of it.
And you must admit if ever a woman were capable of crime, Miss
Lloyd is of that type."

"I have to agree to that, Parmalee," I admitted; "she certainly
shows great strength of character."

"She shows more than that; she has indomitable will, unflinching
courage, and lots of pluck.  If, for any reason, she made up her
mind to kill a man, she'd find a way to do it."

This talk made me cringe all over, but I couldn't deny it, for so
far as I knew Florence Lloyd, Parmalee's words were quite true.

"All right," I said, "I'll grant her capability, but that doesn't
prove a thing.  I don't believe that girl is guilty, and I hope
to prove her innocence."

"But look at the evidence, man!  She denied her presence in the
room, yet we now know she was there.  She denied the ownership of
the gold bag, yet probably she was also untruthful in that
matter.  She is a woman of a complex nature, and though I admire
her in many ways, I shouldn't care to have much to do with her."

"Let us leave out the personal note, Parmalee," I said, for I was
angry at his attitude toward Florence.

"All right.  Don't you think for a moment that I don't see where
you stand with regard to the haughty beauty, but that's neither
here nor there."

"Indeed it isn't," I returned; "and whatever may be my personal
feeling toward Miss Lloyd, I can assure you it in no way
influences my work on this case."

"I believe you, old man; and so I'm sure you will agree with me
that we must follow up the inquiry as to Miss Lloyd's presence in
the office that night.  She must be made to talk, and perhaps it
would be best to tell Goodrich all about it, and let him push the
matter."

"Oh, no," I cried involuntarily.  "Don't set him on the track of
the poor girl.  That is, Parmalee, let me talk to her again,
first.  Now that I know she was down there that night, I think I
can question her in a little different manner, and persuade her
to own the truth.  And, Parmalee, perhaps she was down there
because Hall was there."

"Hall!  He was in New York."

"So he says, but why should he speak the truth any more than Miss
Lloyd?"

"You, mean they may both be implicated?"

"Yes; or he may have used her as a tool."

"Not Florence Lloyd.  She's nobody's tool."

"Any woman might be a tool at the command of the man she loves.
But," I went on, with an air of conviction which was not entirely
genuine, "Miss Lloyd doesn't love Mr. Hall."

"I don't know about that," returned Parmalee; "you can't tell
about a woman like Florence Lloyd.  If she doesn't love him,
she's at least putting up a bluff of doing so."

"I believe it is a bluff, though I'm sure I don't know why she
should do that."

"On the other hand, why shouldn't she?  For some reason she's
dead set on marrying him, ready to give up her fortune to do so,
if necessary.  He must have some sort of a pretty strong hold on
her."

"I admit all that, and yet I can't believe she loves him.  He's
such a commonplace man."

"Commonplace doesn't quite describe him.  And yet Gregory Hall,
with all the money in the world, could never make himself
distinguished or worth while in any way."

"No; and what would Miss Florence Lloyd see in a man like that,
to make her so determined to marry him?"

"I don't think she is determined, except that Hall has some sort
of hold over her,--a promise or something,--that she can't
escape."

My heart rejoiced at the idea that Florence was not in love with
Hall, but I did not allow myself to dwell on that point, for I
was determined to go on with the work, irrespective of my
feelings toward her.

"You see," Parmalee went on, "you suspect Hall, only because
you're prejudiced against him."

"Good gracious!" I exclaimed; "that's an awful thing to say,
Parmalee.  The idea of a detective suspecting a man, merely
because he doesn't admire his personality!  And besides, it isn't
true.  If I suspect Hall, it's because I think he had a strong
motive, a possible opportunity, and more than all, because he
refuses to tell where he was Tuesday night."

"But that's just the point, Burroughs.  A man who'll commit
murder would fix up his alibi first of all.  He would know that
his refusal to tell his whereabouts would be extremely
suspicious.  No, to my mind it's Hall's refusal to tell that
stamps him as innocent."

"Then, in that case, it's the cleverest kind of an alibi he could
invent, for it stamps him innocent at once."

"Oh, come, now, that's going pretty far; but I will say,
Burroughs, that you haven't the least shred of proof against
Hall, and you know it.  Prejudice and unfounded suspicion and
even a strong desire that he should be the villain, are all very
well.  But they won't go far as evidence in a court of law."

I was forced to admit that Parmalee was right, and that so far I
had no proof whatever that Gregory Hall was at all implicated in
Mr. Crawford's death.  To be sure he might have worn a yellow
rose, and he might have brought the late newspaper, but there was
no evidence to connect him with those clues, and too, there was
the gold bag.  It was highly improbable that that should have
been brought to the office and left there by a man.

However, I persuaded Parmalee to agree not to carry the matter to
Mr. Goodrich until I had had one more interview with Miss Lloyd,
and I promised to undertake that the next morning.

After Parmalee had gone, I indulged in some very gloomy
reflections.  Everything seemed to point one way.  Every proof,
every suspicion and every hint more or less implicated Miss
Lloyd.

But the more I realized this, the more I determined to do all I
could for her, and as to do this, I must gain her confidence, and
even liking, I resolved to approach the subject the next day with
the utmost tactfulness and kindliness, hoping by this means to
induce the truth from her.

The next morning I started on my mission with renewed
hopefulness.  Reaching the Crawford house, I asked for Miss
Lloyd, and I was shown into a small parlor to wait for her.  It
was a sort of morning room, a pretty little apartment that I had
not been in before; and it was so much more cheerful and pleasant
than the stately library, I couldn't help hoping that Miss Lloyd,
too, would prove more amenable than she had yet been.

She soon came in, and though I was beginning to get accustomed to
the fact that she was a creature of variable moods, I was
unprepared for this one.  Her hauteur had disappeared; she was
apparently in a sweet and gentle frame of mind.  Her large dark
eyes were soft and gentle, and though her red lips quivered, it
was not with anger or disdain as they had done the day before.
She wore a plain white morning gown, and a long black necklace of
small beads.  The simplicity of this costume suited her well, and
threw into relief her own rich coloring and striking beauty.

She greeted me more pleasantly than she had ever done before, and
I couldn't help feeling that the cheerful sunny little room had a
better effect on her moods than the darker furnishings of the
library.

"I wish," I began, "that we had not to talk of anything
unpleasant this morning.  I wish there were no such thing as
untruth or crime in the world, and that I were calling on you, as
an acquaintance, as a friend might call."

"I wish so, too," she responded, and as she flashed a glance at
me, I had a glimpse of what it might mean to be friends with
Florence Lloyd without the ugly shadow between us that now was
spoiling our tete-a-tete.

Just that fleeting glance held in it the promise of all that was
attractive, charming and delightful in femininity.  It was as if
the veil of the great, gloomy sorrow had been lifted for a
moment, and she was again an untroubled, merry girl.  It seemed
too, as if she wished that we could be together under pleasanter
circumstances and could converse on subjects of less dreadful
import.  However, all these thoughts that tumultuously raced
through my mind must be thrust aside in favor of the business in
hand.

So though I hated to, I began at once.

"I am sorry, Miss Lloyd, to doubt your word, but I want to tell
you myself rather than to have you learn it from others that I
have a witness who has testified to your presence in your uncle's
office that fateful Tuesday night, although you have said you
didn't go down there."

As I had feared, the girl turned white and shivered as if with a
dreadful apprehension.

"Who is the witness?" she said.

I seemed to read her mind, and I felt at once that to her, the
importance of what I had said depended largely on my answer to
this question, and I paused a moment to think what this could
mean.  And then it flashed across me that she was afraid I would
say the witness was Gregory Hall.  I became more and more
convinced that she was shielding Hall, and I felt sure that when
she learned it was not he, she would feel relieved.  However, I
had promised Louis not to let her know that he had told me of
seeing her, unless it should be necessary.

"I think I won't tell you that; but since you were seen in the
office at about eleven o'clock, will you not tell me,--I assure
you it is for your own best interests,--what you were doing
there, and why you denied being there?"

"First tell me the name of your informer;" and so great was her
agitation that she scarcely breathed the words.

"I prefer not to do so, but I may say it is a reliable witness
and one who gave his evidence most unwillingly."

"Well, if you will not tell me who he was, will you answer just
one question about him?  Was it Mr. Hall?"

"No; it was not Mr. Hall."

As I had anticipated, she showed distinctly her relief at my
answer.  Evidently she dreaded to hear Hall's name brought into
the conversation.

"And now, Miss Lloyd, I ask you earnestly and with the best
intent, please to tell me the details of your visit to Mr.
Crawford that night in his office."

She sat silent for a moment, her eyes cast down, the long dark
lashes lying on her pale cheeks.  I waited patiently, for I knew
she was struggling with a strong emotion of some sort, and I
feared if I hurried her, her gentle mood would disappear, and she
might again become angry or haughty of demeanor.

At last she spoke.  The dark lashes slowly raised, and she seemed
even more gentle than at first.

"I must tell you," she said.  "I see I must.  But don't repeat
it, unless it is necessary.  Detectives have to know things, but
they don't have to tell them, do they?"

"We never repeat confidences, Miss Lloyd," I replied, "except
when necessary to further the cause of right and justice."

"Truly?  Is that so?"

She brightened up so much that I began to hope she had only some
trifling matter to tell of.

"Well, then," she went on, "I will tell you, for I know it need
not be repeated in the furtherance of justice.  I did go down to
my uncle's office that night, after Mrs. Pierce had been to my
room; and it was I--it must have been I--who dropped those rose
petals."

"And left the bag," I suggested.

"No," she said, and her face looked perplexed, but not confused.
"No, the bag is not mine, and I did not leave it there.  I know
nothing of it, absolutely nothing.  But I did go to the office at
about eleven o'clock.  I had a talk with my uncle, and I left him
there a half-hour later--alive and well as when I went in."

"Was your conversation about your engagement?"

"Yes."

"Was it amicable?"

"No, it was not!  Uncle Joseph was more angry than I had ever
before seen him.  He declared he intended to make a new will the
next morning, which would provide only a small income for me.  He
said this was not revenge or punishment for my loyalty to Mr.
Hall, but--but--"

"But what?" I urged gently.

"It scarcely seems loyal to Mr. Hall for me to say it," she
returned, and the tears were in her eyes.  "But this is all
confidential.  Well, Uncle Joseph said that Gregory only wanted
to marry me for my fortune, and that the new will would prove
this.  Of course I denied that Mr. Hall was so mercenary, and
then we had a good deal of an altercation.  But it was not very
different from many discussions we had had on the same subject,
only Uncle was more decided, and said he had asked Mr. Randolph
to come the next morning and draw up the new will.  I left him
still angry--he wouldn't even say good-night to me--and now I
blame myself for not being more gentle, and trying harder to make
peace.  But it annoyed me to have him call Gregory mercenary--"

"Because you knew it was true," I said quietly.

She turned white to the very lips.  "You are unnecessarily
impertinent," she said.

"I am," I agreed.  "I beg your pardon."  But I had discovered
that she did realize her lover's true nature.

"And then you went to your room, and stayed there?" I went on,
with a meaning emphasis on the last clause.

"Yes," she said; "and so, you see, what I have told you casts no
light on the mystery.  I only told you so as to explain the bits
of the yellow rose.  I feared, from what you said, that Mr.
Hall's name might possibly be brought into discussion."

"Why, he was not in West Sedgwick that night," I said.

"Where was he?" she countered quickly.

"I don't know.  He refuses to tell.  Of course you must see that
his absolute refusal to tell where he was that night is, to say
the least, an unwise proceeding."

"He won't even tell me where he was," she said, sighing.  "But it
doesn't matter.  He wasn't here."

"That's just it," I rejoined.  "If he was not here, it would be
far better for him to tell where he really was.  For the refusal
to tell raises a question that will not be downed, except by an
alibi.  I don't want to be cruel, Miss Lloyd, but I must make you
see that as the inquiry proceeds, the actions of both Mr. Hall
and yourself will be subjected to very close scrutiny, and though
perhaps undue attention will be paid to trifles, yet the trifles
must be explained."

I was so sorry for the girl, that, in my effort not to divulge my
too great sympathy, I probably used a sterner tone than I
realized.

At any rate, I had wakened her at last to a sense of the danger
that threatened her and her lover, and now, if she would let me,
I would do all in my power to save them both.  But I must know
all she could tell me.

"When did Mr. Hall leave you?" I asked.

"You mean the day--last Tuesday?"

"Yes?"

"He left here about half-past five.  He had been in the office
with Uncle Joseph all the afternoon, and at five o'clock he came
in here for a cup of tea with me.  He almost always comes in at
tea-time.  Then he left about half-past five, saying he was going
to New York on the six o'clock train."

"For what purpose?"

"I never ask him questions like that.  I knew he was to attend to
some business for Uncle the next day, but I never ask him what he
does evenings when he is in the city, or at any time when he is
not with me."

"But surely one might ask such questions of the man to whom she
is betrothed."

Miss Lloyd again put on that little air of hauteur which always
effectually stopped my "impertinence."

"It is not my habit," she said.  "What Gregory wishes me to know
he tells me of his own accord."




XIV

MR. PORTER'S VIEWS


I began on a new tack.

"Miss Lloyd, why did you tell an untruth, and say you did not
come down-stairs again, after going up at ten o'clock?"

Her hauteur disappeared.  A frightened, appealing look came into
her eyes, and she looked to me like a lovely child afraid of
unseen dangers.

"I was afraid," she confessed.  "Yes, truly, I was afraid that
they would think I had something to do with the--with Uncle
Joseph's death.  And as I didn't think it could do any good to
tell of my little visit to him, I just said I didn't come down.
Oh, I know it was a lie--I know it was wicked--but I was so
frightened, and it was such an easy way out of it, just to deny
it."

"And why have you confessed it to me now?"

Her eyes opened wide in astonishment.

"I told you why," she said: "so you would know where the rose
leaves came from, and not suspect Gregory."

"Do you suspect him?"

"N-no, of course not.  But others might."

It is impossible to describe the dismay that smote my heart at
the hesitation of this answer.  It was more than hesitation.  It
was a conflict of unspoken impulses, and the words, when they
were uttered, seemed to carry hidden meanings, and to my mind
they carried the worst and most sinister meaning conceivable.

To me, it seemed to point unmistakably to collusion between
Florence Lloyd, whom I already loved, and Gregory Hall, whom I
already distrusted and disliked.  Guilty collusion between these
two would explain everything.  Theirs the motive, theirs the
opportunity, theirs the denials and false witnessing.  The gold
bag, as yet, remained unexplained, but the yellow rose petals and
the late newspaper could be accounted for if Hall had come out on
the midnight train, and Florence had helped him to enter and
leave the house unseen.

Bah! it was impossible.  And, any way, the gold bag remained as
proof against this horrid theory.  I would pin my faith to the
gold bag, and through its presence in the room, I would defy
suspicions of the two people I had resolved to protect.

"What do you think about the gold bag?" I asked.

"I don't know what to think.  I hate to accuse Uncle Joseph of
such a thing, but it seems as if some woman friend of his must
have come to the office after I left.  The long French windows
were open--it was a warm night, you know--and any one could
have come and gone unseen."

"The bag wasn't there when you were there?"

"I'm sure it was not!  That is, not in sight, and Uncle Joseph
was not the sort of man to have such a thing put away in his desk
as a souvenir, or for any other reason."

"Forgive the insinuation, but of course you could not know
positively that Mr. Crawford would not have a feminine souvenir
in his desk."

She looked up surprised.  "Of course I could not be positive,"
she said, "but it is difficult to imagine anything sentimental
connected with Uncle Joseph."

She almost smiled as she said this, for apparently the mere idea
was amusing, and I had a flashing glimpse of what it must be to
see Florence Lloyd smile!  Well it should not be my fault, or due
to my lack of exertion, if the day did not come when she should
smile again, and I promised myself I should be there to see it.
But stifling these thoughts, I brought my mind back to duty.
Drawing from my pocket the photograph I had found in Mr.
Crawford's desk, I showed it to her.

"In Uncle's desk!" she exclaimed.  "This does surprise me.  I had
no idea Uncle Joseph had received a photograph from a lady with
an affectionate message, too.  Are you quite sure it belonged to
him?"

"I only know that we found it in his desk, hidden beneath some
old letters and papers."

"Were the letters from this lady?"

"No; in no case could we find a signature that agreed with these
initials."

"Here's your chance, Mr. Burroughs," and again Florence Lloyd's
dimples nearly escaped the bondage which held them during these
sad days.  "If you're a detective, you ought to gather at once
from this photograph and signature all the details about this
lady; who she is, and what she had to do with Uncle Joseph."

"I wish I could do so," I replied, "but you see, I'm not that
kind of detective.  I have a friend, Mr. Stone, who could do it,
and would tell you, as you say, everything about that lady,
merely by looking at her picture."

As a case in point, I told her then and there the story of
Fleming Stone's wonderful deductions from the pair of muddy shoes
we had seen in a hotel one morning.

"But you never proved that it was true?" she asked, her dark eyes
sparkling with interest, and her face alight with animation.

"No, but it wasn't necessary.  Stone's deductions are always
right, and if not, you know it is the exception that proves the
rule."

"Well, let us try to deduce a little from this picture.  I don't
believe for a moment, that Uncle Joseph had a romantic attachment
for any lady, though these words on the back of the picture do
seem to indicate it."

"Well, go on," said I, so carried away by the fascination of the
girl, when she had for a moment seemed to forget her troubles,
that I wanted to prolong the moment.  "Go ahead, and see what
inferences you can draw from the photograph."

"I think she is about fifty years old," Florence began, "or
perhaps fifty-five.  What do you think?"

"I wouldn't presume to guess a lady's age," I returned, "and
beside, I want you to try your powers on this.  You may be better
at deductions than I am.  I have already confessed to you my
inability in that direction."

"Well," she went on, "I think this lady is rather good-looking,
and I think she appreciates the fact."

"The first is evident on the face of it, and the second is a
universal truth, so you haven't really deduced much as yet."

"No, that's so," and she pouted a little.  "But at any rate, I
can deduce more about her dress than you can.  The picture was
taken, or at least that costume was made, about a year ago, for
that is the style that was worn then."

"Marvellous, Holmes, marvellous!"

She flashed me a glance of understanding and appreciation, but
undaunted, went on: "The gown also was not made by a competent
modiste, but was made by a dressmaker in the house, who came in
by the day.  The lady is of an economical turn of mind, because
the lace yoke of the gown is an old one, and has even been darned
to make it presentable to use in the new gown."

"Now that is deduction," I said admiringly; "the only trouble is,
that it doesn't do us much good.  Somehow I can't seem to fancy
this good-looking, economical, middle-aged lady, who has her
dressmaking done at home, coming here in the middle of the night
and killing Mr. Crawford."

"No, I can't, either," said Florence gravely; "but then, I can't
imagine any one else doing that, either.  It seems like a
horrible dream, and I can't realize that it really happened to
Uncle Joseph."

"But it did happen, and we must find the guilty person.  I think
with you, that this photograph is of little value as a clue, and
yet it may turn out to be.  And yet I do think the gold bag is a
clue.  You are quite sure it isn't yours?"

Perhaps it was a mean way to put the question, but the look of
indignation she gave me helped to convince me that the bag was
not hers.

"I told you it was not," she said, "but," and her eyes fell,
"since I have confessed to one falsehood, of course you cannot
believe my statement."

"But I do believe it," I said, and I did, thoroughly.

"At any rate, it is a sort of proof," she said, smiling sadly,
"that any one who knows anything about women's fashions can tell
you that it is not customary to carry a bag of that sort when one
is in the house and in evening dress.  Or rather, in a negligee
costume, for I had taken off my evening gown and wore a tea-gown.
I should not think of going anywhere in a tea-gown, and carrying
a gold bag."

The girl had seemingly grown almost lighthearted.  Her speech was
punctuated by little smiles, and her half sad, half gay demeanor
bewitched me.  I felt sure that what little suggestion of
lightheartedness had come into her mood had come because she had
at last confessed the falsehood she had told, and her freed
conscience gave her a little buoyancy of heart.

But there were still important questions to be asked, so, though
unwillingly, I returned to the old subject.

"Did you see your uncle's will while you were there?"

"No; he talked about it, but did not show it to me."

"Did he talk about it as if it were still in his possession?"

"Why, yes; I think so.  That is, he said he would make a new one
unless I gave up Gregory.  That implied that the old one was
still in existence, though he didn't exactly say so."

"Miss Lloyd, this is important evidence.  I must tell you that I
shall be obliged to repeat much of it to the district attorney.
It seems to me to prove that your uncle did not himself destroy
the will."

"He might have done so after I left him."

"I can't think it, for it is not in scraps in the waste-basket,
nor are there any paper-ashes in the grate."

"Well, then," she rejoined, "if he didn't destroy it, it may yet
be found."

"You wish that very much?" I said, almost involuntarily.

"Oh, I do!" she exclaimed, clasping her hands.  "Not so much for
myself as--"

She paused, and I finished the sentence for her "For Mr. Hall."

She looked angry again, but said nothing.

"Well, Miss Lloyd," I said, as I rose to go, "I am going to do
everything in my power in your behalf and in behalf of Mr. Hall.
But I tell you frankly, unless you will both tell me the truth,
and the whole truth, you will only defeat my efforts, and work
your own undoing."

I had to look away from her as I said this, for I could not look
on that sweet face and say anything even seemingly harsh or
dictatorial.

Her lip quivered.  "I will do my best," she said tremblingly.  "I
will try to make Mr. Hall tell where he was that night.  I will
see you again after I have talked with him."

More collusion!  I said good-by rather curtly, I fear, and went
quickly away from that perilous presence.

Truly, a nice detective, I!  Bowled over by a fair face, I was
unable to think clearly, to judge logically, or to work honestly!

Well, I would go home and think it out by myself.  Away from her
influence I surely would regain my cool-headed methods of
thought.

When I reached the inn, I found Mr. Lemuel Porter there waiting
for me.

"How do you do, Mr. Burroughs?" he said pleasantly.  "Have you
time for a half-hour's chat?"

It was just what I wanted.  A talk with this clear-thinking man
would help me, indeed, and I determined to get his opinions, even
as I was ready to give him mine.

"Well, what do you think about it all?" I inquired, after we were
comfortably settled at a small table on the shaded veranda, which
was a popular gathering-place at this hour.  But in our corner we
were in no danger from listening ears, and I awaited his reply
with interest.

His eyes smiled a little, as he said

"You know the old story of the man who said he wouldn't hire a
dog and then do his own barking.  Well, though I haven't 'hired'
you, I would be quite ready to pay your honorarium if you can
ferret out our West Sedgwick mystery.  And so, as you are the
detective in charge of the case, I ask you, what do you think
about it all?"

But I was pretty thoroughly on my guard now.

"I think," I began, "that much hinges on the ownership of that
gold bag."

"And you do not think it is Miss Lloyd's?"

"I do not."

"It need not incriminate her, if it were hers," said Mr. Porter,
meditatively knocking the ash from said his cigar.  "She might
have left it in the office at any time previous to the day of the
crime.  Women are always leaving such things about.  I confess it
does not seem to me important."

"Was it on Mr. Crawford's desk when you were there?" I asked
suddenly.

He looked up at me quickly, and again that half-smile came into
his eyes.

"Am I to be questioned?" he said.  "Well, I've no objections, I'm
sure.  No, I do not think it was there when I called on Mr.
Crawford that evening.  But I couldn't swear to this, for I am
not an observant man, and the thing might have lain there in
front of me and never caught my eye.  If I had noticed it, of
course I should have thought it was Florence's."

"But you don't think so now, do you?"

"No; I can't say I think so.  And yet I can imagine a girl
untruthfully denying ownership under such circumstances."

I started at this.  For hadn't Miss Lloyd untruthfully denied
coming down-stairs to talk to her uncle?

"But," went on Mr. Porter, "if the bag is not Florence's, then I
can think of but one explanation for its presence there."

"A lady visitor, late at night," I said slowly.

"Yes," was the grave reply; "and though such an occurrence might
have been an innocent one, yet, taken in connection with the
crime, there is a dreadful possibility."

"Granting this," I suggested, "we ought to be able to trace the
owner of the bag."

"Not likely.  If the owner of that bag--a woman, presumably--is
the slayer of Joseph Crawford, and made her escape from the scene
undiscovered, she is not likely to stay around where she may be
found.  And the bag itself, and its contents, are hopelessly
unindividual."

"They are that," I agreed.  "Not a thing in it that mightn't be
in any woman's bag in this country.  To me, that cleaner's
advertisement means nothing in connection with Miss Lloyd."

"I am glad to hear you say that, Mr. Burroughs.  I confess I have
had a half-fear that your suspicions had a trend in Florence's
direction, and I assure you, sir, that girl is incapable of the
slightest impulse toward crime."

"I'm sure of that," I said heartily, my blood bounding in my
veins at an opportunity to speak in defense of the woman I loved.
"But how if her impulses were directed, or even coerced, by
another?"

"Just what do you mean by that?"

"Oh, nothing.  But sometimes the best and sweetest women will act
against their own good impulses for those they love."

"I cannot pretend to misunderstand you," said Mr. Porter.  "But
you are wrong.  If the one you have in mind--I will say no name
--was in any way guiltily implicated, it was without the
knowledge or connivance of Florence Lloyd.  But, man, the idea is
absurd.  The individual in question has a perfect alibi."

"He refuses to give it."

"Refuses the details, perhaps.  And he has a right to, since they
concern no one but himself.  No, my friend, you know the French
rule; well, follow that, and search for the lady with the gold-
mesh bag."

"The lady without it, at present," I said, with an apologetic
smile for my rather grim jest.

"Yes; and that's the difficulty.  As she hasn't the bag, we can't
discover her.  So as a clue it is worthless."

"It seems to be," I agreed.

I thought best not to tell Mr. Porter of the card I had found in
the bag, for I hoped soon to hear from headquarters concerning
the lady whose name it bore.  But I told him about the photograph
I had found in Mr. Crawford's desk, and showed it to him.  He did
not recognize it as being a portrait of any one he had ever seen.
Nor did he take it very seriously as a clue.

"I'm quite sure," he said, "that Joseph Crawford has not been
interested in any woman since the death of his wife.  He has
always seemed devoted to her memory, and as one of his nearest
friends, I think I would have known if he had formed any other
attachment.  Of course, in a matter like this, a man may well
have a secret from his nearest friends, but I cannot think this
mild and gentle-looking lady is at all concerned in the tragedy."

As a matter of fact, I agreed with Mr. Porter, for nothing I had
discovered among the late Mr. Crawford's effects led me to think
he had any secret romance.

After Mr. Porter's departure I studied long over my puzzles, and
I came to the conclusion that I could do little more until I
should hear from headquarters.




XV

THE PHOTOGRAPH EXPLAINED


That evening I went to see Philip Crawford.  As one of the
executors of his late brother's estate, and as probable heir to
the same, he was an important personage just now.

He seemed glad to see me, and glad to discuss ways and means of
running down the assassin.  Like Mr. Porter, he attached little
importance to the gold bag.

"I can't help thinking it belongs to Florence," he said.  "I know
the girl so well, and I know that her horrified fear of being in
any way connected with the tragedy might easily lead her to,
disown her own property, thinking the occasion justified the
untruth.  That girl has no more guilty knowledge of Joseph's
death than I have, and that is absolutely none.  I tell you
frankly, Mr. Burroughs, I haven't even a glimmer of a suspicion
of any one.  I can't think of an enemy my brother had; he was the
most easy-going of men.  I never knew him to quarrel with
anybody.  So I trust that you, with your detective talent, can at
least find a clue to lead us in the right direction."

"You don't admit the gold bag as a clue, then?" I asked.

"Nonsense!  No!  If that were a clue, it would point to some
woman who came secretly at night to visit Joseph.  My brother was
not that sort of man, sir.  He had no feminine acquaintances that
were unknown to his relatives."

"That is, you suppose so."

"I know it!  We have been brothers for sixty years or more, and
whatever Joseph's faults, they did not lie in that direction.
No, sir; if that bag is not Florence's, then there is some other
rational and commonplace explanation of its presence there."

"I'm glad to hear you speak so positively, Mr. Crawford, as to
your brother's feminine acquaintances.  And in connection with
the subject, I would like to show you this photograph which I
found in his desk."

I handed the card to Mr. Crawford, whose features broke into a
smile as he looked at it.

"Oh, that," he said; "that is a picture, of Mrs. Patton."  He
looked at the picture with a glance that seemed to be of admiring
reminiscence, and he studied the gentle face of the photograph a
moment without speaking.

Then he said, "She was beautiful as a girl.  She used to be a
school friend of both Joseph and myself."

"She wrote rather an affectionate message on the back," I
observed.

Mr. Crawford turned the picture over.

"Oh, she didn't send this picture to Joseph.  She sent it to my
wife last Christmas.  I took it over to show it to Joseph some
months ago, and left it there without thinking much about it.  He
probably laid it in his desk without thinking much about it,
either.  No, no, Burroughs, there is no romance there, and you
can't connect Mrs. Patton with any of your detective
investigations."

"I rather thought that, Mr. Crawford; for this is evidently a
sweet, simple-minded lady, and more over nothing has turned up to
indicate that Mr. Crawford had a romantic interest of any kind."

"No, he didn't.  I knew Joseph as I know myself.  No; whoever
killed my brother, was a man; some villain who had a motive that
I know nothing about."

"But you were intimately acquainted with your brother's affairs?"

"Yes, that is what proves to me that whoever this assassin was,
it was some one of whose motive I know nothing.  The fact that my
brother was murdered, proves to me that my brother had an enemy,
but I had never suspected it before."

"Do you know a Mrs. Egerton Purvis?"

I flung the question at him, suddenly, hoping to catch him
unawares.  But he only looked at me with the blank expression of
one who hears a name for the first time.

"No," he answered, "I never heard of her.  Who is she?"

"Well, when I was hunting through that gold-mesh bag, I
discovered a lady's visiting card with that name on it.  It had
slipped between the linings, and so had not been noticed before."

To my surprise, this piece of information seemed to annoy Mr.
Crawford greatly.

"No!" he exclaimed.  "In the bag?  Then some one has put it
there! for I looked over all the bag's contents myself."

"It was between the pocket and the lining," said I; "it is there
still, for as I felt sure no one else would discover it, I left
it there.  Mr. Goodrich has the bag."

"Oh, I don't want to see it," he exclaimed angrily.  "And I tell
you anyway, Mr. Burroughs, that bag is worthless as a clue.  Take
my advice, and pay no further attention to it."

I couldn't understand Mr. Crawford's decided attitude against the
bag as a clue, but I dropped the subject, for I didn't wish to
tell him I had made plans to trace up that visiting card.

"It is difficult to find anything that is a real clue," I said.

"Yes, indeed.  The whole affair is mysterious, and, for my part,
I cannot form even a conjecture as to who the villain might have
been.  He certainly left no trace."

"Where is the revolver?" I said, picturing the scene in
imagination.

Philip Crawford started as if caught unawares.

"How do I know?" he cried, almost angrily.  "I tell you, I have
no suspicions.  I wish I had!  I desire, above all things, to
bring my brother's murderer to justice.  But I don't know where
to look.  If the weapon were not missing, I should think it a
suicide."

"The doctor declares it could not have been suicide, even if the
weapon had been found near him.  This they learned from the
position of his arms and head."

"Yes, yes; I know it.  It was, without doubt, murder.  But who--
who would have a motive?"

"They say," I observed, "motives for murder are usually love,
revenge, or money."

"There is no question of love or revenge in this instance.  And
as for money, as I am the one who has profited financially,
suspicion should rest on me."

"Absurd!" I said.

"Yes, it is absurd," he went on, "for had I desired Joseph's
fortune, I need not have killed him to acquire it.  He told me
the day before he died that he intended to disinherit Florence,
and make me his heir, unless she broke with that secretary of
his.  I tried to dissuade him from this step, for we are not a
mercenary lot, we Crawfords, and I thought I had made him
reconsider his decision.  Now, as it turns out, he persisted in
his resolve, and was only prevented from carrying it out by this
midnight assassin.  We must find that villain, Mr. Burroughs!  Do
not consider expense; do anything you can to track him down."

"Then, Mr. Crawford," said I, "if you do not mind the outlay, I
advise that we send for Fleming Stone.  He is a detective of
extraordinary powers, and I am quite willing to surrender the
case to him."

Philip Crawford eyed me keenly.

"You give up easily, young man," he said banteringly.

"I know it seems so," I replied, "but I have my reasons.  One is,
that Fleming Stone makes important deductions from seemingly
unimportant clues; and he holds that unless these clues are
followed immediately, they are lost sight of and great
opportunities are gone."

"H'm," mused Philip Crawford, stroking his strong, square chin.
"I don't care much for these spectacular detectives.  Your man, I
suppose, would glance at the gold bag, and at once announce the
age, sex, and previous condition of servitude of its owner."

"Just what I have thought, Mr. Crawford.  I'm sure he could do
just that."

"And that's all the good it would do!  That bag doesn't belong to
the criminal."

"How do you know?"

"By common-sense.  No woman came to the house in the dead of
night and shot my brother, and then departed, taking her revolver
with her.  And again, granting a woman did have nerve and
strength enough to do that, such a woman is not going off leaving
her gold bag behind her as evidence!"

This speech didn't affect me much.  It was pure conjecture.
Women are uncertain creatures, at best; and a woman capable of
murder would be equally capable of losing her head afterward, and
leaving circumstantial evidence behind her.

I was sorry Mr. Crawford didn't seem to take to the notion of
sending for Stone.  I wasn't weakening in the case so far as my
confidence in my own ability was concerned; but I could see no
direction to look except toward Florence Lloyd or Gregory Hall,
or both.  And so I was ready to give up.

"What do you think of Gregory Hall?" I said suddenly.

"As a man or as a suspect?" inquired Mr. Crawford.

"Both."

"Well, as a man, I think he's about the average, ordinary young
American, of the secretary type.  He has little real ambition,
but he has had a good berth with Joseph, and he has worked fairly
hard to keep it.  As a suspect, the notion is absurd.  He wasn't
even in West Sedgwick."

"How do you know?"

"Because he went away at six that evening, and was in New York
until nearly noon the next day."

"How do you know?"

Philip Crawford stared at me.

"He says so," I went on; "but no one can prove his statement.  He
refuses to say where he was in New York, or what he did.  Now,
merely as a supposition, why couldn't he have come out here--say
on the midnight train--called on Mr. Joseph Crawford, and
returned to New York before daylight?"

"Absurd!  Why, he had no motive for killing Joseph."

"He had the same motive Florence would have.  He knew of Mr.
Crawford's objection to their union, and he knew of his threat to
change his will.  Mr. Hall is not blind to the advantages of a
fortune."

"Right you are, there!  In fact, I always felt he was marrying
Florence for her money.  I had no real reason to think this, but
somehow he gave me that impression."

"Me, too.  Moreover, I found a late extra of a New York paper in
Mr. Crawford's office.  This wasn't on sale until about half past
eleven that night, so whoever left it there must have come out
from the city on that midnight train, or later."

A change came over Philip Crawford's face.  Apparently he was
brought to see the whole matter in a new light.

"What?  What's that?" he cried excitedly, grasping his chair-arms
and half rising.  "A late newspaper!  An extra!"

"Yes; the liner accident, you know."

"But--but--Gregory Hall!  Why man, you're crazy!  Hall is a
good fellow.  Not remarkably clever, perhaps, and a
fortune-hunter, maybe, but not--surely not a murderer!"

"Don't take it so hard, Mr. Crawford," I broke in.  "Probably.
Mr. Hall is innocent.  But the late paper must have been left
there by some one, after, say, one o'clock."

"This is awful!  This is terrible!" groaned the poor man, and I
couldn't help wondering if he had some other evidence against
Hall that this seemed to corroborate.

Then, by an effort, he recovered himself, and began to talk in
more normal tones.

"Now, don't let this new idea run away with you, Mr. Burroughs,"
he said.  "If Hall had an interview with my brother that night,
he would have learned from him that he intended to make a new
will, but hadn't yet done so."

"Exactly; and that would constitute a motive for putting Mr.
Crawford out of the way before he could accomplish his purpose."

"But Joseph had already destroyed the will that favored
Florence."

"We don't know that," I responded gravely.  "And, anyway, if he
had done so, Mr. Hall didn't know it.  This leaves his motive
unchanged."

"But the gold bag," said Mr. Crawford, apparently to get away--
from the subject of Gregory Hall.

"If, as you say," I began, "that is Florence's bag--"

I couldn't go on.  A strange sense of duty had forced those words
from me, but I could say no more.

Fleming Stone might take the case if they wanted him to; or they
might get some one else.  But I could not go on, when the only
clues discoverable pointed in a way I dared not look.

Philip Crawford was ghastly now.  His face was working and he
breathed quickly.

"Nonsense, Dad!" cried a strong, young voice, and his son,
Philip, Jr., bounded into the room and grasped his father's
hands.  "I overheard a few of your last words, and you two are on
the wrong track.  Florrie's no more mixed up in that horrible
business than I am.  Neither is Hall.  He's a fool chap, but no
villain.  I heard what you said about the late newspaper, but
lots of people come out on that midnight train.  You may as well
suspect some peaceable citizen coming home from the theatre, as
to pick out poor Hall, without a scrap of evidence to point to
him."

I was relieved beyond all words at the hearty assurance of the
boy, and I plucked up new courage.  Apprehension had made me
faint-hearted, but if he could show such flawless confidence in
Florence and her betrothed, surely I could do as much.

"Good for you, young man!" I cried, shaking his hand.  "You've
cheered me up a lot.  I'll take a fresh start, and surely we'll
find out something.  But I'd like to send for Stone."

"Wait a bit, wait a bit," said Mr. Crawford.  "Phil's right;
there's no possibility of Florrie or Hall in the matter.  Leave
the gold bag, the newspapers, and the yellow posies out of
consideration, and go to work in some sensible way."

"How about Mr. Joseph's finances?" I asked.  "Are they in
satisfactory shape?"

"Never finer," said Philip Crawford.  "Joseph was a very rich
man, and all due to his own clever and careful investments.  A
bit of a speculator, but always on the right side of the market.
Why, he fairly had a corner in X.Y. stock.  Just that deal--and
it will go through in a few days--means a fortune in itself.  I
shall settle that on Florence."

"Then you think the will will never be found?" I said.

Mr. Crawford looked a little ashamed, as well he might, but he
only said

"If it is, no one will be more glad than I to see Florrie
reinstated in her own right.  If no will turns up, Joe's estate
is legally mine, but I shall see that Florence is amply provided
for."

He spoke with a proud dignity, and I was rather sorry I had
caught him up so sharply.

I went back to the inn, and, after vainly racking my brain over
it all for a time, I turned in, but to a miserably broken night's
rest.




A CALL ON Mrs. PURVIS


The next morning I received information from headquarters.  It
was a long-code telegram, and I eagerly deciphered it, to learn
that Mrs. Egerton Purvis was an English lady who was spending a
few months in New York City.  She was staying at the Albion
Hotel, and seemed to be in every way above suspicion of any sort.

Of course I started off at once to see Mrs. Purvis.

Parmalee came just as I was leaving the inn, and was of course
anxious and inquisitive to know where I was going, and what I was
going to do.

At first I thought I would take him into my confidence, and I
even thought of taking him with me.  But I felt sure I could do
better work alone.  It might be that Mrs. Egerton Purvis should
turn out to be an important factor in the case, and I suppose it
was really an instinct of vanity that made me prefer to look her
up without Parmalee by my side.

So I told him that I was going to New York on a matter in
connection with the case, but that I preferred to go alone, but I
would tell him the entire result of my mission as soon as I
returned.  I think he was a little disappointed, but he was a
good-natured chap, and bade me a cheerful goodby, saying he would
meet me on my return.

I went to New York and went straight to the Albion Hotel.

Learning at the desk that the lady was really there, I sent my
card up to her with a request for an immediate audience, and very
soon I was summoned to her apartment.

She greeted me with that air of frigid reserve typical of an
English woman.  Though not unattractive to look at, she possessed
the high cheekbones and prominent teeth which are almost
universal in the women of her nation.  She was perhaps between
thirty and forty years old, and had the air of a grande dame.

"Mr. Burroughs?" she said, looking through her lorgnon at my
card, which she held in her hand.

"Yes," I assented, and judging from her appearance that she was a
woman of a decided and straightforward nature I came at once to
the point.

"I'm a detective, madam," I began, and the remark startled her
out of her calm.

"A detective!" she cried out, with much the same tone as if I had
said a rattlesnake.

"Do not be alarmed, I merely state my profession to explain my
errand."

"Not be alarmed! when a detective comes to see me!  How can I
help it?  Why, I've never had such an experience before.  It is
shocking!  I've met many queer people in the States, but not a
detective!  Reporters are bad enough!"

"Don't let it disturb you so, Mrs. Purvis.  I assure you there is
nothing to trouble you in the fact of my presence here, unless it
is trouble of your own making."

"Trouble of my own making!" she almost shrieked.  "Tell me at
once what you mean, or I shall ring the bell and have you
dismissed."

Her fear and excitement made me think that perhaps I was on the
track of new developments, and lest she should carry out her
threat of ringing the bell, I plunged at once into the subject.

"Mrs. Purvis, have you lost a gold-mesh bag?" I said bluntly.

"No, I haven't," she snapped, "and if I had, I should take means
to recover it, and not wait for a detective to come and ask me
about it."

I was terribly disappointed.  To be sure she might be telling a
falsehood about the bag, but I didn't think so.  She was angry,
annoyed, and a little frightened at my intrusion, but she was not
at all embarrassed at my question.

"Are you quite sure you have not lost a gold-link bag?" I
insisted, as if in idiotic endeavor to persuade her to have done
so.

"Of course I'm sure," she replied, half laughing now; "I suppose
I should know it if I had done so."

"It's a rather valuable bag," I went on, "with a gold frame-work
and gold chain."

"Well, if it's worth a whole fortune, it isn't my bag," she
declared; "for I never owned such a one."

"Well," I said, in desperation, "your visiting card is in it."

"My visiting card!" she said, with an expression of blank
wonderment.  "Well, even if that is true, it doesn't make it my
bag.  I frequently give my cards to other people."

This seemed to promise light at last.  Somehow I couldn't doubt
her assertion that it was not her bag, and yet the thought
suddenly occurred to me if she were clever enough to be
implicated in the Crawford tragedy, and if she had left her bag
there, she would be expecting this inquiry, and would probably be
clever enough to have a story prepared.

"Mrs. Purvis, since you say it is not your bag, I'm going to ask
you, in the interests of justice, to help me all you can."

"I'm quite willing to do so, sir.  What is it you wish to know?"

"A crime has been committed in a small town in New Jersey.  A
gold-link bag was afterward discovered at the scene of the crime,
and though none of its other contents betokened its owner, a
visiting card with your name on it was in the bag."

Becoming interested in the story, Mrs. Purvis seemed to get over
her fright, and was exceedingly sensible for a woman.

"It certainly is not my bag, Mr. Burroughs, and if my card is in
it, I can only say that I must have given that card to the lady
who owns the bag."

This seemed distinctly plausible, and also promised further
information.

"Do you remember giving your card to any lady with such a bag?"

Mrs. Purvis smiled.  "So many of your American women carry those
bags," she said; "they seem to be almost universal this year.  I
have probably given my card to a score of ladies, who immediately
put it into just such a bag."

"Could you tell me who they are?"

"No, indeed;" and Mrs. Purvis almost laughed outright, at what
was doubtless a foolish question.

"But can't you help me in any way?" I pleaded.

"I don't really see how I can," she replied.  "You see I have so
many friends in New York, and they make little parties for me, or
afternoon teas.  Then I meet a great many American ladies, and we
often exchange cards.  But we do it so often that of course I
can't remember every particular instance.  Have you the card you
speak of?"

I thanked my stars that I had been thoughtful enough to obtain
the card before leaving West Sedgwick, and taking it from my
pocket-book, I gave it to her.

"Oh, that one!" she said; "perhaps I can help you a little, Mr.
Burroughs.  That is an old-fashioned card, one of a few left over
from an old lot.  I have been using them only lately, because my
others gave out.  I have really gone much more into society in
New York than I had anticipated, and my cards seemed fairly to
melt away.  I ordered some new ones here, but before they were
sent to me I was obliged to use a few of these old-fashioned
ones.  I don't know that this would help you, but I think I can
tell pretty nearly to whom I gave those cards."

It seemed a precarious sort of a chance, but as I talked with
Mrs. Purvis, I felt more and more positive that she herself was
not implicated in the Crawford case.  However, it was just as
well to make certain.  She had gone to her writing-desk, and
seemed to be looking over a diary or engagement book.

"Mrs. Purvis," I said, "will you tell me where you were on
Tuesday evening of last week?"

"Certainly;" and she turned back the leaves of the book.  "I went
to a theatre party with my friends, the Hepworths; and afterward,
we went to a little supper at a restaurant.  I returned here
about midnight.  Must I prove this?" she added, smiling; "for I
can probably do so, by the hotel clerk and by my maid.  And, of
course, by my friends who gave the party."

"No, you needn't prove it," I answered, certain now that she knew
nothing of the Crawford matter; "but I hope you can give me more
information about your card."

"Why, I remember that very night, I gave my cards to two ladies
who were at the theatre with us; and I remember now that at that
time I had only these old-fashioned cards.  I was rather ashamed
of them, for Americans are punctilious in such matters; and now
that I think of it, one of the ladies was carrying a gold-mesh
bag."

"Who was she?" I asked, hardly daring to hope that I had really
struck the trail.

"I can't seem to remember her name, but perhaps it will come to
me.  It was rather an English type of name, something like
Coningsby."

"Where did she live?"

"I haven't the slightest idea.  You see I meet these ladies so
casually, and I really never expect to see any of them again.
Our exchange of cards is a mere bit of formal courtesy.  No, I
can't remember her name, or where she was from.  But I don't
think she was a New Yorker."

Truly it was hard to come so near getting what might be vital
information, and yet have it beyond my grasp!  It was quite
evident that Mrs. Purvis was honestly trying to remember the
lady's name, but could not do so.

And then I had what seemed to me an inspiration.  "Didn't she
give you her card?" I asked.

A light broke over Mrs. Purvis's face.  "Why, yes, of course she
did!  And I'm sure I can find it."

She turned to a card-tray, and rapidly running over the bits of
pasteboard, she selected three or four.

"Here they are," she exclaimed, "all here together.  I mean all
the cards that were given me on that particular evening.  And
here is the name I couldn't think of.  It is Mrs. Cunningham.  I
remember distinctly that she carried a gold bag, and no one else
in the party did, for we were admiring it.  And here is her
address on the card; Marathon Park, New Jersey."

I almost fainted, myself, with the suddenness of the discovery.
Had I really found the name and address of the owner of the gold
bag?  Of course there might be a slip yet, but the evidence
seemed clear that Mrs. Cunningham, of Marathon Park, owned the
bag that had been the subject of so much speculation.

I had no idea where Marathon Park might be, but that was a mere
detail.  I thanked Mrs. Purvis sincerely for the help she had
given me, and I was glad I had not told her that her casual
acquaintance was perhaps implicated in a murder mystery.

I made my adieux and returned at once to West Sedgwick.

As he had promised, Parmalee met me at the station, and I told
him the whole story, for I thought him entitled to the
information at once.

"Why, man alive!" he exclaimed, "Marathon Park is the very next
station to West Sedgwick!"

"So it is!" I said; "I knew I had a hazy idea of having seen the
name, but the trains I have taken to and from New York have been
expresses, which didn't stop there, and I paid no attention to
it."

"It's a small park," went on Parmalee, "of swagger residences;
very exclusive and reserved, you know.  You've certainly
unearthed startling news, but I can't help thinking that it will
be a wild goose chase that leads us to look for our criminal in
Marathon Park!"

"What do you think we'd better do?" said I.  "Go to see Mrs.
Cunningham?"

"No, I wouldn't do that," said Parmalee, who had a sort of
plebeian hesitancy at the thought of intruding upon aristocratic
strangers.  "Suppose you write her a letter and just ask her if
she has lost her bag."

"All right," I conceded, for truth to tell, I greatly preferred
to stay in West Sedgwick than to go out of it, for I had always
the undefined hope of seeing Florence Lloyd.

So I wrote a letter, not exactly curt, but strictly formal,
asking Mrs. Cunningham if she had recently lost a gold-mesh bag,
containing her gloves and handkerchief.

Then Parmalee and I agreed to keep the matter a secret until we
should get a reply to this, for we concluded there was no use in
stirring up public curiosity on the matter until we knew
ourselves that we were on the right trail.




XVII

THE OWNER OF THE GOLD BAG


The next day I received a letter addressed in modish, angular
penmanship, which, before I opened it, I felt sure had come from
Mrs. Cunningham.  It ran as follows

Mr. HERBERT Burroughs

Dear Sir: Yes, I have lost a gold bag, and I have known all along
that it is the one the newspapers are talking so much about in
connection with the Crawford case.  I know, too, that you are the
detective on the case, and though I can't imagine how you did it,
I think it was awfully clever of you to trace the bag to me, for
I'm sure my name wasn't in it anywhere.  As I say, the bag is
mine, but I didn't kill Mr. Crawford, and I don't know who did.
I would go straight to you, and tell you all about it, but I am
afraid of detectives and lawyers, and I don't want to be mixed up
in the affair anyway.  But I am going to see Miss Lloyd, and
explain it all to her, and then she can tell you.  Please don't
let my name get in the papers, as I hate that sort of prominence.

                                Very truly yours,
                                      ELIZABETH CUNNINGHAM.

I smiled a little over the femininity of the letter, but as
Parmalee had prophesied, Marathon Park was evidently no place to
look for our criminal.

The foolish little woman who had written that letter, had no
guilty secret on her conscience, of that I was sure.

I telephoned for Parmalee and showed him the letter.

"It doesn't help us in one way," he said, "for of course, Mrs.
Cunningham is not implicated.  But the bag is still a clue, for
how did it get into Mr. Crawford's office?"

"We must find out who Mr. Cunningham is," I suggested.

"He's not the criminal, either.  If he had left his wife's bag
there, he never would have let her send this letter."

"Perhaps he didn't know she wrote it."

"Oh, perhaps lots of things!  But I am anxious to learn what Mrs.
Cunningham tells Miss Lloyd."

"Let us go over to the Crawford house, and tell Miss Lloyd about
it."

"Not this morning; I've another engagement.  And besides, the
little lady won't get around so soon."

"Why a little lady?" I asked, smiling.

"Oh, the whole tone of the letter seems to imply a little
yellow-haired butterfly of a woman."

"Just the reverse of Florence Lloyd," I said musingly.

"Yes; no one could imagine Miss Lloyd writing a letter like that.
There's lots of personality in a woman's letter.  Much more than
in a man's."

Parmalee went away, and prompted by his suggestions, I studied
the letter I had just received.  It was merely an idle fancy, for
if Mrs. Cunningham was going to tell Miss Lloyd her story, it
made little difference to me what might be her stature or the
color of her hair.  But, probably because of Parmalee's
suggestion, I pictured her to myself as a pretty young woman with
that air of half innocence and half ignorance which so well
becomes the plump blonde type.

The broad veranda of the Sedgwick Arms was a pleasant place to
sit, and I had mused there for some time, when Mr. Carstairs came
out to tell me that I was asked for on the telephone.  The call
proved to be from Florence Lloyd asking me to come to her at
once.

Only too glad to obey this summons, I went directly to the
Crawford house, wondering if any new evidence had been brought to
light.

Lambert opened the door for me, and ushered me into the library,
where Florence was receiving a lady caller.

"Mrs. Cunningham," said Florence, as I entered, "may I present
Mr. Burroughs--Mr. Herbert Burroughs.  I sent for you," she
added, turning to me, "because Mrs. Cunningham has an important
story to tell, and I thought you ought to hear it at once."

I bowed politely to the stranger, and awaited her disclosures.

Mrs. Cunningham was a pretty, frivolous-looking woman, with
appealing blue eyes, and a manner half-childish, half-apologetic.

I smiled involuntarily to see how nearly her appearance coincided
with the picture in my mind, and I greeted her almost as if she
were a previous acquaintance.

"I know I've done very wrong," she began, with a nervous little
flutter of her pretty hands; "but I'm ready now to 'fess up, as
the children say."

She looked at me, so sure of an answering smile, that I gave it,
and said

"Let us hear your confession, Mrs. Cunningham; I doubt if it's a
very dreadful one."

"Well, you see," she went on, "that gold bag is mine."

"Yes," I said; "how did it get here?"

"I've no idea," she replied, and I could see that her shallow
nature fairly exulted in the sensation she was creating.  "I went
to New York that night, to the theatre, and I carried my gold
bag, and I left it in the train when I got out at the station."

"West Sedgwick?" I asked.

"No; I live at Marathon Park, the next station to this."

"Next on the way to New York?"

"Yes.  And when I got out of the train--I was with my husband
and some other people--we had been to a little theatre party--I
missed the bag.  But I didn't tell Jack, because I knew he'd
scold me for being so careless.  I thought I'd get it back from
the Lost and Found Department, and then, the very next day, I
read in the paper about the--the--awful accident, and it told
about a gold bag being found here."

"You recognized it as yours?"

"Of course; for the paper described everything in it--even to
the cleaner's advertisement that I'd just cut out that very day."

"Why didn't you come and claim it at once?"

"Oh, Mr. Burroughs, you must know why I didn't!  Why, I was
scared 'most to death to read the accounts of the terrible
affair; and to mix in it, myself--ugh!  I couldn't dream of
anything so horrible."

It was absurd, but I had a desire to shake the silly little
bundle of femininity who told this really important story, with
the twitters and simpers of a silly school-girl.

"And you would not have come, if I had not written you?"

She hesitated.  "I think I should have come soon, even without
your letter."

"Why, Mrs. Cunningham?"

"Well, I kept it secret as long as I could, but yesterday Jack
saw that I had something on my mind.  I couldn't fool him any
longer."

"As to your having a mind!" I said to myself, but I made no
comment aloud.

"So I told him all about it, and he said I must come at once and
tell Miss Lloyd, because, you see, they thought it was her bag
all the time."

"Yes," I said gravely; "it would have been better if you had come
at first, with your story.  Have you any one to substantiate it,
or any proofs that it is the truth?"

The blue eyes regarded me with an injured expression.  Then she
brightened again.

"Oh, yes, I can `prove property'; that's what you mean, isn't it?
I can tell you which glove finger is ripped, and just how much
money is in the bag, and--and here's a handkerchief exactly like
the one I carried that night.  Jack said if I told you all these
things, you'd know it's my bag, and not Miss Lloyd's."

"And then, there was a card in it."

"A card?  My card?"

"No, not your card; a card with another name on it.  Don't you
know whose?"

Mrs. Cunningham thought for a moment.  Then, "Oh, yes!" she
exclaimed.  "Mrs. Purvis gave me her card, and I tucked it in the
pocket of the bag.  Was that the way you discovered the bag was
mine?  And how did that make you know it."

"I'll tell you about that some other time if you wish, Mrs.
Cunningham; but just now I want to get at the important part of
your story.  How did your gold bag get in Mr. Crawford's office?"

"Ah, how did it?"  The laughing face was sober now and she seemed
appalled at the question.  "Jack says some one must have found it
in the car-seat where I left it, and he"--she lowered her voice
--"he must be the--"

"The murderer," I supplied calmly.  "It does look that way.  You
have witnesses, I suppose, who saw you in that train?"

"Mercy, yes!  Lots of them.  The train reaches Marathon Park at
12: 50, and is due here at one o'clock.  Ever so many people got
out at our station.  There were six in our own party, and others
besides.  And the conductor knows me, and everybody knows Jack.
He's Mr. John Le Roy Cunningham."

It was impossible to doubt all this.  Further corroboration it
might be well to get, but there was not the slightest question in
my mind as to the little lady's truthfulness.

"I thank you, Mrs. Cunningham," I said, "for coming to us with
your story.  You may not be able to get your bag to-day, but I
assure you it will, be sent to you as soon as a few inquiries can
be made.  These are merely for the sake of formalities, for, as
you say, your fellow townspeople can certify to your presence on
the train, and your leaving it at the Marathon Park station."

"Yes," she replied; "and"--she handed me a paper--"there's my
husband's address, and his lawyer's address, and the addresses of
all the people that were in our party that night.  Jack said you
might like to have the list.  He would have come himself to-day,
only he's fearfully busy.  And I said I didn't mind coming alone,
just to see Miss Lloyd.  I wouldn't have gone to a jury meeting,
though.  And I'm in no hurry for the bag.  In fact, I don't care
much if I never get it.  It wasn't the value of the thing that
made me come at all, but the fear that my bag might make trouble
for Miss Lloyd.  Jack said it might.  I don't see how, myself,
but I'm a foolish little thing, with no head for business
matters."  She shook her head, and gurgled an absurd little
laugh, and then, after a loquacious leave-taking, she went away.

"Well?" I said to Florence, and then, "Well?" Florence said to
me.

It was astonishing how rapidly our acquaintance had progressed.
Already we had laid aside all formality of speech and manner, and
if the girl had not really discovered my mental attitude toward
her, at least I think she must have suspected it.

"Of course," I began, "I knew it wasn't your bag, because you
said it wasn't.  But I did incline a little to the `woman
visitor' theory, and now that is destroyed.  I think we must
conclude that the bag was brought here by the person who found it
on that midnight train."

"Why didn't that person turn it over to the conductor?" she said,
more as if thinking to herself than speaking to me.

"Yes, why, indeed?" I echoed.  "And if he brought it here, and
committed a criminal act, why go away and leave it here?"

I think it was at the same moment that the minds of both of us
turned to Gregory Hall.  Her eyes fell, and as for me, I was
nearly stunned with the thoughts that came rushing to my brain.

If the late newspaper had seemed to point to Hall's coming out on
that late train, how much more so this bag, which had been left
on that very train

We were silent for a time, and then, lifting her sweet eyes
bravely to mine, Florence said

"I have something to tell you."

"Yes," I replied, crushing down the longing to take her in my
arms and let her tell it there.

"Mr. Hall had a talk with me this morning.  He says that he and
the others have searched everywhere possible for the will, and it
cannot be found.  He says Uncle Joseph must have destroyed it,
and that it is practically settled that Uncle Philip is the legal
heir.  Of course, Mr. Philip Crawford isn't my uncle, but I have
always called him that, and Phil and I have been just like
cousins."

"What else did Mr. Hall say?" I asked, for I divined that the
difficult part of her recital was yet to come.

"He said," she went on, with a rising color, "that he wished me
to break our engagement."

I will do myself the justice to say that although my first
uncontrollable thought was one of pure joy at this revelation,
yet it was instantly followed by sympathy and consideration for
her.

"Why?" I asked in a voice that I tried to keep from being hard.

"He says," she continued, with a note of weariness in her voice,
"that he is not a rich man, and cannot give me the comforts and
luxuries to which I have been accustomed, and that therefore it
is only right for him to release me."

"Of course you didn't accept his generous sacrifice," I said; and
my own hopes ran riot as I listened for her answer.

"I told him I was willing to share poverty with him," she said,
with a quiet dignity, as if telling an impersonal tale, "but he
insisted that the engagement should be broken."

"And is it?" I asked eagerly, almost breathlessly.

She gave me that look which always rebuked me--always put me
back in my place--but which, it seemed to me, was a little less
severe than ever before.  "It's left undecided for a day or two,"
she said.  Then she added hurriedly

"I must see if he needs me.  Do you suppose this story of Mrs.
Cunningham's will in any way--well, affect him?"

"It may," I replied truthfully.  "At any rate, he must be made to
tell where he was and what he was doing Tuesday night.  You have
no idea, have you?"

Florence hesitated a moment, looked at me in a way I could not
fathom, and then, but only after a little choking sound in her
throat, she said

"No, I have no idea."

It was impossible to believe her.  No one would show such
emotion, such difficulty of speech, if telling a simple truth.
Yet when I looked in her troubled eyes, and read there anxiety,
uncertainty, and misery, I only loved her more than ever.  Truly
it was time for me to give up this case.  Whatever turn it took,
I was no fit person to handle clues or evidence which filled me
with deadly fear lest they turn against the one I loved.

And yet that one, already suspected by many, had been proved to
have both motive and opportunity.

And I, I who loved her, knew that, in one instance, at least, she
had been untruthful.

Yes, it was high time for me to give this case into other hands.

I looked at her again, steadily but with a meaning in my glance
that I hoped she would understand.  I wanted her to know, that
though of course justice was my end and aim, yet I was sure the
truth could not implicate her, and if it did implicate Mr. Hall,
the sooner we discovered it the better.

I think she appreciated my meaning, for the troubled look in her
own eyes disappeared, and she seemed suddenly almost willing to
give me her full confidence.

I resolved to make the most of my opportunity.

"Of course you know," I said gently, "that I want to believe all
you say to me.  But, Miss Lloyd, your naturally truthful nature
so rebels at your unveracity, that it is only too plain to be
seen when you are not telling the truth.  Now, I do not urge you,
but I ask you to tell me, confidentially if you choose, what your
surmise is as to Mr. Hall's strange reticence."

"It is only a surmise," she said, and though the troubled look
came back to her eyes, she looked steadily at me.  "And I have no
real reason even to think it, but I can't help feeling that
Gregory is interested in some other woman beside myself."

Again I felt that uncontrollable impulse of satisfaction at this
disclosure, and again I stifled it.  I endeavored to treat the
matter lightly.  "Is that all?" I asked; "do you mean that
perhaps Mr. Hall was calling on some other lady acquaintance that
evening?"

"Yes, that is what I do mean.  And, as I say, I have no real
reason to think it.  But still, Mr. Burroughs, if it were true, I
cannot agree with you that it is unimportant.  Surely a man is
not expected to call on one woman when he is betrothed to
another, or at least, not to make a secret of it."

I thoroughly agreed with her, and my opinion that Hall was a cad
received decided confirmation.

"My treating it as a light matter, Miss Lloyd, was not quite
sincere.  Indeed, I may as well confess that it was partly to
cover the too serious interest I take in the matter."

She looked up, startled at this, but as my eyes told her a
certain truth I made no effort to conceal, she looked down again,
and her lip quivered.

I pulled myself together.  "Don't think I am taking advantage of
your confidence," I said gently; "I want only to help you.
Please consider me an impersonal factor, and let me do all I can
for you.  For the moment, let us suppose your surmise is correct.
This would, of course, free Mr. Hall from any implication of
crime."

"Yes, and while I can't suspect him of anything like crime, I
hate, also, to suspect him of disloyalty to me."

Her head went up with a proud gesture, and I suddenly knew that
the thought of Hall's interest in another woman, affected her
pride and her sense of what was due her, far more than it did her
heart.  Her fear was not so much that Hall loved another woman,
as that his secrecy in the matter meant a slight to her own
dignified position.

"I understand, Miss Lloyd, and I hope for the sake of all
concerned, your surmise is not correct.  But, with your
permission, I feel it my duty to discover where Mr. Hall was that
evening, even if to do this it is necessary to have professional
assistance from headquarters."

She shuddered at this.  "It is so horrid," she said, "to spy upon
a gentleman's movements, if he is only engaged in his personal
affairs."

"If we were sure of that, we need not spy upon him.  But to the
eye of justice there is always the possibility that he was not
about his personal affairs that evening, but was here in West
Sedgwick."

"You don't really suspect him, do you?" she said; and she looked
at me as if trying to read my very soul.

"I'm afraid I do," I answered gravely; "but not so much from
evidence against him, as because I don't know where else to look.
Do you?"

"No," said Florence Lloyd.




XVIII

IN Mr. GOODRICH'S OFFICE


As was my duty I went next to the district attorney's office to
tell him about Mrs. Cunningham and the gold bag, and to find out
from him anything I could concerning Gregory Hall.  I found Mr.
Porter calling there, and both he and Mr. Goodrich welcomed me as
a possible bringer of fresh news.  When I said that I did know of
new developments, Mr. Porter half rose from his chair.

"I dare say I've no business here," he said; "but you know the
deep interest I take in this whole matter.  Joseph Crawford was
my lifelong friend and near neighbor, and if I can be in any way
instrumental in freeing Florence from this web of suspicion--"

I turned on him angrily, and interrupted him by saying

"Excuse me, Mr. Porter; no one has as yet voiced a suspicion
against Miss Lloyd.  For you to put such a thought into words, is
starting a mine of trouble."

The older man looked at me indulgently, and I think his shrewd
perceptions told him at once that I was more interested in Miss
Lloyd than a mere detective need be.

"You are right," he said; "but I considered this a confidential
session."

"It is," broke in Mr. Goodrich, "and if you will stay, Mr.
Porter, I shall be glad to have you listen to whatever Mr.
Burroughs has to tell us, and then give us the benefit of your
advice."

I practically echoed the district attorney's words, for I knew
Lemuel Porter to be a clear-headed and well-balanced business
man, and his opinions well worth having.

So it was to two very interested hearers that I related first the
story of Florence's coming downstairs at eleven o'clock on the
fatal night, for a final endeavor to gain her uncle's consent to
her betrothal.

"Then it was her bag!" exclaimed Mr. Porter.  "I thought so all
the time."

I said nothing at the moment and listened for Mr. Goodrich's
comment.

"To my mind," said the district attorney slowly, "this story,
told now by Miss Lloyd, is in her favor.  If the girl were
guilty, or had any guilty knowledge of the crime, she would not
have told of this matter at all.  It was not forced from her; she
told it voluntarily, and I, for one, believe it."

"She told it," said I, "because she wished to take the
responsibility of the fallen rose petals upon herself.  Since we
are speaking plainly, I may assure you, gentlemen, that she told
of her later visit to the office because I hinted to her that the
yellow leaves might implicate Gregory Hall."

"Then," said Mr. Goodrich triumphantly, "she herself suspects Mr.
Hall, which proves that she is innocent."

"It doesn't prove her innocent of collusion," observed Mr.
Porter.

"Nor does it prove that she suspects Mr. Hall," I added.  "It
merely shows that she fears others may suspect him."

"It is very complicated," said the district attorney.

"It is," I agreed, "and that is why I wish to send for the famous
detective, Fleming Stone."

"Stone!  Nonsense!" exclaimed Mr. Goodrich.  "I have every
confidence in your skill, Mr. Burroughs; I would not insult you
by calling in another detective."

"Surely not," agreed Mr. Porter.  "If you need help, Mr.
Burroughs, confer with our local man, Mr. Parmalee.  He's a
pretty clever chap, and I don't know why you two don't work more
together."

"We do work together," said I.  "Mr. Parmalee is both clever and
congenial, and we have done our best in the matter.  But the days
are going by and little of real importance has been discovered.
However, I haven't told you as yet, the story of the gold bag.  I
have found its owner."

Of course there were exclamations of surprise at this, but
realizing its importance they quietly listened to my story.

With scarcely a word of interruption from my hearers, I told them
how I had found the card in the bag, how I had learned about Mrs.
Purvis from headquarters, how I had gone to see her, and how it
had all resulted in Mrs. Cunningham's visit to Miss Lloyd that
morning.

"Well!" exclaimed Mr. Porter, as I concluded the narrative.
"Well!  Of all things!  Well, I am amazed!  Why, this gives a
wide scope of possibilities.  Scores of our people come out on
that theatre train every night."

"But not scores of people would have a motive for putting Joseph
Crawford out of the way," said Mr. Goodrich, who sat perplexedly
frowning.

Then, by way of a trump card, I told them of the "extra"
edition of the evening paper I had found in the office.

The district attorney stared at me, but still sat frowning and
silent.

But Mr. Porter expressed his wonderment.

"How it all fits in!" he cried.  "The bag, known to be from that
late train; the paper, known to have been bought late in New
York!  Burroughs, you're a wonder!  Indeed, we don't want any
Fleming Stone, when you can do such clever sleuthing as this."

I stared at him.  Nothing I had done seemed to me "clever
sleuthing," nor did my simple discoveries seem to me of any great
significance.

"I don't like it," said Mr. Goodrich, at last.  "Everything so
far known, both early and late information, seems to me to point
to Gregory Hall and Florence Lloyd in collusion."

"But you said," I interrupted, "that Miss Lloyd's confession that
she did go down-stairs late at night was in her favor."

"I said that before I knew about this bag story.  Now I think the
case is altered, and the two who had real motive are undoubtedly
the suspects."

"But they had no motive," said Mr. Porter, "since Florence
doesn't inherit the fortune."

"But they thought she did," explained the district attorney, "and
so the motive was just as strong.  Mr. Burroughs, I wish you
would confer with Mr. Parmalee, and both of you set to work on
the suggestions I have advanced.  It is a painful outlook, to be
sure, but justice is inexorable.  You agree with me, Mr. Porter?"

Mr. Porter started, as if he, too, had been in a brown study.

"I do and I don't," he said.  "Personally, I think both those
young people are innocent, but if I am correct, no harm will be
done by a further investigation of their movements on Tuesday
night.  I think Mr. Hall ought to tell where he was that night,
if only in self-defense.  If he proves he was in New York, and
did not come out here, it will not only clear him, but also
Florence.  For I think no one suspects her of anything more than
collusion with him."

Of course I had no mind to tell these men what Florence had told
me confidentially about Mr. Hall's possible occupation Tuesday
evening.  They were determined to investigate that very question,
and so, if her surmise were correct, it would disclose itself.

"Very well," I said, after listening to a little further
discussion, which was really nothing but repetition, "then I will
consult with Mr. Parmalee, and we will try to make further
investigation of Mr. Hall's doings.  But I'm ready to admit that.
it does not look easy to me to discover anything of importance.
Mr. Hall is a secretive man, and unless we have a definite charge
against him it is difficult to make him talk."

"Well, you can certainly learn something," said Mr. Goodrich.
"At any rate devote a few days to the effort.  I have confidence
in you, Mr. Burroughs, and I don't think you need call in a man
whom you consider your superior.  But if you'll excuse me for
making a suggestion, let me ask you to remember that a theory of
Hall's guilt also possibly implicates Miss Lloyd.  You will
probably discover this for yourself, but don't let your natural
chivalry toward a woman, and perhaps a personal element in this
case, blind you to the facts."

Although he put it delicately, I quite understood that he had
noticed my personal interest in Florence Lloyd, and so, as it was
my duty to disregard that interest in my work, I practically
promised to remember his injunction.

It was then that I admitted to myself the true state of my mind.
I felt sure Florence was innocent, but I knew appearances were
strongly against her, and I feared I should bungle the case
because of the very intensity of my desire not to.  And I thought
that Fleming Stone, in spite of evidence, would be able to prove
what I felt was the truth, that Florence was guiltless of all
knowledge of or complicity in her uncle's death.

However, I had promised to go on with the quest, and I urged
myself on, with the hope that further developments might clear
Florence, even if they more deeply implicated Gregory Hall.

I went back to the inn, and spent some time in thinking over the
matter, and methodically recording my conclusions.  And, while I
thought, I became more and more convinced that, whether Florence
connived or not, Hall was the villain, and that he had actually
slain his employer because he had threatened to disinherit his
niece.

Perhaps when Hall came to the office, late that night, Mr.
Crawford was already engaged in drawing up the new will, and in
order to purloin it Hall had killed him, not knowing that the
other will was already destroyed.  And destroyed it must be, for
surely Hall had no reason to steal or suppress the will that
favored Florence.

As a next move, I decided to interview Mr. Hall.

Such talks as I had had with him so far, had been interrupted and
unsatisfactory.  Now I would see him alone, and learn something
from his manner and appearance.

I found him, as I had expected, in the office of his late
employer.  He was surrounded with papers, and was evidently very
busy, but he greeted me with a fair show of cordiality, and
offered me a chair.

"I want to talk to you plainly, Mr. Hall," I said, "and as I see
you're busy, I will be as brief as possible."

"I've been expecting you," said he calmly.  "In fact, I'm rather
surprised that you haven't been here before."

"Why?" said I, eying him closely.

"Only because the inquiries made at the inquest amounted to very
little, and I assumed you would question all the members of the
household again."

"I'm not sure that's necessary," I responded, following his
example in adopting a light, casual tone.  "I have no reason to
suspect that the servants told other than the exact truth.  I
have talked to both the ladies, and now I've only a few questions
to put to you."

He looked up, surprised at my self-satisfied air.

"Have you nailed the criminal?" he asked, with a greater show of
interest than he had before evinced.

"Not exactly nailed him, perhaps.  But we fancy we are on the
scent."

"Resent what?" he asked, looking blank.

"I didn't say `resent.'  I said, we are on the scent."

"Oh, yes.  And in what direction does it lead you?"

"In your direction," I said, willing to try what effect bluntness
might have upon this composed young man.

"I beg your pardon?" he said, as if he hadn't heard me.

"Evidences are pointing toward you as the criminal," I said,
determined to disturb his composure if I could.

Instead of showing surprise or anger, he gave a slight smile, as
one would at an idea too ridiculous to be entertained for an
instant.  Somehow, that smile was more convincing to me than any
verbal protestation could have been.

Then I realized that the man was doubtless a consummate actor,
and he had carefully weighed the value of that supercilious smile
against asseverations of innocence.  So I went on:

"When did you first learn of the accident to the Atlantic liner,
the North America?"

"I suppose you mean that question for a trap," he said coolly;
"but I haven't the least objection to answering it.  I bought a
late 'extra' in New York City the night of the disaster."

"At what hour did you buy it?"

"I don't know exactly.  It was some time after midnight."

Really, there was little use in questioning this man.  If he had
bought his paper at half-past eleven, as I felt positive he did,
and if he had come out to Sedgwick on the twelve o'clock train,
he was quite capable of answering me in this casual way, to throw
me off the track.

Well, I would try once again.

"Excuse me, Mr. Hall, but I am obliged to ask you some personal
questions now.  Are you engaged to Miss Lloyd?"

"I beg your pardon?"

His continued requests for me to repeat my questions irritated me
beyond endurance.  Of course it was a bluff to gain time, but he
did it so politely, I couldn't rebuke him.

"Are you engaged to Miss Lloyd?" I repeated.

"No, I think not," he said slowly.  "She wants to break it off,
and I, as a poor man, should not stand in the way of her making a
brilliant marriage.  She has many opportunities for such, as her
uncle often told me, and I should be selfish indeed, now that she
herself is poor, to hold her to her promise to me."

The hypocrite!  To lay on Florence the responsibility for
breaking the engagement.  Truly, she was well rid of him, and I
hoped I could convince her of the fact.

"But she is not so poor," I said.  "Mr. Philip Crawford told me
he intends to provide for her amply.  And I'm sure that means a
fair-sized fortune, for the Crawfords are generous people."

Gregory Hall's manner changed.

"Did Philip Crawford say that?" he cried.  "Are you sure?"

"Of course I'm sure, as he said it to me."

"Then Florence and I may be happy yet," he said; and as I looked
him straight in the eye, he had the grace to look ashamed of
himself, and, with a rising color, he continued: "I hope you
understand me, Mr. Burroughs.  No man could ask a girl to marry
him if he knew that meant condemning her to comparative poverty."

"No, of course not," said I sarcastically.  "Then I assume that,
so far as you are concerned, your engagement with Miss Lloyd is
not broken?"

"By no means.  In fact, I could not desert her just now, when
there is a--well, a sort of a cloud over her."

"What do you mean?" I thundered.  "There is no cloud over her."

"Well, you know, the gold bag and the yellow rose leaves . . . "

"Be silent!  The gold bag has been claimed by its owner.  But you
are responsible for its presence in this room!  You, who brought
it from the midnight train, and left it here!  You, who also left
the late city newspaper here!  You, who also dropped two yellow
petals from the rose in your buttonhole."

Gregory Hall seemed to turn to stone as he listened to my words.
He became white, then ashen gray.  His hands clinched his
chair-arms, and his eyes grew glassy and fixed.

I pushed home my advantage.  "And therefore, traced by these
undeniable evidences, I know that you are the slayer of Joseph
Crawford.  You killed your friend, your benefactor, your
employer, in order that he might not disinherit the girl whose
fortune you wish to acquire by marrying her!"

Though I had spoken in low tones, my own intense emotion made my
words emphatic, and as I finished I was perhaps the more excited
of the two.

For Hall's composure had returned; his face resumed its natural
color; his eyes their normal expression--that of cold
indifference.

"Mr. Burroughs," he said quietly, "you must be insane."

"That is no answer to my accusations," I stormed.  "I tell you of
the most conclusive evidence against yourself, and instead of any
attempt to refute it you mildly remark, `you are insane.'  It is
you who are insane, Mr. Hall, if you think you can escape arrest
and trial for the murder of Joseph Crawford."

"Oh, I think I can," was his only answer, with that maddening
little smile of his.

"Then where were you on Tuesday night?"

"Excuse me?"

"Where were you on Tuesday night?"

"That I refuse to tell--as I have refused before, and shall
always refuse."

"Because you were here, and because you have too much wisdom to
try to prove a false alibi."

He looked at me half admiringly. "You are right in that," he
said.  "It is extremely foolish for any one to fake an alibi, and
I certainly never should try to do so."

"That's how I know you were here," I replied triumphantly.

"You do, do you?  Well, Mr. Burroughs, I don't pretend to
misunderstand you--for Miss Lloyd has told me all about Mrs.
Cunningham and her bag that she left in the train.  But I will
say this if you think I came out on that midnight train, go and
ask the conductor.  He knows me, and as I often do come out on
that train, he may remember that I was not on it that night.  And
while you're about it, and since you consider that late newspaper
a clue, also ask him who was on the train that might have come
here afterward."

If this was bluffing, it was a very clever bluff, and
magnificently carried out.  Probably his hope was that the
conductor could not say definitely as to Hall's presence on the
late train, and any other names he might mention would only
complicate matters.

But before I left I made one more attempt to get at this man's
secret.

"Mr. Hall," I began, "I am not unfriendly.  In fact, for Miss
Lloyd's sake as well as your own, I should like to remove every
shadow of suspicion that hovers near either or both of you."

"I know that," he said quickly.  "Don't think I can't see through
your `friendliness' to Miss Lloyd!  But be careful there, Mr.
Burroughs.  A man does not allow too many `friendly' glances
toward the girl he is engaged to."

So he had discovered my secret!  Well, perhaps it was a good
thing.  Now I could fight for Florence more openly if necessary.

"You are right, Mr. Hall," I went on.  "I hold Miss Lloyd in very
high esteem, and I assure you, as man to man, that so long as you
and she are betrothed, neither of you will have cause to look on
me as other than a detective earnest in his work in your behalf."

"Thank you," said Hall, a little taken aback by my frankness.

I went away soon after that, and without quizzing him any
further, for, though I still suspected him, I realized that he
would never say anything to incriminate himself.

The theory that the criminal was some one who came in on that
midnight train was plausible indeed; but what a scope it offered!

Why, a total stranger to Sedgwick might have come and gone,
entirely unobserved, in the crowd.

It was with little hope, therefore, that I arranged for an
interview with the conductor of the train.

He lived in Hunterton, a few stations from West Sedgwick, and,
after ascertaining by telephone that he could see me the next
day, I went to his house.

"Well, no," he replied, after thinking over my query a bit; "I
don't think Mr. Hall came out from New York that night.  I'm
'most sure he didn't, because he usually gives me his newspaper
as he steps off the train, and I didn't get any `extra' that
night."

Of course this wasn't positive proof that Hall wasn't there, so I
asked him to tell me all the West Sedgwick people that he did
remember as being on his train that night.

He mentioned a dozen or more, but they were nearly all names
unknown to me.

"Do you remember the Cunninghams being on the train?" I asked.

"Those Marathon Park people?  Oh, yes.  They were a gay party,--
coming back from a theatre supper, I suppose.  And that reminds
me: Philip Crawford sat right behind the Cunninghams.  I forgot
him before.  Well, I guess that's all the West Sedgwick people I
can remember."

I went away not much the wiser, but with a growing thought that
buzzed in my brain.

It was absurd, of course.  But he had said Philip Crawford had
sat right behind Mrs. Cunningham.  How, then, could he help
seeing the gold bag she left behind, when she got out at the
station just before West Sedgwick?  Indeed, who else could have
seen it but the man in the seat directly behind?  Even if some
one else had picked it up and carried it from the car, Mr.
Crawford must have seen it.

Moreover, why hadn't he said he was on that train?  Why conceal
such a simple matter?  Again, who had profited by the whole
affair?  And why had Gregory Hall said: "Ask the conductor who
did get off that train?"

The rose petals were already explained by Florence.  If, then,
Philip Crawford had, much later, come to his brother's with the
gold bag and the late newspaper, and had gone away and left them
there, and had never told of all this, was there not a new
direction in which to look?

But Philip Crawford!  The dead man's own brother!




XIX

THE MIDNIGHT TRAIN


The enormity of suspecting Philip Crawford was so great, to my
mind, that I went at once to the district attorney's office for
consultation with him.

Mr. Goodrich listened to what I had to say, and then, when I
waited for comment, said quietly:

"Do you know, Mr. Burroughs, I have thought all along that Philip
Crawford was concealing something, but I didn't think, and don't
think now, that he has any guilty secret of his own.  I rather
fancied he might know something that, if told, would be
detrimental to Miss Lloyd's cause."

"It may be so," I returned, "but I can't see how that would make
him conceal the fact of his having been on that late train
Tuesday night.  Why, I discussed with him the possibility of
Hall's coming out on it, and it would have been only natural to
say he was on it, and didn't see Hall."

"Unless he did see him," remarked the district attorney.

"Yes; there's that possibility.  He may be shielding Hall for
Miss Lloyd's sake--and--"

"Let's go to see him," suggested Mr. Goodrich.  "I believe in the
immediate following up of any idea we may have."

It was about five in the afternoon, an hour when we were likely
to find Mr. Crawford at home, so we started off at once, and on
reaching his house we were told that Mr. Randolph was with him in
the library, but that he would see us.  So to the library we
went, and found Mr. Crawford and his lawyer hard at work on the
papers of the Joseph Crawford estate.

Perhaps it was imagination, but I thought I detected a look of
apprehension on Philip Crawford's face, as we entered, but he
greeted us in his pleasant, simple way, and asked us to be
seated.

"To come right to the point, Mr. Crawford," said the district
attorney, "Mr. Burroughs and I are still searching for new light
on the tragedy of your brother's death.  And now Mr. Burroughs
wants to put a few questions to you, which may help him in his
quest."

Philip Crawford looked straight at me with his piercing eyes, and
it seemed to me that he straightened himself, as for an expected
blow.

"Yes, Mr. Burroughs," he said courteously.  "What is it you want
to ask?"

So plain and straightforward was his manner, that I decided to be
equally direct.

"Did you come out in that midnight train from New York last
Tuesday night?" I began.

"I did," he replied, in even tones.

"While on the train did you sit behind a lady who left a gold bag
in the seat when she got out?"

"I did."

"Did you pick up that bag and take it away with you?"

"I did."

"Then, Mr. Crawford, as that is the gold bag that was found in
your brother's office, I think you owe a more detailed
explanation."

To say that the lawyer and the district attorney, who heard these
questions and answers, were astounded, is putting it too mildly.
They were almost paralyzed with surprise and dismay.

To hear these condemning assertions straight from the lips of the
man they incriminated was startling indeed.

"You are right," said Philip Crawford.  "I do owe an explanation,
and I shall give it here and now."

Although what he was going to say was doubtless a confession, Mr.
Crawford's face showed an unmistakable expression of relief.  He
seemed like a man who had borne a terrible secret around with him
for the past week, and was now glad that he was about to impart
it to some one else.

He spoke very gravely, but with no faltering or hesitation.

"This is a solemn confession," he said, turning to his lawyer,
"and is made to the district attorney, with yourself and Mr.
Burroughs as witnesses."

Mr. Randolph bowed his head, in acknowledgment of this formal
statement.

"I am a criminal in the eyes of the law," said Mr. Crawford, in
an impersonal tone, which I knew he adopted to hide any emotion
he might feel.  "I have committed a dastardly crime.  But I am
not the murderer of my brother Joseph."

We all felt our hearts lightened of a great load, for it was
impossible to disbelieve that calm statement and the clear gaze
of those truthful, unafraid eyes.

"The story I have to tell will sound as if I might have been my
brother's slayer, and this is why I assert the contrary at the
outset."

Pausing here, Mr. Crawford unlocked the drawer of a desk and took
out a small pistol, which he laid on the table.

"That," he said, "is my revolver, and it is the weapon with which
my brother was killed."

I felt a choking sensation.  Philip Crawford's manner was so far
removed from a sensational--or melodramatic effect, that it was
doubly impressive.  I believed his statement that he did not kill
his brother, but what could these further revelations mean?
Hall?  Florence?  Young Philip?  Whom would Philip Crawford thus
shield for a whole week, and then, when forced to do so, expose?

"You are making strange declarations, Mr. Crawford," said Lawyer
Randolph, who was already white-faced and trembling.

"I know it," went on Philip Crawford, "and I trust you three men
will hear my story through, and then take such measures as you
see fit.

"This pistol, as I said, is my property.  Perhaps about a month
ago, I took it over to my brother Joseph.  He has always been
careless of danger, and as he was in the habit of sitting in his
office until very late, with the long windows open on a dark
veranda, I often told him he ought to keep a weapon in his desk,
by way of general protection.  Then, after there had been a
number of burglaries in West Sedgwick, I took this pistol to him,
and begged him as a favor to me to let it stay in his desk drawer
as a precautionary measure.  He laughed at my solicitude, but put
it away in a drawer, the upper right-hand one, among his business
papers.  So much for the pistol.

"Last Tuesday night I came out from New York on that midnight
train that reaches West Sedgwick station at one o'clock.  In the
train I did not notice especially who sat near me, but when I
reached our station and started to leave the car, I noticed a
gold bag in the seat ahead.  I picked it up, and, with a half-
formed intention of handing it to the conductor, I left the
train.  But as I stepped off I did not see the conductor, and,
though I looked about for him, he did not appear, and the train
moved on.  I looked in the station, but the ticket agent was not
visible, and as the hour was so late I slipped the bag into my
pocket, intending to hand it over to the railroad authorities
next morning.  In fact, I thought little about it, for I was very
much perturbed over some financial considerations.  I had been
reading my newspaper all the way out, from the city.  It was an
`extra,' with the account of the steamship accident."

Here Mr. Crawford looked at me, as much as to say, "There's your
precious newspaper clue," but his manner was indicative only of
sadness and grief; he had no cringing air as of a murderer.

"However, I merely skimmed the news about the steamer, so
interested was I in they stock market reports.  I needn't now
tell the details, but I knew that Joseph had a `corner' in X.Y.
stock.  I was myself a heavy investor in it, and I began to
realize that I must see Joseph at once, and learn his intended
actions for the next day.  If he threw his stock on the market,
there would be a drop of perhaps ten points and I should be a
large loser, if, indeed, I were not entirely wiped out.  So I
went from the train straight to my brother's home.  When I
reached the gate, I saw there was a low light in his office, so I
went round that way, instead of to the front door.  As I neared
the veranda, and went up the steps, I drew from my overcoat
pocket the newspaper, and, feeling the gold bag there also, I
drew that out, thinking to show it to Joseph.  As I look back
now, I think it occurred to me that the bag might be Florence's;
I had seen her carry one like it.  But, as you can readily
understand, I gave no coherent thought to the bag, as my mind was
full of the business matter.  The French window was open, and I
stepped inside."

Mr. Crawford paused here, but he gave way to no visible emotion.
Ile was like a man with an inexorable duty to perform, and no
wish to stop until it was finished.

But truth was stamped unmistakably in every word and every look.

"Only the desk light was turned on, but that gave light enough
for me to see my brother sitting dead in his chair.  I satisfied
myself that he was really dead, and then, in a sort of daze, I
looked about the room.  Though I felt benumbed and half
unconscious, physically, my thoughts worked rapidly.  On the desk
before him I saw his will."

An irrepressible exclamation from Mr. Randolph was the only sound
that greeted this astonishing statement.

"Yes," and Mr. Crawford took a document from the same drawer
whence he had taken the pistol; "there is Joseph Crawford's will,
leaving all his property to Florence Lloyd."

Mechanically, Mr. Randolph took the paper his client passed to
him, and, after a glance at it, laid it on the table in front of
him.

"That was my crime," said Philip Crawford solemnly, "and I thank
God that I can confess it and make restitution.  I must have been
suddenly possessed of a devil of greed, for the moment I saw that
will, I knew that if I took it away the property would be mine,
and I would then run no danger of being ruined by my stock
speculations.  I had a dim feeling that I should eventually give
all, or a large part, of the fortune to Florence, but at the
moment I was obsessed by evil, and I--I stole my brother's
will."

It was an honest confession of an awful crime.  But under the
spell of that strong, low voice, and the upright bearing of that
impressive figure, we could not, at the moment, condemn; we could
only listen and wait.

"Then," the speaker proceeded, "I was seized with the terrific,
unreasoning fear that I dare say always besets a malefactor.  I
had but one thought, to get away, and leave the murder to be
discovered by some one else.  In a sort of subconscious effort at
caution, I took my pistol, lest it prove incriminating evidence
against me, but in my mad frenzy of fear, I gave no thought to
the gold bag or the newspaper.  I came home, secreted the will
and the revolver, and ever since I have had no doubts as to the
existence of a hell.  A thousand times I have been on the point
of making this confession, and even had it not been brought about
as it has, I must have given way soon.  No mortal could stand out
long under the pressure of remorse and regret that has been on me
this past week.  Now, gentlemen, I have told you all.  The action
you may take in this matter must be of your own choosing.  But,
except for the stigma of past sin, I stand again before the
world, with no unconfessed crime upon my conscience.  I stole the
will; I have restored it.  But my hands are clean of the blood of
my brother, and I am now free to add my efforts to yours to find
the criminal and avenge the crime."

He had not raised his voice above those low, even tones in which
he had started his recital; he had made no bid for leniency of
judgment; but, to a man, his three hearers rose and held out
friendly hands to him as he finished his story.

"Thank you," he said simply, as he accepted this mute token of
our belief in his word.  "I am gratified at your kindly attitude,
but I realize, none the less, what this will all mean for me.
Not only myself but my innocent family must share my disgrace.
However, that is part of the wrongdoer's punishment--that
results fall not only on his own head, but on the heads and
hearts of his loved ones."

"Mr. Goodrich," said Mr. Randolph, "I don't know how you look
upon this matter from your official viewpoint, but unless you
deem it necessary, I should think that this confidence of Mr.
Crawford's need never be given to the public.  May we not simply
state that the missing will has been found, without any further
disclosures?"

"I am not asking for any such consideration," said Philip
Crawford.  "If you decide upon such a course, it will be entirely
of your own volition."

The district attorney hesitated.

"Speaking personally," he said, at last, "I may say that I place
full credence in Mr. Crawford's story.  I am entirely convinced
of the absolute truth of all his statements.  But, speaking
officially, I may say that in a court of justice witnesses would
be required, who could corroborate his words."

"But such witnesses are manifestly impossible to procure," said
Mr. Randolph.

"Certainly they are," I agreed, "and I should like to make this
suggestion: Believing, as we do, in Mr. Crawford's story, it
becomes important testimony in the case.  Now, if it were made
public, it would lose its importance, for it would set ignorant
tongues wagging, and give rise to absurd and untrue theories, and
result in blocking our best-meant efforts.  So I propose that we
keep the matter to ourselves for a time--say a week or a
fortnight--keeping Mr. Crawford under surveillance, if need be.
Then we can work on the case, with the benefit of the suggestions
offered by Mr. Crawford's revelations; and I, for one, think such
benefit of immense importance."

"That will do," said Mr. Goodrich, whose troubled face had
cleared at my suggestion.  "You are quite right, Mr. Burroughs.
And the `surveillance' will be a mere empty formality.  For a man
who has confessed as Mr. Crawford has done, is not going to run
away from the consequences of his confession."

"I am not," said Mr. Crawford.  "And I am grateful for this
respite from unpleasant publicity.  I will take my punishment
when it comes, but I feel with Mr. Burroughs that more progress
can be made if what I have told you is not at once generally
known."

"Where now does suspicion point?"

It was Mr. Randolph who spoke.  His legal mind had already gone
ahead of the present occasion, and was applying the new facts to
the old theories.

"To Gregory Hall," said the district attorney.

"Wait," said I.  "If Mr. Crawford left the bag and the newspaper
in the office, we have no evidence whatever that Mr. Hall came
out on that late train."

"Nor did he need to," said Mr. Goodrich, who was thinking
rapidly.  "He might have come on an earlier train, or, for that
matter, not by train at all.  He may have come out from town in a
motor car."

This was possible; but it did not seem to me probable.  A motor
car was a conspicuous way for a man to come out from New York and
return, if he wished to keep his visit secret.  Still, he could
have left the car at some distance from the house, and walked the
rest of the way.

"Did Mr. Hall know that a revolver was kept in Mr. Crawford's
desk drawer?" I asked.

"He did," replied Philip Crawford.  "He was present when I took
my pistol over to Joseph."

"Then," said Mr. Goodrich, "the case looks to me very serious
against Mr. Hall.  We have proved his motive, his opportunity,
and his method, or, rather, means, of committing the crime.  Add
to this his unwillingness to tell where he was on Tuesday night,
and I see sufficient justification for issuing a warrant for his
arrest."

"I don't know," said Philip Crawford, "whether such immediate
measures are advisable.  I don't want to influence you, Mr.
Goodrich, but suppose we see Mr. Hall, and question him a little.
Then, if it seems to you best, arrest him."

"That is a good suggestion, Mr. Crawford," said the district
attorney.  "We can have a sort of court of inquiry by ourselves,
and perhaps Mr. Hall will, by his own words, justify or relieve
our suspicions."

I went away from Mr. Crawford's house, and went straight to
Florence Lloyd's.  I did this almost involuntarily.  Perhaps if I
had stopped to think, I might have realized that it did not
devolve upon me to tell her of Philip Crawford's confession.  But
I wanted to tell her myself, because I hoped that from her manner
of hearing the story I could learn something.  I still believed
that in trying to shield Hall, she had not yet been entirely
frank with me, and at any rate, I wanted to be the one to tell
her of the important recent discovery.

When I arrived, I found Mr. Porter in the library talking with
Florence.  At first I hesitated about telling my story before
him, and then I remembered that he was one of the best of
Florence's friends and advisers, and moreover a man of sound
judgment and great perspicacity.  Needless to say, they were both
amazed and almost stunned by the recital, and it was some time
before they could take in the situation in all its bearings.  We
had a long, grave conversation, for the three of us were not
influenced so much by the sensationalness of this new
development, as by the question of whither it led.  Of course the
secret was as safe with these two, as with those of us who had
heard it directly from Philip Crawford's lips.

"I understand Philip Crawford's action," said Mr. Porter, very
seriously.  "In the first place he was not quite himself, owing
to the sudden shock of seeing his brother dead before his eyes.
Also the sight of his own pistol, with which the deed had
evidently been committed, unnerved him.  It was an almost
unconscious nervous action which made him take the pistol, and it
was a sort of subconscious mental working that resulted in his
abstracting the will.  Had he been in full possession of his
brain faculty, he could not have done either.  He did wrong, of
course, but he has made full restitution, and his wrong-doing
should not only be forgiven but forgotten."

I looked at Mr. Porter in unfeigned admiration.  Truly he had
expressed noble sentiments, and his must be a broadly noble
nature that could show such a spirit toward his fellow man.

Florence, too, gave him an appreciative glance, but her mind
seemed to be working on the possibilities of the new evidence.

"Then it would seem," she said slowly, "that as I, myself, was in
Uncle's office at about eleven o'clock, and as Uncle Philip was
there a little after one o'clock, whoever killed Uncle Joseph
came and went away between those hours."

"Yes," I said, and I knew that her thoughts had flown to Gregory
Hall.  "But I think there are no trains in and out again of West
Sedgwick between those hours."

"He need not have come in a train," said Florence slowly, as if
simply voicing her thoughts.

"Don't attempt to solve the mystery, Florence," said Mr. Porter
in his decided way.  "Leave that for those who make it their
business.  Mr. Burroughs, I am sure, will do all he can, and it
is not for you to trouble your already sad heart with these
anxieties.  Give it up, my girl, for it means only useless
exertion on your part."

"And on my part too, I fear, Mr. Porter," I said.  "Without
wishing to shirk my duty, I can't help feeling I'm up against a
problem that to me is insoluble.  It is my desire, since the case
is baffling, to call in talent of a higher order.  Fleming Stone,
for instance."

Mr. Porter gave me a sudden glance, and it was a glance I could
not understand.  For an instant it seemed to me that he showed
fear, and this thought was instantly followed by the impression
that he feared for Florence.  And then I chid myself for my
foolish heart that made every thought that entered my brain lead
to Florence Lloyd.  With my mind in this commotion I scarcely
heard Mr. Porter's words.

"No, no," he was saying, "we need no other or cleverer detective
than you, Mr. Burroughs.  If, as Florence says, the murderer was
clever enough to come between those two hours, and go away again,
leaving no sign, he is probably clever enough so to conceal his
coming and going that he may not be traced."

"But, Mr. Porter," I observed, "they say murder will out."

Again that strange look came into his eyes.  Surely it was an
expression of fear.  But he only said, "Then you're the man to
bring that result about, Mr. Burroughs.  I have great confidence
in your powers as a detective."

He took his leave, and I was not sorry, for I wanted an
opportunity to see Florence alone.

"I am so sorry," she said, and for the first time I saw tears in
her dear, beautiful eyes, "to hear that about Uncle Philip.  But
Mr. Porter was right, he was not himself, or he never could have
done it."

"It was an awful thing for him to find his brother as he did, and
go away and leave him so."

"Awful, indeed!  But the Crawfords have always been strange in
their ways.  I have never seen one of them show emotion or
sentiment upon any occasion."

"Now you are again an heiress," I said, suddenly realizing the
fact.

"Yes," she said, but her tone indicated that her fortune brought
in its train many perplexing troubles and many grave questions.

"Forgive me," I began, "if I am unwarrantably intrusive, but I
must say this.  Affairs are so changed now, that new dangers and
troubles may arise for you.  If I can help you in any way, will
you let me do so?  Will you confide in me and trust me, and will
you remember that in so doing you are not putting yourself under
the slightest obligation?"

She looked at me very earnestly for a moment, and then without
replying directly to my questions, she said in a low tone, "You
are the very best friend I have ever had."

"Florence!" I cried; but even as she had spoken, she had gone
softly out of the room, and with a quiet joy in my heart, I went
away.

That afternoon I was summoned to Mr. Philip Crawford's house to
be present at the informal court of inquiry which was to
interrogate Gregory Hall.

Hall was summoned by telephone, and not long after he arrived.
He was cool and collected, as usual, and I wondered if even his
arrest would disturb his calm.

"We are pursuing the investigation of Mr. Joseph Crawford's
death, Mr. Hall," the district attorney began, "and we wish, in
the course of our inquiries, to ask some questions of you."

"Certainly, sir," said Gregory Hall, with an air of polite
indifference.

"And I may as well tell you at the outset," went on Mr. Goodrich,
a little irritated at the young man's attitude, "that you, Mr.
Hall, are under suspicion."

"Yes?" said Hall interrogatively.  "But I was not here that
night."

"That's just the point, sir.  You say you were not here, but you
refuse to say where you were.  Now, wherever you may have been
that night, a frank admission of it will do you less harm than
this incriminating concealment of the truth."

"In that case," said Hall easily, "I suppose I may as well tell
you.  But first, since you practically accuse me, may I ask if
any new developments have been brought to light?"

"One has," said Mr. Goodrich.  "The missing will has been found."

"What?" cried Hall, unable to conceal his satisfaction at this
information.

"Yes," said Mr. Goodrich coldly, disgusted at the plainly
apparent mercenary spirit of the man; "yes, the will of Mr.
Joseph Crawford, which bequeaths the bulk of his estate to Miss
Lloyd, is safe in Mr. Randolph's possession.  But that fact in no
way affects your connection with the case, or our desire to learn
where you were on Tuesday night."

"Pardon me, Mr. Goodrich; I didn't hear all that you said."

Bluffing again, thought I; and, truly, it seemed to me rather a
clever way to gain time for consideration, and yet let his
answers appear spontaneous.

The district attorney repeated his question, and now Gregory Hall
answered deliberately

"I still refuse to tell you where I was.  It in no way affects
the case; it is a private matter of my own.  I was in New York
City from the time I left West Sedgwick at six o'clock on Monday,
until I returned the next morning.  Further than that I will give
no account of my doings."

"Then we must assume you were engaged in some occupation of which
you are ashamed to tell."

Hall shrugged his shoulders.  "You may assume what you choose,"
he said.  "I was not here, I had no hand in Mr. Crawford's death,
and knew nothing of it until my return next day."

"You knew Mr. Crawford kept a revolver in his desk.  You must
know it is not there now."

Hall looked troubled.

"I know nothing about that revolver," he said.  "I saw it the day
Mr. Philip Crawford brought it there, but I have never seen it
since."

This sounded honest enough, but if he were the criminal, he
would, of course, make these same avowals.

"Well, Mr. Hall," said the district attorney, with an air of
finality, "we suspect you.  We hold that you had motive,
opportunity, and means for this crime.  Therefore, unless you can
prove an alibi for Tuesday night, and bring witnesses to grove
where you, were, we must arrest you, on suspicion, for the murder
of Joseph Crawford."

Gregory Hall deliberated silently for a few moments, then he
said:

"I am innocent.  But I persist in my refusal to allow intrusion
on my private and personal affairs.  Arrest me if you will, but
you will yet learn your mistake."

I can never explain it, even to myself, but something in the
man's tone and manner convinced me, even against my own will,
that he spoke the truth.



XX

FLEMING STONE


The news of Gregory Hall's arrest flew through the town like
wildfire.

That evening I went to call on Florence Lloyd, though I had
little hope that she would see me.

To my surprise, however, she welcomed me almost eagerly, and,
though I knew she wanted to see me only for what legal help I
might give her, I was glad even of this.

And yet her manner was far from impersonal.  Indeed, she showed a
slight embarrassment in my presence, which, if I had dared, I
should have been glad to think meant a growing interest in our
friendship.

"You have heard all?" I asked, knowing from her manner that she
had.

"Yes," she replied; "Mr. Hall was here for dinner, and then--
then he went away to--"

"To prison," I finished quietly.  "Florence, I cannot think he is
the murderer of your uncle."

If she noticed this, my first use of her Christian name, she
offered no remonstrance, and I went on

"To be sure, they have proved that he had motive, means,
opportunity, and all that, but it is only indefinite evidence.
If he would but tell where he was on Tuesday night, he could so
easily free himself.  Why will he not tell?"

"I don't know," she said, looking thoughtful.  "But I cannot
think he was here, either.  When he said good-by to me to-night,
he did not seem at all apprehensive.  He only said he was
arrested wrongfully, and that he would soon be set free again.
You know his way of taking everything casually."

"Yes, I do.  And now that you are your uncle's heiress, I suppose
he no longer wishes to break the engagement between you and him."

I said this bitterly, for I loathed the nature that could thus
turn about in accordance with the wheel of fortune.

To my surprise, she too spoke bitterly.

"Yes," she said; "he insists now that we are engaged, and that he
never really wanted to break it.  He has shown me positively that
it is my money that attracts him, and if it were not that I don't
want to seem to desert him now, when he is in trouble--"

She paused, and my heart beat rapidly.  Could it be that at last
she saw Gregory Hall as he really was, and that his mercenary
spirit had killed her love for him?  At least, she had intimated
this, and, forcing myself to be content with that for the
present, I said:

"Would you, then, if you could, get him out of this trouble?"

"Gladly.  I do not think he killed Uncle Joseph, but I'm sure I
do not know who did.  Do you?"

"I haven't the least idea," I answered honestly, for there, in
Florence Lloyd's presence, gazing into the depths of her clear
eyes, my last, faint suspicion of her wrong-doing faded away.
"And it is this total lack of suspicion that makes the case so
simple, and therefore so difficult.  A more complicated case
offers some points on which to build a theory.  I do not blame
Mr. Goodrich for suspecting Mr. Hall, for there seems to be no
one else to suspect."

Just then Mr. Lemuel Porter dropped in for an evening call.  Of
course, we talked over the events of the day, and Mr. Porter was
almost vehement in his denunciation of the sudden move of the
district attorney.

"It's absurd," he said, "utterly absurd.  Gregory Hall never did
the thing.  I've known Hall for years, and he isn't that sort of
a man.  I believe Philip Crawford's story, of course, but the
murderer, who came into the office after Florence's visit to her
uncle, and before Philip arrived, was some stranger from out of
town--some man whom none of us know; who had some grievance
against Joseph, and who deliberately came and went during that
midnight hour."

I agreed with Mr. Porter.  I had thought all along it was some
one unknown to the Sedgwick people, but some one well known to
Joseph Crawford.  For, had it been an ordinary burglar, the
victim would at least have raised a protecting hand.

"Of course Hall will be set free at once," continued Mr. Porter,
"but to arrest him was a foolish thing to do."

"Still, he ought to prove his alibi," I said.

"Very well, then; make him prove it.  Give him the third degree,
if necessary, and find out where he was on Tuesday night."

"I doubt if they could get it out of him," I observed, "if he
continues determined not to tell."

"Then he deserves his fate," said Mr. Porter, a little
petulantly.  "He can free himself by a word.  If he refuses to do
so it's his own business."

"But I'd like to help him," said Florence, almost timidly.  "Is
there no way I can do so, Mr. Burroughs?"

"Indeed there is," I said.  "You are a rich woman now; use some
of your wealth to employ the services of Fleming Stone, and I can
assure you the truth will be discovered."

"Indeed I will," said Florence.  "Please send for him at once."

"Nonsense!" said Mr. Porter.  "It isn't necessary at all.  Mr.
Burroughs here, and young Parmalee, are all the detectives we
need.  Get Hall to free himself, as he can easily do, and then
set to work in earnest to run down the real villain."

"No, Mr. Porter," said Florence, with firmness; "Gregory will not
tell his secret, whatever it is.  I know his stubborn nature.
He'll stay in prison until he's freed, as he is sure he will be,
but he won't tell what he has determined not to divulge.  No, I
am glad I can do something definite at last toward avenging Uncle
Joseph's death.  Please send for Mr. Stone, Mr. Burroughs, and I
will gladly pay his fees and expenses."  Mr. Porter expostulated
further, but to no avail.  Florence insisted on sending for the
great detective.

So I sent for him.

He came two days later, and in the interval nothing further had
been learned from Gregory Hall.  The man was an enigma to me.  He
was calm and impassive as ever.  Courteous, though never cordial,
and apparently without the least apprehension of ever being
convicted for the crime which had caused his arrest.

Indeed, he acted just as an innocent man would act; innocent of
the murder, that is, but resolved to conceal his whereabouts of
Tuesday night, whatever that resolve might imply.

To me, it did not imply crime.  Something he wished to conceal,
certainly; but I could not think a criminal would act so.  A
criminal is usually ready with an alibi, whether it can be proved
or not.

When Fleming Stone arrived I met him at the station and took him
at once to the inn, where I had engaged rooms for him.

We first had a long conversation alone, in which I told him,
everything I knew concerning the murder.

"When did it happen?" he asked, for, though he had read some of
the newspaper accounts, the date had escaped him.

I told him, and added, "Why, I was called here just after I left
you at the Metropolis Hotel that morning.  Don't you remember,
you deduced a lot of information from a pair of shoes which were
waiting to be cleaned?"

"Yes, I remember," said Stone, smiling a little at the
recollection.

"And I tried to make similar deductions from the gold bag and the
newspaper, but I couldn't do it.  I bungled matters every time.
My deductions are mostly from the witnesses' looks or tones when
giving evidence."

"On the stand?"

"Not necessarily on the stand.  I've learned much from talking to
the principals informally."

"And where do your suspicions point?"

"Nowhere.  I've suspected Florence Lloyd and Gregory Hall, in
turn, and in collusion; but now I suspect neither of them."

"Why not Hall?"

"His manner is too frank and unconcerned."

"A good bluff for a criminal to use."

"Then he won't tell where he was that night."

"If he is the murderer, he can't tell.  A false alibi is so
easily riddled.  It's rather clever to keep doggedly silent; but
what does he say is his reason?"

"He won't give any reason.  He has determined to keep up that
calm, indifferent pose, and though it is aggravating, I must
admit it serves his purpose well."

"How did they find him the morning after the murder?"

"Let me see; I believe the coroner said he telephoned first to
Hall's club.  But the steward said Hall didn't stay there, as
there was no vacant room, and that he had stayed all night at a
hotel."

"What hotel?"

"I don't know.  The coroner asked the steward, but he didn't
know."

"Didn't he find out from Hall, afterward?"

"I don't know, Stone; perhaps the coroner asked him, but if he
did, I doubt if Hall told.  It didn't seem to me important."

"Burroughs, my son, you should have learned every detail of
Hall's doings that night."

"But if he were not in West Sedgwick, what difference could it
possibly make where he was?"

"One never knows what difference anything will make until the
difference is made.  That's oracular, but it means more than it
sounds.  However, go on."

I went on, and I even told him what Florence had told me
concerning the possibility of Hall's interest in another woman.

"At last we are getting to it," said Stone; "why in the name of
all good detectives, didn't you hunt up that other woman?"

"But she is perhaps only a figment of Miss Lloyd's brain."

"Figments of the brains of engaged young ladies are apt to have a
solid foundation of flesh and blood.  I think much could be
learned concerning Mr. Hall's straying fancy.  But tell me again
about his attitude toward Miss Lloyd, in the successive
developments of the will question."

Fleming Stone was deeply interested as I rehearsed how, when
Florence was supposed to be penniless, he wished to break the
engagement.  When Philip Crawford offered to provide for her, Mr.
Hall was uncertain; but when the will was found, and Florence was
known to inherit all her uncle's property, then Gregory Hall not
only held her to the engagement, but said he had never wished to
break it.

"H'm," said Stone.  "Pretty clear that the young man is a
fortune-hunter."

"He is," I agreed.  "I felt sure of that from the first."

"And he is now under arrest, calmly waiting for some one to prove
his innocence, so he can marry the heiress."

"That's about the size of it," I said.  "But I don't think
Florence is quite as much in love with him as she was.  She seems
to have realized his mercenary spirit."

Perhaps an undue interest in my voice or manner disclosed to this
astute man the state of my own affections, for he gave me a
quizzical glance, and said, "O-ho! sits the wind in that
quarter?"

"Yes," I said, determined to be frank with him.  "It does.  I
want you, to free Gregory Hall, if he's innocent.  Then if, for
any reason, Miss Lloyd sees fit to dismiss him, I shall most
certainly try to win her affections.  As I came to this
determination when she was supposed to be penniless, I can
scarcely be accused of fortune-hunting myself."

"Indeed, you can't, old chap.  You're not that sort.  Well, let's
go to see your district attorney and his precious prisoner, and
see what's to be done."

We went to the district attorney's office, and, later,
accompanied by him and by Mr. Randolph, we visited Gregory Hall.

As I had expected, Mr. Hall wore the same unperturbed manner he
always showed, and when Fleming Stone was introduced, Hall
greeted him coldly, with absolutely no show of interest in the
man or his work.

Fleming Stone's own kindly face took on a slight expression of
hauteur, as he noticed his reception, but he said, pleasantly
enough

"I am here in an effort to aid in establishing your innocence,
Mr. Hall."

"I beg your pardon?" said Hall listlessly.

I wondered whether this asking to have a remark repeated was
merely a foolish habit of Hall's, or whether, as I had heretofore
guessed, it was a ruse to gain time.

Fleming Stone looked at him a little more sharply as he repeated
his remark in clear, even tones.

"Thank you," said Hall, pleasantly enough.  "I shall be glad to
be free from this unjust suspicion."

"And as a bit of friendly advice," went on Stone, "I strongly
urge that you, reveal to us, confidentially, where you were on
Tuesday night."

Hall looked the speaker straight in the eye.

"That," he said, "I must still refuse to do."

Fleming Stone rose and walked toward the window.

"I think," he said, "the proof of your innocence may depend upon
this point."

Gregory Hall turned his head, and followed Stone with his eyes.

"What did you say, Mr. Stone?" he asked quietly.

The detective returned to his seat.

"I said," he replied, "that the proof of your innocence might
depend on your telling this secret of yours.  But I begin to
think now you will be freed from suspicion whether you tell it or
not."

Instead of looking glad at this assurance, Gregory Hall gave a
start, and an expression of fear came into his eyes.

"What do you mean?" he said

"Have you any letters in your pocket, Mr. Hall?" went on Fleming
Stone in a suave voice.

"Yes; several.  Why?"

"I do not ask to read them.  Merely show me the lot."

With what seemed to be an unwilling but enforced movement, Mr.
Hall drew four or five letters from his breast pocket and handed
them to Fleming Stone.

"They've all been looked over, Mr. Stone," said the district
attorney; "and they have no bearing on the matter of the crime."

"Oh, I don't want to read them," said the detective.

He ran over the lot carelessly, not taking the sheets from the
envelopes, and returned them to their owner.

Gregory Hall looked at him as if fascinated.  What revelation was
this man about to make?

"Mr. Hall," Fleming Stone began, "I've no intention of forcing
your secret from you.  But I shall ask you some questions, and
you may do as you like about answering them.  First, you refuse
to tell where you were during the night last Tuesday.  I take it,
you mean you refuse to tell how or where you spent the evening.
Now, will you tell us where you lodged that night?"

"I fail to see any reason for telling you," answered Hall, after
a moment's thought.  "I have said I was in New York City, that is
enough."

"The reason you may as well tell us," went on Mr. Stone, "is
because it is a very simple matter for us to find out.  You
doubtless were at some hotel, and you went there because you
could not get a room at your club.  In fact, this was stated when
the coroner telephoned for you, the morning after the murder.  I
mean, it was stated that the club bed-rooms were all occupied.  I
assume, therefore, that you lodged at some hotel, and, as a
canvass of the city hotels would be a simple matter, you may as
well save us that trouble."

"Oh, very well," said Gregory Hall sullenly; "then I did spend
the night at a hotel.  It was the Metropolis Hotel, and you will
find my name duly on the register."

"I have no doubt of it," said Stone pleasantly.  "Now that you
have told us this, have you any objection to telling us at what
time you returned to the hotel, after your evening's occupation,
whatever it may have been?"

"Eh?" said Hall abstractedly.  He turned his head as he spoke,
and Fleming Stone threw me a quizzical smile which I didn't in
the least understand.

"You may as well tell us," said Stone, after he had repeated his
question, "for if you withhold it, the night clerk can give us
this information."

"Well," said Hall, who now looked distinctly sulky, "I don't
remember exactly, but I think I turned in somewhere between
twelve and one o'clock."

"And as it was a late hour, you slept rather late next morning,"
suggested Stone.

"Oh, I don't know.  I was at Mr. Crawford's New York office by
half-past ten."

"A strange coincidence, Burroughs," said Fleming Stone, turning
to me.

"Eh?  Beg pardon?" said Hall, turning his head also.

"Mr. Hall," said Stone, suddenly facing him again, "are you deaf?
Why do you ask to have remarks repeated?"

Hall looked slightly apologetic.  "I am a little deaf," he said;
"but only in one ear.  And only at times--or, rather, it's worse
at times.  If I have a cold, for instance."

"Or in damp weather?" said Stone.  "Mr. Hall, I have questioned
you enough.  I will now tell these gentlemen, since you refuse to
do so, where you were on the night of Mr. Crawford's murder.  You
were not in West Sedgwick, or near it.  You are absolutely
innocent of the crime or any part in it."

Gregory Hall straightened up perceptibly, like a man exonerated
from all blame.  But he quailed again, as Fleming Stone, looking
straight at him, continued: "You left West Sedgwick at six that
evening, as you have said.  You registered at the Metropolis
Hotel, after learning that you could not get a room at your club.
And then--you went over to Brooklyn to meet, or to call on, a
young woman living in that borough.  You took her back to New
York to the theatre or some such entertainment, and afterward
escorted her back to her home.  The young woman wore a street
costume, by which I mean a cloth gown without a train.  You did
not have a cab, but, after leaving the car, you walked for a
rather long distance in Brooklyn.  It was raining, and you were
both under one umbrella.  Am I correct, so far?"

At last Gregory Hall's calm was disturbed.  He looked at Fleming
Stone as at a supernatural being.  And small wonder.  For the
truth of Stone's statements was evident from Hall's amazement at
them.

"You--you saw us!" he gasped.

"No, I didn't see you; it is merely a matter of observation,
deduction, and memory.  You recollect the muddy shoes?" he added,
turning to me.

Did I recollect!  Well, rather!  And it certainly was a
coincidence that we had chanced to examine those shoes that
morning at the hotel.

As for Mr. Randolph and the district attorney, they were quite as
much surprised as Hall.

"Can you prove this astonishing story, Mr. Stone?" asked Mr.
Goodrich, with an incredulous look.

"Oh, yes, in lots of ways," returned Stone.  "For one thing, Mr.
Hall has in his pocket now a letter from the young lady.  The
whole matter is of no great importance except as it proves Mr.
Hall was not in West Sedgwick that night, and so is not the
murderer."

"But why conceal so simple a matter?  Why refuse to tell of the
episode?" asked Mr. Randolph.

"Because," and now Fleming Stone looked at Hall with accusation
in his glance--"because Mr. Hall is very anxious that his
fiancee shall not know of his attentions to the young lady in
Brooklyn."

"O-ho!" said Mr. Goodrich, with sudden enlightenment.  "I see it
all now.  Is it the truth, Mr. Hall?  Did you go to Brooklyn and
back that night, as Mr. Stone has described?"

Gregory Hall fidgeted in an embarrassed way.  But, unable to
escape the piercing gaze of Stone's eyes, he admitted grudgingly
that the detective had told the truth, adding, "But it's
wizardry, that's what it is!  How could he know?"

"I had reason for suspicion," said Stone; "and when I found you
were deaf in your right ear, and that you had in your pocket a
letter addressed in a feminine hand, and postmarked `Brooklyn,' I
was sure."

"It's all true," said Hall slowly.  "You have the facts all
right.  But, unless you have had me shadowed, will you tell me
how you knew it all?"

And then Fleming Stone told of his observations and deductions
when we noticed the muddied shoes at the Metropolis Hotel that
morning.

"But," he said, as he concluded, "when I hastily adjudged the
young lady to be deaf in the left ear, I see now I was mistaken.
As soon as I realized Mr. Hall himself is deaf in the right ear,
especially so in damp or wet weather, I saw that it fitted the
case as well as if the lady had been deaf in her left ear.  Then
a note in his pocket from a lady in Brooklyn made me quite sure I
was right."

"But, Mr. Stone," said Lawyer Randolph, "it is very astonishing
that you should make those deductions from those shoes, and then
come out here and meet the owner of the shoes."

"It seems more remarkable than it really is, Mr. Randolph," was
the response; "for I am continually observing whatever comes to
my notice.  Hundreds of my deductions are never verified, or even
thought of again; so it is not so strange that now and then one
should prove of use in my work."

"Well," said the district attorney, "it seems wonderful to me.
But now that Mr. Hall has proved his alibi, or, rather, Mr. Stone
has proved it for him, we must begin anew our search for the real
criminal."

"One moment," said Gregory Hall.  "As you know, gentlemen, I
endeavored to keep this little matter of my going to Brooklyn a
secret.  As it has no possible bearing on the case of Mr.
Crawford, may I ask of you to respect my desire that you say
nothing about it?"

"For my part," said the district attorney, "I am quite willing to
grant Mr. Hall's request.  I have put him to unnecessary trouble
and embarrassment by having him arrested, and I shall be glad to
do him this favor that he asks, by way of amends."

But Mr. Randolph seemed reluctant to make the required promise,
and Fleming Stone looked at Hall, and said nothing.

Then I spoke out, and, perhaps with scant courtesy, I said:

"I, for one, refuse to keep this revelation a secret.  It was
discovered by the detective engaged by Miss Lloyd.  Therefore, I
think Miss Lloyd is entitled to the knowledge we have thus
gained."

Mr. Randolph looked at me with approval.  He was a good friend of
Florence Lloyd, and he was of no mind to hide from her something
which it might be better for her to know.

Gregory Hall set his lips together in a way which argued no
pleasant feelings toward me, but he said nothing then.  He was
forthwith released from custody, and the rest of us separated;
having arranged to meet that evening at Miss Lloyd's home to
discuss matters.




XXI

THE DISCLOSURE


Except the half-hour required for a hasty dinner, Fleming Stone
devoted the intervening time to looking over the reports of the
coroner's inquest, and in asking me questions about all the
people who were connected with the affair.

"Burroughs," he said at last, "every one who is interested in
Joseph Crawford's death has suspected Gregory Hall, except one
person.  Not everybody said they suspected him, but they did, all
the same.  Even Miss Lloyd wasn't sure that Hall wasn't the
criminal.  Now, there's just one person who declares that Hall
did not do it, and that he is not implicated.  Why should this
person feel so sure of Hall's innocence?  And, furthermore, my
boy, here are a few more important questions.  In which drawer of
the desk was the revolver kept?"

"The upper right-hand drawer," I replied.

"I mean, what else was in that drawer?"

"Oh, important, valuable memoranda of Mr. Crawford's stocks and
bonds."

"Do you mean stock certificates and actual bonds?"

"No; merely lists and certain data referring to them.  The
certificates themselves were in the bank."

"And the will--where had that been kept?"

"In a drawer on the other side of the desk.  I know all these
things, because with the lawyer and Mr. Philip Crawford, I have
been through all the papers of the estate."

"Well, then, Burroughs, let us build up the scene.  Mr. Joseph
Crawford, after returning from his lawyer's that night, goes to
his office.  Naturally, he takes out his will, that he thinks of
changing, and--we'll say--it is lying on his desk when Mr.
Lemuel Porter calls.  He talks of other matters, and the will
still lies there unheeded.  It is there when Miss Lloyd comes
down later.  She has said so.  It remains there until much later
--when Philip Crawford comes, and, after discovering that his
brother is dead, sees the will still on the desk and takes it
away with him, and also sees the pistol on the desk, and takes
that, too.  Now, granting that the murderer came between the time
Miss Lloyd left the office and the time Philip Crawford came
there, then it was while the murderer was present that the drawer
which held the pistol was opened, the pistol taken out, and the
murder committed, Since Mr. Joseph Crawford showed no sign of
fear of violence, the murderer must have been, not a burglar or
an unwelcome intruder, but a friend, or an acquaintance, at
least.  His visit must have been the reason for opening that
drawer, and that not to get the pistol, but to look at or discuss
the papers contained in that drawer.  The pistol, thus disclosed,
was temptingly near the hand of the visitor, and, for some reason
connected with the papers in that drawer, the pistol was used by
the visitor--suddenly, unpremeditatedly, but with deadly intent
at the moment."

"But who--" I began.

"Hush," he said, "I see it all now--or almost all.  Let us go to
Philip Crawford's at once--before it is time to go to Miss
Lloyd's."

We did so, and Fleming Stone, in a short business talk with Mr.
Crawford, learned all that he wanted to know.  Then we three went
over to Florence Lloyd's home.

Awaiting us were several people.  The district attorney, of
course, and Lawyer Randolph.  Also Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Porter,
who had been asked to be present.  Gregory Hall was there, too,
and from his crestfallen expression, I couldn't help thinking
that he had had an unsatisfactory interview with Florence

As we all sat round the library, Fleming Stone was the principal
speaker.

He said: "I have come here at Miss Lloyd's request, to discover,
if possible, the murderer of her uncle, Mr. Joseph Crawford.  I
have learned the identity of the assassin, and, if you all wish
me to, I will now divulge it."

"We do wish you to, Mr. Stone," said Mr. Goodrich, and his voice
trembled a little, for he knew not where the blow might fall.
But after Fleming Stone's wonderful detective work in the case of
Gregory Hall, the district attorney felt full confidence in his
powers.

Sitting quietly by the library table, with the eyes of all the
company upon him, Fleming Stone said, in effect, to them just
what he had said to me.  He told of the revolver in the drawer
with the financial papers.  He told how the midnight visitor must
have been some friend or neighbor, whose coming would in no way
startle or alarm Mr. Crawford, and whose interest in the question
of stocks was desperate.

And then Fleming Stone turned suddenly to Lemuel Porter, and
said: "Shall I go on, Mr. Porter, or will you confess here and
now?"

It was as if a thunderbolt had fallen.  Hitherto unsuspected, the
guilt of Lemuel Porter was now apparent beyond all doubt.
White-faced and shaking, his burning eyes glared at Fleming
Stone.

"What are you?" he whispered, in hoarse, hissing tones.  "I
feared you, and I was right to fear you.  I have heard of you
before.  I tried to prevent your coming here, but I could not.
And I knew, when you came, that I was doomed--doomed!

"Yes," he went on, looking around at the startled faces.  "Yes, I
killed Joseph Crawford.  If I had not, he would have ruined me
financially.  Randolph knows that--and Philip Crawford, too.  I
had no thought of murder in my heart.  I came here late that
night to renew the request I had made in my earlier visit that
evening--that Joseph Crawford would unload his X.Y. stock
gradually, and in that way save me.  I had overtraded; I had
pyramided my paper profits until my affairs were in such a state
that a sudden drop of ten points would wipe me out entirely.  But
Joseph Crawford was adamant to my entreaties.  He said he would
see to it that at the opening of the market the next morning X.Y.
stock should be hammered down out of sight.  Details are
unnecessary.  You lawyers and financial men understand.  It was
in his power to ruin or to save me and he chose to ruin me.  I
know, why, but that concerns no one here.  Then, as by chance, he
moved a paper in the drawer, and I saw the pistol.  In a moment
of blind rage I grasped it and shot him.  Death was
instantaneous.  Like one in a dream, I laid down the pistol, and
came away.  I was saved, but at what a cost!  No one, I think,
saw me come or go.  I was afterward puzzled to know what became
of the pistol, and of the will which lay on the desk when I was
there.  These matters have since been explained.  Philip Crawford
is as much a criminal as I.  I shot a man, but he robbed the
dead.  He has confessed and made restitution, so he merits no
punishment.  In the nature of things, I cannot do that, but I can
at least cheat the gallows."

With these words, Mr. Porter put something into his mouth and
swallowed it.

Several people started toward him in dismay, but he waved them
back, saying:

"Too late.  Good-by, all.  If possible, do not let my wife know
the truth.  Can't you tell her--I died of heart failure--or--
something like that?"

The poison he had taken was of quick effect.  Though a doctor was
telephoned for at once, Mr. Porter was dead before he came.

Everything was now made clear, and Fleming Stone's work in West
Sedgwick was done.

I was chagrined, for I felt that all he had discovered, I ought
to have found out for myself.

But as I glanced at Florence, and saw her lovely eyes fixed on
me, I knew that one reason I had failed in my work was because of
her distracting influence on it.

"Take me away from here," she said, and I gently led her from the
library.

We went into the small drawing-room, and, unable to restrain my
eagerness, I said

"Tell me, dear, have you broken with Hall?"

"Yes," she said, looking up shyly into my face.  "I learned from
his own lips the story of the Brooklyn girl.  Then I knew that he
really loves her, but wanted to marry me for my fortune.  This
knowledge was enough for me.  I realize now that I never loved
Gregory, and I have told him so."

"And you do love somebody else?" I whispered ecstatically.  "Oh,
Florence!  I know this is not the time or the place, but just
tell me, dear, if you ever love any one, it will be--"

"You" she murmured softly, and I was content.





End of the Project Gutenberg Etext of The Gold Bag, by Carolyn Wells


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